Yes Radio Works

February 22, 2024

GOVERNOR SANDERS JOINS R2S, STATE LEADERS TO BREAK GROUND ON MANUFACTURING FACILITY IN EAST CAMDEN
Companies increase investment to $63 million, nearly double previous announcement
EAST CAMDEN, Ark.—Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders joined R2S and state and local leaders to break ground on R2S's new manufacturing facility in East Camden, Arkansas. The facility will produce the Tamir missile for the Iron Dome Weapon System and its variant, the SkyHunter® missile to be used by the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. allies.

R2S is a joint venture between Rafael Advanced Defense System and Raytheon, an RTX business. This facility represents an investment of approximately $63 million for R2S and will create up to 60 new jobs in the region, roughly double the companies' previous commitment. The R2S facility will build on RTX’s existing production capacity at the Highland Industrial Park.

Company representatives joined Governor Sanders and state officials to announce the project in October 2023. The Governor also met with company representatives at the Paris Air Show last summer to discuss the company’s investments in Arkansas.

“It’s an honor to join R2S for today’s groundbreaking, just as it was an honor to announce this project in October and meet with company representatives last summer at the Paris Air Show,” said Governor Sanders. “This investment will be a boon for the local economy: $63 million and 60 new jobs. More than that, our world is a whole lot less secure than it used to be, and this facility makes our country safer. Thank you to all who made this announcement possible and thank you to the team in Camden for helping our state stand out.”

“R2S is pleased to announce today that it’s almost doubling the capital investment for the project here in Camden, Arkansas from $33 million to $63 million, and it may create up to 60 new jobs. This increase represents the commitment by both partners to support this critical project for the USMC and to our allies around the world that depend on a reliable air defense system,” said Annabel Flores, deputy president of Land & Air Defense Systems, Raytheon.“ None of this could have happened without committed partners in RTX, Rafael, the United States Marine Corp, the Arkansas congressional delegation, Governor Sanders and her economic development team and the Camden community.”

"Today, we mark a significant milestone in the Iron Dome program – one of the most important and advanced air defense systems in the world. The establishment of the new facility is the result of strong cooperation between Rafael and Raytheon, who joined forces about 18 years ago,” said Pini Yungman, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Air & Missile Defense Division, Rafael. “We have built and maintained fruitful collaboration based on the shared vision of both companies, committed to the highest level of technological innovation. The United States is a true partner; and local production, which we have aspired to for many years, will strengthen the partnership while safeguarding the interests of all sides. I am confident that we are ready for further cooperation in the future aimed at ensuring the security of the citizens of Israel and America."

“Securing East Camden’s position as the arsenal of democracy has always been our vision,” said Senator John Boozman. “After years of hard work, I’m proud to celebrate this groundbreaking and advance the vital role the community will play in our national security and supporting our allies well into the future. I will continue advocating for funding to encourage more defense industry investment in our state, help the region grow and provide well-paying jobs for Arkansans.”

“This new facility will usher in high quality jobs for Arkansans and will be instrumental in ensuring the Natural State remains a global leader in aerospace and defense manufacturing. Investments such as this are critical in bolstering our national defense capabilities. Congratulations to R2S, Raytheon, and Rafael on this groundbreaking,” said Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04).

“Arkansas is a major center for aerospace and defense manufacturing, with an experienced workforce and favorable business environment that helps companies succeed,” said Clint O’Neal, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “Congratulations to R2S, Raytheon and Rafael on their groundbreaking in East Camden and to the local leaders for creating the conditions that give companies the confidence to grow in their community.”

“This groundbreaking ceremony represents the culmination of many months of effort by our partners to make this project a reality for our state and community,” said James Lee Silliman, executive director of the Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development. “Our team partners are to be commended for their support on the project. Many thanks are owed to those partners beginning with R2S-RTX/Rafael partnership, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, AEDC, Highland Industrial Park management, Calhoun County Judge Floyd Nutt and my Team Camden members.”

“We are proud that Calhoun County will be the home of the R2S manufacturing facility,” said Calhoun County Judge Floyd Nutt. “South Arkansas has a long history in aerospace and defense manufacturing, and this project will build on that history. Calhoun County provides a strong workforce and great business environment for R2S’s, RTX’s, and Rafael’s continued growth.”


BOOZMAN JOINS GOV. SANDERS AND LOCAL LEADERS TO BREAK GROUND ON NEW DEFENSE INDUSTRY MANUFACTURING FACILITY IN SOUTH ARKANSAS
East Camden, Ark. – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, along with Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR 04) and other officials, celebrated the start of construction on a new defense industry production plant in Camden, Arkansas. The R2S facility, a joint venture between Raytheon (RTX) and Rafael Advanced Defense System, will produce the Tamir missile for the Iron Dome Weapon System and its variant, the SkyHunter missile to be used by the U.S. Marine Corps and American allies.

“Securing East Camden’s position as the arsenal of democracy has always been our vision,” Boozman said. “After years of hard work, I’m proud to celebrate this groundbreaking and advance the vital role the community will play in our national security and supporting our allies well into the future. I will continue advocating for funding to encourage more defense industry investment in our state, help the region grow and provide well-paying jobs for Arkansans.”

Boozman, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked with U.S. Marine Corps leadership to support and secure funding for the Medium Range Interceptor Capability (MRIC) program.

“It’s an honor to join R2S for today’s groundbreaking, just as it was an honor to announce this project in October and meet with company representatives last summer at the Paris Air Show,” said Sanders. “This investment will be a boon for the local economy: $63 million and 60 new jobs. More than that, our world is a whole lot less secure than it used to be, and this facility makes our country safer. Thank you to all who made this announcement possible, and thank you to the team in Camden for helping our state stand out.” “R2S is pleased to announce today that it’s almost doubling the capital investment for the project here in Camden, Arkansas from $33 million to $63 million, and it may create up to 60 new jobs. This increase represents the commitment by both partners to support this critical project for the USMC and to our allies around the world that depend on a reliable air defense system,” said Annabel Flores, Deputy President of Land & Air Defense Systems, Raytheon. “None of this could have happened without committed partners in RTX, Rafael, the United States Marine Corps, the Arkansas congressional delegation, Governor Sanders and her economic development team and the Camden community.”

“Today, we mark a significant milestone in the Iron Dome program – one of the most important and advanced air defense systems in the world. The establishment of the new facility is the result of strong cooperation between Rafael and Raytheon, who joined forces about 18 years ago,” said Pini Yungman, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Air & Missile Defense Division, Rafael. “We have built and maintained fruitful collaboration based on the shared vision of both companies, committed to the highest level of technological innovation. The United States is a true partner; and local production, which we have aspired to for many years, will strengthen the partnership while safeguarding the interests of all sides. I am confident that we are ready for further cooperation in the future aimed at ensuring the security of the citizens of Israel and America.”

“Arkansas is a major center for aerospace and defense manufacturing, with an experienced workforce and favorable business environment that helps companies succeed,” said Clint O’Neal, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “Congratulations to R2S, Raytheon and Rafael on their groundbreaking in East Camden and to the local leaders for creating the conditions that give companies the confidence to grow in their community.”

“This groundbreaking ceremony represents the culmination of many months of effort by our partners to make this project a reality for our state and community,” said James Lee Silliman, Executive Director of the Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development. “Our team partners are to be commended for their support on the project. Many thanks are owed to those partners beginning with R2S-RTX/Rafael partnership, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, AEDC, Highland Industrial Park management, Calhoun County Judge Floyd Nutt and my Team Camden members.”

“We are proud that Calhoun County will be the home of the R2S manufacturing facility,” said Calhoun County Judge Floyd Nutt. “South Arkansas has a long history in aerospace and defense manufacturing, and this project will build on that history. Calhoun County provides a strong workforce and great business environment for R2S’s, RTX’s, and Rafael’s continued growth.”

This facility represents a $63 million investment for R2S and will create 60 new jobs in the region, building on RTX’s existing production capacity at the Highland Industrial Park.

“This new facility will usher in high quality jobs for Arkansans and will be instrumental in ensuring the Natural State remains a global leader in aerospace and defense manufacturing. Investments such as this are critical in bolstering our national defense capabilities. Congratulations to R2S, Raytheon, and Rafael on this groundbreaking,” said Westerman.
 

HOT SPRINGS BOAT SHOW THIS WEEKEND
Local lovers of the outdoors, get ready. The outdoors-themed event of the region is this weekend.
The 38th annual Hot Springs Boat, Tackle and RV Show will take place this weekend, Feb. 23-25, in downtown Hot Springs at the Hot Springs Convention Center. If you are in the market for a new boat, RV or tackle, you’re in luck. The Hot Springs Boat, Tackle and RV Show is one of the best places for adventure-seekers to find their dream boat or RV. The event will showcase the latest innovations in gear, tackle, accessories and apparel. The event will offer plenty of opportunities to explore and enjoy Arkansas' outdoors.

Arkansas continues to be a giant recreational area with hundreds of lakes, rivers, streams and parks offering boaters and campers fun, affordable family recreation. The Hot Springs Boat and RV Show will feature a wide variety of information on Arkansas-based resorts, campgrounds, boating and RV accessories. The event will also include the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Mobile Aquarium as well as dock and lift boat exhibitors and other exhibits related to the boat and RV industries – all under one roof.

Griffey said recent boat and RV shows have shown solid attendance and solid sales as the boating and RV industries continue to do well. There's hardly ever been a better time to enjoy the vast outdoors opportunities Arkansas provides. And in recognition of that expanded interest, some of the best deals of the year will be found at this weekend's Hot Springs Boat, Tackle and RV Show.

This year’s show includes free, unlimited parking. And everyone who stops by can enter their information for a chance to win a Havoc VJ Duck Boat valued at $11,000. The drawing will be held Sunday night and you do not have to be present to win.

Show hours for this year’s 38th annual Hot Springs Boat, Tackle and RV Show are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and for a final day on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission price is $10 for adults while children 12 and under get in for free.

For more information contact Ken Griffey at (501) 765-1423, email griffeyinc@sbcglobal.net or visit dgattractions.com.


ASP ARRESTS WEST MEMPHIS WOMAN IN SATURDAY I-40 SHOOTING  
February 21, 2024
Arkansas State Police (ASP) arrested a West Memphis woman in connection with a Saturday shooting on Interstate 40 in Crittenden County. Regan Beason, 20, was charged with four counts of Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm from a Vehicle and two counts of Terroristic Acts.

On Saturday, February 17, 2024, at approximately 5:11 p.m., the West Memphis Police Department (WMPD) asked ASP to investigate a shooting that took place on I-40 East near the 281-mile marker.

The victim stated while traveling east on Interstate 40, another vehicle pulled alongside hers and fired several shots at the passenger side. The victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries. 

 

SAAC TO HOST BRUNCH IN CONJUNCTION WITH HARVEY
Join SAAC for “Harvey’s Garden Party Brunch” on Sunday, March 3, in the Merkle Gallery. This popular annual event hosted by Murphy-Pitard Jewlers and All About Flowers is served come-and-go style, with the buffet beginning at 11:00am and continuing through 1:00pm. SAAC’s longtime volunteer Tena Hughes has created a tempting and delicious menu for this brunch held in conjunction with the spring production of "Harvey," which opens March 1. Tickets for both the brunch and production are available at SAAC's online box office or by called SAAC at 870-862-5474.  

The crowd-pleasing menu for "Harvey's Garden Party Brunch" includes a Mimosa Bar, Grits and Shrimp Gravy, Mini Quiches, Ham and Cheese Sliders, a Fruit, Yogurt, and Granola Bar, Spudnuts, and Coffee. The entire event is made possible by dedicated volunteers from SAAC’s board of directors and theatre committee, who give of their time and talents each year to cook, decorate, and serve.

Sponsor All About Flowers will be on hand hosting a spring bulb sale, where they will be selling bags filled with imported Dutch flower bulbs for $20. The bags will contain 3 bulbs each, either irises, gladiolus, or dahlias. Inside the Price Gallery, sponsor Murphy Pitard-Jewelers will curate a stunning jewelry collection, displaying spring-inspired pieces at a variety of price points.

The Harvey Raffle item donated by Murphy-Pitard Jewelers will also be on display. The “Spring Celestial Garden Party Gold Ring” includes a fourteen-karat yellow gold and multi-color gemstone ring valued at $2,700. The ring features a total of five round and oval faceted gemstones (green amethyst, lilac amethyst, intense orange sapphire, pink tourmaline, blue zircon) each secured by four standard prongs and outlined by a high polish detached oval shaped frame. 

Guests to the brunch have the exclusive opportunity to try on the ring and purchase tickets to the raffle, which will conclude with the winner drawn live onstage at the final performance of "Harvey" on March 9. Raffle tickets are $10 each or 15 tickets for $100.

Fine art flower pots designed by local artists will be available for bidding during our silent auction, which will be on display during the brunch as well as during the entire run of the play. Additionally, each pot will be available for a “buy now” price of $100. All funds raised during the brunch will support SAAC’s educational opportunities.

Tickets for this delectable brunch are $25 for adults, $10 for kids 6 to 12, kids 5 and under are free. For more information, please refer to SAAC’s web site at www.saac-arts.org or call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES NEW OFFICE LOCATION WILL BE NAMED THE BOB R. BROOKS, JR. JUSTICE BUILDING
Griffin: This is a fitting and lasting memorial to the work he did for Arkansans and the law’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement announcing that the downtown Little Rock building to which his office will move will be renamed the Bob R. Brooks, Jr. Justice Building in honor of the former Chief Deputy Attorney General of Arkansas who passed away unexpectedly in February:

“The plan was to rename the Boyle Building as part of its redevelopment. With the recent and unexpected passing of Chief Deputy Attorney General Bob Brooks, it became clear that the best way to honor his legacy was to name the building after him. Bob was one of the chief proponents of moving to the Boyle Building because of its import to downtown Little Rock, its history and the benefit to Arkansas taxpayers, and he was a key driver in making the move a reality.

“Given his long record of public service, this is a fitting and lasting memorial to the work he did for Arkansans and the law.”

Growing up in Fort Smith, Brooks graduated from Southside High School before attending the University of Arkansas and graduating from the Sam M. Walton School of Business. He then attended the University of Tulsa College of Law, where he served on the Tulsa Law Review for two years before graduating with a Juris Doctorate in 1987.
 
Brooks served as Chief of Staff for former Congressman Jay Dickey (AR-04) before returning to Arkansas to become the Director of the Arkansas Ethics Commission by the appointment of former Governor Mike Huckabee.
 
Brooks later served as Chief of Staff to Jim McCrery (LA-04), former Congressmen and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means. He then became a partner at Capitol Counsel LLC, a Washington, D.C. lobbying and advocacy firm. He returned to Arkansas in 2020 to be closer to his family.
 
Griffin named Brooks as Chief Deputy Attorney General in January 2023.

The Boyle Building was built in 1909 as the “State Bank Building” and was the state’s tallest building at completion. It was designed by one of Arkansas’s premier architects, George Richard Mann, who also designed the State Capitol. Real estate tycoon Johnny Boyle purchased the building in 1916 and owned it for more than 80 years. The building, located at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Main Street—the symbolic center of Little Rock—has been vacant for almost 26 years.

The 12-floor, 91,000-square-foot building is being redeveloped by Moses Tucker Partners. Once renovations are complete, the Office of the Attorney General will occupy the building under a 20-year lease, with the state having the option to purchase the building after the fifth year.

“Bob was both a delightful person and a force to be reckoned with,” said Jimmy Moses, Chairman of the Board of Moses Tucker Partners. “He was totally dedicated to the redevelopment of the Boyle Building, and naming the building for him is appropriate and a wonderful way to honor him.”
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN LEADS 13-STATE LETTER URGING CONGRESS TO PASS THE STEPHEN HACALA POPPY SEED SAFETY ACT
Griffin: ‘Stephen’s death is one of many avoidable tragedies caused by bad actors exploiting weaknesses in federal law to target our state’s citizens’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement regarding a letter sent on behalf of himself and 12 other state attorneys general urging Congress to pass the bipartisan Stephen Hacala Poppy Seed Safety Act introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (AR), John Boozman (AR) and Richard Blumenthal (CT), and Congressman Steve Womack (AR-03):

“Stephen Hacala was a 25-year-old resident of Fayetteville who succumbed to morphine intoxication from unwashed poppy seeds. Unwashed poppy seeds contaminated with Schedule II controlled substances like morphine and other opioids are widely available for purchase through common online sources.

“I thank my fellow state attorneys general who have joined me in urging Congress to pass the Stephen Hacala Poppy Seed Safety Act to stop drug pushers from selling these dangerous drugs to consumers. Stephen’s death is one of many avoidable tragedies caused by bad actors exploiting weaknesses in federal law to target our state’s citizens.”

The proposed legislation would prohibit the distribution and sale of opioid-laced poppy seeds and prevent future addiction, harm and further death. Additionally, it would set a two-year timeline for the Food and Drug Administration to issue and finalize a rule establishing maximum permissible levels of contamination.

Other states joining Arkansas in the letter include Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

February 20, 2024

NEW CAPITOL EXHIBIT FOCUSES ON SPACE
Exhibit Will Be on Display Through May 5th
(LITTLE ROCK, ARK.) – Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston would like to invite visitors to the State Capitol to see the new exhibit, Astronomical Arkansas: Astronomy and Space Science in the Natural State.

This exhibit will highlight contributions that organizations, institutions, and people of Arkansas have made and continue to make to the fields of astronomy and space science. Included are various physical artifacts, such as space shuttle components and samples of Moon rocks.

The exhibit is scheduled to coincide with the Great North American Eclipse event on April 8th, during which a large part of Arkansas will be in the path of totality and is expected to be the largest tourism event in state history.

Capitol visitors will have an opportunity to experience the Arkansas SkyDome, a portable planetarium, courtesy of State Representative Stephen Meeks, in the Capitol rotunda on Friday, February 23rd, as part of a special event related to the exhibit.

A companion exhibit will also open in the Capitol's fourth floor gallery on March 1, featuring K-12 student STEM projects in collaboration with the Arkansas STEM Coalition and the EAST Initiative.

Astronomical Arkansas: Astronomy and Space Science in the Natural State will be on display in the first floor galleries of the State Capitol today through May 5th.


DEFRANCE SELECTED AS OFFICIAL SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST ARTIST
Little Rock, Arkansas - Feb. 20, 2024
Little Rock rock & roll band deFrance announces their selection as an Official South by Southwest (SXSW) Artist. The band, often hailed as the "hardest working band in Arkansas," is set to showcase their modern take on classic rock at the celebrated SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

Since their formation in 2015, deFrance has amassed an impressive record of nearly 1,000 shows, captivating audiences with their dynamic performances. Calling Little Rock, Arkansas, home, the band has taken their music across the globe, earning accolades and respect both locally and internationally.

The band's technical prowess and dedication to delivering a pure rock & roll sound have garnered them recognition and support opportunities alongside iconic acts such as Foghat, Bon Jovi, Deep Purple, ZZ Top, Whiskey Myers, Robert Randolph, Shooter Jennings, Morris Day & The Time, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Living Colour.

deFrance's commitment to their craft has solidified their status as a significant musical force in the region. As Official SXSW Artists, deFrance is definitely going to leave an unforgettable mark on the festival's vibrant musical landscape.

Catch deFrance live at SXSW:
Friday, March 15 @ 5 PM San Jac Saloon
Saturday, March 16 @ 9 PM Saxon Pub

For more information about deFrance and their SXSW performances, visit deFranceMusic.com.

About deFrance:
deFrance was born from the muddy banks of the Ouachita River in Camden, Arkansas, and now call Little Rock home. Known as the "hardest working band in Arkansas," they have played nearly 1,000 shows and gained recognition for their modern take on classic rock.

About SXSW Music Festival:
SXSW Music Festival is a premier event that brings together musicians, industry professionals, and music enthusiasts from around the world. The festival showcases a diverse array of talent across various genres, making it a hotbed for discovering emerging artists and celebrating established acts.


ENTERGY ARKANSAS’ CONTINUOUS ENERGY IMPROVEMENT INITIATIVE SAVES BUSINESSES MONEY WHILE INCREASING EFFICIENCY
One south Arkansas company estimated to have saved over $1 million in energy costs
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas businesses are receiving thousands of dollars in incentive payments and saving even more than that in energy usage by participating in Entergy Arkansas' Entergy Solutions Continuous Energy Improvement (CEI) initiative.

CEI, which provides energy efficiency strategies, consulting advice and technical expertise designed to help companies save money and energy, has awarded five companies $862,482 and is estimated to generate energy savings of 36.5 million kilowatt hours. These energy savings keep more dollars in customer's pockets by reducing their energy costs while helping their facilities run more efficiently. 

CEI is provided at no additional cost to customers and is proven to change the way people use energy within their organization’s facility, which leads to quantifiable savings and fosters a culture of energy awareness.

Here’s a look at a few of CEI’s success stories:

Roseburg Forest Products
By participating in Entergy’s CEI initiative, Roseburg Forest Products in El Dorado, AR has received nearly $400,000 in incentives from Entergy Arkansas and avoided over 19 million kWh in energy usage, which equates to approximately $1,100,000 in avoided energy costs.

Starting in 2021, Roseburg Forest Products engaged with Entergy’s (CEI) initiative to continue their commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability. By participating in CEI, Roseburg committed to reducing energy usage by 5% in the first year. After exceeding that 5% goal in the first year and considering the new motivation to complete additional energy saving projects, the organization increased their goal to 10% for the second year.

Danfoss Power Solutions
Another CEI success story is Danfoss Power Solutions in Searcy, Arkansas. This organization also engaged with Entergy's (CEI) initiative in 2021. Like Roseburg, they exceeded their initial goal to decrease energy usage by 5% goal in the first year and then increased the goal to 15% for the second year. By participating in Entergy’s CEI initiative, Since the beginning of Danfoss Power Solutions' participation in CEI, they have received $37,785 in incentives from Entergy Arkansas and avoided more than 1 million kWh in energy usage, which equates to over $80,000 in avoided energy costs.

“We love seeing our customers, like Danfoss, meet their goals and reap the benefits of increased energy savings and overall cost efficiency,” said Todd Welter, Entergy customer service manager. “Danfoss is a great example of a company whose participation in our Entergy Solutions initiatives has helped them prioritize environmental responsibility, and see the benefits of these efforts, which will continue to increase over time.”  

The CEI initiative begins with people and focuses on even the smallest behaviors and how those have an impact on our efficiency. The initiative emphasizes low-cost and no-cost behavioral and operation changes like powering down equipment during breaks and turning it off on weekends to help organizations save energy and be more sustainable, while receiving incentives from Entergy Arkansas. As a part of CEI, participants receive benefits from Entergy Arkansas, including one-on-one coaching and attending energy saving workshops to learn more about how to save energy from Entergy Arkansas representatives, as well as other CEI participants.

Other Arkansas organizations that have benefited from the Entergy Solutions CEI measure include:
Molex - Maumelle, Arkansas                                                                                                                                                        
Incentive: $300,426                                                                                                                                                        
Estimated annual kWh savings: 15,021,348 kWh                                                                                                        

City of Batesville - Batesville, Arkansas
Incentive: $7,006
Estimated annual kWh savings: 58,389.00 kWh

Mayville Engineering - Heber Springs, AR
Incentive: $127,715                                                                                                                                                        
Estimated annual kWh savings: 1,012,730 kWh

To learn more about how Entergy Arkansas can help you save energy, call 877-212-2420 or visit entergyarkansas.com/commercial.

About Entergy Arkansas
Entergy Arkansas, LLC provides electricity to approximately 730,000 customers in 63 counties. Entergy Arkansas is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, a Fortune 500 electric company. Entergy powers life for 3 million customers through our operating companies in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. We’re investing in the reliability and resilience of the energy system while helping our region transition to cleaner, more efficient energy solutions. With roots in our communities for more than 100 years, Entergy is a nationally recognized leader in sustainability and corporate citizenship. Since 2018, we have delivered more than $100 million in economic benefits each year to local communities through philanthropy, volunteerism and advocacy. Entergy is headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana, and has approximately 12,000 employees. For the latest news from Entergy Arkansas, visit the Newsroom and connect with @EntergyArk on social media.

February 19, 2024

GOVERNOR SANDERS ANNOUNCES $4.34 MILLION TO SUPPORT LOCAL RECREATION FACILITIES
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism is awarding $4.34 million in Outdoor Recreation Grants to projects within 29 counties across the state.  The grants fall into two categories: Facilities for Underdeveloped Neighborhoods (FUN) Park grants and matching grants.

“My administration is looking for any opportunity to get kids and families off screens and outdoors. It’s a priority for our whole state,” said Governor Sanders. “This year’s multi-million-dollar investment in playgrounds, park facilities, and more will provide added amenities to communities from the Delta to the Ozarks. It’s all part of my goal to make Arkansas the best state in America to live, work, and raise a family.”

“The Outdoor Recreation Grants Program (ORGP) has provided $52.6 million in matching grants since 1988 and $16.4 million in FUN Park grants since 1991,” said Secretary Shea Lewis. “These funds have undoubtedly enriched the quality of life for Arkansans statewide, fostering greater access to outdoor recreation and bolstering the vitality of local economies."

These awards have helped cities and counties develop public outdoor recreation facilities.

“Our team works tirelessly throughout the year to provide more access to the outdoors for Arkansans through this grant program,” said Katherine Andrews, Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation.

“It’s amazing to see the positive impact that even minor investments in neighborhood parks can have on a community,” said Matt McNair, director of the ORGP. “Visiting a community after one of our park projects has been completed can be absolutely stunning.”

Project officers make recommendations regarding the feasibility of proposed facilities, eligibility for grant monies and other facets of the planning process.  Each year, nearly 200 site visits are conducted to assist local communities.

The 2024 matching grant recipients are:
Alma (Crawford County) to install play equipment, construct a restroom facility, and provide amenities and access at Christello Park. - $210,000.00

Camden (Ouachita County) to install inclusive play equipment and accessibility improvements at Carnes Park. - $210,000.00

Crawford County – to construct a walking trail and associated accessibility improvements at Diamond Center Complex. - $135,705.00

Daisy (Pike County) – to install new play equipment and improve accessibility at Daisy City Park. - $24,857.00

Delaplaine (Greene County) – to construct a basketball facility, ballfield fencing,, ballfield seating (incl. shade structure), access (incl. pedestrian bridge), and accessible parking at Delaplaine City Park. - $73,300.00

Forrest City (St. Francis County) – to provide access to restroom and programming facilities (priority), and other access and amenity improvements as funds allow (optional) at Dennis Memorial Park. - $62,241.40

Hot Springs (Garland County) – to construct a bicycle playground at Velocity Park. - $80,000.00

Huntsville (Madison County) – to construct a splashpad, restroom facility, drinking fountains, and associated accessibility improvements in Madison County Walking Trail Park - $210,000.00

Magnolia (Columbia County) – to install play equipment and park amenities, upgrade pavilion, and construct safety and accessibility improvements at East Side City Park. - $100,650.00

Mineral Springs (Howard County) – to repair and upgrade concession stand and restroom facilities and install bleachers at Bridgeman Park.  - $30,500.00

Newport (Jackson County) – to improve accessibility and safety through parking and sidewalk repair/redesign/paving and install new play equipment at George Kell Park. - $74,176.00

Ozark (Franklin County) – for compliance and safety upgrades to the restroom facility (priority) and pavilion, amenity, and splashpad upgrades at West Side Park (optional if funds remain) - $80,000.00

Pea Ridge (Benton County) – to construct an all-inclusive play facility at North Curtis Avenue Park. - $210,000

Scott County – to construct pickleball and basketball courts, install park amenities, and improve/upgrade pavilion, soccer field, and accessibility at Sodie Davidson Park in Waldron. - $90,000.00

Searcy (White County) – to install field lighting at Searcy Soccer Complex and provide ADA-compliant play equipment at Berryhill Park. - $125,000.00

Searcy County – to repair and refurbish the pool, restrooms, and concession facility at Searcy County Civic Center and improve seating, accessibility, and lighting at Civic Center ballfields. - $110,936.60

Sherwood (Pulaski County) – to construct a restroom and basketball facility, install signage, lighting, and park amenities, and improve accessibility and safety at Lake Cherrywood Park. - $210,000.00

West Memphis (Crittenden County) – to purchase and install play equipment, provide access, improve safety, and upgrade the pavilion in Hicks Park. - $210,000.00

The 2024 FUN Park grant recipients are:
Ash Flat (Sharp County) – to construct a new pavilion and to install lighting and accessibility features at Ash Flat Ball Park. - $100,000.00

Calhoun County – to light and resurface existing walking trail at Woodberry Park. - $99,000.00

Calico Rock (Izard County) – to improve accessibility and install ballfield lighting and ballfield retaining wall at Earl King Park. - $99,888.00

Cove (Polk County) – to install new play equipment, park amenities, and accessibility improvements at Cove Memorial Park. - $100,000.00

Crawfordsville (Crittenden County) – to construct a pavilion, walking trail, and accessibility features at Old School Yard Park and to construct a new play area, basketball facility, ,and accessibility features at Boone Street Park. - $100,000.00

Egypt (Craighead County) – to install play equipment, outdoor exercise equipment, pavilion, walking track, and accessibility features in Egypt City Park. - $100,000.00

England (Lonoke County) – to replace outdated play equipment and construct accessibility features at Elm Street Park. - $97,470.00

Franklin (Izard County) – to install new play equipment, refurbish existing play equipment, and construct accessibility features at Franklin City Park. - $100,000.00

Glenwood (Pike County) – to construct a new play area and walkways at John Benjamin Lake Park. - $99,430.00

Grubbs (Jackson County) – to install new play equipment, park amenities, and to improve access at Grubbs City Park. - $100,000.00

Independence County – To install new play equipment and improve access at Desha Park. - $100,000.00

Jericho (Crittenden County) – to install new play equipment, grills, park amenities, and to improve access at Jericho Town Park. - $100,000.00

Keiser (Mississippi County) – to install new play equipment and park amenities at Keiser City Park. - $100,000.00

Madison County – to install new play equipment and improve access at Wesley Community Park. - $100,000.00

McNeil (Columbia County) – to construct a play area, pavilion, accessibility features, and to install park amenities at McNeil City Park. - $99,430.00

Newton County – to construct a walking trail, pavilion, seating, play area, and accessibility features at Parthenon Community Park. - $100,000.00

Ozan (Hempstead County) – to install new play area, basketball facility, accessibility features, and park amenities at Ozan Park. - $100,000.00

Pyatt (Marion County) – to construct a new play area, fencing, accessibility features, seating, and to repair the basketball facility at Pyatt Downtown Park. - $100,000.00

Searcy County – to install playground equipment and to construct a pavilion, walking trail, seating, and accessibility improvements in Witts Springs Community Park. - $100,000.00

Traskwood (Saline County) – to construct a new play area and access improvements in Traskwood City Park. - $97,700.00

Viola (Fulton County) – to construct a new play area and access improvements in Viola City Park. - $100,000.00.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN REMINDS ARKANSANS OF ELECTION INTEGRITY UNIT AHEAD OF EARLY VOTING STARTING FEBRUARY 20
Griffin: ‘The public’s confidence in government is directly tied to the public’s confidence in our elections'
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement regarding his office’s Election Integrity Unit ahead of the start of early voting for the 2024 preferential primary election and nonpartisan general election:

“The public’s confidence in government is directly tied to the public’s confidence in our elections. Election integrity has always been a priority for me throughout my time in public service. I established the Election Integrity Unit last year to ensure the people of Arkansas have an outlet to submit complaints and ensure that all credible leads are investigated.

“Thanks to the legislature’s work last year, my office now has the authority to bring a civil cause of action against those who violate our election laws. This is an important tool to ensure that our laws are followed as monetary damages can be an effective deterrent.”

Griffin established the Election Integrity Unit (EIU) under his office’s Special Investigations Division in March 2023 with Chief Wayne Bewley serving as the unit’s director. In April, Act 544 of 2023 was signed into law. The Act codified the EIU and permitted the Office of the Attorney General to file civil suits for election-related offenses.

Griffin reminds Arkansans who may wish to file a complaint concerning potential election law violations to contact his office’s Election Law Hotline at (833) 995-8683.

February 16, 2024

ASP INVESTIGATING IMPROPER USE OF FORCE IN SEPARATE HELENA-WEST HELENA AND JOHNSON COUNTY INCIDENTS  
February 16, 2024
The Helena-West Helena Police Department (HWHPD) has requested the Arkansas State Police (ASP) Criminal Investigation Division (CID) investigate an alleged use of force incident on December 19, 2023, that led to the recent termination of four officers.

HWHPD has submitted documents to the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training requesting decertification of the officers.

Separately, the Fifth Judicial Prosecuting Attorney's office has requested ASP’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) investigate an alleged use of force incident involving a Johnson County detective. The incident took place on or around January 26, 2024. The Prosecuting Attorney requested the investigation by ASP on February 9.  

In both Helena-West Helena and Johnson County, ASP Special Agents assigned to the cases will present their findings to prosecuting attorneys for review.


ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE REMINDS INDUSTRY OF STATE DICAMBA CUT-OFF DATES IN RESPONSE TO RECENT EPA EXISTING STOCKS ORDER
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is reminding farmers and applicators of the Arkansas State Plant Board’s rule that prohibits in-crop agricultural use of dicamba after June 30. 

On February 6, 2024, the U.S. District Court of Arizona issued a ruling that vacated 2020 registrations for the following dicamba products: XtendiMax, Engenia, and Tavium. On February 14, 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an existing stocks order that allows limited sale, distribution, and use of existing stocks already in the possession of growers or in the channels of trade and outside the control of pesticide companies as of February 6, 2024. The cut-off dates outlined in the order are consistent with the application cut-off dates on the previously approved federal label of the dicamba products at the time the registrations were vacated. The order can be found at epa.gov/system/files/ documents/2024-02/dicamba-notice-existing-stocks-order_02142024.pdf

The June 30 cut-off date is controlling in Arkansas despite later deadlines provided in the existing stocks order issued by the EPA on February 14, 2024. The Arkansas State Plant Board rule includes additional restrictions on burndown and tank mixes and is consistent with the Federal Fungicide, Insecticide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that allows states to impose more restrictive use requirements than the federal order. The Arkansas rules on pesticide use in Arkansas can be found at agriculture.arkansas.gov /plant-industries/rules-and-regulations/.

Farmers and applicators who fail to comply with the Arkansas rule on in-crop agricultural use of dicamba may be subject to civil penalties up to $25,000 per violation and possible suspension or revocation of their applicator license.

Suspected pesticide misuse complaints may be filed at cognitoforms.com/Arkansas Agriculture1/RequestForAllegedPesticideMisuseDriftInvestigation or by calling the Pesticide Section at (501) 225-1598.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the development and implementation of policies and programs for Arkansas agriculture, forestry, and natural resources conservation to keep its farmers and ranchers competitive in national and international markets while sustaining natural resources and ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of the state and nation. Visit agriculture.arkansas.gov/. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

 

STATE EMERGENCY RESPONSE AGENCIES TAKE PART IN EXERCISE TO PREPARE FOR THE 2024 SOLAR ECLIPSE
February 15, 2024
CAMP ROBINSON, NORTH LITTLE ROCK- On February 15, 2024, federal, state, local, and private agencies participated in a tabletop exercise for the 2024 Great Northern American Solar Eclipse.

