Saturday, September 19, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils drop to 0-3 with home loss to LRCA

Special to The Leader

The Jacksonville Red Devils hosted the Little Rock Christian Academy Warriors Friday night at Jan Crow Stadium in the final nonconference game of the season. For the second week, the Red Devils could not get going offensively in the first half, and were defeated by the Warriors 49-13. Jacksonville (0-3) had 233 yards of offense, while Little Rock Christian (3-0) gained 321 yards and had a kickoff return for a touchdown.

The kickoff return came on the opening play of the game, with Damarea Crockett going 80 yards for the return and the touchdown. Josh Best added the extra point for a 7-0 Warrior lead.

The Red Devils started from their own 26-yard line and gained 5 yards before quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham punted on fourth down. The short punt was returned to the Jacksonville 20-yard line for excellent field position for Little Rock Christian. Five plays later, Stone Boshears scored from the 5-yard line. The extra point made the lead 14-0.

Jacksonville turned the ball over on downs, and the Warriors scored again with 6:04 to go in the first quarter for a 21-0 advantage.

Deboious Cobbs moved the chains for the Red Devils on the next drive with a three-yard pickup, but Jacksonville was forced to punt again.

Little Rock Christian went 73 yards to score again with quarterback Kyron Sanders scoring on a 31-yard keeper, giving the visitors a 28-0 lead.

Less than a minute later, Hickingbotham’s pass was tipped and intercepted for a touchdown and the lead grew to 35-0 with 10:59 remaining in the half.

Jacksonville’s punt on the ensuing possession appeared to be fumbled by a Warrior and recovered by the Red Devils, but instead, Jacksonville was called for a 15-yard penalty, giving the ball to Little Rock Christian on the Jacksonville 35-yard line. One touchdown was called back for holding, but Sanders completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to make the score 42-0.

The Red Devils put together a drive on the next possession, highlighted by a 39-yard completion from Hickingbotham to Stevie Eskridge to the 12-yard line. Malcolm Crudup moved the ball to the 1-yard line. After a loss back to the 5-yard line, Hickingbotham was intercepted to end the threat.

Jacksonville opened the second half with a 56-yard drive to the 17-yard line of Little Rock Christian, but was unable to convert on fourth and 6. Hickingbotham had a 12-yard completion to HarDerrious Martin on the drive, Robbie Knowlin had runs of 10 and 14 yards, and Shawn Ellis ran for 15 and 9 yards.

Hickingbotham was injured on the next Jacksonville drive, and Martin took over the quarterback duties the next time the Red Devils had the ball.

The Warriors scored one more time before that happened, for a 49-0 score with 10:20 remaining in the game.

Avery Wells returned the ensuing kick-off to the Jacksonville 40-yard line. Crudup ran for two six-yard gains, and Martin got free for 31 yards. Ellis picked up 12 yards to the 5-yard line, and ran again for the 5-yard score, and the Red Devils were on the board. Tyler Hooper added the extra point, and the score was 49-7 with 5:15 to go.

Terry Brown intercepted Warrior quarterback Jackson Bowersock and returned the ball to the 8-yard line to set up another Jacksonville score. Martin took the ball in on a keeper from four yards out to set the final score at 49-13, as the extra point try was no good.

Ellis rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown, Martin 42 yards and a touchdown, and Knowlin rushed for 40 yards.

Jacksonville opens conference play at J.A. Fair next Friday night.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Falcons win rivalry match

Leader sports editor

Beating Sylvan Hills is always a highlight for North Pulaski’s volleyball team, but Tuesday’s 3-1 Lady Falcon win over the rival Lady Bears was a mild upset, and carried special significance for a NPHS squad with only nine players and no junior varsity.

Six players from last year’s NP team transferred to Sylvan Hills over the summer, including three projected starters. Making the home win for the remaining Falcons even sweeter.

“We knew they’d play tonight,” said North Pulaski coach Ben Belton. “We haven’t been playing well lately, and we were awful on Monday up at Clinton. We just haven’t played. But we knew they’d play tonight. They were excited about this one.”

Scores in the match were 25-19, 26-24, 18-25 and 25-23.

Game point in the tightly-contested second and final sets were both controversial, and both went North Pulaski’s way. Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway let the officials know his opinion on the calls, but wouldn’t blame them for the loss.

“I’m not going to talk about that because it never should’ve come to that,” said Treadway. “We didn’t play well. If we’d have done the things we were supposed to do, and played like we’re capable of playing, we’re not in that position.

“I don’t know. The potential is there. We’ve got good players. We just haven’ come together yet for some reason. We’ll keep working at it.”

After controlling most of the action throughout the first game, North Pulaski found itself trailing 24-22 after a serve sailed wide right. Sylvan Hills took serve for match point, but North Pulaski played the serve nicely, and Lady Falcon middle blocker Kiarra Evans got a kill to make it 24-23 Sylvan Hills. Payton Mullen, NP’s best server who had not had a great service game up to that point, served back-to-back aces to give the Lady Falcons a 25-24 lead.

Game point featured a nice rally that ended when what appeared to be a block by Evans was called a four ball when the Lady Bears dug it out to keep the ball alive. The official ruled the ball was hit into the net and not blocked.

Momentum in game three went back and forth, and stood at 19-18 Sylvan Hills when the Lady Bears scored six-straight points to stay in the match. Sylvan Hills sophomore Grace Turner served the last five points, starting with an unforced error by NP when the Lady Falcons let a pass drop without setting it. SHHS senior Ashley Beach then got back-to-back kills for a 23-18 lead. Turner served an ace to set up game point, and senior Taylor Yeoman hit the game-ending kill.

North Pulaski appeared to be on its way to an easy game four when it jumped out to a 17-10 lead, largely on the strength of Lindsey Burris’ service game. But the Lady Bears chipped away, pulling to within 21-20 on a service ace by Beach. The next serve went into the net, but NP committed an unforced error to give it back to Sylvan Hills at 22-21. After a long rally, Sylvan Hills’ Neigha Thomas pushed a ball into a gap in the NP defense along the right sideline to tie the game at 22-22.

Mullen got a kill to give NP the lead and the serve. On Burris’ next serve, Thomas tried the same play again, but this time pushed it out of bounds to give the Lady Falcons their first match point.

But another NP unforced error made it 24-23. On the next serve, Treadway wanted a lift called on the serve receive but didn’t get it. Mullen then ended the match with a game-winning kill.

Evans led all players with 13 kills and six blocks. North Pulaski enters next Thursday’s match against Beebe with a chance to force a tie for first place in the 5A-Central Conference. The Lady Falcons are 4-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

SPORTS STORY >> Lions’ size, speed beats Jackrabbits

Leader sports editor

Another huge opposing line and at least equal speed was enough to hand the Lonoke Jackrabbits their first loss of the season Friday at James B. Abraham Stadium. The McClellan Crimson Lions overpowered the Jackrabbits, especially the defensive line, and had enough speed to counter Lonoke’s strength and prevail 32-16.

“That size finally caught up to us,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “I think, at least I hope, we’ve played the three biggest lines we’re going to see this year. Star City is every bit as big as (McClellan), Beebe is big, and now these guys. Plus they have the kind of speed to sort of match us, and it all just caught up to us.”

Making matters worse for Lonoke was the team’s leading rusher, Justin Meadows, suffered a shoulder stinger on defense early in the game. That limited his touches, but it wasn’t the only factor.

“That was part of it,” Bost said. “The other part was we couldn’t get outside on them like we’ve done on other teams. They just have a great combination of size and speed. That’s a very good team. Coach (Maurice) Moody has them going in the right direction.”

Most of the game was played on the ground, and possessions were limited. No points were scored in the first or third quarters. McClellan extended a 16-8 halftime lead to 24-8 with a touchdown and two-point conversion with 10:23 left in the game. It was just McClellan’s second drive of the half. The Lions faced third and 4 at the Lonoke 47 when quarterback Dalvion Childs pumped on the fake slant route. That got the defense to bite, and Childs hit Andrew Campbell running all alone down the sideline for a 53-yard touchdown pass.

Any sense of control of the game the Lions felt they had by taking a two-touchdown lead didn’t last long. After sacking Lonoke quarterback Savonte Rountree for a 2-yard loss on the first play of the next drive, Rountree hit a quick slant perfectly to receiver Casey Martin. The McClellan defender missed the initial tackle and no one else was between Martin and the end zone. Lion safety Tommy Crumpton gave chase but couldn’t catch the junior Jackrabbit, who cramped up at the end of the run but still managed to stumble into the end zone for the 73-yard touchdown.

The two-point conversion was good, leaving Lonoke with 24-16 with 9:34 to play, but the Jackrabbits couldn’t get the ball back.

McClellan started its next drive at its own 34, and chewed up 7:10 of the clock. The Lions finally scored on the drive’s 14th play, and converted the two points to set the final margin with 2:24 remaining in the game.

