Friday, January 16, 2009

EDITORIAL >>Pollution control not on agenda

Thomas Schueck, the president of a flourishing steel company at Little Rock, is a member of the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, where he sits as a representative of polluting industries. Conflicts of interest are almost unavoidable in such an arrangement, so you would expect that Schueck and everyone involved in the regulatory scheme would be keenly watchful for them.

You would be disappointed.

A permit for utility conglomerates to build a big coal-fired generating plant in Hempstead County was appealed to Schueck’s commission last fall. Unless Governor Beebe replaces him on the commission, he will help decide that appeal. Meantime, Schueck insisted that his fellow commissioners allow the utilities to proceed with construction of the plant before it is ever decided whether the environmental poisons that it will emit are acceptable. People need the jobs down there, he said, and the commissioners voted with him.

Now it turns out that Schueck’s company all along had at least six projects with the companies that are building the generating plant. Should he have divulged all of that and recused from the case because he was transparently conflicted? Sure he should have. But that has never been how the regulatory commission worked. On the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, a person who has a personal or business interest in a question before him is simply a person who is apt to be more knowledgeable.

The public interest thus becomes inseparable from private interests. When that happens, when the regulator’s task is to see that the regulated party gets what it wants, there is no need for regulation at all. It is a sham. That has described the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission since its creation a half-century ago, and regrettably it describes it today.

EDITORIAL >>Battle looms in Fayetteville

Barney Alan Sugg has kept such a low profile for the past 20 years that people may be tempted to believe that it makes no difference who is president of the University of Arkansas. Any rabid Razorback fan can do the job.

If we are to believe the blog reporting out of Fayetteville that very nearly became the prevailing dogma on the selection of a new president. We hope that the intrigue is dead and that the university makes a serious and dignified search for a president when Dr. Sugg retires. That may be June 30, 2010, when his contract ends. Dr. Sugg had asked the Board of Trustees a couple of years ago not to roll over his contract because he will be nearing 72 then and it might be a good time to quit. He said that at any rate he would give the board a year’s notice before stepping down.

A couple of blogs, including the reliable Arkansas Times blog, reported that Jim Lindsey, whose term on the Board of Trustees expires this month, wanted to go ahead and name the next president right now. The president would be Lindsey’s good friend and his farm manager, Stanley E. Reed of Marianna. Reed, a wealthy planter, served 10 years on the university board, like Lindsey under appointment by Governor Mike Huckabee. Reed’s 10-year term on the board ended last year.

Reed, a nice man we are given to believe, has no credentials to run a state university system, at least none that would be recognized by any academic institution or any scholar in the United States. That is not an inconsequential consideration in choosing a president for the state’s flagship university. The university attracts the best scholars that it can, and the little matter of who the president is and how and why he was chosen will have some bearing on its success in recruiting the people who will teach and conduct the research that makes a great university. The planning and directing of growth of a network of academic institutions is different from if not necessarily harder than managing sizable tracts of fertile Delta farmland. Reed has been a director of the white academy in Marianna set up to thwart integration of the city’s schools. Wouldn’t that be a fine qualification for a university president in 2009?

Lindsey, the old Razorback tailback and Minnesota Vikings special teams player, has been a force on the board the past 10 years, seen most often in the frequent Razorback coaching intrigues. Lindsey is a real estate magnate and continues to own farmland in St. Francis County, which Reed manages for him.

He was quoted by one blog this week as saying he would go along with a national search for a new president but in his own mind they just needed a president who understood what “woooo pig soooie means.” That would befit a university campus that ranks No. 1 in America in the percentage of instructional money that is spent on athletics. A U. S. Department of Education report listed the University of Arkansas first at more than 56 percent, far ahead of even the second-place school, the University of Alabama. But Arkansas ought to be trying to shed that image, not burnish it.

The Arkansas Times reported that four of the 10 trustees strongly resisted the move to rush pell mell into naming a new president this weekend, long before Sugg announces his departure and without a national search. The word was that Lindsey’s idea would not be discussed. It is heartening to learn that there are adults on the university board of trustees.

TOP STORY > >Lonoke Literacy Council volunteers pass the gift of reading to others

Leader staff writer

The Literacy Council of Lonoke County is in the business of crime prevention. But if you ask any of the volunteer tutors why they love their work, they more likely will talk about the joy that comes with teaching someone how to read, seeing a life transformed, and getting to be part of that.

Few individuals who can’t read become criminals, but if a community is looking for ways to reduce crime, improving the literacy rate is a good proactive measure. If one can’t read, speak or write English proficiently, one is more likely to lead a life of poverty, poor health and desperation – or even crime. Most individuals who do jail time – 7 out of 10 – have poor reading skills or were high school dropouts.

Most folks who can’t read simply struggle along for years hiding the problem as best they can, sometimes quite well, from employers, friends, and family. Most are employed though living below the poverty line. Most put off getting help with reading until their forties.

The Literacy Council takes all comers, regardless of age, disability, or proficiency in speaking English. The service and study materials are free. All that is required is a desire to learn. In a year of tutored studying, a per son who does not have a learning disability can progress from not even knowing the alphabet to a sixth-grade reading level. It may take a year or more of additional study to become a good enough reader to pass a written driver’s test, fill out a job application, and hold down a decent job.

Since opening its doors in 1986, the Literacy Council has helped students of all ages, walks of life, educational attainment, and nationalities. They have ranged in age from teens to eighties. Some are graduates of local high schools, others dropped out when still children.

One man who sought tutoring in his fifties had never been to school a day in his life, didn’t even know the ABCs, having worked the fields from childhood. After two months of hard studying, the joyous day came that he could write his name.

“He broke down and cried,” Roy Henderson, the council’s director, recounted in a recent interview.

One lady came to the council at age 85, at the encouragement of her children. She’d been consigned to a life of illiteracy when her father removed her from school at age 10 and married her off to an uncle to be his house servant and bear his children.

She managed to earn a seventh-grade diploma before Alzheimer’s closed in on her.

Some students are single moms on welfare, wanting to get the skills to make them employable. Others with limited reading skills do work but want a better job and higher wages. One fellow working at the Remington plant managed to conceal his reading deficit long enough to improve his skills and land a promotion.

The council’s tutors have assisted many immigrants including employees of local Chinese and Vietnamese eateries and a Russian lawyer who needed to read English well enough to take the bar exam. He now practices law in Arkansas. Hispanic workers at the Lonoke fisheries and Cabot orchards, as well as in construction and farming, are some of the most motivated students the council gets.

Generally literate in Spanish, they are quick learners. Sometimes an entire family comes for lessons. As Henderson puts it, immigrants understand, perhaps more clearly than do the native-born, “If you can’t read and speak English, then you can’t get by in the good ol’ U.S.A.”

Last year, one of the council’s star students, Randy Moore, became a high-profile example of how illiteracy can lead to horrifically bad choices and how learning to read is a redemptive act.

The Arkansas Bar Association honored Moore as the state’s literacy student of 2008. The tragedy is that Moore didn’t enroll in the reading program until after he was sentenced to 40 years in prison for robbing a bank.

Moore was graduated from an Arkansas public high school, having been promoted year after year, unable to read, because of his athletic talents. He finished school with diploma in hand, but was incapable of filling out a job application.

A few years later, unemployed, married and with a baby on the way, he wrongly concluded that crime and quick cash were the easy answer. He hopes to be paroled next year.

Henderson wishes more folks would see the direct connection between social problems like poverty, crime and broken homes and the ability to read.

More than 20 percent of adults in Arkansas read at or below a fifth-grade level. That is far below the skill level needed to earn a living wage, according to the Arkansas Literacy Council. Most will live in dire poverty, earning an average monthly income of $425. No wonder that for a few, crime eventually seems like a good career move.

“If people would ever stop to look at that, they would be amazed, and add another 5 to 6 percent who cannot read or speak English, that is a whole lot of people,” he said. He fears that if the economy worsens and jobs are cut, anyone with poor reading skills will be the first to be left out in the cold.

That may mean more folks will be knocking at the council’s door. The council’s 21 volunteer tutors are not nearly enough, Henderson says, already busy with 100 students.

To be a tutor, one must be a high school graduate, have an hour each week to give, and have a desire to help someone learn to read.

TOP STORY > >Many residents heading to D.C. for inaugural

Leader senior staff writer

Among 10,000 high school students making the trip to Washington for Barack Obama’s inauguration, 22 VIP tickets were awarded and Jacksonville High School got 14 of those, according to advance placement government teacher Lori Lachowsky.

She credits Cong. Vic Snyder and the Arkansas delegation with getting those tickets, which will allow 11 students, Lachowsky and two parents or chaperones close enough to see the activities.

Also headed out for the festivities is Pulaski County Clerk Pat O’Brien of Jacksonville. O’Brien was the first elected official in central Arkansas to openly support Obama’s campaign, and he was an Obama delegate at the Democratic National Convention.

Cody Castile, 18, said, “I had a little part in what I’m about to see.”

He barely made the voting age cutoff and voted for Obama. “I’m going to witness what’s going down in the history books
forever,” he added.

Brianna Bush, another student, credits Lachowsky with starting to work toward going to the inauguration at the end of the last school year.

“She was very consistent, emailing and talking to the right people,” Bush said.

Marie Dahlke says she’s excited about getting in the VIP section “with all the elites and seeing (famous) people in person. That never happens to kids in Arkansas.”

“This is a once in a lifetime event,” said Sydney York, who claims decorated World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York as her great, great, great uncle. She said her excitement is getting “worse and worse.”

O’Brien will stay mostly with an aunt in Annapolis, Md., but will stay in a hotel on Monday night after attending the Arkansas Ball and the Southern Regional Ball.

He expects to witness the inauguration the next day as “one of the closest 240,000 people, depending on how quickly I get there.”

He said he wouldn’t be close enough “to give Obama a shout out.”

TOP STORY > >Sherwood fire board adds candidate

Leader staff writer

It wasn’t the fact that the Sherwood Fire Board took about two hours to interview three applicants for the full-time Sherwood fire chief position that angered a number of the department’s firefighters.

