Wednesday, September 21, 2005

EDITORIAL >> A monument to bad timing

The very official Arkansas Highway Funding Task Force is getting ready to hand the legislature and Gov. Huckabee a plan to borrow $1 billion for a highway-building program. We cannot imagine a greater monument to bad timing.
Had they followed the small stories in the public prints, the members of the task force would know that earlier in the week voters in neighboring Oklahoma voted about 6 to 1 against higher taxes to pay for repairing and replacing bridges and roads. Motorists would have paid four cents more for gasoline and eight cents more for diesel to bring fuel taxes up to Arkansas’ levies. Those little imposts do not compare with the gouging by the oil companies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but voters are not known for grasping subtleties.

The Highway Funding Task Force at least had the gumption not to recommend fuel tax increases — not yet, anyway — but it will not be able to find suitable substitutes that will raise $100 million a year in new revenue, the approximate amount that will be needed to amortize a $1 billion debt.

One of its options has merit: a graduated tax on heavy commercial trucks. The 18-wheelers carrying 40 tons are the ones tearing up the highways and they do not carry their share of the burden of maintaining roads and bridges.

But the transportation and shipping lobbies have always proven too powerful to tax justly. Ask Bill Clinton, who tried to do it in 1979. The lobby was so powerful, especially in western Arkansas, that he finally capitulated and settled the tax burden instead on the owners of family cars and pickups. The decision defeated him in the next election.

Another proposition, a tire tax, would produce pitifully small sums. Taking a fourth of the sales tax on new vehicles is a nonstarter. It would take nearly $60 million a year away from the public schools, which the Arkansas Supreme Court is apt to say are already woefully underfunded. Repealing the credit on insurance premium taxes will trample on big toes, too. They should forget that option.

Gov. Huckabee has promised to call a special session when the task force produces its report, and the legislators and others on the task force seem to be counting on the Supreme Court to order a new start on paying for a constitutional school system, which would give additional cover for the Huckabee to call a special session.

But the schools are the crisis that begs for the state’s attention.
It would be a recognition of what is right as well as what is politically practical if Gov. Huckabee declared now that in deference to the children there will be no session on highways and that contractors and suppliers must wait for another day.

He might remember not only Oklahoma’s monumental defeat of a highway program but also Gov. Jim Guy Tucker’s similarly lopsided defeat at a highway bond election only months before Huckabee took office in 1996. And Tucker offered a progressive road program in a time of relatively low gasoline prices.

TOP STORY >> Air base still sorting out tons of aid from abroad

Leader staff writer

Through Friday, 36 airplanes from around the world had delivered about 3.5 million pounds of humanitarian relief to Little Rock Air Force Base to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, according Brig. Gen. Kip Self, base commander.

The base serves as the hub for all relief delivered to the U.S. by airplane. From here, it is delivered by commercial truck.

The Defense Department says 94 countries and organizations had delivered or offered aid.
Among the goods delivered were generators from Denmark, school supplies from UNICEF, generators from China, bottled water and detergent from Tunisia, rice from Thailand, blankets from India, baby food from Israel, blankets from Egypt, and tents, medical supplies and food from Russia, according to Lt. Kelly George.
“Our airman have played a vital role in this process and are working hard to provide relief to our Southern neighbors,” Self said.

Offers of aid from countries and organizations have included:
Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria and Azerbaijan; the Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei and Bulgaria.
Also Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus and the Czech Republic.

Others include Denmark, Dji-bouti, Dominica, Dominican Re-public, Ecuador, Egypt, El Sal-vador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia and European Commission.

Also Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala and Guyana; the Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, International Committee of the Red Cross, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy;
Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazak-hstan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania and Luxembourg.

Also Macedonia, Malaysia, Mal-dives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Mongolia and Morocco; Namibia, NATO, Nepal, Nether-lands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Norway.
Organization of American States, Pan American Health Organization, Pakistan, Palau and the Palestinian Authority;

Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland and Portugal.
Qatar, Romania, Russia, Rwan-da, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Serbia; Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Switzerland.

Also Taiwan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad, Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine and United Arab Emirates.
The UN Disaster Assistance and Coordination; UN Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Office of Coordinator for Human-itarian Affairs, UN Habitat, UNICEF.

Also United Kingdom, Uru-guay, Venezuela, Vietnam, World Health Organization, World Food Program and Yemen.

TOP STORY >> Elections for board members Tuesday

Leader staff writer

School board elections across the state are Tuesday and the Beebe School District has the most candidates for one position of schools in The Leader coverage area.

In Beebe, Sherril Strayhorn’s at-large position on the board is up for election. Four people, two men — Herman Blackmon and Johnny Black — and two women — Janet L. Warner and Lucy Mahoney — have filed to run for the seat.
On the Searcy School Board, Phillip R. Williams, incumbent, Position 2, is opposed by Ken Madden.
In the Pulaski County Special School District, Ronnie Calva is running unopposed for the Position 4 seat vacated by Don Baker, who left to work for the U.S. State Department. Jeff Shaneyfelt is running unopposed for his position, which covers the West Little Rock area.

