Wednesday, November 16, 2005

EDITORIAL >> Credit to the city fathers

Remember when the Clinton haters were frothing over the plans to build the presidential library on riverbank land that the city of Little Rock had acquired with the proceeds of a city bond issue? The statewide newspaper was in the forefront.

The city directors had utterly destroyed the public’s trust in municipal government, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette roared. The paper editorialized that the city should hold a citywide vote on a new tax to buy the land. You could surmise that the editor and owner of the paper were confident that people would defeat the tax and thwart the construction of a library and museum for the newspaper’s old nemesis, the 42nd president of the United States.

The newspaper’s tone has softened considerably of late, since it has divined the intense pride that people invest in the Clinton Presidential Center and the riverside park of which it is the central feature. A summary of the financial impact of the presidential center and park suggests other reasons that the city’s wisdom in finding a quick arrangement to acquire the parkland should be celebrated. In just short of one year since it opened, the library has brought tens of millions of dollars in new tourism business to Little Rock, and the fallout has been countywide. The goal was to have 300,000 visitors the first year; the actual number will approach 500,000.

“The city has changed,” said Dan O’Byrne, chief executive officer of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s a new energy and a new dynamic here.” The bustling riverfront, on both sides of the river, is a testament to the city fathers’ wisdom. Try navigating the traffic to reach one of the riverfront diners or shops, or the public library, day or night. The city overdid it.

EDITORIAL >> Much ado about nothing

This state would be a far better place if we could capture and redirect the energy expended by politicians in the tireless pursuit of the frivolous and the futile. A few Republican lawmakers were at it again Thursday, trying to frighten people into believing that the government was going to take their humble dwellings or farms and give them to private developers if lawmakers did not come to their rescue.

Not one but two legislative committees spent a couple of hours haggling over whether private property in Arkansas might ever be in peril of confiscation by private interests as a result of the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer in Kelo v. New London, Conn., which said that if state and local governments permitted taking property for private purposes it did not violate the U.S. Constitution. That actually has been happening in some states where state constitutions or statutes permit it.

It looked like a great political issue. A few members of Congress rushed to the rescue and proposed federal legislation to take power away from states to regulate their eminent domain authority. In Arkansas, Asa Hutch-inson, the putative Republican nominee for governor, leaped on it and promised legislation to outlaw takings for private purposes if he is elected governor. Attorney General Mike Beebe, the Democrat, said he could see no reason for state legislation. Now, Republican state legislators, including Hutchinson’s nephew Jeremy, are pressing the issue so that their gubernatorial candidate is not left looking stupid or opportunistic.

One more time, class: The Arkansas Constitution bars government from taking property for private purposes. You just flat can’t do it. If the legislature passes and the governor signs 500 laws banning condemnations for private purposes people will not be one whit safer than they are under the Constitution’s umbrella. The reason is that every statute passed by the legislature is vulnerable to the next one.
Developers could come to the next legislature and the next governor and persuade them of the great benefit of private takings, and the previous statutes against them would be useless.

Someone said that some future Arkansas Supreme Court might interpret the Constitution’s language to say the opposite of what it says. Which is more likely, the Supreme Court flouting the clear language and its own precedents or the Arkansas Legislature sneakily changing the law? (For clues, we refer you to the current brouhaha over legislative authors sneakily inserting language into a highway bond statute that would end the authority of people to vote on future highway debt for interstate work. We didn’t know it was in there when we passed it last spring, some legislators were saying this week.)

As a matter of fact, the legislature did exactly what we are suggesting earlier this year. It passed a bill allowing cities to (unconstitutionally) condemn private property for the benefit of developers and Gov. Huckabee cheerfully signed it. The takings language was included in the tax-increment-financing law, which permits cities and counties to condemn property for commercial developments and to confiscate school taxes to pay for improvements to the commercial development. All the lawmakers who are wailing about the threat of private takings, including nephew Jeremy Hutchinson of Little Rock, voted for it.

Asa Hutchinson? He’s not sure how he feels about that.

They are all against private takings in theory, but not necessarily in practice. That is why the Constitution and not the whims of legislative lawmaking is the protection. Better let sleeping dogs lie.



