Wednesday, February 28, 2007

SPORTS>>Devils and Bears have difficult first matchups

Leader sports editor

The 6A state tournament begins today in Jonesboro, and several local teams will be taking part. The Jacksonville, Sylvan Hills and Searcy boys, as well as the Searcy girls, are all in the playoffs and vying for a state championship. The matchups are interesting with the new 12-team format. The first round consists of Benton taking on Marion, Searcy versus Watson Chapel, Jacksonville taking on El Dorado and Sylvan Hills facing Lake Hamilton.

As a result of finishing fourth in the 6A-East, the Red Devils drew the South’s No. 5 seed El Dorado. The Wildcats finished fifth, but was the only team in the conference to beat Little Rock Hall this season. That’s an eye-opener for Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner, who believes he will see some pressure from the usually zone-oriented Wildcats. “Their coach was at our Jonesboro game, and he saw how much trouble their pressure gave us,” Joyner said. “I figure he’s going to come out and try to make us make mistakes like Jonesboro did.”

Although Jacksonville is expecting pressure, they plan to pressure as well, which could make for an exciting game. “They got some big boys, real heavy set and muscled-up kids, but it looked like they only go about eight deep,” Joyner said. “We’re going to try to ratchet it up and get in their legs too a little bit. Hopefully we’ll get some good play off the bench and be able to go 10, 11, 12 deep. With those big kids, they play a 2-3 zone and a 1-3-1 matchup zone, and that’s their staple. When they beat Hall they ran a very good matchup zone.”

Even with the pressure that Joyner is expecting, he believes he’ll see some of that matchup zone as well. “I don’t think they’ll be able to keep up the kind of pressure that Jonesboro did. They’re not as long as Jonesboro, and they don’t go 15 deep like Jonesboro. So they’re going to try to pressure us, but I don’t think it will be the whole game or with the intensity that Jonesboro does it. They have that good matchup to go to, so I’m not expecting it to be all out pressure.”

Joyner has been pleased with his team’s man defense. Jacksonville has switched to a zone against teams he believes struggle with outside shooting, but doesn’t plan to make any defensive changes for the Wildcats. “We’re going to do what we do,” Joyner said. “Overall I think we’ve been pretty decent executing our man-to-man defense.”

Sylvan Hills hasn’t played Lake Hamilton this season, but did see them close up when the two teams took part in the Ortho of Arkansas tournament at CAC in December. The Wolves finished behind powerhouses Little Rock Hall and Parkview in the 6A-South standings, but gave those teams tough games, and won the Ortho tournament.

“It’s a good ballclub,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “They’ve got a good inside game and they shoot the ball really well. They’re pretty athletic and they defend well. It’s a tough matchup.”

The Wolves will have a size advantage over the Bears, but that’s not something that Davis can concentrate on solely. Lake Hamilton’s shooting prowess presents a two-fold strategy for all of its opponents. “That big front line they’ve got makes their size a concern,” Davis said. “We’ve got good ok size with Julian (Bassett) and T.J. (Shelton), but sometimes it comes down to one spot. And it’s that third spot on the line where they’re going to have a pretty big advantage.”

Davis hopes to be able to force the tempo and minimize the damage done by the Wolf post players. “Going in we’ve got to try to stay in our style of game and get a tempo going that we like,” Davis said. “They’re a disciplined enough team, it might be tough to do, but it will be important for us to try to do that. That will be a key element to this game. It won’t be the sole element, but it will be a key.”

The Bears don’t play Lake Hamilton until day two of the tournament. They will tip off at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Jacksonville will play the late game Wednesday, tipping off against the Wildcats at 8:30 p.m.

Searcy’s Lady Lions will play Benton at 4 p.m. Wednesday, with the boys facing Benton immediately afterwards at 5:30.

SPORTS>>Raiders top Dogs for No. 1 seed

ROSE BUD – The Riverview Raiders achieved another school first Saturday by winning the Class 3A Region 2 tournament. The 61-51 victory over Conway-St. Joseph marked the first back-to-back regional titles since the school’s inception 12 years ago.

The Raiders jumped out to a quick lead and held off a few Bulldog rallies in the second half to seal the title and take a No. 1 seed into the Class 3A state tournament that began yesterday in Harrison.

St. Joseph’s most serious threat came in the midst of a rally that had cut Riverview’s biggest lead of 14 points down to eight midway through the fourth quarter. With 2:52 left in the game, Raider leading scorer Tony Hall fouled out with 24 points, sending St. Joseph’s Daniel Antione to the line for a pair of free throws.

The Bulldog point guard nailed both shots, making it 48-42 and leaving Riverview without its best scorer the rest of the way.
Raider coach Danny Starkey called timeout and told his players to spread the floor and don’t shoot unless a layup presents itself.

After playing keep away for 31 seconds, Raider guard Dominique Baker spotted teammate Thatcher Cooperwood cutting baseline, unguarded to the rim, and sent a one-handed, no-look bounce pass right on target for a huge basket that made it 50-42 and effectively stole the momentum.

“We knew we had to step up with our captain on the bench,” Baker said of Hall fouling out. “We weren’t looking for a shot, but I noticed him and just got him the ball.”

Cooperwood reiterated that it wasn’t a designed play. “I just saw that no one was around the basket and cut to it,” Cooperwood said. “We knew we could make the plays and we did.”The Raiders forced a turnover after Cooperwood’s bucket, and Ben Jones was fouled and sent to the line with 2:20 left in the game.

Jones nailed both free throws for a 52-42 Riverview lead. All St Joseph’s could do was score, foul, and hope the Raiders missed some free throws. But Riverview refused to play along, hitting nine of 12 foul shots in the final two minutes to seal the win.

“This was a good win for us,” Riverview coach Danny Starkey said. “Stepping up and making big plays when they had all the momentum, that’s big and that’s something you look for. They made a few runs at us throughout the game, but we always came back with an answer and took the momentum and critical times. Momentum is so important.”

The Raiders started the game with a quick run to take an 8-2 lead, but the Bulldogs’ inside game of Hethscott and Luke and Josh Kordsmeier kept it close. Riverview led 16-12 after one quarter, but the Raiders started the second period with pressure.
Riverview noticed that St. Joseph’s struggled against the press in the first round when Abundant Life rallied from 23 points down to within four. They were planning to press early, and it came in the second quarter.

The pressure gave the Raiders a 23-12 lead with 5:19 left in the half, but St Jospeh regrouped.A few Riverview misses were followed by Luke Kordsmeier buckets the 11-point lead was down to 25-19 with a minute left in the half. That’s when the first critical momentum theft took place.

The Raiders closed the half with five straight points, including a Baker three at the buzzer to send Riverview into intermission with a 30-19 advantage. St. Joseph’s scrapped and clawed to get back into the game in the third quarter. Heathscott scored 11 of the Bulldogs’ 12 points in the frame and led an 8-2 run that pulled his team back to within 38-31 with 30 seconds left in the quarter.

With 13 seconds left, Hall penetrated and pulled up for a mid-range jumper. Baker then picked Antoine’s pocket and went the other way for a layup at the buzzer that again made it an 11-point margin at 42-31. Baker would finish the game with 14 points, five assists and three steals.

Heathscott led all scorers with 26 points. The Raiders moved onto Tuesday’s first-round game in state against Lamar with a 26-5 record.

SPORTS>>Lady Jackrabbits take region crown

Leader sportswriter

POCAHONTAS — After wrapping up the district title a week earlier, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits backed up their successful league season with an overall win in the 4A East Region Tournament held at the Schoonover Field House last weekend with a thrilling 46-45 win over hosts Pocahontas in the finals on Saturday.

A big lead for Lonoke in the opening quarter was eventually turned into a one-point Lady Redskin lead with 3:43 left in the game. The final three minutes of the contest would prove to be a complete dogfight, with Lonoke prevailing on a last-second inbounds pass that was converted into the final two points needed to secure the win.

The championship gives the Lady Jackrabbits a first-round bye during this week’s 4A state tournament in Bald Knob. Lonoke will await the winner of today’s game between North No. 3 seed Booneville and South No. 4 seed Ashdown. The Lady ‘Rabbits will take on the winner tomorrow at 7 p.m.

Lonoke may have been the home team on the scoreboard in the Saturday night finals, but the Redskin-heavy crowd told a different story. The boisterous student section filled a complete section of the visitors’ side stands. The home crowd filled the rest of the visitors’ side and two-thirds of the home side stands.

Senior post player Calisha Kirk got Lonoke out to solid 12-1 lead by the 3:38 mark of the first quarter with four separate inside shots, two of which had free throws added at the end for a total of 10 first quarter points. Kirk got physical with the Lady Redskins from the very beginning, drawing the foul on all four early goals.

Guard Kristy Shinn was also on the mark from the very start of the contest. Shinn was coming off a game-leading performance the night before against Bald Knob in which the senior shot strong from the outside, racking up 15 of her total 28 points for the tourney. Shinn looked to repeat that accomplishment early on against Pocahontas, with nine first-half points.

The Lady Redskins began to find their legs towards the end of the first quarter. After falling behind by 12 points early, Pocahontas went on a 7-0 run to end the opening frame courtesy of two three pointers from senior guard Amanda Moore.
Kirk did not find her way to the basket quite as easily in the second quarter, but Jenny Evans would take advantage of the extra defensive attention given to Kirk with a pair of baskets in the middle of the period that helped the Lady ‘Rabbits stay out front. After spending almost the entire season on the bench with a knee injury, junior Carrie Mitchell also found the goal in the game with a shot at the 4:53 mark that made the score 23-17.

The Lady Jackrabbits stayed in control of the game until the fourth quarter, when the threat of a Lady Redskin comeback became reality at the 5:44 mark. Two straight steals by Pocahontas were converted by layups from Moore. Moore got the first steal and took it coast-to-coast, and took the assist from Megan Flanagan on the next fast break to put the Lady Redskins ahead for the first time in the game 43-42 with 3:43 left in the game.

Freshman forward Asiah Scribner got the lead back for Lonoke at the three-minute mark when she drove to the right side of the lane for an easy jumper, but three unsuccessful possessions for each team was finally ended when Flanagan stole the ball from Evans and put it in with 1:29 left in the game to give the lead back to Pocahontas.

