Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SPORTS>>Owls succumb to ‘Cats with late mistake

Leader sportswriter

Abundant Life held on close for five innings, but a simple fielding error for the Owls in the bottom of the sixth against El Dorado Monday night led to a four-hit, four-run spree for the Wildcats that took a close 1-1 tie through five innings to a cushiony 5-1 advantage that held to become the game’s final margin.

“We had played them a good game up until that point,” Abundant Life coach Wes Johnson said. “We hit some balls right on the nose, they just wouldn’t go down. That error was just costly for us; it had been a good clean game by both teams.”
The error from shortstop to first would have been the third out for the Owls in the bottom of the sixth, but El Dorado ended up scoring on the mishap, and followed with four more hits and three more scores.

For Abundant Life pitcher Jake Chambers, the late momentum for the Wildcats meant watching a two-hitter fade, as the hits and runs mounted during El Dorado’s final turn.

Abundant Life’s only score in the game arrived in the third inning, when Thomas Graick RBI’d to score Justin Treece, who reached with a walk. Graick’s shutout-stopper was the only hit in the game for the Owls, as Wildcats pitcher Matthew Johnson took the win by striking out eight batters and allowing only the one hit.

Although Chambers took the loss for Abundant Life, his numbers were still very respectable, especially against a much larger opponent. Chambers gave up six hits and had five strikeouts. Four of the six hits occurred after the lethal error in the sixth, and only one of the five Wildcat runs was earned.

The loss moves Abundant Life’s overall record to 17-7 on the season, with the conference record remaining 4-1, only one game out of 3A-2 leaders Harding Academy.

At this point, the Owls have all but wrapped up at least the No. 2 seed for the upcoming 3A district tournament next week, with a legitimate shot at overtaking league-leading Harding Academy. Abundant Life only has to win one of its four remaining conference games to ensure a No. 2 seed for the bracket.

The Owls were scheduled to play at home against Brinkley on Tuesday, but the game was cancelled due to inclement weather. Abundant Life will be back in action tomorrow with a non-conference game at home against Central Arkansas Christian.

SPORTS>>Cabot loses to non-con Raiders

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers took a game off from conference play to face 5A powerhouse Nettleton on the road Monday evening. After dominating the first seven games of the 7A-Central league schedule, the Lady Panthers were shut down by Lady Raiders junior pitcher Shelby Wise in a 2-0 loss.

Wise threw a perfect game, allowing no hits or walks while striking out 10 batters. Cabot sophomore Cheri Barfield took the loss at the mound, but still put up impressive numbers of her own. Barfield gave up three hits while striking out nine batters, but the three hits for the Lady Raiders were enough to take the decision.

“It was a pitchers’ duel,” Lady Panthers coach Becky Steward said. “My kids had a hard time trying to figure out the umpire’s strike zone. We played well, but we’ve got to start getting hits.”

The Lady Panthers have enjoyed strong play at the plate since the start of their conference season in early March, but had little to savor on Monday. Wise, the All-Conference hurler for Nettleton has earned a reputation as one of the most consistent pitchers in the state. She lived up to that reputation against Cabot, shutting down a team that has already seen tough pitching in a number of league wins in the 7A-Central.

Nettleton put its first score up in the bottom of the second inning, when Marissa Cope Scored on a hit by Jordan Rupard. It was Cope that drove in the other Lady Raiders score in the bottom of the sixth when she got her second hit of the game to send home Brea Smith.

The loss puts the Lady Panthers’ overall record at 15-6, with their 7A-Central league record remaining a perfect 7-0 to lead the conference halfway through the schedule.

As of deadlines on Tuesday at noon, last night’s game with Conway was still on schedule, but more storms were moving into the area. The Lady Panther’s next 7A-Central contest will be on Thursday at Mt. Saint Mary.

The Leader would also like to make a correction that occurred in the Saturday sports section. The Cabot first baseman in the picture that ran on page four was senior Haley Dougan — not Jennifer Bock. The freshman Bock is a member of the Lady Panthers junior varsity program.

SPORTS>>Devils on two game streak

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils jumped on Oak Grove with one run in the first inning and never trailed Monday afternoon at Dupree Park. The Red Devils went on to win the non-conference game 9-1 to improve to 7-12 on the season.
On Friday the Red Devils beat JA Fair 7-2.

Jacksonville got just five hits, but took advantage of five Oak Grove errors to get the win Monday. The Red Devils took the lead on consecutive two-out base hits by Jason Regnas and Caleb Mitchell.

Jacksonville added three more in the second with a one-out rally. Sophomore Tommy Sanders was hit by a pitch, Blake Mattison singled and Travis Widsom reached on an error that scored Sanders. Cameron Hood then singled to drive in Mattison and Wisdom and give Jacksonville a 4-0 lead.

After Jacksonville pitcher Cleyton Fenton sat the Hornets down in order, Jacksonville made it 6-0 in the third. Mitchell hit a shot hard at Oak Grove’s third baseman, who was in tight and couldn’t hold on to the ball. Zach Thomas then doubled when he bounced one off the wall down the left field line to put runners on second and third. Terrell Brown and Sanders then got consecutive sacrifice grounders to shortstop to drive the two runners home.

Oak Grove got a runner on with one out in the top of the fourth inning. Fenton walked the Hornets’ James Erwin, but made up for the free base by picking off the runner before throwing a pitch to the next batter. Jason Lernigan then singled, but the next batter grounded out to second base to end the inning.

Jacksonville answered with two more runs in the bottom of the fourth, but had an opportunity for a huge inning. The Red Devils scored one run when Chris Noble, who had walked, stole two bases and scored on a groundball to short by Cameron Hood. The throw went home, but was high and not in time, and left Hood safe at second. Adam Ussery and Seth Tomboli then walked to load the bases wtih no outs, but Jacksonville got just one more run out of the situation. Caleb Mitchell hit a fly ball deep enough into left field to score Hood from third, but Zach Thomas struck out and Terrell Brown grounded out to the pitcher for outs two and three.

Oak Grove loaded thebases wtih two outs against relief pitcher Eric Berry in the fifth inning, but Berry got Oak Grove cleanup hitter Jason Lernigan to fly out to right field to end the threat with Jacksonville’s 8-0 lead still intact.

Jacksonville’s final run came in the sixth inning on a pair of errors at second base.

Oak Grove finally got on the board in the top of the seventh to set the final margin.

Fenton got the win on the mound. He threw four innings, gave up just one hit, struck out two and walked one.
Last Friday, the Red Devils scored four runs in the fourth inning to take control of a tight game against the War Eagles.
Jacksonville took the lead first with a run in the bottom of the second. Thomas doubled and scored two batters later on a sacrifice grounder by Mattison.

The Devils surrendered the lead in the top of the third, but took it back with two in the bottom of the same frame.
Hood singled and Adam Ussery walked to start the inning. Hood scored on an error at second base off the bat of Regnas. Mitchell drove Ussery home with a grounder to second base.

Jacksonville sealed in the fourth with a two-out rally. Mattison started things off with a single, but was held up there while the next two batters flew out and struck out. Hood then reached on an error at third that scored Mattison. Hood then stole second and third during Ussery’s at bat that ended in a free base. Regnas singled to score Hood and Mitchell finished the rally with a two-RBI base hit. Mitchell finished the game with two hits and three RBIs.

Jacksonville was scheduled to play 6A-East conference doubleheader last night at West Memphis. Look for details of that encounter in Saturday’s edition of The Leader. The Red Devils will also host Malvern Friday in the non-conference matchup.

EDITORIALS>>Beebe’s weak pen

Gov. Mike Beebe wielded his veto pen more infrequently than nearly every governor of modern times. He killed four relatively minor bills.

That could mean that he and others did a very good job of stanching the plentiful bad legislation while it was en route through the legislature or else he missed some things. We will have to see.

He deserves commendation for vetoing two local bills that clearly conflicted with the constitutional prohibition against local and special legislation: a dab of money reappropriated from 2005 for the Lake Village Fire Department and a larger sum to remodel a private facility in Siloam Springs for a cerebral palsy program. That will save Mike Wilson the trouble of suing to stop the misuse of tax funds.

We fear there are many other appropriations that violate the law but are better disguised as spending of statewide import. We entrust them to Wilson’s eagle eye.

It was Wilson’s lawsuit last year that focused the legislature’s and governor’s attention on the illegal spending. He has saved tens of millions of dollars for the schools and other needy state pursuits.

Beebe also vetoed a bill that would have allowed Forrest City and St. Francis County to issue public debt to build shopping centers and other commercial retail buildings. It has become popular to burden the taxpayers, even if only in theory, with the cost of helping private developers. This one was clearly illegal. The Constitution spells it out in black and white that you just cannot create public debt for shopping centers or anyplace “engaged in the sale of food or goods at retail.”

Beebe had said that he would veto any bill of any nature if he doubted its constitutionality. Good policy, governor.