Dilmer C. Trotter, 78, of Jacksonville, passed away Nov. 13 in Little Rock.
He was born on Oct. 31, 1927, in North Little Rock to the late Charley E. and Eva E. “Crone” Trotter. He was also preceded in death by two brothers, Earl and Carl Trotter as well as a sister, Bernice Pettit Trotter. He served in the United States Navy during WWII in the Philip-pines and the Air Force during the Korean War. He later retired from Delta Airlines.
Trotter was an early member of the Jacksonville Sertoma Club which was founded in 1956. He held all posts within the club including club president. He was an avid supporter of the goals of the Sertoma Club which included help to the speech and hearing impaired, boys and girls programs, little league football, The Miss Jacksonville Pageant and other worthwhile charity events. He was a faithful and devoted member and will be missed by both Sertoma members and the Jacksonville community.
He is survived by his wife, Ruth Atkins Trotter of Jacksonville; daughter, Teresa A. Patrick and her husband, Bill, of Trussville, Ala.; grandchildren, Trey “Will” Patrick of Henderson, Nev., and Mittchell Wyatt Patrick of Trussville, Ala.; great-grandchild, Madison Anne Patrick of Hender-son, Nev.; sister, Mary A. Welch of Jacksonville; several nieces and nephews and many friends.
Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Friday at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Cliff Hutchins officiating. Entombment will follow in Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jack-sonville. Visitation will be from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., Thursday at the funeral home. Memorials may be made to the Jacksonville Sertoma Club.
Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Wilbur Charles Huff, 81, of Cabot died Nov. 14. He was born on Oct. 11, 1924, to Hubert and Katherine Huff in Carl-isle.
He was a retired Air Force lieutenant colo-nel, a member of Cabot United Methodist Church, Masonic Lodge, Lions Club, Military Officers Association of America, American Legion, AARP, Chamber of Commerce and a lifetime member of Carlisle High School Alumni Association.
He was preceded in death by his parents and a son, David Scott Huff.
He is survived by his wife, Anna Sue Huff; three sons, Mark Stephen Huff of Glen Allen, Va., Terry Lee Huff of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Robert Charles Huff of Greenville, S.C.; a stepson, Sammy Thurmon of American Canyon, Calif.; a stepdaughter, Mary Humphries of Ward and two grandchildren.
Visitation will be 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home in Cabot.
Services are 10 a.m. Thursday at Cabot United Methodist Church, with Rev. Richard Lan-caster officiating. Burial will be at Mt. Carmel Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to Cabot United Methodist Church library or food pantry.
Funeral arrangements by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.


Shawn Ryan McGee, 20, of Cabot, passed away Nov. 9. He was born Feb. 19, 1985, in Little Rock.
Survivors include his parents, Joanna McGee and Douglas Meiggs; owner of Doug’s In and Out Auto Repair; two brothers,: Bradley and Ethan McGee; grandmother, Geneva McGee all of Cabot; great-grandmother, Lucille Wheetley of Old Austin; one aunt, Tonya Price and cousin, Chad Sheets both of Cabot.
Memorial Services will be 11 a.m. Thursday at Campground Union Church. 2211 Campground Road Cabot. Arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Richard Lynn Simmons, 54, of Beebe, left us on Nov. 13. He served two tours in Vietnam with the Marines, was retired from Union Pacific Railroad and was Post Commander of VFW Post 7769 in Beebe.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Johnny and Betty Starb Simmons, and is survived by his wife, Helen Simmons; three sons, David Simmons and wife Wanda of Crossett, Micheal Simmons of Jacksonville and Johnny Peeks of Beebe; one daughter, Tracy VanWinkle of Lonoke; and three sisters, Donna Scott, Linda Smith and Brenda Rackley, all of Jacksonville.
Funeral services were held Tuesday at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Mtn. Springs Cemetery.
Arrangements by Westbrook Funeral Home of Beebe.


Cecil H. Bates of, Cabot left for his eternal home Nov. 13 at the age of 94. He is survived by his daughter, Joy Dean Wilson of Austin; a brother, Joe Bates of Ward; 13 grandchildren, many great and great-great-grandchildren and friends.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Evalee Bates; and two sons Elwood and Clarence Bates.
Funeral services were held Tuesday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe with burial in Center Point Cemetery, Quitman.


Holiday market sale is planned at church

The ECW of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church is hosting its annual “Thanks for Giving” holiday market from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information, contact Pat Phillips at 501-982-0134. The church is located at 2413 Northeastern Avenue in Jacksonville.

VFW plans full Thanksgiving dinner for seniors

The VFW Post 4548 in Jacksonville will serve a full Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, Nov. 19 for local senior citizens.
VFW members and Ladies Auxiliary members plan on serving up to 300 seniors. Members of the Jacksonville High School JROTC will provide the color guard before helping to serve the meal at 1 p.m. Call the Post at 982-5579 for more information.

EDITORIAL >> Bond idea still dubious

Here is the key question that everyone should be asking about the big interstate highway bond issue that will be on the ballot at a special election on Dec. 13: Why are we paying for a special election in the Christmas season rather than, say, the regular general election of 2006, or 2008 or even 2010?

