Saturday, September 07, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle rolls up big early lead, wins

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start to the 2013 season under first-year coach Brandon Barbaree as they found the end zone on three of their first four possessions en route to a 46-20 win over McCrory in nonconference action Friday night at Fred C. Hardke Field in Carlisle.

Senior running backs Bo Weddle, DeRon Ricks and Justice Bryant paced the Bison backfield throughout Friday night’s game, and each of those three combined to score the first three touchdowns, which helped Carlisle to build an early 22-0 lead.

“We hit some plays early and I think we were a little quicker off the ball early,” said Barbaree. “Offensively, we were crisp and I’ll take that for the first one.”

Ricks found the end zone first, scoring on a 47-yard run, which was just the fourth play of the game’s opening drive. Weddle punched in the two-point conversion to give the Bison an early 8-0 lead, and Weddle found the end zone on the next offensive series, scoring on a 45-yard run.

Senior quarterback Austin Reed then connected with his twin brother Braden in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion to make it 16-0 Bison. Carlisle turned the ball over on downs its next possession, but the offense scored on just the third play of the following possession, thanks to a 64-yard touchdown run by Bryant. The conversion attempt was no good, leaving the score 22-0.

McCrory’s offense finally put together a solid drive in the second quarter. The Jaguars went 67 yards in 16 plays and scored on a 1-yard run by sophomore quarterback Cade Campbell. The PAT was no good to leave the score 22-6.

Barbaree said a key injury on the defensive line in the second quarter likely had a lot to do with McCrory’s offensive resurgence.

“As the game wore on we had an injury. Our big D-tackle, Jacob Cagle, hurt his elbow. I think with the (lack) of depth on the line, especially the defensive line, they (McCrory) were able to control the pace of the game in that second quarter, and it kind of went into the second half where we couldn’t stop them.”

Carlisle was able to get a clutch score before the end of the first half as Austin Reed found his brother Braden again on a 39-yard strike down the sideline with 18 seconds to play in the half. Ricks plowed it in for the two points to give the Bison a 30-6 halftime lead.

The Jaguars were the first to score in the second half. With 4:57 to play in the third quarter, senior running back Drake Files made it a 30-12 game after he scored on a 6-yard run that capped a nine-play drive.

Carlisle (1-0) responded its next possession with another touchdown run by Ricks, this one from 12 yards out. Austin Reed then completed a pass to Weddle for the two-point conversion that pushed the Bison lead back to a comfortable 38-12 margin.

McCrory (0-1) added another score at the start of the fourth quarter on a 23-yard pass play when Campbell found a wide-open Dalton Williams behind the Carlisle secondary. Files ran in the two-point conversion to cut the margin to 38-20.

The Bison, however, put the final nail in the coffin with 6:53 to play in the fourth quarter. Weddle broke free on a sweep down the visiting sideline that resulted in a 26-yard touchdown. Austin Reed took the quarterback keeper in for the final two points, setting the final score.

“For the first game you’re going to see some different stuff,” Barbaree said. “We got to see some kids play that have not played a real football game. The guys we’re counting on, sophomores and juniors that have not been in real games, and they just played 60, 70 plays. So we’re going to get a lot of film and see a lot of things to correct.

“The effort was great. You never have to worry about effort with these guys. You know, execution wasn’t always what we wanted it to be, but you always want to get that first one, and it’s good to get it out of the way.”

The Bison outgained the Jaguars’ offense, putting together 462 total yards. McCrory finished with 217 yards of offense. Weddle led the Bison backfield with 157 yards rushing on 16 carries with two touchdowns.

Ricks finished with 97 rushing yards on 14 carries. He also scored two touchdowns, while Bryant finished with 84 yards rushing and one touchdown on six carries. Austin Reed was 6 for 7 passing for 99 yards and one touchdown. Braden Reed had four receptions for 87 yards and a score.

The Bison will try and improve their record to 2-0 next Friday when they travel to Mountain Pine for another nonconference game. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills impressive, beats Eagles

Special to The Leader

The Sylvan Hills Bears kicked off a new football season with a bang Friday night when they traveled to Vilonia’s Philip Weaver Stadium and defeated the Eagles 31-16.

In contrast to last year’s contest which was played in heavy rains and strong winds, it was a beautiful night for football and the Bears took advantage of it, with 567 yards of offense while holding Vilonia to 237 yards. Sylvan Hills quarterback Tra Doss had three touchdown runs of 85, 60 and 15 yards.

“I’m pretty excited,” Sylvan Hills head coach Jim Withrow said. “I thought the kids executed and played well and made a lot of plays. The defense played excellent. Coming in and beating a 5A West team, that’s good. We had a lot of yards, but a lot of penalties. We’ve got to clean that up next week. You’ve got to play hard, you’ve got to play well, you’ve got to play great defense, and we did all those things.”

Vilonia received the opening kick-off and returned it to its 23-yard line. After Drew Estes broke for a 20-yard gain and the Eagles were aided by four penalties by the Bears, the Sylvan Hills defense forced a fourth down. On the fourth down try, the Bears’ Chris Daily intercepted a wayward pass to stop the Eagles’ drive.

Doss then broke free on their first play from scrimmage for an 85-yard touchdown run. The point after was good by Philip Wood for a 7-0 lead.

The Eagles’ Houston Cotton returned the kickoff to the Vilonia 42-yard line, but the Bears’ defense held and forced a punt by quarterback Jared Willis to the 2-yard line.

On the second play of Sylvan Hills’ second drive, the snap went through the hands of Doss and resulted in a safety, making the score 7-2.

The Eagles were unable to move the ball on their next possession and turned the ball over on downs to the Bears. Marlon Clemmons broke for 24 yards to the Eagle 28. Vilonia’s defense held and forced a fourth down fumble by Doss. He managed to get back to the Vilonia 24-yard line where the Eagles took over on downs.

After moving the ball to midfield, Vilonia returned the favor and fumbled back to the 37-yard line and was forced to punt. The Eagles picked up a tipped pass on the Bears’ possession, but after a sack by Sylvan Hills’ Kylan Wade, the Eagles were forced to punt again. The punt by Willis went out of bounds on the Bear 1-yard line.

The poor field position was no barrier for the Bears, who picked up the 99 yards in just three plays. Forty six of it came on the first play when Doss hit Nathan Thomas with a pass to the Bear 47-yard line. After one more play and a Bear penalty, Doss broke free from the 40-yard line for a 60-yard touchdown run. Woods’ PAT made the score 14-2.

After forcing a punt by the Eagles, the Bears were also forced to punt. A bad snap resulted in Vilonia receiving the ball with excellent field position on Sylvan Hills’ 11-yard line. The Eagles took the ball in from there for the touchdown. The two-point conversion was successful and cut the margin to 14-10. That’s the way it remained until halftime, and the Bears continued to move the ball well in the second half.