EDITORIALS>>Bungling works out

Arkansas’s long nightmare is over — well, it was 10 days! — and the Razorbacks have a head basketball coach. While the coaching record of John Pelphrey at South Alabama is not spectacular (80-67 in a weak conference of directional schools) he seems to have the exuberance and charisma to be an outstanding coach. And he did play for Kentucky.

So we can all resume our natural lives with bare optimism that the basketball program may return to the heights it achieved in the ‘90s when for a half-dozen years Arkansas had the most successful college basketball program in America. It went to the Final Four three times, won a national championship, played again in the title game and dominated the biggest and toughest conference in the country — all without extraordinary talent.

There is bound to be some disappointment among the shrillest Razorback fans because Athletic Director Frank Broyles did not land a big-name coach with a top-tier record, which he had told people was his objective when he fired the easygoing and likable Stan Heath. None of them was interested. The appearance of disarray in the whole athletic program, which had earned national attention, no doubt was a factor in Broyles’ futile search for a coach (the university then turned to a management search firm in Atlanta). It had been barely more than two months since the university’s board of trustees quietly decided 8 to 2 that Broyles had to leave but graciously let him announce it on his own terms.

The bungled coaching search and the ensuing jokes and despair left the venerable athletic director slightly more tarnished, his vast record of achievement just a little frayed. His and the head football coach’s sparring with a bunch of Springdale parents left him a lot of unstinting enemies in the quarter where he could least stand them, northwest Arkansas.

But a popular basketball coach will correct those feelings, and John Pelphrey seems apt to fill the bill. No, his record is not as stellar as the records of his three predecessors. Eddie Sutton was 82-50 in five seasons at Creighton, Nolan Richardson a spectacular 119-37 in five years at Tulsa (including five postseason tournament bids and an NIT championship) and Stan Heath 30-6 in one season at Kent State. Broyles’ problem was not that he could not land good coaches but that his personal relations with them, always cool, usually turned sour. Sutton, Lou Holtz, Ken Hatfield, Jack Crowe and Richardson all left deeply embittered. Richardson, prone to defensiveness anyway, completely lost his cool and handed the AD the weapon with which to fire him.

Broyles seems to have tried harder since he fired Richardson. The death of his wife may have left him a tenderer man. His firing of Heath was not handled well (the chancellor had assured the coach that he was staying) but it was at least gracious and it had seemed that way from the start.

Pelphrey will have a chance to show his stuff this winter with the most talented and experienced team in the Southeastern Conference. We have a hunch that he will fill the bleachers once again, and we can only hope that he finds the magic that Richardson displayed for a few glorious years. We will be luckier if the new AD has Frank Broyles’ shrewdness and management genius and some interpersonal skills, too.

OBITUARIES >> 4-11-07

Anthony Chanicka

Tech. Sgt. Retired, Anthony “Tony” Chanicka, 52, of Ward went to be with our Lord on March 24 while visiting family and friends in Trinidad, the land of his birth.

Tony joined the Air Force shortly after his arrival in the U.S. and served proudly for 20 years. He retired in June 2000 from the 61st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, then joined the Falcon Jet team as a safety manager.

He leaves behind many friends and family both in the United States and in Trinidad. Although Tony can’t physically be with us, a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. April 14 at Ward First Baptist Church. Please join us as we pay our final respects to Tony.

David Goins

David Delbert Goins, 72, of North Little Rock passed away April 7.

He was born March 8, 1935 to the late Neal and Evelin Hall Goins in Belfield, N.D. From 1954 to 1956, David served in the Marines. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1960. He was a member of First United Methodist in Jacksonville and a member of the Masonic Lodge.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Joanne Goins and brother, Norman Goins.

He is survived by his wife, Ernestine Goins; children, Blane Goins of Little Rock and Derek Goins and his wife Kathi of Mesa, Ariz.; step-sons, J. Mark Hardin and his wife Debbie of Greenbriar and Joe D. Hardin and his wife Beth of Greensboro, N.C.; brothers, Neal Goins and his wife Barbara of Dardenelle and Hubert Goins and his wife Helen of Berryville; sister, Mary Ann Weldon and her husband Tom of Owassa; and seven grandchildren, Ciara and Justin Goins, Kelli Corda, Allen, Kristopher, Greyson, and Amanda Hardin.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 11 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. David Flemming officiating. Entombment will follow at Chapel Hill Mausoleum. Memorials may be made to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Douglas Standage

Douglas W. Standage, 84, of Jacksonville passed away April 7. He was born on Nov. 22, 1922 in Mountain Home to the late Tom Kerby and Rose Standage.

He is survived by his wife, Arta Standage of the home; brothers and sisters-in-law, John Kersey of Fort Smith, Bonnie L. Colness and her husband Dan of Jacksonville, Hazel Pepper of Georgia and Bobbie Strauser of Fort Smith; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

Graveside service will be 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 11 at Bayou Meto Cemetery with Danny Ketchum officiating.
Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Guthery Hall

Guthery K. Hall, 78, of Cabot passed away April 7. He was born in Boyle, Miss., to the late John and Mary (Goss) Hall.
He was a retired Air Force tech sergeant, serving for 21 years, and a retired businessman. He was a devoted husband and father.

He was preceded in death by five brothers, H. A., Eugene, Cecil, Elgy, and Arnold; and a sister, Lurlene (Sis) Cross.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Ramona Claudine (Graham) Hall; two daughters, Gina and husband Steve English of Florida, Debra and husband Gene Howell of Ward; a son, Gary Hall of Jacksonville; two brothers, Wayne Hall of Texas and Joe Hall of Little Rock; eight grandchildren, Dusty and Andrea Henrichs, Amber McCoy, Christopher Hall, Tausha Tripp, Brad Howell, Christopher Doughty, and Michael English; six great-grandchildren, and many loving relatives and friends.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 11, in the chapel of Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home in North Little Rock, with pastors Mark Martin and Gene Gilliam officiating. Burial will follow at Mt. Carmel cemetery in Cabot.

Harriette Smith

Harriette G. “Jeannie” Smith, 52, of Lonoke went to be with the Lord April 6 in North Little Rock. She was born Jan. 20, 1955 to the late Mrs. Stella E. L. Baxter in Holbrook, Ariz.

She was a member of Military Road Baptist Church in Jacksonville. One brother, Sonny, precedes her in death.
Survivors include her loving husband, Darrell E. Smith of the home; son, Jeremy S. Smith and wife Shantel of Lonoke; daughter, Wendi Marie Roberts and husband Bobby of Lonoke; father and mother-in-law, James Vernon and Doreen Smith of Lonoke; three sisters, Hedy, Shuree and Joyce; one brother, Bill; sister-in-law, Sharon Jones and husband Bill of Lonoke; nieces, Brenna Fitzgerald of Sherwood and Danya Jones of Little Rock; as well as two beautiful granddaughters, Lindsey and Emily Roberts.

Funeral services were April 10 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel.

Audrey Hickerson

Audrey Leona “Sunshine” Hickerson, 70, of Conway died April 7.
She was born on Dec. 8, 1936 to the late Wesley and Elma Andrews Parker in Carlisle. Sunshine was of Church of Christ faith and loved spending time at the Faulkner County Senior Citizens Center.

She was preceded in death by two sons, Dearl and Joey Brewer; her husband, Arthur Hickerson; and siblings, Charlie Parker and Ella Mae Agular.

She is survived by her children, Billy Parker and wife Cynthia of Conway, Rebecca Ingle and husband Adam of Carlisle, Joyce McCann of Carlisle and Gerald Brewer of Dallas, Texas; three sisters, Beatrice Kidd, Rosie Parker, and Dela Kay Allen; brother, Wesley Parker, Jr.; four grandchildren, Purity Ingram, Dearl Dewayne Brewer, Ashley Brewer, and Ronald McCann; and three great-grandchildren, Parker Ingram, and Jessie and Austin McCann.

The funeral service was April 10 under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Myra Wolf

Myra Wolf, 73, of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord April 7. She was born Oct. 25, 1933 to the late Robert and Gladys Sofford in Tuttle, Okla. Myra was a member of Bailey Street Church of Christ in Jacksonville.

Myra was preceded in death by her brother, Eugene Sofford. She is survived by her husband, Robert Wolf of the home; and a son, Kyle Wolf of Benton.

Funeral services were April 10 under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

TOP STORY >>Guardsmen heading back to Iraq

Leader staff writer

Soldiers from the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were alerted Friday and could face a possible one-year deployment after October 1 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The 2,800 soldiers of the 39th would deploy as part of 13,000 replacement forces currently operating in Iraq, joining National Guard brigade combat teams from Oklahoma, Indiana and Ohio.

All four units will deploy consistent with the Secretary of Defense’s new policy of mobilizing reserve- component units for a maximum of one year at any one time. The final determination of whether the units will deploy will be made based on conditions on the ground in Iraq.

“As with any alert, this does not necessarily mean that they will receive a mobilization order,” Major Gen. William Wofford, Arkansas adjutant general, said. “What it means is that we have been identified, and will probably be included in a mobilization order when it is published.”

