Friday, May 11, 2012

TOP STORY >> Business expo set Thursday

Leader staff writer

A thousand dollars to spend in Jacksonville is the top prize at this year’s Jacksonville Business Expo, but all visitors to the Thursday event will walk away winners just by trying the food.

The reopened Yarnell’s will showcase its classic ice cream flavors. Mr. Joe, the local hot dog vendor will be there, along with mainstays Western Sizzlin’ and the BBQ Shack.

The theme for this year’s show is “Think Local: Eat, Play, Shop, Buy — Choose Jacksonville,” and will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.

The Jacksonville Business Expo’s admission and parking are free, and “Expo Bucks” can be purchased to be exchanged for food or placed into a drawing for a grand prize.

Matt Robinson, chairman of this year’s event is excited about the $1,000 giveaway. “It’s a variety of gift certificates to Jacksonville businesses. I think whoever wins it will have a great time shopping in Jacksonville.”

In past years, more than 2,000 people attended the expo to visit the 70-plus business and food booths.

“It’s our chance to showcase the city of Jacksonville, our businesses and chamber members,” said Amy Mattison, the chamber’s chief executive officer.

Besides local food vendors, booths include a mix of longtime Jacksonville businesses, city, state and federal agencies, many up-and-coming businesses, schools and political candidates vying for votes.

Gold sponsors for the annual event include The Leader, Arkansas Federal Credit Union, Pulaski Technical College, First Arkansas Bank and Trust, Gwatney Chevrolet, COOL 104.7 and the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department.

Some booths are still available, but space is filling up quickly. For more information, call Mattison at 501-982-1511 or Robinson at 501-982-9421.

TOP STORY >> Carlisle has land for jobs

Leader staff writer

City officials are working to put Carlisle on the map with a 1,925-acre certified site for economic development right off I-40, which is called the best in the state.

Mayor Ray Glover, aldermen and members of the city’s Economic Development Commission met this week to discuss Carlisle’s economic future with officials from around the state and learned that the land is ideal for a major distribution center.

“We’re right on the verge of something special happening here,” the mayor said.

Glover said the purpose of the meeting was to keep the city council informed and involved in the city’s economic-development efforts.

Carlisle’s site is certified because it has met Teamwork Arkansas’ 50-point criteria for certification. What that certifications means is that the property is shovel-ready, so a business could get start building without having to do soil tests. Getting that certification took two years, Glover said.

Attending the meeting were Denisa Pennington, community development division director for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission; Joey Dean, executive director of Metro Little Rock Alliance, and Sherry McDonnell, community development coordinator for Entergy’s Teamwork Arkansas.

Glover asked Dean what he thought of Carlisle’s site. Dean said, “In my opinion, it is the best in the state.”

Dean said the site was ideal for a distribution center or several distribution centers because of the immediate access it has to I-40 in all directions.

Dean focused on the importance of regionalism. He said his organization pulls the limited resources of 12 counties with a collective population of more than 1 million to recruit industries to the area.

“They (businesses considering relocating or expanding) don’t care about city lines, county lines or geographic boundaries,” he said.

Pennington said, “A community that has stepped forward like you have, that is what we need from the state perspective. We work on recruitment and expansion of industries. It’s all about making things better for the people who live here Regionalism is important. We just cannot stand alone today. Money at the state level is harder and harder to come by.”

She emphasized that Carlisle has put a lot of work into the land they have to offer, instead of exclusively focusing on raising people’s awareness of the area. According to Pennington, that work paid off with the certified site, which is one of only 16 statewide.

She explained the members of the city’s commission did an excellent job welcoming a potential industry to town as part of its prospect-readiness training.

Asked if this put Carlisle on the map, Pennington replied, “Anyone who cannot see the progress you’ve made must have blinders on.”

McDonnell said, “I’m the person on the ground working with communities to develop their product. Having a site shovel-ready, a good product, is critical. I couldn’t be more proud of a community.”

She told the council, “They (the city’s commission) are the glue that holds us together. It’s going to be absolutely necessary for you to join us going forward.”

Beth Plafcan of the Carlisle Economic Development Com-mission presented a sample PowerPoint of what the commission would show on a visit by an industry considering a move or expansion to the city.

She said the city would tell the company’s leaders about the site’s strategic location, how it can be subdivided if they need a smaller space, the community’s workforce, education, help the city could provide if the company decided to come to Carlisle and demographic information.

Plafcan said the slideshow would be customized to emphasize how Carlisle fits with what the company is looking for.

“We will do that every time, go above and beyond,” Plafcan said.

Alderman Joe Cunningham asked Dean about the city recruiting smaller companies. Dean said the great thing about the large site Carlisle has is that it can be split into smaller section.

He said it was great that the community wasn’t limiting itself to large or small industries.

Cunningham said Carlisle residents leave the city for work in Conway, Little Rock and Cabot. He said the city needs residents to work in Carlisle.

The alderman also asked about quality of life, which wasn’t part of the PowerPoint presentation. Plafcan said that presentation would be made on a company’s second visit to Carlisle.

Dean said quality of life is very subjective and that companies look at statistics first.

TOP STORY >> Small towns glad to keep post offices

Leader staff writer

To stave off bankruptcy, the U.S. Postal Service planned to close 3,700 low-revenue rural post offices after next Tuesday. But opposition was strong among patrons and in Congress and the post master general announced Wednesday that instead of closing any post offices, the hours could be cut at those with low volume.

In Arkansas, 180 post offices, including Garner in White County, Hickory Pains in Prairie County and Keo in Lonoke County, were expected to close. Now, 391 could be open fewer than eight hours a day after Labor Day.

In Lonoke County, the hours at Austin and Scott will be cut from eight to six. Coy will be cut from six to two and Humnoke and Keo will be cut from eight to four.

In White County, the hours at McRae, El Paso, Pangburn and Kensett could be cut from eight to six. Bradley, Griffithville, Higginson, Pang-burn and Romance could be cut from eight to four and Garner could be cut from eight to two.

In Prairie County, Hickory Plains is already at six but could be cut to two in September.

Except for the lists of post offices where the hours could be cut, the Postal Service is releasing little information.

“In December 2011, the Postal Service agreed to impose a moratorium on closing or consolidating post offices and mail processing facilities until May 15, 2012, to give Congress and the Administration sufficient time to enact comprehensive postal legislation,” Leisa Tolliver-Gay, customer relations for the Postal Service, wrote in a press release this week. “None of the network realignment efforts that will be discussed with our employees will begin until after that date, in accordance with the moratorium.”

Shorter hours are expected to save about $500 million a year by reducing full-time staff, but the Postal Service is losing billions of dollars every year because of the high cost of doing business and falling customer support as more and more people communicate through e-mail and pay bills online.

An option to close post offices or create what is being called village post offices in libraries or stores such as Walgreens and Office Depot has not been ruled out.

In the meantime, the Postal Service has asked Congress to allow the end of Saturday deliveries.

EDITORIAL >> Michael Burks, Iron Man, RIP

Michael (Iron Man) Burks, probably the most successful Arkansas blues musician of the last 10 years, suffered a heart attack Sunday at the Atlanta airport after returning from a European tour. His wife, Bobbie, a 1981 Cabot High School graduate, was with him when Burks collapsed. He was taken to a nearby hospital, but doctors could not revive him. Burks was 54.

Bobbie Burks brought his ashes home to Arkansas on Wednesday and plans a memorial service for him in Camden, Little Rock or Memphis. His family lived in Camden for generations apart from a few years in Milwaukee.

“I just wanted to say thank you to all the love and support from my classmates,” she wrote on the Cabot Class of 1981 Facebook page. “You guys are truly a great group of people…. Thank you for all the prayers. They help more than you could possibly know.”

The Iron Man, who lived in North Little Rock, headlined numerous blues festivals in the U.S. and abroad, including King Biscuit in Helena and the Eureka Springs Blues Festival, as well as smaller ones around the state. He always put on a great show. We were looking forward to his return next month to Sticky Fingerz in Little Rock, where he often played and sometimes just hung around and talked to his fans.

He was built like a middleweight boxer and had a soulful voice and played a powerful guitar reminiscent of another Arkansas bluesman, the late Son Seals. They both recorded for Alligator Records in Chicago, which issued their award-winning CDs, including Burks’ “Iron Man,” “I Smell Smoke” and “Make It Rain.” Burks and Seals: A couple of true legends.

