Friday, May 20, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Tax needed for our roads

In his weekly column and radio address yesterday, Governor Hutchinson drew an analogy to the first legislative session in the new state Capitol 105 years ago to suggest that his little weekend special session also was truly historic.

“After all,” he concluded his address, after briefly describing the purposes of the legislative session, “we’re making history—and it’s a story we’ll all be able to tell.”

If this little session turns out to be historic and not merely trivial, it is for a reason that the governor did not and never will mention. He and the legislature will have reversed a principle that governors and legislatures have followed resolutely for 75 years: Never fund highways, roads and streets from the state’s general revenues but rather from taxes raised specifically for highways and usually levied on the users of those highways—motorists and the big carriers that hog the roadways and that account for most of the damage and the need for repairs and rebuilding.

General revenues—the income, sales and cigarette taxes you pay and a batch of much smaller levies—pay for the public schools, colleges, prisons, medical services and the general operations of state government, like the legislature, the courts and executive offices. If the state highway agency and its powerful constituents—the road and bridge contractors and suppliers and the shipping industry—ever got their nose under the tent, education and the other essential services of the state would begin to suffer.

And that is exactly the governor’s plan, though he does not describe it that way. He wants to raise state money for highways, especially to match federal money that President Obama and Congress will make available this fall, by moving money around in the budgets funded by general revenues and applying “surpluses” that he anticipates in the general fund the next five years to highways. If the state is able to generate surpluses each year it will be because they will have starved the schools, colleges, medical services and other programs that do not have powerful constituencies to squeeze out money to pay for such things as the big 10-lane Interstate freeway through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Schools and colleges were once powerful groups at the Capitol but no more. They meekly go along. Thus no one objects to the governor’s plan because his party is now all-powerful in all three branches of government, and education and other services for the poor and needy take a backseat to lower taxes. Everybody recognizes where power lies now.

Hutchinson has boasted repeatedly that he is going to speed up highway building and do it without new taxes. Of course, someone has to pay for the highway widening and repairs and it’s best not to identify them. But you know who they are.

The heartening thing is that a handful of legislators, from both parties, still resist. A bipartisan group, principally in the Senate, wants highway users to pay for the highway improvements and that they should include the big transportation industry that now hogs the superhighways while paying a small fraction of the highway costs by everyone’s calculations, including the Highway Department’s. But the big trucks and the shippers will bear none of the burden under the governor’s plan, which is certain to become law next week in some form. A few legislators want to limit the governor’s plan to a single year and come back next spring, at the regular legislative session, and enact a real highway plan, which would include taxes on road users. Hutchinson wants to avoid anything that smacks of taxes until after his re-election in 2018. He fears a challenge from Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin or another tea-party stalwart, who would attack him for raising taxes.

The bipartisan Senate group would propose some form of road-user tax—a small increase in the state excise tax on motor fuels, repealing the exemption of gasoline and diesel from the state sales tax or some combination—but Hutchinson says he won’t stand for it, not right now anyway. Right now, he wants credit for a freebie—bigger spending on highways at no cost to the taxpayers—as if that were ever possible.

We must mention in this context one other trivial bill in the governor’s three-day session, the 105-page bill introduced at the last minute that is supposed to address “efficiencies” in state government. It tinkers with the law on a number of fairly minor state agencies like the state Young and Beginning Farmer Advisory Board, the state History Commission, the Teacher Housing Development Foundation and the state Governor’s Mansion Commission. Mainly, the huge omnibus bill seems to consolidate power under the governor and to reduce the independence of constitutionally independent agencies like the Game and Fish Commission and Highway Department, while centralizing power under the governor and his direct appointees, like the head of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, Stacy Hurst.

Hurst will take total control of agencies like the History Commission and state history archives and the Governor’s Mansion Commission and cancel programs across the state that do not have a forceful constituency, perhaps saving a few dollars for the highway program.

If that counts for “historic” in the governor’s lexicon, it looks like he is heading for a truly historic legacy. Count us among the skeptics.

TOP STORY >> Students make savvy investors

Warren Dupree fourth graders won second in Region 5. Isaiah Smith (from left), David Latcham, Jovani Lewis and Jakalyn Banks with JNPSD deputy superintendent Jeremy Owoh, their teacher Amber Bledsoe and Principal Janice Walker. Their teammate Emily Houston is not pictured.


Leader staff writer

When it comes to investing, ask Beebe High School freshmen.

The ninth graders took first and second place in Region 4 of the recent statewide Stock Market Game, and also took first and second back in the fall version of the education activity.

An upstart team of fourth-graders from Warren Dupree Elementary in Jacksonville garnered second place in Region Five, competing against more than 200 teams.

In all 7,300 students making up 2,459 teams competed in the spring version of the Stock Market Game. “It’s the largest number we’ve ever had,” said state coordinator Marsha Masters.

Winning teams in the elementary, middle and high school divisions from six state regions were honored at a luncheon last week at Verizon Arena. First-place teams received $100 per team, a trophy, Olympic-style medallions, T-shirts and certificates, not to mention bragging rights, a free luncheon and a couple of hours out of school. Second place teams won $50 per team, the medallions, T-shirts and certificates.

And bragging is what the Beebe teams and their economic teams did on a daily basis during the game. “It’s a friendly competition,” said Coach Art Bell. The three economic teachers, all coaches, have all their freshmen participate. “Overall, we probably had 50 teams in the competition this round,” Coach Mark Pinkerton said.

Bell’s team, consisting of Bianca Aguilon, Madi Barton, Hunter Free, Kyia Jackson and Chase Langston, finished second, while Pinkerton’s team, which included Jack Jennings, Callie Neal, John Nichols and Randy Smith, finished first. For Pinkerton, it was his second time finishing first with a team. “I did it back in 2012,” he said.

Bell finished second in both the spring and the fall version. “My teams may have been second both times, but I was the only one to get to go to the awards ceremony both times this year,” he bragged. The other economics teacher, Coach Richard Clevenger, had a first place team in the fall, but was out of the money this round.

Bell said his student team was actually in first for about half of the 10-week competition, made some stock moves and fell into the 30s. “We moved back up to second in the last days of the competition.”

Pinkerton loves the activity because it’s so much more than stocks and bonds. “Yes, the students get a good understanding of investment and its ups and down, but they also see it’s not just for the rich and you don’t need a big financial background. It’s about research, teamwork and keeping an eye on current events,” the coach said, adding, “It opens up opportunities for all our kids now and in the future.”

The coaches said the rankings are posted daily in the hallway and between classes students are checking. “There are always cheers, moans, discussions and a bit of bragging as students are in the halls between classes,” Bell said.