“Although we have no way of predicting all of the challenges we will face on April 8th, we are doing everything in our power to ensure the safety of Arkansans and families visiting our state for the solar eclipse,” said Arkansas Public Safety Secretary Colonel Mike Hagar. “I am so impressed by the extraordinary planning and preparation that has gone into this, and I am grateful to all those who spent the day at Camp Robinson brainstorming and problem solving so that we can mitigate as many problems as possible.”

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) organized the event to discuss scenarios and test the response capabilities in preparation for the April 8 Solar Eclipse. The primary focus of the exercise was to examine the objectives and core capabilities required to handle the influx of visitors in the western, central, and northeastern parts of Arkansas, including the counties directly and indirectly affected by the eclipse. Nearly two-thirds of the state is inside the path of totality for the eclipse. The aim was to encourage exercise participants to review, share, and update their response plans during and after the exercise.

Several scenarios, such as severe weather, transportation and traffic management issues, and potential fuel shortages, may impact Arkansans during the solar eclipse. Additionally, there may be emergency events that could arise before, during, and after the eclipse. The exercise included communication, public information, and services related to public health and emergency medical services.

ADEM has been holding operational calls for the last year in preparation for the event. On Saturday, April 6, ADEM will activate its Emergency Operational Center. A quick-reference map of eclipse-related events planned across the state can be here.

Due to an expected influx of visitors to Arkansas, the Arkansas State Police (ASP) will play a crucial role in ensuring public safety surrounding the event. ASP will work closely with other law enforcement agencies to combat potential safety risks, manage hazards, monitor traffic flow, and enforce road safety regulations. ASP officials advise those who plan to attend the event to prepare ahead of time and be patient, as travel on the main interstates may be congested.

“We want everyone to enjoy the excitement of the day, but also be prepared for some delays and inconveniences,” Hagar said. “We’re asking for patience and understanding as we do our best to clear hurdles that will undoubtedly arise.”

Visitors to Arkansas are encouraged to explore the state's beauty, history, and culture by checking out events and happenings at Arkansas State Parks. Click here for more information on places to go and things to visit while in the Natural State.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) will provide additional message boards throughout the state to keep motorists updated on any traffic situations affecting their travel plans. ARDOT has a dedicated website for the latest information on the upcoming eclipse along with IDrive Arkansas.

To ensure safety, the National Weather Service recommends that travelers have multiple ways to receive weather warnings, as the large number of visitors in the state may disrupt cellular service. Travelers should also bring a portable weather station to stay informed and alerted to any potential severe weather that may occur before, during, or after the Solar Eclipse.  

The Arkansas Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) is the state's homeland security and preparedness agency. The agency works to identify and lessen the effects of emergencies, disasters and threats to Arkansas by developing effective prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery actions for all disasters and emergencies.  For additional information, contact ADEM at (501) 683-6700 or visit the website at www.adem.arkansas.gov.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN LEADS 23-STATE COALITION OPPOSING SEC INVESTOR DATABASE NOT AUTHORIZED BY CONGRESS
Griffin: ‘The SEC wants Americans to believe that it’s capable of securing a massive new database containing personal information about every single person who has a 401(k) or buys stock’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement after filing an amicus brief on behalf of 23 state attorneys general with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit opposing the Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) adopted by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—a database of personal information about each American involved in stock trading, including those owning 401(k)s:

“The SEC wants Americans to believe that it’s capable of securing a massive new database containing personal information about every single person who has a 401(k) or buys stock.  But the SEC has a long history of failing to secure its computer systems. Indeed, just this year, its X (formerly Twitter) account was hacked, creating market chaos. That’s why I led a group of 23 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting a challenge to that database, which Congress never authorized.”

Created in the wake of the 2010 “flash crash” caused by algorithmic trading decisions, CAT houses personal information about every retail investor and contains real-time information about their investment decisions. The SEC claims CAT will better enable it to reconstruct and analyze events like the flash crash.  

CAT gives thousands of authorized government employees—and an unknown number of hackers across the globe—access to real-time information about every investor and investment decision. And, as the SEC has mandated that the CAT must contain personally identifiable information of every American investor who buys or sells stock, it has created a repository of information that is economically valuable to hackers and strategically valuable to America’s foreign adversaries.

Other states joining Arkansas in the amicus brief include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.


STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
February 16, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas legislators approved a $30 million expenditure to improve mental health services and treatment of substance abuse.

The governor and the state Human Services Department supported the plan to fill in the gaps in the statewide system of treating mental illness and helping people with drug problems.

The money will help create a statewide response network, which will include a 24-hour call center. First responders will be equipped with tablets that allow people to be more quickly connected to staff at clinics.

Also, the funds will pay for more training for emergency medical technicians, police officers and other first responders. They will be trained in patient evaluation, in order to recognize indications that someone is going through a mental health crisis.

They will be trained in the emerging technology now used for telehealth services, which allows medical staff and trained professionals to provide care for people at a distance. Funding also will pay for new software.

Some of the money will pay for more bed space in facilities where therapy is provided to people with developmental disabilities and co-occurring mental illness.

Other improvements include programs to re-integrate children back into their communities after they or a family member has gone through a crisis.

Some funding will expand residential treatment programs for youths and adults who have problems resulting from substance abuse.

It will pay for housing for adults with mental illness to help them avoid being homeless, or to help them stay out of prison or an institution. A similar program will support youths who are in jeopardy of homelessness, incarceration or institutionalization. The risk is especially acute for youth and young adults leaving state custody from foster care or the juvenile justice system.

The governor said the improvements paid for with the $30 million are part of a broader plan to fill in gaps in current services and complete the health continuum of care for individuals with mental health needs, intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities. It also will benefit elderly people.

Schools for the Deaf and the Blind

The state will build a “state of the art” facility at the Little Rock campuses of the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the School for the Deaf, which are adjacent to each other.

Legislators set aside about $30 million and the governor said she hoped the project would move ahead as fast as possible.

Students, parents and stakeholders have expressed their wishes that the two campuses not be consolidated, in order to preserve the distinct culture and identity of each.

Some buildings need upgrades to electric lines and plumbing. The exterior of several buildings is crumbling, and the interior rooms are drafty. The schools must maintain a lot of outdoor space. Security of students is an issue, in part because the schools are near parts of Little Rock where transients seek shelter.

After legislators toured the schools, a senator said that the state had not prioritized the needs of the schools, and that “disrepair and neglect are apparent.”

This year the School for the Deaf is teaching 102 students and the School for the Blind is teaching 67 students. Some live in Little Rock but many are from other parts of the state and live at the campuses during the week.

February 15, 2024

SAU TECH INCIDENT UPDATE:
Wednesday afternoon, law enforcement officers apprehended a suspect who allegedly fired a gun near the SAU Tech campus, causing non-life-threatening injuries to an individual. This individual was later confirmed not to be an SAU Tech student. The suspect, a minor not from the Camden area, is now in custody at a local juvenile facility awaiting arraignment.

Chancellor Jerry Thomas expressed his gratitude towards the local law enforcement officials for their thorough and rapid investigation and for apprehending the suspect so quickly. Dr. Ed Rice, Vice President for Student Services, has made counseling services available to students in need of support. Students needing to speak with a counselor can contact the Office of Student Services at 870-574-4504.
 

OFFICIAL STATE HOLIDAY BULLETIN
The State of Arkansas will observe George Washington's Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day as an official state holiday on Monday, February 19, 2024.  

State Capitol offices and other state government buildings will be closed. However, the State Capitol will be open to the public from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.  


TROOPERS SEIZE ALMOST 200 POUNDS OF ILLEGAL MARIJUANA  
February 15, 2024
Three recent traffic stops by the Arkansas State Police (ASP) netted almost 200 pounds of illegal marijuana on Arkansas interstates.

On Thursday, February 8, at approximately 9:15 a.m., ASP stopped a vehicle in Little Rock at the 65th Street exit on Interstate 30 East for a traffic violation.

A search of the vehicle found two trash bags containing 38 vacuum-sealed bags of illegal marijuana, each weighing approximately 1 pound. The driver, Viet Quoc Truong, 41, of Arlington, Texas, was placed under arrest and transported to the Pulaski County Detention Center.

Truong is being charged with Felony Furnishing, Possessing or Using Prohibited Articles, Felony Possession of Controlled Substances, Felony Intent to deliver, and Improper Lane Use.

Two hours later, at approximately 11:25 a.m., ASP pulled over a vehicle on Interstate 40 in Conway County.

The Trooper detected a strong odor of marijuana, and a search of the vehicle led to the discovery of two large bags containing vacuum-sealed bundles of illegal marijuana weighing 62 pounds.

ASP took the driver, Anouphab Thairathom, 44, of Las Vegas, Nevada, into custody and transported him to the Conway County Detention Center. Thairathom is being charged with Felony Possession with the Purpose to Deliver a Controlled Substance and Felony Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

On Friday, February 9th, at approximately 5 p.m., ASP pulled over an SUV on Interstate 40 Eastbound in Conway County for a traffic violation. During the stop, a K-9 alerted Troopers to illegal drugs in the vehicle, leading to the discover of 94 1-pound packages of illegal marijuana.

The driver, Frederick Diehl of El Portal, Florida, 63, was arrested and transported to the Conway County Detention Center. Diehl was charged with Felony Possession with the Purpose to Deliver, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Driving Left of Center.

 

SANDERS ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENTS
 LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the following appointments:  
Lona McCastlain, Austin, designated as the Chair of the Post-Prison Transfer Board. To serve at the will of the Governor. Replaces Jamol Jones as Chair.
Lona McCastlain, Austin, to the Board of Corrections by designation as the Chair of the Post-Prison Transfer Board. To serve at the will of the Governor. Replaces Jamol Jones.
 Shash Goyal, Little Rock, to the State Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission. Term expires January 14, 2030. Reappointment.
 Austin Albers, Rogers, to the State Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission. Term expires January 14, 2030. Reappointment.
Gary Vernon, Bella Vista, to the State Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission. Term expires January 14, 2030. Replaces Ronnie Gossage.
 Dr. Kevan Meadors, Little Rock, to the Graduate Medical Education Residency Expansion Board. Term expires February 13, 2027. New Position.
 Dr. Sherry Turner, Fort Smith, to the Graduate Medical Education Residency Expansion Board. Term expires February 13, 2027. New Position.
 Dr. Sharmila Makhija, Rogers, to the Graduate Medical Education Residency Expansion Board. Term expires February 13, 2027. New Position.
 Dr. Evan Branscum, Harrison, to the Graduate Medical Education Residency Expansion Board. Term expires February 13, 2027. New Position.
 David Damron, of Sheridan, to serve as the Justice of the Peace for District 4 for Grant County. Term expires on December 31, 2024. Fulfills the remaining term of Grant Westmoreland.
Bobbie Jo Green, of Mineral Springs, to serve as the Justice of the Peace for District 9 for Howard County. Term expires on December 31, 2024. Fulfills the remaining term of Bobby Don Turner.
Linda Hines, of Camden, to serve as the Justice of the Peace for District 8 for Ouachita County. Term expires on December 31, 2024. Fulfills the remaining term of James Manley.
George Wyrick, of Alexander, to serve as the Justice of the Peace for District 12 for Saline County. Term expires on December 31, 2024. Fulfills the remaining term of J.R. Walters.
 Larry Dye, of Harriet, to serve as the Justice of the Peace for District 9 for Searcy County. Term expires on December 31, 2024. Fulfills the remaining term of Rick Watts.
 Shirley Quattlebaum, of Searcy, to serve as the Justice of the Peace for District 10 for White County. Term expires on December 31, 2024. Fulfills the remaining term of Bobby G. Quattlebaum.
Bobbi Shepherd, El Dorado, to the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Term expires July 1, 2025. Reappointment
 Judge Brandon Ellison, Mena, to the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Term expires July 1, 2025.  Replaces Chris Villines.
 Mitchell Allen, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Term Expires July 1, 2025. Replaces Tareneh Manning.
 Allyson de la Houssaye, Bentonville, to the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Term expires July 1, 2025. Replaces Regina Walker.
John Edwards, Scott, to the Arkansas Waterways Commission. Term expires January 14, 2028. Replaces Joe Harris, Jr.
 Rajesh Chokhani, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Waterways Commission. Term expires January 14, 2030. Replaces Matthew King.
Tom Lundstrum, Springdale, to the ESG Oversight Committee, to serve at the pleasure of the Governor. New position. 

FIVE WAYS TO BOOST HEART HEALTH
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (February 14, 2024) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. February is American Heart Month, and there’s no better time than the present to evaluate what you’re doing to prevent and lower your risk for heart disease. Here are five ways to boost your heart health.

1.     Exercise regularly.
Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of heart disease prevention, and regular exercise is one way to achieve this. The Surgeon General recommends that adults get two and a half hours of moderate physical activity like walking or biking weekly. Children and adolescents should aim for an hour of physical activity every day.

2.     Eat healthy.
Establishing healthy eating habits is another way to maintain a healthy weight. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fat. Opt for foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol to help prevent high cholesterol. Foods with lower sodium can help lower your blood pressure, and consuming foods with less sugar can help keep your blood sugar under control.

3.     Set limits.
Limiting your alcohol intake and avoiding smoking can also help you prevent heart disease. Knowing your limits and setting boundaries can help you stay disciplined, which is another vital part of lowering your risk for heart disease.

4.     Monitor health conditions.
If you struggle with high blood pressure or high cholesterol or have diabetes, managing these conditions is a key part of preventing and lowering your risk for heart disease. Consult with doctors and other members of your health team to see what their recommendations are for managing existing medical conditions. They may prescribe medicines to help manage your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar, along with lifestyle changes to help.

5.     Work with a team.
It's important to work with your health care team if any of your conditions change, if your family has a history of any of these medical conditions or if you suspect you might be at risk for them. Consult your doctor if you’ve already had a heart attack or if you struggle with mental health issues. Create a treatment plan that works for you and discuss it regularly, making adjustments when necessary. Don’t stop taking any prescribed medicines before talking to your doctor.

Prioritizing heart health is critical for preventing and lowering your risk for heart disease. For more tips to boost heart health, visit cdc.gov/heartdisease/prevention.htm.


ENTERGY OFFERS VARIETY OF BILL MANAGEMENT AND ASSISTANCE OPTIONS FOR WINTER SEASON
Cold temperatures can increase power usage and bills
Little Rock, Ark. – Last month, a significant intrusion of arctic air led to a 3-day period of below freezing temperatures and winter precipitation throughout the state. Many residents turned up their heaters to take the chill out of the air. Producing heat requires a lot of electricity, which can drive up your energy usage and bills.

You don’t have to compromise comfort to keep your winter energy bills down. We recently shared free or low-cost energy efficiency tips that can go a long way in conserving energy and saving money during the winter season. If you do receive a higher-than-expected winter energy bill, we have additional resources to help.

Resources for customers in need
For customers experiencing financial hardship, we offer a variety of bill assistance options, including: Deferred payment: Talk with us about your situation and we may be able to make deferred payment arrangements. Request a deferred payment arrangement through myEntergy or by calling 1-800-ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749) and following our automated response system menu.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program: Funded through the federal government, LIHEAP helps low-income households meet their home energy costs by making payments on the customers’ behalf directly to energy suppliers. Visit entergy.com/bill-help to learn how to apply for assistance. 

Payment extension: Qualifying customers who need a few extra days to pay their bill can request an extension through myEntergy or by calling 1-800-ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749) and following our automated response system menu.

The Power to Care: Through a network of nonprofit agencies, The Power to Care helps pay utility bills of those facing extreme temperatures with no way to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Learn more at myentergy.com/s/powertocare.

Customers who are behind on bill payments should contact Entergy through myEntergy or by phone at 1-800 ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749) to make payment arrangements and prevent disconnection. The Entergy app is also available to download for Android and iPhone operating systems at entergy.com/app and can be used for your convenience to pay bills, monitor your usage and more.

 Bill management resources 
Choose when, where and how you pay with our bill management resources, including:

 AutoPay: Avoid late fees, writing checks and paying for postage by having your bills automatically deducted from your bank account. Learn more at myentergy.com/s/autopay.

Level billing: We average bills over a rolling 12-month period, so you have a more consistent bill each month of the year. Enroll at myentergy.com/s/levelbill.

MyAdvisor: Receive an estimate of what projected energy usage costs could be by the end of the billing cycle. Learn more at entergy.com/MyAdvisor.

PaperFREE: Get your bill delivered directly to your email as soon as it posts. Learn more at myentergy.com/s/paperfree.

Pick-A-Date: Choose what day of the month you get billed to line up with your budget and cash flow. Learn more at myentergy.com/s/pickdate.

Understanding my bill: We’ve designed the Entergy bill to help make it easier to understand. Learn more at entergy.com/bill.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES ARREST OF BENTON MAN ON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES
Griffin: ‘Our commitment is to continue tracking down those who exploit our most vulnerable’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement regarding the arrest of Eric T. Brown, 40, of Benton on 12 counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing of matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child:

“This arrest is a follow-up to our arrest of a Benton woman last week on similar charges. Parents should be advised that our investigators determined that images in this case were shared over popular social media channels. 

“I am grateful to the special agents in my office’s Special Investigations Division whose diligent and tireless investigative work led to this arrest. Our commitment is to continue tracking down those who exploit our most vulnerable.”

Brown was booked Wednesday into the Saline County Detention Center, where he is currently being held pending a bond hearing.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES PUBLIC INTEGRITY UNIT ARREST OF FORMER BULL SHOALS MAYOR
Griffin: ‘Abuse of office and theft of public funds are serious breaches of the public’s trust’
LITTLE ROCK – Following the surrender of former Bull Shoals Mayor David L. Nixon, 69, to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on two Class C Felony charges, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“On Tuesday, the former mayor of Bull Shoals surrendered on felony charges stemming from an investigation by special agents from the Public Integrity Unit of my office’s Special Investigations Division. Abuse of office and theft of public funds are serious breaches of the public’s trust, and my office is committed to holding violators of that trust to account.

“I thank the special agents from my office for their excellent and diligent work on this case, as well as the Marion County officials who helped facilitate the arrest.”

Nixon is charged with Theft of Property over $5,000 and Abuse of Office, both Class C Felonies. Nixon allegedly received unauthorized reimbursements during his time as mayor from the City of Bull Shoals for Medicare Part B premiums that had been deducted from his Social Security payments.

Nixon was booked into the Marion County Detention Center on February 13 and was released later that afternoon.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES CONVICTION FOR DEFENDANT WHO SHOT PATIENTS WITH BB GUN
Griffin: ‘The actions of the defendant in this case were cruel and egregious’
LITTLE ROCK – Following a no contest plea entered by Malic King, 28, of Little Rock in Faulkner County Circuit Court on Monday, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“Earlier this week, defendant King entered a plea of ‘no contest’ to Abuse of an Endangered/Impaired Person, a Class D Felony, for shooting residents of the Conway Human Development Center with a BB gun. The actions of the defendant in this case were cruel and egregious, and I am pleased that he is being held accountable.

“I congratulate my office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit on their good work on this case, particularly investigator Dane Pederson and Assistant Attorney General Gabby Davis-Jones, who worked in conjunction with 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Carol Crews. I am also grateful to the Conway Police Department for their work in investigating this case.”

King was working as a caregiver at the Conway Human Development Center when he used a BB gun to shoot residents there. After his no-contest plea, he was sentenced to five years of probation, was assessed a $1,000 fine plus court costs, and was ordered to attend anger management classes.


BOOZMAN HONORED FOR ADVOCACY OF STATE VETERANS HOMES
WASHINGTON – The National Association of State Veterans Homes (NASVH) honored U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) with its 2024 Legislator of the Year Award for his unwavering support and advocacy of State Veterans Homes at a ceremony on Capitol Hill last week.

“I’m proud to champion policies that help meet the needs of veterans and their families. I appreciate the dedication of members of the National Association of State Veterans Homes for promoting measures to strengthen long-term care for those who have served our country and look forward to further working with them to ensure we fulfill the promises made to these special men and women,” Boozman said.

“Senator Boozman has been a champion for aging and disabled veterans throughout his distinguished congressional career and was an obvious and unanimous selection to receive NASVH’s 2024 Legislator of Year Award. As a leading member of the Senate Appropriations and Veterans’ Affairs committees, Senator Boozman has been a steadfast and influential supporter of aging and disabled veterans who reside in State Veterans Homes, particularly the two Arkansas State Homes located in Fayetteville and North Little Rock. Senator Boozman has shown time and again that he has no higher priority than to ensure that America’s veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors receive all the benefits and care they have earned,” said NASVH President Tracy Schaner.  

As the lead Republican on the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee, Boozman has championed funding to enhance quality of life and long-term care for veterans.

The senator is also a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and has been consistently recognized for his efforts to improve services and benefits that former servicemembers have earned including increasing survivor benefits, supporting a comprehensive approach to address the veteran suicide crisis and strengthening oversight and quality of care at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.

February 14, 2024

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen met in regular session Tuesday, February 13, 2024 in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.

Mayor Charlotte Young called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. The  Invocation was given by Rev. Shane Russell, Pastor at Hillside Baptist Church, 332 Columbia Avenue SW in Camden. The invocation was followed by the Pledge Of Allegiance.

City Clerk Donna Stewart called the roll. Aldermen Chris Aregood, Gerald Castleberry, Marvin Moore, Ebony Gulley, Ed Winters, L.E. Lindsey, Joe Askew and William McCoy were all in attendance.

The Council had four different minutes to approve from meetings held in January. Minutes of the Regular Meeting dated January 9, 2024 were presented in print. Motion was made and seconded. The Minutes were approved.

Minutes of the Special Called Meeting dated January 23, 2024 were presented in print. Motion was made and seconded. The Minutes were approved.

Minutes of the Special Called Meeting dated January 29, 2024. Motion was made and seconded. The Minutes were approved.

Minutes of the Special Called Meeting dated January 30, 2024. Motion was made and seconded. The Minutes were approved.

The Financial Report for January was presented in print. Motion was made and seconded. There was no discussion. The Financial Report for January was approved.

Ordinance No. 15-23, an ordinance providing for the accounting of the Public Safety Sales and Use Tax; and  for other purposes was up for the Third and final Reading. Motion was made and seconded.  The Ordinance passed with four Aldermen voting for and 4 voting against. The Mayor broke the tie with a yes vote.

Resolution No. 09-24, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a contract with the Ouachita   Partnership for Economic Development (OPED) to provide certain Economic Development Services for the City of Camden; and for other purposes. Motion was made and seconded. The resolution passed.

Resolution No. 10-24, a resolution confirming the appointment of Cathy Cash to the Keep Camden Beautiful Committee. Motion was made and seconded. The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 11-24, a resolution confirming the re-appointment of Sandra Wood to the Camden Housing Authority. Motion was made and seconded. The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 12-24, a resolution confirming the appointment of Brandon Burns to the Airport Commission as an Ex-Officio Member. Motion was made and seconded. The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 13-24, a resolution confirming the appointment of Nick Tuberville to the Airport Commission as an Ex-Officio Member. Motion was made and seconded. The resolution passed unanimously.

Chris Aregood brought an ordinance dealing with animal cruelty from the City of Smackover. The Counsel will look it over and see what, if any, changes need to be made in Regulating Animal Control.

The meeting adjourned at 9:15 PM.

The next regular meeting of the Camden Board of Aldermen will be March 12, 2024.
 

POTENTIAL SECURITY BREACH IN CITY OF CAMDEN
A recent email from Camden City Attorney Michael Frye has shed light on a concerning potential security breach, revealing a negligent disregard for protocol and confidentiality within the city's governance. The email outlined the proper handling of sensitive documents, stressing the importance of redacting certain information to protect individual privacy. It was discovered that Alderperson Ebony Gully had cavalierly requested un-redacted bank statements, potentially compromising the privacy of numerous individuals.

Elected officials, while granted access to such documents, carry a solemn responsibility to safeguard sensitive information. However, it appears this responsibility was neglected, with unsecured emails containing un-redacted financial records being carelessly transmitted across unencrypted channels or without password protection, leaving them vulnerable to interception by hackers or unauthorized individuals.

The ramifications of this negligence are dire. Not only does it breach the trust of Camden's citizens, but it also jeopardizes the financial security of individuals whose sensitive information may have been exposed. Such a breach goes beyond mere procedural errors, striking at the heart of accountability and transparency in governance.

Alderperson Gully's actions, whether resulting from negligence or wilful disregard, have potentially put the entire city at risk. The revelation that unsecured emails were used to transmit sensitive financial data is a gross violation of trust and serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for enhanced cybersecurity measures.

In the wake of this potential breach, one thing is abundantly clear: the need for stringent protocols and heightened awareness of cybersecurity risks has never been more pressing. The people of Camden deserve better, and it is incumbent upon their elected officials to uphold the highest standards of integrity and accountability in governance. Anything less would be a disservice to the community they swore to serve.

As citizens of Camden, it is crucial to remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding personal information. The importance of encryption and secure communication channels cannot be overstated, particularly when dealing with sensitive financial data. Any unusual activity in accounts should be reported immediately to institutions, and precautions should be taken to ensure the security of sensitive information in the digital realm.

Moving forward, greater transparency and adherence to established protocols are essential to restoring trust and ensuring the integrity of Camden's governance.

CAMDEN FAIRVIEW CARDINALS VICTORIOUS AT DEQUEEN
The Camden Fairview senior teams traveled to De Queen Tuesday night and pulled out a couple of close victories. The Lady Cardinals prevailed 54 to 53 when a De Queen shot rimmed out at the buzzer. Then the Cardinals Jaylen Goodwin nailed a clutch three-pointer at the buzzer to allow the Fairview boys to escape with a 58 to 56 victory. 

In the girls contest, the Lady Cardinals took a 31 to 24 halftime lead and held off the De Queen girls 54 to 53. 6'4" freshman Miciah Fusilier led the Lady Cardinals with 29 points. Jordan Clary added 15 as the Camden Fairview girls clinched second place in the 7-4A Conference and the number two seed in next week's regional tournament at Nashville. The Lady Cardinals are 11 and 2 in league play and 18 and 7 overall. 

Jaylen Goodwin was the hero in the boys contest as his three-point corner shot at the buzzer propelled the Cardinals to a hard-fought 58 to 56 victory over the upset-minded Leopards. Kyleston Gill led the Cardinals with 17 points. Darrell Atkins scored 15, and Goodwin added 10. With the victory, the Cardinals improved to 9 and 4 in conference play and 19 and 7 overall.

 

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ACCEPTING PROPOSALS FOR SPECIALTY CROP BLOCK GRANT PROGRAM
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the 2024 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). These grants are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enhance the competitiveness of the Arkansas specialty crop industry. Specialty crops are defined by USDA as fruits, vegetables, horticulture, floriculture, and tree nuts.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture uses a two-phase application process for administering the grant funds. Project concept proposals outlining the project’s goals, tasks, and budget requirements must be submitted by March 1, 2024.

After all concept proposals are reviewed by an advisory committee, selected projects will be invited to submit detailed project proposals.

Applicants are encouraged to develop projects pertaining to the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry:

Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops;

Research projects focused on helping specialty crop growers by improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems, improving pest and disease management, and/or development of new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops;

Investments in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes;

Enhancing specialty crop food safety, and/or improving the capacity of all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act; and

Sustainability of specialty crops.


The 2024 SCBGP application can be found at cognitoforms.com/ArkansasAgriculture1 /SpecialtyCropBlockGrant2024ProjectConceptProposal.

Information about the 2024 SCBGP is available in the Request for Applications (RFA) at agriculture.arkansas.gov/ wp-content/uploads/ADA-SCBG-RFA-2024.pdf. For additional information, contact Amy Lyman at amy.lyman@agriculture.arkansas.gov
 

STATE OF ARKANSAS CERTIFIED 50 BUSINESSES AS MINORITY- AND WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESS ENTERPRISES IN 2023
Little Rock, Ark. (February 14, 2024) – In 2023, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) certified 50 businesses as minority- and women-owned business enterprises through the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Certification Program. These 50 businesses bring the total number of Arkansas businesses that have received the MWBE certification to 335.

“Congratulations to the Arkansas businesses that achieved this certification in 2023,” said Esperanza Massana Crane, director of AEDC’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development Division. “The MWBE certification provides a wide range of benefits for businesses that will set them apart in a competitive landscape, and we hope that this will open the door for future opportunities for these companies.”

MWBE-certified businesses receive access to a statewide network of support services, including workshops, B2B networking, and notification of bid opportunities, as well as opportunities to do business with local, state, and federal governments; higher education institutions; lending institutions; and the private sector.

Thirty-four Arkansas businesses were certified as minority- and women-owned business enterprises in 2022.

Businesses that apply for the MWBE Certification Program are evaluated in a review process that ensures that each business is owned, controlled, and operated by the applicants and that each business meets the eligibility criteria of the program. AEDC’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development Division administers the MWBE Certification Program.

View the full list of businesses in the MWBE Certification Program here. Learn how to get certified through the MWBE Certification program here.

February 13, 2024

SAU TECH CAMPUS INCIDENT UPDATE
CAMDEN, AR – A SHOOTING INCIDENT OCCURRED at approximately 10:31 PM behind Highland Park Hall on the SAU Tech campus. Following the incident, the campus was swiftly placed on lockdown, and emergency services, including an ambulance, were dispatched to the scene.

One individual, who is not a student of SAU Tech, was injured during the event. The victim was taken to Ouachita County Medical Center, where they received treatment for non-life-threatening injuries and subsequently released from the hospital.

The case is being investigated by campus police, the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office, and state police.

The Vice Chancellor for Student Services, Dr. Ed Rice, expressed concern, stating, "The safety and security of our students are paramount. It's deeply unfortunate when incidents off campus spill over and endanger our campus community. Our priority remains the well-being and safety of our students and staff."

SAU Tech Chancellor Dr. Jerry Thomas extended his gratitude towards the rapid response of law enforcement and emergency responders: "I am proud of the swift action taken by the state police, Calhoun County Sheriff, campus police, and first responders. Thanks to our emergency responders and the SAU Tech Crisis Management Team, we were able to manage the situation effectively and maintain the safety of our campus.”

There is currently no evidence of an ongoing threat to the SAU Tech campus. The college urges anyone with information or needing information related to this incident to please contact Cindy Murphy of the Arkansas State Police Department.


ARKANSAS STATE POLICE CID INVESTIGATING MONDAY NIGHT SHOOTING ON THE SAU TECH CAMPUS  
February 13, 2024
Camden, Ark. –  Arkansas State Police (ASP) Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is investigating a shooting at the Southern Arkansas University Tech Campus in Camden that occurred at about 10:30 p.m. on Monday, February 12th, 2024.

SAU Tech Police and the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office responded to the shooting at the Highland Dormitory and requested ASP's CID to investigate. While on scene, law enforcement was informed that the victim, a 20-year-old Camden man, was receiving care at a local hospital for injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening.  

ASP's CID has identified a suspect and is obtaining an arrest warrant for him. Neither the victim nor the suspect is affiliated with SAU Tech. As the investigation continues, additional arrests may be made.

 

NOTICE OF ELECTION
This notice is prepared by the County Election Commission to inform the public that the 2024 Preferential Primary will be held on March 5, 2024. The notice also provides the public information  regarding  this election as required by law.

EARLY VOTING AT COURTHOUSE & TIMES:
Tuesday through Friday: February 20th-Feb.23rd - 8:00am-6:00 pm
Saturday, February 24th - 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Monday through Friday, February 26th through March 1st - 8:00am-6:00 pm
Saturday, March 2nd - 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Monday, March 4th – 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

ELECTION DAY VOTING: March 5, 2024 Hours: 7:30am – 7:30 pm
Location of Poll:
Bearden Lions Club - 430 N. 3rd Street, Bearden, AR
Calvary Baptist Church - 319 Hwy. 278, East Camden, AR
Chidester City Hall - 118 Willow, Chidester, AR
Elliott Baptist Church - 4189 Highway 376, Camden, AR
First United Methodist Church - 223 Jefferson, Camden, AR
Stephens City Hall- 121 West Ruby, Stephens, AR
The Word Family Church - 295 North Street, Camden, AR
Ballots Assigned to Poll: Vote Center / All Ballots at each location


RIGHT TO WORSHIP GRANTS ANNOUNCED
February 13, 2024
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the Arkansas Department of Public Safety announced today that six faith organizations will receive Right to Worship Grants to enhance security. There was previously no avenue to provide aid for those at high risk for a terrorist attack, therefore the Governor and her staff worked with Arkansas State Police and the legislature to address that. 

The DPS Right to Worship Safely Grant Program (RTWSGP) supports physical security enhancement and other security activity projects that serve to assist nonprofit ideology-based/spiritual/religious entities in the prevention, protection against, preparedness for, and response to terrorist threat(s) and/or other extremist attack(s).

“The right to worship freely is our most fundamental right,” said Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “With threats against religious communities rising across the country, we created the Right to Worship grant program for faith groups in need of protection. No person or community should ever be violently targeted for their faith. The recipients we are announcing today demonstrated the highest need for support, and I’m proud my administration is stepping up to help.”

DPS Secretary Colonel Mike Hagar added, “The Department of Public Safety’s mission is to ensure the safety and security of all Arkansans. While Arkansans are worshiping, they should not fear for their safety.” 

2024 Arkansas Right to Worship Safely Grant Awardees
Congregation Agudath Achim:  $43,200
Congregation B'nai Israel:  $74,449
Congregation House of Israel:  $11,273
Lubavitch of Arkansas:  $60,000
St. Mary’s Catholic Church Hot Springs:  $8,065
Subiaco Abbey:  $30,805

Thirty-one entities applied for the grants, requesting a total of $2,139,421. Organizations did not receive grants unless they met all grant program requirements.

Eligible nonprofit ideology-based/spiritual/religious institution/organization were required to be: (1) Designated as a 501(c)3 organization; and (2) received an active terrorist threat(s) and/or extremist attack(s) in the past twelve months; and (3) established risk to the organization (Threat, Vulnerability, and Consequence); Applicants must also be located within the state of Arkansas.

Threats were verified and evaluated by the Arkansas State Police for credibility and applications were reviewed by the RTWS Committee.

 

MEANS AND WEATHERFORD EXHIBIT OPEN AT SAAC, RECEPTION FEBRUARY 15
The South Arkansas Arts Center welcomes local AIE artist Mike Means and Warren, Arkansas photographer Michael Weatherford and their exhibition “Natural Inspirations” to the Lobby Gallery Friday, February 2 to Sunday, March 3. There will be an artists’ reception on Thursday, February 15 from 5:30-7:00pm.  