Donations in Michael Burks’ name may be made to the Class of 1981 Memorial Scholarship Foundation, P.O. Box 200, Cabot, Ark. 72023. Donations may also be made to the Handy Artists Relief Trust at

EDITORIAL >> Hunger in schools

Many school children here are going hungry as The Leader’s Jeffrey Smith reported on Wednesday.

But the Arkansas Rice Depot’s Food for Kids program, with help from teachers and faculty, provides school children in need with backpacks packed with kid-friendly meals and snacks that are often their only sustenance when school is not in session.

Smith’s report, “Food for Kids provides meals here,” included a chilling quote from a pupil at Beebe’s Badger Elementary: Not having food “makes my throat dry. I can barely move. That’s what it’s like to be hungry.”

The student said he and his siblings do better in school with Rice Depot’s assistance.

Last year, the program helped 370 students in the Cabot School District, 309 in the Pulaski County Special School District, 50 in Lonoke and 75 in Beebe.

The food program is as innovative as it is compassionate. Aware that teachers are often the first to see under-nourished children, the Rice Depot recruits help from school staff. The food is slyly placed in book bags so students won’t feel singled out.

A counselor at Badger Elementary said, “Some kids will complain of hunger and not had anything to eat the night before.” Let’s help teachers hear that less often because hungry kids can’t learn.

Donations may be sent to a particular school district. One child can be fed for the whole month with just $30, $200 will feed all the hungry students in one school and $2,000 provides a year’s supply of food for all hungry students in a school.

The problem is especially worrisome as summer approaches, though some school districts will be offering meals for children over the break.

The Beebe School District will offer free meals in the summer to youngsters 18 years and under. Meals will be available Monday through Friday from May 29 to Aug. 3, except for July 4th.

Beebe Elementary School’s cafeteria will serve breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

Lunch will also be available at Edward Lunnie Park on East Oklahoma Street behind Mount Arratt Baptist Church from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and at William Nick Firefighters Park behind the health department on Fir Street from 12:25 to 1 p.m.

Meals at McRae will be available at the city park behind city hall from 11 to 11:30 a.m.

The Cabot School District will offer youngsters free lunches during the summer at the Ward Central Elementary cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday from the first week of June to the end of July.

The lunch program will be paid with a grant from the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

The Pulaski County Special School District has a year-round program with people on staff to help. Kids can go to the Learning Center on Dixon Road from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays for food.

For more information about the Rice Depot’s Food for Kids program, contact your local schools or call 501-565-8855 or visit

SPORTS STORY >> Bison find way to win in playoffs

Leader sports editor

Carlisle got the benefit of several Danville errors and got an excellent performance on the mound by Tommy Inman. It all added up to a 4-2 victory in the quarterfinal round of the class 2A state tournament at historic Taylor Field in Pine Bluff.

“We got a little lucky,” Carlisle coach B.J. Greene said. “What it boils down to is we got a little lucky. But we found ways to force the issue and make them make plays. We weren’t very good at the plate until late when we finally decided to be hitters and stay back on the guy. Once we did that, we got some breaks to go our way.”

The Little Johns took 2-0 lead with two runs in the top of the third inning, one off a Carlisle error at third base.

Danville nine-hole hitter Jay Trusty singled to right field to start the inning. Leadoff hitter Grant Cathey hit a grounder to third, but Trey Wilson’s throw was wild, leaving runners safe at second and third. Caleb Short walked to load the bases. During Drake Penzo’s at bat, Inman threw a wild pitch high over catcher Deric Herring’s arms to allow Trusty to score from third. Penzo then singled to left field to drive in the only earned run of the game.

Carlisle then chipped away. With the help of Danville errors, the Bison got a run in the fourth, one in the fifth and two in the sixth.

In the fourth inning, Herring singled to shortstop and Deron Ricks singled to centerfield to put runners on first and second. Josh Mathis followed with a high fly ball to shallow left field where Danville’s Jeffrey Spikes dropped it.

Carlisle’s runners were tagging, but were forced to run after the drop. Spikes picked up the ball and threw to third, but his throw was off the mark. The two errors left everyone safe. Herring then scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-1.

Spikes committed another error in with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Inman hit a line drive that Spikes misplayed, allowing Inman to get to third. He then scored on a towering two-RBI double to the warning track in left-centerfield by Wilson.

More Little John errors in the sixth put Carlisle ahead and gave Inman the lead he needed to seal the win in the top of the seventh.

Again with two outs, Austin Reed started a rally when he was hit by a pitch. Hayden Hoover then hit a ground ball to short, but Danville’s Bret Wilkins throw sailed high over first baseman Daniel Parker’s head. That allowed Reed to score easily. Hoover rounded second and was on his way safely to third when Parker’s threw home trying to get Reed, but his throw sailed out of the field of play, giving Hoover a free walk home and setting the final margin.

“Give Austin Reed credit,” Greene said. “On a slow curveball inside, you stand in there and let it hit you. We needed a base runner and he got on base. That’s what you do.”

Danville began to rally in the top of the seventh. Jay Trusty reached on an error by Mathis at first base. Cathey then singled to left to put runners at first and second with one out. Inman then got Short to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game and preserve a semifinal berth for the Bison.

In round one, the Bison faced down one of the most dominant pitchers in Arkansas. They struck out 13 times, but prevailed 5-4 against Gurdon.

Go-Devil Zach Gooding, a 6-foot, 4-inch southpaw, struck out 18 of the 21 batters he faced in his last outing, but in striking out 13 on Thursday, he also gave up seven base hits and four earned runs as the Bison found a way to touch him.

Carlisle held a 4-1 lead heading into the final inning but lost it due to a couple of errors and a timely base hit by the Go Devils.

Carlisle pitcher Trey Wilson, who went the distance, didn’t get rattled and retired two batters to get out of the jam with falling behind.

Carlisle won it in the bottom of the same inning. Hart got the rally going with his third base hit of the game, an infield single up the middle.

Inman bunted him over to second for one out. Trey Wilson then drove a single to left field that scored Hart for the game-winning run.

“We found a way to squeak it out,” Greene said. “He struck us out quite a bit, but we got some key hits. Chris Hart really forced the issue on them. He got on base every at bat and made them deal with base runners.”

Leading 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, freshman designated hitter Dylan Brazeal got a two-RBI single that made it 4-1. Earlier in the game Deric Herring got an RBI double that drove in the first run of the game.

Wilson gave up just four hits in the win on the mound.

The Bison, (27-5) played the winner of Thursday’s late game between Marmaduke and Danville on Friday. A win in that game means a semifinal game at noon today for a chance to play in the state championship game next week at the University of Arkansas.

SPORTS STORY >> Southside defense stymies Panthers

Southwest Times-Record

Fort Smith Southside scored two first-half goals and spent the second half defending them Thursday at the 7A state tournament for a 2-0 win against Cabot in the girls’ division.

With the win, Southside advanced to play Rogers Heri age at Rowland Stadium in the second round. Heritage beat the Lady Rebels in a 7A-West match in the regular season, 1-0.

Against Cabot, Southside controlled the opening minutes of the match.

In the 10th minute, Southside won a corner kick. The ball deflected off Cabot’s goalkeeper’s hands, skipped off one player and then was nodded into goal by senior Sydney King.

In the 36th minute, Southside’s Emilee Cole raced down the right wing. She cut back into the middle of the field at the edge of the 18-yard box so suddenly the Cabot defender low shot into the lower left corner of the goal for a 2-0 Southside lead.

“She has the ability to do that every game,” Southside coach Steven Thessing said of Cole. “She’s kind of taken that (scoring) role reluctantly, even though she’s got the skills do it. She’s really embraced it lately and knows we need that to have some success.”

While King and Cole provided the offense, newly-minted goalkeeper Dorian Briggs made 11 saves. Twice, she stopped three-on-one breaks by the Lady Panthers (14-6) by charging the shooter with a slide-tackle just as the ball was shot.

“She’s only been playing soccer for about two months now, but she’s a competitor and that just comes from being an athlete,” Thessing said of Briggs, who joined the team after basketball season ended. “She takes it on herself to get better and better every time she steps on the field.”

Cabot coach Kerry Castillo said Briggs’ play was a huge factor in the match.

“I thought she did an outstanding job of preventing us from getting a good shot on goal on those breaks,” Castillo said. “By the time we were preparing to shoot, she was already on top of us.”

In the second half, Southside (10-8-1) focused on defense and protecting the 2-0 lead. The Lady Rebels left Cole alone near midfield, but dropped everybody else into defensive positions.

