Local Referendum No.1 for property tax to support the Greene County Hospital and Health System will be on the November 3rd ballot

Probate Judge Rolanda Wedgeworth confirmed to the Greene County Democrat on Friday, that there will be a Local Referendum No. 1 on the November 3, 2020 ballot to raise ad valorem property tax in Greene County by 4 mills to benefit the Greene County Hospital.
John Zippert, Chairperson of the Greene County Hospital Board said, “We must pass this tax to support the hospital if we want to keep our hospital open and modernize and improve the services available from the hospital. In times of a global pandemic of coronavirus the need for a local hospital and related health facilities is clear.”
Dr. Marcia Pugh, GCHS Administrator and CEO said, “Our financial reports show that the Greene County Health System has provided $100,000 a month in uncompensated care for Greene County residents. Funds from electronic bingo have helped to pay part of this but we are still going into debt each month to keep the hospital open.”
She continued, “Our physical plant was built in 1961, 60 years ago. Since I have been Administrator, we have had to replace physical systems, like our sewage pipes, telephone system, computer systems, laundry machines, and other necessary services. We have upgraded our laboratory, X-ray machine, emergency room area and we are planning to improve our MRI and other imaging services. Some of this new tax money will go to modernize and improve our facilities and medical services.”
This Local Referendum No.1 and six Statewide Amendments will be on the ballot for November 3, 2020 if you vote absentee or at the polls.
“A 4 mil increase in taxes amounts to $4.00 per $1,000 of assessed valuation of property in Greene County. This is a small price to pay for a 24/7 emergency room, staffed by physicians, comfortable hospital rooms, laboratory, X-ray, up-to-date imagining, compassionate skilled nursing, and many other services,” said Zippert.
Based on current valuations of property in Greene County, one mil of property tax will generate $160,000 in revenues, so passage of this referendum would provide $640,000 in needed revenues, each year, for the Greene County Hospital, beginning in 2022.
Local Referendum No. 1 states: “The Greene County Commission resolved that, pursuant to Constitutional Amendment 76 (Sec.215.02) of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, the issue of a four (4) mil special county tax on each dollar of taxable property in Greene County for the construction, operation, equipping and maintenance of the public or nonprofit hospital facilities of the Greene County Health System shall be submitted to the electors of Greene County, Alabama on the November 3, 2020 General Election. If a majority o0f qualified electors participating in the election shall vote in favor of the referendum, then the said taxes shall be levied and collected and provided to the Greene County Health System.” The Greene County Democrat will include more information on this referendum in future issues. We also welcome your opinions, please write us Letters to the Editor on this tax referendum.

A renewed Greene County Health System Part 1

By Mynecia D. Steele

Imaging Room

The X-ray equipment located at the Greene County Hospital can be seen in an upgraded, under water themed, X-ray room.

The Greene County Health System (GCHS) is constantly working on improving its facilities and reputation, says Mr. Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System.
Patterson has worked to upgrade the Greene County Health System, and in less than three years of holding this position he has overseen various renovations.
But, Patterson does not take all the credit for the current condition of the Greene County Health System. Great employees create a comfortable environment for the patients and residents.
GCHS only hires the best Patterson said. There are three full time physicians, Medical Director, Dr. Salahuddin Farooqui, MD; Dr. Thomas McDermott, MD; Dr. Michael Gordon, MD; currently working within the health system.
The staff also includes one part time physician and two nurse practitioners, Kurtizzia Howard, CRNP and Cheryl Hill, CRNP. Each physician is board certified.
GCHS also has about 150 other full time employees. The staff includes: registered nurses (RN), licensed practical nurses (LPN), certified nursing assistants (CNA), business office people and engineers. GCHS even works with the Greene County School System, providing its nurses to work in the schools.
Great staff is grounds for well-run facilities. The Greene County Health System is CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) certified. This is the same certification that all Alabama health centers are required to meet.
Yes, the facilities in the Greene County Health System are held to the same standards as all other health care facilities in Alabama. But, GCHS strives to go beyond the minimum requirements set by the state of Alabama.

