Friday, April 10, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Solid pitching lifts Panther softball team

Leader sports editor

The Cabot softball team picked up a pair of wins this week, defeating nonconference opponents Benton-Harmony Grove and Sylvan Hills by a combined score of 19-2. On Tuesday, the Lady Panthers knocked off BHG 6-0 on the strength of 10 strikeouts by Kaitlyn Felder. The following day, Megan Goodnight and Lauren McCluskey combined to hold the Lady Bears to just three hits in a 13-2 final.

Goodnight also highlighted a 13-hit performance by Cabot on Wednesday, smashing a walk-off, three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to end the game on the sportsmanship rule. It was Goodnight’s fourth home run of the season and the team’s 11th.

Sylvan Hills didn’t help its own cause, committing six errors, which led to four unearned runs for Cabot. The Lady Panthers opened up the scoring with three runs in the bottom of the first inning, four in the second, three in the third and three more in the fifth to set the final margin. Sylvan Hills got one run in the second and one in the third.

Goodnight went 3 for 4 with four RBIs while McCluskey went 3 for 4 with a double, a triple, one RBI and two runs scored.

Leadoff hitter Heather Hill and five-hole Erin Eckert each got two base hits for the Lady Panthers.

Goodnight started on the mound and pitched three innings. She gave up two hits and two earned runs while striking out one and walking three. McCluskey threw the final two innings, giving up one hit while fanning two and walking no one.

Sylvan Hills’ Doma’Nique Hunt scored the Lady Bears’ first run and drove in the second. She drew a leadoff walk in the second inning and moved to second on a hit by Storm Ellis. Taylor Yeoman was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Goodnight walked Lynlee Broadway to score Hunt from third. In the third inning, Hunt’s RBI double scored Callie Cavender, who, two batters earlier, hit a one-out double to left field.

Felder also gave up just three hits in Tuesday’s shutout victory while going the seven-inning distance on the mound. Her 10 strikeouts were accompanied by just one walk.

Cabot’s bats weren’t as alive on Tuesday, but BHG also helped Cabot with five errors that led to all six runs being unearned. Six different Lady Panthers got one hit apiece with Hill, Goodnight, Bethany Knowles and Ashlyn Spears picking up RBIs.

The Lady Panthers hosted a doubleheader against Mountain Home on Friday after deadlines. See details of those games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabs hold off Stuttgart, boys lose

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat Stuttgart 9-7 on Tuesday, while the baseball team outhit the Ricebirds, but still fell 5-3 for its first loss of the season.

The middle innings were the difference for the Lonoke softball team. The Lady Jackrabbits scored all nine runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Stuttgart scored two in the first and one in the second before Lonoke finally got on the board with two runs in the top of the third. After holding Stuttgart scoreless in the bottom of the third, Lonoke briefly took the lead with two more runs in the fourth. Stuttgart reclaimed the advantage with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, but Lonoke rallied for five runs in the top of the fourth to take control of the game.

Lonoke’s bats went quiet after that, but pitching and defense were just good enough to hold on for the victory.

The crucial fifth inning started with a pop-up to shortstop by Jarrelyn McCall, but Amanda Sexton got things rolling with a one-out single. Maddie Pool then lined a single to left field. Janae Miller reached on a fielder’s choice when she bunted down the third-base line, but the throw to get Sexton at third wasn’t in time, leaving everyone safe and the bases loaded. Candice James hit a fly ball single to left field to score Sexton and tie the game. Gracie Cole struck out for the second out, but Sidney Hallum was hit by a pitch to drive in Pool and give Lonoke the lead for good.

Charley Jo Chesney added to that advantage with a two-RBI double to the wall in left field that scored Miller and James. Jasalyn Truelove then singled to right field to score Hallum and cap the Lady Jackrabbits’ scoring.

Hallum, Truelove, McCall and Sexton all singled in the third inning to put Lonoke on the board. Miller, James and Chesney singled in the fourth inning for the Lady Rabbits’ other two runs.

Sexton went 4 for 4 to lead the Lady Jackrabbits at the plate. Chesney went the distance on the mound, giving up 12 hits and five earned runs on five strikeouts and one walk.

The Lonoke boys (7-1, 3-1) got 10 base hits to just six for Stuttgart, but the Ricebirds made the most of their opportunities, including a grand slam by Jacob Hildebrand in the bottom of the third that proved to be all the runs the home team would need. Stuttgart added another run in the fifth and Lonoke rallied for two runs in the final inning, but fell short.

Lonoke scored first in the top of the second when Christian James’ leadoff walk was followed up with singles by Savonte Rountree and Elijah Seigrist.

Haven Hunter hit a leadoff double for Lonoke in the seventh inning and scored on a single by Cody Martin. Nick Graves then walked and Kade Stuart singled two batters later to drive in Martin with one out. But Caleb Horton flew out to right field and Rountree struck out to end the game.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills beats Lady Devils twice

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills’ softball team improved to 6-0 in 5A-Central Conference play with a doubleheader sweep over Jacksonville on Tuesday at the Sherwood Sports Complex. The Lady Bears beat the Lady Red Devils 6-2 in game one and 10-6 in game two.

In game one, Jacksonville took an early 1-0 lead on a run scored by leadoff hitter Bailea Mitchell. Sylvan Hills, though, responded with six unanswered runs to take control of the game.

Doma’Nique Hunt scored the first run for the Lady Bears in the bottom of the second after doubling to start the inning. That tied the game at 1-1, and Sylvan Hills took a 3-1 lead with two runs in the third inning, scored by Tristen Goodson and Cara Pozza.

The Lady Bears’ most productive inning came in the fifth, when they added three more runs to their side of the board by scoring Pozza, Hunt and winning pitcher Callie Cavender. That gave the hosts a 6-1 lead, and Jacksonville set the final score in the top of the sixth with a run scored by three-hole hitter Kinley Burrows.

Cavender retired the side in the top of the seventh to earn the win. She threw all seven innings and finished with four strikeouts.

Sylvan Hills was the visitor on the scoreboard in game two, and scored three runs in the top of the first inning to take an early lead. Jacksonville, though, answered with two runs in the bottom part of the inning to pull within one of the Lady Bears’ lead, with the score 3-2.

Sylvan Hills, however, got three more runs its next at-bat in the top of the second – all with two outs. Tori Crites drove in the first run with a stand-up double to right-center field, scoring Cavender, who reached on a fielder’s choice the previous at-bat. That gave the Lady Bears a 4-2 lead.

Crites advanced to third base on a passed ball at the plate, and scored the next at-bat on a routine fly ball to straightaway center field that was dropped. Taylor Yeoman was next up for Sylvan Hills, and she reached base after a lengthy battle at the plate with Jacksonville pitcher Kym House.

Yeoman fouled off numerous pitches before reaching base via walk on the 13th pitch of the at-bat. That brought Storm Ellis to the plate, and she drove in Hunt with a single to right center, and as a result, the hosts led 6-2.

Sylvan Hills scored another run in the third inning before both teams added a run in the fourth, which made it an 8-3 ballgame. The Lady Bears scored their final two runs in the fifth inning before Jacksonville scored one run in each of the final three innings, which set the final score of game two.

Burrows led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a stand-up double to straightaway center field that nearly went over the fence. She advanced to third base on a 4-3 groundout by House the next at-bat, and scored on a Morgan Lloyd single to the left-field gap the following at-bat, which made the score 10-6.

The next two at-bats resulted in the final two outs of the game, with Cavender, who relieved winning pitcher Lynlee Broadway in the seventh inning, getting a strikeout to end the game.

