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Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas

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June 25, 1998

Driggers new chamber interim exec

Cindy Driggars, who has been secretary of the Monahans
Chamber of Commerce for about 18 months, has been appointed
interim executive director by the Chamber board.

She fills the position left vacant by the resignation of
former executive director Tammy Swigert, who resigned to
accept other opportunities in marketing.

Driggars has agreed to serve as the director until trustees
of the Chamber complete their search for a new executive.

Driggars has been leading the organization and planning for
one of the Chamber's largest annual events - the
Independence Day celebration in Hill Park across from the
Courthouse in Monahans, Freedom Fest '98.

Says Chamber president Terry Kirkland of Driggars: "She is
doing a great job under trying circumstances with the full
support of the board."

The interim appointment was made in a meeting of the Chamber
board on Thursday, June 18, at the Chamber of Commerce

In other action at the meeting: The board was told there
would be a ribbon cutting for The Spotlight Restaurant, a
new chamber member, at noon on Friday, June 26. The
Spotlight has been under new ownership since September of

Emilio headlines Butterfield fest

Tejano megastar and rising country star Emilio will be in
concert at the annual Western Week and Butterfield Overland
Stagecoach and Wagon Festival in Monahans, organizers
confirmed on Wednesday, June 25.

The great western celebration lasts from July 27 through
Aug. 2.

Emilio is scheduled to sing in the giant barrel at the
Million Barrel Museum on Aug. 1, organizers said.

Exact concert times and ways to obtain tickets will be
announced at a later date.

Emilio was born and reared in San Antonio where he won a
scholarship in voice to Southwest Texas State University in
San Marcos. After three years, he left the university and
began to sing for his living.

Says Emilio: "I went home from school that Summer after my
third year and I knew I wasn't going back. I didn't tell my

But he did audition for Tejano legend David Lee Garza's San
Antonio band.

When the beginning of the Fall semester was looming, Emilio
says he told his mother: "Don't even pack for me. I'm not
going back. It was the hardest thing I've done in my life."

From an authorized biography of the singer: "Emilio is
credited with being a driving force in propelling Tejano
music from a regional genre to the fastest growing form of
Latin-based music in America. He's been nominated for two
Grammy awards, won multiple Tejano Music awards for male
entertainer of the year, male vocalist of the year, album
and showband of the year and picked up an impressive
international following in the process."

Emilio has pushed the limits of Tejana into a country music
album Life is Good, his second in that genre, that debuted
at number 13 on Billboard's country charts.

Of his initial venture into country music, recalls Emilio:
"Cloud nine is to low. I was in my hometown, San Antonio,
when I first heard It's Not The End of the World on country
radio and I stopped my car in the middle of traffic. Hearing
my song being played on a country station made me flash back
to all the work I'd done leading up to this, starting with
singing along to my dad's Bob Wills records when I was four
years old."

Emilio was on the New Faces Show at the Country Radio
Seminar and earned one of the rising star "bumper spots" on
the Country Music Association Awards Show.

Emilio was four years old when he got his first guitar and
he immediately began performing for family gatherings.

"I didn't know how to play but I knew how to sing and at
holidays the whole family would get together - it's a very
big family - and we'd sing. The song that my dad sang at
every one of these gatherings was Dance Across Texas, a
Texas Playboys song." When Emilio mastered the guitar, the
first song he learned was Willie Nelson's classic, Blue Eyes
Cryin' in the Rain.

Hospital payroll plan outlined

Ward Memorial Hospital workers will receive a payroll check
on Friday, the hospital's interim administrator promises.

The issue, notes Ward Memorial Hospital's chief executive,
is whether all of the workers will be paid.

Worst case scenario, according to Robinson's projections:
Most of the workers will be paid on schedule Friday, June
26. The remainder will be paid on Monday, June 29.

Best case scenario: Expected revenues will arrive for
deposit in the hospital's payroll accounts and all of the
workers will be paid on Friday, June 26.

