Wednesday, August 31, 2005



Billy Neil Brightwell, 67, died Aug. 30.
He was the owner and operator of Brightwell Family Foods in Lonoke for many years.
He was a member of Lonoke Baptist Church and was involved in many community activities and projects. In the mid-1980s, he was selected as man of the year for Lonoke. He also was chosen for an Arkansas Community Service award. A son, Tim, his parents, Dewey and Daphna Brightwell, preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife, Charlotte Brightwell; a son, Danny Brightwell; a granddaughter, Jennifer Brightwell, all of Lonoke, and his sister, Leota Kimbrough of Colombia, Tenn.
Visitation will be Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke.
Funeral services will be held 2 p.m. Thursday at Lonoke Baptist Church with interment at Browns-ville Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to Lonoke Baptist Church Building Fund.


Brenda Christine Tubbs, 65, passed away Aug. 27. Survivors include her husband, William G. Tubbs; son, David G. Tubbs; daughter, Nancy K.Woods; grandson, Kristopher Gearth, all of Cabot; and brother, Robert Chism of Charlotte, N.C. Services were held Tuesday at Gateway Fellowship Church in Lonoke with interment in Sunset Memorial Gardens in Lawton, Okla., on Wednesday.
Funeral arrangements by Boyd Funeral Home.


Harold L. Counts, 85, of Cabot passed away Aug. 28.
He was a member of Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church for over 45 years, Big Rock Masonic Lodge for over 50 years and a World War II veteran in the U.S. Navy.
He retired from the Navy Re-serve. He worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad for 40 years as a machinist.
He is survived by his wife, of 63 years, Elfetta Counts, of Cabot; two sons, James Counts and wife, April, of Benton and Dr. Ken Counts, of Vi-lonia; daughter, Joy Maddox, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; grandchildren, Heather Grodzki, Jenny Parnell, Amy Counts, Katrice Noel Counts, Audrey Maddox and Jacob Maddox; and one great-grandchild, Abigail Parnell. He was preceded in death by his brother, Basil F. Counts.
Memorials may be made to Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church building bund or cemetery. Funeral services were held Tuesday at Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church.
Burial was in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Arrangements by North Little Rock Funeral Home.


Julia Doris Welch, 87, of McRae, died Aug. 26.
She lived in the Copperas Springs community all her life. She was a homemaker and a member of McRae First United Methodist Church.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Kirby Welch and five brothers, Sidney, Wayne, Bernice, Neil and Exum Cranford.
She is survived by a son, Jim Welch and his wife, Liz, of Overland Park, Kan.; two daughters, Judy Latture and her husband, James, of McRae, and Cindy Lascola and her husband, Tony, of Ward; seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Funeral services were held Monday at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Weir Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society. Arrangements by West-brook Funeral Home.


William N. Warren, 94, of Beebe died Aug. 25.
He was born May 6, 1911, in Beebe to W. A. and Olga Warren. His father started Warren Brothers Store in Beebe in 1904, and William started working there in 1930 and retired in 1980. He was a lifetime and faithful member of Beebe First Baptist Church where he served as deacon, treasurer for 35 years, Sunday school superintendent and trustee. William also served as of Beebe treasurer and was a member of the Beebe Kiwanis Club.
He is survived by a daughter, Nancy Burnett, and her husband, Bill of Beebe; three grandchildren, Amy Lee and husband Chuck, Martha Dodson and husband Rick, and Debbie Adams and husband Matt; five great-grandchildren, Chris Lee, Walt Hefner, Katie Bunzell, Laura Adams and Emily Adams.
Funeral services were held Monday at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Beebe Cemetery. Memorials may be made to Beebe First Baptist Church Building Fund.
Arrangements by Westbrook Funeral Home.

EDITORIAL >> BRAC slows base growth

Little Rock Air Force Base would have gained dozens of C-130 transport planes and some 4,000 personnel had the Base Realignment and Closure Commission agreed with the Pentagon’s list of proposed military base closings, which would have saved taxpayers billions of dollars and made our military more efficient.

But bending to political pressure from several states that would not let go of their military facilities without a fight, the commission this week virtually sabotaged the Pentagon’s carefully thought-out plan to consolidate this nation’s military by phasing out useless bases. It appears now that our air base will gain about half the number of planes — perhaps as few as 25 and as few as 1,000 new personnel, which would have been fine under normal circumstances but not in today’s complicated world.

