Friday, February 16, 2007

SPORTS >>Playoffs hope over for young Panthers

IN SHORT: A 66-52 loss to Bryant ended any chances of post-season play for the Panthers.

Leader sports writer

The Panthers held out a slim hope of slipping into one of the final 7A state playoff spots until Tuesday’s 66-52 loss to Bryant mathematically knocked them out of contention. The Panthers only trailed by six points at halftime, but the Hornets would not allow them to close that gap in the second half. Instead, Bryant slowly pulled away, and took Cabot’s post-season hopes with them.

“We’re playing for pride from here on out,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “We had our shot, okay, but we’re out of it now. These are good kids, and they’re not going to lay down now. It’s been hard for them to endure a lot of things this year, but I feel like they have taken it all in stride.”

Adam Sterrenberg led the Panthers with 28 points. Alex Sharp added 12 points for Cabot.

Although they were very competitive in all but a few of their league games, Cabot’s 2-10 conference record puts them out of the chase for one of the six seeds from the Central Conference. Bridges made no excuses for their record, but also acknowledged his team’s disadvantage when it came to experience compared to a number of their conference rivals.

“Yeah, it’s a tough conference,” Bridges said. “But we came from a tough conference before. There’s not much difference between 6A and 7A. Heck, Jonesboro and Forrest City are probably better than just about anyone in 7A.

“Experience as a big thing for us, experience and confidence. If you go back to those three games we lost by four points, what if we could have won those? That would have done wonders for our confidence, but when you lose those like we did, it can affect your whole psyche.”

The Lady Panthers kept themselves in a second-place tie with Conway in the 7A-Central standings with a 67-46 win over the Lady Hornets. The win improved Cabot’s record to 19-5 overall and 9-3 in conference.

The Cabot teams played their final home game of the season last night against visiting Pine Bluff, before ending their regular season on the road at Russellville on Tuesday.

SPORTS >>Academy upsets Riverview

IN SHORT: The Wildcats upset Riverview Thursday night to make the district finals.

Leader sports writer

Riverview went undefeated through the conference regular season, and was the favorites to win the district tournament held at its own place.

Harding Academy took the league champs to overtime on the same floor in the last meeting between the two teams, and knew it could beat the favored Raiders. The Wildcats proved it Thursday night with an exciting 70-61 win in Thursday night’s semifinals.

A half-court shot from Alex Beene at the halftime buzzer did more than just tie the game at 31-31; it seemed to stop Riverview’s effortless momentum that it enjoyed through most of the first half. The Wildcats came out on fire in the second half, with Beene and fellow senior guard Luke Tribble scoring from nearly every pocket on the floor.

“Those two guys both had a terrific game tonight,” Harding Academy coach Rick Beene said. “I have had a lot of good guards over the years, but those two could be the best I’ve seen.” Tribble and Alex Beene combined for 28 of the Wildcats’ 39 second half points. The biggest key down the stretch would be solid free throw shooting by Harding Academy. The Wildcats hit 13 of 14 attempts in the final three minutes, staying at least three scores ahead of the Raiders until the final buzzer.

Although both teams had their bright and dark spots, the biggest inconsistency in the game was on the hands of the officiating crew. A number of questionable calls in the first half prevented the Wildcats from building any true momentum. A technical foul on Rick Beene at the 2:32 mark of the first after asking for an explanation of a call allowed Riverview senior Tony Hall to tie the game from the foul line at 12-12.

The second half would be Riverview’s turn on the wrong end of the whistle. The Raiders received a number of player-control fouls during times when the HA defenders did not appear to be even close to being set. The Riverview crowd voiced their displeasure on a number of occasions, as did Raiders coach Danny Starkey at the 4:52 mark of the third quarter when a Joe Overstreet basket that would have cut the Wildcats’ lead to two points was disallowed.

Despite the bewildered refs, the game was closely contested through the final minutes of the game. Riverview junior Dominique Baker had a chance to tie the game for the Raiders with 40 seconds left, but his three-point attempt bounced off the cylinder and into the waiting hands of HA’s Alex Beene. Beene was fouled after the rebound, and hit both ends of his one-and-one attempt.

Beene helped the Wildcats out to a 5-0 lead at the start of the game with a three and a basket in the first 48 seconds. James Kee added to that lead with an inside basket before Hall finally answered for the Raiders. Overstreet cut the lead to two when he was fouled by B.J. Roller while attempting a three-point shot. Overstreet nailed all three charity shots to make it 7-5 HA with 5:39 left in the first quarter.

The Raiders fought through the entire second quarter until Baker hit a perfect three pointer with three seconds left until the intermission that put the Raiders up 31-28. The shot appeared to have given Riverview the momentum for the start of the second half, but Alex Beene’s hurl from 45 feet out fell through the net as the buzzer sounded to dead lock the game at 31.
Beene went on to lead all scorers in the game with 28 points. Tribble added 16 points for the Wildcats. For Riverview, Tony Hall led with 16 points. Thatcher Cooperwood added 11 points, and Overstreet had 10 points for the Raiders.

Harding Academy played Rose Bud in last night’s district finals. Look for details of that game in the Saturday edition of The Leader.

SPORTS >>Red Devils shake road woes, topple Sylvan Hills

IN SHORT: Jacksonville topped the Bears for its first conference win away from home. The Lady Devils also got a big win Tuesday.

Leader sports writer

Jacksonville got a clean sweep on the road at Sylvan Hills Tuesday night. The girls won a close contest while the boys took a 54-44 victory for their first conference road win of the season.

The Lady Bears mounted a rally in the fourth quarter that turned an eight-point Jacksonville lead into a one-point Sylvan Hills lead with 5:23 left in the game.

Jacksonville quickly reclaimed the lead, but Sylvan Hills’ Rochelle Dobbins hit a free throw with 1:57 left to put the Lady Bears up 43-42. It would be the last points for the home team until a meaningless shot at the buzzer set the final margin, despite several opportunities.

The first came when Dobbins got the rebound of her own miss on the second attempt of the same trip to the line. The putback attempt was no good, teammate Brianna Austin got the rebound and missed, SH’s Myesha Harris got that board and was fouled on the floor.

She missed the front end of a one-and-one, but got her own rebound only to miss the putback attempt.
Jacksonville turned the ball over at the other end of the floor, and Dobbins was fouled driving to the basket. She missed both free throws and Jacksonville’s Marleka Bell got the rebound.

Bell’s outlet pass went to junior Morgan Waits, who hit a layup to put the Lady Devils back in front 44-43.
Sylvan Hills missed a shot, but Waits walked at the other end with 23 seconds left.

Austin then missed a short jumper and Lady Devil Marie Livings got the rebound and was fouled with nine seconds remaining.

She hit both free throws to make it 46-43, then Bell stole the inbound pass and hit an uncontested layup with six seconds left to put the game out of reach.

Dobbins ran down the court for the three that set the final margin.
Absent from much of the action in the final two minutes, Lady Red Devil post Tarneshia Scott made her presence known throughout the game.

Scott finished with 24 points and 18 rebounds. She, Waits and Livings combined to hit 17 of 20 free throws. Livings made all five of her attempts from the line.

The win lifts Jacksonville to 2-9 in conference play, and one game behind Jonesboro for the final spot in the state tournament.

Sylvan Hills fell to 0-10 in conference play.

The boys game was also close most of the way. Jacksonville started the game with a big size advantage, and it only got bigger when Bear post players T.J. Shelton and Lamar Bassett got into foul trouble.

Jacksonville seized the opportunity quickly, and post players Gerron Riddles and Antwan Lockhart began scoring inside.
Jacksonville took a 24-19 lead into halftime, and stretched it to 10 early in the third quarter. Shelton and Bassett sat the entire third period, but after the Red Devils’ initial run, shots stopped falling, especially from the inside.

After taking the 10-point lead, Jacksonville committed four turnovers on consecutive possessions without taking a shot.
Unfortunately for the home team, Sylvan Hills was having an even harder time getting shots to fall. In the same time span, the Bears missed six shots that could have cut into Jacksonville’s lead.

Finally after a three minute span of neither team scoring, Jacksonville’s Norvel Gabriel hit two free throws after Shelton’s fourth foul to make it 38-26 with 7:10 left in the game.

From that point, the Bears started finding the range, but so did Jacksonville. The two teams traded baskets and the lead stayed around eight to 10 points until inside of a minute. The Bears rallied to within 49-44 on a Chris Wallace three with 35 seconds left, but Jacksonville’s Kajuan Watson and Antonio Washington hit four straight free throws to set the final margin.
Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner was glad to see his team finally get the road monkey off its back.

“We made some plays down the stretch this time that we hadn’t been making,” Joyner said. “We had a chance to put them away in the third quarter but started turning it over and missing little chip shots. We have to get better at putting teams away, but we did make plays at the end to keep them from getting back in it and having a chance to win. I think they grew up a little in this game. I’m proud of ‘em.”

Despite the size disadvantage and their two biggest players on the bench much of the time, the Bears out-rebounded the usually strong rebounding Red Devils 27-26. Bear coach Kevin Davis lauded praise on his team for effort, but lamented the shooting woes.
“It’s been somewhat our Achilles’ heel,” Davis said. “We’ve struggled to score all year. To quote a coach we beat here last year, ‘an old coach told me one time, at some point you’ve got to make some shots’. That’s about what it boils down to. You can do everything else well, but if you don’t make some shots, it’s hard to win the game.”

Sylvan Hills took 21 more shots than Jacksonville. The Bears made just 18 of their 62 attempts while Jacksonville hit 19 of 41.
The win lifts the Red Devils to 5-6 in league play while Sylvan Hills fell to 4-6. The Bears will make up their game with Forrest City Saturday, a day after taking on Jonesboro. Jacksonville hosted West Memphis last night after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS >>Rabbits hold off Stuttgart

IN SHORT: The Lonoke boys led by 15, then trailed by seven, but beat the Ricebirds in overtime.

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits blew a big lead, but came away with a 55-52 overtime win over Stuttgart Thursday night in the semfinal round of the 4A-2 district tournament in Bald Knob.

Lonoke coach Wes Swift downplayed losing a 15-point lead and having to rally to tie it by the end of regulation.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” Swift said. “At this point in the season, the name of the game is win and advance. That’s it.”

