Saturday, October 14, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe avenges again

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

It seemed like a silly prediction when Beebe coach Audra Higgins said two weeks ago she thought her team could beat Batesville in the regular-season finale. Batesville dominated the Lady Badgers the first time around, winning 3-0 with only the opening set margin within single digits.

On Thursday at Badger Arena, the Beebe ladies made their first-year head coach look clairvoyant, winning 3-2 and handing the Pioneers their first conference loss of the season.

Things didn’t start well. Ironically, the opening set was the worst one of the season for Beebe. Batesville (25-7, 11-1) cruised to a 25-9 victory, seemingly on their way to another dominant win.

But Beebe mustered some gumption and won game two 25-18 before going on to the five-set victory. Scores for all five games were 9-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-23 and 15-12.

Higgins said she never doubted her team could beat Batesville, even after the pummeling in the first set.

“I never did because game one was an easy fix if I could just get them to listen to me and do it,” said Higgins. “We were passing from our midline, and they were aiming for our shoulders. If you’re locking in at your midline before they even swing, all you’re going to do is shank it off somewhere when they hit it at your shoulders.”

Higgins used every second of the break between games to get her point across, and she did. The Lady Badgers were able to make the passes and get into their transition the rest of the way.

“It’s just a matter of getting them to understand the pace we need to play to be on the level with those top teams,” Higgins said. “You should have your position and angle determined before the hands come together, and you have to be faster with your hands and movement to do that. Being in midline with your feet wide doesn’t help that.”

The final point of the match was not without controversy. With Beebe up 14-12, both teams were in the net simultaneously during the rally, but nothing was called. Batesville got it over after the violations on a down ball. Beebe transitioned quickly and got a fast kill by Reaven Seymore to seal the match.

“The final point really should’ve been replayed,” Higgins said. “Both teams were in the net, but (the head official) let it play out. She was angry about that, but I was angry about other stuff. Their setter was above the net all night. I finally got in trouble over that one. He told me I’d better just go sit down. So I really don’t think the refs were the key factor. They were bad on both sides. Our blockers slowed them down. Once we got our passing right, our hitters did a great job. I think those were the key factors.”

Thursday’s match was the second one in a week in which Beebe avenged an earlier loss. On Tuesday, the Lady Badgers defeated Morrilton 3-1. The Devil Dogs beat Beebe 3-2 back on Sept. 14.

Beebe (14-10, 7-5) won games one and two 25-21 before slumping terribly in a 15-25 loss of game three. The slump continued through two-thirds of game four, but the Lady Badgers rallied for a thrilling 30-28 win to seal the match.

After losing game three, Beebe dug itself a 7-0 hole to start game four. The Badgers climbed out of it once, tying the score at 9-9 with two aces by Bailey Mae. But they went right back to digging. Morrilton went up 21-14 and seemed on the way to forcing the tiebreaker set before Beebe rallied again.

Autumn O’Rourke sparked the comeback with huge block to break serve and hard kills for Beebe’s next two points. Morrilton had three game points up 24-21, but a Morrilton net violation, and Lexi Devore ace and a Morrilton miss-hit tied the game. Beebe had the next three match points, but couldn’t finish it off. Morrilton (7-12-1, 5-7) then got another game point at 28-27, but Beebe scored three straight for the win.

A miss-hit went long on game point to give Beebe the serve. O’Rourke got another kill for match point, and a quick, low set by Layla Wilson caught Morrilton off guard as Seymore hammered it right down the middle for match point.

Seymore led Beebe with 15 kills while O’Rourke had 10 kills and four blocks. Layla Wilson had 20 assists, and Mae finished with eight assists and five aces.

Despite the third-place finish in the 5A/6A District 2 blended conference, Beebe will start play in the 5A-Central Conference tournament today as the No. 1 seed. In what were technically nonconference matches, Beebe beat all three of the top teams from the other leagues that make up the tournament.

The Lady Badgers take the court against McClellan at 11 a.m. at Little Rock Christian Academy. A win in that match means facing the Sylvan Hills-Parkview winner at 5 p.m. Tuesday, also at LRCA.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans down early, rout Hall

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The first drive of the game was exactly the start Jacksonville coaches feared, but the players overcame an early deficit to cruise to a 38-6 win over Hall High School Friday at Scott Field in Little Rock.

The Titans responded to the bad start with 35 unanswered points before halftime, but only managed three points in the second half to set the final margin.

Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham worried about Hall’s deep ball ability, and on the second play of the game, quarterback Braelon Adams hit receiver Dante Green with a 52-yard touchdown strike for a 6-0 lead just 50 seconds into the game.

Jacksonville had to punt on its first drive, and pinned the Warriors on their own 1-yard line after a sack by Kalon McCoy and Marquez Casey. But on second and 17 from the 1, Adams found Chaidez Sanders with a screen pass. A missed tackle then sprung him for a 45-yard gain to the 46-yard line.

It was all Jacksonville from that point until halftime. The win will likely guarantee the Titans at least a No. 6 seed in the Class 6A playoffs, but the team didn’t act like one that had qualified for the playoffs at the end of the game.

“The goal was to come out and score and run that clock,” said Hickingbotham. “We just don’t have that instinct to, you know, squash the bug, as we used to say. We just haven’t been in that situation enough. The defense responded to the bad start and got a score for us. That was huge. It kind of picked us back up and got us going a little bit. We wanted to play better in the second half, but ultimately we got the job done.”

One factor in Jack-sonville’s sputtering second-half offense was the absence of starting quarterback Harderrious Martin. Hickingbotham decided to rest Martin for the final stretch of the regular season.

“No injury,” Hicking-botham said. “He’s had a few bumps and bruises and it was just a chance to get him some rest. These next three are big down the stretch, so we just wanted to give him a little break while we could.”

