Wednesday, May 10, 2006

TOP STORY >> Machines to undergo testing for primaries

Leader staff report

Public Logic and Accuracy tests of Pulaski County’s touch-screen iVotronic voting machines and optical scanners were to be conducted Wednesday, according to Susan Inman, director of the Pulaski County Election Commission, and one such machine will be in use at each of the nine early voting sites by Thursday or Friday.

She had hoped to use most or all of the 156 machines delivered to the county for early voting, which runs through May 22, but they were not properly programmed.

The public tests are required by state law, but the individual machines were tested satisfactorily Tuesday at the warehouse where they are stored, Inman said.

The county was to have several voting machines at each of the nine early voting sites, but the software contractor, ES&S had problems getting the software program right.

“We’ve received out stuff,” said Inman Tuesday. “Late yesterday we got the flash cards (containing the programs.)”
“We initiated tests today and they seemed to be working.”

Optical scanners read the paper ballots being used instead of the voting machines also have tested fine, she said.
Secretary of State Charlie Daniels had said that Pulaski County would not be among the 33 counties using the new voting machines, but Inman said there will be one at each site during early voting. Daniels said voters could begin using the new iVotronic touch-screen voting machines as soon as they’ve had enough time to test the software.

The new voting machines are working perfectly in White County, where the software arrived just two days before early voting began.

“I haven’t heard anybody complain about the touch screen,” said Leslie Miller, who works for White County Clerk Tanya Burleson as voter registration clerk. Most people have had some experience with touch screens by now,” she said. “A lot of the ATM machines have gone to touch screens.

“Turnout has been good,” she said. “We had 115 the first day. Normally we’d have 50 or 60. I think people are catching on to early voting.”

Early voting at the White County Courthouse is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. However, on May 22, the day before the primary, voting ends at 5 p.m., to allow workers to prepare for the primary.

OBITUARIES >> 5-10-06


Michael Gene Youngblood, 42, of North Little Rock, passed away on May 8. He was born on Aug. 17, 1963, in North Little Rock to Jerry Allen Youngblood and Shirley Wilson Youngblood.
He was preceded in death by his father and a brother Jerry Allen Youngblood Jr.
He graduated from Jackson-ville High School and was retired from Jerry’s Appliance Co. in North Little Rock.
Survivors include his wife, Loretta Youngblood of North Little Rock; his mother, Shirley Pauline Youngblood of North Little Rock; a son, Michael Gene Youngblood II; a daughter, Mycha Denise Youngblood; a sister, Lisa Renee Thompson and her husband Don, and numerous other family and friends.
Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Thursday at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel followed by interment in Arkansas Memorial Gardens in North Little Rock.
Visitation will be from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. today at the funeral home. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Mildred L. Oakley Taylor, 77, of El Paso was born May 27, 1928, in El Paso to Quince and Opal Jones Oakley, and died May 4. She was a member of Union Valley Baptist Church.
She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Carrol Taylor; three sons, Windell Taylor and his wife Deborah of Enola, Gerald Taylor and his wife Evyonne of Vilonia and Mike Taylor and his wife Wanda of Quitman; 10 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren; two brothers, Doyne Oakley of Searcy and Carthel Oakley of Morrilton; one sister, Carolyn Sarringer of Mississippi. She was preceded in death by her parents; a grandson, James Taylor; sisters, Shirley Safley and Nell Cates.
Funeral services were held Monday at Union Valley Baptist Church with burial in Grissard Cemetery. Arrangements by West-brook Funeral Home in Beebe.

WED 5-10-6 EDITORIAL >> AG: Suskie by a nose

Voters can hardly go wrong whomever they nominate for attorney general in the Democratic primary. State Rep. Dustin McDaniel of Jonesboro, City Attorney Paul Suskie of North Little Rock and Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld of Benton are all learned in the law, which is what the job requires, each has a record of accomplishment in his young career, all are reasonably progressive, and they are ambitious.

