Wednesday, November 14, 2007

SPORTS >>Academy glad for chance to avenge last season

Leader sportswriter

History repeats itself for the Harding Academy Wildcats this week when they return to Springdale to face Shiloh Christian on Friday.

The biggest difference between this year’s meeting between the two teams is the fact that it happens in the second round as opposed to the fourth round like last year in the semifinals.

The Saints went on to claim the 3A state title last season with a perfect 14-0 record after beating the Wildcats in the semifinals 40-7. For Harding Academy coach Tommy Shoemaker, the only déjà vu involved is the memory of a long bus ride.
“It feels like it in the sense that we’re always having to go up there,” Shoemaker said. “Every year is different, every team is different. That’s how we try to approach it. Hopefully we have a plan in place that will give us some opportunities, and we can execute that plan.”

The Saints are not the consummate powerhouse they were last year, but still sport an impressive 9-1 record after claiming the 3A-1 Conference title for a second straight year. Their only blemish came in a week-three, non-conference loss to 5A dynasty Greenwood.

The loss of over 20 seniors at the end of last season put the Saints in a position of what would be total rebuilding for most programs.

Senior lineman Nick O’Quinn stands as the only returning starter from last year’s championship team, but quarterback Blake Roberts and crew have picked up where last year’s team left off, dominating their conference to earn the No. 1 seed out of their conference to earn a bye during last week’s first round.

Most coaches would view the task of taking on the Saints two years in a row as bad luck, but Shoemaker says the wound was self-inflicted with the Wildcats’ conference loss to Marshall earlier this season.

“We got ourselves in this position when we didn’t take care of business,” Shoemaker said. “We knew we would have to play a tough team in the second round, and if you’re going to win it all, you would probably have to face these guys at some point anyway, even though it is a little earlier than what we might have expected.”

Shoemaker believes that the only way to beat the Saints is to play smarter, and faster if possible.

“I don’t know that you can completely shut down an offense that dynamic,” Shoemaker said. “We can try to contain them on big plays, we just have to play with a lot of speed and limit our mistakes.”

SPORTS >>Cabot, Lonoke lose in final

Leader sportswriter

Local teams did not fare quite as well at the RAPA Roundball Rally as in recent years, with the Cabot Lady Panthers and Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits both closing out play at the annual invitational tourney with 1-2 records. The Lady Panthers started out play with a win over Little Rock Hall, but faltered in their final two games with Little Rock Central on Thursday and Carlisle in Saturday’s consolation finals.

The Lady ’Rabbits shined brightest in their second-round game, overtaking North Little Rock Thursday night in overtime after losing their opening round game to Morrilton. The momentum from Thursday’s win did not carry into Saturday’s finals, as the Parkview Lady Patriots held off Lonoke to take a 53-47 win.

The second-round loss for the Lady Panthers matched them in a rare cross-county rivalry game with 2A state champs Carlisle. The Lady Bison suffered a blowout loss to Morrilton Thursday to wind up in the consolation game, but proved they were still the potent team of a year prior with a slim 49-46 win.

The Lady Panthers took control in the early moments, rushing out to a 19-8 lead by the 5:54 mark with a basket by Jenna Bailey off an assist from Rachel Glover. The offense would shut down almost entirely at that point, with a pair of free throws by senior Lauren Walker in the final minute of the half as the only Cabot points in the last five minutes of the half. This would allow Carlisle all-stater Julie Inman and the Lady Bison to come back for a 21-21 tie at the intermission.

While it was Inman who received the most heralded advanced billing, it was actually junior post player Monie Cohen that gave the Lady Panthers the biggest fits. Cohen used her tremendous size advantage and frankly surprising athleticism to control the lower lane on both sides of the court, allowing very few second shot opportunities for the Lady Panthers.

Carlisle built a lead as high as seven, but a three-point shot by senior Leah Watts with 1:22 left in the game rallies the Lady Panthers to a 45-44 deficit. Shelby Ashcraft came close to making the game-saving play when she picked a pass from Jana Inman to Cohen and headed for the basket. Ashcraft’s shot would not fall, and Cohen would control the board to pull down the rebound just as she had all night.

The real writing on the wall would come moments later, when forward Lauren Walker picked up personal foul number five when she made contact with Julie Inman. Walker led the team in scoring once again Saturday with 15 points, but her absence in the final 30 seconds of a tight ball game would prove to be the difference. Inman hit both foul shots to put the Lady Bison up by three, with Whitney Thrift adding two more free throws in the final 10 seconds before Watts set the final margin on a long distance shot for two points.

The Lady Jackrabbits trailed Parkview by as many as 14 points in the second half before slowly working their way back into the picture with solid play by sophomore post Asiah Scribner. The Lady Patriots kept control of the game in the first half by containing Scribner and keeping her off the scoreboard. That would change in the second half, as Scribner came away with eight points in the second half to finish behind teammate Hayley O’Cain, who finished with a team-high 14 points. O’Cain’s final points of the night on a three-point shot with eight seconds left to play that cut the Lady Patriots’ lead to 51-47, but free throws by Candice Strong in the final moments set the final margin at 53-47, forcing Lonoke to settle for sixth-place in the final tournament rundown.

SPORTS >>Speed concerns Gravette

Leader sports editor

The Gravette Lions are on cruise control right now, but a week off and a very unfamiliar opponent should be enough for the host team of Friday’s second round state playoff game to be at attention. Gravette hosts Lonoke this Friday in the playoffs, and the head Lion isn’t banking on his team’s eight-game winning streak carrying over to nine.

“Lonoke has some speed and athleticism in spots that we haven’t seen this year,” Gravette coach Bill Harrelson said. “The teams we’ve been playing just aren’t as athletic as they are. They do a good job of spreading the field and get that speed in open spaces. They just make people miss tackles and we haven’t seen much of that.”

While Harrelson bemoans the task ahead of his squad, he also recognizes that his squad is on quite a run.

The Lions are 9-1 and have not lost since a week-two, 49-14 shellacking by Shiloh Christian. The first four weeks of the season were the worst defensively for Gravette. Since then, the Lions have not given up more than two scores in any game. In week 10, Gravette held perennial conference power Prairie Grove to two touchdowns, and none in the second half.

“That was the game where I thought our defense really came to realize its potential,” Harrelson said. “Defensively we’ve played very well the last several weeks, but that game, holding them to nothing in the second half, that was a big thing. Praire Grove is a great offensive team, just like they proved last week.”

The Lions also run the spread, and like Lonoke, like to run out of the formation as much, if not more, than pass.

Tailback Teddy Selby is Gravette’s biggest offensive weapon. He has over 1,000 all-purpose yards this season. He has rushed for 895 yards and has 135 yards receiving. Frankie Walburn is the team’s leading receiver with 13 touchdowns. Delivering the ball to those offensive weapons is junior quarterback Ethan McKinzie. McKinzie has thrown for over 1500 yards so far this season, while the Lions have rushed for over 2200.

They have mercy ruled five of their last eight opponents, which prompted Harrelson to confess that many of those rushing yards came after the passing game created big leads.

“We did run it a lot in the second half of those games,” Harrelson said. “Not much by Selby though. He hasn’t been on the field late in those big wins. His numbers are legitimate.”

Lonoke has struggled at times defensively, especially against strong running teams like Newport. Gravette isn’t similar to Newport, and Harrelson expects trouble from the Rabbit defense, particularly from the ends.

“I think their defensive ends are tremendous players,” Harrelson said. “51 and ?? both look like great athletes. And number 45 is also someone you had better account for.”

Still, the primary concern for Gravette will be containing Lonoke’s speed. Harrelson pointed out two very big concerns by name.

“Harris and Howard are the ones we’re really worried about,” Harrelson said. “If they get into the open field, they’re going to be hard for us to tackle. We’re going to have to make sure we keep them hemmed in, especially early. Things will be real tough for us if we get behind a team like that. We’re going to have to run the ball successfully to have a chance to win. We don’t want to get into a situation where we have to pass. So keeping those guys hemmed up will be a big key for us.”

EDITORIALS>>Wal-Mart does right

Wait, for a change there is some good news on the health-care front and it is Arkansas originated. How often do you get to say that?

Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer with $11 billion in earnings and 1.7 million employees, quit fighting its critics and joined them, more or less. It has overhauled its health-insurance program, and while it is not yet the pacesetter of the merchandising and marketing business in its humanity for workers, it no longer merits the label “heartless.” Even its harshest critics, as The New York Times reported yesterday, acknowledge that it has made giant strides. Even better things lie ahead. The company now pronounces itself serious about undergirding the health and wellbeing of its workers and maybe even the nation’s.

That is more than just good news for Wal-Mart employees, hundreds of thousands of whom were on public assistance two years ago. It promises benefits for all of us indirectly. Wal-Mart is an exemplar for business, which has been headed in exactly the opposite direction: eliminating or reducing medical coverage for employees.

Since it became the largest retailer in 2000, Wal-Mart has been under a microscope for its treatment of its workers and sometimes its suppliers. The AFL-CIO and some of the largest unions, notably the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers, led a campaign against the giant that clearly tarnished its image. They charged that Wal-Mart’s double whammy of substandard wages and skimpy benefits shifted the burden to taxpayers. States began to examine their public-assistance rolls to see how many were employees of Wal-Mart and other big companies. A search in Arkansas in 2005 showed that the families of 3,971 of Wal-Mart’s 45,106 Arkansas workers were on public assistance, mainly Medicaid for children. A California study in 2004 showed that Wal-Mart workers cost that state’s welfare programs $86 million a year. Several states passed laws seeking to force Wal-Mart to enhance its benefits.

Wal-Mart organized a massive public-relations campaign to counter the unions and consumer groups. Then the CEO, H. Lee Scott Jr., consulted a few people and decided to heed rather than fight the critics. He talked to the former president, Bill Clinton, who told him to look beyond the motives of Wal-Mart’s critics and consider how the company could become a better employer. Others told him good health insurance should be considered not a burden but a chance for the company to secure its workforce. Healthier and happier means higher productivity.

