Friday, March 03, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Bears get first upset at state

Leader sports editor

MAGNOLIA – Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis earnestly believed getting to the state tournament would provide an opportunity for a deep run. The Bears got in by winning theirfirst-round game at district and earning a four seed from the 5A-Central. In this week’s Class 5A state tournament, the Bears have made that deep run and will play Parkview High at 1:30 p.m. today in the semifinals for a chance to vie for another state championship.

The Bears dominated 5A-South champion Hope 66-49 on Tuesday, and on Thursday they beat 5A-West three seed Morrilton 52-43.

“Being prepared to play and staying focused on what you’re trying to accomplish can go a long ways,” said Davis. “We know night in and night out we’ve been playing some top teams and have shown the ability to play with teams like that. Defensively I thought we executed our game plan really well. It took a little while for our shots to start falling consistently, but we never had a dropoff defensively and I think that was the key.”

The Bears stretched out a seven-point lead at 19-12 when Taleh Wade scored after a steal, but Hope’s T.D Walton converted a 4-point play to end the period. He was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer. The shot went in and he added the free throw to make it 19-16.

The Bears (17-13) led 23-19 after Hope’s Marke Haynie scored at the 4:00 mark. Sylvan Hills then scored six in a row to take a 10-point lead. Hope’s Jaylan Anderson stopped the run, but Sylvan Hills’ J.D. Smith converted a 3-point play with 1:27 left that gave the Bears their biggest lead of the half at 32-21.

Haynie scored with 1:03 to go to set the halftime margin.

The two teams played to an 11-11 tie in the third quarter, and the Bears took control in the fourth.

From 46-35, Wade made his second 3-pointer of the quarter to start a 16-5 run that took just three minutes and all but sealed the win. Haynie answered Wade to make it 49-37 with 5:44 to go. SH point guard Jacobé Davis then made both ends of a one-and-one trip to the line. Haynie traveled, and Jordan Washington made two free throws with five minutes left. Clyde Ricks hit a long 3-pointer for Hope to make it 53-40, but the Bears scored the next nine in a row.

Washington answered Ricks with his own 3-pointer. He then got a steal and passed to Jamal Johnson for a dunk that made it 58-40.

After Hope traveled, Wade made one of two, but Washington rebounded his miss and was fouled. He also made one of two for a 20-point lead. Another Washington offensive rebound resulted in a 62-40 Sylvan Hills lead with 3:15 left in the game.

Washington had a double-double and led all players in two categories, finishing with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Jacobé Davis and Wade each scored 14 for the Bears.

Haynie led Hope (13-10) with 19 points while Walton added 16.

SPORTS STORY >> Wolves outlast Warriors

Leader sports editor

QUITMAN – What Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter couldn’t do at the free-throw line, it did with defense Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament – seal the victory.

The Wolves got a steal, took a charge and blocked a shot on East Poinsett County’s final three possessions to preserve a 64-62 win and advance to the final four.

EPC was the best 2A team Lighthouse had faced all year, and coach Kelvin Parker knew it was going to be a challenge his team would have to meet.

“They have been scouting us all year,” said Parker. “They were coming to our games, so we knew they would be ready. I don’t think we knew at the start how good they were, but we stepped up. Our seniors came through at the end with those two big stops.”

Leading 63-62, Lighthouse senior Cameron Shaffer went to the free-throw line with 21 seconds to go, and missed the front end of a one-and-one.

EPC got the rebound and called timeout with 16 seconds left. Freshman Devontae Davis alertly stole a lazy inbounds pass and was fouled as he attempted a transition layup with 13 seconds to go. The official ruled the foul was before the act of shooting, and Davis also missed the front end of the one-and-one.

EPC’s Xzavier Reed got the rebound and went the distance of the court, but Shaffer stepped in front of him in the lane and took the charge. The official, with a flare for the dramatic, paused several seconds as the crowd waited to see if the foul would be offensive or defensive. When he gave the signal, the Lighthouse side of Quitman Arena went wild.

EPC quickly fouled Wolf point guard Chris Mims. He made the first, but missed the second foul shot. Jase Whitfield got the rebound this time and also dribbled the length of the floor. He came to a jump stop before plowing into Lighthouse’s Zach Bobo, and rose high for the potential game winner. But Bobo rose higher – much higher. And Whitfield’s shot bounced off both of Bobo’s outstretched forearms as time expired.

“It wasn’t looking good early, butthey came back,” Parker said. “That was a good one, a big one.”

Things did not go well for the Wolves early. The Warriors raced out to an 11-2 advantage, and Lighthouse did not begin to close the gap until very late in the second quarter. But when they did begin to close the gap, it closed quickly.

EPC (22-10) led 30-22 with two minutes left in the first half. Gerald Doakes banked in a 28-foot 3-pointer with 1:50 to go to make it a five-point margin. After an EPC bucket, Doakes hit another 3-pointer, this time from the right corner to make the score 32-28. Whitefield answered with his own three for the Warriors, and Davis made it 35-30 by splitting the Warrior zone for a lay-in at the front of the rim with 15 seconds left.

Davis then got a steal and passed to Jakalon Simuel, who sank a 25-footer to make it 35-33 just before the buzzer ending the half.

The Warriors still led most of the second half. Lighthouse briefly took the lead when Bobo hit back-to-back 3-pointers that put the Wolves up 50-47 with two minutes left in the third, but EPC scored the last five points of the quarter and took a 52-50 lead into the fourth.

The Warriors scored first to start the final period, but Lighthouse went on a quick 5-0 run and never trailed again. The go-ahead basket came when Davis got a defensive rebound, dribbled the length of the court and made a no-look pass to Bobo for a dunk that made it 55-54.

Doakes then got a steal and dished to Davis for a 57-54 Lighthouse lead with 6:23 left in the game. The game was tied twice in the final three minutes. The first time at 59-59 when Reed made two free throws.

The second time came after Bobo hit a short jumper putting the Wolves back up 61-59. Davis almost had a steal but couldn’t quite wrangle in the loose ball. EPC caught a break when Whitfield picked it up and found J´Sebian Brown alone under the basket for a layup with 37 seconds remaining.

Davis led all scorers with 20 points while Bobo and Doakes each scored 14 for Lighthouse (28-6). Brown led EPC with 19 points. Reed had 16 and Whitfield 11.

The Wolves will play the Earle Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. today in Quitman for the right to play for the state championship next week in Hot Springs.

