Friday, February 03, 2017

TOP STORY >> Edwards opens Beebe store

Leader staff writer

Four generations of the Edwards family attended the grand opening of the new Edwards Cash Saver in Beebe on Wednesday morning.

Patriarch Oral Edwards, the founder of the Edwards grocery chain, cut the ribbon as his son, company president Steve, welcomed customers to the chain’s 11th store in the former Knight’s Super Foods.

The 50,000-square-foot store at 1701 W. Dewitt Henry Drive has been completely remodeled and the parking lot repaved. One visitor to the extensively remodeled store said it looked like a new building, with new cash registers, newly painted walls, new shelves, refrigerator cases, ceiling lights and more.

Also at the grand opening were other company officials, including Steve Edwards’ son-in-law, vice president Paul Rowton, and his wife, Ashley, and their sons, William and J.P.; Steve Edwards’ wife, Laura, and vice president Gary Proffitt and his wife, Amy.

Steve Edwards said the store will employ 104 people. “It is a good regional store that will pull in customers from several towns,” he said before the grand opening.

The first 100 customers received free bags of groceries, and the first 300 people were given silver dollars.

Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson said the community is pleased to have Edwards Cash Saver in Beebe.

“The city is very joyful to have a family business such as Edwards to invest in our community. We want to express our gratitude to this family for their commitment to this community bringing 100 jobs to local residents. It was wonderful to see a mass of shoppers on opening day and to hear the wonderful comments about how nice the store is,” Robertson said.

Beebe Chamber of Commerce director Kristen Boswell said, “We are thrilled to have Edwards in Beebe. It is exciting when a new business opens in our town. We have options. It creates more jobs and is great for the citizens and the local economy.”

Barbara Judkins of Ward said, “I like it. It looks nice. I can’t get over it. We checked out the store in Jacksonville last week. We shopped at the old Knight’s store. We do everything in Beebe.”

Darlene Bailey of Furlow said, “I love it. I use the one in Jacksonville all the time. Now I’ll be using both of them. It is clean. They have good prices and have fresh meat. Everyone is so friendly.”

In the last decade, Edwards has grown from three stores in east Arkansas to 11, with eight in central Arkansas.

The Edwards stores have become known as “the Meat People,” and the Beebe store has a large meat department featuring certified Angus beef.

Although the store does not have a full-service deli, it does have a large smoker making hot smoked ribs, chickens, pork, brisket and other meat items available daily.

The store also has a large fresh produce department, along with a full selection of name brand and private-label grocery items.

Because this is a Cost Plus supermarket similar to the Edwards Cash Saver stores in Jacksonville and North Little Rock, all of this will be available at the store’s cost plus 10 percent at checkout.

Edwards entered the central Arkansas market in 2009 after operating in east Arkansas for five decades.

In addition to Beebe and Jacksonville, Edwards has supermarkets in Forrest City, Harrisburg, Marianna and four locations in Little Rock, one in North Little Rock and Bryant and convenience stores in McCrory and Augusta.

Proffitt, of Cabot, supervises stores in central Arkansas. He oversaw the remodeling of the old Knight’s stores in Beebe and Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville store opened in April.

Proffitt began working for Knight’s while he was still in high school.

He gained extensive management experience while working for the Megamarket and Food 4 Less chains and later as a retail counselor for Fleming Foods.

The Knights founded the chain of supermarkets with a small store on Locust Street in downtown Cabot in 1971.

Knight’s opened new supermarkets in quick succession in Cabot (two), Beebe and Jacksonville.

Oral and Steve Edwards, who have more than 80 years of grocery experience between them, own GES, Inc. Along with Proffitt, the Edwards family also owns Tobacco Warehouse, LLC, which operates convenience stores.

The supermarkets and convenience stores are all in Arkansas and operate under the Edwards Food Giant and FG Express banners. “We continue to improve our stores and add new departments in order to protect our markets and better serve our customers,” Steve Edwards said.

The company traces its roots back to 1959, when founder Oral Edwards started his career in the grocery business as an assistant manager in Millington, Tenn. He next moved to Kennett, Mo., in 1961 as a store manager.

In 1962, he became part owner in a new store. He loaded up his family for the third and final time and moved to Forrest City in east Arkansas, where a new Liberty Supermarket opened there in 1962.

TOP STORY >> Base honors civic leaders with Cornerstone Award

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Col. Charles Brown Jr., 19th Airlift Wing commander, presented the 2016 Team Little Rock Cornerstone Award to Billie Ann Myers and her late husband Oliver (Dub) Myers at a Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council meeting Tuesday.

The Team Little Rock Corner-stone Award was created to honor a prominent civic leader who exemplifies outstanding service and commitment to the men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base and continues to strengthen the foundation set by the founders of Little Rock Air Force Base.

Brown said the Myers achieved this through their lifelong commitment to supporting the military

Brown said they embodied what it means to be not only leaders in the local community but steadfast supporters of the base and its airmen.

“There’s a special bond that develops when we see those that continue to serve even after they have left the military service for civil service,” Brown said.

“They as leaders see the value in what we do, so they gather together with the local community and provide services by looking out for each other, taking care of families whose loved ones are deployed and continuing to serve selflessly,” he said.

A steadfast advocate for themilitary and the surrounding community, Dub Myers was a member of the community council and the military affairs chairman for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

His efforts were recognized with an appointment as honorary first sergeant, an honorary chief master sergeant and eventually the honorary commander of the 61st Airlift Squadron.

