Friday, January 06, 2017

TOP STORY >> Our Top 10 stories of 2016

Compiled by RICK KRONLeader staff writer

These are the Top 10 topics of 2016 culled from more than 1,000 pages of news, features, in-depth investigations, reviews, forecasts and outlooks in The Leader.

The year saw a new school district come to life, an old school district get its life back on track, the Air Force base continue to be the area’s lifeline and the loss of too many lives.

The new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District spent most of the year getting ready for its first year of real operation with almost 4,000 students attending school in the new district in Aug. 15.

The new district had to hire about 600 teachers, staff, food-service workers, custodians, bus drivers and others before school started.

Along with hiring its staff, JNPSD had to find a new superintendent as Superintendent Tony Wood announced his retirement, effective the end of the 2016-17 school year.

The search was narrowed quickly to two qualified candidates and the board unanimously selected Dr. Bryan Duffie, who was hired just months earlier as one of the district’s two deputy superintendents.

At the same time the district was in court a number of times as a party to the Pulaski County Special School District’s federal desegregation case.

Highlights for the district during the year included:

U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. signed off on the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District’s master facilities plan in January, saying, “We must not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. The court holds that JNPSD’s proposed master facilities plan, though incomplete, keeps faith with Plan 2000 and is likely to promote, not hinder, eliminating the vestiges of past discrimination.”

Also principals were named early in the year. J.A. Fair Principal LaGail Biggs, a Jacksonville resident, was named Jacksonville High School principal; Mike Hudgeons remained the Jack-sonville Middle School principal and elementary principals included Gary Beck, Myeisha Haywood, Jamie Reed, Angela Stewart, Karen Norton and Dr. Janice Walker.

District patrons passed a 7.6 mill property tax to help fund $80 million for construction of a new high school, an elementary school and upgrades to the other schools.

We are the Titans! The school board selected that name and mascot for the district in May. The board voted 5 to 2 to adopt Titans as the mascot and red and white as school colors with black and gold trim.

The name Titans was proposed as a nod toward the historic 308th Strategic Missile Wing based at Jacksonville from the 1960s into the 1980s, and the movie “Remember the Titans,” wherein two racially diverse schools come together in unity on and off the field.

Before the start of school the district held a rah-rah session for all employees. “If we can build children now, we won’t have to repair them as adults,” motivational speaker Keith Brown told members of the new Jacksonville district.

“Here at JNPSD we want to set high standards. We want young people to come in as students and leave as scholars. We don’t want them to shout ‘Pig Sooie’ as a fan we want them to shout it because they are attending that university,” a pumped up Brown declared.

In mid-August the walls of the old abandoned Jacksonville Middle School on Main Street started to come down. It took about two months to demolish the old school to prepare for the resurrection of a new $60 million high school on the same spot.

In October plans moved forward for a new elementary school to replace both Tolleson and Arnold Drive Elementary schools. The district purchased four acres of land near Tolleson for about $65,000 for the planned $16 million school.

Little Rock Air Force Base always makes the Top 10 list partly because of its sheer economic impact and partially because of all its military activity.

Even though the 2016 economic impact report showed the base contribution to central Arkansas was down $300 million, it still provided a $510 million boost to the economy.

“I still can’t think of another city in this state, much less elsewhere, that has an economic powerhouse like Little Rock Air Force in their backyard,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said in August after reviewing the released LRAFB economic impact statement for fiscal year 2015.

“No matter how you look at it, those are great numbers,” the mayor said.

In April, Col. Charles E. Brown Jr., commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, discussed a pilot program on curbing violence, encouraged the business community to hire veterans, discussed the current joint forces exercise with foreign partners and announced the first-ever Arkansas Military Expo set for Sept. 17.

“We are the most combat-tested force in the world,” said Brown.

In his pitch for hiring veterans, Brown called his airmen a priceless resource, with those living on base accounting for about 20 percent of the Jacksonville population.

“When you look at what our airmen are asked to do at such a young age—with the level of responsibility placed upon them—take a risk on hiring them even if what you see on paper as their job description doesn’t directly correlate with what you need in your company,” Brown said.

“The fact that the airmen are specialists shows they are dedicated, disciplined, loyal and trainable.”

In April, actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band made a stop at Little Rock Air Force Base to perform a free concert. The band performs around 30 shows yearly in support of wounded heroes, Gold Star families, veterans and troops.

Sinise is well known for his performance as Lt. Dan Taylor in the movie “Forrest Gump,” which his band is named after.

In June, the 19th Airlift Wing received its newest C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart, commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., flew the plane in from Marietta, Ga., where Lockheed Martin manufactures the planes. The wing now has 24 C-130Js on its flightline, while the 314th Airlift Wing, which has 13 C-130Js at the base, is scheduled to receive more.

He delivered the 28th and final scheduled C-130J about a month later.

The 189th Airlift Wing Air National Guard at the base will operate the remainder of the H-models on the flightline.

At the end of July, Daniel A. DeVoe assumed command of the 314th Airlift Wing replacing Col. James D. Dryjanski, who went to serve as director of operations at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

DeVoe, a master navigator, started in maintenance and was first assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base in October 1999 as a student to qualify on the C-130, “never dreaming he might return some day as commander.”

“It’s wonderful to return to Little Rock,” DeVoe said. “It’s a dream come true, taking command of such a distinguished organization. There is no other place I’d rather be than here leading the historic 314th.”

In September, the $108 million project to replace the 12,000-foot runway, originally set for completion in April 2017, was rescheduled for December 2017.

Demolition, then construction of that runway had not yet begun, but work on the assault strip is nearing completion, according to the Little Rock Army Corps. It was expected we would have some demolition on the eastern end of the runway by now,” a Corps spokesman said. “But it’s been an extremely wet year.”

In September, it was Military Expo time on base. It was the first open house in four years.

Col. Charles E. Brown Jr., the 19th Airlift Wing commander, said the expo brought together “all facets of our military, our reservists, our citizen soldiers, our Guardsmen, our active duty, our civilians and our contractors and showcased what they bring to the fight on behalf of the state of Arkansas and the nation each and every day.”

Brown said it was the state’s largest public military event since 2012.

Sherwood had five homicides in 2016, the most in one year that anyone can recall in recent history. But there were also three homicides in Jacksonville, and killings in Cabot, Beebe and eastern Pulaski County.

Deaths included:

Lt. Ronald Jason Adams, 29, of the Sherwood Fire Department who was killed Jan. 23. He was shot while responding to a medical call for the East Pulaski Volunteer Fire Department, where he also worked. Adams was shot on scene and pronounced dead at the hospital.