No one apparently thought to ask that question this spring when the legislature, virtually without debate, approved the legislation authorizing Gov. Huckabee to call the election, and no one wants to talk about it now, four weeks before the election.

What is the emergency that moves the governor to ask us to act now to empower the Highway Commission to obligate the state for another $575 million of debt to repair stretches of the interstate system? Huckabee himself says the interstate system now is in excellent shape.

Are we having to act quickly so that taxpayers can take advantage of relatively low long-term interest rates, still in the neighborhood of 4-5 percent on municipal bonds of medium maturity?

Well, no. The Highway Commission said this week that if the voters grant them permanent authority to issue bonds whenever the commission wishes, it will not do it before 2010, perhaps much later than that. 2010! And we are voting five years in advance.

That really is no surprise. The commission can’t issue bonds until it has nearly paid off the current $575 million bond issue, authorized six years ago. Some $500 million of that is still outstanding and that the $75 million a year of diesel taxes and federal interstate matching funds that would support the new bonds are obligated to pay for the old ones.

We repeat: Why are we voting at a costly special election in an off-year when nothing will happen for five to eight years?
Until Gov. Huckabee and the Highway Commission answer, let us assay a few guesses.

The voter turnout at special elections in the chilly season will be a small fraction of the turnout at a general election. The voters will be those with a special interest in the outcome — builders and suppliers, naturally, but in the broadest sense the urban interests that are clients of the interstates. People out in the state will not even note the election’s passing unless they are aroused that their interests might be harmed. The 1999 bonds were approved overwhelmingly at just such an election, which favors those proposing the issue.
If you wait until 2010 to put the question before the voters, conditions might not be conducive for a favorable vote. As Alan Greenspan implied this week, the nation’s gigantic budget deficits and the mushroom trade deficit may drive up interest rates to stratospheric levels. The Highway Commission could not calculate a fairly low payout of interest over 12 years, as it did this week by basing it on current interest rates. In 2010 or 2012 the state may have have other large debt obligations — for school buildings, for instance — and voters would have a horror of even greater debts obligating the state’s general funds. Yes, Gov. Huckabee’s highway bond proposition would obligate tax receipts that ordinarily would go to the schools if the diesel tax or slumping federal matching funds are ever short of paying the highway bond investors.

This way, the Highway Commission and the bond underwriters and lawyers could plunge ahead with the bond sale regardless of public skepticism.

Cynics — not us — would suggest that if the vote were in 2010 or 2012 Mike Huckabee could not claim credit for the great leap forward.
Some lawmakers, like the Arkansas Trucking Asso-ciation, were saying this week that they had not been aware when the legislation passed that it would permanently bypass people’s constitutional right to vote every time the state incurred a big debt that obligated their taxes. Some did not know that it could tie up general revenues as well.
Too many questions. Few of them asked. None of them answered.

SPORTS >> Perryville presents strong test for Harding

Leader sports writer

The Harding Academy Wildcats are on to the second round of the AA state playoffs this week after a high-scoring opening-round win over the Earle Bulldogs 56-44. The Wildcats (11-0) will host the Perryville Mustangs (9-1) at Alumni Field in Searcy.
The Mustangs’ only loss this season came in week four to Little Rock Episcopal 27-16.

The Wildcats hope to give up fewer points than last week’s shootout against speedy Earle. Defense has been the strong suit of the undefeated Wildcats, shutting opponents’ offenses down, particularly in the second half. Harding Academy has, however, developed a reputation for giving up a lot of rushing yards to faster opponents once the playoff season begins.

Harding Academy head coach Tommy Shoemaker is not concerned going into Friday’s game, he says last week’s generosity was more of a special-teams issue than a defensive problem for the Wildcats.

“We swapped a little bit of our personnel around, but we didn’t make any drastic changes,” Shoemaker said.

“It wasn’t defense as much as it was poor special teams. Special teams killed us last week. We had that kickoff that they ran back for a touchdown, and a punt that they returned inside our 10-yard line. We did give up some big plays defensively, particularly in the red zone. It was probably one of those things where it wasn’t as bad as it may have looked.”

As for the reasons the game last week did not go as smoothly as desired for Harding Academy, Shoemaker says the drama of the 6AA title game against Des Arc two weeks ago could have been partially to blame.

“It was definitely not like how we played all year; our defense has been tremendous up until this point. I don’t really know why we gave up as much as we did, I think we might have had a little bit of a let down after the Des Arc game. All in all, I thought we did pretty well, especially offensively. Zach (Tribble) did a great job. We had a lot of guys make some great plays, some pretty spectacular catches that we were able to use to put points on the board.”

