Saturday, September 30, 2006

SPORTS >>Badgers escape Falcons

IN SHORT: Beebe spoiled North Pulaski’s homecoming night, but not without a tussle from the winless Falcons. Beebe won the conference matchup 33-23.

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers caught North Pulaski’s best shot so far this season, but still managed to get out of Falcons Stadium with a 33-23 victory over the Falcons on homecoming night.

The Falcon offense stalled on the opening drive, but the defense stopped Beebe’s spread attack on the ensuing possession.
The Falcons got the ball back and took advantage of three Beebe penalties, including a roughing the kicker penalty on a missed field- goal attempt that would have given the Badgers the ball on the 20-yard line.

Instead, North Pulaski senior fullback Charles Baker rumbled in from three yards out on the next play to give North Pulaski a 6-0 lead with 1:46 left in the first quarter.

The Badgers wasted little time answering. On the last play of the quarter, Badger quarterback Jared Mathis scrambled 47 yards up the middle of the field for the touchdown. The extra point was good and Beebe led 7-6 to start the second quarter.
The Falcons drove the field again, but the drive stalled at the Beebe 21. From there, lineman Jeffrey Bogard hit a 38-yard field goal with 8:15 remaining in the half to give the Falcons a 9-7 lead.

Beebe finally got some continuity going on offense, and drove the field against NP for the first time in the game.

A short pass from Mathis to junior receiver Charlie Spakes capped a six-minute drive and gave the Badgers a 13-9 lead that they took into intermission.

Beebe started the second half with good field position, and hit another big play on the second snap of the drive. This time Mathis found James Anderson on a short pattern near the Beebe sideline. Anderson turned up the sideline and ran the rest of the 57 yards for the score. The extra point again was no good, and Beebe led 19-9 with 11:36 left in the third quarter.

The Falcons’ offensive struggles continued as the Beebe defense stiffened and forced another punt.

The Badgers drove the field again with Zack Kersey taking the snaps, but trouble came as Beebe approached the red zone. A screen pass intended for Robbie Puckett was read by North Pulaski’s Melvin Tenner.

Tenner stepped in front of Puckett, picked off the pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown. Baker was stopped inches from the goal line on the two-point try, leaving Beebe with a 19-15 lead with 7:50 left in the third.

The Badgers put the game away with back-to-back scores on their next two possessions.

Two seven-yard touchdown passes to Spakes sealed the deal. The first pass was by Mathis with 4:25 left in the third, the second one was from Kersey with 8:02 left in the game and put the Badgers up 33-15.

North Pulaski added its final score on a long drive that culminated in a six-yard run by sophomore Jordan Anderson. The extra point was good, setting the final margin.

Mathis had a whale of a game. The senior quarterback completed 16 of 19 pass attempts for 244 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing, carrying 12 times for 100 yards and another score.

James Anderson caught four passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, while Spakes made six catches for 57 yards, including three for scores.

Both teams have tough matchups next week. The 0-5 Falcons will travel to Batesville while the 4-1 Badges will host Wynne.

SPORTS >>SH ladies volleyball routs Warriors

IN SHORT: Sylvan Hills knocked off Little Rock Hall in a non-conference match Thursday night at Sylvan Hills High School.

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears improved to 6-7 on the year Thursday with an easy non-conference victory over Little Rock Hall. Thursday’s win followed a tough conference loss to Jonesboro on Tuesday. Tuesday’s result left Sylvan Hills 2-2 in conference play and still in the hunt for a state playoff spot.

Scores against the perennial powerhouse Lady Hurricane were 25-23, 25-20 and 25-20. Lady Bear coach Laura Allred said the team hung tough with a state powerhouse, despite not playing well.

“We played terribly,” Allred said. “If we could have done anything we would have beaten them. This team has the talent to do some things, they just have to be more consistent.”

The evidence of inconsistency is found in the Lady Bears’ win over Mountain Home last week, right after Mountain Home beat Jonesboro.

Sylvan Hills is currently fourth in the league standings. Marion sits atop the 6A-East with a 4-0 record, (17-3 overall). Mountain Home is 3-1 while Jonesboro is a half-game ahead of Sylvan Hills at 3-2.

“We get to play them both again,” Allred said. “We’re still shooting for a conference championship.”

The Lady Bears had no trouble Thursday night against the Lady Warriors. Sylvan Hills won the match by scores of 25-16, 25-10 and 25-17.

The match started with the two teams trading service breaks for the first several points. The Lady Bears finally took a small lead when Megan Gwatney served four straight points on serve, including two aces to turn an 8-7 lead into 12-7.

The margin stayed about the same until the Lady Bears scored the final four points of game one on Allison William’s serve. Two kills by Emily Nichols and a block for a point by Courtney Lots ended the opening frame.

The Lady Bears fell behind in the early going of game two. Trailing 5-6, Nichols put together a morale-killing service streak that ruined Hall for the rest of the match.

The Lady Bears scored 10 straight points, including five aces by Nichols to take a 15-6 lead.

Nichols had another smaller streak on serve in game three that distanced the home squad from its defeated competitors and sealed the victory.

Nichols finished the match with 17 points on serve and seven kills.

Gwatney finished with eight kills to lead all players in that category, while Lutz compiled six kills and four blocks.

The Lady Bears have a week of critical matches coming up. They will host Marion next Tuesday before traveling to Mountain Home on Thursday.

In other games around the 6A-East conference Thursday: Mountain Home beat Jacksonville 3-0 with scores of 25-19, 25-13 and 25-18, and the Marion Lady Patriots knocked off Jonesboro in four bizarre games. Scores in that match were 25-23, 25-17, 9-25 and 25-11.

SPORTS >>Jonesboro rolls over Red Devils

IN SHORT: The Hurricane handed the ball to the fullback 42 times and played power football to defeat Jacksonville 22-7 in a big 6A-East matchup at Jan Crow Stadium.

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s offense continued to struggle Friday night against Jones-boro, only this time, there weren’t two defensive touchdowns late in the game to pull out a win.

The Red Devils’ offense failed to score, while Jonesboro used a time consuming running game to topple the home team 22-7 at Jan Crow Stadium.

The huge Hurricane offensive line dominated the game, and a rock-steady fullback running behind them took full advantage.
Jonesboro senior David Terrell carried 42 times for 213 of Jonesboro’s 334 total yards. Not counting the two kneel downs that ended the game, Jonesboro ran just nine plays that Terrell’s No. 30 wasn’t called.

For Jacksonville, lots of numbers were called, but nothing worked.

The bright spot for Jacksonville was Lee Robinson’s 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

The Red Devils finished with 246 total yards, three turnovers, at least a half-dozen dropped passes including two in the end zone, a number of off-target passes, several plays for negative yardage and 90 yards marked off for penalties.

Things went so bad for the Red Devils, they lost 10 yards without snapping the ball. Jacksonville was knocking on the door at the end of the third. A seven-yard run by Robinson was called back for holding, leaving Jacksonville with second and 15 from the 19-yard line when the third quarter ended.

The officials spotted the ball on the 29 to start the fourth quarter, and kept it there after a long delay, despite the objection of Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley.

Two passes to the corner of the end zone were executed perfectly from there, except for the catch. Marcus King and Terrell L’Hrisse took turns dropping certain TD passes in the end zone before Akins was dropped for athree-yard loss on fourth down.

Two long passes on the opening drive put the Red Devils at the Jonesboro 5-yard line in the first quarter, but it ended there.
Quarterback Daniel Hubbard was pressured by Jonesboro linebacker Andy Snider. As Snider was taking him to the ground, Hubbard tried to dish the ball to the back of the end zone to King, but instead hit defenisve lineman Noble Fontenot in the chest about five yards downfield. Fontenot caught the gift at about the 10, and returned it to the 31.

The Hurricane running game plowed through the Jacksonville defense on its first drive. Nine plays took the ball to the 1-yard line, but an illegal-procedure penalty on fourth and goal forced Jonesboro to kick a 23-yard field goal.

After the two teams traded two possessions each with neither threatening, Hubbard threw another interception from the Red Devil 20. This time Sam Waddell picked off the pass and returned it to the Red Devil 25.

On the very next play, Jonesboro quarterback Delta Cleary dropped back to pass for the first time in the game, and hit a wide open Andre Jones for a 25-yard touchdown.

The extra point put Jonesboro up 10-0 with 5:31 left in the half.

Jacksonville answered quickly.

Lee Robinson took the ensuing kickoff on the right sideline, ran behind his wall all the way to the left sideline before turning up field and running 80 yards untouched for a touchdown.

Manuel Alvidrez hit the extra point to make it 10-7 with 5:19 left in the second quarter and it stayed that way until halftime.
The Hurricane scored on their first two drives of the second half to set the final margin.

The first came on an eight-play drive that included seven runs by Terrell. The drive covered 57 yards and gave Jonesboro a 16-7 lead with 8:02 left in the third.

Jacksonville got 26 yards on two plays of its next drive after a failed on-side kick, but Hubbard was sacked for a 15-yard loss to set up third and 22. L’Hrisse made a 19-yard catch on third down, but a fourth-down throw was incomplete.

Jonesboro took over on its own 19, and went 81 yards in seven plays, with the help of an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on Jacksonville while Jonesboro was facing third and 7 on its own 36. Cleary picked up 28 yards on the next play, then hit Chris Parks for a 22-yard touchdown with 1:19 left in the third.

Another on-side kick failed, but Jacksonville backed themselves up with another holding penalty on first down. Facing second and 25, Hubbard was again pressured, and heaved the ball downfield to Akins, who made the catch and scrambled to the Jonesboro 14 which set up the confusion at the end of the quarter.

Jacksonville’s last gasp began with 8:38 after the Red Devils’ defense came up with a big defensive stop. The Jonesboro punt pinned Jacksonville on its own 3, and three crucial Jonesboro penalties kept the drive alive.

The Hurricane defense jumped off sides on third and one at the Jacksonville 45, was called for defensive holding on an incomplete pass on third and 12 from the 48, and called for pass interference on second and 10 from the Jonesboro 40.