Catherine Watters, 35, of Ward. Her husband was arrested in early August for the July death. Steven Watters, 51, of 20 Moss Drive was charged with first-degree murder and violating parole.

On July 22, officers and detectives from the Jacksonville Police Department responded to Arkansas Children’s Hospital to investigate the death of a 2-year-old child with severe head trauma that occurred in Jacksonville. The child died from the injuries. The child had been left in the care of the mother’s 29-year-old boyfriend Joshua Branch. On Sept. 29, after the investigation was completed, second-degree murder arrest warrants were issued for Branch.

Jacksonville police officers investigated a murder-suicide in October that happened at 900 Madden Road.

The victims were Briani Nichole Duhon, 26, and Creig A. Green Jr., 28. The police department initially did not identify who killed whom. Police responded to a domestic disturbance, but no one answered the door when they arrived at the home. The police later said Green shot Duhon and then killed himself.

Derrick Ewing, 20, of Little Rock was arrested Nov. 18 for the shooting death of Adam Wright, 23, at the Arrow’s Edge Apartments, 300 Indianhead Cove.

Police found Wright face down in the apartment complex, dead from gunshot wounds.

A Beebe man was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his brother on Nov. 25.

Roy Miller Jr., 33, of 114 S. Cypress St., was charged in the shooting death of Rahmal Miller, 21. The shooting occurred near 1904 Kamak Drive where officers found Miller, 21, dead lying in the parking spots of the apartment.

A Cabot man was arrested in late November in the stabbing death of his wife.

Codie Hogan, 25, of 300 Chapel Ridge Drive, Apt. 121 was charged with first-degree murder.

Police were called Nov. 28 to the apartment about a woman covered in blood lying in the bathtub. Officers found Tiffiny Hogan, 23, with multiple stab wounds.

The year started off with floods from heavy rains right at the beginning of 2016 and ended up with more rain the end of December. In between there was snow, rain, heat, rain, heat and more rain.

It was the warmest year since 2012 and the third warmest on record. Rainfall was above normal, but it was still considered a dry year. The spring turned out to be one of the wettest ever recorded with the area receiving more than 20 inches of rain. March, with 12.33 inches of rain, was the wettest since 1897. The combined rainfall in July and August made it one of the wettest summers on record but a parched September made fall the driest in 63 years.

Snowfall was above average for the year, but all hit in storm, Jan. 21-22.

August’s average low temperatures were the warmest low on record since 1881.

Beebe Fire Department had to rescue some residents in the Windwood subdivision because of floodwaters from an early January deluge.

Just as Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher finished giving his State of the City address in late January, City Attorney Bobby Bamburg leaned over and showed the mayor a text he just received, “Main Street Bridge is starting to ice over.”

The council meeting was adjourned and the city hall was empty in minutes.

That Thursday night drizzle, rain, and sleet gave way to snow and area residents awoke to 5 to 7 inches of snow on the ground, setting a record for Jan. 21.

Central Arkansas received more rain from a storm system that wobbled through Arkansas in mid-March than the area received all through January and February.

For the first two months of the year the area had received about 5.6 inches of rain, down about 1.5 inches from the 30-year average.

But a solid four days of rain in March dropped about 6 to 7 inches onto the area.

On April 29, a first strong wave of rain barreled through Jacksonville, lightning struck a tree on Halifax Cove in the Stonewall subdivision and ignited the gas line under it. That day 2.61 inches of rain fell in Jacksonville and 3.13 inches in Gravel Ridge.

The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning around noon and at just about the same time Jacksonville schools were notified that the Boys and Girls Club had flooded.

In mid-May storms produced straight-line winds as high as 90 miles an hour, along with two possible tornadoes and lots of rain in central Arkansas.

The storm set off sirens in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

In mid-July, storms ripped through Arkansas, causing power outages for more than 100,000 residents.

First Electric Cooperative’s Jacksonville district, which includes portions of Lonoke, Prairie, northern Pulaski and White counties, also experienced storm-related outages that affected approximately 1,690 members. Entergy Arkansas reports outages peaking at 138,216.

Record rains hit in August making the month one of the wettest on record. By mid-month, with close to 6 inches of rain, it was already the 12th wettest on record.

From late October to late November it was dry, dry, dry, almost 30 days without rain, which put almost half the state under a burn ban.


In interviews with the top administrators of North Metro Medical Center, the word was the facility was improving, making headway and taking care of its problems. But then came another lawsuit from the state, a former doctor or Health Department inspections because of concerns.

This year the hospital saw two CEOs and has had four since 2013. Mike Randle was the interim CEO for most of the 2016 but was fired in the fall and replaced with Bill Bledsoe. Prior to Randle, state Rep. Joe Farrer had the helm for about four months and before him it was Cindy Stafford, who was CEO from April 2013 to May 2015.

Early last January, Randle said the hospital’s owners were developing new relationships and mending old ones. “Our focus is to preserve and grow this hospital for Jacksonville and the surrounding area,” he said.

But in January, North Metro lost its wound center, which opened a year earlier to great fanfare, and has lost a $160,000 lawsuit in conjunction with the center leaving.

The center opened in December 2014 and closed the first of January despite a June article in The Leader where the local director said the center was “hitting its stride” and was offering “world-class care.”

In February, it came to light that North Metro owed the IRS about $2.9 million in back taxes. There was also a state tax lien against the hospital for $160,000 for 2014 taxes not paid.

Randle acknowledged the debt saying the hospital was doing everything it could financially and legally to take care of the problem. “We are working on a plan with the IRS but it has not been cemented,” he said.

“We are not in any jeopardy,” Randle emphasized. “Our financial picture is improving. If things go as planned over the next six months we will be in very good shape. We are poised to be reborn,” he said.

The $2.9 million debt was not all done under Randle’s watch, but mostly inherited by Randle and the last two CEOs. At one time in 2014, according to IRS paperwork, the hospital owed as much as $6 million.

The hospital celebrated its new cardio vascular center and remodeled sleep lab in April.

The hoorahs continued into May with Dr. Tracey Phillips, the chief medical officer, saying, “We are back doing what a real hospital does for a community. We are in a very, very good position and expect to be stable within a year.”

But as Phillips and Randle praised the hospital, the parent company, Allegiance Hospital of North Little Rock, was having a $45,000 lien placed against it for nonpayment of unemployment taxes. It was the fifth lien the unemployment division has filed against the hospital owners over the past five years.

There were also issues with slow pay for ER doctors.