Shoemaker is not as worried about last week’s difficulty as much as he is concerned with this week’s game against Perryville.
“They are a very good football team. They have two kids that are very explosive in McNally and McSpadden.

“McNally is a big, strong runner that can do a lot of things on offense. We have to play well on defense, and we definitely have to do better on special teams. We just need to get in a little bit better rhythm this week.”

SPORTS >> Local teams unblessed at MSM

Leader sports editor

Three area teams played in the first round of the Heavenly Hoops Basketball Classic at the UALR fieldhouse Monday, and all three lost their opening games.

North Pulaski was the first to fall, losing 55-41 to Russellville. Sylvan Hills made their game exciting towards the end, but ultimately fell 65-55 to El Dorado.

Jacksonville played the late game against the host team, and lost big 56-30.

North Pulaski coach Katrina Mimms took an already injury-riddled team to the tournament, and it only got worse as the game went on.
Two key players missed the game with injuries, another played at less than 100 percent, starting post player Maria Livings went down with an ankle injury in the second half.

Russellville moved out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter, but never put the game entirely away.
After the lead grew to its largest at 16 points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Lady Falcons put together a small run that cut the lead to nine.

It was then that Livings went down, and that’s when the rally ended.
Mimms wasn’t using that as an excuse for the loss.

“The main thing is that they outplayed us,” Mimms said. “They were passing us up and down the floor. That’s what was most frustrating because we have more speed than they do. They shouldn’t have been beating us down the court, but they were.”

Sylvan Hills was down by as much as 12 when it began a furious comeback. The Lady Bears cut El Dorado’s lead to two in the final period, and had a chance to tie it with two free throws.

Neither foul shot would fall, nor did the stickback attempt after Sylvan Hills got the rebound. The Lady Wildcats got the second rebound and was fouled. The lead shot back up to eight points in just a few seconds and stayed near than margin for the remainder of the game.
Sylvan Hills coach Bee Rodden wasn’t upset with her team’s effort, just its execution.
“We played hard,” Rodden said.

“I’m not going to complain about that. We just didn’t do some things very well. We have some good guards that can get up and down the floor, but there’s also a time when they have to slow it down and execute in half court. We didn’t do that real well all the time. My main concern though is rebounding. Now El Dorado had bigger bodies than we did, but we didn’t block out well and gave them too many second-chance points. If I can keep getting good effort though, we’ll get some of that other stuff taken care of.”

The other first-round game featured to AAAAA heavyweights, and it was Watson Chapel that came out on top of Forrest City 35-34.
Sylvan Hills will play North Pulaski to open the second round of play at 4 p.m. today. Jack-sonville will face Forrest City at 5:30 p.m.. In the winners’ bracket, MSM will face Chapel at 7 p.m. and Russellville will take on El Dorado in the late game at 8:30 p.m.

NEIGHBORS >> The gift of shade

Leader staff writer

Five trees, two red oaks and three red maples, have been planted at Central Elementary School in Cabot as part of the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s Shade Trees On Playgrounds (STOP) program.

Each year around the state nine schools with little or no trees on their playgrounds are selected by regional foresters to receive five trees to provide shade and inspiration.

“This whole project has been a lot of fun and given us new energy this fall,” said Jerry Vaughn, principal at Central Elementary.
“They play hard out here, and that’s good, but it can get pretty hot and we all welcome the shade. If it also means we are doing something to lower the risk for cancer later in life for the children, then it is a double benefit for all of us.”

About 470 students at Central Elementary attended an outdoor planting ceremony for the trees last week. In the weeks leading up to the planting, students at the school studied trees in science class, as well as used trees in writing and creative projects. Several students were selected to share their assignments with the rest of the school during the planting ceremony.
Second grader Madeline Chosich-Hill read her essay titled “Trees On Playground.”

“Did you know trees are our breathing buddies because they are? Trees help our environment,” Chosich-Hill wrote.
“Trees protect us from skin cancer. When kids yell on the playground, trees can make it quiet. The sun shines so bright but the trees protect us.”

Other students read poems and haikus aloud. Haikus are Japanese-style poems of 17 syllables. Haikus are arranged in three lines of five, seven and five syllables such as these, all entitled “Trees.”