On the first possession of the second half, Clemmons and Davis ran the ball for the Bears and Doss connected with Thomas to the Eagle 37. After a first down run by Davis, Doss broke free yet again from the 15-yard line for the touchdown. Wood added the extra point for a lead of 21-10.

After the Eagles fell just short of a first down and turned the ball over to the Bears, Doss ran to the Bear 48. Joe Craft came in at quarterback for a cramping Doss and led the Bears down to the 5-yard line. Unable to punch it in, Wood kicked the field goal, making the score 24-10 Sylvan Hills.

The Bears scored again with a 1-yard touchdown run by Wade with 8:00 to go in the game for a 31-10 lead.

Vilonia’s Jeremiah Santiago returned the kickoff all the way to the Bear 29-yard line, but the drive ended with an interception by Quincy Flowers for the Bears.

Vilonia’s last possession resulted in a touchdown with 6.4 seconds left in the game. The extra point was no good, resulting in the final score of 31-16.

Doss finished with 12 carries for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns. Davis carried for 131 yards while Clemmons added 92 yards in the victory.

The Bears play their home opener next Friday when they host Hot Springs Lakeside. The Rams lost their opener on Tuesday, falling 39-35 to Little Rock Christian Academy.

SPORTS STORY >> Offenses soar, Beebe falls

Leader sportswriter

Defensive play was essentially nonexistent as Greenbrier defeated Beebe in a wild 61-38 shootout at Bro Erwin Stadium on Friday.

Both teams combined for over 1,100 yards of offense, as Panthers junior quarterback Will Drewry and Beebe sophomore running back Trip Smith made impressive debuts as varsity starters. Drewry completed 20 of 23 pass attempts for 434 yards and six touchdowns, while Smith took advantage of his team’s domination at the line with 30 carries for 269 yards and four touchdowns.

Turnovers and field position ultimately gave Greenbrier the upper hand, as back-to-back Beebe fumbles late in the second quarter led to a pair of quick scores for the Panthers, who secured a 42-26 lead at the half.

“We knew we might struggle stopping them a little bit,” Greenbrier coach Randy Tribble said. “Hey, we’re just happy to get out of here alive tonight. We’re 1-0, and we’ve got some good film to get better from, and my hat goes off to coach Shannon and them. They did a good job keeping that offense going.”

The Badgers gave up two quick scores to start the first quarter, as Drewry showed off his arm strength and precision with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Reynolds at the 10:43 mark, and found Karson Matthews on a shorter 8-yard touchdown completion with 6:42 remaining in the opening period.

Beebe responded after the second score with a big pass play of its own, as junior quarterback Aaron Nunez found Connor Patrom all alone downfield in busted zone coverage for a 53-yard touchdown toss with 4:19 to go in the first.

“We just had way too many mistakes,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “We had mistakes in the kicking game, mistakes on defense, and turnovers on offense. We knew coming in we were going to have to play a perfect game, and we were far from it.”

Smith ran tough in the first quarter for a number of short gains, but he showed his total potential on the second play of the second quarter when he busted through the line and went 53 yards untouched for a touchdown at the 11:45 mark.

Beebe went for a two-point conversion to make up for a blocked extra point following the first quarter, but the Panthers snuffed it out and stopped Nunez short of the goal line to make it 21-12.

Smith then made things really interesting when he scored from 72 yards on the Badgers’ following drive, and junior kicker Tyler Jones booted the extra point to cut Greenbrier’s lead to 21-19.

“We felt good about Trip coming in all year long,” Shannon said. “He was a special kid in junior high. He’s just got it; he’s going to be a real good one. With him and Nunez in the backfield, and with the offensive line getting more and more seasoned, we feel like we can compete with anyone offensively, but we can turn the ball over, and we turned it over way too much tonight.”

The stats at halftime were larger than many complete games. Beebe amassed 338 yards, led by Smith’s 14 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns, while Greenbrier had 331 yards, including Drewry’s 13 of 15 pass completions for 273 yards and four touchdowns.

Beebe finished ahead of Greenbrier in total yards for the game by a margin of 558 to 551.

The Panthers did more of the same in the second half as Drewry answered a Beebe scoring drive to start the third quarter with a 35-yard touchdown completion to Garrell Williamson to make it 49-32 with 4:56 left to play in the third.

He also scored one on the ground from 24 yards out with 1:14 remaining in the third to give Greenbrier a 55-38 lead.

“Our quarterback, it’s his first game as a starter,” Tribble said. “It was a pretty good debut, but we’ve got some weapons receiver wise, and we work real hard on it. We depend on it a lot, and I thought it was good tonight.”

Shannon spent the week preaching the importance of not giving up big plays on defense, but Drewry’s accuracy and crop of sure-handed receivers proved too much. Greenbrier failed to score on only three of its possessions, including the final one as time expired.

“We gave it up all night long,” Shannon said of giving up big plays on defense. “We can’t do that. We’re not built to get into a track meet with someone, and that’s what it was tonight. I thought the kids played hard. I’m proud of that, I’m proud of the effort.”

Beebe will play at Lonoke next Friday.

Friday, September 06, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Mind your own business

Jonesboro, Pea Ridge, Tupelo, Miss., folks in Nashville and even New Hampshire — why can’t they leave us alone?

Let Jacksonville residents decide on their own whether they want to live in a city that is 90 percent dry and 10 percent wet or vote to make it all wet.

And that’s what the whole push is about — a vote by the local residents, not Jonesboro, Pea Ridge, Tupelo and other outsiders.

The city is 90 percent dry because of elections in 1954 and 1956 in the Old Gray Township, which encompassed most of Jacksonville and half of Sherwood back then. Because the township no longer exists as a political entity, state law says signatures must be collected asking for a vote on the issue.

Jacksonville officials, the chamber and others are trying to gather about 4,400 signatures to allow a vote on the subject.

Money seems to be pouring in from those outside areas and groups for billboards, placards, giant postcards and a “Jacksonville” website.

These outside groups are also providing false figures and outlandish claims in the battle between staying dry or going wet — having alcohol or not.

The website “Growing Jacksonville” is using statistics from modern-day Carrie Nations in Jonesboro and Pea Ridge. Those figures claim going wet would be worse than a Razorback fan wearing an Alabama T-shirt to a Hogs’ game. The figures claim murders would rise, along with robberies, prostitution, and who knows, even the cost of bread and gasoline.

The problem is none of the statistics are about Jacksonville, or the other two area cities dealing with the wet-dry issue — North Little Rock and Sherwood.

Using the latest figures available and looking at the purported murder rate, the touted anti-alcohol statistics of more murder in wet counties don’t measure up.

