Wednesday, July 25, 2007

OBITUARIES >> 07-25-07

Dean Worden

Dean Larry Worden, 40, of Jacksonville passed away Sunday, July 22.

Dean was the oldest son of Larry Worden and Karen Robinson. He attended Almond Bancroft High School in Wisconsin and graduated in 1985, lettering both academically and athletically. He attended the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, where he graduated with a bachelors of science degree.

After working in the tire industry in both North and South Carolina, he brought his family to Arkansas to continue work in the tire industry and to coach basketball.

He was an active member in Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church of Sherwood as well. Not only was he a great man to work with and for, he was a great friend. He embodied leadership and people were drawn to him.

Although a man of very few words, the words that he spoke changed the world. He was a man of peace. A pillar of strength. The best listener that anyone could ever ask for. A man willing to do anything for anyone, and never once ask for anything in return.

He would never ask anyone to do anything that he himself would not do. He led by example. He was a leader, not a follower by any means. Throughout the years, his life work became his family. He was an adoring husband and loving father as well as a best friend.

He was the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Whether it was coaching his sons in their various sports or making sure that he never missed any performance given by his daughter or just being the man to make sure his wife and family were always smiling and always taken care of, he put them before everything else.

Although his glorious life was cut short, his life work and achievements will never be forgotten. He will never be replaced, never be forgotten. His name and his memory will forever be etched in our hearts and minds. He will be greatly missed.
Dean is survived by his wife of 17 years, Tammera Marie Worden; and their three children, Antwaiin Fontaine Worden, Andrea Charne Worden and Samuel Dean Worden.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Dean Worden Family Fund. Donations will be accepted at any Metropolitan National Bank.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church, 7351 Warden Road in Sherwood with burial in Rest Hills Memorial Park. Family will receive friends Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship.
Arrangements by North Little Rock Funeral Home.

Patricia Law

Patricia Louise Law, 55, of Danville died July 23.

She was born May 7, 1952 in Hensley to the late Thomas and Thelma Duncan Mayfield. She was preceded in death by her parents and several brothers and sisters.  

She is survived by her children, Michelle Bucher of Austin and Jerry Don Peeks Jr. of Cabot; four sisters, Edna Pauline Moody of Jacksonville, Wanda Lee Chandler of Mayflower, Loretta Denning of Cabot and Beatrice Huey of Maumelle; two brothers, Melvin Mayfield of Little Rock and Elmer Mayfield of Cabot, and four grandchildren, Tiffany and Jerry Peeks, Casey Calvert and Rebecca Gabbard.  

Graveside services will be at 10 a.m. Friday, July 27 at Orion Cemetery in Redfield with Bro. Jim Stanley officiating.  Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, July 26 at the funeral home. Arrangements will be by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.

Joe Glover

Joe Dan Glover, 69, died July 20.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Glover; son, Joe Dan Glover, Jr. of Denver, Colo.; daughters, Christy McDaniel and husband Pat of North Richland Hills, Texas, and Marijo McCain and husband Ken of Dayton, Ohio; three grandchildren, Paige and Mary McDaniel and Logan McCain; brothers, Roy Dean Glover and Clifton Duane Glover and wife Dot of Lonoke, Alan Wayne Glover and wife Brenda of Cabot, and a sister-in-law, Jeannie Glover of Sherwood.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Roscoe and Annie Glover, and siblings, Ernie and Charla Rose. Funeral services were Monday, July 23 at Boyd Funeral Home Chapel in Lonoke. Burial followed in Hicks Cemetery.

Wanda Castera

Wanda Sue Castera, 60, of McRae died July 20 at her residence. She was born Aug. 27, 1946, at Guy and was a proud resident of the McRae community.

She was a member of the McRae Citizens Patrol and an Avon representative for 23 years. She was loved by many friends and family and was a very proud Memaw of 23 grandbabies.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Johnny C. Castera; one sister, Molly Bradford; and one brother, William (Dub) Bradford.

She is survived by her mother, Betty Sue Bradford; six children, Danna Knapp of Wilburn, Buddy Sims, Tabatha Denney, Jerry Don Morris and David Castera, all of McRae, and Sherrie Hite of Searcy; two sisters, Shirley Osborn and Jerri Bradford; three brothers, Elvin, Deaner and Earl Bradford.

Funeral services were Monday, July 23 at Westbrook Funeral Home with Bro. Mack Davis officiating. Interment was in Lebanon Cemetery.

Bill Light

Bill Light, 41, of Beebe went to be with the Lord Sunday, July 22.

He was a member of Calvary Pentecostal Church of God.

He is survived by his wife, Marie; two sons, Joshua and Joseph, both of Beebe; two daughters, Jamie of North Carolina and Jessie of Beebe; two sisters, Velmina May of Beebe and Elbie Carls of Houston, Texas; three grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were July 24 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe with burial in Beebe Cemetery.

Sabrina Yarberry

Sabrina Marie Yarberry, 13, died July 20.

She is survived by her parents, Connie Williams and Joseph Yarberry; a brother, Joseph “Joey” Yarberry; grandparents, Maynard and Edith McDonald, Kenneth and Ethel Morden, all of Jacksonville, and Charles and Lana Yarberry of Mississippi.
Funeral services were Monday, July 23 at Concord United Methodist Church with burial in Concord Cemetery. Arrangements by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Sabrina Yarberry Memorial Fund at First Arkansas Bank in Jacksonville.

Joseph Alvis

Infant Joseph Daniel Alvis died July 20.

Survivors include his parents, Sean and Josephine Alvis; three sisters, Grace, Abigail and Keilah Alvis, all of Bearden; grandparents, Gary and Sandy Alvis of Jacksonville and Bud and Lee Treadway of Batesville. Graveside services were Tuesday, July 24 at Salem Cemetery near Bearden. Arrangements by Benton Funeral Home in Fordyce.

EDITORIALS>>Teaching history

The impulse to stay out of the dogfight among educators and historians over the teaching of Arkansas history in the schools is almost irresistible. The controversy has a certain elitist patina. Who knows best just how and when to inculcate an appreciation of the state’s past into youngsters, and precisely how much time and emphasis does it deserve in an already overloaded curriculum?

The last question seems to have been settled by law. The legislature decreed some time ago that Arkansas history shall be taught in the public schools. The law has not been universally followed and when it has been followed it has often been in a desultory and careless way. So if the state is actually serious about teaching Arkansas history, it is of some consequence whether it is done effectively.

A task force of the state Education Department recommended overhauling Arkansas history instruction to spread it out as part of a general social studies curriculum in the grade schools.

A doughty bunch of historians has risen up to protest. They say that Arkansas history should be a mandatory stand-alone subject taught in the secondary schools, as the law intended. The historians have been joined by no less a figure than David Hampton Pryor, the former state lawmaker, congressman, governor and U. S. senator, who says that blending it into a social studies program is no way to treat Arkansas history.

Or Arkansas kids, we would add. The trouble with state history instruction and with most state history textbooks is that it is homogenized history, public-relations pabulum and distinctively uninteresting.

The dark corners of history are blurred or painted out altogether. They are histories of the Wonder State. There have been good histories, starting with John Gould Fletcher’s “Arkansas” (1947) and running through the series published by the University of Arkansas Press, which concluded with Ben Johnson’s brilliant segment on modern Arkansas. But they are not written for public school students. The best that are useful to high school students is Michael B. Dougan’s bulky “Arkansas Odyssey: The Saga of Arkansas from Prehistoric Times to Present” (1993), which doesn’t brush out the blemishes and captures the sturm and drang of the state’s sometimes disgraceful past. If children were exposed to Dougan’s penetrating and unexpurgated scholarship and acerbic style, they just might become better citizens.

That can’t happen, or won’t happen, in a homogenized chapter of social studies, so we come down with David Pryor on this tempest in the hope that youngsters may yet learn real history.
— Ernie Dumas

EDITORIALS>>What we need: more lobbyists

Every taxpayer was excited to learn last week that Arkansas had landed exactly what it needed most, another highly paid lobbyist.

And they will get to pay his salary, opening at $150,000 a year, and the expenses of his office, maybe another $100,000.
Oh, the presidents and chancellors of the state-supported universities will insist that the expense of the new Arkansas Association of Public Universities and its executive director will not come from the tax funds appropriated by the state to operate the institutions but from other sources.

Institutions keep separate funds precisely for such accounting ruses, but it all comes from the same pot. Tim Wooldridge of Paragould, a state senator until he ran for lieutenant governor last year and lost, got the job. He needed work. Wooldridge’s main function will be to lobby lawmakers and the governor on behalf of the public colleges and universities. That means get them bigger appropriations.

Wooldridge knows his way around the legislature for sure — he was part of the ruling clique in the Senate, the infamous Brotherhood — but his greatest risk will be getting trampled by all the other lobbyists for higher education.

Every school now has its own full-time lobbying team, usually vice presidents for governmental affairs or executive assistants to the chancellor, and the chancellors themselves hang out at the Capitol during legislative sessions. Altogether, they form one of the most formidable lobbying phalanxes in the state.

Have they been effective? Not to hear the university presidents tell it. They need more buildings as well as greater operating budgets.

In the Arkansas context — just about every public service in this poor state is underfunded — the universities have done quite well.

In 10 years, the legislature put a billion dollars into campus construction, and private donors ponied up another $300 million or so and had their names affixed to buildings. The University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Campus is perpetually sealed off owing to construction cranes.