Jacksonville actually outhit Sylvan Hills 14-11 in game two, but the Lady Bears had the more timely hits, especially early on.

“That’s the difference in the game is when you get that key hit at the right time, and you have people in scoring position,” said Sylvan Hills coach Mark Anderson. “I thought we did that really well – getting that hit, and our baserunners were really aggressive and were getting to where they needed to be.”

Also, Jacksonville’s two pitchers gave up a combined six walks in game two, while Broadway and Cavender gave up no walks in the seven innings played. Broadway finished game two with four strikeouts, and Cavender had one in the seventh.

“Both of them did a great job,” Anderson said of his two pitchers. “They did their job and kept it low-scoring. I couldn’t ask for them to do a better job.”

Despite coming out on the losing end in both games, Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk was pleased with the way his team competed throughout the doubleheader, and said his team has displayed the same level of fight, toughness and competitive nature all season long.

“There is no quit in these girls,” said Hawk of his team. “They’re tough. They get hurt and they come right back. If they are hurt, they won’t tell us. They stay positive. They pick each other up.

“They just stay positive, they keep working, and then all of a sudden they get back into ballgames. They’re a good group and they’re good softball players.”

Pozza led Sylvan Hills at the plate in game two, going 3 for 4 with three singles. Cavender, Crites, Hunt and Ellis each had two hits in that game.

Emily Lovercheck led Jacksonville offensively in game two, going 3 for 3 with a home run shy of the cycle. Burrows, Alexis Goodman and Savannah Mckinney each had two hits for Jacksonville in that game.

In game one, Pozza and Hunt led the Lady Bears (7-2, 6-0) with two hits apiece. Jacksonville, who fell to 2-4 in conference play after Tuesday’s doubleheader, totaled five hits in game one, with Mitchell, Burrows, Lloyd, Lovercheck and Goodman each getting one hit.

SPORTS STORY >> NPHS girls, JHS boys win rivalry matches

Leader sportswriter

The North Pulaski girls’ soccer team dominated its 5A-Central Conference game against crosstown rival Jacksonville on Tuesday at NPHS, winning 9-1, and in the boys’ game, the Red Devils held off a late Falcon rally to win 5-3.

In the girls’ game, the Lady Falcons scored the first two goals before Jacksonville scored its lone goal of the game to make the score 2-1 NP. It was all Lady Falcons, though, the rest of the way.

North Pulaski’s girls closed the half with five unanswered goals to lead 7-1 at the break. Due to the Lady Falcons’ six-goal lead, the mercy rule was put into effect at the start of the second half, which cut the clock time from 40 minutes to 20, and the Lady Falcons (2-2) scored two more goals in the final 20 minutes of play to set the final score.

Ilycia Carter led the Lady Falcons’ scoring efforts Tuesday. She scored five goals, while teammate Brianna Russell got the hat trick, scoring three goals. Alexis Knight added NP’s other goal.

“Overall, I was real pleased with their effort,” said North Pulaski coach Donny Lantrip. “On offense, they did well on the attacks. The midfield did well passing the ball and keeping it up field, and the defense did well getting the ball back up field and clearing it. Overall, I was pleased with them.

“We still need to work hard and work on our passing. The midfield needs to get a little quicker, and sometimes we’ve just got to get a little more physical. But they’ve got great heart and they get out there and give it their all, and that’s all I can ask of them.”

In the boys’ game, North Pulaski’s Phillip Gensert scored the game’s first goal within the first five minutes of action. Jacksonville, however, responded with three-straight goals, and as a result, took a 3-1 lead into halftime.

Falling behind early in games has been nothing new for the resilient Red Devils this season, but the team’s ability to overcome those early deficits has been just about as common.

Though they don’t want to make a habit of falling behind early in games, the Red Devils have shown numerous times this season they can successfully overcome early deficits, like they did Tuesday.

“In six games, including a scrimmage, half the teams have scored in the first five minutes on us,” said Jacksonville coach Adam Thrash. “We’re pretty resilient when it comes to fighting back after being down and not letting that get in our heads.”

Gerald Walton scored the first goal for Jacksonville, which tied the game at 1-1. Cortez Jordan added the second goal, putting the Red Devils up 2-1, and Stevie Eskridge followed with his first goal of the season via a header into the net, which set the halftime margin.

Keilen Richardson scored the first goal of the second half with a header into the net. It was his first goal of the season as well, and that put Jacksonville up 4-1 early in the second half.

The score remained at 4-1 for a good chunk of the second half, but in the final 15 minutes of the game, Gensert scored his second goal of the night to cut the Red Devils’ lead to 4-2, and the Falcons seized the momentum from there.

Minutes later, North Pulaski (4-2) scored again on a goal by Darryl Kimble, which made it a one-goal game with the score 4-3.

The final 10 minutes of the game was a dogfight, but in that time, senior Red Devil Michael Honeig put one in the net to give Jacksonville the cushion it needed. Hoenig’s goal ended up being the final one of the game for either team.

“The two goals that we scored, we scored them pretty quick,” Lantrip said. “That put us right back in the mix of things. There are things that we need to work on. We’re going to work on those things this week and just improve and try to get better.”

Jacksonville’s boys have started a new winning streak since losing to Sylvan Hills on March 31. Since that loss, which is Jacksonville’s only loss of the season, the Red Devils have won two in a row, including a 2-1 win over perennial powerhouse Pulaski Academy on April 2. Before that game, Jacksonville had never beaten PA at soccer.

Thrash said there are still plenty of areas where his Red Devils need to improve if they want to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves, but the second-year head coach is pleased with the progress his group has made since he took over the program.

“We haven’t been known as a really good soccer team the last few years,” Thrash said, “but we’ve got some guys that are great to coach, and it makes it fun for me.”

With Tuesday’s win, the Red Devils improved their record to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils sweep Bears

Leader sports editor

It took three runs in the bottom of the last inning of the nightcap of a doubleheader, but the Jacksonville Red Devils pulled off a big 5A-Central sweep of Sylvan Hills at the Sherwood Sports Complex on Tuesday. Jacksonville rolled 9-1 in game one, but trailed 2-0 going into its last at-bat in game two before earning the 3-2 victory.

“We always expected to win,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “We’d been making some good contact in the game – enough that we felt like we could pull it off even in that last inning.”

Sylvan Hills pitcher Hunter Heslep carried a four-hit shutout into the seventh inning, but came off the mound after two batters in the seventh. Nine-hole hitter Javan Wakefield started the rally by drawing a leadoff walk. Derek St. Clair, who moved to the top of the order after Courtland McDonald suffered a hamstring injury in game one, singled to left-center field, ending Heslep’s stellar performance.

Ryan Mallison hit a grounder back to pitcher Blake Maddox, but it was misplayed, leaving everyone safe and the bases loaded. Caleb McMunn tied the game with a two-RBI single to right field. Greg Jones walked to load the bases again, and pitcher James Tucker came through with a walk-off, game-winning single to center field.

Playing as the visiting team in game two, Sylvan Hills scored in the top of the first inning on singles by Nathan Thomas and McKenzie Seats. No one scored again until the Bears added to their lead with another run in the top of the sixth on three-consecutive singles by Maddox, Seats and Nick Fakouri.

Tucker threw all seven innings for Jacksonville, giving up seven hits and two earned runs while striking out seven, walking two and hitting one batter.

Jacksonville slowly built a four-run lead in game one, getting one run in the first, two in the second and another in the third off Sylvan Hills pitcher Marcus Long. Sylvan Hills scored an unearned run in the fourth on an error at shortstop and an RBI base hit by JoJo Craft.

