Friday, January 02, 2009

EDITORIAL >>ACLU sues to stop Act 1

The American Civil Liberties Union, already anathema to many, will make few new friends with a lawsuit that it filed Tuesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court, but it should give the state’s most desperate children the chance for a better life.

On behalf of 29 children, parents and prospective parents, including a Cabot couple, the suit seeks to strike down Initiated Act 1, which Arkansas voters adopted in the general election. The law, which takes effect in mid-January, bans any unmarried person who lives with a partner from adopting a child or serving as a foster parent.

The authors of the act, who every two years come up with fresh legislation to punish gays and lesbians and in this case other unmarried couples, count on popular revulsion of homosexuality, and it works. But the victims in this instance are not homosexuals or unmarried couples but children — the most vulnerable ones in Arkansas, those who lose their parents or are abandoned, abused or neglected by them. Parents who want their children to be reared by an unmarried relative if they die are now denied that option.

The state Division of Children and Family Services, a part of the Department of Human Services, is already overwhelmed by children they cannot place in good homes. The scandalous abuse of children crammed into foster homes willing to take them for the money made headlines throughout the year. Now, the options for these children grow even smaller.

Courts have held that similar bans in other states violated federal and state constitutional guarantees of due process and the equal protection of the laws. For the sake of the children, Act 1 will meet the same fate.

EDITORIAL >>Gov. Beebe and warming

Count Governor Beebe as one politician who believes that global warming is real and a threat to civilization but not as one who intends to do much about it. Not his job, he implied on his monthly radio program.

This is a variation on an old doctrine. If you can’t perform a miracle there is little point in doing simple good works. President Bush embraced it when he rejected the global warming treaty. He initially thought global warming was nothing more than an interesting theory but even if it were real the United States should do nothing to curb the production of greenhouse gases, the principal culprit in climate change, because countries like China were increasing their burning of carbon at a faster pace than the United States and weren’t likely to slow down. So the biggest abusers of the atmosphere continue apace while the European Union and much of the rest of the world take marginal steps to reduce their carbon emissions.

Beebe said he gave no credence to commentators like Rush Limbaugh who say that global warming is a scientific hoax and a conspiracy to undermine the United States. Indeed, not a bona fide scientist in the world believes it is not happening, although some think it is not so grave or immediate or irreversible. But it is not something that individual states can do much about, the governor said. The country has to do something in concert to make a difference, so it is the primary responsibility of the national government.

He is right only about the emphasis. Only strong national policies dealing with conservation and the development of clean energy fuel can make the kind of difference that the world’s biggest carbon user and leader in all things moral and material should be making to protect future generations. That includes, as Beebe suggested, some form of carbon tax to discourage the use of carbon fuels and to pay for the transportation infrastructure. But that does not mean that individual states cannot or should not make a contribution, even with the same remedy.

When he got the question about state initiatives on global warming, the governor no doubt thought the next question would be about his handling of the quest by Southwestern Electric Power Co. to build a coal-burning generating plant near Hope, which will pump about 5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year in addition to the 30 million tons that the state’s existing coal plants contribute yearly to atmospheric heating. Two regulatory commissions under the governor have given their blessings to the project. Beebe said stopping the plant was beyond his power and his will. Other governors, Republican and Democratic, have used their power in exactly that way.

The state Commission on Global Warming, which recommended that the governor declare a moratorium on new coal-fueled plants, did not have so cramped an idea about a small state’s obligation to address concerns about the earth’s future. It suggested 54 policy changes aimed at reducing Arkansas’ global-warming pollutants by 50 percent by the year 2035. If Arkansas succeeds in doing that, it will not reverse global warming, but one good work begets another. The planet will be saved by a million good works, not one miracle.

TOP STORY > >Board could change Sherwood fire chief

Leader staff writer

On Tuesday, the five-person board that oversees the Sherwood Fire Department will try to answer two questions: Do they want a full-time chief? And if so, who will it be?

But one board member, Karen Jacob, has even more questions, such as why the requirements for a new chief weren’t discussed by the board. She says the first time she saw the requirements was when it appeared in print. “This whole thing has just not been above board,” the seven-year member of the board said.

And all the city council and mayor can do is watch what unfolds. The Sherwood Fire Department is not a municipal fire department, but a district fire department under the control of the county judge and the board.

In November, the board supposedly developed its criteria for a full- time chief and advertised for the position in state and fire specialty media. The deadline for applicants to apply ended Monday.

Jacob said that when the discussion of a full-time chief came up at the November meeting, she asked that it be tabled. “We needed more input from the city, from residents and the firefighters themselves,” she said, but the matter apparently wasn’t tabled.

The board has a pool of eight candidates, including the current chief, to choose from, if it decides to go full-time with the position.

Frank Hill, a 27-year veteran with the department and 10 of those as chief, serves in a part-time position, even though firefighters say he often puts in full-time hours.

Board member Tom Brooks made it clear he wants to see a full-time person run the department. “That’s no reflection,” he said, “on our current chief. But it’s difficult to manage 64 people on a part-time basis in any business. Yes, it can be done, but not often.”

“I’ve always felt in the three years I’ve been on the board that a full- time chief is the direction the department needs to go in,” Brooks said.

Jacob counters, “In my opinion, Hill is a full-time chief.”

She added that Hill and other members of the fire department discussed the affordability of a full-time chief during this year’s budget process, but felt the money just wasn’t there.

Brooks says the board is looking at three areas in a potential chief: background and experience in firefighting, a history of working successfully with peers and strong leadership experience. “That can be in church, civic groups or business,” Brooks said.

“All three are equally important,” Brooks said.

The requirements the board lists under its firefighting experience have supporters of the current chief concerned. The board is asking chief candidates to have taken an eight-week state firefighters’ course. The course was not required when Hill became a firefighter and he was grandfathered in.

“The lack of that course doesn’t preclude Hill from being selected as our chief,” Brooks said. “It’s clear that he has the minimal requirements.”

The board will meet at the fire station at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and will go into executive session to discuss the candidates.

TOP STORY > >New Year’s Day time to resolve

Leader staff writer

New Year's Day is traditionally set aside for dinners of black-eyed peas and greens and also for New Year's resolutions to start the year out on the right foot.

A sampling of resolutions and wishes which officials and local residents thought to share follow.

“My recent prayer is that our governments and nations could learn to live together in peace and that as a result our economy might flourish,” said Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim.

“Get a little more fit. I let myself go a little this year… The city seems to be doing real well right now. We just need to keep it moving in a positive direction, said Jay Whisker, Jacksonville city administrator.

Dewey Sims, manager of Fish Net Missions of Jacksonville, Inc. said he hopes to “feed more people.” The charitable organization and food kitchen feeds the hungry and clothes the needy, no questions asked.

“To continue to support our hospital and good city government,” said Mike Wilson, attorney.

“I do like helping others, but I know that I need to study my Bible more and take better care of my health,” said Myra Preyer, Jacksonville resident and community activist.

“Just hope we make it through 2009,” is the hope of Frank McClure, a north Pulaski resident.

“That the government and economy will be more stable, and more people with come to know the Lord,” said Una McClure, a north Pulaski County resident.

“My resolution is to lose 45 pounds, said Jacksonville police Capt. Charley Jenkins.

“My wish is for another prosperous year,” said Jacksonville police public information officer April Kiser.

“I want that war over so my son doesn’t have to go back,” said Jake Fraley, merchant.

“I hope that everyone in my family is as healthy next year as they are right now,” said Ken Munday, Air Guard recruiter.

“Spend more time with my family. As the economy gets worse, our families get more important. We’re all so materialistic, it is time to get down to the basics and find out what really matters,” said Brandi Madill, assistant manager of Hastings Book Music and Video.

“My resolution for myself, my family, and the church is that we would resolve to deepen our walk with the Lord in such a way to please him in all areas of our lives,” said Steve Walter, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

TOP STORY > >A look at 2008, month by month

Leader staff writer

Here is a month-by-month look back at the stories that made headlines in The Leader in 2008.

1/5—Cabot’s Army National Guard F. Company, 39th Brigade Support Battalion, left for Camp Shelby, Miss., for two more months of training before reporting for duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Cabot group was part of a 3,200-soldier contingent of the Arkansas National Guard’s 39th Infantry Brigade heading for duty in Iraq.
Among those in this contingent were state Rep. Jeff Wood of Sherwood, Arkansas Public Service Commission Chairman Paul Suskie and state deputy attorney general Jake Jones.
The Cabot battalion was the largest of three that deployed.

1/5—The concrete slab and most of the plumbing for the new $3.7 million Jacksonville library were in place. With a 300-day window for the contractors to finish the building, city officials were hopeful that the facility would be opened by the end of the year. But because of weather delays, the opening is now set for Feb. 14, 2009.

1/12 — The Cabot City Council voted to bail out the city’s parks and recreation department, which was in the hole to the tune of $100,000. Lots of blame was passed around, but ultimately the council voted to cover the department’s January and February expenses.

1/12—The end of 65 years of military history took place at Little Rock Air Force Base when the 53rd Airlift Squadron was officially inactivated during ceremonies in which Lt. Col. Thomas Gilster relinquished command of his squadron that was based at the base since Oct. 1, 1993.
Since that time, the 53rd has operated as an Air Education and Training Command C-130 training squadron under the 314th Operations Group. In four months, it will be reactivated as the 463rd Airlift Group, an Air Mobility Command operational C-130 airlift squadron, providing direct support to war fighters.
The 53rd Airlift Squadron was first activated on June 1, 1942 and has been stationed at 20 different sites in eight different countries.

1/16—Jacksonville High School underwent a scholastic audit by the state for failing to meet benchmark standards for four consecutive years. The school was in year four of a state improvement plan because of the lower-than-standard scores according to the Arkansas Comprehensive Testing, Assessment and Accountability Program, or ACTAAP. JHS was put on improvement status by the state in compliance with No Child Left Behind standards.
“We need to get better and they’re here evaluating and trying to find ways that will help us do that,” Principal Kenneth Clark said.

