Friday, August 19, 2005

EDITORIAL>> See you in court

The split between state Rep. Will Bond and former Rep. Mike Wilson, both Democrats from Jacksonville, isn’t exactly like one of those big breakups you read about when lawyers leave their law firms and take their big clients with them.

But the two Jacksonville attorneys have definitely gone their separate ways over General Improvement Funds appropriated earlier this year in the Legislature, which lawmakers say benefit communities but which Wilson calls pork.

The two lawyers didn’t take any clients and millions of their fees with them when they split up, but their friendship has gone out the door after Wilson filed a lawsuit to stop state funding for several of Bond’s pet projects, including $190,000 for a new Jacksonville library.

Wilson, a key player in the Legislature before term limits, says the funding violates Amendment 14 banning state-funded local legislation. In his suit, Wilson cites 11 projects funded through the General Improvement Fund, including six projects in Jacksonville funded by Rep. Bond.

Bond recently moved out of law offices he rented from Wilson in a one-story building next to First Arkansas Bank and Trust at Jacksonville Plaza, an arrangement Bond ended when Wilson filed his suit.

Bond, who is running for speaker of the House and will likely run for governor one day, said he moved to avoid the perception that he agreed with Wilson’s lawsuit or had anything to do with the suit.

“I needed to distance myself,” Bond said diplomatically. “I’m disappointed at the timing of the lawsuit and that it was filed.”

“It’s bad business from a sensible and practical viewpoint,” counters Wilson, referring to GIF. “It’s bad to give money away with no accountability.”

“The biggest problem now is simply giving away money with no purpose even required, no limitation on how the money is to be used,” Wilson added.
“I think we have a very serious (difference) of opinion,” Bond continued.

“What he’s accomplished right now is, he’s kept Jacksonville, particularly the library, from getting funding that Senator (John Paul) Capps and I (procured) to make sure we have a good library.

Although only Jacksonville funds are being held up because of Wilson’s suit, other improvement funds could disappear if Little Rock Circuit Judge Willard Proctor, who is holding a hearing on the matter on Friday, rules against GIFs, including $300,000 that Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, Lenville Evans, D-Lonoke, and Susan Schulte, R-Cabot, earmarked for the decrepit, overcrowded Lonoke County Jail.

“I’m disappointed he filed suit to begin with,” Glover said of Wilson.

“I can defend my projects. I’m not going to fall out with Mike personally, but (the projects) mean a lot to my constituents.”

Glover said the General Improvement Fund is “about the only place we see tax dollars coming home.”

Sen. Capps, D-Searcy, said for once in his life, he didn’t need to comment much. “It’s still in the courts,” Capps told us.

Of the projects he helped fund, including those in Jacksonville, he said, “I think they are morally upright projects—money for a good cause. This is not a question of the legitimacy of the projects themselves.”

We think there is merit in Wilson’s premise, but agree with Bond that the timing of the suit creates problems.

Wilson has a long and honorable record of service to the state and support of Jacksonville, his home town.

Bond is just embarking on what promises to be an equally distinguished career of thoughtful action and educational advocacy.

Let’s hope these two hometown boys can heal their wounds. Their future cooperation would benefit their town greatly.

Thursday, August 18, 2005



Edward Leonard Wittenberg, 66, of Cabot, passed away Aug. 15. He was born Dec. 9, 1938, in Little Rock to the late Edward and Roberta Wittenberg.
He was a dual member of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches.

Survivors include his wife, Frances Holt Wittenberg of the home; a son, Shane Leonard Wittenberg of Little Rock; one stepdaughter, Sandy Ward of North Little Rock; two stepsons, Kent Gregory Holt of Little Rock and Paul James Holt of Cabot; and one sister, Patricia Brantley-Wittenberg of Little Rock; two grandchildren and four step grandchildren.

Graveside services will be held 11 a.m. Thursday at Walnut Grove Cemetery in Ferndale. In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to Presbyterian Church of Beebe or Cabot United Methodist Church. Arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service.


Ronald W. Miller, 56, died Aug. 11.
He was a devout Christian, deacon and life-long member of Steele Bridge Baptist Church. He was an 18-year employee of J.B. Hunt Transport and was a veteran of United States Marine Corps where he served his country during Vietnam. He leaves behind his wife of 36 years, Rita; two sons, Raymond and his wife Jennie of England and Dewayne and his wife Stacey of Lonoke; a brother, Jerry and his wife Marilyn of Carlisle; a sister, Shelby and her husband Daryl Clements of Furlow; three grandchildren, and a host of nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Sunday at Lonoke Baptist Church with burial in Lonoke Cemetery, arrangements by Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke. Memorials may be made to Steele Bridge Church, Lonoke or Hospice Home Care, 2200 South Bowman Road, Little Rock.


Robert James Dorlaque, 72, of Cabot, passed away Aug. 12. Born Oct. 19, 1932 in St. Louis, Mo., to the late Fred and Mary Dorlaque.
Also preceding him in death is his first wife, Janice Dorlaque; his second wife, Marilyn Dorlaque, and two brothers, Ed and Red Dorlaque.

