Wednesday, December 21, 2005



Don Fults, 65, of Beebe died Dec. 20.
He was a paint contractor and then retired from Falcon Jet as an interior installer.
He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Kirk Fults; two sons, David Hawk of Beebe and Wesley Fults of Sacramento, Calif.; one daughter, Tammy Jackson of Beebe; two brothers, Dan Rey-nolds of California and Bob Fults of Missouri; one sister, RoseAnn Escott of Illinois; eight grandchildren.
Graveside service will be 10 a.m. Friday at Stoney Point Cemetery, Beebe by Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.


Kenneth Leon Floyd, 67, of Stuttgart passed away Sunday, Dec. 18, at Stuttgart Regional Medical Center.
Floyd was born Oct. 1, 1938, in Hazen. He was a 28-year employee at Producer’s Rice Mill where he was a construction engineer, and was a member of Park Avenue Baptist Church.
His parents, Enos Doris Floyd and Nettie Mae Kee Floyd Dozier; his step-father, James A. Dozier; and brothers-in-law, Charles Daw-son, Raymond Dawson, Elmer Raper and Henry Kee, preceded him in death.
Survivors are his wife, Joyce Ann Dawson Floyd; his son, Dickie L. Floyd and wife Donna of Stuttgart; his daughter, Cindy A. Doss and fiancé Mike Wayman of Little Rock; two brothers, Benny Floyd and wife Marilyn of Cabot and Jerry Floyd and wife Judy of Moro; brother-in law and sisters-in-law, Modean Kee of Hazen, Janie Bell Dawson of Bryant, Marcelle Raper of Stuttgart, Sue Dawson of Lonoke and Gene and Margie Vail of Stuttgart; and six grandchildren, Adam and Kenny Mannis, Jonathan, Tiffany and MaKayla Floyd and Camilla Lewis. He was also survived by several other relatives and many friends and co-workers.
Funeral services were Tuesday at Park Avenue Baptist Church with Bro. Ralph Ruffin officiating.
A graveside service was held Tuesday at Center Point Cemetery near Hazen by Turpin Funeral Home of Stuttgart.
Pallbearers were his nephews, Dudley Raper, Doug Vail, Jeff Floyd, Terry Floyd, Bud Dawson, Greg Hogue, Clay Medford and Billy Kee.
The family requests memorials be made to Park Avenue Baptist Church Building Fund, P.O. Box 983, Stuttgart, or Center Point Cemetery Fund, c/o Gail Wallace, 2826 Hwy. 249 N., Hazen, Ark. 72064.


Eva Dee Gardner, 86, of Beebe, died Sunday, Dec. 18.
She was raised in Enola and Mt. Vernon.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 20 years, Fred Gardner, and her parents, Henry and Lillie Hale Grimes. She is survived by three daughters, Cindy Chapman and Sandra Sloan, both of Beebe, and Anna and husband Harrel Free of Conway; two sons, Charles Gardner and Thurman Gardner, both of Beebe; 16 grandchildren; 28 great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; one brother, Hassell Grimes of Texarkana, Texas; and three sisters, Reva Moore of Rogers, Rachel Linders and Linda May, both of McRae.
Funeral will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at McRae Pentecostal Church, with burial in Weir Cemetery.
Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home.


Daniel O. West, of Beebe, died Dec. 16 at a local hospital after a two-month fight which involved a two-car accident.
He was born in Thomasville, Georgia on August 14, 1938, and moved to Arkansas in 1978.
He loved his evenings of fishing and his special coffee time at Waffle House with his many friends, especially Gary of Beebe and Roger Tilman of Keystone Heights, Florida.
He was preceded in death by his father, Elvin West of Thomas-ville, Ga., and is survived by his wife, Adele West of the home; a son, Robert (Bobby) West of Beebe; a granddaughter, Kaila West of Tennessee; his mother, Edith Barnett of Cairo, Ga.; a sister, Mickie Hall of Tallahassee, Fla.; many nephews and nieces; his mother-in-law, Lillian Her-mans of Denmark, Wisc.; and many brothers and sisters-in law.
Funeral was Tuesday at Westbrook Funeral Home.


Ella M. Walters, 91, of Ward, went to be with the Lord Monday, Dec. 19.
She was born March 22, 1914, at Des Arc, to James Adam and Allie Alberta Brown Parker. She was a Baptist and a loving, caring, passionate mother.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Lonnie Walters and her parents.
Survivors are a son, Norman “Bud” Walters and his wife Agnes of Bee Branch; daughters, Mary Lester of Jacksonville, Ann Taylor and husband Marty, and Doris Ball of Beebe, Clara Maples and husband C.W. of Austin, and Louise Lucky and husband Bill of Ward; 28 grandchildren and a host of great and great-great grandchildren.
Family will receive friends 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.
Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Sand Hill Cemetery, Des Arc.
Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home.