“We left Cole up top to provide some attack. But that was our gameplan in the second half,” Thessing said. “We felt good with a two-goal lead and felt confident in our goalkeeper. I thought we played really good in the back on defense.”

In the other first-round matches, Fayetteville beat North Little, 8-0, Mount St. Mary’s Academy blanked Rogers, 4-0, and Har-Ber advanced when Little Rock Hall forfeited. Hall suspended a number of players and didn’t have enough on the roster to field a team for the tournament.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills ladies beat Paragould 4-3

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills’ softball team survived a scare in the opening round of the class 5A state tournament, coming from behind to beat Paragould 4-3 in extra innings Thursday at Wynne.

The Lady Bears’ season looked as if it was coming to an abrupt end heading into the bottom of the seventh as Paragould, the No. 4 seed from the East, took a 3-2 lead in the top part of the inning after Emily Hamilton hit a clutch two-out single to straight center that allowed Sarah Dicus to score from second.

It would’ve been easy for Sylvan Hills to get down after such a close game where both teams struggled to get anything going offensively, but the Lady Bears (20-5, 14-0) refused to quit and took advantage of every opportunity the Lady Rams (15-14, 7-7) gave them in the bottom of the seventh.

Centerfielder Jordie Flippo was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and Callie Cavender followed by laying down a well-executed bunt to put Flippo in scoring position. Brittney Hubbird came to the plate hoping to drive Flippo in, but instead grounded out.

Hubbird’s contact allowed Flippo to advance to third, but the No. 1 seeded Lady Bears were one out away from calling it a year. Leadoff hitter and ace pitcher Michelle Sorensen was the last hope for Sylvan Hills.

With two outs and Sorensen behind in the count, it wasn’t looking good for Sylvan Hills. However, the next pitch was low and passed through the catcher’s legs, and Flippo raced home and slid in feet first to tie the score at three.

As the eighth inning began, the international tie-breaker rule was put into effect. This means at the beginning of each team’s at-bat, the last batter from the previous inning is automatically placed on second base.

Sylvan Hills’ defense held strong and didn’t give up any runs in the inning. In the bottom part of the inning with Sorensen at second, cleanup hitter Tranice Hayes hit a walk off single that sailed over the right fielder’s head, giving the Lady Bears the hard-earned win.

“As far as facing adversity like that, they always seem to bounce back,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jeff Johnson of his team. “That’s just a testimonial to the girls and to the parents that are raising them, and I just don’t give enough credit to my defense.

“A lot of times our defense could’ve cashed it in, but they got us out of a lot of deep trouble on the bags. Defensive-wise they pulled through, so hats off to our defense. They continue to play and play hard.”

Sorensen earned the win for the Lady Bears as she struck out seven in eight innings of work. Hayes led Sylvan Hills at the plate with two hits. Sorensen, Tyra Williams, and Flippo each had a hit apiece.

Sylvan Hills continued its run at the state title yesterday against Alma. Stay tuned for Wednesday’s edition of the Leader for scores and stats.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers pound Chapel

Leader sportswriter

It took a very young and inexperienced Beebe team a few innings to settle into the spotlight of the class 5A state softball tournament, but once the Lady Badgers got comfortable they piled on the runs and pummeled Watson Chapel 9-1 Thursday at Wynne to advance to the second round of the tournament.

Beebe has been nothing short of stellar in the field this season, in large part due to the consistency of freshman ace Ellie Reaves as it has become the norm for her to pitch either one-run or shutout games.

What has plagued Beebe in its losses this season has been the Lady Badgers lack of production at the plate. Beebe succeeded in getting on base early against the Lady Wildcats, but the Lady Badgers’ scoring troubles continued in the first three innings.

Watson Chapel (22-11, 10-4) was able to score its lone run of the game in the fourth to tie the score, but in the bottom part of the inning Beebe (22-7, 11-3) found its rhythm and started doing serious work at the plate, scoring four runs in the inning to take a 5-1 lead.

“I thought at first we were a little nervous,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers about the Lady Badgers’ slow start. “We left some runners on base that we should’ve scored, but towards the end we settled down and put some runs on the board and played a little defense.

“They (Watson Chapel) had a couple of hits and scored that run like you’re supposed to. But for having seven freshmen and one sophomore out there with just two seniors on the team, I thought they (Beebe) did pretty well for their first state tournament game for most of them.”

The Lady Badgers’ defense stayed strong as the game progressed, while the offense continued to score runs. Some of Beebe’s runs were a result of Watson Chapel’s mistakes in the field, as the Lady Wildcats committed three errors in the game.

With two on in the fifth, Beebe’s Courtney Shepard hit a tricky grounder to second that was slightly mishandled, and Shepard’s speed caused the throw to first to be rushed and it was overthrown.

The errant throw allowed Megan Davlin and Sarah White to score, giving Beebe a comfortable 7-1 lead. Beebe scored its final two runs in the sixth. Leadoff hitter Calah Hill started the inning with an infield single.

Two-hole hitter Madelyn Poe followed with her third infield base hit of the day. Poe’s speed caused another throw to be rushed to first, and the ball sailed over the first baseman’s head as a result, allowing Hill to score all the way from first. Poe advanced to third on the error.

“Definitely our top three have a lot of speed, and we have a couple at the bottom of the order that have some speed too,” Chambers said. “That’s something we haven’t had a whole lot of here at Beebe, so it is a big difference. In any sport speed kills, so we’re glad to have them.”

Centerfielder Makenzie Bingham drove in the final run of the day with a sac fly to right that allowed Poe to score with ease. Reaves picked up the win on the mound with a complete game performance.

Hill and Poe each went 3 for 4 at the plate while Brittany Gentry and White had a hit apiece.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady ’Backs down Devils

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils dug a hole early and stayed there as Texarkana routed the 6A state tournament hosts 11-1 in the first round at Dupree Park on Thursday.

The Lady Razorbacks, the No. 3 seed from the 6A South Conference, built an early 6-0 lead after one inning and scattered their remaining scores necessary for a sixth-inning run rule to advance to the quarterfinal round of the 6A tourney, where they faced Russellville in an afternoon matchup.

Jacksonville (9-15) regrouped after a rough first inning and began to slowly battle back once the early nerves settled. They made up a run in the top of the second inning, but left runners on base in the third and fourth innings before Texarkana relief pitcher Kaitlyn Eaves shut the Lady Devils down completely during their final two turns at the plate.

Coyja Hood led off the top of the second for Jacksonville with a single to left field and advanced to second on a passed ball before making her way to third on a groundout to second by Mailani Walker. Shyrel McKinney then hit into an error at shortstop to score Hood for Jacksonville’s only run.

That made up for only one run in a first inning that was fruitful for the Lady ’Backs. Breagan White led off with a double and scored when three-hole hitter Eaves reached on an outfield error. Bailey Nicholas singled and Rickela Williams walked to load the bases, and Morgan Powell hit a single shot into right field to score two Jones reached on an error to score Powell, but the biggest hit of the inning came from Destinee Turner in the form of a big triple smash into deep left field to score Jones and give Texarkana a 6-0 lead.

The Lady Red Devils turned things around defensively in the bottom of the second inning to go three up and three down, but The Lady Razorbacks added two more scores in the bottom of the third. They scored another pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth and had the game-winning run headed home when the third out was called for runner interference. Powell ran into Jacksonville third baseman McKinney on a fly foul that was just outside the baseline.

But the home team on the scoreboard got the needed run to end it early in the bottom of the sixth inning when Eaves reached on an error and advanced on a single by Nicholas before scoring the final run on a single to center from Morgan Powell.

The loss marked the final varsity game for a number of three-year starting seniors that included first baseman Haley Hickingbotham, pitching twins Whitney House and Alexis House, as well as shortstop Bailey Mallison.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan thrills in early rounds

Leader sportswriter

A dominant second half lifted the Sylvan Hills Lady Bears to a 5-2 first-round victory over Nettleton at the 5A state soccer tournament at Burns Park on Tuesday.

The Lady Bears (17-4-3) gave up two goals in the first half before shutting down the Lady Raiders, who came into the tournament as the No. 4 seed out of the 5A East Conference.

Sophomore forward Abi Persson turned in a hat-trick performance with both Sylvan Hills goals in the first half and her third midway through the second half. By that time, fellow sophomore forward Calyn Fulton had given the lead back to the Lady Bears with an early second-half goal, while freshman Sarah Beckwith set the final margin in the 20th minute with a line-drive shot from close range.