Survivors include three daughters, Lana and her husband William McClain of Sherwood, Sandy and her husband Scott Todd of Florence, Oregon, and Barbara and her husband Brian Anderson of Orem, Utah; a son, Robert Allen and his wife Paula Dorlaque of Cabot; a sister, Mary Murphy of St. Charles, Mo.; four brothers, Glen, Virgil and Ollie Dorlaque, all of St. Louis, and Al Dorlaque of Deming, N.M.; seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
A Mass of Christian burial was held Tuesday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in St. Charles, Mo., with internment to follow at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.
Local arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service of Cabot. Missouri arrangements by Paul Funeral Home of St. Charles, Missouri.


H. F. Harvey, 84, of Beebe died Aug. 13.
He was a retired employee of the Jacuzzi Co. H. F. served in the Merchant Marines during World War II.
He was a member of Beebe First Baptist Church and was preceded in death by his wife, Bernice Harvey, and his daughter, Denise Keeling. He is survived by two sons, William Harvey of Batesville, Miss., and Steve and his wife Shirley Harvey of Jonesboro; a daughter, Lisa Holmes of Jackson-ville; seven grandchildren; 13 grandchildren; a sister, Alcidean Millington of Memphis, and a half-sister, Eunice McCall of Plano, Texas.
Funeral services were Tuesday at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Beebe Cemetery.
Arrangements by Westbrook Funeral Home of Beebe.


Alvin Hallmark, 84, of Beebe died Aug. 12.
He was an Army veteran of World War II and a member of Beebe First Baptist Church. He is survived by his wife, Adelene Hallmark; three sons, Larry and wife Lynelle Hallmark, Ronny Hallmark and Ricky and wife Lana Hallmark, all of Beebe; four grandsons, Brent, Scott, Cory and Evan; one granddaughter, Rosemary; one great-granddaughter, Addy; one brother, Melvin Hallmark of North Little Rock; one sister, Zelda Schraer of Alvin, Texas; and many nieces, nephews and friends.

Funeral services were Monday, at Beebe First Baptist Church, with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens.
Arrangements by Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.


Harry Allen Norwood, 70, of Jacksonville, passed away Aug. 13 in North Little Rock.
He was born July 16, 1935, in Craton, Neb., to the late Frank and Clara Erinburg Norwood He retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service.

He also retired from Hiwasse Manufacturing. He was a reserve police officer with the Jacksonville Police Department. Harry was a member of the American Legion and the VFW. He was also preceded in death by a sister, Elvina Pickles and a brother, Berna Norwood.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret; sons, Frank Norwood of Florida, Gary Norwood of Lonoke; step-sons, Ricky and Darrell Butler both of Corning, and Mike Norwood of Virginia; stepdaughter, Linda Wilcut of Corning; a brother, Dale Norwood of Bend, Oregon; two grandsons and four stepgrandchildren.

Funeral services were Monday at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel followed by interment in Arkansas Memorial Gardens in North Little Rock.
Arrangements by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

NEIGHBORS >> Austin has a clinic once again

Leader staff writer

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in Austin Monday for the re-opening of the health clinic there.
The clinic, formerly owned by Central Arkansas Hospital, closed earlier this year but reopened this month as Northside Healthcare Center.

It is now owned by Jack Weir and his business partner Doug McVey. The staff includes Dr. Marty Hearyman, medical director, and Chuck Cardona, a physician’s assistant. Weir, 40, grew up in the Cabot area. Hearyman also has a clinic in Bald Knob. Cardona worked for many years in Dr. Bo Shurley’s office in Cabot.

Weir said the clinic will accept Medicare and Medicaid as well as most all major insurances.
After the Austin Medical Clinic closed in the spring, patients’ charts were moved to McAfee Medical Clinic in Beebe, but Weir says the move was not because the clinic had no patients. In fact, it had about 60 patients a day and saw 50 to 60 new patients a month, Weir said.

Many of those patients were elderly, he said, so the hope is that the new clinic will be more convenient for them.

SPORTS >> Stoerner stops by Wildcat workout

Leader sports writer

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats had a special guest drop by a recent practice last week. Former Arkansas Razorback and Dallas Cowboy Clint Stoerner paid a visit to the field and watched the Wildcat practice. Head coach Bryan Hutson said Stoerner did not participate in the practice, but was on-hand mostly out of curiosity.
“Clint is friends with one of the player’s parents,” Hutson said. “One of the parents called him and told him we had practice going on, and he stopped by to check it out. He and I went in the office and talked for a while, and before he left, we all went out and threw the ball around for a little while.”

The Charging Wildcats’ practices have been up and down according to Hutson, as the coaching staff has decided some of the key positions for this year’s team.

“Some days it goes well and sometimes it’s kind of sluggish,” Hutson said. “We are still doing a lot of conditioning, trying to get all of the kids ready. We are going to have several guys going both ways, so we have spent a lot of time conditioning. We had a really good practice Friday, so we are definitely improving.”
Hutson did announce part of his offensive lineup for this season.

“Right now, we have Chea Peterman as starting quarterback for this year,” Hutson said. “He’s smart, he’s a great athlete and he’s had the dedication that you need to earn that job.”

