Friday, December 22, 2006

OBITUARIES >> 12-23-06


Charlie R. Sterne, 83, of Jacksonville died Dec. 18.

He was born July 8, 1923, in Lexa, to the late Joseph and Emma Sittman Sterne. He was also preceded in death by five brothers. He retired from the Air Force after 21 years of service, which included Army service.

Survivors include his wife, Jean Sterne of Jacksonville; daughters, Charlene Wallace and her husband John of Colleyville, Texas and Janet Varnier of Amelia, Va.; grandchildren, Laura Bull and her husband, Gary of Cochabamba, Bolivia and Emily Wallace of Colleyville, Texas; great-grandson, Nathan Bull of Cochabamba, and sister, Joan Holladay of Jonesboro.

Funeral services were held Dec. 21 at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville with Dr. Carol Goddard and John Wallace officiating. A private entombment followed the services. Memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville or the American Cancer Society.


Randall Franklin Morgan, Sr., 47, of Sherwood died Dec. 18. He was born Dec. 13, 1959 in Detroit, Mich., to the late Lucy Mangum Morgan and Rev. Leroy Morgan.

He was preceded in death by his mother; sister Rhomonda Kay Depper; three nieces and a nephew. Randall was a member of Grace Family Church. He worked 23 years in the automotive field, 19 years as a master ASE technician. †He worked five years raising money for Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Guard Association, and Wonderland Camp for mentally and physically challenged boys and girls in Missouri.

Survivors include his father, Rev. Leroy Morgan; stepmother, Linda of Jacksonville; two sons, Randall F. Morgan, Jr., and Ryan Keaton Morgan both of Sherwood; three sisters, Guenda Vincent and her husband Charles of Gates, Tenn., Joan Ring of Walnut Ridge and Donna Miller and her husband John of Cabot; a grandson, Hunter Daniel Morgan; seven nieces and nephews and 14 great-nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were Dec. 21, at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville with Pastor Paul Luman officiating.


Debra Lynn Roach, 46, of Cabot passed away Nov. 16. She was born Nov. 25, 1959 in Detroit, Mich., to William Royce Bradley and Conchitta Byerly-Bradley.

She was preceded in death by one brother, Stephen Bradley.Survivors include her husband, Michael Roach; four daughters, Brooke D. Roach, Crystal M. Roach, Starla L. Roach and Shawna L. Babcock; one son, Cody L. Babcock, all of Cabot; parents, William Bradley of Searcy and Conchitta Bradley of Augusta; one brother, Billy Bradley of Augusta; one sister, Nancy Rachel of Detroit, Mich.; along with many other family members and friends.

Funeral services were Dec. 22, at Mt. Springs Baptist Church with Bro. James Thomason officiating. Burial followed in Mt. Springs Cemetery at Cabot. Funeral arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service of Cabot.


Billy Loyd Wilson, 63, of Cabot, died Dec. 20.

He was born Dec. 28, 1942 in Little Rock to the late Henry Loyd and Martha Alice Looper Wilson.He was of the Methodist faith, loved hunting, fishing and the outdoors but not as much as he loved his wife and grandkids. Billy lived to provide a loving home for his wife and family.

He was a loving husband of 40 years to his wife, Connie Wilson of Cabot. He is also survived by three daughters, Tammy Temple and her husband, James, Tonya Camplain and her husband, Billy all of Austin, and Michelle Huett and her husband, Scott of Jacksonville; son, Mike Edgar and his wife, Cindy of Lonoke; brother, Troy Wilson and his wife, Pat of Fayetteville; three sisters, Henrietta Starkey and her husband, David of Austin, Patricia Reyes and her husband, Angel and Diana Miller and her husband, Bob, all of Cabot; grandchildren; Jamie Temple, Jessica Temple, Wil Camplain, Sara Camplain, Laci Garrett, Cody Garrett, Trisha, Rachel, Christopher, Kandyce, James and Katina Edgar and soon-to-be great-grandson, Jesse James Whipple.
Funeral services were held Dec. 22 at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville with Rev. Danny Wilson officiating.

Burial followed in Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery at North Little Rock.

EDITORIALS >> Cabot’s Quick fix

Cabot officials have found a solution to the cash crunch the city found itself in this month: The city almost didn’t make payroll last week, but a generous check from the state bailed Cabot out at almost at the last minute.

It still didn’t look like Cabot would meet payroll next month and pay its bills, but the water and wastewater commission played Santa Claus this week and advanced the city $240,000 in a lump-sum payment that the commission previously has made in quarterly installments.

Eddie Joe Williams, the incoming mayor, proposed the advance when he realized the city’s coffers had run dry. He is determined to get the city on its feet financially and says an advance from the water and wastewater commission will not be needed next year: He’ll build a rainy-day fund the city can fall back on when income falls short of expenses, especially toward the end of the year.

We expect prudent fiscal practices from cities, but we don’t always get them. It’s an encouraging sign that Mayor-elect Williams worked with other local officials and solved his city’s financial crisis even before he took office. Fiscal reponsibility is what Cabot residents can expect in the future.

EDITORIALS >> Kick out the usurers

Rep. Sandra Prater (D-Jacksonville) deserves praise for sponsoring a bill that might put the worst of the abusive payday lenders out of business in Arkansas. But we fear the industry will fight to let the storefront usurers stay in business and keep charging exorbitant rates on the poorest families, including those in the military.

Payday lending is the cat with a thousand lives. Although the lenders violate the state constitutional prohibition of usury, flagrantly, the courts seem incapable of that simple declaration. Last month, the Arkansas Supreme Court detected a technical flaw in the lower court’s handling of a payday-lending case and dispatched the question back to the subordinate court yet one more time.

The bill would impose a $300 fine on any lender other than banks, savings and loan associations and credit unions that is convicted of charging annual interest rates of more than 17 percent, which is the Arkansas constitutional limit on consumer loans. A similar bill came close to passing in 2005, but the payday lending companies are astonishingly influential in the legislature for outfits that did not exist 15 years ago. They employ one of the most influential lobbyists, Don Tilton, who also happens to be close to the new governor, Mike Beebe.

The bill will face the same hokey but nettlesome questions: Will it run pawnshops out of business? Or credit-card companies? Or the rent-to-own businesses? And why exempt the big boys — the banks, thrifts and credit unions? (They are regulated by other federal and state laws.) The 17 percent interest limit is a fraction of what the worst of the payday lenders charge their desperate customers. The lenders couldn’t stay in business for very long since they’re used to charging many times that proposed limit: In many cases, payday lenders have been known to charge 200-300 percent interest.

This area is littered with payday lenders operating out of storefronts with garish neon signs that promise easy cash without mentioning the outrageous fees and interest that go with those loans. Once customers are trapped in an endless cycle of borrowing, they realize there’s no escape from the usurious rates the payday lenders have sprung on them: Borrowers, many of them service members and their families, cannot repay the loans since they’re stuck with fees and interest several times above the principal.

These lenders cluster around military bases for a good reason: They know that young service members often find themselves in financial straits when they’re off fighting a war and their spouses run their households as best as they can with limited resources. That’s when the predators suck the blood from their victims, hounding them at all hours of the day and night and making them take out more loans to finance the previous loans. It’s a disgrace and an abomination.

Bill Halter, the incoming lieutenant governor, observed that a Department of Defense report had recommended that states take some action because the prey of the 300-percent lenders are often military men and their families. The Legislature should never have allowed the payday lenders into Arkansas, which once had the lowest interest rates in the nation. But the storefront operators greased their way into our neighborhoods with the help of the Legislature, which exempted the lenders from interest limits, calling them fees instead.

The Legislature could atone for past sins by supporting Rep. Prater’s legislation to kick the money changers out of our communities. This holiday season, the victims of abusive lending deserve relief from predators. When the Legislature meets next month, it should approve the bill without delay. Borrowers, consumer advocates and other people of goodwill owe a debt of gratitude to Rep. Prater and her colleagues who have stood up for the most vulnerable among us.

We have our worries that the bill, even if becomes law, will not do the job. It would toll only upon conviction, whereupon the business would pay a $300 fine. An occasional $300 fine may not deter the leeches. But we commend our lawmakers who are trying to protect the most desperate and vulnerable among us. Let’s pass the payday lending bill and see if it works.

SPORTS >> Beebe hosts holiday hoop tournament

Leader sportswriter

The White County Medical Center/First Security Christmas Classic will get underway on Thursday at the Badger Sports Arena in Beebe. It will be the sixth year for the tournament, and the fifth year under the current format. The tourney has quickly become a holiday favorite for basketball fans in the White County area, with a high number of fans camping out in the stands of the pristine new facility to watch a full day of games.

Fifth-year Badgers coach Chris Ellis says that hosting the tournament has been a labor of love for the past half-decade. He says that the tournament’s popularity seems to grow with every passing year. “People from other schools start calling about this time asking for reserve seating,” Ellis said. “We haven’t had the need for it so far, the arena sits 1,800 people. The response has been outstanding, though. A lot of people come and stay all day, they are off work for the holidays and love the fact that we have the tournament here.”

As far as his own team participating in this year’s tournament, he says the youth and inexperience of his squad concerns him heading into a tournament with some of the toughest teams in the state. “We’re so young, it would serve us a lot better if we didn’t play in a tournament at all over the holidays and just practiced for two or three hours twice every day,” Ellis said. “But with us hosting the tournament, that is not an option.”

Ellis says it is not one particular thing that needs polishing, but rather an all-around improvement, along with some much-needed aggressiveness on the court, particularly when it comes to the boards. “We’ve just been working to get better,” Ellis said. “We need to shoot better, we need to execute better, and be tougher. We’re kind of soft when it comes to going after rebounds; we just need to play like we are hungrier.”

The tournament will kick off Thursday morning at 10 a.m. with the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits against Hazen. CAC will play Carlisle in the first boys matchup at 11:30 a.m., followed by the Carlisle girls against Drew Central at 1 p.m. Lonoke will take on Drew Central in the boys division at 2:30 pm., with the Southside girls against Riverview following that game at 4 p.m. Newport will face Harding Academy in the boys division bracket at 5:30 p.m., and the host teams will take to the court for the final two games of opening night.