If the worst case scenario plays out, it is probable that
the Hospital Board of Managers will order that the lowest
paid employees receive their checks first because they are
the ones most likely to be hurt by a late pay day.

The development is the latest in a series of financial
torpedoes that have hampered operation of the hospital.
Robinson has been on board officially for less than a month-
hardly, enough time, he says, to have prepared for this
latest crisis.

He asked County Commissioners on Tuesday, June 23, to allow
him to transfer $213,500 from the hospital's physician
recruitment account ($140,000) and ambulance subsidy account
($73,500) to be certain he could issue the 155 checks that
comprise the hospital's biweekly payroll of about $142,000.

The interim administrator said the dollars would be returned
to the accounts from the hospital's own funds quickly. He
noted he was asking to make a fund transfer among hospital

"We're not asking you for money," Robinson told the
commissioners. "We're asking for a transfer within our own
budget. We are still living within our budget."

Robinson did not ask the Commissioners Court to make the
payroll, which they have had to do in the past. Recently
County Judge Sam G. Massey told the Hospital Board of
Managers commissioners no longer would rescue the hospital
from its fiscal ailments. In the ensuring weeks, a
management agreement was made with Covenant Health Systems
Inc. and Robinson, nominated by Covenant, came to Monahans.

Robinson reports he was not aware of the revenue short fall
in the Ward Memorial payroll accounts until Monday, June 22.

When the issue was brought to the County Commissioner's
Court at its budget workshop at 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Court
set an emergency meeting for the afternoon to consider the

At the emergency meeting, the court decided not to take
action until July 1, when state retirment lan checks are due
for county workers. One commissioner noted the possibility
that Robinson might be able to make up the payroll account
deficit by then without having to tansfer dollars from one
hospital account to another.

Later that afternoon, Robinson met with Ward Memorial
Hospital employees and informed them of the potential that
some of them might not be paid on schedule.

Hospital goes after $800,000

Ward Memorial Hospital's Board of Managers Thursday, June
18, hired a collection agency in an attempt to collect more
than $800,000 in unpaid hospital bills from patients
without medical insurance.

Current Ward Memorial collection rates on these "self pay"
debts are only about five percent, according to hospital
records. The reason for the more aggressive collection
procedurrs is to limit the drain on tax dollars to operate
the hospital in Monahans, hospital trustees say. The focus
is those patients who are not backed by third party payers.

These patients are termed "self pay" in the industry. They
do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare because they are
either too young or because they have jobs where private
health insurance options are not provided by employers. At
financially-strapped Ward Memorial, the total bad debt is

All of the delinquient debt is "self pay," says the
hospital's chief financial officer, Robert Foret.

"Self pay" patients will be able to avoid the collection
agencies on their hospital bills if they make payment
arrangements and if they adhere to those agreements,
hospital administrators have said.

The year-long contract approved by the board is with
Business Office Systems and Solutions of Midland.

"We have agreed to turn over to them our 'self pay' accounts
at the end of 45 days if no arrangements have been made for
payment," says Ward Memorial's interim administrator, James
M. Robinson. "They will use appropriate collection methods
in an attempt to recover as much 'self pay' monies as

"We see this as a way of collecting more revenue and we can
devote our staff time to current billings. The Business
Office Systems and Solutions contract calls for them to
receive 17 percent (17 cents on every dollar collected). We
currently are collecting five percent on 'self pay'

Under the "self pay" collection plan, delinquent accounts
will stay with Business Offices and Solutions for 45 to 90
days, depending on the individual case.

Then still unresolved accounts will be transferred from
Business Systems and Solutions to another collection group
that has not yet been chosen. \

Proposals have been received from firms in Mule Shoe, Fort
Stockton, Kermit and Pecos.

Says administrator Robinson: "We need to be doing our level
best to collect money for the tax payers of Ward County and
we will make every concentrated effort to accomplish that."

Fiscal and physical health targeted

Members of Ward Memorial Hospital's Board of Managers, have
signed a management agreement the trustees believe will
restore fiscal health to the ailing hospital while improving
medical care in the county.

