Tuesday, January 16, 2007

EVENTS>>Winter 2007

Jacksonville’s Chamber of Commerce will have its 59th annual dinner and silent auction at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the conference center on Little Rock Air Force Base.
Gary McDonald of FutureFuel Chemical Co. will be the guest speaker.
Tickets are $32 per person or $256 for a table of eight. For a $5 chance, those who attend will have the opportunity to win a Richard DeSpain limited print. For more information or to obtain tickets, call the chamber at 982-1511.

Lieut. Kelly George, Miss Arkansas USA, will be the guest speaker at the Cabot Lions Club meeting at noon on Thursday at Funtastic in Cabot. George is a second lieutenant and deputy chief of public affairs for the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base.
George is scheduled to present her topic of service, discussing the importance of volunteerism and serving the community.

The Jacksonville Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support Group will be meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Rebsamen Medical Center in the Education Building. This 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.

General Robert E. Lee’s Birthday and Celebration is set for Jan. 20 in Cabot. The celebration starts at 9 a.m. The parade starts at 1 p.m. at 1113 South Second Street and ends at 401 South Second Street, in Cabot. Call E.J. Hart at 501-743-8315.
There will be a celebration and parade in Cabot Jan. 20 for General Robert E. Lee’s 200th birthday. For more information call E.J. Hart at 501-743-8315.

On Jan. 27 the Miss Sweetheart Pageant will be held at the Beebe Auditorium. The pageant is sponsored by the Beebe Reach program and is a fundraiser for students to travel to New York city in May.
First, second, and third place winners will be awarded in each division. In addition, a Most Photogenic award will be awarded for each age division. Age divisions for the pageant are: 0 - 12 months, 13-23 months, 2 - 3 years, 4 - 5 years, 1st - 2nd grade, 3rd - 4th grade, 5th -6th grade, 7th - 8th grade, 9th - 10th grade and 11th-12th grade.
Cost for pageant entry is $25 with an additional $10 for those participating in the photogenic competition. Those interested in participating in the pageant may pick up applications at any Beebe School office, Beebe’s Central Office, or they may be mailed upon request by contacting Lorrie Welch Belew at 501-231- 9085 or Karla Tarkington at 501-882-5463. All entries must be received by Friday, Jan. 19.

Sherwood will have a Keep Sherwood Beautiful certification campaign at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bill Harmon Recreation Center. Call 835-7600 for more informaiton.

EDITORIALS>>Pass seat-belt law

We have the same libertarian impulses that govern the most contrarian Wyoming rancher. A hovering government nanny that seeks to keep us forever on the straight and narrow takes the adventure out of life. But that love for life also forces us to consider a few accommodations.

One of those is seat belts. They are a nuisance but the government wants us to use them for the sake of our own health and fortune and for the whole body politic. They save lives and often protect us from serious injury, if we use them. Arkansas joined every state but New Hampshire, the world-class contrarians, a few years ago in requiring all motorists to use seat belts. But the Arkansas legislature, like most states, embraced the weakest version, what is called a “secondary seat-belt law.” Motorists are not stopped for seat-belt violations but are ticketed only if they are involved in an accident or are stopped for some other violation.

The legislature will consider a primary law this winter. People could be stopped for seat-belt violations alone and fined a small sum. There is, of course, a carrot. By passing a primary seat-belt law, Arkansas will get the ritual payola from the federal government, in this case some $9.5 million of your tax dollars each year to use for highway safety. No state law, no federal contribution.

That is hardly reason to surrender this small freedom from overweening officers. But life and health are good and sufficient reasons. Studies show that a primary law causes about 12 percent more drivers to buckle up. More than half the highway deaths in Arkansas — there were 654 last year — are people who were not stabilized by seat belts. The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that by raising compliance the law would prevent 50 deaths and 530 serious injuries and save $104 million in economic costs in Arkansas each year. Over time, as compliance increased, the savings in blood and treasure would rise.

It is worth the hassle and the extra harassment. Half the states now have primary laws.

That said, we have one grave misgiving. It will be used to pull over blacks and Hispanics far more often than other drivers, regardless of the frequency of compliance. That is the pattern in too many jurisdictions. The State Police and many local law-enforcement agencies have moved haltingly to suppress racial stereotyping in traffic control, but it is still prevalent. A primary seat-belt law could turn into another version of Driving While Black or Hispanic. The poor also are more likely to operate old vehicles where seat belts simply do not work.

It may be argued in reverse that while the neediest will pay the most fines and be subjected to the greatest harassment, they will also be the ones most benefited. If you are stopped needlessly and often for seat-belt inspection, it will hardly be worth the strain.

The law needs at a minimum to take cognizance of the risk of stereotypical enforcement and state and local agencies given the training to reduce its prevalence.

But it is time to pass the law and save the lives.
—Ernie Dumas

EDITORIALS>>Say it ain't so, Benny

Early observation of the new speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives, Rep. Benny Petrus of Stuttgart, records an unusual pattern. He matches each good deed with a foul one.

So it was that when the legislature convened last week, Joseph K. “Jodie” Mahony II of El Dorado, the legislative veteran of nearly four decades now retired by term limits and author of much of the school-reform legislation during his time, was on hand to advise lawmakers on education budgeting and the Supreme Court. A legislature shorn by term limits of virtually all institutional memory needs all the help it can get, and Speaker Petrus saw to it by hiring Mahony. Thanks, Benny.

But Petrus revealed his committee appointments, and there chairing the House Education Committee was Rep. Mike Kenney of Siloam Springs, the most reflexive foe of public education in the legislature now that Sen. Jim Holt is gone. (Holt once beat Kenney for a legislative seat. They live nearby and share proximate philosophies, i.e. extreme right-wing.) Kenney’s main campaign promise in 2004 was that school ad-valorem taxes needed to be slashed. He is a foe of increased school funding by the state and a friend of vouchers and other anti-public school remedies.