Ambition is the universal factor in attorney general elections. For more than a century, since Jeff Davis catapulted himself into the governor’s office by filing antitrust lawsuits to run 63 insurance companies out of the state only two months after taking the oath as attorney general in 1899, the job has been the surest ladder to high office. Two of the last three governors were attorneys general and the next governor is likely to be the present attorney general. Attorneys general almost always go for higher office — governor, U.S. Senate, the Supreme Court — after a term or two.

So the primary for attorney general is a preliminary vetting for the next governor, in 2010 or beyond, or the U.S. Senate. Voters may want to pay close attention to leadership qualities and not merely how they promise to conduct the state’s legal affairs.

McDaniel is the charismatic one. He has been an effective legislator, often but not always for the common good. His most troubling behavior was sponsorship of the law that allows cities to siphon off school taxes to help big land developers. He did it for a big Jonesboro developer and says his intent was never to hurt the schools. The courts, we trust, will save children from the law’s baneful effects, which will make it easier to forgive McDaniel for what we hope was an aberration.

Herzfeld has been an energetic prosecutor, bearding Gov. Huckabee for his freewheeling clemencies for criminals with good connections. Herzfeld also helped bring about legislation putting governors on notice that they must give their reasons for their pardons and clemencies, but the young prosecutor often plays to the peanut galleries.

Which makes our choice Paul Suskie, by a nose. As North Little Rock city attorney, he went after real estate that was used for drug deals. He shut down crack houses and evicted drug dealers and proposes to expand that initiative statewide. He strikes us as thoughtful and mature, a man of solid judgment. Someone, in other words, who might be a good governor someday.

SPORTS >> Bears won’t repeat

Leader sports writer

The Sylvan Hills Bears came up short in their bid to repeat as Class AAAAA state champions. In one inning, Sylvan Hills watched a great season slip away after winning the AAAAA East title and advancing into the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.

Fayetteville (West No. 2) scored 10 of its total 11 runs in the top of the fourth inning in the second round of the AAAAA state playoffs after a questionable call gave the Bulldogs the momentum in the game. Fayetteville gave Sylvan Hills (East No. 1) its first shut ut and first run-ruled loss of the season, ending one of the favorites for the state crown’s chances Monday night at the Don McGee Complex in North Little Rock.

“We can go back and do a lot of ‘what if’s’,” Bears head coach Denny Tipton said. “Did we deserve to win? No. Did they feed off of the call? Yes. We can second guess ourselves all week long, but I still probably would have done things the same. That was the call, and that’s how quickly things can change.”

The call in question happened in the top of the fourth. Fayetteville scored its first run with one out in the inning after loading the bases. Bulldog substitute runner Collin Sanders came home on a passed ball, giving them a 1-0 lead and moving Drew Baker to third.

Tim Carver then bunted into a fielder’s choice for Bears third baseman Nathan Van Schoyck. Van Schoyck made the throw to catcher Taylor Roark, who tagged Baker as he approached the plate. The umpire ruled Baker safe, to the dismay of Tipton and the entire Sylvan Hills’ dugout. Tipton disputed the call repeatedly, but the run stood, and Fayetteville began a scoring marathon that would span over 40 minutes and three Sylvan Hills pitchers in one inning.

After three-and-a-half innings, starting Bears pitcher Tony Pavan was relieved by Ross Bogard after striking out four batters and giving up four hits and three walks. After giving up two walks and committing an error, Bogard was replaced by Roark three batters later after three more Bulldog runs.

Another walk loaded the bases again for Fayetteville, and a shot to left field from designated hitter Cameron Walker scored two more runs. The Bears gave up one more hit and committed two more fielding errors before finally stopping the Bulldogs’ rampage.

Fayetteville added one more run in the top of the fifth to set the final margin, before sending Sylvan Hills out after four batters in the bottom of the fifth.

The Bears finished the game with five hits, no runs and five errors. A total of four pitchers took turns at the mound for Sylvan Hills. Fayetteville finished with eight hits, 11 runs and no errors. Sylvan Hills ended the season with a final record of 22-9.
Saturday’s game against North Little Rock had a completely different tone. Hillside’s southpaw standout Ashur Tolliver had a career game. The future UALR Trojan turned the anticipated pitchers’ showdown between he and North Little Rock’s Evan Cox into a no contest by hitting a pair of two-run home runs off the Wildcats ace.

