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2013 in review part 3

May 16: Restoration work on Lonoke County’s 86-year-old courthouse will turn into a full-scale weatherization project, with a $140,000 price tag, with approval of County Judge Doug Erwin’s request by justices of the peace.

The work began as a $45,000 historic preservation grant to re-point the top six feet of the courthouse, Erwin said. That work has been under way for about a month, he said.

“I know that figure is an enormous amount of money to anybody for anything, but we are looking at a historical building that hasn’t had any TLC in almost a hundred years,” Erwin said. There are signs of weather damage occurring inside the courthouse, he said.

May 21: Red tape and new laws are pushing the Cabot School District out of the business of managing substitute teachers, turning instead to contract services. “The reason most [districts] are looking at this is the cost of the new healthcare regulations,” superintendent Tony Thurman said.

May 29: Results of a study into alternatives to the North Belt Freeway do not bode well for those looking to connect U.S. Highway 67-167 with Interstate 30 at the Interstate 630 junction. Cabot mayor Bill Cypert states, “Cabot can’t afford this,” he said. Cypert is chairman of the committee, formed in December at his request. In December, Cypert called on Metroplan members to abandon the planned freeway, saying it had become a distraction from other transportation needs. If built, the North Belt Freeway would connect U.S. Highway 67/167 with Interstate 30 There are currently no funds obligated to the North Belt Freeway project, though it remains on the “vision plan.”

May 30: Residents, city and state officials and others gathered Friday at the corner of Arkansas Highway 5 and West Mountain Springs Road for the ceremonial groundbreaking to mark start of construction the city’s newest fire station.

Officials remark that, when built, Fire Station No. 2 would end years of stopgap measures to ensure city fire protection in the growing northwest section of Cabot. Fire Chief Phil Robinson says the fire station would reduce fire department response to emergencies by two to four miles, which means help will arrive eight to 10 minutes faster, he said.

Other officials include state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, mayor Bill Cypert, and Gary Clements of Clements and Associates, Architects, Inc.

June 2: Cabot Police Department reports a shooting at an apartment complex in Cabot. The report said officers found an adult male with several gunshot wounds lying conscious and responsive on the floor of the apartment. The victim was flown to a hospital where he was listed in critical condition.

June 3: City Council members begin a review of the city’s 40-year-old parking ordinance. The look to restrict or prohibit parking on city streets was made after the city code enforcement officer called for authority to control parking in the street to respond to numerous complaints.

June 6: Plans for the $32-million expansion of the Remington Arms Lonoke Plant are heard during a meeting of the Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce. Plant manager gives limited details. “You probably want to know what the product is, so does the competition. I am in no hurry for them to find what we are doing there,” he said. The Remington Lonoke plant, on Arkansas Highway 15 at the interchange with Interstate 40, with more than 1,200 employees, is the major commercial employer in Lonoke County. News of the expansion came only weeks after start of construction to add a new Interstate 40 interchange with Arkansas Highway 89 at Lonoke, a few miles east of the plant. The expansion will include a new, 35,000 square-foot plant located south of the existing plant, which also will expandable, he added. There will be new skills required because of advances in computer-aided design, and a need for better skilled employees, he said.

June 10: Cabot City Council members answer questions about the Door Knock Ordinance set to take effect June 19. Under the ordinance, it would be a misdemeanor, subject to fines of $100 to $1,000, to solicit at residences that are posted with signs stating “No Solicitors,” “No Solicitation,” “No Soliciting,” “No Peddlers,” or “No Trespassing.” Although aimed at sales calls, Cabot’s door-knock ordinance could also mean the end of visits for fundraising cookie sales, traditional visits by church members and other solicitations.

June 12: Arkansas State Police preliminary reports list two traffic fatalities in Lonoke County during the past week. Summary reports show Rickey D. McKinney, 51, of Lonoke, died of injuries suffered in a single-vehicle accident near Carlisle on Sunday; and Dusty Ray Abshure, 26, Austin died when the motorcycle he was operating struck a tree near Cabot.

June 10: Tears and angry words flow at the Ward City Council meeting when aldermen uphold to the city animal control ordinance prohibiting horses, saying size is of no consideration. The decision was in answer to a request from resident Patricia Tullos to waive the restriction for her miniature horse. However, city council members agreed that a horse cannot be kept within city limits on lots less than one acre, regardless of the size of the horse. Shortly before the council adjourns, husband Merle Tullos storms the meeting demanding, “What’s wrong with you people? … Are you that hard?”