Long held Jacksonville scoreless in the fourth and fifth innings, but the Red Devils burst out for four in the sixth to take control and give pitcher St. Clair a comfortable lead.

D.J. Scott started the four-run sixth with a single to left. Laderrious Perry walked and McDonald reached on an error that ended Long’s night on the mound. Mallison struck out and McMunn flew out to center field but scored Scott from third.

Another error scored two more runs, but McDonald suffered the pulled hamstring rounding third base. A base hit by Tucker drove in another run and gave Jacksonville an 8-1 lead.

Sylvan Hills had several chances to score more, especially early when St. Clair was struggling to find the strike zone.

He walked two batters in each of the first two innings, but the Red Devils were able to turn double plays both times. He also gave up back-to-back no-out singles in the third, but again was able to pitch out of the jam with a strikeout and another double-play ground ball.

St. Clair also went the distance – giving up three hits, zero earned runs while striking out six and walking five Bears.

Four players accounted for all 11 of Jacksonville’s base hits. Brandon Hickingbotham and Tucker went 3 for 4, Mallison went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and Scott went 2 for 4.

But it was catcher Greg Jones’ plate appearances that the head Red Devil bragged about.

“He probably went 1 for 7 in the two games combined, but he hit it hard every time,” Burrows said of Jones. “We got him fixed about two weeks ago and he is feeling it right now. His swing is good and he’s killing it.”

Jacksonville (11-5, 6-0) added a nonconference win to its ledger on Wednesday, hitting the road and beating Searcy 6-0 thanks to another fine effort on the mound by Hickingbotham. The junior threw a two-hit shutout with six strikeouts and one walk in seven innings on the mound. Hickingbotham has not given up a run in his last 11 innings of work.

Jacksonville scored just two earned runs, but got help from five Searcy errors. Jones went 2 for 4 with two RBIs to lead the way offensively.

Jacksonville hosts another crucial 5A-Central Conference doubleheader on Tuesday. Conference co-leader Pulaski Academy visits Dupree Park with the first pitch set for 4 p.m.

EDITORIAL >> Educators young, old

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski County School District may hire a superintendent who is nearing retirement age. Meanwhile, it’s been suggested that the district will fire aging teachers in favor of establishing a young and innovative faculty.

Readers learned this week that Tony Wood, 64, the state’s former education commissioner, is the frontrunner to lead Jacksonville’s new school district. Wood is not much younger than the ageless Bobby Lester, the interim superintendent, who said he doesn’t want to work past this summer. He is 70.

A search firm said Wood was the most qualified applicant for the job based on his long education career.

We don’t necessarily disagree, but it did get our attention that his professional experience was emphasized while classroom-level educators are being criticized for their old and stodgy ways as well as being overpaid.

To critics, “young and innovative” can be interpreted as cheaper and less experienced.

The new district shouldn’t do away with older staff members just to save money at the risk of having a less balanced faculty. After all, new teachers will need advice from their older peers as they learn their new profession.

About half of new teachers leave the field within three years, according to studies. Could that turnover rate become even higher in the Jacksonville district?

The new district will have to secure its finances and that will mean reconfiguring teacher salaries, but JNPSD must be certain that it will have capable teachers in the classroom.

Building a district on the cheap is too risky.

EDITORIAL >> PACE helps small firms

Local businesses have a friend in Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde.

Hyde is seeking support of area mayors and the quorum court for an initiative to help businesses finance upgrades in their electrical and water systems, which will save companies money and improve the environment.

The property-assessed clean-energy program, or PACE, is quickly becoming popular across the country. Low-cost loans from the county will help businesses install LED lights, solar panels and other energy-efficient equipment that will recoup their investment almost immediately by saving money on electric bills.

“This ordinance is a job creator. Pulaski County is leading the way with smart options for developers and property owners by creating the state’s largest PACE district,” Hyde told us recently.

That’s welcome news for small businesses that, together, provide most of the jobs in the country but are not so fortunate as to receive the major tax breaks like big corporations that have armies of lawyers and lobbyists arranging special subsidies and tax incentives.

To promote the initiative, Hyde will speak to the Sherwood Rotary Club at 7 a.m. Wednesday in St. Vincent North’s administrative conference room, 2215 Wildwood Ave.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Young and Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher have expressed interest in Hyde’s plan.

Entergy recently offered a similar program, but it has now ended.

Hyde, a Democrat from North Little Rock, this year succeeded County Judge Buddy Villines, who retired after 22 years in office. Hyde was a state representative but lost a Senate bid to Jane English, a Republican.

He seems to have landed on his feet, though, with a position that allows him to put his engineering skills to work. He’s the owner of HydeCo, a construction firm that has changed the face of central Arkansas. It built the new gym at North Little Rock High School, North Little Rock Electric’s new headquarters, McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Pulaski Technical College’s aviation school, Party City in North Little Rock, converted the Junction Bridge in downtown Little Rock into a pedestrian walkway and more.

Hyde knows that modern electrical systems are key to maintaining property values and will help companies stay competitive.

He was also in the Air Force and is a strong supporter of Little Rock Air Force Base.

We hope he’ll help direct the quorum court’s attention north of the river, which county officials have often overlooked in favor of major projects in Little Rock.

The PACE program is a good start as businesses throughout the county can participate.

TOP STORY >> Mom arrested for leaving child

Leader staff writer

A Ward mother was arrested for allegedly leaving her son at the Cabot Kmart store and not returning to pick him up.

Shannon West, 32, of Ward was arrested at 5 p.m. Tuesday and charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of minor in the first degree, a felony.

Police were called to Kmart, 1 Kmart Plaza, for a 6-year-old boy who went to the service desk looking for his mother. An announcement was made over the store’s public address system about the child looking for his mom. A store employee and the boy went to the parking lot to search for his mom’s car.

Police spoke with the boy. He told officers that his mother left him, his 8-year-old brother and his 2-year-old brother in the car while she went in the store. The boy said he was thirsty and was looking for his mom.

Ten to 15 minutes after leaving the store, West called Kmart and said she left her child at the store. When told that police were talking with her son, West became agitated. Police advised West to come back to the store and speak with them about what happened.

West called back 10 to 15 minutes later and said she was unable to come back to Kmart because her car was not running at the time. Officers took her child to the police department.

An officer was sent to West’s home to pick her up because she said her car was still not working. While at the house, the officer reportedly saw West give her car keys to her brother and say, “Take my car and follow us up to Cabot PD and pick up the kids and bring them back home.”

West told police she went to Kmart to purchase plants. She left her vehicle in the loading zone while she went into the store. Her three children were still inside the car. West said she never lost sight of the vehicle and didn’t know how her son was able to exit the car without her seeing him.

She said she drove home and realized that the 6-year-old was not in his seat. She then called Kmart asking about her child.

When West was told she was being charged with felony, she said she would not fill out a statement or answer any other questions without speaking to an attorney.

While police were speaking with West, an officer spoke with the 6-year-old. He told the officer their 17-year-old brother was in the car while his mother went into the store. The officer reportedly told the boy it was not good to lie to police and that he should tell the truth. The boy then said there was not a 17-year-old.

A Department of Human Services agent was on the scene and released the three children to their mother.

West had a suspended driver’s license.


In December 2014, West was charged with two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a minor by Sherwood Police.

Police were called at 9:52 p.m. on Dec. 27 to the Kohl’s store parking lot about two children sitting in a car with no adult in sight.

