Tuesday, December 30, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits win after early lull

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke overcame a poor first half to beat Class 2A Hazen by the final score of 60-48 in the first round of the second annual Goldfish Classic on Saturday at the Gina Cox Center.

Lonoke (4-6, 2-3), who won last year’s tournament; granted, with an entirely different team, struggled throughout the first half, but especially in the first quarter. The Jackrabbits missed their first five shots of the game and went just 1 for 13 from the floor in the opening quarter.

As a result of the poor shooting, Hazen (1-1), who because of advancing to the state finals in football had played just one game this season prior to Saturday, led 11-3 at the end of the first quarter.

“That’s kind of been our deal all year long,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell of his team’s slow start, “and some of that didn’t change throughout the whole game. We still got to the rim and took shots that we wanted to take, shots that we practice, and they’re still not going down at a pace as quick as we like.”

Lonoke did a better job of hitting its shots in the second quarter, but still trailed by five at halftime, with the score 29-24. In the second half, Lonoke made 9 of 29 shots, but the biggest difference was at the free-throw line.

Neither team shot well from the stripe, but the Jackrabbits earned far more trips to the line than the Hornets did, especially in the second half. Lonoke made 18 of 35 free-throw attempts in quarters three and four, while Hazen made just 1 of 7 attempts in that time.

Lonoke made several key free throws in the final minutes of the game that helped seal the win – something Campbell was happy to see.

“I thought we did a really good job of stepping up and hitting free throws,” Campbell said, “which we haven’t done. I’m proud of them for that. We took advantage of it.”

The Jackrabbits opened the second half with a 15-4 run to take a 39-33 lead. Junior guard Jawaun Bryant led that charge and set that margin with an inside bucket at the 2:30 mark of the third quarter, which forced Hazen coach Jesse McCoy to call timeout.

After the timeout, Hazen scored six-straight to tie the game at 33, but Lonoke took a 41-39 lead into the fourth quarter on a fast-break layup by Bryant with one second remaining.

The score was knotted up at 43-43 early in the fourth, but Lonoke began to take over from there. The Jackrabbits went on an 11-2 run to lead 54-45, and the highlight of the game took place during that run.

At the midway point of the quarter, Lonoke junior guard Justin Meadows grabbed a rebound after a missed Hazen free throw. Meadows then pushed the ball up the floor and finished at the other end with a posterizing dunk over two Hazen defenders, which ignited the home crowd and gave Lonoke a 51-45 lead.

Lonoke grabbed its first double-digit lead with 55.7 seconds to play on a pair of free throws by Haven Hunter that made the score 57-47. The Rabbits led by as much as 13 before Hazen sank a free throw with four seconds to play, setting the final score.

Lonoke finished the game 17 of 54 from the floor for 31 percent. Hazen made 18 of 42 shots for 43 percent. At the free-throw line, the Rabbits made 25 of 45 shots for 56 percent. Hazen went 10 for 24 from the stripe for 42 percent.

The Hornets outrebounded the Rabbits 33-28, but Lonoke won the turnover battle 14-27.

Bryant led all scorers with 17 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Meadows and Isaac Toney also scored in double figures for Lonoke. Meadows had 11 points and Toney had 10.

Lonoke played fellow 4A-2 Conference member Stuttgart in the semifinals of the tournament Monday night after deadlines, and the Rabbits played their final game of the tournament yesterday. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Mets too much for Carlisle

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle girls did all they could to hang with Class 4A eStem Charter in the first round of the Goldfish Classic at Lonoke High School on Saturday, but the Lady Mets had too much depth and skill for the Class 2A Lady Bison to keep up with, and as a result, eStem won 61-44.

Carlisle (7-4, 6-0) had won six-straight conference games coming into the Goldfish Classic, but in the first quarter of Saturday’s game, the Lady Bison were sluggish on both ends of the floor.

Jumping out to an 8-0 lead, eStem played like last year’s Class 3A state champions. Carlisle leading scorer Kylie Warren scored the first Lady Bison point with a free throw at the 3:27 mark of the opening quarter, and added the team’s only field goal of the quarter, a 3-pointer, with 46 seconds left.

Warren’s three was also the final bucket of the first quarter, which cut the Lady Mets’ lead to 12-6. Warren scored the first three points of the second quarter, all from the free-throw line, and Carlisle got within two of eStem’s lead, trailing 13-11.

However, the Lady Bison run led to fatigue, and sophomore starter Kayla Golleher fouled out with 3:46 left in the first half. The Lady Mets were able to capitalize, and by halftime, eStem led 31-18.

The Lady Mets pushed their lead to 15 80 seconds into the second half with a driving layup by junior guard Gia Hayes, which made the score 33-18. Carlisle did, however, start the second half shooting well.

The Lady Bison made their first four shots from the floor and made five of their first six. Near the three-minute mark of the third quarter, Carlisle got back within single digits of eStem’s lead on an Elex McClain putback that made the score 38-30.

eStem, though, ended the quarter with a 5-0 run that was capped with an and-1 by Hayes with 1:50 remaining. That set the third quarter margin at 43-30.

Warren got Carlisle within 11 of the Lady Mets’ lead, 45-34, with a pair of free throws with 6:50 left to play, but that was as close as the Lady Bison would get the rest of the way.

By that point, the Lady Bison were absolutely worn out, physically, and eStem, just like it did at the end of the first half, was able to pull away as the game progressed.

Hayes pushed the Lady Mets’ lead to 20 with a driving lay-in as the game came to a close. That made the score 61-41, and Carlisle set the final score with a 3-pointer by Nicquira Burnett with three seconds remaining.

Carlisle finished the game 14 of 36 from the floor for 39 percent. Conversely, eStem was 23 of 63 from the floor for 37 percent. The Lady Mets outrebounded the Lady Bison 32-21, and eStem committed 22 turnovers to Carlisle’s 27.

From the free-throw line, Carlisle finished the game 12 of 25 for 48 percent. eStem was 11 of 15 from the stripe for 73 percent.

Warren led all scorers with 24 points. She also had four rebounds, three steals and two blocks. McClain and Molli Weems each had six points for Carlisle. McClain added eight rebounds. Burnett had five points for Carlisle and point guard Peyton Hitchings had three.

Three different players scored in double figures for eStem. Hayes led the Lady Mets with 22 points and five steals. Mariah Adams had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and teammate Knya Dailey had 11 points.

Carlisle played Des Arc after deadlines on Monday in the consolation round of the Goldfish Classic, and the Lady Bison played their final game of the tournament yesterday. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers survive against SH ladies

Leader sports editor

The first round of the Beebe First Security Bank/Steve Gilliam Christmas Tournament wasn’t an easy one for the Lady Badgers on Saturday. The host team found itself in a tussle throughout with 5A-Central Conference mate Sylvan Hills, but pulled out a win with seven-straight points in the final 97 seconds to prevail 42-41 over the Lady Bears.

“We just got lucky,” said Beebe coach Greg Richey. “We just didn’t play very well offensively. We struggled shooting the ball tonight, but we found a way. I told the girls, hey, I still believe in you. And they went out and found a way.”

All four quarters ended with a one-point margin. Sylvan Hills led by one at the end of the first and third, and Beebe after the second and fourth. The Lady Bears took a 41-35 lead with 2:09 remaining on a pair of free throws by senior point guard Jessica Brasfield.

Sylvan Hills got a defensive stop when Beebe point guard Taylor McGraw missed a midrange jumper and Sylvan Hills’ Alana Canady got the rebound. But Canady’s outlet pass was deflected by Beebe’s Taylor Harris, who also chased down the loose ball. She passed inside to Ashlyn Johnson who was fouled by Canady – her fifth.

Johnson hit both ends of her 1-and-1 to make it 41-37 with 1:37 remaining. The Lady Bears turned it over again, but Beebe returned the favor, giving Sylvan Hills possession with 1:04 left.

Sylvan Hills’ Jahnay Duncan then lobbed a pass too high and soft against Beebe’s press, and Johnson picked it off. She drove to the basket on the ensuing possession, scored and was fouled with 36 seconds remaining. She made the free throw to make it 41-40.

Harris then got another steal for Beebe and was fouled. She also made both ends of her 1-and-1 with 29 seconds to go to set the final margin.

With the lead, the Lady Badgers sank back into a 1-2-1 and allowed Sylvan Hills’ Sarah Beckwith to fire a three, but it was off the mark and bounced out of bounds with nine seconds left, but it wasn’t quite over yet.

Duncan got a steal on Beebe’s next possession and passed to Brasfield, who got a clean look at a layup and missed, got the offensive rebound and missed again as the buzzer sounded.

“I know we were supposed to be an easy win for them in their home tournament, so you do take a little bit of confidence away from the game,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis. “But then again, we had that game and we just didn’t close it out. We turned it over three or four right in a row after we got a little lead, and we basically just gave it away. That’s what’s so disappointing. We had it, and we gave it away.”

Beebe’s biggest lead came early in the second quarter when it scored the first five points to take a 17-13 lead. Sylvan Hills led by six twice, the first time coming early on a 7-0 run to start the third quarter for a 27-21 advantage.

The Lady Bears led 32-38 late in the third and had three possessions to extend it, but missed point blank layups on two of those possessions and turned it over on the other.

Beebe answered with a 5-0 run, all five by Harris, who hit a 3-pointer and two free throws.

Sylvan Hills also struggled from the floor, finishing 13 of 47 shooting, and just 8 of 33 from two-point range. Beebe was 13 of 49 overall while 10 of 33 from two-point range. Sylvan Hills outrebounded Beebe 30-26. The Lady Badgers were 13 of 21 from the foul line while Sylvan Hills went 10 of 17.

Neither team took very good care of the ball either. Sylvan Hills had 22 turnovers to 20 for Beebe. Johnson led the Lady Badgers (3-7) with 12 points while Harris added 11. Brasfield and sophomore shooter Storm Ellis led Sylvan Hills (3-6) with 12 points apiece.

