Yes Radio Works

April 24, 2024

SHOOTING IN CAMDEN LEAVES ONE MAN INJURED
On 4-23-2024 at 9:00 pm hours, the Camden police Department dispatched Officer Chanel Bailey to 187 Ratcliff for a report of a gunshot victim.

Upon arrival Officer Bailey observed a black male lying in the driveway of 201 Ratcliff face down in a red shirt. She saw that Odell Hopson Jr., had a bullet wound to the lower right side of the abdomen and was losing a copious amount of blood. Jimmy Hildreth had his hand on Hopson's side monitoring his breathing. Hopson breathing was very shallow and Officer Bailey found a very shallow heartbeat. Hopson's eyes were open, but he was not responding to questions. After a while, the Officer felt Hopson's breathing stop and she was unable to find a pulse. She rolled Hopson over to his front and observed a bullet wound to his abdomen on his left side. She began CPR and Hopson resumed breathing.

EMS and Fire then arrived on scene and took over the medical treatment of Hopson. Before moving away, Officer Bailey observed a twenty-dollar bill in Hopson's right hand that appeared to have another bill tucked inside. The bill was unrecovered at the scene.

Stephanie Wright, the reporting party, tole Officer Bailey that she and Hopson were outside kissing when a dark brown colored vehicle pulled up next to them in the driveway. Wright said she observed a male, identified as Michael Jackson sitting in the front driver seat and a male identified as 'Toe' in the passenger side front seat. Wright said Hopson sent her inside while he spoke to them about getting a twenty of crack cocaine. Wright said once she was inside the house, she observed Toe striking Hopson and then shoot him once before backing up and driving east down Ratcliff at a high rate of speed.

After Hopson was sent to OCMC for Emergency Medical Treatment, Officer Bailey was able to get a statement from Wright. She learned that Hopson owed Toe an unknown amount for previous deals. Wright said Toe lived on Elm somewhere near the top of the hill but was unsure where his house was. In between speaking, Wright was hyperventilating and was unable to speak at times. Wright's sister was on scene and was able to keep her calmed. Wright refused to go to the department and Detective Watts spoke to her at her sister's residence at 221 Ratcliff.

Hildreth said he had been in the back of the house when he heard the shot and came outside to see Hopson lying face down and a car fleeing down Ratcliff headed east. The Officer was later informed that Hopson was living at 201 Ratcliff along with Hildreth and Wright.

Lieutenant Bush was also dispatched to the scene. He spoke with Hopson's girlfriend (Stephanie Wright) who told him that she was outside with Hopson when two subjects drove up in a brown four door car. Wright stated the driver was Micheal Jackson and the passenger was a subject with the nickname "Toe". Wright stated she was told to go inside the residence as Toe got out of the car. At some point, Toe and Hopson got into a physical altercation. Moments later she stated Toe shot Hopson, he and Jackson then fled the scene. Wright stated Toe is a drug dealer with access to several guns and she is afraid of retaliation. Wright further explained that Toe lives somewhere on Elm Street.

Officer Mark Ryan had also been dispatched to the scene. He relocated to the Ouachita County Medical Center to try to speak to Hopson and gain information on his condition. When the Officer arrived, Hopson was being treated by several medical staff members and was not responsive at the time. Medical staff advised the injuries were life-threatening. They advised there was one bullet wound that entered the left side of his abdomen and exited the right side of his back. There was also a wound to his chin. It was unknown if that occurred during the physical altercation or if it occurred when he fell. Medical staff members advised he was not moving the bottom half of his body so they believed there may have been injuries to his spinal cord. They also stated they did not have enough blood to operate on him. Due to these circumstances, he would need to be Med-Flighted by Survival Flight to UAMS in Little Rock, AR. Sergeants Blair and Watts as well as Lieutenant Reynolds arrived at the hospital and were briefed on the incident.

At the time of this report, Hopson was in a Little Rock Hospital in critical condition.

 

SENATOR DAVID PRYOR TO LIE IN STATE IN ARKANSAS STATE CAPITOL ROTUNDA
Friday, April 26th Set Aside for Public to Pay Respects
(LITTLE ROCK, ARK.) – Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston announced Wednesday that the late Senator David Pryor will lie in state in the second floor rotunda of the Arkansas State Capitol on Friday, April 26, 2024, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Friends, family, staff, and the public are welcome to come and pay their respects.


OUACHITA COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER PROJECT SEARCH® GRADUATION
Ouachita County Medical Center, Project SEARCH® Arkansas: ACCESS® Initiative, ACCESS® and Arkansas Rehabilitation Services invite you to join us as we celebrate the 2023-2024 Project SEARCH graduates in their achievements. These young adults have successfully completed their internships to find purpose and independence to build a brighter future.

Tuesday, May 21,2024,10:30 a.m.
Ouachita County Medical Center W.K. Green Center
638 California Avenue SW
Camden, AR 71701

RSVP to Beth Morgan  at 501.515.0578 or Beth.Morgan@accessgroupinc.org
 

CASE FILE IN MARCH OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING TO BE TURNED OVER TO PROSECUTOR
April 22, 2024
The case file on the March 19 officer-involved shooting of Bryan Malinowski will be forwarded by Arkansas State Police’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to the 6th Judicial District prosecuting attorney’s office on Tuesday, April 23, 2024.

The shooting occurred at 4 Durance Court, Little Rock, while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was serving a federal search warrant. Malinowski, 53, was transported to a local hospital, where he died on March 21, 2024.

ASP is authorized to investigate only the agent-involved shooting portion of the incident. CID has compiled a case file that will be handed over to the prosecutor, who will determine whether the shooting was justified. As with all such investigations, ASP will not give any form of recommendation to the prosecutor.

“We do not have the authority to address methods and tactics used or whether agency protocols and policies were followed,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “Any administrative oversight of tactics would fall to that agency’s – in this case, the U.S. Department of Justice – internal review and is not part of the scope of what ASP is authorized to review.”

The prosecutor will determine whether and when to release the case file.


 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN PRAISES RULING AGAINST LITTLE ROCK LANDLORD
Griffin: ‘Today’s order sends a message to those who engage in deceptive tactics against Arkansas consumers: We will stop you.’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement after a Pulaski County Circuit Court entered an order enforcing a $20,000 civil penalty against Entropy Systems, Inc. and Little Rock landlord Imran Bohra for failure to follow a consent judgment:

“After years of failing to follow the law and blatantly disregarding an order to notify tenants of their rights to file complaints to my office, Mr. Bohra and his company, Entropy Systems, Inc., are being held accountable. To that end, the defendants are prohibited from entering into future residential leases until the civil penalty is paid in full, and any future residential leases must properly notify tenants of their rights to file complaints. Today’s order sends a message to those who engage in deceptive tactics against Arkansas consumers: We will stop you.

“I thank Assistant Attorney General Reid Adkins and our Public Protection Division for their diligence on this matter.”

April 22, 2024

VACANCY ON CAMDEN CITY COUNCIL
A vacancy for the City Council of Camden exists in ward 3 Position 2. The city council will appoint an individual to fill the position until the next election. Interested individuals must be qualified electors of ward 3. Individuals seeking to be considered can send request with a bio or resume to the Mayor's Office prior to May 8th.


GOVERNOR SANDERS’ STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF FORMER U.S. SENATOR DAVID PRYOR
 LITTLE ROCK, Ark. —Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders released the following statement on the passing of former U.S. Congressman, Arkansas Governor, and U.S. Senator David Pryor:

“Bryan and I are mourning the death of a dedicated Congressman, Governor, and Senator, David Pryor. His career defied easy definition: a man with deep roots in Ouachita County who reached the heights of influence in Washington; a Solid South Democrat who stood strong against the Faubus machine; the architect of an Arkansas political dynasty who was just as comfortable in a Camden lumber yard as the Cambridge quad.

“David Pryor’s charisma and moderate politics made him a force at the ballot box for decades. While the Senator and I came up in different political parties, I, like all Arkansans deeply appreciated his diligent stewardship of Arkansas and our interests during his time in public life. And we can all thank him for his role in burying the divisive racial politics that infected Arkansas government before his tenure.

“I was honored that David joined me for my inaugural address and sat on the State House floor for my first address to the legislature. I remember meeting his son, Mark, when he served as Attorney General and I was elected Attorney General of Arkansas Girls State. He was kind and welcoming to me, and I know he learned that from his parents. David’s legacy lives on in Arkansas and U.S. government - and also through his wonderful family. On behalf of all Arkansans, Bryan and I share our deepest condolences with David’s wife Barbara, their son, former U.S. Senator Mark Pryor, and the entire Pryor family.”


ASP CID INVESTIGATING WEST HELENA HOMICIDE
April 21, 2024
WEST HELENA, Ark. – Arkansas State Police’s (ASP) Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is working to locate a Helena man for killing a teenager outside a party following Helena-West Helena’s Central High School (CHS) Prom.

Agents have identified a suspect, Donterious Stephens, 19, of Helena, a previous graduate, who will be charged with First Degree Murder and Possession of Firearms by Certain Persons in the death of Lorenzo Harrison III, 18, a CHS senior.

Phillips County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) requested assistance at about 1 a.m. on Sunday April 21, 2024.

The incident occurred after the CHS Prom at an event attended by students located across the street from Ater Warehouse, located at 3235 Highway 49 in West Helena.

Anyone with information on the suspect’s whereabouts is requested to contact PCSO or CID Company A at (870) 970-6082.

The deceased will be transported to the Arkansas State Crime Lab, where an autopsy will determine cause and manner of death.

 

FLEEING HOMICIDE SUSPECT INJURED DURING APPREHENSION
April 19, 2024
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – The Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Arkansas State Police (ASP) is investigating a shooting involving an off-duty ASP Trooper that occurred at 10:50 a.m. on April 19, 2024. The Trooper, who had been at a training event held by the Pine Bluff Police Department (PBPD), was assisting officers attempting to apprehend a suspect with active warrants in a homicide investigation.

The Trooper accompanied PBPD officers responding to a call for assistance as suspect Derrick D. Stidum,19, of Pine Bluff, fled from officers in a stolen vehicle. Stidum lost control of the vehicle near the intersection of East 11th Avenue and Ohio Street. The Trooper and other officers gave chase when Stidum and a passenger fled on foot.

Officers made contact with Stidum as he was running through the backyard of residences on Nebraska Street.

Stidum was shot as he resisted being taken into custody.
Stidum was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Jefferson Regional Medical Center before being taken into custody and charged with Theft by Receiving and Fleeing. He is being held at the Jefferson County Detention Center, with Capital Murder charges pending.

The Trooper was placed on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated.


ARTIST OLUWATOBI ADEWUMI EXHIBIT OPENING AT SAAC
The South Arkansas Arts Center welcomes contemporary artist Oluwatobi Adewumi and his exhibition "Journey to the Unknown" to the Merkle and Price Galleries April 29 – June 12. Adewumi is originally from Nigeria but now calls south Arkansas his home. There will be an artist's reception on Thursday, May 2 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

Adewumi focuses on the sociocultural aspect of the subject through his multimedia drawings. His work explores his personal journey of having been born in Nigeria and then moving and assimilating into American Culture in conservative Arkansas.

His drawings are between realism/abstract figures and portraits layered out to make it simple for his audience by telling a story in a story. Some of his best tools are charcoal, and acrylic paint, which he can manipulate and use freely to bring the depth of the subject as he tackles the story behind each piece.

“The exhibition narrates my experience as a black man in the US or as a black man in an arduous society. From the lens of an immigrant, my art frames new stories about an epic experience that has been playing like a film for the past five hundred years. The stories remind us that we are one people who must live together and learn about love and harmony, despite the differences in the colors of our skins,” said Adewumi.

When Adewumi first migrated to America, he never considered himself “black” since he came from a country where the idea of skin color was never reflective of his identity.  In Nigeria, ethnicity, religion, social class, and gender defines who a person is in society. To be called black had never been part of the conversation, since the social construct in Nigeria was not based on race. He would travel to any part of the country without worrying that someone was going to judge him or not afford him the imperative opportunity based on his skin color.

When he migrated to America, he realized that his race and his ethnicity as an African immigrant would define the space that society afforded him. Adewumi and his wife, an Arkansas native, live in McNeil located just outside of Magnolia.

For more information on the Oluwatobi Adewumi 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.


WESTERMAN STATEMENT ON EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS
WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a series of bills providing supplemental appropriations to address U.S. national security threat and to provide funding for defense assistance to U.S. allies and for costs incurred by the U.S. military for regional support.

H.R. 8038, the 21st Century Peace Through Strength Act, confronts several U.S. national security threats through substantive policy changes, including fentanyl trafficking, TikTok, Iranian-backed aggression, and more.

H.R. 8036, the Indo-Pacific Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, supports Taiwan in its efforts to counter communist China and ensure a strong deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region.

H.R. 8034, the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, supports Israel in its effort to defend against Iran and its proxies, and reimburses U.S. military operations in response to recent attacks.

H.R. 8035, the Ukraine Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, replenishes U.S. military stockpiles to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) released the following statement:
“From a dismal Afghanistan withdrawal to a nonexistent southern border, the leadership failures of Joe Biden and his Administration are too numerous to list. As a result, the world is in turmoil and is looking to the U.S. for leadership. Today I voted to support our allies and replenish U.S. military stockpiles with weapons made by Arkansans in East Camden, protect Americans online by forcing the sale of TikTok, combat fentanyl trafficking, and stand up against the authoritarian aggression of China, Russia, and Iran.

“As Ronald Reagan said, during his remarks at the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Point Du Hoc, ‘We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars: It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.’

“The Biden Administration has put our national security, and that of our allies, at risk through appeasement. This package is not only about supporting our allies but is also critical to safeguarding our own national security.”

H.R. 8038, the 21st Century Peace Through Strength Act:
Prevents app store availability or web hosting services in the U.S. for ByteDance-controlled applications, like TikTok, unless the application severs ties with entities that are subject to the control of a foreign adversary, like Communist China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia.
Declares international fentanyl trafficking a national emergency and directs the Treasury Department to target, sanction, and block the financial assets of criminal organizations and drug cartels involved in fentanyl trafficking.
Ensures that Putin pays for his brutal war of aggression.
Makes it illegal for data brokers to sell personally identifiable data of Americans to North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, or entities controlled by any of these countries.
Imposes sanctions on ports and refineries that receive and process Iranian oil.
Fully enforces human rights sanctions on the Iranian regime.
Disrupts the ability of Hamas to fund terrorism and makes it harder for state sponsors of terrorism to abuse International Monetary Fund resources to finance terrorist organizations.

H.R. 8036, the Indo-Pacific Security Supplemental Appropriations Act:
Provides funding to continue efforts to counter communist China and ensure a strong deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Strengthens U.S. military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region.
Enhances the production and development of artillery and critical munitions.
Replenish defense articles and defense services provided to Taiwan and regional partners.

H.R. 8034, the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act:
Provides funding to support Israel in its effort to defend itself against Iran and its proxies, and to reimburse U.S. military operations in response to recent attacks.
Replenishes the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems.
Prohibits funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Supports current U.S. military operations in the region.
Enhances the production and development of artillery and critical munitions.

H.R. 8035, the Ukraine Security Supplemental Appropriations Act:
Provides funding to address the conflict in Ukraine and assist our regional partners as they counter Russia, much of which will be used for the replenishment of U.S. weapons, stocks, and facilities.
Increases oversight and accountability of aid and equipment provided to Ukraine.
Bolsters oversight through in-person monitoring requirements.
Requires partners and allies to pay their fair share through cost-matching requirements.
Mandates agreement on repayment for economic support by the government of Ukraine.
Includes a loan structure, along with requirements for enhanced strategy and accountability, which is necessary to ensure that funding is provided for a clear, achievable purpose and not a waste of taxpayer dollars.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES MORE THAN $49 MILLION IN TOBACCO SETTLEMENT FUNDS
Griffin: ‘With this year’s disbursement, Arkansas has received a total of $1.38 billion’
LITTLE ROCK – After the State of Arkansas received $49,593,803.13 as the 2024 share of proceeds from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with tobacco companies, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“My office is tasked with enforcing the MSA and various tobacco statutes enacted pursuant to the MSA. The annual disbursement of settlement funds supports key programs in Arkansas that improve health outcomes. With this year’s disbursement, Arkansas has received a total of $1.38 billion.”

Background
In 2000, Arkansas voters created the Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act, which governs how the MSA funds are used. Tobacco settlement moneys fund numerous health-related programs in Arkansas, including the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, an agricultural and medical research consortium; the Medicaid Expansion Program, which provides Medicaid coverage for underserved populations; the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program, which aims to reduce tobacco use; and the Targeted State Needs Program, which includes support for public health programs for minorities, older Arkansans, and residents of rural areas and the Delta.

In addition to enforcing the terms of the MSA, the Office of Attorney General’s enforcement of tobacco statutes includes operation of a certification process for tobacco manufacturers; ongoing quarterly and annual reporting; maintaining an Approved-For-Sale Directory for cigarettes; and conducting audits, investigations, or litigation should violations of the tobacco statutes occur.

April 19, 2024

BEECH SPRINGS CAMP PLANS WORKDAY
Beech Springs Camp is hosting a Camp Work Day on May 4th. The projects will include brush cutting, power washing, cleaning, painting, lumber projects and more. 

The necessary supplies will be provided, but you are welcome to bring your own pole saws, power washers, drills, saws, rakes and anything else that might help things go smoothly!

This is a great opportunity for students to get volunteer hours that are mandatory to graduate.  

If you have any questions, please reach out to the Camp Manager, David Stanley. You can reach David at 870-314-4939 or email beechspringscamp@gmail.com.
 

STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
April 19, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – The state Education Department has written new rules for troubled schools to enter “transformation contracts” with outside entities, such as charter school operators.

The Department will accept public comments until May 15 on the eight pages of proposed rules. They will implement a provision in the LEARNS Act that was passed by the legislature last year. The act was the centerpiece of the governor’s legislative agenda.

