Friday, January 03, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Revitalizing Downtowns

Leslie Richardson, a Beebe resident who is concerned about the future of her city’s charmingly all-American downtown, recently asked city officials to approve her application to join the Arkansas Downtown Network. The organization awards local businesses grants to improve their storefronts, supports other beautification projects and even offers general business advice to help revitalize downtown areas that were once the heart of economic activity before big-box stores changed things forever.

The council supported the plan, but did not provide the $4,750 membership fee. So she will have to raise the money to get her city access to all of the services that the preservation group provides, like helping businesses get grants for restoration projects, suggesting looks for stores, beautification projects, guidance about how to bring new life to downtown and even general business consultancy for owners who are willing to make a go of it in the old part of town.

Richardson’s unique qualifications offer Beebe a strong chance of getting the most out of the program: She was the executive director of the Heber Springs Arkansas Downtown Network for two years and was also involved with the Searcy Main Street project.

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

With insider know-how, she touted that “business owners also get a 40 percent (state) tax credit for anything they do to the building for participating in this project.”

Simply put, she wants downtown to again be a destination for shopping, restaurants and special events and attract new businesses to vacant buildings.

To get there, she needs volunteers and donations to start a Beebe Downtown Network. (To get involved, call her at 501-882-3348 or e-mail

With Richardson’s experience and Beebe’s recent sales-tax windfall from the new Walmart Supercenter, the Beebe City Council should pay the reasonable annual fee to join the Arkansas Downtown Network and feel confident in supporting the endeavor.


Jacksonville, too, should join the Arkansas Downtown Network, which is part of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.Perhaps if led by the city’s chamber of commerce and with money from the advertising and promotions commission — an organization that has long struggled to find meaningful programs to pursue — Jacksonville could begin a new chapter in boosting the appeal of downtown.

It would be a logical continuation of the beautification projects and economic development already taking place here, while countering the urban blight that has been underway for some time. It also offers a chance for the city and chamber to find common goals and work together again.

Though downtown Jacksonville lacks the turn of the 20th Century buildings that distinguish Beebe, Samantha Evans, assistant director of Main Street Arkansas, said Jacksonville would be a strong candidate for the program.

A city does not need to have historic buildings to join, she said. Any city interested in urban renewal can join, and local business owners would have access to a variety of expertise — from making storefronts more appealing to improving retail displays and more.

Evans said any resident or civic group can form a downtown network as a first step in applying to the program and that the chamber of commerce would be a good place to initiate the process.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher oversaw a beautification project at Main and James streets when he first took office. We hope that expensive project hasn’t discouraged him or other officials from undertaking similar efforts. But, while the city’s budget problems continue, the Arkansas Downtown Network might be a thrifty and efficient alternative.

TOP STORY >> Read all about it: WWII ends

Leader staff writer

Sam and Jean Ross of Cabot have several California newspapers from 1945 that were printed as the Second World War was ending and they plan to give the historical treasure trove to a local museum.

The couple reflected on their 70-year marriage while flipping through the yellowing pages, which report on a victorious nation that had made great sacrifices.

The 89-year-olds first met in 1941 on a blind date. They are high school sweethearts and graduated from North Little Rock High School in 1943.

Sam was 18 when he joined the service during World War II. He was a carpenter’s mate first class in the Navy on the USS J. Franklin Bell for three years. From 1943 to 1945, he spent most of his time sailing in the South Pacific.

Sam and Jean were engaged before he left for the war. He was on a 10-day leave from the Navy when they were married in June 1943.

“It was nearly a year and a half later before I saw him again,” Jean said.

Communication between loved ones was different then than it is today. Sam said if he sent a letter to the U.S. then, it would take three weeks or even months to arrive. It was always uncertain when letters would arrive because mail was sent by ship.

While her husband was serving in the military, Jean moved to California and stayed with a friend’s wife.

She was an electrician’s helper at the Calship Yard in Los Angeles, where she ran wiring and lights in battleships under construction.

Jean later became a secretary for the port of importation processing special clothing orders for servicemen.

Sam said the USS J. Frank-lin Bell delivered American troops during the invasions of eight different islands in the Pacific.

He received eight bronze battle stars during the war. As a carpenter, Sam made repairs on small boats and landing crafts.

His ship was docked in San Francisco for repairs on Sept. 1, 1945, after a kamikaze plane buckled one of the plates on the ship. Torpedoes were also shot at them, though the ship was never hit by those.