These are unusual times, with rising deficits and our military stretched to the limit. The BRAC Commission need not have rubber-stamped the Pentagon’s list of closings, but the panel left too many bases open to achieve significant savings and make the military more agile.

Sure, Arkansans may be grateful that the commission did not eliminate the Little Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas. In addition, the Air National Guard will stay in Fort Smith, but the BRAC Commis-sion has done us few other favors. It chose to keep open South Dakota’s Ellsworth Air Force Base, whose bombers would have moved down to Dyess AFB in Texas. Dyess’ C-130s, in turn, would have come here.

On the positive side, we could get some planes from Pope AFB, but not as many as we had hoped. What’s more, Sen. Hillary Clinton will keep her C-130s at the Niagara Falls, N.Y., Air National Guard, which would have moved here if the BRAC Commission had gone along with the Pentagon’s wishes.

The commission will now submit its conclusions to President Bush and Congress, who can accept or reject the BRAC’s entire list of recommendations. Chances are they will go along with the commission because no one wants to start the process all over again anytime soon.

The BRAC Commission’s recommendations are disappointing, although the Air Force could still move most of the planes it had wanted to even if the other facilities stay open. The Pentagon didn’t get everything it wanted during the review process, but it can still exercise good judgment and consolidate much of its C-130 fleet right here at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Central Arkansas can support the military’s effort at streamlining by welcoming however many new planes and people we’ll wind up with, and then keep lobbying — and lobby hard — for more of them in the years ahead.

EDITORIAL >> Job preservation was BRAC’s focus

As the Base Realignment and Closure Commission was winding down its work outside Washington Friday evening, Anthony J. Principi, the commission’s chairman, offered an amendment to keep open the Niagara Falls, N.Y., Air Reserve Station, preventing the transfer of eight C-130s to Little Rock Air Force Base.

He didn’t need an amendment: The commission’s staff had taken the base off the closure list, and Principi, who talks like a New Yorker, was relieved. The base would remain open because, as Principi said, it “is the second-largest employer in western New York” and might become the largest if the biggest industry there shut down, which, judging from the pained expression on Principi’s face, seemed imminent.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat from New York and formerly Arkansas’ and America’s First Lady, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, had fought to keep the C-130s from moving here. You can’t blame her for standing up for her second adopted state, but military considerations had little to do with her stance.
Hundreds of other politicians and community leaders fought for their home bases, turning the BRAC process into a job-preservation effort instead of addressing the needs of today’s military, which is spread too thin at too many bases and must consolidate.

Unfortunately, the Base Realign-ment and Closure Commission weighed the economic consequences of closing too many bases and decided that preserving jobs was more important than building a lean military.

The commission rejected about $11 billion in savings that the Pentagon had hoped to realize by closing scores of bases around the country. The commission voted to keep open bases in Alaska, Michigan, South Dakota, Connecticut, Texas and elsewhere, ignoring the Defense Department’s list of closings that would have saved America’s taxpayers $48 billion over 20 years. The commission thought saving about $37 billion was enough.
The President and Congress will probably accept the BRAC Commis-sion’s decision against closing all the bases the Defense Department wanted eliminated. Saving Niagara Falls, Ells-worth AFB in South Dakota and Pope AFB in North Carolina means fewer additional C-130s and personnel for us, although Pentagon officials could legally still move people and planes around any way they want to. If they believe the nation’s military interests are better served when C-130s and their crews are consolidated at LRAFB, then by all means send them here even if the other bases stay open.

NEIGHBORS >> Open Arms Shelter in Lonoke receives $28,000 gift from Dillard’s department store.

Leader staff writer

Lonoke’s Open Arms Shelter for abused and neglected children received one of their largest gifts ever, $27,000 from Dillard’s in McCain Mall.

“This donation is the result of our furnishing vendors and merchandising office working together to help Open Arms,” said Bob Seibert, store manager for Dillard’s in McCain Mall.
“But it’s not about the store, it’s about Open Arms.”

The money will be used for debt reduction and expenses at the shelter according to Susan Bransford, executive director of Open Arms Shelter. She has been with Open Arms Shelter since it began in 1986.
“This is one of the largest donations we’ve had,” Bransford said.

During an Open Arms fundraiser in July, Dillard’s of McCain Mall furnished The Idea House, one of 26 homes showcased during the Cabot Avenue of Dreams Home Showcase.

The home showcase, organized by Open Arms Shelter board member Rhonda House, raised more than $18,000 for the shelter through ticket sales and donations.

