Wednesday, June 27, 2007

OBITUARIES >> 6-27-07

Eunie Lovell

Eunie Lee Lovell, 83, of Jacksonville passed away June 22. She was born May 12, 1924 in Hope to the late Jim and Dorothy Little Spurlock.

She was of Pentecostal faith and had worked for Timex in Little Rock for many years.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Jessie Lovell; one son, Dale Lovell; two daughters, Karen and Eva Jane Lovell as well as two sisters, Ruby and Wilma Cooper, and a brother, Bud Cooper. She is survived by her grandchildren, Aaron Dale Lovell and wife Cindy and Lori M. Yearber and husband Kenneth, all of Jacksonville as well as six great-grandchildren, Candy Yearber, Shawna, Cheyenne, Triston, Jessie, and Justina Lovell and a niece, Shirley Cooper of Little Rock.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 27 in the chapel of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with burial in Arkansas Memorial Gardens.

Bertha Thompson

Bertha Jane Thompson, 65, of Jacksonville died June 25.  She was born July 14, 1941 in Thornburg to the late Ira Joe and Frances Burg Fowler.  

She had worked at Stone Container as a customer service representative, and was a member of the Church of Christ in Vilonia. She was preceded in death by her husband, James Henry Thompson in 1983.

Survivors include her son, Jason Andrew Thompson; stepdaughter, Meridith Anderson of Jacksonville; step-grandchildren, Nathaniel and Gabrielle Burchfield and cousin, Glen Fowler of Scott.

Graveside services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 28 at Concord Cemetery in Furlow under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Selena Carlock-Robledo

Selena Dawn Carlock-Robledo, of Beebe, infant daughter of Billie Jean Robledo and Jodie Carlock, died June 22.

She is survived by her parents; grandparents, Ruby Posadas of Heber Springs, Billy Zane Gardner of Texarkana and Cynthia Raper of Jacksonville; two brothers, John Gardner and Carlton Gardner of Heber Springs; four sisters, Sabrina Gardner and Toni Robledo of Heber Springs and Brittany Carlock and Alexis Carlock of Beebe; family friends, Alejandro Robledo and Peggy Robledo; godparents, Robert and Deanna Almaraz and Sarah McClatchy.

Family will receive friends from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday, June 28 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 28 in Babyland at Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens.

Mary Ginther

Mary L. Ginther, 81, of Springfield, Mo., died June 24. She was born July 25, 1925, at Butlerville to Herman D. and Hattie Hays Ginther. She completed her bachelor’s degree from Monticello, her master’s degree from Henderson State Teacher’s College in Arkadelphia and received her doctorate from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

After working in several public schools in Arkansas, she moved to Warrensburg, Mo., to accept a position as a counseling psychologist at Central Missouri State University from 1965 until her retirement in 1989.

She is survived by a niece, Jeanie and husband, Michael Whitener, of Galveston, Texas; a great niece, a great nephew and several cousins. Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, June 29 at Sylvania Cemetery by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.

Jean Hartford

Jean Hartford, 73, of Searcy died June 24. She was born Oct. 11, 1933, at England to Julian Ray and Myrtle Elizabeth Johnson Paul.

She was a retired hostess at River Oaks Retirement Village. She was known for her love of gardening and working in her flowerbeds, fishing and enjoying all of God’s creation. Jean’s philosophy was “It’s all good.”

She was preceded in death by one brother, Howard Paul; one sister, Bernice Bogard, and friend, Alice Robinson.

She is survived by three sons, Herb Hartford and wife Vickie, Bruce Hartford and wife Kathy, and Brett Hartford and wife Iris, all of Searcy; one daughter, Heidi Paul and husband Phillip of McRae; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; two brothers, Elton Paul of Florida and Jack Paul of Toad Suck.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 27 at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Weir Cemetery in McRae.

Margaret Ingle

Margaret Ingle, 62, died June 25.

She is survived by her husband, Leroy Ingle; children, Celisa and husband Charles Stepp of Sherwood, Donald Havens of Conway, Jackie Carlin and wife Kathie Mullins of Lonoke, and Jeff Carlin of Conway; grandchildren, Justin and wife Rachael Whittenburg of Lonoke, a beloved grandchild, Brandon Whittenburg of Sherwood, Nikki Carlin of Lonoke and Ashton Havens of Conway; siblings, Ailene Goss of Wooster, Benny May of Mayflower, Barbara and husband Rudy Moss of Conway, Dottie and husband Jim Airo of Sherwood, Ann and husband Charles DeShazo of North Carolina, Samuel Jordan of Pennsylvania and Vickie Carroll of Monette and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 27 at Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

Margie Massey

Margie Mae Massey, 85, of Alexander died June 24.

She was born in 1922 at Vilonia to Fred Vernon and Nora Mae Dixon Bishop. She was a seamstress, a homemaker and a loving mother.

She fought a long and courageous battle with her illness. She was preceded in death by her husband, Burl Massey; her parents, two sisters and one brother.

She is survived by three daughters, Sue Rose and husband Larry of Little Rock, Pat Ballard, and Dianne West and husband John of Alexander; three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, June 29 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe with burial in Grissard Cemetery in El Paso.

Lottie Null

Lottie Mae Null, 80, of Jacksonville passed away June 22. A son, Kenneth Null, preceded her in death.

She is survived by her husband of 61 years, Burnis Null, of Jacksonville; three sons, Odell Null, Don Null and wife Denne, all of Jacksonville and Lynn Null and wife Virginia of Lonoke; two daughters, Nancy Pemberton and husband Steve of Gravel Ridge and Gloria McKenzie and husband Randy of Sherwood; nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

The family wishes to express special thanks to Arkansas Hospice for the dedicated nurses and staff who cared for their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. “They were all wonderful to her.”

Memorials may be made to Arkansas Hospice, 5600 West 12th Street, Little Rock, Ark., 72204.

A graveside service was held June 26 at Arkansas Memorial Gardens. Arrangements were by North Little Rock Funeral Home.

SPORTS>>Cabot edges past Gwatney

Leader sports editor

The Cabot AAA team got its second win of the year over Jacksonville Monday night at the Brian Wade Sports Complex in Cabot, but it was much tougher than the big win it got two weeks ago in Jacksonville. The AAA Post 71 team knocked off Gwatney 5-2 on just four hits off Jacksonville starter Casey Winstead.

“We knew Jacksonville was better than the score looked the last time we played them,” Cabot coach Andy Runyan said. “They came in here and played some good baseball. Their pitcher did a good job keeping the ball down on us, but we did a good job of playing some small ball and executing on defense and we were able to get the win.”

Winstead went the distance for Gwatney, giving up four hits and two earned runs while striking out five and walking three. Cabot’s two earned runs came in the first inning, the rest were the result of five errors and a couple of balks that put runners in scoring position.

Cabot starter Sean Clarkson threw six innings for Cabot to get the win. He also gave up four hits and zero earned runs while fanning two and walking two.

Jacksonville got its two runs in the top of the first inning. Blake Mattison led off with a hit, sending the first pitch of the game into centerfield. But he was picked off by Clarkson on the next at bat for the first out. Adam Ussery then walked before a pop up to shortstop was caught for the second out. Zach Thomas then hit a fly ball into right field that was dropped, leaving the runners safe. Brian Thurman made Cabot pay for the mistake by hitting a line-drive double down the third base line. The shot scored the two runners, but Thurman was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.

Eric Berry singled with two outs in the second inning for Jacksonville and Thomas singled to lead off the fourth. That was Gwatney’s last threat at scoring as the last nine Gwatney batters went down in order over the last three innings. Fuller pitched the last inning for Cabot to get the save.

It wasn’t the last hard hits by the Gwatney lineup, but Cabot’s defense made the plays it needed.

The most notable play came with one out in the top of the second inning. Jacksonville’s Caleb Mitchell hit a high, star-scraping shot to deep where Burks made a running, over-the-shoulder catch a few feet from the wall in right field.
“Drew made one of the most outstanding defensive plays of the year,” Runyan said.

The first inning was peak and valley for Winstead. He started on fire by striking out one and two hitters Colin Fuller and Shayne Burgan. The lefties in Cabot’s lineup, Drew Burks and Sam Bates, had a bead on Winstead to start the game. Burks singled to right-centerfield and Bates drilled a shot over the wall down the power alley in right to tie the game at two runs apiece.

Winstead retired Cabot in order in the second inning, but two errors at first base and one in centerfield gave Cabot a 3-2 lead in the third.

Jeremy Wilson got a two-out double in the fourth inning, and scored on another error in centerfield by Cameron Hood when he mishandled a line drive by Trey Rosel.

In the fifth inning, Bates walked with one out, moved to second base on a balk and to third on a wild pitch. Winstead then struck out Ben Wainwright, but gave up an RBI single to Logan Lucas that made it 4-2.

Wilson reached on an error at shortstop to start the bottom of the sixth inning, and scored three batters later on a sacrifice fly by Burgan that set the final margin. Cabot improved to 5-8 on the season while Jacksonville fell to 4-11 overall.

A class A game preceded the AAA game, and was exciting while it lasted, but suffered a disappointing ending when umpire Gary Davis called the game in the sixth inning with the scored tied 4-4. Davis called time limit on the game, drawing confusion from everyone involved.

Jacksonville A coach Travis Lyda was a bit surprised.

“I’ve never heard of a tie in a zone game,” Lyda said. “ At the same time, we blew some opportunities and shouldn’t have been tied at that point. I know this too, we’re still the only undefeated team in our district, so I’m still thinking we should get that number one seed” (in the zone tournament).

Over the weekend, Cabot and Jacksonville each went 1-1 to close out their last two games of the Sheridan Wooden Bat Classic.

Cabot lost 2-0 to despite a one-hitter thrown by Clarkson on Friday. They came back to close the event with a win over Bryant. Jacksonville followed its 3-1 loss to Hot Springs Lakeside with an 8-1 win over Bryant, and finished the tournament with a 9-0 loss to Camden.