Then in October it was reported that North Metro lost more than $3 million last year and was one of the least profitable hospitals in the state, according to a report released by Arkansas Business.

Plus, it was cited by the federal government for having too high of an infection rate and too many readmissions. As a penalty it received reduced Medicare reimbursements.

Then rated the hospital a “D” in its spring survey of medical facilities.

In October, Dr. Marvin Ashford, a former chief of staff at the hospital sued over his dismissal. He was suspended almost a year earlier because of his likelihood to be an “immediate danger,” according to the complaint. Ashford sued the hospital, its owners and two doctors for breach of contract.

Ashford filed the suit Oct. 14 and asked for a jury trial. No date has been set yet.

In late October, Randle was fired and Bill Bledsoe, the director of cardiac labs for St. Vincent Infirmary, was hired to take over Dec. 1.

Bledsoe came on board as a recently discharged patient looked to bring a class action suit against the hospital, and a number of other suits were already in the court system.

The Arkansas Department of Workforce filed a complaint that the hospital owed the state $150,694 in past due taxes that had already been collected from employees.

The state filed a 10-year lien against the hospital for $298,663 in taxes it owed.

Universal Hospital Services, a medical equipment rental company, filed suit Sept. 23 against “Allegiance Hospital of North Little Rock DBA North Metro Medical Center.

In July, American Paper and Twine sued the hospital over nonpayment of a $3,378 bill for items like bathroom cleaner, paper towels and germicidal cleaner. That case was dismissed with prejudice about two weeks ago after the hospital paid the bill.

In May, a former employee, Jeanne Snelson, filed a lawsuit claiming the hospital disregarded FMLA law when they fired her.

Bledsoe, 57, began work Dec. 1 as North Metro Medical Center’s new chief executive officer and said in a visit to The Leader that he was determined to improve the long troubled Jacksonville hospital.

“We can turn the place around. We can make it one of the best hospitals in this area,” he said.

The first part of the year Sherwood issued $10 million in bonds, financed by a voter-approved tax, for a new library.

Then in March, Sherwood used $6 million in bonds to refinance the golf course, a move that will save the city about $1 million over the next 30 years.

Jacksonville refinanced $15.8 million in wastewater bonds, saving the city about $2 million.

Sherwood voters, in November approved a plan to use a portion of the city’s Advertising and Promotion tax to back a $5 million bond issue for park improvements.

Cabot used a $13.5 million bond issue approved by voters to build and open its new sports complex and aquatic park in May.

Ward borrowed $4.8 million to improve its wastewater treatment system by constructing a new treatment plant and expanding its current facility.

Although no decision was made and no specific amounts were discussed, Lonoke city Treasurer Phillip Howell floated the idea of a tax increase to support a bond issue to help with much needed water, sewer and other repair issues in the city.


The beleaguered school district, which had been under state control for the past five years was released from state oversight in early March, setting up school board elections in November.

The PCSSD board was dissolved in 2011, when the state took control of the district for being in fiscal distress and since that time, the director of the state Education Department has served as a one-man school board with non-binding counsel from an appointed community advisory board. The state appointed Dr. Jerry Guess as the superintendent.

Two Sherwood residents were elected to the new board in November, Dr. Linda Remele and Shelby Thomas. Remele was also elected board president and Thomas was selected as vice president. The board’s first working meetings will be later this month.

The district non-renewed, or fired, all Jacksonville-based teachers and staff in February with no promise of rehiring any of them. At the same time the new Jacksonville district made no hiring promises.

In the end the district also non-renewed another 200 teachers and staff because of the downsizing of the district.


Excel Ford spent most of the year building, preparing and moving to its new Cabot location on West Main Street.

It was announced in March that a Denny’s restaurant was coming to Sherwood near Wildwood Avenue and Warden Road.

State Rep. Joe Farrer got back in the physical therapy business, opening a practice in the Jacksonville Medical Clinic.

Jacksonville got the word early in the year that it was going to be the home of a new SIG Sauer $5.7 million ammunition manufacturing plant. SIG Sauer is turning the old Meador’s Lighting facility off Swift Drive into their ammunition plant. The new facility will employ about 75 workers.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson called Arkansas a premier location for the firearms industry.

About the same time Remington Arms in Lonoke County announced a $12 million expansion that would add another 80 jobs to the plant.

In late January, GES, Inc., owner and operator of Edwards Food Giant and Edwards Cash Saver supermarkets, announced it would open a new Edwards Cash Saver in the former Knight’s location in Jacksonville.

Steve Edwards said that the company had been looking to expand in the Jacksonville area for a few years and was able to negotiate with the Knight family to buy their supermarket as well as the Jackson Square Shopping Center.

The Knights, later in the year, sold their Cabot and Beebe stores to GES.

In July it was announced that Danny Wintz, a 1983 Jacksonville High graduate and former Sunnyside resident was going to open a Fuzzy’s Taco Shop in the old Cici’s Pizza location by the end of the year.

The Texas-based Fuzzy’s Taco Shop got its start in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2003. Now there are close to 100 Fuzzy’s in 11 states.

Hardee’s came to Jacksonville on North First Street during the summer.

In late summer, Hibbett Sports opened a store in Jacksonville. The company, which already has 43 stores in Arkansas and more than a 1,000 in 33 states, is located close to J.R. Gumbo’s, near Walmart.

The 5,000 square-foot store specializes in “quality branded athletic equipment, footwear and apparel like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, as well as clothing and equipment for local teams and leagues.”

Also, Dairy Queen announced in late summer it was coming to Sherwood. The restaurant, only the second one in central Arkansas, opened in New Year’s Eve on Country Club near Delta Dental.

The DQ Grill & Chill restaurant runs about 2,800 square feet, seats 85 customers and has a drive-through window. The restaurant employs about 50 workers.


Although southbound traffic over the Main Street overpass on Hwy. 67/167 in Jacksonville was switched over a few months back onto two new, recently completed lanes, work on the northbound lanes and overpass is just beginning and won’t be completed until mid-2018, according to state Highway Department spokesman Danny Straessle.

“We started working on that in August 2014,” he said.

The existing two-way frontage roads along the highway will be converted to one-way frontage roads between Main Street and Vandenberg when the final phase of roadwork between Redmond Road and Hwy. 5 in Cabot are complete, probably in 2022.

The entire project from Redmond Road to Cabot will cost approximately $200 million.

After Phase I of Hwy 67/167 widening and reconfiguration is complete, construction will skip to Phase III, which starts just north of Vandenberg Drive and continues to the Hwy. 5 interchange at Cabot. Finally, in 2019, work will begin on Phase II to fill in the gap from just north of the Main Street overpass to and including the Vandenberg interchange. Construction on that final phase should wrap up in 2022, at which time the frontage roads will become one way.