Stuttgart was possibly the hottest team in the tournament coming into the game after hammering Batesville-Southside in the first round, and then running away with an easy upset over Newport in the quarterfinals.

After both teams struggled to score through the first half of the first quarter, Lonoke appeared to be putting an emphatic and sudden end to the Ricebirds’ hot streak.

Lonoke’s first bucket didn’t come until 1:45 was left in the opening period, but it gave the Jackrabbits a two-point lead. They finished the quarter up 10-2, and 16-2 just two minutes into the second.

The lead grew to as much as 19-4, but Stuttgart finished the second with a 9-4 run to make it 23-13 at the half.

Stuttgart post player Reggie Smith sat much of the first quarter with two fouls, but dominated the boards in the second quarter, and began scoring in the third to get the Ricebirds back into the game.

Helping open things up for Smith was the six three pointers Stuttgart hit in the second half. Many that were missed were rebounded by Smith. He sailed high above the rim for a rebound and massive dunk wth 7:40 left in regulation to give the Ricebirds their first lead of the game at 37-36.

The dunk ignited Stuttgart’s cheering section, but Lonoke’s Bradley Spencer quieted them quickly, getting a bucket plus one at the other end just seconds later.

Stuttgart answered with back-to-back three pointers to take a 42-39 lead with 4:53 remaining.

Spencer then hit two more free throws, but Stuttgart got another second-chance bucket, this time by Ray Henderson, to make 44-41. Stuttgart then hit a three pointer after a Lonoke turnover to give the Ricebirds their biggest lead at 47-41 with 2:58 left in regulation. They wouldn’t score again in regulation while Lonoke clawed back to tie it.

Senior point guard Kylon Boyd entered the game and immediately hit a three wth 2:40 left.
Stuttgart was then called for three seconds in the lane, but Lonoke failed to capitalize in the turnover.

Stuttgart called time, and Lonoke fouled to stop the clock. Stuttgart then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 40 seconds on the clock. Tyrone Dobbins got the rebound and threw the outlet pass to Spencer.

Spencer missed and got his own rebound, but it was then stripped. He was able to chase down the loose ball and found teammate Stanley Staggers. Staggers was quickly double teamed, and threw the ball back out to Boyd, who sank another three with 20 seconds on the clock to tie the game.

Lonoke instantly called timeout and set up in full-court pressure out of the break. Stuttgart didn’t handle it well. Spencer knocked the ball away at midcourt. Dobbins wound up with the loose ball and found Staggers,who missed a 15-footer at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

Lonoke instantly took command in the extra period. Dobbins got a steal and was fouled. He hit both free throws to give Lonoke its first lead since the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter. After a missed Stuttgart three, Staggers got a driving bucket and a foul for a 52-47 lead with 2:36 left in the extra period.

Stuttgart’s Carrison Vaughn nailed a three to make it a two-point game with 1:49 left. After Lonoke missed three shots at the other end, Stuttgart’s Tevin Robinson hit two free throws to tie it with 1:18 left.

Spencer then made one of two foul shots, but Robinson threw the ball away at the other end. Boyd missed for Lonoke and Stuttgart’s Desean Osby was fouled on the rebound. He missed the front end of a one-and-one with 47 seconds left and Lonoke’s Brock Clement pulled down one of his four overtime rebounds.

Lonoke got the ball into Spencer’s hands, who was fouled and sent to the line. He hit both shots to set the final margin. Stuttgart got a look, but it wasn’t a good one and was way off the mark.

Clement only scored two points, but drew Swift’s praises after the game for his effort in overtime.

“He didn’t play much because I use him to sub for Stanley (Staggers) and Stanley was playing. That kind of made him the odd man out. But when I called on him he was huge. Those were some big rebounds that we needed because we had not done well on the boards at all.”

Spencer led all scorers with 18 points. Staggers finished with 15. Both players had five rebounds. Clement led the Jackrabbits on the boards with six in limited play. Smith led Stuttgart with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Lonoke improved to 20-7 and will tip-off against Marianna in the district title game at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

SPORTS>>Cabot ladies win, boys lose at home to LR Central

Leader sports writer

The Cabot Lady Panthers came one step closer to the post season with a 74-51 win over Little Rock Central on Friday at the Panther gymnasium, but the boys came one step closer to missing the playoffs with a 54-42 loss to the Tigers. The Panthers were short one of their best outside shooters in sophomore Austin Johnson, and one of their better ball handlers in Jacob Trammell. Sixth man Justin Haas took up most of the slack left by Trammell on the ball handling and defensive sides, but standout Cabot sophomore Adam Sterrenberg seemed overwhelmed against the Tigers without Johnson to feed off of.

Outside shooting would make the difference in the contest for LRC, with over half of their first half points coming as the result of three-point shots. The Tigers came away with seven three pointers in the first half alone, making up 21 of their total 31 points at the intermission. Anthony Harvey came away with the first three of the long distance scores in the first quarter, but teammate Arvin King came off the bench for the start of the second quarter to take up the slack for Harvey’s absence on the court and then some.

King went four for four behind the arc in the second frame, lifting Central from a 13-13 tie at the end of the first quarter to a 31-25 lead by halftime. Panthers senior post Alex Sharp was Cabot’s saving grace in the first minutes of the game. Sharp stayed focused despite being the object of heckling from the small but vocal Tiger student section, even taking time to blow them a kiss after dunking while the LRC crowd chanted ‘Borat’, a reference directed at Sharp’s hairstyle.

Sharp had seven points in the opening quarter alone, but the Tigers tightened up the inside pressure for the start of the second quarter, and held Sharp to only four points. Adam Sterrenberg struggled from the floor, only managing one shot in the quarter. Sophomore Jack Bridges got the Panthers’ biggest shot of the period at the 3:24 mark with a three pointer that cut the Tigers’ lead down to six points, which would end up as the margin at the half.

The third quarter would be the toughest for the Panthers to endure, going scoreless until 2:14 left in the period when Sharp finally got Cabot back on the board with an inside jumper. By that time, however, Central had built up a 39-29 lead, and limited Cabot scoring for the remainder of the contest would only allow the Tigers to pull away further. Adam Sterrenberg led the Panthers with 18 points. Sharp added 13 for Cabot. For Central, Harvey led with 21 points and King finished with 12 points. The Panthers are now 9-15 overall and 2-9 in the 7A-Central Conference.

Outside shooting was also a major theme of the girls game earlier in the evening, but the melody belonged to the Lady Panthers in this one. Nine of the first 11 points for Cabot came from three pointers, and five different Cabot players would end up with points behind the arc before game’s end. The first quarter of the game was the senior show for Cabot. Maddie Helms started the game off with a three pointer, followed by another three from Jamie Sterrenberg.

Third senior Kayla Kackley got a rare start in the game, and got the most out of her time by forcing two jump balls during Central possessions, taking one that was ruled a Cabot ball the distance for a score at the 5:48 mark to put the Lady Panthers ahead 8-0. The underclassmen took over during the second frame, with three-point shots coming from juniors Leah Watts and Lauren Walker. Shelby Ashcraft also came away with five points in the period from the low block, helping Cabot to a commanding 40-16 lead at halftime.

Instead of putting the Lady Tigers away, Cabot played with countless substitutions for the second half, with three different squads taking to the court at one time or another in the final 24 minutes. The lead never went down under 16 points, but the pace of the game almost came to a screeching halt in the fourth quarter. The starters made a brief appearance in the fourth quarter at the 4:41 mark after LRC cut the lead to 59-43, but a quick basket from Walker, followed by three free throws for Ashcraft and another Walker shot put the advantage at 68-49 with 3:18 remaining.

Walker went on to lead all scorers in the game with 19 points. Jamie Sterrenberg had 12 points, while Ashcraft finished with 11 points. All of Watts’ nine points in the game derived from three-point shots. For LRC, Adreanne Walker led with 15 points, and Breanne Barnes finished with 14. The win gives the Lady Panthers an 18-5 overall record and 8-3 in conference. The Cabot teams played at Bryant last night, and will host Pine Bluff on Friday.

SPORTS>>Badgers go on road for first conference victory

Leader sports writer

The Beebe Badgers snapped a season-long conference losing streak against Paragould on Friday night 58-45. The Badgers did what they had to do down the stretch, hitting 13 of 15 free throws in the final two minutes of the game to secure the win. It took a bit of adjusting offensively for Beebe to take control of the game in the second half. The Badgers held a narrow 26-24 lead at the intermission after struggling with the Rams’ box-and-one defense on sophomore Zack Kersey. Paragould isolated Beebe’s biggest scoring threat all night, holding the young standout to only seven points.

Beebe began to find ways around the extra attention to Kersey in the second half, taking the ball to the middle where senior Jordan Gierach and junior Charlie Spakes found the hoop on a number of occasions. Beebe started to slowly pull away, but Paragould refused to adjust its defensive priorities. “We were very excited to get that win,” Beebe coach Chris Ellis said. “It’s nice to get the monkey off our backs. Hopefully it’s a sign of better things to come.” The win was the third conference victory in as many years for the Badgers, who are now 4-16 overall and 1-9 in the 5A-East Conference.

Kersey was not able to get to the goal much in the first half, but another underclassman took up a lot of the slack in the early going from the bench. Sophomore Brandon Pursell came up with five points in the opening frame, including a three pointer, and a put-back goal that came off an offensive rebound that kept the Badgers out front in the early going.

The Badgers began to get easy looks in the paint in the third quarter with all the attention on Kersey, but the Rams refused to abandon their strategy. This allowed Gierach to control the low block, and gave Spakes room to find looks in the paint.
“I think we just got more comfortable with the box-and-one they were running on us in the second half,” Ellis said. “We prepared for it in practice, but it’s never the same in a game-type situation. Zack did a pretty good job of making those guys work hard, and that helped us to open up the middle of the lane.”

Gierach led all scorers in the game with 22 points. Spakes finished with 13 points for the Badgers. Kersey and Trey Smith both had seven points. Free throw shooting was a major factor for Beebe in the game, hitting 16 of 21 attempts in the game. Smith came away with five of six foul shots in the final two minutes for the majority of his points in the game. The Lady Badgers forced Paragould into overtime on Friday, but fell in the extra period for a 69-60 loss. Beebe is now 12-7 overall and 7-3 in conference.

