Saturday, August 30, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> The earliest observations of the season

Leader sports editor

The first weekend of the football season is here, but there are already a lot of interesting headlines and conversation pieces from high school to the pros.

High school scrimmage games have created a buzz and a Thursday night of SEC football on TV revealed a lot. The NFL handed out suspensions and announced set penalties for other things.

This being a regional newspaper, it’s prudent to begin with the local topics. The Sylvan Hills Bears look like they’re going to be hard to stop. The offensive numbers they put up in one quarter of play in their scrimmage at Robinson were incredible.

It started with a 70-yard run on the first play by quarterback Tra Doss. He ended up rushing for 94 yards and a score on three carries, and completing 6 of 7 pass attempts for 130 yards and a touchdown in the quarter. The Bears totaled 339 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Now the bad. They scored only once in the next quarter against Greenbrier and totaled 96 yards. That’s not a bad total for a quarter, but the reason why is troubling. The Bears simply looked tired. They were much slower in the second quarter than in the first.

Some have said that conditioning is lacking and it could be a team weakness. But consider this. It was hot. Greenbrier had not played yet and the Bears didn’t seem to stop running the length of the field against Robinson until the quarter was over.

Greenbrier won the quarter 14-7, but consider this. After getting blown out in their first quarter, the Senators beat Greenbrier 14-7, and didn’t allow a score until a big last play. Robinson had rested while Greenbrier battled Sylvan Hills, and they came back out and looked like a different team.

Even if Sylvan Hills is not in top shape right now, it shouldn’t be a problem later in the season. The Bears will get in better shape and real games won’t be played when the temperature is in the upper 90s.


Beebe’s offense looked almost as good, at least when it wasn’t fumbling. Neither Harding Academy nor CAC could stop the Badgers, but the Badgers did stop themselves. Again, the heat may have had something to do with that, and this was the first live contact in almost a year. The Badgers will get better at holding onto the ball.


Gus Malzahn has decided to be coy about when quarterback Nick Marshall will play. Leave it to the sleaziest coach in college football (and that’s really saying something. The college football head coaching profession has reached lawyer status in regards to disregarding all ethical behavior) to use what’s supposed to be a punishment as a strategy. Most people don’t have a problem with it, but those people are wrong. It really is, in comparison, one of the more innocuously sleazy things Malzahn has done, but sleazy is never excusable just because it’s not quite as sleazy as usual.


There were three SEC teams televised nationally in two games on Thursday. So what did we learn from them? First, we learned what we should have known all along, that Kevin Sumlin makes Texas A and M’s offense go, not Johnny Manziel. Everywhere he’s been and whoever his quarterback was, Sumlin’s offenses have been machine-like.

Many Arkansas fans had Texas A and M’s obvious regression without Manziel as the main reason for counting the Aggies as one of Arkansas’ potential wins. Some of those fans are still trying to assuage the fear Thursday’s rout of South Carolina inevitably instills in their hearts by saying that South Carolina just has no defense. But South Carolina was supposed to be a national championship contender this year. There are still some picking it to win the SEC East.

What Thursday’s game on the east coast proved is that Texas A and M is better than last year. The offense is just as good, and the defense is vastly improved. That porous defense is the secondary reason Arkansas fans felt comfortable counting it as a win, but that defense isn’t so porous. Other than a few deep pass plays, the Gamecocks couldn’t move the ball. And the deep pass is not a strength for the Hogs.

The performances by both of those teams were surprising. So final judgment of the Arkansas-A and M game will be withheld until there’s a chance to see Arkansas play. The Hogs might also surprise and delight their home fans.


The other SEC team in action was Ole Miss, who beat Boise St. 35-13 in battle of former Arkansas State head coaches – or as it might be better-stated, former head coaches who spent a year renting a room in Jonesboro.

What we learned from that game is that Ole Miss has problems. For all the recruiting victories won by Rebel coach Hugh Freeze (which itself should raise the Nietzschean hermeneutical eyebrow) his Rebels won that game through attrition, through the advantage of being a bigger, stronger team. The score was 7-6 at the end of the third quarter because the Ole Miss offense was inept. It then exploded for 28 points in the fourth quarter because the smaller and shallower Broncos were worn out, not because the Rebels finally started putting things together.

The problem arises in the fact that for most of the rest of the season, Ole Miss will be playing against other equally strong, deep or deeper SEC teams that won’t be worn out in the fourth quarter. There are lots of prognosticators foreseeing a banner year for the Rebels, too, but they’re probably wrong.


The final SEC team in action was Vanderbilt. What can be said about the Commodores 37-7 loss to Temple? Put simply, it can be said that Vanderbilt is back to being Vanderbilt. To go a bit further, remember what was said about college head coaches and attorneys? Former Vandy coach James Franklin is one of the reasons for that reputation. Franklin will make his mark as a another Bobby Petrino – a great coordinator who doesn’t recruit, makes millions of dollars off winning with other people’s players, burning down rosters, making objects of women and moving on to keep doing it all somewhere else. Penn St., however, may not even get to enjoy the brief success such coaches usually bring. Franklin is still not entirely cleared in the rape case involving several of his players in Nashville. It’s still alleged that he recruited the victim to help recruit players, asked her to collect 15 similarly attractive girls to help her, viewed video of the incident on his player’s phone and told the player to delete it rather than report it.

He denies all of this, but what he can’t deny is his 2012 quote in which he made it clear that he values women on physical appearance, and men on their “ability” to conquer them, saying he won’t hire an assistant until he’s seen whether or not he has an attractive wife.

It’s obvious, at best, that Franklin believes physical attractiveness is the most important attribute in choosing a lifelong mate, and that’s enough to make him sleazebag 1A with Malzahn.

The other side of this issue is Penn State’s side. How, for the love of Happy Valley, can that university, fresh off the worst sex scandal in the history of athletics, hire a coach mired in a sex scandal?

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle struggles in early jamboree

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison struggled at times on both sides of the ball in each of their benefit scrimmage games with Stuttgart, Rison and Dumas on Tuesday at Fred C. Hardke Field, but the biggest thing Bison coach Jack Keith will focus on for the remainder of the preseason will be ironing out the wrinkles in his defense.

Despite some costly mistakes in each of the three brief scrimmage games played, Carlisle’s offense, when it was clicking, had little trouble moving the football. Defensively, though, the Bison struggled to keep the big play from happening in each game played.

“Defensively, I thought we’d be better at stopping the run than we were,” said Keith. “We’ve got a ways to go on defense. Offensively, we moved the ball pretty well. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and that killed us.

“We can’t afford to have negative plays. Everything we do has got to be positive. We had too many negative plays with busted assignments and mental errors, and stuff like that we’ve got to get fixed. Luckily, we’ve got 10 more days to get ready for that.

“We’ll get the film out and we’ll watch it. We’ll get things corrected and we’ll go from there.”

The format for the benefit games had two teams on each end of the field playing one another with a 20-minute continuous clock, and all four teams took turns playing each other.

Carlisle played class 4A Dumas first, and the Bison started with the football at the 40-yard line. The Bison offense had positive runs on their first four plays of the drive, but the Bobcat defense got a strip on the fifth play to force a turnover.

A couple of holding penalties hurt Dumas’ opening offensive drive, but on second down, quarterback Ladarius Harris hit wideout Quen Baker on a skinny post up the middle that Baker took 37 yards for a touchdown. The extra point sailed through the uprights.