“I told the guys, ‘Mark my words, I’m going to get my next home run off of Cox’,” Tolliver said. “I knew we had to come out and try to overpower them. I just went into the game with a relaxed attitude.”

Tolliver went 3 for 3 against Cox, scoring a single with his first at-bat before jacking it over in both the third and fourth innings. The second home run in the bottom of the fourth inning prompted a pitching change for the Wildcats, replacing Cox with Kevin Coleman.

Coleman gave up two walks to Shawn Bybee and Van Schojck in- between a fielding error that allowed Austin Gwatney to reach, loading the bases for Sylvan Hills.

Hunter Miller was the fourth batter Coleman faced, and the most damaging. Miller sent the ball out of the park, recording a grand slam and putting the Bears ahead 12-1. Designated hitter Jarrett Boles then doubled off of Coleman with a shot into left field, forcing yet another change at the mound for NLR.

The Wildcats finally got their first out of the inning when Mark Turpin sacrifice bunted to advance Boles to third. Roark then doubled to left to score Boles, which pushed the score to 13-1.

The Wildcats had to come away with three runs in the top of the fifth in order for the game to continue, but Tolliver would have none of it. He struck out Travis Reed and Coleman to start off the inning, before allowing a single from Dustin Pierce. Lead-off batter DeMarcus Ingram was the last hope for the Charging Wildcats, but a pop up to second baseman Bybee ended the game, and sent the Bears into the second round.

It was actually North Little Rock that struck first in the contest, scoring its one and only run in the top of the second inning with a solo home run from Ryan Byers. The Bears tied things up in the bottom of the second when Hunter Miller scored off a NLR fielding error. North Little Rock’s defensive breakdown began in the bottom of the third.

Roark started the inning off with a double, followed by a bunt from Hayden Miller to score Roark after a NLR error. At that point, Tolliver put down one of his two homers, followed by a single from Boles to score Hunter Miller.
Sylvan Hills still had two runners in position when the breakthrough inning finally ended.

The Bears finished the game with 13 runs, 12 hits and no errors. North Little Rock had one run, three hits and three errors. Tolliver took the win with a total of seven strikeouts. Tolliver was 3 for 4 with two home runs. Hunter Miller was 2 for 2 with a grand slam home run and a walk. Boles finished 2 for 2 and reached by error, and Roark was 2 for 4.

SPORTS >> Lady Devils moving on

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils advanced to the second round of the class AAAAA state tournament Monday by beating Fort Smith Northside 3-0 on the strength of a no-hitter by junior pitcher Jessica Bock.

Northside had just one base runner, that off an error in the sixth inning, as Bock struck out nine Lady Grizzlies.

The Jacksonville bats were strangely silent until late in the game. The Lady Red Devils’ only run through the first six innings was off a Northside error in the third. Megan Towner reached on a fielding error by the Northside pitcher, and scored with two outs when leadoff batter Gabrielle Hart singled to centerfield.

The Lady Devils started hitting the ball hard in the top of the sixth, but still couldn’t come up with any runs.
Monica Fletcher and Rachel Holder hit hard grounders that were fielded well, and Towner hit a deep fly ball to center field in the sixth inning.

Northside went down in order in the bottom of the sixth, and the Lady Devils gave themselves some breathing room in the seventh.

Jacksonville catcher Somer Grimes and Hart each hit hard shots to third base, but were thrown out to start things off. Bock finally got a hard hit to a gap. She was replaced at first by courtesy runner Bailee Herl-acher after her line drive landed in left-centerfield.

Sophomore second baseman Taylor Norsworthy then ripped a line drive to right field to put two runners on for shortstop Whitney Conrade.

Conrade hit a huge shot over the head of the Northside left fielder. She turned the hit into a sliding, two-RBI triple that set the final margin.

“You just have to show up to play,” Jacksonville coach Phil Bradley said. “We weren’t hitting early because maybe we weren’t ready to play yet. They decided to start playing and you could see what they’re capable of. They just have to remember to bring that kind of effort every second of the game. I feel like we’re sitting pretty good if we can start getting that kind of contact from the bottom of our lineup. Jesse did an outstanding job.”