Beebe hosted North Pulaski last night after Leader deadlines, and will take on Blytheville on the road Friday night.

SPORTS>>Devils shoot Mustangs out of top-ranked saddle

Leader sports editor

An improbable shot from an unlikely shooter started an unbridled celebration Friday night in the Devils Den at Jacksonville High School. Jacksonville sophomore Antwan Lockhart banked in a turnaround jumper from about 15 feet out as the buzzer sounded, lifting the Red Devils to a 55-53 victory over No. 1 ranked Forrest City, and giving them a crucial win in the log-jammed 6A-East standings.

Lockhart’s basket was his first of the game and completed an excellent shooting display by the Red Devils in the final period.
The Mustangs led for 31 of the 32 minutes, but never could put any significant distance between themselves and Jacksonville. Jacksonville’s only other lead came midway through the first quarter at 13-10, but it was short-lived.

Although Jacksonville barely led in the game, it dominated the fourth quarter. The Red Devils outscored the Mustangs 19-12 in the final frame and hit four of their last five shots. Meanwhile, the Jacksonville defense held Forrest City to three of 12 shooting in the fourth, and to just 24 percent on the night. “We D’d up like we had been earlier in the year,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “We didn’t play that hard against Marion and it got us beat, but they came out and got in some peoples pockets and shut ‘em down.”

With the game tied at 53-53, both teams had a shot at winning. Forrest City’s Kellon Bowman drove past the Jacksonville defense following a Mustang timeout, but missed the layup when he tripped on the way to the basket. The Red Devils rebounded with 23 seconds remaining. Jacksonville senior Damien Akins missed at the other end of the court, but chased down the long rebound. Forrest City’s Marcus Britt knocked the ball away near midcourt, but couldn’t catch up to it before it rolled out of bounds.

Norvel Gabriel threw the inbound pass to Lockhart, who took one dribble to the line and banked in the game winner. Two of Forrest City’s three Division I signees had decent games, but the most heralded, Marcus Britt, was shut down. Britt, who had been sick the week leading up to the game, finished with just four points and no field goals. Kelson Stewart controlled the action early, scoring 15 points in the first half, but finished with just five more.

Stephon Weaver added 14 for Forrest City, who dropped to 19-3 overall and 8-1 in conference play. The Mustangs are now tied with Jonesboro for first place. Seniors led the way for Jacksonville. Kajuan Watson hit three treys for most of his team-high 16 points. LaMarcus Trask finished with 12 and Akins totaled 10. Jacksonville improved to 10-10 and 4-6.
The Lady Red Devils fell to 1-9 in league play with a 62-38 loss. The Lady Mustangs improved to 7-2 with the win and remain in a tie for second place with Searcy.

Slow starts continue to be the downfall of the Lady Devils. Forrest City scored the first 16 points of the game before Jacksonville started playing. From that point, the Lady Devils outscored Forrest City 16-15 to go into halftime down 31-16.
With the bad start, Jacksonville couldn’t afford to allow another run, but that’s what happened late in the third. The Lady Mustangs’ lead grew to as much as 27 early in the final period.

Jacksonville went to Sylvan Hills last night, and will host West Memphis Friday.

SPORTS>>Jackrabbits win top seeds

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits sealed up an outright conference championship Friday knight, whipping Heber Springs with a dominant defensive effort in the second half. The boys also completed an impressive season turnaround, beating the Panthers to lock up a share of the 4A-2 Conference title, and earning the league’s No. 1 seed in this week’s district tournament.

The Lonoke ladies were in a tussle for the first two quarters, but clamped down and held the Lady Panthers scoreless in the third quarter, and gave up just six points the entire second half to seal a 51-28 victory. “We played really, really, really well defensively in the second half,” Lonoke girls coach Nathan Morris said. “We held their best player to two points and no field goals, so you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Lonoke stuck with its recent past of getting out of the gates slowly, and Heber Springs built a 9-6 lead in the first quarter.
Lonoke turned up the heat in the second quarter on the offensive end, scoring 20 points, but the Lady Panthers stayed close with a patient offense and good shooting. Lonoke held a 26-22 lead at the break, and went into halftime with confidence.
Morris had been upset about the recent slow starts, but didn’t feel the need to belabor the point during Friday’s break.
“It was a pretty calm half,” Morris said. “We had talked about finishing as outright champions before the game, so I didn’t mention it again. We mainly talked about things we needed to improve, like our second line of defense, and the girls went out and executed those things.”

Lonoke went on a quarter-long 15-0 run in the third to take a 41-22 lead into the final frame. They quickly made the lead even bigger, allowing Morris to give some youngsters some playing time. Senior post player Crystal Kirk led Lonoke with 18 points and nine rebounds. Jenny Evans scored 11 points and continued her hot shooting from the line, hitting seven of eight free throws to follow her 8 of 8 effort last Tuesday against Marianna.

Asiah Scribner scored nine points and added four assists and three steals. Kristy Shinn scored six points, but it was her play away from the ball that brought Morris’ praises. “We held their leading scorer to two points, and that was Kristy Shinn,” Morris said. “She got into some foul trouble early, so Micaela Brown guarded her too and did a great job. Kristy also got some of her points with putbacks. She did a great job of getting into position for some second-chance points, and that’s a guard doing that, so that was a big help.”

The win lifted Lonoke to 19-8 overall and a final conference record of 14-2. They will play at 7 p.m. Thursday in the semifinal round of the 4A-2 district tournament that began Monday in Bald Knob.

EDITORIALS>>Eject sharks

We were frankly shocked but impressed at the magnitude of the vote in the House of Representatives for the bill to regulate payday lenders in Arkansas. It passed 90-3. Where have these lawmakers been since 1999, when the legislature opened the gates to the loan-sharking industry?

House Bill 1036 by Rep. David Johnson of Little Rock would strike the references to loan fees in the 1999 law and insert references to the 17 percent ceiling on interest rates in the Arkansas Constitution. The check cashers will leave the state if the bill becomes law, and the state will be better off. They have counted on being able to establish exorbitant fees for check advances and not having the fees count as interest, thus skirting the constitutional usury provisions. Johnson’s bill would impose a $300 fine every time a payday lender charged an interest greater than the constitutional limit.

This week the bill has to navigate the state Senate, where The Brotherhood is in charge. Good law needs a big head of steam there. A co-sponsor is Sen. Shawn Womack, one of the brothers, so maybe the bill has a chance. Call or email your senator and ask him or her to vote for HB 1036. Appeal to their humanity

EDITORIALS>>Beebe kicks off road program

Gov. Mike Beebe, who first said he would not have a highway-building program at his first legislative session, changed his mind this week and said he would offer a modest one. Its lineaments, as they were sketched by Cliff Hoofman, the new highway commissioner from North Little Rock, seem supportable. But let us reserve final judgment until the governor fills in the important details. He would take up to $100 million from surplus general revenues for road building, raise the tax on highway diesel fuel by a nickel a gallon and empower the Highway Commission to issue bonds from time to time until the year 2015. The bonds, of course, would first have to be approved by the voters at a statewide election.

The details of the bond proposition will bear the closest inspection. They must be more prudently fashioned than the bond proposal pushed by Gov. Huckabee and defeated soundly by the voters in December 2005. Hoofman gave one promising assurance: the Highway Commission would not be given open-ended authority to issue debt at its discretion into eternity, which the Huckabee proposal sought.

We would ask for one other assurance on the bonds: that the volume of bonds be large enough to make the mortgage costs worthwhile. Under the 2005 plan and the successful 1999 bond election as well, the payout term was so short that the state could have built more highways in roughly the same period if it did not have to bear the expenses of interest and the legal and underwriting fees.

Highway officials and the governor never acknowledged the waste. But the interstates were largely rebuilt as promised and the lawyers and underwriters were happy with the arrangement. The Highway Commission circulated some mountainous figures last month about the vast needs of the transportation system the next two decades and the desperate shortage of road-user taxes to meet them.

The commission and the highway lobby have put out such overblown figures for four decades. It is their job. If schools had an equal lobby, the shortage over the same period might a trillion dollars, and then what would we do? Now that key sections of the interstates that ran over the state’s shifting topsoils, which had been battered into rubble by 18-wheelers, have largely been repaired, the highway system seems to be in moderately good shape.

But there is a need for more and wider routes in fast-growing urban areas and for improved roads through the more forsaken regions of the Delta and the southern plains. Beebe’s plan should serve that need nicely. It is conditioned upon there being enough surplus money after the desperate needs for school facilities are met. Those needs may reach $500 million. (They actually far exceed that but neither the state nor local schools are in position to spend it wisely the next two years.)

Fortunately, however, the general-revenue surplus and other cash lying around in unobligated accounts at the Capitol should reach $900 million so there should be money for the highways. As much as we dislike the precedent of diverting general revenues to highways, we have a plan: Tell The Brotherhood in the Senate and their friends in the House of Representatives to forego their pork the next two years and spend it instead on highways. Generations will rise up and call them blessed.
The tax on diesel now stands at 22.5 cents a gallon, a penny-a-gallon more than the impost on gasoline. But although it is not fair on every user, that is the right tax to raise. The big trailer trucks with their 80,000-pound cargos do the damage to highways. The trucking industry apparently acknowledges it because it seems to support the Beebe program, including the diesel tax. Although highways are popular and no lawmaker has ever been punished for voting for highway taxes, the highway program is not a done deal.

Raising motor fuel taxes requires three-fourths of each house, and many legislators have sworn upon the altar of God that they will not vote for a tax of any kind. Even the most improvident vows are hard to break. But every legislator will have voted for a half-dozen or more of tax cuts. A tax increase on commercial trucks might be forgiven.

OBITUARIES >> 2-14-07


Dorothea A. Boone, 86, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 10. She worked for University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as a licensed practical nurse and was a member of Military Road Baptist Church in Jacksonville. She was preceded in death by her devoted husband of 38 years, Ralph L. Boone, Sr., and six loving brothers.

