Friday, December 12, 2008

EDITORIAL >>National plan for recovery

It should go without saying, but somehow in the maelstrom of the unemployment rate, the subprime- mortgage meltdown and the government’s recent acquisition of the better part of the U.S. banking system and auto industry, it’s easy to lose sight of what makes a stable society, something we haven’t heard much about recently: When people are healthy and have a place to call home, they are better able to contribute to a flourishing society.

Ensuring the stability of our country by meeting people’s basic needs is the surest way to create a thriving and lasting system.

The healthcare industry, designed to meet the most fundamental of needs—that of sustaining life—continues to expand.

Education, housing and transportation have the potential to grow also because of their essential nature and the guarantee they will never lose a customer base.

These industries are inextricably linked; they are also mismanaged. What has happened to the United States? The people who once thought of ourselves as founders of freedom, of the country on the hill, as a beacon of hope for people in war-torn, politically corrupt or poverty-stricken countries, a refuge for “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” are now wondering if the house will be foreclosed on, if we will ever get out of debt (as a country and as individuals), if we can afford our medical bills, send our children to college and assure our children have quality educations before then.

As many Americans have struggled in the last 10 years to make ends meet, trade rules have been loosened to make it easier for big business to ship jobs overseas even as they are sheltered from taxes here at home. That equates to lost financing for education and other imperative social programs that assure a stable populace that can get good jobs and afford houses, pay medical bills and other fundamentals that sustain our economy.

We are now witnessing the result of the collapse of a foundation of a sustainable and profitable economy.

Congress must join with top economists, job-readiness and other social-service experts, education specialists and healthcare reformers who will work to improve industries that are now lacking but that have the largest customer bases of any others.

Any economic-stimulus project should include the vast innovation potential of the education and health care sectors, which have millions of jobs waiting to be filled. Innovation in health care and education will happen if incentives are given for intelligent people to enter these fields. President-elect Obama can start by giving people tax incentives to continue their educations. There are several more initiatives that could help the economy:

Put young people on career paths early and foster environments at schools so that students will be able to contribute to society when they graduate. Create grants for artists and writers similar to what were given during the Great Depression. Such support generates ideas, criticism and progress and helps the economy.

Implement public-works programs that include public art, community projects in housing and schools and medical research.

Concentrate not only on what’s lacking in our cities and towns, but what contributions can be made to the indelible fabric that is America. Create jobs in infrastructure and other areas that need improvement such as business retention, schools and transportation. Provide support for small business loans that immediately invest in communities.

Business stimulus is not enough. Work on providing women’s health, mental-health care and drug-abuse services to help stabilize neighborhoods is imperative. Improvements to our libraries will engage and inspire learning as would career support and college loans for adults. Support for green technology will reduce highway costs and help the environment.

The legacy of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the sweeping social-reform package brought about by the civil rights movement, has been blighted recently as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Smithsonian and public education, among many other institutions, have come under fire. Perhaps their legitimacy would not be questioned if their economic contributions were considered. Medicare and Medicaid are often the bulk of individual hospital financing. Without the National Endowment, there would be fewer museums and hardly any theater.

Yet it was not only the economy that inspired the Great Society. Johnson realized the disruption in American society that withholding support for medical care, arts, culture and education causes. He sought to temper an unhappy and disillusioned America, what he called “a soulless wealth,” when he envisioned the Great Society.

“The catalogue of ills is long: there is the decay of the centers and the despoiling of the suburbs. There is not enough housing for our people or transportation for our traffic. Open land is vanishing and old landmarks are violated,” Johnson said in 1964.

“Worst of all, expansion is eroding the precious and time-honored values of community with neighbors and communion with nature. The loss of these values breeds loneliness and boredom and indifference,” he said.

To read the speech in which he unveiled the largest social-reform package since the Great Deal, we cannot help reflect on how little has changed since then. Leaders in education, job creation and health care all need to be at the table during the construction of a new economy for America.

TOP STORY > >Base residents meet new developers, are optimistic

Leader senior staff writer

No tumbleweeds swept along one wind-scrubbed Little Rock Air Force Base street Wednesday — past the shells of new homes and concrete slabs that American Eagle abandoned 18 months ago.

But the yards still need bush hogging, doorless garages stand open and empty, and Tyvek construction wrap slaps against water-swelled chipboard sheathing, a suburban ghost town awaiting the bulldozer.

But now there’s a new sheriff in town and airmen and their families are optimistic that long-promised housing relief is on the way.

In place of failed developer American Eagle stands Hunt-Pinnacle, a proven partnership that has built 67,000 military housing units—that’s Hunt—and Pinnacle, a 30-year-old property-management company that currently manages more than 175,000 units nationwide, including 15,000 military units on 20 different installations.
Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz is familiar withtheir work and readily vouches for them.

“I was stationed at Scott Air Force Base, so I already had experience with Hunt-Pinnacle,” the general said. “Right after the sale, the wing commander at Dover Air Force Base called me to praise the new developers.”

Schatz hosted a town meeting Wednesday night for base residents, who seemed pleased with the new, experienced developers who have taken over project, if the mood of approximately 60 residents attending the meeting is any indication.

“It was a very good, positive, upbeat meeting,” said Ken Williams, base spokesman. “People arrived and left with a positive outlook.”

Representatives of the new developers were on hand to answer questions.

In 2003, American Eagle Communities won an Air Force privatization contract to demolish about 500 homes, build 468 new housing units and remodel 732. But by May 2007, when the bankers pulled the plug on American Eagle for nonperformance, only 25 homes had been completed, another 25 started and perhaps 50 concrete slabs poured. Subconstractors and suppliers were owed millions of dollars at Little Rock and the other three Air Force bases where American Eagle had won privatization contracts.

Under the new name of The Landings at Little Rock, Hunt-Pinnacle will finish out 10 of those housing starts and tear down the balance, including the slabs, which don’t confirm to the new developer’s blue prints.

American Eagle, which was a partnership of Shaw Infrastructure of Baton Rouge and the managing partner, Carabetta Enterprises of Meridan Conn., similarly failed to live up to its agreement at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, Hanscomb in Maryland and Patrick in Florida.

Under pressure from the lenders and the Air Force, American Eagle Nov. 4 signed an agreement to sell the four projects as a bundle to Hunt-Pinnacle.

Top representatives of Hunt-Pinnacle were at the base this week and briefed reporters in the afternoon before answering questions for the residents at a later town meeting.

American Eagle’s contract was to build or renovate and manage 1,200 homes. The new, scaled-down contract calls for Hunt-Pinnacle to build or complete 141 new homes, renovate 834 units and retain the 25 occupied homes the old developer completed for a total of 1,000 units.

“Everything American Eagle built was built very well,” said Derek Veerkamp, a Hunt Group vice president.

The renovations will include new siding, roofs, guttering, floor coverings and bathroom and kitchen upgrades, according to Veerkamp.

They will open a construction office by the middle of this month and begin the clean up of construction sites in January.

Completion of the partially built homes should begin in February, renovations in April and new construction should begin in June.

When possible, the new developers will use the same contractors and suppliers that American Eagle used, Veerkamp said.

“We’ve been on site and started performing maintenance on day one,” said Paula Baker, investment manager for Pinnacle.

Schatz said American Eagle was way behind schedule and over cost when the bankers shut down the construction money in May 2007.

“They had 25 houses complete and there should have been almost 200,” he said.

“We tried to work with them but by July we decided the best solution would be (for American Eagle) so sell their contract to someone else who could perform,” the general said.

He said he was more comfortable with the current contract calling for 1,000 housing units instead of the original contract, which called for 1,200.

He said the economy and market forces made 1,000 units more logical.

Schatz said there was a 40-month construction schedule.

Remodeling costs will cost the developer about $50,000 a unit and the new units will cost about $150,000 to bring in, the general estimated.

Existing residents will be moved into available house as substandard housing is demolished or renovated, according to Baker.

