Wednesday, November 30, 2005



Raymond F. Bernt, 92, of Jack-sonville, formerly of Columbus, Neb., died Nov. 23 at Rebsamen Medical Center in Jacksonville.
He was born Oct. 7, 1913, in Platte Center to Gustav and Theresa (Greisen) Bernt. He attended District 25 Platte County School. On Oct. 14, 1937, he married Catheryn Good in Central City, Neb.
He entered the Navy and served during WWII from 1944 to 1945. He owned his own sheet-metal business for more than 20 years in Columbus before retiring to Jacksonville in 1988. He was a member of St. Jude Catholic Church in Jacksonville and a member of the Order of Eagles.
He is survived by sons, Ronald and wife Connie Bernt of Cabot, John and wife Beth Bernt of Columbia, Mo., and Gustaf and wife Linda Bernt of Beebe; daughters, Judy Davis of Jacksonville and Donna Aldrich of Jacksonville; 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, son, Raymond Bernt, daughters, Marie and Catheryn Bernt, two grandchildren, Ronna and Christopher, and sons-in-law Ed Davis and John Aldrich.
A mass of Christian burial will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Colum-bus with Father Joe Miksch officiating.
Interment will be in the St. Bonaventure Cemetery in Columbus. Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday at the Gass Haney Funeral Home.
Memorials can be made to St. Isidore Catholic Church or St. Jude Catholic Church in Jacksonville.


Annual tour of homes on tap in Jacksonville

The Junior Auxiliary of Jacksonville will host their annual Christmas tour of homes from 2-4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec.11.
The following homes are included on the tour: Mr. and Mrs. John Vanderhoof, Mr. and Mrs. Gid Branscum, Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Carlisle, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Sherman.
Tickets are $10 and all proceeds benefit the underprivileged children of Jacksonville.
For ticket information please call Mandy Watson at 501-982-1241 or 501-766-4979.
Also, tickets can be purchased at Double R Florist and Aspen Leaf.

Sherwood church plans Christmas musical

First Baptist Church of Sherwood’s sanctuary choir, orchestra and drama team will present the Christmas musical based on the birth of Jesus called “One Incredible Moment” at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11 in the worship center.
All are welcome to attend this free event at 701 Country Club Road in Sherwood. Call 835-3154 for more information.

Lonoke retired teachers group to meet Monday

Lonoke County Retired Teachers Association will meet at noon, Monday at C.J.’s CafĂ©. Mary Ann Hughes will speak on the Medicaid Prescription Drug Program.
After lunch the group will go to Spring Creek Nursing Home to sing Christmas carols.
For further information call Jean Davenport at 843-5694.

EDITORIAL >> Forgotten Americans

Here’s a thought this holiday weekend: Why isn’t anybody around here looking out for the little guy or gal these days?

The fat cats in Washington are helping themselves to billions of dollars worth of special projects — from bridges to nowhere to museums to local notables — but here we are, working longer and harder, and we’re still sending too much of it to Washington and Little Rock and spending what’s left at the gas pump.

Oh, sure, there’s symbolic tax relief now and then, but the bureaucrats and the fat cats and the oil companies are doing very well for themselves, but not the forgotten American.

If you earn a few thousand dollars a year, you will be happy to know that the federal government is going to cut your taxes by $15 to $40 a year starting in January. You can thank President Bush and a generous Congress, which included this round of tax cuts in 2001. It is one of the last tax cuts for the wealthy to be phased in from four rounds of tax cuts in the president’s first term.

If your annual earnings are in the millions of dollars, you have more to be thankful for. You can keep a few thousand dollars more of your hard-earned coupons starting in January.

If you are among the lowest 97 percent of earners, this round is not for you.

The first President Bush in 1991 signed a law phasing out some deductions and exemptions for very high incomes to make the tax code fairer for working people and to reduce the ballooning budget deficit. One of his son’s first acts as president was to repeal his dad’s good work and reinstate high-income allowances for itemized deductions and personal exemptions.

Here in Arkansas nearly all the tax benefits will go to a few of the state’s great personal fortunes. The idea is that some of them might turn around and invest the savings in a way that will create jobs for the rest of us.

Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, are trying to get Congress to repeal the tax cuts before they take effect in January, which would stop further swelling of the federal budget deficit or perhaps protect some Medicaid medical benefits or student loans for Arkansas kids.

Congress seems to be in no mood to attend to such trifling concerns, but our senators might appreciate having it brought to their attention.

EDITORIAL >> More debt for colleges?

Colleges and universities will never have an overabundance of buildings and facilities, not in this poor state, and borrowing is as good a way to get them as there is, except one. That would be to build them with the cash you have on hand and avoid the lengthy debt and interest.

So does the state have $150 million in cash that the institutions want, or must it sell bonds? The issue before voters on Dec. 13 is not quite that simple, but it frames the questions.

Gov. Huckabee called a special election on that day to restructure some $250 million of 15-year-old college savings bonds, which would free $150 million for new buildings and equipment at the state-supported universities and the two-year colleges. While he was at it, Huckabee put a second issue on the same ballot, whether to authorize the state Highway Commission to keep borrowing money at its pleasure to repair interstate highways when the current debt is repaid in five to eight years. We have told you why we think the highway issue should be defeated. The interstates can be repaired almost as quickly and much more economically by paying as we go, and the state would not be relinquishing a fair part of popular rule.

The college bond question is not so easy. People of good will can disagree reasonably on the value of the college buildings and the wisdom of the bond financing, but they need to look behind the salesmanship. Matters are never so desperate or the exigencies so clear as the sponsors suggest.

Bonds or cash. The state is building a cash surplus that is expected to be close to $300 million by the time the biennium ends in July 2007, and more than half of that will be available next summer.

Could it be used for the college buildings and avoid the debt? Yes, but the legislature would have to appropriate it for the colleges, and lawmakers proved again this year that they would rather use these cash balances on local pork-barrel projects that help them get re-elected. The Arkansas Supreme Court might hold the legislature and Gov. Huckabee in contempt for not providing enough money for public school construction needs, in which case part of the $300 million could be dedicated to that. But it is an option for higher education. Would you trust the legislature to be so prudent?

The need. Gov. Huckabee and Dr. Linda Beene, the director of higher education, say that enrollment on the campuses has been growing rapidly the past 10 years, far outstripping the campuses’ physical expansion.

Enrollment has been growing, a very good thing, but it has been accompanied by capital improvements of unparalleled volume in Arkansas history. A look at the vouchered expenditures of public funds at the state treasury from 1995 through 2004 shows that the institutions have spent nearly $1 billion — $917,360,013 to be exact — on capital improvements. Another $250 million or more has been spent on buildings and athletic facilities with grants from the great family fortunes and foundations. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation alone gave the institutions $132,081,364 between 1995 and 2003 for new buildings, all of which now bear the name of the media mogul.

But not all of the money was spent on the priority needs of teaching: classrooms, research facilities, performance halls and the like. The University of Arkansas spent more than $100 million expanding and renovating its football stadium and several million more upgrading other athletic facilities. So a few of the campuses may indeed have severe academic shortages. The law, incidentally, would not permit any of the bond money from being used on sports facilities.

Timing. Unlike the highway bonds, which would not be issued until late 2010 or beyond, there is some argument for voting on higher education bonds rather than in the 2006 general election or later if you are going to sell bonds at all. The special election will cost $1 million; putting it on the general election ballot would cost nothing. If you are going to issue bonds, better to do it now while long-term interest rates are low. They will go up and up.

Taxes. No new taxes would be levied and no other program would be affected, Huckabee said. The bonds would be repaid not from new taxes, but it is wrong to say the bonds would affect no other program. The state takes $24 million a year from general revenues to retire the existing bonds, the first batch of which were issued in 1991. After restructuring the current debt to pay off some $100 million owed to investors over the life of the existing bonds, the state would commit that $24 million a year for another 20 years. If the bonds are defeated, that money after the last of the current bonds are retired in 2017 would lapse back into the general fund to pay for the public schools, Medicaid, law enforcement and all the rest.