On the next play after Hall’s second long pass, Jacksonville linebacker Nate Pool stepped in front of an Adams pass in the flat for a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown. Josh Huber’s extra point gave Jacksonville a 7-6 lead with 7:39 left in the first quarter.

On the second play of the ensuing drive, Shaqke Robinson and Cameron Grant sacked Adams. On the third play, safety Shavarris Curley nearly got his own pick 6. He intercepted a screen pass at midfield and returned it 49 yards before being knocked out of bounds at the 1.

Running back Shawn Ellis stepped it in from there and the extra point made it 14-6 with 6:41 on the clock.

Early in the second quarter, a heavy dose of Ellis got the Titans from their own 40 to the Hall 27. Martin picked up 17 on first down, and then hit Armani Haynes in the end zone for a 21-6 lead with 9:58 left in the first half.

The Jacksonville defense then forced a three-and-out series by Hall, and that set up a one-play drive.

Ellis took it 42 yards up the middle for the score, and Huber’s extra point made it 28-6 with 7:58 to go until halftime.

Hall’s next possession garnered two first downs, but ended with a 3-yard punt. The Titans (3-4, 2-2) started on their own 47 and overcame four penalties to score with 9 seconds left on a 5-yard run by Ellis for a 35-6 lead at intermission.

Hall practically begged Jacksonville to mercy rule them after that. The Warriors fumbled the ensuing kickoff away with 2.5 seconds left. Jacksonville’s offense took the field, but after a timeout, Hickingbotham elected to try a field goal. Huber missed from 42 yards out.

After a 40-minute halftime with no one at Scott Field attending the clock, Jacksonville took the ball to start the second half and went three-and out on three runs by Ellis.

Hall then fumbled the punt, giving the Titans the ball at the Warriors’ 33-yard line. After one first down, Curley, playing quarterback, ran the ball to the 4 to set up third down. But after an injury timeout, the ball was moved all the way back to the 24 with no flag and no signal from the officials why. Curley threw an interception on the next play.

The Warriors started at their own 23, and fumbled it away again on their second snap of the half. Jacksonville took over at the Hall 23, and again failed to do anything and turned it over on downs at the 18.

Finally, with 3:27 left in the extraordinarily long second half, Jacksonville capped a drive from its own 37 to the Hall 7 with a 22-yard field goal by Huber to set the final margin. The Titans got three first downs on Hall penalties to keep that drive alive.

The Titans became the first team this season to fail to score a touchdown in the second half against the Warriors, who are now 1-6 overall and 0-4 in conference play.

Jacksonville finished with exactly 300 total yards, with 230 coming in the first half. Hall finished 219 yards with a 129 of that in the first quarter, and 97 of that on its first four plays of the game.

Ellis led all yardage getters with 154 yards rushing on 27 carries.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers blow two TDs, lose to Tigers

By ANN THARP Special to The Leader

The Cabot Panthers traveled to historic Quigley Stadium in Little Rock Friday night to face the Central High Tigers. The Panthers were trying to regroup after a week six loss to Conway, but were unable to do so, falling to Central at Bernie Cox Field by a score of 16-14, making their overall record 4-3 and 7A Central conference record 2-2. The Tigers improve to 2-5 and 1-3.

The score was tied at seven at the end of one period, but Central took the lead on the first play of the second with a field goal, and then added a touchdown right before intermission for a 16-7 halftime score.

Only one touchdown went on the scoreboard in the second half, and it was scored by Cabot. The Panthers also had a touchdown called back by a penalty.

“It was a good offensive ballgame,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “The difference was our turnovers. Turnovers and penalties was the difference there. We just didn’t do the little things right to help us win. They’ve got some athletes. We had trouble containing them a little bit. They did what it took to win. It was a good ballgame if you just want to see a good high school game. Both teams moved the ball. It was a close game, and it went down to the wire. You couldn’t ask for a better ballgame. It’s just that the Panthers didn’t win, that’s the problem.”

Central had the first possession of the game and had to start on their own 7-yard line as Ben McCullough’s kick off was mishandled at the goal line and only returned to the 7. From there, though, the Tigers drove the 93 yards in 12 plays to take the 7-0 lead with 9:30 remaining in the opening period.

Cabot quarterback Tommy Oaks returned the ensuing kick off to the 37-yard line, and the Panthers answered with an 8-play, 63-yard scoring drive. Oaks had a 33-yard carry on the drive, and Adam Flores, returning from injury, finished the drive with a 2-yard plunge into the end zone to tie the score at 7-7 with 5:33 to go in the quarter.

Central then started on its own 29 and moved the chains four times before stalling and facing fourth and eight. On the first play of quarter number two, Keeling Baker kicked a 36-yard field goal to give the Tigers the 10-7 edge.

The Panthers were moving the ball down the field, picking up four first downs of their own, when after running for 18 yards, Ayden Shurley lost the ball, and Central recovered.

The Tigers drove to the Cabot 8-yard line, but quarterback Jacob Howard was intercepted in the end zone by Lucus Crumbly.

Oaks completed a 21-yard pass to Shurley, then ran for 16 yards before he ran again from 30-yard line for an apparent touchdown, but dropped the ball at the 2-yard line. Central recovered in the end zone to end the threat.

The Tigers scored again with 0:35 to go in the half on a 34-yard completion from Howard to T.J. Pennington, but the point after hit the upright and bounced away, leaving the score 16-7.

Cabot had the ball first in the second half. The Panthers had moved from their own 24 to the Central 34-yard line when T.J. Rogers took a pitch from Oaks and ran into the end zone, only to have the score erased by a flag that was thrown.

Cabot did score on its next drive, only needing four plays to move 80 yards, the last 59 on a touchdown scamper by Rogers, this time with no flags, and on the last play of the third period. McCullough added the extra point, and the score was 16-14.