She said efforts would be made to minimize disruption.

TOP STORY > >Lonoke looking at slightly lower budget for 2009

Leader senior staff writer

The Lonoke City Council has ap-proved a tentative 2009 operating budget of $5,330,327, down from $5,382,941 this year, according to Treasurer Walls McCrary.

That’s a decrease of about $52,000, he said Monday, attributable to managers of all departments working to hold costs down in an uncertain economy. The final budget will be approved in January.

Former Lonoke County Clerk Prudie Perceful will take over McCrary’s position effective Jan. 1.

McCrary, a Democrat, is stepping down to become District 15 state representative. In November, he beat Republican Doug Hatcher and independent Trent Eilts to take the seat of Lenville Evans. Evans was ineligible because of term limits.

The operating budget includes funds for city administration, the municipal court, fire department, parks department, mosquito control, water, sewer and street department, the community center, industrial development and retail development, McCrary said.

At McCrary’s suggestion, thecouncil also raised the salary of the mayor from $25,000 to $27,500 next year and $30,000 the following year. The council members’ pay was raised from $1,250 to $1,550 next year and $1,850 by the following year.
In other action, the council authorized Water, Sewer and Street Supervisor Keith Whitworth to spend as much as $54,000 for a pair of trucks.

The council also deferred again any action on fixing the roof of the Pet Quarters building, which it owns. It also did not act on an offer to tear the building down for $52,000. Instead the city will have one or more appraisers place a current sale value on the building and then try hard to sell it.

It’s rented to Laster and Laster, which builds hitches for semi-trailers, through mid-spring.

The city also tabled a motion to take responsibility for maintaining a Kerr Community sewer system, saying the maintenance costs would far outweigh the revenue that came with it.

That community is about 15 miles away, and while a grant is available, the town’s first sewer system and pipe could be put into Lonoke for treatment.

Each of the 160 customers in that community would have a separate grinder pump, which councilman Pat Howell said was certain to break and need to be repaired at the city’s expense. Currently they cost about $400 each. Also, the addition of the community would probably require hiring a full-time employee.

In other action, A-Line painting of Lonoke won the contract to repair the roof at the city shop for $8,600. It’s a liquid roof repair with a five-year warranty.

TOP STORY > >Sports complex given funding without bids

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council in special session Wednesday voted to forego competitive bidding on ballpark renovations at Sylvan Hills Sports Complex that are projected to cost the city $250,000. Only Alderman Butch Davis opposed the measure, which passed 5-1.

The money will be spent to rotate Legion Field so that the sun no longer glares directly into the eyes of the batter, catcher, and umpire. Since the field opened in 1990, the poor design has long been considered a safety hazard by many. Funds will also be used for repairs after an April 3 tornado put the field out of commission.

The storm demolished bleachers, fencing, light fixtures and the scoreboard. Debris scarred the playing field.

Funds will be drawn from the city’s $900,000 reserves to pay for the work.

At the special session Parks and Recreation director, Sonny Janssentold the council that with ball practice starting up in February, time had run out for competitive bidding for the job, which he said would take 15 days.

Janssen said he is ready to let Penaprime, a Maumelle company, do the work because it has shown an interest.

Janssen said he never let the job for bid. He called around to contractors for estimates and found that either they were too busy or their prices were “astronomical.”

City workers have done as much of the grading work as possible, but it is time to call in a professional, Janssen said.

“They’ll be able to level it off, fine tune it, lay sod on top for a nice beautiful field,” Janssen said.

Costs include $50,000 for drainage, $20,000 for topsoil, $30,000 for sod, $10,000 for a chain-link fence, $75,000 for grading and $15,000 for a scoreboard. Pepsi will contribute to the cost of the scoreboard.

A donation from the Optimist Club and volunteer labor will save the city almost $30,000 in erection of the outfield wall.

Alderman Becki Vassar, who was on the council when the ball park was built, remembered the consternation felt then when the mistake in design was realized.

“When we discovered what happened, we were in a panic – ‘what do we do now?’ – but were in a hurry to open it and always meant to fix it later,” Vassar said.

“I have been concerned all these years that someone would get hurt. This is doing what is right for the children and the city,” she added.

Other long-time council members said it was the first they heard of the risk associated with the ball field design.
“I had several parents call me this week,” Sheila Sulcer said. “I didn’t ever realize it was a safety hazard. Maybe it is because I have girls.”

Alleviating the problem will make life easier for families participating in leagues. Ball games at Legion Field had to be scheduled late in the day to avoid the glare from the sun, pushing games late into the evening.

“Games were starting at 9 or after, and kids have to get up and go to school the next day,” Janssen said.

Butch Davis said that he agreed the work was necessary but given the condition of the economy, the city should let the project. He would rather see such a large sum spent otherwise.

“I know it needs to be done, but this is wrong timing; we need to wait another year and see how things pan out,” Davis said. “I would rather see this money spent on the (city) employees.”

TOP STORY > >Budget talks get heated in Cabot

Leader staff writer

City council and committee meetings have been normally peaceful in Cabot for the past two years with aldermen sometimes disagreeing, but doing so politely, at least while they sat together around the council table.

But a humdrum committee meeting — held Tuesday night so the council members could have one last look at the budget before they vote on it Monday — turned into a short face-off between two aldermen, complete with raised voices and finger-wagging.

The question of whether Cabot’s elected officials should get pay raises like regular employees has been argued for almost two months, ever since the city council got its first look atMayor Eddie Joe Williams’ proposed $8.4 million budget for 2009.

Essentially, Alderman Becky Lemaster, who serves on the council’s budget committee but who lost her bid for re-election, says they shouldn’t, while all the other council members who have commented on the issue say they should get at least a 2.3 percent cost-of-living raise.

“They knew what the job paid when they ran for it,” Lemaster has said every time the subject has been broached.

And when she says “they,” she means all eight city council members as well as the mayor, city attorney and city clerk.

“Elected officials are elected officials,” Lemaster said Tuesday night, restating her argument. “We don’t draw our living from this.

“If the salaries need to be adjusted, do it in the next (election) cycle. But my God, don’t give raises in a downturned economy,” she said, then added the words that raised Alderman Ed Long’s hackles. “No one knows what the future holds with a Democrat as president.”

“Don’t start, Becky,” Long said, shaking his finger at Lemaster.

Lemaster, who has said in the past that she feels that the mayor and some council members make light of her concerns, reacted immediately to Long’s rebuke.

Shaking her finger at him, she said, “Ed Long, don’t do that. You will not disrespect me that way.

“You don’t know what the new president and a new administration will do,” she added.

As the tension died, Alderman Eddie Cook interjected that Lemaster need not be concerned about the money because the proposed raises would cost very little.

“You’re only arguing $8,000 at the most,” Cook said. “The people like Jimmy (city attorney Jim Taylor), the mayor and Marva (Verkler, the city clerk) who come to work every day should at least get a cost-of-living raise.”

“I know it’s not much money, but it’s money and right now we need to start thinking about insulating not spending,” Lemaster said.

The money that is figured into the 2009 raises for elected officials could fill pot holes in city streets, she said.

Lemaster, who is completing her second year on the city council, will be off in 2009. She lost her second race in a runoff to Ann Gilliam, so voting for or against the 2009 budget Monday evening will be one of her last official acts as a Cabot alderman.

Although the budget committee eventually agreed in principle to cut pay raises for elected officials, the 2009 budget proposal includes 4.8 percent raises for city council members, the city attorney and city clerk and a 2.3 percent pay raise for the mayor.

Alderman-elect Patrick Hutton, who attended the budget meeting, recommended that the proposed budget should be changed to give raises to the council members because they will be starting new two-year terms, but not to the other elected officials, who will be starting the third year or a four-year term. At the state and federal level, governing bodies can’t vote themselves raises, so they shouldn’t do it at the city level either, Hutton said.

