Saturday, January 05, 2013

SPORTS TORY >> Wants to succeed and works for it

Leader sports editor

Thoughtful and soft-spoken, Jacksonville senior Justin McCleary has grown into the player head coach Vic Joyner thought he would when he made him a rare freshman starter in the Red Devil basketball program. Joyner hardly ever plays freshmen on the varsity team, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Four years ago he spotted a player in his middle-school program he felt could handle the test.

That player was McCleary, and today he still exhibits those skills, only now it’s in a taller, stronger body.

“First of all he was physically mature enough to do it,” Joyner said. “Most guys aren’t ready at 14 years old to play varsity at this level, but Justin had a senior-high body in ninth grade. Second was the mental aspect.”

McCleary, 6-foot-2, admits that his freshman year was his most difficult as a Red Devil guard. Finding things in common with teammates, especially the senior class, escaped him.

“It was fun but I just didn’t fit in with that team,” McCleary said. “It was hard at times, but you just keep working harder.”

Joyner still felt McCleary’s basketball ability was an asset. He says there have been other players come through his system that had the physical talent to help as freshmen, but didn’t have the stable temperament to handle the pressure of the game or from the older players.

“They didn’t like that this kid moved up and took some peoples’ spots and minutes,” Joyner said. “That’s going to happen to just about any freshman. I thought J Mac could handle it and he proved me right. There were times when I stepped in and stood up for him, but most of the time I wanted him to man up and handle it. And he did. He’s been the same ever since. I’m comfortable when he has the ball. He’s a steady hand.”

That steadiness is only one of the things that makes McCleary a leader on a team with a senior class that Joyner says is one of the best of his career.

“This whole group is a good group,” Joyner said. “They get the class work done. They go hard in practice. They’re just tight. It’s been that way since they started playing together. Most of them have been together since seventh grade. McCleary is the one with the most experience, so in that sense, this is his team. But this whole class plays a big role in whatever success we’re going to have.”

McCleary, son of Kevin and Evelyn McCleary, has at least a 3.5 grade-point average. He says it might be a 3.6. He’s already made a 21 on the ACT, which is well over the minimum requirement for eligibility to play NCAA Division I basketball.

He already has one DI offer from Central Arkansas, where three former Jacksonville teammates are currently on scholarship.

“I’d be excited to go there,” McCleary said. “It would be cool to go there because of all the Jacksonville players, but I’m going to wait and see what else comes up.”

Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., has shown serious interest and has come to Arkansas to watch McCleary play in person, but hasn’t yet come through with a hard offer. McCleary is intrigued by the Patriot League school, but isn’t sure why or how they became aware of him. Joyner knows.

“You have to have your grades and be getting it done in the classroom for them to even look at you,” Joyner said. “I sent some tapes out, but it was that and his work ethic in the class room that got them interested.”

McCleary says science comes easy to him and that he enjoys the subject more than others, which is one reason he plans to major in physical therapy. He still holds out for the possibility of a professional basketball career.

“I don’t really have any idea at all what I’m going to do after college,” McCleary said. “Whether it’s the NBA, or playing overseas or just becoming a physical therapist. I’m just going to go 100 percent in both areas and see where it leads to. I just want to succeed.”

McCleary could just about have his choice of the lower division schools, but for now he’s focusing on winning his first state title. He was in eighth grade the last time the Red Devils won it all. He made it back to the title game as a sophomore, and still feels the sting of not winning it all last year, despite being considered the 6A’s best team and having gone 4-0 in the regular season against the two teams that played for the championship.

“Winning it all, everything, that’s our goal,” McCleary said of this season. “I still can’t explain just what happened last year (in the semifinal loss to Jonesboro, a team Jacksonville mercy ruled earlier in the season). I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

This season has already included several memorable moments. The Red Devils are undefeated against highly-touted out-of-state opponents, with wins over teams from Memphis, Oklahoma City and Chicago. On a personal note, McCleary scored a career-high 31 points in the win over Olive Branch of the Memphis area.

“That was fun,” McCleary said. “Beating all those big-time teams, scoring a career high, those are definitely highlights, but we still want that state championship."

SPORT STORY >> Sylvan Hills girls top McClellan

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills ladies trailed Little Rock McClellan by one at halftime in their 5A Central Conference opener, but a big third quarter helped catapult the Lady Bears to a 39-33 victory Friday at McClellan High School.

Sylvan Hills outscored McClellan 12-3 in the third to take a 30-22 lead heading into the final quarter. It was the only quarter that the Lady Bears were able to outscore its 5A Central Conference foe.

Yesterday’s game was the Lady Bears’ first since Dec. 21. In that game Sylvan Hills lost handily to Vilonia at home. Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis was anxious to see how her team would respond after such a long layoff.

“Coming off of two weeks I felt like we looked sloppy,” Davis said. “At first they weren’t executing correctly. They were playing sloppy and kind of laid back. But I knew if we could keep on with it that we’d eventually get some turnovers.”

The first half was close as the Lady Lions led 12-11 after the opening quarter, and held a one-point lead at the break. Calyn Fulton found DeQuandra Robinson underneath the basket and Robinson’s bucket made the score 19-18 at the end of two quarters.

Sylvan Hills played its best basketball of the night in the next eight minutes. Senior two guard Naomi Gregory scored back-to-back baskets to open the third quarter, which gave the Lady Bears a three-point lead.

Fellow senior Val Jarrett made the back end of a two-shot foul to put Sylvan Hills up four. Sophomore guard Jessica Brasfield added four points in the quarter and Gregory scored the final three points of the third for the Lady Bears on free throws.

“I felt like we stepped up our press and played it like we were supposed to play it in the third quarter and it caused turnovers,” Davis said. “At first we weren’t even running, we were just standing there. But they came out and played better in the press in the third quarter.”

McClellan outscored Sylvan Hills 11-9 in the fourth, but a couple of those baskets came late with the game already out of reach. The Lady Bears (5-6, 1-0) went 5 for 7 at the free throw line in the quarter, which kept the Lady Lions (1-6, 0-1) from making a serious run in the final minutes.

With one second to play, Justina Lanigan scored on a rebound and put-back to set the final score. Sylvan Hills did suffer a setback in the winning effort. Gregory left the game about midway through the fourth after re-aggravating a previous knee injury.

“She just hurt her leg two weeks ago,” Davis said of Gregory. “Finally we got it better. We’d been taping it, taping it, and taping it. Tonight she didn’t play with tape on it or anything and she stepped on a kid’s foot.

“And the way she landed on it had to hurt because it was still so tender. She probably won’t be back for another week and a half or two.”

Sylvan Hills won despite narrowly losing the rebounding battle 33-30. The Lady Bears committed one fewer turnover than the Lady Lions with 24. Sylvan Hills was also the better team at the free-throw line, making 59 percent of its shots at the line compared to McClellan’s 35 percent.

Gregory led the Lady Bears with 18 points. Fulton scored six. Brasfield scored five. Jarrett and Jalmedal Byrd scored four apiece, and Robinson added two.

Sylvan Hills will look to stay unbeaten in 5A Central play against Mills University Studies on Tuesday at Little Rock.

SPORT STORY >> Devils stick with game plan, win

Leader sports editor

A close, hard-fought battle for two and a half quarters was suddenly a blowout as Jacksonville (8-3, 1-0) pulled away to beat Mills 66-42 at JHS on Friday in the 5A Central Conference opener. Jacksonville led 39-38 with two minutes left in the third quarter, but dominated every facet of the game from that point.

The Red Devils stashed away their usual man defense, electing to go with a 1-3-1 zone against the Comets for the entire game. It finally began to pay off in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner had a simple explanation for going with the zone.

“They’re too quick,” Joyner said. “We can’t keep them in front of us in man. They can get to the basket on anybody, so we went zone with help if they got penetration.”

Despite the fact that Mills (6-6, 0-1) kept it close for so long, Joyner credits sticking with the zone and his players’ execution for turning it into a blowout in the fourth quarter.

“Just stick to the game plan,” Joyner said. “The kids stayed with it. We didn’t execute it as well as we could have early on. But the kids stuck with it and started executing.”

Mills coach Raymond Cooper was upset with his team for what he thought was a lack of poise when things began to Jacksonville’s way.

“We became paralyzed,” Cooper said. “We did not do anything we worked on for a 1-3-1.”

Cooper didn’t necessarily expect Jacksonville to come out in a zone defense, but said his team has seen the 1-3-1 twice this year, and has a plan of attack for it.

