Wednesday, December 27, 2006

SPORTS>> Lady Devils using Classic to prepare for conference

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils embark upon their between-semester holiday tournament play with a still-diminished roster. Still missing are two guards that should have a big impact for the guard-shallow team next week when conference play gets started, but for now, the Lady Devils will begin play in the Red Devil Classic with a post-game mentality. They begin the tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday against Melbourne. First-year Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms, who was not involved in selecting teams for the tournament, doesn’t know much about Melbourne, but expects a tough game.

“It’s a really small school and teams like that don’t come to these big-school tournaments unless they think they can compete,” Mimms said. “I’m sure they’ll be a very good team. Right now though we’re working on Jacksonville. We have to get ready for conference, and that’s what we’re going to be focused on in this tournament.” The vast majority of Jacksonville’s offensive point production has come from the inside play of seniors Tarneshia Scott and Marie Livings. The guards have been adequate and given a valiant effort, but none are true point guards and that has been a weakness that the team will try to play through this week.

“I feel like we have good guards, just not a point guard,” Mimms said. “The best ball handler right now is probably Tarneshia, but she’s too valuable down low. We’re going to get some people back for conference which will help, but it will sort of be like starting from square one in the middle of the season.” Last year’s starting point guard, Morgain Waits, has been out all season with a torn ACL. She has rehabilitated well and should be back by the first conference game next month. Brittany Smith will also return after the Christmas break. With the guard play on hold, Mimms would like to work on the two big players inside. Livings, who followed Mimms from North Pulaski last year, has been dressed down by her head coach more than once for lacking aggression, especially on the boards. This season has seen a steady increase in Livings’ tenacity in the rebounding department, but there are still things Mimms would like to see improve.

“She has definitely gotten more aggressive, but we also want to see her shoot better,” Mimms said. “We’ve been working on getting her to hit her first shot. She’s so big she can sometimes miss, get the rebound, miss, get it again, and just keep shooting. We want her to focus more and work on hitting that first shot. She tends to rush the shot when she gets it and she’s open.” Mimms has been working with Livings on defense as well, and thinks it will pay dividends in the 6A-East race.
“Another thing that I see improving with her is her defense,” Mimms said. “Defensively she’s been learning how to recognize guard penetration and how to slide over to help. Guards getting inside for layups has killed us at times this year and some of that is because we haven’t played good defense away from the ball. I think our pressure defense has been good, but we need to get better in halfcourt situations.”

This is Mimms’ first year coaching Scott, who is a three-year starter and has been the Lady Devils’ most steady and versatile player all three of those years. Scott lacks the quickness to play guard full-time, but has the ability to occasionally take her defender off the dribble and create her own shot. She can’t be left unattended on the wing either because she is a capable outside shooter. “What’s going to happen when we get all of our players is you’re going to see her with more opportunities to do some of the things we want her to do,” Mimms said. “She can do a lot of things, but she’s been limited because we’re short handed. We’re going to go ahead and try to keep her where we want her in this tournament and just focus on doing the things we’re going to do in conference. I feel like our guards are getting better and I think that will make the team better.”

SPORTS>> Lonoke snuffs out Stuttgart Ricebirds

Leader sportswriter

The Jackrabbits and Lady ‘Rabbits went into the holiday break on a winning note, sweeping Stuttgart at home Friday night in a pair of 2-4A Conference games. The visiting Ricebirds took Lonoke down to the wire until a charging foul on Tevin Robinson with 48 seconds left gave the ball and the game to the Jackrabbits by a score of 54-48. The Lady Jackrabbits held the Lady Ricebirds to 10 points through three quarters before activating the mercy rule in the final frame for a dominating 46-15 win, keeping their league record perfect through five games and putting them in a tie for the conference lead. The ‘Rabbits dominated the first quarter until Stuttgart closed a 13-3 deficit at the 2:37 mark down to 14-8 by the end of the period. Lonoke never trailed in the contest, but could never extend the lead back to the brief double-digit advantage it enjoyed in the first minutes of the game.

“When you stop scoring, your defense goes down,” ‘Rabbits coach Wes Swift said. “We were up by 10 at one point and just quit scoring. We weren’t getting the ball to our post players, which is something we have been working on. Maybe it was a trust issue, with both of them being sophomores, but it is something we are going to continue working on.”

Robinson became harder and harder for Lonoke to contain in the second half. After being held to only seven points in the first half, the sophomore Ricebirds standout put up nine points in the third quarter. A bank shot from Robinson with 1:29 left in the third quarter cut Lonoke’s lead to 36-33, but Sammy Coleman responded for the ‘Rabbits with a pair of free throws, followed by a three pointer with 33 seconds left in the third to put the lead at 41-33. A steal and layup from No. 23?? gave Lonoke a brief 10-point lead at 43-33, but Philip Sykes scored before the third quarter buzzer to cut it back to eight. Robinson’s only points of the fourth quarter cut Lonoke’s lead to 46-45 with 3:45 left in the game, but when his magic touch ran out soon thereafter, the Jackrabbits took advantage and sealed the win going away.

Robinson tried for the lead on the next Stuttgart possession, but his shot fell short, and Bradley Spencer pulled down the rebound for Lonoke. The biggest play for the ‘Rabbits came on the ensuing possession, when Stanley Staggers scored on the put-back of a missed shot by Spencer, and drew the foul from Garrison Vaughn. Staggers hit the foul shot, putting Lonoke up by five, 50-45 with 1:41 remaining. A three-point shot from Vaughn 20 seconds later would give Stuttgart one last gasp of air, but Spencer drew the charge from Robinson on the Ricebirds’ next possession to deny any chance of a comeback.
Spencer led the Jackrabbits with 10 points. Coleman added nine points for Lonoke, and NO>1?? Had eight points. For Stuttgart, Robinson led all scorers with 18 points. The win improves Lonoke’s record to 8-4 on the season and 4-1 in conference play.