Except for Lemaster, the aldermen who attended the committee meeting disagreed. Cook said the cost of living went up for all elected officials and the consensus the aldermen finally reached was that they would recommend 2.3 percent increases for all of them.

But whether the mayor incorporates those proposed decreases in the budget he presents to the full council for approval Monday night will be up to the mayor.

TOP STORY > >Board could fire Sharpe in February

Leader senior staff writer

Those Pulaski County School Board members intent upon firing Superintendent James Sharpe will now have to wait until the Feb. 10 meeting.

As he left for work after the marathon executive session on Tuesday, but before the meeting’s end, board member Bill Vasquez of Jacksonville said some board members would be on vacation and unavailable to consider Sharpe’s contract at the
January meeting, suggesting they would instead by the February meeting.

The meeting didn’t conclude until after midnight, but the board suspended the rules and went into executive at 8:07 p.m. even as Assistant Superintendent Beverly Ruthven was preparing to start a Power-Point presentation.

The session was called by board member Tim Clark for purposes of personnel, but with no further explanation.

Those in attendance spent the next 83 minutes wondering about the purpose of the meeting, with teachers, union representatives, reporters and administrators plying each other for information and passing rumors and speculation.

Then, at 9:30 p.m., board member Danny Gilliland appeared in the door to summon Sharpe into the session. The superintendent emerged at 10:20 p.m. and 20 minutes later, after about two and a half hours, the board members emerged but took no action. One TV crew ordered and ate pizza in the interim.

An executive session was on the agenda for the end of the regular session, but upon leaving the meeting, Vasquez explained that the sudden executive session that left those attending abuzz was required so he could participate before leaving for his job.

Vasquez said Sharpe’s contract, which is routinely considered at the December meeting, would not be considered at the January meeting because some board members would not be attending.

He said he didn’t believe there would be a special session to consider Sharpe’s employment.

The Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers executive board has had a vote of no confidence in Sharpe, and in recent board meetings, Clark, Vasquez and Gwen Williams have voted to terminate his employment immediately, but failed to get the fourth vote they needed.

With its new makeup, the board seems more inclined to accept a new contract with the Pulaski Association of Support Staff, but board president Mildred Tatum expressed some confusion over which contract with which provisions was the one being proposed.

The board seems prepared to approve the contract if it is for one year with a 1.66 percent pay increase, retroactive to July 1, as described by PASS president Emry Chesterfield.

Consideration of the contract could occur at the January meeting or sooner.

In other business, the board approved a motion declaring the unsafe roof at Clinton Elementary School constitutes “an emergency situation,” allowing the board to select an architect, engineer, contractor and others.

Those students are currently relocated at North Little Rock Assembly of God. Professionals have told the board that repairs could be completed on the roof and children back at Clinton four to six weeks after work begins.

A similar emergency declaration was approved earlier for the similarly afflicted Crystal Hill Elementary.

The board approved a revision to its policy on the types and amounts of expenses reimbursable to board members.

The issue arose out of concern over Williams’ December 2007 AT&T cell phone bill of $833, including $600 worth of roaming charges.

Also the board heard the first reading on new policies that would set rules for election of board officers and their recall, and also for getting an item placed on the agenda.

The board rehired as its attorneys the firm of Bequette and Billingsly, which it fired this fall.

SPORTS>>Cabot girls have little problem with Lady Bruins

Leader sports editor

What a difference 72 hours can make.

Three days after going flat in a 33-29 loss to Lake Hamilton at the Bentonville tournament, the Cabot Lady Panthers matched that total in the first eight minutes and 45 seconds on Tuesday night in a 66-37 whipping of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock.

The Lady Panthers ran through and around the Lady Bruins’ constant full-court press for countless easy buckets. They got nearly as many easy lay-ups from their 19 steals in the contest.

“We played really well in the first two games of the Bentonville tournament,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “We shot 59 percent the first game and 55 percent in the second game. The last game, both teams were tired and we ended up shooting 26 percent.”

The Lady Panthers torched the nets for 30 of 53 shooting on Tuesday. With the going inside so easy, they took only three from
beyond the arc, but made two of those.

“We’re like every team – we like to get as many high quality shots as we can,” Ruple said.

The lead reached 21 at the half, 28 after three periods, allowing Cabot to play its entire squad.

In a little more than a half of action, Shelby Ashcraft scored 14 points, grabbed nine rebounds and two steals, and dished out three assists. Sarah Moore added 12 points to go along with six blocked shots. Jenna Bailey was the only other Lady Panther in doublefigures with 10 points and four rebounds.

Cabot raced past Pulaski Academy for 10 points over the first six minutes of the contest. Ashcraft scored off the opening tip, providing a sign of things to come. An 18-2 run over the final five-and-a-half minutes of the first period staked the Lady Panthers to a 24-7 lead.
It reached 31-7 after Bailey’s three and two baskets by Amalie Benjamin, who finished with eight points, three steals, two assists and four boards.

“Pulaski Academy likes to press and he’s going to play all his players,” Ruple said. “But we like to press, too. The chemistry on this team is really good. The seniors and the sophomores really complement each other. The kids like each other and the girls on the bench are always (cheering for) the girls on the floor.”

Stephanie Glover scored only six points, but grabbed eight rebounds and four steals, and dished out three assists. Amber Rock had four assists and three steals. While Cabot was hitting nearly 57 percent of its shots, the Lady Bruins struggled to a 15 of 46 night and made just 2 of 15 three-pointers. Cabot also dominated on the glass with a 41-23 advantage.

SPORTS>>Former Cabot star Sitzmann named Player of Week

UALR sports information

Junior Kim Sitzmann earned her first career Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week honors after leading the UALR women’s basketball team to a 2-0 week defeating Southern Miss and No. 17 Oklahoma State. Sitzmann averaged 20.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, four assists, and 5.5 steals helping the Trojans to receive votes on both the AP Poll released yesterday and the USA

Today ESPN Division I Coaches’ Poll released today.

Sitzmann, a 5-10 guard, record-ed a career-high 28 points, including a season-high five three-pointers, in the 66-44 win over Southern Miss. In the 65-51 win over No. 19/17 Oklahoma State, the Cabot native recorded 13 points, including three three-pointers, three rebounds, five assists, and a career-high of six steals.

Overall for the Trojans, Sitzmann is first on the team in steals, averaging 3.5 per contest, second in assists, averaging 3.5 per contest, and third in points averaging 12 per contest.

SPORTS>>Panthers falter down stretch against Comets

Leader sports editor

No sooner had Cabot erased the sting of its disappointing loss to Conway last Saturday in the Searcy Bank Classic final than it got stung again.

The Panthers made some poor and hasty decisions down the stretch on Thursday afternoon and fell to Mills, 65-62, in the first round of the CAC Invitational. Cabot led by four points with less than three minutes remaining, but ill-advised shots and turnovers allowed the Comets to rally.

Nick Hansberry, whose three-pointer with 2:40 left narrowed the Cabot lead to one point, stepped to the line and hit two free throws with 5.3 seconds left to put the Comets up 63-62. Chris Hampton then stole a Cabot passin backcourt and finished it off with a lay-up at the buzzer for the final margin.

“You’d have thought we were the team behind,” said Cabot head coach Jerry Bridges, whose Panthers fell to 5-2. “I’ve got a senior ball club and, apparently, I haven’t done a good enough job of teaching them the decision-making process toward the end of the game. We had a bunch of boneheaded mistakes and I’ll take responsibility for that.”

Cabot had seven turnovers in the final period — four over the final two minutes, 24 seconds. The Panthers led 62-58 with 3:30 left in the game after Adam Sterrenberg, who led the way with 29 points and six steals, made 3 of 4 free throws over a 21-second span.

Hansberry hit a three from the left corner 50 seconds later to narrow the margin to one. After a Cabot turnover, the Panthers dodged a bullet when Mills missed a dead-on lay-up that would have given them the lead with 1:58 left, but Sterrenberg was called for a charge. The Comets misfired on a three, but this time, Austin Johnson traveled driving down the lane on the other end with 1:19 left.

