Wednesday, June 06, 2007

SPORTS>>Lonoke QB killed, greatly missed

Leader sports editor

John Alexander Cash, 16, of Lonoke was killed in an automobile accident Monday. Cash, known among friends as Alex, was the starting quarterback for the Lonoke Jackrabbits last season as a junior, and was set to return under center for the team next season under second-year coach Jeff Jones.

Cash was one of Lonoke’s top offensive producers a year ago. One of his best performances came in week three of the season when he ran for 184 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries against North Pulaski.

He was also a dangerous passer, throwing for over 300 yards in a victory over Bald Knob last season.

Lonoke had already begun work on implementing more of Jones’ system in spring practice last month, and the head Jackrabbit said then that his returning starter would be a big part of the offense, commenting that his athletic versatility as a runner-passer was one of the best attributes he brought to the team.

Cash is the son of Melvin and Candi Cash of Lonoke. He is survived by his parents, as well as his brother Chad Hart of Cabot, his nephew Cade Hart, Paw and Nanny Ronald and Bobbie Homsher of Austin, Meme Josephine Cash of Lonoke, uncles and aunts Larry and Phyllis Cash, Dennis and Sandra Homsher, Jerry Homsher, Lewis and Sissi Homsher, Brenda Kee, Jan and David Brown and many cousins.

SPORTS>>Chevy Boys shut down

Leader sportswriter

The Chevy boys took their toughest loss of the early season to North Little Rock Monday night at Dupree Park. The Colts shut out Gwatney 8-0 in a no-hitter effort for pitcher Brandon Von Ohlen. Von Ohlen was working a perfect game until he walked Seth Tomboli in the bottom of the fifth inning, and a fielding error at third base in the bottom of the sixth inning allowed leadoff batter Blake Mattison to reach for the only two Jacksonville trips to the diamond in the entire contest.

North Little Rock struck in the top of the first inning for a pair of runs, and slowly extended its lead through the remaining innings. Jacksonville kept the game somewhat in reach until reliever Clayton Fenton gave up back to back home runs to start out the seventh inning. A.J. Williamson and Matthew Strickley’s blasts over the wall increased a 5-0 lead to 7-0, and a balk by Fenton with the bases loaded later on in the frame scored Patrick Strack to set the final score.

Gwatney starting pitcher Seth Tomboli struggled to start out the game, giving up a single to leadoff batter Clark Sims. Sims advanced on a double by Dean Larson, and would score the first run of the game when three-hole hitter Strickley reached after beating the throw to first from Gwatney catcher Zach Thomas on a passed-ball strikeout.

Tomboli regrouped at that point, striking out two of the final three batters during the turn, but Strack came away with a single to center between the two Ks to score Larson for the other first-inning run.

After what would become a routine three-up, three-down scenario for Gwatney in the bottom of the first inning, Tomboli and the Jacksonville defense looked to have things under control in the second inning. Tomboli sent NLR three and out in the top of the second, including his third strikeout of the game on Wes Coleman to retire the side.

North Little Rock added two more runs in the top of the third. Sims doubled to start out the inning, and scored moments later on a passed ball to make it 3-0. The passed ball would have been the fourth strikeout for Tomboli, but NLR batter Larson took the free base, and would later put up score number four for the Colts on a single by Strack.

Von Ohlen’s changeup kept the Chevy batters off-balance for the entire contest. Seven-hole hitter Larry Simone took a different approach for Gwatney to lead off the bottom of the third, but his attempt at a bunt led to a pop up to Von Ohlen, and the pitcher closed out the frame with back-to-back strikeouts on Ricky Tomboli and Terrell Brown.

Seth Tomboli held the interval at four runs in the top of the fourth inning, only giving up a walk to Sims before striking out Larson for the third out, but Gwatney would go another inning with no one reaching in the bottom of the inning.

Through five innings, Tomboli gave up five runs on seven hits and four errors. Fenton would take over at the mound in the top of the sixth inning, holding the Colts scoreless despite a hit from Coleman and an error to allow Larson to reach. Coleman got picked at second base on a great play by Brown, and Fenton got his first strikeout of the game on Strickley to retire NLR in the sixth.

Fenton may have escaped without giving up a score in the sixth, but the seventh would be a different story, as Williamson, in his first batting attempt of the game, jacked it over left field wall to start out the inning. Strack followed that with a huge blast over the 375’ mark in centerfield.

The Colts finished with eight runs on 12 hits, and capitalized on five Jacksonville errors. Gwatney Chevrolet will play…

SPORTS>>Jacksonville Youth All-Star Teams

Caleb Anderson, Ingle Fence
Jason Bobo, Ingle Fence
Ashton Casy, Crown Trophy
Peyton Cook, Pro-Tech Solutions
Davonte Davis, McDonald’s
Gerald Doakes, Bush’s Drillers
Christopher Hope, Bush’s Drillers
Kalyb Johnson, Pro-Tech Solutions
Jacob McCaa, Lion’s Club
Joey Sullivan, Bond State Rep.
Tyriece Thomas, Western Sizzlin
Jaysen Washington, Bush’s Drillers
Bahylon Williams, Crown Trophy
Head coach, Charles McCaa

Cyrus Bond, Bond State Rep.
Ryan Bowen, Pro-Tech Solutions
Hunter Davidson, Bush’s Drillers
Kameron Davis, Crown Trophy
Jack Dixon, Ingle Fence
Kaleb Garner, Bush’s Drillers
Seth Hicks, Bond State Rep.
Jamari Jones, Crown Trophy
Keyshawn Kindall, Western Sizzlin
Coy Lovercheck, Ingle Fence
Damario May, McDonald’s
Noah Mulligan, Western Sizzlin
Braelyn Preston, Crown Trophy
Destry Stirgus, Ingle Fence
Coaches: Joey Lovercheck, Destry Stirgus, David Lovercheck

7-year olds
Demarcus Addell, Boyd Vet Clinic
Zach Bobo, Boy Vet Clinic
Deboious Cobbs, Community Bank
Edward Johnson, McAlister CPA
Kylan Kendall, McAlister CPA
Brennan Shelton, State Farm Insurance-Fowler
Jaocb Sherrill, Jacksonville Athletics
Quentin Stallard, State Farm Insurance-Fowler
Trent Toney, Whit Davis Lumber
Javan Wakefield, Boyd Vet Clinic
Tyson Wertz, Jacksonville Athletics
Kameron Whitmore, Ashcraft Orthodontics
Payton Williams, Whit Davis Lumber
Coaches: Terry Toney, Peck Colvert, Justin Chamblee

8-year olds
Jarrod Barnes, Whit Davis Lumber
Christopher Bass, Marhsall Rd. Pharmacy
Isaiah Cain, State Farm Insurance-Fowler
Bryce Crockom, Ashcraft Orthodontics
Devin Dodson, Jacksonville Athletics
Artarius A.J. Evans, Ashcraft Orthodontics
Tyson Flowers, Ashcraft Orthodontics
Kolbe Garner, Marshall Rd. Pharmacy
Christian Gartman, McAlister CPA
Archic A.J. Jackson Jr., Marshall Rd. Pharmacy
Bralyn James, McAlister CPA
Dajaun Ridgeway, Whit Davis Lumber
Caden Sample, Jacksonville Athletics
Jordan Wickersham, McAlister CPA
Coaches: Jamie Gartman, Nolan Wickersham, Alan Garner

Myles Bush, State Farm Insurance-Ray
Devin Campbell, RPM Realty
Brandon Hickingbotham, RPM Realty
Logan Kirkendoll, State Farm Insurance-Ray
Courtland McDonald, State Farm Insurance-Ray
Blake Perry, RPM Realty
LaDerrious Perry, RPM Realty
Steven Perse, Sherrill Automotive
Garrett Sherrill, Sherrill Automotive
Andrew Tucker, State Farm Insurance-Ray
James Tucker, State Farm Insurance-Ray
Ramiro Urena, RPM Realty
Zachary Watkins, First Electric
Coaches: James Tucker, Barry Hickingbotham, Eric Sherrill

Austin Allen, Greg Bollen Dental
Troy Allen Greg Bollen Dental
Reginald Barnes, Sertoma Club
Brandon Beard, Chambers Drug
Brandon Earnest, Chambers Drug
Hunter Garrison, Greg Bollen Dental
Brandon Guzzo, Sertoma Club
Jaleel Henson, Sertoma Club
Caleb Jones, Sertoma Club
Logan Kulesa Chambers Drug
Tyler Mogish, Greg Bollen Dental
Tanner Ruple, Chambers Drug
Chace Thomas, Sertoma Club
David Williams, Chambers Drug
Coaches: Jeff Ruple, Edwin Allen, Brent Mogish

14- & 15-year olds
Jacob Abrahamson, Sonic Drive-In
Cedric Bogard, Farmers Insurance
Bill Bouillon, Famers Insurance
Tyler Crook, First Arkansas Bank and Trust
Garrett Gartman, Jacinto Lodge
John Green, Jacinto Lodge
Kody Harvey, First Arkansas Bank and Trust
Michael Lamb, Sonic Drive-In
William Ogles, First Arkansas Bank and Trust
Drew Pierce, Sonic Drive-In
Orlando Roberts, Jacinto Lodge
Adrian Rodriquez, Sonic Drive-In
Nicholas Rodriquez, Sonic Drive-In
Coaches: Tommy Lamb, Dana Pierce, Mike Abrahamson

OBITUARIES >> 6-06-07

Zachary Baker

Cpl. Zachary D. Baker, 24, of Violonia passed away on Memorial Day, May 28. Baker was killed in action while conducting rescue operations in Normandy, Iraq. His vehicle was hit as his team was racing to the scene of a helicopter crash north of Baghdad.