Here’s a clue to his appointment as education chair. He is supported by the Walton interests (at least $4,000 in his last easy campaign), whose big education interest this year is a nutty and disproven scheme to tie every teacher’s pay to a standardized student test. The Walton interests support Petrus.

But we may be unfair to the speaker. He may have been merely fulfilling a promise to House Republicans last year that he would reward them with key committee leadership positions in exchange for their votes in the speaker’s contest with Rep. Will Bond of Jacksonville, an-other Democrat. They and Petrus delivered bountifully.

Let him honor his political deals, but chairman of education? It is arguably the most vital committee in the legislature, this the most critical moment, and Mike Kenney seemingly the worst choice. Legislative production and effectiveness were not the measures. Kenney has passed but one bill in four years, except for the illegal local appropriations from the General Improvement Fund that are allotted to all legislators.

Maybe there is method to the speaker’s madness. An Arkansas committee chairman ordinarily does not exercise the ironfisted control of the agenda that, say, a congressional chairman does. Unless he is shrewd and wise like a Nick Wilson, he may be no more than a vote on a 20-member committee. Those adjectives do not seem to describe Mike Kenney. For the sake of 450,000 children, let’s hope they do not.

OBITUARIES >> 01-17-07

John Byrd
John H. Byrd, 73, of Beebe went to be with the Lord Jan. 14.

He was retired from ABF Trucking, a 32nd Degree Mason, member of the Eastern Star and a member of 16th Section Union Church.

He was a founding father of the Antioch Volunteer Fire Department and was an active volunteer in all community affairs.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Patsy Delores Byrd; his daughter, Billie Gail and grandson Jeremiah Byrd.

He is survived by his wife, Betty Byrd; two daughters, Angie Sentell and Theresa A. Marx; one son, Billy F. Byrd; two stepchildren, David and Trudy; six grandchildren; five step-grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; two brothers, Rev. William A. and Dr. James E. Byrd; three sisters, Lela Mae Burtcher, Nellie Marie Rogers and Alice Jones; and a host of other relatives and friends.

Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Antioch Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the Antioch Volunteer Fire Department, 123 Cane Creek Road, Beebe, Ark. 72012.

Jimmy Fritz
Jimmy D. Fritz Sr., 62, of McRae died Jan. 13.

He was retired from Eaton after working there over 20 years.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Amos and Gertie Henry.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Fritz of McRae; one daughter, Glori and husband Ritchie Mahoney of Beebe; two sons, Jimmy D. Jr. and wife Chris Fritz and Nicholas B. and wife Shannon Fritz of Wichita, Kan.; one step-daughter, Paula Putman of Beebe; also seven grandchildren, Emily and Adam Satterfield, Meghan and Grace Mahoney, Harley and Chevy Land, and Hailey Fritz; one great-grandchild, Blayne Noggle, and his beloved Little Bit.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Jan. 17 at Westbrook Funeral Home Chapel in Beebe with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Garden.

Jessica Trujillo
Jessica Barbara Trujillo, 28, of Jacksonville died Jan. 13.

She is survived by her parents, sister, brother, husband and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be announced later.

Funeral arrangements will be by North Little Rock Funeral Home and Cremation Service.

Gerald Land
Gerald Nick Land, 65, of Cabot passed away Jan. 10.

He was born on Aug. 12, 1941 in Little Rock to John Wesley Land and Pauline Hanson.

He loved his family very dearly. He loved to plant flowers, gardening and working outside. He spent his time being Santa Claus for everyone that he could, especially children with special needs. The gift he gave as Santa Claus was the message of Jesus. He was a member of Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Cabot where he served in several leadership positions.
He was preceded in death by his father, John Wesley Land and a sister, Joan Land.

He is survived by his wife of 21 years, Pauline Land of Cabot; his mother, Pauline “Mom” Land of Little Rock; one son, Brad Land of Gravel Ridge; seven daughters, Debbie and husband Chuck Mitchell of Scott, Judy and husband Rich Ussery of Scott, Diana and husband Joe Simon of Conway, Joan and husband Greg Shofner of Conway, Jenny and husband Cliff Gobble of Little Rock, Terry and husband Bo Walls of Van Buren and Glenda Carnahan of Springdale; two brothers, John and wife Sylvia Land and Mike Land, all of Little Rock; four sisters, Pat and husband Joe Kirchner, Paula and husband Nick Kirchner and Jan Porter all of Little Rock and Mary and husband Wayne Scott of The Colony, Texas; 18 grandchildren Kacey Coleman, Dakota Land, Kyle Mitchell, Chris Mitchell, Leslie Ussery, Kevin Ussery, Courtney Simon, Noah Simon, Gabe Simon, Matthew Shofner, Michael Shofner, Kayla Gobble, Sean Gobble, Jonie Sanders, Lisa Noble, M.J. Walls, Tiffany Walls, Michael Carnahan, and eight great-grandchildren.

He also has a host of nieces and nephews and many friends who will miss him very much.

Funeral services were Jan. 15 at Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Cabot.

Memorials may be made to Mt. Tabor UMC building fund.

Arrangements were made by Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home and Memorial Park.

Doris Carter
Doris Alva Carter, 73, of Jacksonville passed away Jan. 12 in Jacksonville.  

She was born April 25, 1933 to the late Ulysses and Eva Miller Wise in Savannah, Ga.
She was also preceded in death by her husband, Ross Dean Carter, and brother, Wilbur Wise.  

She is survived by her daughter, Del Foster of Jacksonville; granddaughters, Jennifer Ann and husband Romon Finklea, Shannon Lynn, and Michelle Renee Bashaw all of Jacksonville; great-grandchildren Alexis, Shayla, Reece, Shianne and Tavion all of Jacksonville; sisters, Reta Barrow and Joyce Wise of Georgia, Betty Compton of South Carolina, Gladys and husband Paul Freeburn of Indiana, Yulee Butler of Texas, and Estelle Rogers of Georgia; brothers, David and Cecil Cribbs of Georgia; numerous nieces and nephews and a bountiful supply of loving friends.