And, yes, the voters last fall went along with another legislative proposition: a $250 million bond issue for capital improvements on the campuses that will be amortized by your sales and income taxes. The schools’ operating budgets went up 10 percent for the fiscal year that started this month.

Two universities — Arkansas Tech at Russellville and Arkansas State at Jonesboro — did not join the lobbying consortium. Les Wyatt, the president of Arkansas State, explained that Wooldridge would simply be duplicating what his school and the others already did. Tech’s president said the school could better spend its money on the campus.

They lend some credence to the idea that wisdom and judgment prevail at the institutions of higher learning. Too bad they represent only 15 percent.

SPORTS>>Bad luck leaves Gwatney AAA feeling ‘Blue’

Leader sportswriter

Gwatney Chevrolet needed more than the one inning of good fortune they received at Gary Hogan Field on Monday night, as Little Rock Blue took a 7-2 win over the Chevy boys in a game that saw nine Jacksonville base runners left on base throughout the contest.

Gwatney played a much closer game than the score might indicate, trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning after a somewhat questionable call that ended their turn in the top of the sixth.

Seth Tomboli was in scoring position at third base with two outs when Jason Regnas was struck out by Little Rock pitcher Brandon Welch. The ball got away from the Blue catcher, and Regnas scrambled to first. The throw to the bag hit Regnas in the back, and the officials called him out for interference, negating the Tomboli run that would have pulled Gwatney to within a single score.

The letdown showed in the bottom of the sixth, as Little Rock racked up four straight base hits to score three runs to start out the frame. Blue sent the Chevy Boys packing in the top of the seventh after three batters to end the contest.

Jacksonville’s bad luck would be evident from the opening moments of the game. Leadoff batter Blake Mattison reached on a walk, only to be out moments later when Regnas hit a line drive straight to first base. The catch was made, leaving Mattison with no time to get back to the bag. Blue pitcher Taylor Brown then struck out Cameron Hood to retire the side after only three batters.

Brian Thurman started off at the mound for Jacksonville, and got in trouble early when he walked Blue leadoff batter Welch. Welch advanced on a single by Cody Hill, and scored when Taylor Brown singled to left field. All was not lost on the play, however, as Tomboli tagged Hill at third to prevent a second run, and Brown was tagged trying to steal second moments later by Adam Ussery.
Jacksonville put two runners in scoring position in the top of the second with a walk for Zach Thomas and a single for Thurman. Terrell Brown advanced the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, and a walk for Tomboli moments later would load the bases with two outs. That left Chevy batter Ussery in need of a big hit, but Brown struck him out to leave all three runners stranded.

Thurman retired Blue with two pop ups and a groundout in the bottom of the second, Jacksonville would put two runners on once again in the third. Little Rock’s defense seemed to tighten up when it mattered the most, retiring Thomas and Thurman to leave Mattison and Hood stranded on base. Mattison started off the frame with a single to center, and stole to second before Hood was walked.

A grounder into left center by Taylor Brown scored Cody Hill and Jeff Shaw to increase Blue’s lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the third. Gwatney was not able to generate much offense in the fourth, with a walk for Clayton Fenton as the only runner to reach for Jacksonville.

Tomboli took over for Thurman at the mound for the bottom of the fourth. He gave up a single to start off, but Gwatney recovered for its most impressive defensive play of the game on a 6-4-3 double play to retire Little Rock.

Regnas walked in the top of the fifth, and was on his way home when Thomas popped up into shallow right field. The Blue first baseman slipped just as the ball got to him, but what would have been an E3 error was called foul, and Thomas popped up to center moments later for the third out.

Blue added one more run in the bottom of the fifth on a RBI for Hill to make the score 4-0. Gwatney’s atrocious fortune would subside slightly in the top of the sixth inning, just long enough to score two runs to avoid a shutout.

Thurman led off with a single for Jacksonville, and cashed in on an error at second base to reach. Brown then walked, and Fenton would load the bases when a Welch pitch hit the brim of his batting helmet.

A walk for Tomboli gave Thurman a free ride to the plate for the first run on a forced-run, and Ussery got the other Jacksonville RBI moments later with a sacrifice bunt that scored Brown. Fenton and Tomboli were left stranded on when the umpire made his bizarre foul call on Regnas, leaving the tying run in the dust.

SPORTS>>AA Bruins move to state

Leader sports editor

The American Legion Class AA Zone 3 tournament featured three quality teams and several very close games. Fortunately for Sylvan Hills, it came out on top of just enough of those games to advance to the state tournament that begins tomorrow at Hot Springs Lakeside.

The AA Bruins beat Heber Springs twice, but lost twice to Morrilton and will be the Zone 3 runner up when they open the state tournament at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Sylvan Hills lost the championship game 3-2 to Morrilton in 10 innings. It was a game that exemplified the evenly matched teams in the tournament.

The Bruins beat Heber Springs 2-0 in the tournament opener, then lost to Morrilton 7-6 in the winners’ bracket. Heber Springs finished off Greers Ferry to get back to the Bruins, but fell again in another 7-6 game. That set up the championship game that went into extra innings.

“This was a very good tournament with some really close games,” Sylvan Hills AA coach Jim Fink said. “Us, Heber Springs and Morrilton were all pretty even. A good team isn’t going to state.”

Sylvan Hills had to rally from an early deficit to get its second win over Heber and they did on the strength of a 5-for-5 hitting performance by Casey Cerrato. The Cleburne County representatives jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings. From there the game went back and forth. The Bruins cut it to 4-2, then Heber went up 5-2. Sylvan Hills cut it to 5-3 and Heber made it 6-3 shortly thereafter.

Sylvan Hills finally rallied to tie the game in the seventh inning, then got an RBI base hit by Cerrato that drove in Cody Cormier to complete the come-from-behind victory.

“Casey really, really hit the ball in that game,” Fink said. “We hit the ball fairly well all the way through the lineup in the tournament, but that was the one thing that jumps out at you offensively. You don’t see very many 5 for 5s.”

Ty Van Shoyck started the game on the mound and pitched well, but took the no decision. Nathan Eller came on in relief in the third inning to finish the game out and take the win.

Brannon Chastain took the mound in the final game. He three four-hit, 13 strikeout gem against Heber in the tournament opener, and pitched well again Sunday. The Bruin bats just didn’t come alive against the Cogswell Motors squad from Conway County.

Chastain gave up just one run through six innings. Because he had thrown nine innings just three days before, he had to come out. Eric McKinney took the mound and inherited a 2-1 lead. He also threw well, but Morrilton tied it with a run in the eighth, and won the game with another tally in the bottom of the 10 th to earn the zone championship.

Pitching depth becomes a big factor in state tournaments where the winning team must win five games five days. It’s something Fink believes the Bruins have.

“We do have quite a few guys that can go to the mound for us and have been doing a pretty good job,” Fink said. “Brannon and Jordan Spears have thrown very well lately, and we have three or four others that we feel pretty confident about.”
The Bruins will face Zone 1 champion Greenwood at 10 a.m. to open the event. The winner of that game will face the winner between Zone 4 champion Pine Bluff, and Zone 2 runner up Paragould. Morrilton starts the bottom half of the bracket against Zone 1 runner up Fort Smith Coke, while Zone 2 c hamp Jonesboro faces tournament host Hot Springs Lakeside.

SPORTS>>Sharks bite into fourth title

Leader sportswriter

The dynasty continues. The Sherwood Sharks captured their fourth-consecutive Central Arkansas Swim League title this season, and capped the year off with yet another win at the Meet of Champs this weekend at UALR’s Donaghey Center.
The Sharks took the win with a staggering 449 points to run away with the event. The Maumelle Marlins were a distant second with 302 points, and the Bryant Barracudas finished third with 257 points. The Cabot Piranhas ended up fifth in the final standings with 175 points, and the Lonoke Sharkrockets finished in seventh with 52 points.

Both Sherwood and Cabot had their share of record breakers in the event. Delaney Haralson was tops for Sherwood on the girls side, and Thomas Heye helped the Sharks boys division to a runaway win by each breaking four records. Devin Scott broke one record in the 14U group, and all three swimmers received high-point awards in their divisions along with teammate Jake Walters.

Heye’s records came in the 8U freestyle with a time of 15.93, the 25-yard backstroke with a 19.89, the 50-yard backstroke with a 35.73, and the 25-yard breaststroke with a time of 22.61. Haralson took new records in the girls 8U freestyle with a time of 15.90, the 25-yard backstroke with a time of 20.13, the 25-yard breaststroke with a 22.12, and the 25-yard butterfly with a time of 17.41. Scott broke the record in the boys 14U breaststroke with a time of 33.62.

Cabot’s record breaking performances came mostly from the ladies, with Megan Owens, Emily Henard and Vicki Lovellette all turning in record breaking individual performances. The trio also came away with a new record in the girls 18U relay along with teammate Emily Grigsby. John Santiago led the boys side for the Piranhas with new records in the freestyle and breast stroke.

The girls relay team broke the previous record with a 53.49 performance. Owens took the freestyle record in the 14U division with a 28.42, and broke the breaststroke record with a 27.43. Owens also had a record setting time in the IM with a 1:11.63. Lovellette took the IM in the 18U division with a new record of 1:08.53, and the back stroke with a 31.14. Santiago broke the 12U boys freestyle record with a 28.88 and the breaststroke record with a 36 flat. Henard’s record came in the 14U backstroke with a time of 33.33.

This summer would mark the fourth consecutive undefeated season for the Sharks. Parent rep Mary Jo Heye says the difference has been solid coaching a great team comradery.