Three Main Departments

The Greene County Health System is divided into three main departments. These departments are: the Greene County Physicians Clinic, Greene County Residential Care Center and the Greene County Hospital.
In addition to the three main departments, the GCHS provides urgent care, home health, rehab (including: physical, occupational, and speech therapy), radiology (including: x-ray and CT (computerized axial tomography) scans, ultrasounds, echocardiograms, Nuclear Medicine Testing and women’s care (mammography and bone density scanning).
The Greene County Physicians Clinic provides in house laboratory services, immunization vaccines for children, Medicaid EPSDT screenings, in house EKG services, injections (B12, Flu, Pneumonia, allergy), yearly exams, physicals (sports, DOT etc.), referrals to specialty services as needed, Saturday Clinic, mammograms and dexascans according to the GCHS website: gcheutaw.com.
All of these treatments are readily available at the Greene County Health facilities.
And, accessing the facilities is not a problem either. GCHS provides transportation for Greene County residents who don’t have a way to the GCHS campus.
The Greene County Health System not only provides a productive atmosphere for healing, but the facilities are top notch, as well, Patterson said.
“To bring a hospital to current health care trends, was a challenge,” Patterson said. “But, that’s where we are now.
“We are able to provide the same health care services that you can have rendered at any hospital in Alabama, for the care that we provide.”

Many Improvements Made

Many improvements have been made since Patterson became CEO.  The hospital is a 1958 Hill-Burton hospital. There had been no renovations before he arrived nearly three years ago, said Patterson.
Today, the facilities now have a much more modern look.
Showers and flat screen televisions have been installed in every hospital and residential care room.
The hospital has upgraded their cafeteria as well. Their meals are now aviliable to the public for purchase.
A secured dementia unit has been added on to the Residential Care Center. This renovation was completed within 30 days of Patterson becoming CEO.
Cleanliness is of utmost importance in the Residential Care center, as well.
This wards off that nursing home smell. It is important that the residents are in a safe and clean environment said Patterson.
The concern with cleanliness shows in their critics. The center is regularly monitored. Since 2013, their usual demerit count during reviews has decreased from 20 to only about six.
A buffet style line has been installed in the residential care dinning area.
Local barber, Marcus Steele and stylist, Linda Wheat visit the nursing home regularly to groom the residents. A salon and barber area has been added on to the residential care center to accommodate their services. This area includes shampoo bowl, styling chairs, hair dryers and everything needed to keep the residents feeling and looking their best.
The clinic is receiving a makeover, as well.  The roof is currently being redone.
Over the past few years the Greene County Health System has seen some major improvements, all with the community in mind.

New Charity named for River’s Edge Bingo


Tenn Tom Community Development Incorporation donated $3,500.00 to the Greene County Hospital Friday. Pictured l to r: Mrs. Janice Benison, Mrs. Carolyne Hobbs,  GCH Chief Executive Officer,  Elmore Patterson and TTCD Executive Director Rugenia Gulley.


The Democrat has learned from reviewing court records and interviews with knowledgeable sources that the TennTom Development Corporation Inc. of Forkland, Alabama has replaced the Young People Alliance Association for Youth Development (YPAO) of Mantua, Alabama as the primary charity operating at River’s Edge Bingo. River’s Edge Bingo is located on U.S. Highway 11 south of the Knoxville exit on Interstate 20/59.
Court records show that the YPAO was evicted from their lease of the River’s Edge Bingo facility on June 6, 2016 for non-payment of rent. YPAO was ordered to vacate the property and surrender it to Mario and Mary Chang of Greene County Investments LP and Dynasty Investment Group LLC of Rosemead, California.
Ken Hobbs of Tuscaloosa, who is a partner in Greene County Investments and manages River’s Edge, is also mentioned in the court documents.
YPAO has appealed the eviction which is pending in Circuit Court before Judge Hardaway. YPAO was required to vacate the premises during the appeal.
Sheriff Joe Benison of Greene County, assisted by his attorney Flint Liddon of Birmingham, selected and licensed a new charity for the River’s Edge Bingo operation. Sheriff Benison is empowered by Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743 to regulate bingo in Greene County.
It is worthy of note that the Sheriff did not make any public announcement of this choice of a new charity nor did he solicit nominations from the public of non-profit charitable organizations that may be interested in operating bingo in Greene County.
The TennTom Development Corporation is a non-profit operating in Forkland and the lower reaches of Greene County. Finest Miles and other board members of this charity are family members of the Sheriff.
The Democrat has also learned that the Tommy Summerville Law Enforcement Foundation may be under consideration as a co-charity with TennTom Development Corporation in the operation of the River’s Edge Bingo. This foundation named for the now deceased former Police Chief of Eutaw was established to provide equipment and support for law enforcement in Eutaw and Greene County.
Greenetrack CEO Luther “Nat” Winn has stated to the Democrat many times that, “Greenetrack is the only bingo facility in Greene County, owned by Greene County people and dedicated to the needs of Greene County. The other bingo facilities are owned by people, from as far away as California and elsewhere that are not as concerned about Greene County people, charities and organizations as they should be.”
Many people contacted for this story, expressed concern that the bingo operations in Greene County were not operated in any open, fair and transparent way to fully benefit the people of Greene County.