“We’ve played Hall twice and they run that 1-3-1,” Cooper said. “We have three ways to attack it that we’ve worked on a lot this year. We just didn’t execute anything. We didn’t run the offense, didn’t move the ball. We stood around and took long shots or just tried to penetrate and force something.”

Jacksonville scored the final five points of the third quarter and outscored Mills 22-4 in the fourth to finish the game on a 27-4 run.

Jacksonville held a 39-32 lead before Mills scored six straight on three pointers by Devin Campbell and Kaylon Tappin.

Jacksonville’s Justin McCleary answered with a three-point play and reserve guard Tederick Wolfe hit a fast-break layup off a steal and assist by Sergio Berkley to make it 44-38 after three periods.

Mills controlled the boards for the first half of the game, but that also faded late. The Comets opened the third quarter with possession and down 29-27. They took eight shots, got six offensive rebounds and made three free throws to take the lead before Jacksonville even took possession with 6:40 left in the quarter.

Joyner called his team over to the sideline during Mills’ free throws and had a quick but intense conversation about giving up so many offensive rebounds. At that point, Mills held a 17-11 advantage in rebounding, but got just five more rebounds the rest of the game and lost the battle of the boards 25-22.

The first quarter was back-and-forth but ugly. Jacksonville committed nine turnovers and Mills gave it up 12 times. The Red Devils led 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.

Senior Khaleel Hart led all scorers with 20 points. McCleary finished with 13 points, five steals, five assists and four rebounds. Berkley dropped in 11 for the Red Devils. Tappin led Mills with 14 points while Campbell scored 12.

Jacksonville travels to Little Rock Christian Academy on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Wildcats get revenge against Cabot

Leader sportswriter

The game wasn’t quite as ugly as North Little Rock coach Daryl Fimple had hoped for, but still ugly enough at the end that the Lady Wildcats were able to hold on and take a 54-50 victory over host Cabot at Panther Arena on Friday to begin 7A/6A East conference play.

The Lady Wildcat win avenged a mercy-rule loss to the Lady Panthers in the final of the season-opening Heavenly Hoops Classic.

Cabot (7-4, 0-1) cut an 11-point deficit to start the fourth quarter down to the final margin of four points, with a lot of fouls for both sides along the way throughout the second half.

North Little Rock (8-3, 1-0) suffered one of its weakest games at the free-throw line all season but had a strong enough cushion at the end to withstand the Lady Panthers final push.

“We kind of got into their legs a little bit,” Fimple said. “This long break and bad weather has probably made it really hard for practice. That’s a big strength of ours is that we’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of kids who can play. We kept attacking the basket and finally making some layups. We missed a ton of them, still. We’re a young team, but I thought we did some really good things.”

Kyra Collier and Kierra Webb led the Lady Wildcats on the scoreboard with 10 points each while Candice McDaniels added seven points. For Cabot, Elliot Taylor led the way with 20 points, while Alyssa Hamilton and Ally Van Enk each added nine points for the Lady Panthers.

Cabot went on a 6-2 run in the final minutes, including an inside shot by Hamilton with an assist from Taylor with 3:26remaining and a successful shot by Taylor with 1:35 remaining to cut NLR’s lead to 53-48.

“Experience wise, we struggle in certain situations,” Fimple said. “We’ve shot free throws really well up until tonight, and we couldn’t make them or layups. We have to have ugly games up to be really good. We’ve got to get in an ugly game for us to be any good.”

Alyssa Hamilton gave the Lady Panthers an early 3-2 lead when she hit the back end of a two-shot free throw with 5:57 remaining in the opening period, but Deja Hamilton answered for North Little Rock with an inside basket at the 5:15 mark to put the Lady Wildcats back up 4-3.

Webb increased the margin to 6-3 with an inbounds basket with 4:06 left to play in the opening period before Taylor converted a basket and a free throw to tie the game with 3:53 remaining.

Mays split the lane for the next Wildcats score with a jumper at the 3:23 mark that gave North Little Rock an 8-6 lead, and Haley Hill added a free throw seconds later before Monk scored in transition for a 10-7 Lady Wildcats’ lead.

Alyssa Hamilton took a bounce assist from Jaylin Bridges across the inside lane for Cabot’s next score with 2:10 left in the first quarter. Hill extended the lead again for the Lady ’Cats with a three-point basket at the 1:21 mark, but Taylor came through inside for Cabot on the ensuing possession with a basket that made it 13-11 inside a minute.

Turnovers plagued the Lady Panthers through most of the second quarter. North Little Rock capitalized on three straight Cabot turnovers early in the period to extend its lead to 19-13 at the 7:18 mark following another transition score for Monk.

The Lady Panthers closed the gap to five points midway through the third quarter when Taylor scored inside to make it 34-29. But Taylor ended up as the only scorer from that point on with the exception of two free throws by Ryan Wilson.

TOP STORY >> 2012: Outages, candidates, air show, fallen soldier

The Leader consistently prints an average of 10 pages per section and five stories per page — that’s 50 news or feature articles every issue, or more than 5,000 news items per year.

This is the third and final in a series looking back on the news of 2012.


• Outages reported as storm blows by — More than 5,000 residents in central Arkansas suffered power outages as the remnants of Hurricane Isaac rolled through with high winds and three inches of rain.

• Sherwood website is redirected by hacker — Extremists disable city hall’s website for a couple hours until the Sherwood could disable the hackers’ message. No permanent damage was done and no city information was affected. But those who tried to go to the website were redirected to a Muslim extremist site calling for the deaths of all Americans.

• Funeral set today for fallen sergeant — Army Sgt. Jason Swindle, 24, of Cabot who was killed in Afghanistan in mid-September was buried in Beebe.

• Council candidates speak — Many candidates for Jacksonville City Council spoke out against the city’s three-year-old contract with an economic developer from Owasso, Okla., at a candidates forum at the community center.

• Water park, ball fields in Cabot’s plans — Plans call for a $2.3 million expansion of the community center, plus a water park, ball fields and other amenities if voters approve continuing a one-cent sales tax.

• City council ties Hillman’s hands — Sherwood aldermen vote against a resolution that would have allowed the mayor to start to renegotiate a long-term contract with North Little Rock Electric.

• D.C. lobby enters local race — Republican Super PACs spent about $60,000 in mailing attack fliers to derail state Rep. Barry Hyde’s chance to defeat state Rep. Jane English for an open state Senate seat.

• JP asks if candidate for sheriff misusing gun locks — Justice of the Peace Alexis Malham questioned the legality of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dean White using gun locks originally distributed by the federal government for law enforcement use.

• Jacksonville council favors highway tax — Aldermen approved a resolution supporting a half-cent statewide tax to support highway construction and repairs, which will give the city $500,000 a year to use.

• Principal’s firing upheld by judge — Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore agreed with the Cabot School District in its firing of Northside Elementary School Principal Suzanne Proctor.

• Help save young Tanner — Tanner Varnadore, a first grader at Cabot’s Magness Creek Elementary, has spent half his young life battling acute lymphocytic leukemia and is in need of a bone marrow transplant.

• Fish farmer calls it quits — After 40 years in the business, Robert Murtha of Lonoke closes his catfish business citing the rising cost of feed and foreign competition.

• Mayors: Tax is needed for interchanges — With a shortage of state and federal highway funds, Jacksonville and Cabot look at local taxes to help fund an interchange at Coffelt Crossing and one to connect Hwy. 38 and Willie Ray Drive.

• District seeking lunch money — Students in Cabot owe the school district $108,000 in food charges and the district is starting to collect the back charges.

• Five schools here named among best — Those that made the University of Arkansas listing include Jacksonville’s Arnold Drive and Cabot’s Stagecoach elementary schools, Cabot Middle School South and Searcy’s Ahlf Junior High and Southwest Middle schools.

• Injured policeman glad he’s back on job — Officer Daniel Dimatteo, 40, who was rundown by a driver in an incident that killed a firefighter and injured another, returns to duty, but is confined to desk work as his therapy and treatments continue.

• Open house brings 200,000 to air base — The Blue Angels were the top draw as more than 200,000 from across the state and beyond visited the displays and watched the military demonstrations at Little Rock Air Force Base.

• Deficiencies causing stink in county jail — Lonoke County’s year-old $6 million jail is out of warranty and having problems with its sewer, heat and air systems as well as the video visitation systems.


• Capital murder charges for trio — Three Jacksonville men face the death penalty or life without parole in the murder of a North Little Rock convenience store clerk.