Lonoke was forced to the air on the next drive, but McClellan’s pass rush was too strong. A sack for a 9-yard loss set up second and 19. Rountree and Martin connected on the slant route again, but McClellan was better prepared and held it to a 5-yard gain. More pressure on third down forced a scrambling Rountree to throw into coverage, where Pierre Strong intercepted the pass to seal the win with 50 seconds remaining.

“We just couldn’t pass,” Bost said. “We didn’t have time. They’re line was so much bigger than ours anyway, and when they’re bring seven or eight, we just couldn’t keep them out of the backfield.”

Bost told his team to keep their heads up, and is still very optimistic about the rest of the season.

“Like I told them, the conference championship starts next week,” Bost said. “That’s when it counts and we still have a lot of play for. We’ve beaten two top five teams, and we lost to a really good team. And that was all to get us ready for conference. So we’re going to keep after it.”

McClellan got on the board first early in the second quarter on a one-play, 35-yard drive when Campbell took the read handoff, cut right, broke several tackles and raced up the visitors’ sideline for the score. Fullback Raoshun Young barely snagged a high direct snap and stumbled into the end zone for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 McClellan lead.

After forcing a three-and-out by Lonoke, the Lions were knocking on the door again before another high snap ruined a long drive. McClellan had gone 73 yards in eight plays to the Lonoke 14, but lost 17 on the bad snap to set up third and 23. After a 3-yard gain, a perfect pass to the 5-yard line was caught, but broken up by a big hit from Lonoke’s Martin.

That’s when the Jackrabbits struck. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Meadows went 72 yards on the option pitch left. Coleman added the two points to tie the game with 1:28 left in the first half.

It wasn’t much time, but it was enough the Crimson Lions to reclaim the lead before the break. After a pass interference call on third and 7, McClellan hit a 16-yard pass play to the Lonoke 39, and got the rest on a throw into double coverage. Lonoke was called for pass interference on that play, too, but Campbell made an acrobatic catch amidst two defenders to come down with the ball in the back of the end zone with 26 seconds left in the half.

Trenton Lewis added the two points to send it into the break with McClellan leading 16-8.

McClellan (2-1) outgained Lonoke (2-1) 449-281 in total offense.

The Jackrabbits open conference play in the 4A-2 next Friday at Heber Springs. The Panthers (1-2) lost 40-12 at home to Harding Academy on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot cruises against J.A. Fair

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s final nonconference game of the season went as expected against struggling J.A. Fair, as the Panthers jumped out to a 42-point lead by halftime and coasted to a 42-6 mercy-rule win Friday night at Panther Stadium.

The winless War Eagles (0-3) struggled from the moment the ball was kicked off, but did manage to score their first offensive touchdown of the season late in the second half. Fair fumbled the opening return, and Cabot covered the loose ball at the Fair 47-yard line.

The Panthers (3-0) marched the ball downfield on their first offensive possession, but fumbled the ball inside the 5-yard line and Fair recovered it in the end zone for a touchback. The War Eagles committed the second of their eight turnovers on the fifth play of the ensuing drive, and Cabot’s offense took over at the Fair 41.

This time, Cabot was able to get it into the end zone. On the seventh play of the drive, running back Austin Morse ran 6 yards for the game’s opening score, and Caleb Shulte kicked the extra point to give CHS an early 7-0 advantage with 5:21 left in the first quarter.

Fair turned it over for the third time on its next offensive possession, this time at its own 28, and Cabot scored in five plays, capping the drive with a 2-yard TD run off the left side by fullback Kolton Eads. Shulte’s PAT gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead with 1:18 left in the opening quarter.

The War Eagles didn’t turn it over on their next offensive series, but had to punt on the fifth play of the drive. Cabot’s offense took over at the Fair 45, and on the first play of that possession, Braxton Burton scored on a 45-yard run with 10:14 to play in the half. The PAT made it 21-0 Panthers.

Another Fair fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the Panthers the ball at the War Eagles’ 8-yard line, and after a 7-yard run by quarterback Jarrod Barnes, Burton took the second play up the gut for a 1-yard score. The PAT made it 28-0 Panthers with 9:25 left in the second quarter.

Cabot coach Mike Malham pulled the majority of his starters after the score, but the Panthers still managed two more touchdowns before halftime. The first of those scores came on an 8-yard run by William Niles with 3:23 to go in the half, and the second was on the defensive side of the ball.

On the second play of the following possession, Fair quarterback Edrion Lewis fumbled after taking a hit from his blindside, and Cabot’s Corey Shock scooped and scored with 2:15 left till halftime. Shulte made both PATs to set the halftime margin at 42-0.

The clock ran continuously throughout the second half, because of the 35-point mercy-rule margin. Fair received the opening kickoff and scored on that drive.

The War Eagles capped the eight-play drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Berry Sykes with 6:35 to go in the third quarter. The 2-point try was no good, setting the final score.

Cabot finished the night with 244 yards of offense, all of which came on the ground. The Panthers had 215 of those yards in the first half. Fair totaled 101 yards of offense, 79 of which came in the second half.

Burton led the Cabot rushing attack with 46 yards and two TDs on two carries. Alex Roberts had five carries for 32 yards. Adam Flores had five carries for 31 yards. Niles had seven carries for 25 yards and a score. Eads had four carries for 24 yards and a score. Kaleb Schmidt also totaled 24 yards on four carries.

For Fair, Lewis finished the game 5 for 11 passing for 55 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Datrick Johnson led the War Eagles’ backfield with 11 carries for 24 yards.

Cabot will open 7A/6A-East Conference play at North Little Rock this coming Friday at 7 p.m.

Friday, September 18, 2015

EDITORIAL >> North Metro heads south

North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville is in turmoil after two of its top administrators resigned when its Louisiana owners reinstated a doctor who was believed to be drunk on the job.

State Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) stepped down last week as the struggling hospital’s chief executive officer after he demanded the resignation of Dr. Tracy Phillips for allegedly drinking on the job as well as sexual misconduct.

Phillips initially complied and agreed to resign, but then, according to Farrer, he pleaded with Farrer’s superiors at Allegiance Health Management in Shreveport and was given back his job.

Farrer was fed up, and quit immediately, saying the doctor was likely to harm a patient and, “I could not in good conscience be a party to that. It’s a shame that one doctor could ruin it for everyone.”

Adding to the alarm, the hospital’s head nurse, Deb Bostic, also resigned on principle and criticized Allegiance’s competence. “I don’t believe they have the ethical and moral standards to run this hospital. They do not have the capacity to run a hospital,” she told The Leader.

The community’s faith in North Metro has never been weaker in large part to the bungling executives at Allegiance, who have so far refused to explain why a doctor believed drunk while handling patients was allowed to keep his job.

The problems keep piling up for Allegiance, and it’s not the first time a doctor at North Metro has raised unwanted attention.

Back in April, The Leader’s Rick Kron reported that another North Metro doctor, Jeffrey Summerhill, had been hired despite his problematic past, which included drinking on the job and improperly handling prescription drugs. Summerhill admitted to the state medical board that he had a drug problem after being accused of “being under the influence of alcohol while practicing medicine and he has exhibited excessive and intemperate use of scheduled medication and alcohol, and has endangered the public health, safety and welfare.”

Kron also reported that emergency-room doctors weren’t being paid on time, and the hospital switched its insurance providers without notifying employees, and that North Metro even owed the city more than $20,000 in past-due water bills as recently as last year.

Allegiance executives claimed the hospital’s payroll company was to blame for the late checks, but Allegiance’s top executives run the payroll firm.

Another questionable practice that’s come to light is an insurance company, also controlled by Allegiance, selling health plans to North Metro employees, which may well be a conflict of interest.

An Allegiance hospital in Hattiesburg, Miss., was found to have fraudulently received Medicare reimbursements for services that weren’t needed. A whistleblower is set to receive $3.5 million for tipping off the federal government to that activity.

These are all bad signs that North Metro is rudderless while in Allegiance’s care.

Farrer’s predecessor, Cindy Stafford, was fired soon after Kron’s story last spring. She was a nurse who knew how to manage a hospital. She was always available for interviews and explained in detail how the hospital was beginning to improve. Perhaps Allegiance should reinstate her, but why would she come back?

Allegiance bosses probably thought they could blame Stafford for the problems. If so, they failed. The community knows that Allegiance is ultimately running things at North Metro.

She, too, blasted Allegiance after her dismissal.

Stafford was replaced with Farrer, a key member of the House of Representatives and a physical therapist. It was a savvy promotion that lent North Metro desperately needed credibility.

Farrer thinks the hospital’s problems could force it to close someday. “I took the job of CEO to save the hospital and to help keep 350 people employed,” he told us.

Farrer knew what the public would think if another inebriated doctor was found working at the hospital. What if on-the-job drunkenness harmed patients?

