Friday, August 18, 2006

TOP STORY >>Council votes to appeal Sherwood land grab

IN SHORT: Jacksonville takes case to circuit court to stop annexation of 2,000 acres that Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines approved earlier this month.

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council unanimously voted Thursday night to appeal a decision that would allow Sherwood to annex 2,000 acres of land, and at the same time agreed to bring in 160 acres into the city.

The council approved the voluntary annexation of StoneRidge Subdivision at the western edge of Jacksonville.

Meanwhile, the land that the city is fighting to keep out of Sherwood is located west and north of Jacksonville, and most of it is closer to the center of Jacksonville than Sherwood. It stretches north of Sherwood, along Jacksonville’s western boundary and touches the edge of Little Rock Air Force Base.

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines approved the annexation in an order released earlier this month after reviewing arguments from both Sherwood and Jacksonville. City Attorney Bob Bamburg told aldermen that the appeal would take the case to circuit court and would be “trial de novo,” meaning to start over.

In law, the expression literally means “new trial.” It is most often used in certain legal systems that provide for one form of trial, then another if a party remains unsatisfied with the decision.

In the new trial, the circuit court judge will not review the briefs given to Villines or his findings. “Both cities will have to present their arguments again, from scratch,” Bamburg explained.

The four owners of the undeveloped land—Greg Heslep, Byron McKimmey, Metropolitan Trust and Lilac LLC— wanted to become part of Sherwood and signed a voluntary annexation petition earlier this year.

Because the land belongs to the county, the judge had to make the decision to release the land. Jacksonville made it clear to the judge that it opposed the annexation on a number of counts. Jacksonville believes that because part of the land is inside the military’s aircraft safety zone, which the city is responsible for, that the land should not be a part of Sherwood.

“We would never allow anything that would jeopardize the base,” insisted Sherwood’s city engineer Mike Clayton.

Jacksonville also believes it is better suited to serve the area as it has utility lines in place and plans for a water storage tank in the area.

“Don’t worry,” Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon said earlier, “we’ll provide service.”

Villines said in his order that the court “does not believe its discretion extends to determining which municipality is better able to adapt the property to municipal use…the petition for annexation is granted.”

He also said, “The court is not persuaded that extraterritorial planning jurisdiction precludes annexation.” Bamburg was directed by the council to go ahead and file the appeal by the end of the month.

TOP STORY >>Schools get strict on cell phone users

IN SHORT: Students may carry their phones, but cannot use them during classes.

Leader staff writer

Cell phones are necessary for many busy families and social butterflies to keep in touch but students heading to class Monday should keep their phones out of sight and turned off during the school day.

Cabot has a zero-tolerance rule for cell phone use during the school day.

“No activation during the school day includes text messaging, pictures or checking voice mail,” said Tony Thurman, principal at Cabot High School.

Phones being used during class time are confiscated until the end of the day and first-time offenders are punished with Saturday school, a four-hour detention.

Students who break the rule twice are given in-school suspension for one day. Ever since a five-year-old state law said students could have cell phones on campus after class, school officials have been grappling with the problem of how to keep the phones from being disruptive during class.

Some students may try to dodge school rules by using “mosquito” or “stealth” ring tones that are too high pitched for many adults to hear.

The tones were first created by Howard Stapleton in Great Britain as a way for shopkeepers to annoy teenage loiterers by playing the tone constantly in their stores. The tones vary from a cricket-like chirp to electronic hums and pulses similar to the sounds a computer hard drive makes.

Beebe School District tried to keep problems to a minimum with a rule that students couldn’t have phones on their persons during the school day. But this year, that rule is softened. Students can have the phones on them, but they have to stay turned off and out of sight.

One infraction means the principal tells parents.

Break the rule twice and the phone is confiscated for one week. Break it three times and it is confiscated until the end of the semester.

The Beebe School Board ap-proved the new cell phone rules in June for inclusion in the 2006-2007 student handbook after principals said some students use the phones to text-message test an-swers and to take pictures of test answers.
The Beebe School Board also authorized a ban on using cell phones while driving on campus.
The case against cell phones isn’t simply distraction.

By using text messaging, students may gossip, cheat on tests or start fights. In the Pulaski County Special School District, cell phones are banned from campus during normal school hours with the exception being students enrolled in extracurricular activities.

“A lot of parents want to be able to contact their children in case of emergency and a parent can get an exception for their student by speaking to the principal,” said Brenda Bowles, director of Equity and Multicultural Education for PCSSD.

In Lonoke the rules are very much the same. Any exemptions regarding cell phone use must be for health or other compelling reasons. If a cell phone is found, it will be confiscated and parents must pick it up. A second infraction results in Saturday school, a third offense will get the student three days of in-school suspension.

TOP STORY >>Aldermen wonder why bills piling up

IN SHORT: Council members Waymack and Polantz seek audit of yard mowing and other practices that may have caused a $400,000 shortfall.

Leader staff writer

Cabot Aldermen Odis Waymack and David Polantz are not often on the same side of an issue, but Waymack is supporting Polantz’s efforts to have an accounting firm look at the city books.

Polantz is the sponsor of a resolution that will go before the council Monday night to advertise for an accounting firm. Polantz, chairman of the council’s budget committee, is concerned about some confusion in the 2006 budget that made it appear the city had more than $400,000 than it actually had at the beginning of the year.

“I have no faith in the validity of the numbers,” Polantz explained about wanting to hire an outside accounting firm.
Waymack says he is concerned about that, too, but he also wants someone to look into peculiarities at public works, where city workers authorized mowing the same residential yard three times in one week.

Waymack told Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh in a letter dated Friday that he happened upon the paperwork about the excessive mowing while he was looking for other information. Waymack sent copies of the letter to City Attorney Clint McGue and to local newspapers.

Waymack told Stumbaugh he was investigating a complaint two weeks ago from Harold Smith, who lives at 13 Saint John, that the city had towed away his boat and car. Smith works out of state and is seldom home.

On Aug. 7, Waymack filed a Freedom of Information request with the city for all the paperwork pertaining to 13 Saint John. There was nothing about the boat and car, but included in the documentation he received from the city were invoices that showed Smith’s yard was mowed June 8, June 9 and June 16 at a cost to the city of $130.

Waymack went on to tell the mayor that he learned that J. Pepper, who picks up appliances and other items, had removed the boat and car at the request of Jack McNally, who works in code enforcement. McNally also authorized Rodney Kilgore to mow Smith’s yard on June 9 and June 16.

The first mowing on June 8 was authorized by Richard Burt, another code enforcement officer. The work was done by Carl Pickard.

At the same time Kilgore was paid for mowing Smith’s yard, he also was paid for mowing yards at 90 Pond Street, 69 Sycamore, 72 Barnwell and 38 Oak Meadows on June 9 and June 16.

After his discovery that the city is paying to have yards mowed at weekly intervals, Waymack re-quested all the documentation on activity in code enforcement from Jan. 1, 2005 to the present.

“What I happened upon accidentally was just for one month this year. I want to know how much more there is out there,” Waymack said.

“I want to find out if there is corruption in public works,” he said.
Jim Towe, director of public works, said Friday he wasn’t sure why the same yard received so much attention and wouldn’t have an answer until McNally is back from vacation on Tuesday.

“I know there was some problem with both code officers responding to complaints about the same place,” he said.
But he added that he believes it was an isolated incident.

The code officers make every effort to contact property owners about tall grass and cluttered yards.
The city stepping in and cleaning and mowing is a measure of last resort, Towe said.

TOP STORY >>Nutritionstressed this year at PCSSD

IN SHORT: Lunch programs are improved for better health.

Leader staff writer

After checking off school-supply lists and shopping for approved attire, many parents will turn their attention to the food their children will be served in the Pulaski County Special School District this year.

According to Michael Harvey, child nutrition director for PCSSD, school lunches provide one-third of the recommended daily allowances for calories, protein, iron and calcium as well as vitamins A and C for students.

Students in grades K-6 receive lunch consisting of 664 calories and meals for students in grades 7-12 have 825 calories.
The USDA provides a meal pattern for not only school lunches but also breakfast programs.

The school lunch meal includes two ounces of cooked lean meat or meat alternate, a serving of bread or grain product with eight servings per week and three-fourth of a cup of two or more vegetables or fruits.

Low-fat milk is also the beverage of choice for the USDA school lunch meal pattern.

Harvey said the lunch programs had undergone renovations in the past. “We made all our changes last year,” Harvey told The Leader.

