Wednesday, February 01, 2006



Estelle Glover, 87, of Jack-sonville went to be with the Lord on Jan. 30.
She was born Jan. 13, 1919, in Humphrey to the late Aaron James and Elizabeth Rodgers Roberson and is preceded in death by her husband, Jeffie F. “Jack” Glover who passed in 1968 as well as a sister, Mary “Dolly” Gregory, bro-ther, Wood-row Rober-son, son-in-law, Phillip Ellerbee and her best friend, Gladys Morrison.
She was a member of First Assembly of God in Jacksonville. She worked for Timex and retired from Southside Junior High in Jacksonville in 1985.
Survivors include her daughters, Marsha Glover and Brenda Eller-bee, both of Jacksonville; a sister, Rachel “Dixie” Casteel of Jackson-ville; four grandchildren, Lisa Gill-iam and her husband Terry, Marty Vondran and his wife Kim and Allen Kirtley, all of Jacksonville, De-von Ellerbee of Conway, and three great grandchildren. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with interment to follow in Arkansas Memorial Gardens, Rev. Ammon Collins officiating. Visitation will be from 6 until 8 p.m. today at the funeral home.


Virginia Mae Burns Ramsey, 92, of Beebe, went to be with her Lord and Savior Jan. 30. She was born July 20, 1913, at Antioch to Otha and Edna Fisher. She was a faithful member of First Baptist Church at Beebe.
She was preceded in death by her husbands, Jesse Burns and Ellis Ramsey, her parents, two brothers, one sister and two stepsons.
Survivors are five daughters, Emma Sandefur and her husband Doyne, Barbara Simons and her husband Jack, Rebecca Burge and her husband Hubert, Jimmie Brock and his husband Bennie, Susie Pruitt and her husband C.W.; a son, Buddy Burns and his wife Jamie; two stepsons, Paul Ramsey and his wife Pam and Roland Ramsey; two stepdaughters-in-law, Anne Ram-sey of Batesville and Linda Moore of Allen Texas; 20 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, a great-great-grandchild, four sisters-in law, two brothers-in-law, several nieces and nephews and a host of friends.
A special thanks to her caregivers and to hospice. Funeral services will be 2 p.m. today at First Baptist Church of Beebe, with burial at Beebe Cemetery. Arrangements by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.


Vaughn A. Hill, 82, of Cabot, died Jan. 26 at his residence. He was a Army veteran of World War II. He is preceded in death by his wife, Edith Jane, parents Elmer Aaron and Crillie Browning, and three brothers Albin, Virgil, and Bob Hill.
He is survived by two sons and a daughter-in-law, Gregory Hill of Coweta, Okla., Michael and Amy Hill of Clemmon, N.C.: a sister, Wanda Mae Burnett; grandchildren, Heath and Rachel Hill, Mike and Sabrina Hill, Brady and Jennifer Hill, and Sarah Hill; great-grandchildren, Landon, Colton, Bailey, Aidan, Walker, Trenton, Bradon and Alexis.
Memorial services were held Saturday at the Cabot Funeral Home Chapel with Paul Jones officiating.


Jimmy Carl Crawford, 67, of Humnoke went to be with the Lord Jan. 27. He was a Christian, worked in construction as a welder and farmed. Preceding him in death were his parents, Leo and Beatrice Crawford, and two brothers, Robert and Willie Crawford.
Survivors include his wife, Nor-ma Elois Moody Crawford; a son, Jimmy Crawford, a daughter, The-resa and her husband Michael Block, all of Benton; two brothers, Bobby Crawford of Humnoke and Kim Crawford of Little Rock; seven sisters, Margaret Fisher of Lake Village, Doris Carter of Lonoke, Kaye Rice of Irvin, Texas, Patsy Wilson and Deborah White both of Little Rock, Phyllis Whilder of Benton, and Sue Green of Maumelle; and two godsons, Josh and Brandon Crawford.
Funeral services were held Sun-day at Humnoke Pentecostal Church of God, with interment in Hamilton Cemetery by Boyd Fun-eral Home of Lonoke.

EDITORIAL >> Let people vote on ethics

The Jack Abramoff scandal and the associated corruption involving Republican congressmen and White House officials has sent nearly every politician in Washington and many in statehouses across the land scrambling for cover. Everyone wants to stand behind some proposition to regulate the behavior of lobbyists.

