Friday, February 13, 2015

TOP STORY >> Cops get new bike for accident victim

Leader staff writer

A 5-year-old Cabot hit-and- run victim received a new bicycle and a helmet Thursday from the Cabot Police Department after he was injured Sunday.

Tristen Doane test rode his Spiderman bike for detectives and the public information officer who chipped in to buy him a new one to replace the old one that was damaged.

“It was a surprise because my birthday already passed,” Tristen said.

“I like the inside of the wheels and the (front handlebars number plate),” he added.

According to the police report, Tristen was riding his cousin’s bike at 6:05 p.m. Sunday in front of his house on 600 S. Jackson St. He was hit from behind by a black scooter ridden by a 17-year-old boy.

Tristen was pushed into a metal mailbox at 604 S. Jackson St. and landed in the yard.

“I don’t know why I got run over by the scooter. I was going to my friend’s house,” Tristen told The Leader.

His mother rushed him to North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville. He was then transferred to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock by ambulance.

Tristen was diagnosed with a skull fracture and had minor bleeding of the brain.

Detectives noted significant damage to the front wheel and frame of the bike. The impact knocked the mailbox down.

The scooter rider was arrested on Monday. He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury, a felony, and having no license.

Laura Doane, Tristen’s mom, said he was really concerned about the broken bicycle.

She said, when she saw Tristen lying unconscious, “It was horrible not being able to do anything. For a mom, it was scary.”

Laura Doane said Tristen is healing. He complains about his head when he gets busy and runs. He wants to act like a normal kid, she explained.

Police spokesman Sgt. Keith Graham said, “We thought it would be nice to bring some happiness and take his mind off his injuries.

“We all have kids. When we see one that has injuries that (Tristen) sustained, it touches us, and we wanted to do something for him,” Graham said.

TOP STORY >> Private option helping hospitals

Leader staff writer

Uncompensated care is down by about 12 percent at North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville, according to CEO Cindy Stafford.

And, while he couldn’t provide specific figures, St. Vincent-North President David Fox said the hospital in Sherwood is also doing well.

Stafford added that North Metro’s inpatient and outpatient admissions have increased by at least 50 percent.


She said, “It’s the private option. It’s allowed us to be able to sign patients up when they come into the hospital for the private option insurance.

“So the Affordable Care Act and the private option that Arkansas implemented has definitely impacted our reimbursement in a positive way.”

Fox said, “We’re in the same boat. We have seen a very positive impact from the Arkansas health-care exchange. It has both improved access and affordability for the uninsured and underinsured.”

Uncompensated care has decreased at the nonprofit hospital as well, he noted.

“Our bottom line has improved. We’re still in the red, but not losing as much.”

Stafford said in a Friday interview with The Leader that North Metro’s chief financial officer was unable to pull figures for her on such short notice.

That is why she couldn’t say 12 percent with certainty. But, uncompensated care had decreased by 10 percent four months ago, Stafford noted. She said, if the trend continued, 12 percent was a good estimate.

Another recent change for North Metro has been the promotion last month of state Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) to chief operations officer.

Farrer said he hopes to also be selected for the Health Reform Task Force that will study alternatives to private option, continuing or continuing the program with changes.

Private option is set to end Dec. 31, 2016.

The Leader reported on Feb. 3 that the state representative, who staunchly opposed private option in 2012 and 2013, co-sponsored Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Health Care Reform Act of 2015.

The new law guarantees private option – Arkansas’ innovative solution to Medicaid expansion – through 2016 and created the 16-person task force Farrer wants to serve on.

The state representative said interviews for the eight House positions on the task force would begin Monday.

About the uncompensated care figure, Farrer said, “If we gave people insurance for free, it’s going to decrease it. The problem is we can’t afford it.

“I’d like to see Arkansas have health care, not health insurance.”

Farrer said, in the new post at North Metro, he would not deal directly with Medicare or Medicaid payments.

He added that he would like to see hospitals viable and the working poor on private option provided for after 2016. He also said the system in place needed tweaking.

Stafford said Farrer being chief operations officer means, “He is over operations from a departmental standpoint. He’s got several departments that report directly to him. He helps us with purchasing equipment, negotiating leases, those types of things.”

“It’s been nice having Joe on board in that leadership capacity,” she continued.

“He’s just demonstrated that leadership role that we felt would be a good fit here at the hospital and help the hospital improve in areas and move forward and succeed,” Stafford added.

Farrer’s role in the legislature has in the past and will continue to provide North Metro with “insider information,” Stafford said with a laugh.

The new post won’t change how he was always “sharing with us the politics,” she noted.

Stafford also said the state representative is well known in the area, a “good face for the community” and had been with the hospital for years. Farrer said he’d worked at North Metro for 18 years.

As for the future of health care here, Stafford said, “I’m hopeful that we keep some form of a plan in place for those individuals that don’t have insurance and work for companies that don’t offer it.

“I do agree though that it probably needs restructured in the future because they just don’t have enough funds. They’re going to have to take funds from other plans. It’s just the funding I worry about.”

Stafford added that she was sure legislators would redo the Medicaid program, too.

“Whatever they do, it will still be positive for the communities,” the CEO said.

In other good news for North Metro, Stafford announced that the hospital’s wound-healing center has reopened and about 50 people visited it this month.

About the increase in overall admissions, the CEO said, “It’s just real positive around here. When you’ve got more patients coming into your facility, it not only makes the executives happy, but it makes the staff happy. They see positive change.”

North Metro is also speaking with a general surgeon about coming to work there, but a deal hasn’t been struck yet, Stafford said.

TOP STORY >> District to shut middle school

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville-North Pulaski officials will discuss moving middle school students from Jacksonville to Northwood beginning the next school year, the transition to one high school in 2016-17 and future facilities planning at a pair of “community conversations” next week, according to chief of staff Phyllis Stewart.

The first will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Jacksonville Community Center, according to Stewart, and the second is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Bayou Meto Elementary School.

The Pulaski County Special School District has said Northwood would close at the end of the 2014-15 school year because of declining enrollment, Stewart said. Jacksonville-North Pulaski Superintendent Bobby Lester proposed the move to provide Jacksonville Middle School students and staff a better, safer facility for teaching and learning.

“Education today is delivered in an entirely different manner, with new tools, techniques and teaching methods that don’t fit the simplistic conventions of 60-year-old school designs,” Lester said. “Moving our Jacksonville Middle School students and staff to the Northwood facility for one year is not ideal, but it is a step in the right direction.”