Look for details of the final two rounds of the tournament in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot pulls away from eStem

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ basketball team broke a dangerous trend in the fourth quarter to pull out a 52-43 victory over eStem Charter in the first round of the Beebe First Security Bank/Steve Gilliam Christmas Tournament on Saturday.

The Panthers spent the first half of the first three quarters building a nice lead, and the second half of each quarter giving it away. That is until the fourth quarter, when they put together a 9-0 run in a two-minute stretch of the final three minutes to secure the victory.

The Panthers seemed to be on the verge of taking over the game several times, but eStem always answered, twice in the final minute of the quarter.

But the tone was set on the game’s first possession. The Mets won the jump but couldn’t find an open shot. Cabot defended for 58 seconds before Garrett Rowe stole an entry pass to the elbow.

“That showed us that they weren’t just going to blow by us with the ball, which I was a little worried about to be honest with you,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “I knew they had a good record and when I saw them on film, I was concerned.”

Cabot pushed out to an 11-4 lead with a 9-0 run in the first quarter, but eStem’s Trevor Clark came offthe bench to score five in a row to close the period and pull his squad to within two points by quarter’s end.

Markel Hubbard then opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer to put the Mets up 12-11. The two teams traded baskets and stops for a few minutes before the Panthers put together another run, this one 9-0 that made it 27-18 with 1:21 left in the first half.

Panther forward Hunter Southerland capped the run with a fast break, two-handed slam that forced eStem coach Jeremy Brown to call timeout.

Clark did his work in the waning moments of the second quarter as well, scoring and getting to the line with 12 seconds left in the quarter to make it 27-21. He also got a steal on the ensuing possession but wasn’t able to score.

Cabot sophomore Jarrod Barnes sparked the Panthers early in the third quarter. Barnes lobbed a perfect alley-oop pass to Jared Dixon over the top of eStem’s 3-2 defense.

Dixon finished the play with a two-handed dunk to make it 31-25 Cabot. Barnes then stole the ball in the backcourt and delivered a nifty pass to Bobby Joe Duncan for a 33-25 Cabot lead that forced eStem’s fourth timeout.

Barnes then gave it all back with two-consecutive turnovers on Cabot’s next two possessions, and the Mets pulled to within four points quickly. Two guard RaShawn Langston added to the run with an old-fashioned three-point play after a turnover by Jake Ferguson that made it 33-32 with 3:10 left in the third quarter.

“We have to develop a better killer instinct,” Bridges said. “We got up eight or nine a few times and kept letting them back in with silly mistakes. That’s frustrating, but we bounced back. We need to be better than that from this point forward.”

Clark completed the Mets’ run by hitting 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game with 1:25 left in the third. Duncan then hit a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in the frame to give the Panthers a three-point lead heading into the final quarter.

Cabot’s Tyler Hill then opened the fourth with his own 3-pointer for a six-point Cabot lead, but eStem scored the next six to tie the game with 5:22 remaining.

Hill got a putback and Duncan sank a running floater to give Cabot a 43-39 lead and force eStem’s final timeout with 4:23 remaining in the game. Langston scored out of the break for the Mets, but the Panthers would score the next nine-straight to seal the victory.

Southerland started the run with a pair of free throws. After eStem failed to convert a shot attempt and a putback attempt, Ferguson got the rebound and was fouled. He hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 2:38 for a six-point Cabot lead. The Mets then threw the ball away and Southerland found Logan Gilbertson cutting to the basket for an easy layup and a 49-41 lead.

After an eStem miss, Gilbertson got the rebound and was fouled. He also hit both ends of a 1-and-1 trip to the line to give the Panthers their biggest lead of the game at 51-41 with 90 seconds left to play.

Langston was called for a player control foul on the ensuing possession and Brown was hit with a technical for running onto the court to challenge the call. Southerland made 1 of 2 technical free throws for an 11-point Cabot lead with 1:12 remaining.

Langston scored as time expired to set the final margin. He led all scorers and rebounders with 21 points and eight boards, while Clark came off the bench to add 13 for the Mets. Southerland led Cabot with 11 points, and was the only Panther in double figures, though eight different Panthers scored.

“Garrett Rowe did not have a very good game, and if you’ve seen us you know he’s been a big leader for us,” Bridges said. “So one thing I was very proud of was that we got this win largely without him. They’re a good team. (Langston) was the best player on the floor tonight, but we played good team basketball, and that’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful.”

TOP STORY >> Area officials hope for stellar new year

Leader staff writer

Only a few elected officials in The Leader’s coverage area make New Year’s resolutions, but most who were interviewed want to see projects completed or started and are hoping that 2015 will be a stellar year.

And then there was the tongue-in-cheek response of state Rep.-elect Tim Lemons (R- Cabot).

He said his New Year’s resolution is “to drop three sizes in my waist, or grow 6 inches in height.”

Lemons continued, “There are 174 steps from my parking spot to the House chamber at the Capitol. Maybe the three-size reduction is possible.”

He joked, “The height? Probably not.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley are also hoping to get healthier.

Fletcher said, “It’s my intention this next year to eat better and to exercise and spend more time with my family than what I do.”

Staley said, “I am going to make more time for my family and kids. As most everyone is trying to do, I am also going to make time to work out and get healthier.”

The sheriff added, “I am going to continue to work hard for the citizens of Lonoke County and continue to serve them in a professional manner. My primary goal is to continue to be tough on crime and keep the citizens informed about what goes on in our community.”

Ward Mayor Art Brooke said he wants to do more in 2015 by following through with some big ideas like sewer- system improvements, paving more streets and “beefing up” the city’s parks and recreation department — possibly with help from the one-cent sales tax increase passed by voters in November.

The mayor also said he would continue to work diligently for Ward residents. “I give them 100 percent, that’s the best thing I can give them, that’s what I do.”

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman, state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain and state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

But Hillman said, in her sights for 2015, is beginning the construction of a new public library.

In November, voters passed a temporary 1.3-mill increase that will fund a $6 million facility. For the owners of a $150,000 home, the increase equates to about $39 more than the 50.8-mill property tax they were paying before.

The increase would also be a hike of about $13 for every $10,000 in accessed value of a home or personal property. Accessed value is about 20 percent of what a house or personal property is worth.

Hillman told The Leader on Monday that the city attorney is researching whether Sherwood should hire someone to consult it on the bond project.

She said last week, “We anticipate moving forward on our new library (in 2015). That’s exciting. Hopefully, by this time next year, we’ll be well on our way.”

English said her focus is and has been, for a while, to develop workforce-training programs.

She wants to see Arkansas families have the tools they need to make better wages that will improve their lives and the economy.

About New Year’s resolutions, Cypert said, “If you don’t make them, you can’t break them.”

City projects that are set for completion in 2015 include:

 The new $2.6 million, 23,000-square-foot public library in the old Knight’s grocery store on West Main Street.

 The $13.5 million sports and aquatics complex on Hwy. 321.

 Expansion of the Veterans Park Community Center to include a space for events and a safe room.

 A safe and lighted sidewalk with a pedestrian bridge to Magness Creek Elementary School from the neighborhood to its north.

 Diamond Creek drainage improvements.

 Several street overlays.

Numerous other projects will be ongoing throughout 2015 but are expected to be finished in 2016 or later.

Chamberlain said she wants to see Austin’s plans to build a new city hall get underway. The mayor said she would like to see some streets — many in the Saddlecreek neighborhood — fixed in 2015.

Williams said his New Year’s resolution is to not make any resolutions. But the senator’s hopes for 2015 include a “good positive session for the legislature” and that “we focus more on the middle income families and give them as much help as we can because they’re the ones struggling the most.”

TOP STORY >> Staying sober if you are driving

Leader staff writer

Make a plan and have a designated driver tonight, local police said this week when asked for safety tips to avoid drunken collisions and jail time over the New Year’s holiday.

Lt. Jamie Michaels of the Sherwood Police Department said, “Don’t even take one drink and think that you’re OK.”

Sgt. Richard Betterton with the Jacksonville Police Department added that the force will be participating in the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign during the holiday.

He said, “Hopefully, we can get (drunk drivers) off the street before they kill somebody or have an accident.”

Betterton also suggests people stay where they’re going instead of going from one event to another.

And the plan Michaels advises might include calling a taxi when the partying ends.

Rose Holley of A-Plus Cab Company in Jacksonville, the only taxi service in the city that is in business this week, said patrons could even pre-schedule a cab to pick them up at a certain time.

The company is open 24/7 year-round, she said.

Although this is her first year working there on New Year’s Eve, Holley told The Leader that A-Plus CabCompany is prepared by having three or four cars operating rather than its typical one or two.

The company services all of central Arkansas with the exception of Little Rock. It can’t pick people up in Little Rock, per city ordinance, unless one of its taxis drops the group from another city off there.

And Little Rock cab companies can’t pick someone up from Jacksonville, but can drop them off there.

A-Plus Cab Company charges $5 per stop inside city limits.

A one-way ride from a bar outside city limits to a Jacksonville address, or vice versa, is $10 plus $3 for each additional passenger.

The company runs a special all year long for round trips to local liquor stores, which cost $10 and $3 per person.

An increased flat rate applies to all other trips, including those to and from Little Rock, which Holley said are more expensive.

Contact A-Plus Cab Company at 501-241-0750 for more information.

Airmen have another option, the Little Rock Air Force Base’s Airmen Against Drunk Driving that provides rides from volunteers to military personnel whose plans to get home safely have fallen through.

Call AADD at 501-987-2233 to request a ride home, which can be on or off base.

Another option, for those attending New Year’s Eve events in Little Rock, is popular share-riding service Uber.

Sherwood and Jacksonville are the closest local cities to the company’s most reliable coverage area, which encompasses most of the state’s capital and North Little Rock. Lonoke County cities are even further out.