Congressional Republicans rushed out a plan to regulate lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, including travel, but it would do little to change the culture. A Democratic plan is a trifle stronger, but no Democratic proposal stands a chance of even being considered in the House of Representatives. When a handful of lobbyists, congressional aides and congressmen are trundled off to prison or had a metaphorical wrist slap, Congress will have made a few celebrated reforms that will make the dirty work of lobbyists only a little more complicated. Just as the post-Watergate reforms of campaign financing did not end the requisitioning of public office by wealthy interests the post-Abramoff reforms will not free lawmaking from the soft bribery of special interests.

But could it happen at the state level? A few northern states have adopted rigid ethics laws that are worthy of the name “reform.” Outraged by the behavior of corporate lobbyists in killing his school tax program in 1987, Gov. Bill Clinton drafted an ethics law and got it ratified, but neither it nor subsequent campaign-finance reforms did much to slow the corruption of the statehouse.

Now, one after another candidate for constitutional office, principally attorney general and lieutenant governor, is outlining legislation that actually would address the problem by outlawing gifts to elected public officials. Former Rep. Gunner DeLay of Fort Smith, the Republican candidate for attorney general, said last week that he would draft a resolution that would do it constitutionally and also empower the attorney general to prosecute violators. But we do not need to put either ethics rules or criminal laws in the Constitution.

Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld of Benton, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, proposes legislation that is simple, direct and effective. Lobbyists could not buy a legislator or the governor even a cup of coffee much less fly him to the NCAA basketball tournament. Former legislators could not lobby the legislature for two years after leaving office and the penalties for ethics violations and public corruption would be stiffened. Now, violators gaily pay a small penalty and go their merry way.

State Sen. Jim Holt of Springdale, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, says he is preparing legislation almost identical to Herzfeld’s. Good for him, although he will never have a chance of introducing it even if he is elected. Lieutenant governors cannot sponsor legislation or try to steer it through the Senate, where they preside.

But outlaw a cup of coffee? Legislators deride such hound’s-tooth righteousness. Their votes, they insist, cannot be purchased by a cup of coffee, dinners or even expense-paid trips to Mexico. Gov. Huckabee takes umbrage at suggestions that the tens of thousands of dollars in gifts that he has accepted ever influenced a single official act, even the honorary appointment of people who tendered the gifts. Perhaps not, but how do we know?

Gov. Dale Bumpers had it right. From the day he took office as governor in 1971 until he retired as a United States senator in 1998 he returned every gift with a form letter explaining his policy. Some were offended. His return of a Rolex watch (price tag still attached) to a man who wanted to be reappointed to a desirable state commission soon after Bumpers’ election in 1970 earned the governor an assassination threat.
Unless gifts of any denomination are outlawed, prohibitions are simply unworkable. Tens of thousands of dollars can be funneled through a $100 loophole.

But Herzfeld’s excellent bill is not going to become law. If he is elected attorney general he may find a sponsor for it, but the Arkansas General Assembly will not pass it. It will not get a “do pass” from a single committee of the House or Senate unless it can first be eviscerated.

Only the voters of Arkansas can do it. Some fine civic organization — one of the political parties perhaps — can bring all the outrage to a
salubrious conclusion by taking Herzfeld’s, or Holt’s, good ideas and putting them on the ballot as an initiated act.

EDITORIAL >> School report badly skewed

Lots of teachers and parents in more than a few of our school districts must have been dismayed to see that some of the poorest instruction in Arkansas was occurring in their schools. Only 17 of Arkansas’ 1,116 public schools, for example, were judged to be worse than the Jacksonville Middle School in a performance index crafted by the research team at the new University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform.

Teachers, don’t surrender your certificates. Parents, don’t yank your kids from the schools just yet. You can invest about as much confidence in this academic study as you could in President Bush’s promises of jobs from tax cuts.

We have no idea how any school in the area measures up against the rest of the state, much less the nation, but the methodology and results of this celebrated study are so counter-intuitive — goofy, actually — that no one can take it seriously.

If the “School Performance Index in Arkansas” is accurate, the most abysmally performing schools in Arkansas by traditional standards actually are the best schools, starting with little Altheimer in Jefferson County. So awful were the financial conditions and test scores in Altheimer that the state Department of Education took over the district and ran it until recently. Yet no school district in Arkansas comes close to matching the effective teaching force at Altheimer in the performance index.