It was during a timeout that Bridges could be heard imploring his team to realize that it was ahead, not behind.

“We’re the home team on the scoreboard, fellas,” he told them.

The Panthers played great defense over the next minute and Mills called a timeout with 11.4 seconds left. Hansberry drove across the lane from the right wing. Johnson was whistled for the foul that sent Hansberry to the line for the game winners.

In an extremely entertaining first half in which offense trumped defense, Cabot knocked down 6 of 10 three-pointers to lead 36-33. Sterrenberg knocked down a pair of threes over the first minute, 52 seconds to stake the Panthers to a 6-0 lead.

But the sharp-shooting, athletic Comets exploited Cabot’s 1-3-1 defense for easy buckets inside, and a pair of threes by Hampton that put Mills ahead 15-11 late in the first. It was tied at 17 after one when Johnson hit a three-pointer with three seconds left.

Neither team led by more than six points, which was Cabot’s lead after three periods. But three straight buckets by Montez Peterson and two Hansberry free throws capped off a Mills’ 8-1 run and gave it a 55-52 lead with 5:14 left in the game.

Sterrenberg tied it with a pull-up three 15 seconds later. Johnson’s rebound basket and two Sterrenberg free throws had Cabot up 59-55.

But another defensive breakdown on the other end allowed Kyle Jackson inside for a bucket and a free throw that cut the lead to one.

“We didn’t play defense, that’s the bottom line,” Bridges said. “We didn’t play with intensity the whole game. We didn’t put forth the effort and got outplayed and outhustled.”

The Panthers had 11 of their turnovers after half to finish with 14 and made only 8 of 24 second-half shots to finish 21 of 51.

After making 6 of 10 threes in the first half, Cabot missed 7 of 8 in the second half. Mills also dominated on the glass, enjoying a 37-27 advantage.

After getting a lot of people into the scoring column against Pulaski Academy on Tuesday, Cabot had only four players score against Mills. Sterrenberg had 29, while Johnson added 19. Miles Monroe, with nine points and 10 rebounds, and Jack Bridges, with five points, were the only other Panthers to score.

Cabot tried to bounce back in a consolation game against Pulaski Academy played after Leader deadlines yesterday.

“I hope we learn from this,” Bridges said. “We’re a veteran club, though we sure didn’t show that tonight.”

SPORTS>> Lady Devils cruise past NP

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils took advantage of their superior depth against cross-town rival North Pulaski on Tuesday night. The second five got as much playing time as the starters in a 61-39 win at the Devils’ Den.

The normal starters kept their seats at the start of the game, as Ciara Morant, Tyquia Robinson, Chyna Davis, Ebony Ghoshon and post Tanisha Cox took to the floor for the first quarter, and then proceeded to take it to the Lady Falcons.

It was the second win in two days for Jackson-ville, which advanced to the semifinal round of the John Stanton/Wampus Cat Invitational in Conway with an impressive 57-35 win over Alma.

“All of our starters saw a lot of time on Monday,” said Lady Red Devils coach Katrina Mimms. “So for Tuesday, we wanted the players that didn’t get much time to get in there.”

Ghoshon made the most of her start right away with two steals and two baskets in the first minute of the game. Her third lay-up missed, but Morant was there for the putback to give the Lady Red Devils a 6-0 lead just one minute into the game.

By the end of the period, Ghoshon had amassed eight of her team-high 14 points. Morant ended up with eight points, with nine for Robinson.

“They’re all coming around pretty well, it’s just been a slow process,” Mimms said. “Part of it has been not having much court time early on, but the other part of it was when we got the volleyball girls in, we had to go over so much so fast, it kind of bombarded them.

“Now we can start going slower and get them used to everything. When you start making a lot of changes all at once, they get confused. The ability is definitely there, we just have to get them ready for when our opponents change their strategy against us.”

The Lady Falcons got to face the Jacksonville starting five midway through the first quarter. Post player Rae Robinson kept North Pulaski close early on with a pair of inside baskets, with another from guard Quanita Hale. Hale went on to lead all scorers in the game with 20 points, including nine in the fourth quarter.

A Hale banker from 18 feet to start the second quarter pulled the Lady Falcons to 14-12. North Pulaski hung tough throughout the first half to trail by only four at the half, but Jacksonville slowly pulled away in the second half, changing out units every four minutes.

Meanwhile the Lady Falcons, only seven deep, had to struggle through limited substitutions.

Crystal Washington led the Lady Devil starters with eight points, while Apollonia Sims led all rebounders with nine. Tyra Terry and Sherice Randell each added five points.

The win improved Jacksonville’s record to 3-3.

With six games and a couple of tournaments under the Lady Devils’ belt, Mimms is pleased as far as defense is concerned, but wants to see more opportunities met on the offensive side.

“There’s always something to work on,” Mimms said. “You’re never completely satisfied, but we’ve seen some good things. I thought Tyra shot the ball really well against Alma, and Sherice and Apollonia both stepped up and shot well whenever they manned up on Tyra.

“We saw Crystal shoot better against North Pulaski, and hopefully that means she is back on track. We’ve been missing some of those quick, easy points she got for us a lot last year. She’s had some looks, but she’s struggled and missed some easy baskets. Lanier needs more points out of the post. Sometimes she’s real quick to pass it back out too fast instead of moving strong to the post.”

The Lady Red Devils continued tourney play in Conway last night after Leader deadlines against the host Lady Wampus Cats in the semifinal round.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

TOP STORY > >New Lonoke jail top priority

Leader senior staff writer

Building a new jail to replace the aging, substandard, overcrowded jail currently in use is Lonoke County’s highest priority over the next two years, according to Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman.

Toward that end, the county is working to buy up the last of the land upon which it will build its new jail next to the old one, according to Justice of the Peace Larry Odom, chairman of the building committee.

“The money is coming in — with us doing the legwork, it’s all falling together pretty good, ” Odom said.

The money in question is from a one-year, penny sales tax dedicated to construction of a new jail, perhaps 140 beds. Voters narrowly approved that tax last May. At the time, it was estimated to raise $6 million to $6.2 million.

Troutman said last week it was too early to know the troubled economy would lower the actual amount.

Odom said that Lonoke County is generally exempt from the wild swings in the economy.

The first of that money, collected in October, should be sent to the county treasurer by the end of this month, Troutman said.

“How much of a jail $6 million will build we won’t know until the architects are involved,” Troutman said.

On Block 19 in the Wright Addition in Lonoke, the county already owns the existing jail, the adjacent building and a house next door, currently used by the Lonoke County Literacy Council, according to Troutman.

“We have the money to buy those pieces of property,” Troutman said.

“We are in conversations with the family that owns the middle building and they have agreed in principle to allow the county to buy it,” Odom said.

The other house and parcel the county must buy belongs to a man living in Batesville. In the past he’s been agreeable to the idea of the county buying the land, but Odom said he’s having trouble getting in touch with the man now.

Odom said the county had tentative plans, when the time comes, to move the literacy council to the county’s building in the Cabot Mini Mall that used to house a branch of the county assessor’s office.

That office moved about two weeks ago into a new building owned by the state revenue office on Pine Street in Cabot near Hwy. 321.

The county is also interested in buying the land not used by the county library in the bock south of the jail. That land would be used for jail parking, Odom said.

Once the new jail is built, the old jail could be pressed into other use by the county, held in reserve as a temporary lockup or even torn down.

“My first opinion is to take a bulldozer to it,” Odom said.

Regardless, the 911 center built into the east side of the jail a few years ago is in good condition and would be preserved for that use, Troutman said.

The Dallas County Jail after which this jail will be modeled was built largely by inmate labor, with the sheriff, a contractor himself, acting as the contractor.

