Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TOP STORY > >Trophies, milestones and PCSSD problems

This is the second of a five-part series looking back at 2010. The first four parts will take a quarterly trip through the year, followed by The Leader’s top 10 stories of the year.

Elections and more elections, stormy weather, as well as good news for Little Rock Air Force Base and not so good news for the Pulaski County Special School District dominated the second quarter of the year.

Here is a month-by-month look at April through June 2010.


Jacksonville’s and central Arkan-sas’ support of Little Rock Air Force Base has been no secret throughout the Air Force, and in its first year of eligibility, the city and surrounding area were awarded the Abilene Trophy for best civic community support in the Air Mobility Command.

The Abilene Trophy, established in 1998 by the Military Relations Committee of the Abilene, Texas, chamber of commerce, is awarded annually to the most supportive community in Air Mobility Command.

“It is with great pride and enthusiasm that I have the privilege of announcing that you won this year’s Abilene Trophy—the best community in all of AMC!” base commander Col. Greg Otey wrote in an e-mail to community-council members.

It took a decade of dreaming, a year of work and $50,000 but Jacksonville got a new updated website in April.

The Web address is www.cityofjacksonville.net.

“What I love about this website is it is interactive,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said. Citizens can correspond with city officials. If they’ve got a pothole or a barking dog in the middle of the night they can communicate directly.”

Country-music icon Lee Greenwood, who wrote and sings “God Bless the USA” and has made more than 20 albums over 30 years, visited Cabot in April and performed a short concert in support of Princella Smith, a Republican candidate for the congressional seat held by retiring Democrat Marion Berry.

Smith lost in the primary to Rick Crawford who eventually won the congressional seat.

A Jacksonville High School teacher who filed a citizen’s complaint with the prosecuting attorney’s office on a ninth-grade student was suspended with pay.

Darrell W. Brown, 33, of Sherwood, filed a police report and a complaint with the prosecutor after he felt the school’s assistant principal did nothing to sufficiently support him.

In the complaint, Brown said the student, a female, became agitated, cursed Brown and told him to get out of her face or she would “whip my ***.”

The complaint also said the student continued to be hostile and that he felt threatened by her. He said the assistant principal “refused to do anything.”

Eventually Brown resigned from teaching and joined the Jim Holt campaign. Holt was running for lieutenant governor.

Officials broke ground for the new $33 million Sylvan Hills Middle School at 10001 Johnson Ave., off Hwy. 107, near the Kiehl Avenue intersection.

The 189,975-square-foot school will replace the current
Sylvan Hills Middle School, which is almost 50 years old.

A state assessment of public-school facilities identified it as PCSSD’s most dilapidated middle school.

It will open in the fall next year and will serve up to 1,200 sixth- through eighth-graders.

About 30 members of Little Rock Air Force Base’s 50th Airlift Squadron left in April for their deployment to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, to fly C-130 combat airlift missions supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

North Pulaski High School students rallied together in April to ask the Pulaski County Special School District and the school board to reconsider its decision not to renew literature teacher Elizabeth Lanius’ contract to teach for the 2010-2011 school year.

Students circulated a petition and gathered signatures, which were presented at the North Pulaski Parent Teacher Student Association board meeting.

Enrollment at North Pulaski High School had dropped, which means fewer teachers were needed.

According to assistant principal Chris Jones, Lanius was being let go because she had the least amount of seniority.

The students’ efforts failed, Lanius’ contract was not renewed.

Census workers started knocking on doors in area cities asking people if they had returned their forms. Arkansas fared worse than the national average when it came to mailing in the census forms.

Nationally, through April, 64 percent of people returned the forms. This compared to 72 percent in 2000. The Arkansas average was at 61 percent compared to 68 percent in 2000.

Among the local counties, Lonoke had the best rate of return, while Pulaski has the worst.

In hopes of hiring a new superintendent before the contract of the interim chief ran out June 30, the PCSSD school board voted to reconsider Charles Hopson, an Arkansas native with Jacksonville roots, who was among four finalists for the post.

