Sunday, December 31, 2006

SPORTS >>Sterrenberg leads team with friendly examples

IN SHORT: Three-year starter Jamie Sterrenberg and the Cabot Lady Panthers are off to another strong start during the ‘06-’07 basketball campaign. The All-State player also has much college interest.

Leader sports writer

Lady Panthers’ senior guard Jamie Sterrenberg has been a staple of the Cabot girls athletic program for over three years now, as a three-year starter not only in basketball, but also softball. The 17-year-old entered her senior year on the Lady Panthers basketball team as one of only two seniors to start on the squad.
The definition of a glory hog is someone who only cares about their own stats and performances, with the team’s interest a distant second. The easiest way to describe Sterrenberg would be to say that she is the exact opposite.

Sterrenberg, along with Maddie Helms, provide the senior leadership for the somewhat young team. While she is more than happy to help the younger players along and lead by example, she leaves the more tough-love aspects of the leadership role to Helms.

“Maddie is a lot more vocal type of leader,” Sterrenberg said. “I don’t like to yell at people. I would rather be their friend.”
Sterrenberg has been All-Conf-erence during both her sophomore and junior years, also receiving an All-State nod last season.

After last year’s disappointing loss to eventual state champion North Little Rock in the state semi-finals, Sterenberg says the pre-season talk of the ‘06/’07 season being a down year for the Lady Panthers was unacceptable to herself and the rest of the Lady Panther seniors.

“Everyone said that this was going to be the boys’ big year, and that it would be a rebuilding year for us,” Sterrenberg said. “We kinda blew it last year, but we came out a lot better than people expected this year. We have beat teams we weren’t supposed to beat, and we have kept up with teams we were not supposed to keep up with.”

Sterrenberg is caught up in the exitement of her senior year of basketball, but also has a firm grip on her future. Her GPA stands at a near-perect 3.95, and her ACT score was a 30. Not only are her college prospects promising, she has the luxury of watching offers pour in from schools for two different sports.

Hendrix college has expressed interest in Sterrenberg for both basketball and softball. Southern Missouri, Ole Miss and Missis-sippi State have sent letters of interest regarding softball, and Tulsa and Harding University are interested in her as a basketball player.

She says that at the moment, she is leaning towards Hendrix because of the opportunity to play both sports and the university’s engineering program, but says it is “subject to change.”

Her interest in engineering leans toward the medical side, in chemical engineering and re-search. Finding a cure for cancer interest Sterrenberg, whose gran-dmother passed away from breast cancer. If she doesn’t go into engineering, she says she will be in the medical field in some capacity.

Sterrenberg was very informative about her own career and future plans, but the excitement in her voice reached a higher level when the conversation turned to her younger brother and her teammates.

Jamie’s brother Adam is a starter for the Cabot boys team as a sophomore, a feat that big sister says was well-deserved.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how hard he has worked. He has practiced with three different AAU teams, he’s never been part of just one. It’s fun to watch him play as a sophomore, taking on these big, huge guys. He deserves this.”

Lady Panthers head coach Carla Crowder says Sterrenberg has been an invaluable asset to her team since her sophomore season.

“She’s a great competitor,” Crowder said. “She is an excellent student, also. She works very hard. I am proud of her.”
As far as her teammates go, Sterrenberg says that one of the things that sets the Lady Panthers apart from your average high school girls team is the closeness of the players.

“I think I have maybe one friend who is not on the basketball team,” Sterrenberg said. “I know it sounds kind of cliche, but we really are like a huge family. We are together all the time, even in the off season. We do everything together.”

SPORTS >>Lady Badgers maul Wildcats in tourney

IN SHORT: The Beebe Lady Badgers destroyed an uncharacteristially flat Harding Academy team during the first round of the First Security Bank/White County Medical Center Christmas Classic.

Leader sports writer

It was the surprise of the first round of the First Security Bank/White County Medical Center tournament. Most people expected an improved Beebe Lady Badgers team to give powerhouse Harding Academy a good game, but no one anticipated the 61-29 shellacking the host team handed to the Lady Wildcats during Thursday’s first round.

Beebe senior guard Tristan Rettig could not be stopped in the first half. Rettig has been relatively quiet during the first few weeks of the season, but made her presence known at Badger Arena Thursday night. She finished with 17 points to lead Beebe, with 13 of her points coming in the first half.

For the first time all season, the Lady Wildcats were faced with a deficit so large that the clock ran continually through the fourth quarter. Harding Academy head coach Darren Mathews took out his stunned starters at the 3:05 mark of the third quarter, conceding the game to Beebe early.

The Lady Badgers’ inside play was flawless in the second quarter. Five different Beebe players found their way to the hoop in the paint during the frame, extending a 13-6 lead at the end of the first quarter to a dominating 39-14 lead by halftime.
Any chances of a Harding Academy comeback were gone by the middle of the third quarter. Beebe continued to control the game inside during the second half, keeping senior HA post Jennifer Kee off the boards and allowed very few second chance shots for the Lady ‘Cats.

“We pulled down a lot of rebounds that we were able to take the length of the floor,” Beebe coach Lara Jackson said. “This is a big win for us; I felt like we played with a lot of intensity, and took advantage of our opportunities.”

Jackson says the prospect of a rematch with unofficial sister school Lonoke was a big motivational tool for her team. After losing to the Lady ‘Rabbits a few weeks ago in a game that saw Beebe up by 14 points at one point, Jackson said her girls were anxious for a chance to redeem themselves.

“They were happy to see Lo-noke on our side of the bracket,” Jackson said. “We played well the first time, and had a little bit of a let down. We’re glad to have the opportunity to play them again.” Lonoke set the first part of the rematch earlier in the day with the other mercy-ruled game of the first round, beating Hazen 45-14.

The Lady Wildcats jumped out to an early 5-2 lead with a basket and foul shot from Liz Ashley and two more free throws from Kee, but sophomore Ty O’Neil scored the first four Beebe points to make it a one-point game.

O’Neil started to struggle from the floor at that point, but Rettig was more than prepared to take up the slack. She swished a three pointer at the 5:31 mark for her first points of the game, giving the Lady Badgers their first lead of 7-5.

They would never trail again.

Beebe held a modest 13-6 lead at the end of the first, but turned their advantage into an overwhelming one in the second. The Lady Badgers only missed three shots from the floor in the second quarter, while Harding Academy only came away with a pair of baskets from Ashley in the entire frame. The other four HA points came from free throws, allowing Beebe to run the score to 39-14 at the intermission.

Rettig led the Lady Badgers with 17 points; O’Neil added 12 points for Beebe.

Starters Emily Bass and Ashley Watkins did not finish in double digits scoring-wise, but both had a number of perfect assists to Rettig in the second quarter, Along with a number of key rebounds on the defensive side.

The win improved Beebe’s record to 3-6 on the season, and put them in the winners bracket for last night’s coveted rematch against Lonoke.

SPORTS >>Devils outlast Overton, in finals

IN SHORT: The Jacksonville Red Devils will make their second straight appearance in the finals of the Red Devil Classic holiday tournament at their own gym.

Leader sports editor

For the second time in two years the Jacksonville Red Devils advanced to the championship game of their own Community Bank Red Devil Classic, which they played last night after Leader deadlines against Olive Branch in Mississippi. Look for details of that game in Wed-nesday’s edition of The Leader.

The first two games were good, but somewhat surprising for Jacksonville.

The Red Devils ran Class AAA Hughes and major prospect Kevin Brown out of the gym Wednesday in round one. Brown alone kept the game close early on, but the Red Devils adjusted and no one else for Hughes stepped up as Jacksonville cruised to a 64-33 victory.

The Red Devils scored 21 straight points over a period of about four and a half minutes that turned a 42-30 lead into a 63-30 lead to bury the now 12-3 Blue Devils.

Brown scored all 12 of the Blue Devils’ points in the first quarter, which ended with Jacksonville leading by one. He also score 15 of their 17 points in the half, but the Red Devils also went cold from the field, and entered halftime leading by only seven points.

The lead stretched to as much as 15 in the third quarter, but Jacksonville settled for a 40-28 lead heading into the final frame.

That’s when things began to take shape for Jacksonville while simultaneously fall apart for Hughes.

Jacksonville adjusted its defense in the second quarter to stop Brown, but it took until the fourth quarter for the strategy to take full effect. Hughes began pressing and forcing shots, while Jacksonville turned up the defensive pressure.

The run began with a pair of layups by senior guard Antwain Robinson. The back-to-back buckets put the Red Devils up 49-30 with 6:05 left in the game, and started a run that wouldn’t stop for the rest of the game.

Twelve Red Devils scored in the game. Leading the way were seniors Kajaun Watson and Norvel Gabriel, who scored 12 each.
Brown finished with 18 points to lead all scorers.

Jacksonville slowly pulled away from Overton High of Memphis to win 59-53 Thursday in the semifinals. Overton beat Woodham High out of Florida in the first round 64-57.

That win was unusual because the Red Devils shot as poorly as they have all season, and still beat a top classification team out of Memphis. The Wolverines were 8-3 coming into the game, but also suffered from cold shooting for long stretches.

With all the missed shots, the difference in the game came down to rebounding, and that’s where Jacksonville dominated, and thereby earned several second-chance points.

The Red Devils held a 48-29 advantage on the boards, including 19 rebounds by Gabriel. He also finished with 17 points to lead the team in both categories.

Jacksonville needed to be strong on the boards, they hit just 20 of 67 shots, and were 0 for 13 from the three-point line.
The game was close through the first three quarters. Neither team led by more than five points until Jacksonville took a 48-42 lead with 1:22 remaining on a pair of free throws by LaMarcus Trask.

That forced Overton to begin fouling, but the Red Devils hit the foul shots. Trask, Gabriel and Robinson combined to hit 12 of 14 fourth-quarter free throws to secure the win.

Jacksonville’s scoring was much more balanced as well. Nine Red Devils scored, but only Gabriel was in double figures. Conversely, three Wolverines scored all but three of their points and only four scored at all.

Point guard Derrick Warren led all scorers with 20 points while post players Sergio Kresch and Rondald Sampson added 16 and 14 respectively.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner was as pleased as he’s been all season after the Overton win.