• Farewell to fallen soldier — One thousand supporters lined the streets in Beebe to salute the body of Army Sgt. Jason Swindle, 24, who was killed in Afghanistan and buried at Westbrook Cemetery.

• In Sherwood, 11 candidates make pitches — Candidates vying for Sherwood City Council, the state legislature and local judgeships all made pitches at a Sherwood Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

• Some residents displeased over annexation plans — Residents of one of the five areas Sherwood is looking to annex are upset with the idea and want the city to clearly explain their intentions for the area.

• Gun-range plans blaze forward — Jacksonville’s assistant parks and recreation director told the city council that the planned shooting range will have an economic impact of $5 million a year just from youth sports leagues.

• Reprieve for C-130s — The Air Force is moving ahead with plans to replace its current C-130 modernization program with a less expensive version.

• Guilty plea in attack — A 69-year-old Little Rock man pleads guilty to attacking a bank employee at First Arkansas Bank and Trust in Jacksonville.

• Mayor pushes road tax — Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert is backing a half-cent, statewide sales tax for highways. The tax would provide Cabot with $423,000 annually to use for various projects.

• Forum held at senior center — Nine candidates vying for five seats on the Jacksonville City Council spoke at the senior center.

• Opening shots for firing range — Gov. Beebe and other officials attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the proposed shooting range on 160 acres near the intersection of Graham and Loop roads.

• Firing range bid opening misses mark — Jacksonville was expecting a bid of about $2.1 million to build a proposed sports shooting range, but the lone bid came in at near $4 million and was rejected.

• Sheriff, 2 JPS in GOP facing ouster — Lonoke County sheriff and two justices of the peace are accused of working against the Lonoke County Republican Party Committee and could be expelled.

• Utilities invited to send in bids to city — The Sherwood City Council voted to have the mayor solicit bid proposals from Entergy, North Little Rock and First Electric to determine who should provide electricity to 7,500 city residents whose power is currently provided by North Little Rock.

• Four arrests in killing of Cabot man — Three men and a woman were arrested and charged in the beating death of James Heath, a Cabot man missing since mid-September. His body was buried behind the house of the woman arrested for the murder.

• Cabot parks commission against takeover — The Cabot parks commissioner fears a loss of funding for improvements if the mayor gets his way and dissolves the parks commission.

• Crews ready to help — Superstorm Sandy left 8 million people in the dark along the East Coast and Entergy, Arkansas Electric Cooperatives and CenturyLink sent repair crews and the base went on standby alert to aid with any relief efforts.

• Alderman in Cabot quits race — Longtime Cabot Aldermen Patrick Hutton pulled out of the race for re-election because of a controversy over his campaign material signifying he is a Republican and as a federal employee he is only allowed to run in nonpartisan elections.


• PCSSD unions to proceed with lawsuit — Employee unions for the school district disagree with a ruling that releases the state commissioner and the education department from their lawsuit. The unions plan to appeal.

• New faces on city councils — The Nov. 6 general election put three new aldermen on the Jacksonville city council, one on Sherwood’s council and one in Beebe and in Cabot. An aldermen who dropped out of the race still won the election.

• Reprieve for parks in Cabot — Efforts to disband the parks and recreation commission have been tabled indefinitely to give new commission member a chance to work things out.

• Missile silo crew looks back — Retired members of the now-defunct Titan II Missile Combat Crew 119 recall their efforts to prevent a World War III.

• GOP takes charge in Lonoke County — Only the county tax collector and a few Justices of the Peace are Democrats as Republicans complete a near sweep of county offices.

• Approval of highway tax will help road work here —State voters approved a half-cent statewide sales tax meaning area cities and counties will receive extra funds over the next 10 years for various projects.

• Long list of homes facing bulldozing — Jacksonville gets tough on dilapidated properties after warnings, places eight on the condemnation list and slaps a total of $48,000 in liens absent others.

• Support grows for new district — Daniel Gray, spokesman for the North/North Pulaski Education Corps said now is the time for Jacksonville to detach itself from Pulaski County Special School District.

• Legislators from Cabot in top spots — Rep. Davy Carter is elected House Speaker and Sen. Eddie Jo Williams is named majority leader and will be chair for the government committee.

• JPs vote to make special tax legal — A voluntary tax of 2.25 mills for non-profits will still be on Lonoke County property tax statements but will be listed as a tax for contract agencies.

• Liquor sales need legislative approval — Two convenience stores hire a consultant to help convince the state legislature that all of north Pulaski County should be wet and allowed to sell liquor.

• Most schools in area need improvement — State lists schools needing improvement and most Sherwood and Jacksonville schools fell in the lower rungs. However, Arnold Drive Elementary, on the air base, was named one of five exemplary schools in the state.

• Council in Cabot passes ’13 budget — The city council approved a $13.6 million general budget, which includes dedicated funds for streets, the library and the senior center.

• Vertac a fading memory — Toxic waste site has been cleaned up and turned into a multimillion training facility that will also hold the new police headquarters building.

• JHS band tight knit and tight on stage — More than just a band, the high school group, preparing to perform in New Orleans, is also a family, focusing on each other first and the music second.

• Ward man posts bond in death — A white Ward resident who admitted to shooting a black employee posted $100,000 bond even though he had not been officially charged in the death. Meanwhile the family of the deceased hired the attorney in the Treyvon Martin wrongful death suit to help them.

• Fireworks limited to protect roosts — Beebe has put restrictions on fireworks to prevent unnecessary deaths of roosting blackbirds. In 2010, thousands died and the incident attracted worldwide attention and in 2011, about 450 birds were killed.

• Sherwood stays with NLR utility after long fight —The city council voted to renew its contract with North Little Rock Electric after months of meetings and debates.


• North Belt tangled up in turf fight — Metroplan and the state highway department continue to bicker over who’s to blame for the apparent demise of the highway project.

• Ex-senator’s son in deadly wreck — The son of former state Sen. Bobby Glover is accused of hitting a woman attempting to flag down motorists after she ran out of gas on Hwy. 70.

• Austin names new chief — Tony Bryant, a Ward police sergeant will become the new chief of the Austin Police Department.

• Dangerous overpass — Another accident pointed out the dangers of the Hwy. 67/167 Main Street overpass. From 2001 to 2010, state troopers have worked 249 crashes on the bridge.

• Cabot makes plans for a sales-tax vote — The mayor and council work out details for a special election around April for a tax to support a north interchange, baseball fields and a water park.

• Pearl Harbor horrors recalled — World War II veteran Charlie Flynt, 90, recalls his time on the USS Ramsay, which was docked in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

• $500,000 roundabout for Ward — The city council approved the roundabout to control traffic at the intersections of Locust Street, Griffin Street, Hwy. 367 and Hwy. 319.

• Jacksonville man admits to murders — A man who bludgeoned and then shot two cousins to death pleads guilty to avoid the death penalty. He was instead sentenced to 100 years in prison.

• Unitary status hearing in fall — Federal Judge D. Price Marshall agrees to hear evidence next year that the county school district is making desegregation progress.

• Jacksonville budget set for $24.5M — The 2013 general budget includes a $500 raise for full-time employees and no layoffs or cutback of services.

• Staley names a chief deputy — When John Staley takes over as the Lonoke County Sheriff his new chief deputy will be Mike Kindall, a 30-year law enforcement veteran.

• Foreign crews keep training at base here — Each year, more than 250 students from 40 nations pass through the C-130 Center of Excellence.

• Lonoke considers rules on leaf burning — Council gets into a heated debate over charging a fee for burn permits.

• Teacher is going to prison — A former Cabot Junior High North instructor admits to an affair with a student and is sentenced to 15 years in prison, with nine suspended, meaning she’ll be eligible for parole in two years.

• Sherwood approves a $20.1M budget — After a discussion over the mayor and city clerk’s car allowance, the council approves the 2013 general budget.

• Center repairs will take months — It may take up to a year and almost $700,000 to make repairs to the pool’s roof at Cabot’s Veterans Park community center.

• Cypert tells JPs: Court hurt by cuts — The Cabot mayor said the district court system in Lonoke County is broken and that if it’s not repaired Cabot could stop hearing misdemeanor cases filed by the county.

• Funds for firing range approved — State, city and private donations will cover the $3 million necessary to build a sports shooting range on the east side of Jacksonville.

• Grand opening for subdivision — Jacksonville completes construction of $9.8 million subdivision of 55 single-family low-cost rental homes.

• New district would get more aid — Splitting from Pulaski County Special School District would make schools far better in Jacksonville, according to those pushing for an independent district.

