Saturday, November 19, 2011

SPORTS>>Quick-strike Cards race past Badgers

Leader sportswriter

Time management didn’t work for Beebe against a fast-scoring Camden Fairview team Friday. The Cardinals used big offensive plays to down the Badgers 56-17 in the quarterfinal round of the Class 5A state playoffs at Cardinal Stadium in Camden.

With the victory, Camden Fair-view, 11-1, will face Greenwood next week in the semifinals in a rematch of last year’s 5A state championship game in which the Bulldogs won in a 36-35 thriller.

Beebe, 7-5, carried out its usual strategy of sustained offensive drives but came up short with most of their first-half efforts. Junior running back Michael Kirby found his way into the end zone twice in the hird quarter on a pair of one-yard runs, but the scores occurred after the Cardinals had the contest well in hand.

“We knew they had the ability to score quick,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “Their athletic ability took over. Wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it, but the kids played hard, and I’m proud of them for that.”

The Cardinals struck fast on their opening possession with a five-play, 67-yard drive that put Camden Fairview quarterback Austin Booth’s ability in the air on display. The senior hit Jamie Smith for a 33-yard completion to take the ball into Badger territory at the 30-yard line. Booth then found Derrick Keaton on a screen pass that Keaton took the distance for the score with 8:56 remaining in the first quarter to give Camden Fairview a 7-0 lead.

The Badgers answered with a long drive that went 12 plays and took the ball from the Beebe 24-yard line to the Cardinal 18 before an incompletion by senior quarterback Dustin Stallnaker brought up fourth down. Senior kicker Matt Pursell then put up Beebe’s only points of the first half with a 37-yard field goal with 1:56 left to play in the first quarter to make it 7-3 Cardinals.

The Badger defense held on Camden Fairview’s next drive and forced the offense to stall out on downs at the Beebe 44-yard line in just four plays. That set the Badgers up with their best starting field position of the night, and they drove into Cardinal territory with runs by Jay Holdway, Jeremy Van Winkle and Kirby, who converted a third-and-inches play to set Beebe up with a new set of downs at the Camden Fairview 34-yard line.

But their luck ran out on the next set of downs as the Cardinals stopped Kirby just short of the markers on fourth and two.

That gave Camden Fairview possession deep in its own territory, and the Badgers stopped a pair of quarterback draws by Booth to set up a third and nine at the 25. But Jerry Moorehead stepped under center on third down and completed a pass to Dominique Reed for a 75-yard touchdown with 4:52 remaining in the first half. The successful extra-point put the Cardinals up 14-3. Moorehead took most of the snaps in the second half in place of Booth, who is still not fully recovered from an injury he sustained in the regular season.

Beebe went three and out on its next possession, and Stallnaker’s punt set the Cardinals up with a first down at their own 37-yard line. Booth found Smith for a touchdown pass on first down, but the play was called back on an illegal block.

The flag did little to slow them down, however, as Keaton pushed the ball into Badger territory on the next play with a 33-yard run, and Moorehead stepped under center again for another touchdown pass. This one was also to Reed, this time for 18 yards and another score to push the margin to 21-3 with 2:03 left in the first half.

Beebe helped the Cardinals out with another score just before the half when a high snap to punter Stallnaker on fourth down ended up on the turf, setting Camden Fairview up with a first down at the Badger 7-yard line with 1:15 remaining.

It took one run by Reed to punch it in, giving the Cardinals a 28-3 lead at the break.

Holdway led the Badgers with 18 carries for 85 yards. Kirby finished with 18 carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns, as the Badgers finished with 324 total yards compared to 455 for Camden Fairview.

The Badgers reached the quarterfinals for the second time in Shannon’s five-year tenure at Beebe. Shannon, who has expressed a desire to develop Beebe football into an elite program, said his seniors will be leaving the program in better shape than their arrival three seasons ago.

“I told the seniors that they had taken us to another level,” Shannon said. “They did things that we haven’t done in a long, long time. This year, we won a road playoff game to get to the quarterfinals, so I feel like we’ve taken a step in the right direction.”

SPORTS>>Cabot puts Lady ’Rabbits away early

Leader sportswriter

The outcome was never in question as Cabot advanced to the consolation finals of the Arkansas Alumni Classic basketball tournament with a 64-31 victory over Lonoke at Hall High School on Thursday.

The Lady Panthers applied a heavy press early and forced 10 turnovers from the Lady Jackrabbits in the first four minutes of play. Senior and University of Arkansas signee Melissa Wolff led the scoring charge for Cabot with 17 points and four steals, while junior Elliott Taylor added 10 points for the Lady Panthers.

“The girls played real hard; I’m real proud of them,” Cabot coach Carla Crowder said. “Lonoke, they’re really young, and I think they’re going to get it. They’re just a very young team. We’ve got four starters back, so that’s a big difference.”

Cabot started the game on a 9-0 run with an inside basket by Sydney Wacker, followed by a shot just inside the three-point line by Wolff, who then made the front end of a two-shot foul before two baskets by Taylor put the Lady Panthers up 9-0 with 13:19 left to play in the first half.

Strong defense inside by Cabot made things tough on the drive dependant Lady Jackrabbits, who earned many of their points the hard way by drawing contact on their way to the rim for a trip to the free-throw line. Senior guard Derrika Mays led the scoring for Lonoke with 11 points, while fellow senior and post player Anna Himstedt finished with eight points, including a 6-for-6 performance at the free-throw line.

Cabot put together another run of unanswered scores midway through the first half. Taylor and Wacker both scored on put backs, while senior Laci Boyett drove the paint to put the Lady Panthers up 22-7 at the 5:46 mark of the first half. Wolff completed the 8-0 run with a banker off the left side on an in-bounds play to make it 24-7.

Most of Cabot’s damage had been done from the inside early, but that changed when junior Maddie Smith checked into the game with just over five minutes remaining in the first half. Smith took an assist from Boyett and launched a three pointer that put the Lady Panthers up 27-10 and struck again from the outside just over a minute later to make it 32-12 with 3:17 remaining in the half.

Wolff decided to get in on the action outside with back-to-back threes inside of three minutes. Her second with 2:05 left to play lifted Cabot to a 38-14 lead.

Wolff, Taylor, and the rest of the Cabot starters sat on the bench most of the second half. Wolff scored two quick baskets to start the half, followed by two baskets for Taylor, who finished her night unassisted with a steal at midcourt and a drive inside the paint that gave the Lady Panthers an insurmountable 47-16 lead with 13:41 remaining.

Wolff, Taylor, Wacker and Boyett were all pulled after that, leaving juniors Jaylin Bridges and Ally Van Enk as the only players in the main rotation still on the court.

Van Enk had an all-purpose night for the Lady Panthers with five points, five rebounds and three steals.

“Ally is probably one of the best athletes we have,” Crowder said. “She just needs to get her confidence up to play. She’s a very good player when she gets ready to play.”

Himstedt led the Lady Jackrabbits on the boards with six rebounds. Lonoke committed 34 turnovers, while Cabot gave the ball away 14 times.

“We’ve just got to do a really good job rebounding,” Crowder said. “We’ve got to be a good defensive team and keep executing on offense. So we have to keep challenging them to get better.”

Cabot will play in the consolation finals of the Alumni Classic at 2:30 Saturday against Pulaski Academy or Little Rock Hall.

SPORTS>>Hogs secure McClure

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville senior D’Vone McClure signed his national letter of intent to play baseball for the University of Arkansa. McClure signed early in the morning in front of students and faculty at the Devils Den gymnasium Wednesday.

McClure, a centerfielder, was part of a state-championship winning Red Devils team back in the spring, and is one of only two returning starters from that team.

The Jacksonville High School Juke Box Band set the mood with a short performance before athletic director Jerry Wilson led the student body in calling the Hogs.

That was followed by a brief speech by baseball coach Larry Burrows before McClure spoke to the crowd. McClure thanked his coaches and his friends for always pushing him, and thanked his family for being there for him.

“He’s been a leader since he came up,” Burrows said. “It’s nice when your best player is the hardest worker, and he’s always worked extremely hard. He’s been a good teammate, and he’s had a lot of good teammates around him. They’ve sort of put us back on the map.”

McClure was the hitting leader on a Jacksonville team which had six players batting .300 or better. In 100 at-bats, McClure had 46 hits, including nine home runs for an average of .460 and an on-base percentage of .589. He was also second to Patrick Castleberry in RBIs with 31.

The signing comes just after McClure and the Red Devils football team fell out of the Class 6A state playoffs with a 15-10 loss to Sheridan.

McClure was a starting wide receiver on the football team, making him a true two-sport standout.

“It was a lot of hard work,” McClure said. “But I love both sports, so I just kept on playing them.”

With heavy hitters such as Castleberry, Jacob Abrahamson, Kenny Cummings and Tommy Sanders all graduated from last year’s state championship team, it leaves McClure and pitcher Jessie Harbin as the only experienced players returning next spring. But McClure, with a championship ring on his hand and a prestigious scholarship in his pocket, pledges to keep doing what he’s always done – work hard.