Earle (22-5) has won 13-straight games and has not lost since Jan. 16. The Bulldogs are averaging 77 points per game in that run. They beat Lavaca 78-47 in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Lighthouse beat Lavaca 80-59 last week in regionals.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville sent home by Jonesboro

Leader sports editor

PEARCY – The Jacksonville Titans kept their season alive Wednesday and reached the second round of the Class 6A state basketball tournament by defeating the host Lake Hamilton Wolves 75-59. But on Friday, the Titans ran into undefeated and nationally ranked Jonesboro, and fell 71-45 in the quarterfinals.

Jonesboro jumped out to an 11-2 lead, but Jacksonville answered that opening salvo. The tide turned irreversibly in the second period as the Hurricane outscored the Titans 23-6, taking the lead for good with 4:40 left in the first half. Jonesboro (30-0) led 35-21 at intermission, and increased that margin to 24 by the start of the fourth quarter. No Jacksonville player score in double figures. Tyree Appleby led the Titans with eight points while DaJuan Ridgeway, Chris Williams and Joe Phillips scored seven apiece. Desi Sills led the Hurricane with 14. Jonathan Adams had 13 and Marquis Eaton scored 12.

Wednesday’s win was close in the beginning, with the Titans only leading by one at the end of the first quarter. Thelead stretched to a more comfortable seven points at the end of the half, and to 13 at the end of three quarters. The fourth quarter was the highest scoring for both teams, but Jacksonville still won the quarter by three points to set the 16-point final margin.

“Playing the home team in a state tournament on their own court is always huge,” said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. “I thought the kids showed a lot of poise. They paid a lot of attention to the details. With number three (Jordan Harper), they’ve got 17 plays. They run 14 of them for one guy. He gets off two threes in the first half, and don’t score the rest of the game. DaJuan Ridgeway did an outstanding job on him – shut him down for the rest of the game. Outside of number four (Clyde Hill), who was a tough cover for us, the kids paid attention to the scouting report and the details, and the Lord blessed us, and we came out with one.”

Jordan Harper started the games scoring with a 3-point basket for Lake Hamilton. Joseph Phillips answered with a score under the basket for the Titans. Harper hit his second and last three of the game, but Tyree Appleby had a steal and lay-up for Jacksonville. Then a turnover by the Wolves resulted in an Appleby dunk, and the score was tied at 6-6.

Several free throws followed, including 2 of 3 for the Titans’ HD Martin, who was fouled on a 3-pointer. Lake Hamilton took a brief lead at 12-11, but Chris Williams had an offensive rebound put back for a 13-12 Jacksonville lead at the end of one period.

Williams also scored the first points of the second quarter with a 2-pointer under the basket. Martin connected on a 3-point bucket, then Ridgeway on a lay-up on an assist by Appleby. A lay-up by Appleby and a three by Ridgeway closed out the second frame scoring for the Titans, giving them a 25-18 lead at intermission.

Christian White scored the first six points of the third quarter for Jacksonville. Martin scored on a baseline drive, but couldn’t complete the old-fashioned 3-point play. Appleby was fouled on a 3-pointer and sank all three ensuing free throws. Clyde Hill had scored three times in the lane for the Wolves, and Mondo Watkins scored a 2-pointer and the plus one free throw to cut the lead to 42-35. However, Appleby sank a three on one end, then had a block on the other, and saved the ball in-bounds resulting in a Martin lay-up plus one free throw to stretch the lead to 48-35 at the quarters end.

Jacksonville out scored the Wolves 27-24 in the final quarter. Hill was busy for Lake Hamilton with five scores in the paint and 2 of 4 free throws. Appleby had seven in the period for the Titans, Williams had six, and White had six also, including a dunk. Kavion Walker had the last score for Jacksonville in the lane, and Sebastion Vinson hit his second 3-pointer of the quarter for the Wolves to set the score at 75-59.

Appleby led Jacksonville in scoring with 24 points. Martin had 14 points, White 12, Williams 10, and Ridgeway eight points.

Hill had 18 points for Lake Hamilton, and Vinson was next with 13.

SPORTS STORY >> No repeat for Panthers

Leader sports editor

VAN BUREN – Things didn’t quite as smoothly as head coach Jerry Bridges would have liked on Wednesday, but his team is stayed alive. That wasn’t the case on Friday when the Panthers’ season came to an end. Cabot’s bid to repeat as Class 7A state champions ended with a 53-43 loss to Springdale Har-Ber in the quarterfinal round.

The Panthers suffered their worst shooting night of the season, especially from the outside. They made just 12 of 51 from the floor, and only 3 of 24 from 3-point range as it played from behind almost the entire game.

“We were 12 of 51, it’s incredible we didn’t get mercy ruled,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “I thought we played hard, we just couldn’t make our shots. In the state tournament you’re going to have a bad game and you have to overcome that. We didn’t shoot well enough to overcome that today. We’re better shooters than that.”

Bridges became emotional when he tried to convey what this team has been like to coach this season.

“I love my seniors,” Bridges said. “Without those seniors we don’t do what we did last year. They made me look good because 13 years ago I got back in it hoping I’d be able to coacha team back to a state title. People thought I was crazy for going to Cabot. There wasn’t a lot of basketball tradition at Cabot and these guys helped change all that.”

Bridges gave the Wildcats credit for playing good defense, and Har-Ber coach Scott Bowlin was also proud of his squad.

“We talked about when it comes to the state tournament you have to be able to play good defense and rebound,” said Scott Bowlin. “I thought we did a good job at both of those tonight.”

Matt Stanley led Cabot (20-7) with his second double-double of the tournament. He finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He was the only Panther in double figures. Point guard Tylor Perry led all scorers with 18 points. Tyler Garrett and Ryan Taylor added 14 each for the Wildcats, who shot 15 of 36 from the floor and 7 of 19 from 3-point range.

Cabot advanced to the quarterfinals with a 56-44 win over Rogers Heritage on Wednesday.

After a three-and-a-half-quarter tussle with the War Eagles, Cabot went on a 12-0 run in just more than two minutes to turn a 42-41 lead into 54-41 and seal the victory.

Jarrod Barnes got the rim to start the run. Bobby Joe Duncan then took a charge and Stanley scored at the other end. Stanley then got a steal in the halfcourt set, passed to Barnes who passed to Duncan for a layup that made it 48-41. Stanley then rebounded a miss and Logan Gilbertson scored at the other end. Matt got another rebound and was fouled. He made both ends of a one-and-one trip to the line. Heritage missed again and Stanley again got the rebound. This time Duncan and Jalen Brown were behind the defense. Stanley spotted them and threw an outlet pass to Duncan, who hit Brown for a layup that capped a 12-0 run and put Cabot up 54-41 with 50 seconds to play.

