Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers top Robinson, pound Baptist

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Badgers advanced to the championship game of their own Beebe Christmas Classic with a 52-42 win over Pulaski Robinson on Friday and a dominant 55-31 win over Arkansas Baptist on Saturday at Badger Sports Arena.

Beebe (6-2) handed Robinson only its second loss of the season in the first round of the holiday tournament. At the end of the first quarter, the Lady Badgers led the Lady Senators 17-9, and increased that lead to double digits by halftime, leading 25-14.

University of Memphis signee Damonique Miller single-handedly kept Robinson (11-2) in the game by scoring 13 of her team’s 18 points in the third quarter, but it wasn’t enough to put much of a dent in Beebe’s lead, as it kept its double-digit lead at the start of the fourth quarter, leading 42-32.

Robinson was able to trim its deficit to eight points on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter, but that was as close as the Lady Senators would get to catching the Lady Badgers. Both teams scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to set the final score.

Beebe actually committed more turnovers in the game with 27, five more than Robinson’s 22, but the Lady Badgers were the more efficient team shooting. Beebe finished the game 18 for 32 from the floor for 56 percent, bettering Robinson’s 34 percent on 16 for 47 shooting.

The Lady Badgers struggled with their shooting in their most recent game that took place at an invitational tournament at White Hall before Christmas, which ultimately led to their second loss of the season.

“That’s a remarkable improvement from White Hall,” said Lady Badgers’ coach Greg Richey. “But I was just glad to see the intensity level that the girls came out with, and they kept it at that level pretty much the whole game. I think we can be a pretty good team when it’s all said and done.”

Standout Lady Badger Kalela Miller led the offense against Robinson, finishing with a game-high 31 points.

Beebe had an even easier test against Arkansas Baptist (3-8) in the tournament semifinal on Saturday.

The Lady Badgers didn’t shoot the ball as well in that game, making 20 of 54 shots for 37 percent, but they didn’t have to shoot the ball great thanks to their defense.

The Lady Badgers forced the class 4A Lady Eagles to commit a whopping 37 turnovers in the game, 25 of which were Beebe takeaways.

Arkansas Baptist shot just 31 percent from the floor on 10 of 32 shooting, and star center Caroline Hogue, who scored 28 points against Sylvan Hills in the first round of the tournament, was held to just nine points, primarily because of Gracie Anders’ stellar defense. All of Hogue’s points Saturday came late in the second half with the game already out of reach.

“Arkansas Baptist is a good team,” Richey said. “I just think we took them out of what they wanted to do. We wanted to attack her (Hogue). I didn’t care if Gracie got her shot blocked every time. I just wanted her to go against somebody 6-foot-2 and see if she could handle that, and I thought she did a great job.”

Against Arkansas Baptist, Beebe led 13-6 at the end of the first quarter, and 23-9 at halftime. The Lady Badgers led by as much as 25 points in the third quarter, and at the start of the fourth they led 41-19.

Things didn’t get any easier for the Lady Eagles the rest of the way as Beebe managed to win the game by 24 points.

Anders led the Lady Badgers on Saturday with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Miller and sophomore Kassidy Elam added 11 points apiece.

Richey got to coach against his brother Jared Richey for the first time in the final of the Beebe Christmas Classic on Monday.

The Lady Badgers squared off against class 4A Brookland after deadlines, but look for details of the tournament championship game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits win Goldfish Classic

Leader sports editor

Things did not go very well for Lonoke early in the championship game of the Goldfish Classic. The much longer and deeper Wildcats of Watson Chapel controlled the action in the first half. But the Jackrabbits turned all that around in the second half to take a 54-48 victory at the Gina Cox Center.

The two teams were tied at eight at the halfway point of the first quarter when Chapel guard Leonard Robinson hit back-to-back three pointers to push the Wildcats ahead by six. They extended the margin to 13 by halftime, taking a 29-16 lead into the break.

But the third quarter belonged to the home team.

Lonoke, 10-0, went on a 17-4 run and tied the game at 33-33 with 2:45 on the clock. Chapel even helped. Post player Ben Marcus grabbed a Lonoke miss and put it back in to make it 31-26. A few minutes later, junior Wildcat Xavier Young drew a technical. Lonoke’s Darrius McCall made both free throws, and Jamel Rankin got a three-point play that pulled the Jackrabbits to within 33-31 with 3:15 on the clock.

“I think we just decided to guard better and keep them in front of us,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “I think we were playing them too tight in the first half and they were getting by us. They go about 6-7 and 6-5 inside and they bring a couple off the bench just about as big. When you combine the advantage they had inside with the fact that we weren’t guarding very well, you get what you saw in the first half. We just did a better job on defense and we shot it better. That always helps.”

While Lonoke’s shooting improved, Chapel’s outside shooting fell apart. With the Jackrabbits backing off a little in halfcourt defense, the Wildcats began launching more from outside. But after making three treys in the first quarter, they went 0 for 10 from beyond the three-point line the rest of the way.

Chapel, 7-3, took a 36-35 lead into the final quarter and the game was tied at 48 when Datreon Lindsey got inside for a bucket with 1:21 left in the game, but Lonoke finished the game with a 6-0 run to seal the win.

Chapel got a defensive stop and Lindsey took a three pointer from the left baseline. The shot hit the back of the rim and bounced far out into the court beyond the top of the key. Lonoke’s Tykel Gray caught up to it near halfcourt in a dead run, and got an uncontested layup that put the Jackrabbits up for good with 51 seconds left in the game.

Lindsey then missed an 18-footer and Rankin got the rebound for Lonoke. He was fouled and hit both ends of a one-and-one for a 52-48 lead with 24 seconds left.

Even though Campbell preached keeping the Chapel guards in front on defense, McCall went for the steal and got it with 14 seconds left to seal the victory. He was fouled and made both free throws to set the final margin.

Free throws were the difference in the game. Watson Chapel scored 39 points from the floor while Lonoke scored 38. But the Wildcats made just 9 of 18 free-throw attempts while Lonoke hit 16 of 21, including five in a row to end the game.

Tevin Brown led Chapel with 12 points and was the only Wildcat in double digits. McCall led four Jackrabbits in double figures with 15 points. Blake Mack scored 13 and had eight rebounds. Rankin finished with 11 and Gray had 10 points and eight rebounds.

Lonoke also won the rebounding battle with the much taller Wildcats, 32-30. Turnovers were also a major factor. The Jackrabbits gave it up 12 times, but forced 20 turnovers, including seven steals.

The Jackrabbits revive an old county rivalry on Friday when they visit Carlisle for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. They travel to Pine Bluff on Saturday to makeup a scheduled Dec. 10 game with Dollarway that the Cardinals postponed because several players were still in the football playoffs.

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons in CFHS finals

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski boys got two big wins in the Camden Christmas Invitational to advance to the championship round. On Friday, the Falcons beat Magnolia 59-49, then handled class 6A El Dorado 70-60 and played against tournament host Camden Fairview on Monday after Leader deadlines.

North Pulaski found itself behind after the first quarter of both games, but found ways to turn the tide in the second half to pull out a pair of tournament victories.

“With this situation, we’re just feeling them out early because you really don’t have any tape on these teams down here,” said North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson. “So early on you’re just feeling them out to see how it goes, then we go into halftime and make adjustments.”

In the tournament opener, North Pulaski needed adjustments a little sooner than halftime. Magnolia features a pair of 6-foot-6 post players, the Panther high-low game was more than the smallish Falcons could handle. Magnolia held an 18-5lead at the end of the first quarter, and extended the lead to as much as 16 early in the second period.

“They have some big ole boys and they were wearing us out in the first half,” Jackson said. “We didn’t have any answer for it. We’re not that big and that high-low game was killing us.”

The officials called the tournament tightly, so Jackson was hesitant to press early, but he decided he had to change strategies to have a chance to win.

“About the middle of the second quarter, we started pressuring them full court,” Jackson said. “We didn’t really get many calls in the first half, but they started turning it over. In the second half I think they got a little tired and we were able to get up and down the court on them a little bit. We were able to score better in transition and we were able to turn the game around. Once we got it into an up-and-down game, they had trouble keeping up with us.”

After the abysmal first quarter, North Pulaski scored 18 points in each of the last three periods. The Falcons were still trailing 32-23 at halftime, but outscored Magnolia 36-17 in the second half. Arren Scruggs and Steven Farrior scored 13 points each to lead the Falcons, while RaShawn Langston added 11.

North Pulaski, 7-3, and El Dorado were tied at 30 at halftime of Saturday’s semifinal game, and both teams scored 19 in the fourth quarter. The difference of the game was a brief but effective run midway through the third that put the Falcons up 51-41 heading into the final quarter.

While Jackson didn’t have tape on the Wildcats, he did get a scouting report that said the Eldo offense goes through Jaylen Cunningham.

“I just rotated a bunch of people on him,” Jackson said. “We have pretty good depth and I just wanted to keep a fresh body on him, and I think that wore him down a little bit. He got a little tired and wasn’t as active with the ball later on in the third quarter and into the fourth.”

Cunningham scored 14 points, almost half the team total, in the first half, but finished with 22.

Langston led the Falcons with 13 points against the Wildcats, while De’Marik Brown and Fred Thomas each scored 11.

Look for details of North Pulaski’s matchup with the Cardinals in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win two at Beebe

Leader sportswriter

With a nail-biting 48-47 win over defending class 3A state champion Harding Academy on Friday, and a close 50-43 win over class 4A Brookland on Saturday, the Cabot Panthers advanced to the championship game of the Beebe Christmas Classic.

In Friday’s matchup with the Wildcats at Badger Sports Arena, the Panthers were down one with less than 10 seconds to play, but sophomore Garrett Rowe got a rebound and putback with five seconds remaining, and the Cabot defense kept Harding Academy away from the rim on the game’s final possession toensure the win. Brookland (6-4), a team that has everybody back from last year’s group that advanced all the way to the class 4A state semifinals, proved to be just as tough of a test in the semifinal round of the Christmas Classic at Badger Sports Arena.