Uber spokeswoman Taylor Bennett wrote in an email to The Leader, “While requesting a ride as far out as Jacksonville or Sherwood may be difficult given it’s not in the core service area, riders can certainly use Uber to get dropped off there.”

People can request a ride through the Uber smartphone application, which provides fare estimates and a price for the ride up front.

The cost varies based on demand, according to a video provided by Bennett. Prices go up when ride requests exceed the number of available drivers to encourage more drivers to become available. But they go back down when the number of drivers available matches how many ride requests there are.

The app can also alert riders when prices drop to the normal rate. Hundreds of drivers are available in the Little Rock area, Bennett added.

She continued, “In an ongoing effort to tackle drunk driving, we are partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and donating $1 for every ride with the code MADDNYE on New Year’s Eve.”

Bennett also said driver partners are being counseled on safety measures like accepting only the number of passengers their cars have seatbelts for, pulling up to the correct side of the street so that riders don’t have to cross it in high-traffic or dark areas and to report any incidents or confusion immediately.

TOP STORY >> Top 10 news stories of the year

Compiled by RICK KRON

(Editor’s note: This is the last in a four-part series looking back at 2014 as reported in The Leader.)

In 2014, The Leader published 104 issues containing more than 1,000 pages of news with stories that ranged from the ordinary to the extraordinary. These 10 topics, presented here in no particular order, are highlights of the most important news of the year as determined by the newspaper staff.


Probably the biggest piece of news for 2014 is that Jacksonville now has its own school district, a 40-year dream and fight for the city. Although still tethered to Pulaski County Special School District, the new district is on the move to becoming its own full-fledged operating district within the next two years.

The formation of the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, which was a Top 10 story of 2013, hit a fever pitch in mid-January. And the momentum never slowed down. By December, a school board had been picked, an interim superintendent selected and a couple of board meetings held.

An election to see if residents would support the newly proposed district made that a reality in the middle of January after a fairness hearing in which U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. overruled all objections and accepted the proposed desegregation agreement crafted by officials and attorneys for the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts, the state Education Department and the Joshua Intervenors, a group of black PCSSD students and parents.

This opened the door for the Jacksonville district.

“It’s a great day for the kids in Jacksonville,” Daniel Gray, spokesman for the group seeking the new district, said in January after Marshall accepted the negotiated desegregation agreement.

City administrator Jim Durham said, “This is the best news I’ve heard about this town bar none.

“I can see Jacksonville rivaling Cabot with our schools,” Durham said, “and a demand for new housing.”

The court settlement ends desegregation payments from the state to the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts after the 2017-18 school year.

Currently, the state pays those districts about $65 million a year, a total of about $1.2 billion since payments began, according to Deputy Attorney General Scott Richardson.

PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess, whom Marshall quoted or cited several times during his own remarks before approving the agreement, called the Jacksonville detachment “a win-win situation.”

PCSSD is high on the state wealth index, meaning it would receive almost no state matching funds to build or fix schools, while Jacksonville is much lower and the state would contribute 50 percent to 60 percent of that cost for qualifying buildings.

That means a $90 million building program to bring area schools into the 21stCentury would cost the new district only about $45 million, with the state picking up the balance.

The 2014-15 school year would be transitional and Jacksonville-North Pulaski will hopefully be independent by the 2015-16 school year. But it may take another year, as assets and debt would have to be equitably divided between the two districts. Other questions needing to be answered, for instance, are who gets which school buses and how many? How will teachers and staff be hired or divided? How much of the remaining desegregation money from the state will go to a new district?

In September, residents voted overwhelmingly — 95 percent — for the new district. The final vote was 3,767-218 in favor the new district.

Jerry Guess, PCSSD superintendent, said he was happy for Jacksonville. “I supported this idea for a long time,” Guess told The Leader. “It will be a great benefit to Jacksonville in the long run. A lot of details need to be worked out.”

The city took the vote results to the state and to the federal judge for final approval.

A panel of area officials and state lawmakers narrowed down the list of 52 possible school board candidates to seven. Norris Cain, Daniel Gray, Ron McDaniel, Carol Miles, Richard Moss, Robert Price and LaConda Watson are the appointed interim board.

It took the state Board of Education less than 15 minutes in early November, after the judge’s approval, to unanimously create the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District and approve the seven-member interim school board.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher compared the seven appointed board members to the original seven U.S. astronauts, saying, “This is our space program.”

The state board’s order also stipulated that the new district would continue under the administration of PCSSD during a transition period of up to two years, with all revenues continuing to accrue to PCSSD, which would also bear all costs.

The interim board quickly agreed to hire former PCSSD superintendent Bobby Lester to be the district’s interim leader and to work closely with state- appointed PCSSD superintendent Guess on separating the districts.

With the formation of the new district, Little Rock Air Force Base officials said it would make 20 acres available for a new elementary school to replace the decrepit Arnold Drive Elementary already on the base and possibly Tolleson Elementary, just outside the base, as well as the use of another 300 acres if the new district wants to build a new high school campus north of the current North Pulaski High School.


Besides the historic Jacksonville district vote in September, the November election had all five area mayors on the hot seat battling challengers and a tax issue on the Sherwood ballots as to whether or not to approve a tax for a new library.

All mayors won re-election and Sherwood approved the tax for the library.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher defeated former Police Chief Gary Sipes and Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman withstood a challenge from two other candidates, Don Berry and Doris Anderson. Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert beat back a challenge by one-time mayor Mickey (Stubby) Stumbaugh; Lonoke Mayor Wayne McGee is getting another term, just getting past Jim Bailey, and Ward Mayor Art Brooke got another term.

In Jacksonville, the race between incumbent Fletcher and his former police chief was one of the closest in decades — 56 percent to 44 percent – and the topics of the gun range, economic development and transparency left the city divided. Even though the candidates themselves were never disrespectful toward each other, their supporters were — from name calling to threats.

Once the election ended, there was apparent fallout as the city cut ties with its longtime out-of-state economic developer. And three civil service commissioners were told to resign because they were active participants in the election. Two commissioners were Sipes supporters and one was a Fletcher supporter. Two have since resigned from the commission.

Many of the races in Lonoke, Cabot and Lonoke County were decided in the May primaries, as was one alderman race in Jacksonville.


The year will go down in the history books as one of the top five coldest years. Icy, snowy weather in January and February caused area schools to be out more days than they had been in decades.

Plus a vicious tornado skirted The Leader’s coverage area, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Summer was one of the coolest on record. Normally, there are 30 days between June 1 and Aug. 30 where the temperature hits 95 degrees or more. But, in 2014, just eight days hit that mark in the local area. Jacksonville recorded its lowest low-temperature average in history in July at 66.1. The summer was also 5 inches wetter than normal.

January gave warning signs to a cool year as a “polar vortex” settled into the region.

The polar blast and freezing wind plummeted low temperatures into the single digits, causing power outages and water pipes to freeze and burst.

Beebe experienced the most outages in The Leader’s coverage area, with close to 2,000 customers in the dark.

Electric companies weren’t the only ones working overtime during the unusually cold weather.

Charles Culpepper of Master Plumbing in Jacksonville said, “Water pipes have been freezing and busting.” At a time of the year when business is usually slow, Culpepper said he was getting lots of calls about frozen and burst pipes.

Snow and ice in February closed schools and caused numerous wrecks.

Then winter hit again in early March during National Severe Weather Week.

The storms brought lightening, thunder, rain, freezing rain, hail, sleet, ice, snow and cold, cold winds to the area.

The mess caused officials to cancel school in Pulaski, Lonoke and White counties.

The high temperature of 27 degrees the first Monday in March was the lowest high ever recorded in March, breaking a record of 30 degrees from 1965.

A National Weather Service-trained storm spotter broadcasted over the Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Network that there were “bodies everywhere” after a late April tornado struck Vilonia, Mayflower and El Paso.

Two of the 11 dead in Vilonia were young boys who had recently moved from Sherwood to Vilonia. “They were very active in our baseball program,” Sherwood Alderman Tim McMinn said at a council meeting after the tornadoes hit, asking for prayers and help for the family.

The young boys were Cameron and Tyler Smith, ages 8 and 7, respectively. They lived on Cody Lane in Vilonia. Sanders said the boys’ parents, Daniel and April, were severely injured in the tornado and were taken to different hospitals in Little Rock.

According to officials, the family followed all the proper emergency procedures. “They were hunkered down, but there is nothing left of their home except a concrete slab,” said a family friend.

Overall, the tornado killed 15 Arkansans. Eleven people died in Faulkner County. There were three fatalities in Pulaski County and one in El Paso.

According to a preliminary report released by the National Weather Service, the devastating tornado was at least an EF4, meaning it had 166-200 mph winds.

President Barack Obama flew into LRAFB. He is the first president since Bill Clinton to visit the storm-damaged areas.

In July, the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office and others were honored and praised for their response and help in the aftermath of the tornado.

For the year, 20 tornadoes hit the state, killing 17. Four died from high winds and two from lightning strikes.


The air base always makes the Top 10 list on the strength of its economic impact to central Arkansas. In 2014, that impact was just shy of $1 billion. But there is so much more to the base: the people, the missions, new planes, new commanders and new construction.

In March, word was that the base was strengthening its position as the primary C-130 base in the world, with many older C-130s from around the country either decommissioned or reassigned at LRAFB and 10 more state-of-the-art C-130Js once slated for Pope Field at Fort Bragg, N.C., set to come to LRAFB.

Those C-130Js, currently assigned to Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, were headed for Pope. But now it appears they will be assigned to the 22nd Air Force, Detachment 1, a reserve force being activated at Little Rock, according Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

“Ten aircraft are enough for a squadron,” Pryor said. “This is breaking news.

“Little Rock is a center of excellence on (C-130 transport), and, if it holds with 10 additional C-130Js, that’s a very good thing,” the senator said.