1/23—Cabot Middle School North was designated as a “School to Watch” in a national competition based on academic excellence, response to the social development of its students and social equity.
The Illinois-based National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform sponsored the competition. It was created in response to an urgent need for middle-grades school improvement.
“These Schools to Watch are indeed special; they make education so exciting that students and teachers don’t want to miss a day,” said Dr. Deborah Kasak, forum executive director. “These schools have proven that it is possible to overcome barriers to achieving excellence, and any middle-level school in any state can truly learn from their examples.”

1/26—Jacksonville’s post office underwent a $500,000 renovation in 2008, with improvements to the lobby and retail counter, as well as renovations of post-office boxes.
A trailer was placed outside the building’s entrance in preparation to be used for temporary customer service while the building’s interior was renovated. It took most of the year to do the work.

1/30—Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza sentenced Marlin Marbley, 25, to 30 years in prison for the 2007 beating death of his domestic partner, Cassondra Speer, 24, according to Deputy Prosecutor Leigh Patterson.
The couple had been living in 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 in late January, entered a negotiated plea to first degree murder on what was originally expected to be a plea date, Patterson said.

2/13—Master Sgt. Mark Evans of the Little Rock Air Force Base received a Bronze Star at the base for distinguishing himself with his achievements in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Evans, a member of 314th Security Forces Squadron Antiterrorism and Force Protection NCOIC, led in thwarting three separate mortar and rocket attacks at Camp Bucca in Iraq as a battle noncommissioned officer assigned to the Battalion Tactical Operations Center.

2/16—A state audit of Cabot’s city books for 2006 deemed them worst in the city’s history.
There was no allegation that money was missing, only that the books were incomprehensible. Marva Verkler, city clerk-treasurer, told a budget committee made up of city aldermen that the financial statements for that year were so inaccurate the auditor had been unable to verify them.
“The books were just terribly out of balance,” Verkler said. “It’s the worst the city has ever had.”

2/20 — The Lonoke School Board picked Assistant Superintendent John Tackett, 45, to become the district’s new superintendent.
He replaces Superintendent Sharron Havens who announced her retirement effective at the end of the 2007-2008 school year.
“It will be an easy transition,” Havens said. “He’s a very visionary person, looking for the future.”
The board considered applications from 20 job seekers before narrowing the choice down to Tackett and Geary Brown, the Texarkana assistant superintendent.

2/23—A 5-year-old Ward area girl who was attacked by a dog is back at home and recovering from extensive injuries to her upper body and face.
“They say if we can put Neosporin on her four times a day, it may not scar,” said Eddie Hollingshead, grandfather of the victim, Abigail Mitchell.
Hollingshead said one of his granddaughter’s earlobes was almost severed and one rip on her cheek extended from just below her eye to her mouth.
The black lab-mix dog that attacked the girl was picked up by Lonoke County sheriff’s deputies and later destroyed so it could be tested for rabies. A yellow dog that the girl and Hollingshead’s wife Debbie said also was involved in the attack was quarantined.
The girl was attacked near her home at 75 Kenzie Drive where she lives with her grandparents.

3/1—Missing money from the police drug-buy fund, unprepared budgets for special revenue funds and temporary checks not properly numbered were some of the problems uncovered in a state audit of Beebe’s 2006 city financial statements.
The nearly $5,000 in missing money was the subject of a State Police investigation.
A letter prepared by deputy legislative auditor June Barron stated that accounting records for the police drug-buy fund, maintained as a “cash” fund, indicated a balance of $3,292, but no cash was on hand.
The letter states, “These missing funds, totaling $4,727 during the period January 1, 2006 through August 7, 2007, are under investigation by the Arkansas State Police.”

3/1—Ward area residents now have a health resource close to home with the grand opening of the Baptist Health Community Wellness Center in Ward City Hall.
Open from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month since March 11, the center is designed to help area residents prevent common health problems through screenings and education for early detection and treatment.
Free health screenings such as blood pressure and blood sugar are also offered.
Mayor Art Brooke said it was a good thing for residents.
“The services they provide are at no cost. It feels good to be able to provide this here in Ward,” he said.

3/5—The roof doesn’t leak at the historic Lonoke Depot anymore, now that preservation work on the 96-year-old Lonoke train depot is finished.
“It is the center of the community today,” said Bill Ryker of the Lonoke Retail Economic Committee, but the building was in such bad shape at one time that it was about ready to be torn down, Ryker said.
He credited the ladies of the Lonoke Historical Society with getting a grant and saving it.
Most of the repairs this time were done outside to roof tiles, flashing and with painting, Ryker said.
Ryker estimated that the last time a train used the depot was in about 1994. “There was no hoopla, no pulling up of the last spike,” he said, and the last passenger trains came through at least a decade earlier.
The depot was built in 1912 and used by the Rock Island Railroad.
The building’s interior was renovated in 1957. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

3/8—Enough snow fell in the Jacksonville area to allow the firefighters at Station No. 1 on Redmond Road to build a snowman, complete with a firefighter’s hat, in front of the station.
Officially, the National Weather Service said the snowstorm that rolled through the state leaving as much as a foot or more in spots dropped about two inches of snow on Jacksonville and Cabot.
The threat of the snow and traffic problems caused the Pulaski County Special School District and Cabot schools to cancel classes. Beebe schools were open, but closed about 2 hours early the afternoon of March 7.

3/15—After more than 30 years with the Jacksonville Police Department, and the last four as chief, Robert Baker retired. His last day was March 28.
“I just felt it was time,” he said.
Baker was appointed chief in February 2004. It was his second try for the job. He had applied two years earlier, but the city decided to go outside of the department and hire a retired Air Force officer, Wayne Ruthven. Ruthven was chief less than two years before deciding to move on.
As chief, Baker was head of a department with a $6 million budget and 88 full-time employees, including 69 officers.

3/15—The Lonoke City Council voted to let Southern Paramedic Services take over as the exclusive provider of ambulance service in Lonoke from MEMS. The switch was effective April 1.
MEMS, which has provided ambulance service to the city for the past several years, had requested an $85,000 subsidy from the city to recoup its costs. That’s when Mayor Wayne McGee decided it was time to see what else was available.
The deal allowed the city to not pay Southern Paramedic at all unless the number of ambulance calls fall below the anticipated level, according to Gary Padgett, chief executive officer of Southern Paramedic, headquartered in Brinkley.

3/26—A Cabot police officer shot and killed a Lonoke man March 23 in self-defense.
Sgt. Brent Lucas, with the Cabot Police Department, said Officer Renee Robinson shot Randall McMoran, 51, after he attacked her and tried to take her handgun.
Robinson answered a call from a man who said he was attacked at the old Southside Hardware Store at 707 S. Pine.
Lucas said when Robinson arrived, McMoran attacked her, slammed her on her car, choking her and gouging her eyes while trying to remove her handgun from the holster. But he broke free and struck one of the witnesses in the face and went after Robinson again. She responded by drawing her gun and shooting him twice in the lower abdomen.
McMoran was taken to North Metro Hospital in Jacksonville, where he died during surgery.

3/26—The final touches of adding landscaping and the moving of office furniture were being completed this week at the new Lonoke County Courthouse Annex building.
Located across the street from the 1928 courthouse, the 12,000- square-foot annex was renovated from the John Deere dealership building. Parking for the annex was added on the corner where a hardware store once stood.
County Assessor Jerry Adams said construction of the annex started in August 2007.
The annex houses the county assessor’s office, the tax collector’s office, local branches of the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program and the Office of Emergency Management.
Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, and Rep. Lenville Evans, D-Lonoke, obtained funding for the $125,000 county project using one-time state turnback funds.

4/9—Against all odds, underclassmen returned to classes in less than a week at the same Sylvan Hills High School building torn asunder by early April storms, weeks earlier than expected.
The seniors, meanwhile, were set to attend classes at the Harmon Recreation Center.
The latest estimate placed storm damage to the school and the athletic field at $750,000.
The district had expected to press Woody’s Sherwood Forest and the North Little Rock Assembly of God into service as makeshift classroom buildings to accommodate the 920 students.
But at 10 a.m. April 9, Superintendent James Sharpe and senior administrators met with high school principal Danny Epps and his assistant principals, and formulated a plan that would allow the lower three grades to return to the building April 10.
Preparing the building, which was still without the use of seven classrooms and its athletic facilities, required long hours and “total cooperation,” a district official said. “People were working under lights, competing tradesmen were working together to restore services and make repairs and all were working at once.”

4/23—Cabot’s impact fee on new construction which last year brought in $208,000 was repealed by a 7-1 city council vote.
A committee charged with determining whether the impact fee had contributed to the decline in construction in Cabot had recommended that the fee double this month as scheduled and remain at that level for 24 months, possibly until another source of income for the city was in place.
Alderman Teri Miessner, who chaired the committee, provided the lone vote against repealing the fee. “Apparently we wasted our time meeting because apparently the intent of the council was to remove it anyway,” Miessner said.
Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said there was nothing in the new ordinance that would prevent the council from imposing the fee at a later date if necessary. During the year the fee was in place, the city collected $75,000 toward a new fire station that is needed to hold down the cost of residential and commercial insurance premiums.
Williams said the city’s finances have improved since the council passed the impact fee.

4/23—Months of preparation and practice exercises paid off for Little Rock Air Force Base as both the 314th Airlift Wing and the 463rd Airlift Group earned excellent ratings in their recent Operational Readiness Inspections.
The ORI checked the Air Mobility Command’s and the Air Education and Training Command’s level of mission readiness and response.
The inspection team presented various scenarios which tested initial response, employment, mission support and ability to survive and operate.
Col. Mark Vlahos, the 314th AW vice commander, said the excellence rating for the base “elevated the excellence that we do day in and day out at the Rock.”

4/23—The Cabot school board unanimously approved giving Cabot teachers a $150 raise, bringing the district’s starting pay for new teachers with only a bachelor’s degree to $35,550.
In addition, certified staff not topped out on the salary schedule received step increases; the classified staff, including custodians, food services staff, interpreters, maintenance staff, nurses, clerical and office staff, paraprofessionals and technology staff, also received a pay increase of 10 cents an hour.
This is the second pay increase the certified and classified staff received this school year; the first raise was around Christmas.