The Lady ‘Rabbits had an easy time with the Lady Ricebirds on Friday, dominating the contest from the opening tip on. Lonoke jumped out to a 10-4 lead after the first quarter with strong play inside from senior post Calisha Kirk. Kirk scored six points during the opening frame, along with shots from Jenny Evans and Asiah Scribner.

Both teams struggled during the second quarter, and the score at the half was 17-6. Lonoke came out even stronger in the second half, improving their lead to 27-10 by the start of the fourth quarter. A pair of free throws from Michaela Brown with 2:25 left in the game increased Lonoke’s lead to 45-15 and activated the mercy-rule. Both teams went sub-heavy at that point, and Brown added one more free throw in the last minute of the game to set the final margin.

“Early on, they had some trouble scoring against us,” Lady ‘Rabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “Down the stretch, I thought our guards did an outstanding job. Michaels Brown hit those free throws, and Kristy Shinn came up with about seven rebounds there. I told the kids that playing in December, we would have to be ready. I think our freshmen have adjusted to varsity basketball. They seem to be taking care of the ball a lot better now.”

Kirk led Lonoke with 17 points. Evans added 11 points for the Lady Jackrabbits. For Stuttgart, Sherick Withers led with five points. The win gives the Lady Jackrabbits an 8-5 overall record, and puts their conference record at 5-0, tying them with the Heber Springs ladies for the 2-4A lead. The Jackrabbits and Lady Jackrabbits will take part in the White County Medical/First Security Christmas Classic at Beebe starting Thursday morning.

SPORTS>> Panther standout is ‘Sharp’

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School athletics has traditionally been known for its workhorse-style heroes, and Panthers senior post Alex Sharp is no exception. A good example on the court and in the classroom, Sharp has been in the unenviable position of one of only three seniors on this year’s Panther team.

He has taken the duty in stride. What would be considered overwhelming for some young men has been a natural adaptation ac-cording to the 17-year-old. Very articulately spoken for his age, it only takes a few moments of conversation with Sharp to understand why Panthers head coach Jerry Bridges leans on him in many different areas. “At the end of last season, Al was one of the first guys I went to,” Bridges said. “I don’t want to put any more undue pressure on him than what he already has, but he understands that we have a lot riding on him this year.”

Add the fact that this is his first season as a full-time starter, and it becomes even clearer that Sharp has had little choice but to be a quick study. He started sporadically last season, but took on the role of big-man inside at the start of the 2006-2007 season last month. “I just want to be good at whatever my role is this year,” Sharp said. “Whether that is being leading scorer or leading rebounder, whatever ends up being best for the team. Individual stats are not a big issue, as long as we can do well as a team.”

Although he does not brag about his accomplishments on the court that much, he is rightfully proud of what he has done in the classroom for the past four years. Boasting an amazing 4.23 GPA, Sharp also scored a 33 on his ACTs, and is president of the National Honors Society at Cabot High School. His college plans are down to four choices, but mainly revolve around the University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix University, both in Conway. He has received academic offers from both schools, but has also received interest from the Hendrix basketball program.

“I am very much in the middle of the road right now as far as where I want to go,” Sharp said. “Right now, it is too early to tell. I am filling out paperwork as if I were going to both schools.” Sharp started his career for Cabot out strong, earning All-Metro Conference honors his freshman year. He added an MVP award form the Arkansas Hoops Summer Jam at McClellan High School this past summer. He says that although this year’s team is young for the most part, that the sophomores and juniors have come around very quickly, and he expects the Panthers to be strong one league play starts in a couple of weeks.

“I have very high expectations for the team,” Sharp said. “We started out a little bit slow, but I think that once conference starts, we will be used to each other a little more. Our defense has improved enough that we should be more competitive. I expect us to get a good seed in the state tournament, and make some noise there.”
Bridges agrees that Sharp’s role as a leader has been a very natural progression.

“He has grasp a hold of the role that we have given him,” Bridges said. “All the young men on the team look up to Al, and he has accepted that role. There have been times where I wished he was a little bit more vocal, but I think he has done a great job of getting more aggressive when he needs to here lately. He averages close to a double-double for us on the court, so I have no complaints whatsoever with his performance on the court.” With his final year of high school basketball almost halfway behind him, Sharp says he looks forward to applying the lessons he has learned on the court to his life in college, and beyond.

“Probably, the main thing I will take with me is the same thing I have already taken from playing basketball, and that is work ethic,” Sharp said. “I couldn’t have been successful, or the team couldn’t have been successful without the hard work that coach Bridges puts us through in the off-season.

“Coach Bridges has always put a big emphasis on teamwork and putting individual issues aside to work together. I think in the future, that will help me with my abilities towards classmates and co-workers, and help me to not do selfish things.”

OBITUARIES >> 12-27-06


William Robert Carter, 73, of Jacksonville died Dec. 22 in North Little Rock. He was born Feb. 27, 1933 in Peabody, Mass., to the late Rupert Alvin and Thelma Elizabeth MacGregor Carter.