The win lifted the Lady Devils to 21-3 on the year. They took on North Little Rock in the second round last night after Leader deadlines.

The Charging Lady Wildcats came back from a 2-0 deficit to score seven runs in the last two innings and beat Watson Chapel 7-3.

In other first-round games, Lake Hamilton beat West two seed Bentonville 1-0, West champion Fayetteville beat Mountain Home 10-0, Bryant topped Jonesboro 2-0, fourth-seeded Sheridan handled Central champion Mount St. Mary’s 10-4 and Conway beat Cabot 2-1 in extra innings.

Last night’s winners will play in the semifinals at the Cabot city park today beginning at 4 p.m. The winners of today’s matchups will win the right to advance to Saturday’s state championship game at LadyBack Yard on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

NEIGHBORS >> Relay for life

Leader staff writer

Cabot’s annual event raises money for cancer society.

Cabot Relay for Life was a huge success this year, collecting $46,500 for cancer research, surpassing the goal of $42,000. The money raised will help provide programs for patients and families, transportation grants, a camp for children with cancer, college scholarships for childhood cancer survivors and wigs.

“We had about 1,500 people throughout the night which is great considering it was held indoors this year,” said Debra Young, co-chairman of the event.

The honorary survivors were Charles and Auda Brite. Emcee for the night was Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh and D. C. Magee from radio station Alice 107.7.

Teams included: Bank of the Ozarks, First Security Bank, Community Bank, First Arkansas Bank and Trust, Arvest Bank, Arkansas Federal Credit Union, Cabot Junior High South, Cabot Junior High North Junior National Honor Society and National Honor Society, Faith Baptist Church, Women’s Run/Walk Clinic, Wal-Mart, Southside Elementary, City of Cabot, Rotary Club, Cabot High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, Cabot High School, Spring Creek Living Center, Cabot Junior High North Spirit Squad, Northside Elementary K-Kids, Cabot High School Honor Society and Cabot 4-H Club. Each team had a representative walking or running throughout the night.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Memorial grows for fallen state trooper

The Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team will return to Little Rock Air Force Base in the fall for another air show.
The Blue Angels have flown here several times, but on their next visit they will make a short detour to a small Jacksonville park that honors the memory of State Trooper Jimmie White, who died after he escorted the Blue Angels’ motorcade to the air base in June 2002.

When the Blue Angels visit the park, they might place a wreath in memory of a fellow American who wore a different kind of uniform. They will see flowers blooming and a walking trail and a bridge that crosses a creek, a fitting memorial to an all-around good guy.

As the fourth anniversary of Trooper White’s death approaches, his family, friends and community leaders are looking to expand this moving tribute to a young man in uniform who gave his life to his community.

Perhaps a second bridge will be completed and more walking trails added before the Blue Angels visit.
The Jimmie H. White II Memorial Park is on the north side of Jacksonville, just a mile or two from the main gate to the air base. Bart Gray Realty donated the pond and the land for the park, which is near where Trooper White grew up and lived until his untimely death at the age of 32.

“He spent a lot of time fishing there,” his father, Jimmie White I, recalled Tuesday. “We’re delighted we can preserve it in his memory.”

“He touched a lot of people in his life,” he told us. “He was a fantastic person.”

Donations are needed for improvements to the park. The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is considering making a gift, and at least one anonymous donor may step forward to honor Trooper White’s memory.

A motorcycle ride June 3 from Jacksonville High School to El Paso will help raise money for the park and for scholarships.
Joyce Meerdink, a personnel director at Wal-Mart and a neighbor who has spent countless hours improving the park with other Wal-Mart associates, says another bridge would cost about $1,000. The city has agreed to add asphalt to the trail and build a picnic pavilion.

In the Northwood Acres neighborhood where the park is located, all the streets have Indian names, except for T.P. White Drive, named after the former planning commissioner.

The trooper’s father was a Pulaski County sheriff’s deputy. His son dreamed of going into law-enforcement one day and ride a motorcycle like his dad.

The young man started out in the sheriff’s department, then became a state trooper and rode a motorcycle until that fateful summer day in 2002.