Wofford said the projected mobilization date is in fiscal year 2008, which begins October 1. Of the 2,800 alerted, the number that will actually be deployed won’t be known until the orders come down.

According to Capt. Christopher Heathscott, public affairs officer for the Arkansas National Guard, 1,665 soldiers currently in the 39th have previously deployed, having returned from their first mission to Iraq in February 2005 after serving under the command of the 1st Cavalry Division during their 17-month deployment.

Approximately 40 soldiers with the Headquarters Battery of the 142nd Fires Brigade based in Fayetteville left today to begin mobilization training at Fort Sill, Okla., prior to deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While still at home, priorities for the 39th will be on soldier readiness processing – an inventory of equipment, getting medical and shot records updated, taking care of any legal service needs, and hearing a variety of mandatory briefings; individual training – like weapon qualifications; and meeting the warrior tasks.

“That allows them to focus on unit level collective training once they get there (the mobilization station),” Wofford said.
Col. Kendall Penn, commander of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said the possible mission is one the unit has been training for the past two years.

“It is a mission that we are capable of doing. They all volunteered for the Army National Guard, and they are willing to step forward and do their job and answer the call of duty that the nation has put out,” Penn said.

Two other units, the 871st (Troop Command) Headquarters Company from North Little Rock and the 213th Area Support Medical Company from North Little Rock and Dumas, received alert orders in October with potential mobilization later this summer.

If deployed, it will mark the first time in the Iraq War that full Guard units have been called on for a second tour of duty.
The Pentagon has made changes to its Reserve Force Management Policy by removing all the limitations on how often Guard and Reserve forces can be deployed.

The previous military policy allowed for members to have five years at home after a deployment before becoming eligible to deploy overseas again.

The 39th is Arkansas’ largest Guard unit with soldiers based in towns around the state. There are currently 1,500 Arkansas National Guard soldiers and airmen serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are expected home later this year.

TOP STORY >>Connector in Cabot to open on Monday

Leader staff writer

The $1 million road connecting Hwy. 5 to Wal-Mart in Cabot will open at noon Monday with a ribbon cutting at the $150,000 bridge paid for by the city.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said the county will be lined up on one side of the and city representatives will be on the other. And once the ribbon is cut, traffic will start flowing on the new road that will be called South Rockwood.

Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman started building the road using county workers in 2005. His appeal in 2006 for financial help from Cabot was rebuffed by then Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh who implied that Troutman would benefit personally from the new road. Troutman, who owns land on Hwy. 5, says he won’t benefit, but the city will because shoppers who have avoided downtown traffic in Cabot by going to Wal-Mart in Jacksonville will now be more inclined to shop at home in Cabot.

“It’s wonderful to have a relationship with the county because as individuals we can do a little but together we can do so much more,” Williams said about the 2.5 mile road that is the biggest county road project ever completed and the first new road built in many years to help get residents across town.

In addition to paying for the bridge, the city also gave the county $100,000 to help pay for paving the new road.
Williams said the county has agreed to help the city widen the intersection at Hwy. 89 and Rockwood where traffic backs up during morning and evening rush hours.

Actually, that project is a collaboration with the city providing the money, the county bringing in equipment and labor and the state contributing the design, Williams said. The widening of Hwy. 5 should be completed by mid summer but the intersection of Hwy. 5 and Hwy. 89 is completed now and the traffic lights are turned on.

Poor timing of lights has been a problem in Cabot that the city is working with the state to correct. But Williams said the new light seems to be working well. “Traffic is moving through smoothly,” he said.

Widening of Hwy. 5, which included installation of a traffic light, was already scheduled in March 2004 when three teenaged girls were killed there as they turned into the path of an 18-wheeler. The three girls, Alicia Rix, 16, of North Little Rock, Jae Lynn Russell, 16, of 8226 Centennial Road and Taylor Hall, 15, of 128 Almond Cove, Sherwood.

Rix and Hall were students at Sylvan Hills High School. Russell was transferring to Sylvan Hills from North Pulaski High School. According to the state police report, Russell, the driver, and Rix died on the scene.

Taylor was airlifted to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center where she died from her injuries.
The driver of the truck, Clayton Brown, 47, of 1691 Windchime, suffered minor injuries. Based on state police and witness reports, the girls were at a stop sign eastbound on Hwy. 89 when a pickup ahead of them pulled out onto Hwy. 5.

The girls followed and ended up in the path of Brown’s southbound truck. At the time of the accident the intersection was equipped with flashing caution lights and a stop sign, but no traffic signals.

TOP STORY >>Closing remarks set for Thursday

Leader senior staff writer

Seven weeks of testimony ended Tuesday, with closing arguments slated for Thursday in the sprawling drug, sex, theft and corruption trial of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly Campbell.

Actually, despite several days of testimony, recorded telephone calls and several witnesses in support of the allegation that Kelly Campbell had sex repeatedly with two Act 309 prison trustees at Lonoke, Special Judge John Cole dropped the sex charges when the prosecution ended its case last week. There is no current law against a civilian having sex with an inmate, and Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain charged the offense was supplying contraband.

McCastlain has charged the Campbells with participating in a continuing criminal enterprise, with Jay Campbell the alleged kingpin and his wife and bail bondsman Bobby Junior Cox as members of the enterprise. Jay Campbell, Cox and another bail bondsman, Larry Norwood, are also charged with conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine.

Kelly Campbell did not take the stand in her own behalf, but Jay Campbell testified that he didn’t believe his wife stole drugs, and despite hours of testimony, tapes and photographs of her embracing an inmate or sitting on an inmate’s lap, his hand on her rear, he didn’t believe she had had sex with him.

“I’m trying to get my family back in order,” said Campbell. “I’ve lost my job and I’m trying to make life easier for my children.”

Campbell testified Monday that he believed former Lonoke policeman Brandon Hampton twisted his testimony against his former chief because Hampton had been caught viewing pornography on the police computer late at night while on duty.
On Tuesday, Special Judge John Cole sent current Lonoke Police Chief Mike Williams back to Lonoke from the Cabot courtroom to bring a report and video tape intended to bolster Campbell’s charge that Hampton watched pornography on the job, was being investigated at the time he resigned and had an axe to grind with his chief.

Campbell spent about 12 hours on the stand Friday and Monday, where Patrick Benca, his lawyer, led him one-by-one through the charges against him.

Without further questioning by Benca, Campbell would give an explanation for each of the charges, often disputing testimony of prosecution witnesses.

He also was aggressively cross-examined by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Stuart Cearley. At times, both Cearley and Campbell spoke with an edge to his voice.

“I just want to be clear about this,” Cearley said several times, to which Campbell unfailingly responded, “I want you to be clear, sir.”

“I’ve been waiting a year and a half to tell my side of the story,” Jay Campbell said after testimony wrapped up.

The Campbells are each charged with about a dozen thefts of prescription medications, with Jay alleged to have visited with friends and neighbors while Kelly rummaged through medicine cabinets, kitchen cabinets and bedside tables for narcotics like hydrocodone.

Cox was being tried with the Campbells until about 10 days ago, when prosecution witness Ron “Bear” Tyler testified that the bail bondsman solicited him to kill McCastlain, witness and meth cook Ron Adams and to burn down the Lonoke County Courthouse and McCastlain’s home.

Cox’s attorney, John Wesley Hall, asked for and was granted a mistrial after that testimony, which was not in the presence of the jury.

Norwood’s trial already had severed from the others because he was not charged as a member of the continuing criminal enterprise. Former Pulaski County Sheriff Carroll Gravett testified Monday that Jay Campbell was an exemplary deputy when he worked for him. He said he promoted Campbell.

“If I was still (sheriff) he’d probably be chief deputy by now,” Gravett said. But the prosecution countered in rebuttal Tuesday by calling recently retired Pulaski County Sheriff Randy Johnson.

Johnson testified that he had fired Jay Campbell for violating several policies, including lack of respect for superiors and subordinates, failing to give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay and failure to conduct himself in a moral and ethical way.
Regarding charges that he improperly withdrew about $250 from the jail commissary fund, Campbell responded that he had borrowed money from the fund’s custodian, head dispatcher Lisa Marty, and had returned it.

Marty, called in rebuttal Tuesday, said she never loaned the chief money, that it came from the commissary fund and that he never paid it back.

Cox’s attorney, Hall, said Tuesday that jury instruction for the criminal enterprise charge alone could run dozens of pages.
Judge Cole is not done when this case is completed. He is also assigned to try the meth conspiracy cases against Cox and Norwood, which may include solicitation of murder, the state Police are investigating; of former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett, who is charged with a misdemeanor count of theft of services for work done by the Act 309 inmates and also of former dispatcher Amy Staley, who allegedly had sex with an inmate.

TOP STORY >>New lanes set to open

Leader staff writer

Within the next couple of weeks, northbound traffic on Hwy. 67/167 will shift onto the new pavement between McCain Boulevard and Wildwood, according to Dan Flowers, director of the state Highway and Transportation Department.