The Bison, though, responded with a five-play drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown run up the middle by running back Jacob Cagle, and fellow senior Clinton Hampton punched in the two-point try with 8:59 left in the opening scrimmage.

It didn’t take the Dumas offense long to respond. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Bobcat running back Lamar Hemphill broke for a 40-yard TD run for the final score of the scrimmage. Though it wasn’t kept on the board, Dumas finished the scrimmage with Carlisle on top 14-8.

The Bison took on Rison next, and the Wildcats were the only team to find the end zone in that scrimmage. The first score came on the very first drive. With 16:40 remaining, Rison’s running back broke for a 19-yard run to make it 6-0 Wildcats.

The two-point try was unsuccessful, but Rison scored again its next possession. On second and long, the Wildcats completed a 19-yard pass that resulted in another score, and although the second two-point try was also unsuccessful, Rison finished that exhibition ahead 12-0.

Carlisle started most if its second unit in the third scrimmage of the night, this one against class 4A Stuttgart, and it showed early. Carlisle’s first two offensive possessions ended with turnovers; both being fumbles.

Junior playmaker Malik Brasfield scored Stuttgart’s first two touchdowns on that many drives. The first score was a 4-yard scamper into the end zone, and the second was a 14-yarder on the sixth play of the drive.

Carlisle did get on the board on its final offensive series of the evening. Cagle got the call on the first two snaps of the series, and he took his third carry, which was the fourth play of the drive, 30 yards down the home sideline for a touchdown.

Hampton converted his second two-point run of the night to cut the Stuttgart lead to 12-8, but the Ricebirds scored again on the final offensive series to push the lead back to 10, winning it 18-8.

Cagle, the Bison feature back, finished the three scrimmages with a combined total of 11 carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Hampton had three carries for 23 yards, and Bison sophomore Devon Kendrick had 10 carries for 28 yards.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls lose leads late, fall to Batesville

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panther volleyball team lost its home opener in straight sets Thursday, falling to Batesville 25-17, 25-22 and 25-23. The Lady Panthers led in all three sets but couldn’t hold on in any of them.

“I think it’s mostly still a matter of experience,” said Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk. “Even though we have three seniors, overall that’s not much. Almost no one else on the team has any varsity experience. They’re going to keep getting better because there is a lot of talent and potential on this team.”

Cabot’s lead in game one was brief. After Cabot broke serve on the first point, Tori Barnhill hit back-to-back aces and added another point on serve to give the Lady Panthers a 4-0 lead. The early aces were not signs of things to come. Cabot struggled at the service line the rest of the game. Chanthaphasouk called timeout after the team’s fifth missed serve put his team at a 13-9 deficit, but from there, Batesville continued to pull away.

The last two games were played very closely, with Cabot leading most of the way in each one. A key difference in the final two games was how teams handled runs and answered after timeouts. Cabot forced Batesville to use all its timeouts the last two games, and they came out of each one and broke serve. Cabot also had to utilize a couple of timeouts late in each game as Batesville charged back, but were not able to stem the Pioneer tide.

In the middle of game two, Cabot senior Haley Callison put down two huge kills and sophomore Maddie Brown served up an ace that clipped the net and dropped just on Batesville’s side to put the Lady Panthers up 17-13 and force a timeout.

Batesville broke serve after the break and pulled to within 17-16. Cabot stretched it back out to a 20-17 lead, forcing another timeout.

Batesville came out of that break and scored seven-straight points despite a Cabot timeout in the middle of the run.

“That’s the experience I’m talking about,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We just weren’t able to regroup. Once they got going it was like we didn’t really know what to do. We were totally out of sync.”

Out of the timeout at 23-20, Cabot let a serve land in the middle of the defense for an ace and a 24-20 deficit. The home team finally broke serve and added another point, but then gave up a back-row kill that also landed in the center of the defense.

Cabot was in control of game three for even longer than in game two. It maintained about a three-point lead throughout the contest until Batesville came back to tie it at 16. Out of a timeout, Brown got a tough dig and with it made a nice pass, and then got the kill after the set to pull within 19-17. She then served up an ace, and on her second serve, got a back line kill to put the Lady Panthers back up by three.

“That was a brief moment of the potential I think she has,” Chanthaphasouk said of his 6-foot-1 sophomore. “She played year-round last year and she’s a different player. She was nowhere near the level last year to where she is now.”

Batesville came back to tie it at 20 before Cabot scored two in a row to go up 22-20. Cabot’s last lead was at 23-22 before the Lady Pioneers closed with three-straight points for the win.

While the head Panther felt like his team could have and should have played better, he didn’t want to take credit away from the smaller but very athletic Pioneers.

“Those girls could really get up in the air and they were able to handle the runs better than us,” Chanthaphasouk said. “I think that comes from their experience. They were in the 5A championship game last year and I think they have two year-round programs in Batesville. Those girls play all the time. That’s what we have to get everyone involved in around here.”

Brown led the Lady Panthers with nine kills while junior Kristen Walker had six kills and four solo blocks.

Junior libero Abbie Lippincott had 14 digs. The Lady Panthers host Little Rock Central on Thursday to open conference play.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers set for Greenbrier

Leader sports editor

Beebe will be one of the first teams in Arkansas to get the 2014 football season underway when it takes on Greenbrier on Tuesday at War Memorial Stadium as part of the First Security Bank Kickoff Classic.

The Badgers and Panthers have been opening the season against each other for about a decade now and have developed a nice rivalry. In recent years Greenbrier has risen in the ranks of 5A football with the presence of former Harding University coach Randy Tribble at the helm. There has been record-breaking quarterbacks, loads and loads of points, even upset wins on the road at 6A powerhouses like Texarkana, but there hasn’t yet been a championship.

This year, Greenbrier won’t be quite the same team that’s been flinging the ball all over the field, at least it didn’t appear that way in their scrimmages against Sylvan Hills and Joe T. Robinson.

The Panthers have a two-headed quarterback. Senior Will Drewry started the first seven games last year before sidelined by injury. He was replaced by behemoth back Harold Ross, who is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. Ross played very well and both will catch shotgun snaps in Tuesday’s matchup.

“I think they’re going to go with the smaller guy to throw it and the bigger kid when they want to run it,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “Although the big kid throws it pretty well, too.”

The Badgers also scrimmaged last week, hosting a jamboree with Harding Academy and Central Arkansas Christian. Shannon’s offense moved the ball easily against both defenses, but fumbled a troubling five times, losing four of them.

“We moved the ball really well,” Shannon said. “Neither team was able to slow us down, but I wasn’t very pleased with the fumbles. I think there were some factors behind it. It was our first real contact outside a few light scrimmages amongst ourselves in almost a year. Plus it was really hot and humid. Everyone was really sweaty and I think the ball just got slippery. At least I hope that was part of it. Either way, we’re going to work on securing that football a lot going into this game.”

Shannon was particularly pleased with the defense in the scrimmage. Neither the Wildcats or the Mustangs were able to sustain drives against the Badger defense, but both were, on a couple of occasions, able to hit big plays in the air.

“Overall I thought they did really well,” Shannon said of the defense. “We had a couple of breakdowns in the secondary that I think will be easy to correct. For the most part I was very pleased with the defense.”

While Greenbrier showed a different skill set among its skill players, Shannon, a former offensive lineman, believes the Panther interior is behind the offensive adjustments.

“I was impressed with that offensive line,” Shannon said of the Panthers. “It looks to me like the strength of their team. They look pretty dog gone good. With that big running back and that big quarterback in there, we really have to be wary of them. They look like they’re going to be able to overpower some teams this year.”