Its rankings suggest that teachers who are paid less and have weaker traditional qualifications than teachers generally do, provide the most effective teaching. A goal of the study was to prove that the amount of money spent on education has absolutely nothing to do with its quality, which has long been the thesis of the Dr. Jay P. Greene, the chair of the school-reform department and the director of the research team. He declared that the study proved it, although many of his results supported the opposite. Pulaski County’s magnet and incentive schools, which get extra infusions of money, ranked much higher than other schools in the area.

The premise of the study is undeniable. Standardized test scores alone cannot measure the relative effectiveness of a teacher, although that soon may be how teachers are paid. Gov. Huckabee plans to ask the legislature at a special session to enact a law requiring each teacher to be paid on the basis of standardized test scores of her students. An eighth-grade math teacher who inherits a class in which 60 percent cannot read at a third-grade level or do simple subtractions is not going to make as much progress as a teacher of lesser ability with a class of affluent and motivated kids.

The case against the high-stakes testing required by the No Child Left Behind law is that they do not account for the disabilities that children bring to class. So Greene’s team set out to do that. They factored in the percentage of black and Hispanic kids and those on subsidized lunches because family poverty is a huge factor in student progress. Also, they attempted to factor in the education and income levels of parents and the percentage of single parents, which numerous studies have shown to be big factors in student achievement. They assigned an arbitrary value to each of those factors and arrived at an expected performance level for students in each school. If scores fell below the expected level for that school, the teaching was judged to be failing, and if they were above, it was effective.

But the researchers really could not get all those figures, so they seem to have made up some based on communitywide census data. For example, in Pulaski County, where a high percentage of affluent and middle-class white families send their children to private and religious schools, all the public schools were assigned those characteristics — a high quotient of white, relatively affluent, well-educated and stable parents. Public school enrollment often is quite different. Greene’s men, new to the state, might not have known that. Accurate demographics for schools are not available for much of the state. Arkansas school districts do not follow city, county or even census-tract boundaries.

Conservative foundations, including the Wal-Mart family foundation, settled $20 million on the university to start the school-reform department at Fayetteville in hopes of shaping education policy in Arkansas. Corporate influence on scientific research creates great peril for universities. This is the first product of the big foundation grants, and it is not heartening.

SPORTS >> Red Devils run away late against Bombers

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville boys quickly squelched a brief scare last Friday night at last-place Mountain Home. After dominating most of the game, the Bombers cut the Red Devils’ double-digit lead to three points just seconds into the final quarter. After a quick timeout by interim head coach Jerry Wilson, Jacksonville came out of the break with renewed intensity and put the game away, winning going away 59-45.

Wilson couldn’t be reached for comment, but head coach Vic Joyner watched the film and had mostly good things to say about his club’s performance on Monday.

“They just stepped up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter and that was the difference,” Joyner said. “We’ve been getting a little relaxed about our defensive principles lately, and we talked about it and tried to correct it. They got back to that in the fourth quarter.”

Joyner also said an offensive adjustment in the fourth quarter helped as well. A new scheme installed just last week wasn’t working, and a late change paid big dividends.

“Coach Wilson made a good coaching move,” Joyner said. “We put in a new offense specifically designed for their matchup, and the kids just weren’t comfortable with it. They just weren’t running it right.

“I noticed that he just scrapped it in the fourth quarter and went back to some things we had done earlier in the year against matchups, and it helped. It got our postmen back down around the basket and we started getting a lot more second-chance points.”

Lavar Neely led all scorers with 20 points while junior forward Kajaun Watson added 16.

The Red Devils improved to 14-6 and 4-3 in the AAAAA-East. The Bombers dropped to 5-15. The win also put Jacksonville alone in third place behind 7-0 Jonesboro and 6-1 Forrest City.

Three teams are tied for fourth. Cabot, Sylvan Hills and Searcy are all 3-4. West Memphis is 2-5 in fifth place.

The Lady Bombers remained one game behind undefeated Cabot in the race for the league championship with a 56-23 win over the Lady Red Devils.

Mountain Home started the game hot from the outside, and ran out to a 35-7 lead by halftime. The lead grew to as much as 43-9 two minutes into the third quarter before reserves played out the rest of the game.

Jacksonville’s Tarneshia Scott led all scorers with 10 points while Samantha Dean led Mountain Home with nine points.

Mountain Home improved to 14-6 overall and 6-1 in league play while Jacksonville fell to 2-16, 0-7.