Cabot (8-2) got off to a 6-1 start Saturday against the Bearcats, but the Panthers’ lead was cut to 8-5 by the end of the first quarter. The Panthers held the lead through most of the second quarter, but two big three-pointers by Brookland’s Chandler Thompson at the end of the quarter made it a 20-20 game at halftime.

“We played a good team tonight,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “I don’t care if they are 4A. They’ve got everybody back from last year’s final four run, so they’ve got a lot of confidence in themselves. We knew coming in they weren’t going to be in awe of us being a 7A school.

“Basketball, you just put five out there. It’s not each student body against each other, but this is how it’s going to be here soon anyway. So we better get used to the grind and get used to playing in close games, hopefully.”

Cabot led by as much as six points in the third quarter, but by the end of the period, Brookland cut the Panthers’ lead to three with the score 29-26. The Panthers opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to push their lead to 10.

That run was capped by a Nick Thomas steal on an inbound pass, and Thomas took it the distance and finished with an and-one with 6:32 to play in the final quarter, which made the score 36-26. After Thomas’ and-one, Brookland went on a run of its own.

The Bearcats got to within three points of the Cabot lead with a Dillon Groves three-pointer with 2:15 to play, which cut Brookland’s deficit to 40-37. From there, Cabot built back up its lead with free-throw shooting, something the Panthers have struggled with throughout the short season.

Thomas, Michael Smith and Jake Ferguson combined to go 6 for 6 at the stripe from the 2:08 mark of the fourth quarter to the 1:19 mark, and Brookland failed to score during that stretch thanks to two missed three-pointers, which made the score 46-37 Cabot.

Brookland point guard CJ Henry got a steal that led to a layup at the other end, which cut Cabot’s lead to seven with 53.3 seconds remaining. Smith went 1 for 2 at the line on the Panthers’ next possession to make the score 47-39 Cabot, but Brookland got two more buckets by the 24-second mark to cut the Panther lead to 47-43.

That was the closest the Bearcats would get though the rest of the way, as Thomas made 3 of 4 free throws in the game’s final seconds to set the final score.

“I was proud of us tonight,” Bridges said. “I know our free throws weren’t great, but it was much better. We did hold on and we got that win.”

Cabot finished the game 18 for 29 from the free-throw line for 62 percent, but made 10 of 14 foul shots from the 2:08 mark of the fourth quarter to the game’s final buzzer. Brookland was 9 for 15 from the line for 60 percent.

The Panthers were 15 for 28 from the floor for 54 percent. Conversely, Brookland was 14 for 34 from the floor for 41 percent. Cabot also outrebounded the Bearcats 21-14.

Smith led the Panthers with a game-high 17 points. Thomas scored 11. Adolfo Iglesias scored nine and Rowe added eight for Cabot. Will Ballard led Brookland with 11 points.

Cabot played Pulaski Academy in the tournament championship game Monday night after deadlines. Look for details of the championship game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

Monday, December 30, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Racial balance remains issue

Jacksonville could get its own school district as soon as this year, but desegregation monitoring could continue indefinitely.

The Pulaski County Special School District may have trouble getting its release from federal monitoring because several PCSSD schools have more black students enrolled than are allowed under the current racial guidelines, according to a recent report prepared by the Office of Desegregation Monitoring.

Even though district-wide numbers are within the required parameters, the racial imbalance of individual schools could affect U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall’s ruling on whether to declare PCSSD unitary, which is legalese for desegregated. Little Rock and North Little Rock have already been declared unitary, and their racial balance is no longer monitored.

But several schools in north Pulaski County have black-student enrollment that’s well above desegregation guidelines. For example, the black student populations at Jacksonville Middle School and Jacksonville High School are above the 60 percent maximum. North Pulaski High School is well under 60 percent black enrollment.

At the elementary level, where the maximum for black students is 50 percent, Warren Dupree and Murrell Taylor are above that. Adkins pre-K is right at 50 percent.

Jacksonville could split from PCSSD even while the district remains under federal supervision, but Judge Marshall could order continued monitoring even if he gives the go ahead for a separate Jacksonville district.

After more than 25 years, federal desegregation oversight has gone on long enough. Still, federal supervision would be a small price to pay if Jacksonville is finally allowed to leave the county district.

EDITORIAL >> Communities Rebounding

Many communities here are growing again after the Great Recession, but not all of them. According to Metroplan, Lonoke County gained 3.1 percent to 70,490 residents, with Austin gaining nearly 10 percent, Ward 7.5 percent and Cabot 3.3 percent, while Lonoke added only seven residents. England lost about 1.5 percent and Carlisle lost 1.1 percent.

Lonoke County grew by about 1.1 percent annually, less than half its annual growth rate from 2000-2010. But those numbers are still impressive because more growth is inevitable as the area’s economy continues to rebound.

Cabot’s population now stands at 24,570, Austin at 2,239, Ward at 4,374 and Lonoke at 4,252. Unincorporated areas grew 3.1 percent, from 28,440 to 29,3333.

Beebe, which is not part of Metroplan, continues its impressive growth, just like the smaller suburban communities of Austin and Ward. Since the 2010 census, Beebe grew from 7,315 to 7,640 in 2012, a gain of 4.5 percent.

Beebe, like the other nearby small towns, could see healthy growth during the rest of the decade, perhaps 35 percent or more, especially if the economy continues to improve.

Pulaski County has the largest population, but its growth is the slowest. Its growth of more than 7,000 resulted in an increase of only 2 percent.

While the average Pulaski County city gained 2 percent in population between 2010 and 2013, Jacksonville dropped 0.2 percent — declining from 28,364 to 28,318 — according to preliminary data collected by Metroplan.

Sherwood’s population increased 1.6 percent. Maumelle had the largest Pulaski County gain — 3 percent — and North Little Rock added 2.7 percent, according to Metroplan’s semi-annual publication Metro Trends.

In central Arkansas, Faulkner County is growing the fastest, followed by Saline County.

There’s more good news for Cabot: Single-family building permits in Cabot for the first half of 2013 appear to be running about 40 percent ahead of the previous year, after averaging about 46 new permits in the first six months of 2010, 2011 and 2012.

For the same period, they seem to be trending upward in Sherwood.

Single-family home construction in Jacksonville remained flat through the first half of 2013. In Jacksonville, 12 multi-family permits were issued in 2009, six in 2010, none in 2011 and eight in 2012.

Metroplan demographer Jonathan Lupton told The Leader last week that a stand-alone school district could help reverse the downward trend in Jacksonville.

That’s what Jacksonville residents and officials have been hoping for years, and it appears that a stand-alone district may be closer to reality than ever.

TOP STORY >> Golf balls carved into roses

Chuck Whalin of Cabot masterfully carves golf balls into small works of art. A longtime woodworker, he began carving golf balls while recovering from a broken foot after reading about the craft in a magazine. He forms many of them into roses, but he also makes Christmas ornaments and even Razorback mascots in football helmets.

Leader staff writer

A broken foot kicked Chuck Whalin of Cabot into his new hobby — carving golf balls.

Whalen said he read about the craft in a magazine about five years ago while recovering from the injury, which occurred after he tilled his garden and jumped off the back of his truck several times.

But the retired engraver and Jacksonville High School graduate isn’t new to carving. Before his golf ball creations, Whalin transformed wood into works of art.

Most of his golf ball pieces are roses, with a tee as the stem and a filled golf ball half as the base.

Whalin has become a master at peeling back and cutting the white outer shell of a golf ball with a hand tool to make that layer look like the leaves that surround the bases of flowers.

Then Whalin meticulously shapes the colored core of the golf ball until it resembles a rose that is not fully bloomed.

He said, “None of them look exactly alike, even if they’re the same color. You get started and they take on a life of their own.”

The carver has a list that matches golf ball brands to the colors they use so he knows that before he starts carving.

When Whalin first took up the craft, one his friends was dying from cancer. He gave her a golf ball rose to cheer her up.

Since then, Whalin has been giving his creations away to friends, family and people who attend his church, Faith Missionary Baptist in Cabot.

He added that intensive care units don’t allow real flowers, but his golf ball roses are allowed and they brighten up the patients’ rooms.

“People seem to enjoy them,” Whalin said.

He tried to sell the carved golf balls on eBay but they didn’t garner a single bid.

So Whalin doesn’t accept money for his pieces, and he carves when he feels like it.

“It’s relaxing, but you’ve got to be in the mood for it,” Whalin said.

It takes about an hour and a half to carve a golf ball, he continued.

But, Whalin added, he can “knock ’em out quicker” if he carves a lot of golf balls at the same time.

And roses aren’t the only things the golf balls are good for.

Whalin said he’s carved Christmas ornaments and a few sports-themed golf balls, including a Razorback hog with the white shell resembling a football helmet and face mask.

Whalin grew up in Jacksonville because his father worked at Little Rock Air Force Base. Whalin and his wife moved to Cabot 40 years ago

They have a daughter, a son and five grandchildren, ages 14 months to 16 years.

Whalin has carved several of the golf balls into Razorback mascots using the shell for the helmet and a face mask. He spends 90 minutes or less carving each ball.

TOP STORY >> Push to preserve downtown Beebe

Leader staff writer

Beebe resident Leslie Richardson is working to garner support to preserve and revitalize the historic buildings of downtown Beebe before they crumble into ruins.

Richardson, a 1998 Beebe High School graduate, is an agent with John Hayes Shelter Insurance. She recently moved back to Beebe.

She gave a presentation during the recent Beebe City Council meeting on the Arkansas Downtown Network, a program of Main Street Arkansas that is under the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. The Arkansas Downtown Network provides downtown revitalization assistance to communities that cannot participate on a large scale.

The program provides grants, designs, organization and promotes community efforts.

Cities with a Downtown Network are Arkadelphia, Clarksville, Dewitt, Fort Smith, Heber Springs, Monticello, Morrilton, Pine Bluff, Rector, Warren and Wynne.

