Saturday, September 02, 2006

SPORTS >Cabot North controls clock, knocks off South

IN SHORT: North used its traditional running game to defeat its cross-town rivals.

Leader sports editor

Cabot Junior High North met Cabot Junior High South Thursday night to open the 2006 season, and christened the new field turf with its first official regular-season game.

It turned into North’s running game against South’s surprising pass threat, and it was the old style that prevailed as North won 20-12.

North’s big fullback Spencer Neumann was too much for South to handle in the first half. He carried the ball sparingly in the second half, but the North defense held strong, giving up a pair of big pass plays, but limited South’s ability to sustain drives.

Neumann carried 11 times for 128 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and finished with 14 carries for 133 yards.
North got the ball first after covering a surprise on-side kick to start the game. The home Panthers drove 31 yards in seven plays to take a 6-0 lead.

South then went on its best drive of the game, but failed to score. The South Panthers went 50 yards in 11 plays, but failed to convert fourth and one at the North 15-yard line.

North then drove 85 yards with some big runs by Neumann and the help of a personal-foul penalty on South for a late hit. Neumann capped the drive with a 20-yard run in which he broke three tackles to cross the goal line.

South started going backwards on its second drive. After starting at the North 40, a run for minus five yards, a holding penalty and a negative 2-yard run left them with third and 27 from the 23. That’s when quarterback Joseph Bryant hit receiver Powell Bryant down the right sideline for a 77-yard scoring strike with 1:43 left in the half.

That score stood until halftime, and North got the ball back to start the third quarter. North started at its own 31, and used 15 plays and nine minutes and 14 seconds before finally scoring with 6:46 left in the game.

Halfback Jared Maxwell completed the drive with a 3-yard plunge to make it 20-6.

South again lost four yards on its opening play of the half from the 39-yard line.

But again, Bryant hit Bryant for 46 yards to set up first down at the North 19.

A 2-yard run and two incomplete passes set up fourth and 8, but Joseph Bryant improvised on another pass play. The quarterback rolled left looking for an open receiver, but found lots of running room. He tucked and ran and made it to the end zone to cut his team’s deficit to 20-12 with 4:37 left.

South covered an on-side kick and took over on North’s 49, but couldn’t convert a first down. A sack by Matt Bayles left North with fourth and 15, and Seth Bloomberg intercepted the fourth-down pass.
North ran five plays to run out the clock and seal the win.

North compiled 264 total yards while South totaled 182.

North’s Michael James was the game’s second-leading rusher. He finished with 14 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Both teams will play Conway next week. North will travel and play Conway White, while South will host Conway Blue.

In other freshmen games, the Jacksonville schools struggled through their first games of the season. North Pulaski lost 35-8 to Lonoke while Jacksonville fell 35-0 to Lake Hamilton.

SPORTS >>Momentum killers doom Lions in loss

IN SHORT: Early penalties and a flawless Vilonia offense gave Searcy fits during the Lions’ season opener at Eagle Field in Vilonia Friday night.

Leader sports writer

Searcy’s defense had no answer for Vilonia’s perfectly executed double wing-T offense. The Eagles ran the tricky set to perfection through the duration of Friday night’s season opener at Eagle Field in Vilonia to take a convincing 33-16 win over the Lions.

Vilonia scored its first touchdown on the opening play of the second quarter, and controlled the game’s tempo from then on, keeping the Lions down by at least two scores for the majority of the contest.

The lead at halftime was 14-0 for the Eagles, who added another score on the opening kickoff to start the second half. Derrick Gwatney took Jason Felton’s kick at the 1-yard line, and broke to the right side from the left hash to take it all the way in for the score.

Gwatney added another touchdown with 1:42 remaining in the third to put the Eagles ahead 27-0.

“We had some momentum there in the first quarter, but the penalties killed us,” Searcy head coach Bart McFarland said. “I guess we got four or five penalties after big plays that really slowed us down, but that’s no excuse.

“We knew they were going to come out in the double wing; we knew they weren’t going to throw the football. We practiced it all week. We couldn’t stop them and we couldn’t run the football effectively. That’s the bottom line, we got beat. But, it’s a long season, we have to keep our heads up, that’s just the first game. We will go back and coach them up, and get ready for the next one.”

Vilonia head coach Jim Stanley was elated by his young team’s dominating performance after the game.
“I was worried,” Stanley said. “We had lots of penalties, we’ll have to work on that. I’m always scared to death the first game on special teams. My philosophy is that the game is won or lost on special teams.

“We were lucky that we scored, because they scored. I’m not happy with that, but I’m just glad we didn’t lose because of special teams. I was a nervous wreck. Now we can study and evaluate some problems we’ve got.”

Searcy’s first spark at all in the game finally arrived with 1:26 left in the third after Gwatney’s run put Vilonia up by 27.
Demarco Brown returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for the first Lions’ score of the game. A pass from quarterback Justin Rowden to Felton converted the two-point attempt to close the gap to 27-8.

Zac Hall put his third touchdown on the board at the 11:16 mark of the fourth quarter. Hall’s 35-yard TD run increased the Eagles’ lead to 33-8.

Hall scored both Vilonia touchdowns in the first half with runs of 5-yards and 4-yards respectively for a two-touchdown halftime advantage.

Searcy’s one complete offensive drive came too little, too late. The Lions got great field position at the hands of two-straight intentional grounding penalties on Eagles QB Kevin Puckett. The ball was moved back further on a delay of game penalty when Vilonia lined up to punt. Kicker James Lloyd lined up at the goal line, and punted to the Vilonia 31-yard line.

The Lions took advantage of the good spot, going the distance on six plays, capped off with a 6-yard toss from Rowden to Jonathan Wyatt on fourth-and-goal. Rowden ran in the two-point attempt under pressure, setting the final margin of 33-16.
The early storyline was penalties for both teams. After the opening Searcy possession halted at its own 43, Vilonia took over and quickly moved into the Lions’ red zone. Three penalties moved the Eagles back into their own territory, forcing a punt.
Searcy’s best looking drive in the opening moments was cancelled out with three straight holding penalties.

In total, Searcy was penalized nine times for 86 yards in the first half, while Vilonia drew six flags for 31 yards. McFarland was not a big proponent of some of his teams’ penalties, including a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after disputing the third Searcy holding call in four plays.

“Whether they happened or not, they called them, and that’s enough for me to say about that,” McFarland said. “We committed them, so it’s no excuse.”

Vilonia finished with 403 yards of total offense. All but 16 of those yards came on the ground. Searcy finished with 145 yards of total offense. Justin Rowden was 11 of 25 for 87 yards passing.

For Vilonia, Zac Hall carried 13 times for 125 yards and three touchdowns. Derrick Gwatney had 17 rushes for 90 yards and two touchdowns.

Searcy will travel to Batesville next week to face the even stronger ground assault of the Pioneers. Vilonia will face Hot Springs Lakeside in Hot Springs.

SPORTS >> North Pulaski turns ball and game over to visiting Dumas

IN SHORT: The Falcons’ hope for a season-opening win at home was dashed by the Bobcats Friday night in Jacksonville.

Special to the Leader

An untimely fumble and a blocked punt, both deep in their own territory, led to two quick scoring strikes as the North Pulaski Falcons fell in their home opener to the Dumas Bobcats, 28-6. In a clash between two teams needing a win to get the season off to a good start, this game was highlighted with turnovers and penalties.

The Falcons started with an impressive 11-play drive that went 48 yards, but came up empty on a missed field goal. Three plays into their first drive, Bobcats quarterback Kendall Council took a keeper 54 yards down the left side, but fumbled at the 1-yard line. Facing 1st and 10 from their own 1, the Falcons got a couple of breaks from the Bobcats as two offside penalties gave the Falcons breathing room on their own 11. But three plays later, a costly fumble by running back Melvin Tenner gave the Bobcats a short field at the Falcons’ 15-yard line. On third and 10, Council made amends for his earlier fumble by scrambling 15 yards down the right side for the score.

On the ensuing drive, facing fourth and 5 from their own 44-yard line, Bracy McCoy blocked a Falcon punt that was recovered by Aaron Holt at the 26-yard line. Once again, with a short field, the Bobcats scored quickly as Jones ran it in from 5 yards out two plays later.

The Falcons then lost their third fumble of the game on the next play from scrimmage, but got it back with an interception at their own 10 yard line.

The Falcons moved the ball down to the Bobcats’ 38, and then tried to get something going by attempting a fake punt on 4th down, but it was unsuccessful. After an off-sides penalty moved the Bobcats back to their own 33 on the next play, Council hit Damian Anderson for a 34-yard pass down to the Falcons’ 33 yard line. On the next play, the Bobcats got down to the 10 yard line thanks to a late hit penalty against the Falcons. On the third play of this drive, Jones scored his second touchdown from 10 yards out.

With under a minute left in the first half, the Falcons showed heart when their defense forced a Bobcat punt and returned it to the Dumas 35. On first down, Brandon Hudson plowed his way 20 yards down to the Bobcat 15. Two plays later, Baker scored with 12 seconds left in the half to make it 21-6.

The third quarter would pick up where the first half left off, as once again both teams exchanged fumbles on the first two drives. Penalties by both teams ended drives going into the fourth quarter, where Dumas put the game away with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Council to Anderson with 3:38 left in the game.

Council finished the game leading all rushers with 102 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. He also was 11 of 16 for 154 yards passing and a score.

Baker led the Falcons with 69 yards on 13 carries and a score. The Falcons were held to 12 yards passing, and lost four fumbles.

SPORTS >>Cabot triumphant over Red Devils

IN SHORT: The Panthers broke a two-game losing streak to rival Jacksonville Friday night at Jan Crow Stadium. The Panthers won the game 35-19 with over 400 yards of offense, including 355 in the first half.

Cabot’s seniors won’t graduate without a win over Jacksonville. They made sure of that Friday night with a 35-19 victory at Jan Crow Stadium that featured some of the best and worst from both teams.

Cabot’s best came on its first and last drives, and several places in between.

The Panthers took the opening kickoff 80 yards in four plays. And get this, they were all passes.