SPORTS >> Lady Falcons stay in playoff race

Leader sports writer

The North Pulaski Lady Falcons continued their mid-season conference winning streak Friday night with a 64-59 win over the White Hall Lady Bull-dogs. After leading the opening quarter, the Lady Falcons fell behind to White Hall by as much as eight points towards the end of the third.
With a strong rally in the final period, the Lady Falcons reclaimed the lead with less than five minutes left in the game.

They held the momentum for the remainder to take their third straight AAAA-Southeast conference win.

“We played at a slower pace until about the start of the fourth quarter,” Lady Falcons coach Katrina Mimms said. “That’s the pace we need to play at all the time. We do a lot better when we just react and don’t have to think.”

North Pulaski looked solid in the first frame, building a 6-2 lead by the 4:56 mark. Two straight baskets from White Hall quickly tied things up 43 seconds later.

The first quarter resulted in a 12-12 tie, with the Lady Bulldogs leading the entire second quarter until a bucket from sophomore guard Neyshia Ridgeway for North Pulaski tied the score at the half at 26-26.

The Lady Falcons also led the opening minutes of the second half, but White Hall quickly rallied to re- gain the lead with a three pointer from junior Ashley Bogy with 4:25 left in the third quarter. Bogy’s three put the Lady Bulldogs up 34-31.

Bogy hit another three-point shot, followed by an inside jumper to give White Hall a 39-31 lead one minute later. By the end of the quarter, the Lady Bulldogs had built up a 44-36 lead, and seemed to have control of the game’s momentum.

White Hall’s control of the contest slipped away quickly in the fourth, as senior Keyshia Ridgeway stole the ball for an easy lay up for the Lady Falcons. Marie Livings followed that up with a basket that narrowed White Halls’ lead to 44-40. White Hall immediately called a time out, and seemed to have thwarted a North Pulaski rally when play resumed.

With 6:14 left in the game, the Lady Bulldogs went back up by six, 49-43 off a pair of free throws from Bogy. White Hall had enjoyed controlling the game’s tempo for the majority of three periods, but the final six minutes would belong to the Lady Falcons.

A pair of free throws by Tish Howell, followed by another steal and lay in from Keyshia Ridgeway cut the lead to 49-47 at the 5:07 mark. Another time out from White Hall did nothing to cool off North Pulaski this time, however. Two more foul shots from Howell tied the score after play resumed.

After a missed NP shot, Jakki Brewer came away with the rebound for White Hall, but got picked clean by Neyshia Ridgeway who put it right back up and in to give the Lady Falcons their first lead of the game since the first minute of the half.

Brewer tied things back up for the Lady Bulldogs with two free throws. Howell then crushed all hope for White Hall in a matter of 14 seconds.
Howell nailed a three-point shot from the left side with 4:38 left, and came right back to the exact same spot with 4:24 left to swish another three to put North Pulaski ahead 57-51.

Howell would also put away two free throws down the stretch to help the Lady Falcons secure the win. Any type of momentum change, that’s what basketball is all about,” Mimms said.

“They had it at the beginning, coming into the fourth, and then we made that run and it shifted our way. We just hung on to it.”
Howell led the Lady Falcons with 17 points in the game, followed by Keyshia Ridgeway with 15. Jalecia Batemon also finished in double-digits with 12 points for North Pulaski, and Livings added 10.

Kianna Pollard led all scorers for White Hall with 24 points in the game.

The win improves North Pulaski’s conference record to 4-3, and gives them a two-game cushion in fourth place in the AAAA-Southeast standings.

The Falcons lost their contest with White Hall 84-65. North Pulaski trailed 47-24 at halftime, but rallied to within 11 points in the third quarter.
The Falcons did not keep the momentum for long, however, as the Bulldogs re-took control of the game on their way to the 19-point victory.

Quinn Cooper led North Pulaski in the game with 26 points, followed by Roderick Rainey and Mike Anorue who both finished with eight points.
North Pulaski faced Mills at home on Tuesday after Leader deadlines.

NEIGHBORS >> From the ground up

Leader staff writer

he end of school might seem a long way off, but teachers at Cabot High School are already preparing to move into the new 191,015-square-foot high school building as soon as classes let out for summer.

“Right now the only classrooms we’ve assigned are science because of the locations of the science labs on the second floor,” said Tony Thurman, principal of Cabot High School.

