Friday, February 25, 2011

EDITORIAL >> More jobs lost here

Another area manufacturing plant is set to close, a victim of a slow economy and cheap foreign competition.

Graphic Packaging International Inc., a subsidiary of Graphic Packaging Holding Co. of Marietta, Ga., will close its multiwall-bag facility on Redmond Road in Jacksonville in July. Some 200 workers will be out of work, another sad reminder that manufacturing jobs are fast disappearing in Arkansas.

The company, long a fixture in Jacksonville, will move its equipment to other U.S. plants as it tries to cut costs against cheap foreign manufacturers.

When announcing the closing, the company issued a statement that was as heartless as it was predictable: “As always, GPI deploys business to our most cost-effective plants,” David Scheible, president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “We continually evaluate all of our business operations to ensure we are serving our markets as efficiently as possible. Simply put, this is a difficult business decision.”

Formerly owned by Stone Container Corp. of Chicago, the plant had a solid reputation for quality and a workforce that earned above-average wages. But those kinds of jobs are harder to find here because companies can often pay foreign workers a fraction of what it costs to operate in the U.S. Arkansas was once known as a low-wage state, but Mexico and China have workers who’ll gladly take a job for $1 or $2 an hour.

It’s no wonder Arkansas has lost some 50,000 manufacturing jobs since 1995 — more than 2 million in the U.S. Those jobs in Arkansas once represented 20 percent of the workforce, but they’re now just 14 percent of the state job market. To be sure, there are still decent jobs out there: The aerospace industry employs 3,400 people in Arkansas, while thousands of workers are drilling for natural gas in the Fayetteville shale. In addition, education and health care have created 13,000 more jobs, so the picture is not all bleak.

But drive down Redmond Road, and you’ll see empty plants everywhere: From Graphic Packaging to Franklin Electric to Conestoga Woods, although others are thriving, like Triangle Engineering, which makes quality fans. Around the corner, Lomanco continues to make the best attic ventilators in the world.

But when cheap foreign competitors can horn in, the American workers suffer. We’ve seen manufacturing jobs disappear for decades, but when it happens in our cities, there’s usually someone you know who will lose a paycheck. They’re not just an unemployment statistic, but part of a national tragedy.

Here’s hoping those jobless workers will get back on their feet when the economy improves. We fear some of them never will.

EDITORIAL >> Fraud bites LR attorney

Alvin Clay, a former Little Rock lawyer who served five months in prison for mortgage fraud, gave up his law license the other day to avoid disbarment proceedings before the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Three years ago, just before the real estate bust, Clay and his associates were accused of inflating the value of homes they were selling to gullible buyers in Little Rock and pocketing the profits they took from mortgage companies.

Everybody was supposed to make money in real estate back then, except the buyers who bought virtually worthless homes and were stuck with huge mortgages, driven into foreclosure and finding themselves without a roof over their heads.

A multi-count federal indictment accused Clay and his partners of keeping at least half the money they obtained from mortgage companies. If a home was worth just $35,000, they would finance it for $57,000 and sell it to buyers who had almost no income, the prosecution alleged.

Prosecutors accused Clay of making fraudulent mortgage applications that made him and his partners more than $100,000 in profit.

Burger King employees became homeowners without any idea how they would pay their mortgage. It was easy money if you were the middleman or a banker. Then the bubble burst and the economy tanked.

We wrote about Clay in April 2008. Clay, who is built like a defensive tackle — in fact, he is a former football player — told us he’d never seen those profits and saw himself a victim of prosecutorial misconduct because he defended drug dealers the feds wanted to send to prison.

A faith-based organization that exposed prosecutorial misconduct in Texas and Louisiana sent a representative to Arkansas to help Clay fight the charges, but it was a lost cause: The fraud was too obvious, and now Clay is an ex-con without a law license.

We’re still paying the price for the great recession, although it’s not often that we hear about fraudsters going to prison. Most of them were never charged and are still living off their ill-gotten gains.

EDITORIAL >> Tax holiday wreaks havoc

In the world of tax gimmickry, there is nothing more senseless than the tax holiday. But the Arkansas House of Representatives nevertheless passed a bill creating a sales-tax holiday for school-related merchandise.

It produces no economic benefit and, in fact, produces a single notable economic effect: It reduces the state treasury, which means less money for the schools, law enforcement and health programs. An accumulation of these tax benefits spells trouble down the line, as the state and local governments confront a fiscal crisis. Then they have to raise taxes or eliminate services.

You have to suspect that this is what all these tax gimmicks—loopholes for millionaire investors, exemptions for big manufacturers, and all the rest that are wending their way through the legislature—are all about.

Arkansas will be like Wisconsin, Indiana, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and California in a couple of years when the chickens come home to roost. The tax holiday for school stuff at least has the advantage of providing a tiny, temporary benefit to working people, which the rest do not. But it is still a politically happy, fiscally unwise thing to do.

It is a hard bill to vote against, cutting anybody’s taxes, even if only a smidgen. Only three of the 100 House members had the courage to do it.

One weekend in August people will be able to buy anything that might be related to school—clothing, accessories, school supplies, books, etc.—and state and local sales taxes would not be collected. In states that have them, many stores raise their prices just a hair in preparation for the holiday. After all, they lose a little, too, from the tax holiday because the state allows them to keep a portion of sales taxes for acting as the state’s tax collector. It’s big money to retailers like Walmart, Target and Dillard’s.

The justification for the tax holiday is that it supposedly would encourage people to turn out in droves and spend a lot of money, which would stimulate the economy and create jobs. But as the Tax Foundation, a conservative antitax group, points out, tax holidays do nothing of the sort. They only change the time when people make their purchases. The sum of the commerce is unchanged. The Tax Foundation, of course, prefers permanent tax giveaways.

The legislature may pass one significant and largely worthy tax cut. That is Gov. Beebe’s plan to lower the sales tax on groceries by another half of one percent. He hopes to eliminate the tax altogether before he leaves office. It will blast a sizable hole in the state budget, but Beebe says the state can accommodate that cut, though it will do some harm to funding for the schools and colleges.

He opposes all the other tax giveaways, whether they are for big special interests, such as manufacturers and speculators or for common folk. We’re with him.

Arkansas provides the most anemic services—roads, infrastructure, education, health services, public safety—than almost any state in the union. Every time the legislature passes one of these gimmicks, it means poorer services.

TOP STORY >> Mayor Fletcher roasted

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher was flame-broiled Thursday night in front of a packed house during the Jacksonville Senior Center’s 16th annual Roast and Toast fundraiser.

About 350 people laughed as Fletcher was put on the hot seat by his sister Jennifer Wintz, state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, Jacksonville Second Baptist Church Pastor Steve Walter and attorney Jon Johnson.

The roasters went after Fletcher’s lean physique and his likeness to Mayberry sheriff’s deputy Barney Fife.

Williams, a former Cabot mayor, opened his skewering of Fletcher by saying, “Has anyone seen the show ‘What about Earl?’ That’s him today.”

He said his phone rang a couple months back. He saw the call was from the mayor of Jacksonville. Williams thought to himself, Fletcher had tried to annex Gravel Ridge and northern Pulaski County, and now he’s trying to annex Cabot. Fletcher was actually calling to invite Williams to be a roaster.

“There’s not enough of you to roast. He weighs 90 pounds. You should see him without clothes. It’s an ugly sight,” Williams said.

He said when Fletcher gets out on the dance floor, he looks like a spaghetti noodle.

The senator said the day after the Jacksonville mayoral election, his wife said to him, “I didn’t know Don Knotts moved to Jacksonville, but he’s been elected mayor.”

Williams presented Fletcher with one bullet—just in case. Then he said to the crowd, “After the annexations, I’m going to give him the whole box. You need it, buddy.”

The former Cabot mayor said he gave Fletcher some mayoral advice.

“Gary, don’t annex anything now and don’t fool with the garbage pickup,” Williams said.

“I hope that’s working out for you,” he added.

Williams eased up and said Fletcher always treats people with respect. “It’s an honor to call him a friend.”

Fletcher’s sister, Jennifer Wintz, told the story about needing a ride to the airport. She said Gary was running late and he needed to take a shower. Her plane was scheduled to leave in an hour. She said when they left they had 20 minutes to get to the airport. When they were in the airport parking lot, Fletcher had them pray.

She heard, “Dear heavenly Father–yada, yada, yada, Jennifer, yada, pilots, yada, if the plane crashes, yada, her soul go to heaven, Amen.”

“I was the last one to get on the plane and the plane took off,” she said.

“Gary has a compassionate heart, a love for people and loves the Lord,” Wintz said.