“We still committed some turnovers we shouldn’t have, but they played with a lot of heart,” Joyner said. “We shot terrible, but I’m just happy to see us get 67 shots. They rebounded and just did the things that take heart to do. They hustled and busted their butts out there and beat a very good team on hustle and heart.”

The two wins lifted the Red Devils to 7-4 on the season.

Other first and second round action in the Community Bank Red Devil Classic saw North Pulaski beat Little Rock Catholic, then lose to Olive Branch, Miss. Olive Branch beat Woodham, Fla., in the first round. Overton hammered Little Rock McCellan in round one, and McClellan lost 66-60 to Hughes in the consolation bracket.

Catholic beat Woodham to send the Florida school to the seventh-place game against McClellan. The Rockets took on Hughes yesterday in the consolation game. North Pulaski played Overton in the third-place game.

OBITUARIES >> 12-30-06

Paul Hancock
Paul Lynn Hancock, 64, of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord Dec. 21.

He was born April 1, 1942 in Little Rock to the late Burrell H. and Mary E. Ahern Hancock.

Paul was a member of St. Jude’s Catholic Church.

Survivors include his sister, Madelynn Phillips of Jacksonville; an aunt, Dorothy Hager of San Antonio, Texas; as well as two nephews and one niece.

Graveside funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2 at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville with Father Les Farley officiating. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Julia Yates
Julia Ann “Judy” Yates, 69, of Little Rock died Dec. 27.

She was born January 13, 1937, in Beebe to Eugene and Mary Priest Rice. She was a Thirtyniner Choir member and active church member. Her main interests were her sons, friends and neighbors on Westwood Lane where she had lived since 1962.

Judy was a loving wife, caring mother, devoted daughter and loyal friend. She was a 1954 graduate of Searcy High School and attended Arkansas State Teachers College in Conway.

She was preceded in death by her husband of twenty-eight years, Robert P. Yates, Sr. and her parents.

She is survived by two sons, Robert P. Yates, Jr. and Terry Yates, both of Little Rock; three sisters-in-law, Kathryn Yates of Ocala, Fla., Dorothy Williams of Little Rock and Mary Weeks, of North Little Rock; five nieces and two nephews.

Funeral services are at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 30, at South Highland Baptist Church, 10200 W. 36th in Little Rock, with burial in Pinecrest Memorial Park in Alexander.

Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home in Beebe.

Leo Reppentine, Jr.
Leo Charles Reppentine, Jr., 78, of Jacksonville died Dec. 26. He was born June 2, 1928 in Tonawanda, N.Y., to the late Leon Charles and Ondean Selover Reppentine, Sr.  

He was a member of First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, a bomber-navigator technician and an instructor for B-58s. He was also a volunteer for Rebsamen Auxiliary, El Zariba Shrine Temple in Phoenix, Ariz., a 32 degree Mason and a member of Scottish Rite.

Survivors include his wife, Janice Reppentine of the home; stepdaughter, Melissa William-son and her husband Gary of North Little Rock; half-sisters, Mary Jane Stafanski and Diane Banks both of New York; granddaughters, Jennifer and her husband Pete Kushmick of North Carolina and Amy Connell of Benton; and great-granddaughter, Abigail Kushmick.

Donations may be made to Arkansas Hospice, 5800 W. 12th St., Little Rock, or First United Methodist Church, 220 W. Main, Jacksonville.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 30, at First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville. 

Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Newt Williamson
Newt Williamson, 84, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 27. He retired from Colonial Bakery after 32 years as a maintenance engineer.

After retirement he loved raising cattle and gardening. He was a member of Bayou Meto Baptist Church, Bakery and Confec-tionary Union and a veteran of the Second World War, having served in the Pacific.

He is survived by his wife, Patsy Ken-nedy Wil-liamson; a son, Gary and wife Cindi Williamson of Sherwood; three daughters, Rita and husband Wayne Gru-ber of North Little Rock, Marion Tudor of Arlington, Texas, and Peggy and husband Tony Moody of Clio, Mich.; seven grandchildren, Christy, Regan, Stephanie, David, Will, Codi and Erin; and two great-grandchildren, Bailey and Brielle.

He was a loving husband, father and grandfather.

Memorials may be made to Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home, 601 W. Capital, Little Rock, Ark. 72201.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 30 at Bayou Meto Baptist Church. Burial will be in Sumner Cemetery. Funeral arrangements by North Little Rock Funeral Home.

Donna Nicolini
Donna Katharine Nicolini, 63, of Jacksonville died Dec. 27 at Rebsamen Hospital. She was born December 21, 1943 in Perth Amboy, N.J., to the late Alfred and Sophie Sapon Fiorentini. 

Donna was a retired LPN and worked for Rebsamen Hospital for 15 years.

Survivors include her husband of 43 years, Joseph Nicolini, Sr. of Jacksonville; daughters Denise Weeks and Diane Smith, both of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; sons Joseph Nicolini, Jr. and James Nicolini both of Jacksonville; grandchildren Danielle, Kimberly, Brock, Brett, Nicholas, Nathan, Christen and Noah; brothers Richard Fiorentini of Monroe, N.J., and Kenneth Fiorentini of Freehold, N.J.

Graveside services will be 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30 at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

John Buckler
John Francis Buckler, 58, of Cabot died Dec. 28 in North Little Rock. He was born on March 3, 1948 to the late John and Genevieve Robinson Buckler in Norristown, Pa.  

John is survived by three children, Amy Denece Pitner and her husband Charles of Whitehouse, Texas; John Clinton Buckler of Cabot and Drew Francis Buckler of Austin, Texas.

He is also survived by a sister, Barbara J. Ruser and her husband John of Collegeville, Pa.; two brothers, Art Brooke and his wife JoAnn of Ward and Michael Phillip Buckler of Ft. Pierce, Fla.; and seven grandchildren, Mary, Kelly, Jacob, and Nicole Pitner, Jocelyn, Constance, and Claire Buckler.  

Arrangements are by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.

Patricia Baumann
Patricia Ann Baumann, 46, of Romance died Dec. 22.

She was born July 22, 1960 to the late William and Luba Youngman Baumann in Queens, N.Y. 

She is survived by her companion, Walter Sohn; son, William Baumann; sister, Linda Sutton; brother, Andre Baumann; niece, Amy Broomall; and nephew, Michael Shifflett. 

Memorial services are to be announced at a later date. Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Delores Bell
Delores Marie Capps Bell, 68, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 25.

She was born on Dec. 15, 1938 to the late Joe and Olive Spann Capps.

She was preceded in death by her only sister, Jo Ann Collins Capps and a grandson, Vince France. 

Delores was a member of McArthur Assembly of God Church and was a hairdresser for 35 years.

She is survived by her loving husband, Jimmie Bell; son, James “Ricky” Love of Lonoke; daughters, Dawnette “Dawn” Love France and husband Tommy of Oklahoma City, Okla., April Love Ruppert and husband Ken of Merritt Island, Fla., and Cheryl Bell Conrad and husband Kenneth of Marion; brother, Jimmy “Butch” Capps and wife Sally of Baytown, Texas.

She is also survived by her grandchildren, Joe France and wife Marla, Brienne Love Barnes and husband Calvin, Erin Love Young and husband Jonathan, Stephanie and Shelby Ruppert, Jennifer and Julie France, Derrick Hagar and Tanner Conrad; and great-grandchildren Callie and Andrew France and much anticipated Cohen Reese Barnes due March 2007.

Funeral services were Dec. 29 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel followed by entombment in Chapel Hill Memorial
Park in Jacksonville.

EDITORIALS>>Don't violate Constitution

It is an almost immutable rule that the final days of a longtime officeholder who is forced to vacate by the Constitution or the electorate are messy. It was that way with the last three presidents of the United States, and so it is with Mike Huckabee, who has another week and a half in the governor’s office before returning to plebian status.

Huckabee understandably is eager to embellish his legacy, so Thursday he dramatically made a “landmark announcement in the history of Arkansas,” which was that he was going to shift around a couple of million dollars of taxpayers’ money to bring about one of the best cancer research facilities “on the entire planet.”

Never mind that the little money he proposes to transfer to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as he leaves office is only a drop in the ocean of money that will be needed for the research center. As small as it is and as worthy as it might be, what he proposes is simply illegal. The state’s chief fiscal officer and adviser to the governor says so, but who needs him? The Constitution and the statutes plainly prohibit it.

There is a rudimentary constitutional prohibition that every freshman legislator learns the first week: Money appropriated for one purpose cannot be spent for quite another. But Huckabee said that he had directed that about $1.2 million in the state General Improvement Fund that was appropriated by the legislature in 2005 for projects at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock be taken away from them and given to UAMS as “seed money” for the research building, as Huckabee calls it, and $800,000 be used to endow obesity and diabetes research for the doctor who helped the governor lose his celebrated 110 pounds.

Richard Weiss, director of the Department of Finance and Administration and Huckabee’s top cabinet officer, said he did not see how the governor could legally transfer the funds unless the two campuses losing the money had some other spare unappropriated cash lying around that they could give to the governor. Mind you, Weiss is the man who will have to transfer the money on the governor’s order. He said Huckabee had not consulted him. The legislature’s fiscal authority said the same thing, adding, “Apparently he’s just doing it.”

Why would the governor issue an order without even consulting the man he has depended on for 10 years for fiscal guidance and who will have to carry out the order? Apparently, relations have been strained since the week before the general election when Weiss publicly revealed that his boss was lying about vetoing legislation that set up an attorney-ad-litem program for children that former state Sen. Nick Wilson and friends later used to siphon tax money for themselves. Hucka-bee maintained that he had been on to Wilson’s dirty tricks and tried to stop the program and that the legislature, including Mike Beebe, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate this year, overrode him.

No, Weiss said, Huckabee, upon his advice, had vetoed only a small mechanical section of a funding bill that would not have stopped the ad-litem program at all. It actually made no mention of the ad-litem program. Huckabee disputed his subordinate and said Weiss was covering up for Beebe, whom he was supporting for governor and Huckabee was opposing. The official records of Huckabee’s action show that Huckabee was wrong.

They will show that Huckabee is wrong and Weiss is right on the university appropriations, too.