EDITORIAL >> High court does it again

For the third time in three years, the Arkansas Supreme Court instructed the legislature and the governor this week to fix the funding of public schools so that the 450,000 children are assured suitable and roughly equal educational opportunities.

While it was extending them a third chance, the court seemed a trifle more impatient with the lawmakers, who this year disregarded the laws they had designed themselves to produce a constitutional school system.

In a little more than 11 months, a constitutional system must be firmly in place. The court stayed its mandate in the old Lake View school case until then.

What happens then if the state has not acted? The court was, as usual, vague but resolute.

The Supreme Court is obliged to see to it that the will of the people when they wrote the Constitution is followed, the court said, and it added: “We will perform that duty.” We can only guess that the court would then order its own remedy.

One concurring justice, Tom Glaze, said the Constitution fully clothed the Supreme Court with the power to enforce the constitutional mandate for an equitable and suitable school system.

But that need not and, we are confident, will not happen. The issues actually are far less complicated than in 2004 and 2005, when the legislature previously addressed the court’s landmark decision, and the state demonstrably now has resources in hand to complete most of the task.

The state budget has some $100 million of play between revenues and expenditures that it could direct to the schools this year and anticipated cash balances of close to $300 million by the end of the current two-year budget cycle that can be committed to school facilities.

Those are the principal shortcomings that the court-appointed masters found in school funding, which the court itself embraced.
After passing legislation in 2004 to make education the state’s No. 1 priority in budgeting, the legislature this year failed to give the public schools even the cost-of-living increase that was allotted to all other public employees and agencies, including the legislators themselves. Another $100 million appropriation from current revenues would do that.

While the legislature’s own study showed that there were $2.2 billion in immediate needs for school construction and repairs, it appropriated only $120 million over the next two years. That sum could be quadrupled without affecting the other urgent needs of the state and without new taxes.

In case anyone thought the issue was not urgent, the court said the issues needed to be dealt with “immediately” and “forthwith” so that children this school year might see the fruits of the labor.

But Gov. Huckabee, who flew back from a governors’ meeting in Arizona to make the same news cycle, said there was no urgency and that he might not call a special legislative session at all because one might not be needed.

Clearly, he had not digested the court’s opinions. Neither ignoring the decision nor waiting until the fall of 2006 is an option unless he and legislators pointedly want to invite a contempt citation by the court for whatever political rewards might flow from standing up to the judiciary.
Huckabee just as clearly had given some thought to the issues in advance because he knew full well what the court would say.

He said he would like to have a current adequacy report on the schools, legislation that would take more regulation of local schools away from school boards and rest it with the state — superintendent and coaching salaries, for example — and an up-to-date survey of the condition of school facilities. He wants further consolidation of small school districts to be part of the remedy, and it ought to be.

But some of the governor’s hedging seemed to be just dilatory. He wants detailed accounting of all school spending in the state before he calls a session to deal with underfunding.

He divided total annual education spending by the number of school classrooms in Arkansas and came up with the figure of $94,150 of spending this year for each classroom.

The average teacher salary is only $39,266. So what happened, he asked, to the other $54,884? The answer, of course, is: retirement and Social Security matching, health insurance, buses, bus drivers, fuel, electricity, gas, water, cafeteria and janitorial workers, school books, supplies, equipment, building repairs and debt repayment.

Someone might ask the same question of his office. The governor’s office this year is spending $5.1 million, but the governor is paid only about $81,000 of that. What happened to the other $5 million?

No, more delay is not the answer. Let’s don’t risk a fourth chance.

EDITORIAL >> Arkansans used again

Pardon our paranoia, but it is hard to escape that old feeling that Arkansas is not a real state but a colony, to be exploited when the need arises. That is indisputably the case whenever we are hauled before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Maybe we asked for it historically by giving big corporations our natural resources — natural gas, bauxite, timber — virtually tax-free for a hundred years until they were about gone. The state’s unofficial motto was, plunder us, please!

Monday, for the second time in 20 years, the regulators at FERC said Arkansas electrical customers of Entergy Corp. should subsidize those in other states. Starting in 2007, customers of Entergy Arkansas will send some $200 million a year to the Entergy subsidiary in Louisiana so that it can lower the light bills of its customers. It has nothing to do with Katrina. Louisiana filed this case years ago.