North Pulaski High School is tentatively slated to be remodeled into the district’s middle school once all of its students go to a single high school.

Northwood, off Jackson-ville-Cato Road, is 6.8 miles from Jacksonville Middle School. Students will be provided transportation.

For more information, contact Stewart at 501-519-4768.

SPORTS STORY >> One million rounds at range

Leader sports editor

One million shots have been fired in one year at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex in Jacksonville. Mayor Gary Fletcher and several others were on hand to celebrate the milestone with a commemorative round on Wednesday.

Jacksonville Aldermen Kenny Elliot and Mary Twitty, as well as Police Chief Kenny Boyd, street department director Jimmy Oakley and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Youth Shooting Sports director Chuck Wood-son joined Mayor Fletcher for the commemorative round.

“It reassures us that we have something special here in Jacksonville that brings people, not just from this state, but we’ve people from six other states competing at this facility,” said Flecther.

“It’s obviously something that’s still going to grow. They told us if we do 750,000 rounds a year for five years, it would be deemed a success, and we’ve 25 percent more than what was projected,” he added.

About 200,000 of those rounds were fired during the five weeks of youth shooting tournaments that Woodson oversees each spring. The Jacksonville range took over those tournaments from the Remington firing range last year.

There are four regional tournaments before the best teams in each regional come back for the state competition. Approximately 1,000 to 1,200 junior high and high school students take part in each one, and Woodson expects even more this year.

“The youth shooting program is still growing,” said Woodson. “It’s well over 5,000 kids participating and we’re expecting another growth spurt this year; a little bit anyway. There are 20 more schools added onto the program this year and there are currently about 270 schools involved in the program across the state. Of course we allow church groups and 4H and programs like that to compete, so there are about 350 programs total.”

With participation in shooting sports projected to grow, the facility will grow with it. Fletcher said construction will begin on the 3-D archery range, that’s been in the plans from the project’s inception, this year. There will also be 19 camp sites added in the parking lot with water and power supplies for recreational vehicles.

The first day of shooting last year was on Jan. 1, but the grand opening wasn’t until May. Woodson says he has already seen an increase in the number of teams that come to the range for practice, and believes the facility will do well over one million this year.

“With last year’s competitions and more and more people becoming aware of what we have here, more and more I believe will be coming to prepare for these competitions, especially when it starts to warm up,” Woodson said. “The parks and rec department there is second to none. I’ve never worked with a group of people so willing to help in my life. The city of Jacksonville really has something special and a group of people really diligent about making it a success.”

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills repeats as River City champion

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills freshmen Bears overcame a five-point halftime deficit to win the River City Conference tournament championship game 52-40 over Jacksonville on Thursday night at the Devils’ Den. The win brings the second-straight conference tournament plaque to Sherwood after last year’s freshmen won it in Sheridan.

Jacksonville led 15-12 at the end of the first quarter, and the freshmen Red Devils pushed their lead to 25-20 at the half, but Sylvan Hills took over the second half with stellar shot selection and smothering defense.

In the second half, the freshmen Bears made 12 of 14 shots from the floor and forced 16 Jacksonville turnovers. The Red Devils had just five turnovers in the first two quarters of play.

“I’m not surprised, because these guys are the first ones in the gym and the last ones to leave,” said Sylvan Hills coach Willie Larry Jr. of his team’s play in the second half.

“They have been coachable to a T. They didn’t win any games as seventh-graders, and they won two as eighth-graders. They believed in us coaches and they were coachable to the end, and I’m proud of these guys.”

Sylvan Hills made its first four shots of the third quarter. Those four buckets along with a pair of free throws by J.D. Smith led to a 10-5 Bears run that tied the game at 30.

The game-tying points came on a Charles Smith steal and dish up court to teammate Zion Butler, who scored on a transition lay-in. That forced Jacksonville coach Brandon Weems to call timeout with 3:41 left in the quarter.

With 2:39 left in the third, Sylvan Hills took its first lead of the half on a left-handed lay-in by J.D. Smith, which made the score 34-32. It was the Bears’ first time ahead on the board since leading 5-2 early in the first quarter.

Jacksonville battled back and eventually tied the game at 38-38 on a Darrius Martin 3-pointer at the 1:38 mark of the third, but Sylvan Hills took the lead again on the ensuing possession with an inside bucket by Alex Curry.

Curry’s bucket put the Bears up 40-38, and that was the score at the end of three. Jacksonville struggled against the Bears’ defense in the fourth quarter, and could only manage one basket on 1 of 6 shooting.

With 2:07 left to play, Sylvan Hills went up 48-40 on an acrobatic, one-handed lay-in by Butler that was highly contested. With 48.5 seconds remaining, the Bears went up double digits, 50-40, with a pair of one-and-one free throws by Brandon Dupree.

As the final seconds ticked away, the Bears added the last points of the night on a transition basket by Charles Smith, which was the result of another Jacksonville turnover.

Once the clock ran out, the Bears celebrated the win by taking hold of the tournament championship plaque at midcourt.

“They’re unselfish,” Larry said of his team. “On the back of their (pre-game) shirts it says family, and when they are unselfish, we can accomplish big things. We’re trying to build a culture at Sylvan Hills, and it’s time. It’s time.”

For the game, the Bears made 20 of 35 shots from the floor for 57 percent. Jacksonville finished the game 15 for 36 from the floor for 42 percent.

From 3-point range, the Red Devils made 8 of 14 attempts for 57 percent. Sylvan Hills made 2 of 10 shots from beyond the arc for 20 percent, and all of its 3-point attempts came in the first half.

At the free-throw line, Jacksonville made 2 of 5 attempts, and had zero trips to the line in the second half. Sylvan Hills made 10 of 13 free throws, including 8 of 9 in the second half.

The Bears outrebounded the Red Devils 16-14, and Sylvan Hills had fewer turnovers as well; finishing with 14 to Jacksonville’s total of 21.

Jacksonville had two different players score in double figures. Braylon Hawkins led all scorers with 16 points, and Martin had 13 points.

Sylvan Hills had three different players score in double figures. J.D. Smith and Butler led the Bears with 12 points each, and Charles Smith scored 10.

With the win, the freshmen Bears finish their championship season with a 16-8 overall record.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win first place in boys’, girls’ district meet

Leader sports editor

The Cabot swim teams made history on Thursday, winning the school’s first-ever district championships at the Veteran’s Park Community Center in Cabot. The Panther boys easily beat out second-place Jonesboro by more than 200 points, totaling 389 to the Hurricanes’ 177. Mountain Home was third with 144, Paragould had 132 and Lonoke finished fifth with 122 points. It was the Cabot boys’ fifth first-place finish in six meets this year.