It was the 20 minutes the board spent interviewing a fourth candidate who was not on the agenda that had upset the group and caused one firefighter to demand that the board go ahead and interview the current head of the department, Chief Frank Hill, and the other three candidates the board had passed on at its previous meeting.

With the board committing at least a procedural mistake, if not a legal violation by bringing in a fourth candidate, Alderman Butch Davis was seeking help from the county judge to have a cooling-off period as allegations arose that the fire department may have misappropriated more than $3,600 in salaries.

After interviewing David Teague, a battalion chief from Memphis; Phillip Flynn, a former North Little Rock firefighter and a full-time lieutenant with the Sherwood Fire Department, and Andy Traffanstedt, the Gravel Ridge fire chief and a part-time captain with the Sherwood department — another applicant, Alan Ford, was called into the board’s executive session.

Ford is a former board member and currently a captain with the Little Rock Fire Department.

Soon after Ford’s interview, the board reconvened in public and with no fanfare said they would meet again at 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday at the fire station to discuss the 2009 budget and any decision they will make regarding to hiring a full-time chief.

The board then adjoined.

Firefighters and others tried to get an explanation as to why the board interviewed someone who was not on the list of final candidates.

Commissioner Mike Anderson said, “Ford was not on the list, not on the agenda, and I feel it was wrong to have brought him in.”

So why was Ford called in? Anderson said it was at the request of the board chairman Michael Dupslaff.

Commissioner Tom Brooks said, “It was a courtesy to the chairman that we talked to Ford. Once he came in we could just tell him to leave,” Brooks explained.

Dupslaff did not give the disgruntled firefighters any reason for why Ford was called in, only saying that the public would have input at Tuesday’s meeting when the chief’s position comes up again on the agenda.

When asked then if Hill and the other applicants would get an interview since Ford did, Brooks said no.

At the board’s previous meeting, Mayor Virginia Hillman tried to get the board to consider a letter she introduced calling for the board to stop its efforts to convert the department from a part-time chief to a full-time chief until Sherwood officials and residents could give input.

The board refused to take up the suggestion because it was not on the agenda, yet allowed a candidate not on the agenda Thursday night to be interviewed.

Also earlier in the week Alderman Butch Davis tried to talk to County Judge Villines, who appoints the fire board commissioners, to ask him to have the board halt the search for 30 to 60 days to allow everyone to calm down. But Villines was out of town. “This whole thing is just snowballing out of control,” Davis said.

He was also concerned about who the board is supposed to represent. “If it’s the people of Sherwood, they aren’t listening,” Davis said.

Then there are the allegations of improper salary payments that are coming to the board’s attention. In approving its 2008 budget early last year, the board authorized hourly salary payments of $9.20, $10.20 and $11.20 to firefighters based on experience, rank and position.

But a number of firefighters received an hourly wage of $12.20 an hour, a dollar more than the board supposedly approved.

These extra payments total $3,625 which could make it a felony if an investigation shows criminal wrongdoing. At this point, the board has not asked for an investigation.

The fire department, which encompasses all of Sherwood, is not a municipal fire department but a fire-protection district department under the control of the county judge and the five-member board. The board members are appointed by the judge without any city input.

The board received eight resumes for the full-time position, including one from the current fire chief.

In a meeting earlier this month, the board narrowed down the field of applicants to Traffanstedt, Flynn and Teague.

According to his resume, Traffanstedt has been involved in fire service since 1982 and has worked with the Little Rock, Sherwood and Gravel Ridge fire departments. The Gravel Ridge Fire Department, like the Sherwood department, is under the control of the county.

Traffanstedt has been the Gravel Ridge fire chief since 1993 and is also the chief of the Pulaski County Hazardous Materials Response Team. He has a Firefighters III certification, as well as state and national certification as a paramedic.

In his application, Traffanstedt has asked for a guaranteed five-year contact, a take home department vehicle and to be allowed to appoint his own command staff.

Flynn is a long-time resident of Sherwood and has 28 years of public safety service, according to his resume. He also has a Firefighters III certification, and is also a certified fire arson investigator and Arkansas law enforcement officer.

Flynn has worked as the public- safety officer at Camp Robinson and spent 23 years with the North Little Rock Fire Department, reaching the rank of captain.

He has asked the board for a minimum of a two-year contract.

Teague says his background and education in emergency services has prepared him to lead the Sherwood department. As a battalion chief in Memphis, he is in a mid-level management position in a department that includes 1,700 people and 59 stations.

According to his resume, Teague has served as the director of emergency medical services for Cleburne Memorial Hospital in Heber Springs and spent 23 years with the Southbend Volunteer Fire Department in Lonoke County. He also owns and operates Klad Co., a consulting and inspection firm for large roofing systems, and David Teague Roofing Co. Both are in Jacksonville.

Teague has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration from the University of Memphis and has attended various courses at the National Fire Academy in Maryland.

TOP STORY > >When your Stockbroker ignores you

Leader editor-in-chief

In some cultures, people who have betrayed others are so ashamed that in extreme cases they will end their lives for doing you wrong.

A French stockbroker who was involved with the notorious Bernard Madoff slit his own wrists in his office. A German financier who made bad bets on the stock market jumped in front of a moving train.

B. Ramalinga Raju, chairman of Satyam, an Indian outsourcing firm, after admitting to cooking the company’s books, resigned and is ready to face the consequences.

He said the fraud had grown to “unmanageable proportions.”

In India, like in other societies, you can’t lie and say you did nothing wrong, like those charlatans at Enron and WorldCom and on Wall Street.

“I am now prepared to subject myself to the laws of the land and face the consequences thereof,” Raju said, describing how he added $1 billion in fake assets to his company’s books.

“It was like riding a tiger, not knowing when to get off without being eaten,” said Raju before he was led off to prison.

While in other societies wrongdoers will apologize before they fall on their sword, here it’s business as usual. It’s partying as if we’re still in the 1990s.

But it’s too bad if your stockbroker has made himself unavailable because he won’t discuss the beating you took in the financial markets.

Most Americans have participated in the stock market, even if only through their 401Ks, and now they can’t even find their broker, who’s probably gone on a permanent vacation or faked his own death.

They could have warned their clients back in the summer that things would get worse and they should have put their money under the mattress, but no such advice was offered.

Americans hate to apologize when they do something bad. President Bush can’t think of any mistakes he may have committed while in office, other than maybe putting up that “Mission Accomplished” banner on that aircraft carrier a little prematurely.

We might apologize for ancient wrongs, like slavery, but nothing that we might have done ourselves. In Europe, stockbrokers who have let their clients down have committed suicide, and in Japan, they still commit Hara-kiri if they’ve done wrong. They still have a sense of honor there. Over here, it’s more bailout money for the thieves.

The devastation is almost unbelievable: The stock market has declined about 40 percent, wiping out about $7 trillion in assets.

The U.S. government now has stock in more than 200 banks while the fat cats still draw bonuses.

The so-called experts knew very little, except how to steal. Perhaps the Obama administration will make it a top order of business to pursue these criminals at least until the economy rebounds, which could be a very long time.

TOP STORY > >Air base in top shape for future, Schatz says

Leader senior staff writer

Reorganization of Little Rock Air Force Base, progress on the Joint Education Center and toward a new elementary school on base, the addition of several C-130Js and the hiring of well-respected builders and contractors to finish rehabilitating base housing are among the many good things that happened during Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz’s watch as base commander.

“I’ll be the deputy director of global operations on the joint staff,” Schatz said on Friday. This is the largest deputy directorate on the staff, with responsibility for nuclear weapons, surveillance, recognizance, information operations, cyber warfare and for maintaining command and control for the national military command center.

Now, as Schatz prepares to hand over his command Jan. 28 to Col. Greg Otey, he reflected on his nearly two years at Little Rock. Otey helped stand up the C-130 Weapons School at the base in the 1990s.

In October, the Air Force retired the 463 Airlift Wing, an expeditionary force based at standing up in its place the 19th Airlift Wing, Schatz commanding, and made it the host wing at LRAFB while retaining its task as a war-fighting wing.

“It will be long hours, but its where the action is,” he added.

The 314th Airlift Wing of the Air Education and Training Command remains at the base as the premiere C-130 training facility in the nation.

Continuing that reorganization, particularly with the 19th Airlift Wing taking charge of C130 squadrons at some other bases, will be among the challenges facing Otey, Schatz said.

The 19th Airlift Wing will be experiencing some growth at other locations,” Schatz said. Right now it has an active associated C-130 squadron at Cheyenne, Wyo. Just coming up to operational status. That squadron is aligned with the Air National Guard.

This spring the 19th will pick up operational command of one C-130 squadron and one C-130 medical-evacuation squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., a squadron at Colorado Springs and a unit at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

It will be harder to keep a hand on the pulse of those satellite commands, Schatz said, and that will be one of Otey’s challenges.

Two thirds of all U.S. military C-130s will be under the command of the 19th AW, Schatz said.

Schatz said he will miss not only his airmen and officers, but the community leaders with whom he worked in Jacksonville, Cabot and Sherwood.

He said the air show this summer was a highlight, as well as the opportunity to host a reception at the Clinton Presidential Center.

American Eagle Communities walked away from its housing privatization contract to build or rehabilitate more than 1,000 units at the base in May of 2007, just as Schatz was taking command.

Now, just before he leaves, a new and highly respected team of builders and managers—Hunt-Pinnacle LLC has bought out the contract and begun cleaning up behind American Eagle and preparing to restart construction.

“We did a lot behind the scenes,” he said.

Calling the C-130 “my first love,” Schatz said it was a treat for a general officer to fly once a week and he would miss that.

Schatz said that he and other base personnel have worked to make local schools better. Disappointed by the Pulaski County Special School District offerings at Jacksonville, the general’s two sons attend private schools here, although they will return to public schools when he moves to Fairfax County outside Washington.

“The public schools in Arkansas don’t perform that well,” he said and the base wanted to do what it could to improve that.
Under his command, a group commander was assigned in the short term to each of the four PCSSD schools that children of those in base housing attend to help facilitate volunteers.

Longer range, personnel and the brass have worked with the school board and principals, even hosting a meeting of the school board.