An Education Department official said that transformation contracts offer a dramatic way to improve districts that are in academic distress.

Schools are eligible to enter the contracts if they have a D or an F rating or if they are classified as needing Level 5 intensive support by the Board of Education.

A strong incentive to enter transformation contracts is that for two years after the contract is signed, the state will not impose any sanctions or take any actions against the school for failing to satisfy academic performance standards.

The proposed rules allow the state to provide financial incentives to support the transformation campus, but the proposals do not specify any details about those incentives.

Under the proposed rules, any property owned by a school district when the contract is signed shall remain in the school’s possession.

The organization that contracts to take over most of the school’s administration is referred to as the transformation campus operator. Their intent must be to return management to the school after “accelerated, meaningful, and sustainable increases in student achievement have been achieved.”

One school district in the state is already being operated under a transformation contract that was signed soon after the LEARNS Act took effect last year. It is the Marvell-Elaine School District in east Arkansas, which is under state control.

Under the three-year transformation contract signed last year, Marvell-Elaine schools are being operated by the Friendship Education Foundation that sponsors open-enrollment charter schools in Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pine Bluff.

The proposed rules would allow school districts that are not under state control to enter transformation contracts. If the district falls under state control during contract period, the contract would become void on the date the state takes over control.

Community Service Requirement

Another provision in the LEARNS Act will require high school students to perform 75 hours of community service in order to graduate. The first seniors who will have to comply will be the class of 2027, who are now in ninth grade.

This class has about 39,000 students, so they will contribute almost three million hours of community service in Arkansas over the next four years.

The Education Department has written four pages of proposed rules to implement the community service provisions and will take public comments until April 24.

Local school boards may grant a waiver to a graduating student for extenuating circumstances, on a case-by-case basis. For example, waivers may be granted to students who are medically fragile, or students going through a serious illness or who has a family member who is seriously ill.

Also, students with jobs who contribute significantly to the family’s income may get a waiver.


ASP RECOGNIZED FOR OUTSTANDING INTERSTATE CRIMINAL PATROL EFFORTS IN 2023
April 19, 2024
BILOXI, MISS. – Arkansas State Police’s Interstate Criminal Patrol (ICP) once again dominated the annual Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area awards held earlier this week in Biloxi, Miss., winning three individual awards, Team of the Year and Officer of the Year.

ASP’s outstanding performance in 2023 was recognized for collectively seizing illegal drugs with a total street value of $27.7 million,  45 vehicles, and $1.26 million in currency.

Trooper Ana Escamilla was recognized as 2023 Officer of the Year for 28 drug seizures, with a total street value of $5,678,326 and 7 currency seizures, totaling $610,755.

Individual winners:
-- Sergeant Derek Nietert, largest marijuana seizure, 939 pounds
-- Trooper Cody Martin, largest cocaine seizure, 145 pounds
-- Trooper Escamilla, largest “other dangerous drugs” seizure, 420 bottles of Promethazine (street value $100,800)

 

ARKANSAS’ UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DOWN TO 3.5% IN MARCH
Today the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, in conjunction with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, announced that Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased one-tenth of a percentage point, from 3.6% in February to 3.5% in March. The United States’ jobless rate also declined one-tenth of a percentage point, from 3.9% in February to 3.8% in March. 

Arkansas Civilian Labor Force Summary:

Arkansas’ civilian labor force rose by 519 in March. There were 1,747 more employed Arkansans, while the number of unemployed in the State declined by 1,228. The labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 57.4% between February and March.

Compared to March 2023, there are 5,316 more employed in Arkansas. An additional 9,276 unemployed Arkansans are actively looking for work, pushing the unemployment rate up seven-tenths of a percentage point. The labor force participation rate remained stable over the year.

Arkansas Nonfarm Payroll Job Summary:

In March, Arkansas added 10,900 nonfarm payroll jobs. Gains were posted in Leisure and Hospitality (+4,800), Trade-Transportation-Utilities (+2,000), Manufacturing (+1,800), and Professional and Business Services (+1,800).

Compared to March 2023, there are 15,400 more jobs in the State. Notable growth occurred in Private Education and Health Services (+6,200) and Construction (+5,600). Manufacturing reported the largest decline (-2,100), mostly due to losses in durable goods manufacturing (-1,600).


ACCLAIMED SONGWRITER DAVE GIBSON TAKES THE SAAC STAGE FOR A SPECIAL SHOWCASE
The South Arkansas Arts Center is thrilled to announce a special capital campaign fundraising event, “The Power of a Song,” featuring iconic country music figure and El Dorado native Dave Gibson, known for his exceptional songwriting talent. At the event, Gibson will recount the songs and stories of his more than 40-year hit-songwriting career. The Songwriter Showcase is set to take place on Friday, May 31st at 7:00 p.m. in the Callaway Theatre at SAAC.

With roots that run deep in the heart of the south, Gibson’s career in the music industry spans several decades, during which he has penned hit songs for some of the biggest names in country music. A Nashville heavyweight, Gibson’s songwriting has been recorded by artists like Alabama, Tanya Tucker, and Confederate Railroad. Hits like "Jukebox in My Mind" and "Queen of Memphis" showcase his talent for crafting relatable stories set against the backdrop of country life.

Gibson has also written numerous hit songs that have topped the charts and earned him critical acclaim. Some of his most well-known songs include "I'm a Survivor" (performed by Reba McEntire), "Texas Tattoo" (performed by Gibson himself), and "If You're Gonna Do Me Wrong (Do It Right)" (performed by Vern Gosdin).

Gibson's live performances are known for their energy, passion, and authentic country sound that have earned him critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base. Attendees can expect to hear some of his most famous compositions, performed with his signature style that blends country, rock, and blues influences.

Tickets for this highly anticipated event are priced at $15 for SAAC members and $25 for the general public. “The Power of a Song” with Dave Gibson promises to be an unforgettable evening celebrating the art of songwriting and the rich musical legacy of the south.

Don't miss out on this opportunity to experience the timeless talent of Dave Gibson at the South Arkansas Arts Center. For ticket reservations and more information, please visit www.saac-arts.org or call (870) 862-5474. SAAC is located at 110 E. 5th Street in El Dorado, Arkansas.

 

COTTON, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE BILL TO REPORT ILLEGAL ALIEN ATTEMPTS TO PURCHASE FIREARMS
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), along with Senators Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Cynthia Lummis, (R-Wyoming), and John Boozman (R-Arkansas), today introduced the Illegal Alien NICS Alert Act. The legislation would require the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE) and relevant local law enforcement when an illegal alien tries to purchase a gun.

“Those who come into America illegally should be detained and deported. They certainly shouldn’t be able to purchase a firearm. Our bill is necessary to ensure the proper authorities are notified when an illegal immigrant attempts to buy a gun,” said Senator Cotton.

“The National Instant Criminal Background Check system is an important tool to ensure firearms stay out of the wrong hands, which is why I co-introduced the Fix NICS Act. It is already against the law for an illegal immigrant to purchase a firearm, and this legislation would notify the appropriate authorities when an illegal immigrant tries to break the law,” said Senator Tillis.

“Our local law enforcement and immigration officials should have the tools to know if folks are in our country illegally. Instead of taking every opportunity to crack down on lawful FFLs just trying to earn a living, the Biden administration should capitalize on their dutiful work by using their resources to prevent unlawful actions by illegal immigrants. In the face of the border crisis of its own making, President Biden’s priorities again are out of touch. This bill will help officials do their job and keep our communities safe,” said Senator Ernst. 

“I have no confidence in this administration’s willingness or ability to prevent illegal aliens from unlawfully entering our country, let alone in preventing them from illegally obtaining a firearm,” said Senator Lummis. “If this administration refuses to enforce our existing immigration laws, we must empower law enforcement and immigration officials to hold them accountable and take appropriate action to keep our communities safe.”

“Alerting the proper authorities when illegal immigrants seek to obtain firearms is commonsense. I’m proud to join Senator Cotton and our colleagues on this legislation to help protect our communities,” said Senator Boozman.

Background:
When a person tries to buy a firearm from a store, the firearm seller, known as a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), contacts the NICS to conduct a background check. That background check verifies the buyer is not ineligible to purchase or own a firearm.

The FBI maintains a record of prohibited persons r which currently includes the names of 14.8 million illegal aliens. NICS is not, however, required to notify immigration authorities if an applicant is in the country illegally.

Since November 30, 1998, NICS has issued denials for 49,411 attempted firearm purchases by illegal aliens.

April 18, 2024

EL DORADO BRINGS A DAY OF FUN FOR MAY(HAW) ON MAIN
El Dorado, AR.— Come out and enjoy the day in Downtown El Dorado at May on Main. This fourth annual event, presented by Main Street El Dorado, will be held Saturday, May 4th, Starting at 10am on Jefferson Avenue and Elm Street in Downtown El Dorado(201 N Jefferson Street El Dorado AR). This festival is a collaborative effort with the Mayhaw Festival, which begins at 8am on Jackson Street.

Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street El Dorado, expressed her enthusiasm for this collaboration, sharing, “We are thrilled to announce the partnership with the Mayhaw Festival. This successful collaboration will evolve into one grand event and the Downtown portion will be known as Mayhaw on Main in the future. Mayhaw on Main offers a full day of enjoyment, including music, games, a kid's foam party, a Mimosa bar, shopping, and more. It's the perfect opportunity to experience the charm of our beautiful downtown and all it has to offer.” Admission is FREE to the festival.

Fun Zone Sponsored by Roseburg - El Dorado MDF
El Dorado is the place to be for families and festivalgoers this season! Join us downtown for a host of fun activities and attractions that will keep you entertained all day long. Kids can look forward to an exciting rock-climbing wall, inflatables and a foam party, while the Big Wheel races are sure to be a hit with the little ones. The races start at 1pm, and while there's no entry fee, children must register at 12pm on Jefferson Street.

Great Food
Not only will our Elm Street and Jefferson Ave restaurants will be open for business, but we will also have a variety of food trucks offering delicious treats such as Flossie's Funnel Cakes and Corndogs, Willie T’s BBQ and King Kone's sno cones and more. Come join us for a wonderful dining experience and indulge in some of the best food and treats the area has to offer.

Live Music on Jefferson Street Courthouse Stage
Live Music sets the tone, and we have an exciting music line up for you! The event will kick off at 11:00 with Ruston’s very own Luke Johnson taking the stage. Following that, we have Captain Erick Meadows scheduled to perform at 12:15, and closing out the day will be the fantastic Second Hand Jacket starting at 1:15. Get ready for a day filled with amazing music and vibrant performances.

Beer Garden and Mimosa Bar
New this year, and sure to be an instant hit, we excitedly announce “The Well Garden Mimosa Bar”, sponsored by The Haywood Hotel where we will be offering bottomless Mimosas(11am-1pm)! Whether you're looking to cool off or simply wash down some delicious festival food, we've got you covered. In addition to our bottomless Mimosa bar, we will also have beer, soft drinks and water available.

Lots To Do
In addition to the Live Music and Kids Fun Zone, there’s plenty for the whole family to enjoy. Mayhaw on Main Vendors will begin at 10am and all the downtown boutiques and shops will be open. Don't miss the chance to join Michaela Miller Photography for a Mother’s Day mini photo shoot that includes a 10 min session and 10 digital photos located on Elm Street outside All About Flowers.

To make your day even more special, take a FREE ride on the El Dorado Trolley from 10am - 2pm. There are several stops to take you from Mayhaw on Main to the Mayhaw Festival. The route covers Peach, Jackson, Main and Washington.

If you're looking for a more romantic or more intimate ride, enjoy a wonderful Horse and Carriage ride around El Dorado starting at 10am. Randall Clark Farms will be providing the rides starting at $30 for 2 people. And of course, you can't leave without picking up your own jar of Mayhaw Jelly!

Join us for a memorable celebration filled with fun activities for the whole family! To learn more about May(haw) on Main, visit mainstreeteldorado.org. You can also call the Main Street El Dorado office at 870-862-4747.

Sponsors for this year’s event include Roseburg El Dorado-MDF, Mac’s Tree Service, First Financial Bank, Hepco, Red River Credit Union, Lawrence Electric, Judge Mike and Phena Loftin,Brookshires, I ♥︎ El Dorado, The Haywood and the El Dorado A&P Commission.

For more information, contact:
Beth Brumley, Executive Director of Main Street El Dorado
(870)862-4747 (office)
director@mainstreeteldorado.org
www.mainstreeteldorado.org / https://www.facebook.com/mainstreeteldorado

 

SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN WYNNE BLOCK PARTY SHOOTING THAT KILLED 1 AND INJURED AT LEAST 9
April 17, 2024
WYNNE, Ark. —  On Tuesday, April 16, 2024, Special Agents from the Arkansas State Police (ASP) arrested four individuals in connection with a block party shooting that resulted in the death of one person and injuries to at least nine others.

“I’m proud of how Arkansas State Police personnel worked with the Wynne Police Department to swiftly apprehend the suspects in this case,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar.

The suspects, Quavarius Milon, 23, Tommie Frost, 18, Carl Washington, 21, and Cameron Crawford, 22, all from Cross County, have been taken into custody and are being held at the Cross County Detention Center.

All four suspects are charged with First-Degree Murder, nine counts of First-Degree Battery, and nine counts of Engaging in Violent Criminal Group Activity.

The incident occurred on Saturday, April 13, 2024, at about 10 p.m. near the corner of Williams Avenue and Martin Luther King Street in Wynne. Two victims were run over by vehicles at the scene.

Varian Campbell, 27, of Wynne was pronounced dead at an area hospital. Victims were male and female, with ages ranging from 24 to 49.

The deceased was transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, where the manner and cause of death will be determined.

 

DAVID HOUSTON OF THE OHR-O’KEEFE MUSEUM OF ART TO JUROR SAAC'S 2024 JURIED ART COMPETITION
The South Arkansas Arts Center is pleased to announce the selection of David Houston of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi as juror for the 2024 SAAC Juried Art Competition.  The deadline for artist entries into the competition is Tuesday, May 14 with exhibition showing June17- July 24, 2024..    

Designed by Frank Gehr, The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art celebrates the innovative, independent and creative spirit of namesake Mississippi master potter George Ohr (1857-1918). David Houston has served as the Executive Director and Chief Curator since 2020. 

With experience developing collaborative relationships between artists and institutions and inter-institutional collaborations, Houston has consulted or led the opening of six cultural institutions as well as a nature-based sculpture park. He also has over 28 years of curatorial experience in exhibition design, installation, and lighting with specialties in modern art, contemporary art, architecture, American art, and nature-based art.  

Prior to his current position at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum, Houston was the Director of the Bartlett Center at Columbus State University in Georgia, The Director of Curatorial at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, and the Chief Curator and Co-Director of the Ogden Museum in New Orleans.

Houston has taught the history of art at the Clemson University School of Architecture, the University of New Orleans, and the Brandenburg Technical University, Germany. He is the author of over fifty publications on art, architecture, photography and self-taught art.

SAAC's Juried Art Competition is juried by nationally and internationally recognized art professionals and is open to all artists and makers across the nation, ages 18 and up who work in two-dimensional and three-dimensional fine arts media, including but not limited to, paintings, sculptures, photography, computer generated art, video, fiber art, and multi-media. Artists may submit any number of entries via digital image to the SAAC web site at www.saac-arts.org. Each submission is $10. 

For more full details about SAAC’s juried art competition, please go to our web site at www.saac-arts.org or call us at 870-862-5474.
 

HOUSE PASSES WESTERMAN COSPONSORED BILLS TO COMBAT IRANIAN AGGRESSION
WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 6046 and H.R. 5947, legislation cosponsored by Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) to comprehensively address the threat posed by Iran. Westerman released the following statement in support of the bills:

“Iran is one of the world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism. The Obama Administration set an unruly precedent of appeasing Iran that the Biden Administration has compounded. This weakness has emboldened Iran to continue launching unjustified attacks against Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East, just as we saw this past weekend. House Republicans acted swiftly this week with a slate of bills to stand with Israel and respond to Iran’s unprecedented attacks. I was proud to support these measures to further block Iran’s ability to continue financing these heinous attacks.”

BACKGROUND:
In 2021, the Biden Administration wrongfully removed the Iran-backed Houthis’ designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). Since then, the Houthis have increased their terrorist activities, including their ongoing missile and drone attacks against global shipping.

H.R.  6046 would mandate the reimposition of the FTO and SDGT designations on the Houthis.

Since President Biden took office, the Biden Administration has used certain waivers and licenses related to Iran to transfer $6 billion in Iranian funds to restricted accounts in Qatar and $10 billion in payments from Iraq. The Iranian regime is highly skilled in evasion, cutting corners, and blurring lines to hide the true use of these funds, and the Biden Administration is compliant and complicit in these efforts. Any funding to Iran, even if nominally in a restricted account, frees up more money for Iran to use on malign activities. Iran is too potent a threat to the United States and our partners to allow these waivers to exist any longer.

H.R. 5947 would eliminate any of these sanction waivers and licenses related to Iran.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN LEADS 23-STATE AMICUS IN SUPPORT OF WEST VIRGINIA’S ABORTION LAW
Griffin: ‘The Food and Drug Administration’s flawed approval of an abortion drug ... doesn’t override West Virginia’s state law prohibiting abortions’
LITTLE ROCK – After filing an amicus brief on behalf of himself and 22 other state attorneys general in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit supporting West Virginia’s abortion prohibition, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“Two years ago, the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade and returned the authority to regulate or prohibit abortion to the States. The Food and Drug Administration’s flawed approval of an abortion drug doesn’t change that, and that’s why I led 22 states in filing an amicus brief arguing that FDA approval of an abortion drug doesn’t override West Virginia’s state law prohibiting abortions.”

The amicus supports West Virginia’s defense of its abortion restrictions from a legal challenge by the abortion drug maker GenBioPro, which claims that West Virginia cannot ban abortion because that would restrict access to an FDA-regulated drug. In particular, GenBioPro claims that the FDA’s modest mifepristone safety regulations preempt all state laws that affect mifepristone access—an erroneous view that would preempt a host of state laws regulating everything from the practice of pharmacy and medicine to state malpractice law. 