Scott cut loose the executive who had written a famous memo about ways to curtail or deny health benefits, put an overachieving female executive in charge and asked her to fix it. She looked at other companies’ benefit packages and talked to health-care experts.

The company now offers an array of insurance options for its workers, and they are cheaper and more accessible. Wal-Mart’s large workforce of part-time workers now can more easily, after a year, obtain coverage for themselves and their families.

Now Wal-Mart is throwing its considerable weight behind the drive for universal health insurance. That surely lifts the prospects for a universal system in 2009, when the current national administration will be out of office. Any of the Democratic candidates and two or three of the Republicans, most notably our own Mike Huckabee, would be apt to preside over that historic reform. Wal-Mart’ political clout will help.

The company also is contemplating entering the health insurance business itself, which one would assume would mean the introduction of efficient and low-cost insurance into the market. With or without national health insurance, which like Hillary Clinton’s plan is almost certain to be based on private employer-based coverage, that has to be a good thing.

OBITUARIES >> 11-14-07

Crystal Cothran

Crystal Marie Cothran, 50, of Sherwood died Nov. 11.  

She was born April 29, 1957 in Denver, Col.

She is survived by her mother, Sue Alden; son, Casey Cothran; special companion, Mark Stanley and numerous aunts, cousins and very special loved ones.

A graveside service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 at Pat Howell Cemetery in Cabot.  Arrangements are by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.  

Linda Johnson

Linda Kay Johnson, 65, of Beebe died Nov. 12.

Survivors include her husband, Roger Johnson; sons, Eddie Daniels and Jeffery Daniels; daughter, Connie Holman; stepdaughters, Kelly Fuller and Shelly Vega; stepson, Roger Johnson II; sister, Phyllis Lovell; five grandchildren and six step-grandchildren.

Visitation will be 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke. Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 at Hamilton Cemetery in Carlisle. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to CHF Clinic through the Baptist Foundation.

Bertha Free

Bertha Jane Murmur Free, 72, of Beebe died Nov. 12

She was born Nov. 9, 1935, at St. Joseph, Mo., to Ralph Adolph and Effie Jane Murphy Boller.

She was preceded in death by her husband, W. A. Free; parents; brother, Clarence Boller and sisters, Hattie Stagner and Bonnie Zebrsiki.

Free is survived by four sons, Mike and wife Johnnie Free of Beebe, Billy and wife Linda Free of Austin, Jimmy Free and Ralph and wife Donna Free; one daughter, Linda and husband Larry Beaver, all of Beebe; nine grandsons; six great-grandchildren; one brother, Johnny and wife Wanda Boller of St. Joseph, Mo.; and two sisters, Sarah and husband Tex Wampler of Deerbern, Mo., and Betty Herbert of St. Joseph, Mo.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.

Funeral will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 at the funeral home with burial in Beebe Cemetery.

Yurba Oldham

Yurba M. Oldham, 74, of Jacksonville died Monday, Nov. 12 at Rebsamen Medical Center in Jacksonville.

She was born Dec. 4, 1932 in Penrose to the late James and Helen Lindsey Hedden. On Feb. 3, 1951 she married Ralph Oldham in Hernando, Miss.

She was preceded in death by her son, Michael Oldham.

She is survived by her husband, Ralph Oldham of the home; son, David Oldham of Jacksonville; five grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; brother, James Hedden of Redfield; two sisters, Mavis Kennedy of Gould, and Marie Barnett of Fayetteville.
Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with James Hedden officiating. Entombment will follow at Chapel Hill Mausoleum.

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 at the funeral home.

James Fuqua

James Fuqua, 60, of Cabot died Nov. 10.  He was born March 19, 1947 in Little Rock to Hugh and Wilma York Fuqua.  
He was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Mary Dickson and a nephew, Buddy Byrd.  

He is survived by his children, James Fuqua Jr. and wife Monica of Crossett, Russell Fuqua of Cabot and Earl Fuqua of Nowata, Okla.; siblings, Shirley Byrd and Chuck Fuqua, both of Jacksonville; special friend, Belle Pinegar; nephews, Barry Byrd and David Melton; niece, Cheryl Miller; four grandchildren, Makayla, Alyssa, Nathan, and Brianna Fuqua and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins.  

Graveside services will be at noon Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Joyce Holt

Joyce Anne Holt, 65, of Jacksonville won her battle with cancer and quietly entered the Kingdom of God on Nov. 9.
She was at her daughter’s home surrounded by loved ones and a very loving Arkansas Hospice nurse.

She was born April 14, 1942 to the late Richard Ashby Baxter and Dorothy L. Taylor of Greensboro, NC. She is survived by her mother; daughter, Laurie A. Johnson and husband Bob of Jacksonville; and two sons, Billy G. Holt and Stephen B. Holt both of Nashville, Tenn.  

She was a loving mother and proud “Annie Anne” to 14 grandchildren. She was a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association, a prison minister, and woman of strong faith.  Her careers included professional modeling, professional modeling instruction, restaurant management and ownership, and professional residential and commercial wallpapering and painting.  She enjoyed cooking, reading, motorcycle riding, decorating, and traveling.  She was passionate about life and lived it to the fullest.  She cared deeply, shared fully, and loved sacrificially.  

She was a good mom, a devoted friend and compassionate individual who never met a stranger.  

Burial will be at a later date in Greensboro, N.C. Funeral arrangements were by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.  

Randy Buchanan

Randy Buchanan, 51, of Austin passed away Nov. 9.  

He was born Sept. 10, 1956 in Little Rock to James and Gwen Gaither Buchanan.  

He was preceded in death by his maternal grandfather, Leo Gaither and paternal grandparents, Jesse and Elva Buchanan.  
He is survived by his wife, Debra Buchanan; children, Jennifer Ferrell and husband Shawn of Little Rock, Misha Buchanan of Little Rock, Matthew Buchanan of Austin, and Bradley Buchanan of Austin; maternal grandmother, Verna Gaither of Little Rock and three grandchildren, Bailey Buchanan, Lauren Ferrell, and Belle Buchanan. Funeral services were Nov. 13 at the chapel of Cabot Funeral Home with Scott Martin officiating.   

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Parties still looking for their savior

While Republicans and Democrats are slugging it out over who should get their party’s presidential nomination — for many, the choices aren’t all that terrific, which is why minor candidates like Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are pulling up from the rear —the good news for Lonoke County Republicans is they have squelched a rebellion to humiliate the mayor of Cabot and an alderman.

It looks like Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams and Alderman Ken Williams (no relation) will stay in the Republican Party after all.
Lonoke County party officials rejected another Republican’s complaint that the pair weren’t partisan enough and should be expelled from the party.

A losing candidate for alderman had filed the complaint when both Williamses said they supported nonpartisan elections in Cabot since they figure potholes aren’t Republicans or Democrats.

The candidate wanted a fatwa issued against both men, but cooler heads prevailed, and no one has been stripped of his party membership, leaving Ronald Reagan’s big tent more or less intact, if not his 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.

Republicans are fighting among themselves like Democrats, although Hillary’s recent fall in the polls still makes her a formidable candidate, while there’s still no frontrunner in the GOP field. Most voters aren’t too crazy about the leading candidates, which is what has kept Huckabee in the race.

Our own Republican presidential candidate has plenty of problems, even though he insists his candidacy is surging. But Huckabee could muster endorsements only from a small group of Arkansas Republicans, many of whom distrust him on immigration, taxes and health-care reform, not to mention his support for gambling and easy passes for criminals who rape and murder once they’re free. (The name Wayne DuMond immediately rings a bell.)

Huckabee, who’s a Baptist preacher, had asked the National Right to Life Committee for an endorsement, but, wouldn’t you know it, the anti-abortion group Tuesday endorsed Fred Thompson instead.

Pat Robertson also snubbed Huckabee with an endorsement of Rudy Giuliani, the cross-dressing, pro-abortion, pro-gay rights ex-mayor of New York, whose former police commissioner (and failed choice for Department of Homeland Security chief), Bernard Kerik, has been indicted on numerous corruption charges, including his taking payoffs from a mob-owned New Jersey construction company.

Giuliani says everybody makes mistakes, but maybe Robertson wishes he could withdraw his endorsement and go with someone else: If not Huckabee, then Thompson or the outspoken and entertaining Ron Paul, who represents the Republican wing of the Republican Party better than anyone else.

The Republican Party, lacking a charismatic leader, still hasn’t found a new Reagan. Thompson had hoped he’d be the one, but he seems lost among the crowded field of candidates: You get the feeling he can’t wait for the Hollywood screenwriters’ strike to end so he can return to show business.

Huckabee claims he’s enjoying a surge of sorts in Iowa, but the man to watch is Ron Paul, a Republican libertarian who has moved way up in the polls and has raised far more money than Huckabee.

Paul sounds like an old-fashioned Republican — maybe too old-fashioned for the powerbrokers and the pundits — and would at least make a good running mate for someone.

But if you don’t like any of the above, consider Vermin Supreme, another Republican candidate, who is on the New Hampshire ballot and is enjoying a surge of sorts on the Internet and wears the most patriotic tie of any of the candidates.

TOP STORY >>Phone workers protest

Leader staff writer

CenturyTel employees from Jacksonville and other cities gathered en masse Saturday morning to protest what they say is an attempt by management to initiate action that could potentially prevent them from keeping their jobs.

CenturyTel workers, represented by Communication Workers of America Local 6171, have been in bargaining stages over a new contract since July. They want improvements in the contract’s language on seniority, job-bidding procedure and work- force adjustment.

“They want to promote by qualifications,” Alan Whitaker, president of CWA Local 6171, said, adding management “could make a subjective decision based on whatever they want to,” in promoting, hiring and firing employees if the contract were approved as is.

The phone company’s employees have been working without a contract since it expired in August. They include installer repair and facility technicians. In total, 160 CenturyTel employees would be covered by the contract now being negotiated. Of those, 129 are union members.

