Thursday, July 03, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Hoop Hogs adding five newcomers


FAYETTEVILLE – The six Arkansas Razorbacks basketball newcomers ought to be well acquainted with practicing among the returning Razorbacks before preseason practice officially starts in October.

One of the newcomers, 6-7 junior forward Keaton Miles, already is used to the returnees, having practiced with the Razorbacks throughout the 2013-2014 season as a redshirting transfer from West Virginia University.

Meanwhile, Dusty Hannahs, a Pulaski Academy graduate who transferred to Arkansas after lettering two years as a shooting guard at Texas Tech, gets a head start on his Arkansas redshirt year. Hannahs works out with the Razorbacks this summer in the voluntary pickup games and conditioning workouts, plus the limited structured summer basketball workouts that the NCAA allows.

The workouts provide the first taste for this upcoming season for three incoming freshmen, including 6-10 forward Trey Thompson of Forrest City; 6-4 shooting guard Nick Babb of Arlington, Texas and 6-0 point guard Anton Beard of North Little Rock. There is also 6-1 transfer point guard Jabril Durham, formerly of Seminole (Okla.) Junior College.

“Right now, summer is in full effect and we’re able to bring all our guys here on campus,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said on this week’s SEC Basketball summer media teleconference. “The last one, which was Nick Babb, got here this past weekend. With the eight weeks of individual instruction, two hours a week, we’re able to get in and do some individual stuff and develop. It’s just good to see a lot of returning guys, eight returning guys from last year, with the new guys as well. We have five new players coming in with Keaton Miles, the guy that sat out for us last year.”

The returnees include senior three-year letterman guard Ky Madden of Lepanto via East Poinsett County High; senior one-year letterman and former University of Houston forward Alandise Harris; junior two-year lettermen guards Michael Qualls and Anthlon Bell; 6-8 junior two-year letterman forward Jacorey Williams; 6-10 sophomore lettermen big men Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley and sophomore walk-on guard Manuale Watkins.

Portis, the Little Rock Hall grad who made second-team All-SEC, and Qualls, the jumping jack often found on ESPN SportsCenter highlights last season including the game-ending follow-up dunk that beat Kentucky, have not been with the team all summer. Portis was invited to an elite big man’s camp and Qualls to an elite skills camp.

“I think it’s a tremendous experience for these guys,” Anderson said. “I don’t know if we’ve had two guys have the opportunity to go to two different camps.”

Anderson was asked about both individually.

“Bobby was pitted against some of the same guys at his position – big guys,” Anderson said. “So it gave him a barometer of where he is and some of the things he’s got to work on. It was a great experience, good exposure for him.”

And Qualls?

“Michael is en route to getting back right now,” Anderson said. “But all signs are that some positive thing are taking place for him in terms of getting exposure and playing against some of the best players in the country. Hopefully it gives them the mindset to come back and really go to work.”

Anderson appreciated that Portis approached last season unaffected by the McDonald’s High School All-American hype accompanying him.

“We talked about Bobby coming in that he didn’t have to be the savior,” Anderson said. “But his speed was, he was second-team all-conference. The thing I like about Bobby is he wants to be a great player. He’s a gym rat. He’s dedicated to improving.”

He’d better be because opponents will have a renewed dedication against him.

“He’s going to be a marked guy this year,” Anderson said. “People know who Bobby Portis is.”

This season, Portis literally will reach new heights.

“He’s almost 6-11 now,” Anderson said. “I think the guy is still growing. So now it’s just a matter of him getting his body strengthened and getting better from a skill standpoint. That’s something he’s doing each and every day.”

SPORTS STORY >> Colts capture two against Jr. White

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot White Junior American Legion team dropped two close five-inning games to North Little Rock Tuesday at Burns Park. Centennial Bank lost the first game 10-9 on a walk-off triple by Colts’ leadoff hitter Danny Mitchell, and Cabot lost the second game by the final score of 6-4.

In game one, both teams had little trouble putting the bat on the ball early. Cabot scored four runs in the top of the first inning, but the host Colts responded with six runs to lead 6-4 after one.

Centennial Bank added two more runs to its side of the board in the top of the second to tie the game at 6-6, but North Little Rock answered with another run in the bottom part of the inning to regain the lead at 7-6.

The third inning was scoreless, but Cabot retook the lead with a three-run fourth inning. Catcher Jess Reed walked to lead off the inning. He stole second base before leadoff hitter Ethan Smith reached on an error at first base.

Smith’s contact advanced Reed to third base, and with runners at the corners, Smith stole second to put both runners in scoring position. That brought shortstop Tyler Fowler to the plate, and he drove in both runners with a no out, two-RBI single to right field.

Fowler’s hit gave Cabot White an 8-7 lead. Fowler stole second base before advancing to third on a 1-3 groundout by three-hole hitter Brandon Jones. Cleanup hitter Logan Edmondson followed Jones’ at-bat with a 5-3 groundout for the second out of the inning, but Fowler scored on the contact to put Centennial Bank up 9-7.

North Little Rock failed to score in the bottom of the fourth, but Cabot couldn’t muster any insurance runs in the top of the fifth. Chance Harger came in to pinch hit for Blaine Miller to lead off the bottom of the fifth, and he came through with a triple to deep left center. Harger scored the next at-bat, a single to the gap in left field by Tyler Tucker.

That tied the game at 8-8, and Derek Howell was hit by a pitch the following at-bat. With runners at first and second, leadoff hitter Mitchell ended the game with a stand-up triple to right field that scored both Tucker and Howell.

The game was called at that point because the one hour, 45-minute time limit had expired. In game two, Cabot fell early into a hole that proved to be too deep to climb out of.

Cabot scored one run in the top of the first, but NLR answered with four runs scored in the bottom part of the inning to lead 4-1 after one. The second inning was scoreless, but Cabot cut its deficit to one with two runs in the top of the third.

Fowler reached on a fielder’s choice before Christian Gartman walked two batters later. Fowler and Gartman advanced to second and third base on a passed ball at home plate, and both runners scored on a two-out single by Collin Thames, making it a 4-3 game.

North Little Rock, however, added a run to its side of the board in each of the third and fourth innings to push its lead to 6-3, and Cabot added its final run its last at-bat to set the final score of game two.

Smith drew a walk to lead off the inning. He got to second base on a passed ball at the plate, and scored on a single to the right-field gap by Fowler the following at-bat, which made it 6-4.

Cabot loaded the bases with two outs in the inning, but NLR pitcher Jordan Reed got a strikeout to end the game and give the Colts the evening sweep.

Both teams had eight hits in game one and four hits in game two. In game two, Cabot committed five errors in the field and gave up two walks. North Little Rock walked six Cabot batters in the second game.

Smith and Shawn Williams led Cabot at the plate in game one. They each finished 2 for 2 in that game. Fowler was the only player for either team to get multiple hits in game two. He was 2 for 2 in that game.

Cabot White (8-20) will play again today at 4 p.m. in the Zone 5 seven-team tournament at Heber Springs against Sylvan Hills.

SPORTS STORY >> Sharks dominant against Marlins

Leader sportswriter

The Sherwood Sharks swim team put together another dominant performance at its most recent swim meet last Saturday in Sherwood, as the Sharks won the two-team, 33-event meet by racking up 1,210 team points, bettering the Maumelle Marlins’ total of 407 team points.

Christopher Heye and Quanderrius Doss were the top male swimmers for the Sharks in the 15-18 year old age group. Heye and Doss each posted the top overall times in two different individual events.

Heye’s top times came in the 50-yard breaststroke and 100-yard individual medley events. He finished the breaststroke in 29.25 seconds, and was the only swimmer to finish the IM under one minute. He finished that event in 56.81 seconds. Each finishing time was good for the platinum ranks, the most prestigious time range to finish in.

Doss’ top times came in the 50-yard freestyle and 50-yard butterfly events, and both were also good for the platinum ranks. He finished the freestyle race in 23.38 seconds, and the butterfly in 25.81 seconds.