• Crews still work hard to restore electricity — Thousands of area residents were without power for hours and up to a week after record ice and snow hit the area late Christmas afternoon.

• Residents improvise in outage — Tips were offered to help residents endure their time without power.

TOP STORY >> Storm debris lingers

Leader staff writer

Picking up downed trees and limbs from the Christmas snowstorm will keep the Jacksonville and Sherwood sanitation departments busy for weeks to come.

Both cities pick up yard waste (limbs, leaves and downed trees cut into reasonable lengths) once a week normally, but right now they are spending three to four days a week to cover just one day’s worth of debris.

The storm has kept Cabot busy too, but not to the degree of Jacksonville and Sherwood.

At the Jacksonville council meeting Thursday night, Public Works Director Jim Oakley called the Christmas storm a challenge. “We’ve still got so much debris out there, and we are working from dusk to dawn and on Saturdays to pick it all up,” he said.

Jacksonville has received special permission from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to burn the majority of the debris, saving the city a lot on landfill charges.

In Jacksonville, yard waste is supposed to be picked up the same day as garbage and trash, while in Sherwood, the yard waste pickup runs a day behind the garbage service.

Oakley said his crews spent a week picking up limbs and tree trunks from just the Monday route alone. “We must have picked up about 1,200 cubic yards of debris,” he said.

Oakley added that his crews, which are working Saturdays, are on Tuesday’s lawn waste route and have already surpassed the Monday totals. He said Tuesday’s route has more trees than the Wednesday and Thursday routes, but once his crews get their routes done, he’ll know there may be plenty more debris to pick up.

“By the time we get back to Monday again, residents will have had a chance to pull all the downed limbs out of their backyards for us,” Oakley said.

He figures it will take about three weeks, if there’s good weather, to get back to a normal pickup schedule. “We just need everyone to hang in there with us for now,” Oakley said.

Brian Galloway, Sherwood’s public works director, said his city is in the same situation.

“It’s been a week since the storm, and we are only about a third of the way through town,” he said. “There’s still a lot of debris that we need to clear from just city property,” he said.

Galloway said his crews pulled 24-hour shifts during the height of the storm that dropped a layer of ice before bringing in 10 inches of snow. Sherwood crews were out early Christmas Day sanding, plowing and getting trees and limbs out of the roadway.

“I’m not sure how much sand and salt we used,” explained Galloway. “We’ve just been so busy, but I did check our bins and make sure we still have enough if another storm rolls in and we do.”

Oakley said his crews worked around the clock during the storm and used about 10 tons of salt and 200 tons of sand. “But we spent most of our time just clearing limbs out of the roadway,” he said.

Brian Boroughs, head of public works in Cabot, said about 30 tons of sand was spread on the streets during the first 24 hours of the storm.

He’s keeping up with his workers’ hours and other expenses, but all the bills for the cleanup are not yet in.

Progressive Waste Solutions, formerly IESI, has been removing many of the piles of limbs as part of its contract for waste collection in Cabot and that is holding costs down, he said.

Mayor Bill Cypert said he estimates the cost of the cleanup at $15,000 to $20,000.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a disaster and 1 being no damage, Cabot’s damage is about 3.5, Cypert said.

Regular garbage collection would have been a day late because of Christmas, but the storm made it two days late, Boroughs said. It also ran late this week because of New Year’s Day. But it should be back on schedule next week.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher is still totaling up damage costs. “I hope to have a figure to present next week. I’m hopeful we’ll get some reimbursement from the feds since Gov. Beebe declared the state a disaster after the storm rolled through,” Fletcher said.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lions grind out win over Beebe

Leader sportswriter

Athleticism carried the night – eventually.

Little Rock McClellan struggled to put away a feisty Beebe team through three quarters before taking over in the final eight minutes for a 47-32 victory over the Badgers in the championship game of the Badger Christmas Classic basketball tournament at Badger Sports Arena on Monday.

The Lions (6-5) had a distinct advantage in size and speed, but missed a number of easy looks inside during the first half. The Badgers (8-4) had nice inside performances from post players Zach Baker and Jared Gowen, who put up some of the best scoring and rebounding numbers of his career.

“One thing we talked about is the grind of the game,” Lions coach Chris Threatt said. “I thought over the course of the game we were a little more athletic. We had a nice little burst right there at the beginning of the fourth quarter that helped us.”

Tyrin Hollis made a three-point basket with 5:33 remaining to put McClellan up 34-25 before the Lions extended their lead with four more points off transition breaks, including a pair of free throws by footballstandout Akee Johnson that gave them a 36-25 lead.

“They have athleticism, and they made a little adjustment against our press,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall said. “We just made some bad decisions and kind of hit the panic button, got away from defending drives and defending the way we were supposed to, and it just created more opportunities for them. I thought we battled there for a while, they’re just extremely quick and athletic.”

Beebe fed off the energy from the home crowd in the early going to claim a 6-2 lead.
Senior Austin Burroughs put the first points up before Baker scored twice inside, including an inside basket off an assist from junior point guard Tanner Chapman on an inbound play at the 4:20 mark.

Johnson fought back for McClellan later in the period with a couple of inside shots to give the Lions an 8-6 lead. The low scoring of the first half made every point count for McClellan as the Lions worked meticulously to build some kind of a cushion in the second quarter. They took a 19-16 lead at the 37-second mark when Johnson scored inside and made a free throw, but that lead was erased when senior guard Jake Schlenker made a three pointer at the buzzer for Beebe to tie the game at the half.

“I know from my experience that’s the kind of team you love to come to work to coach,” Threatt said of Beebe. “Because they’re going to do what you say; they’re not going to beat themselves. As a coach, all you can do is ask the kids to give 100 percent, and from what I’ve seen, that’s what those kids do.”

Gowen hung tough against McClellan big men Derrick Hardy and Kelechi Kingsley inside with nine points along with five rebounds and three steals. Five of those points came in the fourth quarter while a pair of Schlenker three-point baskets made up the remainder of Beebe’s scoring in the final period.

“I thought he played with such poise,” Marshall said. “He didn’t get rushed, and felt them on his back and which side he needed to go on. That’s huge for us going into conference to be able to step up and do that.”

Johnson led the Lions with 14 points while Hollis added nine for McClellan. For Beebe, Schlenker and Gowen led with nine points each while Burroughs finished with six and Baker had five points.

Beebe will begin 5A East Conference play at Blytheville on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot gets some luck, gets a win

Leader sportswriter

Cabot needed a little bit of luck, and a steady shooting hand from Nick Thomas from the free-throw line in the closing seconds, as the Panthers rallied to overtake Brookland 44-43 in the third-place game of the Badger Christmas Classic at Badger Sports Arena on Monday.

The Panthers (5-6) struggled from the floor most of the night, but kept themselves in contention through the first half with free throws. Cabot made only two shots from the floor in the first half, but went 8 of 11 from the charity stripe in that time to trail 15-14 at the break.

“We didn’t play very good,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “A lot of it, I give credit to Brookland, but I was proud of our guys. We could have quit, but we kept plugging and led at the end.”

The coaches and fans for each team made things spirited in the closing moments. Cabot fans disputed a late foul called against Clayton Vaught that sent Devon Newton to the line with Brookland trailing 43-42 and 11 seconds remaining on the clock. Newton hit both ends to give the Bearcats a 43-42 lead.

Senior point guard Bryan Shrum brought it down for the Panthers and attempted a three pointer that fell short. Thomas picked up the rebound in the lane and went back up just as the buzzer sounded and also drew a foul. That sent him to the line with no time left on the clock and Cabot trailing 43-42, but Thomas kept his cool under the pressure and swished both foul shots to give the Panthers the win.

“We couldn’t hit shots,” Bridges said. “We’re missing easy shots. I’m proud of us for still playing defense, because usually when you do that, you’re going to drop your intensity on defense. I was proud of Nick Thomas, I want to recognize him, because he hasn’t played much varsity ball all year. I told him he had a chance to be the hero at the end just because of how he played defense in the third quarter. He expended all his energy for us defensively. That’s why I put him out there at the end. He’s a good kid who works every day, so good for Nick.”

Brookland appeared to be pulling away late in the third quarter, pushing the margin to 24-16 by the 4:34 mark. The Bearcats took their biggest lead with 5:54 left to play when Will Ballard hit a three-point basket to make it 31-22. Cabot answered with an inside basket by Ryan Stafford, followed by a transition basket by Shrum off a steal to cut it back to 31-26 with 5:01 remaining.