“Blossoms, colors, fruit
Trees are very beautiful
The world needs more trees.”
Alexis Baker, third grade“Trees help us make things
Pencils, paper, chairs, rubber
Those are things made from trees.”
Aaliyah Darbro, fourth grade

“Trees are beautiful
They grow apples, oranges, pears
Trees improve our air.”
Haven Maxwell, third grade

“Trees give fruits and nuts,
Trees give paper and syrup
And they grow from seeds.”
Grant Tarvin, third grade

“Fall colorful leaves,
Shade, tire swings, climb, treehouses,
Homes for animals.”
Mark Howard, fourth grade

After the ceremony, each grade took turns claiming a tree and shoveling dirt in on the roots with assistance from forester Steve Burgess.
With guidance from science teacher Sharon Boyd, each grade will keep a tree scrapbook to keep track of how tall and wide the trees grow each year.

“Children, the trees in front of Central Elementary are 6-years-old,” Vaughn told the crowd.
“They were three-feet tall when they were planted and now all of the trees are taller than Mr. Vaughn.”
It will take about three years of careful tending to insure the trees get a good start on the playground. To help the school care for the trees the Arkansas Forestry Commission provided a detailed maintenance and watering schedule for the trees.

“These trees are already about 3-years-old,” Burgess said, adding, October and November are prime times for tree planting.
“The secret to successfully planting a tree is making sure the hole is wide, but not too deep so the roots can grow out, not down,” Burgess said. “The hole only needs to be deep enough to cover the root bundle.”

TOP STORY >> Cabot superintendent gets state’s top honor

Leader staff writer

Frank Holman, superintendent of the Cabot School District, was presented the Arkansas Superintendent of the Year Award during the board of education meeting Tuesday night.

Kellar Noggle, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Admini-strators along with a group of about 10 superintendents from around the state, presented Holman with the award.

“We know Frank for his keen interest in student achievement.
“He’s a leader at the state level for us,” Noggle said.
“It was a surprise,” Holman said.

“Today with schools being taken over, you see a bunch of superintendents walk in and you think ‘what’s going on?’”
In February, Holman will attend the national convention of school superintendents.

“We’ve never had an Arkansas superintendent get a national award so I’m pulling for him,” Noggle said.
Jan Loyd, a social studies teach-er at Cabot Junior High South, was recognized as being selected as Teacher of the Year by the Arkansas Council for Social Studies.

“Ms. Loyd does so many things like reading and writing strategies across the curriculum,” said Henry Hawkins, principal at Cabot Junior High South.

In other recognition, the Cabot High School Band has been selected to represent Arkansas in the 2006 Independence Day parade in Washington.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to represent Arkansas,” said Tony Thurman, principal at Cabot High School.
Joe Trusty, director of the Cabot High School marching band, told board members there are several fund-raisers planned to help offset the cost of the trip for band students.

TOP STORY >> GOP candidates square off

Leader staff writer

The two Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives’ seat in the First District both live in Cabot and both know each other, but no one would go so far as to call it a friendship.

Both Cabot Mayor Stubby Stum-baugh and juvenile probation officer Patrick D’Andrea want to oust Marion Berry, the Democratic incumbent.

Stumbaugh on D’Andrea, “He’s never been a friend, just an acquaintance.”

D’Andrea on Stumbaugh, “I know him through a friend of a friend. I walk on my side of the street and he walks on the other side.”
So far, they have followed the 11th Commandment of GOP politics: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Repub-lican.
Stumbaugh announced in late summer that he planned to run as a Republican in a bid to oust Berry.

Earlier this month, D’Andrea announced that he would take on Stumbaugh in the Republican primary.

Stumbaugh and D’Andrea will face each other in the Republican primary next year. Berry, a wealthy farmer who was elected to Congress in 1996, doesn’t have a Democratic opponent, at least not yet.

All Stumbaugh said after the announcement was that he welcomed D’Andrea into the race.
D’Andrea said at the time that he had nothing to say about Stum-baugh.

“I’m not going to spend my time advertising for another candidate,” D’Andrea said the day he announced his candidacy. The pair, friends or not, seem to be lightning rods for attracting controversy and problems.

According to sources, D’Andrea was in trouble a number of times as a young Marine and was administered punishment for his infractions.

About two years ago, D’Andrea filed bankruptcy and is paying off thousands of dollars in an IRS judgment.

For D’Andrea, this is his second foray into the political arena. He ran for a seat on the Sherwood City Council two years ago and lost to Keith Rankin. He said D’Andrea ran a good campaign.

“I don’t know much about the man, but he seemed sincere about what he wanted to do,” Rankin said.
Stumbaugh’s past has been well-documented.

As a young Little Rock police officer, Stumbaugh was suspended a handful of times. Stumbaugh said none of the offenses were bad enough to get fired for and most were while he was in his 20s.