“It’s not like the town of Sherwood has something in the water that makes our kids better swimmers,” Heye said. “It all comes down to the caliber of coaching and the positive atmosphere we have. The kids love to participate, and more often than not bring new friends and get them into it. The program just keeps building on itself, and it’s all due to the coaching we have, they are the best of the best.”

A total of 145 Sherwood Swimmers were present at the Meet of Champs, a league high. Sharks’ team coach Keith McAfee has over 26 years of experience as a swim coach, a stat that shows in the results for the past four years.

The Cabot Piranhas may not have the amount of swimmers as their counterparts to the south, but do have their fare share of all-star caliber swimmers. The backbone of the girls squad for the past several years has been 18-year-old Vicki Lovellette. Lovellette was taking part in her final Meet of Champs on Saturday, but as her career as a competitor winds down, her place in the Piranhas program is far from over.

Lovellette will begin college at Arkansas State in Jonesboro in the fall, but plans to return home next summer and help coach the team that led her to the success she has enjoyed.

“It’s been fun,” Lovellette said. “Saturday was my last meet, and everyone made a big deal about it. The kids look up to me because of me being a swimmer and coach, so I definitely want to come back and continue coaching.”

Piranhas coach Debbie Skidmore says the program is still on the rise. The addition of an indoor pool this year gave the team better practice opportunities, and a full girls roster helped their efforts in the meet of champs. She says while they are still a few boys short of being where they need to be, she is satisfied with the abundant progress that has been made.

“We’ve had a lot of these kids for five years now,” Skidmore said. “They have bonded. They love to come and work out with each other. It’s kind of become like a family, they go on trips to Wild River Country and parties together.”

The boys captain for Piranhas is John’s older brother Jarod Santiago. The Leader convinced Jarod to be serious just long enough to put his team’s season into perspective.

“Things went pretty well for us this season,” Santiago said. “Everyone put in their hours. We’re a little thin in some areas, but we’ll get some more kids.” As per usual, Jarod was not shy about stating his opinions, particularly when it came to his least favorite of events.

“Everything went swell except for the butterfly,” Santiago said. “I just don’t believe in the butterfly; I think it should be banned forever.”

TOP STORY >>Pathfinder to expand

Leader staff writer

Pathfinder will build pre-school and remodel another building with $8.2 million in bonds approved by theJacksonville City Council Thursday night.

The Jacksonville Health Care Facilities Board will issue the bonds and Pathfinders will make the payments, but before the board could pursue the bonds, it needed the councils approval.

The Jacksonville Health Care Facilities Board was created in 1978 for “the purpose of financing heath care facilities for the developmentally disabled, including facilities for residential housing, training, and education of persons who may be mentally
or developmentally disabled.”

The board has been used in the past to finance Pathfinder projects.

The $8.2 million bond issue will finance the construction of a 42,000- square-foot preschool for Pathfinders and will be built near the corner of Main Street and Redmond Road. Part of the funds will also be used to renovate and expand the Jim Pickens Skill Training Center at 905 Redmond Road.

Pathfinder has the second largest payroll of any industry in Jacksonville, second only to Little Rock Air Force Base, according to officials.

In other council business:

Police Chief Robert Baker, in his monthly report to the council, said his department responded to 2,719 complaint calls during June, down slightly from May, but up 7 percent from June 2006.

Police made 318 adult arrests in June, including 15 for drugs. The department served 295 warrants and 253 subpoenas.
More than $80,000 worth of items was reported stolen in June, down $30,000 from May and
down $14,000 from June 2006.

Baker reported that the police had recovered $24,126 worth of property during the

In his monthly report, Public Works Director Jim Oakley said the animal shelter took in 141 dogs and
128 cats in June. One cat and 9 dogs were returned to their owners, while 23 cats and 49 dogs were adopted.

Shelter officials euthanized 121 cats and 57 dogs during the month. Seven bite cases were reported to animal control.
The attacks included three cats and four dogs, including two pit bulls, a shepherd mix and a terrier. None of them were declared vicious because of the

TOP STORY >>Housing on golf course would cost city millions

Leader senior staff writer

If the North Hills Golf Course were turned into a housing development, it would cost taxpayers between $2.2 million and $2.4 million in infrastructure improvements to accommodate the additional traffic and storm runoff capacity, City Engineer Michael Clayton said at Monday night’s Sherwood City Council meeting.

That would include an estimated $665,000 in road improvements and underground drainage, $450,000 for two 48-inch storm drains, $280,000 to get in and out of the development from state Hwy. 107 and $400,000 to make the Windchime Bridge higher, wider and less subject to flooding, he said.

The city recently conducted its own appraisal on the land at $2.2 million after a potential buyer offered the private owners $5.1 million for the golf course, which the city has blocked and is now in litigation.

Clayton’s information was in response to a question from the public and not related to any council action. Four immediate neighbors of the new Wal-Mart Supercenter under construction on Maryland Avenue spoke not against the Wal-Mart—which has already reduced their property values—but in favor of a tall, long brick or concrete wall to separate their homes from the parking lot. Kerrie Rounsaville and her husband Ben invited council members to join them at 7 a.m. some Saturday morning to listen to the rock crushers and heavy equipment already in full swing and their cars already coated in a fine dust.
“I’ll even make you a pot of coffee,” she said.

Rounsaville said she was concerned not only about the noise from the parking lot, but, in light of the weekend purse snatching and deadly shooting at the North Little Rock Wal-mart, with their own safety. They said they didn’t want some cyclone fence that people could climb getting away from the police. One said the North Little Rock Police were summoned to McCain Boulevard Wal-Mart more than 600 times last year.

“Your request is quite reasonable,” said acting Mayor Bill Harmon, who faces City Clerk Virginia Hillman in a runoff special election to replace Dan Stedman. Stedman resigned shortly after taking office for health reasons.

Developer Tim McClurg, through Brooks McRae of McKinney Associates, withdrew his request to consider at the meeting an ordinance to rezone about 13.5 acres from R-1, single family residential to R-3 to allow construction of 248 luxury apartments at Oakdale and Brockington Road.

Rents for the gated apartments would range from $800 per month for a one-bedroom to $1,200 per month for three-bedroom units.

The planning commission approved the rezoning 7-0, but Council Member Becky Vassar said she had concerns she wanted answered first. She said she wanted the public to have more time to consider the issue.

Several people expressed concern that Sherwood already had too many apartments and that criminal often live in apartments.
Vassar reminded the developers that if the council voted down their proposed zoning change, they could not return with the issue for one year, and recommended they return in 30 days with their proposed ordinance.

The council unanimously adopted an overlay district to limit residential construction in part of the recently annexed land at the end of Little Rock Air Force Base runways. Because the area in question already was under such a limitation from when it was under Jacksonville’s control, there was no opposition.

The council also unanimously rejected an ordinance to rename Brookswood, which runs only a few blocks before becoming Brockington Road. The business owners on Brookswood said it would be a hardship on them.

The council also approved creation of a tennis center professional in the Parks and Recreation Department at a cost of $35,714 including insurance and payroll taxes, and also approved a new position for District Court case coordinator, at a cost of $57,120.

The council also approved an ordinance declaring a house at 103 Anne Ave. a public nuisance, condemned it and authorized its demolition.

The city had been unable to contact an owner for a long period of time. Next-door neighbor Toni Collier told the council “the house stinks, the sewage is backed up and if there were a fire, my house would burn down.”

TOP STORY >>Harry Potter fans jam stores, library

Leader staff writer

Harry Potter fans lined up in full force Friday night at bookstores throughout the area to get their copies of “Deathly Hollows,” the final book in the series.

Brandi Madill, assistant manager of Hastings Books, Music and Video store in Jacksonville, said the midnight release party was a huge hit. So many people participated, she couldn’t even estimate the numbers.

“We had a great turnout. We had a costume and trivia contest, which was a lot of fun,” Madill said. “We had an assortment of hats available for the kids, little word games to play and even kid-friendly butter beer for the kids to drink.”

Madill said butter beer is a famous drink from the book and store employees had a good time fixing up their own recipe.
Madill couldn’t tell how many books the store had ordered for the event but said the store still has about 100 copies for sale.Fans dressed in costumes, played games and made wands at the store.

At Wal-Mart, enthusiasts lined up to get their copy of the final book.

The Central Arkansas Library System, with branches in Jacksonville, Sherwood, Little Rock, Maumelle and Perryville, had 90 copies with 145 people on the waiting list for the book. The system also had waiting lists for audiotapes and CDs of the book, according to the library’s Web site.

Kathy Seymour, manager of the Esther D. Nixon Library in Jacksonville, said her branch received six of the 90 copies and they were out the door before employees could even view them.

“Each library within the CAL system held a raffle before the book came out, and one lucky winner received the first copy to keep for a month from each branch,” Seymour said. “We had the books delivered to us on Friday and we started making calls to those on hold to pick them up on Saturday.”

Since the books had to stay under lock and key until Saturday the library employees never even got to read the book before it came out, and according to Seymour, the book will not be returned for a long time since the waiting list has so many people on it.

“Anyone with a CAL library card can go online and reserve a copy of any title we have,” she said. “Once a book is returned then we contact the next person in line on the hold list to pick up their book. The audio books are not in yet and we have holds on those as well. I think they are due to come out in 10 to 15 days.”

