Saturday, December 22, 2007

SPORTS >>Abundant Life takes two from Bigelow

Leader sportswriter

Both Abundant Life teams took a break from conference action with a home stand against Bigelow on Tuesday night at the ALS gymnasium. The Owls dominated the finale with a 69-43 win that met the continuous clock for the final eight minutes, while the Lady Owls outlasted the Lady Panthers in a 51-48 thriller to start the evening.

The vibe in the ALS gym was much more casual than the previous night’s league game with Rose Bud. Gone was the pep band and packed stands, but the Owls’ focus and intensity had not wavered since the big rivalry of 24 hours before.
Nelson Boren put the Tim Ballard coached Owls on the board first with an inside shot assisted by Dane Lottner at the 7:39 mark, and Abundant Life never looked back. Bigelow did tie briefly at the 4:21 mark with a shot by Cody Johnson after the Owls went with subs.

The second unit spent almost as much time in the game as the starters for Abundant Life, and proved almost as effective.

Sophomore Cameron Slayton and junior Andrew Chandler served as suitable replacements for standout playmakers Lottner and Colby Woolverton, but the backup unit did not have the pure height that Boren and fellow post Garrett Southerland provided for the starting Owls.

Rebounding was the second team’s primary struggle against the Bigelow starting five, but a three-point shot from Chandler with 4:16 left in the first quarter broke the final tie to put the Owls up 9-6.

The starters came back into the game with 2:47 left in the first half, and Woolverton put himself in the scorers book for the first time all night with a three pointer that gave the Owls a 12-9 lead.

Abundant Life used its height advantage for more than just superior work on the boards. Boren and Southerland provided a wall for Lottner on a pair of three pointers from the left side. The two players side by side proved to be an unpenetratable screen against the Panthers, as Lottner took his time to set up the shot with no contesting to adjust to.

As an integral part of both the varsity rotation and jv team, it was senior forward Robert Perry that saw the most minutes on the floor for Abundant Life on Tuesday. Perry was in the mix defensively all night, and also found his way to the goal on a couple of occasions during the second half.

Perhaps the biggest crowd response of the night came long after the game had been decided, when the legend himself put up two for the Owls. Junior guard Tristan Williford came away with a put back basket at the 3:03 mark to the delight of the AL fans. The sentimental favorite also came up big on the defensive side with five rebounds in the fourth quarter.

Lottner led the Owls with 24 points, with 15 points from Woolverton. Kevin Martin finished with nine points for Abundant Life, while Williford finished with two points and five rebounds. For Bigelow, Cody Jackson led with nine points. The win improves the Owls’ record to 16-4 on the season.

The Lady Owls was far from a blowout. In fact, white-knuckler is a more fitting description for the 51-48 win Abundant Life took over the Lady Panthers in the closing seconds.

It took most of the game to recover from an early 20-10 deficit for the Lady Owls. Bigelow came out strong, hitting five three-point baskets in the opening quarter before the AL defense had time to adjust.

Things began to turn around for Abundant Life in the second half. After heading into the intermission trailing by six, the Lady Owls eventually tied Bigelow before the end of the third frame on their way to claiming a six-point lead mid-way through the fourth quarter.

The Lady Panthers did not fade without a fight, however. They stepped up their offense in the late going to take a two-point lead, but junior Brittany Sharp hit a three-point basket in the final minute to put Abundant Life back in the lead.

Hannah Pastor hit a pair of free throws to keep the Lady Owls out front by one in the final seconds. Bigelow fouled Sharp again in a last-ditch effort, but Sharp made a put-back shot after getting her own rebound off the missed free throws to set the final margin.

“We had a great second half,” Lady Owls coach Justin Mosely said. “They were on fire in the first half; we weren’t defending them like we should have been. They also have a good post player that’s hard to defend. We were able to tie things up in the third quarter and finish out strong.”

Pastor led the Lady Owls with 21 points, with 20 points from Sharp. Candace Eudy rounded out high scorers for Abundant Life with eight points. For Bigelow, Whitney Hood led all scorers with 22 points. The win improves the Lady Owls’ record to 7-13 on the season.

SPORTS >>Bears get back at Hornets in thriller

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills went into the holiday break on a strong note with a sweep over visiting Oak Grove on Thursday night at the SHHS gymnasium. The boys game ended up with a dramatic conclusion in which the Bears took a 65-62 win, while the girls opener was over before it started with an easy 56-19 victory for the Lady Bears.

Senior Kai Randolph lit up the Hornets with 23 points for Sylvan Hills, 15 of which came from blasts behind the arc. Randolph used turnarounds, fades, and anything else to catch Oak Grove defenders off guard, and responded well to every adjustment they made by moving his range out further as the game went on.

“I felt good about this game coming in,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “This is a small, young group, and we knew Oak Grove would come in here and play hard. Hats off to coach Herring; they came in here and made it interesting. It’s kind of strange to play someone who runs a lot of the same things that you do; we had to add some wrinkles, and I think that’s part of what had us out of sync a little bit early on.”

Davis also had high praise for his young shooter.

“By the time Kai leaves here, he will probably be the best pure shooter I’ve ever had,” Davis said. “I’ve had a lot of really great shooters over the years, but his release is so smooth. He didn’t play very much on the floor for us last year, but even though he wasn’t seeing a lot of time, he was still working hard.”

Eight points was the biggest lead the Bears emjoyed all night. The Hornets came back from an early deficit to tie the game at 16-16 after one, and led most of the second quarter until Randolph launched another long ball to put the Bears ahead 27-24 at the intermission.

Sylvan Hills had its biggest surge in the middle of the third quarter. Randolph and P.J. Ross put their superior communication skills between each other to work inthe third, with some good dishes from Randolph to Ross under the hoop. That’s not to say the Randolph stopped scoring as well. A three-point basket by Randolph at the 3:44 mark put the Bears up 41-33, prompting the Hornets to take a time out and regroup.

The Hornets fought their way back through the fourth period, and had their chance to steal the win away in the final minute.

A back court violation against Sylvan Hills gave the Hornets possession while trailing by only one point at 63-62. Cedrick Williams took a shot under the goal that didn’t fall, and teammate Joloni Patterson picked up the rebound. Patterson tried to drive it back inside, but stepped on the base line, giving the ball back to the Bears with four seconds left to play.

Randolph led the Bears with 23 points. Ross added 13 points for the Bears. Sylvan Hills improved to 3-6 on the season with the win.

The Lady Bears made fast work of Oak Grove in the opener. Sylvan Hills rushed out to a 21-1 lead during the opening period, and went with subs for most of the remainder after starting post player Trinity Thomas lit up the Lady Hornets for eight points in the first quarter.

Sylvan Hills did their part with a good defensive push early, but the Lady Hornets proved to be their own worst enemy in several cases. Oak Grove responded badly to the SH press, throwing the ball out of bounds seven times in the first quarter alone.

Oak Grove finally scored its first field goal with 5:00 left in the first half, which made the score 24-5. Mercedes Gains scored both goals for the Lady Hornets in the first half, with the remainding points coming off free throws by Sherry Murphy. Sylvan Hillls led 29-10 at the intermission, and another brief run by the starting five in the third quarter pushed the game into sportsmanship-rule status by the end of the frame. Dede Lewis scored two baskets in the late going to give the Lady Bears a 47-18 lead through three quarters.

Thomas led the Lady Bears with 16 points. Lewis added nine, with seven points from Terica Kendrick. Dedosha Dennis finished with six, and Latrina Brandon added five points.

SPORTS >>Lady Devils topple Hall

Leader sports editor

The Lady Red Devils got their fourth win of the season Tuesday night, beating Little Rock Hall 38-32 and improving to 4-5 on the year. Jacksonville ran out to a big early lead, but Hall came back and led briefly in the fourth quarter, but reserve guard Sherice Randel provided a surprising spark that lifted Jacksonville to the win.

Hall took its lead by scoring the first five points of the final frame to go up 29-28, but Jacksonville closed the game with a 10-3 run to seal the win.

Both teams got out of the gate slowly. The score was stuck at 5-2 until 1:20 left in the quarter when junior Tyra Terry hit a three pointer. Hall didn’t score a field goal until 13 seconds later when Kyla Jackson hit a running jumper that set the score for the end of the period.

The Lady Red Devils began to pick up ball pressure at midcourt in the second quarter, and Hall had no immediate answer. Jacksonville forced three straight turnovers and scored five points off those turnovers to push its lead to 13-4 just a minute into the second frame.

The margin stayed in that range for the rest of the period, and the two teams went into halftime with Jacksonville leading 22-13.

Hall then began pressuring the ball in the third quarter, and Jacksonville likewise began to turn it over.

In all, the Lady Devils gave it up 13 times in the third quarter alone, and managed just six points in the quarter. They still led 28-24 at the end of the third, but they would relinquish that lead with 6:40 left in the game when a basket by Brianna Tillman tied it at 28-28.

Hall took its first lead with 5:22 left on a free throw by Tillman.

The two teams then traded foul shots, and Jacksonville took the lead back for good on a bucket by Randel with 3:14 left in the game.

Less than a minute later after a Jacksonville defensive stop, Randel missed, post player Kita Walker got the rebound and missed, and Randel scavenged her miss for a putback and a 33-30 Jacksonville lead with 2:30 left.

Terry then got a steal and fed Walker for a layup to make it 35-30 with 1:30 remaining in the game.

Shandrice Walton answered for Hall to make it 35-32 with 54 seconds remaining, and the Lady Warriors were forced to begin fouling.

Jacksonville made just two of four foul shots in the final seconds, but kept Hall from scoring to secure the win.

Randel led the Lady Devils with 10 points, all of which came in the second half, including six of the final eight points of the game.

Kita Walker scored six points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Terry followed her double double of assists and rebounds against North Pulaski with another solid statistical game. She finished with five points, six boards, six steals, three assists and three blocks.

Sophomore post player Jessica Lanier finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
Latrice Walton led Hall with nine points and 10 rebounds.

Jacksonville finished with 28 turnovers, but only three in the fourth quarter.

Hall had 29 giveaways.

Jacksonville is off until it opens the Red Devil Classic at 2:30 p.m. Thursday against Pine Bluff Dollarway.

EVENTS>> Fall 2007

Literacy group seeks books, sets new hours

The Literacy Council of Lonoke County needs donated books for the Book Nook.

