Friday, February 14, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Let majority save option

The legislature will vote next week on funding the so-called private insurance option, which provides health coverage to some 100,000 Arkansans. Recipients can choose private insurance that’s completely paid for by the federal government.

The program, which is 100 percent funded through Medicaid, passed last year with a 75 percent supermajority. But some previous supporters are wavering and one key Democratic senator has since resigned. His Republican replacement opposes the plan, even though the state would receive nearly $1 billion over the next decade.

Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot), who helped craft the private option last year, thinks he’ll get enough votes when the issue goes before the House on Tuesday. He said failure to approve the funding could cost the state $80 million to $100 million in federal funding a year and create a shortfall that would have to be made up at the detriment of other needs, including new prison beds to ease overcrowding.

Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), who pushed the plan through the Senate, is hopeful he’ll get a supermajority again this time. But Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View), who voted for the private option last time, says she can no longer support the plan. She is said to be unhappy that Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield has cut payments to specialists. Irving is married to a doctor.

But there may be hope that Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), who voted no to the private option the last time, might reconsider her opposition and help advance the plan. After all, three hospitals in or near her district are hoping the private option will bring them more insured patients and reduce uncompensated indigent care.

English was noncommittal when we contacted her earlier this week, but she did say, “This is not an easy thing. There are an awful lot of things to think about.”

Let’s hope she changes her vote to help the uninsured and the hospitals in her district that are struggling to stay open.

Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) has been a key supporter of the private option. Perhaps he can prevail on a fellow conservative and convince her the private option is the most prudent choice for Arkansas.

Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin), who is a physical therapist at North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville, still hates the private option, even if it means his hospital, which is hanging on by a thread, will close as it continues to write off millions in uncollected debt.

Other area legislators have spoken eloquently in favor of the private option. Reps. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), Doug House (R-North Little Rock), Rep. Patti Julian (D-North Little Rock), Rep. Walls McCrary (D-Lonoke) and Rep. Jim Nickles (D-Sherwood), whose political views span the entire political spectrum, all favor the plan. Defeating it would mean budget shortfalls, eliminating tax cuts and laying off state employees.

“I think we crafted, with the Republicans, the best option for Arkansas,” Julian told us recently. “We have 100,000 who have signed up, who are going to have health-care insurance for the first time.”

Julian said she’s worried about how defunding the private option could affect UAMS as well as small and rural hospitals, such as North Metro. “We’ll lose them. We’ll throw people out of work, and we’re going to make health care that much less accessible for people in those communities,” Julian said.

She also said the legislature might have to reinstitute the taxes cut last session to make up the $80 million-$90 million budget deficit that would result from reneging on the private-option promise it made to the working poor last session.

“Education could be hit hard,” Julian concluded.

Rep. Perry insists the private option is not Obamacare. He told us, “I’m thinking it will pass. It is a sensible solution for providing health care for people who need it, instead of expanding the Medicaid roles.”

“I’m just feeling optimistic,” he added. “When you start looking at options, it’s the best available. Other states are wanting to copy what we’ve done. We’re in the forefront of expanding health care instead of Medicaid.”

We’ll give the last word to Rep. House, a former Army lawyer, who says leaders “sometimes make decisions that are unpleasant. That was something I learned in the military.”

He added that 75 percent of the state has spoken and favors the program. “It’s a small minority that is trying to crash it,” House said.

Don’t let that noisy minority dictate state policy.

TOPSTORY >> Bank names two new directors

Leader staff writer

A nearly 60-year tradition ended Wednesday with “mixed emotions” as Jacksonville realtor Thad Gray stepped down from his post on the First Arkansas Bank and Trust board of directors.

Although Gray has served for 10 years, a member of his family — who opened Bart Gray Realty in 1948 — has been on the board for almost six decades, the outgoing board member said.

Bank president Larry Wilson said Bart Gray Sr. served for about 30 years and Bart Gray Jr. spent 10 to 15 years on the board.

The bank was established in 1949, just a year after the real estate company’s founding. The First Arkansas board provides leadership and direction through its policy decisions, Wilson said.

Gray is the executive broker and partner of Bart Gray Realty Management and RE/MAX Homefinders in Jacksonville.

The torch was passed to Whit Davis Lumber Plus president Terry Toney and Gwatney Chevrolet executive manager Jamie Cobb during a reception at Southern Oaks Country Club in Jacksonville.

Cobb was not there because of a previous out-of-town meeting, Wilson told about 30 guests who attended the event.

One of the new board members is replacing 7-year veteran Wetzel Stark, who served on the Cleburne County Bank and Trust board before First Arkansas acquired that bank in 2005.

Gray said, “I felt very honored and privileged to have served on the board of First Arkansas Bank.”

He described the experience as a great educational opportunity and a chance to work alongside good people.

“I love my fellow board members…I will certainly miss them,” Gray said. But he said he was excited to see where his replacement will steer the bank.

Gray added that he watched the bank double in size and successfully navigated through the economic downturn.

About Gray, Wilson said, “He has had a long and steadfast commitment to our community.”

The bank president told the guests that Gray has been the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

The realtor has been involved with the Jacksonville Jaycees, the Arkansas Jaycees, the Jacksonville-Cabot Real Estate Council, the North Pulaski Board of Realtors and the Jacksonville Rotary Club, Wilson said.

Gray was awarded an engraved glass bowl recognizing his years of service on the board.

Gray told Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) during the reception that leaving the board would give him more flexibility to spend time with family, including his 4-year-old granddaughter, and to sell houses.

Toney, one of the new board members, said, “It’s a great honor to be part of something like First Arkansas Bank. It’s just a great honor, especially with all the Wilsons and the bank have done for central Arkansas. I just feel privileged to be a part of it.”

He added that he would “try to be hands-on, obviously try to be on top of things and ask lots of questions.”

Wilson said Toney, while attending high school, began working for the “highly-regarded” lumber company known for innovation, quality products and customer service.

He has been with Whit Davis for 28 years.

Wilson said, “During that time he has worked in every area of the company, starting from the ground up.”

Toney oversees three lumberyards in Jacksonville, Cabot and Greenbrier, the bank president said.

He was named to the 2008 Arkansas Business 40 under 40 list of professional and political leaders.

Toney is also involved with the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club and the chamber.

Wilson said Gwatney Chevrolet first employed Cobb, the other new board member, as a technician.

He moved to sales four years later and advanced quickly, the bank president said.

Cobb manages Gwatney Chevrolet in Jacksonville and Gwatney Buick GMC in Sherwood.

He is a member of the chamber, the honorary commander of the 61st Airlift Squadron on Little Rock Air Force Base, a member of the base’s community council, the Arkansas Chevrolet Dealers Ad Association and the Arkansas Automobile Dealer Association Board, Wilson said.

He said in a news release about both appointments, “The passion they display for service to their communities will benefit our board, our bank and the markets we serve for many years to come. It is incumbent upon our stockholders to bring new thoughts and perspectives to our board, and we are convinced that these men will do just that.”