Olivia Harris, who is in charge of children programs at the library, said the winner of the raffle for the book was the most excited person Saturday. “In years past, people would be at the doors waiting, but this year the little boy who won and his mom came in and she took photos of him with his book,” Harris said. “All others who had the book on hold were adults and they just came in and got their copy. But the little boy was so happy.”

Harris said the boys’ mother told her he had won a few other things earlier in the week and it just “seemed to be his lucky week.”

Although many chose to purchase the book rather than borrow it from a library, the Arlene Cherry Library in Cabot also has a waiting list for the last chapter in the tale of Harry Potter.

“We received seven regular-print books, one large-print and two audio-books and they are all checked out,” Leeann Boyd with the Cabot library said. “There are 12 people on the waiting list for the book and five on the waiting list for the audio book,” she said.

They too didn’t have the chance to read it, but employees at the Cabot library at least got to see the books before they were all checked out.

“We got to cover them with our protective plastic,” Boyd said.Rowling’s Harry Potter books have sold 325 million copies in 64 languages. “Deathly Hallows” has a print run of 12 million in the U.S. alone.

Heather Hartsell, Leader staff writer and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >>Beebe bans almost all pit bulls in town

Leader staff writer

All but a few of the estimated 150 pit bulls in Beebe must be out of town within 30 days or they will be impounded and possibly destroyed.

The Beebe City Council passed an ordinance Monday night banning all but the 11 dogs currently licensed. Owners of those dogs have 30 days to purchase liability insurance of at least $100,000, get microchips implanted in their dogs for identification and have them spayed or neutered.

The owners have 60 days to build pens approximately 20 feet by 40 feet to make sure their dogs can run loose.

Randy and Teresa Turner, who attended the council meeting earlier this month and argued their case for the grandfather clause that was not included in the original draft of the ordinance, also attended the Monday night meeting and protested the fence requirement.

Randy Turner told the mayor and council that he rented his home and that such a large pen would be expensive. Teresa Turner said she only took her dog out on a leash; that it would never live outside; and that she should not be required to fence her dog.

Alderman Tracy Lightfoot responded that if the city gave special consideration to the Turners, all the owners of licensed pit bulls would try to keep their dogs inside to keep from building pens.

“We can’t play favorites,” Lightfoot said.

“The fence is required,” the mayor said.

The ordinance passed with an emergency clause so the ban is effective now for all types of full-blooded pit bulls, mixed pit bulls and dogs that look like pit bulls.

Clerk-Treasurer Carol Crump-Westergren will send registered letters to the owners of licensed dogs explaining the rules for keeping their pets.

The ordinance also says that pit bulls are not allowed in multi-family dwellings and chaining dogs of all kinds is prohibited. The council told the city attorney earlier this month to include the grandfather clause for licensed dogs.

Lightfoot said Monday that he believed that only the five dogs licensed at that time would fall under the grandfather clause and that he was opposed to including the additional six dogs.

The mayor responded that not including them would probably be illegal and make the ordinance more vulnerable to lawsuits.
In other business:

The owners of the Sears store in Searcy are building a store in Beebe.

The 8,500-square-foot store will be built on Dewitt Henry Drive across from the funeral home. Sales are expected to exceed $3 million within three years.

TOP STORY >>Battling bad traffic together

Leader staff writer

It’s common knowledge that Cabot’s growth is because of its schools, and so is the worst of its traffic problems. But the city and the school district have never worked together on traffic issues – until now.

Last week, representatives from the city and the school district got together for a four-hour workshop on improving the traffic flow around the schools and agreed upon some measures that might help. The changes include closing some schools to left turns, redirecting traffic, additional striping, additional signs, and police officers on overtime directing traffic for two or three weeks after school starts.

“The more we whittle away at it the better the traffic will be,” Mayor Eddie Joe Williams told those as-sembled for the workshop.

He said this week that after talking to school officials about the traffic flow around Magness Creek Elementary, he has asked the highway department to consider adding a turn lane on Highway 5 in front of the school. And so far, the answer hasn’t been “no.”

Williams says the biggest impact on traffic and the smallest cost will be the changes at Middle School South, where left turns will be banned. At Southside Elementary, a larger loading pad will be built for parents picking up their children and staging will be in the neighborhood.

Alderman Teri Meissner, who attended the workshop, expressed concern about parents lining up in neighborhoods to pick up their children. The people who live there will disapprove, she said.

But Williams said school traffic in neighborhoods is inevitable.

“The dilemma is Cabot is that everybody wants to buy a house in a neighborhood with a school,” he said. “If we build a school, three subdivisions are going to pop up around it.”

Dr. Tony Thurman, school superintendent, said the biggest traffic problem is at the high school where 800 students, 300 employees and 86 buses all try to leave at the same time. The school has tried to alleviate the problem by using a school employee to stop traffic on Highway 38 to let cars out of the parking lot. The job is dangerous and the man wanted to quit last term, Thurman said, but agreed to stay one more year.

The city proposes a right turn only off Bellamy onto Highway 38 for school traffic. Also a new traffic light will go up this school term at the intersection of Highway 38 and Highway 39. Congestion will likely be worse during the installation of the new signal, but the mayor told school officials that it would be worth the trouble because it will be synchronized with other signals in the city. The existing signal is not synchronized with any other signal, he said.

The booklet that participants in the workshop received contained two pages drafted by the school districts titled “Traffic Concerns around Cabot Schools.” Although the workshop was amicable, the school district is concerned that the railroad overpass set for construction this year and the closing of Polk Street will be problematic.

The section on the high school says in part, “Although the traffic is extremely heavy in this area, it flows relatively smoothly with the school paying for persons to direct the traffic. The problem of parents leaving Junior High North will get much worse when the new bypass is finished and Polk Street is closed.

“There is a lot of exiting traffic in the afternoon that currently turns west on Polk Street that will have to turn toward Highway 38 and turn left into the student traffic to get to the new bypass.”

Williams said this week that Polk Street was identified about 10 years ago as one of the most dangerous railroad crossings in the state. Closing it was the only way the city could get funding for the railroad overpass, so it will close. “I don’t think the traffic will be worse, I think it will be a realignment,” he said, adding that it will be more than a year before the overpass is completed and Polk Street is closed.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Local TV closes in on killing

When it comes to local TV news, they say if it bleeds, it leads.

One of the Little Rock television stations didn’t disappoint fans of TV violence when its cameraman zoomed in on a Jacksonville man as he lay dead in the Wal-Mart parking lot in North Little Rock Sunday afternoon.

Shoppers and relatives wept nearby until the police arrived. Reporters interviewed grieving relatives, in-cluding the victim’s daughter, until the coroner was called more than an hour later.

The victim, Dean Worden, 40, lay in the parking lot for a couple of hours, giving reporters and photographers plenty of time to get their story and pictures.

Only one TV station showed the bloody sheet over Worden’s body, but the station quit airing the scene after 10 p.m. Sunday when police complained about the footage.

The shooting occurred around 2 p.m. as the Worden family went shopping at Wal-Mart.

Police arrested Joshua Leallen Lofton, 17, just 13 hours after the shooting, thanks to surveillance cameras and tips from witnesses who saw him snatch a purse from Linda Garner. Then, in an act of total depravity, he fired several shots from a getaway car, hitting Worden in the neck.

Lofton has been charged with capital murder and was denied bail during his arraignment Tuesday. The police arrived quickly at the crime scene and cordoned off the area, but the coroner’s office wasn’t notified until 3:36 p.m.

Coroner Mark Malcolm arrived at the murder scene eight minutes later, he told us Tuesday.

“Sometimes it takes longer to notify the coroner,” he said, explaining that the Wal-Mart parking lot was a huge crime scene and the police were going over the entire area after they taped off the parking lot and then called him.

The coroner then worked with police in their investigation and left with the body about a half an hour later — a long time after the shooting, but that’s just how it is sometimes, Malcolm said.

He had a busy day Sunday: Later that evening, a Tulsa Drillers first-base coach was hit by a line drive at Dickey-Stephens Park, which is just a couple of miles from Wal-Mart.

Malcolm was called to the hospital, where the coach was pronounced dead and then the state medical examiner performed an autopsy.

“It was a sad day,” Malcolm told us.

The Worden family are members of Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church in Sherwood, which has set up a memorial fund at Metropolitan National Bank.

The family is reluctant to talk to the press but issued a statement through the church, thanking North Little Rock police “for their treatment of the family and their efforts to bring the guilty party to justice.

“We would also like to thank the many witnesses who have come forward to assist the police and the public for their outpouring of sympathy. We appreciate the continued prayers and respect for our need for privacy.”

Although Worden’s family is in shock, their Christian faith is helping them get through this difficult time. His obituary on p. 5A mentions 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, where love triumphs over adversity:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Lofton’s mother, Diane, had a similar message for her son in court: “I would like to say, Joshua, our prayers are with you, and I hope that you will continue to pray and look to the Lord.”

TOP STORY >>Villines hoping to pass jail tax

Leader senior staff writer

Three of the largest challenges facing Pulaski County in implementing the recommendations of UALR Task Force on Public Safety will be voter approval of a new quarter-cent sales tax, an in-depth financial audit and a major-league study of personnel and functions to maximize efficiency and minimize waste and duplication, County Judge Buddy Villines said this week.

The task force made 16 specific recommendations concerning segregation of law-enforcement money, accounting, transparency, accountability, greater reliance on prevention, intervention and treatment and the aforementioned dedicated jail-tax increase to fund construction, remodeling, maintenance and operation of an adequate jail.