She is survived by her daughter, Carolyn and husband Tom Evans; son, Ralph L. Boone, Jr., all of Jacksonville; grandson, Paul L. Deeter and wife Stephanie of North Little Rock; sister-in-law, Lucille Wood, of Columbia, Miss., and a number of nieces and nephews. Memorials may be made to Military Road Baptist Church, 2101 Old Military Road, Jacksonville, Ark. 72076. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14 at Military Road Baptist Church. Burial will be in Arkansas Memorial Gardens. Funeral arrangements are by North Little Rock Funeral Home.

Marcia Dianne Warren, 52, of North Little Rock passed away Feb. 7. She was born Feb. 15, 1954 in Joplin, Mo., to Olen Lee Ayers and the late Joanne Ellis-Ayers. She is survived by one daughter, Christina Dianne Hixon of Long Beach, Calif.; two sons, Larry “Wayne” Ausbrooks of Alto Loma, Calif., and Jody Lee Ausbrooks of North Little Rock; father, Olen Lee Ayers of Nixa, Mo.; one sister Kay Pagan of Ozark, Mo.; two brothers, Ellis Ayers of Nixa, Mo., and George Ayers of Santa Monica, Calif.; four grandchildren, Sierra Elizabeth Morrison, Adam Hixon, Ryan Hixon and Sophia Ausbrooks.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 15 with the family receiving friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16 at Morgan Full Gospel Church in North Little Rock with Rev. Bob Wickliffe officiating. Burial will be in Palestine Cemetery. Arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Trent Waller, 15, of Hickory Plains died Feb. 8 at White County Medical Center in Searcy. He was born March 15, 1991, at Little Rock to Karen Thomas and Cleophus Penn. He was a ninth grader and loved to attend school. His biggest passion was to play football, but his health prohibited him from doing so. He was in FFA, 4-H and was a trainer for his football team.
He is survived by his mother, Karen Thomas of Hickory Plains; his father, Cleophus Penn of Hazen; two sisters, Sherri Thomas of Little Rock and Natisha Penn of Hickory Plains; his grandmother, Littie Harshaw of Hickory Plains; three special cousins, LaQuisha, Rosie and Michael, all of Little Rock; special aunt, Florence of Little Rock and Uncle Cooter of Hickory Plains, and a host of other great friends and family. He will be missed but never forgotten.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 17 at Beebe Public Schools Auditorium, with burial in Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, Hickory Plains. Funeral arrangements are by Westbrook Funeral Home of Beebe.


Earline Siler Dailey, 80, of Pangburn died Feb. 9. She was a retired administrative assistant for the city of Little Rock and a Baptist. She was preceded in death by her husband, L. E. Siler; and grandsons, Jeff Siler and Justin Harris. She is survived by her husband, George A. Dailey of Pangburn; four sons, Ed Siler of Floyd, Tom Siler of Little Rock, Randy Siler of Cabot and Mickey Siler of Conway; three stepdaughters, Georgia Langley and Jonia Billings, both of Pangburn and Judy Mendez of Kansas City, Mo.; 12 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and two sisters, Tommye Purkiss and Peggy Purkiss of Little Rock.

Funeral services were held Feb. 13 at Westbrook Funeral Home. Burial was in Henderson Cemetery in Pangburn.


J. D. “Jim” Gilbert, 78, of Ward died on Feb. 9. He was the son of the late J. S. and Mary Lovie Gilbert of French Camp, Miss.
He was the owner of Jim Gilbert TV Repair, a veteran of the Second World War and the Korean War, and a Baptist.
He was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers, Francis Shelby Gilbert and Russell Gilbert; five sisters, Irene Simon, Grace Hodgnett, Pauline Gowen, Emilee Hunt and Agness Andrews.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Emma Jean Gilbert of the home; two daughters, Sara Talbert and husband Tommy of Cabot; Barbara Ann Sullivan and husband Con of Beebe; three grandchildren, Larry and wife Amy Talbert of Cabot, Christy Sullivan and John Sullivan, both of Beebe; three great-grandchildren, Ryan Jacob Talbert of Cabot, Dustin Gann and Pamela Gann of Searcy; three sisters, Beatrice Sanders of Indianapolis, Shirley Smith of Columbus, Miss., and Nell Schafer of Indianapolis; and one sister-in-law, Opal Gilbert of French Camp, Miss.

Funeral was Feb. 13 at Ward First Baptist Church, with burial in Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.


William Roy Hinson, 45, of Holiday Island died Feb. 9 in his home. He was born Jan. 10, 1962, in Fayetteville, a son of William G. and Betty S. Hall Hinson. He was a salesman for liquor stores. He is survived by his son, Chris Hinson of Eureka Springs; his sister, Suzanne Reed of Albania; and his parents, Bill and Betty Hinson of Eureka Springs.

He was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents, Harry and Mary Hinson of Forrest City; and his maternal grandparents, Elbert and Beulah Hall of Winne. Memorial funeral services will be held at a later date in Forrest City.


Severa Elvira Dela Cruz Puebas, 79, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 6 at St. Vincent Hospital in Sherwood. She was born July 17, 1927 in Negros Occidental, Philippines, to the late Saldo and Urja Dela Cruz. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Angelico Puebas in 1986; one son, Ray Puebas and three grandchildren. Mrs. Puebas formerly worked as a seamstress for the Cinderella Shop. She was a member of St. Jude Catholic Church in Jacksonville.

Survivors include her daughters, Teresita P. Soliven of Indianapolis, Ind., Leticia P. Riggins of Jacksonville, Angelina Puebas and Christina P. Biscocho, both of the Philippines. A private family Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Jude Catholic Church in Jacksonville. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Bertha L. Stone, 84, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 9 in Searcy. She was born July 1, 1922 in Des Arc to the late Jerry and Ada Baugh Weatherly. In 1938 she married Alfonso Stone near El Paso. She was a housekeeping manager at Rebsamen Medical Center for 20 years until she retired in 1986. She was preceded in death by her husband, Alfonso in 1996; daughter, Brenda Rogers, and a grandson, Raymond Beckett.

She was a longtime member of Landmark Baptist Church in Jacksonville. She is survived by her daughter, Carolyn and husband Jack E. Warner of El Paso; four grandchildren, Sindee Teeman, Jack C. Warner, John Warner, and Ginny Allen; eight great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were Feb. 13 at Landmark Baptist Church with Brother Tim Carter officiating. Burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville. Memorials may be made to Land-mark Baptist Church. Funeral arrangements were by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Flora Jane Zube, 85, of Houston, Texas, died on Feb. 10. She was born Nov. 8, 1921 at Colt. Flora worked many years in department stores both in Little Rock and Houston where she continued working till her 80th birthday. She was a loving mother, grandmother and will be missed by all. Flora was preceded in death by her husband, Otto Zube. She is survived by her two sons, Dan Horn and Charles Zube who have three children.

Graveside service was Feb. 12 at Old Austin Cemetery in Ward.Funeral arrangements were by Westbrook Funeral Home of Beebe.


Gary Wayne LeMaster, 51, of Lonoke died Feb. 10. He was born Jan. 16, 1956 in Ohio to Hubert and Mary LeMaster.
He is survived by his wife, Dianne LeMaster of Beebe; two sons, Justin and wife Samantha LeMaster of Beebe and G.W. and wife Krista of Ohio; two daughters, Samantha LeMaster and Crystal LeMaster of Ohio; four brothers, Roger, James, Randy and Michael LeMaster; one sister, Pat Risner; three grandchildren, McKenna, Elizabeth and Issiah; along with many other family members and friends.

Private memorial services were Feb. 13 by Thomas Funeral Service.

TOP STORY >> Commission says no to apartments, yes to library

Leader staff writer

A church issue took up most of the time at Jacksonville’s Planning Commission on Monday night; while the site plan for the library was approved in short order. Hope Lutheran Church, looking to sell some of the property behind its facility at 1904 McArthur Drive, asked the Jacksonville Planning Commission to rezone about 43,000 square feet of its property from (R-1) single-family homes to (R-3) multi-family residences.

After listening to concerned residents, receiving a petition against the rezoning and having doubts itself, the commission denied the request at its meeting Monday night at city hall. Commissioner John Herbold, who made the motion to deny the request, said, “Policy says we will protect homeowners. If we vote for this we are going against our own policy.”

A resident, who lives close to the church, told the commission that it just didn’t look like there was enough space for apartments. “And besides, we have an overabundance of apartments in Jacksonville already. We would just like to keep our neighborhood the way it is,” the resident said. Herbold agreed that the city has an excessive amount of rentals. “A chamber of commerce presentation showed that more than 50 percent of our housing was rental property. That seemed a bit much to me, so I did some checking on the Internet and the sources I found said 48 percent—about the same.”

“Some might say the base is the cause but when I checked with other cities with bases it just isn’t true. In Bossier City, which is home to Barksdale AFB, 37 percent of the residences are rentals and its 36 percent in Oklahoma City, home to Tinker AFB,” Herbold said. Resident Raymond Ellis told the commission he was concerned with flooding and high water at his house and area streets. “Apartments will only make it worse,” he said. Jay Whisker, who has been retained in his position of city engineer until a new one has been hired, told the commission that there is a drainage problem in the area. “Both the city and the church have worked on it,” he said.

Before the vote, Commissioner Mark Stroud, added that he thought this would be spot rezoning and a bad precedent to start in an established neighborhood. John Loyd, representing the church, said the church wanted to sell the property and that a multi-family zoning would make the land more attractive to developers. He felt the small number of apartments that could go in would not be detrimental to the neighborhood.

All the commissioners, but one, voted to deny the rezoning. Commissioner Bart Gray abstained as his realty company is involved in the sale and development of the acreage. The commission approved the site plan for the new library just east of Walgreen’s on Main Street. Whisker said the city council, at its meeting Thursday, will set a public hearing for March 1 to close an abandoned alleyway on the property, allowing plans to continue to move forward.

Construction on the $2.5 million project should start in early summer. Plans call for a 13,500-square-foot expandable facility complete with a meeting room that can be used after hours. Landscaping will give the land a park-like look. “About the only thing not settled yet,” said Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System, “is the exact location and design of a gazebo.” The gazebo and other outside amenities will be used for weddings and other downtown gatherings.
In other commission business:

•Commissioners accepted a sketch plat of Porter’s Subdivision, an eight-lot subdivision, on North First Street, with the suggestion that the developer run an alleyway behind the planned homes for residents to use to prevent traffic problems on North First.