Pastor Steve Walter told the story Fletcher shared with him when they were eating at Cody’s Café. He wanted to tell Walter about a situation that occurred in the mayor’s office.

Fletcher told him, “I was in a mayor’s meeting and everybody had got up and left. I was sitting there with an uneasiness in my stomach, feeling gas. I noticed music that was loud and on the right beat I could let out a little gas. After five or ten minutes people were looking at me. I saw everyone was smiling and laughing. And then it hit me, I had my iPod on.”

As church pastor, Walter said Fletcher strives to love Jesus.

Walter ended by saying, “Don’t mess with my trash and I’ll vote for you next time.”

Attorney Joe Johnson, a friend of the mayor, said, “He is Elvis Presley, the Bee Gees and Don Knotts all rolled up in one. We are truly blessed.

“He can out talk an echo. Before he was elected mayor, he had a full head of hair, now look at him. Being mayor is a stressful job,” Johnson said.

“He is really thin. He can tread water in a water hose,” Johnson continued.

He ended by saying Fletcher is a good man and he is honored Fletcher is mayor of Jacksonville.

Fletcher spoke to the crowd and said he is optimistic about the schools and the economic future of the city.

“Tough times either define you or defeat you,” Fletcher said.

He looked at Col. Mike Minihan, 19th Airlift Wing commander, and said, “We don’t realize what we have with Little Rock Air Force Base. The cream of the crop is on the other side of that gate.”

The mayor said he almost cried when Col. Gregory Otey left the base. Otey told Fletcher “Minihan is like me, but on steroids.”

After the heat died down, Fletcher said, “It was fun. You’ve got to laugh at yourself. I enjoyed it.”

“This is the best roast I’ve been to in a long time,” Barbara Kehler said.

TOP STORY >> National Geographic in Beebe

Leader staff writer

The death of thousands of red-wing blackbirds on New Year’s Eve night in Beebe is being explored in a scientific documentary film for National Geographic.

It’s estimated 1.5 million birds roost in Beebe.

John Rubin Productions, a film crew from Cambridge, Mass., was in Beebe this week recording footage and interviewing city employees regarding the intriguing death of 5,000 red-wing blackbirds that dropped from the night sky on New Year’s Eve. The footage will be used in a documentary film for the National Geographic Channel’s Explorer series.

Producer and director John Rubin said the documentary is in the early stages. It is strictly not just about the Beebe blackbirds, but the birds will make up a portion of the documentary. No title or air date has been giving to the documentary.

Rubin has produced 11 documentaries, three of which have been for National Geographic Explorer, “Lost Mummies of New Guinea” that airs Monday night; “Climbing Redwood Giants,” and “Animal Minds”.

He produced the documentaries “What Darwin Never Knew” and “Ape Genius” for Nova on PBS and was a producer of five documentaries for “Nature” on PBS. He also produced the documentary “The Living Weapon” for “The American Experience” also on PBS.

According to the Game and Fish Commission, the winter roost in Beebe is home to around 1.5 million birds.

“Longtime producing partner James Donald was reading the newspapers early in the year. He thought it was an interesting start to a documentary,” Rubin said.

They brought it to the attention of National Geographic and they were interested in the Beebe event.

“It is a great mystery. Seven weeks out and everyone’s opinion is not the same,” Rubin said.

He said everyone in town has been cooperative, making it a pleasure to film.

The film crew interviewed Mayor Mike Robertson, Police Chief Wayne Ballew, Capt. Eddie Cullum and street department supervisor Milton McCullar. The crew also held a roundtable discussion.

Charles Moore, of the Wind-wood subdivision, allowed production crews to use his home’s den for filming a re-creation the night of New Year’s Eve.

The blackbird roost is right across his property line.

Moore has been assisting the documentary team during their time in Beebe.

“I’ve been impressed by the professionalism. It is very exciting and rewarding. This has been fun watching it all.

“I’ve enjoyed them in the town and visiting with them. I think it’s been a positive impact,” Robertson said.

Game and Fish and other wildlife experts have determined the blackbirds died of blunt-force trauma believed to occur when the birds crashed into each other, buildings and trees after they were startled out of their roost near Windwood.

Large fireworks are allegedly to blame for frightening the birds.

TOP STORY >> New jail to open doors in Summer

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County’s $6.2 million, 140-bed jail should be ready for occupants by June 1 and Chief Deputy Dean White says he could have it filled by July 1 – partly with county prisoners and partly with prisoners from other counties the state would pay to house.

Those estimated 40 to 50 paid-for prisoners would offset the shortfall for operating the new facility that has been talked about for months. The county has $900,000 now to open the jail but running it will cost an estimated $1.3 million. At $28 a day, the county could earn an extra $400,000 to $500,000 a year.

But a budget committee made up of members of the Lonoke County Quorum Court that met Thursday night talked about the unknowns of running the new jail that make it unclear if housing prisoners from other counties is the complete solution to the shortfall problem.

What wasn’t discussed openly but only hinted at was that some aren’t sure they want to take prisoners from other jurisdictions. Cabot leaders had talked last year about closing the jail in the police department because of the liability and expense, and paying for space at the new county jail. But Mayor Bill Cypert said during a meeting earlier this month to talk about plans for the year, that the county is waffling about available space, and until he knows what the county plans to do, Cabot prisoners will stay where they are.

And JP Adam Sims said during the Thursday meeting that he isn’t necessarily opposed to renting beds in the new facility, but he doesn’t want it to become a regional jail.

What was discussed is that until the jail opens, no one will know how much it will cost to run. And the quorum court members asked what happens if no other county needs their extra beds or if Lonoke County has to use the beds for its own prisoners and can’t rent beds to help run the jail.

JP Henry Lang said near the end of the two-hour meeting that Lonoke County voters had been very benevolent to approve the one-cent tax that was collected for one year to build the jail and warned that they would not approve another and it was almost immoral to ask without trying to rent the extra beds first.

“There’s no way with God himself campaigning for us they would pass another tax,” Lang said.

From the beginning, the extra 40 beds were intended as money-makers to help pay for holding Lonoke County prisoners but it was clear from the discussion that JP Larry Odom, chairman of the jail committee, and JP Bill Ryker, who has provided the quorum court with construction updates, weren’t certain that the plan would be followed.

Leasing beds was always supposed to help pay for the jail, Ryker said. And Odom said Dallas County rents space in its jail for $700,000 to $800,000 a year, money that goes into the county general fund.

Tim Lemons, the new budget committee chairman, said at the beginning that he wanted it to be informal and that everyone should feel free to simply throw out ideas even if they sounded preposterous.

JP Mark Edwards presented the only idea that was completely shot down though Lemons asked reporters to include it in the list that was compiled on a marker board to show that it had at least been introduced.

Edwards proposed a redistribution of the county-wide one-cent sales tax. Discussion revealed that the cities’ portion of that tax can’t be touched by state law and that of the county’s part, only the money for the roads and bridges can be touched.

Of the JPs attending the meeting, only Edwards of Cabot and Mike Dolan of England, where graveled farm roads are more common than paved roads, didn’t say they would oppose taking money from the road and bridge fund.

“Coming from an all unincorporated district, I don’t like this,” JP Adam Sims said.

J.P Barry Weathers concurred, saying he couldn’t support it.

White said he wanted money to open the jail but not at the expense of county roads.

Edwards withdrew his suggestion at the end of the meeting saying it was a waste of time to keep it on the list.

Sims proposed asking voters for a permanent half-cent sales tax to run the jail and sheriff’s department in exchange for rolling back the county property tax millage from 3.5 to 1.75.

Lemons presented two proposals, one to pass a one-cent tax for one year and run the jail with the proceeds for 12 years, and one to pass a half-cent tax for one year to be followed by a sixteenth-cent tax that would not sunset.

Jeff Sikes, the county attorney, told Sims that the problem with his proposal was that one quorum court can’t tell the next one what to do. This court can’t keep the next one from raising the millage back to 3.5 or even to 5 which is the highest the quorum court can set.

The problem with Lemon’s proposal for a sixteenth-cent tax was that an eighth-cent tax is the lowest possible, Sikes said.

Sims said when presenting his proposal for a sales-tax and millage rollback that renters don’t pay property tax but they are often the people who make the meth and fill the county jail.

Weathers suggested asking voters for a one-cent sales tax that would take the place of the county’s property-tax millage.

“A sales tax is the fairest tax out there because everybody pays,” Lemons said.

Odom said that if county voters passed another one-cent tax, the county could for $2.5 million build space for an additional 128 prisoners and the new jail could give money back to the general fund.

But Odom’s proposal was for a permanent eighth-cent sales tax.

Sims then threw out a proposal that he said was not his idea. The county could vote itself wet and get tax revenue from liquor sales.