His wife, who was working in a shipyard in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles, came up to San Francisco to visit him while repairs were made.

Sam was on his way to Jean’s hotel when news came that Japan had surrendered and the war was over.

“Traffic stopped. I had to walk from the Pacific cable car to her hotel when war was declared over,” he said.

“People were climbing light poles. Mobs were everywhere celebrating,” Jean said.

After the war, the couple returned to Arkansas.

Sam purchased a car dealership with Victor Wright and operated Ross Wright Chrysler Plymouth in North Little Rock off Broadway there for 30 years — from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Jean was a housewife and raised their three children.

Recently, while looking in a cedar chest, she remembered buying the newspapers because Sam did not have a chance to read them when he was in the service.

Jean saved the April 16, 1945, edition of the Los Angeles Examiner.

It was published the day after President Franklin D. Roosevelt was buried.

She also saved Aug. 15, 1945, editions of the San Francisco Chronicle-Extra and the Call-Bulletin of San Francisco; the Sept. 2, 1945, edition of the Call-Bulletin of San Francisco; and the Sept. 2, 1945, edition of the San Francisco Examiner.

“They had paperboys along the streets — ‘Extra Extra read all about it.’ That’s what you heard on all the streets,” Jean said.

“It was interesting at the time. We’d forgotten that we had kept them. She was getting ready to throw them away. I told her, ‘Whoa, don’t throw those away,” he said

The newspapers will be donated to the Jacksonville Museum of Military History or the Cabot School District’s Museum of American History.

TOP STORY >> Hopson’s estate will get $75,000

Leader senior staff writer

Former and fired Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Charles Hopson’s $500,000 lawsuit against the district was settled days before Christmas by the district and Hopson’s estate for $75,000.

Hopson alleged that he was entitled to a judgment, damages, attorneys’ fees and costs because the district had breached his contract.

A former deputy superintendent of Portland, Ore., public schools, Hopson was working as a high school improvement officer for the Houston School District when he died Oct. 9, 2012, from an illness.

District Judge D. Price Marshall authorized his widow, Patricia Hopson, and the estate to substitute for Hopson as plaintiff in the suit against the district.

The settlement was reached days before the case was set to go to trial, according to Allen Roberts, one of the PCSSD attorneys.

“It was primarily Jay Bequette’s case,” Roberts said, and Bequette got a pre-trial ruling from District Judge Price Marshall Jr. that the district could go into the reasons for firing Hopson and whether or not there had been cause to terminate.

“Jay furnished documents from the state Department of Education,” to Hopson’s attorney, Ricky Hicks, and “Hicks felt that his hand was diminished,” Roberts said Thursday.

In exchange for the award, the Hopson estate agreed that the matter was settled and there would be no further suits or appeals.

Central Arkansas Risk Management Associates was to have paid the award to the Hopson estate within 10 days of the Dec. 20, 2013 agreement.

“The payment burden eventually falls on the district,” Roberts said. “It’s figured back into the rate (the district pays for membership) the next year,” he said.

The settlement was signed by Patricia Hopson for the estate, Superintendent Jerry Guess for the district and lawyers Hicks and Bequette.

After a professional search, a troubled PCSSD hired Hopson as superintendent with a three-year contract April 2010 at $242,000 a year plus benefits.

At the time, the district already had financial and academic problems. Hopson said he received assurances from Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell before taking the job that the state wouldn’t take over the district.

But that’s exactly what happened in June 2011, when the state Board of Education put the district in fiscal distress and took it over. Kimbrell dissolved the school board, fired Hopson and hired Guess.

Hopson alleged that the state and district illegally voided his contract, which had about two years left on it, hired Hicks and sued.

Agents arrived at Hopson’s office, told him to clean out his desk and escorted him off the property, which Hopson later described as “humiliating.”

At the time he was hired, Hopson worked for the progressive Portland, Ore., School District, and he tried to implement at PCSSD some of the forward-thinking ideas he learned at that district.

He was met with both enthusiasm and skepticism from a school board that had been dysfunctional for many years.

Hopson was a Prescott native who worked as a special-education teacher at Northwood Junior High.

His father was a Jackson-ville-area minister. His mother was a district cook. His brother, Tim Hopson, is an assistant principal at North Pulaski High School, according to PCSSD spokeswoman Deborah Roush.

TOP STORY >> Council reworks loan for budget

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council on Thursday passed an ordinance to refinance a five-year loan with Motorola for 911 equipment.