First was three straight passes from senior quarterback Cory Wade to senior halfback Colin Fuller. They went for 8, 14, and 35 yards respectively. The last one was a 23-yard strike to senior halfback Brandon Davis for the score with 10:28 left in the first quarter.

Jacksonville’s worst came on its opening drive. It started with quarterback Daniel Hubbard being sacked by sophomores Blake Carter and Cody Myers. It ended on the next play when Hubbard was picked off by Raul Gault after again being pressured by Cabot’s defense.

Cabot went 35 yards in five plays, but only one pass for the score to take a 14-0 lead with 7:37 left in the fist period of play.
“We wanted to jump out on them and get them down so I thought I’d try something different,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said of the uncharacteristic passing on the first drive. “I thought it’d give us a lift and put some pressure on them, and it seemed to work for us.”

Jacksonville was much better on its second drive. Starting at their own 23-yard line, the Red Devils completed three passes for 27 yards, Akins carried once for five and Cabot was called off sides once to put the ball on the Panther 39.

After an illegal procedure penalty, Jacksonville hit a big play, and ran into some luck.

Hubbard hit Marcus King along the left sideline; he got to the 3-yard line before fumbling. The ball rolled into the end zone, but a heads-up play by a hustling Blake Mattison, who chased the play down the field and covered the ball in the end zone, gave the Red Devils a touchdown with 5:19 on the clock.

The next several drives were a series of turnovers and stalls. Cabot fumbled on the Jacksonville 30, and Jacksonville punted on fourth and 25 after picking up one first down. Cabot went 32 yards in three plays, but fumbled again to give Jacksonville the ball on its own 37.

Jacksonville gave it back when Cabot’s Josh Clem intercepted a pass that was tipped up into the air by junior Red Devil Tirrell L’Hrisse.

That gave Cabot the ball at its own 35 with 10:53 left in the half. The Panthers went 34 yards in 11 plays, and stalled when they failed to convert on fourth and three.

Jacksonville then drove to the Cabot 7-yard line where it faced fourth and two. A quarterback sneak yielded only one yard and Cabot took possession at its 6-yard line.

Cabot turned around and drove 88 yards to the Jacks-onville 4, but also failed to convert fourth down. Jacksonville started at the 4, and lost one yard on each of its three plays before punting out of the end zone.

Hubbard’s punt from the back of the end zone was fielded by Fuller at the 35 and Fuller returned it 27 yards to the Jacksonville 8. Sophomore fullback Vince Aguilar did the rest on the next snap, rumbling up the gut for the score with 17 seconds remaining in the half.

Jacksonville got a lift to open the second half. Senior Justin Akins took the kickoff 89 yards before stepping on the out-of-bounds line at the Cabot 3. The play didn’t stand though. Jacksonville was called for a personal foul, which pulled the ball out to the Cabot 45. It didn’t matter much. Hubbard hit L’Hrisse for 11 yards, then found King again for the final 34 and the score. King made a tremendous catch. Hubbard scrambled left and threw into traffic and right to a Cabot defender. King came back for the ball, leaped, caught the ball over the Panther defender’s shoulder, and lifted it up over his head before turning upfield for the last 20 yards of the play. The two-point conversion failed and Cabot led 21-12 with 11:25 left in the third.

Cabot wasted no time answering. Gault took the ensuing kickoff at the 15, and ran it back 65 yards to the Jacksonville 20.
The Panthers needed just four plays to score again, a 5-yard run by Fuller, to take a 28-12 lead less than two minutes after Jacks-onville’s score.

The rest of the half was one missed opportunity after another for Jacksonville.

The Red Devils got inside Cabot’s 5-yard line on each of their next two drives, and came away empty both times.
On second and goal from the 4, Mattison caught a 2-yard pass, but was called for offensive pass interference, which moved the ball back to the 19 and cost a down.

Cabot’s Brian Frey then tipped the third-down pass, and Jacksonville’s Lee Robinson picked up four yards on a reception on fourth and 19 after Hubbard was again flushed and forced to scramble.

Cabot gave it right back. Aguilar carried once for 10 yards to move the ball to the 25. Jacksonville’s Norvel Gabriel then broke up a pitch-out, and junior Cameron Hood covered the loose ball on the Cabot 12.

Again, Jacksonville failed to take advantage of the opportunity. Two plays picked up eight yards, but a bad snap that rolled out from under center was covered by Hubbard for a 4-yard loss. The fourth-down pass was incomplete and Cabot took possession at its own 8.

The Panthers got it out of the shadow of their end zone, but punted from the 22.

Jacksonville got one first down, but gave it back at the Cabot 30. Cabot got to midfield and tried a fake punt, but Aguilar mishandled the short snap.

The Red Devils took over at the Cabot 42, but their hopes were dashed when Frey intercepted a Hubbard pass and returned it 30 yards to set up Cabot’s final scoring drive.

The Panthers, back to their old form, went 45 yards in nine plays, taking 5:17 off the clock by feeding the ball to the fullback over and over.

Aguilar capped the drive by rumbling four yards with 2:17 remaining in the game.

While the Panthers’ opening drive was impressive, the final drive was what Cabot football is all about.

“There’s nothing like what we did on that last drive,” Malham said.

Jacksonville scored with 39 seconds remaining when Hubb-ard hit Mattison cutting across the middle. Mattison caught the ball about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, and ran it for the remainder of the 46-yard play.

Cabot finished with 461 total yards while Jacksonville piled up 372. Aguilar carried 23 times for 123 yards and three touchdowns. Fuller carried 10 times for 82 yards and a score, and had five receptions for 66 yards.

Brandon Davis also had over 100 total yards.
He carried six times for 69 yards, and caught two passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. All of Davis’ stats came in the first half.

Hubbard completed 26 of 46 pass attempts for 344 yards. He had two receivers over the 100-yard mark. Marcus King led the way with eight catches for 158 yards and one score. Blake Mattison caught seven passes for 109 yards and scored twice.
The Panthers will be at home next week hosting Sylvan Hills, while Jacksonville travels to Lake Hamilton.

TOP STORY>>Honor delights Sherwood woman

IN SHORT: Joy Cameron gets a big thank you from George Bush for feeding Katrina victims.

Associated Press Writer

“It’s an honor,” said Joy Cameron of Sherwood after receiving a public-service award from President Bush at Little Rock National Airport on Wednesday.

She had organized thousands of meals for Hurricane Katrina refugees who came to the area. Cameron, 48, said meeting the president was an experience she will never forget.

Bush greeted Cameron outside Air Force One before appearing at a fundraiser for Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson. Bush talked with Cameron briefly and presented her with a lapel pin bearing the presidential seal and the words “The Presidential Call to Service Award.”
Cameron helped prepare and serve the meals in banquet space at Patrick Henry Hays Senior Center in North Little Rock.
The woman said her idea for the meal program came the Sunday before the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast.

She said she told her pastor that she would like to do something to help the people if the need arose.

Cameron said she never imagined she would end up organizing a meal program that fed refugees more than 9,000 meals in 31 days. “It was just a small idea that turned into a great big program,” Cameron said. More than 40 churches and other organizations volunteered time and personnel to help with the meal program.

Cameron said Bush thanked her for her work and then spoke about spending time in New Orleans on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of the storm striking the city. Cameron said she would be sharing the award with all the volunteers and still thinks often about the refugees she helped.

TOP STORY>>Probe looks into lessons of blaze at junior high

Leader staff writer

As district officials prepare to get 800 seventh- and eighth-graders into portable buildings on Tuesday, investigators are still on the scene at Cabot Junior High North trying to determine the exact cause of the Aug. 8 fire that destroyed the eight-year-old building.

Mark Smart, assistant fire chief at Cabot Fire Department, said so far the fire department’s ruling of a faulty ballast in a fluorescent light inside a closet still stands.

Smart said the insurance company has completed its preliminary investigation. Now, investigators with the various equipment manufacturers are at the burned-out school.

“They were there three days last week and three days this week,” he said. “They’re sifting through things piece by piece. They have found different things, like melted components, that all point back to the light.”

The loss of the building alone has been estimated at $9 million. The value of the lost contents has not yet been estimated. The school was built to state code in 1998 and the sprinklers and fire walls extending through the roof that might have helped save it were not part of the design.

Fire Chief Phil Robinson said soon after the fire that since the blaze started in the attic, sprinklers in the ceiling would have been little help in slowing the progress of the fire. The building did have cinderblock fire barriers, Smart said.

But the barriers weren’t solid. They had openings for people to pass through and for electrical lines and plumbing. And resting on top of the barriers were the highly combustible plywood roof decking and asphalt shingles. So the fire that started in the attic could draw through the attic from one section of the school to the next and burn through the roof.

“By (the new) code, firewalls still do not have to penetrate the roof if it is built with a non-combustible roofing material and that’s metal,” Smart explained. “Metal will melt but it is almost impossible for metal to combust under a normal building fire.”

If the school, with its wooden trusses and asphalt shingle roof, had been built after 2002 when the building code was updated, it would have been equipped with sprinklers in the ceiling and in the attic. “It would have greatly hindered the spread of fire,” Smart said. “We love sprinkler systems.”

According to Smart, the use of metal-truss roofing construction is on the upswing. This type of construction is usually not required to have a sprinkler system in the attic.

There is a formula used to determine if a second sprinkler system is necessary. Smart also added that he is thankful no one was killed or injured in the fire.

He credits the school administration for this positive outcome.

TOP STORY>>Roundup of school contests in area

IN SHORT: Many races are uncontested as school districts prepare for Sept. 19 board elections.

Leader staff writers

Voters across the state will head to the polls Tuesday Sept. 19 to vote in local school board elections.

Beebe School Board has one seat open, Lonoke County school boards have six seats open, and Pulaski County Special School Board has one seat open in Zones 4 and 5.

Lonoke County
Six school board positions are open in Lonoke County.

Two positions are open on the Cabot School Board, one held by the board’s president and a board member.

Joyce Bender, Arthur Evans and Ken Kincade oppose current board president David M. Hipp, Position 2. Fred Campbell is running unopposed for the Position 6 seat.

Incumbent president David Hipp told the Leader that with all that is going on right now with Cabot schools, his experience the last five years will help him and the board.