“He is an outstanding candidate. I had nothing but kudos for him,” school board member Bill Vasquez of Jacksonville said about Hopson when the board interviewed him several months ago.

Hopson was later hired by the board to be the district’s superintendent.

In the continuing battle between the district and the teacher’s union, The Pulaski Association of Classroom Teach-ers was reinstated as the bargaining agent for teachers in the Pulaski County Special School District, based on a ruling from Circuit Judge Timothy D. Fox.

Fox ruled that the board had the authority to terminate the union’s standing as bargaining agent, but did not follow the state law.

Fox declared the board’s decision “null and void.”

Research completed by a Little Rock marketing firm hired by the Cabot Advertising and Promotion Commission showed that Cabot was a great place to live because of the school system, but it was lacking in the areas of shopping, dining and recreation.

“As expected, our school system and the family-friendly personality of our community received very high marks,” said Bob Seibert, president of Cabot’s Advertising and Promotions Committee.

The return of The Memphis Flea Market to central Arkansas after a five-year absence was a tremendous success, according to Sandy Hembree, the market’s general manager.

The two-day monthly flea market drew 12,000 people to its new location in the old Walmart building, 612 J.P. Wright Loop Road, in Jacksonville.

Austin was the safest place in the local area to live, reporting no violent crimes in the annual FBI crime report.

Jacksonville, on the other hand, had the most violent crimes in sheer numbers and per capita.

The 2010 FBI report covered crimes that occurred in 2008.

Jacksonville had 286 violent crimes, including four murders in 2008. It had none in 2009, but the FBI is still compiling information from that year. The only other city in the area to have a murder in 2008 was Ward.

Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

The commission that runs Cabot WaterWorks approved the purchase of the last 7 million gallons-a-day water allocation available in Lake DeGray to ensure that Cabot has water for its residents into the next century.

Lake DeGray had a total allocation of 152 million gallons a day, most of which is held by Central Arkansas Water.

Cabot WaterWorks will be able to store water in the lake for a price of $455,000 and an annual maintenance fee of $4,000.

“This is not an agreement to buy water. You’re buying a jug to hold water,” said Tad Bohannon, the commission’s attorney.

It was a homecoming for Charles L. Hopson when he was named PCSSD superintendent. The Arkansas native started his career with the district and was a deputy superintendent for Portland, Ore., schools.

Hopson said immediately after the board vote, “I am deeply honored and humbled to be elected superintendent of a district where I started my teaching career. The vote in solidarity symbolizes that the time is now for the district to move forward in reconciliation and healing for the needs of the students.”

He said he is “in it for the long haul.”

A Lonoke County jury awarded Randall Snider and 15 other area rice farmers nearly $50 million in actual and punitive damages.

It took the jury just two hours and five minutes to find that Bayer CropScience was negligent in safeguarding the rice crop from its experiments with genetically modified rice in and around 2000.

Some of the rice crop in Arkansas and elsewhere was contaminated by the unapproved, experimental genetically modified rice strain. It was just a trace of contamination–.06 percent–but it was sufficient to crash the market for Arkansas’ long-grain rice.

The defendant, Bayer CropScience, said it would appeal the ruling.

A foul smell emanating from Sherwood’s north wastewater treatment facility one weekend in April was so intense that some residents were threatening to file a class-action suit or move away. Utility managers blamed a hot spell and northerly wind for the stench that for several days kept folks inside with the windows down.

Cabot High School television broadcasting and video production teacher Chuck Massey was on the hot seat during the 15th annual Cabot Scholarship Foundation roast and toast banquet at the Junior High North Cafeteria.

The foundation’s dinner honored 51 Cabot High School seniors who received scholarships totaling $51,000.

Pulaski County Special School District’s new superintendent, Charles Hopson, said he intended to make Jacksonville schools a priority of his administration.

“The Jacksonville area is a high priority for me,” Hopson said.