Attorney General Griffin previously led a multistate amicus brief supporting West Virginia’s motion to dismiss this case in federal district court. That court agreed and dismissed GenBioPro’s lawsuit. The states supporting West Virginia urge the Fourth Circuit to affirm that decision.

April 17, 2024

FREE MEDICAL AND DENTAL CLINIC TO BE HELD IN CAMDEN
There will be a free Medical and Dental Clinic at the First Baptist Church of Camden on Saturday May 18, 2024. Registration will begin at 8:00 AM. The clinic will include dental cleanings, dental extractions and a physician will be on site. For more information call Jennifer at 870-450-1855. First Baptist Church is located at 348 West Washington Street in Camden. This event is sponsored by your local Southern Baptist Churches and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.


AIRSTREAMS ON THE SQUARE AND GRILL WARS RETURN TO DOWNTOWN EL DORADO IN APRIL
El Dorado, Arkansas — Get ready to have some fun while learning about the RV lifestyle and culture and sampling hearty chili recipes with the award-winning Airstreams on the Square and Grill Wars: Chili Cook-Off on Thursday, April 25 - Sunday, April 28, in Downtown El Dorado!

Presented by Main Street El Dorado, the multi-day event will include a mix of public and private activities, live music, games, karaoke, historic tours, a canned food drive and more!

Admission is free for the public activities.

Each year, Main Street El Dorado and the Arkansas Razorback Airstream Club team up to host AOTS in El Dorado — the only such event in Arkansas.

The theme for Airstreams on the Square 2024 is M*A*S*H, based on the beloved TV series that aired from 1972 - 1983. The theme's tagline, AOTS7th: Best Care Anywhere, denotes the seventh anniversary of AOTS.

Airstreams will begin arriving in town on Thursday, April 25. The public is invited to participate in a bingo game at 7 p.m.

Friday, April 26
Starting at 1:30 p.m.. the public may participate in Singo-Bingo and Baggo.

The M*A*S*H Bash is set for 8 p.m., with a performance by Monroe, Louisiana, band Smackwater, whose playlist includes a blend of classic rock, R&B, Louisiana Soul Swamp Pop, funk, soul and country. Join us for a block party!

Saturday, April 27
Grill Wars: Chili Cook-Off, sanctioned by the International Chili Society, is scheduled for 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Winners will be awarded more than $2,000 in cash and prizes.

Attendees will be able to taste competition chili at the all-you-can-eat cost of $10 starting at 1 p.m. and vote for their favorite. Winners will be announced, and awards presented at 4 p.m. The competition is open to adults and children. For more information or to enter the chili cook-off, visit www.chilicookoff.com.

At 3 p.m., a Klinger Beauty Pageant and Houlihan's Hot Lips Contest — a callback to characters from the M*A*S*H TV show — will be held on stage.

The public will have the opportunity to judge their favorite airstream decor by presenting canned goods to their favorite Airstream that will be donated to the Salvation Army of El Dorado's food pantry.

Sponsors for Airstreams on the Square and grill Wars are Main Street El Dorado, the City of El Dorado, the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission, Union County Judge Mike and Phena Loftin, Lawrence Electric, United Insurance Agency, Inc., Mac's Tree Service, Inc. and Foley RV Center.

For additional information, call the Main Street El Dorado Office at 870-862- 4747 or send an email to director@mainstreeteldorado.org. Also, visit MainStreetElDorado.org or www.facebook.com/mainstreeteldorado.

Main Street El Dorado
Main Street El Dorado is a Main Street America TM -accredited program that is committed to continued downtown revitalization.

The program builds on the downtown total image with an incremental approach that utilizes four elements, including:
• Organization/Membership.
• Design.
• Promotion.
• Economic Vitality.


ARKANSAS ASSISTS IN LEADING AGRICULTURAL TRADE MISSION TO VIETNAM
LITTLE ROCK, AR
– Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward assisted in leading a National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Emerging Markets Trade Mission to Vietnam from April 5-13, 2024.

Secretary Ward is currently serving as the Vice President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Secretary Ward was joined by Rick Pate, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture; Christy Clark, Montana Director of Agriculture; Sherry Vinton, Nebraska Director of Agriculture; Derek Sandison, Washington Director of Agriculture; Amanda Brondy, Global Cold Chain Alliance; and members of the NASDA staff.

The trade mission follows Governor Sanders’ successful trade mission to South Korea and Japan from March 6-14, 2024, and highlights the potential for significant increases in agricultural trade in Asia as we seek to continue to diversify our state’s agricultural trading markets away from China.

Vietnam is currently Arkansas’s fourth largest agricultural export market with a value of over $61 million which includes cotton, feeds and fodders, poultry, and forest products. Vietnam ranks as the 10th largest agricultural export market for the United States with a value of $3.46 billion. Vietnamese consumers view products from the United States as high quality and safe with an increasing demand for high-value consumer-oriented products and growing modern food retail, food service, and food processing sectors. Further, Vietnam has a population of 100 million with half of the population expected to enter the global middle class by 2035.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture hosted delegations from Thailand and Vietnam in Arkansas on October 15-17, 2023, as the first NASDA inbound trade mission through the Emerging Market Programs. During the inbound trade mission, delegates traveled throughout the state to learn about Arkansas’s largest industry to include visits at McGehee Producers Gin, the Port of Little Rock, Ben E. Keith, the University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center, Isbell Farms and Origami Sake, Bruce Oakley, as well as numerous discussions with Arkansas agriculture industry leaders and associations.

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.

ENTERGY ARKANSAS CELEBRATES 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF REMMEL DAM
Providing hydroelectric power to the state of Arkansas for 100 years
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – If it weren’t for construction of Remmel and Carpenter dams a century ago, some of the state’s greatest recreation areas may not exist. As Remmel Dam marks its 100th anniversary, community and company leaders gathered at Lake Catherine to celebrate the decades of reliable, clean energy the dam provides.

Constructed and first brought online by Arkansas Power and Light Company in 1924, Remmel Dam is located on the Ouachita River near Jones Mills in Hot Spring County. Together with Carpenter Dam in Hot Springs, they provide hydroelectric power for the natural state and form lakes Catherine and Hamilton

”Remmel Dam is an essential part of Entergy Arkansas’ diverse fuel mix portfolio,” said William Cunningham, director of resource planning for Entergy Arkansas. “Harnessing the hydroelectric power enhances our clean energy offerings and positions us well for future power generation needs.”

Senior leadership from Entergy Arkansas, Entergy Power Generation, family members of AP&L founder Harvey Couch and current employees working at Remmel Dam gathered with state and local officials and members of the community to celebrate the dam’s centennial anniversary this morning at the dam site in Malvern. Festivities included a dedication recognizing Remmel Dam’s place in Arkansas and Entergy history, guided tours of the dam site and a pop-up museum of artifacts, information and photos.

Tours of Remmel Dam will be given to Entergy Arkansas employees and retirees throughout this week, and area schools have scheduled tours the last week in April. The dam will be open to the public for guided tours June 10-13. Visitors should wear closed toed shoes if they are interested in visiting the dam up close.

Couch founded AP&L in 1913. Three years later, he was approached by Flave Carpenter about building dams on the Ouachita River to harness hydroelectric power.

Remmel Dam was one of the first major sources of power generation for AP&L. It was the third generation site built by Harvey Couch and the only one still operating today, with many original parts, in service for Entergy. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The lake and surrounding area created by Remmel Dam has been a great source of tourism and economic development for the state.

Remmel Dam is named after Colonel Harmon L. Remmel, a friend of Harvey Couch who helped facilitate meetings in Washington D.C. for Couch to obtain licensing and permission to build the dam. Construction on the dam began in May 1923 and was completed in December 1924 at a total cost of $2,142,000.

“The benefits that Remmel Dam has brought to the Malvern and Hot Springs area are numerous,” said Kimberly Bogart, lakes manager for Carpenter and Remmel Dams. “The dams were originally intended to help bring reliable low-cost electrical power to the state, but now also serve multiple purposes including fisheries and especially recreation/tourism. Hot Springs is the number one tourist destination in the state of Arkansas and one of the major draws is the area lakes, which all started with Remmel Dam and Lake Catherine.

Today, power from Remmel Dam services not only Entergy Arkansas, but is also interconnected to the Entergy power grid. Entergy Arkansas plans to continue maximizing the dam’s ability to provide safe and reliable hydroelectric power to the state of Arkansas for the next century.

“With one hundred years in service, the dam boasts a legacy of rich history and community partnership,” said Bogart. We are looking forward to building on this legacy and continuing to be a valued resource for Entergy Arkansas and the state for years to come.”

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.



ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN UNVEILS OPIOID MOBILE HEALTH CLINIC
Griffin: ‘This mobile health clinic will reach previously underserved and unserved Arkansans in need of treatment for opioid addiction’
LITTLE ROCK – At a press conference in Malvern today, Attorney General Tim Griffin announced the deployment of a mobile health clinic run by Arkansas Mobile Opioid Recovery (ARMOR). Griffin issued the following statement:

“This mobile health clinic will reach previously underserved and unserved Arkansans in need of treatment for opioid addiction. The $770,000 that my office granted to ARMOR from the state’s opioid settlement funds is money well spent. This mobile clinic not only establishes new treatment capabilities for those battling addiction, but because of its mobile nature, it also gives us a nimble tool to take our opioid abatement effort to the places where it is needed most.

“I greatly appreciate the vision of Dr. Kristin Martin in bringing the concept of this mobile clinic to my attention and then following through to its fruition. My hope is that this mobile clinic will serve as a pilot program, and, if it has the type of success we anticipate, more funds can be raised to establish similar units to serve more corners of the state.”

The mobile unit will be deployed initially on a rotating basis to Malvern, Danville, and Morrilton, providing those communities with a wide range of services, including opioid-addiction assessments; on-site medical consultations; individualized treatment planning; medication-assisted treatment for Opioid Use Disorder; counseling and peer recovery support services; and follow-up care and monitoring.

Griffin first announced funding for the ARMOR mobile health clinic at his Stop Overdose Summit in November 2023. More than 1,300 people registered for the event where Griffin announced grants totaling just over $1 million from state opioid settlement funds.

For more information about the mobile health unit, visit www.armobilerecovery.org or call (833) 280-5313.
 

LRCVB NAMES MARKETING DIRECTOR - OLUMIDE YEROKUN TO LEAD BUREAU’S MARKETING DEPARTMENT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (April 16, 2024) - The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) has announced the hiring of Olumide Yerokun as Director of Marketing. Bringing more than a decade of experience to the role, Yerokun will manage a variety of promotional strategies and activities to boost the Bureau’s tourism efforts for Little Rock.

“Olumide is off to a great start,” said LRCVB President & CEO Gina Gemberling. “Olumide’s social media and marketing experience will serve him well in planning promotional efforts for the LRCVB, and we look forward to seeing him put his plans into action.”

Yerokun joins the LRCVB after most recently working as a client account manager for Bayard Advertising. Prior to that role, Yerokun led social media strategies for Hendrix College, GWL Advertising and Albright Ideas. He also served as a social media director for ACANA (African Cultural Alliance of North America) and led content and marketing strategy for One Tribe Magazine.

“I am thrilled with the opportunity to join the marketing team,” Yerokun said. “With my experience and passion for driving innovative marketing strategies, I am eager to contribute to the LRCVB's growth and success by creating impactful campaigns that position the city as a regional leader.”

Yerokun earned his bachelor’s degree in business marketing from Morehouse College. Yerokun, who was raised in Little Rock, lived in Georgia and Pennsylvania before returning to Little Rock in 2016.

ABOUT THE LITTLE ROCK CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU 
The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) is the official destination marketing organization for the City of Little Rock, charged with marketing and selling the city as a meeting, sports and leisure travel destination. The LRCVB also manages the Statehouse Convention Center, Robinson Center, River Market and multiple parking facilities. For more information, visit www.littlerock.com.  

 

WESTERMAN, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE SECOND CHANCE REAUTHORIZATION ACT
WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Representatives Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Carol Miller (WV-01), Danny Davis (IL-07), Bobby Scott (VA-03), Barry Moore (AL-02), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), and Jerry Nadler (NY-12) introduced the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2024, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize Second Chance Act programs for an additional five years and reduce recidivism rates nationwide.

“Promoting second chances is essential to breaking the cycle of crime. When we meet individuals who have paid their debts to society with the support and tools they need to succeed, rather than with burdensome legal and social barriers, they are less likely to re-offend and more likely to be positive members of our communities," said Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04). "I'm proud to support the Second Chance Reauthorization Act to promote second chances and foster safer communities. The opportunities and resources provided by this legislation are paramount in breaking the cycle of crime and reducing recidivism rates in Arkansas and nationwide.”

“In West Virginia, we know how important it is to provide everyone with opportunities to succeed. The Second Chance Reauthorization Act is an important component of my efforts to reduce recidivism rates and increase public safety. When we invest in our communities and put in place strong reentry services and supports for people released from prisons and jails, we build stronger and safer communities,” said Congresswoman Miller. “The bill’s strengthened provisions around transitional housing services and substance abuse treatment will be instrumental in helping people in West Virginia and across the nation get back on the right path as they reenter their communities.”
 
“Second Chance reentry programs and services have reached hundreds of thousands of individuals and families across the country, creating healthier families and safer communities,” said Congressman Davis. “Continuing to invest in these evidenced-based interventions is a commonsense approach to strengthen individuals, re-build families, and grow our economy.”

“The Second Chance Act provides an invaluable safety net for those returning to society. Recently incarcerated individuals require a number of stabilizing services and opportunities to get their life back on the right track. We have the evidence and tools at our disposal to reduce recidivism and encourage successful reentry, and we know that the programs funded through the Second Chance Act work. I thank my colleagues for joining this bipartisan effort with me,” said Congressman Scott.
 

COTTON TO BIDEN: INVESTIGATE AND BAN TEMU
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today sent a letter to President Joe Biden about the retail application Temu and its harmful practices, including gathering massive amounts of Americans’ personal data. Senator Cotton asked President Biden to address questions about the Chinese government’s control over the app, Temu’s violations of U.S. laws and regulations, and actions the administration can take against Temu.

In part, Senator Cotton wrote:
“As with TikTok and other invasive Chinese apps, Temu has no place in America. It’s a threat to American producers, investors, online retailers, and every single American’s personal privacy. I urge you to investigate Temu and to request the authorities necessary to protect Americans from this dangerous Chinese application.”

 Full text of the letter may be found below.

April 15, 2024

President Joseph R. Biden

The White House,

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Biden,
I write to you regarding the urgent threat from the Chinese retail application, Temu. This malign app is a pipeline of dumped, counterfeit, and slave-labor products from China that is also gathering massive quantities of Americans’ personal data.

After launching in 2022, Temu has skyrocketed to one of the most downloaded apps in America and already rivals eBay for online sales. It has achieved this astronomical growth through billions of dollars of advertisements, including Super Bowl ads, and by undercutting competitors with extremely cheap and often counterfeit Chinese goods. Temu sells many of its products at a fraction of the price of its American competitors.

Temu’s goods are cheap not because of fair competition, but rather because of China’s familiar combination of intellectual-property theft, government subsidies, and human-rights abuses. For example, Temu directly copies Amazon storefronts and then sells knock-off Chinese versions of the product at a deeply discounted rate. Temu also likely benefits from the use of slave labor. According to the House of Representatives Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, “American consumers should know that there is an extremely high risk that Temu’s supply chains are contaminated with forced labor.”

Temu is getting away with this intellectual-property theft, unfair competition, and use of slave labor by flooding the American market with more than a million individual packages a week. Worse still, the company is importing these goods tax-free under the so-called de minimis loophole in such volumes that Customs and Border Protection simply can’t keep up.

Further, Temu is harvesting vast amounts of personal information from American consumers. In fact, Temu’s data gathering may be even more dangerous than TikTok’s and, according to one lawsuit, the app can access “everything on your phone.” Google Play also removed Temu’s parent company Pinduoduo’s (PDD) app as a result of harmful malware hidden in the app that gave it access to everything from biometrics to information about Wi-Fi networks.[x] This poses a grave threat to Americans’ privacy. PDD Holdings received more than $400 million in “income” from the PRC government last year, which suggests that PDD Holdings may be selling data collected on Temu to entities affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.

As with TikTok and other invasive Chinese apps, Temu has no place in America. It’s a threat to American producers, investors, online retailers, and every single American’s personal privacy. I urge you to investigate Temu and to request the authorities necessary to protect Americans from this dangerous Chinese application. I also urge you to end the de minimis loophole for China and other American adversaries.

Please provide answers to the following questions by May 10, 2024.

 To what degree does the Chinese government exercise control or influence over Temu and its parent company PDD Holdings?

How many leaders of Temu and its parent company PDD Holdings are members of or affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party?

Has your administration investigated Temu’s data gathering and its threat to American personal privacy?

To what extent does Temu steal and counterfeit American products and has the Department of Justice’s Intellectual Property Section investigated Temu, PDD Holdings, and members of the Board of Directors for criminal intellectual-property violations?

Has your administration directed the Department of the Treasury to investigate Temu for possible violations of anti-money laundering regulations?

Has your administration directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate PDD Holdings for potential securities fraud given its status as a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ exchange? 

Is it safe for military personnel to have Temu downloaded on their personal or government devices?

What authorities would your administration need to ban Temu? If given these authorities, would you follow through with a ban?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

April 15, 2024

DON’T RISK IT ON 4/20: DRIVE HIGH, GET A DWI
April 15, 2024
(LITTLE ROCK)  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is teaming up with Arkansas law enforcement to urge drivers to stay sober behind the wheel. This upcoming Saturday, April 20, 2024, marks the unofficial marijuana “holiday,” and there will likely be an increase in marijuana use. Marijuana laws are changing constantly across the country, but one thing remains: Impaired driving is illegal and deadly. NHTSA is reminding all drivers: If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DWI.