A September lunch menu for students at the secondary educational level includes soft tacos, spaghetti, potatoes and broccoli salad. Fruits and desserts listed for that month included apple cobbler, pineapples, blueberry cobbler and apples.
For pre-K and third-graders, lun-ches range from pizza to chicken-fried steak with gravy.
Strawberry bars, peaches, vanilla cream cookies, grapes and honey graham crackers are among the desserts and fruits that will be served this fall.

Before heading to lunches based on Department of Agriculture guidelines, uniformed students will need school supplies ranging from No. 2 pencils to boxes of baby wipes before classes start on Monday.

Some district patrons have seen cash registers ringing up totals averaging between $25 and $30 without purchases of clear or mesh backpacks, standardized uniforms, bookstore items and weekly reading material subscriptions.

Parents of students enrolled in art classes at Bayou Meto Elementary School are purchasing yarn, thin metal hangers, modeling material and antibacterial hand soap. For first graders, students should have a 64-count box of Crayola crayons.
At Jacksonville Elementary School, fifth-graders look as though they may be experiencing a lot of colds during the 2006-2007 school year. Four large boxes of Kleenex appear on their list of school supplies. Fourth graders may feel better because their list requires three boxes of tissues.

Along with two boxes of Kleenex, Arnold Drive Elementary fifth-grade students should be equipped with pocketsize dictionaries. Lists did not include loose-leaf binders, trapper-keepers or school boxes. Ziploc bags, cotton balls, rubbing alcohol, paper plates and Fiskars for Kids scissors frequently appeared on older school supply lists.
The usual glue, crayons, pencils, erasers and writing paper still remain on the lists.

Parents of Sylvan Hills Elementary fifth graders are instructed to label their children supplies while parents of Arnold Drive Elementary second graders were instructed not to put their child’s name on pencils, tablets, notebook paper, glue or boxes of Kleenix.

Sixth-grade students at Jacksonville Girls Middle School will need a calculator, a big pink eraser and a bottle of all-purpose cleaner as well as other items.

While sorting through the school supplies, parents of students below the high school level in Jacksonville must learn the type and color of clothing allowed by each school.

It begins with youngsters who will be attending Adkins Pre-K facility. Shirts of red, white or blue are allowed.
Tolleson Elementary School in-cludes those colors but tacks on burgundy as an approved color for shirts to be worn because students move onto Northwood Middle School and North Pulaski High School. Those two school colors include burgundy.

At Jacksonville Elementary, light blue shirts may be worn in addition to red, white and dark blue. Royal blue shirts, along with navy blue and white, are allowed at Sylvan Hills Middle School. The school colors also include royal blue.
District-wide policy dictates navy blue or khaki for slacks for students not yet in high school.

After checking off school supply lists and shopping for appropriately and approved colorful attire, parents may turn their attention to the lunch boxes their children may prefer to carry from home for the 2006-2007 school year.

TOP STORY >>Cabot prepares for start of class

IN SHORT: Close to 9,000 students get ready to hit the books in Cabot when classes resume Monday, although Cabot Junior High North students don’t start for another week, except the ninth graders, who will meet at the high school.

Leader staff writer

Cabot Public School District students head back to school Monday, and Supt. Frank Holman has hopes of a safe and productive school year.

“Take your time, slow down,” Holman said, setting goals for the new school year. “Continue to work together to build a learning community.”

The 1,250 students of Cabot Junior High North, which burned down Aug. 10, will start classes Monday, Aug. 28. Ninth graders’ classes will be held at the high school campus, where they’ll also have their lunch, but on a different lunch schedule. Seventh- and eighth-grade students will have class at the trailer campus, with hot lunches being brought in for them.

Holman told The Leader that students will be served their lunch cafeteria style from the gym.

Weather permitting, the students will get to eat outside in the bleachers until further provisions can be made.

Lunch for all 9,000-plus students attending Cabot schools will reflect Gov. Mike Huckabee’s initiative for a healthy Arkansas.
“We voluntarily moved to a lower percentage of high-calorie beverages a year ago,” Holman said. “I’m pleased with the number of healthy meals we serve that the students will eat.”

Working with child nutritionists, Cabot schools moved to serving more nutritious meals and more water and juices. A typical lunch menu includes a serving of fruit and a low-fat milk of the student’s choice, along with offerings such as hamburgers, chicken nuggets, pizza and steak fingers.

Cabot High School students can still use the vending machines on campus, but only for a limited time during the school day. “There are some machines still at the high school,” Dr. Holman said, “only because we still have a year or so left on contract with the vendors.”

The cost of lunch for the 2006-2007 school year is $1.50 for elementary and middle school students, and $1.75 for junior and senior high students. The cost of breakfast for all students is $1. Students qualifying for reduced priced lunches will pay 40 cents.

Parents of Cabot students do not have to purchase school uniforms, but will be expected to purchase items not usually seen on school supply lists. Second graders at Southside Elementary must supply Mr. Clean Magic erasers; kindergarten students at Southside must bring a canister of Clorox wipes. Students of Magness Creek Ele-mentary are only asked to bring two items the first day of school: a backpack and $30 to $40 supply fee, depending on the students’ grade level.

The teachers have done the school-supply shopping for parents to ensure that every student has the same supplies.
Supply fees are $40 for kindergarten, $30 for first, second and third graders, and $35 for fourth graders.

EDITORIALS>>Inheritance for superrich

Sen. Mark Pryor’s vote against the omnibus bill that tied an increase in the minimum wage to the virtual repeal of the estate tax did not strike us as a politically dangerous act, but it apparently worried him. This week, Pryor said he might introduce a bill that would have the practical effect of eliminating small businesses from the estate tax, calling it a compromise.

Pryor’s proposed bill, which would exempt all estates smaller than $5 million ($10 million for a couple) and reduce the overall tax rate, is a perfectly good solution to the small problems raised by the 90-year-old tax on large inheritances. The tax now applies to fewer than 2 percent of estates in Arkansas and under Pryor’s “compromise” it would apply to no more than three-tenths of 1 percent of estates, the very richest inheritances.

But Pryor’s is a pointless gesture. Similar proposals have been made by Democrats for more than a decade, but to the Bush administration and the Republican leadership eliminating the already negligible effect of the tax on modest estates of $2 million or so is beside the point. Repealing the estate tax is not about those people but about exempting from taxation the truly vast estates left by the superrich. That is what the 2001 tax law did, although they had to have the repeal expire in 2011 to make budget forecasts look tolerable, and that is all that Bush and the Congress will allow.

The bill, rather, is political cover for Pryor, who voted against the package, which is what Republicans wanted to happen. The tax favors for the wealthy were packaged with a minimum-wage increase to force Democrats like Pryor to vote against the minimum wage, a highly popular idea favored for years by Democrats, including Pryor. So we imagined that Pryor might want to take steps to assure voters that he really did want to lift the living standards of the very poorest workers, some 113,000 of them in Arkansas. (The state legislature early this year actually did the deed itself for Arkansas workers.)

Instead, Sen. Pryor was obliged to reassure the well- to-do who will pass on or inherit large assets that his vote did not mean that he was not sympathetic to them. Thus the compromise estate tax bill, which he contemplates introducing. Pryor has been hammered for his vote and his stance principally by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, which favors eliminating the estate tax altogether and permanently. The newspaper’s owner, coincidentally, will one day leave a truly immense estate. The senator’s web site has said all along that he favored eliminating estate taxes on small businesses and farms, but by changing a clause in the sentence the paper’s editorials inferred that Pryor was promising to vote to repeal the tax altogether. When he voted against repeal, the paper called him hypocritical and dishonest. His was not the dishonest stance.

Here is all that anyone needs to know to understand Pryor’s predicament. In 2004, only 168 estates in Arkansas were paying federal estate tax of any kind. Most of those involved nominal amounts. In 2009, the last year that the tax is to apply before its one-year elimination, every estate smaller than $3.5 million ($7 million for couples) will be exempt. The tax will apply to roughly 3 of every 1,000 estates.

But those three involve some very powerful people. They are big spenders politically. The 113,000 minimum-wage workers? They will likely not give a dollar to a political campaign.

OBITUARIES >> 08-19-06

Gary Catlett
W. Gary Catlett, 60, of Jacksonville passed away Wednesday at his home.  

He was an active member of Second Baptist Church in Jacksonville and served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher. He worked for Winrock Enterprises for more than 20 years and was vice president-controller.
He was preceded in death by his father, Henry Benjamin Catlett.

