Wednesday, December 06, 2006

OBITUARIES >> 12-06-06


Wanda T. Vaughan, 65, of Beebe went to be with the Lord Dec. 4. She was preceded in death by her sister, Dolly; four brothers, George, Billy, Junior and Calvin; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

She is survived by her husband, Barney Vaughan; one son, Tommy; three daughters, Charlotte, Ellen and Donna; seven grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; two brothers, Jimbo and Sidney; and three sisters, Rose Lea, Barbara and Patsy.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6 at Searcy First Pentecostal Church of God in Searcy, with burial in Beebe Cemetery. Funeral services are by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.


Vida Nipper, 101, of Beebe passed away Dec. 4 at White County Medical Center. She was a devout Christian, a Methodist for 88 years, the oldest member of the Beebe church, and perhaps Beebe’s oldest citizen.

She was preceded in death by her parents, John Wesley Taylor and Aretha Elizabeth Quattlebaum Taylor; her husband of 64 years, Leroy Nipper; brothers, Norman and Horace; sisters Edna Cotman and Odean Caldwell; granddaughters Sabra Ann Nipper and Jacqueline Nipper; and great-grandson, Thomas Herron, Jr.EE

Survivors include one daughter, Oleda Herron of Mayflower; one son, Tommy Nipper and his wife Shirley of Beebe; one brother, William Taylor and his wife Norene of San Diego, Cali. Also grandchildren, Ronald Herron and his wife Kris, Steve Herron, and Thomas Herron, Sr. and his wife Jerri, Anita Herron Long, Connie Nipper Kinman and her husband Dalin; great-grandchildren, Matthew Herron, Whitney Herron, Lindsay Herron, and Zachary Long; and one great-grandchild, Aidan Herron.
Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Funeral will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7 at the funeral home, with the Rev. Denman Gillett officiating. Burial will follow at Antioch Cemetery.


Robert J. “Bob” Collins, 64, of McRae died Dec. 3. He was preceded in death by his mother, Pearl Collins; and one daughter, Connie Jones. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Collins of McRae; one son, Gene Edward Collins of Kentucky; three stepchildren, Kas Glass of North Little Rock, James Glass of Beebe and Lyle Glass of Cabot; three grandchildren, Angel of Louisville, Ky., Stuart Dodson and Andrea Glass, both of North Little Rock; two great-grandchildren; three brothers, Thomas M. Collins of Beebe, George Collins of Plano, Ill. and Al Collins of Winford, Minn.; two sisters, Mabel Rettig and Florene Maple Stout, both of Beebe.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Burial will be in Beebe Cemetery.


Shirley Denise Williams, 71, of Hickory Plains died Dec. 2. She was born February 22, 1935, at Des Arc to Howard and Nettie Gross Graham. She was preceded in death by her parents; sister, Wanda Wells, and brother, Max Graham. She is survived by two sons, Rusty Williams and wife Kathy of Benton, and Billy Williams of Hope; one granddaughter, Paula Campbell; two great-grandchildren, Chloe and Brendan Campbell; one brother, Houston Gross and wife Betty of North Little Rock.
Memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.


Christopher Mark Matthews, 17, of Jacksonville died Dec. 2 in an automobile accident. He was born Oct. 11, 1989 in Jacksonville to Greg and Charlotte Davis Matthews. Chris was a student at North Pulaski High School where he was a two-year letterman on the football team.

He was employed at Arby’s in Sherwood. Chris was preceded in death by his grandfather, James Matthews. He is survived by his mother and step-father, Charlie and Jeff Bone of Jacksonville; father, Greg Matthews of Jacksonville; sister, Sarah Bone of Jacksonville; maternal grandparents, Wilma Lee and Chuck Henderson.

Also, paternal grandmother, Ginger Matthews; maternal grandparents, Billy and Jeanice Post; maternal step-grandparents, Johnny and Marcie Bone of Benton; uncles and aunts, Sam and Lorie Davis, Virgil and Kristen Nuckols, both of Sherwood, Mike Matthews of Jacksonville and Timmy Matthews of Tennessee; and several cousins. Chris was loved and will be greatly missed. Memorial services were Dec. 5, at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Chapel. The family suggests memorials be made to Chris Matthews Memorial Fund c/o North Pulaski High School.


Charles “Judge” “Curly” “Chuck” Abbott Rice, 66, of Cabot passed away Dec. 1. He was born Oct. 13, 1940 in Furlow, to the late Charles Wesley Rice and Frances Lucile Wilson-Rice. He was a very knowledgeable person about many things and very athletic from a very young age. During high school “Judge” was one of the star quarterbacks at Cabot High School. In the 1960’s he was a sprint car racer, and for a time was a star bowler, at one time holding a record score.