Open Arms Shelter began in October 1985 when a group of concerned citizens met to address the growing problem of child abuse and neglect in central Arkansas.

This group, made up of law enforcement officials, judges, school counselors and human service professionals, became known as the Lonoke County Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect. After conducting a survey, the task force found that the greatest need was a shelter for young victims of abuse and neglect because Lonoke County had only a few foster homes. Shelters in the state for children were consistently full and often had waiting lists.

On September 15, 1986, the first Open Arms Shelter opened at 203 East Fourth St. in Lonoke in a house donated by former Lonoke County Judge Dude Spence.

Open Arms Shelter began as a group foster home with eight beds, a budget of $25,000 and one full time set of house parents. Since then, the facility has moved twice. Open Arms Shelter now has a clean and spacious 12 facility, a budget of $225,000 and a full time staff of six.

“Right now Lonoke County only has one foster home accepting children,” Bransford said. “We’re currently housing nine children so we’re almost full.”

She said Open Arms has been blessed with volunteers donating their time as well as money.
“We have volunteers to read and do crafts, sometimes we have Sunday school classes that wash our windows,” Bransford said.

In the nearly 20 years since it started, Open Arms Shelter has provided emergency shelter to over 1,400 victims of abuse and neglect between the ages of birth and 18.
It provides the children a safe place to stay while awaiting placement in foster homes, treatment facilities or with relatives.

Open Arms Shelter is one of the few emergency shelters in the state that will take children under 8, teenage mothers with their children and large sibling groups.

Children can stay for a maximum of 45 days at Open Arms. In addition to a room, three meals a day, and around the clock supervision, the children receive affection and guidance on dealing with life’s difficulties.
The children at the shelter have come from every imaginable type of crisis including neglectful situations.
Some have arrived with broken arms and legs from abuse. Other children are so hungry from neglect they hide food. Some children arrive in shock from being the victim of a custodial kidnapping or witnessing a drug bust.
At Open Arms these children have a clean, spacious environment to recuperate.
For more information about Open Arms Shelter please call (501) 676-6166.

SPORTS >> Conway goes to air to bomb Panthers

Leader sports writer

The favorite almost never wins the Cabot-Conway football game that has become a season-opening staple in the state of Arkansas. Tuesday night was no different, as the underdog Wampus Cats went to the air to down the Panthers 21-7 in the first game of the Diamond Bank Bowl doubleheader.
Cabot was only slightly favored, and head Panther Mike Malham wasn’t surprised to see the run-oriented Cats take to the air.

“We have a lot of young guys back there,” Malham said. “They had almost everybody back from last year, so they have a lot more experience than we did, and that showed.”

Conway coach Kenny Smith gave an I-told-you-so speech after the game.
“I’ve been telling you that we’re going to air it out,” Smith said.

The plan worked beautifully, as Conway quarterback Casey Cooper completed 8 of 10 pass attempts for 182 yards and a touchdown.

Cooper played a tremendous game,” Smith said. “His passes were right on target, he made good decisions, but that’s not all that won this game. Everybody knows to beat Cabot you have to win it in the trenches, and I thought our front men did a heckuva job tonight. This is a big win and great way to start the season.”
Conway’s first drive looked easy. It started with a 29-yard run by tailback Eric Crenshaw on the first play of the game. Two running plays gained two yards, but back-to-back completions put Conway at the Cabot 16-yard line.

Tailback Patrick Harris did the rest, picking up those 16 yards on the next play for a 7-0 Conway lead just two minutes and nine seconds into the game.

Cabot answered right back, although it took a little longer.
The Panthers ground out 78 yards on 10 plays, starting with a 26-yarder by halfback Alex Tripp, and ending with a 1-yard run by fullback Richard Williams. The extra point was good to tie the game with 5:34 left in the first quarter.

Cabot had plenty more offensive success, but couldn’t manage another score.
After holding Conway to one first down, the Panthers threw an interception on the ninth play of their next drive.

After the pick, Harris went three yards to the Conway 23, before lightning struck for the Wampus Cats. On the very next play, Cooper found wide receiver Luke Pruett streaking down the sidelines. Pruett caught the perfectly thrown ball over his inside shoulder, behind the Cabot secondary, and cruised into the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown strike.

Cabot went three and out on its next drive. Conway got to the Cabot 15, but missed a field goal to set Cabot up at its own 20.