Long-term employees say they need protection to ensure that in case of layoffs, they would keep their jobs.

Union members who gathered in front of the Jacksonville Shopping Center to protest the company’s recent contract offer said they feel if the contract were approved as is, without seniority protection, their jobs would be threatened.

Many, who worked for CenturyTel when it was GTE, felt obligated to rally.

Some said they have worked for the phone company for more than thirty years.

They did not want to be quoted for the article out of fear of potential management reprisal.

Without seniority protection, the union says Centurytel management would favor new employees over ones who have been on staff longer.

“There’s a possibility that a new hire could come in and in two weeks management decides a 30-year employee gets laid off and a two-week employee stays,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker added that the union movement is based in the need for seniority and working-conditions protection.

Union members say that if management does away with seniority protection language in the contract, then they could get rid of the union because the longest-term employees have the strongest connections to the union.

Whitaker said unions have difficulty staying organized in Arkansas because it allows employees to work if they choose not to join a union.

Many steelworkers, autoworkers and communication workers in Arkansas are union members.

The contract that CenturyTel has rejected was passed “overwhelmingly” by the local’s members in August, according to Whitaker.

The local includes employees in Jacksonville, Pocahontas and Stuttgart. Whitaker traveled from Krum, Texas, to support the protesters.

Other union members from Irving and Grapevine, Texas, also came to the protest. The union says its intention to protect long-term employees is not an economic issue.

“Our intent is to bargain a fair agreement for employees, not to bankrupt the union,” Whitaker said. He said there is no financial impact on the company by protecting long-term employees’ jobs.

Jerrell Miller, a member of CWA’s national staff, is negotiating the contract with CenturyTel on behalf of the employees. He said contract negotiations are not usually as lengthy as the current bargaining.

This is the first time CenturyTel has refused to insert seniority protection language in a contract with Local 6171.

Miller said larger phone companies such as Verizon and AT&T have seniority language in their employee contracts.

CenturyTel spokesman Jeff Jones said that he would not discuss the contract negotiations publicly.

TOP STORY >>Sherwood revamping ’08 budget

Leader staff writer

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman and her budget committee continue going over next year’s budget, which she called “the city’s livelihood.”

In the second of what will be at least three meetings, the budget committee, comprised of Hillman and Aldermen Butch Davis, Keith Rankin and Marina Brooks, met Tuesday afternoon to make adjustments to the city’s proposed 2008 general fund budget of an estimated $18.4 million after the panel heard the needs of numerous departments last week.

The Sherwood Police Department and the Sherwood Animal Shelter will be recipients of new vehicles in the coming year thanks to the decision of the Sherwood budget committee.

Police Chief Kel Nicholson asked for 10 new vehicles totaling $179,700 – two V-6 Dodge Chargers for K-9 cars and eight Chevrolet Impala patrol cars – that would replace their wornout counterparts.

The committee, however, could only see purchasing the eight Impalas and the equipment those vehicles would need in order to still provide needed items for other departments.

“The oldest ones need to go,” Rankin said of the more than 10-year-old patrol cars currently in use. “I’d love to be able to give them 20 cars if they wanted them.”

The oldest car on active patrol is a 1995 model and the newest ones, 2002 Impalas, already have over 100,000 miles.
Robin Breaux, animal services director, asked for a three-quarter-ton truck that would be equipped with a compartmentalized animal- transport unit.

The budget committee granted her request. The shelter will receive funds for a three-quarter-ton truck chassis and a stainless steel, six-unit carrier, as well as a few thousand dollars to replace their 1996 Jeep.

Cutting back the number of new vehicles for the police department gives the city about $105,000 for other expenses, money the panel learned will most likely need to be used to cover the city’s increasing health insurance costs.

Hillman said she received notice the end of last week from the Municipal League that the city’s health insurance could be going up.

“We’ll have to watch and see with the changes,” she said, “but we don’t want to be their guinea pig.”

The group was in agreement that changing insurance providers isn’t something you do in two months.

“But we owe it to the employees to explore their insurance options,” Hillman said. “If it (the cost) continues to escalate, employees may have to start paying, but that would be down the road changes; they may not have to, we don’t know right now,” the mayor said.

She told the aldermen that when insurance costs have increased in the past, the city absorbed the costs for the individual.
If Sherwood’s insurance costs do increase, Hillman said the city would continue to absorb the individuals’ cost as well as absorb half of the increase for the family plans, leaving the employee to cover the other half.

“We would split it 50/50,” she said. “There’s a good chance they (insurance costs) will go down in July – we’ve had extremely high claims this year,” she added.

The budget committee also decided the funds were not available to grant Fire Chief Frank Hill’s requested $169,553 to add one-and-a-half more fire department staff.

“We’re at an ISO 2. What would the city and citizens benefit from it (the one and a half personnel increase)?” Rankin asked.
The committee decided to review his request again when planning the 2009 budget, but did not commit to it.

However, the sanitation department will receive their requested knuckleboom truck at a cost of $110,000 and Public Works will also get one of their two requested leaf trucks.

TOP STORY >>Group wants to save schools

Leader senior staff writer

A group of friends—guys that grew up together—is the basis for the latest effort to improve Jacksonville-area schools, and by default, the entire community. In some cases, these are literally second-generation Jacksonville education activists.

“The Jacksonville World Class Education Organization is not a secret society,” according to Mark Wilson.

“We are just a group of friends who grew up together and care about each other and the future of Jacksonville.”

The group, convened by state Rep. Will Bond, attended Jacksonville schools and now they have begun families of their own and are taking steps to improve areas schools, starting with facilities. They are particularly interested in seeing a new Jacksonville middle school, because the local elementary schools all feed into the middle school and it is perceived of as discouraging area residents from sending their children to school in Jacksonville.

“We’ve been relying on our parents’ generation to change things,” Wilson said. “We need someone else to pick up the leadership. There’s not many in Jacksonville who wouldn’t look favorably (on a stand-alone district), but there’s a lot of hurdles. We want to work with the district and be helpful to the district, getting new facilities out here and improving education of our young people.”

The World Class Education Organization of Jacksonville has prepared a five-minute video that details the deteriorating condition of many Jacksonville schools—a video that has been shown at the Pulaski County Special School District Board meeting, the chamber of commerce education meeting, the Rotary Club and elsewhere.

Filmed and edited by realtor Daniel Gray, the video is intended to bring home the message that the district and the community need to get busy. The video has gotten 400 hits on YouTube, Gray said.

Right now, the organization is focused on getting a new Jacksonville middle school included on PCSSD’s 10-year master facilities plan.

Without such inclusion, the district won’t qualify for any state matching construction money.

Such a new school would cost roughly $30 million, according to Larry O’Briant, the district’s chief financial officer.

Of that, the state could be expected to provide about $4 million, but only if the school is on the master facilities plan.

O’Briant said it could take about $200 million to build the necessary schools and make the necessary repairs throughout the district.

It would take an increase of 7.7 mills to raise that amount, according to Carey Smith of Stephens Public Finance Inc.
He estimated that would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $154 a year in additional taxes.

Superintendent James Sharpe and the district board are exploring the feasibility of putting such a millage increase before district voters to finance school construction and repair, perhaps as early as next August.

“What we first have got to do is make a true and fair assessment in respect to facilities, what it will cost to renovate and refurbish or replace certain buildings,” Sharpe said.

A Jacksonville middle school could be built by 2014 and could move ahead of Arnold Drive Elementary School on the 10-year master facilities plan.

“The problem in Jacksonville with (passing) a new millage is lack of trust,” said Bond. “We need to have construction on a facility. We’ve been ignored for so long, it’s time for them to prove they are committed to our facilities.”

Jacksonville residents and school patrons have formed four groups—with some overlap of members—to improve education here.

Sharpe said he envisioned a special election for a millage issue in which the schools to be built would be singled out in the ballot. That way, Jacksonville residents would know that passing the increase would result in construction of a new middle school there.

The four groups, though overlapping, that have formed to improve education or facilities in Jacksonville are:

n The World Class Education Organization of Jacksonville, in its infancy, is currently focused on getting a new middle school.
“We have to crawl before we walk,” said Pat O’Brien, the Pulaski County circuit and county clerk, who is one of the gang of friends.

He said he expected the group to incorporate and elect officers.

n Jacksonville Educating Our Children, a group dedicated to carving a stand-alone Jacksonville school district from PCSSD. Bond, Bishop James Bolden and Dr. Glenn Bolen were the main figures in this group about two years ago when it last actively pushed for the district. Federal District Court Judge Bill Wilson stymied them, at least until such a time as PCSSD is declared desegregated and free of court oversight.

The district filed Oct. 29 in federal court for such a designation.

n Jacksonville Education Foundation—presided over currently by former state Rep. Pat Bond, Will Bond’s mom. Its members include Mayor Tommy Swaim, former Superintendent Bobby Lester, businessman Mike Wilson, Paul Mushrush, Bob Stroud and others.

This group has donated $50,000 for computers for the new Jacksonville library for students to use and has leveraged a $5,000 Wal-Mart grant into bringing a show to every elementary school in the area, theater workshops for the high schools and other enrichment activities, Pat Bond said. “We have an emphasis on literacy and math.”

n Jacksonville Charter School—Mike Wilson is a driving force behind a possible charter school here. He said Tuesday that if such a school were started, it could be the anchor for a new school district.

He said a charter school would not threaten or detract from the other, allied efforts to improve local education. “There’s lots of overlap, and everybody’s headed in the same direction,” Wilson said.

Those interested in exploring a charter school will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at North Pulaski High School’s Parent, Teacher, Student Association, where the state Education Depart-ment’s Ann Brown will discuss charter schools.

On their own, local insurance man Mark Perry and Jacksonville middle school football coach Barry Hickingbotham have strong-armed and cajoled folks into building a field house that is now up and in the dry.

Originally estimated at $250,000, the metal building, pad and facilities will come in at about $400,000.