In Phase I, the major structures or changes, from south to north are the southbound entrance ramp at Redmond Road and the widening of the Redmond Road overpass to allow more lanes.

North of there, a new southbound ramp behind the Jacksonville Municipal Building will open with the completion of Phase I.

Work on southbound Hwy. 67/167 includes widening, rebuilding, and reconfiguring the Main Street overpass. That overpass has been the site of numerous accidents over the years, including a fatality in recent years.

The section between Vandenberg Drive and Hwy. 5 is pretty straight forward, with minor adjustments only, mostly a widening project.

This was a presidential election year and in the primary it was Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz finishing one, two, three with Hillary Clinton easily surpassing Bernie Sanders.

In the March primary, Dist. 34 Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) squeaked by Rep. Donnie Copeland in the Republican primary to face and defeat Democrat Joe Woodson in November.

The quarter of a percent sales tax to expand and improve the county’s bus service was strongly defeated by 12,000 votes.

Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) got another term after besting Lonoke County Justice of the Peace R.D. Hopper. Williams lost Pulaski County by about 100 votes, but won the other three counties his district represents. Williams had no opposition in November.

In another very close race, Democrats Kent Walker and Victoria Leigh, both attorneys, battled for Copeland’s Dist. 38 seat, which includes the southern half of Sherwood with Leigh coming out on top by fewer than 100 votes.

Leigh faced and lost to Carlton Wing, a Republican, in November.

Last January, the Jacksonville District Court and the Maumelle District Court became one and has jurisdiction over all of Pulaski County.

Rita Bailey, previously Wrightsville and Cammack Village judge, and former state Sen. David Johnson (D-Little Rock) battled for the position in March with Bailey winning. The judicial seat is nonpartisan, so party affiliation is not listed on the ballot. As winner of the primary, Bailey will be the judge for a four-year term.

In an historic presidential election that pitted the first woman to possibly become president against the first person in a century or more to make it to the top without ever holding a political office, the Electoral College went with the outsider.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 3 million votes against Donald J. Trump, but he won the presidency by winning more electoral votes.

Arkansas voters sided with Trump, 60 percent to 34 percent.

Arkansans also kept all the Washington incumbents who were running for re-election.

Also, all ballot issues, including the use of medical marijuana, passed.

In the two competitive local House races, Dist. 42 Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) beat back a solid challenge by Patrick Thomas.

Lonoke County Justice of the Peace Roger Lynch came from behind to beat Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke) for the Dist. 14 seat. Lynch netted 3,832 votes, or 52 percent, while Bennett pulled in 3,537 votes, or 48 percent.

Sherwood residents also approved a measure that will improve parks and give the city flexibility to get the work done faster and cheaper without raising taxes, but redirecting current Advertising and Promotion taxes.

In Cabot, Alderman Doyle Tullos’ two opponents, Norma Naquin and Wendell Gibson, split the vote almost equally for the Ward 3, Position 1 seat. Naquin won the runoff.

Challenger Damon Bivens defeated Alderman Jon Moore, and Alderman Rick Prentice stood strong against a challenge by Tom Koller for the Ward 3, Position 2 seat.

Judge Joe O’Bryan lost to Ward City Attorney Clint McGue.

TOP STORY >> Chamber hires top assistant as new director

The Lonoke Chamber of Commerce introduced Han-nah Harris as its new executive director during its monthly luncheon on Thursday.

Harris, a Lonoke resident, was previously the chamber’s part-time administrative assistant and first vice president of its executive board.

She succeeds longtime director John Garner, who retired in April.

“I have a strong commitment to unity and growth for Lonoke. Moving forward, the chamber is going to be a place where business can come together in unity and grow as we implement the strategic plan that is being developed through Kick Start Lonoke. I am blessed to have this opportunity and am looking forward to serving Lonoke as the leader of the chamber,” Harris said.

Chamber president Adam Starks said, “We are excited to have Hannah as the executive director of the chamber. Her commitment to the community and region is a great asset to the chamber, and we are looking forward to her enthusiasm and leadership going forward.”

It was also announced that Sue Stewart was hired as administrative assistant.

“Sue is a longtime resident of Lonoke and has been looking for a way to give back to her community. Her love for Lonoke is true and her efforts to give back to our community are going to be greatly valued,” Starks said.

“In hiring both Hannah Harris and Sue Stewart, the Lonoke Chamber of Com-merce is positioned to enter into a new season guided by optimistic leadership with a passion for supporting the local community,” an announcement from the chamber said.

The chamber also welcomed its new board members during the luncheon.

Gary Elmore will become chamber president in April. Ryan Biles will become its first vice president.

“The Lonoke Chamber of Commerce is one of the key stakeholders in the ongoing strategic planning and economic development efforts in the area,” according to a news release from the chamber.

“Following John Garner’s departure, the opportunity emerged for a new executive director to bring fresh energy, creativity and forward-thinking outreach methods to the Lonoke chamber. After a months-long process of soliciting and considering numerous résumés submitted by applicants statewide, a committee composed of chamber board members and community leaders selected Harris,” the release said.

SPORTS STORY >> Titan press crumbles Fair

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

A furious rally in the last two and a half minutes saved an otherwise lackluster performance Tuesday at JHS, as the Titans overcame a nine-point deficit with 2:11 remaining to beat J.A. Fair 56-52.

The War Eagles’ last basket epitomized the whole game for Jacksonville (11-6, 1-0), and maybe woke the home team up. Fair junior guard Mickael Foust was the only War Eagle among four Titans lined up for his free throws with 2:30 to play. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, got his own rebound and scored to give the visitors a 51-42 lead.

Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner called timeout, and called for fullcourt pressure after his team’s next possession.

“That was just a lack of focus,” Joyner said of allowing the rebound and putback. “Nobody boxed out the shooter, and then everybody’s standing around trying to figure out who to blame for not getting the rebound, and he just scores. We had to press at that point, and they woke up and went to work.”

Tyree Appleby got to the rim and was fouled on that possession. He made 1 of 2 foul shots, and Jacksonville’s halfcourt trap forced a backcourt violation. DaJuan Ridgeway then made a 22-foot shot to make the score 51-46, still with 2:00 to go.

Appleby then got a steal and passed to Ridgeway for a transition layup with 1:48 left, prompting Joyner to call a timeout.