When voters approved the jail tax, many expected that Act 309 inmate trustees would do much of the work, but since then a trustee was caught having sex with a female prisoner. Sheriff Jim Roberson admitted that he took an inmate to look at a car problem his daughter had and Roberson surrendered the program, sending those sometimes-skilled inmates back to the state Correction Department.

Odom said the run-of-the-mill Lonoke jail inmates would be sufficient to provide much of the labor, while the skilled work such as plumbing, wiring and heating, ventilation and air conditioning would need to be done by licensed contractors anyway.

Odom said the county could buy the plans already drawn for the Dallas County Jail at a reduced cost from the architect. He said that a retired Cabot contractor had agreed to work as a county employee to oversee construction of the jail.

TOP STORY > >Charter school for Jacksonville moves forward

Leader staff writer

The planned August opening of Jacksonville’s first charter school moved closer to fruition Monday night as the city’s planning commission approved the preliminary site plan for the Lighthouse Charter School.

Plans call for a 28,425-square-foot, single-story building to be constructed on 4.26 acres of land off of North First Street in the open area behind Dr. Joe Collins’ eye clinic. The building will eventually become home to 600 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Planning commissioner Chad Young excused himself from the vote Monday night as he is involved in the design of the new school. He said the school is geared toward an August 2009 opening.

Bond Engineering, which represented the charter school at the commission meeting, will be back at the next commission meeting in January with a more detailed plan prepared for final approval.

If all goes according to plan when the charter school opens in August 2009, it will have about 340 students, including two sections of students in grades kindergarten through sixth. One grade will be added each year until the school includes all the junior high and high school grades.

A charter school is a state-regulated public school, the purpose of which is to provide educational alternatives for communities. The state grants a charter for five years, after which renewal is based upon how well the school has met state accountability mandates. An open-enrollment charter school can be established by a government entity, community, institution of higher learning or non-sectarian group.

The school would be supported by public funds as part of the Pulaski County Special School District. Students attending the school, however, could live in a school district, city, or county other than where the school is located.

At a city council meeting earlier this year where the council approved a resolution backing the efforts to get a charter school in Jacksonville, Alderman Bob Stroud said the charter school was a good thing. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” he said. “This charter school will help our city improve, and when we get our own district it won’t hamper our growth.”

The resolution stated that the “creation of a charter school within Jacksonville can be achieved and serve as an additional source for quality education for students and additional employment opportunities for teachers of our community.”

The charter school will be operated by Lighthouse Academies, a nonprofit group out of New York. The group opened its first charter school in 2003 in the Bronx with just 123 students. Since then it has expanded to ten different locations in four states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 3,600 students.

Michael Ronan, president and CEO of Lighthouse Academies, says the group exists “because there is a staggering achievement gap in education today. We overcome the achievement gap by providing a rigorous arts-infused program, organizationally and financially viable schools, high quality teachers, relentless school leaders and a pervasive culture of achievement and respect among students and staff.”

What makes the Lighthouse Charter Academy different than the local PCSSD schools? The school proposes more instructional days and longer days. The charter school year has about 10 more instructional days built into its schedule, plus the school day is eight hours long compared to the 6.5 hours for most other area schools. Teachers also loop with their students, meaning each teacher spends two years with their students. For example, the first-year teacher will move up to second grade with his or her class, the second grade teacher will move up to third grade with his or her class, and so on. At the end of the two-year cycle, the teachers return to their starting grade and begin again.

The local president of the board of trustees is George Biggs, Jacksonville’s parks and recreation director.

Other local residents on the board include, Dr. Bobby Altom, a former assistant superintendent with PCSSD; Curtis Green, a deacon with Mount Pisgah Baptist Church; Keri Urquhart, an active member of the Parent Teacher Organization at Pinewood Ele-mentary who also heads the rehabilitation department at Woodland Hills Nursing and Rehab, and Rebel Flynn Wilson with First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville. She has extensive nonprofit leadership experience.

In other planning commission business:

Commissioners approved the final plat for the first three lots of Calvin Estates of S. Hwy. 161 on land formerly occupied by a trailer park.

The commission also ap-proved the preliminary plans for Penn Cottage Development, a 21-unit complex and clubhouse for senior citizens to be built off North James and Jeff Davis streets. The homes will be designed for seniors and run between 800 and 900 square feet.

Before work can begin, developer Dickie Penn will have to come back to the commission for a rezoning hearing. The 3-acre parcel is currently zoned R-0 for single-family homes and will have to be rezoned R-2 or R-3 for the complex even though each unit will be separate and detached from the others.

TOP STORY > >Hospital could be sold in days

Leader staff writer

Officials are hoping to seal a deal for the sale of the North Metro Regional Hospital facility possibly by the end of this week, certainly by the end of the year, to preserve it as an acute-care provider for Jacksonville and surrounding areas.

Financial losses in the millions in recent years are forcing the city to sell the facility. Negotiations are under way with Allegiance Health Management, a firm based in Shreveport, La.

“Negotiations have been going on every day for weeks. Our goal is to have something final no later than December 31,” said
Mayor Tommy Swaim, who also serves as chairman of the hospital’s board of directors.

With the sale, the hospital would no longer be a private, not-for-profit entity with 501(c)3, tax-exempt status. It would become a private, corporate entity. Access to emergency services, however, would be unchanged, Swaim believes.

“Hospitals with emergency care have to see people with emergencies – that is true with all hospitals,” Swaim said. “I don’t see any changes in how the emergency room operates, unless there is an after-hours clinic.”

The opening of an after-hours clinic to provide urgent care for conditions such as colds, flu, and other non-emergency medical needs, is “still on the table” as part of the deal with Allegiance, he said.

The after-hours clinic would not be a free clinic, but a place to come to get medical services during hours when business offices are closed, diverting those patients from the hospital’s busy emergency department.

Brig. General Rowayne Schatz, top commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, said in an interview Monday that the base relies on the hospital.

“North Metro is the closest emergency-room facility,” the general said. “We don’t have an ER in the base clinic. We rely on them for medical services in our local community, to provide an emergency room and in-patient services.

“We do send several of our airmen and their families to North Metro and they’ve been a good provider for us and we’ve been monitoring their situation as a customer,” he said. “But we have no sway.”

If North Metro fails to get an operating agreement or sale, base personnel would have to use another facility, he said.

The last year that the hospital operated in the black was 2003-04, when it closed the fiscal year June 30, 2004 with a $652,000 positive income. The next year, net income slipped to the other side of the ledger with a $98,000 loss. In 2005-06, losses totaled $804,000, then jumped to $3 million in 2006-07. The 2007-08 fiscal year closed out with a net negative income of $2.38 million.

Much of North Metro’s losses are attributable to uncompensated and charity care, as well as the low reimbursement level for Medicaid and Medicare patients.

The federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act mandates that any hospital that gets Medicare and Medicaid funding – and essentially all do – must provide a medical screening and treatment if necessary for anyone who comes to the emergency room, regardless of their ability to pay.

“Hospitals treat according to their capability and stabilize for transfer,” Paul Cunningham, senior vice president for Arkansas Hospital Association, said.

Once a patient’s condition is stabilized, the hopital’s legal obligation is fulfilled. For a patient who seeks emergency care at a hospital and then finds he needs further services for a serious medical condition, “most hospitals through their social workers will try to find where a patient can get the services he needs,” Cunningham said.

As part of the purchase, Allegiance Health Management has agreed to pay the appraised price of the North Metro facility or existing bond debt, whichever is more. After review of a preliminary appraisal, city and hospital officials asked Allegiance to go back to have a “re-look at some issues,” Swaim said. A revised appraisal is expected “any day now.”

Swaim was reluctant to disclose any more specifics about what is on the table with Allegiance because of a promise by city officials to not publicize any details until a deal is finalized.

“Otherwise, they could back out of a deal if they wanted to,” Swaim said. “They don’t want this information getting out to their competitors.”

As for the fate of the current hospital’s chief executive officer, Scott Landrum, and interim chief financial officer Cal Brummund, Swaim said that they may or may not stay on at North Metro once an agreement is reached.