The Panthers put together another impressive drive, getting all the way to the Conway 9-yard line in 13 plays. Starting quarterback Cory Wade was hurt on the 12th play, a 6-yard completion to Colin Fuller that set up third and four and the 6-yard line.

After a Cabot timeout, backup quarterback John Flynn was sacked for a 3-yard loss, and Cabot missed a 26-yard field goal to come away empty after the long drive.

Conway took over at its own 20 with less than a minute remaining in the half, and took a knee to run out the clock.

After a first half that saw both teams gain yards easily, the second half was a defensive struggle.
Cabot managed just 74 yards in the second half, while Conway gained 116.

Fifty-one of Conway’s yards in the second half came on the game-clinching drive late in the fourth quarter.
After struggling throughout the half, the Wampus Cats bit off chunks of yardage at a time on the last drive. Backup fullback Jaycob Baker gained 10, 5 and 10 yards respectively on his first three carries of the drive. The next two plays lost four yards to set up third and 13 with 1:49 remaining in the game.
Cabot used its last timeout and Conway was trying to run out the clock, but changed courses on the ensuing play. To the surprise of some, Cooper dropped back to pass on third and long, and found receiver Lance Amos all alone in the end zone with 1:42 remaining.

Cabot tried throwing the ball in its last-ditch effort, but Flynn was under pressure. He was forced to keep on the first play, then threw into double coverage. The pass was tipped and intercepted by Jermall Whitworth to seal the game for the Wampus Cats.

Conway finished with 298 total yards, while Cabot gained 278.
Pruett led the Conway receivers in yardage, catching two passes for 90 yards. Amos was Cooper’s favorite target, catching five passes for 73 yards.

Crenshaw led Conway on the ground with just 43 yards on seven carries. The Wampus Cats only managed 116 yards on 36 carries as a team.

Cabot gained all but six yards on the ground, with Tripp leading the way with 100 yards on 13 carries. Brandon Wade picked up 87 yards on 13 totes while Williams gained 61 yards on 16 carries.

The Panthers will have a long week of preparation before its home opener next Friday against Mills University Studies.

SPORTS >> Devils aware of Cats

Leader sports writer

The week-one battle between Jacksonville and North Little Rock could be labeled many things. One of the main things is a revenge game for the Red Devils. Jacksonville entered last season’s opening game with high hopes and expectations, while North Little Rock was hoping to become a team to contend with, but were still up-and-comers.

The Charging Wildcats scored three touchdowns before most fans got to their seats en route to a 34-0 drumming of the visiting Devils.

This year, it’s Jacksonville that is rebuilding, and hoping to prove itself a real contender in AAAAA football.
First Year Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley is downplaying the revenge factor.

“I haven’t heard much talk about revenge,” Whatley said. “Hopefully we’re becoming a team that prepares for every game the same way. We’re very aware of how good they are this year. That’s all we’re concerned with.
North Little Rock coach Brian Hutson got a good look at Jacksonville last Saturday night in its scrimmage against Greenbrier, and came away impressed.

“They looked really good,” Hutson said. “I was very impressed. “They’ve got some big boys and really seemed to have grasped what they’re doing. They’ve got speed on both sides. I just didn’t see any weaknesses.”
Hutson was very impressed with Jacksonville’s size up front, but his Wildcats are devoid of size and speed.
Hutson has two of the most sought-after recruits in the state in Van Stumon and Jonathan Hicks. Both players can play defensive end and linebacker, while Stumon adds running back to his list of duties with his 4.6 speed.
They are both in the 6-foot-3, 240 range, and both have scholarship offers from multiple major division I schools.

Although Stumon and Hicks are the two everyone knows about, they are far from the only talented players on the team.

Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley saw the Wildcats scrimmage at Stuttgart, and left very impressed.
“We immediately came home, changed all the locks on the gates and we’re not letting ‘em in,” Whatley said.
“They just seem to have an awful, awful lot of talent over there and a tremendous amount of speed. They’ve got those two big guys on the ends, in very dangerous spots. We’re going to have to know where those two are at all times.”

Those two are a big reason for North Little Rock’s high ranking in all the preseason polls, but Hutson doesn’t like all the preseason attention.

“Everybody’s got us ranked high, high, high, but honestly I’d like to know where that’s coming from,” Hutson said. “I do have great, great players, but they can’t play the other nine positions too. It takes 11. There’s some talent on this team, no doubt, but I don’t know if it’s what people are saying. This week is going to be a good test.”