Most of Pulaski County is wet, as is nearby Garland County, while adjoining White and Lonoke counties are dry. In 2011, based on figures provide by the Arkansas Crime Information Center, dry White and Lonoke counties each had four murders, while wet Garland County also had four. But Garland County’s population is 20,000 to 30,000 greater, meaning the two dry counties are more dangerous.

Pulaski County did have 61 murders in 2011, including two in Sherwood, but were those two committed in the wet or dry portions of Sherwood?

Even if both were in Sherwood’s wet areas, that city would statistically be safer to live in than the surrounding dry counties. In 2011, Jacksonville had no homicides in its 90 percent dry area or its 10 percent wet area.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said there was a lot of angst over the dangers, detriment and decline of alcohol when Chili’s Bar and Grill moved into Jacksonville about five years ago. “Everyone will say it has been an asset, not a detriment. It’s a good indicator of things to come if we go wet.”

The phony claims have upset the police chief, who has worked hard to keep crime at a minimal in the city. Chief Gary Sipes insists the figures touted by these outsiders have nothing to do with Jacksonville.

And the latest piece of propaganda put out by the “Growing Jacksonville” website, which does not list a moderator or owner, is an article from New Hampshire declaring how horrible alcohol has been for the state.

Forget that we are in the South and New Hampshire is, well, nowhere nearby. The article is about an entire state that proudly declares it sells cheap alcohol.

That’s not what Jacksonville wants. The city just wants more national sit-down restaurants.

“We travel down the highway to a variety of them, giving our money to those cities. Why can’t we stay here and enjoy a nice meal with a glass of alcohol?” Mayor Fletcher has lamented.

So let’s all raise our glasses, whether filled with wine or juice, to democracy and the greatness of local people deciding local issues. We vote here and New Hampshire can, well, just play with Vermont.

TOP STORY >> City limits access to a small bridge

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville has closed a 57-by-27-foot bridge on North J.P. Wright Loop Road to trucks with loads heavier than three tons, according to Public Works Director Jimmy Oakley.

The bridge is between the railroad tracks and the four-way stop sign at the intersection of Graham and Loop roads.

Oakley said a state Highway Department inspector found that the bridge was moving more than it should when vehicles were driving over it.

Crews working on Graham Road and the shooting complex have been using that bridge to get to the construction sites, the director explained.

Oakley said, “It’s been really hammered this past year. All them heavy loads are taking a toll on it…We’ve got to think about the safety.”

The public works department plans to start strengthening the weak columns underneath the bridge next week, he continued.

Oakley said that a new four-lane bridge with sidewalks on both sides is being designed to replace the old one.

The design could be finished by the end of this month, but construction probably won’t start until next summer because winter is a bad time for contractors to start projects, he said. Winter is often too wet for crews to get much done.

As for the price, Oakley said, “Without a full design, it would be hard to say.”

He noted, “We know it’s an old bridge and we need to improve it.”

The long-range plan is to widen Loop Road from Linda Lane to Military Road.

Oakley said it makes more sense to build a wider bridge, when a new bridge is needed there anyway, than to replace the bridge now and four-lane it in 10 years.

TOP STORY >> Mother helps autistic daughter sing her own song

Story and Photos by STAFF SGT. JAKE BARREIRO
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Master Sgt. Beth Jungk is a 19th Communications Squadron plans and programs manager at Little Rock Air Force Base. Her daughter, Morgan, 14, has been diagnosed with autism, epilepsy, kabuki syndrome and other ailments. Morgan’s disabilities mean any deviations from her daily routine can be challenging.

I first met Beth and Morgan while covering the Arkansas Special Olympics in May. Beth is the head coach and organizer of the base’s Special Olympics team. Even though I could interact with the two intermittently over the din and bustle of the three-day event, I saw a close relationship: a mother dedicated to her daughter and a daughter who needs that kind of commitment not just to survive, but to mature and grow as a person.

As the school year approached, I thought about how hard it must be for Morgan, who Beth said doesn’t understand the concept of time as others do, to go from the loose possibilities of summer to the structured school days of fall. I spent a little over a week documenting Beth’s and Morgan’s morning routine for her first week of school.

Before the school year started, Beth tried to introduce her daughter to the idea of going back to school, including taking her to Middle School North’s orientation night. She said that, before this year, Morgan always liked school, but resists the idea now. Every time Beth mentioned what Morgan will have to do at school, Morgan said contrarily, “I’m not at school.”

Since seemingly simple routines can take a lot of time for kids with autism, Beth wakes Morgan up earlier on days she has to go to school. On summer days and weekends, Morgan often sleeps in and can take longer during the morning routine, such as waking up, getting dressed and eating breakfast.

This sounds simple, but Beth said mornings can be unpredictable depending on how Morgan acts. Morgan is maturing and undergoing the same physical and emotional changes all teenagers go through, which undoubtedly affect her behavior.


Beth, a single mother, has a hectic schedule, juggling personal and professional responsibilities and adapting to unpredictable circumstances. Morgan was first diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy when she was 18 months old and has had complications ever since.

I arrived at the Jungk household not knowing what to expect. I had only seen and spoken to Morgan twice and wasn’t sure how she would react to me intruding on her life.

Getting a teenager out of bed can be challenging for parents, but getting a teenager with Morgan’s disabilities, already resistant to the idea of school, out of bed can be a marathon of patience, repetition and endurance.

On the morning of her first day of school, Morgan didn’t want to leave her bed, so she hid underneath her pillows. After encouragement from her mother, as well as the family cats, Jax and Bandit, Morgan got up. This is a familiar routine for the cats, who jump onto Morgan’s bed every morning when it’s time to wake up. Jax, 14 years old like Morgan, often lies near her while she’s getting dressed or if she’s upset and hiding.

Once Morgan wakes up, the next step is getting dressed, which provides additional challenges for mother and daughter. Morgan can get her clothes and lay them on the bed, but she can’t put them on herself, so she gets help from her mother.

Beth patiently dresses her daughter in a full outfit every day and brushes her hair while encouraging her and trying to teach her how to do these tasks herself. One morning, Morgan tried to put on a sock but couldn’t fit the fabric around her foot. Beth helped her daughter, who before wouldn’t even try to put the socks on at all. Progress is what’s important for Beth, and, while Morgan may have disabilities, she has a mother who’s dedicated to challenging her and helping her learn new things, even if it’s at a slower pace.

The second morning I was at her house, Morgan turned toward my camera and smiled as she was getting her socks and shoes put on. Beth said Morgan is getting more comfortable with me being around, and I’m feeling like I’m getting a better look at her playful personality.


One morning, Morgan waved to me and smiled right after getting out of bed. At times she’d play games with her mother, holding her shoes out to her as an invitation to take them, only to pull them away when Beth reached for them. Another day, after hiding underneath her pillows, Morgan sprung out of bed and took off running. Her mother chased her to the living room, where she playfully used the table as a barrier. Beth laughed at her daughter’s antics and convinced her to go back to her room. Other times when I was taking a picture, Morgan would look at my camera and say “cheese,” smiling and laughing.