He joined the Army in 2004, serving with Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division during his first tour in Iraq.

He was on his second tour with the troop.

His awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Army Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Action Badge and The Expert Marksmanship Badge.

Zack graduated from Vilonia High School in 2002. He was a good husband, father, son and brother who loved his family, his platoon, the Red Sox and the Arkansas Razorbacks. Zack was strong in his Christian belief and was an inspiration to others in his faith.

He is survived by his wife, Christina and son, Andrew of North Little Rock; mother and father, Kenneth, Jr., and Sandra Welcher of Vilonia; a brother, Shane Baker of Quitman; a sister, Kara Welcher of Vilonia; grandparents, Mr. And Mrs. David Jones of North Little Rock; grandfather, Kenneth Welcher, Sr., of Cabot; one great-grandmother, Berniece Jones of Jacksonville; and several uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home in North Little Rock.
Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. at the same location on Friday, June 8. Burial will be at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery.

John Cash

John Alexander Cash, 16, of Lonoke went to be with the Lord on June 1, resulting from an automobile accident. Alex was born on July 27, 1990 in Little Rock. He was preceded in death by his papa, Nolen Cash.

He is survived by his parents, Melvin and Canderia “Candi” Cash of Lonoke; brother, Chad and wife Lynnae Hart of Cabot; nephew, Cade Hart; his Paw and Nanny, Ronald and Bobbie Homsher of Austin, and Josephine “Me-Me” Cash of Lonoke; uncles, Larry and wife Phyllis Cash, Dennis and wife Sandra Homsher, Jerry Homsher, Lewis and wife Sissi Homsher; aunts, Brenda “BB” Kee, Jan and husband David Brown, and many cousins. Alex would have been a senior at Lonoke High School in the fall of 2007. Alex was full of life, always had a smile, and never met a stranger.

Alex excelled in and loved sports. He was quarterback of the Lonoke Jackrabbits football team. He will be greatly missed by friends Jessica Plummer, Heather Strickland, Corey Miller, Derek Dill, Colby Lehew, Eric Roland, Matthew Bryant, Matt Horton, Luke and Carrie Mitchell, Joseph Swedic, Coach Jones and many others.

Funeral services were June 4 at Lonoke Baptist Church, with interment in Lonoke Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

Pallbearers were Chad Hart, Larry Cash, Scott Cash, Stuart Cash, Dennis Homsher and Jerry Homsher. Honorary pallbearers were members of the Lonoke High School football team.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Y.B. King

Y.B. King, 83, of Beebe died June 2. He was born April 10, 1924 in Romance to Butler and Viola King.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Alice King; sister, Offie Cloninger; brother, Jeff King; and son-in-law, Lanny Weeks.

He is survived by a brother, Monroe King and wife Dorene; a son, LeRoy Ramsey and wife Delores of Beebe; five daughters, Joyce Willix and husband Richard of North Carolina, Alice Chambers, Neva Roe and Linda Weeks, all of Beebe, and Kathey Harper and husband William of Ward; 22 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren, and seven great-great- grandchildren.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 6 at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens.

Sharon Lee

Sharon Rose Lee, 60, of Jacksonville passed away June 1 in North Little Rock. She was born Sept. 15, 1946 in North Little Rock to the late Oscar and Mary Smart. Her children, Tammy Lee Falcone and Darrell Wayne Lee preceded her in death. Survivors include her husband of 43 years, Sammy Lee, Sr.; and son, Sammy Lee, Jr., both of Jacksonville; three brothers, Jerry Smart and wife Lillian of North Little Rock, Wayne Smart and wife Pat of Jacksonville, and Rodney Smart and wife Betty of Floyd; one sister, Sheila Childs and husband Ronny of Jacksonville; three grandchildren, Chris, Angela and Amanda all of Maumelle.

She is also survived by many nieces, nephews and friends. Graveside services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 6 at Arkansas Memorial Gardens in North Little Rock. Arrangements will be by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Tommy Lackey

Tommy Lynn Lackey, 58, passed away June 2. He was born June 28, 1948 in Stuttgart to the late Dorthy Rettig and Ralph Lackey Sr. He graduated from Lonoke High School in 1966; he was a Vietnam veteran and a recipient of the Purple Heart.

He enjoyed playing golf with his son, spending time with his granddaughters, and dogs, Elvis and Lucky. He was employed by the U.S. Postal Service for nearly 30 years and was a friend and co-worker of many at the Park Hill Post Office in North Little Rock.

Survivors include his son, Joshua Lackey of Virginia Beach, Va.; daughter, Teresa Lucardie and husband Mick of Riverview, Fla.; his granddaughters, Haley Lackey and Kara Lucardie of Riverview, Fla; his siblings, Ralph Lackey and wife LaRose Lackey of Lonoke, Carol Ann Taylor of Metarie, La., and Scott Rettig of North Little Rock.

The viewing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at Boyd Funeral Home. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Friday, June 8 at Lonoke First United Methodist Church, with burial in Sunset Memorial Gardens. Arrangements by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

Bobby Matlock

Bobby Matlock, 56, of Bismark died June 4. He was born Nov. 15, 1950 in Quantah, Texas, to the late Raymond and Betty Jean Marsh Matlock.  

He was preceded in death by his brother, Charles Matlock, and sister, Linda Crutchfield. He was a member of First Pentecostal Church in North Little Rock. He loved music and was a talented musician. He is survived by five children, Bobby Matlock, Jr., Phillip Matlock, Katrina Matlock, Patricia Sinor and Amy Armstrong, all of North Little Rock; and 12 grandchildren.

Funeral service by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 6 at First Pentecostal Church in North Little Rock with Rev. J.N. Holmes officiating.

John Breaux

John Albert Breaux, 68, of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord May 31 in Jacksonville. He was born June 13, 1938 in Baton Rouge, La., to the late John Albert and Dolly Seguin Breaux. He served his country in the Army and the Army Reserves. He was willing to help others and enjoyed caring for children of all ages.

Survivors include his wife, Sarah “Peggy” Breaux of the home; stepsons, Tom Disilvestro and wife Kelley of Allen, Texas, and John Sellers and wife Peggy of Philadelphia, Pa.; sister-in-law, Margaret Latham of Boise, Idaho; and grandchildren, Joseph and Elizabeth Disilvestro, and Brendan and Nina Sellers.

A memorial service was June 3 at the chapel of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home. Funeral arrangements were under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

EDITORIALS>>Why we’re paying more

If you buy your electricity from Entergy you will be pleased to know that beginning this month you will help pay the light bills every month for nearly 2 million people and businesses in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The charity will be figured into your monthly bill. You should gain an even deeper appreciation for the durable packhorse.

The state Public Service Commission theoretically could force Entergy Arkansas to absorb the cost of the $251 million annual subsidy to the southernmost customers of the Entergy system rather than pass it on to residential, industry and wholesale customers in Arkansas like you, but that is harsh medicine for the company and we do not expect it.

But the commission should give the customers the full measure of doubt and require the company and its holding company and shareholders to bear much of the burden.

This has been a bitter pill for Arkansas people for more than two decades. Federal regulatory appointees of President Ronald Reagan first ordered Arkansas ratepayers to help Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas customers of Entergy pay their electricity production costs in 1986 when Mississippi and Louisiana were building big nuclear plants and the building costs had gone through the roof after Three Mile Island.

Arkansas had built its two nuclear units at Russellville in the 1960s when the costs were much lower, and Arkansas customers bore the costs of nuclear construction and generation alone. The Reagan administration said Arkansas should help Mississippi and Louisiana pay the higher costs down there, although Arkansas by 1981 had negotiated an end to the 1970s agreement to share generating costs evenly.