An interception in the end zone by Austin Swackhammer thwarted a long drive by the Tigers and gave the Panthers one final possession with less than three minutes to play. Cabot was moving the ball down the field with time running out when the ball was knocked out of Oaks hand as he was about to pitch it. Central recovered with 0:23 and the final score was set at 16-14.

Cabot had 370 yards of total offense, while the Tigers had 438.

Rogers led the Panthers in rushing with 11 carries for 110 yards and had one reception for 19 yards. Oaks rushed 11 times for 95 yards and passed for 40 yards.

Cabot will host Bryant next Friday night.

Friday, October 13, 2017

EDITORIAL >> It’s Cotton vs. Corker

It’s been a tough week for President Trump: His chief of staff, retired Gen. John F. Kelly, didn’t sound as if his job was secure when he said Thursday, “I’m not quitting today…. and I don’t think I’m being fired today.”

General, please don’t go anywhere: You might be the only one who could bring order to the chaos at the White House. If you can’t stop Trump from tweeting, no one can. But Kelly and Trump’s other key advisers may have dissuaded the President at week’s end from scrapping the Iran nuclear deal as he had promised during the campaign, calling the Iranian regime a bunch of terrorists but still willing to honor the treaty that monitors Iran’s attempts to build a nuclear weapon.

More dramatic was Trump’s simultaneous announcement that he would end Obamacare subsidies to insurance companies, a move that many Republican governors oppose.

Even Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an enthusiastic Trump ally, can’t stomach the more draconian features of repealing Obamacare, which failed in Congress and would have cost Arkansas $6 billion in the next seven years. Trump has figured out how to work around Congress and simply withhold payments to insurance companies. Expect a long court battle that would decide if Trump’s unilateral moves are constitutional.

Trump’s proposed budget would create $10 trillion in deficits over the next decade, which worries both conservative and moderate Republicans, making tax cuts a long shot in the Senate. His latest plan to disrupt Obamacare could lead to higher premiums.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose days may not be long after he allegedly called his boss “a #*@ moron” perhaps for saying he wanted to increase America’s nuclear arsenal tenfold: From about 4,000 to 40,000 missiles, although our treaty obligations keep us from adding any more. Trump denies he ever made that suggestion, insisting he just wants to make sure the bombs are “well-maintained,” as if they’re not.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the respected chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is retiring at the end of his term next year, is now siding with anti-Trump Republicans in the Senate, reducing the chances of any meaningful legislation in Congress.

“He concerns me,” Corker told the New York Times. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.” He said Trump is taking us “on the path to World War III.”

“I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Corker tweeted.

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning,” Corker tweeted again, referring to Trump’s earlier tweet that claimed, falsely, that Corker asked for the president’s endorsement for re-election and didn’t get it.

Trump fired back, calling Corker “liddle” and “a fool” who “didn’t have the guts to run for a third term” without a presidential endorsement, although a Corker aide insists Trump had called the senator to reconsider his decision not to run.

No Republican senator, apart from Sen. Cotton, has jumped to Trump’s defense since Corker first made this charge a week ago.

Sen. William Fulbright (D-Ark.), the longtime chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, fell out with President Johnson over Vietnam. Johnson chose not to run in 1968. Gov. Dale Bumpers defeated Fulbright in the Democratic primary in 1974.

The spat between Trump and Corker could doom tax reform as Corker’s Republican colleagues question Trump’s ability to govern while his approval rating drops to the mid-30s and his legislative agenda, such as it is, goes nowhere.

Republicans have a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, and such moderate senators as John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R.-Maine), who voted against the Obamacare repeal, are deficit hawks like Corker even when Republicans are in the White House.

But Cotton supports Trump on taking out North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and ending the Iran deal freezing its nuclear program. Cotton says anyone who disagrees with the president should resign. He led congressional opposition to the 2015 agreement with Iran and could be Trump’s next secretary of state if Tillerson leaves.

But if Tillerson goes, so will other cabinet members, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, whose departure from the Pentagon would offer another opening for Cotton. He might also be available if national-security adviser H.R. McMaster resigns.

Tillerson, Mattis and McMaster are close to Corker and have opposed ending the Iran nuclear deal and going to war with North Korea. “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff (John) Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos,” Corker said.

Our ambitious junior senator, who is in frequent contact with Trump, might take any of those jobs if they become available.

TOP STORY >> Cabot has 10,357 students

By JEFFREY SMITH Leader staff writer

Enrollment in the Cabot School District grew to 10,357, up 103 students from last year.

Superintendent Tony Thur-man presented the information during the annual report to the public at the school board meeting on Tuesday.

The district’s budget for 2016-17 was $78.9 million compared to $79.2 million this school year.

Cabot has 1,413 employees working in the district. All 17 schools were accredited with only Cabot Middle School South cited for a special education/reading teacher who was on the additional licensure plan.

Construction projects completed in 2016-17: A new fence installed at Southside Elementary; adding parking and a pull-through lane at Central Elementary and replacing the heating and air conditioning system in the kitchenl; new curbing and sod were put in at the flagpole area at Northside Elementary; a driveway was repaired at Junior High North; the parking lot at Freshman Academy was repaired; and a new video board was installed at the high school football stadium.

This year’s project is replacing the heating and air conditioning system at Eastside Elementary.

School board officers for 2017-18 are Dean Martin as president, Sarah Owen as vice president and Brian Evans as secretary.

The Cabot Country Cruisers running club presented a $5,000 check to the school district to purchase physical education equipment. The funds came from the Spring Fling 5K race held in March.

The race had 400 participants.

The school board passed a resolution to sell a 1994 ski boat and trailer. which the district cannot use.

“It was a donated item to our auto mechanics program. The donor’s intent was for the kids to learn how to work on the motor,” Thurman said.

The boat motor was old and the program does not work with marine carburetors. It was donated last year and some students worked on it.

