Saturday, January 02, 2010

SPORTS >> Badgers finally succeed on home court

Leader sportswriter

The first two rounds of the Beebe Christmas Classic were tough for the host, but the Badgers closed the three-day tournament strong with a 59-47 victory over White Hall in the seventh-place game Wednesday at Badger Sports Arena.

Junior guard Devonte Young got the Badgers out to a fast start and helped keep his team out front by leading all scorers with 21 points, seven of which came in the first two minutes.

Beebe went to the free-throw line four times in the final minute and hit 4 of 8 shots while keeping the Bulldogs scoreless.

The victory improved Beebe to 2-8 and gave the Badgers momentum heading into the new year and 5A-Southeast Conference play.

“The whole thing is a process,” first-year Beebe coach Chris Parker said. “What we are really trying to do is establish some principles early on that are going to help us later down the road.

“We really don’t get caught up in wins and losses, although wins are certainly great to have. But hopefully, it will boost our morale a little bit and help us continue the progress we’ve already started to make.”

While Young took the reigns offensively, Beebe’s tough defense was a group effort. Young led with six steals, but teammates Zach May and Scot Gowen also grabbed multiple turnovers.

The Badgers also held shooting guard Evan Sidwell to six points, two coming on free throws, after he scored 19 points and had five three-pointers against Riverview in the first round.

“We really keyed on that,” Parker said. “We talked about what we wanted to do, what we felt like some of the keys to the game were. We did a really good job on him.

“We were able to stay with our man-to-man defense, which is our preference, and really get up into the shooters. We made them put the ball on the floor so they couldn’t establish a rhythm.”

The Bulldogs erased Beebe’s early lead and took control midway through the first period. A three-pointer by Tanner Moore with 3:07 left in the quarter gave White Hall its biggest lead of the game, and Beebe was not able to catch up until 2:08 was left in the half when Gowen drove inside and tied it at 25.

The Badgers made up for their size deficit and youth with hustle, which they did with a tight, man-to-man defense and a full-court press that gave White Hall problems in the fourth quarter. That led to 14 steals for Beebe, including three by May and a pair for Gowen.

“They are very experienced,” Parker said. “Everybody they played except for one kid was a senior. For us, as inexperienced as we are, to come out and really compete with a team that has competed for two or three years on the varsity level was certainly a good thing.”

Beebe finally began to pull away in the final 1:45 when Brandon Fuller went the length of the floor and scored to give the Badgers a 53-45 lead.

SPORTS >> Harding Academy beats buzzer, rival

Harding Academy post Daniel Stevens
drives against Raider Rodney White

Leader sportswriter

The cross-town rivalry game was filled with drama, but Jordan Smith’s buzzer-beating lay-in for Harding Academy gave it a made-for-TV ending no after-school special could match.

Smith’s final play helped the Wildcats beat 2-3A Conference rival Riverview 38-37 in the third-place game of the Beebe Christmas Classic tournament at Badger Sports Arena on Wednesday. Smith drove through the lane and put up a shot that rolled around the rim three times before dropping in just as the buzzer sounded.

“We found a way to make it exciting and blow about a 13-point lead,” Wildcats coach Brad Francis said. “The kids kept their composure and did what we needed to do at the end, and we got that shot to go. It makes it an exciting win for sure.”

The Raiders (12-4) overcame a 28-15 deficit with 2:19 left in the third quarter and led most of the final period thanks to the shooting of guard Keinan Lee, but the Wildcats (7-2) put a stop to Lee’s three-point spree in the final quarter and allowed only one Riverview field goal in the final five minutes.

Lee made 4 of 4 three-pointers in the last 1:53 of the third quarter to fuel a 15-1 run and put the Raiders ahead 30-29 at the start of the fourth quarter after they had trailed by 14.

Wildcats junior post player Daniel Stevens extended Harding Academy’s lead in the early stages of the third quarter with a pair of inside shots.

Wildcats freshman Will Francis hit his fifth and final three-pointer with 2:19 left in the quarter and drew a foul after the shot.

He made the free throw to give Harding Academy a 28-15 lead.

Lee had been quiet up to that point, content in trying to find Smith and senior Jordan Perry. But Lee made a long three-pointer with 1:53 left in the third and another with 1:23 left that cut the lead to 28-21.

“I thought the key was that we were making turnovers in the second half that we weren’t making in the first half,” Brad Francis said. “Several of those turnovers turned into opportunities for them, and they obviously shot the ball better in the second half.

I didn’t think we contested as well, but you have to give them credit for finding a way to get back in it.”

The only interruption in the Riverview run was a free throw by Stevens, but the Raiders quickly picked up the charge again when Smith and Lee made three-pointers.

Lee’s shot with 15 seconds left in the quarter made it 29-27, then the Raiders forced the Wildcats into a turnover in the near court. Lee capped off the period with his fourth three-pointer just before the buzzer to hand Riverview a one-point lead.

It was the outside shooting of Will Francis that made the difference in the first half. Francis hit the first of his four three-pointers with 1:21 left in the first quarter to give the Wildcats their first lead at 8-7, and he extended the lead with another three-pointer with 6:58 left in the half.

Two straight baskets for Riverview junior guard Taylor Smith made it a one-point game, but Francis made his fourth three-pointer, followed by a three-point basket by Lane Dailey with 2:19 left.

That put the Wildcats up 20-13, and the teams were scoreless over the final two minutes of the half.

Francis led the Wildcats with 22 points while Lee led the Raiders with 16.Dailey and Smith each added five points for the Wildcats, and Smith finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals for Riverview.

The Raiders out-rebounded the Wildcats 23-13.

The exciting matchup was the first of at least three games for the two schools, which sit fewer than three miles apart and will play two regular-season conference games.

“The kids all know each other; we’re close,” Francis said. “It’s a fun, good rivalry in football and basketball. Just with the locations, it’s always going to be like that.”

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits get in gear to grab grudge match

Lonoke's Tarrel Watson extends for a rebound against Warren.

Leader sportswriter

Warren’s attempt at revenge against Lonoke fell just short on Wednesday in the fifth-place game of the Beebe Christmas Classic basketball tournament at Badger Sports Arena.

The Jackrabbits, who beat Warren in the 4A football playoffs, found a way through the Lumberjacks’ stifling press in the late going, and found their way to the free-throw line six times in the fourth quarter to help themselves to a 48-44 victory.

Lonoke scored a football upset at Warren on the way to the state championship game, but the Lumberjacks’ bid for redemption was not to be because of solid free-throw shooting from ’Rabbits junior guard Darius Scott, a starting receiver/defensive back in football.

“I don’t know how much that came into play,” Jackrabbits coach Dean Campbell said of the vengeance factor. “I know a lot of them did play on the football team, and one of them even made a comment to one of our guys. He laughed and shrugged it off.

“There may have been a little bit of that, but it’s something that we as coaches have no control over.”

Scott went 6 of 8 from the free-throw line in the final 1:11 to keep Lonoke out front, and went on to lead the Jackrabbits with 13 points.

“We still missed 10 free throws in the first half, but we made some big ones when we needed to,” Campbell said. “Especially when we were up by only three to make it a two-possession game. We did that a couple of times.

“We did a better job of handling pressure at times and played better defense at times. We talked about doing better on the boards with Warren being such a good, athletic team, and we did a fairly good job of doing that.”

Lonoke pushed its lead in the second half to 31-24, but as it did in the first half, Warren quickly rallied to make it a one-point game at the end of the third quarter.

The lead changed hands four times in the first quarter until Lonoke established momentum two minutes into the second period. Scott scored inside to give the Jackrabbits a 14-10 lead, and Tarrale Watson followed a pair of Warren free throws with a three-point basket that extended the lead to 17-12 with 3:53 left.

But that momentum was short lived. Demarcus Calbert sparked a Lumberjack rally with a dunk with 3:20 left, and Jalen Cobb hit 3 of 4 free throws on two consecutive possessions to tie it 17-17 with 1:49 left in the first half.

Lonoke got the last word before halftime with an inside shot by junior post player Chad Dixon and a Watson free throw tacked on for a 22-17 lead.

Watson added 10 points for Lonoke. Cobb led Warren with 21 points.

Lonoke went 2-1 in the three-day tournament. The Jackrabbits almost came from behind against county rival Carlisle in the first round, but lost 62-58.

They easily downed White Hall in the consolation round before closing out the tournament with their victory on Wednesday.

“It ended up being a very good tournament for us,” Campbell said. “We are learning to come out and play hard at the beginning of games. That was something we didn’t do against Carlisle, and we dug a hole for ourselves. It was a lot of work to try and come back from that, so maybe it was a good first game for us to have.

“Warren is much more athletic than some of the other teams we’ve played. We were able to get our legs under us and play at a faster pace, and control the tempo at times. We’re in good shape and have some momentum for conference play.”

SPORTS >> Lady Jackrabbits’ victory worth the wait

Lonoke junior guard Cara Neighbors makes a move inside during the Lady Jackrabbits' 31-28 victory over Star City in the championship game of the First Security/Gillam Farms Christmas Classic at Beebe High School.

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke’s unusual four-minute break to end the third quarter might have made for a low score, but it was the only stretch of calm in an otherwise frantic tournament championship game against Star City.

The Lady Jackrabbits did their best to pace themselves and barely escaped the Lady Bulldogs’ bullying press down the stretch to win the Beebe Christmas Classic final 31-28 on Wednesday night at Badger Sports Arena. The game was a repeat of last year’s tournament final won by Lonoke.

Junior guard Cara Neighbors declared her recovery from recent wrist surgery complete by leading the Lady Jackrabbits with 18 points, half of which came in the fourth quarter.

