Friday, July 14, 2017

TOP STORY >> Ward breaks ground on sewer

By JEFFREY SMITH Leader staff writer

Ward broke ground Friday for a new $5.8 million Aero-Mod wastewater treatment facility. The plant is off Hwy. 367 behind the animal shelter and next to the old sewer treatment facility.

Construction will begin Monday. The new wastewater plant will be built by Haren Construction of Tennessee and will be operating by August 2018. It can process 1.45 million gallons-per-day and last 40 years before expansion.

It replaces the 24-year-old sewer plant built in 1993 to handle 300,000 gallons-per-day and is now overcapacity processing 600,000 gallons-per-day. The new state-of-the-art plant will use ultraviolet light instead of chlorine for disinfection. “This facility can be expanded and made more energy efficient,” City Engineer Tim Lemons said.

Ward is under litigation with a consent order in 2015 from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to get into compliance on wastewater and the city was required to build a new plant.

The new treatment plant is being funded with two 40-year United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans. One is for 2.37-percent and a second for $1 million at 3.37-percent interest rates.

TOP STORY >> Drugs from Beebe store evidence in federal bust

By RICK KRON Leader staff writer

Drugs taken in a Beebe pharmacy break-in more than a year ago are evidence in one of the largest ever health-care fraud enforcement actions taken by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, involving 412 charged defendants across 41 federal districts, including Arkansas.

Details of the arrests and charges were released Thursday.

Among the defendants are 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, all alleged to have participated in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $1.3 billion in false billings.

In Arkansas, Patrick C. Harris, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District unsealed three indictments charging 24 defendants in Arkansas schemes, including the Beebe break in, intended to divert pharmaceutical pills to the streets.

In the first Arkansas case, charges stem from an early-morning burglary on Feb. 25, 2016, of the Health-Way pharmacy in Beebe.

On Dec. 7, 2016, the four suspects in the burglary, Albert Ray Ferguson, Jr., Thristian Davante Duplechin, Corry Wayne Cornett, and Cory Jermaine Lewis, all from Houston, Texas, were charged with conspiracy to break in a business premises.

The gangs stole more than 120,000 Schedule II pills during these burglaries, with a street value of more than $1 million.

In the second Arkansas case a federal Grand Jury charged Erik Edson Turner, of Flippin, and two others with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute Schedule II controlled substances without an effective prescription.

Over the course of two years, Turner and individuals working on his behalf obtained thousands of oxycodone pills with a street value in excess of $150,000.

In the third state case, investigators uncovered a sophisticated prescription-forgery operation headed by Michael McClellan, 32, of North Little Rock.

In this scheme, McClellan created fraudulent prescriptions using computer templates that either McClellan or other individuals then filled at local pharmacies.

TOP STORY >> Few races in districts challenged

Leader senior staff writer

LaConda Watson and Jim Moore drew the short straws when they were elected in September 2015 to the first-ever Jacksonville North Pulaski School Board. Because the district was new, all seven members were elected to their first term, and in order to stagger the four-year terms, Watson and Moore were the two who drew initial two-year terms. Two others drew three-year terms and three got the full four-year terms.

Watson, executive director of the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club, and Moore, retired Air Force and chairman of the Jacksonville Planning Commission, are running unopposed. She also served on the appointed JNPSD school board that preceded the first elected board.

The filing period closed at noon Tuesday.

Pulaski County Special School District elected its first board members, having just emerged from fiscal distress and state control, and the district won’t elect any new board members until September 2018, according to Linda Remele, school board president.


The only contested race in Lonoke County is for the Cabot Position 3 school board seat, where incumbent Mark D. Russell is being challenged by Marvin Jones, according to M.J. Maneth in the Lonoke County Clerk’s Office.

Incumbent Ricky Hill did not file for reelection for Position 7, clearing the way for Joe Trusty, who did file.

For the Lonoke School board, Zone 1, Position 3, incumbent Tony Kellybrew did not file. Incumbent Angela Sumner is running unopposed for the Zone 3, Position 2 seat she currently holds, Maneth said.

In England, incumbent Scott Cheek is running unopposed for the Zone 3 seat. Incumbent Misty Westbrook did not file for her Zone 7 seat.

In Carlisle, incumbent Adam Ellis is running unopposed for the Zone 5 seat he currently holds.


The Beebe School Board election has two candidates seeking the Position 1 seat.

David Doyle and Jason Smith are running for the position held by Brenda McKown, who is not seeking re-election. McKown has 22 years with the Beebe and McRae school boards. She was president of the McRae School Board during annexation in 2005 and is a past president of the Arkansas School Board Association.


In cases where neither the incumbent nor anyone else filed to run, the incumbent will be invited to remain on the board and if they decline, the other board members will appoint a replacement, Maneth said.

School board elections will be held Tuesday, Sept. 19, with early voting Sept. 12-18.

Deadline to register to vote in the school board election this year is Monday, Aug. 21, according to information provided by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Absentee ballot applications for this election must be available from county clerks by July 21 and the ballots must be delivered to absentee voters by August 4.

Absentee ballots must be delivered to the county clerk by Sept. 18.