He has been supportive of an independent Jacksonville School District.

“We want people to want to fight to come here for the good schools,” he said.

TOP STORY > >Swaim to quit job as mayor

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim, who has held office for 22 years, told the city council Thursday that he would resign.

After his state of the city address, Swaim said that even though he was just midway through his sixth four-year term he would be stepping down July 1.

The resignation announcement was a surprise to almost everyone on the council. Shortly after Swaim dropped his bombshell, Alderman Kenny Elliott announced his candidacy for mayor.

The city will have to hold a special election to replace Swaim. The winner of that election will serve out the remainder of Swaim’s current term, through December 2010, and will then be able to run for reelection.

The council will set the date for the special election at its next council meeting, Feb.5.

Swaim said his family played a major role in his decision. He told the council he missed a lot of his children’s activities while mayor and didn’t want to do the same with his grandchildren.

“It was a hard decision to make, but the right one,” he said. “I’m comfortable with leaving. The city’s in good financial shape and has good employees.”

In looking back, Swaim, who also served on the city council, said he ran for mayor because he wanted to fix the Vertac-dioxin problem that was plaguing the city.

“I was naïve in thinking I could solve it in four years and then get back to my realty business,” the mayor said. “It wasn’t solved until August of my twelfth year.”

The mayor said that the dioxin problem was the biggest issue of his long career. “It determined the future of our community,” Swaim said, “which is looking very bright now.”

The Vertac plant, which shut down when Swaim became mayor in January 1987, was finally cleaned up in 1998 with $150 million from the federal Superfund program, which paid for the destruction of thousands of contaminated barrels at the old chemical plant.

Swaim called himself an infrastructure person and said he was most satisfied when something was completed that was good for the city. He cites, with satisfaction, a new city hall, a new community center, the new library and the fact that every fire station has been remodeled and expanded.

Construction will soon start on the $14.8 million joint-education center to be built outside the air base with $5 million from the city and the remainder from the Air Force.

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.

Swaim also pushed for a millage increase that helped fund a new library on Main Street.

The library will cost nearly $4 million and will open on Feb. 14.

Alderman Elliott, the first to announce for mayor, has been on the city council for 12 years. He is coordinator of energy management for the Pulaski County Special School District, where he has worked for 26 years.

Previously he worked for Bond Consulting Engineers in Jacksonville.

SPORTS>>Jackrabbits drop third in last four

Leader sportswriter

A difficult first half resulted in Lonoke’s third 2-4A Conference loss on Tuesday at Marianna. The Trojans outscored Lonoke 23-10 in the second period on their way to a 63-61 win.

Senior guard Clarence Harris picked up his second personal foul with two minutes left in the opening period, and played sparingly for the rest of the half. That, combined with a number of turnovers and rushed shots, let the game get away from the defending 4A state champions.

“Honestly, there were two major factors against us in that game,” said Lonoke coach Wes Swift. “The first one was that we did a poor job defensively of transitioning from our press to our half-court defense, and the second was that we settled for too many three-point shots in the second half.”

Michael Howard led the Jackrabbits with 19 points, with 15 points from Harris. Post man Pierre Smith added 14 points.
Marianna had four players finish with 13 points or better. Lonoke fell to 1-2 in the 2-4A Conference with the loss.

It was the third loss in the last four games for Lonoke. Swift said the past two weeks has seen his team somewhat going through the motions, and possibly looking too far ahead.

“We didn’t even practice yesterday, we just talked,” he said. “We had two writing assignments. We have six seniors, and they’re not used to doing anything but winning. When you come off a big championship season like what we had last year, you can fall into a trap. You can get to thinking of games this time of year as not that big, but you can develop bad habits in that time.”

With a red hot 4-1 Heber Springs team visiting last night for a game played after Leader deadlines, Swift hoped he had gotten his point across.

“What’s happening to us is kind of like what’s happening to (North Carolina University) on a smaller scale,” Swift said. “They’ve almost been bored with everything, we haven’t practiced well in the last couple of weeks. But I thought the meeting was productive. I told them that our success doesn’t depend on someone voting on whether or not we’re good enough to get in, we still have to play our way in.”


The Lady Jackrabbits wasted little time disposing of Marianna on Tuesday. They took a 48-12 lead at intermission and never looked back, led by a 21-point performance by Cara Neighbors. Junior guard Ashley Himstedt added 20 points for Lonoke.

The Lady Jackrabbits improved to 12-4 overall and 3-1 in the 2-4A Conference.

SPORTS>>Bohannon steps down as Falcons head coach

Leader sports editor

After seven seasons as head coach at North Pulaski High, Tony Bohannon is calling it quits.

The Falcons concluded their second consecutive 1-9 campaign, losing their final nine games of the season. From 2004 through 2007, the Falcons endured a 32-game losing streak. Bohannon compiled a 5-65 record at the school.

Bohan-non did not say whether his resignation was requested, only that “there is always pressure.” He will remain as athletic director, a position he has held for the past three seasons.

“I’ll also still be the ninth-grade football coach,” Bohannon said. “We’re just going to approach (the varsity) program from a different angle and see if we can make it work.”

Bohannon said the position had not been officially opened up as of Friday morning and was unwilling to speculate as to whether any current assistant coaches would be considered for the job.

“All of that will be handled by Tracy Allen, our principal,” he said. “He’ll make the move and that’s going to be up to them. I probably won’t be in on it, but I’m a team player and I take my role as AD very seriously. I’m for what’s in the best interest of the athletes.”

With eight starters back on both defense and offense, prospects for a multiple-win season were higher than ever, but injuries cut short the Falcons’ hopes. North Pulaski opened with a 21-15 win over Searcy and was competitive in three other games but failed to win another.

“When you have 15 or 16 starters get hurt, and you lose (running back Darius Cage) for half the season, it makes it kind of hard,” Bohannon said. “And we didn’t have a lot of depth to begin with. But I have no regrets. I’m not giving up on this program. We’re going to get the best in here we can get.”

Before taking over at North Pulaski, Bohannon was an assistant coach at Mills.

SPORTS>>Panthers bounce back, even record

Leader sports editor

It appears Jerry Bridges just might have got through to his team after a helter-skelter effort in a loss to Conway last Friday night.

The Cabot coach re-emphasized teamwork and patience after watching his Panthers get caught up in a run-and-gun game with the Wampus Cats on their way to a 14-point loss.

On Tuesday night, Cabot dished out 14 assists on 19 field goals in a fairly easy 54-38 victory over defending 7A state champion Little Rock Catholic at Panther Pavilion, improving to 11-5 overall, 1-1 in 7A Central play.

Leading scorer Adam Sterrenberg clearly heard his coach’s pleas, handing out six assists while scoring only four points.

“We’ve just got to not shoot as quick as we have been, especially when you’re not shooting well,” Bridges said. “I thought we did a good job of executing. To be up10 at half with Adam Sterrenberg not scoring, that’s a good thing. We’ve got to get people involved and show patience.

“I talked to Adam (on Tuesday) about his role. Some nights it’s going to be about him getting 25 points and some nights it’s going to be about him getting his teammates the ball. And I thought he did that tonight. He’s a great scorer. I thought his shot selection was very good tonight.”

Austin Johnson was the beneficiary of many of those feeds, though the way he was lighting it up on Tuesday, he didn’t require much help. Johnson knocked down six three-pointers on his way to 24 points.

“I hope that gives Austin a whole lot of confidence because we need him,” Bridges said. “Austin’s capable of being a fine ball player if he focuses. That past couple of games, he’s been very focused.”

Catholic (3-6, 1-1) lost three starters off last year’s championship club and the lack of scoring punch showed. The Rockets trailed 22-12 at the half after making only 6 of 21 shots. But even though the Panthers began the second half with Sterrenberg’s first basket of the game and Johnson’s fifth three-pointer to open up a 15-point lead, they could not shake the Rockets.

The inside combo of Michael Drake and Garrett Ukeman kept Catholic close. Ukeman’s rebound bucket and free throw late in the third drew Catholic to within eight points. But Johnson banked in a three as time expired in the third period and launched a 14-2 run that put the game away. Johnson also hit a buzzer-beating three to end the half.

Sterrenberg, the All-State scoring machine who committed to Arkansas State last year, went scoreless in the first half. In fact, only two Panthers scored before intermission. Johnson had 14, while reserve guard Alex Baker added eight and finished with 10.

“Alex has a great midrange game,” Bridges said. “I nicknamed him ‘The Microwave’ last summer because he can come off the bench and do what he did tonight. I try to work him and Jack (Bridges) together and I want to get around 14 points combined from them. I think that’s what they did tonight and they haven’t been the past couple of games.”

It was tough going inside for post man Miles Monroe against Ukeman and Drake, but the Panthers got him the ball and that helped open up the perimeter. Though the Panthers took 16 three-pointers out of 40 overall attempts, Bridges was not complaining.

“Miles might not have had a big scoring night but our objective was to get the big men some touches,” Bridges said. “The perimeter shooting is at a much higher percentage when the ball is getting kicked out from the post and I thought Miles made some good passes tonight.”

Perhaps nothing better demonstrated Bridges’ strategy than when Monroe got the ball on the blocks, drew a double team and bounce passed to a wide open Baker for a 12-foot bucket late in the first period. Monroe finished with nine points, five rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocks.

Gary Clark didn’t score but pulled down five rebounds and grabbed a pair of steals. Jack Bridges had five points and two assists.

Cabot’s patience also paid dividends in another area as the Panthers committed only 11 turnovers, while forcing 18 by the Rockets. Cabot made 19 of 40 shots, 7 of 16 from deep. The Rockets connected on 15 of 36, but made only 1 of 7 three-pointers. The Rockets out-rebounded Cabot 29-22.

“I didn’t expect this, I’ll be honest with you,” Bridges said of the easy win. “I’ll take any win I can get in the 7A Central. But I thought it would be a grudge match to the very last second.”

SPORTS>>Cabot girls light it up against Belles

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers have run the gamut this season from scoring 28 points against Lake Hamilton and 27 against Vilonia and missing just about everything they throw up to looking as efficient offensively as anyone in the state.