Sheriff Benison provides $30,000 to Greene County Hospital Greene Co. electronic bingo bill defeated in Alabama Senate; Meeting in Branch Heights to explain status of bill and next steps

News Analysis
by John Zippert,

Sheriff and CEo of Hospital.jpg

Photo includes Sheriff Benison, Jasma Colvin, Alicia Jordan, Jalessa Jones and CEO Elmore Patterson shown providing a check for $30,000. Shown below meeting held at the Branch Heights Center on Bingo with represenatives Bobby Singleton and AJ McCampbell.

 Bingo in Branch Height.jpg
The past week saw many developments related to the future of electronic bingo in Greene County.
Eutaw Councilman Joe Lee Powell and County Commissioner Corey Cockrell convened a meeting at the Branch Heights Community Center for the county’s legislative delegation to explain their efforts to assist Greene County.
Senator Bobby Singleton and Representatives Artis McCampbell and Ralph Howard were present to explain their efforts to pass SB 340 to amend Greene County’s Amendment 743 to strengthen the legal basis for electronic bingo in the county.
SB 340 also allowed electronic bingo at only one site in the county, which is Greenetrack, since it is already approved for pari-mutuel gambling on greyhound dogs and horses. The bill also would have changed the formula for distribution of bingo funds to county agencies and charities. It also removed the regulation of bingo from the exclusive control of the Sheriff to a five member Greene County Gaming Commission.
The proposed bill included a provision that three-quarters of one percent of the annual gross revenues of electronic bingo would be paid to the Greene County Housing Authority. Based on projected annual gross revenues of $50 million, the Housing Authority would receive approximately $375,000 per year. “ Under our plan, the Housing Authority could use these revenues to finance a bond issue that would repair the roads and streets in Branch Heights, ” said McCampbell. Bobby Singleton said, “ Our goal was to legally protect bingo in Greene County and we needed support from the Republican super-majority in the Legislature to get this done. Some Republicans do not want to vote for any form of gambling; others want to reduce the spread of gambling; and some legislators want to help the Native Americans that have bingo in their casinos.”
“We felt we had the 21 votes needed to pass our amendment in the Senate. We hoped we had all eight Democratic Senators and even changed the bill to accommodate some of their concerns. We had some Republicans who promised that if we got 19 or 20 votes they would vote with us, to put us over the top.
“We were very disappointed that we only got 17 votes because two Democrats, who are African-American, Senators Hank Sanders of Selma and Vivian Figures, voted against the bill which effectively killed our chance to pass it,” said Singleton.
Singleton said, “ I know the rules of the Senate and worked hard with my personal relationships to get enough support to pass it. We changed it to accommodate various concerns by Senator Sanders and others. We tried to calm the opposition of the Native Americans. We included a 4% state tax to provide revenues for the state. We did everything we could but we needed a few more votes.”
A lady in the audience was very concerned that the proposed bill would result in the closure of the other three bingo parlors and put their employees out of work. Singleton responded that this was done to insure the legal survival of bingo and show that the growth of bingo establishments would be curtailed and concentrated in one place. “ We hoped that most of the people, who may have lost their jobs, would be hired by Greenetrack, who would need more employees. In the past, Greenetrack had 400 to 500 employees making living wages with a good benefits package.”
Hodges Smith, speaking on behalf of the 14 volunteer fire departments in the county said, “From 2003 to 2011, when bingo was exclusively at Greenetrack, $2,9 million was provided to the Greene County Firefighters, since 2011, we have received $259,000 from Greenetrack and $8,208.24 from the other bingo places combined. The Firefighters, E-911 and Woman-to-Woman are the three charities supported by Greenetrack, in addition to funds that the four bingo establishments pay to the Sheriff for distribution to county agencies, municipal governments and the school system.
Iris Sermon of E-911 said, “We can see what is happening because we are not united. The state Legislature may sponsor a lottery and cut out bingo all together. E-911 has been assisted by Greenetrack when the county government and other agencies could not support our critical services.”
Luther “Nat” Winn, CEO of Greenetrack came into the meeting late. He challenged the group,” Tell me who owns the other bingo establishments in Greene County. We do not know who owns them. We do know who owns Greenetrack and they are all people from Greene County. We have let other people come in and take advantage of Amendment 743 but they are not helping to protect it. We pay a cashier $41,000 a year, plus benefits, but we never hear what the others pay their employees. They are not paying living wages and supporting charities outside of Greene County. Greenetrack used to give college scholarships to every Greene County graduate. We cannot do this any more because the bingo revenues are scattered.”
John Zippert, a member of the Greene County Health System Board, reported that members of the GCHS Board had met with Sheriff Benison and asked that he increase the $200 per bingo machine fee by $25 a month and give those funds to help keep the Hospital and Nursing Home open providing services to Greene County residents. The Sheriff said he would consider this request and review it with the four bingo operators. He made an immediate grant of $30,000 to help the GCHS meets its current critical financial situation.
Mr. Winn said, “I’m not sure Greenetrack, under the current state of affairs, could afford an increase in the monthly fee and be able to pay its other expenses.”  Winn also made no clear declaration that he would employ people from the other bingo businesses if this bill were ever passed restoring Greenetrack’s exclusive rights to operate electronic bingo in Greene County.
In response to a question from Val Goodson of Citizens to Make Greene County Better about the future of bingo legislation, Singleton said, “We were trying to do the right thing for Greene County. We can introduce the bill again in a Special Session of the Legislature, but the people of Greene County need to be behind it and help us push it through.”