SPORTS>>SH loses last two in Sheridan

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills advanced out of pool play last weekend in the Sheridan Wooden Bat Classic, but couldn’t get a win in bracket play. The AAA Bruins followed their opening round shutout of Little Rock Blue with a 4-3 victory over Conway to assure themselves of a spot in Sunday’s bracket play. With a tournament seed locked up, the Bruins lost badly to Benton in the final game of pool play, then fell 3-1 to North Little Rock in the first round on Sunday.

“We just didn’t swing the bats,” Sylvan Hills coach Mike Bromley said of the loss to North Little Rock. “They didn’t throw a dominant guy, we just weren’t smart up at the plate. We swung at balls out of the strike zone all game long. I can guarantee you if you don’t make ‘em throw you something to hit, you’re not going to get anything to hit.”

The Colts got three runs in the first inning for all the runs they would need for the victory. Starting pitcher Tony Pavan gave up a two-out walk followed by three singles that gave NLR a 3-0 lead.

“He pitched just fine the rest of the way, he just hit a spot in that first inning where he couldn’t get the ball down,” Bromley said.

Earlier in the weekend, Sylvan Hills got its second outstanding pitching effort in as many games in Sheridan. Shane Graham followed Pavan’s four-hit shutout against Blue with a three hitter against Conway’s potent offense.

“Shane threw a great game,” Bromley said. “He really only gave ‘em about three pitches to hit and they hit ‘em.” Bromley said.
The weekend’s results leaves the AAA Bruins with an overall record of 10-13.

The Bruins’ scheduled Monday night game at Russellville was postponed by the Cogswell Motors team. They played Vilonia last night after Leader deadlines and will face Benton at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the Jacksonville Fourth of July Classic at Dupree Park.

SPORTS>>East ends West win streak

FAYETTEVILLE – The West’s eight-year stranglehold on the annual All-Star Classic football game came to an end on Friday at Razorback Stadium, as the East defense held the West to a single touchdown on their way to a 23-13 win.
An interception thrown by East quarterback Luke Tribble of Harding Academy late in the third quarter gave West its best opportunity to take the lead in the game. West only trailed 16-13 at that point, and would start possession on the East 42-yard line.

The defense would hold, and Catholic’s LaNorris Dukes put the game away for the East with a 60-yard touchdown run along the West sideline with 8:27 remaining.

The East was in a sentimental mode to start out the game, as Wynne’s Don ‘The General’ Campbell would take to the field for the final time in his storied 39-year coaching career to coach the East team. He was joined on the sideline by Marion head coach Mark Uhiren, who served as one of the assistant coaches for the East team.

East struck first in the game with 46 seconds remaining in the first quarter with a 34-yard drive, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Dukes. The drive was set up with a fumble recovery by East defender Bryan Church of Warren. The extra point attempt by was no good, leaving the score at 6-0.

The first West drive was unsuccessful thanks to the efforts of Jacksonville’s Norvel Gabriel. West QB A.J. Whitmore dropped back in the pocket on third and 21 at the West 24, but was dropped by the former Red Devil defensive end to give West fourth and long deep in their own territory.

It was Gabriel’s only actual sack of the night, but his constant pressure of Whitmore and the additional West quarterbacks kept their offense off-balance all night. Most of the West’s completed passes on the night were quick-strike style shots to the tight ends, done in most part to keep the relentless Gabriel out of the pocket.

The majority of the local all-stars could be found on the East’s first quarter offense. Beebe’s Drake Widener spent most of the opening period as the center, handing snaps off to former Harding Academy quarterback Luke Tribble. Jacksonville standout Nick Wilson started the game at left guard for the East.

Gabriel was the only local defender in the game, with most of ex-Wildcat James Kee’s duties coming on special teams.
One area where the West held an overwhelming advantage on the East was special teams. Former Springdale kicker Alex Tejada sent nearly every kickoff out of play in the back of the end zone, and his two field goals that kept West in the game until the late going were picture-perfect.

The East’s kicking struggled somewhat, but Mountain Home’s Jacob Bufford did send a 26-yard field goal through mid-way into the second quarter to increase the East lead to 9-0.

West scored before halftime with a touchdown that was set up with a 17-yard shoestring grab by Chad Peachey of Rogers to give West first and goal. Tejada added the point-after to make the score 9-7 at halftime.

East took the opening kickoff of the second half all the way for an eight play, 80-yard drive done mostly with the ground work of running backs Dukes and Derek Lawson of Nettleton. Tribble did help move things along with a 31-yard completion in the middle of the drive to move East into West territory. Lawson finally punched it through from three yards out with 7:17 left in the third quarter. The extra-point was good giving East a 16-7 lead.

An unsuccessful West drive gave the East possession again, but an interception thrown by Tribble gave West good field position, and led to one of two Trejada field goals that closed the gap for the West team. Trejada’s amazing foot kept the West in the game, with 38 and 31-yard field goals to pull the West back to within three, 16-13, with 11:33 still left in the game after the second conversion.

The West comeback would end there, as Dukes’ 60-yard run with 8:27 remaining would put the East back up by two scores, and killed what little momentum West had managed to build in the second half.

During the game, Gabriel proved why he was selected to appear in the elite event. After the game, he proved why young men of his character should have the chance to shine.

“This is like a dream come true for me,” Gabriel said. “I’ve seen a couple of kids from our school go the past couple of years, but I never imagined it as something I would get to do one day. All of these guys are the tops in their school; playing with them has been a great experience for me. I’m satisfied with my performance. I’m thankful to have this opportunity, not everyone gets to do this. It’s all due to my lord and savior Jesus Christ, and I give thanks to him.”

Tribble was also happy with his performance, save for one misguided play.

“It was just a bad throw,” Tribble said of his third quarter interception. “I thought I was throwing it far enough to be out, I guess I should have tried to throw it up in the stands.” Tribble could laugh about the inconsequential mistake, not letting it ruin what turned out to be a solid performance.

“This has been a unique experience,” Tribble said. “To be around a legend like coach Campbell, and to be the first East team to win in eight years is great. These are a great group of guys that I got to play with.”

EDITORIALS>>Some progress on energy bill

The United States Senate, which has seen its standing with the public sink to historic lows owing to its inaction on the gamut of national problems, finally delivered last Thursday night on an energy bill that is many years overdue. If the House of Representatives will do its duty this fall, some modest trust in the legislative branch will be restored.

Our own esteemed senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, voted for the bill and for the key parliamentary maneuver that got the bill to a final vote. An extraordinary 60 votes are needed in the Senate to stop a filibuster and get major legislation to the floor, and Lincoln and Pryor voted to do that.

Although Republicans no longer have a majority in the Senate, their numbers ordinarily prevent passage of serious legislation.

A handful of them also switched Thursday to put the energy bill over the threshold.

While thanking Lincoln and Pryor for helping put the country on a slightly saner course on energy consumption in the next two decades, we have to point out that they were also part of the problem. They sided with the big three automakers in blocking a stronger course that would have produced greater energy conservation and better air quality.

The critical issue was fuel-efficiency standards for new cars and trucks, which have not been raised since 1989 owing to the intransigence of the big American carmakers and the petroleum industry. The fleet standard has remained at 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 22.2 for light trucks and SUVs. Together, they average about 25 mpg.

The Senate bill will require automakers to produce vehicles with a fleetwide average of 35 mpg by 2020. That is 13 years.
The technology to achieve that economy has existed for many years and foreign makers are producing cars with far better mileage. The U.S. car makers wanted much smaller standards, and Pryor promoted a mild proposal that the manufacturers wanted. A handful of Southern Democrats, Republicans and Democrats from the manufacturing states blocked the tougher legislation until the 35-mpg-by-2020 compromise was worked out.

Even at that, the benefits for the nation will be immense. The Union of Concerned Scientists, which pushed for much higher standards, said the 35 mpg standard would reduce U.S. consumption of oil by 1.2 million barrels a day eventually and would cut the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, which cause global warming, by an amount equivalent to taking 30 million of today’s cars off the road.

We will feel that even here in rural Arkansas, where at least three counties (our own Pulaski, Crittenden and Newton) already exceed the allowable smog in the atmosphere under air-quality standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Few people in the country feel the pinch of gasoline prices like Arkansans do. A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that Arkansans average spending 4.87 percent of their income on motor fuel, one of the highest rates in the country. Anything that reduces oil demand and reduces price pressures ought to be welcome here.

Immediate results? The same day as the Senate’s action, Chrysler Corp. announced that it would soon implement one bit of new technology to help it reach the higher standards, fixing engines so that they will shut some cylinders when they are not needed.

Manufacturers in another eight years will have to make at least half their new vehicles capable of running on 85 percent ethanol. That should give a boost to our fledgling ethanol industry in Arkansas.

Aside from the vehicle efficiency standards, however, the energy bill that finally emerged is a pale imitation of reform. It feints in the direction of developing alternative energy sources to petroleum, but Republicans and the White House blocked the steps that might actually have achieved it.

The bill calls for expanding renewable fuels by 36 billion gallons over the next 10 years, but Republicans and a few Democrats thwarted the step that might have actually produced it, a tax on the hugely profitable oil companies that would be used to develop wind and solar power, ethanol and other renewable fuels.

The GOP minority also blocked a requirement that electric utilities increase the share of power they get from wind and solar power and other renewable forms.

Oh, well, we should still celebrate small good works in the face of the phalanx of powerful industry groups that like the way things are and have the political money and muscle to protect them. And, yes, while we are at it, a medium-sized thanks to Senators Lincoln and Pryor.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Payday series wins award in competition

(The Arkansas Press Association awarded The Leader first place in the Better Newspaper Contest for our in-depth reporting on payday lenders. This column from March 22, 2006 was part of that series.)

A populist state like Arkansas, which once had the lowest usury rate in the nation — 10 percent was the interest limit until 1982 — now allows payday lenders to charge outrageous interest rates — often several hundred percent interest.

“How do you go from there to over 800 percent?” asked Cliff Hoof-man, a former legislator from North Little Rock, referring to predatory check cashers who’ve been known to charge more than 3,000 percent interest.