Freshman Hunter Free, a member of the second place team, was actually a veteran of the Stock Market Game. “I played it back in middle school.”

Did he do as well back then? “No, we finished near last,” he laughed.

He said the stocks his team purchased were all agreed on, at least by the majority of the team. “Most of the time we were in complete agreement. But I wanted IBM, but was out voted. Turned out good because IBM lost money during the game time,” Free said. The tip he offered was not buying stocks just because you like one. “Does it have a solid track record? Is it currently down, but poised to move up?”

Warren Dupree’s fourth-grade team of Jovani Lewis, Jackalyn Banks, David Latcham, Isaiah Smith and Emily Houston were nervous about the awards ceremony. “I’ve never won a medal outside of sports before,” said Jovani Lewis.

“I had stage fright,” said teammate Jackalyn Banks. “I’ve never been on a stage with that many people looking before.” There were about 250 people attending the luncheon.

Fourth-grader David Latcham called the game fun. “It got us to watch the stocks every day.”

The Stock Market Game is a national program of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) that allows students and teachers the opportunity to invest a virtual $100,000 in stocks, bonds and mutual funds throughout a 10-week simulation each semester.

Economics Arkansas has been the facilitator of this program in Arkansas since 1999.

Arkansas is divided into six regions and three divisions: elementary (fourth-sixth grades), junior high (seventh-ninth grades) and senior high (10th-12th grades).

The top two within each region for each division are honored at the state awards luncheons in January and May.

There is also a teacher division, where educators may compete against one another. The college and teacher divisions are statewide competitions.

TOP STORY >> Day camp for sciences

Camp Invention, a summer enrichment day-camp program, is coming to Magness Creek Elementary the week of July 11-15.

For students entering grades one through six, Camp Invention is a week long adventure with hands-on problem solving, using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“We are thrilled to offer Camp Invention to our students for the fifth year,” said Mary Beth Trammell, gifted and talented specialist at Magness Creek. “The hands-on curriculum helps to further insert curiosity into a child’s everyday lifestyle. As the need for skilled STEM professionals increases, we believe we are setting our students up for success by offering programs like Camp Invention.”

The camp is supported by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Camp Invention provides an opportunity for students to exercise their creativity and use their imagination in ways they don’t normally get to in the classroom. Program participants do not realize they are learning and developing new skills as they build prototypes, take things apart, explore different types of technology and so much more.

This year’s Camp Invention curriculum is called Epic, inspired by educators, inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and developed in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Epic features hands-on modules like CrickoBot, where campers construct and personalize a do-it-yourself solar-powered cricket and a unique habitat; Epic Park, where campers work in teams to design an eco-adventure park; I Can Invent: Maker Studio, where campers brainstorm product ideas and build original prototypes using real tools and components found in everyday devices; and the Lab: Where Pigs Fly, where kids can discover the science of slime, demolition, electronic sound, giant squid and coding.

Local programs are facilitated and taught by educators who live and teach in the community. Camp Invention serves more than 94,000 students every year through nearly 1,400 camps across the nation.

For more information, email

TOP STORY >> A tearful farewell as NPHS ends run

Leader staff writer

Tears, hugs, more tears, the passing around of a Kleenex box, followed by more tears punctuated an interview with students and teachers about the demise of North Pulaski High School.

As part of the separation of Jacksonville from the Pulaski County Special School District, the high school will be converted to a middle school for next year and this senior class will be the last to graduate. Its graduation is at 4:30 p.m. today at UALR.

Last year, the school began to see its identity change forever. Its football team and award-winning marching band were consolidated with their counterparts, and former rivals, at Jacksonville High Schools.

North Pulaski’s celebrated student-run restaurant Simply Delicious and culinary program will remain though at the campus that will become Jacksonville Middle School in August. High school students will travel across town to use the kitchen until the new high school campus is built downtown.

But what will really be missed is the family atmosphere. Every student and teacher interviewed Wednesday stressed that family concept.

Coach Robbie Walker, a 19-year veteran at the school, walked English teacher Tiffini Shettles-Tull, a 15- year NPHS veteran, down the aisle at her wedding. “We had to approve each other’s spouses,” Walker quipped.


Junior Kara Hutchinson’s mom was in the first graduating class and Hutchinson wanted to be in the last but will miss that honor.

Teachers Linda Parlier and Marlena Roe graduated from the school and then came back to teach.

“Oh, goodness, goodness, goodness, I was here as a student in 1994, but don’t repeat that,” quipped Parlier, who teaches theater stagecraft. She explained that she was like most NPHS students in that the school was a second, and sometimes first, home.

“After graduation, when I would come back to see my family, I’d come here first, dirty laundry and all, to visit the teachers,” she said. “To see those who made my life amazing.”

“All the kids call me mom. I don’t have any kids of my own, but I have hundreds of someone else’s,” Parlier said, reaching for a tissue. “This closing, it hurts.”


“We’ve been here for each other’s marriages, divorces, death, major life events with the faculty and the kids,” she continued. “This place is family. The kids say that. We say that. And like family, we are worried about our kids. They came here together, they will leave together, but they won’t be together anymore. My daughter was raised in these halls. At 18-months she carried the homecoming crown.”

Tull and Tracey Garrison, the school’s instructional facilitator, both started out at NPHS the year that ninth graders were added to the campus. “There were 29 of us that started that year and only three of us are left. Garrison called those first few years the pushcart years, “Because we didn’t have classrooms.”

First year AP English teacher Hanna Jones also felt the love immediately. “Coming here as a new teacher I was really nervous. The only attitude I’d seen in schools was an ‘all-for-yourself’ one, but I quickly gained best friends here and became part of a family. I can’t imagine working anywhere else. It was the best year one could hope for,” Jones said.

“It’s just fun to work here,” Garrison said. “When summer came, we instantly looked forward to coming back. It was exciting to come to work every day.”

Junior Amada Crews, who had lots of family members graduate from the school, called her three years at NPHS “really great. Everyone is so accepting and loving. Teachers here do anything and everything they can for us to be our best.”

Both Crews and classmate Hutchinson worry about the final year of their high school education. Thinking about the school they will be going to, both echoed, “Will they care? Will it be a family atmosphere?”


Trenton Palsa, another junior at the school, sitting next to fellow classmate Valentino Warren, are best friends, but it wasn’t that way when both came to school as freshmen. “Our teacher told us the friends we thought we had wouldn’t be and those who we didn’t know or even liked at the time would become true friends. She was right,” said Palsa.

The junior said the finality of this year hit home when they had senior pictures taken last week. “Instead of us posing in maroon and gold, we were given red robes (for Jacksonville High) or blue robes (for Sylvan Hills High). That’s when it really hit me that our family was separating.”