Hutson also said that a couple of the seniors have already started getting offers from Division One colleges to play in 2006. Van Stuman, senior running back and defensive end, has received offers from Arkansas and Purdue. Senior offensive guard Jonathon Nixon has gotten letters from Arkansas and Purdue as well. Both Stuman and Nixon are three-year starters for the Charging Wildcats.

“They will both probably receive several more before it is all said and done,” Hutson said. “Those are the only two so far, but there will probably be some more before the season is over with. It all will depend on how each one does throughout the year.”

Another player that Hutson seemed to think was in the running for college offers is Richard Williams. Williams is also a three year starter for North Little Rock, and has been invaluable to the Charging Wildcats on the offensive line.

North Little Rock plans to be prepared for the upcoming season, as a part of the ultra-competitive 5A central conference. While conference rivals such as Little Rock Hall and Little Rock Catholic always pose a tremendous challenge, the Charging Wildcats have worked out over the summer as hard as any team in the area. That along with the seniors that are returning to fill in many of the vital positions should help North Little Rock into the season as they enter conference play.

SPORTS >> Panthers getting over injury bug

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers continue to suffer through more injuries. The latest casualty comes at the nose-guard position, continuing a saga of soap-opera drama that has plagued the Panthers this preseason.
Cabot has yet to practice at 100-percent full strength, and the Arkansas Activities Association benefit scrimmage game with Lake Hamilton looms this coming Monday.

The Panthers would like to avoid the same result as last year’s trip to Pearcy.
The Wolves dominated every aspect of the practice game.

What that game did was reveal several areas the Panthers needed to improve before the season opener, and it did just that, recovering to dominate Conway in the Diamond Bank Bowl.

This year is different. The Panther coaching staff already has a good working knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, with much of the weakness centered around inexperience.

Lack of depth due to injuries is the main cause of the inexperience on the offensive side of the ball.
If everyone left stays healthy, there will be three brand- new starters on the offensive line. Jason Aist started on defense last year, but has moved to the tight-end position and could play both ways.

Clayton Goshiens’ move to the backfield opened up a spot at left guard, and another of last year’s starters quit the team before two-a-days began.

Sean Trammel got back just in the nick of time at left guard. He’s been out with a back injury and Thomas Hurst has played well in his absence, but Hurst suffered a stinger in his neck and is out for two weeks.

“Trammel is who we penciled in there when we moved Goshien, so it’s good he’s back. That’s where he’s going to play for now, if he moves we have a sophomore that’s looking pretty good if we can’t get Hurst back.”
Other offensive linemen have suffered injuries and missed practice, but came back this week.

The offensive backfield will see a new face at fullback. After Goshien went down with his season-ending knee injury, Richard Williams, who played the position in the spring, stepped back in to the Dead T’s featured position.

On the defensive side, some sophomores that Cabot coach Mike Malham says have been looking good, are stepping up more and more.
Malham said last week that several sophomores have played well early on in the defensive backfield.
The Keddy kid (Shane) and Chris Blundel will probably play some at cornerback,” Malham said.
“Keddy is working with the second team and will probably be on the field, but Blundel is starting. Right now him and Josh Clem will be the starters back there.”

He also mentioned Jacob Hammonds and Trent Rigdon spelling the starters at the safety position.
Malham has been particularly concerned with the injury problems because of the odd time and place of the Panthers’ season opener against rival Conway.

We’re going to have to have 22 players ready for that game,” Malham said.
“You just can’t expect a kid to both ways at 4:30 in afternoon in August at War Memorial Stadium.
“It’s hot enough as it is and that artificial turf makes it even hotter. We’re going to have to find some people that are ready to go.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

EDITORIAL >> Highway spoils

President Bush signed the 2005 highway bill, the largest pork barrel in American history, and proclaimed it a great economic stimulus.
The Arkansas Highway Commission, which normally is eager for every highway dollar it can get, considered it a mixed blessing.

Taxpayers, if they understood it, would have an even unkinder description.
Nearly everyone loves road building. Few of us believe our highways are good enough, which is why gasoline tax increases always pass by big margins in the legislature and voters never punish lawmakers for voting for them.
As the president remarked, they do create jobs and stimulate the economy.

President Bush has pretended to be a hawk on deficit spending, but in practice only Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson rival him as a spender.

The highway bill spends $684 billion over five years; last week, Bush ceremoniously signed a bill giving $14.5 billion in subsidies and tax favors to energy companies. It is all money that the government doesn’t have.
We suspect that most Americans are forgiving about the overall highway spending.

A little of the money will reach every precinct whether its needs are great or not. Our little section of the state will not be entirely bereft of largesse, thanks to Reps. Vic Snyder and Marion Berry.
Each of them nailed down a little less than $40 million in what are called “earmarks,” money designated by members of Congress for specific projects in their districts that may or may not be on the list of priorities of state transportation commissions.

A splendid new thoroughfare to the Wal-Mart distribution center or a replacement for the little Tilly Willy Bridge outside Fayetteville are not among the national transportation priorities and the state Highway Commission does not list either as among the urgent needs of the state, but Rep. John Boozman of Springdale got them in the bill as his share of the booty.