The legislature and the new governor, the same Mike Beebe, will have to determine whether to fund the $70 million, $120 million, or whatever is deemed necessary if the state wants to carry out the cancer research center that was announced this summer. It is indeed a worthy idea and the state’s $850 million-plus surplus should be able to handle it. Even the governor’s little transfers could be achieved by the legislature and the new governor in three days when it convenes on Jan. 7. But, of course, either way Mike Huckabee might not get the credit that he so desperately wants.

For the announcement, Huckabee brought out the widow of the late Winthrop Paul Rockefeller and said he wanted to name the future research center for Rockefeller, who died of cancer. The Rockefeller family has generously supported Huckabee. Invoking the name of Win Paul Rockefeller, whose memory engenders such tenderness, might cause many of us to overlook the peculiarities of the Constitution. “If it will memorialize such a sweet man, let’s just forget the niceties of the law and get it done, okay?”

Let’s not. There’s still hundreds of millions of dollars and several years to be spent on this project and we shouldn’t begin by skirting the law. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth following the law. Do it by the book, in this case the Constitution of Arkansas.

EVENTS>>Fall 2006

All Pulaski, Lonoke and White County offices will be closed Monday, Jan. 1, for New Year’s Day.
City offices for Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot, Austin, Ward, Lonoke and Beebe will all be closed Monday, Jan. 1 for New Year’s.
The trash pickup schedule for New Year’s Day will be as follows:
In Jacksonville, garbage, yardwaste and recycling routes for Monday, Jan. 1 and Tuesday, Jan. 2 will be collected one day late; normal routes will run the remainder of the week.
In Sherwood, trash pickup will be on Tuesday, Jan. 2. In Cabot, Austin and Beebe, trash pickup will run one day behind all week for New Year’s Day. In Ward and Lonoke, the trash pickup will not be affected by the holiday.

The Melody Boys Quartet will perform at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Jacksonville Community Center’s ballroom to usher in the New Year. The Kinsmen Quartet from Monticello will also perform.
Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $7 for children with a group rate of $12 per person for 20 or more.
For more information, call Mike Franklin at 501-835-6471.

The Lonoke County Extension office has planned an AG Day Program for Monday, Jan. 8, starting at 8 a.m. and concluding with a complementary lunch at noon. This meeting will take place at the Lonoke Agricultural Center on Highway 70 just east of Lonoke.
Topics for this year’s program include soybeans and rice insects, Asian rust and soybean diseases, rice and soybean weed control, salinity solutions for soybeans and rice, rice disease update, and water management for rice and soybeans.
This is an excellent opportunity for Lonoke County producers. If you would like additional information, contact the County Extension Office at 501-676-3124.

Central Arkansas Development Council (CADC) will begin accepting applications for the Winter Home Energy Assistance Program on Monday, Jan. 8. Applications will be accepted at CADC in Lonoke from 8 a.m. until noon Monday, Jan. 8 through Wednesday, Jan. 10 at 117 S. E. Front St. Applications will also be accepted by appointment only at Jacksonville Workforce Center, 2 Crestview in Jacksonville. Call 982-3538 to make an appointment.
All households receiving food stamps are potentially eligible to receive this assistance but it is not limited to food stamp recipients.
To apply for assistance the household should bring a copy of the current utility bill, Social Security numbers, and date of birth for all household members. The client must have working knowledge of household resources.

TOP STORY >>Area officials reveal their resolutions

IN SHORT: They want to spend more time with their families, work hard for their constituents.


Every year thousands of people set New Year’s resolutions as they reflect on their lives and wonder whether or not they are fulfilling goals and making their dreams a reality. Whether those resolutions are to spend more time with family, to start exercising or lose weight, to save more money or to quit smoking, people make long lists of things they resolve to do or not to do.

Local community leaders are no different in what they hope to resolve, but may be more community oriented, as some offered up their resolutions for the coming new year.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim’s resolution for the new year focuses on his private life. “I plan to spend more time with my family,” he said.

State Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, resolves “to go fishing with my dad more,” in the new year, he said Thursday. That and to see the Jacksonville area have its own school district. “I’ll work to pass legislation that will help ensure that more Arkansas students have access to two- or four-year colleges—to try to move from 50th in the nation in percentage of population with college degrees.

“That’s the key to economic development,” Bond said.

Among Bond’s other resolutions are to improve access to in-home care for senior citizens and to spend more time enjoying his 15-month-old twins.

With only a few more days left in his Sherwood Municipal Complex office, Mayor Bill Harmon said, “It’s going to be a new life for me.”

Harmon will have a new lease on life but will have to face continuing health problems. He is scheduled to undergo a third hip replacement next year.

“I resolved for my hip to be healed,” Harmon said after reflecting for a few moments.

Eddie Joe Williams, Cabot mayor-elect, joked that he kept last year’s resolution – that he wouldn’t make one, but said this year he resolved to fulfill promises made during his campaign.

“The minute after I’m sworn in I’ll start working diligently on my commitment to the community, to work hard and keep my campaign commitments,” Williams said.

While he wouldn’t divulge a personal resolution, Cabot Alderman-elect Eddie Cook did offer his New Year’s resolution for Cabot.

“My number one goal is two-fold for the city: first is better traffic flow, we need to ease up on congestion, we need more east to west roadways, and something needs to be done at Locust Street; second is that we have got to be better stewards of the city’s money by implementing city reserves,” Cook said. “It’s going to be a good year, the new mayor is already making good decisions,” Cook added.

State Rep. Susan Schulte, R-Cabot, says she hasn’t formalized her New Year’s resolutions yet, but expects trying to walk five days a week to continue to be among them.

How has she done in the past?

“Awful,” she said, especially for a woman who once helped found a running club.

Other resolutions include doing her daily devotions, to open up another business venture and, as state representative, “to be there for the folks who need me.”

With two new grandsons, Schulte also resolves to put playground equipment in her backyard.

Billye Everett, Cabot Chamber of Commerce director, felt two resolutions were in order this year.

“To get better organized so that I can serve the community better and to spend a little more quality time with my family and friends,” Everett said, admitting she usually doesn’t think anything about resolutions for the New Year so that way she can’t break them.

Everett wouldn’t be alone if she broke her New Year’s resolutions, 80 percent of the resolutions made on Jan. 1 are broken by Jan. 20. Numerous people chose not to even worry about thinking of a New Year’s resolution because of failed resolutions over past years.

Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson resolved to work on getting the jail finished and his New Year’s wish would be for three or four new (patrol) cars. The county hasn’t bought any in three or four years he said, and some of them have 225,000 miles on them.

Lonoke Mayor-elect Wayne McGee resolved to be a hands-on mayor, to be on the job all he can and to take control of spending and working more efficiently. Personally, McGee said he hopes to lose weight.

“I’m going to try to live as long as I can,” Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman resolved. “We will work as best we can with what we’ve got,” he said and resolved that the new frontage road along Hwy. 67/167 at Cabot would be finished by spring.

State Rep. Lenville Evans, D-Lonoke, says he’s not one that puts his resolutions out there to break them. In the General Assembly, he has some things he wants to accomplish, but wants to get some more input before he talks about them.

“I want to spend as much time as possible with my children and grandchildren and to remain active in church and community,” said state Rep. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle.

Other resolutions?

“I want to be the very best senator possible on behalf of my constituents, provide them with the services they richly deserve,” Glover said. “I want to rid the sales tax on groceries and to make sure that we afford the very best public education on behalf of the young people in my district.”

State Sen. John Paul Capps, D-Searcy, says he doesn’t break New Year’s resolutions because he doesn’t make them, but he hopes to be “as good a person as I can. I want to work hard in the job the people have allowed me to have in the Senate, particularly for those who are the least among us.”

Capps said he hopes to bring more cohesion and less partisianship in the political arena and in office; personally, he hopes to enjoy life more and be more appreciative.

White County offices were supposed to close at noon on Friday, but 40 minutes after closing, Bob Parish, the outgoing county judge, was still packing up the memorabilia in his office in readiness for incoming Judge Michael Lincoln.

Parish, who did not seek reelection, said he’s had a good run.

“I lost some friends and made some friends, but that’s politics,” he said. “I did it my way. I made some mistakes just like the new judge will make some mistakes. But my door was always open. No one was ever closed out. If anyone had a problem, we talked it out and I did what was best for the county as a whole, what was best for everyone,” he said.

Parish said he doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions, but what he wishes for everyone is good health, without which little else is possible.

Lincoln, Parish’s successor said he has given a lot of thought to the New Year and his resolution is to be a peacemaker.
“That’s what’s been on my heart,” Lincoln said. “I want to offer the hand of compromise, the ear to hear different view points and the mouth to speak blessings.”

Mike Robertson, the incoming Mayor of Beebe, says he doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions because they are too easy to break.

But he says the thing he is hoping for in 2007 is cooperation.

TOP STORY >>Hospital gets good marks in U.S. study

IN SHORT: Results of survey show Rebsamen is competitive with other area facilities.

Leader editors

Rebsamen Medical Center in Jacksonville has struggled for years with the perception that it’s not a first-rate hospital, but a recent survey gives the facility high marks for patient care in many categories.

In a hospital-comparison tool Web site comprised of quality-measure tables developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rebsamen Medical Center compared favorably in many areas with other institutions in the area.

Heart attack care quality measures, which quantify recommended care given to patients when appropriate, compared hospitals in the area, although some numbers for some hospitals such as Rebsamen were too small to reliably predict the hospital’s performance, according to the site.

Kurt Meyer, Rebsamen’s administrator, said Friday that new data will show the hospital in an even better light. “Updated data will show even better results” for the hospital, he said.

“We’re comparable with other hospitals in the area,” Meyer said. “We have competitive prices.”

To access the government Web site for further information on hospital quality data, go to
For example, the percentage of heart attack patients given aspirin on arrival at the hospital was 96 percent at Rebsamen compared with 97 percent at Baptist Health Medical Center, North Little Rock; 89 percent for Southwest Regional Medical Center; 92 percent at White County Medical Center, and 96 percent at St. Vincent Medical Center North.

(Higher percentages of treatment are better indicators of quality care. Percentages include only patients whose condition indicated such treatment was appropriate.)

