Friday, January 07, 2011

EDITORIAL >Debating health care

It will be a grand bit of theater next week when the U. S. House of Representatives votes ceremoniously to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the big health-insurance law that is being gradually phased in.

Republicans now have a substantial majority plus a few blue-dog allies on the Democratic side, so the outcome is foregone. It is altogether ceremonial because the repealer will then go to the Senate to die. But the play is the thing, as Shakespeare might say. A vote to repeal the law, Republicans believe, will be popular, if only momentarily. A substantial part of the population still believes that a committee of government bureaucrats will decide which sick people will get life-saving treatment and which will have to die, that the government will take over the medical system and ration care, that their Medicare coverage will be slashed, that large employers will fire people if they have to start providing health insurance, and that the law will add trillions to the national debt.

None of those is or was ever true, but they formed the story line of the insurance companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other right-wing groups that flooded the airwaves and newspapers with advertisements in 2009 and 2010 before the law’s enactment. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which has enraged both parties with its warts-and-all analysis of health-care and other legislation, told the new House majority this week what it did not want to hear: Repealing the Affordable Care Act will enlarge the deficit by $230 billion over the next 10 years. (Democrats insist that it would enlarge it far more than that and Republicans say it would cut the deficit.)

The CBO said the Affordable Care Act will not produce some of the benefits its authors claim, such as generally lower insurance premiums for people who are already covered, but it said the very obvious was also true: If it is repealed, 32 million people who will get insurance under the law will lose it, Medicare recipients will pay much more for their medicine and lose the new coverage for mammograms and other health screenings, the economies forced by the new law will be lost, and people who are already covered and those who would get coverage under the law will lose the protections from insurance company abuses. Insurance companies will once again be able to stop coverage when people get sick, deny insurance to children and adults with pre-existing conditions and spend vast sums on executive salaries and advertising and pass the costs on to insurance buyers.

Arkansas’ congressional delegation, including our own new delegate, Tim Griffin, will vote to repeal. We assume that the number also will include Mike Ross, the returning Democratic congressman from south Arkansas. Ross strongly advocated a universal health-insurance law and supported the major parts of it, but in the end he said he was voting against the bill because many voters in his district told him to.

Ross, of course, could vote against repeal and say he would help amend the law to remove features he finds objectionable or add others that he thinks will lower costs, but the new speaker, John Boehner, will not allow that. When he took the gavel Tuesday, Boehner promised “a new day” in the House where the legislative process would always be open and amendments and debate entertained. The next day, he said it would not apply to the health bill. No amendments can be offered or debated. He explained that he would decide when the legislative process would be open and when it would be closed, which is how it has always been.

We have a lot at stake in the real battle over insurance reform, which will come after the repeal circus closes and the two houses work on amending the law, chapter by chapter.

No state will benefit as much as Arkansas when the law is fully implemented in three years. That is because Arkansas has about the lowest level of access to health care in the country, and in the six years after it is implemented, more than $12 billion will be pumped into the state to provide medical and hospital care, outpatient therapy and medicine for people who cannot afford it. It will be a bonanza for rural Arkansas and rural hospitals. Public insurance will be provided for adults whose incomes are so low that they cannot afford insurance, and hundreds of thousands of others will get a subsidy to help them buy insurance individually or through their jobs. A half-million Arkansans on Medicare will get increasing help in paying for their medicine and preventive care like colonoscopies and mammograms.

Everyone, whether they have insurance now or obtain it under the new law, will be protected from insurance abuses that make most Americans despise or fear the insurance industry.

The good thing about the coming battle is that all those things will have to be debated, this time without the din of a million commercials. It is not a debate that the Republicans should look forward to.

TOP STORY > >Lonoke QC shakeup leaves Odom isolated

Leader senior staff writer

Lonoke County Quorum Court member Larry Odom, who says he campaigned door to door 20 years ago and helped start the Lonoke County Republican Party, says he was unceremoniously kicked to the curb Thursday night when the Republican-dominated quorum court turned him out after years as president pro tempore, electing Democrat Adam Sims in his place.

He also lost his position as chairman of the building and jail committee, though not immediately.

“Take all the stuff the Republicans have done in the last 20 years, put it in a pot, take away everything that I led or pulled or worked on and there’s not much left,” Odom said Friday morning.

Odom, who has served on every county jail committee for 10 years, retained his position as jail committee chairman until the new jail is turned over to the county from the builders, probably this spring.

Doug Erwin, the new county judge, announced his committee chairmanships and memberships Thursday night. Democrat JP Bill Ryker, who has been active in monitoring construction of the new jail, will become the jail chairman.

Odom said the court disrespected him by stripping him of the chairmanship and his position as president pro tempore. “A slap between the eyes,” he characterized it.

“I’ve tried to work for the county and the community diligently. Have I some adversaries? Yes. I won’t vote a straight party ticket,” Odom said. “People have their own agendas.”

Odom said paying for an additional nine jailers at the larger facility and funding other sheriff’s office expenses was “the big alligator in the county general-fund pond.”

He said the number of criminal cases in the county had increased from about 8,000 to 20,000 a year in the last few years, and that the county budget is being balanced “by robbing all the money out of the sheriff’s funds—fuel, no raises, no new cars.”

Odom said that leasing beds to other towns and to the Immigration and Naturalization Service would help pay the expenses.

Odom said his new committee chairmanship—finding ways to fund the new jail and sheriff’s expenses—is the largest task any of the committees face and he’s ready to shoulder the load.

Others appointed to the committee are Barry Weathers, Tim Lemons and Henry Lang.

He said he’s been working on a temporary solution to pay for jail maintenance and operation, but declined to make the details public yet.

Lemons was named chairman of the budget committee, a position held for many years by Mike Dolan. Dolan is still on the committee along with Joe Farrer—the new justice of the peace —Roger Lynch and Weathers.

Sims replaced Janette Minton as chairman of the personnel committee, meaning all the committee chairs are males. Minton, Ryker, Mark Edwards and Henry Lang were named to the committee.

Erwin appointed Farrer chairman of the insurance committee, along with Alexis Malham, Sonny Morey, Weathers and Lang.

Erwin also created an Economic Development Com-mittee—a committee of the whole, comprising all the justices.

The JPs voted to continue holding their regular monthly meetings at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

TOP STORY > >Budget approved in Beebe for 2011

Leader staff writer

The Beebe City Council approved a $3.1 million budget on Monday during a special meeting. The city expects $3.5 million in revenue, but is charting a conservative financial plan.

Aldermen also approved 3 percent raises for city employees.

Mayor Mike Robertson’s salary was raised from $25,096 to $38,000. City Clerk/Treasurer Carol Crump-Westergren’s salary will increase from $34,502 to $37,000 and Milton McCullar, head of the street department, will see his pay go up from $28,420 to $35,000.

During the discussion of the mayor’s raise, Alderman Harold Welch said, “You earned it.”

Alderman Les Cossey said the mayor does not use a city-issued cell phone or vehicle.

“You put the city first. You deserve everything we give you. You have done a great job. You have the city’s interest at heart,” Alderman Linda Anthony said.

Robertson has refused any salary increases in the past.

Three city employees received special pay raises.

First responder Rick Johnson was hired as a full-time firefighter. He will be paid $12.50 an hour.

Charles Finley, the manager of the work-release program for residents to pay off fines, was given a raise last month. His hourly wage will go from $8.62 to $10.40.

Hunter Collie, who became full-time fire fighter in December, is being paid about $10.50 an hour.

The mayor told the council that the city expects census figures to show a population increase of 2,000. The growth will give the city $120,000 in additional revenue every year.

The mayor would like to use the money toward repairing and repaving Idaho Street to Main Street and South Apple Street to Campground Road.

He proposed having the county work on the ditches along Idaho Street to improve drainage. Idaho Street was paved with chip-and-seal in the mid-1990s.

The council would like to improve the appearance of the city’s police force.

“I would be leery if someone pulled me over not wearing a uniform,” Alderman Lightfoot said.

He said officers on patrol need to be in full uniform instead of blue jeans, tennis shoes and a T-shirt.

The council approved a measure requiring officers to at least wear an embroidered polo shirt. They also agreed that the city should pay for officers’ equipment except for their boots and their guns.

Those two items are the responsibility of the officers. The department has 10 full-time officers and five part-time officers.

The city council also wants to know when part-time officers who serve papers and warrants are moved to patrolling the streets. Patrol officers must be approved by the city council, and not transferred to the position by the police department.

City parks were another budget topic.

The mayor asked about replacing the infield of the city’s largest baseball field from donafill to grass.

Cossey suggested adding a practice field to the baseball park.

He also spoke in support of building a new youth football field near the city’s swimming pool and the freeway.

The current football field is only 80 yards long. Some aldermen suggested using the high school’s football field, but according to Crump-Westergren, the school district does not want to share its football field.