J.P. Joe Farrer was the first to speak for that proposal saying he was Catholic and not opposed to alcohol.

“There’s one judge and it ain’t me and you,” Farrer said.

White said in response to questions from the group that patrolling in a wet county likely would cost no more than in a dry one.

All agreed that since Lonoke County is between Pulaski and Prairie, both wet counties, there is alcohol in Lonoke already.

Odom also asked that increasing the county millage to 5 be added to the list of possibilities.

Of the ideas to raise money to operate the jail that filled the board by the end of the meeting, the only ones possible without a vote of the people are increasing the property-tax millage and renting beds in the jail.

The committee agreed to meet again at 6:30 p.m., Thursday March 10. Odom asked the members to take the suggestions to a dozen of their constituents and report back to the committee.

Edwards asked the members to refrain from talking to the press until they have put together a plan.

TOP STORY >> School funds approved for Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

In a quickly called meeting it took the four attending Pulaski County Special School District board members less than five minutes to say yes to the district’s efforts to obtain up to $15 million in construction funds.

The district wants the money to help fund the construction of three new schools, all in the Jacksonville area, and the renovation of four other district schools.

With heavy rains and tornado warnings being issued, Bill Vasquez, Tim Clark, Gwen Williams and Mildred Tatum were still able to attend the 5 p.m. Thursday meeting and actually started about four minutes earlier than scheduled because of the impending weather.

The board gave the go-ahead to the district to apply for a share of $33 million in federal stimulus funds left over from 2010. More than 20 school districts from across the state have applied for the pool of money known as Qualified School Construction Bonds.

The money will be awarded at or near zero percent.

Derek Scott, PCSSD executive director of operations, told the board that if the district received the entire $15 million, it would save $700,000 annually in the cost of construction bonds.

“Getting just $2 million, would save the district $100,000 a year,” he said.

Scott said the special meeting was called because the bond application had to be submitted to the state Monday.

Clark said with so many districts applying, the district would be “lucky to get a couple million.”

Carey Smith, with Stephens, Inc., who is helping the district obtain the money, admitted that one of the other districts applying had asked for the entire $33 million, but the state would use a formula to make sure all districts received a share. “But to say the district would get $2 million is looking on the high side,” he said.

Smith also said that the federal program is no longer being funded and after this pool of money was gone, there would be no more.

The district is looking at the funds to build a new elementary school to replace both Arnold Drive (on Little Rock Air Force Base) and Tolleson Elementary, just outside the base; to replace Jacksonville Middle School and also build a new school there to replace Jacksonville and Dupree elementary schools.

According to a letter from Dr. Charles Hopson, PCSSD superintendent, to the state education department’s facilities division, Arnold Drive was built in 1968 and Tolleson was constructed in 1957.

“The United States Air Force has indicated that they will provide a site for the new elementary school on base property that lies just outside the fenced perimeter on the base,” Hopson said in the letter.

The planned school will serve up to 750 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Arnold Drive and Tolleson currently have a combined student population of about 600.

Jacksonville Middle School was built in 1952 and was originally designed as a high school for sophomores, juniors and seniors. The facility was converted to a junior high campus for grades seventh through ninth in 1968 when Jacksonville High School was built. In 2000 it became a middle school and to this day houses sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

In his letter, Hopson said the facility “does not promote the middle-school concept of teaming. Additionally, all the classroom doors open to the outside which presents possible safety issues. This layout also presents health issues as students are exposed to inclement weather when changing classes during the day.”

The third new school will replace both Jacksonville Elementary and Warren Dupree Elementary. It will be built on land already owned by the district and will house up to 750 students. Hopson said this combined school had the backing of Jacksonville parents and residents. The current combined student population of Jacksonville and Dupree elementary schools would max out the new school.

The district also plans major remodeling and additions to Robinson Middle School, College Station Elementary, Scott Elementary and Harris Elementary.

Hopson told the education department that the district would have to obtain additional funding to finance the projects and would have to reduce the district’s operating budget to generate sufficient funds to sell bonds to cover the construction costs. Plans call for cutting $8 million from the district’s budget to issue $104 million in construction bonds.

SPORTS >> Van Buren stands tall, tops Cabot

Leader sports editor

Too tall? Probably.

Too accurate? Most likely.

Too bad for Cabot? Definitely.

Van Buren got its inside-outside game clicking and beat Cabot 66-44 to take the 7A/6A-Central Conference championship at Panther Pavilion on Tuesday night.

Led by 7-0 center Hooper Vint, an Arkansas Razorbacks recruit, and deadeye outside shooting early, Van Buren raced to a 15-4 lead after one quarter and Cabot was never able to mount a serious threat.

“I’m just so proud of the way the guys are playing as a team,” Van Buren coach Randy Loyd said. “They’re not selfish. They want to win, which is our main goal. That’s what we’ve done and now we’re outright conference champs.”

Vint scored 13 points and was generous with his assists to get the Pointers’ other shooters involved. That was a good thing for Van Buren as Pointers Tyler Spoon and Logan Patterson combined for 30 points, all but three of them coming on three-pointers.

Patterson made six three-pointers and scored 20 points while Spoon made three and scored 10.

“I’m not really surprised when he gets going,” Loyd said of Patterson.

It didn’t help Cabot that Vint was clogging the middle, disrupting Panthers’ outside shooter Kai Davis and pulling down rebounds to limit Cabot to frequent, one-shot possessions.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Bridges said.

“When they’re shooting well you’re really at their mercy. Because if you just try to play Hoop one on one, he’s going to win that battle. He does a great job of involving his teammates, I’m going to tell you that right now.”

Things got out of hand early for the Panthers when Van Buren opened with a 13-0 run. Spoon hit the first of his three-pointers to open the scoring and Patterson closed out the run when he drove for a reverse layup with 1:57 left.

Cabot’s first point came on Clayton Vaught’s free throw and the Panthers cut the deficit to nine three times in the second quarter.

Vaught hit a fadeaway to make it 15-6 at the start of the quarter, Darin Jones made two free throws to pull the Panthers within 17-8 and Kyle Thielemier got a steal and a layup to pull Cabot within 19-10 with 5:01 left in the half.

But Patterson made a three-pointer for the 22-10 lead with 4:45 left in the half, and the Pointers held a lead of 10 or better the rest of the way.

Van Buren’s biggest lead was 54-25 when Deven Goodwin made an inside shot with 6:34 to go, drawing Jones’ fifth foul in the process.

Davis made a three-pointer from the top of the key to save Cabot from the mercy rule, in which the clock runs continuously after a lead of 30 points is established.

“Offensively, when you’ve got 6-11 in there fingertip to fingertip he’s across the lane, we’ve got to shoot well,” Bridges said acknowledging Vint’s wingspan.

Davis’ basket was his only field goal of the game. Vaught led the Panthers with 11 points and Thielemier had 10.

“Kai’s got to score for us but man, they’ve given me everything this year,” Bridges said. “They’ve worked their tail off.”

Van Buren will slide into the 6A classification for the state tournament and will take the top seed next week at Marion. Jacksonville, poised to win the 6A-East, was gunning to be the second seed as it closed out the regular season with Mountain Home on Friday.

Cabot should enter the 7A tournament in Rogers as the fourth seed.

“We’ve still got some season left,” Bridges said. “We’ve got a group with a lot of pride. Hopefully we can go steal one at Russellville and just try to get a little momentum before we head to state.”

SPORTS >> Senior girls get sendoff they savor

Leader sports editor

Graduation is a few months away but it was still a happy sendoff for Cabot’s seniors.

The Lady Panthers jumped on Van Buren early and rolled to a 68-43 victory in the last home game at Panther Pavilion on Tuesday night.

“I thought we played really hard and played well,” Cabot coach Carla Crowder said. “And they did a great job for our seniors.”

Four players had 10 or more points for the Lady Panthers, including senior and leading scorer Kaki Thomas, who made four three-pointers and scored 18.

“Our fast start was really good because it set us up for the rest of the game,” Thomas said. “It means a lot because we wanted to end our home season on a good night and I love my basketball team.”

Junior Melissa Wolff scored 16 points, junior Laci Boyett scored 13 and sophomore Elliot Taylor had 10.

Cabot opened up a 17-9 lead after one quarter and led 0-19 at halftime. The Lady Panthers didn’t let up as they outscored the Pointerettes 18-7 in the third quarter and 20-17 in the fourth.

“It was amazing,” senior Hilary Russell said.

“I’m really happy we won.”

With the victory, Cabot earned the 7A/6A-Central’s No. 2 seed to the 7A state tournament in Rogers next week.

“It’s the best seed of the tournament,” Russell said.