“If you are impaired, do not get behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said Arkansas Public Safety Secretary Colonel Mike Hagar. “We are asking our community members to use good judgement, obey the law, and make safe choices when driving a vehicle. Your decisions don’t just affect you — they affect everyone on the road.”

If you think being high won’t affect your driving, you’re wrong. It has been proven that marijuana can slow reaction times, impair cognitive performance, and make it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane. Whether the drug is legally obtained or not, drug-impaired driving poses a threat to everyone on the road.

If you are impaired, give your keys to a sober driver who can safely drive you home or to a safe place. Remind your friends to never get in the vehicle with an impaired driver. If you have a friend who is about to drive while high, advise them not to drive and help them get to their destination safely. They’ll thank you later.

By working together, we can save lives and help keep Arkansas’ roadways safe. Please join the Arkansas Highway Safety Office in sharing the lifesaving message: If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DWI.

For more information on impaired driving, please visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drug-impaired-driving or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8127, and go to https://www.tzdarkansas.org/ to learn about Arkansas’ Toward Zero Deaths campaign to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities. 

ARKANSAS GROWN SCHOOL GARDEN OF THE YEAR CONTEST ENTRIES ACCEPTED THROUGH JUNE 14
LITTLE ROCK, AR – Entries are being accepted for the annual Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year Contest, sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture and the Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas. Applicants may be any school, early childhood education facility, or alternative learning environment that had a school garden during the 2023-2024 school year or is planning to start a garden in the 2024-2025 school year.

“School gardens are valuable educational tools that help students develop healthy eating habits, participate in hands-on activities, and learn about Arkansas agriculture,” said Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. “We are grateful for the generosity of Farm Credit and their continued support of this program.”

Entries for the contest will be accepted through June 14, 2024, and the application can be found at cognitoforms.com/ArkansasAgriculture1/ArkansasGrownSchool GardenOfTheYearContest2024. Winners will be announced in the fall of 2024.

Applicants are eligible to apply for the following categories:
Best Start-Up School Garden Proposal - $500 Award
Best Education-Based School Garden - $500 Award
Best Harvest Partnership School Garden - $500 Award
Best Community Collaboration School Garden - $500 Award
Best Overall School Garden - $1,000 Award
Champion of School Garden Sustainability - $1,000 Award

More information about the Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year Contest can be found at agriculture.arkansas.gov/arkansas-department-of-agriculture-programs/farm-to-school/school-gardens/arkansas-grown-school-garden-of-the-year-contest/ or by contacting jessica.chapman@agriculture.arkansas.gov.

The Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas are locally-owned and managed financial cooperatives that are part of the national Farm Credit System. They are dedicated to making a significant and positive impact on agriculture, rural communities, and youth in agriculture through their statewide partnership. Three independent associations come together to form Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas – Farm Credit of Western Arkansas, AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, and Farm Credit Mid-America. The Farm Credit System has supported rural America since 1916 and remains committed to its original mission of providing reliable, dependable credit to farmers, ranchers and rural homeowners. “As a farmer-owned cooperative, we are excited to continue our support of teachers and projects that engage Arkansas students in food production and agricultural sustainability. Through these partnerships, we can ensure that the valuable role of Arkansas agriculture remains top-of-mind for the next generation,” said Farm Credit of Western Arkansas President and CEO, Brandon Haberer, on behalf of the Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas.

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.


ONE DEAD, AT LEAST 9 INJURED IN WYNNE BLOCK PARTY SHOOTING  
March 14, 2024
WYNNE, Ark. – One man was killed and at least nine people were injured April 13, 2024, when shots were fired at about 10 p.m. at a block party near the corner of Williams Avenue and Martin Luther King Street in Wynne. Two victims were run over by vehicles at the scene.

The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division is investigating the incident at the request of the Wynne Police Department. Investigators have identified multiple people of interest and encourage anyone with information about the incident to call Troop D at (870) 970-6082.

Varian Campbell, 27, of Wynne was pronounced dead at an area hospital. Victims were male and female, with ages ranging from 24 to 49.

Victims were transported to St. Bernards CrossRidge Community Hospital in Wynne, Forrest City Medical Center, and hospitals in Memphis, Tenn., and Jonesboro. One victim was transported by helicopter to the Regional One Health Elvis Presley Trauma Center in Memphis. Authorities believe additional injured individuals may have been transported to hospitals in private vehicles.

The deceased was transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, where manner and cause of death will be determined. The investigation is ongoing.


CID INVESTIGATING OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING FATALITY IN HEMPSTEAD COUNTY
April 12, 2024
COLUMBUS, Ark. — Special Agents with the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Arkansas State Police (ASP) are investigating the shooting death of a Hempstead County man by a Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) deputy.

On Thursday, April 11, 2024, at approximately 8:52 p.m., HCSO responded to a 2900 block of Highway 73 residence in the Columbus community of Hempstead County to serve a felony arrest warrant. Deputies contacted the subject of the warrant, identified as Randy May, 65, at the front door of his residence. According to a witness, May was armed with a machete and charged deputies. A deputy fired his service weapon, striking May. May succumbed to his injuries on the scene.

ASP CID agents will prepare an investigative file to be submitted to the Hempstead County Prosecuting Attorney, who will determine whether the use of deadly force by the sheriff’s deputy was consistent with Arkansas laws.
 

ARKANSAS STATE POLICE INVESTIGATING INCIDENT INVOLVING OFFICER’S USE OF FORCE
April 12, 2024
WICKES, Ark. — The 18th West Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney has requested the Arkansas State Police (ASP) Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to investigate an alleged use of physical force by a Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Deputy.

The incident took place on or around Monday, April 8, 2024, near Wickes in Polk County, which resulted in non-life-threatening injuries to the individual.

ASP Special Agents assigned to the case will present their findings to prosecuting attorneys for review

 

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE TO HOST LOCATION-SPECIFIC PUBLIC MEETINGS FOR ARKANSAS WATER PLAN UPDATE
LITTLE ROCK, AR – In compliance with Executive Order 23-27 signed by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department) is updating the Arkansas Water Plan. As a part of the comprehensive analysis required by Governor Sanders’ executive order, the Department will hold public meetings to engage stakeholders in identifying current water issues, needs, and best practicable solutions.

The meetings are scheduled for May 6 -10, 2024 from 10:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. The format for each meeting will consist of a general overview of the current water plan and discussion about potential updates during the morning session and location-specific water supply discussion in the afternoon from 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Attendees are welcome to attend all or parts of each meeting but encouraged to arrive 15 minutes early for on-site registration. The meetings will be held in the following locations:

May 6, 2024 – Fowler Center 201 Olympic Drive, Jonesboro, AR 72401 (Afternoon session topic: Water Infrastructure) 

May 7, 2024 – Fort Smith Convention Center, 55 S 7th St., Fort Smith, AR 72901 (Afternoon session topic: Drinking Water Supply)

May 8, 2024 – Donald W. Reynolds Campus & Community Center, 100 E. University St., Magnolia, AR 71753 (Afternoon session topic: Industrial Water Supply and Mineral Extraction) 

May 9, 2024 – Rice Research and Extension Center, 2900 AR-130, Stuttgart, AR 72160 (Afternoon session topic: Agricultural Water Supply)

May 10, 2024 – Arkansas Cooperative Extension State Office, 2301 S. University, Little Rock, AR 72204 (Afternoon session topic: Environmental Quality and Recreation). A virtual option will be provided on the agency website at agriculture.arkansas.gov

Representatives from all water use sectors, including interested water planning groups, state and federal agencies, legislators, and local entities, are encouraged to participate in the meetings. If you would like to provide feedback about water issues, please fill out the Arkansas Water Engagement Form, bit.ly/ArkansasWaterPlanSurvey. Contact J. Ryan Benefield at Ryan.Benefield@agriculture.arkansas.gov or at 501-682-3962 for additional meeting information. Learn more about the Arkansas Water Plan at agriculture.arkansas.gov/natural-resources/divisions/water-management/arkansas-water-plan/. The update of the Arkansas Water Plan and the development of a statewide flood plan is being conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The purpose of the Arkansas Water Plan is to conserve and protect the state’s water resources, with a long-term goal of sustainable use to maximize the environmental and economic benefit of the State of Arkansas, and the health and well-being of its citizens. Learn more about the Arkansas Water Plan at agriculture.arkansas.gov/natural-resources/divisions/water-management/arkansas-water-plan/. Read Executive Order 23-27 at governor.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/EO-23-27-Arkansas-Water-Plan-1.pdf

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.


LRCVB NAMES MOBILE VISITOR CENTER PUBLIC CONTEST HELD FOR NAMING
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (April 15, 2024) - The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) has announced the winner of a naming contest held for its new mobile visitor center. 

Now known as Pebbles, the mobile visitor center’s name is a play on words for Little Rock and was inspired by an acronym. Little Rock resident Tamarha Walker suggested Pebbles, to Promote Every Bit of Big Little Rock Excitement. 

The mobile visitor center was unveiled on February 29 and the contest was held on the LRCVB’s website. More than 200 responses were received, which gave the LRCVB a wealth of options. Narrowed to 10 finalists by an internal committee, the winner was chosen by votes from all LRCVB employees. 

Along with bragging rights, Walker was presented with a Little Rock Staycation package as the winner. This included a hotel night and gift certificate to a local restaurant.  

“Pebbles is such a fun name,” said LRCVB President & CEO Gina Gemberling. “We knew from the start that we wanted the mobile visitor center to have a distinct personality that reflects all that makes Little Rock the perfect leisure travel destination.” 

Pebbles will serve as a roving billboard and ambassador to promote Little Rock. It will gather data while in other cities to market Little Rock as a destination to potential visitors. While positioned in Little Rock, the unit will gather visitor profile data including origin, length of stay, and attractions and locations visited. This will assist the LRCVB to develop more strategic marketing strategies. 

The eclipse was the first major event for Pebbles. It was used to greet the crowd in the River Market District by providing destination information and selling eclipse-themed merchandise. 

For more information about Pebbles, please visit www.littlerock.com

HOT SPRING COUNTY SHERIFF ARRESTED
April 10, 2024
As a result of an ASP Criminal Investigation Division probe, Hot Spring County Sheriff Scott Finkbeiner was charged on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, with misdemeanor sexual solicitation and felony unauthorized use of the Arkansas Crime Information Center. He surrendered to the Hot Spring County Detention Center. His bond was set at $10,000. No additional information will be released at this time.


UAMS ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR NEW HEALTH CAREER PROGRAM FOR HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS IN DELTA, SOUTH ARKANSAS
LITTLE ROCK — The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is accepting applications for the inaugural summer academy of the Arkansas Delta Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) Academy, an initiative that supports students in the Delta and South Arkansas as they pursue careers in health care.

Open to rising high school seniors, HCOP Academy will equip students with the skills they need to gain admission to and succeed in health professional programs.

The academy focuses on expanding the workforce in a variety of health care disciplines, including sonography, dietetics, health administration, medical lab technology, mental and behavioral health, occupational and physical therapy, physician assistant studies, public health, radiography and respiratory therapy.

The program will begin with a residential summer academy from June 17 to July 26 at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Students will gain exposure to high-demand careers in health care, tour the UAMS campus in Little Rock and the UAMS South Central Regional Campus in Pine Bluff, prepare for their ACT exams, and receive instruction in math, science and writing. They’ll also engage in fun activities that foster team building and leadership.

Representatives from colleges and universities in the Delta region will speak about their health-career programs and admission requirements.

To stay engaged with its members during the 2024-25 school year, HCOP Academy will offer monthly workshops and opportunities to meet with student mentors from UAMS and its academic partner institutions. And in 2025, participants will attend a summer academy that prepares them for their postsecondary education.

Applicants must demonstrate an interest in pursuing a health career and must be enrolled at a school in the program’s 20-county service area. Those counties are Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Chicot, Cleveland, Columbia, Crittenden, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Jefferson, Lee, Lincoln, Monroe, Ouachita, Phillips, Sevier, St. Francis and Union.

The deadline to submit applications is April 30. For parents and students who are interested in learning more about the program, HCOP Academy will host a series of virtual informational sessions at 6 p.m. April 17, 18 and 25. To sign up for a session or to apply for the academy, visit https://uams.info/HCOP.

The new academy is operated by the UAMS Division for Academic Pathways and Workforce Partnerships with the assistance of UAMS and community collaborators. Brian Gittens, vice chancellor for academic pathways and workforce partnerships, said the program aims to fill some of the chronic and pervasive gaps in the Delta’s health care workforce.

“HCOP Academy will serve as a steppingstone for students who aspire to enter the health care field and make a difference in their communities,” he said.

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and eight institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute, Institute for Digital Health & Innovation and the Institute for Community Health Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.

 

EL DORADO BRINGS A DAY OF FUN FOR MAY(HAW) ON MAIN
El Dorado, AR.— Come out and enjoy the day in Downtown El Dorado at May on Main. This fourth annual event, presented by Main Street El Dorado, will be held Saturday, May 4th, Starting at 10am on Jefferson Avenue and Elm Street in Downtown El Dorado(201 N Jefferson Street El Dorado AR). This festival is a collaborative effort with the Mayhaw Festival, which begins at 8am on Jackson Street.

Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street El Dorado, expressed her enthusiasm for this collaboration, sharing, “We are thrilled to announce the partnership with the Mayhaw Festival. This successful collaboration will evolve into one grand event and the Downtown portion will be known as Mayhaw on Main in the future. Mayhaw on Main offers a full day of enjoyment, including music, games, a kid's foam party, a Mimosa bar, shopping, and more. It's the perfect opportunity to experience the charm of our beautiful downtown and all it has to offer.” Admission is FREE to the festival.

Fun Zone Sponsored by Roseburg - El Dorado MDF

El Dorado is the place to be for families and festivalgoers this season! Join us downtown for a host of fun activities and attractions that will keep you entertained all day long. Kids can look forward to an exciting rock-climbing wall, inflatables and a foam party, while the Big Wheel races are sure to be a hit with the little ones. The races start at 1pm, and while there's no entry fee, children must register at 12pm on Jefferson Street.

Great Food
Not only will our Elm Street and Jefferson Ave restaurants will be open for business, but we will also have a variety of food trucks offering delicious treats such as Flossie's Funnel Cakes and Corndogs, Willie T’s BBQ and King Kone's sno cones and more. Come join us for a wonderful dining experience and indulge in some of the best food and treats the area has to offer.

Live Music on Jefferson Street Courthouse Stage
Live Music sets the tone, and we have an exciting music line up for you! The event will kick off at 11:00 with Ruston’s very own Luke Johnson taking the stage. Following that, we have Captain Erick Meadows scheduled to perform at 12:15, and closing out the day will be the fantastic Second Hand Jacket starting at 1:15. Get ready for a day filled with amazing music and vibrant performances.

Beer Garden and Mimosa Bar
New this year, and sure to be an instant hit, we excitedly announce “The Well Garden Mimosa Bar”, sponsored by The Haywood Hotel where we will be offering bottomless Mimosas (11am-1pm)! Whether you're looking to cool off or simply wash down some delicious festival food, we've got you covered. In addition to our bottomless Mimosa bar, we will also have beer, soft drinks and water available.

Lots To Do
In addition to the Live Music and Kids Fun Zone, there’s plenty for the whole family to enjoy. Mayhaw on Main Vendors will begin at 10am and all the downtown boutiques and shops will be open. Don't miss the chance to join Michaela Miller Photography for a Mother’s Day mini photo shoot that includes a 10 min session and 10 digital photos located on Elm Street outside All About Flowers.

To make your day even more special, take a FREE ride on the El Dorado Trolley from 10am - 2pm. There are several stops to take you from Mayhaw on Main to the Mayhaw Festival. The route covers Peach, Jackson, Main and Washington.

If you're looking for a more romantic or more intimate ride, enjoy a wonderful Horse and Carriage ride around El Dorado starting at 10am. Randall Clark Farms will be providing the rides starting at $30 for 2 people. And of course, you can't leave without picking up your own jar of Mayhaw Jelly!

Join us for a memorable celebration filled with fun activities for the whole family! To learn more about May(haw) on Main, visit mainstreeteldorado.org. You can also call the Main Street El Dorado office at 870-862-4747.

Sponsors for this year’s event include Roseburg El Dorado-MDF, Mac’s Tree Service, First Financial Bank, Hepco, Red River Credit Union, Lawrence Electric, Judge Mike and Phena Loftin,Brookshires, I ♥︎ El Dorado, The Haywood and the El Dorado A&P Commission.



STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
April 12, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – The legislature convened the fiscal session and will spend the next month working on a $6.3 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The legislature has always approved conservative budgets, and the balanced budget proposed by the governor is very conservative even by traditional standards.

It calls for growth in state agency spending of only 1.76 percent, compared to traditional growth of about 3 percent in recent years.

The growth amounts to increased spending of about $109.3 million. The majority of that amount, about $65.7 million, would go to the Education Freedom Account program created last year. Also, the governor proposes an increase of $38.2 million in the state’s Public School Fund.

The State Police would get an increase of about $3.8 million for its trooper school, allowing the agency to add 100 troopers.

State-supported institutions of higher education will receive about $781 million this year. The governor proposes to reduce that amount by $2.45 million next year.

In a speech to a joint session of the Senate and House on the first day of the fiscal session, the governor said that her reason for holding down growth in state government is to make room for future tax cuts. She repeated her pledge to responsibly phase out the state income tax.

We are currently in Fiscal Year 2024, which ends on June 30. Forecasters at the state Department of Finance and Administration predict that the state will end the fiscal year with a budget surplus of about $240.5 million.

The proposed surplus for Fiscal Year 2025, which we’ll finalize during this year’s fiscal session, is predicted to be about $376.6 million.

For the most part legislators will consider budget bills. However, there will be efforts to add non-budget bills to the agenda, which is allowed by the state Constitution if two-thirds of both the Senate and House approve a resolution for their introduction.