That is the system that should offend every American, yet does not bother members of Congress. It is the gold version of the General Improvement Fund enacted by the Arkansas General Assembly, which has been attacked in court, so far successfully, by Jacksonville’s Mike Wilson.

Every member of the legislature is allotted a sum of the taxpayers’ money and designates little projects around their districts that will curry favor with one or another group of constituents. It is nothing more than a campaign slush fund for lawmakers contributed unknowingly by taxpayers.
So are the “earmarked” billions in the federal highway act.

More powerful members of Congress get the big bucks for their little districts. What is left is divided under a system that plays favorites (Republicans ahead of Democrats, seniors ahead of freshmen) but gives at least a little money to everyone to keep them quiet. It works.

The president went to the district of House Speaker Dennis Hastert of DeKalb, Ill., to sign the bill. Part of Hastert’s pork was $207 million for a splendid parkway across the rural counties in his district. Hastert and two big Republican lawmakers from districts without big transportation needs got $2.3 billion in “earmarked” projects.
That is more than all the state of Arkansas will get for all its federal highway aid, both pet earmarked projects and regular matching aid, for the next five years. Not even Vic Snyder would say that was unfair.

The Arkansas Highway Commission was pleased that the state will get a nice increase in aid the new five years although the commissioners thought it would be far better if the earmarks were eliminated and all the money came directly to the state to meet its most urgent needs.
The distortions were no more obvious than in California where the Republican Ways and Means Committee chairman, Bill Thomas, got money for a marginal road project that amounted to more than $1,000 a resident, while Los Angeles with a daily traffic gridlock matched few places in the world, got less than $60 a person.

Almost from the beginning of the republic, public works have furnished political spoils, but the projects were always accorded some importance to the country, or to the state.

When a boulevard to Wal-Mart is a strategic national need or sidewalks in Bigelow are a vital state concern you know that pretense is no longer necessary.

The public interest will not get in the way of politics.

EDITORIAL >> Insuring uninsured

The elderly and then children were the people who could not afford insurance and were “underserved” by the health-care system. Medicare under Lyndon B. Johnson and Medicaid expansion under Bill Clinton largely but not altogether solved those problems. Now a different group, reasonably young working adults, is the population in distress.

In few places are they in greater distress than Arkansas. The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement gave lawmakers the unnerving figures this week. Thirty percent of Arkansans between 19 and 44 are not insured, and the percentage is up 7 percent from only four years ago. The share of people from 44 to 64 and children who are uninsured is somewhat smaller but still rising.

But surely these are just deadbeats or else vibrant and prosperous young people who just do not need insurance or think they do not need it? No, the Center for Health Improvement calculated, they are working people on the low end of the pay scale, and most of them work for small businesses, those with fewer than 50 workers.
Is this a crisis, and should the rest of us take any personal interest in it except for an earnest mention in our prayers? You decide.

At some point, when their condition gets very serious, most of the uninsured wind up getting some medical attention — usually in the emergency rooms — although they cannot pay for the care and it is written off. Private hospitals and clinics shift the cost to other patients and their health insurance. Every indigent’s care adds to your premiums.

The medical director of the University of Arkansas Medical Center said his hospital spent almost $40 million a year serving the uninsured, and that the figure is rising. Those are dollars you pay directly. The legislature appropriates your tax dollars every year to operate the hospital.

That is not all that you pay for the uninsured. Your share, from the sales, income, cigarette and alcohol taxes you pay, comes to tens of millions poured into Medicaid each year for the state’s part of medical care for children under Gov. Huckabee’s ArKids First program and medical services for qualifying adults. You might as well count the three-fourths share that Washington covers each year. Those are your taxes, too. Health insurance is considered a national problem, one too daunting for poor states to tackle. But in the absence of federal action, more and more states are innovating to get more of their residents insured. State governments have always been laboratories where formulas for national problems are developed.

Gov. Huckabee and his state health director vowed several years ago to find an Arkansas solution, but the governor is yet to deliver. It is no easy task. But his new state health officer came up with a plan with great promise last year: Have businesses with low-wage workers pay premiums into Medicaid to cover the state’s 25 percent share for the companies’ poor workers. The federal government would pay the usual match. Huckabee submitted the plan to the Bush administration, which has not signed a waiver to implement the plan and, we suspect, never will.

But here’s a promising development worth our legislature’s attention. An Idaho Republican introduced legislation last week that would require Idaho businesses that do not currently provide insurance for their low-income workers to either insure them or reimburse the state government for the cost of providing medical care for their employees and families under Medicaid. The Republican was upset when he saw figures about the state’s cost providing medical care for the employees of Wal-Mart and other big discount companies.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services this spring said that the state Medicaid program paid the hospital and doctor costs for about 10,000 employees of the state’s nine largest employers. Altogether, Medicaid annually covers medical expenses for about 350,000 workers and families in Arkansas who are not insured through the workplace and cannot themselves afford to buy more expensive individual coverage.

Perhaps some bold Republican will propose something similar for Arkansas. Maybe not. But members of the Legislative Council Monday seemed to want to study it, again. Gov. Huckabee ought to put his new state health officer, Dr. Joe Thompson, on the task. That would give us greater hope than another legislative study.

