Saturday, December 29, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Wicked Weather

A week ago, weather forecasters had only an inkling of what was in store for Arkansas: They called for only a slight chance of snow on Christmas, but as conditions changed — forecasters crunch millions of data in their computers all the time, and weather predictions have improved in recent years — they realized a lot more than just an inch or two of snow was headed our way.

By Sunday, it was obvious that a record snowstorm was headed our way late Christmas. Forecasters focused on the snow, but not the freezing rain, sleet and ice that came first causing trees and power lines to crack. The added weight of the snow brought the snap, crackle and pop. State highway officials went on high alert, and cities started salting some roads.

Utilities sent out calls for workers from surrounding states.

Entergy, the state’s largest electric company, called for 4,000 workers from out of state, but most of them didn’t arrive till later in the week, leaving thousands of customers still without power. Early Friday afternoon, there was a convoy of about 100 utility trucks spotted along I-40 between West Memphis and Carlisle, coming in from Chattanooga, Tenn., and North Carolina.

A garbage truck was barreling down a slick West Main Street in Jacksonville on Wednesday afternoon, crossing the centerline and barely missing oncoming traffic. A water department truck passed an Entergy truck in a no-passing zone on Harris Road. A car was speeding down the slushy road in a 25-mph zone, going about twice the speed limit.

People are in a hurry, especially when the roads are slick. Downed trees along Hwy. 67/167 slowed motorists down just a bit as they drove to work Friday morning.

Everyone will have stories of the Blizzard of 2012, officially called Snowstorm Euclid, although it looks like there’s still time for one more big whopper as the forecast calls for rain on Monday and with the temperatures ranging from the 40s down into the 20s that precipitation could freeze and bring us sliding into 2013.

As the new year gets going in earnest, we will hear about and report on the dwindling number of neighbors who still had power but took in family, friends and even strangers, and kudos go out to every one of them.

Special thanks also go out to the public works employees in Lonoke, Pulaski and White counties, as well as those in Sherwood, Cabot, Ward, Austin, Beebe and Jacksonville and other surrounding towns, where many workers spent their Christmas not with their families, but with tons of sand and salt, trying to make their streets and highways safe.

In Sherwood, Public Works Director Brian Galloway said his crews started hitting the roads about 4 a.m. Christmas morning and have been running pretty solid through Friday.

Galloway was hoping Friday’s rain wouldn’t freeze and he could give his people and equipment a break.

“But I’ve got guys on call, just in case,” he said.

And we all need to be thankful that there were no deaths, major crashes or fires in the area.

But let’s stay vigilant and careful and keep it a safe holiday season.

TOP STORY >> 2012: First Lady, Chinese acrobats visit; firefighters killed

Did you know that the Leader newspaper averages five stories on the front page every issue? That’s 520 different headlines in a year, plus thousands more on the inside pages. Headlines about good news, tragedies, politics, economics, schools and people.

Here is the first in a series looking back at those headlines of 2012.


• Birds pull town together — Beebe officials and residents worked together to prevent another blackbird disaster. On New Year’s Eve 2011, about 5,000 of the birds dropped dead from the sky and their roosts, apparently from be frightened by loud, large fireworks. This year only 450 dead birds were found.

• LRAFB backs up traffic — The base initiated a new security-check system which had traffic backed up from the front gate, down Vandenberg Boulevard, up the frontage road, back up Toneyville Road and Hwy.67/167 almost to Cabot. Delays for the same reason at the back gate had Hwy. 107’s northbound and southbound lanes stacked.

• Avionics testing on hold at base — Budget restraints were cited as the reason for the Air Force postponing tests of the first updated Avionics Modernizations Program planes.

• Carlisle farmer dies in grain silo — According to reports, the farmer was inside the silo attempting to clear a blockage when he fell into the rice and quickly went under. It took rescue workers about an hour to find the body.

• Teacher with gun arrested — A Jacksonville High School teacher was arrested after a student stole her purse, which had a gun in it. She was charged with possession of a handgun on school property.

• Sister loses legs after dispute — A 32-year-old Carlisle woman ran over her older sister during a family dispute. The injured sister was flown to the hospital where both her legs were amputated.

• Contractors start repairs at LRAFB — Repairs to seven buildings on the base, damaged from an April 2011 tornado, started at a cost of about $16 million.

• Stalker leaves jail, kills woman — Ronnie Odell Stewart, 38, of Maumelle, who was in the Lonoke County Jail on charges of rape, false imprisonment and terroristic threatening was released on a $50,000 bond and then killed himself and the Austin woman who accused him of the crimes.

• China troupe thrills crowd at a big show — Talented acrobats from China performed in Jacksonville as a fundraiser for a proposed arts center to be housed in the now-closed Jacksonville Elementary School.

• Evanescence visits Hastings — The popular Grammy-award winning rock group stopped in at the Jacksonville music store and signed autographs before performing in North Little Rock.

• Study reveals road dangers for area cities — Metroplan report cites concern over high pedestrian and bicycle crashes with vehicles on South First Street in Jacksonville and Main Street in Cabot.

• Change of command slated for 19th AW — Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson assumes command of the 19th Airlift Wing from Col. Mike Minihan.


• Principal meets JHS students to hear grievances — Six students, a cross-section of the student body, meet with Principal Henry Anderson to discuss problems within the school and how to fix them in the first meeting of the Principal’s Cabinet.

• First Arkansas obtains credit card business — the Jacksonville-based financial institution became the sole owner of the $115 million BV Card Assets in Atlanta and plans on expanding the business.

• Base units thrive amid cuts—The National Guard and Reserves are losing only three C-130s over the next five years as they add more personnel to their ranks.

• LRAFB shows Mrs. Obama its right stuff — The 19th AW commander showed First Lady Michelle Obama during a visit to the base how LRAFB has upgraded its menu and is serving healthier foods.

• Wing Ding Festival to end as chamber withdraws support — After 13 years, the chamber decided not to host the festival anymore. The chamber cited dropping attendance, lack of volunteers and that last year’s festival lost $12,000.

• Teacher is facing charges in court — An eighth-grade science teacher at Cabot Junior High North was arrested and charged with 11 counts of first-degree sexual assault and two counts of second-degree sexual assault after allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old male student.

• Must slash to survive, PCSSD says — The Pulaski County Special School District was in fiscal distress and said it would be “fatal” if the union didn’t agree to an additional $7 million in cuts. Despite the financial cliff, district officials did say that they still planned on making almost $9 million in school improvements this year.

• Sentence for killer: Life with no parole — David Derreberry arrested in April 2011 for murdering a Cabot pawn shop owner pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to life without parole.

• CHS class builds house in Cabot — Juniors and seniors in the high school’s construction technology program built a $143,500 three-bedroom home.

• Sherwood coffee firm helps Haitian growers — Employees with Biff’s Coffee provided training to Haitian coffee farmers, showing them better growing and roasting methods.

• Filing season opens — Campaign filings for local and state races began and a number of candidates signed up as soon as the doors opened.

• Negotiations in PCSSD fail as two sides still far apart — after meeting with the Pulaski County Special School District and federal mediators, the teacher’s union declared an impasse in talks that including maintaining recognition of the union and its contract with the district.

• Rezoning paves way for Walmart — The Beebe City Council approved a change in zoning which would allow a 156,000-square-foot Walmart to be built in the 2000 block of West Center Street.

• Sherwood given two opinions on funds — Who controls the improvement funds for the city golf course—the public facilities board or the city? The council decided it was the city.

• Ex-cop held for assault — A former Austin police officer was arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a prisoner in his custody.


• Sheriff’s race draws six candidates — After Lonoke County Sheriff made it clear that he was not running for reelection, six candidates stepped up to take his place.

• Newspaper celebrates 25 years — The Leader newspaper, which has been honored as the best largest weekly in the state for the last five years, celebrates its 25th year in business serving Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood and surrounding communities.

• Veteran aldermen retire after long service — Two Jacksonville aldermen, representing 52 years of experience, opted to retire. Marshall Smith, with 32 years on the council, and Bob Stroud, who had given 20 years of service to the city, both decided to pass the torch to new blood.

• Unions sue PCSSD to stop end run — Both the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers and the Pulaski Association of Support Staff took the Pulaski County Special School District to court to stop it from slicing pay, benefits and other financial aspects of teacher and staff contracts.

• Another golf course closes — The Lonoke Golf Course is reported as being dangerously close to closing. The owners said if they couldn’t find a buyer or someone to take over payments by April 1 the course would close.

• More airmen slated for LRAFB — Up to 1,100 active-duty and reservists are scheduled to arrive at the air base while cuts are implemented elsewhere.

• LRAFB putting $780M in area — Combined with the Air National Guard, the base pumps more than double into local economy than what it did in 2000.

• Two state champions celebrate — Sylvan Hills High School won the boys 5A state tourney and the Cabot Lady Panthers won the state 7A title.

• Mayor is fine after surgery — Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert took off three days for bypass surgery in North Little Rock. His recovery went well.

• Greystone is getting back into full swing — The Melbourne businessman who bought the front golf course and clubhouse in Cabot’s Greystone subdivision for $650,000 from the bank that foreclosed on the property said he had plans to reopen the course as soon as possible. The other course, Cypress Creek, was purchased by Cabot businessman Steve Grimm, who also plans to open the course, but said the poor condition of the course might take a year or more to rectify.

• Lighthouse set to open a high school in 2013 — The announcement was made that Lighthouse Academies was set to build an $8 million, 50,000-square-foot high school next to its elementary campus off North First Street.

• Lonoke High School breaks ground for new complex — Work started in March on the high school’s $9.6 million, 54,000 square-foot, multipurpose Gina Cox Center.

• Tragic week for fire department — The third week of March will long be remembered by the fire department. It responded to a duplex fire that killed a mother and her four children and questions were raised about the department’s policies and whether or not it could have prevented that tragedy. Then a firefighter is killed another injured when an individual purposely drives trough barricade and runs into firefighters and police trying to get render aid to a woman who drove off Hwy. 161 into a ditch.