“I feel like there is a lot of history. It makes me sad to see the heart of the city drying up. This is where I plan to live, where I want to be. There is a lot of potential for downtown, an opportunity to grow our community,” Richardson said.

After her presentation, the city council passed a resolution supporting Beebe’s participation in the Arkansas Downtown Network program.

Richardson received an associate’s degree in art from Arkansas State University before earning a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and a minor in marketing from John Brown University.

Her family moved to Beebe when she was in the seventh grade.

“My first experience moving to Beebe was going downtown shopping. The Powell building was still open. Everybody used to shop downtown. It was the center of the community. There’s where I want things to be again,” Richardson said.

She had worked downtown at the former Citizens Bank, the red brick building where the Wilbur Mills Educational Services Cooperative is located now.

“When people drive through a town with downtown buildings, it makes an impression, if people want to work and live here,” Richardson said.

Decades have passed since Beebe’s downtown district was a bustling center of commerce.

Over the years, the city has had nine groceries stores, including a Kroger; two small hospitals, a motel, a bank, four doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, two restaurants, a furniture store, a Chevy, a Ford and a DeSoto and Plymouth car dealerships, a John Deere tractor dealership, beauty shops, clothing stores, hardware stores, gas stations, a Firestone tire shop, a Western Auto store, a meat market, a movie theater and motor courts with cabins.

Richardson would like to bring people and activity back to make downtown a destination by using the historic buildings for retail, special events, retaining current businesses and attracting new uses for vacant buildings.

She is a past executive director for the Heber Springs Arkansas Downtown Network and served in that position for two years. Richardson worked on the application process and served on a committee for the Searcy Main Street project.

To get a Beebe Downtown Network started, Richardson is seeking volunteers for committees and monetary donations for the program.

She also needs letters of support from community leaders to continue with the Downtown Network application process.

Richardson said it will take a year for the application process, since applications are only accepted from January through March.

She explained that Beebe’s commitment to the Downtown Network program would be for three years. The city’s support doesn’t need to be financial. It can simply help by keep downtown clean or flowers watered, Richardson said. She also said she already has support from local business owners.

Richardson is trying to come up with ideas for a fundraising event to support the fledgling program’s annual budget. She said a triathlon held in Heber Springs funds the city’s entire Heber Springs Downtown Network budget for the year.

The minimum annual budget required by the Main Street Arkansas program is $4,750. The budget includes a $1,000 mini-grant to help a local business with designs or painting the exteriors of a building. Richardson said there are other grants available to help businesses with restoration projects.

The Downtown Network also offers free advice from a design team to help revitalize buildings in downtown.

“Business owners also get a 40 percent (state) tax credit for anything they do to the building for participating in this project,” Richardson said.

She and chamber of commerce director Kristen Boswell have volunteered to help with the project.

Richardson said, “We have a college here, and it would be nice for people to look at downtown as the heart of the community. You have to drive through there to get to most places.”

Her proposal comes at a time when, over the past year, Mayor Mike Robertson and the city council having been pushing for the condemnation of the two-story Powell and Company building at 201 N. Main St.

It was built in 1885. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. It is one of the first buildings in White County to have an elevator and have air conditioning. The department store closed its doors in 1999 and was later sold.

City officials were concerned about bricks falling off the facade and pigeons living inside the building.

The Powell building’s owner, Patrice Madesclaire, lives in France. He has hired architect Robert Schelle of Cabot to oversee building repairs.

Schelle said he is in the process of getting contractor estimates on putting in new mortar for the bricks and binding the bricks to the walls. The broken windows are boarded up, and the birds have been eradicated. Schelle said Madesclaire plans to restore the building to the way it was originally built, with its balcony and stairs intact.

For more information or to get involved with the Beebe Downtown Network program, contact Leslie Richardson at 501-882-3348 or e-mail her at lcrichardson777@yahoo.com.

TOP STORY >> 2013 IN REVIEW: Sizzling summer news

(Editor’s note: This is the third of a five-part series looking back at 2013. It was compiled by Leader staff writer Rick Kron.)

Sizzling sunshine, school stories, sequestration and shootings shuffled us into September. The sunshine brought drought and concerns about crops. Stories about test scores and school security abounded, along with shootings. And federal budget cuts caused by sequestration looked to strain the economy.


• Best of the best: Leader reporter Sarah Campbell is named Young Reporter of the Year by the Arkansas Press Association, and The Leader won 31 awards, including best large weekly for the sixth-straight year.

• Larger library: Sherwood once again talked about building a new, larger library with a temporary sales tax that would generate $7 million to build the facility. The city has not yet sent the measure to voters.

• Taking a toll: Metroplan said it would wait for a feasibility study on paying for the North Belt with a toll road before deciding its next move on the long-delayed project.

• Wind protection: Cabot applied for a $1.2 million grant to build a tornado shelter as part of a new addition to the community center.

• Signing on: Supporters of a new, independent Jacksonville school district gathered enough signatures to present their petition to the state Board of Education. They asked the board to request that the federal judge allow an election on breaking away from the Pulaski County Special School District. The state accepted the petition.

• Competency questioned: Jeanne R. Rollf, who was charged in the beating death of a Cabot man, challenged the state’s decision that she was competent to stand trial for murder. Her three codefendants pleaded guilty to various charges in the killing.

• Karma comes around: Bill Barnes came out of retirement to take the job as Jacksonville High School principal, which he applied for but was turned down for 29 years ago.

• Buying park land: Cabot continued to work out the details on 50 acres it wanted to buy for a $13.5 million sports complex and water park.

• First round: In what turned out to be the first round in getting the proposed veterans’ home in Jacksonville, the chamber turned in a proposal offering up to 60 acres. But 35 other cities also sent in proposals.

• Murderer sentenced: Davion Howard, 20, of Jacksonville was given a 35-year prison sentence for his part in the shooting death of a female clerk at a North Little Rock convenience store during a robbery. She gave him and three others the store’s money before she was killed.

• Wireless education: The Lonoke School Board spent $31,000 to provide its elementary and middle school students wireless Internet access.

• New car dealership: The Cabot City Council approved rezoning the hill at the entrance to Sun Terrace subdivision across from Walmart to allow Excel Ford to build a new dealership. Some residents said they were worried about traffic problems.

• Sizzling sun: Farmers felt the effects of a drought that hit the state and increased the cost of irrigation.

• Hit-and-run death: Kyisha Durham of North Little Rock was charged with negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident after she struck and killed a 3-year-old at a Sherwood apartment complex.

• Backing booze: The Jacksonville City Council supported the effort to get signatures for a special election that would allow residents to decide if the 90 percent of the city that is dry should be allowed to sell alcohol.

• New chamber director: Kelly Coughlin, who was working as the economic director for the Sherwood chamber, was hired to head the Cabot Chamber of Commerce. She was dismissed from the new post in late October.

• Literacy lacking: Scores from the annual state-required literacy test showed that more than half (56 percent) of juniors at Jacksonville High School could not read or write at grade level. At North Pulaski High School, just 57 percent passed the test.

• Plea deal: Christopher Reynolds, the Ward man accused of shooting and killing an employee, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

• Walmart opens: A 150,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter opened in Beebe, and other stores have inquired about building or opening nearby, according to the Beebe Chamber of Commerce.

• Math magicians: Middle school and junior high students in Lonoke, Cabot, Searcy and Northwood score very well on the state’s annual Algebra I end-of-course test.

• Accused killer competent: Bryce Allen, 47, of Jacksonville was declared competent to stand trial for murder. He allegedly drove into three first responders, killing one firefighter, while they were responding to a car accident involving Allen’s mother on Hwy. 161. His mother ran into a ditch and hit a gas main, but she wasn’t injured.


• Mayor tries to heal split: Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and the chamber of commerce have been at odds since he was elected, but he put that behind him and apologized to the chamber, saying the wet/dry issue would not pass if the division continued.

• Inspecting itself: The 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base became the first Air Mobility Command unit to implement a new self-inspection program.

• PCSSD chief said yes: During a Jacksonville City Council meeting Jerry Guess, interim superintendent for the Pulaski County Special School District, reasserted his support of the city’s desire to break away and form its own district.

• C-130 reductions: As the military looked at ways to save $1 trillion over the next 10 years, reducing the number of C-130s was suggested as a cost-saving measure, but no immediate action was taken.

• Justice of the peace dies: Lonoke County JP Charles Evans died from a fast-growing brain tumor just seven months after being re-elected the quorum court.

• Safer schools: PCSSD and the Cabot School District beefed up security by adding personnel and preparing emergency plans in the wake of recent school shootings across the country.

• Pro-liquor side speaks: The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and the city explained at a town-hall meeting the reasons behind their decision to pursue a vote on alcohol sales. But not everyone saw or agreed with their point of view.

• More ammunition: Remington broke ground in Lonoke for a $32 million expansion that will allow the company to increase its production of ammunition, which was already at 40 million rounds per week.

• Math skills falter: Annual Benchmark exams for third through fifth graders showed that most states in the area are having more problems with math than literacy as about 25 percent of local students scored below basic in math.

• New Jacksonville school: The Lighthouse Charter School opened its new $8.7 million College Preparatory Academy, a two-story high school facility.

Lawsuit in deaths: Furlandare Singleton, the father of four children who died in a 2012 HUD apartment fire in Jacksonville sued the city for $5 million, claiming it was negligent. Firefighters did not detect fire at the home when they first arrived. The bodies were discovered hours later.

• McRae’s new school: The Beebe School District opened its new $4.5 million, two-story, 30,000-square-foot middle school in McRae.

• Deadly party: A Jacksonville man was shot and killed dead and another was injured during a birthday party in Jacksonville turned violent. Two partygoers were quickly arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

• County, city swap: Pulaski County had promised to help with the parking lot for the new sports-shooting range, but those funds were restricted so it will finish the $250,000 West Main Street roundabout and the city will divert money to construct the shooting range parking lot.

• Jacksonville site visit: Members of the panel responsible for choosing a site for a new veterans’ home visited Jacksonville and were pleased with what they saw and heard. But the applications were thrown out and all cities had to resubmit new proposals by December, which Jacksonville did.