Heart attack patients given an ACE inhibitor if appropriate, which allows affected blood vessels to relax, making the work of the stressed heart easier, were 50 percent at Rebsamen compared with 88 percent at Baptist, North Little Rock; 67 percent for Southwest Regional Medical Center; 50 percent at White County Medical Center and 50 percent at St. Vincent Medical Center North.

Heart attack patients who received beta blockers on arrival were at 88 percent at Rebsamen compared with 91 percent at Baptist Health Medical Center, North Little Rock; 80 percentfor Southwest Regional Medi-cal Center; 62 percent at White County Medical Center, and 96 percent at St. Vincent Medical Center North. Beta blockers help control heart arrythmias (irregular beating).

Patients with pneumonia placed on antibiotics within four hours of arrival at the hospital were 85 percent at Rebsamen compared with 77 percent at Baptist Health Medical Center, North Little Rock; 73 percent for Southwest Regional Medical Center; 82 percent at White County Medical Center, and 62 percent at St. Vincent Medical Center North.

Patients diagnosed with pneumonia and assessed for adequate oxygenation was 98 percent at Rebsamen compared with 100 percent at Baptist Health Medical Center, North Little Rock; 99 percent for Southwest Regional Medical Center; 100 percent at White County Medical Center, and 100 percent at St. Vincent Medical Center North.

Heart attack patients discharged on aspirin were 88 percent at Rebsamen compared with 97 percent at Baptist Health Medical Center, North Little Rock; 100 percent for Southwest Regional Medical Center; 100 percent at White County Medical Center, and 70 percent at St. Vincent Medical Center North.

In several categories, Reb-samen’s data was not available including the percent of surgery patients who received preventative antibiotics one hour before incision; the percentage of heart attack patients given smoking cessation advice; and the percent of pneumonia patients given influenza vaccination.

Rebsamen is redefining its role in the community and seeking comments from local leaders how best to serve the area.
Plans for the city-owned hospital include a possible overhaul of its 45-year-old building and even perhaps building a new facility toward the end of the county to attract patients from the Cabot area. No firm announcement is expected until next March, Meyer said.

Rebsamen finds itself in the middle of several larger hospitals in the area that offer thousands of beds and a myriad of services, but Rebsamen is determined to see its way through a competitive environment where costs rise and income is down.

The hospital lost $803,000 this year and has had to dip into its reserves. Rebsamen billed patients and health-care providers $88,622,000 for services in 2006, but collected just $46 million because the government and insurers do not pay what they’re charged.

Quorum Health Resources, the private company of Plano, Texas, which manages the city-owned hospital, charges Jacksonville $259,073 a year to run Rebsamen. Kurt Meyer, who works for QHR and administers the hospital, says his company saves the city $726,725 a year in lower supply and equipment costs.

In addition, QHR provides consulting services from its headquarters valued at $195,000 a year, Meyer said.
Rebsamen is the smallest hospital in the area with 90 beds, of which 60 are occupied on average. By comparison, White County Medical Center in Searcy has 438 beds, Baptist Medical Center in North Little Rock has 175 beds, and St. Vincent’s in Sherwood has 140 beds.

Next: Cost of a new hospital.

TOP STORY >>Newly elected set to be sworn in

IN SHORT: Local city officials will take the oath of office during the first week of January.

Leader staff report

Numerous inaugural ceremonies for city officials elected during the November elections will take place at the beginning of January in the central Arkansas area.

The swearing-in of all Jacksonville officials will occur at the first meeting of its city council, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Asked why Jacksonville’s event will not take place on Jan. 1, Mayor Tommy Swaim explained that this way, family gatherings over the New Year’s holiday would not be interrupted.

According to Swaim, the practice of not having a Jan. 1 swearing-in ceremony is in compliance with state statutes and the event has been similarly scheduled like this over the past eight to 10 years.

The Sherwood swearing-in ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Monday in the council chambers at city hall off Kiehl Avenue. Sherwood’s mayor-elect Dan Stedman will be among those sworn in during the event; a short reception will follow the ceremony.

Lonoke County officials will be sworn in at 9 a.m. Monday in Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw’s courtroom at the Lonoke County Courthouse.

The organizational meeting of the Lonoke County Quorum Court will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the John Deere building across the street from the county courthouse.

At 10 a.m., Lonoke officials, including mayor-elect Wayne McGee, will be sworn into office by District Judge Barbara Elmore in the municipal courtroom at Lonoke City Hall.

Cabot officials will be sworn in at 6 p.m. next Saturday at the city’s new Veterans Community Center across from the high school.

Cabot mayor-elect Eddie Joe Williams, City Clerk Marva Verkler and City Attorney Jimmy Taylor will take the oath of office Tuesday so they can conduct city business.

Jimmy Taylor will all take the oath of office Tuesday, in order to conduct city business. District Judge Joe O’Bryan will administer the oath of office.

Judge Phillip Whiteaker will preside at next Saturday’s ceremony sponsored by the Cabot Chamber of Commerce.
Council members Eddie Long, Eddie Cook, Virgil Teague, Ken Williams, Tom Armstrong, Teri Miessner, Becky Lemaster and Lisa Brickell will also be sworn in.

Austin city officials, including re-elected Mayor Bernie Cham-berlain, will be sworn in by Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman at 10:30 a.m Monday at Austin City Hall.

All Ward city officials, including re-elected Mayor Art Brooke, will also be sworn in by Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman at 11 a.m. Monday at Ward City Hall.

Beebe elected officials, including Mayor Mike Robertson, aldermen and clerk/treasurer will be sworn in at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the Com-munity Bank Room of the Roswell Beebe Municipal Complex.

White County officials will be sworn in at 9 a.m. Monday at the county courthouse in Searcy.

TOP STORY >>Tragedy, corruption and new beginnings

IN SHORT: In a multi-part series, The Leader will look back at the people and events of 2006.

Leader staff writer

A lot of living was packed into the 365 days of 2006—just look at the numbers.

n More than 220,000 people from throughout Arkansas and elsewhere watched the Blue Angels and other military aircraft strut their stuff at Little Rock Air Force Base’s open house in Novem-ber. Of the more than 70 shows a year that the Blue Angels perform, they put LRAFB in their top five.

n There were nearly 100 charges filed against the former Lonoke police chief, his wife and others in a sex, drug, theft and abuse of power racket.

n Cabot Junior High North burned just before school was to start back in August, displacing more than 1,200 students and delaying classes for most junior high students by about two weeks. The fire came just days before Cabot opened its new $13.9 million, 110-classroom high school.

n Payday lenders with fees that put interest on their loans into the 300-plus percent range were at odds with lawmakers and other lending institutions for most the year.

Legal action was taken to close them down and bills prepared to cap fees and interest at 17 percent, but by year’s end payday lenders were still operating and still charging usury interest on their short-term loans.

Up, up and away
More than 220,000 aircraft enthusiasts—a record—visited Little Rock Air Force Base over the first weekend in November for the 2006 Airpower Arkansas air show. The Blue Angels were the featured event.

“We had 165,000 the first day alone,” Second Lt. Kelly George, deputy chief of the 314th Airlift Wing’s Strategic Information Flight, said. “Attendance last year was 150,000 for both days; we broke a record. The air show went great; all the feedback we’ve received was that everyone had a great time.”

Young and old alike meandered through the 46 aircraft parked on the flight line, many taking the time to wait in long lines to see the cockpit of numerous planes.

Photo opportunities were plentiful this year both with the aerial demonstrations and the static displays.

Of course there were the C-130’s, the base’s signature workhorse plane, but there were also small planes, like the BT-13 World War II aircraft, and really-really big planes, like the gigantic C-5 Galaxy; the Air Force even had little battery-operated one-seater planes being driven around to help promote the Air Force.

The Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard were also all on hand at this year’s show helping to promote their unique services.
Children, and adults too, were awed by the speed of the jets and the precision of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. “Wow” and “That’s loud” were heard numerous times from the mouths of children during the aerial performances.

“I like the jets the best,” Tammy Stark of Ward, who attends the air show every year, said. “Their speed is just amazing.”
AirPower Arkansas 2006 will be the last air show for at least three years according to Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of Little Rock Air Base. The next show is tentatively set for 2009.

Lonoke lunacy
Lonoke residents were reeling in February as Mayor Thomas Privett, Police Chief Jay Campbell, his wife, two local bondsman and, later, a police dispatcher, were arrested on multiple charges ranging from making meth to making whoopee with prisoners. Charges continued to mount through the year, and the cases are set to go to court in February 2007—a little more than a year after the first set of charges.

Campbell, known as a tough-on-drugs cop, was charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, stealing drugs, intimidating witnesses and running a criminal enterprise.

Campbell’s wife was charged with having sex with prisoners and theft of drugs. The mayor was charged with having inmates work at his home.

Two bondsmen, Bobby Cox and Larry Norwood were also arrested on drug -related charges.

Former dispatcher Amy Staley was arrested on charges that she had sex with prisoners much like Campbell’s wife, Kelly, did.
The arrests were the result of an investigation that started in late 2005 into whether or not some Lonoke city officials improperly used Act 309 inmate labor for personal use such as to fix a boat and hang Christmas lights.

By the end of summer, Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona Mc-Castlain had put together a 60-page indictment that stated Campbell had masterminded a continuing criminal organization or enterprise that stole drugs and money, influenced inmates with drugs and sexual favors, conspired to manufacture methamphetamine, burgled homes and beat and intimidated witnesses.

Campbell was additionally charged with hindering apprehension of prosecution, filing a false police report and several counts each of obtaining controlled substance by fraud or theft of property.

According to papers filed by the prosecution, Campbell “used his authority to exploit (ACT) 309 Inmates for the Campbells’ sexual gratification. The Campbells facilitated sexual acts in the chief’s office, a local hotel, the Campbells’ residence and other locations.”

The prosecutor charges that the Campbells fostered relationships with members of the community and church family where he would “entertain friends” while she roamed their homes taking medications or personal property.

Cashing in on checks
At the beginning of 2006 Arkansas has 275 cash advance or payday lending stores, of which only 66 are licensed and make any pretense of being regulated by the state, according to a study released by Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending (AAAPL).