• Farewell to fallen firefighter — Fire Capt. Donald Lee Jones was buried March 24 after he was deliberately struck and killed by Bryce Allen, 47, of Jacksonville as Jones and others tried to get Allen’s mother out of her car which she had driven into a ditch off Hwy. 161. Firefighter Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo were also seriously injured in the incident.

• Driver has criminal past, mental problems — Bryce Allen, 47, who drove through barricades to rundown police and firefighters assisting his mother after she ran off Hwy. 161 into a ditch, was an Army veterans, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been arrested in 2009 for second-degree battery of a police office and terroristic threatening.

• Cabot sales tax would pay for highway ramp — A task force proposed extending a one-cent sales tax to help pay for a $19 million interchange between Cabot and Austin to help alleviate traffic.

• School remembers fire victims — Teachers, classmates, parents and friends gathered at Dupree Elementary March 30 to remember the lives of three students who died in a tragic house fire March 22. The fire claimed the life of a single mom and her four children.

• District to move teacher with gun — A Jacksonville High School teacher who inadvertently brought a gun to school in her purse in January didn’t lose her job or go to jail. The district suspended her for the rest of the school year, placed her on probation for two years and told her she must apply for a position at a different school.


• A parade 37 years after the war — Vietnam veterans were saluted in Jacksonville with a parade in their honor and were called heroes, a far cry from the scornful welcome many received returning from the war.

• Family says farewell to fire victims — Hundreds turned out for the funeral of a mom and her four children who died of smoke inhalation in a house fire that raised questions about HUD procedures and fire department policies.

• “Pot-pourri” bust stops big profits for three stores — Law enforcement officers from Ward, Cabot and Austin raided shops selling synthetic marijuana in the form of bath salts and related items. In all, 15,000 packets were taken of the shelves, stopping a multi-million dollar business.

• Judge puts nail in coffin for North Belt — A judge ruled in favor of a Sherwood subdivision, telling the Highway Department to buy the rights of way now for the planned freeway loop or let the developer build. Since no one seems to have the money to buy the land, the developer is building on the rights of way.

• Turnover at charter schools is a concern — Parents and others voice concern over a high turnover rate and sluggish test scores at the Lighthouse Academy schools in Jacksonville.

• Family sues over death — The family of a woman who wandered away from an assisted living facility in Cabot and died of hypothermia sued the facility for negligence.

• City no longer owns hospital — It took three years for Jacksonville to complete its $10 million sale of North Metro Hospital to Allegiance Health Management, the firm that had been managing the hospital.

• State kills unions to cut costs in PCSSD — State Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell backed the Pulaski County Special School District’s plans to no longer recognize the teacher or staff unions in an effort to save $11 million.

• Deadly end on rural road —Lonoke County deputy Jack Fitzhugh shot and killed Dustin Williamson after Williamson attacked the deputy with a tire-jack stand.

• Students re-enact drunk driving — North Pulaski High School students learned how dangerous drunk driving could be by participating and witnessing a true-to-life simulation.

• Sunday concert a benefit for three first responders — Bucky Covington, an American Idol finalist, headlined a concert to raise funds to help the families of the two first-responders who were injured and the family of one that was killed in March when a driver slammed into them as they were giving aid to an accident victim.

• Chief: Sherwood underpays cops — Police Chief Jim Bedwell told the city’s personnel committee that his officers were underpaid and that’s why so many were leaving for other jobs that paid more.

• PCSSD, unions try to survive amid turmoil — The teachers’ and staff unions accused the state education department and the school district of trying to undermine the gains the unions have made over the last 40 years for teachers and staff.

• School’s charter renewed — The State Board of Education renewed the charter for Cabot’s Academic Center of Excellence for five more years.

• First Electric celebrates longevity — The venerable electric cooperative celebrated its 75th year of supplying power to Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot and the surrounding area.

Compiled by Rick Kron

TOP STORY >> Austin’s top cop patrols in storm

Leader staff writer

At 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Tony Bryant, the new police chief in Austin, was headed home with the intention of going to bed. His workday had started almost 24 hours earlier.

The city, where a fifth of the homes were without power this week, received 12 inches of snow Christmas Day, according to the National Weather Service.

Power, phone and cable lines were down all over, generally the result of falling trees or limbs, local officials in Lonoke County said.

For the most part, Bryant was patrolling to make sure there were no problems in the city. Some hilly streets were impassible, but he said he didn’t work any wrecks.

However, Bryant did help the fire department clear trees on Hwy. 67/167 that had fallen between Ward and Austin and at the Austin exit.

Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain said workers started salting the streets as soon as the sleet started on Christmas Day. By Thursday afternoon, power had been restored to most of the city, including city hall, Chamberlain said.

Ward, where 20 percent of the homes were without power, was also accident-free. Deborah Staley at city hall said workers salted hills and intersections to keep traffic flowing.

The senior citizen center on Grant Street next door to the library in Cabot was opened to the public as a warming center for northern Lonoke County Wednesday evening.

But at 3 p.m. Thursday, director Cherry Godwin was still waiting for guests. “I’ve got the coffee pot on, but nobody’s here,” Godwin said.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said in a press release Thursday afternoon that the center would also be open through Friday to anyone who needed a place to stay.

Off-duty police officers were available through Cabot police dispatch at 843-6526 to drive the senior center vans for pickups, he said. Guests were advised that they could bring bedding and snacks but no pets.

Residents with and without power braved the cold to pick up necessities from grocery stores and quick meals from fast food restaurants.

Little Caesar’s of Arkansas president Michael Fritz said the storm affected some locations with power outages.

Restaurants opened later and closed earlier because of concerns over their employees and customers traveling home.

Fritz said food delivery companies helped out by allowing supplies to stay in the refrigerated trucks until power was restored at the restaurants.

He said the restaurants saw above normal business Thursday and Friday.

Knight’s Super Foods co-owner Kent Knight said they were very fortunate to only lose power for just a few hours at their stores.

He said people were really patient.

Customers were buying charcoal, hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers so they could cook outside, Knight said.

Residents went elsewhere for other items.

Cabot Home Depot assistant store manager Tom McCutchen said, “We had a whole lot of people needing generators, kerosene and propane heaters.”

Snow shovels, ice melt and winter-weather related products have been selling out since the storm, McCutchen said.

He said the Cabot store had to get an emergency shipment of generators from other stores to satisfy the increased demand.

Like the rest of the state, much of Cabot was without power and is being restored in increments.

When power didn’t come back on at the animal shelter, workers hooked up a portable generator to keep the animals warm, said Eddie Cook, the city’s director of operations.

Cook said he told residents about the warming center and all the hotel rooms in Cabot were full.

Highway department and city workers scraped and sanded the main streets in Cabot and city workers spread some sand on the roads, Cook said.

Side streets were left to be cleared by the sun and traffic.

Cook said he received some complaints and some compliments about street conditions.

Trash pickup in Cabot started Thursday morning and was expected to run through Sunday, weather permitting.

Sgt. Keith Graham, spokesman for the Cabot Police Department, said there were no major accidents during the storm. A few vehicles slid into ditches, but there were no major collisions, he said.

By Thursday evening, power was restored in most of Lonoke. About 600 residents — 50 percent of the town’s population — lost power this week.

The main roads through town were clear. A city employee said that, except for the lack of electricity, the city had no major problems.

Near Carlisle, there were “a bunch of wrecks on the interstate,” said a city employee. Power was out at the service stations at the interstate, but not in the central Carlisle area.

Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin said he had been out with his road crews since the ice and snow started Christmas evening clearing trees that had fallen across roads.

After Gov. Mike Beebe declared the state a disaster area, Erwin made the same declaration for Lonoke County.

Just making the declaration doesn’t ensure that federal money will be available to reimburse part of the cost of cleanup after the storm. But it is necessary to apply, Erwin said.

The judge said he hadn’t had time yet to estimate the cost of the cleanup because he’s been too busy cleaning up.

Erwin said the courthouse was without power for two days.
Jim Kulesa, spokesman for the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, said, “My son is a volunteer fireman at Ward and they were hardly out of their turnouts for two days.”

He said they were helping chainsaw trees out of roadways, helping people having breathing problems or where cars had slid off roads.

The sheriff’s office at the Lonoke County Detention Center was off the grid for two days but a back-up generator kicked in. Having power is important for the security of a modern jail where doors are opened and closed electronically and much of the monitoring is done by video.

Beebe saw the only reported fire in the area. It was on Christmas evening at a home on North Sherry Street.

But Assistant Fire Chief Rick Jackson said Thursday that the cause of the fire had not yet been determined and the occupant of the house had not been located.

Jackson said city firefighters worked with street department employees to clear some fallen limbs, but that the storm caused no major problems in Beebe.

Between 800 and 1,000 people in Beebe — about 50 percent of the town’s population — lost power this week. For once, the weather may help rather than hinder local farmers.

The snow and cold temperatures could drive the winter wheat temporarily into a dormant state, according to Lonoke County chief agricultural extension agent Jeff Welch, but wouldn’t hurt it in the long run.

The snow, rain and ice will help farmers refill the reservoirs they pumped dry last summer keeping their row crops watered during the drought.

He said they are currently pumping water from streams into their ponds.

The water level in the aquifer under Lonoke County, which had dropped five feet between July and September this year, has slowly begun to recharge, according to data compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey at Little Rock.

“We’re at about nine inches below precipitation average for the year, according to John Czarnecki, a ground water specialist with the USGS.

But the snow, ice and recent rains “can do nothing but help,” he said. “Most of the recharge for the aquifer in the Lonoke County area comes from the Arkansas and White rivers.”

Welch said the blanket of snow is just insulation for insects. It won’t hurt them at all.

When the fields dry up a little, farmers will get back in preparing them for spring planting.

“We had the biggest drought ever, but our row crops are 99 percent irrigated,” he said. “It’s one of the best years I’ve seen on the yield.”

TOP STORY >> Crews still work hard to restore electricity

Leader staff writer

While the area’s first white Christmas in 86 years was certainly beautiful, the aftermath isn’t so wonderful.

Trees laden with snow and a thin layer of ice on electrical lines left hundreds of thousands of Arkansans in the dark.