Shannon also has a quite formidable front line, but not much depth to it. And while Greenbrier isn’t throwing it every down, it is still play very fast, snapping the ball, usually, within 12 seconds of the previous play’s end.

The head Badger believes his team conditions as much as any team, and more than most, but that game speed is always a different experience from running in practice.

“I thought we got a little tired later on in the scrimmage,” Shannon said. “You could tell we weren’t moving as fast. That’s just something, no matter how much you condition, and I feel like we’re in better shape than most teams we play, playing at game speed tires you out until you get used to it. Playing a team that plays so fast does concern you a little for a first game.”

Beebe also showed some variety to its offense, lining up at times in a spread formation. It was still primarily a run-oriented offense, like Shannon’s standard Dead-T, but it was effective. While junior Tripp Smith, 5-11, 205, is the feature fullback in the Dead-T, junior Augusta transfer Jo’Vaughn Wyrick played tailback most of the time in the spread.

“I thought Jo’Vaughn Wyrick had a real good night running the ball,” Shannon said. “He moved to the fullback, or tailback or whatever you call it, when we went to our spread and showed some speed and some good moves. He was hard for them to bring down.”

Conversely, Greenbrier showed a propensity to stick with a certain option play that has given Beebe fits in past years.

“They run that zone bubble where the quarterback can hand it off, run it himself or pull up and throw it,” Shannon said. “That’s one thing we’ve struggled with the last few years. You have to be in position to stop two runs and the pass.

“It is interesting that the spread offense has sort of come full circle and evolved from a pass offense to one that’s basically the old Wing-T stuff, just all spread out.”

Friday, August 29, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Health care costs falling

Call us suckers for good news, but can it hurt to celebrate some now and then in this sea of troubles?

We’re speaking of health care, where the news has been depressing to catastrophic for four decades: steeply rising costs nearly every year for treatment, medicine and insurance; the bleak future for the federal budget owing to baby-boomer retirements and mushrooming projections of Medicare and Medicaid costs; the growing share of the population without insurance; the deteriorating quality of care; and, of course, nearly five years of daily scares about Obamacare.

Suddenly, this spring and summer, nearly all the bad news has turned hopeful and, perhaps for the first time in history, Arkansas is the pacesetter for good news. We don’t mind the national recognition, but we’re happier for what it means in the lives of people in this state and the country.

Let’s start with the local stuff.

The insurance companies offering policies in the new market created by the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) in Arkansas are actually lowering the premiums for the next season by a net of 2 percent. That is exceedingly good news for some 230,000 Arkansans who are already insured by Obamacare and also for the tens of thousands who will begin to enroll in the second season, which starts Nov. 15. It’s good news for the state government, too, which eventually will assume 10 percent of the cost of the Medicaid portion of those insured. The legislature this spring passed a law prohibiting the state from educating Arkansans about their opportunities to get insured by Obamacare or helping them enroll, but the word will get out. There is evidence that many large employers are driving their workers into the Obamacare exchanges to reduce their overhead, and the lower premiums will accelerate that process. Will that translate into more jobs?

We have been accustomed to premium increases of 10 percent a year or more, so a net decrease of 2 percent, even if it is only in the Obamacare exchange, is a happy development. Group and individual policies outside Obamacare may see the usual premium increases, especially substandard policies that will soon have to give the same protections to people as those in Obamacare. But the costs in that market as well have tended to flatten since the Affordable Care Act became law four years ago.

The impact from 230,000 Arkansans joining the insured does not stop there. The number of Arkansans joining the federal disability rolls has declined sharply this year, as have emergency-room visits and hospital admissions. The demand for charity medicine has plummeted.

Then there is the pocketbook news. Elderly Arkansans, generally the sickest of them, have pocketed some $125 million in drug savings since 2011 because Obamacare each year closes the doughnut hole in Medicare prescription coverage. Since 2012, something more than 125,000 Arkansans who aren’t in Obamacare shared $17.7 million in rebates from their insurance companies because the same law orders rebates when companies don’t spend at least 85 percent of the premiums they collect paying for actual medical care. Thousands of children have been added to Medicaid and private insurance rolls because Obamacare said their infirmities, many from birth, could no longer prevent their being insured.

Arkansas’ Medicaid spending profile is bending downward for a change because a reform suggested by the Affordable Care on the reimbursement for episodes of care has proved wildly successful. Several insurance companies adopted the system, too, and are lowering costs and improving treatment. Other states are starting to embrace the model and perhaps soon it will become universal.

Now for the national news. For the sixth year in a row, since Congress started work on the Affordable Care Act in 2009, the Congressional Budget Office has reduced its forecast for how much the federal government will need to spend on Medicare in the future. Every year, based on the Medicare experience of the previous year, the CBO reduces its projections. The projection for 2019 this summer is $95 billion lower than it was four years ago.

The reforms in Obamacare and some changes in Medicare in the Budget Control Act of 2011 are the main reasons, but some of the impact is indirect. The cost of medical treatment is not climbing at nearly the pace it was in 2008 and the years before. Every year, the pace slows.

The good news for everyone is that the long-term budget deficit of the federal government keeps shrinking as a problem, partly because of the brightening outlook for Medicare and the slowing of medical inflation. We still face a deficit for years to come, but the fiscal pain that will be needed to eliminate it will be far less severe, whenever we get a Congress with the will to compromise and address it.

Together, Obamacare and the Budget Control Act will have reduced Medicare spending by $700 billion over the 2010-20 decade without reducing the benefits of any of the 550,000 Medicare enrollees in Arkansas. It is done by reducing the reimbursements to hospitals and many specialists and reducing the subsidies to insurance companies that provide Medicare Advantage policies.

End of the respite from tempests and travail.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville plans for new school board

Leader staff writer

State Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) sparked debate at a meeting on Tuesday by suggesting that the board of a new Jacksonville/north Pulaski school district would have two at-large members.

State Sen. Linda Chester-field (D-Little Rock) hosted the gathering at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. She and Perry are members of a committee that will review applications and make recommendations to the state Board of Education concerning who should serve on the new district’s seven-member interim school board.

But, before interim board members are appointed, residents must approve of detaching from the Pulaski County Special School District in a Sept. 16 election. Early voting starts Sept. 9.

The benefits of an independent school district are keeping tax dollars here, expanding curriculum and improved school facilities through increased availability of state aid based on the wealth index. A new district will include Homer Adkins Pre-K, Bayou Meto, Murrell Taylor, Pinewood, Tolleson, Arnold Drive and Warren Dupree elementary schools; Jacksonville Middle School, Jacksonville High School and North Pulaski High School.

Perry said the deadline for applications is Sept. 30 for those who want serve on the interim board.

The committee of elected officials, which also includes state Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock), state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot), state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), Pulaski County JP Bob Johnson and Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, will submit recommendations to the state Board of Education at its Oct. 9 meeting.

Daniel Gray, spokesman for Education Corps, the group advocating for the detachment, explained that a board consisting of five members representing five zones and two at-large members representing everyone in the new school district is just one of three options allowed by state law.

The other options are a board with seven members representing seven zones and a board with five members representing five zones, he said.

Gray said the interim board would be tasked with deciding the zones and what kind of elected board the new school district will have.

The law allows for up to a two-year transition period. Until the actual separation, PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess will lead both districts. Gray has said the 2014-15 school year would be transitional.

Chesterfield and others at the meeting, including Ivory Tillman of the city’s NAACP chamber, were concerned that having two at-large members would discourage minority representation.