Officers saw a van with an 8-year-old in the front passenger seat. Police knocked on the door. The boy opened the door and in the seat was an infant, shaking from being cold.

The 8-year-old told police that his mom went inside to shop and left them in the car. She was in there for so long that he went inside to see if she was still there. West told him to go back to the car. The child said they had been going to several stores during the day. Police noted that the rear of the van was full of merchandise.

Officers entered Kohl’s and spoke with the store manager. She said West could have been removing items from the store. She said the woman was suspicious, with a return of over $100 and no receipt.

The manager said West had been at the store 30 minutes and the receipt was time stamped at 9:10 p.m.

Police then spoke with West. She provided officers with a driver’s license that had a different name. The store manager said it was same driver’s license she provided to return the merchandise.

An officer asked if she was not Shannon West and if those were not her kids in the van.

West reportedly said, “What’s wrong with my kids,” and attempted to leave the store. Police said her children were fine and Kohl’s gave West a no trespassing order.

West’s children were picked up by friends at the Sherwood Police Department. She was taken into custody.

West was also charged with non-financial identity fraud, a felony, and obstruction of government operations.

TOP STORY >> E-cycling opportunity

Leader staff writer

The Regional Recycling and Waste Reduction District, in partnership with eSCO Processing and Recycling, launched an electronics pick-up service for non-residential customers in Pulaski County on April 1.

The budget for the program is $100,000 that mostly covers advertising and educational materials, according to Regional Recycling Deputy Director Carol Bevis.

The district bought a $30,000 truck with a $9,000 wrap for the new service, she added.

The contractor, eSCO, has been working with Regional Recycling for three years. It is based in Rogers and has a processing plant in Little Rock, Bevis continued.

Fred Wizer of eSCO said the contractor has hired a full-time driver and doubled its warehouse space from 25,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet for the service.

More staff will be added once business picks up more than it has already, he noted.

“So far, so good,” Wizer said of the pickups. “I expect it’s going to be enormous by the time it’s over with, once the information gets out to the general public. It will set a benchmark for not only central Arkansas but for the rest of the country.

“I expect it to be duplicated,” Wizer said.

Bevis explained that, although the service had been planned for a while, the district waited to make sure it would receive a $250,000 annual grant from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality — the same amount awarded for each of the last two years.

She said the district started the program because “we felt like businesses had the quality of materials, electronics that we could recycle better…We felt like we could get more businesses involved if we went and picked up for them.”

Bevis said there are many reasons companies, churches, schools, nonprofits and others should take advantage of the service.

“Unless they have a lot of televisions, it’s a free service,” she explained.

“It’s just economically the best thing to do. Environmentally, it’s the best thing to do. And, when you can do it for free, why not? It’s just good common sense.”

Bevis added, “You don’t have to do anything but dial the number. It clears out your space, and you’re doing the right thing.”

The contractor, eSCO, provides certifications to non-residential customers stating all hard drives have been destroyed. The electronics are then dismantled or refurbished.

Bevis also said electronics contain lead and mercury — hazardous waste that can seep out in landfills. One computer could have five to six pounds of lead in it, she noted.

Electronics also contain “a lot of good raw material” that doesn’t break down in landfills, Bevis said. Recycling them saves space in landfills that is needed for other things.

Call 844-223-3190 or fill out the online form at to schedule an appointment.

Computers, laptops, copiers, servers, fax machines, monitors, TVs, toasters, printers and more will be accepted, although a small disposal fee will be charged for cathode ray tube televisions.

A minimum of two pallets or $75 is required for pickup, a business may be asked to load into Gaylord boxes or palletize items, and a business may be asked to have employees available to help load.

The business must have all materials in one location on the date of pickup and on the ground floor of a high-rise building.

Materials must be convenient to an outside door, and a release of liability is required from the business prior to pickup.

All materials become the property of eSCO once loaded.

Bevis added that there are also residential e-waste drop-off sites in Jacksonville, Sherwood and Maumelle. And Verizon Arena’s VIP parking area is used in the spring and the fall as a special-collection site.

The next event at Verizon Arena is from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 12 through Wednesday, May 13.

TOP STORY >> Districts may see changes

Leader senior staff writer

State Education Commissioner Johnny Key acts as a one-man school board for three of the four school districts in Pulaski County, meaning it might never again be this “easy” to change the patchwork-quilt of school district boundaries.

That’s according to Board of Education member Jay Barth, the Hendrix College political science professor who suggested and chairs the committee studying possible boundary changes to county districts, consolidating them to one countywide or two — one north and one south of the river.

The Pulaski County Special School District was taken over by the state for reasons of fiscal distress in 2011. Its board was dissolved, the superintendent fired and unions decertified.

The breakaway Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District remains for another school year under the flag of PCSSD, and by default, Key is that district’s board as well.

This year, with six schools in academic distress, the state took over the Little Rock School District as well, dissolved its board but retained Superintendent Dexter Suggs.

Its de facto school board?

It’s Johnny Key.

Of the four districts in Pulaski County, only North Little Rock still has its own board.

The druthers and demands of those districts, plus distinct communities and cities are all over the place.

Having heard in March from superintendents for PCSSD, JNP, North Little Rock and Little Rock schools, this week Barth’s committee heard from spokesmen for an independent Sherwood district and a Maumelle district, as well as Scott and Shannon Hills.

When the committee met this week, it heard from Sherwood, Sylvan Hills, Maumelle and Scott representatives.

Alternatives suggested ranged from the status quo to one countywide district.

An option in between would divide the county into two districts, one north of the Arkansas River, one south.

At Suggs’ request, Metroplan GIS planner Jeff Runder prepared data and maps pertaining to race and the tax base for that two-district plan and brought them to this week’s meeting.

Barth said Friday that, at first impression, nothing seemed to disqualify the model.

Pulaski County Schools, particularly PCSSD and Jacksonville-North Pulaski, still have to meet racial balance requirements under the county’s desegregation plan. Federal District Judge D. Price Marshall must sign off on all significant changes.

Among concerns with the current boundaries, North Little Rock Superintendent Roger Kelly says he would like his district to contain all residents within city limits and so would the Little Rock District. Much of that land in question is currently in the PCSSD.

Shannon Hills is in Saline County, but some of its students are in PCSSD.

Scott Elementary is being closed by PCSSD, and residents there say a reasonable look at the map would send their kids to North Little Rock Schools.

PCSSD also includes a small portion of Lonoke County.

PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess said he hopes the district boundary study won’t hurt the proposed 5.6-mill increase (to 46.3 mills) on the ballot of a special May 12 election.

The district needs the money for a massive rebuilding program to satisfy the court on the issue of facilities.

Linda Remele, one of two former PCSSD administrators co-chairing the Sherwood Public Education Foundation Committee working toward detachment, said, “We’re not behind the scenes at all on (working to pass the increase). We’re out front.”

She said the millage increase is necessary to get PCSSD unitary — out of the desegregation case — which is a prerequisite to Sherwood or Maumelle being allowed to detach.

As for changing the boundaries, she said, that’s all conjecture right now.

Remele added, “Every-thing that happens with Jacksonville-North Pulaski and PCSSD, affects Sherwood because they’re going to pave the path. They will set a precedent.

“Whatever happens there, the same thing is probably going to happen with us. We want it to be done fairly.”

Barth said a public hearing on the matter would be held at 1 p.m. May 11 in the Arch Ford Education Building boardroom. The committee will also accept written comments.

He said he and the other committee members — board president Sam Ledbetter of Little Rock, Kim Davis of Fayetteville and Diane Zook from Melbourne — hadn’t discussed the matter yet, but one thing’s become apparent to him.

