Saturday, February 02, 2008

TOP STORY >> Cabot students told to vote

Leader senior staff writer

If they had it to do over again, Cabot School District administrators would not call voting-age students together to discuss the district’s pending request for an increase of 3.9 mills, slated for the March 11 ballot, Superintendent Tony Thurman said Thursday.

High School Principal Zanya Clarkson did pull together the voting age students as part of the school’s voter registration drive, he said.In the process, she caught the attention of Lonoke County Quorum Court Member Lynn Clarke, who said the assembly seemed improper if not illegal.

“In no way did we intend to be disrespectful or underhanded,” said the superintendent.

“In hindsight, it was bad timing,” Thurman said. He said the students asked questions, more interested in the proposed locations of new buildings.

Thurman said there could have been between 100 and 150 students at the assembly, which, he stressed, was held during an advisory period, not a classroom period.

“I don’t know if they knew in advance what the meeting was about,” Thurman said. “They were not encouraged to work for the millage, but maybe to vote for it. We won’t bring up issue again.”

Thurman said the assembly did not violate district policy or guidelines and that the district has a history of promoting voter registration. In fact it will host registration from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Central Administrative Offices Building at 602 North Lincoln Street in Cabot.

Clarke said this week that she thought it was wrong for administrators to suggest to a captive audience of high school students how they should vote on any issue.

Clarke, the wife of Lonoke County Election Commissioner Larry Clarke, said that after learning of the assembly, she consulted Arkansas code. She could not find a law against telling students how to vote, if that’s what happened.

But as a county official and as a parent of teenagers in the Cabot District, she was concerned by the action.
She also checked with the state Education Department.

“It probably violates some ethical standards, but it’s not under the (our) authority,” according to Julie Thompson, Education Department spokesman.

Clarke said the Ethics Commission told her it had more complaints and questions than usual this year about schools and millages.

Bentonville sent letters home with voting-age students encouraging them to vote for a millage increase, according to one teacher. The Cabot School District’s10-year facilities master plan consists of $50.5 million in projects. Of that total, $27.7 million is expected from the state and Cabot would have to pay $22.8 million.

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.

Thurman says the increase is necessary to finance planned capital projects. Under the proposed millage increase, a homeowner would pay an additional $78 a year on a home valued at $100,000 and $156 a year on a home valued at $200,000.

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 million to construct a new facility for the district’s charter school.

SPORTS>>Lady Panthers win, but Cabot boys fall to fifth with setback

Leader sportswriter

A bad fourth quarter prevented the Cabot Panthers from increasing their 7A-Central Conference winning streak to five games on Tuesday at Conway. The Panthers suffered a 69-55 loss to the Wampus Cats, ending a streak of four consecutive league wins.

Cabot had the Wampus Cats down by six points with six mintues to go in the game, but Conway rallied with nearly 20 unanswered points to overtake the Panthers, and set a final margin that did not reflect the competitiveness of the game.
Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said that playing on the road was a factor, but that the ’Cats’ rally did most of the damage to themselves.

“There were some things that I felt turned the momentum,” Bridges said. “But you have to give Conway credit, they got us down and we couldn’t recover. It just seemed kind of like a snowball once things started going bad for us, like there was a lid on the goal.”

Junior guard Adam Sterrenberg was the only Panther in double figures with 24 points, 21 of which came in the first half. Austin Johnson added nine points for Cabot, while Sam Bates finished with seven points and post player Miles Monroe added six.
For Conway, Terry Tidwell led with 15 points. The win improved the Wampus Cats’ record to 14-5 overall and 6-1 in the 7A-Central Conference. The Panthers fell to 15-7 and 4-4 with the loss and alone into fifth place, two games behind North Little Rock and Catholic.

“We just have to re-group,” Bridges said. “You can’t dwell on a loss. You have to go out and keep taking care of business on the court. We knew before the year started that there were no guarantees; we’ve got some tough games still to play.”
The Lady Panthers kept themselves in the Central hunt with a 58-51 win over Conway. The win gives Cabot a season sweep of the preseason favorite Lady Wampus Cats.

Cabot went on a late run to overtake the lead from the Lady ’Cats in the first half, and didn’t look back in the final two frames.
Point guard Leah Watts led the Lady Panthers with 18 points, while sophomore post player Sara Moore finished with a career-high 15 points. Junior post Stephanie Glover had 10 points for Cabot. For Conway, Chelsea Sublett led with 17 points. The win gives the Lady Panthers a 15-8 overall record and 5-3 in the 7A-Central Conference.

Conway fell to 16-3 overall and 5-2 in league play.

The Cabot teams hosted Catholic/Mt. Saint Mary last night after Leader deadlines, and will host North Little Rock on Tuesday before closing out the week on the road at Little Rock Central next Friday.

Friday, February 01, 2008

SPORTS>>Jacksonville bounces back

Leader sports editor

Vic Joyner’s concern was Jim Summers’ hope.
Less than 24 hours after a frustrating road loss at Jonesboro, Jacksonville took the court against a struggling, but rested Searcy.

Fatigue proved not to be much of a factor, however, as Jacksonville pulled away in the second quarter on its way to a 58-38 win to improve to 6-1 in the 6A-East.

“We played each team [in the 10-man rotation] four minutes each in the first half,” said Joyner, Jackonville’s head coach. “We were able to rest them and I thought we looked pretty active tonight. They burned a lot of energy [against Jonesboro].”
Searcy coach Summers knew that, even with a weary Red Devil team, the odds were long for his young Lions, who finished the night making only 12-of-41 from the field and with a 15-rebound disadvantage.

“I thought this was a great night to play them, with them coming off that game at Jonesboro,” said Searcy’s first-year head coach. “Their legs were a little dead, and they weren’t near the team they normally are. But we didn’t do anything we were supposed to be doing in the first half.”

Which was to try to take away Deshone McClure, double down on the Jacksonville post and force the other Red Devil perimeter players to beat them. But McClure finished with a game-high 14 points, while post players Antwan Lockhart and Antonio Roy went for eight points and four rebounds each.

The Lions (1-6 in the 6A-East) matched the Red Devils basket for basket early, and actually led 9-6 on Nathan Williams’ three-pointer with 2:38 left in the opening period.

But Searcy scored only one field goal the rest of the half, while the Red Devils began to heat up, outscoring the Lions 28-5 to take a 34-14 halftime lead.

When the Jacksonville guards weren’t getting the ball down on the blocks to Lockhart and Roy, they were taking it to the basket for field goals and fouls. The Red Devils made 9-of-13 from the line in the second period, the result of their penetration.

“We got out there too close on their guards and it gave them lanes to penetrate,” Summers said.
The lead reached 27 in the third period on Darrius Morant’s three-pointer before Searcy closed out the period with seven straight points.

With Jacksonville shoring up its post play – an area of some concern early in the season – there are two areas of concern remaining for Joyner: free-throw shooting and defense. Joyner says the defense units are playing okay, but he thinks they are giving up too many cheap fouls.

“We’re not being disciplined in our traps and letting the other team get to the line too much,” he said. “I thought overall we went out and contested [Searcy’s shots]. For the most part we got to their shooters. But Searcy missed some shots, too.”
Jacksonville made a respectable 16-of-25 from the line on Tuesday after making only 5-of-16 at Jonesboro. The Red Devils, though, made 13-of-14 over a stretch of the second and third periods to reach the 64 percent mark against the Lions.
“I don’t harp on free throws because it gets in their mind,” Joyner said. “We work with them on their form, but it’s a mental thing and I’m not messing with it. It’s free; you gotta make it.”

Joyner was able to clear his bench in the final period for some much-needed rest for his weary rotation, which played Marion last night for its third game in five days.

“Anytime you play three games in one week, you worry about fatigue,” said Joyner, whose Devils won for the sixth time in seven games to improve to 9-19 overall. “You can’t sleep on anybody in this conference because you can drop one, two, three games in a hurry.”

Jacksonville had five players score eight or more points. Morant had nine points, while Lockhart, Roy and LaQuinton Miles each added eight. The Red Devils’ balance extended to their rebounding as well. Seven players grabbed four boards or more to stake Jacksonville to an overall 38-23 advantage. Miles, Demetrius Harris and Cortrell Eskridge led with five apiece.
Searcy was led by Jordan Evans’ nine points and five rebounds.


It was the Jacksonville girls’ sixth loss in seven conference games, but head coach Katrina Mimms can live with it.
Just one day after falling behind 32-3 in a loss at Jonesboro, the Lady Red Devils gave the state’s top-ranked Lady Lions all they wanted through the first 13 minutes, when they actually led 20-19 on Shanita Johnson’s bank.

But the bottom fell out over the next three-and-a-half minutes, when the Lady Devils turned the ball over seven times, and missed two free throws and three field goal attempts. By then, Searcy’s pressure defense and uptempo offense had turned that one-point deficit into a 34-20 lead.

Only two three-pointers by Tyra Terry over the final 40 seconds – the second one a 40-foot buzzer beater – kept Jacksonville within 10 points at intermission.

But Searcy opened the second half with nine straight points and led by as many as 22 points before Jacksonville finished the game on a 13-3 run.

