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Looking back at Lonoke in 2013

From Staff Reports

Mar. 7 - Members of the Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce hear of services at what is perhaps Lonoke’s oldest business, the status of the Lonoke Community Center and reminders of the upcoming Relay for Life. Also, members heard that part of this year’s Chamber Appreciation Banquet would be recognition of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Commission on the start of construction of the new Interstate-40 interchange with Arkansas Highway 89.

March 11 - Former Lonoke mayor Thomas Privett, owner of 5th Street Apartments, is at the Lonoke City Council meeting to discuss the February decision to condemn his apartment complex. Council members agree that if the apartments continue to maintain a clean property and not receive any complaints, it would be removed from the condemnation list. Police Chief Mike Wilson tells about preparation for the addition of the K-9 trained dog. Jimmy Wallace is approved as fire chief, Justin Whittenburg and Brook Knox as assistant fire chiefs, Steve Holt as secretary and Shane Whitehurst as assistant secretary. The council votes to pay two invoices from Garver of Little Rock in the first phase of the new interchange project.

March 13 - Charges, including capital murder, are filed in Lonoke County Circuit Court against Jeremy Deshaun Davis, 30, of Lonoke in the death of Hubert Dewayne Jackson, 27, of Little Rock. Jackson’s body was found Jan. 19 alongside a Lonoke County road.

March 21 - Kris Miller’s second grade students at Lonoke Primary School recently wrote letters to President Barrack Obama as part of a class assignment. “The students worked really hard on the assignment and we’re very excited to take a picture and them take it to the office to put in the mail,” Miller said.

March 21 - Continued consideration of establishing credit/debit card transactions for the county was nearly the sole item for business at the March meeting of the Lonoke County Quorum Court meeting.

March 26 - In a unanimous vote, the Lonoke School Board approves a covered breezeway between the old gym and the new Gina Cox Center be added to the construction project. Clayton Vaden, of Lewis Architects Engineers, gives a progress report and a list of items to consider before construction of the facility is completed. “Everything in scope of the building is on time,” Vaden said.

April 3 - The Lonoke School Board meets to review the list of priorities on last minute items for the Gina Cox Center. During the meeting the board vote to removed the middle score board from the gym and place video boards at each end of the court contingent on itemized pricing of the video boards, which will be provided by Clayton Vaden with Lewis Architects Engineers at a later date.

April 8 – State, county, and city officials gather at the Lonoke Flag Plaza for the Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored, ceremonial groundbreaking of construction of the Interstate 40-Arkansas Highway 89 interchange. Highway commissioner Tom Scheuk, Lonoke mayor Wayne McGee, Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce executive director John Garner, Arkansas Highway Department director Scott Bennett and State Representative Walls McCrary wield gold shovels to dig into a mound of dirt, symbolic of the work now under way. “This almost never got started in the first place,” McGee remarked after guests scoop shovelfuls of dirt. The reason the interchange is being built is because of the persistence of those who believe in Lonoke, he said. Special guests include former state Sen. Bobby Glover and past-mayor Thomas Privett for the roles they had in early efforts for an additional interchange. In his remarks, Glover credits former U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, who was unable to attend, for coordinating much of the funding needed for the work, and even saving the project from dying. Other guests include State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, County Judge Doug Erwin, Redstone Construction Group project manager Jack Sullivan, and city council members Janie Derning, Wendell Walker, Efrem Jones, Michael Florence and Koy Butler, as well as Chamber Of Commerce members. The Arkansas State Highway Commission announced Jan. 15 the award of a nearly $7.9 million contract to Redstone Construction Group of Little Rock to build the interchange and new overpass. Work began at the site as soon as weather permitted; the project is estimated be complete in mid-2014. With dirtwork already under way at the site and three days of rain, conditions at the site, “Aren’t too good for people to be walking around out there,” McGee explains about moving the ceremony to the Lonoke Flag Plaza.

April 11 - Theme of the 44th annual Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce Appreciation Banquet is “Everyday Heroes,” but celebrating the recent start of construction of the Interstate 40 interchange with Arkansas Highway 89 was the biggest part of most the evening with the Chamber Interchange Committee named the Organization of the year. The Chamber honor Chris and Karen James as the 2012 Citizens of the Year, and Alice Bridges as the 2012 Educator of the Year. Keynote speaker Julie Mayberry tells about people who are her Everyday heroes. Incoming Chamber president Leanna Rich adopts the theme for her administration. Outgoing Chamber president Jo Liatsos recalls her theme of “Highway 89 Bridge to the Future” - “Our future is here,” she said of the start of construction of the new interchange.

April 15 - Lonoke School Board members approve a partnership with Carlisle and Hazen school districts for an alternative learning environment (ALE) center for the 2013-14 school year. The new ALE, which has been renamed as the Committed to the Routes of Education (CORE) program will be available for students from sixth through 12th grade. Students will attend school at the Carver Campus, the former Lonoke Middle School campus. Students will be immersed in a blended learning model with opportunities that include technology, career, project-based and direct instruction as well as services from outside sources to help in providing support for student success. Students from the neighboring school districts will be transported by their district-owned school buses. These students will still remain members of their home districts, but attend classes on the Lonoke campus.

April 17 - The Arkansas State Police, Lonoke County sheriff’s office, Lonoke Police Department conduct a mock accident scene for Lonoke High School students to remind about the dangers of drinking and driving; the event is held prior to the High School Prom, set for April 19.