The Lady Badgers will play Harding Academy in the final girls game of the night at 7 p.m., and the Badgers will cap off the night with a game against Batesville Southside. The losers of each game will play during the first four games on Friday, followed by four winner’s bracket games Friday afternoon through Friday evening.

The championship games will be held Saturday night after all of the consolation games. The girls championship will be held at 7 p.m., with the boys championship game wrapping up the tournament at 8:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> AL Owls take title with win in finals

Leader sportswriter

Abundant Life made the most out of a free trip into the finals of the Lutheran Christmas Classic Thursday night. The Owls made it into the finals after their first round opponent Des Arc failed to show on Wednesday, and took the tournament championship with a 55-49 win over a scrappy Atkins squad.

Both teams struggled through a sloppy first half, but inspired play from sophomore guard Dane Lottner during the first four minutes of the third quarter gave the Owls the momentum for the remainder of the game. The Red Devils cut Abundant Life’s lead to only one point with 1:21 remaining, but the Owls managed the clock wisely in the late going, and also hit the free throws necessary to secure the championship.

Lottner finished with 15 points in the game, and also caught the eye of his head coach with the strong performance in one of his first starts as an Owl.“That’s the story of the game right there,” Owls coach Tim Ballard said. “You pretty much know what you’re going to get from Thomas (Cheney), Colby (Woolverton) and John (Fowler), but I’ve been saying that I needed one more guy to step up and get in the mix.” Ballard was also pleased with his team’s performance at the charity stripe down the stretch.

“We want to shoot 75 percent from the line as a team,” Ballard said. “Every game we have lost so far, we shot under that, but every game that we have won, we shot well from the free throw line, and tonight was no different.” Abundant Life got off to a quick 5-0 lead with a goal from John Michael Fowler, followed by a three pointer from Colby Woolverton. Atkins regrouped with a time out, and returned to the court strong. The Red Devils put up four quick points, followed by a three-point basket from Logan Childress a minute later to give Atkins its first lead of the game 7-5 at the 4:37 mark of the first quarter.

The Owls struggled from the floor in the first half. Along with a number of rushed shots that fell short, Abundant Life was also guilty of committing an unusually high number of turnovers for a team that prides itself on taking care of the ball. The only saving grace for the Owls in the first half was that the Red Devils were also guilty of the same crimes. Quick trips up and down the court made for a fast paced game, but all of the turnovers and poor shots led to a defensive struggle in the second quarter. Abundant Life outscored Atkins 11-7 in the second, cutting the Red Devils’ lead to 20-19 at the half.

Both teams got more into the groove a little better to start the third quarter, but none more than Lottner. After a few bad plays in the first half, Lottner made up for his mistakes and then some, carrying the Owls from a 23-19 deficit to a 25-23 lead by the 5:07 mark of the third quarter.

Lottner got his first points of the second half after he blocked a shot from Devils guard D.J. Brinkley, and took the ball down court. He was fouled in the process of going to the hoop, but hit both free throws to cut Atkins’ lead to 23-21. Lottner tied the game moments later with an inside basket assisted by Woolverton, and finished off his impressive run with a steal he took in for a layup.

While Lottner grabbed the lead for Abundant Life, it was Fowler who extended it. Woolverton found Fowler underneath the basket on back-to-back drives, and Fowler called his own number on the next drive for six straight points, and 10 unanswered points for the Owls combined with Lottner’s scores to give Abundant Life a 29-23 lead.

The outside shooting of Brinkley was the only thing that kept the Red Devils alive in the third quarter. Brinkley had nine of Atkins’ 12 points in the third, all of which came from three-point baskets. Woolverton answered one of those tres, and the Owls carried a 38-32 lead heading in to the final quarter. A three pointer from Nathaniel Tarkington with 2:46 left in the game cut AL’s lead to 47-46, but four-straight free throws from Fowler gave the Owls the insurance needed to hold on. Woolverton added a pair of free throws in the final seconds, and Fowler set the final margin with a foul shot with two seconds remaining.

Fowler led Abundant Life with 18 points, including 6 of 8 free throws in the final two minutes. Lottner added 15 points, and Woolverton finished with 12 points for the Owls. For Atkins, Brinkley finished with 11 points and Tarkington had 10 points. The win improves Abundant Life’s record to 16-4.

The Lady Owls also made it to the finals due to a forfeit, but fell to Clarendon in the finals 48-42. Sierra Durham led Abundant Life with 16 points, with 13 points added by sophomore Brittany Sharp. Missed opportunities at the free throw line would be the Achilles’ heal for the Lady Owls. With 16 of 36 at the charity stripe, the 20 missed points would prove to be the difference in a game that finished with a slim, six point margin. The loss gives the Lady Owls a 13-8 record.

SPORTS >> Tough division not looking any weaker in 2007

Leader sports editor

Basketball season is in full swing, but for the larger schools, the part of the season that really counts is just approaching. The state’s top three classifications don’t start conference play until January, and this year’s league races are very interesting for the six local teams that play in those leagues.The most interesting, and most ridiculously brutal is the 6A-East, which includes Jack-sonville, Sylvan Hills and Searcy. Along with those teams is Jonesboro, For-rest City, West Memphis, Mountain Home and newcomer Marion.

Marion took Cabot’s place after the Panthers were moved to the new 7A-Central. The other two teams are Beebe and North Pulaski, who are conference mates in the 5A-East. The 6A-East is a league that no one in the 6A-South wants to be a part of. As a matter of opinion, no one in either 7A classification would, or at least should, want to be a part of it. It’s murderous.
There are at least five teams in that conference that would have a legitimate shot at winning any of the other four conference championships in the top two classifications.

That number could be six, but little is known about Marion at this point. The Patriots have been state title contenders in 5A the past few years, so they are likely pretty good too. The odds-on favorite is clearly Jonesboro. Jonesboro is the defending conference champion and state runner up, and has almost everyone back. The Hurricanes are slicing through everyone so far this year. They have excellent guards, smooth forwards and solid post play. And they have speed and athleticism everywhere.

What they don’t have is three players to have already committed to Division I colleges. Forrest City is that team. The only problem the Mustangs will face in beating Jonesboro is the lack of an inside game. All three players mentioned are in the 6-foot-3, 6-4 range. Forrest City is capable of beating anyone, and is a real threat for a league and state title.Jacksonville slides into the third spot. That is where it finished last year, and now the Red Devils have a full year under the tutelage of Vic Joyner.

They lost their leading scorer and all of their starting guards, and the starting post player from last year is tearing up the junior college ranks. That’s a lot to replace physically, but the mentality on this team is much, much better. This team understands the term “team concept”. It’s very unlikely that any Red Devil is going to finish a single game with 38 points this year, and no one will mind.

The three listed above means that either Searcy or West Memphis will be left out of the playoffs. Imagine that. Either of those teams would challenge for a league title in the other leagues, but one will not be in the playoffs at all. West Memphis struggled this year, but Searcy has come up short too much recently. The Blue Devils missing the postseason two years in a row is unheard of, and improbable. They have already shown they are much better than last year, despite also losing 95 percent of everything. That’s because that 95 percent of everything was one player.

The biggest difference for West Memphis is that it has guards this year. The Blue Devils always have dominant, long forwards, and this year they have guards to go with them. They could slip in and win the whole thing, but last year’s seventh-place finish makes it hard to predict that right now. Searcy could again be the odd man out. The Lions lost one player to a Division I, sweet 16 school, but has a core group of three that have started for three years.

That will be a big plus. The Lions are undersized, but the guards are excellent, and they can all shoot. Pressure is unlikely to bother them much, but big teams will. Sylvan Hills was picked by most, not by the Leader, to finish in about this spot last year. Instead, the Bears advanced to the semifinals of the state playoffs. They lost everyone though. This team is very inexperienced, and that’s something that’s not afforded in a league like this one. As state before, little is known about the Patriots. It’s been overheard that they aren’t quite as good as recent years. Combine that with playing in a much tougher conference, and a playoff spot is unlikely.

Mountain Home has a new coach and a rejuvenated group of players, but also too much inexperience. The 6A-East is so tough, Cabot coach Jerry Bridges has said a number of times since the realignment that he’s not one bit sorry that his team is leaving the league. Instead, he moves to the 7A-Central, where he’ll have to deal with some still very formidable opponents.
The favorite is clearly Little Rock Central. The Tigers are 11-2, with both losses coming to rival Little Rock Hall. However, they are not yet full strength. Central is 11-2 without a single post player. That will change at semester when a very athletic, 6-7 center steps into the rotation. They will only get better.

Pine Bluff should come in second. The Zebras are loaded with tradition, and have a couple of recent championships to prove it. After those two, anyone could get in except Bryant. The Hornets, Catholic and Conway will be the underdogs while Cabot, North Little Rock and Russellville should battle for the final two spots. Don’t count out the others though. Conway has all the physical ingredients, but is very young. The only question surrounding the Wampus Cats is when they will come of age.

The 5A-East should belong to Greene County Tech this year. They have everyone back from a team that was eliminated by one point by the state champion. The Eagles are also chocked full of three-year starters. They have size, athleticism and play a frenetic style that have an opponent buried shortly after the onset. Blytheville is supposed to be down, but down for Blytheville is still usually better than most. Nettleton is solid this year and North Pulaski is vastly improved. Wynne will also be in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Paragould, Beebe and Batesville will probably stay on the outside looking in. Look out for the Badgers in Pioneers in coming years. This league is about to become very competitive. Beebe is too young to get into the playoffs this year, but the young talent could pull it together enough times to shake up the top dogs and make some noise late in the season.

SPORTS >> Classic tourney has new features

Leader sports editor

The 15th Annual Red Devil Classic basketball tournament begins Wednesday Dec. 27, and this year it has a distinctly different flavor. Gone are all those teams that typically made up the East and Central conferences in the old 5A classification. This year’s boys division will consist of only two local area teams, Jacksonville and North Pulaski.