The bank president also thanked the outgoing board members, saying, “Our board members over the last 65 years have helped make the decisions that have enabled our bank to grow and helped this community to grow during that time.”

First Arkansas has 22 locations in central and north central Arkansas. It employs about 250 people with a total payroll of more than $10 million. The bank has $675 million in assets and a credit card operation in Atlanta with 75,000 accounts.

TOP STORY >> Ward considers extra recycling

Leader staff writer

Ward resident Marc Brune, co-owner of Veterans Recycling, spoke to the city council this week about a partnership for a drop-off location for items not picked up with household trash, such as furniture, TVs, tires and other items.

Brune suggested the city allow Veterans Recycling to set up a collection site, such as the old Co-Op building, or on an acre of city-owned land with a low-cost and long-term lease.

Veterans Recycling would provide materials for a building, containers and storage. Brune said the partnership with the city would create jobs.

The company would be responsible for the daily operations and the transportation of items. People would be able to get rid of items in their yard that sanitation services refuse to take that are code-enforcement violations.

Brune said his business accepts tires, TVs, building supplies and bags of trash from people. He said most of the items Veterans Recycling hauls off are considered household trash. They do not take hazardous or chemical waste. He said Veterans Recycling would reap the financial benefits of the collection site. Brune said if the drop-off location became successful it could offer Ward residents curbside recycling.

Brune said there wouldn’t be a monthly charge or a hike on resident’s water bills.

“We provide our services free of charge or for as little as possible because they are already paying for disposal of those, and we don’t feel it is ethical to charge people again for something they are already paying for. We are able to make money on the backend with the sale of some of these recyclable items,” Brune said.

Brune said many of their customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the C and S Sanitation service for not picking up items. He said some residents are unable to take sofas, carpets and other items to Two Pine landfill in Jacksonville. The landfill charges $35 per ton for disposal. Brune said his company saves residents gas money, so they don’t have to drive to the landfill to drop off a sofa. Veterans Recycling can drop-off several couches in one load.

He said Ward residents are unable to use the county’s dump stations since they live in a city. Brune said residents do not have a place to put the items until the city holds once-a-year cleanup. He said in the past eight months his company provided 150 residences and businesses with hauling services of recyclable materials.

“Anyone on city water has no choice and cannot opt out of the city’s contracted sanitation services,” Brune said.

Veterans Recycling goes to residences and businesses to remove items for them. Brune said they are in partnership with Reeves Recycling on Hwy. 161 where he sells vinyl siding and plastics.

Veterans Recycling does not have a site to receive items. It had a facility outside of Conway, where they collected metal, lumber, pallets, electronics and furniture, but the property owner did not renew its lease.

Mayor Art Brooke asked if a Ward collection site would meet EPA requirements.

Brune said if he takes fiberglass insulation it has to be sealed in bags. Tires have to be accounted for. TVs will cost Veterans Recycling for transporting them to out-of-state recycling facilities.

Brooke said the Co-Op building is city-owned property that will be developed into a maintenance building for the water department. The Co-Op building is surrounded by homes. He said the residents would have “a lot heartburn” if a recycling collection site were to be placed there.

The mayor told Brune that he is currently violating city codes.

“What you do is a good thing, but you can’t do that out at your home,” Brooke said.

After the meeting city code- enforcement officer Jason McKee told The Leader that Brune is operating a business in a residential area without a business license and having an unsanitary and unsightly residence on a daily basis.

Brune is hauling scrap to his home on 206 Owen St. and sorting it. Neighbors have complained to the city about the appearance of his property. Brune applied for a license in July and September and was rejected.

Brooke said the city has an agreement with the Central Arkansas Regional Solid Waste Management District to provide a trailer to pick up certain items for residents to dispose of. The city holds an annual citywide cleanup. Brooke said there are two people with trailers picking up items for residents.

“I’m sorry people who call you don’t know we offer services,” Brooke said.

He said residents with sofas, furniture and other large items can call the C and S Sanitation office, and they will pick it up with a fee.

Brooke is treasurer of the solid waste management district board and said he has not seen Veterans Recycling come before the board. Brune said he turned in a proposal last summer to the solid waste management district to collect and buy junk appliances and white goods for recycling, but has not heard back.

 In other business, the council approved the purchase of a 2014 Dodge Ram truck for the police department. The city received $23,500 from an anonymous donor for the pickup. The police department has to provide $2,500 for the remaining cost.

 The council passed an ordinance requiring candidates for city offices to file as independent candidates with the Lonoke County Clerk no earlier than 20 days before the primary elections and no later than noon on the day before primaries.

TOP STORY >> Insurance still topic of debate in Capitol

Leader senior staff writer

Joint Budget Committee amendments that chip away at the state’s private option health care without dismembering it are slated for a House vote Tuesday, according to Rep. Walls McCrary (D-Lonoke).

Rep. John Burris, (R- Harrison) confirmed Friday afternoon that the vote, originally slated for Friday by House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot), was rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Burris is Carter’s chief wrangler for the private option in the House.

Amendments to the Department of Human Services budget prohibit any sort of state or federal or grant money administered through the department to be used to advertise the private option using any kind of media — television, radio, print, online or direct mail.

Proponents say that through that prohibition, opponents hope that like a plant denied sunlight, the private option would whither and die.


But Burris said he thinks private-sector stakeholders, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, would step in and provide advertising and that it’s not an appropriate function of the state.

Still, Burris predicts a close vote in both houses, and said the Tuesday vote may only give an indication of that.

McCrary, a supporter of the private option, said he thought Carter had hoped to get the bill out of the House before legislators went home for a long Presidents Day weekend, where lobbyists and constituents might sway their votes.

Burris simply said it was always good to get a bill considered before leaving for the holiday.

In addition to stripping out as much as $500,000 in advertising, the amendment to the DHS funding made three other cuts to the rivate option, according to McCrary.

Burris briefly explained the three other amendments are designed to cut costs and to bring more votes for the private option into the fold.


They are: restrictions on non-emergency transportation, creation of health savings accounts in lieu of the private option and co-pays for some services for people earning more than 50 percent of the federal poverty level.

The state will have to seek a waiver from Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius to make the changes.

Burris said he thought changes would encourage enrollees to seek help first through their primary-care physicians, instead of showing up at the emergency room for a headache.

Burris said the enrollees will need to have a buy-in to make this successful. He said much of the co-pay would be associated with emergency room visits, especially unnecessary ones.

“ER visits and cost sharing should encourage good behavior by clients,” Burris said.

Preventative-care items would continue to be free to all enrollees, as required by the federal Affordable Care Act.


Some amended language reads:

“It is both necessary and appropriate that the General Assembly restrict the use of appropriations authorized in this act.