SPORTS STORY >> K-Rich represents at SEC media days

FAYETTEVILLE – Two Augusts ago Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema surprised then third-year sophomore Razorbacks walk-on Kevin Richardson with a scholarship.

Last April Bielema surprised the defensive back/special teamer from Jacksonville, announcing that Richardson, the fourth-year injured the final 12 games of the 7-6 Razorbacks’ 13-game season, had been team elected a defensve co-captain along with senior safety Santos Ramirez for 2017.

“It was surprising all around,” Richardson recalled Monday in Hoover “But overall really surprising that I was voted captain, especially knowing where I came from.”

Then, despite Richardson playing just part of the season-opener and nothing else for 2016 because he tore pectoral muscles, Richardson was told by Bielema that he had been tabbed as the Razorbacks defensive representative accompanying the senior offensive captains, quarterback Austin Allen and center Frank Ragnow, representing Arkansas at the Razorbacks Monday session at SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

Ragnow already is renowned to be an All-American among the favorites to win the Rimington Trophy awarded annually to the nation’s best football center.

Allen led the 2016 SEC in passing while starting every game.

Richardson started the 2016 season-opener and made seven tackles, but hasn’t played since because of the injury.

So there Richardson was in Hoover, a 2016 scratched by injury absentee, accompanying two shining stars to the biggest conference’s media days.

“It’s exciting,” Richardson said Monday in Hoover. “It’s a dream come true for any guy from the state of Arkansas, just being able to come from being a walk on, to a starter to being voted team captain and now to be at SEC Media Days - it’s big. It’s huge to be able to come and do that here!”

Richardson earned it, Bielema said Monday in Hoover. He has been earning it since he was a redshirted scout-teamer while walking on in 2013 and lettering as a walk-on, playing every game on special teams and making eight tackles to proving more than his scholarship’s worth in 2015, filling in at both corners and both safeties and nickel back before starting the season’s last five games. He amassed 44 tackles, three pass breakups and an interception. He nabbed the interception and made 10 tackles against the Dak Prescott quarterbacked Mississippi State Bulldogs.

And he came back strong last spring on the field and, as a sociology major, is always strong tending to business off the field.

“Kevin Richardson just really embodies everything I believe in,” Bielema said. “He was a little undersized (5-10, 160 back then now up to 185), under-recruited, underdeveloped coming out of high school and presented an opportunity for him to walk on. Really in the first two weeks I knew we had something. Probably one of the most intelligent football IQ players I’ve ever been around. Plays all five DB positions and is a great leader off the field.”

Even before game-day, coaching him for that just part of one game, then brand new defensive coach Paul Rhoads had said that Richardson knows as much or more defense than the coaches themselves.

Last spring Rhoads, elevated to defensive coordinator, said Richardson was sorely missed in last year’s struggling defensive lineup and heartily welcomed back for his physical skills, mental acumen and leadership at combining both.

Richardson is elated that while promoted to coordinator, Rhoads remains the secondary’s position coach.

“Coach Rhoads is one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever had,” Richardson said. “He loves teaching. He loves coaching. And he’s really helped me grow as a player this year. I got to understand his mindset by sitting in meetings with him and watching film with him. I feel like I’m ready to take the next step as a player without even playing this year.”

The secondary’s pass defense, often strafed in 2015, seemed Arkansas’ defensive strength of spring drills.

But the 2016 Razorbacks’ general inability to stop the run dragged the defense back front to back.

“We keep talking about setting the bar higher,” Richardson said. “We set the bar last year and it wasn’t exactly where we wanted to be. So we’ve set the bar higher for ourselves this year.”

They are clearing the bar so far in their summer workouts, Richardson said, heading into the official July 27 start of preseason practice.

“This is the first year we have had everyone on time to workouts, practice, meetings,” Richardson said. “We hold each other accountable and to higher standards. We expect them to keep raising the bar in order to reach the level, we want our program to be at.”

Former walk-on Richardson always exceeded the bar set before him. That’s why the team elected him a captain and Bielema picked him for Hoover.

“I never imagined doing any of this,” Richardson said. “I just hoped I could play one day. But now being a starting player with a scholarship, voted captain, and being at media days is something I could never have dreamt of doing. I’m living a dream right now.”

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney loses in final four of Zone 3

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet Junior American Legion team saw its season come to an end Tuesday in the semifinals of the Zone 3 tournament in Cabot. Jacksonville fell 13-4 to Pine Bluff at the Cabot Sports Complex.

The game was close for three innings. Pine Bluff scored one run in the first, two in the second and one in the third for a 4-0 lead. Jacksonville stayed within striking distance and got a run in the top of the fourth, but the bottom began to fall out after that.

In the top of the fourth, Ryan Ready got a leadoff base hit and reached third on an error at third base. Justin Dennis this got an RBI base hit to right field to drive in the Chevy Boys’ first run.

In the bottom of the fourth, a single, a walk and a hit batter started a five-run rally that left the Relyance Bank squad up by eight runs. After two quick outs, two more walks and another base hit brought in the final runs of the frame.

Jacksonville tried to keep it close with three runs in the top of the fifth. Back at the top of the order, Clay Burrows drew a leadoff walk and Bryce Overman singled to left field.