Conditions “that threaten the safety and health of students” not only are a barrier to learning, but are tantamount to a “civil-rights violation,” Hopson said.


The 19th Airlift Wing received an “excellent” grade in its unit-compliance inspection from the Air Mobility Command inspector general team.

The wing earned six best practices and 32 team and 48 individual awards during he inspection.

More than 80 inspectors looked at programs and processes across the base to ensure day-to-day compliance with executive orders, Department of Defense directives, and Air Force and major command instructions.

Col. Greg Otey, then 19th AW commander, said the hard work and preparation of every team member had a tremendous impact on the excellent rating.

“I could not be prouder. Thank you… those are the most powerful words we have, and I don’t say it enough. Thank you for who you are, for what you do and for your families because they work with us too,” he said.

Following “a tussle” at a political function, Lonoke police arrested Alderman Pat Howell for disorderly conduct, public intoxication and resisting arrest.

“They had to physically tussle with him and had to pepper spray him,” before taking him into custody and putting him in a holding cell until releasing him, the police chief said.

“We told him he needed to leave or be arrested, and he said ‘arrest me,’” Wilson said.

“I lost my temper,” said Howell at the time, “but I was not drunk.

“I wish that whole situation had ended up differently. I regret that it happened.”

The Jacksonville Farmers Market opened under the newly constructed pavilion located next door to the Jacksonville Community Center.

The 2,000-square-foot, open-air pavilion made of brick and steel cost the city $186,000.

Using data provided by PCSSD and with assistance from local real estate broker, Dan Gray, students in Tracie Rushing’s Advanced Placement Government class, found that schools in Jacksonville received only about 2 percent ($3.26 million) of $181.4 million allocated for new school construction and renovations from 2000 through 2011.

Storms hit the area in early May including a tornado whose path stretched from Lonoke to Beebe. Many Lonoke County residents spent days cutting trees and patching roofs after the tornado hit.

Doris Szafranski said at the time, “We had 13 people in the storm shelter last night. We just barely made it in. No sooner than we got the door shut it came. It sounded like a vacuum and an airplane. Everyone’s ears were popping. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

A Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy was in his driveway tracking the storm when it passed over, picking up the front end of the patrol car and slamming it to the ground.

David Chad Lane pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and Circuit Judge Phillip Whiteaker sentenced him to 20 years in prison in the death of fellow inmate Jerry Dale Luker, stemming from a fight Oct. 19, 2009 at the Lonoke County Jail.

Whiteaker gave Lane credit for 120 days already served and ordered him to pay $240 in fees and court costs within 90 days of his release from prison.

He was sentenced as a habitual offender, so instead of first parole eligibility in about three years, Lane must serve about nine years before becoming eligible.

“I’d have rather seen him get the death penalty,” said the victim’s father, Jerry Luker, “but I guess it’s better than having a long drawn-out trial and leave it up to 12 people.”

Jacksonville High School seniors, who spent most of their May prom in the basement of the Clinton Library in Little Rock because of severe weather, got a redo.

A number of parents joined together with the school to give the students another night of dancing, this time it at the Jacksonville Senior Center.

The original prom was peppered with rain and severe weather, and students were ushered into the basement.

Price Eubanks, a senior, was very disappointed the first prom night ended. “We’d been looking forward to our prom for four years. It was supposed to be the night of our lives, but we spent it in the basement. It was a bummer.”

Nine different vendors brought a wide variety of products to the Cabot Farmers’ Market when it opened at its new, more visible location in May on the parking lot of First Security Bank in downtown Cabot. Vendors brought cabbage, lettuce, peas, brown and green eggs, honey, handmade jewelry, handmade knives and strawberries.

A wall-signing ceremony was held at the National Guard armory in Cabot, even though the $10 million facility was nowhere near finished.

Workers from Nabholz Con-struction Co., which is building the armory, representatives from the Arkansas National Guard, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, two city council members and other project supporters gathered to sign the wall that divides the armory in two before it is covered in rocks.