Arkansas ratepayers already have paid some $3 billion to Louisiana and Mississippi over the past 20 years so that electrical bills in those states will not be so high.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held that the expense of generating electricity in the states served by the big Entergy holding company should be more or less equalized.

Since Arkansas generates nearly all of its electricity at nuclear and coal-fired plants, which now produce power much less expensively than do gas-burning plants, we are supposed to help Louisiana. Louisiana generates some electricity from nuclear units, but most of its electricity comes from natural gas, the cost of which has risen sharply since 2000.

There is no earthly justification for requiring energy customers in one state to subsidize those in a slightly richer state except for a private agreement among the operating businesses of a holding company. Equalization has not always been a federal policy. It was not when Arkansans were paying much higher costs than neighboring states.

In the 1960s and ’70s, Arkansas Power and Light Co. (now Entergy Arkansas) produced power mainly by burning fuel oil and natural gas. It embarked on a costly strategy of converting to nuclear and coal power. Arkansas homeowners and businesses (except those served by co-ops and municipally owned utilities) had to pay higher bills based on the plant investment and the future cost of decommissioning the nuclear units at Russellville. Louisiana and Mississippi were not required to bear any of the higher costs for Arkansas customers.
But three young regulators for Gov. Bill Clinton in 1979 — Jacksonville’s Wally Nixon, Scott Trotter and Basil Copeland — discovered a new system agreement among the utility companies of the three states to share the cost of building and decommissioning a giant new nuclear plant in Mississippi. Major costs were to be shifted to Arkansas customers because by that time the cost of building nuclear plants had leaped to, in the case of the Grand Gulf plant in Mississippi, about $3.5 billion.

They persuaded Clinton to protest and the Arkansas company renegotiated a somewhat better deal with the other companies, but Louisiana went to FERC. The federal commission assigned Arkansas 37 percent of the cost of the plant. Arkansas appealed to the federal appellate court in Washington and lost.

But it could have been far worse even then. One of the federal judges, a dilettante named Robert Bork whom President Reagan later tried to put on the U.S. Supreme Court, came up with a cockamamie theory by which Arkansas should bear just about all of the cost of nuclear plants in Arkansas and Mississippi. Arkansas did not have much clout in Congress then and it had been voting consistently Democratic. That was the only justification that seemed plausible.

Now, FERC has embraced something close to Bork’s perverse theory.

We remember the rage of the man who defeated Bill Clinton in 1980, Frank White, when he discovered the ramifications of the deal. White talked about calling a session of the legislature to buy Arkansas Power and Light Co. and operate it as a state utility to protect Arkansans from the depredations of the holding company arrangements. He might have been on the right track.

Entergy Arkansas says it may try to sever itself from the system agreement, but that will take many years, if FERC and the courts even allow it. Our only hope is to get a federal appeals court in Washington, now populated by Borklike extremists, to overturn FERC. Get ready to pay.

SPORTS >> Cabot tops Jackrabbits to remain undefeated

Leader sports writer

Cabot managed to keep its unbeaten streak alive Friday night at the Panther gymnasium by beating Lonoke 43-40. But they didn’t do it without a serious fight from the Jackrabbits.

Lonoke controlled the second half of the game up until the very end, when post Chad Glover put the Panthers back in the game with some last-minute heroics that have become the senior’s calling card this year.

“You have to tip your hat to Lonoke,” Cabot boys coach Jerry Bridges said. “They really out-scrapped us. We finally started taking advantage of Chad inside, and it started paying off for us. We did a poor job of rebounding in the first half, but in the second half, we picked it up. Our defense is really what gave us a chance to win this game.”

The game was closely contested right from the start, as the lead changed hands five times in the opening quarter alone. By the end of the first, Lonoke held a narrow 9-7 lead.

Glover tied the game to start the second quarter, but Lonoke began to speed up the game’s pace. The Panthers’ man-to-man pressure began to lose its potency, as the Jackrabbits kept the ball and the Cabot D on the constant move. Stanley Staggers helped Lonoke stay out front with six straight points in the final three minutes of the second period. Lonoke looked like it would carry the lead into the half, but four straight points from Cabot sub Jacob Trammell gave the Panthers a 21-20 lead at halftime.

The opening 3:18 of the third quarter was all defense, as a free throw from Staggers at the 4:42 mark was the first score from either team in the second half. The scoring pace picked up quickly from there, as the Jackrabbits continued to out-hustle the Panthers. Lonoke went on a seven-point run to take a 27-21 advantage by the 3:17 mark.

Cabot refused to let the game slip away, however, as they put themselves back in contention with a three pointer from guard Justin Haas and an inside basket from Glover. At the end of three, Lonoke held a 31-27 lead.