The only female Shark swimmer to post a top overall time in that age group was Rebecca Green, who won the 50-yard breaststroke event with a time of 40.53.

In the 13-14 year old age group, Sherwood’s Jordan Woodson posted top times in three different individual events to lead the boys’ division, while teammate Camryn Jenkins posted top times in four different individual events to lead the girls.

All three of Woodson’s top times were in the platinum time range. He finished the 50-yard backstroke event in 30.84 seconds, the 50-yard breaststroke in 34.12 seconds, and took first overall in the 100-yard IM with a time of 1:05.31.

Jenkins had platinum finishes in three of the four individual races she posted top times in. She finished the 50-yard freestyle event in 28.47, the 50-yard backstroke in 32.60, the 100-yard IM in 1:14.16, and her top time of 31.06 in the 50-yard butterfly race was good for a gold finish.

For the 11-12 year olds, Sherwood’s Joseph Potts posted best times in three different individual races to lead the boys’ division, and teammate Maycee Broadway had a top-time finish in the 50-yard breaststroke event with a gold time of 43.97.

Potts’ top-time events came in the 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard butterfly and 100-yard IM events, and all three were platinum finishes. He finished the freestyle in 28.35, the butterfly in 31.65 and the IM in 1:11.81.

The Sharks’ top swimmers for the 9-10 year old age group were Avery Ballany, who had best overall times in four different individual events in the girls’ division, and Dillon Wood, who had top times in three different individual events to lead the boys.

Three of Ballany’s four events earned platinum finishes, and Wood got a platinum finish in two of his three top-time events. Ballany’s platinum finishes came in the 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke and 50-yard butterfly events.

She finished the freestyle in 33.19, the backstroke in 40.45 and the butterfly in 36.81. Her top time in the 100-yard IM event, 1:25.78, was good for the gold ranks.

Wood’s platinum finishes came in the 50-yard backstroke and 50-yard breaststroke events. He won the backstroke with a time of 40.19, and the breaststroke with a time of 43.72, while his top time in the 50-yard butterfly race, 36.87, earned him a gold finish.

In the 7-8 year old age group, Shark swimmers Michael Potts and Madelynn Morrow each had top overall times in four different individual events, and all were in the platinum ranks.

Michael Potts’ top-time events in the boys’ division came in the 25-yard freestyle, 25-yard breaststroke, 25-yard butterfly and 100-yard IM races, while Morrow’s top times in the girls’ division came in the freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and IM races.

Michael Potts won the freestyle with a time of 15.16, the breaststroke with a time of 20.37, the butterfly with a time of 16.53 and the IM with a time of 1:24.64. Morrow finished the freestyle in 16.97, the backstroke in 19.82, the butterfly in 18.41 and the IM in 1:37.22.

Sophie Gaylord was the only Shark swimmer in the 6-under age group to win multiple individual events for both the boys’ and girls’ divisions. Her top times came in three different individual events – the 25-yard freestyle and breaststroke races, as well as the 100-yard IM.

She finished the freestyle race in 23.90, the breaststroke in 33.32 and the IM in 2:14.47, and all three times were in the gold ranks.

In addition to all of the success the Sharks had in the individual races, they won every race in every age group and division in the 100-yard freestyle relay event, except for the girls’ 12-under division.

SPORTS STORY >> Losing streak ends at Conway

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet Senior American Legion team finally got back in the win column on Tuesday, going on the road to beat Conway 5-1 with nine base hits and an outstanding performance on the mound by James Tucker.

Tucker gave up just three base hits in going six innings before a deluge of rain forced an early ending.

“Tucker pitched pretty good,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “We haven’t been playing very well all summer. We still made some silly errors that we shouldn’t be making, but hopefully we’re coming around. This one was a little better.”

Gwatney came into the game riding a three-game losing streak and sporting a disappointing 3-8 record. In a loss the day before to Searcy, the team showed signs that the offense was coming around, but pitching and fielding were major struggles.

“We’ve hit the ball in both games this week,” Hickingbotham said. “We chased Searcy’s best pitcher off the mound in the first inning.

“We walked everybody in the ball park on Monday, but James had a good game at Conway. I mean a good one.”

Tucker’s three hits allowed were accompanied by just three walks and six strikeouts.

It took a few innings for Jacksonville to get the offense going at Morrilton, as the home team scored one run in the bottom of the first inning then held that lead until the fourth.

Gwatney scored two runs in the fourth, with a rally that was started by a one-out double by Blake Perry. Tucker followed that with a walk and Laderrious Perry hit an infield single that loaded the bases. Deaundray Harris then walked to drive in one run. The other scored on a wild pitch.

Gwatney scored the last three in the very next inning, starting with three straight walks by Donte Harris, Ryan Mallison and Derek St. Clair. Greg Jones then singled to score Donte Harris before an error sent two more runs across the plate.

Blake Perry hit a hard grounder that got Mallison thrown out at home on the force. The Conway catcher went for the double play at first, but his throw was high and sailed into right field, allowing St. Clair and Jones to score and set the final margin.

The senior team hosted Conway on Thursday after The Leader’s early holiday deadlines. Look for details of that game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

The Gwatney junior team lost four games this week, running its losing streak to five and dropping its record to 10-12. They lost to Conway on Monday then dropped both ends of a doubleheader at home Wednesday to Morrilton. They also played Conway on Thursday, and will begin play in the Zone 5 tournament in Heber Springs on Saturday.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ slugger to Monticello

Leader sports editor

Recent Jacksonville graduate Kaleb Reeves recently signed a baseball scholarship to play for the University of Arkansas in Monticello. Reeves was the leading hitter on one of the best-hitting teams in 5A baseball this past season, and helped lead the Red Devils to the state semifinals.

Reeves, son of Vernon and Michele Blocker, had verbally committed to the University of Central Arkansas but had not signed when UAM coach John Hardin increased the scholarship money to land the former Red Devil.

“It had always been a dream of mine to play at UCA,” Reeves said. “I was pretty much set on it, but coach (Hardin) asked me what it would take to get me to change my mind. He said ‘would more money do it?’ I said it would help. So he did it. That told me that he really wanted me and thought I could step right in and contribute right away.”

Reeves has been at least a part-time starter since his sophomore year, and became a regular starter in 2013, but he didn’t dazzle with his bat in either of those years. He came out of his shell in a big way his senior season.

“Coach (Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows) told me before the season started this was going to be my year,” Reeves said. “I started practicing as hard as I could and putting in the work. I think that had a little bit to do with why the coaches had so much confidence in me, but I still didn’t think I was going to have this kind of year. I really didn’t expect it.”

Reeves finished the high-school season with a .488 batting average and an on-base percentage of .658 – both team highs. He also led the Red Devils in runs scored with 36, home runs with three and RBIs with 28. He was second on the team with nine stolen bases and eight doubles. His American Legion season has been hampered by an ankle injury suffered in an early game, and he’s missed the last three weeks, but he says he’s now ready to come back.

“I’m going to go to the next game,” Reeves said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to play.”

The former JHS right fielder and relief pitcher plans to study nursing in Monticello, but says the ultimate dream is to get a shot at professional baseball.

“That’s been my dream since I was 4 years old,” Reeves said. “That’s something I’ve been working very hard for, and I’m going to keep working at it.”

EDITORIAL >> Celebrating much more

This holiday weekend, there’s a lot to celebrate besides Independence Day.

A new jobs report Thursday shows the U.S. economy added about 288,000 jobs, lowering the unemployment rate to 6.1 percent. That’s some of the best economic news since 2008, when the economy began to decline, culminating with the collapse of the housing market and with it, the country’s financial sector.

Jobs reports are often revised as more data is collected so we are usually cautious about being too celebratory, but not this Fourth of July.

We’re optimistic that the economy is finally starting to rev up. The uptick seen in Sherwood and elsewhere indicates that a local rebound is happening, too.

Under the guidance of the aptly named Barry Sellers, the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce’s economic developer, a number of new businesses are set to open. A Harp’s grocery store on Hwy. 107, a CVS store at Kiehl Avenue and JFK Boulevard and a major call center for health-care companies are among the highlights.