For the Lonoke School Board, Neil Bennett Jr. has no opposition for the Zone 3, Position 6 seat he currently holds.

Jimmy Threet is running unopposed for the Zone 2, Position 1 seat held by Miles Ray Lilly, who is not running again, and Kevin McKenzie is unopposed for the Zone 4, Position 5 seat formerly held by Billy Fletcher, then held by his widow Julia Fletcher

In the Cabot School District, Steven Blackwood, the incumbent in Position 4, drew last-minute opposition from Wendel Msall.

In the Carlisle School District, three of the seven races for are in contention.
Terry McCallie and Samantha Jennings are running for Zone 3; Jeff Daniels and David Herring for Zone 6 and Blake Swears and Kyle Moery for Zone 7.

Running unopposed are: Bryan Oliger in Zone 1; Brian W. Cunningham in Zone 2; Debbie Reid in Zone 4 and Albert E. Kelly in Zone 5.

Two candidates filed in the England School District, Carroll West in Zone 2 and Jason Willard in Zone 3.
If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11.

TOP STORY >> Best guess: 25 more planes

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base could receive 25 additional C-130 transport planes and 2,752 new jobs according to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommendations President Bush signed Thursday, a BRAC spokesman said Friday afternoon.

The actual number of planes, which will dictate the number of additional jobs at the base, will be determined by the Air Force, the spokesman said.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said Friday that 25 planes were assigned to the base’s 314th Airlift Wing in the BRAC Commission recommendation, but that the newer planes may simply replace 27 C-130s that the Air Force may deactivate.

“Some can’t fly at all, some are restricted,” Swaim said. “Just because we’re getting some new planes doesn’t mean we’re getting new jobs.”

When the BRAC process first got underway, community leaders wanted to make sure that the base, which has about 5,000 jobs, remained open.

The Defense Department recommended not only leaving the base open, but also moving an additional 77 C-130s and 3,898 jobs to the base.

Elated developers planned expansions to accommodate the growth, and transportation planners began making contingencies aimed at alleviating any new traffic problems that would accompany the new jobs.
But as individual communities lobbied the BRAC Commission, they nipped away at the number of closures and reassignments that would have resulted in the base’s expansion and the community’s windfall.
Now it appears that the 25 planes and 2,752 jobs may be the maximum gain, but Swaim fears there may be no net gain.

“Now that the president has approved the BRAC Commission’s recommendations, I am hopeful details on the impact on Little Rock Air Force Base will be more forthcoming,” Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, said Friday.
Changes at Little Rock Air Force Base are a byproduct of action at other bases, the BRAC Commission spokesman said. BRAC commissioners never considered how many people and planes should be added at the base, but that the base was impacted by the BRAC Commission’s actions at other bases.

When the BRAC Commission reversed the Defense Department’s recommendation to close Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, it set off a chain of events preventing about two-dozen more C-130s from being transferred to Little Rock from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.

The BRAC recommendation, which will become law unless Congress rejects it in the next 45 days, takes a number of C-130s, including 25 from Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, in a pool from which the Air Force may reassign them at will, the spokesman said.

The BRAC recommendations take planes from Pope, Niagria Air National Guard Base in New York, Reno-Tahoe Air National Guard in Nevada, Schenectady (N.Y.) Air National Guard, Mansfield-Lahm Air National Guard in Ohio, Ellsworth Air Force Base and Gen. Mitchell Air Reserve Station in Milwaukee. These planes are in a pool, which the Air Force may distribute at its discretion.

The planes may be moved to Little Rock where they could replace aircraft already there.
The BRAC process has taken several years and is expected to save $25 billion over the next decade. The Defense Department would have saved more if the commission had not decided to keep several bases open which the Pentagon wanted closed.

TOP STORY >> Private club application pulled

Leader staff writer

There will be no new gentleman’s club or any other type of new private club in Jacksonville — at least for now.
An application to transfer the Planet Earth private club permit from Dennis Martindill, of Jacksonville, to a group wanting to operate a club on the north end of town was pulled Tuesday, a day before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board directors were set to vote on the issue.
Attorney Stephen Morley, of North Little Rock, representing the group that had applied for the transfer, notified the ABC Board Tuesday that his client wished to have the application pulled from consideration.
The group wanting to open the new club listed Minor Booth, of Sherwood, as president and Ricky J. Edge, of Ward, as the club manager.

The initial application with the ABC stated that Booth and Edge planned to operate a private club at 6714 T. P. White, next to Faith Christian Center.

The application said that club activities could include a gentleman’s club atmosphere, pool tables, video games, a disc jockey, live bands and dancing.
Robert Moore, administrative director of the ABC Board, said the connotation of gentleman’s club is adult entertainment.

The application met stiff opposition from area churches, politicians and citizens as more than a dozen letters against the club were filed with the ABC Board, along with a petition of at least 300 names.
Morley told the ABC Board in a letter filed earlier in the month that his client was reconsidering his location plans and would submit a new application by Tuesday.
No new application was filed.