Until the fourth quarter began, Glover had just nine points on the night. By game’s end, he would have 23 total points, including seven of eight from the free-throw line in the final period. A free throw from Matt Shinn was the only non-Glover point for Cabot in the final eight minutes of the game.

The Jackrabbits answered Glover’s sudden inside domination with good all-around shooting, as Kylon Boyd, Eligha Gooden and Walter Ellis all put points up from outside the low block to keep Lonoke out in the lead.

Glover finally got the Panthers back out in front at the 3:09 mark with a pair of free throws to put them ahead 39-38.
Two free throws from Boyd a minute later gave the lead back to Lonoke. After another inside jumper from Glover gave Cabot the lead back at 41-40, the final 1:38 of the game became a back-and-forth battle of turnovers and timeouts.

Two timeouts from Lonoke whittled the clock down to 6.6 seconds, with the Jackrabbits in position to win the game with a last-second shot.
That shot would never be taken, as Glover covered Staggers on the ensuing in-bounds attempt. Staggers could not get the ball past the Cabot senior’s 6’9” frame, and Lonoke was called with the five second violation to give the ball back to the Panthers.

Another pair of free throws from Glover in the final five seconds to put the game away for Cabot, as the Panthers narrowly escaped their first loss of the season.

Eligha Gooden led Lonoke with 14 points, five rebounds and three steals.

Lonoke and Cabot both have this week off for Christmas break, but will return to action Dec. 28 in the opening round of the Harrison tournament.

SPORTS >> Lonoke upsets Lady Panthers

Leader sports writer

Few people expected the Lady Jackrabbits to leave the Cabot gym with their unbeaten record still in- tact, nor did they expect the double-overtime war it took in order for them to actually do it. The Lonoke girls proved all doubters wrong Friday night, edging out the Lady Panthers 52-49 in one of the most exciting games of the early season. The win improves the Lady ‘Rabbits record to 11-0 on the season, and establishes them as a serious force heading into the heart of their 6AAA-conference schedule.

The game did not start out very exciting, as the opening quarter went scoreless for the first 2:11 until a pair of Maddie Helms free throws got Cabot on the board first. Both teams slugged through the first, as the game was tied 7-7 at the 1:50 mark. The score would remain that way until the buzzer, when Kim Sitzmann scored a lay up at the buzzer to put the Lady Panthers ahead by two.

The Lady ‘Rabbits continued to struggle in the second quarter, but Cabot picked things up. The Lady Panthers would extend their lead to six, leading 20-14 at the half.

Despite a slow first half, Lonoke came out swinging in the third quarter, outscoring Cabot 18-3, and taking over the game’s tempo. Calisha Kirk tied things up for the Lady ‘Rabbits at the 5:09 mark with a reverse lay up. Lonoke then went on a 10-point run for the remainder of the period that was only interrupted by a Rachel Glover free throw for Cabot. By the end of the third, the Lady Rabbits had taken a 32-23 lead and looked poised for the easy upset.

Things would not be as easy in the fourth quarter, as the Lady Panthers began to press hard defensively. Lonoke began to turn over the ball, and Cabot took advantage.

Sitzmann put the Lady Panthers back in the lead with two free throws at the 1:26 mark. Kristy Shinn did the same for the Lady ‘Rabbits 15 seconds later Glover hit a three pointer for Cabot to put them ahead 41-39 with 47 seconds remaining, but Meaghan Kellybrew hit two more free throws to tie the score once again.

Cabot had one last chance to claim the win in the final three seconds of regulation, but Helms’ three-point attempt fell short, and the two teams prepared for overtime.

The first overtime was less than thrilling, with each team scoring two points in the extra period.
The second overtime would make up for that and then some, as the shootout began.

Jenny Evans struck first for Lonoke with a jumper and free throw to put them ahead 46-43. Jamie Sterrenberg answered for Cabot with a three-point shot that tied things up once more.

A three pointer from Lindsey Watts put the Lady Panthers ahead by one, but Libby Gay put Lonoke back out front with a jumper in the final minute.

Cabot’s outside shooting had saved them all night, but the long ball finally ran out of air for the Lady Panthers. Two straight three-point attempts fell flat for Cabot, as Kirk extended Lonoke’s lead with more solid free-throw shooting under pressure.

Lauren Walker was Cabot’s last chance in the closing seconds, but her attempt at a three would also miss the mark, and the Lady ‘Rabbits began to celebrate their biggest win of the season.

“That’s a good high school basketball game,” Lonoke girls coach Nathan Morris said. “We got a win on the road in front of a big crowd. This is our first road game besides playing in tournaments and a conference game against Christian. This win is un-measurable in terms of what it will do for us.”