In addition to his parents, a brother, Dave Carter, preceded William in death. Mr. Carter was a member of St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church and a fourth degree Knight of Columbus in the Jacksonville Council. He served in the Air Force for more than 23 years and was a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. While stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, he coached baseball, football and basketball on the air base.

After retiring, he went to work for Rebsamen Regional Medical Center, where he established the biomedical engineering department program and continued his work for another 20 years. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Mildred Darsney Carter of Jacksonville, and their six children, Roberta Bowen and husband Larry of Tempe, Ariz., Patti Witkop and husband Willmer of Nemo, S.D., Sandra Gilliland and husband Kyle and William Robert Carter, Jr., both of Jacksonville, Cynthia Monmaney and her husband Steven of Wynne and Michael Douglas Carter and wife Mary Kay of Tulsa, Okla., 11 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Also surviving him are Brandi, Amanda and Melina Gilliland, Jennifer Witkop, Heather Bendowski and husband Jin, Crystal and Matthew Botsford, Steven, Jr. and Rachel Monmaney, Andrew and Samantha Carter and Amethyst Rayne Bendowski. He also leaves one sister, Joan Myers of Saugus, Mass. and three brothers, Rupert Carter and Brian Carter of Peabody, Mass., and James Carter of Albany, New York.

The family would like to thank Drs. Conley, Neuhauser, Jones, Kellar and Fernandez and the nursing staff on 1A at Baptist North for their wonderful care. Memorials may be made to the Rehab Transportation Van Service at Baptist Health North, 3333 Springhill Drive, North Little Rock, Ark.72116. Rosary was recited Dec. 26 at St. Jude’s Catholic Church. Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at the church with Father Les Farley officiating. Burial will follow in Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Amy Foreman, 84, of North Little Rock died Dec. 24. She is survived by a host of nieces and nephews. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 28 at Hazen Cemetery. Family will receive friends from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at North Little Rock Funeral Home.


Martha Staton, 53, died Dec. 25. She was a retired school teacher. Preceding her in death were her parents, Ernest and Florance Staton, and a brother, Bill Staton. She is survived by three brothers, Lee, Johnny and M.D. Staton; two sisters, Emma Staton and Betty Emerson; and seven nieces and nephews. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church with burial in Legate Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.


Edna Ruth Umfleet, 71, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 23 in Jacksonville. She was born Feb. 3, 1935 in Flat River, Mo., to Roy J. and Henratta J. Turnbough Huey. Mrs. Umfleet retired from J.C. Penny after 19 years and was a strong supportive military wife of 56 years. She was preceded in death by her father and baby daughter, Dee Ann Umfleet. She is survived by her loving husband of 56 years, Ret. MSgt. Denver Umfleet; children Deborah McDaniel of Jacksonville, Dennis L. Umfleet of Virginia, Norman D. Umfleet of Tennessee, Stephanie D. Wagner of North Carolina and Angela D. Umfleet of Jacksonville; mother, Henratta J. Huey of Park Hills, Mo.; two sisters, Nancy Hawg and Charlotte McGinnis, both of St. Louis; 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and several other beloved family members and friends.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 28 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home chapel with the Rev. Kevin Conger officiating. Burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Jacksonville. Visitation will be at the funeral home from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27.


Dorothy Virginia Whaley, 72, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 22, at Arkansas Hospice in Ft. Roots VA Hospital. She was born Aug. 16, 1934 in Washington County, Ga., to John and Mary Salter Glover.

Mrs. Whaley was a member of McArthur Drive Church of Christ in Jacksonville. She was one of the last true ladies. She is survived by two daughters and sons-in-laws, Jeanne and Gerald McCray of Jacksonville, Kathy and Daniel Landis of Greensboro, N.C.; son, Dennis Whaley of Jacksonville; six grandchildren, Jacob and Joshua McCray, Valarie Jamison, Kameron Landis, Carey Alba and Courtney Blotz; sister, Mary Burke of Georgia, and two brothers, Patrick Glover of Florida and Raymond Glover of Georgia.
Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Chapel. Burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park.


Alf “Buddy” Price, age 71, of Cabot died Dec. 26, in Jacksonville. He was born on Nov. 12, 1935 to the late Adolph and Cora Jackson Price. Alf was a member of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot and served his country in the Air Force from 1953 to 1956.
In addition to his parents, Alf was preceded in death by four brothers, Dwight Price, Ralph Horton, Clifton Horton, and Adolph Price Jr.; and one sister, Opal Jackson. Alf is survived by his wife, Betty Price; three children, Patti Stanley of Little Rock, Ron H. Price and wife Juneanne of Hope, and Michael Price and wife Brittani of Cabot; and five grandchildren, Spencer, Aidan, Aaron, Hunter, and Allyson Price.

The funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 29, at the Jacksonville Funeral Home chapel with Pastor Russell Stewart officiating. Burial will follow in Mt. Carmel Cemetery. The family will receive friends on Thursday, Dec. 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home. Funeral arrangements are by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.


Edith Joyce Murray Lott, 85, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 25at her home. She was born Oct. 17, 1921 in Greenwood, Miss., to the late Walter and Alma Tollison Frazier.
She was also preceded in death by her first husband, John Murray in 1955.

Mrs. Lott was a member of First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville. Survivors include her husband of 48 years, Wayne Lott, DDS of Jacksonville; sons, Walter and wife June Murray of Little Rock, John and wife Kathy Murray of Moss Point, Miss.; sisters, Ann Makamsom of Atlanta, Ga., and Rachel Young of Greenwood; grandchildren, Debbie Coulson, Grant Duensing, Charles Murray, Andrea Duensing, Patrick Murray, Beth Shipman and Matthew Murray; four great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28, at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville. Burial will follow in Bayou Meto Cemetery in Jacksonville. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at the funeral home.