As mayor, Stumbaugh has been involved in a number of controversial situations with other city officials and commissions.

A recent $2,270 bill for an ad congratulating Stumbaugh as being nominated as one of Arkansas Business’ “40 under 40,” a list of the state’s young leaders has also caused consternation for Stumbaugh as some aldermen objected to the ad being paid with city funds.
Stumbaugh made the decision to run after he met with a number of officials in Washington, D.C. who encouraged him to run.

“I believe the voters of the First District have the right to know any mistakes I’ve made in my past as well as my accomplishments. The bottom line is that while my life has not always been perfect, it has molded me into an effective leader,” Stumbaugh said.

TOP STORY >> Grandson unhappy with fire response

Leader staff writer

A fire caused by a lightning strike on Hwy. 319 near Ward destroyed an elderly woman’s home and all her belongings Saturday night, but her grandson says he believes something could have been saved if the fire department had responded sooner and called for backup.
Timmy Wisinger, who serves on both the El Paso Volunteer Fire Department and the Mountain Springs Volunteer Fire Department, says he is disappointed with Mountain Springs’ response to the fire at Rita Harris’ home at 7963 Hwy. 319 about one mile east of Hwy. 5.
Wisinger said he drove from McArthur Drive in North Little Rock to Harris’ home in about 15 minutes after he got the call about the fire. Mountain Springs Fire Depart-ment arrived just one minute before he did, he said.

Wisinger also is critical of Mountain Springs Fire Chief Harold Ward for not calling El Paso Fire Department for backup although he said another firefighter eventually did make that call.

“The chief never called for additional help. I’m very disappointed,” he said.

“This fire department needs a lot of help. I’ve resigned. I just haven’t turned in my equipment yet.” Ward could not be reached for comment. Wisinger said a fire investigator for Farm Bureau In-surance told family members that the lightning that hit the telephone box on his grandmother’s house was one of three lightning strikes within one-tenth of a mile Saturday evening.

His grandmother, 4-year-old son and uncle were in the house when it struck, he said.

The house caught on fire, was in flames immediately and the family barely escaped. The fire burned for more than an hour before the 60 to 70-year-old house was consumed.

Eddie Heater, president of the board of the El Paso Volunteer Fire Department, said it is impossible to predict the effect of a lightning strike on a home. His home has been hit twice without being destroyed, he said.

But he said older houses often burn faster because the wood is dryer. In rural areas especially, fires often go unreported until it is too late to save the homes.

“By the time the flames are coming through the roof, you couldn’t pour Lake Maumelle on it and put it out,” he said. “By that time all you can do is protect the other structures around it.”

TOP STORY >> Beebe mayor won't seek second term

Leader staff writer

Beebe Mayor Donald Ward announced before about 40 city leaders Tuesday that he will not run for re-election next year.

Ward saved the announcement until near the end of a 15-minute speech outlining the accomplishments during his seven years in office.
The accomplishments included a recovery from a tornado that destroyed one-third of the town just 21 days after he took office, a new city hall and fire department, four new fire trucks and a ladder truck, a fire rating that has been cut from eight to four, sidewalks into neighborhoods where the elderly live and an economic-development commission with a paid director to name a few.

Sitting with Ward’s supporters was State Sen. John Paul Capps who was there to present Ward with a Capitol Citation from Secretary of State Charlie Daniels for his work for the city. Ward said he was surprised by the announcement.

Ward had made no secret recently that he was considering running again even though he had said previously that two terms were all he wanted.

“This decision was not out of fear,” he told those who assembled for his announcement. “I be-lieve we could have won another term.”
Former Mayor Mike Robertson, whom Ward narrowly defeated seven years ago, has not announced that he will run, but has said he is seriously considering it.

Ward said his children were growing up and that he has spent so much time in public service that he sometimes feels like he doesn’t know them.

He said he will continue to teach since he has five more years left before he can retire. But he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a race sometime in the future either for another city office or for a higher one.

He quoted a line from former Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, who told him when asked for advice on running for public office, “You’ll know when the time is right.”

Ward said he made his an-nouncement early to make it easier for others who might be considering a race to get ready to run.
But he said that just because he isn’t running doesn’t mean he isn’t on the job now.

“I’m still the mayor until one minute after Jan. 1 (2007),” he said. “Even though some may now call me a lame duck, I pledge to work for you as hard as I have for the past seven years.”