Sellers lives and works in town. He routinely reports to the city council, whose members won’t tolerate poor results. He’s also focused on helping Sherwood expand liquor sales to grocery stores and restaurants in all parts of the city. That could bring in more major restaurant chains on Hwy. 107 instead of relegating them to Hwy. 67/167. Gravel Ridge could be the next restaurant row. Who would have envisioned that a decade ago?

Even smaller communities like Beebe, thanks to the new Walmart Supercenter, are seeing a flurry of business activity, and there’s even word that Lowe’s is planning a new store there. In Lonoke, a new I-40 interchange will attract businesses.

It can’t be long before Jacksonville sees its share of gains. The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has two ribbon cuttings planned this month. That may seem modest, but in the dog days of summer, it’s more than we’ve seen in the last few years.

Jacksonville’s chamber seems re-energized, too, having added some new staff members, among other things. It only needs to land a few more big companies to gain momentum. Harbor Freight in the old Kmart is a good start.

Jacksonville’s economic consultant, who lives 300 miles away in Oklahoma, still has the city council’s backing — paying him nearly $500,000 in four years — and is long overdue to bring businesses to Jacksonville. He’s made a lot more than Sellers and has little to show for it.

As they say, all politics is local. Well, so, too, is the economy.

But Jacksonville’s best hope to boost its economy is to get its own school district by breaking away from the Pulaski County Special School District. Residents can make that happen on Sept. 16 when the issue will be put to voters.

It’s a plan that, to the Jacksonville chamber’s credit, has been led by some of its most prominent members. New schools and good test scores will encourage middle class families to move here. With that comes new businesses.

As one sage in the Jacksonville business community, Harold Gwatney, pointed out in a recent interview, the city needs a new plan, and there’s no better place to start than by improving its schools.

As he put it: “I’m not trying to say this to be derogatory…but I think we’ve lost our directional control. Jacksonville hasn’t grown in the last year or two. I don’t see a lot of growth in it. If you look around, there’s not many new things happening. We have a lot of vacancies.

“The school situation has always been a problem,” Gwatney said. “We had good people on the school board, but, when it came time to do something, it seemed like that the majority of the people were on the south side of the river instead of on the north side and as a result…we didn’t get the first choice on things the Pulaski County school board had to offer.”

But the city is on the right track. Probably by 2016, Jacksonville will be in charge of its own schools and as a result, the city will reap the economic gains that come with it as can be seen in Cabot, Beebe and Lonoke. Prosperity is just around the corner.

TOP STORY >> Paradise Park opens wildlife observation trail

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department opened an $86,000 wildlife observation trail at Paradise Park on Tuesday.

The trail was built with grant money from the Game and Fish Commission oil and gas reserve. Work on the half-mile paved looping trail took two years and was finished in June. The trail is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The trail has two bridges, benches, trash cans, space for an outdoor classroom and five exhibit areas, including a sandbox to see tracks animals have made, a butterfly garden, a deer observatory, birdhouses and a water organisms display.

Jacksonville Parks and Recreation programs manager Marlo Jackson said, “It will add to the quality of life in the city.”

She said the grant’s focus was for schools to use the trail as an outdoor class.

“All the exhibit ideas came from the schools,” Jackson said.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “This will be my getaway.”

Jackson said, “Paradise Park is a hidden treasure.”

Parks and recreation maintenance and staff, the Jacksonville Rotary Club, Girl Scouts Troop 6438 and airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base’s 19th Airlift Wing maintenance squadron helped make the trail possible.

TOP STORY >> Literacy scores: Good to poor

Leader staff writer

About 30 percent of the state’s seniors-to-be can’t read or write sufficiently enough to make it through school without significant help.

Those numbers are even worse at England, North Pulaski and Jacksonville high schools. But Jacksonville High has greatly improved, according to the state’s required 11th grade literacy test, despite having five principals in the past five years.

Cabot, Searcy and Lisa Academy North scored about a dozen points higher than the state average, while Lonoke was six points better than the rest of the state and Sylvan Hills High School was equal with the state.

The state education department recently posted the results of the annual assessment, which tests students’ ability to read, write and comprehend at grade level.

More than 32,000 juniors took the test across the state and 72 percent passed with scores landing in the proficient or advanced category. That leaves almost 30 percent in the basic or below basic category.

A student scoring advanced usually needs no help and is usually reading above grade level. Proficient means the student can handle grade level work.

A score of basic means the student needs help and assistance to complete grade level work and below-basic score means the student is in need of nearly constant assistance. In other words, they can’t do grade-level work on their own.

Lisa Academy had 89 percent of its juniors score proficient or better, meaning 11 percent can’t read or write at grade level without help.

Searcy High School came in with 85 percent of its students scoring proficient or advanced, while 13 percent were basic and 2 percent scored below basic.

Both Cabot High School and Cabot’s Academic Center for Excellence had 80 percent of their juniors pass the test with scores in the proficient or advanced category. Overall, 17 percent scored basic and 3 percent were below basic.

Lonoke High School was six points better than the state average with 78 percent of its juniors scoring proficient or advanced. Just 21 percent were basic and 1 percent scored below basic.

Beebe High School came in with 73 percent of its juniors making the cut, while 23 percent scored basic and 4 percent were below basic.

In the Pulaski County Special School District, 66 percent of the students made the proficient or advanced cut.

Locally, only Sylvan Hills High School surpassed that average with 72 percent of its juniors landing in the proficient or advanced categories. Almost 25 percent were basic and 4 percent were below basic.

Jacksonville matched the district average with 66 percent of its juniors scoring proficient or better. That still left 34 percent — about one-third of its juniors — with scores showing they can’t handle grade-level work.

But, on the upside, 66 percent is a 22-point swing from the 44 percent who scored proficient or better in 2013. In 2012, it was 45 percent. In 2011, just 37 percent made the cut.

Laura Bednar, PCSSD deputy superintendent, credited teachers for “rolling up their sleeves” for the big gains.

She said JHS has implemented a strong after-school program to help at-risk students as well as using other strategies and efforts to help students. “But you can’t discount the power of a motivated high-quality teacher,” she said.

Bednar was pleased with the gains but said Jacksonville High School isn’t stopping to rest on its laurels. “There is still improvement to be made and the team effort will continue,” she said.

At North Pulaski, 62 percent scored proficient or advanced, while 31 percent were basic and 7 percent were below basic.

At England High School almost half the juniors can’t handle grade level work, according to the test results that showed 52 percent scoring proficient or better and 48 percent not making the cut.

The literacy exam consists of three parts: reading, writing and grammar.

In the reading portion, students must read fiction, non-fiction or drama passages that are two to three pages in length and then answer eight multiple choice questions about the passage.

For writing, students are given a prompt and must write either an essay, letter or short story.

A prompt from a previous literacy exam was: “Your class has decided to leave a gift for your school when you graduate. You decide to write a letter to your principal suggesting one gift and giving reasons why it would be good for your school.”

The grammar or English portion of the exam consists of eight multiple choice questions testing the student’s ability to identify proper English usage.

Here are four examples, provided by the state department, from previous literacy exams:

• Which is generally associated with a persuasive essay?

A. supporting opinions with facts

B. engaging senses with sound devices

C. relating events in chronological order

D. communicating information through narration

(The answer is A)

• Which critique would be the most constructive response to a classmate’s writing?

A. This is good. I like your topic.

B. I think this is pretty bad. You need to redo it.

C. The introduction is interesting. I do not understand the rest.

D. The word choice is great. Develop the characterization more.

(The answer is D)

• Which sentence contains a verb acting as an adjective?

A. My class is going to a play next week.

B. The coach is hoping for a winning season.

C. Your teacher is offering an extra-credit assignment.

D. Our band is performing in the all-county competition.

(The answer is B)

• Which sentence is correct?