The Lady Redskins had a chance to put the game away in the final 30 seconds, but a shot under the goal by junior Autumn Wren was batted away by Shinn, with Shinn grabbing the ball after the block. Shinn quickly got the ball to Lauren Harper, who drew the foul from Wren. Harper missed the front end of the one-and-one, and the Lady Redskins got the team rebound when Kirk couldn’t snag the ball before it bounced out of bounds.

Wren went to the free throw line for the Lady Redskins, but gave the ball back to Lonoke when she jumped into the lane too early after missing her first attempt. Evans then went to the line for the Lady ‘Rabbits, but missed both of her shots.
Kirk had been relatively quiet since her early scores, but came back to life for the Lady ‘Rabbits when they needed her the most. A couple of cheap fouls late in the third quarter and early in the fourth forced Kirk to play a little timid, but she let it all hang out in the final moments.

Kirk chased down the loose ball from Evans free-throw attempt, and got into a tie-up with Moore for the ball. Possession went to Lonoke, and Lady ‘Rabbits coach Nathan Morris took a time out to set up their last chance to re-take the lead.
Junior Hayley O’Cain in bounded the ball, finding Kirk open under the goal on the right side. Kirk put the ball in off the glass to give Lonoke a 46-45 lead with 11 seconds left.

It was plenty of time for Pocahontas to answer, but their best would not quite be good enough, as two shots by Moore rattled off the rim, with the second one falling into the clutches of Evans as the buzzer sounded.

“We knew we were going to get some stuff on the inside, and we did,” Morris said. “We had to pick our poison. If we had defended every shot, we would have all fouled out and they would have hit free throws, so we had to adjust our defense to a man-to-man. We just blocked out, and limited the three-point shot when we could, and it worked for us.”

Morris was happy with the solid team effort, but pointed to his guards as the one of the major differences in the game.
“That freshman point guard and that senior guard handled the ball tonight,” Morris said. “Michaela Brown and Kristy Shinn handled the basketball. Michaela don’t always drive to the basket, but she really took a big step tonight.”

The total points scored by each Lady Jackrabbit throughout the four-day event tells the teamwork story for Lonoke. O’Cain was scoreless in the finals, but totals of 18 points and 12 points in the first two games gave her a total of 30 points. Evans and Kirk both came away with 31 total points. Evans had double-digit performances against Rivercrest and Bald Knob, and added six more against the Lady Redskins. Kirk led in the finals with 16 points, with 10 and five point performances in the first two games respectively. Shinn only managed four points in the first round, but led against Bald Knob with 15 points, including a three-for-five performance from the three-point line. She finished with nine points in the finals.

The Lady ‘Rabbits easily handled Rivercrest, the No. 4 seed from the 4A-3 conference in their first round game Wednesday night.

The win officially qualified the Lady Jackrabbits for the 4A State Playoffs, and pitted them against 4A-2 Conference rival Bald Knob in Friday afternoon’s semifinal game. Lonoke had split regular season games with the Lady Bulldogs during their run for the league title, but even more would be at stake in this one.

The Lady ‘Rabbits would prevail to advance to the finals, where they would face one of their strongest opponents all season in the host team.

The three wins throughout the tournament gives the Lady Jackrabbits a season record of 24-8.

OBITUARIES >> 2-28-07


William J. Raney, 75, of Cabot passed away Feb. 24 at home. He was a former Marine and retired from Union Pacific Railroad in 1993 after 43 years of service.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Broadus and Clara Raney of Walnut Ridge; and a sister, Sue Lavering of California.
Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Jean Raney; two sons, David Raney of North Little Rock and Mark Raney of Benton; two daughters, Sandra Raney Nichols and Peggy Raney Peek of Little Rock; one son-in-law, Edward Peek of Little Rock; seven grandchildren, Christopher, Rachel, Jason, and Jennifer Raney, Rett and Hamilton Peek, and Joshua Nichols; and one great-grandson.

Visitation will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home in North Little Rock.
Graveside services will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 1 at Pine Crest Memorial Park in Alexander.


Marceline Joyce Cummings, 74, of Beebe was born March 22, 1932, in Crosby to Jim and Lee Wiggs Edwards, and she went to be with the Lord Feb. 25. She was a housewife and a member of Beebe First Baptist Church.

She was preceded in death by her parents, eleven brothers and six sisters. She is survived by her husband, Clay of Beebe; one son, Billy Dean Davis of Spokane, Wash.; one daughter, Judy David-son of Beebe; seven grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; two brothers, Doris Head of Las Vegas, Nev., and J. B. Edwards of Willow Springs, Mo.; one sister, Laverne Barnett of Beebe; and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe, with burial in Pleasant Grove Cemetery.


James Elvin McElroy, 52, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 24. He was born Nov. 11, 1954 in Little Rock to the late Elvin and Ruby McElroy. He was also preceded in death by grandmother, Rose McElroy.

He is survived by his wife, Carla Henning; sons, Luke Thomas and James Alan; granddaughters, Angelina and Alana; brother, Gary; and sister, Donna.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Ron Mosley officiating. Interment will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park.


George Herman Taylor, 88, went to be with the Lord on Feb. 26. Taylor was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Sarah Taylor and one sister, Murriel Taylor. He was a life-long resident of Jacksonville and left behind two special friends, Ruby Hudson and Thomas Wolfe, both of Jacksonville.

He graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1930 and was a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville. He served in the military during World War II and held the rank of sergeant. He worked with many friends in the CCC Camp located in Jacksonville. He was a board member of the Bayou Meto Cemetery Association.

He was a retired heavy equipment operator and a member of the International Heavy Machine Operator Union for 20 years.
He was instrumental in building Little Rock Air Force Base, many of the local airports and many of the highways across the South. He loved animals and owned several horses over the years and was a member of the National Quarter Horse Association. He also loved to travel and saw most all the states and Canada.

He requests that donations be made to First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville or to Hospice of Arkansas in lieu of flowers. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at the First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville. Interment will follow in Bayou Meto Cemetery under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Jaman Allen Whittenburg, 50, of Ward died Feb. 25 in Jacksonville. He was born on May 30, 1956 to the late Jaman M. and Patricia Whittenburg in Hazen.

Jaman is survived by his wife, Teresa Whittenburg of the home; five children, Timothy Whittenburg of Ward, Amanda Whittenburg of Little Rock, Jeremy Bancroft of Minnesota, Matthew Bancroft of Ward, and Joshua Whittenburg and wife of Little Rock; two brothers, Aza and Phineas Whittenburg, both of Butlerville; two sisters, Maurisa Whittenburg of Carlisle and Rachel White of Hazen; and five grandchildren.

Funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Cabot Church of Christ with Bro. Mark Bradley officiating.
Interment will follow at Walters Chapel Cemetery in Carlisle. Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at the church.
Arrangements are by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.


Bernis Callaway, 75, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 25. Bernie, as he was known by many friends and family, spent his final days in the compassionate care of Hospice Home Care Inpatient Unit in Little Rock.

He was born June 30, 1931 in Rain, Ky. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lige and Venie Callaway, as well as a brother, Jay Callaway, and a baby sister Marie Callaway.

He served in the Army from 1952-1954. He fought in the Korean conflict and earned the rank of tech sergeant.
He was awarded the Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.

After his military service, Bernie spent many years as an aircraft mechanic with Douglas Aircraft, Air Mod, and Lear Siegler.
Bernie settled in Jacksonville and retired from Falcon Jet in 1993. Although Jacksonville was his home for 42 years, his family home is Tahlequah, Okla.

He will always be affectionately known by his family for his love of fishing, camping, good natured competitiveness in any game and his “world famous daddy burgers.” He will be lovingly remembered by his wife, Lois Callaway; three daughters, Jennifer Heinrich and husband Gary of Cabot, Terry Callaway of Cabot, and Carmen Roetzel and husband Tony of Haslet, Texas.

He also leaves seven grandchildren, Andrea Cater of Jacksonville, Amanda Walker of El Paso, Texas, Scott Conway of Gillett, Nicholas Conway of Gulf Breeze, Fla., Abby Hindman of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Lindsey and Blake Roetzel of Haslett, Texas; and five great-grandchildren. He also leaves behind seven step great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews; one brother and three sisters, Roy Callaway, Hazel Scott, Mary Wade and Flora Murphy , all of Oklahoma.

Visitation will be held at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28. Bernie will then be taken home to Oklahoma. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, March 2, with burial following at Hendricks Cemetery in Tahlequah, Okla.

Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Jessie Cledous Locke, 78, born in Fountain Hill, died Feb. 26. He was retired after 28 years of service from the U.S. Air Force.
Survivors include his wife, Zona Locke; a daughter, Jan Davis of Beebe; two sons, Curt Locke of Florida and Mike Locke of Texas; a granddaughter, Jennifer Mitchell of Missouri; grandsons, Curtis Locke, Chad Locke and Chase Locke, all of Florida; one sister, Valeria Smith of Louisiana; and a brother, Julian Locke of Quitman.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, March 1 at Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke with interment in Hicks Cemetery. The family will receive friends 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at the funeral home.


Richard Merton Gray, 67, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 24. He was born April 28, 1939 in Youngstown, N.Y., to the late Clifton and Catherine Gray. He was also preceded in death by two brothers and one sister.

Survivors include his three sons, Richard Dean Gray of Clarendon, Pa., David Neal Gray of Wrightstown, N.J., and Lynn Meabon of Falconer, N. Y.; one daughter, Kimberly Monteleone of Columbus, Ind.; two sisters: Melinda Best of Falconer, N.Y., and Melissa Pierce of Jamestown, N.Y.; 10 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and his companion, Sena Clair of Jacksonville. Services are private. Arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Juliette R. Newton, 81, of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord Friday, Feb. 23 in North Little Rock. She was born March 30, 1925 in Shamrock, Texas, to the late Joseph and Sophinia Richardson.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 60 years, Rev. Leonard L. Newton, as well as nine brothers and sisters.
Rev. and Mrs. Newton served as pastor and pastor’s wife for several Southern Baptist churches in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Survivors include her daughters, Janie Jackson and husband Don of Jacksonville, Julia Wonsch of Okmulgee, Okla., and Janice Movlai and husband Abbas of Edmond, Okla.; one son, Jeffrey Newton and wife Shelley of Azel, Texas; two brothers and a sister, Thurman and Newton Richardson and Dorothy Mansel, all of Texas; five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were Feb. 26 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with Rev. Greg Kirksey officiating.
Interment was in the Okmulgee Cemetery in Okmulgee, Okla.