In some areas, up to 75 percent of the homes were without power. Several people are still waiting for their lights to come back on.

More than 242,500 Entergy customers lost power this week.

On Friday, almost 4,000 Entergy customers in Jacksonville and Sherwood were still in the dark. Nearly 1,000 Entergy customers in Cabot had no power.

About 30,000 First Electric Cooperative members in 17 counties were in the dark this week, including a third of the homes in Cabot. About 18,000 North Little Rock Electric customers in North Little Rock and Sherwood lost power.

Entergy held a press conference Friday afternoon and reported that electricity to 106,000 customers had been restored. Entergy expected restoration for Cabot residents to be finished Friday.

Tori Moss, First Electric’s communications coordinator, said 234 Jacksonville district members were in the dark at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The cooperative’s Jacksonville district includes portions of northern Pulaski, Lonoke, White, Prairie and Faulkner counties. More specifically that district includes Jacksonville, Cabot and Sherwood.

Moss said First Electric crews were working overnight and expected to restore power to the Jacksonville district by today. The rest of its members statewide were expected to have power by this evening.

Jill Ponders of North Little Rock Electric said Friday that about 200 people in Sherwood and North Little Rock were still in the dark. The utility planned to complete repairs Friday.

The voice mail for Entergy spokeswoman Julie Munsell was full and she did not respond to an e-mail from The Leader by press time.

The utility planned to complete restoration in Searcy today, according to its Facebook page. Work in Little Rock and surrounding areas was expected to finish up by Tuesday.


Entergy brought in 100 out-of-state workers in preparation for the snow. After the storm, the company requested 4,900 additional linemen and support workers from other parts of Arkansas and other states. The crews came from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Moss said First Electric’s outages were not in large groups, Moss said.

Larry Harp, First Electric’s vice president of operations, said, “They are smaller outages that affect anywhere from a few dozen people to one individual, but restoring each one can be just as time-consuming as the more widespread outages.”

Moss said the utility has “an aggressive right of way program that encompasses the cooperative’s 10,000 miles of lines throughout 17 counties.”

Tim Felty, right of way maintenance supervisor, said, “All lines are maintained on at least a five-year schedule. In more populated areas, First Electric employees and contractors maintain the 15-foot clearance on either side of the line on a four-year schedule. We also have an extensive removal program of trees that grow inside the right of way.”

He continued, “In addition, First Electric inspects 10 percent of the more than 200,000 wood poles throughout the five service areas each year. We do this to identify and remove weakened poles from our system.”


No one seemed prepared for the culprit that caused the outages — up to a foot of snow in some local areas.

According to the National Weather Service, Austin in Lonoke County received 12 inches of snow and Jacksonville had 10.5 inches.

Little Rock and North Little Rock saw 10.3 inches and parts of White County had 13 inches of the white stuff.

The most snow — 15 inches — fell in Garland County.

Not only was it the whitest Christmas here ever, Tuesday was the eighth snowiest day on record. The snowiest was March 6, 1875, when 12 inches fell, according to the National Weather Service.

On Dec. 25, 1926, the last time the state had a white Christmas, nine inches of snow accumulated.

People without power had a few options.

They were bunking down with relatives who had power, going to local warming centers, booking hotel rooms, using their fireplaces, and using gas stoves and ranges to cook and keep the cold at bay.


Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said 50 to 60 people without power found shelter at the Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive.

“We’re hunkered down,” the mayor said.

Fletcher said he appreciates the Red Cross, Second Baptist Church, Wendy’s, First United Methodist and others who helped provide meals and other necessities to the refugees of the freak snowstorm.

“We’re trying to make people comfortable. We’ve got everything taken care of through Saturday (today),” the mayor said on Thursday.

Fletcher said the city’s street department was removing debris from, scraping and salting arterial roads like West Main and Gregory streets and Marshall Road. Some employees are working 12-hour shifts to get everything done as quickly as possible, he said.

The mayor said, “It’s going to be a chore. There are going to be several people who don’t have the money to clean up. Side streets that still have shade are going to be more dangerous (to drive).”

Fletcher said, “The big thing I’m really proud of is our sanitation department.” But people need to remember to make sure the lids of their cans are shut, Fletcher said.

He said the trucks wouldn’t empty those overfilled containers because trash spills onto the road when the mechanical arm lift them. He said all residents could have their trash picked up by today.


Several residents turned to local hotels for warm beds.

Shanna Washington of Comfort Inn said Thursday, “We are swamped. We think we have an opening and a few minutes later we don’t.”

She said people who didn’t have power at their homes occupied 53 of the hotel’s 59 rooms. She said most of the guests were Jacksonville residents, but a few came from Cabot, North Little Rock and Little Rock.

The Days Inn’s 40 rooms were full and the Econo Lodge had only 10 of its 65 rooms available Thursday.

Jay Patel, the front desk manager at the Cranbury Inn, said, “We have been very busy.” He said all 52 rooms were occupied, but guests who didn’t have electricity at their homes occupied only 18 rooms.

Lisa Fields, the front desk manager at Best Western in Sherwood, said, “We’re completely booked up.” She said families without power probably occupied 50 of their 60 rooms.


Hotels weren’t the only businesses being slammed by people in need.

A manager at the Dollar General in Gravel Ridge said the store had been very busy. She didn’t want to give The Leader her name.

The manager said, “We’ve been nonstop at the registers. As far as having stuff on the shelves, that has been a problem.”

She said the store was out of bread, but it did have milk because that supplier was able to get there to restock this week.

A representative with the Walmart Supercenter in Jacksonville said all of the managers were unavailable because they were working at the registers. The Leader left a message with her but did not hear back from anyone by press time.

The phone lines for Kroger and Knight’s in Jacksonville were busy. A phone call to the Walmart Supercenter in Sherwood went unanswered.

The bread shelves at the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Sherwood were mostly empty Thursday morning. Jacksonville’s Walmart was out of milk.

A Sherwood worker said they would be restocking later that day. A manager at the store said customers were buying a little bit of everything.


But treacherous roads prevented a lot of people from arriving at the stores and shelters.

Billy Hall of Sherwood Towing and Ivy Hall Wrecker Service in Jacksonville said, “Most of ours were people in the ditch. It’s unbelievable. Some places we couldn’t get to. Stay off the road or slow down.”

He said his companies have helped with 10 to 12 accidents and it took a couple of days to recover some vehicles.

“We just have to do what we can do,” Hall said.

Johnny James of Jacksonville Tow and Recovery said there were three wrecks on Thursday before 4 p.m.

He said people have been getting stuck and colliding with other cars. “You just can’t tell (how many accidents there were),” James said.

Teresa Hensley of Ryno Towing in Jacksonville said, “We pulled out one patrol and an ambulance that was stuck in the snow.” Other accidents the company has responded to were on the I-440 bridge and in Cabot.

Hensley said, “It’s been kind of dangerous (for our wreckers to travel). Most of the time it’s been passersby helping people out.”

TOP STORY >> Residents improvise in outage

Leader staff writer

No doubt the campers among the 200,000 or so electric customers whose homes went black on Christmas evening scurried to their closets for their outdoor lanterns and tent heaters.

It’s at times like these that the wisdom of multiple power sources becomes clear. But that doesn’t necessarily mean an electric generator for every home. Oil lamps, gas lanterns LED lanterns, candles and flashlights with good batteries help fight the darkness. But the trick is making sure you buy them before the storm.

Ice chests, filled with a little of the eight inches of snow that blanketed the area, will keep the food from the fridge cold. For the few without an ice chest, a bathtub filled with snow should suffice.

But light and refrigeration really aren’t the biggest problems when snow and ice take down power lines.Heat is.

Perhaps the best way to fight the cold is to have a wood heater, wood fireplace or fireplace with gas logs as backup heat. Portable propane heaters that use disposable tanks are also available from sporting goods stores. Gas furnaces might seem like the perfect defense against an electric outage, but they also require electricity to operate.

But as with buying candles and gas, the time to fill the wood rack and buy propane bottles is before the electricity goes off. And while you’re at the store, sometime in the fall before any threat of an ice storm to break the power lines, pick up matches or lighters or both. You can’t light candles, oil lamps or wood fires without them.

Those with electricity or cell phones that connect to the Internet could look up these tips for surviving a winter power outage on WikiHow. But here they are in print for everyone else:

 Stay calm. A winter storm is usually just a major nuisance, not a full-blown crisis. If proper shelter is provided for, lives are usually not at risk.

 Plan ahead before winter weather strikes, be sure you have enough supplies to handle a few days without being able to leave home. Have enough medication, food, water, toilet paper, diapers, and so on available. Ensure your first-aid kit is well stocked.

 Make sure you have plenty of water. If you have a well which relies on an electric pump you should fill several pots or jugs with water because in a power outage you may be left without running water. Cleaning, then filling the bathtub is a good way to store water.

You can quickly pour water directly into the toilet bowl to flush it. If bad comes to worse, you can melt snow to get water. Keep in mind that snow is mostly air, and won’t yield that much water. Ice or the crust of snow has less air. Don’t waste fuel in melting snow if you need fuel for heating your food or house.

 If the house temperature drops to near freezing, turn off the main water supply and open faucets to drain the pipes. This will prevent water from freezing in the pipes and rupturing them, thereby avoiding future expensive damage.

 Drink liquids and eat plenty of food to keep your body’s energy high and prevent dehydration.

 Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Most heat escapes the body through the top of the head and the feet, therefore always wear a hat and mittens, which are warmer than gloves. Also be careful to not become soaked by water or sweat – this can cause body related problems. Your skin should stay dry and moderately warm.

 Keep warm indoors. Dress in layers and wear a hat. Be sure to dress children and the elderly. Stay in bed and invite your pet and your whole family into bed for additional warmth.

 Make sure you know where everyone in your family is at all times and that they have shelter.

Friday, December 28, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Injuries, illness doom Lonoke ladies

Leader sportswriter

The opening game of the Badger Christmas Classic went quickly as Harding Academy dismantled Lonoke 61-22 at Badger Sports Arena on Friday.