• Income vs. outcome: An independent audit showed that for the second year in a row Jacksonville’s expenses exceeded revenues, and the city had to dip into its reserves to insure no services were cut.

• New planes: Air Force Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward flew in the first of five new C-130Js that will be assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base.

• High-voltage reward: The FBI offered a $20,000 reward for the arrest of the person who intentionally sabotaged power lines and damaged a transmission tower in Cabot. Jason Woodring, 37, of Furlow was arrested in October but no reward was given.

• Sherwood sippers: The Sherwood City Council passed an ordinance supporting the chamber’s effort to bring about a vote on whether to turn the 50 percent of the city that is dry to wet.

• Hospital pains: North Metro Medical Center’s chief executive officer, Cindy Stafford, said the hospital would not close despite facing budget problems.


• Closed school leased: The Pulaski Country Special School District agreed to lease the closed Jacksonville Elementary School property to the city for $1 a year. Much of the facility will be town down. Some community members have supported the idea of creating an arts center there.

• Cabot school spurt: Work continued on Cabot’s new $26 million Freshman Academy set to open for the 2014-15 school year.

• Outsiders meddling: Anti-alcohol groups from Jonesboro, Pea Ridge and Tupelo, Miss., mailed postcards warning Jacksonville residents of rising crime if a wet vote goes through, but the crime figures, which the police chief disputed did not pertain to Jacksonville.

• North vs. South: Reed’s Bridge Civil War Battlefield came alive as the 1863 battle was re-enacted — with the same results.

• Grant blown down: A $1.2 million grant that Cabot wanted to apply for was unavailable so the city applied for a $300,000 grant instead to build a tornado shelter saferoom.

• Roundtop restoration: Efforts were successful in obtaining $25,000 to match a $50,000 state grant to restore the old Roundtop gas station in Sherwood.

• Advisory board: Even though PCSSD is still under state control, an advisory board was set up to get more local input as the district plans for its release state control.

• Range misses target: The Jacksonville mayor and the city’s parks and recreation director announced in September that the $3.2 million sports shooting range should open in mid-October. But, by late December, it still had not opened. A grand opening is set for later this month. (See story on page 1A.)

• New VA sites: After all proposals were scrapped by the state Department of Veterans Affairs, Jacksonville bounces back with two other possible sites that made the final four selected in late December by a state task force. A final decision is expected too be made later this month.

• Chamber confusion: A grassroots group upset with the way the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce was being operated filed to start another chamber group in the city but was told by the Secretary of State it could not have “chamber” in its name.

• Unsafe bridge: The Jacksonville City Council spent $22,000 to repair a bridge on Loop Road that had been damaged by heavy traffic.

• Death trap: The Lonoke County Quorum Court listened to residents’ concerns about South Rockwood Road. They called it a death trap and asked for safety improvements.

• Another PCSSD defection: Sherwood made it clear, with the formation of a committee headed by a former PCSSD deputy superintendent and another former district administrator, that it also wanted to detach from the Little Rock-based school district. A feasibility study was requested.

• Obamacare signups start: State insurance firms geared up to assist Arkansas as the Oct. 1 signup date for the state’s private option Medicaid expansion loomed. Up to 500,000 Arkansans were eligible to sign up.

• FBI crime stats: The latest figures released by the FBI show that Austin was the safest city in the area to live while Jacksonville was nine times more dangerous.

• Record budget: The Cabot School Board passed a record $74 million budget for the 2013-14 school year, up $1.26 million from the previous year.

EVENTS >> 12-28-2013


The Talley Trio, a gospel group, will perform at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6 at First Assembly of God in Jacksonville, 221 N. Elm St.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.

“One of the most beloved and respected groups in Christian music, the Talleys have been featured with Pastor John Hagee, the Billy Graham Crusade, Dr. Charles Stanley, the Oral Roberts Ministries and the Gaither Homecoming Concert Tour. The Talleys have performed in Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry,” according to a news release.


A free PEPPI class — which stands for peer exercise program promoting independence — for senior citizens will be offered at 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at the Cabot Senior Center, 600 N. Grant St. All equipment is provided. Classes last one hour.


St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church will hold a one-day retreat for women from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, with Rev. Tom Elliot, who is pastor, spiritual director and musician at Immaculate Conception Church. Preregistration is $15 and can be made by calling 501-835-9785.


Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held four times a week at the Lonoke County Christian Clinic, 502 Richie Road. Closed discussions are held at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. An open discussion is held at 8 p.m. Fridays, and an open book study is held at 10 a.m. Saturdays. For more information, visit www.araadist6.org.



The Sherwood Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominees for its awards banquet that will be held on Feb. 6.

People who have done an outstanding job for their community this year will be honored for their work. Nomination forms are available by calling the chamber at 501-835-7600, e-mailing shwdchamber@att.net or at its office at 295 W. Kiehl Ave. The deadline is Jan. 13.


Bridge players are needed at Beebe United Methodist Church’s Shepherd’s Center at 1 p.m every Wednesday. Beginners are welcome. Call 501-843-2930 for more information.

Friday, December 27, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ titles tops year’s best

Leader sportswriter

The first part of 2013 was a period full of various amounts of success and accomplishments for sports teams and individual athletes from this part of the state, so much so that not all of it could be fit into this column.

But here’s a look at the top local sports stories from January through June with the top story of the entire year being Jacksonville High School’s boys’ and girls’ basketball teams winning the class 5A state championships in March.

Both the Red Devils and Lady Red Devils showed why the city of Jacksonville is a basketball hotbed, as both won the state championship in their respective classification on the same day – March 8 at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock.

It was the second state championship in school history for the Red Devils, who beat Alma 56-53, and the second in five years. The Jacksonville boys won the school’s first state title in 2009, when the Pulaski County school participated in class 6A.

The Lady Red Devils’ state championship was their first in school history, and they had a slightly easier time in their matchup than the boys did, beating two-time class 5A state runner-up Paragould 54-43.


The MVP in the girls’ state title game leads to the next top story, Jessica Jackson signing with the

University of Arkansas. Rated as high as the No. 7 recruit in the country, Jackson was being recruited by every major university out there.

She made a verbal commitment to the Razorbacks in the summer of 2012, but made it official on April 19 by signing her national letter of intent. As a true freshman, Jackson has led the Razorback women to a 12-0 start, and leads the team in scoring with 14.8 points per game, and is second on the team in rebounding, averaging 5.3 per game. She also has a team-high 19 blocks.

As a senior at Jacksonville, Jackson led the Lady Red Devils to a 26-4 record and a perfect 14-0 record in 5A Central play.

She averaged 22 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks per game in her final high-school season, and earned WBCA All-America honors in addition to all of the top accolades within the state.

Though she kept her ears open to serious pitches from other major universities close by, such as Texas, Texas A & M and Kentucky, just to name a few, she never wavered from her dream to play for the Razorbacks, and she’s the primary piece to a team that’s on the rise in the SEC.


Another Jacksonville native that made headlines this year is former Red Devil football standout Demetrius Harris, who in late April signed a three-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

What made Harris’ signing so unique is the fact he spent his entire collegiate career on the hardwood instead of the football field, as he played four years of basketball for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Harris, who plays tight end and is listed as 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, according to the Chiefs’ official website, spent his whole college career playing basketball because he thought his dreams of playing football were shot down because of a low ACT score.

Chiefs’ general manager John Dorsey, who is in his first season as the team’s GM, found out about Harris two years ago when he was a scout for the Green Bay Packers.

A tip was given to Dorsey while at an Arkansas high school all-star game about an Arkansas player who fell through the cracks a couple of years before and who was playing college basketball in the Green Bay area.

Dorsey sent Chiefs’ scout Ryan Kessenich to Milwaukee to evaluate a personal workout for Harris and to interview him on April 5, which gave Harris one week to prepare. Harris dazzled in everything but strength drills.

He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds, the second fastest of all tight ends this year. He displayed a 36 1/2 vertical leap and did a 10-2 broad jump, which were both in the upper ranks of the tight end position. His shuttle runs and cone drills were just as impressive.

Before signing with Kansas City, the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens all wanted private workouts with Harris. Scouts or coaches from nine other teams came to his pro-day workout on April 13.


Another Pulaski County native that took his game to the professional level, albeit in basketball, is former Sylvan Hills High School and University of Kentucky basketball standout Archie Goodwin, who was drafted 29th overall on June 27, originally by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Goodwin was the second-youngest player in this year’s NBA draft, and after being selected by the Thunder, his rights were traded to the Golden State Warriors and then the Phoenix Suns, the organization for which he currently plays.

A 2012 graduate of Sylvan Hills High School, Goodwin led the Bears to their first ever state basketball championship and was one of the top-rated players in the class of 2012.

While attending Sylvan Hills, he was twice named Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas, and was named to the McDonald’s and Parade All-American teams as a senior.

In his one year at the University of Kentucky, Goodwin led the Wildcats in scoring as he averaged 14.1 points per game. After his one-and-done collegiate career, Goodwin shined in the NBA summer league. During that stretch, his best game was a 22-point, 4-rebound performance against the Memphis Grizzlies – a game Phoenix won 100-88.

The Sylvan Hills native has yet to log significant minutes as a pro, but is seeing more and more time on the floor as the season progresses. His best game yet as an NBA player came last month against the New Orleans Pelicans.

In that game, Goodwin played a season-high 17 minutes and scored 6 points on 3 of 7 shooting and added three rebounds and three blocks to his stats.


The final top story that made its way into this column is the legacy that 2013 Cabot High School graduate Tyler Kurz left for wrestlers across the state. It’s a legacy that no one has matched. In February, Kurz became the first four-time state wrestling champion in the brief five-year history of Arkansas High School wrestling.

In his final match as a Panther, Kurz defeated Edwin Santos of Rogers High School to win the 182-pound division in the 7A/6A classifications. Kurz won his state titles in four different weight classes, moving up significantly in weight each year.