A. Before World War Two almost 33 Percent of the population lived in the country.

B. After arriving in Atlanta; we took a ten minute bus ride to visit the Aquarium on Locust street.

C. Getting my Yorkshire terrier ready for the American Kennel Club dog show, means brushing his teeth.

D. A high school course of study generally includes English, mathematics, social studies, and a foreign language.

(The answer is D)

TOP STORY >> Jail overcrowding is still unresolved

Leader senior staff writer

Despite a one-time, $6.2 million infusion from the General Assembly in the special, pre-dawn session Wednesday to open 600-plus additional jail beds, jail and prison overcrowding is far from resolved and has many moving parts, local officials say.

“We still have over 2,400 prisoners backed up in county jails awaiting a bed,” said Ronnie Baldwin executive director of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Association. “Additional inmates are awaiting a revocation hearing.”

He said he thought the additional beds would be available in about 30 days.

The association was a prime mover in getting Gov. Mike Beebe to include the financial request in the call for the special session.

Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay said the money will pay for leasing jail space around the state and paying for jailers, food and medical care for the additional prisoners and inmates—as long as it lasts.


“When it’s spent, it’s gone,” Holladay said. “(We) will be back before the legislature with further requests,” when it reconvenes in regular session in January.

Holladay says additional beds is only part of the solution. He says the state is working on its parole revocation system. After a parolee killed a man last year, paroles ground nearly to a halt. At that time, the Pulaski County lockup was open and not severely over crowded, Holladay said. After that, the jails filled again to overflowing.

Meanwhile, the interlocal agreement under which Pulaski County’s cities chip in to help defray the costs of the Pulaski County Detention Center will expire Dec. 31 and departing County Judge Buddy Villines is trying to negotiate a new one.


Tuesday night, the Pulaski County Quorum Court will vote on an ordinance to increase charges to those cities — Jacksonville, Sherwood, Little Rock, North Little Rock and Maumelle—by 5 percent or else charge them per diem, by the prisoner.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said that’s a proposal that makes a bad deal worse, at least for Jacksonville.

“I think that Jacksonville has been paying more than it should compared to other cities,” Fletcher said. “We’re paying $64,000 more than Sherwood that has a bigger population. We need to set a new basis, we’re already paying more than our fair share.”

But if Jacksonville didn’t sign the new agreement, the daily fee per prisoner per alternative would be prohibitive. “I’d go from paying $190,000 to half-a-million dollars a year,” according to Municipal League figures, Fletcher said.

And, “What is a city prisoner? If they are arrested for breaking a state law, why would they be a city prisoner?”


“This is going to bankrupt cities,” Fletcher said. “We need to get back to basics. We can’t pay an extra $300,000.”

City officials in Pulaski County would like to make a short-term financial commitment with the county to fund the jail until something can be worked out with a new — as-of-yet unelected — county judge next year, Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said Thursday following a meeting of the city mayors.

“We’d like to work short term, then long term,” she said. “To resolve it right now is a little premature, that was the consensus.

“The judge’s proposal didn’t leave much room for negotiation.


“I do know we can’t run our own jail for what we pay the county,” she said.

Judge Buddy Villines’ proposed ordinance, cosponsored by 13 of 15 Pulaski County Quorum Court members, is on the agenda for the July meeting on Tuesday.

Holladay says Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola wants to delay any action until a new county judge takes office in January, but Holladay says it’s important for the county and the cities to know the path forward before passing their budgets.

Holladay and county lawyers are negotiating with the Correction Department to lease the 250-bed work-release center located a block away from the county lockup.

The county expects that half of those beds will be reserved for inmates locked up in its detention center, relieving its prisoner load by 125.

But Holladay said the lease will be for no longer than one year, because if the county can find funding, it would like to reopen that center for its own prisoners.

That would expand its capacity by 250 to 1,460.

He said the unit might be used for female inmates.

Currently, Holladay’s jail is closed, accepting only those charged with crimes of violence he said.


Villines has an either-or proposal for the mayors for the new interlocal agreement. Either they agree to a 5 percent increase in their share, plus an annual 3 percent cost-of-living increase, or they pay by the prisoner and day.

The jail itself costs the county $26 million a year, according to Comptroller Mike Hutchins, reduced by about $5 million after the cities, state and federal governments contribute.


Including the sheriff’s office, deputies, vehicles, gas, prosecutors and public defenders, 78 percent of the county’s $64 million budget is tied to law enforcement, jail, and the criminal justice system, he said.

The Lonoke County Jail is full beyond its intended capacity, and the state has tied up 44 beds of the 173 that were filled Thursday morning, according Sheriff John Staley.

He has one inmate who’s been in his jail for more than a year and another for nearly that long.

Violent prisoners and those with expensive medical needs are the top priority when it comes time to moving prisoners on to the state, so inmates like those two have stayed behind.

“We’ve only been able to take felons for a long time,” Staley said.

“We’re steady catching bad guys,” he said.

He called the action “a step in the right direction, but a small step.”

TOP STORY >> Homeowners in Sherwood may pay $39 for a library

Leader staff writer

If Sherwood voters approve a temporary 1.3-mill increase in November, owners of $150,000 homes could pay $39 a year to build a new $6 million library.

The city council recently voted to place the tax issue on the general election ballot rather than hold the special election requested by petitioners and the Central Arkansas Library System.

CALS director Bobby Roberts said the measure would likely stay on the November ballot, but that its placement there could make passage more difficult.

He told The Leader that the library system’s success rate was 92 percent for special elections, compared to 60 percent for issues that landed on general election ballots.

For the owners of $150,000 homes, that success would mean a $39 increase to the 50.8-mill property tax residents are already paying. The current millage rate is the second lowest in Pulaski County.

The homeowners’ money would be used to pay back bonds sold to construct and equip a new branch that would replace the Amy Sanders Library on Shelby Road.

The millage rate is not based on the appraised or fair market value of a home, but on its assessed value.
According to Joe Thompson, the county’s chief assessment administrator, the state legislature — decades ago — set the assessed value at 20 percent of what a residence is worth.

So a home worth $150,000 has an assessed value of $30,000. All property taxes are based on that $30,000.

An increase of 1.3 mills would equate to $13 for every $10,000 in the assessed value of a home — or $39 a year for a $150,000 home.

Roberts added that the proposed millage increase is temporary. It will expire when $6 million in bonds is paid off, he said.

Petitioners capped the selling of bonds at that amount, the director explained.

He said the city could decide to issue 20-year, 10-year or 5-year bonds. Roberts expects that, considering the growth of Sherwood’s tax base, a 20-year bond could be paid off in less than 12 years.

Because the election is now set for November, if it passes, collections cannot start until January 2016. The collections as well as construction will be delayed by about a year, Mayor Virginia Hillman said previously.

On Wednesday, she said the November date would “make it a little more challenging, but I think there’s a lot of good support for it.”

Alderman Tim McMinn explained the date change at the June 23 council meeting. He said, “We all agree we need a new library, plus that would also allow the police department to use the old library building, but a special election as requested by the library system doesn’t turn out a large number of voters. This is an election on a tax. We should want a larger turnout than 1,500 to 2,000 voters making the decision for 30,000.”

Roberts said the library system has held 13 special elections and had issues on five general elections since he has been employed there. Sherwood petitioners requested that a special election be held in August.

CALS won 12 of the 13 special elections, Roberts said.

Three of the five issues on the general election ballots were passed, he noted.

Roberts said that means a special election measure has a better shot at being approved by voters. On a more positive note, the director added, CALS has never lost on a bond issue to build a library.

But mayoral candidate Don Berry doesn’t agree that a special election would have given the issue a better chance of being passed.

He said the last time Sherwood voters passed a special election on a library issue was in 1993.

Since then, while Little Rock passed six special-election library votes, Sherwood and other Pulaski County voters voted down an operational increase in 2001, Berry told The Leader.

Just the 2005 Jacksonville special election and a Perry County special election last year have passed, Berry pointed out.

He continued, “With the additional time before the general election, there is ample time for proponents to market the proposed library, highlighting features and its advantages over the current and other area libraries in the Central Arkansas system.”