Survivors include his wife Donna Aebly Catlett of Jacksonville; his mother, Blanche Catlett of Marvell; two sons, Kevin, his wife Jana and their children, Malorie and Avery Catlett of Hot Springs, and Grant and his wife Haley and their son Gage of San Antonio, Texas; two sisters, Annette Moreland and husband Don of Marvell and Jewell Bryant and husband Lonnie of Little Rock.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Second Baptist Church in Jacksonville with the Rev. Ronald Raines officiating.  Burial will be at 3 p.m. in Smalley Cemetery in Connells Point, south of Marvell.

Memorials  may be made to the Homebound Ministry of Second Baptist Church, 1117 N. James St., Jacksonville, Ark. 72076. Funeral arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Phil Isbell
Phil Isbell, 44, of Judsonia died Thursday.

He was born December 1, 1961, at Stuttgart to Will and Annie Lyons Isbell. He was a Missionary Baptist.

He was preceded in death by his parents; one brother, Richard Isbell, and a daughter, Sara Jane Isbell.

Survivors include his wife, Janie Roach Isbell; a son, Chad Isbell; a daughter, Jenifer Isbell of Judsonia; five brothers, Ronnie Isbell and his wife Katie of Russellville, Dwight Isbell and his wife Rita of DeValls Bluff, Lynn Isbell and his wife Gracie of Stuttgart, Jeff Isbell and his wife Shonda of Stuttgart, and Bob Isbell of England; two sisters, Willene Boehn and her husband Freddie of Stutt-gart and Debra Phillips and her husband Richard of Russellville.

Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Beebe Cemetery.

SPORTS >>Jacksonville’s upgrades numerous

IN SHORT: The athletic facilities at JHS have been drastically improved during the recent off season.

Leader sports editor

Renovations of all of Jacksonville High School’s athletic facilities have been an ongoing, and rigorous process over the last few months under the direction of athletic coordinator Jerry Wilson.

Most recently, Jacksonville just got word that it has been approved by the Pulaski County Special School Dis-trict to receive new bleachers in the gymnasium. The JHS gym seats have been a danger for the past several years, and the district released a memo earlier this week stating that they, as well as Mills’ bleachers, have become a potential liability.

The rest of the improvements, however, have been a direct result of the efforts put forth by Wilson, Jacksonville coaches, parents and boosters of the program. And the process still isn’t complete.

“We’re working on a five-year plan to continue improving the facilities here,” Wilson said. “We take a lot of pride in what’s already been accomplished, and it helps the athletes take pride in what they have.”

Lots of dollars has been spent on paint, and lots of volunteer man-hours have been spent painting on the Jacksonville campus.

The bleachers on the home and visitors side of Jan Crow Stadium have been painted, as well as the press box and ticket booths on both sides.

The ticket booth on the visitors side is itself an upgrade. It provides visiting fans a much more convenient entrance and a much shorter walk to their seats.

Visitors will have to park in the old Wal-Mart parking lot, and enter through the gate on the visitors side.

The restrooms have also been upgraded on both sides as well. Plumbing has been fixed and more privacy walls have been added on the mens restrooms.

Although it hasn’t arrived, a new jumbotron scoreboard has been ordered and is expected to be on display by the first home game on Sept. 1.

The inside of the press box has been remodeled, including a new air conditioner and blinds in the windows.
Tridents have been painted along Linda Lane leading into the parking lot of the school and football stadium, and the end zones will be painted this season.

Platinum members of the booster club will have a tent set up before home games for tailgating on game days.
Wilson also plans to open the stadium up to the public for walking and running on the track, and adds that security cameras have been added as a precautionary measure for keeping the facility open.

The workout facility, known by coaches and players as the green room, has new weights that were bought by the booster club, and also has its own fresh coat of interior paint.

The middle school is also getting a new field house.

Wilson says all the improvements so far and future up-grades are possible because of the resolve of everyone involved.
“We’re not going to complain about what we don’t have,” Wilson said. “We’re going to work to make improvements to what we do have.”

SPORTS >>Third week starts slow, ends stout

IN SHORT: The third week of fall football camp at Lonoke built momentum slowly as it went on.

Leader sports writer

The Lonoke Jackrabbits went into the third week of summer practice with a little bit of sluggishness, but picked up the pace as the week went on. The squad continued isolated practices with the offensive and defensive units, as well as special teams work.

“We kind of had a little bit of grind at the first of the week,” Jackrabbits head coach Jeff Jones said. “But we had had some good practices. They put in a lot of good work, and we think that everything we have done will be a good base for our first three non-conference games.”

Jones says the team is still healthy for the most part. Senior receiver Kylon Boyd’s finger injury is still the only major debility for the ‘Rabbits at the current time.

“All in all, we came out of our fall camp real healthy,” Jones said. “We still have Boyd out with his finger, and he is going back to the doctor today to have it re-evaluated, so we should know more on that after today.”

Jones says the execution has been very pleasing through the three weeks of pre-season practice, but says that the overall consistency will have to improve before they are game ready.

“We are installing a completely new offense, so a lot of learning has had to take place,” Jones said. “I’m not totally satisfied with the total execution, I think our consistency needs to pick up before we go into our schedule.”

The Jackrabbits are going in to the unknown with the new 4A-2 Conference. Many of the teams in the conference schedule will be teams that Lonoke has not faced for many years, if ever.

Coach Jones says the element of the unknown has made the team prepare even harder for a season against unfamiliar opponents.

“It’s new to a lot of us,” Jones said. “There are a lot of teams in this conference that are on the rise, so it will be interesting to see who comes to the forefront. These guys have put in a lot of work and great effort to get ready for those teams, so we’ll see how the seed falls.”

Lonoke will play its scrimmage game on Tuesday at Little Rock Christian.

SPORTS >>Bears progressing nicely

IN SHORT: Sylvan Hills has had a good preseason, but a thin line has been a concern.

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills football is coming along fairly well. That’s about all one can gather from talking with head coach Ron Sebastian, who always takes the cautious approach when it comes to preseason speculation.

The Bears have about 56 players currently practicing with the team. After nearly three full weeks of practice, most of those who are going to drop out have done so.

One of the specifics Sebastian talked about was his concern about the Bears’ interior.
There are only 17 lineman on the squad, the lack of depth could mean people playing on offense and defense, but not right away.

“We’re thin on the line but we’re not going to play anybody both ways at least until conference,” Sebastian said. “It’s too hard on ‘em this early and in this kind of heat.”

The heat has played a role, as it has for everyone this year, in the Bears’ progress. Like many teams, Sylvan Hills has gone with one-a-day practices, but have practiced for four hours at a time with several water breaks throughout.

The heat was a drag on progress early, but as players conditioned, practices have been more and more productive.
“When we first got out here the heat bothered them a little bit,” Sebastian said. “They’ve worked hard though and gotten through it. I think practices have been going pretty well.”

Sylvan Hills certainly isn’t taking the easy route into conference play. The 6A-East Bears have three 7A-Central teams lined up in the first three weeks of the season.

A bright spot for Sylvan Hills is a bevy of talent returning in the skill positions. Those that are being counted on have performed well so far in practice.

Junior quarterback Hunter Miller has been very solid making decisions and hitting his receivers.
Tailback T.J. Shelton and fullback Davon Neal have also looked good running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield.

SPORTS >> Veteran flagger readies for 100

IN SHORT: Beebe resident Chris Ellis will be on the flagstand for the 14th annual Comp Cams Topless 100 feature race tonight.

Leader sports writer

Being a racing flagman is not for the faint at heart. Being suspended above speeding racecars on a small open platform is only half the danger. Add angry drivers, wives and crewmembers that feel like their team has been unduly penalized to the mix, and you start to get a clear assessment of the stress involved.

Beebe resident Chris Ellis has endured the stresses and dangers of flagging for over 20 years now. He started in the late ‘80’s at the now-defunct B and M Speedway in Pocahontas. The story of how he became a flagman itself is a prime example of the volatility of the flagger title.

“I was there with a friend of mine helping with his racecar, and the flagger quit at the intermission,” Ellis said. “The promoter, a guy named Gibb Burgess, started going around the pits looking for someone who could flag. Someone told him that I knew how to flag, so he got me to do it, and that’s how I got started.”

After flagging full-time at Pocahontas for two seasons, Ellis then flagged at Harrisburg Speedway, before making the big jump to Batesville Speedway in 1993 for promoter Mooney Starr. He also did a stint at the Nashville track while working at DeQueen High School as a basketball and football coach.