Tuesday night at the Panther Pavilion was one of those good nights. The Lady Panthers made over 60 percent of their shots and got a monster game from Jenna Bailey in rolling to a 69-62 win over Mt. St. Mary in an entertaining, well-played game.

Bailey scored 19 points, dished out five assists and grabbed five of Cabot’s 18 steals as the Lady Panthers improved to 2-0 in the 7A Central Conference.

“I’d like to think we could play that way every night,” said head coach Carla Crowder. “But we’ve really only had a couple of bad games this year. This is a very unselfish team.”

The Lady Panthers (12-3 overall) dished out 17 assists, which was a large part of the reason they knocked down 28 of 45 shots. Still, with the Belles (6-9, 0-2) lighting it up on the other end, Cabot couldn’t put this one away until the final minute when Bailey got a bucket and a free throw off an acrobatic baseline drive to end MSM’s 12-0 run and give the Lady Panthers a 66-59 lead with 42 seconds left.

Cabot won despite five three-pointers and 19 points by Courtney Wharton and 20 points by Debbie Onukwube. In additionto Bailey’s big night, Cabot got 17 points and seven rebounds from UALR signee Shelby Ashcraft, 10 points, four assists and four steals from Amber Rock and nine points, five rebounds and four blocks from Sara Moore.

Fresh off its big road win at defending state champion Conway on Friday, Cabot came out firing on Tuesday, hitting 8 of its first 11 shots but leading by only one when Onukwube scored 10 first-quarter points. The Lady Panthers continued their torrid shooting in the second period, but MSM matched them, and when Wharton hit back-to-back three-pointers late in the half, the Belles led by three.

Stephanie Glover, who grabbed 10 rebounds and three steals and dished out five assists, hit an 8-footer along the baseline to cut the lead to one. It appeared the Lady Panthers would take a two-point lead into the locker room when Bailey hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer. But the officials gathered right before the start of the second half and ruled it came after time had expired and Cabot trailed 36-35 heading into the third period.

Cabot took the lead for good on Bailey’s free throw with 6:57 left in the third to begin a 20-5 run that propelled the Lady Panthers to a 55-41 lead with 1:06 left in the quarter. Bailey’s dish to Moore for a bucket gave Cabot a 12-point cushion heading into the final period.

Things seemed well in hand after Bailey hit a pair of free throws and Rock delivered a pass to Bailey for a lay-up that pushed the lead to 63-47 with 5:50 left in the game. But 12 straight MSM points got the Belles back into it. Onukwube’s lay-up with 1:18 whittled the Cabot lead down to a precarious four points.

Bailey slipped along the left baseline, but somehow got a floater up that came down through the net while she was being fouled.

“We expect that from Jenna,” Crowder said. “She’s a senior.”

Bailey’s free throw made it 66-59 and Lindsay Hoggatt’s two free throws with 27 seconds sealed it.

Cabot forced 23 MSM turnovers on 18 steals. The Belles cooled down in the second half but still made 24 of 50 overall, 8 of 18 from beyond the arc.

“People are going to look at the score and think there wasn’t much defense being played,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “You saw it and you know that isn’t true.”

SPORTS>> Falcons rally past Beebe

Leader sportswriter

Beebe’s seven-game home winning streak came to an end at the hands of 5A-Southeast Conference rival North Pulaski on Tuesday. The Falcons survived a first half of slow-it-down basketball, and shut down Beebe senior Zach Kersey in the second half on their way to capturing a 66-49 win.

The Badgers (9-4, 1-1) kept the game low tempo in the first half, and went on a 9-0 run to end the second quarter for a 19-16 lead at intermission. North Pulaski (11-5, 2-0) responded in the second half with its depth and more backcourt defensive pressure.

That pressure resulted in 11 second-half turnovers by Beebe, after only five giveaways in the first half. The Falcons hung on to the ball consistently all night, with only six turnovers for the game.

“They actually stuck to the game plan in the second half,” said North Pulaski coach Ray Cooper. “We had a pitiful practice yesterday and I kept telling them that (Beebe) is a good team. This is a team that on any given night can beat anybody.

“Tonight, we played exceptionally well in the second half. The other team is better than the score, and those guys fought all the way down to the end. Our guys went in the second half and took care of the basketball, went back to the game plan, and we defended a lot better.”

Junior Kyron Ware scored only threepoints in the first half, but turned up the heat in the second half for 12 of his 15 points.

That included a pair of dunks in the third quarter, one of which came on a steal and coast-to-coast trip just before the buzzer.

That gave the Falcons a 39-31 lead to start the final period. Ware helped extend that lead in the fourth with two straight putback baskets that took the margin to 50-33 by the 6:08 mark. “In the full court, he’s as good as anybody,” Cooper said of Ware. “Because he can fly. He can run, he can jump, he can finish. Get him in that kind of game, and it really allows him to show his talents. He got to do a little bit of that, and he got out and made some plays for us.”

Ware went on to lead the Falcons in scoring, followed by Daquan Bryant, who had 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals to go along with his 13 points.

The Badgers could have used a little more Kersey in the second half, but added pressure from North Pulaski limited him to only one second-half field goal. Kersey was able to get to the line, where he made all seven of his free throw attempts.

Point guard Will Scott picked up the slack for Beebe in the second half, scoring 16 of his game-high 21 points. Kersey ended up with 17 points for the game, but only two other Badgers found their way on the scoreboard. Donte Myles finished with six points and Brandon Purcell had four.

The slow pace set by the Badgers in the first half gave North Pulaski fits. The score was only 7-7 at the end of the first quarter, and the Falcons managed only nine more points in the next period.

“They’re good at it,” Cooper said. “That’s what I tried to tell them. If we’re going to allow them to dictate to us what’s going on, then we’re playing right into their hands, and if you’re playing another guy’s game, they’re probably better at it than you are.”

Rebounding ended up a major factor, with the Falcons winning the glass battle handily 34-17. North Pulaski also took advantage of 13 steals, including four by point guard Joe Agee.

Aaron Cooper finished with 13 points for the Falcons, including 5 of 5 at the foul line. T.J. Green added seven points, with six each for Breylon Henderson and Jerald Blair.


The Lady Falcons went from the high of winning their first game of the year against Mills four days earlier to the low of suffering a mercy-ruled trouncing at the hands of the Lady Badgers.

Ty O’Neill and Genishia Edwards had their way with the NP offense in the first half. O’Neill scored 11 of her game-high 13 points during that time, while Edwards had 9 of her 11.

North Pulaski (1-8, 1-1 in the 5A Southeast) struggled from the floor all night. A basket by point guard Haley Hudson were the Lady Falcons’ only first-quarter points, and they went scoreless against the Beebe subs in the fourth quarter. Bianca Harper led North Pulaski with seven points.

“We executed our game plan pretty well,” said Lady Badgers coach Lora Jackson. “Yesterday and today, we talked about trying to get some transition-type baskets. We blocked out well and executed our offense. We trapped and got some steals out of it, which we haven’t been doing as well. The free-throw line was probably the poorest thing we had tonight.”

The Lady Badgers (6-9, 2-0) went 8 of 23 at the stripe, 3 of 9 in the first half. They forced 28 turnovers by North Pulaski, 19 of them with steals. O’Neill led with six picks, with three more by sophomore Amanda Wheeler.

Beebe went with subs for most of the second half. Junior Ashley Harris led that group with five points, all of which came in the fourth quarter.

North Pulaski played at Crossett last night, and will host Sylvan Hills on Tuesday. Beebe played at Monticello last night, and will host Little Rock McClellan on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

TOP STORY > > Knight’s is business of the year

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Chamber of Commerce honored businesses and individual members who help make the city what it is today during the annual chamber membership meeting and banquet held Friday at the high school cafeteria.
Knight’s Super Foods was honored with the chamber’s first business of the year award. This year is the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Cabot chamber.
“It is a great honor for my family. We try so hard. I wish my dad (Warren) and Bill Greer were here. It is an endorsement. I hope to be as good as them, and this shows I am on my way,” CEO Kent Knight said.
“Our leader taught us well,” he said, referring to his late father, who founded the company with his wife Sandra.
“My husband would be so proud,” Sandra Knight said.
Keith Knight added, “We can’t do it ourselves. It takes all of our employees. This award proves 38 years in business.”
Knight’s grocery store was nominated for giving back to the community. Whenever there is a community or chamber function, Knight’s is always one of the first businesses to donate food or money to help sponsor events.
Also nominated for the business of the year award were Community Bank and Kroger.
Pastor Mark Eisold was recognized as the chamber member of the year. Eisold leads the congregation of Our Savior Lutheran Church. Eisold helped recruit many volunteers for various chamber events and for Cabotfest.
Eishold said, “It is a great blessing to be nominated.”
“I am blessed by my God, by my wife and family and by this community, which in itself is a family,” Eisold said after receiving the award.
“Every day I get to do what I love to — serve God, meet new people and care for those who are entrusted in my care,” he said.
Also nominated were Rhonda House, Bill O’Brien and Don Wilkins.
The winners were selected by an independent panel of judges in Houston, Texas.
The chamber presented a special appreciation gift to Bill O’Brien for the support he provides to the chamber and to Cabotfest. O’Brien received a one night stay and dinner at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock.
Chamber president Patrick J. Hagge reflected on 2008. He said in the past year, Cabot had 44 ribbon-cutting ceremonies. The chamber had 350 members and welcomed 71 new members.
During the chamber banquet Hagge passed the leadership helm to John C. Thompson, the incoming chamber president.
“Cabot has a lot to offer, it’s a tremendous place to live. Cabot is going to continue to grow,” Thompson said.
In addition to Thompson, other incoming members of the Cabot chamber board of directors are: Amy Ross, president-elect; Corey Williams, vice president; Kenneth James, treasurer; and board members J.D. Buffalo, Jerry Davenport, Don Wilkins, Pastor Eisold, Wayne Cullins, Teresa Craig, Fayon Haynes and Patrick Sinclair.
When the chamber formed in 1959, the first president was Conway T. Carrigan and Jack Lowman was vice president.
This year’s chamber of commerce banquet did not have a special guest speaker. Instead the banquet had a “Showcase of Cabot Youth.” High school fine art students provided the entertainment for the night.
The Forensic Readers Theater gave an amusing presentation about Cabot.
Students involved with the musical theater program demonstrated their singing ability and the dance students showed their moves in dance numbers under the direction of Ashley Tarvin, musical theater dance choreographer and instructor.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