Means loves to draw and works with many different art forms including pastels, acrylics, 3D physical modeling, and digital. Weatherford is an avid nature photographer and professional forester who lives on his very own, mini nature preserve in Warren. Many of his photos in this exhibition were actually taken there.  Means and Weatherford collaborated to feature Weatherford’s photos of nature while Means conducted an art study of those photos.  

Means stated, “I have seen Michael Weatherford’s photos for many years on social media.  I asked to reference his images in some drawings and paintings, using several of his pics as an inspiration for those pieces.  Some of my pieces are just straightforward art based on photos by Michael.  Other drawings get more fanciful but are still very much influenced by Michael’s photos. I thought it would be an interesting collaboration - doing a show featuring the two artists together in one space.”   

Weatherfod has been taking pictures since purchasing his first “real” camera, a Pentax Spotmatic, many decades ago while serving in the U.S. Air Force.  These days he uses Nikon mirrorless cameras and lenses.  Weatherford actively advocates for the protection/preservation of nature and, through his photography, seeks to foster an appreciation for the natural world. 

Originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas, Means attended the University of Arkansas and studied Graphic Arts for 2 years. He then took on another adventure and joined the U.S Navy. In the Navy, he remained in the field of Graphic Design and spent almost 10 years as a “Drafstman/Illustrator” for the Navy/Government. After leaving the service, Means worked as a Graphics Designer for several Companies and now has his own business where he does freelance design work worldwide. Additionally, Means is an AIE artist where he goes into the local elementary schools and helps add different angles to many of their art projects.  Means also teaches computer art classes at SAAC and has for the past 15 years.   

For more information on the Means and Weatherford exhibit at the South Arkansas Arts Center, please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas. 

February 12, 2-24

ASP TROOPERS USE MENTAL HEALTH TRAINING TO HELP CITIZENS IN CRISIS
February 9, 2024
Arkansas State Police (ASP) Troopers helped save the lives of two individuals facing dire mental health crises on Tuesday, February 6, 2024.

“I am extremely proud of how our Troopers use compassion and professionalism to help men and women grappling with mental health challenges,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “Making sure citizens in need know they are not alone is sometimes the most important part of a Trooper’s job.”

The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office contacted ASP for assistance with a man who fled from officers before climbing onto a bridge railing and threatening to jump into the Black River beneath Highway 412 near Black Rock. Two off-duty Troopers responded to the scene and successfully persuaded the individual to climb down to safety and receive care and counseling.

In a separate incident the same evening, Troopers responded to assist a man in crisis who was threatening to jump into the Mississippi River from the Interstate 40 East bridge. In coordination with the Memphis Crisis Intervention Team, one Trooper established a rapport with the individual, allowing other Troopers to pull him off the ledge to safety. 

All Troopers receive extensive mental health training, including the following courses: Encountering and Dealing with the Mentally Impaired; Behavioral Health and Crisis Intervention for Law Enforcement; and De-Escalation.

 

2024 ARKANSAS CENTURY FARM APPLICATIONS DUE MAY 31
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the 2024 Arkansas Century Farm Program. This program recognizes Arkansas families who have owned and farmed the same land for at least 100 years. The program is voluntary and there is no cost to apply.

“Since it began in 2012, the Arkansas Century Farm Program has inducted 604 farm families,” said Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. “It is an honor to recognize families across Arkansas who have persevered challenges and contributed greatly to the success of our state’s largest industry over the last century.”

To qualify, Arkansas farms must meet the following criteria:
The same family must have owned the farm for 100 years by December 31, 2024. The line of ownership from the original settler or buyer may be through children, grandchildren, siblings, and nephews or nieces, including through marriage and adoption.

The farm must be at least ten acres of the original land acquisition and make a financial contribution to the overall farm income.

Qualifying Arkansas farms will receive a personalized Arkansas Century Farm certificate and metal sign listing the farm name and year established.

Online and printable applications are available at agriculture.arkansas.gov/arkansas-department-of-agriculture-services/arkansas-century-farm-program/. Applications must be received via email at beth.moore@agriculture.arkansas.gov or postmarked on or before May 31, 2024, to be eligible for designation as a 2024 inductee.

Please contact Beth Moore at (501) 539-4027 with questions.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN REMEMBERS CHIEF DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL BOB R. BROOKS, JR.
Griffin: ‘As my Chief Deputy, he was unrivaled in his intellect, strength of character, work ethic and love for Arkansans, our Office and the dozens of staff he led and managed’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement remembering his longtime friend, Chief Deputy Attorney General Bob R. Brooks, Jr., who died Sunday morning:

“I was devastated to learn that my dear friend and colleague Chief Deputy Attorney General Bob R. Brooks, Jr. passed away earlier today. Bob and I were the best of friends for decades, and he was like a member of my family. My children called him Uncle Bob, and his frequent visits were a joy to all. 

“As my Chief Deputy, he was unrivaled in his intellect, strength of character, work ethic and love for Arkansans, our Office and the dozens of staff he led and managed. He was indispensable, and I miss him already. 

“The outpouring of love for Bob from within the Office and around the nation has been overwhelming and heartwarming. 

“My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and colleagues.”


SAAC ANNOUNCES CAST FOR HARVEY
The South Arkansas Arts Center's Theatre Committee wishes to announce the cast of the upcoming play Harvey which will run March 1-3 and 7-9, 2024. The production is directed by Gary Hall and is sponsored by Murphy Pitard Jewelers and All About Flowers and Gifts.

Harvey follows a day in the life of Elwood P. Dowd (Bill Meyer), a perfectly likeable and friendly fellow who happens to have an invisible friend named Harvey, a six-foot tall rabbit. This does not sit well with Elwood’s sister Veta Louise (Elva Melillo) who is trying desperately to introduce her daughter Myrtle Mae (Mary Claire Parker) to local society. When Elwood’s behavior disturbs Veta’s garden party, particularly guest Ethel Chauvenet (Nancy Rae Kinard), Veta determines to have her brother committed.

Under the guidance of family friend and Judge Omar Gaffney (Warren Brooks), Veta attempts to check Elwood into the local sanitorium Chumley’s Rest run by Dr. William Chumley (Charley Hawkins). Miscommunication and misdiagnosis between Dr. Lyman Sanderson (Matthew Power) and Nurse Ruth Kelly (Summer Shipp) leads to a hilarious comedy of errors and identities. Orderly Duane Wilson (Preston Huitt) and Betty Chumley (Kate Flynn) are pulled into the fray leading to a finale that is both hysterical and touching as the play encourages us to accept and appreciate the quirks that make us all special.

Director Gary Hall commented, “During auditions, we were blessed with a number of excellent actors and actresses and we, truthfully, probably could have cast it twice. I think that speaks to the fantastic talent we have in our community. The end of the play is about finding what is special about everyone, and each of these actors brought something special to the table making the casting a difficult task. In the end, I think we found the right combination. I am certainly happy to see some of our more seasoned actors back on stage. If you’re looking for an escape from the day-to-day routine and just want to put your feet back and relax, then this is the cast to take your cares away.”

Mary Chase wrote Harvey as a play to give audiences a chance to escape and laugh during the darker days of World War II. As her first commercial play, the piece became an instant hit on Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The film adaptation of the play actually introduced the world to the talents of James (Jimmy) Stewart.

Harvey is presented by Dramatists Play Service. For more information or to reserve tickets for this show, please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas. 

February 09, 2024

CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN TO MEET IN REGULAR SESSION
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen will have their regularly scheduled on Tuesday, February 13, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.

The agenda is as follows:
A. Call To Order
B. Invocation – Rev. Shane Russell, Pastor – Hillside Baptist Church, 332 Columbia Avenue Sw, Camden, Ar
C. Pledge Of Allegiance
D. Roll Call
E. Approval Of Minutes
     1. Minutes Of Regular Meeting, January 9, 2024
     2. Minutes Of Special Called Meeting, January 23, 2024
     3. Minutes Of Special Called Meeting, January 29, 2024
     4. Minutes Of Special Called Meeting, January 30, 2024

F.    Acceptance Of Financial Report
      1.  Financial Report For January 2024

G.    Audience Participation

H.    MAYOR’S REPORT    
       1.  Mayor’s State of the City Address

 I.    OLD BUSINESS         
       1.  Ordinance No. 15-23, an ordinance providing for the accounting of the Public Safety Sales and Use Tax; and  for other purposes. (Third and final Reading)

 J.    NEW BUSINESS

        1.   Resolution No. 09-24, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a contract with the Ouachita   Partnership for Economic Development (OPED) to provide certain Economic Development Services for the City of Camden; and for other purposes.

        2.   Resolution No. 10-24, a resolution confirming the appointment of Cathy Cash to the Keep Camden Beautiful Committee.

        3.   Resolution No. 11-24, a resolution confirming the re-appointment of Sandra Wood to the Camden Housing Authority.

       4.   Resolution No. 12-24, a resolution confirming the appointment of Brandon Burns to the Airport Commission as an Ex-Officio Member.

       5 .   Resolution No. 13-24, a resolution confirming the appointment of Nick Tuberville to the Airport Commission as an Ex-Officio Member.

K.    OTHER BUSINESS

         1.   Emrich & Scoggins – Independent Accountant’s Report
         2.   Chris Aregood – Regulating Animal Control

L.    ADJOURNMENT

POLITICAL CAMPAIGN SIGNS NOT PERMITTED ON HIGHWAY RIGHT OF WAYS
The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) reminds candidates for political office and their supporters that it is unlawful to place campaign signs on highway right of ways in Arkansas.

“There are several Arkansas statutes addressing encroachment and the placing of signs or other objects on highway right of way,” stated ARDOT Director Lorie Tudor.

Laws permit only official directional, informational and regulatory highway signs on state-owned highway property; the local ARDOT Area Maintenance Office removes all other signs.

ARDOT personnel will remove any “yard” signs placed on the right of way and will contact owners of large “billboard” signs to remove them. Owners can pick up the signs during normal business hours at the nearest ARDOT Area Maintenance Office.

“The Arkansas Department of Transportation encourages everyone to follow the right of way laws to keep the roadsides clear and ensure our highways are as safe as possible,” Director Tudor said.


ARKANSAS STATE TROOPERS RECOVER CHILD ABDUCTED FROM MICHIGAN, ARREST SUSPECT 
February 9, 2024
On February 3, 2024, at around noon, the Oakland County Michigan Sheriff's Office notified Arkansas State Police (ASP) that they were tracking a 2018 Buick Encore stolen from their jurisdiction. Michigan authorities advised that Daniel Onoh, 40, took the vehicle and his 5-year-old son without permission from the boy’s mother, who has legal custody of the child.

ASP Troopers spotted the vehicle traveling north on Interstate 530 near Sweet Home. Knowing an innocent child was on board, Troopers used multiple units to slowly stop the vehicle by boxing it in on Interstate 30 West, just west of Geyer Springs Road. The boy was safely removed from the vehicle.

“Many of our Troopers are parents themselves, so securing a child and returning him to his mother was an honor,” said Colonel Mike Hagar. “Keeping innocent civilians safe is always our top priority.”

Onoh was taken into custody without incident and transported to the Pulaski County Detention Center, where he is being held on charges of Felony Theft by Receiving. Onoh also has a misdemeanor warrant out of Texas.

Troopers ensured the child's safety during the traffic stop and transported him to the ASP Headquarters, where Troopers made sure he was comfortable and able to talk to his mother. He was released to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which coordinated his care until his mother was able to make her way to Arkansas. The boy and his mother returned to Michigan and are working with authorities who are investigating the incident. Felony kidnapping charges are pending.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES ARREST OF BENTON WOMAN ON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES
Griffin: ‘My office will continue its fight against those who prey on Arkansas’s children’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement regarding the arrest of Regina Mai Allen, 27, of Benton on 20 counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing of matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child:

“Special agents in my office’s Special Investigations Division arrested Allen after executing a search warrant at her home. I am grateful to the special agents in my office who investigated this case and thankful to the Benton Police Department for its assistance. My office will continue its fight against those who prey on Arkansas’s children.”

Allen was booked Thursday.


FARM CREDIT OF WESTERN ARKANSAS TO DISTRIBUTE RECORD $11.7 MILLION IN PATRONAGE CASH TO MEMBERS
Farm Credit of Western Arkansas proudly announces its latest milestone in supporting rural communities. This year, the financial cooperative will be returning a record $11.7 million in Patronage Cash to its members across 41 counties in western Arkansas.  

2024 marks the 27th consecutive year of sharing patronage with members, with a total distribution exceeding $174.2 million since 1997.

As a financial cooperative, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas prioritizes its members as owners, ensuring they partake in the organization's success.

Brandon Haberer, CEO of Farm Credit of Western Arkansas, emphasized the significance of this achievement, stating, "With another record year of rural lending, the association is able to share record Patronage Cash. Sharing profits with members is the cooperative way of doing business and sets us apart from other lenders. We cherish this time of year as much as our members."

The patronage program underscores Farm Credit of Western Arkansas's commitment to supporting the agricultural community and fostering economic growth in rural areas. By reinvesting profits back into the hands of its members, the organization contributes to the vitality and sustainability of local farming operations.

With a loan volume of $1.9 billion, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas is part of the 107-year-old Farm Credit System, providing financing and related services to farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, agribusinesses, and timber producers.

February 08, 2024

OUACHITA COUNTY PRESIDENT DAY HOLIDAY SCHEDULE
The Ouachita County Courthouse and the Ouachita County Extension Office will be closed on Monday February 19, 2024 For Presidents’ Day.

The Sanitation will run on regular schedule.


ASP CONFISCATES NEARLY 340 POUNDS OF MARIJUANA FROM TRAFFIC STOPS ON MONDAY
February 7, 2024
During three traffic stops on the evening of Monday, February 5, 2023, Arkansas State Police (ASP) Troopers confiscated nearly 340 pounds of illegal, black-market marijuana from Arkansas highways along with other narcotics and a firearm.

“We are obviously pleased when we can prevent hundreds of pounds of dangerous drugs and weapons from entering our communities because even small amounts of illegal drugs have the potential to destroy Arkansas families,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “These seizures are a testament to ASP’s unwavering commitment to keeping Arkansas safe for law-abiding citizens.”

In Central Arkansas, Troopers initiated a traffic stop on Interstate 40 East at approximately 4:14 p.m., locating approximately 240 pounds of marijuana. Paul Magda, 70, of New Jersey was taken into custody and booked into the Pulaski County Detention Center on charges of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Possession of a Schedule VI Controlled Substance with the Purpose to Deliver. 

Approximately 30 minutes later, Troopers in Central Arkansas initiated another traffic stop on Highway 165, locating approximately 32 grams of crack cocaine, 2 fentanyl pills, 25 grams of methamphetamine, 25 grams of marijuana, and a firearm. Gregory Stewart, 56, of England, Arkansas, was taken into custody and booked into the Lonoke County Detention Center on charges of Simultaneous Possession of Drugs and Firearms, Possession of Firearms by Certain Persons, Possession of Methamphetamine with the Purpose to Deliver, and Possession of a Schedule I or II Substance with the Purpose to Deliver.

A few hours later, at around 7:40 p.m., Troopers initiated another traffic stop on Interstate 40 East in East Arkansas near the 189-mile marker. Approximately 100 pounds of marijuana was located inside the vehicle. Lawrence Allende, 51, of California was taken into custody and booked into the Prairie County Detention Center on a felony charge of Possession of a Controlled Substance.


NOMINATIONS ARE BEING ACCEPTED THROUGH THE END OF THE MONTH FOR THE 2024 ARKANSAS FOOD HALL OF FAME
Now in its eighth year, the program celebrates Arkansas' unique culinary heritage. Famed Arkansas broadcaster and columnist Rex Nelson is one of the founders of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. He said the program launched in 2017 to highlight the great restaurants and restaurateurs of Arkansas through a public nomination process.

The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame has received nominations from all 75 Arkansas counties. Categories range from the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame to recognize long-standing restaurants to the best food-themed events of the year.

The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Committee helps select winners and is made up of a group of Arkansans who are historians, chefs, foodies and food authors. The committee welcomed Chef Jennifer Maune as its newest member in 2024. A finalist in the 13th season of “MasterChef” and a Better Homes and Gardens Stylemaker, Maune was chosen for her expertise and influence in the local, regional and national food scene.

Nominates will be accepted through the end of February. Given the growing popularity of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, Nelson encourages everyone to join the fun and nominate their favorite restaurants, food-themed events and restaurant proprietors.

Award finalists will be announced in May. Honorees will be inducted during a special event in September. More details will follow closer to this time.

February 07, 2024

HARMONY GROVE CHEER SQUAD TO COMPETE IN UCA NATIONALS
The Camden Harmony Grove Game Day Competition Cheer Squad will be leaving this Thursday morning, flying to Orlando, Florida to compete in the semifinals of UCA Nationals on February 10th.  The top 50% will advance to finals.  If they make it through to finals, they will compete again Monday February 12th for a National title.  The Harmony Grove Cheer squad consists of 18 student athletes and 2 cheer coaches (Kristi Nutt and Jennifer) that will represent Harmony Grove.

Accomplishments for the year:
On October 28, 2023 the team placed 2nd in the  Southern Spirit Competition.
On November 11, 2023 the team place 1st in the  Memphis Regional Classic earning a Nationals bid.
On December 2, 2023 the team placed 1st in  Southern Spirit Competition.
December 16, 2023  in the State 3A/4A tournament the team made it to finals, finished 5th in the state earning another bid to Nationals.


CADC OFFERS FREE TAX PREPARATION
Central Arkansas Development Council is currently preparing taxes free of charge. This program is made possible through funds obtained through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grant and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Grant. VITA/TCE services are not only free, they are also a reliable and trusted source for preparing tax returns. All VITA/TCE volunteers who prepare returns must take and pass tax law training that meets or exceeds IRS standards. This training includes maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of all taxpayer information. In addition to requiring volunteers to certify their knowledge of the tax laws, the IRS requires a quality review check for every return prepared at a VITA/TCE site prior to filing. Each filing season, tens of thousands of dedicated VITA/TCE volunteers prepare millions of federal and state returns. Please call 501-326-6203 for further information or to schedule an appointment.


SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE FOR ARKANSAS STUDENTS
Little Rock, Ark. (Feb. 7, 2023) – Scholarships are now available for eligible Arkansas students through Arkansas Community Foundation.

The Community Foundation’s scholarships are for Arkansas students pursuing education at two- or four-year colleges or universities, vocational schools or technical training programs. Each scholarship has its own eligibility criteria. Some scholarships are designated for graduates of a particular high school or those who plan to attend a particular college. Others are based on extracurricular activities or intended college majors.

“Since 1976, the Community Foundation has partnered with individuals and organizations who want to support students in their pursuit of higher education,” said Heather Larkin, Community Foundation president and CEO. “These generous people provide the funding and determine the size and eligibility criteria of each scholarship, while we oversee the application and awarding process on their behalf.”

Scholarships with statewide eligibility include:

·        Abigail Robertson Scholarship, provides a scholarship for female students pursuing a business degree at a college or university in Pulaski County

·        Advancing Women in Transportation Scholarship, provides a scholarship to female students who plan to pursue a career in a transportation related field in Arkansas

·        Anne Pressly Scholarship, to memorialize the legacy of Anne Pressly and support a graduating high school senior woman who plans to pursue a career in Journalism

·        Arkansas Service Memorial Scholarship, for students who are children of Arkansans who lost their life in service in the state, nation or community

·        Barbara Mashburn Memorial Scholarship, provides a scholarship for a graduate of an Arkansas high school pursuing an education as a vocalist

·        East Student Scholarship, provides a scholarship to a graduating senior who attends any high school with an EAST program

·        Elizabeth G. Redman Republican Party of Arkansas Scholarship, for students who are members of or active in the Republican Party of Arkansas

·        Herchel and Melba A. Fildes Scholarship, provides a scholarship to students studying nursing and attending Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas or Arkansas State University in Beebe

·        Lillian McGillicuddy Republican Party of Arkansas Scholarship, for students who are members of the Arkansas Federation of Young Republicans or are active in the Republican Party of Arkansas

·        Marie and Bob Marshall Republican Party of Arkansas Scholarship, for students who are members of or active in the Republican Party of Arkansas

·        Merwin T. and Agnes Bowman Nursing Scholarship, for students seeking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or equivalent degree from a qualified institution

·        Poultry Federation Scholarship, provides scholarships to students pursuing a degree related to the poultry industry and attending a school in the University of Arkansas system, Arkansas State University system, Arkansas Tech University or Southern Arkansas University

·        Robert P. Atkinson Hospital Leadership and Scholarship, provides a scholarship to students pursuing an advanced degree with an emphasis in healthcare and/or hospital administration

·        Ryan Mondy D.A.S.H. Memorial Scholarship, provides scholarships to graduating seniors whose lives have been affected by cancer

To apply, and for more information about these and other scholarships, visit  www.arcf.org/scholarships.

Deadlines for scholarship applications differ and can be found on the application portal.

Arkansas Community Foundation, a statewide nonprofit organization, provides resources, insight and inspiration to build better Arkansas communities – communities where our kids will want to raise their kids. The Community Foundation is the largest grantmaker in the state in the number of grants made each year. Since 1976, the Foundation has provided more than $393 million to nonprofits. The Foundation staff works directly with donors, professional advisors and nonprofits to help strengthen Arkansas communities through strategic philanthropy and focusing on local needs. Its assets rank among the top 60 out of more than 800 community foundations in the United States. Serving statewide and local initiatives, the Community Foundation helps connect those who want to give to causes they care about. Contributions to Arkansas Community Foundation, its funds and any of its 29 affiliates are fully tax deductible.

 


WESTERMAN STATEMENT ON EPA'S LATEST INDUSTRY KILLING STANDARDS
WASHINGTON - Last night, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that will have major implications on the U.S. economy. Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) released the following statement:

“These new industry killing standards on fine particulate manner have the potential to jeopardize millions of jobs nationwide and threaten billions in economic activity, and it will be devastating for the forest products industry, which is vital to Arkansas’ 4th Congressional District. Improving air quality and being good stewards of the environment is a top priority of agriculturalists and forest products manufacturers. This latest radical decision by the EPA was not made with the best interests of our environment in mind, and only puts these critical industries at risk. I’m calling on the EPA to consider the ramifications of this action and rescind these onerous standards immediately.”

BACKGROUND
Last night’s decision by the Biden Administration, which lacks scientific evidence, could result in a loss of billions of dollars in annual economic activity and risk over 300,000 manufacturing jobs.

This announcement comes two years before the existing PM2.5 NAAQS would begin a new, exhaustive review by expert scientific advisors under the Clean Air Act’s statuary process.

The new PM2.5 NAAQS break down the standards even further, jeopardizing our economic, employment, development, and manufacturing capabilities and opportunities nationwide.
In October 2023, Congressman Westerman sent a letter, alongside 70 Republican Members, urging the EPA to withdraw the costly and unnecessary proposal and review the PM2.5 NAAQS under the Clean Air Act’s regular review cycle. Congressman Westerman has not received a response to that letter.

On January 30, 2023, Congressman Westerman sent a follow up letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan urging the agency to halt its release of the finalized update.

Click here to view the rule summary from the EPA.

February 06, 2024

POSTPONED UNTIL FEBRUARY 13, 2024 - OUACHITA COUNTY ELECTION COMMISSION GIVES NOTICE OF PUBLIC TEST OF VOTING EQUIPMENT
Notice is hereby given that a logic and accuracy test of the voting equipment to be used in the March 5th Preferential Primary will be conducted at the Old Ouachita County Jail 145 Scott Alley SW on February 13TH AT 8:30 a.m. This test is open to the general public.

 

SAAC TO OFFER ECO PRINTING CORKS AND CANVAS WORKSHOP FEB 22
The South Arkansas Arts Center is going back to nature for February’s Corks and Canvas class! On Thursday, February 22 from 6-9pm, local artist Katie Harwell will lead participants in the Eco Printing process where they will create prints of leaves and flowers using the natural pigments, tannins and acids in nature. Corks and Canvas is designed for people who have always wanted to try their hand at art while also having some fun along the way.   

In the eco printing process, Harwell will teach participants how she combines the pigments with dye fixatives, moisture, and heat and thus creating a print on paper. Harwell said, “I like Eco Printing because it’s a form of accidental art. The results are always surprising. Eco Printing creates unique, natural prints of leaves and flowers.  You can even use the prints to create greeting cards.” During Corks and Canvas, participants will be using a heat press for immediate results, but Harwell will also include instructions for creating Eco Prints in the crockpot. 

Katie Harwell grew up in El Dorado.  A local artist and educator, she holds a Bachelor of Interior Design from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA.  Married to Scott Harwell for 24 years, they have a 18-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.  Harwell currently teaches visual art classes at El Dorado High School and The South Arkansas Arts Center.  In addition to teaching, Harwell serves on the Vestry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and is a Campfire Leader who enjoys decorating their 110-year-old home, shopping at Flea Markets and watching scary movies with her mom.

No experience is needed in order to participate in Corks and Canvas. Come enjoy a time of relaxation with your friends while learning a new artistic technique. All the supplies are provided, and SAAC will also be providing snacks.  Participants are welcome to bring their own drink of choice. 

Get ready to have a fun night with friends. You can register for the workshop on SAAC’s website, www.saac-arts.org or call the office at 870-862-5474.  Limit of 12 participants. The workshop fee is $40. 

SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas. 

February 05, 2024

CITY OF CAMDEN TO HOLD WORKSHOP REGARDING CURFEW
The workshop on the curfew will be Tuesday, February 6th beginning  at 6:15PM.  This is a workshop, so there will not be any action taken by vote.  The City would like to hear from concerned citizens as well as ones who will need to be involved such as probation, law enforcement, etc.

 

ASP SEIZED MORE THAN 11,000 POUNDS OF ILLEGAL DRUGS AND $1.4 MILLION FROM ARKANSAS HIGHWAYS IN 2023
February 2, 2024
In 2023, Arkansas State Police (ASP) saw a significant rise in illegal drug seizures during traffic stops compared to the previous year. ASP's Interstate Criminal Patrol (ICP) identified 138 significant seizures in 2023.

The amount of cocaine seizures showed a significant increase, with a total of 353 pounds confiscated in 2023. The street value of the amount of the confiscated cocaine is more than $15 million. These seizures represent a 146% increase from the 2022 seizure of 143.35 pounds of cocaine by ASP.

“These substantial seizures should serve as a powerful warning to anyone engaged in unlawful activities on Arkansas highways,” said ASP Col. Mike Hagar. “State Police will remain vigilant and committed to keeping the roads safe for law-abiding citizens.”

In June, ASP made the largest cocaine seizure of 2023 on Interstate 40 in Lonoke County. During a search of a truck hauling a track hoe near Lonoke, they discovered 146 pounds (or 66 kilograms) of cocaine. The estimated street value of the illegal drugs is over $6.5 million. The two suspects were transporting a Caterpillar excavator with hidden compartments in the frames of the trailer. As a result of the investigation, the rig, trailer, and excavator were all confiscated.

Illegal marijuana seizures were up by more than 2,000 pounds year to year. 10,386 pounds were seized in 2023 compared to 8,015 pounds in 2022. Seven out of the top ten illegal marijuana seizures came out of Crawford County, with the largest confiscation from a traffic stop on Interstate 40 in January. During that stop, 939 pounds of illegal marijuana and 141 pounds of illegal THC products were uncovered.

The second-highest seizure of illegal marijuana was in December of 2023. ASP found 869 pounds of high-grade illegal marijuana after a traffic stop on Interstate 30 in Lonoke County. The street value of that illegal marijuana was more than $3.6 million. The vehicle's driver, a 33-year-old from Brazil, was driving from California to Miami. The suspect was charged him with Drug Trafficking, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and other charges.

Fentanyl seizures were down but still substantial (65 pounds in 2022 to 46 pounds in 2023). In June of 2023, ASP found 50,000 Fentanyl pills with a street value of over $2 million. The driver and a passenger were taken into custody after a Trooper stopped the vehicle for an improper lane change between Protho Junction and the Interstate 440 interchange. During a search of the vehicle, the Trooper seized 11.83 pounds or 5 kilograms of Fentanyl.

Cash seized during traffic stops increased from 2022 to 2023. Last year, ASP confiscated over $1.4 million, compared to $996,000 in 2022. In September, during a traffic stop on Interstate 40 in Lonoke County, Troopers discovered 18 vacuum-sealed bags of cash hidden throughout a tractor trailer, which led to the seizure of over $545,000.

In 2023, ASP confiscated various illegal THC products, including 187 pounds of marijuana edibles, more than 30 pounds of THC wax, and 1470 illegal THC cartridges from a driver who claimed he was driving through Arkansas from California to Georgia.

Additionally, in October of 2023, ASP and the Arkansas Tobacco Control seized an unprecedented number of illegal cigarettes. The seizure involved 32,671 packs of untaxed cigarettes worth more than $311,000. A Trooper stopped a cargo van on Interstate 40 near Carlisle and discovered numerous cartons of contraband cigarettes during a search of the cargo area.

A 35-year-old from of El Paso, Texas, was charged with Possession of Untaxed Tobacco and Unauthorized Use of Another Person's Property to Facilitate Certain Crimes.

Other illegal drugs seized in 2023 include psilocybin mushrooms, 1 pound of black tar heroin, 420 bottles of promethazine, and 56 pounds of methamphetamine. During other traffic stops in the past year, ASP confiscated a variety of pharmaceutical drugs, including Xanax, Hydrocodone, and Ketamine, and 21 illegal weapons.

Seized drugs are sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for analysis and then stored during prosecution. After cases are adjudicated, the drugs are transported to an incinerator for disposal. Seized weapons are destroyed, later used by law enforcement, or sold at public auction.

Seized cash that is determined to be forfeited goes to prosecuting attorney in the jurisdiction where it was initially seized. Prosecuting attorneys decide how the money is distributed.

Sometimes, money is shared between multiple agencies. When ASP receives funds, it is used to purchase equipment and provide training. 20% of seized funds go to the U.S. Marshals Service in every federal forfeiture.

 

ASP ARRESTS WEST MEMPHIS POLICE OFFICER ON MULTIPLE CHARGES
February 2, 2024
Arkansas State Police (ASP) arrested West Memphis Police Officer Myles Christian Huff, 26, on Friday, February 2, 2024, charging him with three counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Minor, Obstructing Governmental Operations, and First-Degree Assault.

The Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney asked ASP’s Special Investigations Unit in October 2023 to investigate an incident where Officer Huff brandished his service weapon while off duty. The officer, who was still wearing his uniform after leaving work that day, had an altercation at an apartment complex in West Memphis.  

Officer Huff surrendered to the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office this afternoon. His bond was set at $3,000.

 

O’KELLEY NAMED DIRECTOR OF UTILITY SERVICES FOR AECI
Little Rock, Ark. — Feb. 5, 2024 — Ross O’Kelley has been named as the director of utility services for Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI). In this role, he will lead the statewide association’s construction, utility sales fleet services and right-of-way departments.

O’Kelley is a 13-year veteran with the electric cooperatives, having spent his career within the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) power delivery area. Prior to his current position, he was the manager of project management and construction for AECC.

He holds an executive Master of Business Administration degree and Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Arkansas. O’Kelley is also a professional engineer.

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides various services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 500,000 members, or customers, in Arkansas and surrounding states.

February 02, 2024

MEETING/PUBLIC HEARING TO BE HELD IN CAMDEN REGARDING YOUTH CURFEW
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen will have a Workshop/Public meeting regarding a youth curfew on Tuesday, February 6th at 6:30 pm. The meeting will take place in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.

STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
February 2, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – The families of about 20,000 elementary students will soon be notified that they are eligible for a $500 grant to pay for tutors to help their children learn to read at grade level.

The Legislative Council approved emergency rules, clearing the way for literacy tutoring grants to be awarded.

The grants will go to students in kindergarten through the third grade who have trouble learning to read. Specifically, kindergarteners qualify if they score in the lowest 10th percentile on tests that assess their reading skills. First graders qualify if they score in the lowest 15th percentile and second graders if they score in the lowest 20th percentile.

Third graders are eligible if they scored in the lowest 25th percentile on the previous end-of-year literacy assessment. Also, they will be eligible if they are not promoted at the end of this school year.

The state Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has developed a list of qualified tutors. Education officials told legislators that tutors underwent a “stringent process” in order to get on the approved list.

Parents can pick a tutor from the list, and the state will pay the tutor directly. Depending on the type of lessons used by the tutor, $500 will be enough for 10 to 25 sessions.

The literacy tutoring grants are just one element in a sweeping overhaul of public education proposed by the governor and enacted by the legislature last year. It is called the LEARNS Act, and it also includes hiring 120 specialists, or literacy coaches, to teach K-3 students in schools that received a “D” or an “F” on school report cards.

Also, the state is developing a universal high-quality screening test to better ensure that all young students get help if they’re struggling to learn how to read.

In 2017 the legislature approved the Right to Read Act, and legislators enhanced the act in 2019 to require schools to teach reading with materials and curricula that are supported by the science of reading. Teaching strategies for children with dyslexia must be based on evidence and grounded in scientific methodology.

The state’s goal is for 100 percent of school districts to use materials based on the science of reading, and for all teachers of young students to be trained in those scientific methods of teaching literacy.

The Legislative Council is the group of lawmakers who meet in the interim between sessions to monitor the operations of state agencies.

When the Council approved the emergency rules for the literacy tutoring grants, it also passed a motion directing education officials to prepare annual reports on the effectiveness of the grant program. Lawmakers want to know how many children improve their reading scores after they get the $500 worth of tutoring.

To be on the approved list of tutors, you must be a certified teacher in elementary education or reading, or have a degree in education, English or another subject requiring expertise in reading and literacy. All tutors must have training in the science of reading.

The $500 grants will be for students in public schools and open enrollment charter schools.


OPENING RECEPTION FEB 6 FOR TWO NEW EXHIBIT SHOWING AT EL DORADO CONFERENCE CENTER 
The South Arkansas Gallery Collective is opening two new exhibits at the El Dorado Conference Center. The opening reception hosted by the South Arkansas Arts Center will be on Tuesday, February 6 from 5:30-7:00pm celebrating SAAC’s exhibition “All Creatures Great and Small: Depictions of the Natural World” and the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society’s (SAHPS) exhibition “A Celebration of South Arkansas College.” 

SAAC’s exhibit, a showcase of flora and fauna paintings, are selections from their permanent collection. Featured artists include George Price, Reese Kennedy, Lyda Merkle, Marguerite McDavid, Melinda McFillen Antoon, Janice Rushing O’Qiunn, Roger Sprague, and Nell Hammond. The SAHPS exhibition will feature a celebration of the original El Dorado High School that is located in the heart of the South Arkansas College campus.

Upon entering the El Dorado Conference Center, visitors will find the exhibits along the first-floor corridors. The SAAC exhibit extends down the front hallway outside of the Murphy Halls, and the SAHPS exhibit can be found along the hallway that houses the Boomtown Bistro and the SouthArk Gear Shop. 