Private services have been arranged by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Finding out more about state firings

Gov. Mike Beebe promises he’ll run an open administration, unlike his predecessor, the secretive Mike Huckabee, who used to walk out with the office furniture when no one was looking.

If Huckabee couldn’t portray himself and his administration in a positive light, he’d reach for his rubber stamp marked “Secret.”

Except for bragging about his weight-loss program and the state surplus, Huckabee thought everything else about his administration should remain a secret — his freeloading at taxpayers’ expense, behind-the-scenes pardons for pals — while Beebe insists he’ll be upfront with the people of Arkansas.

At least one week into his administration, he has done what he’s promised and has opened the files on a former member of the state parole board whom Huckabee fired last year without telling us why.

Huckabee said it was none of our business, but it was: Larry Zeno, the ousted parole board member, was harassing women at work and downloading pornography on a state computer while taxpayers were paying him a stratospheric salary and all the snacks he and his mom in the nursing home could eat.

But Huckabee wasn’t protecting the disgraced Zeno as much as hoping people wouldn’t question the ex-governor’s judgment about people: If the public knew why Zeno was fired, folks might wonder why Huckabee appointed him in the first place. Or were darker forces at work?

A year ago we were wondering the same thing about another Huckabee appointee who suddenly lost his job, but the Huckster wouldn’t say why: Again, it’s no-body’s business but his own.

Wayne Ruthven lost his job as director of the state Department of Emergency Management just over a year ago, but Huckabee gave no explanation.

We know all about Zeno: Was Ruthven let go under similar circumstances? We’ve asked the attorney general’s office to open the files on Ruthven, and we’ll let you know as soon as we find out.

Huck set Ruthven up as Jacksonville police chief for a few months, which supposedly qualified him for the emergency management post. He didn’t last longhere either.

Zeno’s file confirms what many people suspected: He was a serial sexual harasser who collected pornography on his state computer, and an all-around boor who demanded special privileges because he was a state employee.

But why didn’t Huckabee release Zeno’s file after his firing? Was he afraid Zeno might retaliate if the governor embarrassed him any further?

Apparently Zeno is going around telling pals he’s got enough dirt on Huckabeee to derail his long-shot presidential aspirations.

One can only speculate what that dirt might be, but we do know that Huckabee spent a lot of time lobbying the parole board in behalf of notorious criminals he wanted freed, including the rapist Wayne DuMond, who wound up killing two women in Missouri after Huckabee’s parole board freed DuMond and sent him up there.

Zeno surely was key player in that sorry episode.

Good government is an open government. It could spare people’s lives, but even if lives weren’t at stake, the public deserves government that’s transparent and fair. Huckabee never learned that lesson, but the new folks at the state Capitol know better.

TOP STORY >>Cabot City Council restores clerk's duties

IN SHORT: Marva Verkler wins back all of the responsibilities she held over the years until she had a falling out with the previous mayor, and council committees will first review all ordinances .

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council passed three ordinances Monday night, two that restored the duties of the clerk-treasurer that were taken away about four years ago and one aimed at ending the hostility and council gridlock that characterized much of the past four years.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who says one of his goals is to get everyone working together, sponsored all three ordinances.
The first ordinance restored Clerk-Treasurer Marva Verkler’s check-writing duties that were taken from her by ordinance in April 2003, and the second repealed the January 2003 ordinance that established the finance department and created the position of finance director.

Verkler filed suit against former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh to get her duties back, but later dropped the suit. For all practical purposes, she has been in charge of finances again since Jan.1, when Williams took over as mayor, but she thanked the council for making the restoration of her authority official.
“Thank you all very much,” she said.

Dale Walker, the former finance director who was hired by and responsible to Stumbaugh, is now the budget manager. He said in a later interview that the scope of his job has not changed. The change is that now Verkler, not the mayor, is his boss.
The third ordinance requires that all business to be considered by the council – ordinances, resolutions or other proposed actions – must first go before a committee of five council members for review.

Williams said during a council workshop about two weeks ago that he wants no surprises. By the time any item comes out of committee, it would hopefully have the support of all five members, which would be enough votes to pass it before the full council.

Newly elected City Attorney Jim Taylor will be responsible for assigning the items proposed for council action to one of three committees: fire and police, budget and personnel or public works.

“We’re kind of like the state legislature now,” Taylor said about the new system. “A bill has to go to committee first.”
The Cabot City Council has always met once a month. But with the new system in place, council members will have to meet in committee at least once before every council meeting or no proposed legislation will ever go before the council.

“They’re going to have to work together,” Taylor said.

Ken Williams, a former Cabot city attorney who is now a council member, said he was concerned about the portion of the ordinance dealing with getting emergency legislation before the council without committee review.

As it was drafted and passed, the mayor, city attorney and chairman of the committee that would have reviewed the legislation must unanimously approve bypassing the process.

Alderman Williams said the council should decide what legislation it would consider on an emergency basis. But the mayor said he wanted no surprises before the council and no more ordinances endlessly debated. And the other council members offered no comments for either position.

“If I’m the only one concerned about it, maybe it isn’t a big deal,” Alderman Williams said. And he voted “aye” making the vote unanimous among the seven council members present.

Teri Miessner, one of the six new members of the council, was reportedly ill and did not attend the first meeting of the year.

TOP STORY >>Highway worker dies on road

IN SHORT: A state employee who was removing a dead animal from Hwy. 67/167 was struck and killed Tuesday morning.

Leader staff writers

A state Highway and Transportation Department worker re-moving a dead animal from southbound Hwy. 67/167 about a quarter mile south of the on-ramp at Redmond Road Tuesday morning was struck and killed by a passing motorist.