“We need experience on the board,” Hipp said. “Our main concern right now is providing enough schools for our students and it will be easier to get that done with people that have previous experience.”

One candidate filed in the Carlisle School District, C.K. Parker, Jr., for Position 2, District 3. England School District also had only one candidate file. Judy Dillow is running unopposed for the Zone 4 seat. Because candidates are running unopposed in both Carlisle and England, voting will be done by absentee ballot or early voting.

Lonoke district
Lonoke School District has two board member positions open. Six people are running for the Zone 3, Position 6 seat, formerly held by Neil Bennett Jr.: Cindy Burns, Shannon Holman, Rudy Kurz, Roger D. Lynch, Darrell C. Park and Janice Renee Perkins.

Shannon Holman told The Leader that she has a vested interest in helping Lonoke schools to become the best in the county.
“I’ve two children in Lonoke schools,” Holman said. “I’d like to see the schools continue to improve.”

Holman added that she believes “advocating for our children is imperative to our future.”

Roger Lynch, also running for the Position 6 seat, told The Leader that with his 30 years of management experience for Remington Arms, he “was a champion for a cause when he needed to be.”

Lynch added that he wanted to make sure the school district was financially sound in order to continue with planned expansion and facility improvements.

For the Zone 2, Position 7 seat, Michael Linton is running unopposed. Lonoke voters can cast a ballot at the Lonoke Depot.
Cabot School District voters can cast their ballots at Victory Baptist Church, First Baptist Church Family Life Center, Butler Community Building, Austin Station Baptist Church, Ward Chamber of Commerce, 16th Community Building, Mt. Zion Methodist Church, and Oak Grove Community Building.

Pulaski County
Charlie Wood opposes Zone 4 incumbent Ronnie Calva, who took over the remainder of Don Baker’s term last year.
Calva told The Leader that being from Sherwood, he “wants the schools to do better.”

“I have a vested interest in the schools right now,” Calva said. “I’m worried about the kids, the buildings and their education,” Calva continued. “I want to do the best we can for our kids.”

Wood, also from Sherwood, told The Leader that he was not satisfied with the way the Pulaski County Special School District was being run and that prompted him to run for school board.

“I believe the control of the local school system has been taken out of our hands,” Wood said. “I’ve talked before the board and I could look in their eyes and see they weren’t listening,” Wood told The Leader.

“They gave me my turn because they knew they had to, but it went in one ear and out the other,” Wood added. Wood is for a process where the people in Sherwood have a significant say in the way Sylvan Hills’ schools are run.

“Change the process and do whatever we can to take the control out from the bureaucrats and put it back into the parents and local community,” Wood said.

Danny Gililland is running unopposed for Carol Burgetts’ Zone 5 seat. Gililland, who has 18 years business experience with the Popeye’s franchise, told The Leader that he is looking forward to serving the community and bettering the schools in Zone 5.

“All the school buildings are old,” Gililland said. “There are needs to address there and I’m hoping to be able to look into that and see if anything could be done.”

Schools in Zone 4 include Clinton Elementary, Oakbrooke Elementary, Sherwood Elemen-tary and Sylvan Hills elementary, middle and high schools.

Schools in Zone 5 include Arnold Drive Elementary, Bayou Meto Elementary, Cato Elemen-tary, Dupree Elementary, North Pulaski High, Northwood Middle, and Tolleson Elementary.

Jacksonville voters can cast their ballots at North Pulaski High School or First Baptist of Gravel Ridge.

Sherwood residents can cast their vote at the Sherwood Youth Center, Clinton Elem. School, Brockington Road Church of the Nazarene, Sylvan Hills Comm. Church, First Baptist Church of Sherwood, Indianhead Lake Baptist Church, and Sylvan Hills UMC.

In Beebe, Robert Jenkins is running unopposed for the vacant at-large seat held by Butch Rice, who decided not to run for re-election. Although Jenkins is running unopposed, voters can still cast a ballot at the Beebe Church of Christ at 1906 W. Center St.

TOP STORY >>Housing board regrouping

IN SHORT: It will be a while before commissioners can oversee the troubled authority.

Leader staff writer

It may be a while before the Jacksonville Housing Authority board can function normally because of an ongoing review by federal officials and the departure of most board members and the 45-day waiting period required before a new board can be recognized.

At a special meeting Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council approved four nominees to serve on JHA Board of Commissioners. With little discussion, the aldermen present unanimously approved all four nominees. Gary Fletcher made a quick observation about the nominees before the vote.

“Looks like a good bunch of good people,” Fletcher said.

Mike Wilkinson, Marilyn Canon, Jon Johnson and Jim Durham were selected and have been approved.

Marshall Smith was the only city alderman not in attendance at the meeting, which took place at Jacksonville City Hall.

Fred West, the sole remaining JHA board member, insists that as prescribed by rules set up to govern the local board, several weeks must elapse before the board is recognized.

“They’ve got to wait 45 days after a resignation,” West told The Leader Thursday.

Three of the four resignations occurred in mid-August following the sudden departure of Housing Authority director Virginia Simmons. Only the fourth board vacancy opened up more than 45 days ago.

The Housing Authority, which this year received $1.6 million from HUD, is under investigation, according to Patricia Campbell, HUD public affairs officer in Fort Worth.

Bessie Jackson, field office director for HUD in Little Rock, previously told The Leader that a review was underway into JHA’s operations and management.

Details of the review have yet to be made public. Mayor Tommy Swaim said he’s been in contact with the HUD office in Little Rock on Thursday. “We may have some type of report from them within a week,” he said.

Before she left, Simmons received $10,000, which included her accumulative annual leave, according to a document at the JHA’s office. The JHA’s office oversees Max Howell Place, the 100-unit public housing complex, and all of the local Section 8 voucher recipients.

Vouchers are given to qualified applicants based upon family incomes, but they must find their own residences before receiving a reduction in monthly rents.

At Max Howell Place, rent is based on 30 percent of a family’s adjusted income. Allowable deductions are available for the elderly, handicapped or disabled, and for childcare and medical expenses.

After looking to state statutes for guidelines on filling board vacancies, Swaim began a search to find qualified nominees willing to serve.

Swaim also explained that the JHA board could not officially meet since one member does not constitute a quorum.
Neither West, nor any of the newly approved members to the JHA board, attended the abbreviated special council meeting. He said later he didn’t know about the special meeting.

Durham, who owns commercial real estate and businesses in Jacksonville and Cabot, said he knew he might be nominated.
“The mayor contacted me about it, I believe, right after receiving the resignations,” Durham said. “I’ll go into it without any preconceived notion.”

Durham is no stranger to serving his community. Not only has he served on the Jacksonville Civil Service Commission for about 20 years, he has also served as a city alderman representing Ward 3 of Jacksonville.

Marilyn Canon, a retired paralegal for Centerpoint Energy, formerly Arkla Gas Company, said, “When the mayor asked for me to consent to being nominated, I was excited.”

Canon, who has lived in Jacksonville for 34 years, is pleased that, since her retirement, she will have enough time to give back to the community. “I’ve got a lot of learning to do,” she added.

According to Swaim, Wilkinson is an “accountant by trade” and Jon Johnson practices law in Jacksonville.

Since July, four key slots at the JHA have become vacant following the resignation of Virginia Simmons, Housing Authority director for 14 years. Three board members — Robert Whatley, Ferrell Gray and Robert Colford — then stepped down in mid-August. A fourth member of the JHA board, Johnny Moory, resigned due to a family illness.

He did this before the others and before the HUD review got underway.

TOP STORY >>Lower gas prices please drivers on holiday weekend

IN SHORT: Per gallon average more than 20 cents less than it was a month ago.

Leader staff writer

Unlike Labor Days past where gas prices have jumped to hit the last of the summer travelers, gasoline this holiday is down.
“We’re at $2.63 right now,” said one Jacksonville retailer Friday afternoon, “but it’s supposed to drop drastically when the next load comes in tonight or tomorrow.”

Gasoline prices have dropped more than 20 cents a gallon in the local area over the past month.

Statewide, the average price for a gallon of regular going into the Labor Day weekend was $2.70, but many local stations were at $2.63. A month ago the state average was $2.91, and more than one local station was as high as $2.99.

Nationally, the price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was at $2.79 Friday morning, compared to $3 a month ago, and in New York gas was over the $3.25 mark at most stations a month ago.

Locally, Jacksonville stations come in at $2.63 per gallon, and Cabot is averaging $2.67 per gallon. Sherwood is also at $2.67 per gallon, while Beebe’s average price per gallon is $2.70.

One reason for the steady and welcomed decline has been a quiet hurricane season. Even Hurricane Ernesto turned out to be more of a lamb than a lion and workers have quickly returned to the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, sending the cost for crude oil down to under the $70 mark Thursday for the first time in about three months.

According to the American Automobile Association, the demand for gasoline has eased and refineries are switching over to less-expensive winter grade gasoline.

For Hog fans and others traveling in northwest Arkansas, the news is not as good as elsewhere in the state as that region is sporting the highest state average at $2.81 per gallon of unleaded gasoline, according to the AAA. Texarkana and Ft. Smith areas are the cheapest, sporting an average of $2.66. Little Rock, North Little Rock and the Pine Bluff region are averaging about $2.71.

Six states are still averaging over $3 per gallon. They are Connecticut at $3.20, Idaho at $3.01, Montana at $3.09, Nevada at $3.03, New York at $3.03 and Washington at $3.02.

In nearby states, Louisiana is averaging $2.75 per gallon, Missouri’s average is $2.60, Oklahoma is at $2.63 and Texas is at $2.66.

For the local information, 10 stations were surveyed in Jacksonville, nine in Cabot, eight in Sherwood and four in Beebe.

TOP STORY >>North Belt could get approval next spring

IN SHORT: The Highway Department could pick a new route for a freeway through Sherwood by next year, but funding is still questionable.

Leader staff writer

If all goes according to plan—and that’s a big “if” when talking about Sherwood’s missing link of the North Belt Freeway—public hearings on a new proposed route will be held this fall, the route selected by Jan. 1 and the Federal Highway Administration will issue its record of decision in the spring.