EDITORIALS>>Elvis country

Another automotive suitor, the relentlessly fickle Toyota Motor Corp., has spurned Arkansas and its generous dowry of tax breaks, subsidies and cheap labor. Two years ago, Toyota led Arkansas up to the altar and then fled to Toronto, Canada, where it established its seventh North American assembly plant. Yesterday, it announced that its eighth would be not at Marion, Ark., the perennial site that everyone knew would finally be the bride, but Tupelo, Miss. Two thousand people in northeastern Mississippi will get the jobs. Tupelo, Miss.! It had not even been in the running. The sites had been narrowed to Marion and a town in western Tennessee. Toyota and the experts had all praised the Arkansas site, on land as flat as a patio, where east-west and north-south Interstates crossed and on the fringes of the big Memphis labor market.

Everyone will now ask: What happened? What does Tupelo have that east Arkansas doesn’t? We have cheap labor, weak unions, low taxes, eager and honest workers, and Arkansas voters amended the Constitution two years ago so that we can sink our state government deeply into debt to pay for whatever additional infrastructure a giant automaker might want. Toyota is now the world’s largest automaker, but we would have paid for the training. And Gov. Beebe is getting a $50 million tax fund to close a deal with a restive manufacturer.

Sure, Tupelo is not far away from another Toyota plant, an engine factory at Huntsville, Ala., but that offers only marginal advantages. We have a hunch about what happened. The Japanese are supposed to value cultural accoutrements. Tupelo is famous in some quarters as one of the smallest cities (34,000) in the country with its own symphony orchestra, and it has a big museum of antique automobiles, which is worth going to see. But that is not it either.

Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis. And that isn’t all. Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote a song about Tupelo called “Porch Swing in Tupelo.” Everyone knows Van Morrison’s song “Tupelo Honey.” John Lee Hooker recorded a blues song about a fictional flood titled “Tupelo,” although the town has never been flooded. Jerry Reed, who is famous for his role in “Smokey and the Bandits,” recorded a song called “Tupelo Mississippi Flash.” Mark Knopfler’s album “Shangri-La” features a song called “Back to Tupelo.” Finally, there’s the closing stanza of EmmyLou Harris’ song “Boy from Tupelo”:

“You don’t love me, this I know/
Don’t need a Bible to tell me so/
It’s a shame and it’s a sin/
Everything I coulda been to you/
Your last chance Texaco,/
Your sweetheart of the rodeo,/
A Juliet to your Romeo,/
The border you cross into Mexico/
I’ll never understand why or how/
Oh, but baby it’s too late now/
Just ask the boy from Tupelo/
He’s the king and he oughta know.”
In Tokyo, they have never heard a song about Marion. If we’re going to land jobs, we’ve got to get to work. —Ernie Dumas

EDITORIALS>>Lenders kill legislation

Here is our civics lesson for today. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money to keep your financial advantages in the Arkansas Legislature there is a way. Just spend it in the right place.

The payday lending industry had plenty of money to spend to protect its license to grind the faces of the poor, but instead it hired the shrewdest lobbyists and dropped its money into just the right campaign kitties. Yesterday it paid off.

You will remember that last week the bill to halt the usurious practices of the check cashers (House Bill 1036) passed the House of Representatives 90-3. Rep. David Johnson, D-Little Rock, the sponsor, was a little nervous about its prospects in the Senate. The Brotherhood, the prevailing faction in the Senate, was known to be hostile but even a few of that group signed on as sponsors.

Before it could go to the full Senate, the bill first had to get a do-pass from the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee, seven members strong, a group that traditionally protects the interests of industry over consumers. Commercial interests steer their friends on to the committee. That is where the payday lenders spent their money in 2006.

Arkansas Financial Services, one of the big payday firms, settled $500 each in October on five of the seven members of the committee, those who were up for re-election. They were Barbara Horn of Foreman, Bob Johnson of Bigelow, Paul Bookout of Jonesboro, Paul Miller of Melbourne and Terry Smith of Hot Springs. Jack Critcher of Batesville, the president pro tempore of the Senate, is a member but was not up for election last year and could not receive gifts, but he was known to be a friend of the lenders anyway.

In Arkansas, it only takes $2,500 to buy off a committee.

Rep. Johnson and others made the overwhelming case for the bill at the committee hearing Tuesday morning. It would fine loan sharks $300 for each usurious loan. Sen. Jim Argue of Little Rock made the motion to recommend it to the Senate. Sen. Horn gave him a courtesy second. Argue cast the only vote for it. It needed four. Horn was silent and so were the others. So unless three of the five who received campaign gifts are tormented by guilt and vote later to bite the meaty hands that fed them, the bill is dead.

Payday lenders collect interest on small loans to working people all the way from 300 percent to highway robbery. The interest limit under the Arkansas Constitution is 17 percent, but a statute sneaked through the legislature in 1999 exempts the advance check cashers by declaring that the charge for delayed check cashing was not really interest.

Sooner or later, the Arkansas Supreme Court will outlaw the practice and the lenders will leave the state. Later obviously because the courts keep ducking a definitive ruling on the constitutionality of the law. But the courts once more become the salvation because the democratic branches of government failed the people again.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> State plane flies again: Say it ain’t so, Mike

The Leader was complaining in an editorial Saturday about former Gov. Huckabee wearing out that State Police plane after he hijacked it for his personal use, flying with family and friends to all the fun places, high above the great unwashed — that’s us, the taxpayers who’re now supposed to shell out $4 million for a new airplane because Gov. Beebe likes it, too.
Huckabee was so secretive about how much he used the plane, he had the State Police computer hard drive crushed before he left office. He didn’t want the public to know how much he fleeced us, the suckers who foot the bill for an extravagance this poor state cannot afford.

You have to wonder what else Huckabee was hiding when he ordered other hard drives destroyed. We’re also wondering why, after the Huckster logged hundreds of thousands of miles on Jet Arkansas, Gov. Beebe is now eager to replace the old plane with a new one, instead of repairing it at a fraction of the cost for use in emergencies by the State Police.

Well, Beebe likes his new job so much, he wants to keep all the perks that Huckabee had made uniquely his own — until now.
What was good enough for the Huckster suits Beebe just fine — a state jet at his beck and call, free food and servants and state troopers always at the ready.

Say it ain’t so, Mike.

But it’s true: The Beechcraft King Air 200 turbo-prop hasn’t been grounded yet — Beebe flew on it to a weekend governors’ conference in Washington, then hurried back to visit hurricane-ravaged Dumas. Using a state plane for a photo-op after a hurricane is all right with us, but not for national conferences and personal appearances, which became a habit with Huckabee.

At least Beebe will let us know when he’s flying on the state airplane. Huckabee was very secretive about the many, many times he bummed rides on the plane. No wonder Huckabee’s presidential campaign is in trouble: With a record like his, it’s hard to win supporters beyond Arkansas’ borders — or inside its borders, for that matter.

You probably don’t know that former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, has dropped out of the presidential race. You probably didn’t even know he was in the race. He was running for a couple of weeks, but he couldn’t raise any money, plus nobody knew how to pronounce his name, so he’s the first casualty of the 2008 campaign.

Huckabee could be the next candidate to drop out. He can’t raise any money either, even though his name is easier to pronounce, but his record in Arkansas is dogging him wherever he goes: He raised taxes, was soft on criminals and wasted taxpayers’ money abusing that State Police plane and padding his expense account.

Beebe looks like he’s enjoying his new job, but he should fly commercial airlines more often, or keep a precise log of where he’s flying on the state plane. Still, after just a few weeks in office, Beebe knows how to run this state — after all, he’s been preparing for this job for 25 years, when he first entered the Senate, which he pretty much ran with a younger colleague who’s now his chief of staff.
Unlike Beebe’s predecessor, who played absentee landlord for much of the time he was governor — too busy flying on that jet plane — Beebe knows how to schmooze with legislators: He’s put a school-funding package together in a couple of weeks and signed a bill cutting the grocery tax in half, saving Arkansans hundreds of millions of dollars, the largest tax cut in state history.

Huckabee, desperate to present himself as a fiscal conservative, wants to take credit for the tax cut, but he had his chance and blew it. Instead of working with the legislature when he was in office, Huckabee was off flying in that state plane promoting his diet books. Almost as if to rub it in, a Democratic governor and legislature have passed that huge tax cut bill — not a very good record for a Republican presidential candidate to run on.

Out on the hustings, Huckabee’s saying he was for the tax cut before he was against it, but if he knew what he knows now, he would have pushed it through. No wonder he’s running for president — but not for very long. Somebody send him a bill for all the time he flew on the state plane instead of taking commercial flights like the rest of us. At least Mike Beebe promises to reimburse the state when he makes private use of the plane. Southwest Airlines could take him to most places at a fraction of the cost.

TOP STORY >>Miss Arkansas to compete in national pageant on TV

Leader staff writer

Lieut. Kelly George of Little Rock Air Force Base, Miss Arkansas USA, will leave Arkansas for her childhood home state next Wednesday for the Miss USA competition in California. The 56th annual Miss USA competition will be aired Friday, March 23 on NBC live from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, where the Oscars are held each year.

“This in the only pageant I’ve ever done that my parents haven’t had to fly out for,” George said. Her immediate family lives in California and the entire family will be in attendance for the event.

George, the former Miss Air Force 2003, is in the final stages of preparation for the competition and will hold a private, invitation-only send-off party with a fashion show and silent auction at Little Rock Air Force Base tomorrow night. With just one week left before she boards the plane for California, the 24-year-old commissioned officer in the Air Force said her schedule is full with Miss Arkansas USA appearances, preparing for competition, and working in the public affairs department as the deputy chief of the 314th Airlift Wing’s Strategic Information Flight at LRAFB.

“It’s pretty crazy right now. I’ve been making lots of appearances,” she said. “I’m still getting my gowns fitted, continuing to exercise, working – I’ve got a full plate right now,” George said, adding she took the semester off from school because she knew she would not have time to devote to classes. That fact that she’s in the Air Force might give her an edge in the competition; she’s the only contestant to ever be in the military.