Villines sent Charles Hathaway, former University of Arkansas at Little Rock chancellor and chairman of the task force, a letter informing him of actions the county was or would undertake to implement the recommendations of the report, and two days later, Hathaway wrote to compliment the judge on his quick action.

“I had not expected such a commitment in only one week,” Hathaway wrote. “I find the responses very satisfactory.”
Villines said Monday that it would probably cost about $500,000 — money the county doesn’t yet have — to hire national consultants to audit both the county’s budget and use of manpower, but that money for the financial audit could well be available by the end of the year.

Villines said it was important to undertake those expensive audits before the 2010 census, when the county’s share of sales taxes would decrease as a larger proportion of the county residents move to or are incorporated into a city.
He said he appreciated the task force’s effort.

“It’s kind of laid down a game plan,” said the judge. “It is achievable and it can work.

“This has given us a chance to put some things together that need to be put together,” said Villines, but noting that while there are things he can do unilaterally as the county judge, others require action by the quorum court, the sheriff’s office, local judges and the voting public.

The task force confirmed what Villines, the quorum court and the previous public safety task force all concluded — that it would take a permanent quarter-cent sales tax “in order to have the facility and programs we need,” he said.

“This confirms what we’ve been saying for years,” Villines said. “In order to have the facility and programs we need, it takes a quarter cent to do it.”

Pulaski County voters turned down exactly such a tax 16,112 to 12,088 in September 2006, in part because many voters believe the county had the money but was wasteful, putting it into the Big Dam Bridge, for instance.”

Villines says money that went into the bridge could not be used legally for jail purposes.

He said he hoped that the report of the task force would assure voters that there is no money available to expand and operate the county detention center unless they do approve a new tax. In addition to the new tax, the task force recommended that mayors of Pulaski County cities reassign their contractual contribution from the jail to “evidence-based” prevention, intervention and treatment programs.

“The sheriff’s challenge is to put together a comprehensive public safety program and take it to the voters,” Villines said.

Monday, July 23, 2007

OBITUARIES >> 07-21-07

Harold Rackley

Harold L. Rackley, 70, of Searcy was born May 6, 1937, and passed away July 18. He was an Army veteran and was retired from the U.S. Postal Service.

He and his wife were owners of Framecrafter Gallery in Searcy. He was a custom picture framer for 36 years. He was a member of Beebe Church of Christ.

Harold loved his family and friends very much and was loved and admired by his community.

Survivors include his wife of 47 years, Geralda Lay Rackley; his daughters, Debbie and husband Bob Morrison of Beebe and Cindi and husband Mike Brannon of Cabot; his sons, Greg and wife Cheryl Rackley of Beebe and David Rackley of Conway; 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“He was from the old school; he believed in honest hard work, living a life of integrity and making sure his children had a much better life than he had. In that regard, his life was certainly a huge success,” according to his son David.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 21 at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Rose Bud.

Sammye Cruce

Sammye (Gigi) McKinley Cruce, 79, of Lonoke died July 18. She was born on April 10, 1928, to the late Sam R. and Ethel McKinley.

She was an active member of the Palm Street Church of Christ for 48 years. She showed her love for people in her caring and serving ways.

Survivors include her husband, James R. Cruce; son, Greg and wife Karen Cruce of Springdale; daughters, Phyllis and husband Larry Cash and Jan and husband Danny Hazelwood, both of Lonoke; sister, Maurice Burks of Searcy; six grandchildren, Scott and wife Tonya Cash, Ashley and husband Noah Rabb, Stuart and wife Dylana Cash, Amy and husband Josh Graham, Hunter Cruce and Tammy and husband Anthony Ponder; nine great-grandchildren and many other relatives and special friends.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 21 at Palm Street Church of Christ in Lonoke with special friend Randy Rankin officiating. Interment will follow in Lonoke Cemetery.

The family extends a special thanks to Chambers Nursing Home and Arkansas Hospice for their loving care.
Arrangements by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

Barbara Hall

Barbara Jean Wisdom Hall, 63, of Sherwood passed away July 18 after a long health-related battle. She was born Feb. 5, 1944, in Wichita Falls, Texas, to the late Imogene Starns and Edgar Wisdom. She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She enjoyed spending time with her family and caring for her grandchildren. She also liked golf, bowling and watching “CSI.”

She was of the Pentecostal faith and was employeed by St. Vincent’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Sherwood as a kitchen supervisor. She received the Employee of the Year award in 2004.

Her pastime was cooking. “She always had a pot of something on the stove anytime someone came to her house,” according to the family.

She will be greatly missed.

Survivors include her loving husband of 48 years, Paul Thomas Hall; two sons, Lance Hall and wife Sherry and Sean Hall; one daughter, Jeanie Smith; two sisters, Sharon Wigham and Carolyn Thompson; 12 grandchildren, Rickey Haney and wife Andra, Michael Hall and wife Megan, Melissa Hall, Christy Mathis, Scott Gossett, Jordan Hall, Jacob Hall, Devin Hall, Heather Meeks, Noah Slaughter, Madison Slaughter and Alyssa Caldwell; four great-grandchildren, Trey Haney, Aaron Hall, Cara Haney and Brooklyn Hall.

Graveside services were July 20 at Pinecrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Alexander with Bro. Richard Whittington officiating.

Rachel Bearden

Rachel Bearden, 74, of Heber Springs died July 17.

She was born Nov. 6, 1932, at Heber Springs to Walter and Alta Hackworth Fry.

She is survived by two sons, Danny Fry of Beebe and Walter Bearden, Jr. of Cabot; one grandchild; three great-grandchildren; two brothers, Chester Fry of Concord and Dewey Fry of Heber Springs; two sisters, Ethel Hartsfield of Heber Springs and Polly Hester of Marana, Ariz.

Cremation arrangements are by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.

EDITORIALS>>Huck’s computers

Mike Huckabee’s durable political life has been built partly on his ability to turn a harrowing escape into a picnic in the park.
On the presidential hustings, the biggest tax and spender in Arkansas history has transformed himself into the nation’s chief scourge of taxes and spending, boasting that as governor he cut taxes for the first time in history and in fact had slashed them “94 times.”

Who could have been surprised this week when Huckabee crowed that the attorney general had actually applauded his destruction of state records and equipment when he was leaving the governor’s office in January? What the attorney general had concluded was that it would be pointless to try to prosecute the former governor.

You remember the controversy.

In his last hours as governor, Huckabee ordered the state Department of Information Systems to crush the hard drives of 90 computers in his office and other agencies that housed records relating to his office, including his family’s use of State Police aircraft.

He drained the governor’s emergency fund to pay for the destruction, and the new governor had to buy new computer equipment. Huckabee justified the destruction by saying the computers contained sensitive and private information that had no public value.

The new attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, undertook an investigation, and his report this week said that he found no specific laws requiring the governor to preserve the records or equipment or prohibiting their destruction.

So he did not recommend that criminal charges be filed against anyone in the governor’s office or any civil lawsuits to recover damages from Huckabee.

But the truth is never sufficient for Mike Huckabee. This is what he said:
“Attorney General McDaniel has done something that should have been done by others who tried to create a controversy when there wasn’t one – he conducted a fair and objective review and discovered that we acted not only under the direction of state officials, but in the best interest of the people of Arkansas in our handling of the hard drives.”

Whoa, McDaniel said. That is “overstating it a bit.”

“I don’t think it would be fair for me to suggest that the governor was acting under the direction of state officials,” McDaniel added. “He should be directing them. Moreover, all I have determined was that the actions didn’t warrant criminal prosecution or civil litigation. I don’t presume to suggest that the actions were in the best interest of the people.”

It would be presumptuous indeed for the attorney general – or the former governor – to suggest that the destruction of records of public acts and equipment is routinely in the interest of the people even if it does not warrant prosecuting him.
Huckabee maintained that the computers had material that was “extremely sensitive” and thus needed to be destroyed.

Since the information is gone, McDaniel said, there is no way for his staff to determine whether it was sensitive or not. Since the evidence has been destroyed he had to presume that the destruction was legal.

McDaniel also concluded that Huckabee was within his rights when he toted off the massive drapes in the governor’s office when he left because he counted them as gifts by benefactors to him personally and not to the state.

No one ever said it was illegal, just tacky.

EDITORIALS>>Loopholes in FOI Act

A little forbidden sex can lead judges and prosecutors down strange legal corridors, as we learned often during the long Whitewater ordeal. Now it is the Arkansas Supreme Court that has chased sex into what ought to be a forbidden corner. Friday, it created a giant loophole in the Freedom of Information Act, the public’s primary armor against government corruption and incompetence.

The court, though a bare majority, said it was possible that government employees doing their private personal business on government time and government equipment were entitled to have the stuff kept secret.

Taxpayers have only one certain right, which is to pay the public official while he’s managing his personal affairs, quite literally. Beyond that, a judge will have to determine if seeing the man’s personal correspondence is any of the taxpayers’ business.

The justices created this twisted law from a particularly humiliating case. Ron Quillin, the Pulaski County comptroller until a few months ago, was charged with theft of government property after he took a job with state government and the county got a look at his books.

It turned out that, among other things, he was carrying on an affair with a woman representing a company that was selling software to the county. He and the woman were exchanging steamy emails over the county computer and arranging assignations, for which the taxpayers sometimes paid his travel and expenses.

Newspapers wanted access to the emails, but county officials withheld them because they said the correspondence was personal and that the state Freedom of Information Act did not afford the public access to personal correspondence.
The Supreme Court majority – the vote was 4 to 3 – said the emails may very well be covered by the FOI, but that it had to be established first that the correspondence somehow had something to do with whether a county official was performing or not performing his public duties.