Recently, Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, with the help of the Jacksonville store, donated $25,000 worth of materials toward completion of the project.

“What we need now is an electrical company to help us,” Perry said.

He said he underestimated the amount of work and length of time it would take to finish the building.

Perry said the field house would complement the new Jacksonville middle school, if and when it’s built.

Jay Whisker, the Jacksonville administrator, said his responsibility in the World Class Education Organization is to serve as a liaison with the city.

“Most of us (in the group) have young children, so we are concentrating on the middle school,” he said.

Pulaski County School Board members Bill Vasquez and Danny Gililland have said they favor a new Jacksonville district and support the notion of building new schools in Jacksonville and refurbishing others.

Former board member Bolden said he would continue to work to make sure the district gets its share of PCSSD money and attention. Meanwhile, “I hope Vasquez makes a lot of noise,” Bolden said.

Others working with the World Class Education Organization of Jacksonville include Paul Davis, of Whit Davis — who said he was moved by Bond’s call to arms and by the video to help — Greg Keeton, and Lt. Col. Lisa Redinger.

TOP STORY >>Two file for seat as judge in Cabot

Leader staff writer

Two candidates have announced for judge of the Cabot district court that functions like a municipal court for most of northern Lonoke County.

Judge Joe O’Bryan, who was first elected in 1990, is running for re-election, and Kenneth R. “Ken” Williams, a member of the Cabot City Council who has served as a district judge in Lonoke and as Cabot city attorney, is the challenger.

District courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases, violations of city ordinances, traffic violations and civil matters with not more than $5,000 in controversy. A small-claims division of the district court makes it possible for citizens to represent themselves in civil-claims cases.

Williams announced his candidacy late Friday evening after first talking to O’Bryan.

“I’m not running against Joe O’Bryan. I’m running for that seat,” Williams said.

O’Bryan has been unopposed for the position since he first ran 17 years ago, when the court was still a municipal court. He announced Monday that he will seek re-election as judge of the District Court of Lonoke County, Northern Division, which includes the courts at Cabot and Ward, as well as the northern Lonoke County area.

Like the races for circuit judge, the races for district judge are nonpartisan. Candidates’ names will be on both the Republican and Democratic ballots for the May primary. The winners in that election will take office in January 2009.
Joe O’Bryan

O’Bryan graduated from Cabot High School in 1967 and from Baylor Law School in 1973. He has been an attorney in the Cabot area for 33 years. He was elected judge in 1991.

“The unprecedented growth of the city of Cabot and northern Lonoke County has brought about many changes in the operation of the court,” O’Bryan said. “During the past decade, the number of cases decided by the district court has increased dramatically, and the annual revenue handled through the court has increased four fold in fines, costs and restitution to victims.”

To keep up with the increased case load, a computerized docketing system has replaced the traditional record keeping system previously used. The court is now served by three court clerks in Cabot and one in Ward.

Another change that has occurred during O’Bryan’s tenure as judge has been the expansion of community service as a means for those unable to pay their fines to settle their balances.

Additionally, the district court has for several years sponsored defensive driving classes for young traffic offenders as well as special programs for persons arrested in domestic battery situations.

“It is impossible to estimate how many tragic accidents have been prevented, or how many families have reunited or at least managed to avoid violent episodes, as a result of these programs,” O’Bryan said. “The best estimate I can make is education works in some situations, while in others, it will not.”

The district court recently implemented a video system that allows jailed defendants to appear in court without being physically transported to the courtroom. 

“This new system has two advantages,” O’Bryan said. “It saves manpower by conserving the police transport time as well as increasing security.”

O’Bryan hopes to expand the video appearance system soon to include the Lonoke County jail.

O’Bryan also added a probation department to both the Cabot and Ward courts, staffed by two probation officers, making it possible to order special conditions of probation appropriate to the specific case such as drug testing, counseling, anger management classes, GED testing, community service work, jail requirements, AA and NA meetings, and fine/restitution payments.

O’Bryan has three children, Jessica Wallace of Little Rock, and Stephanie O’Bryan and Eric O’Bryan, both of Cabot.
Ken Williams

A Cabot resident since 1994, Williams has already been elected to public office there twice. He is a member of the city council, and before that, he served three years as city attorney.

Like many city residents, Williams moved to Cabot because he and his wife Debbie both worked in Little Rock.

A native of McGehee, Williams graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a degree in political science and later earned a law degree from the University of Denver School of Law. He has been licensed in both Colorado and Arkansas since 1988.

After passing the bar, he joined the Air Force, where he served as a JAG officer until 1992.

His military service included duties as a prosecutor in both military and civilian courts. He was appointed as special assistant United States attorney for the purpose of prosecuting civilian offenders in federal court. Later, he was also appointed as area defense counsel providing criminal defense services to military members.

After military service, Williams worked as an attorney specialist for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. His duties there included trial and appellate practice in state-tax law cases. In 1999, he was named deputy executive director of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. In that capacity he was responsible for cases involving judicial misconduct resulting in discipline or removal of state court judges.

In 2002, Gov. Mike Huckabee appointed Williams judge of the district court (formerly municipal court) in Lonoke. While serving in that capacity, Williams was city attorney in Cabot until 2005.

Williams has two children, Brandon, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas, and Kaylee, a junior at Cabot High School.

TOP STORY >>Communities honor vets

Leader staff writer

In a veterans ceremony in Beebe on Monday, Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, Little Rock Air Force Base commander, thanked the veterans and their families because, without them, he said, those in attendance would not have been able to join together in remembrance.

“I’m honored to be here to celebrate this occasion,” Schatz told the small crowd of Beebe residents and veterans during the American Legion Post 91’s ceremony.

“Our veterans are the reason we can serve today and what make us the best country in the world,” the general said. “The airmen of today look to and are inspired by those who served before them.”

Although the most recognized veterans are those of World War II, the ones called the “Greatest Generation,” Schatz asked the crowd to pause and reconsider their mental picture of what a veteran is.

“They come in many different packages,” he said, adding veterans are no longer only those from the past, but more recent service members, like Staff Sgt. John Self, a LRAFB security forces member who died in May while on his third – voluntary – tour of Iraq.

“It’s a new generation (of veterans) from an all volunteer base. There was no draft in place when they joined – they chose on their own to serve their nation and every four years they raise their hand and choose to serve again,” he said. Today’s veterans choose to continue to serve just like the many heroes who served before them, the general added.

“Our veterans are the keepers of freedom, sworn to protect this nation, and that is an oath they have taken very seriously. For this we honor them today,” Schatz said. “God bless our veterans, you and our great nation,” he said in closing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SPORTS >>Cabot girls win RAPA opener, fall to Central

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers opened the RAPA Roundball Rally with a big 74-45 win over host team Little Rock Hall on Tuesday, but stumbled in their semifinal game with 7A-Central Conference foe Little Rock Central Thursday night. The Lady Tigers overcame a field goal percentage of just under 18 percent to rally in the final moments and take a surprising 44-42 win and advance to Saturday’s finals against Morrilton, sending Cabot into the consolation finals for the second straight year with a Saturday afternoon game with Carlisle for third place.

A three-pointer by Lauren Walker put Cabot ahead 29-20 with 13:16 left in Thursday’s loss to Central, and gave Walker a dominant 17 points total for the game, but unfortunately for the Lady Panthers, they would be her last. Central’s defense sealed off the Lady Panthers’ primary threat for the remainder of the contest, and slowly worked itself back from what was at one time an unpromising 27-13 deficit mid-way through the first half.

Cabot opened the tournament solidly against Hall on Tuesday. Junior post Shelby Ashcraft used her tremendous size advantage to lead the Lady Panthers with 18 points in the game, while Walker used a strong transition game to generate 11 points.

Five of those points would come in the first three minutes of the game for Walker. She hit a three-point basket at the 14:28 mark to put Cabot up 5-2, and took an assist from Stephanie Glover in for a lay-up moments later after Glover came away with the steal on the inbounds pass by Hall.

The Lady Panthers extended their lead with baskets by Leah Watts and Rachel Glover, but it was five consecutive points for Ashcraft starting at the 4:19 mark that began to give the game a skunk-like odor, moving the Lady Panthers from a 27-14 lead to a 34-14 advantage with 20 minutes of basketball still left to play.

A major early setback would occur in the opening moments of the second half, when senior Jena Self went down on her ankle during a scramble for a loose ball. The significance of Self’s injury was clear right away, as she winched in pain in front of the scorer’s table, which brought the crowd on hand to virtual silence. She would be carted away by stretcher before the end of the game to a round of applause, but the significance of Self’s absence on the court would not be completely felt until the Thursday matchup with Central.

Walker looked poised to dominate the entire game Thursday night against Central. The 5’11” forward started the game full throttle, scoring on the first Cabot possession with a basket and foul before making three straight goals mid-way through the opening half to put the Lady Panthers ahead 15-6. She would also nail a three-point basket at the 5:24 mark to give Cabot a 19-12 lead.

The action got increasingly physical throughout the game. An Ashcraft block on a shot by Central’s Shanice Hayes at the 4:34 mark resulted in a loose-ball scramble that ended up with nearly every player on each squad on the floor at some point during the play, and would send Watts to the free throw line for two shots by the time the officials blew the bizarre play dead. Watts hit both ends, giving the Lady Panthers a 22-12 lead.

Most of the scoring action in the game occurred at the free throw line, with Central cashing in with a pair of foul shots in the final minute before Jr. guard Breanna Barnes nailed a three-point basket with 14 seconds left to cut Cabot’s lead to 25-20 at the intermission.

The big play by Barnes would be a sign of things to come in the second half. The Lady Tigers cut into Cabot’s lead more and more during the final 16 minutes, and would finally catch the Lady Panthers with 59 seconds left in the game on an inside basket by senior Martina Duhart that tied the game at 42-42. Cabot could not convert in the final minute, and Barnes saved the day with a driving shot in the paint in the final two seconds to give Central the win.