Joining those two will be Little Rock McCellan, Hughes, and three out-of-state teams, including Overton High in Memphis, Olive Branch, Miss., and Woodham, Fla. Coach of the Red Devils, Vic Joyner knows very little about the out-of-state teams, or about his first-round opponent, Hughes. That doesn’t bother him much, he’s concerned with getting his team prepared for play in the highly competitive 6A-East in January.
“All I know is, according to some scouting reports I’ve got, they’re all supposed to be really good,” Joyner said of the teams from Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida. I haven’t seen any of them myself, but we’re worried about Jacksonville right now.”
The Red Devils currently sit on a 5-4 record, but the mediocre record is not what Joyner is concerned with. He is looking at honing his rotation in order to be able to put the best players on the floor when conference play arrives.

“We’ve been going four or five minutes at a time with completely different rotations, and I’ve been trying to narrow that down,” Joyner said. “It may have hurt us in games early on, but I’ve got so many young players. I had to find out which ones are going to be able to help us when it counts. Right now there’s still a lot of them that are making too many mistakes. It’s (the tournament) pretty much the last hoorah. They know it. We’ve said a lot in practice. We’ve slowed down, went back to some fundamental things in practice. We had a little time this week to back up and catch some of those guys up, and they know that if they don’t work those things out in this tournament, we’re going to have to cut the rotation back. I’ll take it back to seven or eight even, whatever we have to do to give us the best chance to win is what I’ll do.”

The overall team play is not where Joyner wants it, but he sees evidence of improvement. He has seen glimpses of his team playing like he expects, but it’s not been consistent. “They still kind of were out of sorts. Still not crisp in the total aspect of the game. When you look at everything that goes on over the course of the game, execution was a little bit better. The overall thinking during the game, the concept of it is a little bit better. Doing things in practice that are a little different and I think will help them recognize the mistakes.”

Expect to see similar, wholesale rotations in the tournament, but that’s not just because Joyner is making his final assessment for playing time. He’s going to be putting players through some different schemes that so far have remained in practice.
“So far we’ve just played mainly man because that’s our base defense, but this team can do a lot of things,” Joyner said. “After this, we’ll find out who is going to play, and just what it is we do well. You still might see 12 or 13 guys played at the end of the game, but it won’t be like it has been. We’re hoping to be able to give guys two, three minutes of rest, but as far as playing a lot, that will change if people don’t get some things worked out.”

North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper didn’t even know who his team’s first-round opponent is, and didn’t care. The week prior to the Red Devil Classic has been a bad one for the Falcons in the personnel department. The smallish team with only two true post players just got smaller and now has no post player at all. Sophomore center Carlos Donley, and sophomore forward Brandon Hudson are out. Donley is out indefinitely with knee problems. Hudson will transfer to Oak Grove at semester and is gone for the year.

“It’s been a tough week,” Cooper said. “It changes what we do. Whereas before we were going to be a running team that could slow it down on you if we had to, or if it was just to our advantage. Now, we’re just going to have to be a team that pushes and pushes and pushes, and that takes 100 percent commitment.”

The best case scenario for Donley is ligament damage, which would put him out four to six weeks. The worst case scenario is a torn ACL, which means a year of rehab. Recent practices have consisted of rigorous work on pressure defense. Cooper has been pleased with the effort his players are giving in trying to change strides in mid-stream, but the execution is lacking so far.

“We’re working on it, but right now in practice we’re not adjusting,” Cooper said. “To play that way you have got to have 100 percent commitment. That’s what I’m trying to get them to understand. It’s not just chaos. You have to be in the right place. The physical effort is there, but we’re not in the right place, we’re struggling to get there. Lots of people think the slowdown team is more structured, but to play like this takes more structure because one breakdown means giving up a layup. It may look chaotic, but it’s anything but that.”

The recent loss of an inside presence also means Cooper won’t necessarily be coaching to win a lot of games in the Red Devil Classic. He knows that the games that start in January are much more important. “Our focus changed this week that’s for sure,” Cooper said. “We would love to win the tournament and we’re going to play to win, but mainly we’re going to focus on the team and preparing for conference.”

Cooper isn’t sure any longer who all of his key personnel is going to be, nor does he know for certain how the team will ultimately handle the loss of two teammates and the new, more physically taxing scheme. There are a few things that he does know.
“We’re now probably one of the smallest teams in the country,” Cooper said. “We’re going to have to be tougher, and we’re going to have to smarter. One thing I’m sure of, the Falcons are going to fight.”

TOP STORY >> Lawyers ready to recover funding


Former Jacksonville Rep. Mike Wilson says he still expects the state Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional the whole notion of General Improvement Funds being used by legislators for projects back home and he says he’s already getting calls from lawyers interested in recovering some of the $52 million in GIF funds spent since the last regular session of the Legislature.If successful, the lawyers themselves would be paid for their work in recovering the monies.


The Supreme Court last week upheld Wilson’s contention that $440,000 in GIF funds appropriated to improve Bigelow arrea roads violated the state constitution, but declined or deferred from ruling on several other area appropriation acts unconstitutional, noting that Circuit Judge Willard A. Proctor had not entered a final order dismissing three appropriations from Wilson’s original suit.

The court said it wasn’t in the business of ruling on lower court decisions until they’re completed.Wilson says he thinks the Court will rule the entire idea of funding local projects with state money unconstitutional as soon as he gets the final order from Proctor, and that he expects them to expedite their final ruling to prevent lawmakers from doling out GIF funds to projects at the end of the session beginning in January.

“It’s plain to me they are ready to knock them all out,” he said.If Wilson is right, Lonoke County might have to refund the $300,000 in GIF funds it spent to repair and remodel the jail and the Carlisle Community Center might have to refund the $300,000 it received as well.


Wilson said he would petition Proctor as early as this week to enter that final order dismissing the Three Cheerleaders Scholarship Fund, the North Pulaski Community Complex and the North Pulaski Fire Department from his suit.

Wilson, a former state representative who is a lawyer himself, said that Proctor had ordered him earlier to add the recipients of those three GIF appropriations to the list of defendants in his suit, but had later agreed to allow Wilson to drop them.
The Three Cheerleaders Scholarship Fund was organized in the honor of three Cabot area cheerleaders who died when the vehicle they were in on state Hwy. 89 pulled into traffic in front of an oncoming truck on Hwy. 5.


Locally, Wilson challenged appropriations for Jacksonville’s Museum of Military History, the senior center, the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society and toward a new Jacksonville library, saying the GIF appropriations constituted “special and local legislation,” a violation of Amendment 14 of the state Constitution.

State Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, was responsible for much of the $190,000 in GIF funds earmarked for the Jacksonville library. Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim has said several times that loss of the appropriation won’t derail the $2 million plus library—funded by a voter-approved bond issue.

Bond, who sponsored or cosponsored the local GIF appropriations Wilson is trying to block, said last week that he interpreted the Supreme Court Decision Dec. 14 as a signal that it would rule only the Bigelow project unconstitional and was using the lack of Proctor’s final order on the three dropped defendants as an excuse not to rule on the rest.

FROM THE EDITOR >> What little girl wanted for holiday

(This is a reprint of a previous Christmas column.)
When my friend Jack Sallee was with the Jaycees in Fayetteville, they’d put an ad in the paper at Christmastime, saying that for $2 you could have Santa come to your place. There’d be a group of Santas going out every night, and Sallee was among them.
“Each Santa went to about 10 homes a night,” Sallee says. “Each Santa had a driver. Mine was named Larry Nixon. He was a big fellow, and I would tell the kids Larry was driving me around town.”

Usually nothing out of the ordinary happened. Kids got to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and Santa gave them lots of candy, and everybody went to bed happy.
But then something different did happen. Sallee says, “One night we had two houses left to go. We drove around for a while, and when we found one, it was a one-room house. We went inside, and the house had a dirt floor and hardly any furnishings.”
A young girl was there with her mother. They were as poor as they could be: They had nothing — or very little.

The two Jaycees, college educated and professionals who’d seen dozens of nice homes, couldn’t believe what they had walked into. “There were two cots to sleep on, and a table and a chair,” Sallee says. “The house had a pot-bellied stove. She had one of those small Styrofoam ice chests. So needless to say, I was taken aback because I didn’t think people still lived like that. This was inside the Fayetteville city limits.”

“The girl was seven or eight years old,” Sallee continues, “and she had long hair and blue eyes. She wore a nightgown that looked like a man’s T-shirt her mother had cut off. She was flabbergasted that Santa Claus would actually visit her.” He says, “For a Christmas tree, her mother had brought in a branch and put it on the table.” Her mother had found her a present — a ball wrapped in tissue paper. Sallee wondered what else this poor girl would ask for.

“In the homes we had seen,” he continues, “the children would tell us what they wanted by reciting the toy sections in stores they’d been to.” But that wasn’t what the girl wanted. “The girl sat on my lap and looked at me seriously,” Sallee recalls. “She said, ‘Santa, the only thing I want is for Daddy to come home.’” “I looked at my driver, this big, burly guy, and he had to walk outside because tears were streaming down his face,” Sallee says.

“The mother turned her back to us, and I just turned my head away from her,” he adds.
“I was just stunned and moved and speechless. I wanted to hold the little girl and tell her everything was going to be all right, but there was nothing you could do. You felt helpless. She never asked for a toy or clothes.

“I said there are some things Santa Claus can’t do,” Sallee adds, “but Santa Claus would try. I gave her all the candy I had. “It’s an experience you’ll never forget,” he says. “It will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Sallee remembers that little girl around this time of the year. He wonders what happened to her father. Maybe this Christmas he will be home, and, who knows, they’ll have a nice home to live in. You can’t lose hope.

TOP STORY >> Bill could jeopardize future of payday lenders here


Leader staff report
Rep. Sandra Prater, D-Jacksonville, along with several other lawmakers on Thursday filed a bill that would fine payday lenders and other institutions for making high-interest consumer loans. The bill would prevent the triple-digit interest rates some payday lenders charge in the state. The bill would fine businesses $300 for charging more than 17 percent interest on loans. (See editorial, p. 6A.)Under the proposal filed Thursday, the fine would be levied for each high interest loan.

“The case has now narrowed down to the question of, is 400 percent higher than 17 percent? I think we know the answer to that,’’ said H.C. Klein, president of Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending, a coalition of groups seeking to end the practice of payday loans. The state’s Constitution limits interest on consumer loans to a maximum of 17 percent annually, but opponents of payday lending have said the state’s Check Casher’s Act allows payday lenders to charge higher interest rates.
Through a payday loan in Arkansas, a customer writing a check for $400, for example, typically would receive $350.