Vaught pulled down a vital defensive rebound with 1:13 left to play that set up a shot by Thomas in the paint to cut Brookland’s lead to 41-40. Thomas then got a steal that led to a three-point basket by Vaught to give Cabot its first lead of the game, 42-41 with 11 seconds left to play.

“Thirteen fouls on us, four on them,” Bridges said. “And in the first quarter, it’s eight on us and two on them and we’re in our matchup. I’m not saying we’re not fouling, but I promise they’re fouling more than they’re calling on them, but I don’t know, those were two calls at the end that you wish could have been different.”

Hunter York led the Panthers with nine points while Ballard led Brookland with 11 points.

The Panthers will begin 7A/6A East Conference play with a home game against North Little Rock on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> North Pulaski goes 1-1, NLR girls lose one

Leader sports editor

Several local basketball teams were scheduled to take part in holiday tournaments around the state, but weather stopped some from being able to get to their respective events. The Cabot and Jacksonville girls and Sylvan Hills boys were unable to make it to their events. Cabot was in the Mansfield Rotary Club Classic in Mansfield, Texas. Jacksonville was scheduled for Springfield, Mo. and Sylvan Hills was supposed to take part in the Mountain Home tournament. The North Little Rock girls were also supposed to be in Mountain Home by Thursday. Though the Lady Wildcats weren’t able to make it, they did find a team to play and traveled to Paragould on Saturday.


Things didn’t go as well as hoped for the Daryl Fimple-coached North Little Rock team. Paragould won the game 63-55. The Lady Rams return all five starters from last year’s class 5A runner-up team. They shot three pointers in the first half like no one was guarding them. Paragould made eight three pointers in the first half and took a 36-26 lead into halftime.

North Little Rock turned up the pressure in the second half and almost caught up, cutting the lead to 40-37 halfway through the third quarter. A three-point play by Paragould’s Carson Gill put it back to six, but North Little Rock got within two when freshman Kyra Collier’s three pointer made it 44-42.

Every time the Lady Wildcats knocked on the door, Paragould answered. The Lady Rams scored the next five points to close the third quarter with a seven-point lead.

Still, North Little Rock had one run left in the tank. Sophomore Malica Monk got a steal and layup that made it 57-55 with three minutes left, but the Lady Wildcats would not score another point.

Paragould put up a quick shot and missed, but a long rebound caused a scramble for the ball that resulted in a foul on the Lady Wildcats. Paragould made just one of two free throws but North Little Rock went cold from the field the rest of the way.

“We got what we wanted and got them to shoot it quickly,” Fimple said. “We just missed three point-blank layups and they made their free throws.

“I was glad we got to play and I was glad about how hard the kids played. The way they came out shooting and put us down, we never stopped fighting. I think they were getting tired from our pressure, we just couldn’t make a shot at the end.”

The Lady Wildcats open conference play with a vital game at Cabot on Friday.


The Falcons went 1-1 at Camden-Fairview, though it didn’t get to participate in the first round of the tournament. Arriving a day late, North Pulaski was moved to the consolation bracket and faced Lafayette County in the second round. The Falcons won easily 60-25. LCHS beat North Pulaski in overtime last season, but head Falcon Roy Jackson said this was not the same team.

“They lost a lot from that team and we’re a lot better, so there wasn’t much to it,” Jackson said. “I was pleased that we kept the intensity up and put them away. That was about the easiest game we’ve had all year.”

Joe Aikens led North Pulaski with 14 points while Aaron Williamson added 10.

That win was followed by a 45-30 loss to Magnolia. Used to seeing man defense most of the season, North Pulaski struggled to score against Magnolia’s 1-3-1 zone.

“Our defense was there,” Jackson said. “My kids played hard. We didn’t attack the basket as much as we should have. We settled for outside shots and we couldn’t buy a bucket.”

Eric Mouton led North Pulaski with eight points in the loss.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats win Coke Classic

Leader sports editor

The North Little Rock boys continue to stake their claim to being the best team in Arkansas. The latest achievement was winning the prestigious Coca Cola Classic tournament at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. The Wildcats broke the century mark for the first time this season in the championship game, hammering Springdale High School 103-77.

The Bulldogs (8-5) bothered North Little Rock early in the game. The Wildcats managed to shoot just better than 30 percent, but that changed early in the second quarter and never changed back.

North Little Rock wasn’t on pace for 100 after one period, leading Springdale 20-17. Just two minutes into the second quarter, the lead was 10 and just kept growing from there.

North Little Rock (12-1) led 47-32 at halftime and was up 75-55 after three quarters. Springdale ran with the Wildcats effectively most of the time, but didn’t have the weapons to keep up entirely.

The dynamic trio of point guard Dayshawn Watkins, two guard Kevaughn Allen and forward Thomas Alexander has become one of, if not the, most potent combinations in the state. Allen led the way with 31 points in Saturday’s championship game. Alexander scored 23 and Watkins dropped in 20.

“We shot the ball unbelievably,” North Little Rock coach Johnny Rice told the Southwest Times-Record. “Our three guys scoring 30-, 20, 20 and shooting the way we shot it. We just had everything clicking on offense.”

Watkins was named the tournament’s most valuable player while Allen and Alexander made the All-Tournament team.

North Little Rock beat Bryant 81-60 and Fort Smith Northside 62-50 to advance to Saturday’s championship game.

Springdale had scarcely been tested in the two previous rounds. The Bulldogs hammered Subiaco Academy 66-34 in the first round, then smashed Fort Smith Southside 66-42 in the semifinals.

Southside beat Northside 51-47 to earn third place.

North Little Rock opens conference play in the 7A/6A East on the road at Cabot on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers win final

Leader sports editor

Harding Academy controlled the early action, but Beebe won the game and the championship of the Badger Christmas Classic 43-39 Monday at Badger Arena.

The Lady Badgers fell behind 15-7 in the first quarter while struggling to find an answer for Harding Academy’s matchup zone. Figuring it out largely came down to the dribble penetration game of Beebe guard Kalela Miller.

The junior scored 12 points in the second quarter while the Beebe defense began to stifle the Lady Wildcats’ offense.

Harding Academy (10-3) didn’t score in the second quarter until two free throws by Anna Lowry made it 17-13 with five minutes left in the first half. Beebe senior Jamie Jackson scored two free throws to make it a two-point game. Harding Academy super sophomore Riley Rose then scored four straight to make it 21-15. Miller then scored the final nine points of the half.

Her three pointer with 30 seconds remaining tied the score. After a Wildcat turnover, Miller drained another three at the buzzer to send the Badgers into intermission with a 24-21 lead.

Beebe (9-5) suffered a brief lapse of offense early in the third quarter when Harding Academy came out in a man defense. A bucket and a free throw gave the Lady Wildcats a 25-24 lead with five minutes left in the quarter.

Jackson, who scored just two points and went 0 for 10 from the floor in the first half, scored seven straight to put Beebe ahead 31-25 with 1:11 left in the third.

Miller got an old fashioned three-point play and Kelsie Brockway drained a three pointer to cap a 13-1 run and send the Lady Badgers into the fourth quarter with a 37-26 lead.

But just before the end of the quarter, Miller picked up her fourth foul. That forced Beebe into a stall offense that was effective at killing the clock, but not effective and producing points.

The Lady Wildcats were able to force three straight turnovers and cut Beebe’s lead to as little as 37-33, but it took most of the quarter to do it.

“With Miller on the bench we had to just try to run as much of the clock as we could,” Beebe coach Greg Richey said. “For the most part I thought we did a good job of that. We passed up a couple of shots we probably should have taken, but I thought our defense was good the entire game. They didn’t score a lot after getting the turnovers.”

Miller led all scorers with 23 points while Jackson finished with 12. Rose scored 14 for Harding Academy while Lowery added 10.

To advance to the title game, Beebe knocked off Pulaski Robinson and North Pulaski by mercy rule. Harding Academy beat Lonoke and Brookland.

Beebe opens conference play on the road against Blytheville on Friday.

EDITORIAL >> A seasonal message

“Then he looked up at his disciples and said: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at resurrection of the just.”

— Gospel of Luke

Let this spirit of the season descend upon and surround the band of Republican legislators who want to prevent the state of Arkansas from offering medical and hospital insurance to more than 215,000 of Arkansas’ poorest.

There is evidence that a few of them have been moved, if not by the spirit or concern for the poor then at least by other groups that stand to be affected if Medicaid is not expanded to cover childless working poor men and women, but not enough lawmakers have been moved that we can be sure that Jesus’ commandments will be obeyed.