Books are free to students enrolled in the literacy program. Books may be purchased by the public for a small donation — 50 cents for paperbacks and $1 for hardbound books. The resale bookstore offers the community an opportunity to support the county’s literacy efforts.

The Book Nook is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday. It is located behind the Lonoke County Courthouse and there is also a 24-hour book drop.

The council is a nonprofit organization which teaches students how to read and write. The council was recently awarded the Excellence in Education Award by the Arkansas Literacy Councils, Inc.

For more information, call 501-676-7478.

Cabot church to host Christmas feast for residents

Cabot United Methodist Church will host a Christmas feast for area residents who either have no place to spend Christmas Day or cannot afford a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.

The feast will be served from noon until 2 p.m. Christmas Day in the CUMC Family Life Center, 2003 S. Pine St., Cabot. There is no charge for the meal. For more information, contact Mary Kay Lieblong, Cabot United Methodist Church, (501) 843-3541.

Jacksonville wants nominations for annual award

Do you know someone who enriches Jacksonville through meaningful service to the Natural State? Nominate your ideal civic leader for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award.

The Citizen of the Year award is given to a person who: 1) Has made major contributions to the betterment of Jacksonville; 2) Has distinguished himself or herself through outstanding service to the community; and 3) Typifies the true spirit of service and self-sacrifice in representing the finest ideal of Jacksonville citizenship.

The 2007 Citizen of the Year will be honored at the 60th annual banquet on Jan. 29. The application includes a nomination form, a brief biographical sketch of the nominee, and supporting testimonials. The deadline for nominations is Jan. 20.
Contact Amy Mattison, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, with any questions or to receive a nomination form: email,, or call (501) 982-1511.

Cabot chamber seeks recommendations for award

The Cabot Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations for 2007 Cabot Citizen of the Year. The individual selected will be recognized at the Cabot Chamber of Commerce annual banquet to be held Jan. 18. A nominee for this award should be a person who has demonstrated through definable, exceptional deeds that he or she has made the Cabot area a better place to live.

Nominees must live within the Cabot School District. Activities of the nominee include volunteer efforts, extraordinary service to the community in their professional or personal endeavors, or the ability to affect change through a combination of both.
Citizen of the Year forms may be picked up at the chamber office located at 110 S. First Street, Cabot or call the chamber at 843-2136 to have one mailed or emailed.

Completed forms should be mailed to the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 631, Cabot, Ark. 72023 or emailed to

The deadline for submission of the application is Dec. 31, 2007.

OBITUARIES >> 12-22-07

Evelyn Miller

Evelyn M. Miller, 96, passed away Dec. 19 at Golden Years Manor in Lonoke after living a long and extraordinarily blessed life.
Born Oct. 1, 1911 to William and Madia Jane Boyd, Evelyn was one of five children. She grew up and graduated high school in Humphrey and went on to study nursing at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock.

In 1931 she married Howard W. Jennings and had two daughters, Boydice Ann and Joyce. She married Noble V. Miller in 1936 and had one daughter, Maida.

Evelyn was active in the Lonoke community, a past member of the Lonoke Baptist Church and was a member of the Eastern Stars. She was deputized and served as acting sheriff of Lonoke County, when her husband, Sheriff Noble V. Miller, was in the Navy in San Diego .

The couple purchased several cottages on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, where they operated the small resort and enjoyed life swimming and fishing with their family. They later moved to Oklahoma City, where her husband founded Investor’s Life Insurance Co.

She was known as “Eka” to her grandchildren who love her dearly. She often took extended summer trips across country with each of them for treasured one-on-one time. She loved to travel and was an active member of the Good Sam RV Club, where she participated in many cross-country caravans. One of her treasured possessions was an atlas given to her by her granddaughter, Lynn. She took pleasure in teaching her grandchildren how to cook, crochet and garden which was one of her favorite pastimes.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Noble, and daughter, Boydice Ann.

She is survived by daughters, Joyce and husban John Pack of Lonoke and Maida Maxwell of Midwest City, Okla.; six grandchildren, Michael and wife Jan Pack, Pamela and husband Richard Burt, Debbie Bunting, Mark and wife Shala Pack, Lynn Bunting and David Pack; as well as nine great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

The family will receive friends and family from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 23 at Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke. A graveside service will follow at noon in Mulberry Cemetery in England.

Special thanks to the caring staff and residents of Golden Years Manor.

Chris Flurry

Chris Flurry, loved by family and friends, passed away Dec. 16 at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, after a brief but fierce battle with liver cancer.

Her husband Greg, sons Mitchell and Jared, and daughter-in-law Stephanie were with her at the end.

She was born to Charles and Ruby Bobo on Nov. 9, 1953 in Memphis and was raised in Jacksonville.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in education from the University of Kentucky.

She taught eighth grade Earth science in Lexington, Ky., before moving to New York and then, in 1982, to Austin, Texas.
She spent the next 25 years raising a wonderful family and cultivating friendships at work and play. Her passions were her family, her friends and her pets. She put all of these ahead of herself.

For many years, she was a soccer, baseball, football and basketball mom while she nurtured her sons so they became wonderful, successful young men. She cherished visits and vacations with her sister, brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews. She treated her dogs, and especially her cats, with the same tenderness as her family.

In her last few years, she devoted most of her energy to Bethany United Methodist Church and the people of it. She contributed to all 18 care ministries, and especially enjoyed working with the Prime Timers, the elderly within the church. She also volunteered in the House of Friends respite- care program. In the most recent demonstration of her passion for people, she found the time to complete the prerequisites for, and be admitted to nursing school.

She lived her too-short life with a grace which only love and peace within, and contentment in the Lord, could create. She mastered a beautiful dance — a melody of goodness in the soul. Her greatest achievement, though, was the love which was so wonderfully and spontaneously generated by her warm presence. She’s gone and will be sorely missed, but above all, she will be remembered by the so very many that she loved and loved her.

There was a memorial service for her at Bethany Methodist Church, Austin, Texas, Dec. 20.

She will be interred with her parents at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Memorial Park in North Little Rock at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the American Cancer Society, or one of the church groups for which she was so passionate—the Prime Timers, or the House of Friends (c/o Bethany United Methodist Church).

Ralph Morris

CMSGT, Ralph P. Morris, Sr., 77, of Jacksonville was called home to the Lord Dec. 15.

Born July 31, 1930 in Electra, Texas to the late Walter and Catherine Morris, he was youngest of four children.

As a veteran, he served his country for 27 years in the Air Force, where he retired as a chief master sergeant. He then went on to work at UAMS for 17 years in the physical plant as an assistant director before retiring.

He valued God, family and friends. Always being a generous person his whole life, Ralph often helped others without a second thought. Many of us have fond memories of his joking nature and sportsman-like conduct.

He enjoyed laughing, taking care of others and seeing the best side of life. His second home was McArthur Assembly of God Church.

Nothing pleased him more than going to church. His many friends and family will miss him greatly.

He was preceded in death by his loving wife of 56 years, Helen Marie Morris in November 2006; his daughter, Joy Gail Morris; one daughter-in-law, Patrice Morris; his loving parents, Walter and Catherine Morris; two brothers, Milford and Bob Morris; and one sister, Babe Morris.

He is survived by two sons, Ralph, Jr. and Terry Morris; daughter-in-law, Sharon Morris; five grandchildren, Danielle, Jarid, Beau, Shaleen and Jordan; five great-grandchildren, Carissa, Devon, Amber, Nathan and Austin.

Funeral services were Dec. 20 at McArthur Assembly of God Church in Jacksonville with interment following at Arkansas State Veteran’s Cemetery in North Little Rock with military honors.

In lieu of flowers donations should be made to McArthur Assembly of God Church, 3501 John Harden Dr., Jacksonville, Ark. 72076. Funeral arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

Selma Magness

Selma Magness, 85, of Sherwood passed away Dec. 18.

She was a member of Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church.

She is survived by her daughter, JoAnn Heslep and husband Larry of Sherwood; three grandsons, Jeff and wife Jan Heslep, of Georgetown, Greg and wife Angela Heslep of North Little Rock and Keith and wife Sandra Heslep of Cabot; five great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; sister, Gloria McConnell of Booneville and a host of relatives and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Roland Magness.Memorials may be made to American Diabetes Association, 320 Executive Court, Ste. 104, Little Rock, Ark. 72204.

Funeral services were Dec. 21 at Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church.

Graveside services were at Harmony Cemetery in Center Hill. Funeral arrangments were by North Little Rock Funeral Home.

Carolyn Johnson

Carolyn Faye Richey Johnson passed away Dec. 18.

She was preceded in death by her parents, William and Lucille Vansell Richey, and her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Vansell.

She is survived by two daughters, Molly C. Martinez of Jacksonville and Kimberly G. Hale of Cleveland, Ohio; two brothers, Ellis Faye Richey and Billy Wayne Richey; nine grandchildren, Jacob S. Williams III, Christopher Williams, Victoria Williams, Jeffrey Williams, Jessica Peak, Heather Blackwell, Samuel Martinez, Stormey Gale Martinez and Ronnie Hale III, all of Avonlake, Ohio; and 10 great-grandchildren.

In loving memory of our mother, a memorial service was held Dec. 21 in the chapel of North Jacksonville Church of Christ.
Funeral arrangements were by Wood Funeral Home of Jacksonville.

EDITORIALS>>The Christmas child

To the editor:

As we celebrate this Christmas Day, let us remember the Christ child born in the hay.

He attracted Three Wise Men from afar, guided to Bethlehem by a big bright star.

They gave Him gifts to show their love, for the Son of God, sent from above.

The prince of peace, Jesus was his name, this sinful world was never the same.

He was the only one to live without sin, He performed miracles again and again.

Healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, taught others to be loving and kind.

With five fish and two loaves of bread, five thousand hungry people were fed.

He walked on water, parted the sea

And died on the cross for you and me.

He bore our burdens, our troubles and strifes, and promised us all eternal life.

He forgives our sins, eases our pain, all he asks is to praise his name.

So we honor the Christ child born in the hay, and praise the Lord Jesus, for this is your day.

Troy Edwards



To the editor:

All I want for Christmas is what I asked for…

Government entities and their employees who are entrusted with the care, management, and disposition of properties on behalf of others and who are accountable for such activities act in a fiduciary capacity.

