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November 6, 1997

Ward Memorial looking for answers

County officials, elected and appointed, are looking for an answer
to a years long conundrum facing county government - Ward Memorial

This is a question that drew nearly 150 people to a public hearing
on one potential option to the problems that have been identified
- that possible answer, private management through a lease
agreement with a for profit hospital management company, Community
Health Systems Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn.

County Judge Sam G. Massey told those assembled in the Ward County
Convention Center on Thursday, Oct. 30, the meeting would be the
first of several public hearings at which the hospital issue and
potential answers will be discussed. Another will be scheduled
soon with representatives of Midland Memorial Hospital. Massey
says as many public hearings as needed will be held.

"Our purpose here is to listen," Massey told the gathering that
included several members of a Special Blue Ribbon Panel also
examining options to both save and enhance the county's health

Robert Hardison of the Tennessee company told the group what
Community Health Systems has done and can do. Hardison also noted
the meeting was a preliminary encounter that may or may not
eventually lead to some type of management or lease agreement.

The discussion over selling the hospital to a for profit hospital
firm seems to have been discussed to the point that it is not
longer a possibility.

Massey told the public hearing: "I simply do not support the sale
of the hospital. I think we, the community, need to retain control
of our hospital."

The hospital issue involves more than money, although that is a
major focus. It involves more than health care because there
always is the Odessa Option, the Midland Option and even the Crane
Option. A few Ward Countians exercise those options daily, weekly
and monthly.

Medical care, in all its guises, is involved.

In Ward County, like it or not, Ward Memorial Hospital is the
health care delivery system. The hospital runs the ambulances. The
hospital reports communicable disease to the state. The hospital
runs home health care. The hospital provides a broad range and
needed list of services to the county. (Patient contacts are
enumerated in the figure accompanuing this analysis.Traditional
hospital patients at Ward Memorial almost do not exist when
compared with the total of patient contacts in the hospital's
other treatment realms. The average in patient census rarely
reaches 10. In August of this year, that in patient daily average
census was a fraction more than four.

Ward Memorial Hospital serves, admittedly with periodic cash
transfusions approved with justifiable reluctance by the County
Commissioner's Court.

Major problems in bill collections have been identified and those
problems are being resolved, according to Ward Hospital Records.
But those are collections that can be obtained.

The health care delivery system in Ward County cannot be expected
to collect a nickel from patients, who must be treated, according
to state law who cannot pay. Hospital records show that between
May and December, 19.04 percent were self pay patients.

Read self-pay as having no private health insurance. Less than 10
percent of the patients treated through the hospitalor its clinics
have private health insurance and most of that is Blue Cross.

The majority of patients are either Medicare (47 percent) or
Medicaid (10.8 percent). More stringene welfare requirements are
dropping the Medicaid factor weekly.
There are major problems.

Ward County health and political officials are attempting to
resolve them.

Laura Bush to visit Monahans in March

Laura Bush, the First Lady of Texas, is scheduled to visit Ward
County in March to make Monahans designation as a Texas Main
Street City official, reports Main Street Monahans Project Manager
Suzi Blair.

Blair says Bush will appear at "a special ceremony with all City
and County officials. She will also tour our downtown and meet
with merchants in the Central Business District. A reception will
be held in her honor."

The Main Street manager made the announcement in the wake of
Friday's notice that Monahans had been designated a Texas Main
Street City.

"Being designated as a Texas Main Street City means a great deal
for the entire community," says Blair. "For the next three years,
Monahans will receive assistance from the staff at the Texas
Historical Commission free of charge."

In addition to the coming visit to the Ward County Seat by the
governor's wife, Blair also reports:

"Sometime in February or early March, Texas Main Street Director
Terry Colley will visit Monahans to meet with City Manager David

Blair continues: "Beginning sometime in April, a group of
professionals from (the historical commission) will make

$180,000 awarded in gender harassment claim

A Monahans woman was awarded $180,000 Wednesday afternoon, Nov.
5, by a twelve-member jury in a sexual harassment trial against a
Monahans physician.

The verdict came before Judge Bob Parks of the 143rd District

Dr. William Davison, co-owner of the regional Weigh Of Life
Clinics, was ordered to pay Sharon and Tommy Pittman of Monahans,
the money after the jury split the decision 10-2.

In civil trial, a unanimous verdict of the jury is not required.
Also in a civil trial, the standard for proof is preponderance of
the evidence, not the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable

The case stemmed from a 1993 incident in which, according to Mrs.
Pittman, Davison stroked the tops of her breasts and kissed her
neck following his giving her a neck massage. The incident was
said to have occurred within a cubical in the weight clinic and
within a few feet of employees.

Another incident cited by the plaintiffs was a full-mouth kiss
given Mrs. Pittman at an office birthday party. Although Pittman
was employed by Weigh Of Life at the time of the incident, it was
brought out in court that she was in fact employed by Dr. Gary
Albertson. Albertson owns 100 percent of the Monahans clinic,
while all the others in the Permian Basin are co-owned 50-50 by
Albertson and Davison.

After Pittman complained about Davison's conduct, Albertson
launched an in-office investigation, which testimony indicated,
cleared Davison of any wrongdoing.

The trial, which opened Monday morning and finished about 3:30
p.m. Wednesday, heard the testimony of witnesses and the reading
of depositions. While Davison admitted in court to massaging
Pittman's neck, he denied the other allegations. Davison's
attorney, Bill Alexander, implied several times during questioning
that Pittman had been angry with Davison because she had been
passed up for an office manager's position.