“I know most of the time when you got a team reeling like that, you just keep it on them,” said Joyner, explaining his timeout. “I wanted the kids to celebrate something. It had been a drag of a game. I wanted to give them a little break too so they could celebrate and take a minute to do what they were capable of doing.”

Foust got back to the line for Fair on the next possession. He made 1 of 2 with 1:31 left, and it was the War Eagles’ last point of the game.

Ridgeway took the inbound pass after the free throw and went the length of the court for another layup that made it 52-50 just nine seconds later.

Fair (9-4, 0-1) could not get the ball even near the midcourt line on its next possession, and turned it over on a 10-second violation with 1:09 remaining.

Appleby made 1 of 2 on the next possession to pull the Titans to within one point.

On Fair’s next possession, Antoine Davis almost had a steal for Jacksonville, but the ball he knocked loose went out of bounds. It still ended up being a big play, because Ridgeway then stole the inbounds pass and was fouled attempting a transition layup.

He made both free throws with 41 seconds to go, giving Jacksonville a 53-52 lead, its first since it led 7-6 midway through the first quarter.

Harderrious Martin then got another steal for Jacksonville, and that turned into two free throws by Appleby that made it 55-52 with 24 seconds remaining.

Fair got two shots on its final possession, but neither were close. Cedric Christopher’s shot was altered by Martin, who sprung out on the shooter as he released. Foust got the rebound and kicked out to Daevon Bankston at the top of the key.

Christian White got a hand in his shooting path, forcing a line drive shot that clanged off the front of the rim. Ridgeway got the rebound and was fouled with one second left. He made the first and missed the second to set the final margin.

Ridgeway led the charge, scoring 11 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter.

“We just asked coach, let’s go 0-100, that’s our fullcourt press,” said Ridgeway. “(Appleby) wasn’t on like he usually is, and he saw that I was on, so he told me to just take it. So I just went for it.”

Joyner had it in mind to call the press anyway, and wishes his team had played well enough not to be in that situation.

“I didn’t call for the press and they didn’t call for the press, the situation called for the press,” Joyner said. “That was a no-brainer. Down nine with two minutes left, what else are you going to do?

“If I had a few more guards I could rely on, we’d press like that all the time. This is an athletic team. We just don’t have the depth to do that from start to finish. What we could do, is work harder in practice, and we wouldn’t be in these situations.”

That idea may have caught on with the team’s leader and leading scorer.

“I think we need to practice harder than we do,” said Appleby. “You play like you practice, and we looked like we did early on because that’s how we practice.

“It was big getting this win. First conference game. We just have to learn from what we did wrong and work harder in practice.”

Leading up to the final few minutes, Jacksonville’s performance was rife with missed layups, missed free throws, and even two missed dunks. There was also the 1-on-4 situation with Foust’s free throws.

“We miss those in games because we don’t contest each other in practice,” Joyner said. “They don’t compete in practice like my championship teams did. Those guys were ultra competitive and they competed in practice. These guys, if somebody gets a steal, they just watch him shoot a layup. Somebody makes a good post move and gets by, no attempt to recover and contest. Just watch. So when that happens in a game, and it’s contested, they miss. If they were used to that from competing with each other, they’d make more of those.”

Appleby added 19 for Jacksonville. UALR signee Kris Bankston led J.A. Fair with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Khyron Gilbert and Foust came off the bench to score 14 and 13 respectively for the War Eagles.

SPORTS STORY >> Rabbits sweep Eagles

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Lonoke basketball teams enjoyed a sweep of Mayflower on Tuesday at the Gina Cox Center. In the boys’ game, the 3-point shot was the Jackrabbits’ biggest ally. Lonoke hit eight over the course of its 58-45 victory, including four by senior guard Haven Hunter.

Three of Hunter’s 3-pointers came in the first period, but Mayflower hung close. Reggie Dunn got to the line three times and made all six free throws, while post player Jordan Mack dropped in four more points to keep the Eagles within one point, 15-14, at the end of the opening frame.

Mayflower continued to get to the line in the second period, but didn’t continue to shoot them so well. The Eagles shot nine more free throws in the second period, but only made three. Defensively, the Eagles began spying Hunter, but Lonoke got a lift off the bench from senior Isaac Toney.

Toney scored all seven of his points in the second period, helping the Jackrabbits extend their advantage to 29-24 by halftime. Toney also made Lonoke’s only free-throw attempt of the first half, while Mayflower shot 15 times from the line.

That changed in the second half as a defensive adjustment kept the Eagles from getting penetration into the lane. It wasn’t, however, a different defense.

“We decided to guard better, and get in the correct positions,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell.

Lonoke still only shot one free throw in the third, to Mayflower’s zero, but the Jackrabbits shot well from the floor, while the Eagles settled for outside jumpers that mostly weren’t falling.

Hunter, TaMarrea Moore and Kylan Branscomb all hit 3-pointers, and Branscomb added two short jumpers in the lane for seven points in the quarter. Lonoke outscored Mayflower 18-10 to take a 47-34 lead into the fourth.

Lonoke only made one field goal in the fourth quarter, Hunter’s fourth and final 3-pointer, but its defense and good free-throw shooting kept the visiting team from ever seriously threatening.

Mayflower was forced to begin fouling midway through the fourth, and Lonoke made 8 of 9 foul shots down the stretch to keep the Eagles at arms’ length.

Hunter’s 13 points led the Jackrabbits, who are now 8-8 overall and 2-3 in the blended 4A-1A Regional 2 Conference. Branscomb and Tyrique Jackson each scored 11 for Lonoke.


The Lady Jackrabbits were in a scrape early until pulling away to defeat Mayflower 52-38. The Lonoke ladies’ lead was just 9-8 at the end of the first quarter, but the LHS defense held the Lady Eagles to just three points in the second period. After taking a 19-11 lead into halftime, Lonoke surpassed that point total in the third quarter alone, and took command of the game.

The Lady Jackrabbits made five 3-pointers in the third period, including three by junior guard Keiunna Walker.

Post player Kennedy White also stepped out and hit one from long range while Mickenzie Williams also sank one trey. By the start of the fourth quarter, Lonoke’s lead was 39-22 and Mayflower never seriously threatened in the fourth.

Walker led Lonoke with 19 points while Williams added 10 for the Lady Rabbits Mayflower’s Tori Lasker led all scorers with 20 points while Tristen Lasker added 11.

Lonoke will play at Bauxite on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville ladies roll early

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Lady Titan basketball team got its opponent put away early and spent the second half experimenting in a 47-20 victory over J.A. Fair on Tuesday.

Jacksonville’s defense held the Lady War Eagles scoreless for more than seven minutes, and the offense was unselfish and precise.