After a strikeout, Axton Ramick singled to drive in Burrows. Ready then hit a hard grounder to shortstop, where the ball was flubbed, allowing the final two runs to score.

Pine Bluff went down in order for the first time in the fifth inning, giving itself a chance to make a game of it. But two strikeouts and an infield pop-up was all the team could muster.

Having played three, seven-inning games in three days, Jacksonville was running low on pitching, and struggled to get people out in the sixth. Pine Bluff got four more runs on five base hits and a walk to set the final margin. Jacksonville went three up, three down in the top of the seventh to end the game.

Overman, Ramick, Ready and Dennis provided all four Jacksonville base hits.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot seniors top Jacksonville

Leader sports editor

Cabot took advantage of a brief moment of pitching struggles from Jacksonville’s Brandon Hawkins, and got an excellent performance on the mound from Michael Shepherd to beat the Gwatney Chevrolet Senior American Legion team 3-2 Wednesday at Dupree Park.

Every run for both teams was scored in the first inning. Hawkins, who walked no one in his last outing, and has walked fewer than 10 all season, walked four in the first inning. He also gave up a leadoff single to Blake McCutchen and an RBI double to Dillon Thomas as his team fell into a 3-0 hole.

In the bottom of the first inning, Shepherd wasn’t struggling to find the strike zone, but he did struggle momentarily to keep the ball down. The result was three-straight base hits for Jacksonville. Kameron Whitmore continued his impressive season, getting a base hit to start the game for the 11th time in 17 games. Trent Toney followed with another single before Caden Sample doubled to right field to score Whitmore.

Brandon Hickingbotham made the first out with a fly ball to the wall in left field, which also scored Toney from third.

With two outs, Caleb Smith hit a hard line drive to right field, but Logan Edmondson made a running catch just before the ball landed in fair territory down the line. It proved to be a crucial play, because it would have scored the tying run.

“The defense was great tonight,” said Cabot coach Casey Vaughan. “No errors. That was big because they put it in play more than we did. Michael Shepherd was outstanding. The first three guys hit him, but he only gave up three more the rest of the game. He’s so composed, doesn’t get rattled. He wanted to go back out there in the last inning, and he had plenty left. But we just thought bringing (Bret) Brockinton in to throw his heat was the thing to do.”

Still clinging to the 3-2 lead, Brockinton pitched the seventh inning for Cabot (10-8). He got two quick groundouts to third base before walking Jayden Loving. He then struck out Jonathan Smith, a pitch after a line drive landed just foul down the right-field line.

For Jacksonville, Hawkins struck out the final two batters of the first inning, and dominated the rest of the way.

He got into a brief jam in the fifth inning when Brian Tillery hit a line-drive double to the wall in centerfield to start the inning. Thomas then singled to third base, but Tillery couldn’t advance, leaving runners at first and second with no outs.

Edmondson then hit a line drive right to Sample in right field, and Tillery, thinking it was a base hit, got doubled up at second base on the 9-4 double play. After walking Brody Schluter, Hawkins got Michael Crumbly to fly out to left field to escape the early trouble.

Jacksonville got leadoff base hits by Hickingbotham and Loving in the fourth and fifth innings, but neither advanced beyond first base.

From behind the plate, Cabot catcher Rail Gilliam picked off Hickingbotham in the fourth inning. In the fifth, an infield pop-up, a fielder’s choice and a 4-3 groundout followed Loving’s leadoff base hit.

All six of the Centennial Bank squad’s base hits came from the top three in the lineup. Thomas went 3 for 4 with two doubles. McCutchen went 2 for 4 and Tillery was 1 for 3 with a double and a walk.

Toney was the only Gwatney Chevrolet player with multiple hits, going 2 for 3 at the plate. Whitmore, Sample, and Hickingbotham went 1 for 3 while Loving went 1 for 2 with a walk.

Hawkins went all seven innings, giving up six hits and three earned runs while striking out nine and walking five.

It’s the second time this season that Cabot has struggled with Hawkins and still got a win.

After going scoreless for five innings, Cabot scored five runs after Hawkins left the mound to win 5-3. After that game, Vaughan was disappointed in his own team. On Wednesday he praised Jacksonville’s 6-foot-4 southpaw.

“That guy is just really good,” said Vaughan, who played as a junior at Arkansas State this past season. “He pitched for Valley (Mississippi Valley State) last year, and we played them. So I knew what he was capable of.”

Shepherd gave up six hits in six innings with three strikeouts and zero walks.

EDITORIAL >> Liar, liar — pants on fire

He’s a liar, he’s a liar — that seems to be all attorney Alex Gray can say about former Jacksonville Police Chief Geoffrey Herweg.

Gray has told a judge that Herweg is a liar, asked Mayor Gary Fletcher why he hired a liar and has brought it up every time he has found an open microphone.

Other than besmudging Herweg, the lying push has nothing to do with the case at hand.

Whether Herweg can be a police chief again in Jacksonville or anywhere in the state hinges on the legal interpretation of Article 5, Section 9 of the state constitution: Does a misdemeanor conviction prevent him from being a police chief?

Jacksonville Alderman Tara Smith and her attorneys Alex Gray and Nate Steel believe that segment applies to Herweg’s employment. Fletcher, City Attorney Robert Bamburg and most city council members believe it does not.