4/23—A wreck at Center Street and Windwood Drive in Beebe during school rush-hour traffic led to a three-day boil order.
Police said a man trying to get out of Windwood crossed both lanes of traffic and ran into a car going west toward Dewitt Henry Drive. That car hit a fire hydrant.
The water was turned off for about two hours for repairs. Any time a water system loses pressure, a boil order is called and must remain in place until the state Health Department determines that the water has not been contaminated.
Officials with the Beebe Water Department said samples were taken to Little Rock and that it usually takes at least two days before the tests are completed and the boil order lifted.
In the meantime, students attending Beebe schools had to bring bottled water to drink. Dr. Belinda Shook, school superintendent, said boil orders are common so the district had 40 cases of water on hand.
“This happens often enough that we have a routine,” Shook said. “We cover all the water fountains and we keep water in stock. This has happened three times this year.”

4/26—Only one agency submitted an application to be Jacksonville’s marketing and advertising firm, and the city decided to award that agency the contract.
Sells/Clark, now known strictly as the Sells Agency, with offices in Little Rock and Fayetteville, has an initial contract of three years and must, according to Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission’s requirements, “deve-lop an image campaign that will allow the commission to promote Jacksonville as a destination for visitors, business travelers, sports events as well as a site for meeting and convention groups.”
The commission initially budgeted about $170,000 this year from the two-cent hamburger tax to pay for a professional marketing campaign, and have approved another $150,000 for 2009.
“A real campaign will run hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Mayor Tommy Swaim has said at previous commission meetings.
The Sells Agency has managed and supervised accounts in the travel and tourism industry over the years in Arkansas and Louisiana with budgets ranging from $50,000 to $8 million.

4/30—The Sherwood City Council updated its 20-year ban on pit bulls and other vicious animals.
The updated ordinance reflects “current standards for responsible pet owner... and provide a level of enforcement capabilities that will better protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens and innocent animals from irresponsible owners.”
The new version gives marauding animals “that growl, charge, bite or attempt to bite or display extreme fear of people” just two days to be claimed by their owners or face “humane euthanasia.”
Stray pit bulls that exhibit acceptable temperaments and behaviors will be eligible for adoption “to a legitimate rescue group or to a qualified person.”
The ordinance also gives residents in newly annexed areas like Gravel Ridge 90 days to register or remove any pit bulls they may own.
The ordinance still bans the pit bull terrier breed, the Staffordshire bull terrier, the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the American bulldog or mixed breed that is predominantly pit bull.
Residents violating the pit bull ordinance could lose their animal, be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced up to 30 days in jail.

5/3—What to do with a million dollars? That was the question before the Jacksonville City Council. The city had been holding back about that much in anticipation of annexing Gravel Ridge, but that community opted to join Sherwood instead.
“We have no deadline on spending this money,” Mayor Tommy Swaim told the council, “but it is one-time money, so it can’t be used on salaries. It needs to be used on capital improvement projects.”
The mayor presented the council with four major road projects ranging from $2.1 million to just under $500,000 that the money could help fund.
“We’ve had these four projects in mind for quite a while, and they need to be done sooner or later,” the mayor said.
“These are four projects we have been looking at. This doesn’t mean there aren’t others,” the mayor said. No action has been taken yet.

5/10— Two brothers who used to shop there as youngsters in the 1960s have bought the Jacksonville Shopping Center.
Mike and Phil Sentell are the new owners of the center and have remodeled the outside and inside of the 50-year-old strip mall.
Mike Wilson and his partners Jim Peacock and Jim O’Brien, doing business as MJMJ LLC, sold the 12-acre, 130,000-square-foot shopping center to the brothers.
The Sentells made a $5 million investment in the project, which includes extensive renovation plans.
“We will completely reface the outside and remodel the inside,” Phil Sentell said. He said the city’s oldest shopping center evoked the 1950s, which is why he wanted to give it a more up-to-date look.
“We all remember shopping there with our parents in the 1960s,” said Sentell, who grew up in Beebe. “There was no McCain Mall back then.”
The brothers are hoping to attract new tenants. Many of them moved out last winter, before plans to turn the strip into an Asian mall fell through.

5/17—Four months after its inactivation as a C-130 training squadron, the 53rd Airlift Squadron was reactivated as an operational C-130 combat airlift squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base.
The reactivation, part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), places the 53rd AS “Blackjacks” under the 463rd Airlift Group, Air Mobility Command, and increases the mission of LRAFB by providing direct support to war fighters.
During the reactivation ceremony, Col. Jeffrey Hoffer, 463rd AG commander, said the Blackjacks’ mission is now changed from providing professionally trained and high-skilled aircraft crews to regenerate the combat airlift forces to now leading and employing those aircrew globally in any environment, any weather and from any operating location.

5/21—The idea of a tax to build a big, safe jail to lock up those who need it just squeezed by in a vote of Lonoke County residents.
By a vote of 3,774 to 3,336, voters agreed to tax themselves with a one-cent countywide sales tax for one year to raise about $5.5 million to build a 140-bed jail. The current jail is built to hold about half that number, but sometimes has more than 90. It is dark, dank, and dangerous for both prisoners and guards.
The Lonoke County Quorum Court unanimously placed the tax on the primary ballot, and all the candidates for the quorum court said they favored the one-year sales tax proposal.

5/24—A first for the Jacksonville Police Department was also a first for the state as K-9 Officer Regina Boyd became the first woman to complete the canine instructor training course held at Canine Unlimited in Tulsa, Okla.
“The two dogs I worked with were dual purpose,” Boyd said. “They were for tracking, finding articles, area searches, missing children and locating lost elderly adults, fleeing suspects and for narcotics,” Boyd said. She was one of three K-9 officers in the state who were accepted into the program. There have been only 150 K-9 handlers accepted to the 15-day course over the past 20 years.
The Jacksonville Police Depart-ment has three K-9 officers. By attending the training course, Boyd can teach the other officers some of the skills she learned at the school. The cost of the course was about $1,500. The police department has canine training twice a month for maintenance and upkeep of the dogs and their handlers.

5/24—If it could have gone wrong with the election in White County, it did. The machine that scanned the absentee ballots didn’t work. Some candidates were missing from the Union Township ballots and the poll workers couldn’t shut down the electronic voting machines because they weren’t set for daylight savings time.
Members of the White County Election Commission finally completed their counting at 1 a.m. May 21 only to learn later that day that their tallies were wrong because they had used the wrong method to count the early votes. So all the ballots were counted again. The winners didn’t change, but the numbers did.
Dianne Thomas, who has been on the election commission three years, said May 23 that she had not been through an election with so many problems.

5/28—Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams announced that a $10.8 million National Guard armory had been approved for federal funding next summer by the U.S. House of Representatives– almost five years earlier than expected.
The Senate must still approve the appropriation.
Williams made the announcement Friday morning during a reception in honor of the men who started working late in 2001 to get an armory for Cabot.
The state has not built an armory since September 2005 when a $4.25 million facility went up in Warren.
The 30,000-square-foot facility (now called a readiness center) planned for Cabot will replace the temporary facility that opened in the industrial park on Hwy. 367 late in 2006.

5/31—“This is an exciting time for us,” said Joan Zumwalt, chairman of the Board for Pathfinders.
The organization, which works with and educates the developmentally disabled, broke ground for its new 40,000-square-foot preschool daycare center and expansion of its skills training center located on its 40-acre campus on West Main and Redmond Road.
Cost of the two projects total more than $10 million.
Zumwalt said the daycare should be opened in February 2009 and the skills center expansion was completed in October.
“It’s hard to believe that we started 36 years ago with one adult and six kids,” Zumwalt said.
Pathfinders now has 28 locations across the state and is the second largest employer north of the river. “We have 1,000 employees, second only to Little Rock Air Force Base,” she said.
Zumwalt said Pathfinders is the largest provider of services to the disabled in the state.

6/7—The use of Taser weapons by Jacksonville police will prevent officer injuries and save the city insurance money, explained Police Chief Gary Sipes as he asked the city council permission to buy 20 of the weapons for the department. The council approved the request.
“Our worker’s comp carrier has been trying to get us to use Tasers for the past five years,” Mayor Tommy Swaim said. Both he and the chief agreed that Tasers would prevent injuries by allowing officers to not get too close to combative suspects.
Tasers are electroshock weapons that use electro-muscular disruption technology to cause strong muscle contractions or disruption in a suspect.
A Taser, which looks like a futuristic pistol and is smaller than the radios police carry, fires two small dart-like electrodes connected to the main unit by a conducive wire and propelled by small nitrogen charges. The Tasers the department will use will have a range of at least 15 feet.
Sipes said he’s very comfortable with Tasers. “They come with audio and video recorders and the weapon is more effective than pepper spray,” he said. “If you are hit with a Taser in about five seconds it’s over, but pepper spray is long lasting and many times if you try to wash it out, you re-infect yourself.”

6/18—Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams looked up recently and realized that the remedy for the flooding that has plagued the police department for many years was a simple as raising the door sills higher than the sidewalks outside the building. He said when he looked up, he saw that the doors had 12-inch windows above them which meant the doors could easily be raised enough to install concrete barriers to the flood water.
The work has been completed except for minor touchups at a cost of about $1,000.
Williams said he didn’t know how much the city had spent over the years to vacuum the water from the carpet after heavy rains flooded the facility, which is located in the bottom floor of city hall.
But Police Chief Jackie Davis said the worst flooding, about six years ago, ruined the sheetrock near the floor and destroyed the carpet, and those repairs cost more than $12,000.

6/21—The incinerator that Cabot used for nine years to dispose of dead dogs and cats from animal control went up for auction with a starting price of $2,000.
Under a new head of animal control, that department has made more than a few changes since the beginning of April. Instead of being cremated at a cost of $400 to $700 a month, dead animals are now taken to Two Pine, the landfill in Jacksonville, where they are buried at a cost of $60 a ton.
Mayor Eddie Joe Williams wanted to stop using the incinerator a year ago after he learned how much it cost to operate and that the city wasn’t the only one using it. For a time, Ward used it free of charge and so did the Lonoke County Humane Society.

