Leader Blues

Saturday, December 29, 2007

TOP STORY >>Looking back on 2007

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

One of the top stories of 2006 was the arrest of Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, his wife Kelly, and others on a multitude of drug and sex charges. Their trial and ultimate sentencing makes this year’s Top Ten list.

Also among the top local stories of 2007 is the mayor’s seat of Sherwood, which has had three different people sitting in it this year. But while the leadership for the city was up for grabs for a chunk of the year, Sherwood also managed to cause controversy over its willingness to spend millions of taxpayer’s dollars to buy and operate the North Hills Country Club while stopping any other development of the land.

Jacksonville spent most of 2007 in a fighting mode. Fighting to get a new school district, fighting to annex Gravel Ridge, fighting to stop Sherwood from getting 2,000 acres of land near the air base and fighting to improve its image and bring more people to the city through a two-cent hamburger tax.

For Cabot, the year-long story was mostly about school growth, school growth and more school growth.

These are the Top Ten stories of 2007 taken from hundreds of pages of The Leader throughout the year and selected by staff members.


The Campbells

Jay Campbell, the former Lonoke police chief, was sentenced to 315 years in prison on 23 charges, and his wife Kelly received 304 years on 26 counts. The sentence came after long trial that included sordid sex details, threats and even testimony by a self-professed hit man.

Because the jury recommended all the sentences run concurrently, Campbell’s actual sentence worked out to 40 years with a chance of parole after 10 years. Kelly Campbell’s sentence work-ed out to 20 years. She can get out after three years and four months.

Campbell was sentenced to 40 years as the kingpin of a continuing criminal enterprise, 30 years for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, 20 years for each of six counts of residential burglary, 10 years for each of seven counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and various other drug or theft related charges.

Kelly Campbell was sentenced to 20 years of each of nine residential burglaries, 10 years for each of nine charges of obtaining a controlled substance by theft and various other charges.

Campbell was initially sent to the correction department’s Diagnostic Unit at Pine Bluff, while his wife Kelly was transported to the McPherson Unit, a women’s prison, at Newport to begin her 20-year sentence. Campbell was later moved to an out-of-state facility for his safety.

Prison spokesman Dina Tyler said she didn’t remember having another former police chief in the prison population, but “It won’t be the first lawman we’ve had.”

Kelly Campbell’s lawyer, Mark Hampton, filed a motion for a directed verdict of not guilty and has asked for a new trial, but Kelly will remain in jail until the appeals are ruled on.

The prosecutors drew a picture of the Campbells as a team that preyed on friends, fellow church members and people in ill health or recovering from surgery. Jay Campbell, a charming and likable man by all accounts, would routinely visit with them while his wife rummaged through kitchen or bathroom cabinets for prescription narcotics.

Charles McLemore, the State Police investigator who compiled most of the information that led to the Campbells’ arrests, called it the worst abuse by a lawman in his 12 years as a lawman.

Bail bondsman Bobby Junior Cox, accused of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, participating in an ongoing criminal enterprise and intimidating a witness, and bail bondsman Larry Norwood, charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, are still awaiting trial.

Ron (Bear) Tyler, a prosecution witness, testified in the absence of the jury that Cox had solicited him to kill the prosecutor and a witness, and that Norwood was involved as well, but so far no additional charges related to that solicitation have been filed against the bail bondsmen.

Former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett, arrested in the same net as the Campbells and others, and charged with misdemeanor theft of services for having Act 309 jail trustees hang his Christmas lights and work on a faulty air conditioner, pled “no contest” in November and Circuit Judge John Cole fined him $300, charged $150 in court costs and sentenced him to one year unsupervised probation.

Thus ended the saga of a local official whose bad judgment made him a footnote in the sprawling, lurid prosecution featuring the police chief, his wife, a jailer and two bail bondsmen on a bevy of conspiracy, theft and drug charges that made made national news.

The former Lonoke mayor never denied that he had two state work-release inmates hang his Christmas decorations or fix his air conditioner. Privett said he paid the two inmates a small stipend and thought the work fell under the types of things they could do to earn spending money.

“I’m pleased that this case is finally resolved and look forward to the trial of the two remaining defendants, (Bobby Junior) Cox and (Larry) Norwood,” said Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain after the Privett trial. “It will only be then that the citizens of the city of Lonoke will have closure.” The two bondsmen are set for trial in 2008.

