Tuesday, December 23, 2014

TOP STORY >> 2014 Year in Review

Compiled by RICK KRON

Editor’s note: This is the second 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.

The middle four months of the year focused on candidates lining up for the primary and general election; school testing results; shooting ranges and tornado recovery.


• Beebe calls firing range a big draw -- $3.5 million Jacksonville facility is called finest in region.

• Command changes at 189th AW – Air Guard commander Eggensberger is stepping down to make way for his vice commander Ator.

• Storm cost still rising – Twister destroyed or damaged at least 700 homes in Faulkner and White counties as charities and FEMA respond.

• Obama flies to base for storm visit – He is first president to land at LRAFB since Bill Clinton in 1998.

• Feelings hurt after base visit – Jacksonville alderman said Mayor Fletcher not being invited to presidential visit was a ‘slap in face’ to LRAFB’s hometown.

• Annex efforts facing delays – Petition’s signatures outdated and area is not contiguous.

Residents make demand on city over shooting range – Homeowners want noise to stop but may consider buyouts of several expensive houses; city engineer is optimistic solutions are possible.

Roundtop’s revival taking shape – First of two phases to restore the old gas station is underway.

• Primary voting on Tuesday – Crowded field, but many need only to win primary contest to hold office next year.

• High court stays ruling–same-sex couples could have wed in Pulaski and White counties, but Lonoke waited for an appeal.

• State label misleading, official says – Department wrong to call Badger Academy “academically distressed.”

• Chief set to run against mayor in Jacksonville – Gary Sipes says firing range too noisy, wants to limit hours.

• Staley, Lemons are winners in GOP’s primary – Lonoke County Clerk Clarke loses; assessor faces runoff.

• Bus driver glad hijacker’s plea will avoid trial – Jacksonville man who terrorized school kids negotiates a guilty plea.

• Sherwood residents shoot down firing range – Petitions protest city’s plan to put facility in neighborhood

• Principal plans improvement at high school – Jerry Bell moves from Pine Bluff school to run Jacksonville High School.

• Parents want supervision of PCSSD to end – Problems fixed, district is not in fiscal distress, families say.

• Interim chief appointed as Sipes leaves – The top cop quits police department to run for Jacksonville mayor.

• Cabot parks bid comes in at $5.3 million – City prepares for its first major project after extending sales tax.


• Sherwood range takes direct hit – Residents would rather use the $18,500 in drug money on other projects.

• Homes get top ranking in cities – Cabot is ranked sixth and Sherwood 14th for home ownership in study.

• Girl survives as tree falls on bed – Jacksonville teen a foot away from certain injury as giant old tree splits her house in half.

• District accused of disability bias – Ward student needs service dog handler, but school won’t offer one.

• Crowding problem in county jails – Lonoke County officials and others call for legislature to help with getting too many state prisoners and not enough money.

• Garbage upgrade in Ward – Plans are to automate pickup, plus sewer plans are reconsidered as the plans could double or triple bills.

• Sherwood is getting call center – Teletech, is the latest catch for the city in its quest for further economic growth.

• Dry areas may get dozens of liquor stores – More than 78,000 signatures are needed to get statewide alcohol issue on the ballot and if passed it may mean 28 new liquor stores in White and Lonoke counties.

Historic district begins to form – Organizers plan to rebuild long-gone train depot on Jacksonville’s First Street.

• County judge is hit with lawsuit – Lonoke County might have to pay millions if Doug Erwin loses case brought by developer.

Donor helps city purchase mobile shelter – Jacksonville couple buys $27,000 trailer to be used to help find homes for dogs and cats.

• Verdict pleases victim’s mother – Rene Joyce Rolff found guilty in the baseball bat beating of Cabot man; also convicted of corpse abuse and tampering.

• Money pours in for liquor sales – Effort to do away with dry laws attracting financial support from businesses, including Walmart.

• State law protection from suits – Jacksonville can’t be sued over noise as it follows laws.

• Bridge replacements will disrupt traffic – A $42 million contract is awarded to widen Jacksonville freeway overpasses.

• Water deal at LRAFB – Jacksonville and the base sign a 50-year contract allowing the city to take over maintenance and operation of the base water system.

Sherwood library vote in fall – Council places it on the general election ballot after receiving an opinion for the state attorney general.

• Cabot ready to make big splash – City breaks ground on $13.5 million aquatics and sports complex.