“That’s for them to work out with the new management company,” Swaim said.

Landrum, Cal Brummund, and Allegiance Health Management were not available for comment.

TOP STORY > >General sees big gains for C-130Js

Leader senior staff writer

With a dozen more C-130Js on the way, resumption of the long-stalled base-housing privatization program and full funding for the joint education center all on the front burner, Brig. General Rowayne Schatz said in an interview that the future looks bright at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Additionally, groundbreaking for a new base exchange is slated for Thursday, and a new cafeteria for enlisted airmen opened last month.

Currently, the new 19th Airlift Wing has 13 state-of-the-art C-130Js and is slated to receive three more over the next six to nine months, according to Schatz, who is base commander and commander of the 19th Air Mobility Wing—an expeditionary force that usually has about 15 percent of its airmen in or near Iraq and Afghanistan.

Schatz said that starting in about 2012, the wing should start receiving more C-130Js, “a second squad’s worth,” he said. That would, in time, be an additional 12 C-130Js.

The 314th Airlift Wing has another seven C-130Js to train all U.S. military crews flying or maintaining that plane, as well as crews from allies around the world.

“That’s the current budget and the current long-range de-fense program,” the general said, giving the base 35 C-130Js.


Some in the 314th are deployed in the Mideast now, he said, teaching airmen in the Iraqi air force to fly and maintain C-130s, which will be an important job as the U.S. military phases out its duties there over the next three years.

Despite tough economic times likely to have the military looking at belt tightening, “there is broad-based support throughout the Air Force and other joint services and special operations command for the C-130J,” he said. “It remains to be seen what the new administration will come in with. We could buy more and we could buy less. “It’s a national decision whether we take the taxpayer dollars and buy those things or buy something else.”

He said the C-130J has proven itself in the theater of war. “We have several of them right now deployed in the Southeast Asia theater. They are performing very well and exceeding expectations with their extra power, range and additional capacity with two extra pallet positions,” the general said. “It’s the C-130 of choice.”


Schatz seemed pleased with Hunt Pinnacle LLC, the developers who took over the failed base-housing privatization contract from American Eagle Communities.

The contract holder is to build new housing units, renovate old ones, own the units and manage them for 50 years, keeping the rents and doing the maintenance.

American Eagle either walked away from its building commitments at LRAFB and three other Air Force housing-privatization projects in May 2007 or was locked out for failing to do what it promised. Much of the time since then, the Air Force has been looking for a new developer and property manager to buy out American Eagle’s contract and finish building or remodeling 1,000 housing units on the base.

Hunt-Pinnacle, a long-time military housing-privatization team, signed the contract Nov. 4 to buy out the American Eagle Contracts at Little Rock, Moody, Hanscom and Patrick air bases.

The privatized housing is now called The Landings at Little Rock.


“They are here on the ground now,” Schatz said. “They were doing maintenance calls literally hours after the paperwork was signed for the sale. I’ve heard nothing but praise for the job they are doing.”

Hunt Pinnacle will begin in mid- or late January to finish out the partially constructed units started and abandoned by American Eagle last year, said Schatz, and they expect to restart work on the rest in the spring.

Schatz said instead of 1,200 total units, of which 468 were to have been new, H-P LLC. will build 165 completely new units, including the 25 completed by American Eagle, and would renovate 835 for a total of 1,000 units.

“I’m comfortable with that, given the state of the financial markets and money available,” the general said.


The renovations will include new siding, new roofs, floor coverings, including carpet throughout, fresh paint, new kitchens and appliances, new bathroom fixtures and full HVAC renovation.

“That’s a good deal for our airmen and their families,” Schatz said.

Pinnacle Management has a wealth of experience in managing military and other housing, with more than one million units already managed nationwide, according to Schatz. He said they have software to help manage repairs and maintenance.

Hunt is an award-winning builder of military housing, and Schatz said he had seen their work at Scott Air Force Base.

Schatz said the Air Force was new to military housing privatization when American Eagle won its contracts, but that now it’s older and wiser, the new contract would receive much closer oversight, both locally and from its civil engineering office at Brooks, Texas.

“We’ll watch over their shoulders to make sure they deliver what they promised,” he said. “That’s not going to happen again.”

As for all the contractors and suppliers left in the lurch by American Eagle, “HP has promised that their checks are good,” Schatz said.

As for the two other major base building projects, work on the new base exchange is expected to begin in January and be done by summer 2010, he said, and the $14.8 million joint education center—a partnership between the base and the city of Jacksonville, could begin this summer.

Jacksonville residents taxed themselves $5 million to help provide a new, updated building for the college, outside the base perimeter.

EDITORIAL >>A tax plan for Arkansas

Needing advice on tax policy, we would never have turned to the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based research group that has been a reflexive critic of taxes in almost any form for as long as we have known of it. Now it turns out that we were too reflexive ourselves in our judgment about the organization.

An economist with the Tax Foundation tendered quite a bit of advice to the legislature about taxing and budgeting strategy last week, and the lawmakers would be well advised to follow it. Governor Beebe no doubt resented Joshua Barro’s counsel since some of it contradicts his program for the 2009 session. He should consider them a perfection of his own plans and embrace Barro’s suggestions.

Here is what he advised:

Instead of lowering the sales tax on groceries another penny, from 3 percent to 2 percent, as the governor is proposing, target the tax savings to those who really need it, which are working households with low incomes. That could be done by a fundable income-tax credit for low incomes covering the annual estimated sales tax that families pay on groceries. Several states do that in some form. A state earned income-tax credit similar to the federal credit would do the same thing. To enlarge on Barro’s proposal, the tax credit might be adjusted to reflect the costs of sales taxes on gas, electricity and water for the working poor. That tax is even more regressive than the tax on groceries because some 300,000 of the poorest Arkansas families, those who receive federal food stamps, are already exempt from paying sales taxes on food they buy with stamps but not from utility taxes.

Forget about declaring a sales tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers each year, as a few legislators are proposing. Barro said tax holidays on the purchase of clothing and supplies just do not stimulate economic activity. It is regressive, too, for those benefiting the most are well-to-do families that spend much more on children’s clothing.

Abolish the corporate franchise tax and consolidate it with the corporate income tax, which Barro suggested be made a flat tax. The current marginal rate of 6.5 percent would be a good starting point.

All those steps would produce a slightly more stable tax base, which would bear up in economic bad times and preserve state services when they are most needed. Governor Beebe and the legislature are apt to see the wisdom of his advice before very long as the economy plunges ever deeper into malaise.

Beebe promised in his campaign in 2006 to phase out the tax on groceries in phases. He and the legislature cut it in half in 2007 and he thinks he can take another penny off next year without jeopardizing important services. He does not want to welsh on a campaign pledge, which is admirable.

But shrinking the tax base has long-range consequences that come home to roost when the economy worsens. The sales tax is the stable revenue source in such times. Income taxes boom in prosperous times and now account for the $300 million surplus in the treasury.

When the job market goes south, as inevitably it will even in a state with a nearly nonexistent manufacturing base, the sales tax keeps the government in business. The grocery tax indeed punishes low-income working families who get no nutrition assistance, but a fundable tax credit for food would meet that need without shrinking the tax base. A grocery- tax exemption for those with comfortable incomes offers no more social benefit than an exemption for French furniture. The aggregate of taxes that a family pays, not the source of any individual levy, is the crucial thing.

Barro’s idea of eliminating the franchise tax, which in Arkansas is little more than a nuisance to most businesses, and merging it with the corporate income tax ought to have no effect on revenues, but it would relieve businesses of paperwork and the government of administrative burdens.

Texas combines a franchise tax with an income tax and calls it something else. It enables the state to boast that it does not have a corporate income tax while collecting billions of dollars annually in a fairly progressive way from the biggest corporations. Arkansas should not make a habit of emulating Texas, but this is a little Longhorn innovation that we could copy without apologies.