TOP STORY >> Complex is planned for elderly

Leader Staff Writer

Rep. Vic Snyder was among the speakers at a groundbreaking yesterday for construction of a three-story, 44-unit apartment complex for low-income seniors adjacent to the Jacksonville Towers.
The apartment complex will be named Worley’s Place in honor of Kenneth L. Worley, president of the Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation.

The National Council of Senior Citizens established EHDOC in 1978. It manages 42 communities in 14 states across the country, including the nine-story, 100-unit Jacksonville Towers apartment complex.

The $2.57 million complex was applied for through the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by the EHDOC, the United Auto Workers Retiree Association and the Jacksonville Elderly Activities Program.
“One of the real challenges for all seniors is housing,” Snyder said.

“It’s particularly true in a state like ours that has a lot of low-income seniors. This is very helpful for a community like Jacksonville to help its seniors,” he added.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim, another speaker at the groundbreaking, said there was already a waiting list of about 20 seniors for the new apartment building.

“A lot of times, seniors need a place where they’ll have the companionship of other seniors,” Swaim said.
“Worley’s Place is a great opportunity for senior citizens to improve their quality of life.”

Other speakers at the groundbreaking included Kenneth L. Worley and Steve Protulis, executives with EHDOC; Nikeba Davis, director of the Jacksonville Senior Center, and Steve Coop, spokes-man from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Old lodge to welcome bird lovers

Leader Publisher

Bill Thompson of Cabot can’t wait for fall, when thousands of bird lovers will descend on the Big Woods of east Arkansas in search of the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker.

Thompson, former chairman of Community Bank of Cabot, is one of the owners of a duck-hunting lodge near Brinkley, and he and his partners are turning it into a lodge for bird watchers.

The Mallard Point Lodge and Reserve can book 60 people at a time, starting in November, when the leaves will fall and the mosquitoes will bug off and visibility will improve. Thompson should have no trouble filling his place, what with ivory-billed woodpecker mania sweeping much of the nation — especially since a couple of skeptical ornithologists who questioned the bird’s existence say they’re no longer doubters.

Bird fanciers will flock down here from all over the world, hoping to spot the regal bird that was considered extinct until a few months ago.

The visitors will fill Thompson’s lodge and motels from Memphis to Little Rock.
Thompson says he’s ready for them.

“We have quite a few people booked in November,” he told us.
Those of us who live near the Cache River Refuge and Dagmar Wildlife Management area, where the bird has been spotted several times since February 2004, should have a better chance of spotting the bird in the fall.
For now, the heat and mosquitoes are keeping most bird watchers away from the wildlife refuge near Brinkley, but folks with the Arkansas Nature Conservancy who several months ago confirmed the existence of the woodpecker are back in the bottomland woods with the aim of producing more food for the ivory-bill.

Workers are killing trees with chemicals that will attract the longhorn beetle, whose larvae under the rotting bark are the woodpecker’s meal ticket.

When you visit the swamp forest, you see rotting bark ripped off the cypress and tupelos, a sure sign that the woodpecker’s been around.

Add to that several sightings and the recorded sound of the ivory-bill’s distinctive double rap, and the evidence keeps building that the bird is alive and well in the Big Woods.

It’s a good sign that even skeptical ornithologists recently withdrew their report questioning the ivory-bill’s existence.
At first they dismissed the blurry video taken at Bayou DeView, which is the only visual evidence that the bird is living there.

The scientists didn’t think much of the video, but when they heard the recording of the bird’s kent sound and double rap against a tree, they said maybe there’s something to this ivory-bill fever after all.

We can thank Gene Sparling of Hot Springs, who first spotted the bird more than 18 months ago while he was canoeing, as well as the Nature Conservancy, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and dozens of volunteers who have worked to prove the bird’s existence and ensure its survival by improving its habitat.

If you’re interested in spending several days in the woods near Brinkley, give Thompson’s Mal-lard Point Lodge and Reserve a call before they’re completely booked for the season.
And say hello to the woodpecker while you’re there.

TOP STORY >> CAW to raise water rates for its customers


Although not directly related to the need for Central Arkansas Water to purchase about 1,300 acres of sensitive land from would-be developers on Lake Maumelle, water rates to some customers, including Jacksonville, will be raised.

Currently Jacksonville pays CAW 94 cents per thousand gallons, and neither Ken Anderson, head of the Jacksonville Water Department, nor Bruno Kirsh, chief operating officer of CAW, was prepared to speculate on the extent of the increase to Jacksonville or other wholesale customers.

The increase is not expected to affect Sherwood residents nor Cabot-area residents, who don’t currently get water from CAW, according to Kirsh.

Anderson said he would know more about the effect on Jacksonville customers after he meets with CAW officials Aug. 23.
The new rates, part of the 2001 merger agreement between Little Rock Municipal Water Works and the North Little Rock Water Department, are intended to equalize rates between in-city customers in both cities, according to Kirsh.
The new rates reflect the financial requirements for the next three years for maintenance, operations and capital investments, he said, with Lake Maumelle land purchase money counted as a capital cost.
Rates must be equalized be-tween Little Rock and North Little Rock by 2010.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Central Arkansas Water and Deltic Timber began negotiations Friday in an attempt to arrive at a sale price for the 700 acres Deltic wants to develop just uphill from Lake Maumelle.