He was addressing lawmakers at last week’s Joint House and Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, which heard testimony about abuses in the payday lenders industry and ways to regulate the businesses.

That won’t be easy: Check cashers keep bending the rules and ignoring interest limits that are in the state Constitution. Even when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. tells banks they cannot loan money to check cashers, they find other sources for operating capital.

Arkansans were once protected from predatory lenders, who were fined if they charged more than 10 percent interest. Contracts were voided and lenders had to repay twice the interest they charged.

Laws were in place to protect consumers, but not anymore: Amendment 60, passed in 1982, raised interest rates, but even so, Arkansas prided itself in protecting consumers from unscrupulous lenders. There is a 17 percent limit on interest rates, but almost everyone, not just the payday lenders, is flouting the law.

No wonder check cashers are protesting that everyone’s picking on them. In a way, they have a point: Credit card companies charge whatever they want and banks charge $30 overdraft fees, which are really short-term loans. Mob juice loans are 25 percent or higher, but at least no one’s pretending they’re legal.

But payday lenders are the worst: They charge the most and exploit the most vulnerable: The working poor. How did these check cashers sneak into Arkansas, which, as I say, had the strictest rules against gouging consumers?

Well, if you attended last week’s Joint House and Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at the Capitol, you would have learned that they sneaked in here under false pretenses, which figures, since they lie about everything.

The check cashers came here in 1999 and wrote the law on payday lenders, which the Legislature duly passed after the usual suspects were paid off in the form of campaign contributions.

Officially, these operators said they wanted to provide a public service to poor working people by cashing their paychecks.
“It proved to be a little more than that,” Hoofman told legislators and reminded the committee that Arkansas has “gone from being one of the most protective to totally unprotected” when it comes to shielding borrowers from predatory lending.

Hoofman gave the committee a little history lesson, admitting his own complicity in helping to pass Amendment 60, which raised the state’s usury limit but set no penalties on lenders who violated the new ceiling.

“We failed to do what the people asked us to do,” Hoofman said.

But, in any case, he said the check cashers are violating the state’s 17-percent interest limit, and “the Legislature ought to set a penalty.”

As Sen. Tracy Steele, D-North Little Rock, told the committee, check cashers have moved into Arkansas because of a lack of regulation, although he, along with consumer groups, believes that the state’s interest ceiling is being violated and laws must be passed to “stop these bad actors in their tracks.”

The problems with the payday loans, apart from the interest rates they charge, is that they’re not installment loans. They must be repaid in full within two weeks. If they’re not repaid, they’re rolled over and interest rates skyrocket. If borrowers are charged more than 3,000 percent interest, they must pay back thousands of dollars on a small loan. As Hank Klein, a former credit union executive, said last week, if you compare those rates with an automobile loan, a car buyer would have to pay back $9,000 every payday, or $1.2 million on an SUV.

If that’s how banks operated, only millionaires would drive cars.

Editor’s note:

When my earlier column on check cashers appeared last weekend on our Web site, Google, to our horror, placed several payday-lender ads above the column.

That’s like putting anti-semitic ads on Web sites honoring Holocaust victims. Google is not a very nice company — it runs ads for crooks and profits hugely from pornography and makes lucrative deals with dictators. So payday lending fits right in with their philosophy.

Needless to say, we have canceled our agreement with Google to place national advertising on our Web site.

TOP STORY >>Sherwood mayor race a crowded field

Leader staff writer

Five candidates are vying to fill the remaining three-plus years of Sherwood Mayor Danny Stedman’s term.

Stedman resigned in April, just four months into his term, citing health reasons. The council quickly appointed former Mayor Bill Harmon to serve as the interim mayor until a new mayor is elected Tuesday, July 10.

All five candidates—Doris Anderson, Virginia Hillman, Harmon, Richard Devine and Victor Sierra—recently took time to answer questions from The Leader about their positions, beliefs and thoughts on the city and where they would take it. Their answers are listed under each question based on when they officially entered the mayor’s race.

Hillman was the first to file, turning in her paperwork on the first day of the filing period, April 13. She is 43 and resides at 9500 Stepping Stone Court. She is married to Steve Hillman and they have two children.

Hillman is the city’s clerk/treasurer. She was appointed to that position in 2001 when Bobbie Chapman retired. Hillman was then elected to that position in 2002 and won re-election in 2006. Anderson turned in her candidacy paperwork April 18. She is 52 and resides at 2507 Bearskin Dr. She is married to Mike Anderson and they have two daughters, four sons and 14 grandchildren. Anderson works for the Arkansas Department of Labor as an applications and systems manager.

Harmon filed on April 19. He is 79 and lives at 803 Club Road. He is married to Marvelle Harmon and they have three sons, one daughter, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Harmon is now the interim mayor and has served 10 years as an alderman and 14 years as the mayor. Devine filed for the position on April 20. He is 54 and resides at 9631 Miller Road. He is married to Donna Avery and has two daughters. Devine is a realty specialist and negotiator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Sierra was the last to throw his hat into the ring, filing on April 23. He is 57 and lives at 80 Shoshoni Drive. His wife, Lou Ellen, died almost two years ago. He has two sons and a grandson. Sierra is retired from the Air Force and Union Pacific.

Q: One of the most talked about issues is whether or not the city should buy the North Hills Golf Course and Country Club. Should the city run the golf course or is the area better suited for other development? What is your position and thoughts on the golf course issue?

Hillman: Generally speaking, citizens do not feel that they have had a voice in this decision. A proposal should be developed for the use of the property, along with a funding mechanism, and placed on the ballot for the people to decide.

The city is not financially able to purchase and maintain the property as a public golf course without an increase in tax or a decrease of services in other areas. Both the feasibility study and the appraisal indicate that the property, as well as existing structures, is in need of repairs in order to continue as a golf course. 

City leaders should have considered purchasing the property in the past when the offer was much less. The 105 acres would be a nice asset, as well as an investment, if the city had the finances to purchase the property. Expecting the current property owners to sell the property for one-half of what they have recently been offered does not seem fair nor is it good business. I would not appreciate being forced to sell my home for $100,000 if I had already had a valid offer of $200,000. The current lawsuit, with perhaps a second one pending, could be costly to the city. 

Anderson: I will not support a sales tax for the city to purchase a municipally run golf course.

More than $500 million total retail sales is required to yield $5.1 million from a 1 percent sales tax. Since this matter is now in federal court, I believe that a judge will determine what ultimately happens with the golf course and country club property. I do not believe that it is fair to the citizens of Sherwood to consider obligating them to such a huge long-term financial commitment without a vote of the people.

Harmon:  I would like to save the golf course as a golf course, and if that’s not possible, then it should become a park.
Devine: I believe the North Hills Country Club property would be an asset for the city of Sherwood.

During my door-to-door campaign, I talked with many residents about the golf course property and have come to the conclusion that if the property can be acquired without a tax increase and is a multi-use facility such as a municipal golf course, a park with walking trails, picnic areas, etc, it would be well utilized. The clubhouse would provide a classy setting for business and professional meetings and provide income for the city.

Sierra: I feel that purchasing the land for a golf course would truly be a waste of the taxpayers’ money.

After discussing the issues with others, I feel that it would be more profitable if the land were developed. Taxes would have to be increased a great deal for the golf course to run on its own. This would cause the land to be more of a burden than anything else.

By developing the land, the opportunity for growth is anticipated. This will bring more dollars to the city of Sherwood, making it a possibility to even lower taxes. The city does not have enough golfers to justify spending the taxpayers’ money to improve the course to get it up to the level that it needs to be.

Q: The golf course aside, what do you think are the most important issues facing Sherwood and how would you handle those issues?

Hillman: Sherwood has a great reputation of public safety.  With the population growth in Sherwood, more officers are needed on the streets for visibility.  The presence of officers on the streets is a proven crime deterrent. 

There are many streets within the city in need of improvements.  Brockington Road has been funded for many years but construction is yet to begin.  It is time to relieve the traffic congestion of the northern portion of the city and widen Brockington Road.  The city has recently annexed approximately 2,000 acres north of Gravel Ridge.  As this area develops, Brockington will carry even more traffic.

Anderson: Priorities for Sherwood include 1) public safety, protection and communication; 2) infrastructure, roads, sewer and drainage; 3) economic development and restaurants; 4) code enforcement and neighborhood integrity; and 5) education and youth services and activities.

We must address these priorities through a comprehensive development plan. We need to address the current and future needs that Sherwood faces for planned growth now and over the next 20 years. Many surrounding communities have recently completed comprehensive development plans. Benton has been working on their city plan for almost two years. We need planning and execution for our city, and preservation of financial reserves.

Sherwood needs a comprehensive development plan for orderly growth and development so that proper services are provided to meet the needs of all Sherwood residents.

Many areas in Sherwood need street improvements, curbs, sidewalks, drainage and sewer improvements, streetlights, neighborhood park maintenance and improvements, ADA basic compliance measures, etc. The city should address the needs of residents throughout Sherwood.

We must prioritize important issues facing our community, educate developers about our city’s strategic approach to keep Sherwood clean and beautiful, and evaluate our community resources based on their contribution to our environment and our quality of life. Sherwood must do all it can to create and preserve life cycle and lifestyle options that encourage community members to remain in our city; serve the needs of its current citizens; and continue to make it a city of choice for young families and diverse people that will keep our city vibrant and progressive.

North Little Rock Electric Department provides service to more than 6,700 Sherwood homes and businesses. Yet Sherwood residents have no voice and no representation in North Little Rock. Electric service to Sherwood homes and businesses should not be provided by another city. I will fight for Sherwood’s right to franchise with any utility provider.

According to the Highway Department, within 12 months, the 67/167 Brockington exit will be completed, and all of that traffic will be directed onto Brockington Road. Brockington Road has two lanes, two deep ditches, and no shoulders. Our emergency responders’ lives are on the line every time they have to travel Brockington Road. We have had several “incidents” over the past couple of years. What will we do?

Harmon: We need orderly growth, we need to continue to update and follow the land use plan, and be effective with our zoning.