This fiduciary capacity places a great responsibility on those who spend tax revenues and on their reporting responsibility to citizens. Part of this capacity is to comply with federal regulations, specifically the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for supplying information to citizens who request it.

The FOIA regulations require a response within 72 hours if the documents are available and there are penalties imposed for negligence. A $200 fine and 30 days in jail, or both.

I requested monthly financial statements from Cabot’s “custodian of the records” for each of the following months.
July financial statements were received Aug. 14.

August financial statements were received Oct. 8. September financial statements were received Nov. 13.

October financial statements have not been received as of Dec. 15 and no indication of when to expect them. November financial statements “should be available Jan. 8, 2008.” Do we see a trend here?

As I have stated several times in emails to the “custodian of the records” and other city officials, the city has gone back to the cash basis of accounting.

So closing out each month is as simple as reconciling the bank account at the end of the month and then printing the financial statements. The whole process should not take more than two days. Been there, done that. So at the very least, cash-basis statements should be ready by the 10th of each month.

I think most well-run businesses have their statements published by the 10th.

The law protects officials to the point of being ridiculous. Legally, you have three choices:

Malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance.

Malfeasance is doing that which should not have been done, misfeasance is improper performance of a lawful act and nonfeasance is failure to do what should be done.

I was told in one email from the “custodian of the records” that to expect a month’s financial statements by the 10th of the following month was “not only difficult, but impossible.”

So where does all this fit…..doing that which should not have been done, the improper performance of a legal act, a failure to do what should be done, or a combination of all three?

Dale Walker

Dale Walker is Cabot’s former finance director.

EDITORIALS>>Feds give us holiday gifts

Everybody complains about pork-barrel projects — or “earmarks” as they’re sometimes called — but they’re bad only when they’re for the other guys. It’s hard to complain, though, when the money comes our way. In fact, it’s pretty nice.

Most of our congressional delegation worked all year to secure some $39 million for local projects in the $555 billion ombnibus bill — which Congress passed this week — including $10.7 million for the Joint Education Center at Little Rock Air Force Base. Jacksonville voters had approved a $5 million sales tax to pay for the college campus that the city and LRAFB will operate in front of the base near the freeway.

The center will provide better educational opportunites for students from all around the area and will be a tremendous boost to Jacksonville’s economy.

Cabot, too, will benefit from the omnibus bill, which includes $840,000 for a new National Guard armory. That’s an impressive addition to a rapidly growing suburb with a large military population similar to Jacksonville’s.

Other military-related appropriations include $9.8 million for runway repairs at the air base, as well as lighting and communications improvements there. Current and former base commanders, particularly Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, who is in charge of the 314th Airlift Wing, and his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Kip Self, worked hard to get funding for the aging runways, which will be like-new when the repairs are completed.

The base will also get funds to modernize its aerospace and ground equipment and engine facilities.

There were other military-related goodies in the ombnibus bills, including $18.4 million for a General Equivalency Diploma complex at Camp Robinson for students needing a second chance, as well as a $1.9 million assault course.

Water projects include $9.8 million for Grand Prairie irrigation and $2.7 million for Bayou Meto, which should bring holiday cheer to all.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>What little girl wanted for holiday

(This is a reprint of a previous Christmas column.)

When my friend Jack Sallee was with the Jaycees in Fayetteville, they’d put an ad in the paper at Christmastime, saying that for $2 you could have Santa come to your place.

There’d be a group of Santas going out every night, and Sallee was among them.

“Each Santa went to about 10 homes a night,” Sallee says. “Each Santa had a driver. Mine was named Larry Nixon. He was a big fellow, and I would tell the kids Larry was driving me around town.”

Usually nothing out of the ordinary happened. Kids got to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and Santa gave them lots of candy, and everybody went to bed happy.

But then something different did happen. Sallee says, “One night we had two houses left to go. We drove around for a while, and when we found one, it was a one-room house. We went inside, and the house had a dirt floor and hardly any furnishings.”

A young girl was there with her mother. They were as poor as they could be: They had nothing — or very little.

The two Jaycees, college educated and professionals who’d seen dozens of nice homes, couldn’t believe what they had walked into.

“There were two cots to sleep on, and a table and a chair,” Sallee says. “The house had a pot-bellied stove. She had one of those small Styrofoam ice chests. So needless to say, I was taken aback because I didn’t think people still lived like that. This was inside the Fayetteville city limits.”

“The girl was seven or eight years old,” Sallee continues, “and she had long hair and blue eyes. She wore a nightgown that looked like a man’s T-shirt her mother had cut off. She was flabbergasted that Santa Claus would actually visit her.”

He says, “For a Christmas tree, her mother had brought in a branch and put it on the table.”

Her mother had found her a present — a ball wrapped in tissue paper.

Sallee wondered what else this poor girl would ask for.

“In the homes we had seen,” he continues, “the children would tell us what they wanted by reciting the toy sections in stores they’d been to.”

But that wasn’t what the girl wanted.

“The girl sat on my lap and looked at me seriously,” Sallee recalls. “She said, ‘Santa, the only thing I want is for Daddy to come home.’”

“I looked at my driver, this big, burly guy, and he had to walk outside because tears were streaming down his face,” Sallee says.

“The mother turned her back to us, and I just turned my head away from her,” he adds. “I was just stunned and moved and speechless. I wanted to hold the little girl and tell her everything was going to be all right, but there was nothing you could do. You felt helpless. She never asked for a toy or clothes.”

“I said there are some things Santa Claus can’t do,” Sallee adds, “but Santa Claus would try. I gave her all the candy I had.”
“It’s an experience you’ll never forget,” he says. “It will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Sallee remembers that little girl around this time of the year. He wonders what happened to her father.

Maybe this Christmas he will be home, and, who knows, they’ll have a nice home to live in. You can’t lose hope.

TOP STORY >>Cabot millage needed to expand limited tax base

Leader staff writer

Because Cabot has more than 9,000 students but not a large tax base, the Cabot School Board decided Tuesday that the only way to fund needed construction projects throughout the district is to ask residents for a 3.9 mills increase in a special election March 10.

“We are huge in terms of numbers, but not in terms of a tax base,” district comptroller Kelly Hayes told the board. “It just takes more mills for us.”

If the increase were approved, Cabot’s total millage would be 39.9 mills, generating the $22.8 million needed for the district’s share of the $50.5 million in construction projects it is trying to fund.

School board member Alan Turnbo described the projects as broad based. “They touch every age group and corner of our district,” he said.

The projects include a $13 million health, physical education and recreation complex at the high school attached to a new cafeteria/student center; $11.3 million for a new elementary school; $9.04 million to install heating, ventilation and air conditioning units in 10 kitchens in the district as well as HVAC systems at Southside Elementary, Junior High South and Central Elementary; $7.3 million to add 40 classrooms at the high school to accommodate future growth; $3.66 million for renovations to the high school auditorium; $3.6 million to renovate the high school S-building; $2.27 million to upgrade the science labs at Junior High South to accommodate growth in the next four years; $1.86 million for a new roof and HVAC system at Eastside Elementary School; $1.77 million for HVAC systems in the physical-education facilities at eight campuses; and $1.82 to construct a new facility for the district’s charter school.

Hayes said, “3.9 mills generate all the money needed to fund the projects if the pieces fit together correctly.”

If the state facilities board does not help fund the projects in a 60-40 split, Cabot will have to decide where to spend its 40 percent share of the cost for at least some of the 16 proposed construction projects in the next three to five years.

School board president Brooks Nash said the students need the construction projects.

“People come to Cabot not because of the industry in Cabot … I guess they are our industry,” Nash said. “There is some producing and credibility within the school district, but if the money is not coming in, it’s not going to be that way. That’s the bottom line,” he said.

Cost for residents

The effect of 3.9 new debt- service mills on property owners within the Cabot School District equates to less than 50 cents a day.

If a home were valued at $100,000, 3.9 new mills would cost $78 more a year in property taxes – a mere $6.50 a month. A home valued at $150,000 would cost $117 more a year – about $9.75 a month. And for a home valued at $200,000, 3.9 new mills would cost $156 more a year – $13 per month.

Compared to other districts

At 39.9 mills, Cabot schools would still have the lowest millage rate in Lonoke County and would be equal to the current average of the top 10 districts in the state.

Currently in Lonoke County, the Lonoke School District collects 40.40 mills; Carlisle collects 42 mills, England 41 mills, and Cabot 36 mills.

Each of Cabot’s mills generates $47 per student. Lonoke’s mills generate $53 per student; Carlisle generates $68 per student with each of its mills; and England brings in $54 per student per mill.

Within the 10 largest districts in the state in student population, of which Cabot is listed at number seven, Little Rock has 46.4 mills, Pulaski County Special School District has 40.7 mills, Springdale has 39.2 mills, Rogers has 39 mills, Conway is at 36.2 mills, North Little Rock is at 40.9, Fayetteville has 43.8, Bentonville has 40.3, Fort Smith has 36.5, and Cabot comes in lowest with 36 mills.

Cabot brings $433,622 per year from each of its 36 mills, or a total of $15,610,392, the lowest amount generated by the top 10 districts in the state.

North Little Rock is next lowest with $611,824 per mill, a total of $25,023,602 per year and its enrollment of 8,974 is 252 students less than Cabot’s 9,226 students.

PCSSD generates $1.85 million a mill, a yearly total of $75,670,173 – $107 for each of its-17,395 students. Conway generates $784,390 per mill, a yearly total of $28,394,918 – $87 for each of its 9,002 students.

TOP STORY >>Cabot armory gets $840,000

Leader staff writer

The $555 billion omnibus spending bill that has passed both houses of Congress includes $840,000 for the Cabot Readiness Center estimated to be ready for use within three to five years.

Although the bill is only a plan for spending and not an appropriation, Brig. Gen. Larry Haltom with the Arkansas National Guard said this week that the promised money will pay for the design and environmental impact study for the readiness center, or armory as local National Guard headquarters have been called until recently.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams has been working to get a new armory to replace the temporary one on Hwy. 367 since he took office in January.

He said Thursday that he had been in contact with Congressman Marion Berry, D, Gillett and as far as he and the congressman are concerned, “it’s a done deal.”