Now the George W. Bush administration has ordered a new sharing arrangement, with Arkansas customers the packhorse again. See, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have benefited for decades from absurdly cheap natural gas, which allowed the Entergy companies there to generate electricity very inexpensively while Arkansas, without such plentiful supplies, had to convert to nuclear power and then expensive Wyoming coal, which comes into Arkansas by vast trains.

But natural gas prices have gone through the roof and it has become costly to run all those gas-powered generators across the coast. So the Louisiana Public Service Commission once again went to the energy regulators in Washington for relief.
Again, they ordered Arkansas to help the southern companies and their customers out by sending a little subsidy — $251 million this year — to the five southern operating companies.

If the PSC next week grants a rate increase requested by Entergy Arkansas that includes money to pay the subsidies, your bill should go up about 12 percent. Thanks to you, some 1.95 million customers in the coastal states will get credits on their monthly bills for the rest of the year. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will maintain that it’s all just legalities and not politics.

Just because Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi carry more clout with the Republican administration than does Arkansas, they will insist, does not mean that Bush’s men would favor the big companies on the coast over Arkansas.

But the law is always interpreted in their favor. FERC recognized the original agreement among the subsidiaries of the big holding company to share costs but then dismissed the next agreement in which Arkansas was severed from the arrangement. Doesn’t count, the regulators said.

And the federal courts agreed. Antonin Scalia, Mr. Justice Republican, wrote the opinion that saddled Arkansas ratepayers with the burden of bailing out the southern companies for their lack of foresight.

Gov. Mike Beebe’s spokesman got it right. Recalling that Beebe as attorney general had opposed the Louisiana campaign to make Arkansas pay, he said, “This is what the Bush administration decided had to be done. We don’t think it’s good for Arkansas ratepayers, but the final say lies with the federal government.”

We know your charitable impulses will prevail. We were poor, but we shared what we had with those who were better off.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for the Leader.

EDITORIALS>>Huck’s tax falls flat

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. In a political campaign, make that always. So it is with Mike Huckabee’s FAIR Tax, which he regularly promises to implement if he is elected president. The FAIR Tax — a heavy national sales tax of around 25 percent — is not original with the former governor.

It has been promoted by a congressman and TV host. They are trying to get presidential candidates committed to it to give the crazy nostrum some momentum. Huckabee has obliged.

To hear them tell it, by supplanting federal income taxes with the national sales tax, Americans would be rid of the intrusive Internal Revenue Service and everyone in America would be better off financially.

Economic growth would surge, retirees would be happier and more prosperous, young and middle-aged people would have more money to spend, and we would achieve an unprecedented level of freedom. The good times would never end.
The tax would be levied at a level that would produce exactly the same money that the current tax code produces so that services would not be cut. They estimate that it would be less than 25 percent, although others calculate that the tax would have to exceed 30 percent.

That is an extra 30 percent on your groceries, your doctor bill, the barber, the kid who mows your grass, your gasoline buy. Every single transaction in America would be taxed. Everyone would be a tax collector. Who would miss the IRS?
A sales tax ordinarily is terribly unfair because it lands most heavily on poor and middle-income people and those with great wealth hardly feel it.

But the FAIR Tax is supposed to be different because the federal government would cut a check every month to every single American reimbursing him or her for the estimated taxes a poor person pays for subsistence. The assumption of the authors is that people of great wealth would pay an inordinate amount of the sales taxes because they can spend more, so everyone else would come out way ahead.

Every legitimate study of consumption shows that to be a phony assumption. Every businessman and probably every consumer in America would soon be calling for heads to roll.

If Huckabee is somehow elected president, the FAIR Tax will not be enacted. Congress will never take a shot in the dark that would put the resilient American economy at such risk. Pin your campaign on something else, governor — besides your wit.

TOP STORY >>Mayors discuss their needs

Leader staff writer

The turnout for the first meeting of the mayors of Lonoke County was not as good as planned, but those who did attend got to mingle with State Sen. Bobby Glover, area business leaders, school officials and the new commander at Little Rock Air Force Base before settling in to listen to a presentation on how to clean up a city.

Counting himself, Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams expected at least six of the county’s 10 mayors to attend. But except for Danny Maynard, mayor of England, the only ones who came were from north Lonoke County. Ray Glover, mayor of Carlisle, had a council meeting, and there was a death in the family of Wayne McGee, mayor of Lonoke.

But if the attendance was less than hoped for, the atmosphere appeared to be conducive to building relationships, which was what the Cabot mayor had in mind when he asked the Cabot Chamber of Commerce to find sponsors for the event.
Col. Wayne Schatz, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing since May 16, set the tone for the meeting when he talked about how much he appreciated Lonoke County for providing housing for more than 40 percent of the airmen stationed at the base.

“We appreciate everything you do to take care of them,” Schatz said.

He added that since 300 new jobs will be added at the base within the next year, area cities can expect more. Williams said the catalyst for the meetings was a six-week-long leadership-training program (sponsored by the Lonoke County Coalition for Progress) where the mayors talked one day about how hard it is to keep a city clean.

Williams said he thought immediately about the twice-a-year cleanup programs run by Cabot City Beautiful. But he said he also knows that the factory coming soon to England that will build parts for equipment used in the developing gas industry will also benefit Cabot.

The factory will employ about 175 people. It will be good for the county and what’s good for the county is good for Cabot, he said. The area leaders who gathered for the 30-minute “meet and greet” did not stay for the presentation by Matt Webber with Cabot City Beautiful. Webber said about 400 volunteers work the spring cleanup when area residents, including several outside the city limits, dispose of everything from old tires and batteries to household chemicals and cans of paint.

The city donates about $15,000 to help pay for the services of a trash company and a company that disposes of hazardous materials and Cabot City Beautiful pays about $5,000. But Webber told the mayors, which included Ward Mayor Art Brooke and Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain, that the service would cost $47,536 if it was hired out.

The England mayor said that in addition to trash, his city had a problem with abandoned houses and overgrown yards. Williams said he believed Cabot had an ordinance that might help him. The group will get together again the first Thursday in August at city hall in England, hopefully with more mayors in attendance.

Williams promised to see what he could find in the city’s code book that might benefit England. And all four agreed that getting together just to talk was something they would like to try for a while.

TOP STORY >>Charges filed against official stun friends

Leader staff writers

Former comptroller Ron Quillin, charged Monday with embezzling $42,000 from Pulaski County coffers, was free on a $35,000 bond Tuesday, leaving friends and officials stunned and feeling betrayed.

Quillin, said to be cooperating with the investigation, nonetheless pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts of theft of property, two felony counts of forgery and a misdemeanor count of abuse of office when he appeared before District Judge Wayne Gruber Tuesday morning.

Quillin’s next court appearance is set for Aug. 2.

Quillin was arrested by the sheriff’s office without incident Monday morning at the Bank of the Ozarks near the intersection of LaHarpe and Chester streets, where he apparently was making a transaction.

“The FBI’s public-corruption task force helped with the investigation,” according to Sheriff Doc Holladay.

Quillin’s alleged crimes began in January 2006, continuing until recently, according to county officials. “This is a sad, sad day for Pulaski County,” said Pulaski County Quorum Court member Bob Johnson, R-Jacksonville.
“This is one of my friends (probably) going to jail,” Johnson said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m in shock. He’s never lied to me or deceived me.

“We would sit together at meetings,” Johnson said. “He was an avid baseball fan and so am I.”

County Judge Buddy Villines, who earlier this year promoted Quillin to county director of administration, replacing Ron Copeland, said he’s run the gamut of emotions regarding the man he used to rely upon in financial matters.

Mike Hutchins, the former Faulkner County comptroller, is now Pulaski County comptroller. The position of director of administration, vacated when Quillin left April 30 to become the chief financial officer of the state’s Medicaid program for the state Department of Health and Human Services, will be left open for now, Johnson said.

Julie Munsell, spokesman for DHHS, said following Quillin’s arrest that the state has put him on administrative leave.
“A person in a trusted position with knowledge and intent can find a way to ... break into the system,” according to Villines.
He said a county employee alerted him May 24 that she was concerned about an account “outside county government.” The next day, staff found “what appeared to be misappropriation of funds,” said the judge. After that, things moved pretty fast, he said.

“You do what you can to keep this from happening, but when it does, you act decisively,” Villines said. County attorney Karla Burnett met with investigators from the sheriff’s office on Memorial Day and that office took over the investigation, he said.

The county hired Quillin in 1994 for beaver control, an entry-level position, and he worked his way up through six positions to become the county’s top employee, Villines said. “At every level he performed well. There was no indication he might be a risk. It baffles me.”