The AHTD employee was identified as Jerome Harris from College Station, according to Glenn Bolick, a spokesman for AHTD.
Harris was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, according to Bolick.

The driver of the vehicle that struck Harris was identified as D. Lance Smith of Evening Shade. Smith was driving south in a 1994 Ford pickup on Hwy. 67/167 near Redmond Road when he struck Harris.

The accident occurred about 11:30 a.m. Smith was not injured, according to the police report.

“Harris was trying to remove a dead animal out of the roadway,” Bolick said. “And that’s when he got run over.”
Bolick said Harris had picked up the animal—he didn’t know what kind—and was returning to his truck when he was struck and killed. It is still unclear whether Smith struck Harris first and then his vehicle or the other way around.

The impact apparently knocked Harris out of one of his boots, and his body traveled nearly 100 yards up the road before it came to a rest.

The worker’s truck was parked on the outside highway shoulder, about three feet from the southbound lane. The back bumper and back quarter panel on the driver’s side of the truck were damaged, the back axle dislodged, tire flattened and steel wheel heavily dented. One of Harris’ boots and a glove were still on the highway next to the truck.

Further south, a recent model silver coupe was pulled over onto the shoulder. It had damage on its passenger’s side.
Awaiting the coroner, a state trooper warned a photographer away from what he called “my crime scene.”
At about noon, southbound traffic was at a standstill as far north as Vandenberg Boulevard.

The Jacksonville Police Department assisted state troopers at the accident scene.

While highway department workers aren’t often killed on the job, it is dangerous work, Bolick said, particularly for those who pick up dead animals and debris from a highway that may carry 60,000 to 70,000 vehicles a day.

TOP STORY >>District seeks aid from state to rebuild

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School District and its insurance company are no closer to a resolution regarding Cabot Junior High North after a meeting last Friday, Dr. Frank Holman, superintendent, told the school board Tuesday night.

“There is still no resolution on an agreed upon price of construction and if the building is useable,” Holman said.
Because of that, the board agreed to revise the district’s master plan to include the rebuilding the burned out CJHN as part of a partnership program through the Arkansas Commission for Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation. The school district will know by May 1 whether it will get funding with the program.

The partnership program would provide state funds to the school district to help with construction costs as long as the building project was in the school’s master plan.

“This will cover all avenues with applying for the partnership program if the insurance company does not agree on a settlement,” Holman said.

Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent, said that adding CJHN to the master plan was “just one other way to cover ourselves.”
Holman added that the partnership program would put the district in both windows (insurance settlement or state funds) so that the district would not be left out in funding.

The district has received $7 million from Great American Insurance Company of Ohio for the fire that destroyed the $9 million Junior High North in August, but that’s not nearly enough to rebuild the eight-year-old school.

A preliminary budget to rebuild the school puts costs anywhere between $14-$18 million and is expected to take two years to rebuild.

The district has spent $3 million to date to cover operational costs and textbooks since the fire, which was ignited by a faulty light fixture, Holman said.

The 1,200 displaced students have been attending classes all year in trailers set up between the tennis courts and the Cabot Junior High North gym.

It is costing the school district $40,000 per month to rent the more than 30 trailers used to house the students.
Cabot School District has a blanket policy of $100 million for all the school buildings in the district.

The policy covers full-replacement value of the buildings. Full-replacement value is what it would cost to rebuild any of the buildings at current construction prices.

The district pays $123,000 annually for the coverage from Great American; the policy also covers the cost of contents and personal property.

TOP STORY >>High water everywhere

IN SHORT: After three days of heavy downpour, a cold front moved in to lower temperatures into the 20s and below.

Leader staff writer

Pull on the overcoats. Arkansas finally has some serious winter weather.
A cold front has moved into the state after three days of near solid drizzle punctuated with occasional blasts of downpour, leaving many central Arkansas areas under water.

Rainfall, which started Friday and dropped off finally on Monday, delivered more than five inches of rain in central Arkansas, according to the National Weather Service. This most recent onslaught of rain, accompanied with earlier January rains and a wet December puts an end to the state’s drought conditions, according to the weather service.

Weather Squadron officials at Little Rock Air Force Base said they received 5.1 inches during the three-day drenching. Observers for the National Weather Service reported more than four inches of rain in Cabot, in excess of 4.5 inches in Searcy and around 4.25 inches in Des Arc.

So far, in the first 15 days of January, the area has seen 6.64 inches of rain, more than 4.5 inches above the normal for the month, and there’s a slight chance for more rain this weekend.

The bulk of the rainfall from this past weekend’s storm came Saturday, with central Arkansas getting 2.73 inches of precipitation.

For the month, not only has the rainfall been above average, but also so has the temperature. The average for the month has been 55 degrees and the lows have been just 40 degrees. This compares to 30-year averages of 49.5 degrees for the high and 30.8 degrees for the low.

The wet and warm January comes on the heels of a warm and slightly dry 2006. The year tied 1938 for the fourth warmest year on record. The only warmer years were 1921, 1954, and 1998.

The state saw 48.75 inches of rain during the year, down 2.18 inches from the average of 50,93 inches per year.
In Jacksonville, Bayou Meto ,noted for quickly spilling over its banks during a heavy rainfall, went even further, extending beyond the fence line which divides Dupree Park and Parkview subdivision. Both are located off Redmond Road in Jacksonville.

“It’s in the backyards but it is not in the houses at Parkview,” said Capt. Robert Laws of the Jacksonville Fire Department on Monday. “We’re keeping a close eye out on it.”

Laws also mentioned the dangers of going around barricades put in place to close sections of roadways off to traffic. This week, he knew of only one roadway — West Main, a corridor linking Northlake Addition to Jacksonville. There is a bridge that also crosses the Bayou Meto along the roadway.