The South Arkansas Gallery Collective is a partnership between the SouthArk Foundation, the South Arkansas Arts Center, and the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society where both SAAC and SAHPS rotate exhibitions at the El Dorado Conference Center. Taking their turn to host the reception, the South Arkansas Arts Center will be offering a charcuterie inspired spread along with a varied selection of beverages.

For more information on the South Arkansas Gallery Collective and the exhibitions at the El Dorado Conference Center, please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. The El Dorado Conference Center is located at 311 S West Avenue in El Dorado, Arkansas.  The hours are Monday – Thursday, 8:00am-5:30pm and Fridays, 8:00am-12:00pm.


WESTERMAN COSPONSORS BILL TO ENSURE TIMELY ACCESS TO VETERAN CARE
WASHINGTON - Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) is joining Congressman Scott Franklin (FL-18) as a cosponsor of the SCHEDULES Act, bipartisan legislation to ensure timely treatment for veterans seeking specialty care at the VA.

“Veterans from the 4th District and nationwide have earned the right to receive the highest quality care, benefits, and services. It’s entirely unacceptable that veterans who risked their lives in service to our country are often left in painful and life-threatening situations, for sometimes weeks and months on end, while they wait for the VA to provide the care they need,” said Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04). “I’m proud to support this legislation alongside a bipartisan, bicameral group of my colleagues to ensure that veterans will always receive essential care and services in a timely manner.”

“As a veteran, I understand how challenging the VA can be to navigate, especially while experiencing a health crisis,” said Congressman Scott Franklin (FL-18). “Far too often, vets suffer in painful or threatening situations waiting for a scheduled specialty care visit.  That’s unacceptable. Veterans have earned the highest quality care, and Congress must hold the VA accountable to provide it quickly and reliably. This important bill would ensure the VA swiftly provides, not just schedules, needed care. I thank Senator Scott and Ossoff for leading this effort in the Senate.”

Background:
In 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) updated their process for scheduling specialty care appointments at VA facilities and with community care providers. Appointments at VA facilities must be scheduled within three business days from the date a VA provider enters a referral and community care appointments must be scheduled within 7 days. Last year, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported the VA’s failure to meet these standards broadly. GAO found only 10% of VA Medical Centers scheduled greater than 75% of their appointments within the standard. The VA also has no established standard for providing timely care once an appointment is scheduled.

The Scheduling for Community Health and Easy Data to Understand for Legislators to Evaluate Services (SCHEDULES) Act requires the Secretary of the VA to:
Establish a standard timeline for care from the moment a referral is entered until the veteran is seen for the related issue.
Report to Congress quarterly on their progress implementing the new standard.
Provide transparency and a performance ranking of each facility.
Supporting Organizations: the Blinded Veterans Association and the Wounded Warrior Project.

 

February 01, 2024

 

CADC TO DISTRIBUTE USDA COMMODITIES FEBRUARY 14 & 15, 2024 IN OUACHITA AND CALHOUN  COUNTIES
Central Arkansas Development Council will distribute USDA Commodities in Ouachita and Calhoun Counties Wednesday, February 14, and Thursday, February 15, 2024, in Hampton. Distribution will begin at 9 am.

Food Items May Include:
UHT Milk, Applesauce, Spinach, Vegetable Soup, Diced Tomatoes, Almonds, Walnuts, Rice, Beef Stew, Salmon

Commodities will be distributed at the following locations:
Ouachita County: CARNES PARK, Carnes Park Dr, Camden

CADC Office, 210 South Lee Street, Hampton, AR (870) 626-0553

All customers receiving commodities must present identification. Photo ID Preferred Must Meet. Income Guidelines
 

ASP ARRESTS EUDORA POLICE CHIEF FOR FELONY KIDNAPPING
January 31, 2024
Arkansas State Police (ASP) arrested Eudora Police Chief Michael Henderson Pitts, 45, on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, charging him with felony kidnapping in connection with an October 2023 incident.

The Tenth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney asked ASP’s Special Investigations Unit in November 2023 to investigate allegations of crimes committed by Chief Pitts the previous month.

On October 26, 2023, Chief Pitts was dispatched to a gas station in Eudora with a request to remove a man who was causing a disruption at the business. ASP investigators determined that Chief Pitts illegally detained John Hill Jr., 49, and transported him to a remote location in Chicot County. Chief Pitts assaulted Mr. Hill, leaving him injured and stranded.

Chief Pitts surrendered to the Chicot County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, January 30, 2024. His bond was set at $5,000. 

 

ADE CELEBRATES CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION MONTH
LITTLE ROCK — Career and Technical Education programs provide students robust opportunities to obtain hands-on, real-world learning experiences that can lead to a successful career beyond high school. The Arkansas Department of Education is pleased to highlight and celebrate these talented students and educators during February’s Career and Technical Education Month.

Throughout the month of February, regional CTE showcases will be held to highlight local programs that serve as a bridge between K-12 and higher education. Students who continue to develop workforce skills in post-secondary CTE programs have access to greater career options.

The first student showcase is scheduled for 10 a.m. February 1 in the Capitol Rotunda. The event will feature state officers from each of the CTE student organizations, colleges and universities, and student ambassadors from the following high schools: Acorn, Beebe, De Queen, Fort Smith Northside, Gravette, Sheridan, Valley View, and the Career Academies of Central Arkansas. To learn more about the 16 additional showcases, visit https://dese.link/CTE-showcases.

“Career and Technical Education plays an essential role in student achievement and success, and we are pleased to celebrate Arkansas’ programs this month,” ADE Secretary Jacob Oliva said. “CTE graduates often serve as the backbone of today’s workforce and provide invaluable services to the community and citizens. They deserve to be recognized this month and throughout the year.”

The LEARNS Act emphasizes the importance and value of CTE programs. To ensure students have access to the best programs, ADE is working with stakeholders to update Career Ready Pathways, improve early access to CTE programs and activities for students in grades 6-8, and develop a career ready pathway to a high school diploma. More information about these efforts will be available this spring.

In addition to these initiatives, ADE recently received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, with the possibility of receiving additional funds for up to three years. The Perkins Innovation and Modernization, Career-Connected High Schools grant will expand the Arkansas Career Coach Program from 54 to 75 counties. Arkansas’ program prepares middle and high school students for postsecondary education, employment, or military service.

To learn more about Arkansas’ CTE program, visit https://dcte.ade.arkansas.gov/.
 

BENTON MAN SENTENCED TO 12 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING
HOT SPRINGS – A Benton man was sentenced yesterday to 144 months in prison followed by 5 years of supervised release on one count of Possession of More Than Five Hundred (500) Grams of a Mixture or Substance Containing Methamphetamine with the Intent to Distribute. The Honorable Chief Judge Susan O. Hickey presided over the sentencing hearing in the U.S. District Court in Hot Springs.

According to court documents, in early 2022, Homeland Security Investigations identified Terrance O’Neal Murphy, age 45, as a large-scale methamphetamine distributer in the Central Arkansas geographical area.  On April 5, 2022, Murphy was pulled over by the Arkansas State Police for traffic violations.  During the course of the traffic stop, officers located over three (3) kilograms of methamphetamine in Murphy’s vehicle.  Murphy subsequently fled from the scene but was apprehended a short time later after a foot pursuit. 

U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas made the announcement.

This matter was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations – Little Rock Field Office, 18th East Judicial District Drug Task Force, Arkansas State Police and the 18th East Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Achorn prosecuted the case.


ARKANSAS COMMERCIAL TRUCK SAFETY AND EDUCATION PROGRAM (ACTSEP) APPLICATIONS NOW AVAILABLE
February 1, 2024
The Arkansas State Highway Commission is pleased to announce that the next application cycle for the Arkansas Commercial Truck Safety and Education Program (ACTSEP) will begin Thursday, February 1.

ACTSEP is a grant program that funds truck safety and education efforts through cooperative public/private programs that focus on increased enforcement, regulatory compliance, industry training, and educational programs to enhance the safe movement of goods on Arkansas highways.

ACTSEP was the first program jointly involving the trucking industry and the Arkansas Department of Transportation to improve commercial truck safety on State highways. It is funded with $2 million collected annually from registration fees for certain trucks operating in Arkansas.

Applications are available at: www.ardot.gov/ACTSEP

To be considered for funding, applications must be submitted via email to LPA@ardot.gov by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.
 

OVER 500 ATTEND 2024 ARKANSAS GROWN CONFERENCE AND EXPO
LITTLE ROCK, AR – On January 25-27, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture partnered with several agricultural associations and organizations to host the 2024 Arkansas Grown Conference and Expo in Hot Springs. The conference was open to anyone interested in Arkansas’s agriculture industry and focused on farmers who grow for the local food system.

The three-day event consisted of general sessions with keynote speakers, workshops, networking opportunities, and a vendor trade show with representatives from over 120 businesses and organizations. The conference concluded with the first-ever Arkansas Grown & Arkansas Made Showcase on Saturday, January 27, connecting members with retailers, wholesale buyers, and the general public. Photos from the event are available at flic.kr/s/aHBqjBcr9T.

“The Arkansas Department of Agriculture was proud to partner with several organizations and associations to host the 2024 Arkansas Grown Conference and Expo,” said Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. “This event served as an excellent opportunity for our farmers to connect with each other and with organizations that provide resources and opportunities that support our state’s largest industry.”

Partner organizations included the Arkansas State Horticulture Society, Arkansas Farmers Market Association, Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association, Arkansas Agritourism Association, Arkansas Association of Grape Growers, Arkansas Pecan Growers Association, Mid America Strawberry Growers Association, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Farm Bureau, and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The Department would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of the 2024 Arkansas Grown Conference and Expo:
 

AceOne Technologies, Diamond

Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas, Diamond

River Valley Tractor, Diamond

180° Pipe, Platinum

American Farmland Trust, Platinum

KD Consulting, Platinum

University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Platinum

Best in Class Suppliers, Gold

Gowan, Gold

Walton Family Foundation, Gold

Arkansas Farm Bureau, Silver

Bejo Seeds, Silver

Crystal Ridge Distillery, Silver

 

 

Greenway, Silver

Haygrove, Silver

Kingwood Forestry Services, Inc., Silver

Man of the Red Earth, Silver

Mindful Farmer, Silver

National Agricultural Law Center, Silver

Origami Sake, Silver

Ralston Family Farms, Silver

Red River Auto Group, Silver

Seedway, Silver

Ben E. Keith Co., Bronze

Cornerstone Capital Management, Bronze

Max Drone Service, Bronze

Milford Track, Bronze

 
 

Additional Friends of Arkansas Grown level sponsors can be found at arkansasgrown.org/arkansas-grown-conference-expo/.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the development and implementation of policies and programs for Arkansas agriculture, forestry, and natural resources conservation to keep its farmers and ranchers competitive in national and international markets while sustaining natural resources and ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of the state and nation. Visit agriculture.arkansas.gov/. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

January 31, 2024

CAMDEN CITY COUNCIL MEET IN SPECIAL MEETING TO APPROVE SPORTSPLEX 2024
Mayor /Charlotte Young called the meeting to order promptly at 6:30 pm. She gave the invocation followed by the Pledge of Allegiance

City Clerk Donna Stewart called the roll. Alderman Gulley, Moore, Aregood, Lindsey, Winters and Askew were present. Aldermen McCoy and Castleberry were absent.

Resolution 03-24, A Resolution of the City Council of the City of Camden, Arkansas, authorizing the Mayor to enter into a contractual agreement with Camden Sportsplex Coalition, Inc. To provide youth recreation services for the City of Camden.

Motion was made and seconded. Camden Sportsplexx Coalition submitted the only response to the request for proposals.

There was a question regarding insurance. The Sportsplex Coalition will obtain insurance once they are awarded the contract for the recreation complex. They will obtain insurance through the league they choose to go with.

The Coalition presented the Aldermen a proposal outlining what they would do.  A brief description of the intended use for the facility and how it will achieve the city’s goals. The proposal stated that the Sportsplex Coalition is a nonprofit organization in the State of Arkansas. They are nationally affiliated with Cal Ripken Baseball, Babe Ruth Softball, Dixie Youth Baseball, Diamond Youth Softball and 4H Soccer for Success. They have already secured three Cal Ripken tournaments for the 2024 season. The Sportsplex Coalition will provide insurance coverage once they are chartered with the league of their choice. The Board has over 100 years of combined Baseball, Softball and Soccer experience. They will use the ball fields, soccer fields and concession stand at the Fairview Sports Complex, owned by the City of Camden during the contract months of March through July for baseball and softball and September through November for soccer. The coalition will maintain the fields, concession stand and restrooms during the contract months. There will not be a gate fee for week night recreational games. There will be a gate charge for tournaments, not during the recreational game nights. The city will be reimbursed for electric bills after each month during the contract period to help off set expenses by the City.

Alderman Gulley then questioned the fields at Ivra Clark and Carnes Park. The Mayor stated that the City was going to do some work on the fields at Carnes and Ivra Clark Parks with A&P Funds. The Sportsplex Coalition had included in their bid that they would need use of the fields at the other city parks with the City maintaining those fields. The Coalition will handle all of the scheduling of practices for teams during contract months.

The question came up regarding after school programs, football and basketball will be run under a different agreement. The agreement at hand tonight addressed baseball, softball and soccer. There was lengthy discussion. It was agreed that there need to be educational programs, football, basketball and maybe even track. All kids aren't inclined to baseball, softball and soccer.

A vote was called for. Then there was a question regarding the length of the term of the contract with the Sportsplex Coalition. There was more discussion regarding educational, football, basketball etc. The same topics that were not on the nights agenda were rehashed with the same points being reiterated over and over again.

Alderman Askew reminded the group that the other things were important and would be addressed in the future but baseball, softball, and soccer programs are the topics at hand tonight.

They then moved back to discussing the term of the contract. L.E made a motion to make the term 3 years. Alderman Aregood seconded the motion. Alderman Gulley asked how they can change the term which was put out in the bidding process. The term was one year in the bid process. Alderman Lindsey withdrew his motion.

Mayor Young stated that they were back to the original motion and second to approve the bid for a one-year term. Aldermen Lindsey, Winters, Askew and Aregood voted yes. Aldermen Moore and Gulley abstained. Mayor Young voted yes and the motion passed. The Camden Sportplex will run the baseball, softball and soccer programs for 2024.

The meeting adjourned.


POSTPONED UNTIL FEBRUARY 13, 2024
OUACHITA COUNTY ELECTION COMMISSION GIVES NOTICE OF PUBLIC TEST OF VOTING EQUIPMENT

Notice is hereby given that a logic and accuracy test of the voting equipment to be used in the March 5th Preferential Primary will be conducted at the Old Ouachita County Jail 145 Scott Alley SW on February 7@ 8:30 a.m. This test is open to the general public.

 

CAMDEN SPORTSPLEX COALITION ANNOUNCES SIGNUPS FOR BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL
It’s time for baseball and softball sign ups at the Camden Sportsplex - formerly the Boys and Girls Club and Ouachita County Recreational Center. Sign up at Camden City Hall , Ken’s Discount  and Radio Works. Fees are $55 for the first child $45 for each additional child in the same immediate family There will be no gate fee this year for home recreational games. The signup fee will include a shirt, Hat and socks. Coaches needed! Sign up now through February 24th!


ARKANSAS ADULT EDUCATION INCREASES ENROLLMENT BY 20%
Little Rock, Ark. (January 31, 2023)—The Adult Education Section of the Division of Workforce Services (Adult Education) has experienced a 20% enrollment increase during its 2022-2023 school year, showing a trend toward pre-COVID enrollment. More than 16,000 Arkansans came through the doors of an Adult Education Center and nearly 10,000 Arkansans utilized adult education services to obtain an Arkansas high-school diploma through GED® testing, increase English-language proficiency, and earn certifications or participate in training for skill-specific industries. Arkansans can find an Adult Education Center near them online at https://aalrc.org/find-a-center-2/.

“This 20% increase is a testament to the commitment of our Adult Education providers and their ability to recruit and retain students,” said Dr. Trenia Miles, director of the Adult Education Section of the Division of Workforce Services. “Approximately 300,000 Arkansans lack a high school diploma which places a great demand for our services across the state. Most individuals enroll in Adult Education to earn their Arkansas high school diploma or learn English. However, Adult Education is equally focused on helping individuals become employed or attain better jobs with higher wages by integrating workforce preparation skills such as employability skills, digital literacy, and financial literacy into the curriculum.”

Adult Education is ranked fourth in the nation among GED® test pass rates with 86% of students passing in 2022-2023. Dr. Miles said that while the GED® program continues to drive individuals into Adult Education Centers, their inquiries provide an opportunity for staff to introduce them to other free programs and services, including:

Integrated education and training, which allows students to earn job industry certifications or credentials while improving their basic academic skills; These include certifications in healthcare, manufacturing, business management, logistics, information technology, etc.

Computer literacy Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy (WAGE™), which is a job readiness program for unemployed and underemployed adults.

To continue this growth and meet the educational needs of Arkansans, Miles said Adult Education is collaborating with other partner programs, more Arkansas employers, and increasing apprenticeship opportunities at centers statewide. She and her section are also working to increase the number of dual enrollment participants.

“Studies show that an individual enrolled in multiple programs increases their opportunities for success. Adults have more employment opportunities with higher wages by adding credentials alongside earning a high school diploma,” Miles said.

Additionally, Adult Education conducts its own research to gain a stronger understanding of students’ needs and interests to further align with employers of Arkansas.

“We evaluate the Arkansas workforce needs by analyzing labor market information, working with other core partners such as Workforce Services and the local Workforce Development Boards, and asking businesses the right questions and ensuring our programs equip students to be successful employees,” said Bridget Criner, associate director of the Adult Education Section of Workforce Services.

Students can find a center by visiting Adult Education online or by calling 1-877-963-4GED (4433).


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN PRAISES EIGHTH CIRCUIT DECISION IN REDISTRICTING CASE
Griffin: ‘This decision is a win for our citizens and sends a message that the rule of law governs in Arkansas’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement regarding the denial by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit of en banc review of its previous decision in the case Arkansas State Conference NAACP v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment:

“Today’s decision denying the NAACP and ACLU’s petition for en banc review of the court’s November ruling reaffirms that only the United States may bring a claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

“Arkansas’s redistricting process is done by Arkansans elected by their fellow Arkansans. This decision is a win for our citizens and sends a message that the rule of law governs in Arkansas.

“It is important to remember that even the Biden administration declined to side with the claims of the ACLU and NAACP in this suit. I thank Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni and Senior Assistant Solicitor General Asher Steinberg for their outstanding work on this matter.”

 

WESTERMAN, NEWHOUSE, ALLEN URGE EPA TO HALT RELEASE OF ONEROUS NAAQS PROPOSAL 
WASHINGTON - Today, Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) Western Caucus Vice-Chair Bruce Westerman (AR-04), and Congressman Rick Allen (GA-12) sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan urging the agency to halt its release of updated National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter.

The letter reads, “It is our understanding that you are finalizing an update to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and plan to release the update imminently. We write to express our grave concerns with your agency’s proposal and urge you to halt its release.

“We joined a letter alongside 70 of our colleagues in October of 2023 urging the EPA to withdraw the costly and unnecessary proposal and review the PM2.5 NAAQS under the Clean Air Act’s regular review cycle. To date, we have not received a response to that letter.

“With nearly 700,000 comments received on the proposal in the Federal Register last year, it is clear that this will have an enormous impact on nearly every industry. Last October, over 70 manufacturing organizations sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Jeffrey Zients, outlining their concerns with the proposal, and warning of the negative economic impacts that would be caused by its implementation.

“The United States boasts some of the cleanest air in the world today according to Yale University’s Environmental Performance. As Members that represent states with robust timber industries, we know firsthand the extensive benefits that the forestry sector and forest products industry have on the environment and the economy. The forest products industry would be severely impacted by the implementation of this proposal. Nationwide, at nine micrograms, nearly 80% of the sawmill and papermill improvement projects over the last five years would have failed to meet their air permits.

“We urge you to halt the release of the finalized update and review the NAAQS under the regular five-year review schedule.”

 

January 30, 2024

CAMDEN CITY COUNCIL PASSES 2024 BUDGET
The Camden City Council met in a special called meeting on Monday January29 2024 for the purpose of passing a budget for 2024.

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Charlotte Young at 6:30 pm. She then offered the invocation and led the pledge of allegiance.

There was a question on the budgeted collection Carts. The amount shown in the budget was $50,000 and is the correct amount.

Alderman Gulley then questioned the amount under the supplies line item. She questioned the amount spent in 2021. Treasurer Lauren Robertson said thàt she had corrected the amount. Alderman Gulley asked who told her to adjust those numbers. Treasurer Robertson went to pull the report on what was spent in 2021 for supplies. On page 14 of the budget the account number 53000 for supplies showed $107,989.00. On page 15 of the budget the line item number 53000 for supplies was broken down to show $726.00 spent for Office Supplies, $264.00 for Miscellaneous Expense and $106,999 that was transferred to Solid Waste. These 3 line items equaled the $107,989.00 for supplies on page 14.  

Alderman Gulley went on to question the Solid Waste Fund from 2021. A detailed discussion ensued. Explanation was made however, a discussion continued. It appears on the document that the total under supplies on page 14 equaled the line items under supplies. Alderman Gulley continued to pursue the question as to what happened between January 2023 and November 2023 to make Treasurer Robertson remember that she had transferred $106,000 to solid waste.

Aldermen Askew and Moore stated that the Council need to get to the bottom of the issues..

Aldermen Lindsey and Aregood agreed that answers need to be gotten, however the meeting tonight was for the purpose to pass the 2024 budget. The issues need to addressed and if an independent audit is needed at a later date that could be considered but that the city employees should not have to suffer and the city has to be able to pay bills that are piling up while City does not have an approved budget for 2024.

Alderman Moore said that he would not pass a budget that was not right. Alderman Aregood then suggested that the Council adjourn and Alderman Moore can explain to the City Workers why they don,t get paid on February 1st. He reiterated that a 2024 budget must be passed or the city workers won’t get paid and the City’s bills will not get paid.

Alderman Winters then suggested that the Council go over the proposed 2024 budget and pass it. Then move forward to getting answers to the questions from the earlier budget numbers that are included for historical numbers. Alderman Lindsey then made a motion to strike the historical numbers from years 2021, 2022 and 2023, pass the 2024 budget then move forward to address the questions from years past.

More discussion ensued regarding the past years numbers. Alderman Aregood called point of order and stated there was a motion and second to strike the prior years numbers from the 2024 budget. Aldermen Aregood, Winters, Castleberry, Askew and Lindsey voted yes. Aldermen Gulley, McCoy and Moore voted no. The motion passed.

The Council moved on to the 2024 budget. The Firemen’s pay again came up. This was discussed at length  at a special meeting last week. The motion failed last week. The Fire Chief again explained why he had requested what he had asked for in order to maintain a gap between positions. He feels the that his reasoning will keep the gap and from here forward all firemen across the board will get 3% and still keep the gap. Alderman Gulley made a motion to raise all the Firemen. Alderman Castleberry stated that in the beginning the firemen were given 3%. The fire chief took the bucket of money and distributed the monies among all firemen in order to keep a gap that will be maintained in future years. Alderman Gulley did not agree with the 2% raise that was proposed for entry level firemen when all other city employees were getting 3%. The numbers changed to give entry level 3% and higher positions getting a larger percentage in order to keep the gap between positions.  Treasurer Robertson gave the impact the raises would have on the budget. Aldermen Askew, McCoy, Gulley and Moore voted for the raise for all firemen. Aldermen Lindsey Castleberry, Winters and Aregood voted no to the raises. Mayor Young voted yes to break the tie.

A Motion was then made to pass the 2024 budget as amended. Aldermen Aregood, Castleberry, Lindsey, Winters and Askew voted yes. Aldermen McCoy, Gulley and Moored abstained. The 2024 budget passed as amended.

The Council will be looking at the numbers from years past and find explanations as to why the numbers don’t align like some think they should.

 

ASP SEARCH CONTINUES FOR ARMED SUSPECT IN HEMPSTEAD COUNTY
January 29, 2024
Arkansas State Police (ASP) is searching for a suspect who led Troopers on a high-speed pursuit and prompted a manhunt by multiple law enforcement agencies in Hempstead County on Sunday, January 28, 2024.

During a traffic stop that occurred at approximately 9 p.m. on U.S. Highway 67, a Trooper took Gerald Austin Carroll, 51, into custody. A rear passenger, identified as Thaddeus Ray Carroll, 50, moved into the driver’s seat and fled the scene with a female passenger, Melanie H. Bormann, 50.

During the pursuit, a Trooper deployed spike strips to disable the vehicle and another stopped the vehicle with a tactical vehicle intervention (TVI) maneuver. During the incident, Bormann pointed a firearm at a Trooper. Carroll, who was holding a firearm, and Bormann fled on foot into a nearby pasture.

ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division, K-9, and Aerial Units responded to the scene. Officers with Hope, Texarkana and Ashdown Police Departments, the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office and Arkansas Game and Fish assisted.

Bormann surrendered without incident about two hours into the search. Emergency personnel conducted a preliminary evaluation and transported her to Wadley Regional Medical Center in Hope.

Anyone with information on Thaddeus Carroll’s whereabouts should contact ASP Troop G Headquarters (870) 777-4641 or a local law enforcement agency. Do not attempt to approach him as he is considered armed and dangerous.



ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES ARKANSAS CHILD ID PROGRAM
Griffin: ‘I am proud to be part of this effort to keep Arkansas children safe while also supporting our law enforcement partners’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement announcing a collaborative effort to protect children in Arkansas:

“Today I announced the launch of the Arkansas Child ID Program, which will help law enforcement identify children when they go missing. This program is being launched in partnership with the National Child ID Program, the Walmart Foundation and the AEP Foundation.

“The program consists of distributing child ID kits to families of first-graders throughout the state through sheriff’s offices and schools. Families can then complete the kits and have them on hand should a child in their care ever go missing. By having identifying information readily on hand, families will be able to share the kits with law enforcement, thereby cutting down on time that investigators would have to collect such information.

“The terror and grief felt by parents and caregivers when a child goes missing can be crippling. These ID kits can help give law enforcement clarity in an otherwise chaotic situation. I am proud to be part of this effort to keep Arkansas children safe while also supporting our law enforcement partners.”

National Child ID Program Hall of Fame Ambassadors Mike Singletary and Randy White, both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, added the following statements:

“In football and in parenting, playing defense is all about preparation,” Singletary said. “It’s important to be prepared, not scared. Parents need to be prepared for what seems impossible. One thousand children go missing every day, it is not impossible. This inkless Child ID Kit being provided by Attorney General Griffin is a gamechanger for parents. It provides parents with proactive tools to be prepared for the impossible, and to keep their child’s vital information at home in case of an emergency.”

“As a grandfather actively raising two grandchildren, nothing is more important than protecting our children,” White said. “Every parent, every grandparent and every caretaker needs to be prepared. Preparation and education were keys to winning the Super Bowl. I urge every parent to complete and keep their Child ID kits and keep it updated. They are a critical part to a winning safety game plan. I'm grateful for Attorney General Griffin working tirelessly to protect Arkansas families and appreciate everyone's commitment to helping this program protect children across Arkansas.”

On average, 1,000 children go missing in the United States every day. When a child goes missing, time is of the essence and these ID kits allow parents to provide up to 90% of information needed by law enforcement to begin looking for the child. The Child ID kits will be provided at no cost to Arkansas families as part of a private-public partnership with the National Child ID Program. 

Each kit includes an inkless fingerprinting kit, a DNA sample collection, physical identification information, location of medical records, a place for a recent photo, and easy-to-use instructions. The kits will be delivered to each school through its local sheriff’s office. 

Kits should be completed by parents and stored in a safe place at home. The information does not enter a database.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN PRAISES EIGHTH CIRCUIT DECISION IN REDISTRICTING CASE
Griffin: ‘This decision is a win for our citizens and sends a message that the rule of law governs in Arkansas’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement regarding the denial by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit of en banc review of its previous decision in the case Arkansas State Conference NAACP v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment:

“Today’s decision denying the NAACP and ACLU’s petition for en banc review of the court’s November ruling reaffirms that only the United States may bring a claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

“Arkansas’s redistricting process is done by Arkansans elected by their fellow Arkansans. This decision is a win for our citizens and sends a message that the rule of law governs in Arkansas.

“It is important to remember that even the Biden administration declined to side with the claims of the ACLU and NAACP in this suit. I thank Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni and Senior Assistant Solicitor General Asher Steinberg for their outstanding work on this matter.”

January 29, 2024

THIRD ANNUAL MIKE DUGAN COLLEGIATE BASEBALL INVITATIONAL SET FOR FEB. 1-4
Jan. 27, 2024
by Troy Mitchell
HOT SPRINGS, ARK. - Historic Majestic Park in Hot Springs, Ark. will host the Third Annual Mike Dugan Collegiate Baseball Invitational February 1-4.

The tournament is named for the late Mike Dugan who was one the state’s foremost sports historians and a leader in efforts to establish the Historic Baseball Trail in Hot Springs, which now draws visitors from across the country.

A former sports information director at Henderson State University (1980-88), Dugan was instrumental in efforts to transform the former site of the Hot Springs Boys and Girls Club into Majestic Park. Dugan passed away February 4, 2021 but his dream lives on as thousands of boys and girls have enjoyed playing baseball and softball at one of the premier facilities in the country.

This year’s event features four teams from the Natural State including Southern Arkansas, Henderson State, Ouachita Baptist and Arkansas-Monticello, all members of the Great American Conference.

Three teams from the MIAA including Northeastern State, Missouri Southern and, Rogers State are participating in the eight-team event.

Newcomer to the tournament, making the 1000 mile trip from Golden, Colorado is Colorado School of Mines from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Ticket prices at Majestic Park are $8 per day per person, with those ages 10 and under admitted free.

Henderson State will take on Rogers State to start this year’s event with the first pitch set for Thursday at 10 a.m.

The Dugan family, including Susan Dugan, Mary Kate Dugan Whitmire and son-in-law Colton Whitmire will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Ouachita Baptist will then face Northeastern State at 1 p.m.

The feature game of day one is set for a 4 p.m. start and matches Southern Arkansas, ranked No. 17 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Preseason Top 25 (3rd in the Central Region), taking on Missouri Southern State, ranked No. 23 in the NCBWA poll, fourth in the Central Region.

Four games are scheduled for Friday, with Northeastern State playing Ouachita Baptist at 10 a.m,; Rogers State taking on Southern Arkansas at 1 p.m.; and Colorado Mines facing off against Arkansas-Monticello at 4 p.m. Friday’s feature game matches Missouri Southern against Henderson State at 7 p.m.


There are five games are on the docket for Saturday with Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist both facing Colorado-Mines at Clyde Berry Field in Arkadelphia. The Reddies and Orediggers are set to start at Noon, while the Tigers taking on Mines at 3 p.m.

Saturday’s schedule at Majestic Park begins at 10 a.m. with Arkansas-Monticello playing the first of two games, the first against Rogers State, followed by a game with Missouri Southern at 1 p.m. 

Northeastern State will then battle Southern Arkansas to cap off the third day of the Invitational with the first pitch set for 4 p.m.

The final day of this year’s event (Sunday) begins with Southern Arkansas playing Colorado-Mines at 10 a.m., followed by Missouri Southern taking on Ouachita Baptist at 1 p.m. The final game is set for 4 p.m. with Henderson State closing out the 15-game schedule against Northeastern State.

A complete schedule is listed below.

THE FIELD
Southern Arkansas has won three consecutive GAC regular-season championships and are the two-time defending GAC tournament champion. In 2023 the Muleriders made their 15th NCAA regional appearance including a trip to the NCAA Division II World Series in 2022.

The Muleriders were named as the GAC preseason favorite for the third-straight year and for the tenth time overall.

SAU returns five returning position starters and a pair of starting pitchers including Jeremy Adorno who threw the only no-hitter in the Dugan Invitational back in 2022 against Missouri Southern. The junior finished the 2023 campaign with an 8-4 record, sporting a 4.20 ERA while striking out 123 batters in 109 innings of work.

Also returning is All-GAC third-baseman Brandon Nicoll (.335, 20 2B, 11 HR, 69 RBI), outfielder Chris Lyles (59 H, 54 R, 18 2B, 14 SB),  infielder Will Richardson (.346, 72 H, 20 2B, 53 RBI), pitcher Mikel Howell (8-2 W/L, 3.13 ERA, 89.0 IP, 79 K) and one of the countries top relief pitchers in Isaiah Haynes (1.65 ERA, 13 Saves).

Missouri Southern State, 45-17 in 2023, was picked to finish second in the MIAA preseason coaches poll. The Lions are coming off a historic 2023 season, winning the second most games in a season and advancing to their first NCAA Regional Tournament appearance since 2019 (ninth appearance overall). In the national polls, the Lions were ranked as high as No 4 during the season.  

The Lions return 13 position players and 15 pitchers from a season ago, nine of those being named All-MIAA last season.

Some of the top returnees include second-team All-American Nate Mieszkowski (.374 average, 19 doubles, 14 home runs and 66 RBI), All-Region shortstop Henry Kusiak (.313 average, 18 2B, 13 HR, 58 RBI), second-team All-MIAA pick Treghan Parker (.329, 13 2B, 18 HR, 62 RBI) and MIAA Freshman of the Year Ethan Clark (.372, 17 2B, 65 RBI).

Ouachita Baptist, ranked No. 7 in the Central Region, is coming off the program's best season in 15 years following the team's second straight appearance in the NCAA tournament in the spring of 2023. The Tigers finished last year at 37-19 overall and 23-10 in GAC games, just one game behind conference champion Southern Arkansas in the regular season standings.

The 2024 Tiger roster features 18 lettermen returning from last year's squad, highlighted by eight returning starters combined between position players and pitchers.

Among the top returners include All-American outfielder G. Allen (.378, 14 2B, 12 HR, 45 RBI ), all-region shortstop/pitcher Dustin Bermudez (.308, 15 2B, 12 HR, 55 RBI,.656 Slg ),  all-conference catcher/designated hitter Michael Quinones (.346, 18 2B, 11 HR, 49 RBI,.588 Slg.) and all-conference pitcher Luke House (3.43 ERA, 6-3, 62 K, 65.2).

Henderson State is ranked10th in the Central Region preseason poll. The Reddies have appeared in the NCAA Regionals two of the last three years, just missing out in 2024 after posting a 33-22 record. In the last three seasons, the Reddies have compiled a 100-58 record, which is the second best record in the GAC over that stretch. 

The Reddies return an experienced group with three of the team's top four hitters back from a year ago, including fifth-year senior Kaden Argenbright who has a career average of .343 including a .338 average in 2023 with 12 doubles and 38 RBI.

Headlining the pitching staff are Reese WeaksAndrew Howard and Ryan Galvan. Howard owned a clubhouse-best 8-3 record while Weaks led the team with 60 strikeouts as opposing batters hit just .216 off him, which led the GAC.