“After [Monday night], I was just hoping not to get mercy-ruled,” Mimms joked afterward. “But that’s what happens when you coach a sophomore-oriented team. You can flip a coin on which one shows up. Tonight was the good team. We played very well. We had some mistakes, but overall, I’m very pleased.”

Terry led the Lady Devils with 16 points, and added five rebounds and four steals. Jacksonville post player Jessica Lanier spent most of the night in foul trouble before fouling out in the fourth quarter, but she still managed to score 14 points and grab seven rebounds.

“I thought Jessica had a really good game for them,” said Searcy head coach Michelle Birdsong. “She was really tough. We ended up getting a lot of turnovers off our halfcourt trap, and got them to hurry a bit. That was a big difference in the second quarter.”

The Lady Lions got their usual solid balance scoring-wise. Five players scored six or more, led by sophomore Lauren Harrison’s 17 points and five rebounds.
Shantel Neely pitched in 12 points, five rebounds and four assists. Taylor Clark added nine points and six boards. Kayla Medley had eight points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, and Anna Minor scored six points.

The Lady Devils also got nine points from Kita Walker. Johnson had five assists and two steals.

“We had some fatigue because we didn’t get home until 11:45 [Monday night],” Mimms said. “And we don’t go very deep so you’re going to run out of gas a little bit. But if we can beat Marion [last night] and Sylvan Hills, that could possibly put us in the state tournament as the six seed.

“That would just be a plus for these sophomores.”

SPORTS>>Young warriors

Leader sports editor

Ray Rodgers says it’s the toughest sport there is. It also has a “unique mystique,” he says, that gets its hooks in you and doesn’t let go.

Rodgers would know. The owner of Ray’s Golden Gloves Gym in Little Rock has been in the fight business for going on 60 years.

“It has a natural attraction to kids that are basically adventuresome and want to do something no one else does,” says Rodgers, who has served as Jermain Taylor’s cut man throughout Taylor’s professional boxing career. “That’s a lot of it. The dynamics of it hooked me in the fifth grade and I’ve never ever been out of it one day in 60 years.”

For Sean Winkle of Cabot, the dynamic of the sport couldn’t be more straightforward.

“I get to hit people for free,” says Winkle, who along with Kyle Sturgeon of Cabot, and Myles Taylor of Lonoke, is in Kansas City this weekend for the Silver Gloves national tournament. “And if I go pro, I’ll get paid for it. It’s the only sport I’m in anymore. I dropped football and baseball for it.”

Winkle’s enthusiasm is not dampened by any trepidation, despite the fact he’s only been boxing for nine weeks. His coach, Walter Woods, says Winkle took some early beatings in sparring matches at Ray’s Gym, but never flinched.

“Some kids get hurt that first time sparring and won’t come back,” says Woods, who has trained boxers at Ray’s for five years. “Sean showed determination.”

Winkle, at 165 pounds, is fighting in the middleweight division, while Sturgeon (195) is competing in the heavyweight, and Taylor (247) in the super heavyweight. All three are 15 years old. All three had to win the Silver Gloves state as well as regional competition to reach nationals.

Taylor is back for the second straight year at nationals, while Sturgeon has reached his first after falling in the regionals last year to the man who eventually won it all.

“I was sick last year and a little out of shape,” says Taylor, a freshman post man on Lonoke’s top-notch varsity basketball team who likes his chances of winning it all this year. “I can pull it off. I’ve been working too hard for this. I’m going to pull it off this time.”

The kid who beat Taylor last year has moved up to the 16-year-old division. But Taylor isn’t looking at it as a case of not having to face him as much as not getting a shot at a rematch — one the confident Taylor seems certain he’d win.
“Yeah, I want another shot at him,” he says with a laugh. “I’d knock him out right now. I’m an inch-and-a-half taller and I have a lot better jab.”

It was a big week for Taylor, whose Jackrabbits hosted a critical conference game with Newport.
“I’m real pumped,” he said prior to the Newport game.

Asked which he’d rather win — that game or the Silver Gloves nationals — Taylor refused to choose.
“Both of them,” he said. “We’re going to do both.”

The first half of that prediction came true as Lonoke dispatched Newport on Tuesday. Taylor figures that, like Sturgeon, he’ll have to win two, probably three matches between Thursday and today to earn the title.

Sturgeon drew a bye to the nationals after winning the state heavyweight title. His father, Keith, who along with Woods trains Kyle, says it’s tough to find many fights for his son.

“His age and his size, there’s just not many kids out there,” he says. “But he’s been sparring with a heavyweight [at Ray Rodgers gym], a guy who’s an open fighter, and it’s been a good experience.”
Kyle Sturgeon, who has been boxing for two years, agreed ... to a point.

“You learn a lot more sparring these guys,” Sturgeon says. “But it’s way different than being in a real match. You’re a lot more nervous in the ring with a lot of people watching.”

Woods, who has been training Kyle since October, has noticed plenty of improvement over the past three months.
“We push him real hard and he’s real dedicated,” Woods says. “He’s a bit heavy-handed at times and needs to relax and let the punches go.”

Rodgers is most impressed by Sturgeon’s “bulldogged determination.” Though he is short for a heavyweight, Rodgers says, he has been able to overcome that by fighting close and smothering punches.

“He fought a kid over at Hot Springs last week that was bigger than him and Kyle just got on him like ugly on an ape,” Rodgers says. “The kid just wilted and quit. If you drop water on a rock long enough, you can wear it away. “That’s what Kyle brings to the table. He just keeps coming and coming and coming.”

Of Winkle, Rodgers says: “He’s new at this, but let me tell you something: He took to boxing like a duck takes to water. When you show him something, he tries to execute it immediately and works hard to perfect it. He won’t take second best.”

Woods calls Winkle a gifted athlete who caught on fast, adding that he has a strong right hand and a good punch for a 15 year old.

Woods hasn’t had a chance to work much with Taylor because of basketball, but thinks that with his height and reach, he can win fights with jabs alone.

Rodgers says Taylor needs to be in the gym a little more after basketball season, but that he seems fully committed to winning the nationals this week.

“In boxing, as in life and everything else, desire’s half the deal,” Rodgers says. “Myles is in good condition for running up and down the basketball court. But boxing demands a little different exertion because of the rapid recovery you have to have.”

All three fighters share the same goal: To make the 2012 Olympic team. To do that, they must accumulate points along the way in Silver Gloves, Golden Gloves and the Junior Olympics. That will get them a ranking and hopefully a chance to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Whether any of them reach that goal or not, Rodgers thinks the experience and lessons along the way will prove invaluable.

“I’m a great believer in amateur boxing,” he says. “I think it’s one of the greatest sports ever devised. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: In boxing, you don’t have anybody to hand off to or to lateral or pass it to. You’re on your own, brother.

“The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline,” he adds. “You can stand a kid in a corner and whip their butt with a paddle. But once they learn self-discipline and the desire to de better in this ring, that sticks with them all their lives.”

TOP STORY >> New beret company is looking at central Arkansas

Leader staff writer

Jensen Apparel, the only company in the United States that makes military-style berets, hopes to get the big contract that once went to Bancroft in Cabot.

Tommy Jensen, who has only been making berets for a year and a half, said this week that if he is successful, he will need trained workers. And the only places that he knows to find them are Virginia, where he has taken over the factory, and workers of Dorothea Knitting, and in Arkansas, where Bancroft’s berets were rejected because they contained foreign materials.

Jensen will be at Cabot Chamber of Commerce in the old bank building beside city hall, from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 16 to talk to prospective employees.

“This is a fact-finding mission,” Jensen said Friday afternoon. “I don’t know if I’m going to locate there.” If he does, Jensen said it won’t be in the Bancroft building. He said he has toured that factory several times over the past months, and he isn’t interested in using it or any of the equipment. “I’m into modern equipment,” he said.

However, he said, making berets comes close to being an art form, and if he gets a big government contract, he will need about 30 of the people who worked at the Cabot factory.

A federal law says that every part of the clothing worn by military personnel must be assembled in the United States from products produced here unless that is not possible. With Bancroft effectively out of business and Dorothea Knitting back in Canada after opening a factory in Virginia for a few years to win part of the last big contract, Jensen said his company is the only American company that can be awarded the next one.

Bancroft had been working with a skeleton crew for several months when it laid off workers and closed its doors in December 2006.

Diana Stewart, chief of corporate communications with Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia, which is responsible for procuring medicine, clothing and food for the Department of Defense, said in January 2007 that Bancroft was delinquent in its contract with the DOD to supply black berets for the Army and Air Force and that, in fact, Bancroft owed the DOD reimbursement for about 340,000 berets delivered before March 2006, which contained some foreign components making them out of compliance with federal law and unacceptable for soldiers to wear.

Additionally, Stewart said the DOD did not pay Bancroft for 4,992 berets delivered in March 2006 that did not contain foreign components. Instead, the money owed to Bancroft was applied to Bancroft’s debt to the DOD, she said.

Stewart said Bancroft’s contract was considered delinquent because 354,504 berets were not shipped on July 15, 2006 as the contract called for. That shipment of berets was to have been Bancroft’s last for a while because the $14.8 million contract for up to 3.6 million berets, which started in 2002, was up on that date and no more berets are needed at this time.

Jensen said Friday that when it is time for another multi-year contract, he wants to be ready to bid on it.