“We’ll be assigning classrooms in March.”

Classrooms in the two-storied, V-shaped building will be arranged to support the district’s six career academies of agriculture, science and mechanics; business, finance and information technology; construction, engineering and automotive technology; health and human services; education, law and public service, and fine arts, journalism and communications.

Thurman said he is expecting about 1,800 students in the fall. The building was designed so 20 additional classrooms can easily be added to handle future student growth.

The $13.9 million building is on the northwest side of the campus, facing Hwys. 89 and 38.
Buses will load and unload at the rear of the building, facing Champs Hall.

The school district is installing a long turn lane on Hwy. 89 so parents can turn into the campus to drop students off at the front of the building without delaying traffic. Students who drive will use an entrance on Hwy. 38.

Thurman said students will get the most use out of the centrally located media center. In addition to library books and comfortable furniture for lounging, the media center will house two computer labs with 25 computers each. There will be an Arkansas History room, study carrels or quiet rooms, as well as a teacher resource room with professional periodicals.

Another feature of the building that will interest teachers is the four resource rooms equipped with kitchenettes, copiers, computers and teleconference equipment.

“The teachers won’t have to come to the main office on the first floor except to check their mailboxes,” Thurman said.
Teachers and students alike will get a lot of use out of the professional-development center says Thurman.

It will have state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment for staff meetings or guest speakers for classes.

“Right now the only place we really have for staff meetings is the cafeteria and the acoustics are terrible,” Thurman said.

TOP STORY >> Wilson to try to stop funds awarded to library

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville businessman Mike Wilson said Monday that he would ask Pulaski County Circuit Judge Willard Proctor not to let the state Department of Finance and Administration release $190,000 in General Improve-ment Funds earmarked for a new Jacksonville library until he can appeal a ruling from Proctor handed down on Friday.

Wilson has sued to stop the state from releasing General Improvement Fund money for several projects, saying Amend-ment 14 of the state Constitution prohibits funding local projects.

In all, the state’s senators and representatives have earmarked more than $50 million worth of projects, in-cluding $330,000 for Jacksonville projects.

Proctor dismissed Wilson’s suits against libraries in Jacksonville and Heber Springs on Friday and hinted he would dismiss the suit against the Jacksonville Museum of Military History as soon as its attor-ney/founder Ben Rice filed the appropriate motion.

Wilson said Mon-day that he believed Proctor also hinted Friday that he thought Wilson’s suit against the other plaintiffs had merit. Proctor denied motions to dismiss the suits or issue a summary judgment in favor of the other defendants, including the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club, the Jack-sonville Senior Center and the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society.

Wilson said he would appeal Proctor’s decision to the state Supreme Court and would ask for the ruling to be stayed in the meantime.
“If the state is going to simply give money away to anybody, that would require a constitutional amendment,” Wilson said, “a vote by the people.”
General Improve-ment Funds as they now exist began in 1997, so Wilson said he wasn’t bringing home the pork when he was a state representative.

Wilson said he would appeal to the state Sup-reme Court.

“I’m not surprised,” he said of Proctor’s ruling. “I disagree with it.

“Some libraries are more equal than others. We all love libraries. I wish there was more money for libraries.”


While Jacksonville could use the $190,000 toward furnishing the new Central Arkansas Library facility slated for the town, it’s not that money that’s keeping the $2 million project from moving forward.

First, the city has to decide upon a location and purchase the necessary land, according to Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System.

“We have a preferred site, but we’re still considering others in case we can’t purchase that site,” Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said.
“Most of the sites under consideration would require negotiating with more than one seller.”

Although Roberts has hired the architectural firm Witsel, Ev-ans and Rasco, “We’re at a standstill until we get some property,” he said.
Wilson said he favors funding libraries, but in the proper fashion. Good thing, since Roberts and Wilson are brothers-in-law.

Roberts said there was some good news.

With revenues up and rates stable, the bond issue appro-ved by Jacksonville voters will probably generate a $2.5 million loan instead of the $2.1 million or $2.2 million expected earlier.

That’s good because prices have gone up considerably in the last nine months, Roberts said.

He hopes to sell the bonds in April, and the money would have to be spent within three years. Roberts said the library could be designed and built by June 2007.