If they demonstrated whether the official was doing his job properly, the emails would have to be made public. If not, they were entirely personal and Quillin and his paramour were entitled to secrecy.

Circuit Judge Mary Ann McGowan, who had held that the emails were all public records, will now have to review the trove of erotic and pedestrian messages in chambers and decide which, if any, are public. What standard can she possibly use?

We like the three dissenters’ take on the issue. The Freedom of Information Act says that all record kept by the government are presumed to be public ones unless they are proven to meet one of the few specific and narrow exemptions in the law.
Quillin’s taxpayer-subsidized amours don’t qualify. Justice Tom Glaze, who is rumored to be contemplating retirement (say it ain’t so, Judge!), as usual did not mince words for the dissenters.

“[R]emanding the matter for an in-camera examination is unwarranted and a complete waste of time,” he thundered. “The majority’s position unnecessarily prolongs the process and increases the expenses of a FOIA request, and in so doing needlessly infringes upon a citizen’s right to obtain public records.”

The majority wanted us not to worry – the little loophole in public access is narrow and harmless. That is not the history of loopholes. They are like the Maginot Line. Open one breach and divisions will pour through.

SPORTS>>Blacksox rally late to defeat Post 71

Leader sportwriter

Post 71 was looking to rebound from a loss the night before at Sylvan Hills, but instead suffered a 10-2 loss at the hands of the Blacksox Tuesday night in Bryant. Cabot used the game primarily as a prep game for next week’s zone tournament in North Little Rock, going from almost top to bottom in the pitching depth chart.

Five different Cabot hurlers took to the mound in the game, leaving only Sean Clarkson and ace Colin Fuller, who pitched an entire game against Sylvan Hills the night before, out of the throwing mix. Jon Parker started for Post 71 at position one, but soon gave way to Chad Bryant.

Lefty Justin Haas relieved Bryant, and soon Sam Bates and Josh Brown would have their turns at the Bryant batters before game’s end.

“We wanted everyone to get some work in before we start the zone tournament,” Cabot coach Andy Runyan said. “We wanted to do it to where nobody had a high pitch count going into the tournament, but everyone had some on-mound experience. The kids knew going in that we were going to throw a bunch of guys.”

Cabot went three up and three down in the top of the first inning, but Bryant put a score up in the bottom of the first inning on a RBI single from Aaron Davidson that scored lead off batter Joey Winiecki, who reached on a walk from Parker.
Post 71 did all of their offensive damage in the top of the second inning. Sam Bates set up the first score when he reached on a walk, and advanced to third base on a single by Jon Parker.

Justin Free sent in Bates on a double, and Parker advanced to third to put the second score in position. That score would plate when JacksonChism singled for the second, and what would turn out to be the final RBI of the contest for Cabot.
Bryant tied the game in the bottom of the second inning when Alex Kehrees singled to score Ryan Wilson. Wilson set up the tying run on a single before Kehrees’ hit sent sent him across the plate. That would make the score 2-2 heading into the third inning.

Cabot’s bats fell silent from the third inning on, but Bryant’s were just getting warmed up. The Blacksox took advantage of the revolving door at the Cabot mound with what became the winning run inthe bottom of the fourth inning. Winiecki once again scored for Bryant, this time coming in on a single from Jake Jackson after reaching on a single of his own and stealing his way to second base.

The game remained close until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Bryant went on a five-run spree that would put Cabot out of contention.

With the zone tournament a little over a week away, Runyan is not certain how the tournament seeding will fall into place. Cabot could be seeded as high as third or as low as fifth, depending on how the final week of zone games pan out. Regardless of seed, Runyan says he wants to do everything possible to have his kids ready.

“We’re just making sure that our pitching is where it needs to be,” Runyan said. “Everyone is healthy, so we’re okay there. We’ve had some wins that were pretty invaluable to us recently, hopefully we can carry some of that into the tournament.”

SPORTS>>Gwatney drained after Texarkana

Leader sports editor

It may have only been a semfinal game, and the championship game that followed didn’t hold to the fairy-tale script, but Jacksonville won a gut-testing matchup with Texarkana Tuesday night to earn Gwatney’s first-ever trip to the Class A state championship game. The Gwatney Chevrolet squad, which had defied all odds in getting to that point, defied just a few more by upending the 40-5 Zone 2 champion Texarkana Razorbacks 11-8 to earn the right to play for the title.

Trailing 8-6 heading into the last inning, Jacksonville rallied for five runs, and 15-year-old relief pitcher Hayden Simpson overcame two leadoff walks in the bottom of the frame to thwart a Razorback rally and advance the team to the title game.
Jacksonville went to its bread and butter in the seventh inning, the bunt. Daniel Thurman started the rally by getting hit by a pitch. It was his first at bat in which he didn’t get a hit in the last two games and eight at bats. He went 4 for 4 in the previous game, and was 3 for 3 when he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning. After he was hit, A.J. Allen drew a walk. Nine-hole hitter Jeffrey Tillman bunted back to the pitcher, but the throw to first was off target, which allowed Thurman to score and the two runners to advance to second and third. Allen then scored on a wild pitch and Terrell Brown got a bunt single that also drove in Tillman. Jason Regnas walked with one out and Caleb Mitchell singled to left field to load the bases. With two outs, Hayden Simpson was hit by a pitch to drive in Brown, and Regnas scored on another wild pitch by relief pitcher Cantrell Hill to set the final margin.

“They made some mistakes that helped us, but we forced them to make a lot of those mistakes,” Jacksonville coach Travis Lyda said. “I called bunt after bunt, and they kept laying them down perfectly. Those boys were having to scoot and throw in a hurry to get outs. We put the pressure on them and they eventually started making errors.”

Jacksonville’s Class A team couldn’t overcome the depletion left by an emotional, gutsy and hard-fought come-from-behind victory over Texarkana in the semifinals, and lost 17-0 to Jonesboro in the state championship game Tuesday night at Burns Park.

Because of Gravette’s expulsion from the tournament, the Jacksonville-Texarkana Tuesday winner had to turn right around and play Jonesboro in the championship round that same night.

Once in the title game, things fell apart quickly and decisively. Six base hits, two errors and two walks led to 10 Jonesboro runs in the bottom of the second inning. The seven runs added later were academic.

“You’ve got say that Jonesboro was the best team in the state at this point,” Lyda said. “They are as sound of a baseball team as you’ll find. They can hit the ball and they play small ball very well. They hardly made any mistakes the whole tournament. I still would have loved to have seen what my team would have been able to do with a full night’s rest. I think we would have given them something to think about. What you saw there was what it looks like when a team is running on empty. That Texarkana game was so emotional and so draining, I just wish we had 24 hours of rest.”

Lyda, though, wanted mostly to talk about the simple fact that his team had accomplished more than anyone ever expected just by being there.

“We had so many kids step up for us all the way up and down the lineup this whole postseason,” Lyda said. “We have a group of kids that came together as a team, from about four different schools that had to learn to play together. The came together, played with discipline, showed class in winning and losing. They showed that they can play through adversity and had a never-say-die attitude. That’s what got this team this far.”

Texarkana was heavily favored despite having lost 10-2 to Jacksonville in the annual season-opening tournament at North Little Rock. Texarkana coach Jim Self hearkened back to that matchup before facing the Chevy Boys again Tuesday.
“We’ve won 40 ballgames but Jacksonville beat us, and beat us like a drum,”Texarkana coach Jim Self said. “We thought since we had already run-ruled a team that Jacksonville lost to, we were just going to show up and get another win, and they had other things in mind.”

Despite the outcome of the last meeting, Jonesboro and Texarkana entered the tournament with by far the most impressive records, and considered the two favorites.

The Razorbacks jumped ahead with a single run in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Cantrell Hill was hit by a pitch while facing an 0-2 count, and scored three batters later on a two-out, RBI single by Vic Pappos. In fact, Texarkana’s first three runs were scored by players who were hit by pitches while behind in the count, but nothing had shaken Gwatney’s resolve up to that point, and the hard-to-swallow runs allowed didn’t either.

Jacksonville answered the first run with two runs in the top of the second to take a 2-1 lead. Hayden Simpson drew a leadoff walk and Daniel Thurman singled to left field. A.J. Allen put down a perfect bunt for an RBI, and Tyler Wisdom did the same two batters later to score Thurman.

Texarkana put two on with one out in the bottom of the second, but starting pitcher Jason Regnas got two pop ups to get out of the jam.

Jacksonville added a run to its lead in the top of the third. Caleb Mitchell and Seth Tomboli led off with back-to-back singles. Simpson then hit into a 3-5 fielder’s choice, but Thurman followed with his second hit, his sixth straight in the tournament, to drive in Tomboli and make it 3-1.

The first four Texarkana batters in the bottom of the third scored and gave the Razorbacks a 5-3 lead. The first two were hit by pitches before a single by Pappos scored one run, and a walk to Matt Warner loaded the bases. Ian Wood then singled for two RBIs, and Trey Self laid down a sacrifice bunt to score the final run of the frame.

Jacksonville got one back in the next inning off a single by Terrell Brown and a bases-loaded error on Tomboli’s at bat.
Texarkana then scored twice in the bottom of the frame to stretch its lead to 7-4. A walk and a double by Josh Stringfellow scored the first run, while an error at first base allowed the second of the inning.