One thing Hutson spotted he hopes he can take advantage of was the number of Jacksonville players that started on both sides of the ball in the Greenbrier scrimmage.

“We’re going to have to do that too (play some on both sides), but probably not as much as they did,” Hutson said. “They may not show up Friday and do that anyway.

“If they do, I’m hoping we’ll be in good enough shape to be the fresher team in the fourth quarter.
“If one team is fresher than the other in the fourth quarter, it makes a difference. It doesn’t matter who’s playing.”

Whatley agrees that keeping players fresh is important at this level, but says that’s the hand his team has been dealt right now.

“We’re hoping by conference time we’ll have some other kids step up that can play those roles and give us some more depth. Right now, though, we’re playing the 11 guys that we feel like will make us the best football team.”

Friday’s game begins at 7 p.m. instead of the traditional 7:30 start time.
It will be the KATV feature game of the week.

TOP STORY >> Guard ready for evacuees

Leader staff writer

The Arkansas National Guard opened the Searcy Readiness Center in White County Tuesday, along with the Crossett Readiness Center in Ashley County to provide shelter for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. The two centers were opened in addition to the Monticello Readiness Center in Drew County.

Thousands of refugees from Louisiana and Mississippi have poured into Arkansas, seeking shelter from the storm.
An Arkansas National Guard response team of 15 personnel and seven vehicles left Tuesday evening from the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Hazen to respond to a request from the National Disaster Medical System to rescue patients stranded at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in New Orleans.

Additionally, the Guard supplied cots and blankets to shelters at First Baptist Church of West Memphis in Crittenden County, Lake Village High School in Chicot County and the Hot Springs Convention Center in Garland County.

Convoys of 350 combat engineers, transportation specialists, medics, and military police are scheduled to depart Wednesday morning from their home stations in Jonesboro, Marked Tree and West Memphis with nearly 75 vehicles and other pieces of equipment.

The troops will report to Camp Shelby, Miss., as Task Force Razorback.
The Arkansas National Guard is expected to assist with debris removal, law enforcement efforts and humanitarian aid in the area.

An advance party, including the Task Force Razorback commander, moved out Tuesday to prepare for the arrival of the troops at Camp Shelby.

Additionally, two UH-60 MEDEVAC Black Hawk helicopters departed from Camp Robinson to assist with search and rescue efforts in the Biloxi/Gulfport region.

The Guard’s unique dual mission allows the governor, as the commander in chief, to utilize National Guard in a state of active duty status for operations such as disaster response.

Communities requesting support from the Arkansas National Guard coordinate with county emergency management coordinators or the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to funnel requests through the proper channels. Gov. Mike Huckabee must approve all requests for the National Guard.

TOP STORY >> Commands on scoreboard?


The scoreboard at the Cabot High School football field could soon display the Ten Commandments.
The Rev. Don Robinson is asking local churches to help pay for the display, which he says would be permitted following a recent Supreme Court ruling that is more tolerant of the Ten Command-ments in public areas.
The school district is asking $60,000 for the right to share the scoreboard with Community Bank, which has donated $100,000 for its construction.

The Cabot School District will allow the display if the Rev. Robinson comes up with the money.
“I don’t believe there would be a conflict as long as they paid for it,” said Johnny White, athletic and transportation director at the Cabot School District.

“I’ll go to work to raise it in the Christian community,” the Rev. Robinson told us. “There’s no question in my mind that if we show them we’re allowed to do it, we can do it.”

“We can get 3,000 godly people the night we unveil it,” says the Rev. Robinson, who has pastored at several small churches. “We’ll give the bank thanks for letting us share the scoreboard.”
“When businesses are allowed to advertise, so can churches,” he says. “A church has the same option to buy advertisements as the business world.”

“Churches will be able to get their message out,” he continues. “We’ll be able to put up signs at ballfields.”
“Young people have the idea we’re not relevant anymore be-cause we’ve been silent. Drug peddlers have been targeting our kids.”

If he encounters any opposition to putting the commandments on the scoreboard, he says he’ll get help from the American Center for Law and Justice, which has gone to court in support of public displays of the commandments.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court last June issued two contradictory rulings on the commandments — allowing their display at the Texas capitol, but not a plaque in a Kentucky courtroom — earlier this month, the full 8th Circuit Court of Appeals let a public display stand in a Nebraska city park, overturning an earlier 2-1 decision by one of the court’s three-judge panels.