“It hurts,” said Warren who loved the school’s diversity. “There’s not just one group or clique here. It’s all about equality and being nice and respectful.”

Veteran teacher Roe called the students a “very eclectic group of children. A true blend, all different, yet always very cohesive.” Spoken like a science teacher.

In fact, things are so respectful, as Warren says, at NPHS that the resource officers get bored and substitutes enjoy it so much it’s the only school they want to work at, said Garrison.


North Pulaski opened in 1977 and averaged about 700 to 800 students until this past year when students and staff began an exodus ahead of the school closing. This year the school saw an entire new office staff and only the science department stayed intact.

But even with just a few hundred students this year, it was still the place to be. It was still all about family. “Many of our teachers who left last year ahead of the closing have cried every day, saying the other schools are so different, cold, all business,” explained Tull.

Special education teacher Beth Cranor has been a member of the NPHS family for 16 years. “I never imagined a day where I wouldn’t be working in this building. This is such a family. If you walk in and something is going on in your life you always get support from faculty and the kids. We love them, they love us,” said Cranor, another teacher the students call mom.

Cranor works with students with disabilities and said, “I hope the new people will love them as much as I do.


An April 2011 tornado destroyed the school’s auditorium and damaged other parts of the school forcing most of its students to area community buildings for classes and testing. Repairs to classrooms and the replacement of textbooks and technology took several months. It took more than a year to rebuild the auditorium.

The band has earned the Sweepstakes Award for First Division Ratings in marching, concert and sight-reading for 23 consecutive years, was the 1991 Sweepstakes Winner at Worlds of Fun Music Festival in Kansas City, Mo., a 1994 Best in Class at North American Music Festival in Atlanta, Ga., and has been the Arkansas representative in three National Independence Day Parades in Washington.

The concert and show choir won four Division One ratings for Superior performance and has placed many students in Region and State choirs.

The speech and drama department has continually won sweepstakes awards at statewide tournaments, bringing home nine awards last spring.

In 2012, teacher Karen Dismuke received the Arkansas Bandmaster of the Year award.

North Pulaski is known for its Performing Arts Department offering classes in drama, stagecraft and competitive speaking.


Students working at Simply Delicious, one of the few restaurants run in the state by students, have won awards on an annual basis.

In 2013, North Pulaski won both state-level culinary competitions and represented Arkansas at the National ProStart Invitational competition.

And what about that beleaguered football team?

At the 2007 homecoming game against the Greene County Tech Eagles, the Falcons football team snapped its 32-game losing streak it had since September 2004 beating Greene County 56-6. North Pulaski also had a homecoming game victory in 2014 against J.A. Fair, and in between, well, there was the award-winning band at halftime.

Former North Pulaski football player Myles Bush said “It’s been rough at times because we haven’t won as many games as we wanted to, but it sure was fun playing,”

The wrestling and basketball teams were state runners-up in 2008-09, and the cross country team was conference champions last year.

Falcons — going, going, gone.

(Editor’s note: The bold subheads throughout the story are a quote by Barbara Bush.)

SPORTS STORY >> Former assistant at helm for Lonoke

Lonoke High School completed one coaching search this week, hiring Heath Swiney as the new head girls’ basketball coach. Swiney replaces Nathan Morris, who took over the program in 2007, and has also served as the athletic director for the last several years.
Morris recently accepted the position as superintendent for the Two Rivers Consolidated School District near Ola.

Swiney spent the last year as head boys’ basketball coach at Newport High School and junior high. Before that, he was at Lonoke for five years as assistant boys’ basketball, assistant football and assistant softball coach.

“There are some places you just feel really comfortable,” said Swiney about his decision to return to Lonoke after one year away. I was there for five years. I felt like I fit in really well there, and I just love Lonoke.”

Swiney, a Bradford native, spent the first four years of his coaching career at Bradford before coming to Lonoke. There he was the assistant basketball coach for boys and girls for one year, before taking over the boys program for three years.

His first two years at LHS he was assistant boys’ basketball and assistant junior high football. He added assistant softball his third year, then spent his last two years on just basketball and softball.

While he has little experience coaching girls’ basketball, his softball experience has taught him the slightly different nuances between coaching boys and girls.

“Really, coaching is coaching,” Swiney said. “It’s a little bit different but it’s still coaching kids. The hardest part about coaching anything is getting kids to bust it, to go all out and give that effort. Lonoke kids already do that.

“Coach Morris has taught that, so that won’t even be a question. He’s done a great job of keeping that tradition going. He stepped into a pretty good situation with what the guys before him had done, and he’s leaving a really good program behind. I just want to be able to keep that tradition growing.”

The Lady Jackrabbits lose two starters, but return several key players as well. Swinney, who is still employed at Newport until the end of the school year, got to come down and oversee a workout at Lonoke on Wednesday.

“There’s some really good athletes and good basketball players there,” Swinney said. “And the really good thing about it is, I’m going to have most of them at least two years. There’s a couple going to be juniors and some sophomores, and I think they’ll have a chance to be really good. There are some really strong teams in this league so we have to keep improving, but I’m excited to get back and get started.”

SPORTS STORY >> Eagle overtakes Panther for title

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s Mark Odom carried a 50-point lead over Crossett’s Trevean Caldwell going into the last event of the Arkansas High School Decathlon on Thursday, but Caldwell finished 15.27 seconds ahead of Odom in the 1,500-meter race, which was worth 92 more points than Odom’s 569, and gave the senior Eagle the 2016 championship.

Caldwell finished with 6,201 points to Odom’s 6,159. Hayden Hampton of Genoa Central High School in Texarkana was third with 6,087.

Caldwell was actually in third place going into the grueling final race, but Hampton was almost seven seconds slower than Odom, and dropped to third place in the final standings.

All three athletes were in the final flight. Odom was six points ahead of Hampton with three events to go, and they were supposed to be three of his weaker events.

Day two started with Odom’s best event, the 110-meter hurdles. He was the 7A state champion in that event, but Caldwell was the 4A state champion and the two runners had near exact times. Caldwell won the event by 1/100th of a second at 15.00 while Odom finished in 15.01.

The discus was where Odom dropped some needed points. He has thrown 130 feet in the past, but only managed 102-2 on Thursday. With the pole vault, triple jump and 1,500-meter race left, Odom led Hampton 4,678-4,672 while Caldwell was more than 100 points behind at 4,548 and his weakest event up next.

Odom did better than expected by clearing 10-feet in the pole vault, but Hampton took the overall lead by going 10-6. Caldwell only managed 9-feet, 1/4 inch and fell 232 points behind Hampton while Odom trailed by 31.

Caldwell made the most of his last two events. Odom did well in the triple jump, bounding 41-8 1/2, but Caldwell picked up 151 points by going a meet-best 45-8. Hampton went 39-10 ¼ to drop 35 points behind Odom.