Rumors abound that the permit may eventually end up in the hands of a chain restaurant similar to Chili’s, which has experienced great success in its first three months in Jacksonville as a private club.
Because Jacksonville is located in Gray’s Township, a dry, or non-alcohol, area, any restaurant wanting to serve alcohol must open as a private club and be in possession of a private-club permit.
“We do not want a strip-club row here,” Larry C. Burton, senior pastor of McArthur Assembly of God, wrote in a letter to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

His church would be across the highway and south of the proposed club.
Wilbur Gene Gilliam, senior pastor for the Faith Christian Center, which would be less than 400 feet from the proposed club, also sent a letter of objections.

“We do not have anything against the people who own or patronize these type businesses, in general.
“We do, however, strongly oppose their type of business being close to a church or school,” Gilliam wrote in his objection.

He reminded the ABC Board that there were already four private clubs operating across the highway from his church and that there have been “fights, stabbings, shootings, and even people killed in or around those night clubs.”

Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman, Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim and state representatives Susan Schulte and Sandra Prater have also filed letters of objections with the ABC Board.
Booth, president of the group which Martindill plans to give the club permit to, is the owner of Sensations, located across Hwy. 67/167 from the site of the new club.

Booth owns other clubs in central Arkansas, including All Stars in Sherwood, Legends in west Little Rock and Visions near Maumelle.

The Goal Post and Hollywood Country Club is also located on John Harden Drive and Martin-dill’s Hardrider Bar and Grill is in that same area of Pulaski County between Jacksonville and Cabot.



Doyl Odom, 62, of Austin, passed away Sept. 17. He was born Jan. 24, 1943, in North Little Rock to the late Aubrey Thomas and Betty Odom.
Survivors include his loving wife, Barbara Odom of the home; one son, Robert Odom of Scott; two daughters: Lela Bellamy of Cabot and Farrah Odom of Austin; one sister, Betty Reeves of Missouri; and seven grandchildren. Memorial Services will be held at 2 p.m. today at Oak Grove First Baptist Church.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the American Heart Association. Arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service.


Helen Harrison Thornton, 95, of Beebe went to be with the Lord Sept. 18. She was a fraternity housemother at San Diego State College for several years and a homemaker.
She is survived by three sons, Burnette Harrison and wife Eileen of Beebe, Bob “Max” Harrison and wife Shirley of Poway, Calif., and Donald Harrison and wife Kay of Morrilton; eight grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
Family will receive visitors from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe. Funeral will be 10 a.m. Thursday, at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Antioch Cemetery.
Caren Kay Beatty
Caren Kay Beatty, 34, of Cabot, passed away Sept. 20. Survivors include her son, Austin Dakota Beatty of the home; mother, Glenda Canard of Cabot; brother, James Canard of Jacksonville; two nephews, Thomas and Matt Canard and one niece Catiliana Canard.
Visitation will be Thursday, Sept. 22 from 9 a.m. until service time at 1 p.m. at Thomas Funeral Service.
Interment will immediately follow at 16th Section Cemetery in Ward. Arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Roger Louis Christen, 68, of Jacksonville, passed away Sept. 19 in Little Rock. He was born on May 25, 1937 in Dodgeville, Wis., to the late Louis Christen and Helen “Dale” Christen.
He is survived by his wife, Carolyn; mother, Helen Christen of Verona, Wisc.; son, Todd Christen of Conway; step-sons, Tom and Tim Stanton of Jacksonville; daughter, Sherry Collins of Benton; step-daughter, Tina Pardue of Camden; brother, Roland Christen of Madison, Wisc.; sister, Cathy and husband Paul Peercy of Madison, Wisconsin; grandchildren, Sean Collins and Nikki Branson; step-grandchildren, Dustin Pardue, Cheyenne, Kory and Matthew Stanton and great-grandchildren, Braelynn and Bailey Branson.
Funeral service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Larry Burton officiating. Visitation will be before the service Thursday from noon until 2 p.m.
Funeral arrangements are un-der direction of Moore’s Jack-sonville Funeral Home.


J.T. Fecher, 87, of Beebe, died Sept. 16. He was an Army staff sergeant and cook during World War II, and was a charter member of Stoney Point Methodist Church.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Ruby Fecher, and his parents, Mikey and Lottie Dugger Fecher.
He is survived by two sisters, MaryLee Logan of Beebe and Gwen Hallmark and husband Melvin of North Little Rock; one nephew, Randy Logan of Beebe; two nieces, Glenda Gillespie of Grove, Okla., and Vicki Adcock of North Little Rock; and three great-nephews.
Funeral services were held Monday at Stoney Point Methodist Church, with burial in Stoney Point Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Stoney Point Methodist Church c/o Jim Rye, 1203 N. Holly, Beebe, Ark., 72012.


