Wednesday, December 23, 2015

TOP STORY >> Looking back on 2015

Compiled by RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s new school district dominated the news during 2015, but there was a lot more than school news happening in Cabot, Sherwood, Lonoke, Beebe, Jacksonville and parts in between.

Take a look at these front-page headlines from The Leader during the first three months of the year in this first of four quarterly reviews of 2015.


• Cabot eighth grader fights cancer – Barrett Starks is battling leukemia at age 14 at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

• Jacksonville operates on a tight budget – City will maintain all services, but offers no extra employee benefits.

• State starts probe of funeral home – Jacksonville undertaker denies charge it mishandled bodies.

• Courthouse beefing up its security – Cameras and metal detectors to be added to Lonoke County landmark.

• Lester: Present at creation –Retired PCSSD superintendent named interim head of new Jacksonville-North Pulaski County School District.

• School chiefs list more issues at Capitol – Superintendents lobby lawmakers about Internet access, health insurance and more.

• JPD holds its first town hall – Jacksonville aldermen, chief host meet and greet to gauge resident’s thoughts on city and police department.

• Hospital cited for improvements – North Metro one of 28 hospitals in state that have advanced patient care.

• Library nears completion – New $2.6 million facility on Main Street in Cabot will have 24,000 square feet.

• Education center for Sherwood –New facility offers job-skills training, GED assistance, computer classes and more.

• Highway improvements in the works – Plans call for under- and overpasses on Jacksonville freeway.

• Jacksonville chamber hears it’s a new dawn – Schools, highway work and wet-dry effort touted at dinner.

• Court decides county judge can’t be sued – Erwin said to be immune from $3 million suit for blocking development.

• Governor’s budget offers more for schools – The state’s $5.2 billion budget for 2016 includes more for jails, health care and families, too.

• Hutchinson praised by lawmakers – legislators like governor’s health-care reforms and call for savings.

• Lawmakers supporting tax cuts – Gov. Hutchinson’s plan gains momentum as lawmakers push agenda for schools, counties.

• New fire trucks needed for city – Aging fleet will have to be replaced, Jacksonville mayor reports.

• Cabot upgrades sewer – City says it will improve capacity and save $20 million in the future.

• Undertaker shuts, gives up license – Board levies a $10,000 fine, and families air grievances against Arkansas Funeral Care.


• Search surges ahead –New JNPSD should name permanent superintendent by end of April.

• Alcohol drive short 1,415 names – Jacksonville given 30 more days to come up with signatures for a referendum on alcohol sales.

• Students make a killing in stock market – Warren Dupree pupils show a knack for turning a profit in statewide game.

• Mother’s mold story unravels after arrest – Former Jacksonville resident is free on $100,000 bond in death of her child.

• Recognition at last – William Barnett, 92, of Beebe receives WWII medals.

• Designation of distress challenged – Beebe School District will appeal state board designation of academic failure at alternative school.

• A million shots in one year at range – But foundation’s promise of $2 million still short $1.6 million.

• Base: Cuts could affect readiness – Sequestration a “dark cloud” as infrastructure ages and help from communities is sought.

• Storm hurries baby’s arrival – Child doing fine after sudden birth in truck outside hospital.

• Cops get new bike for accident victim – 5-year-old suffered fractured skull and brain bleeding in a hit-and-run accident.

• Private option helping hospitals – Getting more patients who are now able to pay for their treatment.

• District looks at tax vote – After years of neglect, building new schools and renovating old ones will cost millions, JNPSD interim superintendent says.

• Water dispute in Jackson-ville – City water department and CAW officials meet to resolve $129,000 issue.

• Budget of $92 million for new schools – Scenario includes new high school, remodeling old buildings.

• ‘Pork’ grants here costing state $9.2 million – Ex-legislator thinking about going back to stop practice.

• Winter storm causes pileups – Record is set for late February after snow and low temperatures.

• City offers CAW $90,000 water deal – Jacksonville willing to give Little Rock utility most of what it wants.

• Military spends millions on base projects – $108 million for runway, $21 million for fuel cell, $4.1 million on simulator.

• Judge will decide on Lewis’ competence – Evaluation finds defendant accused of capital murder has antisocial disorder.


• Bill to form new districts passes – Sherwood and Maumelle awaiting governor’s signature on law that makes splitting from PCSSD easier.

• Plans set to move middle school – New district will shut down substandard Jacksonville Middle School.

• The Leader starts its 29th year – Award-winning newspaper was launched on March 4, 1987.

• Winter weather was brrr… — Latest storm cancels meetings, disrupts travel and school activities.

• Liquor sales rules eased for petitions – Senate bill says fewer signatures will be required for wet-dry vote.

• $6 million bond to fund Sherwood library – City to buy land, construct and equip facility with millage hike.

• Hill warns of cuts at air base – Congressman tours LRAFB and says military needs more flexibility on sequestration.

• Eminent domain invoked – Sherwood is at a standstill with some owners for Maryland Avenue project.

• Alpine Village gets the axe – Cabot City Council could hire firm to remove complex that was too dangerous to occupy.

• Guilty plea made in wife’s murder – Ex-auxiliary Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy gets life without parole in shooting.

• NPHS teens protest PCSSD policy – Many students back teachers as seniority question imperils jobs.

• District not out of fiscal distress – State rules that PCSSD’s finances are still not strong enough, so state will control the district for at least another year.

• Severe potholes getting repaired – Hwy. 67/167 lanes closed for day so crews could patch weather damage.

• Board warns on state cuts – Cabot School Board president criticizes state proposal, which would hurt the district.

• Millage vote to affect schools – PCSSD tax increase would mean new facilities, upgrades.

• Puppy mill dogs adopted – Crowds line up at Sherwood facility to adopt six of 31 shih tzus.

• Questions remain on treatment of bodies – Jacksonville funeral home must answer investigators on question of whether deceased were improperly prepared.

• Senator pushes for workforce – Sen. Jane English promised $17 million for job training initiative and wants $40 million more.

• More hours for students – Snow days cause area school districts to add six to seven days to the school year.

• Job security of teachers raises fears – Educators feeling insecure amidst many proposed detachment changes, but PCSSD superintendent says not to worry.

• Floods anger Sherwood residents – Residents file Freedom of Information request to get documents as they allege violation occurred.

• Loans will modernize businesses’ power use – Pulaski County energy district loans would pay for themselves by cutting usage.

• Church is helping area’s hungry kids – North Little Rock’s First Assembly is helping those in need in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

• First-term reflections – Representatives Tim Lemons, Camille Bennett and Karilyn Brown discuss legislation.