“It’s symbolic,” the mayor said. “It’s sort of a time capsule of all the people working on it and the people supporting it.”

The Cabot armory, located on Hwy. 367, will be completed in the spring.

The PCSSD school board voted down contracts for district teachers and support staff.

On separate motions made by Bill Vasquez to approve the teachers’ and support staff’s contracts, board members Danny Gilliland, Mildred Tatum and Charlie Wood and school board president Tim Clark voted no. Vasquez, Sandra Sawyer and Gwen Williams voted yes.

Two women and one man were arrested in mid-May in Greystone, Cabot’s golf course subdivision, for allegedly being involved in the practice of what is euphemistically called the world’s oldest profession.

The man believed to be in charge of the alleged house of prostitution was in Dallas with the third female resident of the home when the arrests were made.

The arrests were made following a two-day investigation that began when neighbors complained to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department about excessive traffic at the residence.

The sheriff said investigators waited outside the house for two days and interviewed the “johns” as they emerged, but no detective went inside to talk to the women during the investigation or solicited the services they allegedly offered for sale.

Deputies siezed $3,000 in cash from the home, $500 in a safety deposit box, computers and a “little black book” with names of clients.

An investigation by the state into the finances of Pulaski County Special School District over a six-year period unearthed a wide range of abuses, including fraud, theft, missing funds, improper reimbursements, overpayments, misappropriations, and generally careless business practices, resulting in losses totaling at least $500,000.

Highlights of the investigation were presented at a meeting of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee at the state Capitol.

The “limited scope review” focused on aspects of the district’s financial operations – the buyout settlement with former Superintendent James Sharpe after his resignation March 11, 2009, school board members’ travel-expense reimbursements and central office oversight of expenditures.

Acting Superintendent Rob McGill and PCSSD School Board president Tim Clark last year requested that the Division of Legislative Audit for the state conduct the investigation because they suspected district accounting practices were not sound.

The investigation resulted in criminal charges against two employees and a civil case to recoup funds the district says is owed by Sharpe.

Primary elections were held in May and although there were few surprises, the results did result in some runoffs.

Two-term Sen. Blanche Lincoln ended up in a runoff against Lieut. Gov. Bill Halter in the Democratic primary.

The Democrats also end with a runoff in the race for Rep. Vic Snyder’s Dist. 2 congressional seat. The Democrats had a runoff for the race to occupy retiring Rep. Marion Berry’s Dist. 1 seat. The same was true for the Republicans vying for the Dist. 3 seat, which was being vacated by Rep. John Boozman, who eventually won Lincoln’s seat.

The Democrats also had a runoff for state land commissioner.

Thieves broke into the new building for Hope’s Closet and Pantry in Cabot and took 1,600 pounds of food that had been collected from a recent Stamp Out Hunger food drive. A dryer, tools, a large amount of baby clothes and a generator were also taken.

Hope’s Closet is a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to the needy and the hungry in northern Lonoke County and the Beebe area.

Hope’s Closet volunteer Kelly Coughlin said, “Everything they took, we would have given it to them. It makes me really angry. If they were in need, I wouldn’t be upset, but to take all that stuff was greedy and dishonest.”

The Beebe Chamber of Commerce director Ruth Couch was honored with the Lifetime Service Award at the chamber’s annual banquet at the ASU-Beebe University CafĂ©.

Couch said she was totally astonished with the award.

“It makes me feel rewarded for the things that I’ve done, the fun things and the things that were more difficult,” she said.

The Educator of the Year Award went to kindergarten and first-grade counselor Jamie Burns of Beebe Early Childhood School.

The Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Penny Parchman, Beebe’s Angel Tree program organizer.

A petition in support of a separate Jacksonville school district circulated.

The petition, part of attorney Ben Rice’s ongoing effort to wrest control of Jacksonville and north Pulaski County schools from the troubled Pulaski County Special School District, picked up 640 names in front of the Jacksonville Walmart in just one day.