The Cabot senior had the fastest 100-meter dash time, posting an 11.26. Caldwell had the top performance in the 400-meter race, the 110-hurdles and the triple jump. Hampton had the best throws in shot put and discus.

Beebe’s Connor Patrom took home a plaque for finishing in eighth place with 5,659 points.

Patrom had Top-10 finishes in nine of the 10 events. He had the sixth-best time in the 400-meters. He was seventh in the pole vault and triple jump, eighth in the 1,500 and 110-hurdles and ninth in the 100-meter dash, long jump and shot put.

Rounding out the Top-10 plaque-winners, Kylan Robinson of Batesville finished fourth, Bryant Harris of Gentry was fifth, Tony Roller of Rogers was sixth, Pine Bluff’s Lawrence Nelson was seventh, Brandon Shaw of Rogers-Heritage was ninth and Springdale Har-Ber’s Zach McWhorter finished 10th.

Cabot senior Caytee Wright was highest finisher among local athletes in the Heptathlon. She finished 13th with 3,435 points.

Parkview’s Jada Baylark, who took third last year behind Lexi and Tori Weeks of Cabot, won the event this year with 4,517 points. She beat Pulaski Robinson’s Asia Anderson by 56 points. Those two were more than 300 points ahead of third-place Allie Hensley of Clinton.

Rounding out the Heptathlon plaque winners were Bryant’s Haley Hood, Rivercrest’s Sydney Lane, Rogers’ Hannah Martin, Genoa Central’s Eden Crow, Pocahontas’ Natalie Toney, Bryant’s Jadyn Lewis and Vilonia’s Allie Skouras.

SPORTS STORY >> Tigers beat CHS for crown

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE – The Cabot Lady Panthers left all they had on Razorback Field in Friday morning’s Class 7A state championship match against Bentonville, but the Lady Tigers’ defense was too strong and the Bentonville attackers capitalized on enough scoring opportunities to win 3-0.

The championship match was scoreless through the bulk of the first half. Bentonville (20-2-1) maintained possession for the majority of it, and the Lady Tiger defenders didn’t make anything easy on Cabot’s attackers.

Cabot goalkeeper Maggie Martin stayed busy through that stretch, making save after save before Bentonville plugged one into the goal with 12:26 left until halftime. It was scored by junior Lauren Holly inside 10 yards and was set up by a Victoria Mitchell pass from the left side of the field.

The Lady Panthers (20-5) were unable to match the goal, and Bentonville took a 1-0 lead into the break.

Rain before the game and a light drizzle through the first half resulted in a wet and slick field on the grass surface, and the rain picked up at the start of the second half, which led to more slipping and sliding that both teams had to deal with.

“We had some technical issues on the ball throughout the game,” said Cabot coach Kerry Castillo. “A lot of slipping and sliding that kind of went both ways. There was nothing that they did that we didn’t expect. We just had to execute. My hat’s off to them (Bentonville). They played a great game.

“They found the opportunities to score that they needed. They made good with their chances and the opportunities we had to get in behind (the defense) we just didn’t take advantage of, and that’s kind of how the game goes.”

The game stayed 1-0 through the first 30-plus minutes of the second half, but like the first half, Bentonville’s defenders kept Cabot’s offense from getting any good looks at the goal.

With 9:52 to play, Bentonville all but sealed it with a goal by Lady Tiger freshman Abby Stolt. On that scoring play, Holly had a kick that was blocked by Martin, but Stolt was there for the putback, giving BHS a 2-0 lead. Lady Tiger leading scorer Alissa Carlson scored the final goal of the match with 2:27 remaining on another putback.

It wasn’t the ending the Lady Panthers were hoping for, but it was a historic season nonetheless. Before this year, the Cabot girls’ soccer program had never reached the semifinals, and this year’s group of Lady Panthers advanced to the state championship game, and had a lot of fun doing so.

“I’m going to be honest,” Castillo said, “this is the funnest year of coaching that I’ve ever had. This group of girls genuinely love one another. They’re fun to coach. They’re good people, good kids.

“They do a good job in the classroom, and on the field they’re great players. They have a tremendous faith in one another and a tremendous faith in God, and they know that that’s the most important thing in their life.

“We talked about all of the different ways that that kind of led us to be here all together this year and experience this all together. They’re a great group of people and I will miss this team.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Several great performances at 2016 MOC

Leader sports editor

An unusually low turnout didn’t take away from some solid performances by local athletes in the 2016 Arkansas Meet of Champions in Russellville on Saturday.

Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter senior Jordan McNair once again broke his own Class 1A record in the 100-meter dash, but it was only good for second place. McNair, who broke the Class 1A record as a junior with an 11.08, broke it again earlier this year with an 11.00 in the 1A-North Conference meet.

He broke that record and became the first 1A sprinter to break the 11-second barrier with a 10.99 in 1A state meet in Harrison on May 3. On Saturday, McNair ran a 10.93 alongside Marion’s Dmarius Guy. But Mena’s Zach Jewell beat them both with a 10.70.

Jewell and McNair were also first and second in the 200-meter dash. Jewell won with a time of 21.37 while McNair demolished his old personal record of 23.15 (which won the 1A state championship) by running a 22.12 for second place.

Cabot’s Britton Alley matched his Class 7A state championship time of 22.20 to finish in third place. He also took seventh in the 100-meter dash with an 11.15, which is .09 off his personal best time. Alley also finished third in the 400-meter dash with a personal record 50.05.

Alley also ran the first leg of Cabot’s second-place 4x400-meter relay team. Austin Swackhammer and Conley Hillegas were second and third and Rocky Burke anchored for a 3:25.29, just barely falling short of Springdale Har-Ber’s winning time of 3:24.95.

Cabot’s Mark Odom added an MOC plaque to his 7A championship in the 300-meter hurdles. He bested his personal record of 38.74 set in the 7A meet by running a 38.53 on Saturday. Odom had some bad luck in the 110-meter high hurdles. He entered the race as one of the favorites, and it was a very fast race. Nettleton’s Nick Hilson, the 5A champion, and 4A champion Trevern Caldwell of Crossett each beat their personal records by large margins. Meanwhile, Odom’s steps got thrown off when it appeared another runner clipped one of his hurdles early in the race. He finished ninth with a 16.24, almost two seconds slower than his seedtime.

Hilson, who had the fastest seedtime at 14.50, won the race with a 14.32 while Caldwell was second at 14.54. Odom’s 14.56 was the second-fastest seedtime entering Saturday’s competition.

Sylvan Hills’ Anthony Duncan was slightly short of his best time of 14.94. He ran a 15.21 to finish fifth.