After moving to Beebe to be head basketball coach for the Badgers high school boys team, Ellis became the flagman at Beebe Speedway under promoter Terry Butler. He eventually was promoted to track manager, and also spent his Saturday nights flagging at Southwest Arkansas Speedway in Texarkana.

He gave both of those tracks up this year to return to Batesville. After 20 years, Ellis says he can feel the burnout sometimes, but working at one of the top dirt-track facilities in the country helps alleviate much of the doldrums.
“I think it’s just the number of years I’ve been doing it,” Ellis said. “When you’re young, you can stay out until two or three in the morning without any problem. But when you’ve spent several years with the grind of having to be there every week, it starts to get old.

“The only reason I’m flagging this year is because I had the chance to work at Batesville again. I wanted to flag the World of Outlaws race, and the Modified Madness and the Topless 100. I got to flag the WOO race and the big modified show, now I’m excited to be flagging the Topless 100.”

The Topless is one of the biggest dirt late-model races in the country. Top drivers from nearly every state descend upon Locust Grove every year for the $45,000- to-win-event.

Ellis’ flagging mentor Duane Johnson has held the honor of flagging the Topless for the past several years, but this year, the torch will be passed.

“It’s pretty neat to be involved with a show of this magnitude,” Ellis said. “Those guys are the show, and they are who everyone came to see, but being able to get up close and go up and shake hands with these guys is fun deal. You get a lot more access in a position like this than you would as a fan, so that’s one of the things I enjoy the most.”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

EDITORIALS>>College bonds: They're baack!

Gov. Huckabee signed a proclamation last Thursday putting $250 million of college construction debt on the ballot again, less than a year after its defeat at a special election.

The big bond issue will be on the general election ballot in November.

We think it’s still an unwise deal, but maybe the governor and the university leaders have a fresh argument. They have not revealed it yet.

Let us vouchsafe our love for higher education. The state does not invest nearly enough in its colleges and universities, and we hold that opinion even after a decade in which taxpayers and philanthropists combined spent nearly $1.5 billion on capital improvements alone on the public campuses.

With an exception or two, notably the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the campuses have been transformed. But there are still a few needs, owing mainly to the sharply increased enrollment on a few campuses.

A bond issue nevertheless is not the prudent and efficient way to meet those needs.

Two months after the election, the legislature will assemble and decide what to do with a surplus of more than $700 million.
It will have to earmark a couple hundred million of it to public school construction, perhaps $25 million for prisons and legislators will want to divide some of it among themselves for local pork to help them get re-elected or elevated to higher office. The lawmakers will, wisely we think, set aside some for a rainy-day fund.

Still, the surplus will be large enough to fund every building project on the university and college campuses that has any practical need.

They could be funded and built immediately. No bond lawyers, no brokerages, no investors would have to have their palms crossed. It would require no tax increase.

Why would the state choose instead to pay for those buildings twice? That is what happens when you borrow all the money for the construction and pay for the buildings with compound interest from tax revenues over the next 20 years or 25 years. Maybe they will have an answer for us by November.

EDITORIALS>>Candidates pandering

Voters know by now not to invest much confidence in what a candidate for governor says about taxes during a heated campaign. The budget realities a year from now will determine what he does about taxes. Our hunch is that either of the major candidates will leave them alone except maybe for a gesture toward lowering sales tax rates on groceries if a recession does not intervene and take away the current slack in spendable state revenues.

Still, it pays to follow the candidates’ promises if only to understand who their real constituents are. An appearance in front of a bankers convention furnishes a good reading. Neither Mike Beebe nor Asa Hutchinson gave us much encouragement when they talked to the bankers last week.

Attorney General Beebe only confuses. He said he would leave the state income-tax rate on capital gains alone unless Congress altered the federal tax treatment. If Congress reduces taxes on capital gains, he might ask the Arkansas legislature to follow suit. Arkansas ordinarily follows Washington’s lead on technical changes in the tax code — deductions, income definitions and the like — but not tax rates. Arkansas now exempts the first 30 percent of a person’s capital gains from taxation altogether and treats and taxes the rest as simple income.

President Bush wants to eliminate taxes altogether on capital gains, stock dividends and many other income sources for high-income investors, including big inheritances. He is unlikely to succeed, but if he did, would Beebe go along with eliminating them in Arkansas? We hope and trust that he would not.

Hutchinson, on the other hand, told the bankers that he would not wait for Congress before further cutting taxes on investment income. Hutchinson said he would ask the legislature to do it anyway and while it was at it reduce income tax rates on entrepreneurs, who he said were leaving the state because Arkansas levies a 7 percent tax on the top income bracket.

Tax cuts always sound good and sometimes inject a small stimulus into the business cycle. But government needs revenue to run the schools, colleges and its many other functions, and it needs to collect it as fairly as possible. It is simply not fair to tax working people on every dime of their wages but give a free ride to the investment class, which now includes to some small extent a good 40 percent of us. If we are to have an income tax, it should be on income, not merely the earned income of workers.

Cutting or eliminating taxes on capital gains may indeed spur more investment, but so would cutting or eliminating income and payroll taxes on wages. Already, the effective Arkansas income tax rate on capital gains and on other high incomes is less than 5 percent. That is because of the 30 percent exclusion of capital gains and the deductibility of state income taxes from the federal tax payments of taxpayers who itemize.

If taxes are to be cut, they are not for those who need it.

Despite his fuzziness on investment taxes, Beebe offered one clear, sensible and doable tax cut, a $50 increase in the homestead tax credit, which would afford homeowners, particularly elderly ones, some needed relief from ad-valorem taxes on inflationary home values. We should be able to count on that one.

OBITUARIES >> 08-16-06

Richard Swint 
Richard Wayne ‘Tiny’ Swint, 58, died Aug. 10.

He was a long-time citizen of the Woodlawn Community in Lonoke County, a machinist by trade, and an avid outdoorsman.
He was a member of Chambers Baptist Church and a 1967 graduate of Lonoke High School.

Preceding him in death were his parents, William and Lola Swint; a sister, Shirley Swint Bennett, and one great-nephew, Gage Swint Goodman.

Survivors include three brothers, Charles and wife, Felecia Swint, Marshall Swint and Rickey and wife, Kim Swint; sister, Lola Swint; six nephews, two nieces and six great-nephews.

Funeral services were held Aug. 13 at Boyd Funeral Home Chapel. Burial was in Brownsville Cemetery.

Thresa Vines
Thresa Schiermeyer Vines, 77, of Cabot passed away Aug. 11.

She was a member of Zion Hill Baptist Church.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Schiermeyer, Sr.; son, Jeff Schiermeyer and daughter, Peggy Watson.
She is survived by her daughter, Becky Ransom and husband, Ron; son, Bob Schiermeyer and wife, Rebecca, all of Cabot; sister, Evelyn Harrell, of Westminister, Va.; seven grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and her special companion, Pepper.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Zion Hill Baptist Church.

Burial will be in Sumner Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to Arkansas Hospice, 5600 W. 12th St., Little Rock, Ark. 72204.

Justin Davis
Justin Wayne Davis, 18, of Cabot, passed away Aug. 9.

He was born July 20, 1988 in North Little Rock to Travis “Wayne” Davis, Jr., and Jeani Lin Tausan Davis of Cabot.

He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather Travis Wayne “Butch” Davis, Sr.; one uncle, Gary Davis; four great-grandmothers and three great-grandfathers.

In addition to his parents, he s survived by three brothers, Brandon, Dylin and Sawyer Davis; and one sister, Hannah Davis, all of Cabot; paternal grandmother, Evelyn “Carol” Davis of Cabot; maternal grandparents, Kenneth and Linda Tausan of Ogallala, Neb.; maternal great-grandfather, Dewayne Mag-nuson of Ogallala, Neb., numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Funeral services were held Aug. 14 at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot with burial in Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service of Cabot.

Jerrell McKay
Jerrell Edwin “Cotton” McKay, 72, of Jacksonville, passed away Aug. 11 in Little Rock.

He was born April 2, 1934, to the late Jess and Nellie Liles McKay in Antioch.

He was a master horseman as well as a master electrician.

Survivors include his sons, Jim and wife, Carol McKay, and Jerry McKay, all of Jacksonville; one brother, James McKay of El Paso; three grandchildren, Jordan, Tracy and Cory McKay; nieces and nephews, Harry McKay, Ann Mc-Kay, John McKay, Jim “Bubba” McKay and Melissa McKay, and numerous other friends and family including his best friend Frank “Boomer” Kendall.
The family would like to extend a special thanks to Arkansas Hospice and Melisa for all of the kind care and support they provided.