The Lady Wildcats (9-2) used a tenacious full-court press to rattle the Lady Jackrabbits (7-6) in the first half, resulting in 12 steals and 16 points off turnovers in the first two quarters. Harding Academy sophomore guard Kaylin Turley was responsible for six of those steals, while sophomore post player Riley Rose put up all of her game-high 23 points in the first half.

Lonoke was without the services of its best scorer and ball handler in sophomore guard Kerasha Johnson due to illness, which allowed the Lady Wildcats to expose her absence in the backcourt with a stifling press. Harding Academy took a 36-10 lead at the half and reached the necessary margin for the sportsmanship/timing rule by the 7:11 mark of the third quarter.

“We were fortunate to come out and play well early,” Lady Wildcats coach Rusty Garner said. “You never know how you’re going to play at 10 in the morning. And to be fair, I know Lonoke is as injury depleted as they come. We just wanted to see if we could jump out early and maybe get a lead so we could take it easy the rest of the day. We’re a little sick and a little banged up. It’s going to be a long three days, so I was glad we jump out to a lead and relax a little bit.”

Lonoke controlled the boards in the first quarter and denied second-chance opportunities for the Lady Wildcats, but struggled when it came to scoring. Sophomore post player Eboni Willis was responsible for six of the Lady ’Rabbits 10 first-half points, earning her baskets the hard way facing a box defense from Harding Academy.

Willis finished with eight points for Lonoke while Amanda Sexton added seven points.

Lonoke also played the game without starting junior Savannah Holmann, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

Harding Academy had the advantage from the opening minute with a three-point basket from Turley at the 6:47 mark, followed by an inside basket and free throw by Rose with 5:18 remaining in the opening period for a 6-0 lead. But it was a series of five straight Lonoke possessions that resulted in midcourt steals by Harding Academy to start the second quarter that put the game out of reach. Rose had two of those steals, Turley had two and Shelby Gowan added another as the Lady Wildcats converted all of them to go up 27-4 with 6:06 left to play in the half.

Turley and Rose, both sophomores, have already had a big impact on Lady Wildcat athletics with 3A state track championships last year as freshmen. Rose won the state 100 and 200-meter dashes while Turley is the defending state champ in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 long-distance events.

“She’s pretty athletic,” Garner said of Turley. “She and Riley Rose, they work really well together. They do a great job up there together. They’re a great tandem. One of them has six steals one night, the other one has six steals the next night. They’re tough up top together.”

Turley had two more steals to start the second half before exiting the game midway through the third quarter for a total of eight steals and nine points.

The Lady Wildcat reserve players added to the margin with a pair of three-point baskets late in the third quarter, but Lonoke was able to make up some ground in the final period with an early basket by Willis and five points from Sexton while Rieley Rowton made a three pointer with 1:55 remaining for the Lady ’Rabbits only outside shot of the game.

SPORT STORY >> Local teams gear up for league

Leader sportswriter

It’s a great time to be a Jacksonville Red Devils fan, and Lady Devils, for that matter.

The new year will usher in high-school basketball conference play in the state, including Jacksonville’s new home in the 5A Central Conference, a league that is essentially a mix of the old 7A/6A East and 5A Southeast Conferences.

Comparatively, the new Central league may not be quite as tough as the Red Devils’ former East conference without state dynasties Little Rock Hall, Jonesboro, West Memphis and Little Rock Parkview, but the addition of powerhouse Pulaski Academy fills at least one of those voids for the most part. Add longtime rivals and multi-time state champion Mills University Studies, defending 5A champion Sylvan Hills and longtime juggernaut Little Rock McClellan into the mix, and it still stands out as one of the tougher leagues in the state.

The Red Devils, under seventh-year coach Victor Joyner, have enjoyed a strong tradition of success over the past decade, and early indications point to another promising season in 2012-13. Jacksonville is currently 8-3 with a top-100 national ranking, and has already posted an impressive string of invitational-tournament victories.

This year’s team is built around point guard Justin McCleary, a three-year starter for Joyner, but the senior is far from the only premier talent on the Red Devil roster. Keith Charleston has proved to be a consistent scorer and rebounder with a strong presence on the low post while football standout Aaron Smith has more than proved his worth on the hardwood as a sharpshooter.

Most prognosticators are pointing to a potential showdown between Jacksonville and Mills to decide who takes the Central championship this season, but few are willing to completely rule out PA or McClellan. Sylvan Hills is in the middle of a complete rebuild, but the Bears do have a stable of young talent, including deadeye-shooting junior guard Ronnie Hinton and classmate Delsin Parker, who also has the ability to hit outside shots consistently. Senior DeMonte Davidson is also in his first year as a starter, but the post player has stepped into both a performance and leadership role through the early season.

North Pulaski could also have a say in how the Central division plays out after a strong start to its nonconference season. The Falcons suffered through an uncharacteristic losing season last year under new coach Roy Jackson, but the former Red Devil assistant has them off to a solid 5-3 start for the 12-13 season.

Freshman RaShawn Langston is a tall point guard at 6-foot-3, and gives Jackson a weapon he was without last year. Junior guard and Jacksonville transfer Joe Aikens is emerging as a pure scorer, an important asset to have for the grind of a conference schedule, and also something the team was without last season.

The jury is still out on other Central teams such as McClellan and Central High School (Helena), while Little Rock Christian could be facing a mismatch on most nights if the Warriors do not pick up the pace from a difficult December outing. McClellan doesn’t have that impressive of a record at 3-6, but has played a brutal schedule so far and has been competitive in most of those games.

There may not be as much suspense on the ladies’ side as the Lady Red Devils return a dominant group, led by University of Arkansas signee Jessica Jackson.

Head coach Katrina Mimms led Jacksonville to an impressive run last season with a trip to the 6A state semifinals, and the Lady Devils have picked up where they left off early in the 12-13 season. Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian hope to play spoiler to Jacksonville, while local rivals Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski have both shown improvement early this season.

On the 7A side, the Cabot Lady Panthers are out to defend their 7A state title from a year ago, but will have to do it as underdogs once again. Many thought last year was Cabot’s best team in ages, and by the end of the season there was no doubt. This year’s team is still among the favorites in its conference, but teams like Little Rock Hall, Fort Smith Northside and Conway are the ones most are mentioning in state championship conversations.

Seniors Elliot Taylor and Jaylin Bridges bring back a lot of experience for coach Carla Crowder as three-year starters, while fellow seniors Ally Van Enk and Abbey Allgood are getting their first crack at the starting five..

Cabot has moved from the 7A/6A Central to the 7A/6A East, which means the Lady Panthers have lost Conway as league opponents this year for the first time in six years, but they remain in the same conference as North Little Rock.

The Lady Wildcats are always a sure pick to be in the mix for any title run, and this year is no exception. Mountain Home, Little Rock Central and Marion could also prove to be formidable in the East conference this year, while Searcy and West Memphis could surprise after mixed early results for both teams. Jonesboro appears to be the odd team out after a difficult 0-6 start for the Lady Hurricane.

The Cabot boys got off to a sluggish 2-5 start, but the Panthers have always found a way to be competitive in league play against larger teams on most nights under ninth-year coach Jerry Bridges. North Little Rock and Jonesboro will most likely claim the top two spots in the East, but Marion, West Memphis and Little Rock Central have also been competitive early this season. Searcy and Mountain Home have struggled so far, but with six state-tournament seeds up for grabs, the race for third on back could get interesting before the end of February.

SPORT STORY >> McClure drafted is 2012’s top story

Leader sportswriter

The second half of 2012 saw a series of unique events and accomplishments by teams and individuals from our local area. Jacksonville watched one of its own sign a Major League Baseball contract in the summer. A Lonoke native and former Jackrabbit became a key starter for the University of Arkansas football team this past season.

An accomplished equestrian from Cabot added making the junior Olympic team to her resume. Fans of the Sylvan Hills Bruins senior American Legion team got to see a player hit for the rare cycle in the summer, and the Jacksonville Red Devils basketball team put on a stellar performance in the recent Hardwood Showcase at the Devils’ Den, which featured basketball powerhouses from all over the country.

That gives us the top five local sports stories from summer to present, with the top story being D’Vone McClure being drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 2012 Major League Baseball draft.

1) McClure signs with Indians.

This not only was the top story of the summer/fall seasons, but The Leader’s choice for the No. 1 sports story of the year. McClure, a former baseball and football standout for the Red Devils, was drafted in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball draft on June 5, and received a $765,000 signing bonus. In the summer of2011, he attended a Major League mock camp with several other prospects. After being evaluated, he was projected as a mid-teen round pick when the 2012 high-school season began.

McClure’s play in his senior season impressed scouts, and he quickly became an early-round prospect as the season progressed. At pick No. 143, Cleveland drafted the Jacksonville standout. Although McClure was drafted slightly lower than expected, his signing bonus was more than double the pick value for that particular draft slot, which is set by MLB.

In November of 2011, McClure signed an NCAA national letter of intent to play for the University of Arkansas. Rumors surfaced shortly after the draft that McClure had turned down the Indians to play for the Hogs, but that was nothing more than speculation.

It wasn’t long after McClure’s signing that he gave back to the community that watched him grow up.

McClure recently donated $2,000 to the Jacksonville High School athletic department, where the money will be used to pay for team attire and equipment. The young man is now playing the game he loves for a living, and may 2013 be a prosperous year for the former Red Devil.

2) Morgan Linton becomes Hogs’ starting fullback.

Due to injuries to fullbacks Kiero Small and Kody Walker earlier in the 2012 season, Linton, a Lonoke native, was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time against reigning national champion Alabama.

Linton started the rest of the season for the Hogs. His fullback duties didn’t allow him to get featured time carrying the ball, but he did have four catches out of the backfield for 37 yards. However, the stat book doesn’t accurately reflect Linton’s contributions to the team.

Linton battled through the trenches all season as the lead blocker out of the backfield. It was a job the former Lonoke Jackrabbit standout had to earn. Linton, a walk-on, worked his way into the starting job.

A third-year sophomore, Linton was offered full scholarship rides to play at smaller schools in the state, but chose to be a Razorback. He graduated from Lonoke High School in 2010 and has represented his home town well.

3) Cabot’s Jordan Payton earns spot on Junior Olympic national team.