For Allegiance, though, these troubled doctors are probably a bargain and paid less than what their more distinguished colleagues earn in Little Rock at UAMS, Baptist Health or St. Vincent’s, or at Unity Health in Searcy.

For now, North Metro’s chief financial officer, Mike Randle, an accountant who graduated from Grambling State University in 1991, has taken the reins. He hasn’t returned The Leader’s calls to explain his new role or how he can clean up the frat-house atmosphere at the hospital.

Construction on a new medical complex across the street is set to begin within months. That may be too much competition for North Metro. The developer should find a way to include an emergency room if Allegiance fails.

Jacksonville and Cabot city officials and our state legislators should be discussing backup plans if North Metro does close. Its emergency room serves both communities, as well as Little Rock Air Force Base. They should talk to paramedics and emergency responders about what it will be like when they have to drive to St. Vincent’s in Sherwood or Baptist North in North Little Rock. Survival rates will decline, along with both cities’ images.

TOP STORY>> Scholars program is phased out

Leader senior staff writer

Some parents of children who live in the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Dist-rict are upset that their students will not be able to enter, continue or graduate from Pulaski County Special School District’s Scholars Program when JNP splits completely from PCSSD after this school year.

While PCSSD would welcome those students and the state minimum foundation aid that follows, Jacksonville-North Pulaski Superintendent Tony Wood sounds emphatic in his resolve that students living in the new district need to come home.

Legal transfers from one district to another are a matter for the new school board to consider, but the superintendent would make a recommendation.

Possible solution 

The districts could enter into a memorandum of understanding to allow students already in the program to graduate from PCSSD, for instance. If the current students remain in the program next years, but with about $6,300 of state money per student at stake, that could cost the new district about half a million dollars a year, based on current Scholars Program enrollment from Jacksonville-area schools. That’s money the fledgling district cannot afford to lose, according to Phyllis Stewart, JNP chief of staff. “That’s a significant impact.”


This school year, two Jacksonville-area students are in College Station Elementary’s Scholars’ Program, 40 are in the program at Fuller Middle School and 38 at Mills High School, according to PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess. That’s 80 in all.

Scholars program teachers must have nine to 18 hours of continuing education in gifted and talented classes, while teachers for regular Advanced Placement classes need only a certificate in the area they teach, accord to Stewart, and more training every five years.

Scholars graduates get a special stamp on their diploma and notice on their transcript.

Guess said Tuesday JNP is “going to have a gifted and talented program. But Scholars is a unique program. It’s a matter of serving kids. We’ll work with them any way we can.”

“This is exactly why we voted to have our own district,” said current school board President Daniel Gray, who was at the forefront of the successful effort to get a stand-alone Jacksonville-area district.


“We have not been satisfied with curriculum offerings for our students at Jacksonville,” he said. “PCSSD channeled all the best in the district to one school, far from our home schools. They have recruited our kids.

“We shouldn’t have to send kids outside our community,” Gray said. “We want kids of this caliber and we’ll increase offerings.”

“I think it’s an exploitation by PCSSD to unfairly take advantage of the transition to say we won’t offer advanced placement classes.”

“I understand where parents are coming from,” said Gray. “We all want what’s best for our kids.”

He said Guess wants to poach the top students from Jacksonville, but won’t allow legal transfers to allow Gravel Ridge students to continue their education in Jacksonville’s schools.” In other words, he’s open take in out of district students and the money that goes with them, but not to allow legal transfers from his district, according to Gray.

Stewart said parents who are concerned could make an appointment with JNP administrators to discuss the needs of those children and see how Jacksonville-North Pulaski district can accommodate them.”

TOP STORY>> Cabot outscores PCSSD on test

Leader staff writer

Cabot first graders are slightly above average and Pulaski County Special School District first graders fall below average, according to the Iowa Test of Basics the student took at the end of last year.

Districts are still waiting for the results of the first-ever online PARCC exam, which replaced the Benchmark exam, but has now itself been replaced by another computerized test, the ACT Aspire.

Part of the reason for moving to computerized testing was to get the results back quicker. The paper-pencil Benchmark exam scores were usually ready in mid-summer, but here it is closing in on October and the results still aren’t available.

Results from the Iowa exam, given to first and second graders, come back in a multitude of formats from scaled scores to class equivalency to national rankings.

The results reported here are based on the national percentile rankings.

If a student has a national percentile of 60 percent that means that child outperformed 60 percent of students across the nation on that test while 40 percent bested that student.

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills tests students reading, vocabulary, and language and math skills and then gives a composite score.

Based on the scores, state first graders are slightly below average with a composite score in the 49 percentile, meaning more students across the nation scored better than Arkansas students.

But there were positive exceptions.

Mountain Springs Elementary in Cabot had a percentile ranking of 64 percent and the district’s Southside Elementary was 63 percent. Searcy’s Westside Elementary was also in the 63rd percentile.

On the other end of the spectrum Pinewood Elementary had a composite score of 27and Murrell Taylor elementary first graders had an NPR of 29, meaning about 3 out of every 4 students across the country outperformed them.

None of the charter schools in the area fared well on the test.

The schools use the information from the tests to help them determine strengths and weaknesses in the students and in the instruction.

Here is a school-by-school look at the first grade scores.

First-graders at Lonoke Primary had a composite score of vocabulary, reading, language and math that put them in the 32nd percentile.

England Elementary students finished in the 51 percentile, while first graders at Carlisle Elementary were in the 34th percentile.

The average for Cabot, as a district, was the 53rd percentile; meaning Cabot students slightly scored half the students across the nation.

Ward Central had a composite ranking in the 41st percentile, but Westside was up to the 51st percentile. Central Elementary first graders were in the 44th percentile and Eastside students hit the 56th percentile.

Mountain Springs students had some of the best scores in central Arkansas, finishing with a composite ranking in the 64th percentile, meaning they outscored everyone else 6.4 out of 10 times.

Magness Creek was at the 58th percentile, Northside had a ranking in the 56th percentile, and Southside was in the 63rd percentile, all above average. But Stagecoach Elementary students fell below average with a score in the 45th percentile.

PCSSD first graders, as a district were in the 42nd percentile ranking, meaning slightly more than half the students around the country beat them on the test.

Bayou Meto Elementary students had a composite ranking in the 55th percentile and Arnold Drive was right in the middle with a 50th percentile ranking.

Cato Elementary was only in the 30th percentile ranking, which means about 2 out three students nationally outscored them. Clinton Elementary was in the 35th percentile, Sylvan Hills Elementary fell to the 28th percentile and Tolleson was at 44.

Dupree Elementary first graders had a composite ranking in the 42nd percentile while Murrell Taylor was at 29 and Pinewood in the 22nd percentile.

Oakbrook Elementary students hit the 45th percentile mark, but Sherwood Elementary has just at 34. Harris Elementary was slightly higher, finishing in the 36th percentile.

Beebe’s Early Childhood first graders finished in the 54th percentile.

Searcy’s Westside Elementary first graders were in the 63rd percentile; McRae students and Sidney Deener students had a ranking in the 41st percentile.

Lisa Academy North first graders were in the 36th percentile and Jacksonville Lighthouse was one point less at the 35th percentile.

TOP STORY>> Lonoke could allow backyard chickens

Leader staff writer

Are chickens coming back to Lonoke? Maybe, but not yet.

The city council voted Monday night to have City Attorney Ginger Stuart draft an ordinance for the council to discuss and vote on at the October meeting.

But the decision was not without concern and disagreement.

Alderman Woody Evans who was adamantly against the idea when it was brought to the council a few months ago had not been swayed by a public meeting where most of the audience was for chickens. “I said no before, and I’m saying no now,” Evans said.

His worry is that bringing in chickens is just the start. “You want chickens, and if we say yes then someone will want ducks, then goats, then pigs. It won’t stop,” he said.

One reason for wanting chickens according to Joanna Dowlearn, whose group Lonokians for Backyard Chickens, is pushing for their return, is that people want to know where their eggs are coming from.

“Then I should be allowed to have goats,” countered Alderman Efrem Jones. “I like to drink goat’s milk. Shouldn’t I know where it’s coming from?”

Alderman Pat Howell said he wasn’t seeing much resistance to the idea but that he certainly wanted an ordinance to stay how far the coup needed to be from a neighbor’s property line. The council told the city attorney that 15 feet should work.

Joanna and Charles Dowlearn, members of Lonokians for Backyard Chickens, ask the city council earlier this summer to consider allowing residents to keep small flocks of chickens within city limits.

The issue was raised in late 2013 and the Leader even wrote an editorial supporting the idea, but efforts fell by the wayside until recently.

The Dowlearns had written a sample ordinance for the city to look at and the city attorney praised it as well written and would use it as a guide for a city ordinance.

Charles Dowlearn said flocks would be restricted to six hens, no roosters and there would be certain requirements for the chicken coop and the locations would be restricted. Reaction to the chicken request was mixed.