That’s what Frank Vozel, chief engineer for the state Highway Department, told the Metroplan Board of Directors Wednesday.

In 2003, angry homeowners, the city of Sherwood and Metroplan forced the Highway Department to abandon its preferred route, which ran parallel to the east-west section of Hwy. 107 between Kellogg and Brockington roads, and would have run through backyards and homes in the Hidden Creek, Amber Oaks and Winridge subdivisions as well as the toney new Miller’s Crossing subdivision, where developers have since built more than 50 homes.

At its July 2005 meeting, Sherwood City Council unanmously agreed it could approve construction of the North Belt link anywhere north of the route the department selected last time around.

While technically all previous proposed routes are being considered in the supplemental assessment, sources close to the project privately say the previous choice is no longer viable.

The draft supplemental assessment is nearing completion, according to Highway Department spokesman Glenn Bolick.
Then it will be filed and the public given 30-days notice for comment and the public hearing will be held, Bolick said Thursday.

After the FHA’s record of decision, engineering will begin. Once funding is designated, the project will be let for bids, he said.

That approximately three-to-five-mile stretch of highway (depending on the route selected) had been estimated to cost as much as $36 million and the entire unbuilt 13-mile stretch between Hwy. 67-167 to I-430 was estimated at $218 million in 2003.

The Highway Department estimates construction inflation at about six percent per year, so that could now be $250 million or more.

Currently, no money is allocated for completion of the North Belt, Bolick said.

Some highway department commissioners, including Carl Rosenbaum, central Arkansas’ representative, favor making the North Belt a toll road.

The North Belt and Bella Vista bypass are the two major new projects most recently considered by the Highway Department, Bolick said, and Bella Vista will be a toll road — the first in the state.

The first half of the North Belt, connecting I-40 and state Highway 67-167, opened in January 2003.

Except for the section through Sherwood, the route is set for the rest of the North Belt, which would connect Hwy. 67-167 to I-430 near Crystal Hill.

To continue the bypass, I-430 heads south to I-30. The concept of a North Belt Loop to accommodate through traffic and alleviate local traffic, particularly on I-40, was first discussed more than 50 years ago.

The first environmental impact statement, completed in 1994, selected a route unacceptable to Sherwood and in 1997, that EIS expired without action.

In 2001, the state Highway and Transportation Department began a new environmental assessment — less comprehensive and rigorous than an environmental impact statement.

In 2003, the department again selected essentially the same route found unacceptable in 1997. In 2004, the current environmental assessment was begun again.

OBITUARIES >> 09-02-06

Jeffery McPhearson
Jeffery McPhearson, 47, died Aug. 25.

He leaves behind his mother, Mary Morris; nine brothers and four sisters.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke. Burial will be in Lonoke Cemetery.

Wendell Dedmon
Wendell Kelly Dedmon, 66, of Cabot, passed away Wednesday, Aug. 30, after a 16-year battle with chronic lymphoid leukemia.

He was born Aug. 14, 1940 in Cabot, to the late James Kelly and Marjorie Freeman Dedmon.

He retired from the U. S. Navy as senior chief petty officer in the field of electronics with a specialty in submarine sonar.

He continued in the area of research and design of sonar electronics serving as vice president of signal processing and measurement division at Planning Systems, Inc., of Reston, Va.

He received numerous achievement awards and commendations during his naval career.

He was a member of the American Legion and the United States Submarine Veterans—Razorback Base.

He was preceded in death by three brothers, Jimmy Dedmon, Andy Dedmon and David Dedmon.

Survivors include his wife, Bessie Dedmon; two daughters, Nona Davis and husband Jered of Cabot and Amy Martin and husband Matt of Clarksville, Tenn.; one stepson, Charles Smith and wife Dale of Cabot; three sisters, Anna Lee White and Rhoda Belle Burgess of Cabot, and Martha Osgood of Iowa; two grandchildren, three step-grandchildren; and six step-great grandchildren.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Bayou Meto Baptist Church in Jacksonville with burial to follow in Arkansas State Veteran’s Cemetery in North Little Rock. Funeral arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

The family would like to express sincere appreciation to Dr. Anne Marie Maddox and all others at the Cancer Research Center. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate memorials be made to the Cancer Re-search Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 West Markham, Little Rock, Ark., 72205.

Harold Odom
Harold Wayne Odom, 59, of Jacksonville, passed away peacefully Thursday, Aug. 31. 

He was born Oct. 9, 1946, in Blytheville to Dorothy Graham Odom and the late Chester Eugene Odom.  

He was also preceded in death by three sisters, Sheila M. Odom, Susan L. Daniels and M. Paulette Odom.  

He was a retired senior master sergeant from the Air Force. He was employed by Raytheon as an aero-ground mechanic and aero-space engineer. He was of the Catholic faith.

Survivors include his wife, Mary P. Odom of Jacksonville; his mother, Dorothy Odom of Tenn.; children, Kevin and his wife Su-san Odom of Santa Barbara, Calif., Debra and her husband Michael Catton of Bryant, Wayne and his wife Erin Odom of Jonesboro and Diane Odom of Jacksonville; brother, Robert Eugene and his wife Yoland Odom of Georgetown, Texas; sisters, Nancy and her husband Joe Pigue of St. Louis, Mo., Mary Jane and her husband Edward Arthur of Picayune, Miss., and Teresa Schuman of Memphis, Tenn.; grandchildren, Lexi Odom, Con-ner Odom, Grace Odom, all of California, Abigail Catton, Logan Catton and Reid Catton, all of Bryant, Mac Odom of Jonesboro and numerous other friends and family that dearly loved him.
Funeral services will be held at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at Moore’s Fu-neral Home Chapel in Jacksonville.

Burial will follow in Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock. Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the funeral home.  

EDITORIALS>>Where was the president?

There was a time — up to about a year ago, in fact — when a presidential visit was a big event in rural vineyards like Arkansas. When President Reagan swooped into Little Rock for an eleventh-hour campaign visit to plug Arkansas Republican candidates for federal office, every moment of his sojourn was public from his deplaning to the emplaning.

Local television cameramen were hustled to the front to capture every word, every gesture of the great communicator. Even Bill Clinton appearances, which have become tiresomely repetitive, are so open that no cameraperson or reporter from the most hostile medium is ever kept far away.

But the 43rd president of the United States came to the capital this week, two months before the election, to give a lift to the Republican candidate for governor and the public hardly got a glimpse of him.

President Bush’s words at Little Rock were private and confidential except for one carefully arranged “spontaneous” encounter with selected media on the parking lot of a restaurant near the state Capitol, where he uttered a few words about speeches on Iraq that he intends to give in the next few weeks and had his picture taken with a sack of fried pies and with Asa Hutchinson a few paces away.

The president’s lone appearance was on the grounds of a gated mansion in west Little Rock, the home of a prominent Republican supporter of Mr. Hutchinson. The media were not invited and the president’s words there were supposed to fall only upon the friendly Republican ears that were assembled.

There were enough of them to raise a reported $650,000 for the coffers of the Arkansas Republican Party and Mr. Hutchinson’s personal campaign chest.

We know that raising money for the party’s beleaguered candidate for governor was the purpose of the visit, and that it was from that standpoint very successful. The money will be a big lift to Hutchinson and to scores of Republican candidates for state and local offices throughout Arkansas.

It is the political dynamic that troubles us. No political organization in history has been better at controlling media coverage of a man for maximum effect than has the George W. Bush organization.

Karl Rove, the mastermind of the Bush political career, was on hand for the visit. But now the effort is bent toward reducing, not exploiting, coverage of the president. This nation is not accustomed to hiding the presence of the president of the United States.

Arkansas is not an aberration. Presidential visits to help Republican candidates often are almost secret. The president appears at a private function, people write big checks and the president is swept away, distant cameras perhaps catching a presidential wave.

Sometimes, even the benefiting Republican candidate stays away so that he is not photographed with the president.
It happens most frequently in states where polls show that the president is not popular. (Only in Utah is his approval rating at 50 percent or better.) In Arkansas, polls show him at around 35 percent, about the same as Hutchinson’s rating, or a little worse, depending on the poll.

The theory is that while Hutchinson needs the money that the president can raise and the energy among the party faithful that a presidential visit can engender, prime-time association with an unpopular president can hurt a candidate among independent voters.

That has always been a theory, but we have not seen it actually practiced before, except for Al Gore’s ill-conceived strategy in 2000 to play down his association with President Clinton. A little more association might have won him the presidency.
The day after the president’s visit, Hutchinson was in northwest Arkansas, where both his and the president’s standings are much better. Describing Bush’s visit on Wednesday, Hutchinson made this surprising statement:
“The best thing about it was that the press was excluded and he could talk from his heart.”

Does the president not talk from the heart when the media — and the public — are listening? As it happened, someone among the donors at the Little Rock gathering made a home movie of the president’s talk and it wound up on several blogs. What the president had to say was almost verbatim what he says everywhere.

The conventional wisdom about these matters is wrong. Bush’s popularity among voters is low, but he is the president of the United States. It will do Hutchinson and Mike Huckabee, who also was among the hidden guests, no harm to be seen in the presence of the president and the titular head of his party, whatever the poll numbers.

Voters are discerning and they discount for a strong degree of party loyalty. People will not vote for Mike Beebe simply because Bush appeared with his opponent.

Bush is not Hutchinson’s problem.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

EDITORIAL>>Huckabee monuments

Editorial writer for the Leader

You have an invitation to attend the grand opening and dedication of the Janet Huckabee Nature Center on the Arkansas River at Fort Smith on Thursday. We understand that it is quite an impressive place.

Not long ago, the state Game and Fish Commission sponsored a similar grand opening at Pine Bluff for the Gov. Mike Huckabee Nature Center on the same river. You cannot have two nature museums named after the same person without causing some confusion, so the name of the governor’s wife will adorn the Fort Smith center.

Your sales taxes paid for both of them.

Some of those taxes also were used to pay for the Gov. Mike and Janet Huckabee Lake at Hope, a small artificial impoundment in the governor’s hometown that the Game and Fish Commission and locals decided to use to memorialize the governor and his first lady. Highway signs will direct you to the Huckabee monuments.