But on the next play, Hubbard was picked off for the third time. This time it was Cody Powell that caught the long pass four yards deep in the end zone. He returned it all the way to the Jacksonville 48 before Hubbard knocked him out of bounds.

The loss drops the Red Devils to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play. They will be on the road next week at Sylvan Hills, who lost 27-12 to Mountain Home last night. Jonesboro improves to 3-2 and 1-1.

SPORTS >>Extra point wins it for Panthers in overtime

IN SHORT: Catholic missed an extra point in overtime, and Cabot made its own to beat the Rockets.

Leader sports writer

After five quarters, the difference in Friday night’s 7A-Central matchup between Cabot and Little Rock Catholic at Panther Stadium came down to extra-point attempts in overtime.

The Panthers made theirs; the Rockets missed.

Cabot took their first conference win of the season in dramatic fashion 14-13 in overtime against Catholic. The two defenses matched feats repeatedly in the contest, including back-to-back blocked field goals and trading interceptions on two different occasions.

The difference in the game turned out to be a squibbed extra-point attempt in overtime from Catholic kicker Nathan Ashburn. Ashburn had been blocked by Cabot senior linebacker Michael Rowlett on two previous attempts, and looked very gun shy as he ran up to holder Reid Thomas. Rowlett closed in on the hold once more, but no block was necessary this time. Ashburn booted the ball straight up in the air, just over the Panther line, not even making it to the end zone.

Cabot junior Steve Lamb missed the opportunity to seal the game for Cabot at the end of the fourth quarter, going wide-left on a 33-yard field goal attempt with 17 seconds left in regulation. Lamb would ultimately redeem himself, after Colin Fuller ran in the game-tying score on Cabot’s third play from scrimmage in overtime, splitting the uprights for the point needed to seal the win.

“Anybody could have won that game,” Panthers coach Mike Malham said. “Catholic fought hard, we fought hard; it was pretty evenly matched. We were both 0-1, so whoever lost was going to be out of the conference race. This keeps us in the conference race; we’re still alive.”

The first score of the game did not occur until the 7:12 mark of the third quarter, when Catholic quarterback Thomas hit sophomore receiver John Springer in the middle of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Cabot safety Brian Frey read the pass, but could not make up the step Springer had on him to bat it away. Frey’s marks all came in the first half, taking down Catholic bulldozer running back La’Norris Dukes for losses, and breaking up a critical pass on third down during the Rockets’ opening drive.

Cabot went to the air for its only TD in regulation as well. Panthers quarterback Cory Wade found Colin Fuller on the left side after scrambling for his life in the backfield. Fuller took the pass near the 8-yard line and plowed his way along the sideline into the end zone for the 12-yard touchdown play at the 10:45 mark of the fourth quarter.

Each team traded possessions two more times in the fourth until Cabot ended up with the ball on their own 42-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. Fuller rumbled again, this time to the Rockets’ 19 as precious seconds ticked away.
Wade took one last shot at the end zone, but was forced to throw it away under pressure. That left the win in Lamb’s hands with a 33-yard FG attempt. He put plenty of foot into it, but sliced it just left of the crossbars, forcing overtime.

Catholic took first possession in overtime, and wasted little time converting. Thomas hit tight end Jake Bequette on the first play from scrimmage in the extra quarter for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Ashburn then eeked out his timid kick, leaving Cabot with a window to take the come-from-behind win.

Fuller jumped through that window very decisively with an eight-yard run up the middle to tie the game. Lamb then promoted himself from zero to hero with the perfect point-after kick to end the game.

The first half was the epitome of a defensive struggle. Both teams moved the ball well enough offensively, but had trouble once the football made it into the red zone. The Rockets made it down to the Panther 5-yard line, but the drive stalled from there. Ashburn attempted a 25-yard field goal, but Rowlett just said no to three points for Catholic with a full block of Ashburn’s kick.

Cabot’s opening drive also resulted in a field-goal attempt, but Catholic linebacker Zach Sebo batted Lamb’s 35-yard attempt out of the air, giving possession back to Catholic.

The Panthers’ defense skirted any and all tricks Catholic had up its sleeve in the first half, including a fake punt with 5:54 left in the second quarter. Thomas took the snap from setback instead of the ball going to punter Ashburn. Panther defenders Rowlett and Chris Blundell were not fooled however, and took Thomas down for no gain.

Both teams also traded interceptions in the first half. Wade brought the first pick down for Cabot with a leaping catch at the Rockets’ 46-yard line. Wade then returned the favor a couple of possessions later when he threw into coverage trying to find Fuller on a screen. Bequette snagged the pass to give Catholic the ball near midfield.

Cabot finished with 238 yards of total offense, compared to 225 for Catholic. Fuller carried 10 times for 51 yards and a touchdown, and also caught a pass for a TD. Aguilar carried 14 times for 44 yards. For Catholic, Dukes had 25 rushes for 93 yards.

The Panthers will try to make it two conference wins in a row next week when they travel to Little Rock Central to face the undefeated Tigers.

OBITUARIES >> 09-30-06

“He was my sounding board,” Katie Jackson, mother of William B. Snyder, said about her son who died Sept. 26 in a tragic one-vehicle accident on Hwy. 70 near Hot Springs in Garland County.

The night before the accident Katie said Snyder had gone to Hot Springs to comfort his girlfriend whose grandmother had suffered a massive heart attack.

“He was coming home from consoling someone else,” Katie said. “And this just happened. I will always remember him for his big heart, his willingness to do things for others. He also had a great sense of humor. He never let things get him down.”
Snyder, 20, of Jacksonville, was a 2004 honor graduate of North Pulaski High School. He was a youth sponsor at New Life Assembly of God in Sherwood, and wished that all of his family and friends would be saved.

Lee Jackson, step-father of William, said he had a tremendous faith in God that he wanted others to share. “We raised him that God gives us this life and you make the best of it,” Lee said. “He learned that early and because of that was a hard worker. I remember him going on many mission trips and things with the church and he always worked to pay his way. He would mow yards, paint fences or rake yards to get money. Other parents would come up to me and say ‘This is just unheard of out of children these days.’ He was just a great young man.”

“He never drank or never smoked,” his mother said. “He learned how to laugh at himself at an early age too. He just never let anything get him down and when others would make fun of him he just turned it around to humor. He just believed in God’s ways.”

William’s father Kendell Snyder, said he had a “real strong faith in Christ. He was worried about other people and was always trying to make people happy and take care of others.”

His mother said he would go above and beyond to help others. “I remember one night him dropping everything to go out and get ice cream for a pregnant lady he knew,” she said. “He had a lot of respect for girls. He wouldn’t even leave a parking lot if there were girls there by themselves.”

Jeremy Echart, youth pastor at New Life Assembly of God in Sherwood, also knew of William’s heart for God.
“Will knew what he had experienced in God and had to share it with others,” Eckart said. “He was very aware that he had a call in life and would be involved in something within the church.”

William was the director of mission giving at the church.

Allison Nichols, who knew William through church, described him as a man after God’s own heart. “He was so strong and adamant in his faith,” Nichols said. “He was amazing; nothing ever got him down when it came to his faith.”

He attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on an academic scholarship and was studying to become a history teacher. Lee said he wasn’t satisfied with just being a teacher though.

“His dream was to end up a professor at some college,” Lee said. “He was so very smart. In school he was an A/B honor roll student. He was in advance class courses and his school had to excel him because he was so far ahead of others.”
Caring for others is what everyone remembers most about William.

“He reached out to everybody and would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need,” Nichols said.
“He had a heart for students and people,” Eckart said. “He was always available to listen and would do anything he could to help.”

Described as faithful, loyal and dedicated, Eckart said he could always depend on Will to get things done with the youth. “Will wasn’t too proud to stack chairs, and wasn’t scared to take on big projects,” Eckart said. “Whatever I asked, he would do.”
He is preceded in death by his grandmothers, Thelma Williams and Ruth Snyder, and his grandfather, Burton Snyder.

He is survived by his parents, Kendell and wife Rhonda Snyder and Katie and husband Lee Jackson, all of Jacksonville; two sisters, Sarah Jackson of Jacksonville and Tammy Jackson of Kountz, Texas; four brothers, Bryan Jackson of Little Rock, Randy Jackson of North Little Rock, Kendell Snyder Jr. of Jacksonville and John Darius of Ft. Drum, New York; grandfather, Billy G. Williams of Beebe and a host of aunt’s, uncle’s, cousins and friends.

Funeral services will be at 3 p.m. Sept. 30, at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home, 7724 Landers Road, North Little Rock. Burial will be in Rest Hills Memorial Park.

Memorials may be made to New Life Youth, P.O. Box 8095, Jacksonville, Ark., 72078.

Nanette Branham
Nanette Ann Branham, 40, of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord, Sept. 26, in Little Rock.

She was born March 21, 1966 in Sacramento, Calif., to Rose Rogers and the late Albert Provost. She was a member of New Life Church.

Survivors include her husband, John Branham; parents, Steve and Rose Rogers; two sons, Travis and Austin Branham; daughter, Stevie Branham; a sister, Suzette; brother, Chris and his wife Angie Ferguson; uncle, Vernon T. Jackson and three nieces.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Sept. 30 at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville.  Burial will follow in Chapel Hill Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the American Heart Association.  

John Walter
John M. Walter, 42, of North Little Rock passed away Sept. 26 at his residence. He was born Sept. 1, 1964 in Oceanside, Calif. John was preceded in death by his brother Jamey Walter.

Survivors include his mother, Joyce Lybrand and her husband Jim of Sherwood; three sisters, Telela Grissom and husband Jerry of Conway, Rhonda Walter-Myers of North Little Rock and Melissa Long, and husband Charles of Cabot; four nephews; four nieces; three great nieces and one great nephew as well as several other cousins, friends and family.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 30 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with Rev. Norman Powel officiating.
Interment will follow at Sumner Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Wesley Davis
Wesley Donald Davis, 42, of Austin passed away Sept. 28.

He was born on Sept. 9, 1964, in Oklahoma City, Okla., the son of Ronnie Davis and Janet Sallstrom Davis.
He was an avid Razorback fan. He was a member of First Cabot Church of Christ.