Ruby Arlene Ray Boyd Hill, of Beebe was born Nov. 28, 1921, at Mt. Springs to Joe Dan and Lena Ray, and died at her son’s home in Vilonia on Saturday.
She was of the Baptist faith.
She is survived by a daughter, Arlene Boyd of Cabot, and a son, Buddy Boyd and wife, Valla of Vilonia, two brothers; Neil Ray of Beebe and O.W. Ray of Cabot, a sister, Joye Faye Witcher of Cabot, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her loving husband, W.T. Hill, brothers; Charlie, Herschel, Lloyd, J.D. Jr., Kenneth; sister, Mae Griffin and a grandson, Roger Scott Hazeslip.
Funeral services were held Tuesday at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Stoney Point Cemetery.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Self-effacing general’s revealing talk

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, the new commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, made his first public appearance outside the base at a Jacksonville Cham-ber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday.
The general, who has a self-effacing, down-to-earth style, said he didn’t have a prepared speech and almost convinced his audience he didn’t have much to say.

“My technique is to listen to you,” he said. “I’ve got a lot to learn.”
Despite Self’s reluctance to make grandiose pronouncements, he did reassure chamber members that Little Rock Air Force Base “will remain a cornerstone in the nation’s defense for the next 50 years,” no matter how the base re-alignment and closure process shakes out.

It’s still unclear how many more planes and people will move here after other bases are closed, but the general said this base will remain open and its mission will grow.

Self made it appear that it was dumb luck that got him where he is: A one-star general who is the commander of the largest C-130 base in the world. Imagine that.

He succeeded Brig. Gen. Joseph Reheiser as wing commander on Sept. 9.
“I got here at the same time as the humanitarian relief effort started,” Self said, pointing out that international flights are still coming in to help hurricane victims — a Ukranian plane landed at the base on Tuesday.

Russians have also sent aid to the base, which has become the international hub for such flights. He reminded his audience that years ago, no one would have predicted Russian planes landing here except in case of war.
Self said he’d never even been a C-130 pilot, which made you wonder how he ever got here.
It wasn’t until Self took questions from the audience that he let his guard down and admitted he’d done a few good things during his 27 years in the Air Force, among them three tours of the Pentagon, including the office of chief of staff and the defense secretary.

“It’s a torture chamber you go through,” he explained in his self-deprecating style.
So how did he move up in the ranks? He started out as a helicopter pilot who was later assigned to the presidential chopper detail at Andrews Air Force Base, which he said was pretty neat.
He went into flying helicopters because he liked the idea of combat rescue where he could save people’s lives. He has also flown C-17 and C-141B cargo planes.

On 9/11, he found himself at Fort Campbell, Ky., hundreds of miles from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, where he commanded the 621st Air Mobility Command.

“I couldn’t go back to my unit,” he said, because air traffic was grounded, but he drove for a couple of days and returned to his base, which soon found itself in the thick of things during the war in Afghanistan.
As director of mobility forces during Operation Enduring Free-dom, Self piloted C-17 cargo planes that dropped supplies over Afghanistan and opened up Khan-dahar Airport in January 2002.
If you keep asking him what else he’s done, Self will also tell you he spent five months in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Free-dom, taking part in the capture of Baghdad, which happened so fast that he just kept on driving in a convoy till he got to the capital.
“It was a life-changing experience,” the general said.

Self would rather talk about the young men and women who serve in the military, who make sacrifices every day in 120-degree weather, when gas masks fill with tears and his eyes, too, well up knowing what they have done for their country.

As for the general, his message to his audience was succinct: “My job is to defend you, and I take this job very seriously.”

NEIGHBORS >> Lonoke County Fair offers big variety

Leader staff writer

The 65th Lonoke County Fair gets underway today and runs until Saturday. Fair treasurer Tommy Hignight said about 9,500 people attended the event last year.
“I think a combination of the midway and exhibits draws the crowds,” Hignight said.
Hignight served as fair president for the past four years and said his favorite part of the fair is the youth livestock exhibits.

As far as livestock goes, goats are gaining popularity, he said.
“The size of the animal is just more economical for a lot of families,” Hignight said.
The all-volunteer, 35-member fair board works year-round to prepare for fair week.
“We’re just working out all the last-minute details this week,” said James Alan Smith, who is serving his first term as fair president. “As long as you have a good fair board everything goes pretty smoothly.”
Exhibitors arrived Tuesday to register their livestock, poultry and rabbits, agricultural products, educational, home economics and woodworking entry items.

More than 400 entries are expected this year.
Home economics division items include clothing for all ages, machine embroidery, doll clothes, bridal and completely hand-sewn fine sewing. Household art in-cludes linens, pillows, thread handcraft, crochet, knitting, cross-stitch, crewel, needlepoint, em-broidery and more. There is also an original design category.
Quilting and crafts are two other categories. Most quilt categories are hand stitched.
In the craft category, handcrafted tied flies, handcrafted knives, leather crafts, pottery, sculpture, spinning, handweaving, beading and stained glass are just a few of the categories.

Items displayed in the woodworking category include bird and butterfly houses, items made from native materials, dollhouses and upholstery.

The fine-arts exhibit includes oil painting, pen and ink, watercolor, pastels, pencil, crayon and collage and that treasure of the past, China painting. There is also a junior and senior photography division.
Food preparation exhibits include cakes, decorated cakes, candy, quick breads, yeast breads and pies. The food preservation exhibits include honey, dried foods and herbs, canned fruits and vegetables, jellies, butters, jams and preserves.