Cabot’s Brandon Jones finished third in the discus with a toss of 144-10.

Odom and Alley will compete in the Arkansas High School Decathlon that begins today and finishes tomorrow at Cabot High School. That duo will also help represent Arkansas in the Great Southwest Classic Track Meet in Albuquerque, N.M. the first week of June.

On the girls’ side, the Cabot 4x800-meter relay team finished third behind Bentonville and Rogers with a time of 9:54.14. That team, which broke the school record at the conference meet with a 9:44.96, consists of one runner from each class, including senior Samantha Nickell, junior Hadley Dickinson, sophomore Casey Gore and freshman Lauren Turner.

Turner also finished fifth in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 47.16.

Sylvan Hills’ all-freshmen 4x400-meter relay team shattered its previous best time of 4:10.28 it ran to win the Class 5A state championship, but only managed fourth place. The Lady Bear team of Ashley Jefferson, O’Shayla Muldrow, Davieunia Jones and Aliya Hatton ran a 4:05.12, which was the fastest time by any non-7A team, but Conway, Bryant and Rogers were all a little faster.

SPORTS STORY >> Bear baseball back in Baum

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

Not many baseball teams in the state of Arkansas have a more successful history than the Magnolia Panthers, but their opponent in the Class 5A state championship game this weekend is one of them. The Sylvan Hills Bears face Magnolia at 3 p.m. Saturday at the University of Arkansas’ Baum Stadium, and it’s not an unfamiliar place for either team.

Magnolia coach Bobby Beeson is making his second trip to the state title game and looking for his and the school’s second championship. The Panthers had never made the playoffs until 1992, but have been a mainstay ever since, collecting 22 state-tournament appearances since that year. They have been to the semifinals seven times, played in four championship games and won the championship in 2011, Beeson’s first season as head coach.

“We’ve developed a strong baseball tradition around here,” said Beeson. “But Sylvan Hills has a lot of tradition, too. They’ve been to more state championships than we have and won more, too. So I don’t think there’s a big advantage there one way or the other, but if there is, they have it.”

Sylvan Hills leads the entire state, regardless of classification, in state tournament appearances with 46. The Bears are second only to Junction City, by one year in each category, in semifinal appearances, championship game appearances and championships.

The Bears have advanced to the semifinals in half of their tournament appearances.

They have played for a state championship 12 times, and won seven of them. But Magnolia has been there more recently. Sylvan Hills’ last appearance and title was 2008.

Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton has been at the helm for the last four championship appearances and has won it three times. He took the Bears to Baum Stadium three-straight years from 2003-’05, and again in ’08.

This year’s matchup is a one-seeded Sylvan Hills against a four seed in Magnolia, but Tipton doesn’t see any advantage in that.

“I told (his players) Magnolia was the best team in the tournament,” said Tipton on Monday. “This is the third year in a row a four seed has been there. In a one-and-done tournament, I really think you throw out the seedings. It’s about being hot at the right time. Magnolia had a good weekend. From what I saw, that’s a very solid team and we’ll have to play well. If we don’t, we’ll get beat.”

The Panthers don’t have a record typical of a four seed. They enter the championship game 21-6 after going 9-5 in the 5A-South.

That conference filled out three quarters of the semifinals this season, and Beeson believes the league prepares teams well for postseason.

“I really think our top four are right there with anybody in the state,” Beeson said of the 5A-South. “So that does help when you get to this point. But I think Sylvan Hills is right there as well. They stack up with anybody we’ve played. From the little bit of scouting I’ve seen, they have four really good pitchers. They can hit the ball throughout the lineup. We’re going to have to be prepared and we can’t make mistakes. They’re solid defensively, so we have to be as well.”

Defense was a bit of an issue for the Panthers early in the season, but they played nearly flawless baseball last weekend.

“We’ve been pretty good most of the time,” Beeson said. “We had some games we didn’t do so well, but we did really well in the tournament, so hopefully we can keep that going.”

Sylvan Hills (28-5) has gone with the same lineup for the last three weeks, and has been dialing in the focus ever since.

“We made that decision with our lineup so we could start getting some consistency as we neared the end,” Tipton said. “Whether or not they had a good game or a bad one, we felt like finding that consistency would be important. I’d say last week was probably the best we’ve been focused, really, probably, since 2009 as far as just really being prepared and being ready. I really felt when we started heading that way, that we were ready. That doesn’t mean you’re going to win, but I felt like we had the right mindset.”

Neither coach had decided, as of Tuesday, who will be starting on the mound. Neither team has a clear-cut ace, but both teams have multiple good pitchers, and the Panthers’ couldn’t be much more diverse.

Magnolia started Matt Goodheart, a senior right-hander, against Greene County Tech in its first tournament game, a 7-1 win over the 5A-East champion.

Beeson went with 5-foot-4 lefty Jay French in the 7-2 quarterfinal win over Beebe, and 6-foot-4 righty Caleb Ward against White Hall in the 10-4 semifinal game.

Tipton said he’ll make the announcement to his team concerning the starting pitcher today.

River Hunt threw five and two-thirds in the first round against Farmington.

Nick Fakouri went the distance in the quarterfinal win over Valley View, and Mackenzie Seats finished out the Farmington game and went the distance in the semifinals.

“The deal is, I have three really good options,” Tipton said. “That is a good problem to have.”

SPORTS STORY >> JNP ladies gel, turn in stellar year

Leader sports editor

This school year was the first one since fastpitch softball began in the state of Arkansas that there were no North Pulaski Lady Falcons. It’s also the last year for the Jacksonville Red Devils, so it was fitting that a conglomeration of players from North Pulaski High and JHS put the city of Jacksonville back on the map this season. The stellar year, however, came to an end Saturday in the semifinal round of the Class 5A state tournament in Harrison.

That’s where the Lady Red Devils fell 3-1 to 5A-West champion Greenbrier, ending their season with an impressive 26-5 record.

Jacksonville grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but a couple of hot Greenbrier bats, a couple of mistakes and an inability to find the gaps offensively led to the season-ending loss.

“We hit it, we just hit right to them,” said JHS coach Hank Hawk. “Kym House was outstanding on the mound. Bri (Brianna Loyd) did great when she was on the mound. For the tournament, we didn’t hit like we have most of the year, but the girls played their hearts out. I’m so proud of this team.”

Despite the disappointing ending, this year’s team brought Jacksonville its first conference championship since 2004, first state semifinal appearance since 2002 and first undefeated conference record since 2001. The 26-5 record is the most wins in a season since 2002 as well.

With next year’s merging of JHS and NPHS into one high school for the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, the decision was made just before the school year that all spring sports would combine this year.

