Friday, February 05, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Why you should support millage

Here’s what happens if the 7.6-mill increase in property taxes on the ballot passes:

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, completely on its own for the first time for the 2016-2017 school year, will begin construction on the first new public school buildings in the area in nearly 40 years—a high school and an elementary—the best remaining building will be remodeled as a middle school and the four other elementary schools will each get a new multipurpose building.

The new high school, which will be on prominent display from Hwy. 67/167, will serve as a beacon proclaiming the city’s faith in its new school district and calling families to settle in the area and stop abandoning Jacksonville for Cabot and other communities and school districts.

Here’s what happens if the millage increase does not pass when the votes are counted after the polls close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday:

The entire building program will suffer and the school building program will be delayed and scaled back.

The main reason Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess and Joshua Intervenor attorney John Walker agreed to allow Jacksonville-North Pulaski to detach from PCSSD was so the building program could move forward faster.

Fixing and replacing facilities is the most expensive and one of the most difficult pieces of getting PCSSD—and by extension, JNPSD—declared desegregated and out of federal court after decades.

U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall and court desegregation monitor Margie Powell both found that JNPSD’s school facilities master plan meets requirements of desegregation plan 2000.

Vote for the 7.6-mill tax on Monday in Little Rock—the last day of early voting—or Tuesday, which is Election Day.

TOP STORY >> Zero violations for water, sewer

Leader staff writer

For the 20th year in a row, Jacksonville’s wastewater utility has had zero permit violations at its treatment facility.

Jacksonville Water Works also had zero water-quality violations in 2015.

“There are few facilities which can claim such a feat, and we are honored that Jacksonville is in such an elite group,” said Fred Belote, chairman of the Jacksonville Sewer Commission.

The utility’s general manager, Thea Hughes, presented the report at a recent Jacksonville City Council meeting.

She told the aldermen and those attending the meeting that the department treated 1.8 billion gallons of water in 2015, up from the 1.6 billion treated the year before. “And we did it all under budget,” she said.

Hughes said the utility, which consists of five different departments, is responsible for nearly 200 miles of sewer lines, 3,500 manholes and 14 pump stations.

The utility not only processes the city’s sewer water but also wastewater from Little Rock Air Force Base.

Hughes said the utility’s Operations Challenge team took first place in the state competition in Hot Springs and first place in the Division II competition in Corpus Christi, Texas. For the second year in a row, Engineering Manager Jay Summer took first place in the Water Environment Federation’s “Ingenuity Contest,” for his creative and educational depiction of smoke-testing sewer lines.

Jake Short, head of the water department, told the council that water production for 2015 was 1.1 billion gallons, down about 5 percent from the previous year.

The average daily water flow for the city was about 3 million gallons for the more than 10,000 customers the utility serves. Water loss for the year was 12.1 percent, down 1 percent from the previous year.

“Once again, Jacksonville Water Works has completed a year within its budget while providing the citizens of Jacksonville with quality water and services that they not only deserve, but have come to expect,” said Jim Peacock, chairman of the water commission.

TOP STORY >> Foundation to roast Marshall

Leader staff writer

Longtime Cabot educator Martha Marshall will be honored during the Cabot Scholarship Foundation Roast and Toast Banquet to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 10 at the Cabot Freshman Academy Cafeteria.

Marshall, 71, is in her 46th year as an educator. She will be roasted by two former students, Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin and real estate agent Steven Blackwood, and her former co-worker, Jane Balgavy.

“I am honored. It is one of the highlights of my life and my career. I’ve been with the school for more than half my life. I feel valued. My colleagues are all wonderful to me,” Marshall said.

The event will also honor students who are receiving scholarships from the foundation this year. In 2015, the foundation awarded 101 scholarships totaling $105,725.

The Cabot Scholarship Foundation was formed in 1992 by the Cabot Centennial Committee to encourage and recognize academics in Cabot schools. The Roast and Toast Banquet is the scholarship foundation’s only fundraising event. Due to the growth at Cabot High School, community support is appreciated. Donations are accepted throughout the year at Cabot Scholarship Foundation, 200 West Main St., Cabot, Ark. 72023.

Marshall is a 1962 graduate of Cabot High School. She was voted Miss Cabot High and homecoming queen. Marshall and her husband, Tommy, have been married 50 years. They have four adult children: Peter Marshall of Seattle, Susan Marshall of Memphis, Alexandra Marshall of Little Rock and Stephen Ray Marshall, who lives in Dalian, China.

She attended the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where she received her bachelor’s degree in three years, graduating in 1965, when she was 21.

Marshall’s first assignment was in 1965 as a first-grade teacher in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Her father was in construction. He would work in Alaska for several months and return to Cabot after. Marshall said her father could earn four times the money than around Cabot at that time. They would stay and visit with her father during the summers.

After graduating from college, Marshall was going to be an elementary school teacher in Springdale. She was visiting her family and friends in Alaska when a school principal offered to double her salary if she taught school in Alaska. Marshall and her husband were there for seven years.

While in Alaska, she was nominated as Outstanding Young Educator.

Marshall was active in her community, serving as director of the Miss Fairbanks Pageant, a preliminary to Miss Alaska. She also earned her master’s degree in education at the University of Alaska.

She returned to Cabot in 1972 and taught fifth grade for a year.

Former school superintendent Don Elliott asked her to join the high school faculty to be coordinator of the General Cooperative Education Program, a position which she continues to hold today.

Marshall earned her doctorate from the University of Mississippi. She was recognized as GCE Teacher of the Year and served as president of the Arkansas GCE Coordinators.

Marshall developed the work program into two distinct programs for students: Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) and internships.

Her students consistently win state competitions and travel to Washington to compete nationally.

Marshall was named Out-standing JAG Specialist in 2013. “I enjoy helping students develop a work ethic. I feel like I’m fulfilling a need,” she said.