Officials agreed to extend the loan into a sixth year, make monthly payments instead of annual payments and pay interest on the loan, which was first offered at an interest rate of zero percent.

Jacksonville made one annual payment in 2013, Finance Director Cheryl Erkel told the council. The city still owes $2.66 million, which includes 3.243 percent in interest, she said.

Director of Administration Jim Durham added that the refinancing is the same as it would be if the city got a new loan at a 2.5 percent interest rate for the entire loan period.

The city will pay less each year for 2014, 2015 and 2016 than the $602,528 annual payment that would have been due this month without the refinancing, Erkel continued.

The $602,528 would have been due in January 2015, 2016 and 2017 too, she explained.

Erkel said, if Jacksonville does not pay the loan off early, it will spend $417,862 this year, $324,135 in 2015, $324,135 in 2016, $797,650 in 2017 and $797,650 in 2018.

There isn’t a payment due this month. The first monthly payment will be $147,750, which is due in February. For the next 34 months, the payment is $27,011, Erkel continued. Payments will increase to $66,470 for the remaining 24 months, she said.

Erkel added that there is no penalty for making higher payments and taking care of the loan early, which would help the city avoid footing the bill for some of the interest.

The ordinance was unanimously approved with an emergency clause, meaning it went into effect immediately.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “Another really good thing about this, it’s not just the smaller payments. It also gives us a better ability for cash flow.”

He said Motorola representatives weren’t surprised when the city approached them about reworking the deal.

“We’re not the first city. A lot of other cities are having to do the same thing,” Fletcher explained. “This is going to give us a lot of relief, some breathing room.”

Alderman Mike Traylor asked if city officials had looked at refinancing the loan with another company to get a lower interest rate.

The answer was no, but Traylor was told the loan could be refinanced at any time with another entity if the city finds a lower interest rate.

Durham pointed out that, under state law, Motorola can’t repossess 911 equipment and must work with Jacksonville if the city chooses to get the loan from another source.

But, he explained to The Leader on Friday, Motorola is the only state-approved vendor for the 911 system the city chose to use. The system was the most economical option, Durham said.

Refinancing the loan was one step Jacksonville took to balance the 2014 budget. Erkel presented an unbalanced budget to the council in early November. It included all funding requests from every department.

The budget presented then showed that the city had to make up for a $2.95 million shortfall by making cuts and/or generating more revenue. The council did both.

Last month, aldermen approved a $22 million budget for 2014.

It includes $40,000 in revenue from an increase in the sales tax on alcoholic beverages and more than $157,000 in cuts to employee benefits.

The tax was recently increased to 10 percent of a business’ gross profits, the same rate several surrounding cities have, according to the mayor.

He has blamed the tight budget on flat tax revenue and the city’s loss of $1 million in federal turnback revenue, which happened when the 2010 census — certified in 2011 — showed Jacksonville had lost about 1,500 of its population.

The population drop can be attributed to airmen who were overseas or elsewhere while homes were renovated on Little Rock Air Force Base, Fletcher has said.

TOP STORY >> 2013 IN REVIEW: Year ends with drama

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

Dastardly deeds, deserving deeds and district decisions delivered us into December. Among the dastardly was a saboteur who cut and damaged area electrical lines and grids. Among the deserving were numerous groups helping the less fortunate. And Jacksonville got the decision it wanted to form a new school district while Sherwood did not.


• Playing our song: Jacksonville residents formed an all-volunteer community orchestra with Christina Null, a lifelong Jacksonville resident, as its conductor.

• Community servant dies: Donald Hughes, a retired Air Force veteran and Sherwood’s 2012 Man of the Year, died at the age of 80.

• Sequestration hits base: About 355 Little Rock Air Force Base civilian employees were furloughed as sequestration tightened its grip on military expenditures. The government found enough money to end furloughs about two weeks later.

• Hiring vets: Former presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark, Medal of Honor winner Sgt. Dakota Meyer joined others at a town-hall meeting in Jacksonville pushing the need to hire veterans.

• More electrical hijinks: Attacks continued on the power grid between Cabot, Furlough and Keo, putting 10,000 Cabot residents in the dark for a few hours. The FBI raised its reward for information leading to an arrest from $20,000 to $25,000.

• Commission chair out: A week after a tumultuous Cabot Planning Commission meeting where he and audience members traded insults, chairman Ron Craig resigned.