Devine: Important issues facing Sherwood include providing improved roads and services for our continually growing city and economic development. I will be involved with all aspects of the city and recognize the importance of the chamber of commerce.

Sierra: Growth is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed by the city of Sherwood. Inflation happens on a regular basis, and if we are not growing, we will fall behind, and the taxpayer will pay for that in the future. More businesses need to be invited to our city.

Another thing that we need to think about is the quality of health care that we currently have available to our senior citizens. Our health plan needs to be addressed to include their needs.

Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of Sherwood?

Hillman: Sherwood is a wonderful place to live. The reputation within the city is that of a safe home town. 
We cannot ignore that the crime rate has increased within the past few years.  If we ever lose our reputation of a safe community, it will be very difficult to regain.

Our fire department has worked very hard to earn a very low ISO rating.  We have seen good teamwork within the Fire Department as the two departments worked to merge a few years ago.  The next step of progression should probably be moving toward a fully operated municipal fire department. 

Anderson: Our city has outstanding police and fire protection. Emergency responders provide for the personal safety and security of every man, woman and child that lives, works and plays in Sherwood. Our streets are safe and our neighborhoods are secure. I will continue to invest in our police officers and firefighters. I will also convene city and business leaders, police officials, and fire department officials to identify roles in responding to created and natural emergencies to protect our citizens and preserve our community’s ability to respond and recover quickly.

Sherwood has just received the opportunity and responsibility to service 1,951 acres through recent annexation. Because Sherwood is a great place to live, work and do business, more property owners will be asking to come into the city. The potential for build out may put pressure on city revenues and services. In the next few years, Sherwood will face critical challenges and great opportunities that will call for thoughtful, forward- thinking leadership.

Harmon: We have a low crime rate, great medical care, low fire rates, and a variety of very good private and public schools.
Devine: The strengths of Sherwood are its people and location. We have a good mix of young and old with relatively quick and easy access to work, entertainment and medical facilities.

Sierra: A strength that Sherwood has is the diversity of people that are residing here. We also have wonderful schools that focus on student achievement and our test scores show it. Our teachers care for our students, and our parents care for their children.

One weakness that the city has is that the current leadership does not work together enough. I feel that all of the taxpayers’ thoughts should be considered before making any decisions. The mayor’s job is to listen to all of taxpayers’ concerns and involve all stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Q: What is your stance on the North Belt Loop and would you like to see the portion coming through Sherwood to be finished sooner or later?

Hillman: It would be advantageous for the North Belt Loop to be completed as soon as possible. However, there is no guarantee that funding will be available to allow this to be accomplished in the near future. 

Early completion would provide much needed traffic relief on city streets. Also, more commercially zoned property would result, allowing for increased revenues. Regardless of the completion time frame, a route should be decided upon and rights-of-way acquired to prevent future development disputes. 

Anderson: I have heard some say that they believe that the North Belt Loop will not be built in their lifetime; however, it is sorely needed. The city and the Highway Department are still working on the exact location, but they have generally agreed on a route. On the last plans that I saw, some grade separations were still needed to accommodate ingress and egress for Sherwood citizens.

I know that the highway commissioners would like to toll the North Belt. Voters in northwest Arkansas agreed to a toll road and progress is being made to make their road a reality. They had a reception for the Highway Commissioners and demonstrated their need by taking commissioners out into gridlocked traffic on a bus. Sherwood and Jacksonville could collaborate and do the same. We have difficult traffic issues that need to be addressed, both getting into our city and getting around within our city.

Harmon: It should be built sooner rather than later.

Devine: The preferred alignment for the North Belt Loop appears to offer minimal relocation and disruption. The work should begin as soon as possible because it will take several years to complete.

Sierra: I have no problem with the North Belt Loop coming through our city. The expansion possibilities are endless.
As far as completion is concerned, I feel that the sooner the better. This will bring in many new businesses, and many new residents as well.

Q: Let’s cut to the chase. Why you? Why should the residents of Sherwood elect you mayor?

Hillman: Being employed for the city of Sherwood for the past 21 years has provided me with the much-needed experience to effectively manage the city. 

If you were building a home you would certainly hire someone with construction knowledge.  The same is true of the mayor’s position.  The office of mayor is not a training field for public service but rather a place to use experience and expertise.  My understanding of the finances of the city, dedication of the past 21 years, as well as knowledge of the operations of the city would benefit the citizens.

Anderson: Citizens should have a voice and a choice.

I am running for mayor because so many people called me and said they felt like they had neither. I know that I can do the job well. A good mayor should be able to listen well, with patience; reframe problems as opportunities; help people work together; get the job done without needing to take credit; encourage everyone to participate in city government; and, a good mayor should have a real working plan to make it happen.

As a career state employee and a certified public manager, I have extensive governmental management experience. I pledge inclusive, effective and transparent government.

I have been involved in the city with more than 12 years regular attendance at various city meetings. I have assisted with negotiations and resolution of numerous neighborhood issues through the years bringing direct, solution-oriented approaches that work through disagreement to consensus.

My husband, Mike, and I have sponsored and hosted many community events such as ERC/Chapel Ridge Apartments development revision workgroup, neighborhood watch C.O.P.P.S. events, attorney general family Internet safety presentation, meetings on construction and development issues, and most recently the Wal-Mart community forum.

I believe in transparency in government and I will work to promote open dialogue that yields understanding.
Harmon: I have experience and a track record as mayor for more than 14 years.

Devine: I love the city of Sherwood. I am a lifelong resident concerned with the best interest of the city as a whole and its residents specifically.

The city needs a strong leader who can see from outside the current city government structure. I offer a mature, yet energetic approach to leading the city into the future.

Sierra: I will push the city of Sherwood farther to get it on the map. I would like to see Sherwood more recognized than it already is.

I want to see Sherwood in a more positive way…somewhere that everyone wants to live. I would also like to allow more business to come to Sherwood so that our residents can earn a better living without having to travel out of the city. Children will definitely appreciate the fact that their parents are closer to home and even making a better living.

Q: Any final words or thoughts?

Hillman: I am ready to step into the position of mayor for the city of Sherwood and believe that I will serve the citizens well. 
Anderson: The coming years in Sherwood will call on city leaders as never before to be balanced and prudent in the city’s financial and development decisions.

As mayor, I will work to bring city government, citizens and businesses together to prepare our community for the future.
I will hold the line on taxes, identify and contain cost-drivers, while maintaining high-quality services. 
A city’s residents make it great. But, good leadership is essential.
Harmon: None.

Devine: Sherwood is a great place to live. This is evidenced by the many longtime residents and the military families living and retiring in our community.

The planners and leaders of Sherwood have done a great job of providing “quality of life” facilities such as the parks system, libraries and recreation centers.

Sierra: The children are our future. The more business opportunities there are in Sherwood, the more likelihood of our children to stay here in our city to continue to help it grow and improve.

We need to always find ways to improve our city to make it better for generations to come. If you elect me mayor, I will strive to make that dream a reality.

TOP STORY >>Abuse root of violence

Lonoke and Sherwood have not escaped the domestic-abuse phenomenon. A Lonoke woman is dead after she was shot over the weekend by her husband, who is being held in the Lonoke County Detention Center.

A pregnant Sherwood woman was beaten and her dog was shot at by an angry boyfriend, which led to a showdown with police and his arrest. She was briefly hospitalized and released.

In Lonoke, 43-year-old Shirley D. Tyus’ marital problems ended when her husband allegedly shot her dead with a shotgun blast to the stomach about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

Horace Dixon Jr., 41, walked in to the Lonoke Police Department at 4 a.m. to report that he had shot her. Dixon is being held without bond in connection with first-degree murder at the Lonoke County Detention Center, according to Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain. He will be in jail at least until July 9, according to McCastlain.

Domestic abuse doesn’t usually escalate to murder—McCastlain could think of three instances in the past decade—but it is pervasive and worse in the summer heat, she said. “Typically a fifth of the district court docket is domestic violence every time,” the prosecutor said.

Domestic violence crosses all economic, racial and cultural lines, she said. And a woman—most victims of domestic violence are women—usually gets beaten or abused several times before she leaves the man, said McCastlain.

On June 16, a 911 caller requested an ambulance for a Sherwood woman who was seven months pregnant. MEMS ambulance personnel called dispatch because it was a domestic disturbance and they needed the police to respond.

After an officer responded to the 10000 block of Hillcrest Roadway in Sherwood, Crystal Cron told police that she woke up in her residence at Hillcrest when her boyfriend, Christopher Uekman, and a friend came in from playing cards with other friends.

Uekman was upset, a police report indicated. He threatened to shoot the family dog and allegedly fired off two rounds at the dog but missed it. The suspect apparently ran out of ammunition for that gun and was going to get another gun when Cron attempted to stop him, according to the report. Cron was thrown to the ground, grabbed by the neck and had her head slammed against a concrete surface while being choked.

Uekman then went into the residence and Cron picked up a rifle and threw it over a wooden fence before following him inside.

Cron was once again beat. She ran to a neighbor’s residence and called the police. After several attempts to get Uekman to leave the couple’s residence, a SWAT team was summoned.

Upon entry, police found Uekman lying on a bed and was taken into custody without incident. Police located three guns during the incident. Police found the other two weapons—a .22-caliber rifle and a .12-gauge shotgun—inside the residence. Uekman faces charges of aggravated assault of a family member and second-degree domestic battery. Cron was taken to an area hospital.

TOP STORY >>Williams reflects on job so far

Leader staff writer

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams ate potluck at the Cabot Senior Citizen Center with about 50 AARP members Monday night and gave them an update on his first six months in office — what he has accomplished and what he’s still working on.

By tweaking the timing of the lights and adding lanes, traffic is better than it was and he’s working to make it better still, Williams said. Construction of the new railroad overpass should start this summer. And he has the promise of $1 million in federal money from Cong. Marion Berry (D.-Ark) for preliminary work on a north interchange.

Cabot is in line for an $8 million National Guard readiness center if the city can find land to donate, he said, and he’s trying to get a second post office. Since the city isn’t making any major purchases this year; the budget is finally under control.
And though it has not progressed past the talking stage, Williams says he believes it’s time Cabot, Austin and Ward started thinking regionally when it comes to parks and industry.