County extends 1 cent sales tax for hospital Greene County Commission rejects Greenetrack’s offer to settle outstanding lease payments

At the Greene County Commission’s work session held Wednesday, April 6, 2016, Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr. presented a document from Greenetrack CEO Luther Winn offering $600,000 to settle the outstanding lease payments due to the county from Greenetrack.  The offer presented in the Commission’s work session indicated that Greenetrack would pay $250,000 as lease payment for 2013; $150,000 for 2014; $100,000 for 2015; and $100,000 for 2016.
At the following monthly meeting held Monday, April 11, 2016, the County Commission voted to reject  that offer from Luther Winn and Greenetrack, Inc. The Commission supported a motion directing the Chairperson to inform Winn in writing that the last lease agreement was set at a payment of $250,000 annually and at this time discussions on a new agreement were necessary.
Greene County and Greenetrack, Inc. own jointly the physical property where Greenetrack operates simulcasting dog and horse racing as well as the electronic bingo operations. Greenetrack and the County Commission had an agreement in which Greenetrack, Inc. would pay a designated amount for use of the county’s portion of the property.  The current 20 year lease agreement was reached by the two parties in 2008 with Greenetrack committing to pay the county $250,000 per year.  Reportedly, this agreement stated that the lease amount could be re-negotiated every 5 years.  If there was no re-negotiation, the current lease payment would continue.  There was no re-negotiated lease agreement between the parties since 2008.
Based on the 2008 agreement Greenetrack owes the county $1 million dollars in lease fees.
The County Commission agreed to extend, for an additional 10 years, a one cent sales tax which supports the Greene County Health System.  That sales tax generates approximately $35,000 per month for the hospital system.  The county’s authorization included language which would allow the hospital to pursue other financial assistance against this guaranteed sales tax revenue. County CFO, Paula Bird reported the total funds in banks as of March 16, 2016 as follows:  Citizen Trust Bank $2,398,717.49; Merchants & Farmers Bank $1,636,341.33; CD Bond Fund Investments $566,145.29; Bank of New York $575,610.26. The CFO reported one budget amendment request from Sheriff Jonathan Benison to move $8,000 from the fuel account to the account for repairs to motor vehicles. The Commission approved this request as well as the financial, claims, revenue and expenditures reports presented by Bird.
Mrs. Joyce Pham and Ms. Katie Powell were appointed to serve on the Housing Authority of Greene County Board of Directors for Districts 5 and 2, respectively. The appointment for District I was tabled.
The Commission also tabled the J.C. Poole Library Board appointments for Districts 1 and 3.
In other business the Commission approved the following:
* Travel requests for employee training: Rhonda French – Payroll Certification Program; Tanesha Mack and Blake McMillian – ACCA Jail Training; Jeremy Rancher – Child Abuse Training; Iris Sermon and Hodges Smith – EMITS; Iris Sermon – Fusion; Commissioners Brown, Cockrell and Williams – Prattville Training.
* Resolution regarding the Abatement of Taxes and support of the passage of HB 169 and SB 96.
* Resolution adopting a Title VI Plan for ALDOT grant (Nutrition Program).
* Resolution approving the 2016 Sales Tax Holiday.
* Resolution approving the Finley McRae Cemetery.
* Board of Education’s request to use lawn of the former Miles College building for a parent cookout on April 22, 2016.