Rev. Bobby Glenn Kelley, 69, of Jacksonville died Dec. 22. He was born Sept. 5, 1937 in Higgerson to the late George and Alice Kelley. He was a veteran of the Korean conflict and was a member of We Are One Ministries in North Little Rock, which had ordained him.

He was a 15-year member of the Independent Order of Foresters, where he served as vice president. There were many lives touched and changed by his love. He loved the Lord and told it to everyone he knew and met. He was a loving, dedicated husband, a caring, broad-shouldered father and a helping compassionate friend. He will be greatly missed by all.

He was preceded in death by a brother, Leon Kelley and a sister, Wanda Skelton.
Rev. Kelley is survived by his wife, Goldie Kelley; a brother, J.R. “Bill” and wife Maria Kelley; son, Thomas Edward Kelley; daughter, Alice Kelley; seven stepchildren, Jodi and husband Steve Shell, Billy Stratton, Shirley Stratton, Chuck Stratton, Linda and husband Phillip Mealler, Rick and wife Jeanne Smith, Joe Smith and a host of grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends.

Services were Dec. 26 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home. Burial followed at Pleasant Hill Cemetery near Center Ridge.


Corene Bowman, 83, of Beebe, died Dec. 21. She was retired after many years with Southwestern Bell of Memphis and was a member of Beebe Church of Christ. Corene loved, raised and showed Pomeranians. She was preceded in death by her husband, J. B. Bowman; parents, Clarence and Udell Osborn; half sisters, Alice White Harrison and Lottie Denham; sister, Louise Motes; three brothers, Claude Osborn, Joe Osborn and Clem Osborn.

She is survived by three brothers, Clarence Osborn and wife Belva of Mississippi, James “Alford” Osborn and wife Barbara of California and Steve Osborn and wife Arabella of Mabelvale; and one sister, Patricia “Pat” Wilson and husband Woody of Harrisburg.
Graveside services were Dec. 23, in Antioch Cemetery with arrangements were by Westbrook Funeral Home at Beebe.

TOP STORY >>Cabot water group hopes it will justify its existence

Leader staff writer

The commission that has run Cabot’s utilities for one year was ordered by a 2-1 vote of the people and then created by a vote of the city council, but what the old council gave the new one could be taken away, so the commission has been putting together a progress report to show the new aldermen that Cabot WaterWorks is in good hands. The new city council will be sworn in Jan. 6, and Bill Cypert, secretary of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, said the commission will make its pitch then that it’s doing its job.

Cypert said the members aren’t really worried that five votes from the council could disband the commission, but it is fair to say they are apprehensive. The commission took over the city’s water and sewer departments in January 2006 and named the two Cabot WaterWorks. To get ready for the transition, they hired an engineer to run the operation, a lawyer to deal with legal issues and an accounting firm to work with the money. Among the commission’s accomplishments this year is a $250,000 increase in investments revenue and the implementation of policies for dealing with developers so that none will be able to say they weren’t treated fairly. “They may not like it, but they know they are on a level playing field,” Cypert said.

Also among the first year’s accomplishments is the reduction of rainwater getting into the sewer treatment plant. Not only does rainwater overburden the plant, the city was under pressure from state and federal environmental agencies to get it under control. General Manager Tim Joyner noticed early in the year that several manholes were actually under water during heavy rains (some were in ditches) and started pouring concrete collars around them to elevate the opening so the water couldn’t get in.

The commission inherited from the mayor and council plans to build a new sewer treatment plan as well as plans to connect to Central Arkansas Water which would be the city’s water supplier in the future. The sewer plant is under construction and on schedule for completion by the end of 2007. But the commission is working on an alternative to connecting to CAW in the near future. Cabot’s permit to take water from its well field between Beebe and Lonoke is for 3 million gallons a day. Since pumping water is less expensive than buying water, the commission would like to increase that amount over the next 40 years to almost 8 million gallons a day. Whether their request will be honored hinges on the results of a study by the U.S. Geological Survey to show how the aquifer would be affected and the attitude of the people who live in that area who have never wanted Cabot there.

The permit was issued by Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, which will decide after the study is completed early in 2007 whether 3 million gallons is all the city will be allowed to take from the ground in a single day. If the answer is no, the transmission line will have to be built soon. Cabot’s part of the cost would be about $14 million. But Cypert said the longer Cabot can pump its own water the more the commission can save toward paying for the line to connect to CAW.

In addition to the new hires when they started, the commission recently hired a human resources director who also will make sure WaterWorks meets all OSHA requirements. Cypert said overtime is down because the commission has insisted on it and he believes the pay raises will help WaterWorks keep good workers. The commission is made up of city residents – J.M. Park, Don Keesee, Gary Walker, Cary Hobbs and Cypert – who do meet twice a month or more without pay. So far they have been able to talk through all the issues they have faced and have never voted anyway other than unanimously. “Every commissioner brings a unique talent to the table,” Cypert said.

Park, a retired banker, brings community respect, he said. Keesee, the president of Arvest bank in Cabot and Jacksonville, helps with financial matters. Walker, a professional engineer and an executive with Ford New Holland, is good with technical issues. Hobbs, a retired Air Force pilot and owner of Computer Connections, is good with computers. And Cypert, retired from Blue Cross Blue Shield as chief technology and procurement officer, said although he knows computers, he believes his contribution to the commission has been his organizational skills.