“My sense is that someone at the Pentagon looked and said the most efficient thing is to base those planes at Little Rock,” Pryor said.

Military officials said early in the year that active duty LRAFB pilots might be flying only the state-of-the-art C-130Js by the end of September and the Pentagon had restarted the previously discontinued program to modernize the legacy C-130Hs with new, digital avionics, communications and navigation equipment.

Little Rock Air Force Base had about 85 C-130H/J models assigned to the base as of March 7.

“We have approximately 50 C-130H models and can confirm 31 C-130J models,” said Arlo Taylor, a public affairs spokesman. At the end of December, the number of C-130Js parked at the base numbered 36, and the H models were awaiting decommissioning.

With the arrival of the additional aircraft, replacement work was started on the base runway. Set to be finished in April 2017, the work will cost almost $108 million.

The runway is over 50 years old and is developing substantial amounts of Foreign Object Damage (FOD) potential, primarily from joint spalls and cracked slabs. The combination of the poor soils, high water table and keyway slab joints enable new problems to develop soon after repairs are made. The busy runway traffic, coupled with the underlying drainage issues, is the primary cause of the damage.

The 12,000-foot runway, which has been repeatedly patched over the years, will be replaced, half at a time, leaving the base with 6,000 feet to take off and land — twice the length required for C-130s.

The project will raise runway elevations and modify surrounding terrain features to minimize the number of airfield waivers and obstructions. It will resize the runway from 200-foot wide to 150-foot wide. However, the length will remain 12,000 feet. The project includes the replacement of associated runway lighting and navigational aids.

Base airmen flew in support of numerous missions during the year, including a Senegal mission to battle Ebola.

About 20 airmen and two C-130s deployed toward the end of the year to join the war on Ebola. They joined more airmen and C-130s from Dyess AFB, Texas, to establish the 787th Air Expeditionary Squadron and to fly humanitarian supplies into Liberia as part of Operation United Assistance, the mission to fight Ebola in West Africa. More LRAFB personnel are expected to join in the mission.

The 19th Airlift Wing was awarded, late in the year, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service from Aug. 1, 2012, through July 31, 2014.

The 19th AW is the world’s largest C-130 wing and base in the military and is comprised of four groups, 21 squadrons and 17 staff agencies.

“I am extremely proud of you, your hard work and all of the amazing things you accomplish every day,” said Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “I’m thrilled that many outside of our organization have noticed your extraordinary efforts as well.”

About the only bad news to hit the base in 2014 was the announcement of no open house and air show this year, according to Lt. Amanda Porter, public affairs specialist.

“We will focus our efforts toward a 2015 open house and redouble our efforts to secure a major aerial demonstration team,” Porter said.

The Pentagon pared down the number of events significantly in light of new budget realities.

“A 2014 open house was proposed but never confirmed. The base only explored the possibility. However, there were no military aerial demonstration teams available us,” Porter said. “We are focusing our efforts toward a tentative 2015 open house.”


The Jacksonville $3.2 million shooting sports complex on 160 acres near Loop and Graham roads had a soft opening in January and was in full swing with a lot of fanfare by May.

But, by then, complaints had hit about the noise level, and some planned activities were canceled. A sound study was ordered, and it became a focal point in the mayoral election.

Arkansas leads the nation in shooting sports participants, thanks largely to the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program (AYSSP), which is an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission program. More than
7,000 students participate each year. Teams are made up of participants from public and private schools, 4-H and other community organizations.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation planned to use the range for activities and tournaments. The youth tournaments alone were expected to bring in more than $4 million annually to the area.

But the shooting sports complex postponed its newly formed shooting league in late March after receiving noise complaints from neighboring residents.

“It is like World War III broke loose. We’re not happy about it,” Bonnie Smith said.

During the first weekend of May, the range attracted 1,040 people who shot an estimated 52,000 rounds that brought in $20,000 to the city, according to Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Director Kevin House. But noise was still an issue.

Except for the noise complaints, the opening of the shooting complex has been as successful as the city hoped, according to Jim Durham, Jacksonville’s director of administration. “We brought in 1,040 families to our city. They stayed in our hotels, ate in our restaurants and learned about Jacksonville,” he said.

In response to complaints, the range had already canceled night shooting, which kept expensive stadium lights off.

But area homeowners are growing impatient. Brian Hagewood, who owns Southern Oaks Country Club in Fox-wood and also lives in Foxwood Estates, where homes are about a mile away from the complex’s shooting positions, was frustrated with the noise coming from the firing range.

“Our subdivision has completely changed because of the noise this range is creating. We invested a great deal of money to build on a five-acre lot in Foxwood Estates. We never in a million years thought the city would put a shooting range in our backyard,” he said.

Residents looked at possible lawsuits, but the law protects the city from suits over noise.

Former Police Chief Gary Sipes, who lives in the neighborhood complaining about the noises, filed to run for mayor with the noise as one of his issues.

To determine what could be done, the city hired a sound engineer in late June to conduct a $10,000 study. The engineer spent a day taking sound readings from seven locations and promised to have the study completed in about 10 days, but it was four months before the city got the report back showing that noises levels were within legal limits at all locations but the facility’s parking lot. The city is still looking at ways to dampen the noise in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Along with the noise, finances became an issue with many claiming the range was losing the city $250,000 that could have been spent elsewhere.

The complex was built with a mix of private and public dollars. The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation promised $2 million, but had only provided the city with $150,000 by mid-year. The city’s advertising and promotions commission had budgeted about $400,000 toward the project, and the city took out a $3 million short-term line of credit to cover the costs.

In November, the foundation vowed to completely pay off the promised $2 million, allowing the city to substantially pay down on its loan for the project.

By mid-October, the city’s finance department showed that the range had an actual profit of $550 through the end of August.

Laura Collie, the assistant finance director who reviewed all the figures, said, “Our figures are correct.” Former Jacksonville Finance Director Paul Mushrush also combed through the numbers and agreed.


Cabot passed a sales tax in 2014 to cover a multitude of major projects to be built in the next few years.

Sherwood saw numerous new businesses open up during the year, as did Beebe.

Jacksonville announced an $18 million medical center deal toward the end of the year.

In Cabot, the parks and recreation commission ap-proved the $5.3 million bid from CWR Construction in late May for the Cabot Sports Complex on Hwy. 321 and Allman/Bevis softball field.

The commission still has to bid out the water park, field lighting, parking lot and the concession stand.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the $13.5 million sports and aquatic complex off Hwy. 321 near Holland Bottoms Farm was held in late June. The $5.3 million sports complex is part of the overall project.

Parks Director John Crow said, “This facility will not only meet the immediate needs of the community, but also those of an area that will continue to grow as we improve our facilities and services around the city.”

The sports complex will have nine baseball fields, two football fields, playgrounds, batting cages, pavilions and a walking track, lighting and a concession stand. It will open in fall 2015.

The water park will have a four-lane swimming pool, a slide pool, a walk-in pool, a lazy winding river, a bathhouse, a concession stand and outdoor private party area. It should open in summer 2015.

Money for the ballpark and water park projects comes from the one-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2013. The tax also supports a $42 million bond issue for sewer improvements, a new freeway interchange, a new library and drainage work.

Sherwood saw its share of growth in 2014 with a medical call center bringing 250 new jobs, Ace Hardware and a Mapco service station and convenience opening up during the year. And a groundbreaking for Whit Davis lumber was held. Those are just some of the 14 economic projects that were finished or started in Sherwood in 2014.

There was also a new CVS Pharmacy, an animal hospital, Telcoe Federal Credit Union and Subway. Harps Food Stores announced it would open a new facility in Gravel Ridge.

Jacksonville city officials announced in October their plan to bring an $18 million medical complex to the city near North Metro.

Construction of a three-building outpatient ambulatory care campus across the street from North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville will start in 2015, according to Michael Arvin, managing director of Alliance Strategic Health Advisors.

The campus will be built on a vacant 9.25 acres with the potential of expanding to a maximum of 13 acres, he said. Construction could take between 12 and 16 months.

The preliminary plan includes a 30,000-square-foot specialty clinic that may cost $6 million; a 40,000- to 60,000-square foot medical office building with space for primary care physicians, specialty physicians, dentists, social workers, a pharmacy, therapy services and nutritionists that may cost $12 million; accommodations for outpatient services; and the ability to develop a freestanding outpatient surgery center that can deliver high-quality, same-day surgery.

Beebe is in the midst of a commercial building boom. The new Walmart is in full swing, and the city has received plans for a new AutoZone parts store.

The city has also received site plans for The Shoppes at Beebe. The shopping center will have a Dollar Tree, Hibbett Sports, a Pizza Hut WingStreet restaurant, a fitness center and other businesses.

And City Attorney Barrett Rogers is moving his law office to a new business complex on Dewitt Henry Drive. It will be home to the Beebe Flower Shop, Merle Norman cosmetic store and Sunset Breeze sandwich restaurant.

Another shopping center, Shadow Center, near the highway is planned, too. That deal closed in April.

“We are an excellent trade area with the population and access to all the highways. Retail and commercial developers are seeing that it’s beneficial to be here, and we are growing in housing too,” Mayor Mike Robertson said, adding that there are about 200 new homes in the works.


The Cabot School District’s newest building, the $22 million Freshman Academy for ninth graders, opened on Aug. 18 — the first day of school.

Many students who picked up their schedules with their parents were wide-eyed and opened-mouthed as they walked into the school.

The campus layout is similar to Cabot High School. It has four buildings with 73 classrooms, a meeting room, a media center with adjoining computer lab, a career, agriculture and construction center and a gym.

“The decision to develop a specialized program in a state- of-the-art facility for our freshmen will have a significant and very positive impact on many students for many years to come,” Thurman said.

There are Smart TVs connected to the Internet that can show a teacher’s computer desktop to students. The kids can show their work on the TVs while using tablets, iPads and Chromebook laptop computers.