TOP STORY > >Firefighter retires after 33 years

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Fire Capt. Leon Nolen was handed his firefighting helmet one last time Tuesday by Battalion Chief Joe Bratton inside the Central Fire Station as he retired from the fire department after a 33-year career.

Nolen, who was captain at Fire Station 4, located at 4008 S. First St., started out with the Jacksonville Fire Department in 1977 as a 20-year-old.

“This is all I know,” Nolen said about the sunset of his firefighting career.

As an 18-year-old, Nolen’s best friend’s dad coached the fire department’s softball team. Nolen joined the softball team. Nolen was later asked if he would be interested in joining the fire department. Members of the softball team vouched for Nolen. He was hired on to the fire department, but the chief required Nolen to cut his long hair.

Nolen was promoted to engineer after his first year with the department. He was an engineer for nine years until being promoted to captain. During his career Nolen received the fire department’s life-saving award in 1985 and in 2004.

“It was a good way to raise my family and the guys made it an easy job to do,” he said.

Nolen attended the retirement lunch with his wife of 30 years, Lea. They have two sons Landon, 17, and Lance, 13.

He said he cherished all the guys he got to work with and the camaraderie of the fire department.

“I grew up a lot being a fireman,” the 53-year-old said.

An emotional Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said as members of the fire department retire, he feels as if he is losing a part of himself.

“I was his first captain. He adapted to the fire service very quickly. We worked and we always ate good. His favorite meals were Mexican chicken and goulash,” Vanderhoof said.

“He is dedicated and a true friend. He was always there in good times and bad,” the chief said.

Vanderhoof said many of the new firefighters consider firefighting as a job. Through the years of being with the fire department, it becomes a career and then grows to be a lifestyle.

“Here, when you work 30 to 40 years, it becomes an intricate part of your family,” Vanderhoof said.

“The fire department does not change; technology and education change. The core roots are the brotherhood. Dedication makes the fire department,” Vanderhoof said.

Mayor Gary Fletcher, who attended Nolen’s retirement lunch, said when he was younger he thought about being a firefighter.

Fletcher said being a firefighter is more than a job; it is fraternity and a brotherhood.

TOP STORY > >2010 Annexation flops, Cabot gets letter, LRAFB soars

Compiled by Leader staff writer Rick Kron

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


 A disgruntled county resident, upset with Jacksonville’s proposed annexation, was arrested at the city’s citizen-concerns committee meeting.

Charles Kent, 52, of 6011 Peters Rd., was escorted out of the meeting, arrested and charged with disorderly conduct shortly after the meeting began.

Alderman Marshall Smith, chairman of the committee, which is a mix of city officials and residents of the area being considered for annexation, said Kent just wouldn’t sit down after rambling about his rights, the lack of committee minutes and the committee’s failure to follow Robert’s Rules of Order.

When Smith tried to proceed with the meeting, Kent said he had the floor. “And I’m not yielding the floor.”

Kent continued to talk over Public Works Director Jim Oakley, who was there to discuss some concerns raised by the residents in the 3.84 square mile area the city wants to annex.

 A cardboard envelope addressed to the Cabot mayor that arrived in the mail in early October contained a ledger that is believed to be the earliest written history of the city of Cabot.

The ledger, with a starting date of Oct. 2, 1886, documents the beginning of a farm cooperative in Sylvania called the Wheel Trade Union, or simply the Wheel, with meetings later moved to Cabot.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who called the press to witness the presentation of the ledger to Mike Polston, curator of the Museum of American History at Cabot, said he knew a woman from Virginia was sending some old documents, but he was astounded by the contents of the package.

 The Pulaski County Spe-cial School District has held Jacksonville-area schools hostage for too long and should be allowed to form their own school district, state Sen. Bobby Glover said in an October letter to state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell.

As chairman of the state Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Glover has had a front-row seat for meetings where PCSSD personnel and board members were grilled about the abundance of fraud, malfeasance, theft of property, illegal charges, illegal contracts and failed oversight that cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars—maybe more–over the past three years.

“I want (the state) to take it over and allow Jacksonville to have its own school system,” Glover said.

“Because of the long history of abuse and neglect to some portions of the PCSSD, it is my recommendation that the Jacksonville-north Pulaski county area be allowed to form their own school district separate and apart from the PCSSD,” Glover wrote Kimbrell.

 Arnold Drive Elementary’s fifth-graders are the best in the state in math according to the latest report by the University of Arkansas Office of Education Policy.

Arnold Drive is also only one of four Arkansas schools to be recognized nationally as a 2010 Blue Ribbon School for academic achievement. Only 304 schools received the award nationwide.

Cabot and Searcy schools also received high marks as the university delved into the 2009-2010 Benchmark scores, looking at grade levels and regions.

At the fourth-grade level, Stagecoach Elementary was in an eight-way tie for ninth best in the state with 97 percent of its 94 fourth-graders scoring proficient or advanced.

At the fifth-grade level, Arnold Drive was only one of three schools in the state to have all of its students score proficient or advanced in math. Overall, Arnold Drive had one of the best Benchmark scores in the state.

Arnold Drive fourth-graders ranked sixth best in the state with 96 percent of its students scoring proficient or advanced in literacy. Tied with Arnold Drive was Lisa Academy North located on the Sherwood/North Little Rock border.

Combining both the math and literacy Benchmark scores, Arnold Drive fourth-graders finished sixth-best in the state at 96 percent proficient or better. Tied for sixth with Arnold Drive is Cabot’s Stagecoach Elementary.

 Two Laotian women charged with running a house of prostitution in Cabot’s upscale Greystone subdivision were convicted in district court in October. A North Little Rock man charged with using their services was acquitted.

Cabot District Judge Joe O’Bryan listened to about six hours of testimony put on by the prosecution before giving his verdict. The defendants – AE Samontry, 33, Pornpiemon Phouangmany, 40, and Jerry Richard, 46, – did not testify.

The women were each fined $590 and given 30-day suspended jail sentences providing there are no more offenses. All the charges were misdemeanor.

The evidence against the women included a black book with names of men believed to be clients, a sheet of paper containing prices, pictures of scantily clad women taken from a computer that were identical to those on an Internet site advertising adult entertainment, and a packing slip for 1,000 condoms.

 A lawsuit was filed in October to stop Jacksonville’s efforts to bring 3.84 square miles north of the city limits into the city.

The suit, by Dr. John Daugherty and his wife Partne, asked the court to declare the city ordinance authorizing the annexation unconstitutional prior to the start of the Nov. 2 voting.

As an alternative, the plaintiffs asked that if the vote proceeds before the case is settled that the secretary of state not count the votes or have them decertified.

The Daughertys claimed, among other things, that the city was trying to illegally annex land “which is owned, managed, regulated and otherwise controlled by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

 The Pulaski County Special School District board unanimously recognized the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers at their October meeting, and union members who had packed the board room sprang to their feet applauding, whooping and laughing, ending two years of contentious efforts by the board to decertify the union.

A moment later, the scene was repeated with unanimous recognition of the Pulaski Association of Support Staff.

The board approved resumption of contract negotiations with both PACT and PASS.

 Beautiful weather and jaw-dropping performances by the world-famous U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds attracted about 225,000 guests to “Thunder Over the Rock,” the base’s air show and open house.

This October air show featured nearly 5 1/2 hours of flying demonstrations, which also included world-class acts such as the U.S. Army Golden Knights and Canadian SkyHawks’ parachute teams; Tora, Tora, Tora WWII re-enactment of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; Disabled American Veterans B-25 demonstration, Shockwave jet truck; Air Force A-10 Warthog; Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier and Navy FA-18 Super Hornet jet demonstrations; and a capabilities exercise of the base’s own C-130s from the 19th, 314th and 189th Airlift Wings. The 11 Little Rock C-130s airdropped equipment and nearly 400 Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.

 Both Sherwood and Lonoke had problems with their 2009 financial reports, according to information released by the state legislative audit division in October.

In Sherwood, the district court was unable to account for “or identify $118,384 remaining in the bank with receipts issued for cases not yet adjudicated and payments made on all unpaid time accounts,” deputy legislative auditor June Barron wrote in a Sept. 30, 2010 letter to the city.

The annual state audit indicated that the offices of the mayor and police chief “were in substantial compliance,” but the clerk/treasurer’s office and the district court’s hot-check division was not. The audit noted that the city’s fixed-asset listing did not reflect accurate control totals for beginning balances, additions, deletions and ending balances by departments as required by state law.

The audit noted that the hot-check division of the district court did not always make accurate and timely settlements of merchant restitution as required by state law.

In Lonoke, auditors found problems or concerns with the mayor, the district court clerk and the police chief.

The auditor was completed earlier this summer.

In the mayor’s office, bids were not solicited for $79,676 worth of mosquito chemicals. State law requires bids on any purchase over $20,000.