“Except as provided in this subsection, the Department of Human Services shall not allocate, budget, expend or utilize any appropriation authorized by the General Assembly for the purpose of advertisement, promotion or other activities designed to promote or encourage enrollment in the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace or the Health Care Independence Program, including without limitation:

(A) Unsolicited communications mailed to potential clients;

(B) Television, radio or online commercials;

(C) Billboard or mobile billboard advertising;

(D) Advertisements printed in newspapers, magazines, or other print media; and

(E) Internet websites and electronic media.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabs get their revenge on Clinton

Leader sportswriter

With a 49-37 win at Newport on Monday, and a close 46-40 win over Clinton on Tuesday at home, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits locked up the 4A-2 Conference’s No. 2 seed for next week’s District Tournament.

Tuesday’s conference matchup at the Gina Cox Center had a lot riding on the outcome of the game. Clinton (14-7, 7-4) beat Lonoke (19-6, 11-2) at its place last month, and had the Lady Yellow Jackets been able to come out on top again in the rematch, they’d currently be sitting in the No. 2 spot as far as seeding goes for the district tournament.

Even though the Lady Rab-bits got their revenge Tuesday, Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said his team still has a lot to play for before district tournament play begins Monday at Marianna.

“It’s good enough that Clinton has to play a game (in the district tournament) before they play us again,” said Morris. “I fully expect we’ll see them again next Thursday night. It’s not so much about No. 2; we’ve still got some unfinished business to take care of here Friday night with Heber Springs.

“We lost a four-point game there and had a chance, and then the next week (against Clinton) we slipped up on that game. Hopefully, our kids haven’t forgotten about what we’ve done in those two road games. So, we’ll see how it comes out.”

Lonoke played host to top-seeded Heber Springs, who’s undefeated in 4A-2 play this season, last night after deadlines. Look for details of that game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

The Lady Rabbits led 8-5 at the end of the first quarter Tuesday, and 18-16 at halftime. However, it should’ve been an 18-14 lead at halftime. Leading by the four-point margin, Lonoke held the ball for the last shot of the half, but Clinton forced a turnover around the perimeter.

Clinton’s Tori Johnson, who hit two 3-pointers in the first half, got the steal and pushed the ball up the floor. As the final seconds ticked away, Johnson started to pull up for a 3-point attempt, but decided to keep dribbling toward the basket.

Just after time expired, Johnson put up a shot inside and it fell through, and as the two teams started walking to the locker rooms, one official signaled for the basket to count, which Morris vehemently argued.

Despite Morris’ protest, the basket counted, and the score was 18-16 Lonoke at halftime as a result.

In the second half, Lonoke played angry at the start, and opened the half with a 10-2 run to give the host team its first double-digit lead at 28-18. Clinton, however, didn’t go away so easy and steadily grinded its way back into the game. At the end of the third quarter, Lonoke’s lead was cut to three with the score 32-29.

Johnson drained her third 3-pointer of the game on the first possession of the fourth quarter, which tied the score at 32-32. The Lady Jackets took a two-point lead with 3:32 to play on an and-1 by Hannah Stoltzfus, which made the score 38-36.

Lonoke, however, tied the game on two free throws by Kerasha Johnson, and Johnson put Lonoke back on top 40-38 with a steal and layup on the Lady Jackets’ next possession.

The Lady Rabbits never relinquished the lead from there, and with 16.4 seconds remaining, Jarrelyn McCall set the final score with a pair of free throws.

Lonoke made 15 of 41 shots from the floor for 37 percent, outrebounded Clinton 24-21, and had 10 turnovers in the game. Clinton made 12 of 36 shots for 33 percent, and finished with 16 turnovers.

Eboni Willis led all scorers with 22 points. McCall had 15, and Kerasha Johnson finished with seven. Stoltzfus led Clinton with 13 points, all of which came in the second half.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers better at Marion

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot boys’ and girls’ basketball teams each won their 7A/6A East Conference games at Marion on Tuesday. The Panthers, who lost to Marion at home in their first meeting this season, won the rematch 56-48, and the Lady Panthers put together a solid third quarter en route to a 62-46 decision, their second win over the Lady Patriots this season.

The Cabot boys (14-7, 5-4), according to coach Jerry Bridges, played one of their worst games of the season in their first meeting with Marion, and as a result, the Patriots won that game by double digits.

Cabot made some defensive adjustments for Tuesday’s rematch, which gave the host team some problems, but the Panthers’ biggest improvement from their first meeting with the Patriots was on the boards.

“The main thing was we rebounded,” said Bridges. “We outrebounded them, and the first time we played them we had one rebound at the half.”

Cabot led at the end of each quarter. The Panthers led 15-10 at the end of the first eight minutes, and pushed their lead to 24-16 at halftime. The two teams played evenly in the second half as each scored 16 points in the third and fourth quarters, which gave Cabot a 40-32 lead at the end of three, and the eventual eight-point win once the fourth quarter came to a close.

“I just thought we played with good balance like we’ve been playing with,” Bridges said. “We stepped up and hit our free throws in the fourth quarter so they could never make that gap on us. I give our kids credit. They do a good job of getting everybody involved, and we’re doing a better job of executing. It’s been a team effort every game.”

Jake Ferguson led the Panthers offensively with 14 points. Hunter York scored 13 points. Hunter Southerland had 12. Nick Thomas and Adolfo Iglesias each scored six points, and Jared Dixon had four points.

The girls’ game was tight through the first two quarters of action as the score was tied 22-22 at halftime, but the Lady Panthers (12-11, 3-6) outscored the host Lady Patriots 20-6 in the third quarter to lead 42-28 at the start of the fourth.

Cabot scored 20 points again in the fourth quarter, but allowed Marion to score 18 points in that time, setting the final score. The Lady Panthers got into foul trouble early in the game as they had nine team fouls by the end of the first half. Marion had just one.

With the game tied at 22 at the break, and some of the Lady Panther starters in early foul trouble, it was emphasized by the Cabot players and coaching staff at halftime the importance of playing a solid third quarter.

“Our kids for the first time I’ve heard them this year talked about let’s have a good third quarter,” said Cabot girls’ assistant coach Charles Ruple. “Let’s have a good third quarter and let’s set the tone. We had several kids that were in some foul trouble in the first half.

“I really think we just changed our attitude. We didn’t change the style of defense we were playing or where we were attacking on the floor. They just had a little more sense of urgency. I think it was a mental change as much as anything.”

Four different Lady Panthers finished the game in double figures. Anna Sullivan led the way with 14 points. Alyssa Hamilton had 12, and guards Danielle McWilliams and Leighton Taylor scored 10 points apiece.

Both Cabot teams played host to Mountain Home last night in more conference action, and will resume 7A/6A East play at Little Rock Central on Tuesday. The girls will tip-off Tuesday at 6 p.m., and the boys’ game will follow at 7:30.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys second, girls third at conference meet

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ and girls’ swim teams couldn’t bring home a conference championship in Thursday’s 7A/6A East Conference meet at the Veterans’ Park Community Center in Cabot, but they did have strong showings and several have qualified for the state meet at UALR that will be Saturday, March 1.