The lender would keep the check for about two weeks without cashing it and, thereby, allowing the customer time to buy back the check. The $50 charge on the $350 loan for 14 days equates to 371 percent interest, well above Arkansas’ usury limit of 17 percent.

In November, the Arkansas Supreme Court sent a lawsuit challenging the Check Cashers Act back to a Pulaski County Circuit Court, rejecting an earlier ruling that those suing must first exhaust administrative appeals before seeking a decision by the courts.

“Payday lenders operate by offering what they advertise as a short solution to financial distress, and in truth for many people who fall victim to them, it becomes a death trap they can’t escape,’’ said Rep. David Johnson, D-Little Rock. Sen. Shawn Womack, R-Mountain Home, said he understands the need for providing credit to people who can’t normally get loans but said the payday lending industry’s growth concerns him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Santa Claus makes early visit to kids


Children at the Lonoke County Exceptional School in Cabot had an early visit from Santa Claus Wednesday, thanks in part to the local Kiwanis Club, Century 21 Real Estate Unlimited and All for Pets veterinary clinic. The students waited eagerly for the jolly man to arrive. When he walked through the door the excitement could not be contained.

As children waited their turn to receive a present from Santa, the sounds of wrapping paper being torn could be heard around the room. Some were a bit leery of the big man in the red suit with the big white beard and preferred taking their gift from one of Santa’s helpers, others climbed onto Santa’s lap and told him what they wanted under their tree come Christmas morning.

Each boy and girl received a present from Santa. The boys all got vehicles that were being driven around the floor, and all the girls got baby dolls clutched in their arms. Santa made his trip with help from the Kiwanis Club of Cabot’s Young Children – Priority One committee chaired by Billie Howard, Century 21 Real Estate Unlimited in Cabot and the staff at All for Pets veterinary clinic with Dr. Teresa Allen, the current president for the Kiwanis Club.

“This is our Christmas project,” Howard said. “We get gifts for the boys and girls every year.” Barbara Morris, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Lonoke Exceptional School-Cabot, remarked that the Kiwanis Club, along with Century 21 Real Estate Unlimited, have been “awesome” in their support and help at the school.

“We can’t thank them enough,” Morris said. “If we need anything, they are right there for us; they are really special to us,” Morris added. The Lonoke Exceptional School is a childcare, preschool for developmentally challenged children that evaluate the child’s speech and language skills, fine and gross motor skills, self-help skills, social-emotional skills and cognitive skills. They serve the Lonoke, Pulaski, Prairie, Jefferson and White county areas with locations in Lonoke and Cabot. Kiwanis International, founded in 1915, is comprised of service- minded individuals who work to respond to the unique needs in their communities and are dedicated to serving the children of the world and improving the quality of life worldwide. The Young Children-Priority One committee gives special emphasis to projects in support of children from prenatal through age five.

TOP STORY >>Jacksonville passes nearly $20M budget


The Jacksonville City Council approved a $19.9 million operating budget for 2007 at its meeting Thursday night and also re-appointed former planning commissioner Kevin McCleary to a vacant seat on the council.

McCleary was appointed to the city council earlier this year to fill the Ward 5, Position 1 seat, which opened when longtime alderman Robert Lewis died. McCleary’s appointment was set to expire the end of this month. McCleary asked the council to be reappointed to Lewis’ seat again, but Civil Service Commissioner Ron McDaniel also asked for the appointment. Both candidates spoke to the council about working hard for Jacksonville’s future. The council, without out much discussion or fanfare, voted to keep McCleary in the seat. He will serve a four-year term and be eligible to run for the seat in 2010.

The council also approved the 2007 budget, which included $15.5 million for the general fund, up 6.6 percent from this year; $2.1 million for the street fund, up 16.3 percent; $1.4 million for the sanitation fund, up 8.7 percent; and the emergency medical services, up 10.8 percent. Overall, the $19.9 million budget is up 7.9 percent from this year’s overall budget of $18.5 million.

According to Finance Director Paul Mushrush part of the increase was because of salary raises, an increase in health benefits and rise in gas and oil costs. The cost to insure city employees jumped a quarter of a million dollars, going from $1.24 million this year to $1.49 million in 2007. “Our claims were 26 percent more than the premiums paid,” Mushrush explained, “ and that makes it hard to get competitive rates.” In comparison, Sherwood saw no health insurance increase this year.

The insurance increase was so much this year that all employees will have to pay part of it. “Employees on the family plan have always had to pay about 25 percent of the cost. But there has been no cost to those with single coverage,” Mushrush said. Now those employees will have to contribute about $35 a month. In its 2007 budget, the city has earmarked money to give employees a 3.5 percent raise. “With their health insurance contribution, raises for some employees will work out to just two percent.”
Among other increases in the 2007 budget includes a 22 percent increase in capital outlay to complete a number of park projects including a new restrooms signs and a dog park inside Dupree Park.

The sanitation fund was hit with a 26 percent increase in landfill fees when the city negotiated a new contract with Brushy Island landfill.

TOP STORY >>Department bails out city

Leader staff writer

The financial crisis in January for the city of Cabot, which is expected to enter the new year with $45,000 or less in the general fund, has been averted by a $240,000 payment from Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, which now runs the city utilities.

The commission met Wednesday morning and voted to give the money to Eddie Joe Williams, the new mayor on Jan. 2. State law allows water departments to voluntarily pay 5 percent of their annual revenue to the city for fire and police protection. State law also provides for payments to the city in lieu of property tax. In a breakdown of the money the city will receive, about $10,000 is in lieu of taxes and about $230,000 is for fire and police protection.

For many years, water department money has helped the city make it through January. The money was simply transferred from the water department to the general fund.
But in 2006, the new commission, voted to pay the money in quarterly increments instead of a lump sum.

Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh had not been a supporter of turning the city utilities over to a commission. And when the commission was trying in 2005 to get ready to take over running the utilities by January 2006, he insisted that they must go through him to get information they needed. He told commissioners to tell him what they needed and he would get it for them.

Williams has been in contact with the commission since he was elected in November, and both the commission and the mayor-elect say they are looking forward to a good working relationship. Commission secretary Bill Cypert alluded to the city’s cash crunch during the Wednesday morning commission meeting.“The mayor-elect has asked us to make that payment in one lump sum effective Jan. 2,” Cypert said. “In light of the circumstances, I make a motion that we do that.”

Except for brief comments about the importance of working with the city, the commission approved the payment without discussion. Williams did not at-tend the meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes, but he said later that he appreciated the cooperation. “I think it’s great that they see themselves as part of the city and realize that what’s good for the city is good for them,” he said.

Williams also has asked the commission to consider buying the city annex, which now houses the water and sewer billing departments and the old city shop on Kerr Station Road. The city is buying the old Community Bank building next to city hall and doesn’t need all the space at the annex and the money the commission would pay would help with the cash crunch. The old shop could be used to park equipment.

Also, Williams said he doesn’t want the commission to move the headquarters for Cabot Water Works out of the downtown area and leave part of the building vacant. Williams said last week that he hopes it won’t be necessary to ask the commission to pay all the money at one time in 2008.
The budget Williams is working on for 2007 will call for enough cuts to ensure that at least $300,000 of the expected $7.5 million in revenue will be carried into 2008.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

TOP STORY >>Man wanted for murder surrenders

Leader staff writer

Ezekiel Lee Williams, 28, of Jacksonville, has entered a plea of not guilty to one felony of first-degree murder stemming from a Dec. 12 shooting at an apartment complex off Quince Hill Road. Williams, who is accused in the fatal shooting of Shoney Tremaine Allen, a 27-year-old Little Rock man, surrendered to law-enforcement officers at the Jacksonville police station late Sunday afternoon. Williams’ bond was initially set at $500,000.

On Dec. 12, Allen suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the upper-right leg nearby his abdomen, police say. Allen was taken to a nearby church parking lot to be airlifted by med-flight personnel but he died before he could be transported. He was officially pronounced dead at 12:50 p.m.—a little more than an hour before he had been shot. Williams whose address is listed apartment #42 off Quince Hill Road was initially identified as the suspect. Williams allegedly fled the area in a silver-colored 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche. Last week, Lt. Richard Ward, assistant public information officer for Jacksonville Police Department, revealed that Williams’ attorney had contacted investigators about possibly turning himself over to local law enforcement authorities either of Thursday night or Friday but those times came and went without a sign of Williams at the Jacksonville police station located off Main St.

So far, no motive has surfaced as to what led up to the Dec. 12th shooting. Jenkins previously indicated that a “scuffle” between the two men may have occurred before the shooting. Through a witness’ acquaintance, it was alleged that Williams was acting strangely on the day of the shooting but this allegation could not be confirmed.

Before police ever arrived to the scene of the shooting, bad news landed on the doorstep of a woman who resides just down the street from the Swiss Village apartment complex where the shooting took place. The woman told The Leader that a young man came to her home seeking help. The woman who reported the shooting explained that a young man knocked on her door saying, ‘My friend has been shot, would you call the police?’

As the call to the police was made, Allen was clinging onto life. Initially, police discovered Allen lying on a walkway in front of apartment #42. Realizing the man was injured, an officer called for an ambulance. Police then launched a search to locate the suspect and a warrant involving a first-degree murder charge was eventually issued against Williams, police say. Prior to Williams’ surrender, police had described as being armed and dangerous. The Dec. 12 fatal shooting marks the fourth murder to occur in Jacksonville this year. Three of those four murder investigations stemmed gunplay.

One of those murders, though, involved an apparent fatal beating of a 2-month-old baby girl. Another incident involved the shooting death of a Cabot teen during an apparent drug-deal-gone-bad incident at Jacksonville High School parking lot, police say. The remaining murder also involved a fatal shooting of another man at an apartment complex nearby Dupree Park off Redmond Road.

TOP STORY >>Council in Cabot rebuffs shelter

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Safe Haven won’t get a house in Cabot anytime soon for victims of domestic violence since the city council voted Monday night to not give the special use permit that would have made the project possible. The council is often divided on important issues, but it voted unanimously against the shelter. Council members and the mayor said they had been deluged with calls from residents who were opposed to turning the house at 111 S. Jackson Street into a shelter. The residents were armed with a petition containing 77 signatures of residents in the neighborhood and others who said they didn’t want the shelter in any neighborhood in Cabot.