Winning the Miss Arkansas USA pageant in October allowed her to represent the Air Force in a positive way, breaking stereotypes about women in pageants and women in the military, something she hopes will carry over in this competition.
“They will see that I am a professional and have a different side than what they (the judges) will see,” George said.
“It’s what makes someone stand out and it might make them look forward to talking to me and seeing how being an officer in the military complements pageant life and vice versa,” she said.

Working in public affairs at LRAFB has helped prepare her for competition, she said.

“It has worked both ways actually, in a complementary sense,” George said. “The interview is tough (in competition). They want to see how you might react with national media at a press conference. Being in media relations helps me to be more comfortable with cameras and to maintain awareness in my environment.”

George and the other 50 contestants will be judged in three categories: swimsuit, evening gown and interview. Sherri Hill for Jovani designed George’s evening gown for her in New York City.

“It’s custom made and designed with crystal beads and velvet, the heaviest materials that you can make a dress out of,” George said. Evening gowns designed by Hill have been worn by Jennifer Berry and Tara Elizabeth to capture their crowns at the Miss America and Miss USA national pageants in 2006.

All contestants will receive their swimsuits upon arrival in California. “We’ll get our swimsuit that first day after checking-in and also take pictures for the program book,” George said.

Having a job in the military, George cannot just take off work. She had to work out months in advance to be absent for the competition.

“While gone for the competition, I will be on permissive TDY (temporary duty),” George said. Her permissive TDY was authorized by Gen. William Looney, commander of Air Education and Training Command (AETC) at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Looney is LRAFB commander Brig. Gen. Kip Self’s boss. A permissive TDY means the military won’t pay the travel costs, but the time is not counted against leave.

If George is crowned Miss USA 2007, the paperwork has already been completed to allow her one year off from the Air Force to fulfill the duty of Miss USA. The last Miss Arkansas to win the Miss USA crown was Terri Utley of Cabot in 1982.

TOP STORY >>Tax break for base housing

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines ruled earlier this month that 1,200 homes owned, managed and being built by American Eagle Communities—a private company–on Little Rock Air Force Base are exempt from property taxes.

Pulaski County Assessor Janet Troutman Ward is appealing Villines’ decision, saying the houses previously were exempt because the federal government owned them, but not now. Ward, who has held since the base privatized its housing in 2004 that as private property it was subject to property tax, said she prayed on the matter for a couple of weeks before deciding to appeal.

County Attorney Karla Burnett, acting on Ward’s direction, said she would file the appeal with the Pulaski County Circuit Clerk by the Monday deadline. Villines said Tuesday that he could not comment on the matter because it was in litigation.
His order found that “the federal government has determined that quality on-base housing for its personnel is essential to military preparedness in defense of the United States,” and that the Military Housing Privatization Initiative does not cede authority to state and local jurisdiction.

“The state statute says the homes are exempt as long as they are owned by government. These are not owned by the government,” Burnett said. To the argument that the county doesn’t provide services to the base, Burnett said that would be true if the residents never left the base, but “they drive on my roads and subject to my sheriff,” she said.

Little Rock Air Force Base privatized its family housing, turning the existing homes over to American Eagle Communities in August 2004. The company and the base entered into a $500 million agreement that called for the demolition and then construction of 468 homes and remodeling of another 732 homes.

Project director Tom Brockway said the construction is on schedule to be done by 2010. American Eagle, in addition to owning the homes, has a 50-year management agreement.

Ward ruled at the time that because the homes were now privately owned, they would be taxed with the revenues going mostly to the Pulaski County Special School District and county general funds. So far, American Eagle has completed three homes and is finishing up six more, with another 123 new homes in progress, Brockway said Tuesday.

Eagle Communities completed a $1.2 million town hall, complete with three meeting rooms, an exercise room, a cyber café, a media room, leasing offices, outdoor basketball and volleyball courts, a junior Olympic swimming pool, a playground and a sprayground, where youngsters can play in the mist during the summer.

The new homes are modern, brick, neo-Georgian, subdivision type houses that could raise a noticeable amount of ad valorem taxes—if taxed.

Ward said at the time that American Eagle knew when it bid on the contract that the properties would be subject to real estate taxes.

She said it is a for-profit enterprise, subject to the 40.7-mil county real estate taxes like any other developer or landlord.
The school district received $483,000 in federal compensation at the time of the purchase.

It is not immediately clear if the government would continue that compensation if the homes are not put on the tax rolls.

TOP STORY >>Scandal trial in Cabot is underway

Leader staff writer

Opening statements and testimony could begin in Cabot as early as Thursday in the 72-count criminal enterprise, drug and theft trial of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and two co-defendants.

Jury selection began Tuesday and is slated to continue Wednesday for the high-profile trial, which could last six to eight weeks and see 250 or 300 witnesses called.

Sean O’Nale, Campbell’s friend and former second-in-command, has been promised immunity for his testimony regarding the charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain told the court. The conspiracy charges are filed against Campbell and bail bondsmen Bobby Junior Cox and Larry Norwood.

The three men allegedly cooked up a scheme to have one criminal manufacture meth to entrap a second man believed to know the whereabouts of a man who skipped out on an expensive bond that could have cost the bail bondsmen a lot of money.

The Cabot District Courtroom has been remodeled to accommodate the mega trial, moved so that the rest of the Lonoke Circuit Court docket would not be put on hold for that length of time. Both Campbell and his wife, Kelly Harrison Campbell, are charged with about three-dozen crimes each.

The former chief is charged with masterminding a continuing criminal enterprise. His wife and bail bondsman Bobby Junior Cox are charged with participating in that enterprise. McCastlain last month dropped the criminal enterprise charge against Norwood and severed his methamphetamine conspiracy trial from that of the Campbells and Cox.

The defense attorneys, led by Patrick Benca, renewed a handful of motions previously denied by Special Judge John Cole—including motions to dismiss all charges and to sever the cases, and he asked for clarification on other rulings, mostly firming up the record for appeal in the event of conviction.

Cole denied those motions again. Benca, who is Jay Campbell’s lawyer, has taken the lead throughout the hearings. Mark Hampton represents Kelly Campbell and John Wesley Hall represents Cox.

Upon Benca’s motions, the state dismissed four counts of theft from Lonoke resident Woody Evans’ home, agreeing that the statute of limitations had expired. McCastlain said she might still call Evans to testify to “prior bad acts” by the Campbells.
The state also dismissed two charges against the former chief, one involving controlled- substance fraud, the other to avoid transporting a witness from an out-of-state federal penitentiary.

Cole did not dismiss cases that involved crimes allegedly committed at the home of Jacksonville resident Monique Mosby. Benca said any crime there was outside the jurisdiction of the Lonoke prosecutor’s office.

Benca renewed motions to suppress testimony of some witnesses because he said the prosecution didn’t fulfill its Brady obligations to let the defense know about exculpatory evidence. Cole reaffirmed his denial of all those motions for all three defense attorneys.

Cole ordered the prosecution to let the defense know each evening which witnesses it anticipated calling the next day.
Cole interviewed each prospective juror privately regarding their knowledge or prejudice regarding the case and whether or not they would be able to serve for as long as eight weeks.

Cole said he would rule later on whether or not the defense could bring Cox’s shotgun into the courtroom to impugn testimony that Cox wielded a sawed-off shotgun during a particular incident. If the shotgun is allowed into court, the bailiff will bring it in, Cole said.

The defense was given six preemptory challenges and the defense eight, plus an additional one for each of the three defendants.

TOP STORY >>Lenders kill bill to set limits on loans

Leader staff writer

Payday lenders succeeded Tuesday morning in burying in the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee a bill that would have fined lenders who violate the state’s 17 percent usury law, apparently discounting testimony of victims of payday lenders, North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, an association of military sergeants and others.

At least two of the committee members, including the chairman, received $500 campaign donations from the payday lenders organization. And in all, Arkansas Financial Services made $2,500 in contributions to committee members, according to the Arkansas Times blog.

While supporters pin their hopes on another vote later in the session, a local legislator with more than two decades of service says second attempts rarely succeed. (See Editorial, p.10A.)

In a hearing packed with supporters of the bill to make payday lenders accountable, only Sen. Jim Argue (D-Little Rock) voted for it. In fact he was the only one who voted at all. It takes five votes in the eight-person committee for a bill to get a “do pass” recommendation and be forwarded to the complete Senate.

Sen. Jack Critcher, D-Batesville, asked a series of questions that seemed in opposition to the bill, then left before the vote. In attendance but failing to vote were senators Paul Miller, D-Melbourne, chairman; Percy Malone, D-Arkadelphia, vice chairman; Terry Smith, D-Hot Springs, Bob Johnson, D-Bigelow and Paul Bookout, D-Jonesboro.

A quick check of records on file at the Secretary of State’s office showed that both Malone and Bookout accepted $500 campaign contributions from the payday lenders.

“We thought we had three votes and hoped for five,” said the Senate sponsor, Sen. Sean Womack.

Pat Hays spoke not as the mayor of North Little Rock, but as a man whose brother-in-law was threatened with jail because he couldn’t repay his loans after he lost his job. Hattie Daniel, an ACORN representative, called herself “a victim and survivor of payday lenders.”

A 29-year employee of UAMS, her husband died in 1999, her daughter was stressed out and she needed $750 to get her car running to care for her grandchildren. She had $250 and borrowed $500 from payday lenders for $575.

“The nightmare began,” she said. Over the next months, she kept rolling her loan over for an additional $65 each time. When she got her income tax refund, it cost her $2,240 to settle her original $500 loan. Another man said small payday loans cost him about $7,000 and he nearly lost the family farm he mortgaged to pay off the small loans.

An array of consumer groups including AARP, ACORN, the Consumer Federation of America, the Better Business Bureau and the Arkansas Education Association, say they expect the bill may be refiled.

“We’re only half-way through the session,” said Hank Klein, founder of Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending.
State Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, however, said that bills that failed the first time—especially by a wide margin—rarely make it out of committee the second time.

If a bill fails to get out of committee the second time, it cannot be reintroduced until the next session of the General Assembly.

“I’m not understanding the chemistry,” Argue said. “It had huge support in the House.” In the House in early February, the bill passed with 90 of the 100 representatives voting for it.Either assuming the outcome or, like Oscar nominees, having a statement prepared “just in case” Arkansas Financial Services Association President Bradley Rodgers handed out a statement after the vote that read in part, “We believe this bill would have further restricted the free choice of hard-working Arkansans in securing short-term credit used to meet family emergencies.”