The girls’ meet was a bit closer, but the Lady Panthers prevailed with a dominant 450 points. Jonesboro was also second in the girls’ meet with 346 while Mountain Home was third with 288. Greene County Tech and Searcy rounded out the top five. The Lady Panthers have also won five meets this year.

Haylee Beckley won the 200-yard individual medley by five seconds with a time of 2:25.88.

Caytee Wright and Katie Frederick took first and third in the 50-yard freestyle sprint. Wright also won the 100 freestyle while teammate Riley Young took third in that event.

The Lady Panthers didn’t win the 500-yard freestyle, but did sweep the next four spots. Beckley, Kristen Meyer, Allison Kindrex and Chelbi Dulin took second through fifth. Lonoke’s Colby Hartley was sixth in the event.

Melanie Abbot was third and Dulin fifth in the 100-yard butterfly.

Jessica Baldwin won the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:02.21, and Young was fourth. Baldwin and Abbott then took second and third respectively in the 100 breaststroke.

The Lady Panthers also won all three relay races.

Noah Joyner won the boys’ 50-yard freestyle with a time of 24.95.

The Panthers swept three of the top four spots in the 200-yard freestyle. Payton Jones won the event while Nick Cashel was third and Even Wilson fourth. Wilson was also second in the 500-yard freestyle. Jones also won the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:05.66, while Chris Daniel was third and Seth Herrera fifth in that event.

Daniel also took second for the Panthers in the 100-yard freestyle while Herrera was fifth. Lonoke’s Tanner Edwards and Jimmy Evans took sixth and seventh while Zach Brown was eighth.

Jacob Bland took second in the 200-yard IM. Ben Cameron won the backstroke and took fourth in the butterfly.

Next stop for the Panthers is the state meet at UALR next Saturday.

SPORTS STORY >> Healthy Cabot defeats Marion

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers got another key player back for Tuesday’s 7A/6A-East home game against Marion, and the Panthers didn’t miss a beat, as they jumped on the Patriots early and beat them by the final score of 57-43.

Cabot guard Jarrod Barnes made his return from a knee injury last week against North Little Rock, and on Tuesday, starting forward Garrett Rowe made his anticipated return to the floor.

Rowe, who had suffered a broken collarbone earlier in the season, came off the bench Tuesday, and entered the game for the first time near the midway point of the opening quarter.

Rowe made an immediate contribution, scoring consecutive buckets that gave the host Panthers an 8-7 lead. Marion didn’t score for the rest of the quarter, and at the end of one, Cabot led 17-7.

“Our group has been getting better, too,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges, “and I think that was evident in the Searcy game. It was evident in the North Little Rock game just having Jarrod. It was good to be able to play Jarrod a little more tonight.

“Hopefully we can get Rowe in better shape, because we know it’s a big one Friday (against West Memphis). It feels real good to have him back out there. At 9:30 (a.m.) he texts me and told me the doctor said it’s all go, and I said ‘alright.’

“He’s been practicing for the last week and a half, but it’s been non-contact. He has done nothing five-on-five until tonight. I told the team, ‘guys, if he gets cleared, he’s going to be playing,’ because I want him to see some game speed before we get to West Memphis.”

By the end of the first half, the Panthers pushed their lead to 29-16. That margin was set on a pair of Rowe free throws with 7.8 seconds remaining in the half.

Cabot made 50 percent of its shots from the floor in the first half, making 10 of 20 shot attempts. Marion, on the other hand, made 23 percent of its shots from the floor on 7 of 31 shooting.

The Panthers’ lead grew to 47-26 by the end of the third quarter. Cabot’s Logan Gilbertson scored the final bucket of the quarter. It was an inside basket with 30 seconds remaining, set up by a Rowe lob pass from the top of the key.

Marion was able to put a short run together near the midway point of the fourth quarter, but the Patriots weren’t able to put much of a dent in Cabot’s already sizable lead.

Cabot led 55-38 with 1:20 left to play, and at that point, both coaches emptied their bench. In the final 1:20, Marion outscored Cabot 5-2, setting the final score.

“It’s good to have them back,” Bridges said. “We’ve just got big things coming up and we know that. Hopefully we’ll be ready to play.”

The Panthers finished the game 21 of 39 from the floor for 54 percent. The Patriots finished 17 of 56 from the floor for 30 percent. From the free-throw line, Cabot made 8 of 14 shots for 57 percent, while Marion made 4 of 10 shots for 40 percent.

From the 3-point line, Cabot made 7 of 12 shots for 58 percent. Marion, conversely, made 5 of 20 shots from beyond the arc for 25 percent.

Cabot outrebounded Marion 28-25, but the Panthers had more turnovers, committing 24 to the Patriots’ total of 17.

Panther forward Hunter Southerland led all scorers with 22 points. He also had 10 rebounds, giving him a double-double. Rowe was Cabot’s second-leading scorer Tuesday. He had nine points, and added eight rebounds and three steals.

Laquan Davie led Marion (9-12, 5-4) with 14 points. He was the lone Patriot to score in double figures.

The Panthers (12-9, 2-7) played another 7A/6A-East game at West Memphis last night after deadlines, and they’ll play another crucial conference game next Tuesday at home against Little Rock Central. Next Tuesday’s varsity games at Panther Arena will begin at 6 p.m. with the girls taking the floor first.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears earn sweep against JHS

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears went into the Devils’ Den at Jacksonville High School and walked out with a win and a season sweep on Tuesday. The game was nip and tuck for three quarters before the Lady Bears pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 50-43 victory to complete a season sweep of Jacksonville.

The two teams entered the game mired in a three-way tie with Beebe for second place in the 5A-Central Conference, making the outcome even more important.

“You and I both know how big this win was for us,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis. “It was huge. I thought they played hard. I thought we were very aggressive. I don’t know. It was just a well-played game. We didn’t shoot very well, but we did almost everything else pretty well and we got a very big win.”