TOP STORY >> First vote for annex slated for Tuesday

Leader staff writer

The yard signs are out all over Jacksonville: “Vote for progress, vote for annexation.”

Postcards have been mailed to many residents in Gravel Ridge and Jacksonville espousing the virtues of Jacksonville and the positive reasons for the annexation.

Residents of both communities will vote Tuesday, not only for their preferred presidential candidate, but also for or against bringing Gravel Ridge into Jacksonville. Early voting ends here Monday.

Jacksonville passed an ordinance late last year annexing the 2,500-acre rural community of about 3,500 residents. But when a city goes out and annexes an area, state law requires that the city and the affected area vote on the annexation. If the majority of voters say yes, then the area becomes part of the city. If the majority of voters say no, the area is not annexed. Jacksonville set Tuesday as the date to vote on the annexation question.

The Gravel Ridge annexation issue, however, got more complex when Sherwood also annexed the area. Sherwood set an election date of March 11 for the annexation vote.

If both the Jacksonville and Sherwood votes are for annexation, then a third vote, set for April 1 for just Gravel residents, will decide which city, Sherwood or Jacksonville, gets Gravel Ridge.

John Hardwick, the new president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, believes the annexation is a good move for both communities.

“It will help us protect Little Rock Air Force Base from any encroachment that could jeopardize the base,” Hardwick said. “It is also a natural growth pattern for us. We have been moving out in that direction for a number of years,” he added.

The chamber president also said the move would increase the tax base for the city, which would also include Gravel Ridge as part of the city. But one of the most important reasons, according to Hardwick is the people. “I just feel that Gravel Ridge people are more like Jacksonville than Sherwood. It’ll be a good marriage.”

In an oversize postcard mailed to area residents by the Positive Growth for Gravel Ridge and Jacksonville group, Mayor Tommy Swaim said that Gravel Ridge would benefit from the annexation.

He said the community would have improved public safety with faster response times for police and fire protection. Swaim said Gravel Ridge would also have improved sanitation services with four times the trash service it now gets for $60 less a year.

On the negative side, and not on the mailer, is an increase in sales tax. The tax on prepared food items would go up two cents, and the tax on other items would go up a penny.

These are some of the most frequently asked questions that Mayor Tommy Swaim has received over the annexation issue, which were answered in a flyer the city provided:

Does Jacksonville have any additional taxes?

Yes, Jacksonville have a three-mil tax on property which equals $45 per year for a $75,000 house. The city also has a two-cent prepared food tax, and a two-cent sales tax.

Does Jacksonville have any cost-savings opportunities?

Yes, the city’s sanitation services are $5 per month less than existing county services. That is a $60 per-year savings. Also residents receive a 20 percent community center discount.

How does Jacksonville sanitation service differ from our existing services?

Jacksonville picks up garbage twice a week, recycling items once a week and lawn/limb pickup once a week. “That’s four times a week we collect at your house,” the mayor said.

What amenities does Jacksonville offer?

Jacksonville has an active and popular community center with an indoor swimming pool, gym, track, and weight room; the Splash Zone, which is an Aquatic park; many acres of parkland including Dupree Park; and two golf courses.

What other city services will you offer?

The Jacksonville Fire Department will work with the Gravel Ridge Fire Department and make sure it has the same financial soundness it has now. Additionally, we will run automatic mutual aid, ensuring that Gravel Ridge residents have the protection they need. The police department will assume the responsibility for the protection of the citizens.

The city’s Community Development Block Grant program will offer citizens a chance to receive housing assistance through home repair/remodeling.

Jacksonville Animal Control services and code enforcement assistance will be available, and Gravel Ridge will become a part of Jacksonville’s master street, drainage and overlay programs.

What additional facilities will be available in the near future in Jacksonville?

The joint education center is funded with $5 million from Jacksonville and $9.8 million from the federal government. This center will house several colleges and classes will be available to the citizens of Jacksonville.

Also $4 million in tax collections has been reserved to build a police and fire training center. Construction should start later this year. The Gravel Ridge Volunteer Fire Department would have full access to the facility.

A new $4.5 million dollar library is currently under construction. It will be a state-of-the-art facility and part of the Central Arkansas Library System.

Will my children have to attend different schools?

No, all children attend the Pulaski County Special School District now and will continue to do so. If Jacksonville forms its own school district in the future, the attendance zone will be decided at that time; however, transfers would still be available.

Will my utility companies change?

No, Gravel Ridge residents will continue to have the same phone number and phone company. Electric, water and cable will also remain the same.

Will I have a voice in local government?

Yes, Gravel Ridge residents will become part of Jacksonville and will help elect the aldermen and mayor.

TOP STORY > > Central Arkansas economy does well

Leader senior staff writer

“Arkansas’ housing market is holding up better than what we see (elsewhere) in the national press,” Metroplan Executive Director Jim McKenzie said Tuesday. “We’re not immune, but not impacted as severely in central Arkansas at least. In northwest Arkansas it’s a lot worse.”

“If there is going to be a recession, Arkansas typically lags going in and lags coming out,” he said from a Metroplan board retreat at Petit Jean Mountain.

He did warn about the impact the long-term decline in oil production and increase in price could have, including on the way cities grow, and said leaders and professionals needed to start working that into their economic and development plans.
U.S. oil production peaked in 1970, according to McKenzie, and while it continues to careen downward, demand here grows and demand in China and India are increasingly putting a strain on supplies and driving prices up.


Metroplan just released its 2007 Economic Review, which despite some cautions, found a lot to like about growth in central Arkansas.

Researched by Jonathan Lupton, a city planner, and edited by McKenzie and assistant director Richard Magee, the report found job growth in several sectors and low housing costs among the factors driving relatively good economic times.

“Despite changes affecting regional corporate leaders and portents of a national downturn, central Arkansas is thriving,” according to the report.

Moody’s Investments says the Little Rock area is the second most diverse economy in the country and the area is one of the top 10 office-space markets, according to Sperry Van Ness.


But construction in new single-family housing “sagged to barely above the national average” and high energy costs and the threat of a nationwide recession “will challenge local prosperity,” the report said as it appraised the 2008 economic outlook.
The low cost of housing is possible because the relatively low cost of gasoline allows area residents to live far from work and commute. If gas and oil prices continue to rise, as projected, eventually the cost of commuting could offset the affordability of housing.

In 2005, the average central Arkansan drove 31 miles a day, up about 19 percent from a decade earlier. Nationally, the average for urban dwellers was only about 24 miles a day, up about 10 percent from 1995.

People living in urban areas of central Arkansas, which is a low-density region, rely heavily on their single-occupancy cars, according to the report and use alternatives such as transit, walking and bicycling at lower rates than the national average.
The report says that North Little Rock, Cabot and Jacksonville account for the bulk of the region’s most affordable new homes.


Locally in 2006, the median—meaning half are more expensive, half are less expensive— building permit in Sherwood was $170,576.

In Cabot, median permit value was $100,720 and in Jacksonville, $98,000. In the central Arkansas metropolitan statistical area, Maumelle had the highest median permit value at $248,800.
In that area, which is now known as the Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway metropolitan statistical area, but which includes the other towns and cities as well, the median new-home permit grew from about $130,000 in 2000 to $170,000 in 2005 and 2006.

Construction grew faster than the national average between 2003 and 2005, but fell off about 7 percent in 2006, hovering just above the national average.

The housing downturn is reflected in the fall-off in average new home permit values between 2005 and 2006, the first decline since Metroplan began keeping tabs in 2000.
Comparing the first six months each year beginning in 1997 permits for single-family homes has trended generally upward in the statistical area through 2005.


Between the first quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of 2007, central Arkansas employment in manufacturing fell by about 2.5 percent and fell about half a percent in professional and business services. Growth in all other sectors was positive, led by a 4.5 percent increase in information, 3.5 percent in “other services,” 3.25 percent in education and health services, 2.25 percent in government and 2.2 percent in natural resources, mining and construction—presumably led by the emerging

Fayetteville Shale natural gas industry.

The entire area for 2006 employed an average of 322,925 people with an average unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. Within those numbers, Pulaski County accounted for 183,775 people working and an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, while 29,800 Lonoke County residents were employed with the region’s lowest unemployment rate, 4.3 percent.

Central Arkansas banks have assets of $8.3 billion, of which $6.3 billion are in Pulaski County and $650 million are in Lonoke County.

TOP STORY >> Base impresses general

Leader staff writer

Maj. Gen. Irving Halter Jr., commander of the 19th Air Force at San Antonio, told members of Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council on Friday they don’t have much to worry about in the next round of base realignment and closures planned for the next decade, although some assets could be moved around the base.

“BRAC is a four-letter word,” the general said, “and for Little Rock Air Force Base, it’s a good one.”

But he warned communities cannot take bases for granted.

“You all in this community never have,” the general said. “Little Rock and the surrounding area thought patriotism was cool before other places ever heard of it.

“While we are rightly focused on those who are fighting the current war, we have to prepare for the future,” he said. “Protecting this country is an important business and we need the support of this country to do that.

“I’m very impressed by the size of the council,” Halter said. “I’ve never seen a council with this big attendance at something I’ve spoken at.”