Otherwise, “Arkansas consumers would be faced with the higher costs of bounced checks, bank overdraft protection, pawn shops and credit card late fees that damage credit ratings.”

Rodgers, a Stuttgart resident, owns four payday-lending stores.

TOP STORY >>Ruling could help new district

Leader staff writer

If timing is, in fact, everything, then plotting the end to the expensive, well-intentioned-but-messy Pulaski County school desegregation agreement may indeed be an idea whose time has come and could lead to an independent Jacksonville school district.

Even as U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson released the Little Rock School District from that 18-year-old desegregation consent decree last week, ruling that the district had achieved unitary status, state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, was preparing a bill that could force an end to the agreement for the other two participants—North Little Rock School District and the Pulaski County Special School District—and two companion bills to help pay for the first steps.

Bond says that since 1988, the three-district desegregation agreement has cost the state at least $700 million and in the process created a financial dependency upon the part of the participating districts. As a legislator, education has been the drum Bond banged loudest, whether for more minimum foundation aid, more money for facilities, supporting vocational education or…creation of a stand-alone Jacksonville school district carved from the Pulaski County Special School District.
Two years ago, Wilson ruled that as long as the consent decree was in effect and under federal supervision, it was unlikely that he would allow Jacksonville to have its own district. At that time he overruled a state Board of Education decision that area residents could vote on that issue.

House Bill 1829, crafted by Bond, filed Monday and assigned to the House education committee, says that the state “must provide impetus to motivate districts to seek unitary status,” which would let the district out from court supervision.
Currently the state kicks in about $58 million a year for desegregation-related ex-penses such as busing.

Pulaski County’s share of that is about $14 million—about 10 percent of the 18,000-student district’s annual $135 million budget, which Bond says is not much incentive to seek and prove unitary status.

HB 1829 would require the state education department to hire a qualified de-segregation consultant by Oct. 1 and to seek federal court review and determination of current unitary status and also to seek modification of the current consent decree so that the state could craft a post-unitary agreement, phasing out the desegregation funding until all such funds were spent by an agreed-upon date.

Bond’s companion bills, filed Friday, would provide $500,000 to reimburse the attorney general’s office for legal fees spent seeking unitary status and $1 million to hire desegregation consultants.

Last legislative session, Bond put special language in a bill that required the state education department to hire consultants to evaluate the consent decrees and also consider the feasibility of creating a Jacksonville-area school district.

“By modifying consent decrees, the state Depart-ment of Education may create one or more new districts if it does not eliminate the PCSSD from existence, after seeking Federal District Court approval,” the bill reads, unless such approval is moot because the districts have been released from supervision.

The $1.5 million that Bond seeks for the attorney general’s office and to pay consultants would come from the state General Improvement Fund or its successor, which would put Jacksonville resident Mike Wilson in an awkward position.
It was Wilson’s lawsuit that seems about to undo GIF funding, but Wilson has been one of the staunchest supporters of the standalone Jacksonville school district.

Monday, February 26, 2007

SPORTS >>Falcons close with two big wins, slide into third place

IN SHORT: The North Pulaski boys beat Wynne and Paragould this week to finish third in the 5A-East standings.

Leader sports editor

season strong, getting two big wins over Wynne and Paragould to close out the season 15-10 overall and 9-5 in conference play. The Falcons beat Wynne 68-45 at home, then knocked off Paragould 88-63 Thursday in Greene County.

The two wins assured the Falcons of the league’s No. 3 seed in next week’s state tournament at Greene County Tech, although the Falcons would have locked up the three spot even with a loss since Wynne fell to Tech in its finale Thursday.
The Lady Falcons also battled hard, but came up just short of getting their first win in conference play, falling to the Lady Rams 42-38.

The Lady Falcons trailed 36-24 at the end of three quarters, but turned it on in the fourth. North Pulaski rallied to within 37-34, but could get no closer.

The loss dropped the NP ladies to 3-21 overall and 0-14 in conference play.

Paragould improved to 11-15 overall and 7-7 in conference.

In the boys game, the Falcons took control in the third quarter. They led by 10 at halftime, but stretched that lead to 21 points at 59-38 by the start of the fourth quarter. Senior guard Quinn Cooper led five Falcons in double figures Thursday night in Paragould. He finished with 17 points. Cliff Harrison added 14. Ridge Williams and DaQuan Bryant each scored 12 while Aaron Cooper added 10.

Casey Flippo led the Rams with 17 points. Alex Garmrath added 16 and Brady Herbert chipped in 10.

Earlier in the week the Falcons set the tone for a big finish by blowing out the Wynne Yellowjackets, something no team has done this year.

The Falcons broke open a close halftime score by scoring 26 points in the third quarter. Most of the buckets came in transition after Wynne missed long jumpers.

North Pulaski showed a matchup zone for the first time this season in the third quarter, and it greatly disrupted the Wynne offense.

“We hadn’t done that all year and it really bothered them,” NP coach Raymond Cooper said. “They started taking long-range shots. We were rebounding and running and we got up on them pretty good. You can’t do that without hustle and we were hustling. It was good to see us playing like that heading into the state tournament.”

Leading the way for the Falcons in Tuesday’s win was senior guard Quinn Cooper, who finished with 20 points.

Finishing strong was a key issue for North Pulaski after losing to Blytheville Saturday in a makeup game. The team responded to Cooper’s challenges.

“We talked about getting that third seed,” Cooper said. “We wanted to avoid playing a No. 1 right off the bat. After we beat Wynne, we talked about just finishing strong and heading into this thing on a high note.”

North Pulaski begins play in the state tournament in Pragould at 2:30 p.m. Thursday against Arkadelphia. The Badgers finished second in the 5A-Southwest behind Pulaski Academy.

SPORTS >>Red Devils outlast Bombers

IN SHORT: Jacksonville pulled out a 78-75 win in double overtime Tuesday night in the Devils’ Den.

Leader sports editor

Whether it’s the state’s top team, or a team that’s 10 games under .500, it’s never uneventful at Jacksonville’s Devils’ Den. The Red Devils got another heartpounding victory Tuesday night, a 78-75 double-overtime thriller against Mountain Home.
The Bombers had beaten Jack-sonville in overtime earlier this year in Baxter County. This time, the visiting team had its back against the wall, and wouldn’t go down without a fight.

Mountain Home’s Kyle Minton hit three pointers at the end of regulation and the second overtime to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive. A Bomber playoff berth was a long shot even with a win. With a loss, the team was eliminated from contention.
Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner knew a team in that situation was dangerous, and tried to convey that to his players late in regulation.

“I told them during a timeout that they weren’t going to get tired,” Joyner said. “They’re playing for their playoff lives, and they weren’t going to even notice fatigue. That was a heck of a high-school basketball game. Those kids (Mountain Home) played their hearts out and forced my guys to dig deep. That was a great game.”

Mountain Home led for most of the first half. Garrett Wilhite went the length of the court and hit an uncontested layup to give his team a 28-25 lead at intermission.

The Bombers then went on an 8-0 run early in the third to stretch their lead to 38-29, forcing Jacksonville to call a timeout with 5:03 on the clock.

Jacksonville’s Antwan Lock-hart scored out of the break, but was answered by Brandon Pfeifer at the other end, making it 40-31.

That’s when the Red Devils finally turned it on.
Jacksonville’s Kajuan Watson was fouled by Wilhite attempting a fastbreak layup after a steal. Wilhite mouthed about the call and was hit with a technical foul. Watson hit three of the four foul shots, and Gerron Riddles scored underneath to make it 40-36.

LaMark Trask then got a steal and dished to Watson for a three. After a Bomber miss, Watson nailed another three pointer and was fouled with 30 seconds left in the quarter.

He hit the free throw to complete a 17-0 run and give the Red Devils a 48-40 lead.
Mountain Home’s Brad Butler finally ended the run with a bucket just before the buzzer to make it a six-point game going into the fourth quarter.

Mountain Home’s Bob Durr hit a three to start the fourth, and the game stayed close for the next several minutes.
A driving bucket by Terrell Eskridge gave Jacksonville some breathing room at 58-51 with three minutes remaining in regulation. It didn’t last long. Winton hit his third three of the game just 22 seconds later. Eskridge then hit two free throws and Pfeifer answered to make it 60-56.

Jacksonville turned it over going for an alley-oop, and Pfeifer made it a two-point game with 1:08 left.
Mountain sent Lockhart to the line, who made one of two with 1:02 left. Winton then nailed a three pointer and Jacksonville called timeout with 15 seconds left.

Eskridge missed a running jumper at the buzzer, sending it to overtime.
Lockhart started the extra frame with a big dunk, and Mountain Home tried to give the game away. Pfeifer missed two free throws on one possession, then stepped out of bounds on the next, but Jacksonville was unable to make the Bombers pay for the mistakes. Eskridge finally scored with 2:10 left. The two teams then traded a free throw each, then traded turnovers.
Durr ended the drought with a pair of free throws to make it 66-65 with 40 seconds left.

Eskridge then hit two free throws, setting up Minton’s second game extender, this time from about 28 feet out with 14 seconds on the clock.

Watson penetrated at the other end, but stepped out of bounds trying to go baseline. The Bombers had a shot at winning it. Durr drove the length of the court with little resistence, but his runner from the free-throw line was too strong off the backboard.

Jacksonville finally took control from the foul line when the Bombers finally went cold from outside in the second overtime.
Trask scored a bucket to start the extra frame, and the Red Devils stretched out a 76-69 lead with 44 seconds left, but the Bombers still made it interesting.

Wilhite hit a three with 37 seconds remaining, then fouled Damien Akins, who hit one of two. Ryan Pitts then nailed another three from the corner under tight coverage to make it 77-75 with 14 seconds left.

Trask then hit one of two, and Jacksonville made sure not to let the ball get into Minton’s hands. Durr took the final shot, but it was short.

Watson led all scorers with 21 points while Pfeifer led the Bombers with 20.
Eskridge added 16 for Jack-sonville while Norvel Gabriel scored 12.

Minton finished with 15 for the Bombers while Butler and Durr added 12 each.

The win lifted Jacksonville to 13-10 overall and 7-6 in conference play. Mountain Home fell to 9-19 and 3-10 in league play.
The Red Devils dropped their season finale at home to Jonesboro Thursday night to fall to 13-11 and 7-7. The loss, coupled with Searcy’s win over West Memphis, puts the Red Devils as the No. 4 seed from the 6A-East in the state tournament that takes place next week at Jonesboro High School.