The entire project has been estimated at $8 million. The city purchased the land for the project for $399,000, with the state paying $350,000 of that amount, and then turned it over to the Arkansas National Guard which will build it using federal money.

The facility will sit on 15.5 acres in the industrial park on Hiwy. 367 near the new railroad overpass that is now under construction.

Williams says building the armory is “the single biggest thing for Cabot in recent history” and that it will have an economic impact on the city of $1 million or more a year.

At the end of his fourth month in office, he traveled to Washington to build support for the armory with the state’s congressional delegation.

By mid July, the city council had agreed to purchase the land.

Williams’ push for an armory in Cabot was the second in recent history.

When Joe Allman was mayor about six years ago, a group of local residents including Allman’s director of operations were able to get the temporary armory.

On the evening the council agreed to purchase the land for the armory, Hipp thanked the men who helped in that effort.
In addition to Hipp and Allman, the men who started the process of bringing an armory to the city are Fred Campbell, Don Elliott, Wayne “Moose” Cunnis, Bill DeVoss, Gary McMillan, and Charles George.

The state has not built a new armory since September 2005 when a $4.25 facility went up in Warren.

Since the armory will be built near the overpass that will be used by school buses, Williams says the location will be good for recruiting.

He also says he also hopes it will have a positive impact on his efforts to get federal money to build a north interchange that is part of his three-phase plan to connect Hwy. 5 to U.S. 67-167.

The spending bill also includes $10.7 million for the Little Rock Air Force Base/Jacksonville Joint Education Center, $9.8 million to repair and update runways at Little Rock Air Force Base, $1.9 million for an urban-assault course at Camp
Robinson, $18.4 million for the General Equivalency Diploma Plus program complex at Camp Robinson’s Professional Education Center.

There’s also $9.8 million for the Grand Prairie Construction Project, $2.7 million for a Bayou Meto study, $3.1 million toward study and engineering of a new I-630/I-430 interchange and $1 million for the Clinton School of Public Service.

TOP STORY >>Many helping those who are less fortunate

Leader staff writer

Christmas brings out 12-year-old Sydney Hickok’s generosity.

When she visited the Cabot animal shelter for the first time a few years ago, she listened when workers told her they needed blankets and food to help the animals. She started donating her allowance to the shelter. Then her giving spirit turned to other worthy causes.

She began buying toys for children and giving them to Cabot’s Christmas for Kids, and now does it every year, said Sydney’s grandmother, Nancy Siebert.

“She’s very fortunate and she doesn’t do without. We try to instill in her to try to give back,” Siebert said.
“She understands helping the less fortunate,” she added.

Her grandmother said that for Sydney, Christmas means it’s time to buy toys to give to Christmas for Kids. This year she gave about $50 worth of toys.

Christmas for Kids organizer Bill Holden was busy Friday preparing for today’s distribution at First Baptist Church. He said there would be toys to give to about 400 families.

“This has been a real good year,” he said. The fire department gave $15,257 to buy new toys, Cabot businesses also gave and children were asked to donate toys through their schools.

Holden is director of custodial services for the Cabot schools. He has been organizing the toy drive for 31 years.

Other Cabot residents working out of First Baptist Church have worked to make sure no one has to be hungry either during the holiday. Cabot Christmas Alliance president Ed Caldwell has helped the needy for more than 30 Christmases.

“It’s better this year than we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve had a fantastic year.”

Caldwell said the food drive will feed more than 500 families. They will be picking up their holiday fare at the Family Life Center of the First Baptist Church.

Families will be given frozen hens, cake mixes, fruit and other items to cook their own meals.

Ward residents are asked to pick up donated food from First Baptist Church and Austin residents from Austin Station Baptist Church.

In Jacksonville, Fishnet Missions has seen more people needing help this Christmas than in past years.

Fishnet Director Dewey Sims said people are hurting from high gas and food prices.

Nearby businesses help the mission to feed its clientele. Big Lots, Kroger, Starbucks and Daylight Donuts donate food to Fishnet.

The mission has given away 3,500 bags of food the past two weeks. On Friday, 15,000 pounds of produce was given away.
“Any one day, that’s a lot of food,” Sims said. “The economy is not as flushed as everybody thinks. Milk is up. Gas is up,” he said.

Santa Claus visited the mission Friday and children were each given three toys to take home.

The Jacksonville Care Channel gave away $5,000 worth of food Wednesday to 425 families needing Christmas meals.
Peggy Ness, who runs the Care Channel, said she thought the charity served about the same number of families last year at this time.

Wednesday, they took home macaroni and cheese, poultry, rice, soup, potatoes and other items for their Christmas meals this year.

Donations from Jacksonville churches and sales from the charity’s thrift store helped buy the meals. Ness said 638 Jacksonville children were given toys as well.

TOP STORY >>Communities pleased with $39 million for projects

Leader senior staff writer

Construction of the new $15.7 million Joint Education Center at Little Rock Air Force Base is surer than ever now that Congress has sent President Bush a $555 billion omnibus spending bill.

Bush had said that he would sign the bill if he got $70 billion in unfettered war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, but having gotten his war money, he now says he may find a way to slash funding for some of the $15.3 billion worth of earmarks in the omnibus and Defense Department spending bills.

Those figures are nonetheless about 25 percent less than the 2005 budget passed by the then-Republican-controlled Congress, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

“Those projects are in the bill and the president doesn’t have a line-item veto,” said Michael Teague, a spokesman for Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. He said all these so-called earmarks worth $39 million for the area had been debated and discussed openly in committees and approved, unlike the 2005 spending bill, in which the Republican-controlled Congress inserted items in secret at the last minute.

Unless the president vetoes the entire bill, the money for the air base, $840,000 for the Cabot Readiness Center—a new National Guard facility — as well as funding for projects at Camp Robinson and for several others in central Arkansas should become available soon.

Also in the spending bill is $9.8 million for runway repair, lighting and communications at the air base.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim. “I’ve been disappointed many times before. I’ll hold off on any brash statements.”

The Joint Education Center is a combined project of the base and the community. It would be built outside the gate and provide classes to both airmen and civilians.

Jacksonville residents voted in 2003 to tax themselves to pay their share, and the town’s $5 million is in the bank, Swaim said.

The existing education center is old, and attendance has been drastically down since base security was beefed up in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

The new facility, built outside the fenced perimeter of the base and near the intersection of Vandenberg Boulevard and John Harden Drive, won’t require civilians to come “inside the wire.”

“It will be like having a community college in town and that’s a plus,” Swaim said. “We have a lot of students that hopefully would take advantage, obtain a degree in some sort of higher education.”

“The working relationship (between the base and town leaders) has been excellent,” said Swaim. “The process has been long and arduous.”

But no one gave up, he said, particularly the congressional delegation. “Cong. Vic Snyder has been tenacious and we’ve had support from others in the delegation.

“The better educated our airmen are, the more likely they are to stay in the Air Force,” said Tech. Sgt. Katherine Garcia, spokesman for the 314th Airlift Wing. “That way, the initial investment is not lost when they leave in four to six years.”
She said the current facilities were built in the 1950s.

Of the cooperation between the base and the town on the project, Garcia said, “When the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission comes to town, one of the things they evaluate is how badly does the community want the base,” she said.

“We employ 6,100 airmen. We’re the fourth largest employer in the state. This is my sixth base and I can say this is the strongest community interaction (with a base) that I’ve seen,” Garcia said.

Of the runway repair and expansion money, Garcia said, BRAC was expanding the base’s training mission to include that previously done by the 94th Airlift Wing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia and that a small additional C-130 aircraft would be added at the base.

Garcia said the money would allow runway construction and repair without interrupting the base’s training mission.
“I am encouraged that they are making progress,” said Nancy Sheflette, director of the ASU-Beebe branch at the base’s current Joint Education Center.

Because of inflation, the education center has been downsized from about 80,000 square feet to about 50,000 square feet.
“We’ll be able to help a lot more students than we do currently,” she said. “We’ll have daytime classes as well as our current offerings.”

In addition to the money for the joint education center and the runway construction and repair on the military side, the bill includes $1.9 million for an Urban Assault Course at Camp Robinson, $18.4 million for the GED Plus program complex at Camp Robinson’s Professional Educational Center.

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.

Among other items of local interest in the omnibus bill are $9.8 million for the Grand Prairie Construction Project, $2.7 million for a Bayou Meto water study and $3.1 million toward study and engineering of a new I-630—I-430 interchange.

The Clinton School of Public Service would receive $1 million toward operation and- instruction, along with funds to maintain an extensive slate of public speakers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

SPORTS >>Wildcats too large for Bears

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Bears couldn’t match the inside dominance of North Little Rock on Friday, as the Charging Wildcats rolled to a 82-62 win at Charging Wildcats Arena. North Little Rock wasted little time lighting up the scoreboard, rushing out to a 27-13 lead at the end of eight minutes on its way to the huge win.

The Bears were forced to try their hand from the outside for the most part, but NLR offered little relief defensively. Sylvan Hills did manage to slow down the Wildcats’ offensive attack beginning in the second quarter, but could never dig itself out of the early hole.

“They make it tough to make anything inside,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “Defensively, we had trouble stopping them either way. They shot well inside in the first quarter, so we tried to go zone on them in the second quarter, and they just started knocking it down from the outside then.”

The Bears closed the interval slightly in the second frame to trail 44-30 at the intermission, but North Little Rock stepped things up once again in the third quarter to surpass the 20-point lead mark once again, and held on to it during the final frame.

Kai Randolph led the Bears with 23 points, while Cameron Robinson added 13 points. For North Little Rock, Trey Allison led with 16 points, while Cedric Dunn added 15 for the Charging Wildcats.

North Little Rock’s first-quarter performance was a bad sign of things to come for Sylvan Hills. Five three-point baskets, five field goals and 13 of 15 shots from the free-throw line put the Bears in a big hole in a hurry, and that hole would not shrink much at all throughout the course of the contest.

“For Davis, his young team’s refusal to give up, even in the most adverse of situations, is something he believes will help after the first of the year when league play begins in the tough 6A-East Conference.

“They had such a great first quarter,” Davis said. “I thought we battled through the game even though they put us in such a big hole at the first. That’s really all you can do when you’re in a mismatch like that, just keep fighting and try to get better.”
The Bears hosted Oak Grove last night in a senior boys/ senior girls doubleheader, and will take part in the Greenbrier tournament over the holidays.