It was still a one-point game with 1:51 remaining. Sylvan Hills led 42-41 but both of Jacksonville’s starting post players had fouled out. Jerika Hardaway’s fifth foul sent Sylvan Hills point guard Jessica Brasfield to the free-throw line, where she made 1 of 2 to make it 43-41. A series of turnovers followed. Jacksonville’s Alexis James got the rebound, but it was stolen by Jahnay Duncan, who then walked with the ball. But Sylvan Hills freshman Alana Canady stole the ball and was fouled. She missed the front end of her one-and-one trip to the line, but Duncan got the rebound. She passed to Brasfield who was fouled, and this time made both shots for a 45-41 lead with 1:15 left.

James missed at the other end, and with 50 seconds remaining, Sylvan Hills senior Sarah Beckwith drained a 3-pointer that all but sealed the win.

Taylor Toombs made two free throws for Jacksonville with 36 seconds remaining, but Jacksonville (12-9, 7-3) was still forced to foul. This time it was leading scorer Antrice McCoy who fouled out sending Dabria Thompson to the line with 30 seconds to go. She hit both shots to set the final margin.

“I have to give a lot of credit,” said Jacksonville coach William Rountree. “We have played this team twice and both times they have absolutely killed us on the boards. That’s something we usually do well, but they have some good athletes and they have soundly beaten us twice in that aspect of the game, and I think it made the difference tonight.”

Jacksonville led 11-8 in the first quarter when Sylvan Hills went on an 8-0 run. Thompson got a 3-point play before hitting a 3-pointer, and Brasfield hit a running jumper to put the Lady Bears up 16-11 and force a Jacksonville timeout.

Sylvan Hills (12-9, 8-2) focused defensively on McCoy, who is averaging more than 20 points per game. She had four points and was held without a bucket until 50 seconds remained in the first half when she hit her first shot of the game.

That cut Sylvan Hills’ lead to 23-22. After a Thompson miss, James sank a running 40-footer at the buzzer to give the Lady Red Devils a two-point lead at intermission. But Jacksonville failed to capitalize on the momentum. Sylvan Hills started the third quarter with an 8-0 run.

“We got a big momentum swing with that big shot to end the half,” Rountree said. “But then we came out flat in the third quarter. Once we fell behind we were trying to swim upstream, and we just weren’t playing well enough to pull it off. I don’t question our effort at all. I thought we played hard. Sylvan Hills has a good team.”

Sylvan Hills won the rebounding battle 36-27, led by Duncan’s 12 rebounds.

“She played her best game of the year without a doubt,” Davis said of Duncan. “I think some of these girls are maybe still a bit too young to notice what that kind of effort and tenacity can do for you. But I think she can see it now and I think she’ll keep it up. She’s so athletic, and if she’ll work that hard she can do that consistently.”

Brasfield led all scorers with 16 points while Thompson added 15. Beckwith quietly contributed 11 points for the Lady Bears.

“I love her because I know I’m going to get 100 percent out of her every second she’s on the floor,” Davis said of Beckwith. “She loses her head a little bit every now and then, but I get her attention and she’s right back on track. And I never have to worry about effort. That’s why I love having her out there on the floor.”

James and McCoy each finished with 12 points to lead Jacksonville.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Who can lead new district?

The Jacksonville School Board is looking for a permanent superintendent to run the fledgling district as it continues the process of breaking away from the Pulaski County Special School District.

The new schools chief will have to be dedicated to creating a long-term vision that will include building multiple new campuses and finding a way to reinvigorate the students and teachers to boost academic achievement.

The new school board recently paid $9,000 to a company in Omaha, Neb., to look for candidates for the job. They must find a superintendent who understands the community and who is willing to stay for several years. Whomever the board finally chooses, the new superintendent will be dealing with impatient residents who have seen their hometown suffer under the dysfunction of a failing district for years.

It will take time to rebuild the education system: Schools will have to be consolidated, buildings will have to be demolished and, perhaps most importantly, trust will have to be developed between the community and school administrators, which the city has not had since Bobby Lester was in charge.

Lester is the new district’s interim superintendent. He will step aside from that role by summer.

Jacksonville needs someone as capable as Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman, our gold standard for school administrators.

We’ve said before that schools are key to thriving communities and, because of that, they are more important to a city’s future than even the mayors. Superintendents are rightfully paid more, and we’re sure the mayors would agree.

Choose a leader we can count on.

EDITORIAL >> Liquor drive running dry

Efforts to loosen liquor laws in Jacksonville and Sherwood seem to have hit a wall.

Organizers so far don’t have enough signatures to hold local elections and let voters decide if they want restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores to sell alcohol. Under the plan, restaurants would be allowed to have a full bar, and grocery stores and gas stations would be allowed to sell only beer and wine.

In Jacksonville, the petition drive needs 5,008 signatures from registered voters to get the measure on the ballot, but it came up short by more than 1,400 signatures.

The clock is ticking. If Jacksonville can’t make up the difference by March 5, the petition will be ruled invalid and volunteers will have to start all over.

Sherwood has struggled even more. There, canvassers have collected only about 1,500 out of the 4,752 that are required.

Both cities’ chambers of commerce have been leading the charge to ease liquor laws in their communities and help attract restaurants to the area. These liquor laws are at least 60 years old, and it’s time for voters to revisit them.

City officials point out there’s an effort in the legislature to allow dry cities the option to serve alcohol in restaurants and hotels. Voters statewide will decide on the wet-dry issue again in 2016 after they overwhelmingly rejected in November a proposed constitutional amendment that would have made every county wet.

But the local initiatives are the most important. Cities can cash in on the tax revenue from alcohol sales, as well as from the food sold and building permits, if chain restaurants want to open here.

Skeptics who say drunk driving will increase if liquor laws are changed should understand that in Missouri and Louisiana, where liquor laws are among the loosest in the nation, DWI rates are actually lower than in Arkansas, where only 10 counties are completely wet. Another 27 counties have wet-dry areas and another 38 counties ban sales completely, except at private clubs.

Barry Sellers, Sherwood’s economic developer, has questioned the fairness of requiring a whopping 38 percent of registered voters to sign a petition to get any measure related to alcohol laws on the ballot. Other issues need only 10 percent of registered voters’ signatures to get on the ballot. Sellers hopes the legislature will change that law, but that might be more difficult than knocking on every registered voter’s door twice a day to get enough signatures.

Why is the bar so high for alcohol? Is it because special interests, such as liquor stores, don’t want more competition?

Setting such a high bar makes it difficult — nearly impossible — to repeal local alcohol prohibitions, although last fall, voters in Saline and Columbia counties, which were formerly dry, voted themselves wet.