SPORTS>>Harding Academy girls roar back for win

Leader sportswriter

The Harding Academy Lady Wildcats did not have go-to post player Ariel English in the game as much as they would have liked, but benefited from her 10-point performance in the fourth quarter when it counted the most.

English sat out more than half the game with foul trouble before leading the Lady Wildcats (3-1, 2-0 in 2-3A Conf.) to a 37-31 win over cross-town rival Riverview on Friday night at Harris Gym.

“Ariel picked up the two quick fouls early,” said Harding Academy coach Rusty Garner. “And our other post players did an admirable job of helping us out to get to the half. It took us to the fourth quarter for us to be able to leave her out there long enough to establish some post play.”

The Lady Raiders controlled the game with a slow pace in the first half, when the two teams combined for only eight field goals — two of those coming in the final 1:28.

The rivalry lived up to its billing in the second half, however, with physical play in the paint by both teams. Riverview’s quickness and outside shooting eventually gave way to the dominant sizeof Lady Wildcat post players English and Megan Pack, whose key rebounding on the defensive glass limited Riverview’s second-chance attempts in the third quarter.

A three pointer by Ciarra Farmer to start the second half gave Harding Academy its first lead of the game at 17-16, and Emily Davis extended that lead moments later with a basket with 5:25 left in the third.

The Lady Raiders had one more swing of momentum in the middle of the third quarter, starting with a basket by Emily Harris to cut Harding Academy’s lead to one.

Riverview leading scorer Kandice Leggitt followed that with a pair of free throws at the 5:05 mark that put the Lady Raiders back in front 20-19, and a transition score by Emily Chapman increased the advantage to three.

Leggitt doubled that lead with a three pointer at the 3:20 mark, and Casie Clause gave Riverview the biggest lead of the game for either team with a long jumper to make it 27-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

“We really wanted to keep them at bay,” Garner said. “Give them a shot and then go rebound. I thought we did a much better job of rebounding in the second half. For them, I thought they did a great job of dictating the tempo. We want to run, play fast and put it up in the 50s and 60s. They controlled the tempo for the duration, and that’s a credit to them.

“We’re still trying to figure ourselves out. It’s early, we’ve got a long way to go. When we got down by (seven), the girls didn’t look defeated, they looked determined. I thought they battled their rear ends off in the fourth quarter.”

The Lady Wildcats had only eight rebounds at the end of the first half, but finished with 30 for the game.

Harding Academy cut into the lead quickly on the strength of Farmer and English at the start of the final frame. Farmer’s 4 of 6 performance at the line in the first three minutes, along with three inside shots for English had the Lady Wildcats back on top 30-29 at the 3:42 mark, which seemed to throw Riverview off its deliberate-style game plan.

The Lady Wildcats were able to contain Leggitt in the final period, limiting her to one point while Harding Academy went on to outscore the Lady Raiders 17-4.

English led the Lady Wildcats with 16 points and eight rebounds, with 10 of those points in the fourth quarter. Anna Bangs added eight points, and Farmer finished with seven points.

For Riverview, Leggitt led the way with 11 points. Casie Clause added seven points, and Harris had six. Chapman rounded out scoring for the Lady Raiders with five.

SPORTS>>Lady Panthers fall in finals

Leader sportswriter

BENTONVILLE — The Cabot Lady Panthers made it to the final round of the Bentonville Invitational basketball tournament over the weekend. They met Lake Hamilton in the championship game, falling 33-29 in a defensive struggle.

Senior post player Shelby Ashcraft led the Lady Panthers in both scoring and rebounding against the Lady Wolves. The Arkansas-Little Rock signee had 13 points, six rebounds and five steals..

The Lady Panthers hit over 55 percent in the two previous games leading up to Saturday’s final round, but ended up a dismal 11 of 41 from the floor. Lake Hamilton did not fare much better, shooting just 36 percent from the floor.

The Lady Panthers are now 6-2 on the year. Cabot took on Pulaski Academy last night in a game played after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS>>Rim-out at buzzer sends Panthers to loss in finals

Leader sports editor

Jack Bridges got the exact look Cabot needed and the shot looked pure when it left his hand.

But the senior Panther guard’s three-pointer from the right corner rimmed out as time expired and Conway beat Cabot 57-55 on Saturday evening in the finals of the Searcy Bank Classic. It was the first of at least three meetings this season between the 7A Central powers and, with both teams figuring to go deep into postseason, it might have been the first of four.

Three turnovers in the final two minutes sealed Cabot’s doom against Conway, which trailed 55-54 after Adam Sterrenberg drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:51 left in the game.

Conway matched Cabot’s giveaways down the stretch by missing four consecutive free throws, but on the fourth of those misses, Jarvis Gardner snuck in for the rebound basket, then added a free throw to put the Wampus Cats up 57-55 with 28 seconds left.

After a time out, the Panthers (4-1) got the ball over to Bridges for an open three but his shot rattled around the rim and bounced out as Conway beat Cabot for the fourth straight time over the past two seasons. Conway bounced Cabot from the state tournament in the semifinals in March.

Though Kenyon McNeaill missed all four of his critical free throws down the stretch, he hurt Cabot the rest of thenight, scoring 24 points, including three treys. His driving bucket in the lane and free throw with 4:12 left in the game put the Wampus Cats up 52-50, though Miles Monroe tied it 22 seconds later with a four-footer along the baseline.

But the Wampus Cats got a breakaway basket by Travis Jackson to go back on top with 3:25 left in the contest.

The Panthers shot the ball well, making 22 of 47 shots, but the difference turned out to be key turnovers and a 36-26 rebound advantage for Conway. As a result, the Wampus Cats got off nine more field goal attempts. Though they shot a lower percentage, they made one more shot to finish the game at 23 of 55. Conway committed only 10 turnovers.

Though Cabot turned it over just 14 times, three came down the stretch when it was trying to hold on to a one-point lead.

A pair of early threes from McNeaill, and seven straight points by Gardner, allowed Conway to open up a 19-13 lead after one period. But Cabot quickly erased that with three-pointers from Sterrenberg and Austin Johnson over the first 25 seconds of the second quarter.

Monroe scored inside and Johnson added an eight-foot pull-up to conclude a 10-0 Cabot run and put the Panthers up 23-19 in a game which featured 15 lead changes. Conway’s biggest lead was six, while Cabot’s biggest lead was 41-36 when Alex Baker hit the second of his three straight bas kets with 3:20 left in the third period.

Baker finished with 10 points, while Sterrenberg led the way with 19 points. Austin Johnson scored all 11 of his points in the first half, while Monroe finished with eight points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Bridges dished out four assists and Gary Clark had four points and five rebounds.

Cabot returned to action last night against Pulaski Academy after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS>>Red Devil ‘D’ shuts down Vilonia

Leader sports editor

CONWAY — Reject and deny was the theme of the evening for Jacksonville in a 43-32 win over Vilonia in the opening round of the Wampus Cat Invitational on Monday night.

Cortrell Eskridge blocked eight shots and altered countless others in a physical game in which both teams struggled on the offensive end. Jacksonville blocked a total of 12 Vilonia shots, including five in the opening period.

“Cortrell was tough but he’s been doing that,” said Jacksonville head coach Vic Joyner, whose Red Devils improved to 3-1 and will take on last night’s Benton-Forrest City winner on Friday night at 5:30. “But they all played hard. It was a physical game.

Most games, they won’t let a lot of that stuff go.”

Despite the physical nature of the contest, only 17 free throws were shot. Jacksonville made 6 of 11.

Eskridge also skied for nine rebounds to go along with five points. Antwan Lockhart led the Red Devils with 12 points.

Had Jacksonville made half of its inside shots, the game would not have been nearly as close as it was, though Joyner credited the physical play with his team’s easy misses.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” he said with a laugh. “Why do you think they were missing all those? Those kids were pulling our jerseys, knocking us off the ball. But our kids played through it and did a good job.”