“At the end, we’ll play better,” McClure said. “We’ll come together as a team. Me and Harbin will show them around a little bit. Once they get familiar with it, we’ll be better. It would be awesome to get another ring, but I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work.”

SPORTS>>Beebe ladies handle Bears

Special to The Leader

Through all four quarters Friday night, Beebe and Sylvan Hills struggled with turnovers. Despite a late effort from the Lady Bears, the Lady Badgers’ Kalela Miller kept making play after play when her team needed it the most.

Miller, a sophomore guard, scored 12 of her 22 points in the second half to lead the Lady Badgers to a 61-48 win over Sylvan Hills in the seventh place game of the Heavenly Hoops Classic held at Mount St. Mary’s Academy.

“It was a little sloppy,” said Beebe head coach Greg Richey about the game, “but it’s a win. That’s what’s important right now. We were just trying to get us a win here, but we had some kids do some good things.”

The final score made the game look a lot closer than it really was. Sylvan Hills held a 10-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Beebe came out strong in the second, outscoring the Lady Bears 20-8 to take a 28-18 lead going into the half.

Beebe’s junior point guard Jamie Jackson scored 12 points in the first half, with the majority of those points coming in the second quarter to help give the Lady Badgers a boost offensively.

“She’s been a good player for us,” Richey said of Jackson. “She’s had a double-double in every game we’ve played this year.”

Jackson didn’t get her usual double-double, likely due to her fouling out early in the fourth quarter. She still managed to finish the game with 20 points.

Beebe dominated the third quarter much like they did the second, outscoring the Lady Bears 20-11, giving the Lady Badgers a comfortable 48-29 lead going into the fourth.

“The last two games we played I was very proud of our efforts,” said Sylvan Hills head coach Shelley Davis about her team’s play. “I thought we played very hard and made good strides and learned some things. Tonight, a totally different team.

“I didn’t feel like our enthusiasm was there. I didn’t feel like the energy was there, and we didn’t come out ready. You can’t do that against teams with good athletes like Beebe.”

Despite the Lady Badgers’ comfortable lead going into the fourth quarter, Sylvan Hills came out strong and kept competing. The Lady Bears hit four three pointers in the fourth quarter and outscored the Lady Badgers 19-13.

Even though the Lady Bears didn’t quit, many of the team’s points came late with Beebe playing it safe.

“I was very pleased up until tonight,” Davis said, “I thought I saw a little bit of spark back in us in the fourth quarter. It was just disoriented at times, very sloppy, and no emotion whatsoever. They play hard and they play with a lot of emotion, so that’s what was frustrating watching them. I didn’t feel like we were mentally ready.”

Senior point guard Kashima Wright, and junior guard Naomi Gregory led the Lady Bears’ late scoring run. Gregory led the Lady Bears with 15 points, while also adding 2 rebounds, 1 block and 3 steals.

Wright finished the game with 14 points, 2 rebounds and 2 steals. Wright and Gregory hit three of the team’s four three pointers at the end of the game.

Even though Beebe got the win, the Lady Badgers had more turnovers, 19, than the Lady Bears’ 15. Davis is disappointed with the loss, but believes her team will be better the next time they play.

“We played two great games Monday and Wednesday,” Davis said, “and we come in tonight and I was just disappointed. We could’ve beat them, but we get another shot at them next week.”

SPORTS>>Carlisle overcomes 16-point deficit for win

Leader sports editor

Resiliency was the characteristic that shined Friday at Fred Hardke Field in Carlisle. The Bison were down and looked like they might be overmatched by the visiting Danville Little Johns in their second-round class 2A playoff matchup. Danville’s speed helped it race out to a 16-0 lead, but Carlisle buckled down and mounted a slow, methodical comeback to win 22-16 and advance to the quarterfinal round.

“This group of kids is just a great group of young men,” Carlisle coach Scott Waymire said. “I think the world of those seniors. I’ve been around them six years. They just played like Carlisle Bison tonight. We’ve had great groups since I got here and before. The kids just have great character. It’s a just a great place. Carlisle’s a great town and has a lot of great kids.”

Carlisle, 11-0, started the game-winning drive on its own 9-yard line with 6:58 left in the game. On second and three from the Danville 11, Bo Weddle took the fullback trap up the middle, cut left and raced into the end zone to give Carlisle a 20-16 lead with 2:09 remaining in the game. Deron Ricks added the two-point conversion on a sweep left to set the final margin, but the game was not yet over.

Danville, 9-3, took possession, and despite several penalties on the final drive, still threatened. The Little Johns had first down at the Carlisle 16 with 21 seconds left. An illegal procedure penalty moved them back five yards. On the next play, Dakota Long caught a 5-yard pass, but didn’t get out of bounds. With no timeouts left, Danville ran out of time before it could snap the ball again.

A key play of the drive was a 20-yard reception on third and one that was called back for illegal motion.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times, and they did too,” Waymire said. “But that speed that they have can help you overcome that a lot of times.”

Indeed early on, Danville’s speed looked like it might be too much for Carlisle.

Danville got on the board with its first drive of the game. Starting from its own 34, four plays got it to the Carlisle 42. That’s where senior tailback Sean Tyra showed his exceptional speed for the first time. From the I formation, Tyra got through the first layer of defenders up the 2 hole, cut left and ran untouched 42 yards for the score with 10:19 left in the first quarter.

Carlisle’s evening got off to a rough start with a mishandled kickoff that left the offense on its own 13 to start its first drive. Still, the Bison had a good drive going when a huge penalty thwarted momentum.

After 10 plays, Carlisle faced third and 8 from the Danville 27. Braxton Petrus picked up the first down on an option pitch from King, but receiver Justice Bryant was called for an illegal block in the back. Instead of first down, Carlisle faced third and 19. An option pass was the call, but Danville sniffed it out and King’s throw was under pressure and incomplete.

Carlisle’s punt was downed by King inside the Danville 1-yard line, but that didn’t help stop the Little John offense.

Danville drove 14 plays, and because of a holding penalty in the course of the drive, 109 yards to score. The key play of the drive was a 13-yard pass completion from Giles to Daniel Parker on third and five. Danville got about half the yardage on 12 plays. The final two went for 54. On second and 16, Giles hit Dadrian Ester for a 20-yard completion.

On the next play Tyra got loose again, this time straight up the middle 34 yards for the score. The extra point was no good, leaving it 13-0 Danville with 11:34 left in the first half.

Carlisle’s next drive ended on downs at the Danville 48. More penalties hurt the Little Johns, who had to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Kevin Dominguez with 6:08 left in the half that made it 16-0.

The Bison had to have something good happen on its next drive, and it did. The Bison started at their own 26 and put together a 13-play scoring drive. Disaster almost struck on second and goal from the 5-yard line. The snap hit the ground, but Carlisle covered it for a 3-yard loss. Carlisle called timeout to talk about the third-down play.

Out of the timeout, quarterback Zac King kept it on a bootleg that Danville didn’t recognize. King walked into the end zone with 17 seconds left in the first half. The same call to the other side was good for the conversion and Carlisle had cut Danville’s lead in half just before halftime.

Carlisle got it back to start the second half. After a first down from a Danville personal foul, and another on a 10-yard run by Ty Vaughn, the Bison started committing the penalties. Two illegal procedure penalties and an incomplete pass set up fourth and 19, forcing Carlisle to punt. Danville’s first drive of the second half was three and out, a huge win for the Bison defense.

The Bison offense responded by scoring.

A poor punt set Carlisle up at its own 49. Three plays got just four yards, but Carlisle caught another big break when Danville was flagged for an illegal substitution. That made it fourth and one. Senior Braxton Petrus got the call.

He was initially hit two yards in the backfield, but a second effort got him through the line of scrimmage for a 2-yard gain that kept the drive alive.

A holding penalty on the next play backed Carlisle up again, but Petrus picked up 36 on first and long to set up first and goal at the 9.

Seven yards from Vaughn and two from Weddle got it into the end zone. The conversion failed and Carlisle trailed 16-14 with 3:56 left in the third quarter.

The two teams traded turnovers on the next two possessions. Danville got it back on an interception by Ester at the Little John 20-yard line.

From there, Danville marched 14 plays to the Carlisle 11, but a huge defensive play stopped the drive.

On third and goal at the 11, Weddle hammered Danville quarterback Mike Jiles, forcing a fumble that King recovered, setting up Carlisle’s winning drive.

Danville won the yardage battle, piling up 371 yards of offense to 307 for Carlisle. Weddle led the Bison with 161 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Petrus added 70 yards on 14 carries and Vaughn had eight carries for 60 yards.