That meant players from last year’s third-place Lady Red Devils and fourth-place Lady Falcons would be on the same team this year and play as Jacksonville Red Devils.

“The girls came together so well,” Hawk said. “We didn’t really know what to expect combining players, you know, not just from two different teams, but from fierce rivals. But it was just seamless. They took it in stride and they gelled and really all became good teammates.”

It’s just Hawk’s second year as coach of the JHS softball program, and he gives the credit for this year’s success to the players.

“I told them, I didn’t teach you all how to play softball, but you sure taught me how to coach it. It’s been one of the best coaching experiences I’ve ever had.”

Next year the team will be called the Jacksonville Lady Titans, and will have an almost entirely new lineup. Both pitchers, House and Loyd, who are also first cousins, graduate. As does starting shortstop Kinley Burrows, second baseman Bailey Holt, third baseman Emily Lovercheck and outfielders Zylah Richardson and Payton Mullen.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers vie for first soccer state title

Leader sportswriter

Last week the Cabot girls’ soccer team already did something the program’s never done before by advancing to the semifinals of the state tournament. But in last Saturday’s Class 7A semifinal at Springdale Har-Ber, the Lady Panthers one-upped that accomplishment by beating No. 1 West seed Fayetteville 4-3 in double overtime to advance to Friday’s 10 a.m. state championship game against Bentonville.

In the semifinal win over Fayetteville (16-4-1), No. 1 East seed Cabot (20-4) scored two quick goals to lead 2-0 early. The Lady Panthers’ first goal was scored in the first five minutes of action by Hadley Dickinson, and CHS leading scorer Tristyn Edgar added the next goal 10 minutes later to put the top East seed up 2-0.

Cabot’s intensity level during that span was very high, and the Lady Panthers were unable to maintain it as the game progressed. Fayetteville scored its first goal before halftime to make it 2-1 at the break, and the Lady Bulldogs scored the first two goals of the second half, the second of which came with about eight minutes to play and gave Fayetteville a 3-2 lead.

Edgar scored her second goal of the game with four minutes left, tying the game at 3-3 and eventually sending it to overtime. Neither team scored in the first 10-minute overtime period, but with about four-and-a-half minutes remaining in the second overtime period, Cabot freshman Gracen Turner buried the game-winning goal into the upper right corner of the goal from inside the 18-yard line to send the Lady Panthers to their first-ever state championship game.

Bentonville’s semifinal game against No. 1 Central-seeded Bryant was also won in overtime. After two scoreless halves and two scoreless overtime periods, that semifinal game was decided by penalty kicks, and the No. 2 West-seeded Lady Tigers (19-2-1) won the semifinal shootout 5-4, handing Bryant (20-1-1) its first loss of the season.

Cabot and Bentonville share several common opponents this season. They each have played Maumelle, Bryant, Fayetteville, Fort Smith Northside and Rogers Heritage. Cabot’s only loss against those teams was 3-0 against Bryant, and Bentonville’s lone in-state loss was to Fayetteville on May 6 in the 7A-West regular-season finale.

Fayetteville’s margin of victory against Bentonville in the regular-season finale was greater than Bentonville’s win over the Lady Bulldogs, which gave Bentonville the No. 2 West playoff seed.

Bentonville’s win over Fayetteville came in early April, and Cabot didn’t play its starters in their normal positions against Bryant because it was a nonconference game and Cabot head coach Kerry Castillo didn’t want to give Bryant their normal look in case they were to meet again in the playoffs.

Cabot has spent this week practicing on a grass field in preparation for Friday’s game, which will be played on the grass University of Arkansas soccer field. Castillo and his team have also spent the week watching film on their opponent, and Castillo said the level at which Bentonville is able to possess the ball is a big part of what’s led to the Lady Tigers’ success this season.

“They really possess the ball well,” said Castillo of Bentonville. “They possess the ball well enough that if teams aren’t disciplined defensively then they can get pulled out of defensive shape, and they’ve got some really good attacking players that take advantage of that.

“They can get you isolated with them versus one of yours, just one versus one, and they really take good advantage of that. But it’s because of the possession that can get you in those circumstances. So we’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s going to be a really good match.”

Cabot and Bentonville makes for an interesting matchup, but not just for their talent levels. Their styles of play are also very different.

“It’s totally two different styles,” Castillo said. “We possess the ball pretty well, but we’re a little more of a counter-attack team and they’re more of a possession-style team. I thought Bryant played them well in a zero-zero match. Bryant had some really good chances to score, but just two really good teams going at it I guess. That tells me if they can hold Bryant to a scoreless draw and hold Fayetteville to a scoreless game in one match and go to penalties in another, then defensively they’re really organized. We’re going to have to be precise. We’re going to have to be really accurate.”

The Lady Tigers have scored 67 goals this season – an average of 3.4 per game. They’ve also totaled 35 assists, which shows how well they possess and pass the ball. Bentonville’s leading scorer is sophomore forward Alissa Carlson, who’s totaled 22 goals this season.

Senior midfielder/co-captain Melanie Matkins is the Lady Tigers’ second-leading scorer with 11 goals. Both have stood out on film, according to Castillo, as well as Bentonville’s defenders.

“They have a midfielder and a forward that are both really good attackers,” Castillo said of Matkins and Carlson, “and then on the back they’re just always organized. We’re going to have to create good chances and take advantage of the ones that we do create, because for both teams it might be few and far between.”

Even though Cabot is more of a counter-attack type of team, its offense has been very prolific this season. The Lady Panthers enter Friday morning’s title game having scored 94 goals, more than a third of which have been scored by Edgar.

With the two she scored last Saturday against Fayetteville, Edgar has totaled 34 goals this season, which easily leads the team. Cabot’s second-leading scorer is junior Hadley Dickinson, who’s scored 18 goals this year. Dickinson has also dished out 17 assists, which ranks second on the team.

The Lady Panthers’ leader in assists is senior Maddie Rice, who averages an assist a game with 24 on the season. She’s also fourth on the team in goals scored with 10. Turner, one of the Lady Panthers’ promising freshmen, is third on the team in goals scored with 12.

Cabot’s next two-highest scorers are junior Leelee Denton and freshman Brooklyn Stracener. Denton has eight goals this season and Stracener is right behind her with seven. Denton has also dished seven assists this season and so has Edgar.

Edgar and Dickinson lead Cabot’s high-scoring offense, but the defense has helped set up a lot of scoring chances this year.

“Joelle Long, Allyson Mar-shall, Kristen Oitker, Alexis Dang,” Castillo said of his biggest contributors on defense. “Leah Conley contributes there. Brooklyn Stracener contributes there.