Asiah Scribner gave Lonoke a 30-28 lead when she made a free throw with 34 seconds left and Neighbors made the first of two free throws with 6 seconds left for the final margin, as Lonoke’s defense kept Star City from a last-ditch shot attempt.

“We had to fight; we definitely had to fight. It was tough,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “We had a one-point deficit at the half and I’m very proud of our kids — they were patient. It’s two nights in a row that they were patient against great athletes.

“Maybe not that great against the press late, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen that kind of pressure. We’ll be okay if it’s that way again. There’s nobody else in 4A that can press like that.”

Lonoke (10-5) put its patience on display for almost four minutes at the end of the third quarter when senior point guard Michaela Brown stood near mid court with the ball and let the seconds, then minutes, tick away.

Lonoke finally passed with a minute left, but Brown returned to her spot with 48 seconds to go and let the clock wind down to within 10 seconds before Lonoke attacked the basket. A steal by Lady Bulldog post Ja-Quayshia Linsy under the goal made the nearly four-minute possession fruitless.

Morris said there was a method to the madness.

“Scribner was on the bench, and we had the possession arrow,” Morris said. “We were going to get the ball to start the quarter.

So it was one last free possession. If they were going to let us run it all the way down, that’s what we were going to do.

“It gave those three guards that had been in there the whole game a little bit of catch-your-breath time. It let Scribner get some rest on the bench. We didn’t execute it like we wanted to, but it’s still our ball coming out to start the quarter.”

Star City (10-4) had an obvious vendetta against the only team to beat the Lady Bulldogs last season. Lonoke won the Christmas Classic final a year ago and beat Star City again in the 4A state semifinals in Pine Bluff.

The Lady Jackrabbits advanced to the Christmas Classic final this year with a first-round rout of Carlisle and a big victory over 7A power Conway in the semifinals.

“I guess it’s the same road we had last year in back-to-back years,” Morris said. “Carlisle coming right out of the break, a very good, very athletic Conway team and a great, athletic Star City team.”

Neighbors was the only double-digit scorer for either team thanks to the Lady Bulldogs’ emphasis on shutting down Scribner’s inside game. The effort paid off as the UALR signee scored just six points, though she contributed her critical free throw down the stretch.

Scribner made her only field goal with 5:14 left in the first quarter. She earned two trips to the free-throw line later in the period and went 3 of 4.

“She carried two or three people every time,” Morris said of Scribner. “Every time she came across, they knew where she was going, and they didn’t want her to beat them. We got one quick feed to her when they were in a zone on the back side. She got it; from then on, it was all free throws.”

Neighbors made the most of the opening fourth-quarter possession when she made a three-point basket to give Lonoke a 22-18 lead. She extended the lead with a steal and layup on Star City’s next trip and gave the Lady ’Rabbits their biggest lead with a basket and free throw to make it 29-22 with 2:36 left.

“She’s a scorer – that’s all there is to it,” Morris said. “The kid can flat score. It took a little bit to get going. The only problem we have is sometimes when others stand and watch.

“Even not all of hers go in, so we have to go grab glass and get offensive rebounds. We need more offensive rebounds. She’s a scoring machine when she catches fire.”

Lonoke will host Stuttgart in 2-4A Conference play Tuesday.

EDITORIAL >> High-dollar propaganda

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that marks the sparrow’s fall with Washington spending, reports that industry groups spent more than $600 million this year to influence members of Congress on the health-care overhaul and another $200 million on television advertising on the legislation. It did not break the spending down between pro and con, but you can be sure that the vast preponderance of the money was directed against the various insurance reform measures making their way through Congress.

That is because most of the money was spent by segments of the health industry, principally insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and their allies like the United States Chamber of Commerce.

There is good news and bad news for us in the figures, which include only part of the year. (A full accounting of the whole propaganda campaign will approach $2 billion or perhaps much more.) The good news is that Arkansas got more than its pro-rata share of the spending because Arkansas members of Congress were viewed as vacillating and vulnerable to pressure. They also happened to be keys in the close voting in both the House and Senate. Arkansas television stations and the large newspapers, which Lord knows needed the money, enjoyed a huge infusion of cash owing to the advertising directed at our senators and congressmen: “Tell Blanche Lincoln . . . .”

The bad news is that the campaign badly misinformed Arkansas people about what was at stake in the bills. People were told that the health bills would drive up the federal budget deficits (they would lower them), create a vast bureaucracy that would dictate medical treatment (they wouldn’t), deprive seniors of their Medicare insurance (they would improve Medicare coverage for a huge majority of seniors) and amount to a government “takeover” of health care (they will produce the biggest expansion of private health insurance in history).

All the spending identified by the Center for Responsive Politics, which covered the first nine months of the year and did not include the hundreds of millions spent on lobbying Congress in 2008, did not include the scores of millions spent by insurance companies to persuade seniors to convert their Medicare insurance to a Medicare Advantage HMO plan, which is a huge taxpayer subsidy to the profits of insurance companies. Every Medicare recipient was bombarded with pitches in almost every day’s mail for three months, along with newspaper and TV ads. The more people they could sign up would be more people who would get excited about legislative attempts to reduce the wasteful subsidies.

The blizzard of glib and earnest-sounding ads worked, as they always have. People became genuinely frightened about what will happen to their health care, and public-opinion polls, which only nine months ago showed a huge majority of people favoring a system of government-backed universal health coverage, now show it fairly close between opponents and supporters. As former President Bill Clinton observed, those fears will be overcome by truth when the legislation actually takes effect. That happened with Social Security and Medicare, which became fantastically popular.

It is worth noting that in 1974, our own congressman, Wilbur D. Mills of White County, introduced a bill providing more sweeping insurance coverage than either of the bills that passed one house of Congress in 2009. So did President Richard Nixon and his health and human services secretary, Caspar Weinberger (known to most of us as Ronald Reagan’s secretary of defense in the next decade). They couldn’t quite get together on a final bill (Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was a participant, too), and Nixon’s impeachment troubles and Mills’ own brush with infamy that fall scuttled the whole deal for what would prove to be another 35 years.

They faced the same cabal of protective interests — the insurance industry and parts of the medical establishment — but the spending by the industry then amounted to less than $5 million. To have overcome a propaganda machine willing to spend billions, not just millions — now that is an accomplishment.

Let us in Arkansas be thankful for the huge economic stimulus from the propaganda money but also for the courage of lawmakers to do what is clearly best for the great majority of the citizenry.

TOP STORY >> Proposed new Sherwood library to be discussed

Leader staff writer

A temporary sales tax could pay for a new Sherwood Library. Residents and officials will discuss the proposal at a 6:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at Amy Sanders Library in Sherwood.

Mayor Virginia Hillman says she sees the need for a larger facility. She says an added benefit would be that the police department, which is also cramped for space, could expand into the vacated city-owned building.

“It would be up to the people to support a tax for 18 months – if the people want to embrace it, we’ll do it,” Hillman said.

“The library we have, there is no parking, and there is a waiting list for kids’ programs because we don’t have the facilities for them.”

Hillman added, “The myth is out there that people don’t use libraries anymore, but that is just not true.”

She said that anyone who thinks that is so should go to one of the Central Arkansas Library System branches with a large parking lot.

“Just look at the crowds at the libraries in Jacksonville and Maumelle,” Hillman said.

Alderman Charles Harmon noted, “Libraries are not just about books anymore.” And that is one of the shortcomings of Sherwood’s library, some say.

When the library was built 20 years ago, tools such as computers, the Internet and PowerPoint were not available. Now, many people come to libraries expecting that technology to be available, Hillman said.

But at the Amy Sanders Library, “there is not a place to put it,” Hillman observed at a recent city council meeting.

For people out of work and needing to process a job application, a library with computers for public use provides a critical service, Hillman said.

“Space is the biggest issue,” agreed assistant library manager Matthew Landers.

The library is hampered by lack of space for additional computers as well as meeting and study rooms. There is one meeting room that will accommodate 25 people and no study rooms.

Landers said that the library staff definitely supports building a larger facility. But the word of the public forum on Tuesday, organized by Sherwood residents, came as a surprise to employees there.

“We didn’t know anything about it,” Landers said. “The meeting will be a way to gauge support, to allow the public to say what they’d want – to do it, or that they don’t want it.”

Any new library will not affected by a ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court last week that the Central Arkansas Library System illegally collected $1.5 million in taxes in 2008 from Little Rock residents, said CALS deputy director Linda Bly.

Little Rock residents in 2007 had voted in favor of the tax. But the court ruled that because of missed deadlines, the collection of the tax should not have commenced when it did.

“The election itself was not in question, but when we could collect the tax,” Bly explained. “Our shortfall is just for a year, so come January next year, we will be collecting that money again.”

TOP STORY >> Sherwood golf course could sell beer, wine

Leader staff writer

Beer and wine may be served at the Sherwood municipal golf course when it opens.

Sherwood resident Thomas Reynolds and partner Richard Miller of Maumelle applied for a beer and restaurant permit with the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board on Dec. 21.

The director should make a decision at the board’s Jan. 20 meeting. Anyone wanting to voice an opinion in support or against the permit needs to have it to the board by Jan. 19.

Reynolds said he was approved to lease the golf course’s old bar and grill area after the city published requests for proposals three different times. He’s not sure what his eatery, tentatively called Bunker’s Bistro, will carry or the hours that it will be open, but it should be ready to open along with the golf course sometime in April.

Reynolds said right now the city is doing some sewer work and remodeling that prevents him from starting any work on the bistro. “Once they are through we’ll go in and see what we can do,” he said.

The lease with the city is open ended at this point, Reynolds explained. “It’ll be an experiment. But we are working closely with the city and want to help the golf course as much as possible.”