Tyra led Danville with 12 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

Carlisle will face the Gurdon Go-Devils next week. Gurdon beat Spring Hill 35-7 on Friday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Corporate free loaders

The late, great Leland Duvall, the farm and business writer for the Arkansas Gazette, occasionally invoked Moreland’s Laws of Economics to explain the conduct of institutions of finance or commerce. Moreland’s Sixth Law might be “Profits are never high enough.” Moreland’s Fourth Law could be “Taxes are never low enough.” Moreland was the Ozark mountain community where Duvall was reared. His numbering was a matter of whim and varied according to the occasion.

Duvall’s formulation on the optimum level of business taxes would explain the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce’s presentation this week to the legislature’s Joint Revenue and Tax Committee. It hired a big accounting firm to analyze Arkansas’ various taxes on corporations and those of the surrounding states and, for some reason, Kansas.

What do you think the chamber’s study showed? Exactly. It showed what the chamber wanted it to show. Arkansas needs not to impose so many taxes on corporations. They would grow and hire more people if Arkansas taxed them like states with lower corporate tax burdens.

The chamber and the corporations for which it fights want the legislature to lower tax rates and create more exemptions when it gathers again in regular session, in 2013, or in the 2012 session in January if the governor and the legislature could be persuaded to extend its fiscal session for the purpose of helping industry and creating jobs. Who can blame them? You would like to pay fewer taxes, too, wouldn’t you, if your state and local governments could provide the essential services without them?

You could be forgiven your skepticism if you doubted the efficacy of a comparative study of state tax climates. So disparate are the tax laws of the states that you can massage the tax rates, exemptions, credits, deductions and special deals for this or that kind of business to show whatever you want the study to show. This one is a good case in point.

The study concluded that when you weighed the various taxes that affect investments by a corporation, Arkansas was near the top in a number of categories. The overall “effective tax rate” on corporations ranged from Texas’ 9.1 percent to Louisiana’s 12.7 percent. Arkansas’ rate, the corporate accountants said, was second highest at 11.5 percent. The differences actually don’t look so forbidding, but another scholar might establish an entirely different set of numbers.

Texas was supposed to levy negligible income and franchise taxes while Arkansas levied a tiny franchise tax, but an income tax that graduates to 6.5 percent on net income above $100,000. Arkansas’ income- tax rate is higher than those of Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma but lower than Tennessee’s, Missouri’s, Louisiana’s and Kansas’. (Kansas’ is commonly listed as a 4 percent tax, but on net income over $50,000 it rises to 7 percent, higher than Arkansas.)

While Texas does not have a corporate income tax, it has a margin tax that reaps huge revenues for the state. It is not based on a company’s net profits but—big difference—upon its total revenues or gross receipts after wages and salaries. Also, unlike Arkansas, the states of Kansas and Texas require combined reporting by multistate corporations so that they pay taxes on all the revenues the companies collect in those states. Arkansas permits the corporations to shift their Arkansas income to subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid paying taxes in Arkansas. The chamber’s accounting scholars would consider the effective tax rate of one of the big oil companies high in Arkansas, but it really would be negligible.

Arkansas’ property taxes are considerably lower than those of the competing neighbors. We impose a high sales tax, but corporations, particularly manufacturers, have won exemptions for their major transactions.

Did they factor in severance taxes on minerals? Energy is Texas’ big industry. While Texas’ margin tax on the big oil and gas producers and Oklahoma’s income tax on them are not particularly high, the states charge the companies 6 to 7 percent of the market value of the gas they produce. Arkansas collects less than 2 percent.

But the more important consideration is that the effective state corporate tax rate has little to do with business expansion. While every business would love to pay lower taxes, there are far more critical factors that determine when and where you launch or expand. If Arkansas’ income tax rate is a little higher than, say, Mississippi’s or Texas’, the Arkansas business takes a greater deduction when it pays its taxes to Uncle Sam.

Here is why the chamber’s lobbying for lower corporate taxes is important to you: If corporate taxes are lower, then at some point taxes on everyone else—consumers and workers—will need to be higher. It just works that way. That explosion of economic growth and new government revenues that is supposed to follow tax cuts for corporations and investors never happens.

Let’s hope the legislature keeps that in mind when it ponders the chamber’s tax study.

TOP STORY > >Council approves limited fireworks

Leader staff writer

By a 9 to 1 vote, the Jack-sonville City Council on Thursday adopted a new fireworks ordinance that allows restricted use of fireworks with a permit and increases fines for use outside of the times that the ordinance allows.

Alderman Mike Traylor was the lone dissenter.

He believed the new ordinance would not accomplish the council’s goals of reducing police calls. Over the July 4th holiday, the 911 center had so many calls that it crashed the system.

“How does this stop the calls?” Traylor asked.

Even after Alderman Reedie Ray, who was the chairman of a committee that met six times on the issue, went over the ordinance and said police won’t have to respond to calls from areas with permits. Traylor re-mained unconvinced.

Alderman Marshall Smith admitted that there would be just as many calls the first year, but as residents became more familiar with the rules, there would be fewer calls.

Ray told the council that the committee didn’t want to completely say no to fireworks, which the old ordinance did. “It’s like the fire chief says, fireworks are as American as baseball and apple pie,” Ray said.

“We now allow a certain period for their use,” Ray continued, adding that he wanted a “show of force.”

Code officers, auxiliary officers, police placed around the city, especially in areas where the 911 center received the most complaint calls. “But it didn’t get in,” Ray said.

What is included are higher fines and more parent responsibilities for children shooting off fireworks. Fines can now be as high as $750 plus court costs. “This gives us more control,” Ray said.

When asked how many citations had been issued in the past, City Attorney Robert Bamburg said he could count the number of citations on one hand.

He said this Fourth of July only one citation was issued but the person was found not guilty because the old ordinance was not clear about the parent’s role.

“This version holds the parent much more responsible,” said Mayor Gary Fletcher.

The new law does let “any private land owner or organization to provide a July Fourth fireworks display from 6 to 11 p.m.” provide the landowner or organization has obtained approval and permits for each display from the city and state fire marshals.

The permits will be free.

However, those seeking permission to discharge fireworks must also provide payment or make other assurances for security, traffic control and timely trash cleanup.

The fire and police departments also need 72 hours notice.

Outside of the permitted use, the ordinance prohibits any person from discharging, exploding, firing, manufacturing, possessing, selling or allowing to be discharged, exploded, fired, manufactured, possessed or sold any “bombs, firecrackers, Roman candles, squids, torpedoes, or other such items containing powder or combustible or explosive material” within city limits.

It goes on to state that “no parent or guardian of a minor shall furnish money or a thing of value to a minor for the purchase of fireworks or encourage, act in conjunction with or in any manner aid, allow, instigate, or permit a minor to buy, discharge, explode, fire, manufacture, possess, receive, sell, transport, or use fireworks” within the city limits.

A parent can be found guilty of this section even if the child is not found guilty of using fireworks.

Even though the ordinance restricts the use of fireworks and increases the fines, it does allow the sale of fireworks within the city by the one fireworks company that was annexed into the city when the property along Hwy. 67/167 south of Cabot was added.

The ordinance grandfathers the business in, but it will not apply if the business is sold, transferred or moved.

Both the mayor and police chief had said that they would have liked to have the city set certain days and times for fireworks to help stop police from being inundated with phone calls every Fourth of July and Christmas Eve.

“I’d like our officers to be working really crime and not having to chase down these calls,” Mayor Gary Fletcher previously told the committee and council.

Police Chief Gary Sipes agreed, adding that whenever a complaint call comes in, the department responds but by the time the patrols get to a site of a fireworks call, the kids or adults shooting off the fireworks are usually gone.

He said even though his department received close to 200 calls this past Fourth of July, there were no arrests.

Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said fire damage and injuries from fireworks over the years had been minimal.

He told the committee in one of its meetings, that the only serious fire incident he could recall was when a young boy set off large fireworks in his bedroom. “Other than that it’s just been a few grass fires,” he said.

The ordinance will take effect in 30 days.

TOP STORY > >Not guilty pleas in murder case

Leader staff writer

Four people accused of involvement in the murder of Walter Jones, 28, in Lonoke on Sept. 18 pleaded not guilty Friday in Lonoke County Circuit Court before Judge Barbara Elmore.

Jeremy Walker, 24, of 101 Plantation Drive is charged with second-degree murder and engaging in a violent group activity. Cortney McClain, 24, and Kimo McClain, 21, both of 302 Teresa Lane, are both charged with second-degree murder, engaging in a violent group activity and hindering apprehension.

Fantasia Williams, 26, of Longview, Texas, who was dating Kimo McClain, is charged with hindering apprehension.

All four requested mental evaluations before their trials begin. They have not bonded out and are at the Lonoke County Detention Center. Walker is being held on $500,000 bond. The McClains and Williams are being held on $250,000 bond.

A bond hearing is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 9. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 5 and a jury trial is set to begin at 9 a.m. March 7.

If convicted, a second-degree murder charge enhanced with engaging in a violent group activity carries up to 40 years in prison. Hindering apprehension carries up to 20 years in prison, according to Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham.