•Commissioners also accepted the 2006 report of commission activities, which included two annexations, Lost Creek Subdivision, on the north side of General Samuels road, west of North Pulaski High School, and Stoneridge Subdivision, a 450-lot development, on the north and south sides of Jacksonville Cut-off, just east of Westpointe Drive.

TOP STORY >>Health office set to move

Leader staff writer

Cabot is in line for a new health department to replace the old one beside the senior citizens center and Mayor Eddie Joe Williams says he would like to see it built downtown. The old building is too small and the parking there is inadequate, the mayor said. If the state opts for a new building instead of renovating an old one, he wants it built beside the old post office on South First Street, which now houses the city’s public works department.

The new mayor has not announced anything called a downtown revitalization plan, but his comments during various meetings held since he took office show that he is concerned about the vigor of the downtown area. At the very least, he has said, he doesn’t want to see any buildings sitting empty, especially in downtown. At press time, little information was available about the new health department except it will be funded this year. Williams said he is meeting with health department officials Tuesday, Feb. 20, and will know more then.

Not only would a $500,000 health department building on South First Street be good for the downtown area it would also be good for the clients because it would be within walking distance of pharmacies, he said. Ann Wright, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Health, said the decision to give Cabot a new building was based on many factors including recommendation by the regional office, the number of clients served, an independent inspection of the old facility by a group that includes engineers and community support for a new one.

Williams said the city would have to provide a lot for a new building. There is room beside the old post office. And if the health department is built there, he would also like to renovate the old post office to make it fit in better with the new building. With last year’s purchase of the old Community Bank building next door to city hall, the city has a lot of space that it isn’t currently using. The mayor has talked about moving public works to the bank building and moving the school’s museum to the old post office.

The museum was previously housed in one of the old buildings that was torn down to make way for the new high school.
That plan is not firm, but Williams said he is working on it. Williams also is talking to the Cabot Chamber of Commerce about moving into the bank building. And on Tuesday, the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission met and agreed to talk seriously to the city about buying the city annex on South 1st Street where Cabot WaterWorks billing office and Cabot District Court are now housed.

The commission was considering several prospects for office space, but Williams has implored them to consider buying the annex and not move out of downtown. Bill Cypert, the secretary of the commission, said Williams has not given a price and the commission has not made an offer. But for now, the city annex is tops on the list of choices for office space.

TOP STORY >>Air Force questions more cuts

Leader editor

Air Force officials are having second thoughts about cutting force levels any further. It’s a question of how much you can ask of a military service that’s already stretched to the limit. As the Air Force must do 10 times the number of missions it did 15 years ago but with far fewer airmen, the Pentagon is reconsidering further cuts in personnel from the current 360,000 force level.
Next year’s Air Force budget still calls for an additional reduction of 20,000 airmen, which would be on top of a previously announced 24,000 cut personnel, bringing force levels down to 316,000, a huge drop from a high of 600,000 at the end of the Cold War.

But in light of recently announced manpower increases for the Army and Marine Corps to support a troop surge in Iraq, which will require additional aerial combat support, the Air Force wants to stop further reductions and keep levels at least at 336,000, rather than the projected 316,000.

Roger M. Blanchard, Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for personnel at the Pentagon, last week told a meeting of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council that further force reductions are needed to pay for new airplanes and weapons systems, including more C-130Js, as well as rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, including $30 million needed to repair the 50-year-old flightline on base.

But Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley recently told a meeting of the Air Force Association that although more funds are needed for recapitalization, they would rather hold on to the number of airmen they have now. Savings from a reduced force will allow the military to “recapitalize its equipment,” Blanchard said.
The Air Force will spend billions on new airplanes and weapons, including $1.58 billion for 13 C-130Js.

LRAFB will get at least seven new airplanes. Although the Air Force has cut its personnel, Blanchard noted that LRAFB would see a slight increase in personnel and airplanes — about 300 more airmen and 17 more planes. The Air Force Times contributed information to this article.

TOP STORY >>Utility group touts deeds

Leader staff writer

The turnout wasn’t as good as hoped for, but the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission is satisfied with its marathon Saturday meeting with the mayor and city council that was designed to show them just how far the commission has come in the year it has run the city’s utilities.

The $16 million wastewater treatment plant is on schedule for completion by the beginning of December. The commission has identified the various collection basins for the sewer system, knows the limitations of each and is working on plans for improvements and expansion. The commission is working with Central Arkansas Water, which will supply water for the city in the future, to keep the costs of that multi-million dollar project down. And it is working toward increasing the amount of water that can legally be taken from the city’s well field so more of the cost of connecting to CAW can be paid with cash. “All and all, I was pleased,” said Bill Cypert, commission secretary. “We accomplished what we wanted to. I think the council has a better idea about what we do and they seem content to let us keep doing it. I haven’t heard anyone say anything different.
“I was a little disappointed that four (of eight) council members didn’t show up. But we’ll keep working on the issues and we’ll work with the (public works) committee and we’ll get it done.”

Although the commission has complete authority to run water and wastewater without interference from the mayor and city council which controlled them until the commission took over in January 2006, the council still sets water and sewer rates and it could vote the commission out of existence.

But Mayor Eddie Joe Williams told the commission in January that he didn’t intend to go against the 2-1 vote of city residents that put the commission in control. And he said after the Saturday meeting that the commission is working on existing needs and also planning 15 years ahead, so he sees no reason for them to stop now.

“They truly have the community’s interest at heart,” Williams said. The meeting included breakfast, a history lesson about Cabot’s water woes from Commission Chairman J.M. Park, and a review of some of the problems and projects the commission is working on from Cypert and commission member Gary Walker, who is an engineer. “In my whole 76-year lifetime…we have never had an adequate supply of water,” said Park, a retired banker who has spent most of his life in Cabot.

Park talked about the WPA grant that paid to turn two abandoned oil wells into the first municipal water system. When those wells started going dry, water pipes in houses would fill with gas leading to, he said, “the famous flaming faucets of Cabot” which were written about in the state newspaper. During the 1950s, water from wells on a farm was piped back to town, he said. Those wells lasted about 30 years before the waterline to Jacksonville had to be built.

Twenty years later, the Wattensaw well field between Beebe and Lonoke went into production. And even though the well field and treatment plant is capable of producing 7 million gallons a day, the state allows the city to take only 3 million gallons a day from the ground. A preliminary study shows that the wells are not adversely affecting the aquifer where they are located, so the commission is hopeful that the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, which permits city wells, will extend the city’s permit to as much as 6 million gallons a day until 2030.

For the mayor and Alderman Ed Long, there was nothing new to see on the tour of the state-of-the art water treatment plant where workers can keep check on the wells during weekends from secure computers at their homes. Both were on the council when the well system and treatment plant were built. In fact, they were the driving force behind passage of the one-cent sales tax that paid for them.

Neither was on the council when voters approved extending that sales tax in large part to pay for the new wastewater plant. But they are very familiar with the old one that is overloaded and requires constant attention to keep it operating at a level that is acceptable to the state. And it was all new to council members Virgil Teague, Becky Lemaster and Teri Miessner who were among the passengers on the church bus that carried the council and commission from one site to another. Lisa Brickell, Tom Armstrong, Eddie Cook and Ken Williams did not attend the meeting.

Among the issues that the commission hopes to work out in meetings with the public works committee of the city council are the purchase of the city annex and old city shop, raising sewer rates, lowering the high wholesale rates that are making Austin and Highway 19 Water Association look for another supplier and annexation of a commercial area on Highway 5 that is outside the city’s water district.
Since the Saturday meeting, the commission is confident that it will keep going and those issues and others that arise will be worked through, Cypert said.

TOP STORY >>State releases PCSSD from fiscal review

Leader staff writer

After squirming under the thumb of the state Education Department for two years for poor money management, the Pulaski County Special School District is once again free of the state’s micromanagement. Upon the recommendation of the Education Department, the state Board of Education Monday released both PCSSD and the Cross County School District from fiscal distress oversight.

PCSSD’s challenge will be to continue the careful spending that brought the district from the brink of financial disaster to financial stability. “We will be able to do more for our schools, fixing them up” said Bishop James Bolden III, a Jacksonville area school board member.

He said people and groups may come looking for more money or services. “We have to use wisdom. We’re not going to start spending like we’re crazy,” he said. “We have our independence back,” said Jeff Shaneyfelt, a board member. “That’s important. We still have to abide by department of education rules and regulations, but we have more control. “Let’s not go back and do anything contrary,” he added.

During that time, teachers and support staff accepted scaled down pay increases and reductions in the number of paid holidays. Homer Adkins Elementary School was closed, the number of administrators shrank, school counselors were let go, in-home workers were cut and so was the number of math and language specialists and maintenance workers.

Some schools were told they couldn’t operate on the block schedule because the seven-period schedule saves money.
The board now could face an influx of employees, former employees, parents and others who felt that they were denied while the district had to stick to a tight budget and strict state Department of Education oversight. “The district isn’t going to do anything substantially different,” said Craig Douglass, the district spokesman.

“Any requests that require additional expenditures will be considered case by case,” he said, but the district would cleave to “the conservative fiscal policies that allowed us to come out of fiscal distress in the first place.” He said that the ending balance for the district for the last two school years was $7.9 million for 2004-2005 and $9.2 million for the 2005-2006 school year.

In petitioning the state Board of Education, PCSSD Superintendent James Sharpe wrote, “It is important to note that we did not cut academic programs, and we are continuing to maintain our facilities, buses and to upgrade technology.” The Cross County District also was released from the fiscal distress list. The district had gone through about $12 million in savings over about three years and was primed to move into the red when the state intervened in 2005. Had the district not turned around its fortunes, it could have been consolidated with another district or taken over by the state. Those were not idle threats. The state has invoked both of those sanctions.

State Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, says PCSSD is a wealthy district and should never have been on fiscal distress.
“In Jacksonville, we should be on facilities distress,” Bond said. The PCSSD system, second only to the Little Rock School District in number of students, has made significant progress after it was classified as fiscally distressed in April 2005, state officials said. The district’s school board created a detailed fiscal distress plan that included staff cuts, reducing employee benefits and eliminating block scheduling at all but two schools.