Being a very big racing advocate, no matter what he never missed a race. He became a very important part of a local racing crew for Barker’s Motor Sports. Very knowledgeable about racing and having such a friendly helpful personality, “Curly” would always help any racing crew he was around. He was a friend to everyone and never met a stranger. He was the 2006 Arkansas State Pool Player of the Year and finished in the rankings at the National Pool Championship in Las Vegas. Also preceding him in death were one daughter, Brenda Ann Rice, and one brother, Edward Eugene Rice. Survivors include two daughters, Tami Lowe and Tina Barnwell of Kansas; one sister, Thelma Dean Rice-Robinson of Cabot; several grandchildren and many other family members and dear friends.

Services were Dec. 5 at Cabot United Methodist Church with Bro. Dennie Calhoun officiating. Serving as pallbearers were Kevin Barker, Jason Hefley, Chuck McGinty, Danny Barker, Robert Murphy and Tim Caplinger. Graveside services were at Red-men Cemetery in DeQueen. Arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Eugene E. Gann, 62, of Jacksonville peacefully passed away Nov. 30 at his home. He was born June 15, 1944 in St. Louis, Mo., to the late Joseph F. Gann and Mrs. Edith May Smith Gann. Two sons, Eugene E. Gann Jr. and Charles Lloyd preceded him in death. He was of the Pentecostal faith and he enjoyed wrestling, watching TV and listening to gospel music.

He is survived by his loving wife, Betty Lee Gann of the home; his mother, Edith Gann of Truman; 16 children; three brothers; four sisters and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Funeral services were Dec. 4 in the chapel of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with the Rev. Royce Lowe officiating. Burial followed in Chapel Hill Memorial Park.


Jason Burton, 35, of Cabot passed away Nov. 30. He was born Sept. 4, 1971 in California to JoAnn Burton and the late Richard W. Burton. He is survived by his mother, JoAnn Burton of Cabot. Arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Lillie Mae Dearman, 93, of Cabot passed away Nov. 29. She was born April 25, 1913 in Woodruff County to the late Franklin and Mary Holder. She was preceded in death by her husband, James Dearman; son, Jerry Sloan Dearman; daughter, Kathrine Moseley and three brothers and four sisters. Survivors include one son, James Dearman of Sheridan; 10 grandchildren; 25 great-grandchildren; 12 great-great-grandchildren and one great-great-great-grandchild, along with many other family members and friends.

Graveside services were Dec. 2 in Sumner Cemetery at Cabot. Funeral arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Harlen Wayne Bass, 61, of Duffield, Virg., died Nov. 27. He was born July 30, 1945, in Searcy, to the late Quenton “Dick” and Mae Falen Bass. He was preceded in death by his brother, Johnny Kieth Bass. He is survived by his wife, Lilia Mae Purvis Bass; two daughters, “Frog” Jerrie and husband Jackie Barnette, and “Toad” Terrie and husband Johnny Fritz, all of Duffield, Virg.; one stepson, Joe Geovanni; five grandchildren, Joshua Wayne Peterson, Chad-wick Dean Fritz, Ashley Nachole Petersen, Cody Allen Fritz and Tyler Blake Barnette; one sister, Laurie Firth and husband Harold of Ward, three brothers, Gregory Lee “Greg” Bass of Ward, Richard and wife Lilian Bass of Clinton, and Dale and wife Patricia Bass of Beebe; one sister-in-law, Pat Bass of Ward. Funeral services were Dec. 2 at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Butlerville Cemetery.

EDITORIALS>>Don’t waste our surplus

Fresh estimates that the surplus in the state treasury will soar to $850 million and maybe well past that by the end of the fiscal year ought to be unalloyed good news. It means that the state has the resources to fix long unmet capital needs like school buildings and equipment, medical facilities and prisons.

But the developing culture in the Arkansas legislature makes good fiscal news mere fresh reasons to worry. It means more money for lawmakers to waste on political projects. A larger surplus gives legislators greater latitude to claim sizable sums as their own, to spread around their legislative districts in ways that will collect political chips. One idea behind term limits was that they would liberate legislators from such grabbiness. Term limits clearly has had the opposite effect.

Last year, members of the state Senate and House of Representatives divided a large part of the General Improvement Fund — the surplus — among themselves for projects in their districts for which they would get credit: a 4-H center, a private museum, street lights. This winter, with the surplus reaching toward $1 billion, legislators are looking for much bigger allotments. Not one of them should get defeated in 2008.

It is the greatest legislative scandal of the new century, but it is expanding, not shrinking. A few senators and representatives cavil at the outrage, but they are a minority. In the Senate, a group led by Sen. Bob Johnson of Bigelow and calling themselves The Brotherhood is running the show. John Brummet, the political columnist for Stephens newspapers, counts their strength at 21 out of the 35 senators.