Also returning to the mound will be closer Henry Coppens, who was second on last season's squad with five saves as he allowed just 17 hits in 19 appearances while recording 45 strikeouts in 33.2 innings of work. 

Northeastern State last appeared in a NCAA Regional in 2022. The Riverhawks will look to first year coach Sunny Golloway to lead them back to the postseason.

Golloway has been very successful in rebuilding programs and has 752-427-1 all-time coaching record. He was the head coach at Auburn University for two years, leading them to an NCAA Tournament appearance. Golloway also spent eight seasons as head coach at the University of Oklahoma, where he led the Sooners to seven NCAA Regional berths, four NCAA Super Regionals and the 2010 College World Series.

Second-team All-MIAA designated hitter Coby Tweten returns after hitting .356 with 9 home runs and 39 RBI. Also returning are third baseman/relief pitcher Ty Van Meter (.284, 7 HR, 31 RBI) who was a honorable mention All-MIAA pick and first baseman C.D. White (.337, 9 HR, 34 RBI) who earned a spot on the 2022 Dugan Invitational All-Tournament Team.

Arkansas-Monticello has 25 new faces on campus to go along with five position and one pitching starters. The Boll Weevils finished 2023 with a 31-21 record and a 20-13 mark in league play.

Catcher Chaz Poppy earned second-team All-GAC honors last season after hitting .327, with 8 home runs, 44 RBI, and a .545 slugging percentage.

Outfielder Kirk Wolfe and shortstop Chase Cripps both earned GAC Honorable Mention a year ago. Wolfe hit .342 with 15 double and 9 home runs, while Cripps batted.344, including 10 doubles, 7 home runs and 41 RBI.

UAM’s top returning pitcher is Connor Irvine who was 7-5 in 2023 with a 4.55 ERA and 97 punchouts in 83 innings pitched.

Rogers State is coming off a 26-22 campaign, finishing with a 14-19 conference record.

The Hillcats return six position starters and three starting pitchers including All-MIAA outfielder AJ Folds who batted .351 with 15 doubles, 19 RBI, and 15 stolen bases.

Also back are utility player Geovanni Blackshaw (.336, 3 HR, 21 RBI) and outfielder Carson Cheatwood who hit for a .269 average as a freshman.

Octavio Sanchez heads up the pitching staff after sporting a 3-0 record with 8 saves and a 2.66 ERA in 20.1 innings pitched. Andres De Leon made 11 pitching appearance including 9 starts in 2023. The sophomore right-hander posted a 2-4 record and struckout 36 batters in 43 innings.

Colorado-Mines was voted fourth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll following a 22-25 finish last year including a 17-15 record in league play.
The Orediggers return 22 players including seven starters in the batting lineup, and three starting pitchers.

Topping the list of returners is RMAC Freshman of the Year outfielder Jackson Woolwine (.366, 54 R, 64 H, 38 RBI) fellow outfielder Mason Andrews (.356, 52 R, 50 RBI, 15 2B, 10 HR), honorable mention All-RMAC shortstop I-Ly Hsue (.328, 38 R, 22 RBI, 9 2B, 4 HR) and utility player Luke Folsom (.243, 23 R, 27 H, 25 RBI, 5 2B, 3 HR).  

For more information on events at Majestic Park, go to majesticpark.org.


TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
(Home team listed second)

Thursday, Feb. 1
10 a.m.  Henderson State vs. Rogers State
1 p.m.    Ouachita Baptist vs. Northeastern State
4 p.m.    Southern Arkansas vs. Missouri Southern

Friday, Feb. 2
10 a.m.  Northeastern State vs. Ouachita Baptist
1 p.m.    Rogers State vs. Southern Arkansas
4 p.m.    Colorado Mines vs. Arkansas-Monticello
7 p.m.    Missouri Southern vs. Henderson State

Saturday, Feb. 3
10 a.m.  Rogers State vs. Arkansas-Monticello
1 p.m.    Arkansas-Monticello vs. Missouri Southern
4 p.m.    Northeastern State vs. Southern Arkansas
Noon     Ouachita Baptist vs. Colorado Mines
               (Game at HSU – Clyde Berry Field)
3 p.m.    Colorado Mines vs. Henderson State
               (Game at HSU - Clyde Berry Field)
              
Sunday, Feb. 4
10 a.m.  Southern Arkansas vs. Colorado-Mines
1 p.m.    Missouri Southern vs. Ouachita Baptist
4 p.m.    Henderson State vs. Northeastern State


SAAC ANNOUNCES CAST FOR PENGUIN PROJECT’S “HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, JR.” 
The South Arkansas Arts Center wishes to announce the 2024 Penguin Project’s cast of the upcoming play "High School Musical, Jr," which will run February 2 at 7pm and February 3 at 10am and 2pm. Sponsored by Entergy, the play is under the direction of Lynn Gunter with Assistant/Music Director Cassie Hickman.

Cliques rule at East High. The jocks, the brainiacs, the cheerleaders and the thespians all have their own place. Breaking free of those groups is not the norm until East High’s basketball team captain, Troy Bolton (Will Colvin/Gideon Moncrief) and brainiac newcomer, Gabriella Montez, (Lily Langston/Lexi Louden) meet. They challenge the status quo by wanting to be a jock/brainiac and a thespian. Removing those separations is not acceptable to thespian president, Sharpay, (Analee Sanchez/Avery Hall) and her sister, Ryan (Zoe Pyle). The war of the cliques ensues as each group picks different sides. What will happen when the rebels break out of the mold set by the cliques? Will they realize that they are all in this together?

Braniacs Martha (Alie Bethany/Isabella Emadi) and James (Ethan Parks/Maryana Woolen) are joined on stage by their brainiac sidekicks played by Ian Allgood, Ellery Palculict, Logan Brown, Bella Johnson, Sydney Patterson, and Vivian Kriehn. The Basketball team, coached by Coach Bolton (Preston Huitt) and led by team captain Troy Bolton also includes Zeke (Ja’Keyson Bell) and Chad (Jeb Gatewood/Lillian Rosser) along with other teammates played by Timothy Hogue, Layla Spenser, and Sam Jones.  

The Cheerleaders are led by Taylor (Zoe McIntosh/Maria Covera), Cyndra (Braelyn Allen), and Susan (Chapel Johnson/Caroline Kennedy) as they cheer alongside the other cheerleaders played by Avery Kate, Eleanor Kriehn, Raven Lumsey, and Lena Rae Pagan. The Thespians are under the direction of Mrs. Darbus (Tiffanie Duke).  

“I wish you could see the special needs actor who comes into rehearsal excited just to be here…or the one who squeals so loud with happiness because she is here…or the one who cannot speak but gives his whole body to the rehearsal…or the one who is so excited about rehearsals that he talks about it with his teachers every day…or the one who suffers with a lot of body pain but does everything to be able to rehearse…or the mentor who has a tough situation but doesn’t bat an eye. Get your tickets to their show. They look forward to showing you all of their hard work! I’m so privileged and honored to be with them. They are amazing,” said Gunter 

For more information or to reserve tickets for “High School Musical, Jr” please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. Ticket prices are $5 for everyone.  SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.  

January 26, 2024

ARKANSAS EXPANDS CHILDCARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM TO EARLY CHILD CARE EMPLOYEES, ADOPTIVE PARENTS
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Department of Education’s Office of Early Childhood is pleased to now offer child care assistance to early child care workers and adoptive parents who qualify for the program. Arkansas becomes one of only a few states in the country to expand the program to these new groups.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Childcare recently granted ADE’s waiver request to allow the two groups to participate in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program. Child care workers who work in an Arkansas licensed or registered child care or early childhood facility that participates in the Child Care Assistance Program, as well as foster parents who become adoptive parents (verified with the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ Division of Children and Family Services), may be eligible to participate. Adoptive families who qualify will receive the assistance for up to one year.

“I’m proud that Arkansas is the most pro-life state in the country, but being pro-life doesn’t end once a child is born,” Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “Arkansas will soon be one of the few states in the country that offers childcare support for adoptive parents and child care employees. This is huge for families struggling with childcare costs – and the exact kind of pro-life policies my administration will support.”

“As child care costs, in addition to the cost of living, continue to skyrocket as a result of federal policy decisions, working class families find it harder to make ends meet each month,” ADE Secretary Jacob Oliva said. “The expansion of this program will benefit families and students, as it will lighten financial burdens, encourage more families to consider adoption, and support the hiring and retention of early childhood professionals who play a critical role in early learning and development.”

“We are incredibly grateful to all of the foster parents who open their home to care for children and youth who are waiting for permanency and then become their forever families,” Arkansas Department of Human Services Secretary Kristi Putnam said. “The expansion of this program provides helpful support to these families while also encouraging others to consider the joy of adopting. If you want to learn more about foster care or adoption, please visit everychildarkansas.org.”

ADE receives a federal Child Care Development Block Grant totaling more than $100 million each year to provide child care assistance to low-income families who work. With the new waiver, these two new groups are now eligible.

In addition to the above criteria, parents must be employed or working and participating in education/job skills training for at least 30 hours per week. Children also must attend one of the more than 1,400 child care programs participating in the Child Care Assistance Program. Child care workers also must work for a participating program. While income guidelines are waived, income must be verified. Households who declare assets of $1 million dollars or more will not be eligible.

To apply, visit https://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/Offices/office-of-early-childhood/child-care-assistance-program. Parents and child care facilities who have questions can contact Brandy Ishmon at (501) 320-8930 or brandy.ishmon@ade.arkansas.gov.
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES MEDICAID FRAUD CONVICTION
Griffin: ‘Those who think they can get away with Medicaid Fraud should think again’
LITTLE ROCK – Following a guilty plea entered by Shaona Mizell, 52, of Paragould in Pulaski County Circuit Court on January 23, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“Earlier this week, defendant Mizell pleaded guilty to Medicaid Fraud, a class A misdemeanor. Protecting the dollars of hardworking Arkansas taxpayers from fraudsters is a duty I take seriously. Those who think they can get away with Medicaid Fraud should think again.

“I congratulate my office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit on their diligence to secure this conviction, particularly investigator Dane Pederson and Assistant Attorney General Gabby Davis-Jones, who worked in conjunction with Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones.”

Mizell was a personal care aide who billed Medicaid for several months of care that she did not provide. She was sentenced to one year of probation, a $200 fine and payment of $3,331.38 in restitution to the Arkansas Medicaid Program.


STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
January 26, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – A group of physicians and nurses conducted an in-depth study of the deaths of pregnant women in Arkansas and submitted their recommendations to the Legislative Council.

They recommend that maternity care providers should increase their understanding of the need to screen for chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, which can worsen during pregnancy and which is a leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths.

The physicians and nurses studied the cases of fatalities during pregnancy, or soon after pregnancy, from 2018 through 2020. During that three-year period, there were 108,517 live births in Arkansas and a possible 121 deaths of Arkansas women associated with being pregnant.

After more review, the group determined that 21 of the deaths should not be included because of faulty data, or because the women actually didn’t live in the state. The group then conducted a detailed analysis of the remaining 100 pregnancy-associated deaths in Arkansas.

It’s important to make a distinction between pregnancy-associated deaths and pregnancy-related deaths. Both refer to deaths that occur either during pregnancy or within a year after the end of the pregnancy. A pregnancy-related death is caused by complications caused by the pregnancy, or the aggravation of health problems caused by being pregnant. A pregnancy-associated death includes all fatalities, regardless of the cause.

Of the 100 deaths, 12 were caused by accidents and were not included in the analysis. Another 33 deaths were excluded because researchers determined they were not related to the women’s pregnancies. In 17 cases the group could not determine if the deaths were related to pregnancy, so they too were excluded. That left 38 pregnancy-related deaths in Arkansas over the three-year period.

The leading cause of death among those 38 was cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscles. The second leading cause was cardiovascular conditions caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity and age.

The third most significant cause was hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, or HDP. It is considered to be a commonly occurring complication of pregnancy and includes chronic hypertension and pre-eclampsia. Risk factors include obesity, a family history of hypertension and advanced age of the pregnant woman.

Tied for third was infection. The fourth leading cause of death was hemorrhage.

The study was conducted by the physicians and nurses on the Arkansas Maternal Mortality Review Committee, in collaboration with the state Health Department. Their recommendations were submitted to the Legislative Council.

The committee recommended that facilities and providers expand their understanding of the importance of screening for risk factors in pregnant women. Other recommendations would expand access to medical care for women after childbirth.

The committee recommended extending Medicaid maternal coverage from 60 days to one year after women give birth.

According to the group’s report, “postpartum care should be provided to mothers through one year postpartum to monitor the mother’s physical and mental health, provide support during the transition, and ensure access to treatment. This includes extending insurance coverage to ensure access to care and changing care protocols to include regular postpartum visits beyond the current single visit at six weeks postpartum. This lack of attention to maternal health needs is of particular concern given that more than one half of pregnancy-related deaths occur after the birth of the infant.”


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN FILES PETITION TO ENFORCE CONSENT JUDGMENT AGAINST LITTLE ROCK LANDLORD
Griffin: ‘The defendants have blatantly disregarded the terms of the consent judgment and now must be held accountable’
LITTLE ROCK – After filing a petition to enforce a consent judgment against Entropy Systems, Inc., and Little Rock landlord Imran Bohra, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“I have asked the Pulaski County Circuit Court to penalize Entropy Systems, Inc., and Imran Bohra for failing to comply with the terms of a consent judgment. The consent judgment requires the defendants to pay a $20,000 penalty if they fail to comply with the terms. The defendants have blatantly disregarded their obligations and now must be held accountable.

“Arkansas consumers deserve to be treated fairly, and I will continue to hold accountable those who engage in deceptive tactics while doing business.”

Entropy Systems, Inc., and Bohra were sued by the Office of the Attorney General in 2019 for violating the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by renting residential properties to consumers before abating existing code violations. In 2022, the defendants and the Office of the Attorney General entered into a consent judgment that was approved by Pulaski County Circuit Court and included suspending a $20,000 civil penalty contingent on the defendants complying with the terms of the consent judgment. The consent judgment requires the defendants to attach an addendum to all leases notifying tenants of their right to file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General. The defendants have since failed to notify tenants of that right.  

January 25, 2024

CAMDEN CITY COUNCIL TO MEET IN SPECIAL BUDGET MEETING
The Camden City Council was unable to pass the budget given to them on the night of January 23rd budget meeting. Some changes are being made to the budget so the Council will have to meet again

The City Council will meet for a Special Called Meeting on Monday, January 29, 2024, at 6:30 pm in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building located at 206 Van Buren NE.

Agenda:  Resolution No. 71-23, 2024 Annual Operating Budget
 

ARDOT REPAIRING POTHOLES IN AFTERMATH OF WINTER STORM
Arkansas was ravaged by winter storms earlier this month and while the snow and ice have since melted away, one consequence of the brutal weather is lingering: potholes.

They are a regular feature of the daily commute in Arkansas. They can be difficult to avoid and cause damage and alignment issues when hit. And thanks to the recent cycle of freezing, thawing and heavy rainfall, there's a whole lot more of them in the state.

Simply put, the latest round of winter weather took a heavy toll on Arkansas roadways.

Ellen Coulter, media communications manager and deputy public information officer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) are reaching out to the public to explain the pothole problem and ask for patience until it's addressed.

 Coulter said the recent severe winter storm cost ArDOT approximately $8-10 million in labor and materials. That included pretreatment and road clearing efforts. Now, the focus turns to repairing Arkansas roads, particularly the countless potholes that have popped up since temperatures rose above freezing.

Coulter said state crews and contractors are currently concentrating efforts on the worst-affected roads.

She also reminds the public that they are able to report potholes at www.idrivearkansas.com or on the IDriveArkansas app.

State highway officials are also hoping to address some of the misconceptions around why potholes form. In particular, they stress that any road regardless of age or quality is at risk of potholes.

MORE FROM ARDOT
Due to recent heavy rainfall across the state, ArDOT said repairs are expected to take longer as crews wait for the pavement to dry. In the meantime, the public is encouraged to drive with extra care on impacted roads.

For the most current road conditions and closures in Arkansas, as well as ArDOT's pothole reporting feature, visit www.idrivearkansas.com or download the IDriveArkansas app. 

From ARDOT January 24, 2024
Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) crews and contractors are utilizing all available resources to repair potholes statewide that have formed in the aftermath of the recent winter storm.

The state was hit by a severe winter storm that cost ARDOT approximately $8-10 million in labor and materials – including salt, salt brine, equipment, and working hours – used to fight the storm.

Now the focus turns to repairing the roads, particularly the potholes that have formed due to freezing and thawing of the ground.

ARDOT is placing priority on repairing large potholes in work zones on Interstate 30 in Saline County and Highway 67/167 in Jacksonville. The Department is working with the contractors in those work zones to repair the damaged areas as quickly as possible.

Due to an extended period of rain in the forecast, repairs are expected to take longer as crews wait for the pavement to dry out.

Until repairs can be facilitated, please drive slow and with extreme caution in these areas and know crews will be making repairs as soon as they possibly can.

Potholes form when wet ground goes through periods of freezing and thawing, causing the pavement layers to crack and breakdown under traffic.

“With the period of extreme cold we experienced, now followed by a period of extreme rain, we are left vulnerable to prime pothole conditions,” said Steve Frisbee, ARDOT’s Assistant Chief Engineer of Maintenance. “We are all frustrated by them, and we all want them fixed. Please be patient as our crews and our contractors work diligently to repair our roads in the wake of this storm.”

To report a pothole, click here.

To view current road conditions, click here.


SECOND APPLICATION PERIOD OPEN FOR EAST GRANT FUNDING
Application deadline for 2024-25 school year funding set for March 8
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (January 24, 2024) – The EAST Initiative on Wednesday announced the opening of second round applications for consideration in awarding the Department of Secondary Education/Arkansas Department of Education-EAST Grant.

Startup funding is available for at least 10 new programs for the 2024-2025 school year in addition to the programs selected in December, said Tami Baker, EAST’s Director of New Program Growth. Funding from the grant will cover technology needed to install a full EAST classroom environment and the cost of professional development that is required in the EAST curriculum.

Arkansas schools considering implementation of EAST in the next school year should fill out the form found at https://news.eastlink.me/nextstep. Applications will be accepted until March 8.

 “EAST is committed to providing practical, technology-driven education that prepares students for success beyond the school building,” EAST Chief Executive Officer Matt Dozier said. “Pairing community service experiences with technology ensures that our students not only develop their technical skills, but that they also develop a deeper sense of responsibility to their communities and are invested in making positive change.”

During the 22-23 school year, EAST programs:
· Collaborated with 1,285 community partners for more than 17,990 volunteer hours;
· Realized an estimated economic impact statewide of more than $461,620 dollars through those volunteer hours;

EAST students are engaged and excited about learning. In a survey of more than 3,400 students across 42 schools, data showed that the EAST experience is 22% more engaging than other core courses. The survey was conducted through a tool called the Wellington Engagement Index (WEI). Created by educators, WEI was designed to measure student engagement, and to give administrators and teachers opportunities for reflection as they challenge students to solve real problems in their communities.

If you need assistance or have questions that need immediate attention, please reach out to Tami Baker with EAST at 501-472-7852 or tami@eaststaff.org.

OFFICIALS WITH ARKANSAS' EFFORT TO EXPAND BROADBAND
Officials with Arkansas' effort to expand broadband access across the state are encouraging residents to comment on the plan before this Thursday's deadline.

The Arkansas State Broadband Office is encouraging all Arkansans to provide feedback on the Digital Skills and Opportunity plan. That plan was developed from survey data responses, focus groups, and in-person visits to all 75 Arkansas Counties.

Glen Howie directs the Arkansas State Broadband Office. He recently told (INSERT STATION CALL LETTERS) that the plan goes beyond internet infrastructure by seeking to equip all Arkansans with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century digital economy. The success of that plan, he stresses, relies on public feedback.

Officials recognize that bringing highspeed broadband to all corners of Arkansas will have the greatest impact if residents have both the knowledge to use, and the ability to afford, reliable internet service.

Arkansans can comment on the Digital Skills and Opportunity plan through this Thursday by visiting www.broadband.arkansas.gov. Soon, Arkansans will also be asked to verify - and challenge - the level of reliable internet access in their homes and areas. This, said Howie, will be a novel and crucial aspect of his office's plan to bring Arkansas into the 21st century digital economy.

Arkansas was the recipient of more than $840,000 in funding to address its digital skills gap as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress in 2021. This funding is in addition to a $5 million investment to create a five-year action plan for Internet access.

From education to commerce to telemedicine and many other sectors, reliable and highspeed internet is expected to be a deciding factor in society. The Arkansas State Broadband Office hopes to make the state a leader in how to effectively deliver that to those who need it most.

For more information on the Digital Skills and Opportunity plan, and the broader work of the Arkansas State Broadband Office, visit www.broadband.arkansas.gov


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN KICKS OFF ORGANIZED RETAIL CRIME ALLIANCE EFFORTS IN ARKANSAS
Griffin: ‘To combat organized retail crime, we must have an organized approach’
LITTLE ROCK – Following a meeting today to formally kick off Arkansas’s efforts as part of the Organized Retail Crime Alliance (ORCA), Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“Last summer I was contacted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) about joining a regional effort to combat organized retail crime. Since then we have begun working within Arkansas and across state lines to address this significant criminal element, and today marked our first official meeting of the Arkansas contingent of ORCA.

“Even though this was our first official gathering, the fruits of our labor and collaboration are already evident. Less than two weeks ago the Blytheville Police Department arrested nine individuals and issued warrants on many more who were engaging in organized retail crime activity. Those arrests would not have been possible without the cooperation and sharing of information by multiple law enforcement agencies and private sector partners.

“Organized retail crime is a $70 billion-per-year enterprise in the United States, and those costs impact businesses and their customers. You can think of it as an organized retail crime tax, because those costs to businesses get passed on to us as consumers. This sort of cooperative effort to combat these criminals is vital to putting an end to their operations. To combat organized retail crime, we must have an organized approach. That’s what today’s meeting was all about, and I look forward to seeing more success on this front in the near future.”

Eric DeLaune, acting special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans who also oversees the HSI Arkansas Office, added this statement:

“Over the past few years, organized retail crime has exploded into a billion-dollar industry resulting in undue strain on small businesses, inflated prices for consumer goods, reduced tax revenue for public projects, and a surge in violent smash-and-grab robberies that threaten public safety. HSI Arkansas is proud to partner with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, the private sector and our other law enforcement partners across the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama to combat this trend of brazen organized retail theft. By pooling our resources and coming together with a common mission, we will be better postured to dismantle the criminal networks and sophisticated money laundering schemes that organized retail criminal organizations rely upon to evade detection and take advantage of retailers and consumers.”

 

FORREST CITY WOMAN ARRESTED AFTER LEADING ASP ON HIGH-SPEED PURSUIT IN WEST MEMPHIS
January 24, 2024
A 19-year-old Forrest City woman was arrested on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, after leading Arkansas State Police (ASP) on a high-speed pursuit during morning rush hour on Interstate 40 East in West Memphis. At approximately 7:42 a.m., the suspect’s vehicle was traveling at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour, passing on the shoulder, and threatening public safety.  

As the vehicle approached the I-40 and I-55 split, the driver changed direction and headed southbound on I-55. The suspect stopped the vehicle to avoid a Trooper’s tactical vehicle intervention, reversed direction, and headed northbound in the southbound lanes of I-55.

While traveling in the wrong direction on I-55, the driver collided head-on with a commercial 18-wheeler, disabling both vehicles. The suspect abandoned her vehicle and fled on foot before a Trooper apprehended her a short distance from the scene.

Emergency personnel evaluated the truck driver and the suspect. Both declined medical treatment and reported no injuries.

Kyla Morrow, 19, of Forrest City was transported to the Crittenden County Detention Center on charges of Fleeing, Aggravated Assault, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, and Reckless Driving.

I-55 traffic was briefly diverted onto I-40. 


ASP TROOPER GOES ABOVE AND BEYOND FOR STRANDED MOTORIST ON FRIGID NIGHT
January 24, 2024
On a bone-chilling Saturday night in Arkansas, State Trooper Brandon Bird came across a vehicle on Interstate 40 that he initially thought was abandoned. Upon closer inspection, he discovered an older man in the car who was disoriented and out of gas.

The man told Trooper Bird that he had been stranded on the side of the road for several hours and desperately needed help. Trooper Bird's compassion and care were on full display as he reached out to the man's family, who lived on the other side of the state, to ensure they were aware of his condition.

With the subfreezing temperatures posing a real danger to the man's survival, Trooper Bird secured a room for the gentleman in a local hotel. He made sure he was safe and secure for the night and paid for the hotel, showing his generosity and selflessness.

The man's emotional distress, combined with the dangerously cold temperatures, could have proved to be a lethal mix had he stayed in his car overnight. Trooper Bird's gentle persistence and kindness may have saved his life. His actions are a testament to the Arkansas State Police's unwavering dedication and commitment to serving and protecting the community.


JONESBORO OFFICER CLEARED IN SHOOTING DEATH EARLIER THIS
January 23, 2024
JONESBORO - The 2nd Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney will not pursue charges against Jonesboro Police Officer Zachary Hobbs in connection with the January 9, 2024, shooting death of Joseph L. McCrackin Jr.

“Arkansas Code Annotated § 5-2-610 (b)(2) allows the use of deadly force when an officer believes it necessary to defend himself or a third person from what the law enforcement officer reasonably believes to be the imminent use of physical deadly force," wrote Prosecuting Attorney Sonia F. Hagood in a letter to Arkansas State Police (ASP), dated January 19, 2024. “Ofc. Hobbs acted reasonably and was justified in using deadly physical force. This letter is your authority to close the use of force review as justified. No prosecution will follow.”

The Jonesboro Police Department asked ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division to investigate the incident.
At approximately 7:45 p.m. that evening, the Jonesboro Police dispatch center received a call regarding an altercation between a father and his adult son at a home in the 1100 block of West Jefferson Street in Jonesboro. A witness told dispatch that the son was armed with a knife.

A Jonesboro Police officer arrived at the home and confronted McCrackin Jr., 26, of Little Rock.  A physical altercation ensued, and the officer fired his service weapon, striking McCrackin. Emergency personnel administered first aid, and McCrackin was pronounced dead at the scene.

In Hagood’s letter, she said, “… The suspect continued to use violent physical force on Officer Hobbs with no indication that he would stop until the officer was incapacitated or deceased. Additionally, the suspect reached for Ofc. Hobbs’ service weapon during the violent encounter.”


LITTLE ROCK MAN ARRESTED FOR MANSLAUGHTER IN THE AUGUST DEATH OF PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT SECURITY GUARD
January 23, 2024
The Arkansas State Police (ASP) served a warrant on Desmond Chukwunwike Nkala, 55, for manslaughter charges after he hit a school security guard with his vehicle on August 14, 2023.

ASP and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office arrested Nkala without incident.

Victor Montgomery, 62, was directing traffic at Joe T. Robinson Elementary School on the first day of school when he was suddenly struck by a vehicle and dragged several yards before coming to a stop. Montgomery was taken to the hospital in critical condition where he later passed away. Montgomery had served with the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) for seven years at the time of his death.

The driver of the vehicle, later identified as Nkala, stopped immediately after the incident occurred and consented to testing.

Nkala is being held without bond at the Pulaski County Detention Center until his first court appearance.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES CONVICTION IN ABUSE CASE
Griffin: ‘I … will use all the resources of my office to prosecute those who would exploit the vulnerable under their care’
LITTLE ROCK – Following a guilty plea entered by Early Knox, 33, of Jonesboro in Craighead County Circuit Court on January 22, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“Earlier this week, defendant Knox pleaded guilty to Abuse/Exploitation of an Endangered/Impaired Person, a class D felony. I take the protection of Arkansans seriously and will use all the resources of my office to prosecute those who would exploit the vulnerable under their care.

“I am proud of the work done by my office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in this case, particularly investigator Dane Pederson and Assistant Attorney General Gabby Davis-Jones, who worked with Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Sonia Fonticiella to secure this conviction.”

Knox worked as a caregiver at the Jonesboro Human Development Center. He pleaded guilty to pushing a center resident then forcibly holding him down. The incident was captured on video with the victim heard saying “I can’t breathe.” The victim suffered bruises to their neck, shoulders and back. 

Knox was sentenced to three years of probation and a $350 fine. He must also attend anger management classes. 


SAAC BOX OFFICE OPEN FOR PENGUIN PROJECT’S “HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, JR”
The South Arkansas Arts Center box office is now open for its upcoming Penguin Project’s production of "High School Musical, Jr". Dates for the production are February 2 at 7pm and February 3 at 10am and 2pm.  Ticket cost for all performances is $5. 

“High School Musical, Jr.” tells the story of the students of “East High” and how they must deal with issues of love, friends and family, all while balancing their classes and extracurricular activities.  The production is under the direction of Lynn Gunter with Assistant/Music Director Cassie Hickman who have produced and directed the last three Penguin Project productions,

“This show is the perfect fit for our Penguin actors and mentors. It's all about breaking outside of the box that people put us in and being able to soar and fly outside those parameters. Our artists and mentors are doing just that! As one of the songs in the musical states, ‘There's not a star in heaven that they can't reach.’ You don't want to miss watching our Penguins ‘breaking free, to be all that they can be’,” said Hickman.

The Penguin Project allows children with differing needs to perform in a live stage production. Artists with a disability are paired with a mentor of a similar age who guides them through the production from start to finish. Each artist and their mentor operates as a symbiotic pair throughout the entire process, including appearing on stage together.

Started by Dr. Andy Morgan, a pediatrician who specializes in the care of children with differing needs and has also been actively involved in community theatre, The Penguin Project began 19 years ago in Peoria, Illinois.  Today, the program has been spread to 53 locations across the country, including the South Arkansas Arts Center.

For more information or to make reservations for “High School Musical, Jr.”, please visit the website at www.saac-arts.org or call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

 

SAAC RE-SCHEDULES EVENTS INTERRUPTED BY ICY WEATHER
The South Arkansas Arts Center has thawed out and is announcing re-scheduled events for both children and adults. New dates have been set for the monthly Corks and Canvas class, auditions for “Shrek the Musical Jr.,” the next “Art Talk” in a series of talks by Gay Bechtelheimer, and auditions for the South Arkansas Symphony Youth Choir.

Corks and Canvas led by local artist Chris Stone has been rescheduled for this Thursday, January 25 from 6-9pm.  Stone will lead participants in painting a robin on a snow-dusted branch. Spots are still available.  Visit our website www.saac-arts.org to make reservations.

Now that the ice has moved on, actors in grades 2-8 are invited join us in the swamps with “Shrek The Musical Jr.” Auditions will be on Friday, January 26 from 4pm – 6pm. The Lobby will open for registration at 3:30pm. Sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of El Dorado, the play is under the direction of Andria Gleghorn and Cassie Hickman. Production dates will be April 11-13.

On Tuesday, January 30, artist Gay Bechtelheimer will present her next “Art Talk” focusing on the work of the German Expressionist painters. Centered on presenting the world through emotional experience rather than physical reality, Expressionism was a modernist movement of the early 20th century. The artists’ work was reflective of the quickly changing modern world in which they suddenly found. Join us for this free event beginning with refreshments in the lobby at 6:30pm, followed by Bechtelheimer’s onstage presentation.

The South Arkansas Arts Center is teaming up with the South Arkansas Symphony to present the children’s choir in the “Hansel and Gretel” opera this spring. To be a part of this professional production, young singers from across South Arkansas will now have the opportunity to audition on Wednesday, January 31. Led by instructor Charlsie Langley, the choir will perform alongside the world-class professional musicians and special guests of the South Arkansas Symphony under the direction of maestro Kermit Poling on April 27, 2024.

For more information about these and other events, please contact the SAAC office at 862-5474 or visit our web site at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.


COTTON, GILLIBRAND, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS CYBERSECURITY THREATS TO AMERICAN AGRICULTURE
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) today introduced the Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act, legislation that would strengthen cybersecurity protecting the agriculture and food critical infrastructure sectors. The bill will identify vulnerabilities and improve protective measures of both the government and private groups against cyber threats.

Co-sponsoring the legislation are Senators Pete Ricketts (R-Nebraska), Katie Britt (R-Alabama), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), and Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota). Congressman Brad Finstad (Minnesota-01) and Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (Michigan-07) are introducing companion legislation in the House.

“America’s adversaries are seeking to gain any advantage they can against us—including targeting critical industries like agriculture. Congress must work with the Department of Agriculture to identify and defeat these cybersecurity vulnerabilities. This legislation will ensure we are prepared to protect the supply chains our farmers and all Americans rely on,” said Senator Cotton.

"Protecting our nation’s farms and food security against cyberattacks is a vital component of our national security,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act is a crucial step toward preparing our nation's agriculture sector to respond to potential cyberattacks. I am committed to ensuring our American agriculture sector is ready to defend against these cyber threats and look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important bill passed.”

“Food and farm security is national security,” said Congressman Finstad. “With growing threats at home and abroad, it is increasingly important that we ensure our nation’s agriculture sector and food supply chain remain secure. I am proud to join Rep. Slotkin and Senator Cotton in introducing the Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act, which will provide us with a greater understanding of the susceptibility of our country’s food supply to cyber-attacks, and more importantly, help us prevent these attacks from occurring in the future.”

“Food security is national security, so it’s critical that American agriculture is protected from cyber threats,” said Congresswoman Slotkin. “No longer just some tech issue, cyber attacks have the potential to upend folks’ daily lives and threaten our food supply – like we saw a couple years ago when the meat-packing company JBS was taken offline by a ransomware attack. This legislation will require the Department of Agriculture to work closely with our national security agencies to ensure that adversaries like China can’t threaten our ability to feed ourselves by ourselves.”

The Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act would:
Direct the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a study every two years of the cybersecurity threat to, and vulnerabilities in, the agriculture and food sectors and submit a report to Congress.

Direct the Secretary of Agriculture, in coordination with the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, as well as the Director of National Intelligence, to conduct an annual cross-sector crisis simulation exercise for food-related cyber emergencies or disruptions.

Supporting the legislation are the American Farm Bureau Federation, North American Millers Association, National Grain and Feed Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, USA Rice, Agricultural Retailers Association, American Sugar Alliance, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

January 22, 2024

CAMDEN CITY COUNCIL TO MEET IN SPECIAL MEETING
The Camden Board of Aldermen will have a special called meeting on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 to finish working on the 2024 budget and vote on it.

 

CAMDEN REGIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE RE-SCHEDULE GALA
The Camden Regional Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce that the new date for the event is February 29, 2024. We are confident that this meeting will be a fantastic and enjoyable experience for all our members who join us in celebrating.

Please note that there are still a limited number of tickets and tables available. If you are interested in attending, kindly let us know at your earliest convenience so we can make arrangements. On the other hand, if you have already purchased tickets but find yourself unable to attend on the new date, please inform us so we can assist you accordingly.

Looking forward to seeing you all on February 29th.