In the district court, an ending balance of $20,798 in the court’s bank account was not accounted for or identified with receipts issued for cases not yet adjudicated.

In the police department, there was a shortage of $1,588. Auditors found receipts totaling $1,160 not deposited and $428 in checks deposited but did not have receipts.

The individuals responsible were not identified in the report, but two city employees reimbursed the city $1,260, leaving $328 unaccounted for.

 Gene Sullivan was so like a new dad at the groundbreaking for the first Bayou Meto Basin Project pump station in October that he should have passed out cigars.

The baby in this case—a $614 million irrigation, flood control and wildlife-management project—was first authorized by Congress about 60 years ago and the gestation period for “the most important thing that’s happened in Lonoke County for a long time” had been about two decades, according to Sullivan, the executive director.

“This will be the jewel for Lonoke County,” said Sen. Glover.

In time, as water becomes less abundant, others from around the country are expected to come see the Bayou Meto Basin Project.

The project will reverse the depletion of the aquifer and will irrigate more than 300,000 acres of Lonoke County farmland.

While there was plenty of credit to spread around, Sullivan praised Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Gov. Mike Beebe for putting together about $60 million in state and federal money to finally make the project a reality.

 In a relatively quiet October meeting, the Jacksonville council made about a half dozen changes to an ordinance overseeing the area planned for annexation and then passed the ordinance.

All nine aldermen said yes, except for Bob Stroud, who abstained as a way to protest the actions of the people in the proposed area set for annexation. “I just don’t like the way they have come into the city and spread lies and rumors, and their actions towards us,” he complained. “We are bending over backwards for them.”

The ordinance would not go into effect, even though parts of it affected the city as a whole, unless the residents voted for the annexation in the Nov. 2 general election.

 The Cabot man connected to the New York mafia who was indicted for a multitude of crimes more than a year ago was convicted in federal court, along with a Colombo Family street boss on three of those charges.

George Wylie Thompson, 65, of Cabot, and Ralph Francis Deleo, 67, of Somerville near Boston, Mass., faced sentences of up to 40 years in prison and fines of up to $2 million for conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver and sentences of up to 40 years and fines of up to $2 million for possession with intent to deliver. They also face sentences of up to four years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 for using a communication device in a drug crime.

At this point in October, Alderman Cary Gaines still faced charges of public corruption for attempting to fix bids on public-works projects. Thompson faced charges of illegal weapon possession and former North Little Rock Alderman Sam Baggett faced charges of selling a weapon to known felon (Thompson) and then lying about it to federal agents. Gaines also is charged with lying to federal agents.

The Thompson-Baggett trial was set for Dec. 7. The Thompson-Gaines trial was set for Feb. 1, 2011.

 It took months but Sherwood finally passed an updated property-maintenance code and nuisance ordinance, but not without a round of heated discussions over abandoned cars and horses.

As Aldermen Charles Harmon and Sheila Sulcer debated abandoned cars and horses, Alderman Becki Vassar admitted that the new law will need to be “tweaked and wiggle room” added as time goes on. “We want to give people a chance to enjoy their yards, but we shouldn’t have to tell repeat offenders time and time again to cut their grass,” Vassar said.

But it wasn’t grass that had Sulcer worried, it was abandoned cars. She was concerned that allowing residents to leave their cars in a state of despair and even on blocks for 90 days was an excessive amount of time.

Harmon replied that people have always worked on their cars in Sherwood and that “we were getting too nosy and too nitpicking.”

The ordinance covered exterior property areas, exterior and interior of structures, lighting, ventilation, occupancy limitations, plumbing and fixture requirements, mechanical and electrical requirements and fire safety.

 Two of the men involved in a late October altercation following the forum for Cabot mayoral candidates have been charged with the misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct.

Sgt. Brent Lucas, spokesman for the Cabot Police Department, described the incident as a shoving match and said no charges would be filed unless those involved pursued it.

Former Cabot Alderman Odis Waymack, named one of two victims on the incident report filed by police and Jack McNally, a candidate for Lonoke County assessor who is called the suspect on the report, apparently took Lucas’ statement as a recommendation.

Waymack filed an affidavit for McNally’s arrest. The next day McNally filed an affidavit for Waymack’s arrest.

Both McNally and Waymack turned themselves in to Cabot police. They were released on their own recognizance providing there was no further contact between the two. The maximum fine either will pay if convicted is $265.

H.L. Lang, 63, the Lonoke County justice of the peace who was named as the second victim on the incident report, said that he would like to pursue felony charges against McNally. Lang said in his statement to police that McNally hit him in the chest. He told The Leader that the blow aggravated his hernia so that even turning over in bed or coughing was painful.

A state law allows felony charges to be filed against anyone who strikes and injures a person who is 60 years or older.


 LRAFB offered the Pulaski County Special School District 77 acres upon which to build one or more new schools, according to Bob Oldham, spokesman for the 19th Air Mobility Wing, and could be in the running for school construction money.

Separately, but not unrelated, the base and district are under consideration by the Air Force for a grant to build a new elementary school, according to school district officials.

“Whatever gives us maximum opportunity to provide new facilities, we’re going to explore,” PCSSD Superintendent Charles Hopson said.

The 77 acres was occupied by surplus base housing slated for demolition, Oldham said. Arnold Drive Elementary, a decrepit PCSSD school, is currently located on the base.

The facility is questionable, but the school has been winning state and national honors for academic improvement.

 Jacksonville’s bid to capture about four square miles to the north of the city and a small section to the south failed.

Voters said no to the effort to annex the two areas by a five-point margin, 52 to 47 percent.

The unofficial vote totals showed 2,656 votes against the annexation and 2,392 for it. Residents of both the city and the proposed annexed areas were allowed to vote on the issue. More than 2,000 city residents voted against the annexation.

“The people have spoken,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said. “We were going to spend a half-million dollars a year in that community, but the people spoke and said they didn’t want it.”

The mayor said his vision for Jacksonville hasn’t changed. “We have to grow and go forward and bring in the businesses and retail that the people want.”

The mayor commended those who pushed the anti-annexation message. “They worked hard to get their view out there,” he said.

The northern section the city wanted along Hwy. 67/167 included 297 separate parcels of land—2,454 acres or about 3.84 square miles. The southern section, off Hwy. 161, that the city wanted included 79 parcels of land on 232 acres, or about 0.36 square mile.

 In Jacksonville, Mayor Gary Fletcher faced no opposition to his re-election on Nov. 2, but Sherwood and Cabot would see mayoral run-offs.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman led in the three-way race for her post, but couldn’t keep her total vote over the required 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off.

She faced second-place finisher, Alderman Sheila Sulcer, and beat her in a run-off in late November.

In the race for Cabot mayor, former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh shot out to an early lead, but faded at the end, falling to second place behind Bill Cypert in the three-way race. The two squared off in a run-off with Cypert winning.

 In a three-way race for Cabot’s Ward 3, Position 1, Richard Cannon came out on top with 1,572 votes, followed by Wendell Gibson with 1,493 votes and Angie Armstrong Hoschouer with 1,486—at least on election night. But after all the absentee ballots were counted, Hoschouer moved past Gibson and faced Cannon in a run-off. Hoschouer defeated Cannon in the runoff, taking over the seat held by her father, Tom Armstrong.

 Republicans made a sweep in Lonoke County. Doug Erwin became the first Republican Lonoke County judge in at least 50 years, and Republicans hold an 8-5 majority in the Lonoke County Quorum Court as well.

With 58 percent of the votes, Erwin beat four-term incumbent County Judge Charlie Troutman in the general election.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, a Republican, won his bid for state senator, state Rep. Davy Carter, a Republican, was re-elected and Republican Rick Crawford won election to Congress, replacing the retiring Marion Berry.

“This is the first time since Reconstruction we have a Republican congressman (in the First District),” said Republican Randy Minton, a former state representative.

“With 44 Republican House members and 14 state senators, it’s going to be a different day in the state legislature,” Minton added.

 Without much fanfare, the Jacksonville City Council approved the sale of its city hospital in November for about $8.3 million.

The hospital was sold to Allegiance Health Management of Louisiana, which has managed the hospital since January 2009.

The $8.3 million will go mostly toward paying off bond debt that the city incurred operating the hospital.

“We’ve still got to work out some financial details,” Mike Schimming, chief executive office of the hospital, said after the council meeting.

He added that the only change patients and visitors will see will be improvements. “Once the sale is finalized, Allegiance will start renovation work on the first floor,” said Schimming.

Allegiance took over management of the hospital in January 2009 with the option to purchase it. The health-management group was able to curb the losses and even post a small profit recently.

 The Beebe alderman who was arrested on Election Day for removing his opponent’s campaign signs said he would take a leave of absence from the council through the end of the year.