The new governor will have to confront that reality. Mike Beebe has delicately asserted that he would like to see the surplus spent on real state needs like schools, colleges and prisons and perhaps a rainy-day fund for the state or a modest giveback to taxpayers. The Brotherhood stands in the way, and Beebe may be reluctant to challenge them. It may in fact be unproductive to make enemies of the grabby members of the chamber that he once led. But we think he owes it to the taxpayers to insist that the state spend its money on rational and demonstrated public needs. Besides leading with the bully pulpit, he can veto one by one each of the hundreds of pork bills as they emerge and force the legislature to override. The public would be on his side and it would bring the grab to a halt.

In the end, it may take a broad lawsuit like the one that Mike Wilson, the former representative from Jacksonville, filed last year challenging local pork bills in his bailiwick. The Arkansas Constitution prohibits local and special legislation, but the provision has always been ignored because it is a little vague. Just what is a local bill? The courts do their best to dodge decisions on such thorny questions, particularly when the practice has become common.

People have many reasons to regret the late tenure of Sen. Nick Wilson of Pocahontas, but this may be the greatest. He led the charge in 1997 to take away the governor’s prerogative of choosing the capital projects to fund from the General Improvement Fund and invest that power instead in the legislature.

Mike Huckabee was an easy target and Wilson succeeded. With that power in their grasp, Bob Johnson and other legislators took it to the next level. Why just pick the needy state projects that will be funded? Why not give the money to ourselves, in effect, by collecting proposals from friends and supporters back home about what fun projects they could undertake with a few hundred thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money?

It’s time to put a stop to the grab before it gets institutionalized any further. Gov. Beebe, it’s the first measure of your leadership.

TOP STORY >>Land cleared for library in Jacksonville

Leader deputy managing editor

After clearing four acres of land in downtown Jacksonville, the city is set to start testing the soil for construction of the new $2.6 million public library. Since mid-November, motorists and pedestrians have witnessed the transformation of the site as Epic Construction of Bryant tore down Main Street Texaco, a tobacco store thrift shop and empty storefront.

Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System, which will operate the city-owned library, says soil samples are needed to see what type of foundation is best for the building. “The architecture firm will drill 25-feet deep for samples to see what the soil looks like and what kind of foundation needs to be put in, whether it needs to be a concrete slab or anchored foundation, to make sure the soil doesn’t expand and cause cracks,” Roberts said.

The architecture firm will use the samples to see if it is feasible for the library to have geothermal heating and cooling where air is pumped into underground pipes. The temperature underground cools the air in the summer and warms it in the winter before being pumped into the library’s main heating and cooling system. The already warmed or cooled air costs less to heat or cool, which can reduce energy costs.

“I think it’s a good site and having that much land gives you enough to make a little park area. I hope it leads to more private development on Main Street,” Roberts said. Once it is known what type of soil is under the property, architects will figure the elevations needed for the property and create more detailed drawings of the building itself. “After the first of the year we will have another hearing to make sure the public is comfortable with the building,” Roberts said.

In July 2005, Jacksonville residents approved a one-mill property tax increase to pay off $2.5 million in bonds to build the new Nixon Library. The city purchased three acres of the land in three separate buys this summer, then used eminent domain to condemn and take the remaining acre of land. As part of the land deal, Paul and Dee Shaeffer, owners of Main Street Texaco, removed the underground fuel storage tanks. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality tested the ground where the tanks were for any leaks before the property was turned over to the city.

Jacksonville paid $300,000 for the Shaeffer’s property. The city bought land housing the closed tobacco store and Fishnet Missions thrift shop for $80,300 from the Abdin family and three lots worth $231,550 from Butch Dougherty.That left about 1.1 acres of land owned by Robert Dougherty. Because a price could not be agreed upon, the city used its powers of eminent domain in August to take the property.

Even though the city took the property it must still pay fair market value which will be decided through litigation. The city paid Epic Construction $19,900 to tear down the buildings on the site. The 13,884-square-foot library will be built on Main Street, between Walgreens and Warren Street, across the street from the Jacksonville Shopping Center and First Arkansas Bank and Trust. The 20-foot-tall building will be about 40 percent larger than the current library.

“At our last (public) meeting everyone was pleased with what the building will look like. There was some discussion over where the meeting room should be and where the children’s walled outdoor reading area should be, but overall the response was positive,” said Mark Wilson, Jacksonville’s representative on the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) board of directors.

Wilson also serves as the vice president of Jacksonville-based First Arkansas Bank and Trust. The Witsell, Evans and Rasco architecture firm is drafting sketches of what the building will look like to show patrons during a public meeting to be held in early spring. Plans call for the north side of the building to have a gazebo, benches and a covered walkway with pillars.

Inside, the library will have a vestibule that separates the general circulation area from a 1,000-square-foot multi-purpose room complete with kitchenette and restrooms. The layout allows people to use the multipurpose part of the building when the library itself isn’t open.