“The main problem is people in their cars going around barricades,” Laws said. “In the past, we’ve had several water rescues down there.”

The fire depratment worked out a contingency plan, which involved Sherwood emergency crews, due to the lack of a direct route between Jacksonville and Northlake subdivision. Sherwood Fire Department and MEMS will be the first responders to Northlake subdivision until the floodwaters subside, according to Laws. Jacksonville firefighters will still respond but must take a detour, involving a route along Hwy. 67/167 before taking the Kiehl Avenue exit.

At least, one recently built house nearby Homer Adkins Pre-K School off Arkansas 161 South had standing water to its side and in its backyard. Other yards were saturated with small water puddles scattered along the subdivision but no water covered the roadways in that area.

Near Reed’s Bridge across from a historic Civil War battlefield, water surrounded a building nearby a house as the Bayou Meto continued to expand out of its north bank late Monday afternoon. A mobile home on the south side of the Bayou Meto was also being threatened by the floodwaters.

The waters of the Bayou Meto did not cross over Reed’s Bridge but it did run wildly just underneath it. And along Redmond Road, water and debris caused drainage pipes to become invisible. Water pooled along both sides of the Redmond Road but fortunately never overflowed onto it.

Marty Trexler, a senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, indicated that central Arkansas encountered between 4.73 and 6.53 inches of rainfall since this past Friday. The massive amount of rainfall led to localized flooding in low-lying areas across Pulaski County.

“We are finally seeing the back edge of it,” Trexler said on Monday morning. “And we just issued a winter weather advisory until noon today.”

Jacksonville did not receive any wintry mix from this weather advisory but NWS prediction of a cold front hitting Pulaski County came to past. Trexler said that temperatures would dip down to the mid-20s overnight into Monday night and before dawn on Tuesday. He also explained that the cold front would signal an end to the rainfall. A cold weather pattern is predicted to extend through Saturday.

TOP STORY >>Rescuers get many stranded to safety

IN SHORT: White County office of Emergency Management and the Searcy Fire Department were among several public safety groups that reacted swiftly as they helped to save lives and property during the recent downpour that saw rivers rise and roads covered by water.

Leader staff writer

As they always do during extended periods of heavy rain, the low-lying areas of White County are flooded.

The swift water rescue team with the Searcy Fire Department was called out Monday morning to help rescue five people who were stranded in a pickup in waist-deep water in the Vinity Bottoms near McRae.

As it turned out, the water was not swift, only rising, and the five were able to make it to high ground with little assistance, said Capt. Lee Reed with the Searcy Fire Department who called the swift water team to action.

Three of the team members were on hand when the call came in at shift change, Reed said, and a fourth was available. The team members train in the swift, cold water of the Little Red River. Their specialty equipment includes a jet ski.

Reed said they were able to leave the city Monday morning only because other firefighters worked overtime to continue to provide fire coverage for Searcy while they were gone.

Operators with the White County Office of Emergency Management (911) have taken eight calls from stranded motorists since the water started to rise. So far no injuries have been reported.

The Little Red River reaches flood stage at 30 feet. Tamara Jenkins, emergency management coordinator, said the river reached 29.2 feet Monday night but then started to recede, so no evacuations are planned. By midday Tuesday, it was down to 27.8 feet.

No cost estimate for damage to county roads was available at press time.

As always, motorists are cautioned to heed warning signs and not drive on roads that are under water.

One rescue worker said Tuesday that there will always be people who ignore the signs and drive onto flooded roads. “I think they take it as a challenge,” he said.

Kevin Mahoney of Beebe, whose family runs a wrecker service, spent Monday pulling cars from ditches and off flooded roads around Beebe and Floyd.

Mahoney said he is wary of fast moving water even when he is driving his wrecker.

“Even a rig as big as mine can become buoyant and get washed off the road,” he said.

These White County Roads were closed Monday, but Jenkins said the list will get shorter as the water recedes: Jones Puttnam, Arthur Kirk, Swinging Bridge, County Line at Highway 5, Webb Hill, Sandy Ford, Hwy. 5 at Bull Creek, Red Hill, Foster Chapel, Smith, Fairview, Crosby, Mitchell, Mt. Pisgah, Richard Lauren, Yarnell, South Booth, Gafford, Gillam Road at Cox, Ballpark at Pruitt, Pete Hall, Old Kensett Road, Jones Island, Hwy. 11 at Liberty Lane, Taylor, Pumping Station, Humes, Babb Road and Worden.

SPORTS >>Falcons' defense chokes Paragould

IN SHORT: North Pulaski went 21 minutes giving up just one bucket in a 58-44 win over the Rams.

Leader sports editor

It only took two games for North Pulaski and second-year coach Raymond Cooper to get a conference win. Last year, the Falcons didn’t win a conference game until the last game of the season, so Friday’s 58-44 home win over Paragould was big.
“It sure is nice to get that win,” Cooper said. “We felt like we should have won the first one, but we let it get away. We know we have a team that can win some games this year.”

North Pulaski struggled a bit in the first half, but clamped down defensively to lock down Paragould’s offense in the second half.

Two freshmen led the Falcons in scoring. Post player DaQuan Bryant and guard Aaron Cooper scored 11 and 10 points respectively.

The Falcons led by only three, 26-23, at halftime, but North Pulaski’s defense gave up just one field goal through the first 14 minutes of the second half. Going back to the first half, NP gave up just one field goal for nearly 22 minutes. Paragould hit a layup in the first minute of the second quarter, and got their last 10 points of the period from the free-throw line.

It was a three-pointer by Cooper that gave North Pulaski its biggest lead of the game at 54-34 with two minutes remaining.
Paragould scored 11 points in the final 90 seconds, including three treys, to cut into the margin.

Coach Cooper felt that his team fouled too much in the second half and prolonged the game, but didn’t realize it had given up just one bucket for nearly two quarters.