“We definitely came out and did what we wanted to do early,” said Jacksonville coach Marian Kursh. “I thought we rebounded really well. We wanted to be able work on some things we’re trying to do in the second half, and we were able to do that because of how we played early.”

Jacksonville (9-9), 1-0) had forced more turnovers in the first three minutes than it had given up shot attempts. Fair coach Shirley Goodnight called timeout with 4:54 left in the opening quarter. Jacksonville led 8-0 on 4 for 4 shooting, and all four shots were the result of assists by Dayzya Jordan and Alexis James.

The Lady Titans came out of that break in a 2-3 zone instead of their usual man defense, but Fair still could not score. After a lengthy possession, Jacksonville freshman Shy Christopher took advantage of a lazy pass to flash into the passing lane for a steal and layup that made it 10-0 with 4:08 to go in the quarter.

Fair (2-10, 0-1) missed a long shot attempt on the ensuing possession, and Jacksonville’s DeShundria Shockley made the Lady Titans’ sixth-straight basket with 3:24 on the clock.

As well as Jacksonville shot in the first half of the quarter, the next two minutes saw six-straight misses by the Lady Titans. After the momentary struggles, the Lady Titans made two more shots for a 16-0 lead before Fair finally scored with 45 seconds remaining in the period. Forward India Atkins made a running baseline floater before Jacksonville scored for an 18-2 by the start of the second period.

The second quarter was more of the same, but from different players. Arian Phillips, Sharonda Perry, Shatorria Briggs and Taylor Toombs came off the bench to help the Lady Titans outscore Fair 19-3 in the second quarter and take a 37-5 lead into halftime.

Jacksonville only outscored Fair 6-4 in the third quarter, but the 43-9 lead was still enough to run the clock continuously in the final frame.

Jacksonville has been without several key players, some since early December and some since the season began. Two of them should return soon. Tarnesha Womack, the team’s only true post player, has been cleared after suffering a broken arm on Nov. 18 against Mills. Allison Seats expects to be cleared next week.

“Both of those players should help us,” said Kursh. “Womack makes a big difference because she’s a post player. Seats has been ready to go, but her doctor went on vacation. So we just have to wait until its official. She’s a very smart player and she’s going to contribute.”

All nine players that saw the floor scored for Jacksonville. Christopher led the way with 17 points. Shockley and Martina Knight scored six each. Atkins scored 10 for Fair while Keyonna Winston had eight and Jada Evans rounded out the Eagles’ scoring with two points.

SPORTS STORY >> SH Bears trounce PA with three ball

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills boys got its conference season off to a rousingly good start on Tuesday. The Bears dominated Pulaski Academy to the tune of a 78-48 at SHHS in Sherwood.

Mercy rule losses aren’t normal for Pulaski Academy, and the Bruins almost avoided it despite trailing by 32 points as the last shot of the third quarter went up.

It was, however, good from 35 feet, and pulled the PA to within 29, one less than the sportsmanship rule requires for a non-stop clock in the fourth quarter.

The Bruins then opened the final period with a 10-0 run and got to within 61-42 before SH coach Kevin Davis called his only timeout with six minutes remaining.

“I just told them this was unacceptable,’ said Davis. “We had played too well up to that point to start goofing off and let it get away from us. They got the message and they went back out there and took it to them again, started playing like we worked on and doing their jobs.”

Besides that two-minute lapse in focus, the Bears were steady the entire game, and outside shots were falling. Davis’ squad suffered its worst three days of shooting of the season during the Spa City Shootout at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs.

That’s where the Bears (12-1, 1-0) lost their only game of the year so far, and where they shot barely 20 percent from 3-point range.

Back in the cozy confines of their home gym, those shots went down en masse. Seven different Bears combined to make a dozen 3-pointers, and Davis says it wasn’t just because of the familiar surroundings.

“We’re most effective when we spread it around and keep the ball moving,” Davis said. “We did a great job of that in this one. We’re less effective when we want to stand there and hold the ball, or try to drive when the drive is not really there. You look at our roster, and 11 of the 12 guys you see there can all shoot the 3 ball. Even our two starting post players can hit from out there. It makes it awfully hard to defend when you have so many that can shoot and you’re executing the way you’re supposed to.”

Sylvan Hills made four treys in the first quarter, two in the second and three in each of the third and fourth periods. Sylvan Hills only led 19-14 after one quarter and 35-22 at halftime. A 26-10 third all but put the game away. Sylvan Hills led 61-29 until Isaiah Woods made that 35-footer at the buzzer.

Daylon Raynor and J.D. Smith made three 3-pointers apiece for the Bears and Justin Glasco made two. Jacobé Davis, Demetrius Torrence, Alex Curry and Herman Washington all made one.

“I’m not surprised when I see seven different guys hitting from out there, because I see how they shoot it every day in practice,” Kevin Davis said. “But we have to share and keep it moving, and take quality shots. We have times when we don’t take quality shots and don’t shoot within the rhythm of our offense. That just makes it easier on our opponent. We didn’t give PA too much of that and that’s why we had the result we did. Life is good when the shots are falling.”

Tra Johnson led the Bruins with 12 points while Connor Parr scored 10. However, Johnson had just one 3-pointer the entire second half while Parr was held scoreless.

All 12 Sylvan Hills players scored, and four were in double figures. Curry led the way with 13 points. Jacobé Davis added 12 while Smith and Jordan Washington scored 11 apiece.

Sylvan Hills made 8 of 13 free throws while PA made 7 of 8 attempts.

Lady Bears can’t stop streak

The Lady Bears dropped to 8-5 and 0-1 in the 5A/6A-Central with a 54-41 loss to the 11-1 Lady Bruins. PA has not lost since a 53-49 overtime defeat to CAC in the first game of the year on Nov. 18. PA led 13-8 after the first quarter, but Sylvan Hills held the Bruins to just five points, all by Mattie Hatcher, in the second quarter and closed to within 18-16 by halftime.

PA then outscored Sylvan Hills 21-8 in the third to take control of the game. Hatcher got to the line four times and made 6 of 6 free throws in that period. She led all scorers with 22 points while Morgan Wallace added 12 for the Lady Bruins.

Alana Canady led Sylvan Hills with 14 points while Jayla Bell scored 10.

Sylvan Hills made 8 of 12 free-throw attempts while Pulaski Academy went 16 for 25 from the foul line.

Sylvan Hills games scheduled for last night at J.A. Fair were canceled due to Friday morning’s snow. The Bears and Lady Bears are scheduled to host Maumelle on Tuesday.