TOP STORY > > Judge retires after 18 years

Leader staff writer

Two weeks into his retirement, Lonoke Circuit Judge Lance Han-shaw is taking it easy.
So far his activities have included taking his granddaughter to the airport for her trip back to college, making plans for drinking coffee with his friends and considering the honey-do list his wife is drafting, but real work could be in his not too distant future.
State law prohibits Hanshaw him from holding office since he turned 70 in October, but he could be on the bench again since he is on the list to serve as a special judge much like retired teachers work as substitutes.
“The good thing about being a special judge is that you can take cases or you can turn them down. You can travel around the state or you can hear cases locally,” Hanshaw said.
When he will be called is not known because 17 judges retired in Arkansas in 2008 and some of them will join the other retirees who serve as special judges when they are called.
Hanshaw said many are like him; they retired at 70 because staying on the bench would mean the loss of their retirement.
Hanshaw, who served 18 years as the Division 1 circuit judge in the 23rd Judicial District, announced his retirement in November 2007 to give prospective candidates time to decide if they wanted to run.
Barbara Elmore, who was appointed in July 2007 to the bench of the newly created Division 3, was the Division 1 winner over Deputy Prosecutor Chuck Graham. Phillip Whiteaker retained his Division 2 position with a win over Prosecutor Lona McCastlain. Hanshaw’s son-in-law, Sandy Huckabee, ran unopposed and took Elmore’s Division 3 position.
Admitted to the bar in 1962, Hanshaw clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlton Harris prior to joining the Air Force as an attorney in the judge advocate general’s office.
He also served in the Arkansas attorney general’s office before entering private law practice in Little Rock in 1968.
Elected Lonoke County circuit judge in 1990, Hanshaw had previously served as district judge in Cabot, Austin, Ward and Lonoke for a total of 12 years and has had a private law practice in Cabot since 1977.
While on the bench, he was named Outstanding Arkansas Trial Judge of the Year.
Hanshaw has had high-profile cases. His first jury trial was for the murder of Cabot High School student Rodney Spence, who was his son’s friend.
He also presided over the sentencing of the infamous child rapist Jack Walls III, the son of a circuit judge. But he said the cases involving children were the ones he often couldn’t stop thinking about at the end of the day.
“You’re always concerned about how the children are doing,” he said.
Hanshaw said most children he has tried to help have never contacted him, but a few have. Over the years he has received letters from some thanking him for placing them in better homes and some have even sent him pictures of their children.
Every case has some impact on a judge, Hanshaw said, and he admits, “I wasn’t ready to retire. I still had a lot of good work left in me, but it does open the door for younger people.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

EDITORIAL >>Legislature in session

Governor Beebe took office two years ago with a reputation for wizardry in the legislative process developed over two decades in the state Senate. Nothing has happened to sully the reputation, the governor having gotten every last thing from the legislators that he asked for, including a big tax cut and an even bigger tax increase, the first serious tax on natural gas production in the state’s history.

But those were good times. Let’s see his legerdemain when the economy is in the ditch, revenues are shrinking and the demand for government help is going in the opposite direction. How will he get wary lawmakers to broaden the opportunities for Arkansas people in such a climate? We all tend to be summer soldiers in such times.

Beebe’s state-of-the-state address, delivered yesterday on the General Assembly’s second day, sounded like the expansive programs that Dale Bumpers and Bill Clinton used to outline, and largely achieve, 25 and 35 years ago. He proposes to give the public schools another shot to propel them toward the adequate and equal education that the Constitution mandates and that the legislature and the governor were forced by the courts to recognize. He wants to sharply increase the availability of college scholarships to the needy and the patently gifted. He wants to mend the health-care safety net in half-a-dozen ways, all costly and all worthy. He wants another $50 million to bribe industries into locating in Arkansas instead of another state with a slush fund. And he wants to cut the sales tax on groceries still another penny on the dollar, which will trim the revenues available for all those programs by another $40 million a year or so. A few practical lawmakers don’t think you should or can do both, but Beebe says he promised the tax cut in 2006 so he’s going to see it done. We will put our money on his doing it.

Anyone who can’t pass a tax cut is toothless indeed.

All of that sounds more insurmountable than it is. The increased school aid is relatively small and the state’s conservative budgeting will permit it. The lottery, which the voters approved in November and which the legislature will implement, will provide $25 million to $60 million a year starting in 2010 to enlarge college aid (the lottery sponsors insist that it will be at least $100 million and probably more, but we’re dubious).

The ambitious health program is the rub. Current taxes are not apt to support any of the expansion unless President-elect Obama performs a miracle with the American economy. Beebe wants to establish a statewide trauma-care system. Arkansas is nearly alone among the states in not providing a reliable 24-hour network of emergency medical treatment, and hundreds of Arkansans die needlessly every year as a result. He also would expand the ArKids First medical care program for uninsured children, a program that he authored as a state senator in 1997, by raising the income eligibility of families 200 percent to 250 percent of the federal poverty line. He would intensify cancer research, expand community mental health centers and begin a residency program for medical students in northwest Arkansas.

To pay for all those services he proposes raising the excise tax on cigarettes by 56 cents, which would almost double the state levy on a pack of smokes, and also raise the impost on smokeless tobacco. Raising those taxes will test the governor’s celebrated abilities to corral lawmakers behind his program because the taxes will require a three-fourths vote in each house.

As few as nine legislators out of 100 can block the legislation, if they all happen to be in the Senate. The tobacco lobby, always potent, is gearing up to fight the taxes. A few border-state legislators, particularly those near Missouri and Tennessee, will find the taxes hard to vote for because their merchants will claim that the tax will chase customers across the state line. A sizable contingent of lawmakers, mostly Republican, ran on no-tax pledges.

That tax may prove beyond the governor’s abilities, which would be too bad. As part of our encyclopedic services, we offer a solution. Rather than an excise tax on the volume of cigarettes, like 56 cents a package, convert it to a sales tax, which is a percentage of the retail value. That way, it triggers a different constitutional threshold. A simple majority would pass the bill. A leader of lesser ability than Beebe could do that.

The governor lamentably did not mention another great need that we hope he embraces. Arkansas is one of the few states without a trust fund to create affordable housing for low-income families, and no state needs one more. That could be done with a small increase in the fee on real-estate transfers. Perhaps that will be his encore if he achieves the health-care programs.

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville has a glut of apartments

Leader staff writer

Plans for rental developments are starting to fall on deaf ears at the Jacksonville Planning Commission.

The commission approved only one of two rezoning requests it heard Monday night.

“If it can’t be said that it’s doing something good for Jacksonville, I’m going to start denying the requests,” said Commissioner John Herbold as the first rental idea was being discussed.

Herbold took a few minutes to talk about the current rental glut in the city. “Across the United States, 34.8 percent of homes and apartments are rentals,” the commissioner said. “In Arkansas the average is 27.2 percent, but in Jacksonville it’s 52.7 percent. That’s quite high.”

Herbold said a lot of people say the high number is because of the air base. “If you take out base housing and exclude all the base people who live in Jacksonville, we are still at 45.6 percent. I can’t get it lower but I can try to keep it from getting higher.”

With that said, Herbold agreed that plans for a 21-unit senior housing complex on “the old Gwatney” property on James Street across from Second Baptist Church was positive for the city. “This fits and I’ll vote for it.”

But a second project, duplexes in the Meadows subdivision off South Hwy. 161, was turned down.

“I don’t see what this provides for Jacksonville that Jacksonville doesn’t already have,” Herbold said, as he and the rest of the commissioners said no to the necessary rezoning for the project.

For the first rental project, the commissioners approved rezoning the acreage from R-0 (single-family homes) to R-3 (multi-family). The land is owned by the church but will be developed by Dickie Penn.

Plans call for 21 closely placed two-bedroom, 850-square-foot homes to be built, along with a clubhouse, on 2.69 acres. The complex will be open to those age 55 and older. Commissioners approved the rezoning dispute despite some citizen concerns over falling property values, traffic and drainage.

The commission will consider approving another senior complex at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 26.

The developer of this senior citizen facility near Military and Loop roads is seeking state and federal grants and tax credits and needs approval before Feb. 1 to comply with deadlines.

At the same meeting, the commissioners will also consider granting conditional use to the owners of a proposed daycare center on South First Street next to the Eubanks Veterinary Clinc.

Tammy Topkins and B.J. Burroughs, who own all 111 lots of the Meadows subdivision, had requested that 30 of the back lots near the railroad tracks be rezoned for duplexes. Burroughs said the duplexes would act as a buffer between the tracks and the single-family home lots.

The entire subdivision was approved last year for single-family residences and all the utilities went in with that in mind. City Planner Chip McCully said numerous borings under the street would have to be made to run water lines to the additional structures.
Tompkins, defending the duplex plans, told the commissioners that she works in real estate and is constantly getting calls for rentals. “Your numbers may be high, but we still need rentals,” she explained.

When it was clear that the project was not going to pass, Tompkins suggested that she and Burroughs would sell the individual sides of the duplexes rather than rent them if that would help.

But City Attorney Robert Bamburg said that the requested R-3 rezoning was for rentals and to build and sell the duplexes as if they were townhomes or condominiums would require an R-4 rezoning.

In other commission business, com-missioners approved a conditional- use request by Greg Bradley to build a vehicle-storage facility at 8315 Hwy. 161 for his wrecker business. Bradley said the stored cars would be hidden by a six-foot privacy fence.

Commissioners also approved the preliminary plats for Northlake Gardens, a cul de sac of garden or patio homes, and Northlake subdivision, Phase XIII.

TOP STORY > >Fire chief search is down to three

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood Fire Board plans to interview three applicants for the position of full-time fire chief for the Sherwood Fire Department at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the fire station on Lantrip Road..

The five-member board’s decision to go from a part-time position to full time and to not include the current chief in its final list has stirred controversy.