Police found Jones of 105 Teresa Lane dead near three mailboxes at 101 Plantation Drive. Jones had a gunshot wound on the left side of his head near his left ear. A silver revolver with blood on it was found in the grass next to Jones’ body.

Cortney McClain was walking east in the 100 block of Plantation Drive with a gunshot wound to his left forearm. Plantation Drive is across the street from Teresa Lane.

McClain told police that he and Jones began to fight. During the fight, Jones pulled a silver revolver. McClain said he attempted to gain control of the weapon.

During the struggle McClain said he was shot in the left forearm and Jones was shot.

The shooting may be related to a fight that occurred the night before at a nightclub in Scott.

Police do not believe the gun found next to Jones was the weapon used in the shooting.

According to the arrest affidavit, police interviewed Shameka McClain, who was at the scene during the shooting. She told police she had an argument with Jones on Plantation Drive.

She was followed by her brothers, Cortney and Kimo McClain and Jeremy Walker. She heard voices telling her to get back. Cortney McClain rushed Walter. Walter pulled a gun and shot it in the air.

She turned to run and said she did not see who shot or where Kimo McClain and Walker were during the incident, but heard two different sounding gunshots.

A witness reported seeing Jones and Cortney McClain fighting. He said he saw a tall black man run up behind them and shoot about four times. The tall black man went running with another black man. The two men entered a car parked at a home on Plantation Road with Texas plates driven by a black female.

The witness identified Walker as the shooter and Kimo McClain was identified as running with Walker after the shooting occurred in a photo line-up.

When police interviewed Cortney McClain he denied knowing where the suspects were.

Five days after the shooting authorities found Cortney McClain, Kimo McClain and Jeremy Walker in Longview, Texas hiding out at William’s apartment.

All four waived extradition and were returned to Lonoke.

In a suspected act of revenge, McClain’s grandmother’s house at 302 Teresa Lane was set on fire during the night after the shooting. No one was at home when the fire occurred.

A state police arson investigator found traces of an accelerant in the fire. No arrests have been made in the arson.

TOP STORY > >‘Double-dip’ ends at last for treasurer

Leader staff writer

Speculation has it that Lonoke County Treasurer Karol DePriest is the latest and perhaps last elected official in Arkansas to receive a letter saying she will no longer be able to draw a retirement check while she continues to work.

DePriest and former Lonoke County Assessor Jerry Adams were among the 10 or so mostly county officials, who retired in name only for three months in 2009 to draw retirement pay while continuing their official duties.

But whether DePriest has become the last to be cut off from drawing retirement from the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System while continuing to work is not known because APERS is prohibited by law from telling, and DePriest isn’t talking.

“My attorney has said not to talk about this,” DePriest said Friday though for just a moment she seemed inclined to tell. “I suppose there’s going to be a story about it anyway,” she said then added, “My retirement is private. It has nothing to do with the county.”

DePriest stopped drawing her paycheck from the county for three months in 2009 to be eligible to draw retirement. She was retired on the books, but in reality she was at work like always and attended quorum court meetings. So did Adams.

But DePriest has always maintained that APERS officials taught that “off the payroll for three months” was defined as retired for APERS’ purposes.

Adams was defeated for re-election and now draws retirement. DePriest ran unopposed and would have continued to work and also draw retirement until she received a letter from APERS saying she was not eligible for retirement benefits.

Denise Hoggard, the attorney of four elected officials accused of double-dipping — though not DePriest — said all of the elected officials, who have been caught up in the double-dipping scandal continued to go to work while they were off payroll. Those who were out of their offices were deemed to have “terminated employment correctly” and have not been told that they violated state law.

Hoggard also pointed out that it was only elected officials who have been ostracized for following what they believed was APERS policy.

High-ranking state officials like Artee Williams, director of Workforce Services and chairman of the APERS board of directors, left his state job in July, only to be rehired a month later so he could draw retirement and a salary.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EVENTS >> 11-16-11


The Cabot Community Thanksgiving Feast will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 24 at Grace Fellowship Church at 601 S. Elm St., behind the Bank of Ozarks in downtown Cabot.

The meal is free and open to anyone. Volunteers will cook traditional Thanksgiving turkeys with side dishes and desserts in their homes and bring them to the church. Carryout is available and so is delivery for those who cannot get out to the church.

Organizers Heather Moore and her husband, Dane, are collecting donations of food and money for the event.

Turkeys, hams, food gift certificates, aluminum roasting pans, onions, potatoes, stuffing mix, rolls, bread, cranberry sauce, gravy, canned vegetables and fruit, cake and pie mixes, juices, paper plates, cups, napkins, forks, spoons and disposable utensils.

For more information, or to request meal delivery, call Heather Moore at 501-259-3799.


A fundraiser holiday craft fair to be held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19 at the Lonoke County Christian Clinic will be held inside the clinic at 502 Richie Road in Cabot.

The craft fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19.

The free clinic is for Lonoke County residents, who don’t have insurance and are too young for Medicare and are too old for the state health care program for children.

Booths are available for $20 each. Rental fees will be donated to the clinic.

For more information or to rent a booth, call Brandy Everett at 501-605-7177 or e-mail


Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, 1017 Ray Road in Jacksonville, will celebrate Rev. Craig B. Collier Sr.’s 20th year with the church. The event will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20 at First Baptist Church, 2015 Main St. in North Little Rock. Pastor Quinton E. Hammonds of Birmingham, Ala., will give the sermon.

The theme is “A Spiritual Calling—Continuing to Minister to God’s People,” Timothy 1:12-17.

The public is invited. For more information, call 501-982-6215.


Jacksonville’s VFW Ladies Auxiliary will host its annual senior citizens Thanksgiving dinner at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. The event is open to the public, and will be held at the post on Toneyville Road.


The Arkansas State University at Beebe Singers will hold a Yuletide Madrigal Feast at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 and Saturday, Dec. 3.

Merrie Olde England will be brought to life in the University Cafe in the student center on campus at 610 N. Pecan St. The evening will include a wassail and a feast. Tickets are $20 and are available by calling 501-882-8951 or at the student center.

Live music will accompany each course, with fair ladies and gentlemen, a court jester and general merriment under the direction of Dr. Timothy Bartlett. Dr. Brent Bristow will conduct the instrumental offerings, and Mary Jo Parker is the accompanist.


The Cabot Chamber of Commerce will hold its Christmas open house Sunday, Nov. 20. Retail businesses throughout Cabot will participate. To register for the event, call 501-843-2136 or e-mail


The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department will hold its 34th annual holiday craft and gift sale Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19 and 20 at the Jacksonville Community Center.

Jewelry, painted wood, dolls, quilts, Christmas decorations and other handmade items will be for sale. Concessions and baked goods will also be sold.

Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 12-18.

Vendor spaces are available. For more information, call Dana at 501-982-0818.


The Jacksonville Senior Center’s annual fundraising Beans and Cornbread Feast will be held at 11 a.m. next Wednesday.

Tickets are $5 and are available at the center, from board members and at the door.

The center is at 100 Victory Circle in Jacksonville. The public is invited. There will also be a ceramics display showcasing artists from Jacksonville Senior Center and Cabot Senior Center.


Christmas parade themes and dates have been set in Sherwood, Jacksonville and Cabot.

 Jacksonville’s parade is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. The theme is “Storybook Christmas.” Entry fee is $20. The deadline to register is Friday. Entry forms are available at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club, 1 Boys Club Drive.

 The Sherwood Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Christmas parade at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. The theme will be “Christmas Around the World.” For entry forms, call 501-835-7600 or e-mail

 Cabot’s Christmas Parade is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11.

The theme will be “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” Dewey Faught, former director of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, will be the grand marshal.

Entry forms are available at the Veterans Park Community Center, the Cabot chamber and online at Deadline to enter is Dec. 3. Entry fee is $10.

For details, call 501-920-2122 or e-mail


The Cabot Animal Shelter is holding its first push-up competition to see who can do the most push-ups in 60 seconds.

The event will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10 at the Veterans Park Community Center fitness room.

The cost to enter is $10 or $15 on the day of the event. All proceeds will benefit the shelter. The competition will have four divisions: men 20 years old and older, women 20 years old and older, young men 15- to 19-years-old and young women 15- to 19-years-old.

Winners of each division will receive medals. Each division will have a participation prizes. For more information call, 501-843-2021.

OBITUARIES >> 11-19-11


Jeffrey Leeroy Hamilton, 54, of El Paso died Nov. 15.

He was born Aug. 29, 1957, in Detroit to Lorraine Lawrence Hamilton Johnson and the late Joseph Lee Hamilton.

Hamilton served his country in the Air Force and was a member of Beebe First Baptist Church.

In addition to his father, he was preceded in death by his grandmother, Ossie Jane Hamilton.