“If you start playing with one piece of the puzzle, there are consequences for the other parts,” he said. “I knew this was going to be complex, but I didn’t realize how complex.

“We will begin talking about what direction to take,” Barth said Friday. “What’s the best option for the future?”

Then they will determine a timeline and whether or not to draft a written report to the board or present an oral report.

Barth said, “We need to be getting our thoughts together in advance of the June 1 deadline.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits still perfect in blowout

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke High School baseball team kept its perfect record intact Monday at Riverview, as the Jackrabbits dominated the 4A-2 Conference matchup en route to a convincing 14-3 win over the Raiders.

Lonoke (7-0, 3-0) scored six runs in the first inning and five in the second to take a commanding 11-1 lead, and Riverview (4-6, 1-1) was never able to recover. The strong start and high energy levelfrom the Jackrabbits was something Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery was pleased to see.

“We looked like we were ready to play today,” said Lowery. “We came out with a lot of energy, and you could tell just having that intensity early helped put a lot of pressure on them (Riverview) to make some plays, and we took advantage of their mistakes.

“We did a good job of being patient at the plate and taking walks, and taking advantage of any opportunity that we got.”

The Raiders committed seven errors total for the game, while Lonoke had just one. Also, Riverview struggled to find the strike zone, resulting in numerous walks and hit batters. Lonoke, though, like Lowery said, took advantage of those opportunities.

Casey Martin and Haven Hunter each walked to start the game, and Cody Martin singled the next at-bat to score Casey Martin and Hunter for a 2-0 Lonoke lead. Nick Graves singled the following at-bat, and Christian James followed with a single to center field, loading the bases.

Todd Pool was then hit by a pitch, which gave him an easy RBI as Cody Martin scored, and two batters later, Savonte Rountree was plunked, allowing Graves to score for a 4-0 Jackrabbit lead.

Elijah Seigrist was next up for Lonoke, and he reached on an error at third base. That allowed James to score, and two batters later with the top of the order back up, Casey Martin was hit by a pitch with the bases juiced, scoring Pool and giving Lonoke a 6-0 lead.

Riverview scored a run in the bottom part of the inning, and Lonoke picked up where it left off in the top of the second with its five runs scored, which pushed the Jackrabbits’ lead to 10 with the score 11-1.

The Raiders had their most productive inning in the third, scoring two runs, but Lonoke added a run in the fifth before scoring two more in the sixth, which set the final score.

At the start of the sixth inning, Seigrist advanced all the way to third base on an error in right field, and he scored the next at-bat on a single to left by Casey Martin.

Casey Martin advanced to third the next at-bat on another error in right field, this one off the bat of Hunter. Cody Martin then reached on an error at third base, allowing Casey Martin to score. That gave Lonoke its 14-3 lead.

Rountree earned the win on the hill. He threw the first five innings and gave up three hits, four walks and two earned runs, while recording three strikeouts.

Lonoke outhit Riverview 10-3, and four different Jackrabbits had multiple hits. Caleb Horton, James, Graves and Casey Martin each had two hits to lead Lonoke.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabs score five in seventh

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits scored the final six runs of the game to pick up a 10-4 4A-2 Conference win over Riverview on Monday in Searcy.

Both teams scored four runs in the third inning, but Lonoke pitcher Charley Jo Chesney shut the Lady Raiders down the rest of the way while the Jackrabbits scored a single run in the fourth and five more in the top of the seventh to set the final margin.

Despite scoring 10 runs, Lonoke left a lot of opportunities unrealized. The Lady Jackrabbits compiled 18 base hits while holding Riverview to just six.

After two scoreless innings, Lonoke took a 4-0 lead in the top of the third on a base hit by Jasalyn Truelove. Jarrelyn McCall and Amanda Sexton followed that with RBI doubles, and Maddie Pool homered to cap the rally.

Riverview got five of its six base hits in the home half of the third, including two doubles. Chesney also walked one batter and hit another to aid the Riverview rally, but it was the last of her troubles. She retired nine-straight batters from the fourth to the sixth innings, and two more in the bottom of the seventh before giving up a walk and a single with two outs.

Lonoke’s big seventh inning started with a single by Candice James, who was replaced on the base paths by courtesy runner Madison McFadden.

McFadden was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice by Gracie Cole. Sidney Hallum was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Chesney struck out swinging for the second out, but Truelove singled to score Cole. McCall then singled to load the bases, and Sexton walked to drive in the second run of the inning, making it 7-4. Pool singled to score Truelove and Janae Miller hit a two-RBI double to set the final margin.

Lonoke’s fifth-inning go-ahead run came on three-straight base hits by Miller, James and Cole.

Pool went 4 for 5 with a home run. James, Miller and Truelove each got three base hits while McCall, Sexton and Cole got two each.

Chesney struck out nine and walked one in seven innings of work on the mound. The league win followed a 1-2 performance at the Lonoke Invitational tournament on Friday and Saturday. The Lady Jackrabbits (6-4, 2-1) beat Carlisle 19-0 Friday before falling 15-2 to DeWitt and 5-1 to Rose Bud on Saturday.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers take two wins over Patriots

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School baseball team improved its conference record to 4-0 with an easy doubleheader sweep of Marion on Friday at Brian Wade Conrade Memorial Field in Cabot.

The Panthers (6-4, 4-0) beat the Patriots 15-0 in four innings in game one, and in game two, Cabot shut out Marion (4-7, 0-4) again, this time in five innings, winning by the final score of 13-0.

Cabot wasted little time putting runs on the board in game one. The Panthers scored 10 of their 15 runs in the first inning to take complete control of the game.

“We jumped on them early,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “We took advantage of a couple of their miscues, but we played really well in that first inning, too. It wasn’t just their miscues. We did some things execution-wise that were pretty nice, and it just kind of started to snowball.

“We put together some quality at-bats after an error here or there, and it just kind of snowballed on them. They had a little bit to do with it, but we had a lot to do with it. So I want to give our guys credit for that.”

Cabot scored its final five runs of the game in the second inning, and starting pitcher Gavin Tillery kept Marion’s bats at bay for the remainder of the mercy rule-shortened game. Tillery gave up just one hit in the four innings played – finishing the complete game with three strikeouts and no walks allowed.

The Panthers racked up eight hits in that game, with Dylan Bowers and Landon James leading the way with multiple hits.

Cabot didn’t jump out to as big of a lead in game two, but piled on the runs as the game progressed en route to its second shutout win of the evening. The Panthers, playing as the visiting team in game two, scored their first run in the top of the first inning.

Bowers walked to lead off the game. He stole second and third base before scoring on a sacrifice fly to right field by catcher Denver Mullins. The Panthers scored again in the second inning.

With two outs, Jonathan Latture singled to center field, and Evan Hooper and Bowers walked the next two at-bats. With the bases loaded, Mullins walked, which allowed Latture to score and give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

Cabot scored four runs in the third inning. James walked to lead off that inning, and teammate Logan Kirkendoll walked two batters later. The next at-bat, second baseman Blake McCutchen drew a walk to load the bases, and all three runners scored the following at-bat.

Latture hit a fly ball to right field that was dropped, and consecutive throwing errors on the same play allowed James, Kirkendoll and McCutchen to score, making it 5-0 Panthers.

Latture was later thrown out on a 5-2 fielder’s choice at home, which was off the bat of Hooper. Hooper scored the final run of that inning on a two-out single up the middle by Mullins.

