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A look at Lonoke in 2013

Signs posted along Arkansas Highway 89 near Lonoke warn drivers of the construction now getting under way on the new interchange with Interstate 40. First to be built was a detour road that is used to bypass construction on the new bridge. Work was expected through the rest of the year, with completion estimated in mid- to late-2014.Buy Photo
Signs posted along Arkansas Highway 89 near Lonoke warn drivers of the construction now getting under way on the new interchange with Interstate 40. First to be built was a detour road that is used to bypass construction on the new bridge. Work was expected through the rest of the year, with completion estimated in mid- to late-2014.

Jan. 1 - Will Feland of Cabot begins as circuit judge, he was appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe to the fill the vacancy in the Lonoke County Circuit Court made by the election of Circuit Judge Phillip Whiteaker to the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Feland will serve two years as Division 2 Circuit Judge.

the Lonoke School District opens the Homework Hotline, open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays on the Carver Campus.

Jan. 3 - Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce members hear the construction on the I-40/Arkansas Highway 89 interchange could begin soon. Start of the long-awaited project was delayed when bidding in December failed to produce acceptable offers. However, the second bidding on Jan. 9 also fails to produce an acceptable bid. Bill Ryker, Lonoke Chamber of Commerce interchange committee member said that what comes next will depend on discussions between officials from AHTD and the city. “We just don’t know yet,” he said.

Jan. 10 - Construction of the Lonoke High School Gina Cox Center is nearing an end. “I love to show [the Center] off, and the things I like showing off is not where the basketball and volleyball will be taking place,” athletic director and girls’ basketball coach Nathan Morris said. “There is so much more in this building than just athletics … [the Center] will do much more non-athletically than it will for athletics,” he said.

Jan. 14 - The Lonoke City Council approves an agreement with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department for the city to take over maintenance of Arkansas Highway 89 in Lonoke. In exchange, the AHTD will cover approximately $7.9 million in construction costs for the new interchange. Cost of the interchange project is estimated at $9.1 million; under the agreement, the city of Lonoke will pay roughly $1.2 million of the total cost. “I think [the new interchange] will change our little town forever,” Mayor Wayne McGee says.

Jan. 15 - The $7.9 million contract to build the Interstate 40/Arkansas Highway 89 interchange is awarded to Redstone Construction Group of Little Rock. Officials call the project an example of how the city, county and state can work together. Construction is scheduled to begin in two to four weeks, weather permitting. It should be complete in about two years. AHC spokesman Randy Ort said start of construction is dependent on weather, and it is possible that work would not begin until spring. The AHC press release estimated construction to take about two years.

Jan. 17 - Lonoke County Justices of the Peace vote at the quorum court meeting vote to stop collection of most of the county voluntary tax for special agencies. The voluntary tax was challenged by state auditors who noted that the state Attorney General has found the collection of such a tax to be unconstitutional under the Arkansas Constitution. The taxes were collected for Lonoke County Council on Aging, Lonoke County Exceptional School, Lonoke County Fair Association, Lonoke County Humane Society, Lonoke County Cares, Lonoke County Open Arms Shelter, Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center, A Woman’s Place Pregnancy Resource Center and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Lonoke County. Two voluntary taxes, for the soil and water conservation district for beaver control and the sheriff’s drug task force, are not affected because each is a government agency.

Jan. 24 - The Lonoke Industrial Development Corporation (LIDC) donates more than $350,000 toward the cost of building the new interchange between Interstate 40 and Arkansas Highway 89. The promise of new industrial development at Lonoke is a legacy left by the late Joe Melton Jr., LIDC member David Estes says. Barbara Melton attends the presentation to stand in for her late husband. “Very progressive,” her husband had a clear idea of what was needed to build the city, she said. LIDC chairman Mike Florence turned over the check for $356,673.36 to Lonoke mayor Wayne McGee. John Tull, the sole, remaining original member of LIDC, and member state Rep. Walls McCrary and Estes were at the presentation.