The money in question came in the form of rebates or special revenues that go to the comptroller for coding, rather than through the treasurer’s office.

JP Johnson said a special meeting of the quorum court committee chairs had been called for June 12 to “figure out what happened,” to discuss options and try to implement additional safeguards. This year’s county budget includes $50,000 to hire an outside consultant—a lawyer or a CPA—to review the county’s finances, so the quorum court can get some professional help.

Johnson, the head of the budget committee and himself a CPA, said it was too early to know whether or not more than $42,000 had been taken. The county started a ways-and-means committee to keep closer watch over county revenues and expenses.

At this press conference, Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley explained that each of the Class B felonies carry a maximum prison term of 5 to 20 years and a $15,000 fine and each Class C felony has a maximum prison term of three to 20 years and a $10,000 fine.

Jegley vented his frustration over the “abuse-of-office” being classified as a misdemeanor. This misdemeanor charge allows for only for a maximum fine of $500.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

TOP STORY >>Squeezing budget may allow hiring

Leader staff writer

A scheduled meeting of the budget committee of the Cabot City Council was called off Monday night because the budget manager was on vacation and not available to explain to members where the money to pay the salaries of three new firefighters would come from.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams cut eight city positions after he took office in January, including one from his staff, and said then that anyone who resigned from the police and fire departments would not be replaced.

Pressure from firefighters and the public has helped change his mind, but where will the money (about $150,000) to hire the firefighters come from? The mayor has already answered that question. More cuts are likely.

Without using the phrase “layoffs” Williams said last week he would have to trim the budgets of other city departments to pay for the firefighters.

“All departments will become stakeholders in solving this problem,” he said. Figures provided by Dale Walker, the budget manager, showed that 88 percent of the budget is salaries and benefits and that is too much, he said.

The firefighters say that since three have resigned and two have been deployed, their numbers are so low that only two are on staff at each of the three stations. And if they answer a fire call, they won’t have enough backup to keep them safe. Williams says that since all three fire stations respond to fires it is unlikely that the first to respond would not have sufficient backup. Still, he said he is allowing Fire Chief Phil Robinson to hire the firefighters he says he needs.

The city was behind on paying its bills and owed about $1 million when he took office, Williams said. Laying off eight employees cut about $500,000 from the 2007 budget. But the mayor said he is determined to build enough reserve that, at the very least, he won’t have to worry about making payroll in the months with five paydays.

TOP STORY >>Meeting, lawsuit, appraisal add fuel

Leader staff writers

Sherwood’s Public Facilities Board met for the first time in six years Monday afternoon to appoint two new members to the board, possibly in preparation of an upcoming purchase by the board of the North Hills Country Club.

At the same time, the appraiser, Ron Bragg, was meeting with the city engineer as he begins his final stages of his report on the golf course.

City Attorney Steve Cobb said the appraisal is a “pretty complex report and we are eager to see it, but we want Mr. Bragg to be comfortable about his report. We want it to be a quality document.”

The attorney said he wasn’t sure when the report would be completed, but expected it to be soon.

Cobb also said the city has completed its answer to a lawsuit filed against Sherwood over the moratorium it placed on any building, rezoning or revamping of the golf course. The city had 20 days to file its response. “I expect it to be officially filed by the end of the week,” Cobb said.

The facilities board last met in 2001, when it purchased Sherwood Forest for the city. It was shortly after that meeting that the board went from five to three members.

Sherwood’s facilities board has also helped acquire the ballpark, swimming pool and the police and courts building, and would be the entity to purchase the North Hills Country Club property if the city decided to go that route. Interim Mayor Bill Harmon said the city couldn’t buy the property directly, but it could be purchased through the city’s facility board, just like the board did with Sherwood Forest.

“The facility board bought it and the city paid the board back,” Harmon said. If Harmon uses the facilities board to purchase the golf course, the board’s ability to issue bonds to finance a purchase of the property would eliminate placing the purchase on a public ballot for the residents’ vote.

The Sherwood Public Facilities Board would buy the property, and then it could lease the property to the city for the amount of the monthly payments. A feasibility study, paid for by the city, recommended the city’s purchase price be $1.5 million for the 106-acre North Hills Country Club.

Developers have offered more than $5 million for the property, as recently as April. Bob Dawson, a former city attorney, and Bob Franks, a former president of the North Hills Country Club, were elected and sworn in as board members during its 15-minute meeting.

Linda Napper, a former campaign manager for the mayor, Forrest Penny and Jack Wilson complete the board and have been members since it last met.

Harmon called the board meeting to fill the voids left after one member, John Schism, resigned and another, Randy Hall, died.
The Sherwood council ap-proved the ordinance creating a Public Facilities Board in 1978 under Mayor B.E. Henson.
The ordinance is based on a 1975 state law that allows for the organization of a Public Facilities Board.

The state law says these boards can have numerous purposes, “including the developing and providing for decent, safe and sanitary residential housing.”

The board was empowered “to win, acquire, construct, reconstruct, extend, equip, improve, operate, maintain, sell, lease, contact concerning or otherwise detail in or dispose of residential housing facilities or any interest in such facilities.”
The board has the authority to issue bonds and “obtain funds and revenues for the accomplishment of any authorized public facilities projects.”

And according to the ordinance, bonds issued by the Public Facilities Board do not obligate or add debt to the city.
In 1982, the ordinance was revamped, giving he board authority to provide “financial assistance to encourage the development and establishment of public facilities projects.”

The Sherwood City Council, at its April meeting, placed a six-month moratorium on the property, stopping any preliminary or actual construction, redesign or planning work on the golf course.

The moratorium led Jim Rodgers, one of the property owners, to file an appeal in Pulaski County Circuit Court asking for the moratorium to be declared void. The city has until early next week to respond to the appeal. The moratorium caused the $5.1 million purchase of the course by businessman Ron Campbell to fall through.

But Campbell plans to make another $5 million offer for the purchase of the North Hills golf course, and is willing to go from a 200-unit development of $300,000 to $400,000 homes, down to 34 homes and keep nine holes as a golf course.
Campbell said his design would give the city the green space it wants, without the expense.

TOP STORY >>Planner resigns, says city

Leader staff writer

A lifelong resident of Jacksonville who recently spent two years as chairman of the city’s planning commission believes inconsistencies have hurt the city dearly.

“We’ve allowed some things, then we’ve not allowed those things,” Mark Stroud said. “And that makes developers leery of coming and working with the city.”

The former chairman quickly added that the planning commission has done a better job of being proactive over the past few years, but really stubbed its toes on the townhouse issue last year.

Last year, developer Tim McClurg came to the commission with a sketch plan to build townhouses on the west side of Main Street, west of Emma Street. The commission turned down the sketch plan. “But we (the commission) told him verbally what changes needed to be done for us to accept the idea. It was understood that when he came back with the changes that we were going to accept it,” Stroud said.

McClurg came back with the changes, and the commission turned it down again.

“We indirectly promised him something and then yanked it away. That’s how developers lose confidence in us,” Stroud said.
He blames part of the problem on politics.

“We can always vote the will of the people who show up at the meetings. We have to look at what is good for the whole city. We have to look 20 years ahead, not at just who is at a meeting,” Stroud said.

Stroud, who is moving and resigned last month from the commission, believes the commission needs to gain a better understanding of townhouses before the issue comes up again.

“Townhouses are not apartments, but individual homes that happen to be right up against each other. The format gives the developer the density he needs to make a successful investment, and the owners pay into an association that pays for the upkeep of the grounds. You have houses with low maintenance that are aesthetically pleasing,” Stroud said.

He believes there is a niche in the local market for townhouses, and “that need is not being addressed,” he says.

Stroud says townhouses are a good buy for retired persons, busy single-parent families, young families and busy single individuals as well.

In mid-September, McClurg took his townhouse plan to the commission for the third time in less than year, trying to get some version approved.

His plan called for 25 single-family homes to serve basically as a buffer between Western Hills subdivision and then 34 townhouses to be built on the western side of McClurg’s planned subdivision. The townhouses would have had minimum square footage of 1,200 feet.

“I’m not building something that will hurt my home sales. This is something good for Jacksonville and good to have on its Main Street,” McClurg said.

But a room full of opposition caused the commission to once against side against McClurg. As chairman, Stroud had no vote unless there was a tie.

TOP STORY >>Pit bulls squeezed out

Leader staff writers

As Jacksonville’s ban on pit bulls gets ready to go into effect in 11 days—June 17—Sherwood is seeing more of the dogs and that city has had them banned since 1987.