Just as stalwart in her commitment to the community, Billie Ann Myers attended every event with her husband. She accepted their Cornerstone Award in behalf of her husband, who passed away in 2012.

“My biggest regret is that Oliver is not here to accept this award,” Billie Ann said. “He truly loved this base, loved the people who work on it and the people who supported the base. It’s not hard to serve Little Rock Air Force base because the base is Jacksonville, it is central Arkansas, and it does so many wonderful things day in and day out while taking care of us. Thank you so much for this recognition, and I’m proud we were considered family.”

(Editors note: Oliver “Dub” Myers served as a brigadier general and former commander of the 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas Army National Guard before retiring. He continued to serve the Arkansas community as a civic leader.)

TOP STORY >> Veterans get exemptions on pensions

Leader senior staff writer

With the governor’s $50 million state income tax break for low-income Arkansans now law and a hefty state income-tax exemption for military retirees set for signature Tuesday, voters may feel like this 91st General Assembly is all about tax cuts.

But contained within those cuts are increases, including taxes on downloads of books and music, increases in candy and soft-drink sales tax, and a separate piece of legislation would require sellers of online commodities such as clothes, tools and other goods to tax the purchase and remit those revenues to the state general fund.


Also in the mix are an extension of gun rights onto college campuses, further restrictions on abortion rights and a voter-ID law, and in the future—perhaps a special session—more infrastructure for the new medical marijuana law.

Speaking of infrastructure, no new revenues appear on the horizon this session to help rebuild decaying roads and bridges.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe) said that the focus would soon shift to the budget, particularly in light of a $56 million decline in state revenues.

He expects further review of telemedicine, initiation of online sales tax and constitutional amendments.


He doesn’t expect much discussion or action on the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act this session.

“I think Speaker (Paul) Ryan says the House will start working on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act in March,” Dismang said. “We’ll have to see what the new plan looks like.”

He said the General Assembly would have to fund an appropriation bill to continue paying for the Affordable Care Act.

“We’ll keep the program in place until there’s a new directive on the federal level,” Dismang said.

He said the heavy lifting on the budget would occur later in the session when there’s more information on general revenues.


Hutchinson put state de-partment heads on notice Friday that funding cuts are likely.

“I appreciate the legislature’s overwhelming bipartisan support for my $50 million tax cut, and I am proud to be able to sign this bill into law,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday.

“With today’s actions, we will have provided $150 million in substantive income tax relief to nearly 1.3 million Arkansans in the past year. In fact, 90 percent of the state’s individual income taxpayers will have benefited from substantive tax relief legislation since I took office in 2015,” the governor said.

The tax cut will benefit 650,000 low-income Arkansans earning less than $21,000 a year, saving an individual as much as $156, according to the governor’s office.

That takes effect in January 2019.

Because the state’s fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30, the first year’s tax cut will be only about $25 million.

He said the additional money in the pockets of low-income Arkansans would give a boost to the state’s economy because they are likely to spend that money on local goods and services.

State Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) sponsored the bill exempting the pay and benefits of military retirees, which is expected to cost the state about $13 million in its first full year of implementation, with anticipated payback five or six years in the future.


State Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville), who sponsored and worked for the exemption in the House, sees it as much of an economic development tool as it is a reward for retired members of the military.

The governor says it should help recruit new military retirees to the state and keep the old ones by eliminating the tax on military retirement pay.

Keeping a skilled workforce of young military retirees will pay dividends in many ways, Johnson said. They will create jobs and take second jobs that they will pay taxes on, he said.

Passage of that bill essentially is a $6,500 a year boost to their income, and may keep people in the state as they retire, plus attract others to come here for the lifestyle or relatively low cost of living.

“This is huge for Arkansas,” Johnson said on Friday.

Exempted from state income tax would be the retirement pay and benefits of uniformed service retirees from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard, as well as national guard and reserve components, the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned officers.


“Arkansas is playing catch-up to all of our surrounding states who have already discovered the benefits of attracting military retirees into the workforce,” according to Col. Steve Eggensperger, veterans affairs liaison to the governor.

“None of our neighboring states tax military retired pay,” he said.

Johnson said he’s not fond of the increased taxes on digital downloads or soft drinks and candy, but the revenue is needed to fund the tax cuts.

State Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot) said he voted for the veterans tax break in part because Little Rock Air Force Base and many retired veterans are in his and neighboring districts, but he doesn’t like the funding mechanisms –increased taxes on candy and soft drinks and taxing digital downloads.

But, “You can’t vote against the vets,” he said.

He’s hoping for an opportunity later to change that. He said opponents were successful in derailing a provision that would have essentially doubled the sales tax on mobile homes to about $4,100.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

TOP STORY >> Mumps tied to vaccine decline

Leader editor

Cabot schools are likely to have more cases of mumps after a Cabot Middle School North staff member recently came down with the viral disease, which is easily preventable with the use of vaccines.

There are 2,642 cases of mumps in Arkansas right now, according to the state Health Department. An acceptable rate is a mere three or four cases. The outbreak began in northwest Arkansas last August and has since spread to much of the state. 

It’s not surprising given Arkansas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and one of the highest rates of mumps, a nasty illness that can cause glandular and testicular swelling, and in rare cases sterility and even death.