When getting dressed for her first day of school, Morgan rebelled at the idea of going and hid under the bed. Beth patiently approached her daughter and talked to her kindly. Eventually Morgan got back up. Later Beth told me when things like this happen it’s important not to get angry.

“Getting mad or yelling at her won’t solve anything. You have to be patient,” Beth said.

Hiding under the bed or other antics can put Morgan behind schedule before the real unpredictable part of the morning – breakfast.

Some days Beth lets her daughter choose her breakfast because Morgan can be a picky eater and sometimes eats too little. During her first week of school, Morgan mainly eats spaghetti with chicken nuggets in the morning. Breakfast can take a long time some days, and Beth often has to remind Morgan to eat her food, all while getting ready for work herself.

Even though Morgan doesn’t always want breakfast, she must eat in the morning because Beth has to give her several syringes full of medicine for her various ailments. When giving her medicine, Beth tells her daughter what it’s for, and Morgan repeats the words. Even though she winces while taking the medicine, Morgan offers no resistance.

When she picks out her food, Morgan is less likely to shut down and can eat quickly, but she becomes sidetracked when watching TV. Sometimes she’ll recite lines from the show she’s watching and laugh while neglecting her food. After many reminders from her mother, she’ll eat most of her food and take all of her medicine.

Sometimes when she is told to eat, Morgan refuses, shuts down and then crawls into her mother’s lap while crying, seeking comfort. When she does this, Beth embraces her daughter. Beth told me her daughter does this when she’s strongly opposed to something; it’s her way of saying “enough.”

During the week I was with them, Morgan did this twice, and each time her mother hugged her and told her she loved her. Beth’s soothing eventually brought Morgan back from her inconsolable state. Even though it must be hard for mother and daughter to communicate over so many barriers, a simple act and short, kind words seemed to disarm those barriers and bring the two close.

Throughout the morning, Beth often repeats instructions or questions to her daughter, often a dozen times, but she does it with patience. She says people with autism don’t process language as quickly or intuitively as other people and stressed the importance of giving instructions patiently. Routine is important, and any intrusion on the routine can have unexpected consequences.

Since Beth is in the military, mother and daughter have had more intrusions on their routine than most families would. Beth said she’s looking forward to retirement soon because it will give Morgan more stability.


Beth loves her daughter and is proud of her. She’s always telling me about Morgan’s quirks and ticks, the little things that make all of us who we are.

For instance, Morgan loves to swing while listening to music. There’s a swing in their backyard, and swinging back and forth while listening to music with headphones on is her favorite thing to do. She loves it so much, her mother even made an indoor swing for her to use during bad weather.

When Morgan swings she also sings loudly. Her singing is off key because her disabilities have affected her hearing as well as speech. Beth tells me her daughter will swing for hours at a time. When swinging, Morgan gets so immersed that Beth has to set a timer to remind her to make her daughter use the washroom.

When Morgan swings, she looks and sounds elated, as if she’s in her private haven. Sometimes Morgan wants to swing by herself. One morning, she told Beth, “You go now.” When we were outside while she was swinging. Beth told me this is what Morgan has started saying when she wants to be alone.

Beth isn’t often very far from her daughter, who needs the attention and supervision. I wondered if Morgan, who needs a guardian to look out for her, has the same natural teenage impulses to rebel and seek independence most youths do.

Morgan loves to draw. One morning, Beth showed me the drawings Morgan made during art class, which is her favorite class. In one picture, Morgan traced the colors inside the line, a huge accomplishment for autistic children because they have difficulty with boundaries.

On the days Beth has Morgan ready for school ahead of time, mother and daughter relax before the bus comes as Morgan prefers to swing indoors.

Beth talked to me while her daughter was swinging. Beth told me about her life with Morgan, and why she’s passionate about telling her story.


“Things like this aren’t going away,” she said. She hopes her story and experiences can help other parents. Beth said she remains determined to help Morgan grow. Progress is what she talks about. She doesn’t think hiding disabled children from the world or “letting them watch the same TV show for six hours again and again” are the right way to treat kids with disabilities like autism.

“You have to treat them like you would any other kid, give them options, let them make choices,” Beth said.

As we waited for the bus to arrive, Beth told me she knows she may be overprotective when it comes to Morgan, but one can’t begrudge those maternal instincts. Raising any child requires major commitment, but being a single mother raising one with Morgan’s disabilities requires extra attention and dedication. After all, even at 14, Morgan’s mother still dresses her and can’t leave her unsupervised for long.

“It’s been us against the world,” Beth said.

She recognizes Morgan’s need for more responsibility and tries to teach her practical survival skills, like making a meal, putting on socks and shoes or putting away silverware. She said it’s hard for her to do sometimes, but she knows Morgan needs to be exposed to the world and not just kept in a life of secure limits.

When the bus arrived the last day of the school week, Beth helped Morgan don her backpack and walked with her out to the bus. She told her daughter goodbye as Morgan climbed the steps and found her seat. When Morgan sat down, Beth waved to her daughter, and Morgan looked back at her mother out the window, waving goodbye.

TOP STORY >> Here is a switch: Republican runs as a Democrat!

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson of Jacksonville announced his candidacy Friday for the House Dist. 42 seat held by Mark Perry, a Democrat.

Johnson, 60, a Republican and a certified public accountant, is switching parties and running as a Democrat because, he said in his office, “It’s about the people we serve…There seem to be some personal agendas over the good of the people.”

Saying he disagrees with some Republicans on fiscal issues, Johnson noted that “some people tend to say no a lot to everything without turning around to see what it will do.”

Johnson, who described himself as being a moderate Republican in the past, continued, “I haven’t changed. I’m not going to be any different. I still plan on supporting Jacksonville.”

He said his ideology is closer to that of a conservative Democrat now that the political climate has shifted.

Johnson’s wife, Laurie, explained, “It’s not a strategy. He’s refusing to be an extremist.”

Johnson is running for the seat because he wants to improve education, especially by supporting an independent school district in Jacksonville, his hometown.

He said, “The better you make your state, the better your city is…This is where I am. This is my city. I love it as you all do.”

The JP noted that an independent school district is needed for Jacksonville to progress.

On a state level, Johnson said, “We need to make those dollars (spent on schools) work better…It’s not just here (in Jacksonville). Education statewide, we need to improve it and move it forward. Kids today learn different. We need to make school something kids want to do.”

Will Bond, who represented Jacksonville in the House for six years and has been Democratic Party chairman, congratulated Johnson on his announcement to run as a Democrat.

“I’ve known Bob Johnson for many years,” Bond said. “I consider him a good friend and know him to be dedicated to focusing on issues that are important to us all: creating jobs, continuing to strengthen education and continuing fiscal responsibility in balancing our state budget.”