Before capturing the 182-pound championship, Kurz won the 112-pound title as a freshman, the 125-pound title as a sophomore and the 145-pound title as a junior. Kurz finished his senior season with an 18-1 record, with his only loss coming to Santos in an earlier meeting. What a perfect setting to avenge an only loss.

Kurz is currently wrestling for Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabbits destroy Des Arc

Leader sports editor

Though head coach Nathan Morris thought his team’s performance was far too sloppy, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits enjoyed an easy win in the first round of the first Goldfish Classic.

The Lonoke girls pummeled the much smaller Des Arc Lady Eagles 50-21 at the Gina Cox Center on Thursday.

“We’re not going to get mad at a win, but we’re going to have to play better than that if we’re going to have any success against the better teams in our classification,” said Morris. “There are some factors I think played into it. We had a little layoff and you sort of expect things to be a little off at first. This is just our second game here in the new arena. It’s the first one since the first game of the year, so we’re still getting used to this environment. I tell you though, this has been a great turnout this first day. Things are going really well.”

Lonoke enjoyed a vast size advantage at every position. Even 5-foot-5 Jarrelyn McCall, Lonoke’s shortest starter, stood over her defender by a few inches, and was as tall as Des Arc’s starting post players. Despite the size disadvantage, the Lady Eagles continuously forced the ball inside, either throwing it in to post players or penetrating and shooting wild and often blocked or altered shots. The result was a 0-for-13 effort in the first quarter as the Lady Jackrabbits built a 17-0 lead.

Things only got worse from there. The Lady Jackrabbits came out in the second half much more focused and executed well. They scored 12 points in the first 2:30 of the third quarter and Morris pulled his starters with 5:15 left in the period. At that point, Lonoke led 43-4. When the starters left the game, Des Arc had made just 2 of 23 shot attempts and had not attempted a free throw. The Lady Eagles made 5 of 16 shot attempts the rest of the way and hit 6 of 10 free throws.

Lonoke won the rebounding battle 27-17, but Morris was still disappointed in the number of second-chance shots Des Arc got, even though very few were successful.

“Rebounding is still a factor,” Morris said. “We haven’t done that very well this year. We never got into our sets because we were pushing the ball the whole time, and we looked extremely uncomfortable when they pressed us.

“It was a good game to have after a break. We still got the win and hopefully we can leave it behind us. We know what we need to work on and we have to improve on it quickly because everything starts to count here pretty soon.”

McCall and Amanda Sexton led Lonoke with 12 points each.

In other first-round games, Estem demolished Hazen 47-17. Batesville and Bald Knob played the most exciting game of the first round. The Lady Pioneers had a 12-point lead in the third quarter, and then had to hold on for dear life to win 51-49. In the other first-round game, perennial 2A power England defeated Lonoke’s 4A conference mate Stuttgart 57-31 to advance in the winners’ bracket.

Lonoke’s semifinal game against Batesville was played last night after Leader deadlines. The tournament championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. today.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers take care of North Crowley in Texas

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot ladies opened the annual Mansfield Spring Creek Barbeque Invitational tournament in Mansfield, Texas with a dominant 51-33 win over Fort Worth, Texas school North Crowley on Thursday, but lost Friday morning to top-seeded Mansfield Timberview 43-27.

Cabot (7-3) trailed Mansfield Timberview (15-5) 23-17 at halftime yesterday, but the Lady Wolves outscored the Lady Panthers 14-2 in the third quarter to take a double-digit lead into the fourth period.

Timberview is one of the toughest teams in the state of Texas, as four players on the Lady Wolves’ roster have signed Division-I scholarships to schools Kansas, Texas Tech, Arizona and Southern Methodist University.

“We did a really good job against them in the first half,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “They play as good a defense as anybody we’ve seen in the last two years. They play man-to-man and they press you.”

Sophomore guard CoCo Calhoon led the Lady Panthers offensively against the tournament’s No. 1 seed. She finished the game with 13 points.

In the tournament opener Thursday night, the Lady Panthers were tied with North Crowley 10-10 at the end of the first quarter, but outscored the Fort Worth, Texas school by seven in the second quarter and nine in the third to pull away.

At the half, Cabot led 28-21 and 41-25 at the start of the fourth. The final period was played more evenly as Cabot emptied its bench, but the Lady Panthers still outscored North Crowley 10-8 in the period to set the final score.

Cabot used 13 players in its rotation Thursday and nine different Lady Panthers scored in the game. The Lady Panthers normally use an eight-player rotation, but wanted to get other players some valuable experience and keep the starters fresh for the tournament because Cabot will end the Texas invitational Saturday with four games under its belt.

“We’re in pretty good position with the young players we have,” Ruple said. “We’ve seen some outstanding competition and we really played well in the first game and that gave us a chance to play Timberview. It’s all mental. We’re hoping we can leave here a little bit better and we hope that’ll carry over.”

Calhoon earned leading scorer honors in Thursday’s game as well. She finished with 12 points. Fellow sophomore and starting point guard Leighton Taylor also finished in double figures. She scored 11 points.

Anna Sullivan scored seven points. Juniors Alyssa Hamilton and Danielle McWilliams scored six points each. Maddie Willhite scored three. Sophomores Sarah Davis, Claire Eifling and Lily Sinclair added two points apiece.

The Lady Panthers played Springdale Har-Ber yesterday after deadlines, and will close the tournament with an 8 a.m. game today. Cabot will open the New Year on the road at Morrilton next Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke wins Goldfish opener

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits put on a stellar defensive effort in the first quarter of their tournament-opening game against Des Arc, and they needed to. The Jackrabbits missed their first nine shots of the game and neither team scored in the first half of the first quarter, but Lonoke finally began to find the range en route to a 52-41 victory in the first round of the Goldfish Classic on Thursday at the Gina Cox Center.

The team’s leading average scorer, guard Jamel Rankin, missed his first six shots. Second-leading scorer, post player Blake Mack, missed the game with illness, and it took a bit of time after a short layoff for the tournament hosts to find their way offensively. In the meantime, the Lonoke defense was stifling, holding the Eagles to just one field goal the entire quarter and taking a 13-3 lead into the second frame.

“You kind of expect that in the first game back from a break,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “I don’t know if you expect it to that extent. That was a pretty ugly start for both teams. The good thing is, you can always play good defense, and we managed to do that until we finally started finishing on offense.”

Another starter, guard Darrius McCall, suffered a bruised knee early in the second quarter and sat out the rest of the game.

Des Arc scored the first points of the game when guard Andrew Childers hit a transition layup with 3:55 left in the first quarter. The Eagles’ lead lasted 20 seconds and was the only one they had the entire game.

Lonoke guard Cedric Cooney cut to the basket on a give-and-go, took a pass from Darian Young and hit an open layup to tie it with 3:35 left. He then got a steal and a layup for a 4-2 lead that Lonoke would never relinquish.

Des Arc had good reason to be rusty as well. The class 2A football state runners-up were playing their very first game of the season with the entire team intact. Des Arc’s 6-foot-2, 210-pound point guard Danerryen Spencer, who is the team’s leading returning scorer, went 0 for 8 from the floor and scored just one point in the first half.

He found his range in the second half and single-handedly kept the Eagles from being blown out. He finished with a game-high 21 points on 7 of 17 shooting in the second half, and was 6 of 9 from the foul line.

Des Arc managed just three made shots in the second quarter as Lonoke pushed its 10-point first-quarter lead to 26-13 by halftime. And before Spencer could get going in the second half, Lonoke opened the third quarter with a burst of scoring that put it in control of the game.

Rankin and Tykel Gray each got steals that led to transition baskets, and Young hit back-to-back three pointers that gave Lonoke its biggest lead of the game at 38-17 with 4:30 left in the third. That’s when Spencer began lighting up the scoreboard, scoring 20 of his 21 points in the final 13 minutes of the game.

Spencer’s outside shot was not falling, and he got all his points through penetration and getting to the free-throw line. Campbell thought his team could have done a better job of stopping that penetration.

“We have to do a better job of stepping over and taking a charge,” Campbell said. “We just didn’t do it. As well as we played defense in the first half, that’s the one thing I was really disappointed about in the second half. We let him get to the rim way too easily.”

Once the game was in hand, Campbell went to his bench early in the fourth quarter and finally got what he was looking for from sophomore Yancey Cooney, who stepped over from his help side and took a charge from the formidable-sized Spencer.

With two starters out and the leading scorer having an off-shooting night, Young stepped in to provide most of the offense for Lonoke. He finished with a team-high 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including 5 of 8 from two-point range.

“You know we can go three and sometimes four deep with guys who can all be the scorer if we need them to be,” Campbell said. “Tykel came through for us at Southside and scored eight points in the second quarter when we were struggling a little bit. His defense is getting better too. He’s quick and active and gets some steals for us. I’d like to see that steal to turnover ratio tip to one side a little bit. Right now it’s about even, but he’s getting better and better.”

Gray finished with five steals in just three quarters of play on Thursday. Despite hitting just 3 of 17 shot attempts, Rankin finished with 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Lonoke. Spencer added 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double.

In other first round games, Watson Chapel hammered Hazen 82-46 with C.J. Robinson dropping in 23 for the Wildcats. England managed to hold on after blowing a 25-point lead to beat Bald Knob 57-52, but it was the Bulldogs’ Elijah Conley that led all scorers with 29 points. In the tournament’s opening game, Stuttgart beat Batesville 44-39 with Lamarion Luckett leading a balanced Ricebirds’ attack with 10 points.

The semifinal round was played last night after deadlines. The final round resumes today with the boys’ championship game set for 6:30 p.m.

EDITORIAL >> Our choice for VA home

Why should Cissy Rucker, director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, pick Jacksonville for the site of the proposed $22 million veterans’ home?

No one has put it better than Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, who succinctly said, “It’s the perfect fit.”

It’s the perfect fit because of the people, and that doesn’t always come through in portfolios, presentations and paper packages. For more than 60 years, the people of Jacksonville have shown that they love the military.