The disease is on the rise here and across the country due to a decline in vaccination rates as more and more parents are choosing to forgo vaccines for their children. It is an alarming trend that is driving outbreaks of mumps and other diseases that had been virtually eradicated.
Parents here, and in many other states, can choose not to have their children vaccinated based on religious or philosophical reasons. Medical exemptions are also given with a doctor’s approval.
Local school districts and the Health Department track the number of students exempted from getting vaccines. Statewide, there were 6,362 exemptions during the 2015-2016 school year, including medical, religious and philosophical waivers. 
The Cabot School District has 100 exemptions currently with a student body of 10,617. Of Cabot’s waivers, 68 were philosophical, 26 were religious and six were medical.
The Pulaski County Special School District, the only other district to compare to Cabot’s in size, reports only 83 exemptions out of 12,846 students. Out of PCSSD’s exemptions, 28 are for medical reasons, 12 are on religious grounds and 43 are philosophical.
The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District has 14 such exemptions for its 3,933 students. Six were religious, five were philosophical and one was medical.
The Beebe School District has 25 exemptions – 11 for religious reasons, 13 are philosophical and one medical – with a 3,255 student body.
The Lonoke School District has 17 vaccine waivers – nine were for medical reasons, six were philosophical and two were religious exemptions. Its enrollment is 1,755.
These numbers may seem relatively low, but they can have dramatic public-health consequences.
Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread mumps and often with few symptoms or none at all. Generally mumps is accompanied by flu-like symptoms. 
In schools where mumps outbreaks occur, the Health Department requires unvaccinated students to stay home from school for 26 days until the virus subsides.
In Cabot’s recent case, the school employee was determined not to have been in enough contact with students to warrant that, but the next case could be different.
“Mumps is pretty infectious, so it is not unlikely that there will be more cases in the Cabot area. However, it is hard to predict what areas may see many cases and which ones will only have a few cases. Since the beginning of the outbreak, a large majority of cases have been in northwest Arkansas in Washington, Benton and Madison counties. There have been spillover cases into other counties, but cases are still concentrated in the northwest corner,” said Meg Mirivel, the Health Department’s public information officer.
“Throughout this outbreak, 90 percent to 95 percent of school-aged children and 30 percent to 40 percent of adults involved in the outbreak have been fully immunized,” Mirivel said.
That is no reason to avoid vaccinations, she said.
“The vaccine is not perfect. Two doses of the MMR shot are about 88 percent effective at preventing the mumps. That means that if you have 100 people who are fully vaccinated, 88 of them will be fully protected. The remaining 12 will still be vulnerable to mumps. If it were not for the vaccine, however, we would be seeing many, many more cases of the mumps,” Mirivel said.
Those who have been vaccinated, but still contract mumps, generally show mild symptoms.
“We have only seen a few cases with complications, like swelling of the brain or testicles. Normally, we would expect to see many more persons with complications. This tells us that even though some vaccinated individuals are still getting the mumps, they are experiencing mild disease. The vaccine remains the best protection we have against the mumps,” Mirivel said. 
The state Health Department advises two doses of MMR vaccine, which inoculates against mumps, measles and rubella. It has been available since 1971.
Despite the advice from experts, vaccination rates are dropping due to the public’s misconception that vaccines are dangerous and cause autism, a developmental disorder.
Eighteen states, including Arkansas, allow religious and philosophical exemptions, while 28 others allow vaccine waivers for religious reasons.
Meanwhile, California, responding to a spate of outbreaks, has done away with all but medical exemptions and is beginning to see a decline in mumps. Mississippi and West Virginia have also done away with all but medical exemptions and have some of the fewest mumps cases in the nation.
About five years ago, there were only a few hundred cases in the country, said Oklahoma state Sen. Ervin Yen (R-Oklahoma City), who is a cardiac anesthesiologist.
Yen introduced a bill last year to do away with religious and philosophical exemptions, which would have brought Oklahoma in line with Mississippi, West Virginia and California. It was defeated in committee, but he plans to introduce a similar measure that would allow religious exemptions but not philosophical ones.
“This is a disease we can get rid of. There’s no correlation—autism and vaccination—none,” Yen said.
He noted  Oklahoma’s vaccination rate is about 90 percent. Arkansas’ is about the same, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That may seem like a lot, but it’s the other 10 percent that’s troubling.
By comparison, Mississippi’s vaccination rate is 99 percent. That’s the best in the nation.
“The more people you have vaccinated the less of the diseases you will see. Bottom line is the benefits far outweigh the risks. Our U.S. Constitution is quite clear: Life trumps everything else including religion,” Yen said.
State Rep. Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood), just a few weeks before Cabot’s mumps case was reported, had introduced a bill in the House to do away with religious and philosophical exemptions. After fierce resistance from opponents of vaccines, she pulled the bill.   
“The response to my filing the bill to eliminate the religious and philosophical objections to vaccinations was met with overwhelming opposition. It was quite unpleasant and shocking. In fact, several of my colleagues told me they could not vote for removing a parent’s choice with regard to vaccinations,” Brown said.

Brown is considering reintroducing a bill to prohibit vaccine waivers.

“I do believe that religious and philosophical exemptions may be a luxury we cannot afford to continue to allow. I would have to look at the ‘research’ the anti-vaxers sent to me as well as the information from others who have been combating the vocal opposition before running a bill similar to the one I pre-filed for this session, and I would have to believe I would have public support before running that gauntlet again,” she said.

“I may look into doing a poll to find out how Arkansans feel about the exemptions. Just knowing that we have way more cases of mumps than we would ordinarily be expected to have is alarming. The questions that trouble me are 1) What outbreak are we going to have next? And 2) how long will this mumps epidemic continue? 3) Will it just wear itself out or keep on spreading beyond Arkansas’ borders? 4) When are we going to have an avoidable death?” Brown said.  