That should take some of the orange barrels and doglegs out of one of the most heavily traveled sections of highway in the state, but although a third lane is complete in that section each direction, the highway will remain two lanes each direction until the rest of the work is done to avoid bottlenecks and promote safety.

Until then, motorists should continue to expect the unexpected—lane shifts, slower speeds, sudden stops and workers and equipment close to traffic.

When the new Brookswood flyover is completed within a year, Warden and Landers roads will both be converted to one-way roads between Wildwood and Kiehl Avenues, he said. Once converted, that means that Landers Road will be one-way north from McCain Boulevard to Kiehl and Warden Road will be one-way south from Kiehl Avenue to McCain, according to Glenn Bollick, a Highway Department spokesman.

The Brookswood flyover will be similar to the one already in use yards shy of McCain Boulevard, which is a dedicated structure that allows southbound Warden Road traffic to come around to northbound Landers Road without getting involved with local traffic and signals at the already crowded McCain Boulevard, according to Bollick.

The Brookswood flyover, which currently hangs half completed over the northbound lanes of Hwy. 67/167, will allow the northbound traffic on Warden to come over the highway and join southbound traffic on Warden.

The highway carries about 70,000 vehicles a day, according to Jonathan Barnett, chairman of the state Highway and Transportation Committee.

The highway is also being widened from four lanes to six lanes. That work is finished so far from McCain to Wildwood, but the fifth and sixth lanes won’t be open until the entire stretch from I-40 to Redmond Road at Jacksonville is complete.

That section, finished in 2005 by Muskogee Bridge Company, was begun in November 2002. It cost $22.5 million and included the McCain flyover, a frontage road crossunder from the new Gander Mountain/Tractor Supply Company center and a dedicated lane at Wildwood to allow traffic to move from the northbound Landers frontage road to southbound Warden.
The construction currently underway includes six-laning 1.4 miles of Hwy. 67-167 from McCain Boulevard to I-40 and also 2.1 miles of the highway from Wildwood Avenue to Kiehl Avenue in Sherwood, Bollick said.

That project, which includes a new highway overpass at Kiehl opened just last week, is being constructed by Weaver-Baily Contractors of El Paso (White County) for $42.25 million and is slated for completion this summer. The old structure began coming down April 4.

The on and off ramps are currently being paved. After that, traffic on the northbound main lanes will shift to the new pavement and work will begin on the southbound lanes from Kiehl to Wildwood. Work currently beginning between Redmond Road and I- 440 is a separate project.

TOP STORY >>Council picks retired mayor to serve again

Leader staff writer

Former Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon is back at the helm again and plans to be there for a long time. In a specially called council meeting Tuesday evening to pick an interim mayor, aldermen took just 15 minutes in executive session to pick the person most in the fully packed chambers thought they would—Harmon.

Mayor Danny Stedman resigned April 5, just four months into the job, citing health reasons.

City Attorney Steve Cobb told the council and the hundred-plus residents attending the meeting that state law required the council to pick an interim mayor and set a date to elect a new mayor. He said because Stedman served less than six month of his four-year term, an interim mayor could not be appointed for the entire length of the term. He said city residents would have to elect a new mayor. The council set July 10 as the date and residents planning to run for mayor can start filing as candidates on Friday. The last day to file for candidacy will be noon, May 2.

Harmon, 80, who was Sherwood’s mayor from 1992 through 2006, didn’t run in the last election, citing that it was time to retire.

In accepting the interim post Tuesday, Harmon said he had been retired “long enough” and was ready to get back to work for the city. Sherwood District Judge Butch Hale swore Harmon in Tuesday evening.

Harmon also said that he planned to run in the special election “and maybe this time my son can vote for me.” His son, Alderman Charlie Harmon, abstained during the council’s roll call vote for Harmon as interim.

Resident Tom Brooks already had a “re-elect Bill Harmon” placard on his car parked outside the city hall.
But Harmon isn’t the only one planning to run for mayor.

City Clerk Virginia Hillman says she plans to file first thing Friday morning. “I’m ready and know I would do a good job,” she said.

A number of other names came up Tuesday as possible candidates. If the field grows large, that increases the chances of a runoff. The special-election will cost about $10,000, and a subsequent runoff slightly less. Stedman, 58, announced his immediate resignation in an April 5 letter to the council.

“With the strong recommendation of my doctor, the demands of my wife, family and close friends, I resign from the position of mayor,” Stedman’s letter stated. Stedman butted heads in February over a department head hiring and was soundly chastised by the council. He’s also been working hard with council members and others to determine what options the city has in the pending sale of the North Hills Country Club for residential development.

Shortly after a meeting over the golf course issue March 28, Stedman was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, missing the council meeting that night. He was hospitalized overnight for tests and observation. Doctors said he did not suffer a heart attack.

“I deeply appreciate my friends and supporters,” the mayor said in his resignation letter, “for their steadfast backing, however; in the final analysis, my health, the health off my wife, a two time cancer survivor, must be my number one priority.”

Before his resignation Stedman did sign a contract with W.P.D. Golf Management out of Horseshoe Bay, Texas, to perform a feasibility study of the North Hills Country Club to see if city operation of the course is a realistic option. The 100-acre facility has supposedly been sold to a group of developers who want to turn the acreage into a high-end residential community.

This wasn’t the first time in Sherwood’s history that the city has had an interim mayor. When longtime Mayor Jack Evans died in office in 1991, the council appointed the city’s human resource director Brent Chambers to the post and set a date for a special election.

Alderman Becki Vassar, who was on the council at the time, said the council was divided on a choice for interim mayor; when Chambers’ name was brought up it solved the dilemma. “Everyone liked Brent,” Vassar recalled.
Then-alderman Bill Harmon won that special election.

Stedman, himself, was originally appointed to the council when Alderman Brad Holmes moved out of the ward. Stedman then won reelection to the council seat before running for mayor.

TOP STORY >>FBI investigates former Cabot mayor

Leader staff writer

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the administration of former Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh for possible contract irregularities.

Although Steve Frazier, the special agent in the Little Rock FBI bureau who deals with the media, would neither confirm nor deny the investigation, reliable sources say the agency took possession of the former mayor’s computer and the computer used by former Public Works Director Jim Towe as well as the 2003 and 2004 general fund bank statements and the 2003 bank statements for the water department.

Both computers and the general fund bank statements have been returned, sources say. The water and wastewater statements have not been returned. The investigation is said to include an Arkansas engineering firm that was once affiliated with an Alabama-based firm whose top officials have been convicted of bribery and other charges.

Contacted Tuesday, Stumbaugh, who now works for the garbage company reportedly included in the investigation, said he had no knowledge of the probe and insisted that if the FBI did not acknowledge the investigation, it did not exist. Stumbaugh maintains that he spent his four years in office doing the best he could for Cabot.

“Every dime I spent was authorized by the city council and the budgetary process,” he said. Frazier, while not acknowledging an investigation, said the bureau doesn’t talk about ongoing investigations in part because of the risk of unnecessarily tarnishing the reputations of those who have done nothing illegal.

Stumbaugh’s four-year term in office that ended in 2006 was tumultuous. He was often at odds with the council. Former Alderman Odis Waymack especially questioned his spending practices and openly accused him of illegally funneling money from the water department to pay expenses in other departments.

Waymack also believed that Stumbaugh allowed a portable toilet company to illegally dump chemical-laden wastes at the sewer treatment plant that had the potential to hinder the treatment process. Former Alderman James Glenn, who is off the council now after more than 20 years because he ran for mayor instead, said he learned about the FBI investigation “through the grapevine about two months ago.”

Glenn said in the four years he served with Stumbaugh, he was uncomfortable at times with the way the former mayor ran his office, but never more than in July 2006, when it was time to award a contract for garbage and trash collection.

The contract was awarded to IESI, which held the existing contract, over the objections of several council members, who said the bidding was unfair.

Jerry Lester with L&L Services, which had the contract before IESI, complained to the council in July that the contract was bid twice and IESI didn’t bid the first time.

Stumbaugh told Lester the first bids were thrown out because they were all too high. IESI didn’t bid the first time because the company didn’t receive the notice it needed to, he said.

But Lester said IESI had an advantage over the others because it got to see what the other companies bid and could bid lower to win the contract.

“I feel like I’ve been dealt a bad hand,” Lester told the mayor and council. IESI’s successful bid raised garbage and trash rates in Cabot from $11.70 to $16.45.

Lester’s first bid was $18.45 but his second was $17.90, just $1.45 more than IESI’s. Stumbaugh pointed out as evidence that he was correct in throwing out all bids to try to get the cost down for city residents.

Glenn said he was unaware the first bids had been thrown out until the second bids were in and it was time for the council to award the contract.

“I was really concerned about the bidding,” Glenn said this week. “I think the FBI should follow through to see if there is anything there. I just didn’t think it was right to re-bid it.”

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who served on the council before Stumbaugh was elected, said Tuesday that he was not comfortable talking about the investigation. “I’d really rather not comment,” Williams said.