Roberts said he has recommended that the CALS’ board of directors look at filing a lawsuit over the council setting the date.

But the director noted that there is no case law on setting an election date and language in the law concerning who can do so is very vague.

Even though the council has the backing of the state Attorney General’s office, Roberts argued that whether the aldermen could set the date was a “close call.”

Berry said he attended the most recent CALS board meeting. He told the members that pursuing a lawsuit would not accomplish their goal of building a new library.

“Regardless of the outcome of a lawsuit, win or lose, neither result in a library as a direct outcome so, therefore, must simply be a benefit to CALS, not Sherwood’s library proponents specifically or voters in general,” Berry explained.

Roberts argued that there is also a cost component associated with the election date.

With the proposal being on the November ballot, Roberts explained, “We need a lot of money to communicate with more voters because you’ve got more people. So it takes more money to run the campaign. It goes from $8,000 or $10,000 to about $30,000.”

That money is generated by contributions and does not come out of CALS’ budget, Roberts said. He doubted that $30,000 could be raised for the small local campaign in Sherwood.

And CALS would have paid the $10,000 to $15,000 cost of holding a special election, he said previously.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Searcy wins in extra frame

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Senior American Legion team still hasn’t found the magic that made it one of the top high-school teams in the state. The legion team’s woes continued Monday when it blew leads of 5-1 and 8-4 to fall 9-8 in extra innings to Searcy at Dupree Park.

Searcy had to do very little to create runs. Jacksonville pitching walked or hit 12 batters and its defense committed seven errors for a total of 18 Searcy base runners without a base hit. The Silverbacks, who played as the home team because the game was supposed to be in Searcy, added eight base hits, but failed to get many timely hits to create its own runs.

Jacksonville left a lot of runs on the base paths as well. One good thing to come out of the game for the Chevy Boys is that they finally hit the ball consistently. Jacksonville got 13 base hits, walked six times and reached on three Searcy errors.

In an overall poorly played game that lasted three hours and 20 minutes, Searcy won it on two outfield errors in the bottom of the eighth. Zach Anderson hit a very routine fly ball to left field that landed in D.J. Scott’s glove and bounced out.

After a sacrifice bunt that moved the runner into scoring position, Tyler Montgomery over-ran a fly ball to right field, going too far to his right and then slipping when he tried to stop and go back to his left to make the catch, allowing Anderson to score from second base.

Jacksonville starting pitcher Derek St. Clair struggled tremendously with control throughout his four innings plus three on the mound.

He started by hitting three of the first four batters, with a strikeout in between. After a second strikeout, St. Clair threw a wild pitch that allowed Searcy leadoff hitter Mickey Ivey to score. St. Clair went on to walk the sixth batter to load the bases again, but got out of the jam with a groundout to second base.

Jacksonville still held a 3-1 lead after St. Clair’s early struggles. Courtland McDonald and Ryan Mallison opened the top of the first inning with back-to-back singles. They moved up a base on an error at shortstop that left Blake Perry safe at first and the bases loaded.

McDonald then scored on an errant pickoff throw to first. Mallison scored on a hit by St. Clair and Perry trotted in on an error at second base off the bat of James Tucker.

The Chevy Boys added a run in the top of the second when Laderrious Perry led off with a double to the wall in straightaway center field. Scott followed with a bunt single when he beat the throw to first base. The throw was also wide, allowing Laderrious Perry to score.

They went up 5-1 in the top of the third on a leadoff base hit by St. Clair and an RBI single by McDonald. It was in the bottom of the fourth inning that Jacksonville’s defensive woes began to play their part in the loss. All seven Gwatney errors came in the last five innings.

Anderson reached on an error by Mallison at second base to start a three-run fourth for Searcy. St. Clair fanned the next two batters with Anderson still at first.

Nine-hole hitter Luke Gillihan then got Searcy’s first base hit and Ivey walked to load the bases. Jordan Jones then hit a single to shallow right field to drive in one run, and Laderrious Perry misplayed the hop to allow a second run to score. A third hit of the inning drove in the third run and cut Jacksonville’s lead to 5-4.

The Chevy Boys went up by four again with three runs in the top of the sixth, but gave up four in the bottom half to tie the game. Mallison started the top half with a walk, followed by base hits by Greg Jones and Blake Perry.

St. Clair executed a squeeze bunt to score Mallison and James Tucker drove in Jones with a base hit to right field. Troy Allen walked to load the bases and Laderrious Perry beat out a slow grounder down the third baseline to score another run.

In the bottom of the inning, St. Clair gave up a single to Ivey then hit Jones. After a fly ball behind second base was missed by Blake Perry. Though the runners weren’t trying to advance, McDonald scooped up the loose ball and fired to third, but his throw sailed over the fence and grandstand seating of Hickingbotham Field.

That was all for St. Clair, who left the bases loaded for Tucker. Tucker also suffered a rough start. His first pitch was hit to the wall for a two-RBI double. His next eight walked two batters and loaded the bases again, still with no outs. Austin Calhoun flew out to center field and the runners tagged.

One run scored, but McDonald’s throw to third was on target this time, hitting Blake Perry’s glove in the base path and completing the 8-5 double play. After another walk, Tucker got a fly out to right field to keep the score at 8-8.

Mallison and Jones walked to leadoff the top of the seventh, but Mallison was caught stealing and two outs followed. Laderrious Perry got his second base hit with two outs in the top of the eighth, but was hurt diving back to first base on a pickoff throw.

That led to Montgomery taking his place in right field in the bottom half of the inning, a position unfamiliar for the North Pulaski sophomore and Gwatney Junior player.

SPORTS STORY >> Silverback rally gives Gwatney tough loss

Leader sports editor

The Searcy Silverbacks spotted the Gwatney Chevrolet Junior American Legion team four runs in the top of the first inning on Monday, but the Chevy Boys couldn’t hold on for the win. In a game at Dupree Park in which Searcy played as the home team, Gwatney’s juniors gave up five runs on Searcy’s last at-bat to fall 8-7.

The Silverbacks scored the five runs that erased a 7-3 deficit on just three hits, that went along with two errors, one walk and one hit batter.

As bad as that inning was for Jacksonville, Searcy’s opening inning was worse. The home team on the scoreboard gave up four runs in the first inning on no hits at all.

Jacksonville’s A.J. Jackson started the game with a grounder to shortstop that was misplayed. Brandon Hickingbotham and Colton Goodman followed with walks to load the bases. After Tyler Montgomery struck out, Caleb McMunn was hit by a pitch to drive in one run.

Javon Wakefield then also struck out before Tyson Flowers hit a fly ball to left field that was missed. That allowed two more runs to score, and McMunn scored on a wild pitch to give Jacksonville a quick 4-0 lead.

Searcy got one back in the bottom of the first on two walks and a base hit, then pulled to within one run in the bottom of the second, again off two walks and one base hit.

Jacksonville got its first base hit to start the third inning when Goodman singled to right-center field. The Chevy Boys scored three runs in the frame, but it could have been much more if not for the first of two base running blunders that ultimately cost them the game.

The three runs came despite getting six of their first seven batters on base safely. After Goodman’s base hit, Montgomery sacrificed to third base to advance Coleman into scoring position. McMunn walked and that was followed by an RBI single to center field by Wakefield.

Flowers then drove in a run with a hit to right field that left runners on corner. Wesley Williams then hit a grounder to shortstop where Aaron Decker tried to get the out at second, but Flowers beat the throw, leaving everyone safe and the bases loaded. Caleb Smith bunted down the third baseline to score Wakefield, and was left safe when the ball wasn’t fielded cleanly.

With the bases still loaded and only one out, Jackson struck out, and Smith got picked off at first base on the same pitch to end the inning.

Searcy’s big inning came in the bottom of the third and gave the Silverbacks their first lead, but Jacksonville was back in business in the fourth with the time limit approaching. With a runner in scoring position and one out, a fly ball to left field turned into a 7-4 double play to end the threat.