Diners will continue to spend their money down the road in North Little Rock, where dozens of chain restaurants are raking it in thanks to prohibitions in most areas to the north, except for some pockets in Jacksonville. (Cabot, like the rest of Lonoke County, is also dry.)

Residents should not have to detour several miles out of their way just to buy a six-pack before a ballgame on TV or a bottle of wine to celebrate special occasions.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood home gets special tour

Leader staff writer

About 300 people walked from cars lining both sides of a narrow street in Sherwood on Friday to get a glimpse of the Matthews-Clauson-McCullough House during the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s “Sandwiching in History” tour.

The 5,000-square-foot home was built in the Tudor Revival and Craftsman architecture styles about 1927 by Justin Matthews, tour guide Rachel Silva told the large crowd.

The house at 10226 Miller Road was constructed in the Pope Place Addition of Sylvan Hills, which would later become incorporated as the city of Sherwood.

Silva said the addition was named for territorial Gov. John Pope because Matthews, known for developing Park Hill and Sylvan Hills, admired Pope for being the first governor to move his family to the Arkansas territory when it was considered dangerous.

The guide noted that, although the addition contained 81 residential lots, only two houses were constructed before the Great Depression halted development.

The first owner of the Matthews-Clauson-McCullough House was Eloise Lenow Maloney, who financed it in 1928. She paid $2,000 toward the total price of $7,500 and probably used it as a country estate or weekend getaway/vacation home because the family’s primary residence was in Little Rock.

Her husband, John, served as Pulaski County chancery clerk, circuit clerk and state insurance commissioner before he died in 1929. Eloise lost the house after he passed.

The next owner was Otis Fuller, who had it for seven months, Silva said. He likely received the house as payment for work. He gave Metropolitan Trust Company $1 for it and the other house down the street.

The home was a rental property during the 1930s, Silva continued. According to her, Tom Eubanks — son of the Cleetus Clinton (C.C.) Eubanks who built houses for Matthews and lived nearby — the renters operated an illegal moonshine business from its attic.

The legend, which Silva said couldn’t be verified by documentation, goes that the renters were caught and barrels of liquor were poured onto the yard through second-story windows.

Supposedly, the moonshiners kept hogs to eat the corn mash after it was used to make the liquor. It is said they were arrested and the hogs, drunk from the liquor in the yard, were released into the countryside.

In 1944, Donald B. and Evelyn Clauson bought the house for $5,500. He was a coach at West Side Junior High, later becoming a principal at another Little Rock school, and she was a Pulaski Heights Junior High teacher. The couple commuted to downtown Little Rock every day. Their two sons, Evelyn’s parents and a lodger also lived at the Sylvan Hills estate.

The sons’ initials are stamped into the concrete steps on the west side of the house, Silva added.

The house was sold again in 1950 to Murray and Martha McCullough, who had seven children. Murray loved to ride horses, so the country home was ideal, the guide continued.

The family had owned a fleet of trucks in South Bend, Ind., but tired of cold weather there that caused poor driving conditions and maintenance issues.

The U.S. Postal Service in Little Rock hired Murray as a “screen wagon mail contractor.” His fleet of trucks and 12 drivers hauled mail to and from train stations, bus stations, post offices and the airport.

Murray worked as a chemist at the Maumelle Ordnance Plant during World War II and, returning to his full-time trucking job after the war.

He was later hired by Winthrop Laboratories as a pharmaceutical sales representative and consistently placed among the company’s top three salesman nationally. Murray had studied medicine in college, Silva noted.

According to his daughter, Nancy McCullough Clark, neighbors visited to have him diagnose their ailments.

Murray’s wife was an environmentalist and active in many civic and volunteer projects. Nancy has also been involved in environmental advocacy in Pulaski County.

Martha died in 1984 at age 76. Her husband, 98, died in 2006.

The house was left to their son, John, who died last year at age 70.

John’s nephews — Murray Clark, Brett Clark and Mark Rushing — inherited the home that is now for sale for $299,000.

It has five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a breakfast room, a floored attic, a full basement, a back porch and a two-car garage.

Architectural characteristics include the front-facing cross gable with false half-timbering, stone around the front door, the Tudor arch above the front door, a prominent chimney, banks of casement windows and leaded-glass windows with diamond-shaped panels, Silva noted.

The inside features a grand staircase, two sets of French doors and a brick-mantle fireplace, she said.

The porch and two upstairs bedrooms are not original. The bedrooms were added before the McCulloughs bought the house. When the home was first built, the ceiling of the living room went all the way up to the second floor, Silva said.

Nancy McCullough Clark told the guide what she remembered most about growing up in the house was enjoying country life — the woods, the sounds of owls at night, the whippoorwills in the springtime, taking walks on the road and watching the fireplace in the evenings.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood fails to get school bill

By JOHN HOFHEIMER Leader senior staff writer

A bill intended to make it easier for Maumelle and Sherwood to eventually carve their own school districts from the Pulaski County Special School District failed to get out of the House Education Committee on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle), Rep. Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood), Rep. Donnie Copeland (R- North Little Rock) and Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), HB 1242 would lower the number of students required to have a school district from 4,000 to 2,500.

The 4,000 threshold was established in just such a manner several years ago by then-state Rep. Will Bond (D- Jacksonville). It was estimated that Jacksonville and north Pulaski County would have at least 4,000 students.

With permission of the federal judge in central Arkansas’ desegregation agreement, a vote of Jacksonville-area residents and, finally, permission of the state Board of Education, the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District was formed last fall.

It is currently hiring a full-time superintendent and dividing up assets and liabilities with PCSSD in preparation for starting school in 2016-17.

The bill would have also required the “remains” of a school district to have the minimum enrollment of 2,500.

A desegregation settlement agreement between the state, North Little Rock School District, Little Rock School District, Joshua Intervenors and PCSSD allowed the detachment of Jacksonville but said no other districts can be carved from PCSSD until that district is declared unitary — or desegregated — by the federal courts.

District size and the prohibition against other new school districts may not be the only impediment to detachment, at least for Maumelle.

It is feared that area is predominately white and its detachment would threaten racial balance and the desegregation agreement. Sherwood’s feasibility study has shown the city is racially balanced.

The courts might well not have allowed the racial balance upset, and there is no guarantee that the state Board of Education would approve of either detachment.

TOP STORY >> Designation of distress challenged

By JEFFREY SMITH Leader staff writer

Beebe School District assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum Scott Embrey informed the school board on Monday that the district will go to the state Board of Education on Thursday to appeal the designation of Badger Academy, which the state has declared is in academic distress.