There is a restraining order against Herweg being chief. He has been moved to another city position. City Attorney Robert Bamburg has filed an appeal requesting Herweg be allowed to remain chief until the case has been settled.

So why all this “liar, liar pants on fire” push? It’s an attempt to paint Herweg as a Brady cop – one who has a history of misdeeds, missteps and is generally a miscreant. But according to the attorney general’s office, there is no state Brady cop list. In Pulaski County the prosecuting attorney submits information on police with discipline to the judge and that judge makes a decision. And all the hollering about being a liar won’t make a difference.

To be succinct, Gray is being disengenuous.

There is no doubt (mathematically or theoretically) that if Gray’s momma gets on the stand under oath she will tell us of some whoppers you told. There were times that something got broken, misplaced or not done and when she asked, your response was, “not me” — a lie.

Then let’s get Gray’s three best high school buds on the stands, under oath, and guess what they will reel off the times that you lied. And if that’s not enough, how about that one ex-girlfriend who will say that you said certain things now long forgotten.

Mr. Gray, nobody’s perfect — from the president to the unemployed and downtrodden.

Did Herweg lie about his accident 17 years ago? Yes, that’s why there’s the conviction in Texas, where he crashed his car into a garage when he was an off-duty police officer. But then Gray tried to say he lied again a few years ago in the dismissal of a police officer under his command in Lovington, N.M. First off, two lies in a 15-year time span — we should all be so lucky.

But more importantly in the 31 pages in Officer Anthony Hobbs’ federal complaint against the Lovington Police Department, which includes Herweg, not once does it call him a liar. Hobbs does say Herweg was reckless and negligent, but does that make him a liar?

Herweg has a conviction on his record that no one is lying about, and that brings up the constitutional and legal question of whether he can serve as police chief. Apparently there is a gray area here (no pun intended) and the issue needs to be settled by the courts — not by people, in person, in the media and all over social networks saying this guy is a liar.

Let the courts decide, but please let’s stop the name calling.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney Junior team advances to final four

Leader sports editor

In Saturday’s first-round victory the Gwatney Chevrolet squad avenged a bad loss from just a week earlier when it beat Stuttgart 11-4. On a trip to Stuttgart the week before, the Ricemen had won 12-0.

Stuttgart’s pitching dominated in the 12-0 game, but that all changed when Jacksonville scored three runs in the top of the first inning on Saturday. It started with back-to-back walks by leadoff hitter Clay Burrows and Bryce Overman.

Austin Ramick then hit a one-out, RBI single to drive in the first run. It was the only base hit of the inning, but the Chevy Boys added two more runs after Alex Moss was hit by a pitch, Ryan Keady walked to drive in a run and Coleton McGee was hit to drive in another.

Stuttgart bounced back to tie thesecond inning. Ramick, who pitched well overall, briefly ran into some control trouble in the second. He issued three walks, hit a batter and gave up a double as the game became knotted at 3-3.

Stuttgart returned the favor in the top of the third. Three-straight walks by Ramick, Caleb Anderson and Moss loaded the bases with no outs. Ready was then hit by a pitch to make it 4-3.

Despite still having the bases loaded with no outs, Jacksonville scored no more runs after a pitching change saw back-to-back strikeouts followed by a line out to third base by Burrows.

Three more walks loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fourth for Jacksonville, and two wild pitches made it 6-3. It was more of the same in the top of the fifth. A hit batter and a walk started it out. With one out, Overman got an RBI single, followed by a two-RBI base hit by Jaylon McGee that put Jacksonville up 9-3.

After a scoreless sixth inning, Jacksonville made it 11-3 on a walk by Overman, an RBI double by Ramick and an E6 off the bat of Anderson. Stuttgart scored a run on two hit batters and a base hit in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Jacksonville had only four hits, two by Ramick to lead the way, but drew 17 free bases on 13 walks and four hit batters.

Jacob McCaa was strong on the mound for Gwatney. Though the second inning saw three walks, a hit batter, a base hit and three earned runs, his other four innings of work were dominant. In those other innings combined, McCaa gave up only two walks, zero hit batters, one base hit and zero earned runs while striking out eight.

Ethan Gray pitched the sixth inning and Burrows pitched the seventh to close it out for Gwatney.

In Sunday’s game, Gwatney gave up five runs on one base hit in the top of the second inning and never led in a 9-6 loss to Central Arkansas Christian. After falling into the 5-0 hole, Jacksonville battled to make it close, but left 15 on base in the process.

That moved them to a Monday evening game against Vilonia, and there, Jacksonville got an outstanding performance on the mound by Bryce Overman in a 7-1 victory.

That win moved Gwatney Chevrolet into the final four, but left it still needing two more wins to qualify for state.

Overman pitched all seven innings for Jacksonville. He retired the first six and last six batters in order in the first, second, sixth and seventh innings. He gave up a total of six base hits and finished with four strikeouts and zero walks.

Jacksonville scored first in the second inning when Ready singled and scored on a double by Anderson. He then scored on a pair of passed ball for a 2-0 Gwatney lead.

Vilonia got its run on three-straight singles up the middle in the top of the third, but Jacksonville got right back in the bottom half. Overman singled and later scored on a two-out base hit by Ramick.