Hobbs drew the two-year term on the commission and will be up for reappointment this year. Cypert said the commission will recommend that the council reappoint him. “We’ve got a good mix. Why mess it up?” he asked. Of course that appointment would be contingent on the new council believing that the new commission is worthy of continuing its work.

Cypert said that alone is reason enough to keep it going. A commission does its work of maintaining and planning for the future regardless of who the mayor is or who is on the city council. “A commission stays out of politics and it provides continuity,” he said.

TOP STORY >>Judge finds Iran guilty in bombing

Leader staff report

A federal judge last week ruled that Iran was responsible for the bombing a decade ago of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 American service members and injured hundreds of others, including five airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base. The judge ordered Iran’s foreign assets frozen and the families of the victims who were killed be paid $253 million in compensation.

The families of the 19 dead service members had sued the Iranian government earlier, but their complaint was dismissed for lack of evidence against Iran. On June 25, 1996, terrorists exploded what officials estimate was a 5,000-pound bomb planted in a fuel truck near the Khobar Towers in Dharan — a complex of 10-story buildings housing foreign military service members, including Americans near the Abdul Aziz Air Base. One building was destroyed, another heavily damaged.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth overturned an earlier ruling by a U.S. magistrate after testimony by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh over evidence that the Iranians had trained many of the bombers. It’s not clear how the victims’ families could gain access to the Iranian funds and how the money would be divided and if those who were not killed could also receive compensation.

Air Force service members in the Khobar Tower complex were assigned to the 404th Provisional Wing, most of them on temporary duty in Saudi Arabia. Among them were members of the 314th Airlift Wing from the Jacksonville air base. U.S. service members at the Saudi base supported Operation Southern Watch, which enforced the no-fly, no-drive zone south of the 32nd parallel in Iraq.

The bomb exploded at about 10 p.m. Saudi time. An Air Force security police officer observed the truck drive up to a security barrier about 35 meters from the building. The officer immediately notified U.S. and Saudi security personnel and started evacuation of the building. But as a Saudi patrol approached, two men leaped out of the truck and sped off in a car. The bomb exploded within four minutes of the truck being spotted, leaving
little time for evacuation, Defense Department officials said. The explosion left a crater 85 feet long and 35 feet deep.

A senior Pentagon official said that without the security in place, the casualty count would have been much higher.

TOP STORY >>Consultant pushes a tourism district

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville needs an identifiable tourism district, according to a $9,700 study the city’s advertising and promotion commission asked for. Along with that identifiable district, the city also needs to generate more money to promote tourism to the area, the report said. The report was presented at the commission meeting earlier this month where commissioners voted to spend another $3,000 with the consultants, Curt Cottle Consulting and Thomason Associates, to give the city direction and a plan. “The report doesn’t tell us anything new,” said commission Chairman Marshall Smith, “the question is which way to go now.”

That direction, according to consultant Curt Cottle, points to the city’s rich military history and use the city’s military museum on Veteran’s Circle, off Main Street and Reed’s Bridge civil war battlefield, off Highway 161. The study also suggests building a new conference center and sprucing up the city through “the right mix of ordinances and aesthetics.”

One question that commissioners clearly answered was the need for a prepared foods tax, commonly known, as a hamburger tax, to pay for any plan the consultants and the city decide on. The city council can approve up to a three-cent prepared foods tax, without a vote of the residents. It was suggested at the commission’s December meeting that every one-cent of the tax would generate about $300,000. Currently the city has a two-cent motel room tax which generates about $80,000 a year which is used to promote the city and help fund various activities and business such as the military museum and the annual patriotic show and fireworks.

Sherwood, which has no hotel tax, does have a hamburger tax which brings in $451,400 to the city’s advertising and promotion commission, more than five times more than the Jacksonville commission gets. The study said that sense Jacksonville does not have a true downtown and central or tourist district, like Little Rock did with the River Market, needs to be created. According to the study, “The area around the military museum would seem to be the most logical place to anchor one end and perhaps the new library/park area on the other. The divided road (Main Street) is an interesting feature and one that already signals to the out-of-towner something different than everywhere else in town.”

The consultants added that “once identified, the area will need its own name and identity. Ideally, there would be some historical basis for the name and location. Pick something beyond the generic Downtown district to give it more character, maybe something based on the old ordinance plant.”

The study went on to say that “in addition to the look of Jacksonville, the city could do more with the fact it has a real interesting story in the ordinance plant. Even though most vestiges are gone, what remains should be identified and waysides developed to explain those sites and their relation to others and the overall story.”

“World War II sites are currently high-interest tourism stops,” Cottle said. The consultants called the military museum a plus for the community, but added “small museum attendance nationally has been in decline in recent years.” The study said that the Reed’s Bridge battlefield site is also “ripe for investment” and recommended a tie-in with the museum, suggesting a ticket to the museum could also include an afternoon picnic at the battlefield. The consultants also recommend advertising that the Trail of Tears also came through the area near the battlefield.

The city’s current 56,000-square foot conference center, a part of the city’s 11-year-old community center just south of city hall, had to turn away nearly 400 events in 2005 because it was already booked, turning down about $94,000 in additional revenue.
“The current numbers would suggest ample capacity for a new conference space,” the study said. “The city has a location in mind and the funding capacity should it choose to go that route. Such a move would only have a positive impact on the lodging, restaurant and retail opportunities in the area.”