Mountain Home won the boys’ and girls’ meet. In a strange coincidence, both Mountain Home’s and Cabot’s boys’ and girls’ point totals were the same. But the Cabot girls’ 390 points was only good enough for third place, while the Cabot boys took second with the same score.

Mountain Home’s boys and girls finished with 428 points. Jonesboro was second in the girls’ competition with a team total of 401.

“Our girls had either won it or finished second every year until this year,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Tollett. “Mountain Home and Jonesboro just had so many swimmers. Even some of the events we won, they had so many in the race they still added up points. And that’s how you do these things. We’re lacking a little bit in overall numbers.”

The Lady Panthers’ 200-yard medley relay team took first place and easily qualified for state with a time of 2:02.39. Jessie Baldwin, Riley Young, Haylee Beckley and Caytee Wright finished seven seconds ahead of Mountain Home, and beat the state-qualifying minimum by eight seconds. That same group took second in the 200 freestyle relay.

The boys’ 200-freestyle team of Brent Brockel, Noah Joyner, Payton Jones and Seth Fox narrowly edged out Jonesboro by less than half a second to win that event with a time of 1:37.51, which is also a state qualifying time.

Baldwin won the girls’ 200-yard freestyle and was the only swimmer in the event to post a state qualifying time. Her 2:12.09 barely beat the 2:12.48 required to swim on March 1.

Jones made it a sweep for Cabot in that event, beating Jonesboro’s Colby Neves by more than four seconds.

Baldwin also won the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:03.26.

Beckley took second in the 200 individual medley, but still turned in a time six seconds better than needed for state. The same was true for Cabot’s Jordan Woodson in the boys’ 200-IM. Jones was only .07 seconds behind Woodson in that event and also qualified for state.

Lonoke’s Kayla McGee and Cabot’s Wright were one and two in the girls’ 50-yard freestyle sprint. Fox and Joyner were second and third in the boys’ 50, but only Fox’s time was good enough for state. Fox also won the 100 boys backstroke by eight seconds with a time of 58.81. McGee also added a first-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke.

Wright won the 100-freestyle and Beckley won the 500-freestyle for the Cabot girls. Woodson won the 500 for the Cabot boys.

Many Cabot swimmers had already posted state qualifying times in meets earlier this season, and Tollett was most impressed with some of the team’s younger swimmers.

“We tell them it’s not about how fast you are in any particular race, it’s how much faster are you at the end of the season than you were at the beginning,” Tollett said. “We had some of our swimmers post massively improved times. We’re losing a lot of our better swimmers this year, especially in the boys. But we’re very pleased and very proud of the progress some of our younger ones are making. Our stroke instructor Brian Bowen has done an outstanding job.”

SPORTS STORY >> JHS boys remain perfect in league

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils picked up two more wins in 5A-Central Conference play this week, and both were on the road. On Tuesday, Jacksonville made the short trip across town to beat North Pulaski 73-48, then played a makeup game at Little Rock Christian Academy on Wednesday and won 55-46.

The two victories improves Jacksonville to 19-3 overall and 10-0 in conference, and keeps the Red Devils two games ahead of McClellan and Pulaski Academy in the league standings.

In Wednesday’s game in Little Rock, Jacksonville enjoyed an out burst of scoring that lasted about three minutes in the first quarter. Jacksonville’s starting lineup managed just two points for the first 4:30 of the game, but still only trailed by one when Red Devil coach Vic Joyner went to his bench.

The pace picked up at that point. Senior forward Reggie Barnes and freshman guard Tyree Appleby scored seven points each over the final 3:30 of the period, but the Warriors kept up.

Jacksonville led 17-15 at the end of the first quarter, but reverted back to sloppy play in the second as the pace bogged down and offensive production almost ceased.

Jacksonville scored just five points in the second quarter, and went into halftime trailing by one point.

“The kids didn’t come out focused,” said Joyner. “It was one of those games where routine was broken and we just didn’t show up mentally until the second half. You could just tell they were way more intense, way more focused than we were early.

“We subbed out and had some kids come off the bench and provide a little spark, but they outworked us in the first half. That’s what it comes down to.”

Halftime adjustments were made and an express intent to get the ball inside was apparent in the second half. Of the 33 points scored by Jacksonville in the second half, post players Kanaan Jackson and Damarion Freeman scored 25.

“We finally settled in and started going inside,” Joyner said. “First we settled in defensively and kind of wore them down. We were able to get some stops and then the offense started clicking because they didn’t have an answer for Kanaan and Freeman.

“In the first half we were impatient and forcing bad shots, not moving the ball. In the second half we executed the offense, isolated those two on the block and they didn’t have an answer.”

Jackson scored 13 of his game-high 15 in the second half, while Freeman scored all 12 of his points in the final two quarters.

In Tuesday’s game at North Pulaski, the Red Devils jumped out to a 19-4 lead in the first quarter and were never seriously threatened. The Falcons won the second quarter 16-15, but trailed 53-35 after three quarters. The Red Devils started the fourth quarter much like the first, and invoked the mercy a little more than halfway through the period before settling on the 25-point margin.

Appleby, Freeman and Devin Campbell each scored 12 points while Jackson added 10. RaShawn Langston led North Pulaski with nine points.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Devils get big road win at LRCA

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils picked up its biggest road win of the season on Wednesday, beating Little Rock Christian Academy 57-54 to break a tie atop the 5A-Central standings and take over sole possession of first place in the league.

The game was originally scheduled for last Friday, and both teams played the night before, but with so much on the line, neither team showed any signs of leg weariness or lack of focus.

The Lady Warriors, 12-7, 8-2, were coming off a huge road win of their own, beating Pulaski Academy in their last road trip to move into a first-place tie with Jacksonville. They had also won at Jacksonville in the first meeting, in a game that the Lady Devils almost erased a 23-point deficit to lose by five.

Wednesday’s matchup started the way the last one left off, with Jacksonville, 13-7, 9-1, controlling the early action, but the home team battled back and held a five-point lead going into the final period of play.

They maintained that lead and held a 52-47 advantage with five minutes left in the game, but the Lady Red Devils dominated from that point. If not for a series of inexplicable missed layups and even more inexplicable calls that went against Jacksonville, it might have been a win going away.

Little Rock Christian managed just two free throws in the final five minutes, and only four shot attempts.

Jacksonville turned up the defensive intensity and the Lady Warriors were at a loss to handle it.

“This is a very good basketball team,” said Jacksonville coach William Rountree of his own squad. “We didn’t shoot it really well. I know we missed a lot of layups. I don’t even care about the count. What matters is that they came through at the end. I think they’re becoming a clutch-time basketball team, and I told them just now that I was proud to be their coach.”