Huckabee unquestionably has been a supporter of expanded fish and wildlife programs, and he backed the sales tax increase that paid for lakes and nature centers. More to the point, he appointed every member of the state Game and Fish Commission, one of the three most cherished honorary positions in government. The commissioners decide what to name facilities that the taxpayers bought.

Before he leaves office or before his vast patronage gives way to appointees of Mike Beebe or Asa Hutchinson, there will be more buildings, highways or other government facilities named after Huckabee. His friends on the board of the state School for the Blind named a building there for him. Until now, it was considered poor form for governors, or presidents, or mayors to write their names across the horizons with the taxpayers’ money simply because they controlled the patronage for an extended period. Bill Clinton was in office 12 years and didn’t do it.

Dale Bumpers presided over a massive construction program at state institutions but he allowed none of the buildings, schools or parks to be named for him.

Yes, there was the Orval E. Faubus Administrative and Intensive Treatment Center at the State Hospital, dedicated in the final months of his long reign in 1966, but Faubus was not treated kindly for the arrogance.

He allowed it, he explained, because he was particularly proud of the modernization of the mental health facilities. We hope, by the way, that County Judge Buddy Villines resists the temptation to have the new $12 million bicycle bridge over the Arkansas River, now nicknamed The Big Dam Bridge, named for him.

Good manners and good taste change, we guess, but we liked it when statesmen exercised modesty and diffidence and let the judgment of history pass on their worthiness for memorials and monuments.

EDITORIAL>>Raid unmasks country club

Someone in the federal establishment has a perfect sense of the sublime. He or she caused the U. S. Immigration and Customs services to raid the Little Rock Country Club last week and arrest 11 immigrant employees, illegal aliens almost certainly, because they did not have good citizenship papers. Some had been working there or in the neighborhood for many years.

They are being held in the Pulaski County Jail, where scores of violent predators charged with felonies are being turned away because there is no room. The state Board of Pardons and Paroles this week declared an emergency so that hundreds of prison inmates can be released early to accommodate the huge backlog of criminals waiting to see the inside of county jail cells or the penitentiary. But the waiters and greenskeepers at the LRCC are safely in bondage.

Last year, the arrest of 199 illegal immigrant workers at the Petit Jean poultry plant at Arkadelphia, separating 30 children from their parents, gave people in that community a new perspective on the immigration issue. Gov. Huckabee denounced the raid. Unless our knowledge of the locker room and the men’s grill at the LRCC is badly amiss, there have been many maledictions there about illegal aliens soaking up their taxes.

In a way, the LRCC raid is a microcosm of this burning issue. It is the business class that has reaped the rewards of the vast influx of hard-working people who have poured across our borders looking for low-wage jobs. It may take a few more bucks now to get the tables bused and the fairways manicured at the CC.

EDITORIAL>>Brothers or enemies

The Arkansas Times blog raised an intriguing question this week. How long can Gov. Huckabee hold out before he endorses Democrat Mike Beebe over Asa Hutchinson in the governor’s race?

It is a facetious question. We know that. Mike Huckabee is a loyal Republican and he is going to support the Republican nominee, any Republican nominee, particularly now that he hopes to be the party’s nominee for president. When you seek the highest office, you have to stand shoulder to shoulder with every strange critter who bears the party’s mantle, Jim Holt this year, maybe Jim Johnson next year.

Besides, Huckabee has already embraced Hutch-inson, a fellow Republican with whom he has never shared much warmth, and, like a good Republican should, he betrayed no lack of ardor for him. But the question raises an unarguable point: On issues of substance, Huckabee stands much closer to Beebe than to Hutchinson, although all three men would fudge that point if you asked them.

Go down the list. Hutchinson and the Republican Party office characterize Beebe as a lifelong government activist and technician, a supporter of higher taxes (including those backed by Gov. Huckabee). While profiling himself as a small-government conservative, Huckabee has expanded government more than any governor in modern times, usually with Mike Beebe’s connivance.

Remember the governor’s signature program, the great expansion of Medicaid to children of low-income parents in 1997, ArKids First? It is Huckabee’s proudest achievement and the predicate of a blooming political career that builds on his leadership on health issues.

ArKids First was a bill sponsored by state Sen. Mike Beebe. Huckabee’s big highway program owed much to the legerdemain of Beebe in the legislative halls. So did his other big health initiative, the CHART plan for using tobacco settlement proceeds. Asa Hutchinson, you must presume, would not have fathered any of those programs nor, if he had he been in the legislature, would he have backed them. At least those seem not to be in sync with his approach to government.

That brings us to the big issue of the governor’s campaign, tiny schools. Though neither will say it, Huckabee and Hutchinson stand about as far apart as you can get. Huckabee, in a dramatic turnaround from his first campaigns for office, wants to consolidate all school districts with fewer than 1,500 students. He doesn’t fudge about it. He would close very small high schools because they cannot efficiently deliver the comprehensive educational programs children need in the 21st century.

Beebe would not go nearly so far, but he at least agrees with Huckabee that every school, including the smallest, should adhere to the state’s very modest standards. He would create no exceptions. Hutchinson’s ambitions rest on stirring people in the countryside to believe that government and people in cities are out to destroy their way of life by closing tiny rural high schools, a couple of dozen of which are in jeopardy the next few years. Hutchinson said last week that he would relax the standards to give the people who run tiny high schools leeway so they would not have to comply completely.

He is not happy with the state Board of Education that Huckabee appointed and that does his bidding. He would balkanize the board so that one of the nine would be there to look out for tiny rural schools. It was an empty gesture. If Hutchinson is elected, he can over time appoint all nine board members from Paron, Bodcaw, Alread and Birdeye. From Huckabee’s point of view, Hutchinson would like to undo almost everything he did in 10 years.

OBITUARIES >> 08-30-06


Edwin C. Moran, 86, of Austin passed away Aug. 27, in Cabot. He was born Aug. 16, 1920, to the late John C. and Lucille Hayley Moran.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Lynn Heffner Moran, the mother of his children, and his second wife, Mary Grant Moran; four children, Peggy Chamblee, Harold, Tommy and Bobby Moran; three brothers, Cecil, Eugene and John Raymond Moran; one sister, Betty Moran Murphree.

Survivors include one daughter, Louise Simmons and husband Greg of Austin; two sons, Gary and wife Beverly and Raymond Moran of Corsicana, Texas; seven grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; one sister, Wanda Moran DeBusk and husband David of Heber Springs; daughter-in-law, Gail Moran, widow of Harold Moran, of Corsicana, Texas; and a host of nieces, nephews, and friends.

He was of Southern Baptist faith and taught adult men Sunday school classes for 25 years. He also worked with the music program at the Oak Grove Baptist Church for a number of years and volunteered at the Woodlawn Senior Citizen Center.
He was a lifetime member of the Cabot Masonic Lodge. He was a retired dairy farmer and spent several years driving a school bus for the Cabot School District. He was an avid quail hunter and fisherman. The family wishes to thank his loving and devoted caregivers, Louise and Greg Simmons, Trey Simmons, Christie Abbott and Beth Moran for their constant care during his lengthy illness.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. today at Oak Grove First Baptist Church in Austin by Westbrook Funeral Home.
A Masonic burial will follow at Oak Grove Cemetery. Memorials may be made to Oak Grove First Baptist Church, 500 Oak Grove Road, Austin, 72007 or Cabot Animal Shelter, Cabot, 72023.


Little Miss Amy Jo Lynn Conklin, 20-months-old, of Ward passed away on Monday, Aug. 21.  She was born Dec. 10, 2004, to Dennis and Starla Dodson Conklin in Little Rock. She is survived by her parents; brothers, Anthony, Nathan and Dennis Jr.; sisters, Alexis and Demi-nica; grandparents, grandma and grandpa Conklin, grandma Pam, grandma and grandpa Dodson; great-grandparents, grandma Jean, grandma Linda, grandma Dodson and grandpa LaFallette; aunts, Amy, Amanda, Jodi, Melody, Cindy, Jeanna; uncles, Brandon, John William, Tiger, Dudey, Jeff, Danny, Josh and Troy; great aunts, Linda, Vickie, Martha, Judy, Lala, Shelby, and Ruby; great uncles, Rodney, Corey, Ronnie, Donnie, Jeff, Craig, Clyde Jr., and Johnny; and 14 cousins.  She is also survived by many second cousins and great-great aunts and uncles.

She was preceded in death by her great-grandpa Dodson, great-grandpa Mickey, great-grandpa and great-grandma Conklin, great-great-Grandma Marie, cousin Kyle Dodson, and great-great Grandma Wheeler. Services were held Aug. 24, at Cabot Funeral Home with the Rev. E. Thomas Jordan officiating.  Burial was in Cato Cemetery.


First Sergeant Ret. Jerry Donald Pendergrass, 66, of Jacksonville, passed away Aug. 21 after a long illness. He was born on May 2, 1940, in Biscoe, to the late William Abner and Athena Petty Pendergrass.

He was also preceded in death by a brother, William H. Pendergrass. He was a 24-year Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War.

He is survived by his loving wife, Robbie Canfield Pendergrass; special sister-in-law, Faye Pendergrass; sister, June Cox of Biscoe, and children Erwin, Brigitte and husband John, Christine and husband Billy Jack, Gary and wife Tanja and four step-children, Kevin Canfield of Jacksonville, Kelly Canfield of Maumelle, Susan Canfield Tharp of Jacksonville and Chris Canfield of Jacksonville; 15 grandchildren, one great-grandchild and seven nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were Aug. 24 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Dr. Carol Goddard officiating. Burial was in Chapel Hill Memorial Park Cemetery.

A special appreciation to the medical staff of Springhill Baptist for their kindness, loving care and support they provided to his family. He loved his family first and the family was his life.


Katherine Roe Martin, 90, of Beebe, formerly of North Little Rock, passed away Aug. 25. She was a Baptist and a seamstress for Tuff-Nut for many years.