Restaurant selection seems to be a hinder in attracting tourist, according to the study. It says the city has 52 places to eat, but most are chains and fast food facilities. “One website only lists four locally operated facilities,” the consultant said. The study reported that travelers account for 30 percent of fine dining sales, 20 percent of family dining sales, 20 percent of sales at casual restaurants and 15 percent at quick stop places. Shopping, according to the study, is the most popular domestic trip activity and “Wal-Mart and other large discount chains will not cut it from a tourism standpoint.” Cottle said that “for the most part, rural tourism is dependent on small town charm and sensibilities, with business communities characterized by numerous owner-occupied small businesses.”

The consultants did say that the numerous antique and flea market stores within its city limits help support tourism.

TOP STORY >>Taxes bulk of city revenue

Leader staff writer

County and local taxes make up the bulk of expected income to support Jacksonville in 2007, and salaries make up the bulk of expenses. The city council last week approved a record $19.9 million budget for next year, including $15.56 million for the general fund which is used to operate most city departments, a $2.13 million street fund, a $1.49 million sanitation fund, and a $813,331 emergency medical services fund.

According to the 62-page budget presented to the council by Mayor Tommy Swaim, Jacksonville expects $6 million in its share of county taxes in 2007, up about $300,000 from this year; $3.45 million in city taxes, up about $50,000 from this year, and about $1.2 million in other tax revenue, up about $50,000, for the general fund. Overall, 68.5 percent of the expected revenue for the general fund will come from sales tax. The city also expected to generate almost 4 percent of its revenue for the general fund from fines, which equates to about $600,000.

Salaries and wages chew up half of the projected revenue for 2007, and that’s going into the year with three top positions un-filled—city administrator, human resource director and city engineer. The salary budget is up about $250,000 from this year and includes about a 3.5 percent salary in-crease for most city employees. Health insurance, even with all employees projected to pay part of the cost, still takes 10 percent of the general fund’s revenue.

Retirement contribution and benefit payments are also 10 percent of the general fund’s budget and contractual services take another 18 percent. Public safety, which includes police and fire, spends 64 percent of the city’s general fund revenues, followed by public works at 22 percent, general government at 10 percent and the judicial department at four percent. Jacksonville’s street fund gets 66 percent of its $2.13 million in revenue from its share of the state’s gasoline tax and another 14 percent of its income from its share off the county road tax. The fund is split pretty evenly between salary costs and capital outlay (work projects). Salaries and other personal services expend 40 percent of the revenue, while actual street projects and equipment to do the work takes up 38 percent of the budget.

Most of the sanitation fund’s income comes from fees customers pay for garbage and trash collection. These fees bring in about 92 percent of the fund’s income. The rest comes from interest, grants and other collected fees. The sanitation budget is spent mostly on salaries and employee benefits at 49 percent, followed by landfill fees at 16 percent. Nearly all of the emergency services fund’s income comes from ambulance service billings and ambulance memberships. Nearly 75 percent of the budget is chewed up by salaries and employees benefits.

As part of the city’s overall budget presentation, its capital improvement plan is also included. More than $16 million is long-term capital projects and activities have been identified, planned and projected by city officials. They included a joint education center and a police and fire training facility, both being paid for by a one-cent sales tax that also funded the city’s aquatic park, Splash Zone, which just completed its second season.
The city’s $5 million portion of the funding necessary for the$14.4 million joint education center—a community college facility to be used by both the military and civilians—has been met and the military funding portion has approved by the House and Senate. It is currently in the Appropriation Committee.

The police and fire training facility, which carries about a $3 million price tag, is in the planning stages. Enough of the tax should be collected by April 2007 to fund the project, which officials describe as a state-of-the-art training facility for use by the city’s police and fire departments as well as those from neighboring committees.

Other capital improvement plans listed in the budget report include:
•Slightly more than $300,000 for commercial and industrial development. Funding comes from sales of the old Franklin electric property, which was donated, to the city for $1 for the express purpose of using the profits for commercial and industrial development.

•Plans for a fifth fire station, one on the west side of town, probably on Main Street, east of Bayou Meto, will cost $500,000.

• Expansion of Fire Station No. 3, on John Harden, built in 1978 to house two firefighters, the code at that time. But current staffing standards require three firefighters on duty at all times. At 600-square feet, the station has reached its capacity, according to fire Chief John Vanderhoof. The planned expansion will cost $200,000.

•The city also plans to spend $150,000 to build a pavilion on the land that will house the city’s new $2.5 million library. City officials feel the area is the right spot to build a central community pavilion.

•The city will also spend another $100,000 turning an alleyway behind the new library into a proper roadway with curbs and gutters to allow better access to the new library.

•Once the library is built, the city plans to spend $250,000 to spruce up Main Street with trees, shrubs and sidewalks, mainly from Second Street to Dupree.

•The city plans to widen Graham Road from Loop to Oak Street at a cost of $1 million.

•Plans are also on tap to widen west Main Street to four lanes from Redmond Road to Harris Road at a cost to the city of $1.5 million.

•A proposed traffic light at Main Street and Harris Road would cost $75,000.

•Two major drainage projects are also on the blocks. A $100,000 project to aid in drainage control from Braden to Hill streets, and a $20,000 to help prevent continual flooding of five properties in the Fox Glen area.

TOP STORY >>If hospital is built, will they come?