Alderman Les Cossey said in a letter addressed to Beebe residents, Mayor Robertson and the city council that he does “Not wish to have the publicity of this incident cast a negative light on our city.”

But Cossey’s statement also cited health problems that require treatment in the “coming weeks.”

Cossey said that he would not conduct any city business during his absence.

   Jacksonville was hit with a slew of graffiti in November, including a local church.

Jacksonville Baptist Temple, located at 520 Marshall Road, reported vandals spray painted the words “white power,” racial slurs and stars on church vehicles. The front doors of the church and on two buildings on the property were also spray painted. The church was also burglarized.

Jacksonville Baptist Temple Pastor Ted Patterson has led the 135-member church for 16 years. “We have not had an incident before,” he said.

“We do not feel it was racially motivated, but obviously motivated by some young person. Was it against Jacksonville Baptist Temple, Christianity, or the fact of where we are, I don’t have the answer,” Patterson said.

 The Lonoke-White Public Water Authority voted in mid-November to move ahead with a $55 million project to bring water from Greers Ferry Lake to the central part of the state without Cabot, one of the largest of its 11 members.

Woody Bryant, project manager, said the United States Department of Agriculture, which was providing most of the funding, wanted to move ahead with the project with the eight members who had signed contracts: Jacksonville, North Pulaski Waterworks, Vilonia, Grand Prairie, Beebe, Ward, Austin and Furlow.

Cabot, Lonoke and McRae had not signed.

The project will cost everyone a little more without Cabot, Bryant said, but everyone was aware of that and Vilonia, Austin and Beebe had already agreed to pay a little more to get the project under way.

 “We are losing our World War II vets at an alarming rate and we have only one World War I vet left in the United States,” said Alderman Butch Davis, a veteran himself.

Davis was one of the people working hard to put together Sherwood’s first ever Veteran’s Day parade.

The mile-long parade had about 20 to 25 official participants. “And we had lots of people who just want to walk in it next to the veterans to show their support, ” Davis said.

Davis said the idea for the parade started a few years ago when the mayor mentioned it might be a good idea, and then Zach Griffin, who has been a patient at the VA Hospital, met with Davis and the mayor and asked what he could do to start a veterans outreach program in the city, and all three decided the parade would be a good start.

Davis said Griffin has the insight of being a patient in the military system and brings that experience with him when he helps others assimilate back into the community.

“The parade was a great opportunity to bring all of our vets back together,” explained Davis.

 A Pulaski County Special School District official may have cut some corners when he suspended about 50 Jacksonville High School students for cutting class or tardiness.

To combat growing absenteeism and tardiness that threatened order at the school, administrator Karl Brown suspended 47 or 49 students in mid-November until their parents met with him, according to Brown, director on special assignment to the school—suspensions that may not have always followed the student handbook.

“It has been a challenge to get this school under control. Sometimes in the process of getting it under control, we may miss a step here or there,” Brown said.

“What I told every parent, next time their child is tardy, we will call them,” Brown said. “The (next time) they will receive a two-day suspension.”

“They weren’t following the policy or the student handbook,” said Brenda Bowles, assistant superintendent for equity and pupil services.

“You can’t just take everybody,” she said. “You must look at it case-by-case.”

She said teachers were adjusting to a new coding system, and that could have caused false reports of tardiness.

Brown said many of the students were not first sent to detention or in-school suspension, but “due process was not violated. Due process is telling students what was wrong, then giving consequences.”

 After nearly a decade of membership in the Lonoke-White Water Association, the Lonoke City Council has decided it couldn’t afford the $170,000-a-year assessment to pay for the intake pumps and water treatment at Greers Ferry Lake and for transmission lines.

The entire project is estimated to cost about $45 million.

“For right now, we couldn’t afford the cost,” said Lonoke Alderman Wendell Walker.

It also appears that Lonoke won’t need water from Greers Ferry Lake—the town’s own wells are 450 feet deep, sitting in 300 feet of water,” Walker said.

“I talked to the Elders Brothers at Carlisle—they drilled the last two wells we got,” Walker said.

They gave Walker a 2001-2005 U.S. Geologic Survey map that showed the water table was actually rising in Lonoke County, unlike many other areas.

Jacksonville had committed to about 23 percent of the cost and eventually of the association’s water storage at Greers Ferry. Other area communities that have approved contracts with the water association include Austin, Beebe, Furlow, Grand Prairie/Bayou 2, north Pulaski County, Vilonia and Ward.

 Cabot Alderman Tom Armstrong, 63, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in September of 2008 after he passed out while driving, and passed away in November. Although his prognosis was not good, he ran for a fourth two-year term on the city council, defeating former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, who had left office two years earlier to run for Congress.

While he was undergoing treatment in Florida, Armstrong’s friends and family campaigned on his behalf.

He attended council meetings sporadically during 2009 and not at all in 2010. Sometimes, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams would give updates on his condition, usually somewhat hopeful, but insiders always said he was struggling.

“I’ll say this about Tom Armstrong,” said the mayor, “He was always a gentleman. He always set a high standard for us to go by.”

Armstrong never spoke ill of anyone, even those who berated him, the mayor said, and he was good at weeding out important issues from those that were irrelevant.

Armstrong’s daughter, Angie Armstrong Hoschouer, won her dad’s Ward 3, Position 1 seat on the council in a runoff against Richard Cannon.

 Superintendent Charles Hopson led a PCSSD delegation of eight on a sponsored, weeklong trip to China, the first step toward a program to teach Mandarin Chinese to some district students.

Detractors brought word of the China trip to the public before the district could craft its announcement, according to PCSSD spokeswoman Deb Rouse, claiming that it would be costly to the district and was not a proper use of district resources.

“We’re really excited about this,” Roush said. “It’s a good thing.”

The program brings American school officials to China to see the culture and the education system there, and then helps match them up with Chinese teachers.

Currently, nine Arkansas school districts have Chinese teachers teaching Mandarin to students in their districts.

Of the skepticism, Hopson said, “I think because of the experiences of the past, people are just suspicious and they probably have a right to be. As an instructional leader, it’s part of trying to put the district at an advantage.”

 The Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, which has always been a somewhat reluctant participant in the Lonoke-White Water Project, voted unanimously to withdraw from the project.

Gary Walker, commission vice chairman, made the motion to pull out saying the project was not economically viable for Cabot.

Walker said he had never seen the Lonoke-White Project as anything more than a backup supply, a sort of insurance policy. But at a cost of $290,000 a year to participate, it was an insurance policy that costs more than it is worth.

Until 2023, Cabot will be able to take 3 million gallons a day from its wells located between Beebe and Lonoke. And for a long-term supply, Cabot is under contract to take up to 9 million gallons a day from Central Arkansas Water, enough estimated to last until 2070.

This is the second time Cabot has withdrawn from the Lonoke- White Project. The city was one of the original participants but pulled out about 10 years ago in favor of buying water from CAW, which had formed with the merging of the water departments in Little Rock and North Little Rock.

 The Sherwood golf course—The Greens At North Hills—was exceeding expectations by the end of November.

According to a report that Alderman Charlie Harmon gave the city council, the golf course was expected to bring in $500,000 for the year. But it had already brought in $551,800 just in greens fees. Meeting room rentals has generated another $36,242.

“It’s just doing wonderful,” said Harmon, chairman of the parks and recreation committee. “And we are receiving wonderful comments about the course.”

The city’s public facilities board holds the $7 million note on the golf course and the city will make monthly payments until the bonds are paid off.

When the bonds were issued, about $5.5 million went to pay off the short-term note the board acquired to purchase the golf course and another $900,000 was put in reserve to repair and update the golf course’s irrigation system.


 With a large number of people looking for work, the prospect of landing a position at the new Goodwill store in Cabot brought 180 job seekers with resumes in hand in early December.

Goodwill had 34 openings for an assistant store manager, retail sales associates and donation attendants. The positions were for both full-time and part-time employment. The average wage started out at $8 an hour. Newly hired employees worked on preparing the old Goody’s building on 204 S. Rockwood Drive to open for the grand opening set for the end of the month.

Goodwill will be a resource to find more than a hidden treasure. Within two months of opening, a career-services center will be set up inside the store. Job coaches will help anyone learn how to write a resume, brush up on their interview skills and how to properly dress for an interview. A computer lab will be at the center to teach Microsoft programs.

 In December, Jacksonville passed a 2011 general-fund budget of about $18.9 million, Sherwood approved a $19.1 million budget, Cabot passed a $9.7 million budget, while Beebe okayed a $4 million budget for 2011 and Austin approved a general fund budget of $894,650.

 Pat O’Brien’s two-year effort to digitalize courthouse records in the Pulaski County clerk’s office came to an end in December.

In a brief ruling, the Arkansas Supreme Court sided with 17 Pulaski County circuit judges who had ordered O’Brien to stop shredding paper documents at the courthouse as part of his project to move the papers into an electronic form.