The petition was just to demonstrate the mood of area residents, who believe Cabot’s growth has been at the expense of Jacksonville and related to Jacksonville’s decrepit school buildings and association with PCSSD.

During the time that Cabot has experienced a 40 percent increase in school enrollment, Jacksonville enrollment has declined 23 percent, Rice said. “People are voting with their feet,” he added.

An effort to allow ice- cream trucks to once again chug through the streets of Sherwood was defeated 5-2. The mobile ice- cream sales have been banned since 1968. At the heart of a vote by Sherwood City Council were two fundamental American values – keeping our children safe versus the right of children to pursue their happiness, in this case, in the form of buying ice cream from a street-side vendor on a hot summer day.

Only Aldermen Becki Vassar and Butch Davis voted for the measure. Later, pleas from children caused the council to reverse its vote and ice-cream trucks are back in town.

The Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club entered a new era of local management, which city officials believed would improve program offerings for youth who come there after school and during the summer.

The club, founded in the late 1960s, on May 15 severed ties with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Arkansas, in order to have greater control over how financial resources are used and what programs are offered.

The club’s building, which is owned and maintained by the city of Jacksonville, is now under direction of the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department.

The hazardous Hwy. 167 Main Street overpass may be replaced a year earlier than currently scheduled, thanks to Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher’s plea for help at the May Metroplan meeting.

A state Highway and Trans-portation Department spokesman called the change possible and agreed to meet with city officials.

The guardrail with nine concrete supports has been knocked out several times, which is a danger to pedestrians below.

“The overpass is 50 years old and supported in part by a piece of wood,” Fletcher told the group. “School children walk under that overpass.”

Highway workers needed to repair the guardrail four times before April.


Without fanfare—and apparently without the written notification required by law from the parole board --former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, 50, was paroled and released from prison. His wife Kelly Campbell was granted parole and expected to be free and reunited with her husband by early July.

The Campbells were tried together and convicted in April 2007 in a sprawling six-week trial that included tales of sex with prisoners, theft of drugs from friends, continuing criminal enterprise charges and manufacture of methamphetamine.

Campbell was originally sentenced to 40 years in prison, but on Nov. 5, the state Supreme Court overturned Jay Campbell’s convictions and remanded the case back to Lonoke County Circuit Court.

Both Campbells will still have to work community-service hours, and submit to periodic drug testing.

The air-traffic control tower at Little Rock Air Force Base was named the best in the Air Force in June.

The 19th Operations Support Squadron air-traffic-control tower team earned the Air Force-level D. Ray Hardin air-traffic-control facility of the year award.
The annual air-traffic control and airfield management award winners were announced during the airfield-operations conference awards dinner in Las Vegas.

A former Beebe resident who killed his father in 2009 pleaded guilty in a circuit court in Searcy and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Christopher S. Clark, 44, apologized to his mother, sister and brother for stabbing Billy Joe Clark, 75, to death on Nov. 7, 2009 but he didn’t offer an explanation for his action.

Clark also pleaded guilty to felony theft of property for taking his father’s truck from his home at 305 N. Hickory St.

With Cabot High School principal Zanya Clarkson retiring, the Cabot school board promoted Junior High South’s principal Henry Hawkins to the high school position. “When you have someone in-house who you know can do a job and has a passion for what he does, we feel that is the direction we should go,” Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman said.

A June PCSSD school board meeting — where educators celebrated leaps in scores on Benchmark exams in both literacy and math that exceeded state averages, as well as more than $11 million in college scholarships to graduating seniors — was marred by angry outbursts over the board decision to end recognition of the union.

During the public-comment period, a parent of a Sylvan Hills Middle School student speaking out against board actions in recent months and costs of associated legal services was cut short by school board president Tim Clark. Parent Dawn Jackson told the board that she was “very unhappy” that the board’s decision in December – and again in April – to end recognition of the Pulaski County Association of Classroom Teachers was “costing the district tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.”

Jackson said her efforts recently to communicate with Clark about the reason for the board’s decision were unsatisfactory.