“The donor was fine with the district selling the boat and putting the proceeds back into the auto program. It could be in scholarships or materials,” Thurman said.

TOP STORY >> Mayor: Cabot ‘a goldmine’

By CHRISTY HENDRICKSLeader staff writer

“Cabot has a gold mine of people right here under its nose,” Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said in response to an attendee at a town-hall meeting Tuesday night.

“The biggest secret of Cabot that nobody has told – you want to guess how many people are in a 13-mile radius of Cabot – which is our primary trade area? It’s 112,000 people. That’s a big base. We’ve not told the world about that. We’re doing that now.”

After receiving a lot of input about the city needing to provide more information about ongoing projects and the city’s future, the city has placed a lot of data on the homepage of the city’s website, hosted a breakfast with the mayor and held a town hall this week at the Veterans Park Community Center.

“This is basically your time to contribute your ideas, your complaints,” Cypert told the group. “Whatever you’d like to talk about, we’ll stay as long as you want to and we’ll talk about it.”

Business development, traffic and road conditions, storm shelters and sidewalks were some of the topics covered.

Cypert started the meeting with a quick review of items that can be found on the city’s website,, including current major projects, a transportation vision improvement plan, a Walkable Cabot plan and more.

A topic that kept coming up during the town hall was roads, and the city is set to invest $20 million to fix its street problems, according to the mayor.

“I’ve been a citizen of Cabot for two years. I spent 30 years in Bryant,” one resident said. “My concern is the ditches and the roads, they are absolutely pathetic. I drive a truck. I feel every bump. I spend most of my mileage in Cabot. I know where all the chuckholes are. I drive off center the majority of the time to keep from jarring my truck to death.

“I’ve heard the city say it’s growth. Bryant had the same type of growth. Bryant roads make Cabot roads look pathetic. They are in the process right now of building a major bypass. It’s going to make Bryant look very good. It’s going to make Cabot look very sad,” the resident said.

“You’re absolutely correct. I agree with you,” the mayor said. “We have plans both on the highway department side and the city street side to address that.”

Most of the major arterial roads in Cabot are state highways and fall under the responsibility of the Arkansas Highway Transportation Department, Cypert said.

“The transportation im-provement plan gives you in detail the plans for those roads. Yes, we have a city street problem in Cabot, primarily because Cabot grew so fast and nobody came up with a plan to reinvest in the streets. We now have that plan. It’s listed in the infrastructure and community development in detail.”

The street problems will be addressed over time and as funds come in, the mayor said. Currently, there are enough funds to cover the next five years of planned roadwork.

“Long term, we’re more than likely going to ask y’all to (renew) the sales and use tax again and get additional bond money to address the bulk of that problem,” he said.

Another attendee, after complimenting city code enforcement for a job well done, asked about putting in sidewalks on Kerr Station Road.

“It’s very heavily traveled,” he said. “I was wondering if it’s possible to maybe put a culvert in on one side and put in a sidewalk, at least down to the school. I think that would be a fine improvement.”

“Kerr Station, as far as traffic and the road itself, is on the long-term plan. Right now, the traffic volumes do not warrant any immediate action,” Cypert told the group.

“But it’s on the plan.” Cypert added that the city’s sidewalk plan priority is safe routes to school, safe routes to shopping for people who don’t have transportation and safe routes to the city amenities.

“The sports complex on Hwy. 321 made it more important to work on sidewalks for Kerr Station Road,” the mayor said. “A lot of money. A five-foot sidewalk costs $25 a foot to lay from start to finish. It’s pretty expensive to get sidewalks down. But it will be addressed at some point,” Cypert said.

The mayor assured another attendee that, while being considered for Hwy. 321 upgrades, there are no more roundabouts currently planned.

“Roundabouts are new technology,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like them. They work tremendously. They increase the flow.”

The mayor was also asked about a railroad overpass on Main Street to help avoid traffic jams when there is a train on the tracks.

“The railroad overpass would basically destroy downtown,” Cypert said. “We’re one of the few old cities left, railroad towns, that you could still ride through Cabot on the train and see a vibrant downtown with cars parked on the lot and people going in and out of businesses.

“Our neighbor down the road – Jacksonville — built an overpass. Look at their downtown. Not only that, but to go from two lanes for four lanes would probably close four to eight businesses because they wouldn’t have any parking. That is our primary business corridor. We’re trying to redevelop. If you notice, Main Street is very significantly redeveloping.”

To turn Main Street into four lanes and a turn lane from Lincoln Street to Hwy. 67/167 Exit 19 would cost around $50 million, the mayor said.

Rather than spend millions and risk businesses closing, the traffic plan will be a looping concept to include the north Cabot interchange currently being built. The city has 176 miles of city streets with approximately 70 to 75 that need to be overlaid or excavated and repaired then repaved.

See Wednesday’s Leader for more on the town hall meeting.

TOP STORY >> Hwy. 89 plan struggles

By JOHN HOFHEIMER Leader senior staff writer

Turnout was light on Tuesday at the Jacksonville public meeting to discuss options for an improved Hwy. 89 corridor connecting Cabot or Jacksonville on the east with Mayflower and Conway on the west, but attendees seemed most concerned that any such east-west corridor across the top of Pulaski County not interfere with air traffic at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, long a proponent of an interchange at Coffelt Crossing now says he’s backed off. Fletcher said such a highway close to the base and in the flight path was not a good idea and that such an interchange would probably cost about $25 million.

Fletcher said with base realignment and closure periodically considered, the mission at Little Rock Air Force Base could change and it might need the flexibility to expand or to extend the runway and flight path.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert would like to see Hwy. 89 four-laned across the top of Pulaski County, running just south of Camp Robinson, then on to Mayflower or an almost identical route, that departs from Hwy. 89 at Batesville Pike, then Bates-ville Pike to Sayles Road and back onto Hwy. 89 again to Mayflower.