“I’m getting letters calling me and the rest of the board members idiots,” said Tom Brooks, who has been on the board for three years and seems to be spearheading the change. “And I’ve also gotten letters that support us and being belligerent toward the mayor and Alderman Sulcer.”

Mayor Virginia Hillman, along with Aldermen Sheila Sulcer and Butch Davis, have been vocally concerned over the board’s decisions, feeling that the city should have some input in the chief’s selection.

The Fire Department, which does encompass all of Sherwood, is not a municipal fire department but a fire protection district department under the control of the county judge and the five-member board.

The board members are appointed by the judge without any city input.

The board received eight resumes, including one from Frank Hill, the current fire chief and a 27-year veteran of the department.

In a meeting earlier this month, the board narrowed down the field of applicants to three: Andy Traffanstedt, the Gravel Ridge fire chief and parttime captain with the Sherwood Fire Department; Phillip Flynn, full-time lieutenant and supervisor for the Sherwood Fire Department, and David Teague, a battalion chief with the Memphis Fire Department.

Brooks said that when the commissioner meet Thursday, the panel will go into executive session.

“I expect we’ll spend at least 30 minutes interviewing each candidate, and then we’ll come back out to the public forum and make our decision.”

Brooks is hoping to be able to name a new fire chief Thursday night. “I’d also like to have us talk to Frank Hill about what role he might continue to have with the department.”

TOP STORY > >Library ready to move

Leader staff writer

After nearly 40 years, the Esther D. Nixon Library on Main Street in Jacksonville will permanently close its doors today. The library will reopen at its new eco-friendly and high-tech, 13,500-square-foot building at 703 W. Main St. on Saturday, Feb. 14.

Linda Bly, deputy director of Central Arkansas Library System and special projects coordinator, was busy Monday afternoon ensuring that the new building will be ready for opening day. Shelves were being labeled with various category titles, while construction workers tended to a few loose ends.

“It will certainly be one of the finest libraries you’ll find anywhere,” Bly said.

She describes its architec tural style as being modern-classical. The building’s façade is adorned with eight stainless-steel columns that suggest a Greek or Roman influence.

The library’s construction was funded with a 1-mill property tax, private donations, $300,000 from the Central Arkansas Library System and $400,000 of city sales tax revenue.

The funds also helped pay for Splash Zone, the joint-education center and a training facility for the police and firefighters.
The old Nixon Library could not be more different from the new one. The old one has not been remodeled since 1991 and its collection capacity was maxed out decades ago. The new one is spacious, technologically advanced and-architecturally impressive.

A geothermal heating and cooling system, cork flooring, carpeting made of recycled material and ample natural light help make this a state-of-the-art “green” building with a $4 million price tag. It was designed by W.E.R. Architects of Little Rock.

The geothermal system is one of the most impressive aspects of the library. It is comprised of dozens of holes drilled hundreds of feet underneath the building’s foundation. These holes help regulate heating and cooling efficiently, which reduces the library’s need for fossil fuels.

Nixon staff members and library members are excited about the big move, which means transplanting its collection in perfect order into the new building.

The old building is likely to be purchased by its neighbor, First Methodist Church, according to library staff members.

The new library will likely become Main Street’s finest building and the city’s pinnacle achievement, and perhaps even lead to a hoped-for, widespread revitalization of downtown.

The old library opened March 17, 1969. It will close just a week before its 40th anniversary, ex-plained Jacksonville head librarian Kathy Seymour.

Seymour has been with the branch since June 2007. She says the new library will be “one of the most beautiful buildings in Jacksonville.”

A New Orleans native, Sey-mour’s enthusiasm and optimism about the move is clear. In her Cajun accent, she described invaluable funds provided by generous civic organizations like the Ladies Auxiliary Club of Jacksonville, which purchased the lighting for the flagpole.

She also was proud of a lifelong patron who before passing away last year requested that donations in her memory be made to the library to provide children’s art programs. So much money was received from the bequest that the children’s art programs are likely to flourish at the new branch.

The library is planning events for its grand opening. On Friday, Feb. 13, the library will host an open house. Books will not be available for checkout, but it will provide the public with an opportunity to tour the facility and meet the staff members and city officials who helped make it possible.

For Jamie Melson, the closing is bittersweet. She began working at Nixon Library in the summer of 1979 after graduating from Jacksonville High School. She was hired by Esther Nixon personally.

Melson became emotional when she recalled Nixon, who was a mentor and friend to her. Melson no longer works at the Nixon Library, but she catalogs new fiction books at CALS’ main branch in downtown Little Rock.

The old library has a lot of history for her and the city.

She credits Nixon as being the city’s pioneering librarian. Nixon founded the first city library at the old city hall in the 1950s.

She worked for the library until her health forced her to retire in the 1980s.

Despite her sentimental attachment to the old library building, she is thrilled about the new building. “I can’t wait for the new branch to open. I’ve been an advocate for a new library for years,” Melson said.

That is a common sentiment in Jacksonville now. They say Feb. 14 can’t come soon enough.

TOP STORY > >Cabot officials plan for 2009

Leader staff writer

Garbage pickup topped the list of priorities set by the Cabot City Council at a biannual workshop on Saturday for incoming aldermen.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams was blunt in his opinion about whether the city should get into the business of operating its own garbage collection.

“Personally, I say no. We don’t really want to be in the garbage business – it’s a headache,” Williams told aldermen and other city officials at the biannual orientation and goal-setting session.

City officials had entertained the idea of buying a truck and gearing up taking on the job when the current contract with a private company expires in July.

But since proposals from contractors came in a few weeks ago with a monthly per-customer charge almost $2 under the current $16.45 charge, thinking has shifted back to leaving that in the hands of a private company. Lower rates also look like an opportunity to pay for some things the city needs.

“We have some really good proposals from professional people,” Alderman Eddie Long said. “This is a good opportunity to help the community, not increase rates, and have a little to bank back, to build a fire station, buy a fire truck.”

By letting a contractor collect trash and yard waste, rather than the city taking on the financial risk of buying a truck and equipment and starting a new department, the saved fees could mean a windfall for the city of about $175,000 annually.

“We could bank that money every month,” Williams suggested.

Other goals identified by aldermen included setting policy to tap local liquor sales at clubs and restaurants, renovations to the police dispatch room, more sidewalks, signage cleanup, better parks, a new fire station, and marketing of the city.

A new fire station can’t be built right away. The money just is not there. It will cost $500,000 to construct a new station house, and then an additional $750,000 a year to operate it. With bond money not in reach, the “simplest and cleanest way” would be to find a private contractor to build and lease the building to the city, Williams said. In 15 years, under a lease-to-buy agreement, the station would belong to the city.

New Alderman Ann Gilliam suggested that the city look into sidewalk improvements and making sure they comply with federal regulations. She said that a new baseball complex should be a future ambition, having had that brought to her attention by a few voters during her campaign.

Lisa Brickwell, who is returning for a second term, advised that the council get cracking on passing a policy to get a share of liquor sales now that local restaurants are getting in the business of serving alcohol.

The first year or two, the city’s take from liquor sales revenues at Fat Daddy’s and Kopan’s might amount to only $5,000, Williams said, but now’s the time to put a law on the books, with other establishments lining up for permits.

“Rubberstamping is likely,” Long opined.
Making police dispatchers’ jobs a little easier would be one certain outcome if the police dispatchers had their workspace expanded and reconfigured, all agreed. The way it is now, “in the police locker room, computers are in there, and lockers are stacked on each other; you can’t change your mind, much less your clothes in any privacy,” Williams said.

The dispatch room currently is where all the action is between police and the public. If the area were enlarged into existing space, there could be a wall between the outer office and the dispatch room, so dispatchers could have some quiet.

Thoughts of a new sports complex, water park, and walking trails were bantered about, but not likely something the city will launch into anytime soon.

“It would cost millions to do that,” Williams noted.

But it doesn’t hurt to dream or plan. To that end, the city paid consulting firm Jacobs Carter Burgess to gather input from
Cabot citizens about what they want in the way of parks. A report of the firm’s findings is expected soon.

A water park like Jacksonville’s Splash Zone, “could eventually be very effective for kids,” commented new Alderman Jon Moore.

The council will also grapple with the best way to market Cabot as a place to live, work and shop – whether to hire a marketing firm or keep promotion of the city an in-house endeavor.

Mayor Williams pronounced the session a huge improvement over a similar one two years ago, when he took office. At the time, an $800,000 debt, a myriad of worrisome traffic snarls, and a dysfunctional city administration cried for attention and stressed relationships among city officials.

Pressing needs were so numerous that when Williams invited aldermen at the 2007 workshop to air concerns, their ideas filled eight poster-sized sheets of paper.

This time around, when Williams opened up the discussion saying, “If you’ve got something on your mind, it doesn’t matter how trivial,” aldermen’s concerns filled only one sheet.

Reflecting on the last two years, Williams was heartened by progress the city has made. With the help of state road engineers and federal highway dollars, many of the street-design bottlenecks have been corrected. A $2 million surplus has replaced the debt.

New personnel policies and more transparency in city government promise a more efficiently run administration, Williams observed.

Williams wants the elected officials and city employees to continue on the new course set two years ago, when stronger teamwork was imperative to getting on top of problems.

“It was either we fly in formation or we crack in formation,” Williams said.

TOP STORY > >Legislators set agenda

Leader senior staff writer

Freshly minted state legislators and grizzled veterans interrupted Gov. Mike Beebe’s state of the state address with applause 30 times Tuesday in the House chamber as he laid out an ambitious plan to move Arkansas forward.

In a speech that lasted 53 minutes, Beebe laid out his vision to provide scholarships for students of every description at schools of all kinds; to greatly expand the scope and reach of health care, including a state-wide trauma system and in-home health care; to create a more skilled work force, and to expand the reach of human and child services.

He asked for a 56-cent a pack increase in cigarette taxes to fur ther fund health care, a $50 million fund to help attract new or expanding businesses and a rainy-day fund, all despite a troubled economy. On top of that, the governor said he wanted another penny taken off the remaining 2.87 percent sales tax on groceries.