Marshall is also an active philanthropist. She currently sponsors Cabot High School’s Junior Civitan Club, which has grown from 10 members last fall to more than 60 currently.

Marshall has served as director of the Miss Cabot Pageant and president of Cabot’s Business and Professional Women.

Marshall was listed in the Outstanding Young Women of America. She served as co-chair of the Lonoke County Bicentennial Committee. She is a member of the Cabot Teachers Association, Arkansas Education Association, National Education Association, the Cabot’s Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and is a member of the Cabot Panther Foundation.

Marshall is the owner of Miss Martha’s Pine Hill Cottage Bed and Breakfast and Dr. Martha Marshall’s Hypnotherapy Success.

Individual tickets for the Roast and Toast are $30 and a table for eight is $240. Tickets are available by calling the Cabot High School Office at 501-843-3562 or from the following board members: John C. Thompson, Nina Butler, Fred Campbell, Carole Jones, Stephen Tipton, Mike Verkler and Angela Wallace.

TOP STORY >> Millage vote is critical to new district

Leader senior staff writer

With 1,175 votes already cast, Jacksonville-North Pulaski County School Board President Daniel Gray said he expects the 7.6-mill property tax increase to fund a district-wide building program to pass by the time all votes are counted after polls close at 7:30 Tuesday evening.

“The only question is by how much,” he said. “I have complete faith. This has been decades in the making. When we get our opportunity, we’re going to knock it out of the park.”

He said volunteers carrying signs outside the Jacksonville Community Center polling place are being greeted by thumbs up from passing motorists.


“We’ve got no Plan B,” he said. “Why focus on anything but success?”

With the 228 early votes cast Friday, 1,175 Jacksonville-area voters have been to the polls to be counted on a 7.6-mill increase to fund a new Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School and help fund a new elementary school to replace the Arnold Drive School on Little Rock Air Force Base, according to numbers provided by Pulaski County Election Commission staff Friday.

Anecdotally, lots of people have said they have voted for the measure, but no one will really know until after the polls close.


“We need to go forward and vote for it,” said Alderman James Bolden III, a former Pulaski County Special School District board member. “After all these years paying into PCSSD and getting nothing in return, we need to get our millage passed and our children taken care of locally.”

The Jacksonville Lions Club announced its endorsement of the proposed tax increase that would make way for school improvements to the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District.

“The Jacksonville Lions Club (endorses) the millage increase necessary to move the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District Forward,” said Dianne Williams, president. “This millage will help move the community forward and promote a better quality of life for all residents.”


“We’ve got kids who deserve a good education,” Williams said. “From an economic development standpoint, we’re on the road to a super community.”

Education Corps spokeswoman Laura Walker said that this latest endorsement is among those by several civic groups, business leaders and elected officials in Jacksonville and the surrounding area supporting the millage.


Other groups that have endorsed the increase include:

• Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce

• The Leader

• Jacksonville City Council

• Jacksonville Lions Club

• Jacksonville Sertoma Club

• Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce

• North Pulaski Board of Realtors

• Jacksonville Rotary Club

• Stonewall Homeowners Association

• Jacksonville Museum of Military History

The Jacksonville NAACP has encouraged its members and others to vote on the issue, but stopped short of endorsing it.

On its Facebook page, it wrote, “The Jacksonville NAACP has a responsibility to the citizens of Jacksonville to ensure that EVERYONE is informed. The NAACP believes in fairness for all people and will not endorse either way. If you desire a yard sign please inbox Jacksonville NAACP. God Bless!!”


The Jacksonville-North Pulaski Education Corps will host an election watch party beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Jacksonville Police Department FEMA room at 1400 Marshall Road, according to Walker.

She said it was open to the public and the press.

SPORTS STORY >> Lions can’t keep pace with Bears

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears ran themselves to a critical 60-48 victory over McClellan on Tuesday in Sherwood. Sylvan Hills senior point guard Cordy Winston repeatedly beat the Lion defense down the court for easy transition layups, and finished with a season-high 30 points.

Sylvan Hills (12-7, 4-4) post player Jordan Washington, who is also the football team’s starting quarterback, looked like a quarterback much of the time Tuesday as he compiled his first triple-double. Washington finished with 13 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists, many of the assists coming from court-length passes to Winston after defensive rebounds.

“It was something to see,” said Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis. “There was one play where he got a rebound, took one dribble, threw a football-style pass right down the middle of the court through about three McClellan guys. And he hit Cordy in stride to where he didn’t have to dribble, just one step and score.”

The Bears were up by 20 points midway through the third quarter and in control of the game when McClellan (10-11, 4-4) made a run to pull within 10. Davis had subbed and put his starters back in to finish.

“McClellan is going to press and trap anyway,” Davis said. “They got down and they really came after us and made the game kind of crazy. I had some subs in there and they turned us over a few times. So I put the starters back in to hold the fort for us.”

Sylvan Hills only made 10 of 17 free-throw attempts, but hit six of its last seven to seal the win.

“We didn’t shoot as well as you want, but we hit them when we had to,” Davis said. “Overall I was pleased. That’s our style. That’s what we do and we did it well this time. Sometimes you just do things better than other times.”

The Bears and Lions are tied for fifth place, trailing fourth-place Jacksonville by one game while Pulaski Academy, J.A. Fair and Mills are tied for first place with 6-2 league records, just two games ahead of Sylvan Hills and McClellan.

“It was one we had to have,” Davis said. “We let one get away on the road (at Jacksonville, 62-60) that we thought we had a chance to go in and steal, so it was important to hold serve at home.”

In the girls’ game, the Lady Bears (11-7, 5-3) were never seriously threatened, but could not completely put away the Lady Lions (4-12, 2-6) until the fourth quarter of their 68-36 victory.

“They’re just athletic and they make things happen with that athleticism,” said Sylvan Hills girls’ coach Shelley Davis. “But I thought we played pretty well. Da’Bria Thompson had one of her best games even though she didn’t score much. She’s our leading scorer, but she hasn’t shot it well at all the last few games. In this one, she just started creating openings for her teammates and delivering the ball to them. She made us go.”