“Maybe I was a little hard on them afterwards,” Cooper said. “I really did feel like our defensive intensity level was way up. I know the effort was there. We just fouled too much at the end of the game. We talked about closing teams out all week, and when we got them down, we fouled them and sent them to the line. But I’m extremely pleased with the effort they gave. They just have to be a little bit smarter.”

Paragould jumped out to a small early lead on the strong inside game of center Alex Garmrath. Garmrath scored seven of the Rams’ 11 first-quarter points and led them to an 11-9 lead.

The Falcons got a big lift from the bench in the second quarter. Only two NP starters scored in the second frame. Quinn Cooper and Rod Banks each hit a free throw, the other 13 points came from the bench, including five by Aaron Cooper.

The freshman Cooper got steals on back-to-back Paragould possessions and turned them into five points. Stanley Appleby and Wesley Louis each hit three pointers during a burst of scoring that put the home team ahead by six points.
Paragould’s inside game was still a factor though. Although the Rams didn’t score a single bucket for the final seven minutes of the period, they stayed in the game at the line.

Paragould hit 10-of-10 free-throw attempts in the second quarter, including six in the final minute that sent the Rams into halftime trailing just 26-23.

“That’s too many fouls, but I’ll take one bucket in 21 minutes every time out,” Cooper said.

Paragould’s chances at a comeback were severely damaged late in the second quarter. With 22 seconds left in the half, Garmrath slammed his head into the floor while being called for a charge. The collision resulted in a concussion and rendered him unable to return for the remainder of the game.

The third quarter and most of the fourth was all Falcons.

North Pulaski outscored Paragould 16-5 in the third quarter, giving up just one bucket. A 12-6 start to the fourth put the Falcons up by 20 and sealed the win.

Paragould got to the line a lot in the second half, but North Pulaski’s pressure took its toll. The Rams hit 12-of-13 foul shots in the first half, but made eight of 13 in the second half.

The Falcons were 11 of 17 from the foul line.

Despite not playing in the second half, Garmrath still led the Rams with 13 points. Brad Nunn also score 13, hitting for eight points in the final two minutes, while Casey Flippo finished with 12, including 10 free throws.

NP’s two leading scorers didn’t just score, they led in other categories. Cooper picked up six steals while Bryant grabbed eight rebounds.

The win lifted North Pulaski to 6-6 overall on the season while Paragould dropped to 5-9 and 0-2.

The Lady Falcons fell behind early, mounted a strong comeback but came up on the short end of a 54-41 decision.
The Lady Rams’ inside passing created too many open shots at close range for the Lady Falcons to keep up with.

Post players Ariel Walker and Mikka Jaggers combined for 38 of Paragould’s points. While Walker scored exclusively from the inside, Jaggers stepped out for a couple of three pointers as well.

The Lady Falcons fell behind by as much as 18, but put together a furious rally in the third quarter to cut the margin to 36-31. Unfortunately, that’s when Jaggers heated up from outside and knocked down back-to-back treys to quickly extend the lead back to double digits.

Walker led all scorers with 20 points while Jaggers added 18. Neisha Ridgeway scored 18 to lead North Pulaski, who fell to 2-10 and 0-2. Paragould improved to 7-9 and 1-1.

The Falcons played at Batesville last night after Leader deadlines. They will host Greene County Tech Friday. The Tech boys are undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state by every published ranking.

SPORTS >>Mustang surge erases JHS lead

IN SHORT: The Mustangs outscored the Red Devils in the late going after trailing for most of the fourth quarter to take a 53-50 win.

Forrest City Times-Herald

Friday night, against Jacksonville, the Forrest City Mustangs were lucky with a little good thrown in over the final three minutes.

Factor in a little added motivation by Forrest City senior Marcus Britt, who pointed to the newly-raised track-and-field state championship banners which hung high above the Mustang Arena floor, and the end result was another Mustang victory.
Trailing at home by six points with 2:59 to play, Forrest City outscored Jacksonville 12-to-5 to cap an incredible and intense hard-fought 53-50 win over the Red Devils.

The 6A-East Conference victory was the 10th straight win for the Mustangs dating back to early December and lifts Forrest City to 14-2 overall and 3-0 in the conference – a first for a Mustang team under head coach Dwight Lofton.

“Good definitely played a huge role in the end,” Lofton said. “Both teams had to make the plays and fortunately for us, our seniors stepped up and did that. They had a six-point lead and we knew we had to have three defensive stops. We just told them, guys it is still a two-possession game, keep doing what you’re doing offensively and look for the stops on defense.”
Trailing 45-39, Forrest City sophomore center Gavin Glandton drained an 18-foot jumper and Britt came up with a steal and converted the layup with 2:16 to play cutting Jacksonville’s lead to 45-43.

After a Forrest City time out, senior point guard Kellon Bowman forced a Jacksonville turnover at midcourt and went in for the solo layup with 1:48 to play to tie the game at 45-45 to complete a 6-0 Mustang run.

KaJuan Watson’s long three-pointer put Jacksonville back in front 48-45 with 1:26 left before Jacksonville’s LaMark Trask fouled Forrest City senior guard Stephon Weaver way beyond the three-point arc, sending the Arkansas State University signee to the foul line for three free throws.

Weaver hit all three for a 48-48 tie and after a Jacksonville miss, Bowman came away with his second steal and layup for a 50-48 Forrest City lead with 53 seconds to play.

After a Jacksonville time out, Britt forced a steal and was fouled on the layup attempt. Britt hit one of the two foul shots before Jacksonville’s Watson missed a long three and the rebound went to the Mustangs with 12.5 seconds to play.
Britt drew a non-shooting foul and hit both free throws from the double-bonus opportunity for a 53-48 lead with 6.4 seconds to play.