June 13: Cabot Police Department reports a possible kidnap attempt at city baseball field. Although unsuccessful, police were not called until later in the day. “Anytime something like this comes up, call the police. It is a lot easier to clear up any misunderstanding, instead of having worse,” Cabot police department spokesman Lt. Brent Lucas remarked. According to the report, an unknown female had approached a youth baseball coach, claiming a particular child had been kidnapped from her. The woman said she would return the next day with sheriff’s deputies but did not reappear. Lucas said failing to immediately call police hampered, perhaps prevented, catching the person unless there is another attempt.

June 17: Cabot City Council declares Tristan Wall of Cabot a “true Cabot hero” for saving the life of 2-year-old Laythan Webert when they were in a car accident on April 3. The proclamation notes that Wall, “Without regard for own life, used his own body to protect Laythan Webert … as the vehicle spun out of control.” The citation also notes that it is very possible that Webert, “Would not be alive today if it were not for the heroic act of Tristan Wall.” Tragically, Jaden Cain Herlacher, 15, was fatally injured in the accident.

June 18: Cabot and the Parks and Recreation Commission holds a public meeting seeking comment on outdoor park and recreation needs and priorities for ethnic minorities, persons with special needs, elderly persons over 55, and other special interest groups, with view to plans for the expanded parks facilities.

June 20: County Assessor Jack McNally tells Quorum Court members of progress toward interactive information systems at the assessor’s office. “We are moving right along with the GIS [geographic information system] and mapping project,” he said. Progress is now to where aerial mapping of the county is the next step to take, he said. Aerial mapping will add another “layer” to the system, which organizes and links geographically linked information for management and analysis. GIS maps in other counties have been used to reduce 911 response time, for bridge planning, municipal zoning, setting boundaries for fire coverage, school zoning and many other needs, McNally said. Keeping such information current is important for businesses considering a move into an area or for startups, McNally said. The recent choice to place a steel mill in the state was heavily influenced by having current GIS figures available, he said. Cost of the flyover ranges from $45,000 to $90,000, depending on the information to be managed, McNally said.

June 22: Lonoke County sheriff’s deputies investigate an alleged murder attempt near Cabot after reports from hospital employees; Kelley Kelley, 58, of Austin, is held at the Lonoke County detention facility with no bond in the investigation. According information from the sheriff’s office, medical staff reported Kelley’s statements that she had overdosed her 73-year-old husband and killed the couple’s dog. The husband was treated for an overdose of prescription medication; investigators found the dog in the bathtub at the residence.

June 24: Austin City Council members vote to end water service deposits and, instead, collect a $125 non-refundable connection fee. Mayor Bernie Chamberlain said this would end having to maintain separate deposit records. Basic water rate is increased to a minimum of $17.75, which includes the first 1,000 gallons.

June 26: Lonoke County Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore makes a plea for more Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers. Information provided her by CASAs guide her in her “most heart-rending, difficult decisions” in child custody hearings, Elmore said. “I am scared the [CASAs] we have will get overworked, burned out, and we will lose them. I am scared of losing them. I depend on my CASAs,” Elmore said.

June 29: Lonoke County Detention Facility sees an escape when Micah Lance Edwards, 22, of Cabot bolts out a door. Although the escape is short-lived, Edwards is captured the next day, it is still “embarrassing,” Sheriff John Staley said, adding that an internal investigation is under way. The jailers involved are on administrative leave pending the outcome. “Things may have gotten a little lax,” Staley said. The pointlessness of the escape is underscored by the result of Edwards’ action, Staley said. “[Edwards] was being held on misdemeanors. He faced, what? A slap on the wrist? Maybe 30 days? Now he is facing a felony charge of escape and prison time,” Staley remarked. The jailers in the incident resigned a short time later.

June 30: Metroplan approves proposed changes to the junction of Arkansas Highway 38 with Highway 367 to include a traffic island to guide traffic with a right-turn lane; left-turn and straight-through traffic controlled by the signal through photo sensors. Lighting at the junction would also be installed. However, no pedestrian service is being added although the overpass and approaches include sidewalks. The plans note that sidewalks and crosswalks can be added when the roadway is extended to U.S. Highway 67/167 with the construction of the north terminal interchange.