The Revenue Stabilization Act, which is the Arkansas balanced budget law, is actually considered a non-budget bill because it doesn’t specifically appropriate tax funds. It sets spending priorities and states the purpose of various funds, but it doesn’t have specific dollar amounts as appropriation bills do.

In past fiscal sessions the Revenue Stabilization Act has been introduced and approved without controversy.

This year some legislators have filed resolutions declaring their wish to file bills affecting the regulation of data centers and crypto mines. They would amend Act 851 of 2023, known as the Arkansas Data Centers Act, which defines how local governments may regulate data centers and crypto mines.

People who live near crypto mines have voiced complaints about the constant noise levels, and local communities have expressed concerns about the amount of electric power and water used by the centers.

Senate Resolution 5 would allow legislation to create noise reduction techniques. The proposed legislation also would prohibit certain foreign entities from owning a controlling interest in an Arkansas data center. The prohibitions also would apply to agents of foreign interests.

Seven other Senate resolutions have been filed seeking to allow introduction of bills to further regulate crypto-mines and data centers.

April 11, 2024

HIGHWAY 387 IN CAMDEN TO CLOSE FOR REPAIRS
OUACHITA COUNTY | April 11, 2024
Highway 387 (Cash Road) will be fully closed just south of Highway 376 (Fairview Road) in Camden from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, April 15 and Tuesday, April 16.

Weather permitting, crews will replace a damaged pipe under Highway 387.

Traffic will detour to Highway 7 South. Please see the attached detour map for additional information.

Traffic will be controlled with the use of barrels, cones, and signage.

Drivers are urged to use caution while traveling in the area.

Additional travel information can be found at IDriveArkansas.com or ARDOT.gov.   

 

BREAKING GROUND, BUILDING SAFELY: ENTERGY ARKANSAS RECOGNIZES SAFE DIGGING MONTH
Stay safe by knowing where utility lines are buried – call 811 before you dig
Little Rock, Ark. – Spring is here and with warmer temperatures on the way, this is the prime season to start home improvement and landscaping projects. April is National Safe Digging Month and Entergy Arkansas is reminding you to call 811 before digging into your list of spring projects.

National Safe Digging Month serves as a reminder to all people who excavate or dig to call 811 at least two full business days before digging to have the approximate location of their utility lines marked. This process helps prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient utility outages.

The focus of National Safe Digging Month is on preventing serious consequences that could occur from digging without knowing what’s below the surface – not only now, but year-round. Regardless of what you plan to do, how deep you plan to dig or even if you’ve called before for a similar project, every job requires a call first.

“Protecting our customers and making sure they are safe is our top priority,” said Adam Effrein, vice president of reliability and power delivery for Entergy Arkansas. “Everyone – homeowners, business owners and contractors – should call 811 to ensure you don’t disrupt underground utility lines, including gas, water and electric. Not only is it the safe thing to do, but it’s also the law.”

The depth of underground utility lines varies and there may be multiple utility lines in one common area. The risk of striking underground utility lines exists even when digging only a few inches.

Arkansas has its own 811 call center that can help you stay safe while digging. Call center representatives can advise you on how to submit requests to learn what utilities may be buried beneath the ground, such as natural gas pipelines, electric power lines and other services.

After you make the call to 811, professional locators mark the approximate locations of underground lines at the requested digging site with flags, paint or both. Markings show the location of underground lines and help prevent undesired consequences such as injury, service disruptions or costly fines and repair costs.

If you suspect utility damage of any kind, leave the area immediately and call 1-800-ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749) or call 911. A gas leak could be occurring if you smell the distinctive natural gas odor, hear a hissing or whistling sound near a gas appliance or see dead vegetation or bubbles near a gas line.

For more information, visit Arkansas811.com, Entergy.com/safety/dig/ or call 1-800-482-8998For more on these and other stories visit www.yesradioworks.com.


ARDOT LAUNCHES TRANSPORTATION PERFORMANCE DASHBOARD
Dashboard includes pavement ratings, safety data, and the status of construction jobs
The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) launched an interactive dashboard designed to keep citizens informed about pavement conditions across the state, the status of construction jobs, safety data, and other metrics under the “Transportation Performance” umbrella.

The Transportation Performance Dashboard can be accessed via ARDOT’s website at ardot.gov/performance.

The dashboard features gauges showing bridge condition, Interstate condition, and National Highway condition ratings – along with the evaluation process and what each rating means.

“These ratings are determined using federal standards,” said ARDOT Director Lorie Tudor.  “Seventy-five percent of our budget goes toward taking care of the roads we already have. We’re proud of our pavement preservation efforts across the state and are excited to have a tool that shares where we stand in that continuous effort.”

The dashboard also includes the latest roadway safety data and an interactive map of construction jobs across the state.

“This is a great tool to promote transparency and show the public how their tax dollars are being spent,” said Director Tudor. “We hope to continue adding features to this dashboard over time.”

To learn more about the dashboard and how to navigate it, click here.

Additional travel information can be found at IDriveArkansas.com or ARDOT.gov.   


 

ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF ARKANSAS DISPATCH 77 LINEWORKERS TO ALABAMA, LOUISIANA
Little Rock, Ark. — April 11, 2024 — The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas have dispatched 77 lineworkers and utility vehicles, along with construction equipment, to assist Alabama Power and DEMCO of Central City, Louisiana, with power restoration efforts.

Seventy professional lineworkers are with Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI) of Little Rock, and seven are with Petit Jean Electric Cooperative of Clinton. Thirty-seven of the AECI lineworkers who are now working in Alabama had completed a power restoration assignment in Mississippi earlier this week. The seven Petit Jean Electric and 33 of the AECI lineworkers are assisting DEMCO.

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives along with 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.

 

FOUR WAYS TO GET YOUR FAMILY MOVING THIS MONTH
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (April 11, 2024) – April is Move More Month, which makes it a great time to get moving as a family. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that kids stay active throughout the day and that older kids get an hour of more vigorous physical activity daily. Exercising as a family is a great way to show your children the importance of physical activity at an early age. Here are four ways to get your family moving more this month.

1. Limit screen time.
Setting boundaries to limit your kids’ screen time is a good place to start if you want your family to be more active. With less time to watch TV or play video games, kids will have to find other ways to entertain themselves. Try finding photo hunt apps and games for your kids that encourage spending screen time outside. Be ready to step in with some non-electronic ways to have fun and get them moving, too.

 2. Exercise and play together.
Set aside time to play and stay active as a family. Choosing activities to complete together can show your kids how fun exercise can be. Hiking a local trail or cycling around your neighborhood can be great ways to spend time outdoors while staying active. Consider going bowling or trying mini golf for a fun change of pace.

 3. Buy toys that require activity.
Getting kids to move more can be as simple as encouraging them to play with toys like kites, skateboards, jump ropes and other things that require movement. Consider gifting them these toys for birthdays and holidays. Keeping these toys near the front or back door in your house can also prompt your children to grab them before heading outside.

 4. Think outside of the box.
Gardening and chores might not seem like exercise, but both are great ways to make sure your kids stay active. Planting and caring for a garden will give your kids a reason to spend time outside every day. Chores like raking leaves, shoveling snow and tidying up indoors can keep kids busy and on the move, and it gives you an opportunity to reward them once they’re done.

No matter how you choose to move more this month, make sure you get the whole family involved. The American Heart Association has more tips and resources at heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/getting-active/how-to-get-your-family-active, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about the importance of physical activity for children at cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adding-pa/activities-children.html.

April 10, 2024

CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEET – EBONY GULLEY RESIGNS
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen met in regular session on Tuesday, April 09, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.

Mayor Charlotte Young called the meeting to order promptly at 7:00 pm. The invocation was given by Supt. Roy Wesley, Jr., Pastor at New Hope Tabernacle Of Faith COGIC.  The invocation was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

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

The minutes of the March 12, 2024 regular meeting were presented in print. Motion was made and seconded. Alderman Askew noted a correction that needed to be made. Clerk Donna Stewart agreed that there did need to be a correction. Motion was made and seconded to accept the minutes as corrected. The minutes were passed by unanimous vote.

The Financial Report for February was presented in print. Due to mistakes in the report the acceptance of the February financial report was tabled last month. Motion was made and seconded and after some discussion Aldermen Moore, Gulley and Askew abstained. Aldermen Lindsey, Aregood, and Winters voted yes. Alderman McCoy voted no. The Financial report for February was not approved.

The Financial Report for March was presented in print. Motion was made and seconded. There was discussion. Aldermen Winters Lindsey and Aregood voted yes. Aldermen Moore, Gulley, Askew and McCoy voted no. The Financial Report was not approved.

During the Mayor’s Report Police Chief Bo Woody gave his report for the prior year. The Chief reported that there were 4 homicides, 9 robberies, 5 rapes, 44 residential and 13 commercial burglaries, 53 assaults, 52 thefts and 16 auto thefts in 2023. There were a total of 483 criminal cases reported. Of that 483, 407 or 84% were closed. There were 104 cases of Domestic Violence reported. 100% of those cases were closed.

The felony amount stolen in 2023 was $310,125.00. $118,514.00 or 40%  was recovered. There were 159 felony warrants issued and 29 misdemeanor warrants issued in 2023, There were 84 search warrants issued. There were 17 vehicles reported stolen with 13 of the 17 or 76% recovered. There were 4 additional vehicles recovered from other jurisdictions. There were 74 drug cases investigated.

The Police Department responded to 10,751 calls for services during 2023, averaging over 207 calls per week or 30 calls a day for police services. The Police Department took 2,653 Incident reports, responded to 272 traffic accidents, issued 756 traffic citations made 653 physical arrests, served 326 warrants and gave 114 escorts in 2023.

During the calendar year 2023, the Animal Control Officer’s responded to 612 complaints. As a result of these complaints, 346 dogs were confined, 189 reports were filed, 89 ncitations issued and 142 warnings were issued. In 2023, 35 of the dogs that were sent to rescue shelters in other states and 36 were reclaimed

After the Police Chief’s report, the Mayor stated that there would be a public meeting regarding the curfew in Camden. She also mentioned that the Jamboree at the Camden Sportsplex will be this weekend with 24 teams participating. Admission to the Sportplex is free. She also mentioned a CDL Fair coming up as well as a vaccination clinic for your dogs at Carnes Park.

Old Business consisted of Ordinance No. 03-24, an ordinance repealing Ordinance No. 07-02 assessing a lien on certain property located at 541 Greenwood Street NW, Camden, Arkansas. This was the second reading. Motion was made and seconded. Motion was made to suspend the rules and put it up for the third and final reading. The motion passed by unanimous vote.

The Council move on to new business beginning with Ordinance No. 04-24, an ordinance assessing a lien on certain property located at 311 Monroe St. This was the first reading. Motion was made and seconded to amend the rules and move to a final vote. Motion passed. Motion was made and seconded to approve and the Ordinance passed by unanimous vote.

Ordinance No. 05-24, an ordinance permitting an official of the Water and Sewer Commission to be interested in contracts with the City of Camden, Arkansas. This was the first reading of the Ordinance.
 

Ordinance No. 06-24, an ordinance amending Article II of Chapter 5 of the Camden Code regarding dogs; and for other purposes. Motion was made and seconded. This Ordinance addresses ownership. This ordinance would raise the threshold of ownership. Currently if you feed a dog it is considered your dog. This ordinance would remove that stipulation would consider feeding an animal as only being humane. However, it would make law improvement to prove an animal belongs to a particular person. Alderman Aregood had taken some papers to Attorney Frey regarding animal cruelty and questioned why this issue was being addressed and not the animal cruelty. The suggestion was made to take a further look at it and add some language to it regarding cruelty to dogs. The ordinance was tabled.

Resolution No. 19-24, a resolution declaring the dilapidated structures located at 719 Clifton St. NW a public nuisance and to order the removal of the same. Motion was made and seconded. The motion passed by unanimous vote.

Resolution No. 20-24, a resolution confirming the appointment of Fred Lilly to the Camden Housing Authority to fill a vacancy. Motion was made and seconded. There was an extensive discussion regarding the Housing Authority. Alderman Gulley made a motion to table Resolution 20-24 and 21-04 a resolution confirming the appointment of Beverly Golden to the Camden Housing Authority, to see if the Housing Authority will show up to a council meeting so that the Aldermen can address their concerns.  The motion passed by unanimous vote.

Resolution No. 22-24, a resolution amending the 2024 Annual Operating Budget; awarding the bid for a gas generator for the Camden Police Department; and  for other purposes. Motion was made and seconded. The motion passed by unanimous vote.

Resolution No. 23-24, a resolution amending the Annual Operating Budget for 2024; appropriating and      authorizing the transfer of funds from the General fund to the Stret Department; and for other purposes. Motion was made and seconded.  There was extensive discussion. Alderman Lindsey asked if there wasn’t money in a CD for the Street Department. Clerk Stewart stated that was the case.  The discussion continued. There was discussion regarding the CD. Alderman Gulley stated that she was on the Depository Committee that would be involved with cashing in the CD. She stated that she wasn’t comfortable with it so she withdrew from the Depository Committee. Alderman Lindsey said he would be on the Depository Committee for one month.  Following all the discussion the Council voted to accept Alderman Gulley’s resignation from the  Depository Committee. The vote passed with 7 yeses and 1 abstention. Alderman Lindsey was voted to replace Alderman Gulley on the Depository Committee. Alderman Aregood made a motion to table the Resolution to give the Depository Committee time to meet and bring forth some recommendations. The Resolution was tabled.

Resolution No. 24-24, a resolution amending the 2023 Annual Operating Budget for the City of Camden, Arkansas, and appropriating money for each and every item of expenditure therein provided for.    Motion was made and seconded. There was a long discussion. Aldermen Aregood, Lindsey and Winters voted for the resolution. Aldermen McCoy, Gulley and Moore voted no and Alderman Askew abstained. The Resolution failed.

Resolution No. 25-24, a resolution appointing Douglas Jones to the Civil Service Commission. Motion was made and seconded. The motion passed with 7 yeses and Aldermen Moore abstaining.

At the end of the meeting Alderman Gulley resigned the board leaving a vacancy on the Board of Aldermen. Applications will be taken to fill the vacancy and the Council will appoint a replacement for her. The meeting adjourned at  9:15p.m.  The next regular meeting of the Council is scheduled for May 14, 2024.


CITY OF EAST CAMDEN CITY WIDE GARAGE SALE
The City of East Camden will hold its annual City-Wide Garage Sale on Saturday, May 4th, beginning at 8:00 a.m. A listing of all sales can be picked up at the East Camden Fire Station next door to city hall at 7:45 a.m. that morning. Fried Fish and chicken plates, bake sale and cold drinks will be sold at the fire station with all proceeds benefiting the East Camden Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary. All East Camden residents having a sale are asked to call City Hall at 574-2900 to register their sale. Outdoor spaces are available for nonresidents and organizations who wish to have a sale. Space rental is $15. Something New added a couple of years ago: “Vendor Row”.  Vendor Row has been a huge success since it was added in 2022. We still have just a few spaces available for arts & craft vendors who want to come sell their items. Please contact city hall 574-2900 to reserve a booth for $15. Mark your calendars and make plans to come shop our sales on May 4th. For more information please contact: Mayor Angie McAdoo (870) 833-2196  or City Hall (870) 574-2900.

 

SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM REACHES LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 2012
Optimism declined to 88.5 in March
LITTLE ROCK (April 9, 2024) – The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index decreased by 0.9 of a point in March to 88.5, the lowest level since December 2012. This is the 27th consecutive month below the 50-year average of 98. The net percent of owners raising average selling prices rose seven points from February to a net 28% percent seasonally adjusted.

“Small business optimism has reached the lowest level since 2012 as owners continue to manage numerous economic headwinds,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Inflation has once again been reported as the top business problem on Main Street and the labor market has only eased slightly.” 

Though state-specific data is unavailable, NFIB State Director Katie Burns warned that inflation exacerbates the challenges of owning and operating a small business. 

“To keep up with elevated costs, small business owners must pass higher prices onto their customers. This puts Main Street in a difficult position, as inflation continues to rob the purchasing power of hardworking families.” 

Key findings include:
The net percent of owners who expect real sales to be higher decreased eight points from February to a net negative 18% (seasonally adjusted).

Twenty-five percent of owners reported that inflation was their single most important problem in operating their business (higher input and labor costs), up two points from February.

Owners’ plans to fill open positions continue to slow, with a seasonally adjusted net 11% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down one point from February and the lowest level since May 2020.

Seasonally adjusted, a net 38% reported raising compensation, up three points from February’s lowest reading since May 2021. 

As reported in NFIB’s monthly jobs report, 37% (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period. A net 21% (seasonally adjusted) plan to raise compensation in the next three months, up two points from February. The percent of small business owners reporting labor quality as their top small business operating problem rose two points from February to 18%. Labor cost reported as the single most important problem for business owners decreased by one point to 10%, only three points below the highest reading of 13% reached in December 2021.

Fifty-six percent of owners reported capital outlays in the last six months, up two points from February. Of those making expenditures, 38% reported spending on new equipment, 24% acquired vehicles, and 17% improved or expanded facilities.

Ten percent of owners spent money on new fixtures and furniture and 5% acquired new buildings or land for expansion. Twenty percent (seasonally adjusted) plan capital outlays in the next few months.

A net negative 10% of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reported higher nominal sales in the past three months, up three points from February. The net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes declined eight points to a net negative 18% (seasonally adjusted).

The net percent of owners reporting inventory gains fell six points to a net negative 7%. Not seasonally adjusted, 12% reported increases in stocks (down one point) and 22% reported reductions (unchanged). A net negative 5% (seasonally adjusted) of owners viewed current inventory stocks as “too low” in March, down one point from February. A net negative 7% (seasonally adjusted) of owners plan inventory investment in the coming months, unchanged from February.

 

The net percent of owners raising average selling prices rose seven points from February to a net 28% seasonally adjusted. Twenty-five percent of owners reported that inflation was their single most important problem in operating their business, up two points from last month.