“I thought we just lost focus defensively at times, and offensively, too,” Bridges said. “The turnovers were unforced, senseless stuff. We’re going to have to play better to win the next one, and they know that. I’m proud of them for buckling down in that fourth quarter and getting the job done.”

Stanley posted a double-double in leading all players in two categories. He finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Duncan added 13 for Cabot.

Seth Stanley led Heritage (15-13) with 14 points and six rebounds.

EDITORIAL >> FOI: Letting sunshine in

The 50-year-old Arkansas Freedom of Information Act is under attack from lawmakers representing special interests, with 20 or more bills seeking to amend and curtail it.

Some, like the bill proposed at the behest of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office and sponsored by state Representatives Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville), Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood), Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) and state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), seem reasonable, at least on their face, while others, like SB373, would let public boards and councils to operate at times in secrecy, withholding information and records.

That bill, introduced by Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs), is supported by University of Arkansas lawyers, who want negotiations and other sensitive dealings kept out of the public eye.

The problem with Hester’s one-sentence amendment is that it can be interpreted as shielding any such information or action from the public by sending a copy to the entity’s lawyer and then claiming lawyer-client privilege.

Titled, “An Act to Exempt Attorney-Client Communication and Attorney Work Product from the Freedom of Information Act of 1967; And for Other Purposes,” here’s how it reads:

“Section 1. Arkansas Code § 25-19-105, concerning examination and copying of public records, is amended to add an additional subdivision to read as follows:

“A record that constitutes an attorney-client privileged communication or attorney work product.”

Robert Steinbuch, a professor at the Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas and an expert on the Freedom of Information Act, said of Hester’s bill, “It’s a dog—designed to disembowel the FOIA. It presents as a modest proposal that is really a bill to advance the interests of special interest over the public. It’s completely anti-openness. For 50 years the FOIA entitled the citizens of Arkansas to get the very records that SB373 seeks to shield. The public has the right to know what its representatives are doing.”

Until Hester filed SB373, Steinbuch thought Johnson’s bill was the gravest threat to the Freedom of Information Act’s ability to keep the public informed since it was established.

Johnson says his proposed bill wouldn’t much change the existing law, which gives the custodians of information three days to provide it to the person who requests it, but would give standing for the curator of that information to appeal if a request is “unduly burdensome.”

Pulaski County attorney Adam Fogleman gave the real-life example of a person who requested a week’s worth of dispatch tapes from a sheriff’s office. With 22 channels, 24 hours a day for a week, that’s 3,675 hours of tape that must be reviewed in three days, Fogleman said. That would be 92 40-hour workweeks worth of labor in three days.

Fogleman said he knows of a case in which it was virtually impossible to meet the three-day deadline, but in which the custodian was found guilty in court of failing to obey the FOIA.

As currently written, Tom Larimer, executive director of the Arkansas Press Association, says, “We are not presently OK with (HB1622). We are writing a proposed amendment that should clarify that the three-day window is not changing.”

Larimer said Johnson does not want to change the three-day rule. Johnson told us he wants to preserve the media’s right to get a speedy response from public officials.

Another bill aims to delay the release of accidents to chiropractors and lawyers who sometimes use the FOIA to seek out clients. That may seem like ambulance chasing to some, but justice and medicine can be found in strange places. We also think such a bill will prohibit the general public — not just lawyers and chiropractors — from viewing accident reports.

All of this is occurring in an atmosphere where the press is being attacked as being “the enemy of the American people” by President Trump and some of his supporters.

They don’t trust the press and some seek to punish the press for the unfavorable coverage—no matter how accurate—that he and his administration are getting.

Larimer says critics of the press fail to recognize that the Freedom of Information Act, while often used by the press, is written for everyone so that government agencies can’t conduct their operations secretly.

Steinbuch has a different take. He is concerned about what he calls “the deep state,” which protects bureaucrats at the expensive of the rest of us.

Good government is open government. Sunshine, they say, is the best disinfectant. We agree.

TOP STORY >> Rescuers get awards for valor

Leader staff writer

Beebe Police Chief Wayne Ballew presented the city’s Award of Valor to four men who helped a family escape from a recent house fire at 504 Priest Road.

Officers Stephen Reed and Blake Rogers and brothers Dylan and Tyler Bevill were presented with plaques during the city council meeting on Monday.

Ballew said that at 4:30 a.m. Feb. 5 police received a call that a house exploded and people were trapped. Police and fire were dispatched to the scene.

The house was fully engulfed with flames. Dylan and Tyler Bevill, who lived across the street, went to aid their neighbors.

The Bevills helped officers Reed and Roberts by gathering picnic tables to help reach a balcony at the rear of the house.

They were able to help an elderly couple and their son escape the house without serious injury. As they were assisting there were small explosions happening at the residence.

“These two young men took their time to help officers, in regard to their safety, to remove the people from the residence. On behalf of the mayor and city council I present the valor award. These awards are not handed out every day to just anyone,” Ballew said.

In other business, the city council approved a 12-month delay on condemnation of the vacant Powell Building. Andrew Spinks is the new owner of the building.

He plans to install a new roof and restore its windows, repair its facade’s bricks and paint the exterior within six months. His plan is to divide the building into two retail spaces.

The council also approved $2,000 to $2,500 for the parks department to build restrooms at the softball field at the city’s ball park by May.

Aldermen approved a resolution for the final budget for 2016. Revenue was $5.4 million and expenses were $5.1 million.

TOP STORY >> Free tuition for Guardsmen

Arkansas National Guard soldiers and airmen who are students at state-supported colleges and universities could soon have their tuition paid for thanks to passage of state Senate Bill 278 this week.

The bill awaits approval in the House and has been sent to its Education Committee.

Senate Bill 278, which was approved by a 34-0 vote, will improve the Guard’s readiness and secure future unit assignments.

“Arkansas has lost units to other states that provide more benefits, which means that fewer units are available in Arkansas to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. The loss of Guard units has a negative impact on local economies. In 2016, an estimated $37.2 million was lost in the Arkansas economy due to the loss of Guard units,” according to the Senate Information Office, which made the announcement Friday.

In other education legislation, the state Senate and House passed HB 1426, which creates a new tuition grant program that will allow students to receive two years of tuition if they study in high-demand fields, such as computer science, technology or welding. Recipients must perform community service and commit to working in Arkansas for at least three years after receiving their degree. The grants will be available in the fall.