Some of those residents spoke during the council meeting Monday night saying essentially the same things they had said during two meetings of the planning commission, which approved the special use permit earlier this month. They are not opposed to a shelter for battered women and their children, but they don’t want it in their neighborhoods. “I’m quite certain these ladies in the shelter are going to be protected,” Helen Anderson told the council in response to assurances from shelter proponents that security measures would be in place and that violence was not likely. “If there’s any problem it will be with the neighbors.”

Anderson said she would be unable to sleep at night for thinking about violent men lurking in her bushes trying to catch a glimpse of their wives and girlfriends. “I want to feel safe in my home,” she said. J.M. Park, the retired banker who serves as the chairman of Lonoke County Safe Haven, Inc., countered that argument. “I can see how a woman who’s had her face knocked half off – and maybe her kids kicked around too – might also lose some sleep,” Park said. “I can see where this is going tonight, down the tubes.”

Lonoke County Safe Haven has been in operation for about two years. Brenda Reynolds, the organization’s executive director, told the council that 283 women filed orders of protection last year in Lonoke County and that at least one or two women contact the organization every day trying to get out of dangerous situations. She said the women needed a shelter close to home because the courts are there and that’s where they work and where their children go to school.

Mary Ann Taft, a volunteer with the organization who has also worked in shelters, told the council that the men who batter women are cowards who are not interested in hurting anyone but the women in their lives. “If not in our neighborhood, then where?” Taft asked. In other business, the council passed a resolution continuing the current city budget into 2007. Such resolutions are common, especially when a new mayor is taking over.

The council also unanimously passed an ordinance requiring “peddlers, solicitors and vendors” to register with the city clerk.
The ordinance was drafted after a resident complained about members of a Texas church with no ties to the community soliciting money from motorists. City Attorney Clint McGue, who drafted the document, said it was not possible to exclude some groups from the ordinance. To rein in out-of-state churches, all organizations including the Girl Scouts and the Salvation Army will have to register.

The council also unanimously passed resolutions recognizing the mayor and the six council members who will not return in January 2007. Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh has served four years; Alderman Bob Duke, 30 years, Alderman James Glenn, 20 years, Alderman David Polantz, eight years; Alderman Odis Waymack, six years, Alderman Patrick Hutton, four years; and Alderman Jerry Stephens, two years.

TOP STORY >>City wants to promote its heritage

Leader staff writer

After the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission reviewed a 24-page tourism assessment of the city on Monday, Aldermen Bob Stroud made it clear, “We need money. We need to promote this city.” Stroud, a commission member, wants the group to consider proposing up to a three-cent tax on prepared foods, which could bring in about $900,000 a year.
“Everyone around us except Sherwood is at three cents,” Stroud said. “It’s going to have to happen here. We need someone to push this thing through the city council.

Tommy Dupree, a member of the chamber of commerce tourism committee readily agreed. “We need to pay-off the museum, expand the community center and acquire more battlefield land. We need as much tax as possible with a sunset clause.
Annabelle Davis, marketing director for the city’s parks and recreation department cautioned the group about a sunset clause. “We can’t under fund maintenance and operations of our attractions.” All agreed that no tax would be asked for until a definitive plan to attract more tourists to the city is developed.

With that in mind, the commission voted to pay about $3,000 to Thomason and Associates to develop a plan and help point the city in the right direction. The commission had already spent $9,700 with the consultants for the report their reviewed Monday night. Chairman Marshall Smith reminded the commission that it could ask the city council to approve up to a three-cent tax on prepared foods, commonly called the hamburger tax, without seeking a vote from the residents. Dupree said that last year city restaurants sold about $30 million in food, meaning each cent of tax would bring in about $300,000. A three-cent tax would equate to $900,000.

City Finance Director Paul Mushrush couldn’t verify those figures but said he could get information from the state finance department so the commission would have a clearer idea of the amount the tax could generate. Currently the commission is funded by a two-cent hotel room tax, which is bringing in about $80,000 per year. The commission could ask the city council to increase that tax by an additional penny without residents voting on the issue. “The hotel owners are against it and the tax would bring in that much more,” said Smith.

Mayor Tommy Swaim, who is also a member of the commission, said if the group asked for a hamburger tax it would be best to split it with the parks and recreation department. “That’s what Sherwood and Little Rock do. Don’t expect to have all that money for commission use,” the mayor said. Smith told the commission that currently Cabot has a 1.5 cent tax on prepared foods and hotel rooms, Little Rock has a two-cent tax on prepared foods and hotel rooms, North Little Rock has a three-cent tax on both, while Sherwood has no hotels, hence no tax on hotel rooms and a two-cent tax on prepared foods. The consultant’s report provided the commission with not much that they already knew, according to Smith.

The report said that ”historically the city has not experienced much tourism outside of visiting friends and relatives.” But added that the “recent addition of the Jacksonville Museum of History and plans for the historic battlefield signal an opportunity to grow beyond the current visitor base.” Curt Cottle, one of the consultants presenting the report to the commission, said the city to focus on its military heritage and promote its military ties. The report said that Jacksonville has many assets and provides for a good livable community for its residents but has some significant hurdles as it strives to attract tourism.”

Cottle said the city needs to pay particular attention to how it looks. “Call it the ‘charm factor’, but out-of-towners are attracted to and want to be in locations that are prettier and livelier than their own.” The report said Jacksonville was at a disadvantage without a distinct downtown. Cottle recommended that the city work at developing a marketable district similar to Little Rock’s River Market District. The consultants recommended that Jacksonville focus on developing area of Main Street anchored by the military museum on the east end and the new library on the west end. “The divided design of Main Street is an interesting feature and one that already signals to the out-of-towners something different than everywhere else in town,” the report said.

TOP STORY >>Senator will push for plane upgrades

Leader staff writer

Sen. Blanche Lincoln Tuesday toured the innards of the old C-130 and the new C-130J, part of a morning briefing and visit to Little Rock Air Force Base. Meeting with Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of the base, Lincoln vowed her continued support and advocacy for the premier C-130 base in the world. That is where all the crews, U.S. and foreign, are trained, and the National Guard on the base trains the trainers. She said she had come to the base as “a routine visit to see the needs of the base.”
After the tour, she said she had concerns over the 55-year-old runway. “A lot needs to be updated.”

Self told her that even though political considerations that surfaced during the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) hearings interfered with Defense Department plans to turn it into a mega base, Little Rock still emerged with a number of gains attributable in part to her leadership and that of Sen. Mark Pryor and Cong. Vic Snyder. Self said that although the base realized only eight additional aircraft and 300-plus personnel instead of the once-expected 4,000-person increase, BRAC still moved the base forward.

The Air Mobility Command gained 16 J-model planes, most of which are still to be delivered. Among the gains brought to fruition are the 463rd Airlift Wing’s permanent assignment to the base, the receipt of eight state-of-the-art C-130J transports and new flight simulators. Self said the base is preparing for the future. He arranged to tour the aging Arnold Elementary School with Lincoln, showed her the deteriorating runway and showed her through two C-130s—a 40-year-old model and the redesigned C-130J.

Informed that the base cannot decommission or cannibalize for parts several old C-130s currently restricted or grounded, Lincoln said she would try to change that. “Congress says we must maintain them as flyable until further notice,” said one briefer. “That cuts our access to parts.” At one time, only 18 of the 45 assigned C-130s were in service, one briefer told her.
Currently, about 35 are in service, with many of them in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Col. Dave Watson, vice commander, told the senator that the C-130s now could drop payloads from higher altitudes, but with greater accuracy thanks to global positioning satellite receivers that steer the parachutes. Self told her that the base would like to train and maintain a new fleet of joint cargo aircraft once the Defense Department awards a contract. The aircraft will be able to take off and land on a 2,000-foot mountaintop airstrip and transport four pallets of cargo. The short version of the C-130 could be among the planes considered. “Your (congressional) delegation is absolutely devoted to you,” Lincoln told her briefers. “We work tight as a group, all six of us.”

TOP STORY >>Rebsamen examines its future role

Leader editor and publisher

Kurt Meyer, chief executive officer of Rebsamen Medical Center in Jacksonville, was looking at a newspaper article Monday morning about another hospital expansion, this one in Maumelle. “It takes patients away from our area,” Meyer said.
Meyer has been at Reb-samen for five years. The city-owned facility, which is a nonprofit and is losing money, has watched investor-owned hospitals going up in the area which cater to patients who can afford specialized care or who have insurance that pays most of their bills.

Rebsamen cannot collect almost half the amount it bills for services and writes off millions of dollars every year for charity care that other hospitals don’t bother to offer the needy. Rebsamen cannot turn anyone away, while for-profit hospitals do that all the time, he said. “We’re getting left with patients who are not wanted in investor-owned hospitals,” Myers complained in an interview. “They can pick and choose.”

Rebsamen is undergoing “a strategic review” as it seeks to find its role in an increasingly competitive environment where the U.S. government cuts back on Medicare, Medicaid and Tri-Care payments, which represent the bulk of Rebsamen’s revenue: The elderly, the needy and the military. Middle-class patients who can pay more out-of-pocket expenses are often grabbed by flashier new hospitals owned by doctors and other investors who offer highly profitable surgeries and more specialized care.

Meyer said the hospital’s board of directors next year will make recommendations to attract more specialists to Rebsamen and offer more services and even consider building a new facility closer to Cabot, whose population, estimated at 22,000, is rapidly catching up with Jacksonville. Lonoke County does not have its own hospital, but Rebsamen considers the northern part of that county part of the market it serves.

Meyer would not be specific but hinted there is land available on the Pulaski-Lonoke county line for a hospital that could attract more patients from the next county, provided more doctors offer more up-to-date services in a modern setting.
Rebsamen is in a 45-year-old building, which needs remodeling or replacing, he said. The board will have to decide what to do, Meyer said. While Arkansas Surgical Hospital in Maumelle will almost double its size, Rebsamen has seen more competition move into North Little Rock and Sherwood.