"The management agreement is with Covenant Health Systems
Inc. of Lubbock," reports James M. Robinson, interim
administrator of Ward Memorial.

Covenant Health Systems is the name of a new health care
group formed by the official merger on June 4 of Lubbock
Methodist and St. Mary's of the Plains medical centers. Ward
Memorial trustees had negotiated a management agreement with
Lubbock Methodist prior to the consolidation of the two
Lubbock-based medical groups. The Ward County hospital board
accepted the transfer of the agreement on Thursday, June
11, Robinson said in an interview on Friday, June 19.

On June 4, Lubbock Methodist and St. Mary's of the Plains
merged operating boards. Alan White, who had been Lubbock
Methodist chair, becomes the chair of Covenant.

Covenant's system includes the major medical complexes of
Lubbock Methodist and St. Mary's in Lubbock and about 30
regional hospitals operated by Covenant under leases like
the hospital in Plainview or under management agreements
comparable to that with Ward Memorial Hospital in Monahans.

Members of the Ward Memorial Board of Managers sought the
management agreement in an attempt to bring sound business
and medical practices to an institution that, according to
financial reports, was deep in debt, a problem which they
believed affected the way in which the county's only
hospital was performing its mission.

At the Thursday, June 19, meeting in the hospital's Family
Health and Wellness Clinic, Jim Bullard, vice president of
regional hospitals for Covenant, told the board analysts
from Covenant, formerly Lubbock Methodist and St. Mary's of
the Plains, will be at Ward Memorial.

The team will help the hospital, Bullard said, establish
productivity standards and bench marks for the months ahead.

Says Robinson: "They will help us review our (billings);
they will help us in the area of reviewing the operation of
our rural health clinic; and our computer system."

Members of the team will analyze the operations of each
department at the hospital in concert with the Ward Memorial
department heads and prime administrators, Bullard told the

"Operations and effectiveness of each department will be
studied and appropriate recommendations will be made based
on the Covenant analysis," says Robinson.

Robinson also told the board the administration is starting
to get a grasp on the dollar hemorrhage at the hospital. He
noted the hospital had a bottom line surplus of $4,104 in

"That doesn't sound like much," says administrator Robinson.
"But we had projected a loss of $51,780. So that equals a
swing of about $55,862."

Administrators did it by cutting costs and increasing

"We're cutting back on expenses," says Robinson. " We're
cutting back on overtime. We've moved to flex staffing. When
we don't have the patients, we have to send the employees
home. In the past, everyone sat round and waited for
patients to come. While they're sitting round, that's
costing us money."

He emphasizes: "We can do this but in no case is patient
safety compromised. That absolutely will not happen."

Contract to save maintenance costs

A College Station based company and Ward Memorial Hospital
have agreed to a contract which Interim Administrator James
M. Robinson projects may save the hospital $73,000 over
three years.

Members of the hospital's board of managers Thursday, June
18, approved the contract with CIC Inc. to provide for
maintenance and repair of all capital equipment at the

"We are paying $283,000 in quarterly installments over the
three years of the contract," reports Robinson. "This will
save Ward Memorial Hospital $72,000 over the life of the
contract using last year as a base year."

Freedom Fest in the park

Hundreds of citizens of Monahans will celebrate Independence
Day with song, balloons, a bicycle tour, a motorcycle parade
and a red, white and blue cornucopia of other events,
reports Cindy Driggars of the Chamber of Commerce.

But there will be no fireworks, notes the Chamber executive,
because of the county ban on aerial pyrotechnics forced by
the continuing drought and the danger of wild fire. Hill
Park across from the Courthouse is the main venue for
Freedom Fest '98. It is at the park and in surrounding
streets that booths, contests, singing, patriotic speeches
and food will be centered.

Driggars notes the Chamber plans its usual air conditioned
tent and invites patrons of the Independence Day celebration
to stop in and say hello. Freedom Fest '98 begins on the eve
of Independence Day with a flag-waving motorcycle parade
from The Spotlight to the Million Barrel Museum.