“I’m not sure what the difference was, because they were playing just as hard,” Sylvan Hills coach Nate Persson said. “They were playing very well, but our main stars got through more. They were playing off of them just a little more, and so they got the opportunities.”

Nettleton struck early when forward Tia Jones broke through the defense and scored in the third minute of the first half. Abi Persson tied the game at the 10-minute mark of the first half with a 20-yard kick that sailed high and just inside the crossbar. Lady Raiders goalkeeper Maddie Shown was in position but out of reach, as Persson’s shot tied the game at 1-1.

Persson gave the Lady Bears the lead for the first time on a penalty kick at the 12th minute, this time with a low shot into the right corner.

Jones tied the game back up for Nettleton just before the half, but the Lady Bears proved their superiority early in the second half with a play that stunned the Lady Raiders’ defense.

Persson attacked the goal and crossed the ball at the last minute as Fulton charged at full speed, timing her surge perfectly to head the ball past Shown, who made a solid play on the ball despite getting beat badly.

“That was a big-time play off a set piece from the side,” Nate Persson said. “Abi crossed it in, and K.K. anticipated it just perfect, went behind the defense and headed it over the goalie – that’s quality play there. The goalie did right coming out, she just got there a split second early and knocked it in.”

Fulton’s goal proved to be the momentum changer, as shots on goal became more frequent for the Lady Bears. Fulton was just off on two other attempts before Persson made it 4-2 with a crossing kick to the left at the 16th minute.

Beckwith’s goal was an easy look as Shown fell trying to set up for the block, giving Beckwith a free shot.

She took advantage with a solid delivery that landed in the middle of the net.

Despite coming in as a No. 4 seed to take on the top-seeded Lady Bears, Nettleton hung tough and matched Sylvan Hills through one half of play, and continued to battle in the second half after falling behind.

“I was very impressed with Nettleton,” Nate Persson said. “And to tell you the truth, I underestimated them, and I had lots of plans going on that didn’t materialize as far as resting my people. At halftime, I had to say forget about all this resting, we’re in a dogfight.”

The Lady Bears advanced to play Central Arkansas Christian in the quarterfinal round. The Lady Mustangs, the No. 2 seed out of the 5A Southwest Conference, defeated West No. 3 seed Greenwood 1-0 in the first round.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Keep AMPs, Griffin insists

There have been times in Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) short tenure in Washington when he seems to be grandstanding, which may be the case again this week, but it does make sense and he gets an “atta boy” for talking the talk.

The talk is about the upgrade program for C-130s. He wants it continued, the Air Force doesn’t, but it looks like he’s going to win, at least for now.

Griffin has made it clear he doesn’t want to cancel the current Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) until the Air Force shows him the cost benefits of the alternative plans.

The Pentagon wants to permanently chock the wheels on the decades-old, but just-being-implemented AMP, designed to bring aging C-130s into the 21st century with a digital cockpit and replace it with a less-ambitious, less-expensive upgrade.

Despite the Air Force’s original plans to install AMP kits on more than 220 C-130s, the Defense Department’s proposed 2013 budget closes out the C-130 AMP conversion policy after upgrading just five aircraft.

The Air Force needs to refit older C-130s with the needed electronics and avionics technology to keep the planes flying. The military must modernize its communications and navigation systems on the legacy C-130s to meet FAA standards and European standards or the planes will be excluded from many of the best and most efficient air lanes.

It is an expensive proposition, $7 to $10 million per plane with a total program cost nearing $5.8 billion.

The Air Force says that’s too much to spend, and that there are cheaper things to do to the aircraft, including sending the planes out to the bone yard.

It may be a lot of money, but new C-130Js are running about $60 million each.

Griffin said in a news release this week that he fought to include language in this year’s defense bill “that will ensure continued funding for the C-130 AMP until a full cost-benefit analysis can be finalized and reviewed by Congress. We owe it to the service members at Little Rock Air Force Base and the hardworking taxpayers of Arkansas to ensure that the right decision is made.”

The defense bill is expected to pass the Armed Forces Committee this week, with Griffin’s proposal intact and will be referred to the full House for further consideration. The Democratic-controlled Senate is another story.

So congrats to Griffin for pushing uphill on this issue. Griffin, along with most Republicans on the Hill, are flexing their muscle on any defense cuts. It plays well during an election year, but in reality, there is pork, waste and abuse in the defense budget, and some programs need to be cut.

Still, the longer the AMP program stays alive, the more Little Rock Air Force Base benefits.

TOP STORY >> Food for Kids provides meals here

Leader staff writer

At the end of the day, you may think the backpack a student is lugging is loaded full of homework, but it may contain food for the evening or the weekend to keep a child from going hungry.

The Arkansas Rice Depot’s Food for Kids program provides schools with new backpacks and ready-to-eat meals for youngsters. The backpacks are unadorned and do not stand out, keeping it discreet for students. Food is delivered monthly to the schools and stored in small pantries.

A student at Badger Elementary in Beebe said the Food for Kids program helps his family stretch their food stamp money. They have used the program for over a year. Students with siblings are given additional food.

“It makes me, my brother and sister happy. We can eat some snacks after school. It calms me down not being hungry,” he said.

Not having food he said, “makes my throat get dry. I can barely move. That’s what it’s like to be hungry.”

The youngster said having food available improves his grades at school.

“If we get some cereal it lets me, my brother and sister think of our work,” he said.

Beebe and Badger Elementary, Early Childhood and Beebe High had around 75 students and siblings served in 2010-11 by the food program.

“I think it helps the students focus on the task on hand, and not worry during the day about whether they will be having food,” Badger Elementary counselor Nikki Jolly said.

She said the school has received letters from parents thanking them for the temporary help. She said some grandparents are raising their grandchildren.

Jolly said parents are appreciative of how the program is handled. It builds trust and a relationship with the school.

She said at Badger Elementary there isn’t a stigma with the Backpack for Kids program. Students help unload the truck. They want to help.

At Badger Elementary backpacks are filled on Fridays with snacks and kid-friendly meals such as macaroni and cheese, or a can of Spaghettios for the weekend and placed in the student’s locker. During the week they are given a baggie with a meal to tide them over for the next day.

Beebe Elementary counselor Melissa Brown said at her school during the week students in the program go to the counselor office where they are given something to eat and a snack item. They pick up a backpack filled with food on Fridays.

Brown said she’s noticed an increase in the past year of students seeks assistance.

She said parents will ask for help, or some students seem hungry and are referred to the program by a teacher. Their parents are notified about the program.

“Some kids will complain of hunger and not had anything to eat the night before,” Brown said.

Cabot School District counseling coordinator Terena Woodruff said the need for food is greater at the end of the month than at the beginning. Backpacks are filled weekly on Fridays.

The Rice Depot reported the Cabot School District averaged 370 students last year on the Food For Kids program in the nine elementary schools, both middle schools, Cabot Junior High South and Cabot High School.

Woodruff said the hunger program, “helps build a relationship with parents at home. They see the school trying to help the kids, and not get them in trouble. They trust us more and the parents will come and participate in school.”

The Food for Kids program is available in the following Pulaski County Special School District: Bayou Meto Elementary, Cato Elementary, Pinewood Elementary, Sher-wood Elementary, Sylvan Hills Elementary, Murrell Taylor Elementary, Tolleson Elementary, Jacksonville Middle School and Northwood Middle School. Approximately 309 students and their siblings were assisted last year, according to the Arkansas Rice Depot.

Lonoke Elementary Primary and Middle School had an estimated 50 students served by the hunger program.

The Arkansas Rice Depot also provides food and infant items for pregnant teens, teenage mothers and their babies to ease some of their burden so they will finish high school.

Lauren McElroy, vice president of the Arkansas Rice Depot, said anyone can support the Food for Kids program by making a monetary donation to support children in their community.

Donors can choose which school district they want to help.

A donation of $30 buys food for one child for one month, $200 helps all the hungry students in one school and $2,000 provides a year’s supply of food for all hungry students in a school.

For more information about the Food for Kids program contact your local schools.

To support Rice Depot, call 501-565-8855 or visit

TOP STORY >> Diners go online in fight over eateries

Leader editor-in-chief

A food fight involving three Jacksonville restaurants has been simmering for months, if not years, and now has spilled over to Facebook, where the comments are as strong as the morning coffee.

The controversy went public last month, when supporters of Feastros, a struggling Jacksonville restaurant, posted comments critical of First Street Café. They’re both in the old Walmart shopping center near the air base.