Payton, a nationally-ranked junior equestrian rider from Cabot, was selected as an alternate team member to compete at the Junior Olympics in the summer along with her thoroughbred horse, Slew’s Aftershock, a descendent of the legendary Seattle Slew.

The Junior Olympics, also referred to as the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, is the premier championship event for the one and two-star levels of eventing. Eventing is the triathlon of equestrian riding, which consists of three different challenging events or phases.

Payton was selected as an alternate despite having to overcome adversity before the mandatory selection trials that took place in June at Texas Rose Horse Park located in Tyler, Texas. While doing routine fitness work days before the event, Payton’s horse strained one of his tendons, which aggravated a previous injury.

The thoroughbred was given a week off to recover from the injury, which seriously limited any practice time the duo needed to stay sharp. However, Payton and her horse were able to compete and were selected to represent the illustrious team as alternates. Only four riders are chosen to represent the team, but two more are chosen as well to compete in individual events.

Payton was ranked as high as seventh in the Preliminary Junior Division of U.S. Eventing. She spent most of her time training at the prestigious Gold Chip Stables in Bartonville, Texas.

4) Sylvan Hills’ J.D. Miller hits for cycle.

It was the first round of the 2012 Arkansas Senior American Legion state tournament, and the Sylvan Hills Bruins beat Paragould 5-2, primarily because of the effective pitching by Dylan Boone and Miller’s dominant performance at the plate.

Miller went on a wild hot-streak at the plate last summer, and the best example of his stellar play was against Paragould. Miller was effective from the start.

His three-run home run in the first inning towered well over the 375-foot mark in straight-centerfield, which put the Bruins up 3-0. Miller singled and doubled his next at-bats, and achieved the cycle in the bottom of the seventh inning with a stand-up triple to deep right field.

5) Jacksonville’s two wins in Hardwood Show-case Classic.

The Red Devils’ basketball team played lights out against two of the best teams from Oklahoma and Illinois in its own Hardwood Showcase tournament at the Devil’s Den Dec. 21 and 22. In the first game, Jacksonville beat Oklahoma City’s Putnam City West 51-46. The Patriots are one of the premier teams from Oklahoma City, and feature 6-foot-4 junior Omega Harris, who is ranked by as the No. 1 prospect of the 2014 class in Oklahoma. It was a hard-fought win for Jacksonville, but the win the Red Devils earned the next day was even bigger.

Jacksonville upset Chicago’s Orr Academy 72-62. Orr entered the game with a 6-1 record and a top-20 national ranking. Its only loss coming to the controversial start-up school Prime Prep Academy in Dallas, which was co-founded by former Dallas Cowboy and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders.

Prime Prep Academy recently withdrew from the Texas high-school governing body and elected to play a nationwide schedule because four of its players were considered ineligible by the state. Those four players are all DI signees and played at Grace Academy the previous year before transferring in August shortly after Grace’s head coach was hired by Sanders.

The Red Devils made 25 of 37 free throws in the win against Orr, and held Tyquane Greer, Chicago’s No. 1 rated sophomore, to 12 points after he scored 20 the night before.

Monday, December 24, 2012

SPORTS TROY >> Bossier City, Devils steal ‘Show’case

Leader sports editor

One pair of teams was slated to highlight the Hardwood Classic Showcase, a different pair stole the show. Chicago’s Orr Academy High School and Houston’s Trent Internationale were the two big names featured in the first-ever event at Jacksonville High School last Friday and Saturday. They met each other on Friday night and didn’t disappoint. Orr Academy rallied from 15 points down in the second half to win 76-74. The big surprise came on the second night when Bossier City, La., dominated Trent Internationale 66-42, and the Jacksonville Red Devils outlasted Orr Academy 72-62.

Here’s a brief recap of all games not involving Jacksonville.


Orr Academy 76
Trent Internationale 74

When Orr Academy, which features one of the nation’s best sophomores in TaQuayne Greer, took on Trent Internationale, a team whose lineup fits its name, the game fit its billing.

The Phoenix feature a lineup bigger than most college teams. The school is an actual basketball academy and plays a nationwide schedule, outside of any Texas affiliation. T.I. started three 6-foot-9 players including senior Xavier Dupree, who is signed with Arkansas State, Ahmed Hamdy of Iran and junior Justin Hollins.

But it was Trent Int-ernationale guard Qua Doster, who came to the Texas school via Saginaw, Mich., who drew the most attention. Doster dropped in 31 points in a dazzling display of slashing and shooting prowess. But it wasn’t enough for the win. T.I. led nearly the entire game, but Orr tied it at 74 with 11 seconds remaining when Jamal McDowell got his seventh steal and dished to Amani Ousley for a two-handed slam.

The Phoenix called timeout to set up its last shot, but it never materialized. McDowell got his eighth steal when he harassed Kalim Doster into his seventh turnover of the game with six seconds left.

McDowell then took the inbounds pass, penetrated to the middle of the lane, dished to Marlon Jones, whose jumper from six feet bounced a few times, rested on the rim for what seemed like minutes, then slowly rolled into the basket, giving the Spartans a 76-74 win. Each team entered the game with only one loss this season. Each team’s loss came to Prime Prep Academy, the controversial start-up school in Dallas co-founded by former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders.

Prime Prep school recently withdrew from the Texas high-school athletics governing body and decided to play a nationwide schedule because it was ruled that four of its players, who are all DI signees and played at Grace Academy last year, were ineligible after transferring from another school in August shortly after Sanders hired their coach at Grace.

Each team left with one more loss after Saturday.

Camden Fairview 79
El Dorado 70

The tournament began with a more local flavor. Camden-Fairview (4-4) defeated El Dorado 79-70 in the third meeting between the two teams. Previous games saw El Dorado win the season opener for both teams 72-70. Earlier this month, Fairview responded with a 73-71 win. This one wasn’t as close.

The Wildcats led by one point after the first quarter, but the Cardinals took a 30-27 lead into halftime. Fairview stretched the lead to 12 after three quarters and El Dorado never got within seven in the fourth quarter. Fairview’s Jamarcheon Smith led all scorers with 24 points.

Bossier City 75
LR McClellan 46

The Bearkats (11-2) led this game 34-31 at halftime, but put on a defensive masterpiece in the third quarter. McClellan committed 15 turnovers in the third quarter alone, and did not score until only 10 seconds remained in the period. And that was on two technical free throws after Bossier City’s Rashad Owens slammed the ball on the floor.

The Bearkats scored the first 23 points of the quarter for a 57-31 lead before the two free throws and subsequent buzzer beater made it 57-35 going into the fourth. Bossier City invoked the mercy rule at 74-44 with 2:18 remaining. Tevin Robertson led all scorers with 19 points while Demonta Wills scored 16 and Owens 13. Davion Givens led McClellan (3-6) with 10 points.


Bossier City 66
Trent Internationale 42

This game was a late change. T.I. was originally scheduled to play Putnam City West at 7 p.m., but Arkansas Razorback assistant coach T.J. Cleveland wanted another look at Qua Doster after his 31-point performance on Friday. At his request the schedule was changed for T.I. to play at 4 p.m. It didn’t work out well for the Phoenix or Doster.

The two guard from Michigan managed just nine points and wasn’t as aggressive as the night before.

For the second time in the tournament, The Bearkats turned a close game at halftime into a rout in the second half. Bossier City’s 6-7 point guard Rashad Owens made things difficult for Doster, who stands 6-3.

Bossier City was the one team in the showcase that somewhat matched up with T.I.’s size, having Owens and 6-7 post player Tevin Robertson to battle inside with the Phoenix big men.

Robertson and Devonta Hall led the Bearkats with 16 points each. Guard Deorvian Robinson added 12 and Owens scored 11.

McClellan 77
El Dorado 63

McClellan, which has played a brutal schedule so far, rebounded nicely from the disastrous second half the previous day. The Lions’ quickness caused problems for the Wildcats (2-7) the entire game. Guards Chris Early and Tyrin Hollis led the way in scoring. Early scored 21 and Hollis 20.

Putnam City West 75
Camden Fairview 43

Much like McClellan, the Patriots (3-5) have played a very difficult schedule, and finally showed some benefits with a crushing defeat of the Cardinals. After struggling against Jacksonville, Omega Harris showed why he’s Oklahoma’s No. 1 junior prospect, scoring 25 points from all over the floor, and adding eight rebounds and six assists to his ledger.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot title tops list of 2012 highs

Leader sportswriter

The first half of 2012 had plenty for local sports fans to cheer about as two of our area basketball teams made school history with their first-ever state-championship victories in early March, while two local baseball teams made it all the way to Baum Stadium in Fayetteville for the finals before having to settle for runners up. Throw in the unexpected meltdown of the Jacksonville boys basketball team in the 6A state semifinals, and that gives us the top five local sports stories for winter/spring 2012.

If you live in Cabot, the Lady Panthers’ 51-41 victory over Fort Smith Northside in the 7A state championship game ranks at the top, but everyone closer to Sherwood would argue that the Sylvan Hills Bears’ 59-54 victory over Mills University Studies in the finals should hold the top spot. Both marked school firsts, and both featured players who became the biggest college recruits in the history of their programs with Archie Goodwin and Melissa Wolff, giving us no choice but to call it a tie for the top spot.

1. (tie) Cabot ladies beat Northside for 7A crown. The 2011-12 basketball season was a year to remember at Cabot High School for a number of reasons, including the unprecedented success of the Lady Panthers team under coach Carla Crowder. It started with the opening of the new Panther Arena early last December, as the Lady Panthers won their own Pre-Holiday tournament as well as all of their 7A/6A Central Conference games in the new facility, and also played hosts for the 7A state tournament in early March.

Cabot took the No. 1 seed out of the Central Conference and received a first-round bye. The Lady Panthers picked up Springdale Har-Ber as their first-round opponent, and easily disposed of the Lady Wildcats to set up a semifinal showdown with a talented Little Rock Hall team, led by junior guard Tyler Scaife.