So the question for voters is this: Are college buildings and research facilities of such overriding priority that they should stand ahead of other needs, principally the schools, in the call against the state’s public credit? As the sports announcers say, it’s a judgment call.

SPORTS >> Dragons end Wildcats’ title hopes with breakaway run

Leader sports writer

Harding Academy’s perfect season came to an end with 2:11 left in the game Friday when Junction City’s Justin Hoof ran 86 yards to put the Dragons ahead for the first time in the contest. Prior to Hoof’s breakaway run, the HA defense had contained Hoof well, holding him to 23 yards on 11 carries.

The Wildcats tried to respond with a pair of last minute drives, but both resulted in interceptions. Junction City held on to take the 21-16 win, propelling them into the AA semifinals for the fifth straight year.

Friday night’s game was a tale of two halves, with Harding Academy dominating in the first half, jumping out a 14-0 lead over the Dragons while holding JC to 20 yards of total offense in the process.

Junction City looked like a different team altogether in the second half, shutting down HA quarterback Zach Tribble and the spread offense, while Dragon junior tailback Justin Easter began to pound the Wildcat defense with some solid runs.

Junction City coach David Carpenter says his team’s amazing second half comeback is nothing new this season.
“We’ve come from behind in just about every game we’ve been in this year,” Carpenter said. “We knew we were going to have to have a big run in just a minute, I just didn’t think it was going to be that one. We ran a trap back to the weak side, and it worked out well for us. The second half has been our half.”

Harding Academy coach Tommy Shoemaker was emotional after the difficult loss.

“Sometimes momentum is a funny thing,” Shoemaker said. “You can’t get it back, and they’ve got it. Hey, they’ve got tradition, so do we.
“They didn’t give up, they didn’t get down. They knew what they had to do and they did it. We didn’t, and that’s what it all came down to.”
The first half looked as if Harding Academy would take another easy playoff win, as the HA defense allowed two first downs in the first half. One of those first downs for Junction City was the result of an offsides penalty against the Wildcats.

Harding Academy did all of their damage in the opening quarter, scoring on their second and third possessions of the game.
The first score came on a 10- play, 48-yard drive capped off with a 4-yard TD keeper from Zach Tribble with 6:46 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats’ next drive was almost identical, with HA going 52 yards in 11 plays, with Zach Tribble finding Chase Ransom for the 6-yard touchdown pass in the final 10 seconds of the first quarter.

Junction City’s running game had no steam in the first half. Junior standouts Justin Easter and Justin Hoof were held for a combined six yards rushing on seven carries.

The majority of the Dragons’ yardage in the first half was a 12-yard pass play from QB Steven Jones to Anthony Carter.

Harding Academy continued to stop Hoof in the second half, but Easter started to find his way through the HA secondary. The Dragons’ offensive line began to open up some holes for the runner, and Easter took advantage.

Easter got all of his 106 yards rushing in the second half, and put Junction City on the board for the first time with 7:23 left in the third quarter. Easter went over the top for the score on first and goal from the 1-yard line.

Jones scored the Dragons’ next TD to start out the fourth quarter with a sneak at the Harding Academy goal line to tie things up at 14 all with 11:10 left in the game.

It began to look as if the game might be headed towards overtime, as the two teams traded the ball back and forth.
Luke Tribble thwarted JC’s next drive with an interception inside the Wildcats’ 5-yard line.

Zach Tribble kept the next drive alive for Harding Academy with a fake punt that resulted in a 13-yard run for the first down, but two incomplete passes and a two-yard loss for halfback J.T. Fisher forced another fourth-down situation.

Tribble punted for real this time, and the Dragons took over from their own 14-yard line.

The whole complexion of the game changed on the next play, when Hoof took the ball on the right side, but was met at the line of scrimmage by two HA defenders. The Wildcats defenders wrapped Hoof up, but he worked his way free. Hoof then took it all the way in from there, putting the Dragons ahead 21-14 with just over two minutes left.

Tribble was intercepted twice in the final two minutes, first on a pass intended for Eddie Koch at the JC 4-yard line. Easter came down with the pass, and the Dragons attempted to run out the clock.