“I am sick about this money being spent needlessly,” Jackson said as she headed to her seat. “Teachers don’t want to be in a lawsuit, but they are backed into a corner.”

PACT president Marty Nix, next to speak in a public comment period, told Clark, “Grow up,” adding that his treatment of Jackson was the reason why the teachers were in a lawsuit.

Nix was escorted by security from the board meeting room.

In the primary runoff, Sen. Blanche Lincoln beat back a strong challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

In other state runoff races, Jacksonville’s Pat O’Brien, currently the Pulaski County Clerk, defeated challenger Mark Wilcox to get the Democratic nod in the secretary of state race.

Chad Causey, Cong. Marion Berry’s former chief of staff, and Tim Wooldridge, a former state senator, battled it out. with Causey coming out on top for the Democratic nod for the District 1 representative race.

Democratic State Sen. Joyce Elliott and Speaker of the House Robbie Wills were the top two vote getters in the May primary with Elliott besting Wills by 12 percentage points, but in the run-off it was closer as Elliott bested Wills, 54 percent to 46 percent.

The USDA designated Lonoke, Faulkner, Mississippi and Woodruff counties as primary agriculture disaster counties in the wake of storms, hail and tornadoes that occurred between April 23 and May 4. Farmers in those and 16 adjoining counties were therefore eligible for crop- production loss assistance, members of the state’s congressional delegation announced in June.

The C-130s from Little Rock Air Force Base assigned to Afghanistan and Iraq helped replace 20,000 truck convoys in May, which set a record.

Through the efforts of these airmen, the C-130s are a safer means of transportation for all branches of the military in combat zones.

“Twenty-thousand (vehicles) was significant because each and every vehicle we took off IED-laden roads in Iraq and Afghanistan lowered the risk to soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines on the ground performing convoy duty,” said Col. David Kasberg, 19th Operations Group commander at Little Rock Air Force Base. “By airlifting cargo and passengers, we also took a target away from the enemy, which undermines their information-operations campaign.”

The Joint Education Center had a 50 percent construction- completion “walk-through” in June and was on schedule for occupancy January 2011.

The 46,239-square-foot facility is being built adjacent to Little Rock Air Force Base with $9.9 million in federal funds and another $5 million raised through a sales tax approved by Jacksonville voters.

The new facility will replace the existing Joint Education Center located on base, which became difficult to access after base security tightened following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

A former Pulaski County Special School District employee was sentenced in June to 18 months in prison for stealing about $500,000 from the district to support his drug habit.

U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson also placed James Diemer, 49, the district’s ex-maintenance supervisor, on three-years supervised probation after his prison term.

Saline County sheriff’s deputies arrested Diemer May 15, 2009.

He pleaded guilty in January to theft of property from a government entity that received federal funds.

Diemer, a PCSSD employee since 1999, admitted to investigators of defrauding the district “from day one” of becoming supervisor of mechanical systems “because he knew no one was looking.”

Charles Hopson, incoming PCSSD superintendent, in an effort to improve conditions at Jacksonville High School, has plans to do a “deep cleaning” at the school as well as make changes in the school’s leadership.

In a June letter to Jacksonville school patrons, Hopson said that Kenneth Clark, who had been principal at the high school for six years, would be reassigned.

Jacksonville High School was entering its seventh year on the list of schools in the state identified as being in academic distress. “Under the No Child Left Behind law, federal sanctions take place if you do not make annual yearly progress with various subgroups,” Hopson said.

The contract was signed and a down payment made in June for two studies that would hone in on the economic potential of three sites near Jacksonville that could become home to the state fair.

Makin Consulting, the Min-nesota-based firm hired to do the studies, was expected to have answers to the question, what are the costs and benefits of the huge undertaking of building a new fairgrounds at a new location – specifically, southeast of Jacksonville — by the end of the year.

State fair director Ralph Shoptaw says that none of the original 19 sites offered for consideration had been ruled out, but that “we want to focus on that particular area and not necessarily any particular site, but that area which includes the Jacksonville site.”