The Eagles, a 5A team which earlier this month ended Rose Bud’s 41-game winning streak, used a pair of three-pointers over a one-minute, 20-second span of the third period to trim an 11-point halftime deficit to 26-23 withtwo minutes left in the quarter.

But Lockhart, normally an inside player, stepped out to hit a three 20 seconds later and sparked a 10-0 run that gave Jacksonville its cushion again. Deshone McClure followed Lockhart’s bomb with an end-to-end lay-up, and Darris Morant knocked down a 10-footer at the buzzer and the Red Devils led 33-23 at the end of three periods. After missing its first eight shots of the third quarter, Jacksonville made its final four.

Two buckets inside by Laquinton Miles early in the final period kept the lead at 13, and Lockhart delivered the exclamation point with an alley-oop jam, compliments of Miles’ looping pass.

For style points, Demetris Harris finished off the scoring with another dunk along the baseline after taking a behind-the-back pass from McClure. It was the final of McClure’s five assists in the contest, to go along with his eight points and six boards.

Miles also had eight points and three assists.

Harris added five points, four steals and eight boards.

The Red Devils connected on only 1 of 9 three-point attempts and just 18 of 49 overall. But the Jacksonville defense forced Vilonia into an even worse 12-of-44 performance.

“You can’t take anything away from Vilonia,” Joyner said. “They played the best style for Vilonia. It’s going to be tough to beat that team. But we never got frustrated. We just played through it and you’ve got to give them credit for that.”

SPORTS>>Lady Lions pull off upset

Leader sports editor

They may be mostly sophomores and juniors but nobody told them they’re supposed to be nervous. Even when playing the defending 7A state champions.

The Searcy Lady Lions overcame a poor shooting night by turning up the defensive pressure and captured the Searcy Bank Classic championship on Saturday night at the Lions’ Den with a dramatic 40-38 win over Conway, which won the 7A state title in March.

Lauren Harrison’s three from the top of the key crawled in with 1:10 left to break a 36-36 tie and the Lady Lions withstood one final Conway attempt in the final seconds to improve to 7-2.

“That was a really big win,” said Searcy head coach Michelle Birdsong. “I think that really helps our confidence because that was the first pressure we faced since (injured senior point guard Shantel Neely) went down.”

Harrison, Searcy’s sensational junior post player, got off to a slow start against Conway’s big, imposing Na’Dra Robertson, rushing her shots inside. But she settled in in the second half to score nine of her team-high 14 points.

“That’s kind of tough when you turn around and see that big girl standing there,” Birdsong said. “We tried to get her to try to drive around her.”

The sophomore trio of Chelsey Butler, Elliott Scarbrough and Lindsey Hanshew seemed unfazed by the competition on Saturday. Butler came off the bench to grab 10 rebounds and score seven points. She also dished out four assists, grabbed three steals and blocked a pair of shots.

She, along with junior Kristen Celsor, led a furious ball-hawk attack by the Lady Lions in the second half, when Searcy collected 10 of its 14 steals. Celsor had five steals, while Harrison and Hanshew had two each.

“I’m really excited about our sophomores because I have them for two more years,” Birdsong said. “Lindsey didn’t play point for us last year. Elliott did, and we changed their roles and both have done everything we asked them to do.”

Neither team lead by more than five points. Searcy took a 32-31 lead into the final period when Scarbrough hit a 14-footer along the baseline at the buzzer. Caleigh Woodruff opened the fourth quarter hitting a difficult runner in the lane, and a fast-break basket by Celsor off a long pass from Scarbrough put Searcy up 36-31 midway though the final period. The Lady Lions never trailed again, though Conway tied it with a three pointer and a runner in the lane by Taylor Gault with 1:30 left.

Celsor missed a go-ahead lay-up at the other end, but got a steal off the rebound, leading to Harrison’s game-winning three with 1:10 left. Meghan Lewis drew the Lady ’Cats to within a point with a rebound basket with 35 seconds left.

Hanshew went to the line for a one-and-one with 15 seconds remaining and made the first one to make it a two-point game.

A lane violation on the second toss left the lead at 40-38, but Celsor knocked the ball away at the other end and Harrison picked it up with 8.8 seconds left. She missed the front end of a one-and-one and Conway raced down court with a chance to tie.

Gault slipped in the lane, the ball came free and Harrison grabbed it as time expired.

“We really did a good job in the second half,” Birdsong said. “We went to the boards more and played better defense. We’re so long with Kristen at the top of our (1-3-1) zone that we’re able to spread out. And Chelsey is just extremely athletic.”

Conway scored the first four points of the game, but two baskets by Celsor, two Harrison free throws and a Scarbrough three gave Searcy a 9-7 lead after one period. The Lady Lions trailed 16-15 at the half.

Searcy made only 5 of 26 in the first half and warmed up only marginally in the second half to finish 13 of 47 from the field, 4 of 13 from beyond the arc. The Lady Lions turned it over only 12 times, while forcing Conway into 17 turnovers and 15 of 45 shooting.

Searcy travels to Lake Hamilton on Friday.

Monday, December 08, 2008

TOP STORY > > Jacksonville workers to get 5 percent pay hikes in ’09

Every Jacksonville city employee will receive a 5 percent raise in 2009 except the mayor; he’ll only get a 1 percent raise.
Those raises, along with $250,000 earmarked to buy up to 10 new police vehicles and $285,000 to replace the fire department’s 1983 pumper truck, have helped push next year’s budget to $19.2 million.
“At a recent Metro-plan meeting, most city leaders said they couldn’t afford to give employees raises next year, and in those cities where raises were planned, 3 percent was the highest I heard,” said Alderman Kenny Elliot.
One of those cities giving a 3 percent raise is Sherwood.
Alderman Gary Fletcher attributed the ability to give a 5 percent raise to the city’s conservative budgeting over the years.
Even for 2009, city finance director Paul Mushrush has budgeted the city’s gasoline expense at slightly more than $3 per gallon.
“I heard a report today that we could see gasoline close to a dollar a gallon early next year,” Mushrush said, “but I tend to think if that happens it won’t be for long.” He said he’d be happy if he overbudgeted fuel costs. “We could end up with an extra $100,000.”
The approved general-fund budget of $19.2 million includes $12.5 million for public safety (police, fire, 911 communications and animal control), $4.4 million for public works, $1.9 million for general government and $500,000 for the judicial department.
The 2009 budget is about $1.5 million more than this year’s budget.
The council also approved a $2.7 million street-fund budget for 2009, a $1.7 million sanitation-fund budget and $957,548 for the 2009 emergency medical services fund.
In other council business:
n Aldermen approved a request from the Reed’s Bridge Historical Society to contribute $15,000 to the organization for paying off land notes on recent purchases that expand the Civil War park located of South Hwy. 161. Tommy Dupree, with the historical group, told the council that his family has donated 38 acres of easement to the park.
He added that the portion of Bayou Meto that runs through the battlefield site has been designated as an Arkansas Water Trail under a program sponsored by the state Game and Fish Commission.
n In his monthly report, public works director Jim Oakley said the animal shelter took in 79 dogs and 47 cats in November. Animal control officers were able to return 19 dogs and five cats to their owners, while adopting out 30 dogs and eight cats. The shelter euthanized 67 dogs and 51 cats during the month.
The animal-control department also received four animal-bite reports: Two were stray cats being handled by animal control employees; one was a Boston terrier mix which, fighting with another dog, bit the owner who was trying to separate the dogs; and a rat terrier on a chain who bit a girl playing in the yard who got too close.
n City planner Chip McCully, in his monthly report to the council, said his department issued 15 building permits and seven business licenses during November. More than 125 inspections were made and 83 warning letters regarding unsightly or trashy property were issued.
n The council approved spending $19,500 for a new leaf vacuum to replace the one that broke earlier this year.
n The council set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18 at city hall to discuss abandoning and vacating the street easement on Chapel Hill Road.