In the three proposals the city sent out, it asked for all submissions to be in by Nov. 30.

The legal notice stated that the city was “seeking business plan proposals for a restaurant/sports bar establishment in the lower level of the clubhouse facility at North Hills Park. It is anticipated that the restaurant would be open to the general public and not offered just as support to the anticipated golf course.”

The city wanted proposals to include the anticipated theme of the restaurant, a proposed food and beverage menu, history and experience of the entity or individuals submitting the plans and equipment needed. Reynolds admits he’s the “Sherwoodian in the deal and that his partner has the technical food experience.”

Michael Langley of the ABC said it’s not unusual for a city or individual leasing city property to apply for a beer and restaurant permit. “Look at War Memorial and Verizon Arena,” he said.

But to get the permit the individuals, business and location must meet numerous requirements. Reynolds believes his partnership has met all the requirements.

The permit will only allow Reynolds’ facility to sell beer and wine. If Reynolds wants to sell liquor, he will have to get a private- club permit which falls under more stringent requirements.

TOP STORY >> Looking back at July, August, September


This is the third in a four-part series looking back at 2009. Here are many of the news stories The Leader covered from July through September.


• The Cabot High School marching band represented Arkansas in the National Independence Day parade.

This was the second time the high school band had been invited to march in the parade. The band’s previous trip was in 2006.

A caravan of four charter buses took 160 students and 29 adults to Washington for five days and four nights.

Making the trip were students who chose to go who were in 10th, 11th and 12th grades during the 2009 school year. Each student was responsible for paying their own way. The cost was $1,000.

The band played “Patriotic Medley” comprised of “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.”

• Jacksonville officially had a new mayor, Gary Fletcher, as Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson swore in Fletcher in front of about 200 friends, family members and well-wishers at the community center.

Fletcher told the crowd he felt a bit guilty becoming mayor. “The apples are ripe and on the trees for me to just pick and hand to you,” he said, complimenting the work of former mayors Tommy Swaim and James Reid. “They have been great.”

• A $10.7 million contract for the new Joint Education Center outside the air base was awarded to W.G. Yates and Sons Construction of Philadelphia, Miss., to build the new school at the corner of Vandenberg Boulevard and John Harden Drive.

• The Air Force’s contribution is $9.8 million and Jacksonville’s is $5 million, raised by local residents who approved a dedicated tax for the purpose in 2003.

“We used every dime of the federal dollars, what’s left are city dollars,” according to Craig Pierce, chief of military programs branch, Little Rock District Engineers.
The current 46,000-square-foot plan calls for about 30 classrooms and labs.

• The ribbon was cut in July in a dedication ceremony for the newly completed Grand Prairie Bayou Two, Larry W. Sims Water Treatment Facility.

Construction of the plant near Hwy. 31 and Hwy. 321 Spur between Lonoke and Beebe was finished in May. Work began in early 2008. The Grand Prairie Bayou Two water system supplies water to approximately 4,000 customers in northeast Lonoke County and portions of Ward.

• High winds and ice-cube-sized hailstones beat crops like a rented mule around Schafer Road.

In all, 26,000 acres or more of Lonoke County crops were damaged or destroyed in a matter of minutes in a year where farmers already have suffered floods and near-drought conditions, according to Jeff Welch, county extension service chief agent.

While the Schafer Road/Hwy. 31 intersection was the epicenter of the storm, the area affected was about four miles wide and 10.5 miles long from near Furlow all the way to the airport at Carlisle.

• Before new Mayor Fletcher could finish his thoughts about filling his vacant Jacksonville council seat, the council nominated, seconded and approved John Ferrell for the position even though six residents had expressed an interest.

Alderman Terry Sansing abstained, calling the whole affair a slap in the face of the city residents and the new mayor.

“It was unfair to the other five candidates who applied for the position and unfair to the citizens to not have a voice,” he said.

• Little Rock Air Force Base commander Col. Gregory Otey endeared himself to the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce by endorsing the effort for a stand-alone Jacksonville school district and also by seeing off just-retired Mayor Tommy Swaim with a couple of well choreographed audio visual gags.

Otey, who has both of his children in Pulaski County Special School District schools, commended the work of “Daniel (Gray) and some of the folks here,” to improve existing schools and get a Jacksonville district.

• Jacksonville’s interim parks and recreation director Kristen Griggs was officially hired in July to permanently run the department.

Mayor Gary Fletcher surprised Griggs, 27, with the announcement in the guise of a second interview.

Former director George Biggs resigned after city officials learned that he is a convicted felon.

• Bids were opened in July for the construction of Jacksonville’s training facility for the city’s police and fire departments at the former Vertac site off Marshall Road.

Kullander Construction of Little Rock was the low bidder, estimating the cost at $2,259,000, about $1 million less than had been budgeted.

Construction started in August and should be done by May.

• After six months of investigation, Sherwood had received less than 10 percent of the $200,000 siphoned from one of its city checking accounts by a gang of cyber criminals.

Eagle Bank officials made the city aware of the theft in December 2008. State Police and the FBI were then called to investigate.

The Sherwood case is similar to a Kentucky incident where Russian criminals stole $415,000 electronically from county accounts.

City Treasurer Angela Nicholson said nothing had been said earlier publicly because the case was under investigation. She said the city audited all of its other accounts and funds seemed to be missing only out of the one.

She said in July that authorities recovered about $16,000 and the city made changes and added additional safeguards to help prevent such theft from happening again.

It seems the money was stolen electronically over a three-day period last December.

Mayor Virginia Hillman said the stolen funds were placed in at least 20 accounts across the country in amounts less than $10,000.

• A $35,000 economic development infrastructure grant will help Jacksonville jump-start an ambitious proposal to define a Main Street district and turn it into a pedestrian-friendly destination with shops, dining and entertainment, according to city planner Chip McCulley.

The grant is likely to be spent on decorative, energy-efficient street lighting on Main Street east and west of James Street, he said.

State Sen. John Paul Capps helped the city get the grant.

• On July 4, Sherwood’s Steve Perry was named Pops on the River winner after his performance of The Star Spangled Banner.

“It’s taken me 30 years to be an overnight success,” Perry joked. He said he’s always enjoyed singing.

Perry began taking voice lessons at age 18, when a singer at his church encouraged him to get training. He says he now has a range of three octaves. Perry, who sings at the Church at Rock Creek, said he mostly performs Christian music and the National Anthem.

• The APA named The Leader the state’s best large weekly newspaper after it received 17 awards, including first place for best news story, best front page, best special issue, as well as top honors for investigative reporting, news and political column, sports column and sports feature photo.

“Violent end brings pall over subdivision” by Jonathan Feldman and Garrick Feldman won for best news article in a large weekly.

The story described a standoff in August 2008 between the Jacksonville police and a mentally disturbed man in a residence in the Foxwood subdivision who was shooting at neighbors and police. A police sniper later shot the man through a kitchen window.

For the second time, Leader senior staff writer John Hofheimer won for his series of exclusive reports on the housing privatization program at Little Rock Air Force Base. His reporting has received national recognition and led to the dismissal of the previous contractor for failing to build or remodel homes on the base and pay subcontractors.

• The Pulaski County Special School District replaced Deputy Superintendent Beverly Ruthven with former Cabot principal and administrator June Elliott.

Ruthven resigned after she was passed over for the interim superintendent’s job in favor of Rob McGill shortly after the board forced the resignation of then-Superintendent James Sharpe.

“I’ve done all I can do for Pulaski County Special School District. Now I’m looking for other opportunities,” Ruthven said.

Elliott, a Cabot resident, has a long history of teaching and administration in the Cabot district.

Elliott has several certifications, including that of district administrator, and has completed all course work on a PhD. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Central Arkansas at Conway, and has taught master’s level courses at Arkansas State University.

• The South Bend Volunteer Fire Department purchased two new water-tanker trucks. The trucks enable the department to better serve the areas in their district that are not connected to city water.

The department is responsible for protecting rural Lonoke County from Jacksonville city limits to Basankan Road (Gun Club Road) between Cabot and Graham Road. New equipment is always a cause for celebration at a department with such a huge territory to protect.

About a third of the South Bend district uses well water. In those areas, the firefighters do not have access to fire hydrants.

The new trucks carry 1,850 gallons of water and can pump 375 gallons per minute.

• “If I’m going to jail, then this is worth it,” Alderman Bob Stroud said as he made a motion that Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion use $100,000 to help the city get its own school district.

At the request of the nonprofit group, Jacksonville Education Foundation, the commission voted unanimously to transfer the money to the city’s public facilities board, which could then use it for the new district.

Former state Rep. Will Bond, an attorney, speaking for the foundation, told the commission that no one would go to jail but he couldn’t promise there wouldn’t be a lawsuit.

“There is no better promotion for the city than getting its own school district,” said Bond.

• Lisa Otey, wife of Little Rock Air Force Base commander Col. Gregory Otey, told school officials and others that she had pulled two of her three children out of Pulaski County Special School District since the family arrived in January, calling the facilities “no better than schools in Eastern Europe—in East Germany before the wall fell down.”

Otey was one of about 20 people who took advantage of a town meeting at Bayou Meto Elementary School to tell district officials their thoughts on whether or not those in that attendance zone would prefer to continue their affiliation with PCSSD, to affiliate with the proposed—but not inevitable—Jacksonville district or to split that affiliation down the length of state Hwy. 107.

District boundaries had been pretty well agreed-upon with the exception of the Bayou Meto attendance zone.

• Four C-130s returning to the Little Rock Air Force Base from McChord AFB, Wash., were loaded down with trophies that Team

Little Rock won during the weeklong air rodeo competition.