With all three timeouts remaining for Harding Academy, Junction City was unable to run the remaining minute and a half off the clock.
Jones ran the ball into the JC end zone on fourth down to run as many seconds off the clock as possible, giving the Wildcats the safety with eight seconds remaining.

After the free kick went out of bounds, the Wildcats took over from their own 40-yard line with one more shot at the win. Tribble tried to find his brother Luke on the first pass, but it was broken up by the JC defenders with one second left.

The second hail-Mary pass intended for Ransom was intercepted by Justin Cook, ending the 6AA-conference champion’s season with a final record of 12-1.

Tribble’s stats told the story for Harding Academy’s offense in the game. The senior quarterback completed 14 of 29 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown in the first half as well as a rushing touchdown, while only completing five of 18 passes for 66 yards and two interceptions in the second half.

The loss ends an incredible run for the Harding Academy seniors. Luke Tribble, Kurt Adams, Jacob Odom and the rest of the HA seniors have had three successful years as part of the Harding Academy football program.

SPORTS >> Cabot towers over NP

Leader sports writer

A solid team performance in the second half propelled the Cabot Panthers to a 45-28 win over North Pulaski in the opening round of the Ortho Arkansas Invitational basketball tournament at CAC on Monday night.

The Falcons kept it close through the first half, trailing by three points at the intermission.

Cabot took advantage of NP turnovers early in the third period to extend their lead into double digits. North Pulaski was not able to overcome that deficit for the remainder of the game, and the Panthers took the first-round win.

Cabot head coach Jerry Bridges was proud of the all around performance from his team.
“I thought in the first half, we got a little impatient,” Bridges said. “We are a better team when everybody touches the ball and gets involved. In the second half, we did a good job of that. We just got to doing what we do best.”

Alex Sharpe led Cabot with 12 points and six rebounds. Rodric Rainey led North Pulaski in scoring with seven points, while NP post player Mike Anorue led all rebounders with seven on the night.

Cabot got out to the early lead with some quick scoring from Michael Tyson. Tyson hit a pair of free throws and moments later took it in the paint for two more to put the Panthers ahead 8-2. Tyson injured his ankle on the jumper, and was forced to leave the game mid-way through the first period.

The Falcons rallied back in the final moments of the opening quarter, cutting Cabot’s lead to 13-8.

The second period was a defensive struggle, as a three pointer from Quinn Cooper for NP was the only points scored for either team in the first five-and-a- half minutes of the quarter.

A pair of free throws by Tony Glass tied things up at 13 all, but Cabot would finally get on the board in the second period with two straight jumpers from Sharpe.

The Panthers were poised to take a six-point lead into the locker room, but a three-pointer at the buzzer from Rainey cut the lead to 19-16 Cabot at the half.

Cabot extended its lead in the third period, taking advantage of North Pulaski turnovers.
The Panthers held NP to only four points in the quarter, and allowed even fewer rebounds.

By the end of the third, Cabot had increased its advantage to 13, leading the Falcons 33-20 going into the final quarter.
The Panthers added to their lead in the fourth period, as Sharpe capped off the game with a dunk in the final minute for a final score of 45-28.
Cabot moves on to round two of the winners bracket today when they face Hot Springs at 8:30. North Pulaski will face Sylvan Hills in the losers bracket game today at 5:30.

“I think they are similar to what we just played tonight,” Bridges said of Hot Springs, “They have three good guards who can shoot. It’s going to be a battle.”

NEIGHBORS >> JHS cleanup

Jacksonivlle High School cleanup

The Devil Dustin Dirt Bustin Jacksonville High School Cleanup Day on Nov. 19 was organized by Debbie Skidmore and Patricia White and involved approximately 50 students, parents and faculty. The group helped clean the rock gardens, paint picnic tables and doors, pressure-wash walls at the north end and inside walls on the lower level entrance, pick up trash around the building, rake leaves, dig up bushes and clean plastic ficus plants. The cleanup started at 8:30 a.m. and ended around noon. Pizzas were donated by Pizza Pro and drinks by Pepsi. Above (left to right) Anthony Horswell, Brad Guthrey, Justin Myers, Michael Cox, Nathan Bacher, and James McMaster from the JHS Autoshop Club paint picnic tables.