At the time of the ban, Sherwood had a number of bad incidents involving the breed, according to Robin Breaux of Sherwood Animal Control.

“We’ve seen more pit bulls in the past few weeks than we have in years,” said Breaux. She doesn’t think it ties in with Jacksonville’s ban. “It’s just a coincidence,” she said.

The Beebe City Council, during a special meeting Tuesday, decided to ban pit bulls, too, knowing that Sherwood, Lonoke and Jacksonville have already banned them and that Cabot is headed in that direction.

Council members briefly examined the Lonoke ordinance, the same one Cabot is considering, and decided they don’t want to grandfather the dogs already in the city. They asked City Attorney Mark Derrick to prepare an ordinance for the June meeting that would give owners 60 days to get rid of the dogs.

Some wanted the ban in effect almost immediately, but Alderman Les Cossey said if the pit bull owners are renters, they will need at least 60 days to find new housing. Leonard Fort, the city’s code-enforcement officer, said two families with pit bulls, one from Lonoke and one from Des Arc, have moved to Beebe within the past three weeks.

“We have an abundance of pit bulls,” Mayor Mike Robertson said about the need to pass some version of the Lonoke ordinance.

Alderman Janice Petray agreed. “They’re everywhere,” she said. Petray also agreed with Cossey that a 60-day grace period was long enough. “I think 60 days is good,” she said. “By the end of the summer, it will all be over with.”

Meanwhile, Linda Sakiewicz and her crew at Jacksonville animal control have been fielding numerous calls about the new ordinance and what pit bull owners must do to keep their pets. “We’ve already had about a dozen owners register their dogs,” she said.

Breaux and other Sherwood animal control officers recently captured a pair of large pit bulls at the edge of the woods off Warden Road.

“It was a male and a female. The female was the most vicious pit bull I’ve seen in my 11 or 12 years here,” Breaux said.
Jacksonville aldermen voted unanimously May 17 to ban pit bulls from the city. Jacksonville’s actions follow Lonoke, which banned the breed earlier in May.

Alderman Bob Stroud, who sponsored the ban, told the standing-room-only crowd at the May council meeting, “Personally, I’d rather there not be another pit bull on this earth than to have a child maimed, hurt or attacked.”

The ordinance bans all pit bulls, most bulldogs or any mixed breed that is predominantly pit bull.

Pit bulls in the city when the ban goes into effect will be allowed to stay if the owner can show proof that the animal was licensed prior to the new ordinance, has proof of rabies vaccination and the owner is at least 21. The dog will also have to be spayed or neutered, registered and have a licensed veterinarian implant a computer chip into the animal for identification and tracking purposes.

Breaux said most of the pit bulls picked up by Sherwood animal control are found running loose. “Occasionally we get one from a new resident who was unaware of our ban,” she said. Most of the time the pit bulls are euthanized.

“We have no choice. We can’t take the risk of the dog attacking a person or another animal,” she said. Sometimes the pit bulls brought in are super friendly. “If we truly believe it is a friendly dog, we’ll contact a pit bull rescue group and try to get them to place the dog. The rescue group always makes sure the dogs go to good homes and are well taken care of.”

Monday, June 04, 2007

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills gets payback

Leader sportswriter

It took everything they had, but Sylvan Hills swept Gwatney Chevrolet in an American Legion Class A and AAA doubleheader Tuesday night at Kevin McReynolds Field. The A Bruins needed a run by Cody Cormier in the bottom of the fifth inning to break a 5-5 tie as the time limit expired, and the AAA squad had to hold off a stubborn Jacksonville team in the finale for a 10-7 win.

The evening got off to a late start from its scheduled time of 6 p.m., and they were only an hour away from midnight when Bruins reliever Tony Pavan struck out Carry Simena in the top of the seventh inning to end the marathon affair.

The first two innings had the look of a Sylvan Hills blowout, as the Bruins racked up a 7-0 lead. But the Chevy boys would not fade quietly into the night, however, as they answered three of those scores in the top of the third inning before pulling to within a single score in the top of the sixth inning when Zach Thomas plated Simena with a dripper to shallow left field.
That would make it 8-7, but Sylvan Hills was able to add a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth to secure the win.
The hits came easy for the Bruins in the opening innings. Leadoff batter Taylor Roark got things going with a single in the bottom of the first. Nathan Eller would also single from the two-hole slot before SH starting pitcher Ross Bogard drove in Roark with a sacrifice bunt.

Eller would then score on a single by Joe Gardener to give the Bruins a 2-0 after one. Blaine Sims singled to start the bottom of the second inning for Sylvan Hills, and advanced on a bunt by Shane Graham.

It went back to the top of the order at that point, and Roark was walked to put two on. One run scored on a fielding error off a smack to second base by Bogard, and the next scored on the second single of the night for Gardener. Before the inning was up, Ryan Wood and T.C. Squires both added to the hit totals for Sylvan Hills with a pair of singles, and Gardener came in to give the Bruins a seemingly comfortable 7-0 lead.

Gwatney needed to score in order to stay in the game in the top of the third inning. During their first two turns, the Chevy boys only managed one hit in the top of the first against Bogard, but the bats finally warmed up for the third, with the first five batters reaching base.

Leadoff batter Adam Ussery was the first to make it on, and a single for Blake Mattison put two runners on before Cameron Hood drove in Ussery with a single for the first Jacksonville score of the game. Hood would eventually make it in himself, and Zach Thomas would add the third run for Gwatney after a single put him on the diamond.

The Bruins started to work towards shortening the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, but would only manage one run from Wood to increase their lead to 8-4.

Bogard had an up-and-down game at the mound for Sylvan Hills. The UALR signee struck out nine batters through five and two thirds innings, but also gave up nine hits to Gwatney, including a double to Thomas that would lead to a score in the top of the fifth inning. Hood got the first run of the inning for Jacksonville when he reached on an error and crossed on a passed ball. The two runs cut the Bruins lead to 8-6, and Gwatney took advantage of Bogard’s increasing fatigue one inning later.
Simena came away with an infield single to start things off for Gwatney in the top of the fifth, and advanced on a solid bunt by Ussery. Bogard looked as if he had things in hand at that point with his ninth strikeout, but when he tagged Hood hard with the ball one batter later, Bruins coach Mike Bromley pulled him and went with fellow future DIer Pavan.

The ASU signee got off to a shaky start when Thomas sent his second offering of the game into left field to score Simena, but he then struck out four of his last five batters, including one that would have ended the game until the third strike got by SH catcher Roark to allow the Jacksonville runner to make it on.

Chris Eastham and Sims added the final two scores for the Bruins in the bottom of the sixth. Eastham tagged on a fly to center from Roark, and Sims was driven in by a single from Nathan Eller for the game’s final run.

SPORTS>>Cabot golfer puts name on Wonderboys’ roster

Leader sports editor

Graduated Cabot student-athlete Jacob Trammell became the second Panther in less than a week to sign a scholarship with Arkansas Tech University. Trammell, a two-sport athlete for Cabot, will play golf for the Wonderboys’ program after a recent change of heart.

Trammell is a two-time All-Conference winner and was named All-State after his senior season, but the fine arts college in Russellville wasn’t his first choice.

“I actually had my mind set on going down to (Ouachita Baptist) until I got in touch with coach Faulkner,” Trammell said. “I went up there and he basically made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He gave me full tuition.”

Faulkner called Cabot athletic director Johnny White to inquire about Trammell. White passed the message on to Trammell, who called and set up a visit to the campus. During his visit, he played a round of golf with some of the current ATU players, and shot even par. Faulkner told him after the round that he had a scholarship if he wanted it.

“That’s pretty much it,” Trammell said. “OBU couldn’t offer full tuition to golfers because that would be so much money.”
Trammell, who also started at point guard for the basketball Panthers, has been a golfer since the age of seven. He started playing in junior tournaments in the Arkansas State Golf Association at the age of 12.

Last summer, his last season as at the junior level, Trammell had three top three finishes, including a win in Monticello. He finished second last season at Pine Bluff and third at Burns Park in North Little Rock. He didn’t play well at the high-school state meet last fall, but his reputation was established and the recruitment was underway.

“I had a bad round at state,” Trammell said. “The course was pretty tough. Things don’t always work out. I had a pretty good senior year though.”

Trammell indeed did have a good senior year. He finished with a one-over stroke average for the season. Trammell was also an avid hoopster, and will miss the sport. He is part of third-year coach Jerry Bridges’ first sophomore class, and says he immensely enjoyed his high-school career.

“I loved it,” Trammell said. “It was really hard work and everything, but I love the game. Playing it was just awesome.”
Trammell already knows what avenue he wants to pursue academically. “I’m going to study pre-dentistry,” Trammell said. “I’ve just thought about being a dentist for a long time, so I figured I would try it out.”