There were plenty of underlying story lines during the tournament, from the final appearance at home for seniors Wolff, Sydney Wacker and Laci Boyett to a made-over coach Crowder, who abandoned her familiar spectacles and curly hair for a contemporary look during her team’s historic postseason run.

There was also the story of junior Lauren Morris, a dedicated player who started out in the Lady Panthers’ junior-high program only to face endless knee injuries before being told she would have to give up basketball for good. Morris was able to enter the Har-Ber game during the final minute, and again at the end of the championship game as the student section chanted her name.

The semifinal game against Hall proved to be one of the most competitive all season, as the two teams battled to a tie in regulation before the Lady Panthers finally pulled out a 57-55 victory in overtime.

That set the stage for a finals game against Northside on Saturday, March 10 with a 2:30 p.m. tipoff time at Summit Arena. Wolff, who signed with the University of Arkansas before the start of the season, earned MVP with a game-high 22 points and 15 rebounds while classmate Boyett also went out on a strong note with 10 points.

1. (tie) Sylvan Hills beats Mills for 5A boys crown. The Bears came up a game short the previous year, but 2012 proved to be historic for longtime coach Kevin Davis and team as current University of Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin led Sylvan Hills with 27 points and seven rebounds.

The Bears and Comets were also league rivals in the 5A Southeast Conference, while many of the players from both teams also knew each other from AAU summer basketball.

It made for a rivalry that was friendly at times and perhaps not so friendly at other times, but it undoubtedly made for a closely-matched series of games, with the Bears pulling out wins in both conference matchups before downing the Comets one more time when it counted most on March 10.

Goodwin will undoubtedly go down as the biggest thing to ever come through the Bears’ basketball program, and all of his starting teammates have also found their way to the next level.

Point guard Dion Patton is now a freshman at Arkansas Tech, post player Devin Pearson is at Northark Community College, combo guard Larry Ziegler now plays for Mid South Community College and Daylon Jones is a freshman guard at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas.

“I don’t think there were many revelations so much as they knew when it was over what they had accomplished,” Davis said in a recent interview. “The first state championship in school history and 28 straight conference games without a loss. That probably says enough.”

3. Lonoke baseball reaches 4A state finals. The Jackrabbits football team captured a state title in 1994 and the basketball ’Rabbits went all the way in 2008, and 2012 held promise for the Diamond Rabs until a defensively-strong Shiloh Christian team shut them out 4-0 in the state championship game.

Still, it was a great run for Lonoke under coach Darrick Lowery, and with every player from that team returning with the exception of seniors Lane Moore and Hayden Hambrick, the ’Rabbits could land themselves at the top of the 2013 list next year with a 4A state baseball title.

4. Carlisle baseball reaches 2A state finals. Local sports enthusiasts still talk about the Bison’s 14-2 loss to Woodlawn in the 2A title game back on May 19, but unfortunately for the wrong reason.

The game will forever live in infamy due to an unprecedented display of bad sportsmanship from Bison senior Hayden Hoover in the bottom of the fourth inning after he was called out for an illegally batted ball. It marred what had otherwise been a historic run for Carlisle under sixth-year coach B.J. Greene, who was trying to leave the program on an up note after securing the head-coaching job at Heber Springs for the 2012-13 school year.

The pregame started with a brief ceremony for Bison graduates Hoover, Deric Herring, Tommy Inman, Trey Wilson and Will Smith, who received their diplomas from athletic director Scott Waymire in front of the third-base line.

Woodlawn took a 5-2 lead after two innings, and went on another big run in the top of the fourth to go up 10-2. Dylan Brazeal walked to start the bottom of the fourth and Austin Reed grounded out to bring up Hoover, who sent a line drive to shallow center before umpire Steve Powell ruled him out for stepping out of the batters box.

5. Jacksonville Red Devils lose to Jonesboro in 6A semifinals. The Red Devils went into the 6A semifinal matchup against East conference rival Jonesboro on March 3 with the confidence of having beaten the Golden Hurricane six consecutive times, and jumped out to a lead of almost 20 points again before falling apart in the second half. That led to a series of events Jonesboro fans have since nicknamed “The Run.”

The Hurricane outscored Jacksonville 42-10 during that time on their way to a 63-42 victory, setting up a championship game between Jonesboro and Little Rock Parkview, two teams Jacksonville went 4-0 against combined in East Conference play. The Patriots eventually went on to win the title with a 69-65 victory over Jonesboro in double overtime.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers fall to LRCA

Leader sportswriter

Scoring was too concentrated for Beebe as visiting Little Rock Christian took a 59-53 victory over the Lady Badgers at Badger Sports Arena on Friday.

Senior guard Jamie Jackson led Beebe with 30 points while junior guard Kalela Miller added 23 points to make up all of the Lady Badgers’ points. The Lady Warriors also had two players finish in double figures with 22 points for Annalea Rhodas and 13 points for Alexus Thomas, but it was points off the bench for LRCA that made the difference.

“We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Lady Badgers coach Greg Richey said. “We had opportunities. First half, we didn’t play very good, got ourselves down by nine at halftime. We should have been better than that. We came out and let them shove us around, outrebound us, and we just didn’t play. We were digging ourselves out of a hole the rest of the way.

“We didn’t step up and make shots when we needed to, and we didn’t defend when we needed to defend.”

Christian outscored Beebe 14-8 in the second quarter and took a 30-21 lead at the half. The Lady Badgers (6-5) showed signs of making things close again early in the third quarter with a 6-0 run to begin the second half. That made it 30-27, but the Lady Warriors did not let the margin get any closer until Miller tied the game at 42 with a three-point basket at the 1:09 mark.

Rebounding was another big factor as the Lady Warriors controlled the boards on both sides. Beebe had few second-chance opportunities, and was not able to capitalize on the few it did manage to see.

“The strange thing about it is, we’ve only been outrebounded one time this year,” Richey said. “Fort Smith Southside, that was the only time we’ve been outrebounded this year. Then, we come in tonight against a team I felt was comparable in size to us, and we don’t rebound. It just seemed like we didn’t show up the first half.”

The Lady Badgers had open shots that simply didn’t fall for the most part in the second half, including three-point attempts by seniors Sydney Gunter and Whitney Emison. Junior Madison Richey also tried a number of midrange jumpers that were just off the mark, and Christian capitalized with strong defensive rebounding from Thomas and Molli Pugl.

“I thought they had open shots,” Richey said. “They’ve just got to knock them down. I told them after the game that we’re a good team, we just didn’t have a very good shooting night tonight. We make a lot of those shots in practice, and it looks like it would transfer to the game, but it didn’t tonight.”

The game was a setback for Beebe, but Jackson’s 30 points, eight rebounds and five steals came on a night when she was being evaluated by college scouts.

“She’s getting a lot of looks,” Richey said. “There was a coach here tonight from Northwestern Oklahoma, and he’s very high on her. He thinks she has a tremendous upside and will be a good college player. They’ll be back, it’s just what does Jamie want to do?”

The Lady Badgers will open tournament play in the Beebe Holiday Classic with a first-round game against Pulaski Robinson on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Big run in third leads to Hillside victory

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills held a four-point lead over Vilonia after two quarters of play, but a big second half for the Bears helped catapult them to a 66-48 win in Friday’s nonconference matchup at Sherwood.

The Bears trailed the majority of the first quarter, but five straight points by DeMonte Davidson off the bench put Sylvan Hills up 14-11 after one. In the second quarter, Delsin Parker scored seven points to help give the Bears a seven-point lead as the first half wound down. But a buzzer-beating three pointer by Vilonia’s Jacob Greer cut Sylvan Hills’ lead to 26-22 at the break.

Vilonia tied the score at 26-26 with a 4-0 scoring run at the start of the third, but Sylvan Hills responded with a 12-2 run to take a 38-28 lead with 3:15 to go in the quarter. The Bears kept their foot on the accelerator offensively for the remainder of the quarter, and held a 12-point lead by the start of the fourth, which was pleasing to see in the eyes of head coach Kevin Davis.

“I’m very proud of my team, because I thought from the standpoint of the overall game, the effort was really there on the white team,” said Davis, referring to the Bears’ home uniforms. “There were times we might have had a missed layup, might have had an errant pass. Things happen, but the effort was there.

“And we didn’t have to go as deep down the bench as we normally have to go, because I thought the ones that were bringing the effort were able to sustain what they were doing. You have to reward that. When the kids are playing that hard for you, you have to continue to reward that.”

Ronnie Hinton scored 16 of his team-high 19 points in the second half for Sylvan Hills. Seven of Hinton’s points came in the final eight minutes. The Bears held a double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter, steadily increasing their lead as the game winded down.

Darius James gave the home team an 18-point lead after making the back end of a two-shot foul with 12.4 seconds remaining. James’ free throw was the final point of the game as Vilonia (4-6) failed to score on its last possession.

It was a solid win for Sylvan Hills (3-4), a team that is full of youth and inexperience. Davis hopes his team can build off of the win, and continue to get better by the time 5A Central play tips off on Jan. 4.

“We just need to keep playing,” Davis said when asked what the team could improve on moving forward. “This is a young team, and that’s another thing I’m especially proud of in addition to the effort, which is the concentration we showed in trying to execute our game plan that we do. And that is only going to take time and reps, because we’re a young team.

“So you really have to applaud them for staying with it, being focused, concentration and bringing effort all in the same night. We just need to keep playing and hopefully they’ll keep building and getting better as we go.”

The Bears edged the Eagles 28-26 on the boards, and committed seven fewer turnovers than Vilonia’s 19. Sylvan Hills shot 70.5 percent from the free-throw line, bettering Vilonia’s 57.1 percent. Neither team shot exceptional from three-point range, but the Bears made 30.7 percent of their shots beyond the arc compared to the Eagles’ 25 percent.

Other than Hinton, two other Bears finished in double figures scoring-wise. Parker finished with 11 points and Davidson scored 10. David Johnson scored nine points and also grabbed six rebounds. Vilonia’s Cameron Wilkins led all scorers with 21 points.

Sylvan Hills will travel to Mountain Home tomorrow for a tournament and will play the host team at 8:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils get two big-time wins

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils shined on a big stage on Friday and Saturday. The stage was familiar, but the platform of hosting the Hardwood Classic Showcase and taking on two of the best teams from Oklahoma and Illinois made the two victories a huge accomplishment.