Mark Spraight, Feastros’ owner, who served soul food in a town that has few minority-owned businesses, went on Facebook on April 17, the day before he closed, and blamed First Street Café for invoking a noncompete clause in its lease and forcing the landlord to shut Feastros. Spraight also claimed First Street’s owner used bullying tactics to get him out of the shopping center.

Within hours, Feastros supporters put up some 125 comments on Facebook. E-mails and phone calls to The Leader called First Street Café’s tactics shameful.

The owner of First Street Café denies he had anything to do with Feastros closing.

Here’s an additional twist: First Street has been accused of violating a noncompete agreement with a similar diner, Cody’s Cafe, which also serves plate lunches and was once owned by the family that’s involved with First Street.

Here are some sample postings on Facebook:

“This is not 1957, this is 2012 and we will not stand for the things that went on back then!” said one posting.

“What has happened to you is unbelievable in America in 2012. There is Rally’s and Sonic next door to each other, selling the same foods with McDonald’s across the street.”

At the end of last month, the Little Rock newspaper published a short item that mentioned Feastros’ claims that it was unfairly shut down.

Kevin Elrod was upset with the Little Rock paper for not running his side of the story until it ran a correction a week later.

Elrod insists he didn’t press the landlord, C.J. Cropper of the management firm Marcus and Millichap, to shut his competitor down. He also denied competing unfairly with Cody’s, because his parents owned it before they sold to new owners and they’re not in charge of his operation.

Elrod, 35, told us Monday that the first he’d found out about Feastros closing was on First Street’s Facebook page, where he posts the daily menu every morning. He was pilloried for driving Feastros out of business, for being un-American and worse. His Facebook page was removed Tuesday.

“I didn’t call anybody on him,” Elrod told us. “I was shocked when they closed down.”

“I didn’t have a noncompete clause — the landlord did,” he continued.

Elrod opened First Street Café in 2010. Feastros opened the next year after moving from Sherwood to Jacksonville.

First Street Café’s specialty is breakfast, plate lunches and hamburgers. He said the landlord had come to him and asked him if Feastros could serve barbecue, smoked meats and catfish in the evenings.

“He wasn’t supposed to be open when we were,” Elrod explained, but he also said he didn’t care if Feastros served barbecue in the middle of the day or in the evening. Elrod closes at 2 p.m.

Cropper ate at both places and discovered that Feastros started a buffet similar to what First Street Café was serving, Elrod said. The landlord told Feastros that was in violation of the lease and kicked out Feastros, which was behind in rent and was also in bankruptcy.

Elrod said, “I didn’t call the landlord or the mayor,” which he was also accused of on Facebook.

Cody’s, which also serves breakfast and plate lunches, was owned by Kevin Elrod’s parents, Jim and Karen. They opened Cody’s more than 20 years ago, when Kevin was a little boy. They sold Cody’s about four years ago and opened a restaurant in Cabot, which soon closed.

Jim and Karen Elrod signed a noncompete agreement with state Rep. Mark Perry, when he bought Cody’s from them.

“I’d like to know who really owns First Street Café,” Perry told us. “Kevin is their front to get around the noncompete agreement with Cody’s.”

Perry said the Elrods weren’t supposed to compete with him for five years. Even though he recently sold Cody’s to another couple, he says the noncompete agreement is still valid.

“It’s hurt us,” he said, referring to First Street. “People associate us with them all the time. They come into Cody’s and say they’ve eaten at the other restaurant. We have nothing to do with First Street Café.”

Karen Elrod insists Kevin owns the restaurant. “We have nothing to do with it,” she said.

She said she helps out at the restaurant when her son is sick, but otherwise she and her husband are trying to enjoy their retirement.

After reading comments on Facebook, she said, “You’d think the Elrods are the worst people in the world. It’s been the most bizarre thing we’ve been through. We’re never been the kind of people to put others out of business. We had nothing to do with it. We didn’t know they were going to shut down.”

It’s gotten so bad, she said, “people have threatened to blow up the shopping center.”

Spraight, Feastros’ owner, posted a note to Kevin Elrod:

“The only reason at the end of the day we lost our contract was because your mother was complaining about us to the landlord and that was the only reason he could use to get us out the contract!! I have recorded tapes!!”

But Spraight remains upbeat. He thinks he’ll reopen in a new location. “I have received a call from the city stating their position. They are aiding the search for a new location,” he said on Facebook.

His message to Elrod: “Love you brother and don’t worry I’ll be back!!!!!!!”

TOP STORY >> Cabot employees could go to college free

Leader staff writer

A change could be coming in the personnel handbook for Cabot employees which will make it easier for them to go to college by paying full tuition for good grades.

Currently, the city reimburses the employees for tuition for one course a semester at the rate of 100 percent for A’s, 75 percent for B’s and 50 percent for C’s, but nothing for other fees or books.

Brian Higgins, the city’s human resource director, told the city council’s personnel and finance committee Monday night that few employees take advantage of the city’s offer to pay tuition so they can advance in their respective fields with the city.

And when they find out that if they make less than an A, the city doesn’t pay the full tuition, the cost is more than they are willing to pay.

Since C’s count toward degrees just like A’s, Higgins proposed reimbursement for full tuition for C’s and higher. He also proposed full reimbursement for fees and $80 for books.

Alderman Patrick Hutton said he thought if the city was going to put out the money, then the employee should earn it. He dismissed Higgins’ argument that sometimes things happen that are beyond students’ control, such as bad instructors.

“If they want the full reimbursement, I want the A,” Hutton insisted.

Alderman Rick Prentice disagreed with Hutton. City employees are non-traditional students with jobs and families. Some have been out of high school for many years and have forgotten how to study.

Prentice said they should be allowed to work to their ability and the city should reimburse the full tuition if they pass.

Higgins also proposed a change in how the city pays employees who are off work because of injuries that could possibly get them back to work sooner.

Currently, workman’s compensation pays 66 percent of the wages for the first 90 days a worker is off with injuries and the city pays the difference for a full 100 percent of wages. After 90 days, workman’s comp continues and employees may use their vacation and sick days to make up the difference.

Higgins said he realized one day that since the 66 percent is tax free, employees who are paid directly by the city or using their sick and vacation days actually make more than when they are working.

Under those conditions, some employees would make an additional $5,000 a year, he said, and have little incentive to keep appointments with doctors so they could go back to work.

He proposes no changes for the first 90 days, but after that time employees would no longer draw pay for sick and vacation days. They would only draw workman’s comp which would mean a pay cut of about 10 percent because the workman’s comp is tax free.

A change is likely also coming for some employees in the street department who have commercial driver’s licenses that allow them to operate large trucks such as dump trucks.

Those CDL holders have said they are exempt from the requirement for periodic physical.

But Brian Boroughs, the new head of public works, disagrees.

“There’s a stated exemption out there but it doesn’t seem, to be the law,” Boroughs said.

Higgins talked to experts with the Municipal League in North Little Rock and included what he learned in proposed changes to the employee handbook. But Prentice, who works in transportation, said he believed some of Higgins’ information was wrong.

Specifically, Higgins proposed giving employees a five-day grace period to produce the health cards that show they are physically fit to drive or explain why they didn’t get one.

Prentice said the grace period wasn’t needed. Either they were fit to drive or not.

After much discussion, the committee agreed to pass all the proposed handbook changes to the full council except the CDL change.

Alderman Ed Long said he wanted a lawyer from the Municipal League to come explain it to the committee.

“For the amount of money we pay those people in North Little Rock, they can have someone come up here,” Long said.

TOP STORY >> Q&A: Sheriff candidates give views

Six candidates are vying to become Lonoke County sheriff: Republicans Steve Finch, Jim Kulesa, John Staley and Jason Wilkinson and Democrats Steve Rich and Dean White.

The Leader asked the sheriff hopefuls to share their views and explain why they want to become the county’s top lawman to succeed Jim Roberson, who is retiring. Early voting has already begun for the May 22 primaries.

Steve Finch and his wife, Linda, have one daughter, Stephanie Finch of Lonoke. He has one stepdaughter, Deborah Oglesby of Cabot, three stepsons and three step-grandchildren. Finch, 56, is a captain in the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office.

Jim Kulesa and his wife, Michele, have a daughter, Sierra, and a son, Logan. Kulesa, 54, is a lieutenant in the sheriff’s office, where he also serves as public information officer.