Many are open in Jacksonville, near the air base, as well as in Cabot, Sherwood and Lonoke.

Hank Klein, former head of the Arkansas Federal Credit Union and a member of AAAPL, said that these were lenders of last resort, charging needy and unsophisticated borrowers hundreds of percent interest, figured on an annual rate.

He said lenders sometimes find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of debt when doing business with payday lenders.
In July, some payday-lender shops owned by a Fordyce man, including ones in Cabot, Beebe and Searcy, closed after the business owner was fined $1.3 million for not having a valid license.

“The Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation (FDIC) has told banks to stop partnering (with payday lenders,)” said Klein. “It’s not bank-like to make 500 percent loans.”

Rep. Sandra Prater, D-Jack-sonville, along with several other lawmakers filed a bill in late December that would fine payday lenders and other institutions for making high-interest consumer loans.

The bill would prevent the triple-digit interest rates some payday lenders charge in the state. The bill would fine businesses $300 for charging more than 17 percent interest on loans.

Legislators will consider the bill when the session convenes in January.

Payday loans are typically small—$100 to $500, made for an average of 14 days, according to Klein. “People who borrow from them may pay interest equivalent to an annual percentage rate of more than 400 percent.”

The average borrower pays $800 to borrow $325, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. Payday lenders are disproportionately located near military bases and also target minority and low-income consumers.

Jacksonville alone has about half a dozen, three of them near the main gate to Little Rock Air Force Base.

The state’s Constitution limits interest on consumer loans to a maximum of 17 percent annually, but opponents of payday lending have said the state’s Check Cashers Act allows payday lenders to charge higher interest rates.

Through a payday loan in Arkansas, a customer writing a check for $400, for example, typically would receive $350.

The lender would keep the check for about two weeks without cashing it and, thereby, allowing the customer time to buy back the check.

The $50 charge on the $350 loan for 14 days equates to 371 percent interest, well above Arkansas’ usury limit of 17 percent.

Up in flames
In early August, parents were registering their children for classes when an electrical malfunction set Cabot Junior High School North blazing and sent everyone scampering to safety.

Dozens of teachers, parents and youngsters hurried out of the building as flames engulfed the structure, which was destroyed despite efforts by firefighters who worked seven hours to contain the blaze.

The electrical fire destroyed the eight-year-old, one-story, 115,400-square-foot school at 38 Spirit Drive. The fire broke out in a closet in the library just after 2 p.m. Students in grades seven through nine had been in the building throughout the day for registration.

Cabot School Board member Brooks Nash, who was principal at Junior High South when Junior High North was built in 1998, called the loss of the district’s newest junior high building tragic.

“Something like this would hurt any time, but especially right here at the beginning of school. We’ve got 1,200 kids displaced and records destroyed,” he said. “Nobody got hurt. That’s the good part if there is a good part,” Nash added.

Most of the displaced seventh- and eighth-grade students started school in trailers after a two-week delay.

Displaced ninth graders were incorporated into the high school. By the end of the year, the students had adjusted well, but the district was still fighting with the insurance company over the payments for rebuilding.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

SPORTS>> Lady Devils using Classic to prepare for conference

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils embark upon their between-semester holiday tournament play with a still-diminished roster. Still missing are two guards that should have a big impact for the guard-shallow team next week when conference play gets started, but for now, the Lady Devils will begin play in the Red Devil Classic with a post-game mentality. They begin the tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday against Melbourne. First-year Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms, who was not involved in selecting teams for the tournament, doesn’t know much about Melbourne, but expects a tough game.

“It’s a really small school and teams like that don’t come to these big-school tournaments unless they think they can compete,” Mimms said. “I’m sure they’ll be a very good team. Right now though we’re working on Jacksonville. We have to get ready for conference, and that’s what we’re going to be focused on in this tournament.” The vast majority of Jacksonville’s offensive point production has come from the inside play of seniors Tarneshia Scott and Marie Livings. The guards have been adequate and given a valiant effort, but none are true point guards and that has been a weakness that the team will try to play through this week.

“I feel like we have good guards, just not a point guard,” Mimms said. “The best ball handler right now is probably Tarneshia, but she’s too valuable down low. We’re going to get some people back for conference which will help, but it will sort of be like starting from square one in the middle of the season.” Last year’s starting point guard, Morgain Waits, has been out all season with a torn ACL. She has rehabilitated well and should be back by the first conference game next month. Brittany Smith will also return after the Christmas break. With the guard play on hold, Mimms would like to work on the two big players inside. Livings, who followed Mimms from North Pulaski last year, has been dressed down by her head coach more than once for lacking aggression, especially on the boards. This season has seen a steady increase in Livings’ tenacity in the rebounding department, but there are still things Mimms would like to see improve.

“She has definitely gotten more aggressive, but we also want to see her shoot better,” Mimms said. “We’ve been working on getting her to hit her first shot. She’s so big she can sometimes miss, get the rebound, miss, get it again, and just keep shooting. We want her to focus more and work on hitting that first shot. She tends to rush the shot when she gets it and she’s open.” Mimms has been working with Livings on defense as well, and thinks it will pay dividends in the 6A-East race.
“Another thing that I see improving with her is her defense,” Mimms said. “Defensively she’s been learning how to recognize guard penetration and how to slide over to help. Guards getting inside for layups has killed us at times this year and some of that is because we haven’t played good defense away from the ball. I think our pressure defense has been good, but we need to get better in halfcourt situations.”

This is Mimms’ first year coaching Scott, who is a three-year starter and has been the Lady Devils’ most steady and versatile player all three of those years. Scott lacks the quickness to play guard full-time, but has the ability to occasionally take her defender off the dribble and create her own shot. She can’t be left unattended on the wing either because she is a capable outside shooter. “What’s going to happen when we get all of our players is you’re going to see her with more opportunities to do some of the things we want her to do,” Mimms said. “She can do a lot of things, but she’s been limited because we’re short handed. We’re going to go ahead and try to keep her where we want her in this tournament and just focus on doing the things we’re going to do in conference. I feel like our guards are getting better and I think that will make the team better.”

SPORTS>> Lonoke snuffs out Stuttgart Ricebirds

Leader sportswriter

The Jackrabbits and Lady ‘Rabbits went into the holiday break on a winning note, sweeping Stuttgart at home Friday night in a pair of 2-4A Conference games. The visiting Ricebirds took Lonoke down to the wire until a charging foul on Tevin Robinson with 48 seconds left gave the ball and the game to the Jackrabbits by a score of 54-48. The Lady Jackrabbits held the Lady Ricebirds to 10 points through three quarters before activating the mercy rule in the final frame for a dominating 46-15 win, keeping their league record perfect through five games and putting them in a tie for the conference lead. The ‘Rabbits dominated the first quarter until Stuttgart closed a 13-3 deficit at the 2:37 mark down to 14-8 by the end of the period. Lonoke never trailed in the contest, but could never extend the lead back to the brief double-digit advantage it enjoyed in the first minutes of the game.

“When you stop scoring, your defense goes down,” ‘Rabbits coach Wes Swift said. “We were up by 10 at one point and just quit scoring. We weren’t getting the ball to our post players, which is something we have been working on. Maybe it was a trust issue, with both of them being sophomores, but it is something we are going to continue working on.”

Robinson became harder and harder for Lonoke to contain in the second half. After being held to only seven points in the first half, the sophomore Ricebirds standout put up nine points in the third quarter. A bank shot from Robinson with 1:29 left in the third quarter cut Lonoke’s lead to 36-33, but Sammy Coleman responded for the ‘Rabbits with a pair of free throws, followed by a three pointer with 33 seconds left in the third to put the lead at 41-33. A steal and layup from No. 23?? gave Lonoke a brief 10-point lead at 43-33, but Philip Sykes scored before the third quarter buzzer to cut it back to eight. Robinson’s only points of the fourth quarter cut Lonoke’s lead to 46-45 with 3:45 left in the game, but when his magic touch ran out soon thereafter, the Jackrabbits took advantage and sealed the win going away.

Robinson tried for the lead on the next Stuttgart possession, but his shot fell short, and Bradley Spencer pulled down the rebound for Lonoke. The biggest play for the ‘Rabbits came on the ensuing possession, when Stanley Staggers scored on the put-back of a missed shot by Spencer, and drew the foul from Garrison Vaughn. Staggers hit the foul shot, putting Lonoke up by five, 50-45 with 1:41 remaining. A three-point shot from Vaughn 20 seconds later would give Stuttgart one last gasp of air, but Spencer drew the charge from Robinson on the Ricebirds’ next possession to deny any chance of a comeback.
Spencer led the Jackrabbits with 10 points. Coleman added nine points for Lonoke, and NO>1?? Had eight points. For Stuttgart, Robinson led all scorers with 18 points. The win improves Lonoke’s record to 8-4 on the season and 4-1 in conference play.

The Lady ‘Rabbits had an easy time with the Lady Ricebirds on Friday, dominating the contest from the opening tip on. Lonoke jumped out to a 10-4 lead after the first quarter with strong play inside from senior post Calisha Kirk. Kirk scored six points during the opening frame, along with shots from Jenny Evans and Asiah Scribner.

Both teams struggled during the second quarter, and the score at the half was 17-6. Lonoke came out even stronger in the second half, improving their lead to 27-10 by the start of the fourth quarter. A pair of free throws from Michaela Brown with 2:25 left in the game increased Lonoke’s lead to 45-15 and activated the mercy-rule. Both teams went sub-heavy at that point, and Brown added one more free throw in the last minute of the game to set the final margin.

“Early on, they had some trouble scoring against us,” Lady ‘Rabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “Down the stretch, I thought our guards did an outstanding job. Michaels Brown hit those free throws, and Kristy Shinn came up with about seven rebounds there. I told the kids that playing in December, we would have to be ready. I think our freshmen have adjusted to varsity basketball. They seem to be taking care of the ball a lot better now.”

Kirk led Lonoke with 17 points. Evans added 11 points for the Lady Jackrabbits. For Stuttgart, Sherick Withers led with five points. The win gives the Lady Jackrabbits an 8-5 overall record, and puts their conference record at 5-0, tying them with the Heber Springs ladies for the 2-4A lead. The Jackrabbits and Lady Jackrabbits will take part in the White County Medical/First Security Christmas Classic at Beebe starting Thursday morning.