Lonoke Police Chief Mike Wilson reports that car break-ins, commercial burglaries and shoplifting are on the rise, noting an increase in theft of such crimes in December 2012 when compared to December 2011. He urged residents to lock their vehicles and avoid leaving valuables out in the open where they can be a potential lure to thieves. Wilson said car thieves targeted unlocked cars by trying the door and, if it opens, pilfering for valuables. “By all means, get in the habit of locking your vehicles,” he said. “We’re in different times; people are desperate with the economy like it is.”

Jan. 27 - Members of the Lonoke School District’s Leadership Committee In Action (CIA) team travel to Conway with about 12 tubs of clothes to donate to the Hector Elementary School. The school was struck by fire before the Christmas break, destroying the special services building, computer lab, backpack program food pantry and clothes closet. Amanda Rather, of the Lonoke School District, said the response from the Lonoke students was overwhelming. “Hector Schools were grateful and would like to extend a big ‘thank you’ to all who donated and helped in the collection process,” Rather added. The CIA team members are students in the fourth through 12th grades.

Jan. 31 - At a special meeting, Lonoke City Council approves the 2013 budget that includes about $1.1 million for construction of the Interstate 40/Highway 89 interchange. Deputy City Clerk Regina Ibbotson said most of the money is to come from the Lonoke Industrial Development Fund. City officials delivered a copy of the ordinance adopting a portion of Arkansas Highway 89 and a check for the remainder of the construction costs to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, Ibbotson said. This was the last step in sealing the deal for the overpass, she said.

Feb. 7 - Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce members hear about the award of the contract to build the new Lonoke interchange with Interstate 40 and Arkansas Highway 89. Interchange Committee member Bill Ryker said it is the culmination of 15 years of efforts; serious efforts to build the interchange began in about 1998. Executive director John Garner said that without the new interchange, there is little hope for significant industrial development of the area.

Feb. 12 - Lonoke City Council members okay the purchase and training of a K-9 police team. Police Chief Mike Wilson said he and other persons, along with the school district, are interested in obtaining a dog trained for K-9 duties. Officer Doug Carter has volunteered as K-9 handler if a dog is purchased, Wilson said. Wilson said that Carter had taken on a door-to-door campaign to raise support for a K-9 and raised more than $7,900. The support includes equipment as well as dog food for life from Atwood’s; reduced or free medical care at Lonoke Animal Hospital; and grooming from Pampered Pets.

Feb. 12 - The Lonoke Elementary School Quiz Bowl team wins 5 of 6 games and finished second in a tournament at Beebe. Team members include, front row, Bear Sparks; back row, Lydia Moody, Anderson Fletcher, Olivia Dollinger Ryan Cleveland, Carsyn Evans, Alexx Weaver, Casey Sorrows and sponsor Pam Chandler.

Feb. 18 - The Lonoke School Board votes unanimously to have the “fighting jackrabbit” mascot logo used throughout the new Gina Cox Center. According to Superintendent Suzanne Bailey, million-dollar donor Gina Cox Wiertelak and husband Jim have requested that the school mascot be phased back into the fighting jackrabbit rather than the current running jackrabbit. New safety enhancements will soon be installed in school buildings including buzzer and security systems in entryways of the main buildings, and digital video recording capabilities.

Feb. 20 - Justices of the Peace give a “go-ahead” to equip county offices for electronic payments.

Feb. 28 - The Lonoke School District holds a tornado drill in which students from the primary school are taken by bus to the new tornado safe rooms at the high school and between the elementary and middle schools. Students at the primary school practiced getting on buses and are on buses in less than five minutes. Kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students were taken to the high school while the first and second graders were taken to the middle school safe room where they join students from the other schools.

Mar. 4 - U.S. Senator Mark Pryor on Monday announces his first Facebook Town Hall meeting. During the past year, Pryor has used multiple new media platforms including YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

Mar. 6 - Jack Sullivan, project manager for Redstone Construction Group, in the first act of construction, sets post holes for the Arkansas Highway Department project office at the site of the new interchange between Interstate 40 and Arkansas Highway 89. The $7.9 million contract for construction was awarded Jan. 15 to Redstone Construction Group, Inc. of Little Rock. Completion is estimated for mid-2014.

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