The biggest recipient of Thompson’s penetrate-and-dish was senior forward Raigen Thomas, who dropped in a season-high 18 points.

“She finally did it,” Davis said of Thomas. “You see her potential and you just want to do something to make her mad enough to play aggressively. She’s so passive most of the time and she’d be a tremendous player if she’d just go for it. She’s so strong and athletic she’s hard to deal with. She just had to make up her mind to do it. Hopefully this is a turning point for her.”

Sylvan Hills led 33-22 at halftime, but dominated the second half. The home team outscored McClellan 20-10 in the third quarter and 15-4 in the fourth.

Jayla Bell added 10 points for the Lady Bears while fellow sophomore Kourtney Johnson added nine for her season high.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot makes dual state

Leader sportswriter

Despite injuries, the Cabot High School wrestling team put together a strong showing at Tuesday night’s meet in Cabot, as the Panthers beat Little Rock Central by one point in the team standings, 37-36, to qualify for today’s dual state tournament meet in Van Buren.

The dual state tournament isn’t the same event as the Arkansas Activities Association sanctioned state tournament that’s held Feb. 19-20 at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock, but in Class 7A, the dual state tournament is one that features the top four teams from the Central and West conferences and is a good warm-up for the AAA sanctioned state tournament.

With Tuesday’s one-point win over the Tigers, Cabot took over sole possession of the fourth spot from the Central Conference and the right to make the trip to Van Buren this morning.

“Last year they started doing the dual state tournament,” said Cabot coach David Payne, “where they set up an eight-man bracket and you’re seeded as a team and you win or lose as a team just like a standard dual would be. They take the top four teams from the Central Conference and the top four teams from the West Conference and they have a dual tournament.

“It’s not really AAA sanctioned, it’s wrestling association sanctioned. They present the awards and stuff for the dual state championships at the state tournament.”

Cabot fell into an 18-point hole after its first three matches against Central. Two of those losses were by pin and one was by forfeit because of injuries in the 113-pound weight class. However, the Panthers won their next five matches to take a 30-18 lead in the team standings.

Four of those wins were by pin. Cameron Pitchford was the first Panther to win by pin, in the 126-pound class. He won his match with 37 seconds left in the first round. Olivia Wheeler earned the next win via forfeit in the 132-pound class, and Dillan Friesner was the next Cabot wrestler to win by pin.

Friesner won his match with four seconds left in the first round over Central’s Blake Hill. Jason Osborn and Austin Dye won the next two matches for the Panthers.

Osborn, wrestling at 145 pounds, pinned his opponent with 32 seconds left in round one and Dye pinned Central’s Gabe Kerr 31 seconds into the first round in the 152-pound class.

Cabot lost four of the next six matches against Central, but CJ Long’s decision win and Harris Sutton’s majority decision win were enough to give the Panthers the one-point win over the Tigers in the team standings.

Searcy and Pulalski Aca-demy were also at Tuesday’s match.

The Panthers faced both of those teams, but lost against both in the team standings. However, the win against Central was the one that mattered as far as getting to today’s dual state tournament.

Searcy won their match over Cabot 48-34, and PA also totaled 48 team points against the Panthers while the hosts earned 36 team points in that dual.

Cabot earned five individual wins against Searcy. Pitchford won his 126-pound match by majority decision and Friesner won his 132-pound match by pin with just 50 seconds left in the third and final round.

Dye won his 145-pound match by pin with just one second left in round one. Nate Bonilla and Sutton also won their matches against Searcy by pin. Bonilla, wrestling at 182 pounds, pinned his opponent with 40 seconds remaining in the first round and Sutton pinned his opponent with just 14 seconds left in round three.

Chris Jones also picked up a win in the 285-pound class, winning by forfeit. Against PA, the Panthers did earn three wins by forfeit, but the Bruins got two wins by forfeit. The other three wins Cabot earned against PA came by pin.

Dye won his match with five seconds left in round one. He wrestled that match in the 145-pound class. Long, wrestling in the 170-pound class, pinned his opponent with six seconds left in round two, and Sutton pinned PA’s Luke Jones with 48 tics left in the first round of the 220-pound match.

Though they came up short in the team points against Searcy and PA, Tuesday’s meet was a good one for the hosts, considering they beat Central to get to today’s dual state tourney despite the nagging injuries the team is dealing with.

“You know, we hung in there with them,” Payne said. “Luckily it worked out for us against Central. It got us where we need to be to get into dual state. We’ve got to go up there and hopefully we’ll be a little healthier by this weekend, and maybe go surprise some people.”

Today’s dual state tournament matches in Van Buren begin at 9 a.m. and weigh-in is at 7 a.m., with the finals taking place this afternoon. The 7A-Central Conference Tournament will be next Saturday at Panther Arena and will begin at 8 a.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils change their scheme, confuse Bruins

Leader sports editor

Early on, it appeared another 5A-Central superstar was going to shoot Jacksonville into another home loss Tuesday at JHS, but a defensive adjustment helped the Red Devils recover and earn a crucial 69-53 victory over Pulaski Academy.

Jacksonville scored the first four points of the game, but Pulaski Academy’s Tulsa signee Lawson Korita led a run that put the Bruins up 12-6 and forced a Red Devil timeout. Jacksonville scored out of the break but Korita made a 3-pointer that made it 15-8 before Jacksonville began to take back some control.

The Bruins led 17-16 at the end of the first quarter, and Korita had 11 of those points, including 3 for 4 shooting from 3-point range. Connor Parr also hit a 3-pointer for PA in the first period.

That’s when Jacksonville’s defensive strategy began to take effect.