He was a dedicated associate of Garver Engineers for sixteen and a half years.

He was a member of ASHRAE, Society of Fire Protection Engine-ers, International code Council, and Friends of the Carousel Restoration in Little Rock.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Earl Davis, Johnnie Sue Deweese and W.H. Deweese.

He is survived by his wife of seven-and-a-half-years, Melissa Davis; one son, Ethan Robson; two daughters, Jesse Marie Davis and Emily Robson, all of Austin; one sister, Melissa Thomas and husband Kerry of Bella Vista; one brother, Dylan Davis of Paris; his grandmother, Era Gene Davis of Paris; his parents, Janet Hill and husband Ken of Allen, Texas, and Ronnie Davis of Paris.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 30 at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home in North Little Rock. Graveside services will be at 3 p.m. Sept. 30 at Baxley Cemetery in Paris.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to a college fund for Wes’ children, First National Bank of Paris, P.O. Box 31, Paris, Ark., 72855.

Grace Taylor
Grace Beatrice Taylor, 94, of Jacksonville died Sept. 25.

She was born Aug. 21, 1912 in Paris, Texas, to the late John and Callie Mae Prince Taylor.

She worked in the food service as a school cook.

She was a member of the JOY group of Landmark Missionary Baptist Church where she was a member.

She was also preceded in death by her husband, Lushion Houston Taylor; a son, Edward Gammert; sisters, Ola Mae King and Mildred Head; and a brother, James R. Taylor. Survivors include children, Nola Gardner and her husband Gene of Jacksonville, David Gammert of Quarts Hill, Calif., Phyllis Joan Lopshire and her husband Dale of Sierra Vista, Ariz., and Marilyn Louise Cavanaugh of Sand Point, Ind., 10 grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were Sept. 29 at Landmark Baptist Church in Jacksonville with Bro. Tim Carter officiating. Burial was in Bear Creek Cemetery in Cleveland, Okla.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Landmark Mis-sionary Baptist Church Building fund.
Funeral arrangements were under direction of Moore’s Jack-sonville Funeral Home.

Drinon Smith
Drinon Irene Wright Smith, 86, of Beebe, died Sept. 25.

She was born May 27, 1920, at Sidney, to Tom and Dora Ford Wright.

At age 16, she married Phillip Glen Smith who passed away in 1998.

In 1955, her family moved to Washington State where she re-sided until 1992, and then moved to Beebe where she resided until her death.

She was a member of First Baptist Church of Beebe.

She was preceded in death by her husband; her parents; daughter, Glennadean Smith; one grandson, Steven Smith; brothers, Ewell and Tommy Wright; sisters, Faye Garner, Mona Qualls, Mae Mc-Guffie and Johnnie Smith.

She is survived by two daughters, Teddie L. Sandifer of Beebe and Gayra Smith of Missouri; one son, Mike Smith of Morrilton; 10 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; one brother, George Wright of Cave City; three sisters, Lottie Ryder and Odessa Simmons, both of Kansas, and Jewell Durham of Georgia.

Funeral was held Sept. 28 at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial at Mt. Carmel Cemetery at Sidney.

Elmer France
Elmer France, 86, of Jacksonville, died Sept. 21.

He was born in Middleboro, Ken., the son of the late Jon France. He served in the Marines in the South Pacific during World War II.

In 1963, he opened an auto parts store and machine shop called Standard Auto Parts of Jackson-ville, which he sold in 1995.
He was a member of Episcopal Church in Jacksonville.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Mary Bettie France; one son, Jon and wife Justine France of Jacksonville; three grandchildren, David M. France, Sarah J. France, both of Dallas, Texas and Joseph and wife Jennifer France of North Little Rock; one great-grandchild, Jesse S. France and a host of relatives and friends.

Graveside services were held Sept. 25 at Rest Hills Memorial Park in North Little Rock.

Memorials may be made to the American Diabetes Association, 320 Executive Court, Suite 104, Little Rock, Ark., 72205.

Lois Miller
Lois Miller, 85, of Jacksonville died Sept. 20.

She was born March 25, 1921, in Quitman, the daughter of the late John Sims and Ethel Edward Sims. She was a loving mother and grandmother and was a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Walter Miller and brother, Dois Sims.

She is survived by one son, Jerry and wife Phyllis Miller of Cabot; two daughters, Linda and husband Jim O’Connell of Oakridge, N.J., and Jane Miller of Jacksonville; two sisters, Geneva Gotherman and Edna and husband J.D. Bunch, all of North Little Rock; two brothers, Roy and wife Jeanette of North Little Rock and J.D. and wife Dorothy Sims of Lonoke; two grandchildren, Glen David Miller of Calif., and Dalin and wife Connie Kinman of Beebe, and a host of nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were Sept. 25 at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Chapel in North Little Rock with Marck Gibson officiating. Burial was in Rest Hills Memorial Park.

Memorials may be made to Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation, 904 Autumn Road, Little Rock, Ark. 72211.

Perry Wright
Perry M. Wright, 74, of Jacksonville passed away on Sept. 29.

He was born Jan. 7, 1932. He was retired from Davis Rubber Company after 40 years.

He is survived by two nieces, Dana Kohrs of Cabot, Mary Kilpatrick of Ward, one nephew, Coy Wright of New York, a sister-in-law, Sadie Wright of Cabot, two special cousins, Edna Brockinton of Cabot and A.C. Carmical of Spring, Texas. The family wishes to extend a special thanks to the staff at Woodland Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for their loving care.

A graveside service will be held at 10 a.m., Monday at Harmony Cemetery, Hwy. 89 in Faulkner County with Rev. Melburn Hill officiating.

Arrangements by North Little Rock Funeral Home.

EDITORIALS>>The 527’s are coming

This is the part of the election season we dislike, when the 527s take over. Those are the “independent” political groups that are exempt from the rules of the game set up by the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law.

You don’t know who is paying for the attack ads, they aren’t subject to gift and spending limitations and disclosure requirements, and there’s no candidate to hold responsible for lies, distortions or bad taste.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is the most famous and probably most successful of the 527s, so called by the section number of the McCain-Feingold act that regulates — or fails to regulate — their activities.

Bankrolled by Texas millionaires who were friends of President Bush, the Swift Boat ads questioned John Kerry’s patriotism and heroism, whether he was the valorous swift boat commander in Vietnam that military records said he was, and even whether Kerry had actually suffered the wounds in combat that crew members like Fred Short of North Little Rock, whose life Kerry saved, said they had witnessed on Vietnam’s muddy rivers in 1969.

Everything in the ads proved to be false, but they cost Kerry the presidency.

Democratic groups such as exploit the 527 exemption, too, but Republicans are far better at them as they are at almost every other aspect of modern electoral politics.

The “independent” Republican groups also overcome the rare imbalance in campaign funds enjoyed by Democratic candidates.

Attorney General Mike Beebe enjoys that advantage in Arkansas, one of the few Democratic candidates for competitive high office in the United States who has more money to spend than his Republican opponent.

The 527s will help make up the difference for Asa Hutchinson, the Republican candidate for governor. If the ads go too far, or there’s a backlash, Hutchinson can say he has nothing to do with them and has absolutely no knowledge of them.

This week, a group called The Coalition for Arkansas’ Future ran more ads attacking Beebe. Hutchinson won’t report the spending because the ads don’t tell you to vote for him and he says the group doesn’t coordinate with his campaign.

The ads are almost inoffensive in their allegations, but if the pattern holds they will get meaner as the election nears. The ads attack Beebe for voting to raise taxes while he was a state senator.

They do not note that the taxes were often broadly supported by people, that Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee often backed the taxes or that the tax increase that Beebe sponsored was to compensate for a sharp reduction in property taxes.
Beebe can defend himself on the tax issue, and he ought to.

But the ads also seek to engender fear among homeowners and other landowners that Beebe will allow their property to be confiscated by government and given to other private individuals or developers.

A decision by the U. S. Supreme Court last year in a Connecticut case said the U. S. Constitution had no provision that protected private property owners in certain instances if local governments condemned private property for use by private groups that had a higher use for the land that would serve community needs, like getting rid of blight.

It said that since the Bill of Rights was silent on the issue, state and local laws would govern.

Politicians all across the country, Democrats sometimes as well as Republicans, saw a chance for demagoguery as well as a need to protect property rights where state constitutions did not protect them.

Hutchinson was among them. He said as governor he would seek laws to protect Arkansas property owners from government taking of the land for other private uses.

Beebe, as attorney general, said there was little threat to property owners in Arkansas because the Arkansas Constitution did specifically protect them when the U. S. Constitution did not.

If he detected a loophole he would fix it but it was not a decision that Arkansans should be worried about. The Coalition for Arkansas’ Future says Beebe won’t stand up for property owners.

But Beebe was right.

The state Constitution bars the taking of private property for anything but public purposes: e.g., roads, streets and public institutions.

If a ban on takings for private purposes in the state Constitution is not sufficient to protect people, no mere act of the legislature will do it.

Arkansans have a thousand things to be worried about that the candidates for governor should be addressing, but this most thankfully is not one of them.

TOP STORY>>Crime rate goes up in many areas

Leader staff writer

Major crime jumped 5 percent in Arkansas in 2005, while arrests for those crimes fell 8 percent, according to a recently released crime index report by the Arkansas Crime Information Center.

Major crimes tracked by the state for its crime index include murder, rape, robbery aggravated assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Based on those crime categories, Jacksonville’s crime indices, with a rate of 71 incidents per 1,000 residents, was behind North Little Rock at 107.1 per 1,000 residents and Little Rock at 106.7.

Beebe came in with a crime rate of 54.5 incidents per 1,000 residents; Searcy with a rate of 48 per 1,000; Lonoke with a rate of 46.2 incidents per 1,000 residents; Ward with a rate of 44 per 1,000, and Sherwood at 40.2 per 1,000.

Cities with the lowest crime rate in the area include Carlisle at 21.8 incidents per 1,000 residents; England with 23.3 incidents per 1,000, and Cabot at 31.1 per 1,000.