 

ARKANSAS RECEIVES DEAL OF THE YEAR IMPACT AWARD FOR WESTROCK COFFEE PROJECT
Little Rock, Ark. (Jan. 22, 2024) – Arkansas has been spotlighted for one of its 2023 projects by a leading economic development publication.

Industry publication Business Facilities has awarded Arkansas with a 2023 Deal of the Year Impact Award in the Social Impact category in recognition of its Westrock Coffee announcement. The Deal of the Year Impact Awards are meant to “recognize project investments that will have a significant impact in their new or expanded locations, focusing on a specific aspect of the project,” according to Business Facilities.

Westrock Coffee announced its plans to increase its investment in Arkansas in June 2023. The company announced that it would be expanding its development, production, packaging, and distribution facility in Conway, Arkansas. As part of this expansion, the company will be investing more than $300 million and creating 600 new jobs in Central Arkansas.

“Thank you to Business Facilities for recognizing the Westrock Coffee announcement as one of its 2023 Deal of the Year Impact Award winners,” said Clint O’Neal, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “This project truly impacts lives for the better, and we are proud to see a great Arkansas company like Westrock Coffee and a great Arkansas community like Conway be recognized nationally for this economic development announcement.”

Westrock Coffee co-founder and CEO Scott T. Ford stated that the investment signaled the company’s commitment to the local community.

“We could not be more excited to headquarter our state-of-the-art extracts and ready-to-drink facility in Conway and Central Arkansas,” said Scott T. Ford, CEO and Co-founder of Westrock Coffee. “This decision represents our unwavering commitment to our employees, the community, and our customers. By expanding our jobs and packaging facility, we are strengthening our foundation for growth and reinforcing our dedication to delivering quality beverage solutions. We are grateful for the support of the Governor’s office, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and the community of Conway for its continued support.”

This was the second announcement that Westrock Coffee has made in recent years. In December 2021, the company announced the acquisition of its facility in Conway, which it stated would be the nation’s largest roasting-to-ready-to-drink packaging facility. This facility is intended to handle the development, production, and distribution of Westrock Coffee’s coffee, tea, and ready-to-drink (RTD) products.

The Deal of the Year Impact Award will be highlighted in the January/February 2024 edition of Business Facilities magazine.

 

January 19, 2024

STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
January 19, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – The freezing weather may have prevented citizens from appearing in person at three public hearings held by the Arkansas Broadband Office to gather input about plans to expand and improve Internet access in the state.

However, there is still time to submit comments. Arkansans have until January 25 to submit their comments online at broadband.arkansas.gov. That is the web address of ARConnect, the state Broadband Office.

It is called the Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan. It was written after state officials gathered data from over 12,000 survey responses, 32 focus groups and in-person visits to all 75 counties.

Extensive surveys proved invaluable. They revealed that many Arkansas communities are under-served, in spite of the fact that national maps developed from satellite imagery may indicate that they have access to high speed Internet.

According to the Broadband Office, the goal of the Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan is to form the most effective action plan for equipping all Arkansans with the digital skills necessary to succeed in the 21-century digital economy.

The Broadband Office will incorporate the public comments into the plan and submit it to federal officials. An effective plan will help Arkansas communities apply for the billions in grants that are becoming available for Internet expansion, particularly in rural areas.

The office is encouraging all stakeholders to visit broadband.arkansas.gov and review the plan. Then, they can provide feedback using the public comment form that is available at a link on the page.

ARConnect has joined with Heartland Forward, a Bentonville-based non-profit organization, to bring in representatives from Arkansas towns and counties.

Also helping to write the plan are members of the Arkansas Connectivity Coalition, which includes the University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, Winrock International, Communities Unlimited and the Arkansas Black Mayors Association.

“It is important that as many Arkansans as possible provide feedback on this draft plan. Every voice matters to ensure the state’s plan is effective and accounts for the unique challenges that different segments of the state population face,” the director of the Broadband Office said.

The office scheduled three public hearings, in Batesville on January 18, in Prescott and Little Rock on January 19, but the snow and continued cold interfered with many people’s travel plans.

A new acronym is being used by local officials and telecommunications companies throughout the country that are working to expand broadband access. It is BEAD and it stands for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program that has already allocated more than $1 billion to Arkansas for building and upgrading broadband networks. It also is being spent to improve the digital skills of Arkansas residents.

In August of last year the state Broadband Office submitted a five-year plan to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It has details of the Arkansas strategy to eliminate its digital divide by 2028. It is a foundation for future efforts because it has a thorough analysis of existing broadband assets across the state, and identifies the areas where gaps in Internet access need to be eliminated.

 

WESTERMAN COSPONSORS LEGISLATION TO PERMANENTLY REPEAL THE DEATH TAX
WASHINGTON - Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) joined Congressman Randy Feenstra (IA-04) and 162 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in introducing the Death Tax Repeal Act. This legislation would permanently repeal the death tax, which imposes an unfair and costly tax on the transfer of property, land, and other assets from a deceased family member to heirs of family farms and small businesses.

Over 99% of our country’s two million farms and ranches and over 95% of our nation’s small businesses are owned and operated by individuals and families, and this legislation would enable these multigenerational businesses to continue to support their families without having to pay a devastating tax upon the death of a family member. 

The Death Tax Repeal Act enjoys support from 194 organizations.
“In the aftermath of losing a family member, Arkansans should be able to grieve and continue the legacy of their loved one, without being faced with an onerous tax bill from the federal government just to keep their family business going,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman. “Unfortunately, this is the reality for many who inherit family farms or small businesses after the tragic loss of a family member. I’m proud to cosponsor the Death Tax Repeal Act, with overwhelming support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, to fully repeal the death tax. Family farms and small businesses are critical to Arkansas, and this legislation will ensure that families can afford to keep their business, and the legacy of their family, alive for years to come.”

“The death tax represents double taxation at its worst. Iowa families grieving the loss of a loved one should not face an enormous tax bill from the federal government just to continue the family tradition of farming or keep their small business open and operational,” said Rep. Randy Feenstra. “I’m proud to lead 162 of my colleagues to permanently repeal the death tax, ensure that hardworking families, farmers, and small businesses keep more of their hard-earned money, and strengthen family-owned-and-operated enterprises in Iowa. By fully eliminating the death tax, we can keep China away from our farmland, allow family farms and small businesses to succeed, and encourage the next generation of Iowa farmers and business owners to plant their roots in rural Iowa, support our main streets, and contribute to our economy.”

“Families who spend a generation building up a successful farm, ranch, or small business should be rewarded – not punished – by our tax code. Unfortunately, when a loved one passes away, many such families are forced to choose between attending to their grief or the threat of losing their business because of the excessive costs imposed by Washington’s misguided death tax,”said Rep. Jason Smith, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “Repealing the death tax is a necessary step to ensuring that family-owned farms and small businesses across America can continue to thrive and carry on their family’s legacy of hard work. I am proud to support this important piece of legislation introduced by my colleague, Rep. Feenstra, and look forward to continuing the fight on behalf of American family farmers, ranchers, and small businesses.”

“I have always believed that the death tax is politically misguided, morally unjustified, and downright un-American,” said Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. “It undermines the life work and the life savings of farmers and jeopardizes small- and medium-sized businesses in Georgia and across the nation.”

January 18, 2024

CITY AND COUNTY SANITATION SCHEDULES
Sanitation will be running the regular Friday pick up for tomorrow (Friday).

IF your route has not been picked up yet, please place your trash bin at the street. Sanitation will be running both Friday and Saturday to get all that we can get to picked up. Thank You for your patience and understanding.

This is for City of Camden only. Ouachita County is not picking up tihis week and will resume their normal routes on Monday.
 

LIHEAP APPLICATION OPENS FOR WINTER UTILITIES BILL ASSISTANCE
Most eligible Energy Arkansas customers can apply online at GETLIHEAP.com
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Entergy Arkansas customers who need help paying their winter utility bills can apply now for up to $475 in assistance through the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The prgram’s application period runs Jan. 8 through March 22, officials said, or until funds are expended.

LIHEAP is designed to lower the energy burden by paying benefits for home energy bills for low-income households, who pay a higher proportion of their income for home energy costs. The program is available during summer and winter, as heating and air units work harder and use more energy during extreme temperatures.

An online application is available for most Entergy Arkansas customers at www.getliheap.com, but applications can also be made in person at local community-based organizations.

“Customers can quickly and easily complete the LIHEAP application and upload the required documents from a computer, tablet or smart phone,” said Brandi Hinkle with Entergy Arkansas Corporate Social Responsibility, “and we encourage family and friends to help those who might not be as tech-savvy.

“Entergy Arkansas seeks way to help our customers stay connected, and the LIHEAP program is an excellent resource to help during financial difficulty,” Hinkle said. “The online application makes the process faster to ensure your power stays on or reconnected if necessary, which is especially important when the temperatures are low.”

The Arkansas Department of Energy & Environment manages the LIHEAP program for electricity, natural gas and water, but applications for assistance must be made through a community-based organization. Customers can find their local agency online at www.adeq.state.ar.us/, along with a complete list of eligibility and required documentation to complete the application.

Eligibility is determined by household size and income. For example, a single individual with a maximum monthly countable income of $2,054 and a family of four with $3,949 would both be eligible. Required documentation includes digital copies of a photo ID for the utility account holder, Social Security cards for all household members, proof of income, proof of residency and copies of the most recent utility bills.

Once approved for LIHEAP funding, agencies make a pledge on a customer’s account for reconnection or to prevent disconnection.

For additional ways to help with managing your Entergy Arkansas bill, such as Level Billing or Pick A Date, visit https://www.entergy-arkansas.com/residential/, where energy efficiency tips can also be found.

 

BOOZMAN, COTTON FIGHT TO PROTECT ARKANSAS CATFISH FARMERS, STOP FLOOD OF VIETNAMESE IMPORTS
Warn Biden Administration Against Adopting Anti-Dumping Order Giving Unprecedented Blanket Relief to All Vietnam Producers
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) joined Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) in warning the Biden administration of the disastrous economic outlook for U.S. catfish farmers and processers if it adopts a preliminary decision to significantly reduce anti-dumping duties on imported catfish from Vietnam.

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the senators urged a reversal of a preliminary decision that abandons decades of precedent on an anti-dumping duty order that has helped establish a level playing field for the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry. Arkansas ranks as the third-largest catfish producing state.

Should the preliminary decision become final, the non-market economy (NME) anti-dumping duty could be reduced from $2.39/kg to $0.14/kg for all producers controlled by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV).

“In the instant Frozen Fish Fillets proceeding, the NME-wide rate has been $2.39/kg for many years, and it has been an effective deterrent,” the senators wrote. “It now defies logic that the Commerce Department is proposing to reduce the $2.39/kg rate to $0.14/kg, and assign this low rate to all Vietnamese producers/exporters that have, to date, failed to participate in the proceeding and/or failed to establish independence from the CPV.” 

“Commerce’s approach here will incentivize hundreds of non-participating/CPV-controlled companies – i.e., those with likely higher anti-dumping duty rates – to flood the U.S. market with cheap, dumped imports without the discipline of an effective remedy. Under no circumstance should non-participating/CPV-controlled companies benefit from the same low rate assigned to participating companies that are independent from CPV control—without exception,” the senators wrote.

The lawmakers advocated retaining an existing anti-dumping duty order that treats exporters from NME countries like Vietnam based on the level of demonstrated independence from CPV control, with those most under the thrall of the CPV assessed the higher rate. A blanket assessment of the lower rate would, the senators argue, also set a troubling precedent for the approximately 250 NME proceedings involving communist governments before the Commerce Department.

“Commerce’s decision, if not reversed, will upend decades of agency precedent and weaken the trade relief granted to domestic industries. It will cause a flood of unfairly priced imports from NME countries like Vietnam, China, and Russia into the United States which will irreparably harm American industries,” the senators wrote.

“The U.S. farm-raised catfish industry remains a pillar industry in rural communities across our states. U.S. farm-raised catfish farmers and processors work day in and day out to provide a source of wholesome, unadulterated protein to the public, in addition to providing good-paying American jobs. This industry deserves a level playing field. We thus strongly urge Commerce to reverse its decision and rebalance the playing field for our constituents and workers across the United States,” the senators concluded.

In addition to Boozman, Cotton and Hyde-Smith, the letter was signed by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Tommy Tuberville (AL) and Katie Britt (R-AL).
 

BOOZMAN, COTTON PAY TRIBUTE TO FALLEN STONE COUNTY DEPUTY
WASHINGTON – Arkansas Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton paid tribute to the service and sacrifice of Stone County Deputy Justin Smith who was killed in the line of duty on January 2, 2024.

“Deputy Smith loved his job working for the good of his family, friends and neighbors. He was proud to be in a position to make a difference in the lives of Arkansans and took advantage of that opportunity on countless occasions. Those who served alongside him recognized his compassion and the helpful influence he had on the youth he worked with – two marks of any special public servant,” Boozman said. “As Deputy Smith knew, we depend on law enforcement officers to keep us safe. His death is a tragic reminder of the risks these men and women face each day and it prompts us to ensure we always offer the gratitude and respect they so richly deserve in exchange for the tremendous sacrifices they make.”

“Deputy Smith was a gregarious and generous man, who made friends and smiled easily. He enjoyed hunting and spending time with his large family. Deputy Smith is survived by his wife Lori, three sons, two daughters in law, three stepchildren, four siblings, and 14 grandchildren, along with nieces, nephews, and cousins. Our prayers, and the prayers of all Arkansans are with his family in this time of pain and mourning,” Cotton said on the Senate floor. “With his passing, Arkansas has lost a selfless public servant, who reflected the very best of our state. Deputy Smith grew up in Arkansas and worked in law enforcement for 24 years, first as a corrections officer and then at the Stone County Sheriff’s Department, where he worked for the past 14 years. Time and again, he went above and beyond the call of duty.” 


PHOTOGRAPHER GREG OWENS TO SERVE AS SAAC VIEWFINDER COMPETITION JUDGE
SAAC welcomes professional photographer Greg Owens as the judge for this year’s “Viewfinder.” The competition, sponsored by the El Dorado Insider and The Diamond Agency, will hang in the Price and Merkle Galleries from February 5-March 3, 2024 with an entry deadline of February 1, 2024.

In 2022 and 2023, Owens was awarded the Arkansas Professional Photographers Association (APPA) coveted title of “APPA Photographer of the Year.”  Additionally, he received the prestigious title of “APPA Wedding Photographer of the Year” in 2017, 2018, and 2019, a testament to his ability to capture the love and joy of special moments. His work has been featured in numerous local and national publications.

When asked about what he might look for in a winning piece, Owens stated, “In Professional Photography Association competitions there are 12 elements that images get judged on.  The number one thing is impact, then technical excellence and creativity. These will be the top things I’m looking for.  Other factors of importance will also be subject matter, composition, center of interest, and storytelling.”

Owens has been the owner of Owens Image & Design since 2006 and has carved an illustrious career capturing the essence of life through his lens. Owens embarked on his photography journey with a focus on weddings and senior photography, crafting timeless moments for countless couples and graduates. Over the years, his artistic vision expanded, and today, he specializes in commercial, headshot, senior, and family photography. His portfolio showcases a diverse range of captivating images that reflect his mastery of the craft.

SAAC’s Business Office Manager Sarah Hatley said of Owens, “I am thrilled that Greg is the judge for the competition this year. He did the photo shoot for my daughter’s senior pictures, and he wasn’t afraid to do anything to capture that perfect shot. He definitely has a photographer's eye.”

Since 2015, Owens has been an active member of the APPA, and for the past five years, he has served on APPA's Board of Directors, currently holding the position of President. Greg's leadership has been instrumental in fostering collaboration and growth within the organization.

Outside the realm of photography, Owens enjoys spending time with his family. He is also an avid fan of all things Arkansas Razorbacks and loves to spend as much time on the golf course as possible.

For information on eligibility and how to enter the “Viewfinder” competition, visit SAAC’s website at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

January 17, 2024

CONSUMER ALERT: ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN WARNS AGAINST UTILITY IMPERSONATION SCAMS
Griffin: ‘Imposters threaten to shut off utility service if the consumer doesn’t immediately pay a past due amount’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement warning Arkansas consumers about scams related to utility shut-offs:

“During the cold winter months, scammers warm up on pretending and threatening the public with utility shut offs. My office receives many complaints from consumers who have been deceived by utility impersonation scams. Imposters threaten to shut off utility service if the consumer doesn’t immediately pay a past due amount. It is important to be cautious and informed, so that you aren’t a victim of one of these scams.”

Here are some helpful tips to keep you safe from utility impersonation scams:

•    Utility companies must provide adequate notice when bills are past due to give consumers time to pay their bills and to avoid shut offs.  
•    Utility companies will often allow consumers to enter into delayed payment agreements so that the consumer doesn’t have to pay the overdue bill all at once.
•    Utility companies do not typically call consumers about shut offs. Instead, these companies will send a shut off notice via mail or email. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a representative of your gas, electric, or water utility threatening to shut off your service, be alert and do not pay them. 
•    Your utility company will never ask you to pay with gift cards, bitcoin, or app transfers.  
•    If you receive such a call, hang up and call your utility provider at the number on your last account statement to verify or discuss the status your account.
•    If you did pay, call your financial institution and/or the source of the payment to try to stop the payment.
•    File a complaint with our office immediately.

Exercise caution when answering calls from unknown numbers, especially when the caller is threatening you or demanding money. 

If you wish to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office, you can do so by calling the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982, emailing consumer@arkansasag.gov, or visiting ArkansasAG.gov.


EAST ARKANSAS OPERATION RESULTS IN 245 ARRESTS
January 17, 2024
WEST MEMPHIS – Arkansas State Police led a law enforcement contingent earlier this week in a joint operation to help remove wanted and repeat offenders from the streets of Eastern Arkansas.

This initiative was part of a coordinated operation that led to the arrest of 245 individuals over the span of eight hours. ASP contributed 27 Troopers to a total of 55 law enforcement officers to saturate the streets of Crittenden County and reduce criminal activity in the area.

A total of 449 officer violation contacts were made along with 75 criminal arrests and 13 DWI arrests. The team also seized eight firearms and various illegal narcotics, from crack cocaine to marijuana. 

“We greatly impacted the Crittenden County area and provided calm to chaos in a community that has been the victim of violent crime for far too long,” said ASP Captain Philip Hydron, Troop D Commander.

Operation participants included members of the 2nd Judicial District Drug Task Force and the cities of Marion and West Memphis.

“Arkansas State Police will not hesitate to step up with our partner law enforcement agencies in communities that sorely need our support,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “Operations like these make Arkansas a safer place for all.”


REMINDER: ARKANSAS GROWN CONFERENCE AND EXPO SCHEDULED FOR JANUARY 2024
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is partnering with several Arkansas agricultural associations and organizations to host the second Arkansas Grown Conference and Expo on January 25-27, 2024, at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

The Arkansas Grown Conference and Expo is open to all parties interested in the Arkansas agriculture industry and will focus on farmers and producers who produce for the local food system. In January 2023, the Department hosted the first Arkansas Grown Conference and Expo with over 450 attendees and 70 vendors.

The three-day event will consist of workshops, speakers, networking opportunities, a vendor trade show, and conclude with the first-ever Arkansas Grown & Arkansas Made Showcase. The Arkansas Grown & Arkansas Made Showcase will be held on Saturday, January 27, and will open to retailers and wholesale buyers in the morning and the public in the afternoon.

Partner organizations include the Arkansas State Horticulture Society, Arkansas Farmers Market Association, Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association, Arkansas Agritourism Association, Arkansas Association of Grape Growers, Arkansas Pecan Growers Association, Mid America Strawberry Growers Association, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Farm Bureau, and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.

Opportunities for sponsorship and vendor booths are available. For more information, contact Beth Moore at beth.moore@agriculture.arkansas.gov.

Registration includes access to general sessions, workshops, and entrance to the expo. Walk-up registration options will be available. To register and learn more about the Arkansas Grown Conference and Expo, visit arkansasgrown.org /arkansas-grown-conference-expo/

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the development and implementation of policies and programs for Arkansas agriculture, forestry, and natural resources to keep its farmers and ranchers competitive in national and international markets while conserving natural resources and ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of the state and nation. Visit agriculture.arkansas.gov/. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


SAAC ADDS YOUTH CHOIR CLASS TO SPRING SCHEDULE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH SASO PRODUCTION
Young singers from across South Arkansas will have the unique opportunity at auditions on Wednesday, January 31 to be a part of a professional production when the South Arkansas Arts Center teams up with the South Arkansas Symphony to present the children’s choir in the “Hansel and Gretel” opera this spring. Led by instructor Charlsie Langley, the youth choir will perform alongside the world-class professional musicians and special guest of the South Arkansas Symphony under the direction of maestro Kermit Poling on April 27, 2024.   

“This is a unique opportunity for rising young singers to perform alongside professional, adult musicians,” said SAAC’s executive director Laura Allen. “This collaboration with the South Arkansas Symphony is a great way for students to experience singing on a new level.” 

The children’s choir is open to students in grades 2-8, and auditions will be held on Wednesday, January 31 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The singers who are selected will meet weekly with Ms. Charlsie at SAAC during the same Wednesday time period until the production. The performance will be held at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium, with a few additional onstage rehearsals in the days immediately prior. 

“Hansel and Gretel” was written and composed in 1890 when the well-respected German composer Englebert Humperdinck was approached by his sister with the idea of setting some of her songs to music and telling the story of the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel. Their collaboration turned it into a full-length opera, and it is a masterpiece that continues to be performed by opera companies all over the world.   

Poling said, “This will be the first opera produced by the symphony in my 30 year tenure. We have a terrific cast, so anyone who participates will get to be a part of this with some of the finest voices in the region. Our amazing symphony will be performing the score, of course, and we have a terrific New York based director – Patric McWilliams – who will stage the opera.” 

For auditions, students should be prepared to sing a brief selection of their choice. Call SAAC at 870-862-5474 with any questions. 

Choir director Charlsie Langley is offering a new Youth Choir Class this spring as part of SAAC's Arts Academy afterschool programing to give the students the opportunity to perform at the end of the semester with the South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in their spring production of "Hansel and Gretel."  Students grades 2-8 are invited to join the SASO Youth Choir by auditioning for parts at 3:30pm on Wednesday, January 31 at SAAC.  

Link to Pre-Register: https://www.hisawyer.com/south-arkansas-arts-center/schedules/activity-set/579282For more on these and other stories visit www.yesradioworks.com/news

January 12, 2024

SAU TECH WILL BE CLOSED ON MONDAY JANUARY 15, 2024 DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER

CAMDEN AREA WARMING CENTER TO BE OPEN
With impending cold temperatures and bad weather being forecast next week, the following warming centers have been set up:

Camden Police Department Lobby, Ouachita County Sherrif Office Lobby, District Court.

Victory Church will be open 24 hours for those needing shelter. 


ASP ENCOURAGES ARKANSANS TO CONSIDER STAYING OFF HIGHWAYS IF SEVERE WEATHER ARRIVES
January 12, 2024
As Arkansans monitor forecasts calling for winter weather this weekend, Arkansas State Police (ASP) is urging motorists to consider staying home if bitter cold, rain and snow make highway travel unsafe.

For those who must drive, please remember to reduce your speed, create more distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, and brake earlier than normal.  Abiding by these rules will help everyone on the highways stay safe. If you must travel, consider packing an emergency kit filled with extra clothing, blankets, water, non-perishable food, and first aid items.

Troopers will be out in force to assist motorists in need. Use *ASP (*277) for non-emergency calls to be connected to the Troop closest to you. ASP has 12 Troop headquarters scattered across the state, each equipped and staffed with its own telecommunications dispatch center.  A map illustrating Troop headquarters locations, counties each Troop patrols, and contact information can be found at: https://www.dps.arkansas.gov/law-enforcement/arkansas-state-police/divisions/highway-patrol/.

*ASP is a four-digit speed dial feature implemented in January of 2022. It is available on any AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon cellphone operating in Arkansas. Calls sent to *ASP should be limited to non-emergency inquiries or reports. The nationwide standard 9-1-1 remains the primary telephone number to use when law enforcement or emergency services are needed. Calls routed through the 9-1-1 network will take priority over *ASP calls.

For the latest winter weather road conditions, visit IDrive Arkansas at: https://www.idrivearkansas.com/travel_info/report?report_type=winter&show_tir_btn=1


ARKANSAS ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE CORPORATION PREPARED FOR WINTER WEATHER 
Little Rock, Ark. — Jan. 12, 2024 — As Arkansas braces for extreme winter weather in the coming days, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC), the generation and transmission cooperative for the 17 local electric cooperatives in Arkansas, is closely monitoring conditions, remaining alert and prepared to provide wholesale energy to nearly 600,000 electric cooperative members.

A pattern of significant arctic weather is predicted to move into Arkansas this weekend and early next week. While details of predicted storms are uncertain, AECC’s power generation facilities are prepared to meet demand. The facilities are located throughout the state and include natural gas, coal and hydroelectric generation resources.

AECC is a member of two Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs): Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) in the eastern part of the state and Southwest Power Pool (SPP) in the western part of the state. Both MISO and SPP are monitoring the impending extreme situation and have projected very high electricity usage during the winter weather.

Electric cooperative members are advised to continue monitoring communications from their local electric cooperatives regarding the winter weather. Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., the statewide cooperative association for Arkansas, and line crews at the 17 local electric cooperatives are on alert to efficiently and safely respond to any power outages that might occur during the upcoming weather event.

“Although weather can be unpredictable, at AECC, we work to provide reliable, affordable wholesale power to our members 24/7,” said Jonathan Oliver, chief operations officer for AECC. “While AECC has prepared for the worst weather possible, unforeseen events can always occur. We suggest that consumers monitor messages from their local electric cooperatives regarding any local weather-related outages and potential requests to safely conserve power usage.”

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise the 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 600,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.


TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF SHOWER BUILDINGS AND COMFORT STATIONS AT LAKE OUACHITA  
VICKSBURG, Miss. – In advance of the upcoming inclement weather, Lake Ouachita is temporarily closing or partially closing shower buildings and comfort stations across the project beginning today. These facilities are not built to sustain prolonged extreme low temperatures. Facilities are expected to be reopened on 18 January 2024. We apologize for any inconvenience. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reminds the public to remain weather aware.  https://www.weather.gov/lzk/ 

The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, that holds nine major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The Vicksburg District is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.  
 

ARKANSAS LAW ENFORCEMENT IMPLEMENTS NEW TOOLS TO FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
January 11, 2024
The Arkansas Human Trafficking Council (AHTC) met on Thursday, January 4, 2024, and implemented new human trafficking identification tools to support human trafficking victims and to prevent and prosecute human trafficking.  The council also adopted new law enforcement policies, procedures, and protocols.  

January is Human Trafficking Month, and January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Both offer an opportunity to educate the public, spread awareness and encourage action to protect survivors of all forms of human trafficking.

The new ID tools adopted by the council will include a three-level approach: a rapid assessment, an in-depth background assessment, and a comprehensive assessment for interviewing victims. This is the first step to helping victims escape human trafficking.  

The tools may be viewed HERE.

The first level is a rapid assessment with eight or fewer questions designed to quickly identify potential victims and provide immediate assistance. This can be used by law enforcement, first responders, guidance counselors, and essential frontline individuals who have brief encounters or sporadic interactions with potential victims. 

The second level can be used to assess a situation by analyzing history and background information. This consists of an assessment completed by a reporting individual based on their knowledge of the victim's background and behavior. A background assessment would identify any red flags that may indicate trafficking without interviewing a possible victim. 

Level three would be the most comprehensive assessment designed to directly interact with the potential victim, allowing them to disclose in a private, safe, confidential manner. 

The council also created a Human Trafficking Coordinated Response Hub—aimed at centralizing support services, empowering local law enforcement, and protecting victims.   

The workgroup adopted new state human trafficking protocols to address the problem in a more efficient, effective, and uniform manner. These protocols will expand resource availability, increase offender prosecution rates, improve victim support services, and enhance protections for victims.   

The Human Trafficking Prevention, Education, and Training workgroup compiled a list of updated local, state, and national resources for human trafficking training and educational materials. This list is designed to provide training and educational resources for students, parents, counselors, and school personnel. This will supplement materials promoted by the Arkansas Center for School Safety of the Criminal Justice Institute as required by the LEARNS Act.  In addition, individuals who regularly engage with Arkansas’ human trafficking protocols will undergo routine training and be notified of any updates or changes to the protocols.   

The AHTC is implementing four services to identify all forms of human trafficking; to provide all victims access to services, to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases at the local, state, and federal levels, and to address individualized service needs through a comprehensive array of service providers.    

The AHTC is a collaboration of the Department of Public Safety Division of Arkansas State Police, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, and the Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services providing comprehensive services to trafficking victims.   

To request protocols and the assessment tools, contact Sergeant Matthew Foster, Human Trafficking Coordinator, at Matt.Foster@asp.arkansas.gov.
 

ARDOT SEEKING PUBLIC INPUT ON STATE RAIL PLAN
The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) is seeking public input on the development of a State Rail Plan.  The purpose of the plan is to provide a guide for future investments in freight and passenger rail infrastructure and services in Arkansas and to position the state for competitive railroad funding opportunities. 

While ARDOT does not finance, own, operate, or maintain any rail infrastructure or services, the Highways and Transportation Act of 1977 requires ARDOT to develop a State Rail Plan.

The public is invited to review an online presentation regarding freight and passenger rail in Arkansas and to complete a survey.  The survey will be available beginning January 14, 2024, and ending on February 13, 2024.

Link to online presentation (click here)

(Please note that the link to the online presentation will not be active until January 14)

If you have questions about the Plan, please contact the Planning Division at (501) 569-2201 or planning@ardot.gov.

Anyone needing project information or special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is encouraged to write to the Planning Division, PO Box 2261, Little Rock, AR 72203-2261, call (501) 569-2201, or email planning@ardot.gov.

Hearing or speech impaired, please contact the Arkansas Relay System at (Voice/TTY 711).

Free language assistance for Limited English Proficient individuals is available upon request.        

This notice is available from the ADA/504/Title VI Coordinator in large print, on audiotape, and in Braille.

NOTICE OF NONDISCRIMINATION: The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) complies with all civil rights provisions of federal statutes and related authorities that prohibit discrimination in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Therefore, ArDOT does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, age, national origin, religion (not applicable as a protected group under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Title VI Program), disability, Limited English Proficiency (LEP), or low-income status in the admission, access to and treatment in ArDOT’s programs and activities, as well as ArDOT’s hiring or employment practices. Complaints of alleged discrimination and inquiries regarding ArDOT’s nondiscrimination policies may be directed to Civil Rights Officer Joanna P. McFadden (ADA/504/Title VI Coordinator), PO Box 2261, Little Rock.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN PARTNERS WITH BLYTHEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT, OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ON ORGANIZED RETAIL CRIME BUST
Griffin: ‘Taking These Criminals Off Arkansas Streets Is A Huge Win For Justice In Our State’
LITTLE ROCK – Following a slew of arrests Thursday in Blytheville as the result of a collaborative law enforcement investigation of organized retail crime, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“The arrests today of nine individuals by the Blytheville Police Department are the culmination of months of collaboration between the department, my office, Homeland Security Investigations, the Arkansas State Police, Osceola Police Department, Mississippi County Sheriff’s Office, Memphis Police Department, Lebanon (TN) Police Department and Home Depot Organized Crime Investigations. The criminals in this matter are part of an organized crime ring that has targeted retail establishments in northeast Arkansas and our neighboring states.

“Fighting organized retail crime is one of my top priorities because these criminals are stealing from retailers, and Arkansans are paying the price. Also, organized retail crime is often a funding source for criminals who engage in more illicit activity, including violent crimes like human trafficking and even murder.

“Taking these criminals off Arkansas streets is a huge win for justice in our state, and I am supremely proud of all the law enforcement and retail partners who have worked together on this case.”

Blytheville Police Chief Ross Thompson added the following statement:

“All of the offenders are presumed innocent until found guilty. That being said, I want to make this clear to any and all individual criminals, criminal groups, criminal gangs, criminal organizations or criminal enterprises operating in the City of Blytheville or State of Arkansas: We have the personnel, technology, motivation and organization to put you and your associates in jail for a substantial amount of time.”


STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
January 12, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – The Senate Education Committee has begun its review of the adequacy and equity of Arkansas public school funding.

Lawmakers conduct the thorough review every two years, with the help of legislative staff. They use the results to determine how much to increase education funding, and whether or not to tighten curriculum standards and financial accountability measures.

The study is due on November 1, 2024, in advance of the next regular session of the legislature in 2025.

Under the Arkansas Constitution the state must provide funding for an adequate and equitable education for every child. The legislature has the constitutional duty of appropriating tax revenue for state government operations, therefore it is the legislature’s responsibility to approve adequate funding of schools.

The Education Committee will meet regularly throughout the year to address the many aspects of school funding. The categories include teacher salaries, facilities and equipment, transportation costs and uniform curriculum standards. The new adequacy study will update how the state responds to the needs of small and isolated school districts, fast-growing districts and schools in fiscal or academic distress.

If necessary legislators can update the matrix, a chart that serves as a tool to determine whether or not the state is funding an adequate school system, under the mandates of the constitution, Supreme Court rulings and state laws. Staff reiterated to members of the Education Committee that the matrix is a tool to measure how the legislature funds schools, not how much schools actually spend.

In addition to keeping track of funding and spending, writing a new adequacy report includes evaluating how effectively current programs are achieving their goals. One method is a thorough analysis of student test scores, taking into account the different social situations in schools.

Generally, students in poor, isolated districts don’t score as well on standardized tests as students in prosperous neighborhoods. Similarly, students whose parents are college graduates generally score better than students whose parents never got a degree. After taking those factors into account, education officials can predict test scores.

A successful school is one in which students’ actual scores are better than the predicted scores. Legislative staff will schedule visits to those schools to learn what makes them effective. Staff also conducts surveys of superintendents, principals and teachers.

Throughout 2024 superintendents and school boards will closely follow the work of the Education Committee on adequacy, because the final product will be the basis for state funding of local school districts next year.

In Arkansas the major source of school revenue is state aid. Local property taxes are the second largest source of school revenue, and federal aid is third.

The legislature’s duty to provide equitable funding is challenging, due to disparities in local wealth and local property tax rates. The same tax rate in a city with manufacturing plants will generate much more revenue for schools than it will in an isolated region with no industries.

The state Supreme Court has ruled that under the Arkansas Constitution, the legislature must prioritize education funding. The legislature must rely on evidence to fund schools adequately and equitably, and legislators cannot simply appropriate to schools what is available in the state budget.
 

SAAC ADDS YOUTH CHOIR CLASS TO SPRING SCHEDULE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH SASO PRODUCTION
Young singers from across South Arkansas will have the unique opportunity at auditions on Wednesday, January 24 to be a part of a professional production when the South Arkansas Arts Center teams up with the South Arkansas Symphony to present the children’s choir in the “Hansel and Gretel” opera this spring. Led by instructor Charlsie Langley, the youth choir will perform alongside the world-class professional musicians and special guest of the South Arkansas Symphony under the direction of maestro Kermit Poling on April 27, 2024. 