6/25—Frontage roads running parallel to Hwy. 67/167 from the Wildwood Avenue exit to the Kiehl Avenue exit are now one-way roads, matching the flow of traffic on the frontage roads from Wildwood to McCain.
Sherwood police, along with state police, had extra patrols out to make sure there was a smooth conversion and to help motorists who may have gotten turned around by the change.
The two-mile section of frontage road being changed to one-way traffic also dropped from two to one lane for about a month as construction crews continued to complete work on the frontage roads and the Brookwood Flyover which exits onto Brookwood across from Kohl’s. The work is part of the $42.3 million contract awarded to Weaver-Bailey Contractors in September 2005.

6/25—A Cabot woman’s first pageant win got her in the national spotlight and gave her the chance to promote a good cause.
“I want to spread the word of my platform, which is ‘Hear today, gone tomorrow,’” Dr. Courtney Chivers of Cabot, the recently crowned Mrs. Arkansas America 2008, said after her big win. She was among dozens of women from across the state that participated at the Hot Springs Convention Center.
Chivers and her husband, Clint, live in Cabot and own Arkansas Audiology in Conway.
She is an audiologist and made her hearing-loss prevention campaign national when she competed in the Mrs. America pageant on Sept. 2 in Tucson.
While this was her first time as a beauty queen, she has worked many years to attain her credentials in the hearing-loss field. She has a bachelor of science from UALR, a master of science from UAMS/UALR and a doctorate in audiology from the University of Florida.

6/28—A Sherwood woman lost her life in a house fire. Marietta Goins, 72, died in her home on 8806 Patricia Lynn. Goins’ 17-year- old grandson was able to escape the flames and ran to the neighbors’ house for help.
According to reports, when police arrived the backside of the structure was fully involved with fire, with flames 30 to 40 feet in the air.
A woman told police a grandmother was trapped inside towards the backside of the residence.
Officers were unable to get to the back of the home, due to the intense fire. The front door was bowed and locked. Police were unable to break the glass on the front door.
A neighbor told police a child came running up stating the house was on fire. He tried to get his grandmother out but was unable to do so. The grandson sustained burns and smoke inhalation. He was transported by MEMS to Children’s Hospital.

6/28—A major east-west corridor in Sherwood, Maryland Avenue, will not be completed anytime in the near future, and neither will Hemphill Road, a north-south road.
The city council voted 5-3 against a proposal to give Cypress Properties the go ahead to build their portion of Maryland Avenue now in exchange for a moratorium on completing the Hemphill thoroughfare.
Alderman Marina Brooks suggested the compromise motion. Aldermen Butch Davis and Sheila Sulcer voted for it, while the rest of the council, Aldermen Becki Vassar, Charlie Harmon, David Henry, Keith Rankin and Steve Fender, said no.
“It is in the best interest of the city to open Maryland,” the mayor said at the council meeting. “We aren’t doing the developer any favors as we can’t make him open up any street that he’s not developing.” She called the proposal a win-win for Sherwood.
Rankin said, “Sometimes you need to take a step back and look at the big picture. This proposal was not a win-win.”
“But now we have nothing,” Hillman said after the vote.
City officials and Cypress Properties are still trying to work out something.

7/2—Col. George Risse took over command of the 314th Mission Support Group at Little Rock Air Force Base, succeeding Col. Scott Lockard in a change-of-command ceremony.
Brig. Gen. Ro-wayne A. Schatz, Jr., commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, was the officiating officer.
The mission support group provides supply, transportation, contracting, aerial support, security forces, services and civil- engineering functions which keep the 6,128-acre base operating.
“Change of command is a time to say congratulations,” Schatz said. “Congratulations to Col. Lockard for doing a fantastic job leading this group for the past two years, (and) three years of contributions total to Little Rock. He was previously the deputy commander for the 463rd Airlift Group. And also congratulations to Col. Risse for coming here, getting to step into perhaps one of the most rewarding jobs in the Air Force to command a fantastic group like the 314th Mission Support Group.”

7/5—Three new flight simulators will save fuel and help reduce wear and tear on the aging C-130 fleet used for training pilots and crews at Little Rock Air Force Base, according to Vic Torla, Lockheed Martin’s program manager at the base.
The simulators are part of a $23.3 million modification to the C-130 Aircrew Training System contract, which will provide comprehensive academic and simulation training for C-130 weapons system aircrews. The modification updated the Little Rock AFB Formal Training Unit (FTU) curriculum to move training events from aircraft to aircrew training systems and enhance existing training capability, giving each airman 33 hours of simulator training instead of the current 22 hours.
Pilots, navigators, flight engineers and loadmasters will now spend more hours training in the simulators than in actual C-130s, Torla said.
The modifications should be completed by February 2009.

7/12—Several road projects in Cabot funded by a $2 million bond issue are taking shape and could be alleviating traffic problems soon.
Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said asphalt was down on Locust Street to widen that main thoroughfare to three lanes. That street is important now, but Williams said it will be even more so when the new railroad overpass opens by the end of the year at the earliest.
The railroad overpass will connect Hwy. 367 to Hwy. 38. That $7.2 million project is not part of the $2 million voters approved for streets. However, it was part of the total $28 million bond issue that is supported by the same one-cent sales tax.
The city’s part of the mostly federally funded project was about $1 million.
“When the overpass opens, we feel the traffic will pick up significantly,” Williams said.
Gene Summers Construction signed a letter of intent to start widening Hwy. 89 on either side of the traffic light at Rockwood, the mayor said. Going toward downtown Cabot, an extra lane will be added to the freeway. On the other side of the traffic light, a turn lane will be added as far as Northport.
That $150,000 project will be paid from the $2 million bond issue voters approved almost three years ago. The city had until the end of November to spend or substantially obligate the money.
On the other end of Rockwood where it intersects with Hwy. 5, the county is paying about $90,000 to have a traffic light installed so that left-hand turns are not so treacherous.

7/16—The Leader garnered nine top awards, including best large weekly in the state, in the recent Arkansas Press Association contest.
“Strong story coverage and an active editorial page make this paper fun to read. Artwork and graphics make the front page pop,” said one judge as the paper was awarded General Excellence in the large-weekly category.
The locally owned family paper has a 21-year reputation of covering news and events in Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot, Beebe, Lonoke and the surrounding area, including Little Rock Air Force Base.
Besides winning the general excellence award for the best large weekly, the Leader captured eight first-place awards, five second-place awards, one third-place and two honorable mentions.

7/19—The path through Sherwood for completion of the North Belt Loop has been chosen, but it will take about $347 million to set it in stone — or concrete in this case.
The state Highway and Transportation Department has made the final Environmental Impact Statement concerning the loop’s path through Sherwood available for final review, but “assuming we don’t receive any showstoppers, we can apply to the Federal Highway Administration for a final record of decision,” according Randy Ort, department spokesman. After that, they can begin engineering and acquisition of right of way — if they can just find the money. However, recent moves by developers and Sherwood may have put the planned route in jeopardy again.

7/23–The city of Cabot is now open 24 hours a day. Residents with questions on ordinances, building permits or on filing a missing pet report can now do just that and much more from their home or office by using the new, official Web site at
Mayor Eddie Joe Williams says for the people who call Cabot home, a usually time-consuming task can be cut short. “It is interactive. If you need to complain about a pothole that needs repairing, you can send an email. We will send you an email back, when the pothole is repaired,” Williams said.
Many services the city provides during regular business hours can be accessible from home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from any computer with Internet access.
Williams said, “We can conduct 90 percent of the city’s business online.”

7/30–Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis told council members assembled for the first budget planning meeting of the year that crime is on the rise and with their approval, he will start two special units in the police department, a sex-crime and domestic-violence unit and a special-response team (SWAT) to deal with especially violent, dangerous or hostage situations.

7/30–North Little Rock will continue to provide electricity for most of Sherwood for the next seven years according to an agreement hammered out by both cities, and end a lawsuit that has been five years in the making.
The Sherwood council told city attorney Stephen Cobb to continue working on the agreement with North Little Rock’s attorney.
A settlement was reached in Octobers, which means Sherwood can get its electricity from any provider it wishes, starting in 2015. North Little Rock returned $660,000 in franchise fees it was holding back to Sherwood. The foundation of the lawsuit started in 2003 when Sherwood allowed First Electric, instead of North Little Rock, to provide electricity to the Millers Crossing subdivision.

7/30– The Brookwood Flyover and the Brookwood exit, which give northbound Hwy. 67/167 traffic easier access to Kiehl Avenue and Brockington Road, opened. The northbound Brookwood exit is just south of the current northbound Kiehl Avenue exit.
Randy Ort, spokesman for the state Highway Department, added that the new flyover, which brings traffic to Brookwood and allows vehicles to go left and head south on the frontage road or right to Brockington and Kiehl, will relieve a lot of the traffic congestion on the Kiehl overpass.
Frontage roads running parallel to Hwy. 67/167 from the Wildwood Avenue exit to the Kiehl Avenue exit were made into one-way roads back in June, matching the flow of traffic on the frontage roads from Wildwood to McCain, to anticipate the opening of the flyover which is very similar to the one at McCain.

8/2–Dave Sanders of Maumelle and Buster Lackey of Sherwood have filed a letter of intent with the state Education Department about their plan to found Jacksonville Charter Academy. The two are experienced charter schoolteachers and administrators who “saw a need for a school in Jacksonville to give parents and students a choice,” Sanders said.
Another charter school effort is led by a group of Jacksonville citizens who have aligned with Lighthouse Academies, a Massachusetts-based charter school-management organization.
A charter school is a state-regulated public school, the purpose of which is to provide educational alternatives to communities. State law restricts the number of charter schools that may operate in Arkansas. An open-enrollment charter school may accept students that live outside the district in which the school is located. Therefore, students from outside Jacksonville and the Pulaski County Special School District could attend either proposed charter school.
The state approved the plans submitted by Lighthouse Academies.