By the “Jacksonville site,” Shoptaw meant the 450 acres that Jacksonville city and business leaders are in the process of acquiring – either through out-right purchase or eminent domain – to then donate for use as new fairgrounds. To the south are the two sites also under consideration: a 827-acre parcel owned by Davidson Ranch, and 632 acres, with three owners, bordered by Ink Bayou and I-440. According to an engineering study by Thomas Engineering, those two sites are priced at $2.85 million and $2.48 million, respectively.

Restructuring of C-130 training at Little Rock Air Force Base, currently in the planning phase, seemed to fit hand in glove with the Pentagon’s decision in June to upgrade “legacy” C-130Hs with the avionics-modernization program.

A site-activation taskforce team was on base to begin working out reorganization details, even as Boeing announced Air Force approval to begin low-rate initial production of 20 AMP kits.

Upon completion of a longer contract, yet to be awarded, 221 C-130Hs will have been updated with digital, computerized cockpits with standardized state-of-the-art avionics, navigation and communication on par with those of the new C-130J airlifters.

The cost of those kits in 2007 was about $14 million per aircraft, according to Boeing spokesman Mike Harris, but by the 69th plane, the cost should be down to about $7 million, he said.

By way of comparison, a new C-130J, which the AMP cockpit emulates in many ways, costs about $85 million per plane, according to Harris.

The AMP is designed to bring the old C-130s into the 21st Century, with digital technology and with standardization. Currently, there are 30 variants of the C-130 cockpit, and installation of the AMP kits will make them identical to pilots and aircrews and make them closely resemble the cockpit of the new C-130J.

Cabot businessman Roger Lemaster was found guilty in circuit court of raping a child and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Although more than a dozen witnesses were sworn in at the beginning of the one-day trial, only three testified – the victim, the police officer she first told her story to and Lemaster’s mother-in-law, who testified for him.

The Leader was named the best large weekly in the state for the third year in a row by the Arkansas Press Association in June.

The newspaper garnered 22 awards, including five first-place plaques.

The family-owned newspaper — which has been covering Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot and Lonoke County, as well as White County, for more than 23 years — took first place in community coverage, editorial writing, best sports page, top sports news story and general excellence.

Interim Superintendent Rob McGill left PCSSD at the end of June after 16 months in that position and took $87,601 in accrued vacation, holiday and sick leave with him.

Most of those days were earned as a teacher or principal during his 16 years in the district, days that would have been paid at the rate of $75 a day had he not been elevated to interim superintendent in March 2009, after the school board bought out the contract of former superintendent, James Sharp.

Instead, he was paid at a rate of $614 a day.

School board president Tim Clark said that particularly now, when the district is under scrutiny from the state Bureau of Legislative Audit for mismanagement and poor financial oversight, it would be important to make sure the right rate was being applied to the correct number of days, as provided for in McGill’s contract.

“I asked (Chief Financial Officer) Anita Farver to double and triple check with (district lawyer) Jay Bequette,” Clark said.

McGill said that he had submitted the bill for those hours to Farver and that $87,601 “sounded about right.”

n The city-owned golf course, The Greens at North Hills, made a strong showing in income generation, it was announced at the monthly meeting of the Sherwood City Council.

Revenue from club memberships and greens fees to date amount to $254,621, and revenue from facilities rentals are $20,105, for a total of $274,726, Alderman Charles Harmon announced. “That was beyond anything we expected.”

The golf course opened for its first season in April, two years after the city took the private North Hills Country Club by eminent domain, paying $5.5 million, in an effort to preserve the historic, 106-acre course for public use rather than see it become a mix of commercial and residential development.

“If we continue at this pace for the golf season, we will exceed expectations,” predicted Harmon after the meeting. The course is open all year.

The course had already exceeded this year’s goal of 100 memberships with 118 purchased so far. Annual memberships range in price from $1,020 to $2,400.

The annual operating budget for the golf course is $1.3 million.