Former police dispatcher Amy Staley, charged with having sex with an inmate, was found not guilty.


Sherwood golf course

To buy or not buy the closed North Hills Country Club was one question Sherwood has wrestled with most of the year. The other question was whether or not to let anyone else buy it and develop it.

The issue first appeared in The Leader’s pages in March and has continued to be a news item right through December.

According to James Rodgers, his company, Club Properties, which owns the 106-acre golf course, had come to the city numerous times suggesting the city buy the property. “It wasn’t until we had a buyer for it that the city became interested,” he said.

That buyer was a development group led by businessman Ray Campbell. The group wanted to buy the acreage for $5.1 million and turn it into a high-end 200-home subdivision.

Arkansas National Bank had plans to close the financing on the sale in mid-April, but the council approved a six-month building moratorium the property that scuttled the Campbell purchase.

The owners of the property have taken the city to court over the moratorium. A court date has been set for early 2008.
Water was turned off in May and the greens quickly died as the city continue to debate whether to buy the property or not.

Attorney Tim Grooms, who specializes in land acquisitions for cities, suggested that the city condemn the property, which it could do, but the city would still have to pay a fair market price for the land and that turned out to be the sticking issue. A feasibility study suggested the city could manage the golf course if it bought the land for $1.5 million. A feasibility study showed the acreage to be worth well over $2 million. The county tax office had the property appraised at more than $3 million and the owners had a legitimate offer of $5.1 million for the land.

Dan Stedman, the mayor in March, wanted to be careful and not throw the city’s money down a black hole. A month later, the interim mayor, former Mayor Bill Harmon, wanted the city to purchase the property, period. Then the new mayor, Virginia Hillman, wanted the city to purchase it, if the price was reasonable and was what the residents wanted.

City Engineer Mike Clayton said the sewer collection system in the area was not designed for heavy residential use and would have to be rebuilt, and along with other necessary infrastructure improvements, any residential development would cost the city about $2 million.

In September, just as the building moratorium was expiring, the Sherwood City Council voted to allow the city attorney to start negotiations with the owners of North Hills to buy the property.

At the meeting, Hillman said Sherwood didn’t have the money, but Alderman Becki Vassar said the city could put its hands on $5 million right away if it needed to or wanted to for the purchase of the 106-acre golf course and related facilities.

Vassar said the city had about $1.4 million in savings, more than $2 million in a certificate of deposit and another $1.5 million in a cash trust. “That’s $5 million right now we can get our hands on,” she said.

Although the city attorney and property owners talked, there was a deep chasm in the price that has yet to be bridged.
In December, another set of plans to turn the 106 acres into a mix of residential homes and commercial property was submitted to the Sherwood Planning Commission.

Rodgers’ company, which owns the acreage, has asked that 14 acres of highway frontage be rezoned to C-3 for commercial development and the remaining 92 acres be approved for single-family homes. The rezoning should be on the planning commission’s agenda for its January meeting.

“We needed to do something,” Rodgers explained, “rather than just sit here.”

In late December he said there were no active talks with the city about purchasing the property.


Annexation battles

Two areas to the west of Jacksonville and north of Sherwood are items of contention between the two cities. Sherwood drew first blood in 2006 taking in 2,000 acres of undeveloped land that Jacksonville had wanted and had slowly been improving its western infrastructure to prepare to annex in the future.

Then in November, partially to prevent Sherwood from advancing on it and partially because Jacksonville had its eye on it for a long time, the city set up an election to annex the rural community of Gravel Ridge.

Less than a month later, Sherwood countered with its own annexation election. Jacksonville will vote to bring the property in on Feb. 5 and Sherwood will vote on March 11. If both elections end up in yes votes, then Gravel Ridge will have a separate vote to decide whether the community will go into Sherwood or Jacksonville.

In 2006, the four owners of the 2,000 acres of land to the north of Sherwood and south of the air base acreage – Greg Heslep, Byron McKimmey, Metropolitan Realty and Lilac LLC – asked that their land be a part of Sherwood. Sherwood accepted the request, but Jacksonville objected.

The issue went before County Judge Buddy Villines who ruled in favor of Sherwood in August 2006. Jacksonville appealed and the case went before Circuit Court Judge Collins Kilgore. In late May, Kilgore also ruled in favor of Sherwood.