In the fourth inning, a two-out base hit turned into a run for Jacksonville’s Justin Dennis. His single to right field kept rolling when the Viper fielder whiffed as he tried to field the one-hop.

Dennis made it to third on that error, and then scored when Vilonia’s shortstop missed the throw into the relay throw into the infield, giving Jacksonville a 4-1 lead.

The Chevy Boys set the final margin in the bottom of the fifth with some more help from Vilonia’s defense. Burrows reached on an E4 to start the inning and Overman reached on an E6. Jaylon McGee was hit to load the bases. Ramick hit a hard line drive, but right to left field and no one advanced. Ready then took a pitch off the hip to score Burrows.

Anderson then hit a grounder to shortstop that was also flubbed, allowing Overman to score. Adonis Fuller then hit a sacrifice grounder to first base for an RBI that drove in McGee for the final run of the game.

Jacksonville played White Hall at 5 p.m. Tuesday after Leader deadlines. A win in that game meant a 7:30 p.m. date with CAC, who lost to Cabot in the winners’ bracket final.

If Jacksonville wins that game, it will qualify for the state tournament, and play Cabot at 5 p.m. today for the Zone championship.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville Seniors slip by Conway

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion baseball team got another win last Friday, defeating Conway Fieldhouse 3-1 at Dupree Park.

The Chevy Boys got another strong pitching performance from one of the Brandons. This time it was Brandon Hickingbotham that shut down a strong Conway lineup.

“Well he’s throwing strikes,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “He’s doing a good job of hitting his spots. He had a good game and he’s having a pretty good summer.”

Conway’s leadoff hitter walked, stole a base and scored on two sacrifice grounders in the top of the first inning. And that was it for the visiting team’s offensive production.

That early lead didn’t last long. Jacksonville leadoff hitter Kameron Whitmore singled to start the bottom of the first inning. Trent Toney then singled to move him to third, and Hickingbotham’s one-out grounder to shortstop drove in the run and tied the game.

That’s how it remained until bottom of the sixth inning.

Hickingbotham carried a no-hitter through four and two-thirds innings. He finally gave up a base hit with two outs in the fifth. Conway got another two-out hit to put runners at first and second, but they advanced no further. A 5-4 fielder’s choice ended the inning.

Though he had only had one strikeout through five innings, Hickingbotham fanned the side in order in the sixth, and Jacksonville’s offense kept the momentum.

Toney led off the bottom of the sixth by drawing a walk. Caden Sample hit a hard line drive to center field, but right to the fielder for the first out. Hickingbotham then walked and Tyson Flowers loaded the bases with a bunt single.

Caleb Smith hit a fly ball to deep right field that scored Toney. Jonathan Smith then laid down a perfect bunt for a single that easily scored Hickingbotham, but Flowers was thrown out trying to catch Conway sleeping and sneak into home on the play as well.

In the top of the seventh, Conway went down in order again on a 4-3 grounder, a pop-up to third base and Hickingbotham’s fifth strikeout to end the game.

Bob Hickingbotham also praised his catcher and leadoff hitter for the getting the game off to a good start, something Whitmore has done consistently this season.

“You know in 15 games, he’s gotten base hits in nine of them to start the game,” coach Hick said of Whitmore. He’s only struck out one time, and his other five outs were line drives. You just don’t do that. He’s been a good one, boy. Let me tell you.”

Jacksonville will host Cabot-Centennial Bank at 6 p.m. tonight at Dupree Park.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot Junior team makes Legion state

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Cabot-Centennial Bank Junior American Legion team won its first three games in the Zone 3 tournament it has been hosting since last Friday. Playing as the No. 2 seed, Cabot hammered Vilonia in the first round, and then took care of Batesville on Sunday in a tight 3-1 contest. On Tuesday, the Centennial Bank squad punched its ticket to the state tournament with a 19-5 rout of Central Arkansas Christian.

Monday’s win put Cabot in the finals, and the top two teams automatically advance to the state tournament. They await whoever emerges from the other three hopefuls that include CAC, Jacksonville and White Hall, and play the championship game at 5 p.m. today.

Batesville’s best offensive inning was the first, and it gave the home team on the scoreboard a 1-0 lead. Cabot pitcher Tanner Wilson walked the first batter before striking out the second. Cash Forrester then reached on an error at shortstop and Heath Bishop singled to center field to drive in leadoff hitter Hayden Hargrave for the early Batesville lead.

It remained 1-0 until the top of the third. After Cabot’s first six batters went down in order, Batesville flinched in the third and it cost them. Jackson Olivi reached on an error at third base to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Blake Buffalo. Jake Moudy was hit by a pitch and leadoff hitter Graham Turner walked to load the bases with one out. Blayse Quarnstrom then hit a sacrifice grounder for a 5-4 fielder’s choice and an RBI that drove in Olivi.

Cabot then took the lead in the top of the third after cleanup hitter Mason Griffin started the inning with a single to center field. He was thrown out on a 5-4 fielder’s choiceby Logan Bell, and Wilson flew out to center field to leave one on with two outs. Olivi then hit an infield single in the gap between second base and shortstop. Buffalo then put down a surprise two-out squeeze bunt and beat the throw to first for the RBI single that gave Cabot the lead for good.