She pointed out that almost all of the children in northwest Arkansas who contracted the mumps were actually vaccinated.
According to the state Health Department, Brown said, “those who oppose vaccinations tend to cluster in communities, thereby, making that community more vulnerable.”
“The belief that vaccines cause autism has been debunked; however, many people of above-average education are still opposed to mandatory vaccinations. And there are still many others who wholeheartedly support vaccinations,” she said.

That type of clustering does seem to appear in affluent areas. In the Pulaski County Special School District, Maumelle High School and Maumelle Middle School each report 10 students, Sylvan Hills High has 15, while College Station, Harris and Cato elementary schools have none.
Area school districts do not provide any vaccines. They refer students who are seeking vaccinations to primary-care doctors or to county health units.
The state Health Department operates health clinics in Cabot at 118 S. First St., which can be called 501-843-7561; in Lonoke at 306 N. Center St., 501-676-2268; and in Jacksonville at 3000 N. First St., 501- 982-7477.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Titans roll, boys’ rally falters

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville picked an easy road win on Friday at J.A. Fair. The Lady Titans took control early and hammered the Lady War Eagles 69-29.

The JHS boys weren’t as fortunate; suffering 62-51 loss to a Fair team it had beaten at home earlier in the season.

In the girls’ game, Jacksonville’s defense forced the Lady Eagles into several turnovers while allowing few shot attempts. The Lady Titans led 15-2 at the end of the first period, but fouls began to mar the game.

Jacksonville could have made things even easier had it shot better than 15 of 29 from the foul line.

Fair was called for 20 fouls and Jacksonville 18 over the course of the game. The Lady Eagles were even worse - much worse - hitting just 3 of 20 free throws.

Jacksonville continued to forceturnovers in the second period, and began shooting better as well. The Lady Titans scored 22 points in the second, and took a 37-11 lead into the locker room at halftime.

By the end of the third, that margin was up to 57-21, and the sportsmanship rule was invoked for the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville scored 33 points off J.A. Fair’s 27 turnovers, and scored 52 points in the paint. Allison Seats led the Lady Titans with 15 points. Martina Knight and Shy Christopher added 10 apiece while Shartorria Briggs and Sharonda Perry each posted eight points.

Jacksonville improves to 11-14 overall and 4-5 in the 5A/6A Central Conference. J.A. Fair drops to 2-17 and 0-8.

In the boys’ game, the War Eagles were on fire from outside, especially in the early going. Fair’s Khyron Gilbert made four 3-pointers by himself while Jacksonville struggled from the floor.

The War Eagles built a 28-13 lead at halftime, and that stretched to as much as 20 in the third quarter before the Titans made a run. But it was too big a hole to climb out of in so little time.

When the two teams met earlier in the season, Jacksonville (13-9, 4-4) trailed by nine with about two minutes left, only to rally for the victory. But Friday’s deficit was too large, and J.A. Fair (13-7, 4-4) was still making enough shots late to hold on to the victory.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke stretches No. 1 team for half

Special to The Leader

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits were within one at the half, but an early third quarter run gave the Central Arkansas Christian Lady Mustangs the lead and the momentum over the home team for a 69-54 victory Friday night at the Gina Cox Center at Lonoke High School. Lonoke is now 16-7 overall and 9-2 in conference play. CAC is 20-2 and undefeated in the conference.

“My kids played hard,” Lonoke coach Heath Swiney said. “We did not quit. We had a couple of breakdowns, but my kids didn’t quit. I thought their kids played well, too. She’s (Christyn Williams) really, really good.”

Keiunna Walker scored first for the Lady Jackrabbits with a 2-point basket. Kelson Miller tied the game with a lay-up after a steal on the CAC full court press. Christyn Williams hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Lady Mustangs a 10-4 advantage.

Walker hit her second pair of free throws for Lonoke, followed by threes by Madyson Bowman and Christyn Williams for the Lady Mustangs.

Walker responded with a 3-point bucket of her own, and the score at the end of a quarterwas 16-9 in favor of CAC. Lonoke had a strong second period, outscoring the visitor 22-16 to only trail 32-31 at the half. Kaley Woodruff led the way for the Lady Jackrabbits in the quarter with 14 points including four 3-point baskets.

CAC came out in the third quarter and scored 13 points before Walker was able to hit a three for Lonoke. Christyn Williams started the run with a 3-point basket and Jenna Davis had a lay-up and an assist to Christyn Williams. Davis had another 2-point basket in the frame, and Miller also had a 2-pointer to give the Lady Mustangs a 51-34 advantage. Mickenzie Williams hit 4 of 4 from the line for Lonoke for a score of 51-38 at the end of three periods of play.

Gracie Hyde cut the lead to ten with a three from the corner to start Lonoke’s scoring in the final period. Lauren Peoples answered with a 2-pointer for CAC, but Hyde connected on another 3-point basket and Walker a two to cut the lead to 53-46. Hyde was also 3 of 4 from the charity stripe in the quarter. Lonoke was within nine at 61-52 when Christyn Williams went on a six point scoring run. Walker hit another 2-point basket for the Lady Jackrabbits, and the Lady Mustangs scored once more to set the final score at 69-54.

Walker led Lonoke in scoring with 21 points, Woodruff had 15 points, Hyde 11, and Mickenzie Williams seven points.

Christyn Williams led all scorers with 41 points and was 9 of 9 from the free throw line. Davis added 12 points for CAC, and Miller and Bowman each had five points.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears, Bruins split league games again

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills split a pair of games with Pulaski Academy on Friday. The PA boys came into the game winless in league play, and left the same way after a 54-36 Bears’ win.