Former Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Pat O’Brien, who attended Johnson’s announcement, is volunteering to support Johnson as his long-time friend’s campaign chairman.

O’Brien said Johnson “takes a very balanced approach, a very logical, reasonable approach.”

When Johnson was elected as the JP for Dist. 11 in 2005, the county had a $7 million deficit, O’Brien explained.

He said Johnson helped the quorum court make a $23 million turnaround during his eight years of service.

O’Brien added, in addition to Johnson being a leader of the quorum court, “He’s grinded it out. He’s done a very consistent job of governing.”

Perry, who is term-limited said, tongue-in-cheek, “I’m with you, baby,” when asked if he supports Johnson.

The candidate graduated from Jacksonville High School and earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Johnson graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with his master’s degree.

He worked in Fayetteville before opening his accounting office in Jacksonville.

Johnson has operated an office in his hometown since 1990.

He and his wife have five children — Baxter, Taylor, Aaron, Nick and Benjamin. The youngest attends Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School on North First Street.

The JP for Dist. 12, Republican Karilyn Brown, is also running for state office. She is seeking the House Dist. 41 seat held by Jim Nickels, a Democrat, who is term-limited.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke facing young, talented ’Dogs

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits will open their 2013 football season on the road Friday as they travel to Star City to take on a Bulldogs team that has one of the better sophomore and junior classes in the state.

Lonoke head coach Doug Bost got to see the Bulldogs in action last Tuesday in a scrimmage against Bauxite, and was quick to point out some of the players his team will need to focus on, the most heralded of which being sophomore tackle Austin Capps.

“Looking at their offensive and defensive lines, their best player is actually just a 10th grader but he’s already been offered a scholarship by the Hogs and I think LSU is real close to offering him, and that’s the Capps kid,” said Bost. “(He’s) 6-5, 300 pounds, runs a 5.1 (40). We have to for sure know where he is.”

Arkansas offered Capps a scholarship in early June. As far as what the Jackrabbits can expect to see from Star City offensively and defensively, it’ll be similar to what they’ve seen every day since fall camp began.

The Bulldogs run their offense primarily out of the Spread formation, as does Lonoke, and also like the Jackrabbits, they primarily run a 4-3 defense, according to Bost. Bost added that he’s emphasized to his scout team the importance of their jobs and how that will affect the play of his starters, starting Friday.

“We’ve told our scout team they’re important,” Bost said. “When they push us and make us really work, that helps us in the end on Friday night. If the scout team goes out there (in practice) and doesn’t work hard, then your starters tend to relax and not go hard. (Monday) I think they gave us a good look, but we’ve got to have two more days for them to push us and make us better.”

Star City starts a ton of underclassmen and for good reason. The sophomore and junior classes for the Bulldogs didn’t lose a game in junior high.

Sophomore Tye Brown quarterbacked the junior high to consecutive 8-0 records and conference championships. Brown also has some experience at the high school level.

At the conclusion of last year’s junior high season, a season in which Brown threw 24 touchdown passes, Brown was promoted as the varsity starter and threw for more than 700 yards and seven touchdowns in the team’s final four games.

“They like to run it and throw it,” Bost said. “Their quarterback is a 10th grader and he can throw the ball wherever you want it. They’re a very good-looking team. Their sophomores and juniors have never lost a game. They’re 30-0 – their sophomores and juniors. So it’s a very talented team down there.”

As far as team injuries, Lonoke suffered a major setback on the offensive and defensive lines as senior three-year starter Bubba Lewis left last Monday’s scrimmage at Maumelle with a nagging knee injury.

Lewis was lost for the season last year after suffering a torn ACL in the team’s conference opener against Heber Springs in Week 4, and Bost said his status for Friday is questionable.

“He reinjured the same knee against Maumelle and he hasn’t practiced yet,” Bost said. “He’s supposed to get an MRI on Tuesday and I don’t know about his availability for Friday night. We’re already thin on the offensive and defensive lines.

“We’ve got six (linemen) that are ready to play this year. We’ve got some young guys that you hope you don’t have to play this year so you can get them bigger, faster, stronger, but you never know. You never know when injuries are going to pop up. So those guys have to be ready.” Kickoff for Friday’s game is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> NP Falcons after new win streak

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski tries to get the season off on the right foot when it hosts J.A. Fair at 7 p.m. Friday to open the 2013 football season. The Falcons had not won a game in almost three seasons when they beat Fair 13-12 last year in Little Rock. North Pulaski nearly tripled the Eagles in total yardage in that game, but turned the ball over three times inside the Eagle 20-yard line, twice inside the 5, and gave up a 47-yard touchdown with less than 10 seconds remaining. Fair went for the two-point conversion and the win, but the Falcons stopped them, ending their losing streak and continuing one for Fair.

The Eagles still haven’t stopped their losing streak. They are winless for the last two seasons and have only won two games since 2007.

That kind of streak can’t last forever, and North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram believes this year’s War Eagles are better than last year’s.

“I saw them in their scrimmage with Maumelle and Lonoke, and they’re definitely a better team than they were last year,” said Ingram. “They seem extremely quick on defense and that’s a major concern for me.”

The concern arises from Ingram’s evaluation of his own team’s intrasquad scrimmage, in which he wasn’t entirely pleased with the blocking.

“One of the things I noticed we’re not doing very well is picking up blitzes,” Ingram said.
“Now we had two linemen out in that scrimmage and we looked a little better last week because we got one of them back. Jesse Ringgold knows how to call the lines and having him back in there helps a lot. But we still have to improve because one of the things I noticed Fair did, was they blitzed all the time from everywhere.”

Ingram wasn’t only concerned with the blocking of his linemen. The head Falcon would also like to see his running backs recognize and pick up blitzes better. But he believes he’s already seen some improvement, and expects more during game week.

“With two out, we’ve had to move folks around on offense and we just didn’t look real sharp,” Ingram said. “We did a few things well and we made some good plays, we just have to find more consistency. I think that will come with more preparation and getting everyone back and healthy.”

While the defense has changed, the War Eagles are still running the spread offense as its base run package. Gone is the team’s best playmaker from last year, 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback Damarius Robinson, who transferred, so Fair is not as likely to throw the ball like it tried to do last season. But the quickness is still a concern for Ingram.

“They don’t have the big kid that scored on us last year, but they have more overall team speed I think,” Ingram said. “It doesn’t look like they’re going to throw it down field as much as last year, but then again, I don’t really know. My understanding is they had five or six guys that didn’t play, so I’m not really sure. I didn’t really see a whole lot. So even though I saw them play, we’re still going in kind of blind.”

The Falcons have found some added depth that should help. Darren Penn, who has practiced well since the start of two-a-days, has impressed Ingram enough to likely get the bulk of the work at fullback. That should free up David Jackson to focus primarily on inside linebacker.