SPORTS >>Comeback falls short, Owls beaten by Ramblers

Leader sportswriter

If it wasn’t a rivalry before, it certainly is one now.

Abundant Life was a late turnover short of a stellar comback against Rose Bud, but the Ramblers held on to take a 58-53 win Tuesday night at ALS. The Lady Ramblers made it a sweep in the pair of 3A-2 Conference games, holding off the Lady Owls in the final quarter to win 43-35 in the first of the spirited match ups.

The crowd for both sides had very vocal roles during the boys’ varsity finale, as did the two teams’ coaches. AL coach Tim Ballard put all of his ref-working cards on the table with some entertaining, if not somewhat questionable antics, while Rose Bud coach Johnny Taylor screamed at everyone within reasonable proximity to the Ramblers’ bench.

Both teams worked their way progressively inward as the night went on. That was a huge benefit for the Owls, who came away with a 27 percent shooting average from behind the arc in the first half, compared to 66 percent for Rose Bud, mostly off the hand of senior Zach Prothro. Zach gave the AL defense fits in the first half, ending the first 16 minutes with 21 points, including four shots good for three, along with five of six shots from the free-throw line.

It wouldn’t be as easy for the Owls in the first half. They found themselves struggling from the outside, as leading scorers Colby Woolverton and Dane Lottner were denied the outside, and found driving inside almost as tough.

The outside was of little concern to the Owls in the second half. Post player Garrett Southerland converted a pair of threes in the second half, but every other point for Abundant Life was earned inside. On the defensive side, the Owls found a way to slow down Zach Prothro, allowing them to keep the score close down the stretch.

“It’s going to be like this in every conference game this year,” Rose Bud coach Taylor said. “Coach Ballard does an outstanding job with his kids to get them ready for big games like this. I thought my kids showed a lot of resolve whenever they came at us with the extra pressure.” Ballard was also proud of his team’s effort after the dramatic game.

“It is really tough to find open shots against them,” Ballard said. “They tend to overplay Colby and Dane some, and we had some other guys that were finding looks. When you play Rose Bud, sometimes you have to go in and throw up the first open shot you can find.”

As for his pair of entertaining patience testers on the refs, in which he pysched a Rose Bud player into letting a loose ball roll out of bounds, and had his players all move their chairs closer to the sideline, Ballard quipped that there is an explanation for everything.

“I made all the refs mad at me,” Ballard said with a grin. “They told me never to do that again. I said, ‘You mean I can’t put my hands out like I’m going to grab a basketball?’, and they just said, ‘No, you can’t, don’t do it again.’ The chair thing was me just trying to see. After I got my tech, they told me to sit down. I couldn’t see past the scorers table, so I moved my chair up, and they told me all the chairs had to be even. We scooted the other chairs up so I could see better. I wasn’t trying to show anyone up, I was just trying to see a good ballgame.”

Zach Prothro struck early and often for the Ramblers in the first quarter. He scored 10 points in the first three minutes of the game, including two three pointers that allowed Rose Bud to jump out to a 12-4 lead by the 4:42 mark. After a number of outside misses by Woolverton and Lottner, it was finally Terrell Ghant who would find the touch from the three-point line with a basket that cut the Ramblers’ lead to five.

An Abundant Life time out did little to slow down Zach Prothro. He was one shot and one free throw away from a perfect performance offensively in the first half. He ended up 5 of 6 from both the floor and foul line, along with a dizzying 4 for 4 from the three-point arc.

Woolverton and the Owls’ defense turned up the heat on Zach in the second half. The final 16 would not even be close to as kind for the standout, with only two field goals and a a 3 of 7 performance at the foul line. Instead, it was brother Zeb Prothro who found looks inside, along with guard Jacob Pio.

Rose Bud came out strong once again to start the second half. A jumper by Pio at the 4:07 mark gave the Ramblers a 41-32 lead. Bradley Moss then gave the Ramblers a double-digit lead for the first time all night with a chance for three, but he missed the foul shot following a basket and foul to leave the score at 43-32.

Southerland answered for the Owls with a three pointer, and Woolverton began to shake some of his heavy coverage by joining the mess inside. The move paid off on the next AL possession when he drew the foul trying to drive the lane.

Woolverton hit both ends of a two-shot foul to make the score 43-37 with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter.

A charge on Zeb Prothro gave the ball back to the Owls, and Lottner took it to the hoop off an assist by Woolverton to pull to within four, and another RB turnover gave Woolverton the last shot of the frame with a jumper off the glass that pulled Abundant Life to within two, 43-41.

The fourth quarter was intense, but started out on a bizarre note. Ballard talked briefly with an official before his players all moved their chairs up closer to the side line. Ballard had received a technical foul in the middle of the third quarter, and was relegated by the officials to stay in his seat.
These actions were much to the dimay of Taylor, who questioned Ballard’s actions. The two would have more direct words before the end of the game, when Woolverton went to the free throw line in the final minute after drawing the foul on a defensive board following a missed foul shot by Zach Prothro.

Zach had just gone in for a shot that put the Ramblers up 54-50, and drew the foul from ALs Ghant. His free throw bounced off the glass, and Woolverton and Southerland both went up for it. Taylor contested that it was Southerland, not Woolverton who should have gone to the line although it was Woolverton who actually came down with the ball. This caused yet another moment of doubt by the seemingly easily confused officiating crew, and prompted Ballard to openly challenge Taylor’s honesty regarding the foul from the sideline.

It was Woolverton who ended up at the line, as he made the front end of the two-shot foul. The second shot fell short, and Zeb Prothro was there for the rebound.

The possession resulted in a pair of missed free throws by Pio, and Robert Perry was there to pick up the rebound for the Owls.

With 15 seconds remaining and trailing by three, Woolverton set up the final offensive play with a pass to Ghant, but Cody Smith got in the way for the Ramblers and came away with the turnover. He was immediately fouled, and hit both free throws to give Rose Bud a two-possesion lead with less than 10 seconds remaining.

Woolverton led the Owls with 19 points and four steals. Lottner added 17 points, five rebounds and two blocks for Abundant Life.

Ghant had nine points and four assists for the Owls, while Southerland finished with eight points and five rebounds. For Rose Bud, Zach Prothro led all scorers with 28 points and five rebounds. The win leaves the Ramblers with a perfect 14-0 record, while the Owls fall to 15-4 overall and 2-2 in the 3A-2 Conference.

The Lady Owls may be winless in their early 3A-2 campaign, but they have hung with some of the best competition in 3A basketball. Brittany Sharp helped get Abundant Life to within six points of the Lady Ramblers in the second half after trailing by nine at the intermission, but Caty Wells and the RB ladies finished out strong in the final four minutes of the game.

Wells led the Lady Ramblers with 18 points, and had all but five points of the RB offense in the second half. Sharp led the Lady Owls with 17 points, with 11 points from Hannah Pastor and five points for Candice Eudy.

The win improves Rose Bud’s record to 8-4 overall and 3-2 in the 3A-2 Conference, while the Lady Owls fall to 5-13 and 0-4 in conference.

SPORTS >>Jackrabbits get big sweep of Mt. View

Leader sports editor

Lonoke got two very important wins Friday at Mountain View. The Yellowjacket boys and girls teams are contenders in the 4A-2 Conference, and play in one of the toughest places to play in the league. For the Jackrabbits to come out of there with a 53-49 win, and the Lady ’Rabbits a 42-36 victory, was a big deal for both teams.

The Mountain View boys are exceeding preseason expectations, but by the time Lonoke coach Wes Swift took his team north to face the 8-1 Yellowjackets, he knew his squad was in for a tough night.

“They were sitting there 8-1 and undefeated in conference; there wasn’t any surprise left to it,” Swift said. “I knew they were good and I knew we needed to be ready to play.”

Lonoke led throughout the first three quarters, but never by much. Its lead was two after one quarter and three at halftime. The two teams turned up the defensive intensity in the third quarter, and Lonoke struggled shooting the ball at the same time. The result was a six-point quarter for Lonoke and a 37-37 game going into the fourth.

Lonoke pushed back out to a six-point lead midway through the fourth, and had a chance to put the game away, but free throws wouldn’t fall. The Jackrabbits hit two of six free-throw attempts during a Mountain View surge that pulled the game back to within a two-point margin.

The ’Rabbits two them when they needed them most. With seconds to go and still trailing by two, Mountain View still needed to foul, and Lonoke got two big free throws from Clarence Harris to put the game out of reach.

Lonoke assistant coach Dean Campbell thought the free throws at the end were indicative of his squad.

“We didn’t shoot well at all, but we got a couple of clutch ones when we had to have it,” Campbell said. “This was our first real road test and we knew it was going to be tough at their place, especially after the up-and-down game we played against Marianna. Mountain View is much more deliberate and controls the ball. It was a big adjustment in styles, but we have a good veteran group that understands how to do both and knows how to make plays.”

Senior Bradley Spencer led Lonoke with 14 points while Harris finished with 13. Mountain View’s Ferris led all scorers with 25 points.

Lonoke improved to 4-0 in conference while Mountain View dropped to 8-2 and 4-1.

Lonoke hit just seven of 15 free-throw attempts, including four of 10 in the second half.

The Lady Jackrabbits also had to battle to the end. Like in the boys game, there was a moment early in the fourth in which Lonoke appeared to be taking control, but the Lady Yellowjackets battled back as well.

After leading by as much as eight points in the fourth, Mountain View came back to tie it at 30 apiece, led by senior Kelsey Burns. Lonoke sophomore Asiah Scribner answered the challenge, scoring 10 of her game-high 21 points in the fourth period.

“Asiah stepped up for us,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “She got three field goals for us in the fourth quarter, and she and Ashleigh Himstedt were able to get to the basket and get to the foul line. We were able to hold them off; that was a tough bunch.”

Mountain View opened the first quarter with the game’s first salvo. The hosting Lady Yellowjackets opened up an 11-2 lead, but Lonoke closed with the final four points of the quarter. That was just the beginning of a defensive stand that lasted the rest of the half.

The Lady ’Rabbits turned an 11-2 deficit late in the first quarter into a 16-13 lead at intermission.