The PA girls were undefeated, and though given a tough time by the Lady Bears, also left with a perfect league mark, winning in their game in Sherwood 51-45.

In the boys’ game, Sylvan Hills’ wide zone defense troubled the Bruins’ shooters, while Bear post players controlled the lane.

Sylvan Hills held PA to just six points in the first quarter and jumped out to a quick double-digit lead. From that point, the Bears were content to play at PA’s deliberate pace while continuing to play strong defense.

The Bears’ led 24-15 at halftime, and 37-24 at the end of the third quarter. Sylvan Hills held Tra Johnson, PA’s leading scorer, to just seven points.

Meanwhile three Bears’ scored in double figures, led by junior guard Telah Wade’s 15 points. Jacobé Davis added 11 and Jamal Johnson came off the bench to score 10 points and added nine rebounds.

The Bears (15-5, 4-4) showed a marked improvement on the boards from its last game, when they were outrebounded 43-20 by Jacksonville. On Friday, the Bears dominated on the boards, grabbing 27 rebounds to just 14 for the Bruins.

Sylvan Hills’ perimeter defense frustrated Bruin shooters into just 4 of 17 shooting from 3-point range. The visitors were all uncharacteristically bad at the foul line, making just 8 of 16 free-throw attempts.

Even though the Bears’ 5A/6A-Central Conference mark is 4-4, they are 4-1 against teams that will count towards seeding in the conference tournament, which is an entirely different group of teams that make up regular-season conference play.

Sylvan Hills trails only Parkview in the standings that count for something.

The loss drops the Bruins to 5-14 overall and 0-8 in league play.

In the girls’ game, the odd quarters belonged to PA while the even ones to Sylvan Hills. The Lady Bruins opened by outscoring their host 16-7 in the first quarter, but the Lady Bears came back to outscore PA 16-9 in the second.

After Pulaski Academy (21-1, 8-0) won the third quarter 14-8, Sylvan Hills needed the Lady Bruins to miss some free throws in the fourth, and that didn’t happen.

Sylvan Hills is now 12-8 overall and 4-4 in league play, but 2-3 against postseason tournament foes.

Sylvan Hills juniors Alana Canady and Jayla Bell each came close to recording double doubles. Canady scored 15 points and had nine rebounds, while Bell had 14 points and nine rebounds.

Morgan Wallace did record a double-double. She led PA with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Mattie Hatcher added 16 points for the Lady Bruins, who have now won 21-straight games since losing their season opener.

Sylvan Hills hosted Jacksonville last night after Leader deadlines. The Bears and Titans played each other just a week ago, with the JHS boys and SHHS girls winning on Jan. 24.

Look for details of Tuesday’s games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

Sylvan Hills will host J.A. Fair on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Controversy costs CHS

Leader sports editor

Losses are always disappointing, but the prevailing emotion after the Cabot Panthers’ 67-62 overtime loss at North Little Rock on Friday was anger. Cabot coach Jerry Bridges believes his 6-foot-8 post player Matt Stanley cleanly blocked NLR’s final shot, which would have preserved a 54-51 Cabot win in regulation. Instead, Stanley was called for a foul, and Wildcat sophomore B.J. Walker calmly sank all three free throws to force overtime.

Reviews of game film show Bridges was right. Stanley didn’t touch Walker. In fact, he blocked the shot from several feet away. Walker went tumbling to the floor as Stanley landed near him, and duped the official into making the call.

“I thought it was questionable at the end,” said Bridges. “Maybe we have to do a better of job closing out, but I thought he did a good job of contesting the shot without fouling.”

Cabot’s three-point lead before the controversial foul call was the biggest for either team the entire fourth quarter.

In fact, the entire game was extremely close. Cabot’s largest lead was four points. North Little Rock’s was the final margin. The game included 18 lead changes.

Cabot led by three to start the fourth quarter, and both teams missed several shots before Des Duckworth tied the game with 5:45 to go. Bobby Joe Duncan took the inbound pass and went the length of the floor for a fingertip roll-in just 12 seconds later.

Laityn Shepherd then got his own rebound and putback to tie the game, and that kind of play was a major factor throughout the game.

Both teams finished with 34 rebounds, but North Little Rock had 16 offensive boards to just nine for Cabot, and scored many more second-chance points.

“I thought we were uncharacteristic offensively at times,” Bridges said. “We didn’t take good shots and we have to do better than that.”

After a Duncan miss, Stanley was called for his fourth foul away from the ball. North Little Rock’s Deion Dobbins then got another rebound and putback for a 47-45 Wildcat lead with 3:35 remaining.

Noah Allgood completed a 3-point play after a nifty pass from Jarrod Barnes. Dobbins answered right back to make it 49-48 NLR. Cabot ran the same play, and this time it was Jalen Brown that found Allgood open under the basket for a 50-49 Cabot lead with 2:34 on the clock.

Logan Gilbertson took a charge at the other end, but was called for a charge on offense just moments later. Brown then took a charge for Cabot with 1:37 left, giving the Panthers the ball under the NLR basket.

Cabot had to spend two timeouts to keep from getting a five-second violation. Once it did, it got a third of its game’s offensive rebounds on the next possession. After three misses and three rebounds, Barnes was finally fouled, and he made 1 of 2 free throws for a 51-49 lead with 1:14 remaining.