TOP STORY >> Routes offered for loop project

Leader staff writer

Nearly 500 North Pulaski residents attended public meetings on potential routes being considered to complete the missing North Belt Loop link through or around Sherwood on Monday and Tuesday, and as expected the predominant theme was “not in my backyard.”
In late 2003, Sherwood rejected the Highway Department choice of alternatives to link the North Belt from Hwy. 67/167 to a spot near the North Little Rock Municipal Airport en route to Crystal Hill and I-430 precisely because the State High-way and Transportation Depart-ment’s preferred route would have run through several developed or developing subdivisions on or near the east-west portion of Hwy. 107.

That’s when the department went back to the drawing board, launching an in-house, supplemental environmental impact statement to determine the route the North Belt Freeway will take through the Sherwood area.

Completion of the 12.6-to 14.5-mile North Belt Loop from Hwy. 67/167 to I-430 is expected to cost about $200 million.
Currently under consideration are variations of four alternatives considered last time, plus two alignments north of Gravel Ridge.
This time, each alignment is broken up into segments that can be combined to make variations. The department will accept comments on these routes through Nov. 30, according to Ruby Jordan, who works in the department’s environmental section.

Jordan said about 260 people attended the meeting Monday night at Calvary Baptist Church on Brockington Road in Sherwood. Among them were faces familiar from the previous attempt to pick a route.

The public meetings are part of the supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
“We hope to have an approved route in 2007,” according to Randy Ort, spokesman for the State Highway and Transpor-tation Department. First, there will be a final location public hearing, he said.

“We can go to the location public hearing without a preferred alignment,” he said, but added the department hopes not to.
Jim Anderson, who was the president of the group that helped derail the proposed route that would have cut right through Amber Oaks and other subdivisions near him, said he was confident those neighborhoods were safe this time — but not so confident that he would ignore the selection process.

“They are saying the original (rejected) alignment is just for historical purposes,” Anderson said.
Many of those at the Sherwood meeting preferred the two northern-most alternatives, while many among the 220 people to attend the Tuesday night meeting at Cato Elementary School in Runyan Acres said they preferred one of the more southerly routes.

Sherwood Aldermen Becki Vassar and Marina Brooks said they preferred the “red” route — essentially alternative 4-A last time around.
Segments eight and 10 (red and orange on the map) avoid nearly all construction, said Vassar.

Billie Dreher says that alternative would take her whole Silver Creek subdivision and Bobbie Riffle says it would threaten her home at Kellogg Acres Road.

She said money and power seem likely to trump democracy on this issue.

Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon said excluding the “green” option parallel to Hwy. 107 — essentially the route rejected by the town last time — any of the three lower alternatives would be acceptable.

Dianne Wilson, on the Gap Creek board of directors, said she wants a far-north route to avoid planned construction.
Judy Beale, a member of the Dupree family in Jacksonville, said she preferred linking segments one, three, 10, 13 and 16.
She lives in the area and is part of the family developing the Legacy Project, which will be bisected by Hwy. 67/167 and Hwy. 440.
The selection process is broken up into more segments this time around, according to Lynn Mal-brough, assistant division head in engineering for the department.

He said the two northern-most routes, while eliminated a decade ago, now have sufficient area traffic for consideration.
Rick Ragan, who lives in Gibson, said his mother, Freda, lives in Kellogg Acres and has been there since 1959. His brother has a home next door. He was at the meeting looking after their interests, he said.

Comments may be sent to the state Highway and Transpor-tation Department, Environ-mental Division, P.O. Box 2261, Little Rock, Ark., 72203. For a response form or further information, call (501) 569-2281.

TOP STORY >> Former boss planned to let Jeter go

Leader staff writer

Marvin H. Jeter III, Pulaski County Special School District’s assistant superintendent for learning services, resigned from his most recent job as a school administrator in Mississippi before his former superintendent could recommend nonrenewal of his contract, and there is some indication that the PCSSD failed to check his references at that school.

That’s according to Skip Lathem, superintendent of the Forest (Miss.) Municipal School District.

Jeter, the leading proponent of Jacksonville’s new single-gender middle schools, is seen as a polarizing figure by some area patrons, and he apparently had the same effect on some patrons of the Forest School District, where he served as principal for the 2001-2002 school year.

Lathem, who is still superintendent, said Jeter was involved in “some divisive-type issues” while at the district and was allowed to resign at the end of his first year.

Would Jeter be eligible for reemployment with the Forest School District?
“Not for an educational leadership position,” Lathem said Monday. “Not as long as I’m superintendent.
“I felt that he was not suited for high school principal. You have to be involved in the various activities including sports and that’s not his cup of tea.