On Friday, Jacksonville beat Putnam City West 51-46. The Patriots are one of the premier teams from Oklahoma City, and features 6-foot-4 junior guard Omega Harris, rated by as Oklahoma’s number one prospect of 2014. They also feature two of that state’s top 20 sophomore prospects in small forward Tyson Jolly and guard Steve Stallings. Even with that lineup, what Jacksonville pulled off the next day was even more impressive.

The Red Devils upset Chicago’s Orr Academy 72-62, a day after Orr came from 15 points behind in the fourth quarter to beat Trent Internationale 76-74.

Orr entered the game with a 6-1 record and it’s only loss coming to the controversial start-up school Prime Prep Academy in Dallas. Prime Prep was co-founded by former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders, and in this, it’s first year of existence, features a starting lineup complete with major Division I signees, all five transfers from other Texas schools.

Saturday’s game was fast-paced when it could be, but was mired by the whistle. A total of 48 fouls were called, 29 against the visitors. Orr coach Louis Adams Jr. expressed his distaste for the officiating many times during the game, but didn’t use it as an excuse afterwards.

“We just underestimated these guys,” Adams said of Jacksonville. “We beat that international team the night before and the schedule we’ve played, I don’t think my guys came out ready tonight. They came out ready to play. They’re very quick and they hustle. They out-hustled us tonight.”

Jacksonville’s Reggie Barnes hit a three pointer to start the fourth quarter and gave the Red Devils their biggest lead of the game at 53-30. From there, the Spartans turned up the defensive pressure and almost made its second huge comeback of the showcase.

“We made them go small but when they did, it hurt us,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “Those guys are quick and relentless and we don’t have the ball handlers. If we can’t get it to J-Mac (Justin McCleary), we’re going to have trouble against that kind of pressure.”

That was Orr’s game plan in the fourth quarter. The Spartans tried to deny McCleary the ball and attacked with multiple defenders once it went to someone else. The result was 15 Jacksonville turnovers in the fourth quarter. Orr put together a huge run after Barnes’ three, spurred largely by Jamal McDowell’s five steals and the offense of Louis Adams III. With 2:11 remaining, McDowell got a steal and dish to Adams for a two-handed dunk that completed a 28-13 run and made it 66-58.

Orr (6-2) immediately got another steal and threw it inside to Amani Ousley, who missed his dunk. Jacksonville got a run out to Brandon Brockman who hit a layup to make it a 10-point game with 1:55 left.

Orr cut it to eight points two more times, but had to begin fouling and Jacksonville made its free throws.

The Red Devils were 11 of 16 from the line in the fourth quarter and 25 of 37 for the game. Orr hit 18 of 28 free throws.

Joyner gave his two starting post players credit for setting the tone of the game in the first half and leading his team to the big lead.

“Brandon Brockman and Khaleel Hart are the two unsung heroes of this game,” Joyner said. “Their big men dominated the night before and I told them we needed them to be aggressive. Put a body on them, push them off the block and don’t let them catch it down low. They went out there and did it and that’s what helped us win. They stood a lot taller than them, but my guys worked their butts off down there.”

Marlon Jones and Tyquane Greer (Chicago’s No. 1 rated sophomore) combined for 43 points the night before with Jones scoring 23. Against Jacksonville, Greer scored 12, but Jones just two.

“We knew they were big and were going to go inside,” Brockman said. “We just had to box out and play hard. We had to try to force them outside.”

“We’re nowhere near as tall as them so we had to box them way out and keep them away from the goal before they even caught it,” added Hart.

Another key statistic in the game was Jacksonville’s 39-19 rebounding advantage. Hart and Sergio Berkley led the way with seven each. McCleary had six, Brockman five, Aaron Smith and Kevin Richardson four apiece.

Adams Jr. noticed the difference between the two teams’ effort on the boards.
“They rebounded as a team and we stood and watched,” Adams said. “There’s no reason for a disparity like that except that one team was playing hard for four quarters and one team wasn’t.”

Smith led the Red Devils (7-3) in scoring with 17 points. Berkley added 11 and McCleary 10. Adams III scored nearly half his team’s points with 29, including 18 in the fourth quarter.


In the previous game against Putnam City West, the game was much slower, but still in Jacksonville’s control most of the way.

The Patriots have also played a national schedule so far and entered the tournament with a record of 2-4. They found the going no easier against the Red Devils. Jacksonville spent the early part of the first and second quarters stretching out double digit leads, only to see PCW come back to make it close at quarter’s end. Jacksonville led just 23-20 at halftime, and stretched it out to 11 again in the third quarter. The lead was down to 36-29 by the end of the third.

Omega Harris hit a three pointer with 5:20 left in the game to make it 40-37, and although the final margin was only five, the Patriots were never closer than that after Hart answered Harris’ three with a layup at the other end.

“They played good defense and made scoring difficult,” Joyner said of PCW.

The Red Devils did not enjoy a rebounding advantage against the Patriots. The team from Oklahoma City bested Jacksonville 37-24 on the boards.

The Red Devils were 15 of 26 from the free-throw line while the Patriots were 18 of 25. Smith and Hart each scored 12 points to lead Jacksonville while Harris led PCW with 11.

EDITORIAL >> McDaniel and Asa

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel had raised more than $1 million this fall for a race for governor that is nearly two years away, but he may need much, much more. Forced by legal proceedings in Hot Springs, McDaniel had to reveal that he had been running around on his second wife.

So wherever politics is discussed this week, the question is whether his campaign was doomed before it really began or whether the political climate and the culture have so changed the past 20 years that McDaniel’s confessed philandering will be no more than a minor setback to his burning ambition. This is, after all, the home of Bill Clinton, the most admired politician in America and still revered in his home state, where his first known dalliances outside his marriage occurred.

It will depend, we imagine, on whether the scandal is behind him now or there is more to be revealed. The circumstances already are sordid enough. Having been married only briefly after the breakup of his first marriage, McDaniel in 2010 met Andrea Davis, a flamboyant Hot Springs lawyer, and soon afterward began a brief “inappropriate interaction,” as he described it, with her. They were on opposite sides in a big school lawsuit, he defending the state school-choice law and she representing parents who were fighting it because the law kept their children from transferring to schools where there were fewer blacks. The state ethics committee that monitors the conduct of lawyers may be forced to decide whether McDaniel was obligated by law to disclose his unusual “interaction” with the opposing counsel. To say the least, it is bothersome. (He lost the case.)

Davis has been in a high-profile battle with a female circuit judge in Garland County, who ordered her to wear a surgical mask during a trial because of her coughing and another time told her to go home and don more discreet clothing because her blouse revealed so much cleavage that it was disturbing inmates who were brought into the courtroom. Davis modeled the offending blouse and a surgical mask for a photographer for the Arkansas Times and told the paper’s reporter: “I admit I have boobs and I like them, but I was not wearing a damn sparkly halter top in the courtroom.”

Rumors of the McDaniels-Davis affair began to circulate this month after Davis’ estranged husband filed motions in a custody dispute asking her to admit that she had an affair with McDaniel in 2011 or 2012 and she dodged the question by saying it was none of the court’s business and was just harassment.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s article about McDaniel’s admission last week carried a photograph of a disheveled Davis being led away from her house in handcuffs after police were called to investigate the murder of a young man in her driveway. She apparently had called the police and was kneeling beside the body when the police arrived. No charges have been filed and the police say they still have no suspect.

Such flamboyance does not serve the attorney general’s keen interest in public forgetfulness. A run-of-the-mill affair might soon be dismissed by voters, most of whom have witnessed similar problems in their families or among friends.

Affairs have rarely been politically fatal if you say you are sorry and have been in prayer about it. Just south of us, Louisiana voters quickly forgave and re-elected U. S. Sen. David Vitter, a right-wing “family values” Republican after his name showed up on the telephone list of a famous Washington, D. C., madam as a regular client of her prostitutes. Like McDaniel and so many others, Vitter said he was very sorry and that he had prayed fervently about it and been forgiven.

A Republican official said McDaniel’s affair would be an issue in the governor’s race in 2014, but only one of many. You can already hear the commercials, “If his wives couldn’t trust him, why should you?”

Much depends on his opponent. McDaniel is the only announced candidate, but Asa Hutchinson is expected to announce again next month for the Republican nomination. Hutchinson, a former congressman, has been beaten for the U. S. Senate, attorney general and governor, but he is likely to be the Republican nominee. Polls show Hutchinson and McDaniel neck and neck two years out. Hutchinson, meanwhile, will head the National Rifle Association’s program to arm school officials and volunteers against violent intruders. So help us.

McDaniel’s extramarital affair might be a delicate issue for Hutchinson, whose family has been scandalized by the same behavior, over and over.

Brother Tim, the senior U. S. senator at the time, was having an affair with an aide when he was sitting in judgment of Clinton during his impeachment trial in the Senate for dalliances with Monica Lewinsky. Hutchinson voted to convict the president. Tim divorced his wife and married the woman, but he was beaten in his next election, in 2002.

Asa’s nephew, state Sen. Jim Hendren, admitted to an affair in 2001 when he was running for Congress in the Third District to succeed Asa on a platform to “reverse the decline in moral values.”

Earlier this year, another of Asa’s nephews, state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (Tim’s son), had his mistress arrested at his condominium when she beat him up with a preserved alligator head after he had thrown her down and busted her lip. They had met while she was a waitress at a pizza restaurant and he put her up in a condo and gave her living money. His marriage broke up over such stuff.

Something tells us Hutchinson won’t make much of the Davis matter. Too bad, in a way. They are two boring politicians otherwise.

TOP STORY >> County officials get final goodbye

Leader staff writer

Between redistricting, retirement, advancement and simply being voted out of office, Lonoke County will lose 11 of its elected officials on Dec. 31, so County Judge Doug Erwin had certificates of appreciation for all of them during the quorum court meeting Thursday night.

JP Sonny Moery, who chose not to run after 10 years when redistricting placed him in opposition to JP Roger Lynch, got the only genuine standing ovation.