8/23–“The Lonoke County Election Commission no longer has the capability to conduct countywide elections,” Commission Chairman Larry Clarke angrily told the quorum court before storming out of the meeting, then resigning. “This is the direct result of the loss of storage and office space in the Cabot Mini Mall,” according to Clarke. He said the loss of election commission space was the result of a power-struggle between County Judge Charlie Troutman, a Democrat, and county Republicans.
Clarke’s wife, Lynn, is a Republican justice of the peace in Lonoke County. She and her fellow Republicans have been engaged in an increasingly mean political struggle with Troutman, both sides playing hardball.
Troutman denied that taking the space from the election commission and giving it to the state police was related to Lynn Clarke’s confrontations with him.
Clarke, who did the lion’s share of the work to bring Lonoke County elections from the dark ages to the high-speed digital world, said that Troutman had kicked the commission out of its already inadequate space and given it to the state police. Only a few years ago it took four days to get election results, but in the primaries last May, election officials began packing up about 9:30 p.m.

8/27– Jacksonville police said Tuesday they had no choice but to fatally shoot a man with a history of mental illness who started spraying bullets at police and neighbors in the quiet subdivision of Foxwood in Jacksonville on Monday.
The shooter, identified as Steven Smith, 44, of 200 Foxwood Drive, held off police for approximately five hours with what a neighbor described as an AK 47 military rifle with a long banana clip and numerous rounds, while he was holed up at his parents’ home.
The man refused to surrender and was killed by police. “It was an unfortunate situation that could not be avoided,” Police Chief Gary Sipes said about the fatal shootout.
He said his department has “a couple of officers trained in hostage negotiation. They made contact with him several times. They got on a bull horn.” Police also communicated with him by a cell phone they had passed on to Smith.
Smith exchanged fire with dozens of police throughout the afternoon and into the evening. “It was a defensive situation,” the chief continued. “He came outside armed, and out of necessity and safety of our officers,” he said his men had to shoot Smith.

9/3—Two days of re-enacting the Battle of Reed’s Bridge attracted several hundred spectators and about 50 troops at the 412-acre Civil War site in southern Jacksonville off Hwy. 161.
The event’s organizers say the battle re-enactment is growing each year and that it is a good opportunity for Jacksonville to attract visitors and teach history.
Tommy Dupree of Jacksonville, an organizer of the event, says that this is the third time that the Battle of Reed’s Bridge has been held. “There were more people this year than the last,” Dupree said.
Dupree suggests that people interested in learning more about the Battle of Reed’s Bridge should visit the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, which has a short display about the battle.

9/13—Three C-130 planes from the 50th Airlift Squadron, 53rd Airlift Squadron, and 62nd Airlift Squadron were deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base to perform aero-medical missions in preparation for Hurricane Ike’s landfall in southern Texas with seven additional C-130s from the base on “standby” status.
The aircrews transported post-surgery/post-intensive care unit patients from area hospitals in McAllen, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, and Harlingen to Dallas medical facilities.
About 200 aeromedical personnel were on hand at LRAFB, which served as the hub for all aeromedical operations during Hurricane Ike. The base was also the command cell for Hurricane Gustav, evacuating more than 300 patients from Beaumont, Texas, Lake Charles and Lakefront, La., to Little Rock.

9/20– The tornado that struck Cabot dealt a blow to Hope’s Closet and Pantry. The nonprofit organization has provided assistance to the needy and hungry in Cabot and Lonoke County for three years kept an inventory of donated clothing and canned goods in a storage unit at the mini-storage buildings destroyed by the tornado. When Kimberly Buchberger, founder of Hope’s Closet, arrived there, the organized rental unit had clothing scattered in among other units and thrown into the neighboring fields. Buchberger and volunteers spent the week sorting and salvaging what they could.
Hope’s Closet was in the midst of constructing a new building on South Rockwood near the Hwy. 5 intersection. Buchberger said an anonymous donor gave an acre of land. A second anonymous donor gave a 12,000 square-foot metal building that needs assembly, and a third person gave concrete. She planned to have construction finished and be ready to assist those in need by the end of November.

9/24 – Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain officially announced that she was resigning Dec. 31 to accompany her husband Bruce, a colonel in the Army National Guard, on an overseas assignment.
She sent a letter to Gov. Mike Beebe announcing her intentions because his office is responsible for filling the vacancy.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the Lonoke County prosecution attorney for the past 10 years,” McCastlain said in a press release. “I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who has extended their support and encouragement during my tenure.
“I’m really excited,” McCastlain said of her plans to accompany her husband to Europe. “We spent the first three years we were married there and now we’ll be taking Max (the couple’s 7-year-old son) there and probably stay for three years. “But it’s hard to leave. After 10 years, it’s just like that office is a part of me,” she said.
Asked what she will do while she’s there, McCastlain said she intends to be a wife and mother.
“I’m going to set up house and put out resumes,” she said. “I hope I can find a job. I worked before when I was there. Of course I was a teacher then. I hope I will be able to find something.”
Her husband left on Halloween, McCastlain said. But she stayed until the courts recessed in early December.

10/1– Little Rock Air Force Base became the most important C-130 component in the U.S. military as the 19th Airlift Wing, part of Air Mobility Command, was reactivated as the base’s host wing and accepted operational control from the 314th Airlift Wing, Air Education and Training Command.
The 314th AW will continue to train C-130 aircrews as a tenant wing at LRAFB. Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz assumed command of the 19th AW during the change of command ceremonies, relinquishing command of the 314th AW to Col. Charles Hyde, a command pilot with more than 3,700 hours in the C-130E and C-130H, as well as the T-37. According to Air Force senior leaders, an AMC airlift wing at Little Rock AFB was in the best interest of the Air Force to meet today’s mission requirements.
As a result, a series of realignment actions on base and numerous aircraft and unit realignments took place, considerably shifting the wing’s mission focus from student training to mobility employment.
This shift means a deployment increase for the men and women of The Rock as they fulfill the mission of AMC to deliver maximum war-fighting and humanitarian effects for America through rapid and precise global air mobility.
While serving as Little Rock’s host wing, the 314th AW supported both AMC’s 463rd Airlift Group and the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing. As AMC activated the 19th AW, it inherited the mission and tradition of excellence of the 314th Airlift Wing, including base operating support responsibilities such as maintenance, medical services and mission support.

10/10– For about two years, Beebe Animal Control, working with a rescue group in Texas, has shipped to states in the East most of the unwanted dogs picked up in Beebe. As a result, about 350 dogs have found new homes and the city has the reputation of running a no-kill shelter. But during a special council meeting, Mayor Mike Robertson got the council’s blessings to change that perception.
Although no firm date has been set for euthanizations to start, the mayor told the council that the shelter is currently holding roughly twice the dogs that can comfortably be housed there.
Robertson said that although he supports the concept of rescuing dogs rather than euthanizing them, medical experts have told him that euthanization is the best plan until a better shelter is built.

10/10–“It’s as if we don’t have a pit bull ban at all,” says Hedy Limke, supervisor of Jacksonville’s Animal Control Department.
Even though the city has had a ban in place for about two years, Limke says this year alone her department has picked up 137 pit bulls or pit mixes. Of those, 101 have been destroyed. Of the 36 returned to their owners, six were registered, 30 were not, and all were banished from the city. “Most of these pits were running loose when we picked them up,” Limke says

10/10 – Gov. Mike Beebe named a former prosecutor long active in the Cabot community to serve out the balance of Lona McCastlain’s term as District 23 prosecuting attorney.
Will Price Feland, 56, who is a lawyer, a businessman, a minister, former president of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce and a Lonoke Exceptional School board member, will replace McCastlain.
She resigned effective Dec. 31 to accompany her husband, Bruce, a colonel in the Army National Guard, on an overseas assignment.
“I couldn’t have been more pleased if I had (picked him) myself,” McCastlain said. “He’s professional and will serve the people well. He did it before and I know he will do it again.”
“I served in the office as deputy prosecutor, then was elected for four terms,” Feland said. In 1992, he did not seek reelection, going to seminary instead.
Because he’s appointed to the position, he’ll not be eligible to succeed himself at the end of his term. He will serve until Dec. 31, 2010.

10/15– Jacksonville has had a nighttime curfew for juveniles for more than 15 years, but now the city has a daytime curfew, too. “We want kids in school, and if they are not in school, we don’t want them roaming the streets,” explained City Administrator Jay Whisker.
The ordinance, which took effect Nov. 3, states “it shall be unlawful for any person under the age of 18 to be or remain in or upon the streets, public parks, playgrounds, vacant lots or to ride and/or drive in or upon, over or through the public streets and/or public parks within the city of Jacksonville during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. when public schools are in session.”

10/18—More than 150,000 people attended Little Rock Air Force Base’s open house, which featured the Blue Angels.
The open house gave LRAFB an opportunity to showcase its mission as the world’s largest C-130 training base and dazzle spectators with aerial and ground events from all branches of the armed forces from varying eras.
Also performing at the open house were the Army’s parachute team, the Golden Knights, the T-28 Warbird formation/acrobatics team, also known as “Trojan Horsemen,” and Shockwave — a jet truck that has a record speed of 376 miles per hour on a mile-long runway.
Also in this year’s lineup were the Viper West F-16 demonstration team; the Air Force’s Air Combat Command Heritage Flight; the C-17, the newest airlifter to enter the Air Force’s inventory; Fat Albert Airlines, an all-Marine Corps crew of three officers and five enlisted personnel who operate the Lockheed-Martin C-130T Hercules; Mike Rinker and his SU-26 Pink Floyd aircraft, and the disabled American Veterans B-52 Special Delivery.
“Stepping Stones to Aviation,” a program designed to enrich the education of children by introducing them to the experience of flight in a hands-on program, let children climb into the realistic simulators, pedal down a colorful runway and taxi into a controlled airspace.
Static displays included the F-22 Raptor, the F-15 Eagle, KC-135 Stratofortress, OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, EC-130 J Commando Solo, C-17, C-21, C-130E and J, B-25 and much more.
The base’s open house — more commonly known as “air show” — is the largest single spectator event in Arkansas, attracting people from not only around the state, but from adjoining states as well, and is the largest open house in the south central region.