The Senate also passed SB136, a 55-page bill addressing criminal justice, prisons and sentencing laws. It authorizes the construction throughout the state of mental-health crisis stabilization units with 16 beds each.

The bill passed 27 to 4 and was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which gave it a favorable recommendation. It awaits a vote by the full House.

The governor’s proposed budget calls for opening three units. Criminal justice experts say there is a need for as many as eight. Police officers will get some training in how to recognize mental-health issues and how to deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis. They will be taken to one of the stabilization centers instead of to jail, where treatment for mental health problems is lacking.

The governor signed Act 281, a Senate bill that makes Arkansas the first state to designate the Capitol grounds a site for a monument honoring Gold Star families. Since World War I, gold stars have traditionally designated the loss of an immediate family member during wartime.

The monument will be designed and constructed as recommended by the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation.

Williams, who attended the bill signing, is the sole living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. His foundation works to place Gold Star monuments across the county.

Both chambers passed HB1427, which will require political candidates to file campaign finance reports electronically and require the secretary of state to maintain those records on a searchable website.

Candidates who do not have access to the technology necessary could submit paper records throughout the election cycle. The new law takes effect Oct. 1.

The Senate passed SB362, phasing out a tax-credit program for manufacturers called InvestArk.

The bill gradually repeals the sales tax they pay on replacement and repair parts. It will save manufacturers about $12.6 million a year, according to the Senate Information Office.

TOP STORY >> Doctor pleads guilty

Dr. Richard Duane Johns, 51, of Little Rock pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, a powerful and highly-addictive painkiller.

He illegally distributed at least 39,000 pills with a street value of more than $1 million.

He sold phony prescriptions for $500 each to patients he never examined and in many cases never met.

Lonoke County sheriff’s deputies began the investigation after a Cabot-area man fatally overdosed in 2014.

Johns will be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Brian S. Miller at a later date. He could get up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine and three years of probation. He remains in custody because he’s facing a long sentence.

Johns was initially charged with 18 others in a federal indictment in September 2015.

As part of the plea agreement, Johns agreed to forfeit $155,620 in proceeds from the conspiracy and a Ford F-250 truck that facilitated the conspiracy.

According to the plea agreement, he could forfeit more money that he made during the conspiracy.

Christopher R. Thyer, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, said, “Dr. Johns, while purporting to be a health-care professional, is nothing more than a common drug dealer. With opioid abuse continuing to kill at alarming rates, and an opioid epidemic sweeping across the country, the fact that doctors sworn to help people are contributing to the problem is unconscionable.”

The doctor’s drug operation was primarily conducted in Lonoke, White and Pulaski counties.

In May 2015, the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office took Johns into custody charging him with 187 counts of violating the Arkansas controlled substances act, a class C state felony.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley said, “I am proud of the team work and happy we were able to put a stop to this. The doctor was a dope dealer. It is very sad that many of his patients trusted him and needed him, but he became greedy and is responsible for many ruined lives.”

The federal indictment later charged Johns and 18 others with conspiring to distribute oxycodone.

The investigation began in November 2014 when Lonoke County Sheriff’s detectives responded to an opioid overdose death of an individual outside Cabot. The sheriff’s office asked the DEA to help determine the source of the oxycodone.

The investigation led to 187 fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone written by Johns since July 2014 in Lonoke County alone.

Thirty-eight people associated with Johns were charged in Lonoke County Circuit Court with violating the state’s controlled substances act. To date, 17 have already pleaded guilty.

“This was a tremendous effort by all our agencies working together to get a drug dealing doctor off the streets before even more people were hurt,” Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said.

In White County Circuit Court, 15 people connected to the doctor were charged with various drug crimes, and all of them have pleaded guily.

The DEA determined that Johns was part of a distribution network in which he would write oxycodone prescriptions to co-conspirators who would bring names and dates of birth to Johns with the intent of buying a prescription for oxycodone.

Prescriptions were filled at local pharmacies, and the oxycodone pills sold illegally for about $30 each.

Several area residents were arrested in the case for conspiracy to distribute schedule II controlled substances, including David Scroggins, 58, Marissa Scroggins, 31, Christopher Scroggins, 38, and Donna Cearns, 28, all of Cabot; Vanessa Byrd, 29, and Randy Byrd, 28, both of Ward; and Christine Zeman, 46, of Lonoke.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

TOP STORY >> Ward ranks in top 5 for water rates

Leader staff writer

Not only are Ward’s water rates the highest in the area, but according to voluntary reporting to the Arkansas Water Wastewater Managers Association, the rates are in the top five in the state.

Even though a number of residents are complaining about the rates, the mayor’s executive assistant, Deborah Staley, said there was little opposition voiced when the ordinance was approved in January 2016.

Checking the minutes from the meeting, no public dissention was mentioned, and the city council unanimously approved the rate increase.

Staley said the increase is needed to pay off about $4 million in water bonds and maintain a debt ratio that is within state law. In 2016, Ward raised its sewer rates twice, once in January and again in September to cover the cost of the new $6 million sewer plant. Construction on that facility is slated to start the end of April.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke has said the new sewer plant is long overdue and believes the rate increases are justified.

“While I would have preferred the fruits of ongoing minimal sewer rates, certain system improvements are needed and mandated. Those improvements are not without great costs,” Brooke said.

Yet, the city’s water/sewer department posted a net income gain (surplus) in 2016 of close to $500,000 and this year revenues are expected to out-gain expenditures by $732,500. The positive net income is shown in the water and sewer system budget for 2017 as part of Resolution R-2016-13 approved Dec. 12.

After the increases, which were effective the beginning of the year, a Ward resident who uses 5,000 gallons must pay the minimum charge of $24.53 for the first 1,000 gallon, plus $5.46 per 1,000 gallons after, for a total of $46.37.

Now, if residents have a sprinkler system or use their outdoor faucet often, they could have a second “sprinkler” meter and that charge is also a minimum of  $24.53 for the first 1,000 gallons and $7.11 per 1,000 after, meaning, if residents have both meters and use 5,000 gallons on each, they would owe $100.34.

Plus the city passes on a monthly $5 charge from the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority.
And sewer was $8 for up to 1,000 gallons and then $4.50 per 1,000 gallons up to 4,000 gallons after Amended Ordinance WWS-7-91-E was approved in January.

In September, based on Ordinance O-2016-06, the rate jumped to $14.25 for any portion of the first 1,000 gallons and then $5.25  per 1,000 until the 3,000 gallon mark and $5.75 for the next 1,000 and $6.50 for the next.