Unadjusted, 13% reported lower average selling prices and 43% reported higher average prices. Price hikes were the most frequent in finance (61% higher, 10% lower), retail (54% higher, 6% lower), construction (51% higher, 4% lower), wholesale (50% higher, 17% lower), and transportation (44% higher, 0% lower). Seasonally adjusted, a net 33% plan price hikes in March.

The frequency of reports of positive profit trends was a net negative 29% (seasonally adjusted), up two points from February, but still a very poor reading. Among owners reporting lower profits, 29% blamed weaker sales, 17% blamed the rise in the cost of materials, 13% cited usual seasonal change, and 12% cited price change. For owners reporting higher profits, 53% credited sales volumes, 23% cited usual seasonal change, and 12% cited higher selling prices.

Two percent of owners reported that all their borrowing needs were not satisfied. Twenty-seven percent reported all credit needs met and 59% said they were not interested in a loan.

A net 8% reported their last loan was harder to get than in previous attempts. Four percent of owners reported that financing was their top business problem. A net 17% of owners reported paying a higher rate on their most recent loan, up one point from February.

The NFIB Research Center has collected Small Business Economic Trends data with quarterly surveys since the fourth quarter of 1973 and monthly surveys since 1986. Survey respondents are randomly drawn from NFIB’s membership. The report is released on the second Tuesday of each month. This survey was conducted in March 2024.


HOUSE PASSES WESTERMAN BILL TO EXPAND OUTDOOR RECREATION OPPORTUNITIES
WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Act (EXPLORE), bipartisan legislation sponsored by Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) to expand outdoor recreation access nationwide.

Westerman released the following statement on the policy provisions included in the EXPLORE Act to reopen overnight camping at Albert Pike Recreation Area:

“Ever since the Forest Service suspended overnight camping at Albert Pike Recreation Area, I’ve heard from countless constituents who are disappointed with the decision and frustrated with the mismanagement of the site since the suspension. As such, I included comprehensive and responsible policies in the EXPLORE Act that will ensure the Forest Service reopens overnight camping and better manages the Albert Pike Recreation Area. No one understands the blessing of outdoor recreation opportunities quite like Arkansans, which is why I’m proud to champion the EXPLORE Act to ensure that outdoorsmen and women can safely enjoy their favorite recreation sites, like Albert Pike, for generations to come.”

BACKGROUND:
One of the most popular sites within the Ouachita National Forest is the Albert Pike Recreation Area (APRA), a unique area that has long attracted outdoorsmen and women from across the country. The U.S. Forest Service suspended overnight camping at APRA following a major flash flood that tragically killed 20 people on June 11, 2010. Since then, APRA has been to limited day use. Congressman Westerman’s EXPLORE Act will:

Safely re-open any existing overnight campsites outside of the 100-year flood plain within 30 days of the bill’s enactment.

Identify 54 areas that may be suitable for overnight camping in the recreation area within 6 months of the bill’s enactment.

Establish at least 27 new overnight camping sites outside of the 100-year flood plain, including at least 8 with electric and water hookups, for public use within 2 years of the bill’s enactment.

Require the rehabilitation necessary to make publicly accessible areas in APRA suitable for year-round day use.

In addition to reopening overnight camping at APRA, the EXPLORE Act will:

Improve access to public lands and waters for outdoor recreation.

Modernize technology to improve visitor experiences, like increasing broadband connectivity and creating digital recreation passes.

Streamline the permitting process and reduce fees for small businesses that depend on public land access.

Protect rock climbing in iconic places and create new long-distance bike trails.

Restore campgrounds and modernize infrastructure.

Support gateway communities by addressing housing shortages and outdated infrastructure.

Improve accessibility for military service members, veterans, individuals with disabilities and children.

The EXPLORE Act is supported by more than 100 outdoor organizations, including several Arkansas based organizations who advocate for hunting, fishing, horseback riding, recreational boating, rock climbing, and more.
 

April 08, 2024

CITY OF 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 – Supt. Roy Wesley, Jr., Pastor – New Hope Tabernacle Of Faith Cogic, 2236 S. Adams  Ave., Camden, Ar
C. Pledge Of Allegiance
D. Roll Call
E.  Approval Of Minutes
     1. Minutes Of Regular Scheduled Meeting, March 12, 2024
F. Acceptance Of Financial Report
      1. Financial Report For February 2024
      2. Financial Report For March 2024        
G.  Audience Participation
H. Mayor’s Report    
I. Old Business         
      1.  Ordinance No. 03-24, an ordinance repealing Ordinance No. 07-02 assessing a lien on certain property  located at 541 Greenwood Street NW, Camden, Arkansas. (Second Reading)
 J.  New Business
      1. Ordinance No. 04-24, an ordinance assessing a lien on certain property located at 311 Monroe St.
      2. Ordinance No. 05-24, an ordinance permitting an official of the Water and Sewer Commission to be  interested in contracts with the City of Camden, Arkansas
      3. Ordinance No. 06-24, an ordinance amending Article II of Chapter 5 of the Camden Code regarding dogs; and for other purposes.
      4. Resolution No. 19-24, a resolution declaring the dilapidated structures located at 719 Clifton St. NW a public nuisance and to order the removal of the same.
      5. Resolution No. 20-24, a resolution confirming the appointment of Fred Lilly to the Camden Housing Authority to fill a vacancy.
       6.   Resolution No. 21-04, a resolution confirming the appointment of Beverly Golden to the Camden Housing Authority to fill a vacancy.
       7.   Resolution No. 22-24, a resolution amending the 2024 Annual Operating Budget; awarding the bid for a gas generator for the Camden Police Department; and  for other purposes.
       8.   Resolution No. 23-24, a resolution amending the Annual Operating Budget for 2024; appropriating and      authorizing the transfer of funds from the General fund to the Stret Department; and for other purposes.
       9.   Resolution No. 24-24, a resolution amending the 2023 Annual Operating Budget for the City of Camden, Arkansas, and appropriating money for each and every item of expenditure therein provided for.    
      10.  Resolution No. 25-24, a resolution appointing Douglas Jones to the Civil Service Commission.
K. Other Business
L.  Adjournment


PUBLIC MEETING SCHEDULED TO DISCUSS CAMDEN CURFEW
There will be a public meeting to get feedback on revising the curfew in the City of Camden, Arkansas.  This meeting will be held at the Greater St. Paul Baptist Church, in their Community Outreach room AT 6:30 pm on April 15, 2024. The church is located at 896 South Adams Avenue.


ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION KICKS OFF NATIONAL WORK ZONE AWARENESS WEEK
The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) is kicking off National Work Zone Awareness Week with a press event and announcement in downtown Little Rock at 11 a.m. Monday, April 15.

During the event, ARDOT will unveil a special project the agency is embarking on with the help of the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation and other industry partners.

Additionally, ARDOT will display new safety equipment at the event including green-light vehicles, Lane Blade devices, and Gator Getters.  ARDOT’s Mobile Work Zone Memorial will also be on display.

Work Zone Awareness Week is a national safety campaign observed each spring, traditionally at the start of construction season, to encourage safe driving through highway work zones across the country. This year, it will be the week of April 15-19. 

Additionally, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed a State proclamation declaring the week of April 15-19, 2024 as Work Zone Awareness Week in Arkansas. Bridges and buildings in the central Arkansas area will be lit orange in honor of work zone safety.

ARDOT is joined by industry partners that include the Arkansas Chapter of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), the Associated General Contractors of Arkansas (AGC), the Arkansas Asphalt Pavement Association (AAPA), the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The National Work Zone Awareness Week campaign was founded by ATSSA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and FHWA.

What: Arkansas’ 2024 National Work Zone Awareness Week

Kick-Off Event and Announcement

When: 11 a.m., Monday, April 15

Where: Southwest Parking lot of the Clinton Presidential Library, overlooking the 30 Crossing work zone in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock (see attached map)

Who: Open to the public


THE STARLETS TO PERFORM IN CAMDEN, AR ON APRIL 26, 2024
Live On Stage, Inc. and the Ouachita County Community Concert Association announce 50s & 60s female vocal group as part of their 2023 - 2024 Concert Season
CAMDEN, Ark. – (April 5, 2024) – Join the Starlets as they celebrate the iconic girl groups of the 50s & 60s in a one-of-a-kind concert at the Event Center at Fairview Park on Friday, April 26, 2024 at 7:00 p.m.  Children 12th grade and under will be admitted free of charge when accompanied by a paid adult.  For more information, please call 870-807-6915 or 870-818-2131, or visit www.camdenliveonstage.com.

“They have a fantastic repertoire of classic songs that will have you singing along.”
Charity Event, 2019

Inspired by iconic girl groups The Ronettes, The Angels, The Shirelles and The Supremes, The Starlets take you on a musical journey through the 50’s & 60’s when radio was dominated by Pop, Doo-Wop, R&B and Motown. Take a trip back in time as The Starlets perform such memorable hits as My Boyfriend’s Back, Heatwave, These Boots are Made for Walkin’, Be My Baby, Stop! In the Name of Love, and more! Produced with fabulous costumes, sizzling choreography and engaging audience interaction, this show will inspire you to start “Dancin’ in the Street!” Click Here To View A Video Of The Starlets.

The Ouachita County Community Concert Association has been presenting world-class entertainment to the Camden community since 1947! An enthusiastic group of volunteers work tirelessly to provide family entertainment and educational outreach performances to educate and entertain adults and students alike.

Live On Stage, Inc. provides excellent, affordable, entertainment attractions and support services to an American community of concert presenters. 

 

REMINDER: 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.

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 CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
April 5, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – Parents can now apply to the state Education Division for Education Freedom Accounts for next year.

The application period began the first day of April. This school year about 5,000 students are benefitting from the accounts, and more children will be eligible next year.

Eligible families may receive up to 90% of the amount of per student foundation funding for last year. In the 2024-25 school year, that amount will be about $6,856 per Education Freedom Account (EFA).

An education official estimated that 14,000 students would take advantage of EFAs next school year. Families can apply online at efas.ade.arkansas.gov

Expect to be notified of approvals in June.

The governor and the legislature created the accounts last year in Act 237, also known as the LEARNS Act.

The families of students who qualify receive financial help paying for schools of their choice. This year about 100 private schools have been approved to participate. The schools send invoices to the families, then the family uploads it to the student’s Education Freedom Account and an account manager sends funding to the school.

This year eligible students include first-time kindergarteners, students coming from schools that last year got an “F” on school report cards and students from districts in Level 5 of the state’s accountability process for gauging academic distress.

Also eligible this year are students from the Succeed Scholarship Program, which existed before the LEARNS Act was created last year. Children of active duty military personnel also qualify this year.

For the 2024-2025 school year, the criteria will be expanded to include students from a school that got a “D” on school report cards. The children of military veterans and the children of emergency responders.

This year homeschooling expenses are not allowable under the Education Freedom Accounts program. However they will become allowable beginning in the 2024-2025 school year, when instructional and curriculum materials can be paid for through EFAs.

Homeschooled students will have to take the same national standardized tests that private school students take, and the results must be reported to the state Education Division. The expenses of taking the tests can be paid for through EFAs.

In the third year of the LEARNS Act, the 2025-2026 school year, all Arkansas students are eligible to apply for Education Freedom Accounts.

Revenue Report

Legislators return to the Capitol April 10 for the fiscal session. They will approve a state government budget for Fiscal Year 2025, which begins on July 1, 2024.

The state is in healthy financial shape, according to the most recent revenue report for March. Net general revenues were 17.5 percent above forecast. The solid performance was in all three of the major sources of tax revenue for state government – individual income taxes, corporate income taxes and sales taxes.

The governor has proposed a state general revenue budget of $6.31 billion, with most of the increases in spending dedicated to education. Forecasters predict that the state will end Fiscal Year 2024 with a budget surplus of $240.5 million and that Fiscal Year 2025 will end with a surplus of $376.6 million.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN PRAISES STATE SUPREME COURT DECISION ON VOTING MACHINES
Griffin: ‘This is a win for the voters and taxpayers of Arkansas’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement after today’s ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court in Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative v. Thurston affirming a lower court ruling that the voting machines used in Arkansas elections comply with state law:

“This is a win for the voters and taxpayers of Arkansas as the State Supreme Court affirms what we’ve already known to be true: The voting process and machines used in Arkansas comply with state law. I thank the diligent work of Senior Assistant Attorney General Jordan Broyles in successfully defending the state in this matter.”

April 04, 2024

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PLANS HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL FOR CAMDEN
The Camden Regional Chamber of Commerce is hosting the highly anticipated "Soaring to New Heights: Celebrate Labor Day with a Spectacular Sky-High Festival!" on August 30 and 31, 2024.

This event promises to be a spectacular spectacle of hot air balloons, entertainment, and community camaraderie. We believe this festival will not only provide an unforgettable experience but also contribute to the vibrant culture and spirit of our community.

To ensure the success of this event and address any queries or concerns, the Chamber is holding a Question-and-Answer meeting with Balloon Event Manager, Pat Harlow. The meeting will take place on April 5, 2024, at 2PM at OPED, located at 570 Ben Ln, Camden AR 71701. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to engage with Pat, hear about the festival's plans, and voice your thoughts and ideas.

We look forward to seeing you at the Question-and-Answer Meeting and the Labor Day Hot Air Balloon Festival. Your participation and support are crucial to making this event a resounding success.

CAMDEN CITY POLICE RESPOND TO FIGHT IN LINCOLN CENTER
Tuesday evening, April 2nd Officers from the Camden City Police Department were dispatched to Lincoln Center for a fight in progress. Officers arrived go see a large group of individuals running back to their respective apartments. Officer McMahen advised them to all remain in the area. He spoke with a juvenile who led him to a group of women and children who were all screaming at each other. The juvenile stated someone had been beating up on his sister. This was what started the fight. Fighting ensued and a few other people got involved. One adult came out and tried to break up the juvenile brawl. During the investigation, it was determined that this was a mutual combat situation based on the statements given. All parents were advised that a report would be on file.

 

MISSISSIPPI WOMAN ARRESTED DURING TRAFFIC STOP FOR TRAFFICKING FENTANYL
April 3, 2024
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – On Tuesday, April 2, 2024, an ASP Trooper made a traffic stop on a vehicle traveling eastbound on Interstate 40 near the 86-mile marker, seizing approximately half a pound of counterfeit hydrocodone pills containing fentanyl from the center console of the vehicle.  

“Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous substance that has led to a significant increase in overdose-related deaths across this country,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “Our Troopers will continue to fight to keep this deadly substance out of our communities and uphold our primary duty to keep Arkansans safe.”  

The driver of the vehicle, identified as Jasmine Charmaine Petty, 31, of Pittsboro, Mississippi, was taken into custody after a Trooper stopped her vehicle for speeding and continuously driving in the left lane. She was booked into the Pope County Detention Center on felony charges for Trafficking a Controlled Substance.   

 

ARKANSAS STATE BROADBAND OFFICE RECEIVES NTIA APPROVAL FOR DIGITAL SKILLS AND OPPORTUNITY PLAN
Little Rock, Ark. (April 3, 2024) – The Arkansas State Broadband Office has received approval for its Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

In 2022, the NTIA awarded the State Broadband Office $843,673.10 to develop its Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan. This funding was awarded as part of the Digital Equity Planning Grant Program – one of three broadband grant programs created in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

“Expanding broadband infrastructure in Arkansas is critical to ensuring the success of our residents in the new digital economy,” said Glen Howie, director of the Arkansas State Broadband Office. “Infrastructure is only one piece of the larger broadband issue. Arkansans need access to digital devices and the digital skills to operate those devices properly to self-determine their success. This Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan lays the foundation for providing these skills in the Natural State.”

The Arkansas Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan outlines the state’s vision for empowering Arkansans with the skills, technology, and capacity needed to self-determine success in the 21st-century digital economy. The Arkansas Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan was created to complement and build upon the State Broadband Office’s BEAD Five-Year Action Plan and Initial Proposals, which are focused on building out the state’s broadband infrastructure.

The Arkansas State Broadband Office developed the plan by leveraging partnerships in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, in addition to conducting 32 in-person focus groups, holding roundtable discussions in all 75 Arkansas counties, and organizing a digital opportunity survey that gathered more than 12,000 responses across the state.

To learn more about the plan, visit broadband.arkansas.gov
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES ARREST OF LITTLE ROCK MAN ON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY,
DRUG AND GUN CHARGES

Griffin: ‘It takes a team effort to protect our most vulnerable from exploitation’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement regarding the arrest of Patrick J. Pettit, 34, of Little Rock on 32 counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child and three other felony charges:

“This arrest stemmed from a CyberTip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Special agents from my office’s Special Investigations Division executed a search warrant at Mr. Pettit’s Little Rock home on April 3. While at Pettit’s home, agents discovered psilocybin, also known as ‘hallucinogenic mushrooms,’ and several weapons. Our agents contacted the Little Rock Police Department, who arrested Pettit on three additional felony charges related to the drugs and weapons.”

“I am grateful for the diligence of my office’s special agents, who are part of the Arkansas ICAC Task Force, and the assistance of LRPD. It takes a team effort to protect our most vulnerable from exploitation.”

In addition to the child pornography charges (Class C Felony), Pettit was charged with trafficking a controlled substance (Class Y Felony), simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms (Class Y Felony), and maintaining a drug premises (Class B Felony). He was booked on April 3 into the Pulaski County Regional Detention Center, where he is currently being held without bond.
 

SECOND STAGE PRESENTS THE ODD COUPLE, FEMALE VERSION AT SAAC APRIL 18-19
Second Stage Acting Troupe wishes to announce the cast of their upcoming production of “The Odd Couple, Female Version”.  The play, under the direction of Ruth Griffin, will run April 18 and 19, 2024 in the South Arkansas Arts Center's Callaway Theater.