10/22– Mayors of Lonoke County’s four largest towns laughed, blushed and cringed as friends who knew them too well poked fun and shared stories best left memories at a fund-raiser roast for the Wade Knox Child Advocacy Center.
The steak dinner, cooked by Mel’s catering of Harrisburg, raised about $5,000, according to Karen Knox, the director.
The center provides a non-threatening environment for young victims of abuse to talk with law enforcement officers, prosecutors and counselors. The intent is to provide services for victims of child abuse and their non-offending families and also to improve the success rate in prosecuting criminals who abuse children, according to Knox.
The center’s board is planning to build a new facility on Jacuzzi Lane, near the old Pet Quarters building. Mayors roasted included Eddie Joe Williams of Cabot, Wayne McGee of Lonoke, Ray Glover of Carlisle and Danny Maynard of England.

11/1 — Five years ago the dream of a new education center to serve both Little Rock Air Force Base and the local community was conceived and came closer to reality when Jacksonville presented a gift of $5 million to the Air Force.
Mayor Tommy Swaim presented a check symbolic of the gift at the LRAFB Community Council meeting at the air base. Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, Air Mobility Command commander, accepted the donation on behalf of the Air Force, saying, “It will be put to good use.”
The Air Force will fund the remainder of the $14.8 million project in front of LRAFB.
Swaim said that some people have asked him why the city is giving away $5 million. He explained, “We are not giving away $5 million. We are investing $5 million in Little Rock Air Force Base, in the city of Jacksonville, and the state of Arkansas. We believe it will come back to us, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”
The $5 million, one of the largest single donations ever made to the Air Force, comes from a penny sales tax approved by Jacksonville voters five years ago. Because of the unique nature of the gift – a city donating such a huge sum to a military installation – the project was put on hold until the Air Force established a legal mechanism for transfer of the funds.
Meanwhile, the $5 million sat in a vault at a local bank. Finally, last month, the Air Force gave its okay to proceed.
The education center will provide classroom space for a wide variety of college-level programs, relieving the cramped quarters of the existing base education center. Airmen, their families and civilians will be able to attend classes there.
The facility will be located just outside the perimeter of the base, facilitating attendance by civilians. It will be adjacent to the base flag plaza at the intersection of Vandenberg Boulevard and John Harden Drive.
Award of the construction contract may come in a few months. Completion of the project is tentatively scheduled for September 2010, according to James McKinnie, chief of the 19th Civil Engineering Squadron.
McKinnie described the center as a “world-class learning environment” and “a win-win situation” for the air base and community.

11/12—The Ward City Council voted to raise water rates starting January 2009.
The rate increase will cover the cost of debt incurred from improving the water system.
Residents using 10,000 gallons a month can expect their bills to increase from about $45 to about $60, while non-residents can expect theirs to increase from about $66 to about $81.
The rate increase will repay a $3 million loan to improve the water system, help pay the additional 70 cents per thousand gallons Ward is now paying for the water it buys from Grand Prairie Bayou Two. And it will rebuild the reserve for maintenance and operation that has been depleted in great part from making the bond payments which are about $48,000 a month. The last rate increase was in 2003.

11/15– Clinton Elementary School students were forced to move classes to a North Little Rock church because a fire retardant was weakening the roof trusses of the school. School was cancelled for two days to give the district the opportunity to move equipment and supplies to First Assembly of God. Thirty-eight rooms at the church were converted to classrooms to accommodate Clinton’s 755 students.
Crystal Hill Elementary School, which has similar roof problems, closed its doors a week earlier and like Clinton Elementary, remained closed until engineers, architects and school officials determined whether they needed to fix or re-place the roof and then until the repairs or replacements are completed.
After a week off, Crystal Hill students will return to class Monday in portable buildings now set up at Maumelle Middle School.
Clinton Elementary was constructed in 1994.

11/19– Cuts in Medicare have made it difficult for ambulance services to pay for themselves, so in Cabot where MEMS has the exclusive franchise, the city began paying this year a subsidy that was estimated at $50,000 but will actually be about $62,000.
But that price will likely be cut in half in 2009, because MEMS has suggested taking away at night one of the two ambulances that have been assigned to Cabot.
Since MEMS is owned by Little Rock and cities are not allowed to give away services, Cabot and other areas where MEMS would have lost money were required to pay a subsidy.
Cabot’s subsidy was contingent on Lonoke also using the service and sharing one of the ambulances that is stationed in Cabot.
But Lonoke could not pay the $87,000 subsidy MEMS requested and went with another service in April.
Since then, MEMS has lost $68,000 in Cabot, Jon Swanson, MEMS executive director, told the city council.
The solution, Swanson said, was either take away one of the ambulances at night or more than double the price of the subsidy to $112,454. Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, anticipating that the council would not oppose the reduction in the number of ambulances in the city, included the smaller subsidy of $28,000 in the budget he presented.

11/22–The Beebe school board gave a 3 percent pay increase for all classified employees. Teachers and staff were also given a pay increase as the board approved a $1,000 raise to the base salary for certified personnel.
Cabot teachers received an early Christmas present in the form of a $750 raise; checks were issued before the Christmas break. The raise brings Cabot School District’s starting teacher salary to $36,300 a year for a first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience.
In addition, the classified staff received a raise of 20 cents an hour and bus drivers will receive an additional 50 cents a day; registered nurses are paid based on the certified staff salary schedule. A total of $612,000 – raise with benefits – was approved in the district’s budget for all salaried staff earlier in the year.

11/29-- New construction is down, but Jacksonville seems to be feeling much less of the brunt than Sherwood or Cabot, both have seen drops around 60 percent. Jacksonville has fallen just 23.5 percent.
Sherwood saw $66.5 million worth of construction through the first 10 months of 2007, but for the same period this year has logged in just $21.7 million—a 68 percent drop.
Cabot had $41 million worth of construction in the first 10 month of 2007, but this is down to $17.3 million, a drop of 58 percent.
In Jacksonville the building slide has not been so steep. For the first 10 months of 2007, the city had $26.9 million in new construction, million in new construction, and this year it has seen $20.6 million in construction.
Austin has seen a drop of more than $2 million in construction and even Ward has seen a drop.

11/29—The Ward Police Department is updating its equipment with a state-of-the-art breath analyzer and Taser-type projectile stun guns called Stingers for disabling suspects instead of injuring them. The Stinger cost about $500, about $300 less than a Taser, and was purchased with an award from Wal-Mart. Ward Police Chief Charlie Martin. “It seems more and more people are resisting arrest. This is a way to keep the perpetrator from getting hurt and I think it could keep our officers from getting hurt too.”

12/3—Simultaneous search warrants at three Jacksonville residents led to 18 arrests on 36 charges that included robbery, theft of property, possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, delivery of a controlled substance, delivery of crack cocaine, possession of cocaine, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of drug paraphernalia, and maintenance of a drug premise. The search warrants were executed at 911 Trickey, 408 Mulberry Apt. 4, and 300 Taylor Apt. 4. Operation Reindeer was the name police gave to the crime sweep, in which more arrests were anticipated. Jacksonville police say that they had been working on the cases for some time, as they worked leads generated by past cases. About 30 police officers were directly involved in the bust.

12/3-- The North Pulaski High School Falcon Marching Band has done it again. For the 2008 season, the NPHS band has earned a much-coveted “sweepstakes” from the Arkansas School Band Orchestra Association. A first place rating in all three elements of the performing art – marching, sight-reading and concert band – is what it takes to win a sweepstakes. Any high school band is thrilled with such an accomplishment, even once. This is the 18th consecutive year that the NPHS band has won the sweepstakes. The unbroken run of top honors started with Karen Dismuke’s second year as the band’s director.

12/6—The Canadian air force joined members of Little Rock AFB in a five-day joint readiness exercise dubbed Green Flag, testing their readiness and response to terrorists’ actions. The 34th Training Wing hosted 100 Canadian airmen, including four six-man C-130 crews from 8 Wing, deployed from Trenton, Ontario, through Saturday at the base in an exercise with the 50th, 53rd and 61st Airlift Squadrons, all part of the 19th Airlift Wing. About 300 Little Rock airmen, including four planes and five men crews joined their Canadian comrades in the air mobility portion of the training underway. “We do these exercises 10 times a year,” said Lt. Col. Ashley Salter, director of operations for the 34th Training Wing. It’s generally done in conjunction with the Army and with C-130 airlift wings from Canada, England or Germany, he said.

12/6—The Arkansas Depart-ment of Environmental Quality lost its patience with Sherwood. According to inspection reports by the ADEQ dating ,back to at least 2004, discharges of pollutants from the city’s two sewer treatment facilities are at unacceptably high levels.
City engineer Ellen Norvell, at a specially convened meeting of the City Council, laid out the timeline for getting the plants back in compliance with the state, a project that could cost the city between $2 million and $7 million.
Inspectors from ADEQ lost their patience in December 2007, when they made a visit to the treatment facilities and found that problems cited in 2004 had been ignored. Improper maintenance of the levees and unacceptably high levels of pollutants in treated waters discharged from the plants into neighboring waterways are the major concerns, Norvell explained. As she spoke, she held up an ADEQ report showing a long list of the troubling substances that put Sherwood out of compliance with state and federal regulations.

12/10—The planned August 2009 opening of Jacksonville’s first charter school moved closer to fruition 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 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. 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 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 Department of Education grants a charter for five years. 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.

12/17-—Army National Guard Col. Roy Douglas House has been decorated with the Bronze Star medal and the Combat Action Badge for distinguished meritorious performance while serving overseas at a forward operating base in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The medal is awarded to an individual who, while serving in the armed forces, has performed a heroic act, meritorious achievement or distinguished service during armed conflict or ground combat while engaged against an armed enemy of the United States.