Overall, Pulaski County had a crime rate in 2005 of 88.6 incidents per 1,000 residents, while White County was at 33.4 per 1,000, and Lonoke County was at 25.2 incidents per 1,000 residents.

Per capita crime, based on the index, was up in Jacksonville and Pulaski County, but lower in the other area cities and counties.

Jacksonville reported one murder in 2005, along with eight rapes, 58 robberies, 156 aggravated assaults, 431 burglaries, 1,427 thefts, 103 motor vehicles, and two arsons.

Sherwood had no murders or arsons, two rapes, 15 robberies, 84 aggravated assaults, 153 burglaries, 588 thefts and 74 motor vehicle thefts.

Cabot had no murders or arsons in 2005, but had five rapes, one robbery, 13 aggravated assaults, 123 burglaries, 467 thefts and seven motor vehicle thefts.

Lonoke had one murder, one rape, six robberies, 33 aggravated assaults, 33 burglaries, 127 thefts, nine motor vehicle thefts and no arsons.

Beebe had no murders, rapes, arsons or robberies in 2005, but did have 12 aggravated assaults, 58 burglaries, 219 thefts and 13 motor vehicle thefts.

Searcy had one murder, eight rapes, 13 robberies, 125 aggravated assaults, 130 burglaries, 665 thefts, 49 motor vehicle thefts and no arsons.

Major crimes tracked by the state include the violent crimes of murder, up 4.9 percent across the state; rape, up 2.7 percent; robbery, up 8.2 percent; and aggravated assault, up 10 percent.

Other crimes tracked as part of the state index include burglary, up 3.7 percent; theft, up 3.7 percent; motor vehicle theft, up 16.1 percent; and arson, the only category down, falling 33.8 percent.

Arrests for major crime across the state were down in 2005 from 2004, ranging from a 23 percent drop in arson arrests to a 1.3 percent arrest drop in motor vehicle arrests.

Some arrest categories were up substantial, but are not include in the crime index.

According to the ACIC, arrests for liquor law violations was up almost 270 percent, DUI arrests were up about 58 percent, and vagrancy arrests were up 93 percent.

Overall, in 2005, 144,641 arrests were made, up 22.3 percent from 2004, but only 18,538 of those were for the major crimes tracked for the crime index—a drop of 8.4 percent.

Of the 12,327 narcotic arrests in the state in 2005, 18 percent were for sale and manufacturing, while 82 percent were for possession.

TOP STORY>>Airmen at base receive medals for Iraq service

Leader staff writer

Bronze Stars were recently awarded to Sr. Airman John Leese and Sr. Master Sgt. Stanley Joseph, both of the 314th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, for their heroism during a recent deployment to Iraq.

After an improvised explosive device struck a truck in Leese’s convoy, he rendered combat-lifesaving actions to his injured comrades.

“(He) set the standard in this battalion in executing duties as a gunner and combat lifesaver,” said Army Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, 44th Corps Support Battalion commander.

Following a different convoy attack, Joseph led a line of trucks through the desert where the assault had taken place.
This leadership set the pace for 351 successful convoys covering 1.1 million miles of desert roads in Iraq.

“(Sergeant) Joseph’s leadership and motivational skills have been outstanding throughout this deployment,” said Army Brig. Gen. Charles Barr, 143rd Trans-portation Command commander.

The Bronze Star medal, authorized by Executive Order No. 9419 Feb. 4, 1944, is awarded a person in any branch of the military service who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States on or after Dec. 7, 1941, shall have distinguished himself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight, in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.

Staff Sgt. Beth Orlen contributed to this story.

TOP STORY>>Wood, Hipp win school nailbiter

IN SHORT: Boards are decided, one run-off will happen in Lonoke Oct. 10.

Leader staff writer

Charlie Wood was declared the winner Friday with two votes to spare over incumbent Ronnie Calva in the race for the Pulaski County Special School District Board after Wood picked up an absentee vote.

He’d been leading Calva with one vote after the Sept. 19 school elections.

Cabot School Board President David Hipp has been declared the winner of the four-candidate race that he led by 49.8 percent of the votes, just shy of a majority he needed to avoid a run-off next month.

Hipp seemed to fall short of winning by two votes. But the five votes for as many write-in candidates were thrown out after the election commission decided that the write-in candidates had not followed proper procedure to be counted, so Hipp did gain the majority after all and he does not have to go into the runoff. Jean McCanliss, a member of the Lonoke County Election Commission, said no one was even sure the five people who wrote names in used the names of real people. But one thing was clear, there were no real write-in candidates.

After those ballots were discounted, all that was left before declaring Hipp the winner was to wait out the clock on the overseas ballots. Hipp said five were out, but none came in.

Hipp received 291 votes to Ken Kincade’s 222. Also running for that seat were Joyce Bender who received 46 votes and Arthur Evans with 20 votes.

There were also five write-in votes.

Hipp is now starting his second, five-year term on the board.

He said Friday, just hours after learning that he had won, that he ran because he wanted to see through to completion projects he was involved in starting.

“There’s so much growth that we’ve got to keep building and then there’s the matter of finding the money to do it. You get caught up in it,” he said.

In the Pulaski County Special School District race, challenger Wood got 50.1 percent of the vote, unseating Calva, who was appointed last year to fill the unexpired term of Don Baker.

When votes were first counted after the Sept. 19 election, Calva and his opponent Charlie Wood, also from Sherwood, finished in a literal dead heat: 260 votes for Woods and 259 for Calva, a difference of just two-tenths of a percent.

Friday afternoon the election commission verified the vote totals from the Sept. 19 election and added in the overseas ballots, giving Wood the edge by one vote, 261 to Calva’s 260.

Before the election, Wood told the Leader that he was not satisfied with the way the PCSSD system 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.

The Lonoke School Board’s Zone 3, Position 6 position will be filled with a run-off election Tuesday, Oct. 10 between Cindy Burns and Darrell Park.

In the Sept. 19 election, Burns got 66 vote to Park’s 65.

Early voting for the Lonoke school board run-off starts 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Tuesday, Oct. 10 at the Lonoke County Courthouse. Polls will open 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 10. The polls will be closed on Monday, Oct. 9 due to Columbus Day.

Fred Campbell ran unopposed for Cabot School Board’s Position 6 seat.

TOP STORY>>Freeway widening will start this fall

IN SHORT: Metroplan dots the final “i” on road projects, while commission accepts bids.

Leader staff writer

Construction could begin within six or eight weeks on the widening of state Highway 67/167 northbound from Hwy. 440 to Redmond Road at Jacksonville, according to state Highway Commissioner Carl Rosenbaum.

At $13.4 million, Weaver-Bailey Contractors, Inc. of El Paso (White County) was the apparent low bidder to widen to six lanes the 1.6-mile northbound stretch of state Hwy. 67/167 be-tween state Hwy. 440 and the Redmond Road exit, according to Randy Ort, department spokes-man.

“This project is a continuation of the improvements we are making to Hwy. 67 between North Little Rock and Jacksonville,” said Rosenbaum. “The project will construct the northbound lanes and, in the future, motorists will have three lanes in each direction from I-40 northward up to Redmond Road.”

The widening adds two acceleration lanes to the northbound traffic.

Work on this section should be completed by late 2008.

Currently Hwy. 67/167 is six lanes wide or under construction from I-40 north to Kiehl Avenue.

The project is consistent with the Metroplan policy of widening all area freeways to six lanes.

That widening was one of three local projects given final design approval Wednesday morning at the Metroplan board of directors meeting in Little Rock.

The Highway Commission also accepted the apparent low bid of $851,000 from Blackhawk Construction and Transportation Services of Coila, Miss., to construct four box culverts across Bull Creek in White County on County Road 52, according to White County Judge Bobby Parish. “The project will provide a safer roadway for years to come for motorists in this area of the county,” said the judge.

Rosenbaum said construction should begin this fall and could be completed in the summer of 2007.

The other two projects getting final design are the new northbound Hwy. 67/167 Vandenberg Blvd. onramp in Jacksonville north of Lowe’s Home Center, and in Sherwood, the widening to four lanes of the east-west section of Hwy. 107 from Bear Paw Drive to Brockington Road, plus a center, two-way, left-turn lane.

Prior to approving the Hwy. 107 design, the board endorsed a technical coordinating committee recommendation to change the design standard from rural standard to the urban standard.

“That area is becoming unrural real quick,” said Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon, a member of the Metroplan Board.

“We got subdivision after subdivision going up out there and commercial development at the corner of Brockington Road.”

The change means the lanes will be wider, sidewalks will be constructed, there won’t be open ditches along the roadsides and it will be curbed and guttered—default standards for urban highway construction. That particular widening was long overdue, according to Richard Magee, Metroplan director of planning, because for many years that corridor was also considered the likely path of a portion of the North Belt Freeway.

Now that the Hwy. 107 corridor has, for all practical purposes, been eliminated from North Belt route consideration, the Highway Department and Metroplan have approved the Hwy. 107 widening. Also, a new traffic signal has been installed at the Hwy. 107 and Brockington Road intersection, Metroplan Board members were told. For the new northbound Vandenberg entrance ramp on to Hwy. 67/167, Jacksonville City Engineer Jay Whisker said the shift in the frontage road alignment, not the new onramp itself, is responsible for relocating The Pizza Com-pany. The project includes removal of the existing ramp and construction of a new ramp approximately 2,000 feet north of the existing ramp, as well as improvements along T.P.
White Drive — the frontage road.

The current onramp is right in front of Lowe’s and traffic from Madden Road, including Jacksonville High School traffic wanting to head north on Hwy. 67/167, must now make an illegal turn, or circle around through the Vandenberg intersection or else follow the frontage road north all the way to Hwy. 5 at Cabot.

“They are out there relocating some utilities (already),” Whisker said. The existing northbound entrance is a dangerous slip ramp, where it’s possible to have a head-on collision, Whisker said. The new design will make entrance to the ramp essentially a left-hand turn.

TOP STORY>>LRAFB center close to funding

IN SHORT: House approves $9.8 million for education building; Senate expected to go along.


The National Defense Authorization Act containing $9.8 million for the Little Rock Air Force Base joint-education center passed the House Friday and is expected to pass the Senate before the session ends this weekend, Cong. Vic Snyder said Friday.