Memorials may be made to the American Cancer society.

Funeral services were held Aug. 15 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with burial in Chapel Hill Memorial Park.

Evelyn Harris
Evelyn Lucille Harris, 90, of Cabot passed away Aug. 13 at the Arkansas Hospice Center in North Little Rock.

She was born November 28, 1915, in Chaffee, Mo.

She was a member of Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Cabot.

She was a graduate of St. Ambrose High School in Chaffee. In 1934, she was married to Ralph Stanley Harris. During the 1950’s she advocated equal education rights and spent the rest of her life as a homemaker raising several generations of children.

She loved to sew, cook, play bridge, fish and volunteered her time and skills to many causes and organizations through the years.

She was preceded in death by her husband; her parents, Ava and Alvin Papin; her brothers, Lewis “Bud” and Joe Papin; her sister, Alvina Schwaller; and her sons, William Eugene “Gene” and Brian Carlton Harris.

She will be deeply missed by her grandchildren, Chris Harris of Little Rock, Sandy Pearson, Kelly Coughlin and Kristen “Kish” Gardner; seven great-grandchildren, all of Cabot; three nieces, Pat Birkholz of Foristel, Mo., Sara Armellini of Eureka Springs, Janet Sharp of Salt Lake City, Utah, and two nephews, Dan Powell Melton of Jonesboro and Darrell Melton of Tennessee.

A memorial service was held Aug. 15 at Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Cabot.

Memorials may be made to Arkansas Hospice Center or Potluck Food Rescue.

Minnie Thomason
Minnie Christine Moore Thomason, 81, of Lonoke, died Saturday.

She is preceded in death by her husband, Thomas Lelon Thoma-son; her parents, Agnes Terry Moore Hester and Thurman Moore; her stepfather, John Thomas Hester; three brothers, Harold, Cecil, and Robert Moore; two sisters, Jessie Pearl Moore and Elizabeth Moore Hester; one grandson, Wade Finley, Jr.; and nephews, Robert Dean Hester and Jerry Don Moore.

Survivors include two daughters and their husbands, Diana and Wade Finley, and Kathy and Tommy Franks, all of Lonoke; two grandsons, John Franks of Little Rock and Joe Franks of Lonoke; two granddaughters, Dawn Tir-man of San Anselmo, Calif., and Lesley Faulkner of Little Rock, granddaughter-in-law, Amy Finley; two great-grandsons, Collin Tirman and Wade Finley III; one great-granddaughter, Skye Tirman; two sisters, Ann Pepper and Bess Campbell; one sister-in-law, Dorsie Moore; seven nieces and four nephews.

She is also survived by her late husband’s nieces and nephews, who have been devoted to her since his death in 1997.

She was born on April 5, 1925, at Plainview, but spent the majority of her life in north Lonoke County. She and her husband were dairy farmers in the Wattensaw community for many years. She was known to say that her talent, she guessed, was milking cows. Sewing was also a great talent of hers.

She was a member of Watten-saw Baptist Church for more than 50 years and taught Sunday School class for more than 20 years.

She and her husband lived on the same farm for 57 years. Their home was the site of many family reunions and was a virtual “coffee shop” to the entire community for many years, especially during deer season.

In 2004, she sold her farm and moved to Lonoke. Although her health was failing, she especially enjoyed the services at the Lonoke Library.

Funeral services were held at Wattensaw Baptist Church in Lonoke. Burial was in Wattensaw Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to Wattensaw Baptist Church 7300 Hwy 31 N., Lonoke, Ark., 72086.

Mitchell Stuart
Mitchell Cranford “Mitch” Stuart, 46, of Beebe, passed away Aug. 12.

He was preceded in death by his father and mother, Jess and Nora Bailey Stuart; his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. C.C. Bailey of Beebe, and Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Stuart of Tampa, Fla.

He is survived by a son, Ben Stuart of Beebe; aunts, Polly Simmons and Marie Hobby of Sherwood, and Icy Hubbard of Beebe; uncle, Glen Bailey of Lewisville; special cousins, David and Sissy Branch of Beebe and a host of other close cousins, work-mates, church family and a special friend, Terry Westfall of Gravel Ridge.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe with burial in Mt. Bethel Cemetery at Rose Bud.

Robert Thomas
Robert Jim Thomas, 81, of North Little Rock, died Aug. 13.

He is survived by one son, Robert Kent Thomas and wife, Joan of North Little Rock; two brothers, Russell Thomas and Joe Bob Thomas, and two sisters, Pauline Luebe and Mattie Armstrong.

Private graveside services will be held in Monk Cemetery.

Fermon Kelley
Fermon Coy Kelley, 72, of Plano, Texas, formerly of Jack-sonville, passed away after a long struggle with respiratory disease on Aug. 13 in Plano.

He was born October 27, 1933 in La Delle, to the late Martin Fermon Kelley and Tommie Deal Kelley.

He was a self-employed contractor, a 30-year member of Local 665, a member at First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville and an Air Force Korean War Veteran.

His brother, Thomas Lane also preceded him in death.

Survivors include his loving wife of 55 years, Margie Kelley, of Plano; one son, Allan Coy Kelley and wife, Alicia of Springfield, Mo., two daughters, Brenda A. Wells and husband, David of Springfield, and Marsha E. Parr of Plano; grandchildren, Brandy Parr, Cameron Wells, Bridgette Wells, Colton Kelley, Conner Kelley and Alexandra Kelley, and one brother, Michael Lane.

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 17, at First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville with Rev. Wendell Dorman and Dr. Carol Goddard officiating. Interment will follow in Rest Hills Memorial Park. Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday at the funeral home. Memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville.

TOP STORY >> Setback rule costs homeowners

IN SHORT: Planners set a public hearing on an ordinance that would reduce 35-foot front yard requirements to 25 feet.

Leader staff writer

“We are charging people to live here,” a Jacksonville builder told the planning commission Monday night.

Jack Wilson, a longtime local contractor, told the commission that its requirement to have homes setback 35 feet from the street costs the buyer. “It’s like an impact fee. We are asking people to pay an extra $1,000 to live here,” he said.

“Here we are desperately needing to attract people and then we hit them with this cost. It either causes a hardship or they go elsewhere to live,” Wilson said.

Commissioners listened to Wilson and others after Tommy Bond of Bond Consulting Engineers requested a discussion about the setback requirements.

For about the last 30 years, the city has required all homes to have a 35-foot setback (yard) in the front and a 25-foot setback (yard) in the back.

Surrounding cities such as Cabot, Sherwood and North Little Rock require homes to be set back just 25 feet in the front. The commission will hold a public hearing on the matter at their next meeting. In a letter requesting the discussion, Bond wrote, “Over the last several years I have made several attempts to get the planning commission to change building setback from residential subdivisions from 35 feet to 25 feet.”

Bond said his main argument has been the added cost to the construction of the houses.

“It adds anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 to the cost and that is rolled into the mortgage and is doubled or tripled before the mortgage is paid off. A homeowner pays on that extra for 30 years,” Bond explained. An additional argument for the change, he told the commission, was that today’s homes are built deeper and won’t fit on a basic lot with the city’s setback requirements.

Wilson added, “We show people a floor plan that they really like, but have to build something else because it won’t fit.”
Bond admitted that many years ago, families sat on their front porches and enjoyed and used their front yards, but now families seem to value their backyards more than the fronts.

“Most everyone now prefers the privacy and security of a fenced backyard,” Bond said.

Commissioners Emma Knight and Bart Gray Jr., both in real estate, said the change would be very welcome. “The time has come,” Gray said. But Commis-sioner Art Brannen said the idea to change setbacks just didn’t sound good to him.

Builder Greg Heslep, who is developing the Base Meadows Subdivision off Highway 107 near the air base, said he considers Base Meadows a family-oriented subdivision, but because of the requirements for the front yard “there’s not even room for a swing set in the back” of some of the lots.

TOP STORY >> Districts cited by state for problems

Leader staff writer

News continues to be bad for Cabot Junior High North. First, the school was placed in late July on the state’s list of 325 schools needing improvement for failing to make adequate progress on the state benchmarks exams.

Last week, a faulty fluorescent light caused a fire that destroyed a large portion of the $9 million school.

Now the school has also been placed on probationary status for not meeting the state’s accreditation standards.