SPORTS>> Panther standout is ‘Sharp’

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School athletics has traditionally been known for its workhorse-style heroes, and Panthers senior post Alex Sharp is no exception. A good example on the court and in the classroom, Sharp has been in the unenviable position of one of only three seniors on this year’s Panther team.

He has taken the duty in stride. What would be considered overwhelming for some young men has been a natural adaptation ac-cording to the 17-year-old. Very articulately spoken for his age, it only takes a few moments of conversation with Sharp to understand why Panthers head coach Jerry Bridges leans on him in many different areas. “At the end of last season, Al was one of the first guys I went to,” Bridges said. “I don’t want to put any more undue pressure on him than what he already has, but he understands that we have a lot riding on him this year.”

Add the fact that this is his first season as a full-time starter, and it becomes even clearer that Sharp has had little choice but to be a quick study. He started sporadically last season, but took on the role of big-man inside at the start of the 2006-2007 season last month. “I just want to be good at whatever my role is this year,” Sharp said. “Whether that is being leading scorer or leading rebounder, whatever ends up being best for the team. Individual stats are not a big issue, as long as we can do well as a team.”

Although he does not brag about his accomplishments on the court that much, he is rightfully proud of what he has done in the classroom for the past four years. Boasting an amazing 4.23 GPA, Sharp also scored a 33 on his ACTs, and is president of the National Honors Society at Cabot High School. His college plans are down to four choices, but mainly revolve around the University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix University, both in Conway. He has received academic offers from both schools, but has also received interest from the Hendrix basketball program.

“I am very much in the middle of the road right now as far as where I want to go,” Sharp said. “Right now, it is too early to tell. I am filling out paperwork as if I were going to both schools.” Sharp started his career for Cabot out strong, earning All-Metro Conference honors his freshman year. He added an MVP award form the Arkansas Hoops Summer Jam at McClellan High School this past summer. He says that although this year’s team is young for the most part, that the sophomores and juniors have come around very quickly, and he expects the Panthers to be strong one league play starts in a couple of weeks.

“I have very high expectations for the team,” Sharp said. “We started out a little bit slow, but I think that once conference starts, we will be used to each other a little more. Our defense has improved enough that we should be more competitive. I expect us to get a good seed in the state tournament, and make some noise there.”
Bridges agrees that Sharp’s role as a leader has been a very natural progression.

“He has grasp a hold of the role that we have given him,” Bridges said. “All the young men on the team look up to Al, and he has accepted that role. There have been times where I wished he was a little bit more vocal, but I think he has done a great job of getting more aggressive when he needs to here lately. He averages close to a double-double for us on the court, so I have no complaints whatsoever with his performance on the court.” With his final year of high school basketball almost halfway behind him, Sharp says he looks forward to applying the lessons he has learned on the court to his life in college, and beyond.

“Probably, the main thing I will take with me is the same thing I have already taken from playing basketball, and that is work ethic,” Sharp said. “I couldn’t have been successful, or the team couldn’t have been successful without the hard work that coach Bridges puts us through in the off-season.

“Coach Bridges has always put a big emphasis on teamwork and putting individual issues aside to work together. I think in the future, that will help me with my abilities towards classmates and co-workers, and help me to not do selfish things.”

OBITUARIES >> 12-27-06


William Robert Carter, 73, of Jacksonville died Dec. 22 in North Little Rock. He was born Feb. 27, 1933 in Peabody, Mass., to the late Rupert Alvin and Thelma Elizabeth MacGregor Carter.

In addition to his parents, a brother, Dave Carter, preceded William in death. Mr. Carter was a member of St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church and a fourth degree Knight of Columbus in the Jacksonville Council. He served in the Air Force for more than 23 years and was a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. While stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, he coached baseball, football and basketball on the air base.

After retiring, he went to work for Rebsamen Regional Medical Center, where he established the biomedical engineering department program and continued his work for another 20 years. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Mildred Darsney Carter of Jacksonville, and their six children, Roberta Bowen and husband Larry of Tempe, Ariz., Patti Witkop and husband Willmer of Nemo, S.D., Sandra Gilliland and husband Kyle and William Robert Carter, Jr., both of Jacksonville, Cynthia Monmaney and her husband Steven of Wynne and Michael Douglas Carter and wife Mary Kay of Tulsa, Okla., 11 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Also surviving him are Brandi, Amanda and Melina Gilliland, Jennifer Witkop, Heather Bendowski and husband Jin, Crystal and Matthew Botsford, Steven, Jr. and Rachel Monmaney, Andrew and Samantha Carter and Amethyst Rayne Bendowski. He also leaves one sister, Joan Myers of Saugus, Mass. and three brothers, Rupert Carter and Brian Carter of Peabody, Mass., and James Carter of Albany, New York.

The family would like to thank Drs. Conley, Neuhauser, Jones, Kellar and Fernandez and the nursing staff on 1A at Baptist North for their wonderful care. Memorials may be made to the Rehab Transportation Van Service at Baptist Health North, 3333 Springhill Drive, North Little Rock, Ark.72116. Rosary was recited Dec. 26 at St. Jude’s Catholic Church. Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at the church with Father Les Farley officiating. Burial will follow in Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Amy Foreman, 84, of North Little Rock died Dec. 24. She is survived by a host of nieces and nephews. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 28 at Hazen Cemetery. Family will receive friends from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at North Little Rock Funeral Home.


Martha Staton, 53, died Dec. 25. She was a retired school teacher. Preceding her in death were her parents, Ernest and Florance Staton, and a brother, Bill Staton. She is survived by three brothers, Lee, Johnny and M.D. Staton; two sisters, Emma Staton and Betty Emerson; and seven nieces and nephews. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church with burial in Legate Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.


Edna Ruth Umfleet, 71, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 23 in Jacksonville. She was born Feb. 3, 1935 in Flat River, Mo., to Roy J. and Henratta J. Turnbough Huey. Mrs. Umfleet retired from J.C. Penny after 19 years and was a strong supportive military wife of 56 years. She was preceded in death by her father and baby daughter, Dee Ann Umfleet. She is survived by her loving husband of 56 years, Ret. MSgt. Denver Umfleet; children Deborah McDaniel of Jacksonville, Dennis L. Umfleet of Virginia, Norman D. Umfleet of Tennessee, Stephanie D. Wagner of North Carolina and Angela D. Umfleet of Jacksonville; mother, Henratta J. Huey of Park Hills, Mo.; two sisters, Nancy Hawg and Charlotte McGinnis, both of St. Louis; 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and several other beloved family members and friends.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 28 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home chapel with the Rev. Kevin Conger officiating. Burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Jacksonville. Visitation will be at the funeral home from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27.


Dorothy Virginia Whaley, 72, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 22, at Arkansas Hospice in Ft. Roots VA Hospital. She was born Aug. 16, 1934 in Washington County, Ga., to John and Mary Salter Glover.

Mrs. Whaley was a member of McArthur Drive Church of Christ in Jacksonville. She was one of the last true ladies. She is survived by two daughters and sons-in-laws, Jeanne and Gerald McCray of Jacksonville, Kathy and Daniel Landis of Greensboro, N.C.; son, Dennis Whaley of Jacksonville; six grandchildren, Jacob and Joshua McCray, Valarie Jamison, Kameron Landis, Carey Alba and Courtney Blotz; sister, Mary Burke of Georgia, and two brothers, Patrick Glover of Florida and Raymond Glover of Georgia.
Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Chapel. Burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park.


Alf “Buddy” Price, age 71, of Cabot died Dec. 26, in Jacksonville. He was born on Nov. 12, 1935 to the late Adolph and Cora Jackson Price. Alf was a member of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot and served his country in the Air Force from 1953 to 1956.
In addition to his parents, Alf was preceded in death by four brothers, Dwight Price, Ralph Horton, Clifton Horton, and Adolph Price Jr.; and one sister, Opal Jackson. Alf is survived by his wife, Betty Price; three children, Patti Stanley of Little Rock, Ron H. Price and wife Juneanne of Hope, and Michael Price and wife Brittani of Cabot; and five grandchildren, Spencer, Aidan, Aaron, Hunter, and Allyson Price.

The funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 29, at the Jacksonville Funeral Home chapel with Pastor Russell Stewart officiating. Burial will follow in Mt. Carmel Cemetery. The family will receive friends on Thursday, Dec. 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home. Funeral arrangements are by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.


Edith Joyce Murray Lott, 85, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 25at her home. She was born Oct. 17, 1921 in Greenwood, Miss., to the late Walter and Alma Tollison Frazier.
She was also preceded in death by her first husband, John Murray in 1955.

Mrs. Lott was a member of First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville. Survivors include her husband of 48 years, Wayne Lott, DDS of Jacksonville; sons, Walter and wife June Murray of Little Rock, John and wife Kathy Murray of Moss Point, Miss.; sisters, Ann Makamsom of Atlanta, Ga., and Rachel Young of Greenwood; grandchildren, Debbie Coulson, Grant Duensing, Charles Murray, Andrea Duensing, Patrick Murray, Beth Shipman and Matthew Murray; four great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28, at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville. Burial will follow in Bayou Meto Cemetery in Jacksonville. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at the funeral home.


Rev. Bobby Glenn Kelley, 69, of Jacksonville died Dec. 22. He was born Sept. 5, 1937 in Higgerson to the late George and Alice Kelley. He was a veteran of the Korean conflict and was a member of We Are One Ministries in North Little Rock, which had ordained him.

He was a 15-year member of the Independent Order of Foresters, where he served as vice president. There were many lives touched and changed by his love. He loved the Lord and told it to everyone he knew and met. He was a loving, dedicated husband, a caring, broad-shouldered father and a helping compassionate friend. He will be greatly missed by all.

He was preceded in death by a brother, Leon Kelley and a sister, Wanda Skelton.
Rev. Kelley is survived by his wife, Goldie Kelley; a brother, J.R. “Bill” and wife Maria Kelley; son, Thomas Edward Kelley; daughter, Alice Kelley; seven stepchildren, Jodi and husband Steve Shell, Billy Stratton, Shirley Stratton, Chuck Stratton, Linda and husband Phillip Mealler, Rick and wife Jeanne Smith, Joe Smith and a host of grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends.