Calisha Kirk led Lonoke with 21 points, including nine of 10 free-throw attempts. Kirk also had 14 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Kim Sitzmann led Cabot with 12 points and eight rebounds.

The Lady Panthers have this week off for the holiday, but will start back Dec. 28 in the first round of the Harrison invitational basketball tournament.

The Lady Jackrabbits also have the week off, but will join Cabot at the Harrison tourney.

NEIGHBORS >> A Coca-Cola Christmas in Lonoke

Leader staff writer

It’s always time for Coca-Cola and Christmas at the home of Don and Wanda Cook at 1381 N. Johnson Road in Lonoke.
“I would go to flea markets looking for jewelry, and 13 years ago I bought a couple of Coca-Cola pieces because they were so cheerful with the red and white,” Wanda Cook said.

“It just grew and grew.”

The massive collection has gained Cook the self-appointed title of “that crazy Coke lady.”

She credits her husband Don, retired from Union Pacific, with helping her with her collection and the giving the tours.
There’s even a chalkboard sign on their front porch proclaiming “One crazy lady and one really nice guy live here.”

In amassing the collection, the Cooks found out that the Coca-Cola Company was battling lagging sales in the winter so in 1931 the company commissioned Chicago illustrator Haddon Sundblom to paint a Santa Claus for advertisements. In recent years, Coca-Cola began including polar bears in their winter advertisements. The bears now appear on nearly as much merchandise as the Sundblom Santas, so the Cooks decided to make the living room a tribute to Coca-Cola at Christmas.

A few years ago, the Cooks decided to leave their Coca-Cola Christmas decorations on display inside and outside all year long even if it means replacing burned-out Christmas light bulbs in the middle of summer.

“I also collect dust bunnies,” Wanda Cook joked, wiping at a display cabinet.
The Cooks have a Coca-Cola themed kitchen with dishes, glasses and silverware bearing the famous logo.
There is also a Coca-Cola bedroom, dining room, bathroom and “fun room” which is reminiscent of a soda-fountain shop.
In the “fun room” the Cooks have Coca-Cola cans and bottles from more than 65 countries on display as well as planes and ships made from Coca-Cola cans.

“People ask me how much the collection is worth and you just can’t put a price on it. So much of the collection has been given to me,” Wanda Cook said.

Ten years ago the Cooks invited her grandson’s second-grade class at Lonoke Primary School to tour the collection. Ever since then, every second grade at Lonoke Primary School takes a December field trip to the Cook’s home to view the Coca-Cola collection.

Wanda Cook dresses in a red-and-white Coca-Cola waitress ensemble that matches a Barbie doll as she guides the second grade tours through her home, explaining the joys of collecting and pointing out a few of her favorite items.

One such item is a miniature Coca-Cola bottle brought to her by one of the second graders from the first tour ten years ago.
This year about 100 students toured the Cook’s home, enjoying the Coca-Cola themed house as well as some of the motorized gadgets Wanda Cook shows them such as Coca-Cola planes, clocks, telephones and a bubble machine.

The tours end in the “fun room” where students get a six-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola to drink, compliments of the Coca-Cola distributor in Little Rock, and two cookies that are shaped like the familiar hourglass curves of a Coca-Cola bottle.

“I call them Cokees. It’s just a simple sugar cookie recipe and I shaped a snowman cookie cutter into a Coke bottle,” Wanda Cook said.
She then dips the cookies into chocolate to represent the cola and a little white chocolate to represent the caps of the Coca-Cola bottles.
“The most fun of collecting is sharing it with others. That’s the blessing of it,” Cook said.

TOP STORY >> C-130Js pass tough test in cold Alaskan climate

Leader staff writer

Two C-130J cargo aircraft from Little Rock Air Force Base have been proven ready for war in all types of weather after finishing two weeks of cold-weather evaluations at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, that ended Dec. 14.

Operational testing of the C-130J, which began in November, will determine whether the plane will meet full operational requirements. Previous evaluations conducted in 1999 and 2000 looked at the plane’s ability to perform basic tasks.

Before returning to Little Rock Air Force Base, Maj. Dave Flynn, 48th Airlift Squadron operational test and evaluation mission commander, said, “We performed all cold-weather test objectives, and our mission here is complete.”

The 48th Airlift Squadron worked with members of the Air Force Operation Test and Evaluation Center from Ed-wards Air Force Base in California during the rigorous testing. The results of the evaluations will be released in a report in the spring.

When the two C-130J aircraft landed at Eielson Air Force Base Dec. 6, temperatures in interior Alaska were about the same as Arkansas.
“The only real difference is the snow on the ground,” said Senior Airman Jacob Erskin, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron guidance and control craftsman.