Steve Rich and his wife, Jeri Pennington Rich, have three children, Steven Rich, Simone Rich Starks and Bridgette Rich Eason. Rich, 53, is a former sheriff’s deputy in Lonoke and Pulaski counties and now owns a wrecker service.

John W. Staley and his wife, Mandy, have two daughters, Brianna and Aleigha, and they are expecting another child soon. Staley, 32, is the police chief of Austin and a Ward alderman.

Dean White and his wife, Misty C. White, have four children and six grandchildren. White, 47, is the chief deputy of the sheriff’s office.

Jason Wilkinson and his wife, Liani, have been married 15 years. They have two children, ages 6 and 9. Wilkinson, 38, is a businessman and a part-time sheriff’s deputy.

How long have you lived in the area?

Finch: I have lived in Lonoke County all my life. I currently live in the Furlow community.

Kulesa: I came back to Arkansas in 1992 after serving 15 years, three months in the Air Force. I was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base from 1986 to 1989 and then went overseas. I left the Air Force to pursue a civilian law enforcement career.

Rich: Forty years.

Staley: I am a lifelong resident of the Ward and Austin area.

White: Twenty-three years.

Wilkinson: I was raised in Jacksonville and am a graduate of Jacksonville High School. After college in Fayetteville, my wife and I moved back to Jacksonville while I worked in Little Rock. In 2005, we moved to Lonoke County, and I started my involvement in Lonoke County organizations, including the sheriff’s office.

What past jobs or positions qualify you to be sheriff?

Finch: I have been a certified deputy sheriff for over 30 years with the sheriff’s department. I started out as dispatcher/jailer and from there moved to patrol, then to criminal investigations, where I was promoted through the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant and then to my current position of captain over the Criminal Investigations Division and Patrol Unit. I also served as juvenile probation officer for a time. I also kept the budget for the sheriff’s department and worked in civil process.

Having worked for five sheriffs and for the people of Lonoke County over the past 30 years, I feel I have gained the experience needed to lead the sheriff’s department the way the people of Lonoke County want.

I believe I have earned the respect of each and every employee at the sheriff’s department as a leader they can depend on. I also think that I have earned the respect of the people of the county.

Kulesa: I was in military police for 15 years, security side, law enforcement side, law enforcement supervisor, investigations, fraud and financial crimes, and then served in the (narcotics division of the) Office of Special Investigations.

I worked at the Pulaski County Juvenile Detention Center, the Lonoke Police Department as a patrolman then an investigator. I have been with the sheriff’s office 16 years as a patrol deputy, a sex crimes/child abuse investigator, a narcotics supervisor, community relations/public information officer and hostage/crisis negotiator.

I have served in the law- enforcement field over 30 years — 18 and a half of them in Lonoke County.

Rich: I was a military police officer and Ranger in the Army. (I have also worked for the) Lonoke Police Department, sheriff’s department and the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department. I am a business owner/operator in Lonoke, and have managed large fleet assets for a wrecker service in Little Rock. And (I) have countless hours of training and experience in drug enforcement, management and department liabilities.

Staley: I have experience in private security, from security officer to management. I started in 1998 as a security guard and became a supervisor when I was 19. This led me to becoming director of security operations for a company out of Little Rock. In 2000, I turned 21 and became a part-time police officer for the Austin Police Department. I worked in this capacity while managing the security company.

In 2003, I started work at the Jacksonville Police Department. I worked as a patrolman, school-resource officer, field-training officer, chief crisis negotiator for the special response team and sergeant.

In March 2009, I was hired as chief of the Austin Police Department and currently work in this position. I have more than 1,500 law enforcement training hours and 45 college credit hours. I am a law enforcement training instructor, police radar instructor, police firearms instructor and a concealed carry instructor. Currently, I am (an)elected city councilman in Ward.

White: I have over 26 years of law enforcement experience, over 22 of those years for the citizens of Lonoke County. I have worked my way through the ranks and have an understanding of all the responsibilities of the office of sheriff.

Wilkinson: Since the position of sheriff is one of executive leadership, the past positions that have prepared me the best include being chairman of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce for two consecutive terms. I am one of only a handful of individuals asked to serve consecutive terms. I have also been in key leadership roles in business organizations, including the chief financial officer and chief executive officer.

From the law enforcement side, I am a certified fraud examiner, a firearms instructor and have been the part-time coordinator for the sheriff’s office for four years.

Why do you want to be sheriff?

Finch: I want to be the sheriff because I love what I do. I care about the people who work for the department, and I care about the people of the county. I want to provide them with a department that they will be proud to claim as their sheriff’s department: A department that is manned by professional, well-trained people, who will go the extra mile to serve and protect this community.

Kulesa: I always said I would not run against the sheriff I worked for. I feel I have the experience, knowledge and dedicated motivation to be sheriff of Lonoke County. Serving the community in a law enforcement capacity is not something you can buy, be given, learn from a textbook or try out. It is something that has to come from inside someone. I have that desire and commitment.

Rich: I want to make positive changes for the sheriff’s department. I strongly feel the focus at this department should be crimes against persons (theft, burglary and drug enforcement/narcotics). I will build a better working relationship between law enforcement and emergency response teams in Lonoke County.

Staley: I want to be your sheriff. I want to serve the people of our communities. I believe in service first. We need to be tough on crime, but as sheriff we also need to listen and understand the people we are protecting and serving. Just because someone has made a mistake doesn’t mean they are a criminal. I believe community-oriented policing works, and the people of the community need to be heard. The people will provide much needed support if we all work together and give them a sense of trust.

White: I want the opportunity to better serve the citizens of this county, to progressively keep the momentum moving forward for the betterment of all. I’ve spent almost half my life preparing for this duty. I have matured in my ability and experience as a dedicated officer to the citizens of this county. I feel a duty to the people to put the experience and knowledge that I have gained over the years to its best use for the people.

Wilkinson: A person must have a passion for people and for serving those people in order to enter a career in law enforcement. I have that passion and have been performing those duties as a volunteer part-time deputy for several years. I want to provide the citizens of Lonoke County a law enforcement agency that is the envy of Arkansas.

From a law-enforcement view, what do you see as the county’s great strength?

Finch: The people, especially the young people, of the county are its greatest strength.

Kulesa: The county’s strength is the people’s concern and conviction toward battling crime. I have seen individuals, who have served on juries render strong sentences to individuals who have committed serious offenses. It reflects devotion toward civic duty and a strong concern for the safety of their neighbors.

Rich: The people. They are hardworking and family oriented.

Staley: The greatest strength of the county is the citizens. We have great people in our county.

White: Its people and their willingness to get involved to help. We are a county that has not stalled in growth and we’re making advances in growth, not only in population but in business and infrastructure.

Wilkinson: The greatest strength of Lonoke County is the people. We still live in a community where neighbors sincerely care about each other and want to do what is best for each other.

What is the county’s biggest problem?

Finch: There are many law enforcement related problems in the county, but one of the biggest concerns for me is drugs, including prescription drugs and their availability to our youth.

Kulesa: The problems that not only Lonoke County face are communication, waste and slacking in the area of public service. However, I strongly believe these are problems that can be and need to be improved upon.

Rich: Illegal drug possession and manufacturing and theft of property.

Staley: Our major problem in the county is drug addiction, which leads to a plethora of other issues; such as theft, domestic abuse, child abuse, and many other social problems.

White: Substance abuse and social problems. The social problems lead to domestic abuse, child abuse, broken homes or families with lack of support. The substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, medication or combination of) leads to social problems and is the window to other issues.

Around 70 percent of all crimes are tied to substance abuse in some way. Thefts, assaults and several others are directly related to supplying a habit. If we reduce the one, the others automatically will reduce.

Wilkinson: The biggest problem of Lonoke County is the minority of the population that needs to be in prison instead of in our neighborhoods. This small population commits most of the crime in the county, including drug crimes. They need to be incarcerated where they can hopefully rehab and defeat their addictions and again become beneficial members of society.

What sets you apart from the other candidates in the race?

Finch: My experience sets me apart from the others. None of the others can claim that they have worked for the public for 30 years, nor can any of the others claim the experience in the office they are seeking.

I think it’s important to know the job, to be able to do the job and not ask your employees to do anything you haven’t or wouldn’t do.

Kulesa: I can only speak for myself when I say I find nothing more rewarding then serving within the law enforcement profession. I feel I have a wider aspect of experience and have learned strong values and practices. I am motivated, dedicated and have no problem or hesitation taking responsibility for my words, actions or decisions.

I will be the sheriff only. I have no other outside interests or business, which would interfere with having my full attention to the duties at hand.