With large glass windows on the north side of the building and glass block walls inside, the library will have abundant sunlight without being overheated in the summer. The building will be lit at night; lights will be left on inside and the outside will be lit with floodlights and other lighting. There will be 3,204 square feet of general circulation area, 3,500 square feet of bookshelves, 1,200 square feet for a computer lab and 1,200 square feet for children’s reading area.

Plans include a walled garden area, accessible from the children’s reading area where youngsters can take their books outside to read. Cherry furniture, wooden ceiling tiles and cork flooring will make the interior of the building inviting. The entire building will be equipped with high-speed wireless Internet for laptop computer users. The current Nixon Library was constructed in 1969. It is one of the oldest buildings in the Central Arkansas Library System. Along with being old, the Nixon Library is small with 9,265 square feet. The new library will be approximately 13,500 square feet. Excluding the Nixon Library, the average Central CALS building is five-years-old and has about 14,000 square feet.

In 2004, the Nixon Library was closed for a month while a leak in the roof was repaired. About 200 books were damaged from the leaking roof. Several computers got wet as water leaked heavily through the roof to the building’s interior. About 40 ceiling tiles were damaged to the point of breaking and falling to the library floor. Workers cleaned the tiles and used a shop vacuum for about six hours to remove flooding water from the floor.

The drainage system failed when one of the roof drains got plugged, and instead of backing up onto the roof, the rainwater soaked into the ceiling until water leaked through. During the closure, workers removed asbestos insulation from a 950-square-foot area above the circulation desk. The Nixon Library still has asbestos materials in 488 square feet of floor tile in the back room where the librarians work, in 30 segments of pipe insulation and in 200 feet of caulking between the building’s exterior and window units.

TOP STORY >>Community center has quiet opening

Leader staff writer

The new community center in Cabot opened for business this week without any fanfare after the city conducted a final inspection Monday afternoon and declared the $4.1 million facility safe to occupy. A ribbon cutting is planned for Friday, Dec. 15, with a grand opening Jan. 1 to kick off the New Year, according to Carrol Astin, parks director.

Original plans called for a ribbon cutting Nov. 1 with the center actually opening two weeks later, but it was not completed in time. At midday Monday, Astin was working with installers on a door for disabled patrons that would open automatically. Not all the cardiovascular equipment was in place, but Astin said his plan was to open the center gradually beginning with a Tuesday morning meeting of the city’s economic development committee, which had booked a meeting room there.
Before the grand opening occurs, Astin hopes to open a winter version of Camp Cabot, the summer daycare program, for the children who will be out of school for the holidays.

“At least 80 percent of our population still leaves Cabot at six in the morning and doesn’t come back until six in the evening,” he said. Located on Highway 38 across from the high school on eight acres that used to be the American Legion ball field, the community center has been a long time in coming. Former Mayor Joe Allman was in his second term in office when Astin first presented to the city council pencil drawings of the building he wanted the city to build. But talk about the need for a facility with a heated swimming pool started almost a decade ago with the first parks commission.

The city purchased land for the center six years ago, when a group of World War II veterans who owned the ball field offered to sell it to the city for $50,000. With council approval, Allman bought the property, but it wasn’t until Stumbaugh became mayor that city voters were asked to reroute existing city revenue (a portion of the city’s 1.5 percent hamburger tax and a portion of the city millage) to pay for the facility.

When late in 2004, the construction bids came in at almost $1 million more than the 20-year bonds for $3 million the city had sold to local banks to pay for the center, the project stalled for several months while city leaders worked with architects to get the price down.

Eventually the extra money for building was included in a second bond issue funded in 2005 by extending an existing one-cent sales tax. The final cost of the 35,500-foot facility project was $4.1 million. That price includes a 25-meter pool, a therapy pool, a walking track, meeting rooms and two basketball courts.

The center will be open seven days a week. From Monday through Thursday it will be open from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. On Friday, the hours are 5 a.m. until 10 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, the hours are 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Memberships start as low as $60 for three months for individuals 18 years and under and for seniors, and go as high as $360 for families for one year. For more information, go to

TOP STORY >>State has not done enough, attorney says

Leader staff writer

The state hasn’t done all it should to assure adequate funding of public schools and hasn’t even petitioned to be released from oversight by the state Supreme Court, according to Sam Jones, attorney for the Pulaski County Special School District.
PCSSD and the Little Rock district are two of the four districts that successfully petitioned the state Supreme Court to leave open for now the Lake View school funding adequacy case until the General Assembly adjourns in May or June, according to Jones.

PCSSD has been an intervener in the school-adequacy issue since the mid 1990s. “The Arkansas Supreme Court has never declared school funding to be constitutional,” said Jones Tuesday. “The people of Arkansas are owed an analysis declaring, ‘Yes it’s finally constitutional,” he said. Because the court can’t get to that point itself, the districts have asked the court to defer the mandate to end the case until shortly after the end of the session that starts in January.