Survivors include nieces, Kerri McCrary and husband Patrick, Delma and husband J.C., Kim Markle and husband Jeff; nephew, Bill Martin and wife Lota; granddaughter, Danna Jo Martin; grandson, Joey Martin and several great-grandchildren. A celebration of her life will be Sept. 2 at Bishop Griffin Funeral Home in Greenbrier with the Rev. Ricky Burroughs officiating.
A special thank you to Beebe Retirement Center for all their love and care for Aunt Kat.


James David Poe, 56, of Beebe passed away Thursday, Aug. 24. He was born September 16, 1949, in Sheridan, to Joseph K. and Ruby Cramer Poe. He was a long-time printer, having worked at Capital Printing for thirty years and currently was employed by The Peerless Group.

He is survived by his wife, Faye Sanders Poe; son Stephen Poe, currently serving in the U.S. Army in Tal-Afar, Iraq; daughter, Cortney Poe of Beebe; two brothers Joe Poe, Jr. of Little Rock and Bryan Poe of Fayetteville; three sisters, Ruby Briley and Deborah Poe Wenzel, both of Beebe and Sally Mays of Roland; his father-in-law, Ellis Sanders, many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews, great-great nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, his dog Coby and grand-dog Corky.

Funeral services were Tuesday, Aug. 29, at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Meadow-brook Memorial Gardens.


Sybil McPherson Abbott, 86, died on Aug. 23, from leukemia. She was a homemaker and a faithful member of Zion Hill Baptist Church for 71 years, where she had served as church clerk for 36 years and Sunday school teacher for many years.
She was preceded in death by her husband Lewis Abbott; a daughter Judy Kay Teague; her parents, Walter and Ada Mc-Pherson; two sisters and 4 brothers.

She is survived by her son Toney and wife Carolyn; daughter Vicki and husband Robert Humphrey, all of Cabot; her nine grandchildren, Toni Lyne Erwin, Kelly Welcher, Amber Long, David, Bryan and Karen Abbott, all of Cabot, Chad Bridges of Conway, Steven Humphrey of Cabot, and Tina South of North Little Rock; 12 great-grandchildren, two brothers, Odell and wife Cat McPherson of North Little Rock and Clifford and wife Jeannie McPherson of Cabot; two sisters-in-law, Elsie Phillips of Cabot and Opal Adams of Jacksonville, as well as several nieces, nephews, a special neighbor of 52 years, Dean McFadden of Cabot, and many friends.

Funeral service was Aug. 26, at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot. Burial was in Sumner Cemetery near Cabot. Arrangements by North Little Rock Funeral Home. Memorials may be made to Zion Hill Baptist Church, Sybil Abbott Memorial Fund, 11923 Zion Hill Road, Cabot, Ark. 72023.

SPORTS >>Kickoff among rivals

Leader sportswriter

For the first time in almost 10 years, Jacksonville enters this year’s rivalry matchup with Cabot on a winning streak. The Red Devils have won the last two meetings against the Panthers, and Cabot wants nothing right now except a win over the Red Devils.

That fact is abundantly clear to Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley, who was at the helm in last year’s regular-season finale. Cabot missed the playoffs last year and hasn’t faced anyone since the loss to Jacksonville. The Red Devils have just one game separating last year’s meeting and this one, but things are quite a bit different now, especially for Cabot. The Panthers have a lot of new faces in the interior, and will feature bigger and stronger running backs this Friday night at Jan Crow Stadium.
Those two facts are not lost on Whatley.

“Cabot is a much-improved football team,” Whatley said. “Their offensive line and backs are doing a very good job technique wise. They’re pushing people off the ball real well. They’re bigger and stronger, and I think they’re going to be able to throw the ball a little more than they’ve shown in the past couple years.”

Whatley’s Red Devils were impressive all through summer and throughout most of preseason practice, but the offense has struggled through an intra-squad scrimmage and a benefit scrimmage against North Little Rock. Jacksonville’s entire package wasn’t shown in either of those events, and new wrinkles were being added as recently as this week.
The offense sputtered a bit in practice Monday, but Whatley wasn’t too concerned that it can’t be corrected.

“We didn’t catch well Monday, but you never do when your putting in new stuff,” Whatley said Tuesday morning. “Hopefully we’ll be a little ahead of where we were yesterday and be a little sharper. We’re going to have to play technique football or we’re going to be in a lot of trouble Friday.”

“I know one thing. They (the Panthers) want this game pretty bad. I think they’ve got it circled on their calendar, and we’re going to have to have our ducks in a row.” The Panthers do feature a larger line, including 6-foot-5, 284-pound Scott King at left tackle. They also have a bruiser at fullback in sophomore Vince Aguilar, as well as a bruiser doing his lead blocking in senior halfback Colin Fuller. Fuller compiled 149 total yards in a 28-17 loss to Jacksonville last year. He did that from the fullback position, but will move to halfback this year to decrease his workload on offense, since he will also have to play safety on defense.

Aguilar’s transfer from Sheridan during the preseason provided Cabot with the bulk it needs at the fullback spot that it didn’t have until moving Fuller to the spot last year. Aguilar, 5-7, 200, ran extremely well against Lake Hamilton in the preseason scrimmage. The Panthers varsity squad was barely slowed down by the Wolves, who will play Jacksonville in week two.

That’s something that Cabot coach Mike Malham believes will have to continue in order for his team to be successful. “We moved the ball pretty well, and hopefully we can,” Malham said. “We have practically the all our running backs back, and we need to hold onto the ball and limit their chances.”

Cabot must limit Jacksonville’s chances for one key reason. “They’re just faster than we are,” Malham said. “They’ve got faster receivers, faster running backs and faster defensive backs. We moved the ball well, but we didn’t see the kind of speed we’re going to see this Friday. We have to limit their chances and play solid defense.”

SPORTS >>Catholic expecting Bear of a challenge

Leader sports editor

When Sylvan Hills visited War Memorial Stadium to open the 2005 football season, things started normally for both teams. In the second half, things went all awry for the Bears. Turnovers became almost as frequent as snaps, and the Rockets eventually rolled to a whopping 49-7 victory.

Even though last year’s game was an easy one for Catholic, don’t expect the Rockets to enter tonight’s season opener against the Bears with too much confidence. Catholic head coach Scooter Register isn’t allowing it.

“We’re definitely not looking past Sylvan Hills,” Register said. “Things just kind of snowballed on them last year with the turnovers and everything. We just got lucky. Sylvan Hills is always a tough ball team and we’re expecting a tough game.”
The Rockets won’t be the same team that beat the Bears, won the AAAAA-Central and moved on to the AAAAA semifinals, but they may be as good. This year’s team replaces 18 starters and 31 seniors off the 2005 squad, but it’s still loaded with potential.

Starting running back LaNorris Dukes is back and will continue to get the bulk of the carries in Catholic’s ground game. There’s a new quarterback at the helm, but one with a lot of experience. Reed Thomas played a lot last year after Catholic had secured victories, and he started against Little Rock Parkview in the victory against the Rockets’ fellow playoff participants.

The biggest concern for Catholic is at the line. The entire offensive line is new, but Register doesn’t seem too concerned.
“They’re inexperienced, but they’re big,” Register said. “They’re big and they can move a little bit. They have the potential to be a very good unit. Hopefully they’re read to play Wednesday night.” Sylvan Hills brings speed, decent size and athleticism to tonight’s matchup, but still has the same disadvantage to Catholic as last year, depth.

Register isn’t focusing on the Bears’ disadvantages. He’s concerned with their strengths. “They’ve got a lot of good-looking athletes over there,” Register said. “That young man that played quarterback last year, Shelton, he’s back there and running back now and looking very good. That quarterback, Hunter Miller, is a fine looking athlete. They’ve got those kinds of guys all over the field. We’re going to have to play fundamental football to win.”

Hunter Miller’s ability to throw the ball means Sylvan HIls will throw the ball more this season. The Bears didn’t show a lot of the passing game in their intra-squad scrimmage, but Register has heard about the new aerial attack.

“That’s what everybody is saying, but I’ve been around long enough to know that what you plan to do don’t always work,” Register said. “Sometimes you have to go back to what you know how to do, so we’re trying to get ready for the spread, the wishbone, and everything else they run.”

SPORTS >>Badger get good, close games with Greenbrier

Leader sportswriter

field goal or something like that, so they have been a good opponent for us to start our season out with.” Prock says Friday’s game will also be his team’s first true look at a strong running game, after playing spread-driven Harding Academy in last week’s scrimmage. “We know they are going to be running at us,” Prock said. “We try to give our guys a good look at the run in our practices, but it’s hard to simulate. We go against ourselves in practices, and Harding Academy uses a spread like we do, so this will be the first real test against a running team for our defense.”

Prock says that Friday night’s game is not only a chance for his defense to take on the challenge of an unfamiliar offensive scheme, it is also good preparation for the grueling 5A-East schedule that will feature its share of ground-based sets. The two most feared opponents in the East, Wynne and Batesville, are both traditionally strong running teams. He hopes that facing the Panthers will give the defense a good idea of what’s to be expected later in the season.

“The bulk of teams in our conference are running teams,” Prock said. “I think this game will give them a good look of what’s down the road for them.” As expected, most of Beebe’s defensive struggles last season came at the hands of run-based teams. A stronger resistance to the run could pay huge dividends this year, with most of the same adversaries on this year’s schedule.

The Badgers did lose one running opponent from the schedule in Marion, but the Patriots were replaced in the conference by North Pulaski, who is also expected to return to the ground assault this season after last year’s disastrous attempt at opening up the spread. Prock believes the team is ready, but is cautious.

“It’s that time of year,” Prock said. “There are a little nerves going around. You never know until you get out there on the field. You can look flawless, or you can look like you haven’t had any practice at all. It definitely keeps you on edge.”

SPORTS >>Cabot dumps Beebe

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers improved their season record to 3-1 with a rout over the Beebe Lady Badgers Monday afternoon at the Badger Sports Arena. The Lady Panthers dominated the event, taking the win in three straight sets. Cabot held Beebe to single digits in the first two sets before putting a number of JV players on the court for the third and final set. The third set would be by far the most competitive, but Cabot pulled away in the final moments to take the match 3-0.