The Lady Panthers wrapped up the regular season at Russellville on Friday night.

“When you have seniors like we do, they were no problem,” Crowder said.

“They both work hard. They‘re really good people and it just makes life easy.”

SPORTS >> Abundant ladies end good year

Leader sportswriter

CARLISLE — Sydney Venus’ hard tumble to the floor with 6:03 left to play was one of many hard knocks suffered by Abundant Life seniors during the fourth quarter of the Lady Owls’ 72-57 loss to Hughes in the first round of the 2A-East Regional tournament at Bison Arena in Carlisle on Thursday.

Venus was set up in the lane to take a charge from LadyBlue Devils guard Sharquese Johnson, but the contact with Johnson sent Venus down hard, hitting her head on the floor.

Venus sustained a concussion for her efforts, and to add insult to injury, the Lady Owls were whistled for a reaching foul on the play.

The exits of classmates and post players Savannah Lancaster and Carmyn Sharp minutes later were not as painful, at least physically, as the pair fouled out in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.

The Lady Owls (19-10) hung with the higher-seeded Lady Blue Devils in the first half. Lady Owls sophomore guard Lauren McClendon scored eight of her 17 points in the second quarter, including a drive in the lane for a jumper with 2:08 left in the first half to make it 33-24 Hughes, and a defensive rebound she took the length of the floor with 44 seconds left to cut the margin to 33-28 following a jumper by Sharp.

Another sophomore, Leah Srebalus, led the Lady Owls with 21 points and seven rebounds, and prevented the Lady Devils from running away late.

Sharp finished with six points and 10 rebounds for the Lady Owls. Junior guard Courtney Waddell added eight points.

SPORTS >> Appleby dishes versus Searcy ‘D’

Leader sports editor

It was a respectable night for Ole Miss signee Jamal Jones of Searcy.

But it was another stellar night at home for Jacksonville’s Raheem Appleby.

Appleby, the Red Devils’ senior scoring leader, scored a game-high 31 points as Jacksonville beat Searcy 80-48 on Wednesday and closed in on a 6A-East Conference championship.

“We played a bunch of people and unfortunately for Searcy, he can’t go that deep right now,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said.

The Red Devils outscored the Lions 14-0 to open the game and held a double-digit lead the rest of the way. The fast start was especially gratifying after Jacksonville scratched out a 67-59 overtime victory at West Memphis the previous night, with Appleby scoring a team-high 18 points.

Wednesday’s game was the last of Jacksonville’s weather-related makeups.

“We’ve got one more game; if we win it we’re conference champs,” Joyner said. “Hopefully we’ll know our seeding by then.”

In one stretch during the second quarter, Appleby hit a jumper and two consecutive three-pointers to run the lead to 32-17, then he made a layup on a fastbreak, got a steal and went all the way for another layup to make it 36-19.

After a three-point play by Jacksonville’s Terrell Brown, Appleby closed out the half with a short jumper and two free throws to make it 43-26, and he went to the locker room with 22 points.

“Raheem is doing what Raheem does,” Joyner said.

“I think Appleby missed maybe two shots all night,” Searcy coach Jim Summers said. “He’s a great player.”

Jones banged his knee early in the game and was not in top form the rest of the way, though he led Searcy with 13 points.

“He was a little gimpy,” Joyner said. “But he was pretty darn good even when he was gimpy.”

It didn’t help Searcy that it was also playing a compressed schedule because of makeup games.

“They just came out and punched us right in the nose there,” Summers said. “And I don’t want to use it as an excuse but fatigue got to us. When you don’t have confidence and fatigue is setting in a little bit, you get a little frustrated.”

Once the game got out of hand, Summers began resting his players to conserve strength for Friday’s finale with Marion.

Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, Searcy entered Friday with a lock on the sixth seed to the 6A state tournament.

“We were down 15 or 16 going into the fourth, we hadn’t been hitting shots; there was no need in trying to drag it out,” Summers said.

Searcy fell to 15-12, 4-9.

With just over eight minutes left, Jacksonville’s Aaron Smith hit a three-pointer for the 76-46 lead that enacted the high school mercy rule and started the continuously running clock.

Smith finished with 23 points, with five coming on three-pointers.

Joyner had been urging players other than Appleby to get into the shooting rotation, and Smith, along with Justin House, have filled the bill in the Red Devils’ past two games.

House hit a career-high five three-pointers, including the go-ahead shot in overtime, in the West Memphis victory. Brown added 15 points against the Blue Devils.

“We’ve got to keep everybody involved,” Joyner said. “Let them feel comfortable and know they can take the shots when the shots are available.

“And that’s what we’ve got to continue to do if we’re going to have any chance at all.”

Jacksonville (20-3, 10-3) was tied with Little Rock Parkview for first in the 6A-East entering Friday’s regular-season finale with Mountain Home.

Jacksonville split with Parkview in the regular season but held the tiebreaker because it won by 18 and lost by 10.

Yet the best the Red Devils can do is earn the second seed to the 6A state tournament because 7A/6A-Central champion Van Buren moves into the 6A for the postseason.

The Lady Red Devils cut it close but left Tuesday still seeking their first conference victory after Searcy won 63-58.

Jacksonville (6-17, 0-12) tied it at 54 on two fourth-quarter free throws by Jessica Jackson and was within 60-58 when Chyna Davis made a turnaround shot with 33.7 seconds left.

But Searcy clinched it on free throws by Brittnee Broadway and Lindsey Hanshew.

The Lady Lions (14-11, 7-5) advanced to the 6A state tournament last year and entered the night as a solid fifth seed, ahead of Marion and behind Jonesboro in the 6A-East standings.

SPORTS >> Owls sent home for season

Leader sportswriter

CARLISLE — Jamarlin Jack-son gave Abundant Life a bad sense of Déjà vu in the closing seconds of Clarendon’s 59-57 victory in the first round of the 2A-East Regional tournament at Carlisle on Thursday.

The Lions (17-7) erased an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter and held the Owls scoreless over the final four minutes, as Jackson drove for the winning shot in the last 10 seconds. He missed his first attempt in the lane but gathered the rebound for a winning putback at the buzzer.

Jackson’s late play also sent Abundant Life home in the first round of last year’s regionals at White County Central during an overtime thriller between the two schools. With the victory, the Lions qualified for next week’s 2A state tournament at Buffalo Island Central.

“My guys, we’ve been battling adversity all year long, and that’s just another thing,” Owls coach Chris Horton said. “We fought, clawed, scraped, and I’m proud of them. They played with all their heart I could ask for. They never quit or gave up.

“I’m proud of my guys, no matter what the outcome was.”

Clarendon took early momentum on the hot hands of Elijah Gilliam, who hit three, three-point baskets in the first four minutes to help the Lions to a 13-4 lead in the first quarter before Abundant Life rallied with strong inside play from senior post player Brady Erickson. Erickson paced the Owls with 17 points and eight rebounds.

Erickson controlled the lane on both sides with help from sophomore Eric Moore and senior Clark Eudy, especially in the second half. Moore finished with 13 points and seven rebounds while Eudy had 10 points and four rebounds.

The Owls took over at the start of the fourth quarter when Corbitt Shock hit a three-pointer to give Abundant Life a 47-43 lead with 7:18 left to play.

Ryan Johnson extended the margin to 50-43 with a three pointer, and Erickson scored on a wide-open look under the basket with an assist from Johnson to make it 52-45.

Moore gave the Owls their biggest lead at 55-47 when he converted a basket and free throw with 4:44 left.

Shock drove the lane for a layup at the four-minute mark to make it 57-50, but it was the Owls’ final points, as the Lions closed it out with a 9-0 run.

“It was just like Déjà vu,” Lions coach Kendrick Hudson said. “We knew they were going to come in and play hard and play smart. We didn’t play well on defense, but some kind of way, we held on and make a shot at the end to win.”

Jackson took over late for the Lions with a three pointer with 3:52 left and a slashing move in the lane for two less than a minute later to make it 57-55. His tying basket came with 1:28 left.

Jackson led Clarendon with 28 points and three steals while Gilliam had 22 points. For Abundant Life, Shock had nine points while Johnson had eight points and six assists.

SPORTS >> Beebe’s home streak ends

Leader sportswriter

Beebe’s perfect conference home record fell by the wayside as the Wynne Yellowjackets pulled off a stunning, 53-50 upset and spoiled Tuesday’s senior night at Badger Sports Arena.

The Badgers scrambled for a three-point shot in the closing seconds. Senior Zach May went for the tying basket with four seconds left, but the ball slipped from his hands and Wynne defender Devante Riley came down with it.