In circuit court, the land owners testified that they felt Sherwood was the better deal for them and that their land would be more valuable as part of Sherwood as opposed to being part of Jacksonville.

Villines said in his 2006 order said that the only reason Sherwood could refuse the annexation was if it were “unable to provide services to the annexed area.”

“Don’t worry,” said Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon, “we’ll provide service,” adding that Sherwood has about $2 million saved up to help provide water and other utilities to the area.

Jacksonville has since appealed the annexation decision to the state Supreme Court where it should be decided earlier this year.

Despite the appeal to the Supreme Court, Sherwood officially annexed the acreage in June.

“Of course right now it’s unpopulated, but it won’t be long before it’s full of new residents,” said Harmon.

Jacksonville aldermen voted unanimously in late November to bring in about 2,500 acres west of the city, which includes most of Gravel Ridge.

City Administrator Jay Whisker added that “there’s a lot of tax revenue out there that would be good for the city. I-440 will also be going through there with a planned interchange.”

Whisker said the general area sought for annexation runs from the western city limits to west of Highway 107, south of Kellogg Creek and north to Bayou Meto.

But because the city is initiating the annexation, a special election must be held for the voters in the affected area and city residents.

The ordinance setting the election states the annexation is necessary “for the orderly and continued growth of the city.”

Sherwood Alderman Becki Vassar pointed out the annexation into Sherwood is in the “best interest of the city.”

Former Sherwood Alderman Tom Brooks even offered to head a committee of citizens to raise funds to walk door-to-door through Gravel Ridge garnering support for that community to become part of Sherwood. He even volunteered to contribute $1,000 to the cause.


Who’s the mayor?

Sherwood went through two mayors this year before settling on a third one to see them through the next three-plus years.
Alderman Danny Stedman, elected by a 60 percent margin over businessman Mike Presson in the November 2006 election started the year as the mayor, but he ran into a brick-wall council that refused to give him the reins and heart trouble that forced him to step down in early April.

The council quickly appointed former Mayor Bill Harmon, who had opted to retire rather than run again, as the interim mayor while an election was set for a more permanent replacement.

Harmon was one of five residents who filed for the position. The others were Air Force retiree Victor Sierra, Arkansas Department of Labor employee Doris Anderson, Army Corps of Engineers employee Richard Devine and City Clerk Virginia Hillman.

Hillman was the top vote-getter in the July 10 election, besting interim Mayor Harmon by 10 votes, but neither was able to get 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.

The runoff election was set for July 31.

In the July 31 election, Hillman beat Harmon by 1,285 votes to become Sherwood’s new mayor.


New school district

Jacksonville continued its efforts throughout the year to try to break away from the Pulaski County Special School District to form its own. City aldermen made it clear numerous times that one of the biggest pluses for the city would be to have its own school district and not be the stepchild of the PCSSD.

Even the base commander told area residents that the city and the base would be better off with its own school district. In all, four local groups are either working toward a separate school district or working hard to get the PCSSD to make improvements to Jacksonville area schools.

The state Legislature early in the year, with a push by Rep. Will Bond, passed a law allowing the formation of a north Pulaski County school district, but the legislation has been tied up in federal court. The law allowed for a feasibility study on the viability of such a district and which the study found would be self-supporting.

The new law does not create a stand-alone Jacksonville-area school district, but it makes one possible.

“The law is an attempt to move the desegregation case along until all three districts are declared unitary,” Bond said. The Little Rock district was declared unitary – sufficiently desegregated – and released from the agreement earlier this month.
Federal Judge Bill Wilson cited failure of the districts to achieve unitary status in his decision to disallow a vote on the issue of a stand-alone Jacksonville-area school district about three years ago.

“There hasn’t been any incentive or stick in the past to move toward unitary status and save on funding,” said Bond.
“Hopefully, this will do it,” Bond said. “But I don’t want to over-promise.”

The law includes language that allows, but does not mandate, creation of an additional school district and it also prohibits dissolution of the Pulaski County Special School District.

Then in June, now-Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, the commander of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, said he wanted an independent school district for north Pulaski County, saying that outdated school facilities in Jacksonville have not provided adequate educational opportunities for the children of airmen stationed at the base.

Schatz said education is one of his priorities, along with better housing and family support. He pointed to Cabot School District, where many airmen live and send their children to new schools, while Jacksonville schools are in poor shape.