Team Little Rock came home with two best overall awards and seven C-130 awards. The 19th Airlift Wing won best overall C-130 team and best overall aerial port team in the rodeo competition.

The wing’s aerial port crew won for the best C-130 engine running off-load team and the best C-130 in-transit visibility team.

Team Little Rock maintenance team picked up three awards. The best C-130 maintenance team award went to the 19th Airlift Wing, J-model. They also brought home the best C-130 pre-flight team.

The best C-130 post-flight team was the 314th Airlift Wing, H-model.

Another award the 19th Airlift Wing won was best C-130 short field landing crew. The 314th was also recognized for having the best back-landing combat off-load crew.

• Nearly 12 inches of rain fell in July, with six days having rainfall of more than an inch. All the rain also kept the temperatures down for most of the month, making July the coolest July since 1968, according to the National Weather Service.

The six days with an inch or more of rain and three days with two or more inches were record setters.

Since Jan. 1, the area had seen 43.05 inches of rain, based on NWS records, and 13.38 inches above the norm. Just since June 1 the area had 15.27 inches of rain, close to eight inches above the norm.


• In a five-and-a-half-hour special meeting, the Pulaski County Special School District board approved the boundaries for a proposed Jacksonville school district that will include the Bayou Meto attendance zone, the city of Jacksonville and a smaller unincorporated area that runs east along Military Road into Lonoke County.

The board also voted to cease all negotiation on the topic of Jacksonville’s detachment from PCSSD until the federal district court declares the district unitary—that is, desegregated.

“We just got hosed,” said Daniel Gray, a member of the Jacksonville Education Foundation.

“They just shut us down,” Gray said. “They don’t want to talk to us ever—not until the district achieves unitary status. Once we’re unitary, there’s no need to even talk to them,” Gray said. “That’s why working diligently and in good faith is important.”

• Cabot Junior High North approached completion. In mid-August teachers were allowed inside the school to begin setting up their rooms for the start of the school year. The new $13.5 million, two-story, 127,282-square-foot building replaces the junior high that burned down in 2006. Three years since the fire, teachers have been holding classes in portable classrooms and in buildings at the high school campus.

• Excessive summer rain forced the new Lighthouse Academy charter school to open Aug. 17 in Second Baptist Church on North James Street instead of its new $4 million facility off North First Street.

• The Jacksonville City Council agreed to chip in $150,000 if the parks department gets a 50/50 state grant to add 16 acres to Dupree Park. The parks department wants to buy and develop the acreage just to the east of the park’s playground.

Once the land is purchased, plans call for the department to move the skate park to that location and expand it for the skateboarders. A nature trail and other improvements including a special-needs ball field are also planned.

• Beebe’s new 91,000-square-foot, $10 million Early Childhood Center was opened in August on South Holly and will house up to 600 students.

Much of the structure, including the cafeteria, indoor play area and library, is set on the concrete slab of a defunct sewing factory.

The facility has art and music rooms, a 3,000-square-foot tornado shelter, a stage in the cafeteria and a smart board in every classroom. It was built with small children in mind, down to the low water fountains and toilets.

The state paid $6.3 million for the new facility, leaving the school district to pay $3.7 million by restructuring bonds instead of raising taxes.

• Pulaski County Special School District board member Bill Vasquez of Jacksonville, calling himself the man of the hour, led the charge Tuesday night against reviving talks with the city on its own district.

By a 4-3 vote, the board opted not to repeal its vote from the last meeting and reopen negotiations on the separation of the proposed Jacksonville school district. “The school buildings in Jacksonville belong to PCSSD. The area belongs to PCSSD, and the decision and ability to separate belongs to PCSSD,” he said.

Vasquez added that there’s also nothing in the law that prevents PCSSD from handling everything on its own.

• Maj. Gen. Kip L. Self, commander of the Air Force Expeditionary Center, Air Mobility Command, at Fort Dix, N.J., was promoted to director of operational planning, policy and strategy, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, at the Pentagon’s Air Force headquarters in Washington. Self served as commander of the 314th Airlift Wing and was installation commander at Little Rock Air Force Base from September 2005 to May 2007.

• Funding problems continued for the 15-year-old Lonoke White Water Project that is supposed to connect communities in the central part of the state to Greer’s Ferry Lake. Project participants were told that Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, which was expected to distribute the federal loan money to pay for much of the project, would not bend the rules to make it happen.

The Lonoke White Public Water Authority, which plans to build the project, can’t borrow money because it has no customers of its own. Only existing systems with existing customers are eligible. And the plan to take on someone else’s customers in name only is not acceptable. The only way the project can get funding is if some of the larger water providers in the group agree to take on the responsibility of borrowing the money.

The $45 million project is for long-term state water planning and not in response to an existing public health problem, a requirement to receive Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) money.

• What two fishermen thought might be a body in Paradise Park lake turned out to be a colony of aquatic animals that is a distant relative to coral and jellyfish.

Jacksonville Police Capt. Charlie Jenkins said the police got a call about a possible body and quickly responded and blocked off the park. “It didn’t take us long to determine it was not a human body, but we didn’t know what it was,” he said.

The police, with help from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, got the “body” out of the water, took pictures and sent them to the Arkansas Game and Fish.

Mark Oliver, a fisheries biologist, verified that the ”body” was a freshwater bryozoan. “They are pretty abundant in Arkansas,” Oliver said, “and are usually found in our big lakes.” The biologist said bryozoans run in size from an inch or so up to many feet in size. “This one was about the size of a basketball,” Oliver said.

• “No kids should go to school in these type of conditions,” said Tim Clark, president of the Pulaski County Special School District Board as he toured Jacksonville Elementary School in August with principal Sonia Whitfield, Mayor Gary Fletcher and Jim Durham, the city’s director of administration. Fletcher had invited the school board president to see for himself how wretched conditions were at the 44-year-old school.

Clark called interim Super-intendent Rob McGill, who had taught at Jacksonville Elementary School, to see the problems for himself: Shower curtains and bed sheets separating classrooms, dangerous electrical outlets and protruding objects sticking out of floors, where youngsters could easily trip. Clark was upset at the appalling conditions at the school. “Is this the worst school in Jacksonville?” he asked.

“The middle school is much worse,” Durham told him.

• Calling the offer the most generous any state has made in ending a desegregation agreement, state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel proposed phasing out the state’s desegregation funding to the tune of $392 million over seven years.

In letters sent to attorneys for Pulaski County Special School District, Little Rock School District and North Little Rock School District, McDaniel wrote that the state currently subsidizes $68.8 million a year as part of the desegregation agreement.

• A Lonoke County jury found an Austin motorcyclist guilty of negligent homicide and second-degree battery in connection with the death of a Cabot man and injury to his wife as the couple walked from a Cabot football game during halftime September 2008.

The jury recommended and imposed the maximum sentence upon Larry Dalhaus, 40.

Dalhaus was sentenced to 10 years for the homicide with a $10,000 fine and three years and $10,000 for the battery. The sentences will run consecutively.

Jeff and Rebecca Marvin, Cabot residents, were among a group of pedestrians in the crosswalk leaving the game when Dalhaus struck them. He was driving east on Hwy. 38 and passed vehicles on the left that had stopped in the northbound lane waiting for pedestrians to cross.


• “We got a lot of good news in the last few days,” Lonoke businessman Bill Ryker said of a second Lonoke I-40 interchange tying Hwy. 89 on the west side of town to the interstate.

“The Federal Highway Administration said they agree with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department on the choice of “Alternative 1” and now its time for the final plans and construction, he said.

Cong. Marion Berry joined Arkansas senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor in getting $5.4 million for engineering, right of way and some construction, Ryker said, but now the project needs about another $4 million to complete.

• For all the salacious detail of what her superior officer told Officer Beverly Hughes he dreamt about her, Hughes’ Sherwood Civil Service Commission appeal of her termination ultimately was not about the sexual harassment to which she was subjected, but about whether or not she refused to answer one particular question during a subsequent polygraph exam. The hearing stretched over several sessions, and in the end, Hughes got her job back, along with a financial settlement.

• Cabot was the first city mentioned as a possible location for a new fairground after the state fair board ran an ad in late June asking for proposals from cities and private landowners. But it was removed from the running soon after city officials expressed interest.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams initially said in June that the economic impact to the area would make relocating the fair to Cabot a worthwhile venture. He had been contacted several weeks earlier about Cabot’s interest in becoming the new home for the state fair and he believed Cabot was interested.

But Williams’ comments were before anyone looked into the prospect further. Karen Davis, the mayor’s operations director, said later that the short answer to whether Cabot would submit a proposal by the Sept. 15 deadline was “no.”

Davis said the city’s interpretation of the request for proposals is that the board is looking for donated land complete with infrastructure. And that would be far too costly for Cabot to even consider.

• The Jacksonville branch of the NAACP sent a letter to Pulaski County Special School District Board President Tim Clark charging racial bias in the disciplining of teachers, among other complaints.

In his letter, R.L. Aaron, chairman of legal redress for the group, charged that Clark “allowed (Teachers’ Union President Marty Nix) to blatantly direct comments toward us as the NAACP without objection,” that President Barack Obama was referred to disrespectfully as “Obama” and that parent Bonnie McDonald was “silenced” when she charged the district with racism and complained that the president’s speech to school children was not mandatory and was aired in only a handful of PCSSD schools.

• In September the F-105 Thunder Chief on display on the south side of the Jacksonville Museum of Military History was dedicated and at the same time museum officials expressed hope that the fighter would be joined by a C-130 in 2010. Warren Dupree, of the museum, said that there is a C-130 at Little Rock Air Force Base with the museum’s name on it if Lockheed-Martin will commit to the funding. “We’ve sent the letters of request to them and should know by next year,” Dupree said.