The Dowlearns cited raising chickens would be educational, economical, provide for pest control, natural fertilizers and promote a connection to the community’s farming roots

“People want the option to have a natural, healthy, sustainable way to provide for their families,” Joanna Dowlearn told the city council.

In a pamphlet prepared by the Lonokians for Backyard Chickens, the Dowlearns focused on seven benefits: sustainability, fresh eggs, education, waste reduction, pest control, fertilizer and pleasure.

Many Arkansas cities, including Little Rock, already allow backyard chickens.

In other council business:

Local businesswoman Barbara Lucas asked the city to run a sewer line from its treatment pond to the edge of her property at the near I-40 interchange. “I’m asking for the same courtesy that you recently gave the Cunninghams,” she said. The council agreed to earlier this month to extend a sewer to the edge of the Cunningham property which is also at the new interchange.

Lucas said the city needs to grow and without sewer access at the interchange, she is having a hard time bringing in new businesses to the area.

The council agreed that the city engineer needs to look at the potential growth in the area and determine the size pipe needed. “We’ll be happy to have a special meeting once we have more information,” Alderman Pat Howell said.

The dissenting vote on the issue came from Alderman Raymond Hatton who wanted the council to approve a 10-inch pipe now, citing that enough time had been wasted.

Council members also suggested that depending on the size and location of the businesses, Lucas could tie-in to the sewer line at Mallard Golf Course as that is also Lucas property.

Fire Chief Jimmy Wallace reported that his department responded to 36 calls during August. He also said the fire station had been repaired where one of the fire trucks had a “slight incident with the door.” “As often as we go in and out, stuff like that does happen,” he said.

The chief asked the council for $11,400 for the purchase of five turnouts. “That’s the number we need to buy each year to keep our firefighters safe,” the chief explained.

He also asked $1,500 for supplies and incentives for Fire Prevention Week activities at the schools and permission to auction off two old, unreliable trucks. Chief Wallace also asked for about $6,000 to update and remodel the 20-year-old station’s façade. All his requests were approved.

Mike Brown, the community center director told the council that last month’s back-to-school-bash was a success. “We were so packed I was afraid the fire department would clear us all out.” He said the center would be offering a flu clinic and a hunter’s education course in the coming weeks.

The council approved an ordinance granting the “sole and exclusive franchise” to provide solid waste collection and disposal services for the city.

Aldermen also voted two waive competitive bidding on two purchases. The council agreed to spend $129,200 with Joey Smith construction to build an ADA-compliant bathroom facility at the city’s ball park complex after bids continued to come in higher than budgeted construction amounts. Competitive bidding was also waived on the purchase of sewer pond lagoon curtains. The current ones are damaged and have put the city in violation with ADEQ. Environmental Process Systems of Conway will replace the damaged curtains at a cost of $39,375.

TOP STORY>> Liquor drive to get reboot

Leader staff writer

The Downtown Jacksonville Business Association is interested in taking over the wet-dry petition drive, if the chamber of commerce doesn’t mind.

The new group, about 14 people, met at The Game Store at 915 W. Main St. on Monday for a third brainstorming session on how to revitalize Main Street.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said at the meeting, “I think it comes to the fact that the wet-dry issue has to be dealt with (to) remove some obstacles…Make sure the chamber’s not got that other company doing this. Supposedly, somebody was going to do this. I don’t want us butting heads.”

Brian Blevins, owner of The Game Store in the old Hastings building, responded, “Let us know what to do and let’s do it…I’m for running with the wet-dry issue.”

The chamber has been leading the charge for years to put to a vote whether the city goes wet, allowing alcohol sales.

The latest is that a new law lowers the threshold of required signatures from 38 percent to 15 percent. The trade off is that voters would be asked to allow only on-premise sales at restaurants and hotels.

The chamber group fell short months ago in gathering signatures from 38 percent of the voters, which would have been about 5,000 John Hancocks. The 15 percent is closer to 2,000.

With the 5,000 signatures, the ballot would have asked for approval of both on- and off-premise sales — at restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, grocery stores and liquor stores.

Roger Sundermeier, the chamber board’s president and a member of the new business association, said either the 15 percent or 38 percent could be pursued. The mayor asked that he find out at a chamber board meeting later in the week where it was on its wet-dry efforts.

It’s also important to note that, although the law doesn’t specifically prohibit liquor stores, a vote to go wet would not add any because Pulaski County already has the one per 5,000 residents permitted by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

The reason the area is dry is because voters living in Gray Township, which no longer exists, elected to outlaw alcohol sales in the 1950s. But state law now allows residents of defunct townships to circulate petitions and then hold a local-option election.

The former Gray Township contains 90 percent of Jacksonville and half of Sherwood, which also launched a wet-dry campaign that hasn’t obtained enough signatures yet. Only those who live in what used to be the township can sign petitions and vote.

In other business, Sundermeier, who is also over marketing for First Arkansas Bank and Trust, led the Downtown Jacksonville Business Association through the creation of a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) marketing analysis.

He said the new independent school district is all four and Little Rock Air Force Base is a strength the city has.

Jacksonville’s weaknesses include apathetic residents and being land-locked by old buildings and having little property on which to grow and expand, Sundermeier explained.

He also said LRAFB is a threat because it could be closed.

Alderman Kenny Elliott added that one of the weaknesses is having a lot of people who rent homes in the city and owners who don’t take care of those properties.

The group agreed that downtown needs some kind of entertainment to draw people there in the evenings and on the weekends.

Another conclusion reached is that Jacksonville should cater to airmen and get them involved in plans for its future. Sundermeier said, “There is nothing wrong with being a military town. It’s a beautiful thing. Why not embrace that? Why not build a brand around that?”

Patrick Thomas of Arkansas Outdoor Power Equipment, the only one in the room who had spent time in the military, explained that bases are all-inclusive and airmen must be convinced by someone to venture downtown. He said, “A good way of putting it is ‘whatever happened to the good ole welcome wagon?’”

The mayor added during the discussion that he had recently realized people in their 60s and 70s own most of the property in the city. He said, while they’ve gotten Jacksonville to where it is, it’s time for the next generation to move forward.

Other members of the group pointed out that older individuals don’t typically have an interest in investing in the next 30 years, are resistant to change and want things to be as they used to be. Several agreed that Jacksonville couldn’t be what it used to be because the world is so different now.

The popularity of Internet sales was also chatted about at the meeting. The mayor said he hopes legislation requiring online purchases to be taxed locally is successful. Fletcher said that would help level the playing field for brick-and-mortar stores.

Some of his other ideas where setting up Christmas displays along Main Street to mimic Sherwood’s popular Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights attraction and building the new high school next to the university center on Vandenberg Boulevard near LRAFB to show people on the freeway an education complex the city could be proud of.

Sundermeier said during the back-and-forth that the Advertising and Promotions Commission and the city in general needed to re-focus on internal marketing instead of putting ads in magazines designed to draw people from outside the city.

He pointed out that a lot of residents don’t know what’s going on.

Keith Weber said churches in the area needed to host events, like dances, on the weekends. But many in the group shot that down as not viable, arguing that churches wouldn’t join together because they compete for members or are too busy, it’s difficult for those events to draw non-members and there is only one large church downtown with a facility that would lend itself to such things.

The association’s next meeting is 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, at The Game Store.

Photographer Joel Levins, Double R Florist and Oliver’s Antiques are also members of the new group and took part in the Sept. 14 brainstorming session.

TOP STORY >> Base always on missions, target same

Leader executive editor

Col. Charles E. Brown, Jr., commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, drove last week to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., for a total-force symposium. The 19th AW is part of Air Mobility Command, which is headquartered at Scott.

The 18th Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas Sharpy, hosted the conference. Brig. Gen. Patrick Mordente, vice commander of the 18th Air Force and a former 314th Operations Group commander at LRAFB, was also there.

“A Little Rock tribe that still circles back to Air Mobility Command,” is how Brown described some of the leadership at AMC who did several tours at the Jacksonville base.

Maj. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, a former commander of both the 314th Airlift Wing and the 19th Airlift Wing at LRAFB, is now vice commander of Air Mobility Command. He could not attend the symposium, but he and Brown have worked together before.

Brown said, “Gen. Schatz brought me back to Little Rock” when the general ran the base here in 2007-09.

Schatz is a protégé of Gen. Norton Schwartz, an influential former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, now retired, who trained at LRAFB and reorganized the Air Force, including its nuclear program where accountability was often lacking.

“Air Mobility Command is the most collegiate and professional general force I’ve seen in my 21 years collectively. We have a great generation of senior leaders out there. Gen. Schwartz put a lot of effort making sure we were developing officers who embrace core values he was looking at,” Brown said.

“They’re very smart, savvy, business conscious, combat tested,” Brown said in a recent interview with The Leader. “I guess those are leaders you get after 14 years of warfare. You repeat the lessons and didn’t want to repeat bad lessons.