Three of Beebe’s five schools have also been cited for not meeting the state’s accreditation standards.

All of England’s schools, along with Cabot High School, five from Pulaski County and one from Lonoke have also been cited.

A citation, according to Beebe School Superintendent Belinda Shook, is a warning. “It’s not serious, but it does tell us we have an area that needs attention—a problem that needs to be corrected by next year,” she told The Leader.

Schools are cited or placed on probation because they either have teachers working in areas in whichthey do not have a license, the schools didn’t offer or teach the minimum number of core classes or failed to meet other standards.
Ultimately if the schools do not correct the deficiency, they could lose their accreditation and be closed.

Students from schools on probation could be hurt when applying for college and scholarships.
Overall, the state Board of Education placed 63 of the state’s 1,100 public schools and four school districts, including Pulaski County Special School District, on probation for continued violations.

Another 219 schools, and 19 school districts, were cited or warned, meaning that the violations occurred in the 2005-2006 school year.

“A problem stems from a change in how special education teachers are licensed,” Shook said. “It used to be a teacher could get a degree in special education and be licensed to teach, now they have to get a degree in another subject or area and then take additional courses to be licensed in special education,” the superintendent said.

Shook said Beebe has a number of teaching taking special education course to get their license, but the district already has them working as special education teachers.

“These are highly qualified licensed teachers,” Shook said, “but they don’t have all their special education hours yet.”
She said the district had been fortunate in past years with special education and other hard-to-fill positions.

“This has only recently become a problem for us,” she said.

The accreditation list released by the state education department Monday did not specify the problems at schools cited or placed on probation.

In Cabot, Cabot Junior High North was placed on probationary status, while the high school was cited.

In Pulaski County Special School District, Sherwood Ele-mentary, Sylvan Hills and Northwood middle schools, and Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski high schools were cited.

In Beebe, the intermediate, middle and high school were cited.

In Lonoke, the high school was cited. In England, the elementary, middle and high school were cited.

TOP STORY >> New high school opening Monday

Leader staff writer

Although tragedy struck Cabot Junior High North last week, there is good news for the school district.

It’s like Christmas in August for teachers such as Peggy Medlin, an 11th grade English teacher moving into the new 170,000- square-foot Cabot High School building.

Medlin was one of many instructors who had been teaching in 25 temporary trailers scattered across the 45-acre campus.
“It’s like heaven. It’s so clean and bright,” Medlin said, preparing her classroom Wednesday. Her classroom is on the north side of the building, facing Hwy. 38.

In another classroom, Kath-erine Tripp, a world history teacher, stapled robin’s egg blue paper to the bulletin board, a colorful foundation for displaying hieroglyphic charts and world maps.

Like the other 102 classrooms in the $13.9 million building, Tripp’s has a 32-inch television, a new computer, locking wardrobe, bookshelves, teacher’s desk, computer desk as well as a 14- foot dryerase marker board and two bulletin boards.

Designed by Steve Elliot, a Cabot graduate, the two-story, V-shaped building is 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.

There is modern technology throughout including a journalism lab, four computer labs, a professional-development center with seating 160 and more than 56 security cameras monitoring the entire building.

Dwight Daugherty teaches physics and advanced placement chemistry in one of the 12 new science labs. Daugherty has ten laptop computers for his students to use and the TurningPoint Student Response system.

Using the PowerPoint computer software, teachers can display questions, surveys, opinion polls and games that allow every student in the class to select a response via their wireless ResponseCard keypads or clickers.

The clickers are about the size of a small calculator. The data is immediately transmitted to the presentation. This will allow Daugherty to assess student learning, prompt student discussions, even award participation points or deliver quizzes and tests.

“UCA (the University of Central Arkansas) uses TurningPoint in a lot of their classes. There will be few colleges in the state that match us,” Daugherty said.

While many teachers were getting their classrooms situated this week, workers were busy with spot painting touch-ups and furniture moving.

“We’re excited for the kids to see it. For the first time in a long time, 96 percent of our classes are in one building,” said Tony Thurman, principal at Cabot High School.

Thurman and three assistant principals will move into their offices on Thursday.

The district’s 1,800 high school students will get a chance to tour the new building and find their classes Friday. Covered outside walkways on both floors of the building will help students get to and from classes even in inclement weather, without crowding the interior hallway.

A public open house date to let the community tour the building has not been set yet.

“I think students are going to feel differently about coming to school,” said Tammy Tucker, assistant principal.

TOP STORY >> Sprinklers not mandatory

IN SHORT: Fire safety system not an automatic requirement, officials say.

Leader staff writer

The Cabot fire chief says sprinklers would have been little help in fighting the fire that destroyed the junior high building last week because the fire was in the attic, above where the sprinklers would have been installed.

But in fact, state school officials say sprinklers aren’t about saving buildings anyway; they’re about saving lives.

“It’s unfortunate what happened (in Cabot), but the purpose of sprinklers is to save occupants,” said Doug Eaton, director of public school academic facilities for the Arkansas Department of Edu-cation. “Putting out the fire is secondary.”

Cabot Junior High North met all the state building codes eight years ago when it was constructed, he said. The code requiring sprinklers was not adopted until 2003. Before that time sprinklers were an option.

Yet a school could be built today without sprinklers and still be in compliance with the state fire codes, said Jacksonville City Engineer Jay Whisker.

Reading from the Arkansas Fire Prevention Codes, Whisker said schools fall under Group E buildings and that no sprinkler systems are required unless the building is larger than 20,000 square feet. He said even then there are exceptions. “If each room has an exterior exit at ground level then sprinklers wouldn’t be required.”

Eaton said state law requires the adoption of building codes and those codes are periodically changed.

School districts are not required to update buildings to meet new codes.

However, if a district adds on to an old building, the new part must meet the latest code, but only the new part; the old part is grandfathered in.

So in Cabot that means only the new high school is required to have sprinklers. Whether any of the other buildings have sprinklers is a question that Fire Chief Phillip Robinson had not answered at press time.

None of the schools in the Sherwood or Jacksonville area have sprinklers. Most were built 30 years or more ago. The newest of those schools, Clinton Elementary, was built in 1994, about 10 years before the sprinkler requirement was added.
Beebe’s campus is covered with multi-million dollar buildings that look alike.

But they were built before 2003, when sprinklers were not required, so with the exception of the auditorium stage they probably don’t have them, said Belinda Shook, school superintendent.

Shook checked with architect Steve Elliott to make sure the district was in compliance with the state code on the addition to the junior high building.

She said Elliott told her the addition did not have sprinklers but it did have fire walls instead.

“We count on (architects and state officials) to know the code and make sure we do what we’re supposed to do,” Shook said.
Lonoke School District is building a middle school which will have sprinklers but none of the older buildings have them.
Beebe Fire Chief William Nick said that Thursday’s fire brought back memories of the blaze that destroyed Beebe Middle School in 2000.

That school didn’t have sprinklers and Nick said he wished it had. By the time the fire burned through to the attic, there was no stopping it. Cabot brought its new ladder truck to fight that fire and Beebe got to return the favor on Thursday when his department arrived with a rescue truck, a tanker, a pumper and the ladder truck bought since the middle school fire.

Like in Cabot, the fire at the Beebe school was mostly in a part of the building that was difficult to get to so putting it out was impossible, Nick said.

The Beebe school had three roofs and the fire burned between two of them where firefighters couldn’t reach with water.
Robinson, Cabot’s fire chief, said containing the fire at the junior high building was hampered by the lack of firewalls in the attic. Without them, the fire could spread through the attic unabated.

Nick was complimentary of the Cabot firefighters’ work, especially considering what they were up against.
“I think they did a heck of a job,” he said. “(The building had) wood trusses and a shingle roof. That’s quite a fire load.”
Leader staff writer Rick Kron contributed to this article.

TOP STORY >> Junior high to become campus of 25 trailers

Leader staff writer

Finding out the fire that destroyed Cabot Junior High North Thursday was accidental, started by a malfunction inside a fluorscent bulb that caught the ceiling on fire inside a media center storage closet, is little consolation for 1,250 students who won’t resume classes until Monday, Aug. 28 or Monday, Sept. 4. The rest of the district will begin classes Monday.

The seventh, eighth and ninth graders of Cabot Junior High North will be attending classes on campus in 30 portable buildings the district is renting for $27,000 per month, covered by the district’s insurance.

Lunches will be prepared at other school cafeterias in the district and delivered to the students. New textbooks and desks have been ordered for students.