“Jackson is capable of doing both very well and he has, but with the progress that Penn has made, we should be able to only play Jackson on defense,” Ingram said. “Penn has been a very pleasant surprise for us at fullback. He’s done a tremendous job.”

Penn’s emergence probably means only one player going both ways for Ingram, senior tailback/linebacker Fred Thomas.

“Fred has really stepped up this year and shown some leadership that he didn’t show last year,” Ingram said. “Of course this is only his second year to play varsity football. So I’m very excited about the growth and maturity I’ve seen from him.”

Ingram has talked all preseason about the team speed he has on defense this year that he didn’t have last year. Now that it’s game week, he’s focusing on keeping that speed in the right spots.

“We have to be disciplined on defense,” Ingram said. “They have good speed on the edges so we can’t over run. If we do, we’re going to give up some big plays. If we play good discipline football, good technique and we play our keys, I feel pretty good about it. They do have some talent I don’t think they had last year, but if we’re disciplined on defense and consistent on offense, we’ll be fine.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears try to clean mistakes by Friday

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills has shown a lot of improvements as a team from last year, and those improvements will be needed this Friday when the Bears travel to Philip Weaver Stadium to face a loaded Vilonia team.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The Bears had a successful scrimmage at Pulaski Robinson last week, but had inconsistencies on defense and gave up a number of big runs and pass plays to the Senators. Now facing an Eagles team that promises to be the strongest in years, Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow will spend the week preaching the importance of discipline.

“We’ve got to correct a lot of mistakes we made,” Withrow said. “I know we sat some guys out, but we made a lot of mistakes. We’ve got to clean a lot of things up on both sides of the ball.”

The Eagles are traditionally a running team based out of the Double-Wing offense, but the emergence of passing quarterback Jared Willis last season forced a transition to the Spread for longtime coach Jim Stanley.

Willis, now a junior, has been a team leader through the spring and summer, and is touted by Stanley as the best quarterback he has ever coached.

Vilonia is far from one dimensional, however, with fleet senior running back Houston Cotton, who won state championships in both hurdle events last spring.

“I think they’re really solid,” Withrow said. “I don’t think they make a lot of mistakes. They get to the ball fast on defense, they execute well on offense. I think they’re a very solid football team. It’s going to be a tough place to win.”

The Eagles have dominated the series against Sylvan Hills in recent years, including last year’s awkward 7-0 victory in miserable conditions.

Heavy rains and strong winds combined for an atmosphere that was anything but football friendly, as the two teams battled it out at Bill Blackwood Stadium in front of few fans who stuck it out through the storm. The Bears had a chance to tie it late, but fumbled the ball in the end zone in the final minute.

“I hope it’s not likely we ever have to face that type of situation again,” Withrow said. “That whole thing was just a bad deal. You couldn’t really get anything going on offense. We struggled to take a snap. Then the following week, we had the lightning game, so you went two weeks without really getting a true game in.”

As of Tuesday morning, Withrow said the five players who sat out during last week’s scrimmage at Pulaski Robinson should be ready to go for Friday.

Senior defensive end Matt Thompson rejoined team practice on Friday, as did senior cornerback Christian Daily. The only player who was held out of Friday’s practice was junior offensive guard Dakota Daulton, but he was expected to participate in Tuesday practice.

The Eagles and Bears sport the most talented rosters they’ve had in years. Will that lead to a wild, offensive shootout or a disciplined defensive struggle? Withrow says the jury’s still out from a coach’s standout.

“I’ll be honest, I really don’t know,” Withrow said. “It’s tough to say, because neither team has really had a chance to go out there on a regular basis and play against each other, but it definitely has the look of something that could be a 28-28 type deal. From our aspect, we really do need to clean up some things on both sides of the ball. We just can’t give up easy scores and big plays.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot dominates Red Devils in opener

Leader sports editor

Tuesday marked the end of the Backyard Brawl between Cabot and Jacksonville, and Cabot proved why. The class 7A Panthers dominated every aspect of the game en route to a 42-0 crushing of the 5A Red Devils.

The Cabot offense was solid on the ground and through the air, while the defensive backfield picked off three passes and the defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage.

“I didn’t expect us to dominate like that, in fact I was a little worried,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “They got some athletes back from last year and they gave us a lot of trouble last year. Our defense, if we can play like that with that speed we got, that’s encouraging. We have to stay injury free, but I’m excited about how we played tonight.”

The Panther defense forced three turnovers and held Jacksonville to just 46 total yards, 45 in the first half and just 1 yard of offense in the sportsmanship-rule shortened second half.

Cabot led just 14-0 with four minutes left in the first half, but halfback Preston Jones broke loose on second down and 13 for a 21-yard touchdown run. The extra point made it 21-0.

Jacksonville picked up 9 yards on first down and Cabot was called for illegal substitution, but things went awry on the next two plays. Nose guard Tristan Bulice tackled Gause for a 1-yard loss. Jacksonville then went deep, but quarterback Reggie Barnes’ pass was overthrown, and Jake Ferguson picked it off at the Cabot 22-yard line. Defenders turned into blockers and Ferguson returned it 28 yards to the 50, where Jacksonville linemen Corey Harrison hit Ferguson after Malcolm Crudup made the tackle.

That drew a flag and Ferguson’s ire. Several players became involved in some pushing and shoving before coaches from both sidelines got onto the field and quickly calmed the situation.

Cabot wasn’t able to score on the possession. Ferguson, the only Panther to play offense and defense, caught a pass in the flat on fourth and 8 at the 27. After gaining 2 yards, he was held up by the Jacksonville defense, and tried unsuccessfully to lateral the ball and Jacksonville covered it.

But on another second and short, Barnes was picked off by Pat Neyhart with 15 seconds left in the first half. Then came the dagger.

On first down, Kason Kimbrell found Ferguson on a post route behind the Jacksonville defense, and laid it in his hands in stride for a 45-yard touchdown with seven seconds left in the half. Christian Underwood’s extra point made it 28-0 at halftime.

Cabot’s first touchdown came after the defense gave up one first down before forcing a punt. The punt was only 11 yards and Cabot took over at its own 47. The Panthers needed nine plays to score, with Kimbrell capping the drive with a 1-yard plunge with 5:27 left in the first quarter. The extra point was wide, leaving it 6-0.

Jacksonville got one first down on its second drive with an 11-yard pass and catch from Barnes to Crudup. Another pass to Crudup was on target, but Cabot sophomore Holdyn Barnes made a strong hit to dislodge the ball from Crudup’s grip. Gause was stopped for a 2-yard loss on second down. On third and 12, Cabot tackle Aaron Henry sacked Barnes for a 9-yard loss, forcing Jacksonville to punt.