O’Brien, whose term as Pulaski County circuit clerk ended Dec. 31, asked the Arkansas high court to first set aside the judges’ order, at least temporarily, and, second, to hold a hearing at which O’Brien could make oral arguments.

The court expedited its consideration of the issue, then without comment rejected both of O’Brien’s requests.

O’Brien, of Jacksonville, said he was disappointed the court didn’t address his question: Whether he, as circuit clerk, or the circuit judges controlled the records.

The judges – some individually, all as a group – said they weren’t opposed to digitalizing the files, or to destroying the paper documents, but wanted to make sure the electronic system was operating efficiently before any more shredding was done.

As more counties and courts across the state transfer paper documents into digital files, conflicts similar to what O’Brien and the Pulaski County judges faced are possible, O’Brien said. “The main issue remains the same.”

O’Brien could have run for re-election to his clerk’s post but instead chose to run for secretary of state. He lost that race Nov. 2 to Mark Martin of Prairie Grove (Washington County), a Republican member of the state House of Representatives.

 The Jacksonville Christmas parade had a scary moment when a young girl was run over by a trailer.

Jacksonville Fire Capt. Bob Thornton said the girl either jumped off or fell off the float and was attempting to get back on the single-axle trailer.

She was transported by Jacksonville emergency medical services to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

“She was released later the same day without significant injuries,” Thornton said.

 This year’s Little Rock Air Force Base air show took top honors at the international air show convention in Las Vegas.

The Air Force Thunderbirds, which headlined the air show in October, named LRAFB’s biennial show the best in the nation.

Annabelle Davis, executive secretary of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, spread the news to council members after the announcement was made.

“This is a big deal,” she said. “This is huge.”

The air show, “Thunder Over the Rock,” drew around 225,000 people Oct. 9-10.

The Army Golden Knights parachute team also appeared at the air show.

Other attractions included several C-130s, the Super Hornet, Canadian Skyhawks, Otto the Helicopter, Mike Rinker and “Pink Floyd,” Shockwave Jet Truck, Alabama Boys and “Tora, Tora, Tora” World War II fighter planes and others.

 After numerous attempts to get Jacksonville to step in and save the Foxwood Country Club, the longtime owner, Ted Belden, closed down the facility Dec.20.

The move put about 20 employees out of work.

The closing also put a hold, at least temporarily, on the formation of a Foxwood Property Owner’s Association geared toward keeping the facility open.

“I think the city benefits from having a golf course, but I’ve put several hundred-thousand dollars into improvements into the facility and it’s time for others to step up,” Belden said.

Belden bought the 165-acre club and golf course outright in 1989.

He said the property is up for sale and is being marketed in golf course trade magazines. “If the residents and the city decide a golf course is not the best use for the property, then it’ll be used for something else. It’ll strictly be a business decision,” Belden said.

 Jacksonville elementary and middle school students could be attending classes in new, conjoined buildings at the site of the existing middle school by 2013, part of an ambitious $181.5 million district-wide construction, closure and consolidation plan proposed by Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Charles Hopson.

Hopson and Derek Scott, the district’s executive director of operations, asked the board for permission to explore the ambitious and controversial plan in meetings with school patrons across the district.

Board member Gwen Williams wasted no time in telling Scott and Hopson that she would work against their plan to close Harris, Scott and College Station Elementary schools and bring them together under one new roof.

Every time the district wants to close schools, it starts with Harris, the historic black school that is the center of the McAlmont community in Williams’ district. “You’re going to close a historic black school. You’re going to shut my community down. That is our community center. That is where we meet.”

The district has no money to build new schools and will barely break even this year, according to Chief Financial Officer Anita Farver. So the three options are to save enough to pay off building bonds, ask voters to raise taxes or the status quo, in which the district struggles with old schools, continues to lose students and eventually is insolvent.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Hopson.

The average PCSSD school building is 41 years old and in deplorable condition, Hopson said. The students and the patrons deserve better.

 George Wylie Thompson of Cabot will remain in federal custody and Sam Baggett resigned his seat on the North Little Rock City Council in the wake of their recent convictions on federal firearms charges.

A jury deliberated about five hours before returning with guilty verdicts on all eight charges against Thompson and on three of the six counts against Baggett. The trial opened Dec. 7 in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson.

Thompson, 65, has been in federal custody since his arrest in 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. Deemed a flight risk by the government, he remains in federal custody. Among the charges he was convicted of: being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, possession of unregistered silencers, operating an illegal gambling business, and aiding and abetting marriage fraud.

The total maximum penalty for those convictions normally is 45 years in prison and fines of up to $1.5 million, but Thompson – because of three prior felony convictions – faces life in prison.

Baggett, 58, was convicted of conspiracy to dispose of ammunition to a felon, making false statements to federal agents and aiding and abetting a felon in the possession of a firearm. He faces total maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. 

Baggett, who was elected to the council in 2008, is free on bond.

Thompson was convicted in 1989 and 2003 on drug charges and served time for those convictions. In October, he was convicted in federal court in Little Rock on another drug charge. He faces another federal trial in Little Rock sometime this year on charges that he conspired with former North Little Rock Alderman Cary Gaines to rig bids on city contracts. Gaines pleaded guilty to that scheme and testified against Thompson and Baggett. He has yet to be sentenced.

 Despite loud, unintelligible voices leaking from an executive session discussing Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Charles Hopson’s contract at the end of a special board meeting in mid-December, the board emerged, taking no action to fire Hopson, who they hired just six months ago.

New school board member Gloria Lawrence, who had sent harsh e-mails to the superintendent and at least some board members, questioning Hopson’s morals and making remarks some construed as having racial overtones, said she had over-reacted to the recent Legislative Audit findings that included concerns over the superintendent’s moving expenses. She said she made her comments before reading the audit or the superintendent’s contract.

“His job is not in jeopardy,” she said after the meeting. “I have confidence in his leadership. He’s taking the district in the right direction.”

She said a conversation with former school board member Danny Gililland had assuaged her worries and helped her understand the situation more fully.

School board president Bill Vasquez was quoted in a published report saying that Hopson’s job wasn’t in jeopardy. Some of the board members, particularly those elected with union help, seemed antagonistic toward the superintendent and his cabinet.

n “They are really good people. The cream of the crop,” said Jeff Eischenseer, a spokesman with Conestoga, “and we are doing everything e can to help.”

Eischenseer was referring to the 45 employees who will lose their jobs around Feb. 8 when Conestoga closes down its Jacksonville plant, along with one in Mountain View.

“At one time, we had several hundred working in Jacksonville,” Eischenseer said, “but as the housing market slumped and the orders for cabinets fell, we had a number of layoffs until now we are down to about 45.”

Eischenseer said the company plans to mothball the plant until a buyer can be found, but doesn’t expect that to happen soon. “The market just isn’t there.”

The announcement was made in late December.

 The year ended with two fatal freak accidents.

Vanda Johnson, 62, of Sherwood was crossing the southbound lanes of Hwy. 67/167 near the I-440 exit when she was struck and killed by a van driven by Phillop Lee, 21, of 305 Stonewall Dr., Jacksonville. She had crossed the busy highway earlier to check on family members who had been in an accident. They were fine.

Johnson was killed as she tried to cross the southbound lanes of the highway supposedly under orders from the state trooper who had arrived on scene to investigate the accident her grandchildren were involved in.

Family members filed a complaint with the state police and the department is reviewing the circumstances.

The same week, a Jacksonville man died in a work-related accident at Welspun Pipes manufacturing plant in Little Rock.

Frederick Bogar, 61, of 701 Poplar St., and William Durham, 38, of North Little Rock were working to cap pipe when two 19,000-pound pipes fell on them. Bogar was crushed by the falling pipes and Durham was seriously injured and trapped.

The Pulaski County coroner said Bogar suffered crushing and chest injuries that caused him to suffocate.

Durham was taken to Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock by helicopter for treatment.

 Finishing touches were put on the new $14.6 million Jacksonville-Little Rock Air Force Base Joint Education Center in December for its opening this month when Webster University held its first classes there.

In the coming weeks, the rest of the six colleges and universities that held classes and ran programs in the old, inadequate former dorms on the base will start their classes in the new structure, according to Nancy Shefflette, director of Arkansas State University-Beebe’s program at the base.

The Joint Education Center is on Little Rock Air Force Base property, but outside the security fence in order to be more accessible to Jacksonville-area residents, who approved a sales tax for a year to raise $5 million for the project.

The formal grand opening is set for Feb. 1.

 Two things that state Sen. John Paul Capps loves–other than his family, of course–are radio and helping people.

After 44 years, he’ll find himself out of a job representing the people of Searcy, Beebe, north Pulaski County and the Jacksonville area in Dist. 29, so the 76-year-old Capps said he’ll still do what he can to help out.