He was killed on June 1, 2002 while “leapfrogging” to clear traffic for the motorcade.

The Blue Angels headlined both days of a weekend air show at the base.

In “leapfrogging,” an officer stops traffic for a motorcade. After the motorcade passes through the intersection, the officer passes it on the left to stop traffic at the next unsecured intersection.

The motorcade was headed east on C.M.Sgt. Williams Drive near the base flight line.

As White was passing a patrol car, driven by his direct supervisor, Sgt. Darryl Hall, Hall started a left turn into a security-gate entrance at the base, and the two vehicles collided. White died of head injuries at University Hospital in Little Rock. The trooper was wearing his helmet at the time of the accident.

Hundreds of people attended his funeral, including Gov. Huckabee.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a funeral as big as that,” the trooper’s father recalled Tuesday. “That’s an indication how many lives he touched.”

One may send park donations to Jimmie White I, 108 Chickesaw Place, Jacksonville, Ark. 72076.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville makes offer for new library location

Leader staff writers

Jacksonville hopes to put its new library on Main Street, between Walgreens and War-ren Street, across the street from the Jacksonville Shopping Center and First Arkansas Bank and Trust, and has begun negotiations with landowners, according to Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System.

In July 2004, Jacksonville residents approved a one-mill property tax increase to pay off $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library building.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim would not confirm that the city has chosen that site, but did say the city had made an offer on one of the properties there.

Businesses located along that stretch include Fishnet Mission thrift shop, an empty storefront formerly occupied by Discount Tobacco, Sheaffer’s Texaco and Discount Office Supply.

The property owners include Mrs. Mike Abdin, the Sheaffer and Dougherty families.

Swaim would confirm that an offer had been made to one of those owners. He said no offers were pending on the others of the proposed sites in the downtown area.

“We hope to make additional offers on properties in the next few days,” the mayor said.

If the city were interested in buying land there for the library, would it be all the land on that block except the Walgreens? “We’re looking at different configurations,” Swaim said. “We’d like to have a large enough area for green space, about one and one-half or two acres.

“I’d like for this to be a centerpiece for the downtown area,” Swaim said, with amenities including a park-like setting.
Swaim said he was “fairly confident” that the city and the Central Arkansas Library System would break ground on the new library by the end of the year.

Roberts said he hoped the project could be put out to bid in about 90 days, noting that the rising cost of materials will require the city to raise more money or cut back on at least $150,000 worth of expectations. He said material costs were up at least 12 percent.

Roberts said an addition to the Maumelle library, estimated at $200 a square foot originally, is now going to cost about $250 a square foot. “The sooner the better,” Swaim agreed. “Escalating prices (of materials) is a concern of ours.”

Linda Bly, deputy director of CALS, said she’d heard that the city is now acquiring land for the library. She said the architects, Witsell, Evans and Rasco, couldn’t begin real design work until they know where it will be located.

Bly said that including the volumes currently in the Nixon Library, the new library would have in the range of 60,000 to 70,000 books.

Dee Sheaffer, proprietor of the Texaco station, would say only that her property has been listed for sale for two years, noting a sign above the garage bays.

She and her husband Paul have owned the station since 1985. The Discount Tobacco store already has moved down the block and Fishnet Mission apparently will have to move its thrift store.

The current building the Nixon library calls home was constructed in 1969. It is one of the oldest buildings in the Central Arkansas Library System. It was named the Esther D. Nixon Library in 1992 in honor of the first librarian.

Along with being old, the Nixon library is small with 9,265 square feet. The new library will be approximately 13,500 square feet. Excluding the Nixon Library, the average Central Arkansas Library System building is five years old and has about 14,000 square feet.

In 2004, the Nixon library was closed for a month while a leak in the roof was repaired.

About 200 books were damaged from the leaking roof. Several computers got wet as water leaked heavily through the roof to the building’s interior.

TOP STORY >> GOP candidates square off

Leader staff writer

Cabot has five candidates for mayor to replace Stubby Stumbaugh, who is running for Congress, but only two are running in the May 23 primary.