After Annalee Rhodes put the Lady Warriors up 52-47, Jacksonville’s Keke Alcorn answered with a 3-pointer at the 4:14 mark. No one scored for nearly two minutes, even though Jacksonville had several shot opportunities. Finally Carlee Earls hit 1 of 2 foul shots for LRCA to make it 53-50 with 2:21 left. Jacksonville’s Tiffany Smith then missed a 3-pointer, but teammate Markela Bryles got the long rebound and put it back in with 2:02 on the clock.

The Lady Warriors then took 15 seconds to get the ball across half court without a 10-second violation being called, but Jacksonville still forced a turnover later in the possession. Smith then penetrated and dished to Bryles, who was wide open underneath the basket. That layup with 1:21 to play gave Jacksonville its first lead since late in the second quarter.

Sacha Richardson then stole the ball and dished to Antrice McCoy, who was hammered while going up for a transition layup.

No foul was called on the contact, but Bryles was called for a foul when a pass was thrown into her upward stretched arms after the rebound.

Rhodes made 1 of 2 free throws after the phantom foul to tie the game with 60 seconds left to play.

Alcorn then penetrated and dished to Bryles, who was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws. Bryles then stole the ball but walked. McCoy then got a steal and missed a 3-pointer. Bryles got the rebound and was double teamed underneath the basket.

As she threw back out to the perimeter, a whistle blew and a jump ball was called, giving possession to the Lady Warriors. McCoy got another steal and dished to Alcorn, who missed an open layup, McCoy got the rebound and missed another layup, Richardson and Rhodes then tied up for the rebound, and the possession arrow went to Jacksonville with 12 seconds to play.

The Lady Warriors fouled Alcorn, who hit 1 of 2 to set the final margin. Jacksonville forced another loose ball. Brooklyn Burks ran it down at the top of the key and fired a 3-pointer as time expired, but Smith blocked it from behind to preserve the win.

Alcorn, who missed her first 10 shots of the game, scored 10 of her 14 in the fourth quarter, including two 3-pointers. Bryles led Jacksonville with 18 while Smith and McCoy scored 11 each.

Jacksonville also didn’t help its cause at the free-throw line, hitting just 9 of 24 attempts. Earls led all scorers with 19 while Rhodes added 13.

Jacksonville also picked up a conference win on Tuesday over North Pulaski by the vulgar final score of 82-33. Smith drained eight 3-pointers and finished with 31 points. Bryles added 14 and Desiree Williams scored 10, all in the fourth quarter.

Raigen Thomas led North Pulaski with 12 while Kiarra Evans scored 10 for the Lady Falcons.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Robinson begins term as youngest DU chairman ever

Leader sports editor

Matt Robinson of Cabot was inaugurated as chairman of Arkansas Ducks Unlimited on Saturday, the second day of the annual state convention at the Double Tree Hotel in Little Rock.

“It’s a lot of fun being involved in DU, said Robinson. It’s a lot of work too but I believe in the work we’re doing.”

Robinson is The Leader’s publication manager and has been a volunteer for Ducks Unlimited since 1999. DU is the largest wetlands conservation group in the world, and Robinson, at 35, is the youngest-ever Arkansas state chairman.

Robinson went to his first meeting with Bob Johnson, a Jacksonville accountant and now Pulaski County justice of the peace. Since that first meeting, Robinson has become one of the most active volunteers in the state.

“I didn’t know much about duck hunting or conservation at that first meeting,” Robinson said. “But I’ve learned a lot traveling around meeting so many new people.

In 2002, after just four years as a volunteer, Robinson became the Jacksonville area chairman for DU. He held that position until becoming a zone chairman for district 10 in 2008 and in 2010 wasnamed district 10 chairman. Robinson was elected at the 2013 Arkansas convention and has been serving the past months as the Arkansas state chairman elect.

Robinson helps organize numerous fundraisers across the state that contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars for protecting habitats vital to preserving and boosting waterfowl populations. Robinson’s two-year term as state chairman coincides with an Arkansan as national chairman. George Dunklin Jr. of Stuttgart is the second national chairman from Arkansas in the 77-year history of the organization.

“Arkansas is the duck-hunting capital of the world, so it’s a big deal to have an Arkansas native as the national president,” Robinson said.

As state chairman, Robinson will oversee 1,937 volunteers while attending and helping them organize more than 100 fundraising events per year. In 2012, there 85 committees and 128 fundraisers that raised $1,340,280. DU Arkansas has helped conserve 356,203 acres for waterfowl, something Robinson has become passionate about since joining.

“The money we raise and the work we do is very important, if we didn’t do it, our kids and grandkids may not be able to enjoy the great outdoors like we do,” Robinson said. “DU has been protecting Arkansas waterfowl habitat since 1937. When you preserve these wildlife habitats, it’s good for everything living.”

Robinson’s wife Brandy won the Rollie Remmel Award at this year’s convention, honoring the state’s top volunteer of the year.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot loses heartbreaker

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s 7A/6A East Conference matchup with North Little Rock was close the whole way, but the Lady Panthers couldn’t stop Kyra Collier in the second half, and as a result, the Lady Charging Wildcats escaped Panther Arena with a 48-46 win Monday.

Collier, who scored 17 of her team-high 19 points in the second half, single-handedly kept NLR (15-6, 6-2) in the game when it looked as if Cabot (11-11, 2-6) may pull away as the third quarter came to a close.

Cabot gained its largest lead with 1:07 remaining in the third quarter on an Alyssa Hamilton putback after a Danielle McWilliams miss that put the host team up 35-27. Collier, however, scored the last seven points of the quarter to cut the Lady Panthers’ lead to 35-34 at the start of the fourth.

Collier drained a long jumper on the first possession of the fourth quarter to give NLR its first lead since the first half, and got a steal and Euro-step bucket at the offensive end shortly after to put the Lady Charging Wildcats on top 38-35.

The Lady Panthers battled back and re-took the lead on a baseline three by McWilliams that put the host team ahead 42-40 with 3:40 to play, but Collier answered with yet another basket at the other end to tie the game at 42 apiece. At that point, Collier scored 15-straight points for the Lady Wildcats.

“She really played well,” said NLR girls’ coach Daryl Fimple of Collier. “I told them at the half to just kind of cut it loose and see what happens. Sometimes, if you’re going to be a good team, you’re going to have to find ways to win one, and that’s kind of what we ended up doing.”

North Little Rock took the lead for good with 1:50 to play on a pair of free throws by Malica Monk that put the Lady Wildcats ahead 44-42. Monk scored again 45 seconds later on a steal and transition layup at the offensive end that gave NLR a four-point lead, leading 46-42.

Rachel Allgood was fouled on the ensuing possession, and she sank two free throws to cut the deficit to two with 56.6 seconds left. The Lady Panthers had three chances to tie the score in the game’s waning seconds, but failed to score on each occasion.

The most promising chance was on a Cabot steal and dish to Anna Sullivan up court. Sullivan, who led the Lady Panthers with 19 points, appeared to be on her way to a relatively easy lay in, but Monk came out of nowhere to block the shot and NLR gained possession. Sullivan was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.