The game was called on the hour and 50-minute time limit on Searcy’s second at-bat of the bottom of the fourth.

SPORTS STORY >> Benton hits two homers late for win over Cabot

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Senior American Legion team led Benton through the first four innings of their game Monday at Cabot City Park, but the visitors racked up four runs off two home runs in the top of the fifth, and managed to escape Lonoke County with a narrow 4-3 win.

Cabot scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first. Centennial Bank shortstop Conner Vocque walked to lead off the inning.

He reached second base on a groundout by Ryan Logan, and scored two batters later on a hard-hit ground ball to shortstop by Coleman McAtee.

The ground ball by McAtee took a bad hop and got by Benton shortstop Jack James, which allowed Vocque to cross home plate with ease. The score remained 1-0 till the fifth inning, and all four of Benton’s runs scored in that inning came with two outs.

James singled to the right-field gap to start the two-out rally, and three-hole hitter Tyler Lewis followed with a two-run home run over the left-field fence, which gave the visiting McClendon’s Appliances team its first lead of the night at 2-1.

Cleanup hitter Clay Holicer singled to left field the next at-bat to keep the rally going, and Cole Southerland set Benton’s run total for the evening with a towering two-run shot to right center, putting the visitors up 4-1.

Cabot did, however, respond with two runs in the bottom part of the inning to cut its deficit to one run. Vocque walked to lead things off, and two batters later, three-hole hitter Riley Knudsen singled up the middle of the diamond to put Vocque in scoring position at second base.

McAtee then came to the plate and hit a slow roller to the pitcher’s mound. As McAtee hustled to first base, the throw to first had to be rushed by starting pitcher Zac Smiley, and was way off the mark as a result.

The errant throw allowed Vocque to score with ease, which cut Benton’s lead to 4-2. Catcher Tristan Bulice walked after McAtee’s at-bat, and Knudsen scored on a sacrifice groundout to first base by Kason Kimbrell. Cabot had its best chance to score again in the bottom of the sixth.

With runners at second and third base with one out, Dylan Bowers came in to pinch hit for Knudsen, and Bowers put the ball in play.

Bowers hit a ground ball to shortstop, but Benton’s James threw home instead of to first base, and the McClendon’s Appliances team got the 6-2 fielder’s choice to preserve the lead.

McAtee then came to the plate with runners still in scoring position, and he hit a high fly ball to deep left field, but Lewis made an over-the-shoulder catch to end the inning.

Zach Patterson got on for Cabot in the bottom of the seventh with a hard-hit single to right field, but Benton reliever Wesley Ramsey struck out the next batter he faced to end the game.

Benton outhit Cabot 10-5, but Cabot left 11 runners stranded in the seven innings played. Benton only left six runners stranded for the game.

Smiley got the win on the mound for Benton. He threw four and two-thirds innings, gave up just one earned run on four hits and finished with five strikeouts. He did, however, walk seven Cabot batters. Ramsey earned the save.

Five different Benton players had two hits Monday. James, Lewis, Holicer, Southerland and Ramsey each had two hits. Patterson was the only Cabot player with multiple hits. He was 2 for 3 with two singles, while teammates Kimbrell, Bulice and Knudsen had one hit apiece.

The Cabot Senior team (10-8) played at Jonesboro and Nettleton last night after deadlines, and won’t play again until next Thursday against Little Rock. Next Thursday’s game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and will be played at the Cabot High School Field.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Bank’s Jr. White tops Sylvan Hills

Leader sportswriter

After a rough start to the summer season, the Cabot White Junior American Legion team has been on a bit of a hot streak as of late and continued that streak Monday, as the Centennial Bank boys hammered visiting Sylvan Hills en route to a 13-1 mercy-rule win at the Cabot City Park.

The Cabot White team lost 10 of its first 11 games to begin the season, but with Monday’s dominant win over the Bruins, the Centennial Bank squad has now won six of its past eight games to improve its overall record to 8-18.

“We kind of went through a rough patch there at the beginning of the season, but we’re on a streak,” said Cabot White coach Joe Bryant. “So we’re getting hot at the right time. We’ve got Zone coming up on Saturday, and I think we can get hot in that tournament.

“We’re playing good ball right now. Our pitching is coming around. Our sticks are looking a lot better. It was a rough time at the beginning of the season, but it’s paying off right now.

“We lost several close games at the beginning of the season, and we lost some blowouts, but we’re learning from it. Obviously, winning six of the last eight, it’s helped.”

Over the first three innings Monday, Cabot scored the game’s first eight runs to lead 8-0 after three. Sylvan Hills scored its lone run of the game in the top of the fourth to cut its deficit to seven, but Centennial Bank added its final five runs in the bottom part of the inning to set the final score.

Brandon Jones reached base on a fielder’s choice for Cabot in the bottom of the first. He then advanced to third base after cleanup hitter Logan Edmondson reached safely on an error at third base.

Dalton Hurst then came to the plate and also reached on a Sylvan Hills error, this one at first base, which allowed Jones to score and gave Cabot a 1-0 lead. With runners at the corners, Hurst stole second base and Edmondson scored on the throw to second, which put the host team up 2-0.

Cabot scored its final run of the inning on a stand-up double to right field the following at-bat, which allowed Hurst to score and put Cabot on top 3-0. All three runs scored in the inning came with two outs.

Like the first inning, all of Cabot’s runs in the second and third innings came with two outs.

Leadoff hitter Ethan Smith doubled to right center to start the two-out rally in the bottom of the second, and he scored the next at-bat on a ground-rule double to right center by Tyler Fowler.

Fowler advanced to third base on a wild pitch shortly after, and he scored on an infield single by Jones, which made it a 5-0 game. Cabot took an 8-0 lead with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the third.

With two outs, Cabot got two on thanks to a pair of errors by the Bruin middle infielders, and loaded the bases after Christian Gartman was plunked by a pitch. That brought Smith back to the top of the order, and he hit a bases-clearing triple to deep right field that gave Cabot its 8-0 cushion.

Sylvan Hills’ lone run of the game also came with two outs. Bruins’ cleanup hitter Ray Young got things going for Sylvan Hills with a single to the gap in right field.

Garrett Davis singled the next at-bat, and Jason Davis followed with an RBI single to left field, which cut the Bruins’ deficit to 8-1.

Cabot, though, answered with its five runs scored in the bottom part of the inning to set the final score. After Sylvan Hills’ scoreless at-bat in the top of the fifth, the game was called because of the 10-run lead after five innings sportsmanship rule.

Fowler, Cabot White’s ace pitcher, got the win on the hill. He threw all five innings, and gave up two walks and three hits while striking out seven Bruin batters.

Cabot outhit Sylvan Hills 10-3. Smith led the way offensively for Cabot, going 3 for 4 with three RBIs and a run scored. He was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.

For Sylvan Hills, Young, Garrett Davis and Jason Davis each singled to round out the Bruins’ hit total.

Sylvan Hills and Cabot White will play in the Zone 5 Tournament that begins Saturday at Heber Springs.

SPORTS STORY >> Four featured All-Stars

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY – Four local athletes took part in the annual Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star football game Friday at Estes Stadium, where the West team got a touchdown and safety in the second half to beat the East team 23-14.

All four local athletes played for the East team, and all four got plenty of playing time in what was their final high school football game. Heath and Keith Pledger of Cabot played on the offensive line, as did Beebe’s Race Payne, and Carlisle’s Bo Weddle played running back. All four will continue their football careers at the collegiate level starting in the fall.

Even though the game was competitive, it looked as if the West team might run away with it early. The West team marched down the field on their second offensive drive to score first and take a 7-0 lead, and the West scored again with 1:15 left in the first quarter to lead 14-0.

However, the East squad found the end zone twice in the second quarter and kept the West team off the board in that time to go into halftime with the score knotted up at 14-14.

The West, though, as it did in the first quarter, proved to be the better team in the second half. The West took the lead for good with a touchdown exactly four minutes into the third quarter to lead 21-14, and a safety on the East soon after gave the West its nine-point cushion and ended up setting the final score in the process.