Area residents will lose about three-quarters of a century of able representation in January when term limits struck down Capps and his Lonoke County counterpart, Sen. Bobby Glover, in one fell swoop. They’re both Democrats.

Capps will be replaced by Rep. Jonathan Dismang of Beebe, Glover by Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, both Republicans.

Capps served 36 years in the state House of Representatives, serving as speaker of the House, and another eight years in the state Senate.

Capps served under nine governors.

 Sherwood Police Chief Kel Nicholson announced at the Sherwood City Council meeting at the end of December that he was stepping down, but not going away.

Nicholson, 47, who has had some health issues and is just getting back to 100 percent, had been the chief for almost seven years.

Nicholson said he and Capt. Jim Bedwell, 56, who headed the detectives and warrants division, would be switching jobs.

Nicholson, a 24-year veteran of the Sherwood police force, said he wants to spend more time with his 13-year-old daughter, his wife and working with middle school students at his church. His wife, Angela, is the city’s clerk and treasurer.

“I love this city, the officers and this department too much to leave it,” he said.

n The same council meeting where Nicholson announced his resignation was the last one for Alderman Becki Vassar, who was the first woman, and longest-serving, on the Sherwood council.

“They were not happy to have me to begin with,” Vassar said. That was back in 1977.

“Even though you had to live in your ward, the whole city voted on each alderman back then, so you had to cover a lot more ground.”

In 1986, she got off the council to run for mayor in a race that had some similarities to the recent mayoral race.

“It started off as a three-way race and ended up in a runoff between myself and Jack Evans, who at that time, was a one-term incumbent,” Vassar said. “I lost 60-40, but if everyone who said they voted for me actually did, I probably should have won.”

Vassar ran for city council again in 1989, won and was sworn back in January 1990, representing Ward 1, Position 1. She gave up that seat at the end of December.

SPORTS>>Falcons, Bears lend intensity to tough league

Leader sportswriter

The 5A-Southeast Conference could be a microcosm of Class 5A basketball this year.

With small senior classes and an unusually large pool of talented juniors, many schools in the 5A Southeast find themselves somewhere between rebuilding and being a frontrunner.

North Pulaski and Sylvan Hills are no different, although circumstances leading up to Friday’s conference openers have been different.

The 4-9 Falcons are defending 5A-Southeast co-champions and state semifinalists. They reached the state finals two years ago, but senior forward Bryan Colson is the only player who remains from that squad.

The departure of key players Aaron Cooper, Duquan Bryant and Kyron Ware has left the Falcons a little inexperienced, but younger players such as junior guard Braylon Spicer and junior center Jeremiah Hollis are beginning to fill that void.

The 8-3 Bears have generated a lot of attention with a loaded junior class, and have had recruiting interest for standout guard Archie Goodwin from major college powerhouses around the country. Goodwin makes up part of a junior-dominated squad that includes forward Larry Zeigler, post player Devin Pearson and point guard Trey Smith.

“I’m sure they’re probably the favorite,” North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper said of Sylvan Hills. “Mills is strong, and Monticello has three or four starters back. They also have some good freshmen that are going to play up. Watson Chapel should also be pretty decent.”

The Falcons went 0-3 in a tournament in Poplar Bluff, Mo., during the final week of December. Two of the games started with North Pulaski falling far behind early before coming back to make it close late.

Liberty Tech, a school that has won two Missouri state championships in five years of existence, led by 20 before the Falcons closed the gap to 48-44 at the final buzzer. North Pulaski also fell 17 down to Memphis Hillcrest before cutting it to two points.

“We’ve got to figure out how to come out strong,” Cooper said. “One thing about it, we may be better off starting the game down by 10. Once we get down, then they relax and start playing.”

The Bears went 2-1 at the Wynne tournament over the holiday break, losing to Forrest City 78-75 in the finals when a last-second shot by Goodwin didn’t fall. They beat Wynne and Hughes to reach the championship.

“It was a very good tournament for us,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “We needed to play over the break. We beat two good ball clubs coming off a layoff, so the kids responded well. We just didn’t shoot well at all against Forrest City.”

Goodwin averaged 38 points through the three-game tournament, including 42 against Hughes.

“He got a really good look at the end, it just didn’t go down,” Davis said of the Forrest City finale. “But for us to shoot as poor as we did and still be in it at the end, we looked at that as something positive that we can build on.”

Cooper and Davis agree the parity extends into other 5A conferences, and beyond.

“I don’t think there’s really any one dominant team in any classification except maybe Hall,” Cooper said. “There are 20 teams that can win it. There are a lot of pretty good teams, and I think it’s going to boil down to who gets hot in the last week of the regular season.”

“If you look across the state at how most of the teams have done early, it’s been a really good year,” Davis said. “I don’t see anybody who doesn’t have a chance to win it, and it will probably come down to whose kids mature the fastest.”

North Pulaski’s longstanding rivalry with cross-town 6A school Jacksonville has been well documented, but with the Falcons and Bears also in proximity to each other and in the same conference the past three seasons, their rivalry is beginning to eclipse others locally.

Cooper graduated Sylvan Hills in the mid-1980s and said he will have to have his Falcons ready to face a Bears team intent on revenge after North Pulaski has swept the series the past two years.

“There’s no doubt — this year’s going to be a good one,” Cooper said.

“They’re going to be looking for payback since we’ve swept them the last couple of years now that they’re the top dogs. They’ve probably got their sights on us, so we’ll have to be prepared.”

SPORTS>>Lee’s threes lift Raiders by Ramblers

Leader sportswriter

ROSE BUD — Riverview’s 2-3A Conference opener wasn’t much of a fight as the Raiders clobbered Rose Bud 62-27 at Rambler Arena on Tuesday.

Senior point guard Keinan Lee made six of seven three-point attempts in the first half for all of his game-high 18 points. Senior post player D.J. Teague, 6-7, dominated the inside and scored 10 points as the Raiders (11-3, 1-0) built a 52-14, halftime lead.

Rose Bud (1-8, 0-1) kept it close for the first three minutes before Riverview ended the first quarter, and any suspense, with a 26-1 run.

The Ramblers took their only lead with 5:58 left in the first half when Joe Dalrymple hit the back end of a two-shot foul to make it 6-5 Rose Bud.

The lead was short lived as Riverview senior guard Taylor Smith hit a pair of free throws. Lee then hit his second three-pointer to extend the lead to 10-6.

“I think our guys knew the tradition that Rose Bud has,” Riverview coach Jon Laffoon said. “They jumped on us there early and got up 6-5. I didn’t like the way we started, but we’ve got some good seniors, and we picked it up and got after it the way we should.”

Smith and Teague scored inside and Desmond Pettis and Lee made three pointers to push the lead to 22-8 with 1:24 left in the first.

“He’s a senior, but he’s as good a shooter as I’ve ever been around,” Laffoon said of Lee. “When teams play us zone, our kids know to look for him. They were packing it in on D.J., three, four guys around him every time we reversed the ball, so Keinan stepped up and separated us there.”

Lee returned to his favorite spot in the left corner again in the second quarter and hit another three-point basket with 5:03 to go in the half to give the Raiders a 38-9 lead, and he wrapped up his scoring with a sixth three-pointer less than a minute later.

“Riverview’s good,” Rose Bud coach Matt Porter said. “Very athletic; they shot us out of our zone, basically. We let Keinan get going, and we quit offensive rebounding, and that gave them the momentum they needed.

“I felt like the first six minutes of the game, we played very good and ran our system perfectly. It was close, then they hit a couple of big threes and we gave up a couple of offensive rebounds that gave them all the momentum.”

Lee assisted Teague on an inside shot to start the second half, and the reserves played out the remainder. Pettis finished with eight points for Riverview while Smith took few shots and scored six points.

“They can all get to the basket,” Laffoon said. “Then we have Keinan shooting it outside and D.J. posting it inside, so when we’re hitting shots, and we play as well as we did tonight, we’re tough.”

A continuous clock was used for the entire second half because of the big lead and officials who were anxious to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks take on Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, but Laffoon said he doesn’t expect the rest of the conference schedule to be as easy.

“Barton has four returning starters, all seniors,” Laffoon said. “I’ve gotten a film or two on them, and they’re loaded. Harding Academy is as good as anybody in the state.

“They can play with anybody — disciplined, well executing, well coached. I feel good about our kids, but it’s going to be a tough fight all conference season long.”

Rose Bud 53, Riverview 30

The Lady Ramblers (14-0) took an easy victory fueled by Tori Willborg’s game-high 21 points, while Kyndl Horton scored 15, all on three-pointers, and Lauren Wynne had 10.

Meg Meachum led the Lady Raiders with 12 points while seniors Queen Banks and Ashanti Baker each had nine.