“We didn’t come out and match their intensity,” Morris said. “We couldn’t get anything going from the outside, but we were finally able to start feeding it inside because they weren’t packing the middle on us. We did an outstanding job defensively in the second quarter, especially with Scribner on the bench with foul trouble. That defensive stand in the second was the difference.”

Himstedt and Haley O’Cain each added seven for Lonoke, while Mountain View was led by Burns’ 17.

“That was a very, very good win for us up there, there’s no doubt about it,” Morris said. “That’s a tough place to play. They’re very tough kids, very well coached and just hard-nosed basketball players. Even with all the success we had last year, we weren’t able to win up there, so this was a big one.”

The Lady ’Rabbits improved to 9-3 overall and 4-0 in league play while Mountain View dropped to 3-2 in conference.

On Saturday the boys traveled just down the road to England for a makeup game. The Jackrabbits cruised to a 69-35 win after jumping out to a 22-5 lead in the first quarter. Michael Howard led all scorers with 17, while reserve guard Trenton Spencer added 12.

“We have been trying to get Trenton to adjust and get comfortable offensively, to find what is a good shot for him,” Campbell said. “He’s a defender anyway. He plays hard and aggressive for us on the defensive end. We were glad to see him have a game like that because we need a couple of those bench guys to come along and give us some production.”

The win lifted Lonoke to 9-3 overall.

On Friday the Jackrabbit boys and girls will travel to Stuttgart to close out conference play for this semester. They will be in the Badger Holiday Classic in Beebe over the Christmas break. That tournament begins on Dec. 27.

EVENTS>> Fall 2007

Cabot group collects toys for needy kids

Cabot’s Christmas for Kids committee is collecting toys for needy local children. Now in its 31st year, the group serves about 700 families with nearly 1,100 children and provides them with new holiday toys. Toys will be accepted through Friday.

Boxes are in place for toy donations at all Cabot School District elementary and middle schools. They may also be dropped off at Express Printing, Cabot Kmart, all Community Bank locations, Waffle House and Dollar General.

Checks may be mailed to Christmas for Kids, 100 Gunsmoke Drive, Austin, Ark. 72007 or they may be brought to the toy collection warehouse, 319 G.P. Murrell Drive in Cabot. This is the Cabot Schools warehouse in the industrial park off Hwy. 367 on the way to Austin.

For more information, call one of the volunteers on the committee: Bill Holden at 743-3560; Randy Holden at 743-6171; Shelley Montoya at 605-3403 or Rita Stewart at 743-3560.

Literacy group asks for books, sets new hours

The Literacy Council of Lonoke County needs donated books for the Book Nook. Books are free to students enrolled in the literacy program. Books may be purchased by the public for a small donation – 50 cents for paperbacks and $1 for hardbound books. The resale bookstore offers the community an opportunity to support the county’s literacy efforts.

The Book Nook is now open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday. It is located behind the Lonoke County Courthouse and there is also a 24-hour book drop.

The council is a nonprofit organization which teaches students how to read and write. The council was recently awarded the Excellence in Education Award by the Arkansas Literacy Councils, Inc. For more information, call 501-676-7478.

Cabot is seeking citizen of the year nominations

The Cabot Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations for 2007 Cabot Citizen of the Year. The individual selected will be recognized at the Cabot Chamber of Commerce annual banquet to be held Jan.18. A nominee for this award should be a person who has demonstrated through definable, exceptional deeds that he or she has made the Cabot area a better place to live.

Nominees must live within the Cabot School District. Activities of the nominee include volunteer efforts, extraordinary service to the community in their professional or personal endeavors, or the ability to affect change through a combination of both.
Citizen of the Year forms may be picked up at the chamber office located at 110 S. First Street in Cabot or call the chamber at 843-2136 to have one mailed or emailed. Completed forms should be mailed to the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 631, Cabot, AR, 72023 or emailed to The deadline for submission of the application is Dec. 31.

CADC to distribute commodities in Lonoke County

Central Arkansas Development Council will distribute USDA commodities beginning at 9 a.m. today. The distributions will take place at the following locations: Allport City Hall, Austin City Hall, Cabot Church of Christ, Carlisle Old City Gym, Humnoke City Hall, Lonoke County Fairgrounds, Ward Chamber of Commerce, Woodlawn Community Center and the England Health Unit.

Food items to be distributed may include green beans, corn, sweet peas, vegetable soup, apple sauce, pinto beans, peanut butter, sweet potatoes and grape juice. For more information, contact Evelyn Reed at 501-778-1133.

Cabot UMC will serve up a Christmas feast for all

Cabot United Methodist Church will host a Christmas feast for area residents who either have no place to spend Christmas Day or cannot afford a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.

The feast will be served from noon until 2 p.m. Christmas Day in the CUMC Family Life Center, 2003 S. Pine St., Cabot. There is no charge for the meal.

For more information, contact Mary Kay Lieblong, Cabot United Methodist Church, (501) 843-3541.

OBITUARIES >> 12-19-07


Ester Lurlene McKenzie, of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord Dec. 16 in Little Rock.

She was born in the Cabot area to the late John and Frances Benson McKee. She was a member of First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, where she was a long-time secretary for the Wesleyan circle of United Methodist Women.

She was preceded in death by her loving husband Jerry C. McKenzie; and sister, Alverne McKee Pixley.

Survivors include her sister, Emma F. McKee and husband Tommy H. Landrum of Oxford, Miss.; brother-in-law, Butch Pixley of Sherwood; sister-in-law, Eurlene McKenzie of Jacksonville; a niece, Melanie Woodall and husband Chuck as well as their son, Jackson; and a nephew, Thomas Landrum.

Graveside services will be at 11 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 20 at Rest Hills Cemetery in North Little Rock with Dr. Carol Goddard officiating. Visitation will be at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Michael A. Hall

Michael Allen Hall, 46, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 17 in Pine Bluff.

He was born Sept. 1, 1961 in Jacksonville to the late Frank and Anna Hall.

He was a former member of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville.

He is survived by his daughter, Gayla Dawn Hall of Missouri; grandfather, Griffin Barrentine of Memphis, Tenn.; brothers, Joel and wife Janet Hall, Steven and wife Georgia Hall, both of Jacksonville and Phillip Hall of Cabot; uncles, Bill Hall of Kansas and Bob Barrentine of Ward; one granddaughter, Alexis Jade Hall of Missouri.

Memorial services will be at 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home. Burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park.

Harry Grunnagle

Harry John Grunnagle, 64, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 14.  

He was born June 1, 1943 in Pittsburgh, Penn., to the late Phillip and Agnus Grunnagle.  

He retired from the Air Force after 24 years as a chief master sergeant.  He was a Vietnam veteran and worked with Department of Veterans Affairs for many years. He enjoyed the outdoors and especially enjoyed hunting and fishing.

He is survived by his loving wife, Miyoko “Micky” Nagamini Grunnagle; and children, Harry Grunnagle, Jr. of Dallas, Texas, and Robin and Paige Grunnagle of Fayetteville.

There will be a private family service under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.  

Walter Hoggard

Walter Hoggard, 74, of Ward died Dec. 16.

He was a retired dairy farmer, and was a member of Sylvania Presbyterian Church. He enjoyed going to the Woodlawn Senior Citizens Club and going to gospel singings.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Marzie and Flossie Hoggard.

He is survived by his brother, Bobby Hoggard of Cabot; one nephew, Craig Hoggard, also of Cabot; one niece, Andra Rives of Ward; and six great-nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were Dec. 18, at Sylvania Presbyterian Church with burial in Sylvania Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were by Westbrooke Funeral Home in Beebe.

Vernon Strickland

Vernon Wesley Strickland, 80, of Lonoke passed away Dec. 13.  

He was born Nov. 16, 1927 in Montrose to the late Walter Albert and Elnore Lynn Strickland.  

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by one daughter, Burnice Strickland; four brothers; and one sister.
He enjoyed dancing and gardening was his passion.  He also loved to go fishing with his nephews. He is survived by 12 children, Joey Strickland, Frances Grisby, Wesley Strickland, Vernon Wesley Strickland Jr., Bonnie Holden, Doyle Strickland, Patricia Babb, Kenny Strickland, Robert Strickland, Tommy Strickland, Sherry White and Margaret Colbert; five sisters; 25 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren, and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.  

The family would like to give special gratitude to Lonoke Nursing and Rehabilitation and to Arkansas Hospice.  

Funeral services were Dec. 17 at Grace Chapel.  Burial was in Short Cemetery in Butlerville.  Arrangements were by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.

MaryNelle Whitehead

MaryNelle Elizabeth Whitehead, 60, went to be with the Lord Dec. 15. Preceding her in death was her dad, Percy Hunt; brother, Maclyn Price; and sister, Jessie Allman.

She is survived by her loving husband of 41 years, Albert Whitehead; mother, Pat Hunt; two daughters, Mary K. Felty and Brooke Whitehead; two sons, Chris and Simon Whitehead; two brothers, Paul Hunt and Buddy Woods; two sisters, Martha and MaryAnn; six grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.

There was a rosary service Dec. 17 at Boyd Funeral Home Chapel in Lonoke. Funeral service was at St. Rose Catholic Church in Carlisle with burial at Hamilton Cemetery.

Audrey Dinkins

Audrey A. Dinkins, 87, formerly of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 15 in Searcy.

She was born May 23, 1920 in Romance to the late Lester and Nettie Manning Hooks.

She was preceded in death by her loving husband, Lewis B. Dinkins and her brother, Clois Hooks.

She was retired from West-inghouse and had attended First Baptist Church in Jacksonville. Recently she had been attending Trinity Baptist Church in Searcy.

Survivors include her niece, Connie Burrow of Searcy; great-niece, Crystal Pearson of Jacksonville; great-nephew, James Burrow of Ferquay, N.C.; and an uncle, Tom Manning of Searcy.

Funeral services were Dec. 17 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home. Burial was in Rest Hills Cemetery.

EDITORIALS>>Investigate clemencies

Every week, another two or three former aides to Mike Huckabee turn up to embroider on his lengthy record as governor of Arkansas, and they are not complimentary. None of their stories seems to have slowed Huckabee’s meteoric rise in the Republican presidential stakes, but they illuminate our history a little better.

First, an administrative assistant who worked with Huckabee on prison and parole matters politely put the lie to his account of the Wayne DuMond parole.