They are Republicans Eddie Joe Williams, a former Cabot alderman, and Bill “Pete” Pedersen, a former justice of the peace, who represented Cabot on the Lonoke County Quorum Court.

The two Republicans have opposing views on alleviating the city’s traffic problems, which they discuss fully on their websites, and

Williams supports building the north interchange, a plan that was developed in conjunction with the state Highway Depart-ment about six years ago. Pedersen supports the plan released earlier this year by a committee made up of county and city leaders.

Both plans call for a railroad overpass and a third interchange. Both call for new roads. But as currently drawn, the north interchange would be built through a sparsely populated area. The new plan calls for road construction in areas that are already populated.

Pedersen was not on the committee that developed the latest plan, but his website details the various components of the plan that he says will do the most to help existing problems.

Acquiring federal funding for highway projects takes about 10 years, so neither plan would be implemented quickly.
Williams says he supports the north interchange because it was planned in conjunction with a railroad overpass in the vicinity of Polk Street near Austin and because the traffic and environmental studies have been completed. Williams was on the city council when the overpass was designed and scheduled for construction.

The railroad overpass, which has been approved for about $5 million in federal funding, would be the first phase of the three-phase of the plan Williams supports. Construction of an interchange near the northern city limits of Cabot off Hwy. 67/167 North would be the second phase, and the third phase would be connecting Hwy. 5 with Hwy. 67/167 North to completely loop the city.

“I’m the guy who worked tirelessly to get that $5 million for the overpass and I’m the guy who’s going to solve the traffic problems,” Williams said.

Pedersen said he is opposed to the north interchange plan because it would do little to help existing traffic problems. The plan proposed by the county committee that he supports would place a railroad overpass at Richie Road and a cloverleaf interchange between the two existing interchanges that would be accessed from a new road off Highway 89.

The plan also calls for a new road running north and south on the left of the freeway to connect the new interchange with Hwy. 319 and a second road running north and south on the right of the freeway that would connect Hwy. 89 to Hwy. 38.
The plan put together by the county committee also includes new entrance ramps.

Williams says a north interchange will allow the city to grow in that direction and help alleviate some traffic congestion now. But he says he has other ideas for solving the immediate traffic problems in the city, such as quarter-cloverleaf entrance ramps onto the freeway that would ease the flow of traffic heading south toward Little Rock by allowing motorists to enter the ramps from the right instead of the left.

Pedersen says voters need to decide which plan they prefer and vote for the candidate who supports the one they like.
“The feds are not going to fund both our plans,” he said. “We’ve got to elect the man who will push the plan that will serve the most people.”

In the race as independents are former Justice of the Peace Kenny Ridgeway, Cabot Alderman James Glenn and Cabot Alderman David Polantz. Independents can’t file for office until July 20.

Stumbaugh, a Republican, is running against Congressman Marion Berry, the Democratic incumbent in the First District.
All five candidates say traffic is the major issue in the election. Alderman Polantz sponsored a council resolution calling for impact fees to be collected on new construction. An impact fee study completed in March has not been adopted by the council. It includes money for widening Highway 89 from Fifth Street to U.S. 67-167.

Alderman Glenn says getting Highway 89 widened is essential, but if elected, he also would try to build more parks.
Ridgeway says he has looked at both traffic plans that are being promoted now and he prefers the one that came out of the county committee, because it would address Cabot’s immediate problems.

Among the independents, Polantz says is campaigning a little now, but Glenn and Ridgeway say they will start their campaigns after the primary.

TOP STORY >> Jail costs could hit taxpayers for $34M

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Sheriff Randy John-son wants to reopen the county’s 250-bed work-release program, then phase in over a number of years new construction for an additional 808 jail beds at a cost of $34.2 million in construction and $15 million in annual operating costs, according to information he supplied to the county’s Public Safety Task Force.

At a task force meeting last week, members concluded that only a dedicated sales tax of one-eighth or one-quarter cents per dollar could pay for such an ambitious expansion.

As recently as a year ago, the detention center had room for 1,125 inmates, but budget cuts and deterioration of one jail pod have reduced the capacity to 880 inmates.