A starting place for a regional park would be the old city landfill at the end of Willie Ray Drive. Williams is making arrangements to bring in state prisoners this summer to build a walking track there. Williams told the AARP members that what’s good for the area is good for Cabot. Industry doesn’t have to be inside the city limits for Cabot to benefit from it. Since half the population in Lonoke County lives in Cabot, Austin and Ward, they should be working together for the good of everyone.

“Isolation doesn’t work for anyone,” he said. A $250,000 voluntary payment from Cabot WaterWorks in January got the city through William’s first month in office but since then, he has managed to tuck away about $50,000 a month that doesn’t have to be used to pay bills.

“I think we’ve turned the corner on the budget,” he said, adding, “We still don’t have even a month’s overhead in the bank.”
Williams received a round of applause for the improved traffic flow and a few nods of agreement over the need for a second post office.

But older residents often have limited mobility and one woman wanted to know when the city intends to build sidewalks that she can push her mother’s wheelchair a full city block without being forced to get in the street. Williams responded that $60,000 is budgeted for sidewalks in 2007.

Another member asked if the city will spray mosquitoes this year and the mayor answered that the city will spray some, but not as much as in the past.

The spray is not environmentally friendly, he said. City workers avoid spraying on subdivision streets especially where children are playing. Instead, the city is targeting the mosquito larvae by tossing “donuts” that form a skim over standing water and keep the young insects from hatching.

Williams encouraged his audience to play an active part in mosquito control by getting rid of old tires and cleaning birdbaths at least twice a week.

“Wash them out while you’re watering flowers,” he suggested.

TOP STORY >>Taxing food for tourism weighed

Leader staff writer

A proposed two-cent tax on prepared foods, also known as a hamburger tax, will give Jacksonville’s military museum a chance to bring in aircraft to display on the museum grounds, help attract a big-name entertainer to the Wing Ding Festival and fire up the fireworks at the annual patriotic spectacular.

Overall, the tax will increase the city’s advertising and promotion commission’s budget from its current $88,000 a year —garnered from a hotel room tax—to around $600,000 a year.

Discussion of the suggested tax is on the Jacksonville city council’s agenda for its meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at city hall. Alderman Marshall Smith, who chairs the advertising and promotion commission, says a number of aldermen are for the tax, but it will only be discussed at this upcoming meeting. “I don’t see us voting on it yet. Everyone needs to take a good look at it before we put it in an ordinance,” he said.

According to state law, a city can have up to a three-cent tax on prepared foods and up to a three-cent tax on hotel rooms to gain funds for marketing and promotion.

The council can approve up to a two-cent tax in either category without asking for a vote of the residents. A three-cent levy requires a public vote. Currently Jacksonville has a two-cent tax on hotel rooms and no tax on prepared foods. “The tourism study we commissioned last year recommended the tax as a way to raise more money to promote the city. If we don’t do it, we’re not showing much faith in the study,” Smith said.

The commission approved the idea of the tax at its June meeting, along with a recommended budget.

“The council can change or adjust that budget too,” Smith said. Based on figures provided by the state department of finance, the commission believes the two-cent tax will bring in $550,000 the first year. The commission has suggested that it use half the income, or $275,000, for professional promotion and marketing campaigns to bring people to Jacksonville and its attractions.

About 30 percent of the tax, or $163,000, will be given to the city’s parks and recreation department to be used for park improvements and operations.

The commission has slated $20,000 for the patriotic spectacular show to increase promotion of the activity and allow for a bigger fireworks show. The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield group will get $12,000 to buy Civil War displays and make other improvements to the site to bring in tourists.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History will get $22,000 of the new money to help get the necessary permission to display static aircraft and to help toward the purchase of an aircraft.

The commission will set aside $30,000 of the tax for projects, requests and ideas that come up during the year that are not already budgeted.

Another $18,000 will be used to help pay for the staff to coordinate and collect the tax data, staff training and educate businesses and the public on what types of items are taxable. “For example,” explained Paul Mushrush, the city’s finance director, “if you go into a store or restaurant and fill a to-go box with salad items from the salad bar that is not a prepared food item, but if you add utensils, then it becomes taxable.”

TOP STORY >>Council brings in acreage to city

Leader staff writer

Sherwood is officially 1,951 acres larger than it was as the city council approved annexing four tracts of undeveloped land north and west of the city.

Interim Mayor Bill Harmon said the area annexed is large enough to eventually be its own ward, meaning two more aldermen will be added to the city council.

“Of course right now it’s unpopulated, but it won’t be long before it’s full of new residents,” he said.

He said the next step would be for the city to pass a flight-safety zone ordinance for the area, which will control the density of development as some of the land is in the runway path of Little Rock Air Force Base. “We’ll pass the exact same ordinance that Jacksonville has for that area,” he said. City Engineer Michael Clayton said a public hearing concerning the flight-safety zone requirements would be part of the planning commission’s next meeting at 7 p.m. July 10 at city hall.

The four owners of the acreage — Greg Heslep, Byron McKimmey, Metropolitan Realty and Lilac LLC — asked last year that their land be a part of Sherwood, but Jacksonville objected.

The issue went before Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines who ruled in favor of Sherwood in August 2006. Jacksonville appealed and the case went before Circuit Court Judge Collins Kilgore. In late May, Kilgore also ruled in favor of Sherwood.

In circuit court, the land-owners testified that they felt Sherwood was the better deal for them and that their land would be more valuable as part of Sherwood as opposed to being part of Jacksonville.

Villines said in his 2006 order that the only reason Sherwood could refuse the annexation was if it were “unable to provide services to the annexed area.”

“Don’t worry,” Harmon said, “we’ll provide service.”

Harmon recently said Sherwood has about $2 million saved up to help provide water and other utilities to the area.
“The developers wanted to be in our city and we wanted them to be in the city and now they will,” said Harmon.

TOP STORY >>C-130J mission grows

Leader editor

Col. Rowayne Schatz, commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, brought a mixed-bag of good and bad news to a membership luncheon of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

“It’s great to be back,” said Schatz, who previously was commander of the 50th Airlift Squadron at the base and in 1998 won the Gen. Smith Trophy for best airlift squadron in Air Mobility Command.

The good news included the announcement that more C-130Js are headed for the air base, and funding for an air education center is winding its way through Congress, making construction of the center possible in two years.

“We’ll see more C-130J training at Little Rock Air Force Base,” Schatz told Jacksonville chamber members at the community center.

Also on the positive side: Air crews from Little Rock Air Force Base have replaced dangerous truck convoys for the delivery of weapons and supplies. The military instead relies more on air drops, replacing some 6,300 convoys in recent years, saving countless lives, Schatz said.

“Roadside bombs are the number one killer of U.S. forces in Iraq,” said the colonel, who is being promoted to general.
Schatz told the chamber that when he was deputy director of U.S. military forces in Qatar in 2005, he helped institute the air drops to reduce the number of convoys traveling overland.

The bad news was Schatz’s confirming that the housing privatization program has halted on base because the developer has run out of money, and the near certainty that the base will not get a new generation of small cargo planes, the C-27J Spartan.
But Cong. Vic Snyder, the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, believes LRAFB would be a good place for many of those smaller transport planes, which will be developed jointly by the Air Force and the Army.

In a statement to The Leader on Tuesday, Snyder said, “Little Rock Air Force Base is a great place for cargo plane training. It is the schoolhouse for the C-130J and would be a fine training site for the joint cargo plane. The Air Force knows of the high quality of LRAFB and of the interest of the Arkansas delegation in having this new plane training occur at Little Rock, but it will be an Air Force decision.”

Schatz said the C-130J mission continues to grow, with 10 of the modern planes now assigned to the base, while at least 13 more are scheduled to arrive there in the future, bringing their total to almost one-fourth of the nearly 100-strong fleet at the base.

The modernization program means more squadrons and personnel at the base, Schatz said. Some 200 more airmen have moved to LRAFB since the last round of base closings and realignment.

More C-130Js could come here as their cost continues to drop from the current $60 million price tag because more foreign countries are buying them, according to Capt. David Faggard, chief of public affairs at Little Rock Air Force Base, who attended the luncheon with Schatz. The other bit of good news the commander shared with the chamber was funding for the air education center outside Little Rock Air Force Base, a joint project of the Air Force and the city of Jacksonville. The 2008 military budget going through Congress includes $9.8 million for the center. The city will contribute $5 million toward the project, which will offer college-level courses to both military and civilian students.

Access for civilians to attend classes at the air base has become more difficult since heightened security went into effect after 9/11. Community and military leaders have pushed for the joint education center since then just outside the base facing Hwy. 67/167.

The bad news was that LRAFB will not see another generation of cargo planes, the C-27J Spartan, made by the Italian airplane manufacturer L-3 Communications Integrated Systems.

“That mission will not come to Little Rock,” Schatz told the Jacksonville chamber.

One reason is the success of the C-130J program, which takes up space at the base and in the skies around LRAFB. The Air National Guard and Reserves, as well as the Army, will instead get the two-engine joint-cargo planes, Schatz said. As for the stalled housing privatization program on base, Schatz said American Eagle, the developer, along with its partners, has been unable to pay subcontractors. Contracted to build some 640 new homes and renovate 730 old homes at the base, American Eagle has not gone beyond building a town center and a fraction of the new homes.

“We’ve got 25 new houses the last three years,” the commander said. “I see whole new developments going up in three months in Sherwood.”

“All construction has halted on base in the last three months, until we can work this thing out,” Schatz said. “We’ve got a lot of empty lots.” American Eagle is likely to sell to another developer, who could then resume construction, Schatz said. The company is in trouble at several bases, he added.

He said privatization seemed like a good idea: “Instead of using military money, we’d let contractors have free land and have them take the monthly housing allowance,” the commander said.

But it didn’t work out that way. “They messed up. They’re two years behind,” Schatz said.

He said providing good housing and education are two of his goals while he’s commander at the base for the next two years, as well as helping service members and their families while they’re deployed overseas, Schatz said.