It started in 1954 with the city leaders joining together to donate the land for Little Rock Air Force Base. In recent years, residents voted in support of a tax so the city could contribute $5 million for a state-of-the-art joint education center for airmen and civilians — the only one of its kind in existence.

Rucker and her staff should take a close look at the two proposed sites for the new veterans home — one outside the air base and another on Military Road — and make a decision soon.

The city has won the Abilene Trophy twice in four years for its outstanding relationship with Little Rock Air Force Base. Jacksonville is a military town, and the veterans’ home belongs here.

Look at the number of times the city and state have worked together to come up with ways to let traffic flow better in and out of the base, and just look at the entrances to the base. You don’t see liquor stores, businesses that rip off military members or peep shows — like the ones other cities have near their military bases.

But there is a shopping area close by that is convenient for base members. Tree-lined Vandendenberg Boulevard is a site to behold, and the city has worked hard through ordinances and zoning to help keep it that way.

Look anywhere, talk to anyone and the answer will be the same: Jacksonville loves its military — active duty, veterans, retirees and those in need, like the people who will live in the veterans’ home.

The mayor is right. Without a doubt, Jacksonville is the perfect fit, and the whole city is hoping the state’s Veterans Affairs Department agrees.

Arkansas veterans will be the winners if Jacksonville is the department’s final choice.

TOP STORY >> Kids go shopping with police

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Police Department and the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 16 recently hosted the department’s annual shop with a cop program at the Jacksonville Walmart Supercenter.

The department has held the event for over 25 years.

This year, 19 children in need were nominated by their schools to participate in the Christmas shopping event.

Each child was paired up with a member of the police department. The children were given $150 each to purchase gifts for themselves and their families. After a morning of shopping, the youngsters and officers had breakfast at McDonalds.

“They get to have Christmas. It is a real blessing. It’s been a really hard year. This program is amazing,” participant Sian Eckman said.

School resource officer Jeremiah Terrell said it was his first time participating in the shop with a cop program. He said it was a very rewarding experience.

Gloria Estrada said the shop with a cop program definitely helped her because she is a single mom with three children.

Her son, Peter, got a T-Rex dinosaur and her daughter got a pony.

“I wouldn’t have bought the T-Rex for my child because they are expensive for me,” Estrada said.

Amanda Williams said, “It is a blessing. I have five children at home and am taking care of a grandbaby 80 percent of the time. She lost her little brother a few months ago. We didn’t really have money for Christmas.”

Williams continued, “We are thankful for the Jacksonville Police Department. They help with guiding the children in the right direction. (The children) were in the junior police academy and they enjoyed that a lot. (The officers) are always helping out, always at the schools talking with them.”

She also thanked Jacksonville High School’s student council for helping support the shop with a cop program.

“It was fun. My kids love officer Corbin and requested her,” Williams said.

Lt. Jason Garcia said, “It is one of my favorite things every year. You help folks in the community have a better Christmas that may be having a hard time. This is the biggest thing the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) does. We do it every year. It is a big thing the public remembers all year round. I love it. I like to see the kids’ smiles on their faces. It really means a lot for them. It makes it worth it.”

TOP STOEY >> Lawsuit: ‘difference of opinion’

Leader staff writer

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman calls a recent $200,000 lawsuit filed against the city a “difference of opinion.”

Central Arkansas Risk Management Association (CARMA) filed the suit last week in Pulaski County Circuit Court. CARMA claims it loaned or advanced the city $300,000 above the compensation it paid under the insurance policy for tornado repairs and the city only paid back $100,000.

The case will be heard by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray, but no date has been set yet.

Hillman said the consensus of the original agreement was to pay back what the city could. “We believed the rest of the debt was forgiven,” she said.

Hillman said either she or a representative from the city attended all the CARMA board meetings until the city left the insurance carrier for a Municipal League plan in April 2012. “Nothing was ever said to us at those meetings,” she said.

Hillman added that the agreement was to review the money situation within a year and the insurance board never did that.

She said the current board is not the same board the city worked with originally. When Benton left the insurance group, it also had problems with CARMA over premiums owed, the mayor noted.

Hillman said insurance runs the city about $275,000 annually. It was important to have better coverage and higher limits than what was offered by CARMA, the mayor continued. “That’s why we moved to the Municipal League,” she said.

The money CARMA gave the city came after an EF2 tornado, on April 3, 2008, damage Sherwood’s sports complex, the high school, other city facilities and about 100 homes. An EF2 tornado can have winds up to 135 miles per hour.

“FEMA was very slow in providing help, plus we weren’t adequately or properly protected to cover the loss,” the mayor explained.

Hillman, along with former Mayor Bill Harmon, went to CARMA and got the $300,000. In the meantime, they told the insurer that they would work with FEMA.

FEMA finally came through with some assistance, but not nearly enough funds.

“I recall that meeting, and all the municipalities and entities were worried that they weren’t adequately covered either,” the mayor said.

Hillman said CARMA claims it sent out notices for the city to review its coverage. But the mayor said someone should have come out from the insurer and reappraised the city’s needs.

“Our coverage was not adjusted for rate of inflation,” she explained.

CARMA states in its lawsuit that the city did repay $100,000 to the association in February 2010, but the city did not answer a June 28 letter from the association demanding the remaining $200,000.

Hillman said the city has 30 days to answer the lawsuit and hasn’t decided on a response.

She said that the damage at city facilities from the tornado was more expensive than what the city’s insurance policy covered. The additional money were necessary for repairs, Hillman noted.

TOP STORY >> 2013 IN REVIEW: Jubilation, jostling, jobs

(Editor’s note: This is the second of a five-part series looking back at 2013. It was compiled by Leader staff writer Rick Kron.)

Jubilation, jostling and job changes were news themes from April through June as a group jostled to get signatures for a new school district, principals and others got jobs or lost jobs and events like Easter egg hunts and festivals brought jubilation to those who attended.

And sequestration — the automatic federal budget cuts — made everyone jumpy.


• School district dreaming: Jacksonville took one step closer to getting its own school district as a feasibility study claimed that the city could finance its own district.

• Tasty benefit: The Taste of Lonoke County event helped raise funds for the Lonoke County Safe Haven Shelter.

• Easter eggs: Sherwood and other area communities, churches and civic groups sponsored Easter egg hunts for children.

• Big splash: Jacksonville’s Parks and Recreation Depart-ment was named Therapeutic Recreation Program of the Year for its pool lessons and Natural Resources Programs of the Year for its youth fishing programs.

• A “no-brainer:” During a speech at a fundraiser in Cabot for the Open Arms Shelter, that’s what Gov. Mike Beebe called his decision to expand Medicaid.

• Let’s drink to that: A bill allowing communities with dry areas to vote on the issue to allow or not allow alcohol passed the state Legislature and was signed into law by the governor.

• Tax stays: Cabot voters extended the city’s one-cent sales tax to pay for numerous projects, including a new library and a highway interchange.

• Cities’ reach shortened: A bill signed by Gov. Beebe limited a city’s developmental control from five miles beyond its city limits to just one mile.

• Squadron buys toys: The 19th Equipment Maintenance Squadron from Little Rock Air Force Base collected nearly $2,000 worth of toys for burn patients and others at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

• Lonoke exit work starts: Construction work started on a $7.8 million I-40 interchange at Hwy. 89 on the northwest side of Lonoke.

• Flippers flop: Jason Wilkinson, a two-time president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and former C-130 pilot Grant Exton, both of Austin, filed bankruptcy and owed local banks and investors hundreds of thousands of dollars when their idea of flipping houses flopped.

• Plastic payments: The Lonoke County Quorum Court approved the idea of letting residents pay taxes, fines and marriage-license fees with credit cards.

• Keeps electric provider: A grassroots Sherwood group that pushed for a special election after the council decided to let North Little Rock Electric continue to provide energy to the city faced a rival grassroots group that agreed with the council.

• Sherwood wants to leave too: Sherwood city council passed a resolution supporting the idea of breaking away from PCSSD and forming its own independent school district.

• In praise of food: Food Network’s star Maneet Chauhan stopped in at North Pulaski High School, praising the culinary program and its students.

• Just a sliver: Only Lonoke really benefited from the $130 million the state made available for school construction by receiving $1.1 million for heating and air repair at the primary school.

• Sweet strawberries: About 2,000 enjoyed the annual Cabot Strawberry Festival despite the threat of rain.


• Cabot roast: Bobby Doyle, a longtime educator and director of the Special Olympics, was roasted at a benefit hosted by the Cabot Education Foundation, which provided 80 scholarships for Cabot students this year.

• Mrs. Arkansas: Quynci Joyner of Jacksonville was crowned Mrs. Arkansas International and competed in the Mrs. International contest in Chicago in July.

• Make-A-Wish book: Cabot’s Sharon Hawkins published “Once upon a Wish,” a book about her son, Dakota, who died at the age of 15 after a long battle with leukemia.

• WWII vets get wish: More than 80 World War II veterans, all over the age of 80, flew free of charge to Washington to see the memorial dedicated to them. They all enjoyed a one-day whirlwind trip.

• Perfect attendance: Cabot senior Talen Evans went through kindergarten, primary school, middle school and high school — 13 years in all — without missing a day.

• North Little Rock wins: By a 2-to-1 margin, Sherwood residents voted to keep North Little Rock Electric as the electric company for about 7,500 Sherwood customers.

• Losing 11 days: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made it clear that the sequester will cut 11 days of work and pay for civilian workers at Little Rock Air Force Base. Furloughs began in July.

• Going to the dogs: The Beebe School Board approved a program that placed a therapy dog in Badger Elementary as a way to encourage students to improve academically and socially.

• Not running: House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) decided not to run for governor as the office was being vacated by Gov. Mike Beebe. Both are term-limited.

• Improper comments: Jacksonville District Judge Robert Batton was reprimanded by the state’s Judicial Discipline Commission over remarks he made about a black defendant.

• Historic gas station: The Roundtop Filling Station in Sherwood was placed on the state’s list of places that most need preservation. It was estimated that it would take $150,000 to restore the building.