For the third inning in a row, Wilson walked Batesville’s first batter in the bottom of the third, but he responded by striking out the next three.

Batesville’s Hunter Wajcik reached second base on an E7 to start the bottom of the fourth. John Parker struck out and Luke Dunaway grounded out to first base to move Wajcik to third.

Cole Langston then walked to put runners on the corners. Batesville then tried to lure a throw to second to give Wajcik time to score, but it backfired and Wajcik was thrown out on the 2-4-2 play by catcher Austin Scritchfield and Quarnstrom at second base.

Olivi pitched the fifth and sixth innings for Cabot. He got into some trouble in the fifth when he walked Caleb Blakely with one out, and threw wild to first with a pick-off attempt, allowing the base runner to reach third with one out. But Olivi fanned Forrester and got Bishop to ground out to end the inning.

Batesville got its first two batters on base in the sixth, but Olivi came back to get a groundout to third, a strikeout and a pop up to first base to get out of that jam as well.

Cabot then added the game’s final run in the top of the seventh inning. Quarnstrom walked with one out and moved to second on a sacrifice grounder to third by Scritchfield.

Griffin then hit an RBI single to center field to set the final margin. It was his third base hit of the game, and third in a row since flying out to left in the first inning.

Turner pitched the bottom of the seventh for the Centennial Bank squad, and sat Batesville down in order. He gave up a leadoff single, but then got a 6-4-3 ground ball and a rare 9-3 throw out by Griffin to end the game.

That win moved Cabot into the matchup with CAC, and it was a huge second inning that put that game away. Cabot batted around twice and 13 runs crossed the plate to put the host team up 14-2.

Cabot got one run in the first inning when a one-out single by Quarnstrom was followed by a two-out triple by Bell.

After CAC scored two in the bottom half, Olivi started the second-inning rally with a leadoff single to center field. Buffalo then doubled for the RBI, and Martin and Moudy walked to load the bases.

A passed ball scored Buffalo before Turner popped up to the pitcher for the first out. Quarnstrom was hit to reload the bases and Griffin flew out to center field. The next 10 batters reached base before CAC could record the third out. Bell walked to drive in one run and Wilson doubled to left field for two RBIs.

Olivi got his second base hit of the inning and Buffalo reached on an E3. Martin singled and Moudy walked for the second time. Turner was hit before three more consecutive walks drove in three more runs. Wilson finally grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.

CAC scored two in the third, but Cabot added five more in the fourth as CAC’s pitching drew increasingly erratic.

Bell and Martin got the only two base hits in the inning, but two more walks and three more hit batters aided the Cabot cause.

The Mustangs scored two in the fifth, but needed five more to keep the game from ending via the mercy rule.

EDITORIAL >> Newspaper wins again

Talk about irony …

The day before The Leader won best in state for the ninth time in 10 years, a design consultant brought in by the Arkansas Press Association said our paper had too many ribbons on the front page.

And now we have one more.

Telling us we have too many ribbons displayed is like telling the New York Yankees they have too many banners hanging up in their stadium. What would you want them to do? Throw games? Play only minor-league players? Change their names to the hapless Philadelphia Phillies and take on the worst record in baseball this year?

Of course not!

It’s the same with this newspaper.

Do we stop giving readers intriguing features, strong salutes to the military, great photographs and in-depth reporting? Should we fill the space between the ads with fluff and just stuff? Perhaps fill the paper with the latest on the Kardashians. No way.

Readers expect the best and that’s what we try to deliver in every issue.

Leader staff writers and photographers have close to 100 years experience and about the same number of writing, reporting and investigating awards.

They help make the paper a fabulous mix of hard-hitting news, homegrown features, and to-the-point editorials on local and national issues.

And let’s not forget those photographs from sports to news that tell the story. Our photographers will climb rickety ladders, slink down in the mud and bear rain, snow, heat and cold to snap the best possible shot.

Many think newspapers are a dying art, but here at The Leader it’s an art form that continues to grow and blossom.

And consultant be darned, we are going to figure out a way to put another ribbon on the front page. We are proud of what we do and we want the readers to know they are getting a quality product.

Now, can we win again next year?

TOP STORY >> Councils for internet sales tax

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville and Ward became the latest of several cities in the state to support taxing products sold on the internet by passing ordinances asking the state legislature to approve the tax collection.

An effort to apply the tax to internet sales in the last legislative session fell short. State Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) told the Jacksonville City Council on Thursday that this is not a new tax. “The state has actually had a law since 1948 requiring tax be paid on out-of-state purchases.”

He explained that one concern many legislators have is a case in front of the Supreme Court, which could be costly to states that have been collecting the tax, if the judge rules against the tax. “All collected money would have to be refunded then,” Johnson said.

Jacksonville passed the resolution unanimously. The Ward City Council passed a similar resolution Monday by a vote of 3-2. One alderman was absent.

The resolution urges Gov. Asa Hutchinson to call a special session as quickly as possible to address “this most important issue for the benefit of all of Arkansas’ local retailers and businesses as well as its citizens.”