Left, Cecil Moore uses a blower to clean the pine needles off the parking lot while students bag them up.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> How you can make big bucks at home

Does Arkansas need two people to head the state’s emergency management agency?

Right now we have Wayne Ruthven, the outgoing head of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, still collecting $6,600 a month while he supposedly works out of his home till the end of the year, and John Brackin, the interim chief, making about the same amount of money.

Talk about fleecing the taxpayers: That’s a lot of bucks for not a lot of emergency management, if you ask us — about $3,500 a week for two fellows with not much to do. Because whenever there’s an emergency, like the time hurricane refugees streamed into Arkansas, the governor takes center stage and pretty much runs the show.

Why not give the governor a small raise and eliminate the $79,000 a year emergency management post?
Col. Ruthven was pretty much absent when people fleeing hurricanes Katrina and Rita came to Arkansas, looking for food, shelter, clothes and jobs — and Mike Huckabee was all over the place, welcoming the refugees, but Ruthven, much like Michael Brown, the disgraced former FEMA director, was nowhere to be seen, which may explain why the retired colonel is on the way out.

When you have a hands-on governor like Mike Huckabee, who needs a director of emergency services? Who needs an interim director?
I’m all for saving the taxpayers their hard-earned dollars, especially when it comes to duplication like one director working alone at home and an interim director also collecting a hefty paycheck. Give the money back to the taxpayers or give it to the hurricane refugees.

Ruthven has done well on the public payroll. When he was hired as Jacksonville police chief in 2002, he was paid very well here, too, although he lacked the credentials for the job and held the post for just 18 months till the emergency management position opened up for him.

It appeared he’d stay there for a long time — he was said to be a favorite of Mrs. Huckabee’s — but, like FEMA’s Brownie, Ruthven’s future was not in emergency management after all, at least not at the state level.

Ruthven, who lives in North Little Rock, says he still checks in with his office in Conway via e-mail.
“I still have full connectivity with the office,” Ruthven insists.

Not only that, but the former Jacksonville police chief will represent Arkansas at several emergency conferences, at state expense.
Not surprisingly, state legislators want to know what Ruthven could be doing at home that’s so important that he can collect more than $1,600 a week from the state.

But it sure beats stuffing envelopes at home.

TOP STORY >> Base pleased with funding

Leader staff writer

A pair of new projects next year are aimed at helping improve the working and non-working environment at Little Rock Air Force Base.
The base will be receiving $6.4 million next year for an improved dining facility to replace the existing facility, which is aged and undersized. The new dining facility will also house a community center mailroom.

The base will also get $2.5 million to add an additional runway to the All-American Landing Zone at Camp Robinson.
“We land C-130s at Camp Robinson to give pilots practice for landing on unimproved landing areas,” said Lt. Jon Quinlan, chief of media relations for the 314th Airlift Wing.

“With cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers, we have 100 percent of the taxiway design completed.
“We anticipate that after the contract is awarded, we’ll begin construction in early summer of 2006,” Quinlan said.
Construction for the new dining facility, to be located near the dorms, is expected to begin in the fall of 2006.
“We are committed to providing quality facilities for our airmen to live, work and play in,” Quinlan said.
The money for the projects is part of the 2006 Military Con-struction Bill passed by Congress.
The two projects for the air base are part of $20.5 million for Ark-ansas defense projects.

Of that, $5.6 million was designated for construction of the Regional Institute Training Com-plex at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock.
The National Guard Armory in Searcy is set to receive $186,000 for planning and design for the Combined Support Maintenance Shop, and the Veterans Medical Center in Fayetteville is to get $5.8 million to begin construction on an addition to the facility.

TOP STORY >> Lawyers to appeal loss of suit

Leader staff writer

Consumer activist Todd Turner will appeal to the state Supreme Court Circuit Judge Barry Sims’ ruling Friday in favor of payday lenders, their so-called regulators and the law exempting their transactions from Arkansas’ usury laws, he vowed Monday.