• Beaver bounty: The Lonoke County Quorum Court, which had previously increased the price of beaver pelts to $30 to keep the beaver population under control, lowered the reward to $20 because officials believed trappers were bringing in pelts from other counties.

• Double-digit growth: Austin led area cities in population growth based on new census figures. The small community near Cabot jumped up 23 percent in two years.


• New fire station: Cabot broke ground on a new $1.2 million fire station off Hwy. 5 between Greystone and Magness Creek. (See page 1A for an update.)

• Director steps down: Cabot Chamber of Commerce Director Billye Everett announced her retirement after leading the chamber for seven years.

• Vertac still in the news: A federal judge ruled that the old Vertac site must still be monitored for contaminants even though the site is clean and home to the new police department and training facility.
 Less money: Military officials said 650 civilian workers at Little Rock Air Force Base would lose 20 percent of their pay by being furloughed for 11 days.

• Big jump: Marc Sherrell, an assistant principal at Blytheville Primary School, was hired as the new principal of Lonoke High School.

• A Cabot North Belt: Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert continued to push his plan to bring the North Belt farther north and connect it with Hwy. 5.

• School leaders ousted: The Jacksonville Middle School principal Don Booth and assistant principal Sharon Hawk were fired, but officials with the Pulaski County Special School District never explained why.

• Base big bucks: Despite talks to end sequestration and a weak economy, LRAFB added $963.5 million into the central Arkansas economy last year — up from the previous year.

• New VA home: Jacksonville began its efforts to become the site of a new home for a veterans by pledging to donate 57 acres.

• New wing leader: Col. Patrick Rhatigan became the new commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at LRAFB as Col. Brian Robinson was promoted to brigadier general and transferred to Scott AFB, Ill.

• Efforts fall short: Efforts to collect enough signatures to support a Jacksonville school district fell short and were not presented to the state Board of Education as planned. The petition had enough signatures later that summer.

• Negative results good: The Cabot School District, in its first year of random drug testing, checked nearly 500 of its 1,600 high school students and only 13 tests were positive.

• Respected JHS principal leaves: Henry Anderson, who was principal of Jacksonville High School for two years, left for a Little Rock position. The district brought Bill Barnes out of retirement to run the school.

• First responder honored: Another name was added to Jacksonville’s Fallen Heroes Memorial Garden. Police Capt. Bill Horn, who died on duty in 1982, was added to the memorial alongside Fire Capt. Donald Jones, who was killed while on duty last year when a driver ran him over while he was responding to an accident on Hwy. 161.

• New hospital head: Cindy Stafford became chief executive officer for North Metro Medical Center.

• Range gets more funds: The Jacksonville Advertising and Promotions Commission allocated $230,000 to pay for construction of the $3 million sports-shooting range on Graham Road.

• Rough start for FestiVille: Heat and rain kept the crowds away from the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation’s attempt to revive an annual festival after the city’s chamber of commerce canceled Wing Ding.

• Pay raise: The Sherwood City Council voted to give city employees a 3 percent raise after reviewing the budget.

• Bond issued for projects: Cabot finalized the sale of $42 million worth of bonds that will be used to fund parks and other recreation projects, a new library and an interchange.

• Deadly shooting: Two Jacksonville police officers were placed on administrative leave while the department reviewed their actions in the shooting death of a man they said threatened them with a knife.

Monday, December 23, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Ignorance no excuse, Mark Darr must resign

You can say this, if nothing better, about Lt. Gov. Mark Darr: He has better political instincts or gets better advice than the chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, who after a year continues to try to cover up bungling in the university’s free-wheeling fund-raising division.

Laying out all the facts for everyone to see is always the best policy but one rarely followed in public or private life. When you do, the bleeding is painful but tends to end in short order.

So when a Democratic blogger dug into the records and reported that Darr had violated the law in converting public and campaign funds to his personal use, Darr rushed to the state Ethics Commission to report that he had made some “mistakes” on his campaign reports and that he had just discovered that he was ignorant of the law when he reimbursed himself for “expenses” in running around the state as the man waiting to succeed Gov. Beebe if he drops dead before he retires officially Jan. 15, 2015.

Everyone gives Darr some credit for the alacrity with which he confessed, but, alas, it has proved to be not enough. It was enough for the Republican Party, which has joined ranks behind him. The poor man made a bunch of mistakes, the state Republican chairman and Republican legislators said this week, but he did it out of ignorance and not with any intention to steal. His attorney, Dan Greenberg, the son of the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, explained that Darr had simply made “mistakes in disclosure” rather than doing anything really crooked and that he had apologized for them.

That was good enough for colleagues in the party and for the editors at the Democrat Gazette for a good while. None of them called for Darr to resign as they all had demanded when state Sen. Paul Bookout of Jonesboro, a Democrat, confessed to converting campaign funds to his personal benefit or when state Treasurer Martha Shoffner, another Democrat, owned up to taking $6,000 from an investment adviser who had gotten investment business from the treasurer’s office. Both resigned; the Democratic Party had demanded it.

But the state legislative auditor concluded this month that Darr had illegally claimed reimbursement from the state treasury for travel expenses from his home in northwest Arkansas and elsewhere and the staff of the state Ethics Commission concluded that he had wrongfully converted a total of some $44,000 of public and campaign money to his personal use. The state Ethics Commission—half Democrats, half Republicans—has yet to weigh in on the findings. The commissioners hold the power to slap his wrists or punish him more severely.

The punishment should be the same as for Book-out and Shoffner. That was resignation—insisted upon by a united Republican Party and by the editorial page of the Democrat Gazette in both cases. Breaking months of silence on the Darr matter, the newspaper last week ruefully called upon Darr to resign. He said he has no intention of leaving the office. When liberal blogger Matt Campbell first reported Darr’s many reporting “mistakes,” Darr did quit the Republican race for Congress from the Fourth Congressional District but not his job.

Are Darr’s financial misdeeds so grievous that they require his removal from office unless he is actually convicted in a court of violations of the law? The precedents go both ways, but the recent precedents—the cases of Bookout and Shoffner—decisively dictate his resignation. Neither Shoffner nor Bookout has been convicted of anything.

But he ought to resign for a better reason than any legalism: ignorance. He and his defenders have pleaded it.

We have a lieutenant governor for one reason: to have someone in waiting who will step in as a statewide elected official in the rare emergency of a governor’s dying or leaving office short of an election. When voters created such an office some 85 years ago, they did to have someone in waiting. It was not a full-time job and paid only $2,500; to give the officeholder some menial duty the law empowered him to preside over the state Senate the few days a year it is in session. He has no power over legislation or anything else. He recognizes the senator who is to speak next and orders the clerk to call the roll when debate on a bill ends. That’s it. When the lieutenant governor doesn’t want to go to the Capitol, the president of the Senate stands in for him and the Senate happily does its work anyway.

Lt. Gov. Nathan Gordon, the war hero who held the job for two decades after World War II, had no staff, collected his $2,500 and nothing else and stayed away from the Capitol and from trying to meddle in the governor’s affairs. Until Darr, other lieutenant governors followed the example.

Though he has no duties other than sitting on the Senate dais, Darr has a $400,000 budget and pays four executive assistants $350,000 to send out press statements for him—one praised Exxon Mobil for its handling of the big Mayflower oil spill—and to keep up his political contacts around the state.

But if his real job is to be ready to step into the governor’s office in an emergency and run the state for a while, he needs to have a demonstrated competence in government and to be at least minimally knowledgeable about government service. He and his friends acknowledge that he doesn’t have that knowledge. He didn’t even know what the law required on a public official’s financial reporting and what the law required a lieutenant governor to do about his travels.

It’s time to quit.

TOP STORY >> Young girl asks Santa for a very special gift

Leader editor

(This is a reprint of a previous Christmas column.)

When my friend Jack Sallee was with the Jaycees in Fayetteville, they’d put an ad in the paper at Christmastime saying that for $2 you could have Santa come to your place.

There’d be a group of Santas going out every night, and Sallee was among them.

“Each Santa went to about 10 homes a night,” Sallee says. “Each Santa had a driver. Mine was named Larry Nixon. He was a big fellow, and I would tell the kids Larry was driving me around town.”

Usually nothing out of the ordinary happened. Kids got to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and Santa gave them lots of candy, and everybody went to bed happy.

But then something different did happen. Sallee says, “One night we had two houses left to go. We drove around for a while, and when we found one, it was a one-room house. We went inside, and the house had a dirt floor and hardly any furnishings.”

A young girl was there with her mother. They were as poor as they could be: They had nothing — or very little.

The two Jaycees, college educated and professionals who had seen dozens of nice homes, couldn’t believe what they had walked into.

“There were two cots to sleep on and a table and a chair,” Sallee says. “The house had a potbellied stove. She had one of those small Styrofoam ice chests. So needless to say, I was taken aback because I didn’t think people still lived like that. This was inside the Fayetteville city limits.

“The girl was seven or eight years old,” Sallee continues, “and she had long hair and blue eyes. She wore a nightgown that looked like a man’s T-shirt her mother had cut off. She was flabbergasted that Santa Claus would actually visit her.”

He says, “For a Christmas tree, her mother had brought in a branch and put it on the table.”

Her mother had found her a present — a ball wrapped in tissue paper. Sallee wondered what else this poor girl would ask for.

“In the homes we had seen,” he continues, “the children would tell us what they wanted by reciting the toy sections in stores they’d been to.”

But that wasn’t what the girl wanted.

“The girl sat on my lap and looked at me seriously,” Sallee recalls. “She said, ‘Santa, the only thing I want is for Daddy to come home.’

“I looked at my driver, this big, burly guy, and he had to walk outside because tears were streaming down his face,” Sallee says.

“The mother turned her back to us, and I just turned my head away from her,” he adds.

“I was just stunned and moved and speechless. I wanted to hold the little girl and tell her everything was going to be all right, but there was nothing you could do. You felt helpless. She never asked for a toy or clothes.

“I said there are some things Santa Claus can’t do,” Sallee adds, “but Santa Claus would try. I gave her all the candy I had.