Trammell reports to ATU on August 18, and says he’ll just take things easy this summer.

“I’m too old to play ASGA now. I think I’ll play about three tournaments and just practice a lot. He (Faulkner) didn’t really tell me anything specific to work on, so I’ll just practice everything I guess.”

SPORTS>>Lady Lion wins heptathlon

Leader sportswriter

Girls high school track in the state of Arkansas undisputedly belongs to Searcy junior Whitney Jones. Jones entered the 2007 heptathlon at Cabot High School this week as the heavy favorite, and she did not disappoint. Her final point total of 4,885 was more than enough to take her second-straight heptathlon title, 670 points ahead of second-place finisher Kanesha Hicks of Pine Bluff.

Jones held a comfortable lead after the first day of the two-day event with 3,108 points, 466 ahead of Warren’s La Toya Marshall. Her only event wins came in the long jump and the 200-meter dash, but she broke personal bests in several other events, including a 4’9” measurement in the high jump, five inches better than her previous best of 4’4”.

Jones says this spring has been a little chaotic with all the attention towards her, but the chaos has not prevented her from enjoying herself.

“My indoor season was a lot more hectic,” Jones said. “I went to a lot of meets out of state preparing and lifting weights to get stronger and faster. But the indoor season is what really got me ready.”

Jones started 2007 off with open meets at the University of Kansas and University of Kentucky. She took first in the 200-meter dash in Kansas, and finished second in the long jump. Another second in the long jump came at Kentucky, along with a second-place in the triple jump. Her biggest pre-season splash garnered her national attention, when she made all-American in the triple jump with a 19’ jump.

The start of the indoor season in Arkansas saw Jones break four state records, including the long jump, triple jump and200-meter dash.

A knee injury before the 6A-Conference meet thwarted what might have been on an elite level for Jones, who started the meet undefeated in high school track up until that point. The strains of her injury showed, with Jones settling for second-place in the 400-meter run. She also took second in the 400 at state, which stood as her only loses in the entire 2007 season.

Her second-straight appearance at the Meet of Champs two weeks ago solidified Jones as the state’s best, winning all four of her events, and breaking her own MOC record from 2006 in the triple jump. “I knew I would have to do a lot better this year,” Jones said. “Because people knew who I was now, and would be gunning for me. I really haven’t had a lot of pressure this year, I’ve just been trying to work harder and get better.”

While she doesn’t have a particular school in mind for college, Jones does have what she refers to as a “Top-ten list of no particular order”, including Baylor, UCLA, Miami, Kansas State and the University of Florida. She says her biggest dream, however, is right around the corner in 2008.

“That is my biggest goal,” Jones said. “Is to be in the Olympics. I want to do the triple jump and the long jump. I want to try for it in the near future.”

Other area entries for the heptathlon included Bekah Miller of Cabot, who finished 18th out of the 39 entries with 3,137 total points. Beebe’s Jordan Kelly took home 26th place with 2,829 points, and Jones’ Lady Lion teammate Shaliha Anthony finished 30th with a final score of 2,655 points. Cabot sophomore Tori Hendrix took 35th place with 2,235 points in her first heptathlon appearance.

OBITUARIES >> 6-02-07

Thomas Dexter

Thomas Paul Dexter, 62, died May 29. He was a member of Brownsville Baptist Church, an Air Force veteran, and a 32nd Degree Mason.

Survivors include wife, Opal Dexter; daughters, Donna St. John, Tammy Cowen and Tracy Dexter of Lonoke, and Susan Lenartowick of McGehee; grandchildren, Chelsea and Heather St. John, Paige Lenartowick, Lacee and Addie Cowen, Jacob, Adam and Landon Dexter, Brandon Worsham and Zakkary Cowen; brothers, Jerry Dexter of Connecticut, Barney Dexter of North Carolina, Sonny Dexter of Connecticut, Richie Dexter of California, Teddy Dexter and Joey Dexter of New York.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 2 at Brownsville Baptist Church; burial will be in Beebe Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home of Lonoke.

EDITORIALS>>Will legislators still do right?

For the first time in 15 years, Arkansas is not under a court order to improve its schools or the prospect of such an order. The Arkansas Supreme Court, which said it was satisfied and even thrilled with the government’s progress on public education, relinquished the Lake View case Thursday.

That is good news, but it can be bad news, too. It has taken direct orders from the high court or a trial court to persuade the state legislature and the governor to address the clear mandates of the state Constitution, which is that the government must guarantee an adequate and equal education for all Arkansas children. Without the judicial sword poised above them, will the leaders go back to business as usual, which is to make education the last rather than the first priority of the state?

A Supreme Court order in the Alma school case in 1983 to equalize funding among Arkansas schools produced the big education program that autumn at a special legislative session called by Gov. Bill Clinton.

It produced some new taxes for education, higher standards for schools, and reforms in the distribution of state aid. A 1994 trial court order in the Lake View case produced a constitutional amendment to redirect and equalize school funding. The Supreme Court’s 2002 order to equalize and elevate the schools produced a raft of reforms over five years, as the Supreme Court kept withdrawing its mandate and putting new pressure on lawmakers and the governor. In a few years we will know the real worth of what they all did.

It was the Supreme Court’s persistence in living up to its constitutional duty in the face of political and sometimes popular fury that brought us to this point. It was, as school attorney David Mathews said, a high point in Arkansas’ judicial history. For a few years at least, the memory of that devotion to the Constitution should be enough to keep the legislature and the governor on task. Let us hope.

EDITORIALS>>Griffin out, but issue stays

J. Timothy Griffin chose to quit Friday as United States attorney for the eastern district of Arkansas, five months after he should have and four months before he had to. He gave no sign that it was an act of contrition, for which people might have been forgiving, but rather that it was an act of expediency.

Griffin was rumored to be angling for a job in one of the Republican presidential campaigns, probably that of the dour Tennessee actor Fred Thompson, and the endless recitation of the White House finagling that landed him the prosecutor’s job and his past skullduggery as a political operative in Florida and elsewhere were not advancing his career. New federal legislation would terminate his employment in four months anyway because he was an interim appointee under the Patriot Act. The legislation was designed to oust Griffin and to prevent recurrences.

But Griffin’s resignation will not end the discussion or apparently the revelations about knavery at the Justice Department and the White House over the dismissal of U. S. attorneys and the general politicization of federal justice. Griffin had become the poster boy — well, a poster boy — for the partisan administration of justice.

Even after he was sworn in on H.E. “Bud” Cummins’ last day, Dec. 20, and undertook the role of nonpartisan prosecutor with an oath that he would be above politics, emails showed that he was sending messages back to political cronies in Washington chortling about how he had scored points against the junior Democratic senator from Arkansas, Mark Pryor. Every dump of documents before congressional committees produces further embarrassments.

It was Cummins’ firing to make room for Griffin, an aide to White House political director Karl Rove and former opposition researcher for the Republican National Committee, that set off the U.S. attorney scandal — that and Pryor’s objections that the attorney general of the United States had lied to him about Griffin’s appointment. The White House wanted Griffin in the job to fatten his credentials for a future run for political office in Arkansas. That five months on his résumé may not get him too far.

Still to come are testimony and documents from Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and others in the White House political and counsel offices. Congress should insist on it. Now that he is free of restraints, Griffin also ought to talk for the record and under oath, like U. S. attorneys historically have done but which he refused to do.

TOP STORY >>North Belt Freeway construction may be postponed

Leader senior staff writer

Competition for highway construction dollars will increase just at the time that $200 million is needed to complete the North Belt Freeway if the state Highway and Transportation Department goes forward with plans to build an improved $100 million I-630/I-430 interchange and widen I-630 between that interchange and University Avenue.

No one on the Metroplan board of directors has suggested that such improvements to west Little Rock’s most congested stretch of highway are not needed, but the highway department proposal presents several problems for the board and — in addition to North Belt Freeway funding — could impact travelers between Little Rock and Cabot in other ways.

For instance, the Highway Department would like Metroplan to do a mass transit study quickly, and that might speed up the eventual construction of light rail or other mass transit between the Little Rock area and Cabot, with stops likely at least in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

“You may not identify the mass transit (route) within the two years we need,” highway department representative Scott Bennett told fellow Metroplan board members. The Highway Department says the west Little Rock project could begin in October, the start of the new federal fiscal year, and it could be completed by 2017.

The only money available for it so far is $16 million in federal highway funds that is earmarked for study and engineering and the first phase of the nterchange. In response to a question by Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, Bennett said consultants had already done a planning study and “We came up with a preferred alternative.”