Jacksonville will face off with El Dorado, the No. 5 seed from the 6A-South.

SPORTS >>Cabot ladies hammer Cyclones

IN SHORT: The Lady Panthers destroyed Russellville Tuesday in their regular-season finale.

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot teams ended the regular season with a conference split at Russellville on Tuesday night. The boys came up short in the second half after keeping it close through the first two quarters, but the girls stayed in the hunt for the East No. 2 playoff seed with a 77-53 win over the Lady Cyclones.

Although Lady Panthers head coach Carla Crowder noted the game as one of the best team efforts all season for her team, it was also a showcase for junior forward Lauren Walker, who finished with a season-high 26 points. With a field goal average of well over 50 percent, Walker even backed up her few misses from the floor with nine rebounds on the night.

“She was on fire,” Crowder said. “The girls did a great job of getting the ball to her. They were really focused as a team; they worked together really good. They passed the ball as well as I have seen all year. They were able to get it inside when they needed to.”

The Lady Panthers rushed out to an 18-8 lead at the end of one quarter, and extended that lead to 37-16 at the intermission. In typical Cabot style, the threat of a mercy-rule was thwarted by opening up the bench to the underclassmen.
Walker’s career game was far from the only noteworthy performance for the Lady Panthers. Every starter with the exception of Walker had almost more rebounds than points. Senior Jamie Sterrenberg finished with seven rebounds and seven points, while Maddie Helms had five rebounds and seven points.

Shelby Ashcraft added 11 points and 10 rebounds. Rachel Glover also came away with a double-digit rebounding performance with 10 boards.

The JV players also made solid contributions in the game. Sophomore post player Stephanie Glover scored six points inside, while Allison Grigsby came away with a pair of goals. Jenna Bailey turned in a strong defensive performance with two steals, while also forcing two more turnovers on the Lady Cyclones.

The Lady Panthers finished the regular season with an impressive record of 21-5 overall and 11-3 in the 7A-Central Conference. They were awaiting the winner of last night’s game between Conway and North Little Rock to learn what seed they will be in next week’s state tournament.

If North Little Rock, who has already wrapped up the league title, came away with the win, it would mean a No. 2 seed for Cabot, but Conway could take runner-up if they pulled off the upset.

The boys were playing for pride, but that pride would unfortunately only last for the first 24 minutes. The Panthers only trailed by four points at halftime, but an intense second half from the Cyclones almost put the game into a mercy-rule in the final minutes, as Russellville pulled away for a 28-point decision over Cabot.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said of his team’s 9-18 season record. “I thought we would do a little better than what we did, but we’re a young team. Our three seniors, Justin Haas, Alex Sharp and Jacob Trammell, those are all very fine young men, and I wanted them to enjoy a good season for sticking with us. They have done a great job for us over the last few years, and I’m sure that they will all be successful in whatever they do in life.”

As for the returning players, Bridges said that after a two-week break, priority one will be strength conditioning.
Sophomore starters Adam Sterrenberg and Austin Johnson had plenty of prowess on the court this year, but their lanky frames made them targets for physical play from many conference opponents.

“I hope they’ve seen the difference physically at the varsity level,” Bridges said. “There is a lot of difference between playing on Monday and Thursday than playing on Tuesday and Friday. I’m encouraged with the young players that we have, but they are going to have to step up and learn to be more aggressive.”

EVENTS>>Winter 2007

The Jacksonville Dog Park Club will hold its first meeting of the year at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Jacksonville Community Center.
2007 will be a big year for dogs and their owners in Jacksonville. They will get to see the opening of the Jacksonville Dog Park in Dupree Park.
Those interested in being part of this celebration are invited to come meet and help raise funds and organize events for a grand park opening later this year.
For more information contact Dana or Cathy at 982-0818 or Dan Limke, club president at 501-749-6369.

A new 4-H Club is organizing in the area. The Lonoke Acorns and Shades of Green will merge their efforts to form a new, strong, 4-H Club. This meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Lonoke County Extension Service. The Ag Center’s address is 2001 Highway 70 East; next door to the National Guard Armory. For more information contact Carolyn Burns at the County Extension Office at 501-676-3124.
This meeting is open to all youth ages five to 19 regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

Mark Perry is hosting a free informational seminar about Medicare benefits for people living with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart failure and other illnesses. The seminar will be from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Rebsamen Medical Center Education Building. For more information, contact Perry at 982-4561.

The Cabot Theater, Drama, and Dance Department is rehearsing for a production of the musical “Oliver!” The cast incorporates students K through 12th grade. More than 140 students are involved in the production of the play.
Shelby Kirby, a seventh grade student from Cabot Junior High South, plays the lead role. She even cut her hair for the role and donated it to the Locks for Love program.
The production dates for the show are 7 p.m. next Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Fine Arts building at Cabot High School. Tickets are $7.

OBITUARIES >> 02-24-07

Dennis Martindill
Dennis J. Martindill, 58, of Jacksonville died Feb. 22.

He was born March 14, 1948 in California to the late Clark and Ruby King Martindill.

He had been a resident of Jacksonville for the past 40 years and was a businessman. He was also a member of Highways and Hedges Ministry of Jacksonville.

He is survived by a daughter, Denise Martindill Perry of Oilville, Va., and a son, Danny C. Martindill of North Little Rock.
He is also survived by a brother, Harvey Martindill of Chino Hills, Calif.; a sister, Joann Vance of Quitman as well as four grandchildren, Hannah K. Perry, Nathan W. Perry and Halsey E. Perry all of Oilville, Va. and Paisley D. Martindill of North Little Rock.

A memorial service will be Saturday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. in the chapel of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with the Rev. Harvey Martindill officiating.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society; 901 N. University, Little Rock, Ark. 72207, or the Make-A-Wish Foundation; 1780 Moriah Woods Blvd. Suite 10; Memphis, Tenn. 38117.

Amelia Milam
Amelia Evelyn Kessler Milam, 46, of Cabot passed away Feb. 21.

She was born May 20, 1960 in Shreveport, La. to the late Henry and Dorothy Kessler.

She graduated from Hall High School in 1979. She was a nurse practitioner at UAMS in Little Rock and attended First Church of the Nazarene in Beebe.

She is survived by her husband, Calvin “Gopher” Milam of the home; a daughter, Emily Milam and a son, Henry James “Hank” Milam, both of Cabot; a stepdaughter, Summer Milam of Bentonville; two sisters, Jensi and Lisa Kessler, both of Albuquerque, N.M; a brother, Henry “Kes” Kessler and a sister-in-law, Donna Kessler of Little Rock; a father-in-law, James Milam and a mother-in-law, Dorothy Milam of Ward; a brother and a sister-in-law, Alvin and Cheryl Milam; a brother-in-law, Jimmy Milam; numerous nieces, nephews and many other family members and friends.

Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24 at the funeral home.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25 at First Church of the Nazarene in Beebe with Pastor Steven Hall officiating. Burial will follow at 16th Section Cemetery with Chris Stivers, Gene Howell, Mike Farler, Russ Fields, Ron Wilson and J.D. Dunn as pallbearers and Pat Graham as honorary pallbearer.

Funeral arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Services of Cabot.

Carmelo Pappalardo
Carmelo Pappalardo, 67, of Jacksonville, formerly of New Paltz, N.Y., died Feb. 21 in Little Rock.

He was born in Kingston, N.Y. on July 7, 1939, to the late Salvatore and Dominica Laudani Pappalardo.

He was preceded in death by his loving wife of 45 years, Marth J. Hay Pappalardo in 2006 and a brother, Francesco Pappalardo as well as a sister, Dinah Tozzi and his step mother Maria.

He became a born-again Christian in 1999 and was an active member of his church. He leaves behind many who loved him and will miss him deeply.

Survivors include two sons, Sal Pappalardo and his wife Janeice of Jacksonville and Carl Pappalardo and his wife Tina of New Paltz, New York, and his grandchildren, Brian, Ariana, Carina, Patrick and Leslie also survive him as well as many nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 26 at Bayou Meto Baptist Church with Rev. Jim Edwards officiating. Burial will follow in Sumner Cemetery. Visitation will be at the funeral home from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24.

Memorials may be made to Heifer International and the Gideon’s International.

Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Vicki Davis
Vicki Jewel Davis, 52, of Kensett went home to be with the Lord, Feb. 21. 

She was born to her parents, Harry D. and Lola Belle Armstrong of Beebe on May 6, 1954.

She is survived by her husband of 31 years, David M. Davis; her son, Jon and wife Joanna Davis; her daughter, Toria and husband Bronson Sullivan, all of Kensett, as well as two grandchildren, Melissa Sullivan and Cameron Davis. 

She is also survived by her father, Harry D. Armstrong of Beebe and five siblings, Fred Armstrong of Beebe, Jim Armstrong of Nevada, Tom Armstrong of Cabot, Pat Woods of Beebe and Vivian Sanford of Searcy. 

She was preceded in death by her mother, Lola Belle Armstrong of Beebe.

Visitation will be 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24 at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25 at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens.

Leonard Benson
Leonard M. Benson, Jr., 79, of Jacksonville died Feb. 19 at Woodland Hills Nursing Home in Jacksonville.
He was born April 7, 1927 in Serapta, La., to the late Leonard Sr. and Althea Benson.

He was a veteran of the Second World War having served in the Navy, Army Air Corps and retired as a senior master sergeant in the Air Force.

He was a 35-year member of St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Jacksonville.

Preceding him in death were three sisters, Vera Benson, Velma Smith, and Verdi Henson and a brother, James.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Antoinette Benson; four daughters, Carol Staggs of Jacksonville, Linda Brown and husband Butch of Furlow, Barbara Thompson of Redmond, Wa., Gloria Johnson and husband Jerry of Jacksonville; one son, Michael and wife Debra of Camden; 15 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and two sisters, Pauline LeRoux of Virginia and Stella Duplechan of Louisiana.

He also leaves behind several nieces and nephews and numerous friends.

Funeral services were Feb. 22 at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville with Father Les Farley officiating. Burial was in Chapel Hill Memorial Park at Jacksonville.

Ray Hassen
Ray F. Hassen, 70, went to be with the Lord Feb. 23.