In block scheduling, students attend fewer classes per day, but attend them for longer periods. Instruction time over the course of a year remains the same. The Pulaski County district was placed on the fiscal distress list after it was projected to be more than $5 million in the hole for the fiscal year that ended last June 30. In a letter to the state, Superintendent James Sharpe said the district expected to end this fiscal year with more than $12.5 million on hand. Districts remaining on the fiscally distressed list include: Dollarway, Helena-West Helena, Hughes, Lead Hill, Midland, Omaha and Turrell. Helena-West Helena and Midland remain under state control.

Associated Press contributed to this story.

TOP STORY >>New bill designed to allow GIF funds

Leader staff writer

Mike Wilson—who, depending on your point of view, either single-handedly staunched the flow of legislative pork or else cut the throats of volunteer fire departments, roads and libraries across the state — says if lawmakers don’t turn thumbs down on a naked new attempt to rein in state such spending, he expects the courts will.

Wilson sued to stop the state from releasing General Improvement Fund (GIF) money for several projects, saying Amendment 14 of the state Constitution prohibits funding local projects. Wilson argued that allowing state legislators to earmark General Improvement Funds for local projects is “pork” plain and simple. Circuit Judge Willard Proctor ruled generally against Wilson, but the state Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in his favor, sending the case back to Proctor.

Wilson believes that as soon as Proctor takes care of some paperwork, the Supreme Court will rule entirely in his favor. Meanwhile, leaders of both houses have written a bill sponsored by state Rep. Chris Thyer, D-Jonesboro, intended to circumvent the ban on local legislation by turning the money — $50 million or more — over to a committee of eight. Thyer’s bill would create the Arkansas Community Assistance Commission, with four members appointed by president pro tempore of the Senate, four by the speaker of the House of Representatives. Each would appoint one person from each of the state’s four congressional districts.

Local legislators would then have to go hat-in- hand to the committee — columnist Ernie Dumas calls them “The Brotherhood,” to fund the projects to help the folks back home and get them reelected. State Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, who got caught in the crossfire when Wilson, his former law partner, filed suit to disallow GIF projects, says such a commission might be okay if the appointments were made by the governor.

“The real issue is, how much money would be available. It’s plain, what it is, is an attempted end run around the opinion of the Supreme Court,” said Wilson, a Jacksonville lawyer and former state representative. “It could turn out to be more egregious than before,” he said, turning the money over to eight people. “It would surprise me if the people or legislature give up the ability to spend the state’s money to eight people. Why not turn over the whole state budget?” he asked.
Members of the eight could extort votes from the other legislators, Wilson said. “It’s amazing they would try something like that.” Wilson said he had been waiting for a month for Judge Proctor “to enter an order so we can finish the remainder of that appeal.”

Wilson sued the state Department of Finance and Administration to prohibit it from issuing the General Improvement Fund checks to local projects, mostly in the Jacksonville area. Statewide, legislators appropriated $52 million in general improvement funds last year. Wilson says General Improvement Funds are not appropriate for projects unless they benefit the entire state and he would like the matter settled before members of the new state Legislature begin dividing up a new surplus pie at the end of the new session.

The ruling in Judge Willard Proctor’s court allowed local state legislators last session to earmark general improvement funds for the new Jacksonville library and several other projects including the Jacksonville Senior Center, the Museum of Military History, the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society and a Bigelow (Cleburne County) library—about $260,000 in all.

Wilson sought to overturn Proctor’s ruling, which allowed $190,000 toward the new Esther D. Nixon Library; $50,000 for the Jacksonville Senior Center; $10,000 for the Jacksonville Museum of Military History; $10,000 for the Reed’s Bridge (Civil War) Preservation Society and $10,000 toward the Bigelow library. Wilson prevailed in the lower court in his challenge of a $10,000 earmark for the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club and a $20,000 award to the city of Jacksonville without a specified purpose, but he lost on five other challenges.

TOP STORY >>District gets final check to rebuild

Leader staff writer

Students and teachers at Cabot Junior High North received good news from Superintendent Dr. Frank Holman Friday morning when he announced a $10 million settlement with the insurance company had been reached to rebuild the school after last August’s fire.

“We have a timeline in place to move forward with demolition and start drawing plans,” Holman told The Leader Tuesday. “We’ll open construction bids in May and hopefully by fall 2008 we will start school in a new building.” The district had previously received $7 million from Great American Insurance Company of Ohio, the district’s insurance company, for the eight-year-old, $9 million Junior High North that burned to the ground following the Aug. 10 fire that was ignited by a faulty light fixture.

Great American had first offered an $8 million settlement to rebuild, reusing the walls left standing from the fire, Holman said.

“We kept resisting that offer because we didn’t want walls not structurally sound and full of smoke,” Holman said. “We finally agreed on $10 million; with that and state funding it should not cost the district very much,” he said. The school board added CJHN to the district’s master plan in January, allowing the district to apply for state funds to rebuild the school through a partnership program with the Arkansas Department of Education’s Arkansas Division of Public Schools Academic Facilities and Transportation Commission.

The district will know by May 1 whether state funding will be received. With the partnership program, the cost of construction is shared between the state and district in a 60/40 split. Holman said costs for the new campus would be either $16 million or $25 million depending on the size and if the district increases enrollment at the school. “It will cost $16 million if we build for 1,200 students, or $25 million if we build for 1,500 students,” Holman said.

Demolition on the remains of CJHN began Monday and Holman said he hopes that by next week the damaged structure will no longer be standing. “It feels good to settle this part and move forward,” Holman said. The 1,200 displaced students have been attending classes all year in trailers set up between the tennis courts and the CJHN gym. It is costing the school district $40,000 per month to rent the more than 30 trailers used to house the students.

Monday, February 12, 2007

SPORTS >>Cabot falls twice at 'Small-tel'

IN SHORT: The Panther boys and girls teams lost tough encounters at NLRHS.

Leader sports writer

Cabot visited North Little Rock on Tuesday in a pair of 7A-Central Conference matchups.The Lady Panthers needed a win over the Lady Wildcats for an outside chance of taking the conference title, but lost 85-78 in overtime. The boys game also went into extra minutes, with a late three pointer from sophomore Adam Sterrenberg.

The Lady Wildcats remained unbeaten in 7A-Central play by beating the Lady Panthers. Senior Jamie Sterrenberg tied the game with just over three seconds remaining in regulation with a pair of free throws, but North Little Rock pulled away in the final minute of the overtime period to sweep the Lady Panthers for the season.

Junior forward Lauren Walker led the Lady Panthers with 21 points. Sterrenberg added 20 points for Cabot, and Leah Watts finished with 14 points.

Senior Maddie Helms rounded out double-digit scorers for Cabot with 10. For North Little Rock, Shey Scott led with 31 points. The loss moves Cabot’s record to 17-5 overall and 7-3 in the 7A-Central Conference. The Lady Wildcats are now 21-1 and 9-0.

Cabot got a three pointer from Adam Sterrenberg to tie the game at the end of regulation. Sterrenberg missed his first attempt, but the Panthers were able to get the rebound and kick it back out to the long-distance ace for a second try. This time, it would fall and the two teams would have four more minutes to settle it.

Despite the loss, Cabot fought through a tremendous amount of adversity to even stay close in the contest.
Starting guard Jacob Trammel suffered an injury over the weekend, and sophomore forward Austin Johnson sprained his ankle early in the NLR game.

Playing without two of their leading players in the game, Panthers coach Jerry Bridges says the play he got off the bench was phenomenal.

“I had to use every player on that bench,” Bridges said. “They all stepped up when they needed to, it was a complete team effort. I’m excited about the next four games. We still have a shot at getting that sixth seed. We’re not in this for moral victories, but I think the way we played on Tuesday is something that we can build on here in the final weeks.”

Sterrenberg led in scoring for the game with 23 points. Alex Sharp added 10 points and 12 rebounds for one of the best efforts on the boards this season for Cabot. Justin Haas was looking good from the outside with a pair of three-point baskets before his early departure in the third quarter. Haas fouled out of the game early, as part of North Little Rock’s 36 trips to the free-throw line, compared to only 12 for Cabot.

“I didn’t necessarily agree with the call, but that’s part of it,” Bridges said. “A lot of times on the road, you don’t get that many calls, but I thought we played well despite of that. You have to find ways to overcome things like that, and we almost did.”

Cabot now has a record of 9-14 overall and 2-8 in the 7A-Central Conference. Cabot hosted Little Rock Central last night after Leader deadlines, and will travel to Bryant on Tuesday.

SPORTS >>Six local athletes sign dotted line

Leader sports writer

Three departing Jacksonville seniors signed letters of intent to play college football on Wednesday morning during an assembly at the Devils Den. Quarterback Daniel Hubbard, defensive end Norvel Gabriel and wide receiver Marcus King all picked up scholarships to play on the next level, with two of the three former Red Devils staying local.

Hubbard and Gabriel will remain in state for the next four years in the central Arkansas area. Hubbard (6’5”, 245 lbs,) signed with Henderson State to play for the Reddies, while Gabriel (6’4”, 230 lbs,) pledged across town from Hubbard at Conway’s University of Central Arkansas to play for coach Clint Conque.

King’s scholarship takes him the furthest distance. The 6’4” 200 lb, receiver will play Saturday football in Kansas starting in the fall at Fort Scott Community College.

Most of the JHS student body was on hand for the signing Wednesday. Athletic director Jerry Wilson started things off with a short speech about the contribution the three young men have made at the school and in the community over the past few years.

“This doesn’t separate them from any of you,” Wilson told the student body. “Scholarships are a dime a dozen, but to have the chance to continue your education and do what you enjoy, that’s the best case scenario. You notice that I didn’t introduce them as football players, I introduced them as student-athletes, because being a good student comes before anything.”
The three players all took their turns addressing the crowd, thanking friends and faculty for the support they have received during their tenure at Jacksonville High School. Head coach Mark Whatley also spoke briefly, commending the three for their contributions to the team.

All three had plenty of accolades during their time as Red Devils. Hubbard made All-Conference in both his junior and senior years, and was named to the All-State team his senior year.

Gabriel is perhaps the most decorated of the three, with an All-State award, an All-Star Game invitation and was named outstanding lineman in the 6A-East Conference. King was named to the All-Conference team for 2006.