The task force meets again at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Jeffrey Hawkins Meeting Room at Broadway and Mark-ham in Little Rock, and again at 7 p.m. May 24 at the Bill Harmon Recreation Center in Sherwood.

Several members of the Pulaski County Public Safety Task Force toured the detention center and many were dismayed by the sorry condition of the old jail, according to County Judge Buddy Villines.

“We’re dealing with 24 people, most of whom have not had the depth of information we’re providing them with. We’ve had some pretty good discussions and comments, and it’s probably going to get better,” said the judge.
“When you can actually see daylight through the roof, that’s a pretty big impact.”

Not only is the county jail in disrepair, but also the county couldn’t come up with its share—in excess of $21 million this year—forcing it to cut the jail population from 1,125 inmates down to 880 beds. That was even after local cities, including Jacksonville and Sherwood, chipped in a total of about $1 million to help.

The task force is trying to determine what’s needed and how to pay for it.

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office projects that the county needs a total of 1,523 beds within the fence at the regional detention center, according to Sheriff Randy Johnson, and another 250 beds in the work-release center.

Phased in over a period of years, construction costs for the 648 new beds is estimated at $34.2 million and annual operating costs—restoring enforcement cuts and operating the 250-bed work release center—of $16.8 million.

Currently, the detention center can hold 880 inmates.
The sheriff’s first priority is to reopen the existing 250-bed work release center at an annual operating cost of $2.57 million plus $1.5 million a year to restore the deputy positions cut to balance the budget.

New construction is divided into three phases.

Phase one is to build a 192-bed minimum-security barrack at cost of $4.5 million, plus an estimated $2.1 million a year to operate.

Phase two would add another 296 “hard” beds — that is beds in medium and maximum security, at a cost of $16.5 million and with an annual operating cost of $6.2 million.

Phase three would add 320 “hard” beds in medium security at a cost of $13.2 million. Operation costs would be $6.7 million.
The sheriff also would like to double the size of his juvenile detention facility, with construction costs of $3 million and additional annual operating costs of $925,000.

TOP STORY >> More airmen predicted for base

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base is combining or eliminating 270 support jobs over the next five years as part of modernization efforts, but it still expects a net gain of at least 500 personnel and half a dozen cargo planes as a result of Base Realignment and Closure recommendations.

The Air Force continues to streamline operations by eliminating jobs, a move that could affect 270 support positions at the base over the next five years, including 196 over the next 18 months in fields such as food service operations, communications, chaplain services, legal, firefighting and finance offices. The plan would not affect pilots, aircrews, mechanics and logistics personnel here.

“This plan affects spaces, not faces. In fact, some of those positions aren’t even filled right now,” Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, told The Leader Tuesday.

Some of the jobs will be eliminated, while others are combined. The job reduction at the base is part of a proposed five-year force-shaping plan called Air Force Smart Operations 21. The plan aims at reducing 40,000 Air Force personnel by 2011, or about 12 percent of the 340,000 people now serving in the active-duty Air Force.

“This is just part of the modernization effort of the Air Force to pay for sophisticated weapon systems. Personnel is where the most money is spent, so that’s where the cuts were,” Self said.

Little Rock Air Force Base is far from shrinking, though. Under the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations, the base is scheduled to receive six C-130 cargo aircraft and 500 additional personnel, and perhaps even more.

Self said base personnel looked at the Air Force Smart Operations 21 plan and sent a response back up the chain of command.

“For example, I think we saved nine firefighter positions. We need to retain our firefighters to provide fire protection for the drop zones. Cuts there would affect the mission,” Self said.

The airmen affected by the cuts can train for other Air Force jobs, move to other military branches or retire.

“I don’t think the Air Force would intentionally do anything to hurt mission effectiveness at Little Rock Air Force Base or anywhere else,” said 2nd Dist. Cong. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.). Snyder serves on both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

He is the ranking member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

“The House Armed Services Committee will continue to monitor troop levels to make sure that Little Rock continues to be the best C-130 base in the country,” Snyder said.

Currently, military spending is between $400 and $500 billion a year, an increase of 41 percent since 2001. The Pentagon estimates spending at least $2.3 trillion from 2006 to 2011.