CAW staff and community activists say the development threatens the safety of the lake, central Arkansas’ primary source of drinking water. The CAW commission last month retreated from its order to condemn the Deltic land, giving its lawyers and those from Deltic until Sept. 8 to agree on a price.

The resolution approved at the July meeting says that failing to reach an agreement, CAW would then initiate condemnation proceedings, but environmentalists and community activists have said they fear the commission is caving in to the rich and powerful developer.

Commissioner Jane Dickey works for the Rose Law Firm, which represents Deltic in matters not directly related to the Lake Maumelle land in question.

Thursday, the commission unanimously elected Dickey, its most controversial member, to represent it on the comprehensive watershed management policy advisory council. The policy council is charged with setting the overarching goal for the plan. It will work with TetraTech , Inc., the contractor formulating the comprehensive Lake Maumelle Watershed Management Plan. Dickey was nominated as the commission’s representative by Jay Hartman at the request of chairman Tom Rimmer, who reported that he had contacted her earlier and she had agreed to serve.
Dickey did not attend the meeting. Hartman said Dickey was one of several commissioners experienced in watershed studies and issues. “Jane sticks out as the one with the background,” he said.

“I don’t want to say it doesn’t concern me,” he said of Dickey’s relationship with Deltic, “but it’s something she can work through.”
In addition to Dickey representing CAW, people representing 19 other interests have been appointed. Those interests include ratepayers, the League of Women Voters, local chambers of commerce, quorum courts, environmental groups, Deltic Timber, the U.S. Forest Service, realtors and recreationalists.

The watershed management plan will cover not just the 1,300 acre zone 1 surrounding the water treatment intake valve, but the entire 88,000 acres—that’s 137 square miles of watershed, according to Kirsh. The study, being conducted by Tetra Tech, Inc.’s North Carolina office, which specializes in watershed planning, should be completed within 18 months, with much of the work completed by late next summer.

The Tetra Tech study is much broader than what to do about Deltic, said Jim Harvey, CAW’s chief executive officer. He said Dickey had a long history of water protection work dating back to 1992.
“I can’t think of anybody else (on the commission) with her background,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Clerk in Cabot settles lawsuit


Cabot Clerk-Treasurer Marva Verkler has dropped her federal lawsuit against the city and Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh.
Verkler said this week that continuing the lawsuit and carrying hatred for the mayor for stripping her of most of her duties as treasurer was interfering with her relationship with God.

“Carrying that hatred and revenge in my heart was getting in my way,” Verkler said. “It took two and a half years of praying to get to this point.

“I can forgive anything they may have done to me,” she said. “And I’ve asked the mayor to forgive me for anything I might have done to hurt him. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But he said he would and asked me to forgive him.”

City Attorney Ken Williams, who was still waiting for a faxed copy of the motion to dismiss from Verkler’s attorney, Ed Adcock, said if the motion said what he expected it to say, “the case is over.”
“It takes a big person to make peace, and I respect Marva’s decision,” Williams said.

Depositions in the case were supposed to begin this week. The city council set aside $20,000 in the 2005 budget to defend the city against the federal lawsuit filed in 2003. The city was represented by Steven Jones with the Little Rock law firm Jack Lyon & Jones.

So far, the case has cost the city about half that amount.
Verkler claimed in her suit that she was discriminated against because she is a woman and because she supported former Mayor Joe Allman in the last mayoral race. She was asking for monetary damages and for the court to return the duties taken from her at the urging of Stumbaugh, including her bookkeeping and check writing duties.

Those duties and most of Verkler’s staff were reassigned to Dale Walker, who was hired as the city’s first finance director after Stumbaugh took office in 2003.

In April the city council turned down an offer to settle the case for $25,000. Contacted Tuesday afternoon, Stumbaugh confirmed that he had spoken to Verkler a week earlier and that he had indeed apologized for anything he said or did after she filed her lawsuit that might have offended her.

He said he told Verkler he would forgive her for filing the suit, but he maintains that the suit was unjustified.
“I had done nothing wrong,” he said. “If they had had a lawsuit, they would have continued with it.”
“I’m glad the lawsuit is gone,” the mayor said. “But I stand where I stand; neither I nor the city did anything wrong.
“I’m glad it’s over and things have been better for the last week,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Playground area given new look


This summer, volunteers from Little Rock Air Force Base, led by MSgt. John Simonof of the 314th Maintenance Squadron, refurbished two Tolleson Elementary playground areas and made them into one playground. About 80 percent of the students at the Jacksonville school are children of military parents.
“It’s just a goodwill community project,” Simonof said.

He approached school officials in June to see if they needed any help.
Simonof participated in a larger playground project in Fairfield, Calif., near Travis Air Force Base several years ago.

Several of the teachers at Tolleson Elementary suggested consolidating the two play areas at the school. Moving the play area closest to the parking lot not only freed up parking spaces for teachers, but keeps children from playing close to traffic in the school’s parking lot.