The 19th Airlift Wing is constantly on the move. Some 170 airmen returned this week from Afghanistan, while others left here the week before for the Horn of Africa. LRAFB often leads the way in Air Force.

“We’ve been benchmarked,” Brown said, “whether it’s in the sexual-assault prevention program the Air Force is rolling out, we’re going to be the lead on that. It’s because of our ability to care for our airmen.

“The regional flexibility Little Rock Air Force Base provides — you just can’t match it. So when you get that special blend of mission and at-home advantage, it’s a win-win,” the commander said.

He continued, “They don’t teach you really how to command. You really learn from watching others. They talk about the Air Force culture. The culture is defined as something you inherently believe in either because you grew up observing it or you watched it in people you respect and you gravitate to that common value and culture.

“When you grow up with folks that we watched, and leaders, not all of them are great, and some of them had good times and bad times and worse times, but you take all of it and you learn the good, bad and the ugly, as it were, and you decide what type of leader you want to be by trying to either repeat things that you liked or you avoid things that you didn’t.

Brown, a former National Security Fellow at Harvard, is a C-130 navigator and pilot and a former F-15E combat pilot who saw action in Afghanistan and Iraq. His family is from Kentucky, but he grew up in Florida and graduated from Florida State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice before he joined the Air Force.

As the Air Force emphasizes efficiency in a tight fiscal environment, Brown sees the base not so much downsizing as rightsizing. The base has 72 C-130 H/J aircraft – 22 percent of the total Air Force C-130 fleet.

LRAFB, celebrating its 60th anniversary in October, has done well in an era of base closings, although the 19th AW will have fewer C-130Js and a much smaller crew because the new planes are more technologically advanced. The 19th AW is cutting its fleet by almost half.

The 19th used to have three 54 airplanes, Brown said. “We’ll be down to 28 Js. The old C-130s had three aircrews with five-person crews. Now we’re down to two crews per airplane with only three people per air crew.”

With half the planes and half the crew, staffing takes a lot fewer people. The old C-130s needed 810 airmen to operate, but with C-103J, it now takes just 168 airmen.

“You can see the downscoping here,” Brown continued. “One of the goals I have here is to make sure the wing is right-sized, that it’s balanced for the new C-130J program. We’re in the middle of that math equation of how will this look like when we’re finally sized to a C-130J wing.”

“We’ve shown we can work with partners and share infrastruture. We’ve spent 60 years here and the Air Force has continued to invest in missions into this base. They’re all different, but they’ve found value, despite all the shifts in missions.”

“It’s a beautiful base. We have our congressional delegates and senators and their representatives come out here and they’re absolutely floored at how wisely Little Rock has invested its money through its infrastructure and its mission. We don’t have unused space. We don’t have excess infrastructure. We don’t have vacant buildings with big signs on them, ‘Awaiting demolition.’

“Everything is very thoughtful in the way it’s laid out here, and all of it supports the mission in which every command you’re in,” he continued.

The base has five key commands matched to work together seamlessly: Air Combat Command, Air Education Command, Air Mobility Command, Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves.

“So when you look at that, all flying C-130 missions out of a singular base with a single runway, and all of them are successful. I don’t think you can match it, I really don’t. We have a lot of things we do right.

“You can see the downscoping here,” Brown continued. “One of the goals I have here is to make sure the wing is right-sized, that it’s balanced for the new C-130J program. We’re in the middle of that math equation of how will this look like when we’re finally sized to a C-130J wing.

“We’ve shown we can work with partners — share infrastruture. We’ve spent 60 years here and the Air Force has continued to invest in missions into this base. They’re all different, but they’ve found value.

“The reason Air Force Reserves wanted to partner with us and the C-130J at Little Rock and not at any other bases, they knew it would be successful. We’ve shown we can work with partners, collaborate, share infrastructure and mission sets and runway, as well as quality of life, medical, commissary, BX, fitness center, you think of the multitude of things that go into five different commands, and the requirements that go into them, and selectively pick out that are unique to them, and then make it something that’s synergistic with them the entire installation, it’s a great relationship and design that we have here.

The 19th Airlift Wing includes combat command in the 19th Operations Group, the 19th Mission Support Group and the 19th Maintenance Group; the 314th Airlift Wing is part of Air Education and Training Command, while the C-130 division of the Air Force Weapons School is under Air Combat Command.

The base also includes Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing, which reports to Air Education and Training Command. The 913th Airlift Wing is assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command and works with the 19th Airlift Wing’s 50th Airlift Squadron.

The Reserves have approximately 700 members, a third of them fulltime.

All together, 5,771 active-duty airmen and 546 civilians work on base, along with 5,582 family members.

Brown was installed as commander in May and expects to stay here for two years, as do most commanders.

“I want to make sure the base is right sized for the C-130J mission,” he explained, “and just two years isn’t enough time. By the time you get your stride, you’re wrapping up. You almost need a third year.

Brown said there are no plans in the Pentagon to move 10 C-130Js from Keesler AFB in Mississippi.

Cong. French Hill (R-Ark.) says the Air Force would save $50 million over the next five years by consolidating them at the Jacksonville air base.

“One of the things I try to tie everyone to is that this mission that we have of combat airlift is really a mindset. It’s really a culture. The C-130 just happens to be the weapons system were performing in. Combat airlift is really an attitude and a culture and a mindset.

“The community made all those missions successful,” he continued. “It’s the community that makes the C-130 mission successful.

‘The C-130J will probably be here 30 to 40 more years, but we’ve done 60 years here. There aren’t too many bases that could say the same thing, and the Air Force has continued repeatedly to invest missions into this base.”

They’re all different, he said, but the military has found good value in basing them here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

EVENTS >> 09-16-15


The Lonoke Chamber of Commerce’s 13th annual Shooting for Fun Trap Shoot will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 at the Remington Gun Club, 1682 Hwy. 15 North. The cost is $10 per round.

Those who break a special white target will receive a trophy and be entered in a drawing for a 32-gigabyte Apple iPad 2.

The trap shoot is a fundraiser for the Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce. Donations will be accepted from those not shooting, and they will have the opportunity to win items. There will also be a Kid’s Korner for practicing BB gun shooting and archery.

Goose bands are available prior to the event for $20, and those who get them will be entered to win one of the 30 cases of Remington steel shot ammunition. Buy five and be entered in to win a Remington 870 Wingmaster pump action 12-gauge shotgun, a Remington Versamax 12-gauge, 28-inch autoloading shotgun or a Remington Model 750 30-96 autoloading rifle.


Jacksonville First United Methodist Church at 308 W. Main St. is hosting revival services through Friday. They start at 6:30 p.m. every evening. “Please invite your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers to join us for an uplifting week,” a news release says.


Bethlehem United Methodist Church, 2540 Bethlehem Road in Lonoke County, will hold its annual spaghetti supper and outdoor concert from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 in the church’s fellowship hall. The concert will be held on the front porch of the old Bethlehem Road schoolhouse beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Larry Weathers Band is set to perform.

The dinner is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Donations will also be accepted. The event will include a bake sale and cakewalk, and cakes and pies will be auctioned. The church’s youth group will also sell concessions during the evening.

Proceeds will support the Christmas Road to Bethlehem display of 37 lit, outdoor scenes depicting the Christmas story. The church also hosts open houses and Christmas concerts featuring community music groups on several evenings before the holiday.


The Community Theatre of Cabot has scheduled three more performances Friday through Sunday of “The Mouse Trap” murder mystery after a successful run.

Friday and Saturday shows have a dinner option at 6:30 p.m., and the shows will start at 7:30. Sunday’s matinee starts at 2 p.m.

Dinner and show costs $25, and it’s $15 without dinner. Student tickets are $5.

For reservations, call 501-941-2266 and leave a message. A theater representative will return your call.


Unity Health will host Senior’s Day at the White County Fair from 9 a.m. until noon Thursday at the fairgrounds pavilion. The free event will include entertainment, guest speakers, blood pressure and blood sugar screenings, nutritional counseling, prizes and lunch.


Keep Sherwood Beautiful will hold a castle-building contest during Sherwood Fest on Saturday, Oct. 3 at Sherwood Forest.

Participants may register from 8 to 10 a.m. at the castle booth outside the Sherwood Forest building and will work from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. to create their castle using recycled cardboard boxes, plastic, paper and tape.

Judging will take place at 2:30 p.m., and prizes will be awarded.

 Keep Sherwood Beautiful will also hold its fall shred-a-thon from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 in the Walmart Neighborhood Market parking lot at 8801 Hwy. 107.

Cintas Business Management will provide free shredding for personal documents only.

Magazines, newspapers or junk mail will not be accepted. All metal, such as notebook rings and fastenings, with the exception of staples, should be removed beforehand.