Money is not currently available to build either the North Belt Freeway or the west Little Rock interchange improvement and neither project is included on the long-range transportation plan that looks forward to 2030. Highway Commissioner Carl Rosenbaum has been a proponent of making that section of the North Belt Freeway a toll road, not likely an option for the west Little Rock improvements.

A year ago, the interchange project, exclusive of all the work Little Rock would have to do downstream on University, for instance, would cost $70 million. Bennett said construction costs have been going up about 10 percent a year, meaning the estimate has already risen to about $77 million.

Bennett says the job is currently projected as an eight-lane highway—four east and four west—but longstanding Metroplan policy says the entire central Arkansas interstate system must all be six lanes, regional and arterial roads robust and mass transit implemented before any highway can be built to eight through lanes.

Including entrance and exit lanes, this stretch of I-630 could be 10 or even 11 lanes in some places, according to a highway department computer model.

The previous Metroplan boards seemed dedicated to the six-lane policy, but more than half of the members of the board sworn in January are new. Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines is among those who say the region cannot build its way out of congestion by adding lanes. Build more lanes, and more cars and trucks will fill them up, Villines said.

Both Metroplan and the Highway Department want any improvement to the interchange and I-630 to allow for light rail or other mass transit, but the highway department is in a hurry to get started and it would take about two years and as much as half a million dollars that they don’t have to do a comprehensive mass transit study.

Bennett reported that the consultants already had laid out a light rail possibility through the proposed interchange, but not all the way to University.

“We’re further along in interchange design than you are in deciding and planning light rail,” Bennett said.

Bennett said when the department finishes its construction design, it would hold a public hearing before finalizing it.
In addition to needing to weave back and forth across the I-630 corridor between Markham Street and Kanis Road to accommodate commuting workers and customers at the shopping centers, hospitals and business and commercial complexes along the way, the study would need to include mass transit on through downtown Little Rock and on to the Little Rock Airport and also to Conway, Cabot and Benton.

TOP STORY >>Cabot names high school principal

Leader staff writer

During his first school board meeting as superintendent of Cabot Schools, Dr. Tony Thurman named Zanya Clarkson his successor as principal of Cabot High School Thursday night.

Clarkson, an assistant principal at the high school for the last five years, was one of three in-district applicants for the position that became vacant when Thurman was named superintendent of Cabot schools May 15.

The other in-district applicants were Melanie Duerkop, interim coordinator of advanced placement, and John West, assistant principal at Cabot Junior High North.

“We only interviewed in-district applicants. We were willing to interview outside the district if a suitable candidate was not identified,” Thurman said. “We have a lot of strength in-district and Mrs. Clarkson was very deserving of this position,” he said. This is Clarkson’s first principal position.

She has been an assistant principal at Cabot Middle School South for one year, serving under Dr. Thurman when he was principal there. Before coming to Cabot, she was an assistant principal in the Pulaski County Special School District. She and her husband Randy have twin sons, Sean and Derek, who will be seniors at CHS this fall.

The Cabot School Board also voted during their special board meeting to approve an increase of $99 to the base certified salary schedule and add an experience step to each of the first four columns, bachelor, bachelor plus 12, bachelor plus 24, and bachelors plus 36.

This raise will be retroactive to July 1, 2006.

It will cost the district $60,000 to add the experience step to each of the first four columns, and an additional $85,000 for the $99 that is trust-fund money that the district is required to have per person. Karen Frey, representing the Personnel and Policy Committee for the district, told the school board they (the PPC) would like to bring the salaries to a more equal level by having only one separation between each column.

“We want to recognize that experience in the classroom is just as equally important as education,” Frey said. School board member Alan Turnbo asked if the district could not find an additional $60,000 to add a second experience step to keep a two step separation between each of the first four columns.

“One step is all we can do right now. We just couldn’t do two steps right now,” Thurman said in response. Thurman added that the second step is not out of the picture and may be added during the coming school year if the district finds they have the money for it.

The board also approved to give an additional 10 cents per hour to each classified salary schedule (custodians, food services staff, interpreters, maintenance staff, nurses, office/clerical staff, paraprofessionals, and technology staff).

Bus drivers will receive an additional 50 cents per day. These raises are also retroactive to July 1, 2006.It will cost the district $65,000 for the classified staff raise and an additional $9,000 for the bus drivers’ raise. A change to the certified and classified handbook was also approved by the school board that will affect the sick leave bank policy. In the change, certified employees and classified employees will each have their own sick leave bank.

“Teachers can join the certified bank if they choose, and bus drivers and those with additional positions will join the classified bank,” Frey said.

TOP STORY >>Sherwood wins case, gets land

Leader staff writer

Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon is ecstatic, while Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim is mulling over options after both got the news that a judge ruled that nearly 2,000 acres of undeveloped land could become part of Sherwood. “The developers wanted to be in our city and we wanted them to be in the city and now they will,” said Harmon.

The mayor said the city council would adopt an ordinance at their next council meeting that is identical to what Jacksonville has regarding the portion of the land that is in the Air Force’s flight path. “We are just as interested in doing the right thing with the Air Force as Jacksonville has been.”

Mayor Swaim said, “It’s a disappointment to us. We did the things we needed to do to show that the land shouldn’t be annexed by Sherwood, but the judge ruled against us.”

The mayor added that Jacksonville had spent a lot of time, money and effort in preparing that area for the city’s future growth. The two sides met in court Wednesday and Circuit Court Judge Collins Kilgore had his decision made by Thursday afternoon.

In a letter sent to all the parties, Judge Kilgore wrote, “I am finding for the defendants (Sherwood) in this case.” The judge then asked the attorneys for Sherwood, Stephen Giles and City Attorney Steve Cobb, to prepare the order and include “Findings of fact and conclusions of law along with a statement of the case and citations to controlling authority.”
Jacksonville City Attorney Robert Bamburg explained that once the order is prepared and both sides have reviewed it and the judge has signed it, then Jacksonville would have 30 days to appeal the case.

“We’ll look at everything in the order, and then it’ll be up to the mayor and council,” Bamburg explained.

Both cities have been at odds over the 1,950 acres of land that lies basically north of Sherwood and west of Jacksonville, running up to and along part of Little Rock Air Force Base ever since the four owners of the acreage petitioned to be annexed into the city of Sherwood.

The Sherwood city council approved the annexation, but because the land was county land, the annexation needed the approval of the Pulaski County Quorum Court judge. Jacksonville voiced its objections to Judge Buddy Villines. When Villines ruled in favor of Sherwood in August 2006, Jacksonville appealed and the case was sent to Pulaski County Circuit Court.
The four owners of the acreage—Greg Heslep, Byron McKimmey, Metropolitan Realty and Lilac LLC—volunteered to come into Sherwood. For the city to accept a voluntary petition, it must be signed by at least 51 percent of the landowners, controlling at least 51 percent of the land.

In this case, the voluntary petition was signed by 100 percent of the landowners, controlling 100 percent of the land. The landowners testified Wednesday in circuit court that they felt Sherwood was the better deal for them and that their land would be more valuable as part of Sherwood as opposed to being part of Jacksonville.

Villines said in his 2006 order that the only reason that Sherwood could refuse the annexation was if it were “unable to provide services to the annexed area.”

“Don’t worry,” Harmon said, “we’ll provide service.”

Harmon recently said that Sherwood has about $2 million saved up to help provide water and other utilities to the area. Jacksonville argued in court that the land was better served as part of Jacksonville, and that the city had utilities already in that area. Jacksonville had plans to build a water tower on the 600-plus acres owned by Metropolitan Realty.

Bamburg argued that Little Rock Air Force Base’s aircraft safety-flight zone extended into part of the area proposed for annexation and that Jacksonville had a working relationship with the base and already had ordinances protecting that area from excessive development as requested by the Air Force. Jacksonville also felt that the Bayou Meto, which runs through the area, provided a natural boundary line between the two cities.

The city also argued that the annexation would create an island of residential housing around Hatcher Road that would remain in the county because it was not included in the voluntary annexation.

TOP STORY >>Food-tax reduction takes effect July 1

Leader staff writers

The largest tax cut in state history will take effect July 1, reducing sales tax on food and food ingredients from 6 percent to 3 percent. It brings some relief to shoppers, but area grocers will have to update their systems to include the tax reduction.
For most, implementing this new tax reduction will be a rather burdensome task.

“We’ll have to go through the list they (the Department of Finance and Administration) give us of what is affected with the tax cut – and they don’t make the list easy – and then go into our system and change the tax rate on those items,” Pat Robertson, administrative assistant for Knight’s Super Foods, said.