Duckworth then penetrated for a 10-foot floater that floated all the way over the backboard and out of bounds. NLR fouled Duncan with 49 seconds to go, and he also made 1 of 2 to make it 52-49.

North Little Rock missed a 3-pointer and Duncan got the long rebound for Cabot. The Wildcats knocked the ball out of bounds under the Cabot goal with 21 seconds remaining. But the Wildcats’ inbound defense again proved difficult for Cabot. The Panthers had to throw the ball 3/4 length of the court where Barnes caught it. Dobbins stripped him from behind and hit an open layup with 16 seconds left.

The Wildcats immediately fouled Gilbertson, who made both foul shots to set up NLR’s final, controversial, game-tying possession.

Allgood made 1 of 2 free throws to start the overtime, but Jarvis Ricks scored 20 seconds later and the Wildcats never trailed again as the Panthers went cold from the floor.

Duncan and Barnes each finished with 15 points to lead Cabot. Gilbertson added 12 and Allgood had 10. Dobbins led NLR with 19 points. Collin Moore added 17 and Ricks 14 for the Wildcats.

The game’s results left North Little Rock (11-4, 5-1) all alone atop the 7A-Central standings. Cabot is 14-3 overall, and in a three-way tie with Little Rock Central and Fort Smith Northside for second place at 4-2. NLR’s only league loss was to Conway. The Wildcats beat all three teams tied for second. Conway and Bryant are 3-3. Fort Smith Southside is 1-5 and Catholic is 0-6 in the Central standings.

TO STORY >> Residents seek city’s help

Leader staff writer

A resident of Jacksonville’s Sunnyside Addition plans to present the city council with a list of the neighborhood’s demands and hopes that other Sunnyside residents will join her in protesting for improvements for the area.

A Facebook event called “Sunny Side Protest” has been created to let residents know of the event. A complete list of demands has been posted on the 969page.

“We just want what’s broken fixed,” Deborah Fulton told The Leader. “We know it’s not going to happen overnight. You’ll have to do a little bit at a time.”

Fulton, a 15-year resident of Sunnyside, spoke about some of her concerns Monday including drainage.

“Water stands in my yard for two weeks on end before it finally evaporates if it doesn’t’ rain,” she said. “It sits, it gets stagnated and then you have mosquitoes. It does it at a lot of places out here. Water just sits on the road. The mosquitoes are bad. They’re not spraying properly,” she said.

But according to Jay Whisker, city engineer for Jacksonville, the drainage system in the area works, and the drainage pipes on the north side of the neighborhood were replaced just a couple years ago through Community Development Block Grant funds.

“We’re aware of a couple drainage issues,” Whisker said. “But there’s no new ones that I’m aware of.”

Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water and drainage issues can lead to a large population of the insects.

“In the summer time, you see the mosquito truck come around two maybe three times during the whole season,” Fulton said. “Whatever they’re using is not killing the mosquitoes. You don’t see a difference. You can’t smell it and the guy goes by real fast, like he wants to hurry up and get out of this area, like we’re the worst neighborhood in the world.

“This area has gotten better,” she continued. “Between the police department being out here more often, everyone out here telling the cops we’ve got this drug dealer, that drug dealer, starting to tell what’s going on in the neighborhood, the neighborhood watch program we’ve started. It’s gotten better. So for him to just speed through is ridiculous.”

Another issue on Fulton’s list is the curbs and sidewalks. Many driveways do not have a slope and residents must drive over the U-dip curb to pull into their driveways. This often scrapes the bottom of vehicles.

In some spots, the sidewalk moves, according to Fulton.

“You’re talking about somebody in a wheelchair having to go off their porch, down their ramp onto a sidewalk that moves. We’re not asking to tear up the whole row, but the parts that need to be fixed, cut those sections out and put some new concrete in. it’s a little bit cheaper and wouldn’t cost near as much,” she said.”

Sunnyside was built in the 1940’s, according to Whisker, and the curbed driveways were built then.

“Where we’ve had money to fix sidewalks, we have fixed those,” he said, including the curbed driveways.

Lot sizes are also an issue. Fulton has been told that there is an ordinance that states the lots in Sunnyside are too small to build homes on.

“All the lots out here that are empty are owned by the city. They’ve got them up for sale,” she said. “No one is going to buy those lots because of the ordinance that says these lots are too small to build. A guy’s house burnt down and the city told him he couldn’t rebuild.

“They say our lot sizes are too small. If they change our lot sizes so people can put some houses out here, we can get some developed out here. We can get better houses out here,” Fulton said.

Whisker said he has never told someone they couldn’t build because of the lot size.

“Sunnyside was done in the 40s,” he said. “The lots that are out there are platted lots. So they’re allowed to have houses, but there are front yard set backs, normally its 25 feet. There are ordinances about set back lines, but Sunnyside was built before that.

“But if anyone wanted to build a house in Sunnyside we’d certainly work with them to do what we need to do,” he said. “I’ve never told anyone they couldn’t build.

You may not be able to build the size house you want because the lots are so small but we’ll certainly work with you.”

Whisker says he has not seen the full list of Sunnyside demands but has heard about it. “If they have problems that we need to come look at, that’s what we’re here to do,” he said. “If there are any specific addresses and she could bring us that list we will go out and look at each and every problem. We might not can fix them all, but we’ll look into it.”

The neighborhood park, Galloway Park, is also an area residents would like to see improved.

There are no restrooms at the park and some children will use the restroom under a piece of playground equipment, according to Fulton. “The mayor says we’re a neighborhood park, we don’t need bathrooms. People can walk to their house. Sunnyside is a big area. When we have events out here people have to leave to go to the bathroom.”