“This is a unique opportunity for rising young singers to perform alongside professional, adult musicians,” said SAAC’s executive director Laura Allen. “This collaboration with the South Arkansas Symphony is a great way for students to experience singing on a new level.” 

The children’s choir is open to students in grades 2-8, and auditions will be held on Wednesday, January 24 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The singers who are selected will meet weekly with Ms. Charlsie at SAAC during the same Wednesday time period until the production. The performance will be held at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium, with a few additional onstage rehearsals in the days immediately prior. 

“Hansel and Gretel” was written and composed in 1890 when the well-respected German composer Englebert Humperdinck was approached by his sister with the idea of setting some of her songs to music and telling the story of the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel. Their collaboration turned it into a full-length opera, and it is a masterpiece that continues to be performed by opera companies all over the world.   

Poling said, “This will be the first opera produced by the symphony in my 30 year tenure. We have a terrific cast, so anyone who participates will get to be a part of this with some of the finest voices in the region. Our amazing symphony will be performing the score, of course, and we have a terrific New York based director – Patric McWilliams – who will stage the opera.” 

For auditions, students should be prepared to sing a brief selection of their choice. Call SAAC at 870-862-5474 with any questions. 

January 11, 2024

CAMDEN CITY COUNCIL TO HOLD SPECIAL MEETINGS AND WORKSHOP
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen will have the following meetings in January 2024:

1.  Tuesday, January 16th   at 6:30 pm -Workshop/Public Hearing on a youth curfew.
2.  Tuesday, January 23rd at 6:30 pm - Special Called Meeting on Resolution No. 71-23, Annual Operating Budget
3.  Tuesday, January 30th at 6:30pm – Special Called Meeting on  Resolution No. 09-24, Youth Sports & Recreation Program.

All meetings will take place in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.
 

CID INVESTIGATING JONESBORO OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING
January 10, 2024
ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division is investigating an officer-involved shooting fatality that occurred at approximately 8 p.m. on Tuesday, January 9, 2024, in Jonesboro.

At approximately 7:45 p.m. the Jonesboro Police dispatch center received a call regarding an altercation between a father and his adult son at a home in the 1100 block of West Jefferson Street in Jonesboro. A witness told dispatch that the son was armed with a knife.

A Jonesboro Police officer arrived at the home and confronted Joseph Lee McCrackin Jr., 26, of Little Rock.  A physical altercation ensued, and the officer fired his service weapon, striking McCrackin. Emergency personnel administered first aid, and McCrackin was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Jonesboro Police officer was transported to St. Bernard’s Medical Center with minor injuries sustained in the altercation.

An investigative case file will be presented to the prosecuting attorney, who will determine whether the use of deadly force was consistent with Arkansas law.

 

ARKANSAS FOODBANK MARKS 40 YEARS OF SERVICE WITH RENEWED COMMITMENT TO FIGHTING HUNGER
LITTLE ROCK, AR [Jan. 10, 2024] – Arkansas Foodbank, the largest food bank in the state, is celebrating its 40th year of service with a reinvigorated mission to tackle food insecurity and hunger stereotypes in Arkansas. As the state leads the nation in food insecurity, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Foodbank is intensifying its efforts to educate Arkansans about hunger and provide access to nutritious food for Arkansans in need.

Since its inception in 1984, Arkansas Foodbank has been at the forefront of hunger relief, distributing millions of meals to individuals and families across its 33-county service area through a network of more than 400 community partners, including pantries, churches, community centers, and schools. Through this network, the Foodbank has distributed more than half a billion pounds of food to hundreds of thousands of Arkansans.

"Over our 40-year journey, the Arkansas Foodbank has been a lifeline for millions of Arkansans, thanks to the immense generosity of our community. This anniversary highlights that enduring spirit of support,” said Brian Burton, CEO of Arkansas Foodbank. “We remain committed to connecting resources so that we can continue providing this essential aid, while also striving to deepen public understanding about the true scope of food insecurity in our state and what that means for our future." 

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Arkansas Foodbank is expanding its reach with a series of diverse initiatives and events throughout its 33-county service area. These efforts encompass educational programs to heighten awareness of food insecurity, engaging community events, and forging new partnerships. The goal is to continue providing life-saving assistance and cultivate a more informed and resilient community in the fight against hunger.

"The issue of hunger is often misunderstood and oversimplified," says ShaRhonda Love, board chair of Arkansas Foodbank. "During this landmark anniversary year, we’re warmly inviting the communities we serve in Arkansas to join us in celebrating this milestone, but also recognizing the work we need to do to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who aren’t sure where they’ll find their next meal."


NEARLY 21 MILLION CHILDREN EXPECTED TO RECEIVE NEW GROCERY BENEFIT THIS SUMMER
44 States, U.S. Territories, Tribes Intend to Launch Permanent Summer EBT Program in 2024; Even More Expected in 2025
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2024 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced that 35 states, all five U.S. territories, and four tribes plan to be the first to launch the new, permanent summer grocery benefits program for children – known as Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer – in summer 2024. They include:

American Samoa
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Cherokee Nation
Chickasaw Nation
Colorado
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Connecticut
Delaware
Guam
Hawaii
Illinois
Indiana

Kansas
Kentucky
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Minnesota
Missouri
Montana
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico

New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oregon
Osage Nation
Pennsylvania
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
Tennessee
Utah
U.S. Virgin Islands
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin

USDA estimates that, in total, the states, U.S. territories, and tribes that have committed to launching the Summer EBT program in summer 2024 will serve close to 21 million children, providing a total of nearly $2.5 billion in grocery benefits. This is around 70% of the total population of children eligible for Summer EBT. USDA expects additional states and tribes will provide Summer EBT in 2025.

Through this new program, states will provide families with $120 per eligible child for the summer to buy food at grocery stores, farmers markets or other authorized retailers – similar to how SNAP benefits are used. Participating tribes will provide a benefit of the same amount that can be used to buy food at WIC-authorized retailers.

“Summer grocery benefits are becoming a reality for many communities across the nation and for tens of millions of children who will receive the nutrition they need to grow, learn, and thrive,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We applaud all the leaders and partners who are stepping up to make the program’s inaugural year a success. Together we’re making progress in closing the summer hunger gap and ensuring children are nourished and healthy year-round.”

Rigorous evaluations of a multi-year demonstration project showed that providing Summer EBT reduced child hunger and improved diet quality. Summer grocery benefits decreased the number of kids with very low food security by about one-third and supported healthier diets featuring more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The new, permanent Summer EBT program advances the goals of the Biden-Harris Administration’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health to enhance food and nutrition security and improve food access and affordability. It was enacted on a bipartisan basis by Congress just over one year ago.

This is the inaugural year of the program, meaning states and tribes that do not launch the program this summer will have future opportunities to opt-in. USDA’s goal is for Summer EBT to be available nationwide as soon as possible. The Department is providing extensive assistance, trainings, tools and more to the states, U.S. territories and tribes targeting a 2024 roll-out as well as to those planning for 2025 and beyond. Working with future implementers is a top priority.

Later this month, USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small will join state, U.S. territory and tribal leaders, and partners from across the country in Baltimore to celebrate the positive difference this program will make for millions of children.

“No kid should have to spend their summer hungry, or without nutritious food,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Torres Small. “Summer EBT is a giant step forward in meeting the needs of our nation’s children and families throughout the year, and especially in the summer months.”

Summer EBT is one of three key mechanisms that USDA is now using to tackle child hunger during the summer months. Families are encouraged to participate in all summer nutrition programs available to them. Summer meal sites provide free meals to families across the country, and many rural communities now offer to-go or home-delivered summer meals to increase access to this vital nutrition support.

For More Information
Webpage: Summer EBT
Webpage: Summer Nutrition Programs
Webpage: Estimated Number of Eligible Children and Total Summer EBT Benefit Amounts
Fact Sheet: Summer EBT – A Tested and Effective Strategy for Ending Summer Hunger

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe and affordable food essentials to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
 

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF FARM TO SCHOOL KITCHEN EQUIPMENT GRANT PROGRAM
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2024 Farm to School Kitchen Equipment Grant Program. Through the program, the Department will provide $41,250 in grants to 11 public and private K-12 schools, early childhood education facilities, and alternative learning environments. These funds will directly impact 3,993 students in 11 counties across the state.

The winners are:
Batesville High School, Independence County
Good Morning Sunshine Preschool, Yell County
Gurdon Public Schools, Clark County
Jean Tyson Child Development Study Center, Washington County
Marshall High School, Searcy County
Mountain View School District, Stone County
Mrs. Krystal’s Preschool, Sharp County
Rivercrest School District, Mississippi County
Salem High School, Fulton County
Shirley School District, Van Buren County
University District Development Corporation/Oak Forest Community Garden, Pulaski County

“Farm to school is most impactful when schools are able to connect all three pillars – school gardens, education, and local procurement,” said Arkansas Farm to School Coordinator Jessica Chapman. “We are pleased to administer the new Farm to School Kitchen Equipment Grant Program to provide an opportunity for schools to start or expand on local procurement efforts in their school cafeterias.”

The Farm to School Kitchen Equipment Grant was initiated in 2023 to increase schools’ capacity to process and serve more specialty crops to students through school cafeterias and other school feeding programs. Selected schools will receive grants of up to $5,000 to purchase equipment, improve school meal quality, and increase student consumption of specialty crops.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the development and implementation of policies and programs for Arkansas agriculture, forestry, and natural resources to keep its farmers and ranchers competitive in national and international markets while conserving natural resources and ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of the state and nation. Visit agriculture.arkansas.gov/. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer. 

January 10, 2024

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen met in regular session on Tuesday, January 09,2024 in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.

Mayor Charlotte Young called the meeting to order promptly at 7:00 pm.  The Invocation was offered by Rev. Gwen Edwards, Pastor at Set Free Christian Ministries, 221 Monroe Avenue NE Camden, AR. The Invocation was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

City Clerk Donna Stewart called the roll. Aldermen Chris Aregood, Gerald Castleberry, Marvin Moore, Ebony Gulley, Ed Winters, L.E. Lindsey, Joe Askew and William McCoy were all in attendance.

The Minutes from the Regular Meeting dated December 12, 2023 were presented in print. Motion was made and seconded. There was no discussion. The December 12th minutes passed with 7 yes votes and Aldermen Gulley abstaining.

The Financial Report for December was presented in print. Motion was made and seconded. There was no discussion. Aldermen Castleberry, Askew, Winters, Aregood and Lindsey voting yes. Aldermen Gulley, Moore and McCoy voted no. The Financial Report for December was approved.

During Audience Participation Bishop Arnold stated that he was concerned about the curfew or lack there of. Children are running around way after midnight. He has been addressed the issue the last three meetings. He felt that the Council was sending a message that the City is not safe. He felt like a curfew should be made a priority. Before the ned of the meeting, it was decided to have a workshop regarding the curfew and to hear the publics opinions. There will be a workshop on January 16th at 6:30 to address the issue.

The Mayor gave her report time to Alderman Askew. He recognized the Camden Fire Department as a whole as employees of the month. Alderman Askew had family members who lost their house in a fire in December. He stated that the guys were incredibly helpful through the whole ordeal. He said it was the big, little things that the department did during and after the fire that made a statement of what a great bunch of guys we have on the Camden City Fire Department

The Council moved on the matter of Old Business. There were two ordinances up for the third and final readings.

Ordinance No. 13-23, an ordinance rezoning certain property located at 2289 South Adams Avenue. This was to rezone the area from RS-2 Single Family to RS-2 multi-family. Motion was made and seconded. Aldermen Moore and Gulley stated that their constituents were concerned as to what the property would actually be used for. The owner of the property wants to put housing on the property. This is the lot in Cullendale where the old strip mall was and it is backed up to an industrial area. Code Enforcement Officer Tommy Vaughan stated that the Zoning Commission had put a lot of work into this Ordinance. Alderman Lindsey stated that he could see where anything would be an improvement to the property. After a discussion the vote was taken. Aldermen Aregood, Lindsey and Winters voted yes. Aldermen Gulley, Moore, McCoy, Askew and Castleberry voted no. The Ordinance failed.

Ordinance No. 14-23, an ordinance rezoning property located at 2412 Smackover Rd from RS-2 Single Family to RS-2 multi-family. Motion was made and seconded. There was no discussion. Aldermen Aregood, Lindsey and Winters voted yes. Aldermen Gulley, Moore, McCoy, Askew and Castleberry voted no. The Ordinance failed.
The Council heard the second reading of Ordinance No. 15-23, an ordinance providing for the accounting of the Public Safety Sales and Use Tax; and for other purposes. Alderman Lindsey put it up for a third and final reading. Alderman Aregood seconded the motion Aldermen Aregood, Lindsey, Castleberry and Winters voted yes. Aldermen Gulley, Moore, McCoy and Askew voted no. The Ordinance will be heard again for the third reading.

Then came the budget battle again. Resolution No. 71-23, a resolution providing for and adopting for the City of Camden, Arkansas, an annual Operating Budget for the twelve months beginning January 1, 2024, and ending December 31, 2024; appropriating money for every item of expenditure therein provided for; and for purposes. Motion was made and seconded. Alderman Castleberry stated that while the Mayor did not request a raise this year, he felt that she should get the same 3% as everyone else in order to keep the gap between her and department heads pay. Motion was made to amend that line item to reflect a 3% raise for the Mayor. The amendment passed.

There was then a discussion on the Title of Jennifer Horn who is currently holds the title of Assistant Mayor. After a lengthy discussion Alderman Aregood made a motion to change her title to Chief of Staff. There was more discussion as to why that was not the appropriate title. Alderman Aregood amended his motion to change the title back to Assistant to the Mayor which was the title several administrations ago. The motion was seconded and the amendment passed.

Alderman McCoy then brought up the condition of the bathroom at the solid waste facility as well as the lack of internet. After a discussion, it was pointed out that there was $10,000 for repairs at the solid waste facility. A motion was made and seconded to add $15,000 to that line item. The motion passed with 7 votes for and Alderman Moore abstaining.

The Council then voted to add $2500.00 to the budget to get satellite internet at the solid waste station with a vote of 7 yes votes and Alderman Moore abstaining.

The Council felt there were many other issues with the budget so they voted to have another meeting on January 23, 2024 to finish working on the budget.

Moving on to New Business Resolution No. 01-24, a resolution recognizing Meetings and Procedures as set forth in the Code of Ordinances of the City of Camden and adopting other procedural rules. Motion was made and seconded. The Resolution passed by unanimous vote.

Resolution No. 02-24, a resolution declaring the dilapidated property located at 545 Harrison St. a public nuisance and to order the removal of the same. Passed by unanimous vote. Motion was made and seconded. The Resolution passed by unanimous vote.


Resolution No. 03-24, a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contractual agreement with Camden Sportsplex Coalition, Inc. to provide youth recreation services for the City of Camden. This resolution was killed as the Camden Sportsplex Coalition, Inc has not yet received their non-profit status and they pulled their bid. This will be rebid. They will drop the need for a 501C3 but bids must be from non-profits.  Bids will close on January 30 and a special meeting will be held January 30, 2024. The Camden Sportsplex Coalition ran the program last year in a volunteer capacity, but now until they get their non=profit status they can’t work on the program. In the meantime, nothing can be done about getting sign-ups for Baseball and Softball for this summer. If a bid is accepted on January 30, sign-ups can begin at that time.

Resolution No. 04-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of oils and lubricants for the Year 2024. Motion was made and seconded. Passed by unanimous vote.

Resolution No. 05-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of tires and tubes for the Year 2024. Motion was made and seconded . Passed by unanimous vote.

Resolution No. 06-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of batteries for the Year 2024. Motion was made and seconded. Passed by unanimous vote.

Resolution No. 07-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the towing regular-sized city vehicles for the Year 2024. Motion was made and seconded. There was a discussion regarding the fairness of the bidding process. The vote was four yes, two no and two abstained. The Mayor voted yes and the Resolution passed.

Resolution No. 08-24, a resolution awarding the bid for towing large-sized city vehicles for the Year 2024. Motion was made and seconded. The vote was six for, 1 against and one abstined.

Ordinance No. 01-24, an ordinance assessing a lien on certain property located at 606 Welcome Street. Motion was made and seconded. Motion was made to suspend the rules and bring it to a final vote. The motion passed. The Ordinance then passed by unanimous vote.

Ordinance No. 02-24, an ordinance repealing Ordinance No. 30-16, assessing a lien on certain property located at 742 Union Street. Motion made and seconded. Motion was made to suspend the rules and put it up for a final vote. Motion passed. The Ordinance passed by unanimous vote.

The Mayor stated that the City now has an app. Go to app store and search City of Camden. Accept notifications. The City will share information on the app.


The meeting adjourned at 11:10 pm . The next regular Council meeting will be on February 13, 2024

 

COLD SNAP ADVISORY: HOW TO STAY SAFE, KEEP WARM & SAVE ENERGY
At Summit Utilities, we work diligently to maintain the reliability of your natural gas service, especially during challenging weather. Year-round, our team takes proactive measures, including pipeline replacements, infrastructure improvements, and monitoring our systems to ensure you have dependable and essential energy during the winter season.

We want to keep you informed about the cold weather that is forecasted to impact many of the areas we serve in the coming days. Ensuring your safety and comfort during extreme weather conditions is our top priority, and we want to share some important tips to help you prepare for the cold ahead. During extreme winter storms, it's crucial to prioritize safety. Here are safety measures to consider:

Follow Emergency Guidelines: Stay informed about local emergency guidelines and follow instructions from local authorities.

Be Alert for Gas Leaks: Familiarize yourself with the smell of natural gas (similar to rotten eggs). If you detect this odor, do not use electronic devices, including phones or light switches. Leave the area immediately on foot and call 911 from a safe location.

Clear Snow and Ice: Keep outdoor vents, meters, and flues clear of snow and ice to prevent blockages. Use a broom, not a shovel, to gently clear snow around gas equipment to avoid damage.

Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation in enclosed spaces. Never use gas ovens or stovetops as a primary heating source. Avoid using unvented space heaters indoors.

Carbon Monoxide Safety: Install carbon monoxide detectors in key areas of your home and check their batteries regularly. If you suspect carbon monoxide exposure (headache, dizziness, nausea), leave your home immediately and call emergency services.

Prepare an Emergency Kit: Create an emergency kit with essentials like blankets, flashlights, non-perishable food, and necessary medications.

To help keep your energy conservation efforts effective and your costs low, we recommend the following:

Check Your Heating System: Ensure that your heating system is in good working condition. Schedule a maintenance check if needed.

Seal Drafts: Seal any drafts around windows and doors to prevent heat loss and keep the cold air out.

Bundle Up: Dress warmly and use blankets to stay cozy indoors. Layering clothing can help retain body heat.

Adjust Your Thermostat: Keep your thermostat a few degrees lower than normal (as long as there are no health risks), and lower if you are away for more than a few hours.

Close Curtains at Night: Close curtains or blinds at night to add an extra layer of insulation.

Limit Opening Exterior Doors: Minimize opening exterior doors to conserve heat.

We understand energy costs can be a concern, especially during extremely cold weather. If you or someone you know are struggling to keep up with monthly energy bills, financial assistance may be available to eligible low-income households for home heating needs through federally funded programs and crisis assistance organizations.

January 09, 2024

OUACHITA COUNTY HOLIDAY CLOSING
Monday January 15, 2024 the Ouachita County Courthouse and the Extension office will be closed on that day for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Sanitation Department will run on regular schedule. They will not observe the Holiday.
 

"SBA IN YOUR COMMUNITY,"
The Camden Regional Chamber of Commerce is delighted to invite you to our upcoming event, "SBA in Your Community," hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Join us on January 31, 2024, at 6PM for an informative and engaging session.

The event will take place at the Chamber Office, located at 314 S Adams Avenue, Camden AR 71701. This is your opportunity to learn about small business certifications, explore various lending options, and discover a wide array of SBA resources specifically designed to help small businesses grow and succeed.

We look forward to seeing you there!


ANTICIPATING SOLAR ECLIPSE, WINDGATE MUSEUM OF ART AT HENDRIX PRESENTS ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON’
Multi-gallery exhibition includes illustrations, sculpture, video, photography from established artists, plus juried works by state’s K-12 students
CONWAY, Arkansas (January 9, 2024)—The Windgate Museum of Art at Hendrix College (WMA) on January 26, 2024, will open “In the Shadow of the Moon,” a dynamic, multi-media exhibition centered around humankind’s history and interest in the moon and space, to celebrate the upcoming total solar eclipse. Hendrix College and the central Arkansas region are in the path of totality for the April 8 eclipse, an event that will leave millions in North America awestruck.

Among the most spectacular visible natural phenomena — lightning storms, shooting stars, the aurora borealis — a solar eclipse seems to earn the greatest reverence, and with good reason.

“The star of ‘In the Shadow of the Moon’ is the April 8, 2024, eclipse itself,” says curator Christian Cutler, director of the WMA. “This exhibition is both a celebration and a jumping off point. I hope visitors to ‘In the Shadow of the Moon’ learn and reflect on humankind’s relationship to the Moon and the Sun.”

Interpretations of Eclipses through History
Opening January 26 at 5 p.m., “In the Shadow of the Moon” will explore how different cultures have presented and interpreted solar eclipses in art. For instance, visitors will see eclipses portrayed as a dragon or a celestial wolf attempting to swallow the sun and included in the backdrop of European Renaissance crucifixion scenes to set a sorrowful or ominous tone.

The exhibition will also highlight the staying power of the solar eclipse as a worthy artistic subject. Science fiction illustrators, contemporary sculptors, and even video game designers incorporate eclipses into their work. Works by contemporary artists Tyler Nordgren, John W. Tomac, Lenka Konopasek, and Sarah Blood have been selected for the exhibition. “47 Rockets,” a mini-exhibit
inside ‘In the Shadow of the Moon’ by Nashville art duo Raina Belleau and Caleb Churchill, will explore history and folklore surrounding the moon with sculpture, video, and photography.

To provide historical context for the works of art, a collection of solar eclipse expedition artifacts will be on display, on loan from the James Lick Observatory in Mount Hamilton, California. Visitors can view scientific instruments, astronomers’ handwritten logbooks, and photographic plates made during expeditions in the late 1800s and early 1900s as far away as Chile, India, and the South Pacific.

Immersive Video Experience
One of the greatest undertakings in preparing “In the Shadow of the Moon” is the projection experience in the Wilcox-Todd Gallery. The museum is producing an immersive video about eclipses with financial assistance from the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium (ASGC), a part of NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. Landry Dosher ’24, an English and theatre arts double major at Hendrix, provides the voiceover for the script written by Lindsey Knight, the WMA’s education curator.

“The preparation of the experience we’ve planned for the Wilcox-Todd Gallery may be the most meticulous team effort the WMA staff has undertaken since the museum’s opening,” Cutler said.

Selected Works by Arkansas Students
Visitors who approach the museum from the east side will be greeted by 80 selections from a juried competition of creations by Arkansas kindergarten through 12th-grade students, centered on the themes of the cosmos, eclipses, the solar system, and human interaction with space. The Window Gallery, where this art from around the state will be displayed, faces east and south on the outside of the building, making it available for viewing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The WMA is housed on the first floor, north wing, of the Miller Creative Quad, Building 3 on the current Hendrix campus map. Exhibitions and programs at the Windgate Museum of Art at Hendrix College are free and open to all. Regular interior gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters.

‘Star Trek’ Actor Tim Russ
To accompany “In the Shadow of the Moon,” the WMA is planning an entire semester of space-related educational programming, film screenings, guest speakers, make-and-take art projects, and more. On Saturday, January 27 at 10 a.m., the WMA will welcome to campus actor Tim Russ of Star Trek fame. Russ will talk about his love of amateur astronomy and how he got started. Brunch-bite refreshments will be served. A Q&A, an autograph opportunity, and merchandise sales will follow the talk, which will be held in Reves Recital Hall, Trieschmann Fine Arts Building (18a on the current campus map).

The WMA anticipates announcing more exhibition-related events this semester. To stay up to date on additional program offerings associated with “In the Shadow of the Moon,” visit www.windgatemuseum.org/events.

About the Windgate Museum of Art
The Windgate Museum of Art is the art museum located on the campus of Hendrix College. With a vision to be the premier teaching art museum in Arkansas, the Windgate presents outstanding art
exhibitions, compelling educational programs, and invigorating social activities for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus. Free and open to all, the museum uses hands-on experiences to train students in all facets of museum work, including curatorial research, collection management, educational and social programming, marketing and communications, as well as all aspects of exhibition research, planning, installation, and evaluation. The Windgate Museum of Art is made possible with major support from the Windgate Foundation and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.

About Hendrix College
Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at www.hendrix.edu.

“… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose


ADE'S DIVISION OF HIGHER EDUCATION TO CONDITIONALLY APPROVE SCHOLARSHIPS WHILE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ADDRESSES FAFSA PROBLEMS
LITTLE ROCK — To ensure qualified Arkansas students do not experience a notification delay regarding much-needed scholarships, the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Higher Education will conditionally approve state scholarships while the federal government addresses problems associated with the 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

“There is no question that higher education serves an important role in success beyond high school, and for many students, furthering their education is not possible without state and federal financial assistance,” Dr. Ken Warden, ADHE commissioner, said. “Arkansas students, however, should not be penalized or face needless worry regarding funding because of improper planning by the federal government. We are pleased to provide reassurance to these students, who can feel confident in their state applications.”

The federal government released the 2024-2025 FAFSA form on December 31, 2023; however, the release has resulted in challenges and issues for Arkansas students and their families. Problems stem from the limited and intermittent windows of time available for students to access their application, as well as multiple technical issues that have occurred during students’ attempts to complete the form. Additionally, state financial aid programs have been affected procedurally by the delay in receiving FAFSA information.

Between 18,000 and 25,000 Arkansas students apply each year for state scholarships, such as the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship and the Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship. The application process requires students to complete the FAFSA. The deadline to apply for the Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship remains March 1, and July 1 is the deadline for the other state scholarships. Because of issues with the federal FAFSA application, students conditionally approved have until August 1, 2024, to complete the FAFSA portion to finalize the award.

To learn more about available scholarships, visit https://sams.adhe.edu/


ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ACCEPTING PROPOSALS FOR THE RESILIENT FOOD SYSTEMS INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department) is now accepting applications for the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (RFSI) program. More than $4.2 million will be awarded to subgrantees to improve food supply chain operations and strengthen local food systems throughout the state. Applications will be accepted through February 16, 2024.

“The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is pleased to help administer the RFSI grant program and looks forward to seeing its positive impacts on our state’s largest industry,” said Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. “These funds will strengthen Arkansas agriculture by supporting investments to enhance supply chain operations and equipping producers with tools to expand the local food system.”

The Department is offering two grant types under the RFSI program: infrastructure grants and simplified equipment-only grants. Applicants may apply for one grant type only.

 

Infrastructure Grant funding will support projects focused on the processing, aggregation, and distribution of locally and regionally produced food products as part of the RFSI program. Eligible entities include agricultural producers, processors, nonprofit organizations, local governments, tribal governments, and institutions.

The Department will use a two-phase application process for administering the infrastructure grant funds. Project concept proposals outlining the project’s goals, tasks, and budget requirements must be submitted by February 16. After all concept proposals are reviewed by an advisory committee, selected projects will be invited to submit detailed project proposals.

Simplified Equipment-Only Grants are dedicated to benefiting producers directly for on-farm middle-of-the-supply-chain equipment. The Equipment-Only Grant will provide a walk-in cooler to awarded producers for on-farm use as part of the RFSI program. Applications will be reviewed by an advisory committee.

The applications for both grant types, the Request for Applications, and additional information can be found at arkansasgrown.org/resilient-food-systems-infrastructure-grant-program/. Additional information from USDA can be found at ams.usda.gov/services/grants/rfsi

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the development and implementation of policies and programs for Arkansas agriculture, forestry, and natural resources to keep its farmers and ranchers competitive in national and international markets while conserving natural resources and ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of the state and nation. Visit agriculture.arkansas.gov/. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

January 08, 2024

OFFICIAL STATE HOLIDAY BULLETIN
The State of Arkansas will observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday as an official state holiday on Monday, January 15, 2024.  

State Capitol offices and state buildings will be closed.  The State Capitol building will be open to the public from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

TULSA MAN DIES OF SELF-INFLICTED GUNSHOT WOUND AFTER LEADING LAW ENFORCEMENT ON A PURSUIT 
January 8, 2024
At approximately 6:39 p.m. on Sunday, January 7, 2024, the Forrest City Police Department (FCPD) advised the Arkansas State Police (ASP) they were in pursuit of two robbery suspects. While traveling on Interstate 40 East, the suspect’s vehicle reached triple-digit speeds and FCPD lost sight of it near the 247-mile marker.

ASP Troopers located the vehicle traveling west on U.S. Highway 64 in Wynne and initiated a traffic stop. After pulling over briefly, the suspects sped away. Spike strips were deployed, stopping the suspect’s vehicle near Arkansas Highway 193.

The suspects exited the vehicle and fled on foot. The passenger was taken into custody without incident. Later, a child discovered the armed suspect, Dillion J. Scrivner, 19, of Tulsa inside a vehicle parked at a nearby home. Scrivner again fled on foot.

An ASP K-9 and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission were called to the scene to help track Scrivner.
Scrivner was found in a nearby field with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

ASP Troopers rendered aid until emergency personnel arrived and transported Scrivner to the St. Bernards CrossRidge Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at approximately 10:21 p.m. His remains were transported to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for an autopsy.

ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division is investigating the incident.

 

HERE’S HOW TO STAY WARM WHILE CONSERVING ENERGY USAGE THIS WINTER
Manage your electricity usage by implementing these energy efficiency practices
Little Rock, Ark. – Winter has arrived here in the Natural State, kicking heaters and energy consumption into high gear. Entergy Arkansas wants customers to stay warm while managing their energy usage and costs, offering these helpful hints to make your home more energy efficient.

Heating costs can account for more than 50 percent of a customer’s monthly energy usage. Instead of cranking up the thermostat when the temperatures drop, take these free or low-cost steps to remain comfortable and save energy and money on your utility bills.

Prepare for winter weather
Keep heating costs low all season long by taking these tips to improve your home’s energy efficiency:

Seal air leaks: Use caulk or weatherstripping around doors, windows and any location where there may be a path between the inside and outside.

Adjust the thermostat: Set the thermostat to 68 degrees during winter months, and dress in layers to stay warm. Each degree above 68 can increase your energy bill by about 3 percent.

Conserve hot water: Set your hot water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees, or the medium setting. Wrap electric water heaters with water heater blankets, which can be found at home improvement stores.

Keep doors and windows closed: Constant traffic will let out warm air, forcing your heater to work harder to keep the room at a set temperature.

Ensure fans are turning the right way: Fans should be run at a low speed clockwise during the winter to prevent the cold air from blowing down on you.

Replace air filters: Dirty filters make your heating system work harder. Replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Use sunlight to your advantage: During the day, open your curtains and blinds to let in the warm sunlight. Close them at night to reduce heat loss.

We also offer free comprehensive residential energy audits and rebates to help reduce the upfront cost of installing energy-efficient equipment. Visit entergy.com/energyefficiency for more information.

Bill management resources
We offer several billing and payment options to fit your needs. Choose when, where and how you pay your utility bill with our bill management resources, which include: 
AutoPay: Avoid late fees, writing checks and paying for postage by having your bills automatically deducted from your bank account. Learn more at myentergy.com/s/autopay.

Level billing: We average bills over a rolling 12-month period, so you have a more consistent bill each month of the year. Enroll at myentergy.com/s/levelbill.

PaperFREE: Get your bill delivered directly to your email as soon as it posts. Learn more at myentergy.com/s/paperfree.

Pick-A-Date: Choose what day of the month you get billed to line up with your budget and cash flow. Learn more at myentergy.com/s/pickdate.

Understanding my bill: We redesigned the Entergy bill to help make it easier to understand. Learn more at entergy.com/bill.

Resources for customers in need
With rising energy prices and higher living costs, we understand how difficult it is right now for our customers and communities. We offer a variety of programs and resources to help serve our customers in need, such as:

Payment extension: Qualifying customers who need a few extra days to pay their bill can request an extension through myEntergy or by calling 1-800-ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749) and following our automated response system menu.

The Power to Care: Through a network of nonprofit agencies, The Power to Care helps pay utility bills of those facing extreme temperatures with no way to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Learn more at myentergy.com/s/powertocare.

Deferred payment: Talk with us about your situation and we may be able to make deferred payment arrangements. Request a deferred payment arrangement through myEntergy or by calling 1-800-ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749) and following our automated response system menu.

Customers who are behind on bill payments should contact Entergy through myEntergy or by phone at 1-800 ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749) to make payment arrangements and prevent disconnection. The Entergy app is also available for Android and iPhone operating systems at entergy.com/app and can be used for your convenience to pay bills, monitor your usage and more.
 

MARTIN TO BEGIN “WE, THE PEOPLE” LISTENING TOUR IN 7TH AND 13TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COUNTIES
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS, January 5, 2024—Jay Martin, Candidate for Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court will begin his tour of every courthouse in the State on Monday, January 8, 2024, and will visit the following courthouses:  Grant, Cleveland, Dallas, Calhoun, Union, Ouachita and Hot Spring Counties.  The tentative schedule follows:  Grant County, 8:30a.m.; Cleveland County, 9:45a.m.;  Dallas County, 10:45a.m.; Calhoun County, 11:30a.m.; Union County, 12:20p.m.; Ouachita County, 3:20p.m.; and Hot Spring County, 5:00p.m.  Martin stated:  “I am running as an outsider to the Court, and I want to make the Judicial Branch more accessible to all Arkansans.”  When asked why he was doing the tour, Martin stated:  “I am very concerned about our State and the Nation.  I am running to protect the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and I couldn’t think of a better thing to do than to go to every county courthouse in the State, meet Arkansans, read portions of the Constitution publicly and pray for our State and Nation.”  Martin stated that he also hopes to visit with local media and newspapers, and to end each meeting with a press conference.  Martin stated that he wants to welcome Arkansans to join him at the Courthouse at the times listed above, to meet folks, shake hands and celebrate the freedom to publicly assemble, pray and read the Constitution.  “I really hope to hear from regular Arkansans on this tour—to hear from them about their concerns with the judiciary, and take away ideas for making our courts better.”  Martin is concerned about courthouse safety also, and the resources rural counties have for judges to assist them in their day-to-day tasks.  “While I have visited nearly every county courthouse in the State as a practicing attorney, I want to go back and see the courthouses for myself, as hopefully the future Chief Justice—we must make sure our courthouses are safe and that our judges have the resources they need to do their job.  The best way to do that is to hear from them and to see for myself.”  Martin said he will also have informational cards at these events, as well as yard signs.  “I really couldn’t wait until we could launch this tour—I am so excited about the prospect of listening to the boss, ‘We, the People,’ and celebrating our Constitution together.  I want to be the Chief Constitutional Defender.” 