Baptist has built a modern hospital near McCain Boulevard, with satellite clinics run by doctors with more lucrative deals than what Rebsamen could offer them. St. Vincent North has moved into Sherwood, again offering more up-to-date facilities.
Meyer doesn’t apologize for the equipment Rebsamen offers. In fact, it was the first in the area to install a multi-detectional CAT scanner that does a total body scan in two minutes, he said. “We’re one of the cornerstones of the community,” said Meyer, who added that communities suffer when they lose their hospitals. Rebsamen has 500 employees with an annual payroll of $17 million. It made $1.7 million in im-provements last year.

Meyer works for Quorum Health Resources of Plano, Texas, which has managed Rebsamen, under different names, for 25 years. Rebsamen has 90 beds, of which 60 are occupied on average. Last year, the hospital billed patients and healthcare providers $88,622,000 for services, but collects just $46 million because the government and insurers do not pay what they’re charged. In addition, the hospital this year has written off 7.1 percent of its budget as bad debt. Last year, that figure was 6.8 percent, or about $6 million a year that cannot be collected.

Rebsamen also provides $1.5 million in charity care a year, which investor-owned hospitals don’t offer to the needy.
The hospital lost $803,798 this year and is relying on its reserves for operating revenues. Rebsamen would break even if it collected just 15 percent of its bad debt.

As baby boomers age and prepare for retirement, costs will rise, Meyer predicted. What’s more, insurance companies wait 90 to 120 days to pay the hospital, which hurts cash flow. Rebsamen had 3,622 admissions this fiscal year, slightly down from last year’s 3,665 admissions. It had 57,778 outpatient visits, down considerably from 61,547 last year. Intensive care is down from 734 to 686 this year.

The hospital performed 1,850 surgeries this year, compared with 1,727 last year. Some make money for Rebsamen, while others are performed at a loss because of underpayment from the government and insurers and lack of adequate insurance by patients. Rebsamen’s nerve center is its emergency room, which had 21,147 visitors this year, down significantly from last year's 23,134. Both figures are above the maximum limit set for the emergency room at 20,000 patients a year. The emergency room has 12 beds, far more than many area hospitals, which often keep the size of their emergency rooms at a minimum to reduce the number of walk-in patients who have no insurance.

Many patients have no doctors and use the emergency room for all types of medical treatment, from colds to cuts and bruises. “Emergency-room care is the costliest medical care,” Meyer explained. “They need tests because the doctor doesn’t know you.” “We’re encouraging patients to see primary-care doctors,” he added.

The hospital has thriving geriatric and women’s health services, but, again, Rebsamen doesn’t get reimbursed for all of its expenses, Meyer said. “We’re seeing a surge in women’s health services,” Meyer said. That department is up from 662 patients last year to 680 this year. Geriatric care and rehab are steady at 300 and 200 patients a year respectively.
Meyer said 80 percent of the hospital’s revenue comes from three government programs: Medicare (for the elderly), Medicaid (for the indigent) and Tricare (military and their dependents).

The government has tight controls on reimbursements for those programs, as do insurance companies when hospitals bill them. The government now pays a flat fee for services after federal prosecutors accused hospital chains of overcharging Medicare and Medicaid in the 1990s. Hospital chains were forced to repay billions in overcharges. Meyer said Rebsamen could get tougher on collections — for example, collecting the Medicare deductible of $950 up front. He said the hospital writes off $17,000 to $20,000 a month in Medicare debt it cannot collect.

“Patients will have to pay more up front,” Meyer said. Medicaid pays for hospital stays up to 30 days, regardless of the services needed and the length of stay at the hospital. Bad debts are up, while reimbursements from the government and insurers are down. For example, Rebsamen used to receive a bonus of up to $500,000 a year for taking care of a high number of Medicare patients, but that payment has been discontinued, Meyer said.

“We need to look at strategies,” he continued. “How can we get patients who can pay? We can’t depend on Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare.” Meyer continues to meet with community leaders to spread the word about the hospital and its unmet potential.
“I have a sense of accomplishment when I go home at night,” he said. “We make a difference in people’s lives.” Next: Where Rebsamen is headed.

TOP STORY >>Base wants help on schools

Leader staff writer

Officials from Little Rock Air Force Base, Pulaski County Special School District and the base Community Council have met quietly several times over the last six months to discuss replacing the aging Arnold Drive Elementary School with a new school “outside the wire,” according to Craig Douglass, PCSSD spokesman.

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, the wing commander, says the old school, located on the base, should be replaced and he has suggested that a new school could accommodate students from both Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools. Among the many complicating factors, the Defense Department can’t pay for a public school. Arnold Drive, bad as it is, is not the worst of the school district or Jacksonville-area schools. Such a project would have to be put on the district’s facilities masterplan to get any state matching funds.

The district itself, officially in fiscal distress, has committed such capital funds it has to building other schools, such as Oak Grove High School and Sylvan Hills Middle School. “My recommendation is for PCSSD to replace Arnold Drive Elementary School with a new school or relocate the school near North Pulaski High School,” Self wrote to Carmie Henry, president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, a civilian support group. Both sites are on federal property, the general said.
Tuesday, Self took Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., on a tour of Arnold Elementary, part of her base visit. Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, visited earlier this month.

“Currently Arnold drive has 245 military family students and Tolleson Elementary has 158 military family students out of 266,” Self wrote. He noted that by 2010, 1,200 new and refurbished homes would have been constructed on base, impacting student enrollment at both schools. “A great bunch of kids is receiving a good education from dedicated teachers in, unfortunately, a very substandard school building that was built years ago to be only temporary,” Snyder said Tuesday. “At any given time, 25 percent of these kids have parents assigned overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan. We owe these parents and kids a better facility.”

Snyder, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he believed the base could donate some land, “but funding for the school building itself is the responsibility of the State of Arkansas and the Pulaski County Special School District.  I am hopeful that finding the funds for this school will be a priority of the (state) legislature and the school board.”

Arnold Drive, Tolleson and part of the base are in state Rep. Will Bond’s district, and while Bond says he’d like to see a new school, he said the Jacksonville area is full of decrepit old schools in need of replacing. “Sandra (state Rep. Sandra Prater, D-Jacksonville) and I have met with Carmie Henry regarding Arnold drive and to determine whether there is any legislative fix,” Bond said Tuesday. “I’d say Jacksonville needs its own district to address all of the numerous problems,” he said. “We hope to have more meetings, including school board members, to determine the best way to deal with Arnold Drive. The problem, from a state perspective, we have in place a structure through which facilities needs are addressed, either a 10-year plan or an emergency.”

“The law restricts Little Rock AFB from using Department of defense appropriated funds to construct or refurbish any school that is not a Department of defense school,” Self wrote to Henry. “The school is literally 50 years old, leaks like a sieve, is not large enough, and is located on a main thoroughfare where children have to cross road with all airmen out there,” Henry said Monday. Lincoln addressed the school issue only briefly during a post-tour press conference, saying she wanted to make sure that base families are taken care of whether it involves the education of their children or modernization of base housing.
Henry has forwarded Self’s letter to state Sen. Shane Broadway and state Rep. David Cook, cochairmen of the Academic Facilities Oversight Committee.

Douglass, the PCSSD spokesman, said Arnold Drive was an old building converted “temporarily” about 50 years ago for use as an elementary school. He said district officials would meet with local legislators to press their concerns. “With an eye of looking at the facilities committee and whether Arnold Drive represents an opportunity for special consideration, where the state could match monies or help the district build a new school on property donated by the base.

“Part of the discussion has been, would there be an opportunity to fold Tolleson and Arnold drive together into a new facility?” Douglass said that 11 acres would be sufficient to meet state standards, but that an elementary school just large enough to replace Arnold Drive would cost $13 million to $16 million. He said Supt. James Sharpe expects to petition the state Education Department next month to release PCSSD from fiscal distress, which has curtailed district spending.
Heather Hartsell contributed to this article.

TOP STORY >>Joyous reunion as airmen return home

Leader staff writer

They didn’t play “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but it could have blared from the flightline early Sunday morning at Little Rock Air Force Base as friends, families and loved ones welcomed 130 airmen home from overseas.

The plane filled with returning airmen landed about a half hour earlier than expected, but no one was heard complaining. Most of those airmen were deployed on the average for four months in the “area of responsibility,” according to 2nd Lt. Kelly George of public affairs at LRAFB. “Area of responsibility” refers to the region in close proximity to where the war is being fought in Iraq.

Infants, toddlers, preteens and teens, along with wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers seemed thrilled at their early Christmas gift. And the men and women stepping from the C-130 onto American soil matched the crowd’s enthusiasm on the flightline.

Some of those airmen looked exhausted, but most faces lit up when they saw their friends and families waiting for them. One family carrying balloons and a sign rushed out onto the flightline to greet a returning airman. First Lt. Jason Seklejian beamed as he looked into the eyes of his children, Olivia and Sophia, for the first time in months since his deployment. Seklejian and his wife, Danielle, also had an emotional reunion. Seklejian was focusing on the here and now rather than the past few months though.

Asked about what it was like where he had been stationed and what had happened during his deployment, Seklejian replied, “It’s a desert and just normal stuff.” Like everyone else, one of the top priorities for Seklejian after getting back home was to take a shower after encountering sandstorms in the desert. While waiting for his dufflebag of personal belongings, Staff Sgt. Jeff Ikner held his 3-year-old daughter, Brittany, and talked with his other daughter, Alexis, and his wife, Sandy.

The four were within inches of each other for most of the entire wait of approximately 45 minutes. “I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about it,” said Sandy Ikner. She heard two weeks ago that her husband would return home before Christmas. Ikner, as airspace ground equipment mechanic, said, “It feels good to be home. His wife said their youngest daughter was unhappy that her father was gone for so long.

“Four months is a long time when you’re only 3 years old, she said. Basic needs such as a taking a shower, relaxing and eating breakfast were also on Ikner’s mind, but he said the food served overseas was “good.” George confirmed that certain areas had excellent meals with one dinner touted as “lobster” night. “Several of my friends have gained weight over there,” she quipped.