Leader editor

When Rebsamen Medical Center in Jacksonville reported an $803,000 loss this year, the hospital dipped into its reserves, but administrators and hospital board members don’t want to keep doing that for very long. “We can’t lose money forever,” said Mike Wilson, a hospital board member and former state representative from Jacksonville. “You’re getting into the corn seed now.” “We’ve got a lot of soul-searching to do to keep it operating,” Wilson said.

Central Arkansas has 17 hospitals with more than 5,500 beds and more than three dozen nursing homes with 5,000 additional beds. Several specialty clinics — including radiation therapy and heart and outpatient surgery — complement the mix. Since 1999, Rebsamen has faced tough competition from two modern hospitals just a few miles down the freeway from Jacksonville. St. Vincent Medical Center North on Wildwood off Hwy. 67/167 in Sherwood and Bapist Health Medical Center on Spring Hill Drive off McCain Boulevard near Highway 67/167 in North Little Rock.

Both are modern facilities, while sections of Rebsamen are 45 years old. The Sherwood hospital on Wildwood Avenue, which cost $30 million to build, has 140 beds and is just five miles from Rebsamen, while Baptist, located off McCain Boulevard and which cost $50 million, is eight miles away. Baptist has 175 beds, including a 30-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit and boasts of services usually found only in larger, metropolitan facilities, such as diagnostic, surgical, outpatient, laser, pain management, critical care and emergency services.

Rebsamen is the smaller of the three hospitals with 90 beds, of which 60 are usually occupied. But it had more than 21,000 emergency-room visitors this year, or about 58 a day, although Rebsamen’s limit is 20,000 emergency-room visitors a year.
St. Vincent and Baptist are close enough for area patients to drive to for their healthcare needs, except in emergencies, which is why Rebsamen’s emergency room is overloaded. Rebsamen not only competes with these two recently built nearby hospitals that boast up-to-date equipment, they also offer doctors lucrative contracts. Many of those doctors have practiced at Rebsamen, but perform surgeries elsewhere, often at satellite clinics with specialties that pay them better.

Although it is city-owned, Rebsamen has been operated by an outside management firm, Quorum Health Services of Plano, Texas. Rebsamen, with 500 employees, is the second largest employer in the area after Little Rock Air Force Base.
Rebsamen’s board is considering the idea of building a new hospital on the edge of north Pulaski County to attract more patients from Lonoke County, which doesn’t have a hospital. Further north in Searcy, White County Medical Center draws patients from both White and Lonoke counties to its 300 beds. A new hospital closer to Lonoke County might bring in patients from there as well as from southern White County, before they head to Sherwood or North Little Rock. Will a new facility in north Pulaski County also attract more patients and specialists? “That’s the $64 question,” said board member Wilson. “I don’t know the answer to that,” said Mack McAlister, an accountant and chairman of the hospital board of directors.

He said the board’s task is to evaluate Rebsamen’s future and decide its role in the community. “We have a facility that’s several years old. What do we need to do in the future to be up-to-date? What do we need to do to be financially sound?”
Health care has changed, with more regulators requirements and reduced payments from Medicare and Medicaid. McAlister says Rebsamen can still find a role to meet the community’s healthcare needs.

“Health care has changed, with clinics and surgery centers. What we’re trying to do is address the subject of how we can be more efficient and beneficial.” “You have to find your niche,” he continued. “You can’t just compete with someone who’s doing the same thing down the road.”

EDITORIALS>>Why Pryor is angry

Leader editorial writer

It does not speak well of Tim Griffin that his appointment by President Bush as United States attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas brought an expression of rage from Sen. Mark Pryor. Mark Pryor is not any politician. He is the blandest, gentlest, most accommodating, least partisan member of the Arkansas delegation to Congress — maybe of the entire Congress, ever. As a member of the middle-of-the-road Gang of 14, he helped broker Senate acceptance of some of the president’s most outrageous judicial nominees. The ambit of his graciousness seemed to have no bounds — until it got to Tim Griffin.

Griffin, lately a Little Rock lawyer, is known principally as a political operative who operated under the guidance of Karl Rove, the president’s political director, to help Republicans get elected, starting with Bush in Florida. He has done some legal work in the military, worked briefly at a law firm in New Orleans and has done spells in the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock under Bud Cummins, who agreed to step down before his term expired to make way for Rove’s acolyte.

That Griffin is an active Republican does not distinguish him in any way. Whoever is president, all U.S. attorneys are political appointees. Cummins got his job from Bush after running a losing campaign against Democrat Vic Snyder. Snyder, incidentally, cheered his nomination. The only thing that distinguishes Griffin is the singularity of his partisanship.

And the way he was appointed. It was arranged for Cummins to wait until the Congress was adjourning before submitting his nomination. Then the president made an emergency recess appointment of Griffin under the extraordinary terms of the Patriot Act so that he is not subjected to a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his qualifications. He can, if the president so wishes, serve through 2008 under the emergency appointment.
There was no emergency. Cummins could have served until next month (he’s jobless now), or an assistant district attorney could have supervised the office for a few weeks. But the appointment left the unmistakable impression that the White House and Justice Department did not want Griffin answering questions. That was the source for Pryor’s outrage. Who can blame him?

Griffin may surprise us. He said the right things this week: The U.S. attorney’s office must be above politics. He implies that he will not use the office to seek out Democrats or to protect Republicans, Kenneth Starr-style. He carries a heavy cloak of responsibility to demonstrate fairness and rectitude. It would help him if the president submitted his name again next month under the normal process.