Other categories include horticulture and fruits, vegetable and field crops, as well as livestock.
“I’ve been the judge of the dairy cattle for many years so I guess I’d have to say the livestock is my favorite part of the fair,” Smith said.

The fair parade, which will be led by the Lonoke High School Band, takes place at 4 p.m. Thursday. Parade participants will begin assembling in the area of Lonoke City Park (South Center and Academy Streets) from 3 to 4 p.m. There will be plenty of floats plus rodeo contestants and others with horses, mules and ponies.
Rodeo fun night will feature horse riding barrel and pole racing for contestants of all ages at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The rodeo queen horsemanship event will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, followed by the rodeo at 7:30 p.m. The new rodeo queen will be crowned at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

The horse-and mule-team pull will start at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Lonoke County Fair Youth Talent Contest will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday. It is a qualifier for the Arkansas State Fair Youth Talent Contest, which is Oct. 13.

The midway, complete with rides from Kenny’s Fun Land, will open around 6 each evening. Armband nights are available today through Saturday. Those who purchase armbands get to ride as many carnival rides as they like those days. In addition to the rides, there will be a variety of foods to entice every appetite including barbecue, roasted corn in the shuck, hot dogs, hamburgers, funnel cakes and lots more.

Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children. Rodeo admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Seniors over 62 will be admitted free to the fairgrounds and horse show on Thursday.

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers struggle at Cyclone tournament

Leader sports writer

The Cabot Lady Panthers had a tough weekend at the Russellville tournament on Saturday. Cabot was eliminated during pool play, but did manage a split game with Springdale. Despite the disappointing outcome, Lady Panthers coach Terri Williams believes that the young squad is headed in the right direction.
“We just didn’t hit aggressively, we were a little inconsistent,” Williams said. “I think if we are patient and give these girls some time to learn we will be okay. We have three sophomores who will be great hitters once they learn to let loose and get aggressive.”

Cabot lost its first match of the tournament to Alma 25-18 and 25-9. In match two, the Lady Panthers fell to Fayetteville 25-6 and 25-19.

Against Springdale, the Lady Panthers dropped the first game 25-14, but rallied to win the second game 25-18.
In their final match against Lonoke, the Lady Jackrabbits repeated a win over Cabot earlier in the week, and took the win 25-10 in both games. That match eliminated the Lady Pan-thers from the tournament.
Junior Kelli Lowry was the big scorer for the Lady Panthers, with senior Mallory Morgan leading the team in assists.

“Mallory has been a great leader for us,” Williams said. “She is always alert, and she has a strong presence out on the court. Kelli has really done a great job scoring-wise, she attacks the ball very aggressively.”
Williams points to Lowry as an example of the difference one year of experience can make.

“Just last year, Kelli was a sophomore, and wasn’t always attacking,” Williams said. “Now she is one of our strongest hitters, so it takes a little time for these girls to get that confidence level up. We just have to keep getting them court time to get that experience, so they can improve and learn the game better.”
The Lady Panthers will make their next tournament appearance this Saturday at ASU in Jonesboro.
They will finally get conference play underway next week. The short AAAAA-East conference schedule begins on Sept. 29 when the Lady Panthers travel to Mountain Home.

SPORTS >> Cabot hosts Searcy

Leader sports editor

No one expected Cabot to be winless after the third week of the season, and the Panthers are facing their first 0-3 start in three decades entering Friday’s AAAAA-East opener against Searcy at Panther Stadium.
Searcy will also come into Friday’s game with a 0-3 record. First-year coach Bart McFarland and the Lions have had a tough start to their season, losing their season opener to Wynne 56-34. The Lions’ toughest loss came in week two, when the Batesville Pioneers won 50-7. Searcy dropped its third-consecutive game last week at home to Conway.

Injuries forced the Lions to play their first two games without six of their defensive starters. Half of those players are back now, but the absence of the remaining starters is still hurting Searcy defensively, as proved in the Conway game. McFarland says his team is almost back to full health after the early season injuries, with three more starters returning this week.

“We had a couple of start-ers come back last week that made a tremendous difference,” McFarland said. “We have two, maybe even three coming back for the Cabot game. That only leaves a couple of guys out at this point, so hopefully we can put it all together this week and be more consistent.”

The Panthers have struggled in the early weeks themselves. Although Cabot’s losses have been considerably closer than Searcy’s, the 0-3 record is highly unusual for a team that is traditionally in the conference title hunt almost every year. The Panthers are 0-3 for the first time since 1977, and the first time ever under head coach Mike Malham. They will also have to win six of their last seven games in order to avoid their first non-winning season since 1989.

Cabot dropped its opener to Conway 21-7, as well as last week’s game to Central by the same score. The most surprising loss, however, came in week two when the Panthers lost to Mills 35-28.
Cabot showed significant improvement from week two to week three, although it still lost 21-7 to Little Rock Central. Cabot moved the ball down the field to score on a 24-play, 72-yard drive to keep from being shut out last week. That drive gave Cabot some momentum heading into league play.