“We changed our philosophy a little bit on how to defend their screen and roll,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “I think that confused them for a while and we were able to create some turnovers once we got settled into the game. That first quarter, he (Korita) was just stepping back off the screen and popping threes. When he’s hot like that, there ain’t anything you can do. But guys usually aren’t going to keep hitting everything, and I think we got into their legs a little bit with our defense.”

After the first quarter, Korita went 0 for 7 from long range, but still finished with 25 points. PA led 23-20 with five minutes left in the half when Korita took a seat on the bench for a rest. Jacksonville made the most of the opportunity, going on an 8-0 run and taking a five-point lead with 2:35 to play.

It started with a nice penetrate-and-dish from Bralyn James to Chris Williams. Harderrious Martin then got a steal and assist to Tyree Appleby for a transition layup. LaQuawn Smith then found Appleby streaking to the basket along the baseline for a layup, and Appleby got a steal and another layup to give Jacksonville a 28-23 lead.

Korita came back in the game after PA’s second timeout, but Jacksonville continued to control the action. The Bruins went six-straight possessions without a shot attempt. James scored with 2:05 left in the half and freshman post player Joe Phillips made it 32-23 with 1:15 left in the half with a putback of an Appleby miss.

Korita scored his only two points of the second quarter at the free-throw line with 17 seconds on the clock to set the halftime score at 32-25.

The two teams traded baskets the first five minutes of the third. Jacksonville took its first double-digit lead on a short alley-oop pass from a penetrating Appleby to a baseline-running Smith that made it 44-33.

The Bruins battled back to within eight points, but James closed the third quarter with the Red Devils’ first and only 3-pointer to make the score 51-40 going into the fourth quarter.

Rico Lindsey answered for PA (15-6, 6-2) with a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, but Jacksonville scored the next six points in a row.

One key play in the run was Phillips’ rebound after two missed free throws by Smith. Phillips missed, but Smith got that rebound and scored for a 55-43 lead. Korita dribbled the ball off his leg on the ensuing possession, and Appleby got to the rim for a layup that made it 57-43 with 6:20 remaining.

Jacksonville then suffered three-straight turnovers and PA scored after each one, again making it an eight-point game with 4:56 left and forcing Joyner to use another timeout.

James hit one of two free throws after a long Jacksonville possession, and Jacksonville again got the offensive rebound. Appleby then went to the line and hit two foul shots that made it 60-49 with 4:20 to play.

PA began to foul to extend the game, but Jacksonville made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to keep the Bruins at a distance.

The win was particularly important for the Red Devils (13-7, 4-3), who are still in fourth place despite the win over the previous outright league leaders.

PA, Mills and J.A. Fair are all 6-2 atop the Central standings. Jacksonville is alone in fourth while Sylvan Hills and McClellan are 4-4. PA has beaten McClellan and the other two teams tied for first, and lost to JHS and Sylvan Hills.

“Anybody can beat anybody in this league,” Joyner said. “It doesn’t matter who you play or where. This was huge because a loss tonight would’ve put us three games behind them. The final standings in this conference are going to go down to the last night.”

Korita’s 25 led all scorers while Parr added 13 points and rebounds for the Bruins. Smith led Jacksonville with 17 points and six rebounds. Appleby had 16 points and five assists. James added 12 for the Red Devils.

Jacksonville shot 43 percent from the floor (22 of 53 overall), but only 1 of 10 from 3-point range. The Red Devils were 22 of 31 from the free-throw line and dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Bruins 30-18.

PA shot well, too, hitting 40 percent of its 45 shot attempts, and went 12 for 15 from the free-throw line.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Time to build for a new era

Rebuilding in the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District has to start now.

As Jacksonville-area voters decide on a 7.6 millage increase, some residents have argued that rebuilding dilapidated facilities shouldn’t start with a $60 million high school – that the middle school should go first or maybe go with two new elementary schools.

All have valid points and all will have to be addressed, but a new high school near downtown is a must. Remember, the district’s newest school is nearly old enough to collect Social Security.

Cities love to focus life around their high schools, the football teams and mascots. Building a shining “jewel” just off Hwy. 67/167 would certainly bring a sparkle to Jacksonville.

The middle school is where the test scores are consistently the lowest and a new facility could bring with it a new attitude. Rebuilding North Pulaski High School into a new middle school will be another jewel for the district.

The new district has decided to start with the high school – an excellent choice. The rest will follow, if you vote “Yes.”

Jacksonville has always been a naysayer to the Pulaski County Special School District’s desires to raise taxes because PCSSD showed no effort in bringing quality buildings or education to Jacksonville.

The new district and its leaders deserve a chance to start to right decades of wrongs.

This millage increase needs to pass.

Vote Yes on Tuesday and help the district move forward.

EDITORIAL >> North Belt Alternative

Area mayors have the support of Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) for an alternate route to replace the North Belt Loop, the now-abandoned plan to build a freeway from the Jacksonville bean fields to I-40 at Crystal Hill Road.

The mayors’ group, which calls itself the Highway Corridor Coalition, met Friday in Jacksonville to push Hill for an alternate route on Hwy. 89 from Cabot to Mayflower. Jacksonville officials have also pushed to include Coffelt Road in the highway extension, although it’s uncertain when funding will become available for the project.

The coalition includes Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland.

Going west from Cabot, Hwy. 89 is a state highway to Hwy. 107. Upon crossing that highway, it becomes an arterial county road, following Tates Mill Road, Batesville Pike and Sayles Road to another segment of Hwy. 89, running to and beyond I-40.

The proposed corridor is a good idea, but not the same thing as completing the North Belt, not by a long mile. The Hwy. 89 extension should have come in addition to the North Belt, but don’t be surprised if the latest proposal will take a generation or longer to realize.

“The North Belt was a good idea when Lyndon Johnson was president,” Hill said, but now it’s time to find an alternative.

Hill said the North Belt was in the 1991 highway plan, but it was always a second priority.

What Hill should ask himself is why an idea proposed 50 years ago took 25 years to develop and then was abandoned 25 years later. We’re tired of politics as usual. Let’s hope he is, too.