“That was one of the most phenomenal things I’ve ever seen,” Fimple said of the block. “She’s one of those kids that does something amazing every game. Every game you’ll watch her do something and you’ll just say, ‘wow’. God has really blessed her with a lot of ability, that’s for sure.”

Collier scored the final points for NLR on a pair of free throws with 8.3 seconds left, and Hamilton set the final score on a putback with 1.2 ticks remaining.

North Little Rock led 14-12 at the end of the first quarter and the score was tied at 21-21 at halftime.

Cabot outrebounded NLR 26-24, and had the better shooting percentage. The Lady Panthers made 20 of 45 shots from the floor for 44 percent, bettering the Lady Wildcats’ 18 of 50 showing from the floor for 36 percent.

However, NLR was 3 for 11 from three-point range, and Cabot was 1 for 6. The Lady Wildcats also made more free throws, going 9 for 16 from the line. Cabot made 5 of 8 from the stripe.

Sullivan finished a rebound shy of a double-double, as she added nine rebounds to her 19 points. Hamilton added 10 points for the Lady Panthers. McWilliams scored nine.

SPORTS STORY >> Marathoner completes states again

Leader staff writer

Is he a marathoner of marathoners?

Or a marathoner for the ages?

Perhaps a marathon maniac?

Or just a guy who likes to run?

Steve Hughes, 65, of Little Rock is actually all the above.

On Feb. 1 with a Top 3 finish in the Sedona Marathon in Arizona, Hughes joined the elite few. Those who have run marathons in all 50 states, not once or twice, but four times.

In 2010 he became the first Arkansan of record to have successfully completed a marathon or longer race in every state. And just two years later he had completed the round of states two more times.

Also, according to records, he is only the seventh athlete in the world to complete 100 or more marathons or longer races in a calendar year. He did it in 2012 and was named Extreme Runner of the Year for his feat.

And he’s not done yet. Later this month he’s running a half-marathon in Texarkana and then a marathon in Memphis. He’s debating whether to tackle another marathon in Cooksville, Tenn., the day before the Memphis run. It’s not the back-to-back 26 miles races that worry him. “It’s the seven-and-half-hour drive. Cooksville is on the other side of Nashville,” Hughes explained.

Overall, not bad for a guy who hung up his running shoes shortly after college for about 25 years. “I was hit with arthritis and it wasn’t until some new medicines came out on the market to relieve the pain and symptoms that I was able to run again,” he said. “I take one brand until my body gets used to it and then switch to another.”

He plans to keep running until he just can’t do it anymore, and that may come soon as he has Stage 4 osteoarthritis which is considered severe, and the medical community doesn’t have a Stage 5. His last marathon could come in March in Little Rock.

“I’ve had three doctors recently tell me three different things,” Hughes said. One doctor in Chicago told him to stop as it was affecting his quality of life, but the doctor didn’t understand the enjoyment Hughes gets out of running.

Another doctor told Hughes his joints were shot, but his cardio was excellent and that cardio was more important than good joints. A third doctor said keep running and take cortisone shots if needed.

Hughes said he has always run. “As a child I liked running and it has just stayed with me,” he said.

The marathoner was a member of Hall High School’s 1966 championship track team.” I wasn’t big and strong. I was only 5 feet 5 inches and 125 pounds, but running was something I could do,” he said.

From there Hughes went to the University of Arkansas and made the track team.

“This was before the great track coach John McDonald came in and started winning all those championships, so we were pretty bad,” he quipped.

Hughes actually called himself a “participant.” “You know when you have to have enough people on the squad to compete, I was that guy that made us eligible.”

But he didn’t spend time mourning the poorness of the track team, instead he also jumped on the school’ swimming and diving team and was the Arkansas one-meter springboard diving champ.

One to always be on the go, it was a tough decision to hang up his running shoes at the age of 31 because of severe osteoarthritis, competing in just one marathon that year.

From then until 56 he focused on raising his family, working with the Corps of Engineers in Chicago and Hawaii. “I liked Hawaii, but my wife wasn’t fond of it. Of course she’s a red head, sunburned easily and didn’t swim,” he quipped.

He also served the city of Jacksonville for eight years as an alderman.

It wasn’t until advancement in arthritis treatment came up with some prescription medicines to help with pain and relieve symptoms that Hughes got back into the running and got into it with vengeance, making up for time lost.

At 56 he ran in 10 marathons and 3 ultra marathons and at 63 it was 57 marathons and 17 ultra marathons. An ultra marathon is any race longer than the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. The most poplar ultra marathons are 31, 50, 62 or 100 miles in length.

Why all the running now?

The retired lawyer simply said, “I love to run.” He added that he started thinking about his legacy. “What would my kids and grandchildren remember me by? I wanted it to be about endurance and the ability to finish what I start,” he said.

He also had two choices: focus on speed or the number of races. “Generally the more races you run, the slower your times because you are also pacing yourself for the next race,” he explained.

Hughes said any time under five hours is usually good enough to place in his age division.

One of his best times came in 2012 in his 84th of 100 marathons that year. “I clocked a time of 4:22. That was a fast time,” he said.

So, did he win the race? No. “There were a lot of fast old men in that marathon.”

And there’s been more to his marathons than just getting from Point A to Point B, especially in Anchorage.

Once running that marathon he and other racers were detoured through the woods because a mama moose and her calf were stopped in the middle of the race path. “They say a mama moose is worse than a mama bear,” Hughes quipped.

Even with that incident he said he loves running in Alaska.

Then in a race in Montana, aptly named the Grizzly Marathon, race officials chased away a big bear from an aid station minutes before Hughes got there. “What was neat about that race was that the awards were casts of bear claws. A papa bear claw for first, a mama bear claw for second and a baby bear claw for third,” he said.

Hughes said some races have been tougher than others. “In a marathon in Leadville, Colorado, it started out at 10,000 feet and went through Mosquito Pass at 13,000 feet. After the first quarter mile I said, ‘Oh (put your own expletive in), this is going to be a long day.’”

His recent marathon in Sedona, the 305th of his career was also on the tougher side.

“It was all hills and warmer than the sponsors thought and water became scarce. There were a lot of leg cramps toward the end.”

Probably the most memorable marathon for Hughes was his 300th one in Darlington, S.C. “The organizers had a 10-by-20-foot banner of me hanging from a hook and ladder truck to celebrate my achievement, and they gave me a big trophy that included a piece of the race track.”

Hughes’ said his father, a big time college athlete, has been one of his inspirations. “He went to Alabama to play football, and he made the All-SEC Sophomore Team. He fought in World War II, and then went to Arkansas and lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track. He drove in the winning run in a baseball game, and then jogged up to the track and ran in the track meet. He may have been the best athlete to ever come out of Central High School,” Hughes bragged.

Hughes may not have inherited all the athleticism, but he certain equals or tops his dad in toughness and perseverance.