Cabot followed that four-run third inning with five runs scored in the fourth. James started the inning with an infield single to shortstop, and he went to second base on the same play thanks to the Marion shortstop’s errant throw to first base.

Eric Larsen walked the next at-bat, and Kirkendoll reached on a fielder’s choice at second base the following at-bat. McCutchen was next up for Cabot, and he drove in James with a stand-up double to right-center field that would’ve been a triple had Kirkendoll not held up at third base.

McCutchen took a hard turn at second, not expecting Kirkendoll to stop at third, and McCutchen got caught in a rundown between second and third base as a result. Marion, though, made an errant throw into right field during the rundown, which allowed Kirkendoll and McCutchen to score, putting Cabot up 9-0.

Hooper drove in Cabot’s 10th run of game two with a single to the left-field gap, scoring Jake Slunder, who walked the previous at-bat and stole second base with Hooper at the plate. Bowers later scored the final run of the inning on a passed ball at the plate – giving the Panthers an 11-0 cushion.

The final score was set in the top of the fifth. Larsen walked to start the inning, and Easton Seidl drove in Larsen’s courtesy runner, Mike Havard, with a triple that dropped at the wall in left field.

Seidl’s near home run gave Cabot a 12-0 lead, and Seidl scored the final run of the game shortly after on a passed ball at the plate.

Cabot’s Chase Kyzer earned the win on the mound in game two. He threw all five innings, giving up just one hit, no walks, and he struck out two Patriots batters.

Cabot drew 13 walks in game two, and added seven base hits. Mullins, James, McCutchen, Latture, Hooper, Seidl and Slunder each had one hit for the Panthers.

The Panthers’ next game will be another 7A/6A-East doubleheader Friday at home against Mountain Home. The first game of that twin bill is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls just shy of first

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panther track team followed its win last Tuesday as hosts of the Walmart Invitational with a narrow second-place finish to Fayetteville on Thursday at the Army National Guard Cyclone Relays in Russellville.

The Fayetteville girls won the 18-team meet with 98.5 points. Cabot was right on the Lady Bulldogs’ heels with 97 points, despite only taking part of the team to the meet.

“Well they moved this one up a day because they were afraid of getting rained out,” said Cabot coach Leon White. “We just had our meet Tuesday and with this one moving to Thursday, we just decided to take a skeleton crew. We brought most of our top girls so we were still able to do pretty well.”

Cabot’s 4x100 and 4x400 relay team picked up its second record-setting performance of the week. Danielle McWilliams, Tori Weeks, Alyssa Hamilton and Lexi Weeks ran a 49.80 to beat the school record time of 50.03 it set just two days earlier. Conway finished second, also with a very fast time of 50.57.

That same four, in a different order of Hamilton, McWilliams, Tori Weeks and Lexi Weeks, ran a 4:04.84 in the 4x400 to beat second-place Har-Ber High by nearly six seconds.

The Weeks twins improved their pole vaults from Tuesday, finishing tied for first place by clearing 13-feet, 8-inches. The national record of 14-3 ¼ still eluded the elite jumpers who have already signed with the Razorbacks’ elite college program.

Lexi Weeks also won the 400-meter race with a time of 57.61, nearly three seconds better than Haley Hood of Bryant and 1.22 seconds faster than her winning time on Tuesday. Tori Weeks won the 300-meter hurdles by almost four seconds over Rachel Ray of Alma with a time of 44.82, which was also faster than her 45.68 on Tuesday.

The twins also finished one and two in the long jump, with Lexi’s 17-9 3/4 beating Tori’s 17-9 1/2 by 1/4 of an inch. Lauren Holmes of Fayetteville was third at 17-3.

Tori Weeks was also right on the cusp of a win in the triple jump. Her jump of 36-9 was a mere inch behind Holmes’ 36-10, and a full 11 inches further than her third-place jump on Tuesdsay.

Samantha Nickell picked up six points for the Lady Panthers in the 3,200-meter race. She also anchored Cabot’s fifth-place 4x800 relay finish that also included Brayden Giesler, Madison Barnhill and Hamilton.

Caytee Wright also turned in a fifth-place finish in the high jump, clearing 4-10.

The most notable absence for Cabot was distance runner Micah Huckabee, who recently was offered a scholarship by and verbally committed to the University of Arkansas.

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears also competed, and though they only tallied 9.5 points and finished 15 among predominantly 6A and 7A competition, a pair of freshmen introduced themselves with strong showings in the sprints. Brielle Hayes placed sixth in the 100-meter dash, while Chanel Miller finished eighth for one point in the 200m. But it wasn’t just sprints that Sylvan Hills excelled in. The Lady Bear 4x800 relay team finished fourth. It included sophomore Dallyn Stubbs, senior Justis Jakes, freshman Erykah Sanders and sophomore Chloe George.

The Lady Bears’ final point came via an eighth-place finish in the triple jump by Makayla Smith, who leaped 32-2 1/4.

The Cabot boys’ team turned in a respectable seventh-place finish in the 21-team boys’ competition. The Panthers finished with 31 points while the Sylvan Hills boys scored 14 points to place 14th.

Brandon Jones finished second in the discus throw with a fling of 141-1, not far behind Fayetteville’s Blake Young’s winning throw of 142.6.

Sylvan Hills’ senior sprinter Keyundra Hardimon took fifth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.35 while Cabot sophomore Britton Alley was seventh at 11.45. Fort Smith Northside’s Keondre Thomas set the meet standard at 11.07 seconds.

Cabot senior Brayden Mercantel took sixth in the mile with a time of 4:44.83, about 16 seconds behind Conway junior Toler Freyaldenhoven’s winning time of 4:28.05.

Sylvan Hills sophomore Anthony Duncan took fifth in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 16.36.

Panther sophomore Braxton Burton and junior Rocky Burke finished third and fourth in the pole vault, jumping 12-6 and 12-0 respectively.

Sophomore Howard Jacob added three points to Cabot’s total with a sixth-place, 20-5 1/2 long jump. Cabot’s 4x100 relay team took sixth while the 4x400 team finished eighth. The 4x100 team included Austin Morse, Connor Daigle, Alley and Burke. The 4x400 team included Howard, Mercantel, Burke and Brandon Whitley.

SPORTS STORY >> CHS girls get split at home

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School softball team split its 7A/6A-East Conference doubleheader with Marion on Friday at the CHS softball field. In game one of the twin bill, the Lady Panthers lost 2-1, but the hosts rebounded in the nightcap with an 11-3 win over the Lady Patriots.

The loss in game one was the first conference loss of the season for the Lady Panthers, which Cabot coach Chris Cope wasn’t pleased with.

“We came out flat, didn’t want to play and Marion took advantage of it,” said Cope. “We didn’t hit the ball – then made two errors that were very costly to us.”

Each team scored a run in the first inning of game one, but neither team scored again until the top of the sixth, when Marion set the final score.

Lady Patriot clean-up hitter Micah Tolleson hit a one-out single to start the sixth-inning rally, and Hope Phipps followed with a single of her own. Two batters later, Regan Johnston walked to load the bases.

Cabot’s most costly miscue came during the next at-bat. With two outs and the bases juiced, Tolleson scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball at home plate, which eventually set the final score.

The Lady Panthers had a runner on first base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Marion’s winning pitcher, Mabry Watson, struck out Cabot’s final batter to end the game in the Lady Pats’ favor.

Displeased with his team’s showing in game one, Cope made several lineup adjustments for the second game, and the Lady Panthers responded.

Cabot, who played as the visiting team in game two of the doubleheader, scored four runs in the first inning to lead 4-0, and even though the Lady Panthers gave up three runs in the second, they, too, scored three runs in that inning to lead 7-3 after two.