He was born in California May 17, 1937 and raised in Jacksonville.

He was preceded in death by his parents Sam and Elsie Hassen.

He is survived by one daughter, Brenda and husband David Kinkade; six grandchildren of LeGrand, Iowa; three brothers, Tion and wife Erma Hassen of Jonesboro, Thomas and wife Geneva Hassen of Cabot, Sam and wife Joyce Hassen of Bismarck; three sisters, Zelma and husband Thomas Thurgood of Carlisle, Geneva Moore of Bismarck and Janie and husband Carthel Clark of Hot Springs and several other relatives and friends.

Burial was in Chapel Hill Cemetery at Jacksonville. Funeral arrangements were by Boyd Funeral Home of Lonoke.

Carolyn Moore
Carolyn Gertrude Moore, 79, of Jacksonville passed away Feb. 18 at her home.  

She was born Feb. 6, 1928 in Front Royal, Va., to the late Basil and Grace McWilliams Williams.  

She was also preceded in death by her husband, W.B. Moore, two sisters, a brother and a granddaughter, Amy Parks.  
She retired from Maybelline in 1990 and was a Christian.

Survivors include daughter, Dianna Parks and her husband Steve of Jacksonville; two sons, W.C. Moore and his wife Judy of Cabot and Gene Moore of Jacksonville; grandchildren, Shawn Parks, Stephanie Rose, Casey Moore and Ronnie Parks, three great-grandchildren, a brother and three sisters.

Funeral services were Feb. 23 at Landmark Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville with Pastor Tim Carter officiating.  
Burial followed in Pinecrest Memorial Park in Alexander.  

Funeral arrangements were by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Ella Curry
Ella Mae Horton Burgess Curry passed away Feb. 20 after a lengthy illness.

She was a charter member of New Testament Baptist Church of Lonoke.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Richard and Ollie Horton; her husband, James Curry, and a son, Gary Burgess.
She is survived by sons, John “Dickey” Burgess and wife Judy of Lonoke, Larry Curry and wife Sherry of Texas; daughters, Glenda Allison and husband Freddie of Lonoke, Donna Hall and husband Cecil, Mary Harrell and Henrietta Odom, all of Texas. She is also survived by 16 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren and a sister, Lela Jo Tullos of Lonoke.

Funeral services were Feb. 23 at New Testament Baptist Church with burial to follow in Sunset Memorial Gardens.

Funeral arrangements were by Boyd Funeral Home of Lonoke.

A special thanks to Golden Years Manor for their compassion and care.

Also, a special thanks to her longtime caregiver, Marcia Miller. Memorials may be made to New Testament Baptist Church building fund.

Lena Tucker
Lena A. Tucker, 49, of Lonoke passed away Feb. 20 in Sherwood.

She was born on March 23, 1957 in Little Rock to John and Nellie Carter Garringer.

She was of the Baptist faith and was crazy about wrestling.

She ws preceded in death by her father, John Garringer.

She is survived by her loving husband, Gleason of the home; her mother, Nellie Garringer of Lonoke; one daughter, Cassandra Henley and her husband Patrick of Lonoke; one brother, Johnny Garringer and wife Sheila of Lonoke; two sisters, Marty Tippitt of Moore, Okla., and Tonya Curtis and husband Tim of Lonoke. She is also survived by three grandchildren, Madeline Henry, Lindsay and Justin Henley.

Funeral services were Feb. 23 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Milburn “Pint” Hill and Rev. Tim Curtis officiating.

Burial followed at Arkansas Memorial Gardens.

EDITORIALS>>Funding our schools

Gov. Beebe and legislative leaders agreed this week on a school budget for the next two years and to compliment themselves for having done it nobly. The governor said the product would raise public education above and beyond the level of adequate that is required by the Constitution. House Speaker Benny Petrus Jr. said this legislature would go down in history “for getting us out of Lake View.” He was referring to the long-running lawsuit of that name that produced a sequence of orders from the Arkansas Supreme Court that the legislature and governor contrive a public school system that provides a suitable — i.e., “adequate” — education for every single child in Arkansas.

Let’s stipulate that the school budget looks far better than the preliminary plan embraced by the Legislative Council in December, thanks to Gov. Beebe’s cunning persuasion and a few able lawmakers like Sens. Jim Argue of Little Rock and Stephen Bryles of Blytheville.

Historical context also compels us to admit that the work on school funding and equity since the first Supreme Court order in 2002 has been monumental, even if it took successive court orders and much grumbling to bring about. And Petrus also is probably right that the Supreme Court this spring will accept the work and issue a final mandate closing Lake View.

The state will have invested substantially in critical preschool education for the first time — another $40 million a year starting this fall — and more money will be directed to the schools with the poorest and neediest children. Gov. Beebe’s capital budget will direct a little more than $200 million to repair and replace the worst schools, and he implies that he may seek considerably more (if lawmakers don’t blow all the capital improvement funds on local pork projects).

Legislators are entitled to some self-congratulation. Beebe’s style, unlike that of his predecessor, is not to boast much, but he can take a medium-sized bow, too.

But the superlatives are overblown. Teachers the next two years will get smaller percentage raises than the lawmakers granted themselves for their part-time labors. And while legislators were insistent upon setting aside some of the appropriation each of the next two years into a separate category that they described as “enhancement” to show that they were going beyond mere adequacy, they actually did not.

In a world where the words “adequate” and “equal” were held to their definitions, Arkansas schools would be neither adequate nor equal. An examination of the programs at — well, let’s just pick a couple at random, Marianna and Marvell — would produce no objective evaluation of adequate. A comparison with, say, Rogers, would persuade no one that they were within leagues of being equal. But as the president of the Arkansas Education Association says, “this is it.”

Although there were resources for doing more, at this session there will be nothing more. Let us be thankful for simple good works and expect the miracle next time.

EDITORIALS>>Huckabee wore out plane

Gov. Beebe wants the legislature to appropriate $4 million from the state surplus to buy a new jet plane for the State Police or else fix the one that former Gov. Mike Huckabee grounded. Lawmakers have little practical choice but to go along, but it should take the chance to lay down a few ground rules to halt the abuses of the past 10 years.

Huckabee used State Police aircraft, primarily a Beechcraft King Air 200 turbo-prop, as his family air force. State Police pilots flew him to the Republican National Convention and to political events around the country to promote his national ambitions. Sometimes they were sandwiched around a quasi-public event.

Altogether, according to an analysis by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette a year ago, he logged some 1,500 hours on the plane. His wife used it often, too.

Now the plane is effectively grounded because it has nearly reached the limit of its airworthy hours under federal law. It will have to be extensively reconditioned if it is to continue flying, and buying a new plane may be safer and more economical.

Beebe says he does not intend to use the plane for anything but official travel — he has made trips to five Arkansas cities since inauguration — but that if he does take it for personal or political travel, he will reimburse the state at commercial rates.

Those terms — and they should be tight — ought to be spelled out in law, along with record-keeping that provides a good audit trail. The records of Huckabee travels do not even list the purpose. Still, he had the hard drive of the State Police computer at the airport crushed when he left office to destroy records on the trips. States that permit governors and other officials to use government craft impose restrictions and record-keeping, and Arkansas taxpayers deserve that much.

EDITORIALS>>Another ruse for local funds

The ever ingenious and disingenuous state Sen. Bob Johnson of Bigelow has come up with another ruse to skirt the state Constitution’s ban on local and special legislation. Johnson may indeed have found a way that will let the courts wink at legislators’ pork-barrel projects. Gov. Beebe finds this one acceptable, which should be no surprise since it will give him the ultimate power to determine where the pork will go.

Gone is the direct approach where each lawmaker introduces a spate of bills earmarking state tax funds for small projects in his district. Each legislator had a quota. The Supreme Court last year declared it patently illegal. A proposal to create a small committee appointed by the speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate that would divide the money among proposals submitted to it by the legislators collapsed this week when Beebe said it still had constitutional problems.

Johnson’s latest plan is simply to appropriate sizable sums to state agencies for general improvements. Lawmakers then would send their projects to the agencies, which would decide which ones to fund. Theoretically, the executive branch would administer the funds, as the Constitution contemplates, and lawmakers could still tell groups back home that they landed the money. The governor, who controls the state agencies, could claim some political chips, too. And he could even deny some or all the projects.

The constitutional separation-of-powers issue, which bothered Beebe, will be solved, at least theoretically, and as for the prohibition against local legislation, well, the courts will have a harder time declaring what they know is an evasion of the Constitution to be an evasion of the Constitution. At least you can hope that the governor’s discretion will include a consideration of the public interest and the taxpayers’.

TOP STORY >>Pryor sees U.S. spiritual strength

Leader staff writer

Sen. Mark Pryor and Rep. Vic Snyder joined Little Rock Air Force Base commanders and airmen, and other distinguished visitors at LRAFB Friday morning for the annual National Prayer Breakfast.

Pryor, the keynote speaker for the event, addressed the 300-strong audience, saying it was an honor for him to participate in an event that brings people of all faiths together.

“It’s special to be a part of the national fiber. People of this country have a spiritual aspect of their life, and we need to address that,” he said.

“I bring greetings from the Senate prayer breakfast. We meet every Wednesday morning at the Capitol, and the menu is almost the same there,” Pryor said of the buffet-style breakfast of biscuits, sausage, bacon and eggs.
According to Pryor, senators and former senators are allowed at the Capitol prayer breakfast, as well as leaders from other countries.

“We are able to demonstrate to the world how we come together in prayer once a week even with our differences,” the Democrat from Arkansas said, adding it was the best hour he spends all week. He told of the practical benefit of the weekly prayer meetings, saying Washington was “way too partisan.”

“To come together in prayer for each other gives me a better perspective on things. I see it as a chance to be better senators and a way to keep a better perspective,” the senator said.

Pryor asked those in attendance to pray for the country’s leaders – the chaplains deployed to the Middle East, the congressional leaders, Pentagon officials and especially President Bush.

“The President has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and I’ve told him that,” Pryor said.
“Every night when I tuck my children into bed, we say a prayer for the President,” he added.
Pryor said he was always honored to be on LRAFB.

“I’m proud to be here and be a part of this base and to continually help the facility and people here,” he said, telling the airmen that LRAFB has an excellent reputation and is a first-class base.
“You do things right and should be very proud of that, just as we are,” Pryor said.
He also took a moment to brag about Rep. Snyder.

