Friday, December 19, 2014

TOP STORY >> 2014 Year in Review

Compiled by RICK KRON

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

Stories about cold weather, cold-hearted murders, deadly weather, cutbacks, ribbon-cuttings, a football champ and government decisions dominated headlines in the first four months of the year.


• Push to preserve downtown Beebe: Resident urges city council to join effort before it’s too late.

• Aerial view of damage by beavers: JP, county judge at odds over bounty payment for beaver tails.

• ‘Polar Vortex’ moves out East: Arctic blast drops temperature into the single digits.

• Ambitious building program for Cabot: Main Street beautification, overlays and roundabouts top agenda.

• Bacteria found in water system: Jacksonville is working hard to make sure water is safe to drink.

• Beaver problems gnaw Lonoke County officials: As flooding continues, so do divisions over how to fix the problem.

• Political season kicks off: Several candidates join governor-hopeful Asa Hutchinson as they announce their campaigns.
 School vote planned for September: Judge lets PCSSD split, ending long-running desegregation suit in county and allowing north Pulaski County to go it alone.

• ‘Our time is now,’ mayor tells council: In report to city, he says city is making progress despite cutbacks and looks forward to new school district.

• JP quits quorum court: Adam Sims turns in resignation, and governor will name person to fill vacancy.

• Award honors Myers’ legacy: High school students will receive $500 to help them with expenses.

• NLR choice for VA site is not final: Jacksonville rejected, Searcy was second choice, but final decision rests with director.

• Jacksonville shooting facility opens Saturday: The $3.2 million complex will host tournaments and draw thousands to the area.

• Wintertime burn bans are issued: About 40 counties under ban, and local officials can’t ever recall one being ordered at this time of the year before.

• School in Cabot gets top ranking: Principal at Cabot Middle School North tells board about unique honor.

• Council decides to settle: Sherwood aldermen unhappy city owed money to insurer, pay out $175,000.

• Two murders in Lonoke County: A pillar of the community shoots and kills wife, while a convicted felon shoots girlfriend then burns her body.

• Trial testimony starts: Bryce Allen Jr. of Jacksonville was accused of running over firefighters and policeman, and killing one of the firefighters.


• Allen convicted on lesser charge: Jury says killing of fireman was not premeditated; parole possible in 17.5 years.

• Essay winner goes to Washington: Beebe High School senior wins trip to State of the Union address with essay judged by U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin.

• Jacksonville district almost assured: State Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell tells chamber that he and PCSSD support city’s efforts to split.

• Ice, frigid cold hits area: Cold wintry mix closes schools causes scattered outages.

• Lawmakers still looking at coverage: Area legislators take sides on private option insurance program.

• Neighborhood could become seniors’ haven: Jacksonville mayor promotes Sunnyside as a retirement village.

• Is out of state consultant working? Jacksonville’s mayor believes economic move will pay off sooner rather than later.

• Two men plead in death of woman: Lonoke County man and his accomplice plead not guilty to killing and burning a woman’s body.

• Agency extends charter school: Lighthouse Academy in Jacksonville gets a three-year renewal.

• Apartments condemned: Cabot officials decide Alpine Village conditions are dangerous and deplorable.

• Top 10 in Cabot: National Merit Finalists: Cabot high School has 10 National Merit Scholarship finalists, double the number from last year.

• Mixed reviews from developer’s clients: Pay differs sharply as cities, including Jacksonville, negotiate with Oklahoma development consultant.

Passing alcohol priority for city: Sherwood economic director is determined to get proposal on the ballot.


• Insanity plea in murder of wife: Former Lonoke County auxiliary officer claims mental defect in shooting death.

• Ex-sheriff wants old job back: Roberson says he’s healthy and challenges Sheriff John Staley and former deputy Steve Finch for top job.

• Residents lose flood suit: Jury says construction of Rockwood Road didn’t cause flooding of Grayhawk Circle homes.

• Ice storm hits hard, moves out: Sleet, ice, snow, thunder, lightning closes area schools, snarls traffic, shuts down government offices.

• Director’s final pick: NLR to get vet home, agency bypasses two Jacksonville sites.

• City focuses on growth: Sherwood’s in-house specialist aims to recruit businesses to area.

• Racial incident ends in murder: A black couple is held in white man’s stabbing after he allegedly used the “n” word.

• Cabot jumps county barrier: City going after Hwy. 5 growth on both sides of the county line.