Rich: I am a born leader with the confidence and experience to provide the citizens of Lonoke County with a positive sheriff with which they can feel secure and be proud to have in their county.

Staley: What sets me apart from the other candidates is the fact that I am a law enforcement administrator and I run a police department. I am a city councilman and have assisted in building a budget for a police department. I have been the rookie officer, a senior officer, training officer, investigator, sergeant and chief of police.

The biggest difference is the fact that I am the only candidate, who is not a part or has been a part of the sheriff’s department.

We need a change, and I believe we can build upon the positives and provide the leadership from the sheriff’s office that the citizens deserve.

White: My dedication to the citizens and to the office of sheriff.

My experience in having a total understanding of the job of the sheriff — enforcement, investigations, administration, detention and budgetary controls.

My ability to communicate with other elected officials and the people.

My integrity, I’ve always been honest and fair and treat everyone with respect and dignity.

I want to be the sheriff who is out talking to the people and staying in touch with the needs of our communities as they change and making the changes that are necessary to meet the needs.

Wilkinson: I have a completely different background than the other candidates in the race. The voters of Lonoke County have to decide whether they want a candidate with years and years of law enforcement experience and less administrative and leadership experience or a candidate with education, administrative and leadership experience, but less actual law enforcement job experience in the traditional sense.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Baker speeds to Scrapp Fox winner’s circle

Leader sportswriter

Bryant’s Robert Baker proved a good, consistent car, and a willingness to be aggressive at crunch time can pay off as he collected the $3,000 first-place payday in the 10th annual running of the Scrapp Fox Memorial Modified Championship race at Beebe Speedway on Friday.

Baker, now a rookie in the Comp Cams late-model series, proved his modified chops were still sharp with a good jump on fast qualifier Mike Bowers on the initial start of the 35-lap feature, and held off a hard-charging Dallas Everett in the closing laps to claim the biggest victory of his career in modifieds.

In what has so far proved to be a breakout season for the 27-year-old, Baker has now won major events in both modifieds and late models in 2012.

“I knew if we could get the lead on the first lap, we would have a chance to win it,” Baker said. “I was going to do whatever it took to make sure we had a good run.”

Everett came from the seventh starting spot in defense of his Scrapp Fox title from last year, and made up the first few positions quickly before a lengthy battle with Paragould driver Robby Arnold for the third spot. Everett finally prevailed on lap 13 and set his sights on Bowers, but that’s as far as he would get until Bowers’ 12W broke going down the front stretch to complete lap 28.

The restart not only removed Bowers from the equation for Everett, but also put him right on the bumper of Bakers’ 17M machine for the final start. The Beebe pilot moved his 26E car inside and outside of Baker, and appeared to have the line on the leader when the two made contact exiting turn four on lap 32.

That allowed Arnold back to move into second, as Baker led the remaining three laps to take the checkers.

“The car was giving up,” Baker said. “It was awesome about halfway through the race. I think with maybe the cautions, we lost a little rear percent. We didn’t really come prepared. The tires are pretty used up. We were pretty hungry for it; we weren’t going to give it up. They were going to have to get us on the top for sure.”

Everett held on to third at the finish with Floral’s Brandon Smith in fourth.

Cabot driver Jason Flory had a lengthy battle with Tennessee driver T.J. Herndon for fifth during much of the first half of the race before settling into the spot, holding off Conway’s Chuck McGinty in the closing stages.

McGinty finished sixth, followed by Jim Freeman with Jacksonville’s Brad Calhoun in eighth.

Brad Buck was the last car running in ninth at the finish as Bowers was credited with a 10th-place effort despite not finishing.

Baker’s win comes on the heels of a great spring in which he quickly won the respect of competitors in the Comp Cams Super Dirt Series late model tour with a feature win in just his fourth start. He leads both the championship points and rookie points after five of 23 events on the regional tour.

“We definitely work hard for it,” Baker said. “We do R and D 24-7. I sit at home and we work on cars, if you know what I mean. I think it’s paying off and it show a little bit. We’re trying to do what people aren’t, and I think that gives us a little bit of an advantage.”

In other classes, Jacksonville’s Todd Sherrill took the win in the mini stocks, holding off the 99jr of Kenny Loux and the 11 of Paul Shackleford. Doyle Blankenship of Cabot was sixth.

McGinty did double duty with a winning run in the hobby-stock feature over the 7K of Eddie Hoyer and the R1 of Allen McElroy. Jacksonville’s Brandon Capps was fourth and Sherrill finished fifth. Jeremy Tharp won the factory-stock feature by holding off the 5 car of Beebe driver Dakota Mahoney and the 1J of Terry Brooks in third.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers topple Bryant

Leader sportswrier

Senior night produced another win for the Cabot Lady Panthers as they defeated visiting Bryant 2-1 at Panther Stadium on Friday.

The Lady Panthers (13-5, 9-4) scored two first-half goals, and held their ground defensively in the second half when the Lady Hornets mounted their comeback charge.

Cabot forwards Jessica Souza and Lexi Lewis sliced through Bryant’s defense and created shots, including a penalty kick for Codee Park from 18 yards out that gave the Lady Panthers an early 1-0 lead.

“Striking the set piece is Codee’s specialty,” Lady Panthers coach Kerry Castillo said. “She takes our corners and can send it swinging in deep, and she can also take the close free kick and finesse the ball to goal. She’s also a threat in the run of play making runs out of the backline unmarked to freely cross or shoot. She’s one of our scoring weapons and the beautiful part is the other team never sees her coming because she’s a defender.”

Souza got the next scored for Cabot later in the first half when Braxton Reed played her in behind the defense for the assist on an 18-yard strike by Souza to give the Lady Panthers a 2-0 lead at halftime.”

“I could rave about our work rate in this game,” Castillo said. “We took steps to prevent the players from dehydrating and it’s a good thing because each one of them that touched the field absolutely played every minute like it was their last.”

Defensively, senior Taylor Brady and sophomore Devin Patterson prevented Bryant’s attackers from getting looks at junior goalkeeper Hana Cooper. Cabot changed its midfield defense throughout the first half, but it did not affect the Lady Panthers’ ability to mount offensive charges.

Cabot played as conservatively as possible in the second half, but Bryant still managed one score from the corner.

“We came out knowing that the game dynamic was about to change, Castillo said. “They had a big deficit to overcome and we had the “worst lead” you can have in soccer. 2-0 is never safe. You have to defend the other team’s onslaught while trying to manage possession. Most of the time, it’s inevitable that they’ll score at least one, and then you have a nail-biter.”

The Lady Panthers finished up as the No. 3 seed out of the 7A Central Conference, and will take on host Fort Smith Southside in the first round of the 7A state tournament tomorrow at 7 p.m.

The Panthers were not as fortunate and fell to Bryant 4-2 in a penalty-kick shootout after tying the Hornets 1-1 in regulation with a last-minute goal from Jordan Sumler.

“Once again the guy’s prove that they do not know when they are beat,” Panthers coach Steve Porter said. “They kept fighting and battling until the final moments of the game and got the tying goal with one minute remaining in the game. I was disappointed in the goal we conceded, but other than that everyone went out and performed well for the team. Trevor Reed is slowly returning to form and fitness and hopefully by state tournament time will be 100 percent fit.”

SPORTS STORY > >Beebe girls shut down Red Devils to win 7-0

Leader sportswriter

In what amounted to a senior celebration for the Lady Red Devils and a state-tournament primer for both teams, Beebe downed Jacksonville 7-0 through five innings at Dupree Park on Monday.

Beebe took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning before pulling away with five runs in the top of the fifth inning.

“We needed a game like this,” Beebe coach Eric Chambers said. “We’ve got a lot of young kids. We have 11 freshmen and thee sophomores, so we need some game time. Just get them out there on the dirt and let them figure some stuff out. There were some good things we did, but hopefully some things we can do different next time we’re in that situation.”

Calah Hill led off with a single and got to second on an outfield error before scoring on another error on a bunt by Madelyn Poe, who later tagged up on a pop up to first base from cleanup hitter Makenzie Bingham.

The Lady Red Devils found hitting harder against the dominance of Beebe freshman pitcher Elle Reaves. Reaves struck out six batters and gave up three hits.

“Again, there’s a freshman – she throws the ball real hard,” Chambers said. “She spins the ball real good too. She can make it break in or break out. She’ll be a good one. She’s the type of Division I pitchers that people will be looking at.”