Embrey, along with superintendent Belinda Shook, Badger Academy Principal Keith Madden and several Badger Academy students, will speak during the appeal.

Badger Academy is a conversion charter school that has an alternative learning environment for at-risk students. There are 26 full-time students and around 60 students who are seen each day at the school.

“The district is doing great things at Badger Academy. The designation is not a fair representation of one test score and what is happening at the school,” Embrey said.

Shook said the district could drop the Local Education Agency number at Badger Academy and count those students as part of the overall student enrollment, the academy’s test scores would be absorbed and would not be failing.

“If we drop our LEA number, then we drop our conversion charter and we can’t do things like the Second Chance program. (An opportunity for adults ages 18 to 21 to earn a Beebe High School diploma). We are helping kids. We want to tell the story,” Shook said.

“Every school in a school district has a Local Education Agency number. If Badger Academy was not a conversion charter school with a separate LEA number, then the student’s test scores would be included in the main building,” Shook said.

“The numbers would blend in, causing very little difference. Because Badger Academy has its own LEA number, the scores are kept separate and caused it to qualify for academic distress. Badger Academy had 33 test scores over a three-year period,” she explained. And, some years, only one or two students are tested at Badger Academy.

In other business, the board approved of hiring E-Rate Exchange as a consultant for $1,750 a year, $500 in administrative fees and 3 percent of the E-Rate funding the company can get the district for technology.

E-Rate is program under the Federal Communications Commission that aids schools and libraries with phone and Internet services. Money is collected under the Universal Service Fund charged on customer’s phone and Internet service bills.

Assistant superintendent for business Rick Duff said, in the past, the district had received $20,000 to $30,000 a year. “We have the potential of getting $350,000 to $400,000 over a five-year period of time. It’s not guaranteed, but we are hoping to get a large portion. It is going to be used for infrastructure, networking and wiring,” Duff said.

He said the district needed to hire a consulate to help with forms, papers and timelines to be followed for the E-Rate program.

School board member Clay Goff, who is chairman of the White County Regional Library System, said that system uses E-Rate Exchange consulting.

Board members also approved the purchase of one school bus, one van and one truck. The district received a bid price of $104,468 for the bus. Shook said the district usually replaces two buses a year. But, since the bus fleet is in good condition, only one bus was needed.

The board approved the purchase of a HVAC control system for the middle school for $27,000; ChromeBook laptop computers for the 11-12 High School Building for $26,028 and $13,890 in football equipment for the 2015-16 school year.

Board members approved the resignation of Beebe Elementary principal Cathy Payne. She is retiring at the end of the school year after 25 years with the Beebe and McRae School Districts.

“I appreciated working with her over the years. She came with the annexation (of McRae). She had worked at the high school to the elementary, wherever we asked her to. She going to be missed,” superintendent Shook said.

Also resigning are high school counselor Connie Sheren and family and consumer science teacher Deborah Knox.

Three Beebe Junior High eighth graders were honored during the board meeting.

Emily Humphrey was recognized for winning the White County Spelling Bee Contest.

Sylvia Bruce and Grace Hutchinson were recognized as winners of the statewide Youth Art Month flag competition. Bruce was the grand-prize winning artist and won a trip to New York City. Her design will be turned into a flag representing Arkansas at the YAM national convention in New Orleans in March.

Hutchinson placed fourth. Both students’ artwork will be displayed at the state capitol in March.

Assistant superintendent for maintenance and transportation Hal Crisco informed the board the district received $14,000 in rebates from Entergy over the past year for participating in the CLEAResult energy efficiency program.

Maintenance employees Jean Stark and Ron Harvey are licensed in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. They attended training sessions and worked on the units.

By doing extensive cleaning of 80 out of 400 HVAC units in the schools, they were able get rebate money for the district.

Beebe was also recognized as the top-performing school and received the service excellence award.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville rallies for sweep of Beebe

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils picked up a huge win on Friday, rallying from behind to beat 5A-Central rival Beebe 42-38 to go a game up on the Lady Badgers in the knotted up league standings. The two teams entered Friday’s game at the Devils’ Den as two parts of a three-way tie for second place at 6-2 in conference play.

Jacksonville had gone to Beebe and hammered the Lady Badgers by 20, but Jacksonville coach William Rountree knew he was getting a much-improved team visiting his place than the one it played in early January.

“They’re better than they were and I think they proved it in this game,” said Rountree. “I thought they played well in just about every aspect, but sometimes your shots just aren’t falling and that’s what happened to them tonight.”

Beebe led at the end of every quarter except the fourth, making it an even tougher loss to take for Badger coach Greg Richey.

“You just have to hit your point-blank shots,” said Richey. “I don’t know how many we missed right there under the basket, but it was way too many. We didn’t shoot free throws very well either. We outplayed them. Their coach said so himself after the game. We just left too many points out there. We have got to shoot better than that.”

The Lady Badgers shot 26 percent from the floor on 14 of 54 shooting. They were also 7 of 17 from the free-throw line. Jacksonville made 16 of 44 shoots from the field, and hit the same number of free throws in only eight attempts.

“We made our free throws tonight and that’s big for us,” Rountree said. “Tatiana Lacy, who’s probably shooting less than 50 percent, stepped up and hit four out of four for us. I was also very proud to see her pull that ball down and drive in from outside. That got her to the line at a big moment and she knocked them down.”

Lacy’s drive and free throws came during an 8-0 Jacksonville run in the second quarter that gave the Lady Red Devils a 20-15 lead, but it was short-lived. Beebe closed the half with nine unanswered points and took a 24-20 lead into the third quarter.

Lady Devil sophomore Alexis James turned the game to Jacksonville’s favor with a remarkable two-minute stretch of play.

Beebe led 36-32 and was at the line for a 1-and-1 with 4:40 remaining. The first shot missed and Taylor Toombs got the rebound for Jacksonville. James took the ball on the left wing and penetrated for a floating jumper to make it 36-34. Taylor McGraw answered for Beebe with 3:30 remaining. James then got inside for another bucket with 3:08 left to make it 38-36 and Rountree called timeout to set up pressure defense.

It worked. Beebe threw the ball away, and on the ensuing possession, James drained a 3-pointer to put Jacksonville ahead for the first time since early in the second quarter.

After another Badger turnover, James penetrated again from the top of the key. This time Beebe closed off the lane with two defenders, but James made a nifty interior pass to Lacy who was fouled going up. She hit both free throws to make it 41-38 with 1:59 left in the game.