Metroplan executive director Tab Townsell, who attended the Jacksonville meeting, said that comments were largely from local people, many of whom don’t want their home area turned into a four-lane highway.

“They can get around now,” he said and are “concerned that it’s a threat to the peace and tranquility.”

The roadway is of more a regional benefit, he said, being looked at for through-traffic. Not necessarily be all and end all route.

If it is to be done, he said, it could be phased in through a series of improvements and traffic demanded. “I don’t see it coming in as four lane, stem to stern.”

He said it might be good to decide a route and buy the right of way.

Metroplan deputy director Casey Covington said the need for such an east-west route north of I-40 increased when the long-planned and expensive North Belt Freeway was taken off the area’s long-term transportation plan.

Cypert has said it could help alleviate heavy rush-hour traffic on Hwy. 67/167 by rerouting many on their way to shopping or jobs in west Little Rock or the medical corridor along I-630.

Richard Robertson, who lives on East Republic Road says, “I’m personally concerned about Little Rock Air Force Base, and I’d rather error on the side of caution.

“The way I understand it,” Townsell said, “the Air Force is primarily concerned about any alignment that begins to mimic the approach zone, glide path, and consider that a grave safety issue. But a design that’s perpendicular is not so egregious.”

Jacksonville resident Bruce McFadden, whose ICM light construction equipment sales and rental business is located on North Redmond Road, said such an east-west passage is long overdue. He would prefer the alternative closer to Jacksonville. He would use it going to or coming from Conway.

Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde has said, against his wishes, there could still be an east-west four-lane highway across the top of the county. He doesn’t support the plan.

A similar meeting was held Thursday at Mayflower.

About 25 civilians attended the Jacksonville meeting.

The corridor study by Garver Engineers will cost $199,000 to be split evenly by Metroplan and the state Department of Transportation.

Garver will count and address the written comments, probably recommend some options and report to elected officials, Townsend said.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Court: Stop thievery now

Thanks to Mike Wilson’s General Improvement Fund lawsuit, $923,086 of taxpayers’ money seems headed back from the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District in Lonoke to the state treasury.

The bad news is that money had been earmarked for projects championed by central Arkansas lawmakers, and some will miss it dearly.

In the old days, politicians sending money for bridges, parks, clubs and other local projects was called pork, and Wilson, the former state legislator, lawyer and Jacksonville businessman, says it’s still pork.

For the second time in a decade, the state Supreme Court has upheld Wilson’s contention that it is unconstitutional for lawmakers to direct state revenues to local projects.

He said running the state revenues through the development district before lawmakers direct it to local projects was money laundering, plain and simple. If you remember the old school yard flea-flicker pass, well, it’s kind of like that.

Wilson said “surplus” money, as GIF is known, could be reserved for the governor’s Rainy Day Fund or Quick Action Fund or, for instance, given to an agency that oversees fire departments or water projects.

After the 2015 budget, lawmakers directed about $2.9 million to each of the state’s eight planning and development districts, and because Wilson lives in central Arkansas his suit and the subsequent ruling directly affected CAPDD only. By agreement, each state representative could control distribution of $70,000 and each state senator controlled $285,000.

But the precedent is now established by the state’s highest court that lawmakers and development districts and the state can no longer do business that way.

While finding the practice clearly unconstitutional, the Supreme Court on Thursday remanded the case back to Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s Court. Rodney Larsen, director of CAPDD, hopes Piazza will rule that remaining money can be spent on the projects for which the district, at the behest of lawmakers, intended it.

No way! Wilson says. He believes the money must be returned to the state treasury.

Initially, Wilson wanted all the grant recipients to return the other approximately $2 million awarded, but he has conceded that would create too great a hardship on the grantees, who didn’t have sufficient money to begin with.

It seems clear that the state must find some way to support the worthy ventures that have received GIF grants in the past.

As a culture, and a poor one at that, we cannot chili-supper our way out of financial difficulty for Boys and Girls Clubs, volunteer fire departments, public schools, battered women’s shelters, community centers and such.

We could wash cars till the streams run dry and not afford “new” used fire trucks for volunteer departments that cover most of Arkansas.

Wilson’s lawsuits have not always been well received, even by members of his own family. In the first suit, concluded in 2007, his victory meant that grants ended for Reed’s Battlefield on old Jacksonville highway, which is popular in his family. It stopped money headed for the Central Arkansas Library, until recently headed by Bobby Roberts, his brother-in-law.

Some people think lawmakers will look for yet another end run to control the surplus funds to the benefit of their constituents and perhaps their re-election chances.

Meanwhile, the FBI has pulled back the curtain on a series of alleged kickbacks and self-dealing through GIF grants by lawmakers or former lawmakers so far only in the Springdale or Fort Smith areas, although some familiar with the investigation expect even more indictments.

At least one has pleaded guilty to fraud and others are teetering on the brink of the abyss.

Wilson said he was unaware of the thievery and kickbacks when he filed his suit.

He just wants the state lawmakers to abide by state law. Is that asking too much?

SPORTS STORY >> Lions are no relief for battered Beebe

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

The Badgers continue its most brutal schedule this week, and will limp into its homecoming showdown with the massive McClellan Lions on Friday with three starters still out. There were five missing from last week’s 35-14 loss to Parkview, and the increasing lack of depth continues to show. The Badgers (2-4, 0-3) last four opponents plus McClellan (5-1, 3-0 with the only loss coming to 7A’s No. 1 team North Little Rock) are 26-4 overall and 14-1 in conference play.

“Sometimes it feels like we’re in the SEC on the western side,” said Beebe coach John Shannon.

One key injury for Beebe was starting fullback Khalil Anthony, a senior who was having a breakout season. And it was one the coaching staff saw coming during the summer.