Jacksonville and Ward join more than two dozen cities that have passed this type of resolution in just the past few weeks.

Don Zimmerman, executive director of the Municipal League, said cities are seeing the difference with Amazon starting to collect taxes.

“Amazon started collecting tax on items they sell directly in March, and we saw tax collections up about 6 percent last month and 7.2 percent the month before that. But Amazon is only collecting on their sales, not any of their third-party sales,” Zimmerman said.

“Not taxing Internet sales hurts cities, counties and the state. The lose out on that money, but it really hurts the local business that lost out on that sale completely,” he added.

Mayor Gary Fletch-er pointed out that Black Friday sales are decreasing and Cyber Monday sales are doubling every three years. He added that many cities are already looking at taxes and other means to make up for the loss of revenue.

“It’s a train wreck that’s coming if we don’t do something,” the mayor said.

Officials in Springdale have calculated that residents of that city are making more than 500,000 internet purchases a month and the city is losing that tax money.

Fletcher told Johnson, “We need relief today.”

Johnson said the bill to tax the Internet is important to small businesses everywhere and was about seven votes short in the legislature, but more are coming on board.

He clarified that this was not a new tax and that the tax would go to the point of delivery location. “We don’t want someone here buying something in Boston and having the tax go up there. It needs to come here.”

In other council business:

Aldermen approved the sale of about an acre of property actually located in Cabot. The property, under control of the Jacksonville Hospital Board, is home to the Cabot Medical Clinic, but the acre in question is vacant land that will be used for retail and office space.

The monthly police report for May was presented to the aldermen for review and comment. According to the report the police department received 4,010 complaint calls in May.

There were no homicides reported during the month, three sexual assaults, 24 felony assaults, 19 burglaries, 63 thefts and nine vehicle thefts.

Code enforcement officers had 142 assigned calls and 661 self-initiated calls in May. Officers issued 95 warnings, wrote 126 warning letters or notices, removed 70 signs and mowed 83 properties because owners didn’t respond to letters to maintain the properties.

The May fire department report, presented by Chief Alan Laughy, said the department responded to 278 rescue calls, 23 service calls, 16 false alarms, 11 fires, 12 hazardous conditions and seven good intent calls.

Estimated fire loss for May was put at $188,500 and savings, due to the quick response of the fire department was estimated at $271,500.

The department also had 219 transported ambulance runs and 87 non-transported runs.

In May City Engineer Jay Whisker reported his department issued 12 building permits, six business licenses and 118 inspections.

He also had the June report available showing 19 building permits and five business licenses issued, along with 114 inspections.

In the May animal shelter report, it showed the shelter brought in 96 dogs and 92 cats. Animal control officers were able to return 31 dogs and one cat to their owners, adopt out 39 dogs and 62 cats and had to euthanize one dog and one cat.

TOP STORY >> Leader wins general excellence

Leader staff writer

The Leader was named on Saturday the best large weekly in the state for the ninth time in 10 years. The newspaper received a total of 25 state awards including the prestigious General Excellence.

Sports Editor Ray Benton and staff photographer David Scolli each received two first place awards. Staff writers John Hofheimer and Rick Kron each received one first place ribbon as did freelance writer Shelby Styron. The Leader’s staff was also honored with the top award for its coverage of tourism.

Publisher Garrick Feldman, who garnered a second-place ribbon for his editorial writing, said, “We’re proud of our gifted and talented staff of reporters, photographers and designers who serve their readers with integrity and dedication to excellence.”

The annual Arkansas Press Association newspaper contest was judged by members of the Oklahoma Press Association and this year had 982 entries from 33 weekly papers.

Benton took first place in sports news story with his article “Sylvan Hills shocked by Chapel.” The judges said, “This is a great story that captures the emotions of the loss.”

Benton also received an Honorable Mention award in the same category with his “Henderson brings home gold.”

The sport’s editor also took first and second in sports column writing. His winning entry was “Muhammad Ali complex hero.” Judges called it a fascinating story of a very complex man. “He was indeed a hero to many, but an anti-hero to so many others. Great job bringing out both sides to a very complex man,” the judges wrote.

His second-place winner, “sports should be about the game, not antics,” was called eloquent.

Benton also nabbed a third-place award in the headline-writing category with his “Bear bats hibernate as Magnolia blooms.”

Scolli’s photos took top honors and second place in the single sports action category. The judges said that in his winning basketball shot Scolli did a “nice job of catching the shot at the apex of the guy jumping to throw while being hit.

The photographer also took first and third place in the single sports feature category. “Love the photo shooting down! Great shot! Good human interest story as well,” the judge said of the photograph featuring a girl softball player at batting practice.

Scolli also took home a third-place ribbon in the single-news photograph category.

The Leader also took first and third in a new category called public notice stories. Hofheimer nabbed the top spot with his article on the millage and Jeffrey Smith placed third with his article, “Ward sewer treatment plant.”

The judges said Hofheimer “did a great job at explaining the millage tax to readers, what to expect if it passed and if it didn’t, and what will come out of it.”

Feldman’s editorial on the same topic, “Millage election to decide future,” took second place honors. “A good compelling argument on an important issue,” the judges wrote. Editor Jonathan Feldman received Honorable Mention in the editorial category with his “Probation corrupted.”