Shooting guard Keenan Halk led the Yellowjackets (10-14, 5-7 5A-East) with 16 points, and helped his team start strong with 13 first-half points in one of the team’s best performances of the year.

“We kind of had our backs against the wall,” Wynne coach Jeremy Mangrum said. “Tonight we came out, and other than a letdown in the third quarter, we played as well as we’ve played all year. I know they haven’t lost a conference game here — I don’t know that they’ve lost here all year.

“It’s a tough place to play; great crowd, hostile environment, and our guys were just tough enough to get the job done.”

The Badgers (20-5, 10-3) struggled inside against the ’Jackets, who packed the lane with big bodies to deny dribble penetration and passes to the post most of the night.

“That’s something that we preach every day,” Mangrum said noting the presence of Beebe’s Devonte Young. “Talking about help side, and being in help position. Communicate, and play team defense. We did a pretty good job of that, trying to contain a great player with Young.”

Young, Beebe’s senior guard and team captain, paced the Badgers with 21 points, including a pair of three-pointers in the final 1:21, but the Yellowjackets answered with solid free-throw shooting down the stretch.

The Badgers led 42-40 when Yellowjackets post player Joe Stampley broke free for six straight inside points. His first basket tied the game with 3:59 left, and he came back with a pair of floaters in the lane that put Wynne up for good.

Riley increased the lead to 48-42 on two free throws with 1:34 left.

Young hit his first three-pointer with 1:21 left, but Riley followed with two more free throws.

Young’s second three-pointer, a 30-footer with 1:07 remaining, closed the gap to 50-48, and Wynne finally faltered at the free-throw line when Calene Scott missed the first of a one-and-one opportunity.

May pulled down the rebound for Beebe, but Brandon Fuller missed his potential tying shot on a jumper just outside the lane with 20 seconds left.

May was unable to chase down the rebound this time, and Wynne took the ball out of bounds.

Young had one more chance at a three-pointer with 10 seconds left but the shot fell short. Scott rebounded, drew a foul and made both free throws.

Beebe quickly fouled Halk, who made the first free throw but missed the second. Fuller rebounded and Beebe took a timeout to set up its final, unsuccessful play.

May’s outside shooting touch pulled Beebe out of an early 11-6 deficit.

He checked in as he normally does, midway through the first quarter, for senior Cole Vanaman, making his first start as a senior night honor.

May hit his first of three, three-pointers with 2:19 left in the period to make it 11-8, and he followed a basket by Wynne’s Tony Jones with another three-pointer, this one from the top of the key to cut the lead to 13-11.

He hit one more three-pointer with 37 seconds left to give Beebe a 14-13 lead, but Halk got the last word for Wynne when he beat the buzzer with a steal and went all the way for a lay-up.

Wynne seized the upper hand again in the second quarter with an 8-2 run to close out the period for a 31-21 halftime lead.

Young scored a game-high 21 points and had five rebounds in his final home game. May finished with nine points for Beebe, while Scott scored eight points with seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Riley led Wynne with 12 points along with five rebounds while Stampley added 10 points and five rebounds.

The Lady Yellowjackets beat the Lady Badgers 42-36. Beebe finished fifth in the 5A-East Conference standings.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Flim-flam politicians

Deceptive retailers who employ the bait-and-switch are pikers compared with politicians, who make it a centerpiece of national policy. Rather than substitute an inferior or more expensive product for the one advertised, as an appliance dealer might do, the politicians use one crisis—say, budget deficits or unemployment—to produce ends that have nothing to do with the crisis. 

We see it at the state Capitol this month as Republicans and a few Democrats give huge tax breaks to the state’s richest people and corporations (aka political contributors) by claiming that they are doing it so that the rich will start new businesses and create jobs for the legions of unemployed. 

But the U. S. House of Representatives has elevated the bait-and-switch to new levels. Everyone is alarmed about the federal budget deficit, which surged to $1.4 trillion in the first full year of the current recession, and they want something done about it. The new Republican majority in the House answered the call by passing a budget that cuts $60 billion from the discretionary budget, and then preened like heroes. 

But two things must be understood. (1) The $60 billion is a trifle in a deficit that will balloon past $1.5 trillion. (2) The discretionary programs they want to slash have little to do with the deficits.  Except for national security services and health programs, discretionary spending has risen very modestly since the last balanced-budget year of 2001. 

The causes of the gargantuan deficit are too well documented: the Bush tax cuts of 2001-04, which mainly gave relief to the affluent and corporations and sent deficits past $500 billion a year even before the recession; a drop in federal tax revenues of more than $500 billion a year after the recession hit in 2007; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the massive surge in Medicare costs after the passage of Bush’s Medicare drug act in 2004, which paid huge new subsidies to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries; and President Obama’s middle-class tax cuts and rebates and jobs programs in 2009, which have now nearly played out. Federal taxes in Obama’s first year, by the way, were the smallest share of the U. S. economy since 1950. 

But the House tackled none of those elephants. Its spending cuts clearly were not aimed at getting the federal budget under control but curtailing or hamstringing programs the Republican Party and its principal constituencies have long opposed. We will see the damage in Arkansas. 

The politics sometimes has been embarrassing. Arkansas’ new congressman from the Third District, Steve Womack, became the poster child for budget gimmickry. His contribution to balancing the budget was to try to amend the budget bill to block any spending on White House teleprompters, the electronic cue card that allows a person to seem like he’s speaking extemporaneously when he is actually reading from a text. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush used them on practically every public occasion, but Womack would never have tried to prevent them from using the speaking aid, only the black guy with the funny name, nor would he imply that Reagan and Bush were spending us into bankruptcy by using a teleprompter. Womack pulled his amendment after Congresswoman Jackie Speier took the floor to ridicule it. She said the GOP budget amendments were a combination “of the silly, the dangerous and the hypocritical.” 

The Republican budget would wreck the Environmental Protection Agency, which is supposed to begin regulating greenhouse gases. The coal and petroleum industries took heart from the cuts. Other cuts would block the implementation of some parts of the new health-insurance reform laws, eradicate some aid to public education, eliminate family-planning and teen-pregnancy prevention programs, slash Pell grants for low-income college students, end federal support for public broadcasting, halt financing for AmeriCorps (the national service program that pays bright young college graduates to do public-service jobs like teaching in desperately poor schools in the Arkansas Delta), hamstring the regulation of financial institutions under the financial reform law that is supposed to prevent another financial collapse like that of 2008, slash the Social Security Administration and slow the flow of benefits to the elderly and disabled, curtail food aid for poor pregnant women and women with children up to the age of 5, decimate civil legal assistance to the poor in Arkansas, close federal fish hatcheries that are a key to Arkansas tourism, close community health clinics that serve poor children—the list goes on. Even the Weather Service in Arkansas will have to cut its staff and services. 

The Senate will not go along with the cuts, of course, and many in the House want to shut down the whole government rather than let those services continue. Meantime, the growth of the national debt will not skip a beat.  

Look, the House will say, didn’t we do our part?

TOP STORY >> New administrator named at hospital

Jay J. Quebedeaux has been named chief executive officer of North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville.

Quebedeaux succeeds Mike Schimming, who has been the hospital’s CEO for the past year and was the hospital’s chief financial officer before that. Schimming is credited with turning the hospital around after several years of losses.

Schimming has been named chief financial officer for Allegiance Health Management, North Metro’s management company. Allegiance has agreed to purchase the municipal hospital from Jacksonville and assume its debt.

Quebedeaux has worked in several capacities in health care, from hospital chief executive officer to regional business development.

He brings more than 17 years of health-care experience to North Metro. As an Army veteran, he said he is “sensitive to the unique needs of our military community.”

Quebedeaux, who will take over effective immediately, said he is “excited to continue the tradition of excellence and quality health-care this hospital brings to our community. My focus will be on facility improvement and growing services most needed for our facility.”

Born in Louisiana, he has lived much of his adult life in Texas.

Quebedeaux is married and has two young children. He earned his bachelor of business administration at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

TOP STORY >> Austin boom town

Leader staff writer

In 1990, Austin had a population of 235 living in an area just barely more than one square mile. By 2000, that number had increased to 605 because developers were starting to see Austin as a good alternative to Cabot which was already starting to run out of room for the starter homes needed to house military personnel.

But even though Austin was beginning to grow beyond the sides of the railroad track that runs along Hwy. 367, Austin leaders were always fearful that Cabot or Ward would try to annex their little town.

Then about six years ago, developers, who were angry with Cabot leaders over the price of sewer connections, annexed the land where they intended to build about 400 homes into Austin instead of Cabot. And Austin grew from a tiny town into a city of the second class with population of 2,038 covering about three square miles.