Jacksonville hit a meaningless basket just before the buzzer to set the final score.
“Good teams find ways to win and that’s what we did Friday,” Lofton said. “Every one of those plays late in the game were huge plays.”

Friday’s three-point win was the second of the week for the Mustangs, who had to hold off Marion 60-57 Tuesday at Marion.
“Wins like these will only make us better down the road,” Lofton said. “And Friday’s win over Jacksonville was a quality win.

Trust me, in Jacksonville, you are looking at a No. 2 or 3 seed into the state tournament. They are the real deal. Their size was a factor, but more importantly, their quickness was a factor. They are one of the few teams we have played this year that after the first six minutes I thought these guys are as quick as we are, jump higher than we do and are very physical. When Forrest City and Jacksonville get together, I don’t expect anything less than the type of game the fans saw tonight, a down-to-the-wire game. But again, the bottom line, we just found a way to win. We could have rolled over when they went up by six but we didn’t.”

Weaver led the Mustangs with 15 points while Britt had 14 points, six rebounds and four steals. Bowman finished with 12 points and two steals while Kelson Stewart added eight and Glandton had four points and six rebounds.

It was the first time this season that Stewart failed to reach double digits for the Mustangs.

The bigger, more physical Red Devils out-rebounded Forrest City 31-to-23, but had 14 turnovers in the game (10 of those in the second half) while the Mustangs turned the ball over only eight times, just twice in the second half.

Gerron Riddles, Jacksonville’s 6-5, 300-pound senior center, led the Red Devils with 13 points while Watson had 12 and Antwan Lockhart had eight. Norvel Gabriel scored all six of his points in the fourth period.

The Mustangs hit 17 of their 40 shots from the floor while Jacksonville connected on 22 of their 50 shots. The Mustangs were 18-of-25 from the free- throw line, hitting 10 of 11 in the fourth period.

Forrest City led 10-8 after one period but Jacksonville took a one point advantage, 22-21 into the half. A 14-to-10 third period left the Red Devils with a 36-31 lead to start the fourth period highlighted by Watson’s break-away slam dunk at the buzzer.

Riddles and Gabriel each hit two field goals early in the fourth to push Jacksonville to its six-point lead.
Forrest City 59, Jacksonville 38

The Forrest City Lady Mustangs improved to 9-6 overall and 2-1 in the 6A-East Conference Friday night with a resounding 59-38 win over Jacksonville’s Lady Red Devils.

Friday’s win leaves the Lady Mustangs in a tie for third in the conference standings with Mountain Home.
Fareedah Washington led four Lady Mustangs in double figures with 14 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Cassandra Jackson added 12 points, nine rebounds and two steals while Bookita Vaughen and Kesha Stovall each finished with 11 points and four rebounds each.

Forrest City opened a 24-0 lead before Jacksonville (4-10 and 0-2) was able to put up their first points with 37 seconds left in the opening period.

Stovall, the team’s senior center, had nine of the 24 first-period points, including a pair of three-pointers. By halftime, the Lady Mustangs led 34-15, their second highest first half point total of the season. Jacksonville was held to just seven field goals in the first half.

The Lady Mustangs used a 9-0 third period run to take their lead from 38-21 to 47-21 as Jackson converted a pair of inside layups to go along with Stovall’s jumper and Vaughen’s three. Forrest City led 49-27 to start the fourth period.
Forrest City connected on 24 of their 62 shots from the floor and had 23 turnovers and 15 steals.

Jacksonville was 7-of-17 from the foul line and was led by Tyra Terry’s nine points. Tarneisha Scott and Vanessa Brown each had eight points while Marie Livings finished with six and Marleka Bell had four.

In other 6A-East girls games played Friday, Mountain Home held off Jonesboro 65-50 in double overtime, Searcy downed Marion 56-36 and West Memphis stayed unbeaten in conference with a 58-25 win over Sylvan Hills.

Jacksonville played Sylvan Hills last night after Leader deadlines. Look for details of that matchup in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

The Red Devils’ next game has been moved from its originally scheduled site of JHS to a road game at West Memphis.

SPORTS >>Sylvan Hills pounds Blue Devils

IN SHORT: The Bears improved to 2-1 in conference play Friday by knocking off West Memphis. The Lady Bears fell to 0-3 with a loss to the top-ranked Lady Blue Devils.

Leader sports writer

After a dismal start to the season, the Sylvan Hills Bears have begun their 6A-East Conference campaign strongly. The Bears improved their league record to 2-1 on Friday with a big conference home win over West Memphis 51-36.

The first half was a tremendous defensive struggle, but the Bears began to open things up in the second half, while keeping the defensive pressure on the Blue Devils through most of the last two frames. Sylvan Hills led 17-11 at the intermission, but built a 10-point lead by the end of the third quarter, and would not allow West Memphis any closer than within six points in the final period.

“We were a little sluggish in the first half,” Bears coach Kevin Davis said. “But that’s what you kind of have to expect when you play during semester-test week. As a coach, you have to be prepared for the worst in situations like this, but I thought we did a good job of getting back on track in the second half.”

Bears junior post player Julian Bassett dominated on the boards defensively in the fourth quarter, but all of his eight points in the frame came from the charity stripe. The 6’7” Bassett looked relaxed at the line during his perfect eight-for-eight run at the foul line, helping the Bears increase a 31-23 lead at the 5:50 mark of the fourth quarter to a 39-24 lead by the 3:29 mark.

Sylvan Hills’ only non-free- throw score in the fourth quarter came from a Chris Wallace layup with 2:52 remaining. The Bears were sent to the line for the remainder of the game, but kept Bassett’s consistency at the stripe with 10 of 12 attempts made in the final two minutes.

Free throws would be a big story for the Blue Devils down the stretch as well, but only for different reasons. West Memphis was only six of 15 at the line in the final frame, allowing the Bears to box them out on several rebound opportunities.