“We tried some different combinations during the last set,” Lady Panthers coach Terry Williams said. “We wanted to get some of the younger ones out there and get some varsity experience. I think it confused them a little bit at times, because it wasn’t the same group out there that they are used to.” Offensively, senior MB Kim Carter made her presence known very early in the contest. Carter led the team in kills, and posed an intimidating presence on the front line. A hand injury kept Carter off the court for much of her junior year, but Williams says she has returned to the floor for her senior year with a vengeance.
“Having her on the floor definitely makes a big difference,” Williams said. “She gives us a lot of size out there, and she has been hitting really well.”

The first two sets were all Cabot, as the Lady Panthers took 25-7 wins in both of the opening frames. While Carter did the majority of stuffs, Codi Smith and Katie Mantione also came away with a number of kills. The Lady Badgers fought hard to keep things even in the early moments of the second set, but Cabot quickly turned a 4-4 tie into an 8-4 advantage, and would hold Beebe to just three more points during the remainder of the set.

The third set had the look of a blowout in the early going. Senior OH Kelli Lowry started things off behind the service line for the Lady Panthers, recording three aces to help put Cabot on top 5-0. A number of junior varsity players came in at that point, and Beebe took the opportunity to briefly crawl back into the match.

The Lady Badgers also got some assistance from Cabot, with a number of Panther errors that helped them close the gap. Beebe hitters Alicia Allen and Emily Rogers gave Cabot its strongest challenge at the front. The two players led the late-game rally with a number of kills, and forced several errors from the blended Lady Panther squad. Three consecutive Cabot errors tied the game at 11-all, but Smith and Mantione returned to the floor at that point, taking Beebe’s brief advantage away. The Lady Panthers went on to take the third set 25-18, completing the straight-set sweep.

Even with the strong start to the season, Williams says she is yet to see maximum effort from her loaded team. A road loss to Morrilton stands as Cabot’s only defeat after one week of action, but she says improvement in both execution and effort will be needed as the schedule becomes more difficult.

“They say they are hungry, but their work ethic needs to improve,” Williams said. “Right now, it is just talk. They have got to cover each other perfectly out there, and that takes a lot of work.” Cabot’s next game will be next Tuesday on the road at Mountain Home in a varsity-JV double-header.

TOP STORY >>Austin adds construction fees

Leader staff writer

The Austin City Council voted Monday night to begin charging builders a utility fee/consumption fee when building permits are purchased. The fee should not be considered an impact fee, according to Mayor Bernie Chamberlain. The fee amount will be decided at a special meeting of the city council.

“I talked to numerous builders and explained to them the reason for the new fee,” Chamberlain said. “They had no problem with the fees.” The fee will go to fund sewer, street and water projects. The breakdown will be 80 percent for sewer, and 10 percent apiece for street and water. The sewer funds will be used to pay for a new water line and possibly to help fund the upgrade, or building, of a new sewer pond.

The new water line will cost the city close to $25,000. The sewer pond would cost the city between $50,000-$150,000, de-pending on whether it is upgraded or a new one built. James Moore of James Moore Construction, the only builder in attendance at the council meeting, said the city was about a “year and a half behind” in charging for fees.

“If Austin had been charging fees this time last year, the city would already have had enough money in the bank to cover the cost of these expenses,” Moore said. With work in progress within six housing subdivisions, Austin’s population will see a rise as well.

The 2000 Census showed Austin’s population at 605. Mayor Chamberlain told The Leader that the current population was at least 1,000 residents. “We’ve got 500 something people on the water system,” Chamberlain said. “If you figure at least two people per household, we easily have 1,000 people.” Austin has outnumbered Cabot in the number of building permits issued in the past six months, with a total of 166 permits worth over $3.5 million. Austin issued 30 housing permits in June, 24 for July and 25 for August to date, most of which issued for new homes in Quapaw, Weathering Heights and Shadow Creek subdivisions.

The new Orchard Estates, on Peach St. off Hwy. 321, will hold 140 homes. James Moore Construction has three homes already in Orchard Estates, with a square footage of 1,000 to 1,500 feet. Eighteen duplex buildings will be at the entrance of Orchard Estates, with a total of 36 units. Shadow Creek subdivision will have 30 homes available.

Quapaw subdivision has 16 lots remaining available to build on, with 11 permits issued the last two months. Housing permits issued for June and July include: 30 permits for Weathering Heights subdivision issued to C&B Homes, Larry Weathers, Thompson Builders, Jason Walker Construction, J&R Custom Homes, Cody Ward Construction, Ed Weeks, and Weathers, Inc.
11 permits for Quapaw subdivision issued to D&F Con-struction, Cody Ward Construction, and Keith Moore Construction.
11 permits for Shadow Creek subdivision issued to H&B Investments, Craig Custom Construction, Cossey Construction, Larry Weathers, and Scott Moix.

Three permits for Carriage Court II subdivision issued to Weathers, Inc. and RKB Construction.

TOP STORY >>Sherwood out $100K on road

Leader staff writer

A contractor tried to take Sherwood for $100,000 and the mayor, the city council and the street commission are looking at ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The contractor apparently shortchanged the city when he recently built roads in the new Stonehill Subdivision off Brockington Road and Maryland Avenue. The contract called for a seven-inch base of gravel, the mayor explained to the council, and most of the road had just three and a half to five inches of base.

“He tried to steal $100,000 worth of gravel,” Mayor Bill Harmon said. He went on to add that miles and miles of good roads have been built in Sherwood. “We don’t want to imply that we have problems—it’s just one contractor,” the mayor said.
Alderman Steve Fender, who heads the city’s street commission, said the Stonehill street failures were a major topic at the commission’s meeting earlier this month. “I’ve talked to Steve Cobb, the city attorney, at least five times in the last week, to see what can be done,” he said. “We don’t want to do anything rash that would deter growth in the city. We want to move forward in a positive way,” Fender said.

The mayor said that Sherwood had a reputation as a “friendly city to develop in and we don’t want to destroy that.” But all city officials agreed that substandard streets are not acceptable. Alderman Sheila Sulcer suggested the city wait longer before accepting the streets into the city.

Cobb and City Engineer Mike Clayton are looking at a new ordinance that would require a two-year guarantee on streets instead of the current one-year requirement. “We are also looking at taking core samples of streets before we accept them into the city to make sure the base is the required depth,” Clayton said.

The city is fighting with a bond company to get reimbursed for the poor Stonehill streets. “They are are like an insurance company and are digging in their heels about the payments,” Cobb said. In a related street issue, Alderman Dan Stedman asked if the city was looking at alternative routing for when construction starts on revamping the north end of Brockington Road. The state will oversee the construction work and it could take two years or more.

The mayor said the city was looking at completing Maryland Avenue from Highway 107 all the way to Brockington. “That work will have to be done in phases because of the cost,” Harmon said.

Another possibility is to extend Hemphill from Maryland to Kiehl to help avert extreme congestion while the Brockington work is underway. “If we get the landowners to agree to pay their share, we can do this quickly,” the mayor said.
In other council business: Aldermen unanimously pas-sed an ordinance supporting the passage of the quarter cent sales tax for the Pulaski County jail. The mayor reminded the council that early voting for the tax issue would be Tuesday, Sept.5 through Friday, Sept. 8 at the city’s senior center.

The council approved an ordinance that would allow it to opt out of a 2005 state law requiring that lights, such as ball field lights, be shielded. Smaller cities like Sherwood have the option to not shield lights if they find the cost too prohibitive.
The council approved an ordinance renaming Integra Drive to Sherwood Way. The street is located near the Sonic on Kiehl Avenue and has recently been expanded.

Aldermen reappointed Jack Wilson, Tim Grooms and Forrest Penny to the Public Building Authority Board. Their terms will end in July 2012.

TOP STORY >>500 new homes in Ward

Leader staff writer

With five subdivisions under construction in Ward, the housing market will soon see an increase of more than 500 new homes, according to Mayor Art Brooke. Mayor Brooke identifies the housing growth as the result of Ward having affordable housing and being on the outskirts of a larger community. “We have people coming to Ward from the Cabot and Little Rock areas, and we have military families moving here,” Brooke said.

Ward’s population has gone from 1,269 in 1990 to 2,580 in 2000, according to the Encylopedia of Arkansas Web site.
Ward issued six single-family home permits in July for building sites in Orchard Hollow, Willow Lake and Fowler Ridge subdivisions. Eighteen to 20 homes will be built in a small subdivision across from Busby Lake, Mayor Brooke told The Leader.
Phase one of Deerfield Estates is full, and according to Mayor Brooke, they are looking to start phase two. Three subdivisions are in different phases of construction around Ward Central Elementary. Orchard Hollow, next to the three-legged water tower, has completed phase one construction with 87 new homes. Phase two will begin soon, with 60 more homes.
A total of 193 homes will be located in the subdivision directly behind the school once all three phases are completed, Mayor Brooke said. “Phases two and three will be going online soon,” Brooke said. Weatherwood subdivision on Wilson Rd. just went in, according to Mayor Brooke.

The Willow Lake subdivision will have 171 homes upon completion. A new manufactured-home park on Moon Rd. is also under construction. “They will have to conform to the new rules,” Mayor Brooke said. “No old units will be allowed.” Ward issued a total of nine permits during July for a value of $477,075. Three commercial permits were issued for a total value of $14,400. Six single-family home permits were issued, at a value of $462,675.

The permits included: A $93,075 permit issued to Royal Concepts to build at 21 Lake Side Dr. Two $84,800 permits issued to Royal Concepts to build at 35 Opal St. and 28 Lakeside Dr. A $55,000 permit issued to Billy Weeks Jr. to build at 181 Brewer
Two $72,500 permits issued to Greer Properties to build at 17 Shamsie and 18 Farrah.

TOP STORY >>Cost of Cabot growth

Leader staff writer

Cabot City Council last week passed an impact fee that could over the next three years add more than $4,268 to the cost of a 4,000 square-foot home and $3,103 to a 1,000 square-foot home. Add to the impact fee, a new policy being drafted by the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission that could add many thousands to the cost of providing sewer to a new subdivision because developers would have to help pay for improvements outside their subdivisions, and it is clear that building in Cabot is becoming more expensive.