• Strange bedfellows: Area liquor store owners and a confederation of about a dozen churches joined forces to battle efforts to expand alcohol sales in Jacksonville and parts of Sherwood, claiming crime will increase and saying there are better ways to attract businesses and jobs to the city.

• Veteran goes to Washington: Virgle Cook of Lonoke County was one of several veterans flown to Washington to visit the World War II memorial. He was prepared to storm the barricades in front of it because of the federal government shutdown, but the barricade was moved three days before his arrival.

• Hallmark festival: Cabot celebrated its recovery from the devastating 1978 tornado with its 35th CabotFest that featured crafts, food vendors, bands, dancers, entertainment and more.

• Grid saboteur caught: Jason Woodring, a pool maintenance man from Jacksonville, was arrested and charged in four attacks on area power lines that occurred over a six-week period.

• School bus hijacking: Bus driver Shelia Hart was honored for her calm demeanor and actions when her Pinewood Elementary school bus was hijacked in Jacksonville by 22-year old Nicholas J. Miller.

• Open congressional seat: Second District Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Little Rock) decided not to run for re-election after retired North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays, a Democrat, decided to run for the seat. State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) expressed interest in running for the seat even though he lives in the First District. But he decided against it.

• Coat drive: Austin resident Tracy O’Brien organized Cabot’s fourth annual coat drive, collecting a variety of clothes for needy children in the area.

• Jacksonville vs. Cabot: The two cities feuded over planning control and Cabot’s intention to eventually annex the area near Hwy. 5 and Hwy. 89 just south of the Pulaski County line. Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher was disappointed with Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert’s plans to incorporate the area.

• Afghan pilots: Two Afghan pilots became their country’s first C-130 pilots after completing flight training at Little Rock Air Force Base as the Afghanistan air force prepared to receive two C-130s from the U.S.

• Banning another breed: Cabot sought to ban the Spanish Alano dogs, which are closely related to pit bulls, from homes inside city limits.


• District can survive: In a sparsely attended open forum, Pulaski County Special School District interim superintendent Jerry Guess said the district could survive after an annual $20 million in state desegregation money is stopped. The state said the cut is likely soon.

• Court in court: A case between the Lonoke Quorum Court and the city of Lonoke made its way to the state Supreme Court. At issue was how much money the county must give the city to fund the district court. The high court ruled in the city’s favor. The county, hoping to get a different ruling, may resubmit the case to the court.

• Library sculpture: Plans were unveiled for an $80,000 sculpture display, created by a Monticello artist, to be placed near the entrance to the Jacksonville library. The Central Arkansas Library System said it will pay $32,000 of the cost if the city can raise $48,000.

• Fixing feral cats: Cabot’s Animal Control Director Mike Wheeler asked for a change in the city law to allow his department to capture thousands of feral cats, sterilize, vaccinate them and return them back to neighborhoods instead of killing them.

• Jacksonville spurned: The PCSSD presented a $220 million renovation and building plan to the state that did not include any of the $80 to $90 million in projects that are needed to repair Jacksonville schools.

• Budget cuts: A decline in tax collections and population forced Jacksonville to trim its planned 2014 budget so that expenses matched revenue. The city made the cuts without cutting any services by slashing many benefits available to city workers.

• Chicken country: Lonokians for Backyard Chickens urged the Lonoke City Council to overturn its 2003 ban against chickens and other poultry. The group wants to promote self-sufficiency and small-scale farming, but the council took no action.

• Desegregation deal stalls: A state plan to end $70 million in desegregation funding for three central Arkansas school districts, including PCSSD, hit a roadblock as civil rights attorney John Walker and the Joshua Intervenors, on the behalf of black students and their families, refused to sign off on the plan.

• Another term: Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, finishing up his first term, announced that he would run for another four-year stint as the city’s leader.

• Paying for signatures: The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce decided to pay canvassers $2 per signature on the petition to expand liquor sales in the city, and Sherwood increased its door-to-door efforts to get its wet signatures.

• Dogs to die: Beebe tightened its ordinance against pit bulls and other vicious breeds by not allowing them to be adopted or taken by other rescue groups. The city said it would humanely euthanize them instead.

Sherwood spurned: A sentence in the state’s deal to end desegregation funding to PCSSD and two other school districts would prevent Sherwood from breaking away until PCSSD reaches unitary status and is no longer under federal monitoring.