Cabot Fire Department Chief Phil Robinson and Cabot School District Superintendent Frank Holman announced the cause of the fire Monday during a press conference outside the burned building.

The $9 million Cabot Junior High North building constructed in 1998 had no sprinkler system installed. The building was built to state code at the time.

“There was nothing wrong by the school. The codes have changed, and a building like this built today would include sprinkler systems,” said Robinson.

“Had this building had a sprinkler system, it may or may not have ended up like this. It started high, got into theroof. Attics are not usually sprinkled, so I can’t say it would have helped at all,” Robinson said.

“The building is still unsafe, but we’re hoping to take teachers maybe two at a time to their rooms to see if there’s anything salvageable,” said Frank Holman, Cabot School District superintendent.
Fire departments from Ward, Beebe, Jacksonville and North Little Rock along with several volunteer departments spent 10 hours battling the blaze that left only a separate multipurpose building and gym untouched.

Holman estimates it will cost $15 million and as long as two years to rebuild the school. There is no estimate yet on the damage of the building and all that was inside.

“I’m just amazed at all the work everyone has been doing since the fire,” said Alan Turnbo, Cabot school board member.
Cabot Junior High North teachers will spend this week in the cafeteria at the new Cabot High School to finish in-service training.

The district has arranged a series of meetings for parents and students next week in the fine arts building at Cabot High School.

Parents of ninth-graders will meet at 2 p.m. on Sunday, parents of eighth-graders at 4 p.m. Sunday, and parents of seventh-graders at 6 p.m. Monday.

Daily updates will be provided on the school’s information line at (501) 743-3535 and the district’s Web site,

TOP STORY >> Base faces another big deployment

Leader staff

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of Little Rock Air Force Base, announced Tuesday that 600 airmen will deploy abroad, including Iraq and Afghanistan, in January in the global war on terror.

“We push out the door in January,” he told the quarterly meeting of the LRAFB Community Council. “We’re never really off the hook.”

“Our airmen are deploying year around,” Self told The Leader after he addressed the council, “but our 15-month group rotation cycle is nearly here. After the air show in November, we’re going to gear down for the holidays and focus on spending time with our families.”

Sounding upbeat, the commander thanked Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who also addressed the meeting, and Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., for their support of the base.

Snyder recently pushed through the House funding for a $9.8 million multipurpose education center in front of Little Rock Air Force Base, which will serve both the military and civilians. A school located on base makes it difficult for civilians to attend because of heightened security.

Pryor has secured funding for a $3.6 million maintenance center for the 189th Airlift Wing.
“This base has a glowing future ahead of it especially when you have knowledgeable legislators and talented people working inside the wire,” Self said.

Next year, movement of cargo planes at the air base will expand as Air Mobility Command transfers more C-130s here from Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina as part of the base realignment and consolidation process.

Self predicted “a great influx” of AMC personnel, which will join the 463rd Air Mobility Command at the air base.
But Little Rock will continue to train some 200 C-130 crews a year, the general said.
He also thanked community council members for their support, which has helped make LRAFB one of the top military bases in the nation.

The base is in such good shape that it can forego an operational-readiness inspection because of its excellent ratings in the past.

Last month, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) decided to inspect the base in two years to coincide with the 463rd Airlift Group’s inspection in 2008.

The news of the cancelled inspection came as a relief to the airmen of the base who had been feverishly working to prepare for the inspection.

Now the base is focusing its energies on preparing for Air-power Arkansas, the 51st air show scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 4 and 5. Last year’s air show drew 150,000 spectators to the base.

Self said it would be the last air show for at least two years.

“When we do an air show, it takes a terrific amount of manpower and expertise. We simply need to take a break,” Self told The Leader.

As far as the readiness of the air base is concerned, “the community council has made a great difference,” the general added. “We’re an unbeatable team.”

But Self is not one to rest on his laurels.

“We have to start planning not just for next year, but five, 10 and 25 years ahead,” Self told The Leader — especially because of reductions in manpower this decade.

The Air Force plans to cut 40,000 active-duty airmen and 18,000 reservists in five years.

Self said he has high hopes for the joint cargo aircraft for the Army and Air Force scheduled for delivery in 2010.

Aviation companies are competing in a $5 billion competition to design a twin-engine version of the C-130 cargo aircraft.
“There’s a lot of specifics to be worked out but we need aircraft that can land in small, austere airfields,” Self said, although he still supports expanding the C-130J program.

With the price tag for the new generation of C-130Js running between $45 million and $90 million each, Pryor told The Leader, offering the military a less expensive plane is key.

“I think we will always need cargo capabilities. The Pentagon is giving the Joint Cargo Aircraft program serious consideration and when the planes are produced, I want to make sure Little Rock Air Force Base trains the pilots who fly them,” Pryor told the Leader.

Pryor told council members he is trying to get a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee to continue working on legislation affecting LRAFB such as co-sponsoring a bill providing $430 million in improvements to the Veterans Administration, outreach for veterans’ benefits and tax-relief for military members getting combat pay.

“The last thing veterans need to worry about is getting gypped on their taxes,” Pryor said.

Pryor said there are good indications the Senate will pass $9.8 million in funding for the LRAFB joint-education center and $3.6 million for construction of a jet-engine maintenance facility at the 189th Airlift Wing.

Carmie Henry, president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Com-munity Council, praised Pryor for sponsoring legislation that lowered taxes for those serving in combat and helped them with their health care.

While attorney general, Pryor saved Arkansas $243 million in attorney fees in the tobacco settlement.
Henry pointed out that Pryor’s co-sponsorship of a bill to add $430 million for Veterans Admin-istration health care included $168 million for comprehensive mental- health programs, $182 million to supplement shortfalls at VA hospitals and $80 million for veteran centers.

Pryor also passed legislation to help families get faster information about relatives wounded in combat.
The senator told the community council that the Veterans Administration should help veterans find jobs.
He said the goal should be to “connect the Veterans Adminis-tration to the general economy.”

Pryor also discussed the base’s reputation for excellence, pointing out that in addition to its high scores for completing its missions successfully, the base has plenty of room to expand.

“But what seals the deal is community,” the senator told council members. “There are almost zero complaints from the people in the community. We’re very proud to be host to Little Rock Air Force Base.”

During a recent national Demo-cratic weekly radio address, Pryor said the military has been “stretched to the breaking point,” and said returning units lack adequate equipment to train for their next mission.

“The poor management of the war has diverted our focus, our military and more than $300 billion from the war on terrorism,” Pryor said. “Our troops and people deserve better.”

He cited several shortcomings in the nation’s homeland security, including a funding cut for a program at the Pine Bluff Arsenal that provided on-site training to thousands of first responders.

“Five years after 9-11, our country is not as safe as it needs to be, or should be,” Pryor said. “More needs to be done.”
Arkansas offers an abundance of potential terrorism targets including the base, a nuclear energy plant in Russellville, the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock and lakes and streams serving as municipal water supplies.

“I’d hesitate to name any particular targets here in Arkansas. I think we have potential targets all over the country. We can’t just put all the money into big cities like New York and Los Angeles,” Pryor told The Leader. “We need to prepare for the next threat, not the last threat.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

SPORTS >> Memorial race finally completed at Beebe

IN SHORT: The feature for the Scrapp Fox Memorial was run on Friday after two previous rainouts.

Leader sports writer

Benton’s Jared Landers took the win in the fourth annual Scrapp Fox Memorial modified championship at Beebe Speedway on Friday with a perfectly executed slide job on Casey Findley with seven laps to go.

Findley had taken over the lead on lap 14 when he went three wide with Landers and polesitter Tim Crawley for the top spot. The three battled from lap 12 to lap 14 until Findley squeezed the 17F machine between the two regional drivers to take over the lead. Landers’ only hope of catching Findley was a caution, which he got on lap 29 when Ricky Anderson spun in turn two.

“If that caution had not come out, he would have won, that’s all there is to it,” Landers said after the race. “I didn’t have anything to lose on that restart by trying to slide up in front of him. I figured there was enough moisture up top to stop me.”
Some drivers would have been upset with such an aggressive move late in the race, but Findley displayed true sportsmanship after the race was over. He was the first to congratulate Landers in the tech area afterward, and was all smiles after his strong performance.

“I feel really good about how we ran against these guys,” Findley said. “They are professional drivers, so for me to go out and run that well really gives me a lot of confidence only being a week to week driver myself. Before the night started, I came in here thinking I would be happy with a top ten, but when you get out front and lead for a while, it kind of changes your outlook. He timed that pass just right, there wasn’t a lot I could have done without wrecking both of us.”