Then it will sent to President Bush for his signature.

Jacksonville has pledged $5 million collected from a sales tax towards the construction of the joint-education center.
Groundbreaking on the facility won’t begin until the federally appropriated money reaches the Air Force.

“The joint education center has been a phenomenal project. It really shows the solidarity between “base” and Jacksonville,” said Capt. David Faggard, of the 314th Strategic Information Office.

In recent years, heightened security has limited civilian access to military bases including the education programs offered at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Officials will construct this new educational facility outside the base boundaries along Vandenberg Boulevard and John Harden Drive in Jacksonville so classes can continue to operate without interruption during times of increased security restrictions.

“This project, which will offer increased academic courses to the airmen and women at the base as well as civilians from the area, would not be possible without the strong working relationship between the community and the base,” according to Snyder, who has been a strong advocate for the education center and the base in general. Snyder serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

Six institutions have signed on to offer classes at the new center including Em-bry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Daytona Beach, Fla.; Park University of Park-ville, Mo.; Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, Ill.; Webster University of St. Louis, Mo.; University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University-Beebe.

Study programs include computer science, allied health, aeronautical management, criminal justice, social psychology, industrial technology, business, human relations and public administration.

Priority for class space is active duty military, retired military, Department of Defense employees and then civilians.
More than 1,045 military and 275 civilian personnel are enrolled in educational programs at LRAFB.

“The state-of-the-art education center envisioned by the base and community will provide airmen and civilians unprecedented access to new educational opportunities,” according to Sen. Mark Pryor said.

The $447.6 billion 2007 Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations Bill passed both the House and Senate Friday.
This bill funds military personnel, operations and maintenance and purchasing equipment.

“Arkansas is home to vital military installations, as well as a growing, cutting edge research and development industry that will bring our nation’s defense capabilities to new levels.

These investments will enhance our troops’ capabilities, improve their safety and help secure our nation,” Pryor said.

The appropriation bill includes $70 billion in emergency spending to pay for repairing and replacing Army and Marine Corps equipment worn out by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

TOP STORY>>Payday loans halted

IN SHORT: Diminished returns and bad publicity lead Advance America, one of the leading check cashers, to end military loans in the area beginning Oct. 15.

leader staff writer

Amidst a flurry of bad publicity and with Congress about to limit to 36 percent the amount of interest payday lenders can charge members of the military and their families, Advance America this week said it would stop making such loans beginning Oct. 15.

Advance America, the country’s largest payday lender, has a branch near Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville—one of four such lenders in that area.

Advance America cast its action in the most patriotic of terms, but it seems likely they are avoiding bad publicity and don’t want to bother with making piddling 36 percent loans (even though that’s more than twice the Arkansas usury limit), according to one critic.

Currently in Arkansas, Advance America charges 336 percent interest on a typical two-week, $350 payday advance to civilians and military personnel as well. That’s about 10 times the amount of interest they could collect with a 36 percent cap.
In some other states, they can charge far more.

“I’m certainly happy that they don’t want to take advantage of our military, said Hank Klein, the retired Jacksonville Arkansas Federal Credit Union president and founder of Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending.

“If they can only charge 36 percent, they don’t want to make loans. Instead of the base placing payday lenders off limits, Advance America has placed itself off limits to the military.”

Cong. Vic Snyder of Little Rock has been active bringing the issue before the House Armed Services Committee and expressed optimism Tuesday that the 36 percent interest cap would be adopted by the joint Armed Services conference committee and well on its way to being law, part of the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill, according to Jennifer Holman, his spokesman.

“During this time of war, we recognize that our fighting men and women carry an enormous burden for all of us and we thank them for their service,” said Advance America CEO Ken Compton.

“We believe that responsible use of short-term, unsecured loans can be a sound financial alternative for all Americans, including members of the military.”

Studies have shown that payday lenders and check cashers tend to congregate near military bases, and in fact, three of four Jacksonville payday len-ders are within one-half mile of base property outside Little Rock Air Force Base’s Van-denberg entrance gate.

Clustered just east of state Hwy. 67/167 are Advance America, First American Cash Advance and American Check Cashers.
Compton said Advance America is taking the action to counter any false perception that his company was preying on soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families.

“We apologize for any hardship the elimination of this trusted, short-term financial option may cause the men and women who are dedicated to the service of our country,” Compton said.

“We also hope the elimination of this option does not push individuals into more expensive and/or unregulated forms of credit,” he added.

TOP STORY>>Seven injured in truck wreck

Leader staff writer

A northbound tractor-trailer rig and a vehicle crossed over into the southbound lanes of rush hour traffic on a stretch of Hwy. 67/167 between Sher-wood and Jacksonville injuring seven people and creating a massive traffic jam Friday morning.

The big rig and a green vehicle tangled up while in the northbound lanes and plowed across the median before apparently sliding into southbound lanes, according to Capt. Steve Moore of the Jacksonville Fire Department, which responded to the scene. JFD received a call from dispatch at 8:49 a.m.

“The 18-wheeler flipped over on its side and appeared to slide across the southbound lanes cutting the traffic off,” Moore said.

Two of the injured people, the tractor-trailer driver and a woman who was ejected from her vehicle, were airlifted to area hospitals. Ambulances transported the other five people with injuries. Names of the injured were not yet released at press time. Emergency crews had to extricate two people from vehicles.

Five vehicles were towed from the accident scene by Ivy Hall Wrecker Service while an attempt got underway to upright the tractor-trailer rig.

One van had nearly all of its driver’s side stripped away.

The passenger’s side of a small foreign-made car was caved in nearly to the console.

Despite the extensive damages, no fatalities had been reported by press time.

Meanwhile, the traffic jam began to grow to the point that Jack-sonville police officers closed on-ramps to the southbound lanes of the freeway.

Motorists fortunate enough to reach off-ramps and those who were directed by officers to exit Hwy. 67/167 by taking the on-ramp at Redmond Road, also caused long congested lines on alternate traffic routes.

The big rig had blocked both of the southbound lanes, but according to Moore, officers had freed one lane for traffic around 10:45 a.m.

None of the vehicles caught fire.

The tractor-trailer was not hauling a load at the time of the accident.

There was no major fuel spill, according to the Jacksonville Fire Department.

Arkansas State Police are investigating the accident.

Emergency personnel from Jacksonville and Sherwood assisted in aiding the injured and removing vehicles from the freeway.
The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office assisted in clean-up efforts following the accident.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

EDITORIAL>>Going after payday lenders

Desperately needing traction against Mike Beebe in their painfully mechanical race for governor, Asa Hutchinson accused the attorney general this week of not sincerely wanting to get rid of the payday lenders.

It has been that kind of campaign: the candidates jousting over which is most assiduously for or against something or other.
Payday lending is as good an issue as any to measure a candidate’s heart. Whose interests would he set out to protect?
Hutchinson, the Republican, says that as governor he would try to repeal the 1999 law that legalized the commercial check cashers, which charge interest rates above 300 percent for short-term payday loans. Good for him. So does Beebe.

But Hutchinson questioned Beebe’s sincerity because Beebe’s campaign got a $200 check from a company that has payday-lending operations in Arkansas and the Democratic Party got contributions from others.

Beebe said he was unaware of the check and had it returned. But Hutchinson has trouble making payday lending a party issue or even a personal difference. The payday-lending law had to be passed with the votes of Democratic lawmakers, but its chief sponsor was a Republican state senator from Saline County who later became Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller’s chief of staff.

And Gunner DeLay, who is running for attorney general in tandem with Hutchinson, voted for the bill in 1999 when he was in the House of Representatives and voted twice against repealing the law.

Beebe, on the other hand, voted against it when he was in the Senate and as attorney general has sued to shut down payday lenders.

That is good enough for us, although those gifts to the Democratic Party make us wonder how repeal legislation will fare in the legislature, whoever is governor. Something tells us Beebe would have more leverage.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

SPORTS >>Lady Panthers stumble

Leader sportswriter

After a dynamic performance the weekend before at the Lady Cyclone tournament at Russellville, the Cabot Lady Panthers hit a bit of a stumbling block during last weekend’s ASU invitational tournament at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.

The Lady Panthers were grouped with an extremely tough pool of teams for their preliminary matches, going 1-5 in three matches against Jonesboro, Conway and Jonesboro Westside. The win came against the Lady Hurricane, but the five game losses put them deep in the rankings for the afternoon bracket play.

“We did not hit the ball well at all,” Lady Panthers coach Terry Williams said. “We didn’t sit the ball well, or get set up for the shot. It just wasn’t as good as the week before; not as much execution, and not as intense.”

While the pool games matched the Lady Panthers up with current and former conference rivals, the bracket games pitted them in a trio of matchups with some strong squads from Missouri. Cabot took on Dexter in the first round of bracket play, losing in straight games, 19-25 and 11-25.

“They weren’t as big as we were, they just didn’t make many mistakes,” Williams said. “They were really skilled; they just played solid and let you beat yourself.” The Lady Panthers’ only win of the tournament would come in the consolation bracket against Caruthersville, Mo., in a 25-19, 25-17 straight games win. The win kept Cabot alive and advanced them to the next round in a matchup with Poplar Bluff, Mo., but the Lady Panthers lost the final match of the tournament for them in a close 23-25, 23-25 decision.

Although the hitting and overall performance wasn’t quite as strong as she was expecting, Williams did note that their strong serving and serve-receiving were as strong as ever.

“We still served at 90 percent plus,” Williams said. “Our receiving was still in the high ‘80s, so we kept up in those two areas, we just didn’t hit well.” The win and two losses put the Lady Panthers at 10-7 overall for the season. The Lady Panthers hosted Mt. Saint Mary’s at the Panther gymnasium last night after Leader deadlines. The varsity-only match was the final match in the first round of the conference schedule.

SPORTS >>Conference battle heats up early for Devils, Hurricane

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville is 1-0 in conference play, and this week the Red Devils host Jonesboro, which is 0-1. Last week, Jacksonville pulled out a win in its first conference game by scoring two touchdowns late. Jonesboro, conversely, lost its opening league game by giving up two late scores.