“We were able to challenge their guys inside,” Davis said. “We used Julian Bassett down low in an effort to get some of the smaller guys on the boards. He hit eight or nine in a row for us at the line also, so we got a strong game out of him. I thought Chris Wallace had a good game for us. He had some big threes for us, and got our outside game going.”

Wallace picked up in the second half what Tony Robinson started in the opening minutes of the game. Robinson put the first points on the board for the Bears in the first quarter with a three-point shot at the 4:59 mark. Robinson would also hit another three at the 1:43 mark to give Sylvan Hills a 6-0 lead.

Robinson would keep the momentum going for the Bears in the second quarter with a steal that he took coast to coast for a layup, giving Sylvan Hills an 8-5 lead.

Both teams struggled through the remainder of the first half, and the first four minutes of the third quarter. Business picked up offensively for both teams at that point, especially for the Bears. Wallace hit an 18-footer with 44 seconds left in the third quarter after picking up a steal, and followed that with a three-pointer with only nine seconds left in the frame to give the Bears a 29-19 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Wallace went on to lead the Bears with 14 points. Bassett and Robinson both finished with eight points. The win gives Sylvan Hills an overall record of 5-11 and a conference record of 2-1. The loss drops West Memphis to 5-9 and 0-3 in conference.
The girls contest was a rout from the opening minutes of the game, as the Lady Blue Devils rushed out to a blistering 24-4 lead at the end of the first quarter, and extended that lead even further to a 38-8 lead at the intermission.

Along with forced shots that gave West Memphis several defensive rebounds in the first half, 21 turnovers for the Lady Bears did little to help their cause.

Sylvan Hills finally found some offensive finesse in the second half, denying West Memphis the mercy-rule until the final three minutes of the game. In fact, the Lady Bears outscored West Memphis 15-11 in the third quarter, after the Lady Devils began to substitute.

“Those turnovers in the first half killed us,” Lady Bears coach Bee Rodden said. “When you give the ball away to a good team like that, you’re not going to have much of a chance. We did some good things in the third quarter, we just didn’t start out very well.”

Kierra Johnson led the Lady Bears with eight points. Senior Rachele Dobbins added seven points after sitting out most of the second quarter due to a minor injury. Dobbins returned to the second half for most of her points, along with three steals. Trinity Thomas added five points for Sylvan Hills. For West Memphis, Brea Banks led all scorers with 14 points. The Lady Bears are now 4-10 and 0-3 in the conference.

EDITORIALS>>Why persecute Griffen?

The strange case of Judge Wendell L. Griffen, pro se, v. Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission becomes weirder and weirder, and more and more troubling for the public conscience.

Judge Griffen and the commission, which is supposed by law to curb rogue judges, were back before the Arkansas Supreme Court Thursday in the latest of the case’s endless configurations. This time, the justices were trying to figure out if the commission could hold still another hearing in secret on whether to charge Judge Griffen with official misconduct and why in the world the commission wanted to hold it in secret since Judge Griffen most adamantly did not.

Griffen, in fact, was asking the Supreme Court to order the commission to try him in public from start to finish and hold nothing back from the public. The commission, or at least its director, is demanding secrecy.

It makes you wonder which is the rogue and which the protector of judicial integrity. But that has been true from the first.
Griffen, who is black, is a judge on the state Court of Appeals, the state’s second highest court. He had the audacity twice to run for the Supreme Court, in 2004 and 2006. Had he been elected, he would have been the first elected black justice of the high court. Each time, complaints were filed against him at the judicial watchdog agency. The complaints were made public and badly damaged his campaign. No one wants a dishonest judge on the highest court.

But here is what the commission charged him with. He made a remark at Fayetteville to a group of black state legislators that there was racism at the University of Arkansas. He had specific reference to Frank Broyles’ firing of Nolan Richardson, who happened to be the most successful major-sport coach in Arkansas history.

The commission’s director said the remark sullied the dignity of the judiciary and cast doubt on its impartiality. The commission handed him an official rebuke, which he did not accept.

Since then, Griffen’s remarks outside the court on matters having nothing to do with the courts or cases have gotten into print here and there. A Baptist minister, he speaks at Baptist conventions and other forums. His remarks criticizing the national government’s inept response to Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq got into a newspaper here and there and it found its way to the commission. He wrote an op-ed article for a newspaper criticizing the U. S. Justice Department’s escalating abuse of personal privacy and other civil liberties.

A judge, every judge, must keep completely silent outside the courtroom, even on matters that will never come before his court, the Judicial Disability Commission maintained. When he doesn’t, it argued, he erodes people’s respect for the courts. That, indeed, used to be a state-imposed doctrine of the system of electing judges, which is the system in about half the states. The premise was that people got better justice, or at least would think they did, the less they knew about the views of judges and those who were running for judgeships. If voters had a hint of what judicial candidates thought about issues of the day they would have no confidence in the courts.

It was always bunk, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 said so finally and emphatically in a case brought by the Republican Party in Minnesota, where a Republican candidate was disciplined for having uttered political views.

The U. S. Court noted that the First Amendment allowed everyone in America to speak their mind and to assemble with whomever they wished. That right must be extended even to judges, the court said.

Thus the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned Griffen’s first punishment, but when he ran for the Supreme Court again last year, someone lodged complaints against him again. It is not clear whether the commission’s director did it on his own or someone elsewhere did.

The commission’s attorney told the Supreme Court Thurs-day that its probable-cause hearing on Griffen absolutely had to be closed to the public. The purpose is to protect an accused judge from having damaging charges against him that later prove unfounded made public. But Griffen waived the privilege of confidentiality at the outset and made the accusations public himself. Twice he has been to the Supreme Court to make the commission divulge to everyone what it has on him.
We should all be troubled that the judiciary may be damaged by this sad episode, but it is hard to escape that the wrong person is in the dock.