BOOZMAN, WOMACK WELCOME ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORT CHAFFEE
Fort Smith, AR – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and Congressman Steve Womack (R-AR-03) welcomed Gen. Randy George, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, to Arkansas to highlight the training capabilities and capacity found at Fort Chaffee that significantly enhance the Army’s mission readiness.

“Arkansas has always been a proud supporter of our military. We know the critical role Fort Chaffee plays in our nation’s defense and we’re continuing to ensure it is one of the best places in the country for service members to train. I’m pleased General George understands the need to maintain such a valuable asset and appreciated the opportunity to see its unique strengths on full display,” Boozman said. 

“Fort Chaffee is a top-tier training location with many unique capabilities that distinguish it as a premier Guard installation. It was an honor to show what Fort Chaffee has to offer to General George, who personally understands the important role Arkansas’s Third plays in our national security and strengthening our military forces,” Womack said.

“The Joint Maneuver Training Center at Fort Chaffee is a vital component to the readiness of the Total Army, and allows our National Guard units to focus on their warfighting mission. I am proud of the Arkansas National Guard and grateful for the continued support of the Arkansas community and delegation,” said Gen. George. 

Fort Chaffee recently earned Level 1 classification from the Department of Defense as one of five top National Guard training sites nationwide.

Boozman and Womack have been longtime advocates of investing in the training site, having successfully secured funding for improvements to Razorback Range, a new National Guard Readiness Center and a range expansion to enhance simulation exercises.

January 05, 2023

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen will meet in regular session on Tuesday, January 09,2024  in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.

The agenda is as follows:

A.  Call To Order
B.  Invocation – Rev. Gwen Edwards, Pastor - Set Free Christian Ministries, 221 Monroe Avenue NE Camden, AR
C. Pledge Of Allegiance
D. Roll Call
E. Approval Of Minutes
     1. Minutes of Regular Meeting, December 12, 2024
F. Acceptance Of Financial Report
     1. Financial Report for December 2023
G.  Audience Participation
H.  Mayor’s Report    
I.  Old Business         
     1. Ordinance No. 13-23, an ordinance rezoning certain property located at 2289 South Adams Avenue. (Third & final Reading)
     2. Ordinance No. 14-23, an ordinance rezoning property located at 2412 Smackover Rd from  RS-2 (Single Family) to RM-2 (Multi Family District). (Third and final Reading)
     3. Ordinance No. 15-23, an ordinance providing for the accounting of the Public Safety Sales and Use Tax; and for other purposes. (Second Reading)
     4. Resolution No. 71-23, a resolution providing for and adopting for the City of Camden, Arkansas, an annual Operating Budget for the twelve months beginning January 1, 2024, and ending December 31, 2024; appropriating money for every item of expenditure therein provided for; and  for purposes.
J. New Business
     1. Resolution No. 01-24, a resolution recognizing Meetings and Procedures as set forth in the Code of Ordinances of the City of Camden and adopting other procedural rules.
     2. Resolution No. 02-24, a resolution declaring the dilapidated property located at 545 Harrison St. a public nuisance and to order the removal of the same.
     3. Resolution No. 03-24, a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contractual agreement with Camden Sportsplex Coalition, Inc. to provide youth recreation services for the City of Camden.
     4. Resolution No. 04-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of oils and lubricants for the Year     2024.
     5. Resolution No. 05-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of tires and tubes for the Year 2024.
     6. Resolution No. 06-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of batteries for the Year 2024.
     7. Resolution No. 07-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the towing regular-sized city vehicles for the Year 2024.
     8.  Resolution No. 08-24, a resolution awarding the bid for towing large-sized city vehicles for the Year 2024.
     9.  Ordinance No. 01-24, an ordinance assessing a lien on certain property located at 606 Welcome Street.
    10. Ordinance No. 02-24, an ordinance repealing Ordinance No. 30-16, assessing a lien on certain property located at 742 Union Street.
K.  Other Business
L.  Adjournment

 

STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
January 5, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – Thanks to legislation passed last year, Arkansas businesses will save about $31 million in taxes paid for unemployment insurance in 2024.

Legislative approval of Act 196 was a priority for the state’s business community, and it passed in the Senate by a vote of 29-to-3.

The act grants tax relief to businesses in a variety of ways. It lowers the unemployment insurance tax rate for new employers from 2.9 percent to 1.9 percent.

The new law also repeals the rates of 14 percent and 10 percent that used to be levied on deficit rated employers.

When the unemployment trust fund is above $600 million the taxable wage base is set at $7,000. The act limits increases to the taxable wage base to $2,000 a year.

At the end of 2023 the balance in the fund was about $918 million.

Act 196 reduces the maximum length of time for collecting benefits from 16 weeks to 12 weeks.

The act also allows revenue from assessments on businesses to be used for upgrades in technology and hardware, and for training.

The Arkansas Division of Workforce Services administers unemployment benefits. It also offers education and job training to unemployed people and helps them find work.

Another new state law that went into effect on January 1 is Act 587, which provides that people getting unemployment shall become ineligible for benefits for any week during which they do not make at least five contacts seeking new jobs.

Similarly, Act 106 disqualifies claimaints for unemployment benefits if they fail to respond to an offer of a job, or if they don’t show up for a previously scheduled job interview on at least two occasions. Act 106 took effect on January 1.

Act 854 is another new law that went into effect last October penalizes claimants who fraudulently receives more than $1,000 in unemployment insurance. They shall be ineligible for unemployment benefits for 10 years.

Election Laws
Arkansas voters go to the polls this year and numerous new election laws will be in effect. They include Act 194 of 2023, which authorizes the state Attorney General to review ballot titles and popular names of proposed amendments and initiatives. For years the Attorney General reviewed ballot titles, but in 2019 the legislature transferred that authority to the Board of Election Commissioners. Act 194 transfers it back to the way it was before 2019.

Act 766 makes it a crime to destroy signatures gathered on petitions to place an issue on the ballot.

Act 300 schedules all special elections on the same day as ordinary elections. In other words, special elections will be held on the May primary or the November general election date. In years when voters elect a president, as they will in 2024, the Arkansas primary election is in March.

Act 620 requires the state Board of Election Commissioners to conduct more frequent reviews of election-related documents and results. It also creates and Election Integrity Unit within the Attorney General’s office.

January 04, 2024

FLAGS TO FLY HALF STAFF IN TRUBUTE TO LOST DEPUTY
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has directed the United States flag and the Arkansas State flag to fly at half-staff in tribute to the memory of Stone County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Smith. Flags will fly at half-staff from sunset on January 4th, 2024 to sunset on January 6th, 2024. Stone County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Smith was killed in the line of duty on January 2nd, 2024.

 

ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS WAIVES DAY USE FEES AT RECREATION AREAS IN OBSERVANCE OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced today that it will waive day use fees at its more than 2,850 USACE-operated recreation areas nationwide in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 15.

The waiver covers fees for boat launch ramps and swimming beaches. The waiver does not apply to camping and camping-related services, or fees for specialized facilities (group picnic shelters) and events. Other agencies that manage recreation areas on USACE lands are encouraged, but not required, to offer the waiver in the areas that they manage.

Visitors are encouraged to contact USACE lake and river projects before visiting to ensure recreation areas are open. More information can be found at www.corpslakes.us.

The MLK Day fee waiver began in 2023 to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, a national leader of the 1950s-1960s Civil Rights movement who continues to inspire the pursuit of civil rights today. MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

USACE also offers other fee-free days throughout the year to mark days of celebration and commemoration, including the USACE birthday; Juneteenth National Independence Day; Veterans Day; and National Public Lands Day.

USACE is one of the leading federal providers of outdoor and water-based recreation, hosting millions of visits annually to its more than 400 lake and river projects. It’s estimated that 90 percent of the USACE-operated recreation areas are within 50 miles of metropolitan areas, offering diverse outdoor activities for all ages close to home.

To discover a USACE recreation site nearest you, please visit the USACE website at https://corpslakes.erdc.dren.mil/visitors/visitors.cfm or visit www.recreation.gov.


ARKANSAS FARM TO SCHOOL INSTITUTE ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS UNTIL MARCH 1
LITTLE ROCK, AR
– The Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department) is accepting applications for the Arkansas Farm to School Institute (Institute) until March 1, 2024. The Department’s Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program will select up to 15 schools to participate in the program for the 2024-2025 school year.

The Institute is a year-long professional development program that offers training, resources, and technical assistance to school educators, administrators, school nutrition directors, cafeteria staff, local farmers, and community partners. The program is open to schools looking to expand on existing farm to school efforts throughout the state.

Selected schools are invited to a summer retreat to create a collaborative farm to school action plan. Teams will meet throughout the year to discuss action plan progress and provide feedback to Department staff and coaches. In collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Education, selected schools will receive a $1,000 implementation grant to execute their action plans.

“The Institute provides a unique opportunity for the Department to support the growth of existing farm to school programs across the state,” said Jessica Chapman, Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator. “From the retreat to the end of the school year, we get to assist schools in the implementation of a school-wide plan that integrates all three aspects of farm to school – school gardens, education, and local procurement.”

Selected schools are also eligible to participate in the Arkansas School Garden Program, an incentive program where up to five teachers per participating school can complete a professional development course. Upon completion of the course, each teacher will receive a $1,000 grant to improve their school garden.

To learn more and apply for the Institute, visit arfarmtoschool.org/about/arkansas-farm-to-school-institute/. Contact Jessica Chapman at jessica.chapman@agriculture. arkansas.gov with questions.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the development and implementation of policies and programs for Arkansas agriculture, forestry, and natural resources to keep its farmers and ranchers competitive in national and international markets while conserving natural resources and ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of the state and nation. Visit agriculture.arkansas.gov/. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

 

CO-DIRECTORS ANNOUNCED FOR “SHREK THE MUSICAL, JR.” 
The South Arkansas Arts Center welcomes Andria Gleghorn and Cassie Hickman as co-directors of the spring 2024 Youth Theatre production of “Shrek the Musical, Jr.” Gleghorn and Hickman were last together in SAAC's 2022 Summer Musical hit, Mamma Mia as Donna and Rosie. While this is the 2nd collaboration on the SAAC stage for them, this is their 1st time to join directing forces in order to bring this hilarious, award-winning show with Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and all the other characters you know and love to life. “Shrek the Musical, Jr” is sponsored by Kiwanis Club of El Dorado and is scheduled to take the stage April 11-13. 

Cassie Hickman is an integral part of the SAAC drama department. She has worked as music director and assistant director for countless productions while working with Youth Theatre, Drama Club, and Penguin Project in addition to teaching drama and music classes for early elementary and preschool children. "Being given a chance to work with an amazing group of talented kids is always one of my greatest joys!  My desire is to help them grow and mature in skills, not just in theatre skills but in teamwork and their relationships with fellow cast mates," said Hickman.  

While this is Andria Gleghorn's debut as a director for SAAC, this is not her first time directing.  She has co-directed 13 musicals for Barton Junior High, including “Shrek the Musical, Jr” in 2018 with her colleague and friend Jeannie Strother. “I love the fun music and energy of Shrek,” said Gleghorn. “Watching students come to life as they develop their character is a joy.”  Having worked in the El Dorado public schools for 23 years, Gleghorn is currently serving as assistant principal at Barton. Outside of her career, her loves include singing and traveling, especially to New York City where she sees as many Broadway musicals as she can.       

Shrek the Musical is a one-of-a-kind, hilarious fairy tale in which curses are reversed, monsters get the girls, donkeys and dragons find love, and princesses are beautiful in all shapes and sizes. This musical is sure to entertain and make audiences believers in happy endings for all.   

Auditions will be on January 17 from 4-6pm.  Comfortable clothing is encouraged, as everyone will be taught a short dance, learn a song from the show to sing, and read from the script.  No advance preparation is necessary. Scene readings and music are available at SAAC prior to January 17 auditions.  For additional information, call the South Arkansas Arts Center at 870-862-5474. 
 

WESTERMAN INTRODUCES BIPARTISAN LAKES ACT TO EXPAND OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUTDOOR RECREATION FACILITIES
WASHINGTON - Reps. Bruce Westerman (R-AR-04), Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), and Steve Womack (R-AR-03), introduced H.R. 6906, the Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act to expand opportunities to improve and develop outdoor recreation facilities at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) managed areas.

“Outdoor recreation is among one of the top economic drivers in the U.S., especially in states like Arkansas. Because of discrepancies in current federal law, managers of some of our favorite outdoor recreation sites have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to maintain and manage the sites. The LAKES Act will correct the discrepancies, cut out the burdensome federal red tape, and make it easier for the Corps to manage their sites for generations to enjoy for years to come,” Rep. Westerman said.

“Outdoor recreation is a fundamental part of life for folks in my district, and its popularity – and the demand for increased access – is growing nationwide. Local favorites for my constituents, like Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino, provide all kinds of opportunities for outdoor fun. But local managers have to jump through countless hoops to keep these places safe and enjoyable,” said Rep. Huffman. “Our bill will guarantee the Army Corps can retain recreation fees at the sites they’re collected and it will open doors for management partnerships with tribes and local organizations so we can all care for the country’s treasured public spaces.”  

“Arkansas’ Third is home to world-class outdoor offerings, attracting tourists and residents alike to enjoy the immense beauty and participate in our endless recreational activities. However, under current federal law, local managers of recreation sites we all know and love, such as Beaver Lake and Table Rock Lake, must cut through endless bureaucratic red tape to maintain and operate these sites effectively,” said Rep. Womack. “The LAKES Act would rectify this by allowing the Army Corps to retain recreation fees collected onsite, keeping maintenance and operations decisions out of the hands of federal bureaucrats and into the hands of the local managers who know these sites best.”

Stakeholder support:
“Thank you to Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) for championing the introduction of The Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President and CEO of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “This legislation prioritizes the maintenance and upkeep of high-use recreation infrastructure and facilities enjoyed by millions of Americans. By providing the Army Corps of Engineers with the ability to reinvest recreation fees into the operations and maintenance of recreation access points, the LAKES Act helps support the outdoor recreation economy, which contributes more than $1 trillion to our country’s economy and represents a significant pastime for millions of Americans.”

Background:
Under current law, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recreation facilities cannot retain recreation fee revenues collected onsite, an authority afforded to the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service.

The Challenge Cost Sharing Cooperative Management Program was created for participating agencies to split operation and management expenses with outside groups. However, despite interest from private and nonprofit organizations, USACE is limited to partnering with non-federal public entities.

The USACE is one of the nation’s largest federal outdoor recreation providers, managing nearly 257,000 facilities across 43 states.

U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Alex Padilla (D-CA), John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Steve Daines (R-MT) are cosponsors of the Senate companion LAKES Act.

The LAKES Act would: 

Allow USACE to retain 80% of recreation fees collected onsite for operation and management expenses at that location.

Amend the Challenge Cost Sharing Cooperative Management Agreement authority to enable nonprofit entities to enter into cooperative agreements to operate and maintain recreation facilities under USACE jurisdiction.

Keep resources and decision-making related to the operation and maintenance of recreation facilities under USACE jurisdiction in the hands of local managers rather than federal officials.

January 03, 2024

OUACHITA COUNTY QUORUM COURT TACKLES FISCAL MATTERS AND MEETING SCHEDULES IN FIRST 2024 ASSEMBLY
The Ouachita County Quorum Court kicked off the new year on January 2, 2024, delving into critical financial issues and setting the stage for future meeting arrangements. Unanimous decisions marked the session, starting with the approval of an ordinance aimed at enhancing the Bragg Lake Recreation Area. The allocated funds, secured from a Rural Development grant, are intended for the improvement of picnic facilities and repairs to the lake's boat ramp. County Judge Robert McAdoo provided insights into the plans while addressing concerns raised by Justice Dale Vaughn regarding the urgency of boat ramp repairs before the fishing season commences.

Additionally, the Court unanimously passed another ordinance, funneling $5,000 from a state grant into the adult drug court fund within the circuit court budget.

Simultaneously, a separate appropriation ordinance authorized the allocation of $3,023 from the Retirement Bonus Fund to commemorate an employee's retirement after a decade and change of service.

Notably, a financial amendment to Ordinance 2022-033 (2023 Operating Budget) was proposed, directing a substantial sum of $503,817.04 to manage outstanding bills and budgetary adjustments. Judge McAdoo stressed the need for improved fiscal management to avoid similar financial challenges in the future.

A key administrative decision emerged as the Court swiftly established a monthly meeting schedule to be held at 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, except for August, at the Ouachita County Detention Complex. The decision accommodated exceptions in August to a second-week meeting due to potential holiday or election conflicts.

Addressing concerns beyond fiscal matters, Judge McAdoo drew attention to the financial strains faced by hospitals, particularly in reduced Medicare reimbursements. Diane Issaks, representing Ouachita County Medical Center (OCMC), echoed these concerns, highlighting the impact on community healthcare sustainability. Issaks urged active involvement from the Court in mitigating these challenges for the betterment of local healthcare services

 The meeting concluded with a focus on financial allocations and future meeting plans, underlining the necessity of considering the financial health of local hospitals for the broader benefit of community healthcare.
 

ARKANSAS INCOME TAX CUT
On January first, Arkansas' top individual income tax rate drops from four-point-seven percent to four-point-four percent and its top corporate income tax rate will fall from five-point-one percent to four-point-eight percent. With an effective date of Monday, January first for the reduction of the state's top individual income tax rate to four-point-four percent, payroll withholding tables will be updated in January. As employers implement the withholding changes, taxpayers will see the impact in their paychecks. The benefit of the lower rate will continue in 2025 when taxpayers file returns for the 2024 tax year. 

Supporters of the income tax cuts say they will put more money in Arkansans' pocketbooks and make the state's income tax rates more competitive with surrounding states to help the state recruit and retain private industry and jobs. Governor Sarah Sanders Huckabee said in an interview with (INSERT STATION CALL LETTERS) that she is working to responsibly phase out Arkansas' personal income tax entirely:"

"Governor Sanders and the Legislature could be cutting income taxes again in the fiscal session that begins April 10th, or during a special session either before or after the fiscal session. In the fiscal session, a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate is required to introduce a non-appropriation bill."


46TH ANNUAL MARCH FOR LIFE SET FOR JAN. 21, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – The 46th Annual March for Life is set for 2 p.m., Jan. 21, 2024, along Capitol Avenue to the front of the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol.

This observance is a peaceful and prayerful event that attracts thousands of Arkansans from across the state including churches and families to remember the estimated 60-plus million unborn children killed by legal abortion.

The event, sponsored by Arkansas Right to Life (ARTL), will remember the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States on January 22, 1973.

“We will never forget the thousands of unborn babies in Arkansas and the millions nationwide who were killed by abortion as a result of Roe v. Wade,” said Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life. “Even with the overturning of that tragic court decision, our work to defend and protect pregnant mothers and their unborn children is as fierce as ever.” 

Staging for the march begins at 1:30 p.m. at State Street. At 2 p.m., ARTL President Wayne Mays will lead the marchers along with elected officials, invited dignitaries, and other special guests to the steps of the State Capitol for a brief program. For more information on the 2024 March for Life event visit artl.org/march-for-life.

Arkansas Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization, is an affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee, the leading voice of the voiceless dedicated to protecting all human beings threatened by abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.

 

STONE COUNTY DEPUTY KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY
January 2, 2024
Mountain View (Ark.) -- A Stone County Sheriff’s Deputy was shot and killed while on duty at approximately 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 2, 2024. A suspect is in custody.

Stone County Sheriff Brandon Long asked the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division to conduct an investigation and for the Arkansas Department of Public Safety to field media inquiries.

No additional information will be released at this time, but a press conference will be scheduled in Mountain View as soon as possible.

Sheriff Long has asked that prayers be lifted for family, friends and colleagues of the fallen officer.

“We ask that members of the media please give Sheriff Long and the Stone County community the time and space they need to process this devastating moment,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “Information will be released as it becomes available. Until then, let us all give the Stone County Sheriff’s Office our steadfast support.”

 

STONE COUNTY DEPUTY KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY IDENTIFIED
January 3, 2024
Mountain View (Ark.) — On Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024, at approximately 4 p.m. Stone County Deputy Justin Smith was fatally wounded while attempting to serve suspect Clinton Hefton, 52, with a misdemeanor Terroristic Threatening warrant at a home in the 300 block of Sawmill Road.

The Criminal Investigation Division of the Arkansas State Police (ASP) is investigating the incident. While the investigation is in its preliminary stage, early evidence indicates that Hefton resisted arrest and fired on Deputy Smith, who was found mortally wounded by officers who responded to reports of shots fired.

Officers responding to the home, located about 5 miles north of Mountain View, took Hefton into custody after a brief standoff.

Hefton is being held at the Cleburne County Detention Center with charges pending.

ASP will release information as it becomes available.

“At this time, we ask that everyone pray for Deputy Smith’s family and all of his law enforcement brothers and sisters,” said Stone County Sheriff Brandon Long.

Details of Deputy Smith’s memorial arrangements will be released upon completion. The public is invited to visit a temporary tribute to Deputy Smith in the Mountain View courthouse square.

A procession departed the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory on Natural Resources Drive in Little Rock at 1 p.m. and proceeded to Mountain View.
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ISSUES STATEMENT ON FALLEN STONE COUNTY DEPUTY JUSTIN SMITH
Griffin: ‘Deputy Smith paid the ultimate price while selflessly serving his community’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement following the death of Stone County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Smith on Tuesday:

“The death of Deputy Smith is a stark and heartbreaking reminder of the risk involved with serving as a law enforcement officer. At the time of his murder, Deputy Smith was serving a misdemeanor warrant, a fundamental responsibility of policing. This tragedy demonstrates that danger is ever present for those who wear the badge. Deputy Smith paid the ultimate price while selflessly serving his community. I am grateful for and proud of the men and women who protect us every day and put themselves in harm’s way to preserve a peaceful society. My prayers are with Deputy Smith’s family and friends, the men and women of the Stone County Sheriff’s Office, and the residents of north-central Arkansas.

“I traveled to Stone County this morning to meet with Sheriff Brandon Long, his team, Secretary Mike Hagar, and Senator Missy Irvin, offering them my sincere sympathy and support. I will do everything I can to support the Stone County Sheriff’s Office in the coming days and weeks as they deal with this tragedy.”

Deputy Smith was shot and killed in the line of duty around 4 p.m. Tuesday, January 2. He was a 12-year veteran of the Stone County Sheriff’s Office and was serving a warrant on a suspect when he was killed. The Criminal Investigation Division of the Arkansas State Police is investigating the incident. While the investigation is in its preliminary stage, early evidence indicates that the suspect, Clinton Hefton, resisted arrest and fired on Deputy Smith, who was found mortally wounded by officers who responded to reports of shots fired. Hefton is being held at the Cleburne County Detention Center with charges pending.
 

CID INVESTIGATING OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING OF HOT SPRINGS MAN
Monday, January 1, 2024
ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division is investigating an officer-involved shooting fatality that occurred at approximately 2 p.m. on Monday, January 1, 2024. A 35-year-old Hot Springs man died after leading law enforcement on a high-speed pursuit from Benton to Little Rock.  

An ASP Trooper ended the pursuit by employing a tactical vehicle intervention on Interstate 30 near the University Avenue exit. The suspect fired on law enforcement officers, who returned fire, striking the suspect. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The suspect was wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service and was driving a vehicle with fictitious plates. 
The pursuit began in Benton. ASP Troopers and Benton Police officers involved in the incident were not injured.

An investigative case file will be presented to the prosecuting attorney, who will determine whether the use of deadly force was consistent with Arkansas law.
Wednesday, January 3, 2024
Arkansas State Police has named Aaron T. Watson, 35, of Hot Springs as the suspect killed in an officer-involved shooting that occurred the afternoon of Monday, January 1, 2024.

ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division is investigating the incident. Watson died after leading law enforcement on a high-speed pursuit from Benton to Little Rock.  

At approximately 2:04 p.m., the Saline County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) notified ASP that they were in pursuit of a white 1996 BMW driven by Watson, traveling on the Interstate 30 service road near the 128-mile marker in Benton.  

An ASP Trooper ended the pursuit by employing a tactical vehicle intervention maneuver on Interstate 30 near the University Avenue exit. Watson fired on law enforcement officers, who returned fire, striking the suspect. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

ASP Troopers and Benton Police officers involved in the incident were not injured.

 

BOONE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE ASKS ASP TO INVESTIGATE OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING OF A MAINE HOMICIDE SUSPECT 
December 31, 2023
On Sunday, December 31, 2023, at approximately 12:58 a.m., Boone County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) requested Arkansas State Police (ASP) assist with an officer-involved shooting in Bellefonte. 

Flippin Police officers responded earlier to a suspicious vehicle call, where they found 20-year-old Spridal P. Hubiak of Waterville, Maine, asleep in his car. After identifying Hubiak, who goes by the nickname “Spiral,” police were advised that he was wanted in Maine for a homicide that had occurred approximately three days prior. Police attempted to arrest Hubiak, who fled the scene.

Hubiak was an employee of Damon’s Beverage in Waterville, where an employee was found dead early December 27, 2023, according to a release issued by the Maine Department of Public Safety. The victim’s identity is being withheld by police.

During Sunday’s pursuit, ASP and Harrison Police deployed spike strips 1 mile east of the intersection of Highway 62 and Highway 65. Hubiak turned south on Highway 65 and then turned into the parking lot of the White Oak Gas Station in Bellefonte, where the vehicle crashed. Witnesses say Hubiak exited his vehicle with an AR-style rifle in hand. 

A Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy fired at Hubiak, striking him multiple times. No officers were injured. Hubiak was provided medical aid by officers on the scene before being transported to North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison and was later transferred to Cox South Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Hubiak, who is expected to survive, is in the custody of the Greene County (Missouri) Sheriff’s Office while hospitalized. 

Special Agents with ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division have secured the Bellefonte scene and Hubiak’s vehicle. An investigative case file will be presented to the prosecuting attorney, who will determine whether the officer’s use of deadly force was consistent with Arkansas law. 

ASP ACTION BRIEFS
12/29/2023 – 1/1/2024
January 2, 2024
SUSPECT ARRESTED AFTER NEW YEAR’S PURSUIT
On Monday, January 1, 2024, an ASP Trooper initiated a pursuit on Highway 69 near the Independence and Jackson County line after witnessing a vehicle traveling more than 90 miles per hour.

The driver of the vehicle refused to pull over and fled from the Trooper, traveling north into Moorefield, reaching speeds of approximately 130 mph.

The suspect failed to stop after tactical vehicle intervention maneuvers were performed, damaging multiple ASP units. A Trooper was transported to the White River Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries.

Forced off the roadway in Independence County, the suspect fled on foot into a wooded area.

Tracking dogs from Arkansas Department of Corrections North Central Unit assisted and the suspect was taken into custody.

Cortland Rounds, 32, was transported to the Independence County Detention Center, and will be charged accordingly.

LITTLE ROCK MAN CHARGED WITH FLEEING, RECKLESS DRIVING
An ASP Trooper initiated a pursuit on Sunday, December 31, 2023, at approximately 1:15 a.m., after witnessing multiple vehicles doing donuts at the Colonel Glenn Road and David O’Dodd Road intersection in Little Rock.

A suspect fled on Colonel Glenn Road before traveling south on University Avenue, where he proceeded to drive into oncoming traffic with no headlights. During the pursuit, the driver reached speeds of approximately 130 miles per hour.

As the driver approached the University Avenue and Chicot Road intersection, the Trooper performed a tactical vehicle intervention to end the pursuit. Deshon Slay, 20, was taken into custody after being medically evaluated, and transported to the Pulaski County Detention Center. Slay was charged with Fleeing, Reckless Driving, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Speeding More than 15 mph Over Limit, and Failure to Display Proper Light for Vehicle.

Illegal Marijuana and Firearms Confiscated After Pursuit in Cross County Leads to Arrests

ASP Troopers assisted the Cross County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and the Wynne Police Department (WPD) in a pursuit on Saturday, December 30, 2023, which led to the seizure of 30 grams of illegal, black-market marijuana and two firearms.

At approximately 11:30 p.m., ASP received a call that a vehicle was fleeing from CCSO on Highway 1 near Vanndale, reaching speeds of approximately 120 miles per hour. The vehicle continued to travel southbound through Wynne, making its way to Colt, where Troopers were able to intercept it.

A Trooper performed a tactical vehicle intervention maneuver to stop the suspect’s vehicle on Highway 1. Passenger Jamarcus Barber, 19, fled on foot, was apprehended and taken into custody by the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Office on a previous felony warrant and for fleeing.

Driver Dominique Sinclair, 19, was also transported to the St. Francis County Detention Center and charged with Fleeing, Reckless Driving, Driving on a Suspended Driver’s License, and Possession of a Controlled Substance.

A juvenile female passenger was released from custody without charges.

WEST MEMPHIS PURSUIT ENDS IN THE RECOVERY OF A STOLEN VEHICLE AND FIREARM ALONG WITH SEIZURE OF NARCOTICS
On Saturday, December 30, 2023, the West Memphis Police Department (WMPD) notified ASP that they were in a pursuit of a suspect in a stolen vehicle.

ASP Troopers were able to intercept the suspect on Interstate 40 East near the 283-mile marker and perform a tactical vehicle intervention to end the pursuit. The suspect’s vehicle collided with a civilian vehicle that had slowed down, attempting to pull over.

No one was seriously injured.

Latrevious Washington, 23, and a juvenile were transported to the Crittenden County Detention Center, while another juvenile was taken to the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

The stolen Dodge Charger driven by the suspect had been involved in another pursuit with ASP on December 19, 2023. ASP seized illegal narcotics and a stolen firearm from the vehicle.

WEST MEMPHIS PURSUIT ENDS IN THE RECOVERY OF A STOLEN VEHICLE AND FIREARM ALONG WITH SEIZURE OF NARCOTICS
On Saturday, December 30, 2023, the West Memphis Police Department (WMPD) notified ASP that they were in a pursuit of a suspect in a stolen vehicle.

ASP Troopers were able to intercept the suspect on Interstate 40 East near the 283-mile marker and perform a tactical vehicle intervention to end the pursuit. The suspect’s vehicle collided with a civilian vehicle that had slowed down, attempting to pull over.

No one was seriously injured.

Latrevious Washington, 23, and a juvenile were transported to the Crittenden County Detention Center, while another juvenile was taken to the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

The stolen Dodge Charger driven by the suspect had been involved in another pursuit with ASP on December 19, 2023. ASP seized illegal narcotics and a stolen firearm from the vehicle.

WEST MEMPHIS PURSUIT ENDS IN THE RECOVERY OF A STOLEN VEHICLE AND FIREARM ALONG WITH SEIZURE OF NARCOTICS
On Saturday, December 30, 2023, the West Memphis Police Department (WMPD) notified ASP that they were in a pursuit of a suspect in a stolen vehicle.

ASP Troopers were able to intercept the suspect on Interstate 40 East near the 283-mile marker and perform a tactical vehicle intervention to end the pursuit. The suspect’s vehicle collided with a civilian vehicle that had slowed down, attempting to pull over.

No one was seriously injured.

Latrevious Washington, 23, and a juvenile were transported to the Crittenden County Detention Center, while another juvenile was taken to the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

The stolen Dodge Charger driven by the suspect had been involved in another pursuit with ASP on December 19, 2023. ASP seized illegal narcotics and a stolen firearm from the vehicle.


SAAC TO OFFER CORKS AND CANVAS WORKSHOP WITH ARTIST CHRIS STONE  
Migrate on over to the South Arkansas Arts Center for January’s Corks and Canvas class! On Thursday, January 18 from 6-9pm, local artist Chris Stone will lead participants in painting a robin on a snow-dusted branch. This will be a fun-filled night of painting that is designed for people who have always wanted to try their hand at art and also have some fun along the way.  

Stone has selected an 11x14 acrylic paint project called “Robin in Snow.” Stone likes to select birds as her subject matter and says, “Birds are the most colorful and expressive animals to me. I always notice the songbirds this time of year, and wonder if they are as ready for spring as I am. They're such small creatures that bring BIG joy to the otherwise quiet garden.”

No experience is needed in order to participate in Corks and Canvas. Come enjoy a time of relaxation with your friends recreating the featured painting of the night. Paints, brushes, and all the supplies are provided, and SAAC will also be providing snacks.  Participants are welcome to bring their own drink of choice.

Get ready to have a fun night with friends. You can register for the workshop on SAAC’s website, www.saac-arts.org or call the office at 870-862-5474.  Limit of 15 participants. The workshop fee is $40.

SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

CID INVESTIGATING CONWAY OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING
November 20, 2023
A 78-year-old Conway man died as a result of injuries he sustained in an officer-involved shooting that occurred the morning of Monday, November 20, 2023.

Conway Police Department (CPD) asked ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division to investigate the incident.

When CPD approached an Old Morrilton Highway residence with a search warrant at approximately 9:15 a.m., Allen Seibert, 78, of Conway came to the door holding a firearm. During the encounter, a Conway officer fired his service weapon.

Seibert was transported to Conway Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:46 a.m.

The deceased was transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, where manner and cause of death will be determined. The investigation is ongoing.

An investigative case file will be presented to the prosecuting attorney, who will determine whether the use of deadly force by officers was consistent with Arkansas law.


NEW PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT TO COMBAT FLEEING FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT
Arkansas State Police rolled out a new public service announcement today in time for the holiday travel season, urging motorists who see blue lights in their rearview mirror to "Be smart. Pull over."

Fleeing from police is a selfish act that puts innocent motorists at risk and has grave consequences, ASP Colonel Mike Hagar has stressed.

"ASP Troopers will always put the safety of innocent civilians first," Col. Hagar said. "Our Troopers will not look the other way any more than they would during an active-shooter situation. We won't just follow someone and engage in a high speed parade, and hope that person is not going to hit an innocent bystander or innocent civilians on the road. Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a plan."

Those who flee from police are also now committing a felony offense, pursuant to Act 734, which makes it a Class D Felony to exceed the posted speed limit while alluding law enforcement.  

"Fleeing from law enforcement is a selfish act. And in Arkansas, it's a felony. A felony charge is something that no one wants on their record," Col. Hagar said. "It is just absolutely not worth it."


THE SAFE SCARE
Halloween is far behind us, but one element of the holiday sticks with us year-round: the enjoyment of the safe scare. Roller coasters. Scary movies. Bungee jumping. Why do we like the things that scare us? One researcher at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Brittany Schrick, believes she has it figured out. Schrick says, at the bottom of it all, is biology .

Endorphins are hormones that can give us a sense of well-being. That rush of fear followed by a sense of relief has social effects as well, Schrick said.

However, the tolerance for “fun fear” isn’t the same for everyone. Schrick said that some people seem to have a higher threshold for risk taking than others, and it often shows up at an early age. They are the ones likely to look for thrilling activities because they like how they feel being on the edge of safety. And, interestingly, the fun of the “safe scare” often starts with infants.

So why not be scared sometimes when we know everything will end up OK?