The investigation also likely includes the city’s contracts for water and sewer projects with USI-Arkansas, an engineering firm that started in 2001 as a satellite of USI, the Alabama-based engineering firm that was investigated by the FBI for more than four years before two high-ranking officials, President Sohan P. Singh and vice president Edward T. Key, were convicted in federal court late in 2006 on bribery and other charges.

In mid-February, a Jefferson County, Ala., commissioner in charge of county environmental services pleaded guilty to taking bribes totaling $140,000 from agents of USI, which received more than $50 million in engineering contracts for a sewer plant there.

USI-Arkansas President Charles Nickle said Tuesday that he was unaware of the FBI investigation. Nickle said his firm broke away from the one in Alabama in 2002, just a year after it opened.

All he knows about the troubles of the parent company is what he reads in the newspaper, he said.

The Cabot Water and Waste-water Commission took over the city’s utilities after the contract to improve the city’s water systems was awarded to USI-Arkansas, but in 2005, the commission gave that firm the contract for the $16 million sewer plant that is currently under construction and is expected to be completed on time.

Bill Cypert, Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission secretary, said this week that as director of public works, Towe sought the requests for qualifications that were submitted by the engineering firms competing for the project.

“I think the process was fair and equitable and I didn’t feel pressured,” Cypert said. “I remember thinking (USI-Arkansas) was the best for the job.”

He said Waymack first made him aware that the firm the commission had chosen was charging more than is customary.
Cypert also said he researched and found no connection between USI-Arkansas and the firm that would later be convicted of bribery.

But he did find that most engineering firms charge 8 or 10 percent of the total cost of a project, while USI-Arkansas charged Cabot 11 or 12 percent. Waymack said the fee was actually 12.81 percent.

“Never before had we paid that kind of price for engineering,” Waymack said. “They overcharged us.”

Nickle said the industry standard for engineering fees is 10-15 percent, depending upon the complexity of the job. The Cabot wastewater plant has many parts so the engineering fee is not out of line, he said.

Cypert said that while he believes Cabot is “paying a premium” for the services of USI-Arkansas, the firm is meeting the commission’s expectations.

Stumbaugh said Tuesday that he learned about USI-Arkansas’ past connection to USI and the FBI investigation into USI only after the city had signed contracts with USI-Arkansas.

Monday, April 09, 2007

SPORTS >>Lady Panthers dispose of Russellville

Leader sportswriter

It only took five innings for the conference-leading Lady Panthers to dispose of Russellville on Thursday at the Conrade Sports Complex. Cabot watched the Lady Cyclones jump out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but would come back to control the remainder of the contest.

The bottom of the fifth would end the game without Russellville getting the chance to answer six Cabot runs in the frame that took an already-respectable 6-2 lead to a 12-2 rout that activated the run rule.

The Lady Cyclones led 1-0 after one, but it would not last very long, as the Lady Panthers went on a hitting spree in the bottom of the second. Becca Bakalekos started things off in the second with single, followed by another single by Crystal Cox. Both of those runs would score when senior Haley Dougan’s hit produced an error from Russellville to hand Cabot the lead for the first and only time.

Jamie Sterrenberg drove in Dougan with a double, and she was scored on a triple for freshman Jennifer Bock. Bock would score the final run of the inning when the Lady Cyclones gave up their second error of the frame, this time on a hit by Jessica Lanier.

The score remained the same through the third and fourth innings, until Russellville added a run in the top of the fifth. A single that made its way past Cabot third baseman Aston Seidl brought in the Lady Cyclones’ final score of the game, but the Lady Panthers were only getting started in the runs department.

Cox led off for Cabot in the decisive fifth inning, but took a K at the hands of the Lady Cyclones’ hurler. Dougan followed with an infield hit to second base, and a single for Sterrenberg turned into yet another Russellville error which allowed the senior shortstop to take two bases, as Dougan advanced to third.

A second error scored Dougan to give Bock an RBI, and a fielder’s choice hit by Rachel Glover was thwarted with some expert running by Sterrenberg. She was caught between third and the plate, but led the catcher almost all the way back to third, beating the throw to avoid the out. Both runners would score one batter later when Lanier launched the ball into left center field for a double. That would give the Lady Panthers a 10-2 lead with only one out.

Seidl scored Lanier on a single to center, and then took the final score of the game when a hit by Bakalekos resulted in an error at second by the Lady Cyclones.

The win improves the Lady Panthers’ records to 15-5 overall and 5-2 in the 7A-Central Conference. Cabot took on Nettleton last night on the road in non-conference play, and will return to league action against Conway at home on Tuesday.

SPORTS >>Cabot beats Cyclone 10-4

IN SHORT: The Panthers started out slow, but started generating runs in the third inning, topping 7A-Central Conference rival Russellville on Thursday.

Leader staffwriter

Both teams’ bats swung impressively in the middle of the game, but the Panthers’ were more consistent, as Cabot went on for a 10-4 win against Russellville in a 7A-Central Conference matchup Thursday evening at the Conrade Sports Complex.

The Cyclones led the first two frames after a first inning run put them on the scoreboard first. It may have taken a little while for Cabot to get things going offensively, but once they did, they racked up five runs in the bottom of the third to take control, adding three scores in the fourth inning, and two more for insurance in the bottom of the sixth.

Panthers coach Jay Fitch was happy with the team’s performance on the night, but is looking for more batting consistency in the early stages.

“They seem nervous the first time through the lineup,” Fitch said. “We’ve ended up with eight or nine runs the last few games, even though we come out of the gates slow. We had a couple of big innings, but we are still struggling with our base running.”

Colin Fuller and Sean Clarkson shared duties at the mound on Tuesday, with Fuller starting for the first four innings before Clarkson relieved him to start the fifth.

It wasn’t hits that got things started out for Cabot in the bottom of the third, but rather three Russellville errors that allowed Fuller and Drew Burks to reach. A walk for Sam Bates loaded the bases with only one out, and another walk for third baseman Jonathon Parker forced Fuller in for the first score.

Another error on a hit by Logan Lucas drove in Burks and Bates, followed by a single by Justin Free that scored Parker and Lucas to make it 5-1.

DH Matthew Turner ap-peared to have another hit for the Panthers when he cranked it into the hole between left and center, but Russellville made a great play to rob Turner with the catch for the third out.

The Panthers added three more runs in the fourth with an RBI for Burks that drove in Shayne Burgan and kept the bases loaded following a single for Fuller.

The Cyclones didn’t lie down, however.

They came right back in the top of the fifth for two more scores off a double by Cory Baxley that cut Cabot’s advantage to 8-4, but it would be as close as they would come.

Cabot added its final two scores in the sixth by taking advantage of yet another Russellville error to score Baker on a hit by Free, with Lucas tapping up for the final run of the game on a sacrifice fly.

The stats for Cabot broke down very evenly, with every batter with the exception of Burgan and centerfielder Cory Wade recording a hit.

Fuller, Bates, Lucas, Free and Turner all ended up 1 for 3, with Burks and Parker finishing 1 for 2. Lucas and Free led in RBIs with three each.

The Panthers finished with seven total hits, but the six errors from Russellville told the biggest story.

The Cyclones finished with four hits and received one error from Cabot.

Fuller and Clarkson combined for nine strikeouts, with six of those going to Fuller.

Cabot will take on Conway Tuesday at home.

SPORTS >>Jacksonville falls to Searcy

IN SHORT: The Lions dominated the Red Devils in two 6A-East Conference matchups on Tuesday night at the newly-opened Fletcher Sullards Annex.

Leader sportswriter

Searcy’s Easton Valentine showed little love to Red Devils on Tuesday evening at the Fletcher Sullards sports Annex on the campus of SHS. The senior shortstop held a clinic against four different Jacksonville pitchers, going a perfect 6 for 6, including a pair of home runs in the opening game, and two doubles in the nightcap during the Lions’ 22-1 and 17-2 twin 6A-East shellackings.

In all, Valentine drove in nine runs during the course of the evening, leading the Red Devils to have a revolving door at the pitcher’s mound.

Not even a delay for rain storms in the middle of game two could slow Searcy’s momentum, as the Lions took a 10-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning when the storms hit to add seven more scores during what was literally Jacksonville’s longest night of the season.

The first game started out promisingly enough for the Devils, with Adam Ussery singling from the two-hole in the top of the first, followed by a single for Jason Regnas. The two advanced on an error for Zach Thomas to load the bases. Hopes of an early score went away for Jacksonville when Terrell Brown hit into a fielder’s choice with two outs, leaving three potential scores on at the end of the turn.

Starting Jacksonville pitcher Jordan Payer started with a strikeout on Lion lead-off Adam Robertson, but a walk for following batter Kyle Taylor was the first step of a disastrous opening inning, as Valentine would come from fifth in the lineup to knock his first of two blasts over the right field wall.

After a steady stretching of the score in the opening three frames, the Lions would deliver the coup de grace in the bottom of the fourth, with nine runs to increase their already stout 13-1 lead to a 22-1 advantage, leaving Jacksonville with only the prospect of a better showing in the nightcap.