Tillman said more than 50 percent of the minority students in PCSSD attend schools in Jacksonville.

He also said he was reassured by state Education Commissioner Tony Wood and his predecessor, Tom Kimbrell, that the interim board would reflect the diversity of Jacksonville. That was when the NAACP chapter was encouraged to submit names for consideration, not applications.

“We felt that the minorities should have equal input in that selection on that interim board. But, as it stands now, I don’t know whether we’re going to get that now or not,” Tillman said.

On the at-large idea, Chesterfield noted that she didn’t know of a school board in the state with that setup. Chesterfield pointed out that the Little Rock City Council is organized with two at-large members and those seats have not been filled by minority representatives.

But Gray and Alderman James Bolden voiced support for the 5-2 school board.

Bolden explained, “The reason I disagree (with Chesterfield) is because this is a military town. I’m retired 24 and a half years. Some of you all out there are retired. We want representation on the board. The two at large seats give us a balance.”

And Gray said, “We want unity. And, from the get go, we want minority representation. We want diversity on our school board.”

A couple of people said the base might not be here in 10 years, but the Gray scoffed at the idea of the state’s sixth largest employer being moved elsewhere.

Chesterfield said military families could still be served if Little Rock Air Force Base was designated as one of seven zones.

Another resident said the area needed to look at how the Cabot School District operates and draw from that in the formation of the new district.

Several at the meeting were worried about PCSSD running both districts during the transitional period.

Perry said the interim board would likely appoint an interim superintendent to work under Guess while Gray explained that the transition is more about establishing the new district as a legal entity that can put tax dollars to use.

Gray also thought the interim board would hire an interim superintendent.

He said, “The Jacksonville/north Pulaski District needs its own master to be equal. (But) We trust Dr. Guess...He’s done more in the last three years than has happened in a long time.”

The interim Jackson-ville/north Pulaski superintendent will not be former PCSSD superintendent Bobby Lester.

Lester said he’s too old for such an undertaking, and that’s why he turned down the position Guess is in when he was offered it after taking over PCSSD for three months in 2011. That was when the state took the fiscally distressed district over.

But he recalled losing 51 square miles of PCSSD and 14 schools to the Little Rock School District while he was superintendent. He, another superintendent and two school boards had to divide assets and make decisions about personnel.

“And that all worked out. It was hard work to get through it all, but we’ll work all this out,” Lester said. “We don’t need to worry about some of these things because it’ll happen. It’s just going to take time. It’s going to take cooperation.”

The former superintendent encouraged those at the meeting to trust and have faith in the people who have been working behind the scenes, like he has, to make the detachment a reality.

Another issue discussed was where teachers who work in Jacksonville schools will go. Advocates have said before that salary schedules would at least stay the same to remain competitive.

The rest is yet another decision the interim board, and possibly the elected board that comes next, will deal with.
But Lester said in that Little Rock School District split, teachers were allowed a choice of where to go and requests were weighed by seniority.

One resident was concerned about the committee Chesterfield is a member of would lead to “the elected electing the elected.”

The senator responded, “I’m probably the individual who knows the least about all of you. And so what I will be doing is looking at the application as honestly and as objectively as I possibly can. Now, Mr. (Mark) Perry has the advantage of knowing this area. But Mrs. (Jane) English doesn’t know this area. Mr. (Doug) House may know it. But Mr. (Eddie Joe) Williams is in Cabot. Mrs. (Jane) English is in North Little Rock. I’m in Little Rock, so I think that the committee can be basically objective.

“I don’t have a dog in this fight. This is your school district. This is what you have wanted all these years. My only job now is to look as dispassionately as possible at the nominees or the persons who nominate themselves and make as good a judgment as I possibly can…I’m not coming in with an preconceived ideas.”

Chesterfield added that she hoped the same was true of Perry.

Perry reminded the room that this is the first time something like this has been done. “We’ve got a lot of work today, a lot of new work, and it’s a learning place,” he said.

Chesterfield added later that anyone can run for office and she faced many obstacles herself being a teacher who started “without a dime” and had worked fields until developing asthma.

Male legislators didn’t invite women to meetings they had in the mornings when she was first elected, but the senator said she was raised with three brothers and attended them anyway.

Chesterfield told the concerned resident, “If you want to be involved, make yourself involved…You cannot complain unless you decide for yourself that you’re going to be in the meeting.”

And Tillman said, “Every-body should be involved…Together we can move a lot further than we can divided.”

Education Corps volunteer coordinator Jada Ellis said the group was in need of people to make phone calls, distributes signs, hold signs at the polls and campaign for the Sept. 16 election in other ways.

Celeste Williams, internal communications chairwoman for Education Corps, asked if elected officials — like aldermen — could serve on the interim board. The senator said they could if they gave up their current seats.

She also asked why the powers that be allowed Jacksonville to be neglected for years. Chesterfield said she wouldn’t apologize for that because it wasn’t her fault but admitted that poor administrators have plagued the area.

Then the senator said, “But that’s the past. You have a great opportunity now going forward. Let’s deal with it, OK?”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “This is very, very important to our city…I was very embarrassed of our schools. Our children deserve better.”

He stressed that we need to “keep our priorities straight. It’s about kids first, not about us adults.”

Fletcher also said, “This is an investment that will return big dividends to the community.”

Chesterfield concluded the meeting with a Fredrick Douglas quote: “If there is no struggle there is no progress.”

She also said, “We’ve never had a brand new school district. So it’s an exciting thing and we’re going to have discourse. We’re going to have disagreement sand agreement. But ultimately we will come together and compromise to do what’s best for this district.”

TOP STORY >> Cotton rallies Cabot voters

Leader staff writer

Rep. Tom Cotton (R- Dardanelle), who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in the general election in November, made a campaign stop Friday at the Days Inn in Cabot.

The Fourth District congressman was introduced to dozens of Republican supporters and voters by state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot).

“Tom, we can promise you this with confidence. We are going to give you a victory in Lonoke County November 4th,” Williams said.

Cotton said he calls his tour the Arkansas First Tour, because “Mark Pryor says he likes to put Arkansas first, but it’s not true. He put Barack Obama first.”

Cotton said they’ve traveled around state and tried to find a person who agrees with Obama 93 percent of time. Cotton said he has to go Washington to find Mark Pryor.

Cotton said Pryor’s record has had a negative impact on the working families of the state on issues.

“That’s why it’s time to retire Pryor,” Cotton said.

“Take Obamacare. The President and Mark Pryor promised it was going to drive down the cost of health insurance. It’s driven it up for so many Arkansas families,” Cotton said.

The freshman congressman said thousands of Arkansans are going to lose their health plans. People will lose access to their favorite doctor, especially seniors because of $700 million in cuts to Medicare.

Asked for comment late Friday, Pryor campaign spokesman Erik Dorey said, “Mark Pryor has said from the beginning that this law isn’t perfect, but the fact is Congressman Cotton wants to return to the days of insurance company abuses where Arkansans were denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, families faced lifetime caps on coverage and folks could be kicked off of their plans when they get sick.”

Cotton also said the price of food has increased by “imposing more regulations on farmers and ranchers, whether making every pond, stream or even puddle on a farm subject to EPA regulations; expanding critical habitat designations for endangered species, those lovable characters mussels, muckets or bats to half of the land in Arkansas, or maybe trying to outlaw pesticides that we’ve used safely for decades in the U.S.”

Cotton said liberals like Pryor voted to give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants living here without securing the national border.