EDITIORIAL >> Mike Wilson: Man of Year

It is way past time to revisit the Arkansas General Improvement Fund (aka GIF), the vast political scam run for nearly two decades by the Arkansas legislature at the expense of Arkansas taxpayers. Jacksonville’s venerable dragon slayer, Mike Wilson, has been fighting and suing the racket for a more than a dozen years, with mixed success, but this week there was some reward.

Up at Springdale, the U.S. attorney announced that Micah Neal, a Republican lawmaker, had pleaded guilty to conspiring to send some $600,000 of your tax dollars to a couple of private groups—a tiny Bible college few people even in the area had even heard of and some kind of private health entity—in exchange for kickbacks. Rep. Neal got a cool $38,000 for his effort. He implicated a state senator and another friend in the scheme, although they are not yet named and have not been charged. Neal was doing the senator’s bidding, although in tweets the same day he seemed to say that God had cleared it for him. More charges are coming, and the FBI, following leads in the Neal case, is looking at fraudulent GIF activity in the planning district and elsewhere in the state.

When legislators started carving away tens of millions of dollars from tax receipts each year to spend on private and public projects and entities in their communities to insure their re-election, Wilson, a former legislator himself, sued. It was the kind of spending that lent itself to self-dealing and fraud if a legislator had any proclivities in that direction. Also, it was abraded several constitutional prohibitions, including a ban on local and special legislation. The Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with him, unanimously.

So over a couple of budget cycles, the legislature sought to find a scheme to get the money to friendly groups and pet projects in a way that got around the constitutional prohibitions. They finally decided to appropriate the money—some $70 million in 2013-14—to Arkansas’s eight planning and development districts, which distribute federal and other funds to aging and other nonprofit services, and the districts would develop clever ways to send the money where individual legislators wanted it to go. Each of the 135 legislators had a fixed sum of money allotted to him or her by understanding and told the district by letter, email, word of mouth or other methods where the legislator’s share of taxes was to go.

We should acknowledge that many, probably most, of the expenditures were for good causes such as libraries, fire departments, Scout groups. But it was not for all of such groups but only those specially chosen by a legislator, whom the planning districts always credited with the gifts.

But there also is no accountability for the expenditures, so the system begs for abuse and self-dealing. In 2015, it seemed so rampant in the Northwest Arkansas Planning District that a state audit was ordered. Its report was shocking. The director was fired and federal investigators moved in. More than $500,000 of state tax dollars that are supposed to be spent on state services like education, law enforcement, health care and corrections was spent to pay long-overdue grocery bills to a Missouri wholesaler who had furnished food for aging programs that are not under state control.

Some $590,000 earmarked by 10 or so Republican lawmakers for a Bible school in a pasture west of Springdale to help it buy land and a few old houses seemed especially odd. The school gives degrees in Bible study, sports management and business. Rep. Neal and Sen. Jon Wood of Springdale, one of the legislature’s rising stars, were the biggest funders (with state tax dollars, not their own) of the college. When federal agents got involved late in 2015, both men suddenly decided not to run for re-election and to devote more time to their families, which is usually a giveaway. You may remember that Wood was the legislator who wrote a constitutional amendment giving private businesses and groups virtually free access to local and state taxes. The title of the amendment said it was for jobs and economic development, so voters ratified it in November.

The president of the college, a third-generation preacher of the same name, issued a statement yesterday that he and the school had done nothing wrong. Yes, it had paid consultants to raise money for school but it had not paid any kickbacks, he said. Doing consulting works, see, is not illegal. Lots of legislators get into consulting.

After the Northwest audit came out, Wilson decided to try again to get the practice stopped. He filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court but against the Pulaski-Lonoke district, not the Springdale district, and not on the grounds of fraud but simply on the premise that the whole operation was unconstitutional, the same as it had always been.

But Judge Chris Piazza, surprisingly to us, ruled that Wilson had not made an ironclad case that the legislators were the ones earmarking funds to projects rather than the board of local officials who run the planning district. Wilson is appealing to the Supreme Court. We would be hopeful were it not for the fact that the Supreme Court is no longer the court that it was. It is now a thoroughly Republican court and not an independent one but a political court. Perhaps the court will take judicial notice of the carelessness and fraud the system engendered in one community and hold the system unconstitutional as its predecessor did. A stronger hope rests with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who wants the GIF racket stopped. He has the veto and considerable leverage with the party that now runs the show.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

TOP STORY >> Sightless paradegoer

By DEBORAH HORN Leader staff writer

It was a pretty good walk — about five-and-a-half miles along Colorado Street in Pasadena, Calif. — but it took Sharon Giovinazzo about 15 years to get there.

As part of this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade, Giovinazzo, the president and CEO of Lions World Services for the Blind in Little Rock, was invited to participate.

Only one problem— Giovinazzo is blind, but without hesitation, she accepted the invitation and flew to Pasadena last week to march in the 128-year-old California tradition. 


She says, “As early as I can remember, a New Year’s tradition was to watch the Tournament of Roses Parade. At the age of 31, I lost my sight. So for the last 16 years, I would not turn on the TV to watch it, because it would make me sad. There were many things that saddened me about losing my sight — parades and fireworks were two of those things.”

Despite an early morning call — Rose Parade participants needed to be on scene by 3 a.m. Monday, she says, “It was very exciting…I was honored to be asked.”

She also helped decorate the float, and at 8:02 a.m. a stealth bomber plane did a flyover to officially launch the parade, she said.

About 1 million people lined the route, Giovinazzo said, the entire experience was awesome.

Giovinazzo says, “The theme of the parade, ‘Echoes of Success,’ rang throughout the parade, but to Lions that is something that echoes throughout the world every day as the largest humanitarian organization in the world, with more than 1.4 million members, changing lives everyday.”


Giovinazzo was 31 and an LPN (licensed practical nurse) when she began experiencing difficulty with her vision, and within a few weeks, she was totally blind. Unknown to her, the cause was multiple sclerosis.

She didn’t allow blindness or self-pity to rule her life, and she relearned how to live life, including seemingly simple tasks...walking with a cane, riding the bus or locating items around her home.

“You fold, or you play the hand you’re dealt,” she says.

So she got a job packing gloves, 100 to a box, for the Transportation Security Administration.

“It’s not easy to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with life. But you have to, you just can’t sit there and feel sorry for yourself. You have to get beyond that spot, not letting destiny be set for you,” she says about her guiding philosophy.

“Everyone is dealing with something, and it took losing my sight to learn that,” she says.