• Economic director: After a six-month vacancy, the Sherwood chamber hires Barry Sellers, a Florida resident, to be the new economic development director.

• Good news for Jack-sonville: A federal judge ruled that Jacksonville could form an independent school district and for the city to proceed with its efforts. The judge also ruled in favor of a state funded plan to end the 31-year-old central Arkansas desegregation lawsuit.

• Lonoke County budget: The county quorum court passed a $6.7 million budget for 2014, about the same as the previous year.

• Settlement deadline set: U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. set Dec. 23 as the deadline for people to comment or object to the state’s desegregation settlement that he approved a week earlier.


• State plays Scrooge: A state law forced Cabot firefighters to move their annual boot drive from the streets to area parking lots, resulting in a 25 percent drop in donations. Firefighters use the funds to buy Christmas toys and food for area children.

• Sherwood heroes honored: Two Sherwood construction workers, Ben Hughes and Chris Smith, were honored for helping firefighters save a woman’s life during an apartment fire.

• Pearl Harbor remembered: James Atkinson, 87, of Jacksonville recalled the Dec. 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was 16 and living with his family just east of Pearl Harbor when the surprise attack occurred.

• Weather scuttles parades: Cold, wet, icy wintry weather postponed area Christmas parades and other Christmas events the first weekend in December, but most were reset for later in the month.

• Hot taco idea: Todd Mills, 41, who recently died of a brain tumor, was remembered as the inspiration for Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Taco that have earned the fast-food chain more than $1 billion in sales. Frito Lay had previously turned down the blockbuster idea.

• Storm closes schools: The same weather that canceled parades also closed schools in the area for up to two days. And, although there wasn’t much snow, there was enough ice to make travel unsafe.

• Holiday cheer boxes: The Cabot Christmas Alliance gathered enough food to prepare 1,000 boxes to help needy families in the area have food for the holidays.

• Ward passes budgets: The city of Ward passed a $1.39 million general fund budget for 2014 and a $2.7 million budget for water and sewer, both up slightly from the previous year.

• Modernization plan stays: A new $1 trillion plan to modernize C-130s survived federal budget cuts. It was seen as a boost for Little Rock Air Force Base.

• Beebe pay raises: The Beebe City Council approved a $4.6 million budget for 2014 that included a 3 percent raise for city workers.

• Sherwood budget up: Sherwood’s council approved a $20.4 million general budget for 2014, up about $500,000 from the previous year.

• Opposition to deseg deal: Sherwood filed an objection to the state’s plan to end the school desegregation case because the plan blocks Sherwood efforts to develop its own school district.

• Fatal ATM shooting: Jerome Kelley, 19, allegedly shot and killed Marcus Israel, 23, after Israel made a $20 withdrawal from a Jacksonville ATM. Kelley confessed to the shooting and two other robberies with a gun.

SPORTS STORY >> North Pulaski loses first place to Cards

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Falcons did well to get to the championship game of the Camden-Fairview Invitational, but couldn’t overcome a poor-shooting performance against the host team on Monday. The Falcons lost 61-55 to the Cardinals, but coach Roy Jackson’s team heads into conference play with confidence high.

Both teams were playing their third game in four days, but North Pulaski stayed in a hotel on Friday night after beating Magnolia. They came home after playing El Dorado late Saturday, then left out for Camden again on Monday afternoon.

“The kids played hard and I was proud of them,” said Jackson. “If I had to do it over again, I probably would’ve left a little earlier to get down there. We would’ve stopped at Fordyce and stretched our legs or something. We were just a little flat and we couldn’t throw it in the ocean. We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”

Both teams started flat, but North Pulaski did enough to take a 14-7 lead into the second quarter. They still led 22-20 at halftime despite only managing eight points, but the third quarter marked the turnaround.

Three Falcon starters picked up their third foul early in the period, and Camden Fairview outscored North Pulaski 20-9 to take a 40-31 lead into the final frame.

“I got one of my scorers and two of my best defensive players on the bench most of the second half, and that hurt us too,” Jackson said. “And it wasn’t the officiating. The officiating was excellent. We were just fouling. We weren’t moving our feet on defense and reaching too much.”

North Pulaski, 7-4, tried to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter and got the margin down to as little as four, but when it had to foul to lengthen the game, the Cardinals made their free throws to seal the win.

Rebounding was also a factor, as the longer Cardinals, 9-3, dominated the boards and got several points off second-chance baskets.