He blamed Pryor for voting with President Obama’s spending, adding in trillions of dollars to the national debt.

“It is an immoral burden that we are placing on the next generation of Americans before they even get out of school, before they are even born—$50,000 or more in debt for every man, woman and child. It is immoral, and I won’t stand for it as your next United States senator,” Cotton said.

Cotton said the military is being cut by trillions of dollars at a time when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says “the world is exploding all around us.”

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin is invading the Ukraine, providing advanced weaponry to rebels there who are shooting down civilian aircraft.

Cotton said al-Qaeda, which the U.S. fought in Iraq, has regrouped as ISIS in Syria and western Iraq. They are the most well-financed and well-armed terrorist army in the world.

Cotton, an Army veteran, said he supports the military and said he would be “a tireless advocate for the Little Rock Air Force Base.”

He said LRAFB is major part of the local economy in central Arkansas.

Dorey, the Pryor spokesman, pointed out that “Tom Cotton voted to cut civilian employees from Little Rock Air Force Base. Congressman Cotton was one of the cheerleaders of shutting down the government. (He) supported sequestration cuts, and he wanted to make them worse.”

Cotton also spoke on increased regulations. He said the President’s EPA administrator has tried to ban the use of coal, which has increased electricity rates.

“Burning coal gives us more than half of our electricity here in Arkansas,” Cotton said.

Cotton said gas prices have more than doubled since Obama took office, because Democrats don’t want to take advantage of the gas and oil available in the U.S.

Dorey said, “Here again, Tom Cotton is shamelessly misleading Arkansans about Mark’s record. Mark Pryor supports an all-of-the-above energy strategy including drilling, where he bucked his party, and Mark supports building the Keystone pipeline now — against the wishes of President Obama because Mark knows that means good jobs and energy security for our nation.”

Cotton said, “Those are the stakes here in Arkansas. They couldn’t be any higher. You have a chance to repudiate the Obama agenda and turn our state and country around.”

TOP STORY >> Commission reverses on early voting

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke County Election Commission agreed to hold early voting at Cabot, Lonoke, Carlisle and England sites for the general election on Nov. 4 during its Friday meeting at the county clerk’s office.

Early voting in Cabot and Lonoke will be held the 15 days prior to the election, which is allowed by law. But, in Carlisle and England, early voting will be held only on Friday, Oct. 31 and Saturday, Nov. 1.

Commissioner Chuck Eick proposed the compromise, explaining that the two days would be less confusing to voters than the previously discussed first week of the 15-day period. That week would have been interrupted by a week and weekend with no early voting, he said.

Eick was the one holdout in a previous commission meeting, citing concerns over having enough ballot machines and workers at the polls in the less populated cities.

State law requires a unanimous vote to add or remove a polling site.

But, on Friday, Eick was worried about future elections.

He explained that the state’s contract with the company that sells machines at $5,000 or more each ends in 2016.

The commissioner said he’d spoken with state officials about what will happen then.

While those officials said they would likely renew the contract and possibly purchase upgraded machines, Eick was told they “do not have the funds to buy them for counties.”

The commissioner warned, “There is nothing on the books to replace those machines…The gist of the conversation was ‘make your machines last.’”

Eick said before the vote, “We could make (early voting) work. It would be very difficult…There’s a risk factor.”

He added that the machines have a life cycle of 10 years and confirmed those 10 years have already passed.

The commission also includes chairman Richard Kyzer and M.J. Maneth, both representatives from the Lonoke County Democratic Committee. Eick represents the Lonoke County Republican Committee. All three were appointed this year after the former members stepped down.

Maneth said she was told people are suspicious when polling sites close and believe it is sometimes done for political reasons. She didn’t want to be accused of being partisan. “I want every voter given every chance that they can to vote. I want the numbers up. We don’t have numbers where they should be. I don’t want to limit anyone from voting. People don’t like partisan politics, and I think it gets us nowhere,” Maneth said.

Eick’s argument was that 92 machines have been allocated for use in the general election. The county has 106 machines, but four are broken and the remaining 102 have not been inspected. He said the commission did not have funds to fix the machines that are broken.

Eick explained that his understanding of the law as it is written and from conversations he’s had with state election commissioners is that the machines used in early voting couldn’t be reused on Nov. 4.

He continued, “There’s a tremendous risk factor for what little, very, very little you gain. Now, I realize that these people want to vote. They have a right to vote. But early voting is not a right...You have a way to vote now. It’s Election Day. If you can’t make it that day, you have an absentee ballot. Early voting is strictly a convenience for voters.”

State Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) suggested shorting places that are to have several machines on Election Day by a machine or two. Then the commission would have the machines it needs for early voting and to minimize the risk, he said.

Lonoke County Democratic Committee chairman Tim Blair, a former election commission chairman, said the law was amended in 2012 to allow the commission to reuse the machines once the paper records are removed. He also asked Eick to give him an example of machine breakdowns interrupting an election.

Jerry Shepard, another former election commissioner, warned the commission that voters would not ignore that there is a larger minority population in the southern part of the county, where Carlisle and England are located. Other supporters of the early voting sites said not having them would “disenfranchise” the poor.

Maneth described working at a polling site in the last election when one machine broke down almost immediately and two ran out of paper at the same time. She said, when she apologized to a voter waiting for her to change the paper, he said, “It’s nothing like it used to be. It’s better all the time, and you guys are working hard to get it there.”

Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke, who was defeated by Dawn Porterfield in the primary election, disagreed with Maneth’s fear of polling sites being shut down for political reasons. He said sites had been shut down before because no one was willing to work at them. Maneth argued that people have complained about not being asked to work at the polls.

Eick lamented that no data was available to show how much the early voting sites in Carlisle and England were used in 2012, the first and only time those sites were set up. That computer data was corrupted before Clarke took office.

Lonoke JP Tim Lemons, who is running for state representative in Dist. 43, suggested the commissioners inspect all of the machines and request that the attorney general give them an opinion on the early voting matter before an Oct. 6 deadline to finalize polling sites.

Ralph Brown said Carlisle didn’t need a site because it is just nine miles from Lonoke

Kyzer, the commission’s chairman, said, “I’m for the people of this county…I feel like it’s our duty as a commission to provide the people in the county a place to vote.” He said some people who live near Carlisle are farther from Lonoke than the nine miles.

Kyzer also said he wanted to look at opening more early voting sites in future elections and that the issue was so important this year because high voter turnout is expected.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

TOP STORY >> When firm's comptroller steals $1.1M

Leader editor

AGL Corp., the small Jacksonville manufacturer of laser equipment used for construction around the world, had been struggling for years. The company had trouble making a profit. There were layoffs and rumors about the plant shutting down.

The number of workers dropped to about 25. Those who were lucky enough to keep their jobs got no raises or Christmas bonuses.

China makes laser equipment cheaper, but AGL’s Jacksonville line is superior.

Management blamed many of its problems on the recession as construction plummeted around the world. 

Still, money was going out faster than the revenues AGL could generate. Management tried to stanch the losses, but it was difficult to keep costs under control.

Workers feared the 50-year-old plant would close. It took a while before management figured out a trusted employee was a big reason for its problems.

Almost two years ago, the plant manager realized AGL’s comptroller was stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to support a gambling habit and an extravagant lifestyle.

Last week in federal court in Little Rock, Regina Lynn Paff, the company’s former comptroller, pleaded guilty to wire fraud. She created more than 100 false payroll entries while she stole more than $1 million, paying herself phony expenses, commissions and other imaginary bills.