Tired but happy airmen and women dispersed as the sun came up on Saturday. As one of those unidentified airman picked up his dufflebag, he exclaimed, “I want some French toast.” Despite these warm holiday reunions, there’s still a war on, and not all of the military personnel are yet home. For the most part, many of these returning airmen were deployed for four months at a time, but others may serve an entire year, depending on their assignments, according to George.

Recently, 700 airmen from here have been serving throughout the world, according to the public affairs office at LRAFB. Of those 700, 450 airmen were specifically serving in the Iraqi war effort.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

EVENTS>>Fall 2006

This is the very last week to donate to the “Christmas for Kids” program in the Cabot area. Toys or monetary donations are accepted through Friday. Participants may drop items off at any of the elementary or middle schools in the Cabot area or at Express Printing, K-Mart, all Community Bank locations, Waffle House and Dollar General Stores. Monetary donations may be mailed to “Christmas for Kids”, 100 Gunsmoke Drive, Austin, Ark. 72007 or dropped off at the Warehouse, 310 G.P. Murrell Drive, Cabot. This is in Industrial Park off Hwy. 367 going towards Austin.

The 20th annual Christmas Road to Bethlehem will be open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. until New Year’s Eve. Homes along a four-mile stretch of Bethlehem Road in Lonoke County will feature lighted, life-size Biblical figures along with Bible verses to tell the story of the nativity and ends with the manger scene at Bethlehem United Methodist Church. There will be open house programs with music and fellowship from 7 to 8:30 p.m. through Jan. 1.

Any Jacksonville-area child can visit with Santa Claus and receive a toy from 8 a.m. until noon Thursday at Fishnet Mission, 213 Marshall Road. Families can receive a bag of groceries.

Cabot and the city’s Chamber of Commerce are hosting a swearing-in ceremony and reception for newly-elected Mayor Eddie Joe Willliams along with other Cabot city officials from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6 at the new Veterans Park Community Center, 508 N. Lincoln St.
Honorable Judge Phillip T. Whiteaker will preside at the ceremony.

The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department is offering bus tours of the holiday lights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Tour cost is $2 per person. Car seats must be provided for children. Pre-registration is required and payment is due at registration. No refunds. For more information, call 982-0818.

The Jacksonville Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support Group will be meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Rebsamen Medical Center in the Education Building. The group provides caregivers with a private session for personal questions to professional advisors and seasoned caregivers. Interested participants can share ideas and express concerns in order to gain helpful information. For more information, contact Priscilla Pittman at 224-0021 or Col. Norman at 912-0614.

OBITUARIES >> 12-20-06


Shirley Ann Brewer Smith Comer, 61, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 15, at her home.
She was born Jan. 27, 1945 in Benton Harbor, MI. She was a member of Military Road Baptist Church and is preceded in death by her mother, Nita Bookout Smith, two brothers and four sisters.

Survivors include her loving husband of 40 years, Barry Comer of Jacksonville; two daughters, Tammy Ward and husband, James of Jacksonville and Kelly Earhart and husband Kent of West Memphis; father, William O. Smith of Jacksonville; sisters, Irene Butts and husband Jimmy of Niles, MI, Catherine Trudell of Paw Paw, MI, Agnes Freely of Texas and Shirley De Vice of Austin; brothers, Ray Shrum and Doug Shrum both of North Little Rock and Wayne Rogers of Jacksonville; as well as numerous other family and friends.

In lieu of flowers please make a charitable contribution in Shirley’s name to Benefit4Kids, 8330 Jordan Road, Yale, MI 48097 or Military Road Baptist Church, General Fund, 2101 Old Military Road, Jacksonville, AR 72076. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with the Rev. Dave Sanders officiating. Burial will follow in Chapel Hill Memorial Park.


Raymond E. “Hoot” Mask, 89, of Carlisle, died Dec. 17. He was born Jan. 4, 1917.
He was a retired dairy farmer and a Second World War veteran having served in the South Pacific. He was a lifelong resident of the Crossroads community.

He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Laura Sue. He is survived by a brother, Rupert Mask of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Graveside service were Dec. 19, in Hebron Cemetery at Carlisle. Funeral arrangements were by Westbrook Funeral Home at Beebe.


Alma Shannon, 86, of White House, Tenn., died Dec. 17. She was born at Floyd, Jan. 14, 1920.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Lawrence Shannon; a daughter, Marvel Shannon; a son, Steve Shannon; two grandchildren; one great-grandchild; four brothers and five sisters.

She is survived by her five children, Lily and her husband Allen Clowers of Searcy, Reba and her husband Senyor Cannon of Branson, Mo., Dewayne and his wife Debra Shannon of Stevensville, Mich., Delphia and her husband Vince Fardello of White House, Tenn., Geneva and her husband Doug DeRose of London, Ky.; daughter-in-law Judy Shannon of Pearland, Texas; 25 grandchildren; 31 great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; many nieces and nephews and many friends.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 21, at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Antioch Cemetery.

EDITORIALS>>State should audit projects

The Arkansas Supreme Court could not have made it clearer last week that when the state Constitution prohibits the legislature from enacting local and special laws it really means it.

Presumably the attorney general will explain to the lawmakers when they gather next month that the opinion means that they should not pass even one local appropriation. Last year they numbered about 2,000. But the legislature has still another obligation. It should determine exactly how all those appropriations were spent.

The state sends a warrant to a local entity for the amount that the legislator designated in the local act, and that typically is the last heard of it. Was the clubhouse actually built, were the lights and curbs actually installed? Who ultimately got the money?

That is a proper job for legislative auditors, who regularly audit the books of all state agencies. The auditors should follow the money even when it escapes into the hands of private and nonprofit groups.

Lawmakers might want to know what actually became of their beneficence with taxpayer dollars. We’re quite sure the taxpayers do.

EDITORIALS>>Taxpayers ripped off

We confess that we never much liked the advertising and promotion taxes that are collected by the larger cities to try to lure convention and tourist business, although we weren’t absolutely sure why. Cities from Little Rock to Cabot collect the tax, and now Jacksonville is thinking about it to beef up its tourist attractions, particularly the military museum.

Let’s hope our area cities make better use of the money than the folks over in Little Rock, where the convention and tourism people have entertained themselves more than tourist officials from out of state.

It’s always been a vague distrust that the municipal promotions were very effective and that the impact of convention business on the local economy was as spectacular as the convention bureaus always calculated.

It also seems a little improvident to tax ourselves to promote conventions when cities and counties have such palpable needs as streets, policemen and jails that we cannot afford. Thanks to some superb reporting by C. S. Murphy in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, now we have better grounding for our uneasiness about the efficacy of the “hamburger tax.”

The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, the same agency that handed its retiring director a new car at public expense as a going-away token a while back, collects $12 million a year from the tax and spends it on — what? It is impossible to say from the public records except that large amounts go to businesses owned by members of its governing board.

The newspaper recounted a raft of conflicts of interest in the bureau’s operations, such as big parties thrown at two restaurants owned by Mary Beth Ringgold, chairman of the commission.

It spent $141,000 at the restaurants, Cajun’s Wharf and Capers, in three years. The agency often ignores the city law that requires bids on purchases larger than $25,000, hands out credit cards to employees willy-nilly and imposes no restraints on their use and spends large sums without formal authorization from the commission, which does not seem to care.

Here are the figures that must nettle Little Rock taxpayers: The bureau has 105 full-time employees, four of them earning more than $100,000 a year, and 75 part-time employees. Compare that payroll to the same bureau for the city of Houston, Texas, at more than 2 million the fourth largest city in the United States. Houston’s bureau has only 83 employees — and it keeps up with its money, too. It lands many more conventions than Little Rock, too.

Money, large sums of it, is spent almost whimsically. The bureau laid out $500,000 of the taxpayers’ money wining and dining and generally coddling a fraternity, which eventually did hold its convention in Little Rock.

Fewer than 1,300 people registered for the convention. The justification was that the bureau figured that the conventioneers would spend $20 million with Little Rock businesses.

If they did, most of them would have had to beg for bus fares home.

Municipal convention and visitors bureaus are semi-autonomous agencies. They would like to remove the “semi-” so that there are no controls on or accounting for how they spend the taxes.

Clearly, what is needed is the opposite: strong statutory controls on spending the tax, mandatory independent or legislative audits of the collection and disbursement of the tax and perhaps flexible authority for cities to divert tax receipts for more pressing needs. Could we suggest county jails?

SPORTS >>LR Hall Warriors hand Lions second loss

IN SHORT: The Searcy Lions’ record fell to 9-2 on the season with a 58-50 loss to Little Rock Hall.

Leader sports writer

Little Rock Hall handed the Lions only their second loss of the season with a 58-50 win Friday night at the Jungle in Searcy.
The Lions made it interesting in the final minutes, but could not rally all the way after falling behind by nine points at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The seven-point advantage picked up by Hall after the opening quarter could never be erased completely. Hall took a 14-7 lead after the opening frame, but the Lions did not allow them to extend that lead any further in the second quarter. Searcy was not able to make up any of the deficit, but kept it at seven points through the next eight minutes.

The Warriors led 23-16 at halftime, and extended that lead by another pair in the third quarter, putting Searcy in desperate need of a rally.

The Lions did rally, cutting the Hall lead down to four points, but could not come any closer.

“We had some open shots after we cut it down to four, but they just wouldn’t fall for us,” Lions coach Roger Franks said. “I felt like if we could have tied the game up, we would have been in pretty good shape with it being a home game. The crowd was great; they were really into it there at the end, and I think we could have used that energy if we would have been forced into overtime.”

Matt Cramblett led the Lions with 21 points. Justin Rowden finished with 10 points. Cody Wilmath and Levi Dixon each added eight points for Searcy. The loss gives Searcy a record of 9-2. For Little Rock Hall, A.J. Walton led with 12 points.

Searcy will be off for the holidays until the start of the Coca Cola Classic Tournament in Ft. Smith on the North side campus starting on December 28. Franks says he will let his team enjoy Christmas off before preparing them for the Ft. Smith tourney with practice starting back up on the 26th.

SPORTS >>Raiders take home third win in a row

IN SHORT: Riverview gets crucial double-header sweep in Friday matchup.

Leader sports editor

Riverview got a crucial doubleheader sweep of hosting Rose Bud last Friday night in a 3A-2 conference matchup.