Known to many Alaskans as Chinook Winds, the warmer-than-usual weather was courtesy of a front pushing warm air from the Gulf of Alaska into Alaska’s interior, bringing daytime temperatures to above freezing. The temperatures eventually dipped into the minus-30 degree range, which is considered normal temperatures for the Air Force’s farthest-north base.

“We were working on the plane in layers of our winter gear and we would begin sweating and have to take off layers to cool down, but since it is winter in Alaska and we would quickly begin to feel the cold again,” said Tech. Sgt. Terry Ben-son, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician.

“We were going from hot to cold and then bundle up and get hot again. It seemed like it was never a happy medium,” Benson said. “It was still pretty cold during the evenings.”

Since 2004, testing included formation flying, airdrop events, traffic collision avoidance system tests, computer-based approach testing and the most comprehensive noise and vibration tests ever conducted on the C-130J.

It is not yet known if Little Rock Air Force Base will receive any additional C130Js in 2006. Reports put the cost of each Super Hercules between $45 and $65 million.

Tech. Sgt. William Farrow of the 314th Airlift Wing contributed to this story.

TOP STORY >> Residents dispute new development

Leader staff writer

Residents of Sun Terrace, across the street from Wal-Mart Supercenter in Cabot, who several years ago successfully fought rezoning on the corner of Rockwood and Hwy. 89 at the entrance to their subdivision, are doing battle with the council again to stop a commercial development just one house down from that corner.

The residents filled every available seat and lined the walls in the council chambers Monday night. They had missed the planning commission meeting earlier this month when the commission approved about 11 acres for rezoning from residential to commercial and they were determined that the council, which has the final say, would know how they feel before it was too late.

For half of the two-hour council meeting, they took the podium one by one to express their objections to the council rezoning the property, but their reasons for objecting were not diverse.

The developer wanted to put an entrance into the subdivision on Rockwood. They don’t want that because they say that traffic from Wal-Mart and other businesses in that commercial development already is so bad that they have difficulty getting on and off Rockwood. And for that matter, they don’t want access to a commercial development off Hwy. 89 either. They don’t want a commercial development on their side of the highway at all.

They said they feared that a commercial development would devalue their property, bring more traffic inside their neighborhood and endanger both their children and their peace.

“I don’t understand why we have to keep complaining about making this commercial,” Virgil Teague told the council.
The city is getting the cart before the horse by allowing commercial development in an area that is already frequently in gridlock.
“If you want commercial development, you should build a highway first,” Teague said.

Jack Sinky, who lives in the first house off Rockwood, reminded the council that the residents of Sun Terrace are voters who helped put them in office.

“Leave residential alone. Don’t chip away at it from the corners,” he said. “Do the right thing.”
Patty Brown, who lives at 19 Sun Valley Road, implored the council, “Please do not do this to us.”
Susan Price, who lives at the end of Rockwood, said, “Leave it residential. That’s why we all bought here. Develop somewhere else.”
Alderman Odis Waymack drew jeers from the crowd when he said there is really no way to stop commercial development along Hwy. 89. He said later that the council opened the door to commercial development when it rezoned a daycare next to the property to allow Steve Blackwood to move his real estate business there. The daycare had been required to keep a residential zoning with a special-use permit that could not be transferred to the new owner.

The residents who attended the meeting also feared that if the 11-plus acres are rezoned to commercial, the house on the corner of Rockwood and Hwy. 89 that they had fought to keep residential would be the next to go commercial.

Ron Craig, planning commission chairman, said after the meeting that the master zoning plan shows Hwy. 89 as commercial on both sides.
Waymack said that since the council has rezoned the Blackwood property commercial, it has little choice except to rezone for the proposed commercial development.

Alderman David Polantz disagrees. He told the council that housing, not commercial development, has to remain the focus in Cabot.
At Waymack’s suggestion, the rezoning was sent back to the planning commission for the developer and the commission to discuss a planned-unit development or PUD which would require the developer to submit complete plans for what he intends to build.

But Waymack said later that he doesn’t think the city can compel the developer to present anything other than what has already been required – a rezoning request.

Adding to the quagmire, City Attorney Clint McGue told the council that in his opinion the council can’t even tell the developer that he can’t build access into the property off Rockwood. To do that would be to invite a lawsuit, he said.

By sending the matter back to the planning commission, the council has postponed making a decision until mid February.
“The deadline for getting on the January commission agenda has passed,” Craig said.
Residents said they have no intention of giving up.