• Scott Landrum, chief executive officer of North Metro Medical Center, resigned. Family obligations following the death of Landrum’s father necessitated his resignation, hospital officials said. Landrum served as administrator of the hospital since 2007. His resignation was effective immediately.

Hospital board chairman Mike Wilson said that he and the board were pleased with what Landrum accomplished to lessen the hospital’s financial difficulties. “He did what we think is an excellent job, and he leaves with the best wishes from the board.”
Don Cameron, the chief operating officer for Allegiance Health Management, which manages the hospital, has served as CEO until a permanent hire is found.

• Two Jacksonville police officers were honored by the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police as the 2009 Police Officer of the Year. Sgt. Brett Hibbs and officer John Alberson were recognized during the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police 42nd annual convention banquet at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs.

The officers were selected for the award from a group of candidates from other law enforcement agencies around the statE.

Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes nominated Hibbs and Alberson for the award.

He said the officers were nominated for their actions during the five-hour standoff in the Foxwood neighborhood in August 2008.

• The Cabot Medical Clinic changed ownership. The board of directors for North Metro Medical Center, then-owner of the clinic building at 2037 W. Main St., accepted a purchase offer from the physicians group that practices at the Cabot location. The board unanimously voted in favor of accepting $1.44 million for the building.

• Sherwood renamed the old North Hills golf course property “The Greens at North Hills.” The city council unanimously approved a resolution renaming the property, which stated that the “best use of the property for the benefit of our citizens is a golf course,” and that the new name “conveys the beauty of the facility as well as conveys that a special place has been created in the city’s park system for the benefit of all.”

• September 28 was the first day for lottery ticket sales in Arkansas and lottery fever had local players scratching like mad when the state scholarship lottery tickets went on sale.

Many people who won money from the scratch-off tickets turned right around and put their winnings towards the purchase of additional lottery tickets.

TOP STORY >> Local officials tell New Year wishes

Leader staff writer

As the New Year began on Friday, several city leaders, school administrators and elected officials said they have more than personal resolutions for 2010. Many also have goals they want to see accomplished in their communities.

Cabot Animal Shelter manager Jason Ellerbee said his goal by summertime is “having our own spay and neuter facility. A vet would come in and perform surgeries in-house.”

Then adopted cats and dogs could be sterilized before they leave the shelter. The clinic would have to be paid for with donations and not with money budgeted for operating the animal shelter.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said he wants Cabot’s departments to continue serving residents well “(and) understand that city government is here to meet the residents’ needs. Each department will continue finding ways to improve.”

Jacksonville public works director Jimmy Oakley also wants to have efficient city services. “My work goals are to improve and maintain quality service to residents with animal control, sanitation and street improvements,” Oakley said. On a personal level, he wants to improve his health and enjoy family and friends more.

Jacksonville Alderman Kevin McCleary said his resolution is “to totally listen to the citizens of Jacksonville, be the best alderman I can be and make sure that everybody’s voice is heard.”

Austin Police Chief John Staley said he plans improvements for the department by “upgrading equipment and continuing productivity. I want to continue our community-oriented policing philosophy, to let them know we’re here not just to write tickets, we’re here to help.”

His personal resolution is to improve his health.

“It goes along with our 911 fitness competition,” Staley said.

Beebe school superintendent Belinda Shook also wants to be healthy, and take time to exercise and eat right. Shook said her resolution for the district is, “to focus on maximizing student achievement for every student by fully implementing the interventions we have in place.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “I’ve got a lot of wishes … to be better at my job, to learn as much as I can, to be more productive in all that I’ve got started so that the community at the end of the year will be better off, cleaner, safer, more prosperous, by the opportunities created throughout the year.

“I hope that this will be a red-letter year for the city, that we get the school district, the state fair and economic growth and development.”

Sherwood Alderman Keith Rankin said, “Bring our troops home.”

Sherwood Alderman Becki Vassar said, “My main interest is to see The Greens at North Hills opened to a crowd of clientele, and I want to see people use the facility, which is a real expansion to our parks program.”

Sherwood Alder-man Steve Fender said, “I would wish that everyone have a better year in 2010 than in 2009 and that everyone have good health. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman told The Leader she would like to “stay out of trouble.”

Cabot Alderman Tom Armstrong, who is battling brain tumors, said his resolution is to win big with the lottery. Armstrong says he buys a Powerball ticket every week and if he wins, he will use the money to help his children, his church and the American Cancer Society.

Cabot Alderman Patrick Hut-ton says he never makes resolutions, but he is resolved to take care of his health. His hope for the city is that the flooding will be under control in 2010, he said. But what he is looking forward to is the mayoral election, including former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh and Bill Cypert, secretary and spokesman for Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting race,” Hutton said.

Beebe Police Chief Wayne Ballew says he doesn’t think much about resolutions, but there are a few things he would like to change, such as stop smoking and spend more time with family and friends.

Horace Taylor, head of Beebe Animal Control, said he has no New Year’s resolutions, only gratitude for the new animal shelter he will move into in January.

“I’ve been down at the old place for five years, and I don’t know how I stood it,” Taylor said. “It will be so nice to move into a place with heat and air and a warm place for my dogs to stay.”

The city’s new animal shelter cost about $150,000 and was built mostly with city money.

Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions.

“I can’t keep them, so I don’t make them,” Chamberlain said.

But what she wants in 2010 is a school built in Austin. She also wants the traffic light that has been approved for Austin with the federal government paying 80 percent, the state 10 percent and the city 10 percent. She said she also is looking forward to the completion of a $1.2 million water project.

Jacksonville Alderman Bill Howard wants everyone in Jacksonville to have a very prosperous new year. “We’ve got a good city government here and it will do all it can to make 2010 a good year.”

Also being a big Razorback fan, Howard also hopes the basketball team will win some games in 2010.

Alderman Linda Rinker echoed Howard’s thoughts. “I want Jacksonville to have a very good year. I’m excited about our new mayor and the enthusiasm of our council and I’m looking forward to a good 2010.”

Leader staff writers Nancy Docktor and Joan McCoy contributed to this article.

TOP STORY >> Cabot chamber has a great year

From left: Jeremy Holley of Apex Communications, Randall Vaughn of CenturyLink, Chamber of Commerce director Billye Everett, chamber of commerce receptionist Teddi Samples, Sen. Bobby Glover (D-Carlisle), Teresa Durham of All for Pets; Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson and Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman attended Cabot Christmas After Hours recently. The event is hosted by the Cabot Chamber of Commerce.

Despite the downturn in the economy, the Cabot Chamber of Commerce is calling 2009 a successful year.

“We sponsored and held 41 grand openings and five groundbreakings this year and ended the year with 380 members,” chamber director Billye Everett said in her end of year report to members.

“By all accounts, it was a busy and successful year,” Everett said. “We tried hard to educate our citizens on the many reasons they needed to spend their dollars at home. We think it is working.”

In addition to hosting special events and attending events to promote Cabot, the staff at the Cabot Chamber of Commerce fills
its work days with these activities:

It provides community and member information to the public.

It continually creates and designs ads to promote Cabot.

It acts as the front door to the Cabot community.

It creates informational packets with member information to newcomers upon request.

It updates the electronic sign with community and member information.

It acts as a support team for the Advertising and Promotion Commission and as a referral agency for chamber members.

It designs and continually updates “A Guide to Cabot” that includes, dining, lodging and entertainment opportunities.

A monthly breakdown of the year’s highlights includes these activities and accomplishments:

January: four new members, one grand opening and the annual membership banquet with 275 in attendance.

February: 10 new members, farewell dinner for Brig. Gen. Wayne Schatz at Little Rock Air Force Base and the opening ceremonies for the Ladies NCAA Invitational Bowling Tournament held at AllFam Bowling Center, where 100 goody bags containing a map to restaurants were distributed.

March: eight new members, six grand opening, one ground breaking and area Realtors to design a community/real estate information booklet specifically targeted for the new employees of the Caterpillar plant to be located in North Little Rock and the new Hewlett Packard plant to be located in Conway.

April: seven new members, three grand openings, two groundbreakings and two meetings to discuss marketing Cabot.

May: six new members, five grand opening and meeting to discuss promotional ad in Living in Arkansas magazine.

June: three new members, five grand openings and two meetings to discuss promoting Cabot.

July: five new members, five grand openings and the reception for the opening of the railroad overpass.

August: three new members, six grand openings, luncheon for new teachers in the Cabot School District, and dinner for the Highway Commission where retiring state Sen. Bobby Glover (D-Carlisle) was recognized.

September: seven new members, two grand openings, meeting in Lonoke with Gov. Mike Beebe to discuss economic development, meeting with Thoma and Thoma, the firm that was awarded the contract to promote Cabot, and preparation for CabotFest.

October: five new members, two grand openings and meeting with program coordinator of Arkansas Hospitality Association Inc. to discuss Cabot’s participation in the Welcome to Arkansas program and CabotFest.

November: nine new members, three grand openings, planning meetings for Christmas Extravaganza and meeting with Central Arkansas Planning and Development District to discuss economic recovery strategies.

December: four new members, two grand openings, Christmas tree lighting/Christmas Extravaganza, holiday business after hours and information center for Cabot Christmas Parade

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Arkansas gets a nice break

Senator Blanche Lincoln has many things to answer for in the great health-insurance imbroglio of 2009, but one of them is not her failure to bring home the pork for Arkansas. The Republicans seeking her seat and the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, razzed her for voting for insurance reform last week without demanding special benefits for her home state like Senator Ben Nelson did for Nebraska.