Gen. Rowayne Schatz, the commander at LRAFB, later told the luncheon that work on a $15 million education center in the front of the air base will start next January. Jacksonville is paying for one-third of the cost of the campus.

A $9.8 million runway-repair project will start in October, Schatz said. Halter spoke of the military’s two concurrent missions — to “fight the current fight and be successful at it” and “to prepare or the next one.”

“This nation needs to be the nation it is 10 years, 15 years 100 years from now,” he told council members.

Halter also spoke about the Air Force’s role in Iraq, mentioning that the Air Force has had “five times the number of conventional strikes this year” than in years past.

“Whatever happens to ground forces, we’ll be there,” he said of the troops in Iraq. Halter spoke of Iraq as a “you break it, you fix it” situation. “We broke the Iraqi air force…but now the Iraqi air force is our responsibility,” he said of training the Iraqi air force by U.S. forces. “Sometimes we [service members] need to remind others that everybody’s involved in this fight.”

Halter also spoke of the state of aircraft in the Air Force, mentioning that many aircraft being flown were flown by the fathers of those who fly them now. He said that at the current projection, the last people to fly such aircraft “have yet to be born.”

“It’s a triumph of American industry that these planes have flown this long,” he said. He talked about the Air Force Road Map, a long-term plan for maximizing Air Force capabilities to meet threats to the nation’s security.

There has been some discussion to transfer the lead wing here from Air Education and Training Command to Air Mobility Command, which are both assigned to the base.

“We saw the number of planes assigned here from AMC and we have to look at ‘do we have the right lead wing here?’” He said that if the discussion becomes a reality that it wouldn’t affect those stationed at LRAFB.

“Nobody is backing off,” he said. “AETC loves Little Rock and we will still love Little Rock if we no longer own it.”
As for the Air Force Road Map, Halter says “everything’s going good for Little Rock.”

“We look across the Air Force to see where we can put certain things,” he said. “We need a planning document that helps us as a service that helps us get where we need to go.” This means the road map is a guide to which bases are best suited for which mission, aircraft, personnel and other assets.

Halter believes that LRAFB is “making strides to make things better.” He said that the Air Force will watch the progress on the education center, which could “be a model for other bases.”

Schatz said he’s looking for a January 2009 groundbreaking for the education center. He also mentioned that work to fix the base’s runways will start in October, after the air show.

He also said that new facilities for Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementaries are now on the Pulaski County Special School District’s facilities master plan. He thanked Halter and his wife, Judy, for the support they give Little Rock Air Force Base.

Schatz also spoke of the base’s partnership with Camp Robinson. He said the base is providing a great deal of medical, dental and other care to help prepare the 39th Infantry Brigade for its deployment overseas.

“We are good partners with the Arkansas National Guard, who are going to do the right thing,” he said.

New officers are Col. Bill Kehler (retired), president; Jay Chesshir, vice president; Mike Wilkinson, treasurer; Barbara Merrick, membership chair; Marlene Eddlemon, historian; and Rhonda Ryan, secretary. Outgoing president Carmie Henry passed the gavel to Kehler.

Attorney Mike Wilson read a resolution by the Community Council executive committee honoring Schatz for his efforts to secure schools for the base. The resolution was approved by the council.

The council also presented a check for $10,000 to Joan Zumwalt for the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.
Halter commands the 19th Air Force at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, which trains nearly 25,000 U.S. and allied students each year.

The 19th Air Force is composed of more than 38,000 total force personnel and 1,720 aircraft. Halter spoke Friday night at annual air base awards banquet.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

EDITORIAL>> Program helps wrong people

Gov. Beebe added his voice to the plea for a little compassion from Washington in this dreary winter of discontent, but there is precious little hope that it will make any difference. The economic stimulus package on which Congress and the White House apparently are collaborating will provide a little relief to the needy in the late spring, but much, much too late to help.

Home heating bills last year and this year have risen sharply, making it impossible for tens of thousands of people to make timely payments for utilities and meet other basic needs. It is the season of cutoff notices.

The government has had a plan to help — the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) — but it has been chary with money and nearly all of that goes north, where it is colder but where there are far fewer poor people.

The complicated formula for allocating the small appropriation each year favors the northern climes, although the money is also supposed to help people cool their homes in the extremes of Southern summers. Congress and President Bush agreed on a slightly bigger appropriation this year but Arkansas’ tiny allotment will be exhausted before 35 percent of the people who desperately need the help paying their heating bills get any assistance. The money is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

The president of Entergy Arkansas, Arkansas’ largest electricity provider, estimates that about a fifth of utility customers live at or below the federal poverty line, and for most of them a steep gas or electric bill in the winter means enduring cold or cutting back on other necessities like food and medicine.

Beebe called on Congress to put another $800 million into LIHEAP immediately. It could be tacked onto the economic stimulus package, as a few like Sen. Hillary Clinton urged, but President Bush and congressional Republicans object. They somehow have always been resistant to LIHEAP.

The stimulus checks will reach households in late April at the earliest and probably May and June, when the Internal Revenue Service finds time in the tax season to process them. If the economy needs an instant shot in the arm — last month would have been the propitious time, economists believe — there is no quicker way than heating assistance for the poor. Every dollar would be pumped into the retail economy instantly, which is the definition of stimulus.

EDITORIAL>>Texas fights polluters!

No state government anywhere, unless it is Arkansas, is supposed to be kinder to the big energy companies than Texas. Sure, unlike Arkansas, Texas has always made miners and drillers pay some hefty taxes for the resources they sever from beneath the tumbleweeds but it has always regulated with a gentle hand.

Imagine our surprise this week when an administrative judge for the Texas Public Utility Commission said the commission should reject a proposal by Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) to erect a coal-fired electricity-generating plant in southwest Arkansas. The company does not need the 600 megawatts of power the plant would generate and homeowners should not have to pay far higher light bills to build the plant, the judge said. The cost is $1.3 billion and rising.

When the same issues were presented to the Arkansas Public Service Commission in 2006, the commission wasted no time in saying flatly that the plant was needed. All three commissioners then were appointees of Gov. Mike Huckabee, the latter-day populist.

A slightly different commission, with two of the three commissioners named by Gov. Mike Beebe, held last fall that the plant also would pump an acceptable amount of poison into the atmosphere and nearby streams. The big pollutant — some 5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year — will circulate around the globe and lift atmospheric temperatures for the next hundred years or so, but neither the state nor federal governments has ever set a standard for how much of the greenhouse gas is acceptable. So the PSC, by a vote of 2 to 1, said build it.

The Texas utility judge said the pollution from the Turk plant between Hope and Texarkana would not hurt Texas especially since most of the pollutants, except for CO2, would be deposited in Arkansas, but that SWEPCO simply did not need the extra wattage to serve its customers in the region for the foreseeable future. The largest share of the power users, 167,000 retail customers, live in Texas. They will pay higher utility bills for the plant, as will customers in southwest Arkansas.

But SWEPCO said the law judge’s findings and a negative commission ruling in Texas, if it comes to that, will be pointless because it plans to build and crank up the generators anyway.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality must sign off on the plant, too, and it has been mute for more than a year. Those regulators, too, can take the shortsighted view that since the harm from the plant will be as much global as local, you might as well let them build it and collect a good profit on the investment. Let us hope that they take the matter at least as seriously as Texas.

TOP STORY >> Cities will get FEMA checks for firefighters

Leader staff writers

Sherwood and Cabot Fire Departments will be awarded nearly $200,000 to buy equipment, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) is given to local fire departments and emergency medical services organizations nationally, and will provide $490 million to fire departments and emergency medical services throughout the country this year.

Cabot will receive the grant for the first time, while Sherwood’s money is the third award from FEMA the city has received. Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson said he has applied for FEMA grants in the past with no success, but now that one grant application has been approved, he will certainly apply again. “We may have broken the code,” he said.

The city’s $37,046 grant will be used to buy two filling stations for the air tanks that keep firefighters alive when they are working in smoked-filled buildings. It will also pay for a backup generator for Fire Station 4 on Hwy. 321.

Robinson said he applied for the grant a year ago using information he learned in FEMA-sponsored workshops. Essentially, the agency knows what it expects to spend money on and grant applications tailored to meet those expectations stand a better chance of being approved, he said.

Robinson said the $1.1 million grant for a new ladder truck that he applied for two years ago was denied, perhaps because he was asking for too much or possibly because FEMA wasn’t paying for trucks that year.

This year, like last year, Robinson said he will find out what FEMA is willing to help pay for and then ask for that.

Sherwood’s fire department will receive $158,760 in grants to buy equipment compliant with National Fire Protection Association fire regulations.

“We’re going to buy air packs called self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA),” Assistant Fire Chief Mark Mahan said. Firefighters carry such oxygen tanks on their backs to enable them to continue breathing while in smoke-filled areas.

He said the number of SCBAs that the department will be able to buy with the FEMA grant is not yet clear. They cost between $5,000 and $6,000 apiece. The department’s current equipment is outdated. “The last time we purchased was in 2001,” Mahan said about the life-saving gear.
“What we have now does not meet current NFPA standards,” he said.

Sherwood applied specifically for FEMA’s help to buy the updated breathing equipment.
“It’s going to put our guys in safer air packs,” Mahan said. The new equipment will also be compatible during mutual-aid missions, when one city requires another’s help because of lack of staff or equipment.”