Although the Red Devils came in to Tuesday’s games with only a 1-5 conference record, they have played very competitively in the 6A-East, with a near-upset over second-place Jonesboro last week.

While the Lions were the clear favorites, the lop-sidedness of the entire evening was somewhat of a shock, as Searcy took both decisions in five innings.

Starting Searcy pitcher Kyle Taylor sent Jacksonville three up and three down in the top of the second, but Caleb Mitchell was able to generate the Devils’ only score in the opener when he singled to drive in Ussery in the top of the third. Jacksonville grabbed three of its total six hits in the frame, with a single for Regnas, who was left on when a fly to first from Brown retired the side. Taylor took the win in four innings, as Anthony Dillon closed for Searcy by sending Ussery, Regnas and Mitchell away 1-2-3.

It was more of the same in game two. Searcy started things off as the visitors, scoring five runs off of starting pitcher Regnas, and adding one more in the second and two in the third before another late-game runaway ran the score up once again.

With the Red Devils using five of their pitchers in the opener, Regnas was forced to go the distance against the hit-happy Lions in game two. The most disastrous inning for the Devil hurlers occurred during inning four of the opener, as sub Eric Berry gave way to Brown after the first Lions’ score of the frame. Brown’s luck wasn’t any better, as he watched four hits go by to result in six quick scores. Thomas came from behind the plate to the mound at that point, but gave up a two-run home run to Andy Garlington, followed by two more singles before he was finally able to strike out Anthony Dillon and Justin Wayne.

The losses give Jacksonville a 5-12 overall record and 1-7 record in the 6A-East. Searcy improved to 15-3 overall and 6-2 in conference, moving in to take second in the standings over Jonesboro.

Jacksonville played Little Rock Fair at home last night after Leader deadlines, and will return to action in another non-conference matchup against Oak Grove Monday.

OBITUARIES >> 04-07-07

Kevin Wick
Kevin Lyle Wick, 43, of Jacksonville, passed away April 3.

He was born April 16, 1963 in Worthington, Minn. to Louis and Sharron Wick.

He was preceded in death by his brother Ron Wick.

Survivors include his wife Frances Wick of the home; three children, Steven Naquin of Monticello, Kynda and Kasey Wick of the home; parents, Louis and Sharron Wick of Aurora, Mo., and two sisters, Leona Karaman of Jacksonville and Kelly Powell of Little Rock.

He will be dearly missed by his loved ones, friends and all those who knew him.

Memorial services were April 6 at Christ Worship Center in Cabot.

Cremation arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

EVENTS>>Spring 2007

During April’s annual observance of Child Abuse Awareness Month, the Wade Knox Child Advocacy Center, Open Arms Shelter and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Lonoke County will host a Blue Ribbon Lunch to raise the public’s awareness concerning child abuse. The lunch will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12 on the lawn of the Lonoke County Courthouse. The public is invited.

There will be two AARP driver safety programs offered in April.  The first will be 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 18  at First Arkansas Bank and Trust, 600 W. Main Street, in Jacksonville. Call 985-4068 to register for this daytime class. The second will be 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, April 19 at the Rebsamen Medical Center Health Education Building. To register for the evening class call 988-4844 or 988-4553. The cost is $10 per person.  

Jacksonville High School Athletic Booster Club will meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 23 at the field house. We will be discussing the All Sports Banquet and electing new officers. For more information please contact Coach Wilson at 982-2128.

Lonoke Community Center will sponsor wellness screening, exercise programs, diabetes control, and presentations on healthy aging from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 25. Participants will enjoy a free lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Be sure to RSVP for lunch by calling 501-676-4390 or stop by the Lonoke Community Center check-in desk.

Southbend Firefighters Asso-ciation will have its monthly free family breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. April 14 at Station 1 located at 4414 Hwy. 294 in Jacksonville. This is free but donations will be accepted. There will be a $200 VISA gift card given away at the April breakfast. Contact any member of the association or come to the breakfast for details.

A cholesterol and blood sugar screening is scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, April 14 at First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville. The screening is free and open to the public. Tests will be done by Rebsamen Home Health nurses. It is necessary to fast for two hours prior to the blood sugar testing. Drinking water, black coffee, or diet cola is okay. For more information, call 982-0588.

Arkansas State University-Beebe will offer beginning photography beginning April 17.
Beginning photography will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday through May 22 in room 117, University Center on the Beebe campus. For more information, call 501-882-8232.

There will be an exploratory meeting for those interested persons who want to help develop a Cabot Christmas parade for 2007. The meeting will be at held at noon Thursday, April 12 at the Veterans Park Community Center in Cabot. For more information, call 501-920-2122.

EDITORIALS>>Rethinking TIF laws

If we can depend upon the Arkansas Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution rigorously as it has so consistently in recent years, the threat to the public schools from development interests will soon end. TIFs — tax-increment-financing districts — will be fundamentally unworkable.

The court took up the first lawsuit arising from the TIF laws Thursday and attorneys for TIF proponents made their best case that property taxes voted for the schools can be spent instead to spur commercial development.

It seemed weak to us and we think we detected skepticism by the justices, too. We know that it is dangerous to guess an appellate court’s final judgment based on the judges’ demeanor in oral arguments.

Fayetteville proposes to use school taxes — specifically the increase in taxes from the growth in real estate values — to retire bonds that will redevelop the old Mountain Inn property in downtown Fayetteville.

Other TIF projects are springing up in prosperous cities all over Arkansas, including two in North Little Rock: a giant shopping center in Dark Hollow and a residential development in the lower Baring Cross neighborhood.

If all are successful they will be a huge drain on school budgets for years to come. Every school in Arkansas will be affected by every single TIF redevelopment project in Arkansas whether it is in that school’s town or not.

Permit a little background on this hopelessly complicated issue. Arkansas voters in 2000 ratified Amendment 78 to the Constitution after a low-key campaign in which the measure was sold as a way to allow cities and counties for the first time to undertake short-term debt (up to five years) to buy heavy equipment and the like.

Indeed, the amendment did do that, but its major purpose was to allow cities and counties to help pay for commercial redevelopment through something called tax-increment financing, or TIF.

The idea has been around in a few other states for years as a way to restore badly blighted areas. (In fact, areas using TIF do not have to be blighted. You can use them to spruce up the country club.)

Instead of levying a tax to pay for the improvements, the city or county would create a special district, issue bonds and pledge to retire them by skimming off the annual increase in net real estate taxes collected thereafter in the district.
It would mean that the annual revenue from school, city, county and special taxes levied in the district would be frozen for those local governments until the bonds were retired in 20 to 30 years.

But here’s the complication: Amendment 74, adopted in 1994, designates 25 mills of school taxes in every Arkansas school district as state taxes.

The receipts are remitted to the state government and then redistributed among all the schools in Arkansas by a formula that is supposed to help even the score between rich and poor schools.

The effect of a TIF district then will be to take a little money from every school district in Arkansas rather than from only the local school district where the TIF project will be.

So a commercial development in Jonesboro that uses tax-increment financing takes a little money away from, say, the desperately poor Marvell School District, which could use a little commercial development of its own. And from the Pulaski County Special School District.

Since the 25 mills are now a state tax and not a local property tax, Amendment 78 and its TIFs cannot apply to that levy, at least in our layman’s opinion.

If a TIF district cannot use revenue increases from the 25 mills it has precious little remaining, perhaps 10 to 15 mills. That is not enough to retire much debt.

So Fayetteville’s attorney argued that Amendment 78 altered Amendment 74 and should be interpreted to apply to the 25-mill school base and not just the remainder.

But nowhere in Amendment 78 does it say that it amends Amendment 74; it does identify other parts of the Constitution that it changes.

“You are at the realm now of repeal by implication, are you not?” asked Justice Robert L. Brown. The lawyer responded yes but that this was the standard way that laws were interpreted.

The Supreme Court has ruled otherwise in the past. When you make a sweeping change in constitutional law like Amendment 78 does it ought to be specific about how it changes it and exactly which parts of the Constitution are going to be changed.
Voters in 2000 could not possibly have known that they were authorizing a wholesale transfer of school monies that they had voted to commercial interests.

As Rudy Moore Jr., the attorney for Fayetteville public schools, observed, the justices have another incentive to interpret the Constitution strictly.

It has insisted since the fall of 2002 that the legislature and the governor abide by the Constitution’s mandate to provide a good and equal education to all children.

The 2007 legislature, just adjourned, labored mightily to finally fulfill that mandate.

Rubber-stamping the TIF diversion of school revenues would obstruct the very goal that the justices have so courageously asserted for so long and for which they have endured so much criticism.

TOP STORY >>City votes to close crossing

IN SHORT: Despite voices of opposition, aldermen voted to abandon the right-of-way, which will allow trains to stop blowing their horns at abandoned street.