North Pulaski High School Senior Jesse Ringgold was honored in February as one of the school’s first National Merit Scholarship finalists.

School counselor Debra Stanchak said Ringgold being a National Merit finalist gave North Pulaski High School a big sense of pride.

“It puts North Pulaski on the map. We’re proud of Jesse. He is a hard working kid. He is humble, easy going and extremely bright,” Stanchak said.

Senior Katie McGraw was a National Merit Scholarship finalist for Beebe High School. She is the second Beebe student to earn the achievement in three years.

School counselor Connie Sheren said, “We are proud. Katie is an excellent student. It is not something we have every year.”

Cabot High School had 10 National Merit Scholarship finalists, double the number from 2013.

Aaron Randolph, director of gifted and advance placement programs for the school district, said the 2014 National Merit finalists for Cabot was one of the largest groups in the past 12 years.

Cabot High School’s National Merit finalists are seniors Anna Applegate, Matthew Bilberry, Benjamin Brannon, Robert Brockel, Kyle Cox, Mark Howard, Grant Reed, Reid Simpson, Kegan Skinner and Caleb Southard.

On Jan. 10, area schools were awarded a total of $425,000 for excellence in student performance, academic growth and graduation rates (for high schools).

The Cabot School District had five schools receive monetary awards. Searcy had four, and Beebe had one.

Cabot Middle School North and its counterpart, Cabot Middle School South, were recognized for being in the top 10 percent of state schools in student performance and academic growth. Cabot North was awarded $77, 935, and Cabot South got $71,222.

Cabot’s Mountain Springs Elementary was also in the top 10 percent and received $39,083.

Two other Cabot schools finished in the top 20 percent. They were Cabot Junior High North, receiving $55, 231, and Magness Creek Elementary, getting $16,326.

Searcy had two schools in the top 10 percent and two schools in the top 20 percent.

Ahlf Junior High School and Westside elementary were in the top 10 percent, receiving $57,262 and $41,867, respectively.

In the top 20 percent were McRae Elementary with $20, 403 and Southwest Middle School with $46,188.

Beebe Elementary School was in the top 20 percent and received $17,980.

Overall, the state gave out about $7 million to more than 200 state schools.

According to results released in July, all the third graders at Stagecoach Elementary in Cabot scored proficient or advanced on the math portion of the state-mandated Benchmark exams given to third through eighth graders in April.

Those same third graders also blew past the state average in literacy with 93 percent of them scoring proficient or advanced.

Mountain Springs, Magness Creek and Northside, all in Cabot, also did well, along with third graders from England.

At the fourth grade level, Arnold Drive Elementary was on top in the Pulaski County Special School District and the area with a proficiency rate of 91 percent in math and 95 percent in literacy. Cabot’s Mountain Springs, Stagecoach, Northside and Southside also did well.

All the Arnold Drive Elementary fifth graders who took the literacy portion of the Benchmark exam scored advanced — one of the few groups of fifth graders in the state to do so.

Warren Dupree fifth graders jumped 30 points on the math portion, going from 39 percent proficient or advanced in 2013 to 69 percent this year, moving them above their district’s and the state average.

The sixth graders at Jacksonville Lighthouse’s Flightline Upper Academy did much better than state averages in both math and literacy, scoring 94 percent in math and 91 percent in literacy. Based on benchmark scores, the academy has been rated in the top 15 percent of middle schools in the state, according to schooldigger.com.

Cabot students also continue to do well with the fifth graders at Cabot Middle School South scoring 94 percent or better in literacy. Sixth graders at Cabot Middle School North had a 90 percent proficiency rate in math.


At Jacksonville Middle School, only about four out of 10 students scored proficient or better on the annual Benchmark exams. The school’s eighth graders were the worst in the Pulaski County Special School District with only 28 percent scoring proficient or advanced. Almost 40 percent of the students scored below basic.

Like Jacksonville, neither the seventh nor the eighth graders at England reached the state average.

In November, according to the state, all Jacksonville and Sherwood schools except two need improvement — some more than others.

The only two schools in the Jacksonville-Sherwood area to make achieving were the Jacksonville Lighthouse College Prep Academy and the Flightline Upper Academy.

The rest of the PCSSD campuses in Sherwood and Jacksonville ranked in the bottom three categories, and the district itself was rated as “needs improvement” by the state.

Oakbrooke, Arnold Drive, Pinewood, Cato, Sylvan Hills, Sherwood, Tolleson, Clinton, Warren Dupree and Bayou Meto (all elementary schools), Northwood, Sylvan Hills and Jacksonville middle schools and North Pulaski High School were listed as “needs improvement” schools.

Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter elementary and middle schools, along with Lisa Academy North’s elementary, middle and high school campuses, were also in the needs improvement category.

Jacksonville High School and Murrell Taylor Elementary were labeled “needs improvement focus” schools

Harris Elementary was listed as a “needs improvement priority” school.

According to the same rankings, Lonoke had no achieving schools and neither did Beebe. All Lonoke and Beebe schools need improvement, according to the state.

And so did every school in Searcy but one. Westside Elementary has been declared achieving by the state.

Cabot also had just one achieving school — only Southside Elementary.

The Leader was the first to report that a murderer who was serving a life sentence without parole was installing a wall mat at the Cabot Junior High North gym in September as part of a prison work-release program.

The killer, Glenn Martin Green, had been part of a factory and repair program at the Tucker Unit since 1990.

Green, 60, is a former Air Force sergeant who, in 1974, kidnapped 18-year-old Helen Lynette Spencer at Little Rock Air Force Base. Then he raped, tortured and killed her outside Jacksonville.

Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman confirmed that Green was working at the school gym.

“We purchase our safety mats for gyms from ACI (Arkansas Correctional Industries),” Thurman wrote in an email. “Evidently, most schools use ACI and we’ve used them in the past.”

Cabot has stopped the practice of allowing inmates to work on school property.


Large portions of both Sherwood and Jacksonville are considered “dry,” meaning no alcohol may be sold or served unless the business has a private club permit.

These dry areas are a result of township votes from about 60 years ago. About 50 percent of Sherwood and 90 percent of Jacksonville is dry.

Because the townships no longer exist, a state law was passed allowing for a new vote as long as 38 percent of the registered voters in the affected areas sign a petition to put the issue on the ballot. That worked out to about 4,200 signatures for Sherwood and 4,400 for Jacksonville.

A study by the University of Arkansas figures Sherwood is losing out on about $10 million a year in local sales because of its dry section.

Sherwood Chamber of Commerce executive director Marcia Cook said Kroger had considered building a store in the Gravel Ridge area several years ago but didn’t because it couldn’t sell alcohol there. The chain remodeled its store on JFK Boulevard in North Little Rock instead, she noted.

Sherwood and Jacksonville hired, through a shared contract, a firm to help gather the signatures it needed.

But Sherwood’s effort was put on hold as a state drive was started to allow alcohol sales and service anywhere in the state. The city halted its effort to not confuse voters and backed the state effort.

Enough signatures were collected to put the statewide measure on the November ballot. Jacksonville voters favored the proposed law in the general election, but statewide totals soundingly defeated it. In Sherwood, 51 percent voted against the statewide initiative.

Sherwood is still getting everything ready to move forward now, while Amy Mattison with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce told The Leader about 400 more signatures are needed to bring the issue to a local vote.


The area saw only two homicides in 2014. One in occurred in northern Pulaski County back in March, and the other one happened in Jacksonville less than two weeks ago.

Arthur Lockhart Jr., 35, was charged in the March stabbing death of Steven Thomas Miller, 28, outside The Hangar, a north Pulaski County bar.

Miller had supposedly refereed to Lockhart’s wife using the “n” word.

Lockhart and his wife, Tere Rowshell Lockhart, 35, were both charged with second-degree murder. Both have police records.

Two witnesses told police they saw Miller and Tere Lockhart arguing before the stabbing. Three witnesses said they saw Arthur Lockhart attack Miller.

One of the witnesses told police she saw Tere Lockhart push the victim’s face and hit him with heel of a boot she was holding.

There was blood on the boot when an officer found it, according to the report.

Miller was lying on the ground, unresponsive with a faint heartbeat and shallow breathing. According to the report, there were two puncture wounds in his abdomen and one puncture wound on the left side of his neck.

Miller was taken to North Metro Medical Center, where he died about an hour later.

The second incident occurred when an argument broke out among friends at a party.

Brandon Ethridge, 26, was shot Dec. 21 at a party on Noble Road that turned bad. Police responding to a “shots fired” call stopped a vehicle carrying the victim as the car was on its way to the hospital. Ethridge was taken via Med Flight to Baptist Hospital, where he was treated for multiple gunshot wounds and later died in surgery.

The shooter has been identified as Christopher Leggett, 27, of Jacksonville, but no charges have been filed as police are trying to determine if the shooting was a case of self-defense like some witnesses have said.

A local woman was killed in the summer of 2013, but arrests in that gruesome murder weren’t made until late January 2014.

Dennis Harrington, 42, the boyfriend of a woman reported missing from the Woodlawn area between Beebe and Lonoke was charged in January with capital murder and abuse of a corpse. The victim was 36-year-old Rebecca Lauer.

Harrington had been in prison for violating parole since he was arrested in September for kidnapping and domestic battery involving Lauer.

The warrant for his arrest on the latest charge showed that statements from witnesses and evidence collected at his home indicated that Harrington killed Lauer on the evening of July 21 and then, with the help of a friend, burned her body on a pile of tires behind his home.

His friend, Steve Boulanger, 37, was charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution and abuse of a corpse because he allegedly lied to law officials and helped to burn the body.

Friday, December 26, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Hogs resuming an old rivalry

Special to The Leader

The football world won’t end for Monday night’s Advocare Texas Bowl loser in Houston – the bowl that pits a pair of 6-6 teams trying to rebuild toward matching their former Southwest Conference days.