There are no water fountains or spigots in the park. “We can barbecue but we have no water fountain to put out our fires with. Every park has a water fountain or some kind of spigot,” Fulton said. “The mayor said Dupree Park is a city park but if you look at the area, it is a neighborhood park. There’s a bunch of houses right in front of it, beside it. Johnson Park is a neighborhood park and they have a water fountain. They have a bathroom. We don’t.”

The park has also had issues with people using and dealing drugs.

“There used to be grown kids that would sit here and break up their weed and roll it up and smoke, then play basketball with kids around,” she said. “We used to get up and leave, but not anymore. We call on ‘em. It’s called taking back your neighborhood. This is our park. This is where our children play. We don’t want it around our children.”

Fulton said the neighborhood has gotten better. The police department does more patrols in the area. Residents call the police when needed and a neighborhood watch program has been started.

“This neighborhood has gotten better. We’re more of a community inside of a community,” Fulton said.

“Most of us in Sunnyside know each other. We associate with each other. We are like the outcast of this whole town. It’s like that with every poor neighborhood,” she said.

“It’s like we don’t exist to the city. The better neighborhoods get sidewalks and new roads,” Fulton said.

TOP STORY >> Fifth grader’s winning MLK essay

Khalia Lockett, a fifth grader at Arnold Drive Elementary, loves to write, get A’s, dance, draw and help her twin brother, sometimes.

She displayed her writing ability recently in an essay contest sponsored by Hormel and Skippy Foods.

Khalia took first place and was rewarded last week with a $50 Visa gift card and a certificate for her essay about Martin Luther King Jr. “I’ve still got the money,” she said Tuesday, beaming, and adding that she didn’t know when or if she would spend it.

The Hormel/Skippy Foods contest asked students from various elementary schools to write essays describing what Martin Luther King meant to them.

The fifth grader admitted that she knew of Martin Luther King Jr., but didn’t really know him until she stated researching for her essay. She decided to focus on his quotes. “His words are so important, so powerful. They were his weapon,” she explained.

And even though she has not personally felt any prejudice or racism, she does believe it still exists. “There’s a lot of hate out there right now and Dr. King would be saddened,” Khalia said.

She wrote her essay three different times to get it where she wanted it. “It was just hard to explain the feeling in my heart … to put it in my own words.” After her third draft she knew it was good. “But I didn’t think it would win. We have a lot of good writers just in our class. So when my name was called I was really excited, she said.

Khalia, who wants to be a fashion designer, would love to go back in time to thank Dr. King for making her life easier. “But I would whisper in his ear that his job isn’t done yet.”

Here is Khalia’s winning essay, titled “The Hero of Peace and Love”:

“Darkness cannot drive out Darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Those are the very words that Martin Luther King Jr. himself said. Martin Luther King Jr. means a lot to me because I’m a Black African American living in a place where hate is still an unfortunate part of life. He is very special because he helped not only Blacks but also whites and many more.

If he hadn’t stood up for his rights, then all people would still have greater wounds from the terrible things that happened in our history.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

That is a very strong quote by the man himself. I believe that him doing what was right taught others not to do wrong. If he didn’t do what was right, then all the wrong would take over. It’s important to help others who are weak to the word “love” and strong to the word “hate.”

Dr. King is important in such a way that his efforts, methods, and influence remain an important part of history today. His goal was for the world to be forever at peace and unharmed. The world deserves to be a great and peaceful place, not a world of hate and tragedy. He’s my hero because he helped everyone to understand the true meaning of peace and love. I think he’s a very smart man.

He’s a very great believer and he is a very great leader. He never stopped at what he was doing and he kept going and wouldn’t stop. He fought with words and not fists. His words will always be remembered through the years. I felt bad about all the things that had happened when Dr. King was still in this very world.

In conclusion, that’s what Martin Luther King Jr. means to me. He was a very great man. If he was still here I would thank him. I still thank him today even though he’s not here he is still here in memory.

TOP STORY >> Rep. Hill is critical of policy

Leader executive editor

Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) is the first Arkansas congressman to criticize the way the indefinite travel ban from Syria and a 120-day ban from six other Moslem countries were implemented last weekend, creating a constitutional show-down in the federal courts that could go on for several months.

Moslems with permanent residency green cards were among those stopped from coming back to the U.S., along with students and academics and brave Iraqis who worked for our military there.

“Blocking U.S. green cardholders, students and professors possessing proper visas, and those extraordinary men and women who have aided us in our Global War on Terror is not acceptable,” Hill said Monday.

We cannot abandon those Iraqi interpreters who worked for the U.S. in Iraq and the brave Afghan officers who helped defeat the Taliban. Those who risked their lives for us deserve our gratitude. If we betray them now, why should foreigners help us in our next war?

Thank you, Rep. Hill, for speaking against this poorly thought out executive order. Other Republicans are breaking ranks with the Trump administration, including Sen. John McCain and Sen. John Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of North Dakota, Corey Gardner of Colorado and members of Congress who represent districts with large immigrant populations.

Congress was never consulted before the White House issued the executive order. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the attorney general nominee, was also largely left out of the loop, as were Homeland Security and the intelligence agencies, not to mention legal scholars who could have helped with a more coherent directive.

Retired Gen. John Kelly, the head of Homeland Security, found out about the travel ban as he was flying back to Washington on Friday.

Back in his office studying the new directive, Gen. Kelly’s staff pointed to a television set as President Trump signed his executive order banning travelers with valid visas and even green cards granted to permanent legal U.S. residents three years before they become eligible for citizenship.