This time the Panthers needed just eight plays to march 60 yards, with Kimbrell hitting Launius on a swing pass from the 11-yard line with 10:51 left in the half.

The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and became even more efficient, going 59 yards in six plays with Launius scoring again from three yards out to make it 35-0 with 9:14 left in the third.

The clock ran continuously from that point, but Cabot wasn’t finished scoring. After forcing a three-and-out series by Jacksonville, the Panther second-team offense put together a seven-play, 56-yard drive for the final score of the game with 1:20 left in the third quarter.

Halfbacks Dylan Thompson and Jack Whisker, and quarterback Grant Bell each had runs of 12 yards or more during the drive. Whisker carried the last 5 for the touchdown.

Jacksonville had one more three-and-out, and a two-play drive that ended with a Logan Melder interception with a minute remaining.

“It’s disappointing,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “We expected to play better. We knew Cabot would have a strong offensive line and their defensive line would be physical. They were just that, and they have a great football team. We’ve got some things to correct. We’re going to go back to work and come out ready for Benton.”

Cabot finished with 364 total yards, including 262 on the ground. Kimbrell completed six of eight pass attempts for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Launius had 101 total yards with one rushing and one receiving touchdown. He carried 12 times for 70 yards and caught two passes.

Chris Henry had eight carries for 61 yards for Cabot.

The Panthers travel to Little Rock Catholic on Sept. 13 while the Red Devils host the Benton Panthers at Jan Crow Stadium.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Hospital is hurting

North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville, formerly Rebsamen Regional Medical Center, is struggling to stay open after more than 50 years of healing the sick.

The hospital has been about $300,000 behind in its electric bills and $80,000 in its water bills, but is working out a payment plan with the utilities.

As Leader reporter Rick Kron revealed Saturday, the 75-bed acute-care hospital, which Allegiance Health Management bought from the city for about $10 million in April 2012 after managing it for three years, is in financial straits. Competition from nearby hospitals, especially St. Vincent in Sherwood and Baptist Health in North Little Rock, have hurt North Metro, which hasn’t been the first choice for physicians or patients for many years.

The old-time physicians who practiced in Jacksonville — Dr. James Durham, Dr. Albert Johnson, Dr. Thomas Wortham and many others — would never have imagined that this once-great hospital, which opened in 1962, would fall on hard times.

One of our longtime readers wrote to us, “The problem with the hospital is that local doctors do not refer their patients to North Metro. Our hospital has very good patient care, very good customer service and capable of doing tests that our community’s residents need. If the patients would tell their doctors they want to go to North Metro, it would let the doctors know to refer you.”

The hospital has been on a losing track for almost a decade. The last time North Metro made money was in 2003-04, when it ended the fiscal year on June 30, 2004 with a $652,000 positive income. That didn’t last long.

The next year, net income slipped to a $98,000 loss. In 2005-06, losses totaled $804,000, and then jumped to $3 million in 2006-07. The 2007-08 fiscal year closed out with a net negative income of $2.38 million.

Many of the uninsured who use the emergency room have stiffed the hospital for millions of dollars, while Medicare and Medicaid payments have continued to fall. Obamacare might help North Metro recoup those losses from the uninsured who would qualify under the Medicaid expansion that will cover some 250,000 poor Arkansans. But that might be too little, too late for our hospital.

Three years ago, Mayor Gary Fletcher, a member of the hospital board, said, “It is important that we keep the hospital open, especially for the air base since they’ve closed their hospital.”

If the hospital closed down for even a day, it could lose its certificate of need, which it has been working under since its inception. If it loses that certification, it would be tough for the facility to reacquire it because of all the stringent new hospital requirements.

It’s a sad story that’s repeated across the state and the nation almost every week: Community hospitals shut down for lack of patients and funding as better financed hospitals invest in new equipment and better-trained personnel.

Mike Wilson, also a member of the hospital board, told us, “Allegiance needs to put some money into the hospital to make a go of it.” But a company that can’t keep the air conditioning going won’t have the resources to spend $20 million on state-of-the-art equipment. Here’s hoping they keep the lights on at least until a new buyer is found. This community deserves its own hospital. All the great physicians who’ve been affiliated with North Metro worked too hard and for too long for it to disappear after all these years.

TOP STORY >> Geocaching is latest hot hobby

Leader staff writer

For people who like to find a needle in a haystack, geocaching may be just the ticket.

Geocaching is a treasure-hunting game in which participants use global positioning system devices. Geocachers use a specific set of GPS coordinates posted on websites to try to find hidden containers at certain locations.

The containers, called geocaches or caches, are hidden by players all over the world. The caches can be camouflage-painted coffee cans, ammo boxes, match holders or small bottles. Some are hidden in the natural landscape of the area, where they don’t stand out or look out of the ordinary.

Lt. Butch Chapman with the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department explained, “What you can use for a geocache is only limited by your imagination.”

He is hosting a geocaching meet and greet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12 at Emily’s Diner, 1021 W. Main St. in Jacksonville.

Chapman said the event is an opportunity for those interested in geocaching to get a start by talking with geocachers, sharing tales and comparing notes.

He explained that geocachers really don’t see each other when they search for caches, but some go out as a group.

The caches they look for can contain a simple log book to write on, trinkets, coins or toys.

Some caches may have trackables — coins, pins or other small objects with tracking numbers on them. Players take a trackable from the cache they find and place it in another geocache location.

Geocachers can go online and type in the number to follow where the trackable has been hidden.

Chapman hid a trackable to honor his wife’s memory. She passed away from cancer in 2009.

The lieutenant began looking for and hiding geocaches in 2010, when he was at a state fire convention in Hot Springs. Chapman had a GPS unit in his car and discovered a geocaching site.

“It’s a pastime activity for me when I’m not fighting fires, at church activities or working,” he said.

“It is better than sitting at home on the computer playing games. It is exercise. You get to see things — landmarks and natural features — you wouldn’t normally go out to see,” Chapman continued.

He said he enjoys finding caches for that reason. Chapman discovered a waterfall in Mountain Springs while he was geocaching. He has also found geocaches in the middle of a lake and on a walking bridge above the interstate.

Some caches, Chapman added, are “hidden in plain sight.”

When he goes on the hunt for caches, Chapman carries a backpack with a mirror, tweezers and small tools.

He said geocaching is a family activity for all ages. Some families even take geocaching vacations to state parks and campgrounds, where a lot of geocaches are hidden.

Chapman also enjoys hiding geocaches and has placed 120 geocaches in the area.

He noted, “When you put one on private property, the rule is to have permission of the property owner. Generally, at businesses, the employees and owners have a good time watching people finding the geocaches.”

The rules of geocaching also require that caches be hidden a 10th of a mile apart.

Chapman said geocaching is an inexpensive activity. A basic free account to find and record geocaches can be found at

He also says all a person needs to have is a GPS device. Free GPS applications are available on most smart phones.