Volunteers from Simonof’s workplace the 314 th’s Precision Measurement Equipment Labora-tory, worked weekends and after work to complete the project before school starts.
The group moved 17 pieces of playground equipment, repainted the equipment and fenced it in. Volunteers also plowed and leveled the kickball field.

“They’ve been out here every weekend working,” said Karen Carney, a bookkeeper at Tolleson Elementary.
“The teachers are all thrilled when they see it. It looks like all new equipment,” she said.
Simonof said the most difficult part of the project was asking for donations for materials such as paint and rental machinery for the task of moving the playground equipment.

“Everything worked out in the time we needed,” said Simonof.
Other projects at Tolleson that could use volunteer help include landscaping and painting.
Principal Diane Ashenberger said she’d like Simonof’s group to become Partners in Education with the school.
Partners in Education are involved with students on a more personal level such as physical education volunteers and reading to students. “I couldn’t be more pleased,” Ashenberger said.

“Some of these volunteers don’t even have children enrolled at our school. We’re pleased and proud.”

TOP STORY >> Council in Cabot is feisty as ever


Stubby Stumbaugh is running for Congress, which means he has only 15 months left as Cabot’s mayor. But on Monday night, his first city council meeting since the announcement Saturday, it was clear that nothing else has changed.
The mayor’s volatile relationship with the city council was just as evident as before. But the council did show its collective humanity by working with the mayor to end the meeting by 9:30 p.m.

The mayor’s sister is in intensive care in a Little Rock hospital, and he wanted to be there for the evening visiting period. The council held discussion on several ordinances, opting to read them only once and continue them at the next meeting instead of rushing them through in one meeting.

The council voted down at least two ordinances that the mayor supported, and the mayor ridiculed their decisions, saying they were stopping progress in the city. When Alderman Odis Waymack, who is, in practice if not spirit, the mayor’s greatest nemesis, misspoke, calling an ordinance by the wrong number,the mayor poked fun at his mistake.
Waymack, who is legally blind, said later that from now on he will request his copy of the agenda be printed with a larger type and in bold.

The council would not pass an ordinance to increase sewer rates to go into effect if voters don’t extend the existing sales tax in September to pay for a $16.5 million sewer plant.
Six votes were needed to pass the rate increase Monday and begin the 30-day referendum period when voters could challenge the increase with an election.

Stumbaugh said and J.M. Park, chairman of the Water and Wastewater Commission agreed, that the rate increase should be in place if the tax fails so work could begin immediately on the plant.
“They do not listen to the commission’s wishes,” Stumbaugh told the commission when the rate increase did not move forward.

If the tax doesn’t pass, the council could still raise the rates next month.
The council voted down a bid to spray weeds in the city after Alderman Odis Waymack questioned paying $5,000 more for the service than he believed was necessary. Waymack told the council that state law required that those who apply the herbicides have only one type of license.

Jim Towe, the head of pubic works, called on the carpet by Waymack, said he believed there were seven different kinds of licenses for applying herbicides. When he advertised for bids to do the work, he specified that two types of licenses were required.

Two companies turned in bids, but the only one that met the bid specs of two licenses was G. C. Brown and Associates, Inc., which bid $15,280. Mike Moss, Profes-sional Weed Control and Stan White, Affordable Custom Weed Control, bid $9,500.

Stumbaugh said that whoever voted against accepting the bids and getting the spraying started would also need to provide his phone number so the irate citizens who call him about the weeds in ditches and drainage basins could call them instead.

Alderman James Glenn provided the only “yes” vote for awarding the contract to G.C. Brown and Associates, Inc.
In addition to the $5,000 difference in the bid, some council members said it seemed an unnecessary and costly expense to spray weeds so late in the summer. The council approved an ordinance over the mayor’s objection and threat of veto that would require the city to get at least three documented phone bids on purchases from $1,000 to $4,999.99 and written quotes from reputable suppliers for expenditures from $5,000 to $9,999.99.
Expenditures of $10,000 and more would have to be bid. If only one bid is received, the purchase would have to be bid again in a newspaper with statewide circulation. Purchases of less than $1,000 would still be at the mayor’s discretion.

Waymack sponsored the ordinance. He gave as an example of the need of its passage, the fact that the city deals only with one paving company for re-pairing potholes and cuts in the streets to lay water and sewer lines. Stumbaugh protested that there is no way to predict when the service will be needed and no other company will come when called.

Dale Walker, the city’s finance director, said that in his office they already get quotes on everything, even down to pencils, just as Towe gets quotes for most of the materials he needs to run the rest of the city.
The animal shelter was another source of contention.
Alderman David Polantz sponsored a resolution to bid the animal shelter as soon as possible. The mayor objected to the resolution, saying the work is progressing as fast as possible and he resented the implication that he was somehow responsible for any holdup.

He pointed out that plans for the shelter were only recently completed.
The resolution passed, but the mayor said with or without it, work would still start on the animal shelter. If voters say Sept. 13 that they want $200,000 in tax money to be used for the shelter a $450,000 shelter will be built.

If voters turn down paying for it with the tax, it will be downsized so $260,000 already collected to build it will pay for it.
In other business, the council supported unanimously a resolution by Polantz to give $500 a month to Safe Haven, Inc., the nonprofit agency that intends to open a shelter for battered women by January.