“Little Rock Air Force Base could not have a better friend in Washington than Snyder,” Pryor said.
“He’s on the House Armed Services Committee and was a champion of the BRAC process,” Pryor said, referring to the Base Realignment and Closure commission, which recommended several hundred more airmen and 17 more airplanes for the Jacksonville air base.

The first National Prayer Breakfast was held in 1953, when President Eisenhower called on the nation’s leaders to join him for the first presidential prayer breakfast.

Since then, it has been held annually in Washington, sponsored by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
The purpose of the occasion is to bring together the leadership of the U.S. government in recognition of the moral and spiritual values on which the nation was founded.

The tradition has spread to nearly every military and civilian community throughout the nation.

Brig. Gen. Larry Haltom, deputy adjunct general of the Arkansas National Guard, and area mayors were among the distinguished visitors Friday morning, including Tommy Swaim of Jacksonville, Eddie Joe Williams of Cabot, Art Brooke of Ward, Dan Stedman of Sherwood, and Rick Holland of Benton.

TOP STORY >>Cabot mayor calls summit a success

IN SHORT: Necessary road work will cost Cabot $200 million, officials told.

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams is calling his Friday traffic summit a phenomenal success.

The turnout of 50 or so local leaders, as well as elected officials from the state and federal level, along with state highway officials, was better than he expected. Dan Flowers, director of the state Highway Department, was taking notes and made promises to help the city with affordable projects that could help the traffic congestion.

Flowers said the Highway Department will help with timing the city’s traffic lights, re-stripe some streets to create extra lanes, widen some intersections and lengthen some turning lanes. Additionally, Williams said Flowers told him after the summit that he will appoint someone to work with Cabot on its traffic problems.

Metroplan, which distributes federal road money, has completed a draft of a study that identifies $200 million in work that needs to be done in Cabot, which has less than $2 million to spend on roads.

The study identified Hwy. 89 in downtown Cabot as the third most congested street in central Arkansas. Widening Hwy. 89 has been estimated to cost at least $20 million.

Williams also wants a third interchange built on the north end of town in conjunction with the railroad overpass that should be under construction this summer.

A committee appointed by Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman has recommended that a third interchange be built between the two existing interchanges. But there is no money to build an interchange in either location. Flowers told the leaders who gathered for the summit that the best way to get anything built is to first have a firm plan.

“We need to have all these things we’ve talked about in a plan,” he said. “We need a plan and we need to stick with it.”
Flowers said the project list should be prioritized and the state would work with the city to get them done.

TOP STORY >>Overpass work starts

IN SHORT: Groundbreaking ceremony is held in Cabot for $7 million railroad bridge project.

Leader staff writer

Government representatives from the local level all the way to the federal level lined up beside Cabot Middle School North Friday afternoon to break ground for a railroad overpass that will soon be built between Cabot and Austin linking Hwy. 367 to Hwy. 38.

The mostly federally funded project, estimated to cost $7 million, was the first major undertaking of new Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who was on the city council when the overpass was planned almost 10 years ago. Williams, along with Alderman Ed Long, worked with the state and Union Pacific Railroad to get approval for closing the Polk Street crossing and build the overpass, which has been touted as a safety measure since the 100 or so school buses will use it instead of crossing the tracks.

Williams retired from Union Pacific to become mayor.

In 2005, when Williams had already been off the council for about five years, he came back before the council to argue for the city to come up with the matching money (about $1 million) needed to build the overpass, and the city council responded by placing the overpass on the ballot for continuing a one-cent sales tax, along with the new sewer treatment plant, community center and animal shelter.

Among those wearing orange hardhats and shoveling dirt for the groundbreaking werean Flowers, director of the state Highway Department; Carl Rosenbaum, a member of the Highway Commission; state Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle; Erika Krennerich, who manages local projects for First District Cong. Marion Berry, D-Gillett; Williams and Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman, who politely declined to take any credit for the overpass.

“To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have a thing in the world to do with this,” Troutman said when asked to comment about the overpass. Williams hopes the overpass will be the first phase of a three-phase project that will also include a north interchange on Hwy. 67-167 and a new road to Hwy. 5.

Opponents of that proposal, including Troutman, are concerned that the three phases will cost at least $25 million and only take about 20 percent of the traffic load out of downtown.

In declining credit for the overpass, Troutman told Williams that he was still happy for him for what he had been able to accomplish.

TOP STORY >>Tolls could finance last leg of North Belt

IN SHORT: Highway might not get built without charging motorists.

Leader staff writer

Put a couple of toll booths on the missing Sherwood segment of the North Belt Freeway, and construction could begin almost immediately, according to Highway Commissioner Carl Rosenbaum.

Otherwise, it might never be built, according to Rosenbaum.
With little fanfare, the state Highway and Transportation Department completed its amended environmental assessment to choose the North Belt route through Sherwood and forwarded its preferred route to the Federal Highway Administration.

Even if it passes muster with the FHA and with the general public at hearings set for March 20-21, there is no money in sight to complete the North Belt Loop from Hwy. 67-167 across Sherwood, through Camp Robinson and on to the I-40/I430 interchange at Crystal Hill, Rosenbaum said this week at a reception hosted by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

But Rosenbaum says the final 12.7-mile, $276 million section could pay for itself with tollbooths where it intersects Hwy. 67/167 and also Hwy. 107.

The Highway Department forecasts daily traffic on that section of the loop in excess of 30,000 vehicles a day.
Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said Thursday that he would have preferred the northernmost route for sake of Jacksonville growth, but recognized it would be much more expensive.

Sherwood Mayor Dan Stedman says the new route is within the larger area previously designated as acceptable by the city council and that it does not conflict with the city’s master street plan.

In 2003, a different proposed route through Sherwood threatened homes, developments and neighborhoods, spawning a grassroots movement in the suburbs and the eventual rejection of that route by the city council, which refused to amend the street plan to accommodate the route.

Federal Highway funds in central Arkansas must pass through Metroplan, which requires any project to comply with the local master street plan.

Greg Chastine, one of the leaders of the 2003 suburban revolt, said this week that it sounded as if the new route would be acceptable to most area residents.

In addition to interchanges at Hwy. 667/167, Hwy. 107, Batesville Pike and I-40/I-430, the stretch of highway would include overpasses but no access at Oneida Drive in Jacksonville and Kellogg Acres Road in Sherwood.

The Highway Commission could make the decision to construct the missing link as a toll road. Then it would need a cost estimate, have an investment-grade toll study done, determine the location of the toll booths, the estimated traffic and then run an analysis to determine the optimum toll rate, according to David Nelms, spokesman for the state Highway Department.

If the numbers were favorable — and they were on an earlier feasibility study — then the commission could sell bonds to be paid off from toll proceeds, he said.

“We would not be (in favor of) a toll road,” said Stedman, “but if that’s the only way we can get the thing constructed, we may have to hold our noses. I think this project needs to be completed not only for Sherwood but for the entire county.”

Public hearings will be held 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 20 at the Church of the Nazarene, 9860 Brockington Road and March 21 at Cato Elementary School, 9906 Jacksonville Cato Road.

TOP STORY >>LRAFB to get new unit from Pope Air Base

Pope Air Force Base Public Affairs

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. – For 36 years, the 41st Airlift Squadron “Blackcats” have called Pope AFB home, but Friday’s realignment ceremony marked a new beginning as the unit heads to Little Rock AFB.

The 41st AS will stand up in Little Rock on April 5, under the command of Lt. Col. Dan Tulley. The current 41st AS commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Crimmins, noted that the realignment is the first tangible Base Realignment and Closure move for Pope. “This is just the first of many, and it should hit home that the moves are happening now,” he said.

He added that this realignment was originally scheduled to take place at a later date, but he received the call in August from Air Mobility Command, and the timeline was shortened.

The guidon transfer from Pope to Little Rock will not signal an immediate mass exodus of personnel.
About 90 of the current 41st AS personnel are deployed for a scheduled rotation as new members of the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

The remainder have been transferred to the 2nd Airlift Squadron here, awaiting their next assignment.
Crimmins said that when the time comes, most will probably receive orders to go somewhere other than Little Rock AFB.
He is among those deploying and said when his deployment ends, he will return to Pope and await Air Force instructions.
He took command less than a year ago with the assumption he would be in command for two years.

“This is bittersweet. The time has been too short, but I understand the need of the Air Force to move [the squadron] to Little Rock to pick up a new mission and new airplane,” said Crimmins.

He said that although his command has been brief, he is happy he will get to stay with his troops and command for another 120 days during the deployment.

During the ceremony, Col. Daryl Blan, 43rd Operations Group acting commander, briefly relayed some of the unit’s accomplishments.

He said the 41st AS has a proud history as the third oldest Air Force squadron, having been involved in every major campaign since its inception Feb. 18, 1942, and as one of the most highly decorated airlift squadrons in U.S. military history.
The unit began as a transport squadron, but soon became a troop carrier squadron, flying the C-47. The squadron later flew the C-119 Boxcar, and made the transition to the C-130 Hercules in 1957.

Col. Timothy Zadalis, 43rd Airlift Wing Commander, also addressed the crowd of about 200 veterans, family members, distinguished guests and the 41st navigators, pilots, copilots, load masters and crew chiefs, during a short speech at the ceremony. Several of the 41st AS prior commanders were in attendance.

“The previous commanders have built a legacy for the 41st...and their spirit lives on with the Blackcats,” he said during his speech.

That “spirit” will also physically live on, as each 41st AS commander’s names were painted on a Pope C-130E that will soon be retired to the boneyard in Ariz.
Blan said the 41st will add another chapter to its history by being the first Air Mobility Command active duty C-130J squadron.

The C-130J was added to the inventory in 1999, and is noticeably different than its precursors.
“There is fundamentally some-thing wrong with six blades on a prop,” joked Blan.

According to the BRAC Realignment Ceremony brochure, the C-130J was designed to outperform the subsequent models and boasts a Rolls Royce engine and six-bladed propellers.

Zadalis insisted, “It’s not the aircraft that’s the future, it’s the people. They will turn [the C-130J] into another air mobility legend.”

The climax happened toward the end of the ceremony as the personnel in formation were told to remove their Blackcat patches and replace them with their gaining unit patch; however, for a group photo with a C-130 as a backdrop, the Airmen were able to put the 41st AS patch back on.