Former Alderman Laurel Carnes, who was active in Austin politics for many years, spoke to The Leader in August 2004 about why she thought it was prudent for the town to take on the subdivisions even though Austin’s sewer wasn’t adequate at that time and all its water was purchased from Cabot and Highway 319 Water Association.

Annexing the subdivisions would ensure Austin’s autonomy, Carnes said.

“We need to grow and the more we take in, the more chance we get to stay in Austin,” she said. “We haven’t lost a thing if we don’t get them but we gain a lot if we do.”

In addition to gaining population, Austin now has a branch of First Arkansas Bank and Trust, a second fire station and a promise from the Cabot School District that the next school built will be in Austin.

Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain had just learned about the official count from the 2010 census Friday when she signed the papers to finance the clinic on Highway 367 that will become the new city hall.

James Moore, one of the developers who have helped the city grow as well as a former Cabot council member and current Austin council member, got to the heart of the problem with the old city hall Monday saying it’s about appearances. Austin is growing and it needs to look more professional, he said.

To say the old city hall is cramped is an understatement. The police department is a 10-foot by 12-foot room and the district judge shares space with the city clerk.

The water office is separated from the front door by an entryway so narrow that if there are more than two customers at a time, it’s crowded.

It is built so low to the ground that the floor is level with the parking lot. The ceiling is lower than the eight-foot standard and covered with Styrofoam tiles. And the walls are covered with the type of brown, plywood paneling that was popular during the 60s and 70s.

The new city hall is adjacent to the old one which is one of the reasons Chamberlain said she wanted it. The other reason is that it is large and attractive.

Chamberlain said she first asked about buying the building from Northside Healthcare about five years ago and was told that the price would be $274,000. The city couldn’t afford that. But late in 2010, the owners agreed to sell it for $125,000 and the council easily approved the purchase.

First Arkansas Bank and Trust is providing $75,000 of the total cost, and the city is paying $50,000 from the general fund.

The plan is to move in by the middle of March. In addition to the purchase price, the city will have to pay for a new roof. A few shingles are off on the back of the building, but the ceiling isn’t damaged.

Chamberlain and Alderman Tammy Williams have washed the walls with Clorox Cleanup, and a crew of misdemeanor offenders working off fines is supposed to strip and wax the floors this week.

Chamberlain said she will buy used office furniture in Little Rock. There isn’t enough furniture at the old city hall because there are only three offices there that must be shared by the mayor, the water clerk, city recorder, fire chief, public-works supervisor and the district judge.

In the new building, each department head has an office. The police department will use a back entrance and will have an office for the chief, an interrogation room and an evidence room.

The old city hall will still be used for council meetings and court.

During a tour of the city Monday that took more than an hour, Chamberlain spoke about the evening the council decided it would welcome the new subdivisions that started the city growing.

“Quapaw and Shadow Creek both could have gone to Cabot,” Chamberlain said. “When you have 605 people, someone will try to take you over. These subdivisions are a godsend.”

In addition to those two, the subdivisions in Austin include Weathering Heights, Austin Village, Carriage Court, Orchard Estates and Cross Creek.

TOP STORY >> Lt. Dan looks back on 30 years

Leader staff writer

Lieutenant Dan is alive and well and in his 31st year as a Sherwood police officer.

“Ever since I made lieutenant in 2001,” Lt. Dan Kerr says, laughing, “I’ve been the butt of Lt. Dan jokes, especially when Forrest Gump gets him ice cream. I love it.”

Kerr was recently honored for 30 years on the local police force.

“Not too many make it 30 years,” said Chief Jim Bedwell.

Bidwell, who took over the department in January, is chief number six for Kerr.

The longtime veteran will re-tire at the end of this year. “It has been a good run,” he said.

But it’s been a slightly different kind of a send-off year than he expected.

The officer has spent most of his career patrolling the streets, seeing the sad, the horrible and the funny. He’s been involved in a number of scuffles, fights with suspects, and never got hurt.

“But on the first day of my last year, boom!” Kerr said. “I was off on the first, but back to work on the swing shift Sunday, Jan. 3. It was business as usual—nice and quiet, until 7:30,” he recalls.

“I was at headquarters when the call came in. A domestic disturbance on Autumnbrook Circle. The wife was scared and said her husband was intoxicated and had a gun,” he said.

Three units responded to the call, but Kerr was the closest. He went to the wife on the porch and she was okay. He asked where the husband was and she said, “Inside.”

“There he was right there in the living room waiting. He was about 275 pounds and very broad in the chest,” Kerr recalled. In fact, it would take two pairs of handcuffs to lock the suspect’s hands behind his back.

Kerr told the man that he had to check him for weapons. The suspect was belligerent and not very cooperative.

“But I had to make sure he had no weapons on him, so I started to reach behind him and he jumped on me and we went to the floor,” Kerr said.

Just as that happened an-other officer arrived and helped push the man off Kerr and his right hand, but it was too late, the hand was already broken.

“It was just one of those things,” Kerr said.

The officers didn’t really believe Kerr’s hand was broke and in fact Kerr didn’t either, but it was hurting, swelling and he couldn’t move a couple of the fingers, so he went to St. Vincent’s as the other officers took the suspect in.

“When the doctor called me in to show me the x-ray, he said, ‘Do you see that bone? It’s not supposed to look that like, you are probably going to need surgery and plates and pins.’”

Kerr had surgery on Jan. 14 and had two titanium screws placed in his right hand, which is his gun hand.

“I just started physical therapy last week,” he said. He is hoping to be off light duty and back on patrol by the end of March.

“The doctor wants to make sure the bones have healed and then I have to go to the range and be able to fire off 50 rounds and hit the target,” he said.

Kerr, who loves being a police officer, comes by it naturally. His father spent 25 years with the North Little Rock Police Department.

Kerr got his start in January 1978 with that department. “I took odd jobs after high school until I was old enough to become a police officer.

In 1979, Kerr joined the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. “But then Tommy Robinson became sheriff,” Kerr said. “Rumor was he was going to fire as many of the former sheriff’s deputies as he could. Fifteen of us applied to the Sherwood department, and I think we were all hired.”

Kerr said he called one of his friends with the Sherwood Police Department and he told me they only had a spot or two left and paid $2,000 more than the county, and that was a lot back in 1980. I told him to hold me a spot.”

Kerr joined the Sherwood force Jan. 4, 1981, “and it’s just been great ever since.”

Shortly after joining the force he became a warrant officer working what he called great hours, noon to 9 p.m. and weekends usually off.

In 1985 he was ready to go back on patrol and asked the chief if he could make the switch. The chief thought something was wrong.

“No,” I told him, “I have a good run in warrant, but I want to get back to patrol before I forget how.”

The chief obliged and a week later Kerr was on patrol and working as a field-training officer.

In 1993 a new chief came in who liked to rotate his men every five years and moved Kerr into the detective division. In 1997 Kerr along with four other senior officers were the first to be part of the department’s community-policing program. “I really enjoyed that. It’s a lot of public relations.”

But by 1998 he made sergeant, meaning he had to move again—this time into the training division.

In 2001 he made lieutenant, and has been kidded and back on patrol every since.

“I worked mid-shifts for the first three years, and then evenings, the 2 to 10 shift. That was much more agreeable with my body,” he said.

Now, Kerr, who is married with eight grown children and 12 grandkids, is anxious to get out of the evidence room and enjoy the rest of his last year on patrol.

“After I retire, I figure the grandkids and fishing will keep me busy,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Cabot lets official bid on contracts

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council met Monday night and quickly worked through a short agenda with almost no discussion and unanimous approval of all items.

The council passed a resolution permitting Eddie Cook, the city’s director of operations and the owner of Cook Screen Printing, to contract with the city for the sale of goods and services.

The council passed a similar resolution when Cook was on the council. Alderman Jon Moore asked if the council needed to rescind that resolution before passing the new one. City Attorney Jim Taylor responded that the second one superceded the first so all they needed to do was to pass the second one.

Mayor Bill Cypert added that Cook would still have to bid work like any other vendor, but the resolution was needed before he could legally bid.

The council also passed an ordinance rezoning property at 1703 S. Pine St. from R-1 to C-2. The ordinance had been read at previous council meetings and no member of the community came forward to protest the rezoning.

Cypert pulled a resolution appointing council members to committees. The committees are already meeting, but Cypert intended to appoint some “at-large” members who are not on the council.

Before he was elected mayor, Cypert, who was the secretary of the water and wastewater commission, served on the public-works committee.

After he was elected, he appointed Gary Walker, vice chairman of the water and wastewater commission, to the public-works committee and he intended to add Glenn Howe as well.

But after he learned that the ordinance didn’t allow for members not on the city council, he pulled the resolution. He said after the meeting that he would like to appoint non-council members to the committees, but to do so will require amending the ordinance.