Central Arkansas residents were promised the North Belt Loop would be completed with a nickel increase in the gasoline tax in 1991. The politicians got their tax increase, and we’re still detouring to I-40.

Not too many legislators are still around who pushed through the gasoline tax back when Bill Clinton was governor. Former Reps. Mike Wilson of Jacksonville and Doug Wood of Sherwood, along with former House Speaker and Sen. John Paul Capps of Searcy will tell you people here deserved their freeway, but who do you complain to now?

The late, great Rep. William F. (Bill) Foster, the sage of England, put his integrity on the line and insisted the North Belt would be completed. But he passed away before plans were even submitted. Delays kept increasing the cost from about $120 million to more than $600 million.

It would take a steep gasoline tax hike to fund that 12-mile project, and that won’t happen. So, by all means, improve Hwy. 89 and Coffelt Road, but don’t call it the North Belt. And good luck finding $300 million or so for a 26-mile widening of Hwy. 89 anytime soon.

Can it be built in the next decade or so? Only if local mayors pressure our representatives, and not just Rep. Hill, but also Rep. Rick Crawford, the First District congressmen and others, for badly needed highway improvements.

We shouldn’t have to wait 50 more years.

EDITORIAL >> Millage election to decide future

Jacksonville-area residents are about to decide the future of their community as they vote on a proposed millage increase for their new school district. Election Day is Tuesday, but early voting is underway.

This is probably the most important election in the city’s history. Eighteen months ago, voters overwhelmingly approved establishing the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, and last year they elected an independent school board. But that was the easy part: After a quarter century of misrule by a distant and corrupt school district based in south Little Rock, Jacksonville residents decided they’d had enough. Even so, it took a 30-year effort in the state legislature before Jacksonville could leave the Pulaski County Special School District, thanks finally to the efforts 15 years ago of former Rep. Pat Bond and the late Sen. Bill Gwatney.

Now comes the real challenge: How to rebuild the city’s crumbling schools, including Arnold Drive Elementary on Little Rock Air Force Base, where students see their parents fly into harm’s way every month. The least we could do for them is provide modern facilities for these pupils and for students throughout the district.

We can do that for them with a higher millage. If passed, the 7.6-mill increase would pay for $80 million in improvements, including a new high school in downtown Jacksonville and an elementary school along the air base perimeter. Our Air Force friends will help pay for that new elementary school if voters approve the new millage rate.

With a millage increase, Jacksonville will build a new $60 million high school, plus the new elementary school and improvements at all the elementary schools, which will be eventually replaced. Children cannot learn in a fortress-like environment. As we’ve said before, Jacksonville students deserve the same quality schools as those in Cabot, Beebe and elsewhere. The Lighthouse Charter Academies in Jacksonville and the air base have shown the way. According to most educators, a successful school district needs modern facilities, smaller classes, more tutoring, longer school days and a longer school year, well-paid and better-qualified teachers with access to the latest data and a culture of high expectations.

According to Harvard economist Roland Fryer, poverty should not hold a child back. He insists poor children will do well if they’re taught well. “Schools are really enough if they are good schools,” he said recently.

The Jacksonville Rotary Club has endorsed the millage increase. So have the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville City Council, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the North Pulaski Board of Realtors and the Jacksonville Sertoma Club.

Jacksonville cannot compete in the 21st Century without attractive schools that educate students. Property values will go up many times more than the 7.6 millage increase sought by the new school district. If the 7.6-mill increase is approved, owners of $100,000 homes can expect to pay about $150 more a year.

Otherwise, middle-class families will move elsewhere, urban blight will accelerate, driving down property values and, perhaps the most troubling, students will continue to be unprepared for the job market or college.

The Little Rock chamber’s endorsement cited the importance of LRAFB to central Arkansas’ economy and said military members’ families deserve quality schools.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said after the city council voted unanimously to support the millage increase: “Patrons of North Pulaski and Jacksonville overwhelmingly supported the creation of our new district, and they will be called upon once again to finish that job on Feb. 9 with a millage vote to fund projects that will equip our children and teachers with what they’ll need to perform at even higher levels than the surrounding districts.”

Vote YES for the millage increase.

TOP STORY >> Donate to help injured animals

Ruger’s foster family takes him to their home. This Sherwood Shelter pet needed his leg amputated because his knee had been shot.
Leader staff writer

The Sherwood Animal Shelter is requesting donations to keep its Frannie Fund for injured animals afloat.

Director Robin Breaux explained, “Just in the last few months, we’ve had four animals that needed major surgery. Whenever we see that, we don’t want the Frannie Fund to be depleted because, if we don’t have any money in it at the time we get one of these animals in, we won’t be able to take it to the vet.”

The alternative would be euthanasia, and the shelter hasn’t had to euthanize for space in over three years.

The director said she also wants to keep the fund maintained in case there is an economic downturn or some other reason people can’t afford to help a specific animal.

The Frannie Fund began in 2007 with its namesake, a chocolate Labrador retriever that had a bullet in her jaw. The surgery cost about $4,000, according to Breaux.

During that initial campaign, $18,000 in donations was collected. “You can’t send the money back to people. They didn’t want it back anyway. They wanted it to go to help the dogs,” the director noted.

Breaux said the additional money — left over after Frannie’s surgery was paid for — was placed in an account to help other homeless pets like her.

The shelter’s most recent effort to raise donations for the Frannie Fund has netted more than $1,700.

Right now, the fund is being used for an amputation procedure Ruger — a dog that was shot in his knee — needed and to repair a torn ACL in another pup.

Fifty-seven animals were helped with $12,325 from the fund in 2015, and hundreds have been saved from euthanasia since it was founded. The shelter began the year with about $10,000, but continued collecting donations so the fund would stay in the black.

Breaux explained that, often, shelters don’t have the resources to heal dogs and cats that were hit by cars or have other curable medical conditions. They can’t let the animals suffer, and many aren’t adoptable, so they’re put to sleep.