Paff, 53, stole about $250,000 a year for four years.

From October 2008 to September 2012, according to the charges, she stole $991,640, although AGL says the company lost an additional $168,000 from other unauthorized payments, bringing the company’s total losses to about $1.16 million.

The scheme was uncovered two years ago before she could cash a commission check for $27,117.50. The FBI discovered the wire fraud after Paff tried to transfer money from a California bank to Centennial Bank in Little Rock. 

Paff could have retired with $1 million if she hadn’t written that last check that finally caught up with her.

She faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,00 fine and five years probation.

She must also repay everything she stole. If she doesn’t, she could get the maximum sentence and leave prison when she’s an old woman. There’s no parole for federal prisoners.

AGL, or Automatic Grade Light, got its start in 1964 as the Blount-George Co. It set the standard for laser-guided construction around the world.

J.C. George and Glen Blount, who invented and patented the precision lasers, founded AGL in a small machine shop on Redmond Road 50 years ago, when they were still in their 20s. George was a young city engineer in Jacksonville and Blount later built subdivisions in Cabot.

Both founders passed away recently. George died last September at the age of 76 in Heber Springs. Blount, who passed away in Cabot in 2011 at the age of 79, was the father of actress Lisa Blount, who died in Little Rock in 2010. She was raised in Jacksonville.
After Paff’s arrest, AGL’s fortunes improved. The company started hiring again. It now has 35 employees. It’s making money and will remain in Jacksonville.

Lomanco, another local world-class manufacturer, still has its main plant in Jacksonville.   Lomanco makes quality rooftop turbines and other vents. They’re what you want on top of your home.

AGL is promising better oversight in its business office. Insurance should cover most of its losses.

Workers hope they’ll get raises soon and Christmas bonuses at the end of the year. They should since no one is gambling away their payroll anymore.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> LHS defense dominates

Leader sportswriter

Defense was the highlight for the Lonoke Jackrabbits in their benefit game at Maumelle on Monday, and even though the offensive execution wasn’t great, the Rabbits scored the game’s only offensive touchdown of the night to leave the exhibition ahead on the scoreboard, winning 8-7.

Despite the close score, Lonoke’s offensive yardage numbers were much greater than the host team’s. The Jackrabbits totaled 178 yards of offense in the 40-minute exhibition, bettering the Hornets’ total of 61 yards.

Lonoke had pretty good balance offensively, as 10 different ball carriers totaled 100 yards rushing for the Rabbits, and junior quarterback SaVonte Rountree finished the night with 78 yards passing.

Maumelle’s two quarterbacks combined to pass for 93 yards, but the Rabbits’ defense put the Hornets’ rushing numbers in the negative. Maumelle finished the benefit with minus 32 yards rushing.

Lonoke’s defense set the tone early, as it didn’t allow Maumelle to rush for a single positive yard in either of the Hornets’ first two offensive series.

“The defense played good,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “When you don’t let them score a touchdown, you know, that’s good. We had good effort on defense. I’m real proud of that.”

Lonoke’s offense looked as if it was well on its way to finding the end zone late in the first quarter. A 50-yard pass from Rountree to junior receiver Juwaun Bryant, and a 14-yard run by Rountree the next snap put Lonoke inside the Maumelle 10-yard line.

The Rabbits were able to get the ball all the way down to the Maumelle 2-yard line shortly after, but failed to punch it in, eventually turning it over on downs. However, the Rabbit defense was there to pick up the slack.

Lonoke got a safety on the fourth play of the ensuing drive after Maumelle quarterback Cameron Porras was flagged for grounding in the end zone, giving Lonoke the ball and a 2-0 lead with 9:13 remaining in the second quarter.

This time, though, Maumelle’s defense was the one to make a play. On the fourth play of Lonoke’s second-quarter drive, Rountree fumbled on a quarterback keeper, and Maumelle’s Michael Cole scooped the ball up in stride and returned it 27 yards into the end zone, which gave the Hornets their first and only lead at 7-2 with 7:26 remaining in the opening half.

The only other score of the night came late in the third quarter when Lonoke’s offense looked as if it was about to come up short inside the Maumelle 5-yard line for the second time.

After another promising drive that gave the Rabbit offense first and goal inside the 3-yard line, Lonoke failed to punch it in on the first two plays, and a fumbled snap pushed Lonoke back to the Maumelle six.

On fourth down, Lonoke went for it, and with the end zone covered, Rountree scrambled right and bulldozed his way inside the right pylon from six yards out for the go-ahead score.

“He just made a play on fourth down,” Bost said of the play. “He just made a play and stuck it in. I was real disappointed there in the first half. We had the ball on the 2-yard line and didn’t score, and you’ve got to score there. You’ve got to lower your head, make a block and get in there.

“Like I just told them, offense usually takes more time. It’s usually a little bit slower. You’ve got to have all 11 doing the right thing. Defense, you just run and get to the football.

“We had a couple of turnovers I didn’t like. We had some missed assignments, we had some dropped passes. We had some underthrown passes. So we’ve got some things to work on offensive-wise.”

Rountree was 3 for 11 passing for his 78 yards. He also had 14 yards rushing on nine carries and the game’s only offensive score. Junior tailback Josh Coleman had 30 rushing yards on 15 carries. Justin Meadows had three carries for 24 yards. Caleb Bailey had 19 yards on two carries.

Bryant led the Rabbit receiving corps with two receptions for 77 yards.

Lonoke will face a tough match-up in its season opener at home next Friday, as the Rabbits will take on the veteran-led Star City Bulldogs. Kickoff for that game is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot handles Lake Hamilton

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers dominated most of the their benefit scrimmage game at Lake Hamilton on Monday. The hosting Wolves’ starters hit one big play for a touchdown but wasn’t able to produce much offense other than that.

The performance was especially pleasing to Cabot coach Mike Malham because four of his team’s defensive starters were sophomores.

“We looked alright,” said Malham. “I don’t know if they’re as good as they have been, but we looked pretty good. The first-team D shut them down pretty good. (Tristan) Bulice played really well and of course Jacob (Ferguson) over there, he had a nice game. We knew what they could do. We’ve been watching them since they were sophomores.”

Each team got 15 consecutive plays regardless of down, distance or touchdown. If a team was stopped on downs, it simply reset back at the 30-yard line.

Cabot’s defense kept Lake Hamilton out of the end zone altogether in the first set ofplays. The offense then took over and scored a little more than halfway through their 15 plays. The lone starting sophomore on offense, quarterback Jarrod Barnes, kept on the option and scrambled 30 yards for the score.

The Panthers turned around and drove back to about the Lake Hamilton 30-yard line before running out of plays.

“Jarrod ran the option pretty well,” Malham said. “He’s got a lot of talent. Being a sophomore though, sometimes when he gets going, he wants to make everything happen himself. We have to get him a little more relaxed but he’s got a chance to be a really good one for us.”

Barnes isn’t the only new ball carrier. The entire offensive backfield is starting for the first time. Malham said they all ran the ball well.

“All the backs looked pretty good,” Malham said. “Kolton Eads did a good job at fullback. We got Schrunk, Reed and Hemphill as our halfbacks and they all ran it well. Jack Whisker and Easton Seidl, our two linebackers, they rotated in there with the second team offense and they both looked pretty good.”

Lake Hamilton’s offense was struggling again during the second set of plays, but then hit a big one. It was just a little hitch pass, but the initial tackler missed and no defender could catch him once he got into open field.