The senior center’s second annual Bunco Bash will be held Saturday at Landmark Baptist Church in Jacksonville, 2200 Marshall Road. Doors open and dinner will be served at 4:30 p.m. Bunco starts at 5 p.m.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

Proceeds will go to the senior center that serves older adults in north Pulaski County.


The Verandah Garden Club will meet at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Harper-Alexander House, 18 Olen Lane at Hwy. 70 East in North Little Rock. The public is welcome. For more information, call 501-533-7708.


Our Savior Lutheran Church will hold an installation service and reception at 4 p.m. Sunday for Paul Easterday, its new youth and family minister.

The church is at 301 S. Pine St. in Cabot.

TOP STORY >> Hospital exodus goes on

Leader staff writer

Embarrassing is how one departing employee describes the situation at North Metro Medical Center as resignations continue at the hospital over the reinstatement of a doctor with an alleged drinking problem.

Last week, it was state Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin), the interim CEO, and Deb Bostic, the chief nursing office.

This week, Karen Ward, the CEO’s executive secretary, and Karen Wade, the executive secretary for the chief nursing officer, resigned. Wade was also in charge of verifying medical credentials.

Ward, who has worked for six different CEOs in the past seven-and-a-half years, said she simply couldn’t live with the decisions being made by Allegiance. “It just wasn’t right to ask a man (Farrer) who had given his heart and soul to make the hospital better to keep that doctor,” she said.

Ward is embarrassed about the situation.

So, with Farrer and others out, who is in charge?

According to Scott Prothy, vice president of acute care services for Allegiance Health Management, the designated head is Mike Randle, the chief financial officer who has been with the hospital for less than a year.

But Randle did not return phone calls to verify that. Hospital operators weren’t sure and gave a message to Jane Rockwell, the human resources director. Rockwell said they have no CEO yet, but that Randle would probably be the one in charge.

Allegiance Health Management of Shreveport, La., operates the hospital for the owners, Rock Bordelon and Don Cameron, the company’s principal officers. Calls to Allegiance’s executive leadership team number were transferred to an assistant, who said no one there knew who the new CEO was, except for Bordelon, and he was not available. But two messages were sent to him, asking who was in charge.

Legally, the hospital doesn’t have to have a CEO, but it does have to have someone designated as the head or responsible party.

The resignations are the result of Bordelon and Cameron reinstating a doctor whom Farrer had asked to resign because of an alleged drinking problem and other misconduct. The doctor, Tracy Phillips, gave Farrer a resignation letter, but hospital owners rejected it and reinstated him.

Ward, who worked at the hospital 28 years, said she’ll remember the good years. “This was a thriving hospital. Sure, we fought battles, but always came through. I was always proud,” she said. “I’m just not proud of the hospital anymore. It’s not the people, but the out-of-state management.”

Ward said that leaving was one of the hardest decisions she ever made. “We are family. We’ve cried together, celebrated together. We’ve come to love each other.”

According to Kevin O’Dwyer, an attorney for the state medical board, there is an investigation into the matter. He said it is a lengthy process and the details should be given to the medical board by December for any possible actions.

North Metro has had issues ever since Allegiance Health Management took over combined ownership and operation of the hospital about three years ago from the city. There have been unpaid and delinquent water and electric bills, missing health insurance payments for its staff, thousands of dollars owed in backpay to emergency-room doctors and Cornerstone Hospital, an acute-care provider, which leased about 60,000 square feet of space from the hospital but elected to move out of the hospital building and city back in March.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said Monday that the hospital is staffed by very good people, and he was concerned by the recent events. “No matter what happens, we’ll take care of our residents,” the mayor said.

In a related issue, it has been almost two years since a plan was announced to build a $20 million medical complex near the North Metro. Construction had been expected to start this summer.

“But we are probably still two to three months away. It is something that we want done right, something Jacksonville will be proud of for decades to come,” Fletcher said.

He added that the medical complex is not a replacement for the hospital, but will complement it.

“But when you are dealing with doctors, developers, property owners and various health agencies, it’s not easy to get everything together to move forward,” Fletcher explained.

TOP STORY >> Next 60 years at LRAFB

Leader executive editor

As Little Rock Air Force Base celebrates its 60th anniversary next month, the construction of a new runway is one of the largest infrastructure projects since the base opened on Oct. 9, 1955.

Back in the early 1950s, the community raised $1,180,000 ($10.5 million in today’s dollars) to buy 6,100 acres of land in Jacksonville and donated it to the military, which spent $48 million (worth $425 million today) to build the air base. Land was also donated by the Nixon, Dupree and Thompson families and others.

Col. Charles E. Brown Jr., commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, says the new 2.3-mile runway under construction shows the military plans to use the air base for several decades, either as the main installation for C-130s or perhaps as a base for other aircraft 30 years from now.

He said the Air Force considers the air base “a national asset.” The base has an annual economic impact valued at $813.6 million.

“A $124 million project on just a single runway shows the level of interest and importance the Air Force has in keeping this air base up and running,” Brown said in an interview last week.

It’s the first major overhaul of the runway in 60 years. In 2010, the base put a new layer of concrete over its rough surface, but it was just a stopgap measure until a completely new runway was built.

The new runway will be 12,000 feet long, the same length as the old one, and 150 feet wide, 50 feet narrower than the existing runway, but deeper. The first phase of the project is underway with ground preparation and utility work. It includes demolition of half the runway during construction.

There have been some delays, Brown said, but “as far as getting it done in the fall of 2017, we’re on time.”

Contractors are digging below the surface where the runway was built and will be putting in a whole new foundation that will handle any airplane, the colonel said.

A Boeing 747 piggybacking the space shuttle landed here in 2001, Brown said. LRAFB is up there with the most durable bases, such as Edwards Air Force Base in California and other big test bases when it comes to versatility and reliability, he noted.

“People ask all the time,” Brown said. “What’s the future of Little Rock Air Force Base? I tell them, ‘Just look at the air park,’” where several types of airplanes going back to the 1950s are on display.

“We’ve had over 12 different missions, very diverse missions, everything from fighters to bombers to missiles to helicopters supporting the missiles to reconnaissance to now the home of C-130Js. We’ve also had the KC-130s, the refueling missions. You look at the history of the air park, and you say to yourself, ‘Someday this may not be the home of combat airlift, but it will always be Little Rock Air Force Base because every one of those missions was successful based on support from the community.

“The community made all 12 missions successful. When you blend a perfect combination, they make it synergistic with the entire installation. It is a great relationship and design we have here,” the colonel said.

He trained as a navigator and combat pilot, flying the two-seat Strike Eagle F-15Es in Iraq and Kuwait in 2003 and C-130s in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2005.

“We’re the home of combat airlift, and that’s not by accident,” Brown said. “The C-130 is the best at what it does — airdrop formation and delivery, as well as intertheater airlift.”

He trained as a navigator at Little Rock Air Force Base in 1998 and flew C-130Es here in 2004. He was also chief of wing safety with the 314th Airlift Wing in 2008-09 and was commander of the 62nd Airlift Squadron from 2009-11.

He said he loved flying the old C-130s, but “the best thing about the C-130Js is that it proves that the only thing that can replace the C-130 is another C-130. I loved my time in the E and H. The J is definitely an advanced technological system with half the crew. It doesn’t have the flight engineer, the navigator on board. All of that is made up by computer systems on the aircraft. It flies just like a C-130, a little more power as far as cargo payload and some extended fuel range and some efficiencies.”

The 19th Airlift Wing has modernized its fleet with all C-130Js and will have a total of 28 on the flightline, one of the busiest in the Air Force. “It goes into the dirt fields in Africa and Afghanistan,” the colonel said. “It does the heavy lifting in Iraq. When we’re doing the intertheater airlifts, it’s definitely a priceless asset.”

The 19th Airlift Wing is involved in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, as well as supporting Operation New Normal by keeping aircraft on alert at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and in support of Operation New Normal in West Africa.

“The genius of the C-130 is that it is always involved in something. If it’s not doing contingency aircraft, it’s hauling humanitarian supplies to forward outposts in Africa. It’s doing humanitarian airdrops to folks in northern Afghanistan, and it’s doing airdrops to refugees in Syria and in northern Iraq. So, one facet or another, whatever you call it, combat contingency or humanitarian effort, the C-130 is there playing a role.

“I love C-130s. I love taking care of airmen, and, in my adult life, Arkansas is where I spent more time in my Air Force service, and it’s where I call home. My wife is from here. We have family up in Harrison. She went to school in Fayetteville. It is a community I love, a profession I’m compassionate about. It’s like working from home, and in the meantime I get to take care of airmen.

“When you look at the base, my goal is that every airman should know the role they play in the mission. Across the board, they’re all participating in a mission we call airlift command. I tell them your distance from your office to the flightline does not determine your value to combat airlift, and I use as a vignette the defenders at the front gate on June 15 who defended this base when evil came knocking at the door, and they prevented it from coming in. You can’t get further from the flightline than the front gate, and they were absolutely combat airlifters that day. That was the day of the shooting.”