Jones called the state’s current $850 million surplus “fortuitous,” but not the motivation for the motion to keep the case open. He said he hoped the General Assembly would take further actions to ensure funding adequacy. “The state has done a good job in the last six to eight months of analyzing and compiling information,” said Jones, but there’s still work to be done, legislation to be passed and moneys to be attained.

“We’re still concerned about how we end up on facility funding, with so many millions of dollars needed,” the attorney said.
He said some district don’t have the resources to come up with their matching share of facilities improvement money, and work still needs to be done to ensure adequate funding for English language learners—mostly Hispanics.

The state formulae assumes for purposes of minimum foundation aid that districts are able to collect the full 98 percent of revenues, although in some districts, the percentage is closer to 90. Also to be resolved is whether or not districts may use federal school lunch money for teacher salaries.

TOP STORY >>Ozone could puncture North Belt plans

Leader staff writer

The completion of the North Belt Freeway could be “dead in the water,” if ozone levels are as high next summer as they were this past summer, according to John Hoffpauer of Metroplan. Metroplan executive director Jim McKenzie, while not as dramatic in his assessment, said construction of the North Belt and some other projects could be delayed or further complicated if central Arkansas slips into ozone noncompliance, and a lot of it depends on the weather, he said.

In determining ozone levels for a locality, the Environmental Protection Agency forgives the three summer days with the highest ozone levels each year, but the fourth highest day is averaged with the fourth highest days from the two preceding summers. If that moving three-year average exceeds 85.5 parts per billion, then a city or region is found to be in noncompliance and building new roads and attracting new business becomes greatly complicated or even impossible.

The fourth highest reading last summer was 88 ppb, according to Hoffpauer. Even if the fourth highest next summer is 87, it will still round up to 86 ppb, putting central Ar-kansas in nonattainment. Currently, no route has been selected for the North Belt Freeway through Sherwood and no funding has been earmarked. “If you’re not about to build it, its construction can’t really be delayed,” McKenzie said.

And if money is being spent and the project already is underway, its completion is allowed, said McKenzie. But still, life becomes much more difficult. Ozone levels last summer were low, except one really bad week, McKenzie said. But the fourth highest ozone level day was a high one, and a repeat this year will put the region into nonattainment. Once in nonattainment, it can take a decade or more to get the EPA off your back, according to Hoffpauer. The state Department of Environmental Quality has to develop a state implementation plan and establish an emissions budget, McKenzie said.

“Certain projects, if funded, could move ahead,” he said. Even the need to do a “build-no build” analysis would be difficult. The region would have to show that its transportation plan was in compliance with the state air quality implementation plan.
While Metroplan and the DEQ must monitor volatile organic compounds, such as gasoline fumes or fumes from a pine forest, the big problem is nitrous oxide, which come from combustion. NOX as its known, is a byproduct of cars, trucks, tractors and lawnmowers, with the largest point source in this area coming from Entergy’s White Bluff coal-fired power plant, Hoffpauer said.

Entergy had no replied to inquiries by press time. “It creates a bad business climate,” said Hoffpauer. “It creates difficulty for some businesses to expand or come here because of the regulations. Smokestack industries look elsewhere.” Tailpipe and smokestack NOX pollution need to be reduced, according to Hoffpauer. Everybody needs to pitch in. Entergy is funding an on-line survey to help determine how to reach consumers with the message about cutting ozone-producing chemicals.
Metroplan and its partners spend $50,000 last summer spreading the message that people should car pool, cut grass at night, take the bus, don’t go out to lunch or otherwise help keep down production of nitrous oxide.

TOP STORY >>School funding back in session

Leader staff writer

Area legislators this week said they were disappointed or surprised—or both—that the state Supreme Court reopened for the second time the Lake View school-funding adequacy case. Justices on Thursday reappointed two special masters who had previously served in the case to conduct another review of the adequacy and fairness of the state’s public school system. In a 5-2 ruling, the court said it was not sure that reforms passed by legislators in April were enough to meet the court’s standards.

Several area legislators questioned whether the judicial branch was overstepping its bounds, serving as a super legislature and forcing them to spend more on schools. State Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, said it takes 51 representatives and 18 state senators to make a law, while a simple majority of the seven justices on the state Supreme Court, voting in secret, can do the same thing.

“The legal system is not set up for them to be Big brother,” Bond said. “I think their goal is worthy, to make sure we continue to make progress, but when you’re talking about the justice system, I don’t think you can have the ends justify the means.”
“(The supreme Court has) already set precedent of reopening the closed case,” said state Rep. Jeff Wood, D-Sherwood. “I don’t think it’s going to affect what we do in session. We’ve met the mandate. (Lead lawyer David) Matthews is trying to dictate legislative policy, using the courts to do that.”