SPORTS>>Sugar Bowl dominates scheduling for a day

By Todd Traub
Leader sports editor

Coaches are always making adjustments within a game.

But for Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl between Arkansas and Ohio State, coaches, and just about everyone else, were making adjustments so they could watch the game.

Basketball programs unfortunate enough to have a Jan. 4 playing date on their schedules took some creative measures early in the week to clear viewing time for the Razorbacks’ first appearance in a BCS bowl game.

The Abundant Life boys and girls were supposed play a 5-2A Conference game against Poyen at Abundant Life on Tuesday, but the only action taking place in the gym at the scheduled 6 p.m. start was a few younger players wrapping up practice with a shootaround.

That’s because Abundant Life and Poyen moved their games up to Monday in order to free up Tuesday for Sugar Bowl viewing.

“I was a little hesitant to be the one to suggest it,” Abundant Life girls coach and athletic director Justin Moseley said. “Because I knew it would take a lot of phone calls to make sure everything was adjusted with referees and security and concession workers and all that.”

Moseley said he didn’t want to pressure Poyen, situated west of Little Rock and looking at a scheduled bus trip.

“I just kind of said ‘Let me wait and see if Poyen calls me or if any of them ask,’ ” Moseley said. “It wasn’t but within an hour or two and all of a sudden my phone rang and it was their coach and I knew exactly what he was going to ask me. I said ‘I’m open to it.’ ”

Moseley said his decision was met with almost universal approval at Abundant Life, though one Notre Dame fan, boys basketball coach Chris Horton, wasn’t quite caught up in the hoopla.

“He kind of made fun of me for it. We just told him ‘Tough,’ and went ahead with it,” Moseley said jokingly.

With the concession workers, ticket takers, security and other support personnel on board, Abundant Life posted a pair of victories. The girls won 46-32 to improve to 3-2 in conference and the boys won 55-53 to improve to 4-1.

Riverview plunged ahead with its 2-3A Conference opener at Rose Bud, though school officials moved the tipoff of the girl’s game from 6 p.m. to 4 p.m., officially. Moseley said conference foe Conway St. Joseph did the same thing.

“They actually started it about 15 minutes earlier from that,” Riverview coach Jon Laffoon said. “The officials worked that. They were the ones who wanted to start it early.”

The Rose Bud school district called in late December, after the bowl pairings and dates were announced, looking to reschedule the games, but Riverview’s only available date fell during the Christmas break.

Monday was not an option at Riverview because a junior-high tournament was being held on campus.

So the programs cooperated as best they could on Tuesday’s accelerated schedule and got a break, if Rose Bud could call it that, when the boys game got out of hand in the first half with Riverview building a 52-14 lead.

“I’ve been on the other end of that,” Laffoon said. “We were able to get some other kids playing time.”

A 30-point lead entering the third quarter triggers the high school “mercy rule” in which the clock runs almost continuously the rest of the game. However, coaches have the option of deciding mutually whether or not to start the clock earlier.

In this case, the coaches chose to run the clock from the start of the second half, a decision that was more than likely met with unanimous approval throughout the gym.

Laffoon had planned to record the Sugar Bowl and watch it later, but the early night at Rose Bud allowed him to catch most of it live.

That meant Laffoon was home in time to see the Razorbacks, apparently playing their last game with NFL prospect quarterback Ryan Mallett, rally from a 28-7 deficit only to lose 31-26 after an eventful final 1:09.

“You could tell we had been off a month — we meaning Arkansas,” Laffoon said. “We didn’t look sharp. But I liked the defensive effort in the second half. I thought the defensive pressure they kept on Mallett was key, kind of like how we press somebody in basketball.”

Ohio State led 31-26 when Arkansas’ Colton Miles-Nash blocked a punt and Julian Horton recovered at the Ohio State 18 to set up coach Bobby Petrino’s offense led by Mallett.

But after All-American tight end D.J. Williams dropped a pass, Ohio State’s Solomon Thomas intercepted Mallett at the 17 and the Buckeyes had the victory.

The blocked punt got Laffoon’s attention and, unfortunately, his wife’s as well.

“I actually woke my wife up jumping and shouting,” Laffoon said. “I thought Petrino and them would be able to punch it in from there. I was a little disappointed just like everyone else, but you have to give Ohio State credit.”

A similar episode took place in the Moseley household.

“I was worn out from the day but I stayed up,” Moseley said. “I had to nudge my wife when we blocked the punt. Thirty seconds later I said ‘Oh, you can go back to sleep.’ ”

— Sportswriter Jason King contributed to this report.

SPORTS>>No BCS game can be worth fighting over

By Todd Traub
Leader sports editor

Well, I half-expected this.

A Sugar Bowl party in the Lonoke County town of Austin ended badly Tuesday night, with one man in the emergency room and four arrested for either battery or some form of public intoxication.

Deputies said Laramie Ray Kenning, 25, was found in a ditch with a serious head injury and was hospitalized in critical condition. Apparently violence broke out during a party to watch the No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks’ first Bowl Coalition Series bowl game against the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes.

I like to have a good time in this space because I believe sports are entertainment and at their best, they bring people together. But that clearly didn’t happen in this case.

Anything could have triggered the violence, but if one man hit another in the head because of what was happening in a football game then we seriously need to re-think our priorities.

A friend from Texas made a Facebook post in which he joked that high-flying Arkansas fans would drop like the dead blackbirds in Beebe if the Hogs lost, which they did, 31-26.

I wasn’t really joking when I replied that domestic-violence cases would spike.

A study, released in 2009, by economists David Card at Berkeley and Gordon Dahl at UC-San Diego, showed an increase in domestic-violence rates following upset losses by pro football teams.

The same study showed a spike in domestic violence during holidays, so clearly it’s as much about alcohol and passionate feelings as it is about sports.

Still, I hope the misadventure in Austin was the exception in Arkansas.

Fans can’t be blamed for being frustrated once in awhile. Who doesn’t scream at the TV when his heroes are locked up in a big game? I myself am a reformed remote thrower and a TV-talker-backer of long standing.

And Razorbacks fans certainly had plenty to scream about.

There was a first half in which the Arkansas defenders were apparently still finishing their Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s.

There was coach Bobby Petrino’s decision to settle for the field goal that made it 28-10 at halftime. If the Hogs had gone for it and gotten the touchdown, their second-half rally might have been enough.

There were all those dropped balls by a group of receivers the local opinion writers touted as “the best in the nation” all season.

There was the elusiveness of ethically challenged quarterback Terrelle Pryor — the new player Hogs fans love to hate — who simply outran blitzes to pick up key first downs.

And there was that horrible yo-yoing of emotions at the end, when the blocked punt — which could have been returned for a score — gave Arkansas a shot at victory at the Ohio State 18 and Ryan Mallett’s backbreaking interception seconds later.

Mallett, of course, is the player with NFL talent who threw it away twice with a chance to beat then No. 1 Alabama earlier this year. One interception was in the end zone and another came inexplicably when Mallett tried to throw the ball out of bounds and didn’t put enough mustard on it.

Fans said Mallett’s critical turnover Tuesday proves he isn’t ready for the NFL, but after watching Chicago’s Jay Cutler do the same thing at Green Bay on Sunday, I’d say Mallett is ready for his pro debut.

It was all made doubly frustrating because, I believe, the Razorbacks proved they are truly from the superior league, the SEC. How many of the Big Ten’s Buckeyes went down with injuries or cramps or were just sucking wind in the second half while the Razorbacks seemed to get stronger and faster?

But instead, Ohio State ends its nine-game, bowl losing streak against the SEC and the Hogs became the first SEC team this year to drop a bowl to a Big Ten opponent. Arkansas fell to 0-4 against the Big Ten in bowl games.

Regardless, none of the Hogs’ miscues Tuesday should have caused a human being to use his fists on another.

Obviously copious amounts of alcohol were involved in the violence in Austin, which helps explain why these days many pro teams cut off alcohol sales before games end.

Still, booze is no excuse for fighting over a football game.

I have a simple solution — if it stops being fun, turn it off.

There are a lot of constructive things to do instead. I personally recommend reading, before we all forget how, or spending time with the kids or getting some exercise.

My good friend Phil Elson, as passionate about his teams as anyone, signs off his Arkansas Travelers broadcasts by saying, “Folks, remember, it’s only a game.”

And it is.

Now then, what are we doing for the Super Bowl?

SPORTS>>Panthers plunge into action

By Todd Traub
Leader sports editor

It may be a great way to start.

It may be like ripping off a Band-aid.

Either way, Cabot faced one of its toughest 7A-Central tests in the conference opener at defending state champion Conway on Friday night.

“It’s like I tell my kids, I’d just as soon play them earlier in the year than later,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “Man, they’re good. It will be good for us to measure where we are.”

Cabot might as well find out how it stacks up now, because Bridges doesn’t expect the rest of the conference schedule to be much easier.