Jacksonville made it 7-6 in the top of the fifth by scoring two runs on two Texarana throwing errors on the same play. Tyler Wisdom’s perfect bunt and good speed forced the first error on the throw to first. That allowed Allen to score, then a bad throw to third gave Jeffrey Tillman a pass to home plate.

The Razorbacks then scored once in the sixth to make it 8-6 before the Chevy Boys’ final-inning rally.

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills gets shutout in opener

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills AA team got a win in the opening round of the Class AA Zone 3 tournament Thursday night at Burns Park. The Bruins toppled Heber Springs 4-0 on the strength of an outstanding performance on the mound by left-handed hurler Brannon Chastain. Chastain went all nine innings, striking out 13 while walking just one batter. He got stronger as the game went on, evidenced by his striking out the side for the first time in the top of the eighth inning.

“He did a great job of placing his pitches and throwing strikes,” Sylvan Hills AA coach Jim Fink said. “He didn’t walk very many and put pitches in spots where they were hard to hit.”

Chastain’s only serious trouble came in the fourth inning, right after the Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third.
Heber Springs centerfielder Tyler Thomas led off with a single, and Cash Reeves reached on an error in right field to put runners at first and second with no outs. The threat was short-lived. Starting pitcher Josh Clap squared around to bunt, but popped it up right to catcher Blake Rix while the bunt-and-run was on. Rix caught the easy pop up and fired to first, where second baseman Ryan Dillon was covering for the 2-4 double play.

The game was uneventful for two-and-a-half innings. The Bruins came alive in the bottom of the third to take a three-run lead. Catcher Blake Rix got the ball rolling for Sylvan Hills with a leadoff walk. Leadoff hitter Casey Cerrato followed with another walk. After Ryan Dillon moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, a passed ball allowed Rix to score the first run of the game. Nathan Eller then doubled to left field to score Cerrato. Eller then scored on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Jordan Spears then singled, but a strikeout and a groundout to third base ended the rally.

The Bruins rallied again in the fifth, but came away empty after a Heber Springs pitcher change. With one out, Spears and Chastain hit back-to-back singles, followed by a walk by Ty Van Schoyck that loaded the bases. Heber Springs removed starter Josh Clap and replaced him with shortstop Cash Reeves, who struck out the next two batters to get out of the base-loaded jam he inherited.

The game’s final run came in the eighth inning via two Heber Springs errors. Rix reached on an error at shortstop with one out. Two batters later with two outs, Rix scored when Heber second baseman Justin Verser fired high to first base for what would have been the final out of the inning.

Heber Springs totaled four hits while the Bruins doubled that amount. Chastain led the way offensively as well, going 3 for 4 at the plate with three singles. Jordan Spears also had multiple hits with two singles, while Eller’s double was the only extra-base hit for Sylvan Hills in the game.

The Bruins played Morrilton in the second round of the four-team tournament last night after Leader deadlines. Look for complete details of the rest of the tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

TOP STORY >>Ex-police officer says war on drugs not working

Leader staff writer

“The war on drugs is a failure, and we need a new way to fight it,” Tony Ryan, a former Denver law-enforcement officer, said Wednesday at the Jacksonville Lions Club meeting.

Ryan spoke to the club about an organization he’s involved with called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which believes an alternative policy is needed to combat drug use – legalize narcotics.

A nonprofit organization founded in 2002, LEAP is made up of current and former law-enforcement officials with the mission “to reduce many unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition,” Ryan says.

Ryan likened the drug fight to sweeping a beach – you’ll collect all kinds of stuff, but the beach is still there, he said.
“We need to remove the profit margin and end prohibition (on drugs),” Ryan said. “It’s a black market profit we created with the war on drugs by making it illegal.”

Ryan said that school children have reported that it is easier for them to buy drugs than to purchase alcohol or cigarettes because no one checks their IDs.

“When you buy alcohol you know what you’re getting – a certain percentage in this kind of alcohol, so on and so forth. It’s all regulated and controlled,” Ryan said. “On the street, the drug buyer (user) doesn’t know for sure what they are getting – what quality or grade it is, how potent it is and they don’t have to show ID. The dealer doesn’t care. All they want is the money. It’s actually on record that drugs have been sold to children as young as 4 years old.”

LEAP’s alternative policy calls for legalizing drugs and having the federal government produce them.
“The outcome of that is quality-control production for purity, standardized measure of potency and, we believe, the end of overdoses,” Ryan said.

The policy would also distribute free maintenance doses to all adults who request them to help them get on the road to recovery and away from drug-use problems.

“More reasons: No profit for drug use addiction, then no people on the street selling. No crimes are being committed to obtain the types of drugs people get addicted to. No criminal associations. No diseases passed by needles. No shootouts between dealers. No police killed. No one killed by police. No kids caught in the crossfire, and no one soliciting for another drug user,” Ryan said.

LEAP would redirect some of the money saved to programs that offer hope to addicts ­– rehabilitation services, programs to help people get back on their feet with housing, healthcare, livable wages – reducing the need to use drugs and thus fewer drug addicts.

Money would also be redirected to drug education, Ryan said.

“Education is the key. We’ve seen it work with things like tobacco. After all the publicity about the effects of using tobacco, it’s working — we’re down to 21 percent,” he said.

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and other public support groups have spoken out on responsible drinking and the dangers of drunk driving. They have recommended using designated drivers.

“Education works,” Ryan said. “We need a better program that teaches kids better about making the right choices and how to resist peer pressure on something they know is not a good thing to do,” Ryan said after the meeting.

But local law-enforcement officials don’t think legalization is the way to go.

“I don’t think the legalization of narcotics is the answer to make things any better or to have any effect on it,” Lt. Martin Cass, public information officer with the Jacksonville Police Department, said.

“But as a department, we en-force the laws. If the legislature makes it legal, it’s out of our hands,” Cass added.
According to Cass, even if the federal government legalizes drugs and no one except the government can produce the drugs, there would still be mom and pop manufacturers, and law-enforcement agencies would have the same problems they face today.

“There will still be people using and reproducing drugs to make it weaker to sell to those that can’t afford it just to make a profit – like buying and then selling alcohol to kids,” Cass said.

“I don’t think you can regulate it anymore than it is now. There will still be those out there producing narcotics in South America and Taiwan and smuggling it in,” Cass insisted.

At the Cabot Police Department, it is argued that when guns are outlawed, they are still found on the black market. An underground economy would distribute contraband drugs.

“Why do they think if it’s legalized the social ills would go away?” Sgt. Brent Lucas, public information officer in Cabot, asked.
“Just because you legalize narcotics, something else will come up. We still have drinking and driving and underage drinking, even though alcohol is legal to buy,” he said.

Lucas said he understands the logic behind LEAP’s alternative policy, but he doesn’t think legalization would be practical. “I don’t think it would be the cure to anything or solve the problems,” Lucas said.

TOP STORY >>Panel: City needs course

Leader staff writer

“At all cost, we should not let this property be developed as anything but a golf course or a park,” said Steve Winchester, chairing what the Sherwood mayor called a blue-ribbon committee appointed to see if the city should proceed with the purchase of North Hills Country Club.

“At all cost is a big statement, but this is a valuable piece of property to the city,” he said.

But before Winchester or any of the other five of the committee gave their opinions at the committee meeting Thursday night at the recreation center, City Attorney Steve Cobb had to assure them that they would not be sued.

Committee member Byron McKimmey voiced his concern, saying the golf course owners have already sued everyone who wants to keep the property as a golf course.

Cobb, via speakerphone, told the committee members and other residents at the meeting that the committee was just an advisory group and could not be sued. “You are a group of citizens who have a history with the city and are being asked for your opinion. You are acting in an advisory capacity with no binding authority and cannot be sued,” he assured the group.
Cobb made the comments to the committee as he was preparing the city’s answer, due Monday, in a lawsuit by the golf course owners asking that the council-approved moratorium on developing the property be lifted.

The committee decided unanimously that the mayor and council should proceed with purchasing the 105-acre golf course, and will make the recommendation at the city council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at city hall.

“What to do next will be the decision of the next mayor,” said interim Mayor Bill Harmon.

Harmon is in a run-off for the position with City Clerk Virginia Hillman. Early voting has already started and the election date is July 31. Harmon is a proponent of keeping the golf course, while Hillman would rather take it to a vote of the residents.
Committee member Sherry Rankin, mother of Alderman Ken Rankin, said she has received 111 phone calls about the issue and only one was against the city buying the course.

“It is such an asset and so beautiful,” she said.

Rankin said she didn’t take names of the callers, just whether they were for or against keeping the property and why.
On July 6, proponent Greg Meadors sent out an e-mail to more than 50 Sherwood residents telling them to call the committee members.

“Please contact any of the committee members that you know and let him know we need to save this valuable green space for all of Sherwood,” he said in the e-mail.

Meadors also provided the names and addresses of committee members and the phone number of Judge Milas Hale because “he has received several negative calls and we need to respond now.”

Hale had to resign from the committee because of family health issues.

Committee member Sandy Baker said, “I think we should absolutely try to keep this as a public golf course. We owe it to our citizens, our children and grandchildren.”

Carroll Woolverton, another committee member, said that the Sylvan Hills High School golf coach has told him without the course the team would have no place nearby to practice.

“We need to develop it into a public golf course and park. Something that will accommodate all the people of Sherwood,” Woolverton said.

Committee member Mc-Kimmey, who just had a large tract of land annexed into the city, said he was surprised that everyone “came here with their minds made up. I thought we would discuss the feasibility study and appraisal.”