Last week, starting halfback Taylor Boyce moved to fullback for most of the carries. Later in the game, backup fullback Ahmad Nelson and starting safety Mason Walker shared the load, and will likely do so again this week.

“We had to find some other people that could move into the fullback spot because putting T there, everybody was loading up to stop him. So we’re putting Nelson and Walker in there at fullback so you still have to respect the halfback position and they can’t load up on one guy.”

McClellan doesn’t have the same big-play capability it did last year with dynamic dual-threat quarterback Davion Childs and now Division 1 running back Pierre Strong, but the Lions are still putting up the points this season.

Their low total all year has been in the 48-30 loss to North Little Rock. They are averaging 51 points per game.

“They don’t seem as explosive as in the past, but man they’re big,” Shannon said. “They line up in several formations but they want to run the ball. They got that 230-pound quarterback (Bennie Kemp III) and those huge linemen, that makes it tough.”

Beebe’s lack of depth has contributed to all but one of their four losses. In three of those games, the score was tied in the second half, but the Badgers lost all three by three scores.

“We’re having to play so many both ways, we’re getting worn down,” Shannon said. “Depth is our big issue, and that’s what McClellan tries to do to you. They’ve been in some close games in the first half, too. But with those big boys wearing on you, they start busting big plays on you.

“We’re going to maybe need a little luck, a turnover go our way here and there, catch a few breaks. I sure don’t think it’s a lost cause. All we can do is strap it back on, go play and see what happens.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers try to right ship at Central

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panther football team has to regroup after playing its worst game of the season last week in a 42-14 loss at Conway. The Panthers stay on the road and make the short trip to Quigley Stadium to face the Central Tigers.

Central has lost five-straight since winning its season opener against Rogers-Heritage, but Cabot coach Mike Malham is not expecting anything easy, and fully expects to lose if his team plays like it did last week.

“If we keep playing like that we can’t beat anybody,” said Malham. “I don’t know. We got off to a pretty good start to the season. That was a pleasant surprise considering all the kids we’ve got out there that haven’t played before. But it all fell to pieces last Friday night.

“There’s a lot of blame to go around. They played pretty good and we didn’t play well at all. I didn’t do a good job; the coaches didn’t do a good job of getting them ready. It was a fiasco. I guess those things happen. Hopefully we’ll get our mind on business and be more prepared than we were. We got four tough ones left, and if we don’t get our act together quick, it could turn ugly.

One piece of good news for Cabot (4-2, 2-1) is that starting fullback Adam Flores returned to practice this week after missing the last three games with an injury. Division I prospect at defensive tackle, Dayonte Roberts, might also return after missing the last three games as well.

“Flores is practicing this week,” Malham said. “He’s a different type of back than Morales. He’s a lot stronger but Morales gives you more speed.

We’re glad to have him back because he adds a different style, but it hasn’t been a huge problem. One place we have some depth is in the backfield.

“Now we could use another D lineman. Right now we’ve got three sophomores players across there. They’ve been doing a pretty good job, but that’s not ideal for 7A football. We’ll know if he’ll be back later this week.”

Central has played a tough schedule over the last five games. Four of the losses were to 6-0 Bentonville West, 6-0 West Memphis, 6-0 North Little Rock and 6-0 Bryant. NLR and Bryant are the top-two ranked teams in 7A, and Central’s losses were 31-20 and 35-20 respectively. The other loss was 35-20 at Fort Smith Northside (2-4)

“They played ‘em pretty tight,” Malham said. “They’ve got athletes and a good coaching staff, just like everybody else in this conference. If we don’t get ready to play better than we did last week we’re going to get worn out.”

SPORTS STORY >> Pressure the key to upset of Bruins

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills got its offense going full speed in last week’s win at Mills, but it will need its defense and special teams to step up like it hasn’t had to yet this season when the undefeated Pulaski Academy Bruins visit Blackwood Field on Friday.

The defending state champions don’t have the same quality defense it had a year ago. Opponents are averaging four touchdowns per game against the Bruins, but the offense is scoring at a level considered high even by PA’s standards. This year’s Bruins are scoring 63.5 points per game, with the high coming in last week’s wild 86-56 win over Little Rock Christian Academy.

LRCA managed to score with PA for three quarters, trailing 53-42 at the start of the fourth, but PA’s relentless onside kicking finally started to pay off and the Bruins won the game simply by getting more possessions.

“That’s the key when you play them,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “If you keep giving away possessions, they’re going to score and you don’t have a chance.”

The Bears outplayed the Bruins last year in Little Rock in every statistical category, but still lost a hard-fought, 35-23 game thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter that wiped away a first down and led to a blocked punt that PA scored on to take the lead.

Sylvan Hills held PA to 284 yards of offense in that game, less than half its season average.

The Bears did that with pressure on the quarterback, and that will be a focus this year as well.

“If you look at last week, (LRCA) just rushed three and that kid (quarterback Layne Hatcher) just sat back and picked them apart. You’ve got to get some pressure on him. I don’t care how athletic you are in the defensive backfield, if you let him stand there, they’re going to kill you.”

This year’s Bears have different kinds of players from last year, but the defensive strategy will be basically the same, with some different wrinkles.

“We’re just a different kind of team and we have to do it a little different way,” Withrow said. “The things we could do with those guys last year, we can’t necessarily do with these guys. But there are some things we’re going to do we wouldn’t have tried last year. We’re still going in with the goal of getting to the quarterback. We just have to do it a different way.

“We think we have a chance. If we can make some plays and score and not get out-possessioned, I think we have a chance.”

SPORTS STORY >> Titans hope for a better start at Hall

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

Homecoming week at Jacksonville High School was exciting right up until the buzzer sounded to end the game on Friday. While the Titans didn’t do it in the way they had hoped, they cleared a key hurdle in getting to the Class 6A playoffs with a 14-10 win over Mountain Home.