The Lady Red Devils got their sticks going the second time through the lineup as Shyrel McKinney led off with a double in the bottom of the third inning, but she was picked off a first moments later for the third out.

The Lady Badgers went through their lineup in the top of the fifth. Sophomore Schyler Watson struck out to lead off the inning, but freshman Denna Hamm got things going with a single to shallow center before she advanced on a bunt by Courtney Cauldwell.

Hill doubled to score Watson, and two more fielding errors by Jacksonville allowed Hill and Poe to come across the plate to give the Lady Badgers a 5-0 lead.

Poe and Gentry both reached on errors, and a triple by Bingham that landed in the gap between left and center field scored Gentry. Bingham set the final margin when freshman Megan Davlin scored her with a single to left.

Jacksonville almost avoided the shut out when Alexis House reached second base on an outfield error to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. She reached third when Mailani Walker singled on a bunt, but Beebe pulled off a stunning double play that retired McKinney at first base and House at the plate.

For Beebe, Hill was 2 for 3 with a double.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls, Beebe boys take fifth at state meets

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers scored a top-five finish at the 7A state track meet in Rogers on Thursday, while the Beebe Badgers did the same in the 5A boys state meet in Hot Springs. The Lady Panthers finished in the points in six events, racking up 59 total points for a comfortable margin over sixth-place finisher Fort Smith Southside with 36 points.

The Panther boys track team also had a string of good performances, but not enough entrants as they finished up 12th overall with 14 points.

Bentonville took the overall title with 259 total points, with 168 of those points courtesy of a dominating Lady Tiger team that left runner up Fayetteville in the dust with 105 points.

But the Purple Dogs won the boys side. Fayetteville scored a total of 219 points, good enough for second overall. The Lady Panthers were the highest-finishing 7A Central Conference team in the meet with Little Rock Central seventh.

Seniors Sabrina Antimo and Emkay Myers led the way with a string of second-place performances for Cabot. Antimo finished second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.87, just over two-tenths off Fayettville’s Sydney Conley. Antimo also reached a height of 5-3 to finish second in the high-jump event.

The showdown in the long-distance races was between Rogers junior Maggie Montoya and Cabot’s Emily “Emkay” Myers. Montoya won the 1,600-meter run with a fair margin of 5:06.32 to a 5:11.99 for second-place Myers, but the University of Nevada signee gave Montoya a fight to the finish in the grueling 3,200-meter run. Montoya pulled out her third win of the meet with an 11:16.44 with Myers close behind at 11:18.91.

Myers teamed with Marlene Sheehan, Meagan Duncan and Allison Sinning in the 4x800 relay and brought home another runner-up finish with a 10:04.73.

Senior Julia Gairhan also finished second in her best event, the pole vault. Gairhan reached a height of 9-06 to tie with Fayettville’s Sara Calhoun.

In boys events, senior Caleb DeLaPaz finished eighth in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:03.76. Scott Foltz took fifth place in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:34.59. Foltz also finished 10th in the 3,200 event.

DeLaPaz, Foltz, Alex Simpson and Forrest Lair teamed up for a second-place finish in the 4x800 relay event by running an 8:10.55. And in field events, Jesse King finished up eighth overall in the pole vault, reaching a height of 11-06.

The Beebe 4x800 relay teams scored strong finishes on both the boys and girls sides.

In fact, the Badger relay team of Jake Schlenker, John Diaz, Hunter Plante and Alex Smith bested the field to win the boys 4x800 with a time of 8:09, a good six seconds ahead of second-place Vilonia and good enough to break the school record.

Senior leaper Dayton Scott easily won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 7 inches.

The relay team and Scott will compete in the 2012 Meet of Champions at Lake Hamilton on Saturday.

“A top 5 finish in the state is a significant accomplishment for this team, especially if you look at where we were just two years ago,” Beebe track coach Mark Pinkerton said. “I feel like our track program is headed in the right direction with the opportunity in the future to continue to finish in the top 5 and higher.

The Lady Badgers team of Stormy Taylor, Rachel Treece, Cecily Brock and Katie McGraw took seventh in the girls 4x800 relay with a time of 11:03.

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle grinds to regional title

Leader sports editor

A gutsy return to the mound, a show of power and a team’s resiliency to win shorthanded all helped make the Carlisle Bison the East Region champions and a No. 1 seed in this week’s class 2A state tournament in White Hall.

Nothing came easy for the Bison, who played their semifinal game minus one starter. They beat Magnet Cove 5-1 on Thursday, Conway St. Joseph’s 14-13 on Saturday and Conway Christian 7-6 Monday.

“It’s just resiliency,” Carlisle coach B.J. Greene said after beating Conway Christian. “At times this year we’ve had a really bad habit of sort of coasting through the middle innings and we did that again today. But this team has found a way to either hang on or come back when they had to.”

Carlisle pitcher Tommy Inman suffered a horrible start on Saturday, giving up four earned runs and getting run off the mound with just one out in the first inning against Conway St. Joseph’s. He made up for the bad start on the mound with a 3 for 4 performance at the plate, including a walk, single, double and triple to help his squad come back to beat the Bulldogs in the bottom of the last inning.

Then on Monday, against the 2A-5 North regular-season and tournament champions, Inman was spectacular on the mound. He went six and a third innings, gave up just two hits and no earned runs while striking out four and walking two.

“Words can’t even describe how proud I am of Tommy Inman,” Greene said. “He just didn’t have it on Saturday. To come back and pitch the way he did, against an even better team. That took some guts. The only reason I took him out was because he was coming up to the top of the order and I didn’t want them to see him again. He was phenomenal.”

Conway Christian still made it interesting. The Eagles came to bat in the bottom of the seventh trailing 7-4. After Inman walked the nine-hole hitter with one out, Greene brought Chris Hart to the mound. The first two batters he faced got base hits. Leadoff hitter Jacob Callaway got single to right field and pitcher Andrew Dather singled down the third-base line to score a run. Will Smith, Hart’s replacement at shortstop, committed an error that allowed another run to score to make it 7-6 with one out.

Hart then fanned cleanup hitter Mark Stevenson. Tyler Ratliff then hit a blooper to shallow right field, where second baseman Austin Allen made a great catch running backwards to end the game and preserve the victory.

It wasn’t all great defense for Carlisle though. The Bison committed five errors, including three at shortstop. The biggest though, came in the bottom of the fifth with Carlisle leading 5-0. Both hits Inman gave up came in that half inning. The fist was a leadoff double by Josh Helms. Josiah Smith then flew out to left field and Inman hit the next batter. Nine-hole hitter Paul Henderson then reached on an error by Hart at short, his second of the game. That loaded the bases. Callaway then hit a one-hopper back to Inman. The ball bounced out of Inman’s glove. Inman then fell trying to retrieve it. He was able to crawl to the ball and throw the lead runner out at home, but the Bison weren’t able to turn a double play that would have gotten them out of the inning. Dather then singled to centerfield with two outs and the bases still loaded. Carlisle centerfielder Hayden Hoover charged in and tried to short-hop the ball in his glove side, but missed. The ball rolled all the way to the fence, allowing all three base runners and Dather to score, making it 5-4 with one swing of the bat.

Carlisle answered with two in the top of the sixth. Reed led off with a single to centerfield and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hoover. Hart then reached on an error at third base and Inman doubled to right field to score Reed. Conway Christian walked Trey Wilson, who had hit a towering home run in the first inning. Dather then hit Deric Herring with the bases loaded to drive in Carlisle’s final run of the game.

Wilson’s home run in the first inning was good for two RBIs. Inman reached after striking out on a wild pitch that got by the Eagle catcher.

The Bison added a run in the third when Hoover walked, stole second, got to third on an infield single by Hart and scored on a passed ball.

Two more runs scored in the third inning, Herring doubled to left field with one out. Ricks then reached on an error deep in right field. Josh Mathis advanced the runners with a groundout, and freshman Dylan Brazeal got a two-RBI base hit to straightway centerfield to make it 5-0.

The Bison will play Gurdon at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Greene believes the best baseball in the state is played in the South.

“The state champion is going to come from one of these two regions,” Greene said. “It didn’t really matter where we finished. Anyone, one seed through four seed, is going to get a tough draw facing that region. Gurdon, I honestly believe has the best pitcher in the state. If we can get past him, we can beat anybody.”

Gurdon won its first-round game at regionals, but lost the next two to get a four seed. Pitcher Zach Gooding faced the minimum 21 batters and struck out 18 in his last outing.