In fact, Gov.-elect Mike Beebe and legislative leaders said that their education priorities wouldn’t be affected by the state Supreme Court’s decision to keep a long-running school funding battle open until May. Beebe said the shortcomings cited by districts that pushed for the case to remain open would be addressed when the Legislature convenes in January. “We might disagree on how to get there, but education will remain the top priority,’’ Beebe told The Associated Press in an interview. “I think we’re going to do what we we’re going to do regardless of whether the court stayed in the case.”

“I’m disappointed that we continually look to courts for guidance (while) trying in good faith to improve education in the state,” said state Rep. Sandra Prater, D-Jacksonville. “There always will be work to do to try to move Arkansas forward. One of the biggest issues will be school facilities, (ensuring that they are) safe and adequate.”

“I’m hoping that once the information is turned in as to the legislation and funding passed in the last session, it will satisfy them to close the case, said state Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle. “I’m not sure we ever going to satisfy them,” Glover said of the lawyers for the districts. “There’s got to be a stopping place somewhere.” “To me it seems like they are getting almost into the legislative arena with that kind of comments and order,” said state Sen. John Paul Capps, D-Searcy.

“Everyone is getting too busy in this thing,” he said. “Step back and look at what we’ve done.” The ruling gave the state 30 days to show that it had complied with the court’s order to improve schools. Special masters Bradley Jesson and David Newbern were named once again to review the work and delayed closing the Lake View case until May.

Matthews, the lead attorney who asked the court to delay issuing its mandate, said the decision gives the state time to address the areas where schools are still lacking, including on facilities funding and money for rapidly growing districts.
“I think they had every intention of correcting those deficiencies,’’ said Matthews, who represents the Rogers school district. “It was never intended to be a criticism of the Legislature or of the governor. It was a simple acknowledgement that by the Legislature’s own documents, they had admitted there remained some things to do.”

Beebe said the top education issue that must be addressed in the 2007 session is funding to fix crumbling school buildings. Beebe said he anticipates the amount needed for school facilities over the biennium will be higher than the $250 million originally estimated. Sen. Shane Broadway, who has headed legislative efforts to upgrade school buildings, has said the number could be as high as $300 million to $400 million but said the figure won’t be known until late December.

Beebe and lawmakers will likely have to use money from the state’s surplus, which is predicted to grow to $843 million by the end of this fiscal year. “The good news with the facilities issue is that the bulk of that is capital and can be funded from the accumulated surplus as opposed to ongoing general revenue,” Beebe said. “Obviously there are going to be ongoing needs annually that will have to be addressed.”

SPORTS >>Red Devils win pair from North Pulaski

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville swept North Pulaski in a pair of ninth-grade River City conference games Monday night at the Devils Den. The Lady Red Devils routed the Lady Falcons 57-17 in the opener, and the Red Devils followed that with a 51-36 win over the Falcons to improve their season record to 3-2. The Red Devils took a commanding 32-12 lead at the half, but the Falcons stormed back in the second half and made a game of it.

“They came out in the second half and put some pressure on us,” Jacksonville coach Roy Jackson said. “I thought our guards played well down the stretch once they settled down. I’m proud of my kids, though. They weathered the storm and came back to put the game away.”

North Pulaski cut the lead to 48-36 with less than three minutes remaining, but they had to go to the outside from that point on. The Falcons had closed the gap on the Red Devils with strong inside shooting, but could not recreate the same success from beyond the arc. Deonta Swain added a pair of free throws in the final moments for Jacksonville, and Deshone McClure set the final margin with an inside jumper to seal the game for the Devils.

Swain got things started for Jacksonville with a three-point shot on the very first possession of the game. Veeders Nelson followed that with a pair of baskets to give the Red Devils a 7-0 lead by the 3:07 mark of the first quarter, prompting North Pulaski to take a timeout. Christian Knight finally got the Falcons on the board with an inside jumper, but Sherrod Williams answered for Jacksonville with a shot in the paint to put the Red Devils up 9-2.

Kyron Ware closed the gap for the Falcons with a basket and free throw, but Jacksonville went on a 6-0 run in the final minute of the quarter to extend the lead to 15-5. Knight brought the deficit back into single digits before the buzzer with a basket, but the Devils would extend their lead even more in the next frame.

Another 6-0 run for Jacksonville gave the Red Devils a 24-9 lead with 2:49 remaining in the first half. Nelson closed the half with back to back layups to give Jacksonville a 32-12 lead at the half. The Falcons came out with a much stiffer defense in the third quarter, holding the speedy Red Devils to only nine points in the frame. Michael Evans, Joseph Agee and Ware all found the basket for the Falcons, cutting the Devils’ lead to 41-24 heading into the final quarter.