Cabot’s Kaitlyn Felder increased the hosts’ lead to 8-3 in the top of the fifth with a two-out, solo home run to straightaway center field, and the Lady Panthers added two more runs to their side of the board in the top of the sixth.

Lauren McCluskey led off the sixth inning with a stand-up double to deep left center, and senior Megan Goodnight hit a stand-up double the next at-bat. Two batters later, fellow senior Erin Eckert hit a one-out, stand-up double to right-center field, scoring both McCluskey and Goodnight for a 10-3 Cabot lead.

The Lady Panthers set the final score in the top of the seventh with one more insurance run. That run was driven in on a two-out, RBI single to left field by Goodnight.

Felder, Cabot’s junior catcher, took over pitching duties for Goodnight in the middle of the second inning. She pitched the rest of the game, and was stellar throughout her time in the circle.

She didn’t give up a single hit against Marion (7-3-1, 3-1), finishing the game with five strikeouts to just two walks. She retired the side in the bottom of the seventh to put the exclamation point on Cabot’s game-two win.

“She pitched her freshman year for us, and we needed a catcher last year,” Cope said of Felder. “She was the only one we had, but we got some options now. She looked really good. I was very proud of her. She came in and shut them down and did well.”

Goodnight led Cabot at the plate in game two. She went 5 for 5 with four singles and a double. McCluskey also had a good game at the plate in game two, going 3 for 3 with two doubles and three runs scored.

In game one, Cabot totaled just four hits. Goodnight led the Lady Panthers in that game as well, going 2 for 3 and driving in Cabot’s only run of the game. Felder and Macee Abbott combined for Cabot’s other two hits in game one.

The Lady Panthers (12-3, 3-1) play a nonconference game against Class 5A Sylvan Hills today at home. That game will start at 5 p.m., and on Friday, Cabot will resume its 7A/6A-East schedule with a home doubleheader against Mountain Home. The first game of that twin bill will also start at 5 p.m.

EDITORIAL >> Base opens new center

Little Rock Air Force Base last week celebrated the grand opening of the Walters Community Support Center, a multi-purpose building that will serve the needs airmen and their families for generations.

The new facility, which includes a community activities center, a library and more, is the latest improvement project that recognizes the importance of providing the best educational and recreational facilities to our airmen.

The Walters Center, inside the old Base Exchange, was remodeled at a cost of $3.7 million and includes the Airman and Family Readiness Center, the Base Library and Community Activities Center under one roof. They were spread out across the base in 1950s-era buildings. The new facility is more convenient and saves the base with operating and maintenance costs.

The facility is named in honor of Col. Kenneth A. Walters, former 19th Mission Support Group deputy commander, who passed away in 2012 after a six-year battle with cancer. Walters served 22 years in the Air Force.

As our Jeffrey Smith reported in The Leader on Saturday, the library has doubled in size. It has computer labs, an enclosed children’s section and a room for teenagers to have a better study environment.

The Family Readiness Center has more privacy for counseling sessions and new classrooms with updated equipment.

Many social events will be held at the Walter’s Center ballroom. It has music rooms for instructional classes, game rooms, play-group rooms, a meeting room for official functions and a kitchen.

Like the nearby health and wellness center, which was built several years ago thanks to the efforts of our congressional delegation, the Walters Community Center is a reflection of our community’s strong ties to the air base. There’s not another base in the country that enjoys as much local support as LRAFB, which translates into hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from infrastructure to modern cargo airplanes. The fleet of new C-130Js are worth more than $1 billion.

Three other major projects worth $133.6 million are underway at Little Rock Air Force Base and due for completion by 2017.

Those include rebuilding a 50-year-old runway and adjacent landing strip at a cost of $120 million. Sundt Construction of Tempe, Ariz., is the contractor for the new 12,000-foot runway and landing strip. In addition, the construction of a fifth C-130J simulator is underway as the 19th Airlift Wing transitions to an all C-130J combat unit.

Currently, the base has four C-130J simulators, and an annex to house the fifth is due for completion by November. Alessi-Keyes Construction of Maumelle is the contractor and the cost of the project is $4,218,503.

To keep the planes flying, the air base needs fuel to stay in the air. The new C-130 fuel-cell building project is 74 percent completed. The two-bay fuel-systems maintenance building will service, maintain, repair and, when needed, replace the plastic wing bladders that actually hold the fuel. The new facility replaces Hangar 222, a 1950s-era building that was not designed for the C-130.

That new building is being constructed on a design-build contract by Ross Construction Corp. of Tulsa for $21,464,972.

These improvement projects will make Little Rock Air Force Base a better home for our airmen. But there’s no telling if we’ll see more such projects in the near future. They are being completed just as Congress is considering another round of sequestration cuts that would trim $10 billion from the Air Force budget next fiscal year. A freeze on new construction and a round of more layoffs and furloughs are possible at our air base and elsewhere.

These are today’s political realities. As we celebrate $137.3 million in construction projects here, let us be thankful for what we have but remember that lean times are ahead.

TOP STORY >> 150 years after, remembering Gen. Lee’s surrender to Grant

Lonoke County Museum

On April 9, 1865, 150 years ago this month, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army of Northern Virginia to the Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Va., signaling the beginning of the end of the Civil War.

In 2007, the Arkansas General Assembly created the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, a program of the Arkansas Preservation Program, which is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The Sesquicentennial Commission developed an annual theme for each of the five years of the observance.

Mark Christ of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program helped develop the themes that covered the major issues the state faced during those years a century and a half ago.

Christ will speak at the Grand Prairie Civil War Roundtable’s meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Lonoke County Museum.

A book will be raffled. For additional information, call 501-676-6750. Membership dues are $20.

The historic preservation program’s theme in 2011 was “Why Commemorate the Civil War?” The goal was to encourage Arkansans and visitors to reflect on the reasons for war and the impacts of war on a nation.

In 2012, the theme was “A Divided Arkansas,” which examined the invasion of the state by Union forces and the Confederate government’s authorized formations of guerilla fighters across the state to oppose them.

The 2013 theme was “Big War, Little War” and focused on the anguish of the thousands of Arkansas soldiers sent to fight far from home east of the Mississippi River and the hardships faced by those who stayed back in Arkansas.

In addition, in 1863, there were many choices and issues faced by the state’s African American slaves, who had to decide whether to stay with their owners or escape to the Union forces occupying the state.

In 2014, the theme was “Under Two Governments” and explored how the Union and Confederate governments in the state tried to deal with the rapid depletion of food and other supplies and the lawlessness of the state wracked by guerrilla warfare.

Bands of armed men roamed the state killing and stealing what they wanted and neither government could control them.

This year’s theme is “Emancipation and Reconstruction.” The Civil War veterans, often wounded or otherwise suffering from the trauma of war, were forced to live with the devastated environment that was so different socially and economically than what they had left four years before.

The Lonoke County Museum and Genealogy Research Center is at 215 SE Front St. in Lonoke. It is open Monday through Friday.

Its staff regularly writes articles about local Civil War history for The Leader.

TOP STORY >> Mayor glad lawmakers home

Leader staff writer

“Nobody is more happy to see the state legislators go home than I am,” Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher quipped. “It has been a stressful few months.”

The mayor spent a lot of time at the state Capitol supporting bills that would help cities and fighting against those that would hurt them. In the end, he had mixed feelings.

“It is hard to run a city with all the rules and regulations that we already have placed on us and then the legislation wants to go and change things.”

