Adult education center evicted
for new plant

The Literacy Council is also told to leave to make way for a manufacturer that will make patented hitches for tractor-trailer rigs with paired loads.

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 told Tuesday.
___ "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 city–which owns the building–needed 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.