All these hikes are to help the city cover payments on bond issues for the new $6 million sewer treatment. Construction starts later this spring.

Getting back to water rates:

Lonoke charges a minimum of $4 for the first 1,000 gallons of water used and then $3.25 per each additional 1,000 gallons. So a Lonoke resident, using 5,000 gallons, would spend $17 total.

In Jacksonville, the minimum charge is $9.32, which covers the first 2,000 gallons. Each additional 1,000 gallons, up to 20,000 gallons, is $6.31.  So a resident using 5,000 gallons would be charged $28.25.

In Sherwood, which recently raised its rates, the minimum charge is based on cubic feet used, with a minimum charge of $15 for 400 cubic feet and $3.75 per 100 cubic feet of water used above that.

A 1,000 gallons equals about 134 cubic feet, so a resident using 5,000 gallons in Sherwood would be using 670 cubic feet and be charged about $25.

Cabot, which has not increased it rates in over a decade, charges a $13.50 minimum, plus $3.20 per 1,000 gallons, up to 5,000 gallon and then $4.20 per 1,000. A resident in Cabot, using 5,000 gallons, would be charged the $13.50, plus $16.25 for the 5,000 gallons for total of $19.25.

In Austin, the minimum bill is $17.75, which includes the first 1,000 gallons, and then it’s $6.75 per 1,000 gallons up to 5,000 gallons and then it drops to $5.50 per 1,000 gallons. So a 5,000-gallon bill would run $44.50, plus a $3 charge from Lonoke-White.

The city is actually charged $5 a meter, but has chosen to only pass on a portion of that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabbits beat CAC in East regional

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke ladies beat Central Arkansas Christian 40-28 Saturday to take a three seed into the Class 4A state tournament that begins Wednesday in Nashville. After beating Highland in the opening round, the Lady Jackrabbits lost a late lead and the game to Pocahontas in the semifinals, then beat the Lady Mustangs for the first time in four tries this season.

Pocahontas (29-3) went on to beat eStem Charter 53-51 in overtime to earn the 4A-East No. 1 seed.

CAC’s sophomore sensation Christyn Williams suffered an injury just before halftime of the Mustangs’ loss to eStem, and also did not play against Lonoke.

Lonoke coach Heath Swiney was disappointed his team lost a two-point lead with two minutes to go against Pocahontas, but is mostly pleased with how his team played in regionals.

“I thought we were a little tight against Highland,” said Swiney. “Against Pocahontas, we had the game won. All we had to do was hang onto the ball and make free throws, but we lost it. We missed a lot of layups we normally don’t miss. They had two six-footers in there and that makes a difference, though. After they scored to go ahead, it was a matter of we had to foul. They made free throws and then we couldn’t hit anything to stay in it.”

Pocahontas won by a final score of 47-40.

Williams is a national recruit, even drawing offers from college dynasty UCONN.

“That’s a different team without Christyn Williams,” Swiney said. “Any team would be. They still have some good players and it was not an easy game.”

Lonoke will open the tournament at 1 p.m. Wednesday against Pottsville, a team that puts heavy and constant pressure on the ball. The Lady Apaches (18-11) like to force the tempo and have played in several high-scoring games. Swiney does not want his team to fall into that.

“They’re long and athletic and they press any way they can, really,” Swiney said. “I’ve seen them put three on the ball in the back court. They’re just going to press the dog mess out of you. They’ve been in some high, high scoring games and we’re going to try to avoid that. That would not bode well for us. They beat Heber Springs by 40, so you know they’re hard to stop when they get rolling. If you can handle their press, you’re going to shoot a lot of layups. If you don’t, they’re going to get you.”

A win on Wednesday means a 1 p.m. Thursday date with top-seeded Star City (29-2) whose only two losses were to 7A playoff teams Conway and Cabot in mid-November.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot enters playoffs on first losing streak

Leader sports editor

Wednesday marks the day the Cabot Panthers begin defense of their Class 7A state championship. The Panthers open this year’s tournament in Van Buren as the No. 4 seed from the 7A-Central. They will take on 7A-West five seed Rogers Heritage in the first round, but they come into the tournament with back-to-back losses, and having lost three of their last four games.

That’s not, however, something Cabot coach Jerry Bridges says is going to hinder his squad as they enter postseason play.

“We’ve had a tough ride the last two weeks, but we’ve played some tough teams,” said Bridges. “You never want to lose or lose two in a row, and this is our first streak this season. But we haven’t played any slouch teams either. This 7A Central is a tough league to be in.”

Cabot lost at Fort Smith Northside last Tuesday in a game starting point guard BobbyJoe Duncan did not play. He sat out that game with a wrist fracture. He played against North Little Rock, but was not 100 percent, and was taken out of that 64-51 loss with six minutes remaining.

“There’s pain involved with that wrist,” Bridges said of Duncan. “He’s not 100 percent and he’s not going to be 100 percent. But he’s our little General out there and he takes pride in that roll. Him at about 85 percent is pretty good for us. He’s tough, man. He’s just tough.”

In Friday’s regular-season finale, the Panthers trailed at halftime by more than it has anyone all season, 37-24, to North Little Rock. They rallied in the second half and got the margin to as little as seven, but couldn’t get any closer.

With Cabot unable to break the eight-point barrier in the fourth quarter, Bridges took Duncan out as a precaution.

“We weren’t cutting it (the lead) any further and I just made that decision,” Bridges said. “You got to give North Little Rock credit. They’re better than us right now, but I think we’ve shown the ability to play with the best teams in 7A, and beat the best teams in 7A. We just have to be playing well at the right time, and the time is here.”

Rogers Heritage brings a 15-13 overall mark into the Wednesday’s 8:30 tip-off. The War Eagles finished 7-7 in the 7A-West and have also lost their last two games, to 7A-West co-champions Bentonville and Springdale Har-Ber.

“They have a big boy inside that’s a very strong player,” Bridges said of Heritage’s Seth Stanley. “The point guard (Ty Olsen) is a good player, coach’s son. There are good shooters around him. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you they’re athletic like the teams we’ve played in this conference. They’re not that. But they execute and make you work. They’re good at what they do and we need to come out and get control of this game early. It’s state tournament. You can’t take anybody for granted.”

Getting early control is not just important for the formula to beat Heritage. Bridges thinks it could be key in later rounds as well.

“We really need to keep fresh legged,” Bridges said. “Because in a perfect world we have three games to play. It’s a one-game season right now, and I’m just glad we don’t have to play anybody in the 7A-Central.”