“If all the JPs were like Sonny Moery, we wouldn’t have any problems,” Erwin said.

JP Joe Farrer, whose close watch over the budget for the past two years has put him at odds with many, feigned surprise that no one would clap for him unless he asked. He got the only chuckle. Farrer is the new state representative for the new House Dist. 44.

“Joe was always been consistent,” Erwin said. “He’ll vote his conscience and stand his ground.”

JP Alexis Malham, who decided not to run for reelection, was at home with her husband, Cabot High School football coach Mike Malham. She was said to be recovering from shoulder surgery.

“The one thing you could say about Alexis: You didn’t have to wonder what she was thinking,” Erwin said. “That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing.”

JP Jannette Minton, also retiring, was also absent for the last meeting of the year for unknown reasons.

JP Barry Weathers decided not to run after he learned that if he did, it would be againsthis best friend, JP Tim Lemons. The two were on vacation together with their wives when they learned that redistricting would pit them against one another if both chose to run.

Justice of the Peace Claude Irvin was appointed to the position by Gov. Mike Beebe after JP Mark Edwards took a job out of state. Erwin said he had been an asset to the quorum court.

Retiring County Sheriff Jim Roberson couldn’t make it because his cows were out and he had to get them back in the fence.

Treasurer Karol DePriest, County Clerk Dawn Porterfield and Circuit Clerk Denise Brown were voted out of office. Erwin thanked them for their service.

Circuit Judge Phillip Whiteaker was elected to the Court of Appeals. Whiteaker was there for the entire meeting and listened to discussion about funding for the district courts located in cities across the county.

The quorum court has cut funding to most courts to half the salary of the judge and one clerk. Whiteaker joked that it had been said by some that he wasn’t much of a judge. But he wanted them to know that he wasn’t that half of a judge they had been talking about.

Longtime Coroner Sherry Stracener is retiring. She introduced Mark Thomas who ran unopposed as her replacement. Stracener promised that with Thomas on the job, no one would notice she was gone.

However JP Larry Odom said after all the presentations were over that the county would miss Stracener.

She was there when his dad died so he knew from experience how well she did her job.

“She’s been a dandy for the county. We’re going to miss her,” Odom said.

TOP STORY >> City is investing in infrastructure

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville is planning $14.4 million in capital improvements next year in addition to the $24.5 million operations budget approved last week by the city council.

The plan lists projects nearly completed, in the works or on the books for future development. The listing includes $9.2 million in infrastructure construction improvements, $4.4 million in equipment replacement and $882,494 in drainage improvements.

Mayor Gary Fletcher, in the report, stated that “these infrastructure activities are considered essential elements of growth.”

Just because a project is listed in the comprehensive plan doesn’t mean that it has been funded yet.

The plan lists $352,874 that the city has from selling off portions of the old Franklin Electric property, which was donated to the city for $1. This money is earmarked for “fostering commercial and industrial development that directly impact our local job market, especially along Redmond Road and General Samuels,” according to the report.

The plan lists the public sports shooting range at a cost of $3.5 million. The council was informed Thursday that the cost should be about $3 million at this point. This project is a joint venture with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Foundation to build a trap, skeet and 3D archery shooting complex which will be operated by the city’s parks and recreation department.

According to the plan, the estimated economic impact from the range is expected to hit $8 million a year.

The plan also lists widening Main Street at a cost of $2 million. The project is in the design stage and that contract will run $96,000 and is in the budget. Plans call for Main Street to be widened to four lanes from Redmond Road to Harris Road and the dangerous “S” straighten out and the bridge improved.

The Oneida extension is also listed as a $2 million project. The design contract is $144,056 and is in the budget. Plans call for a bridge to be built across the Bayou Meto at the end of Oneida Road with a road continuing on through to Main Street.

Improvements at Main Street and Harris Road are slated to run $500,000. Current plans call for a roundabout to slow and control the traffic and protect students at a nearby bus stop.

Another $500,000 is slated for improvements at General Samuels and Harris roads, again, to protect students and school buses. Another roundabout is planned to help maintain a safe flow of traffic through the intersection.

Other projects listed in the comprehensive plan include:
Replacing and updating all the city’s emergency 911 communications systems at a cost of $2.5 million to meet a federally mandated deadline to convert to digital equipment. Those cities that don’t could suffer delays and blackouts in communication and have a tough time finding replacement parts for older systems.

The city is covering the cost through a no-interest 60 month loan from Motorola. The first payment of $87,000 is due in January, and then the city must pay $602,000 per year on the loan for the next four years.

The city still has $1.8 million out in construction bonds for the $4 million library which opened in 2009.

A $1 million sanitation loan for the purchase of truck and equipment needed when the city switched to automated services in 2011. To pay for needed items the city got a 60-month loan at 3 percent interest.

A $3.1 million, 60-month loan at 2.25 percent to construct a safe room and complete the public safety building.

TOP STORY >> New district would get more aid

Leader staff writer

An independent Jacksonville school district would spend more money per student than Cabot if the area’s 35-year effort to split from the Pulaski County Special School District is successful, according to Daniel Gray of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski Education Corps.

Gray spoke to the Jacksonville Lions Club at its meeting last week at the Bar-B-Que Shack on Hwy. 161.

Not only will an independent school district get a larger portion of state funds based on the wealth-index formula, declining enrollment figures mean fewer students will get a larger piece of the pie, according to Gray.

He said a new feasibility study about whether the city should form its own school district is “95 percent” complete.

“All the numbers look good,” Gray noted.

He said the Education Corps would hold a public meeting in February or March, after the report is finished.

The next step in the process is to ask U.S. District Judge Price Mar-shall, who is presiding over the decades-old desegregation case, to approve Jacksonville to hold an election in which voters would decide whether to separate from PCSSD.

Gray predicted that most residents would agree to split from the fiscally distressed PCSSD.

He added that the Education Corps also plans to ask the judge to clarify the rules for gathering the 4,000 signatures needed to put the measure on a ballot.

He said, based on the projected wealth-index formula, the state would contribute 55 percent – $55 million of a $100 million building project — toward repairing or constructing new facilities for a stand-alone district in Jacksonville.

The state only has to give 3 percent to PCSSD for construction because it has pockets, such as Maumelle, where residents earn higher incomes.

Gray said, over the last decade and excluding recent improvements, Jacksonville and north Pulaski schools have received 3 percent of PCSSD’s capital investments while having about 33 percent of the students in the district.

He added that declining enrollment has been an issue over that same time period.

“Ten, 11, or 12 years ago, we were about the same number of kids in our schools (as Cabot). They’ve grown. We’ve declined. We chose Cabot because it’s the nearest. That’s where people migrate to, move to when they go,” Gray said.

He said state law requires that a new independent school district have at least 4,000 students and several proponents were worried about that.

But the Jacksonville and North Pulaski areas had an enrollment of more than 4,500 students this year, Gray said.

The state took over the fiscally distressed PCSSD in June 2011. The school board was disbanded and the superintendent was fired.

In April, PCSSD’s lawyers asked the federal judge presiding over the desegregation case to create a separate Jacksonville district. The motion was in response to the state attorney general’s March petition requesting that the state be relieved of its obligation to provide about $70 million a year in desegregation funding.

The PCSSD lawyers said dividing the 17,000-student, 760-square-mile district would help it achieve unitary status in order to be released from court supervision and get out of fiscal distress.

Gray explained, “For the first time since 1978, Jacksonville/North Pulaski citizens, the Pulaski County Special School District, the Arkansas Department of Education all agree that a new school district should be formed. This is the first time we’ve all been on the same page.”

An election is one of the four ways an independent school district can be established.

Gray told the Lions Club, “The Education Corps is here to pick the ball up, revitalize and try to capture the momentum. This time we’re trying to communicate better with the public. The best thing you can do is to go to our website and sign up for our newsletter.”

The website is

Gray said PCSSD officials recently requested that the district be declared unitary, but the judge said no. He told them he couldn’t make a ruling until a hearing is held.

That hearing could happen in August or September, Gray said.

He said teachers’ salaries in an independent school district would have to be competitive, but wouldn’t confirm or deny whether the school board that will be elected would increase the pay for teachers in the new district.

Gray didn’t say whether he would run for the board, but he joked about his campaign for the PCSSD school board. Gray ran for the office just weeks before the state takeover.

Gray began his presentation to the Lions Club with a history of the area’s effort to get it own school district.

He said it all started with a 1978 feasibility study.

In 2001, Pat Bond, a state representative at the time, sponsored House Bill 1882. The bill became Act 1673. The law outlines the steps necessary for the creation of a new school district. After that, an executive committee was formed and an updated feasibility study was done.

The committee approved a plan for the district boundaries that it felt minimized disruption in attendance zones, decreased transportation costs, maintained racial balance and had natural boundaries.

A petition signed by 10 percent of the voters in the proposed district was completed. More than 4,000 validated signatures supporting the effort to separate from PCSSD were collected.

The petition, signatures, the study and a map of the boundaries were submitted to the state Board of Education and the Attorney General’s office.

An election date was set for Sept. 16, 2003.

PCSSD filed a lawsuit to halt the election. The judge, Bill Wilson, ruled that a more extensive study on a state level was necessary.

Wilson’s decision was appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis and the appeal was denied.

A third study was completed in 2006. A fourth study was completed in 2008.

Gray said all four studies found that Jacksonville could financially support its own district and should separate from PCSSD.

In 2008, the PCSSD school board voted unanimously to give Jacksonville and North Pulaski an independent district.

Negotiations with Sher-wood, which doesn’t want the new district to include any schools within its city limits, wrapped up in 2009. Northwood Middle School and Cato Elementary were removed from the boundaries that had been suggested previously.

Immediately after approving the new boundaries in 2009, the school board voted 4-3 to suspend negotiations with Jacksonville and North Pulaski until the federal court declares PCSSD unitary.

Gray said, “This move was viewed by many as a punitive step for efforts to hinder their bond issue of $80 million. Over $100 million was used to build those two facilities. That is Maumelle High School and Sylvan Hills Middle School.” A new district won’t take on that debt when it detaches, he said.