The donation is contingent on City Attorney Ken Williams finding a way to do it legally.
The council also approved an ordinance transferring $12,000 from the general fund to the city attorney’s legal defense fund to settle a lawsuit with the veterans group that sold the city the land for the park across from the high school where the community center is to be built.

The group is suing because its contract with the city called for the construction and maintenance of a permanent restroom on the part of the property retained by the group for a veteran’s memorial.

Since the council wants to settle the suit by building the restroom, the money will presumably be used for that purpose.
The council did not pass an ordinance sponsored by Alderman Jerry Stephens that would have significantly increased the cost of connecting to city sewers. Stephens said he sponsored the ordinance because it is time part of the cost of development is paid by builders, who are responsible for Cabot’s growth.

An ordinance sponsored by Alderman Polantz that was introduced at the meeting but not passed would prohibit the city from paying for ads for elected officials.

Polantz had the ordinance drafted after the mayor’s office paid almost $2,300 out of the general fund for an ad in Arkansas Business congratulating Stum-baugh for being named to that publication’s “40 under 40” list of young Arkansans who are successful in their fields.

TOP STORY>> Funding lawsuit hearing is Friday

Leader Staff Writers

General Improvement Fund projects worth $52 million, earmarked for House and Senate districts across the state, hang in the balance as Pulaski County Circuit Judge Willard Proctor holds a preliminary hearing Friday on a lawsuit filed recently by Jacksonville attorney Mike Wilson.

The money—some would characterize it as pork—is intended to help with projects as diverse as a Jacksonville library, a Carlisle civic center, Lonoke’s decrepit county jail and individual volunteer fire departments across the state.

Wilson’s suit would halt 11 named projects, including six earmarked by state Rep. Will Bond for Jacksonville, but also threatens nearly all the projects and the way the General Assembly has awarded General Improvement Funds since 1997. (See editorial, p. 10A.)

This year, depending on their tenure, House members were allowed to earmark $104,000, $158,000 or $212,000 for projects in their district. Each state senator was allowed $750,000 in projects.

Proctor has put a temporary halt to disbursement of funds for the projects named in the suit, saying it was not unreasonable to think Wilson might prevail.
Wilson, a former state representative, says the funding violates Amendment 14 banning state-funded local legislation. The Jacksonville projects named in the case are:

• $190,000 for the new Esther D. Nixon Library;
• $50,000 to the Jackson-ville Boys and Girls Club;
• $50,000 to the Jackson-ville Senior Center;
• $20,000 to the city of Jacksonville;
• $10,000 to the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, and
• $10,000 for the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society.
Jacksonville voters in July approved a one-mill property tax increase to finance $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library, and Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim promises it will be built with or without the General Improvement Funds arranged by Bond and state Sen. John Paul Capps of Searcy.

Also cited in Wilson’s suit were funds for the Cleburne County Library, and, in Bigelow, for sewers, streets and infrastructure.
Not cited specifically in Wilson’s suit, but threatened in the event of a ruling in his favor is $300,000 toward resolving overcrowding and substandard conditions at the Lonoke County Jail and $350,000 earmarked by state Sen. Bobby Glover for a Carlisle Civic Center.

If Wilson wins his suit it would “have a tremendous effect” on the balance of the $52 million worth of projects, Wilson told The Leader.
“At that point, the Department of Finance and Administration—the people who write the checks—are going to say, ‘We better not write any more checks. These are unconstitutional,’” Wilson said.

Richard Weiss, director of the DF&A, said Aug. 25 is the target date when his department would begin writing checks—other than those put on hold by Proctor.
He said Wilson’s suit had not caused a major increase in recipients wanting expedited checks.

“It’s (Judge Proctor’s) discretion on how broad or narrow of an impact his decision has,” said Matt DeCample, spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office. Asheton Carter represents the state, while Wilson represents himself.

“If the state is going to simply give money away to anybody, that would require a constitutional amendment,” said Wilson, “a vote by the people.”
General Improvement Funds as they now exist began in 1997, so Wilson, who retired said he wasn’t bringing home the pork when he was a state representative.

The money pretty much was at the discretion of the governor and earmarked for higher education, he said.
“Those projects were ranked or listed every two years. The governor would decide when to release the money.
“It’s bad business from a sensible and practical viewpoint… to give money away with no accountability,” said Wilson.

In addition to the projects cited in Wilson’s suit, the $300,000 appropriation Glover, state Rep. Susan Schulte and state Rep. Lenville Evans secured toward a better Lonoke County Jail and the $350,000 Glover got for a Carlisle Community Center, area projects uncertain include more modest appropriations for:
Volunteer fire departments, libraries in Cabot and Ward, the Cabot Senior Center, Open Arms Shelter in Lonoke; $113,000 earmarked by Evans for the Bayou Meta Water District; North Pulaski Community Center Complex, grants for certified teachers, the Arkansas National Guard, Sherwood Rotary Club’s Veterans Memorial and the Jack Evans Senior Center, Arkansas State University—Beebe, the White County Ameri-can Red Cross, White County Aging Program/Lightle Senior Center, White County Regional Library, White County United Way, and water, sewer and street improvements for Beebe, Judsonia and McRae.