Leader staff writer

After 30 minutes of residents asking the city to take another look, to talk to railroad officials and to give the people on “the other side of the tracks” an option, the Jacksonville City Council turned a deaf ear and in three quick rounds of voting approved abandoning the right-of-way for the closed railroad crossing at Graham Road.

Only Alderman Terry Sansing voted against the abandonment.

If you vote against this ordinance,” Mayor Tommy Swaim said, “the next vote will be how to find money to pay back the cost of the overpass.”

Swaim explained that the city received more than $3 million in federal funding because the overpass was needed for safety and as part of the requirement to build the overpass, the Graham Road crossing had to be closed. “It was not your tax money, it was federal funds,” the mayor said.

Swaim said if the city opened the crossing up it could be asked to pay back the federal funds. “Our hands have been tied since the agreement was signed years ago,” he said.

Mayor Tommy Swaim said many residents in the area have complained about the whistles and the railroad has made an official request to close the crossing. However workers in businesses near the tracks rarely hear the trains blowing any whistles while going through the crossing.

None of the more than two dozen residents attending the council meeting supported the idea of abandoning the crossing, nor complained about the train whistles.

Many residents from the Graham Road area and the Sunnyside Addition asked the council to maintain the right-of-way and to even open the crossing back up.

“With the overpass, you’ve got to get around your elbow to get to your thumb,” said resident Jeannie Spivey.

“What we would like is an option,” said Celeste Williams, a 23-year military veteran who chose to retire in Jacksonville.

She said if the crossing were open people would use it instead of the overpass when the students are coming to or leaving Jacksonville Elementary, which is located right next to the overpass. “And if a train is coming, then we would use the overpass. We should be able to choose,” she said.

Spivey asked, “There were two crossings before, why can’t there be two now?”

The mayor said the crossings were too close and the railroad would not allow it because of safety. All the residents who spoke said they felt they were living on “the other side of the tracks.”

“We do feel like outcasts,” said Thomas Washington.

“We don’t matter anymore,” said Carol Calhoun. She and her husband own Calhoun’s electric and body repair shop on Graham Road within walking distance of the closed crossing. “We’ve been broken into three times, there’s graffiti on the walls, the Laundromat, fish market and store have all closed. It’s a dark hollow all because of the overpass,” Calhoun said.

One resident told the council, “I don’t think anyone can deny that this has had a negative impact on the neighborhood. Surely some federal, state or outside agency could come in and do an impact study.”

Alderman Gary Fletcher spoke of concerns, but still voted to approve the abandonment. “I’m surprised that I’ve seen no growth. It is a dark spot and the city needs to address it.”

Sansing, who has always voted against closing the crossing, agreed that drivers should have a choice of routes. “If we give up the right- of-way, we’ll probably never get it back. We’ll have taken away a choice, an option, for the future.”
“Don’t give away the future,” he told fellow aldermen.

In other council business:
n The aldermen set a public hearing for 7:10 p.m., April 19 to discuss a proposed multi-purpose improvement district for Legacy Center, a planned development by the Dupree family for their bean field lands between exit 6 and 8 off highway 67/167.

n The council approved changes to the city’s master land use map. The map is used to help commissioners determine if rezoning requests blend in with the long-range plans of the city. The map shows which areas of the city should be residential, commercial and industrial.

At their monthly meeting in March, commissioners voted to make West Main Street from Marshall Road to Shady Lane and land just to the north and south of Main Street a mixed development area of commercial and industrial. Currently the map shows the area strictly as industrial. “This will give us more flexibility and opportunity to develop the area,” explained City Engineer Jay Whisker.

A portion of Main Street in the downtown area is also a mixed development area, but of commercial and residential. “We did this to allow buildings to have businesses on the bottom floor or in front and residences upstairs or in the back,” Whisker said.

Commissioners voted to change a portion of land surrounding Swift Drive from industrial to commercial.

TOP STORY >>Cabot will build new junior high on burned site

IN SHORT: A $5.2 million state payment will be added to $10 million in insurance money to rebuild burned school in Cabot district.

Leader staff writer

Cabot’s new chief of schools won’t have to worry about whether the district will be able to rebuild Cabot Junior High North as Superintendent Dr. Frank Holman has tied up that loose end.

Holman announced Wed-nesday during a meeting of the school board’s building and grounds committee that the state’s Facilities Division had agreed to approve the district’s catastrophic funding request in the amount of $5.2 million.
“They agreed to everything we asked them to do,” Holman told the board amidst a round of applause.

The total projected cost to rebuild CJHN, lost to a fire in August, is $18.5 million. The estimated cost for the district will be about $3 million after applying the $10 million they got in January from Great American Insurance Company of Ohio, the district’s insurance company.

With the catastrophic program, the district’s share of construction costs is calculated using the wealth index – a 60/40 cost share between the state and the district.

To break it down, deduct the $10 million insurance settlement from the projected total of $18.5 million.
The state will then pay 60 percent of the $8.5 million balance, making the state’s share $5.2 million and the Cabot School District’s about $3 million.

“This morning was the first time I didn’t wake up thinking about this in eight months,” Holman said Wednesday.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the new CJHN will be built back on the hill with facilities capable of holding 1,200 students.

“We’re replacing the spaces we lost to larger sizes,” Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent, said.
The new campus will be over 120,000 square feet, adding an additional 19,000 square feet, Dalton said, giving the district flexibility if grade configurations are ever changed.

It will meet all new building codes and standards. It will have a sprinkler system. It will have 850- square-foot classrooms, meet the indoor air quality standards, and have a larger area for the cafeteria.

“We have our architect working on the design and anticipate opening bids in July,” Holman said.
Construction is estimated to take between 18 and 24 months.

The state also approved the district rebuilding CJHN in a different design utilizing current parking and buildings.
The vocational building, multi-purpose building and physical education building were left intact after the Aug. 10 fire that destroyed the rest of the campus.

The state will also reimburse the district 60 percent of the cost of demolition; the district will get that money back when the demolition bill of $171,838 is sent to the Facilities Division.

Great American Insurance Co. and the district completed negotiations in February for a final settlement amount of $12,069,000 for the eight-year-old, $9 million Junior High North that burned to the ground following the Aug. 10 fire that was ignited by a faulty light fixture.

The displaced students have attended classes all year in trailers set up between the tennis courts and the CJHN gym. It is costing the district $40,000 per month to rent the more than 30 trailers used to house the students.

Items also discussed during the buildings and ground committee meeting include:
n the possibility of needing a ninth elementary school within three years once the Hwy. 5 development is complete.

n leasing space in the old Community Bank building from the city to hold the CHS Museum and either the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) or the Alternative Learning Environment (ALE) or possibly both, and

n possibilities on how to eliminate as many portable buildings as possible from CJHN – public meetings will be held before school is out to brainstorm ideas.

TOP STORY >>Aldermen will decide on interim

IN SHORT: Mayor Danny Stedman resigns four months into his four-year term, citing health reasons.

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council will pick an interim mayor Tuesday night and set a date for a special election to elect a mayor to serve the remainder of Danny Stedman’s term.

Stedman, 58, announced his immediate resignation Thursday citing health reasons.

“With the strong recommendation of my doctor, the demands of my wife, family and close friends, I resign from the position of mayor,” Stedman’s April 5 letter stated.

Stedman butted heads in Feb-ruary over a department head hiring and was soundly chastised by the council. He’s also been working hard with council members and others to determine what options the city has in the pending sale of the North Hills Country Club for residential development.

Shortly after a meeting over the golf course issue March 28, Stedman was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, missing the council meeting that night.

He was hospitalized overnight for tests and observation. Doctors said he did not suffer a heart attack.
“I deeply appreciate my friends and supporters,” the mayor said in his resignation letter, “for their steadfast backing, however; in the final analysis, my health, the health off my wife, a two-time cancer survivor, must be my number one priority.”

Julann Carney, a Sherwood resident, called Stedman’s resignation a truly sad event. “All that Sherwood could have become is now diminished with Mayor Stedman’s departure. The aldermen should feel ashamed that their actions contributed to his early departure. At each turn in the map of progress that the mayor laid out, each alderman put up roadblocks. Mayor Stedman was not given the opportunity to serve with the mandate of the people because of petty politics.

“I respect his decision to resign due to health concerns. But he would have never had the stress reach stratospheric levels had the council worked with him in good faith,” Carney said.

In a council-called meeting March 6, the aldermen, after listening to a passionate plea for the mayor from a number of citizens, voted 6-1 to fire the person the mayor had recently hired to run the city’s public works department.
Stedman called it a “sad day for the city.”

Once the meeting opened, Alderman Charlie Harmon, the son of former Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon, quickly made a motion to rescind Stedman’s hiring of Lee Church as the public works director.

This is the same Lee Church that the council approved by a 6-1 vote at a Jan. 22 board meeting to be the city’s representative on the joint emergency medical services board which oversees operations of MEMS.

The only nay vote came from Alderman Sheila Sulcer, but the minutes reflect that her concerns were not with Church, but with certain people being appointed to the parks and recreation commission.