The Panthers found another reliable back in Raul Gault. Gault played some last year when injuries depleted the backfield, but ran much better than last year in leading the team against the Tigers.
With both teams hungry for a win, Friday’s game should be an interesting one. Cabot is out to prove it will be a conference powerhouse again this year, as Searcy desperately needs a win to get things turned around in their struggling program.

The defense of Searcy and offense of Cabot will make for a good showdown, as both squads have struggled so far this season. Cabot has been held to a single touchdown in two of their first three games, as the Lions’ defense has given up over 45 points in all three games so far this season.

EDITORIAL >> Cabot doesn’t fit stereotype

Cabot has a reputation as a predominantly white, predominantly Republican enclave where taxes are about as welcome as warts on a baby.

So local residents raised a few eyebrows over the last 10 days when the city embraced a black family of 40, evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, and approved a bevy of new taxes aimed at improving their community.
“I’ve never seen a town pass taxes by margins like these,” David Menz, who makes his living working with towns and counties passing taxes and floating bond issues, told the city council Monday.
On these pages last week, we called it a landslide.

By a count of 927 for and 187 against, voters decided to extend an existing sales tax for seven years instead of doubling sewer rates. Most of the other questions won by roughly a 2-to-1 margin, including a sewer treatment plant, matching money for a railroad overpass, taxes for a new community center, street improvements and a new animal shelter. The one-cent sales tax extension is worth $28 million. Much of the credit goes to some of the councilmen and to Concerned Citizens of Cabot, an ad hoc group that bought newspaper advertisements exploring the pros and cons of the various issues.

Fleeing before Hurricane Katrina Aug. 29, Linea Baker loaded clothes, kids and the family dog into her car and steered north. Now, Baker and about 40 of her closest relatives live in a Cabot apartment complex and some say they will stay for the higher salaries and the more agreeable climate. Baker said Cabot residents have been nothing but kind. They have invited them to their churches and provided everything they need to survive until they find work. Baker, a college math instructor, did notice the absence of black hair-care products at the local Wal-Mart.

In the midst of a prolonged growth spasm, Cabot residents reached out to help new neighbors and reached deep in their own pockets to help themselves.

TOP STORY >> Fireman is fired over child porn

Leader staff writer

Lt. Michael Spaller, a 13-year member of the Cabot Fire Depart-ment, was fired by Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh early Tuesday following Spaller’s Sept. 14 arrest on a charge of distributing, possessing or viewing material de-picting sexually ex-plicit conduct in-volving a child.
“The city has several policies in place regarding pornography in the workplace whether it is on a computer or not,” Stumbaugh said.

According to a Cabot arrest report, Spaller was arrested after child pornography was found in his locker at Central Fire Station. Lockers at the fire department are city property, Stumbaugh said.
“The letter of termination outlined the several rules and regulations he violated,” the mayor said.
When asked if Spaller would have been terminated if the pornographic images had been of adults instead of minors, Stumbaugh said he couldn’t answer because, “It didn’t happen that way.”

Lonoke County Prosecuting Attorney Lona McCastlain filed the charge on Tuesday. The charge carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. McCastlain added Spaller had no criminal history.

“I don’t have much to say about it except that I’ve hired a lawyer, and this will all play out in court that I’m not guilty,” Spaller said when contacted by The Leader on Tuesday. Spaller’s attorney, Paul Schmidt of Cabot, declined to comment. According to the arrest re-port, Lt. James Barron of the Cabot Fire Department “inadvertently came across several images depicting children performing sexual acts” in February. The images were in Spaller’s locker, the report says. Barron again saw the images in Spaller’s locker “around the end of May or early June.”

The report says Barron reported the incident to Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson sometime during the first week of September.

Robinson in turn contacted Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis and Sgt. Scott Steely of the Cabot Police Department, who spoke with Barron about the incident Sept. 5, according to the report. The report goes on to say that Steely and Detective John Dodd went to the fire station the following day, when Robinson found the images in Spaller’s locker. The officers reviewed the images, which are now sealed as evidence in the case.
“As part of my rebuilding, I elected to do locker inspections,” said Robinson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, who has been the fire chief for just over a month. “It (the images) is not something we want to think about all the time.

“I think we have good morale in the fire department,” the chief said.
Other than the images, several adult videotapes, 8mm tapes and a video camera were also found in Spaller’s locker, according to the report, and the tapes were reviewed with Spaller’s consent.
Sgt. Dewayne Roper, spokes-man for the Cabot Police Depart-ment, confirmed the adult movies were “store bought,” not private home movies.

According to the report, Spaller told detectives at the Cabot Police Department’s Criminal Investiga-tion Division that he viewed and printed the images on a fire department computer for two reasons: his own curiosity and to “report to the chief.” Spaller never reported the items to the chief, the report said.
Spaller was placed on administrative leave last week pending an internal investigation by Stum-baugh.
Spaller is scheduled to appear in Lonoke County Circuit Court Oct. 31.

TOP STORY >> Self impressed with community support

Leader staff writer

Brig. Gen. Kip Self took command of the 314th Airlift Wing Sept. 9 in the midst of a massive international-relief airlift, relieving Brig. Gen. Joseph M. Reheiser.
Interviewed this week by The Leader, Self said he was impressed by the airmen and the community.
“All responses are extremely positive,” Self said.