Extreme Runner of 2012 Steve Hughes, 65, of Little Rock has run marathons in all 50 states more than once in spite of suffering from chronic osteoarthritis. He just completed the Sedona, Ariz., Marathon, the 305th of his career, finishing third.

SPORTS STORY >> Champs hosting state

Leader sports editor

The Cabot bowling teams haven’t gotten to play a full schedule of matches this season for various reasons, but the matches they have played have gone well. The Panther boys’ and girls’ bowling teams are undefeated, continuing a regular-season winning streak that has now lasted almost four years.

“We still haven’t lost a match,” said Cabot bowling coach Mike Nash. “The boys haven’t lost a (regular-season) match in probably four years. The girls haven’t lost in two or three years. But we’ve had some bad luck as far as getting matches in.”

Bad weather has caused the cancellation of two matches, including one scheduled last week at Conway. Another was canceled when the football state championship game was postponed a week because of bad weather, and rescheduled for the day of a previously scheduled bowling match.

The Cabot boys’ team is in the midst of a four-year regular-season streak, it’s been almost three years since they have lost at all. The Panthers are the two-time defending state champions, and have not lost since finishing as state runners up in 2011.

Nearly everyone returns from last year’s state championship team, including six seniors. But the team average, even among last year’s players, is down. At this time last season, each of the top-10 boys’ bowlers averaged 192 or higher. The team’s averages are about 10 pins or so below last year’s averages. The Cabot coach believes the lack of matches probably has something to do with the lower scores.

“The averages I use are from matches and practices, and scores are typically a little better in matches,” Nash said. “There’s been less opportunity to bowl matches this year, and when you’re facing an opponent, your focus is a little higher.”

The top two boys are seniors Jace Jennings, who is averaging 220, and Cayden Cook, who is averaging 215.

The girls’ team has two state championships and one runner-up in the last three years, but the runner up was in between the two titles. The girls won last year’s state title despite losing the point total. The state tournament counts total pins, so team scores aren’t as important. Cabot was behind Bentonville in team points by one, but well ahead in total pins.

“I quit taking points years ago because it doesn’t matter when it comes to state,” Nash said.

The Lady Panthers have a huge gap to fill with the loss of Shelby Smith, a three-time individual state champion and currently the top bowler at Louisiana Tech.

The Lady Panthers’ top two bowlers charged with filling that gap this year are Allie Stalnaker and Megan Bugiel. Stalnaker averages 172 while Bugiel 168. Senior Miranda Antimo, Nash says, has also dramatically improved her game.

“She’s made a couple of adjustments and gotten a lot better,” Nash said of Antimo. “The rest of our girls are underclassmen, so I think they’re going to make a run at it for at least two more years. The boys will be rebuilding. We’re losing a senior class that has set or tied five state records.”

Cabot won’t have to travel far for state this year either. Cabot’s own Allfam Bowling Center is hosting the tournament next Wednesday, Feb. 19.

“We’re very excited,” Nash said. “We haven’t had it here since 2008. But we’ve won it, so we’re not complaining. It just costs money. The great thing about our program is that we’ve always had very supportive parents that travel well, but it’s still nice to have it here.”

EDITORIAL >> Communities look to grow

Cabot may soon no longer be a “bedroom community” where most of its residents commute to work in Little Rock or elsewhere.

Under a plan that will re-evaluate the direction of the city’s economic development, officials will seek the public’s input and perhaps help attract some manufacturing companies in hopes of creating jobs and making the town more self-sufficient.

An upcoming website will survey residents’ interests to find out what Cabot needs.

“We have never done any kind of survey to find out what they want their hometown to be. Do they want only commercial business to support them when they come home? Do they want to remain — and I hate to say this — a bedroom community? Or do they want us to try to get some light industry here?” said Alderman Ed Long, who is one of six city council members on a new community development committee.

Alderman Kevin Davis, the chairman of the committee, said the group will pursue short-term, midterm and long-term goals. If it’s successful, it will transform the character of the city and complement the vast economic achievement it has seen in the last two decades.

City officials want to develop areas near the new baseball parks and swimming-pool complex that are underway on Hwy. 321. Picture an ice-cream parlor and restaurants for after a day at the pool and a beauty salon to visit when you’ve dropped the kids off for a game. That will sell itself. The railroad overpass on Hwy. 367 is also an area that will be targeted.

But the undertaking is not without risks. Long said a consultant will likely be hired to help attract companies to Cabot. In a flat economy when relatively few manufacturing plants are opening anywhere in the U.S., a consultant could prove futile.

Jacksonville has had an economic consultant for more than four years. With a salary of about $90,000 a year, he’s produced very little. (Though some of the consultant’s most loyal supporters say Sherwood benefitted greatly from the deal when two restaurants decided to locate there because of less restrictive liquor laws instead of in the town that generously compensates him.)

The Cabot City Council won’t be so easily strung along and will ask tough questions when the time comes to hiring and overseeing a business consultant.

Mayor Bill Cypert has said that the chamber of commerce shouldn’t be burdened with the hefty task of bringing in new businesses. He feels the chamber should focus on its current members’ needs rather than on economic development.

Meanwhile, in Sherwood, which in the last couple of years has opened two new restaurants — On the Border and Buffalo Wild Wings — and a light manufacturer — Custom Aircraft Cabinets — with help from chamber-based economic-development specialists paid for with modest additional funding from the city.

As the economy continues to improve, however slowly, it’s reassuring that communities are making plans to grow with new housing and more job opportunities. Jacksonville, ever-ready for a new approach, has the additional benefit of forming a new and better school district.

Good results are possible, and we look forward to reporting on them. We are ready for prosperity.

TOP STORY >> New Harps on Cabot’s north side

Leader staff writer

The new Harps grocery store at 801 N. Second St. in Cabot welcomed customers during a grand opening last Wednesday.

Store manager Jerry Davenport said Harps’ hometown community awareness makes it unique.

He has been a store manager in Cabot since 1991, when Harps opened a Price Cutter on West Main Street.

Davenport said people are busier now than in the past. They want to get in and go when they shop. Harps aims to help its customers do just that.

The new 32,000-square-foot store is laid out better and has island refrigerator cases, Davenport continued.

It has gas pumps and a wider variety of goods, including organic and gluten-free products.

Produce manager Mark Ledbetter said the old Price Cutter store had 250 produce items. The new Harps store carries 852 produce items.

“We have a variety of fresh- cut fruits and vegetables. We have an organic section that we did not have over (at Price Cutter),” he said.

Meat manager Gene Plummer has 40 years of experience slicing and dicing.

“We do any special cuts for customers, and we do special orders. We are going to have meat cutters seven days a week. We carry the best quality products available to us,” Plummer said. “My goal is to please our customers and make them happy.”

Bakery and deli manager Karen Prince said, “We have an extensive variety of cheeses. No other store in town has this many cheeses.”

Martha Harp’s freshly cooked chicken is sold every day.