The base deploys some 700 airmen in Iraq and Afghanistan — both from the 314th Airlift Wing, which he commands and is responsible for training C-130 crews, and the 463rd Airlift Group, which is part of Air Mobility Command stationed at the base and is a guest tenant there. The 50th Airlift Squadron, which Schatz had previously commanded, are part of that group, as are the 61st and the 41st Airlift Squadrons.

The last is the newest squadron at the base — the Black Cats, which recently moved here from Pope Air Force Base as part of base realignment and closure and is known as the “J squadron” because all of its planes are C-130Js. The squadron has three C-130Js and is scheduled to receive 13 more. The 314th Airlift Wing has seven C-130Js, which are used for training purposes.

Schatz said the main mission of the base is to train C-130 crews, but airmen will remain in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said 130 airmen returned from Balad, Iraq, Saturday night.

“My focus for the next two years is to make Little Rock Air Force Base better and better,” Schatz said.

Monday, June 25, 2007

OBITUARIES >> 06-23-07

Verna Campbell
Verna Ola Campbell, 89, died June 20 at Golden Years Manor in Lonoke. She was born Sept. 30, 1917 to the late Rebecca Jane and John Wesley Gentry in Cookston, Okla.

She was a member of Panola Baptist Church and a Westinghouse retiree.

She was preceded in death by her husband Jack Campbell, son Johnny Campbell and wife Sylvia Campbell and many brothers and sisters.

Survivors include a son, Fletcher Campbell of Lonoke; daughter, Peggy Kilpatrick and husband Gerald of Germantown, Tenn.; step-daughter, Barbara Lucas and husband Jay of Lonoke; daughter-in-law, Lucille Campbell of Mayflower; 12 grandchildren; 27 great-grandchildren; five great-great-grandchildren; a sister, Hazel Akins of Lonoke, and many nieces and nephews.

Graveside services were at Concord Cemetery by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

SPORTS >>Hall sees few looks, still enjoys big week

IN SHORT: The Former Raider and state tournament MVP scored four points in All-Star game.

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE — Riverview graduate Tony Hall was as deserving as anyone to appear in the All Star basketball game Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena, but his quiet personality and humbleness was not the norm in the showboating and smack-talk fest that was the East versus West game. The West team took the win 92-82 after trailing most of the game.

Hall was the only local player to take part in the game, but Riverview coach Danny Starkey joined his player one last time as an East assistant coach, along with Lonoke head coach Wes Swift, who also served as an assistant on the East side.

Hall played all of the second quarter, and sporadically throughout the second half. He didn’t recieve many looks in the game, or chances to even touch the ball for that matter.

Hall did make the most of what little opportunity that was given to him, swishing a three pionter mid-way through the second quarter, and converted a free throw in the second half for four points in the game.

Unfortunately for Hall and the 28 other players on hand for the game, nearly all the hype centered around future Razorback Michael Sanchez. Sanchez’s ultra-physical play and constant showboating delighted the West-heavy crowd, and as is usually the case with a northwest Arkansas local signs with the Razorbacks, he got every benefit of the doubt from the officials in the All-Star game.

This common practice cut the All-Star experience short for Carlisle’s Josh French, who went to the bench with five fouls before the end of the first half.

The Har-Ber graduate’s shtick was almost comical at times, pumping his fists and screaming at the top of his lungs after every completed basket and foul drawn.

East jumped out to an early dominating lead, but the West team bounced back to trail by only five at the intermission.
Hall’s entry into the game went relatively quietly until the 3:58 mark, when he sent a three-point shot through to give East their largest lead of the game at 34-23. He drew a charge on Sanchez moments later to give the East possession with an 11-point lead.

Hall sat out the third quarter, which would be the final frame of the first half in the specially-formatted five-quarter game, but return mid-way through the fourth quarter.

East carried a 47-42 lead into the locker room at halftime. East carried the momentum through the first three periods, but the West team came alive on the heels of Sanchez in the fifth and final quarter.

West took their first lead mid-way through the fourth quarter, but a three-point basket by East’s Ronnie Davis put them back out front 60-59.

Davis’ shot sparked the final run by the East, as Kirk Porter of Greene County Tech came away with a steal and a dunk, followed by a steal and layup by Davis to give the East a 64-59 lead with 3:10 left in the fourth quarter, promting the West to take timeout to regroup. Hall came away with a steal in the final moments of the fourth, but was not able to convert on the fast break.

East led 70-63 heading into the final frame. Hall stayed into the start the fifth quarter, and started off with a free throw to give the East a 71-65 lead.

It would be all Sanchez from there, however, as the West standout converted on a number of inside shots, and was sent to the line for a three-point opportunity after nearly every shot. This allowed the West to take a 75-74 lead with 4:14 remaining, and the rest of the game would turn out to be much of the same.

“It was real fun,” Hall said after the game. “There were only 15 players in the whole state that got to do this, so I was in some pretty good company. I got to play with some really good players. I did average, I guess, but I played as hard as I could and had a lot of fun.”

Starkey offered encouragement and praise to all of the East players in the locker room area after the game, particularly a frustrated French, who drew the unenviable task of guarding crowd favorite Sanchez in the first half.

“Words can’t describe how I feel about Tony,” Starkey said. “He led us to a state championship, so to share this moment with him has been an honor. It’s our last time out together, so it’s kind of bittersweet. I don’t know what I can say about all of these young men, they are all very special.”

Swift also spent much of his post game chasing down players to thank them for their efforts and giving encouragement to thier future endeavours.

“This was so much fun,” Swift said. “With all the people that you meet, from players to coaches and everyone else, you make acquaintances for years to come. You get to keep up with them and see what all they accomplish, and they keep of with you. It’s East against West, but two hours before the game all the East and West coaches were hanging out, telling old stories, most of them lies, but the whole week has been that way.”

SPORTS >>East sweeps in fastpitch

IN SHORT: Four local players helped lead East softballers to All-Star wins.

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE — Not even a downpour most of the day Wednesday in Northwest Arkansas could stop All-Star week at the University of Arkansas, as the East and West softball teams faced off in a twin bill at the LadyBack Yard. The Leader coverage towns of Beebe, Searcy and Cabot were represented well during the two games with four of the top players in the state.

Jamie Sterrenberg of Cabot played at shortstop for most of the two games, with a brief stint at centerfield at the end of both contests. Beebe’s Sara Flenor was the East catcher for the second half of the opener and the first three innings of game two.

Harding Academy standouts Loghan Lowery and Taylor Pryor also took to the infield throughout the evening, with Pryor playing stints at third base, and Lowery pitching the final inning of game one before starting at second base for the finale.

The East All Stars swept West in both games Wednesday. They took game one decisively by a final score of 6-3, but had to hold off a late rally by the West in game two in order to preserve a narrow 2-1 decision.

The East started out as the visitors in game one, and wasted little time putting a runner on base. Lead off hitter Traci Ragan of Wynne singled, and Sterrenberg advanced her with a sacrifice bunt from the two-hole slot. Ragan was eventually picked off at second, and the game would go scoreless through one inning.

Sterrenberg’s second trip to the plate resulted in a pop up to first base. It would be her last at-bat in game one.
West scored first in the bottom of the second inning, but East would answer in the top of the third with a RBI double from Layne McGuirt of Wynne.

Pryor was effective with the bunt during both games, but was picked off trying to steal second on two different occasions. She led off the fifth inning with a sucessful bunt, but was picked off during the next batter’s turn.

Flenor also came away with a bunt in the top of the fifth inning. Woodlawn’s Brenna Gentry was in scoring position at third base, but the West defense was able to hold her at bay as Flenor made her way to first. Ragan served as courtesy runner for Flenor, and would eventually score on a passed ball to give East a 2-1 lead.

Pryor’s next bunt in the top of the sixth koaded the bases. Two runs scored on a fly to deep second, and Flenor followed that with a fly to left that scored another run, but Pryor was caught off base for the third out of the frame.

Lowery got in on the action in the bottom of the seventh. She threw the final inning for the East, forcing three flyouts to end the game with a 6-3 East win.

All four local entries played in the defensive infield for the first three innings of game two. Flenor caught a pop up for the first out of the second inning, and picked a runner off at second with a throw to Sterrenberg for the second out. Sterrenberg caught a fly for an out in the top of the third, and Pryor ended the frame with a throw to first after fielding a West hit.

The offensive highlights didn’t come as frequently in game two, but Sterrenberg did come in for one of the East’s two scores in the game after being walked in the bottom of the first inning. Ragan brought in the other run in the bottom of the first to set the final score, making the final six innings of the contest a defensive struggle.

Flenor enjoyed her time at the All-Star games, despite not-so-pleasant memories of her last two trips to the LadyBack Yard, in which her Lady Badgers lost state-title game heartbreakers earlier this season and her sophomore year in ‘05.

“It was a lot of fun; we’ve never had a lot of luck here in high school,” Flenor said. “We were here twice, and had a couple of heartbreakers. It was pretty hard to walk in here at first and think back to what happened then.”

Flenor, ever the competitior, was critical of her performance despite a solid showing behind the plate in both games.
“I didn’t think I did all that well, really,” Flenor said. “I usually throw out more people than I did tonight. There were a lot of good players on this team, and some really good pitchers, so I had fun catching.

Sterrenberg was also all smiles after the game. Like Flenor, however, she felt like she left a little on the field.

“I had lots of fun,” Sterrenberg said. “It was actually more fun than I thought it would be. I wished I had batted a little better, but I got to try some new positions. I’m not really a natural outfielder, so it was a good challenge to get out there and try it.”

SPORTS >>Former 'Rabbit battles at 'Bud'

IN SHORT: Henderson State bound Calisha Kirk fought hard, but was on the losing end of the girls basketball game.

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE — Lonoke’s Calisha Kirk got to play one last game with her high school coach, meet new friends, and butt heads with an old familiar rival Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena during the 52nd annual All-Star Classic basketball game. The West All Stars took the win 68-60 over the East, but not without a struggle.

