education center evicted
for new plant
Literacy Council is also told to leave to make way for a manufacturer
that will make patented hitches for tractor-trailer rigs with paired
BY JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer
___The Literacy Council of
Lonoke County and the Adult Education program have one week to vacate
their offices in the old Pet- Quarters building in Lonoke, they were
___ "This is basically putting us out of
business," said Bob Schelle, Literacy Council president. Lonoke Mayor
Thomas Privett apparently told the Adult Education program that the
citywhich owns the buildingneeded the space for a small manufacturing
start-up company, and they told Maria Turner, director of the Literacy
Council, to move out. ___The company, Laster
and Laster, has developed and patented a guide to help drivers of tractor-trailer
rigs back one trailer accurately and efficiently into the hitch of a
second trailer for tandem transportation. Leroy and Michael Laster live
in the area, Leroy with a Lonoke address.
___ The company manufactures a specialized
tool that assists in hooking up multi-van rigs, most commonly called
pups. The brand name for this specialized tool is called the Dolly Guide.
The driver can readily control the movement as the trailer, pup and
dolly are backed under the king pin of the rear van.
___ This eliminates the need of several
attempts in alignment of the dolly to connect to the pup, making hookup
time faster and safer. The Dolly Guide will be manufactured at the PetQuarters
building beginning April 1, Privett said. That's why he needs the Literacy
Council and Adult Education program out of their rent-free offices on
such short notice. The mayor said Laster and Laster, which is just getting
organized, could hire as many as 30 employees to start.
___ The staff will consist of administrative
help, marketers, purchasers and people shipping, receiving, welding,
assembling, cutting and painting, according to the company website.
It will create job opportunities for high school and college students.
___ "The potential for Lonoke is tremendous
in terms of employment and sales tax," Privett said. "We're going to
do what we can do," he added. Privett said he would try to help find
space for the two agencies to relocate. Schelle of the Literacy Council
said he was trying to reach Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman for
information and help. He said the city, with its $1 first- year rent
to Laster was subsidizing a private business. "No one has officially
contacted us," said Schelle.
___ "The mayor's attitude is he doesn't
care. We could possibly lose several grants." The Literacy Council,
a nonprofit, free agency teaching adults to read, has operated in Lonoke
County for 20 years and serves about 50 adults, Turner said. Turner
said she expected the program to move into the old Lonoke Middle School
building next year, but she doesn't know what to do until then.
___ The Literacy Council, Turner said,
"has some grants and things going, and we're going to do what we can
to make sure they stay here. It's a wonderful opportunity to educate
people who need it."
___ The council has received grants from
AmeriCorps for a volunteer teaching program and from the United Way
to set up a child education center. Privett said he would meet Wednesday
with Troutman, who couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.