Kelly quickly rescinded the order that included green card holders, saying, “I thereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest.”

As Ron Ziegler, Richard Nix-on’s press secretary, would say, all previous statements to the contrary are now inoperative.

The ban on visa holders remains on hold as the case makes its way through the federal courts and almost certainly to the Supreme Court while the administration regroups with a new team at the Justice Department after the dismissal of acting Attorney General Sally Yates (a deadringer for the late Mary Tyler Moore), who refused to defend the executive order on constitutional grounds.

The travel ban does not include our friends the Saudis (where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from), Egyptians (one 9/11 hijacker) and Pakistanis (one of the San Bernardino attackers was born there), or Putin’s Chechnya (the Boston Marathon bombers were born there). Trump may have discussed the travel ban when he called Putin on Saturday, when they agreed to join forces in the war against ISIS.

Sharing military intelligence with Putin, a former KGB chief, is a terrible idea, and so is dropping of the joint chiefs chairman and the director of national intelligence from the National Security Council as permanent members, replacing them with amateurs like White House aides Stephen Bannon and Reince Priebus. Their presence gives Putin an advantage because of his ties to Bannon and national security adviser Michael Flynn, the retired general who’s pushing for an alliance with Putin in the war against ISIS.

Edward Snowden, the Russian spy who defected to Moscow, has passed on plenty of damaging information about the U.S. to Putin. We don’t need to give him more.

Putin, who plagiarized the thesis he supposedly wrote for his law degree, is hoping the U.S. will drop sanctions against Russia after invading Crimea. He wants NATO weakened so he can conquer more territories in Ukraine, where there’s renewed fighting between government forces and rebels loyal to Russia.

“They lie. They cheat. They want to conquer the world,” President Ronald Reagan said at his first White House press conference in 1981. Don’t let Putin and the terrorists win this battle.

President Reagan knew the Russians cheated on arms control agreements, doped their Olympic athletes for decades and lied about stealing our atomic secrets and technology. People have short memories.

Let’s not end sanctions against the man who worked for Andrei Andropov, his KBG boss and former leader of the U.S.S.R., who called the Red Army into Budapest in 1956 when he was Russian ambassador and suppressed uprisings against other nations in the former Soviet empire.

Putin wants Russia recognized as a superpower. The new administration shouldn’t help him achieve that dream.

TOP STORY >> Big base economic impact

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base is one of the largest employers in the state, and in fiscal year 2016 had an economic impact of $469 million in central Arkansas.

As large as that is, it is a $40 million drop from the previous year with most of the drop showing up in payroll.

According to the annual economic impact statement just released by the 19th Comptroller Squadron, the base has an annual payroll of almost $260 million and annual expenditures of $148 million. Add to that the $62 million impact of the 189th Airlift Wing (National Guard) and the base contributes $469,205,764 to the state economy, with most of that locally.

In 2015, the payroll was almost $290 million with $173 million in other expenditures.

Besides the 7,809 jobs related directly to the base, it was also responsible for 2,847 indirect jobs in 2016, valued at $121 million, up about $1 million from the previous fiscal year.

The comptrollers said that the base spent slightly more than $30 million on construction in fiscal year 2016, but the largest expense was health service and care such as Tricare at $65 million, down from the $93 million spent in 2015.

Little Rock Air Force Base, with its 6,300 military members and 1,400 civilian employees is the seventh-largest employer in the state and has close to 60 C-130s on the flight line at any given time. (In fiscal year 2015, it had nearly 70 aircraft).

LRAFB has 7,809 jobs on base and trains 1,800 service members from across the globe on the C-130.

The 189th lists the value of its 19 C-130Hs and other aircraft at $527 million, which would put the value of the remaining aircraft at well over $1 billion.

The base also helps support 53,000 retirees in a state that is home to 246,000 veterans.

Among the units stationed at Little Rock Air Base are the 19th Airlift Wing, the 324th Airlift Wing, the 189th Airlift Wing and the 913th Airlift Group.

Col. Charles Brown Jr., 19th Airlift Wing commander, said, “For over six decades, Team Little Rock has had a substantial economic impact here in central Arkansas and outstanding community support. The base continues to work synergistically with our military and community partners, and we look forward to what the future holds. Times are changing, but the importance of our role in national security remains the same.”

Brown added, “Today’s Air Force is globally engaged and responsive despite being at its smallest size in history, and as a whole, we continue to focus our efforts on readiness across the full spectrum of military operations. Little Rock Air Force Base willcontinue to support worldwide contingencies, delivering critical cargo and people as precisely and quickly as possible across the globe.”

According to the economic-impact statement, more than three-fourths of the military assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base live in neighboring communities. Ten percent of off-base military residents live in Jacksonville, another 10 percent in North Little Rock, 8 percent in Sherwood, 5 percent in Ward, 4 percent in Austin and Little Rock.

Even though 18 percent of active-duty military live in Cabot, 32 percent of the civilian workers call Cabot home — followed by 24 percent in Jacksonville and 8 percent in Sherwood.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher called the base “one of the greatest assets in Arkansas. You can see that with the monetary figure, but it is so much more.”

The mayor continued, “It makes us all better people to live and be around a group of dedicated patriots. We are proud of our base members. The positive outreach of the base extends beyond Jacksonville into all of central Arkansas.”

LRAFB first opened its gates in October 1955 thanks in part to the local community raising more than $800,000 and donating 6,100 acres to bring the base to Jacksonville.