“It’s an experience you’ll never forget,” he says. “It will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Sallee remembers that little girl around this time of the year. He wonders what happened to her father.

Maybe this Christmas he will be home, and, who knows, they’ll have a nice place to live in. You can’t lose hope.

TOP STORY >> 2013 IN REVIEW: It was a year to remember

(Editor’s note: This is the first of a five-part series looking back at 2013.)

Murder, mayhem, money and mush carried us through March as a number of individuals were charged in murder cases; Sherwood’s effort to keep North Little Rock Electric caused a lot of mayhem; cities looked to taxes to get money, and melting ice and snow provide the mush.


• Power outage: More than 15,000 area residents were in the dark after a late December 2012 storm dumped a foot of ice and snow locally. Most residents were back in the light by the first week of January.

• Lonoke County’s new sheriff cleans house: When John Staley took over the department on Jan.1 he dismissed all the deputies except Lt. Jim Kulesa.

• Locals want change: A grassroots group in Sherwood gathered signatures asking that the city’s decision to keep North Little Rock as an energy provider be voted on by the residents. The drive ended up short 137 signatures.

• Storm debris lingers: During the first week of January, Jacksonville Public Works removed 1,200 cubic yards of storm debris. Cleanup efforts continued for months in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

• Sexual harassment firing: The Sherwood Civil Service Commission upheld the police chief’s recommendation to fire Sgt. Josh Adams for sexual harassing a female colleague and other professional misconduct.

• Police car hits home: A Sherwood police officer crashed his vehicle into a home on Wildwood Avenue while in pursuit of a fleeing suspect. The officer suffered minor injuries.

• Jacksonville pioneer dies: Martha Boyd, 90, the city’ first female police officer, a longtime council member, director of the Miss Jacksonville Pageant for 20 years and a private investigator died.

• Defense cuts: Sen. Mark Pryor, Rep. Tim Griffin and Gov. Mike Beebe all worked so that Little Rock Air Force suffered minimal damage from federal budget cuts.

• Sexual harassment classes: To help clean up problems in the Sherwood Police Department, Chief Jim Bedwell holds retraining classes and announces “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment.

• Snow day: Another blast of winter weather causes schools and businesses to close early. Luckily the storm passed quickly and it did not turn into an extended vacation for students.

• Bridge swap: Lonoke took over a portion of Hwy. 89 from the state in exchange for the highway department covering the city’s $600,000 share for a $9 million I-40 overpass.

• Honoring Martin Luther King Jr: Jacksonville’s NAACP and the city partnered for a day of service to honor the late civil rights leader.

• Teacher jailed: Cabot teacher Sherry Stracener is sentenced to six years in prison on 11 counts of sexual assault in the first degree and two counts of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
• Colonel makes good: Col. Brain Robinson, former commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, was nominated to become a brigadier general by President Barack Obama. The Senate later confirmed the nomination.

• Death penalty sought: Lonoke County Prosecutor Churck Graham announced that he would seek the death penalty for Jeremy D. Davis, 29, of Jacksonville and Nicholas R. Hollaway, 23, of Beebe in the brutal death of Hurbert D. Jackson.

• Skateworld becomes flea market: New owners of the closed skating rink signed a two-year lease an option to buy the building.

• Rapid-fire gun sales: Local gun shops were having trouble keeping guns and ammunition in stock as customers feared the school shooting Newtown, Conn., would cause the government to restrict sales.

• Upscale apartments: Work started on a $22 million upscale apartment complex in Cabot. Work continues on the project that will include 300 apartments because of a change in building contractors.


• North Belt moving north: Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert asked area mayors to support moving the forever-stalled project closer to Cabot.

• Banquet cut short by tornado: Jacksonville’s annual chamber dinner was cut extremely short when tornado sirens and cell-phone alerts sounded. As the meal ended, everyone left before the speakers were set to start.

• Bibles and guns: Debate begins over the safety of churchgoers having concealed guns. The Arkansas Legislature passed a bill allowing churches to decide whether to allow worshipers to carry guns.

• Slavery exhibit: The Museum of American History in Cabot features local papers, notices and other items from the slavery period.

• Chamber honors: The Sherwood Chamber recognized its man and woman of the year, plus five others for outstanding work and dedication.

• Charges possible: Special prosecutor considered murder and assault charges for Christopher Reynolds, 34, who shot Ernest Hoskins Jr., an employee of his home-based company.

• New festival: Jacksonville’s Parks and Recreation Depart-ment announced it would hold Festiville one year after the chamber of commerce pulled its sponsorship of the Wing Ding festival.

• Vote set: Sherwood accepted petitions to vote on an electric provider for a large portion of the city. The council set a May election date for residents to decide whether or not to keep North Little Rock Electric, which voters supported.

• Sewage money: Cabot asked for a vote to support extending the city’s 1-cent sales tax to finance $8.2 million sewer upgrade and millions of dollars for parks and new library.

• Lucky duck: Matt Robin-son, publications manager for The Leader is elected to be the next state chairman of Arkansas Ducks Unlimited.

• Fire chief retires: John Vanderhoof retires as Jack-sonville fire chief a month shy of his 43rd year with the department. He was chief for 15 years.

• Nevada training: The 41st Airlift Squadron spent time in “All for our Country” state practicing in high altitude and desert condition readying for deployment to Afghanistan.

• PCSSD discipline: A report showed black students in the Pulaski County Special School District were disciplined more than whites. Black students make up 44.2 percent of the district but made up 63 percent of the students who were suspended.

• LRAFB shines: Sen. John Boozman called the base “the superstar of the world for C-130s” as he worked to reduce budget cuts facing the base.

• Not a pretty face: Cancer survivor Rick Bender, 50, whose face is disfigured from mouth and throat cancer talked to Cabot High School students about the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

• Still too high: In its third attempt to get reasonable bids for the construction of the shooting sports facility, Jacksonville reviewed 10 bids. The lowest — at $2.5 million — was still $200,000 above the city’s desired cost.

• Sequester cuts: Little Rock Air Force Base’s budget would be slashed by $2 million if sequestration goes into effect. The military would take about half of the planned $2 trillion in automatic cuts.

• Taxing water: Sherwood approved a 4.25 percent franchise tax on Central Arkansas Water because it charges the city more than its neighbors.


• No RVs: The Beebe City Council rejects plans for a new RV park off Hwy. 64 over fencing, length of RV stays and concerns that it would attract criminal activity.

• Reading the voters: The Cabot City Council unveiled designs for a new $2.6 million library planned for the city enticing voters to support extending the city’s 1-cent sales tax.

• Bid on target: Jacksonville accepts $2.55 million bid to build a shooting-sports range. Stonebridge Construction of Jonesboro agreed to reduce its previous bid by adjusting its plan.

• School gun scare: Tyler Hansen, 29, of Sherwood was charged with two felony counts of communicating a false alarm after saying there was a gunman at or near Sylvan Hills Middle School.

• New fire chief: Jacksonville hired Alan Laughy, an assistant fire chief at Little Rock Air Force Base, as fire chief.

• Shooting charges reduced: Christopher Reynolds, the Ward man who shot and killed his employee pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. Murder charges were not filed against him.

• Principal retires: Lonoke High School Principal Phy-naus Wilson announced his retirement after 36 years in education, the last 11 as head of the high school. In 2011, he was abruptly fired and parents and students successfully rallied to have him reinstated.

• New parks director: Cabot hired John Crow from 30 applicants to head the parks and recreation department and oversee efforts to get voters to approve $20 million in taxes for new park projects.

• Honoring first responders: A group of Jacksonville residents banded together to develop a Fallen Heroes Memorial Garden to be built at the new police department on Marshall Road to honor people who died in service to the city.

• The late Fire Capt. Donald Jones, who was struck and killed by a vehicle while working an accident on Hwy. 161, inspired the memorial.

• Sequestration strikes: Congress failed to strike a deal forcing automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Beebe schools braced for a $200,000 hit, the air base prepared to furlough 650 civilian workers and reduce all areas of training. Later in the month the Pentagon postponed the furloughs.

• Suspect sane for trial: Bryce Allen, 48, who drove around emergency vehicles and struck and killed a firefighter and seriously wounded a police officer in March 2012 was declared fit to stand trial for first-degree murder charges.

• Pool wrecks center: Cabot requested bids to replace the community center’s roof that deteriorated making it unsafe after the dehumidification system for the indoor pool didn’t work. Repairs were expected to cost $700,000.

• Star of “The Voice” visits: Cody Belew, a contestant on the popular TV show, came home to perform for Beebe High School’s Project Graduation. He is a 2003 Beebe High graduate.

• Drink up: State Sen. Jane English and others introduce a bill to the Legislature that would allow cities like Jacksonville and Sherwood to vote to allow alcohol sales in dry areas if enough residents petition for a special election. Sherwood is about 50 percent dry and Jacksonville is 90 percent dry.

• Lumbering on: Whit Davis, with three central Arkansas locations including Jacksonville and Cabot, marked its 60th year in business in March.

• Senior centers struggle: Federal and state budget cuts caused concerns for senior centers and their programs. Because of a projected five-percent federal cut, 24,000 fewer meals were expected to be delivered in central Arkansas.

• Happy birthday, Sherwood: City officials and groups used March to prepare activities for the city’s 65th anniversary on April 22.

• Random drug tests: The Austin City Council requires random drug testing for paid and unpaid city workers.

• Flood buyout: Sherwood votes to use general fund money to pay its portion of a FEMA program to buy homes in the city that repeatedly flood.

• Lonoke limelight: The Lonoke School Board members toured the $9.3 million Cox Center, a 54,000 square –foot multipurpose facility, as it neared completion.

• Jacksonville School District: Details are released about facilities and operating cost for a new school district.

• The Pulaski County Special School District said it would give Jacksonville 12 substandard campuses (two are already closed) and seven of the campuses are so bad the sate has recommended closing or replacing them. A study showed it would cost about $37.2 million to run the district annually, but it would get $38.5 million in revenue.