“He was a creative individual, very well spoken, with good knowledge, but not in the practical day-to-day running of a school,” Lathem said. “I would not have made the recommendation to hire him back. He knew what my recommendation would be.”
“Anytime they don’t want you back … that would concern anyone,” said Rev. James Bolden III, a school board member.
Lathem said his office wasn’t contacted for a background check before PCSSD hired Jeter. James Sharpe, who was assistant superintendent for human resources at that time — and until his appointment to interim superintendent Tuesday — said someone in his department would have contacted Jeter’s former employer.

“Human resources is responsible to research backgrounds,” Bolden said.

Asked if the district should reconsider Jeter’s employment, Bolden responded that the Philadelphia Eagles let star wide receiver Terrell Owens go in the middle of the season.

Jeter and Michael Nellums, principal of the Jacksonville Middle School boys campus, appeared locked in a power struggle. Nellums is supported by many area school patrons, especially those who worked in the past toward making Jacksonville a stand-alone school district.

Jeter asked Bonita Rownd, director of the Jacksonville Cham-ber of Commerce, to support him in his efforts to have Nellums reassigned to another school, according to a letter she delivered to then-acting Superintendent Robert Clowers following an Oct. 18 meeting of the chamber’s education committee.

“Jeter asked for my assistance in having Nellums removed,” Rownd wrote.

Rownd said Tuesday that she had kept the letter private, but made a copy available to The Leader after someone apparently leaked it.
According to her letter, Jeter told her that Nellums “Didn’t have the experience to handle the intricacies of a challenging new program” and said he needed to be moved to another school, but that the community seemed to like Nellums.

According to Rownd, Jeter charged that Nellums, Bolden and Karl Brown, assistant superintendent for equity and pupil services, had formed “a power block to try to get things done their own way.”

“I felt that the conversation was very inappropriate and unprofessional,” Rownd wrote. “I have known Dr. Bolden for many years and know his intentions are honorable and above reproach. His mission is helping our school children receive a quality education.

“On another occasion, Jeter told an untruth to Dr. Bolden, Clowers and Mr. Nellums. He told them I said I had businesses that would pay for an awning to be built between the two middle school buildings. I had not said this, but in fact had been in a meeting where he was questioned about having this built, and he said the district would take care of it.”

Nellums won a recent round in his battle when Attorney General Mike Beebe issued an opinion that the boys campus was not subject to the decisions made by the site-based council at the girls campus.

Locally, Bolden, businessman Mark Perry, Mayor Tommy Swaim and others have been supportive of Nellums’ efforts on behalf of the boys campus and state Rep. Will Bond asked Beebe for an opinion.

As a result of the opinion, Nellums hopes to change the boys campus’ schedule to the traditional seven-period schedule, which he says will enable additional classes, electives and help with discipline problems.

If the girls campus continues to use the block schedule, there could be a problem scheduling coeducational electives.
Jeter was in meetings Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

TOP STORY >> Cannon to get makeover

Leader staff writer

The cannon from the Civil War era in front of the Lonoke County Courthouse is on its way to Historical Ordnance Works in Woodstock, Ga., to be restored.

The 800-pound cannon, which is actually a three-inch ordnance rifle Model 1861, No. 705, was crafted in 1864 at the Phoenixville Iron Company in Pennsylvania and will be returned to Lonoke in about six months.

“This is a great day,” said Ann McSwain of the Lonoke Historical Society.

“I overheard some people talking about the cannon at a Christmas party last year and apparently it is a very fine Civil War relic,” she added.

Since then she and other members of the Lonoke His-torical Society have been raising money towards the cannon’s restoration.
Emmett Powers of the Lonoke Historical Society researched the history of the cannon, which first appeared in front of the Lonoke County Courthouse in 1911.

No records have been found relating to the cannon’s role, if any, in the Civil War.

Powers said he did find out that about 1,400 of the cannon were delivered to the Federal army. More than 200 of the cannon are on display in places such as Gettysburg where No. 707, 709 and 710 are on display. No. 711 is on display at Chickamaugua and No. 398 is on display at Pea Ridge. No. 398 at Pea Ridge is the only other 3-inch cannon in Arkansas.

Powers is transporting the disassembled cannon on a trailer to Georgia.

Exposure to the elements, along with termites, has damaged the wooden carriage of the cannon. Tuesday afternoon workers sawed parts of the damaged wood in half to expedite the cannon’s transport.

At the Historical Ordnance Works, the metal parts of the cannon will be cleaned and it will be remounted on a carriage made of white oak.
The Lonoke Historical Society raised $3,000 towards the restoration of the cannon. The county put up $5,000 from the county maintenance budget for the cannon repair.

“I don’t know what it’s worth,” said Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman. “Historically, it may be worth $100,000. I don’t know what it’s worth as a collection piece.”