“Arnold Drive Elementary School is substandard and needs to be replaced,” Schatz said. Some 400 children of airmen attend Arnold Drive on base and Tolleson Elementary School just outside the base.

He pointed to the Cabot School District, which continues to build new schools, while PCSSD is languishing. “If you look at Cabot compared with Jacksonville, you have a visible example of how good schools can drive growth in a community,” the commander said.

Late in the year, the World Class Education Organization of Jacksonville prepared a five-minute video detailing the deteriorating condition of many Jacksonville schools – a video that has been shown at the Pulaski County Special School District board meeting, the Chamber of Commerce Education meeting, the Rotary Club and elsewhere.

Filmed and edited by realtor Daniel Gray, the video is intended to bring home the message that the district and the community need to get busy. The video has gotten hundreds of hits on YouTube, Gray said.

New PCSSD School Board members Bill Vasquez and Danny Gilliland have said they favor a new Jacksonville district and support the notion of building new schools in Jacksonville and refurbishing others.

Former board member Bishop James Bolden said he would continue to work to make sure the district gets its share of PCSSD money and attention.

In the latest move toward better facilities, the PCSSD school board said work could start on a new Jacksonville middle school as early as 2009 if an extra 5-mill property tax for the Pulaski Special School District is approved.

A new school to replace Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools is slated to be started no later than 2012.
The cost of the proposed middle school is estimated at $25 million.

Col. Scott Lockard, 314th Missions Support Group commander, has shown the board three potential locations the base engineers had identified as possible sites for a new elementary school to replace Arnold Drive.

He also said a 13-acre site across from North Pulaski High School was available.

Gen. Schatz has lobbied hard for a new school to replace Arnold Drive Elementary and has offered free base land – outside the fenced perimeter – upon which to build it.

Vasquez has suggested that replacing both the boys and girls middle schools with one middle school would save money and combining Tolleson and Arnold Drive students into one new building also would be cost effective.


Cabot school growth

The Cabot School District opened its newest elementary school, Stagecoach Elementary, in late August to an already overflowing student population as school growth continues in the city.

When Stagecoach opened, it had more third graders than the law would allow. According to Superintendent Dr. Tony Thur-man, Eastside and Westside Elementary schools were over the limit in kindergarten and Westside was over in first-grade.
“But no school is over by more than three students at this time,” he said.

Thurman said the district has plenty of open seats at other schools in the district. “We can’t hire a teacher being only three over with plenty of room at other schools, so we are asking parents if they’d like the option of moving to one of the schools with open seats,” Thurman said.

But the moving of students made it clear that the district has to keep building and expanding.

In October, when districts reported their total student population to the state, it was clear that Cabot had grown. The Cabot School District had an official enrollment of 9,245 students this school year.

There are 3,734 students among the district’s eight elementary schools, an increase of 83 students from last school year. At the middle school level, there are a total of 1,420 students among two middle schools; last year there were 1,406 fifth- and sixth-graders in Cabot.

The junior high population grew by 97 to 2,231 students.

Cabot High School also saw an increase in population, adding an additional 208 students for this school year, bringing the grand total to 1,861 10th- through 12th-graders.

The district also opened bids and started the work to rebuild the junior high it lost in a fire in August 2006 and discovered the new facility, to hold up to 1,200 students, will cost about $11.6 million to build, about $7 million less than the state had calculated.

Insurance money will cover about $10 million of the cost, and the state will pick up nearly $1 million of the tab, leaving the district with a bill of around $640,000.

Dirt work, at a bid of $336,000, is complete and footings have been poured.

The costs for asphalt, curbs and gutters for the parking lots, as well as landscaping, will be bid out at a later date. The landscaping bid will not be bid out until three or four months before construction is completed.

The new Cabot Junior High North will include 51 classrooms meeting the new building standards of 850 square feet each. It will have a sprinkler system, meet the indoor air quality standards and have a larger cafeteria to hold more students.


The air base

The importance of Little Rock Air Force Base puts it in the Top Ten stories of the year, and this year is no exception. The economic impact of the base to central Arkansas is second to none, but this year the air base makes the list not only because of its financial impact, but also because of its base housing construction woes.