A win on Wednesday would set up a rematch of last year’s state championship game. Bentonville lost the tiebreaker with Har-Ber and is the No. 2 seed from the 7A-West. That quarterfinal game is set to tip of at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.


The Lady Panthers earned a five seed and their first-round game is against West four seed Springdale (14-14). The two teams have met once earlier this season at SHS. Cabot beat the Lady Bulldogs 51-48 on Dec. 1.

The winner of that game plays 7A-Central champion North Little Rock at 4 p.m. Thursday. The Charging Lady Wildcats beat Cabot 54-39 last Friday in the regular-season finale.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans win, but earn toughest state draw

Leader sports editor

PINE BLUFF – The Jacksonville Titans overcame two ludicrous technical fouls, their second-leading scorer knocked out of the game in the first 20 seconds and 10 points wiped off the scoreboard for no good reason, yet still came away with a 79-69 victory over the Pine Bluff Zebras on Saturday in the 6A-East District tournament.

And what did overcoming all that adversity do for the Titans? It earned a much tougher draw in the Class 6A state tournament than Pine Bluff.

In fact, Jacksonville probably got the toughest draw in the tournament. For beating the Zebras for the third time this year, Jacksonville has to play tournament host Lake Hamilton in the opening round, and a win in that game means a second-round matchup with the undefeated and nationally ranked Jonesboro Golden Hurricanes.

“It all goes through Jonesboro anyway,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner before finding out if his team was going to play Lake Hamilton or Benton. “If you’re going to win 6A this year, you’re probably going to have to beat Jonesboro to do it. So I don’t care where we end up.”

Benton beat Lake Hamilton 55-47 in overtime Saturday night in Benton. So Pine Bluff earns the six seed from the 6A-East and plays fifth-seeded Benton, while Jacksonville has to play the state tournament host team on its home floor.

As for Friday’s game, things went south early for Jacksonville when DaJuan Ridgeway’s mouth got busted open on the game’s opening possession. Ridgeway stole the ball, and took a forearm to the mouth just as he passed to Harderrious Martin for a wide-open, transition layup.

But the basket didn’t count. The officials blew the whistle just as Martin scored, but only called a halt to the action, and did not call a foul for the violent blow. Those were the first two JHS points wiped off the board.

Shortly thereafter, Titan point guard Tyree Appleby had a 3-pointer waived off for traveling. Appleby caught a pass a few inches in front of the 3-point line, and stepped backwards before launching the shot.

Joyner protested the call as the ball came back towards his end of the floor, and the head official stopped the action. He instructed Joyner that he would only listen and talk to the head coach. When Joyner told him he was the head coach, he was called for a technical foul.

Pine Bluff made 1 of 2 free throws, then made a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to take a 13-4 lead. But the controversy ignited the Titans, and they answered with a 12-0 run to take a 16-13 lead with just seconds left in the first quarter.

Pine Bluff scored at the buzzer to cut it to one, and every basket for the first half of the second period resulted in a lead change.

The score was tied 27-27 when Caleb Kendrick had one of his 3-pointers waived off for traveling. Kendrick caught the pass in the air and came down one foot at a time before launching his shot. That was also called traveling, bringing the total points waived off by officials to eight.

Jacksonville (17-14) eventually took a 32-21 lead into intermission.

The Titans got up 43-36 early in the third, but Pine Bluff hit back-to-back 3-pointers to shave that back to one in just 25 seconds. Appleby was then clotheslined on a transition layup attempt with no call. He was then hit with a technical for complaining about the no-call.

Jacksonville got the lead back up to 53-48, but Parker made a 30-footer at the buzzer to make it a two-point game going into the final period. The fourth quarter began with Jacksonville’s Mark Smith called for a charge on a play with no defender in front of him and no contact on his layup.

Pine Bluff was still within three points with 1:49 remaining, but Jacksonville closed the game with a 9-2 run to seal the victory.

Parker led Pine Bluff (19-8) with 18 points. DeQuan Morris added 14 and Kendrick Thorn added 13 for the Zebras.

Appleby led all scorers with 31 while Martin added 12 and White 10. But it was three other guards that Joyner singled out for praise.

“Mark Smith, Caleb Kendrick and Braylon Hawkins stepped up when Ridgeway went down,” Joyner said. “This team still has a chance to come together, and we need guys like that to play a role. They did that today and we didn’t lose a lot having Ridgeway on the bench.”

SPORTS STORY >> Wolves win first regional

Leader sports editor

PANGBURN – In the school’s first-ever season as an officially recognized member of the Arkansas High School Activities Association, the Jacksonville Lighthouse boys’ basketball team will enter the Class 2A state tournament as a one seed after winning the 2A-West/Central Regional championship Saturday.

The Wolves were hoping for a rematch of their disappointing loss to White County Central a week earlier in the district finals, but instead got England for the fourth time this year.

Lighthouse had won the previous three meetings, but Lions led almost the entire game before two steals in the last 15 seconds turned a 48-48 tie into a 52-48 victory for the Wolves.

The two senior captains, Cameron Shaffer and Zach Bobo, came through with those steals. Shaffer picked England guard Darius Clarkson clean on England’s end of the court, and dished to freshman Gerald Doakes, who was fouled.

Doakes had not shot free throws well throughout the game, but calmly stepped to the line and sank both shots for a 50-48 Lighthouse lead.

England (22-7) called timeout to set up a press break, but it was to no avail. After getting trapped near the end line right after the inboundspass, Bobo stepped in front of a pass to the middle of the court, and slammed home the final two points of the game and the regional championship as time expired.

“It was tough because we weren’t making shots,” said Lighthouse coach Kelvin Parker. “Our defense kept us in the game and our seniors led the way.”

The Wolves were hot in the tournament’s first two rounds, where they won high-scoring games by large margins. They beat Eureka Springs 72-38 in the first round, then handled West regional champion Lavaca 80-59 in the semifinals.

But Saturday’s championship saw the shooting grow cold, very cold. Lighthouse went 0 for 12 from 3-point range in the first half, and shot four air balls in the first five minutes of the game. They also missed several other short-range shots and layups, and it all resulted in a 27-24 deficit at intermission.

Things didn’t get much better in the third quarter.

The Wolves (27-6) finally made a 3-pointer in the third, but that and a layup by Shaffer were the only two baskets they made that period.

But the defense was still strong, and the deficit was only 35-31 going into the final period.