All of that worked out to be significant to the confernce standings in the 6A-East, but it’s all rather insignificant to Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley when it comes to putting together the game for the Hurricane this week.

“They’re an explosive football team that I don’t think has clicked yet,” Whatley said. “I hope they don’t click this week.”
Jonesboro is 2-2, including a big win over rival Wynne in week one. That’s something any coach would make a serious note of.

“That’s something right there,” Whatley said. “It’s like in college, if you beat Alabama, it don’t matter what year it is, you’ve done something. They’ve played some good teams this year and they’ve slugged it out pretty good with them. They’ve won a couple and lost a couple, but they’ve been there. That’s a team you’d better take seriously.”

Jonesboro bowled over Nettleton in week two before falling to Osceola and opening conference by letting the Mustangs slip away with the win. They have good size up front, big backs, and they use them.

Jacksonville is small up front, and that’s the biggest concern heading into this Friday’s matchup at Jan Crow Stadium.
“They’re so dad gum big, they’re huge,” Whatley said. “We’re going to have to find a wa to combat that. The defense has been stepping up for us and they’re going to need to continue to do so.”

That doesn’t mean that Whatley thinks his offense can’t get things going. The passing game has sputtered in recent weeks, but the running game has picked up the slack. Don’t expect the Red Devils to change their strategy to an all-out ground game though. The passing game hasn’t been completely ineffective.

“Well the thing about is, you look back and we’ve thrown for 1,010 yards and 10 touchdowns, and we’re complaining,” Whatley said. “We’re complaining because we know it could be better. Daniel knows that, the receivers know that. We strive for perfection, and we haven’t been there yet. It’s just been little bitty things that’s kept us from getting there, or close to it.”
Whatley says he plans to do what will work.

“We go into every game hoping to be 50/50 (run/pass). Teams just won’t let you do it. Last week they were determined not let us behind ‘em. They dropped five back, so we ran the football. If teams crowd us, we think we can throw it. We’ll do what is given to us.”

In the meantime, the defense has been outstanding, and Whatley is thankful that the defense has played well enough to get some wins while the offense tries to improve.

“Yea, heck yea,” Whatley said. “It’s better than the alternative. Of course we’d like to play better on offense. We played sluggish and didn’t execute, but we had a defense that stepped up and put points on the board for us.”

SPORTS >>Beebe expects a tussle with NP

Leader sportswriter

Two local teams will square off this Friday when North Pulaski hosts Beebe at Falcon stadium in the second week of 5A-East Conference action. The Badgers will bring in a 3-1 record and 1-0 conference record after a wild shootout with Paragould last week.

A Robbie Puckett TD run with 40 seconds left broke a tie for the Badgers and allowed them to squeak out the close win. The Falcons only played one half of football last week, as stormy weather forced the cancellation of the remainder of their game against Greene County Tech after the Eagles built a 28-0 lead in the first half.

Despite a 0-4 record, Beebe coach Cam Prock says there is not one aspect of the North Pulaski team that his Badgers will take lightly on Friday. “It’s really surprising to me that they haven’t won yet,” Prock said. “You look at their line, and they have a lot of big, strong players up there. They have a lot of speed in the backfield. You see them on film, and it’s not like there’s not any talent there. They can put it together at any time, so we will definitely have to be ready.”

Despite offensive troubles for the Badgers throughout most of the early season, Prock was encouraged by what he saw in the last half of the Paragould game. Beebe came away with five touchdowns during the last 24 minutes to have what is by far its most productive half of the season.

“It’s been a pattern where we had one good play, and then two bad ones out of the three that would just kill the drive,” Prock said. “We started making good drives in the second half last week and started moving the football.”

North Pulaski head coach Tony Bohannon knows the potential danger of Beebe’s spread offense, and says his team is doing everything necessary to prepare for the Badgers this week. “They’re well-coached, disciplined, score a lot of points, you name it,” Bohannon said. “Paragould thought they had a run on them last week, and next thing you know, they’re scoring points on them.”

Bohannon says that even though the record for the Falcons is similar at this point in the season as last year, the attitudes at North Pulaski High School are not. “There just seems to be a lot more school spirit this year,” Bohannon said. “We are only one day into our homecoming week, but you can tell by the activities during the day that the kids have more spirit this year. Our JV team is playing well. They are 2-2 so far, and anytime you can get a W anywhere, it helps. We’re hoping that some of these little things will add up and help them play better on Friday.”

The Badgers and Falcons will get things underway at 7:30 on Friday in Jacksonville at NPHS.

SPORTS >>Panthers shocked, making changes

Leader sports editor

Cabot was a little “shocked” walking off the field last Friday night at Conway. That was the word used by head coach Mike Malham. The Panthers had just suffered their first loss of the season, but it was the conference opener and left the team 3-1, but 0-1 in league play.

The next six games are just as important as that first one, and it starts when Little Rock Catholic visits Panther Stadium this Friday for week two of 7A-Central play.

Cabot is planning to make some changes in the near future in hopes of righting the wrongs that were committed last week.
The first line of business is a decision no coaching staff wants to make, but one that Malham and staff feels is necessary.
“We’re probably going to have to make some changes,” Malham said. “We’re going to have to go back to playing some kids both ways to get some athletes back there in the secondary. They made us look slow.”

The most obvious move is that of halfback Colin Fuller. Fuller played both ways last year and started this season expecting to be on offense and defense. Cabot went with two platoons for Sylvan Hills, Searcy and Conway, but Fuller and a few teammates on offense will join him on defense this week against Catholic.

Quarterback Cory Wade and tight end Josh Clem will also play several downs on defense. Those changes are certain, others could follow. “We’ve got to stop giving up the big plays,” Malham said. “That’s what killed us the most. That fullback had a good game, but it was the long passes that burned us most of the time. They’ve got some good athletes out there, and the guys we had covering them couldn’t keep up some of the time.”

The Rockets don’t possess the same athleticism as the Wampus Cats, but they have some good runners. The best weapon in the Rocket offensive arsenal is running back LaNorris Dukes. Cabot’s defensive plan for this week starts with him.

“He’s a good back, and we he gets loose he can motor,” Malham said. “I don’t think he’s as quick as that No. 3 (Isaiah Jackson of Conway) but he can break tackles and run away from you if you let him.”

Catholic has a pair of reliable receivers and solid quarterback in ??. TheRockets run multiple formations and are equally dangerous in each. But Malham expects a lot of LaNorris Dukes.

“They’re getting back to running it more than anything else,” Malham said. “The Dukes kid is good, and that quarterback is a good hand. He can throw it too, but he’s pretty fast. They’ve got a few kids that can run a little bit, just like we do.”
An important factor for any team coming off its first loss in week four is its ability to regroup. After one day of practice, Malham said Tuesday morning that he feels the team will be fine.

“I think it shocked ‘em a little bit, but I think the kids are going to bounce back,” Malham said. “We just didn’t play as well as we could I thought. I don’t really know what the problem was, but they didn’t like it. They should bounce back.”

EDITORIAL>>Reduce debt, Beebe argues

A treasury surplus of between $700 million and $800 million supplies candidates for governor with a cornucopia of opportunities to indulge large blocs of voters, and Mike Beebe and Asa Hutchinson have not been timid. Beebe offered a new wrinkle this week that will not have much gut appeal to voters but deserves some inspection.

Beebe would take $250 million to $300 million of the surplus and pay off that amount of the state’s debt, which was accumulated by long-term bond issues for this or that construction program. By retiring the principal on bonds and preventing the future accumulation of interest, Beebe explained, a sizable part of the future revenue stream from the collection of taxes would be freed, and that would allow him to phase out the sales tax on groceries without jeopardizing other state services.

That makes good sense. We all do that (or want to do it) with our credit-card debt. But there are pitfalls, and General Beebe did not carry the thought far enough.

Richard Weiss, the director of the state Finance and Administration Department for many years and almost certainly the director under a Gov. Beebe, said it was a good idea and he gave an example. If Beebe were to pay off the state’s $100 million or so of outstanding college savings bonds, $24 million a year of taxes that are used to retire those bonds would be freed. It would offset part of the revenue loss from repealing the grocery tax.

But that’s not such a good idea. Those bond indentures were written to protect the investors from just such an economical impulse by the state. If the state retires those bonds early it must pay the investors all the interest that they would receive in the future if the bonds remained outstanding to the end. So the state would be saving no future interest by retiring the bonds now. But it would be a bonanza for the bondhbolders.

But here’s the better point: If protecting the state from future debt interest is a good thing, why not prevent it at the outset? Gov. Huckabee has directed that the voters be asked again in November to approve a $250 million bond issue that will retire those college bonds along with all the future accumulated interest and then issue new ones to consume Mr. Weiss’ $24 million a year for another 25 years or so. Beebe, like Huckabee, supported the issue a year ago when voters turned it down.
Now Beebe could recommend that voters defeat that measure, and then he could see that the legislature this winter met the colleges’ construction needs from the surplus. There is plenty there to do that and to meet the other vital capital needs, such as public school improvements. It would achieve precisely what Beebe proposes, and those savings would be real.

TOP STORY >>Beebe pushes health care plan

Leader staff writer

Attorney General Mike Beebe told doctors and administrators at Reb-samen Medical Center in Jacksonville Monday that if he is elected governor in November, his blueprint for Arkansas health care will bring insurance to more Arkansans, improve services for seniors and direct more federal and state money to school clinics and nursing programs.

Beebe says only one in four small businesses statewide can afford health insurance for employees. The Arkansas Safety Net Benefit Program, a state and federal partnership to help small businesses with fewer than 50 employees provide insurance, is now enrolling members.

Both Beebe and his Republican opponent, Asa Hutchinson vow to expand the program if it proves successful.
“By pooling small businesses’ purchasing power, we can broaden the base of people who are able to pay for their health care,” Beebe told The Leader.

Providing health care for uninured and underinsured patients cost Rebsamen Medical Center $7.7 million in 2005, a slight increase over the $7.5 million spent in 2004. Some of these patients have no insurance at all, while the underinsured have insurance, but can’t afford the deductible or co-pay, the initial out-of-pocket payment re-quired to go to an insurer’s primary care provider.