“It’s just sad to think that we would have to euthanize a dog or a cat that has a treatable illness or a treatable injury...Our hands would be tied,” she emphasized.

With the Frannie Fund, homeless pets with curable mange are treated, and those who adopt animals infected with heartworms or other pre-existing conditions receive financial assistance up to $200 for the related veterinary bills.

The heartworm treatment assistance keeps adopted pets from coming back, the director added. There have been five or six cases of that this year, she said.

Breaux also said the Frannie Fund amount spent this year is a little higher than normal. She attributes the jump to Sherwood rescuing over 30 shih tzus in a hoarding case. The owner of the dogs was convicted and given jail time, the director noted.

Donations to the Frannie Fund can be mailed to 6500 N. Hills Blvd., Sherwood, Ark. 72120 or dropped off there.

The shelter doesn’t have a way to collect online donations, but its volunteer organization, Sherwood Animal Shelter Helper (S.A.S.H.) can do so through PayPal. There is a link to donate available on the volunteer organization’s Facebook page. The link is also available on the Replenish the Frannie Fund event Facebook page.

TO STORY >> Pipeline route leads to discovery

Leader staff writer

A few yards off Military Road in Jacksonville, near the JP Wright Loop Road intersection, lies a crossroads of history. More was discovered there last week while workers prepared the ground for a pipeline.

The Reed’s Bridge Historical Preservation Society has maintained one site there — McCraw Cemetery, which has graves dating back to the 1840s.

Last week, members became aware of what an archeologist familiar with the area believes are trenches and rifle pits from the Battle of Reed’s Bridge, as well as a possible potter’s field where the poor, the unknown and social outcasts were buried.

The preservation group wants to get in touch with landowners in the area to find out more information, start clearing it and marking the graves, according to president Mike Kish.

“There’s so much history out here,” said Tommy Dupree, Reed’s Bridge mem ber. He hopes the group can raise awareness and grow the community’s interest in the area’s past.

The group would need ground-penetrating radar to further research the area and confirm the existence of the potter’s field, without disturbing the graves.

In the 1830s, a man named Pleasant McCraw settled on Military Road, building a house along the main highway, Hwy. 161, from Memphis to Little Rock. His house would become the center of a Confederate line during the Civil War. Nearby is the cemetery named after his family.

The McCraw Cemetery was obtained by the Reed’s Bridge Historical Preservation Society about 10 years ago. The group cleaned up the overgrown space and has maintained it ever since.

The members added a fence line around it, mowed and marked graves that had no stones or where the stones had been moved. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It was totally and completely overgrown and had been abandoned for many years,” said Reed’s Bridge historian Carolyn Kent. “We grew some community interest and did some cleaning, obtained ownership and got it on the register.”

The oldest marked grave in the cemetery is that of Elizabeth Sanders, buried March 1, 1841. “There are a lot of depressions and fieldstones out there,” said Kent. “Some probably date further back (than 1841).”

Another notable grave in the cemetery is that of Maria Smith. It is the oldest known grave in the black section of the cemetery. Her tombstone reflects that she was a member of the Supreme Royal Circle of Friends of the World, an African-American fraternal organization.

There is also a large obelisk with several names of members of the McCraw family on it.

Just outside the fence line, common grave indicators have been found, including strips of vegetation greener than that around it, iris and yucca plants, indentions in the ground and fieldstones. The indicators are haphazardly lined up in rows that can be seen when walking around the site.

They were found during preparation work for moving a gas pipeline. Moving the pipeline was recommended to avoid disturbing the potter’s field. Although the recommendation was to relocate the pipe by 100 feet, Magellan Midstream Partners, LP shifted it by 150 feet. The pipeline also crosses part of the Trail of Tears.

A few feet from the cemetery and potter’s field are a line of indentions in the ground and mounds with indentions set behind them. These indicate a trench line.

Soldiers would have dug trenches waist deep and 4 to 6 feet in length, leaving a pile of dirt in front of the trench. A log was often placed on top of that. The soldiers would lean onto the mound of dirt, setting their rifles on top of the log and shooting from that position. The trenches held two to four people.

Between them were rifle pits. Rifle pits were composed similar to trenches but shallow, allowing soldiers to lie down with their rifles on top of the log.

This particular trench line was known as the McCraw line and was the last line of defense in front of Reed’s Bridge. The battle of Reed’s Bridge was fought mostly by cavalry and took place in August 1863.

Pleasant McCraw’s name is the first found on tax books in 1836, and he had probably settled in the area a couple of years beforehand. He “had a fair amount of land,” had horses and cattle, and served as postmaster in the area at one time, according to Kent.

McCraw sold items such as corn and water for horses to members of the Bell party – a group of Cherokees that moved through the area on the Trail of Tears in 1838. His son, William, lived on the McCraw land until the 1880s.

There is some mention of the McCraw property on battlefield maps of the Reed’s Bridge battle.

TOP STORY >> District voting to raise millage

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and Jacksonville North Pulaski School Board president Daniel Gray, big boosters of the 7.6-mill increase to build and repair facilities for the new district, said enthusiasm was running high as early voting began on Tuesday.

Both admit to voting for the measure.

Twice as many people turned out in Jacksonville to vote on the school construction issue as turned out in Little Rock for the first day of early voting for expansion and repair of the Arkansas Arts Center — even though Little Rock has about six-and-a-half times the population.

At the Jacksonville community center, 346 votes had been cast on the issue by 5 p.m. close of the first day’s voting, according to the Pulaski County Election Commission, while only 172 voted on the Arts Center tax increase.

Those are the only two ballot issues in Pulaski County, and no one is eligible to vote on both, said Brian Poe, county director of elections.

Gray said a TV station’s unscientific survey of 10 people at the community center found that all said they had voted for the school-millage increase.

“I’m hearing a lot of positive stuff,” said Gray. “People are excited.”