Arkansas of the SEC and Texas of the Big 12 kick off at 8 p.m. Monday on ESPN at the NFL Houston Texans’ NRG Stadium.

For second-year coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks, who are coming off a 3-9, 0-8 in the SEC 2013 season, just going 6-6 beat the odds.

All eight of the Razorbacks’ SEC games were played against teams ranked at the time in the AP national Top 20, including six in the Top Ten. Among four nonconference games, the Hogs visited the Big 12’s Texas Tech and hosted a Northern Illinois team then holding the nation’s longest road game winning streak.

Arkansas swept all four nonconference games. In the SEC, Arkansas skunked 17th-ranked LSU 17-0 and eighth-ranked Ole Miss 30-0 for its two league wins. And other than the second half against Auburn and first half against Georgia, was competitive throughout every SEC game, including nail-biting losses to present No. 1 Alabama, then No. 1 Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Missouri.

Already buoyed by junior 1,000-yard rusher Jonathan Williams’ announcement on Christmas Eve to return for his 2015 senior year and not turn pro, the Razorbacks can build off defeat in Houston. But they would much rather build off a victory, and not just because it would insure a winning season instead of a losing one. It would mean they beat Texas, still the team many Razorbacks fans want to beat more than any other team, despite that Arkansas and Texas last played a Southwest Conference game in 1991.

The rivalry used to have national reverberations when 90-year-old retired athletic director Frank Broyles coached Arkansas and the late fellow Hall of Famer Darrell Royal coached Texas.

After hearing from Broyles about this bowl selection, Bielema said, “It gave me chills. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and it gave me a full circle of what it means to play Texas to a certain generation and how much has to be carried forward to our players.”

First-year Texas coach Charlie Strong, an Arkansan from Batesville, also knows his Longhorns can live with a loss, but would live a whole lot better beating an Arkansas team that Texas has defeated 56 times out of 77 matchups in the rivalry’s history. The staunchest of Longhorn fans still bitterly anguished over each of those 21 defeats.

Both teams mostly rely on defense.

Texas All-American tackle Malcom Brown, fellow 300-pounds-plus tackle Hassan Ridgeway and linebackers Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks combine for 49 tackles behind the line for negative 174 yards.

Arkansas senior first-team All-SEC linebacker Martrell Spaight leads the SEC with 123 tackles. He, along with senior All-SEC second-team defensive end Trey Flowers and sophomore All-SEC second-team tackle Darius Philon combined for 32 tackles-for-loss for negative 146 yards.

Overall, the secondary behind Arkansas’ heralded trio is the Razorbacks’ most improved defensive aspect from last season.

Texas’ offense has struggled, losing starting quarterback David Ash early in the season to a career-ending injury.

However, sophomore replacement Tyrone Swoopes, 6-4, 243, reminds Arkansas backup defensive end and Forrest City High grad Tevin Beanum of Dak Prescott, the Mississippi State first-team All-SEC quarterback.

“He’s a bigger guy but he can move,” Beanum said. “We have to be aware that he likes to take it up vertical and out of the pocket.”

Swoopes’ passing can be erratic with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but he has a 1,000-yard receiver in John Harris, 64 for 1,015 and a good possession receiver, Jaxon Shipley, 58 for 571.

Malcolm Brown, no relation to defensive tackle Malcom Brown, leads Texas’s rushers with 176 carries for 683 yards.

Arkansas junior quarterback Brandon Allen is 178 for 316 for 2,125 yards and 18 touchdowns and just five picks, a dramatic improvement from last season. All is also improved physically since Arkansas’ last game. In the regular-season finale at Missouri, Allen injured his oblique muscle, which impaired him immensely from rolling out in the second half of the SEC finale at Missouri.

The running game is Arkansas’ strength, though the Hogs found it harder to run against SEC defenses than their nonconference foes. Williams is just one of two 1,000-yard backs this year with 1,085 yards. Sophomore Alex Collins has rushed for 1,024.

Arkansas has played a tougher schedule than Texas and has the more impressive wins with its shutouts of then No. 8 and No. 17th-ranked teams.

A 33-16 decision over 24th-ranked West Virginia is Texas’ most impressive victory. The ‘Horns were routed 41-7, 28-7 and 48-10 by Brigham Young and 11-1 Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU.

To Las Vegas odds makers, all that has added up to Arkansas being favored by six to 6.5 points.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville dominates fourth, defeats Central

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils struggled a little more with the 2-6 Tigers of Little Rock Central than coach Vic Joyner would’ve liked, but they closed with a dominant fourth quarter that Joyner liked very much, earning a 69-54 win in the last game of the McDonald’s Red Devil Classic at JHS on Tuesday.

“We didn’t come out with the kind of intensity I want to see, but big teams are going to give us trouble,” said Joyner. “That’s a big team and we had to adjust how to attack and defend. We weren’t getting a body on a body in the first half and they were getting a lot of second-chance points. We did a better job of rebounding in the second half and we did a better job of attacking the basket. It was a much better performance overall, than the one (Monday).”

The night before, Joyner said there was nothing good to take away from a 60-47 win against Catholic. He was much more pleased on Tuesday, especially with his starting unit and with three players particularly.

Devin Campbell, Tyree Appleby and Tedrick Wolfe combined for 55 of the team’s 69 points. That trio scarcely left the floor throughout the game, a marked difference from the wholesale substitutions frequently seen throughout Jacksonville’s pre-conference season.

“It’s conference time now,” Joyner said. “We got to go with who we got to go with. We need those guys on the floor and these other ones are going to have to just be ready when their number is called. We’re still going to go pretty deep down the bench, but now is the time when it starts to count. We have to go with who we have to go with.”

The Tigers controlled the pace early, slowing the tempo with a 1-2-2 zone defense.

Appleby, a sophomore point guard, scored all three of Jacksonville’s field goals in the opening frame while Campbell added one free throw. Central held a 12-7 lead at the end of one quarter, but Jacksonville found a way to push the pace in the second frame.

The Red Devils took their first lead of the game with 5:20 left in the first half. Campbell grabbed a defensive rebound and went the distance of the floor for a layup that put the Classic hosts up 18-17.

With full-court pressure, Jacksonville extended that margin to 30-23 by halftime. A 3-pointer by Braylon James set the score at the break.

The Tigers again controlled the pace in the third quarter, but didn’t control the boards like they did in the first half.

Central managed to close the gap to 49-44 by the end of the third, but also began to struggle to contain Campbell in the lane. The 6-foot-3 Campbell scored nine points in the third quarter, including five at the foul line, where he continued to find himself in the fourth period.

The Red Devils grabbed control of the game quickly in the fourth quarter, opening the frame with an 8-0 run for a 57-44 lead.

Central didn’t lose any further ground, but couldn’t get enough defensive stops to gain any ground. Wolfe and Campbell controlled the inside while James buried two more 3-pointers to keep the Tigers at bay.

Jacksonville began to put on a show in the final minute against the fatigued Tigers. Campbell spotted a crease in the Tiger defense with a minute left and exploded down the lane for a thunderous two-handed dunk. Appleby then stole a cross-court pass and dished to Wolfe for another two-hander that went for Jacksonville’s final points of the night.

Central’s Donald Richardson scored with 10 seconds left to set the final margin.

Forward Brennan Johnson led the Tigers with 20 points and eight boards while center Raekwon Rogers added 12 points and five rebounds.

Campbell led all scorers with 26 points and added eight rebounds. He shot 14 of Jacksonville’s 15 free-throw attempts, and made all 10 of the Red Devils’ successful foul shots.

Appleby finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Wolfe recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and added four blocked shots and three assists. James added nine for Jacksonville on 3 of 6 shooting from outside the arc.

Central shot 30 percent from the floor on 21 of 70 shooting while Jacksonville hit 26 of 59 for 44 percent. Both teams made 5 of 20 three-point attempts and Central hit 7 of 11 from the foul stripe. Jacksonville won the rebounding battle 36-35.

Both teams next play on Jan. 6. Central hosts Catholic in the 7A-Central Conference opener while Jacksonville hosts J.A. Fair in the 5A-Central opener.

SPORTS STORY >> NP boys outlast Rockets

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Falcons closed the Red Devil Classic with a 66-56 overtime win over Catholic High on Tuesday at Jacksonville High School. The Falcons lost 61-58 to Little Rock Central in game one on Monday after leading from the opening tip until only one minute remained in the game.

Tuesday’s game was a back-and-forth affair, but North Pulaski still led throughout the fourth quarter before again having trouble closing the deal.

North Pulaski’s De’Marik Brown hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds remaining that broke a brief tie. Catholic’s Lance Harville-Thomas then got a bucket at the other end and the Rockets fouled Isaiah Brown. He hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it a two-point game. The Falcons then fouled Harville-Thomas, who drained both free throws with seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.

“It kind of got to me a little bit,” said North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson about losing a fourth-quarter lead for the second-straight game. “The night before we lost to Central the exact same way. We didn’t knock down free throws when we had a chance to put the game away. But the kids responded to the challenge in overtime. You worry when you’re the team that lost the lead about them having the momentum.”

Catholic, however, looked spent in the extra period. Passes floated and turned into NP steals, and outside shots fell short.

“We turned up the intensity in the second half and I think our half-court and full-court trap was getting to them,” Jackson said. “And I think playing Jacksonville the night before and dealing with the same thing, their guards were just tired. You could see it in the overtime. Everything they put up fell short and we weren’t making it easy for them.”

The Falcons still didn’t shoot free throws well in the overtime, making just 4 of 9 and finishing the game 6 of 14.

“We have to shoot free throws better than that, but we have to do a better job of getting to the line than that too,” Jackson said. “We only shot five free throws in regulation. We have some kids that can shoot, but we have to have someone get some penetration and score the basketball or get to the line.”