The Pentagon has about $1.3 trillion invested in weapon systems in some stage of development, with over $800 billion of those costs yet to be paid, such as the F/A-22 Raptor Air Force fighter jet or the V-22 Osprey aircraft for the Marines — and they are still not ready for combat. The F/A-22 was ordered in the early 1980s to fight Soviet Union jets.

The Air Force had planned to buy 648 F/A-22s, at a cost of $125 million each, measured in current dollars, but it can now afford only 181 jets, now priced at triple the cost at $361 million each.

Last December, the Air Force reduced 4,000 lieutenants citing too many officers and not enough enlisted. That move affected 40 lieutenants at Little Rock Air Force Base. In 1991, when the Air Force made its last major personnel cuts, the force was slashed by 41 percent down to its current level of 340,000 airmen.

Monday, May 08, 2006

SAT 5-6-6 EDITORIAL >> Pesky critics blacklisted

After more than a dozen years in state office, Gov. Huckabee still has not developed the thick skin and the serenity that marks great politicians, and this week it cost him again. When he retaliated against the pesky Arkansas Times by shutting the paper off from the news flow in the governor’s office, it made the national prints.

No one outside Arkansas would have cared, except Huckabee is running for president, and his pettiness will make shakers in the Republican Party wonder if he is ready for prime time. (The governor’s office often leaves us in the dark about his activities, but that may be on account of his staff’s ineptitude rather than retaliation for the criticism we’ve lobbed at him.)
The Arkansas Times, a weekly newspaper at Little Rock that has a liberal bent, has criticized Huckabee since soon after he became lieutenant governor in 1993. Max Brantley, the editor, has for years lodged complaints against him with the state Ethics Commission, mainly over his loose fund-raising and spending habits. The commission, whose members include his own appointees, sided with Huckabee part of the time, but also slapped his wrists on others. Huckabee maintains that all of Brantley’s ethics complaints were frivolous. The paper reported extensively on the Huckabees’ heavy use of State Police airplanes for personal and political business.

So Huckabee had enough of the Times’ querulousness and took the paper off the list of news media to notify of his appointments to boards and commissions, notices of press conferences and the like. Brantley says it is a violation of Arkansas law and of the First Amendment itself, and the paper may sue. Huckabee says the Times is not a “legitimate” newspaper, so he does not need to oblige it.

Huckabee is not the first politician to burn over newspaper critics. Every governor has had his tormentors. Gov. Bill Clinton had almost daily critics on the editorial pages of the two Little Rock dailies then, the Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat. The Democrat for 10 years devoted its opinion pages to almost daily screeds against Clinton and his administration. Instead of retaliating, Clinton became ever more attentive to the paper’s editors, sometimes leaking stories to the belligerent Democrat managing editor to curry favor. And it worked.

Gov. Orval Faubus in the early years of his endless reign could not stand the Arkansas Gazette’s constant criticism of his efforts to block desegregation of Little Rock schools, so he found a clever way to retaliate. Faubus did not hold news conferences, answer questions or make news of any kind in the afternoon, which would be on the morning Gazette’s cycle. All government agencies had to follow the practice. News would be generated only in the morning so that the afternoon Democrat, which was friendly to him, would have the news first. Gazette reporters could not even trap him for a quote in the hallways in the afternoon. Gazette reporters had to be more resourceful in cadging news from state agencies.

The Internet and daily news blogs like the Arkansas Times’ popular blog make managing newsbreaks like that much harder. It must have irritated Huckabee that the Times blog was beating his favorite newspaper, the Democrat-Gazette, on the news that he generated himself every day. The Times reported the development within minutes while the state paper did not come out until the morning. If it were Mike Huckabee’s private affairs or even his campaign news, his pettiness in disfavoring one news outlet would be only stupid churlishness. He risked only his dignity. But the business of the governor and his office are public matters, supported wholly by the taxpayers, and he cannot choose to favor those whom he divines to be friendly or even neutral or “objective.” That is not merely bad behavior, it’s against the law.

Huckabee would do himself and the people a favor if he reprised his good act on the Colbert Report the other night and told the Times tomorrow: “I was just spoofing. You’re back in the flow.”