“The kid has some speed because we had Jacob, Holdyn Barnes and (Logan) Melder all chasing him. Those are three of our fastest guys and they couldn’t catch him,” Malham said.

Malham also praised Bryce Cochran, who wasn’t projected as a starter until the Panthers lost a defensive end just before preseason.

“Cochran made one or two plays that took some athletic ability,” Malham said. “He had two quarterback sacks for us so that was good to see.”

The second teams took one set of 15-play drives, and as is usually the case, Cabot’s backup group dominated.

“They’re just not as deep as us,” Malham said. “Up the middle we were quite a bit stronger than they were.”

Cabot’s second-string offense scored twice before its 15 plays were up. Lake Hamilton got nowhere until the last play.

“That second group scored but it was an illegal play,” Malham said. “I thought they had five backs and when I looked at it on film, sure enough it was an illegal formation. So they scored on an illegal play.”

Malham doesn’t expect the same kind of dominance when his team opens the season next Friday at Conway, but he was pleased with Monday’s effort.

“We’re getting better,” Malham said. “I don’t know if we’re ready for the Conways or North Little Rocks just yet, but we’re better today than we were yesterday. I was pleased with them.”

SPORTS STORY >> Hillside offense soars by Senators

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills football coach Jim Withrow said all summer long that his offense was going to be good, and that his defense would take a little longer to come along. If Monday’s performance at the Pulaski Robinson jamboree is any indication, he was right.

The Bears played one full quarter of live game action against Robinson and another quarter against Greenbrier. All three teams went 1-1, but the first quarter of play between Robinson and Sylvan Hills made Withrow’s comment about the offense being good look like a major understatement.

The good part of that one quarter of play is that the Bears put up numbers that resembled full-game statistics. Sylvan Hills scored five touchdowns and rolled up 339 yards of offense against the Senators.

“You know you don’t even think about (the statistics) until you look up and you’ve scored 33 points,” said Withrow. “I don’t know if we should expect that every quarter we play this year, but this tonight, this is about confidence. And playing like that will gain you some confidence.”

The bad news is the defense gave up three touchdowns and 196 total yards, and special teams missed two extra points, which weren’t live.

“The defense is going to get better,” Withrow said. “We’ve got some good athletes over there, we just don’t have a lot of experience. But that’s going to get better. I’m confident about that.”

Sylvan Hills made a statement on the first snap from the 30-yard line when quarterback Trajan Doss kept on the option, turned up field outside the left tackle, dodged one defender, cut to the sideline and ran 70 yards for the score.

The defense started out looking almost as good as the offense, forcing the Senators to turn the ball over on downs on each of its first two possessions. After the first stop and on the Bears’ second play from scrimmage, Marlon Clemons carried the ball 44 yards to the Robinson 3-yard line. After a bad snap lost 4 yards, Clemons, lined up on wing, took the handoff around the left side and scored from 7 yards out. The PAT by Zac Brown made it 14-0.

After the second defensive stop, the Bears needed 39 yards for another score, and got 37 of it in one play. This time a 37-yard pass over the top of the defense from Doss to sophomore Jordan Washington set Sylvan Hills up at the 2-yard line. Fred Williams carried it in from there. The extra point was good, and after only six offensive plays, the Bears led the Senators 21-0.

Things began to break down on defense on Robinson’s next possession. After stuffing the run for a 1-yard loss, the Bears jumped off sides to set up second down and 6 yards to go. After another tackle by linebacker Jonathan Hicks for negative 4 yards, Robinson hit a deep out route about 25 yards downfield. James Waller was the last line of defense, and when he broke in front of the receiver and missed the ball, there was nothing between the receiver and goal line.

Sylvan Hills was then stopped on downs after an initial carry of 12 yards by Doss. Robinson took over on the Bears’ 48 and after a delay penalty, hit a 50-yard pass over the top to the 3. It took just one more snap to score and make it 21-14.

Sylvan Hills gave the Senators a heavy dose of running back Fred Williams on the next drive. Williams had three-straight carries of 7 yards before a holding penalty on Clemons erased a 4-yard gain by Nathan Thomas. Hicks then got a carry for 8 yards before the Bears went back to Williams. He took the handoff up the middle, ran through two tackles and rumbled 47 yards for the score. The extra point was no good, leaving it 27-14.

Robinson completed a 24-yard pass on its first play of the next drive. After a pair of incomplete passes, the Senators connected for 46 yards and another score to make it 27-21 with 2:12 left in the quarter.

Two carries by Clemons and Williams netted 7 yards before Doss and Washington hooked up for another 40-yard gain to the Robinson 23. Thomas carried for 6 yards but another fumbled cost two and made it third and 6. Williams carried for 4 yards to the 15. On fourth down, Doss hit wide receiver Cameron Dews on a perfectly thrown fade route to the left corner of the end zone with 15 seconds remaining. The missed PAT left it 33-21.

The offense wasn’t bad against Greenbrier, gaining a respectable 96 yards, but the fumbles continued and this time, the Panthers gobbled two of them up. In all, the Bears fumbled six times in two quarters of play and lost two of them.

Greenbrier, usually a pass-happy offense, handed off numerous times to 220-pound running back Carson Matthews, with the first one going 45 yards to the Bear 25. Four plays later the Panthers were in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

Sylvan Hills answered, driving 75 yards in 10 plays, with Doss gaining the last 24 on an incredible run. He kept on the zone read and went left. He was hemmed against the sideline by five defenders after about 3-yard pickup, but made some miss and broke the tackles of the rest to spring loose and score.

Greenbrier went back down the field on the ensuing possession to score, and the Bears turned it over on their remaining two possessions. After giving up touchdowns on five-straight possessions, the defense got back to how it started the evening, by getting stops on Greenbrier’s last two possessions.

EDITORIAL >> Don’t end early voting

Jacksonville voters will decide Sept. 16 on forming their own school district. They can vote early starting Sept. 9-Sept. 15 at the Jacksonville Community Center, William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock and the Pulaski County Regional Building in downtown Little Rock.

There’s no Saturday voting, but there will be plenty of time to cast ballots before the election. Early voting is a real convenience and promotes democracy.

That may not be the case in Lonoke County, where the election commission last Friday could not decide on extending early voting in Carlisle and England. Cabot and Lonoke have had early voting, and the Democrats on the commission pushed for limited early voting in Carlisle and England.

Chuck Eick, representative of the Lonoke County Republican Committee on the elections commission, balked at the idea of having one week of early voting in Carlisle and England, citing the cost of paying for voting machines. He likes the idea of two weeks of early voting in Cabot and Lonoke, but the Democrats wanted to extend the franchise to Carlisle and England.

Since commissioners must vote unanimously on election procedures, no agreement was reached on early voting. It looks like no one will vote early in Lonoke County in November. But the commission will meet again Friday to reconsider the matter. Let’s hope they do.

A good turnout from a cross-section of Lonoke County residents might convince the election commission to extend early voting to Carlisle and England. Folks around Cabot and Lonoke have enjoyed early voting, and it would be unfair to deprive everyone of that convenience.

EDITORIAL >> Still hauling after 60 years

The mighty C-130 Hercules reached a milestone Saturday, marking the 60th anniversary of its first flight at Burbank, Calif., on Aug. 23, 1954.

What a workhorse it’s been all these years. Starting out a cargo plane during the Cold War, the C-130 continues to deliver military personnel and cargo around the world, along with humanitarian aid to victims of war and natural disasters.