No patient is turned away from Rebsamen Medical Center based on inability to pay for medical care. Patients who cannot pay are asked to fill out a charity care form to help the hospital keep track of expense. The uninsured and underinsured make up about 35 percent of Rebsamen’s patients.

About 25 percent of the patients pay either with insurance or out of pocket and 6 percent of patients pay for medical care using TRICARE, the insurance benefit for military personnel and their families. The rest of the patients pay for medical care using Medicare or Medicaid. The underinsured or uninsured make up about 41 percent of the hospital’s emergency room patients and there were 23,200 emergency room visits at Rebsamen in 2005.


Just getting health care is a challenge for many Arkansans. Beebe estimates six in 10 Arkansans live in medically undeserved areas and the problem is getting worse. “One problem we’re facing as a state is nursing instructors are leaving teaching to go to the clinical side at the same time a large number of the state’s nurses are nearing retirement age,” Beebe said.

In 2004, 793 new registered nurses graduated and were licensed in Arkansas, compared to a need for 1,925 each year.
While Beebe calls for more medical personnel, Hutchinson’s health plan promises more rural health clinics, mobile health clinics to reach underserved areas and non-profit health care coverage programs.


The confusion experienced by millions of elderly people nationwide over the Medicare Part D prescription drug program prompted Beebe to include in his plan medical education and training advocates to help the growing geriatric population navigate the increasingly complex world of health care.

By 2025, Arkansas is projected to have the fifth highest number of seniors in the nation. Faced by the staggering costs, both financial and emotional, of putting family members in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, Beebe said more and more Arkansans are choosing to take care of their loved ones at home.

“Family caregivers for seniors face the challenges of balancing work, personal matters and their role as caregiver,” Beebe said. “By implementing a senior caregiver education program through the Arkansas Centers on Aging, senior caregivers will learn to manage their time, resources and learn how to cope with the needs of an aging family member,” Beebe said. Another part of Beebe’s plan is expanding preventative health care in schools for the state’s 452,000 students by increasing the state funding formula per pupil, which would make the schools eligible for matching federal funds through Medicaid.


Hutchinson’s plan differs from Beebe’s in several ways including creating a govenor’s council on affordable health care and a Surgeon General position by selecting someone currently within the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2003, Michigan became the first state to establish an office of Surgeon General and has seen positive results in health care reform there, according to Hutchinson’s Web site.

Campaigning mostly on the weekends, such as attending Saturday’s Donkey Day Dinner at Cabot Middle School North hosted by Lonoke County Democrats, Beebe is working to get his health care plan out to voters citing 10 years of experience serving on the Central Arkansas Hospital board of directors in Searcy, before it was purchased by White County Medical Center last year.

TOP STORY >>Jacksonville homes often go to renters

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville has more renters than homeowners, according to a presentation by the chamber of commerce to the city council Thursday night. The entire statistical presentation painted a surprising picture for Jacksonville. Not only does the city have more renters than home owners, its housing has a lower value than its neighbors, income is lower, and contrary to popular belief, the city actually has more young people than older established families.

In her PowerPoint display, Bonita Rownd, executive director of the chamber, told the city council that 52 percent of all Jacksonville housing was renter-occupied, leaving 48 percent owner-occupied. That means Jacksonville was about 20 percent more renters than the national average, 22 percent more than the state average and about 14 percent more than the county average.

Compared to immediate neighboring cities, Jacksonville’s rental percentage was almost double that of Cabot’s and about 20 percent higher than Sherwood. Not only does Jacksonville have more rentals than any other city in the area, but also the rental rate is lower.

The average low rate is just under $400 in Jacksonville, but it’s $440 in Cabot and $550 in Sherwood. At the high end, Jacksonville’s average is $450, but it’s $100 more in Cabot and another $100 more in Sherwood. The data collected through the U.S. Census and other sources also showed that Jacksonville had the cheapest housing values in the area.

About 60 percent of Jacksonville’s homes are valued at less than $100,000, compared to about 32 percent for Cabot and 37 percent for Sherwood. Jacksonville also has fewer homes in the coveted $100,000 to $199,000 range. Just 33 percent of the city’s homes are in this range, compared to 55 percent in Cabot and Sherwood. Proponents of the proposed townhouses on West Main jumped on this point at the council meeting, saying that the townhouses meet the need for homes in this coveted range as they would sell for $160,000 or more.

Jacksonville also has fewer $200,000-plus homes than Cabot or Sherwood. Along with the lower housing values, the city’s housing is also older than Cabot’s or Sherwood’s. Nearly 80 percent of Jacksonville’s homes are 17 years old or older, compared to about 35 percent for Cabot and about 65 percent for Sherwood.

Alderman Gary Fletcher said this figure was skewed because of all the homes in the Sunnyside Addition, which are 40 years old and older. “That’s about 500 homes right there,” he said. Just 9 percent of the city’s homes are less than seven years old, compared to 34 percent for Cabot and 18 percent for Sherwood. Nearly 40 percent of Jacksonville’s population is under the age of 24 and another 37 percent are between the ages of 25 and 49. Only Conway has a larger young population, but it also has three colleges.

Alderman Terry Sansing said it surprised him that the developers of the proposed townhouses were pushing the plan for the seniors when in fact it would be younger people moving in, bringing more children and more traffic to the area. In direct relation to the cheaper housing and the larger number of renters, the city’s education level is correspondingly lower than the neighboring cities.

Jacksonville has more non-high school graduates living in the city than Cabot or Sherwood, and has less college-degreed residents than the neighboring cities. This correlates to an average household income of about $48,000, well below the national and county averages, and about $4,000 below the state average.

The average household income for Cabot and Sherwood is $60,000 or more.

TOP STORY >>Prosecutor won't indict code officer

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain says Cabot police found no criminal activity during a three-week investigation into complaints that a code enforcement officer had illegally removed property from vacated houses.

McCastlain said the file she received from the police last week contained several hundred pages, which she will review, but not right now. She said the police told her they found evidence of civil violations that could be the basis of lawsuits, but no evidence that would support criminal charges.

Although the investigating officer told The Leader when he sent the file to McCastlain that he had not recommended charges but would instead leave that decision entirely to her. McCastlain said, “Cabot recommended no charges.” The subject of the investigation was Jack McNally, a friend of Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh and his campaign manager when he ran for mayor.

The investigation started after Alderman Odis Waymack filed a freedom of information request with the city for all paperwork dealing with McNally. Waymack, who is known for being a stickler for the letter of the law, was looking for information about a boat and car that he had heard McNally had removed from a vacant house on St. John’s Street. Instead, what he found was a July police report about McNally allegedly cleaning out the fenced backyard of a house on Chad Court (taking lawnmowers, barbeque grills and a child’s swing set) so the tall grass could be mowed.

Cabot has an ordinance against tall grass and clutter but there are no provisions in the ordinance for hauling off anyone’s possessions so the grass can be mowed. Police Chief Jackie Davis said he was not aware of the incident report until Waymack’s freedom of information request. Also, among the paperwork Waymack received was a statement from McNally about an earlier incident dated March 15, 2005, in which McNally said he “removed two chainsaws from the bed of a white pickup truck parked in a parking lot on Glenwood in Cabot.”

Police Chief Jackie Davis said that case was closed because the victim, who reported the chainsaws stolen, would not come back to the station to sign the complaint. Waymack, who learned Tuesday from The Leader that the police were recommending that criminal charges not be filed against McNally, said he was surprised and disappointed.

“The laws are not as important in Cabot and Lonoke County as who you know,” Waymack said. “From Brenda’s Portable Toilets dumping into Cabot’s sewer, West Tree Service using the old city dump to illegally dump brush and chips, to code enforcement officers taking items including vehicles from people’s property without proper authority, it’s all about who you know.”

Stumbaugh said he has purposely steered clear of the investigation so the integrity of the police department could not be questioned because of his relationship with McNally. He told the chief to conduct the investigation as he would any other, he said, adding that he would never stand in the way of a police investigation regardless of who was being investigated.
“I think if Mr. Waymack wants to make that statement, then public opinion of him that is already at an all-time low will fall even lower,” the mayor said.

He called his police department “top of the line.” After the investigation started, the owners of the boat and car came forward to report to police that they had been taken. That report should be included in the file McCastlain has received from Cabot police. Also included should be information that Waymack provided police about McNally hiring several residential yards mowed without the proper documentation that the owners had been notified that the yards were overgrown.

Waymack said he believes the unauthorized yard work constitutes fraud and he wants McCastlain to review the case file soon.

TOP STORY >>Rapists of kids get long jail time

Leader staff writer

Area courts sent a strong message to rapists last week, with Lonoke County judges sentencing one child rapist to 30 years in prison and another to 60 years. Meanwhile, a Jacksonville man was convicted in Pulaski County Circuit Court Friday for the brutal rape of a woman who lived with him and Monday a jury of seven men and five women sentenced him to 10 years for rape and five years for kidnapping.

In Lonoke County, Johnny Wayne Crossland, 42, of 44 Candy Lane in Austin was sentenced for raping a youngster at a relative’s house, after asking the boy if he wanted to watch cartoons. When a neighbor drove up, Crossland told the child he would kill him if he told about the rape, then threw the child a $5 bill.

Crossland must serve 42 of the 60 years before becoming eligible for parole. Edward Erwin, 24, of 541 Main St. in Coy pled guilty to two charges of rape and terrorist threatening for the rape of a 12-year-old girl. Erwin, a friend of the family, raped the child March 4 and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

The Jacksonville rapist, who was convicted of raping a woman he lived with, will remain in jail pending an appeal, Circuit Judge Willard Proctor ruled Monday. Joe Francis Rounsaville, then of 209 N. Bailey St.—scene of the rape—could have received a life sentence without the chance of parole, or 10 to 40 years.

“I don’t sleep,” said the victim testifying in the sentencing phase of the trial Monday, “and when I do, I hear his voice. I wake up crying. I’m afraid I won’t ever be able to trust anyone again ever.” After the sentence was an-nounced, the victim said she was satisfied. “Any time (received) is fine, just so long as he realizes what he did was wrong,” she said.