July 8: With the devastation wreaked by tornadoes in Oklahoma fresh in mind, the Cabot City Council “committee of the whole” voted to seek grants and other aid to build community safe rooms. Mayor Bill Cypert remarked that the need for a safe room in Cabot has existed for a long time but location and funding “were major issues.” The new addition about to be built at the Veterans Park Community Center, “Is a viable option for us. It fits what we want to do,” he said. The room would be 5,000 square feet and have a capacity of 1,000, Cypert said. Funding remains an issue with an estimated cost of $1.2 million, although through grants the city could match 25 percent, or $300,000, he said.

July 10: Cabot Fire Department announces three sessions of Junior Fire Camp to teach fire safety, bike safety, and team-building skills.

July 8: Ward City Council members learn that the long-awaited traffic circle to tame the junction of Arkansas Highway 367 with Hickory and Griffin streets at the Peyton Street railroad crossing is not likely in the foreseeable future. However, the complicated intersection could be modified quickly, to ease traffic congestion, by making use of federal Local Urbanized Attributed (LUZA) funds available to the city through Metroplan. The modifications could include widening a traffic lane to provide for up to about 20 vehicles waiting at the railroad crossing and would end Hickory Street about 100 feet from Highway 367. The proposed modifications would be adaptable to a traffic circle once it is approved.

July 15: Cabot aldermen approve the funds for the city’s portion of costs to build the U.S Highway 67/167 north terminal interchange, one of six projects approved by voters in a March special election. The $9.5 million is the city’s share of construction costs in an agreement with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD), which will contribute up to $11.5 million.

Mayor Bill Cypert adds that there is provision in the agreement for AHTD to refund the city if the state funds are not made available within five years of Oct. 1. The funds will be made available to AHTD over 36 months, and may be used to expedite the project. No date has been set for the start of construction.

July 17: Safe Routes to Schools improvements continue with new sidewalks from Oak Meadows drive, along Lincoln Street to the high school.

July 18: The Cabot High School Electric Vehicle Team takes first place in the Arkansas Electric Vehicle Rally sponsored by the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. Cabot High School team members are Aaron Morris, Ty Stoll, Powell, Daniel Brathwaite, Morgan Gurke and Jonathan Nigus, with school board president Corey Williams. Other members of the team include Amanda Oliver, Justin Mullins, Gene Barbery and Delton Farinelli. Sponsor Linda Powell this was the third time the high school had fielded at team; 13 schools entered the competition.

July 20: Justices of the peace approve appropriating the balance of the cost of installing an elevator at the Lonoke County Courthouse. County Judge Doug Erwin said the cost of the elevator would be covered by several funds, with $100,000 coming from an Arkansas Historical Preservation grant: about $40,000 through Gov. Mike Beebe; state Senator Eddie Joe Williams has pledged $30,000 as well as state Senator Jonathan Dismang. The Lonoke County Courthouse, built in 1927, has had limited handicapped access including two types of chair lifts. One chairlift was installed as a result of a federal lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Parts for one of the lifts are no longer available, Erwin said.

July 21: Lonoke County Sheriff’s office reports the Sunday death of a 3-year-old child near Cabot. According to a press release, the death is being considered an accidental shooting with no indications of foul play.

July 22: Cabot Police Department reports that the First Arkansas Bank and Trust, branch office on South Second St. (Arkansas Highway 367) was robbed. The suspect was wearing dark pants and an Indianapolis Police Department shirt and dark pants; he had a stocking over his head, and was carrying a gun when he entered the bank. The suspect appears to be a white male, approximately 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing 260 pounds. He demanded and received money, and then left the bank without incident. The amount of money was not disclosed.

July 23: Austin City Council members, at the urging of a resident, decided Monday to begin developing a dog control ordinance. Whether or not pit bull terriers would be targeted for a ban remains to be seen.

July 24: Despite a wet spring, Arkansas’ estimated 2013 winter wheat yield is 59 bushels per acre, the second highest on record, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The record for wheat in Arkansas is 61 bushels per acre, set in 2006. For that year’s harvest, growers planted 365,000 acres. Arkansas growers planted 710,000 acres for harvest in 2013. Rice, wheat and soybeans are Lonoke County’s top agricultural product.