The Medicaid crisis is Arkansas’s own fiscal cliff, but the difference between it and the mindless standoff in Washington is that the remedy here is simple and the consequences of failure are known and documented.

A quarter of a million Arkansans, the poorest of the poor among able-bodied adults, will continue without the assurance of paid medical attention when they are sick; rural hospitals and even some big institutions will be in danger of closing; and thousands of desperately needy people who now depend on the state’s charity—those in nursing homes, institutions for disabled children, the mentally ill, or poor sick children—will be cut loose to care for themselves or to depend upon the charity and care of families or friends.

How Arkansas got into this predicament is a perverse story. Since Arkansas fared a little better than most states in the downturn that began in 2007, its per-capita-income ranking among the states improved a little, which meant that the state had to shoulder a slightly bigger share of the cost of medical assistance to the needy.

Because we were so poor, the federal government formerly paid a bigger share of those costs in Arkansas than in nearly every other state, but the state’s percentage has crept upward each year since 2007. It didn’t affect the state’s budget for five years because President Obama sent the state $825 million from his stimulus package to protect its Medicaid program.

All that money and the state’s Medicaid trust fund will be exhausted by the end of this fiscal year and the state will finally have to pick up the accumulated slack all at once, starting July 1.

State tax collections can’t make up the difference because over the past decade the state has steadily cut taxes that pay for those things. In the wake of the temporary shutdown of the federal estate tax a decade ago, the Arkansas legislature abolished the Arkansas estate tax permanently.

A tax on rich inheritances that had brought in $400 million the previous 10 years went to zero. The state slashed taxes on forms of investment income, virtually eliminated sales taxes on groceries, and excused manufacturers and other corporations from some taxes that others must pay.

Those tax cuts helped offset higher sales taxes to bring public schools up to a minimum funding level. Now Arkansas must find the money to continue the state’s Medicaid obligation or else decide who among the vulnerable it will no longer help. Restoring some taxes is off the table because it is considered political suicide in this climate.

That is where the much reviled Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—“Obamacare”—comes in. One part of the law that kicks in a year from now expands Medicaid to cover poor childless adults, those with family incomes less than 135 percent of the federal poverty line.

Many states already cover them or most of them, but Arkansas and Alabama cover few destitute men and women unless they are severely disabled. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of hospital and medical care for them until 2017, and then the state’s share goes up a little each year until it reaches 10 percent, where it will stay in perpetuity.

Arkansas is the biggest beneficiary of that program because it now serves so few. Hundreds of millions of dollars will flow into the state annually to pay hospitals, clinics, pharmacists and other practitioners for indigent care, which most of them now absorb and pass along to insured patients through higher fees.

But here is Obamacare’s big salvation, which bedevils Republican legislators who ran against it and promised to do everything they could to thwart it in Arkansas: The law provides that the federal government will take over the full cost of insuring tens of thousands of current Medicaid recipients, relieving the state of tens of millions of dollars annually and providing a windfall to protect all those services it would otherwise have to cut and the taxpayers from a tax increase. But if the state does not expand Medicaid as the law provides, the state would forfeit that subsidy.

That is the dilemma for the Republicans. The U.S. Supreme Court said states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion if they didn’t want to insure poor grownups or didn’t think the state could afford it, but they must take the consequences.

Since those roughly 250,000 people aren’t insured now, Jesus might not have meant that Republicans had to invite those lame and sick to the feast—maybe only those who were already being healed.

Every argument against insuring these people has been destroyed. The state budget far into the future will be helped, not hurt, by expanding the program and taking the federal help.Thousands will not have to be discharged from nursing homes. Hospitals and family doctors will finally get help with their charity care.

So Republicans are left with their pride. Obama-care was the focus of nearly every Republican campaign for public office, and they cannot be seen as cooperating on any part of it, no matter how much good it would do or the harm that would befall the state with its repudiation.

Jesus had something to say about pride, too.

Ernie Dumas, a longtime editorial writer for the Arkansas Gazette, is the dean of Arkansas journalists.

EDITORIAL >> When TV goes out

It was 2,500 years or so ago that Greek philosopher Socrates was said to have uttered the words that I try to live by: An unexamined life is not worth living.

If you think about it, few people change because someone criticizes them. They change when they see flaws in themselves that don’t seem too difficult to repair.

My most recent serious self-examination came at about 5 in the afternoon on the day after Christmas. It was getting dark and all the visitors from the storm, the kids and grandkids had gone home. A fire was burning in the wood heater to keep us warm.

The dishes were washed and the floors were swept. And what dirt that may have been missed couldn’t be seen by the light of the candles on the table.

The only thing missing was noise or more precisely, the TV. And its absence was almost screaming at me.

I tried moving closer to the fire and telling myself that I actually preferred the quiet. But I’m not that easily fooled. Within five minutes, I was suggesting to my husband that a walk in the snow might kill a little time in the evening that I could tell was going to be a long one.

He said no. The snow had melted and refrozen and each step would mean breaking through a layer of ice, sinking into the snow, pulling free and repeating. And besides, he said, it was too cold out.

“We could talk,” I told him.

“You start,” he said.

And that’s when it hit me. I had nothing to say. We talk during commercials. But there was no television and therefore no commercials. Our conversation is TV dependent.

I was appalled by the realization, especially considering that TV has so little to offer these days: reality show stars acting out for the camera, sitcom reruns and some version of “Law and Order” on some channel at any given time.

We did manage to talk a little about the kids, the layout of the greenhouse we always hope to build in the spring, the kids…

By 9:30, my husband was ready for bed. He said he was sleepy, but I suspect he was just weary from being forced to make conversation.

By the middle of the next day, Entergy repair crews were in the driveway raising the line that had been knocked to the ground by a fallen tree. And we went back to our normal routine of busying around during the day and watching TV during the evening while we talk during the commercials with the TV on mute.

For the first day or so, I worried that my big revelation meant that we had gotten into a rut, but then I decided that ruts aren’t necessarily a bad thing. I grew up on a dirt road with foot-deep ruts during the winter months. The thing about ruts that some people might not know is that while they may be hard to get out of, they are also kind of like a railroad track that can take you out to other places and then bring you right back home.

At least that’s the position I’ve decided to take. I briefly considered trying to change, but it’s winter and the evenings are really long. Besides, who says conversation between commercials can’t be meaningful? 
— Joan McCoy

TOP STORY >> Only one holdover as Staley moves in

Leader staff writer

John Staley, Lonoke County’s new sheriff, is replacing all but one of the top employees in his office.

The only person he is keeping in an administrative position is Lt. Jim Kulesa who has experience in running a jail as well as drug enforcement and public information.

Staley named Mike Kindall in early December to replace Dean White as chief deputy. But he said he isn’t ready to name his replacements for Capt. Steve Finch, Lt. Keenan Carter, Detective Tanya Cross and Sgt. Samantha Graber who runs the jail.

“I have people in mind but I’m not sure where they will fit best,” Staley said.

Technically, the job of laying off the staff fell to Sheriff Jim Roberson, whose 10 years on the job ended at midnight Monday, when Staley was sworn in.

“He’s the new sheriff. That’s his decision,” Roberson said about the changes. “He knows what he wants to do but he let some good people go. They were all good investigators and very loyal to who they worked for.

“Steve Finch has worked through four or five sheriffs,” he said. “Carter is a go-find-‘em guy. He can find ‘em and bring ‘em in. Cross is a good sex-crime investigator and Sam Graber is a good jail administrator,” he said.

Roberson, who fired one detective when he became sheriff, said perhaps there should be rules against laying off employees when a new sheriff takes office.

“Maybe you ought to be able to change out your chief deputy because you need someone who thinks like you but not the others. We’re losing a lot of knowledge there,” Roberson said.

Staley points out that the sheriff’s department has 65 employees and he’s changing only five.

His dramatic win in November over Roberson’s chief deputy was a mandate from the voters for change, Staley said.

“I can’t go in there with Jim’s administration,” he said. “It’s not that I dislike them. They’ve been good employees for the county and I appreciate their service. But we’re moving forward. I have to have people I know.”

TOP STORY >> 2012: Of schools, water, highways, politics, military....

This is the second in a series looking back at the front page headlines of the Leader. From May through August, the news was dominated by articles about area schools, water projects, the North Belt and Little Rock Air Force Base.


• Jacksonville closer to its own district — Pulaski County Special School District officials want to continue desegregation funding for eight more years, but they have agreed to let the Jacksonville area break away.