The Jacksonville projects named in the case are:
• $190,000 for the new Esther D. Nixon Library
• $50,000 to the Jackson-ville Boys and Girls Club
• $50,000 to the Jackson-ville Senior Center
• $20,000 to the City of Jacksonville
• $10,000 to the Jacksonville Museum of Military History
• $10,000 for the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society

Jacksonville voters in July ap-proved a one-mill property tax increase to finance $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library, and Swaim pro-mises it will be built with or without the General Improvement Funds arranged by state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville and state Sen. John Paul Capps, D-Searcy.

TOP STORY >> Many airmen return, but others are leaving

Leader staff writer

Twenty-six airmen from the 50th and 61st Airlift Squadrons and the 463rd Airlift Group are preparing to leave within the week for a three- to six-month deployment in the Middle East.

Nearly 100 airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base are deploying in the region in small groups until mid-Feb-ruary to provide training for the Iraqi Air Force at Ali Base, Iraq, as well as fly C-130 Hercules cargo missions out of Balad Air Base, Iraq.

Due to mission security concerns, the date of the deployment and how many C-130s from Little Rock Air Force Base are currently flying in the Middle East cannot be revealed, said Lt. Jon Quinlan, deputy chief of public affairs for the 314th Airlift Wing.

There are about 150 airmen from the 463rd Airlift Group stationed in the Middle East, part of the 500 airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base deployed worldwide to fight in the war on terror.

Those deploying replace the nearly 100 airmen who returned to Little Rock Air Force Base Sunday afternoon after a five-month deployment in the deserts of Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.

A crowd of about 100 families and friends gathered along the flight line in patient anticipation for the arrival of the returning airmen.
The C-130s flew low over the base so both adults and children could wave at the aircraft.

“My husband deployed earlier in the month, so we’re here to welcome the folks from our unit back,” said Mary Gomez, wife of Col. John Gomez, commander of the 463rd Airlift Group.

She and son Addison, 16, held a bundle of brightly colored balloons as they greeted the airmen.

“You’re always thinking about your family while you’re gone,” said Lt. Col. Mark Czelusta, commander of the 463rd Airlift Group’s Operations Support Squadron.

The time apart was difficult, but Czelusta’s wife, Susan, and daughter, Maddie, 7, made it through.

“I went back to work as a nurse at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Sherwood, so that was a little change,” Susan Czelusta said. “Maddie was a little sad at first but got into a routine and did well.”

“My family has made it work. I owe them the first thank you. They sacrifice so much. This homecoming is as much about the families as it is about us,” Mark Czelusta said.

The returning airmen receive two weeks of reconstitution leave granted after serving abroad. Most of the airmen said they will spend the time with their families, and some will do nothing but relax.

“Being away from home for the holidays was the worst part of being deployed,” said Lt. Gary Toroni, a returning C-130 pilot with the 61st Airlift Squadron. Despite the dangers and loneliness, the mission was rewarding. “The Iraqi people I met over there went through hell but are just as nice as anything,” Toroni said.

TOP STORY >> Water costs ready to go up in Beebe

Leader staff writer

Water and sewer bills are going up in Beebe to pay for $1.3 million in improvements to the water system.
Currently, the average residential customer uses 6,000 gallons a month and receives a monthly bill of $50.70, which includes water, sewer, garbage collection, all taxes and other fees.

Beginning with the April bill, that $50.70 bill will increase to $53.08. In April 2007, the same bill will rise to $55.29.

Dwight Oxner, water and sewer manager, said that all the work will be on problem areas of the existing water system in the old and not-so-old parts of town, not to extend to the service area.

Oxner said the work to be done includes replacing two-inch lines that can’t support fire protection and connecting dead-end lines to existing lines, called looping.

Where larger, six, eight and 12-inch lines are installed, customers will probably see better pressure and flow, he said.

Where dead-end lines are looped, they could see an im-proved flavor because the flow will be constant. The city council unanimously approved a $1.3 million bond issue Thursday night to pay for the improvements as well as the rate increase to pay off the bonds.

Oxner said his department now uses a water and sewer master plan prepared by B&F Engineer-ing of Hot Springs, to ensure that new lines will support the area where they are installed.

But the plan also shows the many areas throughout the city that need upgrading.

Some sewer lines have already been upgraded, he said, but this will be the first major improvement to the old water lines since the plan was drafted.

TOP STORY >> Utility’s control still not finalized

Leader staff writer

A special council meeting in Cabot on Tuesday night, called to tie up the lose ends of transferring the operation of the water and sewer departments from city control to a new commission, ended with some issues unresolved and one ordinance likely to be vetoed by the mayor.
The council passed an ordinance granting the commission a franchise to operate in the city like those held by the gas and cable companies, much to the ire of Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh.