“I think all that goes back to being a little bit tired,” Jackson said. “Not moving our feet, not boxing out like we should have. When you’re not very big, you have to be more disciplined than we were about getting in position and boxing out. But when you’re tired, it’s harder to be as focused.”

Sophomore RaShawn Langston led all scorers with 27 points while a pair of Division I football prospects led the Cardinals.

Camden-Fairview’s 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end prospect Justin McCoy led the Cardinals with 24 points. Jonathan Walker, a 6-4 junior wide receiver prospect who recently visited the University of Arkansas, scored 14 while Chave Zachary added 13 for the Cardinals.

North Pulaski jumps into league play in the 5A Central on Tuesday when they host Helena-West Helena Central.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bison take third in tournament

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle girls finished 2013 by going 2-1 in their own Bison Holiday Hoops Tournament, and capped tournament play with a 55-41 win over Bradford in the third-place game Monday at Bison Arena.

Carlisle (5-5) opened the tournament with an impressive 56-24 win over class 3A Barton, but narrowly lost the semifinal round 40-39 to DeWitt. Monday’s matchup with Bradford was dominated by two Lady Bison seniors.

Post player Faith Walker and guard/forward Presley Carter combined to score 49 of the team’s 55 points Monday to help the Lady Bison lock up third place in the tournament. Walker was the leading scorer with 31 points. Carter scored 18. Walker scored a career-high 32 points in the tournament opener against Barton.

“Our effort was good,” said Lady Bison coach Jonathan Buffalo. “That was the best we’ve handled pressure probably the whole season. We got good contributions out of all seven players who played in the game. Overall it was just a good team effort and I’m pleased with the results.”

Carlisle led 14-12 at the end of the first quarter Monday, and the score remained close till the end of the half. At that point the Lady Bison rallied to take a 29-19 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, the Lady Eagles did everything they could to shoot their way back into the game, but it was to no avail, as the host team kept its 10-point lead heading into the final eight minutes, leading 38-28.

Bradford leading scorer Karlie Senko drained one of her five three-pointers with 7:23 to play in the fourth quarter to cut the Lady Eagles’ deficit to single digits with the score 38-31, but that was as close as the visiting team would get to catching the Lady Bison down the stretch.

With 5:36 to play, Carter got her own putback that resulted in an and-one, which put Carlisle back up by double digits, leading 43-31. Another and-one, this one by Walker, at the 4:29 mark of the fourth quarter put the Lady Bison up 13, leading 46-33.

Bradford trimmed Carlisle’s lead to 10 with 3:19 remaining on another three-pointer by Senko, who finished with a team-high 15 points on five threes, but the Lady Bison responded with a 7-3 run to close the game and set the final score.

“We played well the first night against Barton,” Buffalo said. “We shot the ball well and were able to do some things we wanted to do. (Against DeWitt) we got frustrated a little bit, but if we would’ve played that game like we did tonight (against Bradford) we’d be playing (in the tournament championship game).

“But it is what it is. We’ll take some positives from it. It’s good to get to play games instead of going two weeks without playing.”

In addition to Walker’s and Carter’s scoring efforts Monday, fellow senior Morgan Walter scored five points for Carlisle, and freshman Kayla Golleher added a free throw to round out the Lady Bison’s scoring totals.

The Carlisle boys only played two games in the tournament and lost both. The Bison lost to Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter 81-61 in the first round of the tournament on Dec. 27, and lost 56-30 to Perryville in the consolation game the next day.

Both the Bison and Lady Bison hosted Lonoke last night after deadlines. Look for details of those nonconference games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Technical fouls spell doom for Beebe girls

Leader sports editor

The girls’ championship game of the Badger Holiday Classic was mired throughout with foul calls that stopped the action. A seemingly constant whistle led to brief loss of composure by the host team, and that led to a loss as the Brookland Lady Bearcats beat the Beebe Lady Badgers 61-57 to win the tournament.

With 2:42 left in the game and the score tied at 53, Beebe’s Kalela Miller was called for her fourth foul as she went for a steal near midcourt. Miller reacted by spinning around and punching at the floor and drew a technical foul, which also counted as her fifth personal foul and disqualified her from the remainder of the game.

The first foul on the play resulted in a one-and-one trip to the free-throw line. Brookland’s Rachel Gramling missed the front end of that trip, but made both technical free throws. Jordan Maynard then hit a layup to give the Lady Bearcats, 9-2, a four-point lead with 2:20 left in the game.