Hamilton is survived by his wife, Mercelita Hamilton, of El Paso; his children, Theresa Dinkins and Andre Hamilton, both of Detroit, Jeffrey Hamilton Jr., Latasha Hamilton and Erica Hamilton, all of California, and Gabriel Hamilton of El Paso; his stepchildren, Timothy and Brent Chapman; his mother, Lorraine Lawrence Hamilton Johnson; his brothers and sisters, Stephen Hamilton, Adrian Hamilton, Sharon Nagallon, Tania Johnson and Tracy Parker, as well as three grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20 at Beebe First Baptist Church, with Bro. Bob Hall officiating. Burial will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Arkansas State Veteran’s Cemetery in North Little Rock.


Jerrel N. Stamps, a long-time resident of Little Rock, peacefully passed away Nov. 16 at the age of 86. He was born in 1925 in El Paso to the late William Earl and Maude Evelyn Stamps, the baby of the family. He was preceded in death by his siblings Elbridge and Loyal Stamps, Geneva Fecher and Marlene Taylor. Known to his family and long-time friends as Nelson, his business associates knew him as Jerrel.

He was the most wonderful provider to his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and was affectionately known as Papa to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was predeceased by his wife of nearly 58 years, Moleta, in 2009.

He had a 60-year career in the electrical transformer business, beginning employment at Arkansas Electric Cooperatives in April 1951 in Jacksonville. The business later moved to North Little Rock on Broadway, then eventually to southwest Little Rock.

He is survived by his daughters, Cathy Alley of Little Rock, Sissy Stamps of Beebe, Shelly Herndon Leggieri of Beebe and Kelly Brundage of Sarasota, Fla.; grandsons, Justin and his wife Mindi Alley, of Little Rock, Jeremy Herndon of Little Rock, John Taylor Leggieri of Beebe and Cody Brundage of Sarasota, Fla., and great-granddaughters, Haven Grace Alley and Addison Rose Alley of Little Rock. In addition, he is survived by his sister-in-law, Alta Rea Stamps of Conway, and a host of nieces and nephews. He will be truly missed in the lives of many.

The family wishes to thank Dr. Delbra Caradine and Margaret of the House Calls Program at UAMS for providing support and comfort to the family and to Arkansas Hospice for its care as well.

The family will receive friends from noon until 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe, with graveside service to follow at 2 p.m. at Stoney Point Cemetery. Casual attire is acceptable. Memorials may be made to any charity of choice.


Deborah Sue Hope of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord on Nov. 17. She was a loving mother, grandmother and sister.

She was born May 6, 1957, to the late Charles William Akins and Rebecca Sue Elliott Akins.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her niece Amanda Porterfield.

She is survived by her children, Gregory Patrick Hope II and his wife, Ellen; Tiffany Rae Hope and her husband, James Zajac; siblings, Danny William Akins, Ronald Dennis Akins and Dawn Renee Porterfield; grandchildren, Oliver Patrick Hope, Gregory Taylor Rhodes, Christopher Bryson Hope and Christopher Zajac, and a host of other family and friends.

Visitation will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20 at the funeral home.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

The family wishes to express its deep appreciation for the memorial fund given by employees of Gwatney Chevrolet.

Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Vincent C. Cucco, 66, of Cabot died Nov. 16.

He was a member of the First Baptist Church in Cabot and the VFW. Vincent served 31 years of active duty for the Army National Guard. After his retirement, he was a direct salesman for Sears. He was preceded in death by his father, Fredrick Joseph Cucco.
Vincent is survived by his wife, Lynda Copenhaver Cucco of Cabot; his sons, Vincent S. Cucco of Rogers and Jeremy L. Cucco and his wife, Elizabeth, of Frederick- burg, Va.; his mother, Opal Wittemore Redding Cucco; his siblings, Fredrick J. Cucco Jr., Toni Cross and Elizabeth Thomas, all of Pennsylvania, and one grandson, William J. Cucco.

Visitation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22 in the chapel of Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23 at the First Baptist Church in Cabot, with Rev. Dick Avey officiating. Burial will follow in Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to your local VFW or the American Cancer Society.

Arrangements are by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.


Charles E. Keck Sr., 75, of Quitman passed away Nov. 16. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He loved fishing, hunting, boating and traveling.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy L. Keck; sons, Chuck Keck and his wife, Vicki, of Jackson-ville, Grady Keck and his wife, Carrie, of Allen Park, Mich., and Tracy Keck and his wife, Terry, of Cabot; daughter Belinda Keck of Jacksonville; brother Dwain Keck of Carlisle; one stepsister, Virginia Santinelli of Jacksonville, 10 stepchildren, 26 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and other family and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Edwin and Ollie Keck; grandson Taylor Keck; one step-grandson, James Hinkle, two sisters and one brother.

Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society, 901 N. University Ave., Little Rock, Ark., 72207, or the Arkansas Game and Fish Com-mission Educational Programs, 2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock, Ark., 72205.


James “Jim” Briggs Beckham III, 55, of Mountain Home, formerly of Cabot, passed away Nov. 13.

He was born March 14, 1956, to James and June Beckham Jr. in Nashville, Tenn.

He is preceded in death by his daughter Ruth Anne Beckham; father, James Briggs Beckham Jr., and stepfather, Johnny Martin.

He is survived by his wife, Tammy Beckham, of the home; three children, James “Jay” Beckham IV of Mountain View, Alicen Cunningham of Mountain Home and Matthew Beckham of the home; mother, June Martin, of North Little Rock; four grandchildren, James Briggs Beckham V, Cain Cunningham, Ryder Beckham and Myia Cunningham; his good friend Jay Pierson of Mountain Home, and his babies, Little Girl and Little Bittie.

A private funeral was held Nov. 16.

Arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Departures were timely

Don’t you hate to see an audit of the Arkansas lottery coming? Always more waste, slipshod accounting, illegal compensation, bidless contracts or even contractless contracts.

Ernie Passailaigue, the lottery’s first director, and his top aide, David Barden, resigned last month amid rising rancor from Gov. Beebe and many legislators over all the bumbling in the scholarship program. A second top aide (Ernestine Middleton came with Passailaigue and Barden from South Carolina to get the Arkansas lottery going) was fired a few days later by the acting director, Julie Baldridge. Together, the three were knocking down nearly $800,000 a year plus perks. Their departures were good timing. Last week, the legislative audit division released its audit of the lottery’s operations for 2010.

There were the usual—what shall we call them?—accounting shortcomings. The intriguing part was Passailaigue’s and Barden’s official travels—that is, travel paid by the state. On 27 percent of all the days Barden was being paid to be on the job in 2010 he was traveling directly or indirectly to South Carolina, his home. For Barden, it was 21 percent of his workdays. Neither man moved his family to Arkansas; they shared an apartment in Little Rock.

Now, you would expect a good family man to see the wife and kids as often as he could, but not on state time or state expense. Passailaigue and Barden attended a lot of conferences and other events that could be construed as related to their lottery work and South Carolina always got on the itinerary.

So legislators debated whether all the lottery’s problems were due to too little oversight from the lottery’s board and the legislative oversight committee (both did very little), lax laws governing the lottery, Passailaigue’s South Carolina governing style or maybe just overwork by Passailaigue and Barden. The two men said they often worked on the days they were traveling and that they didn’t get credit for all the time they worked after regular work hours.

We think it is more fundamental than that. The constitutional amendment that authorized the lottery made it an entirely independent agency of government, not subject to the usual fiscal restraints on government operations. The enabling legislation and appropriations gave the lottery a wide berth.

The salaries of top executives were made flexible and far higher than those of any agency of government for no reason whatsoever. The lottery handled a fraction of the money that a number of other agencies handled and the level of expertise demanded was far below that of many agencies. Passailaigue made four times the governor’s pay.

If you are offered an unusually lucrative job and told that you have carte blanche, the freedom to run the agency like a private business with few of the annoying restraints of government bureaucracy, you make decisions based upon convenience, especially your convenience.

Passailaigue was told essentially that his knowledge of lotteries was so vital to the state that he should feel free to do what he needed to do to get the lottery running. In the world of private business you are fine as long as profits climb. No one looks at the details until the house collapses. In government, unfortunately, there is a different level of accountability and pesky things like freedom of information and audits.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke: We’re doing better

Leader staff writer

Lonoke schools just barely missed their achievement goals this year and have been improving inconsistently in the past few years, principals said during an annual public at Monday’s board meeting.

Superintendent Dr. John Tackett emphasized that the district’s success is not measured by one test and all teachers are doing their best.

“We recognize every single teacher for excellence. Averages are fallacious. Accountability is an issue. It’s a good thing. We live in a glass house; we deal with public funds,” he said. “We will never count out any child. Their future is too uncertain. We are working to get better. Successful schools continue to improve and go higher.”

At Lonoke Primary School, the subpopulation of greatest concern in literacy is African American students. For math, it’s black, caucasian and economically disadvantaged students.