Here’s what local lawmakers thought of the governor’s speech and proposals:

“I think it rates at the top of all those (state of the state speeches) I’ve heard,” said state Sen. John Paul Capps, D-Searcy, who has been listening to them since his first term during Gov. Orville Faubus’ administration.

“Some use soaring rhetoric, like Clinton, Bumpers and Huckabee,” said Capps. “This was a very eloquent speech, as good as any I’ve heard.”

He called it pragmatic, realistic and it addressed a keen vision.

“It wasn’t a pie-in-the-sky speech,” he said. “It’s obtainable, doable even in a recession, and it focuses on the needs of this state.”

Capps said the speech held no surprises for him, but it did address some things in more detail.

“He delivered it in a deliberate and forceful fashion and it was well-received,” he said.

“There are certain things we have to have in Arkansas and a good trauma network is absolutely necessary,” he said.

Capps, long interested in state roads and highways, said he was disappointed the governor didn’t include any transportation issues, but said with the proposed Obama stimulus package, help could still be on the way.

“He’s hoping we’ll get a pretty good basket of money,” Capps said.

“It’s the most comprehensive state of the state speech I’ve heard,” said a long-time Beebe friend, state Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle. “He wants to changes lives in Arkansas. He has the opportunity to be one of the greatest governors we’ve ever had.”

He had 10 or 15 standing ovations on everything he covered.

“He’s laid the plan out there, it’s just a matter of us going forth and doing it,” Glover said. “He says revenues are there to cover everything.”

“You couldn’t come up with a better thought-through plan than the one he presented.”

Glover, who is handling the grocery sales tax cut bill for the governor, says he’s already got the votes he needs in the Senate.

State Rep. Jane English, R-north Pulaski County, said she liked Beebe’s positive vision for the future.

English, who is particularly interested in economic development, said she supports his quick-acting closing fund.

“I don’t know if I’m all in favor of a tax on cigarettes if the trauma system is for everybody,” the first-term representative said.

English said she thought she’s be able to support most of the governor’s agenda.

Another first termer, Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville, said, “I agree with his vision.” Perry said the governor’s attention to healthcare programs was a good sign. “It’s vital we have programs available for the people who need it,” said Perry, who sells insurance. “We’re still missing some. On senior side, dental insurance is one of biggest problems facing people on Medicare. A lot can’t afford it.”

Perry said he agreed with Beebe that “education and economic development go hand in hand.”

“He had a lot of good things to say,” said state Rep. Davy Carter, R-Cabot. “One issue I have is the raising the tax on cigarettes. I’m looking forward to debating that,” he said.

Carter said the cigarette tax was regressive and that it seemed illogical to try to educate people to stop smoking at the same time you’re taxing them to pay for health programs.

“I hope to see some alternative funding sources that I could support.”

Carter said he generally agrees with the governor’s focus on education and economic development but “the disagreement may be in the details.”

Just about 24 hours on the job, Carter said, “I’m looking forward to working with him and I’m proud to be here.”

“I’ve been so impressed both yesterday and today,” said state Rep. Walls McCrary of Lonoke. “His plan sounded good to me.

I’m impressed and encouraged.”

McCrary said that judging by the response the governor’s speech got, “I think he’ll have very little trouble getting his agenda through.”

McCrary said that everybody is for the trauma center, but it will require the 56-cent per pack tobacco tax, and “some lawmakers may not be 100 percent for that. “

“It’s a good way to raise the money to improve health and life. I don’t see a down side.”

He said the governor’s comments on broadening scholarships was well received.

Of his first day in office, McCrary said, “I thoroughly enjoyed it. It really is humbling, how it affects the lives of so many people.”

Rep. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, said he supported the notion of a statewide trauma system, but he had some concerns about creating a satellite medical school in Northwest Arkansas. Nickels said he’s want to be sure a Fayetteville medical school was not at the expense of the main UAMS medical school in Central Arkansas.

Nickels, a business professor at UALR, said he agreed that education was a top priority and he supported replenishing the governor’s $50 million quick-action closing fund to attract business to Arkansas.

He was less enthusiastic about a large rainy day fund, saying that appropriations were the prerogative of the legislative branch, not the executive branch.

He said that’s even truer with the constitutional amendment approved by voters in November authorizing and requiring annual legislative sessions.

He said he agreed with Beebe’s idea that the state needs to increase its college graduation rate.

He wants Arkansas to be on the right path.

SPORTS>> Allfam to host NCAA bowling tournament this weekend

Leader sportswriter

Allfam Bowling Center will be the site of this weekend’s NCAA Division I Women’s Mid-Winter Invitational Tournament. A total of 22 teams will be on hand, including 2008 national champions Maryland-Eastern Shore and host team Arkansas State, which finished runner-up to MESU in the national tournament last year.

Other schools of local interest will be the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Vanderbilt, Fontbonne University from St. Louis, Mo., and Southern University out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The tournament will start with round-robin bracket play on Friday at 9 a.m., and will go through Sunday. Admission is free.

Allfam owner Bill Allen got the call from ASU when a scheduling conflict arose at their normal host spot in Jonesboro.

“We told them that had never hosted an NCAA tournament, but that we would like to take a look at it,” Allen said. “The main reason is because high-school bowling in Arkansas is in its infancy. If we could bring something like this to central Arkansas, then kids could see that bowling can be more than just a leisure activity.”

Allen estimates around $70,000 will be pumped into the local economy over the three-day tournament, with most of the teams lodging in Jacksonville.
“It should be a shot in the arm for a lot of local businesses,” Allen said. “They will get business that they normally don’t expect to see in January. They’re not going to go home, fix a sandwich and go to bed, they’re going to go out to eat and do other activities.”

ASU bowling coach Chris James and the Lady Red Wolves are expected to hit town tomorrow afternoon to prepare for the big event.

Participants will also receive welcome baskets from Maybelline and the Jacksonville-Cabot chambers of commerce. Additional sponsors for the event are U.S. Foods, First Arkansas Bank, Popitos Restaurant in Jacksonville and the advertising and promotion commission.

SPORTS>> Lady Falcons survive

Leader sportswriter

What once appeared to be a throwaway season for the North Pulaski Lady Falcons is now looking up.

The Lady Falcons suffered through a seven-player roster and seven straight losses to start the season, but added help in theform of three new varsity players came just in time for the start of 5A-Southeast Conference play.
So far, so good.

North Pulaski held on for a 49-48 win over Mills on Friday night at the Falcons’ Nest for their first victory of the season.

“Just the attitude change here the past week has made coaching fun for me,” Lady Falcons coach Todd Romaine said. “And for the girls, I think its made basketball fun for them, which is the most important thing, but I don’t think basketball has been fun for the girls around here for a long time. And I think that this week they found what they needed.

“It’s a long season, and there are a lot of good teams in this conference, but we have high expectations, and hopefully we will keep getting better.”

Bianca Harper’s running jumper with 15 seconds left gave the Lady Falcons a 49-47 lead. Mills missed a chance to tie seconds later, and North Pulaski got it back.

But after being trapped by the Lady Comets’ press, guard Haley Hudson attempted to call time-out. North Pulaski had used all of theirs already and the technical sent Mills to the line with four seconds left and a chance to tie.

Only the front end was made to make it 49-48, and Laura Dortch stole the inbounds pass to seal the win.

“We didn’t hit our free throws,” said Romaine. “We worked on our free-throw shooting all week. Free throws before practice, free throws after practice, free throws during practice, and we just didn’t hit them.

“I’ve never seen us shoot free throws like that. I really don’t think that game should have been that close, not because that team isn’t good, we just didn’t hit our free throws.”

The Lady Falcons ended up 15 of 39 from the foul line, 6 of 15 in the fourth quarter.

Harper’s 18-point, five-rebound and three-steal performance led the way for North Pulaski, along with a double-double performance by post player Rae Robinson, who scored 10 points, and had 11 rebounds.

Taking care of the ball is what paid the biggest dividend for the Lady Falcons down the stretch. They had 13 giveaways to Mills’ 12 in the first half, but cut their turnovers down to only six in the second half, while the Lady Comets went on to commit 27 overall.

New addition Keyera Springs added nine points for North Pulaski, with seven from Dortch, who also had 10 rebounds and three assists. Jazmine Perkins led the way for Mills with 16 points.

Mills led most of the way in the first half, but never by more than four. Frequent turnovers and rushed shot selection for both teams made the first half a dizzying trip back and forth on the floor.

The Lady Comets got their biggest lead of the first half in the final minute on a 10-2 run that set the halftime margin at 36-29.

Robinson’s rebound basket and a pair of free throws finally tied the game late in the third period.

Romaine said it’s not just the added bodies, but also an im-proved outlook that has helped to change the pendulum’s direction.

“This past week, we had all 10 players at practice every day,” Romaine said. “And we worked hard this week. We didn’t play over the holiday, so they were out of sync in the first half. I’m looking forward to this season. I think we have a chance to improve greatly.”

The win improved North Pulaski to 1-7 overall and 1-0 in the 5A Southeast Conference, while the Lady Comets fell to 1-6, 0-1.

The Lady Falcons played at Beebe last night and will be at Crossett on Friday.

SPORTS>> Cabot girls upset Conway on late bucket by Rock

Leader sports editor

CONWAY — Amber Rock hit a short jumper with four seconds left to lift Cabot to a 47-45 conference-opening win over Conway on Friday night. Rock scored the Lady Panthers’ final seven points of the game.

“(Conway) was coming off a loss to North Little Rock so they weren’t in the best of moods,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “We played very well. To beat the defending state champions at their place is big.”

Conway’s big post player N’Dra Robertson was back in action after missing the past month with an injury, but Cabot defenders Rachael Glover and Sara Moore limited her to 11 points, only four after intermission.

Cabot had not played since the Greenbrier tournament in late December, but showed no ill effects from the layoff nor from the 31-point loss to Vilonia in that tourney.

“You’re going to have that happen once or twice a year,” Ruple said. “Friday night was like two heavyweights battling. It wasn’t maybe very pretty, but it was a win.”