The general, who has been on the flightline to meet many of the international relief flights, said the outpouring of support was “incredible.”

“The primary mission is to train C-130 crews and maintainers,” he said, characterizing the base’s relief effort as “Herculean.”

Self said the airmen had handled 36 international relief flights.
“It’s something that Little Rock didn’t expect, but took on with great success,” he added.
After only 10 days on the job, Self said the Little Rock Air Force Base total force — active duty, guard and civilian, and the city outside the gate — had a reputation of excellence.
“I’ve never been here before, but every indication is that reputation was well founded,” he said. “The mission aspects are outstanding as well.”

Self said that due to the annual retiree day and dinner, he had met many civic leaders.
Self doesn’t know how long international relief flights will land at Little Rock Air Force Base, but said, “We just need to be flexible enough to handle what comes over the ocean.

“We are poised to continue and ready to do that which is asked of us. The biggest challenge for Kip Self is to learn all the different aspects of the base’s duties for the nation’s defense and the community,” Self said. “Once I have understanding, it will be easier to lead. I think the base has it about right — mission, people, community. I’m just going to get better at supporting that.”
The general said in time, he might fine-tune the effort.
He said logistics and coordination were fundamental in the ability to succeed and he has experience in those areas.

“Logistics are critical in relief and in combat,” he said. “I’d be hesitant to change anything. They have momentum and have been so successful for so long. I’ll take time to watch my people, get better and make small tweaks. We have the foundation of excellence here.”

Self said his command style is to “trust in my people, have confidence in my training and confidence in the mission’s accomplishment. I’m like the coach of a Super Bowl team. The skill’s already there. My biggest responsibility is to make sure we have the resources to complete the mission. I’m proud to come in as commander. The president and the governor have commented what a great opportunity to show our stuff, and I don’t think we’ve disappointed.”

Self has three adult children, one of whom has followed him into the Air Force. “I just commissioned him in May as a second lieutenant,” he said.
Second Lt. Ben Self is awaiting pilot training at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, and is currently working command control in New Orleans.

Brig. Gen. Self comes to the Little Rock Air Force Base after serving as the deputy director of operations, headquarters Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, where he oversaw 14 divisions and eight operating locations, producing policy procedures and leading command guidance to sustain and improve many outfits for America’s Global Reach mission.

He has held a variety of flying assignments as a helicopter and C-141 instructor pilot. His staff assignments included political-military planner on the Joint Staff and country director in the office of the Secretary of Defense.

He has commanded the 16th Airlift Squadron and the 621st Air Mobility Operations Group.
He deployed as director of mobility forces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was commander of expeditionary air forces at Kuwait City.
He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 hours in a variety of aircraft. Self said he has never flown a C-130, but looks forward to the opportunity.

His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster and Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

TOP STORY >> Blackwood fails to get re-elected

Leader staff writer

Hard campaigning and the help of friends and family made the difference said winners in the Cabot and Beebe School Board elections, who easily won over their opponents Tuesday night.
In Cabot, Wendel Msall, an airline pilot who is retired from the Air Force, won 736 to 458 over developer Steve Blackwood who was running for a second term.

Msall attributes his win to the help of parents, students and some teachers who told him they felt disconnected from the school board and administrators and then worked to put him on the board.
“A school is really made up of teachers imparting their knowledge to students,” Msall said after Tuesday’s results came in, adding that his message as he campaigned was that whether that knowledge was imparted in a new building, an old building, an igloo or a teepee was irrelevant.

Msall also credits his wife and campaign manger, Vicki, for his win over Blackwood.
He also thanked Blackwood for his five years of service to the district.
“This is an unpaid position and Steve is a very busy guy,” he said.
Blackwood could not be reached for comment.

In Beebe, Lucy Mahoney won 54 percent of the votes in a four-candidate race. In a breakdown of the count, Mahoney received 496 votes.

Former school board member Janet Warner, who served a little longer than the usual five-year term because of the consolidation with the McRae School District, received 228 votes.
Herman Blackmon finished third with 110 votes and Johnny Black finished last with 94 votes.
Mahoney said Tuesday after the votes were counted that the weeks of hard campaigning were exhausting, but worth the effort.

“Every day after work and every Saturday [I campaigned] and I didn’t stop until it got dark,” Mahoney said.
Now she is ready to direct her energy to serving in the position she worked so hard to win.
“I have no reservations about anything,” she said. “I’m ready to go to work.”

Mahoney, an X-ray technician, said she campaigned door-to-door all over the district, in Garner, McRae, Beebe, El Paso, Floyd, Stoney Point and Opal, but she was still surprised that she had dodged a runoff election.
“With four candidates, I really expected there would be a runoff,” she said.

In other races, Phillip Williams won over Ken Madden 362-352 for the Searcy School Board.
In Carlisle, Terry McCallie won over Samantha Jennings 26-14 in Position 3; Jeff Daniels won over David Herring 34-18 in Position 6; and Blake Swears won over Kyle Moery 26-17 in Position 7.