The RAPA action today will begin with host team Little Rock Hall against North Little Rock in the seventh-place game at 3 p.m., followed by the Cabot-Carlisle game at 4:30 p.m. to determine third place. Lonoke will take on Parkview at 6 p.m. in the fifth-place game before the championship game between Central and Morrilton at 7:30 p.m.

SPORTS >>Wildcats recover, beat Apaches

Leader football writer

SEARCY – After stumbling their way through a horrid first half, the Harding Academy Wildcats gave the upstart Pottsville Apaches a big dose of reality in the final two quarters here at First Security Stadium on Friday night. Harding Academy scored 41 points in the second half, overcoming a 21-6 halftime deficit to advance in the Class AAA state playoffs with a 47-28 victory.

It was the first playoff game ever for Pottsville, which finished the season at 7-4. Harding Academy, which improved to 9-2, will travel to meet Shiloh Christian, the top-ranked team in Class AAA, next Friday night in Springdale.

Shiloh Christian eliminated Harding Academy, 40-7, last season in a state semifinal game en route to the Class AAA state title. The Saints had a first-round bye on Friday night.

Trailing 21-6, Harding Academy junior quarterback Matt Lincoln completed 17-of-19 second-half passes for 167 yards and led the Wildcats to six touchdowns in their final seven possessions. Lincoln opened the second half with six completions to four different receivers, setting up J.T. Fisher’s eight-yard scoring run. Lincoln then hit Chase Gentry for a 2-point conversion to cut the Apaches’ lead to 21-14.

Pottsville, the third-seed from the 4-3A Conference, failed to pick up a first down and the Wildcats began another march. Dee Gibbs’ leaping grab of a 28-yard Lincoln pass set up Ty Finley’s 15-yard run. With his placekicker Robbie Dillard sidelined, Harding Academy head coach Tommy Shoemaker elected to go for two. Lincoln’s pass to Lance Carr was broken up, leaving HA trailing, 21-20, with 4:17 left in the third quarter.

Pottsville wasn’t quite finished, however. The Apaches used a 37-yard run by Jonathan Huffman to set up a 22-yard scoring strike from quarterback Josh Falls to tight end Chace Warren. Ory Lee’s PAT kick pushed the Apaches’ lead to 28-20 with 3:22 left in the quarter.

It would be the last spark for upset-minded Pottsville, though. The Harding Academy defense, which played on its heels against a tough running game in the first half, upped the intensity to start the third quarter and held the Apaches to just 94 second-half yards.

“I think us getting the quick score to start the second half really helped the defense,” Shoemaker said. “That pumped everybody up – especially the defense. We knew we had to score to start the second half.”

Lincoln’s only mistake of the second half came on the Wildcats’ next possession when his errant pass was picked off by Huffman. Three plays later, though, Harding Academy’s Braxton Bennett recovered his second fumble of the night.

Consecutive passes to Gentry, who finished with 9 catches for 121 yards, set up Fisher’s second TD run, from 10 yards out. Lincoln scrambled for the 2-point conversion, tying the game at 28 with 11:06 to play.

After another Pottsville punt was forced, the Wildcats used a 12-play drive to set up Finley’s second TD run, a 3-yarder with 5:08 left for a 34-28 lead.

Moments later, Gibbs fell on a poor Pottsville pitch and Gentry ran in from 26 yards on the first play from scrimmage, pushing the lead to 40-28. Gentry picked up another rushing score with 1:43 to play after the Wildcats took over after holding the Apaches on 4th-and-15 from their own 10.

“Chase made some big plays for us,” Shoemaker said. “It’s the first year he’s ever played football and he has really come on for us.”

After a dominating first half performance, Pottsville coach Bryan Rust saw the handwriting on the wall when the Wildcats’ offense hit high gear.

“We just wore down,” Rust said. “We’ve done this a few times in big games this year. We don’t have the type of offense where you can turn the ball over and stay in games.”

Rust had high praise for his team’s big season, though.

“Our guys came a long way this year,” Rust said. “We started before the season started talking about going to the playoffs. It’s something these kids have dreamed about and they accomplished that. They can be proud.”

The Apaches gave their fans plenty to be proud of in the first half. Unfazed by Harding Academy’s playoff tradition, Pottsville controlled the ball almost the entire first quarter, allowing the Wildcats just 10 offensive plays.

On their second possession, the Apaches worked the clock methodically and moved 50 yards in 11 plays before fullback Jacob Irwin bulled his way into the end zone from six yards for a 7-0 lead.

Harding Academy cut the lead to 7-6 two possessions later when Lincoln hit Finley on a 40-yard touchdown pass. Midway through the second quarter, Pottsville’s Mark Scott batted a Lincoln pass into the air, where teammate Justin Robertson grabbed it and went 35 yards for a touchdown and a 14-6 lead.

Following another Wildcat punt, the Apaches pushed the lead to 21-6 when Falls connected with Will Vodrazka for 25 yards, then ran the final 18 to score with 1:21 left in the half.

“They ran us up and down the field in the first half,” Shoemaker said. “They were ready to play.”

Shoemaker’s task now is one he’s familiar with. The Wildcats have faced Shiloh Christian teams in the playoffs on two other occasions and haven’t come close to beating the Saints yet.

“It’s a great challenge and we’re looking forward to it,” he said. “We’re going to go there expecting to win.”

Lincoln finished 22-of-33 for 267 yards for Harding Academy. He completed passes to 10 different receivers. Gentry was also the team’s leading rusher, carrying 5 times for 48 yards.

SPORTS >>SH Bears strike quick, hold off late rally by El Dorado

Leader sportswriter

The Bears found the best defense for the Wildcats’ stellar comeback Friday night at Bill Blackwood Field during the fourth quarter of Sylvan Hills’ first-round 6A playoff game.

It was their offense.

Hillside survived a brutal final 12 minutes from El Dorado to take a 28-21 win by eating up the last 6:41 off the clock after the Wildcats pulled to within one score with a nine-yard run by junior tailback Justin Billings. Hunter Miller and Lawrence Hodges did most of the stick moving for the SH offense, and the final drive would be no different.

The duo put up 170 yards of the Bears offense, with Miller rushing 24 times for 96 yards, while Hodges ran 15 times for 74 yards. Junior fullback Hodges shook off a shoulder injury in the third quarter to complete the game, taking four straight handoffs from QB Miller to start out the Bears’ final drive. His four rushes took the ball from the Sylvan Hills’ 39-yard line to the El Dorado 36, and would get the call once again after a Miller scramble for three yards gave the Bears second and seven at the Wildcats’ 33-yard line.

The Bears got down to the El Dorado 22-yard line with 1:11 left in the game. Facing fourth down and five, Miller took a rare trip to the air for the first down. The plan worked, as junior Devin Shaw snuck through the Wildcats’ secondary to find a wide-open spot in the middle of the field, and Miller hit him between the numbers for a first down and goal at the El Dorado 4-yard line. The Wildcats had used up all of their time outs up to that point trying to put a stop to the Sylvan Hills drive, and backup QB Jordan Spears took a knee on the final two plays.

“We did what we had to do to win,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said after the game. “I knew they would come back on us, but I think for our offensive line, especially our seniors, we kept hanging in there and finished it off.”

Withrow believes the on-field leadership of his senior quarterback was one major difference in the game, just as it has been most of the season.

“It’s huge,” Withrow said. “Whenever you have a solid quarterback leading you on the field, you can ride it a long way, and we’ve been riding it for seven weeks now.”

Miller, despite making some of the biggest offensive plays in the game along with a number of stops in the secondary, was content to chalk the win up to good team football.

“I just wanted to come out and play hard,” Miller said after the game. “We played a great game; the backs did good, the line did good, and the defense played great. We just had a good game the whole way around.”

In typical SH style, the Bears dominated the first half to jump out to a 21-7 halftime lead. The opening drive of the game resulted in a score, when Miller broke free on a 45-yard run to set up first and goal for the Bears at the El Dorado 4-yard line. Miller tried to punch it in on the following play, but only gained a yard. Hodges got the call on the next play, and busted up the gut for the three-yard TD run at the 9:12 mark of the first quarter. Stephan Kettle knocked down the extra-point to give Sylvan Hills and early 7-0 advantage.

The Bears’ defense held El Dorado to a single first down on the Wildcats’ opening drive, but a good punt sent Sylvan Hills back to its own 16-yard line to start the next drive. Miller would get that field position back and then some on the third play of the drive with a slant pass to Deonte Davis that was taken for a 56-yard gain all the way down to the El Dorado 25.

Miller took over on the ground from there, with four rushes totaling 25 yards, capped off with a two-yard sneak into the end zone with 2:03 left in the opening quarter. Kettle was perfect again on the PAT, and the Bears went up two scores at 14-0.
The SH defense’s only major first-half slip came in the final two minutes of the second quarter, when Wildcats receiver Clay Murphy slipped past the Bears’ coverage for a 40-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jeremy Gill with 2:21 left until intermission.

The Bears would not go to the locker room without momentum, however. Two big pass plays from Miller were all that was needed for one more score before the break. The first one, a 34-yard toss to Shaw, took the ball down to the Wildcats’ 45-yard line, and perhaps the play of the game two downs later when sophomore Juliean Broner came down with a 45-yard pass from Miller into double-coverage. Broner pulled in the rocket from Miller and bullied his way across the goal line just as the buzzer sounded for the score.

The Bears continued to dominate both lines of scrimmage all through the third quarter, but the start to the final quarter would change the game altogether. The Wildcats had struggled to put offense together all night, but found new life at the beginning of the final period when a 37-yard pass play to Marcus Parker set up a one-yard touchdown keeper by Gill with 11:42 left in the game.

The El Dorado defense stepped up on the next drive, holding the Bears at midfield to force a punt with 9:03 left in the game. The Wildcats’ offense went back to work, and would quickly drive back into the SH red-zone before Billings took it in on a six-yard run with 6:43 left to play.