12/20—Fat Daddy’s became the second restaurant in Cabot to be approved for a license to sell alcohol. Kopan, a relatively new restaurant serving sushi as well as other Japanese and Korean foods, got its license in October. Although Mayor Eddie Joe Williams and some church leaders opposed that application, Kopan owners had the signatures of more than 1,000 customers who supported it.
Until those two licenses were approved, only members of Cabot’s two country clubs could buy alcoholic beverages with their meals.
With the exception of a handful of country clubs, selling alcoholic beverages in Lonoke County has been illegal for more than seven decades, but changes made in recent years to state liquor laws to promote tourism and economic development now allow restaurants open to the public to sell alcohol even in dry counties, if approved by the state Alcohol Beverage Control Board.

12/24—The final three flights of 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team troops began returning from Iraq. Approximately 900 Arkansas Soldiers will return to join the other 2,400 who have already made it back after completing a yearlong mobilization in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The soldiers began the demobili zation process at Camp Shelby, with the majority of troops anticipated to be home in time for Christmas. A small contingent of the 39th will remain deployed to oversee the return of the brigade’s equipment.

SPORTS>>Cooper scores 38; Falcons fall

Leader sportswriter

Aaron Cooper’s 38 points against Little Rock Central was enough to keep things close, but still not quite enough to lift North Pulaski into the championship finals.

The Falcons took a pair of wins in the opening rounds of the Heaven’s Best Basketball tournament at Little Rock Hall before suffering close losses in the final two days.

After beating Marianna to open tourney play, the Falcons (9-5) posted a 72-64 win over Pulaski Academy, led by 20 points from Kyron Ware.

That put them in the semifinal round, where they fell to Little Rock Central in a 74-70 nail biter. Cooper hit eight three pointers. Ware added 14.

The Falcons also fell 56-49 to Miami Choice Academy, getting 18 points from Daquan Bryant and 15 from Cooper.

SPORTS>>Cabot boys settle for 2nd in Fort Smith

Leader sportswriter

FORT SMITH — The Cabot Panthers came up just short in the finals of the Coca Cola Classic basketball tournament in Ft. Smith this week. Wins over Subiaco Academy and Ft. Smith Southside put the Panthers in the championship game against defending 6A state champion Little Rock Hall, which handed them their third loss of the season 57-51.

Adam Sterrenberg led the Panthers with 30 points against the Warriors, with 10 for Austin Johnson. Both seniors were named to the all-tournament team. Sterrenberg also led the night before in a 57-50 win over Southside.

“We take no consolation in second place, but our guys didn’t back down,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “We battled back and had our chances, but they made their free throws down the stretch, so give them credit. That’s the main reason we went up there, to see some of the best competition in the state.”

The 2-1 performance at the tourney makes Cabot 10-3 for the season. The Panthers will begin 7A-Central Conference play against defending 7A state runners up Conway.

“If these last two games against Southside and Hall didn’t prepare us for opening conference play, I don’t think anything else can,” Bridges said. “We’ve got 14 nights to qualify for the state tournament, and to open against the favorites to win it all gives us a chance right off the bat.”

SPORTS>>Lady Jackrabbits win title

Leader sports editor

For head coach Nathan Morris, Lonoke’s 53-44 win over previously unbeaten Star City meant more than a mere championship trophy to add to the display case.

It was, he termed it, a “hat hanger.”

“That’s one we can hang our hats on later in the year,” Morris said shortly after his Lady Jackrabbits improved to 10-3 in the finals of the Beebe Christmas Classic at Badger Arena on Tuesday night. “I told them at halftime, the only way we’re going to win that game is if we ground it out. That’s what we did.”

In a game that featured two ferocious presses and four turnovers by each team before a shot was even attempted, Lonoke finally came to life at just about the point Star City (14-1) was threatening to run away with it.

The Lady Bulldogs extended their 8-point halftime lead to 10 at the 7:40 mark of the third period, but Erin Shoemaker hit a three-pointer to spark a 17-7 run. Two consecutive rebound baskets by Asiah Scribner finally knotted the game at 32 with 3:38 left in the third period. Scribner, who missed much of the first half with foul trouble and scored 15 of her game-high 20 points after intermission, gave Lonoke its first lead since 3-0 on another rebound basket with 46 seconds left in the period.

Lonoke never trailed again. Turning up the defensive pressure after intermission, the Lady Jackrabbits limited Star City tofive second-half field goals and forced 10 turnovers. The Lady ’Rabbits, meanwhile, cut their 13 first-half turnovers down to seven in the second half.

“Their pressure bothered us at times,” Morris admitted. “We just didn’t let it bother us at the critical times. And we finally got a few lay-ups out of it. Then we came back and played good defense at the other end.”

Three free throws by Emily Shoemaker and a basket inside by Scribner allowed Lonoke to push the lead to 45-39 midway through the final period. Cara Neighbors, who spent much of the night on the bench in foul trouble and scored only six points, hit a critical bucket on a baseline drive to keep the lead at six with 3:02 left.

Star City narrowed the lead to four again on three free throws at the 1:30 mark, but Michaela Brown secured the win with a baseline drive with 56 seconds and a free throw with 19 seconds.

Both offenses wilted early in the face of unrelenting pressure defense. Neither team could get a shot off over the first two minutes, 10 seconds. Each team turned it over four times in that span.

Ashleigh Himstedt hit a three-pointer to open the scoring and give Lonoke its only lead in the first half. Star City ripped off 10 straight points, but Brown scored off a drive through the lane and Emily Shoemaker and Neighbors both got rebound baskets.

Scribner returned to the lineup with 4:30 left in the half after sitting most of the first quarter and scored Lonoke’s final five points of the half, but the Lady Bulldogs went to the locker room with a 25-17 lead.

“We weren’t sending anybody to the middle,” Morris said of Lonoke’s troubles against Star City’s press. “We rely so much on our three guards to handle the ball that when one of them was out, we went haywire. That’s as much my fault as theirs.

“We just think they’re superwomen and they’re not. They have to have help too. That’s the best press we’ll see all year. That should help us down the road.”

Despite her limited court time, Scribner scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. She was the only Lady Jackrabbit in double figures, but five others scored five or more points.

“We’ve got so many weapons this year that it just takes somebody to step up and for each person to do their little part,” Morris said. “We kept our cool. Our kids have been there before. We’re juniors, a couple of seniors and one pretty good sophomore, and Star City is a lot of sophomores and juniors. Our kids have been in that spot before and showed that and battled back tonight.”

Brown had nine points and six big steals. Emily Shoemaker added seven points and seven rebounds. Neighbors and Himstedt each had six points, while Neighbors also grabbed seven rebounds. Lonoke dominated the glass in the second half to finish with a 37-29 edge.

“I’m very impressed with what the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits did against a 14-0 team that has some very good wins,” Morris said. “I’m so proud of them.”

SPORTS>>Badgers win in dramatic style for title

Leader sports editor

Trailing by seven with 40 seconds left, Beebe was going to need a super-human effort.

Zach Kersey provided it. The senior guard, held to just five points until then, erupted for 11 points over the final 38 seconds, including the game-tying three and the game-winning free throws as the Badgers beat Lonoke 57-54 in dramatic, if controversial, fashion to capture the Christmas Classic at Badger Arena on Tuesday.

Lonoke (8-2) led 53-46 with 42 seconds left after Clarence Harris made one of two free throws, and seemed to have things well in hand, even after Kersey knocked down a pair of free throws four seconds later. Beebe’s Will Scott got a steal, but missed a three and Michael Howard made one of two free throws at the other end to push the lead to six with 24 seconds left.

But Kersey nailed a three-pointer with 14.3 seconds left, and after Howard missed two free throws a second later, Kersey tied it with another three from the top of the key with 6.7 seconds left.

Howard launched a mid-court shot that banged off the glass. Kersey rebounded it on the floor and Harris was whistled for a foul with less than a second remaining. Kersey made both charities and one of two technical-foul free throws to set the final margin.

“Amazing,” Beebe head coach Brian Martin said when told of Kersey’s 12 points in the final 55 seconds. “(Lonoke coach Wes Swift) had a great plan of taking Zach out of the game and making it hard for him to score. I told our guys, hey, we’ve got four other guys. “Zach was frustrated there. He missed some free throws, but I told him you never know when you’re going to have a chance to redeem yourself. He came through there at the end. Icouldn’t be more proud of him and the team as a whole.

There’s no quit in these guys.”

Swift, who clearly wasn’t too pleased with the foul call at the end, walked over to Martin while Kersey was shooting his four free throws and shook his hand.

“I’m not going to say anything,” Swift said. “They called a foul with one second to go. It doesn’t matter what I saw. We missed nine free throws in the last quarter. We did a great job on Zach Kersey for three quarters. Then in the last minute we give their best shooter two wide open looks.

“He’s a great player and he stepped up and made some great shots for them. Let’s just leave everything right there. We did not make the plays when we needed to and they did.”

Martin wasn’t entirely certain what happened in the final frantic seconds.

“I caught a glance at the end,” he said. “Zach gets the rebound in some traffic and the ref called a foul. We’ve been on the other end of that. I hate it for coach Swift and his guys. They played hard. Coach Swift and those guys are a great team and a great challenge for us.”

The defending 4A champion Jackrabbits struggled through a sluggish first half, getting only two points each from Harris and Howard. Still, they limped into the locker room trailing by just a bucket.

Lonoke took its first lead of the contest on Pierre Smith’s three-pointer to open the second half. Back to back threes by Dontrell Richard and Howard’s spin move had Lonoke up three at the end of three periods.

Scott kept Beebe (6-3) close with a drive through the lane, but Howard scored five points on the next trip down, scoring off a drive down the lane and drawing a foul. He missed the free throw but collected the rebound along the right wing and nailed a three-pointer as Lonoke surged to a 47-38 lead.

Two Trey Smith free throws and a pull-up 12-footer by Anthony Forte kept the Badgers close. The Jackrabbits began their fourth-quarter free throw woes by missing three in a row, but Harris made four straight to give Lonoke a 52-45 lead with 1:04 left.

Lonoke made 13 of 24 free throws. Beebe wasn’t a whole lot better at 19 of 28. But the Badgers hit 4 of 6 threes and out-rebounded the Rabbits 31-21. Kersey finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Scott added nine. Smith, Forte and Myles each chipped in with eight. Myles also grabbed eight rebounds.