After the meeting some aldermen said the concern was that the person the mayor had hired to run the department, Lee Church, was a problem in the city’s fire department and it wasn’t right to move a problem from one department to another.
Yet other council members were upset because they had not been consulted like they had been in the past when other mayors ran the city.

A few days later, Harmon prepared an ordinance to clarify the how and when the mayor could hire department heads and how the council could veto any appointment.

Harmon pulled the ordinance a few days before the March 26 council meeting after meeting with Stedman and receiving assurances that the council would be more involved. At the council-called meeting, Stedman told the council that in the 65 days that he had been mayor that he had worked every day.

“I’ve been in the day-to-day trenches,” he said. “I have the authority to obtain my own department heads.”
He called the council’s decision “government at its worst. Neither I as the mayor, or Lee Church, have been given the opportunity to succeed or to fail.”

After the mayor spoke, the public was given a chance to weigh in on the debate, according to the agenda.
About 10 residents spoke, nine backing the mayor, including his wife. She called the council “cornbread mafia” for their backdoor attack on the mayor.

At the February council meeting, Stedman presented the state of the city address, telling the council and residents that Sherwood had started litigation to free about 6,000 of the city’s homes and businesses from paying the high-rising North Little Rock electric rates.

North Little Rock supplies electricity to a large portion of Sherwood, and those customers, along with North Little Rock residents, recently saw their bills jump 38 percent.

First Electric Cooperative and Entergy also supply electricity to the city.

“We’ve started litigation to determine our sovereign right to purchase electric service from whomever we choose,” The mayor said.

He said the city had no franchise agreement with North Little Rock. “It has just sort of evolved,” Stedman pointed out.
The mayor said the problem with North Little Rock electricity is that it is not regulated by the state’s Public Service Commission, which oversees rate increases from other electric utilities servicing the city.

Since North Little Rock is not under the control of the PSC, “it can raise its rates at any time and as high as it wants,” the mayor said.

Stedman also told aldermen that Sherwood has the second-highest educational and family income levels in the state and boasts the lowest per capita crime rate in central Arkansas.

“There is no doubt,” the mayor said, “that Sherwood can be a benchmark city for the entire country.”
Now it will have to do that without Stedman at the helm.

Stedman, who had served four years as an alderman, beat out businessman Mike Presson in the November 2006 general election for the mayor’s position, garnering 62 percent of the vote.

When announcing his plans to run for mayor in the summer of 2006, Stedman said, “As a 30-year resident and former small business owner, I know Sherwood is a great place to raise a family and build a life.”

“I want to use my experience on the city council and my abilities to continue to make Sherwood one of the best cities in our state to call home,” he said.

Stedman is a 28-year retired Air Force/Arkansas Air National Guard lieutenant colonel and a Vietnam combat veteran.
During his military career, he held many leadership positions including squadron commander and wing executive officer.

Stedman has served as president, board member and has chaired many committees for the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce. He was president of the Sherwood Rotary Club and is a past chairman of the Sherwood Civil Service Commission.
He has served as a part time educator for ASU Beebe in Management and Political Science and has extensive experience in economic development.

He’s been married to the former Barbara Weeks of Fordyce for 36 years. They have two daughters, Dr. Stephanie Flaherty and Stacey Riley, both educated in Sherwood public schools.

TOP STORY >>Governor supports plan for district

IN SHORT: Legislators, Beebe wrap up session with $1 billion for public schools.

Leader staff writer

Governor Mike Beebe said Friday that he supports Jacksonville developing its own school district but that the residents must be prepared for the several steps it will take to become a reality.

“I support self-determination anytime people want it,” Beebe said in an interview with The Leader.But before that can happen, Jacksonville will have to achieve unitary school status and be released from desegregation court supervision. Representative Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, introduced two bills that would allow for the opportunity for Jacksonville schools to create their own district.

“Getting out from the Lake View court case, increasing facilities funding and giving additional money for students,” tops Beebe’s list of legislative victories, he said.

The Lake View court case, filed in 2001 against then-governor Mike Huckabee by Lake View School District in Phillips County, claimed school funding was inequitable.

The decision required the State Assembly to remedy the inequities.

Beebe said that by creating the funding stream with an ongoing revenue source and dedicating money for facilities, every student will benefit. As far as state money for school facilities, Beebe said districts have already submitted their needs and that the facilities budget was crafted from that needs list.

His budget dedicates $456 million of the state surplus toward facilities, plus $108 million from general revenues over the next two years with a total contribution of $600 million for facilities. The total money earmarked for public education should be more than $1 billion, including $40 million for pre-kindergarten education.

The formula the state currently uses to finance the schools is based on the relative wealth of each district, which is then required to make matching payments. Many districts have already dedicated all available revenues to leverage improvements they’ve already submitted to the state.

Whether or not the additional money dedicated to school facilities will expedite repairs, remodeling and new construction will depend upon individual districts, according to Bond.

“The state is willing to put (its) share in for a worthy project, but the district needs to pay its share,” Bond said.
Schools will receive adequate funding despite tax cuts, Beebe said. The largest of these is the cut in state taxes on groceries. “These were the biggest tax cuts in Arkansas state history,” he said. He thinks the tax cuts were “responsible” and said services will remain sufficiently intact.

Senator Bobby Glover (D-Carlisle) led the effort to pass two successful bills, the grocery sales tax decrease from 6 percent to 3 percent and a bill that allocated needed funds for the interstate highways.
“Bobby is a good friend,” Beebe said. Arkansans will have to vote on using $575 million the bill allocated for the repair and construction of the interstate highway system.

“The highway bill is not specific for one project,” he said. Beebe said federal money would be necessary for the construction of a North Belt Loop highway, which would create a shorter path from the Hwy. 67-167 at the Jacksonville landfill to North Little Rock. “I’m hopeful for it,” he said. “But it’s for the future.” He said he hasn’t approached the federal government for money for such an addition to the system.

In addition to increasing school funding and passing the grocery tax cut that he says will be the beginning of its end, Beebe pushed some poverty-alleviating measures such as moving low-income Arkansans off the tax rolls. But he lost big against the payday lenders who have modeled themselves as modern-day loan sharks by forcing customers to pay huge interest fees when they get cash advances.

As a senator from Searcy, Beebe was one of only two who voted against the payday-lending law. “Further efforts are needed (next legislative session),” Beebe said, adding, “If the people don’t push for something before then.”

TOP STORY >>Blackcats arrive

IN SHORT: The C-130s are continuing to arrive at LRAFB, and it’s fitting that the only C-130 training base in the world will have its own 100-plus squadron of the latest generation of cargo planes.

Leader staff writer

A brand new Air Force legacy in the C-130 world stood up Thursday when the 41st Airlift Squadron was activated at Little Rock Air Force Base, becoming the first combat-ready C-130J squadron in the nation.

Lt. Col. Daniel H. Tulley as-sumed command of the Black-cats with four little words – “Sir, I assume command” – during the formal ceremony held at Hangar 228, continuing the squadron’s legacy of answering the call anytime, anywhere.

The 41st was reassigned to the 463rd Airlift Group at LRAFB following the base realignment and closure (BRAC); the squadron had called the 43rd Airlift Wing at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., home for 36 years.

The squadron’s guidon (unit colors) from Pope was replaced Thursday with a new guidon symbolizing the realignment and the future of the squadron at LRAFB.

The 41st is the third oldest and one of the most highly decorated airlift squadrons in U.S. military history, and has been deactivated and activated many times since its conception in 1942.

“The 41st AS has a long record of accomplishments in just about every major military operation for the past 65 years. One glance at the campaign streamers and it’s obvious – when our nation calls, the 41st answers,” Tulley said.

Tulley joined a long list of past commanders when he took the reins of Little Rock’s newest squadron, which is currently sharing space with the Blackjacks of the 53rd Airlift Squadron.

The 53rd, part of the 314th Operations Group, will be consolidated into the 463rd Airlift Group in December, leaving their building to the Blackcats.

“Dan Tulley is certainly the ideal choice for this position,” Col. John J. Gomez, 463rd AG commander, said. “You need someone who can come in and make their mark,” he said speaking of Tulley’s character and accomplishments during his 15-year career.

Tulley’s new command in-cludes 150 new aircrew and their families, most of whom are currently deployed in theater, and 16 C-130J combat aircraft, making his command the largest J model squadron.

“We will continue the great legacy of this organization, carrying forward the traditions and history and leveraging them as we built the first active-duty C-130J combat squadron,” Tulley said.

He envisions the 41st transitioning in the next six months from basic operations to an intense focus on training and readiness, and come 2008, the first active duty C-130J will be ready to join the fight and sustain operations indefinitely.
“When our nation calls, we will stand with the rest of the 463rd, ready to fight – anywhere, anytime,” Tulley said.

Tulley was assigned to the 61st Airlift Squadron at LRAFB in 2000 where he not only cross-trained on the C-130E as an aircraft commander, executive officer, instructor pilot and flight commander, but also met his wife Holly. They now have two daughters, 3–year-old Emma and 11-month-old Anelise.