July 26: high school sports teams, youth groups and other organizations pitch in Friday to shuck 9,432 ears of corn for the Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center at Lonoke for the annual fundraising sale. Board of directors chairman Bo Bevis said the figure there were 131 bags containing 72 ears to be cleaned. Lonoke High School girls volleyball team, the football team and youth groups from Roberson Chapel Baptist Church, Lonoke First United Methodist Church and Brownsville Baptist Church volunteered. “It took about three hours,” Bevis said.

July 29: In a special meeting, Cabot City Council members approved the purchase of land for one of the keystone projects promoted in the improvement bond refunding. Unanimous approval was given the purchase of land for the Cabot Parks and Recreation Sports Complex for $750,000. The 50-acre parcel, being sold by the Odom Family Living Trust, is near the intersection of Bill Foster Highway (Arkansas Highway 321) and Kerr Station Road. A portion of the land is an airstrip. After the meeting, Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Maggie Cope said that there is great satisfaction in seeing a dream of better parks facilities coming true. Then-parks director Larry Tarrant first proposed the sports complex nearly eight years ago, she said. “This has been a long time coming,” Cope remarked. The land is to be the site of nine baseball fields, two softball fields, outdoor pool complex, a playground, picnic pavilions and a walking track.

Aug. 7: Cabot School District officials announced in press release that Panther Stadium at Cabot High School is again open for public fitness use when not being used by student-athletes. Renovation of the track, construction of a band shell and other work required closing Panther Stadium for safety.

Aug 7: “It is all about finishing,” Donna Miles of Cabot said of her experience completing the Missouri American Water MR-340, a grueling 340-mile endurance canoe/kayak trip from Kansas City, Mo. to St. Charles on the Missouri River. The course must be completed in 88 hours or less to be considered successful for the race. “I even might be the only one from Arkansas who completed it. There were three [this year], but the other two either did not enter the water or did not get to the first [check] point,” Miles said. She said she could find no record of an Arkansas competitor in records of the past races. “No. No. It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Miles said of repeating the feat.

Aug. 7: City Council members vote to take up increased district court security measures at the Aug. 19 council meeting. Meeting recommendations presented by Police Chief Jackie Davis would require about $44,000. Mayor Bill Cypert urged the committee to place a resolution before the council on measures to improve district court security. “Basically, it is non-existent,” Cypert remarked.

Aug. 8: Remington Arms hosts ground breaking at the Lonoke plant to mark start of a $32 million expansion. Speakers at the ceremony include Gov. Mike Beebe, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and Freedom Group CEO George Kollitides; Freedom Group COO Kevin Miniard, and board of directors members Jim Pike and Bobby Brown take part in the groundbreaking. The Remington Lonoke plant, on Arkansas Highway 15 at the interchange with Interstate 40, with more than 1,200 employees, is the major commercial employer in Lonoke County. The expansion would include a 35,000 square-foot plant, located south of the existing plant. The new jobs at the expanded operation will call for new skills, Grahlmann said. The plant is now making more ammunition than was ever contemplated for it, but has reached its capability, Grahlmann said in previous remarks. Most areas of the plant are operating at record levels while using machines dating from the 1930s. The only way to significantly increase production is with new facilities, he said.

Aug. 11: According to an Arkansas State Police Preliminary Fatal Crash Summary, Kyle Wayne DeBlock, 22, of Ward, died on South Rockwood Road when his motorcycle sturck a guardrail.

Aug 14: From overweight to “marathon maniac,” from insecure to onstage confidence, from medication dependence to freedom. Three Lonoke County women lose a total of more than 400 pounds: Annette Blanton of Cabot lost 90, Rachel Whittenberg of Lonoke has lost 110 - Rebecca Privitera of Cabot has lost 194. All three used diet and exercise, and each had their own reason for starting on the road to slimming down. Blanton wanted to keep up with a young niece; Privitera had become envious of family and friends involved in sports. “I didn’t want to die at 40,” Whittenberg said. “There is nothing you can do about some things. But if I could stop something, I was going to do it,” she remarked.

Aug. 19: Cabot City Council members approve funds for improving district court security and adding another code enforcement officer to the city staff. At an Aug. 12 meeting, police chief Jackie Davis described suggested improvements including video recording, illumination, magnetic locks and other area security features.

Mayor Bill Cypert presents Jay Lallu, owner of the Cabot Day’s Inn, with a Random Act of Kindness citation for opening the hotel pool to community center activities while the center is being repaired.

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