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Looking back at 2013, Part 4

Aug. 21 – Thousands in the Cabot area are plunged into darkness when a high-voltage transmission line falls to the ground. However, investigators from the FBI, ATF, Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, and Cabot Police Department determine the power line was sabotaged. Traffic in the city is snarled for two days as Bill Foster Highway is closed while Entergy crews repair the damage.

Sept. 17 - Johnny White sits for the last time on the Parks and Recreation Commission. He has been on the Commission since December 2012 when he was appointed to complete the term of a vacant seat; White asked that he not be reappointed. Maggie Cope, Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, presented White with a plaque marking the other commissioners’ appreciation for his leadership and service to Cabot parks and recreation.

Sept. 19 - Two fatalities within a few weeks spurs a group of residents Safety on South Rockwood Drive was not on the Lonoke County Quorum Court agenda, but to put it on the table during public comment last week. JP Matt Sanders brought up the South Rockwood Road concerns, reading aloud a letter from a resident. The letter emphasizes a total of six fatalities and numerous other accidents that have occurred on the 2.5 mile road that connects Arkansas Highway 5 with West Main Street. The Greyhawk Road junction, hidden to southbound traffic by the crest of a hill, is dangerous. Since the county created the condition, the county should correct it, the letter states.

After discussion, County Judge Doug Erwin said he would evaluate the suggestions, such as traffic control or another road, and make a report at the Oct. 17 Quorum Court meeting.

Sept. 24 - A breakdown of the expected 2013-14 Cabot School District revenue is local taxes: $24.3 million; state funds: $49.3 million; other state aid: $583,550; unrestricted federal aid: $230,000. No additional aid is projected for student growth; last year the district gained about $318,000 due to student growth. Total revenue estimate is $74.4 million.

In expenditures, certified salaries: $36.2 million; Instructional/Pupil Support: $18.3 million; general administration/principals: $4.4 million; maintenance and operations: $7.3 million; transportation: $3.2 million; other/transfers: $164,000; debt payments: $4.6 million; with total expenditures of $74.3 million.

Sept. 25 - Gov. Mike Beebe on Monday announced a one-month delay in the start of when teachers can begin signing up for health insurance as lawmakers weigh options to address soaring premiums.

The start of the sign-up period was pushed back from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1.

“The gives some more breathing room as we work with the General Assembly, the superintendents, teachers groups, public school employee groups with specifics to see if any consensus can be achieved to address the rate hikes that have been announced,” Beebe said during a news conference at the state Capitol.

Beebe has said he will not call a special session to address the problem unless an agreement is reached beforehand. He told reporters Monday it was too early to say whether lawmakers could come to an agreement, but he said if one can be reached he would call a special session sooner rather than later.

Sept. 26 - Cabot Water and Wastewater Commissioners vote to proceed with condemnation action for the railroad crossings needed for three of the sales-tax funded projects approved by voters in the March special election. Commissioners also hear of progress on the remainder of the projects being funded by the $8 million bond issue.

Sept. 29 – Another attack on the power grid is reported by Entergy Arkansas officials. They report that an early morning fire damaged the Keo substation on Arkansas Highway 165 between Scott and England in Lonoke County. There were no injuries and no reported power outages in the Keo incident, but officials determined that the fire was intentionally set

Oct. 1 - Frustration and indignation boil up into shouts of anger at the Cabot Planning Commission meeting when residents of the Glenwood Estates subdivision challenge a planned addition. Tensions were eased when the matter was tabled to the November commission meeting, but the next day commission chairman Ron Craig resigns at the request of Mayor Bill Cypert. The conduct of the meeting was not what should be expected of a city meeting, Cypert said Tuesday. “We spoke about it. I asked [Craig] to resign, and he did,” Cypert said. The controversy is over a 42-home planned unit development (PUD) proposed by Montclaire Development. The PUD would be built on six acres between Glenwood Estates and U.S. Highway 67/167, accessed by one road through Glenwood Estates.