Tuesday, the state’s big newspaper joined the chorus. Why, oh why, cried the Arkansas Democrat- Gazette, did she not demand extra cash for some benefit or a special project somewhere in Arkansas as a condition for supporting the bill? The people of Arkansas ought to demand answers from her, the paper’s editorial page said in fake piety.

Put another way, why did Senator Lincoln insist on being principled when a few others practiced the grimiest kind of politics? She can point out that she succeeded in getting more favorable treatment for small businesses, but of course the favor helped businesses in all 50 states, not just Arkansas.

The better answer is that Arkansas didn’t need special treatment. The bill that emerged from the Senate treats Arkansas better than any other state. Senator Lincoln just cannot claim to have been responsible for it.

We don’t know what will finally come out of the conference between the two houses this winter, but the central provisions of both the Senate and House bills are a godsend to Arkansas. No state is apt to have the net cash inflow as Arkansas when the provisions are fully implemented.

Here is why: Arkansans will pay fewer taxes per capita to pay for the health-care overhaul than nearly every other state, and Arkansans will qualify for more and larger government subsidies for private health insurance and a higher percentage of low-income adults in Arkansas will qualify for Medicaid, the government insurance program, than any other state. The rest of the country, especially rich states like New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin, will be subsidizing Arkansas with their tax dollars.

This requires some explanation. If the Senate version prevails, the principal source of income for the benefit programs will be an increase of 0.9 percent in the Medicare payroll tax for single taxpayers earning more than $200,000 a year and couples earning more than $250,000. Very few Arkansans will be paying that little tax although to hear the TV ads and Republican broadsides, everyone in Arkansas will be paying through the nose.

Up to certain income levels, individuals and small businesses that buy private insurance through the new government exchange will qualify under both bills for some government help. Since Arkansas has a much higher quotient of people under the income thresholds, more people will qualify for the assistance and for larger sums than nearly every state.

But the biggest bonanza is Medicaid. The Senate bill would extend Medicaid insurance to adults up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line and the House bill up to 150 percent. Only Alabama comes even close to realizing the enormous benefit that Arkansas will see from the Medicaid expansion.

Every state provides some Medicaid coverage to poor parents of children in the Medicaid program, but Arkansas provides it to fewer. Only parents up to 17 percent of the poverty line and no childless adults qualify for Medicaid in Arkansas. Other states already provide insurance for adults earning from 24 percent of poverty (Alabama) to 200 percent of poverty or more (Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin, New Jersey, the District of Columbia).

Since other states already do what the bill would do or come close and pay up to half the costs themselves, the Medicaid expansion will bring little new cash into the states.

By week’s end, states like California, Wisconsin and New Jersey were complaining that they were not happy sending their tax dollars to states like Arkansas that had done so little for the poor themselves.

Well, we were just too poor to do it ourselves, or thought we were. Besides, Arkansas put its limited resources into insuring medical care for children and the elderly. We didn’t have anything left for the working poor or we had higher priorities.

Whatever passes this winter — and something assuredly will — in three or four years lots of cash will be sloshing through the medical institutions in this state and that will help us all, from the neediest to the richest.

Senator Lincoln, Senator Pryor and the two Democratic congressmen who have joined the cause cannot claim personal credit, but they need to offer no apologies either.

TOP STORY >> Flooded resident demands answers

Beebe Windwood resident Anita Seymore holds the flood certificate to her home showing the house was not in a flood zone and flood insurance wasn’t needed.

Leader staff writer

While Beebe residents were unwrapping Christmas presents, many people in the Windwood subdivision were ripping out carpets and base boards while trying to salvage furniture from the swampy floodwater.

By Monday, mounds of soggy carpet and recliners were piled by the driveways of homes on Tori Lane and Birchwood Drive. Dumpsters were brought in for residents to throw away debris and water-logged home furnishings.

Arnold Felbermayer lives at 1039 Tori Lane with his wife, Shelly, and son, Drew.

“We got really, really close, within an inch of water coming into the house around Thanksgiving. This time I had five inches of water. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. It could have been a lot worse. It did not go over the electrical outlets,” Felbermayer said.

His son Drew said, “Every six or seven seconds there was a thud at the front door. It was the water knocking.”

Felbermayer said Tamara Jenkins of the Office of Emergency Management of White County came by his home on Sunday. The Red Cross asked if they needed food, clothing or immediate shelter.

He said, “I give kudos to the city. They did all they could to help. They informed us what to do and who to call.

“Everybody in the neighborhood needs to push the city government to work with the railroad and solve the (flooding) problem,” he said.

“It’s a matter of how long people are going to put up with it. Personally, I don’t want to move. I love my house, this place and Beebe a lot.”

Felbermayer moved to Beebe from North Little Rock four years ago. He said the move was great for his family.

“If it happens again, we will move, probably out of town,” he said.

Felbermayer did not have flood insurance. The family didn’t know when they bought their house in 2005 that the area was in a flood plain.

Anita Seymore of 1011 Tori Lane was standing outside talking with her husband and neighbor Shane Smith on Monday.

“We feel someone should be held accountable for selling us these houses under false pretenses,” she said.

Some residents were required to have flood insurance when they bought their houses, while other neighbors were told they were not in the flood zone.

“I have my flood certificate showing ‘property is not in special flood area.’

“I feel basically ripped off, because when we bought in ‘05 we were lied to,” Seymore said.

“We do not have heat because the (HVAC) unit was underwater,” she said. “Now we’re having to use space heaters which is especially dangerous with two kids.”

Shane Smith, the homeowner at 1009 Tori Lane, said, “There are a lot of things to worry about, but you should not have to worry about a flood, especially on Christmas.

“My then-wife and I bought the house in 2000. The area wasn’t developed like it is now. A lot of these houses were built in the last five years,” Smith said.

He said there’s always been a question whether it was in a flood zone or not.

“On the paperwork there was a question, ‘Is this property in a flood zone? The box was marked no,” Smith said.

“We refinanced in ’06 with Arkansas Federal Credit Union. They required us to carry flood insurance, because they told us we’re indeed in a flood zone. Thankfully, I got it. I am waiting for the adjuster.”

On Christmas Eve, the floodwater was up to 10 inches in his house and 16 inches in the garage. Around 10:30 p.m. he started unplugging appliances. By 11 p.m. the Beebe Fire Department came and rescued him. Emergency crews brought a row boat right up to the garage door. He left with a small suitcase and a few personal items, with his cat in a pet carrier and his dog in his arms.

“They were unhappy, but at that point I was getting them out of there,” he said.
Smith is staying with his parents during the cleanup process.

He said the flood brought his neighbors closer together. They talk with each other about who should be at the homes and what their vehicles look like. The Beebe Police Department was patrolling the neighborhood this week. Smith said they had a lot of “passers-by.”

“This has been a humbling experience,” Smith said.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TOP STORY >> NLR gift balances Sherwood budget

Leader staff writer

A text message from one city hall to another conveyed the news that North Little Rock would be giving Sherwood a gift of $470,000 in electric utility revenues. Both councils met Monday night, and word of the gift came as the Sherwood meeting was coming to a close. It was all the council needed to act on the one remaining item on the agenda, the proposed 2010 general-fund budget.

The $18.36 million budget – 4.4 percent less than the amount approved for 2009 – passed unanimously to a smattering of applause.

“This is the first general fund budget in several years that no reserve funds were committed,” said Mayor Virginia Hillman after the vote. “Thank you, North Little Rock.”

North Little Rock Mayor PatHays proposed the transfer of North Little Rock Electric revenue funds to Sherwood as part of his 2010 budget. The amount equals 10 percent of the $4.7 million in additional electric utility revenues North Little Rock will use this coming year to meet expenses. Hays reasoned that since 13 percent of the utility’s customers live in Sherwood, then Sherwood also ought to get a share of the revenues to help out in this tough economic time. The North Little Rock City Council went along with his idea.

Also approved were the 2010 budgets for the street fund ($1.59 million), wastewater utility ($1.28 million), police drug fund ($10,023) and the advertising and promotions commission ($576,000).

The council voted unanimously to create five new positions to staff the city-owned golf course, The Greens at North Hills. The positions and salaries are as follows: full-time golf pro ($36,667), full-time park maintenance generalist ($24,750), full-time park maintenance worker ($18,920), full-time pro shop cashier ($18,920) and part-time park maintenance worker ($9,975).

Funding will begin in February and is included in the 2010 city budget. Salaries, taxes and benefits for the new positions will cost $147,948.

During budget discussions in the fall, Mayor Hillman and the city budget committee agreed that a hiring freeze was necessary to balance next year’s budget. When asked about that this week, Hillman said, “The thing about it is, when it (the golf course) opens in the spring, it is going to have to be staffed correctly. I acknowledge that we are going to have to have new people, but it couldn’t come at a worse time.”

About the new positions, Alder-man Becki Vassar, who is also chair of the city’s personnel committee, said, “We should have done this months ago, back in the spring,” when other positions for the golf course were approved, “but we failed to see the need at the time.”

What may be the first of several annual wastewater rate increases was approved unanimously by the council. The new rate, applicable to all residential, commercial and industrial customers, will be $3 per 100 cubic feet. The minimum charge will be $12. Bills will be based on a customer’s winter water-usage average. Currently, the rate is $1.69 per 100 cubic feet.

When the new rate goes into effect Jan. 1, it will be the first increase since 1996. For the last several years, the utility has dipped into reserves to pay for operations and maintenance.

City engineer Ellen Norvell has warned city managers that big-dollar sewer system improvements in the next few years will draw down reserves. The city must begin implementing a plan to replenish those funds so that the money will be there when future repairs are needed.