Banker John C. Thompson was appointed by resolution to the park commission to replace Jackie Clinton, whose husband was transferred out of the country.

For the second month in a row, the resolutions recognizing former Mayor Eddie Joe Williams and former Alderman Lisa Brickell Hardage were on the agenda.

The resolutions were held last month when neither honoree was present. But when neither attended the Monday night meeting, the council passed the resolutions without them.

Considering the lack of discussion and short agenda, the meeting would have lasted no more than 20 minutes except that it started with entertainment by a choral group from Cabot High School.

The group, directed by David Willard and accompanied by Jo Murry, sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful,” “In Flanders Field” and “Why We Sing.”

SPORTS >> Loss leaves Sylvan Hills on bubble for tourney

Leader sportswriter

Mental mistakes that led to wasted possessions doomed Sylvan Hills down the stretch as the Mills Lady Comets took a 41-34 victory at the Galaxy on Friday.

The Lady Comets (13-8, 6-3) rallied from an 11-point deficit to start the second half, and held the Lady Bears (10-13, 5-6) to just three points in the fourth quarter.

Ashley Johnson gave the Lady Bears a 34-33 lead when she made a three-pointer with 4:11 left to play, but Mills closed it out with an 8-0 run to leave Sylvan Hills on the state tournament bubble.

“Is that all we had?” Rodden said of the fourth quarter scoring, or lack of it. “What do you do? You shouldn’t have to use inexperience as a reason anymore — not this time of year. Look at the unforced errors we made.

“The same thing happened when we played them at our place.”

The top three seeds in the 5A-Southeast Conference are settled with unbeaten Watson Chapel claiming the top spot while Monticello (12-2 in conference) took the No. 2 seed. Mills and Sylvan Hills have makeup games left, but with the Lady Comets three games ahead and having swept the Lady Bears, there is virtually no chance of Sylvan Hills catching them for third.

Sylvan Hills was in fourth place, a game ahead of White Hall, which it defeated in a make-up game on Monday.

The state tournament is at Alma starting next Tuesday.

“We have six losses,” Rodden said. “We’ve got to win out next week. We’ve got to beat everybody below us to even have a shot. We played hard — don’t get me wrong. They gave it everything they had out there as far as effort.”

Sylvan Hills dominated the second quarter and went up 22-15 at halftime. Toyletha Lewis extended the lead to nine at the start of the third quarter when she took an assist from Kashima Wright and scored inside, and Johnson slashed into the lane for a jumper to give the Lady Bears their largest lead, 26-15 with 6:36 left.

“When things are going our way, we’re pretty good,” Rodden said. “We cannot handle adversity. We can’t handle the pressure. We threw the ball away, we walked, we double dribbled.”

Lewis scored all six of her points to carry the Lady Bears through the third quarter. Jalmedal Byrd assisted on Lewis’ inside shot for the 29-26 lead with 3:38 left in the third quarter, and Lewis extended the lead to 31-26 with a putback on the next possession.

Jonte Duhart cut the lead to 31-29 with a three pointer and Jasmine Perkins tied the game with a steal and a layup just before the end of the third quarter.

The Lady Bears were able to work their way through the Lady Comets’ full-court press in the third quarter, but it began to take its toll in the fourth. Sylvan Hills had 17 turnovers, with seven coming in the last period.

“I thought we made really poor decisions with the ball during that stretch,” Rodden said.

“Because I knew when they got the lead, they were going to go man, which has happened to us before, and I’m screaming to step up and put pressure on them.”

Johnson led the Lady Bears with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. Lewis had six points and six rebounds.

For Mills, Perkins led with 14 points while Sasha Carter had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

SPORTS >> Beebe boys wow crowd in victory

Leader sportswriter

The student section got more than its money’s worth as Beebe held off the Forrest City Mustangs 54-50 at Badger Sports Arena on Monday.

The Badger athletic department allowed students free admission to the 5A-East Conference rematch, and they responded by packing the bleachers behind the south goal.

The students were part of a near-capacity crowd that saw Beebe senior captain Devonte Young score a game-high 17 points, which included 6 of 8 clutch free throws in the final minute as the Mustangs frantically tried to overcome a two-possession deficit.

They came close to doing just that when Wesley Booker made a three-pointer with 45 seconds left to cut it to 49-48, but Young hit two free throws and then stole the ball on Forrest City’s end to earn another quick trip to the line.

Young was perfect again, and he tacked on one more free throw for good measure with 19 seconds left following a basket by the Mustangs’ LaCharles Boyd.

“We just met the challenge tonight,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall said.

“It was a great high-school ballgame. I thought the game over there was bigger, because we had just come off a loss to Greene County Tech and had to go into that hostile environment. But tonight, the kids did a great job.”

Junior forward Dayton Scott matched Young’s big-play consistency and senior sixth man Zach May provided an early spark with seven of his nine points in the first quarter.

Two points was the largest margin for either team in the first half, which featured six lead changes in the second quarter alone.

Scott put on his biggest show during that time with a dunk that gave Beebe (20-4, 10-2) a 13-12 lead inside six minutes to go. He took an ally-oop assist from Brandon Fuller for a two-handed dunk just before the halftime buzzer to give the Badgers a 22-20 lead.

The Badgers completed a sweep of Forrest City (8-4 conference) after winning 45-44 at Forrest City on Feb. 15.

“Hard-fought ballgame; both teams played hard,” Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton said. “Just like the first game, a few more breaks went their way, but they’re a solid team — two solid teams. Wherever we go in the 5A, this is how it is.

“I’m very impressed with Beebe, with their program. This is the shot in the arm that they needed, and it can only make the 5A-East better.”

The victory assures Beebe of at least a No. 2 seed in the 5A state tournament, but the Badgers will need a Blytheville loss to have a shot at the conference title. Forrest City is locked into the No. 3 seed with one league game remaining.

May checked in after the first three minutes and immediately went to work, scoring on a putback with 4:20 left in the first quarter to tie it 4-4 and scored inside again with 2:29 left for a 6-6 tie. The reserve post player showed his versatility with a three-pointer from the corner with 1:48 left in the period to give the Badgers a 9-8 lead.

“He’s done that for us the last couple of games,” Marshall said. “We could probably find a starting spot for him, but we kind of like bringing him in like that and letting him get things going for us.”

Austin Burroughs got in on the action late for Beebe with a basket that gave the Badgers a 37-34 lead to start the fourth quarter. Young got the ball back with a steal near midcourt and passed to Burroughs, who hit a jumper just outside the lane and drew a foul with 6:21 left to play.

Burroughs converted the three-point play to give Beebe its largest lead, 40-34.

Scott added 13 points for Beebe and had two blocks while Burroughs finished with seven points. Forrest City’s Jordan Chatter scored 16 points.

Beebe has a 6-0 conference record at home. Marshall pointed to the final of the Christmas Classic tournament, which the Badgers won in overtime against Harding Academy, and said that began to energize the fan base.

“It’s been very exciting,” Marshall said. “I thought winning our tournament versus Harding, who brought a great crowd, and obviously has a great ball club, kind of got things started.

“The administration’s been great here. They let the kids in free the other night against Nettleton and then also tonight. It’s just a great environment to play in.”

The Beebe Lady Badgers also completed a sweep of Forrest City with a 68-48 victory on Monday.

Sophomore Jamie Jackson led with 25 points, making 15 of 19 free throws, and had 10 rebounds. Senior Shayln Young added 23 points.

SPORTS >>Jacksonville slams door on Marion

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville is in the middle of a tough run, but so far it hasn’t been as tough on the Red Devils as the run they turned in to beat Marion 61-55 at the Devils Den on Friday.

Before a packed house, with people being turned away at the door, Jacksonville posted a 14-0 third-quarter run to beat the Patriots and moved into first place in the 6A-East Conference.

“There were a lot of people from all over the state. I saw some people from northwest Arkansas,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said of the crowd and energized atmosphere.

Marion responded with a 9-0 run but could get no closer than six as the Red Devils, facing three games in four days this week, held on.

“We didn’t have to press them a lot,” Joyner said. One, they’re too quick; they’re too good to trap and they play too many people so you’re not going to wear them down and so we had to out-execute them and try to be patient.”

The biggest adjustment Joyner made at halftime was to point out the four three-pointers Marion’s Tevin Lewis made in the first half.

“No. 15 had hit four threes,” Joyner said. “And that’s what I wrote on the board, ‘15’ as big as I could and put a circle around it, and 15 didn’t score another basket the second half.

“If he didn’t hit those four threes early on in that game, I felt we could have got out on them earlier.”