EDITORIALS>>Affordable insurance

One euphoric day in 1999, Gov. Huckabee and his health director, Dr. Fay Boozman, announced a goal of his administration: providing health insurance in some way for every person in Arkansas. Huckabee will leave office in three weeks without having met that goal. But who will fault him for failing in such a noble endeavor when the national government has failed so miserably? Huckabee has taken a few steps.

It is impossible to say whether it is a big step or a very, very small one, but starting Jan. 1 the last Huckabee health initiative will kick in. It enables small Arkansas businesses — those up to 500 employees — to provide very basic medical coverage to their low-wage employees at only 27 percent of the cost. The federal government would pay the rest. The state would pitch in some of the administrative costs from the payments it receives from tobacco companies each year as settlement of state claims for the harm from cigarettes.

Dr. Joe Thompson, who headed a health insurance task force, came up with the idea of the joint employer-state-federal program to cover low-wage employees. Several other states are using their Medicaid programs in the same way, matching federal dollars with employer premiums, but Arkansas added its own wrinkle. To participate in the government-subsidized coverage for low-wage workers, a business will have to insure all its other workers, too, in some kind of private plan. There would be no government subsidy for those workers.

The program is patterned on the successful Medicaid program for children. States can match federal dollars and insure children in families with family incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which would amount to about $40,000 a year for a family of four. Arkansas was one of the first participants in that program, starting in 1997. Starting the first of the year, whole families with incomes up to twice the poverty line can get insured if their employers agree to participate.

But how many will participate? Businesses have been dropping or scaling back employee health insurance, not expanding it. About 380,000 Arkansans 19-64 years old have no health coverage now. At the outset, for roughly the next 18 months, the state is going to limit coverage to about 15,000 people, but by the last half of 2008 it will expand it so that 80,000 people will be covered by either the Medicaid program or private plans for higher-paid workers.

We suspect that even the state’s initial limits will prove ambitious. Businesses that enter will have to insure all their employees, not just those who qualify for Medicaid assistance, and that new expense will be too daunting. Let’s hope that we are wrong and that the incentive of government subsidies will encourage employers to do what all of them want to do, which is to provide increased protection and security for their workers and families until the day that the national government undertakes the next and logical final step, which is to expand Medicare, the health protection for the elderly, to cover everyone.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Man loses long fight to cancer


Andrew Parker, who had fought a brain tumor much of his life, wanted to see his sister and her family in Atlanta one last time over the Thanksgiving weekend. He was supposed to fly with his mother, Erika, but he had misplaced his wallet and didn’t have a picture ID that he could use at the airport. Mrs. Parker, who was born in Germany, decided to visit her daughter alone since the two plane tickets had been paid for, and she didn’t want to waste both tickets.

But while she was in Atlanta, Andrew called her from Jacksonville and told her he wasn’t feeling well. “He said something was wrong with his left hand,” Mrs. Parker recalled last week. “He couldn’t open his medicine bottles. The next evening, he fell twice, once in his room and in the bathroom.”

Her son David, who is a photographer and copy editor at The Leader, and another son, Walter, stayed with Andrew until she returned, but his condition was deteriorating fast.
He’d had brain surgery last February, his second in 27 years. Both times he’d complained of headaches, but since he hadn’t been ill all those years, he and his family were hoping he wouldn’t have a brain tumor again.

Andrew had complained of headaches in high school and said he couldn’t see well, but at first doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him. His father, Davis, had served at several Air Force bases around the country and in Germany. Andrew fell ill the first time back in 1978, when he was 17 and attending Jacksonville High School. “It took a long time to figure out what was wrong with him,” said Mrs. Parker. “They were treating him for sinus problems.” But an Indian doctor at Little Rock Air Force Base realized Andrew had a brain tumor and sent him to University Hospital in Little Rock for treatment.

“The doctor could see the tumor pressing against his eyes,” Mrs. Parker said. “That’s why he couldn’t see well.” He had his first operation and radiation treatment at UAMS, and his chances of long-time survival looked good. “They said if he makes it for five years, he’ll live,” his mother recalled. “But it came back 27 years later.” Doctors at UAMS operated on him again when his tumor grew back, but they couldn’t use radiation this time because he had reached his lifetime limit back in 1978. So when he fell ill again last month, he had chemotherapy treatments at UAMS, but no more radiation or surgery.
“Andrew said, ‘That’s it for me.’

“There’s a new kind of chemotherapy, but it’s very expensive,” she said, “and Medicare doesn’t pay for it. He had a very powerful tumor. “The day before he died, he reached up to Heaven with his one good arm as if he was ready to go,” she continued. “I was there when he died. I was holding his hand. I said, ‘You’re feeling cold.’ He was breathing hard. He just kind of let go.”

Andrew died Dec. 14 at the age of 45. A memorial service was held Dec. 19 at Hope Lutheran Church in Jacksonville. “He doesn’t have to suffer anymore,” Mrs. Parker said. “No more tumors. No more drugs. No more shots. No more doctors. No more suffering.”
“He’s in Heaven now,” she said. “He’s better off where he is now. I do know he doesn’t have to suffer anymore. He is happy now.”

His brother David said, “He was an example of patient endurance in suffering. Why he and selective others have to endure such suffering is unknown now, except that they are examples for us of heroism and courage in the face of misery, but all will be revealed by God.

“I’m looking forward to our reunion,” he added, “when all sadness, isolation and suffering will be forgotten and perfect health and joy restored.” Andrew’s ashes will be scattered over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, where his dad was stationed in the 1970s and where Andrew spent his happiest days before he fell ill.