Fletcher, who held a sign outside the polling place, said he was getting a lot of waves and thumbs up from passers by.

“People know the ball is in our court,” said the mayor.

In September 2014, 95 percent of Jacksonville-area residents who voted, voted to pursue detachment from Pulaski County Special School Districts.

Regardless of the outcome of the tax increase election, weekdays through the Feb. 9 election day, JNPSD will be a totally stand-alone district educating its own kids beginning in August.

SPORTS STROY >> JHS gets its second Golden Football

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville became the last of only three schools in the state of Arkansas to receive its second commemorative Golden Football from the NFL on Saturday. Dan Hampton, a 1974 graduate of JHS, a 1985 Super Bowl winner with the Chicago Bears and a 2002 inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame, gave his ball to the school on Saturday.

The Golden Football Program is in recognition of this Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, the gold anniversary of what’s become the most watched single-day sporting event worldwide. The NFL embarked upon this program to help bridge the gap between professional and high school football. Each living Super Bowl winner was given a ball to present to alma mater.

Only Fort Smith Northside and Texarkana also received two commemorative footballs as part of the program. Northside’s Bret Goode won a championship as a reserve lineman for the Green Bay Packers in 1997. Former Grizzly Ravin Caldwell won one in 1987 with the Washington Redskins. Texarkana’s Dennis Woodberry was also on that ’87 Redskins’ team, and Rod Smith won two with the Denver Broncos in 1998 and ’99.

On Oct. 16 of last year, 2005 JHS graduate Clinton McDonald, presented his commemorative ball to JHS during a special ceremony before the Red Devils played Pulaski Academy. McDonald was the starting nose guard for Seattle in 2014 when the Seahawks beat Denver 43-8, becoming the first Arkansas native to win a Super Bowl ring in 15 years.

Hampton and McDonald are the only two former Red Devils whose JHS jersey numbers have been retired.

Along with receiving the commemorative football, recognized schools will also receive a character education curriculum, and will be eligible to apply for high school football grants of up to $5,000. The NFL Foundation has also donated $1 million in support of the initiative.

SPORTS STORY >> ’Rabbits roll past CAC in final frame

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke boys’ basketball team is riding a two-game winning streak with a pair of road victories on Friday and Monday.

Last Friday, the Jack-rabbits beat Stuttgart for the second time in three meetings this season and made it a conference split with a 59-40 final.

On Monday, they dominated the first and fourth quarters to beat Central Arkansas Christian 58-45 in North Little Rock.

Holding onto leads has been a problem for Lonoke (13-10, 6-8) this season, so coach Dean Campbell was glad to see his team pull away in the fourth quarter. He hopes it’s a sign that his squad has turned a corner.

“I think it was just us finally deciding we weren’t going to let it happen again,” said Campbell of losing a late lead. “They were conscious of it. During breaks they were talking about it and in the fourth quarter they went out and took control back.”

Lonoke had to take control back because it seized it in the first quarter and lost it in the second. The Jackrabbits led 7-0 less than a minute into the game, forcing a Mustang timeout. CAC scored first after the break, but Lonoke responded with another run, this time 10-0, to take a 17-2 lead with three minutes to go in the opening period.

But that margin was completely wiped away by halftime. Campbell subbed out after the second CAC timeout. The bench failed to score the rest of the quarter but still led 17-6 at the end of one period.

The starters also lost their rhythm after returning in the second period. They committed six turnovers and hit just 2 of 10 shot attempts after hitting more than 50 percent in the first quarter.

The Mustangs tied the game 21-21 on a 3-pointer by Ryan Gilbert, and Campbell called timeout with 10 seconds left in the half.

CAC went with full-court pressure after the timeout, but Lonoke’s Isaac Toney got the ball to Tyler Spencer in the right corner for a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Jackrabbits into the locker room with a 24-21 lead – a lead they would never relinquish.

The Mustangs pulled to within one point on several occasions in the third and early fourth periods before Lonoke took over. Kylan Branscomb’s second 3-point play of the quarter gave Lonoke a 32-28 lead and sparked an 8-2 run. But CAC scored the last four points of the third to go into the fourth still trailing by just three at 37-34.

CAC then scored first in the fourth to pull within one point again, but responded with another big run. Haven Hunter’s 3-pointer with 6:10 left in the game gave Lonoke a 45-36 lead and forced another Mustang timeout. But the break didn’t help the home team this time.

Lonoke got a stop and Hunter penetrated for a floater in the lane that made the score 47-36. Lonoke then got a steal in the back court and Branscomb followed a Jawaun Bryant miss in transition for a 13-point lead that forced CAC’s final timeout.

Bryant later penetrated for another basket for a 51-36 lead with 3:25 remaining that seemed to be the nail in the Mustangs’ coffin.

CAC resorted to fouling to try and extend the game, but Lonoke made 8 of 9 free-throw attempts in the final three minutes.

“That was huge, too,” Campbell said of Lonoke’s free-throw shooting. The Jackrabbits missed their first two of the game, but made 12 straight after that before missing one with seconds remaining.

“We missed 19 free throws the last time we played and lost by one,” Campbell said. “That was a big turnaround.”

CAC’s previous win over Lonoke was just the team’s second of the season, but it sparked a seven-game win streak the Mustangs (8-12, 7-4) road into the second meeting, including a win over league-leading Riverview.

Lonoke dominated CAC on the boards, 30-17.

Bryant led Lonoke with 19 points and had seven rebounds. Branscomb had 15 points and nine rebounds and Hunter contributed 12 points and eight rebounds. Justin Meadows chipped in nine points, including 5 for 5 free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter.

Grant Wood led CAC with 12 points while three different Mustangs scored eight.

In Friday’s win, Lonoke took a 26-20 lead into halftime. The Jackrabbits gradually extended the lead to 37-28 in the third before outscoring the hosting Ricebirds 22-12 in the fourth quarter to set the final margin.