Jacksonville’s run extended a two-point lead to 46-30 with 1:38 left in the third.

Joyner said the Red Devils, who won the 2009 6A state tournament, have gotten used to a big-game atmosphere and haven’t been fazed as their notoriety has increased this season.

“A lot of these kids have already been there,” Joyner said. “That’s the beauty of it. A lot of them have been in that atmosphere a couple years in a row.

“A lot of them hadn’t. You’ve got to get them used to being there. We’re going to take it as another game.”

Raheem Appleby led Jacksonville (20-3, 8-3) and all scorers with 20 points, with five assists and three steals.

Joyner said he has been urging other players to get in on the offense and Justin McCleary and Jamison Williams delivered with 10 points each.

“Raheem is doing what Raheem does,” Joyner said. “The other guys are picking their moments and trying to get more aggressive. We have guys taking more shots than we had, that’s the good thing.

“Hopefully they’ll make some of them but we have guys taking more shots and that’s what we want; other people being comfortable to shoot the ball in big moments.”

Warren Boyd led Marion (15-9, 5-7) with 15 points.

“We had some turnovers that got them back in the game but we held our own,” Joyner said.

Jacksonville and Little Rock Parkview have identical conference records but Jacksonville would hold the tiebreaker for a conference championship because it swept Parkview this year.

Jacksonville played a regularly scheduled game at West Memphis on Tuesday, and then plays host to Searcy in a makeup tonight before playing host to Mountain Home in another scheduled game Friday.

The Searcy game was postponed from Feb. 11 because of winter weather affecting most of the state. It marked the second time Jacksonville has had to play makeup games in a compressed schedule this year.

Jacksonville had games on Feb. 14-15 at defending 6A state champion Little Rock Hall and at home against Jonesboro.

“As long as other teams are in the same situation it won’t hurt you,” Joyner said. “Searcy, they’ll be playing a three-game week too. Mountain Home, the ones we have to play, they’re playing a three-game week just like we are.”

SPORTS >> Cabot girls team rolls to state win

Leader sports editor

The Cabot girls bowling team took its second 7A/6A state championship in three years with a 131-pin victory over Searcy while the boys finished second to Searcy at the Jonesboro Bowling Center on Feb. 16.

With a 624 series, Shelby Smith earned overall medalist honors, becoming the first Cabot girl to do so. Smith was also named all state and her overall score was the fourth highest all-time for any female bowler in all seven classifications.

Kelly Bustos rolled a 478 at state, Haley Patterson had a 460, Emily Burgan rolled a 422, Lisa Ridgeway finished with a 415 and Shelby Eddy posted a 379.

Smith, last year’s bronze medalist, has also qualified for the Junior National Finals this summer in Las Vegas.

“I am so happy for these kids,” coach Mike Nash said. “They have worked hard all year and their showing at state is the evidence of their hard work.”

Cabot finished second last year after the girls won the state championship in 2009.

“The girls trailed Searcy by 10 pins after the first bakers game,” Nash said. “But closed out with games of 182, 185 and 196. They were very determined to not let last year repeat itself.”

In conference and state tournament play, six bowlers bowl three individual games each and then the team bowls four bakers matches. In a bakers game, five players bowl alternate frames.

Searcy beat Cabot by 37 pins to claim the state championship in the boys division but Cabot’s second-place finish was its best to date. The Panthers were third in 2008.

Cabot’s Cody Bunting (647) and Kenny Pederson (679) made the all-state team while Dylan Wilson rolled a 641 series, Jace Jennings had a 616, Nick Jones had a 358, Stormy Pecchioni rolled a 344, Kyle Kaufman posted a 188 and Adrian Nichols finished with a 156.

“The boys led the entire time and let it slip away in the last bakers game,” Nash said. “Although they were disappointed, they now know what it takes to win state and I believe they will work that much harder over the next year to get back in position to win state.”

Both Cabot teams went 7-0 in 7A/6-Central Conference play with the girls finishing second to Searcy by three pins in the conference tournament and the boys finishing third behind Searcy and Benton.

Patterson (493), Burgan (469), Smith (523) and Bustos (550) were named to the all-conference team and Bustos was the overall medalist. The four selections mark a program best for the Lady Panthers.

“Before the season started, we were nervous about our girls team,” Nash said. “We only had three returning from last year’s team, but through try-outs we were able to pick up some very good bowlers.”

Pecchioni (577 series) and Pederson (601 series) were named to the boys all-conference team.

The Panthers’ two all-state and two all-conference selections are boys program highs and Bunting is Cabot’s only two-time, all-state choice.

“All things considered, this was our best year,” Nash said of the program’s overall finish.

SPORTS >> Bears overtake foul-plagued Comets

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills made Mills pay for foul trouble in a 64-61 comeback victory at the Galaxy on Friday.

Sylvan Hills’ Larry Ziegler and Archie Goodwin combined for a less than stellar 3-of-14 performance at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, but the duo drew fouls from the right players at the right time, as four Mills players fouled out down the stretch.

Ziegler and Goodwin drew fouls to cost the Comets two players each, including three starters, in the final period. Bears point guard Dion Patton made a three-pointer with 2:23 left to play to give the Bears a 58-57 lead, their first since the opening minute of the second half.

Despite having four reserves on the floor in the final minute, Mills continued to battle until Sylvan Hills’ Trey Smith made two free throws with 21 seconds left to ice it for the Bears.

Sylvan Hills (19-3, 11-0) went to the free-throw line nine times in the fourth quarter, yet Smith was the only one to go for 2 for 2 on any of those  opportunities.

“To miss as many free throws as we did tonight, not characteristic of our ball club,” Bears coach Kevin Davis said. “Perimeter shots not going down, and yet to still find a way to win in a hot gym against a very good Mills Comets basketball team who really brought it tonight with their emotion and their effort.”

Scoring was largely by committee for the Comets (14-8, 7-4) as post player Denzel Anthony scored 11 points and three others had nine. Anthony had 16 rebounds to keep momentum with Mills through most of the game as he got many of his points on putbacks.

“He’s a 6-8, 6-9 guy,” Davis said. “And sometimes our rotation over on the defense leaves him some easy buckets. I think he had 18 over at our place. So we know in pressure defense, he’s hanging around the front of the cup.”

As has been the case in most of Sylvan Hills’ conference games this season, the stands were packed with fans trying to get a glimpse of Goodwin, the Bears’ five-star college recruit.

Goodwin gave the crowd its money’s worth with a game-high 27 points, including a breakaway two-handed dunk with 23 seconds left in the first quarter. It was enough to bring even the Mills fans to their feet despite the fact their team was locked in a critical, 5A-Southeast Conference game.

Goodwin also had seven rebounds.

“I thought it was just a heavyweight fight,” Davis said. “We went toe-to-toe in here. Our resiliency and our toughness paid off for us.”

Not all of the Bears fared poorly at the free-throw line. Patton went 5 for 5 for half of his 10 points while post player Devin Pearson was perfect on his only trip to the line with 5:39 left in the first half.

But for Goodwin, who prides himself on being a consistent free-throw shooter, his 9 for 22 showing was among the worst in his career.

Ziegler, who finished with 11 points, literally drew first blood when he charged into the lane and forced Anthony to commit his fourth personal foul with five minutes remaining.

After the whistle, Anthony had to leave the floor because he had blood on his shorts. He returned moments later only to foul Ziegler again with 4:10 left, leaving the Comets without their inside size advantage while trying to hold a 53-50 lead.

Sylvan Hills also had its share of tense moments.

Mills’ Robert Dukes made a spin move near mid-court and inadvertently chopped Goodwin, who was defending, in the throat and sent Goodwin to the floor with 5:23 left. Play was stopped for Goodwin to recover, and he reentered when play was stopped because of the blood on Anthony’s uniform.

Goodwin got even when he drew Dukes’ fifth personal with 3:12 remaining. Goodwin also got Mills starter Kyle Jackson to foul out with 1:17 left to play and Ziegler got Comets’ reserve post James Lee to foul out in the final minute.

Sylvan Hills’ sixth man, Jacob Gates, fouled out with 3:24 left and Ziegler took a seat with 26 seconds remaining.

“This crowd was crazy, wasn’t it?” Davis said. “A packed house over here at Mills; Sylvan Hills and Mills have a rivalry anyway, and the guys on both sides are juiced for this game. Even though I thought the heat took it out of us a little bit, I thought both teams brought it.

“That’s what you saw as far as us taking them out or them taking us out.”

Pearson finished with six points and a team-high eight rebounds. Dukes, Chris Hampton and Dantrell Washington each had nine points for Mills.

The Bears play a makeup game at home against Helena-West Helena on Thursday.