Shaffer tied the game with 5:22 to play with by making both ends of a 1-and-1 trip to the free-throw line. Lighthouse then sent England center Brandon Thompson to the line. He missed the front end and Lighthouse got the rebound for its first possession of the game with a chance for the lead. The Wolves caught a break when a loose ball went out of bounds off England, and then executed the inbounds play perfectly. Bobo got a wide-open layup and Lighthouse led for the first time in the game with 4:52 remaining.

England trailed 48-45 with 1:22 to play when point guard Brayden Brazeal went to the line. Before his first free throw, the referees made Parker sub for freshman Devontae Davis, who had untucked his jersey. Brazeal made the first foul shot and missed the second, but England got the rebound and putback to tie the game.

Lighthouse took a quick shot and missed, and England got the ball with a chance to take the lead. Doakes fouled Brazeal and risked a technical with some words after the play.

Brazeal missed both free throws, but Doakes then tried to go one on four, took a wild shot that missed badly and Thompson got the rebound for the Lions.

That’s when the two senior captains made their defensive plays that preserved the win for the Wolves.

Shaffer said the talented freshman has been a huge lift to the team that lost a lot of talent from last year, but that the seniors have to step up and lead to bring home a state championship.

“They voted us captains so they look to us to be the leaders,” said Shaffer. “But the credit don’t go to me or the seniors or the freshman. All the credit goes to God.”

The win earned the Wolves a first-round bye in the state tournament that begins Wednesday in Quitman. They will play at 8:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s game between East Poinsett County and Foreman.

England plays its first-round game against Marked Tree at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. A win in that game means a 5:30 p.m. matchup with Bearden on Thursday.

EDITORIAL >> Big windfall for military?

Little Rock Air Force Base received its last C-130J Super Hercules on Monday when Maj. Gen. James B. Hecker, 19th Air Force commander, flew the newest version of the durable cargo plane to the air base and handed it over to the 314th Airlift Wing’s 62nd Airlift Squadron.

That brings the number of C-130Js on base to 41, with 13 assigned to the 314th AW and 28 C-130Js assigned to the 19th Airlift Wing.

There are also 19 older C-130Hs on base assigned to the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing and the Reserves’ 913th Airlift.

The fleet of upgraded cargo planes — worth $3.1 billion — are built by Lockheed Martin for about $70 million each. Lockheed started making them in the 1990s, when the Air Force approved production of the ultramodern planes during an announcement by Clinton administration officials at Little Rock Air Force Base. We were present at the creation.

The C-130s are the longest continuously produced military aircraft in history. They have been flying all over the world since 1954.

Although no additional C-130s are in the pipeline for our air base, that could change with Monday’s announcement that the Trump administration is seeking a $54 billion increase in defense spending, or about a 10 percent boost. Production of the C-130Js has slowed — there are about 250 in the Air Force — but that number could pick up if more funds become available in the new defense budget following years of sequestration set by Congress.

The State Department, foreign aid and the Environmental Protection Agency could lose billions in funding. Congress will probably restore some of those cuts and demand cuts elsewhere, possibly Medicare and Medicaid, which will hurt many Arkansans. Expect a big fight ahead.

Any boost in defense spending should go toward pay raises for our enlisted men and women for all the hard work they do. Increasing the size of the Air Force, which is the smallest it’s been since its founding 70 years ago, would ease the burden on service members who have been deploying around the world since 9/11.

TOP STORY >> Band leader retiring

Leader staff writer

Cabot High School band director Joe Trusty is retiring at the end of the school year after 34 years with the Cabot School District.

The school board approved hiring assistant band director Randy Hart to the position last week. Hart, a 2002 Cabot High School graduate, is in his fourth year as assistant band director at the school.

Trusty, a Paris High School graduate (Logan County) earned a bachelor’s in music education from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and a master’s from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

He taught one year at Prairie Grove Junior High (Washington County) before moving to Cabot in 1983 to direct the junior high band. He became the high school band director in 1986.

“My very first day teaching in Cabot, I had 116 eighth- and ninth-graders in a room designed to hold 65. If someone came in late and sat in the front row, you had to fold up chairs and stand up to let them in,” Trusty recalled.

During his tenure at the high school he has worked in three band rooms.

Trusty said he was at the right place at the right time in his career. Things kept getting better at Cabot, and he never had a reason to go anywhere else. He said Cabot has great administrative and community support.

He spoke about how Cabot has grown over the years since he first started.

“There were 86 members in the high school band. We easily fit in two buses. It has grown to 207 students in high school band this year. We have to take five to six buses, a tractor trailer and another trailer to take all our stuff. The logistics of moving that many people is insane,” Trusty said.

“We’ve also grown in quality and that is exciting to me. It has led to more very serious musicians; some are more focused on their musical skills. We have four concert bands. Every year they try to outdo and better themselves,” Trusty said.

He said students are more driven now. They are focused on playing great quality music.

The musical demands are more intense, he said. Band di-rectors now have to teach dance moves to enhance the musical story that is being presented. The moves have to accompany the moods the band is trying to present musically.

Trusty said bands perform more often than the 1980s.

“When I first started we’d go to two or three marching contests a year. This past year we went to seven. The difference is we invest so much time and money now in the product that you want to get your money’s worth. The more you perform something the better it gets,” he said.

Trusty said over the years the music has not changed, but the technology has evolved. There is more use of computer generated sound effects. The quality of instruments has gotten better and helps students perform.

Some of his students pursue musical careers. He said one played the drums in the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Others play in military bands across the world. A few make a living composing music.

Trusty was named the Arkansas Band Master of the Year in 2010 and Music Educator of the Year for Arkansas in 2011.

He was named to the Instrumentalist 50 Directors Who Make a Difference in 2014.

He will be inducted into the John Philip Sousa Foundation’s Legion of Honor in December in Chicago. The foundation inducts only eight high school band directors a year nationally. Trusty is only the fifth Arkansan to receive the honor.

Retirement will give Trusty time to pursue several projects.

“I’m really excited about learning how to weld. It’s something I always wanted to know how to do,” he said.

Trusty said he’ll have plenty of opportunities to stay in the band business. He had calls from directors at other schools wanting advice on how to improve or judge contests.

He plays the trumpet and performs with the Greater Little Rock Area Metropolitan All-Stars, a jazz band, and at Mount Carmel Baptist Church.

“I enjoy playing the trumpet. That’s why I got into this business,” Trusty said.

“The thing I know I will miss the most is working with kids. They keep you young and on your toes. Kids have not changed much over the years,” Trusty said.

Trusty met his wife, Jackie, in Cabot. They have been married 33 years. She works as a physical therapist in Jacksonville.