“You’ll get to re-address this, I grant you,” Stumbaugh told the commission after the franchise ordinance passed 5-3.

Asked after the meeting if he meant by his statement that he intended to veto the franchise, Stumbaugh said, “chances are very likely.”
At the heart of that issue is money. The commission has agreed to pay the city $200,000 this year as a fee for fire and police protection, about the same amount the city collected for two years before the commission took over. But since the promise does not extend to next year and beyond, Stumbaugh says the only way for the city to regain that revenue if it is lost is to actually set a franchise fee for the new commission that would be passed along to the rate payers.

When the commission pays the $200,000 also appears to be critical. The mayor wants it now, because cash flow is a problem in January, according to Alderman David Polantz, the chairman of the council’s budget committee.

Bill Cypert, secretary of the water and wastewater commission, told the commissioners during a 45-minute strategy meeting before the council meeting, that Stum-baugh had accused the commission of holding the city hostage over the fee, an accusation that the commission denies.
Cypert said during that meeting, and the council meeting that followed, the commission was reluctant to release the full amount because they don’t yet know the full financial picture of water and sewer.

The mayor had already alluded to a veto of the franchise by the time the discussion of the $200,000 fee began.

When he asked the commission if they could at least pay one-quarter of that amount within a few days, J.M. Park, the president of the commission who had been silent during the meeting, responded, “We’ll take it under advisement.”

The council would not give the commission authority to pay its own bills for construction of a $19 million sewer project which in-cludes a new plant.

City Clerk Marva Verkler said the city would be audited for the money, not the commission.

The council agreed to give the commission along with the mayor and city clerk authority over the funds.
Some agenda items were tabled until the February meeting.

TOP STORY >> District's plan for facilites approved

Leader staff writer

In less time than it takes to tell, the Pulaski County Special School District School Board convened, approved a $97.2 million, 10-year facility-maintenance plan with an additional $11.6 million in capital improvements and adjourned.

Only four board members attended, but all — Ronnie Calva, Dr. James Bolden III, Carol Burgett and Mildred Tatum — voted to approve the plan.
The state-mandated Academic Facilities and Transportation Plan, which must be submitted to the state today, included $11.6 million in capital improvements between 2006 and 2009, with the new, $10.5 million Chenal Upper Elementary School in west Little Rock accounting for all but $1.1 million of that.

The state is expected to pay 18 percent of the cost of the capital improvements.

Schools in the Jacksonville and Sherwood areas are slated for $836,000 in capital improvements over those three years, nearly all of it in the form of roof improvements.

The bulk of the money in the plan was earmarked for regular maintenance and utilities for all the school buildings, directly tied to the number of square feet involved.


Those area schools identified for the improvements are:
2006-2007 school year
• Homer Adkins Elementary School, roof, $120,000
• Sylvan Hills Middle School, old band room/field house, roof, $20,000
• Oakbrooke Elementary School, main building, roof, $190,000
2007-2008 school year
• Homer Adkins Elementary School, asbestos abatement, $126,000
• Jacksonville Middle School girls campus, cafeteria and classroom buildings, roof, $100,000
2008-2009 school year
• Oakbrooke Elementary School kindergarten, roof, $130,000
The other capital expenditures over that three-year period are:
• Fuller Middle School gymnasium, roof, $15,000
• Scott Elementary School, roof, $140,000
• Oak Grove High School, roof, $75,000
• Mills High School, roof, $55,000.
The Chenal school will be built using proceeds from two debt restructurings approved by the voters in 2002 and 2004.


The plan includes facilities maintenance and operations costs for the next 10 years at the rate of $9.7 million dollars a year, split evenly among the schools based upon the total number of square feet for all the buildings constituting each individual school.

Those maintenance and operations costs include annual utilities, custodial, maintenance, repair and renovation activities and related personnel costs. There are 37 schools in the district, made up of 191 buildings, according to the information provided by Jerry Holder and James Warren, superintendent for support services.

Act 1426 of 2005 requires every school district to create and submit the master plans, with phase I, (2006-2009) due today. The state requires the districts to dedicate at least 9 percent of the $5,400 per student annual minimum foundation aid for maintenance.