Miller, aside from his two rushing TDs, also threw for 176 yards and a touchdown with six completions on eight attempts. For El Dorado, Parker led the way offensively with five receptions for 60 yards.

Sylvan Hills’ record improves to 7-4 on the year with the win. El Dorado’s final record ended up at 6-5.

The Bears will travel to Pearcy for the quarterfinal round of the 6A state playoffs to face West No. 1 seed Lake Hamilton. The Wolves advanced with a 37-7 win over Marion.

SPORTS >>Loss sends Panthers home

Leader sports editor

SPRINGDALE — The Cabot Panthers’ season came to a close Friday night when they lost 35-14 to Har-Ber High School in Springdale.

The same two things that have plagued Cabot all season got it again Friday. The Wildcats scored with big plays over the top, and Cabot turned the ball over deep in opposing territory.

Cabot turned it over on downs twice inside the Har-Ber 20-yard line, and lost one fumble and interception inside the Wildcat 10.

“We just couldn’t stop the big play over the top,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “We knew they were going to do it, and they still made the plays on us. That’s a very good offense.”

Just like last week, Cabot gave up an easy touchdown to start the game, but unlike last week, were unable to answer. The Panthers gave up a 61-yard drive and score in less than three minutes to open the game. The drive saw Har-Ber convert a fourth and 9 from the Cabot 15. Two plays and an off-side penalty later, Wildcat quarterback Patrick Calcagni kept for the final yard for the score.

After a Cabot 10-play drive netted 31 yards, the Panthers punted, and it was more big plays for the Wildcats.

The punt by Wesley Sowell pinned Har-Ber on its own 5-yard line, but the Wildcats got out of the shadow of the end zone on the second play.

That’s when running back Derek Brinker broke loose for 25 yards out to the 33.

After that Har-Ber converted the first of three third downs of the drive, the last being a 17-yard hookup from Calcagni to Steven Walters on third and 9. That put the Wildcats on the Cabot 40. From there, Calcagni found Josh Fohner for 40 yards and the score. The extra point made it 14-0 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.

Cabot went 15 plays down to the Har-Ber 20 on its next drive, but stalled there on downs. The Wildcats turned right around and scored again with a series of big plays. After converting on another third down, the Wildcats connected for 30 yards, but it was called back for holding. Running back Ethan Morris lost three yards on first and 2, but on seond and 25, Fohner caught a 29-yard pass with a diving grab for first down at the 49.

Brinker then picked up 11 yards on the ground for a first down at the Cabot 40. Morris then caught a 40-yard pass in double coverage for the third touchdown of the game.

The extra point made it 21-0 with 2:24 left in the first half.

Cabot drove down the field through the air, but with time running out, the drive ended on with three straight incomplete passes from the Har-Ber 14-yard line.

The Panthers dominated the line of scrimmage and time of possession in the second half, but two turnovers inside the Har-Ber 10-yard line did in their first two drives.

On the opening drive of the half, Cabot drove to the Wildcat 8, but Michael James fumbled and Har-Ber recovered.

The Cabot defense got its only stop of the game on the next drive, forcing a 33-yard field goal attempt that was wide left.
The Panthers drove down the field again, only to throw an interception on the 7-yard line. It was an interception that Har-Ber linebacker Houston Pruitt retruned 93 yards for the score. With 10 minutes left in the game, Har-Ber led 28-0.

Cabot then put together a drive, and scored before it got inside the 10. With the help fo two personal foul penalties on Har-Ber, Cabot had first down at the Wildcat 20. From there, halfback Jordan Carlisle busted up the middle for 20 yards and the score.

The extra point was good, making it 28-7 with 7:10 left in the game.

It took the Wildcats less than a minute to answer. On the second play of the drive, Steven Walters caught a 47-yard touchdown pass to make it 35-7.

The Panthers answered again, but Carlisle’s 35-yard jaunt up the middle was little more than a consolation. With only two minutes remaining.

James finished the game with 162 yards on 35 carries. Carllisle had 75 yards and two touchdowns.

The Panthers finish the season 7-4 overall.

OBITUARIES >> 11-10-07

Sylvia Mitchell

Sylvia Maxwell Mitchell, 70, of Jacksonville died Nov. 6.  

She was born Nov. 16, 1936 in Dumfries, Scotland, to the late Robert and Elizabeth Maxwell.  

She was also preceded in death by her husband, Samuel Mitchell and stepfather, Jack Williams.   

She retired after working 25 years for First Arkansas Bank and Trust. She was a member of The Church of England and also the Business and Professional Women and The English Ladies organizations.

Survivors include her daughter, Catherine Mitchell-Buzbee and husband Richard of Little Rock; son, Mark Mitchell and wife Judy of Santa Fe, Texas; three sisters, Aileen McQueen and husband Jackie of Dumfries,  Scotland, Moria Young and husband Heston of Danville, Ky., Sharon Adams and husband Phillip of Margate, England; five brothers, Ian Williams and wife Janet of Burchington, England, Max Williams and wife Doreen of Margate, Ronnie Williams and wife Carol of Ramsgate, England, Dennis Williams and wife Maureen of Durham, England, and Gordon Williams of Bristol, England; three granddaughters, Melissa, Megan and Erin Mitchell; two step-granddaughters, Amanda and Jodi Carr; three great-grandchildren, Eric Teague, Cameron Kirschner, and James Theiler.  

She will be missed by everyone at First Arkansas Bank and Trust and by her special friends, Carl Wayne and Maureen Wilmouth, Cathy Erickson and Susan Erickson.

Memorial services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 in the chapel of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs.  

William Jennings

William Dale Jennings, 36, died Nov. 8. He is survived by one son, Joseph Reese Jennings of Lonoke; his parents, Dale and Kathy Jennings of Lonoke, and one sister, Laura Jennings of Little Rock, and many other relatives and friends.

Funeral services will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 at Concord United Methodist Church with burial in Concord Cemetery in Lonoke. Funeral arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

Richard Hummel

Richard Hummel, 81, of Jacksonville went to join his loving wife Yvonne in the presence of the Lord Nov. 8 in North Little Rock.

He was born August 6, 1926 in Port Clinton, Pa., to the late Herbert and Irma Hummel.

He proudly served his country in both the Navy as a radio operator and a flier and the Air Force as a Russian linguist and in personnel management.

He was a member of the Lions Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4509, NCOA and the American Legion. He was of the Episcopal faith.

Survivors include his son, Adrian Hummel of Jacksonville; daughter, Elizabeth Ann Hummel of Conway; brother, Herbert Hummel Jr. and wife Sally; nieces, Lynn and Robin and one nephew, Stevie.

Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12 at Victory Baptist Church in Jacksonville with Rev. Dale Scott officiating.
Edna Blanchard

Edna M. Blanchard, 87, of Jacksonville died Nov. 4. She was born Jan. 15, 1920 in Mauldin, Mass., to the late John and Mary Jane Smith.  

She was a secretary for Melrose Wakefield hospital before retiring.

She is survived by her husband of 54 years, Richard E. Blanchard; two sons, Richard W. and Robert Blanchard and wife Jackie; three grandchildren, Rachel, Joshua and Cassandra.

Funeral services will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home. Burial will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Puritan Lawn Cemetery in Peabody, Mass.   

Paul McDonald

Paul McDonald, 84, of Russellville, died Nov. 3 at Spring Creek Living Center in Cabot.
He was born May 28, 1923 in Hardin, Ill.

He is survived by Bobbie Mahan of Pottsville; sons, George of North Little Rock and Kevin of Rogers; daughters Jetta Roberg of Cabot and Linda Sims of Fayetteville; stepchildren Frank Mahan of Pottsville and Debbie Loyd of Lake Jackson, Texas; seven grandchildren, and two step-grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to Camp Quality of Arkansas, P.O. Box 15718, Little Rock, Ark. 72231-5718.

EDITORIALS>>Gas tax for schools

Pick almost any issue between Mike Beebe and the good Republican Sheffield Nelson and the governor in our sights would own the higher ground. But on how to use a severance tax on natural gas Nelson is right and Beebe the shortsighted one.

Both view the state’s historical refusal to tax the production of Arkansas’ rich veins of natural gas as a shame, and the governor seems willing to ask the voters to do what the legislature finds it impossible to do, levy a tax on the big exploration companies comparable to what other states collect.

Beebe wants to first see if the companies will negotiate and agree on a reasonable tax and help push it through the legislature. That will not happen, although Sheffield Nelson’s initiative proposal will give them a compelling incentive to come to the table. Nelson is going to circulate petitions to put a 7 percent tax on the wellhead price of gas, the rate in neighboring Oklahoma, on the general-election ballot next year.

Arkansas now collects three-tenths of a penny for each thousand cubic feet, which is hardly even a nuisance. Texas imposes 7.5 percent.

Nelson, however, wants to dedicate the revenue — upwards of $100 million a year and climbing at the 7 percent rate — to higher education and Beebe wants to spend it on highways. He won’t support Nelson’s initiative next year unless he changes it to divert the money to the Highway Department. Beebe said he believed that Nelson, being a good man, would come around to his side.

Let us hope instead that it is the governor who sees the light. Arkansas, the nation and most of the individual states have always paid for highways with user taxes, that is, fees collected from those who use them and roughly in proportion to the extent that they use them and damage them.

Thus, we build and maintain our roads and bridges with state motor-fuel taxes, vehicle-registration fees and a variety of smaller levies connected with transportation — some $600 million a year in all — and a portion of the fuel taxes collected by Uncle Sam that match the money that we collect. We have resisted efforts by the transportation interests from time to time to take sources of revenue for the schools and other services and divert them to the highway program.

That policy has worked well, especially for highways, even in a state that has a higher per-capita highway burden than most states because of the state’s rural and widely dispersed system of roads. Fewer motorists are paying for more highway miles than in, say, New Jersey.

Nevertheless, Arkansas’ highway system, though not the best, ranks far better in comparison with other states than does its public schools, or for that matter its colleges, its health care or its services to the elderly and needy. We have fewer college graduates in our workforce than any other state. If we are truly interested in economic development, as Nelson points out, that has to be a larger factor than the condition of our highways.