Turner, the Arkadelphia lawyer with a reputation for suing payday lenders and check cashers on behalf of consumers, said he would appeal Sims’ decision within the allotted 30 days of its filing. He said the ruling had not yet been filed.

The state was a defendant in this action and was represented by Thomas Thrash of the attorney general’s office. John Hardin represented the payday lenders.

To the consternation of Turner and others out to undo the check cashers, Sims ruled that the Check Cashers Act of 1999 was constitutional.
“I wish I could have raised my hand and said, ‘Judge I don’t understand how 400 percent a year interest can be less than 17 percent a year. It ought to be unconstitutional,” said Hank Klein, an activist against payday lending and retired CEO of the Arkansas Federal Credit Union.
“The law is a funny thing sometimes,” he added.

“I’m disappointed in one way,” Klein said, “but happy that he made a decision and things can move on.
“We recognized that from the get-go, ultimately the Supreme Court will make a decision if the law is constitutional or not.”
“We think the issue is a legal one,” Turner said, “real simple, whether the general assembly can say these transactions aren’t really loans. Our position is (that) the state ought not be in the business of giving licenses to companies making usurious loans.

“We have a statute that says if you write a two-party check, hold it for two weeks and charge a fee that (fee) is not interest.”
Consumer groups charge that the payday lenders, who typically lend $300 for two weeks and collect $350 back, are charging interest rates equivalent to hundreds of percent on an annual basis.

The payday lenders and check cashers say they are the only ones who will lend small sums of money for a short period of time to consumers needing money for food or to fix a tire on their car or other emergencies.

The state’s usury law prohibits charging more than 17 percent, but Klein says these loans are “at least 25 times higher.”
“They charge astronomical interest rates people can’t afford to pay,” according to Klein.

They then end up in a debt cycle.
“This is legalized loan sharking,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Raises proposed in Beebe

Leader staff writer

Beebe Mayor Donald Ward presented a $2.7 million budget to the city council Monday night that contains the first pay raise for city employees in three years.

Ward is asking the city council to give employees a 5 percent raise at a cost to the city of about $47,000.

At the urging of Alderman Ron-nie Dean, the council agreed to meet at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 12, to discuss the budget, which by state law must be passed by Feb. 1.

The projected revenue does not include anything from water and sewer, which is run by a commission and is completely separate from the city. It does include more than $500,000 in a savings account that has been set aside for emergencies. Ward said during a break in the meeting that he is opposed to spending the money for city projects when it could possibly be needed for salaries if expenses increased unexpectedly.

Projected revenue for the general fund which supports the mayor’s office, parks, fire, police and the city cemetery is $1.6 million. The major income sources are county property tax, $41,000; county sales and use tax, $556,200; state turnback, $80,800; city sales and use tax $651,990, and franchise tax, $187,100.

The city also is estimated to receive $275,800 next year from the state as turnback from the gasoline tax that is collected, but that money may only be used by the street department.

The budget for the police department is the largest in the city. Revenue from fines and other sources is estimated at $36,960 while expenditures are estimated at $722,895.

Of that amount, $18,450 would pay the lease on four new patrol cars.
Ward told the council that the maintenance on the old cars about equaled the lease on new ones.
The parks department also consumes much more than it generates.

The projected revenue from such sources as concessions, gate fees and registration fees is $79,700.
The projected cost of running the department next year is $219,730.

Beebe’s fire department is currently run by volunteers except for the paid part-time fire chief. But the department is still a big expense to the city which pays insurance for all the firefighters and buys and maintains the equipment.

The projected revenue for the department from membership fees and other sources is $17,700 while the estimated cost of running the department in 2006 is $185,970.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood is keeping close eye on PCSSD

Leader staff writer

Saying “Something’s fixin’ to happen in the Pulaski County Special School District,” Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon Monday evening appointed a task force to monitor the complex situation in which the troubled district finds itself.