The governor, he acknowledged, did have letters and personal contacts with women who were raped by DuMond before he went to prison, and the governor did try to persuade state parole board members to grant the celebrated rapist immediate parole, contrary to Huckabee’s denials in all sorts of campaign venues.

Then a couple of former political advisers to the governor told about helping him set up a secret fund in Texas bankrolled mostly by tobacco giant R. J. Reynolds that was a source of supplemental income when he was lieutenant and then governor.

Huckabee claimed not to know that the tobacco company gave him so much money, and he could not recall a meeting with Reynolds officials at his Little Rock apartment where the deal was cut. Whatever, he said, the secret tobacco payments were not the reason that he sided with the cigarette industry often in his early years as lieutenant governor and governor.

Specifically, he said, it was not the reason that he opted for a huge tax on private nursing home patients instead of a cigarette tax in 2001 when the legislature handed him two bills with those options.

Over the weekend came two more accounts — one by the conservative magazine The National Review and the other by NBC News — of his clemency for a recidivist drunk driver at Van Buren that made the news in Arkansas several years ago.

Huckabee commuted the millionaire’s sentence soon after he went to prison so that he could go home immediately.

Huckabee explained at the time that the man was cured. Soon afterward, he was arrested on DWI charges again. Before the governor signed the commutation papers, the man’s wife cut checks for more than $10,000 to the state Republican Party.

The earlier episodes that were detailed by the governor’s former associates were merely fascinating. This one is deeply troubling and it needs investigation. We hope Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley and the United States attorney’s office take notice. It furnishes the federal district attorney’s office, which was battered by the corruption scandal in the Justice Department this year, a chance to demonstrate its independence.

NBC reported that a former Republican state official and fund-raiser had revealed that the wife of Eugene Fields of Van Buren had sent two checks for $5,000 each to the Republican Party in June and July 2003, shortly after the millionaire businessman lost an appeal of his fourth DWI conviction.

Soon after Fields began serving his sentence, Huckabee commuted his prison sentence to time served and he walked free.

Fields had been convicted of DWI in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001. The last one resulted in the mandatory prison sentence.

The author of the article in The National Review was David Sanders, a former assistant to Gov. Huckabee and now a columnist for the Stephens newspapers and a frequent commentator on public radio and television.

In 2000, around the time of Fields’ third DWI conviction, his business sent a $10,000 gift to the Arkansas Republican Party.

Sanders quoted a Republican Party official as saying that he had received a telephone call from Jason Brady, an aide to Huckabee, demanding that the $10,000 be transferred from the party to Huckabee’s Victory 2000 fund, which the governor personally controlled.

Brady insisted that the $10,000 from Fields was “the governor’s deal” and that the money was intended for his political account and not the party’s.

Party officials who got the two big checks in 2003 from Fields’ wife thought it was strange since it was not the political season and people normally do not settle money on political funds except when an election is approaching.

At the time of Huckabee’s commutation of Fields’ sentence, a parole board spokesperson said, “I’ve never seen anything like this happen before.” The usual reasons for clemency were not met. Those serving sentences for multiple DWI convictions are ordinarily not freed until they have served a substantial part of their sentences.

Huckabee shortened the sentences of six other men convicted of repeated DWI offenses, but each served much longer. Fields did have support from a Baptist preacher, an element that appeared often in Huckabee’s commutations and pardons.

There is at least the appearance of quid pro quo in the political gifts and the subsequent commutation. That would be a serious felony under Arkansas and federal law.

But it may be nothing more than a coincidence and an unfortunate appearance. Either way, it needs to be settled, and the only way to do that is for the prosecuting agencies to conduct an impartial investigation, away from the political limelight.

TOP STORY >>Gravel Ridge up for grabs

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville and Sherwood officials have set special election dates a month apart as they compete to annex Gravel Ridge. Monday’s Sherwood City Council meeting set March 11 for the Gravel Ridge annexation vote.

That election is a little more than a month after the scheduled Jacksonville election to bring Gravel Ridge into that city.

Jacksonville will vote on the annexation of the 2,500-acre unincorporated community of about 3,200 residents on Feb. 5, the date of the state’s presidential primary election.

Sherwood Alderman Becki Vassar pointed out the annexation is in the “best interest of the city.”

“It’s a good match and good for the citizens. We will all work together to accomplish this,” Vassar said.

Jacksonville Alderman Gary Fletcher, unhappy about the fight between Jacksonville and Sherwood, told the Sherwood council, “Back when the air base was built, it was not for the benefit of Jacksonville, but for all the communities, including Sherwood and Cabot. We’ve had a long history of working together.”

“You know I do a lot of work in Sherwood during the day and I’m considered a friend, but when I put on this suit and attended this meeting, I was the enemy. We are all one community and have always worked things out. This annexation issue will be resolved in about six months, but will there still be a we-versus-them attitude?” Fletcher lamented.

Former Sherwood Alderman Tom Brooks has offered to head a committee of citizens to raise funds to walk door-to-door through Gravel Ridge garnering support for that community to become part of Sherwood.

He even volunteered to contribute $1,000 to the cause.

Brooks, in making his announcement to form the citizens committee, said he was willing to spend the time and manpower to bring Gravel Ridge into Sherwood.

“I’ve covered a lot of ground in Gravel Ridge during the past week, and I could find no business or individual who wanted Jacksonville as their first choice,” Brooks said.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman quickly pointed out that residents could do what they wanted, but that the city couldn’t get involved in any of the campaigning.

According to county election officials in Jacksonville’s annexation vote, residents of Jacksonville and those in Gravel Ridge will vote. If the annexation into Jacksonville is approved, the annexation will be put on hold because of the Sherwood election.

If the annexation into Sherwood is approved, then that annexation will also be put on hold, and a separate election will be scheduled for just Gravel Ridge residents, asking if they want to be part of Jacksonville or Sherwood.

If the vote is no in either of the first two elections, then the third vote will be unnecessary.

The two cities are also at odds over 2,000 acres of land north of Gravel Ridge. The mostly undeveloped acreage was annexed by Sherwood last year. Jacksonville tried to stop that annexation at the county level and lost, then appealed to circuit court and lost. That annexation issue is now before the state Supreme Court. A decision is expected early next year.

TOP STORY >>$12M sewer plant opens

Leader staff writer

A $12 million plant that took a year to build is now treating all the wastewater in Cabot.

The plant went into full operation early Friday morning, and in the words of Tim Joyner, an engineer and the general manager of Cabot WaterWorks, “It’s running like a champ.”

The new plant replaces one about 15 years old that never really operated correctly. Early on, the old plant was said to be too large for a bedroom community of about 10,000 where few were at home during the day.

The microorganisms that broke down the wastes starved because there was too little at the plant to feed them. Then it was too small for a population of 20,000 and growing. And always it was watched closely by the Arkansas Department of En-vironmental Quality, where soon after it opened in 1992, tests showed that the water released from and ultimately into Bayou Meto was often not as pure and state and federal law says it must be.

The new facility took a little more than a year to build. The Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission that runs the city utilities broke ground in late summer 2006.

J.M. Park, commission chairman, said then that starting the new plant was the first big step forward the commission has made.

“We think we’re on the way,” Park said. “This is going to open the door to us being able to accommodate more of the growth in Cabot.”

In September 2005, about four months after the commission was formed, city voters approved 927-187 extending an existing one-cent sales tax to pay for the new sewer plant and several other projects in the city including the animal shelter and community center that have been open about a year.

The actual construction of the new sewer plant cost about $10 million.

Prep work before building could begin, including filling in a pond and hauling away sludge, cost $1.1 million.

Engineering fees were $1.7 million, leaving $3.7 million of the $16.5 million voters approved for the entire sewer system to demolish the old plant, build roads on the site and rehab the collection system to prevent rain water from getting into lines and being treated at the new plant.

Max Foote Construction of Mandeville, La., was the building contractor. Vernon Williams with USI Consulting Engineers and Jeff Keller with Burns & McDonnell oversaw the construction to make sure the new plant does not have any of the problems of the old one.

The old plant was built to handle 1.8 million gallons of wastewater a day. The new one will treat six million gallons a day. To keep the plant in compliance even when it is deluged with infiltrated rain water, it will have a peak wet weather treatment flow of 16.4 million gallons a day.

Heavy equipment has turned the construction site into a large mud hole, but by late spring when the grand opening is tentatively set, it should be dry, with a paved road, fencing and landscaping.

The commission wants it to not only work but look like something residents can be proud of.

They are so confident that the plant will perform well that Bill Cypert, commission secretary, has said he will call the press to take a picture of him dipping a glass of water for drinking as it dumps into the ditch beside the railroad track.

Joyner is also confident that the new plant will perform as it should, but he says Cypert will want to wait at least two weeks for his demonstration until all lab results are back on the first specimens taken from the plant.

“All the initial tests look good,” he said. “We haven’t gotten all the lab results back yet, but everything we’ve done in house looks good.”

TOP STORY >>Cabot budget includes big pay increases

Leader staff writer

The $8.2 million budget for 2008 unanimously passed the Cabot City Council on Monday night with no discussion.

Among the most noteworthy features of the spending plan are the $400,000 cash carryover from 2007, when Mayor Eddie Joe Williams came in to office (compared to the negative $37,000 in the bank at the beginning of 2007), about $600,000 in savings and substantial pay increases for the mayor, the mayor’s operations director, police chief, fire chief, district court judge and head of public works.

Those increases will be given in two increments, one in January 2008 and one in December 2008.

In December 2006, city officials believed they would start January with about $45,000 in the bank. In fact after the bills were paid the balance was a negative $37,000.

The financial crisis was averted by a $240,000 payment from Cabot WaterWorks which gave the city $230,000 for fire and police protection and $10,000 in lieu of property taxes.

To ensure that 2007 started better, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams laid off employees, cut out much of the overtime and required department heads to make do with the equipment they already had.

In years past, almost every department head was paid more than the mayor.

But in 2008, a $26,357 pay increase will take Williams’ salary from $58,643 to $85,000.

Part of the increase is from a $7,200 car allowance that was rolled into the mayor’s salary for 2008.

But the balance of $19,157 is simply a raise that is large enough to make the job attractive to candidates of all ages, not just those who have already worked long enough to draw retirement. Williams is retired from the railroad.