• Boy killed riding on his bicycle — The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the death of a 13-year-old boy from the Woodlawn area who was struck and killed by a car while he was riding his bicycle. No charges were pending against the driver, but the investigation could change that.

• Unions file lawsuit to keep right to bargain — PACT and PASS, the teachers and staff unions, filed a motion in court to seek reinstatement of their contracts and recognition by the county school district

• Hopson’s lawsuit against PCSSD is advancing slowly — The lawyer for Charles Hopkins, fired superintendent for the Pulaski County Special School District, who is suing for $500,000 for wrongful dismissal, said the case was moving slowly and that the slowness favored the state. Hopkins died later in the year before the suit was settled.

• Cabot employees could go to college free — A proposed change in the city handbook would make it less expensive and easier for city employees to go to college.

• Small towns glad to keep post offices —Numerous small-town post offices in the area were slated to close as a cost-cutting measure, but instead hours and days of operations were shortened.

• Carlisle has land for jobs — The city has 1,925 acres off I-40 that they are calling the best acreage in the state for industrial development.

• Commander of 314th gets a key role at Maxwell AFB — Col. Mark Czelusta, the 314th Airlift Wing commander is being reassigned as commandant of the Squadron Officer College and Squadron Officers School at Maxwell AFB, Ala.

• Cabot told not to sell community center — The Cabot School District decided not to buy the Veterans Park Community Center and instead will build its own facility. City risked violating contract with veterans.

• Contractor says city messed up — The contractor relocating waterlines on Graham Road blames Jacksonville and incorrect maps for delays and increased cost in the project.

• Fire rating upgraded, insurance fees to fall — Jacksonville joins other cities around the state with a Class 2 fire rating.

• Lonoke superintendent, deputy quit — Lonoke Superintendent John Tackett and assistant superintendent Melissa Nash both resigned. Tackett, along with former superintendent Janice Warren, both took positions with the Pulaski County Special School District. Nash took a position with the Bald Knob district.

• Aldermen face off in November — Jacksonville will have five contested aldermen races this year (later it became four), Lonoke will have three and Sherwood just one as the filing date for the positions ended.

• Board zones are redrawn for balance — Even though the Pulaski County School District is still under state control, school zones are being redrawn for reverting to local control. Under the new plan, Jacksonville schools are grouped together, as are Sherwood and North Pulaski schools.

• Recount the same — One Cabot precinct was left out of the initial election count, but once it was included, the results didn’t change. The winners were still the winners.

• Judge candidate sure he’s the winner — Jacksonville’s Marshall Nash believed that when all the absentee votes were counted he’d surpass veteran District Judge Robert Batton to take the position. Without the absentee votes, Nash was behind by five votes. As it turned out the absentee votes didn’t change the outcome.

• $50M plan will pump water here — The cost of the Lonoke-White water project has doubled since the planning stage and completion have been pushed to July 2014.

• JHS making progress in achievement — About 90 percent of Jacksonville High School seniors graduated this year and test scores are up about nine percent.

• Whiteaker set for runoff — Veteran judge Phillip Whiteaker, of Cabot, is in a runoff election for the Arkansas Court of Appeals set for Nov. 6 against Jonesboro lawyer Jeannette Robinson.


• State could run PCSSD until 2014, Guess says — State-appointed superintendent says district could stay under state control for the next two years.

• New executive to run hospital in Jacksonville — Jodi Love becomes new chief executive officer of North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville.

• Cabot seeks flood data — Mayor Bill Cypert wants residents of Highlands subdivision to provide the city with cost estimates from flooding over the past three years.

• PCSSD: Letter grades archaic — The district wants to abandon traditional letter grades for more detailed report to keep parents informed.

• Church signs come down, which upsets some clergy —The state highway department declared a number of church signs along Hwy.67/167 illegal and Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher is looking to sooth hurt feelings with a common use sign in Dupree Park.

• City looks for loan to pay for projects — Grant restrictions cause Jacksonville to look at obtaining a $3.1 million short-term loan to finish projects.

• PCSSD starts upgrading area schools — The district spends about one-third of its $7.3 million facility budget to remodel schools in Jacksonville.

• Command changes at 314th AW — Col. Mark Czelusta turns over command of the 19th Airlift Wing to Col. Edward S. Brewer in a mid-June ceremony.

• Staley wins runoff, faces White in fall — Republican candidate for Lonoke County Sheriff defeated Jason Wil-kinson in a runoff and will face Democrat candidate Dean White in November.

• Greers Ferry water to flow — Contracts have been awarded and construction is expected to start soon on the $57 million water project designed to bring water to central Arkansas from Greers Ferry in about two years.

• Board favors drug tests in Cabot schools — Five of seven Cabot School District board members support random drug testing of high school students.

• Jacksonville isn’t giving up on land after fair says no — Despite a disappointing but unsurprising announcement that the state fair won’t relocate to Jacksonville, city officials will continue efforts to purchase 450 acres off Hwy. 161 and I-440 for economic development.

• State: We didn’t halt North Belt — A scathing letter from the Highway Department director takes Metroplan to task over delay and problems with North Belt as the two agencies point fingers at each other.

• New chief at Lonoke schools is appointed — Beebe native Suzanne Bailey, who worked for the Waldron School district, becomes the new superintendent for Lonoke.

• Grant helps end stink over sewer — $105,000 in emergency funding caps a 20-year effort to bring city services to the Valentine-Wooten road area.

• Trophy back at air base—The Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council was presented with the Abilene Trophy which recognizes the community that provides the “finest support” to an Air Mobility Command unit. The base community also won the award in 2010.

• Lonoke JPs pay $65,000 settlement — Lonoke County’s Quorum Court voted to pay $65,000 to settle a circuit clerk employee’s overtime claim.

• Farmers market big hit in Cabot — The city is looking to expand as the event draws bigger crowds.

• Heat puts squeeze on Fourth — Hot arid weather has caused burn bans across the area and put a stop to individual fireworks and some city celebrations, putting a big hurt on firework stands that dot the area.

• Construction is off the table for North Belt — Metroplan put another nail in North Belt’s coffin as it took steps to remove it from the list of transportation projects.

• Lonoke job fair for felons offers fresh start — More than 100 people lined up to get information on restarting their lives at the first ever Lonoke County Re-Entry Job and Resource Fair for convicted felons.

• 250 jobs are coming soon to Sherwood — A cabinet making company is set to move into the old National Home Center and bring 250 new jobs to the city.

• North Belt looks to sales tax, tolls — In an effort to keep the North Belt freeway project alive, the highway department is looking at local sales taxes and tolls to pay for the $600 million project.

• Marshall Tucker will rock — The iconic Southern rock band is booked to headline Jacksonville’s annual Patriotic Spectacular.


• Newspaper wins top state honors — For the fifth year in a row, the Leader was named the best large weekly in the state by the Arkansas Press Association.

• Cabot library could move — The library board asks the Cabot city council to add a new $3 million library to a list of projects set to be funded by a proposed one-cent sales tax.

• Fireworks are fizzling in sizzling heat wave—Jacksonville and Sherwood cancel citywide fireworks shows, but Cabot, Beebe and others keep theirs on tap with extra precautions.

• Ex-general, community titan passes at age of 82 — The Jacksonville community mournec the death of retired Brig. Gen. Oliver “Dub” Myers who was also very active in local civic organizations.

• Fireworks follies end in arrests — Three Lonoke County residents shoot fireworks despite burn ban and start a fire that burned a field, a mobile home, a pole barn and an SUV.

• Arnold Drive test scores bright spot — The elementary school located on the air base has surpassed state averages on the annual Benchamrk exam for at least the past five years.

• Ward gets big check — The Lonoke-White water project pays back $206,000 to Ward for the investment the city made in the project six years ago.

• Ex-officer sued by bank, others — A former loan officer of First Securty Bank is sued by customers for allegedly taking money from customers accounts and using their information to write unauthorized loans.

• Smoke detector in fatal fire was 9 years too old—Investigation into the fatal duplex fire that killed five showed that the fire detector was outdated and the wires had been cut.

• Greers Ferry pipeline begins — Numerous Lonoke County officials participated in groundbreaking ceremonies for the $57 million Lonoke-White water project.

• Cabot outperforms state on test — Recently released state test results show that Cabot elementary schools, along with Beebe schools, continue to perform better than the state average.

• Firemen too late to save victims — Medical reports show that even if firefighters had entered the duplex where a mom and four children were found dead of smoke inhalation the first time they were at the home, it still would have been too late to save the family.