When Florence Unger’s (Emilia Gaithright) marriage breaks up, her friend Olive Madison (Hannah Hopson) offers to let her move in with her. Before long, tensions rise between the two friends, as Florence is a neat freak and Olive is, well, not. They are joined by their Trivial Pursuit playing friends - Vera (Kate Flynn), Mickey (Jade Watts), Sylvia (Nicole Hopson), and Renee (Amy Smith) as they brave this new roommate situation and the trials that come with it. Olive soon convinces Florence to double-date with two handsome men in the building. Manolo (Chris Curry) and Jesus (Levi Nesbitt) only add flame to the fire in this story of how opposites do not attract. Tempers flare and food flies. Will these two be able to put their differences aside or is there another break-up on the horizon? 

Audiences will enjoy the snappy dialogue between the characters and the pure feelings that are shown. The author holds nothing back and shows a real throw down of emotions and how even good friends can feel the stress of spending too much time together. This cast has great chemistry and will have you laughing in your seats.  

Join Second Stage for the Neil Simon classic "The Odd Couple, Female Edition" in SAAC's Callaway Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Showtime is at 7:30pm each night. This show does contain adult language and mild adult themes.  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. 

April 03, 2024

ASP ICAC ARRESTS CONWAY MAN ON CHILD PORN CHARGESApril 3, 2024
CONWAY, Ark. – On Thursday, March 28, 2024, agents with ASP's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) executed a search warrant in the 600 block of East German Lane in Conway, which led to the arrest of Jesse Anderson, 30, of Conway.

The search warrant stemmed from an investigation initiated by cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC identified numerous uploaded files, identified as child sexual abuse materials. ICAC Agents arrested Anderson at his home and confiscated multiple electronic devices before transporting him to the Faulkner County Detention Center.

Anderson was charged with multiple counts of Distributing, Possessing, or Viewing Matter Depicting Sexually Explicit Conduct Involving a Child. Anderson's bond was set at $500,000.
For more on these and other stories visit www.yesradioworks.com/news


U.S. DISTRICT COURT DECLARES FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION RULE TO BE ‘ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS’
Griffin: ‘The Federal Highway Administration should be helping states maintain and update our highways, not pushing President Biden’s climate activism’
LITTLE ROCK – Following an order by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement praising the court’s order, which declared unlawful a final rule of the Federal Highway Administration that would require states to set declining targets for tailpipe CO2 emissions from vehicles on the National Highway System. Griffin was one of 21 attorneys general to join the lawsuit that challenged the rule.

“The Federal Highway Administration should be helping states maintain and update our highways, not pushing President Biden’s climate activism. Unfortunately, it took a multistate lawsuit and a federal court order to remind them of that. I’m pleased with our victory.”

 

The multistate lawsuit was led by Kentucky and South Dakota, and joining Arkansas on the lawsuit was also Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

April 02, 2024

ASP CID INVESTIGATING SHOOTING INCIDENT THAT LEFT ONE PERSON DEAD IN JEFFERSON COUNTY 
April 1, 2024
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) requested ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) investigate a shooting incident that took place on Sunday, March 31, 2024, on Highway 79 in Jefferson County.

JCSO Deputies responded to a call at approximately 12:30 a.m. to the 9200 block of Highway 79 to find two individuals inside a vehicle suffering from apparent gunshot wounds. Kavon White, 31, was pronounced deceased at the scene by the Jefferson County Coroner. A female passenger was transported to a hospital in Pine Bluff and has since been released.

The deceased was transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, where manner and cause of death will be determined. The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information is urged to contact CID Company B at (870) 850-8630 or a local law enforcement agency. 

 

ENTERGY ARKANSAS’ ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM EARNS ENERGY STAR® AWARD
Sixth consecutive year for the Point of Purchase Solutionsprogram to be honored by EPA for Excellence in Marketing
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Entergy Arkansas Entergy Solutions Point of Purchase Solutions (POPS) Program is proud to announce that it has received the 2024 ENERGY STAR® Excellence in Marketing Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. This is the sixth year in a row that Entergy Arkansas’ program has been recognized for its exemplary work and ongoing commitment to energy efficiency.

The Entergy Solutions energy efficiency portfolio of programs are administered by Entergy Arkansas to help both residential and business customers save energy and money by reducing the upfront cost of a variety of power-saving upgrades. The programs work with participating partners, local trade allies and retailers to help customers find ways to lower their energy usage and manage their bills through the implementation of energy efficiency measures.

“Entergy Arkansas is always committed to offering our customers safe, affordable and reliable energy,” said President and CEO Laura Landreaux., “The Entergy Solutions programs are an integral part of helping us do that by providing leading technologies and resources to help customers manage their energy usage efficiently and save money on their bills. We are all very proud to be recognized by the EPA for this work.”

The Point of Purchase Solutions Program provides ways for Entergy Arkansas customers to save money on energy-efficient products for their homes. Whether customers buy a product that is eligible for a rebate or purchase directly from the Entergy Arkansas Marketplace, they can save on products that use less energy, which can contribute to bill savings. From smart thermostats to dehumidifiers and power strips, there are discounts and rebates that allow Entergy Arkansas customers to make their homes brighter and more comfortable.

For businesses, Entergy Solutions provides solutions for organizations of all sizes to increase their efficiency. From customized programs that set a schedule for energy used to incentives for improving the facility’s energy efficiency, the Entergy Solutions programs identify ways to save energy and increase the bottom line for small and large businesses, agricultural businesses, and public institutions.

Program Highlights
A standout initiative in 2023 was the introduction of horticultural lighting into the POPS commercial program. Horticultural lighting projects in the program led to energy savings of over 850,000 kilowatt hours (kWh), with installations receiving $234,000 in incentives.

Another big addition to the 2023 POPS program was the introduction of refrigerator and freezer recycling. For no cost, Entergy Arkansas customers can now schedule a pick-up of their old refrigerator or freezer that is in working order to be recycled and receive a $25.00 incentive for doing so.

Since the start of the recyc ling program measure in May 2023 through December 2023 a total of 457 refrigrators and freezersd combined have been recycled - equating to 478,342 kWh saved. To learn more, visit https://www.entergy-arkansas.com/ee/recycling/.

Overall Impact
In 2023, the POPS program realized a combined energy savings of 98,819,744 kWh and provided incentives for almost 2.2 million individual retail units, predominantly ENERGY STAR certified. In terms of environmental impact, the program's efforts have led to 67,569 metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions.

In total, the Entergy Solutions POPS program (previously the Lighting and Appliances program) has achieved evaluated energy savings of 482,971,712 kWh through 2023. These hours equate to saving the carbon dioxide emissions from 66,588 homes’ electricity use for one year, or from 22,273,982,209 smartphones charged.

“ENERGY STAR plays an indispensable role in the POPS program. The use of ENERGY STAR tools has streamlined staff responsibilities, cutting down costs and enabling more resources to support customers and projects throughout our market,” said Sharnelle Allen, Energy Efficiency program manager for Entergy Arkansas. “In 2023, the program achieved energy savings of more than 98 million kilowatt hours — we are proud to be recognized by ENERGY STAR as we continue the work to help Arkansans use energy more efficiently.”

Each year, the ENERGY STAR program honors businesses and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy achievements. Winners are selected from a network of thousands of ENERGY STAR partners.

For a complete list of 2024 winners and more information about ENERGY STAR’s awards program, visit energystar.gov/awardwinners. For more information about residential and customer Entergy Solutions programs, visit https://www.entergy-arkansas.com/energy_efficiency/main/.


TENNESSEE WOMAN DIES IN VEHICLE CRASH AFTER FLEEING FROM ARKANSAS STATE POLICE
April 2, 2024
JENNETTE, Ark. – On Monday, April 1, 2024, at approximately 9:24 p.m., an Arkansas State Trooper attempted to stop a vehicle traveling eastbound on Interstate 40 near Exit 265 in Crittenden County. The driver, identified as Courtney Ridgeway, 28, of Smyrna, Tenn., failed to stop. Troopers pursued the fleeing vehicle, which reached speeds of more than 100 miles per hour for approximately two miles on Bing's Store Road.

Ridgeway lost control of her vehicle on the gravel road and crashed into a ditch. The Crittenden County Coroner pronounced Ridgeway deceased at the scene at approximately 10:42 p.m.

Two passengers in the suspect’s vehicle sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

“This incident underscores why Arkansas State Police has been cautioning the public for months about the dangers of fleeing from law enforcement,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar.  “Fleeing is reckless and has serious consequences. When you see blue lights in your rearview mirror, be smart. Pull over.” 

 

MULTI-JURISDICTIONAL OPERATION IN BAXTER COUNTY RESULTS IN NUMEROUS ARRESTS
April 1, 2024
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. – The Baxter County Sheriff’s Office led a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement operation last week in an attempt to purge communities of violent and repeat offenders engaged in criminal activity.

This initiative was part of a coordinated effort between nine law enforcement agencies that serve the area. A total of 71 individuals were booked into the Baxter County Detention Center on various charges, including absconding, narcotics and firearms violations, traffic offenses, and other felonies and/or misdemeanors. 

ASP contributed between 18 to 23 Troopers to this operation to help patrol the streets in Baxter County, making a total of 559 vehicle contacts over three days and issuing 184 traffic citations and 203 warnings.

“Arkansas State Police will always support our local law enforcement agencies in their effort to protect public safety,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “Any time peace is threatened, it is our duty to step up and hold those who break the law accountable for their actions.”

PEARCY MAN ARRESTED ON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES
April 1, 2024
PEARCY, Ark – On Thursday, March 28, 2024, Agents with ASP’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) executed a search warrant in the 100 block of Avalon Drive in Pearcy, which led to the arrest of 32-year-old Riley Robert Stanley.

A joint undercover investigation between ICAC’s Task Force and the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office led to the discovery of numerous files of child sexual abuse material that were being shared from a laptop belonging to Stanley.

 Stanley was arrested without incident on Friday, March 29, 2024, and booked into the Garland County Detention Center on charges of Distributing, Possessing, or Viewing Matter Depicting Sexually Explicit Conduct Involving a Child. His bond is set at $500,000. 

April 01, 2024

FIRST FRIDAY IN DOWNTOWN CAMDEN
First Friday Monthly Market in Camden, AR is excited about kicking off the 2024 season in downtown Camden. Lots of fun and activities are planned for the April 5th market where the theme is “Total Eclipse of the Heart”!

The April market will be the kick off of a full weekend of events leading up to the April 8th Eclipse.

Several first-time vendors will be showing their wares, with everything from metal  art, face painting, crochet items, resin art, baked goods, potted plants, Mother’s Day gifts and more.

Two great food trucks will be located at the Washington Street and Madison Ave intersection ready to serve you.    Taco Shellz will be serving up their Indian frybread tacos, street tacos, burrito, corn cups, fresca. First time at the market will be Chef Tate with great hamburgers, fries, chip, salsa and chicken strips.  Another first time vendor will be Rollin’ with the Homies offering rolled ice cream and shakes.   Other food items can be found throughout the market from freeze dried candy, kettle Korn, lemonade, fried pies, fresh baked breads and more!   

We excited to announce the April live music will be the band Sauce.  Comprised of   Matt Winters, Benjamin Pace, and Dylan Adams within the pines of Northwest Louisiana. The group developed their sound during the pandemic era of 2020 while being confined to the rehearsal space. With aclectic influences like Grateful Dead, The Doors, and The Isley Brothers. Alongside modern acts such as, Khruangbin, Vulfpeck, and Tame Impala. Everything is better with Saucé. Dancing is always allowed, so come out and show us your moves.

Find out information on some of our wonderful nonprofit organizations that will be set up.  Enjoy a special activity with Lockheed Martin that will delight everyone young and old.      

Downtown merchants will be open late for all your shopping convenience offering great First Friday specials. First Friday Monthly Market in Downtown Camden, AR, April 5, 6PM – 9PM.

Come stroll, shop, nibble, browse and chat… See you there!


ASP TROOPERS CRACK DOWN ON TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS ON CENTRAL ARKANSAS ROADWAYS
March 29, 2024
Arkansas State Police (ASP) Troopers ramped up their efforts to enforce traffic laws on Central Arkansas interstates and highways from March 19 to March 24. Troopers concentrated on Interstates 30, 40, 630, 440, and 530 along with the Highway 67/167 corridor, which runs from North Little Rock through Jacksonville to Cabot. These areas contain several significant work zones where highway construction workers are at risk.

According to the Arkansas Highway Department (ARDOT), between 2021 and 2022, there were 2313 accidents and 13 fatalities in Central Arkansas work zones.

During the operation, Troopers issued 199 traffic citations and 128 warnings. Six accidents were also investigated. Nearly all vehicles stopped were traveling 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

Troopers are taking a zero-tolerance approach to traffic violations in these areas, including speeding, distracted driving, and failing to obey traffic laws.
 

ASP MAKES ARREST IN APRIL 2023 CALHOUN COUNTY HOMICIDE
March 28, 2024
CALHOUN COUNTY, Ark.– On Tuesday, March 26, 2024, Arkansas State Police (ASP) Special Agents arrested Faith Marie White, 42, charging her with First-Degree Murder in the death of George Haynes, 62, of El Dorado.

Haynes was found deceased in his residence on April 16, 2023, on East Calhoun Road in Calhoun County.

Special Agents interviewed White at the Calhoun County Detention Center, where she was being held on unrelated charges.

 

LRCVB ANNOUNCES MORE ECLIPSE DETAILS OPENING ACT FOR SUNDAY CONCERT NAMED, WEB STORE OPENS
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (March 29, 2024) - With just over a week remaining until the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) is making final preparations for the upcoming tourism event.

Announced in late 2023, a free three-day concert series will be held at First Security Amphitheater in the River Market District. Local act The Cons of Formant have been announced as the opening act for up-and-coming country sensation Ward Davis on Sunday, April 7.

The Cons of Formant are a central Arkansas band performing folk and Americana music. The four-piece band has more than a decade of stage presence, and will perform from 7-7:45 p.m. Davis, an Arkansas native and accomplished songwriter, will take the stage from 8-9:30 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. for the concert, with first-come first-serve seating.

The Saturday event will feature The Rodney Block Collective and His All-Star Friends with The Machine Performs Pink Floyd on the day of the eclipse. Gates will open at 5 p.m. for the 6-8 p.m. Saturday show. Gates will open at 11 a.m. on Monday with the performance taking place between 12:40 and 3 p.m. The Machine will pause for twenty minutes to allow the audience to experience totality in silence.

“We’re taking steps to ensure our guests have a unique and memorable experience,” said LRCVB Destination Project Coordinator Cory Blunt. “In addition to pausing our concert during totality, we are also staging food trucks near the amphitheater. This will add dining capacity for the expected crowd in the River Market and allow those in attendance to stay close to the center of activity.”

Food trucks scheduled to be at the three-day concert series include a range of cuisines from snacks and desserts to comfort food and BBQ.

The LRCVB will also have its new mobile visitor center activated in the River Market during the three-day concert series providing information and answering questions for visitors to the city. Another project the LRCVB is undertaking is an online store. This store features eclipse-themed merchandise, which would be desirable keepsakes for residents and visitors alike.

The store, as well as all information related to the eclipse, can be found at https://www.littlerock.com/eclipse.

 

ENTERGY ARKANSAS CUSTOMER BILLS TO DECREASE BEGINNING IN APRIL
Average residential customer will save over $10 per month
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Entergy Arkansas’ low-cost power generation portfolio, along with lower gas prices last year, has allowed the company to decrease customer bills beginning with the April billing cycle.

An average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month will see a decrease of $10.01 in their total bills -- a 7.49% decrease. Commercial and industrial customers could see anywhere from a 1.6% to 17.7% decrease, depending on their customer usage profile.

“Although our rates are consistently lower than the regional and national average, we continue to keep affordability for our customers at the forefront of our decisions,” said Ventrell Thompson, vice president of Customer Service. “The total decrease customers see on their bills will vary based on their individual energy usage but comes at a time when our customers need bill relief and will extend during the upcoming hot summer months.”

The decrease was prompted by a lower fuel rate, known as the Energy Cost Recovery Rider (ECR), which is adjusted and passed on to customers. The redetermined ECR rate will decrease from $0.01883 per kWh to $0.00882 per kWh – the lowest it has been in more than a decade.

Each year, the fuel rate adjusts either up or down, depending on changes in the cost of fuel used by Entergy Arkansas to generate electricity and wholesale prices paid for additional electricity. The new rate is effective until March of 2025, unless an interim adjustment is needed. It is reflected in the “Fuel and Purchased Cost” line item on monthly bills.

“Because we have a diverse fuel mix that includes nuclear, natural gas, coal, solar and hydropower, we are able to produce electricity at the lowest cost possible,” said William Cunningham, director of resource planning. “In fact, our consistently low rates help make our state an attractive place for new and existing businesses to grow and expand.”

More than 71% of our total energy production in 2023 came from clean nuclear energy, while natural gas powered about 15% of our total energy production in 2023.In addition to Entergy Arkansas’ three solar facilities currently in operation -- Stuttgart, Chicot and Searcy – another 530 megawatts of new solar generation will be coming online this year – Walnut Bend (100 MW), West Memphis (180 MW) and Driver Solar (250 MW). Construction of another 400 MW of solar expected to be completed next year.

The new ECR rate includes recovery of cost shifting from Entergy Arkansas net-metering customers. In this year’s ECR calculations, Entergy Arkansas included $8.9 million in costs, which are being shifted to all customers because of private net-metering installations. Notably, these costs are only a portion of the overall costs that have been shifted to other customers as a result of net-metering.

For more information about how Entergy generates electricity, visit https://www.entergy.com/operations/generation/


ARKANSAS STATE POLICE ARREST FORMER SHERIFF DEPUTY ON SEXUAL ASSAULT AND CHILD PORN CHARGES
March 28, 2024
GOSNELL, Ark.– Arkansas State Police (ASP) arrested a Gosnell man on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, charging him with First-Degree Sexual Assault and Distributing, Possessing, or Viewing of Matter Depicting Sexually Explicit Conduct Involving a Child.