TOP STORY >> What's next after vote?

Leader staff writer

Cabot voters last week app-roved about $28 million in bonds to be supported by an existing one-cent tax.
But when will the work begin? With a little more than three months left in the year, and the bond money unavailable until early December, area residents won’t likely see construction begin on most of the planned projects this year, but officials hope to see progress soon.

Included in the vote was $7 million to pay off the existing bonds for improvement to the city’s water system which are supported by the tax; $16.5 million for the sewer treatment plant and repairs to the collection system; $800,000 for the railroad overpass; $1.5 million to build the community center that came in over budget; $1.8 million for street improvements and $200,000 to build at one time an animal shelter that was supposed to be built in stages.

Last month, the Cabot City Council approved to allow the mayor to borrow up to $620,000 from area banks to pay for design work on the sewer treatment plant, which is by far the biggest project.
Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh said this week that he is talking to bankers now and will likely borrow $360,000 to make monthly payments of $120,000 until the end of the year to pay for design work. The design work will cost almost $1.9 million.

The city has been under pressure from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and its counterpart at the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency, to build a new treatment plant to replace the old one which has seldom operated as it should. The city has been fined $10,000 and more is possible, but the mayor is hopeful continued efforts toward building the new plant will keep them at bay.
“If we keep on course, it really helps us with ADEQ and EPA,” he said.

The stalled community center that came in $1.5 million over budget when it was bid last year, will have to be bid again. The city has hired a construction manager to oversee the whole building process.
Bids on the animal shelter were opened last week and the low bid was about $100,000 more than the city has even with the $200,000 that will be included in the bond issue.

When completed, the shelter will have facilities for cats, something the city has never had before. It also will have a separate area for euthanizing animals that are not claimed or adopted and a room where area residents can take animals they are considering adopting to get to know them first. If necessary, the project could be scaled back to fit the available funds, the mayor said.

Alderman David Polantz, who for seven years has tried to get the council to open Elm Street and ease the traffic load on Highway 89 near city hall, said this week that he couldn’t be more pleased that opening the street is included in the $1.8 million for streets that voters approved last week.

“Opening Elm Street will let you go from 10th Street to Fred’s, without getting on 89,” Polantz said.
There’s good news and bad news for the $5 million railroad overpass in the Polk Street area that is to be paid for with federal funds, except for the $800,000 voters approved for inclusion in the extension of the one-cent sales tax.

The good news, according to Jim McKenzie, director of Metroplan, which plans for and distributes federal highway money, is that the Metroplan board is almost certain to approve funding the project in October. The bad news is that the hurricane destruction to the south will likely pull away most of the construction companies that would normally bid on such a project and material prices are likely to skyrocket making the project cost a lot more than the estimated $5 million.

The school district was the major supporter of the overpass, because it would keep buses off the railroad track. But the overpass is also the first step to connecting Hwy. 5 to Hwy. 38 with a third interchange on U.S 67/167.
McKenzie said he had already been in contact with Stumbaugh about the overpass project and assured him that it will be a priority.

“We definitely want to give some positive feedback to the citizens of Cabot because they’re willing to tax themselves to get this overpass,” he said. “Rest assured we will move the project along as soon as we know we’ve got the funds.”

TOP STORY >> Guard will place new armory in Cabot

Leader staff writer

Cabot will have a National Guard Armory within the next five to 10 years, Lt. Col. Cary A. Shillcutt told members of the city council Monday night.
Shillcutt, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry, said Lonoke County, with an armory at Lonoke, currently gets about $500,000 a year in federal funds, a number that would double with the establishment of the Cabot armory.

“We’re excited about the possibility — it’s going to be-come reality,” Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh said. “We’re excited about what it’s going to do for our economy and the opportunity to hold a support battalion in our community.”

He said the Guard would be re-cruiting from the Cabot area. The new unit would be Foxtrot Company of the 39th Brigade Support Battalion.

Shillcutt said the area was home to numerous military personnel, including members of both the Arkansas Army and Air Force National Guard.

Gov. Mike Huckabee, commander-in-chief of the Arkansas National Guard, approved the notion this summer, and the Guard has begun looking for a space to lease while finding land upon which to build an armory.

“It usually takes five to 10 years to get an armory,” said Shillcutt, but the time can be greatly reduced if the city can help locate and acquire suitable land for one. He said the armory would need about 15 acres in an industrial area with utilities available. The location then must pass a comprehensive environmental assessment.
Once that hurdle has been cleared, the state’s congressional delegation can expedite funding for the armory.
Meanwhile, a new unit could begin operating first out of Beebe. The unit is a combat support service unit, which supports infantry with transportation, feeding and in other ways, he said.

With the new armory will come new jobs, he said. Existing Guardsmen will account for 50 percent of the total, but recruiters will be looking for the rest. The armory will be about 36,000 square feet, including 2,000 square feet of classroom space, a 6,000-square-foot drill hall and a kitchen capable of cooking for 140 people. The armory will be available for community events, Shillcut said. Meanwhile, the unit needs to lease 10,000 square feet or more.

“We’ll be asking for your support,” said the colonel.