In early February, Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines ruled that 1,200 homes owned, managed and being built by American Eagle Communities – a private company – on LRAFB were exempt from property taxes even though Pulaski County Assessor Janet Troutman Ward disagreed, saying the houses previously were exempt because the federal government owned them, but not now.

LRAFB privatized its family housing, turning the existing homes over to American Eagle Communities in August 2004. The company and the base entered into a $500 million agreement that called for the demolition and then construction of 468 homes and remodeling of another 732 homes.

Project director Tom Brockway said in February that the construction is on schedule to be done by 2010 although only three homes were completed, six were being finished and another 123 new homes were in progress.

American Eagle had completed a $1.2 million town hall, but by the end of the summer had declared bankruptcy and left the base in a mess.

But in August, just three years into its 50-year military housingprivatization contract at LRAFB, the developer reportedly was working to sell properties and contracts here and at four other military housing-privatization projects around the country.
Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, the base commander, said in August, “We’re supposed to have 120 new homes and we’ve only got 25; we’re supposed to have almost 500 renovated homes and we’ve got three.”

In addition, the developer failed to pay some area contractors and suppliers and fell far behind schedule for construction and refurbishing of 1,200 base homes and stopped work May 7.

The air base is working with Air Force headquarters to hold the developer in the default process or have American Eagle sell to another developer because of failed military projects at LRAFB and other bases around the country, all because American Eagle has not lived up to their end of the bargain, Schatz said.

Even though the developer stopped its work on the homes, it continued to collect rent. It received $9 million in 2006 alone, according to a base spokesman.

In late November, Sen. Mark Pryor said the developer would pay about $778,000 of the $2.4 million the company allegedly owes contractors and suppliers for its now-abandoned housing-privatization contract at LRAFB.

Contractors here have been trying to get paid by American Eagle or by the surety bond company since at least last January, and some have now filed suit in Federal District Court.

American Eagle, which hasn’t paid a nickel since early 2007, announced the decision to pay some debts just before a national press conference on the issue.

Pryor and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, had just completed a teleconference with the national press about the failings of the developer that had defaulted on four Air Force housing privatization contracts when he met with local reporters at the base.

“We have a lot of questions about how a company with a history of bankruptcy, defaulting on government contracts and not paying subcontractors landed four Air Force base housing-privatization contracts,” Pryor told assembled press on base, against the desolate backdrop of vacant concrete slabs behind locked gates at the corner of Minnesota Circle and Texas Boulevard.

Pryor and Chambliss have called for an investigation to determine how a developer with a checkered past was awarded six military-housing privatization contracts so this doesn’t happen again in the future.

Even though the base housing suffers, other base news has been good. In a Sept. 12 story in The Leader, it was pointed out that LRAFB could soon have half a billion dollars in construction projects and upgrades once Congress approves $22.4 million in additional funding, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new aircraft the base will see in the coming years.

Current construction projects at LRAFB, according to the September article, total around $28 million – $7 million for a new headquarters building for the 463rd Airlift Group, $10 million for a C-130J corrosion-control facility, $7 million for a new dining facility and $3.9 million for a new child-development center completed during the year.

There will be a net gain of 22 airplanes and a possible 300 airmen at the base.

During 2007, the 463rd Airlift Group broke ground for two new projects, a $7 million headquarters building and a $10 million C-130J corrosion-control facility.

The new 18,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Hercules Dining Facility, scheduled to open in the spring of 2008, will replace the current dining facility, Razorback Inn, which was built in 1955, and will have a 60 percent increase in seating with a total seating capacity to accommodate 250 customers.

In November it was announced that LRAFB would add more feathers to its training hat as the 314th Airlift Wing would begin training crews on the C-130H model and will also expand its J model training to include training international partners.

These expansions, expected to begin in 2010, will increase the numbers at the C-130 Airlift Center of Excellence by an expected nine aircraft and about 200 additional airmen over the next four years.

Schatz said the partnership made sense for the future of the Air Force.

“Our combat airlifters are known throughout the world for their excellence,” he said.

Then in December, the president signed the $555 billion omnibus spending bill which included $10.7 million for the Little Rock Air Force Base/Jacksonville Joint Education Center and $9.8 million to repair and update runways at LRAFB.


Homicides

Five homicides in Jacksonville, three in Sherwood and one in Cabot, made eight too many in 2007.

Cabot had its first murder in 16 years with the shooting death of Kevin W. Bell, 39.