Mahan said surrounding cities, Jack-sonville, McAlmont and North Little Rock, have NFPA-approved breathing equipment. He said previous FEMA grants for Sherwood have previously been used to purchase a rescue truck and a vehicle exhaust vent.

FEMA’s undertaking is to provide support in disasters, which includes helping first responders serve their cities. The federal agency this week gave $17 million in grants to fire departments nationwide.

Besides Cabot and Sherwood, Sulpher Springs was the only other Arkansas city to receive a grant.
All of the cities received the grants to help purchase equipment. FEMA also gives cities the grants to help them obtain fire training and conduct first responder health and safety programs.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SPORTS >>Coach recalls Roark as more than a great athlete

Leader sportswriter

Tragedy hit the local sports community on Friday morning when former Sylvan Hills catcher and Henderson State freshman Taylor Roark was killed in an automobile accident on icy interstate I-30.

Roark, who collected almost every accolade imaginable as a three-year starter for the Bears, chose Henderson last April over Arkansas State, and quickly fit into the Reddies’ baseball program.

He was two-time All-Conference during his high school career at Sylvan Hills, and also earned All-State honors as a senior. He was invited to play at last summer’s high school All-Star baseball game, before finishing out his youth career on the Sylvan Hills Bruins AAA American Legion team.

Sylvan Hills athletic director Denny Tipton, who also served as Roark’s head baseball coach for four years, remembers Taylor as a fun-loving kid, but also one who had strong leadership abilities.

“The biggest thing I’ll always remember about Taylor is him coming around the bases during the state title game with Bryant his sophomore year,” Tipton said.

“That was the year Bryant was supposed to be unstoppable, and I can still see him coming around the bases for us to tie the game. I remember what a great leader he was for us. He was always a prankster, and he enjoyed the game so much.”

Tipton also remembered Roark as someone more than a great baseball player.

“It’s been tough around here; he wasn’t just a good athlete, he was class president his senior year, and he did great in the classroom,” Tipton said. “He had tons of friends, and everyone’s trying to cope with it. We will honor him on the baseball team this season. We haven’t decided exactly what we’re going to do yet, but we will figure that out when things quiet down some.”

Roark was known as a strong competitor, who rarely displayed excitement or frustration. In a spring feature for The Leader last March, Roark talked about how being so laid back sometimes confused people into believing he was apathetic, but his fans, coaches and teammates knew better.

His stats were solid through and through — including a batting average of over .450 his senior year — but none was more impressive than his on-base average of .708.

He also took part in the Xtra Innings Classic at UALR as a junior. He was on the 5A state champion Bears team in 2005 as a sophomore as starting catcher.

Henderson State coach John Harvey only knew Roark for a brief time, but liked what he saw.

“He was really laid-back, but he was really funny, and all the guys enjoyed being around him,” Harvey said. “He was an outstanding player, but an even better person and teammate. Our whole team here at Henderson State is like a big family, and he fit into that family very well.”

SPORTS >>Tank’s latest dream-come-true

Leader sports editor

No one has had more pinch-me moments over the past year and a half than Tank Daniels. And each one seems to require a little firmer pinch.

From earning a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles to recording four tackles — two for losses — in the Hall of Fame Game in his first NFL action; to making a tackle the very first time he set foot on the field in a regular-season game, the former Harding University All-America linebacker has lived one dream after another.

But even had the 245–pound Clarendon native begun to take his fortunes for granted — which he certainly has not — he could never have imagined the latest euphoric twist. The former Eagle-turned-New-York-Giant is heading to the Super Bowl.

What’s next? An MVP award in Sunday’s game and a trip to Disneyland?

Probably not. Daniels, after all, is a special teams player, one who has parlayed his talent and dedication to a dream into one improbable and thrilling ride.

“I’m embracing it all,” said Daniels, whose voice still exudes a boyish, wonder-of-it-all enthusiasm. “It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. God has blessed me and my family so much. God has a purpose for all of us.”

Daniels was questioning that purpose a bit after being cut from the Eagles’ roster in August just before the regular season began. This, after a rookie season in which Daniels became a fixture on the Eagles’ special teams and a coaches’ favorite because of his attitude and work ethic.

A couple of tryouts with Dallas and Tampa Bay came up empty, despite the praise he received from both clubs.

“Not making that final cut with the Eagles, my world was kind of tossed up in the air,” said Daniels, whose wife and two young children still live in the Philadelphia area, about an hour-and-a-half from the Meadowlands where the Giants play. “I thought, ‘What’s going on? Will I ever play again?’

“Then I get workouts with Dallas and Tampa Bay and things were going well. It’s tough when teams say they like you but it’s just bad timing. That they don’t have a roster spot for you.”

It turns out that Daniels’ old linebackers coach with the Eagles, Steve Spagnolo, had gone to the Giants as a defensive coordinator and gave Daniels a call. Spagnolo told Daniels that, while the Giants didn’t have a roster spot for him, they could sign him to the practice squad.

“He told me, ‘I know you’ll work your tail off and you’ll work yourself on to the team,’” Daniels said.

Spagnolo had been a big fan of Daniels at Philly precisely because of Daniels’ work ethic — the same one that still has his former Harding coaches shaking their heads and gushing with admiration.

“We are all so excited for Tank and his family,” said Harding head coach Ronnie Huckeba, who coached Daniels from 2002-05. “He has just worked so hard. The thing about Tank is he was a kid from Clarendon, Arkansas, who was really an unknown as far as being a college football player.

“He was talented, but honestly, a lot of his success has come from his desire to be a great player. He was a great weight room guy, a great summer guy as far as preparation for the season. He had such a strong desire to improve.”

Daniels said that, while he thinks he probably would have landed with another team eventually, it sure didn’t hurt to have Spagnolo’s influence.

“It helps to have a defensive coordinator in your corner,” Daniels said. “He has been a great inspiration to me and I love being around him. I love everything he stands for. Every week, we’d hug after each victory and he’d tell me he was so glad to have me here.

“That works both ways. I appreciate that he thought enough about me to have me here. Coach Spagnolo is the hardest worker I know. I want to be more like him.”

Daniels was finally activated to the 53-man roster on Nov. 27 when running back Patrick Pass was cut.

The run with the Giants this season has shown remarkable parallels to the Eagles’ run last season. Both teams were all but written off before late-season surges propelled them into the playoffs.

The parallel ended when the Giants beat Dallas to reach the NFC championship game. Last year, the Eagles lost to New Orleans in the second round of the playoffs after beating, ironically, the Giants in the wild card game.

In that game, Daniels drew the kind of attention no rookie wants: He was called for a block in the back that negated Brian Westbrook’s punt return for a touchdown. This season, Daniels went from potential goat to potential hero when he forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half of the wild card game against Tampa Bay. That set up a Lawrence Tines field goal that extended the Giants’ lead to 10 on their way to a 24-14 win.

“Everybody wants to make the big play like that,” Daniels said. “That was huge because that could have been a make-or-break play. At halftime, the coaches were telling us we needed to go out and make a big play. By no stretch of the imagination did I think I would go out there and do that.”

Daniels, who embraced the Church of Christ faith while at Harding, figures there might have been more at work on that play. Dr. J.D. Yingling, Daniels’ swimming coach at Harding, told Daniels after the game that he had said a prayer at halftime that Tank would make a big play.

“I heard that and I thought, whoa, that’s just unreal to me,” Daniels said. “If that doesn’t do something to you spiritually, I don’t know.”

Daniels said he noticed that Buccaneer return man Michael Spurlock was carrying the ball a little loosely and saw that he had the angle on him.

“That felt so great,” Daniels said. “That is the biggest play by far in my NFL career. It felt awesome. I had my chest poked out a little bit after that.”

While Daniels still occasionally is overcome with the wonder of it all — he was driving in New York City recently and asked himself, “Whoa, what am I doing here? I’m from Searcy, I’m from Clarendon” — the stars leave his eyes when he talks about the Giants’ doubters and naysayers.

“Here I am making a run with these guys — Michael Strahan and Plaxico Burress and all those guys — and every week all the commentators on FOX and ESPN are picking people over us,” he said. “They’re saying there’s no way the Giants can win. I just love being part of coming together as a team when no one else has any faith in you.”

Daniels says no outcome in the Super Bowl can detract from the experience, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t think the Giants can beat 18-0 New England, especially after New York nearly ended the Patriots’ perfect season in week 17. The Giants led by two scores before falling 38-35.

“Definitely, we can win,” he says. “We’re all paid to play and anyone in the NFL can beat anyone else. By no means are we intimidated. We’re going to go out there and embrace it.

“Talking with the older vets, they say when you get your opportunities, you have to give it all you got. I want to hold that Lombardi trophy, to be part of all that history.”

Daniels, who signed a three-year deal with the Giants, says his future remains uncertain. He says he’ll do all he knows to do: return to camp next season and “fight my tail off to make a roster spot.

“I feel like I’ve learned more and I know more and I’m better equipped,” he said. “I don’t take anything for granted. Shuffling players around is part of the business. I don’t necessarily like that. But I’m just going to continue to live the dream of being an NFL athlete and providing for my family.”