Cabot, which improved to 11-3 and 1-0 in league play, got 14 points from Shelby Ashcraft and 13 from Glover, while Rock added seven and Moore six. The Lady Panthers led 27-21 at the half after hitting 55 percent from the field, but Conway rallied to tie the game with a minute to go.

“I think they thought we’d hold it for the last shot, but we were looking for the first good shot,” Ruple said. “Amber drove in and got a good look.”

Cabot returned to 7A-Central action when it hosted Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday in a game played after Leader deadlines.


Cabot’s struggles with 7A Central foe Conway continued on Friday night in a road loss to the Wampus Cats.

The Panthers lost three times to Conway last season, including in the semifinals of the state tournament. Their first loss this season was a heartbreaking two-point setback to the Wampus Cats in the finals of the Searcy Bank Classic when Jack Bridges’ game-winning three rimmed out at the buzzer.

The 14-point margin on Friday doesn’t tell the whole story. After falling behind by 11 points after one period, Cabot whittled the deficit to six by intermission and stayed close to the end. The Panthers were down only four with three-and-a-half minutes remaining.

But that was as close as they’d get. It wasn’t the loss so much as the play of his team that had head coach Jeff Bridges scratching his head on Monday.

“Our shot selection was poor and we just made poor decisions,” said Bridges as his Panthers fell to 10-4. It was Cabot’s first game since Dec. 30. “We had opportunities to cut into their lead. We’ve got to find a way to beat (Conway), but we’re not going to do it running with them.”

Austin Johnson led the way with 24 points, with Adam Sterrenberg adding 19. Post man Miles Monroe had 14, but Bridges thinks his center needs more touches.

“We’ve got to get the ball to the big men more,” Bridges said. “Miles played great out of the gate, but he got a few ticky fouls and had to go to the bench.”

The 80 points the Panthers surrendered is indicative of the need for Cabot to alter its style, Bridges said.

“We’ve got to be more selective in our shot selection; we’ve got to grow from this,” he said. “We’re coming down and shooting way too quickly. We’re not getting to the free-throw line and we’re settling for way too many jump shots. We score 66, we usually win the game.”

But Bridges is hardly panicking, citing last year’s 0-3 start to the conference race before Cabot won 7 of its final 11 to reach postseason for the first time in 31 years.

“We’re still making progress,” he said. “We’ve just got to take our practice to the game floor, trust that your teammates know what they’re doing. We’re not there yet. But I’m not about to give up. There’s still 13 games to go.”

The first of those was last night when Cabot hosted Catholic, the defending 7A state champions, in a game played after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS>> Charity stripe woes sink Red Devils

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils can take a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full approach to their 58-55 loss to Little Rock Hall on Friday night in front of a jam-packed Devil’s Den.

They can look at it like they gave away their 6A-East Conference opener against the defending 6A champion Warriors by missing 17 free throws and turning over the ball 17 times. Or they can look at it as a game they nearly pulled out despite all that.

“You’re 18 out of (35) with 17 turnovers and you lose by three?” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “I mean, come on, man. We just handed one to them.”

Had it not been for the second-half performance by Baylor-bound guard A.J. Walton, Jacksonville likely would have pulled this one out even with all those missed free throws and miscues. Walton took over the game after intermission, using his crossover dribble to penetrate the lane time and again on his way to 23 points — 18 in the second half.

Walton’s drives earned him 12 second-half free throws and he cashed in eight of those, just enough for the Warriors (2-0 in league play) to improve to 15-1 while Jacksonville dropped to 8-3 (1-1).

“A.J. got more aggressive down the stretch as (defender Laquinton Miles) got a little tired in the second half,” Joyner said. “And our rotation got a little slower. In the first half, we were there to cut him off.”

Hall began to take over a closely contested game — the teams were tied at the half and at the end of three periods — when it scored the first eight points of the final period to take a 47-39 lead.

Deshone McClure hit a three to keep the Devils close, but Hall extended the lead to eight again midway through the final period. At that point, Jacksonville had missed seven consecutive free throws.

Antonio Roy scored inside, Antwan Lockhart scored off a spin move and Demetrius Harris took a feed down low from Miles for an easy bucket as the Red Devils closed the gap to 51-48.

Lockhart got a putback with 1:57 and Harris narrowed the margin to 54-52 with a pair of free throws at the 1:14 mark. The Red Devils got the break they were looking for when Hall missed twice in close, but Miles missed a fast-break lay-up with 45 seconds remaining.

David Rivers hit a pair of free throws with 33 seconds to extend the Hall lead to 56-52. Hall gave Jacksonville one final chance when, ahead 57-53, it missed a lay-up with 14 seconds left. Lockhart was fouled on the other end and made both free throws to cut the lead to two with 5.1 seconds left.

The Warriors made 1 of 2 free throws with four seconds remaining, but McClure could only get off an off-balance, mid-court shot to try to tie it as Hall prevailed.

Jacksonville got another dominant game out of Harris, who is playing only his second season of organized basketball. The 6-5 forward led the Red Devils with 14 points and 12 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. He helped Jacksonville to a 37-29 rebounding advantage.

But Harris was the only Red Devil to reach double figures as Jacksonville struggled to a 1-of-10 night from behind the arc, 18 of 43 overall. Hall finished the game 16 of 37 from the field (3 of 11 from three) and 23 of 33 from the line.

Hall raced to a 5-0 lead, but McClure scored on an off-balance scoop in the lane, Miles got a steal and jam, and Cortrell Eskridge scored on a fast break after a McClure steal and Jacksonville led 6-5. Neither team led by more than four points until the fourth quarter. Seven consecutive points by Walton had Hall in front 39-35 late in the third, but Darius Morant scored off a fast break and Harris got a rebound basket as the teams entered the final period knotted at 39.

McClure, Lockhart and Miles each had eight points, while Eskridge scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds. McClure had three steals and Stan Appleby dished out three assists.

“We’ve got to make better decisions down the stretch,” said Joyner. “That’s what Hall does is put pressure on your guards. Our post men were stepping up early and we were hitting the post. Then we started over-dribbling. You got guys driving down the lane and doing crossovers and trying to get the ‘and-one’ instead off passing the ball off.

“Monday, that’s going to stop. We’re that close, but we just didn’t play smart.”

SPORTS>> Falcons hold on to beat Mills

Leader sportswriter

The start of conference season couldn’t have been any more dramatic for Ray Cooper and North Pulaski.

The Falcons overcame shoddy second-half defense and a bizarre technical foul call in the late stages of their 78-76 win over Mills on Friday night at the Falcons’ Nest when Jerald Blair hit a pair of game-winning free throws with six seconds remaining.

The Falcons’ lead grew as high as 18 points in the first half before Mills came charging back to set up the dramatic finish.

The controversy started with North Pulaski holding a 76-75 lead with less than 30 seconds remaining. Cooper’s attempt at calling a timeout with his team struggling against the Mills press went unanswered three times before he got more assertive.

His fourth try got the official’s attention, but it also got Cooper a technical.

“It was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen since I’ve been coaching,” Cooper said. “I attempted three times to call timeout. I stuck my hands out in front of him, and he ignored me three times.

“And so the next time, I yelled timeout, and I asked for an explanation of why I got a tech for calling timeout, and he said it was the tone in which I called it. So I don’t know, you’ll have to get him to explain that.”

Nick Hansberry, who had just brought the Comets to within one point moments earlier, was sent to the line. He hit the front end to tie, but missed the second and Mills had the ball with 10 seconds left in a 76-76 game.

Blair stole a pass from Chris Hampton and had a breakaway before Montez Peterson fouled him with six seconds left.

Blair hit both ends, and a last second three-point attempt by Mills fell short, improving North Pulaski’s record to 10-5 overall and 1-0 in the 5A Southeast Conference.

The smaller, yet stronger Falcons worked the ball inside much of the game, led by a 17-point, 11-rebound performance from Daquan Bryant, while Blair and T.J. Green both came off the bench to contribute 16 and 12 points respectively.

Mills relied on its superior outside game to make up the bulk of its first-half deficit, as Hansberry, Peterson and Chris Hampton all hit three-pointers in the second half. Aaron Cooper was the only outside threat for the Falcons, with 12 of his team-high 18 points coming from three-point land.

“It’s conference time,” Cooper said. “It’s wild and crazy. There’s no telling what’s going to happen. I’ve got to give Mills credit. I told them at halftime that those guys were not going to quit. We’ve got to have the same kind of defensive pressure we had in the first half. For whatever reason, we laid back and gave them shots right off the bat. They hit three or four of them in a row and got right back in the ball game.”

Mills took the initial advantage in the first quarter. Hansberry’s jumper at the 3:19 mark put the Comets up 11-6, but an 11-0 run for North Pulaski, including a 25-foot shot by Cooper, followed by a basket and free throw for Bryant, helped the Falcons build a 25-15 lead by the end of the period.

The Falcons got even hotter in the second quarter, with two more shots behind the arc for Cooper and a pair of baskets by Blair. Cooper’s three-pointer at the 6:14 mark gave North Pulaski its biggest lead of the game at 37-19.

The Comets put themselves back in the game with three-pointers on four straight possessions in the first three minutes of the second half. The second straight trey for Hansberry at the 5:49 mark cut it to 54-44, and his basket and free throw with 2:38 left in the third made it a 56-52 game, setting up the fourth-quarter shootout.

“The first half was great,” Cooper said. “Even when they got the lead earlier, I wasn’t worried because I saw the way we were defending. In the second half, we just didn’t.”

Cooper said the nail-biter was a sign of things to come in the 5A-Southeast Conference race.

“This is what conference basketball is all about,” he said. “You can throw all that other stuff out. You can throw records out, because teams are going to be better prepared and play harder. I’ve got to give credit to the kids, even with all the adversity they faced. I know we had to be doubled or tripled up on the fouls like we were on the road or something.”
Mills was 18 of 28 at the line, while North Pulaski converted 13 of 19.

The Falcons won the rebounding battle 32-30, and had 19 turnovers to the Comets’ 18.

Hansberry led all scorers for Mills with 28 points, with 19 for Peterson and 12 for Hampton.

North Pulaski played at Beebe last night after Leader deadlines, and will be at Crossett on Friday.