Former mayors have included a retired school superintendent and a retired postmaster.

The other large raises will go to Operations Director Karen Davis from $38,588 to $48,517; Police Chief Jackie Davis, from $58,879 to $77,114; Fire Chief Phil Robinson from $53,471 to $72,943; Judge Joe O’Bryan from $35,000 to $50,000; and Public Works Director Jerrel Maxwell from $45,000 to $57,280.

Clerk Treasurer Marva Verkler and City Attorney Jim Taylor received only the 5 percent raises that went to other city employees except police officers who were given $4,000 pay increases.

Verkler’s salary will increase from $49,019 to $51,470 while Taylor’s will increase from $66,621 to $69,952.

“I feel like I deserved a larger raise than what I got,” Verkler said.

Her department lost two employees during the layoff that helped cut spending in the city and that meant more work for everyone, she said.

In 2008, the police department will be allowed to buy five new patrol cars.

In other business, the council unanimously passed a three-year extension of Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services’ (MEMS) exclusive franchise to provide ambulance service in Cabot.

The council also voted unanimously to appoint Bert Mayer to the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission to complete the term of banker Don Keesee who left Cabot for a position in northern Arkansas.

TOP STORY >>Spending bill includes millions for area

Leader senior staff writer

The on-again, off-again Little Rock Air Force Base/Jacksonville Joint Education Center passed the Senate and is headed to the House, part of a $516 billion omnibus spending bill that President Bush has indicated he might sign.

The president said he’d sign the omnibus package if Congress approves the funding he seeks for the Iraq war.

Otherwise, Bush said, he’ll veto it.

The federal government will pay about $10.7 million toward the education center project, with Jacksonville’s $5 million share already in the bank.

The bill is likely to pass the House, according to Crystal Waitekus, a spokesman for Sen. Mark Pryor.

In addition to the money for the joint-education center, on the military side, the bill includes $9.8 million to repair and update runways at Little Rock Air Force Base, $1.9 million for an urban- assault course at Camp Robinson, $18.4 million for the General Equivalency Diploma Plus program complex at Camp Robinson’s Professional Education Center and $840,000 for the Cabot Readiness Center — a new National Guard facility.

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.

Among other items of local interest in the omnibus bill are $9.8 million for the Grand Prairie Construction Project, $2.7 million for a Bayou Meto study and $3.1 million toward study and engineering of a new I-630/I-430 interchange.

The Clinton School of Public Service would receive $1 million toward opera tion, instruction and the extensive slate of public speakers.

For the joint-education center, the funds will go to the construction of a new, improved educational facility off-base, so classes can continue to operate without interruption during times of increased security restrictions.

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.

The runway funding allows repair of Little Rock Air Force Base’s deteriorated runway and shoulder pavements, removal or elimination of airfield obstructions, replacement of runway lighting and reorganization of the instrument guidance and navigation systems.

The construction upgrades the operational life of the airfield and supports mission-essential flight training there.

The Urban Assault Course at Camp Robinson will support the individual and collective familiarization and qualification requirements of all personnel assigned to units in the Brigade Combat Team.

Basically it provides a pretend city so soldiers can practice the techniques of fighting in an urban setting.
In addition, it is expected that other units will use this facility.

Sitting on 4.5 acres, the GED center it will include barracks, classrooms, a dining area and administrative offices.

It is the national training center for the Army National Guard, hosting more than 20,000 conferees annually.

TOP STORY >>Growing community seeks improvements

Leader staff writer

Cabot residents will head to the polls in March to decide a 3.9 millage increase to help fund construction projects within the Cabot School District.

The school board Tuesday night voted for holding a special school election on March 11 to help the district pay its share of the cost of future projects listed on the district’s master plan.

“We know people don’t like taxes,” Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman said, “but we know by the numbers that we need some help. We’re not generating enough money to get the facilities we need done and take care of those in the future.”

Residents in the Cabot School District pay 36 mills, 25 of which are used for maintenance and operation as required by state law, and 11 debt-service mills, which provide capital for major building projects.

If approved by the voters, Cabot’s new millage rate of 39.9 will remain the lowest school millage rate in Lonoke County and will equal the current average millage rate of the 10 largest school districts in the state.

The 16 proposed projects, costing $50.5 million — more than half of that coming from the state — include a new elementary school in the north zone between Magness Creek and Ward Central elementaries; installing heating and cooling units in all K-6 activity buildings within the district; building a new health, physical education and recreation complex at the high school attached to a new cafeteria/student center; new elementary classrooms at Westside Elementary, and new secondary classrooms at the high school.

Thurman said, “We’re confident most of the projects will be approved (by the state facilities board),” which will make them eligible for state funding. For any state-approved construction project, the district shares the cost in a 60-40 split, with the district picking up 40 percent of the total approved cost.

Even though Cabot is seen as a financially sound district, coming up with enough money to cover its share is not always easy and at times requires a millage increase, district officials said.

Cabot will need $22.8 million to complete all the proposed projects, with the state pitching in $27.7 million. The additional 3.9 mills would provide the district with the $22.8 million needed. One mill is equal to one tenth of one cent (.001) and is based on 20 percent of the assessed value of the resident’s property. For example, a home valued at $100,000 has an assessed value of $20,000 (20 percent); one mill on this home would cost $20 – $20,000 multiplied by .001.

Using the same example but with Cabot’s millage rate of 36 mills or .036, the homeowner would pay total millage of $720 for the year in real estate taxes, or about $80 more a year.

Each mill generates $47 per student. With a current district enrollment of 9,226, that equals a total of $433,622 per year for Cabot schools, or $15,610,392 a year generated by local taxes.

The district’s last millage increase was for 5.8 mills in 2002 to help fund construction of the new high school, the fine arts addition at the high school, and additions to Ward Central and Magness Creek Elementary schools.

TOP STORY >>AF officials, ask district for new schools

Leader senior staff writer

Work could start on a new Jacksonville middle school as early as 2009 if a 5-mill property tax is approved by Pulaski County Special School District voters in August, but several school board members want various assurances before officially designating the middle school for early construction.

A new school to replace Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools is slated to be started no later than 2011-2012.

At a special meeting and workshop Monday night, board members seemed to favor adding a new Jacksonville middle school to the district’s 10-year plan, but balked at moving that school up to begin construction in 2009 unless a new bond issue was passed and the state Education Department says it would allow the plan to be amended if the bond issue didn’t pass.


“I want written confirmation that if we put (the middle school) on the list and there’s no money—there’s no exposure for the district,” said board member Pam Roberts. “The plan must say (early construction) is contingent upon approval of the bond issue.”

The board will have to approve an amended plan by Feb. 1. To be eligible for state matching funds, construction projects must be on the district’s state-approved 10-year facilities master plan.

Because Pulaski County is considered a fairly wealthy district, the state will only provide about 10 percent of the funds for approved construction.

The cost of the proposed middle school is estimated at $25 million and is on Superintendent James Sharpe’s preliminary draft of the master plan. Both the Jacksonville middle school and a new school for the combined enrollment of Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools—estimated at $15 million—are slated to begin in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The new elementary school is on the existing master plan.


Col. Scott Lockard, 314th Missions Support Group commander, showed the board three potential locations the base engineers had identified as possible sites for a new elementary school to replace Arnold Drive.

He said a 13-acre site across from North Pulaski High School was available.

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, former base commander, and Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, current commander, have lobbied hard for a new school to replace Arnold Drive Elementary and have offered free base land—outside the fenced perimeter—upon which to build it.

Other schools already slated for construction are the $40 million Oak Grove High School, beginning in the 2007-2008 school year, to be completed in the 2010-2011 school year; and the $25 million Sylvan Hills Middle School, during the same time frame.

Construction of the $13 million Chenal Elementary School should be complete next year. Sharpe said there should be a public hearing on the master plan, due Feb. 1, followed by a special board meeting to approve the amended master plan.


“Academic achievement is our core mission,” said Sharpe. “Not walls and ceilings but what’s in the walls and under the ceilings. It’s not how a school stands, but what it stands for.

“All our secondary schools are on school improvement,” said Sharp. “If we’re not delivering in the classroom, we can build schools all around the county and enrollment’s still going to decline. We need to have this kind of discussion about academics.”

Several members of the Jacksonville World Class Education Organization attended the meeting, with state Sen. Will Bond and Jody Urquhart addressing the board.

That group has identified construction of a new middle school as the top area project and prompted the board and administration to move up the proposed construction of a new middle school.


Urquhart said Jacksonville residents lost faith after they were promised new schools in 1990 if they helped approve a bond issue. They helped and the schools never came.

Since then, Jacksonville residents have taxed themselves for a new community center, a new city hall, a new joint education center and swimming park and Central Arkansas libraries. But a school millage increase later failed because residents didn’t believe there was anything in it for them.

“When you ask and promise and don’t deliver—people out there won’t vote for it unless you prove it,” Urquhart said.

“I’d like to see the Jacksonville middle school moved up a year or two,” said board president Charlie Wood. “We talked about a millage increase—if we got a 5-mill increase we could move it up a year or two.”

Such a proposal, to get the support of the Jacksonville area residents—40 percent of the population of the entire district—would have to earmark construction of a new middle school and elementary school in the ballot title.

Urquhart said the district had lost all credibility with Jacksonville residents, that they would fear cuts in other areas, such as advanced placement classes, if new schools were constructed in their district.


Bill Vasquez, a Jacksonville board member, said that replacing both the boys and girls middle schools with one middle school would save money and that combining Tolleson and Arnold Drive students into one new building also would be cost effective.

Vasquez said his feeling was that Jacksonville residents want to tear down the boys school, move the boys into the girls school building and to build a showpiece school in its place—as early as next fall.

But Larry O’Briant, the district’s chief financial officer, noted that if Jacksonville and North Little Rock are declared unitary, Pulaski County could lose about $18 million a year it currently receives to support the desegregation agreement.

“We cannot build these schools without the millage increase,” O’Briant said. He said a 5-mill increase would generate $200 million. “Five mills would build the four schools you’re talking about,” he added. Bond noted that the new master plan moved the Arnold Drive Elementary from 2009-2010 back to the 2011-2015 time frame.

For the middle school, he said, “we need a 2010-2011 time frame or people will go though the roof.”