After two previous attempts at running the Fox feature, rain threatened to postpone the race again on Friday. Fortunately, however, the only rain shower to hit the track came early enough to not spoil the track, or the spirits of the fans who had waited so long to finally see the race.

Tim Crawley led the field to the green flag, and led the first twelve circuits. Crawley and outside polesitter Landers quickly built a gap between themselves and third-place Robbie Arnold.

After running strong for the first few laps, Arnold began to quickly drift back. The culprit revealed itself on lap five, as smoke began to pour out of the engine of Arnold’s 49 machine. The Batesville driver limped around for a few more laps, but had to pull off by lap 10, and was done for the night.

Crawley and Landers soon had a new threat to worry about, as Findley made his way from his sixth-place starting position to challenge the two frontrunners. On lap 12, fans witnessed something that has not been seen in any of the previous runnings of the SFM, a three-wide battle for the lead. Findley threaded the needle for three laps, squeezing the nose of his Mr. Fish car between 06 of Landers and the 87 of Crawley.

After almost getting crunched between the two cars heading into turn one on lap 14, Findley then charged through the corners and made his way around both cars to take over the lead. Once out front with a clean racetrack, Findley began to separate himself from second-place Landers.

The lap 29 caution bunched the field back up, and gave Landers one last shot at Findley with seven laps remaining. Landers took advantage of the restart, setting himself up for a slide job on Findley into turn two that would have made a 410 sprint driver green with envy. Findley tried to keep the momentum, drifting high enough in two that the back of his car scraped the outside retaining tires as he exited the corner.

Landers drove the preferred line for the final seven laps, holding off Findley to claim the $3,000 payday. Crawley surrendered third to Chuck McGinty in the final laps, with Mike Bowers completing the top five.

Findley also took second in the weekly modified feature race run later that night. Searcy’s Tyler Stevens led from the opening lap until lap 14, when a lapped car pulled back on the track from the infield in front of Stevens, causing the leader to wreck. Findley assumed the lead, but couldn’t hold off veteran Mike Bowers on the final lap, giving Bowers his second win of the season at Beebe.

SPORTS >> Lady Devils volleyball loaded with sophomores

IN SHORT: acksonville Lady Red Devils will have to rely on underclassmen to fill out several positions on this year’s volleyball team.

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils have a young volleyball team put together for the 2006 season, very young.

Only one senior with any playing experience, setter Rachel Hol-der, returns from last year’s Class AAAAA quarterfinal team, and of the 22 players on the roster, 12 are sophomores. There are six juniors and four seniors that make up the rest of the squad.

All the new faces make for an interesting preseason for first-year head coach Melissa Reeves.

Although the season is rapidly approaching, Reeves had an unsure nswer for who will start the first match.

“Who knows?” Reeves said.

Other than Holder, the rest of the starting lineup is very much up for grabs, and some will most assuredly be filled by sophomores.

Jacksonville takes the young team into a new conference that loses Cabot and picks up Marion. State powerhouse Jonesboro will still be the odds-on-favorite to win the league. The Lady Devils will be battling Jonesboro and Marion, as well as Forrest City, Sylvan Hills and Mountain Home for one of the four playoff spots.

Seniors Briana Dednam and Jazmin King have been productive in early practices on the back row, and will likely see considerable playing time.

Amber Powloski and Brittany Harrison lead the junior class. Both got some varsity experience under their belts last season as sophomores.

The heavily relied upon sophomore class has some athletes and talented players, and several will have to step up on the varsity level right away.

Paula Burr and Bailee Herlacher will play the back row and set. Abbie Hill is a solid all-around player. Tyra Terry, Chastity Robinson and Tiara Alexander will be counted on for power throughout the season.

Reeves also said any number of players could still step up and help out the team. The starting rotation is still wide open.
“We’re working on finding a group that will play consistently and not make mistakes,” Reeves said. “We’re young, but we’re going to work on minimizing mistakes and playing smart. There are some talented athletes out here.”

SPORTS >> NP ladies get new leader in basketball

IN SHORT: Former freshmen boys coach takes reins for North Pulaski’s high school girls team for upcoming 2006-07 season.

Leader sports editor

After working through the volleyball season with its fifth coach in five years, many of the same Lady Falcons will move into basketball season, where they will play for the second coach in 15 years.

Longtime NP freshman boys head coach Todd Romaine will take over for departed Katrina Mimms, who was the head Lady Falcon for 14 seasons.

Romaine is taking over a program that has not been producing young talent for some time. The NPHS’ girls feeder program reached an all-time low when not enough players turned out to put a freshmen team on the court.

Despite the lack of players being sent up to the program the last few years, Romaine believes there is a good core of talent on the current high school team.

“We’ve got almost everyone coming back that was supposed to come back,” Romaine said. “We lost one big girl, but everyone else is back and I think we’ve got talent. There’s potential on this team. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

North Pulaski won’t court a girls freshman team this year either, but mainly because there is no one to coach them. Romaine has been given the option of placing his six ninth graders on a junior-varsity squad, or playing them up on the varsity level.
“Not having a ninth-grade coach kind of hurts you a little bit, but maybe it’ll work out for the best for us for the time being,” Romaine said. “I’ll have them with me right away, and I’ll get a chance to spend some time watching the eighth graders and seeing what we have coming.”

Romaine doesn’t know anything about his freshman talent. As the freshman boys coach, he watched some eighth-grade boys games, but paid little attention to the girls.

“I had no idea any of this was going to happen,” Romaine said of the sudden opening for the high-school girls job, and the subsequent offer for him to take the job. “I never thought for a second during last school year that I’d be the girls head coach this season. Of course if I’d known that I’d know a lot more right now about what we’ve got.”

Romaine is also in the fact-gathering stage about his new conference. The AAAAA-East is loaded with teams that play a vastly different style than the teams in the former AAAA-Southeast.

“I got on Mapquest last night just to find out where some of these schools are,” Romaine said. “I didn’t even know where these schools are. Now I’m trying to get some information about the teams. I’m going to start making some phone calls and seeing what I can find out. I’ve gathered so far that it’s a pretty good conference top to bottom. There won’t be any easy games, but I think this team can be successful. Like I said, we’ve got talent.”

SPORTS >> Fifth coach in five years

IN SHORT: North Pulaski’s assistant coach Amanda Hill is the new head volleyball coach for the Lady Falcons. She is the fifth head coach in five years at the school.

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski has a brand new head volleyball coach for the fifth time in five years, but at least it’s not a brand new face for the Lady Falcon players.

Amanda Hill, who is entering her fifth year at NPHS, is taking over the reigns left by last year’s one-and-done Melissa Reeves, who is now the head volleyball and basketball coach at Jacksonville.

Hill has had the opportunity to take the head volleyball job a couple of times in her tenure as an assistant, and finally chose to accept the offer this year.

“I’m tired of the kids getting cheated,” Hill said. “This is the fifth year with their fifth different coach. It’s not fair to them. I’ve been here four years. I’m not going anywhere. They deserve some stability.”

Hill is taking over a team that has been very successful in its conference, but she’s also taking over a team that is entering a much tougher conference. Unlike NP’s former AAAA-Southeast, the new AAAAA-East consists of three teams in the northeast corner that have players from Jonesboro’s strong Junior Olympic program. There are also more teams in the conference, so making the playoffs will be a much tougher chore, all this on the heels of losing its best setter and best hitter.

“This is definitely a much tougher than what we’ve been in,” Hill said. “For us to be successful we’re going to have to have a change of philosophy, especially after losing such a powerful force in Lauren Wilcox.”

So what is North Pulaski’s new philosophy?

“We’re working on changing the focus to a more defensive team,” Hill said. “From the first day we’ve tried to instill defense into the mindset of this team. We’re going to have to cover better and dig balls that we haven’t been digging in the past. We don’t have that player that we can just rely on to score, so we’re going to have to keep balls alive and force people to make mistakes.”

Hill said her team is far from being able to name a starting lineup, but did give a few names that will be depended upon this season.

Lakreshia Cash is the team’s top returning hitter. Taneshai Ridgeway has been one of the best players on the back row getting digs in practice. Sophomore Jennifer Peters has played good defense as well, and senior Taylor Barrow has stood out so far as the setter.

“We’ve got some players that are stepping up, but we’re a long way from where we need to be. Our first match is a week from Thursday, and hopefully we’ll be ready by then,” Hill said.