Payne started the All-Star game at right tackle for the East team, a spot he’s comfortable in considering he was a three-year starter at the position on the Beebe Badgers’offensive line.

“It’s good to be around so much talent,” said Payne of the All-Star experience. “There’s nobody out here that thinks they’re the best or anything, we all work together. A lot of these guys I’ll be playing with next year.”

Payne will play football at the University of Arkansas-Monticello this fall, and even though his high school playing days are now over, he said it was an honor to be able to represent Beebe High School one last time.

“It’s not even just playing the game,” Payne said. “It’s the honor. I’m honored to be able to represent my school one last time before I go.”

Heath and Keith Pledger saw the bulk of their playing time in the second quarter, but played in each quarter whether it was on the offensive line or on special teams. Heath Pledger spent most of his playing time Friday at right guard.

“It’s been fun,” Heath Pledger said of the All-Star experience, which has become a week-long event with the team practices on the UCA campus at the beginning of the week and everything else in between leading up to the game on Friday night.

“I promise you, those first couple of nights it’s dirty. It’s a lot of trash-talking, but on Friday, we were forced to come together and finally did.”

Heath Pledger said of his final high school football game that he wanted to leave everything on the field before he and his brother Keith move on to play at Harding University this fall.

“After that Bentonville game (the 7A state championship game last December),” Heath Pledger said; “everything I had left after that game I wanted to put it into this one. Since it’s my last chance to play in high school, I definitely wanted to give everything I had left.”

Heath and Keith Pledger are both expected to play at guard for Harding this fall. Keith Pledger played tight end throughout his playing days at Cabot, but on Friday, he spent the majority of his playing time at left tackle.

“It’s been different,” said Keith Pledger of the All-Star experience. “You’re not out here playing with your brothers like you’re used to. You’ve got to kind of make new friends and work together. Playing tackle’s a big switch for me. I’ve never really played it before in my life.

“It’s been fun. It’s serious, but this game here is just for fun. Playing with these new guys who have to come together in a week – it’s putting the best with the best.”

The Pledgers did a lot of blocking for their future teammate at Harding on Friday. Like the Pledgers, Weddle saw the bulk of his playing time in the second quarter Friday, but like those two, as well as Payne, he got a lot of reps throughout the second half as well.

“I’ve known a lot of these guys just from being in camps with them and stuff,” said Weddle. “Heath and Keith, this is our first game together because all three of us are going to Harding next year and we’ll be teammates for five years there.

“We all had a great time this week. The coaches made sure we enjoy it. It hasn’t been just real serious the entire week, but we still work. This game’s been a lot of fun to take part in. There are a lot of good players from around the state here. It’s really a blessing to be able to compete with these guys.”

EDITORIAL >> Legislature goes home

The little special session of the Arkansas legislature that was called Monday to address three “emergencies” should have ended in the wee hours this morning, all its goals accomplished, but no one, surely, will call it a monument to vision and leadership by either the legislature or Governor Beebe.

It is usual for lawmakers to pat themselves on the back at the end of these sessions and for the governor to laud them for fulfilling their historic duty. But the three crises the legislators addressed were the products of their own past folly. And when the legislators return in January for regular business, all three crises will pop up again, perhaps even more urgently, owing to what they did this week.

Let’s take them up in the rank order of their urgency.

School employees health insurance: Because premiums had risen so much in recent years that younger and healthier teachers and school workers were stopping their participation, premiums for the rest were shooting upward. They faced a 35 percent hike this fall, steepening the death spiral for the whole program.

So a task force came up with a plan to “save” it. Lop off even more school employees—part-time workers and spouses who conceivably could get covered by their own employer plans—and take $4.6 million from struggling school districts and give it to the health- insurance plans for school and regular state employees. There also were smaller fixes: limiting coverage for weight-reduction surgery, requiring verification of each dependent’s eligibility and requiring employees in cheap high-deductible plans to have health-savings accounts.

So the legislature is addressing the problem of declining insurance coverage by removing even more people from the insurance rolls—those most desperate for coverage. But don’t worry about those people, the authors of the plan said, because many of them may get covered by Obamacare—the so-called “private option” to Medicaid that was developed last year by the Arkansas legislature. Wait! Aren’t these same legislators vowing to end Obamacare coverage of Arkansas’ poor next spring? Well, yes, but that’s nine months away. No need to worry about that now. You can’t help everyone.

The problem all along was that the state treats teachers and other school workers as second-class public employees. It doesn’t fund their insurance at even near the same rate that it does regular “state” employees— like legislators. If it did, there would be no crisis.

No, the concern is not that school employees are losing their health insurance but that actually protecting them might jeopardize the tax cuts for high-income folks and corporations enacted by the legislature the past three years and the further tax cuts planned by Republican lawmakers and their gubernatorial candidate next year. Anyway, everyone knows that people are fed up with subsidizing perks like health and retirement insurance for public employees. And if you make a fair contribution to school health insurance, then you can’t build enough new prisons to take care of needs or further reduce the income taxes of the job creators.

Prison crowding: The state is taking $6.3 million of surplus from a fund that services a variety of state agencies and giving it to the Department of Correction to open a new unit that sits idle, which will allow the penitentiary to absorb 354 more prisoners who are waiting in county jails now overflowing with state prisoners. In Pulaski and elsewhere, the backup is so bad they are instantly freeing all but those arrested for serious violent crimes. Yesterday, county jails were holding 2,486 convicts because the state penitentiaries had no place for them.

When the legislature reconvenes this winter, it will have to deal with the bigger issue again, as it has failed to do with some regularity. To house the rapidly growing number of convicts the state needs to spend hundreds of millions on new prisons and employees. But you can’t do that and also pay for a constitutional public education while also cutting the taxes of the well to do and corporations. One or the other has to give. It’s the former.

This started in 1977, when a cry about the need to get tough on crime produced the first of a long string of laws lengthening and stacking prison sentences for repeat offenders and marijuana and drug-law violators.

Back in 1977, Arkansas housed roughly 2,500 prisoners and spent $6 million a year controlling them. After serial episodes of getting tough on crime, at intervals of about every five years, the state inmate population now stands at 16,450 (that doesn’t include the 2,486 warehoused in county jails) and the annual cost to taxpayers, including supervising parolees, has soared from $6 million a year to $500 million a year. Arkansas’ population has risen by a mere 35 percent.

You see the problem. What the legislature did this week was quiet local law-enforcement officials and the courts for a few weeks. They can empty a few jail cells and get a few criminals off the streets. The dithering will resume in January.

Video gambling: With lottery sales slipping every year, as history predicted they would, the state Lottery Commission wants to start video gambling, which can grab addicts like nothing else. “Oh, no, we can’t let them prey on the poor like that,” a handful of lawmakers said. “We’ve got to pass a law to prevent it.”

Video wagering is, indeed, a terrible thing, just as government-sponsored gambling is in even its most innocent state. But this movement isn’t really about saving the poor from their weaknesses but protecting the Oaklawn Jockey Club, Arkansas’ biggest gambling operation, from the competition of the lottery. The legislature gave Oaklawn the authority to engage in video wagering a while back and its monopoly must be protected.

So, demonstrating the same courage it showed with the insurance and prison crises, the legislature called for a punt. Stall the lottery’s online wagering until next March and maybe Providence will intervene with a solution.

Leadership, 2014 model.

TOP STORY >> Detective arrested in breach

Leader senior staff writer

A well-liked and respected Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office investigator and his wife, also a department employee, have been fired by Sheriff John Staley, arrested by the State Police and charged with one count each of improper procedures concerning an investigation for allegedly getting and releasing information from the Arkansas Crime Information Center, according to Lt. James Kulesa, a coworker and spokesman for the department.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham confirmed that Steve and Misty Morgan each face one Class D felony for using the ACIC to look up information about a case involving a family member. Neither the sheriff nor Graham would say who the case involved.