Kirk got to play more than the normally alloted quarter and some change due to a last minute no-show by one of the other East post players. She played the first quarter and part of the second, before taking to the court for virtually all of the second half.

While most of her teammates were new faces, Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris shared the bench with Kirk as one of the East assistant coaches. There would be an all too familiar face on the West side playing post as well; CAC’s Whitney Zachariason.
It was obvious from the opening moments of the game that the former confernce rivals and state finals competitors had no love loss. The action on the low block got very physical at times, with a few good-spirited elbows exchanged from the two players.

Kirk only finished with five points on the night, but made several of the East’s key defensive plays, including a block on Zachariason on a couple of occasions, and a number of steals throughout the contest. The Calisha versus Whitney saga went both ways, however, as the future Lady Razorback got in a couple of blocks on the future Lady Mulerider as well.

West led most of the way during the game, taking a 39-35 lead to halftime. The five-quarter format went suprisingly quick, with the two teams back on the floor for the final two frames less than an hour from when the game began.

By the time the fifth and final quarter began, West had built a 52-45 lead, but the East team would come back on a couple of occasions before game’s end. Kirk started the fifth quarter with a steal, but it would not lead to a score.

A West three pointer gave it their first double-digit lead of the game. P.A’s Ashley Lax would turn into East’s go-to girl in the late going, with a basket to cut the West’s lead back down to eight before a goal and free throw by Mountain Home’s Brittany Richardson allowed East to pull within five, 55-50 with 6:02 remaining.

Two unanswered West three pointers put the lead back in double digits, Gabby Coleman of North Little Rock scored to keep East in the hunt with less than three minutes remaining. Kirk almost came away with another steal in the final two minutes with open court in front of her, but the loose ball led to a tie up, and West would retain possession.

Coleman was able to get the steal and get the ball to Kirk, who then benefitted from a rare foul called on Zachariason. She was not able to convert either of the free throws, but Coleman got another look at the basket and converted to cut the score to four, 64-60 with 44 seconds remaining.

The comeback was not meant to be, however, as the West scored two baskets in the final 30 seconds to take the win 68-60.
Win or lose, Kirk was grateful for the opportunity to play with some of the state’s best.

“It was fun; I got to meet a lot of new people,” Kirk said. “It was even better than I expected. Everybody got along really well. I didn’t play my very best, but I came to have fun, and I had a lot of fun tonight.”

In regards to the final showdown with Zachariason to finish out the rivalry, Kirk said it was merely par for the course.
“It’s always going to be like that,” Kirk said with a laugh. “It will always be that way.”

EDITORIALS>>Investigate vote 'caging'

A couple of eastern senators, one of them named Edward M. Kennedy, asked the Justice Department this week to investigate Timothy Griffin, the recent U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Arkansas, to see whether he illegally sought to suppress voting for Democratic candidates in Florida in 2004.

The “caging” of voters, as Griffin called it at the time, ought to be investigated, but do not expect the Justice Department to bring charges against Griffin or the other Republican operatives who were engaged in the pre-election voting work in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere. And perhaps it shouldn’t, but the investigation is long overdue.

Although Griffin implied last week that he had to look up the word “caging” after he was accused of it, and he declared again this week that the accusations were “malicious and false,” his emails back to the Republican National Committee in 2004 referred to the “caging” his people were doing. The RNC sent letters to thousands of registered voters in predominantly black precincts of Jacksonville, Fla. — thus Democrats, one would assume — with the notation on the envelope that it should not be forwarded.

So if the voter had moved to a new address, it would not be forwarded to him or her but be returned to the sender. Griffin’s people would go to the voting registrar and have the names stricken from the rolls. When they showed up to vote, they couldn’t. A few were in the military, and if they tried to vote by mail, they didn’t get ballot applications or else their votes were not counted.

Some probably were stricken from the rolls unlawfully. Was it voter intimidation? People everywhere in our increasingly mobile society move and neglect to transfer their registration to their new address immediately, as they are supposed to do. They may vote in their old polling place for a time.

Were Griffin’s activities unlawful? Maybe not; contemptible, yes. If you target only one group of people whom you want to keep from voting and try to have their voter registration canceled, it is not evenhanded justice, but it may not merit jail time either. But let us find out exactly what Griffin and his people did.

Here is the irony. The common ingredient in the firings of U. S. attorneys last year was inaction by the Republican prosecutors on White House suspicions that Democratic-leaning groups like Acorn were engaged in voting or registering people illegally or else the prosecutors’ energetic investigations and prosecutions of Republican congressmen and other officeholders.

But the Justice Department made no effort to investigate efforts by Republican “research” teams to block minority voting in 50-50 states like Florida and Ohio.

The Justice Department chased the U. S. attorney for the western district of Missouri last year because he showed no interest in prosecuting people the Republicans suspected of voting fraud. Although Justice Department rules historically forbid filing charges in those kinds of cases before an election because it was an overt political action, the Justice Department sent one of its own to western Missouri to replace the prosecutor, and he soon brought voting-fraud charges, shortly before the election, against several people. A federal judge subsequently threw out the charges, saying they were bogus.

Whether Griffin engaged in illegal or even contemptible voting activity on behalf of the president and then was rewarded with an appointment as U. S. attorney in Arkansas is a matter of more than curiosity.

The question is whether the Justice Department under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had become just another political enforcer for the White House and the Republican National Committee.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln said Tuesday that the Justice Department owed it to the American people to determine whether vote suppression occurred. An aide to Sen. Mark Pryor said the senator was “comfortable” with the request for the probe. Having been the object of Griffin’s “opposition research” in 2002, Pryor may not be entirely objective.

An investigation of Republican activities by this Justice Department would not begin with the confidence of many people, but even that gesture could be the beginning of restoration of trust. Let it begin.

EVENTS>>Summer 2007

There will be a Jeff Goode Fund-raiser and Auction at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hollywood Country Club. There will be live music, games and money for a donation to the fund for Goode. On Jan. 2, Jeff, a bartender at Hollywood, was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. After five months and several operations, he is now starting to show improvement. Even with the best insurance it has put a hardship on his family. His co-workers and friends have planned this fund-raiser. For more information, call Susan at 501-838-0638.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary will offer a U.S. Coast Guard certified America’s Boating Course Saturday, June 30. The one day class will be taught at Gander Mountain Sporting Center, located at 5450 Landers Road in Sherwood. 
The Coast Guard ABC Safe Boating Course will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost of the course is $25 which includes the book, a CD-ROM and all classroom materials. Upon completion of the final test, students will be issued a certificate of completion and an identification card. Students can register by calling Joe Zehler at 501-834-6993.

Col. Rowayne Schatz, 314th Airlift Wing commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, will speak at the Jacksonville Chamber’s general membership luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the community center.

The Cabot Planning Commission will hold its next meeting July 9 due to the July 4th holiday. The meeting will be held in the Cabot City Annex Council Chambers at 7 p.m. For questions or additional information, contact Norma Naquin at (501) 843-4819.

If you have difficulty visualizing a new decorating idea in your home and would like to see the latest trends, plan now to attend the third annual Cabot’s Avenue of Dreams on July 14-15. You’ll see the latest ideas in decorating and building concepts incorporated into show homes located throughout the Cabot area. Plus, you’ll have a chance to win prizes as well.
Homes will open for sneak preview weekends from 2 until 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays beginning June 30. Then, all 13 show homes will be available for tours on July 14-15, Saturday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.
For the latest information, visit or call the Cabot Chamber of Commerce at 501-843-2136. Cabot’s Avenue of Dreams is a project of the Cabot Area Home Builders Association.

Our Savior Lutheran Church 301 S. Pine St.(S.89) in Cabot will present Group’s “Avalanche Ranch” vacation Bible school June 25 through 29 for ages 4 to 12. To register, contact Melanie Potter at (501)941-0011 or (501)425-5950.

Sherwood First Church of the Nazarene will have a free divorce care program at the church in August. The first session will be held Aug. 7 and will meet each Tuesday at 7 p.m. for 13 sessions. To register, call 835-2072.

TOP STORY >>Council promise to literacy group falls flat

IN SHORT: Cabot mayor thought he broke a tie, but city attorney says not enough aldermen were present.

Leader staff writer

Supporters of the Literacy Council of Lonoke County said “thank you” too soon for the city’s contribution of $50 a month toward an electric bill in their new Cabot home that actually runs closer to $100.

The six members of the city council who voted Monday night on the ordinance that would give the organization the money split 3-3, and Mayor Eddie Joe Williams broke the tie. But upon close examination of state law, City Attorney Jim Taylor has concluded that Williams can only break a tie when all eight members of the council are present.

In a nutshell, the ordinance failed.

Meanwhile, the mayor has followed through with his plan to seek private donations and has already collected the $600 the city would have been obligated to pay if the ordinance had actually passed.

Bob Schelle, who has been a member of the organization since 1985 and spoke to the council Monday night about a possible city contribution, said Thursday that on one hand he is disappointed that the ordinance failed because the county has always been supportive and he hoped for the same thing from the city. On the other hand, the controversy over a city contribution has brought more attention to the organization than any of the newspaper articles written over the past 20 years extolling the organization’s good work.

“The biggest problem we’ve had is letting people out there know that we can help them,” Schelle said.

Voting for the ordinance were Ed Long, Eddie Cook and Lisa Brickell. Voting against were Becky Lemaster, Teri Miessner and Ken Williams.

All those who voted against helping the non-profit organization that teaches adults to read, said they appreciate the work the volunteers do, but they think private money should pay for it.

Miessner reminded the mayor and council during the Monday night meeting that when the expenditure was discussed during a recent meeting of the city council budget committee, the mayor, Long, City Attorney Jim Taylor, former Alderman Odis Waymack and Alderman Tom Armstrong had volunteered to pay the bill.

By Tuesday night, Williams had paid his part and had checks or promises from Waymack, Taylor, City Clerk-Treasurer Marva Verkler and Jerrel Maxwell, who runs the city’s public works department.

The Cabot Fire Department has also promised to help raise money to pay the electric bill and Schelle said money for a phone also will be needed.