Judge Morris S. Arnold of Little Rock, a conservative Republican on the 8th Circuit, dissented from the full court’s favorable ruling on the commandments in the park.

The Rev. Robinson is confident he can legally display the commandments on a football scoreboard, although he acknowledges there are many skeptics in the community.

“We have a lot of Christian people who think we can’t get away with it,” the Rev. Robinson says.
“I appeal to the Christian community,” he adds, “to take back what we lost 30 years ago. We rolled over and played dead 30 years ago. God has put this opportunity in our hands. For many years, they wouldn’t let us pray in schools. We didn’t cease to be Christians.

“This opens up a whole new area for us,” he says, referring to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The Rev. Robinson says there are 76 churches in Cabot. They’d each have to contribute less than $800 to pay for the scoreboard display. Some churches could give more. A few months ago, members of a local church raised more than $100,000 for an experimental leukemia treatment for young Dakota Hawkins in Jerusalem.
“I’m going to ask the churches for a special offering,” the minister says.

The Rev. Robinson has been active in anti-pornography crusades. It was 18 years ago that he was pictured on the front page of the first issue of The Leader, demonstrating in front of a convenience store that sold adult magazines. That store has been torn down and is the site for the new Chili’s Bar and Grill.

He has been building churches in Mexico as well as small trains he lets children ride at church events.
He is a retired stonemason who developed the patent for a central fireplace that can heat a 4,200-square-foot house.

But religion is his passion and the Ten Commandments his obsession.
“It teaches us how to get along,” he explains. “The commandments are really something.”
“There’s hope,” he adds. “We’ve gotten to the point where we thought we lost hope. The Ten Commandments could be a beginning for us. We can build from there.

“If it’s for God’s cause, I’d like to be in a fight when He calls me. All we need is a battle cry, and the Ten Commandments can be that.”

E-mail Garrick Feldman at His phone number is 982-9421 or 941-5132.

TOP STORY >> Base harbors planes fleeing from Katrina

Leader staff writer

The Base Closure and Realignment Commission may have bought Sen. Hillary Clinton’s argument that Little Rock Air Force Base is in tornado alley and too weather-vulnerable to be home to a new batch of C-130s, but for the second time in two months the Jacksonville base provided safe harbor to Air Force planes fleeing hurricanes.
An unspecified number of C-130s from Hurlburt Field in Florida moved to LRAFB to ride out Hurricane Katrina while remaining on alert. The planes and airmen of the 16th Special Operations Wing support the war on terrorism, according to Lt. Jon Quinlan of Little Rock’s 314th Airlift Wing.

The Jacksonville base also is playing host to airmen and C-21s from the 81st Training wing at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.

That base sustained significant damage in a direct hit by the hurricane, according to Quinlan, and LRAFB brass have been determining what local assets might be of use to Keesler. Those range from supplies to housing units, he said. “Some housing at Keesler was completely obliterated.

“We’ve been getting calls from families (who can’t reach) airmen at Keesler,” Quinlan said.
“The decision to evacuate (Hurlburt) was made Sunday morning,” said Col. Mark Alsid, 16th Operations Group commander. “With the storm being as big as it was, we couldn’t take any chances.”

The units received a lot of support from Little Rock Airmen setting up everything from billeting arrangements to maintenance support. “It was a base-wide effort,” said Sgt. Dawson. “We have helped set up just about anything you can think of.” The support was well received by the 16th SOW.

“Without the tremendous support of Little Rock Air Force Base and the local community we wouldn’t be about to continue our mission,” said Alsid.

The last hurricane evacuation here was July 8 during Hurricane Dennis. This is the second hurricane evacuation of the season for the 16th special operations.

TOP STORY >> Gas prices skyrocket

Leader staff writer

Gasoline jumped more than 25 cents a gallon from Monday night prices to Tuesday prices, and they were still rising Tuesday.

A Valero station on First Street in Jacksonville was at $2.599 per gallon of regular gas at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and two hours later the price was up to $2.699.

The commercial gas station on Little Rock Air Force Base even ran out of regular gasoline Monday.
Gas prices Tuesday ranged from $2.499 at Dude’s on Highway 38 in Ward to $2.799 at the Flash Market on Highway 367 in Cabot.