Another hurdle, and likely the final one, for making the postseason after a two-year absence, is going on the road and defeating Hall High School this Friday at Scott Field in Little Rock.

Jacksonville dominated statistically last week, especially in the early portion of the game. But turnovers played a huge role in the first quarter, and Titans suddenly found themselves behind early in the second quarter.

“You know, we’ve had good ball security all season,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “I think we’ve had one fumble all season, and that was the first game. Then we have two on our first two possessions when it looks like we’re about to go score. We force them three and out twice, and then we get a tough call on fourth down about score again. They ruled it incomplete and it looks like a catch on film. They hit a big play and now we’re in a hole.

“It wasn’t how we drew it up, but we got through it with a win. It’s a whole lot better to wish you played better and get the win, than wish you’d played better and be stuck with a loss. We got through it. We left some points out there, missed some opportunities, but you want to make sure you win, and we did that. We mustered it up and pulled through it.”

Hall has another new coach in Kipchoge VanHoose, who had to salvage a team after the late departure of former coach Tim Scarborough. The Warriors won their opener 28-12 over J.A. Fair, but have lost five-straight since then. They only share one common opponent with Jacksonville. The Titans beat Mills 25-21 in the season opener. Hall lost to Mills 28-12 the next week.

The Warriors haven’t been that impressive overall, but some of their strengths align with what have been Jacksonville’s weaknesses, in particular, the deep pass.

“That’s what’s scary,” Hickingbotham said. “They have a quarterback (Nyelin Earl) who can throw the deep ball. Against Marion, it was 14-14 in the first quarter. They’re out there running by people and throwing vertical balls. They had a couple turnovers after that and it got away from them, but they have some guys with some ability.

“We’ve had times where we’ve given things up over the top. We’re going to have to play well on the back end, or our line is going to have to wreak havoc. That’s a risk too because he can pull it down and beat you with his feet.”

The main focus for Jacksonville, however, is finishing. It wasn’t just the first quarter of last week that the Titans squandered scoring opportunities with self-inflicted mistakes.

“If we can go down the field and finish off a few drives, we’ll be in a lot better shape,” Hickingbotham said. “We had that pass out in the flat open all night, and couldn’t connect it. And when we did we got a big gain and them fumbled it away. If we eliminate the drops and get back to the ball security we’ve had most of the season, we can finish these drives. Hopefully we can do that and get them down early. If we do that, we’ll be in good shape.”

TOP STORY >> Big city festival held downtown

By JEFFREY SMITH Leader staff writer

The 40th annual CabotFest takes over downtown Cabot on Friday and Saturday with music, dance performances and vendor booths. Admission is free.

CabotFest began in 1978 to celebrate the city’s recovery from the deadly 1976 tornado that destroyed downtown.

The carnival runs 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Armbands are available for Thursday and Friday night only for $20 in advance at the chamber of commerce office until 4:30 p.m. Friday and $25 at the festival.

Cabotfest kicks off at 5:45 p.m. Friday on the State Farm stage, at the corner of Second Street and Hwy. 89 with opening ceremonies, followed at 6 p.m. with the Battle of the Bands contest. Six bands are entered in the judged contest.

The winner will receive $250 and performs at 2:15 p.m. Saturday. Tragikly White will play at 7:45 p.m. Food vendors will be open.

Entertainment on Satur-day starts at 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the State Farm stage will be performances of dance groups, gymnastics, Cabot Community Theater, Limelight Performance Acad-emy, clogging and 5K race award winners.

The Larry Weathers Band will perform at 12:55 p.m. CabotFest pageant winners at 1:45 p.m., followed by Luke Williams at 2 p.m., Luke Erwin at 2:45 p.m., T.J. Ashley Band at 3:45 p.m. and Just Sayin Band at 5 p.m.

Over on the Waste Connections stage at the corner of West Main Street and Fourth Street will be Cabot Public Schools student performances starting at 9 a.m. Battle of the Bands winner at 2:15 p.m. Bree Ogden at 3 p.m. Sally Howell at 4 p.m. and Bailey Hefley at 5 p.m.

CabotFest has 130 vendors, a cricket spitting contest, a 5K race, a car show, Cabot Animal Shelter’s mobile adoption unit, Bingo, a family area with face painting and build-a-pal and the bookmobile.

“It is the 39th year. We are praying for good weather and anticipating a big crowd. Come out and have a good time,” chamber director Amy Williams said.

“This year we’ve added food vendors at the Waste Connection stage,” Williams said.

The 12 food vendors are Bubba’s Southern BBQ, Chef Donnie Ferneau, Dawg’s Deluxe, Food Commander, Filipino American Association, Kathy’s Kabana, Kona Ice, Mountain Home Kettle Corn, Rodeo Style Mud Bugs and W and M Concessions.

The Cabot AARP Chapter 3267 will be sponsoring a bingo booth at CabotFest from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

“We will be stationed at the Regions Bank at 102 S. Second St. Each card will cost 50 cents and prizes include gifts that local merchants have donated. People will be able to sit and rest while supporting our local club,” according to the announcement.

The CabotFest bingo booth is the group’s largest fundraiser. Proceeds fund a college scholarship for a Cabot High School senior along with several local charities.

Cabot AARP meets on the fourth Monday of the month at the Cabot Senior Citizens Center, 600 N. Grant St.

The Cabot Lions Club will hold its annual pancake breakfast that kicks off CabotFest from 6 a.m. till 10 a.m. Saturday in the Cabot First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall.

Tickets are $5 and $2 for kids 10 years old and under. They can be purchased from Lions Club members in advance or at the door. Carry-out and to-go orders will be available.

Guests are being asked to bring used eyeglasses to be recycled.

TOP STORY >> Flying Cross recipients reunite

Leader staff writer

The Distinguished Flying Cross Society Ira Eaker Chapter held its 20-year anniversary on Saturday at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.