After the three signed, Wilson addressed the crowd again briefly before dismissing, stressing the importance of academics. “Guys, I’m telling you, it’s all about those grades,” Wilson said.

“I hope for all the younger people that look at this, that they understand,” Whatley told The Leader. “We have a lot of kids that have an opportunity to go and play on the next level, and these three have worked very hard in the classroom to keep their core GPAs up. They performed on the ACT test to qualify immediately.

“You usually find that the people who are disciplined on the football field are also usually disciplined in the classroom as well. That’s what these college coaches are looking for. They were great to coach, and I think that all three of them are going to have a great career at the next level. I’m definitely going to miss them. They were good players, but they are also good kids, and were good leaders. They were all very dependable.”

SPORTS >>Red Devils bust streak of losses, defeat Lions

IN SHORT: Jacksonville won the return match against Searcy Tuesday for its third league win.

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got a much-needed win Tuesday night over Searcy. Finally back at home after playing road games for more than a month, the Red Devils held off the Lions 52-51 in overtime. It was the second one-point overtime game the two teams had played against each other in a week.

The very next day, the Red Devils were back on the road playing a make-up game at Marion, and dropped another close road game 56-55.

A week before Tuesday, the Lions beat Jacksonville 64-63 in overtime at Searcy.
The Red Devils took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter, but were outscored 16-8 by the Lions, sending the game into the extra period.

Down by two with less than a minute left in overtime, Jacksonville’s Damien Akins nailed a three pointer that set the final margin.

Searcy was called for a travel on its next possession, but Jacksonville failed to put the game away at the free-throw line.
The Lions failed to score on two more possessions, and fouled. It took three fouls to put the Devils in the bonus, and when they did, the foul shot was missed with two seconds left.

Searcy got one more desperation attempt that missed the mark, leaving Jacksonville with the victory.
No Jacksonville players finished in double figures in scoring. Antwain Lockhart and Norvel Gabriel each scored nine to lead the way for nine Red Devils that got on the board.

Senior guard Matt Cramblett led Searcy with 17 points. Cody Wilmath and Justin Rowden each dropped in 12 for the Lions, who fell to 4-5 in league play.

The next day at Marion, Jacksonville led most of the way, but couldn’t hold on to the lead in the end. Jacksonville routed the Patriots by 22 points earlier in the year, but Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner doesn’t believe that is what caused his team to play poorly.

The head Red Devil gave the credit in the game to Marion.

“We had always played hard, even in our losses,” Joyner said. “This was the first game in a long time where we just got out-worked. They pinned their ears back and played harder than we did. There were loose balls on the floor, and they got ‘em. When it was late and both teams were tired, it came down to who wanted it more, and they wanted it more. I was as disappointed with this game as I have been all year.”

Some costly late turnovers also hurt Jacksonville, turnovers that had been a problem early in the year, but had subsided in recent games.

“I don’t know why we started doing that again,” Joyner said. “It was like the first of the season again. We just weren’t playing smart. We weren’t focused on this game for some reason.”

Sophomore guard Antonio Washington led Jacksonville with 13 points in the loss. Damien Akins added 10 and sophomore post Antwan Lockhart scored nine.

The two games leave Jacksonville 3-6 in league play and 10-12 overall.

The Lady Devils lost both matchups to fall to 1-8 in league play and 5-16 overall.
They hosted No. 1 ranked Forrest City last night after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS >>Falcons get important win against the Pioneers

IN SHORT: North Pulaski knocked off Batesville at home Tuesday night to stay in a tie for second place in the 5A-East.

Leader sports writer

The North Pulaski Falcons kept themselves in the thick of the 5A-East Conference chase on Tuesday night with a comfortable 68-53 win over Batesville. The Falcons built a 19-point lead by the intermission, and maintained the advantage through the final two periods to secure the win.

The win puts NP’s conference record at 5-3, half a game out of what is already a two-way tie for second between Nettleton and Wynne. The Raiders and Yellowjackets are both 6-3, with North Pulaski and Blytheville both at 5-3, with a game between them to be made up a week from today in Jacksonville.

“That one is going to be huge,” NP coach Raymond Cooper said. “We control our own destiny at this point. That’s what you want at this point in the season, you don’t want to have to depend on this team losing or that team winning, we just want to go out and take care of our own business and do the things we need to do to get into the playoffs. If we can do that, I think we will be alright when the time comes.”

The Falcons took care of that business early on Tuesday, going up 34-15 over the Pioneers at halftime. The second half was more of the same, as NP led by 18 points heading into the final quarter.

Freshman DaQuen Bryant led offensively for the Falcons with 13 points. Rod Banks and Quinn Cooper each added 11 points for North Pulaski. For Batesville, Marquis Sledge led with way with 17 points, and post player Thomas Showalter added nine. The win gives North Pulaski an 11-8 overall record and 5-3 in the 5A-East.

“I thought we played as well as we have all year in the first half,” Cooper said. “In the second half, we got a little sloppy defensively once we got out to that lead, but we did what we needed to do down the stretch.”

After last year’s dismal season, the Falcons have looked like a completely different squad all the way around this year. Cooper gives the majority of the credit for the successful turnaround to the dedication of this year’s seniors.

“The biggest thing was really having an actual off season to work with them,” Cooper said. “The dedication of our seniors has been tremendous; that’s been one of the biggest factors. I was sick one day, and they went ahead and ran the practice without me, and had a pretty good practice from what I understand. I have to give a lot of credit to Tony Glass. After he got hurt, he still showed up at every practice until his surgery, and participated.

“It has been our goal since the end of last season to get to the playoffs this year. I talked to the seniors at the end of the season, because we knew that there wouldn’t be very many players besides them with much court time. They decided to work hard throughout the summer. We have given ourselves a chance, now we have to go out and finish it.”

The Lady Falcons lost to the Lady Pioneers 57-29 on Tuesday. Tarneisha Ridgeway and Tamara Rhodes led the Lady Falcons with eight points each.

North Pulaski played at Greene County Tech last night, and will play at Beebe on Tuesday.

SPORTS >>Bears finish sweep of Bombers

IN SHORT: Sylvan Hills beat Mountain Home for the second time this season Tuesday night at SHHS.

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears came from behind to knock off Mountain Home Tuesday night in a crucial 6A-East showdown. The conference standings are log-jammed in the middle and no team is anywhere close to being out of the race for the playoffs. That makes each win huge for every team, and made the Bears’ win over the Bombers important because it completes a season sweep, giving Sylvan Hills the advantage in case of a tiebreaker.

Mountain Home led by as much as eight points in the third quarter, after taking a 19-14 lead into halftime.
Sylvan Hills’ Lester Robinson then went on a tear. He outscored the Bombers 9-7 in the third quarter, and trimmed their eight-point lead to 26-23 by the start of the fourth quarter.

From that point, Tony Robinson took over, and did most of the damage for the Bears in the final frame.
Tony Robinson began finding his way through openings in Mountain Home’s zone, scoring with dribble penetration.
The Bears also picked up the intensity on defense, and began pressuring the Mountain Home ball handlers in the backcourt. That created a couple of transition buckets that pulled the Bears to within 32-30 with about two minutes left in the game.
From that point, Sylvan Hills drove the dagger into the Bombers’ hearts.

Still down two, Tony Robinson nailed a three pointer to put the Bears up 33-32 and gave them their first lead since 7-5 in the opening quarter. The Sylvan Hills defense then forced a turnover in the Mountain Home backcourt. On the ensuing possession, post player T.J. Shelton powered his way up for a bucket and a foul. He added the free throw to complete a six-point run that gave the Bears a 36-32 lead with less than a minute remaining.

“Every game has one or two plays that turn things, and that was the turning point for us,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “We had some people make plays we needed to stay in it, and then we made those two big plays at the end to finish it off.”
Davis commended Lester Robinson for his efforts in the third quarter.

“He kept us there by himself almost,” Davis said. “He scored every one of our points in the third quarter. In the fourth, it was kind of like he just handed the torch to Tony, and he was able to create a little more with his dribble. It was a team effort.”
The game did include a quirky ending. The Bears were up 40-34 when Mountain Home was fouled while attempting its final shot. The whistle blew almost simultaneously with the buzzer that ended the game.

Mountain Home lobbied for two free throws because of the complexity of the league standings, and was granted them when the officials ruled that the whistle came before the buzzer.

The win lifts Sylvan Hills to 4-4 in conference play and 7-15 overall. Davis says he is proud of the turnaround his team has made since conference began.

“We lost to some teams that probably wouldn’t compete very well in this conference, but this team has shown some character,” Davis said. “Historically you look at our teams, and they’re kind of like a train, they take a little while to get rolling. This year has been my worst start since I’ve been here, but I stress to the kids that they’ve got a chance to also make it the biggest turnaround. We’re replacing 100 percent of our scoring from last year, and that takes a while to get everyone playing together. But it has taken some character to put the bad start behind them and keep playing hard.”

Lester Robinson led the Bears with 10 points, while the nine Tony Robinson scored in the fourth were also his total for the game.

Mountain Home’s Brandon Pfeifer led all scorers with 15 points.
Mountain Home fell to 9-14 and 3-6.

The Lady Bears started well. They led 13-12 early in the second quarter, but Mountain Home ripped off a 13-2 run to assume control in a 55-38 final.

Sylvan Hills stayed within 10 to 12 points for the next two quarters, but the Lady Bombers pulled away in the waning moments of the game.

Rochelle Dobbins scored 13 to lead Sylvan Hills while Brianna Austin added 11. The Lady Bears fell to 0-8 in league play while Mountain Home improved to 6-3.

EDITORIALS>>Calling Mike Wilson

The leaders of the state Senate and House of Representatives formulated a bill this week that they think will dupe the courts and sidestep the state Constitution’s ban on local legislation. Instead of lawmakers passing a few hundred appropriations for little projects that will help their re-elections, which the Arkansas Supreme Court said plainly violated the Constitution, the legislature will just turn over $50 million or $100 million carte blanche to a committee of eight good old boys. Individual legislators would then have to give their pork ideas to the committee and the eight would decide who was worthy and who was not.

Does that sound like a prudent way to spend your tax dollars every two years? When you’re dealing with The Brotherhood, fiscal prudence is not even an issue, but rather can they get by with it?