Sherwood’s first murder of the year occurred in June, one in late August and one around Thanksgiving.

Jacksonville had a double murder at a local motel in September, a baby shaken to death in August, a young man stabbed to death in August and a domestic dispute that ended in death in June.

In Cabot in late September, police found Bell’s body in his South First Street home. Bell had been shot five times with a 9-millimeter pistol.

The suspect, Shawn Kelly Yielding, 36, also of Cabot and an acquaintance of Bell’s, had been found guilty of second-degree murder in June 2000 in White County after killing a man over $20, but was out on parole. Yielding goes to trial in February.
In Sherwood, Alfred Polk, 43, was found dead in his home on Newcastle Street on June 20 by relatives. Police classified his death as a homicide. No arrests have been made and the case is still open.

A burglar was found shot dead in a creek near a home on Hwy. 107 he tried to enter the night before. The homeowner shot at two would-be robbers but didn’t think he hit anyone. Police canvassed the area that evening and found nothing.

The homeowner’s wife discovered the body of Bryant Cross, 18, of McAlmont the next day. No charges have been filed against the homeowner at this point.

On Thanksgiving day, the body of Ray Hart, 66, was found in his travel trailer. A few days later, police made two arrests in the murder.

Melvin L. Lockhart III, 26, of North Little Rock was arrested and charged with capital murder, aggravated robbery and residential burglary. He is in custody and bond has been set at $1 million. Toni Boggs, 36, also of North Little Rock, was also arrested and charged with two counts of fraudulent use of a credit or debit card and theft by receiving after using Hart’s credit cards in Jackson, Tenn.

The suspect in the Jacksonville double murder turned himself in to police in early December. Suspect Xavier Butler turned himself in to Lonoke authorities when he went to pay some outstanding fines.

Butler is accused of shooting three black men in the parking lot at America’s Best Value Inn and Suites on John Harden Drive in Jacksonville in September. Two of the victims, Daryl Wiggins, 23, of North Little Rock and Brian Washington, 18, of Jacksonville, died from their gunshot wounds.

The third victim, Michael Jenkins, 22, was transported to St. Vincent Hospital North in Sherwood, where he was treated and released for a gunshot wound to a foot.

In June, Marlin Marbley, 24, was accused of beating his long- time girlfriend, Cassondra L. Speer, 24, to death after a domestic dispute turned physical.

In mid-August, Jackie Tredell of 3A N. Simmons was stabbed to death in a domestic disturbance. His girlfriend, Paulette Coleman, 22, was charged in the death.

About a week earlier, a 2-year-old was declared dead after being abused by his parents. The stepfather, Ausencio Lopez, tried to commit suicide by jumping off a Little Rock overpass into traffic. He died in November while in surgery for his injuries. His wife, Senior Airman Sharilyn Lopez was charged as an accomplice in the young boy’s death.
Library

Work is quickly proceeding on the new Jacksonville library being built on Main Street across from the new Wendy’s. It should be open sometime in 2008.

Bids were submitted in August much higher than anticipated, but the city decided to use $400,000 in sales tax money, a $300,000 donation from the Central Arkansas Library System and promised to scale back some of the plans in order for the library work to go forward.

The city council accepted the $3.77 million construction bid from Wilkins Construction of Little Rock, which was substantially more than the $2.5 million the city had projected to pay for the new facility.

In July 2005, residents ap-proved a one-mill property tax increase to pay off $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library.
The 13,500-square-foot multi-use facility is being built on about four acres of land purchased with $900,000 of private donations.

The plans, developed by W.E.R. Architects of Little Rock, call for the library to be a centerpiece for the downtown area.
Pit Bulls

Pit bulls were banned in nearly every city in central Arkansas during 2007. Ward is about the only city in the area that still allows pit bulls within city limits.

Jacksonville’s ban went into effect in July. Pit bulls already in the city were grandfathered in, provided owners had the dogs registered, spayed or neutered and micro-chipped.

Beebe, Cabot and Lonoke all followed suit with bans.

The Beebe City Council passed a pit bull ban in July for all but the 11 pit bulls that were registered at that time. Other owners were given 30 days to find new homes outside the city for their pit bulls.

The estimated 140 dogs that remained unregistered are now in the city illegally and could be destroyed. Sherwood has had a ban on the dogs for a number of years.