“There are a lot of questions we have on it. We’ll have to determine what is considered prepared and what is not from our deli and bakery, as well as what they consider a dietary supplement; those are the two biggest problem areas we see,” Robertson said.

“It’s not easy on us as retailers to know what the government says on it,” Robertson said of which items should be included in trying to get a head start on tax rate changes before it is implemented.


While there is sure to be some confusion and a period of adjustment, it won’t be as bad as some merchants fear.
The exempt items correspond “99.9 percent” with the items eligible for purchase with food stamps, according to Tim Leathers, deputy director, commissioner of revenues for the state Department of Finance and Administration. He said it shouldn’t be difficult for clerks at grocery stores and grocery stations to recognize the items exempted.
Most groceries should be easily able to reprogram their computerized cash registers to automatically apply the tax correctly, he said. Basically, it is foods, but not prepared foods, for human consumption. No pet food or sandwiches or beer are on the list.
“It ties into the definition of what’s allowed for food stamps,” Leathers said.
Only food and food ingredients, defined as substances, whether in liquid, concentrated, solid, frozen, dried, or dehydrated form, that are sold for ingestion or chewing by humans and are consumed for their taste or nutritional value, will be taxed at the reduced state sales and use tax rate of 3 percent.

Prepared food, alcoholic beverages, dietary supplements, and tobacco will remain at the full state sales and use tax rate of 6 percent. Dietary supplements are required to be labeled as a dietary supplement, identifiable by the “supplemental facts” box found on the label.


Prepared food is considered food sold in a heated state or heated by the seller (retailer) that is ready for immediate consumption at the time of sale; consists of two or more food ingredients mixed or combined by the seller for sale as a single item; or food sold with an eating utensil provided by the seller.

Examples of prepared food include salads, birthday cakes, and meat and cheese trays and are taxable at the full state sales and use tax rate if the seller makes the item.

“This is the largest tax cut in state history and its implementation is right around the corner,” Gov. Mike Beebe said. “This is a step forward for our state that’s been a long time coming,” he added. The grocery tax cut was a primary piece of Beebe’s agenda, which passed the legislature in its recent session.

Kim Eskew, executive vice-president of Harps Food Stores, Inc., which includes Price Cutter Food Warehouse, said it might seem simple on the surface, but it will actually be “a fairly cumbersome task to implement at store level.”

“Our company does support tax reduction, but like a lot of things in life, talking about it is far easier than actually doing it,” Eskew said.


To prepare retailers for the change, the DFA is hosting a series of forums across the state to educate retailers about the implementation of the tax cut.

The seminars, set to take place over the month of June, will be held in all 75 counties for local businesses that may be impacted to learn about the new processes for the reduction in sales tax on food and food ingredients.

Although they should be helpful to retailers, some forums are scheduled so late in June that it doesn’t give retailers much time to then change their system before the tax rate goes into effect July 1.

“There’s not a lot of time to work with what we learn (from the seminars) before its implemented,” Robertson said. “It goes into effect on a Sunday; we can’t do it while we’re open, so we’ll have to go in after we close Saturday night and change the taxes at our three stores or do it early Sunday morning before we open,” she said. Two seminars will be held in Lonoke County; the first will be at 6 p.m. June 4 in Carlisle at the Carlisle High School Cafeteria, and the second will be at 10 a.m. June 26 in Cabot at the Cabot High School Cafeteria.

For north Pulaski County, seminars will be held at 9 and 11 a.m. and at 2 p.m. on June 12 in Sherwood at the Sherwood Police and Court Building. White County will have their seminar at 10 a.m. June 19 in Searcy at Harding University’s Heritage Auditorium.

“We’re working to help Arkansas retailers prepare for the changes coming July 1,” Richard Weiss, DFA director, said. “We are trying to make it as smooth a transition as possible.”


State Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, who was primary sponsor for tax cut for Gov. Mike Beebe said it cuts $135 million a year from revenues.

“It’s the larges decrease in taxes in the history of Arkansas,” Glover said, “and that doesn’t include another $65 million in reductions.”

Glover said Beebe hopes to cut out the other 3 percent grocery tax in the 2009 session of the general assembly if the economy remains stout. Leathers said DFA worked with associations of retail merchants, grocers and wholesale oil marketers involved in most convenience stores to minimize confusion.He said most other states don’t tax groceries and the list of taxable items is the same.

“We’re not inventing the wheel here,” Leathers said. “In my 4.5 years in the house, I voted for the largest tax increase (funding education in 2004) and tax decrease in the state’s history,” said state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville.

“I think it does show the willingness of the governor to take the lead on a fiscal issue and fulfill a campaign promise,” Bond said. He said a tax on food was “unfair, disproportionately affecting low and middle income people.”

TOP STORY >>Base gets support in Congress

Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville-Little Rock Air Force Base Joint Education Center moved closer to reality this week when the Senate Armed Services Committee forwarded to the full Senate a 2008 defense authorization bill that included $9.8 million for the military’s share of the construction, according to Arkansas’ Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.

The defense authorization bill passed the House on May 17. The Senate version also includes a similar amount to repair the base’s aging runways.

The city of Jacksonville has set aside $5 million for its share for the Senate.

The joint education center, to be constructed on the civilian side of the base gate, is authorized as a multi-purpose educational facility that meets Air Force standards for distance learning, video teleconferencing and seminar needs. Currently, the Education Center is housed in two inadequate converted dormitories that provide a limited scope of academic offerings due to space constraints and distance from the base library.

Jacksonville officials and leaders view the center as part of a strategy to provide college education for local residents.
It will include classes affiliated with ASU-Beebe and other schools. “As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I take my responsibility to craft this legislation very seriously. Arkansas’ military installations, universities and businesses play a leading role in building our nation’s defense and are therefore highlighted in this bill.” Pryor said.

The Senate proposal includes another $9.8 million to patch base runways worn by the relentless take-offs and landings at the nation’s premiere C-130 center.

Former Base Commander Gen. Kip Self lobbied the congressional delegation for money to repair the runways. The entire bill is set for consideration by full Senate later this month and then heads to the House-Senate Joint Committee. Both the house and senate versions include 3.5 percent pay raises for uniformed personnel.

The fiscal year 2008 funding bill still needs Congress’ approval.

TOP STORY >>Lawmakers happy court says state in compliance

Leader senior staff writer

With the state Supreme Court’s decision to close the Lake View school funding case and end its oversight, the last two sessions of the state General Assembly have carved out a legacy that should result in a positive impact on all public school students from here on out, according to local lawmakers.

“I think we’ve left a legacy,” said state Rep. Lenville Evans, D-Lonoke. “I hate to be the one to say it.”

Nearly everyone was on board this session with increasing funding for deficient school buildings, increasing the amount of money the state chips in to educate each student and expanding pre-kindergarten education, but Evans and state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville were among the slight majority in 2004 to raise the state tax by seven-eighths of a cent to fund school adequacy.

The state has met its constitutional obligation to provide adequate school funding, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday, apparently ending the years-old lawsuit. Justice Robert L. Brown, in his opinion said the $122 million increase in minimum foundation aid and the appropriation of $456 million to improve facilities met the constitutional standard.

“We hold that the General Assembly has now taken the required and necessary legislative steps to assure that the schoolchildren of this state are provided an adequate education and a substantially equal educational opportunity,” justices wrote in the unanimous decision.

“It’s certainly a blessing,” said Evans. “It brought some credibility back to the House.”

In the future, legislatures will just have to maintain adequacy, Evans said. “If they continue and increase at least cost of living increases in minimum foundation aid, they’ll be okay,” Evans said. “If we keep up we’ll stay out of the court.” “Since 2003, we’ve been very committed to making sure the kids in Arkansas have an opportunity for an excellent education,” Bond said. “Hopefully, we will change the face of public education in Arkansas forever.” Bond noted that Arkansas now leads the nation in availability of pre-kindergarten for all children.

“Over the next two decades, kids will be coming out more ready for college and more ready for a career,” he said. “We have to push Arkansas out of this hole, where we are 50th in the percent of residents older than 25 who have a college degree.”
“Apparently the court recognized the steps that the legislature took to assure that the school children are provided adequate education and substantially equal educational opportunities,” said state Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle.

“We certainly celebrate the decision made by the court today,” Glover said Thursday, “but we don’t want to get lax as to our continued responsibility to make sure funding will be there to not allow us to be taken back into court for not doing the job we’re supposed to be doing.

“It’s always good to get out from under the thumb of the Supreme Court,” said Glover, who credited Gov. Mike Beebe’s leadership on the matter, including the allocation of more than $400 million of the state’s surplus revenue to fix dilapidated facilities and $40 million for the pre-kindergarten program.