The chapter was founded in 1997 to serve DFCS members who live in Arkansas. The DFCS national president, retired Navy Commander Chuck Sweeney of California, was the guest speaker.

Eaker Air Force Base in Blytheville, which closed in 1992, was named after the general who was one of America’s air pioneers and a top commander in World War II.

The Distinguished Flying Cross Society was started in 1994 in California. It honors men and women from all branches of the military who demonstrated heroism or extraordinary achievements in difficult situations in aerial flight. The honor is mostly awarded to service members but has been given to civilians.

The Ira Eaker Chapter has 135 members in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and Texas. They served during the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the War in Afghanistan.

One of the first Distinguished Flying Cross medals was awarded to Charles Lindbergh in 1927 by President Calvin Coolidge for his nonstop solo flight over the Atlantic.

Amelia Earhart was the first woman awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross medal in 1932 for the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Some of the Distinguished Flying Cross recipients talked with The Leader about the incidents for which they received the medal.

Retired Lt. Col. Jack McCollum of North Little Rock was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He flew an AC-130 gunship at night over South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He had a crew of 14.

“On one mission I flew, we destroyed many trucks on the Ho Chi Minh trail,” he said.

McCollum was awarded the medal for destroying 10 supply vehicles while facing anti-aircraft fire on March, 5, 1972.

Buzz Smith of North Little Rock was an Air Force C-130 aircraft commander during the Vietnam War. “It is a very prestigious award and I’m very proud of it,” Smith said.

He flew an emergency air evacuation mission in southeast Asia on Sept. 2, 1967, with 48 battle casualties on board.

“We were being attacked while loading the wounded. Mortars and rockets were hitting the runaway,” Smith said.

Tim Murphy of Conway was an Army warrant officer during the Vietnam War, where he was a Chinook CH-47 helicopter pilot.

On Dec. 14, 1970, he landed a helicopter to unload supplies and picked up the dead and wounded. He said the area was being hit with mortars. No one was injured on the helicopter during the incident.

“Somebody important was watching that day. It is very seldom a Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded for combat support aircraft,” Murphy said.

“I wear it for all the people that deserved it and didn’t receive it,” Murphy said.

Ken Zellmer of Sherwood received two DFC medals as a pilot in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

The first, as a first lieutenant, he flew a C-130 loaded with needed supplies to U.S. forces on Dec. 4, 1968, at Song Be, Vietnam.

“They were under attack with rockets, mortars and Cobra gunships. We were on the ground for less than five minutes,” Zellmer said.

Zellmer, as a captain on May, 1, 1971, was flying an A-37 in Cambodia.

“On the way back from dropping bombs, we gave a few passes, shooting to help the friendlies. We were running low on fuel,” Zellmer said.

Monday, October 09, 2017

TOP STORY >> Peer group for combat veterans

Leader staff writer

Since 2006, there have been 1,100 troops have committed suicide. In 2009, 245 soldiers killed themselves. On average, five active-duty troops attempt suicide daily. One-third of the nation’s homeless are veterans. One in three returning troops are being diagnosed with serious post-traumatic stress symptoms. Less than 40 percent will seek help. These statistics are according to the PTSD Foundation of America website.

The PTSD Foundation of America works to help combat veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress symptoms. Three Arkansans are working to bring that help here.

David Gordy and Derek Barker, both of Jonesboro, and Gary Miranda of Brookland, have set up Warrior Groups in Jonesboro, Searcy and now Jacksonville.

Warrior groups are for combat veterans and their families to meet with peers and share their experiences. While the groups are not treatment programs, they offer support and guidance to help heal, balance and create positive reintegration with families and society.

Jacksonville’s group will hold its second meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Hope Lutheran Church in Jacksonville. The group meets every third Tuesday of the month.
Gordy has been managing director of the PTSD Foundation Arkansas Chapter for two years.

“We are trying to spread our peer support (Warrior) groups across the state. We thought that Jacksonville will be a good fit for our group because of the Air Force base there and the amount of veterans that are in the area,” Gordy said.

“We have had one meeting in Jacksonville already, but we did not have any veterans come. We understand that it is a process to starting these groups and that it takes time, so we are not discouraged at all by that. The other groups that we have in the state right now are in Searcy and Jonesboro, but we are going to continue to start groups in other towns.”

Gordy is a combat veteran himself, having served in the Army Infantry. He deployed with the 25th Infantry Division to Iraq in January 2004 and returned in February 2005.

“I do have PTSD from my deployment,” he said. “The PTSD Foundation of America has helped me with my PTSD. Gary and I both decided to become part of the PTSD Foundation of America together.”

Miranda, who serves as chief veteran coordinator for the PTSD Foundation of America’s Arkansas Chapter, is also a combat veteran. He served in Iraq with the Marine Corps in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Barker, who serves as the chapter’s veteran resource coordinator, served in Army Special Operations and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gordy and Miranda met on Twitter, bonding over Arkansas State football and the military. “We both had similar experiences with the VA support groups here in northeast Arkansas,” Gordy said.

“The groups were not what we were looking for because they were more social events than working on issues. I called him one night in 2014 because I was struggling with issues from PTSD. We decided that we would start to get together once in a while to talk about things,” he said. 

“The conversation went from there to ‘we cannot be the only veterans in the area that need something,’ so we decided to do some research on PTSD peer support groups. I found the PTSD Foundation of America online and sent them an email asking about their warrior groups. They said that if we could come to Camp Hope in Houston that they would teach us how to run groups. Gary and I carved out two weeks at the end of April 2014 and went to Houston to learn how to run groups,” Gordy said.

For more information on the PTSD Foundation of America or its Arkansas chapter, contact David Gordy at 870-273-2838 or or Gary Miranda at 870-882-2887 or You can also visit the organization’s website at