Beebe coach Greg Richey felt his player drew a lot of contact on its next possession that wasn’t called. Then when Beebe was called for another hand check, he drew a technical foul with 1:48 left in the game.

Alexa Thompson hit both free throws to cap a 12-0 run that brought Brookland out of a 53-47 deficit and into a 59-53 lead.

Beebe’s Mackenzie Bingham finally ended the run with a putback of a Madison Richey miss with 1:19 remaining. She had a chance to make it a three-point play but missed the free throw.

Brookland’s Bailea Lovrien hit two free throws with 50 seconds remaining to end the Lady Bearcats’ scoring, but Beebe struggled on offense with its leading scorer on the bench.

“I told Kalela that she and I both have to keep our composure better than that,” said Richey. “Losing her at that point and not having her down the stretch really hurt us.”

Brookland’s Thompson also hurt Beebe. She had just four points at halftime, but finished with a team-high 23 and was perfect in the second half. She made 6 of 6 shots from the floor, including three from the three-point line, and was 4 of 4 from the foul line.

“That’s what makes them such a dangerous and good team,” said Richey whose brother Jared Richey coaches Brookland. “Any one of those five starters could be the one to score 20 on a given night. So you can’t focus on shutting down one or two players.”

Brookland shot almost twice as many free throws as Beebe, but was very good from the line until late in the fourth quarter, when it made seven of the last eight attempts. The Lady Bearcats made 19 of 35 free-throw attempts for the game, while Beebe hit 13 of 18 after missing three of its first four.

Lovrien added 14 points and Maynard 12 for Brookland. Miller led all players with 28 points and added six rebounds. Freshman post player Gracie Anders came one blocked shot short of a triple double. She finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks. Beebe was just 2 of 15 from the three-point line and committed 17 turnovers.

The Lady Badgers, 6-3, host Benton on Tuesday, and begin conference play when they host Blytheville on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot drops Beebe final

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers went on a 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter and take a one-point lead, but everything went Pulaski Academy’s way after that as the Bruins went on to a 60-52 victory in the championship game of the Badger Holiday Classic in Beebe on Monday.

Neither team led by more than four points in the first three quarters, but PA answered Cabot’s 5-0 run with an 11-0 run of its own that gave the Bruins a 55-45 lead with 4:45 left in the game.

The Bruins, 8-2, led 44-40 at the end of three. Cabot’s Hunter York hit his third-consecutive three pointer with 7:12 on the clock. After a defensive stop, senior Michael Smith and sophomore Garrett Rowe played give-and-go for an open layup and a 45-44 Cabot lead.

Bruin sophomore Lawson Korita then sank a three pointer to quickly give his team the lead. Cabot then missed, and PA point guard Marcus Wallace got the rebound and went the length of the court for a layup and a 49-45 lead.

York then missed from three-point range for the first time in the second half, and the long rebound went out of bounds. Wallace was fouled on the ensuing possession and sank both free throws. Cabot’s Jake Ferguson missed a three pointer on the next possession. Post player Adolfo Iglesias was there for the offensive rebound and had an open look, but lost the ball on the way up. Korita then sank another three pointer for a54-45 Pulaski Academy lead with 4:45 left in the game.

Ferguson got an offensive rebound on the next possession, but he also missed a point-blank layup. Wallace got that rebound and was fouled. He made one of two to cap the Bruin run with 4:28 on the clock.

York finally broke Cabot’s drought with a three pointer, and Korita walked to give the Panthers possession and plenty of time still on the clock. But Ferguson missed another three and PA got the rebound. Wallace was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one trip to the line, and Iglesias scored with a strong move at the other end.

That made it 55-50 with 3:10 remaining and Cabot called timeout. But the Panther offense could get nothing going the rest of the way.

Wallace penetrated for a 12-foot jumper with 2:40 remaining to make it 57-50. York was then called for an offensive foul, his fifth. That made the foul margin 10-3 in the second half with 2:02 remaining. Wallace hit both foul shots for a nine-point Bruin lead. The Bruins only scored one point the rest of the way, but Cabot couldn’t buy a basket.

The Panthers managed just two free throws by Rowe the rest of the way, and were 2 of 13 from the floor in the last six minutes of the game.

The Panthers travel to Bryant on Monday for their final nonconference game. They will begin play in the 7A/6A East when they travel to 7A’s top-ranked North Little Rock on Friday.

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

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



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 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.