Numbers for the feeder school are the same as Lonoke Elementary School since students at the primary school do not take state exams. In literacy, 74.1 percent scored proficient or advanced while the goal was 78.4 percent. The goal for math was 77.5 percent and 83.3 percent scored proficient or advanced.

Principal Ross Moore said students struggle with vocabulary, comprehension of informational passages, problem solving and number sense.

The school is working to correct problems through three tiers of methods. Tier one is quality instruction by classroom teachers. Tier two is differentiation of instruction and/or small group instruction by teachers or others. Tier three is small group or one-on-one remediation by two certified interventionists that include a reading recovery specialist and six paraprofessionals and after-school tutoring. The fourth tier is special education services.

At Lonoke Elementary School, the goal for subpopulations of greatest concern — the economically disadvantaged students, disabled students and African-American males — was for 78.4 percent to score proficient or advanced and the result this year was 76 percent.

In math, 83.8 percent of economically disadvantaged students, black students and female students scored proficient or advanced and that exceeded the school’s goal of 77.5 percent.

The following areas require the most focus at the school: writing multiple choice, reading content, reading literary, geometry, measurement, number and operations and data analysis. Principal Holly Dewey explained that measurement means students are having problems with realizing what type of unit can be used to measure something, not with measuring things, and the school is addressing this by using real-world examples.

She said some of the techniques for improvement include differentiation of instruction in the classroom, small group instruction in math and literacy for third through fifth grades by special education teachers, READ 180 with a reading specialist teacher for fourth- and fifth-graders, title 1 and special education aides working with some students individually and a tutoring program.

Lonoke Middle School Principal Jeannie Holt said black sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders have difficulty with measurement. Sixth-graders also have problems with numbers and operations. Seventh-graders struggle with geometry and eighth-graders struggle with algebra.

Economically disadvantaged sixth-graders and eighth-graders have the same issues as the black subpopulation. Economically disadvantaged seventh-graders have difficulty with measurement and data analysis/probability.

Sixth-graders from both sub-populations have trouble with content passages while seventh- and eighth-graders struggle with literacy passages.

Holt said teachers use the Learning Institute progress reports to identify weaknesses and address them through small group or individual remediation. She said the information she discussed at the meeting is talked about during weekly literacy and math content meetings so that strategies can be refocused to target weaknesses.

As for Lonoke High School, literacy scores have consistently gone up over the past five years but there was a dramatic jump in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the end-of-course exam in that area a few years ago and the district is still in school improvement because it couldn’t sustain the jump.

In geometry, there was a slight dip last year and improvement in algebra has been up and down.

Some of the actions taken to address the scores are assessments in all areas, a literacy lab, ACTAAP test preparation using released materials and tutoring. The school also offers opportunities to achieving students through Pre Advancement Placement and Advanced Placement courses that can help them earn college credit.

Every school in the district is using consultants who make observations and provide feedback to teachers and administrators.

Board member Matt Boyle was surprised the district wasn’t meeting annual yearly progress goals. He said the schools need to offer more incentives to children.

“It takes a village to raise a child. We need ideas,” he added.

TOP STORY >> Vietnam vet is in military hall of fame

Leader executive editor

Lex (Butch) Davis of Sherwood was among the first 15 inductees into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame at the Agora Center in Conway on Friday. This column appeared here in February 2007.

Butch Davis sat at a round table near the corner where the Singing Sergeants entertained in the big gym on Little Rock Air Force Base, which was honoring its top personnel at the annual awards banquet Saturday night.

Davis is a Sherwood alderman and disabled Vietnam veteran who almost died in the summer of 1969 in a huge explosion that nearly wiped out his company. He was put on a rescue helicopter along with several dead soldiers heading for the morgue. He’d come to momentarily, hoping the chopper crew didn’t think he was dead.

He signed up for the Army when he was 16 — “I lied about my age,” he admits — and was 24 years old when he was hit, and he’s been in pain for 38 years. You can only imagine his injuries — almost his whole body was ripped up, and he seems disabled along much of his left side — but Davis never complains. He has a great attitude and likes to laugh and joke and help others.

He enjoyed the Saturday show — the Singing Sergeants, backed by a jazzy combo, sang American pop classics (Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” Harry Warren’s “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”), and when they did “America the Beautiful,” the audience stood up, and so did Davis, with some difficulty, and there was hardly a dry eye in the house. When the awards were announced, Davis was especially proud of Senior Master Sgt. Darren Hill, who is serving overseas and who was named first sergeant of the year.

Davis has known Hill for a long time, and Hill’s wife, Tammy, and two young sons, Tyler and Aaron, accepted the award for him.

When Sgt. Davis was in Vietnam, he was about the same age as the people getting their awards Saturday night. Davis’ company was on patrol near Chulai in South Vietnam on July 12, 1969. They’d had frequent firefights with the Viet Cong and captured several of them that summer.

“Four companies would take turns out in the field,” he recalls. “We’d find the Viet Cong and take them back to Chulai.”

He remembers one of his company commanders was from Arkansas, who’d split them up in separate groups, which Davis didn’t think was a good idea, but you’re not going to argue with a commanding officer. But Davis was still in one piece, and he was hoping he’d see his wife and son back home soon. Davis was supposed to leave Vietnam in a couple of days. He figured this would be his last patrol, only he didn’t know how right he would be about that.

The company’s orders were to stay clear of trees, where the VC planted explosives with detonators on the ground. Around 7 p.m. when it was still light outside, someone stepped on a detonator that was wired to explosives in a nearby tree. When it exploded, it killed six and injured 28 G.I.s, along with several South Vietnamese out on patrol with the Americans. “There were enough casualties to fill a couple of helicopters,” Davis remembers.

“When the bomb hit me, it felt like a bell over my head,” he continues. “I knew I was hit. It got my whole left side.” His injuries spread all over his body, including his spinal cord, which wasn’t severed, though. “I was one of the last flown out. I was worried they thought I was dead,” he says.

Once he was in the helicopter, Davis was hoping the chopper crew would realize he was still alive. He’d open his eyes, then close them again.

“I couldn’t move,” Davis said. “I blacked out again for a while.” Fortunately, he woke up in a hospital, then was flown to another hospital in Japan. He received more treatment at the Veterans Hospital in Richmond, Va. Months of therapy followed. He was finally released in December 1969.

“I still have shrapnel in my neck,” Davis says.

Despite his disability, Davis says, “I really enjoyed the military. I was going down the wrong path when I joined up.”

He’s 62 years old now, and he says he’s been fortunate, considering how many of his buddies didn’t come home.

He’s been a Sherwood alderman for eight years and does more volunteer work than most people half his age.

“I feel better than I’ve felt in years,” Davis says. “I’ve got to stay busy.” It’s been a long day, and he says, “I sure do feel tired.”

TOP STORY >> Mayor is adamant about no pay raise

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council’s budget committee voted Monday night to give Mayor Bill Cypert a 3-percent pay raise despite his insistence that he doesn’t want it.

The proposed 2012 budget is for $10.4 million, compared to $10.2 million for 2011.

When council members met last week to discuss the mayor’s proposed budget, they didn’t voice any concern about his intention of keeping his salary the same. Their vote not to give themselves or the mayor raises but to give raises to the city attorney and clerk-treasurer was unanimous.

“I’m not going to accept it,” the mayor said after the meeting. “My position is unchanged. Given the economy, I don’t think any elected official should be considering or taking a raise.”

The $2,608 raise will stay in the general fund and he will accept only his current salary of $86,944, he said.

Alderman Ann Gilliam, the committee chairwoman, pointed out that the proposed 2012 salary for the police chief is $91,398, almost $4,500 more than the mayor is paid. And the fire chief’s salary is $82,411, only about $4,500 less.

She and other aldermen are concerned that a department head would be paid almost as much or more than the mayor.

They reasoned that if they didn’t raise the mayor’s salary now, raising it later would require a larger outlay just to make the salary comparable to that of other mayors, she said.

“He really didn’t want it, but to me it makes sense,” Gilliam said.

The last pay raise for the mayor’s office was in 2009, she said.

Cypert said he excluded himself from the pay raise because he knew he wouldn’t accept it.

“I was just trying to save grief on the front end,” he said.

Although the aldermen voiced concerns about giving raises to city employees when revenue is flat, Cypert said he stands by his decision to increase the salaries of dispatchers and some firefighters.

“We’ve got a lot of tenured people that we need to retain,” he said.

Despite their reservations, the committee voted 5-0 to pass the 2012 budget resolution to the full council without changes except for the addition of the 3 percent raise for the mayor.

That resolution and a resolution to change city insurance from United Healthcare to the Municipal League are on the agenda of Monday’s city council meeting.

TOP STORY >> State widens supervision

Leader staff writer

Most all of the secondary schools in Jacksonville and Sherwood are not only on the school-improvement list again, but are also in the most extreme or worse category—state directed.

But what does state directed mean?

Different things for different schools, according to Dr. Linda Remele, a deputy superintendent for the Pulaski County Special School District.