Bryant also led Lonoke in scoring at Stuttgart (9-11, 6-6), finishing with 19 points. Bryson Jackson added 13 and Branscomb scored 10.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Falcons win, boys fall by one point

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski and McClellan played a pair of one-point thrillers Friday night at NPHS. The Lady Falcons were on the right side of their 35-34 final, reversing a 43-42 loss at McClellan earlier this season.

The North Pulaski boys played their best conference game of the season so far, but came up short in a 54-53 loss.

The Falcons (3-15, 0-7) were able to take some pride in their effort.

“It was a little bit of a moral victory, I’m not going to lie about that,” said North Pulaski boys coach Roy Jackson. “But it was still heartbreaking because we played so hard to climb back after being down, and had a chance to win it. We ended up fouling a guy about 70 feet from the basket. It was a foul, but I’m not sure it was one of those fouls you have to call in that situation. It was just a tough way to lose after playing so hard.”

North Pulaski never led, and trailed by double digits early in the third quarter before making a furious comeback attempt. The Falcons finally tied the game with less than a minute remaining, but committed the decisive foul with 1.4 seconds left.

McClellan’s Tre Harris hit the first of two free throws, then missed the second intentionally to keep the Falcons from being able to run any sort of set play for a potential game winner.

“We just had to stand there and watch him make a free throw instead of going into overtime,” Jackson said. “I really think we would’ve had a good chance to win if we could’ve gotten to overtime. We made it all the way back and tied it late, so we had the momentum and energy on our side. They shot way more free throws than we did, too. But we missed some crucial ones in the fourth quarter that would’ve probably won it for us if we make them.”

McClellan went 20 for 30 from the foul line while North Pulaski made just 4 of 11 attempts.

Sean Moragne led North Pulaski with 14 points while Braxton McKinney added 12 and Jermaine Lopez 10 for the Falcons. Harris scored 19 to lead McClellan while Mahki Goodwin (Archie Goodwin’s younger brother who moved to Little Rock this year from Jacksonville, Ga.) scored 15 and had 10 rebounds.

The Lady Falcons only won one quarter on the scoreboard, outscoring McClellan 9-4 in the second. It was enough for a three-point halftime lead at 15-12. After a 12-12 third, McClellan won the fourth 10-8.

The Lady Falcons led by four with 12 seconds left when Elisha Smith committed a foul that kept McClellan’s hopes alive. McClellan then fouled Kiarra Evans, who made both free throws to seal the win.

Smith’s blunder at the end didn’t hurt as much as her game-high 15 points helped. Evans finished with 14 for NP while McClellan held NP’s guards to just four combined points.

“We finished really well on the post,” NP girls; coach Stacy Dalmut said. “Our guards did not shoot well at all, and didn’t attack the zone like they should. But when they did it created openings for Elisha and Kiarra, and they did a good job on those opportunities. Kiarra hit some big free throws down the stretch, and she’s been struggling pretty bad there lately. So that was big.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot hot early at SHS

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot boys dominated the first quarter of Friday night’s 7A/6A-East Conference game at Searcy, and it helped the Panthers cruise to a 66-45 win over the Lions.

Searcy (3-14, 0-6) was held scoreless in the first quarter, and even though the Lions’ shots weren’t falling in the first eight minutes, the Panthers’ defense had a lot to do with that. On the other end, Cabot (13-6, 4-3) scored 17 points in the first quarter to lead 17-0 at the start of the second.

“It’s good to do that on the road,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges of the first quarter, “because you worry about Searcy coming out and hitting shots. One (Jeremiah Clifton) is a good player and 10 (Michael Money) is a very good player. So it was good to have that 17-0 run.

“The one thing you have to preach against is don’t get complacent, because it’s not over. In the second quarter they hit four threes and cut it down to nine.”

All four of Searcy’s field goals in the second quarter were threes. Two were made by Money. His second three made the score 24-13 with 3:17 left in the half and a pair of free throws by teammate Dustin Manues made it a nine-point game, with the score 24-15.

Cabot guard Jarrod Barnes added the final basket of the half on a contested layup down the middle of the lane with three seconds remaining, setting the halftime score at 26-15.

Panther forwards Matt Stanley and Garrett Rowe made a pair of buckets that pushed the Cabot lead to 30-16 early in the third quarter, and Stanley added two free throws and a transition basket that made it a 15-point game, with the score 34-19.

Searcy again got the lead down to nine toward the end of the third quarter, but consecutive threes by Cabot’s Bobby Joe Duncan and Jalen Brown made the score 44-29 at the start of the fourth.

Twenty-six seconds into the fourth, Stanley converted an and-1 that made the score 47-29, and by the 5:30 mark, Cabot’s lead grew to 53-31 on a pair of threes by Jared Vance and Brown.

The Panthers’ largest lead was 58-34, and that margin was set on a corner three by senior Kenny Fowler with 4:15 left to play. Fowler added a free throw with 3:05 remaining, which made the score 59-38, and each team added seven points down the stretch to set the final point totals.

“I thought we responded well in the second half,” Bridges said. “I thought we looked real good in spurts. We’ve just got to put it together the whole game. But it’s good to have a game where everybody gets an opportunity to play, because everybody works hard in practice.”

Cabot finished Friday’s win 24 for 42 from the floor for 57 percent. Searcy was 14 for 37 from the floor for 38 percent. From the free-throw line, the Panthers were 12 for 20 and the Lions were 10 for 17. From 3-point range, Cabot made 6 of 14 attempts and Searcy made 7 of 17 attempts.

The Panthers had double the rebounds as Searcy did, outrebounding the Lions 26-13, and Cabot won the turnover category 11-18.

Stanley led Cabot with 15 points. Duncan and Brown each scored eight points, Hunter Southerland scored seven and Vance, Barnes and Chandler Casteel scored five points apiece.

Money led all scorers with 18 points and he was the only Lion that scored in double figures.