• Water rate to go up for project: Jacksonville rates upped because of a $48,000 monthly cost to cover the Lonoke-White water project.

• Reserves ready for 10 C-130Js: Mission will expand with new planes and more people.

• Lonoke County agrees to help pay court costs: Lonoke and Carlisle won lawsuit, but had to wait for money owed.

• PCSSD cuts raising ire of parents: Struggling district cuts technology and speech programs as it axes $10 million from its budget.

• Students protest teacher’s firing: More than 70 teachers and students protest the firing of a popular Lonoke High School science teacher for allegedly slapping a student.

• Main Street beautification gets underway: Low bidder accepted for $724,000 streetscape project in downtown Cabot.

• Leader wins 18 awards: Newspaper receives double honors for best advertising design.

• Vote for Jacksonville schools: Sept. 16 set as the date for residents to vote for splitting from Pulaski County special School District and forming its own district.

• Gunfire upsets people nearby: Evening league at new sports shooting complex postponed after complaints from residents.

• Sherwood cop triangle: Termination of police officer, who cursed and threatened a captain after he ended a fling with the captain’s wife, was upheld by the civil service commission.

• Shops spark commercial Beebe boom: AutoZone just one of the many new businesses opening up.

• Super Bowl star in homecoming: Jacksonville High School honors Seattle Seahawk lineman and former graduate Clinton McDonald.

• Stumbaugh runs for Cabot mayor: Former head of the city wanted to run things again.

• Three teens remembered: Scholarship fund preserves memory of three cheerleaders killed 10 years ago in car crash in Cabot.

• Census study shows growth here: Multi-year report states all area cities have lower unemployment than the state average and some have seen population growth.

• Shows still on hold at LRAFB: No open house slated for 2014, but base was hoping for an aerial show in 2015.

• Cabot kicks off major effort to draw industry: Imagine Cabot is the new city-funded effort for community development in cooperation with the chamber and others.


• Pearl Harbor survivor dies: Lonoke County’s Charles Flynt Jr., 91, was one of 200 men on a ship in the harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

• LRAFB seen as home for C-130J fleet: U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor elated Air Force wants to move more new planes to the base.

• PCSSD declared unitary on scholarships: Federal judge wants more clarity about access to special education.

• Council curtails sales of alcohol: Jacksonville won’t allow clubs to sell any liquor after 2 a.m.

• Top area schools ranked by state: Jacksonville High School is most improved; Cabot and Searcy also get high marks.

• Vets appreciate late thank you in Jacksonville: City salutes veterans who served during the Vietnam War.

• Group wants school board to run PCSSD: Sher-wood meeting airs complaints about state running the district and the city having no representation.

• Anonymous gift of land to Jacksonville: Secret donor paid Entergy $750,000 so the city could lay claim to 250 acres near I-440.

• Hospitals see more insured with new law: With private option, preliminary numbers suggest twice as many have coverage.

• Lonoke’s pipes waste 41 percent of water: City’s old infrastructure costing millions of dollars.

• Sherwood grabs a chance to be big player: Area will get new grocer as well as more development.

• Thurman will keep district’s top post: Cabot superintendent withdraws his name from consideration to lead Fayetteville district.

• Base to get new planes, fix old ones: U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor says C-130Js promised and upgrade program funded again.

• A modern library opens in Beebe: State and local funds and volunteers made new facility possible.

• Ex-clerk airs grievance: Lonoke County assessor accused of bullying former employee.

• Super Bowl champ returns home for tribute: Clinton McDonald is toasted in a fundraiser for Boys and Girls Club.

• Firing range hitting target: The $3.2 million facility doing well in first three months of operation.

• Beebe economic development booming: Population growth at 10,000 fuels commercial construction.

• Big birthday bash in Sherwood: City celebrates 66th birthday and is reminded that it was named in honor of Robin Hood.

• Thousands enrolled in counties: Signups still open for private option as 70 percent of eligible already covered.

• Sherwood optimistic on district: Group to issue report that is expected to show city can have its own schools after Jacksonville leaves PCSSD.

• Storm devastates El Paso: Powerful tornado hits northern El Paso community, killing one.

• Youngest victims remembered: Two local boys were among the 11 killed when tornado ripped through Vilonia.

• Deadly storm: Horror of it all: One of the worst twisters hits area, leaving vast destruction.

• Report: Sherwood would do well with new district: Feasibility study says schools will have enough students and the proper ratio.