Huckeba said there are watch parties being planned around Harding.

“We’re obviously all interested,” he said. “Tank’s the main reason I’m watching it. Everyone fell in love with Tank from day one here because of his personality and the smile he always had on his face.

“He’s such a positive person. And he made it clear to me really quickly that he not only wanted to improve as a football player, but as a person. He wanted to get his priorities right. It was a real blessing for us to have him at Harding. I’d really love to see him get that ring.”

SPORTS>>Foul-plagued Devils fall

Leader sports editor

JONESBORO — There was a cake awaiting Jonesboro head coach Barry Pruitt after the Jonesboro-Jacksonville game on Monday night. But it probably would have gone back into the refrigerator had the Hurricane not been able to hold on for a critical 49-41 win at the Hurricane Gym.

The victory was Pruitt’s 500th as Jonesboro and it didn’t come without a whole lot of Red Devil starters sitting on the bench in foul trouble.

“Our entire front line was in foul trouble in the first quarter,” said frustrated Red Devil head coach Vic Joyner, whose club dropped its first conference game of the season and lost a five-game winning streak. “The way the officials called the game was a factor. There were two officials calling the game who I had already blackballed. Not to belabor the point, but I had to play a lot of second- and third-string front line players.”

Jonesboro took 30 free-throws to just 16 for Jacksonville, which didn’t help itself by making only five of those. “We had a seven-point lead late in the first half and missed 4-of-6 free throws,” Joyner said.

“We missed a chance to stretch the lead out to 12 or 13 points,” he added. Joyner said the Red Devils played outstanding defense in the first half, limiting the defending state champions to four field goals.

“We shut them down defensively,” he said. “But it seemed like every time we looked up, they were on the free-throw line. Our guys really started playing tentative defensively in the second half because of that.”

Jacksonville (8-10, 5-1) led 24-22 at the half, with Deshone McClure collecting 13 of those. But McClure didn’t score in the second half.
The Red Devils were successful in containing the dynamic Calamese brothers — Jonah and Josh — in the first half. But when Jacksonville’s Antonio Roy fouled out in the third period, they began to have some success.

“I had a decision to make,” said Joyner of leaving Roy in with four fouls. “I went with our second and third-string guys with [Cortrell Eskridge and La-quintin Miles] with three fouls. But I had to put Antonio back in. And Antwan Lockhart had to play the third and fourth quarters with three fouls.”

Jonesboro improved to 7-0 in conference play, alone in first in the 6A-East. Jacksonville, which played Searcy last night after Leader deadlines, still has control of second place at 5-1. West Memphis has two losses and is in third.

Joyner said that despite the frustration of the loss on Monday, his kids have become mentally tough after getting off to a 3-9 start to the season.

“Those early losses made us mentally strong,” he said. “We pull for each other now a lot more than early in the season. What I’m a little worried about is a physical letdown.

We have to bounce back [last night against Searcy] and against Marion [on Friday] and they’ll be fresh.” Terrell Eskridge added eight.


The Lady Red Devils fell into a 32-3 hole on their way to a loss at Jonesboro on Monday.

SPORTS>>Cabot boys make it four in a row by beating Cyclones

Leader sportswriter

The Panthers put themselves back in the contender category on Saturday with a 59-37 win over Russellville — their fourth straight after an 0-3 start. The Lady Panthers fell to Russellville 71-60 earlier in the evening.

Cabot junior Adam Sterrenberg led the Panthers for the fifth straight game, scoring 21 points on Saturday. He ended up as the only Panther in double figures, but post player Miles Monroe turned in a solid effort inside with nine points, as did forward Austin Johnson. Senior Sam Bates added eight points for Cabot.

Cabot coach Jerry Bridges says the success in recent games stems from a higher quality of practices for his squad. “Our effort in practice had been terrible,” Bridges said. “Our work ethic was bad, and if you go by the old saying that you play like you practice, some of our worst practices all year were in that time that we lost our first three conference games. We’ve been practicing a lot better, and I think we’ve finally woke up. You can’t look back at the games you’ve lost, you can only look forward. We’ve been getting better every game, but we still have a lot of tough ones left.”

The Panthers attacked early on Saturday, jumping out to a 14-6 lead after one quarter, and were in almost full control by halftime with a 32-17 advantage. The Cyclones were never able to cut into the Panthers’ lead.

“It was a good balance,” Bridges said. “We played much better defensively. Everyone has come together well, and everyone has accepted his role. There’s not a weak team in this conference, so we have to be ready to play like that every night.”

The win improved Cabot to 15-6 overall and 4-3 in the 7A-Central Conference.


Russellville dominated the second quarter, which was enough to hand the Lady Panthers their third league loss of the season.

Cabot held a 15-13 lead after one quarter, but the Lady Cyclones came alive in the second frame for 21 points. They went on to outscore Cabot by 13 points in what proved to be the decisive quarter, to lead 34-23 at halftime.

“We’re not getting enough points off the bench,” Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple said. “There’s just not a lot of offense there. They played really well, and we were terrible in the second quarter. We need help from about three more players to help give us some more consistency in our offense. We had too many turnovers, and way too many fouls.”

The Lady Panthers were only 20 percent from the floor in the first half. That number improved somewhat in the second half, but Russellville’s 26-of-37 performance from the free-throw line proved too much to overcome.

Ruple said the injury bug that has hit the team, and which has claimed seven seniors, has had an effect, but can’t be blamed for recent competitive shortcomings.

“At least five of them would see significant playing time,” Ruple said. “But you can never factor that into anything. Who’s to say that seven of them wouldn’t come down really sick before the state tournament? Other teams have the same type of things happen to them, we just don’t hear about it.”

Shelby Ashcraft led the Lady Panthers with 21 points. Leah Watts added 15 points, and Lauren Walker finished with 11 points. The Lady Panthers are now 14-8 overall and 4-3 in the 7A-Central Conference.

EDITORIAL>>Don’t defy laws

No, the framers meant what they wrote when they said “all.” Holding down the cost of government was in fashion in those days. Now it’s an inconvenience. The good old days sometimes really were. Maybe the Arkansas Supreme Court, which will get this case, will see it our way, too.

Until we hear it from Mike Huckabee’s own lips, maybe we should be philosophical about the report that he encourages a Texas televangelist in his determination to “fight dirty” and defy the laws of the United States. But the former governor’s staff does not put our mind at ease.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and many other outlets carried the news yesterday that Kenneth Copeland, the multimillionaire charismatic preacher, was raising large amounts of cash for Huckabee’s presidential campaign, at Huckabee’s beseeching, and also that Huckabee backed him in his defiance of the Senate Finance Committee.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, is trying to get the financial records of Copeland’s ministry to see if he is using its tax-exempt status to shield lavish profiteering off the love offerings of his television disciples. Copeland preaches that God wants people to be wealthy and that he will help them get rich if they will first invest in the Lord, such as by giving to Copeland’s ministry.

In a closed-circuit broadcast last week, Copeland pledged “a holy war” against Sen. Grassley and the Finance Committee. His financial records, he said, belong to God.

“You can go get a subpoena, and I won’t give it to you,” Copeland bellowed. “It’s not yours, it’s God’s and you’re not going to get it and that’s something I’ll go to prison over. . . . You wanna get in a faith fight with me? Why, just come on. But I’m gonna warn you, I fight dirty.”

Huckabee and Copeland are good friends, and our man calls him a spiritual adviser. After receiving the request for his records from Grassley, Copeland called Huckabee and offered him a chance to break their association. According to Copeland, Huckabee “hollered at me on the phone. He said ‘Are you kidding me? Why should I stand with them and not with you?’”

Then Huckabee called Copeland after his defeat in the South Carolina Republican primary last week and asked for help because his campaign was about broke. Copeland then held a fund-raiser at his headquarters in Newark, Texas, that reportedly raised $111,000 and collected pledges of almost $1 million. Huckabee’s press spokesman, Alice Stewart, said she could not confirm the amount of donations and pledges.

It raises questions about the legality of the gifts at a church program. But Copeland said it did not amount to an endorsement by his church, which would be illegal because of its tax-exempt status, and that Huckabee’s campaign had paid rent on the facility to make it lawful. He directed ministers who were attending a conference to leave the building and re-enter it for the purpose of giving to Huckabee. Stewart said the campaign was confident the activity complied with federal election laws.

Maybe so, but what bothers us is a prospective president of the United States encouraging a man to defy the laws of the country by stiffing a subpoena. Say it ain’t so, Rev. Huckabee.

— Ernie Dumas

EDITORIAL>>Constitution requires bids

No, this is not a parlor game but an exercise that actually took place in an Arkansas courtroom — specifically the Pulaski County Circuit Court on Monday. Judge Jay Moody ruled that a sentence in the 1874 Constitution that says “all contracts for erecting or repairing public buildings or bridges in any county” must be given to the lowest responsible bidder actually means that state agencies do not have to take bids on buildings and bridges in any county.

The big building and highway contractors wanted the law changed so that they could negotiate deals with government agencies without going through the old competitive biding process. Government officials also chafed under the bidding law, which was supposed to see that taxpayers got the most for their money but was cumbersome. So the legislature obliged in 2001 and enacted a law that said bids did not have to be taken for projects of more than $5 million. Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts have been let by negotiated deals with contractors without the benefit of bids.