Carl Schmidt, a longtime resident, told the council that a bus stop is now at the location where the developer proposes to make an entrance off Rockwood. A blind spot on the street is dangerous already without adding heavy construction vehicles to the mix, he said.

So when asked if he would attend the planning commission meeting to continue his fight he answered, “You can bet your sweet bippy we’ll be back.”

TOP STORY >> City council butts heads over budget suggestions

Leader staff writer

Following a firestorm of words with Mayor Donald Ward Monday night, the Beebe City Council tabled a vote on the $2.7 million 2006 city budget until a full council is present.

Alderman Janet Rogers was absent.
Aldermen Janis Petray and Bobby Robinson suggested cuts for the budget including laying off the city’s economic development director, Marjorie Armstrong, and a yet to be determined street department position to supplement the street fund. Armstrong, one of the city’s highest-paid employees with a salary of around $48,000, was hired three years ago to help jumpstart Beebe’s economy.
“I think the council has failed. I think you need to go back and do your job right the second time,” Ward told the council.

“I don’t appreciate you getting belligerent with us,” Robinson said, adding that he could point out instances where the city administration has failed.

“I think you’re out of order,” Ward said banging his gavel. “I don’t care what you think,” Robinson said.
After a five-minute recess, the council voted to table the decision on the budget.

Armstrong attended the meeting but did not address the council regarding the budget.
“The existing citizens that are paying their taxes here is what’s important right now,” Petray said.
“When we cannot offer our own citizens infrastructure, I don’t see how we can attract new residents,” Petray said.
“So what we do now is pave the streets and forget about the future?” Ward asked.

Ward told council members he thought it was a good budget and attributed the city’s economic conditions to inheriting a $400,000 budget when he took office in 1999 followed by costly damage due to tornadoes that cut a swath through the city.

Ward first presented the budget which also includes a 5 percent raise for city employees, to the council Nov. 28. The council met Dec. 12 to review and discuss the budget.

“I believe I’ve been an asset to city government as well as the community and I hope I can continue,” Armstrong told The Leader.
“No one (on the city council) is going to touch the 5 percent pay increase because next year is an election year,” Ward said.
By state law, the budget must be passed by Feb. 1.

In other business, the mayor asked the council to consider changing the administration of the city cemetery. The price for an adult grave is $325 and the price for a child or cremation grave is $175.

“We need to either get out of the business or do something to defray the costs,” Ward said. Robertson agreed, citing the summer maintenance of mowing the graveyard.

The council is also considering a proposal to get streetlights installed along Pecan Street on both the north and south sides of the Hwy. 67/167 overpass.

The streetlights are expected to help light portions of the ballpark as well. Additionally, the council heard from John Sanderson of the Optimist Club of Searcy.

The Optimist Club of Searcy is offering to help establish a club in Beebe.
“The motto of Optimist Clubs is ‘Friend of Youth.’

“We would need an initial participation of about 30 people to get it started. The Beebe Optimists would elect their own officers, and raise their own funds. We just want to help get it started,” Sanderson said.

For those interested in starting an Optimist Club of Beebe, contact the mayor’s office at (501) 882-6295.

TOP STORY >> Defense bill gets approval in House

Leader staff writer

After a long and heated battle Sunday night, members of the House of Representatives passed 308-106 the 2006 defense spending bill that would also open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, but Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., who opposed the drilling, cautions Arkansans that the real vote was much tighter.

He said he and many others voted for the $453 billion defense spending bill, which pays for the wars in Iraq and Af-ghanistan and funds Little Rock Air Force Base, only after failing in a close vote to keep the ANWR drilling provision off the defense bill.
“Don’t get fooled,” Snyder told The Leader Tues-day. “We had the vote on the rule.”

“It basically put everything together — ANWR, money for Katrina relief and for the flu vaccine,” he added.
That vote, which could have stripped the ANWR drilling from the bill, passed by only 214 to 201, he said, with 198 Republicans voting yes, 21 voting no and 12 not voting. Among Democrats, only 16 broke ranks to include the oil drilling provision in the defense spending bill, while 179 opposed and seven didn’t vote.

That vote was taken at 4:10 a.m. Monday.
Senators opposed to drilling in the refuge might attempt to filibuster the defense bill Wednesday.

“I am dismayed that the Repub-lican leadership has made a mockery of the legislative process and placed vital aid to our troops on the ground at risk,” Sen. Blanche Lincoln said.

“Oil drilling in Alaska has been debated and defeated in Congress for almost as long as I’ve been here. It is my hope that this bill not be held hostage to such an unrelated and controversial provision as ANWR.”

