Friday, December 26, 2014

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.