They claim that requiring businesses to submit sealed secret bids actually raises costs rather than guaranteeing the lowest cost. Counter-intuitive as it sounds, that is their premise and the legislature bought it. But a few contractors objected and sued to force the state to abide by the clear wording of the Constitution, not a state law that contradicted it.

Judge Moody heard the arguments — the attorney general sided with the contractors and the statute — and handed down his unhappy judgment. The Constitution was badly written, he concluded, and he had to figure out what the drafters actually meant. He deduced that they intended the bid mandate to apply only to county governments. Every other government could ignore it and give contracts to any business regardless of the price. The phrase “public buildings or bridges in any county” must mean, he said, “by any county government.”

If we assume that the framers were following some logical paradigm in doing what Judge Moody thinks they were trying to do, they must have concluded that alone, of all government officials in Arkansas, only county judges could not be trusted to get honest work for the taxpayer’s dollar. They had to collect bids and give the work to the lowest responsible bidder. For everyone else, a private conversation and a handshake was good enough.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood to take on big debt with course

Leader staff writer

It took just 13 minutes Monday evening for the Sherwood City Council to condemn and take control of the defunct 106-acre North Hills County Club.

In voting for the use of eminent domain, the council allowed for no public input from the packed, standing room only chamber room, admonish those there for not entrusting them and saddled the city with an unknown debt that could hit $9 million or more by the time the property is paid off.

The move, according to the owners, will not affect the lawsuit they have against the city for placing a building moratorium on the property early last year which prevents a sale of the property

Mayor Virginia Hillman, who does not have any veto power and can only vote when there is a tie told the council that a large number of residents were against condemnation. She made it clear in her mayoral campaign last summer that she would like the city to have the property, but the decision should be let to a vote of the people.

Alderman Charlie Harmon made it clear that a vote was unnecessary and even usurped the powers and duties of the council. “We make these tough decisions and are elected by the people to make them. We would go broke if we held special elections all the time,” he said. The alderman went on to say that the council decided to finance and build the recreation center and the senior center without a vote of the people.

He even added that no one in Gravel Ridge wanted to see the closed golf course turned into a residential subdivision. Yet no one publicly brought that issue up at any of the three annexation meetings held the past two months. All aldermen voted for the condemnation ordinance except Alderman Sheila Ulcer who abstained.

The ordinance stated that “it has been determined that the area of the city commonly known as North Hills Country Club should be preserved as a public park, including green space, and for other public purposes to be developed, including without limitation, parks , recreational facilities, hiking/biking trails and other purposes for the betterment of the city.”

The ordinance retains the same law firm that condemned property on the south side of the Arkansas River years ago for the building of the Clinton Library, and called the need to acquire the property “a necessity for the best interests of the citizens of Sherwood.”

Using this method of condemnation allows the city to take possession of the property immediately and then the fair market price is determined in court at a later date. Appraisals vary from a city-funded study that said the land, as a golf course, was worth $2.2 million, to the county tax rolls which has the property appraised at more than $3 to a one-time firm offer of $5.1 million to an owner-funded appraisal of $5.5 million.

Whatever amount the court decides on will be funded through the city’s facilities board which would go out and get the loan for the court determined cost, which may also include the current owner’s expenses and legal fees, and the city would make monthly mortgage payments on that amount.

If the cost was $2.2 million, at 7 percent over 20 years, the total cost would actually be $3.7, according to a local mortgage bank. A court-agreed price around $5 million could escalate the final cost to more than $9 million.

That amount, no matter what it turns out to be, will be paid off in monthly payments of $15,000 or more per month. But on top of that the city will have to invest in repairing or remodeling the golf course property into whatever it determines it want the land to be. The city must also pay to renovate or tear down the current club house, tennis courts, other buildings and the pool.

Alderman Becki Vassar called the condemnation vote great for the city.

Even though Vassar lives off the golf course, on Putters Cove, and has a view of the acreage she saw no conflict of interest.

Sherwood resident Julann Carney, a real estate broker, disagreed. “If her golf course view becomes another subdivision it would affect the value of her home. She has a vested interest in this, and although her vote, and that of some of the other alderman may be legal, it was not morally right. Our aldermen need to be above reproach,” Carney said.

Sherwood resident Doris Anderson, along with other are equally upset with the way the aldermen decided to come up with the ordinance. “They did it at a deposition workshop Thursday with no one from the press or the public present,” she explained.

Carney added that “they’ll say the press was invited, but they don’t have the people to send to a workshop about how to answer questions at a deposition. There is no story there, but they used that workshop to discuss city business,” she said. “It’s just not right,” Anderson said.

On Friday, Vassar said the aldermen decided at the workshop that using its eminent domain authority and condemning the property was the “fastest, most economical and most beneficial for all of Sherwood if we were going to have to spend the money anyway.”

“This way we are not looking at 203 homes on the property, but probably not a golf course either, but desired green space. We just need to save it,” she said.

Vassar explained that if a subdivision was built on the property it would cost the city about $2 million or so to upgrade sewer lines, other utilities and area streets. The aldermen agreed that if they were going to have to spend that kind of money, the city should just go ahead and buy it.

In early January, Club Properties, the owners presented a subdivision plan to the Sherwood Planning Commission to have 92 acres of the golf course property rezoned to allow the company to build 203 homes on the property. The plan met fierce opposition from the commission and was tabled indefinitely.

“We needed to do something,” Rodgers explained back in December, “rather than just sit here on the property.”

Since the city’s imposed building moratorium expired in October, there has been a lot of interest in the property. “We’ve gotten a lot of calls, but no one has come forth, so we decided to go forward.”

TOP STORY >> Early voting underway in area

Leader staff writer

As early voting began across the state, about 20 people waited in line in Jacksonville to cast their ballots during the first minutes of early voting before Super Tuesday. Along with casting their ballots in the presidential primaries, Jacksonville residents also began voting yesterday on whether to annex Gravel Ridge.

Jacksonville chose to hold the annexation vote the same date as the state’s presidential primaries soon after the attempt to annex the 2,400-acre community of Gravel Ridge and its 3,500 residents began. Both Gravel Ridge and Jacksonville residents will vote in this election.

Early voting will be available for four days, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. now until Friday at Jacksonville City Hall. Voting will be available 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday in Sherwood at Jack Evans Senior CitizenS Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive.

Sherwood will hold its own Gravel Ridge annexation vote Tuesday, March 11. Residents of both Sherwood and Gravel Ridge will be able to vote that day.

According to voter registration supervisor Phillip Fletcher, voter registration has not changed much in Pulaski County since the last presidential primary in 2004. In May of that year, 2,923 new voters were registered, he said. This year, 2,176 new voters registered in time for the Jan. 7 registration deadline. He said 747 new voters were registered in the last presidential primary than the current one.

In Pulaski County, voting will also take place through Monday, except for Saturday and Sunday, at the county courthouse at 401 W. Markham in Little Rock from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information in Pulaski County, call 340-8383 or visit


Registered voters can vote now until Monday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Lonoke County Courthouse at Third and North Center Streets in Lonoke.

Lonoke County Election Commission chairman Larry Clarke said he hasn’t seen a significant increase in registered voters before the primaries. He attributes any slight registration increases to population growth in Cabot, although he says numbers generally appear to be stagnant.

“There’s always a heavy increase before the general election,” Clarke said. “But there doesn’t seem to be much interest in these primaries.”

He said Lonoke County has gained about 400 voters every year in the past decade. “It’s stable,” he said. The county has about 32,000 registered voters. “There hasn’t been real significant change,” Clarke said.

On Tuesday, Lonoke voters who live in Districts 1, 2, 3 and 5 will vote at the American Legion Lodge at 117 E. Second St. Lonoke residents in Districts 4, 6, 7 and 8 will vote at the Lonoke Depot at 102 W. Front St.

Austin voters can vote at Austin Station Baptist Church, 1482 East Main St. Cabot Ward 1 voters can vote at the Richie Road Gymnasium at 432 Richie Rd., Ward 2 at Cabot First Baptist Church at 306 W, Pine St., Ward 3 at Veterans Park Community Center and Ward 4 at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church Youth Center, 310 Hwy. 89 South.

Ward voters will vote at the Ward Chamber of Commerce at 89 West Second Street. Polls will be open 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.


Early voting continues through Monday at the White County Courthouse, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The White County voter registration office advises eligible voters who have not received a notice indicating a change in precinct that their voting stations will remain the same as previous voting times.

Voters in Beebe Wards 1 and 2 will vote at the new Beebe City Hall located at 321 N. Elm. Voters in Wards 3, 3C and Union Township will vote at the Beebe Church of Christ at 1906 W. Center Street.

“Voter registration, as far as the number of registered voters, increases on a daily basis,” White County Clerk Tanya Burleson said. “Anytime you have a presidential election it does spark interest,” she said. Burleson said statistics that track numbers of registered voters on a yearly basis are not available.

She said White County has about 42,000 registered voters. Since she has been in the clerk’s office, the population has increased and voter registration has with it, from nearly 25,000 when she started in the clerk’s office 15 years ago. For further clarification on early voting or voting stations in White County, call the clerk’s office at 501-279-6204.