• Long FDA probe led to raid at firm selling fake cures — A 21-month-long investigation leads to agents seizing records from a company, Lase Med Inc., that fled Jacksonville for Oklahoma after losing a local $2.5 million lawsuit.

• Drug tests set to start this fall at Cabot High — Cabot School board members make a unanimous decision to require many students to undergo random drug testing at a cost of $15,000 a year to the disitrct.

• Benchmark shows JHS 55 percent below level — State test results show more than half the juniors at Jacksonville High School cannot read or write at the appropriate grade level.

• Sherwood buries North Belt — The Sherwood City Council agrees to a court settlement, pays developer $85,000 and gives him permission to build in the proposed North Belt corridor.

• Record heat hurts dairies, fisheries and beef farmers — Lonoke County sees fish die in ponds, while cattle are sold off because it’s too expensive to haul in water and feed them.

• Road work needs millions — State highway officials tell Cabot residents and officials that they have about $4 billion for highway construction and repairs over the next 10 years, but the state has $24 billion in highway needs.

• Local agencies cooperated on heroin arrests —Numerous law enforcement agencies joined forces to arrest and file heroin drug charges against eight individuals in Lonoke County.

• Housing project planned — The Jacksonville Housing Authority Commission sets a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $10 million, 55-unit low income housing subdivision.


• Sizzling heat blazing on as relief far off — A string of 110-degree-plus days in June and July set records.

• Sherwood ponders electric move — A 90-minute meeting with North Little Rock Electric, Entergy and First Electric left city council members still confused and unsure about which firm should get the contract to supply 7,500 Sherwood customers with power.

• New trash firm serving Cabot — The city switches trash firms, going from Waste Management to IESI, in what officials call a better move for Cabot.

• Base to grow, shifting focus toward Pacific — New aircraft and crews will increase the number of airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base by six percent.

• Saving Ebenezer Ceme-tery — A community cleanup of a nearly forgotten historic cemetery in north Pulaski County is scheduled.

• Red Cross helping in Lonoke County – A small team of volunteers helps those affected by flooding.

• Board to review reappraisals — Officials will review dramatic increases in home and land appraisals, many of which a local realtor claims were wrong.

• Beautification plan to spruce up Cabot — More than $300,000 in state and federal grants will be used for sidewalks, myrtle trees and other amenities to beautify a section of Main Street in Cabot.

• Cops use pamphlet to explain city rules — The Jacksonville Police department mixed in some humor in a pamphlet to explain code enforcement rules.

• Schools will expand with $29.5 million — Projects on the Cabot School District’s list include a new ninth-grade complex.

• Sherwood quizzes utilities — Sherwood officials sent a questionnaire to three utility firms as it debates whether or not North Little Rock should retain its contract supplying electricity to 7,500 customers in Sherwood.

• District makes changes in its bell schedule — Pulaski County Special School District began its second year under state takeover. The number of district students was on the increase.

• Shooter given 16 years — A Cleburne County man who killed a Cabot teen in January 2011 with a sawed-off shotgun is sentenced to 16 years in prison.

• Veteran recalls bombing raids — Army Air Forces First Lt. Thiel Harber recounted his World War II bombing missions for a large crowd at the Jacksonville military museum.

• Auditor finds city financially sound — Even though 2011 revenues were flat, Jacksonville’s assets still exceeded its liabilities by $51 million.

• Murder suspect declared unfit — Bryce Allen, charged with the first-degree murder of a Jacksonville firefighter and attempted murder of two others has been found mentally unfit to stand trial.

• Candidates forum draws interest — Five Jacksonville aldermen candidates shared their views, concerns and goals for the city at an NAACP-sponsored candidate forum.

• Ward declares war on meth cookers — The Ward Police Department sponsored classes to help landlords and homeowners identify the telltale signs of meth labs.

• PCSSD school numbers going up — Jacksonville High School sees some of its biggest gains as the new principal, Henry Anderson, wins praise from students, parents and the district.

• Base graduates first Iraqi pilot — Close to 50 international C-130 students were receiving training at Little Rock Air Force Base as the base graduated its first C-130J Iraqi pilot.

• Units find shelter as hurricane moves in — Several planes from Florida and Mississippi made Little Rock Air Force Base their temporary home as they flew in to sit out a hurricane heading for their home bases.

• Cabot to keep BMX competition — A $4,300 debt has been settled and the state BMX championship races are back on for the Cabot race track for Sept. 30.

• New director of State Police is from Austin — Stan Witt, an Austin resident with 27 years of service with the state troopers, has been named to head the agency.

TOP STORY >> Power back for almost everyone


Leader staff writers

Electricity is back on for almost everyone in the area after thousands of people were without power when nearly a foot of snow and some ice felled hundreds of trees and branches last week.

There were fewer than a dozen local Entergy and First Electric Cooperative customers still in the dark Tuesday.

There were 15,212 members of First Electric Cooperative’s Jacksonville District in the dark sometime between Christmas and Monday, communications coordinator Tori Moss said. Power was restored to most of them by Monday, she added.

The Jacksonville district of 40,000 members includes northern Pulaski, Lonoke, White, Prairie and Faulkner counties. The district includes parts of Jacksonville, Cabot and Sherwood.

There were still a few isolated outages on Monday, Moss said, referring The Leader to a map on the cooperative’s website for more details. But, according to the First Electric map, none of the customers in The Leader’s coverage area were in the dark Tuesday.

First Electric received assistance with restoring power from 27 in-state independent contractors. Thirty-four First Electric employees repaired lines in the Jacksonville district.

Julie Munsell, spokeswoman for Entergy, said Tues-day afternoon “virtually all” storm-related outages had been repaired. There were 287 customers statewide without power, but they were new outages unrelated to the Christmas Day snow and ice, she said.

Munsell explained that one or two customers still may not have power because the storm damaged their homes in a way that prevents them from connecting to an energized line.

According to the utility’s online map, five customers in Jacksonville, four customers in Searcy and two customers near Carlisle were still in the dark Tuesday afternoon.

All power was restored to North Little Rock Electric customers in North Little Rock and Sherwood as of 5 p.m. Sunday, according to spokeswoman Jill Ponders. About 18,000 of the utility’s customers lost power last week.

North Little Rock Electric had 60 to 80 additional workers helping with repairs, Ponders said. That number includes North Little Rock Electric employees and out-of-state crews from Texas.

Entergy’s outages peaked at 194,000 the day after Christmas. Munsell said most of them were in Malvern and Little Rock, which sustained the most damage.

“The damage includes poles and lines down, but is largely due to debris, (like) falling limbs and trees,” she added.

Munsell said the utility plans year-round for storms. and “vegetation management” is part of that planning. Munsell said Entergy spends between $18 million and $20 million annually on vegetation management.


People without power last week had a few options, and one of those was to seek shelter at a local warming center.

Part of the Jacksonville Community Center was turned into an emergency warming center for residents seeking relief from the freezing temperatures.

Jacksonville Parks and Recreation assistant director Kevin House said the warming center had 47 people during its peak on Thursday night. By Saturday night that number had dwindled down to 13, and the center was shut down on Monday.

House said the parks department’s staff stayed overnight to make sure the warming center ran smoothly. He thanked employees Von Alexander, Brad Ruple, Lauren Allbriton, Landon Nolen and Dave Gayles.

House said, “That group’s been a life saver here.”

Many people stopped by the center to warm up a few hours, have a hot meal and charge up their cell phones and laptops. Showers were available.

House estimated 100 different families used the center last week. He said a lot of residents and churches wanted to help.

Little Rock Air Force Base provided 50 cots. Assisting with meals were Wendy’s in Jacksonville, Olive Garden in west Little Rock, First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville and Gospel Worship Center of Jacksonville.

The American Red Cross assisted with food and blankets and offered to staff the warming center, which was set up for dining, TV watching and sleeping. Youngsters burned off energy playing basketball.

La Deitra Brown of Dallas was visiting her sister, Kesha Kirk. Brown said, “It helped us out a lot, getting out of the cold.”

Kirk said they had a hot meal there instead of cold pizza at home. She was told her power would be restored by Tuesday.

Chanice Kirk said, “The staff is very nice and helpful.”

Mayor Gary Fletcher said people were calling 911, but, “it was the Red Cross website and Code Red that got the word out for the warming center.”

The mayor suggested residents sign up for Code Red, a free subscription service that provides warnings, messages and alerts through phone calls or text messages. To sign up, fill out the form at