At a ceremony Monday, Brown presented Staff Sgt. Zachary Freese and Airman 1st Class Codee Smith of the 19th Security Forces Squadron Air Force Commendation Medals for stopping the attack by an armed Jacksonville man who crashed his SUV at the front gate. (See story this page.)

(This is the second part of a three-part interview with Col. Brown. See for the first part.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

EDITORIAL >> School board gets voted in

Congratulations and welcome to the seven new and returning Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board members elected last night. They succeed the interim school board that was appointed after voters last year approved the split from the Pulaski County Special School District.

Please fasten your seatbelts.

Like many Arkansas roads, the path forward for this fledgling district may be pitted with potholes, switchbacks and wrong turns — life, in other words.

Collectively, it’s now your responsibility to navigate that path and to make the difficult decisions necessary to make “World-Class Education” not just a slogan, but also a reality.

Politicians like to say you can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it, but the truth is this district is going to need more money than current projected revenues to build new schools, rehabilitate others, to hire more teachers for more course offerings, improve benefits for employees and, if possible, a salary schedule that is more attractive to more experienced teachers.

How much of that is possible will depend, among other things, on passing a millage increase.

School districts get most of their money from property taxes within the district, state minimum foundation aid, federal programs and, in the case of JNP, a significant amount of facilities matching money should be available.

Time is growing short for the district board to determine its long-range master academic facilities plan, according to Charles Stein, former director of the State Transportation and Facilities Department and now a JNP consultant. There is a Feb. 1 deadline for submitting the facilities plan for 2017-19 and a March 1 deadline to submit an application for funding.

The state’s match on approved academic construction and improvements for Jacksonville is expected to be about 50 percent.

Toward that end, the newly elected — but not necessarily certified and sworn — board members will gather at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Jacksonville Police and Fire Training Room.

The board needs to decide on a proposed property-tax millage increase to fund the building program, get it on the ballot for a special election and to educate the voters so that our students can go to school in buildings that are safe, sound, conducive to learning and which send the message, “We care about our children.”

Again, congratulations to the winners: School board president Daniel Gray, Ronald McDaniel, LaConda Watson and Carol Miles, who have been on the appointed school board all year, as well as newcomers Marcia Anne Dornblaser, Jim Moore and Dena Toney. Let a new era begin.

SPORTS STORY >> Young Panthers strong at 5K race

Leader sports editor

The Cabot cross country team wasn’t quite at full strength, but did enjoy a good showing at the Minuteman 5K at Western Hills Golf Course in Little Rock on Saturday. The boys finished fourth out of 26 teams while the Lady Panthers took sixth out of 24 teams in the race.

The Sylvan Hills girls finishing just behind Cabot in seventh place.

The Cabot boys’ top six runners are all sophomores, and the top three finished the race in less than 18 minutes. Gardner Howze finished 14th overall with a time of 17:41.02. Blake Scott took 19th at 17:44.16 and Stuart Nickell took 23rd with a time of 17:54.11.

“Right now I think we’ve got a pretty good sophomore team,” said Cabot coach Leon White. “If they’ll stay together, by the time they’re seniors they’re going to be really good. Right now we’re learning and growing and turning in pretty good times. These next two years I think they’ll be able to compete with the best of them. It kind of makes it fun when you know you got something pretty good coming down the road.”

Lake Hamilton, Catholic and Bryant took the top three spots while Little Rock Christian Academy rounded out the boys’ top five.

The Beebe boys finished just outside the Top 10 with an 11th place finish. Jacksonville fnished 14th and Sylvan Hills was 15th.

Conway’s Toler Freyaldenhoven won the individual race by nearly 30 seconds with a time of 15:42.62, though the Wampus Cats only took eighth place in the team competition.

LRCA won the girls’ team race with Allison Risius taking first overall individually.

The Lady Panthers’ sixth-place finish came without its top runner. Senior Samantha Nickell missed the race to take the ACT, but sophomores Bailey Lebow and Casey Gore each turned in Top-10 performances. Lebow took eighth place with a time of 20:50.61, and Gore placed ninth at 21:01.00. Junior Brayden Geisler was 22nd for Cabot.

Three seniors led the seventh-place Lady Bears. Haley Fraser took 13th to lead Sylvan Hills with a time of 21:51.13. Gabriella Marquez and Dallyn Stubbs rounded out the Lady Bears’ top three.

Like the Beebe boys, the Lady Badgers also finished 11th with a whole team of six sophomores. Courtney Smith led Beebe with a time of 24:13.71.

SPORTS STORY >> Site, quarterback not why Hogs lost

Leader sports editor

Arkansas lost to Toledo. The only things more puzzling than how that happened are the excuses for why it happened concocted by the bewildered Razorback faithful. Some blame head coach Bret Bielema and the coaching staff for not having the team ready to play, others say the vaunted “largest offensive line in all of football” was lackluster. These are two legitimate observations.

Other theories defy logic, and belie the desperate emotional and intellectual upheaval experienced by folks who take their football way too seriously.

The funniest theory put forth is that War Memorial Stadium is to blame. An unofficial internet poll indicates nearly 60 percent of Razorback fans believe Arkansas would have won the game had it been played in Fayetteville.

What those voters fail to see is that a “yes” vote on whether Arkansas would have won the game in Fayetteville, is a tacit admission that Fayetteville is the only place in the world that Arkansas could’ve beaten Toledo.

Nowhere else in the world, besides Fayetteville, is the home field advantage any greater for Arkansas than in Little Rock. A case could even be made that, before Bielema’s arrival at the U of A, the home field advantage was greater in Little Rock.

One clear sign that emotions had replaced all cognitive abilities was the suggestion that the sights and smells being different than what players are used to in a home game, threw them off their game.


Is it possible that when you’re used to smelling Ballpark Franks during pregame warm-ups, you just can’t fire on all cylinders when suddenly you’re breathing in the aroma of Nathan’s Hot Dogs?

Others blamed Brandon Allen, primarily because they made up their mind years ago that Allen isn’t any good, and when Hog fans make up their mind about a quarterback, nothing that actually happens on the field can change that.

There is still a large contingent of Razorback fans who will argue that Mitch Mustain should’ve been the greatest Razorback ever, and would’ve been if not for Houston Nutt.

But these are just message board experts, and the college football message board community is not unlike an SNL goat boy sketch – 20 years removed from being hip, and every cogent thought is lost in a virtual cascade of incoherent bleats and whinnies.

It’s a cyberspace middle-school playground for 40 year olds, where people threaten each other one day over a disagreement about the coach, then the next day, make donations in solemn unity to raise money for a pigpen. (That actually happened.)

Allen did miss some passes, and probably should’ve tried to tuck and run for the game-winning touchdown instead of throwing high and into coverage. But Allen’s 32 of 50 passing for 412 yards was the only reason Arkansas still had a chance to win the game at that point.

He failed to make the clutch throw, but the real concern should be why Arkansas needed a clutch play at the very end to beat Toledo.

Arkansas’ run blocking was terrible, and Alex Collins has not shown that he can be a feature back in the SEC. The Razorbacks have rushed for 182 and 103 yards in their first two games. On Saturday, they couldn’t convert on fourth and 1, and scored just one touchdown in six trips inside the Toledo 20-yard line.

As for Bielema, he said, once again, that a lot of the mistakes were correctable and will be corrected by the time Arkansas hosts Texas Tech in Fayetteville at 6 p.m. Saturday. But he said that last week when Arkansas’ run game failed to impress. He also said the six penalties the Hogs received in their 48-13 win over UTEP would be cleaned up. Instead, the Hogs were flagged nine times against Toledo, including one that erased a punt return for a touchdown by Jared Cornelius.

There was also a stretch in the second half where seemingly every play saw another Razorback lying on the turf receiving treatment from trainers. Most of the injuries were apparently not severe, which leaves one wondering if the team was in shape and ready to play. Bielema made a big deal of not doing two-a-days this preseason. Maybe that was a mistake, too.

One of the injuries was not minor. Keon Hatcher, the team’s best receiver, is out at least six weeks. That hurts the one facet of Arkansas’ offense that’s played well, though it’s hard to say how much it will hurt against next week’s opponent. Texas Tech’s defense has been a veritable matador against run-oriented offenses in recent years, so the Red Raiders could be just what Arkansas needs.

Though teams have only played twice, Arkansas and Texas Tech already share a common opponent. The Red Raiders rolled up 69 points in their 69-20 win over UTEP on Saturday. The good news is, Arkansas’ defense has played well. Texas Tech won’t score anywhere near 69 points on Arkansas, but still might be able to score enough to beat a Razorback team whose offense is reeling.