Still, it wasn’t enough to learn to cope and get a job, Giovinazzo decided to earn a bachelor’s degree, then two master’s degrees.

While completing her studies, she worked on public policy in Washington for the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and then moved to work in Raleigh, N.C., for the Raleigh Lions Clinic for the Blind.

Her husband, Joseph Giovinazzo, now deceased, made the moves with her.

Last year, she moved to Little Rock, after accepting her current position with World Services for the Blind.


Lions from all over the country play a pivotal role in creating independence in Little Rock for people who are blind and visually impaired everyday.

“World Services for the Blind was highlighted as one of their service projects. Lions have assisted World Services for the Blind in their mission since 1947 to serve more than 13,000 people from all 50 states and from 58 countries to gain the skills needed to live independently and have careers in their fields of choosing,” she says.

The nonprofit organization, founded in 1947, works with blind and visually impaired people in the United States and around the world to achieve independence. Its programs offer life skills and career training and youth programs.

Giovinazzo says, “There’s nothing special about me, but what I do is special.”

For more information about the World Services for the Blind, to go:

TOP STORY >> 2016 Year in Review

Compiled by Rick Kron
Leader staff writer

This is the third of four articles recapping all that was 2016. The first three articles recall the top headlines of the year and the fourth will be the top storylines of the year.

The last third of 2016 included a volatile national election, although locally the fireworks were mild. It was also the operational beginning of the new Jacksonville North Pulaski School District, which opened it schools’ doors after teachers and staff spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars getting the schools ready.

The year ended wet and warm, a common theme of the year’s weather.


• Jacksonville defends $300,000 in losses at its sports shooting complex.

Residents ask Jackson-ville officials to help save the Southern Oaks golf course.

Cybercrimes investigator tells Cabot freshman to “beware of the selfie.”

Sherwood and its hot check court deny all the charges levied at it in a federal lawsuit by the ACLU.

Plans for Jacksonville’s new high school designed to be flexible.

Jacksonville police sponsor a community town hall meeting to clear the air of any problems to prevent issues from coming to a head.

Cabot’s old library to be revamped and become new senior center.

Jacksonville gets three new fire trucks valued at more than $2 million.

Governor appoints Darlene Byrd of Cabot to fill empty seat on the Lonoke County Quorum Court.

Federal judge tells school parties to come to an agreement or let the trial start over desegregation issues that have languished for 17 years.

Grants allow Jacksonville and Ward to build walking trails and sidewalks.

More than 30,000 come out to enjoy the Arkansas Military Expo at the air base.

Donations sought for Jacksonville museum in old downtown.

Jack McNally, former Lonoke County assessor, sentenced to six years in prison on fraud and other charges.

Beebe alderman candidate quits after two misdemeanor charges come to light.

Sherwood City Council to discuss its city planner job opening

Beebe seniors pick Downs Syndrome classmate to be homecoming queen.

Work continues on $200 million widening project of Hwy. 67/167.

Numerous fall festivals and celebrations slated throughout the area.

One of seven Afghan soldiers assigned to the base disappears.

Four-acre site in front of Tolleson Elementary will be the site of the district’s new elementary school.

Sherwood defunds $54,000 position for city planner.

LRAFB holds event celebrating Navy’s 241st birthday.

Historic downtown Jacksonville district group is formed.

FBI crime statistics show Austin and Cabot are safest cities in the area.

Runoff pits incumbent Joe O’Bryan against Clint McGue for Cabot District Court judgeship.

Phony police officer pulling over woman in the Jacksonville area.

Legislative audit finds issues with Cabot and Beebe financing and accounting.

North Metro loses $3.5 million last year, according to Arkansas Business report.

Water territory dispute between Jacksonville and Sherwood heads to court.

Sherwood wants to redirect A&P money to cover bond issue for upgrading parks.

Very few issues as early voting for the general election starts.

Austin mayor rebuffs rumors she’ll disband police department.

Two Sherwood residents seek seats on new PCSSD school board.

Jacksonville’s military museum could go broke without city assistance.

Most incumbents win re-election, state goes for Trump.

Cabot museum puts WWI quilt on display.

Auditor tells Jacksonville to tighten its budget.

Judge rules state grants aren’t illegal, but Jacksonville attorney will appeal court decision.

North Metro hires its fourth boss in three years as it is hit with lawsuits from former employees and the state.

Voters approve medical marijuana issue and now the plant is seen as a cash crop.

Annual report shows Jacksonville student not proficient in math or English.

Ward growth means higher sewer bills for residents.

Jacksonville teachers get a taste of teamwork in a Lead the Way workshop, which focuses on better ways to teach students.

Austin mayor is acting as interim police chief after she fires the chief.

Lonoke County passes $8.2 million budget for 2017, up about $500,000 from current budget.

Sherwood’s Trail of Lights opens for the holiday season with new displays and a different route.

Ongoing warm weather sparks fire concerns.

Council approves new ordinance allowing city employees to sell goods and services to the city.

A Little Rock-North Little Rock lawsuit stops Jacksonville A and P Commission from helping nonprofit groups.

Cabot man charged in stabbing death of wife.

Historic telegraph, freight office, which once sat at Jacksonville train depot is found and will be brought home.

Field narrowed down to two for the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District superintendent job.

Austin residents concerned about police chief firing and rumors that county will take over policing the city.

Sherwood native Nate Powell receives national book award for his civil rights comic book.

Jacksonville school district hires from within by picking Dr. Bryan Duffie as its next superintendent.

Cabot’s 2017 budget is $200,000 more than it funded in 2016.

A $16,000 donation will help place 1,600 wreaths on veterans’ headstones.

A lawsuit filed against two other cities as Jacksonville worried about supporting Boys and Girls Club.

Former Cabot alderman wants a vote to void new rule allowing city workers to sell to the city.

Jacksonville school district needs more diversity in staffing or plan to be in court in next year.

After 45 years in business, Knight’s Super Foods in Cabot and Beebe closes.

Increased insurance premiums add $262,000 to Jacksonville’s general budget for 2017.

Jacksonville band director says consolidated school music group ready to play.

State opens bids for $100 million worth of highway work around Cabot.

Both Metroplan executive director Jim McKenzie and deputy director Richard Magee retire.

Many Jacksonville students get free eye exams courtesy of the Lions Club.

Sherwood able to give employees raises because of a $1.5 million surplus.

Jacksonville funds Boys and Girls Club through $50,000 maintenance contract.

New North Metro Medical Center chief executive officer sees a turnaround coming for the beleaguered hospital.

Proposed changes in state taxes would give a break to veterans.

Cabot upgrades body cameras for its police department.