“From here on it’s all 7A opponents and you better be ready to match it up and I think they will,” Bridges said of his players.

The Panthers have made three straight state-tournament appearances under Bridges but returned just two senior starters, 6-4 forward Kai Davis and 6-2 guard Darin Jones. Not surprisingly, the duo has helped shoulder the load in the early going.

“We’re getting a little better at becoming more consistent at scoring,” Bridges said. “Darin and Kai have really been doing good. Our younger kids, we’re finding that third scorer. It may not be the same kid in every game.”

Turnovers have been an issue, but Bridges hopes that will smooth out as his players continue to gain experience.

“We’ve got to get better still,” Bridges said. “This is more of an individual thing with some of them, but taking care of the ball and not being as nonchalant at times. That comes with a young team.”

Bridges said defense has been a strength in the early going for the Panthers, who reached the final of the Central Arkansas Christian Invitational in December before falling to Paragould.

“I think defensively there’s times we’ve played some real good defense,” Bridges said. “That’s why we were in a lot of games. We feel like there’s only one game we were completely taken out of and Jacksonville has proven they are pretty darn good.”

Jacksonville (11-0) will have its own problems in the tough 6A-East. Bridges saw plenty of headaches ahead in the 7A-Central, beginning with Conway, led by Colt Fason and Micah Delph.

“I still think they’re very solid,” Bridges said. “They’ve got an outstanding perimeter game with the Delph kid and they’ve got the big boy Fason, 6-6 or 6-7, and apparently he’s developed some type of perimeter game too because now he’s knocking down threes.”

Bridges ranked Van Buren, with five returning starters, alongside Conway as the toughest potential challenges.

“I think there’s going to be some very competitive games,” said Bridges, throwing Little Rock Catholic, coached by veteran Tim Ezzi, into the mix. “The thing about Catholic is he can play 10 and there’s not much difference. They’ve got 10 pretty good ballplayers and Tim does a great job at that.”

As if the conference race wasn’t tough enough, things get more complicated at the end of the season. Little Rock Hall and West Memphis are reclassified 7A but playing a 6A regular-season schedule, and they will be factored into the 7A-Central postseason seedings via a new, power-rating points system.

Bridges said he is no fan of the system and would prefer to see the high school basketball season settled by who beats whom straight up.

“You throw West Memphis and Hall into our rankings when they come out of their conference and I tell you those are the best two teams in their conference right now,” Bridges said. “I’m not going to worry about that formula. I’m not smart enough. I figure if you win games you have a chance.”

SPORTS>>Hot start a boost as Devils move on

By Todd Traub
Leader sports editor

If this is what Jacksonville does in a rebuilding mode, it is almost frightening what the Red Devils are capable of when up to speed.

Jacksonville was 11-0 entering Friday night’s 6A-East Conference opener with perennial state championship contender Little Rock Hall at the Devils Den. Even Red Devils coach Vic Joyner was surprised by the fast, non-conference start.

“No doubt about it,” Joyner said. “But you can attribute that to these kids. They worked so hard in preseason, every day in practice. Hard work has been paying off so far.

“You’ve got a team full of kids; none of them get in trouble. They all have their grades up. There’s no problem kids left because we don’t keep them around.”

Joyner said Jacksonville was still regrouping at the start of the season after winning the 6A state championship in 2009 and the experts were giving the edge this year to teams like Hall, West Memphis or Little Rock Parkview.

“We weren’t considered in the mix. Our names weren’t being mentioned,” Joyner said. “I really don’t think it is being mentioned now. It might be a little bit now because we got off to such a good start.

“We’re kind of in a rebuilding mode right now.”

The Devils entered the season with returning leading scorer Raheem Appleby, Xavier Huskey, James Akins and Justin McCleary representing most of the experience.

With Appleby averaging close to 23 points a game to lead the way, the nucleus has delivered during the early winning streak.

“He can create a shot so many different ways,” Joyner said of Appleby. “We’ve got Justin McCleary running the point. He ran the point even as a ninth-grader and now he’s a 10th-grader. He’s grown a lot in his knowledge of the game.”

Akins is basically a second point guard on the floor, Joyner said, and Terrell Brown has developed as an outside shooter.

“They’ve got pretty good chemistry and we’ve been doing a pretty good job on defense,” Joyner said.

Jacksonville’s early victims include defending 7A state champion Conway, 7A state tournament qualifier Cabot and 5A North Pulaski, which reached the state finals and semifinals, respectively, the past two years.

But it remains to be seen if that success carries over into conference play.

“Our conference is tough, top to bottom,” Joyner said. “There’s no weak links in there anywhere.”

At the outset of the season, Joyner said most of the teams in the 6A-East were full of returning talent and that he expected Jacksonville to be the experienced program next year while the other teams had turnover on their rosters.

“Searcy has all those seniors coming back; he’s as deep as he’s ever been,” Joyner said, expressing some envy of the other conference coaches. “Marion combined with Turrell; he’s as deep as he’s ever been. Even Mountain Home, those guys have been starting for him three years so he’s as deep as he’s ever been.”

It all started Friday against defending state champion Hall, which had four starters ranging from 6-4 to 6-10. Jacksonville’s tallest contributing players are Brown and Jamison Williams at 6-3.

“We call them Hall Junior College,” Joyner said. “That presents the biggest problem we’ve faced with our lack of size inside. This will be our most stern test right there.”

Joyner was only partially joking when he was asked what it would take to survive Hall and the rest of the conference lineup.

“First of all you’ve got to pray. Have a good spiritual life and relationship with God, that’s the first thing,” he said. “And then you’ve got to try to push it. You’ve got to push the tempo. But you’ve got problems when you try to push tempo because first you’ve got to control the boards and be able to run it, so that’s a problem unto itself.”

EVENTS >> 1-22-11


The Miss Greater Jacksonville Pageant and the Miss Greater Jacksonville Outstanding Teen Pageant will be NEXT Saturday at the Jacksonville Community Center.

Miss Greater Jacksonville contestants must be between the ages of 17 and 24.

Outstanding Teen contestants must be at least 13 years old by the date of the state pageant or no older than 17 and must not be a senior in high school.

Other contests will include baby miss for children under 18 months old; toddler miss for children between the ages of 19 and 35 months old; wee miss for 3- to 4-year-olds; tiny miss for 5- and 6-year-olds; little miss for 7- to 9-year-olds and petite miss for 10- to 12-year-olds. Each competition includes beauty with optional talent and photogenic portions. For details, call Sharon at 501-982-3898.


The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual banquet at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27 at the community center. For ticket information, call 501-982-1511.


The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce will hold another meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the community center, 5 Municipal Drive, to discuss the city’s schools.

Derek Scott, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and director of operations for Pulaski County Special School District, will speak.

He is expected to answer questions about a proposal to realign Jacksonville/north Pulaski County schools, possibly resulting in construction of a new middle school and a new elementary school and educating ninth- and 10th-graders at North Pulaski High School and the 11th- and 12th-graders at Jacksonville High School.
The PCSSD board authorized Scott to visit communities to discuss plans to consolidate, close and build new schools.


The Jacksonville Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association will meet at 5:45 p.m. Monday at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 2413 Northeastern Ave. Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes will speak. All graduates of the citizens police academy are invited. For more information, call Eleanor Loyd at 501-412-4115 or e-mail her at


A fifth Sunday singing will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30 at Bethlehem United Methodist Church on Bethlehem Road near Cabot in Lonoke County.

Everyone is invited to attend. Coffee and soft drinks will be available afterward.

To get to Bethlehem UMC, take Hwy. 321 East to Hwy. 31, turn north about one block to Bethlehem Road. Proceed about four miles to the church. For more information, call Rev. Jerry Nipper at 501-676-2510 or George Wilson at 501-843-5213.


Kiwanis Club of Cabot will host its annual chili cook-off and silent auction at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5 at Cabot Junior High North’s cafeteria. The entry fee for teams is $25 for four people.

Prizes will be given for best chili and best theme. Admission is $3. Doors open at 4 p.m. Call 501-628-4569 or 501-941-4955 for entry forms and tickets.


Cabot City Beautiful will host its citywide cleanup from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, March 19. The group encourages all residents to participate, especially civic, church and youth groups, school clubs, scouts, families and businesses.

Volunteers will meet at the Cabot High School stadium parking lot at 9 a.m. for registration. Participants will be assigned routes, but they may also designate areas that interest them.

Orange safety vests and garbage bags will be provided, but volunteers should bring sturdy work gloves. A free lunch will be served at noon.

The event will also serve as a free drop-off point for the disposal of electronics and hazardous household waste materials like latex paints, oil-based paints and thinners, motor oil, antifreeze, fluorescent bulbs, pesticides and herbicides, cleaners, batteries, car batteries and tires.

For more information, call 501-920-2122.