It is true, as Beebe says, that motor-fuel tax receipts are not climbing as fast as road construction costs in spite of the fast-rising number of vehicles on the roads. Increasing fuel efficiency in new vehicles means that people are buying less fuel per mile traveled, which means that they are paying fewer taxes per trip. Our motor-fuel taxes are tied to volume, not to price. We do not have a sales tax on gasoline or diesel. So people are paying less in taxes per trip, and a steadily declining share of what we spend on traveling are going to maintain and improve the roads.

When the state needs to undertake a major highway-building program, road-user taxes are still the most prudent way to do it. The lack of a fair impost on the giant rigs that cause most of the damage to the Interstate and primary roads and bridges remains the state’s biggest failing. The late Henry Gray, highway director deluxe, tried vainly for many years to get a reasonable tax on those 80,000-pound behemoths to cover a fraction of their road damage. Now that would be a worthy fight for Gov. Beebe.

Meantime, let us hope that he enlists in the fight to raise the opportunities for children by dedicating a severance tax to a college education for everyone who wants it.

TOP STORY >>Day care center opens after meningitis scare

Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville day care center is now open after a brief closure earlier this week when a child from the school died. The Department of Health is conducting an infectious disease investigation and parents are getting their children tested for meningitis.

The cause of the death of the child who attended First Care For Children in Jacksonville is not yet known.

“The autopsy has not returned anything,” Ed Barham, spokesman for the Department of Health, said Thursday. “We didn’t close down the day care center,” Barham said of the school’s day-long closure on Thursday. He said the center voluntarily closed.

Children were in attendance Friday, the center’s director Laura Sanden said.

 “We typically treat close contacts with people who have become sick according to their signs and symptoms, especially in the case of someone who can’t communicate what the symptoms are,” Barham said.

The school takes care of infants as young as six weeks old and is run by First Baptist Church.

Jacksonville residents who came in close contact with the child are being treated as if they have meningitis.

Symptoms will be treated until lab results are returned, Barham said.

The Department of Health treats suspected infectious disease cases when a doctor or hospital reports them to the state. Often, infectious diseases are never reported because they are treated effectively, Barham said, negating any need for state intervention.

“(A) doctor will treat with antibiotics. There might not be lab results ever available. In the case of several infectious diseases, modern drug therapy is used,” Barham said.

People who have come in contact with a patient who has an infectious disease, such as meningitis, tuberculosis or whooping cough, can be treated with antibiotics so that the disease can be contained.

“Once we’ve conducted the investigation and made systematic contact with all…close contacts, generally immediate family, once we’ve done that and made contact and given drugs they need to take, then the thing you do next is you look at results and find out what happened, then the case can be closed,” Barham said.

He said the department investigates infectious disease “every day, it’s routine.”

"If people have not been in contact with us because of this event, they do not have to be afraid,” Barham said.

“Then we are confident that they are not in danger from this particular event,” he said.

A meningitis vaccine is available, but is only given to adolescents.

In Arkansas, vaccines against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, rubeola (red measles) and rubella (German measles) are required for children to enter school. Children may be exempt from these vaccinations for medical or religious reasons.

TOP STORY >>Gunshots killed suspect, coroner’s report says

Leader staff writer

Bryant Cross, 18, of McAlmont, whose body was found Oct. 23 behind a Sherwood home on Highway 107, died of gunshot wounds in the upper torso, according to a report released by the Pulaski County coroner.

Cross’ body was found in a creek about 12 hours after he and LaMarcus Dunn, 18, of North Little Rock, supposedly tried to burglarize the home.

The homeowner, Larry Staley, shot at the burglars as they attempted to gain entry about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Sherwood police arrived on scene about the same time, receiving a call from Staley’s wife. Police, along with canine, searched the area where the two suspects were last seen and found nothing.

Staley’s wife found Cross about 1 p.m. that day.

Cross was shot twice—once in the upper torso and once in the elbow, according to information released by the coroner.
The coroner has sent his findings and evidence to the Arkansas Crime Lab. The lab will try to determine if Staley shot Cross. Authorities have confiscated all of Staley’s guns for comparison purposes.

Also, Officer Ryan Baker, with the Sherwood Police Department, said his department has completed its investigation of the attempted burglary and shooting and has turned over their information to the prosecuting attorney to determine if any charges will be filed against Staley and if additional charges will be filed against Dunn.

Sherwood police have already charged Dunn with criminal trespass (a Class C misdemeanor) and attempted theft of property (a Class C felony).

Bond was set at $1,870, which Dunn has posted.

Staley admits to shooting at the suspects, but didn’t know if he had hit one. He also told the police that he shot in a direction different than where the body was found.

The attempted break-in was the fifth time in about 18 months the Staleys have been burglars’ targets. It’s also the second time Staley fired at would-be thieves.

This latest incident has caused the Staleys to put the 3.5-acre property up for sale.

“We just don’t feel safe here anymore,” Staley said.

TOP STORY >>Pilot’s son survives after swallowing toy with 'date-rape drug'

A Jacksonville toddler is back home from Arkansas Children’s Hospital after snapping out of a coma hours after he swallowed beads from a toxic toy set imported from China.

Shelby Esses, the 20-month-old toddler’s mother, said Thursday she knew her son Jacob was ill when he began to stumble, seemed drunk and started vomiting on Oct. 30.

Jacob fell down and was limp after getting into his older sister’s Aqua Dots, a Chinese-made toy recalled Wednesday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. “And that’s when we knew what he had eaten and that things were pretty bad,” she told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The toddler passed out when the beads’ coating metabolized into a chemical compound known as the “date-rape drug.”
“I thought he was going to die. I didn’t want to tell my kids that, of course, but I thought he was going to die,” said Esses, whose son swallowed a handful of Spin Master Aqua Dots the day before Halloween. “It was horrible.”

For a time, he slipped out of consciousness — waking up only to vomit.

“I thought that the Aqua Dots had to have done something, but I wasn’t sure because I didn’t think they were toxic. There was no warning on the box that said they were toxic. It just said that they were a choking hazard,” the child’s mother said.
Jack’s father, 1st Lt. Jonathan Esses, is training to pilot C-130 planes at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville. He is assigned to the 714th Training Squadron, which is part of the 314th Operations Group.

Two children in the U.S. and four in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

Dr. Matt Jaeger, of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, treated the child and said he was very worried when he saw him. The hospital started tests and performed a head scan, but within hours the boy recovered.

“He got better so fast we ended up letting him go home,” Jaeger said. Scientists say a chemical coating on the beads, when ingested, metabolizes into gamma hydroxy butyrate, the so-called date-rape drug.

The compound can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.

“It was pretty dramatic,” the doctor told ABC. “He was unconscious in this coma for about six hours. And then over the course of just a few minutes, went from being completely asleep to wide awake and playing like nothing ever happened.”

“He was out for about six hours and he woke up just kind of on his own and within minutes was back to his normal self. He was just happy and yelling and wanting to get out of the hospital and causing a stir, all of the nurses wanted to come see him,” Shelby Esses said.

Before the child returned home, his father crawled around on the carpet to make sure every Aqua Dot was out of the house. Jaeger said Shelby Esse tracked down toy components and provided them to the hospital lab, which later identified the chemical.

Retailer Toys “R” Us issued a “stop sale” for Aqua Dots on Tuesday in its North American stores and on its Web site after it learned of the news.

Spin Master Aqua Dots can be arranged into designs and then fused together when sprayed with water. Australia-based Moose Enterprises distributes the toys in 40 countries.

Peter Mahon, a spokesman for Moose Enterprises, said the company was conducting an internal investigation to determine how the chemical came to be included in the beads, which are made at a factory in Shenzhen in China’s Guangdong Province.
He said “ingredients were switched at the point of manufacture without Moose’s knowledge.” He declined to give the name of the factory, saying it was “not appropriate” at this time.

“Really the main thing we’re doing is concentrating our efforts on making people aware that children shouldn’t be playing with these products and getting them back,” Mahon said in a telephone interview.

In Australia, the toy was named toy of the year at an industry function. But the toys, known as Bindeez in that country, were ordered off store shelves on Tuesday when officials learned that a 2-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

A 19-month-old and an 18-month-old also were being treated.Since the spring, toy companies have recalled millions of Chinese-made goods worldwide. Products including Barbie doll accessories and toy cars were pulled off shelves because of concerns about lead paint or tiny detachable magnets that could be swallowed.

A company spokeswoman for Moose Enterprises’ Hong Kong office said Aqua Dots production was outsourced to a mainland Chinese factory. She refused to elaborate and referred all further requests for comment to the company’s head office in Australia.

Last week, the government announced an export ban on more than 700 toy factories in the region because of shoddy products.

The toys were supposed to be made using 1,5-pentanediol, a nontoxic compound found in glue, but instead contained the harmful 1,4-butanediol, which is widely used in cleaners and plastics.

The Food and Drug Administration in 1999 declared the chemical a Class I Health Hazard, meaning it can cause life-threatening harm. Both chemicals are manufactured in China and elsewhere, including by major multinational companies, and are also marketed over the Internet.

It’s not clear why 1,4-butanediol was substituted, though there is a significant price difference.

The Chinese online trading platform ChemNet China lists the price of 1,4 butanediol at between about $1,350-$2,800 per metric ton, while the price for 1,5-pentanediol is about $9,700 per metric ton.

Versions of the toy seized in Hong Kong were being tested Thursday, a customs official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of policy.

If the tests come back positive for the chemical, suppliers of the toy in Hong Kong could face a year in jail and fines of $12,877, she said. A spokeswoman for the CPSC said Thursday that parents should heed the warning against using the product.

“If a child ingests them, the glue turns into a toxic substance and it’s very serious,” Julie Vallese, a spokeswoman for the CPSC, said on CBS’ “Early Show.” “We want parents very much to heed this warning.”