“You’ve got to recognize the play by sophomore Alexis James,” Rountree said. “That was a tremendous series by her, just a tremendous few minutes of basketball she played at a key moment in the game. You just can’t say enough about what she did for us tonight.”

Beebe’s final three possessions ended with two missed free throws, a steal by Jacksonville’s Jerika Hardaway and wild shot that would fall by Ashlyn Johnson with 15 seconds remaining.

Jacksonville senior Antrice McCoy led the Lady Red Devils with 17 points while James added 10. McGraw shared game-high honors with 17 points for Beebe while Johnson dropped in 11.

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle girls clinch 2A-6 league title

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Lady Bison secured their third-straight regular season 2A-6 Conference championship, and first outright since 2013, with a dominant 43-15 win at KIPP Delta Collegiate High last Thursday.

The Lady Bison were the regular season co-champions of the conference last year, sharing the honor with rival Brinkley, but won it outright this season and did so with two conference games remaining on the schedule.

Carlisle’s win over KIPP Delta last Thursday improved its 2A-6 record to 14-2 on the season. Des Arc, who held the second-place spot entering last week’s games, trailed the Lady Bison by two games in the league standings, but lost to Augusta last week.

The Lady Eagles’ loss to Augusta, combined with Carlisle’s win over KIPP Delta, gives the Lady Bison a three-game lead in the conference standings with just two games remaining; therefore, giving the Lady Bison the outright 2A-6 championship.

“We struggled at times, and that’s to be expected with the young group that I have,” said Carlisle girls’ coach Jonathan Buffalo. “It also proves that anybody in this conference can beat anybody any night.

“Des Arc beat us at Des Arc, and they’ve come out and lost two in a row since they beat us.”

Just because the Carlisle girls have already secured the conference championship, though, doesn’t mean they’re going to take these last two regular season games lightly, according to Buffalo.

“We want to finish strong,” Buffalo said. “We want to have momentum. It doesn’t matter that we’ve already clinched it. We want to win these last two games to have as much momentum as we can going into the district tournament.”

Carlisle led 18-4 at the end of the first quarter last Thursday, and pushed that lead to 20-plus by halftime, leading 29-7. By the end of the third quarter, the Lady Bison led 42-11.

The continuous clock ran throughout the fourth quarter because of the 30-point sportsmanship rule, which led to the low-scoring numbers in that quarter.

Kylie Warren led Carlisle with 21 points. Elex McClain had 11 points, and Nikita Harper had nine.

The Carlisle boys didn’t have as easy of a time with KIPP Delta last week. The Bison were outmatched in every way against the more talented and experienced hosts, and lost by the final score of 70-45.

KIPP Delta used its press to disrupt the Bison’s offense early, and led by double digits at the end of the first quarter. The hosts’ lead grew to 21 by halftime, with the score 40-19, and Carlisle was never able to recover.

“We couldn’t do much at all against their pressure,” said Bison coach Chris Houser. “Their speed and athleticism was way too much for us to handle. We were way overmatched against them.”

Devon Kendrick led the Carlisle boys with 19 points. He was the lone Bison to score in double figures. Nick Schafer scored nine points. Drake Adams scored seven points for Carlisle, and point guard Dominic Castleberry added six.

The Bison and Lady Bison played host to Marvell on senior night last night after deadlines, and they’ll travel to McCrory on Friday for the final regular season game of the year.

The Lady Bison (17-7, 14-2) will enter next week’s district tournament at Hazen as the No. 1 seed. The Bison, who are 2-14 in conference play, will enter the district tournament as the No. 9 seed.

SPORTS STORY >> Relentless effort lifts Cabot to win

Special to The Leader

The Cabot Lady Panthers went into North Little Rock Friday night and handed the Lady Wildcats their first conference loss in a thrilling 47-45 fashion. In a battle until the end, Cabot led at the end of each quarter, having the advantage by two points at the end of the first, second, and fourth quarters, and by three at the end of the third.

The victory gives the Lady Panthers a 6-2 7A/6A-East conference record, while North Little Rock drops to 7-1. Cabot is 18-5 overall, and the Lady Wildcats are now 19-2.

“Our kids just played real hard,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder. “All of them played hard, but they were relentless on the boards. We did a really good job rebounding. A big key, we didn’t turn it over as much as we did the game before. All the girls played really hard, and we’re glad to have the win here.”

Alyssa Hamilton got the Lady Panthers on the board first with a drive and layup. Malica Monk sank a pair of free throws to tie the score for North Little Rock.

Hamilton scored another two, and Anna Sullivan hit a long 2-pointer for a 6-5 Cabot lead before Monk added two more free throws to give the Lady Wildcats a 7-6 advantage. Sullivan answered with a 3-point basket, and the first quarter ended with a 9-7 lead for the Lady Panthers.

Each team scored 14 points in the second quarter, which still resulted in a lead of two at the half for Cabot. The lead changed hands 10 times in the quarter, with three being the largest margin at 13-10 Cabot. Five players scored for the Lady Panthers with Danielle McWilliams completing a traditional 3-point play, Sullivan sinking another 3-point basket, and Rachel Allgood connecting on a three from an inbounds play to set the 23-21 score at intermission.

Cabot scored the first four points of the second half, stretching the lead to six. Brogan Jones cut the lead to four with two free throws, but Sullivan hit another long 2-pointer to up the lead to six again. North Little Rock answered with six-straight points to knot the score at 29, but Sullivan struck again with a three, then Hamilton with a 2-pointer for a lead of 34-29 for the Lady Panthers.

North Little Rock’s Halley Hill was fouled on an offensive putback, made the first free throw, and Yo’Marris Morris rebounded the miss of the second and put it back in to cut the lead to two.

Josie Vanoss answered for Cabot on an inbounds play under the basket in which she was blocked, got the rebound, the putback, and then the free throw for the 3-point play. Morris responded with a putback of her own at the buzzer ending the third quarter, but missed the additional free throw to leave the score 37-34.

The fourth quarter included several trips to the free-throw line. Vanoss hit both ends of two crucial 1-and-1 attempts, and Leighton Taylor hit both ends with 25 seconds on the clock to put the Lady Panthers up 47-43. The Lady Wildcats could not convert on the other end of the floor and fouled McWilliams with nine seconds remaining. Her free throws would not go down, and Jones rebounded a missed layup by Monk and scored just before the buzzer to set the final margin at 47-45.