Moments earlier, the city council unanimously approved a $16.2 million, 2006 general-fund budget and a $1.6 million street-fund budget, both of them similar to the city’s 2005 budgets.

Harmon told the aldermen that the state was studying “busting up” the school district — a study funded at the urging of state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville.

Bond put special language in the State Education Depart-ment’s 2006 budget, requiring the study and earmarking $250,000 for it.
The study would help determine the feasibility of restructuring the existing three public-school districts in Pulaski County. Public-school students in Sherwood attend PCSSD schools.

Sherwood, like Jacksonville, north Pulaski County and portions of the county south and west, all are in the Pulaski County Special School District.

The study will consider the feasibility of two districts in Pulaski County — one north of the Arkansas River, the other south and also the feasibility of one district south of the river, plus a Jacksonville district and another north-of-the-river district.

Harmon appointed two councilmen — Becki Vassar and Sherry Sulcer — to his task force, along with former PCSSD board member Eugene Manfredini and businessman Tom Reynolds. He asked them to work with Ronnie Calva, who represents Sherwood on the PCSSD board.
“Keep us informed,” the mayor charged them.

Jacksonville residents have worked — unsuccessfully so far — to get their own school district and Calva said he’d like to see Sherwood break off and form its own district as well.

In Sherwood’s 2006 budget, projected revenues are about $750,000 higher than estimates a year ago with city sales tax and county sales tax projections accounting for the lion’s share of the increase.

The city has budgeted $541,830 for the city’s share of the project to four-lane part of Brockington Road in 2006. Harmon said the project is ready to be bid as soon as the state Highway Department “turns loose its money.”
“We’re ready to move and our plans are approved,” he said.

Phase one of that project is expected to cost about $3 million.
The entire Brockington Road project, four-laning from Kiehl Avenue to Hwy. 107, could cost $7 million. The city also has budgeted another $400,000 for other roadwork.

TOP STORY >> Berry insists he’ll run

Leader staff writer

Cong. Marion Berry, D-Gillette, who was in Cabot on Monday at the request of the Arlene Cherry Memorial Library, said he has heard rumors that he is not running again for the First District seat he has held for nine years, and those rumors are false, he insists.

“I know there’s people telling that, but it’s not so,” Berry said. “There’s probably some who wish I wasn’t running, but I’m actually more energetic and enthusiastic about it than I was last year.”

It’s been almost a year since doctors at UAMS in Little Rock identified four degenerated vertebrae as the source of the debilitating pain in Berry’s neck. Since the operation in January to correct the problem, the congressman says his life is back to normal and he is excited about representing the people who live in his district.

“There are just so many things going on that I want to see finished,” he said.
But Berry would not comment on the two Republicans from Cabot who want to take his seat next November – Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh and Patrick D’Andrea, who will face off in the primary next year.
“I don’t ever talk about my opponents,” he said.

Instead, he talked about the work in progress that he has been a part of: major highway projects, an airport at Stuttgart capable of handling small jets and an anticipated truck-manufacturing plant at Wynne that will help revitalize the economy in the Delta.

“We’ve got a lot of good things happening, and I want to stick around and see them happen,” said Berry, who is seeking a fifth term.
His appearance in Cabot was to acknowledge a grant of books the library had received from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “We the People Project,” which sponsors the bookshelf program.

The 30 or so books the library received all contain some element of this year’s theme – freedom.

Berry perused the titles, commenting that “Animal Farm” by George Orwell was a classic and that C. S. Lewis, author of “The Complete Chronicles of Narnia” isn’t someone he usually associates with children’s literature.

Dixie Lewis, children’s librarian, said before Berry arrived that the congressman was not responsible for the grant.
“This was a grant from the national government, so we asked him to come by and celebrate this gift,” she said.
Berry posed for pictures in front of the new collection and reminisced about the first library he had ever visited.
“It wasn’t any bigger than that rack right there,” he said, pointing to a rack containing about 20 books. Berry grew up in the country near DeWitt where textbooks were scarce and libraries were almost non-existent, he said.

Now, he says he can’t imagine a morning without a newspaper or a life without books.