The increase will only put the utility “at break even,” Alderman Charles Harmon pointed out. “It will take additional increases to begin to replenish the reserve fund.”

About the need for the rate increase, Alderman Kevin Lilly, who serves on the city’s sewer committee, said, “We can’t continue to operate the system at a deficit. A rate increase is our only option.”

“Prior to this, we were at about the 13th percentile – one of the lowest in the state,” Hillman said regarding the increase.

The new ordinance also includes provisions to penalize industrial customers for discharges that exceed legal limits for biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, pH range, fats, oils and greases, cadmium, chromium, copper, cyanide, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, zinc, arsenic, selenium, boron and molybdenum.

The charges shall be based on sample test results of the utility and apply to non-residential customers whose daily discharges equal or exceed 25,000 gallons of wastewater or may contain restricted toxins or pollutants.

Other council business included refinements of several ordinances to better conform to current practices or improve enforcement. Revisions to an existing ordinance regulating pawnshops will help the police track stolen goods received by pawnshops and other lenders.

“It is just to tweak it so we can enforce it better in a timely manner,” said Police Chief Kelvin Nicholson.

The ordinance applies to about seven Sherwood businesses. They will be required to update electronic records on received property every five days, reducing the number of “skipped numbers and lost tickets,” Nicholson said.

Changes to the ordinance regarding residency requirements for the advertising and promotions commission now formalize what is already allowed – that one not need to be a Sherwood resident. The ordinance requires that to serve on the commission, a person must be a member of the tourism industry and reside in Pulaski County.

The council passed resolutions to reappoint restaurant owner Danny Gilliland to the advertising and promotions commission and to appoint Joffrey Clark, who works for Regions Insurance Group, to the city’s retirement board. Hillman is stepping down from the board to make room for Clark.

“Now two people with financial expertise” are on the board, Hillman said, which is what is needed for the body to tackle some tough issues in the coming year.

The council approved a resolution enabling the city to go forward with an application to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism for a grant of up to $100,000. The money could be used at The Greens at North Little Rock for youth golf programs as well as maintenance or improvements.

“I feel we will be successful in getting at least a portion of the grant,” Hillman said.

In order to meet federal requirements, the council passed four ordinances that will make it possible for Gallery Support Innovations, a Sherwood firm, to qualify for a grant from the Arkansas Community and Economic Development Program. The $50,000 grant will pay for software and is expected to add 10 new jobs at the firm which produces interior hardware for corporate and commercial aircraft.

TOP STORY >> Looking back at April, May, June


These snippets are from some of the major news stories that appeared in The Leader between April and June. This is the second of a four-part series, which looks back at the news of 2009.


• None of the Defense Department’s $7.4 billion share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was slated for military construction at Little Rock Air Force Base, but the base was in line for $12.7 million worth of facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization projects.

About $8.8 million of that is earmarked for repairing and maintaining the airfield apron, $856,000 to repair Hangar 224, $1,6 million to repair or install two anti-terrorism vehicle barriers, $604,000 to repair 6th Street/Arnold Drive, $431,000 to repair fire detection system in Building 1020 and install or repair a sprinkler system for that building and $409,000 to repair the fire detection system and install or repair the sprinkler in Building 1024.

• Bill Halter, the Arkansas lieutenant governor who stepped out of the traditional role of his office to push through a state lottery to fund college scholarships, told Beebe residents in April why he made the effort. “It’s not at all about having a lottery,” Halter said. “It’s always been about funding scholarships. The lottery is merely a funding mechanism.”

Halter spoke during a breakfast organized by the Beebe Economic Development Commission, saying there is a correlation between economic development and education.

• A freeway frontage road connecting Cabot to Austin was completed in April.

The new road connects Willie Ray Drive in Cabot to Earnie Davis Road in Austin.

The estimated cost to the mile long connection between Cabot and Austin is about $600,000, all of it paid by the county. The new road was expected to ease congestion at the Hwy. 89 interchange in Cabot because residents in the Briarwood area can get on the freeway at Austin.

• A north Pulaski County volunteer firefighter was jailed after he confessed to setting two fires to area churches.

Merl White of Cabot, 25, was charged with two counts of arson. He confessed to setting fire to North Jacksonville Missionary Baptist Church, as well as setting another fire at an abandoned church on Cleland Road.

• A suspect was charged in the first murder in Beebe in more than 17 years.

Jeffery Likes, 39, was charged with one count of capital murder in the death of his mother, Nancy Wiggs, 59. The mother and son lived together at 401 Lee Lane in the Fetcher addition.

Likes was arrested in Missouri by members of the Kansas City Police Department’s fugitive division, then brought back to Arkansas.

• After seven years on the school desegregation case, U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson told lawyers for the central Arkansas school districts that he was recusing from further involvement. Both the North Little Rock School District and the Pulaski County Special School District had petitioned Wilson for unitary status, but the judge refused to begin hearing those motions until the appeals court ruled on the Little Rock case.

District Judge Brian Miller was assigned the case.

• The Jacksonville Towers apartment complex, rising high into the city’s skyline, held its 30th anniversary as residents and city officials gathered to celebrate the occasion. “This building is a marker for our community. It is one of the best-kept and maintained senior housing facilities in the county. It is a standing memorial to those who had it built,” then-Mayor Tommy Swaim said.

• Senior Airman Sharilyn Cotton Lopez, 28, sidestepped prison time by pleading guilty to permitting the abuse that resulted in the death of her 2-year-old son, Jaden, in 2007.

She faced up to 20 years in prison for permitting child abuse, a Class B felony. Instead, she received five-years probation.

Her husband, Ausensio Lopez, was the child’s caretaker, while Lopez worked full time at the air base.

• Little Rock Air Force Base Military Health Services sent an appeal letter to the city asking that something be worked out to keep physicians at the Jacksonville Medical Clinic. Many of the doctors were looking at leaving after rents were doubled.

• Gov. Mike Beebe drew a near-record crowd as featured speaker at the 35th annual Ward Chamber of Commerce banquet and then showed that he can be a good sport when he played along with Mayor Art Brooke’s pretense of taking a phone call from President Obama during the governor’s introduction.

• The Jacksonville Water Commission unanimously approved a series of rate increases that will affect all ratepayers over the next four years. The first 13 percent increase went into effect immediately after council approval. Proposed for 2010 is another 13 percent hike, followed by another 13 percent increase in 2011 and an 8 percent increase in 2012.

• A lawsuit was filed by a Sherwood developer who was upset that the planned North Belt Freeway would split his property in half. The suit could delay or even kill the project.

Attorney Hal Kemp has filed suit on behalf of Steve Deere and the Sherwood Land Company after the planning commission turned down Deere’s plans for the 586-acre Oakdale North Addition, which includes 573 single-family homes, 156 townhouses and 312 apartment units.

• Sherwood City Council voted to settle a lawsuit with a former ambulance service, AET, for $350,000. “I don’t think any of us wanted to do it. I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t see any other option,” said Alderman Sheila Sulcer after the council voted to settle.

The city’s insurance company, which had already paid out $125,000 in attorney’s fees to fight the suit, paid $125,000 toward the settlement, leaving the city with an expense of $225,000.

• George Biggs, longtime Jacksonville Parks and Recreation director, resigned after city officials learned that he was a convicted felon, and over the last year and a half, had carried on an extramarital affair during work hours.

This all happened after Biggs, who is married, pushed down his girlfriend in the community center parking lot.

On June 21, 1991, a jury found Biggs guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the shooting death of a man he believed was romantically involved with his wife, from whom he was separated. Biggs was 29. He was sentenced to five years in the Texas Department of Correction and fined $10,000. He served less than six months in prison and completed the remainder of his sentence on parole.

• Members of the Reed’s Bridge Historical Society asked the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission for financial help to buy two replica cannons for the battlefield park. The group would eventually like to see 20 cannons placed up and down Hwy. 161 and in the 400-plus acres marked as the site of Reed’s Bridge battlefield.

• Arkansas schools will be receiving up to $569.9 million over the next six months as part of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and about $18 million of that will filter down to local school districts.

Pulaski County Special School District is slated to get about $12.4 million, Cabot will see $2.19 million, Searcy will get about $2 million, Beebe will get $1.3 million and Lonoke is to receive $1.03 million.

The districts will get about 65 percent of the funding this spring and summer and the remaining part will be doled out in the fall.

• The Cabot School Board approved the purchase of the former Funtastik building, which will house the Alternative Learning Environment (ALE) and Academic Center of Excellence (ACE), the district’s charter school.

For $1.285 million, the district is paying about $64.89 per square foot for the 19,800-square-foot building – a price that “we never thought we could get and will allow us to put both under one roof,” said district Superintendent Tony Thurman.

Jacksonville’s Lighthouse Charter Academy students were selected by a lottery in April by Laura Peeples, left, and board president Keri Urquhart.

• Approximately 250 people attended the first Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School lottery at the community center.

The lottery determined who got into the new school this fall.

There were 344 spots available. A lottery will most likely be held next year to fill the kindergarten spots.

• Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman spent a Saturday in April chained in public. Not as a form of punishment by the city council, but as an awareness and fundraiser ploy sponsored by the city’s animal services.

Hillman, along with two animal services employees, two police officers, members of the Mayor’s Youth Council and others were chained to dog houses, trees and spikes in front of the municipal center on Kiehl Avenue to remind residents that chaining of animals is cruel, dangerous and illegal in the city.

• The largest landfill in the state was set to grow even larger. The owner of Jacksonville’s landfill has begun developing a 144-acre expansion site adjacent to its 25-year-old dump, which still has room left to dump more trash.

The mound that drivers see as they enter Jacksonville is not yet at capacity.