And the bakery has a large selection of cakes, pies and rolls. The gourmet case is loaded with desserts.

Prince said they make custom birthday cakes, ice cream cakes and cupcakes.

The bakery is open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day.

Pharmacist Noah Rabb said, “We are still going to give the same care, faster service and shorter wait times than our competitors.”

He added that customers can expect a dedicated staff and friendly service.

Customers can also transfer their prescriptions.

The pharmacy is from open 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday.

“Give us a try,” Rabb said.

TOP STORY >> Wrong forecast: No snow after all

Leader staff writer

Weather forecasters have made some bad predictions lately. They called for up to six inches of snow Monday night and Tuesday, and they made another bad prediction by calling for “a dusting” of snow on Friday night— when several inches of snow accumulated by midnight.

Saturday morning was a case of too many calls and not enough wreckers as the area was hit with light snow during Friday evening’s rush hour. Then the snow turned heavy, leaving up to four inches in some spots.

Kim Adams with Adams Towing in Sherwood said his firm was “pretty busy. There were cars stranded in Jacksonville, Sherwood, everywhere. In some cases, the weather or road conditions were so bad we couldn’t get to them.”

Adams said he thought his wrecker service was prepared. “But it started getting bad just when most of our guys were getting off. We definitely put in some overtime,” he noted.

Adams said Sunday that they were definitely ready for the next storm, which was supposed to have come in Monday. But it pretty much bypassed central Arkansas. The threat of the storm caused the Pulaski County Special School District and a number of government entities to cancel evening meetings and activities.

The Monday night-Tuesday morning storm was supposed to have dropped about an inch or so in most areas. That didn’t happen, and the weather did not affect schools, which stayed open.

Billy Hall with Ivy Hall towing in Jacksonville said he was “just swamped” Friday night and Saturday morning. “We must have had up to 101 requests for service and just couldn’t get to them all,” Hall said.

He was hoping Sunday that the next storm was all snow and not ice. “There’s just less problems,” he said.

Gene Smith with Smith Wrecker in Cabot said his crew worked all through the night on Friday. “We had several wrecks and big trucks that needed towed on Hwy. 5,” he said.

Tim Moody with Glover’s in Lonoke agreed with the others that Friday and Saturday produced more calls than he could handle. “Luckily nothing serious, but we did pull out a number of vehicles that had slid off the roadway into ditches.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said he got a report that a vehicle had slid off Hwy. 67/167 at the Main Street Overpass. “It’s pretty easy to lose control there, hitting a bump and then sliding or hydroplaning,” he explained, adding that there were no serious injuries. “The vehicle slid off, but did not flip over, as many others have.”

The weekend storm set a new snow record for Little Rock Air Force Base for Feb. 7, dropping two inches of snow there.

Other areas reporting two inches or more over the weekend included Beebe, Ward, Sherwood and Keo. Cabot reported 1.8 inches officially and Searcy was at 1.2 inches, while north Pulaski County reported 2.8 inches.

The round after round of wintry weather has dropped more than 2.5 inches of precipitation on the area through the first 10 days of the month — an inch more than all of January.

Remember that it takes 10 inches of snow to produce 1 inch of precipitation.

The continued winter weather has caused February’s temperatures to average more than 12 degrees below the norm. But that should change as 50s and 60s are projected for the end of the week and into the weekend. As of Tuesday, no snow or ice was in the forecast.

TOP STORY >> Policy fight could affect tax-cut plan

Leader senior staff writer

Funding private-option health insurance for the state’s working poor with federal money was at the top of the agenda as the General Assembly convened Monday and got down to business Tuesday.

The so-called private option was Arkansas’ unique plan to expand Medicaid as required by the Affordable Care Act.

If legislators don’t fund the option, it will leave a $90 million hole in the state budget and hit family budgets hard, making it difficult for them to get health insurance, according to state Rep. Walls McCrary (D-Lonoke).

Failure to approve the private option will also risk canceling $140 million in tax cuts that were largely paid with savings from the health-insurance measure and used to win reluctant lawmakers’ support.

Alternatively at risk are new beds for the state’s burgeoning prison population and at Arkansas hospitals large and small.

House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) seems determined not to let that happen. He believes the House will approve the private option in the first week and a half or two weeks. He’s less sure about the Senate, but said it would be wrong to leave Arkansans in the lurch who signed up for the private option the General Assembly approved last April.

McCrary is among those suggesting that, if funding the private option fails, the state may need to take back some of the tax cuts. The package included cuts to the state’s taxes on income, capital gains and manufacturers’ utility bills. The package also included tax breaks for farmers, volunteer firefighters and armed service members.

“Private option is putting Arkansas in the driver’s seat,” McCrary said. “It’s hard to

believe we wouldn’t continue on — not only to control our own destiny and help people, but also because of the savings to the state.”

He said that, according to the Department of Finance and Administration, the measure doesn’t cost the state. It saves Arkansas “a tremendous amount of money.”

McCrary said the likelihood of the General Assembly funding the measure it approved during the last session depends on who you talk to.

“It’s hard to believe that enough won’t come around,” he said. “It’s solid. Good for Democrats and Republicans.”

McCrary said the bill may have an easier time in the House than the Senate. But, either way, the 75 percent requirement is a significant hurdle, he said.

“If we have to find $90 million, where’s that going to come from?” he asked. “Will we need to do away with the tax cuts we made last time because of the anticipated saving from private option?”

McCrary said he had been in meetings with officials from state agencies that are just barely making it now. And “they just can’t stand another cut,” he said.


McCrary said the private option just kicked in a month ago, and it’s far too early to judge it.

He said 2015 is the earliest it ought to be reconsidered.

“It’s going to be a sad day for Arkansas if we don’t pass this,” McCrary said. “Legislators and their constituents will suffer a lot of repercussions.”

He said he’d be open to some minor tweaking, but nothing that would harm or end the program.

The New York Times has picked up the story, suggesting the irony of Arkansas turning its back on the innovative private option it pioneered while other states like Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Utah have adopted the private option or are considering it.


State Rep. David Hillman (D-Almyra) agreed. He said, “I’m going to do what’s best for Arkansas.”

Hillman, a rice farmer and former president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau board, represents parts of southern White County and eastern Lonoke County, north of Carlisle.

“Whether we like Obama-care or not — and it’s one of the worst things put on the American people — it’s the law and I’m going to obey the law,” Hillman said.

He said he thought the Legislature last year “came up with a good way, a unique way” to satisfy the law. “I applaud the people who came up with this idea,” he said.

State Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) voted against the private option last year.

“I’m still working. This is not an easy thing. There are an awful lot of things to think about,” she said, but declined to identify any of them specifically.

“There’s a lot at the national level that affects what we’re doing here. Every day there is a new change that may affect what we’re doing here,” English insisted.

She said she thought the vote would be close and that Speaker Carter, (R-Cabot) has said the vote could come next week.

It has to be resolved before the budget, English added.