The district receives that money for each of approximately 18,000 students each year, for a total of $97.2 million per year. Nine percent of that would be $8.75 million a year earmarked for maintenance, but the district opted to spend 10 percent per year, or $9.72 million a year, Warren said.

Although the master plan maintenance funding is prorated on the basis of square feet per school, the actual amount spent will probably vary from the amount shown, according to the cover letter prepared by the Department of Plant Planning.

The district covers about 730 square miles, requiring greater time and expense for transportation and maintenance needs, the district told the state in describing the geographic features of the district.


Other information the district submitted to the state indicated that the district has a housing boom in Maumelle, Scott, Sherwood, Jack-sonville and western Little Rock. Jacksonville alone has more than 17 developments with more than 1,500 lots.

In 2005, more than 337 new houses were built in Maumelle, with 783 more housing units slated for completion by the end of 2006.
Scott grew by an estimated 50 new houses in 2005 with another 600 slated between now through 2009. Sherwood growth was characterized as above average.

More school-aged children could be coming to Little Rock Air Force Base, and two new distribution companies were said to be coming to Scott. Asked to identify unique facility needs, the district noted that all districts were required to hire elementary music and art teachers in 2005-2006, but that many elementary schools didn’t have classrooms equipped to accommodate music and art.

TOP STORY >> No stopping crime

Leader staff writer

The bust last week of a methamphetamine lab near Macon in north Pulaski County is precisely the kind of event that leaves some residents feeling vulnerable and fearful, and with cutbacks in road deputies and felony jail beds, the problem will likely only get worse.
That’s according to John Rehrauer, spokesman for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office.

One woman, who didn’t want to be identified, sought out Cong. Vic Snyder, who came to Jack-sonville to hear from his constituents last week. She said she and her neighbors in the Gravel Ridge area were afraid of local drug users and meth cooks, and they need more law enforcement help at a time when they are getting less.

Budget cuts for 2006 reduced the number of deputies by about 23, but by juggling personnel — moving people from the main office to the outlying areas — each precinct is down only about two deputies, Rehrauer said.

“The way we have realigned and taken people out of jobs in our building,” Rehrauer said, “we are down about two deputies per district from before.”

He said the north central district — Gravel Ridge area — has nine deputies; the northwest district — the Oak Grove area — has eight, and the northeast district — which includes McAlmont — has seven.

Rehrauer said the department is looking at when and where crimes are occurring and moving people around in response. Sometimes shifts overlap to allow a concentration of deputies during peak crime times.

“If we get a rash of a certain kind of crime, we have to do more task-force type things,” he said.
When there was a rash of burglaries and crime in the north central district, the department took two thirds of its investigators and some reserve deputies and flooded the area.

“The problem is you make the arrest and how long are they gone before they are right back on the street?” Rehrauer said.

Reports of robberies, stolen cars and rapes in Pulaski County in 2005 were slightly down from 2004 reports, according to Uni-form Crime Reporting Statistics provided by the sheriff’s office, and the number of burglaries in-creased slightly.

But for budgetary reasons, the county has closed its work-release center and reduced the capacity of its jail to hold felons from 1,125 to 880, so there will be more criminals on the streets instead of in jail for the foreseeable future, according to Rehrauer.
The sheriff’s office breaks unincorporated parts of Pulaski County up into six districts.

In 2005, the three northern districts accounted for 11 of 23 robberies in the county, 212 of the 360 burglaries countywide, 132 of 212 car thefts and 14 of 26 rapes.

Between 2004 and 2005 in the north Pulaski precincts, robberies fell from 18 to 11, burglaries in-creased from 198 to 212, car thefts increased from 112 to 132 and rapes fell from 20 in 2004 to 14 in 2005.

Rehrauer said his concern was that the numbers don’t reflect the current situation, with the number of available jail beds down by a third. “Residential burglaries, car theft … that’s the type of crime we fear is going to go up,” he said. “You’re not going to see homicide rates soar, those people are still going to be incarcerated. It’s crimes against people and properties.

“More of those people are not going to serve any significant jail time. We’re going to do our best with what we have to work with, but … there are people getting citations for things they should be in jail for.”

“We’ve seen the number of meth labs go down over the past couple of years,” Rehrauer added. “There is less local manufacturing, but that doesn’t mean the usage is going down. More meth is being brought in.”

Rehrauer said residents aware of criminal activity should contact the sheriff’s office.
Their identities can be protected, he said.