“It’s not filled to final grade,” David Conrad, an engineer for the Two Pine landfill, said. There are about 100,000 yards of dumping room left, which he estimated to be equivalent to two months of use. But the company needed to be ready for when capacity was reached.

• Heavy rain caused flooding problems in parts of White and Lonoke counties. Several homes in Cabot were flooded, damaging garages and carpeting.

“About half the county was flooded,” Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman said.

• More than 150 people crowded into the chamber council to hear representatives from ETC Engineering explain their plan for Sherwood’s 16 city parks.

Even though the audience made suggestions to improve many of the park plans and ideas, the vast majority were there to hear about park number 16, the 206-acre North Hills Golf Course property, which the engineering group said the best use of the land was to become a golf course again.


• Cabot developer and real estate agent Bill O’Brien was roasted and toasted at the Cabot Scholarship Foundation’s 14th annual fundraiser.

This year the scholarship foundation gave out 38 scholarships, totaling $37,350, to Cabot High School seniors and those students were recognized and applauded at the banquet, which was held at the school’s cafeteria.

• “Hee Haw” star Lulu Roman performed a little bit country, a lot of comedy and a lot of Christian music and devotion at Cabot High School.

Roman, along with her manager Terry Dorsey, local sensation Kirby Shelby, and Cabot’s very own Hallelujah Harmony Quartet, put on a laidback 90-minute quality family show.

• Planning and preparation for the four-laning of Brockington Road in Sherwood between Kiehl and Maryland avenues is about 90 percent competed and the state Highway and Transportation Department expects to pay for it largely from stimulus funds, Sherwood officials were told in May.

The Brockington Road job is one of four stimulus plan projects and two alternates that could be launched for bid by the end of this calendar year.

The widening of Brockington Road will receive $4.6 million in stimulus money with another $1.2 million due from the city.

• More than 16 months after it went into operation, the new sewer-treatment plant in Cabot was dedicated in May.

When all the work was completed, including the $13.8 million for building the plant and the $1.4 million for removing the old plant, paving, landscaping and fencing, the project cost $15.2 million. City voters are paying for the plant with a one-cent sales tax.

• The Lonoke City Council agreed to a land swap that would allow Lonoke County to build a new jail in the industrial park north of I-40. Construction on that jail, which could be large enough to hold 140 prisoners, could begin in about six months, according to County Judge Charlie Troutman.

• Arkansas Reclamation Company that has been dumping natural gas waste at the Jacksonville landfill was cited for several violations by the state’s environmental agency, including failure to report oil spills and inadequate preparation for them.

Concerns of soil contamination at the plant were also raised.

The Beebe company treated waste generated from natural gas drilling. The company entered into a settlement agreement with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

• Lonoke County officials applied for disaster-area status with the state. Roads in Lonoke County and Cabot had been damaged by heavy May rains and officials hoped to meet the damage threshold of about $106,000 that will secure the state disaster-area status.

• A Jacksonville death-row inmate, who went on a crime spree in the late 1980s and early 1990s, killing at least one woman and raping two others and is suspected of killing two other women, lost an appeal before the state’s highest court.

The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Ledell Lee, 43, who was sentenced to die for the Feb. 9, 1993, beating and strangling death of Debra Reese, 26, who lived in the Sunnyside Addition, where Lee had attacked several other women.

• Lt. Col. Ronald McDaniel, 189th Maintenance Group commander, reached a milestone for both himself, the 189th Airlift Wing and the Arkansas Air National Guard in May. McDaniel was promoted to colonel and became the first African American to pin on colonel’s eagles in the 189th Airlift Wing and the second African American in the Arkansas Air National Guard.

• Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, commander of Air Mobility Command, delivered the 13th of 16 C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base. The aircraft was assigned to the 41st Airlift Squadron, the first active-duty combat C-130J squadron in the U.S. Air Force.

• After the votes were counted in the May 12 mayoral race, two candidates – Aldermen Gary Fletcher and Kenny Elliott – were left standing and faced each other in a June 2 runoff.

• Wheel of Fortune featured Cabot resident and puzzle-solving extraordinaire Allison Osterberg. Although Osterberg’s winnings were modest, she said it was thrilling to appear on the show. Osterberg works as a paralegal and is a longtime member of Cabot Junior Auxiliary.

• At the Pulaski County Special School District, besieged with substandard buildings and only recently dismissed from state fiscal-distress oversight, a trusted employee was charged with embezzling $100,000 or more over the past decade.

On May 15, Saline County sheriff’s deputies arrested James Diemer, 48, the district’s maintenance supervisor, and charged him with theft by receiving.

Diemer told investigators that he used PCSSD open-purchase orders to buy things he would sell or trade for Hydrocodone or Oxycontin, to which he said he was addicted.

• The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce presented Kris Allen with a key to the city on May 7, when he returned to the state for his hometown celebration.

During an appearance at Riverfest Amphitheater the next day, Allen seemed overwhelmed by the number of fans that turned out. “I feel like I have the best fans in the world,” he told the crowd. Two weeks later he was declared the American Idol winner.

• Eight Cabot schools were recognized for implementing changes to their technology programs when compared to other schools nationally. The Washington-based research project, Speak Up, surveyed students, parents, teachers and administrators to find out how schools can improve especially in the area of technology.

Out of the 200 chosen, Cabot Middle School South, Eastside Elementary School, Magness Creek Elementary, Northside Elementary School, Southside Elementary School, Stagecoach Elementary, Ward Central Elementary and Westside Elementary School were recognized. They were the only schools in Arkansas to be named Speak Up Top 200 schools.

• About 13 inches of rain hit central Arkansas in May, making it the third-wettest May since record keeping started in the state back in 1879.

Most of the rain came during five major storms. The first hit May 1-3, then May 5-6, May 8-11, May 12-16 and May 23-25.

• “I think we now have a golf course,” said Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman after the city council voted in late May to spend $300,000 from the general fund to start reconstructing the 105-acre North Hills Golf Course.

The council also approved spending another $104,000 to hire a golf course superintendent, a full-time general laborer and two part-time golf course laborers.


• A Jacksonville man was one of three arrested by the state police in connection with the escape of two convicted killers from the Arkansas Department of Correction’s Cummins Unit at Grady.

Michael Stephenson, 50, was arrested, along with Deanna Davison and Ryan McKinney, both of North Little Rock. All three were charged with a felony count of furnishing an implement of escape for leaving a 2003 Hyundai Sonata in the prison parking lot for the escapees to use in their getaway.

The two escapees were Jeffery Grinder, 32, and Calvin Adams, 39.

Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson pinned down an alligator near Ward in June to prevent it from hurting area residents. The alligator was relocated to a safer location by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

• What do you do when you see an alligator about to cross the road?

Faced with that question one evening in June, Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson, a former rodeo performer, lassoed the animal and jumped on its back like it was one of the bucking broncs or bulls he rode in his younger days.

Then while the sheriff held the gator’s mouth, one of the 20 or so motorists who had stopped to watch the unusual sight taped it closed.

Officials with the Game and Fish Commission relocated the five-foot female alligator.

Army Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, second from left, sits with his family in June after he came home from the hospital, where he received treatment after being shot three times at an Army recruitment center in Little Rock. His buddy, Pvt. William Long, 23, of Conway, did not survive the surprise attack.

• Army Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula survived being shot three times by a homegrown terrorist. His buddy, Pvt. William Long, 23, of Conway, was not so lucky.

Ezeagwula, 18, a Jacksonville graduate and former Red Devils football player, survived by playing dead after he was shot. He spent three days in the hospital and still has shrapnel in his body.

Ezeagwula and Long were standing outside the recruiting station in Ashley Square Shopping Center near Rodney Parham Road when a dark pickup approached them as they took a smoke break.

The driver, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 24, aka Carlos Leon Bledsoe, reached for a cheap Chinese semiautomatic rifle and started firing.

• Alderman Gary Fletcher defeated Alderman Kenny Elliott by 225 votes in their June 2 runoff to replace retiring Mayor Tommy Swaim on July 1.

• Jacksonville City Council agreed to spend a portion of the $1 million it had earmarked for Gravel Ridge improvement if that neighboring community had agreed to be annexed by Jacksonville instead of Sherwood.

Aldermen agreed to spend about $350,000 of that money on three road-related projects to make them “shovel ready” in case federal stimulus money becomes available. The allocation was as follows: $195,335 for the engineering study needed to get the Oneida bridge project ready to go, $53,000 for the Emma Street extension engineering study and $96,000 to get the West Main Street project ready to go.

• By early June, Arkansas had joined the list of states with confirmed H1N1 flu (swine flu) cases. As of June 5, there were nine confirmed and probable cases of swine flu in Arkansas, two of which were reported to be in Pulaski County. The highest number of cases was in Wisconsin (2,217) and the highest number of deaths in New York (8). There were 27 reported deaths nationwide by June 5.

• Six drug dealers in Beebe were arrested after the 58 pounds of marijuana they were expecting to receive was seized in a Conway raid.

White County sheriff’s detectives received a tip from the Conway Police Department that it would be delivered to three different addresses in Beebe. Beebe and Searcy police helped in the drug bust.

• A Jacksonville teenager is going to prison for up to 53 years after accepting a plea bargain in Faulkner County Circuit Court.

Kendrick Price, 18, pleaded guilty to taking part in a 2008 carjacking and abduction of a woman outside the Walmart Supercenter in Conway.

• Work started in June on a new animal shelter in Ward. It was slated to be finished by the fall.

Pinnacle Structures donated the new building. It is 1,200 square feet with 600 feet of shaded overhang.

The new shelter will be located off Hwy. 367 near the baseball fields on city-owned property.