April 18 - Before the Lonoke County Quorum Court meeting begins, County Judge Doug Erwin calls for a moment of silence for those killed and injured in the Boston marathon bombing April 15 and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, on April 18. In other matters, justices of the peace vote to proceed with installation of credit card machines at county offices; Erwin voices suspicion that beavers captured in other counties are being brought into Lonoke County because the bounty is higher; because of “undisclosed issues,” JPs discuss purchasing time clocks with face recognition, swipe cards or identification numbers.

April 24 - The Richard Morris family of Carlisle is selected as the 2013 Lonoke County Farm Family of the Year. Morris Farms is currently owned and operated by Morris, his son Matt and daughter Emily Morris-Neil. They currently farm 1,725 acres of farm land south of Carlisle. Crops raised by the Morris family include rice, corn and soybeans.

April 27 - Forecasts of poor weather for the weekend lead organizers to move the 2013 Lonoke area Relay for Life indoors to the Lonoke Community Center. But the move did not dampen the spirit of the participants, with 13 teams and more than 100 individuals registered for the nightlong event, more than 50 remain to the 6 a.m. finish. This was the 13th year for the Lonoke Relay for Life; teams and walkers raised more than $16,000, Jackson said.

April 29 - Superintendent Suzanne Bailey said she is still accepting applications to fill the principal vacancies at Lonoke High School or Primary School, for the 2013-14 school year. “We are still in the search and interview process,” Bailey said. “It’s a difficult and time consuming process.” The new hires will replace Primary School Principal Ross Moore and High School Principal Phynaus Wilson, who are both retiring and the end of the 2012-13 school year.

May 1 - Alisha Inman’s second grade class at Lonoke Primary School pick up litter in observation of Earth Day. “They are so proud of what they have done this week to make the earth a better place,” Inman said of her students.

Workers from Tri-State Floors of Oklahoma install the wooden playing surface inside the new Gina Cox Center, which is currently under construction on the Lonoke High School campus. The arena, which will also house a new cafeteria, is scheduled to open in time for the 2013-14 school year.

May 2 - After waiting nearly 25 years, Little Rock Air Force Base has added a Convair B-58 Hustler to the historical aircraft on display at the base, becoming the only non-museum, active-duty base to own such an aircraft. Although some of the supersonic bombers were set aside for display, tail number 55-0668, has been twice rescued from being “melted into kitchen utensils” by restoration efforts.

Lt Col (Ret.) Raymond McLaughlin of North Little Rock, among those who piloted B-58 55-0668 while it was at Little Rock AFB; B-58 Hustler Association secretary Master Sgt. (Ret) Richard Bolcer; and 19th Equipment Maintenance Squadron members Tech. Sgt. Phillip Chappell and Airman 1st Class Brandon Thelen christened the newly restored aircraft in a dedication ceremony Friday at the base’s Heritage Park.

May 2 - Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce members welcome Lonoke Police Department’s newest member, “Max,” a trained K-9. They are told of community support and involvement in the police department strong enough to add Max to the force at no expense to the city. Max, a 9-month-old brindle Dutch Shepherd, and K-9 officer Doug Carter are the first to get “Everyday Hero” recognition by the Chamber.

May 4 - Lonoke High School homecoming queen Mary Robin Clay is named Arkansas Homecoming Queen during a contest in Jacksonville. Clay, who was the 2012 LHS homecoming queen, will represent Arkansas in the National Homecoming Queen Contest at Memphis in July. Lonoke High School will receive a plaque marking it as the home of the Arkansas Homecoming Queen.

May 7 - The Lonoke School Board members set 8 p.m. Friday, May 17 at James B. Abraham Stadium for this year’s high school graduation. Members also approve purchase of furniture for the Gina Cox Center in the amount of $63,044 increasing the previous maximum of $50,000 on furniture for the new building.

May 8 - Lonoke County deputies, assisted by the Arkansas State Police, round up about 40 underage drinkers at party near Cabot. The deputies found the violations after responding to a complaint of loud music and suspected minors consuming alcohol, making one arrest and issuing citations to others. Resident Martha Dubois, 74, is arrested under the Arkansas Host Law and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The sheriff’s report states Dubois became belligerent, and attempted to empty a bottle of alcohol.

May 13 - Lonoke City Council hear arguments from two property owners whose properties have come under scrutiny for various city code violations. Former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett, who owns Privett Place Apartments – sees his property get removed from the condemned properties watch list, Jay Lucas, owner of the former Mallard Point Golf Course, also approached the council but with less favorable results. Despite argument that part of the land is agricultural, the council votes to enforce the ordinance requiring growth to be kept under eight inches.

May 14 - Lonoke’s senior softball players Katelyn James, Courtney McGowan and Hannah Murray are honored during the Lonoke Jackrabbits Spring Sports Banquet at the LHS cafeteria.

May 17 - Lonoke High School commencement ceremony at James B. Abraham Stadium sees diplomas awarded. Superintendent Suzanne Bailey, high school principal Phynaus Wilson and school board president Darrell Park present 140 diplomas to the Class of 2013. Speakers are valedictorians Emily Catherine Ellis, Madison KcKinley James and Dustyn Keith Perkins and salutatorians John Houston Keller, Madison Jo Staton and Maria Negrete-Padron.

May 20 – Lonoke School Board hires Jennifer Barbaree as Elementary School principal; Rebecca Reed is hired as Primary School principal.

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