Services were Dec. 26 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home. Burial followed at Pleasant Hill Cemetery near Center Ridge.


Corene Bowman, 83, of Beebe, died Dec. 21. She was retired after many years with Southwestern Bell of Memphis and was a member of Beebe Church of Christ. Corene loved, raised and showed Pomeranians. She was preceded in death by her husband, J. B. Bowman; parents, Clarence and Udell Osborn; half sisters, Alice White Harrison and Lottie Denham; sister, Louise Motes; three brothers, Claude Osborn, Joe Osborn and Clem Osborn.

She is survived by three brothers, Clarence Osborn and wife Belva of Mississippi, James “Alford” Osborn and wife Barbara of California and Steve Osborn and wife Arabella of Mabelvale; and one sister, Patricia “Pat” Wilson and husband Woody of Harrisburg.
Graveside services were Dec. 23, in Antioch Cemetery with arrangements were by Westbrook Funeral Home at Beebe.

TOP STORY >>Cabot water group hopes it will justify its existence

Leader staff writer

The commission that has run Cabot’s utilities for one year was ordered by a 2-1 vote of the people and then created by a vote of the city council, but what the old council gave the new one could be taken away, so the commission has been putting together a progress report to show the new aldermen that Cabot WaterWorks is in good hands. The new city council will be sworn in Jan. 6, and Bill Cypert, secretary of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, said the commission will make its pitch then that it’s doing its job.

Cypert said the members aren’t really worried that five votes from the council could disband the commission, but it is fair to say they are apprehensive. The commission took over the city’s water and sewer departments in January 2006 and named the two Cabot WaterWorks. To get ready for the transition, they hired an engineer to run the operation, a lawyer to deal with legal issues and an accounting firm to work with the money. Among the commission’s accomplishments this year is a $250,000 increase in investments revenue and the implementation of policies for dealing with developers so that none will be able to say they weren’t treated fairly. “They may not like it, but they know they are on a level playing field,” Cypert said.

Also among the first year’s accomplishments is the reduction of rainwater getting into the sewer treatment plant. Not only does rainwater overburden the plant, the city was under pressure from state and federal environmental agencies to get it under control. General Manager Tim Joyner noticed early in the year that several manholes were actually under water during heavy rains (some were in ditches) and started pouring concrete collars around them to elevate the opening so the water couldn’t get in.

The commission inherited from the mayor and council plans to build a new sewer treatment plan as well as plans to connect to Central Arkansas Water which would be the city’s water supplier in the future. The sewer plant is under construction and on schedule for completion by the end of 2007. But the commission is working on an alternative to connecting to CAW in the near future. Cabot’s permit to take water from its well field between Beebe and Lonoke is for 3 million gallons a day. Since pumping water is less expensive than buying water, the commission would like to increase that amount over the next 40 years to almost 8 million gallons a day. Whether their request will be honored hinges on the results of a study by the U.S. Geological Survey to show how the aquifer would be affected and the attitude of the people who live in that area who have never wanted Cabot there.

The permit was issued by Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, which will decide after the study is completed early in 2007 whether 3 million gallons is all the city will be allowed to take from the ground in a single day. If the answer is no, the transmission line will have to be built soon. Cabot’s part of the cost would be about $14 million. But Cypert said the longer Cabot can pump its own water the more the commission can save toward paying for the line to connect to CAW.

In addition to the new hires when they started, the commission recently hired a human resources director who also will make sure WaterWorks meets all OSHA requirements. Cypert said overtime is down because the commission has insisted on it and he believes the pay raises will help WaterWorks keep good workers. The commission is made up of city residents – J.M. Park, Don Keesee, Gary Walker, Cary Hobbs and Cypert – who do meet twice a month or more without pay. So far they have been able to talk through all the issues they have faced and have never voted anyway other than unanimously. “Every commissioner brings a unique talent to the table,” Cypert said.

Park, a retired banker, brings community respect, he said. Keesee, the president of Arvest bank in Cabot and Jacksonville, helps with financial matters. Walker, a professional engineer and an executive with Ford New Holland, is good with technical issues. Hobbs, a retired Air Force pilot and owner of Computer Connections, is good with computers. And Cypert, retired from Blue Cross Blue Shield as chief technology and procurement officer, said although he knows computers, he believes his contribution to the commission has been his organizational skills.

Hobbs drew the two-year term on the commission and will be up for reappointment this year. Cypert said the commission will recommend that the council reappoint him. “We’ve got a good mix. Why mess it up?” he asked. Of course that appointment would be contingent on the new council believing that the new commission is worthy of continuing its work.

Cypert said that alone is reason enough to keep it going. A commission does its work of maintaining and planning for the future regardless of who the mayor is or who is on the city council. “A commission stays out of politics and it provides continuity,” he said.

TOP STORY >>Judge finds Iran guilty in bombing

Leader staff report

A federal judge last week ruled that Iran was responsible for the bombing a decade ago of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 American service members and injured hundreds of others, including five airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base. The judge ordered Iran’s foreign assets frozen and the families of the victims who were killed be paid $253 million in compensation.

The families of the 19 dead service members had sued the Iranian government earlier, but their complaint was dismissed for lack of evidence against Iran. On June 25, 1996, terrorists exploded what officials estimate was a 5,000-pound bomb planted in a fuel truck near the Khobar Towers in Dharan — a complex of 10-story buildings housing foreign military service members, including Americans near the Abdul Aziz Air Base. One building was destroyed, another heavily damaged.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth overturned an earlier ruling by a U.S. magistrate after testimony by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh over evidence that the Iranians had trained many of the bombers. It’s not clear how the victims’ families could gain access to the Iranian funds and how the money would be divided and if those who were not killed could also receive compensation.

Air Force service members in the Khobar Tower complex were assigned to the 404th Provisional Wing, most of them on temporary duty in Saudi Arabia. Among them were members of the 314th Airlift Wing from the Jacksonville air base. U.S. service members at the Saudi base supported Operation Southern Watch, which enforced the no-fly, no-drive zone south of the 32nd parallel in Iraq.

The bomb exploded at about 10 p.m. Saudi time. An Air Force security police officer observed the truck drive up to a security barrier about 35 meters from the building. The officer immediately notified U.S. and Saudi security personnel and started evacuation of the building. But as a Saudi patrol approached, two men leaped out of the truck and sped off in a car. The bomb exploded within four minutes of the truck being spotted, leaving
little time for evacuation, Defense Department officials said. The explosion left a crater 85 feet long and 35 feet deep.

A senior Pentagon official said that without the security in place, the casualty count would have been much higher.

TOP STORY >>Consultant pushes a tourism district

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville needs an identifiable tourism district, according to a $9,700 study the city’s advertising and promotion commission asked for. Along with that identifiable district, the city also needs to generate more money to promote tourism to the area, the report said. The report was presented at the commission meeting earlier this month where commissioners voted to spend another $3,000 with the consultants, Curt Cottle Consulting and Thomason Associates, to give the city direction and a plan. “The report doesn’t tell us anything new,” said commission Chairman Marshall Smith, “the question is which way to go now.”

That direction, according to consultant Curt Cottle, points to the city’s rich military history and use the city’s military museum on Veteran’s Circle, off Main Street and Reed’s Bridge civil war battlefield, off Highway 161. The study also suggests building a new conference center and sprucing up the city through “the right mix of ordinances and aesthetics.”

One question that commissioners clearly answered was the need for a prepared foods tax, commonly known, as a hamburger tax, to pay for any plan the consultants and the city decide on. The city council can approve up to a three-cent prepared foods tax, without a vote of the residents. It was suggested at the commission’s December meeting that every one-cent of the tax would generate about $300,000. Currently the city has a two-cent motel room tax which generates about $80,000 a year which is used to promote the city and help fund various activities and business such as the military museum and the annual patriotic show and fireworks.

Sherwood, which has no hotel tax, does have a hamburger tax which brings in $451,400 to the city’s advertising and promotion commission, more than five times more than the Jacksonville commission gets. The study said that sense Jacksonville does not have a true downtown and central or tourist district, like Little Rock did with the River Market, needs to be created. According to the study, “The area around the military museum would seem to be the most logical place to anchor one end and perhaps the new library/park area on the other. The divided road (Main Street) is an interesting feature and one that already signals to the out-of-towner something different than everywhere else in town.”

The consultants added that “once identified, the area will need its own name and identity. Ideally, there would be some historical basis for the name and location. Pick something beyond the generic Downtown district to give it more character, maybe something based on the old ordinance plant.”

The study went on to say that “in addition to the look of Jacksonville, the city could do more with the fact it has a real interesting story in the ordinance plant. Even though most vestiges are gone, what remains should be identified and waysides developed to explain those sites and their relation to others and the overall story.”

“World War II sites are currently high-interest tourism stops,” Cottle said. The consultants called the military museum a plus for the community, but added “small museum attendance nationally has been in decline in recent years.” The study said that the Reed’s Bridge battlefield site is also “ripe for investment” and recommended a tie-in with the museum, suggesting a ticket to the museum could also include an afternoon picnic at the battlefield. The consultants also recommend advertising that the Trail of Tears also came through the area near the battlefield.

The city’s current 56,000-square foot conference center, a part of the city’s 11-year-old community center just south of city hall, had to turn away nearly 400 events in 2005 because it was already booked, turning down about $94,000 in additional revenue.
“The current numbers would suggest ample capacity for a new conference space,” the study said. “The city has a location in mind and the funding capacity should it choose to go that route. Such a move would only have a positive impact on the lodging, restaurant and retail opportunities in the area.”

Restaurant selection seems to be a hinder in attracting tourist, according to the study. It says the city has 52 places to eat, but most are chains and fast food facilities. “One website only lists four locally operated facilities,” the consultant said. The study reported that travelers account for 30 percent of fine dining sales, 20 percent of family dining sales, 20 percent of sales at casual restaurants and 15 percent at quick stop places. Shopping, according to the study, is the most popular domestic trip activity and “Wal-Mart and other large discount chains will not cut it from a tourism standpoint.” Cottle said that “for the most part, rural tourism is dependent on small town charm and sensibilities, with business communities characterized by numerous owner-occupied small businesses.”