TOP STORY >> Murderer gets 30 after plea

Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza on Tuesday sentenced Marlin Marbley, 25, to 30 years in prison for the beating death last year of his domestic partner, Cassondra Speer, 24, according to Deputy Prosecutor Leigh Patterson.

The couple had been living at a mobile home in the Plantation Village mobile home park in Jacksonville at the time, and had reportedly been together for about five years.

Marbley, who was slated for a jury trial early next month, entered a negotiated plea to first-degree murder on what was originally expected to be a plea date, Patterson said. “We’ve been in discussion with the family and with his attorney,” she said.

Marbley was represented by Lott Rolfe. Patterson said he would serve at least 21 of the 30 years under the 70 percent rule. Marbley asked to address the court, but Patterson objected, saying it could be hurtful to the family, which was in attendance. Piazza said he could make his statement in the form of a letter.

Marbley had been held on $500,000 bond although he’d pleaded not guilty to a felony count of first degree murder after police were dispatched to 2008 Hwy. 161 South-Lot 34 for an unknown domestic disturbance.

The mobile home was padlocked from the outside and police contacted the trailer park manager who opened a window and saw Speer lying in the hallway. The police report said Speer was apparently already dead when the manager first saw her. Jacksonville police spokesperson Lt. Martin Cass said Speer had probably died from “one blow to the head.”

Cass said Marbley went to his mother’s house in Jacksonville and told her he’d had a fight with Speer. His mother asked the asked the police to check on Speer. Marbley had blood on him at the time of his arrest, Cass said at the time.

TOP STORY >> Thousands in the dark after harsh wind storm slams area

Strong winds blew across the state Tuesday leaving thousands without electricity and causing fires that destroyed several buildings at Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith.

In Lonoke, as darkness approached, rescuers were cutting limbs and parts of a house with chainsaws Tuesday, where a woman, pinned to her bed by a huge fallen oak tree, was believed dead, according to Mayor Wayne McGee. The tree was uprooted by the same straight-line winds that played havoc throughout the area, downing electrical lines, uprooting trees and damaging structures throughout several counties including Lonoke and north Pulaski.

The mayor said as many as 20 would-be rescuers worked in shifts trying to get to the woman in her home on Hamburg Street near Brown Street. A MEMS ambulance stood by. In addition to the mayor, Fire Chief George Rich, volunteer firemen, Lonoke police officers and city workers responded to the incident, according to the mayor.

McGee declined to name the victim, saying that she hadn’t been pronounced dead and next of kin hadn’t been notified. The city backhoe and trucks also stood by, but workers were working their way in deliberately to keep the tree from shifting. McGee said that several trees were down around town, but that he wasn’t aware of any electrical outages there.

James Thompson, spokesman for Entergy in Little Rock, said 40,000 customers lost power across the state including 2,900 in Jacksonville, 1,700 in Cabot and 1,800 in Beebe.

First Electric Cooperative in Jacksonville reported 2,816 local customers out and 13,565 across all five districts of the cooperative. Besides rural Jacksonville customers, First Electric serves customers in Lonoke, rural Cabot, Ward, Austin and in White County.

“It blew a lot of trees on the lines and whipped a lot of lines together,” Thompson said. “We don’t have many like that.”

“Lines are twisted all over the state,” he said. Thompson could not say how long power would be affected, but said hopefully it would be on by the end of the day. “I don’t know, hopefully hours,” he said.

A spokesman for First Electric in Jacksonville said all crews were out in the district making repairs to downed lines and broken poles.

In Jacksonville, power was out along most of Main Street late afternoon and traffic slowed to a stop as signal lights were made inoperable. The Jacksonville Police Department, Gregory Place Shopping Center and Wal-Mart were all reported as having lost power. The police department regained power about 5:30 p.m. Jacksonville City Hall’s power remained on and the high, straight-line winds apparently did not affect early voting.

On Little Rock Air Force Base, Hangar 250 suffered roof damage. Public Affairs spokesman Ken Williams also said there was some housing damage and reports of trees down.

Jim Kulesa, with the Lonoke Sheriff’s Department, said power lines were down in Austin, Ward, Cabot, south of Carlisle and along Miller Road. He said a large truck trailer sitting on private property near Highways 70 and 31 had been blown over by the strong winds.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who was apprised of the situation in Cabot by staff members while he was out of town for a Metroplan meeting, said he planned to start on the remedy for the problem as soon as possible. “Our goal is to make sure when this thing is over that we get with the electric companies and make sure they tighten those lines,” the mayor said.

Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson said the showers of sparks that fell each time the lines touched had not caused any fires, but each time two lines touched, the power went off somewhere in town. At 3 p.m., Robinson was working the intersection of Rockwood and West Main where the traffic signal was out.

“People are cooperating pretty well, but it is a mess,” Robinson said.

Milton McCullar, Beebe street superintendent, was watching traffic on Main Street at 4:30 p.m. A Charter Cable line was hanging low there, McCullar said, and he was concerned that a big truck could break it. A power pole at the corner of Georgia and Cypress was broken at ground level, McCullar said, adding that the pole was still standing but swaying three feet in the wind. Thompson made no promises about restoring services. With power out in so many places, it could take a while.

“We’ve got crews working and they’ll be working around the clock,” he said.

In Lonoke County off Mt. Tabor Road, Kathy Burton said the shingles were off her house when she returned home about 4:30 p.m. and more damage was done to her mother’s house next door. Across the street, a metal carport was blown off a house. “The insurance adjuster has already been here,” Burton said.

At the Beebe Animal Shelter, a building reportedly collapsed from the high winds. Forty dogs were in the structure, but none apparently were hurt.

Leader staff writers John Hofheimer, Joan McCoy, Eileen Feldman, Aliya Feldman and Rick Kron contributed to this report.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TOP STORY >> Growth slows in Cabot, but not Ward or Austin

Leader staff writer

In the past 20 years, Cabot has doubled in size to its current population of about 22,000. Although the school district, which is the draw for many of the new residents, is the largest employer in the area, home building is the biggest industry. But in 2007, residential construction in Cabot was at the lowest point it has been in five years. Meanwhile in Ward and Austin, which also are in the Cabot School District, building is booming.

In Ward, seven of the newest housing developments have provided homes for the estimated 1,000 new residents who have moved in since the 2000 census. In 2000, Ward’s population was 2,582. Now it is estimated at 3,500.

Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain estimates her city’s population at 1,800, triple the number of the 2000 census. “Austin is growing,” Chamberlain said. “People don’t want to live in town, but they want the Cabot School District. Besides, Cabot is running out of room.”

A Cabot committee made up of elected officials, bankers, business people, and representatives of the building industry will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. to begin looking for a reason for the decline in Cabot. Specifically, it is their task to determine if an impact fee on construction is to blame.

The impact fee is supposed to raise money for infrastructure improvements needed because of growth. But if the committee determines that the impact fee has stifled residential construction, the city council could vote to make the six-month moratorium on the fee permanent.

Alderman Terri Miessner, who volunteered to chair the committee, said Tuesday that the committee could meet as often as twice a week to sort through the many issues that could have a negative impact on the building industry in Cabot including the economy, the lack of room to build and the impact fee.

“I think it’s going to be interesting. I think there are going to be some heated discussions,” Miessner said. Information available at Cabot Public Works shows that residential construction is down, but it started going down before the impact fee went into effect in November 2006.

Two years earlier, 2004, was the boom year for home construction in Cabot. Building permits for 500 houses were issued that year, compared to 288 in 2002, 374 in 2003, 419 in 2005, 400 in 2006 and 183 in 2007, which was after the impact fee was passed.

However, of the 400 permits issued in 2006, 122 were in November, just before collection of the impact fee was started, for houses that would be built in 2007. Although residential construction has slowed, commercial, which increases the city’s tax base, is on the rise.

Nine commercial permits were issued in 2002, 25 in 2003, 20 in 2004 (the boom year for residential), 60 in 2005, 58 in 2006 and 67 in 2007.

In addition to Miessner, the members of the committee are Alderman Eddie Cook, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, Bill O’Brien, Cary Hobbs, Dewey Coy, Clint Skiver, Mike Bernardo, Kip Boudry, Larry Biernackie and Ricky Hill. The committee has until May to determine whether the impact fee is responsible for the decline in residential construction or if other factors such as the economy are to blame. The moratorium on collecting the fee that the council approved in November 2007 was for six months only.

If the council hadn’t imposed the moratorium, the impact fee would have doubled from $1,272 to $2,196 on a 3,000 – 3,900- square-foot house. The fee is also scheduled to increase in 2008 and 2009. By the third increase, the impact fee on a 3,000 – 3,900- square-foot house would be $4,037.

On Tuesday, Norma Naquin, planning coordinator and office manager at the public works department, was gathering information for the committee. Bernardo had requested the building permits since the impact fee went into effect.

Miessner said she wanted a count of the building permits since the November moratorium on the impact fee to see if building has picked up. Nacquin said no one had asked her to compare the number of building permits issued to the number of occupancy permits to determine if fewer houses are being built because sales are down. But that is information she can provide with the documents on hand. “They haven’t asked for it, but I’ll give it to them,” Naquin said.