The Raiders completed a critical three-game road swing against three of the top teams in the conference with an unblemished conference mark of 4-0. They beat Brinkley at home by a wide margin, and added road wins over Abundant Life, Harding Academy and then Rose Bud Friday. It was the Ramblers first league loss of the season.

“We played good team ball,” Riverview coach Danny Starkey said. “Rose Bud was bound and determined to stop Tony (Hall), and some other kids stepped up. That’s what we’re going to need and so far we’ve been able to do that.”

Both teams were focused heavily on defense in the first quarter. Riverview’s zone traps caused lots of frustration for the Rose Bud guards. Riverview was able to force six turnovers out of the press, but had trouble converting the turnovers into points. The Raiders led 11-7 after quarter.

Rose Bud continued to struggle offensively, but played good defense to stay within 27-20 at halftime.

The difference came in the third quarter when Riverview extended the lead into double figures. The Raiders led by as much as 16 in the third before settling on a 43-30 lead by the start of the final frame.

In the fourth, Rose Bud had to foul, and Riverview did not allow the strategy to work. The Raiders hit 10 of 12 foul shots in the final quarter to keep their hosts at bay and secure the win.

“We’ve shot free throws pretty well all year,” Starkey said. “To keep hitting them late in a big game like this one is pretty huge. We showed some poise over the last few games and I’m real proud of that.”

Though Hall was the focal point of Rose Bud’s defense, he still finished with a team high 14 points. Joe Overstreet added 12 for the Raiders. Junior point guard Bo Banks added 11 while senior post LaMarcus Banks scored 10. LaMarcus Banks continued to draw praise from Starkey, who wasn’t totally pleased with his returning starter in the early part of the season.

“I was starting to get concerned about him because he had not stepped up at all early on,” Starkey said. “Here he is, a returning starter and a guy we were really counting on, and he hadn’t done much. But he’s put together three really strong games for us right in a row, and that’s going to get more and more important for us as the season goes along.”

Zach Prothro led the Ramblers with 17 points. Riverview improved to 10-4 overall. Rose Bud dropped to 13-2 and 3-1 in league play.

The Lady Raiders also got a huge win, beating Rose Bud 42-36. The game was neck-and-neck throughout the first half. The Lady Raiders pulled away slightly in the third and held on in the fourth.

Riverview trailed 9-6 at the end of one quarter and went into intermission tied at 16-all. Riverview got a little separation and led 30-25 after three, and hit enough free throws in the fourth to secure the win.

Jasmine James led the team with 13 points. Courtney Webster added 12 and Jasmin Washington 10 for Riverview.
The Lady Raiders improved to 9-7 overall and 3-1 against conference competition.

The boys will be off until resuming conference play in January. The girls will play in the Beebe tournament after Christmas.

SPORTS >>Panthers, Ladies sweep Badgers

IN SHORT: Cabot takes 67-44 victory while the Lady Panthers take 68-51 victory over Beebe.

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers got a basketball sweep of Beebe Friday night in Cabot.

The Lady Panthers took a 68-51 victory, while the boys won 67-44.

The boys game wasn’t as lop-sided as the final score would indicate. The Panthers raced out to a 12-0 lead, and simply maintained that advantage until late in the fourth quarter when the Cabot subs out-played the Beebe subs to extend the final margin.

The Cabot boys took the 12-0 lead just three minutes into the game, prompting Beebe coach Chris Ellis to call his second timeout. He would call three of his five timeouts before the opening quarter was over.

The Cabot defensive pressure forced turnover after turnover by the Badgers. Point guard Jacob Trammell got two steals, as did guard Justin Haas. Forward Adam Sterrenberg got a pair of transition buckets out of the opening salvo. In the halfcourt game, the Panthers were equally dominant in the early going. Post players Alex Sharp and Sam Bates either hit an open look or got to the line, leading to the big Cabot lead.

The Badgers committed 12 fouls in the first quarter alone, but managed to stop the bleeding after the second timeout and trailed 20-7 after the first period.

Beebe came to life in the second quarter, actually cutting Cabot’s lead to as little as five and had three possessions to cut into it further. All three possessions, however, turned into turnovers. Beebe’s defense did a good job of getting stops and creating opportunities, but it was also the first to flinch during the game’s brief defensive struggle.

Austin Johnson came off the bench for Cabot and hit a three pointer, and Cabot forced another steal and quick conversion to rapidly make it a 10-point game again.

The Badgers would not get closer than eight the rest of the way.

There was one other opportunity for Beebe to make a close game of it. Trailing by eight early in the third quarter, the Badgers got two open looks at three pointers, but missed both. The Panthers then put together another five-point rally to extend the lead to 13. The margin stayed around a dozen the rest of the way.

Only four Badgers scored in the game, with sophomore Zach Kersey and junior Charlie Spakes leading the way with 19 points and 17 points respectively.

Four Panthers were in double figures. Sharp led the team with 16. Bates and Johnson scored 11 points each while Sterrenberg added 10.

The win lifted Cabot to 6-4 and dropped Beebe to 1-5 on the season.

The girls game was close most of the game, but the Lady Panthers gradually pulled away throughout the contest. The Beebe ladies made a few rallies, but Cabot maintained control of the game’s tempo throughout.

The Lady Panthers ran out to a 5-0 lead after three free throws by sophomore Shelby Ashcraft and bucket by senior Jamie Sterrenberg.

Beebe got on the board at the 5:37 mark when Emily Bass hit a shot in the lane.

Sterrenberg got another bucket to make it 7-2, but the Lady Badgers went on a 6-0 run to take their first and only lead of the game at the 3:09 mark of the opening frame.

Two free throws by Ty O’Neil, a bucket by Ashley Watkins and another by O’Neil gave Beebe the brief advantage.
Four straight point by Sterrenberg put Cabot back in front, and it would not trail again.

The Lady Panthers finished the first quarter up 13-10, and quickly made it 16-10 when Leah Watts hit a three pointer to open the scoring in the second quarter.

Beebe then put together another 6-0 run to tie the game, but never took the lead.

Cabot’s Lauren Walker and Beebe’s Bass traded buckets to make it 18-18, but Walker scored four more consecutively to kick-off a Lady Panther rally that put them in front for good.

After Walkers’ six straight, point guard Maddie Helms hit a three and Sterrenberg a two to put Cabot up 27-18 and force Beebe to take a timeout.

The lead grew to as much as 34-20, but Beebe finished the half with a 5-0 flurry to get its deficit under 10 at 34-25 by halftime.

Beebe was the hotter of the two teams to start the second half and again made it a close game.

After trading buckets to make it 36-27, Neishia Upchurch and O’Neil got back-to-back baskets to cut Cabot’s lead to 36-31. Sterrenberg then scored to make it 38-31 with 4:39 left in the third, and Beebe never got closer than six points the rest of the way.

The Lady Badgers got it to six three times, the latest at 44-38 with 1:27 left in the third, but the Lady Panthers finished the quarter with a big rally that all but killed Beebe’s hopes of a major upset.

After O’Neil’s bucket at 1:27, the Lady Panthers scored seven unanswered points in the final 60 seconds to take a 13-point lead into the final frame.

It started with two free throws by Sterrenberg at the one-minute mark. Fifteen seconds later, Walker scored a transition basket off a turnover, Helms then hit two foul shots with 23 seconds left and Sterrenberg capped the rally with a three pointer 10 seconds after that to make it 51-38.

Beebe trimmed the margin to nine by scoring the first four points of the fourth, but Cabot pulled away from there.
Sterrenberg and Ashcraft each finished with 19 points. Ashcraft added eight blocks. Lauren Walker scored 10 for the Lady Panthers. Beebe was led by O’Neil’s 16 points.

SPORTS >>Rabbits take pair of wins at home

IN SHORT: Lonoke, ladies dominate Mountain View, taking home two wins Friday night.

Leader sports writer

Lonoke came away with a pair of conference wins on Friday against visiting Mountain View. The Lady Jackrabbits dominated the first game of the night to take a 49-28 win over the Lady Yellowjackets, keeping their league record perfect after four 2-4A games.

The boys team had an equally easy time with the Yellowjackets in the final game of the night. The Jackrabbits kept Mountain View in single digits during every quarter except for the last one to take a 49-25 win.

Jackrabbits coach Wes Swift was anticipating a tough battle from Mountain View after the Yellowjackets took conference leaders Marianna and Heber Springs down to the wire. An improved Lonoke defense kept Marianna in single digit scoring in the first three quarters, however, and allowed the ’Rabbits to pull away in the opening quarter and not look back.

“I was expecting a closer game after they played the heck out of Marianna and Heber,” Swift said. “Defensively, we played a great game and kept them off balance all night. Offensively, we didn’t put it away as early as I thought we could have. We never did extend full court defensively and press; we just ran a straight man defense and stayed half court all night.”

While Swift is pleased with the improvements on defense, he says the shooting will have to improve if the ’Rabbits want to battle for the conference lead.

“We have been missing too many of what I call chippy shots,” Swift said. “Missing layups and short jumpers, and we have to make that better. We should have been up a lot more in the first half, but we took too many bad shots.”

Stanley Staggers and Tyrone Dobbins led the Jackrabbits with 10 points each.

Michael Taylor added nine points, and Clarence Harris had eight points.

The win improves Lonoke’s record to 7-4 overall and 3-1 in the 2-4A Conference.

The Lady Jackrabbits had an easy one on Friday as well, dominating the Lady Yellowjackets from the opening period on. Lonoke jumped out to a 22-9 lead at halftime, and would only extend their lead in the second half.

“We came out and played hard, they had a hard time stopping us early,” Lady ’Rabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “I was especially happy with how we played defense in the second half. Even though they scored more points on us in the second half, I felt like we played with a lot more intensity.”

Calisha Kirk led Lonoke with 20 points. Jenny Evans and Asiah Scribner each added 10 points for the Lady Jackrabbits.
The win gives the Lady ’Rabbits an overall record of 7-5, and keeps their league record unblemished at 4-0, putting them one game out of first place to conference-leading Heber, who stands at 5-0.

Lonoke will host Stuttgart in another conference matchup this Friday, and will then be off until the start of the White County Medical Classic at Beebe starting Dec. 27.