We don’t think so. Our resident curmudgeon, Mike Wilson, will bring suit on behalf of the taxpayers as soon as The Brotherhood chooses the projects upon which to settle the state’s largesse, and the Supreme Court will say you can’t do that to taxpayers.

Wilson, a former lawmaker, filed the lawsuit in 2005 that brought the issue to this pass. The court ruled that a $400,000 appropriation of state tax funds to improve streets and sewers in Sen. Bob Johnson’s neighborhood at Bigelow (Perry County) was indeed a local bill, outlawed since 1927 when Arkansas voters overwhelmingly amended the Constitution to stop the practice.

The amendment slowed but didn’t really stop local legislation. But it got out of hand in 2005, when a band of senators — a majority of the Senate — got together and demanded a big part of surplus funds to divide among themselves to parcel out for projects back in their districts: boys and girls clubs, 4-H, cheerleader programs, local museums, volunteer fire departments, street lights, ball fields, golf programs, Kiwanis camps, rifle ranges, you name it.

If you can have the state treasury send checks under your imprimatur to a dozen community projects every two years, who needs to raise campaign funds?

So The Brotherhood proposes to create the Arkansas Community Assistance Com-mission, whose members will be legislative friends of Sen. Jack Critcher, president pro tempore and a leader of The Brotherhood, and Rep. Benny Petrus, the speaker of the House. The money would be appropriated in lump sum to the commission for “community improvement,” and those members would choose the projects to be funded. State taxpayers would still fund hundreds of local projects, but nothing could be identified as a local bill. Slick, eh?

The remedy to the unconstitutionality of local acts turns out to be a system that is equally unconstitutional because it is plainly only a subterfuge and that is manifestly worse in practice because it turns spending decisions for the entire legislature over to a tiny band of confederates.

Sen. Jim Argue of Little Rock, who opposed the grab bag in 2005 and thus is not a member of The Brotherhood, had the right suspicion.

“I think it would be too vulnerable to becoming a tool for either exacting punishment or extending rewards for legislative loyalty,” he said.

In other words, nothing for his district. And probably nothing for Jacksonville, the home of Rep. Will Bond, who lost the speakership to Petrus, and also the home, of course, of the inveterate pest Mike Wilson.

Sen. Argue has asked the new attorney general for an opinion on whether The Brotherhood’s bill, HB 1427, is constitutional.
Our hunch is that the attorney general will avoid a definitive answer, but the Supreme Court in due time will supply one that will be clear enough.

EDITORIALS>>Don't politicize U.S. attorneys

The cynic in us warns us that President Bush will not let it become law, but the Senate Judiciary Committee offered a remedy this week to the administration’s power grab in the criminal justice system. The committee, with significant Republican support, approved a bill that would let the Justice Department make interim appointment of federal prosecutors for only 120 days.

If the bill becomes law soon, the Justice Department will have to quickly let its emergency appointee for U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Timothy Griffin, stand his chances at getting confirmed by the Senate. As matters stood this week, that would not be likely. Sen. Mark Pryor, a sponsor of the bill, said Grifin’s standing had been badly undermined.

Griffin, who gained a reputation as an especially crafty political operative while working for White House political adviser Karl Rove, received an interim appointment after the White House got Bud Cummins to resign. Cummins was the handsome Republican who took on Vic Snyder for the Second District congressional seat in 1996 and was rewarded with the patronage.

He proved to be both competent and nonpolitical. But along with six other prosecutors — all U.S. attorneys are now Republican — Cummins was forced to resign so that people of sterner political loyalty could be installed before the next election.

The Justice Department was able to do that because it had sneaked language into the USA Patriot Act to allow interim appointments without Senate confirmation.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted that Cummins and the others were ousted because of poor performance in office.

Gonzales’ deputy, testifying later, agreed that Cummins had been doing an outstanding job. What of the others? Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, had just finished putting U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham behind bars for bribery and shakedowns and was running down other leads in the congressional scandal. Paul Charlton, the federal prosecutor in Arizona, was investigating allegations against Republican Congressman Rick Renzi.

Griffin is an opposition-research specialist. The Judiciary Committee would have questioned him about his role in the voter suppression campaign in Florida black precincts in 2004. The speculation was that his brand of investigation might be useful if Sen. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president in 2008. He could mine Whitewater Development Corp. again.

It is precisely on such accounts that checks were established on the appointment of these powerful prosecutors. U.S. attorneys are supposed to protect the judicial system from partisan-inspired prosecutions. Democrats always appoint Democrats and Republicans appoint Republicans, but the checks of confirmation tend to insure that men and women with principle, skill and experience still get the job.

Let’s hope the Senate and House pass the bill.

OBITUARIES >> 02-10-07

John Agur
John Henry Agur, 102, of Lonoke died Feb. 7.

He is survived by two daughters, Judy Moody and husband Earlin, Fern Davis and husband David; five grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

He was a retired farmer and businessman.

Funeral services were Feb. 9 at Lonoke Apostolic Church with burial in Sunset Memorial Gardens. Arrangements were by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

Stewart Bailey
Stewart Edward Bailey, 51, of Romance passed away Feb. 6 in Searcy. He was born June 29, 1955 in Edinburgh, Scotland, to the late Samuel E. and Mary Stewart Bailey.  He was a machine operator for Altivity Packaging for 35 years.

Survivors include his wife of 14 years, Rachel Bailey of the home; daughter, Lalona Scott; step-daughter, Victoria Whitmire; adopted kids, Brandi Kirsch and Nichole Smith; grandchildren, Layla, Dawn and William Scott, Devin, Breana, and Emily Smith and Alyssa Kirsch.

Funeral services were Feb. 9 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.  

Gladys Hamilton
Gladys Marguerite Hamilton, 84, of Jacksonville went to meet her Lord on Feb. 7 at Woodland Hills Healthcare and Rehab of Jacksonville.
She was born Jan. 31, 1923 to John H. and Nanny Mae Wages Rogers of Pine Bluff.  

She re-ceived her education at Dollarway Jr. High and Watson Chapel High Schools.

She was a Cub Scout den mother, a classroom mother and was active in the P.T.A. at Pine Bluff’s Gabe Meyer School. She enjoyed sewing, taking photographs, flower gardening, flower arranging and houseplants. She was currently a member of Bailey Street Church of Christ. During her lifetime, she taught children’s Bible classes and ladies’ Bible classes.

She was preceded in death by her parents, three brothers, three sisters, and her husband of almost 64 years, Retired Msgt. Archie C. Hamilton.  

She is survived by one son, Archie C. Hamilton, Jr., and wife Edie of Corpus Christie, Texas; and one daughter, Deborah Fitt and husband, Cliff, with whom she lived in Jacksonville.

She is also survived by one granddaughter, Jennifer Fitt of Ward; two grandsons, Dirk Hamilton of Bryant and Aric Hamilton of El Dorado and one great-granddaughter, Grace Ham-ilton, and many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, and a host of friends.
Services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10 at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville with Mike Sinapiades officiating. Entombment will be in Chapel Pines Mausoleum in Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville.

Donations may be made to Eastern European Mission, P.O. Box 90755, Houston, Texas, 77290, or Arkansas Hospice Foundation, 5600 W. 12th Street, Little Rock, Ark. 72204.  

Larry Whitaker
Larry Henry Whitaker, 54, of Blytheville passed away Feb. 4.

He was born Feb. 11, 1952 in Marked Tree to the late A.B. and Dorothy Whitaker.

He was also preceded in death by two brothers, Johnny Monroe and Buster McDonald and three sisters, Ann Chism, Hattie King and Pearlie Lucas.

Survivors include two sons, Michael Lynn Whitaker of Cabot and Larry Wayne Whitaker of Jacksonville; one daughter, Shalla Hollis of Jacksonville; six sisters, Mary Francis McDonald, Bobbie McGarity, Edna Hudson, Sue Bowers, Louise Shirley and Maxine Lee; six brothers, Jerry Wayne Whitaker, Roy Whitaker, John Henry McDonald, Joe McDonald, Junior McDonald and Richard McDonald, and eight grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10 at New Testament Church in Jacksonville. Funeral arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

Jessica Coppini
Jessica Kinau Lee Jones-Coppini, 23, of Ward died Feb. 6.

She had a long battle with cancer but she lived life with purpose and great joy, and her memory will be forever in the hearts of those who knew her.

Jessica is survived by her husband, Dane Coppini; her parents, Carl and Pamela Obrey Jones of Ward; grandmothers, Lurline Obrey of Hawaii and Onnie Bell Jones of Hickory Ridge; three brothers, David, Christopher and Jonathan; two sisters, April and Jennifer and a host of other friends and acquaintances. We love you, Jess.

Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe with funeral to follow at 1 p.m. Burial will be in Old Austin Cemetery in Ward.

Opal Mallett
Opal Harpole Mallett, 88, of Jacksonville died Feb. 9 at her home.

She was born Oct. 8, 1918 in Jacksonville to Harry and Jewel Boyd Harpole.

She graduated from Jackson-ville High School at the age of 16. She began teaching at 18.  Later, she became a graduate of Univer-sity of Central Arkansas, formerly Arkansas State Teacher College. She began her teaching career at Sylvan Hills where she met her husband, John Mallett. On Aug. 31, 1941 they were married at First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville. She taught school at Jacksonville Elementary for a total of 15 years until she retired in 1955. She was a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church. She was a 50-year member of the Eastern Star as well as serving several years as the tour director for the Jacksonville Senior Center.

She is survived by her husband, John Mallett  of the home; son, Robert Mallett of Jacksonville; daughter, Betty and husband Gary Wallis of North Little Rock; step grandson, Gary Wallis II of Boston, Mass.; brother, Harry Neil and wife Sally Harpole of Houston, Texas; sister, Nell and husband Lyle Jones of Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 12 at First Presbyterian Church with Rev. David Dyer officiating. Burial will be in Bayou Meto Cemetery in Jacksonville. Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11 at the funeral home.

The family suggests memorials be made to First Presbyterian Church, 1208 Main, Jacksonville, Ark., 72076 or Arkansas Hospice, 5600 W. 12th, Little Rock, Ark., 72204. Funeral arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.