Catholic led 25-20 at halftime but North Pulaski’s best quarter was the third, when it outscored the Rockets 23-12 to take a 43-37 lead into the final frame.

De’Marik Brown led the Falcons, 2-8, with 25 points while Isaiah Brown finished with 12. Brandon England added 10 for North Pulaski.

Harville-Thomas scored 20 for the Rockets (1-9) while Jacob Stone added 12.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils ward off charging Lady Falcons

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils saw a huge lead almost completely evaporate before regrouping for a 54-47 win over crosstown rival North Pulaski on Tuesday. It was a nonconference matchup between in the two 5A-Central teams on the second day of play in the McDonald’s Red Devil Classic at JHS.

The Lady Red Devils totally dominated the first two and a half quarters of play, holding the Lady Falcons without a field goal until the 4:19 mark of the second quarter. The home team took a 31-12 lead into halftime and extended the lead to its largest at 39-17 in the third quarter. From that point until the halfway point of the fourth quarter, North Pulaski went on a 26-5 run to pull within 44-43 with 4:24 remaining.

Jacksonville coach William Rountree called three timeouts to try and stem the tide before it got that close, but the Lady Falcon run continued until it reached one point.

From there, Jacksonville scored the next six-straight to reclaim control of the game, holding a 50-43 lead with 1:49 remaining.

North Pulaski sophomore Allison Seats led the Lady Falcons’ second-half surge, scoring 19 of her 25 points in the second half. She was a focal point of Jacksonville’s defensive game plan entering the game.

“We knew coming in that No. 12 (Seats) is a great little player,” said Rountree of the 5-foot-1 Seats. “I think we got a big lead and we got comfortable. But you know we’re still battling from an experience standpoint, and this was a good learning experience for us. Hopefully we learned a good lesson tonight. We still got a win and we’ll get better from it.”

North Pulaski coach Stacy Dalmut took little consolation in her team’s valiant comeback – noting her team’s sudden lack of spark when the run came to an end one point short.

“We got right there but we didn’t finish it,” said Dalmut. “I don’t know why were dominated like that for a brief while and then stopped. Maybe we were tired but that just means we have to be in better shape. The main thing is we have to come out like that from the beginning, and play the whole game that way. If we’ll just do that, we’ll beat this team.”

Two free throws by Seats and one by Ilycia Carter were all the points NP could muster in the first quarter as Jacksonville guard Antrice McCoy dominated the early action. She scored 11 of Jacksonville’s 12 first-quarter points. The Lady Red Devils got three steals on three-straight NP possessions to start the second quarter to take a 19-3 lead with five minutes left in the half. McCoy scored 15 of her 26 in the first half.

Jerrica Hardaway scored the basket that gave Jacksonville its biggest lead before the Lady Falcons mounted their furious rally. The gap closed from 39-17 to 42-31 by the end of the third quarter. NP then opened the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run, including nine in a row to get it to 44-43.

Seats provided the game’s highlight reel play during the fourth-quarter run. She got a steal in the backcourt and drove to the bucket towards McCoy, who was alone to defend the fast break. McCoy fouled Seats and spun her away from the basket, but Seats flipped the ball backwards over her head and scored to set up the and-1 free throw. She made the foul shot but a lane violation nullified it, leaving the score 44-38 with 5:03 remaining in the game.

Jacksonville then missed two free throws and Carter completed an and-1 at the other end to make it 44-41. Seats then got another steal and hit a short jumper to cut the margin to one point.

Missed free throws by Jacksonville played a huge role in North Pulaski’s comeback as well. Jacksonville made just 6 of 18 foul shots during NP’s run, and just 11 of 29 for the game.

“You’re not going to win very many like that,” Rountree said. “That’s an area we’ve struggled all season, but there’s no reason we can’t shoot better than 35 percent.”

It was, ironically, at the foul line where Jacksonville finally sealed the game. Post player Tatiana Lacy hit 3 of 4 in the final minute to extend the Lady Devils’ lead.

The Lady Falcons made 12 of 22 free throws and field-goal percentage was bad by both teams.

Jacksonville (5-7) made 20 of 64 for 31.3 percent, while North Pulaski (3-8) hit 16 of 62 shots for 25.8 percent. North Pulaski outrebounded Jacksonville 37-36.

Lacy finished second in scoring for Jacksonville with eight points, and led the team with eight rebounds. Carter finished with 11 points and six rebounds for NP, while Raigen Thomas, who fouled out with 2:11 remaining, finished with seven points and 10 rebounds for NP.

North Pulaski is off for two weeks before resuming play on Jan. 6 at home in the conference opener against Pulaski Academy. Jacksonville also opens conference play at home on Jan. 6 against J.A. Fair.

EDITORIAL >> Who loves fruitcake?

A few times every year, I question God’s intentions.

In the summertime, I wonder why He created mosquitoes, and, in the wintertime, I wonder what He was thinking when He allowed fruitcake to come into this world.

If an employee gets a fruitcake from the boss, the first thought is: “Oh my, I’m going to be fired.” A fruitcake from a friend means you are definitely no longer Best Friends Forever. And a fruitcake from the Mafia, well, that’s worse than a horse’s head in bed.

In fact, according to the late, great Johnny Carson, “There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”

It’s amazing how most people — nearly everyone — dislikes, despises and even hates fruitcake. It is probably the most re-gifted gift around Christmastime. Get one this year, hang onto it and re-gift it next year. I got a fruitcake last year that was made in 1956, and it looked just as good, or bad, as it did the first year it came out.

Now, my Uncle Leroy is different when it comes to fruitcake. He loves the stuff. He loves it so much that neighbors in a four-block radius of his house no longer use the fruitcake for a doorstop or an emergency brick to plug a hole in the wall. They all give the darn things to my uncle — and he snacks on them all year long. Of course, you’ve got to know my uncle; he is the exception to many things.

But how did this plague on humanity get started? And yes, I know it’s not God’s fault.

It’s the fault of those pesky colonists and their cheap sugar.

It was either a Quaker or Puritan, no one knows for sure, who discovered that fruit could be preserved by soaking it in successively greater concentrations of sugar, intensifying color and flavor. Not only could native plums and cherries be conserved. Soon fruits were being imported in candied form from other parts of the world.

Having so much sugar-laced fruit engendered the need to dispose of it in some way — thus the fruitcake. By the early 19th Century, the typical recipe was heavy as lead with citrus peel, pineapples, plums, dates, pears and cherries.

Fruitcake nuts were also an American idea, probably because America’s foremost fruitcake makers — Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, and Claxton Bakery of Claxton, Ga. — were in rural Southern communities with a surplus of cheap nuts — hence the phrase “nutty as a fruitcake.”

Unlike local mosquitoes that seemingly increase in population every summer, the number of fruitcakes populating landfills is decreasing, partially because of new laws that say no one can place an item that never dissolves or decomposes in a dump, and partially because so few people buy the stuff.

But the fruitcake will never completely disappear, drats!

It is needed for the annual Great Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Springs, Colo., where, if you don’t own a fruitcake, you can rent one for 25 cents.

And my uncle would surely die if his closet isn’t wall-to-wall fruitcake. So, if you received a dreaded fruitcake this season and need my uncle’s address, just let me know. — Rick Kron

TOP STORY >> Broker celebrates 30-year career

Leader staff writer

Jack Meadows, an executive broker at Doug Wilkinson Realty in Jacksonville, recently celebrated his 30th year with the company.

Meadows, 78, joined DWR in 1984 after a 25-year career in the Air Force and four years as a social worker.

Meadows said he was retired and looking for a job with a flexible schedule. He wanted something interesting and to work with people. He bought his first home from Doug Wilkinson.

“I do it because I love it,” Meadows said.

“In real estate, you have to know yourself. It is a people business,” he noted.

Meadows thought about starting his own realty company, but chose to be a broker with DWR rather than deal with learning all the regulations.

“I could be retired, but I love real estate,” Meadows said.

He also said he works to keep himself active. Meadows plans to continue his career in realty for a few more years.

“I help out other agents when I can,” he said.

Meadows earned an Graduate Realtor Institute designation from the National Association of Realtors. He also has a certified residential specialist designation.

He has been a member of the education and grievance committee and is a life member of the North Pulaski Board of Realtors.

Meadows was living in Jonesboro when he dropped out school after the eighth grade to care for his aging father, a World War I veteran, and help raise his three younger siblings after his parents divorced.

He joined the Air Force in 1954. Meadows was a mechanic, an instructor at the Air Force Leadership School and a senior Titan II missile program instructor.

Meadows earned his General Education Development certificate in 1957. He started taking college classes in 1965 and graduated from Louisiana Tech with a bachelor’s degree in social science in 1974. He earned a master’s degree in human relations from Webster University in 1976.

“I enjoy learning and teaching. My goal was to serve in the military and get all the educational experience that I could,” Meadows said.

TOP STORY >> Living WAGE: Job skills for adults

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Adult Education Center is where adults can better their lives and open the door to more job opportunities.

Located near the railroad overpass on 104 S. First St., the center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Evening classes are offered from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

The center has four instructors and classes to help adult students obtain WAGE certificates and Microsoft Suite certifications. It also offers General Educational Development classes to prepare for the GED test and English as a second language classes.

The Jacksonville center is part of the Arkansas Department of Career Education and the Pulaski County Special School District’s Adult Education-Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy program.

“People think the adult education center is for college or vocational school. It is for people getting their GED and computer literacy skills for the workplace,” Jacksonville center instructor Kathy Middlebrooks said.


The Jacksonville center can help students prepare for the GED test.

Middlebrooks explained that students first take the Test of Adult Basic Education to determine what areas they need to study.

Then students take the GED Ready, a practice test for the GED that costs $24. The GED test costs $16 and is subsidized by the state. It is given at the Adult Education Center at 4300 Haywood St. in North Little Rock.

A graduation is held in the spring for students who pass the GED test. The state issues them an Arkansas High School diploma.