Builders and developers have warned city leaders that by increasing their costs they are running the risk of moving growth outside the city limits. And in fact, city officials are expecting building permits to be down next year. The numbers are already down about 100 from this time in 2005 when by the end of the year 650 permits had been sold, said Jim Towe, director of public works. And since builders are likely to buy the permits they will need for next year during the 90-day grace period before the impact fee begins Nov. 20, the permits sold next year could be as low as 250, he said.

The draw of Cabot for most new residents is the school system, builders and developers say. But Ward and Austin also are in the Cabot School District and both cities are courting developers. And for that matter, Beebe also has a good school district and room outside its municipal borders to grow.

Jim Childress, a builder, warned the city council during the public meeting before the impact fee was passed that if the growth moves outside the city limits of Cabot, where impact fees are not charged, the new residents will still come into the city to shop and to eat. They will be a burden on the already overburdened streets, but the city won’t get any of the state tax money for them.

James Moore, developer and builder and a former member of the Cabot City Council, agrees that some of the growth will move north. Ward and Austin are already growing. But it’s not because of any fees Cabot intends to charge. It’s because the land is cheaper there.

“Today undeveloped land in Ward and Austin is selling for $8,000 to $12,000 an acre,” Moore said. “In Cabot the same land would be $15,000 and up.” The cost of developing those acres is essentially the same regardless of where they are located, so the only savings to pass along to young families trying to buy their first homes is the savings on the land, Moore said. And these days, the small houses, those under 1,500-square feet, are being built in Austin and Ward.

A developer paying $10,000 an acre for a 40-acre tract of land will pay $400,000 before he starts laying streets, sidewalks, water lines and sewer lines, Moore said. Forty acres can usually be divided into at least 120 lots which sell for about $20,000 each. But the developer will typically end up with only about $4,500 in profit from each one. In Cabot, that same lot would sell for about $25,000, he said.

“Ten years ago, we could buy land in Cabot at the same price we do now in Ward and Austin,” Moore said. “But the price went up with the demand.” A building permit pulled at random at Cabot Public Works Tuesday estimated the cost of building a 1,911 square-foot house at $82,950, not including the lot. About 1,800 square-feet is average for Cabot.

The builder paid $187 for the building permit. Then a plumbing permit for $90.30, a heat and air permit for $70.35 and an electrical permit for $95.55 were added for a total of $443.20 in permits alone. Moore said those fees don’t seem too high for the inspections the city provides. Neither is he overly concerned, he said, about the impact fees that will be charged to homebuyers as appraisals fall in line with the new fees.

But if city officials are correct in their estimates about how many building permits will be sold in Cabot next year, the impact fee won’t be a boon to the city coffers. Phased in as it is supposed to be over a three-year period, less than $300,000 would be collected in the first year.

The new money will be divided unequally depending upon the need, between streets, wastewater, library, parks and fire.
Based on the estimate of 250 permits in 2005 those departments would collect $95,750, $35,750, $9,000, $56,250 and $72,000 respectively.

TOP STORY >>Positives stressed in report by PCSSD

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District has 18 schools on the state’s list of schools needing improvement and has nine schools on the state list for failing to meet accreditation standards. But the news is not all bad. In its annual report, “Where Excellence in Education is an Art,” released Tuesday to parents and the community, the district focused on the positive side of the 2005-2006 school year.

“We our proud of the progress we are making in a number of areas, particularly with regard to student achievement, student behavior and our financial health,” Superintendent James R. Sharpe wrote in the report’s foreword. In the area of student testing, the report states that district students “continue to show improvement on a variety of assessment tools that are used to measure our students’ progress against those in other districts statewide and nationally.”

On the 2005-2006 Benchmark exams in grades third through eighth, district students showed improvements in all areas but one—sixth-grade literacy. Benchmark scores improved 8 percent in math, up to 56 percent proficient or advanced, and up 11 percent in literacy to 58 percent proficient or advanced.

The report says that PCSSD students “performed better than other school districts in the county in most categories.”
College scholarships were up about $500,000. In the 2004-2005 school year, graduating seniors were offered $7.8 million in scholarships, but it jumped to $8.3 million at the end of the 2005-2006 school year. At the other end of the spectrum, expulsions were down more than 40 percent. In the 2004-2005 school year, 64 students were expelled compared to just 38 students in the 2005-2006 school year.

“This improvement in disciplinary action is the result of faculty and students working together to improve the learning environment in our schools,” the report states. The report applauds extracurricular accomplishments in the district as well as the academics. “We believe that athletics and other activities are an important part of school culture. These activities help students maintain positive school connections, broaden skills and form positive intercultural relationships,” the report states.
The district praises the Sylvan Hills Middle School girls’ basketball team, which went undefeated in basketball and placed second in the conference in both volleyball and track.

Sylvan Hills High School won first place in its division at the World Cheerleading Association National Championships.
Jacksonville High School had a record eight students qualify for All-State Choir and one student earned a spot in the All-State Choir and the All-State Band. The report also looks at the district’s finances. According to the report, the district’s operating fund balance has increased by $2 million and is now at $10 million. The district’s federal grants balance has more than doubled from $971,804 to slightly more than $2 million.

Other highlights in the report include:
Newsweek magazine listing Mills University Studies High School as the 50th best public high school in the nation.
More than 53 percent of the district’s graduating seniors plan to attend college. The Jacksonville High School literary magazine received two superior awards from the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association. Two students from Harris Health and Science Specialty Elementary School were selected to participate in the NASA Student Symposium at Goddard Space Center.
In addition, Harris teacher Paula Armstrong was one of 31 educators selected nationally to receive a NASA Messenger fellowship.

The Northwood Middle School Cadet Band received a sweepstakes trophy and two superior ratings in the Region VI concert contest. The district has 37 schools, meaning it maintains almost three million square feet of education and support services buildings located on more than 750 acres throughout Pulaski County. The annual report is being distributed to students, their families, district staff, legislators, city and government leaders and other supporters of the school district.

TOP STORY >>Work will soon start on plant in Cabot

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission broke ground Monday morning for a multi-million sewer treatment plant to replace the old plant that has kept the city in trouble with the state almost from the time it went into operation in 1992.
J.M. Park, chairman of the new commission that has been running water and wastewater since the first of the year, called starting the new plant the first big step forward the commission has made.

“We think we’re on the way,” Park said. “This is going to open the door to us being able to accommodate more of the growth in Cabot.” The city is under a consent order from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to come into compliance with the requirements of its permit to operate a sewer treatment plant. The commission knows that if the permit requirements are not met by the end of 2007, the city will face fines that will make the $10,000 and $8,000 fines it has received in the past two years seem completely insignificant. But Park and Cabot WaterWorks general manager Tim Joyner have a phrase they like to use when talking about the new treatment plant. “We’re under budget and ahead of schedule.”

In September 2005, city voters approved 927-187 extending an existing one-cent sales tax to pay for the new sewer plant and several other projects in the city including the animal shelter that opened recently and the community center that will open this fall. The actual construction of the new sewer plant will cost about $10 million, Joyner said. Prep work before building could begin, including filling in a pond and hauling away sludge, was set at $1.1 million. Engineering fees are $1.7 million, which leaves about $3.7 million of the $16.5 million voters approved for the entire sewer system to rehab the collection system.

Joyner said workers with Max Foote Construction, Mandeville, Louisiana, which will build the plant, will make sure they complete parts of the project that could be held up by bad weather before the weather gets bad. Vernon Williams with USI Consulting Engineers and Jeff Keller with Burns & McDonnell will oversee the construction to make sure the new plant does not have any of the problems of the old one, Joyner said.

The old plant was built to handle 1.8 million gallons of wastewater a day. The new one will treat 6 million gallons a day. To keep the plant in compliance even when it is deluged with infiltrated rain water, it will have a peak wet weather treatment flow of 16.4 million gallons a day. Park said many of the city’s sewer mains are maxed out and it is almost certain that a new plant will be needed on the west side of town within the next 10 years.

The commission has never promised to not raise rates in the future, but the sales tax has kept them down for the time being and the new treatment plant is expected to be completed on schedule. Park says the commission he heads works better together than any group he has ever served with and together they will manage the city’s sewer problems to accommodate growth as well as ensure city residents a long term source of water. “We’re not going to get there overnight, but we’ll get there,” he said.

TOP STORY >>More students return

Leader staff writer

Cabot School District Superintendent Frank Holman says it will be a “tight” deadline to get seventh- and eighth-graders into the 80 portable classrooms at the Cabot Junior High North campus by Tuesday, nearly three weeks after a faulty light fixture started a fire that destroyed the school Aug. 10. Roughly 1,200 students attended classes in the $9 million, eight-year-old Junior High North building.

About 400 Cabot Junior High North ninth-graders started classes Monday in four portable buildings already on the high school campus and 24 empty classrooms in the old high school science and business buildings, a week after the rest of the district’s students. Administrators named the area Junior High North South Annex.

“The start of school for the ninth graders went surprisingly smooth. We asked parents to have their students ride the bus as much as possible and it looks like they’re doing that,” Holman said. “Everyone’s been so positive and really looked at it as ‘okay, we had a tragedy but now we’re preparing for teaching and learning,’” Holman said.

The four portable buildings the ninth graders are using are left over from 25 portable buildings that served as high school classrooms for nearly four years. After the new $13.9 million high school building was completed this summer, most of the portable buildings were sold and removed from the campus. An open house for the new high school will be held at 6 p.m.
The 40 portable buildings being erected for seventh and eight-grade students contain two classrooms each. After being anchored, workers hook up electricity, bell and intercom systems to each classroom, construct wooden, handicapped-accessible walkways and stock the buildings with desks, books, computers and other materials.

The seventh- and eighth-grade students will eat lunches brought from Cabot Middle School North. Students will eat either in the gym or in the classroom. Ninth-graders dine in the high school cafeteria after the high school lunch periods. The district plans to rebuild the school within two years. Holman estimates the new building to cost $15 million. It is not yet known how much insurance and catastrophic aid from the state will offset the cost of the second Cabot Junior High North building.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.