“I’ve coached a lot of these girls since they were 12 and 13. So they know what I’m going to ask of them defensively – to be tough and to be brave, to go into tackles and to basically keep us in the game defensively and to work hard.”

Castillo called Long and Oitker the anchors of his defense.

“Joelle and Kristen, they’re our center backs,” Castillo said. “They’re our anchors defensively. They’re just good leaders. They’re both captains on the team and they lead us from back there. They encourage the girls that are in front of them, play different positions. They’re always communicating and they’re like our field generals.

“Allyson Marshall’s a senior and Alexis Dang is a junior. They’ve both just been solid for us this year. As we’ve played this year they’ve both continued to improve. Game after game they get more brave with the challenges that they go into.

“A lot of times they take a lot of physical play, head-to-head collisions or a ball hit into their face and they just stay with it. They don’t complain. They stay brave in there and make good tackles for us, and it gives us the ability to attack as much as we do because they win the ball back for us.”

Another promising freshman for CHS is goalkeeper Maggie Martin, who had one of her best games in the semifinals against Fayetteville.

“She has done such an amazing job,” Castillo said of Martin. “Some of the instances that she’s been put into – penalty kick shootouts, playoff games against Fayetteville when you’ve given up three goals and your team is down, and to stay in the game emotionally and mentally, she shows the composure of an upperclassman. She’s got a grit about her.

“She made some saves that would have won the game in overtime for Fayetteville, but she made some saves and got us out of that situation and another ninth grader (Turner) wins the game. Imagine what those kids will do when they’re juniors and seniors. There will be colleges certainly looking at them by the time they’re juniors and seniors.”

Cabot’s last loss was pretty recent. After rolling through the 7A/6A-East Conference with an unbeaten record, the Lady Panthers dropped a 2-1 game at Little Rock Central, a team they beat 3-1 last month.

The Lady Panthers won their final two regular-season games by the final score of 6-1 to win the conference championship outright and claim the No. 1 state tournament seed from the East.

Cabot followed those wins with its two playoff wins over Northside and Fayetteville. Many of the Cabot players’ immediate reaction after the loss to Central resembled reaction to a playoff loss rather than a regular-season game.

A lot of that frustration stemmed from being beaten by a team they knew they could beat, according to Castillo.

“I think it was more they knew they should’ve won the match,” Castillo said. “We had majority of possession and we had enough opportunities to score, we just didn’t do enough with it.

“I think them losing to a team we outplayed in the match and could have won the conference that night, I think it really motivated them to go on and beat North Little Rock handily. And also I think it kind of made them mad and encouraged them, after seeing film, that hey, this is what we’re capable of. We have to strike when we can and take advantage of the opportunities that we get.

“That is probably the thing that I saw most out of Friday and Saturday, was that when we had a chance to score they put it away.”

In order for the Lady Panthers to be successful this coming Friday, Castillo said the ultimate key is to stay disciplined and composed.

“Stay disciplined and composed,” Castillo said. “The emotions of the game – it’s graduation day for our seniors. They know this chapter of their life is coming to an end and for some of them this is going to be the last soccer game that they play.

“For them that’s going to be very emotional and with the highs and lows that the game can present us they’ve got to stay composed, and within that stay disciplined as a team. That’ll be one of the biggest tests.”

EDITORIAL >> Dependable water source

Some of us here remember the Lonoke White Public Water Authority project finally getting off the ground back in the 1990s when area officials had a goal of providing water to the area from Greers Ferry.

The authority celebrated the completion of the $58.9 million water intake and water treatment facilities with an open house on Friday. Local, state and federal officials, engineers and others were there to see the results of the decades-old project.

Staff writer Jeffrey Smith reported Saturday that planning for the project began 21 years ago. That was more than a decade before the Great Recession, when Bill Clinton was still in the White House. Federal grants were easier to come by back then. The U.S Department of Agriculture provided a $24.5 million loan for the project through the rural development program in 1995. A $30.9 million loan from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, plus $2.5 million from Lonoke White Public Water Authority members made the project possible.

Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) said the additional water source makes the area less dependent on Central Arkansas Water in case of an emergency, such as an earthquake or a terrorist attack. What’s more, Lonoke White Water will meet the needs of Little Rock Air Force Base for decades to come.

As Johnson said, in the next round of base closure reviews, the Air Force can be certain that LRAFB will have plenty of water and will not have to worry about shortages. That will help our base tremendously the next time BRAC rolls around.

The water intake facility can withdraw 20 million gallons of water a day from Greers Ferry. It has three 700 horsepower pumps and a standby generator. It gets water from three different lake elevations. The water treatment plant can treat and clean 10 million gallons of water a day. The facilities include a one-million gallon storage tank. Water is delivered through 76 miles of distribution lines.

The Lonoke White Public Water Authority is owned by Austin Water, Beebe Water and Sewer Commission, Furlow Public Water Authority, Grand Prairie Bayou Two Public Water Authority, Jacksonville Water, Mid-Arkansas Utilities Public Water Authority, Vilonia Waterworks Association and Ward Water and Sewer System. Lonoke White Public Water Authority also sells water to the Mountain Top Public Water Authority in Heber Springs.

The area needs more infrastructure projects like the Lonoke White Water Authority. They should include better highways to meet the needs of our growing communities.

TOP STORY >> McFadden joins Hall of Fame

Leader staff writer

The Associated General Contractors of America recently honored the inductees to 2016 Arkansas Construction Hall of Fame and among them is Jacksonville’s Bruce McFadden.

“I started working in the construction industry in 1960,” McFadden said. “I’m just thankful I had the opportunity to work in construction for 56 years.”

McFadden holds a bachelor’s of science in civil engineering from the University of Arkansas and a master’s in civil engineering-construction from Stanford University, where he was an Albert Sloan Fellow.

He spent four years with the Corps of Engineers and two years at Beaver Dam in northwest Arkansas.

In 1965, McFadden re-turned to Arkansas and worked on the paving of the runway at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he was “kind of a layout engineer and superintendent,” he said.

McFadden worked with Whit Davis and Otis Goodsell, both from Jacksonville, while paving the air base runway. “Those were two guys that were influential and interesting to watch as they were building their businesses,” he said of Davis and Goodsell.

He worked at a Pine Bluff highway construction company with Gordon McNulty and his nephew, Randy, before forming his own company, Improved Construction Methods, Inc., in 1970.

The Jacksonville company, which has locations in Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, provides “the construction contractor or municipality with the very latest and best in construction tools, equipment and methods of construction,” according to its website.

“We had $100,000 in sales the first year and $20 million a year just before the recession hit a few years ago,” he said.

“When I decided to start the company, I had been around Jacksonville enough to know there were some economical warehouse and office space available,” he said of choosing a location for his business. “As well as the air base,” which continues to provide steady work for local contractors.