Middlebrooks said some students are apprehensive about the new GED test, which is taken on a computer.

“Being on the computer, you get same-day results. No more waiting for weeks or months to find out if you passed,” Middlebrooks said.

The GED test is aligned with the new high school standards.

“It really measures your abilities compared to a high school student,” Middlebrooks said.


Jade Carpenter, 18, of Sherwood is trying to get her GED. She wants to go to the Arts Institute in Nashville and be a tattoo artist.

Carpenter dropped out of school this year and is living with her aunt in Sherwood. She had the opportunity to go back to high school but chose to get her GED instead.

“I was really immature. There was way too much drama at Vilonia High School. I want to get my GED so I can prove my parents wrong. They didn’t believe in me. I was kicked out of my home after turning 18. My parents said that I would be a dropout, pregnant and wouldn’t amount to anything,” Carpenter said.

Angelia Hamilton, 50, of Little Rock needs a GED for a job. She dropped out of North Pulaski High School in the 11th grade because her mom gave her a choice; either enter the workforce and earn money or continue to go to school in special-education classes.

Hamilton said she was 16 when she was hired as a bookbinder at a factory, making $300 a week. “(Now) when I was looking for work, (employers) would ask if I had a GED or high school diploma, but then they would not give a second chance,” Hamilton said.


The Arkansas Department of Career Education has partnered with Microsoft Information Technology Academy for students to earn certificates in advanced levels of proficiency in PowerPoint, Word, Excel and Outlook computer programs. The training is offered at no charge.

Theresa Duke of Jacksonville, who is unemployed, is working on getting certified in Microsoft Suite. She is updating her skills in Microsoft Suite 2010 because her former employer was using Microsoft 2007 and recently upgraded to Microsoft 2013.

“The program is great. I’ve found this beneficial, and I’ve learned a lot. They’ve been easy to work with. I’m able to work at my own pace,” Duke said.


The WAGE program offers free job skills training and certificates in industrial, customer service, banking, employability and office technology. Many businesses partnered with the WAGE program recognize the WAGE job training certificates.

The WAGE center has a career coach to help people with their resumes. The center teaches them how to fill out job applications, interviewing skills and how to apply for college aid. A nutritionist comes in on Tuesdays to teach them about healthy eating tips.

For more information, or to enroll, call 501-985-3560.

TOP STORY >> 2014 Year in Review

Compiled by RICK KRON

Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series looking back at 2014. The first three articles looked at the major headlines, while the fourth will review the Top 10 storylines of the year.

The historic birthing of a school district, candidate debates and the elections occupied most of the news space during the last four months of the year.


• Silence from sound study deafening – Eight weeks later, officials don’t know why noise expert hasn’t completed his work at Jacksonville firing range.

• Bomb threat at CJHS causes lockdown – Perpetrators will be expelled, superintendent says.

• New district would build two schools – Land offered by the air base may be site for district’s new high school.

• Lake is sending water to Beebe – $56 million project will supply several communities in the group.

• Ward homeowners to save on insurance – New rating means resident will pay less because city offers better fire protection.

• High on hope, shooting range shows a deficit – an increase in sales tax would bring a small profit to Jacksonville facility.

• State highway funds depleted – Switch road-user tax to the Highway Department or increase fuel tax, director says.

• Historic vote establishes new district – Group will now ask state to approve new district and election school board next September.

• Revenue increase credited to range – Prepared food sales tax has seen some of the its best summer months in years.

• Killer worked at Cabot school gym – Murderer was part of a prison work crew at the junior high.

• Pit bull kills neighbor’s horse – Restitution sought as dog owner pleads not guilty in court and animal is placed in quarantine.

• Thurman honored as state’s top chief – Cabot superintendent wins second statewide honor for his leadership in growing school district.

• Cabot ends prison labor in schools – Controversy over a convicted murderer working at a school brings ban.

• Weekend festivals go head to head – Jacksonville, Sherwood and Searcy hope for big crowds at their city-sponsored fun-filled events.

• Runway, landing strip overhaul – A $107 million contract will replace or resurface LRAFB runway, landing strip, along with new lights and navigational aids.

• Metroplan offers ambitious agenda – Central Arkansas group to seek public comment on 25-year plan, including $19.5 billion for transportation, development, maintenance and repairs.

• Mayor hopefuls speak of plans – Incumbent Gary Fletcher and challenger Gary Sipes share visions for city with chamber of commerce members.


• School funding needs tweaking – Jacksonville optimistic state matching will be there for facilities.

• Suspect: Long life of crime – Arron Lewis, charged in the death of a real estate agent, is a serial offender who was paroled in 2013. His wife, Crystal Lowery, was arrested later and also faces capital murder and kidnapping charges.

• Medical complex for Jacksonville – Vacant 9.25-acre lot will have clinic, outpatient and surgery center, doctors’ offices and more.

• Veteran lawman for Austin police – Lt. James Kulesa of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office nabs top city law job.

• CabotFest looks to a big weekend – the annual festival marks the rebirth of a resilient community after deadly tornado.

• Cabot academy touts freshman – The new $22 million campus offers ninth graders more state-of-the-art features.

• Greystone residents balk at obligatory fee – Attempt to save golf course with annual levy on nearby residents brings out opposition.

• Contest gets mean, nasty – Raucous Second District race pits former NLR mayor and banker.

• Conway convict guilty of murders – Family of Cabot couple weeps, join hands as verdict is read.

• Pit bull owner innocent – Judge says Lonoke County vicious dog ordinance not violated when dog attacked and killed horse.

• Candidates take jabs in debate – Jacksonville mayoral hopefuls in the firing line during an appearance at the community center.

• Mayor of Cabot and his predecessor defend records – Cypert seeks another term as Stumbaugh is hoping for a comeback.

• Firing range financials show small profit – Critics say officials cover up losses at new facility, but Jacksonville defends numbers.

• Foundation will pay off range grant – The shooting complex will receive funds to shrink $3 million loan.

• Doolittle Award goes to historic 19th AW – Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base gets a major award for decades of global achievement.

• Fletcher, Sipes: They both won – Candidates for Jacksonville mayor take a critical look back on their debate’s pros and cons.

• Issues for trio key to victory – Mayoral candidates Virginia Hillman, Doris Anderson and Don Berry talk about the future of Sherwood.

• AARP hosts Stumbaugh, Cypert duel – Mayor lists investments in library, sports complex, highway interchange while predecessor denies he mismanaged city hall.

• Easing flooding on city agenda – Sherwood subdivision residents promised relief from aldermen and others.

• Interim school board names down to 10 – Many familiar names make the cut and interviews set for early November.

• Chamber searches for chief – Amy Mattison steps down from top post, but stays as events coordinator.


• Panel picks a board for new district – Legislative committee sends names to state Education Department for approval to help run Jacksonville schools.

• All five mayors re-elected – Fletcher, Cypert, Hillman, Brooke and McGee beat back challengers in their towns.

• Report on range released – Only people in parking lot affected by shots; other areas fall within codes.

• Resorting to Plan B on booze – Organizers still hope to do away with alcohol restrictions in Sherwood and Jacksonville.

• Private option needs lifeline in legislature – Lawmakers will scrutinize funding for unique health insurance plan for working poor, but outgoing speaker says he remains optimistic it will survive.

• Wing going to Africa to fight Ebola – Our airmen will fly to Senegal in big push to eradicate disease.

• JP vote awaits military ballots – North Pulaski County race will be settled when overseas military ballots are counted.

• Schools underachieve – State says Jacksonville and Sherwood schools need improving.

• Consultant, city part ways after meager results – Jacksonville teams up with chamber after paying Hayes $244,750.

• Thurman fights rankings – Many high-performing schools listed as underachieving due to unreasonable requirements, he complains.

• Lonoke tax collections double in 10 years – Over past decade, revenue sources have increased for the city because of retail growth.

• Lonoke JPs investigate money abuses – Assessor accused of misusing credit card and deputy clerk fired as computers found missing.

• Award is given to wing – LRAFB gets second prestigious prize in recent weeks for excellence.

• State rankings put schools in bad light – Only one school among the Searcy, Beebe and Lonoke districts is achieving, according to recently released test data.

• History made with district’s first meeting – New school board begins work of revitalizing schools in Jacksonville.

• Survey misleads on violent crime – Website uses outdated numbers and leaves out smaller towns.

• Commissioners are told they must resign – Three civil service members involved in political campaigning; two resign.

• Funds for new Sherwood library – New millage rate will start in May, and aldermen also support getting review of subdivision flooding.

• More courthouse security sought – Prosecutor in Lonoke County tells JPs they must take precautions.


• Lester to put his stamp on new district – The former PCSSD superintendent and Jacksonville High School principal comes out of retirement again to help pave the way for Jacksonville’s new district.

• Lonoke overpass officially opened – Interchange on I-40 is touted as major economic boom for the area.

• Chief makes plans for 2015 – Jacksonville’s top cop wants to reach out to every neighborhood.

• Toxic sites seen safe, to receive inspection – Dioxin-contaminated landfills are well protected, state environmental officials tell EPA.

• Criminals go after checking account in Ward – Indian gang forges city’s check, but officials say money is safe.

• Toddler walks in pond while mom is on phone – Sherwood woman charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

• District prepared for judge – New Jacksonville district and PCSSD will submit clarification documents for status hearing in federal court.

• Wreaths honor Cabot’s fallen – Memorial service at high school salutes six service members as part of national wreath program.

• Base assists Afghan Air Force – Lt. Col. Garcia with the 19th Airlift Wing helps build young air force in war-torn nation before his return to LRAFB.

• Rezonings upset residents – Cabot council approves one controversial change, others will take longer.

• Local voters must decide millage rate – Jacksonville will chart its own destiny on taxes for the new district.

• District prepares for parent refusal – Cabot pupils could be held back if they don’t take achievement test.