As if to coincide with the 60th anniversary, the 61st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base last Thursday received another C-130J Super Hercules airlifter. Brig. Gen. Brian Robinson, former commander of the 19th Airlift Wing here, now vice commander of the 618th Air and Space Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center) at Scott AFB, Ill., flew the aircraft from the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, Ga. The 61st, which has operated C-130s since 1956, is part of Air Mobility Command’s 19th Airlift Wing.

According to Lockheed Martin, more than 2,500 C-130s have been ordered or delivered to 63 nations. It has the longest, continuous military aircraft production run in history.

There are approximately 80 C-130H/J models on the flightline at LRAFB, making the base home to more than 20 percent of the total Air Force C-130 fleet. The Herk is a workhorse for combat airlift, capable of operating from rough dirt strips, and is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.

The C-130 is the greatest cargo plane in military history. We feel as if we were present at the creation of the all-new C-130Js back in the 1990s, when its future was in doubt as Congress considered cutting funds for the new planes. But the Clinton Administration stuck with the C-130Js, thus ensuring the future of Little Rock Air Force Base. May they fly for at least another 60 years.

TOP STORY >> Two seek quorum court seat

Leader senior staff writer

Former state Rep. Sandra Prater, 59, a Democrat, and Jacksonville Alderman Aaron Robinson, 41, a Republican, are running for the Pulaski County JP District 11 seat being vacated by Bob Johnson.

Johnson is running unopposed as a Democrat for the District 42 state House seat now held by Rep. Mark Perry, who is ineligible to run because of term limits.

Prater, a registered nurse, not only served six years as a state representative, but prior to that, she served four years as a Jacksonville-area justice of the peace.

Robinson, a civil engineer working for Bond Engineering, has served a four-year term on the Jacksonville City Council.

The district consists of part of Jacksonville and north Pulaski County.

Prater says that her experience in county government will be especially important because longtime County Judge Buddy Villines is retiring and whoever wins that position will be new to the job.

“I want to continue having partnerships with the cities,” she said, like the county did with Jacksonville on the new traffic roundabout and for road and bridge issues

“I’ve worked hard, and I continue to work hard,” Prater said. “When people had issues I directed them to the individual who can assist them to get it resolved.

“I’m best qualified for the job, and I’m running on who I am and what I’ve done. I want to continue representing my neighbors.”

Robinson says he enjoys working with the public. He says he’s most interested in the Lake Maumelle watershed issue and protecting private property rights, and “I want to work…to fully fund the county jail, law enforcement and competitive pay.”

He is past president of the Jacksonville Rotary Club, a past Honorary Wing Commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he’s a member of the community council. He is on the Cabot Soccer Association board, coaches two soccer teams and is working on a national soccer-coaching license.

He is president of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Society of Engineers, represents the state in the ASE, where he serves on the public policies committee. He is fund-raising chairman for the state’s ASCE and is creating a report card on Arkansas infrastructure for the ASCE.

“I am chairman of the civil engineering advisory board at his Alma Mater, Arkansas State University.

He and his wife Christy have a daughter 10 and a son eight.

They are members of the First Baptist Church at Cabot.

Prater is chair of the March of Dimes Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee. She serves on the boards of Carelink, the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County, Lights for Literacy, Pulaski County Bridge Facilities Board and the Arkansas Dietetics Licensing Board.

She is a member of the advisory board of Baptist Health Schools and is a member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Prater attended the Baptist System School of Nursing and graduated as a registered nurse.

She and her husband, Kenneth, have been married 39 years and own a small business in north Pulaski County. They have two adult children, Kyle and his wife, Christy and Whitney and her husband, Spencer Ivey and 1 granddaughter.

They are members of Zion Hill Baptist Church.

TOP STORY >> Early voting to end in county

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County will not have early voting for the general election in November, unless election officials change their mind.

The Lonoke County Election Commission met Friday at the county clerk’s office to discuss adding Carlisle and England to Cabot and Lonoke for early voting, but failed to agree on limited early voting in Carlisle and England. (See editorial, p. 8A.)

The commission includes chairman Richard Kyzer and M.J. Maneth, both representatives from the Lonoke County Democratic Committee, and Chuck Eick, representative of the Lonoke County Republican Committee. All three were appointed this year after the former members stepped down.

The vote was 2-1 in favor of early voting, but Eick was against adding early voting in Carlisle and England, along with Cabot and Lonoke. Carlisle and England would have been limited to the first week of the two-week early- voting period.

Eick said he needed more information on having the number of ballot machines to support early voting, polling sites and workers availability. State law requires a unanimous vote to add or remove a polling site.

When a new motion was made to have early voting only at Cabot and Lonoke, no one seconded the motion and it was dropped.

The commission will met again at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the county clerk’s office to talk more on early voting.

During the primary elections in May, early voting was held in Cabot and Lonoke.

Carlisle and England had early voting the first and only time in 2012.

Kyzer, Carlisle Mayor Ray Glover and Lonoke City Attorney Camille Bennett, Democratic candidate for state representative in District 14, said they have heard complaints from Carlisle and England residents about not being able to early vote.

“We had no idea there was an issue,” Eick said.

Eick wanted to know why it was not brought up to the election commission before Friday.

Bennett said people assumed there would be early voting. She only learned about no early voting in England and Carlisle on Thursday.

“Why weren’t people concerned when we had the primary?” Eick said.

“Everyone expected there to be early voting. When it didn’t show up, that was a surprise. Now as we get closer to the general (election), people are starting to complain,” Lonoke County Democratic Committee chairman Tim Blair said.

County Clerk Larry Clarke, who was defeated in the primary election by Dawn Porterfield, said there are no numbers for all of the early voting in 2012 because the data on the computers was corrupted before he was elected to office.

However, Clarke said he was able to count 2012 early voting numbers in Keo and England. He said 700 people voted on Election Day and 259 voted early.

Clarke said in his opinion early voting doesn’t make a difference on the outcome.

Bennett asked why not allow voters of England and Carlisle to vote early during the first week of the two-week early voting period.

Eick said having early voting for one week in England and Carlisle has the potential to confuse the voters, problems with logistics and the election commission may not have enough machines to support early voting and be reprogrammed in time for regular voting.

Bennett said people are concerned about absentee ballots being denied.

“If you’re not able to vote on Election Day, and you don’t have an opportunity to early vote, then you are denying those people the ability to vote,” Bennett said.

“It isn’t an issue of north and south, Democrat or Republican. The issue is everybody should have an opportunity to vote as easily as they can,” Blair said.

“Early voting is about convenience for the voters. That’s what we’re after. Carlisle has a large elderly population. Many cannot get to Lonoke,” Glover said.

“Access to voting is a fundamental right,” Bennett said.

“If it costs $2,500 (from county funds), and we get it done and have the stuff to do it—I’m having a hard time understanding why the people appointed to oversee the election would (not) be (saying) – great. More access and easier to vote,” Bennett said.

“If the right to vote — what a responsibility it is for a citizen to cast his ballot. Let’s just buy $5,000 in machines for the county and put one in every corner of the road,” Clarke said.

Clarke said there were 106 voting machines that were working during the last primary election.

Clarke said he understood why England would want an early voting polling place, but Carlisle is nine miles from the Lonoke County Courthouse. He asked why not let Ward have an early voting polling place.

Blair said early voting lessens the turnout on Election Day, which makes it easier for the poll workers and the election commission.

Eick said most counties Lonoke’s size have only one early-voting site, and Cabot was only opened due the large population growth.