Rounsaville apparently became angry at the 51-year-old woman last Dec. 14, tightly bound her wrists, then raped her anally and vaginally, beat her and urinated on her. A friend testified that she looked as if she had been in a bad car wreck.
Prosecutor Jenna Notto Sherrill and the victim both told the jury that Rounsaville also tried to strangle her with a plastic tie and held a pillow over her face, telling her he would “help her die.”

In sentencing Rounsaville to 10 years, the lightest prison term possible—the jury signaled that the mandatory seven years he’ll spend in prison is sufficient. That’s when he’ll become eligible for parole. Jurors may have been influenced by the fact that after reporting the attack to the police, the victim moved back in with him two weeks later and tried to have charges dropped.

Sherrill said the woman returned because she was an alcoholic with low esteem and no place else to live. Rounsaville said the incident was nothing more than rough sex between consenting adults.

Bailiffs kept a tight rein on Proctor’s courtroom Monday, confiscating a cell phone that rang during court, removing two women from the gallery for loud whispered disapproval of the sentencing of a loved one, ordering one man to stop reading a newspaper during court and scolding two other women who remained seated after the bailiff asked all in the courtroom to stand for the judge—all that in the space of about one hour.

TOP STORY >>Titan missile crisis

Leader staff writer

It was Sept. 19, 1980, a day the 308th Titan II Strategic Missile Wing will never forget.

At 6:30 p.m., after a 16-hour day, an eight-and three-quarter-pound socket fell from its wrench at a missile silo in Damascus, 40 miles northwest of Little Rock Air Force Base.

At 3 a.m., BOOM! That fallen socket led to the explosion of Titan 374-7, a 350,000-pound missile with a nine-and-a-half-megaton thermonuclear warhead attached. Flames shot into the air; two- to three-inch-thick pieces of steel, the size of a table, sliced through the air; and the 750-ton missile silo door was found a quarter-of-a-mile away.

Sr. Airman David L. Livingston died in the explosion; 21 people were injured, and Damascus residents experienced ill effects from the fumes. “It was one tremendous explosion,” said retired Col. Jimmie D. Gray, former vice-wing commander at Little Rock Air Force Base. Twenty-six years later, three retired 308th Strategic Missile Wing officers on Thursday discussed “The Damascus Accident” as part of the “War Stories Lecture Series” presented by the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.
To discuss one of the worst mishaps in the 25 years of the 308th’s existence at LRAFB, Gray was joined by retired Maj. Vincent Maes, with missile maintenance, and retired Lt. Col. William Stockton, Security Police Squadron commander at LRAFB.
“It should in no way detract from the outstanding contributions thousands of men and women of the 308th organization made over a 25-year period. Their dedication and sacrifice ensured a lasting peace through nuclear deterrents,” Gray said.
“We were an outstanding unit, and we’re presenting our worst side, but there are lessons to be learned,” Gray said.
Stockton shared the overall view of the Titan II missile and its relation to the Cold War, with the nation’s biggest threat being Russia.

“It was a period of the Cold War. Things were very difficult between the U.S. and Russia and our diplomatic relations,” Stockton said.

The Titan II missile was used as a nuclear deterrent during the Cold War. It was the most powerful missile in the U.S. arsenal, 110 feet long by 10 feet wide. It carried a nine-and-a-half-megaton warhead; one megaton is equivalent to one million tons of dynamite.

The thermonuclear bomb on the Titan was 1,700 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War. Collectively, the 18 Titan missiles in Arkan-sas had more destructive power than all the wars in human history until that time.

Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona and McConnell AFB in Kansas each had 18 missiles. Maes, who worked in missile maintenance and operation at Davis-Monthan AFB, explained the mission system details of the Titan II missile and how maintenance was performed on it.

The control center was manned by a four-person crew that monitored the status of the missile; this was also where the missile was launched. “It took two keys to launch, and once you turned both keys, it took less than a minute to launch,” Maes said.

Jack Meadows, who was on the original 1963 crew and also in attendance at the presentation, told The Leader that he was never worried about the possibility of having to launch the missile, but he was worried there was no recall switch.
“There was no destruct factor. Once it was launched, it was gone,” Meadows said.

“If it was launched by mistake, there was nothing we could do about it,” Meadows added. Also in attendance was retired Chief MSgt. Bill Johnson, the last senior enlisted adviser for the 308th, who told The Leader that he too was not worried about having to launch the Titan.

“We just hoped that nobody else launched theirs either,” Johnson said. The missile was housed in a silo within a silo that consisted of eight levels. Maintenance crews were working on level two when the accident happened. Attached to the hydraulic standing platforms was a rubberized boot that flipped over between the missile and the platform to prevent anything from falling through if dropped.

The day missile 374-7 exploded, the boot didn’t keep the socket from falling. At 6:30 p.m., maintenance crews entered the silo to begin work after being delayed due to various unrelated equipment malfunctions. The eight- and three-quarter-pound socket fell, hit the standing platform and bounced toward the missile.

The boot had become too pliable through the years, and the socket fell 70 feet down the silo, hit the thrust mount and bounced into the side of the stage one fuel tank. The 100,000-gallon fuel tank emptied into the bottom of the silo. The fuels interacted and generated heat, which in turn increased the pressure on the tanks. At 8 p.m., the wing made the decision to evacuate the control center.

“When we did that, we had no readings and no way of telling what was going on out there,” Gray said. “We lost all readings,” Gray added.

Many attempts were made to get into the control center to see the readings, according to Gray. At 3 a.m., two people, Living-ston and Sgt. Jack Kennedy, made it into the complex. “When they made it in and had to back out because the fuel was so concentrated they couldn’t see, there was some controversy on who told them to turn on exhaust fan 105,” Gray said.
What that did, according to Gray, was pull the heavy concentration of fuel into the equipment area with all the electrical pumps.

“And automatically, boom!” Gray said. “The fire flashed back into the silo, which already had tremendous heat in there, and when the fire flashed back, the stage one oxidizer tank that was already very, very high in pressure, erupted.”

Within one hour of the accident, Gray found the nuclear warhead intact. “It was cracked, but it pegged out on the radio-activity scanner,” Gray said.

Media of the time reported that the warhead was missing. “The rumor of us losing the nuclear weapon prevailed for years after,” Gray said.

Lessons learned from this accident brought about security improvements near nuclear weapons. Security measures to prevent accidents include: all workers wearing a belt with lanyards to attach tools to, a cloth on the platform to reduce the chance of tools bouncing off the platform if they do fall and a renovation of the platforms.

Also included in the changes was the realization that training and qualification should never be compromised; communication and coordination with local authorities are needed; and that no weapon system is totally safe because of the chance of personal error.

TOP STORY >>Auditors discover financial shortfall

Leader staff writer

Allen Ridings, Beebe’s former code enforcement officer, came under fire in the recently completed state audit, but that information did not come from Mayor Donald Ward, who would not talk openly about the report during the Monday night council meeting and refused to release the audit report to The Leader.

Ward spoke in vague terms at the council meeting concerning the audit, which found money was missing. He said the information in the audit report was “of a sensitive nature,” adding, “I do not wish to go into all that.” After the meeting, Ward told this reporter that the audit report was not available for public inspection because he had called for a state police investigation that is still ongoing.

Ward added that he is not willing to risk being sued for releasing negative information if that investigation shows no illegal activity. Ward did offer to release the report with the sensitive parts blacked out. Despite the mayor’s reservations, the entire audit report is available to the public and can be found on the Arkansas Legislative Audit Web site.

Here in its entirety is the section the mayor wanted withheld: “Utility permit inspection fee receipts of $3,370 were not properly remitted to the City Treasurer for the period January 1, 2004 through June 19, 2006.

“Former Code Enforcement Officer Allen Ridings was responsible for collecting and remitting permit fees to the City Treasurer. Also, Mr. Ridings stated he improperly destroyed permit records evidencing receipt of City revenue prior to September 2005.

“The city reimbursed Mr. Ridings $8,282 for personal vehicle mileage documented by expense claims reporting 19,870 consecutive city-related business miles driven without any allowance for personal and commuting miles, during the period of January 1, 2004 through June 19, 2006.

“Mr. Ridings was unable to determine the correct mileage for which he should have been reimbursed for conducting city business. Internal controls relating to inspection fees and mileage reimbursements should be strengthened. “We recommend the city seek reimbursement for the un-deposited inspection fees and for non-business mileage reimbursements improperly received by Mr. Ridings.

“City management has responded that policies and procedures have been implemented to strengthen internal controls relating to inspection fees and mileage reimbursements.” Alderman Mike Robertson, who was mayor before Ward and will be the next mayor since he is running unopposed, said after the meeting that he didn’t agree with Ward that the audit should be withheld from the public.

It is clearly subject to the state’s Freedom of Information law, he said. Though Ward did not speak about any of the negative parts of the audit report and did not mention Ridings’ name, Robertson asked during the meeting if the problem with mileage had been resolved.

Ward answered that there had never been a clearcut policy before, but now city employees can’t collect mileage without turning in odometer readings to show the actual miles driven. Ridings was suspended of his duties June 19 while the state auditor was still going over city records. He was replaced June 21 by Leonard Forte, who was code officer for many years before Ridings was hired. Forte succeeded Monday night in getting the city council to change the city inspection fees to a square footage-based formula instead of cost of construction.

Forte told the council that if they would agree to 10 cents a square foot for inspections (half the amount Searcy charges), he would “make sure the correct amount was collected.”

“If we go by square foot, I’ll go out there and stick a tape on it and everybody will pay by the square foot,” Forte told the council. He said in a later interview that there was no way to know under the old formula whether the correct amount had been collected.

Most houses cost $50,000 or $60,000 on paper, he said, adding that it was highly unlikely that there would be almost no variation. Last year, 27 houses in the same area built by different contractors all cost $60,000, he said.

The new fees will cost builders more, but Cayne Orman, who builds homes all over the city, told the council he did not object to the increase.

Forte said the average house built in Beebe is 1,500 square feet. Under the new fee structure, builders will have to pay $150 for inspections. Under the old system, the cost was $97.50, he said.