Each committee member was given a copy of the feasibility study and appraisal. The feasibility study concluded that the property could be viable as a city-owned public golf course if the city could purchase the property for about $1.5 million.
The appraisal determined that the property was worth about $2.2 million, and the owners sued the city and each alderman for placing a building moratorium on the property, causing a $5.1 million offer to fall through.

Committee member J.D. Pride, who has lived in Sherwood since 1958 and was a North Hills Country Club member for 15 years, said, “I think we should pursue it. Look around, Benton, Pine Bluff and Conway all have a public golf course.”

Winchester added that if Sherwood let the property be developed the city would still have to spend just as much money on infrastructure as it would buying and maintaining the property as a golf course.

Winchester said the purpose of the meeting is to answer the question: Should Sherwood consider purchasing this property (North Hills Country Club) and utilize the green space as a public golf facility, park, swimming pool and meeting place? “It is clear that our answer is yes,” he said.

TOP STORY >>Committee wants ban on pit bulls

Leader staff writer

Cabot City Council’s fire and police committee voted 4-0 Thursday night to send an ordinance to the full council in August that would ban pit bull dogs except for the ones that are registered at the time the ordinance is posted.

Theoretically, an ordinance that has full committee support should also pass the full council. However, Alderman Virgil Teague, who serves on the fire and police committee, has been ill for more than a month and did not attend the Thursday meeting.

The committee also approved sending to the full council a policy and procedure manual for the fire department. The police department has its own manual and Fire Chief Phil Robinson has argued for several months that his department is entitled to the same.

The committee did not support an ordinance proposed by Alderman Ken Williams, the committee chairman, that would have allowed residents in golf-course communities to drive their carts on city streets to get to the course.

Williams said he might bring the proposed ordinance up again because many Greystone residents moved there because of the golf course; state law allows cities to pass such ordinances. Many residents are now driving illegally on the streets and he can’t believe the city council actually intends to tell the residents of Greystone that they won’t be extended the same courtesy as residents of golf-course communities in other cities.

Pit Bulls

Over the past two months, the committee has looked at pit bull and dangerous-animal ordinances from several cities, but the one that will go before the full council in August is the one patterned after Lonoke’s that City Attorney Jim Taylor gave them in May.

If it passes, pit bulls by every name, pit bull mixes and dogs that look like pit bulls will be banned unless they are registered with the city. Puppies from registered dogs would have to be out of the city within six weeks. Registered dogs would have to be kept indoors or in a locked kennel or pen with an enclosed top attached to the sides and the bottom embedded in the ground. Owners also would have to post a sign warning that a pit bull is on the property.

Although committee members appeared to favor passing the ordinance in May, they were concerned that the ordinance did not contain provisions for accurately identifying the registered dogs. The ordinance required that the owners submit pictures of the registered dogs, but the committee members said pit bulls look the same. Tattoos or electronic chips would be better, they said, but that issue has not been resolved.

Williams said it will likely be taken up by the public works committee which is supposed to revamp the existing animal control ordinance. In addition to Lonoke, Jacksonville, Sherwood and North Little Rock have already passed ordinances curbing their pit bull populations. Beebe and Ward could pass similar ordinances in August.

TOP STORY >>Schools are filled as fast as they go up in Cabot

Leader staff writer

Cabot’s eighth elementary school will open next month, but according to Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman, the district’s elementary schools will still be bursting at the seams even with the completion of the new campus.

Stagecoach Elementary School will be open for the start of school Aug. 20, but administrators and school board officials realize the new school isn’t going to solve the nearly 9,000-strong district’s space problems, so they have been looking at alternative solutions since last year.

“We have stacks of students wanting to come here, to transfer in (from out of the district),” Thurman told the Cabot Lions Club Thursday afternoon.

But with all those students waiting to move to Cabot schools, Thurman’s biggest concern is the district’s tremendous growth.
“People move to Cabot for our neighborhood schools,” he said. “We try to keep our elementary schools at 500. We can’t do that with the amount of growth still coming in.”

Cabot changed its elementary attendance zones in May to allow for the opening of Stagecoach Elementary with the goal of reducing the number of students at the eight elementaries, but with continued growth, those numbers are going back up at every elementary school, Thurman said.

“Magness Creek is a stressor for the district. The Greystone area is only one-third full, and we can’t cope with the growth over there in that area,” he said, adding the district’s long-range plan includes (additional elementary schools at) the Magness Creek-Greystone area and the Westside Elementary area with all the new homes planned there.

“Right now, I have a little bit of wiggle room at Ward Central. Stagecoach has a little bit of wiggle room and Central Elementary has a small, small amount. We’re going to get tight again really quick, even though we just rezoned our schools to knock those numbers down,” Thurman said.

Thurman told the club that while his district is building schools rapidly, there is not enough industrial base in Cabot to support it.

“People hold us up to Bentonville, Fayetteville, Conway, but if you go to these towns, you’ll see they have industries as a tax base. Here we live off our residents and that makes it more difficult; money issues are more of a concern,” he said.

With the district’s growth, a long-range plan is needed, he said. To help come up with a plan, Thurman will soon be organizing a task force made up of community members, city council members or anyone interested in the future of the Cabot schools with the mission of finding “the best bang for the district’s buck.”

“The task force will be focused on providing input to the district on issues such as budget, growth and facilities,” he said. “We need the public to know we have these issues.”

Thurman’s task force would look at the options of either continuing to build elementary schools to hold 500 kids all over Cabot or look at a reconfigured method for the schools.

“We need direction on what our public will support,” Thurman said. “If we continue to build elementary schools the cost will continue to rise. When you open a new building you take on tremendous costs – lights, water, land acquisition, the cost of building, hiring ancillary staff (custodial and cafeteria crews, nurses, counselors, etc.).”

The playground equipment alone for Stagecoach Elementary cost $23,000, and the new books for the media center cost $70,000. Construction of the school cost $6.6 million for the 83,313 square-foot elementary.

As Thurman sees it, the task force will be the best way to handle the major issues facing the Cabot district.

“We need to know if our public wants us to continue opening new schools, knowing our costs and our per-pupil expenditure will rise. Or do you want us to look at reconfiguring, moving people around, and people always get upset when that happens, but that’s one way of using our existing facilities more efficiently to get our budget back under control. So that will be one of the purposes of this board,” Thurman explained.

To help the district with one additional cost of opening Stagecoach, the Cabot Lions Club purchased a vision-screening device, which costs approximately $1,150, for the new elementary school.

“This was to keep with our commitment to improving sight and hearing for all of the Cabot community,” Tom Anderson, Cabot Lions Club president, said. “The more we can do for the Cabot school system the better.”

TOP STORY >>District would add balance

Leader senior staff writer

A stand-alone Jacksonville school district of more than 6,000 students would be even more racially balanced than the existing Pulaski County Special School District from which it would be carved, according to figures supplied by PCSSD.
That would, of course, mean that PCSSD would then be slightly less racially balanced with the loss of those students to a new district.

At the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year, the entire 18,374-student district was about 57 percent non-black and 43 percent black. But calculating attendance by race of the 6,682 students from the schools likely to be in a proposed Jacksonville district shows about 53 percent of the students would be non-black and about 47 percent black.
Of the 384 students who left the district during the school year, 302 of them were non-black.

“Students in a new Jacksonville district would be attending a desegregated school district with a diverse environment, respecting everybody’s opportunity,” according to state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville.

Bond sponsored two bills approved by the last General Assembly, aimed toward making such a district possible, but at a Rotary Club meeting Monday, several area leaders, including Pulaski County Clerk Pat O’Brien – a former school board member – expressed concern that the Little Rock School Board’s recent decision to enter into a new desegregation agreement threatened PCSSD and a Jacksonville district.

Federal District Judge Bill Wilson ruled earlier this year that Little Rock had achieved unitary status and could be released from the existing desegregation agreement that binds it to PCSSD and the North Little Rock School District.

But against the strenuous advice of their attorney, Chris Heller, and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Little Rock’s troubled school board entered a new desegregation agree-ment under threat of appeal or lawsuit by attorney John Walker.

“I don’t think the Little Rock agreement necessarily has any effect (on PCSSD and Jacksonville),” Bond said. “No lawyer I know of thinks it’s a good idea (for Little Rock) to be in that agreement.”

He said the Little Rock School Board was ill-advised to sign the agreement.

He said he believed Walker would lose his appeal of the district’s new unitary status releasing it from court supervision.
When you win a case, you don’t go back and negotiate away your victory, Bond said. “The only effect is a huge distraction to getting all three districts in compliance,” he added.

Bond said that by the end of the new school year, the state would have spent more than $800 million to help fund the existing desegregation agreement.

One of his bills would allow the state to negotiate to phase-out the money – about $60 million a year – over as much as seven years.

Jacksonville leaders have been working intermittently for about two decades to get their own local school district, saying that the future of the city depends upon the ability to offer a quality education to its residents.

About two years ago, residents were ready to vote on whether or not to break off their own district from PCSSD when Wilson ruled that no such election or detachment could take place until all three districts were released from court oversight and the desegregation agreement.

With school board members seen as looking out for their own patrons in the far-flung district, new schools are underway in Maumelle and west Little Rock, while the newest Jacksonville-area school is about 30 years old.

Many in the community feel Cabot will continue to grow at the expense of Jacksonville until Jacksonville can get its own district, control its own schools and improve the education for local students.