The consultants did say that the numerous antique and flea market stores within its city limits help support tourism.

TOP STORY >>Taxes bulk of city revenue

Leader staff writer

County and local taxes make up the bulk of expected income to support Jacksonville in 2007, and salaries make up the bulk of expenses. The city council last week approved a record $19.9 million budget for next year, including $15.56 million for the general fund which is used to operate most city departments, a $2.13 million street fund, a $1.49 million sanitation fund, and a $813,331 emergency medical services fund.

According to the 62-page budget presented to the council by Mayor Tommy Swaim, Jacksonville expects $6 million in its share of county taxes in 2007, up about $300,000 from this year; $3.45 million in city taxes, up about $50,000 from this year, and about $1.2 million in other tax revenue, up about $50,000, for the general fund. Overall, 68.5 percent of the expected revenue for the general fund will come from sales tax. The city also expected to generate almost 4 percent of its revenue for the general fund from fines, which equates to about $600,000.

Salaries and wages chew up half of the projected revenue for 2007, and that’s going into the year with three top positions un-filled—city administrator, human resource director and city engineer. The salary budget is up about $250,000 from this year and includes about a 3.5 percent salary in-crease for most city employees. Health insurance, even with all employees projected to pay part of the cost, still takes 10 percent of the general fund’s revenue.

Retirement contribution and benefit payments are also 10 percent of the general fund’s budget and contractual services take another 18 percent. Public safety, which includes police and fire, spends 64 percent of the city’s general fund revenues, followed by public works at 22 percent, general government at 10 percent and the judicial department at four percent. Jacksonville’s street fund gets 66 percent of its $2.13 million in revenue from its share of the state’s gasoline tax and another 14 percent of its income from its share off the county road tax. The fund is split pretty evenly between salary costs and capital outlay (work projects). Salaries and other personal services expend 40 percent of the revenue, while actual street projects and equipment to do the work takes up 38 percent of the budget.

Most of the sanitation fund’s income comes from fees customers pay for garbage and trash collection. These fees bring in about 92 percent of the fund’s income. The rest comes from interest, grants and other collected fees. The sanitation budget is spent mostly on salaries and employee benefits at 49 percent, followed by landfill fees at 16 percent. Nearly all of the emergency services fund’s income comes from ambulance service billings and ambulance memberships. Nearly 75 percent of the budget is chewed up by salaries and employees benefits.

As part of the city’s overall budget presentation, its capital improvement plan is also included. More than $16 million is long-term capital projects and activities have been identified, planned and projected by city officials. They included a joint education center and a police and fire training facility, both being paid for by a one-cent sales tax that also funded the city’s aquatic park, Splash Zone, which just completed its second season.
The city’s $5 million portion of the funding necessary for the$14.4 million joint education center—a community college facility to be used by both the military and civilians—has been met and the military funding portion has approved by the House and Senate. It is currently in the Appropriation Committee.

The police and fire training facility, which carries about a $3 million price tag, is in the planning stages. Enough of the tax should be collected by April 2007 to fund the project, which officials describe as a state-of-the-art training facility for use by the city’s police and fire departments as well as those from neighboring committees.

Other capital improvement plans listed in the budget report include:
•Slightly more than $300,000 for commercial and industrial development. Funding comes from sales of the old Franklin electric property, which was donated, to the city for $1 for the express purpose of using the profits for commercial and industrial development.

•Plans for a fifth fire station, one on the west side of town, probably on Main Street, east of Bayou Meto, will cost $500,000.

• Expansion of Fire Station No. 3, on John Harden, built in 1978 to house two firefighters, the code at that time. But current staffing standards require three firefighters on duty at all times. At 600-square feet, the station has reached its capacity, according to fire Chief John Vanderhoof. The planned expansion will cost $200,000.

•The city also plans to spend $150,000 to build a pavilion on the land that will house the city’s new $2.5 million library. City officials feel the area is the right spot to build a central community pavilion.

•The city will also spend another $100,000 turning an alleyway behind the new library into a proper roadway with curbs and gutters to allow better access to the new library.

•Once the library is built, the city plans to spend $250,000 to spruce up Main Street with trees, shrubs and sidewalks, mainly from Second Street to Dupree.

•The city plans to widen Graham Road from Loop to Oak Street at a cost of $1 million.

•Plans are also on tap to widen west Main Street to four lanes from Redmond Road to Harris Road at a cost to the city of $1.5 million.

•A proposed traffic light at Main Street and Harris Road would cost $75,000.

•Two major drainage projects are also on the blocks. A $100,000 project to aid in drainage control from Braden to Hill streets, and a $20,000 to help prevent continual flooding of five properties in the Fox Glen area.

TOP STORY >>If hospital is built, will they come?

Leader editor

When Rebsamen Medical Center in Jacksonville reported an $803,000 loss this year, the hospital dipped into its reserves, but administrators and hospital board members don’t want to keep doing that for very long. “We can’t lose money forever,” said Mike Wilson, a hospital board member and former state representative from Jacksonville. “You’re getting into the corn seed now.” “We’ve got a lot of soul-searching to do to keep it operating,” Wilson said.

Central Arkansas has 17 hospitals with more than 5,500 beds and more than three dozen nursing homes with 5,000 additional beds. Several specialty clinics — including radiation therapy and heart and outpatient surgery — complement the mix. Since 1999, Rebsamen has faced tough competition from two modern hospitals just a few miles down the freeway from Jacksonville. St. Vincent Medical Center North on Wildwood off Hwy. 67/167 in Sherwood and Bapist Health Medical Center on Spring Hill Drive off McCain Boulevard near Highway 67/167 in North Little Rock.

Both are modern facilities, while sections of Rebsamen are 45 years old. The Sherwood hospital on Wildwood Avenue, which cost $30 million to build, has 140 beds and is just five miles from Rebsamen, while Baptist, located off McCain Boulevard and which cost $50 million, is eight miles away. Baptist has 175 beds, including a 30-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit and boasts of services usually found only in larger, metropolitan facilities, such as diagnostic, surgical, outpatient, laser, pain management, critical care and emergency services.

Rebsamen is the smaller of the three hospitals with 90 beds, of which 60 are usually occupied. But it had more than 21,000 emergency-room visitors this year, or about 58 a day, although Rebsamen’s limit is 20,000 emergency-room visitors a year.
St. Vincent and Baptist are close enough for area patients to drive to for their healthcare needs, except in emergencies, which is why Rebsamen’s emergency room is overloaded. Rebsamen not only competes with these two recently built nearby hospitals that boast up-to-date equipment, they also offer doctors lucrative contracts. Many of those doctors have practiced at Rebsamen, but perform surgeries elsewhere, often at satellite clinics with specialties that pay them better.

Although it is city-owned, Rebsamen has been operated by an outside management firm, Quorum Health Services of Plano, Texas. Rebsamen, with 500 employees, is the second largest employer in the area after Little Rock Air Force Base.
Rebsamen’s board is considering the idea of building a new hospital on the edge of north Pulaski County to attract more patients from Lonoke County, which doesn’t have a hospital. Further north in Searcy, White County Medical Center draws patients from both White and Lonoke counties to its 300 beds. A new hospital closer to Lonoke County might bring in patients from there as well as from southern White County, before they head to Sherwood or North Little Rock. Will a new facility in north Pulaski County also attract more patients and specialists? “That’s the $64 question,” said board member Wilson. “I don’t know the answer to that,” said Mack McAlister, an accountant and chairman of the hospital board of directors.

He said the board’s task is to evaluate Rebsamen’s future and decide its role in the community. “We have a facility that’s several years old. What do we need to do in the future to be up-to-date? What do we need to do to be financially sound?”
Health care has changed, with more regulators requirements and reduced payments from Medicare and Medicaid. McAlister says Rebsamen can still find a role to meet the community’s healthcare needs.

“Health care has changed, with clinics and surgery centers. What we’re trying to do is address the subject of how we can be more efficient and beneficial.” “You have to find your niche,” he continued. “You can’t just compete with someone who’s doing the same thing down the road.”

EDITORIALS>>Why Pryor is angry

Leader editorial writer

It does not speak well of Tim Griffin that his appointment by President Bush as United States attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas brought an expression of rage from Sen. Mark Pryor. Mark Pryor is not any politician. He is the blandest, gentlest, most accommodating, least partisan member of the Arkansas delegation to Congress — maybe of the entire Congress, ever. As a member of the middle-of-the-road Gang of 14, he helped broker Senate acceptance of some of the president’s most outrageous judicial nominees. The ambit of his graciousness seemed to have no bounds — until it got to Tim Griffin.

Griffin, lately a Little Rock lawyer, is known principally as a political operative who operated under the guidance of Karl Rove, the president’s political director, to help Republicans get elected, starting with Bush in Florida. He has done some legal work in the military, worked briefly at a law firm in New Orleans and has done spells in the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock under Bud Cummins, who agreed to step down before his term expired to make way for Rove’s acolyte.

That Griffin is an active Republican does not distinguish him in any way. Whoever is president, all U.S. attorneys are political appointees. Cummins got his job from Bush after running a losing campaign against Democrat Vic Snyder. Snyder, incidentally, cheered his nomination. The only thing that distinguishes Griffin is the singularity of his partisanship.

And the way he was appointed. It was arranged for Cummins to wait until the Congress was adjourning before submitting his nomination. Then the president made an emergency recess appointment of Griffin under the extraordinary terms of the Patriot Act so that he is not subjected to a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his qualifications. He can, if the president so wishes, serve through 2008 under the emergency appointment.
There was no emergency. Cummins could have served until next month (he’s jobless now), or an assistant district attorney could have supervised the office for a few weeks. But the appointment left the unmistakable impression that the White House and Justice Department did not want Griffin answering questions. That was the source for Pryor’s outrage. Who can blame him?

Griffin may surprise us. He said the right things this week: The U.S. attorney’s office must be above politics. He implies that he will not use the office to seek out Democrats or to protect Republicans, Kenneth Starr-style. He carries a heavy cloak of responsibility to demonstrate fairness and rectitude. It would help him if the president submitted his name again next month under the normal process.