Bielema had earned all the praise, and nothing but praise, he’s received since arriving at Arkansas. He had his detractors in the very beginning, but the team’s steady improvement in seemingly every single game won over most of those detractors. That honeymoon is officially over now that the team has taken an apparent step backwards.

If Arkansas loses Saturday in Fayetteville, he’ll find out the whole truth of what it’s like to be the head coach of the Razorbacks.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats no match for Cabot

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School tennis teams earned a clean sweep over North Little Rock last Thursday at Cabot, and in addition to winning the top two singles and doubles matches in each division, the Panthers and Lady Panthers won every match they participated in against the Charging Wildcats.

“I expected us to have a really good day,” said Cabot coach Mary Emily Nash, “but I think this is the first time I’ve ever had a clean sweep and I’ve been around for eight years now. So, I’m pretty proud.”

Most of those wins came in dominant fashion. The top two boys’ singles matches weren’t close. The Panthers’ top tennis player, Clayton Ellis, won his match over NLR’s Christian Chung 8-0. The No. 2 Cabot boys’ singles player, Max Mathis, won his match over Chase Bevins 8-1.

Nathan Ellis was the only other Cabot boys’ player to play a singles match last Thursday, and he won his match 8-1. In the boys’ doubles games, Cabot’s Bryan Cason and Turner Bankston won their match over Jackson Conners and Gray Huckaby by thefinal score of 8-2.

In the other boys’ doubles game, the Panther team of Trey Wagnon and Parker Gibson beat Jackson Holstead and Haden Buckley 8-1.

The top two girls’ doubles teams also dominated the competition last Thursday. The No. 1 Cabot team of Jessica Vaughan and Emily Sumler easily won their match over NLR’s Kaycee Gately and Kylea Stoll by the final score of 8-0. The No. 2 team of Lauren Roberts and Sadie Lea won theirs 8-1 over the NLR team of Megan Hand and Madison Winter.

Also competing in doubles matches for Cabot were the teams of Olivia and Gracie New and Ryane Thurman/Kaitlyn Follett. The New team won their match over Sarah Douglas and Sydney Gatin 8-1, while the team of Thurman/Follett beat Mason Harmon and Sarah Khatib 8-5.

The girls’ singles games were the most competitive. The top Lady Panther singles player, Carly Carpenter, beat Lady Charging Wildcat Erin Ardent 8-5. It took an extra round for the Cabot girls’ No. 2 singles player to win her match, but Julie Hill defeated Hali Wilder 7-3 in the extra round to take her match by the score of 9-8.

Madeline Chosich was the only other Lady Panther to have a singles match last Thursday, and she beat NLR’s Kindall Carr 6-2.

“I expected our boys to do really well,” Nash said, “and both of our girls’ doubles have won both of their matches leading up to this point. I was very pleased that our girls’ singles could pull out the victories, because North Little Rock’s singles have played more than the rest of their team has.

“I knew that our ability level was higher, because our experience level was higher than their team. I was a little bit nervous that we would play down to the same level as our competition, but our kids really stepped up.”

Nash added that her teams’ ability to keep the ball deep in the court had a lot to do with their success last week in the 7A-Central Conference match.

“We did a really good job of keeping the ball deep in the court and not giving our opponents opportunities to approach the net,” Nash said. “That’s something we’ve been working on now for a couple of weeks and I was very proud to see that, for the most part, we kept the ball deep in the court.”

SPORTS STORY >> Devils shuffle for Vilonia

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills volleyball teams took part in the Eagle Invitational Tournament at Vilonia on Saturday. The two 5A-Central teams were put in the same three-team pool along with Greenbrier. The Lady Panthers won the pool, sweeping both sets against the two Central teams. Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills split their two sets, and Jacksonville got the two-seed based on winning its game by a larger margin than Sylvan Hills won its game.

Jacksonville then lost to Lonoke in bracket play while Sylvan Hills fell to Conway-St. Joseph.

Though the two Central teams finished the tournament with the same record, the reactions from the respective coaches were vastly different.

The Lady Red Devils were without a few players who were taking the ACT, and first-year JHS head coach Whitney Abdullah was pleased with her team’s effort.

“With the missing girls, it was definitely reassuring that the younger players were able to step in and compete like they did,” said Abdullah. “We moved some starters around into different positions and plugged the younger ones into those spots, and the girls played hard. It was good to see them move out of their normal positions and still play pretty well. That’s what we use these tournaments for, to try different things and hopefully develop some depth.”

Jacksonville had Lonoke down by several points midway through game two before the young Lady Jackrabbits came back for the 2-0 win.

Longtime Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway wasn’t as pleased.

“We didn’t do as well as I thought we would,” said Treadway. “We got a chance to play three games and that’s why we go up there, but I wasn’t happy with the outcomes.”

Sylvan Hills also had a lead in game one against St. Joseph, but lost that set 25-23. Game two wasn’t close.

“St. Joe is a good team, but they don’t do anything spectacular,” Treadway said. “The first game was a good one. Game two, we just kind of went through the motions. We let them control the game and didn’t do what we’re able to do.

“I will say that Jacksonville is a much-improved team, but right now I’m not too worried about anyone but us. And that’s about it. Until we start playing better, I can’t add a whole lot. The potential is there, it’s a matter of whether or not we do it.”

Monday, September 14, 2015

TOP STORY >> Farrer quits as head at hospital

Leader staff writer

The CEO and chief nursing officer of North Metro Medical Center resigned Wednesday after a doctor with an alleged drinking problem was asked to resign and did so, but was then reinstated by the hospital’s owners.

The doctor, Tracy Phillips, is under investigation by the Arkansas Medical Board.
State Rep. Joe Farrer (R- Austin), who was the interim CEO for the hospital for the past three months, asked the doctor to resign over concerns that patient care could be comprised.

His predecessor, Cindy Stafford, was fired in May.

Without naming the doctor, Farrer said, “You don’t just fire a doctor. There is a process, but the individual did submit his resignation to me.”

Phillips’ name had been supplied to The Leader over the past month by a number of sources alleging a multitude of issues, from drinking to sexual misconduct.

Shortly after Phillips resigned, two of the three owners of the hospital, Rock Bordelon and Don Cameron, came up from their Allegiance Health Management offices in Shreveport, La., met with Phillips and reinstated him.

The owners who made the decision to reinstate the doctor are also principal officers in the management company and the firm that helps provide health insurance to employees.

The hospital has had issues ever since Allegiance Health Management took over combined ownership and operation of the hospital about three years ago. There have been unpaid bills, missing health insurance payments for its staff, thousands of dollars owed in backpay to emergency-room doctors and partners like Cornerstone Hospital, an acute-care provider, which elected to move out of the hospital building and city.

 “I don’t know what they were thinking, you’d have to ask them,” Farrer said. “All I know is that I could not in good conscience be party to that.”

Deb Bostic, the chief nursing officer, resigned over the same concerns. “We were touted as Allegiance Health Management’s flagship hospital, but I don’t believe they have the ethical and moral standards to run this hospital,” she said. “They do not have the capacity to run a hospital.”

Farrer, who has given 20 years to the hospital, still loves North Metro, he said. “I took the job of CEO to save the hospital and to help keep 350 people employed. I even invested my money in what I believe. The staff is wonderful.”

Farrer had been interim CEO for the past three months and the hospital’s chief operating officer for six months before that. He took over when the hospital seemed to be drowning in financial problems with multiple unpaid bills and numerous shut-off notices from the water department and electric company. “I got most of the bills paid and had us in good standing with all of our vendors. Yes, we still had a few financial issues, but we were much improved.”

Farrer added that staff care was always solid and “it’s a shame that one doctor could ruin it for everyone.”

Bostic, who was actually born in the hospital, started her medical career there in 1989 as a scrub nurse. She had been the hospital’s chief nursing officer for 16 months and had no major issues with the quality of care. “Patient care is top notch,” Bostic said, “We have a very seasoned and caring staff.”

Bostic has already been hired on with a company as a traveling nurse and is looking forward to new adventures. “But the hospital was my family and I will miss them,” she said. “That was the hospital of choice for my parents and grandparents. I’ve spent half my life working there.”

She said she was able to quickly get a new job because she has strong standards and a moral compass, unlike those heading up Allegiance.

Allegiance is also dealing with a pair of whistleblower suits. One includes a former employee of a Mississippi Allegiance facility who received almost $3.5 million as part of a string of settlements where 18 hospitals, including Allegiance, in seven states agreed to pay $20.4 million over allegations they broke federal law by receiving Medicare reimbursements for psychiatric services that were not “medically reasonable or necessary.”

A similar lawsuit has been filed against Allegiance in Arkansas. The case remains under seal until a legal decision is rendered.

Allegiance denies wrongdoing and still operates outpatient therapy programs at 17 locations in five states, according to its website.

Louisiana Health Care Group filed a lawsuit against Bordelon and Allegiance in 2007 over funding procedures and was awarded close to $600,000.