Associated Press writers Peggy Harris in Little Rock, Meraiah Foley in Sydney, Australia, and Dikky Sinn in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >>Projects still waits for funds as Pentagon budget stalls

Leader senior staff writer

Nearly $10 million earmarked for the Jacksonville/Little Rock Air Force Base Joint Education Center, which seemed imminent as recently as Wednesday afternoon, is still on hold in the U.S. Senate, with the balance of the $37 billion Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.

In all, passage of about $50 million in central Arkansas military construction has been delayed but not derailed by Senate Republicans, according to Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

The Jacksonville/Little Rock Air Force Base Joint Education Center is still likely to receive $9.8 million, base runway repair will likely receive another $9.8 million and the new Cabot National Guard Armory is still expected to receive $840,000, according to Lincoln.

The balance of the local money is intended for projects at Camp Robinson.

The Senate did pass Thursday the 2008 Defense Appropriations Act, including a military pay raise.

But not the 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, which emerged from the joint conference committee attached to the funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations, but Senate Republicans insisted on separating the military appropriation, Lincoln said.

“Late (Thursday), the Senate was unable to move forward to consider the full package,” Lincoln said. The Senate did approve the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations—passed this week by the House—in effect sending the military construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations back to the conference committee for approval.


“The president has not indicated that he would veto the military- construction bill,” said a Lincoln spokesman. “Our Arkansas priorities in that bill are not in jeopardy.”

Lincoln said that it was unfortunate that on the eve of Veterans Day, Congress was unable to pass a bill expanding spending for veterans affairs and the military.

She said that 25 million Americans, including about 286,000 Arkansans, had served in the armed forces and characterized the care they require as “increasingly complex.”


“We’ll keep our fingers crossed that it gets approved,” Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said Thursday. “It has some important funding for Arkansas, not only for the base but also for Camp Robinson,” Swaim said.

“I hope the problem is procedural, the runway work needs to be done and the Joint Education Center is important not only to the base but to the community.”

The bill includes the largest increase in the Veterans Affairs appropriations, Lincoln said.

Lincoln, Sen. Mark Pryor, Cong. Vic Snyder, Cong. Mike Ross and Cong. Marion Berry all have worked to ensure these Arkansas projects.


Originally slated to be 80,000 square feet, inflation has reduced the facility to about 55,000 square feet with a price tag of about $15 million. Jacksonville has set aside $5 million from a dedicated tax passed by residents in 2003 to pay the city’s share of the cost.

Heightened security restrictions have limited civilian access to military bases, including the old, now inadequate facility on base.

The new one is planned to be “outside the wire” at the base, approximately at the intersection of Vandenberg and John Harden Drive. Arkansas State University will operate the new facility, providing a wider selection of academic programs to active duty and reserve military personnel, their dependents and interested civilians. Other Arkansas colleges and university systems would also have access to the courses and curriculum provided at this location.


The airfield, constructed in 1955, is in a state of deterioration, which could adversely affect combat readiness and may endanger aircrew lives and aircraft assets.  The funding allows the airfield to repair deteriorated runway and shoulder pavements, remove or eliminate airfield obstructions, replace runway lighting, and reorganize instrument guidance and navigation systems.


A new National Guard center in Cabot will be about 30,000 square feet, which will include an assembly area, administrative office space, supply and storage areas, classrooms, kitchen, parking and a maintenance training bay. 

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams had hoped to announce Friday during a Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park that Congress had approved the $840,000 to begin work on an $8 million armory (now called a readiness center).

Instead, he told the group of about 50 that had gathered for the event that Cong. Marion Berry had assured him the funding to start the project had passed the House and that it should soon pass the Senate.

“We feel like we’ll break ground by this time next year,” the mayor said.


No funding was earmarked but as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, Arkansas is slated to receive funding to modernize the aerospace ground equipment and engine facility at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Also in the bill is $1.9 million for an urban assault course at Camp Robinson, $5.5 million to protect from terrorists an ammunition-supply point on the camp and $18.4 million for a GED training facility sitting on 4.5 acres at Camp Robinson.
Locally, the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations included $1 million for the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, $1.4 million for a new Thyroid Diagnostic Center and other programs at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.


Congress Thursday finalized FY2008 Department of Defense Appropriations Act with funding for several projects critical to Arkansas’ military installations, research institutions and defense contractors, according to members of the Arkansas delegation. 

The members of the delegation said they are pleased the bill includes a 3.5 percent pay raise for military personnel, an additional $70 million to better meet the medical needs of wounded service members, $11.6 billion for body armor and mine-resistant vehicles, $980 million to equip the National Guard and Reserve forces and $2.6 billion to provide military families with the immediate need for more counselors, teachers and child care providers.

The House of Representatives passed the final version of the legislation Thursday.  Following Senate passage expected this week, the legislation will head to the president for his signature.


Locally, this bill included $2.5 million for Camp Robinson, for meteorological information to help munitions accurately and precisely hit their targets, $1.2 million to develop “a combination of nanostructures and electrical charges” to safely retrofit aircraft with a deicing mechanisms and $1.6 million for the surgical wound disinfection and biological agents — $1.6 million for Exoxemis, Inc. to research and test wound and surgical site decontamination to prevent infection.

“Arkansas’ military installations and defense industry continue to contribute significantly to our nation’s security,” said Pryor. 

“Every day thousands of Arkansas men and women in uniform courageously serve in combat zones, while many more here at home find innovative ways to make our troops safer and more effective.  These projects are wise investments that will ensure our servicemen and women have the very best resources they need in order to accomplish their mission,” he said.
“Our troops and families deserve this strong bipartisan vote for this important defense funding,” said Snyder.

TOP STORY >>Veterans recognized in area ceremonies

Leader staff writers

Some area communities have already celebrated Veterans Day with ceremonies, while others will do it this holiday weekend.
In Cabot, the day was sunny with only a mild breeze stirring, but the atmosphere was somber for the Veterans’ Day service held Friday morning in front of monuments displaying the names of many who have served in the armed forces.

The flags were lowered to half mast in honor of those who gave their lives in war and the key speakers from the American Legion, which hosted the event, talked about the apathy toward veterans’ sacrifices that is pervasive in today’s society.

“America is blessed because millions of men and women realized and still realize that nothing in their lives is as important as defending this nation,” said Vernon Bynum, American Legion state commander.

“For many veterans, it is important enough to endure separations from their families, miss the births of their children, freeze in sub-zero and endure 100-plus-degree temperatures, bake in wild jungles, lose limbs and, far too often, lose their lives.
“Sadly, their deeds are frequently unappreciated,” he said.

Allen Miller, American Legion Post 71 service officer and the master of ceremony for the service, called for a mandatory two years in military service for all young people, so when they are older and perhaps serving as lawmakers, they will understand what it is like to be a veteran. “We veterans and our friends can no longer be seduced by shining speeches on patriotic holidays,” Miller said.

Quoting President John F. Kennedy, he said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live them.”

Allan Wagner, a Vietnam veteran who has attended Veterans Day ceremonies for many years, said he does so because “it is important to honor these men who gave it all.”

“I like that saying, ‘There were a few who gave a lot for many,’” Wagner said. “I feel like it’s the least we can do.”

The Veterans Park property where the memorial took place was purchased in 1946. In 2000, monuments were erected there to honor the 105 Cabot War Veterans Memorial Association that purchased the Veterans Park property and to commemorate veterans who chose to have their names placed there to signify their duty to our country.

Other cities have scheduled Veterans Day ceremonies this weekend and early next week.


American Legion Post 91 will hold a Veterans Day Ceremony at the Veterans Memorial across from the ASU-Beebe campus Monday at 11 a.m. Participants are welcome to enjoy snacks and refreshments at Beebe City Hall after the ceremony is over.
For more information call John at 593-1090. Beebe city and chamber offices will be closed Monday. Garbage pickup will be one day late.


The military museum will show a film at 3:30 p.m. Sunday about a former LRAFB commander’s escape from the jungle after he was shot down by a Japanese fighter during World War II.

“Slightly Injured…Please Advise” is the story of Col. Charles O’ Sullivan’s crash-landing his P-38 in New Guinea in 1943 and the month he spent trying to escape.

Director and producer Josh Baxter and O’Sullivan will be on hand to answer questions after the film. Admission is $5, which will go toward future programs at the museum. For more information, call 241-1943.

In observance of the holiday, city offices will be closed. Garbage collection will be delayed one day.


A ceremony to honor veterans will take place at Sherwood Rotary Club’s Veterans Memorial at 1111 West Maryland Avenue Sunday at 2 p.m., when a wreath will be placed.

There will also be a battle re-enactment by the Trans Mississippi Volunteer Infantry of Pine Bluff replete with two canons and simulated gunfire. Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman, Alderman Butch Davis and decorated war veteran Walter Barnhardt are scheduled to attend.  

The ceremony will include a prayer, the singing of the National Anthem, placing of the wreath, words from Hillman, roll call of the bricks purchased in 2007 and ending with echoing Taps.

The ceremony will be the first held at the memorial that was dedicated on Memorial Day last year. The memorial consists of engraved bricks, which were purchased by family and friends of war veterans. A display of the U.S., Arkansas and P.O.W./M.I.A. flags will be illuminated in the evening.

“We have 50 more bricks to add to the existing ones on the memorial,” Alderman Butch Davis said, adding, “The memorial will be a continually growing project for the Rotary Club and city of Sherwood.”  

Bricks to add to the next phase of the memorial may be purchased for $100.

For more information or to purchase a brick, contact Alderman Butch Davis at 416-7577 or 835-3909.


In Searcy, a Veterans Day ceremony will be held on the east side of the White County Courthouse. VFW Post 2330 and American Legion Post 457 will both participate in the ceremony.

Lincoln Ladies will provide music and veteran Lt. Travis Goodwin will speak.

The White County Courthouse will be closed.

In other closures, the Lonoke County Courthouse will not be open Monday. No change in garbage collection is expected in Cabot, Lonoke, Ward or Austin.