Oct. 4 - Cabot School District Museum of American History opens an exhibit recalling President John F. Kennedy’s Oct. 3, 1963 visit to central Arkansas for the dedication of Greers Ferry Dam and reservoir. The exhibit includes documents, photographs and newspapers from the museum collection.

Museum director Mike Polston said the display includes invitations to the 1963 dedication as well as to the 1988 25th anniversary event. Another special interest item is a small orange metal tab that was worn by Secret Service agents assigned to protect the president during speeches at Heber Springs and Little Rock. The exhibit also marks 50 years since Kennedy’s Nov. 22, 1963 assassination at Dallas.

Oct. 6 - For a second time electric power to residents in north Lonoke County has been cutoff by a deliberate act. First Electric Cooperative officials report that two power poles near the 1400 block of Robin Road, behind the McBride Subdivision in Lonoke County, had been intentionally cut down. The damage cuts power to about 10,000 customers in the Cabot area.

At approximately 7:20 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, First Electric Cooperative officials reported a power outage that affected about 10,000 customers in the Cabot area. It was found that two wooden power poles located near the 1400 block of Robin Road, behind the McBride Subdivision had been intentionally cut.

Oct. 7 – The series of attacks on the power grid lead federal officials to offer a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Investigators acknowledge the possibility that the incidents are related, and are related to the intentional downing of a high-voltage transmission line at Cabot on Aug. 21 and the Sept. 29 fire at the Keo substation.

Oct. 7 – Pets soiling the track and field at Panther Stadium prompts a plea for consideration, and a warning, from Cabot School District officials. High school custodians frequently must remove dog feces left by peoples’ pets that have been allowed to run free on the field and track, Cabot athletic director Steve Roberts said Monday. But students are on the field every morning for practices - football, band or others - and while the custodians check the stadium each day, they sometimes do not catch everything, he said. Also, having spent $270,000 on re-surfacing the track makes the dog problem sorely felt, Roberts said.

Superintendent Tony Thurman warns that unless the problem is fixed, the facility could be closed to the public. “This is not something we want to do, but we do have the responsibility to protect the health of our students, and the investment made in our facilities,” he said.

Oct. 10 - Arkansas Realtors Association reports that home sales in Lonoke County and across the state increased in August, The ARA report says statewide home sales rose from 2,273 in August 2012 to 2,819 in August 2013 and year-to-date figures for the state are up 12.74 percent; sales increased in Lonoke County from 77 in August 2012 to 103 in August 2013.

Oct. 11 - Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office deputies respond to calls about an explosion on John Shelton Road. FBI agents and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force team find evidence similar to that found at the scene of previous power grid attacks. The information leads to the arrest of a Jacksonville man.

Oct. 12 - A press release from U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer identifies Jason Woodring, 37, as the Jacksonville man arrested in connection with the series of power grid attacks in Lonoke County. Woodring could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Oct. 14 - Ward City Council approves a city development plan using form-based zoning that is essentially a return to plans of nearly a century earlier using mixed-use planning. The form-based zoning establishes three “development districts,” Jeff Runder, a Metroplan public policy analyst and GIS planner, said the concept of the development plan covers a number of issues including meeting affordable housing needs by encouraging the construction of a mix of housing types for all income levels and developing recreational facilities such as trails and parks. Trails and parks have become the deciding factor for many people looking for communities in which to live, Runder said. The development plan includes a new park area east of the city, along with added walking trails. Also, mixed-use zoning can attract businesses and industries while making the best use of existing public facilities, he said.

Oct. 18 - An arrest is been made in the July 21 shooting death of 3-year-old Noah Chambers. The Lonoke County Sheriff’s office announces that Vance Colbert Gatlin, 30, of Cabot was taken into custody following the investigation of Chambers’ death.

Oct. 21 – Cabot City Council approves an agreement with Cabot School District in the construction of three traffic circles, two on Lincoln Street and one at Locust Street and on Spirit Drive. Under the agreement, the city would pay 55 percent of the cost of construction of the Lincoln Street roundabouts, about $435,000. All the roundabouts are in preparation for the fall 2014 opening of the freshman academy.

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