The final period became a transition-fest, with both teams storming the length of the court for quick baskets. Swain and Nelson found the basket for Jacksonville, but the Falcons cut further into the lead with free throws from Agee and Ware, along with a jumper from Knight to make it 45-32. The Red Devils finally slowed the pace inside of two minutes remaining, denying NP a chance to rally any further.

Nelson led Jacksonville with 17 points. Ware led the Falcons with 13 points. The girls game was over before it started, as the Lady Red Devils marched out to a commanding 19-2 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Repeated turnovers from the Lady Falcons in the first six minutes allowed several quick baskets for Jacksonville. Crystal Washington led Jacksonville with 20 points. Apple Simms and Essica Walker each added 10 points for the Lady Red Devils.

SPORTS >>Searcy wins boys and girls crowns at Classic

Leader sports editor

The Bank Classic is over, and Searcy has two new shiny trophies after the boys and girls teams won their respective tournament championship games Saturday night at Searcy High School. The boys took a dominating win over Lonoke 51-35, while the girls came back from an 11-point deficit with 3:43 remaining to tie the game in regulation, and take a 67-65 victory over J.A. Fair of Little Rock.

The Lady Lions’ game winner came on a spectacular eight-foot running jumper by Kayla Medley. Even more spectacular than that was what it took for the Searcy girls to get to that point. Stellar defense, clutch shooting and a little help from an abysmal night at the line by the Lady War Eagles, added up to the Lady Lions’ improbable late comeback.

Fair hit just 18 of 32 free throws in the game, and missed five straight in the fourth quarter to help Searcy climb back into the game. Searcy senior Kallie Bartee hit two foul shots with seconds remaining to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Medley finished with a team-high 21 points for Searcy. Bartee added 19, 17 of which came in the second half. Kristen Worlow added eight points and led the team with 11 rebounds. Fair’s Vasha Sanders led all scorers with 33 points.

The Searcy boys scored the first 13 points of their title matchup with the Jackrabbits, and were scarcely challenged the rest of the night. Lonoke pulled to within 17-14 with 3:30 left in the first half, but Searcy scored the next seven points to make it a 10-point game. Lonoke’s #35 hit a three at the buzzer to cut the deficit to seven by halftime. That’s as close as the Jackrabbits would get the rest of the way.

Searcy scored first in the third quarter to make it 26-17, and Lonoke got no closer than eight points off the lead after that. They did get to within eight several times, the latest coming at 43-35 with 2:43 remaining in the game, but the Lions again went on a run and scored the final eight points of the game to set the final margin.

Brian McGrath led all scorers with 14 points while Levi Dixon and Matt Cramblett added 12 apiece. Cody Wilmath hit three three-pointers to chip in nine points. Lonoke was led by #35, who scored seven points. Three other Jackrabbits finished with six. The game was played cleanly. The two teams combined for just 11 free throws. Searcy hit five of six while Lonoke made three of five. The win lifts the Lions to 6-1 on the year while Lonoke fell to 4-3.

SPORTS >>Memphis controls tempo, beats JHS

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville didn’t fare too well in its first voyage into Memphis territory last Friday night. The Red Devils lost 57-38 to Memphis Central, who boasted three Division I commitments. The good news was the 57 points allowed to a team that has averaged nearly 80 per game. The bad news was the 30 turnovers committed by the Red Devils and the season-low 38 points scored.

“It was more of the same thing as it was against North Pulaski,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “We were too impatient and never got to our second and third options. Too many people were putting the ball on the floor and driving instead of running the offense and throwing it to the post.”

Jacksonville didn’t score a bucket from the field the entire first quarter, and trailed 14-1 at the end of one. The Red Devils calmed down in the second period and cut that deficit to 24-14 by halftime, and got within five points in the third quarter before falling back into old habits.

“We’re just inexperienced, especially at guard,” Joyner said. “When it got close and got real intense, we may have panicked a little bit. Actually we didn’t, we panicked a lot. We didn’t throw it in to the post the whole rest of the game, and I called six or seven different offenses designed to get the ball to the post.”

Memphis Central also got to the line frequently, and made the most of their opportunities. The hosts hit 33 of 38 foul shots to account for well over half their points. Jacksonville hit 12 of 18 free throws. “They play a real finesse type of ball over there where they just spread out and do a lot of one-on-one,” Joyner said. “There was no screening, no bodying up, just no real physical play. That’s the way we play period, and you could tell they (the officials) just weren’t used to that. We couldn’t even post up hard on offense without getting a foul. That made our post guys a little tentative and the guards couldn’t throw it to them. That played a role in it, but overall it was mostly our lack of experience. They were a pretty well-disciplined ball club on defense, and we were just too impatient.”

Kajuan Watson led Jacksonville with 12 points. He also did a good job defensively on Central star Randall Clayton, who averaged 25 points per game. Clayton scored just nine Friday night. “Defensively I thought we did an outstanding job,” Joyner said. “It was a stellar effort because that team has been putting some points on the board. We’re going to play hard on defense and hopefully that will get us some games, but we’re going to have to improve our guard play or it could turn into a tough season.”