Remele said at the high schools the state is paying for team capacity building to help improve student achievement. Jacksonville is using an additional $2 million federal grant, administered by the state, to pay for technology upgrades and improvements and professional development.

Northwood Middle and North Pulaski High schools have initiated Read 180 with the help of a three-year, $540,000 Department of Defense grant. The program, recommended by the state, is also in place at Jacksonville Middle and Jacksonville High schools.

All the state directed schools, along with others, are using United Streaming. Technology for what Remele calls “virtual field trips.”

The team capacity building is done through the Arkansas Leadership Academy’s Team Leadership Institute and costs around $7,000 per person, which the state pays.

The institute seeks to build capacity to create learning environments; move the work of the district, school, and organization forward by improving systems within the district, and provide tools and skills to work as a team, according to its website.

School teams include the principal, a capacity builder who works closely with the principal, teacher leaders, and math and literacy facilitators.

Remele added that this is the first year that the district has been able to place highly qualified math and literacy coaches on the campuses of all state-directed schools. “They are on campus 100 percent of the time to help teachers and staff,” Remele said.

Two major focuses for the work in the institute are an understanding of the concepts of deep knowledge of teaching and learning and the tools and opportunity to develop an action plan for designing and implementing a learning system for professional development that has clear accountable measurements of improved teaching and learning, according to the website.

Remele broke it down further, saying the team looks at school tests and student data and best practices to determine what needs to be done at that particular school.

She said school capacity building teams meet three times a year away from the school, three days in the summer, two days in the fall and two days in the spring, to work on school issues affecting student achievement.

The deputy PCSSD superintendent said Jacksonville’s $2 million funding is part of a three-year renewable grant. “We aren’t guaranteed that it will be renewed, but if it is, the school could receive up to $6 million,” she said.

Getting the grant is good news for the school; the bad news is that only the poorest performing schools in the state, which included the high school, were eligible to apply.

The Read 180 program is designed to bring students’ reading level up to their corresponding grade level. “It is real important to get a student’s reading level up so they will do better in science and social studies,” Remele said.

At Northwood and North Pulaski, the program involves a double block of time for reading and a pair of teachers working with smaller class sizes to make sure everyone gets small group and one-on-one help. “There’s a lot reading practice and lots of small group help,” Remele said.

The deputy superintendent is very excited about the use of United Streaming in state directed and other schools. “It’s through Discovery Education and offers more than 1,000 different activities,” she said.

Remele explained that when students go on a field trip, they lose out on class work in other subjects, but through these video trips, students don’t have to leave the classroom or miss other classes.

Once all these programs are in place and the bugs smoothed out, Remele expects to see improved scores throughout the district.

TOP STORY >> Pryor: Without deal, most cuts target defense

Leader executive editor

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) hopes congressional negotiators will soon agree on a deficit-reduction plan because if they don’t, automatic spending cuts approved in Congress would then kick in and slash the defense budget by at least $500 billion in the next decade.

“Fifty percent of the cuts would come out of the Department of Defense,” Pryor told the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council luncheon on Monday. “I hope they reach an agreement and we can start growing again.”

He was referring to the so-called congressional super-committee that has been negotiating on spending cuts and raising taxes. Under a previous deal between Democrats and Republicans, if no agreement is reached by next week, $1.2 trillion in cuts would kick in over the next decade starting in 2013. Spending cuts would be split between military and civilian programs.

The military cuts would be on top of $450 billion in spending reductions already under way, including civilian layoffs at the base.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Monday that if additional cuts are enacted, the Air Force would be the smallest in its 64-year history.

Pryor wants a budget deal before the Nov. 23 deadline so the military budget isn’t cut hundreds of billions of dollars. Republicans are reluctant to raise taxes, although some in the party have said they might agree to some increases to avoid huge cuts for the Pentagon and social programs.

Some Republicans in Congress say automatic cuts for the Pentagon would cripple the military, and they are talking about passing legislation to avoid those cuts if the super committee is deadlocked.

Because of the continuing standoff, Pryor said his requests for infra structure improvements at the base probably will not be approved anytime soon.

Most of the requests are earmarks that many in Congress say are not needed. They include:

– Refueling vehicle repair shop;

– Airlift squadron operation facility;

– Airmen dorm;

– Entry control facilities;

– Enlisted professional military education facility;

– Engine storage facility;

– Fuels systems maintenance hangar;

– and Avionics modernization program.

Although there’s no money for future projects right now, Pryor noted that he secured funding last year for a $16 million security forces operations facility and a flight simulator addition.

Other projects that were approved in the last five years include $4 million for an engine shop; $20 million for runway repairs and the joint education center, which was partly built with a Jacksonville sales tax.

Also, $9 million to improve the All-American Landing Zone and dining facilities; $5 million for an addition to the C-130J simulator, and $7.3 million for a child development center and improvements for the operations training facility and Hangar 280.

Pryor touted his bipartisan jobs program that stresses a more simplified tax code and tax credits for small businesses.

“The private sector needs to lead the way,” the senator said. “We need to empower small businesses to succeed.”

He wants to reduce tax rates, red tape and regulations, open new markets for American products and invest in infrastructure.

He said lower tax rates would create 2 million jobs, according to one study. Even if the true figure is close to 1 million, tax cuts are still worth doing, Pryor said.

He insisted only his infrastructure plan would cost money, while the other proposals would not only pay for themselves but benefit the economy.

He said new regulations should have a cost analysis before they are approved. Pryor also supports the production of new weaponry and ridding the federal government of thousands of buildings and vehicles..

The senator also touted new energy sources in Arkansas. In addition to natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale, he says more oil and coal can be extracted with new technology similar to fracking for natural gas.

He wants to sell more agriculture to Cuba and Russia. But he said, “We’re in a trade war with China” because of its manipulation of its currency, which is artificially low so China can sell its good cheaply abroad.

SPORTS >> Lady Devils top Phillies in Pine Bluff

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils were victorious in their 2011-12 debut in the first round of the Pine Bluff tournament against the hosting Phillies 68-47 on Monday.

The Lady Devils trailed 27-22 at halftime, but came out with improved focus and defensive pressure to start the second half.

“We got off to a sluggish start,” Lady Red Devils coach Katrina Mimms said. “We got into some foul trouble, we didn’t handle the ball well and we missed some easy shots. Second half, we picked up our defensive pressure and played with more intensity.”

Junior Jessica Jackson led the way for Jacksonville with 18 points and 13 rebounds while sophomore guard Tiffany Smith added 14 points, including four three-pointers.

“She’s defiantly a spot-up outside shooter,” Mimms said of Smith. “When she gets going, it sparks everyone up when she hits a three.”

Junior post player Nichole Bennett also had 16 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter with assistance from freshman point guard Shakyla Hill. She got good penetration in the second half, and Pine Bluff began to counter with extra defensive pressure. That opened things up for Bennett inside, as the Lady Red Devils further stretched a 44-33 lead at the end of three quarters in the final eight minutes.

“We had a little bit of those first-game jitters,” Mimms said. “We just picked it up. “We played more aggressively, and we played smarter in the second half.”

The Lady Red Devils will resume tournament play in Pine Bluff on Thursday against Marianna while the Phillies take on Dumas in the round-robin formatted tournament. Saturday is the final day for the tournament, with Jacksonville taking on Dumas and Pine Bluff taking on Marianna.

SPORTS >> Bison face powerhouse Friday

Leader sports editor

After a week off due to a first-round bye, Carlisle jumps into the deep end of the class 2A state football playoffs. First up for the Bison is perennial power house Danville, who is 9-2 overall this season, with its only losses to class 4A rival Dardanelle, conference nemesis and defending state champion Magazine.

Danville finished 13-2 last season and both losses were to Magazine.

Their conference showdown last year ended 28-24. Magazine won the championship game 48-20.

When they met this season, Magazine won 35-28. The Little Johns are the only team to play Magazine, who is riding a 25-game winning streak, within four touchdowns this year.

Danville and Carlisle are similar in several ways. Both teams are loaded with experienced players and both have several weapons at the skill positions.

The Little Johns return 16 starters from last year’s runner up team. While they like to spread the ball around, the primary weapon is senior tailback Sean Tyra. He has about 1,100 yards this season and 18 touchdowns.

“I really feel like we’re pretty balanced, but he’s leading us in yardage, and he’s a good leader for us too,” Danville coach D.J. Crane said.

Another similarity is the diversified offenses the two teams feature. Carlisle has become a bit more diversified this season, while Danville has been running multiple sets for some time.

“We base most of what we do out of the pro set, but really we’re multiple on offense,” Crane said.

Carlisle doesn’t have many starters returning from last year’s semifinal team that was also eliminated by Magazine.

What the Bison do have is 13 seniors, including seven returning starters, who have stepped into their role as leaders with passion.

“What I see as a key strength to that team is a team that is very disciplined,” Crane said of Carlisle. They are very well coached and they play very, very hard. One of our biggest challenges is going to be matching the intensity that they play with.”