The literacy council will move into the office vacated about two months ago when the detectives who work for Cabot Police Department moved out of the mini-mall behind the detail shop on the corner of 2nd and Pine and into the old Community Bank building that the city is leasing for five years with the option to buy.

Lonoke County owns the mini-mall where the literacy council will locate.

Although the city paid less than $300 rent while the detectives used the office there, County Judge Charlie Troutman is donating the space to the literacy council. The county also donates the building behind the courthouse that houses the literacy council in Lonoke.

Schelle said he volunteers with the organization because of the great need in the county. An estimated 23 percent of the adults in Lonoke County are functionally illiterate, which means they can’t, for example, read and comprehend a newspaper, he said.

But Schelle said he had one student who couldn’t read a stop sign and another who graduated from Cabot High School about 25 years ago who could not read beyond a first grade level when he came to the literacy volunteers for help.

It sometimes takes years, but eventually they learn, he said, and it’s those successes that make the work worthwhile.

“This one guy I’m teaching took a commercial driver’s license test and passed it the first time,” he said. “That’s why I do it.”

TOP STORY >>County will look at ban on pit bulls

IN SHORT: Quorum court names six-member committee to develop an ordinance to control vicious dogs and those running in packs.

Leader senior staff writer

Lonoke County Quorum Court member Larry Odom Thursday appointed a six-person committee to propose an ordinance to control vicious dogs, including those that run in packs. Cabot is also considering a pit-bull ban.

Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson told the quorum court that his deputies have to respond to dog calls daily and that with area towns and cities prohibiting pit bulls, that a lot of pit bulls are being brought to the county. He said dogs running in packs also create a danger for people and livestock.

Roberson said if a dog at-tacks someone, it is picked up, quarantined, and if it doesn’t have rabies, released back to the owner, who must pay the bite bill. If the dog attacks again, the procedure is repeated. That’s all the authority the county has.
County Judge Charlie Trout-man was away attending the annual meeting of the Arkansas Association of County Judges.

Quorum Court member Janie Troutman, who introduced the dangerous dog discussion, said she didn’t favor a breed specific ban on vicious dogs, saying a Chihuahua could be as dangerous as a pit bull.

That nearly brought Roy Hen-derson, in the gallery, out of his chair. He said dangerous pit bulls live next door to his 6-year-old twins. He said the male pit bull had already attacked another child and implied that he would shoot the dogs if they threaten his granddaughters. He said a cocker spaniel or a Chihuahua could bite your ankles, but that when children are maimed or killed by a dog, it is almost invariably a pit bull.

Odom appointed Henderson, as well as quorum court members Troutman, Alexis Malham, Lynn Clark, Kyle Lackey, Robert Moery and Mike Dolan to the committee to study the dog problem.

County residents living in the fire district covered by the Tri-County Volunteer Fire Department can vote in a special election soon — no date yet set – to have their $45-per-residence annual dues collected automatically with county real estate taxes.
Spokesmen for the department said that only about one in three residents are currently paying the fees.

They said a successful vote would mean that every home would pay, meaning the department could count on a regular budget and upgrade equipment. State law authorized such elections and automatic collection from all at tax time.

Complete and automatic collection “makes a tremendous difference,” Quorum Court member Richard Kyzer, a 10-year veteran on the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department, told the court, particularly in maintenance of the fire trucks and other equipment.

The Tri-County Department, located in the Woodlawn/Oak Grove area, makes about 200 runs a year, the spokesman told the court.

TOP STORY >>Approval given for district's budget

IN SHORT: Cabot school officials make a “best guess” at their spending next year.

Leader staff writer

Although it’s only a guess, the Cabot School District approved a $76.7 million state-required budget of expenses for the 2008-09 fiscal year Tuesday night during the school board meeting.

According to district comptroller Kelly Hayes, the total estimate is his “best guess” considering current expenditures.
“The only item that is not subject to change is the bonded debt payment,” Hayes said.

The two-year out budget includes $35.5 million for salaries, $12.5 million for instructional expenses, $5.75 million for maintenance and operation expenses, $3.3 million for student transportation, $6.5 million for other operating expenses, $175,000 for non-bonded debt payment, $3 million for bonded debt payment and $10 million for building fund expenses.

Superintendent Dr. Tony Thur-man said the $6.5 million for “other operating expenses” would include such items as professional development expenses, administrative expenses and certain types of technology, curriculum, library and media expenses.

For comparison, according to the district’s annual financial report, Cabot spent $29.3 million for salaries during the 2005-06 year and $31.16 million was spent on salaries this past year. The proposed budget has increased the salary amount by about $4 million.

In the 2005-06 school year, Cabot’s operating expenditures were $21.98 million and $24.57 million in 2006-07. Adding the amounts proposed for 2008-09 for instructional, maintenance and operation, student transportation and other operating expenses, the total is $28.05 million, an increase for total operating expenses of almost $3.5 million.

The building fund expenses were $13.08 million in 2005-06 and $8.65 million in 2006-07. The new budget increases that amount by $1.35 million.

At the end of the 2006-07 school year, the district still had $3.4 million in the bank to start the coming school year. There will be less for 2007-08 school year, but exactly how much less is not known.

“Considering the fire (at Cabot Junior High North on Aug. 10), it’s not as bad as it could have been,” Thurman said.

The budget was prepared with a supporting total tax rate (state and local) of 36 mills on the dollar of the assessed value of taxable property located in the Cabot School District.

The tax, which has not changed from last year, includes a uniform rate of 25 mills to be collected on all taxable property in the state to be used solely for maintenance and operations of Cabot schools.

The other 11 mills will be used as a continuing debt service tax pledged for the retirement of existing bonded indebtedness, as previously voted on by residents.

Any surplus revenues produced by the debt service millage may be used by the district for other purposes. The fiscal year budget, it will begin July 1, 2008 and end June 30, 2009.

TOP STORY >>Building schools in Cabot

IN SHORT: District spends $6.6 million on Stagecoach Elementary, which opens in fall.

Leader staff writer

Stagecoach Elementary, Cabot’s eighth and newest elementary school, should be open for the start of the new school year Aug. 20 barring any problems or delays, but work on rebuilding burned down Cabot Junior High North won’t begin until that time or later.

Brickwork on the 83,313-square-foot, $6.6 million elementary school located near Campground and Stagecoach roads is all but complete. While workers finish laying the bricks at the entrance of the school, work continues indoors as the start of school is less than two months away.

“The masonry will be finished this week,” Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent, said Thursday.
The painting inside is 75 percent complete and the ceiling grid is half way done. Workers have also begun laying floor coverings. The exterior doors and hardware, windows and kitchen equipment have been installed and light fixtures are currently going up.

“The heating, ventilation, air condition and cooling (HVAC) was turned on in portions of the building Thursday,” Dalton said, “and dirt work for parking, drives, curbs and guttering began this week.”

The district plans to widen Campground Road and install a third east bound lane, Dalton said Tuesday night during the school board meeting. The district will provide the materials for the project and Lonoke County will provide the equipment. Plans are also in the works to grade a hill for better visibility.

Outgoing Superintendent Dr. Frank Holman had addressed traffic concerns for Stagecoach Elementary earlier in the year, saying a left turn lane might need to be added on Campground from the top of the hill west of the Stagecoach intersection.
“If cars are stopped on Campground to turn left onto Stagecoach, it could be dangerous with traffic coming from the west and topping that hill,” he said.

Adequate stacking areas for parents during student drop-off and pick-up were built into the school’s design plan to prevent cars from having to be lined up on Stagecoach Road.

The Cabot district finalized the rezoned elementary school attendance boundaries in May to allow for the opening of Stagecoach Elementary. With the zones now in effect, Stagecoach’s attendance boundaries include Campground Road and the Pinewood and Au-tumnwood subdivision, residents behind The Cabot Patch daycare, S. Stagecoach Road up to its intersection with Honeysuckle Lane, County Road 302 at Dogwood Lane, Burgess Lane at Hwy. 321 and Mt. Tabor Road at Sandhill Road, and stops at the Cabot district boundary, butting up against the Carlisle, Des Arc and Lonoke school districts.

Junior High North
Although the district anticipated opening bids July 1 to rebuild Junior High North, Dalton said two more months are needed to complete the blueprint drawings before the project can go out for bid, putting the start of construction at late August or early September.

“The footprint – layout of the building – was recently completed and approved, but the detailed drawings for structural, electrical, HVAC, etc., take several months for the engineers to complete,” Dalton said, “and they couldn’t begin until the building layout had been approved.”

The total projected cost to rebuild CJHN, which was lost to a fire last August, is $18.5 million, of which the Cabot district must provide about $3 million.

In April, the state’s Facilities Division approved the district’s catastrophic funding request in the amount of $5.2 million. They received $10 million in January from Great American Insurance Company of Ohio, the district’s insurance company.

The new CJHN will be built back on the hill with facilities capable of holding 1,200 students. The new campus, which is estimated to take between 18 and 24 months to build, will be over 120,000 square feet, adding an additional 19,000 square feet more to the school than the previous one had.

It will also be rebuilt in a different design utilizing current park-ing and the vocational, multi-purpose and physical education buildings that were left intact after the Aug. 10 fire that destroyed the rest of the campus.

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.

The seventh- through ninth-grade students displaced from the eight-year old, $9 million Junior High North will attend classes at the Cabot High School campus this year. They were in 30 trailers, which were set up between the tennis courts and the CJHN gym last year; the trailers cost the district $40,000 a month.

The ninth-graders will attend classes at the end of the north wing of the high school building, which is closest to the current JHN principal’s complex.

The seventh- and eight-graders will attend classes in K, S, the old high school media center and 15 portable classrooms.
The district is trying to remove half of the portables through subleasing and has other school districts lined up to take some of the double portable buildings that house classrooms.

“It looks like Nettleton (Public Schools in Jonesboro) will be taking four, maybe six, portables of eight to 12 classrooms,” Dalton said.

The multiplex building, a five section building of eight rooms that was used as a bank of bathrooms and costs $10,000 a month, is being considered by the Bergman School District in Boone County.