The Red Devils got back to action last night in the first round of the Wampus Cat Invitational at Conway. Look for details of their game against Benton in Saturday’s edition of the Leader.

SPORTS >>Wolves top Cabot

Leader sportswriter

A strong second half from Lake Hamilton prevented the Cabot Panthers from taking their second-straight Ortho Arkansas tournament title on Saturday. The Wolves downed the Panthers 56-46 in the finals at the Diles Activities Center on the campus of Central Arkansas Christian.

Cabot fell behind early, but sophomore standout Adam Sterrenberg lifted the Panthers into the lead by the 3:19 mark of the second quarter with eight straight points from the end of the opening period until his two free throws in the second gave Cabot its only lead in the contest at 15-14.

The score was tied at 17-17 with only 1:29 left in the first half when Andy Lee and Dennis Fuller hit back-to-back three pointers for Lake Hamilton to give the Wolves a 23-17 lead at halftime, and the momentum going into the second half.
They would not relinquish either for the rest of the game.

“Those nine straight points at the end of the first half were the difference in this game,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “We couldn’t hit shots in the second half, we just played flat. They are a well-coached bunch, and they played a great game. It’s like I said before, ‘One of the Bridges was going to win it.’” It was the first time Jerry Bridges faced brother Jamie Bridges in a game-situation, and it would be the older Bridges brother that would take the win on this night.

Sterrenberg came out strong for the Panthers in the second half, hitting two early shots, including a three-pointer from about 30 feet to rally Cabot to within two points. His three cut the Wolves’ lead to 26-24 with 4:48 left in the third quarter, but it was as close as the Panthers would come.

Senior post Alex Sharpe finally came alive inside for the Panthers in the final two minutes of the game, but it would be too little, too late. Sharpe’s two late baskets kept the margin at 10, but the Panthers could not make up any more points on the stingy Wolves’ defense. Lake Hamilton claimed an early 7-3 lead off the heels of a three-point basket from Lee at the 5:18 mark of the first quarter. Lee would end up as high scorer in the game with 19 points, 15 of which came from his five shots beyond the arc. Lee’s 71 percent average from the three-point line was impossible for Cabot to answer, especially in the second half, when leading scorer Sterrenberg lost his touch from the outside.

The sophomore did have the touch in the first two frames, however. Eight of his total 19 points in the game came in the opening moments of the second quarter, propelling Cabot into a 17-14 lead with 2:45 left in the first half. A basket and free throw from Austin Bush tied the game with a little over a minute remaining before Lee and Fuller’s threes put the Wolves back in control.

After only two points and one rebound in the first half, Sharpe moved farther out to start the second half. The move looked as if it would pay off initially. Sharpe scored the first points of the second half with a jumper in the paint, and followed that with a rare three-point attempt that fell just off the mark. Sharpe did manage to make more of a difference on the boards in the final half, grabbing four rebounds.

The Panthers were still alive with 2:22 left in the third quarter. A jumper from Austin Johnson with an assist from Sharpe cut Lake Hamilton’s lead to 33-27, but the Wolves answered with more stunning outside shooting. Lee nailed another one from three-point land, directly followed by a three from Sanders Roark to give the Wolves a 38-27 lead. Lake Hamilton slowed the pace of the game from that point, keeping the ball for over a minute at a time on each possession, denying the Panthers an opportunity to claw their way back into contention.

Lee for Lake Hamilton and Sterrenberg for Cabot both finished the game with 19 points. Lee had seven rebounds compared to five for Sterrenberg. Sterrenberg was also 7 for 9 from the free-throw line. Johnson added 12 points for Cabot, and Sharpe finished with nine points, five rebounds and three blocks. The loss made the Panthers runners up for the Ortho tourney, and moved their record to 3-2 for the season.

Cabot bounced back from the loss by notching a win Monday in the first round of the Wampus Cat Invitational. The Panthers beat Van Buren ?? in overtime to advance to a second-round match between the winner of last night’s game between Jacksonville and Benton.

A win is always good, but Cabot coach Jerry Bridges wishes his team would have made Monday’s win a little easier on itself. Cabot blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to allow the Pointers to tie it and send it to overtime. “We didn’t keep doing the things that got us the lead and they came back on us,” Bridges said. “The credit goes to Van Buren for not giving up. I’m still happy. That’s a quality win for us. They’re thinking this is one of Van Buren’s better teams and we found a way to win it.”
With Cabot trailing by one point, Panther senior guard Justin Haas hit a three pointer with 55 seconds to go to put the Panthers up by two points, a lead they would not relinquish. Cabot will play the winner of Jacksonville-Benton at 5:30 Friday.