Cabot was 9 of 15 from the free-throw stripe for the game, with 6 of 10 of those in the final period. Meanwhile, of the 45 points scored by North Little Rock, 19 of those were free-throw points, as they were 19 of 26 from the line.

Sullivan led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 15 points. Hamilton was next with 13, then Vanoss with seven points.

Jones led North Little Rock with 12, while Monk was held to 10 points and Kyra Collier eight.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers set two state records

Leader sports editor

The Cabot girls’ track team broke four school records two weeks ago at Arkansas State University’s Invitational, but it was state records that went down Saturday at the state indoor meet at the Randal Tyson Track Center at the University of Arkansas.

The Lady Panthers weren’t close to full strength, but still managed a second-place finish behind Bentonville, and broke two state records in the process.

Lexi and Tori Weeks each broke the state record in the pole vault, going 13-feet, 6-inches to shatter the old record of 13-1.5. They each took three shots at the national record of 14-2.75, going for 14-3.25, but neither successfully cleared the height.

They both have a personal best of 14-0.5, but heights must be cleared in state meets to count as state records, and everything between the new state record and the national record was bypassed.

“The more you run down the runway the more tired you get,” said Cabot track coach Leon White. “That’s why they went up nine inches all at once, just give it their best shot while they can.”

While tying for first place in the pole vault, the twins also finished first and second in the long jump. Tori won the event with a leap of 17-4.25, while Lexi was second at 16-10.75, 9.5 inches further than third place.

It was a great leaping day for Tori Weeks, who also finished second in the triple jump, shattering the Cabot school record. Tori first broke the old school record of 35-6 by leaping 35-7 on her next-to-last jump. Then on her last jump, she obliterated that record by bounding 36-10 and moving into first place, but Bentonville’s McKenzie Dixon broke the state record on her last jump, going 37-3.5 to win the event.

Cabot’s 4x400-meter relay team also broke the state record by more than two seconds, finishing in 4:03.15. That also was not the team’s fastest time. They finished below 4:02 at ASU. Lexi and Tori Weeks, along with freshmen Tristyn Edgar and Jennifer Bond teamed up for the state record run.

Edgar also took fifth for four points in the 200-meter dash and finished eighth to earn a point in the 55-meter sprint race.

Despite setting a state record in the 4x400, Cabot entered no one in the 400-meter race.

“Well really Tristyn is more of a sprinter,” White said. “We’d normally have Danielle McWilliams running that relay. She can run a 59 or 60 but she’s in basketball right now. And the twins are both nursing little injuries so we didn’t enter them in everything they usually do for us. One of them has a quad and the other a ham, so we’re taking it light.”

Three freshmen and a junior did well in the 4x800-meter relay. Ashley and Casey Gore teamed up with Edgar and Bailey Lebow for a fourth-place finish in that race.

Katie Wright garnered a final point for Cabot with an eighth-place finish in the shot put, tossing it 30-9.25.

Monday, February 09, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Rep. Farrer is on board

Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin), having heard from his constituents, has dropped his opposition to Medicaid expansion for working-poor Arkansans and has co-sponsored the bill to continue the private option program for at least another year.

SB96, Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Health Care Reform Act of 2015, cruised through the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor subcommittee on a voice vote Tuesday, and the House easily passed the bill Thursday after it received overwhelming approval in the Senate the week before.

With a convert’s zeal, Farrer spoke out in favor of the bill before the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor subcommittee. The bill creates a 16-person legislative task force that will include the Surgeon General, Dr. Greg Bledsoe, and will study whether to end private option, continue it or continue it with changes that would make it more efficient and cost effective.

Farrer is expected to have a key role in the task force and could become an important spokesman for the federally funded program that has insured more than 220,000 Arkansans. The state has saved $69 million in just six months by reducing health-care costs for the working poor.

Farrer, a physical therapist who works at North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville, understands the importance of additional Medicaid payments to community hospitals, which had written off hundreds of millions of dollars in health-care costs for the uninsured. North Metro will receive $1 million under the expansion, which could be the difference between keeping its doors open or shutting down.

Except for Rep. Donnie Copeland (R-North Little Rock), every legislator in the area has come on board in support of the expansion as championed by our new governor, who capped the week off by signing a middle-class tax cut bill. Copeland, who is a minister, is unconcerned about the future of community hospitals, although both St. Vincent Infirmary and Baptist Medical Center are in his district.

Let’s face it, Medicaid expansion is more of a subsidy for hospitals and insurance companies than it is for poor people who can’t afford health care. However the task force decides to tweak the program, it’s important to keep it going beyond two years, when the state assumes 5 percent of the cost and 10 percent in five years.

Despite our differences, Joe Farrer has always been a class act: He always returns our phone calls even when he’s busy at the legislature or fighting the flu. But when he and his task force review the program, they must ask themselves: How do you kick 220,000 or more Arkansans off the program two years from now? They probably won’t.

EDITORIAL >> Cherishing local history

Several efforts to preserve and promote local history deserve the public’s support. Volunteers throughout the area have worked hard to keep alive the stories of the past that provide context about our hometowns.

Sherryl Miller and the genealogy research team at the Lonoke County Museum have been contributing articles to The Leader for several months about Civil War veterans who fought on both sides of the conflict, many of whom went on to serve in leadership positions in the state and county.

The stories are as fascinating as the museum’s collection and its monthly lectures on the Civil War.

In Sherwood, Darrell Brown led the restoration of the old Roundtop gas station, even when confronted by a not-always-patient city council that was concerned the project was too expensive for a rundown building located in a remote part of town.

Before the work, drivers passing by would often see the station vandalized with graffiti. The building was even struck by arsonists just as the renovation was nearly completed.

The restored Roundtop, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a welcome addition to the already pleasant Trammel Road area, where flooded Cypress trees are a gateway to a tucked-away pocket of neighborhoods.

The historic building is perhaps better than ever. It will soon be a substation for the Sherwood Police Department.

Brown is also involved with other history initiatives as chairman of the Sherwood History and Heritage Committee.

To honor the approaching 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into the First World War, Mike Polston, a Cabot High School teacher who runs the Museum of American History, has been gathering photos and documents related to Lonoke County men who fought in World War I.

We published a photo from Polston last Saturday of Lonoke County native Eddie Barton Hamm, who won a gold medal and set a world record during the 1928 summer Olympics in Amsterdam.

One wonders what became of Hamm following his return as the nation fell into the Great Depression.

Local history, much like local news, is key to understanding why our communities matter.