“Sen. Mark Pryor is undecided on the filibuster and conflicted on the bill,” said spokesman Lisa Ackerman, who said Pryor had steadfastly opposed the drilling but staunchly supported the military.
social programs cut
About 90 minutes later, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 authorized huge cuts in social programs important to Arkansans passed 211 to 206, Snyder said. It’s not clear that the bill will pass the Senate, he said, but if it does, it will cut student loans by $12.8 billion, and cut child-support enforcement by a billion, bringing total cuts to $39.7 billion over five years.

“This is the wrong bill for Arkansans,” said Snyder. “It makes it easier for deadbeat dads to get away and harder to get a student loan. What’s driving the bill was to find money for a Republican tax-cut bill to benefit the wealthy. It’s bad public policy.”

Snyder said he also was concerned about revelations that President Bush ordered warrant-less wiretaps and spying on Amer-ican citizens. “I think you’ll see Congress look into this in a deliberative manner,” he said.

At least one U.S. senator, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has asked for an investigation into whether or not the president had committed an impeachable crime. Snyder said that in a free society, you have to balance security with civil liberties, but that it had to be done through laws. “The allegation in the New York Times story is that the president didn’t follow the law,” Snyder said. “He says he did.”

Bush says that when Congress authorized him to go after the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks just after Sept. 11, 2001, they authorized him to take such measures.

“I never hear anyone discussing that we were giving authority to do our intelligence gathering differently,” Snyder said.

“I believe there should be a full investigation into exactly who the President authorized the NSA to spy on. If his motive is purely to deter terrorist attacks on Americans and our allies, then an investigation will confirm that. The President has said he welcomes an investigation, and both Republican and Democratic leaders have promised to investigate the matter. I will withhold any further judgment about this program until I have more information.”

TOP STORY >> Legislators frustrated by Lake View

Leader staff writer and Arkansas News Bureau

A special session on education may well be necessary but doesn’t have to be hurried, Gov. Mike Huckabee said Tuesday.

After the state Supreme Court declared school funding unconstitutional a week ago, Huckabee initially said a special session might not be needed to address concerns raised in the decision.

Since then, Attorney General Mike Beebe and others have said funding remedies would require legislative action. Only the governor can call the legislature into an extraordinary session.

Huckabee said Tuesday that he would not call a special session until a plan is in place to address issues raised by court.
Local legislators agree that there is a lot of homework to be done first and no need to rush.

No Lonoke, White or Pulaski County legislators were surprised by the ruling taking them to task, they said, but they were disappointed.
Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, said last week he found a couple of positive things in the mix.

Glover has said all along that the legislature’s decision not to raise the state minimum foundation aid for the first year of the biennium was a bad idea, but he was pleased that the court acknowledged separation of powers, limited its intervention and did not concern itself with issues of further school consolidation.

“I was well pleased that while the court adopts most of the masters’ report, they don’t adopt it as a whole, particularly regarding the issue of district consolidation,” Glover said. He also said he felt confident that there was sufficient surplus revenue to cover any needed changes without resorting to any new taxes.

State Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, expressed disappointment that the court interjected itself into the Lake View/school adequacy question at all.

“It’s my belief that the court’s overstepping their authority, but it gives us an opportunity to examine again what we’ve done,” Bond said. “We’ll go back into districts, talk to principals, see what’s working and what’s not.”

Bond said the legislators could evaluate whether or not they needed to provide more money, and if so, in which areas. Bond said the new adequacy study would also show whether the general assembly required unfunded mandates.

Bond also said he thought there could be savings already in place to help offset the cost of mandates — for instance, technology that cost the districts less than the state provided.

“I took issue with their statement that we didn’t make education our first priority,” said state Rep. Jeff Wood, D-Sherwood. “Nobody wants new taxes, everyone wants more accountability. No one wants to take up consolidation again. We did the best we could with what we had to work with.”

“I’m still concerned about the separation of powers between the branches,” said state Rep. Sandra Prater, D-Jacksonville. “ I still want to make the districts as accountable as possible for their money. It’s come out in audit lately about one district paying for country club dues.

“We have $1 billion in school district reserves around the state. Why is that not going to the schools? I want to make sure that the money going there is going to the kids.”

“What we have to do first is begin to gather information on what’s needed for adequate funding,” said state Sen. John Paul Capps, D-Searcy. “The House and Senate Education Committees can hold hearings to adequately fund the schools. We need to know how the money is being spent. We need to meet with superintendents on reserve funds and how they intend to spend.

“We need to look at the athletic spending, transportation spending, all the spending. We need to monitor construction and real-time cost,” Capps said. “There is a real possibility of the judicial branch usurping the legislative branch. Do they want the judiciary running the school districts and the state?”