Mike Wilson helped McFadden with the legal work when starting the company. J.C. George of AGL laser company was an early investor in ICM. Other notables who helped McFadden in building his company include Tommy Bond, who already had a “nice little consulting business here,” as well as Harold Gwatney, who McFadden says is “an outstanding businessman. He was really a hero, watching him build the Gwatney business.”

“I took some active roles (in the community) and while doing that I got to know Larry Wilson and Mr. Pat Wilson,” said McFadden. “The old S&J company that’s run by Jerry Smith now, was always a good customer. Still is.”

McFadden has served as president of both Jacksonville Rotary and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. Other positions he has held include president of AGC Arkansas, Arkansas Association of Equipment Distributors and University of Arkansas Civil Engineering Academy. He has also been presented with the AGC Arkansas Distinguished Service and Rotary Paul Harris awards.

McFadden plans to retire soon. He and wife, Anita, have four sons: Greg, Mark, Chris and Clay. They have 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The couple will celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary on June 8.

TOP STORY >> Sports, aquatic center to open

A grand-opening celebration for Cabot’s new sports complex and aquatic park will be held Saturday at 1245 Bill Foster Hwy. The event is free and open to the public.

The sports complex will have its official grand opening at 9 a.m. followed by a grand opening for the new swimming facility at 11 a.m.

The pool will not open for swimming till next Thursday.

Local officials will be on hand to introduce the park to the public. There will be refreshments and fun for the whole family.

For more information, call 501-605-1506.

The complex cost $13.5 million to complete with a bond issue approved by voters.

John Crow, the outgoing parks department director who will be recreation superintendent in Fayetteville, told The Leader on Tuesday, “I will miss working with the awesome and dedicated team we had assembled for the parks and recreation department.

“Most of the folks on staff have been through some rough times in the department, but have stuck it out because they understand how important what they do is for the community. They totally bought into the mission of the parks and recreation department when I came on staff, and that makes my job so much easier,” Crow said.

“I think one of the things I am most proud of completing during my time as director was the comprehensive master plan… (which) has created a road map for the future of the parks and recreation department based on input from the citizens of this wonderful city,” he contined. “This community-supported plan will allow the parks department to meet their needs and desires for recreational facilities and programs, and doing so in an orderly and responsible way.”

“There have been a lot of changes in our department over the past three years that have set up the department to succeed. These changes would not have been possible without the hard work and support of the parks and recreation commission. They are all extremely dedicated to the department’s mission and success.

“Starting with the mayor and city council and down to the department heads and City Employees, there is a great team assembled leading the City of Cabot into the future.

“The collaboration and teamwork has been the key to finishing and opening the newest park facilities,” said Crow.

Crow, who became parks director in 2013, was previously maintenance superintendent in North Little Rock. Travis Young succeeds him as Cabot parks director.
Crow listed other accomplishments than the sports park and aquatic park:

Cabot Community Center banquet hall and event center Veterans Park Community Center expansion to include new fitness center and event center.

Two new softball fields at the Allman Bevis Sports Complex. (This year, as part of the Cabot Sports park project.)

Held open meeting with skateboarders and bike riders for their input of designing a new skate park. The old skate park was closed and has to be relocated because of the community center expansion.

Permanent bathrooms were built at the BMX track replacing portable toilets.

The disc Frisbee golf course at the Cabot Community Pond was improved with concrete tee boxes.

The renovations of the Cabot Community Center pool in 2013. “This was actually a renovation of the entire community center, but the main repair was the replacement of the roof,” Crow said.

TOP STORY >> Shut down meth house, council told

Leader staff writer

“There are at least five meth houses in my neighborhood and one across the street. The police don’t seem to be doing anything, and I don’t feel safe,” Candi Potter told the mayor and aldermen during the community-input section at Monday’s Cabot City Council meeting.

“You know it’s a meth house when cars are lined up at all times of the day and night. I’ve even picked up a meth pipe in my front yard. Something needs to be done,” she said.

Potter said that when she moved into the subdivision on Barnwell Drive near Central Elementary School in 2010, it was a good area. But now she has seen a man running down the street with a chainsaw and another shooting up a house.

Potter spent about 10 minutes giving details about the problems in the neighborhood.

She said she was told to record license-plate numbers of the strange vehicles in the neighborhood. “It’s car after car after car. I’ve got a long list,” she said.

Potter said that after calling the Cabot police numerous times and no action taken, she asked Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley to come by. “He did and immediately made two arrests,” Potter said.

She pleaded, “Please tell me what I can do.”

Mayor Bill Cypert responded, “We’ve listened, we hear you, and I’m going to give you my cell number. You can call 24/7 if you see a problem, and I’ll get the police to check it out. I’ll get something done.”

Police Chief Jackie Davis said his department is aware of some of the activity in the area and has increased patrols. He wasn’t sure about the particular house Potter was referring to, but sat down with her after the meeting to gather additional information.

The mayor suggested forming a neighborhood watch or having a town hall meeting with him and the police in a place where neighbors would feel safe to discuss the problem.

The mayor added that fighting drugs has been a tough issue. “We’ve been looking at the budget and the cost of getting a drug dog or setting up a drug task force,” he said.

In other council business:

Aldermen approved an ordinance allowing city employees who own private businesses to compete for city projects and supplies.

The city has an ordinance already allowing this, but it was not quite in line with state law. The revamped version gives more transparency and meets the requirement of the state law. The mayor said there are about 11 city employees that would probably apply under the ordinance.

Aldermen Ron Waymack and Ann Gilliam voted against the ordinance. Waymack had concerns about an employee “who gets a paycheck every Friday” competing against a business where it’s their livelihood. “I just disagree with it,” he said after a back-and-forth exchange with the mayor.

Alderman John Tullos said at first he had doubts about the ordinance, too, but “the bidding rules don’t change. If everyone has to go through the same process then there is no favoritism.”

In the parks and recreation report, Travis Young stated that volleyball participants have doubled since last spring. Flag football had almost 400 participate this season. The Cabot Softball Association had 30 fewer players and the Cabot Soccer Association reported a league of 640 players.

According to the water and wastewater commission report, the Four Mile Creek Interceptor job was being delayed by rain, but was 75 percent complete. The Countrywood Interceptor work is finished. Crews installed a variable frequency drive at the Four Mile Creek pump station and it is working well. Also, work will start soon on the first phase of the Holland Bottoms project and the Timberwood sewer interceptor.

In his monthly report to the council, Police Chief Jackie Davis said the police had 2,281 calls for service during April for a year-to-date total of 8,862. He said 77 traffic accidents were reported during the month, along with 17 domestic incidents, six assaults and 30 cases of fraud.