Kron took first and second in the state with his humor columns, placing first with “Today’s kids are spoiled,” and second with, “I love Christmas, almost.”

Judges called his writing funny and in reference to his top winning column, “Those were the days,” the judge said.

Styron’s article, “Heartfelt nod to the queen,” was called a beautiful story that was beautifully told. It was the top freelance story among all medium and large weeklies.

Freelancer Deb Horn, who later in the year became a staff writer for the paper, took second place in the freelance category and the same in the beat reporting category. She garnered a third-place ribbon in in-depth reporting for her series on women at work.

Christy Hendricks, the newspaper’s graphic designer, took second place honors with her graphic design portfolio.

Staff writers took first in tourism coverage, second in education and third in health and medical.

Judges said the newspapers tourism coverage was “interesting and nice coverage with diverse stories.”

TOP STORY >> Change of command at air base

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base welcomed incoming commander Col. Gerald “Gyro” Donohue of the 19th Airlift Wing during a change-of-command ceremony Tuesday overseen by Lt. Gen. Giovanni K. Tuck, commander of the 18th Air Force.

Donohue’s last assignment was commander of the 86th Operations Group, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where he oversaw the Air Force’s largest and busiest C-130 and operational support aircraft squadrons.

Donohue takes over from outgoing commander Col. Charles E. Brown, who led LRAFB since 2015. Brown is headed for a top position with NATO in Mons, Belgium, as a senior assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Known as SHAPE, it is the headquarters of Allied Command Operations, which has controlled all NATO operations since 1949.

Donohue will work with the 314th Airlift Wing, 189th Airlift Wing, 913th Airlift Group and the 29th Weapons Squadron on the base. He is responsible for organizing, training, sustaining and equipping personnel for more than 65 C-130s.

Donohue addressed the elected officials and community leaders who attended the ceremony.

“Thank you for your unwavering support to the airmen of the 19th Airlift Wing and Team Little Rock. I’ve heard incredible accounts for your willingness to move mountains for our families and our shared communities. I look forward to learning from and working with each of you in the weeks and months ahead,” Donohue said.

“Our ability to serve and to pursue our childhood dreams in the profession of arms comes with a cost and a burden, most often felt by our families. They are the ones left behind to hold down the fort in our absences, whether on deployment or long grueling days on the (flight)line. For you service for loving airmen, Clara and I thank you and will not forget the sacrifices you made and look forward to teaming with you over the years,” Donohue said.

Donohue entered the Air Force in 1995 after graduating from the Air Force Academy with a bachelor’s of science in psychology.

He went on to Squadron Officer School at Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala, in 2000; Army Command and General Staff Officers Course, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in 2008, and Air War College in 2010.

Donohue is a command pilot with more than 500 combat and combat support hours in Iraq and Afghanistan supporting Operations Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

He flies C-130E, C-130H, and C- 130J aircraft with more than 4,000 hours.

After completing pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., he served as a C-9A instructor pilot with the 75th Airlift Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. He transitioned to the C-130, first with the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, and later with the 39th Airlift Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

He was previously assigned to LRAFB in 2004 when he was a student in a C-130 weapons instructor course.

Donohue commanded the 386th Expeditionary Operations SupportSquadron, Southwest Asia from 2011 to 2012. He led a team of airmen and contractors providing operations and airfield support for assigned and transient airmen and aircraft prosecuting Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.

Donohue became the deputy commander for operations, 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, where he was responsible for the organization, training and equipping of two airlift squadrons and an operations support squadron..

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster and Air Force Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

He was promoted to colonel on Aug. 1, 2015.

Soon after Brown took command at LRAFB, Team Little Rock defended the base and its 10,000 personnel during an active-shooter attack. Base security ended the incident without loss of life or injury other than the shooter, who was killed in front of the main gate.

Members of the 19th Airlift Wing worked with State Police and Arkansas National Guard to assist with a munitions truck explosion in February that killed the driver on I-40 in Franklin County. Airmen disposed of 54,000 pounds of explosives, preventing further loss of life.

This spring, the 19th Airlift Wing organized two C-130J and 25 support personnel in less than 16 hours to expedite humanitarian support to Peru, providing relief to 3 million people displaced by flooding.

Brown, who has been a colonel since July 2012, said the 19th Airlift Wing’s “attention to detail, loyalty to mission, ceaseless innovations make this the true home of Combat Airlift.”

Brown said he was thankful to the families for their selfless dedication, loyalty, looking out for one another while deployed.

Before commanding LRAFB, Brown was the Pentagon’s assistant deputy director of Joint Strategic Planning, Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Staff. He was division chief for the Strategic Alignment Division, Joint Staff at the Pentagon from June 2013 - April 2014.

He was commander of the 62nd Airlift Squadron here from April 2009 - April 2011 and as the 314th Airlift Wing’s chief of wing safety from July 2008 - March 2009.

Brown was a national security fellow at Harvard in 2012.

He earned a master’s of national security and strategic studies in 2008 from the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He was a distinguished graduate of the Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 2002. He earned a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice at Florida State University in 1994.

Brown is a senior pilot with 1,600 hours in C-130E, C-130H, C-130J aircraft and the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet. He has served Operations Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.