Freedom Fest activities start at 8 a.m. on Saturday, July
4, with the Blistering Sands Bicycle Tour. Entertainment
starts at 10 a.m. in Hill Park. Jerome P. Curry, editor of
the Monahans News, will be the master of ceremonies. He will
read the Declaration of Independence.

Meteor auction set for Internet

Bidding starts at $20,000 when the Meteorite 7's Monahans
98-I is offered for auction on the world wide web on July 9.

That report came from Steve Arnold, the Tulsa, Okla.,
meteorite broker who represents the children who first
retrieved the space rock when it crashed into a vacant lot
in Monahans on March 22.

On Tuesday, June 23, in an internet auction billed as Baby
Monahans, less than two grams of microgravel from M98-I sold
for nearly $600. Offered in two lots (a 1.1 gram pebble and
six bits of space rock weighing less than a tenth of a gram
each), the large pebble sold for $380; the six bits of
meteorite for $215.

Michael Casper, a meteorite dealer from Ithaca, N.Y., paid
the $380 for the 1.1 gram sample. It is Casper, whose bid of
$20,000 will start the July 9 web auction for a 1,156 gram
piece of the meteorite from the Asteroid Belt that landed in
the West Texas Desert.

The web address is

City OKs meteorite display

Monahans City Council Tuesday, June 23, unanimously adopted
a plan to bring meteorites that fell 60 years apart into one
City Hall exhibit.

Both landed in Ward County. Monahans 38, so christened
because it fell in the sandhills and was recovered in 1938,
and Monahans 98-II, one of two that impacted in Monahans on
March 22, would be the focus of the projected exhibit.

M98-II was recovered in a city street on March 23 from the
place it impacted about 800 feet from where M98-I was first
retrieved by seven children. M98-I was returned by the
Council to the families of the children who are offering it
for sale through a meteorite broker.

Bringing a piece of the 1938 meteorite back to Monahans
involves giving part of M98-II to the University of Arizona
and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in
return for a comparable piece of M38. A replica of M98-II
would be made before it is divided. The projected exhibit
also would include the cratered part of the asphalt into
which M98-II fell.

Blister bug corrals horses

Livestock owners in Ward County were placed on alert by
Texas state animal health officials after blistering
disease was confirmed in a Reeves County horse.

It was the first confirmation of the disease in Texas,
according to a statement from the animal health officers.

Four horses at Balmorhea already are in quarantine.
Jordanna DeGuire of the Texas Animal Health Commission's
epidemiology division warns Ward County livestock owners to
be wary. She notes Reeves County is adjacent to Ward and she
suggests an immediate call to a veterinarian if symptoms of
the generally nonfatal viral disease are observed. Affected
animals develop lesions and blisters in the mouth,
especially on the tongue; around hooves; and teats.

The confirmation of blistering disease, vesicular stomatitis
(VS), was announced in a communique released on Thursday,
June 18.

Summer outbreaks among hoofed animals, mostly horses and a
few cattle although all hoofed animals are susceptible, have
been confirmed since 1995 in Arizona, Colorado and New

On the day the Texas confirmation was released, Kentucky
state officials barred Texas horses from being imported to
that state.

New Mexico, where two cases of VS were confirmed earlier,
already had been embargoed by Kentucky.

By Tuesday, June 23, Ohio also had embargoed Texas horses,
DeGuire reports.

Dr. Max Coats, assistant state veterinarian for the animal
health commission expects other states to follow the lead of
Kentucky and Ohio.

Says Coats: "The VS-infected horse in Reeves County (near
Balmorhea) was pastured with several other horses that also
displayed clinical signs of infection. We must have a
laboratory confirmation before calling a case positive as
the blisters and lesions could be caused by another illness,
or a chemical or plant poisoning.

"For the first case in a state, the confirmation may be made
by virus isolation or a fourfold increase in the level of
antibodies to the disease. All livestock on the premises in
Reeves County will be restricted to the ranch until at least
30 days after lesions on all animals have healed."

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Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
Joe Warren, Publisher
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314

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