While intangibles play their role in football games, players are the big issue. Crane sees a few items of concern there as well.

“They have a good group of skill kids,” Crane said. “The defense is really sound, and they have linemen that really play hard.”

When focusing on how to stop the Bison, Crane acknowledges they have several weapons, but still believes there is a focus.

“Definitely the Weddle kid,” Crane said. “He has a lot of talent. Defensively if they had one kid that stood out it would also be him. I also think big number 73 (junior Clayton Fields) and number 5 (sophomore Deron Ricks) stood out in my mind.”

Crane also acknowledges that having so many returning starters from such a successful team is a plus.

“Well definitely experience is a big strength for us,” Crane said. “Being able to play in a big game, this group knows what that’s like. We’ve played in big games on the road, too. Having done it before certainly helps eliminate some of those distractions you get the first time.”

SPORTS >> Cardinals feature offense that troubles Beebe

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badgers move deeper into postseason this week with a trip to 5A Southwest champion Camden Fairview in the second round of the 5A state playoffs on Friday.

The Badgers (7-4) advanced from the first round with a thrilling 54-48 victory at Watson Chapel last week. Beebe rushed out to a 21-0 lead before the Wildcats came back after switching offenses from the wishbone to the spread.

“I was very happy with the kids’ effort,” Beebe head coach John Shannon said. “We took our shot in the first quarter and went up by 21, then they took their shot in the second quarter, but we withstood their shot. In the third and fourth quarters, we were able to hang on.”

The Badgers were all over Watson Chapel’s running game, but the defense struggled when the Wildcats began to air it out. Beebe has struggled against passing teams this season with losses to 5A East Conference opponents Greene County Tech and Wynne, as well as Greenbrier to start the season.

Camden-Fairview is a team that likes to spread the field and throw.

“We’ve played against some other spread teams earlier in the year,” Shannon said. “We’ve seen it at different times, so they won’t be the first spread team we’ve faced. We have to fix some things from last week, and hopefully, we will get those thins corrected and come out strong on Friday.”

Senior fullback Jay Hold-way had another good night against the Wildcats with just under 170 yards rushing.

That brings his season total to 1,064 yards while senior quarterback Dustin Stallnaker has 786 yards rushing and 483 yards passing, a significant number for a team that seldom throws the football.

Junior halfback Michael Kirby has 478 yards rushing this year.

“I’ve been very pleased with our offensive production,” Shannon said. “We had three backs over 100 yards last week. Hopefully we can do that again this week.”

Holdway started the year at halfback and was also starting in the defensive secondary. When it was determined that his services would not be needed on defense, he moved over to the fullback position prior to the Blytheville game in week seven.

“We felt like he could help as fullback all year,” Shannon said. “And when we moved him off defense, it was pretty much a no-brainer.”

The Cardinals (10-1) are on a 10-game winning streak after losing their season opener to El Dorado, 42-28.

Since then, they have dominated the 5A Southwest Conference. The Cardinals have put together an unbeaten run to claim the league title outright, and backed up their top seeding last week with a 28-21 win over 5A West four seed Morrilton in the first round.

“They’re one of the elite programs in the state,” Shannon said. “We want to get to that point, so if we could go in there and knock them off on Friday, that would go a long way for us.

“It’s going to be a tough game, no doubt, but that’s the way it will be from here on out. There won’t be any more easy ones.”

SPORTS >> Parkview escapes Panthers with win

Leader sportswriter

It was a first-round matchup worthy of any championship final as a fleet Little Rock Parkview team defeated Cabot 64-60 in the first round of the Arkansas Alumni Classic girls basketball tournament at Hall High School on Monday.

The Lady Panthers and Lady Patriots tipped off the second game in a stellar lineup of Metro-area and surrounding teams from 7A down to Class 4A, and provided the closest competition of the opening round with a raucous battle that utilized every inch of court.

Parkview pulled away in the final five minutes of the first half only to see Cabot climb back in and eventually take over the lead at 57-56 with 1:26 left to play following a pair of free throws by senior Melissa Wolff.

Parkview quickly answered with two good foul shots by Derriel Banyard, giving the Lady Panthers plenty of time to set up a final shot with 49 seconds remaining on the game clock.

But with a 30-second shot clock in use during the format of two 16-minute halves for the tournament, the Lady Panthers held on too long, and Wolff was forced to lob one well beyond the three-point line as the shot clock buzzer sounded. That gave the Lady Patriots possession with 16.8 seconds and a 58-57 lead.

“We had chances,” Cabot coach Carla Crowder said. “They just forgot about the shot clock. We were just going to hit Melissa on the cut, but Melissa didn’t ever cut. They all just said they forgot about the shot clock. You just have to learn to adjust, and get yourself ready to play.”

Cabot still held out hope and sent junior Roshunda Johnson to the line with 16 seconds remaining, but she knocked both shots down to extend the Parkview lead to 60-57.

The Lady Patriots then got a steal and subsequent trip to the stripe for sophomore Christyal Holloway, who also hit both shots, making it 62-57 with 15 seconds remaining.

The Lady Panthers still didn’t quit as senior Laci Boyett knocked down a three-point shot with an assist from Wolff with eight seconds remaining.

Cabot quickly called timeout and set up its defense on the ensuing inbound play by Parkview, and got a break when Boyett forced Holloway to lose it out of bounds. That gave the Lady Panthers the ball under their own goal trailing 62-60 and just over six seconds remaining.

The fairy-tale ending came to a crashing halt when the inbound pass targeted for Wolff went high, all the way to the Parkview out line, giving the ball back to the Lady Patriots.

“I don’t know if they’re any more physical than we are, they’re just so much quicker,” Crowder said. “I think once we start playing some speed it will help us get used to it.”

The Lady Patriots used that speed to build a gap late in the first half. Parkview’s 9-0 run from the five-minute mark up to 1:19 gave it a 37-25 lead until an inside basket by Elliot Taylor with an assist from junior Ally Van Enk cut it back to 10, and a three-pointer by Wolff in the final 30 seconds set the halftime margin at 37-30.

Taylor led the way for Cabot with 19 points, including a 9 for 9 performance at the free-throw line. Wolff added 18 points while Boyett finished with 11.

For Parkview, Erin Peoples led with 17 points with 16 for Johnson and 12 for Holloway.

Cabot will take on its county rival Lonoke in the first game of the consolation round at 4 p.m. Thursday.

SPORTS >> Goodwin signs with Kentucky

Leader sports editor

Wherever there was space behind a crowded press table in an overcrowded gymnasium, Sylvan Hills senior Archie Goodwin meandered about, thanking everyone he could think of after signing his national letter of intent to play basketball for the University of Kentucky on Tuesday morning. Goodwin made official a verbal commitment he recently made to become a Wildcat, and join the most storied college basketball program in the country.

He saved the most overt praise for his mom, bending his 6-foot-5 frame a considerable ways down to kiss his seated mother on the cheek after thanking her for her guidance and support.

He failed to move the microphone from his mouth, and the smack of the kiss reverberated through the gym, drawing aws and applause from the crowd. It was the event’s most indicative moment of Goodwin’s attitude throughout the circus-like process that is big-time NCAA Division I recruiting.

Goodwin has remained at ground level. He gave the large number of family members in attendance credit for that as he walked about directly addressing each one in the process of his speech.

After the folks at the main table were recognized and thanked, Goodwin went from one end of the baseline to the other thanking and praising other family members and friends who have helped and influenced him along the way. He finally thanked all of them for being a part of “one of the greatest days of my life.”

Goodwin had hundreds of scholarship offers from all over the country. Before the signing, Goodwin told The Leader why he ultimately chose Kentucky.

“I felt like coach Cal (John Calipari) was a great guy,” Goodwin said. “I felt comfortable with the coaching staff there. I’ve built strong relationships with the players that are there. And I just felt like the love from the city and everyone there. It’s just a great place for me to play basketball.”

Goodwin said the fan base at Kentucky had an impact on his decision.

“The fan base was great,” Goodwin said. “Anytime you have guys camping out in front of the building for a blue-white game, or just for the first practice, you don’t get that anywhere else.”

Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis spoke with The Leader before the signing, and also recognized Goodwin’s family as being a hugely positive influence. He also acknowledged that there seemed to be a connection for Goodwin with Kentucky that other places didn’t quite have.

“I think it was about relationships,” Davis said. “They were here from the get go. I remember the first call I got at 6 a.m. over a year ago. They were at so many games and built a strong personal relationship with Archie.”

While the coach bears the burden for keeping a team focused through the distractions that come with having a Top 10 recruit, Davis believes his job may have been less difficult than some other high-school coaches in similar situations.

“I do have to shoulder it because I am the boys basketball coach,” Davis said. “But Archie’s family has been phenomenal and Archie himself has shown so much maturity throughout this whole thing. It’s made my job easy. He is a crown jewel no doubt.”