“Win or lose that game, thought we fought like champions,” Martin said. “This will really build some confidence.”

The sentiment on the other side was almost the opposite.

“We’ve got some issues to work on as far as leadership goes on this team,” Swift said. “We’ll see where we go from here.”

Lonoke was led by Howard’s 13 points, three assists and three steals. Lance Jackson scored 12 points and Smith added 10. Richard had six points and seven rebounds.

SPORTS>>Lady Red Devils take 2nd

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils’ appearance in the finals of their own Red Devil Classic on Tuesday in a 50-29 loss to West Memphis proved two things — that the program is on the rise after losing out in the first round for most of the decade, and that they still have their work cut out for them in one of the toughest conferences in the state.

The Lady Blue Devils (8-4) struck early as they built a 21-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, and slowly increased that margin over the final three periods. Jacksonville’s performance was still well-rounded despite the loss, with an eight-point, eight-rebound output by junior post Jessica Lanier to lead the way.

Lanier and senior guard Tyra Terry were named to the all-tournament team, while West Memphis center Jazimen Gordon took tourney MVP honors with a game-leading 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“For us to even get a second-place trophy, that’s progress,” said Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms, now in her third season at the helm. “And that’s something you take and you build on. We’re building for the future, because we only start one senior, so we’re still extremely young.”

The 6-foot Lanier gave up two inches of height to Gordon on the boards, and the West Memphis standout took advantage with eight defensive rebounds that limited the Lady Red Devils’ opportunities at second-chance shots. Lanier compensated with some nice jumpers from outside the low block, including a nice 15-footer at the 3:22 mark of the first quarter that made it 13-6.

The Lady Blue Devils answered with a 6-0 run before Lanier put up another basket before the end of the period, and started the second quarter off with another shot that made it 21-12.

“She has a tendency to try and pop out of the post a little, which I don’t have a problem with,” Mimms said. “But from time to time, we need her to get big, and get somebody down in there to get us somepoints. That’s what I want to work toward.

“I know at the next level, she’s going to be more of a forward, pop-out scorer, but for us, the best thing for her to do is when we get in those spots, for her to post up hard and give us those good looks.”

The pace of the game slowed dramatically in the second half, as Jacksonville (6-6) managed only four points in each of the two final quarters. The Lady Red Devils did improve on defense, however, holding the Lady Blue Devils in single digits in both the third and fourth periods.

With West Memphis expected to be one of the frontrunners in the 6A East Conference this season, Mimms said the experience should be beneficial down the road.

“I almost would rather play them (in the finals),” Mimms said. “At least I have them on film now. We can make some adjustments on what we did, and it gives us more of an idea on how to play them. There are some things we could have done different. We got some good shots, but we just didn’t convert them.”

Appolonia Sims added six points and five rebounds for Jacksonville. Terry and Crystal Washington each had five points, with four rebounds and three steals for Terry. For West Memphis, Crystal Riley had eight points.

Mimms expects the 6A East to be top-heavy this season with West Memphis and Parkview dominant, but said the battle for the remaining seeds could be a dogfight.

“After that, I feel like everybody is pretty level. We can beat anybody if we play well and take care of the basketball. We’ve got the size. We don’t have big size, we don’t have two huge girls, but Lanier is pretty good size, and Simms is a strong girl. The main thing for us right now is learning how to execute against the man-to-man defense.”

Jacksonville will begin 6A East play on Tuesday at Little Rock Parkview.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

TOP STORY > > Toddler survives vicious dog attack

Leader staff writer

A 3-year-old girl was almost killed Sunday by a dog her family considered adopting as a pet. According to Jacksonville animal control officers, it is a miracle that the little girl survived. The attack could also have been prevented, officers speculate.
Jennifer Young, the victim’s mother, explained how her daughter, Grace, was mauled by the dog at the family home on Bailey Street in Jacksonville. The Young family was thinking of adopting the dog, an Akita, from a close family friend, Mary Ronnau of Jacksonville
Jennifer’s husband, Richard, let the Akita play with his two daughters and the family’s two dogs with the hope of giving the animal a happy home, but the well-intentioned meeting soon went bad.
The Akita attacked the child in the backyard of her parents’ home, apparently out of view of her father. The attack may have lasted two minutes, according to a family friend who witnessed the attack.
It took three people to free the toddler from the dog. Her father and friends rushed her to North Metro Medical Center, where doctors transferred her to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock by ambulance.
Grace underwent reconstructive surgery for more than an hour, according to Jennifer Young. She said Grace may have to have plastic surgery and she fears that scarring will leave the child traumatized.
She wants Jacksonville to categorize Akitas as vicious animals along with pit bulls, “so nobody else has to see what I saw.”
Grace’s mother said the first thing she asked to do when she got home was play with her Lab, Cinco.
“Doctors said that if the bite had been a hair closer to the jugular, she would be dead. This is the worse case I’ve ever handled,” Cheryl Wood, the animal control officer who handled this case said.
The Akita was euthanized Tues-day morning. On Monday night, the dog explored the front offices of the Jacksonville Animal Shelter with the enthusiasm of a puppy, enjoying doggie treats and playing with staff members at the shelter, a mood that Grace did not get to see.
The incident may not have come without warning. Ronnau, the Akita’s owner, claims to have been bitten by her other dog, also an Akita. She went to North Metro to have her wounds treated, but the animal shelter may not have been informed.
“We reported the incident to proper authorities,” said Amy Arnone, North Metro’s public relations spokeswoman. Arnone would not divulge who was informed of the first biting incident.
“We cannot find any record that (Ronnau) was bitten,” said April Kiser, spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Police Department.
“Bite cases have to be reported to the city at all times,” Hedy Limke, director of the Jacksonville Animal Shelter, said.
Notification of the first incident could have alerted animal control to the potential danger posed by Ronnau’s dogs, and Grace may have been spared, she said.
Had the prior incident been investigated, Grace may not have been attacked, said Limke. It would have served as a warning that Ronnau’s dogs posed a risk.
“Forty percent of dogs in the city are not socialized. They don’t know how to act with people and have the potential to bite,” Limke said.
Limke calls these unsocialized dogs “backyard dogs,” animals left alone without proper care and affection and are potentially dangerous.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Getting help for Arkansas

Arkansas rarely gets to show the rest of the country its dust, especially in economic performance, but it happens when the country falls into recession. Employment and consumer spending tend not to decline as steeply or as quickly in Arkansas as in the industrial states, partly because Arkansas has about the puniest manufacturing base in the country and little to lose when the demand for consumer products subsides. Except for food and fiber, we don’t make many of those products in Arkansas.

But the difference between Arkansas and the country as a whole has never been so distinct as in the current downturn. Most state governments are cutting services sharply and pleading with the federal government for assistance while Arkansas continues to experience healthy state revenues month after month. One reason is that Governor Beebe budgeted so frugally in 2007 and again in the executive budget he has filed for 2009-12. So can’t we feel self-satisfied and maybe even a little superior as the new administration ponders how the national government can help states like California, New York and Ohio?

Or, though less needy at the moment, should we demand Arkansas’ per-capita share of the stimulus/bailout money that is being readied for the new Congress on Jan. 20? If the package is in the range of $700 billion, which is likely, Arkansas’ contingent share would be about $7 billion, which is roughly the size of the whole state budget for a year.

Arkansas could build a lot of roads, bridges, schools and prisons and provide a lot of medical care for $7 billion. That would provide quite a jolt to employment and spending.

Don’t get your hopes up. Arkansas will not get that much help — not even close — and maybe it should not. Unemployment runs considerably below the national average, and the pain from this yearlong recession is not nearly as evident as it is in Ohio and Michigan, where unemployment early in 2009 may hit double digits, though there is evidence that the trough lies ahead for Arkansas, perhaps by early spring.
But Governor Beebe and our congressional delegation can make a persuasive case that the needs actually are greater in this still poor state. Arkansas has been in a recession for far longer than most of the nation. Indeed, it has never been out of a recession since 1837. Arkansas is doing all right only in relation to Arkansas in 2007, or 2000, or 1984. The unemployment rate measures only the people actively looking for work and not finding it, not those who have long since abandoned the job market or accepted part-time and piecemeal labor. Arkansas is not slashing public services like California only because it never provided many of the human services that are taken for granted in more prosperous regions.

Its school buildings are more dilapidated, its highways rougher and more dangerous, its health services stingier, its incarceration rate higher and its prisons more crowded, its college-going and graduation rates lower, its family income levels lower than most of the states except those immediately to our south. Nowhere in America is there greater need for an economic stimulus.

The governor and our delegates need to make that case, though Arkansas’ voice is likely to be faint in the cacophony in Washington, and not merely because the economic signals in Arkansas appear superficially to be so strong. Nearly alone among the states, Arkansas went defiantly against the Democratic trend in the 2008 election, giving the Democratic candidate an even weaker vote than in the previous two presidential cycles. That should not count in the reckoning of needs and perhaps it won’t. The new president seems unusually averse to punishing his critics and those who simply disagree.

The legislature, which assembles a week before the inauguration, should get Arkansas’ house in order by clearing away the obstacles to federal assistance to infrastructure improvements, including public school buildings. Communities all over the state that have been unable to produce the matching funds for state school construction grants should be able to move instantly to claim federal assistance for their match. The state Highway Commission says it has a raft of highway and bridge projects ready for contract.

President-elect Obama is supposed to be considering liberalizing the matching formula for Medicaid to help states with rising caseloads and declining tax receipts. Because it has such a high population of poor, Arkansas already has one of the most favorable matching rates in the country — nearly 75 percent federal — but within 18 months it will find itself needy. Senator Blanche Lincoln, who is on the Senate Finance Committee and its health subcommittee, may be particularly helpful in seeing that any formula relief does not skip Arkansas and other states with high federal matching rates.

Now is the time that we miss an experienced and powerful congressional delegation. Let us hope that Lincoln, Mark Pryor and our lusterless House delegation can rise to the occasion.