Almost moments after the trial broke up, an 18-page fax was
received by the Monahans News from Alexander's law office
indicating Davison plans to appeal the verdict and that a motion
to dismiss would be forthcoming.

In a telephone interview with Tommy Pittman, the plaintiff
husband, Pittman said he felt, "Justice has been done."

Home owners to pay less tax

Property owners in Ward County already have begun receiving their
1997 ad valorem tax bills.

As projected, the home owner is paying less although the tax
revenue will be higher.

Ward County Tax Collector Dolores Fine, who collects the taxes for
all the county's taxing bodies except for the
Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District, and Jeanette

Wristen, who is that district's assessor/collector, say Jan. 31 is
the deadline for paying the taxes without penalties.
Wristen's staff mailed the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school tax
bills,, she reports on Monday and Tuesday of Halloween week.

"In town tax bills went one day and out-of-town bills the next,"
reports Wristen.

Fine's staff began mailing the tax bills for the other
governmental bodies this week, delayed by approval of the tax rate
for county government.

Staff members in both offices report home owner property taxes are
not as high.

Home owners find the bills lower this year for several reasons:

Increases in the homestead exemption to $15,000 in the county's
two school districts,
A half-cent sales tax voted in the City of Monahans for property
tax relief,

An increased valuation to about $69 million for Ward County
property, more than 95 percent of which is in minerals and

Generally lower tax rates, except for the two school districts, on
which the property tax bills are based.

All of these factors combine, according to Fine's calculations,
to mean the owner of a $50,000 house in Monahans with standard
homestead exemptions will pay nearly $250 less in property taxes
this year. If that $50,000 house with standard homestead
exemptions is in Grandfalls, the 1997 tax bill is about $165
lower. In Wickett, the same home's tax bill would be about $148
below the 1996 tax bill.

Higher minerals evaluation, which is not affected by homestead
exemptions, means the county's taxing entities will receive more
dollars in 1997 but the home owners aren't paying.

Depending on where they live in the county, home owner tax bills
this year range from a few dollars less to a lot less.

This is a fact although revenues are projected to be higher.
For example, the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District had a
total levy in 1996 of $8,399,750.75. This year that levy is
$9,009,518.23. Ward County's tax levy last year was $4,844,613.13
compared with a 1997 levy $5,205,593.67.

Both Fine and Wristen note that property owners, who may have
trouble, paying their tax bill in one lump sum can make partial
payments on those bills until the Jan. 31 deadline.
Payments in increments as low as $20 are acceptable until the
deadline, notes a staff member in Fine's office.

But Feb. 1 without full payment begins the penalty period.
Says Wristen: "On Feb. 1, penalties and interest start at seven

Agreements still can be made after Jan. 31 on the current property
taxes due but, under law, these agreements must be in writing and
will include penalties due as well as the delinquent taxes.

At the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District, Wristen notes: "On
July 1, we turn the currents over to our attorneys for and cease
partial payments."

Banks to write home equity loans by Jan. 15

Executives of First National and First State banks in Monahans say
they expect to be making home equity loans by Jan. 15.

That's the earliest date the loans can be made under the voter
approved amendment to the state constitution on Tuesday, Nov. 4.
Texas approved the home equity loans contained in Proposition 8
681,339 (59 percent) to 464,770 (41 percent) and ended a 150 year
constitutional prohibition against using home equity as collateral
for home loans. Ward County voters also approved the change - 436
to 308.

It was one of the dozen amendments approved by the voters of the
14 propositions on the ballot. Ward County voters followed suit in
the unofficial vote count except for the approved Proposition 5
which allows the Texas Supreme Court to sit anywhere in the state,
not just Austin. Ward County voted against that 412 to 298.

The home equity amendment is the one that will effect most Ward

Effective on Jan. 1, Mark Gatzki of First National of Monahans
says the first money cannot be loaned under the amendment until
Jan. 15.

Both Gatzki and John Paul Wade of First State say their
institutions will make the loans.

But neither plans at this time, as some banks in the state have
done, to start taking applications for the new home equity loans.

Gatzki notes there are safeguards built into the amendment to
resolve some of the concerns of those who opposed repealing the
prohibition against equity loans that began in 1839.

Among those safe guards, both he and Wade note, are the required
two week process for the loan application and approval plus an
additional three days before any money can be transferred.

Further, Gatzki notes, the loan value of the equity in a home is
equal to only 80 percent of that equity.
Both Monahans banks, the executives report, will make the loans.
Gatzki and Wade say their banks are in the process of preparing
for the new product.

Grandfalls approves economic development

Voters in Grandfalls Tuesday, Nov. 4, approved a sales tax for
economic development.

The tax was part of a two proposition ballot. Proposition 1 was
approved 35 to 9; Proposition 2, 36-8.

Three cheers for youth

The Monahans Optimist Club has scheduled it's annual Youth
Appreciation Banquet.

The banquet will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 10, at the Walker
Junior High Cafeteria, according to a statement from the club.

Youth representatives chosen by different organizations within the
Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District and the community will
honor the youth of Monahans and Ward County.
Says the report from the Optimist Club:

"Each representative will receive a certificate of appreciation.

"Parents, school officials, county officials, city officials and
community leaders will attend the banquet."

For more information on the Youth Appreciation banquet, contact
Norma Flores at 943-6711 or 943-7511, says Optimist Club President
Alan Steen. He asks those attending to contact Flores by Nov. 7,

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