He said a number of times the issue was more of a court problem, but it ended up in the legislature with a bill affecting the whole state when it didn’t have to.

“We need a mechanism for a third-party arbitrator to settle some of these county- versus-city issues that don’t need a statewide law to fix (them),” the mayor explained.

To help keep the city issues in the minds of the legislators, the mayor said Pulaski County officials, city officials, educators and others met with local representatives every Monday morning. “We had an hour or so to discuss bills coming up and let the legislature know how it would affect us. I think that communication helped quite a bit.

“One thing that really disappointed me, however, was that I saw more of the Washington- style politics this session then I did the last one,” he said.

On the upside, the mayor was happy with the law that changed the percentage of signatures needed to be collected on the wet-dry issue. “It went from that ridiculous 38 percent to a more reasonable 15 percent. That’s a difference from 5,000 signatures to about 1,900. Now it’s very doable,” the mayor noted.

He added that the bill also tightens what kind of alcohol sales would be allowed. The mayor said the new law only allows for on-premise sales, like at restaurants.

No new retail sales outlets can open up under the new bill, according to Fletcher.

He said the chamber has to start from scratch collecting signatures for the alcohol vote.

“I think they will gear up this summer for a big petition push,” the mayor said.

Fletcher said there were also some bills approved in the legislature dealing with the new school district.

“Nothing major. Since this is the first district separation of its kind, things come up and the legislature dealt with them with no problem,” he said, adding that for specifics one could talk to interim Jacksonville Superintendent Bobby Lester.

Fletcher was also pleased that a retiree benefit bill for veterans passed.

But he’s not happy about a water bill that forces cities to sell water to outside customers without those customers becoming part of the city.

“That was one of the benefits we were able to offer when annexing. If cities can’t grow, they die. The city has invested all that money in lines, facilities and infrastructure and then not to be able to ask for something in return,” he said.

The mayor believes it will cause some problems in the future.

“Sometimes I think the legislature creates a problem trying to solve one and that’s not good for anyone,” Fletcher said. “I didn’t see a lot of lawmakers looking to see what the ‘ripple effect’ would be of some of the bills.”

He was happy though that the governor was working on trying to ease the burden of the county jail off cities.

“Anything helps, but the longtime solution is not more prisons but to get to the root of the problem, the dysfunctional families,” Fletcher insisted.

The mayor said he just felt an overall attitude at this session that painted the cities as the bad guys.

“Part of the problem is that the Democrats ran the state so long one way and now the Republicans have taken it to the other side. I’m a conservative, but I think there needs to be more of a middle. The state needs to see the value of cities,” Fletcher said.

TOP STORY >> Insider tops school chief search

Leader senior staff writer

The first superintendent of the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is likely to be either former state Education Commissioner James Tony Wood or Little Rock School Deputy Superintendent Marvin Burton, although a search firm says Wood is the most qualified.

At Monday night’s interim JNP School Board meeting, board members selected the two from a list of a dozen applicants compiled by the McPherson and Jacob search firm.

Wood, 64, will interview with the board Monday, and Burton, 50, next Wednesday, and the new superintendent could be chosen at a special school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16 at Jacksonville City Hall, according to JNP chief of staff Phyllis Stewart.

The interviews are not open to the public.

McPherson’s superintendent search leader, former Beebe Superintendent Kieth Williams, told the board, there’s James Tony Wood and then there’s everyone else.

He said the board had given him the most demanding set of search criteria he had seen, and “the only one who meets your criteria is James Tony Wood.”

Interim Superintendent Bobby Lester, who has worked as a consultant for McPherson, said he was not disappointed, but surprised by the dearth of qualified applicants.

He said many were discouraged by the criteria, which included experience with bond issues, construction, division of assets — and “the biggest issue was the uncertainty on whether we can exist.”

Timing this time around is everything.

The two superintendent candidates both became available days ago — Wood when he was replaced by Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s nominee Johnny Key as state education commissioner, Burton when he was let go last week, part of the Little Rock District’s reduction in force. Wood is currently deputy education commissioner. Serendipity didn’t end here, however.


The board was able to hire Scott Richardson to deal with the federal desegregation case still before District Judge Price Marshall.

Richardson, chief deputy for then-Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, represented the state for several years in the sprawling desegregation case.

Patrick Wilson remains JNP council for other matters.

Richardson is available because McDaniel didn’t run for re-election and Republican Leslie Rutledge was elected attorney general.

He has already started representing the new district, and bills $250 an hour, Stewart said.

He is a partner in the new firm of McDaniel, Richardson and Calhoun, which includes the former attorney general.


In another case of good timing, the board was able to hire Charles Stein, who will begin after his retirement this summer from his job as director of the state Education Department’s Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation Division, Stewart said.

For about five years, he’s been the head of the state’s masters facility-planning program.

For overseeing the district’s master facility-plan application, Stein will be paid probably between $20,000 and $22,500, depending on the number of students in the district.

“He’ll complete and submit all academic partnership facilities plan applications,” Stewart said.


And when the district is ready to start building, he’ll provide program and project management and oversight of district projects, she said.

Like Richardson, Stein will be a contractor, not an employee, so the district won’t be responsible for fringe benefits.

He worked 34 years for the Little Rock Army Corps of Engineers. He’s a registered professional engineer and a certified education facilities planner.

The timing on the availability of Richardson, Stein, Wood and Burton was perfect. To the suggestion that the stars had aligned perfectly, JNP Board president Daniel Gray responded, “Yes. We just had to wait 30 years for the stars to line up. We’ve got to be diligent. There’s a lot of work to be done.”


“We’re in a situation where we have to have the best brains in the world to pull this off,” Lester said. “Expertise and hard work.”

The board has set a salary range of $145,000 to $160,000 for the superintendent, depending on the range of experience and qualification.

As state Education Commissioner, Wood has acted as a one-man school board for the Pulaski County Special School District and, under its wing, the fledgling JNP School District. That’s because the state took over PCSSD in 2011, dissolving the school board and replacing it with the education commissioner. He is thus well versed with specific difficulties and demands of standing up the new district.

Jacksonville is slated to have its own district starting with the 2016-17 school year.

While PCSSD and JNP are still joined at the hip, PCSSD is a party to the desegregation agreement, Plan 2000.

JNP is not currently a party, but when PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess filed a status report to Marshall last week, JNP felt suddenly exposed, according to Gray. Guess figured the entire $20.8 million final state desegregation payment toward PCSSD’s facilities program.


Gray and other Jacksonville-North Pulaski stakeholders think the new district should get a proportionate share of that payment, roughly $5 million.

That’s why they decided they needed to get their own attorney in the mix and hired Richardson, who participated in crafting that financial settlement to get the state out of desegregation payments.

“His experience with the case in the attorney general’s office — he knows the intricate details,” Gray said.

In other business, Robin Wakefield of the Jacksonville NAACP spoke to express support for the district, but worried that there might have been some concern over her remarks at an earlier meeting.

“We’re here to help any way we can,” she said.


Mike Kish, a PCSSD substitute teacher, spoke to encourage the board to hire and assign a teacher to testing duties and free up counselors to counsel.

Lester announced the Superintendent’s Advisory Board he had appointed.

Members are: Board Zone 1 — David Ramos; Zone 2 — Merlene McGhee; Zone 3 — Latasha Gregory; Zone 4 — Ivory Tillman; Zone 5 — Miranda Nicholson, and at large members are Mayor Gary Fletcher, Holly Roderick, Pat Griggs, Roger Sundermeier, president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and Col. Stephen Weaver of Little Rock Air Force Base.