For more information, call Chapman at 501-912-7695.

TOP STORY >> Metroplan seeks input on priorities from public

Leader senior staff writer

It’s not too late to let Metroplan know your priorities for central Arkansas, and you can do that via the Internet.

Every five years, the federal government requires Metroplan to submit an updated long-range transportation plan by January.

You can submit or weigh in on ideas for the area’s future online at

Imagine Central Arkansas is the vehicle Metroplan and its consultants are using to help collect and assess the wants and needs of central Arkansans for the 2040 long-range transportation plan. The plan includes not only roadways and highways, but also lifestyle factors, like bike paths and sidewalks, more mass transit and sustainability, such as continuing to turn home construction back toward the center of the cities instead of continuing urban sprawl.

Only projects on the fiscally-constrained plan can be implemented unless it is later amended.

Funds must be identified for a project to be on that plan. That is why it’s financially or fiscally constrained.


The vision plan would link the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway metropolitan statistical areas to each other, the global economy and the other parts of the region. It will seek to maximize the mobility of people and goods, minimize transportation-related fuel consumption and air pollution and support sustainable land-development patterns.


Six goals were identified to support the vision.

They are:

 economic growth,

 equality of access and transportation choices,

 environmental quality,


 quality transportation corridors and

 funding adequacy.

It is that last piece -- funding adequacy — that is critical to reach the vision, according to Jim McKenzie, Metroplan executive director.

Some specifics of the new vision would improve local and regional transit, bikeways, regional arterial network and widen freeways to three lanes in each direction.


All of these were first identified for the 2020 long-range plan formulated about 20 years ago.

In order to build new roads, highways, bridges and railroad overpasses or even to maintain existing infrastructure, the projects must be included on Metroplan’s long-range financially constrained plan. The new plan is due in January.

Among the popular ideas discussed on the Imagine Central Arkansas website are for all cities to provide transportation alternatives for everyone, including seniors, bicyclists, walkers and handicapped residents. One suggestion is that cities need sidewalks and all new developments should have them.

Another suggested improvement is completion of the River Trail — especially the portion between Broadway Bridge and Riverdale.

Other ideas include:

 Focus on infilling and rebuilding in old populated areas instead of building new subdivisions further out from the city centers.

 Buses should continue at night after 9 p.m., especially on weekends.

 There should be more parks and natural areas, trains and better downtown housing options, like energy-efficient homes in sustainable, walkable communities.

 The passenger rail between Conway and Little Rock should be improved.

 Vibrant streets, squares and public places are needed.

Additional outreach in the fall and winter will focus on providing the public opportunities to 1) learn about the challenges facing the region and the vision crafted to meet those challenges, 2) review a proposed list of transportation projects and funding necessary to deploy those projects within the plan period and 3) most importantly, to make known their voice on whether the draft Imagine Central Arkansas Vision and financially constrained transportation plan have met their expectations in achieving the future for transportation that is different than today’s reality.

While most of the new plan will be carried over from the current plan, road construction is getting more and more expensive while federal, state and local highway and transportation revenues are expected to decline by about 135 percent between now and 2040, according to a draft of the plan.

Projections suggest about $19.2 billion statewide is needed to build and maintain infrastructure, but the most optimistic revenue projection is $7.2 billion. The estimate includes federal, state and local contributions.

With the dedicated half-cent sales tax expiring between 2022 and 2023, the revenue will drop by $50 million a year. The elimination of the federal subsidy to the transportation trust fund is expected to drop revenues between now and 2040 by $6.7 billion a year.

Much of highway funds come from a federal tax per gallon of fuel. People have begun driving less and fuel efficiency has increased. That means less fuel will be purchased and revenue will be lost.

With implementation of federal transportation fuel efficiency standards — CAFE standards — even less revenue will be collected under the current system.

In all, the state could have as little as $6 billion for its highway needs between now and 2040. That’s not even enough to maintain existing roadways.

Today, it costs about $10 million a mile to widen a highway. But, by 2040, the cost could more than double to $23.4 million a mile.

McKenzie said that is why finding new revenues — by implementing new fees and taxes — is a top priority of the goals set for the 2040 vision.

TOP STORY >> Cabot building new academy

Leader staff writer

Construction of the Cabot School District’s $26 million Freshman Academy for ninth- graders continues to take shape. The new school, set to open for the start of the 2014-15 year, will offer more than 212,000 square feet of space.

The roof is up on the main building. Some of classrooms are almost finished with lighting and heat and air conditioning installed. All that is needed is furniture and cabinetry. Other classrooms are in bare concrete cinder block.

Metal and brickwork are being installed in the gym, while the concrete pad for the cafeteria and fine arts building has been poured.

Freshman Academy may give a sense of déjà vu to those who have seen the high school’s high entryway ceiling, although the new school has a single story instead of two.

The office and the counseling center are located in the same place as they are in the high school’s layout.

“The front entrance mirrors the high school,” said Tonya Spillane, the fifth- through ninth-grade curriculum director.

Superintendent Tony Thurman said there are several reasons why the design of the Freshman Academy and the high school are similar.

“The layout of the high school building has worked well for our students and faculty. We did not believe it was necessary to have major changes when what we’ve already constructed has worked great,” Thurman said.

The same architect who designed the high school also designed Freshman Academy.

Thurman said only some minor changes were needed for the overall layout of the new school. That saved the district time and money.

The district has attempted to use the same facade style at Junior High North, Cabot High School, Panther Arena and the cafeteria and the Freshman Academy.

“We have aesthetically pleasing facilities but have focused on spending more funds on the interior of the buildings including the classrooms and media center rather than going overboard on the exterior,” Thurman said.

He noted that the color of the concrete block used at the new school buildings is now marketed by the building supply vendor as “Cabot Red.”

Freshman Academy will have an area for meetings and presentations. The media center will have research labs. A courtyard will separate the main building from the gym and cafeteria. The gym will be similar the one at Junior High North, which has bleachers on one side.

The cafeteria and fine arts center will be combined into one building with a built-in stage. Also, two lunch periods are planned.

Freshman Academy will have more than 50 classrooms for about 800 students. Some classrooms will have soundproof partitioned walls similar to those found in a convention center. The walls can be opened for collaborative learning.

Eight science rooms will be half classroom and half lab. The school will also have a wing for career- and technical-training classes.

Deputy Superintendent Harold Jeffcoat, who oversees new construction projects, said he is confident the project will be completed by next school year.

Jeffcoat said the exterior walls and roof were built first to get the building “in the dry” to allow masons to work on interior walls when it rains. Thurman said he was, “Very pleased with the progress on the Freshman Academy. We are slightly ahead of schedule, and that is very positive. We have a strong district supervisor on the construction site that also supervised construction of the high school. The rate at which the building is being constructed is great, but I’m most pleased with the quality of construction.”