• Erwin, Staley thanked for tornado help – Faulkner County judge tells Lonoke County Quorum Court that rapid response from local officials made big difference in rescue efforts after April tornadoes.

• Two cities here get good ratings – Sherwood and Cabot among safest places to live according to website’s research.


• Session finds funds – Late night vote on teacher insurance and jail overcrowding seen as a temporary fix; lottery expansion on hold.

• For Sherwood, business is good – Economic developer who works in town has finger on pulse.

• Sound engineer begins study – Consult expects to have report ready in 10 days and then make suggestions.

• Homeowners in Sherwood may pay $39 extra a year for new library – Real estate taxes would rise modestly for $6 million structure if proposal passes in November.

• Work done, water starts to flow from Greers Ferry – Ward, Austin, North Pulaski, Vilonia among the first to get water from new source, while others will follow soon.

• Dry county helps place liquor effort on fall ballot – Little Rock attorney praises effort in Lonoke County to gather enough signatures to put alcohol law to a vote.

• Reserve unit is soaring to new heights – The 913th Airlift Wing adds 500 people and 10 C-130s to flightline.

• Cabot seeks inspections – Ordinance calls for visit to rental properties every two years.

• Top news, editorial prizes go to Leader – First place for reporting, in-depth series, editorial and more.

• Ward looks at sales tax – City wants one-percent levy for streets and parks department.

• A Judge chosen by state for case – Plegge will preside over lawsuit a developer filed against Lonoke County judge.

• Budget panel reviews jail costs—Sherwood working group also looks at Roundtop grant and money owed by Comcast.

• Surprising results in math test – Students in Lonoke have scores among highest in state, and all in Beebe are proficient or advanced.

• Cabot will save $15,406 on its insurance rates – By taking new offer, city saves big on its property insurance.

• Metro plan adds education, jobs to its agenda – Imagine Central Arkansas departs from past plans, which focused solely on roads and highways.

• Mayors ask better deal on jail costs – Jacksonville and Little rock unhappy with the proposed Pulaski County offer and demand a fairer interlocal agreement to house prisoners.

Williams touts sales tax break – Senator to buy clothes and supplies during holidays.

It’s back to normal at LRAFB – False alarm leads to security measures to ensure safety at base.

Preparatory program is kicking off – Ambitious plan gives scholarships to 58 PCSSD graduates.

• Sherwood backs jail plan – The city council votes to approve $133,000 for first year.


• New commander at 314th – Col. Brewer makes way for successor in ceremony on air base.

• All fifth graders at Arnold Drive score advanced – Also doing well are Dupree, Cabot and lighthouse students.

• Ward weighs sales tax, bond issue – Mayor and aldermen may ask voters to pass 2 percent rate.

• Air Force will decide future of old C-130s – Grounding of 400-plus planes feared without improvements.

• Liquor forces confident – Statewide effort to expand alcohol sales requires voters to approve constitutional amendment in November.

• Cabot, Beebe and charter middle schools do well – Jacksonville’s math scores are worst in the district, while Northwood and England also struggle.

• Freshman Academy set to open – Cabot ninth graders will start classes this year at a new $22 million campus.

• New district to get push at meeting – Organizers of effort to break from PCSSD prepare for September election.

• Whit Davis embraces Sherwood – Hardware store has groundbreaking for Brockington location.

• Ward voters to decide sales tax hike – The city council decides to ask residents to back a one-cent levy in November.

• District supporters upbeat on election – Rally raises $4,000 for Jacksonville’s school district, which has been the city’s goal since 1978.

• Col. Dryjanski happy to lead LRAFB’s 314th – Head of Airlift Wing says career started with life-changing stint at Air Force Academy.

• Lengthy Hwy. 67/167 work begins – Replacing the overpass at Redmond Road starts off widening project.

• Liquor law closer to ballot – Lonoke and White counties could go wet if voters approve measure in November.

• Cabot projects moving ahead – Major roadwork and interchange on schedule, mayor says.

• Farmers here hit by theft – Lonoke County farmers also affected by millions of dollars in commodity losses.

• Metro Trends figures show positive trend – Jacksonville rebounds since 2010, most others continue to grow.

• Campaign kickoff for ex-police chief – Jacksonville mayoral candidate Gary Sipes tells crowd of supporters, “It’s time for something different.”

• Jacksonville plans for new school board – Interim board will pave way for a future district if voters approve proposal Sept 16.

• Lonoke County QC mulls jail crowding – JPs bicker over tight budget.