Superintendent Tony Thur-man said, “Trying to frame the impact that Joe Trusty has made in our district over his 30-plus year career is impossible. Anyone that has worked with Mr. Trusty knows what kind of person he is, what he stands for, and how much he loves kids and this profession.”

“Mr. Trusty is known across our state and has served as a mentor to so many for so long. We wish him well in retirement, but he will be missed not only as a great co-worker, but as a true friend,” Thurman said.

The Cabot High School Band is inviting the band family and the community to celebrate Joe Trusty on his retirement with a reception in his honor at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 14 in the Cabot High School cafeteria.

TOP STORY >> Executions set for local killers

Leader executive editor

Two men who killed two women in Jacksonville will be executed by lethal shots in April.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has scheduled execution dates for Marcell Wayne Williams, convicted in the 1994 killing of Stacy Errickson, and also for Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to die for the 1993 beating and strangling death of Debra Reese in the Sunnyside addition, where he had attacked several other women.

Lee, 51, is set to be executed April 20. Williams, 46, will be executed April 24.

Both men are on death row at the Varner Supermaximum Prison in Grady (Lincoln County).

Reese, 26, was struck 36 times with a tire tool her husband gave her for protection while he was driving a truck out of town. Lee, who had just been paroled after serving time for burglary, was arrested an hour after the murder when witnesses reported seeing him walking on the street.

A 1994 trial resulted in a mistrial when it was discovered a relative of Lee’s was on the jury. In 1995, the jury deliberated two hours before agreeing to the death sentence.

Lee, who went on a crime spree in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was also convicted of raping two Jacksonville women and was tried for the murder of Christine Lewis, the daughter of the late Alderman Robert Lewis. Lee was also suspected of killing a Jacksonville prostitute and dumping her body in a shed near the railroad tracks.

Lewis, 22, was abducted from her Sunnyside home in November 1989 as her 3-year-old child watched. She was raped and strangled and her body dumped in the closet of an abandoned home.

The jury could not agree on a verdict in that trial, but prosecutors decided not to retry him when he received the death sentence in the Reese case and was convicted for raping two women. DNA evidence tied Lee to the murders and rapes.

Williams was found guilty in the capital murder, kidnapping, rape and aggravated robbery of Stacey Errickson, 22, who was married to an airman at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Williams was tried in Pulaski County Circuit Court, and appealed the convictions to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the jury’s death sentence in 1999.
According to that ruling, evidence showed Errickson died from strangulation. Her neck and face were deeply bruised, and her hands were tied behind her back.

According to Supreme Court documents, the victim’s nightmare began when she stopped at the Jacksonville Shellstop for gas around 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 20, 1994.

Williams approached Errickson’s vehicle, pulled a gun and had her move from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s side.

He drove the vehicle away from the gas station, taking the victim to several ATMs, where she withdrew $360 in 18 transactions that were recorded on security cameras.

The last transaction was made at 7:37 p.m.
Errickson didn’t come into work that day or pick her child up from the babysitter.

Williams was arrested for a warrant a few days later on Nov. 29.

He was questioned because physical evidence linked him to two other assaults involving women.

After a 13-hour interrogation during which Williams took police to a house in Little Rock, where he told officers he thought Errickson might be, Williams admitted to abducting and robbing her.
He also said she was alive to the best of his knowledge.

Williams denied raping the victim and confided that accomplices had physically harmed her. Evidence showed Errickson was assaulted at a storage facility.

Her body was found in a shallow grave on Dec. 5 in North Little Rock.

According to court documents, two witnesses testified that they saw Williams at the gas station before Errickson was kidnapped. They said he followed them in a car and attempted to stop them, until they drove onto the air base.

Williams’ trial was held on Jan. 6, 1997. The jury learned then that he had four prior felony convictions.

The aggravating circumstances prosecutors presented and the Supreme Court upheld were that Williams had committed another felony, an element of which was use or threat of violence to another person; the murder was committed to avoid or prevent his arrest; the murder was committed for monetary gain; and the murder was committed in an especially cruel or depraved manner.

(Former Leader staff writer Sarah Campbell contributed to this report.)

TOP STORY >> Sherwood sells bonds for parks

Leader staff writer

Stephens, Inc. sold $5.5 million in bonds for Sherwood park improvements in about 90 minutes.

“They were well received,” Leigh Ann Biernatt with Stephens told the city council at its meeting Monday night. “When you have $2.75 available to cover every $1 you are borrowing, it makes it an easy sale.”

With the investment firm’s fees and other costs taken out, the city has about $5.3 million for at least three major projects that residents voted for back in November.

Residents voted not for a new tax but to redirect the 2 percent motel and prepared foods tax — which by ordinance is split between the parks and recreation department and the city’s advertising and promotion commission —to make the annual payments on the bonds.

The payments will run about $332,000.

The bonds were sold between 9 and 10:30 a.m. Monday in five separate units with interest rates ranging from 2.125 to 4 percent.

The funds will be used to construct a splash pad, new tennis court and soccer fields.

Alderman Mary Jo Heye asked about the other nine projects that were on the list, especially extending a wall at the recreation center to help with moisture issues from the pool.

Parks director Sonny Jansen said the voters approved the bond issue based on the top three projects, but he expected to have enough money left from the bond issue.

Residents approved redirecting the tax and selling bonds in the November general election by almost a 2 to 1 margin (9,313 votes for it and 4,752 votes against).

“We will spend wisely,” he told Heye and the rest of the council. “Once we have completed the top three projects, we will prioritize the other desired projects and see what we can do.”

There are also nine other parks improvement projects.

Jannsen said the parks department started with a list of about 20 projects, all stemming from a 2009 parks study.

The splash pad will include various water features that turn on and off. “There’s no constant flow and the water doesn’t get more than an inch or so deep at the most,” Jannsen said. “If someone falls, they might skin a knee but won’t drown.”

No locations have been locked in yet for the splash pad, tennis courts or soccer fields.

In other council business:

Aldermen approved a revamped ordinance for animal control, the first comprehensive update in 65 years, putting more teeth into the penalties and clarifying types and number of animals.

In related news, the animal shelter is sponsoring its spring event March 20-25 where all adoptions will be half-price. It will also sponsor its annual pet fair and fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 22 at Sherwood Forest.

The city council agreed to rezone property on Hunters Cove from R-1 (single-home residential) to C-4 (commercial with outside storage and display).

Aldermen also approved a change in the recently passed water and wastewater rates.

“We had wrong information listed for our out-of-city customers. Luckily, at this point we have no customers in that category, so no one was affected,” said city engineer Ellen Norvell.