Neither Staley nor Kulesa could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Graham said that after Staley and Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis told him of the alleged breach, they asked the State Police to investigate.

The Morgans were placed on leave in early May. Misty Morgan worked as a receptionist. Graham said they had their first court appearances and are no longer in custody.

He said the alleged crime is punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of as much as $10,000.

TOP STORY >> Countdown to July 4th

Compiled by Leader staff

Fireworks stands in Pulaski County are only allowed to open about a week before July 4th, and this year the seasonal stands have been hampered by wet weather.

At a fireworks tent on Hwy. 89 West in Cabot, salesman Parrish Gustus was waiting for business to pick up.

“We had too much rain. This parking lot was muddy. As long as we don’t get any more rain, we’ll be alright,” Gustus said.

More than two inches of rain has hit the area in the past week alone, with more to come.

At the nearby Black Market fireworks tent, Jerry Olmstead said he was puzzled at the sales this year. He thinks people are worried about the weather.

Gustus agreed, but said, “If the weather holds out, then business will pick up.”

But more rain is in the forecast through today, before turning sunny and warm with temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s through the weekend.

So what is selling between the rain and thunderstorms?

Gustus said the Texas Outlaw and Hogwild brand fireworks were the biggest sellers at his tent.

Olmstead said the artillery shells were the big sellers at his stand because they go up the highest and have the biggest display.

“The kids like firecrackers, bottle rockets and Sliders,” Olmstead added.

Lauren Goode, saleswoman for Crazy Mike’s fireworks on Hwy. 5 said many people purchase The Exterminator canister shells.

“Neon sparklers are good sellers because they are awesome,” Goode said.

Victory swords are another popular selection. They are fountains in a sword-shaped package. She said they keep their shape so kids can engage in swordplay after the fireworks are set off and the packages have cooled.

Shannon Hightower with Cowboy Bubba’s fireworks on South Rockwood Road said, from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, they are giving away free hot dogs and sodas.

The tent is also having a free drawing on July 4 for The Godfather fireworks pack, an $800 value.

He said their best sellers are Maxed-Out, Diablo, Hang ‘Em High, Black Knight and Third Generation shells.

Hightower said the best fountain displays are the Wildflower. It is 10 to 15-feet tall and lasts a couple of minutes.

Ann Watts at a fireworks stand at Loop and Graham, near the Jacksonville city limits, said, “We’ve been doing pretty good. They’ve (customers) been steady.” The stand had already sold a couple hundred dollars in product by 2 p.m. Monday.

“A lady came in the first day and spent about $80 on sparklers for her wedding,” Watts said. Two of the most popular items purchased this year are the artificial satellite – which spins into the air, emitting sparks — and dancing butterflies, which emit colored sparks.

All area cities have regulations on firework use from complete bans to restricted times and locations.

Sherwood and Cabot have complete bans on fireworks.

Jacksonville also bans fireworks unless individuals ask for and receive a permit from the city. More than 50 permits have been issued.

Ward bans fireworks use except at the ballpark after the city show on the Fourth.

Austin allows fireworks use July 3 until 10 p.m. and July 4 until 11 p.m.

Beebe allows fireworks from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., July 3 and from 7 a.m. July 4 to 12:30 a.m., July 5.

In Lonoke, fireworks may be used July 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and July 4 from 10 a.m. to midnight.

Fourth of July events in the area include:

Sherwood’s 15th annual Fourth of July celebration will run from 6 until 9 p.m. at Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave.

The event promises “an evening of family, food and fun” with free hot dogs, live entertainment and fireworks. There will also be free shuttle service from Sylvan Hills High School.

Jacksonville will celebrate the Fourth of July with a fireworks show and other activities at their first ever “Big Bang on the Range” at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Sports Shooting Complex.

The fireworks show will start at about 9:30 p.m. The parks department will be giving tours of the sports facility starting at 6:30 p.m., but there will be no public shooting.

Admission and parking will be free, and individuals can bring in lawn chairs and blankets for lawn seating. Concessions will be sold. Call 501-982-4171 for more information.

Beebe will host its annual Fourth of July celebration starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Beebe city ballpark. The event is free.

SoulSations, a Motown-style 10-piece brass band from Memphis, will take the stage at 6 p.m.

Eleven vendors will sell food, drinks and ice cream. Two water slides will be set up. A fireworks show by the Beebe Fire Department will start after dark.

To help with traffic, free shuttle services to the ballpark will be available from ASU-Beebe behind the Owen Center.

Cabot’s Fourth of July celebration will be held from 6 until 10 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. Fireworks start at 9 p.m.

Ward will start its Fourth of July event at 4:30 p.m. at the ballpark on Peyton Street, behind the fire station.

There will be entertainment, food, a car and bike show, a tractor pull and fireworks starting at 9:15 p.m.

Vendor booths are available by calling 501-843-7686.

Floyd’s Fourth of July celebration will be held at the community park from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Festivities will kick off the parade at 10 a.m. and will conclude with a fireworks show at dark.

There will be games, drawings, contests and a concession stand all day. The line up for the parade starts at 9 a.m., and horses will need a Coggins test.

TOP STORY >> Session finds funds

Leader senior staff writer

At 12:01 a.m., while most of us slept, lawmakers expected to reconvene, appropriate $6.2 million to help ease prison and jail overcrowding, to reduce the number of school employees eligible for paid health insurance at the expense of school bus drivers, other part-timers, and to prohibit put a temporary hold on state Lottery Commission plans to branch out into electronic monitor gambling.


The House and the Senate easily passed identical versions of those laws earlier in the session and lawmakers in both houses said they expected this special session would conclude quickly and smoothly over night.

“We’re going back at 12:01 a.m. to pass all the House bills,” Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) said Tuesday, “and they’ll pass all the Senate bills. Then we’ll go home.”

Because the House is in temporary quarters in the Old State House, they will have to vote by roll call, so that will take a little longer, she said. But, “the bills are agreed upon ahead of time,” she said.


Lawmakers were expected to transfer $6.2 million to the state Correction Department budget to open 604 additional beds around the state to help alleviate overcrowding in county jails caused, at least in part, by the 2,700 state inmates being held there.

Of particular importance to Pulaski County, the plan calls for the Corrections Department to take over the currently vacant 250-bed work-release center on the County Detention Center grounds at Little Rock. State correction officers will staff it at state expense.

That would open Pulaski County beds for prisoners from the county, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Jacksonville, Sherwood and Maumelle, according to Lt. Carl Minden, spokesman for the Pulaski County Detention Center.


The other 350 beds would be opened around the state.

For the second time in about two months, Pulaski County has closed its jail to all but violent offenders, Minden said, because it was overcrowded.

That closing was based on a morning headcount of 1,281, so the Pulaski County Regional Detention Center stopped accepting all but violent criminals at noon Tuesday.

The state took 20 prisoners from the county overnight, reducing the Pulaski County jail census to 1,261. It’s still expected to refill quickly, especially with a long Fourth of July weekend looming, Minden said.

The jail is funded and staffed for 1,210, Minden said.


Holladay, Lonoke Sheriff John Staley and White County Sheriff Ricky Shourd have joined others in the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association in calling for more money to open or construct new beds.

Holladay would like to open two more pods at the jail, each capable of housing 80 inmates, but that would cost $2 million a year and the money would have to come from the County and the Pulaski County cities for which it houses inmates, Minden explained.

The intralocal agreement that sets out the financial obligations of each of those towns and cities for the regional jail expires Dec. 31, and many, including Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, say the system isn’t fair and needs to be renegotiated.


“Eventually, we’re going to have to combine all the public funded health-care plans into one risk pool,” said state Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood). “That would include all state employees.”

He said he had been trying to make that change since he first arrived in the House six years ago. “There would be winners and losers, but just one plan,” Nickels said.

Of the Lottery Commission’s desire to add electronic monitor lottery games, Nickels said, “We’ve just kicked it down the road until March 2015. It’s Oaklawn and Southland racetracks against the lottery interests,” Nickels said, the kind of showdown Oaklawn usually wins.