Most clerks quoted their prices using the words “at the moment” or “at this time.”
One said her station went up 15 cents Monday and another dime on Tuesday. Most couldn’t say if there was going to be any leveling of prices soon, but did agree that prices weren’t going down soon.
The Citgo on Marshall Road experienced a very busy night Monday. “It kicked our tail,” the clerk said. Monday night the price was $2.459, but Tuesday morning it jumped to $2.699.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service pumps at Little Rock Air Force base were out of regular unleaded Monday, according to Lt. Jon Quinlan, a base spokesman. The underground tanks have been refilled and “they don’t anticipate future shortage,” he said Tuesday.

In Jacksonville Tuesday the average price for a gallon of regular gas was $2.660. In Cabot it was $2.677. The BP station on Main Street in Jacksonville never did adjust their road sign Tuesday, which advertised regular gasoline at $2.459 (Monday night’s price), but as motorists drove up they saw paper notices taped to the pumps stating the price was really $2.669, a penny less than the Shell station on one side of Main and a penny more than the Hess station on the other side. The American Automobile Association daily fuel gauge report was outdated by mid morning. The AAA surveys more than 60,000 station across the nation and releases the information in the early hours of the morning. On Tuesday, it released its surveyed prices at about 3 a.m., showing that Arkansas’ average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.513, actually down about three-tenths of a cent from Monday.

For now, the gas and oil supply from wells and refineries in the gulf area is disrupted and even local Murphy Oil officials say it’s too early to how much damage has been sustained. “We have two platforms in Gulf of Mexico and a refinery at Gulf Shores,” said Mindy West, director of investor relations.
She said they don’t know the fate of those platforms or the refinery.

“If the refineries are damaged, we won’t be able to replace that without raising the cost per barrel,” said West. “As for an actual shortage, it’s too early to know.

“New Orleans is one of our major ports with a lot of refinery capacity in the area,” said West. “We’ll know more in the next several days or week or two,” she said. “Wholesale prices are rising on the fear of extensive damage.”

(Leader staff writer John Hofheimer contributed to this article.)

TOP STORY >> State check will pay for upgrading Lonoke jail

Leader staff writer

Things may be looking up for the overcrowded, decrepit Lonoke County Jail, the result of a General Improvement Fund check for $290,000 due to be presented to County Judge Charlie Troutman at 2 p.m. Friday.
The money for jail improvement was secured through the efforts of state Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle; state Rep. Lenville Evans, D-Lonoke and state Rep. Susan Schulte, R-Cabot.

The state Department of Finance and Administration began writing about $53 million worth of General Improvement Fund checks for 2,100 projects late last week, ac-cording to Richard Weiss, director.
Among the checks not being cut are several for Jacksonville-area improvements, most of them sponsored by state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville.

Jacksonville attorney Mike Wilson has sued, saying that state funding for most of the project is illegal and citing the Jacksonville projects by name.

Proctor has put a temporary halt to disbursement of funds for the projects named in the suit, saying it was not unreasonable to think Wilson might prevail, but no hearing date has been set.

Wilson, a former state representative, says the funding violates Amendment 14, which bans state-funded local legislation. The Jacksonville projects named in the case are:

• $190,000 for the new Esther D. Nixon Library.
• $50,000 to the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.
• $50,000 to the Jacksonville Senior Center.
• $20,000 to the City of Jacksonville.
• $10,000 to the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.
• $10,000 for the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society.

Jacksonville voters in July approved a one-mill property tax increase to finance $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library.

“My understanding is they have started cutting checks after Aug. 25. There’s no court order prohibiting it, with exception of ones the judge asked be put on hold,” said Weiss, head of the DFA.

Writing the checks, however, must be fit into regular state business like paying bills and issuing paychecks.
“But the process has begun,” said Weiss.

TOP STORY >> DoD has final say on base strength

Leader staff writer

No one seems sure how many additional C-130s Little Rock Air Force Base will receive in the wake of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations, but ultimately that will be a Defense Department decision, not a decision by the BRAC Commission.

That’s according to Jim Schaefer, communications director for the BRAC Commission in Washington.
How many of the 77 additional planes and 3,898 jobs proposed for Little Rock Air Force Base by the Defense De-partment will end up at the base is still a big question mark.

Schaefer did say that nine, instead of 18, C-130Hs are headed for the 189th Air Education Wing of the Air National Guard, which shares the base, and the Guard says it is grateful for those.
But as for the active Air Force, the 314th Airlift Wing, Little Rock Air Force Base brass don’t know how many planes it will get.

Schaefer says he doesn’t know either. He says the commission “severed” the movement of planes from the original motion to expand the mission of the base, so the movement of planes and personnel could fluctuate.
Instead of a specific number of additional planes, the recommendation for more planes at LRAFB will specify “at the discretion of the secretary of defense,” said Schaefer.

“How they get there or where they come from is left to the discretion of the Air Force,” said Schaefer.
He said he had hoped that a final BRAC Air Force rendering would be available on the BRAC website by Tuesday evening, but it was not there by 9:30 p.m.

Schaeffer confirmed that the 24 C-130s recommended for reassignment from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas to Little Rock were taken off the table when the commission recommended that Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota remain open.
“It’s been a marathon week for us,” Schaeffer said.

Cong. Vic Snyder said Tuesday, “My staff and I continue to make inquiries of the impact of BRAC on Little Rock Air Force Base, but we have been unable to get information that we believe to be final and reliable.”
“We don’t know any more than we did,” said Lt. Jon Quinlan, spokesman for the 314th Airlift Wing. “We’re still trying to figure out what the deal is. We haven’t received any information from headquarters.”
Sgt. Bob Oldham, a spokesman for the Air National Guard at the base, said it expects to receive nine C-130Hs to replace eight older model C-130s, “although nothing is certain.”

“(Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld wanted us to get 14 H models and four Js,” he said.
But Oldham is not complaining.

“They are modernizing our fleet, and we gained one extra aircraft,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Workers lending a hand

Leader staff writer

As survivors assess the damage from Hurricane Katrina, Arkansas utility companies are sending employees to help restore electricity to more than one million customers. After hitting the tip of Florida last week, the massive hurricane made landfall again on the Gulf Coast early Monday morning, wreaking havoc and killing dozens of people.

Early Tuesday morning, 39 crew members and twenty-two trucks from First Electric’s Benton, Heber Springs, Jack-sonville and Perryville off-ices left for Washington-St. Tammany Elec-tric Cooperative in Franklinton, La. About 22 of the crew members are from the Jacksonville office.

Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative serves over 46,000 customers north of New Orleans and reported a complete loss of power to all customers at the height of the storm.

“We’ll be down there two weeks at least,” said Larry Hulsey, a First Electric construction foreman. “The hardest part is driving down. Everyone’s anxious to go.”
Hulsey went with First Electric crews to help with extensive and lengthy power restoration projects in Alabama caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Restoring power in the aftermath of a hurricane is a first for some of the crew, like Shawn Taylor, 33, of Lonoke. Taylor said he feels prepared since he has worked restoring power after ice storms and tornadoes.
“We just loaded our trucks with what we thought we might need down there,” Taylor said.

The most valuable piece of equipment each worker has is the personal voltage detector. The device is about the size of a deck of cards and hangs around employees’ necks. When the employee nears a live wire, for instance, one possibly under debris, an alarm goes off.

On a larger scale, Entergy Arkansas deployed 360 employees, about two-thirds of their total workforce, to restore electricity for more than 1.1 million customers.

Entergy spokesman David Lewis said there were about 790,000 customers without electricity in Louisiana and 290,000 in Mississippi.

“This is by far the worst disaster we’ve ever had,” Lewis said. “The largest outage we’ve ever helped with was 270,000 customers just last month with Tropical Storm Cindy in these same states.”

The record prior to Tropical Storm Cindy was 260,000 outages following Hurricane George in 1998.
Lewis estimates it will be well over a month before the power is back on in New Orleans and maybe longer for rural areas. In many places, restoration cannot begin until after the damage has been assessed.

Workers will concentrate on restoring service in areas not inhibited by flood waters or debris.
“Our personnel are working from the Entergy offices in Jackson, Miss. with 4,000 other Entergy employees,” Lewis said. “They will proceed day by day to where they’re needed the most.”

Entergy follows a restoration plan that concentrates on getting service restored to essential customers first, like hospitals, police and fire departments, communications, water, sanitary services and transportation providers.

Then crews turn their attention to making repairs to electrical facilities that will return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest period of time.

Entergy customers in Arkansas may see some lag in services since so many employees are helping restore electricity in Louisiana and Mississippi.

“We request some patience and understanding because we’re shorthanded here,” Lewis said.

“There will be slower response times for non-emergency services such as getting new service connected.”
The American Red Cross estimates 2,000 volunteers will be in the areas providing assistance. Donations to the American Red Cross can be made by calling (800) HELP-NOW or (800) 435-7669 or by visiting