ASP Special Agents located Colton Crabb, 26, at his residence in Gosnell and arrested him without incident. ASP transported Crabb to the Mississippi County Detention Center, where his bail was set for $50,000.

Crabb was employed with the Blytheville Police Department before being hired at the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Office. Crabb is no longer a law enforcement officer.

 

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE PARTICIPATES IN AGRICULTURAL TRADE MISSION TO REPUBLIC OF KOREA
LITTLE ROCK, AR
– Arkansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward participated in a USDA Agricultural Trade Mission to the Republic of Korea from March 24-28, 2024. Secretary Ward joined USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Alexis Taylor, as well as North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture, Doug Goehring, Indiana Director of Agriculture, Don Lamb, and California Secretary of Agriculture, Karen Ross. Also participating were 48 different agricultural businesses and farm organizations.

The visit follows Governor Sanders' successful trade mission to the Republic of Korea earlier this month where the Governor met with President Yoon, Trade, Industry, and Energy Minister Dugeun Ahn, the Korean International Trade Association and Korea-U.S. Economic Counsel, Inc, and POSCO Group.

South Korea ranks as the 5th largest export market for United States agriculture with total sales averaging about $9 billion annually over the past 5 years. American food and beverage products are well-known and highly regarded in the Korean market due to an outstanding reputation for quality, safety, and affordability.

The Republic of Korea imports many agricultural commodities that are successfully grown in Arkansas to include cotton, soybeans, rice, beef, pork, poultry, and peanuts. Arkansas currently exports over $6 million to the Republic of Korea providing the potential for significant increases in agricultural trade as we seek to continue to diversify our state’s agricultural trading markets away from China and towards our allies. 

2023 marked the 70-year milestone for the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, starting at the conclusion of the Korean War in 1953. Arkansas has a deep connection with the Republic of Korea with approximately 6,300 Arkansans fighting in the Korean War, where 462 Arkansans lost their lives. 

 


KATHRYN WIGGINS EXHIBIT OPENING AT SAAC
The South Arkansas Arts Center welcomes Jackson, Mississippi artist Kathryn Wiggins and her exhibition "Meditations" to the Lobby Gallery April 2-26, 2024. There will be an artist's reception on Monday, April 1 from 5:00-6:30pm.

“It seems there is a connection between the human soul and the natural world; my work uses landscape art to speak to the inner landscapes of the soul,” said Wiggins, “Feelings of anxiety, peace, dread, longing, loneliness, love, desire, and a myriad of other places my inner thoughts take me are processed through terrestrial landscape paintings and drawings. Often there are passages in my work, inviting the viewer to pass through the shadows or trees into their own inner lands. Other images give a focal point to journey toward in settled determination.”

Wiggins work pays attention to the simple wonders that are all around us, such as light filtering through leaves, the red sunset illuminating the tops of pine trees, or the color variations in a dark shadow. Nature captures Wiggins’ attention in these moments and allows her to take time for a mental reset by really looking and paying attention to her surroundings. In the gazing, Wiggins begins to understand her inner-self more clearly.

All of Wiggins’ landscapes are based on real places she has traveled and experienced. She draws inspiration from family camping trips, kayak excursions, and walks around her neighborhood. She presents these landscapes to her audience as meditations on standing still in nature and being vulnerable to where it can take you.

Born and raised in Brandon, Mississippi, located just east of Jackson, Mississippi, Wiggins always loved the landscapes of her rural childhood. A graduate of Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, she completed her schooling in 2007 in Edinburgh, Scotland in the Master of Fine Arts program at Edinburgh College of Art. After graduating, she returned to Mississippi and began a family with her husband John. In 2010, she received the Visual Arts Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission. Also during that time, she taught drawing at the Tulane University School of Continuing Studies in Madison, Mississippi.

For more information on the Kathryn Wiggins 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.
 


STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
March 29, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – Several state agencies are preparing for increased traffic from out-of-state tourists who will drive to Arkansas on Monday, April 8, to view the solar eclipse.

They’re planning for traffic disruptions even in parts of the state that will not experience the full effect of the eclipse.

For example, southeast Arkansas is not in the path of totality but highway officials expect the impact on traffic to be “significant” on Highways 65, 165, 82 and 425 because so many visitors will be headed to Pine Bluff, Little Rock and locations along the path of totality in central Arkansas.

Likewise, in the extreme corner of northwest Arkansas there will be significant impacts on traffic on Highways 412, 59, 62 and the Pig Trail, Highway 23.

Highway 65 from the Missouri border to Conway will have “very high” traffic levels, according to a Transportation Department analysis. So will Interstate 49 from Fayetteville to Alma, and Interstate 40 from Alma to Little Rock.

All the major highways in central, northeast and southwest Arkansas will have at least a “significant” amount of higher traffic volumes.

Along Interstate 40 from Alma to Mulberry there will be “extreme traffic” increases. Also, along Highway 65 from Conway to Greenbriar will see “extreme traffic” increases.

The Transportation Department has an 18-page planning document on its website that includes a highway map. Highways are color-coded to indicate the expected level of disruption.

On roads with even a “significant” impact, which is the lowest level, motorists can expect the volume of traffic to meet or modestly exceed capacity. That’s tolerable unless a wreck or other type of incident occurs, then conditions quickly worsen. Local authorities may get overwhelmed because they will bear the brunt of maintaining traffic flows, because state resources will be prioritized in routes where traffic is very high or extreme.

Along routes with “very high” volumes traffic will be well above exceed capacity for several hours, so any wreck or incident will quickly make conditions much worse. Roads with “extreme” traffic increases will be bottlenecks that may require authorities to detour traffic.

The Transportation Department is working with the Arkansas Truckers Association to encourage 18-wheelers and oversize loads to stay off the highways before, during and after the eclipse. However, staying off the roads will be a voluntary decision and there will be no penalties for truckers who operate during the eclipse.

The Department will encourage contractors to limit lane closings from April 5 through April 9.

Based on data collected during past eclipses, the Department anticipates that 80 percent of visitors will leave immediately after the eclipse passes over. This further strains the smooth flow of traffic.

The eclipse will create a shadow almost 118 miles wide that will enter southwest Arkansas, near DeQueen, at 1:46 p.m. on Monday, April 8. The center of the shadow will leave Arkansas about 2 p.m. in the northeast corner, near Pocahontas.

If you are in the central portion of its path, the eclipse will cause darkness for about four minutes. Remember, it’s not safe to look directly at the sun without special eye protection.

Transportation officials and the police are preparing for as many as 1.5 million out-of-state visitors to drive into Arkansas. In addition, about 500,000 Arkansas residents are expected to drive toward the path of totality from the northwest corner and from southeast Arkansas, which are not in the path of the eclipse.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN FIGHTS EPA OVERREACH, STANDS UP FOR ARKANSAS MEAT AND POULTRY PRODUCERS
Griffin: ‘The EPA can’t arbitrarily decide to increase its regulatory authority’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement after co-leading a 27-state comment letter opposing a proposal from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would unduly burden state and national meat and poultry producers and illegally expand the EPA’s regulatory authority:

“The EPA wants to impose illegal and crippling regulations on meat and poultry producers, and it has circumvented Congress, colluded with extreme environmental groups, and entered into a consent decree that would radically expand the EPA’s regulatory authority. The EPA’s proposed rule would add additional regulations on processing plants with indirect wastewater discharges—discharges that are already treated by a municipal or other wastewater treatment facility, which are themselves subject to EPA regulations. That’s an extra layer of regulation that doesn’t accomplish anything. And the EPA lacks the legal authority to impose such regulations.

“The Clean Water Act already sufficiently regulates processing plants that discharge wastewater directly into navigable waters. The EPA currently regulates approximately 150 such plants. The EPA’s proposed rule would increase the number of processing plants that are directly regulated by the EPA from 150 to as many as 3,789 and adversely impact small, family-owned production operations like many here in Arkansas.

“The EPA can’t arbitrarily decide to increase its regulatory authority via a consent decree; only Congress can increase federal agencies’ regulatory power. The EPA should withdraw this rule immediately.”

Griffin co-led the letter with Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, and they were joined by a coalition of 25 other attorneys general. The letter asks the EPA to withdraw the proposed rule and argues that it exceeds the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act. Additionally, the letter explains that the proposed rule is part of a legal settlement between the Biden administration and its radical environmental allies—all designed to avoid congressional oversight and unlawfully expand the EPA’s authority.

The 25 states joining Arkansas and Kansas on the letter were Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN TAKES TEXAS ROBOCALLER TO COURT FOR VIOLATING PERMANENT BANS
Griffin: ‘I will continue to combat robocallers who ignore the law and the courts’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement after announcing that he and seven other state attorneys general are asking the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas to take additional action against a Texas based robocaller for violating permanent robocall and telemarketing bans:

“In March of last year, my office obtained judgments shutting down the massive robocall operation of Rising Eagle Capital Group, LLC, and other companies owned by John Caldwell Spiller, II. As part of the judgment, Spiller was banned from making robocalls or engaging in telemarketing. Spiller has ignored those bans, and we are asking the court to enforce the $122 million fine against Spiller that was suspended contingent upon honoring the terms of the judgment.

“Unwanted calls are a nuisance to every Arkansan. I will continue to combat robocallers who ignore the law and the courts.”

Despite the permanent injunction against Spiller in March 2023, he continued to harass people by making deceptive and abusive robocalls and by helping others make these calls. Spiller used aliases and falsified business records filed in various states and with the Federal Communications Commission. Further, since being originally sued, Spiller has set up at least three new businesses through which he engaged in telemarketing and facilitated robocalls.

Because he violated these bans on robocalling and telemarketing, Griffin and the attorneys general of Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas are asking the court to ban Spiller from engaging in all telephone-related services, not just robocalling and telemarketing. That includes transmitting telephone calls over the U.S. telephone network, providing any VoIP services, engaging in text messaging services, and originating or facilitating ringless voicemail messages or any other electronic messages.
 
The attorneys general are also asking that the court order Spiller to dissolve his existing telephone service companies. They also ask that Spiller be ordered to pay $122,339,320—the amount that would have otherwise been suspended if Spiller had followed the rules of the permanent injunction and the court’s order. Because he failed to do so, he is obligated to pay the full amount.

March 27, 2024

ECLIPSE WEEKEND IN CAMDEN
Friends, neighbors, visitors. Camden has all kinds of activities for Eclipse weekend. Friday April 5th experience First Friday Market from 6 to 9 PM on Washington Street. The theme is Total Eclipse of the Heart. Sit, nibble, shop, stroll, visit, enjoy. The Eclipse Cookie Decorating Class is at Kaboom Nutrition Saturday April 6th at 2:00 pm. 20 spots are available - $30.00 per person. Includes 1 dozen cookies with all items to decorate and a cookie box. Saturday April 6th at 1:30 will see the 3rd Annual Autistic Stars Extravaganza Parade. The Parade will run on Washington Street from the Post Office to Cadence Bank. Saturday, April 6th enjoy a Sock Hop and Classic Car Show on Farmer’s Bank Parking Lot in Downtown Camden. This event is Free for all ages. There will be live music, food, costumes, dancing, photo ops and fun. Classic Cars at 4:00 pm and the Sock Hop 6 to 8:30 PM. Saturday April 6th is the Larry Young Memorial Benefiting Victory Christian School. The Annual Golf Tournament will be held at Highland Golf Course on Saturday April 6th. Entry fee is $50.00 per person. You must register by Thursday April 4th. For Registration or more information contact Charlotte Young at 870-807-1468.  Enjoy Eclipse Weekend in Camden!

 

SOLAR ECLIPSE INFORMATION FOR LAKE OUACHITA, LAKE GREESON AND DEGRAY LAKE
VICKSBURG, Miss. – In advance of the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, Lake Ouachita, Lake Greeson and DeGray Lake are expecting HIGH visitation. Facilities will be impacted with full parking lots in the campgrounds, boat rams and day use parking lots. We are urging visitors coming to any of these lakes to carpool and minimize multiple vehicles per party.

Entrances to certain recreation areas will be restricted by barricades by the monitoring Rangers once a recreation area is deemed FULL. Emergency services personnel will be the only vehicular traffic allowed in once an area is barricaded. Outgoing traffic from the areas will not be impacted, but you may not be able to reenter until after the event as traffic subsides.

Hours of traffic impacts are expected between 7 AM - 7 PM on APRIL 8th, 2024. For further information, you may call the Field Office at Lake Ouachita at 501-767-2101, Lake Greeson at 870-285-2151 and DeGray Lake at 870-246-5501.

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.
 

FORESTERS FOR THE FUTURE SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION PERIOD OPEN THROUGH JUNE 14
LITTLE ROCK, AR
– The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division and the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) are pleased to announce that applications for the Foresters for the Future scholarship are now being accepted. The scholarship will provide $4,000 per semester, for four years, to an incoming freshman pursuing a forestry degree at UAM’s College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.

Applications will be accepted through June 14. Students interested in the scholarship can find more information at uamont.edu/academics/CFANR/forestersforthefuture. html.

“Arkansas forest industries contribute over $6.1 billion to the state’s economy each year, making Arkansas the most forestry dependent of all the southern states,” said State Forester Kyle Cunningham. “This scholarship provides a wonderful opportunity for students to obtain the education and training necessary to support such an impactful industry within the state.”

The scholarship program was established by Act 399 of the 2021 Regular Session of the Arkansas General Assembly. UAM and the Forestry Division hope the scholarship will entice students to pursue forestry as a career.
“The forestry industry is a pillar of Arkansas’s economy that impacts every area of our state,” said Dr. Peggy Doss, UAM Chancellor. “The Foresters for the Future Scholarship will support our efforts to attract and to retain a diverse group of future foresters and to prepare them for a career path that offers extensive job opportunities in the wood products industry.”

"This scholarship is a tremendous opportunity for our students,” said Dr. Michael Blazier, Dean of the UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources and Director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center. “Not only does it provide substantial financial aid to help them study for a career in forestry, but they also get a wide range of internship options for on-the-job learning with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division."

The College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Arkansas Forest Resources Center, a University of Arkansas System Center of Excellence, brings together interdisciplinary expertise through a partnership between the University of Arkansas at Monticello and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The College and Center are headquartered at the University of Arkansas at Monticello campus, but their programs range statewide with the mission of developing and delivering teaching, research, and extension programs that enhance and ensure the sustainability and productivity of forest-based natural resources and agricultural systems. Academic programs are delivered by the College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources through the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Through the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, research is administered by the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, and extension and outreach activities are coordinated by the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

The University of Arkansas at Monticello offers all of their programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and are Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employers.

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.
 

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: BOOZMAN SECURES FUNDING FOR ARKANSAS PRIORITIES
WASHINGTON – Arkansans applauded the leadership of U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Subcommittee, for delivering funds to advance Natural State priorities in the six appropriations bills the president signed into law Saturday.

Here are how investments secured by Boozman will help Arkansas:
Lyon College School of Oral Health and Dental Medicine: The school will receive $15 million to boost dental education in Arkansas.
“The appropriation supporting the creation of Arkansas' first dental school is a game-changer for Lyon College and for the state. Championed by Senator Boozman, this funding will support the continuing development of the Lyon College School of Oral Health and Dental Medicine. As we continue to meet benchmarks in our accreditation process with the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) we anticipate admitting our first class of dental graduate students in fall 2025, enabling us to educate healthcare professionals from Arkansas for Arkansas and beyond. We are grateful for the partnership with Senator Boozman and his staff as we all continue to work to strengthen dental healthcare access and improve the quality of life for Arkansans.” – Lyon College President Melissa Taverner

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff: The school will receive $15 million for a new nursing school building.
“On behalf of UAPB, I would like to express our gratitude to Senator Boozman for his commitment to this institution and to this region of the state. The significant funds he has brought to UAPB for this project will enable us to build a technologically advanced nursing school building that will strengthen the university's role in addressing the nursing shortage and in developing and growing the health care workforce across our state.

The impact of the funding for this new innovative nursing school facility will be felt by the state for many years to come. Such a facility will attract quality students, faculty and staff, and it will enhance the overall quality of the student experience in the new learning environment. We appreciate the outstanding support Senator Boozman has given to our university.” – University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Dr. Laurence Alexander

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS): The university will receive $20 million to support a rural Women and Infants Center to coordinate programs across the state for better health outcomes of mothers and babies, improve the Arkansas Milk Bank, enhance cancer screening technology and access in underserved areas, and advance digestive disease care.
“The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is grateful to Senator John Boozman for his unwavering support of our efforts to improve the health and well-being of Arkansans. The funding included in this legislation will increase cancer education and screening in rural areas, allow us to make needed repairs to the building that houses Arkansas’s only milk bank, implement a program to reduce our state’s distressingly high infant mortality rates and open a new GI clinic in the Freeway Medical Center that is dedicated to improving digestive disease care. These projects will make a difference in the health of many Arkansans, and we would not be able to bring them to fruition without Sen. Boozman’s stewardship.” – UAMS Chancellor and Health CEO Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA

University of Arkansas Rich Mountain: The school will receive $12 million for an Allied Health Building for instructional purposes, lab simulations and community health.

“UA Rich Mountain will use these funds to construct an allied health science building that will allow us to update and increase our programming in health-related degree programs such as nursing and paramedic. Further, we plan to provide new programming in occupational and physical therapy, and medical lab technology. These certificates and degrees will allow us to graduate more students to meet the healthcare needs of western Arkansas. We are forever grateful to Senator Boozman for recognizing this need and shepherding it through the Congress.” – Dr. Phillip Wilson, Chancellor at UA Rich Mountain

Northwest Technical Institute: The school will receive $10 million for a medical education building to accommodate allied health and nursing programs.

“Northwest Technical Institute extends its gratitude to Senator Boozman for his invaluable support of the construction of a new medical education facility on the NWTI campus. This new facility will allow NWTI to expand its capacity to train aspiring professionals in crucial medical disciplines such as nursing, surgical technology, sterile processing and other vital entry-level healthcare careers. This increase in graduates will go a long way in closing the workforce gap in the region’s medical industry. Senator Boozman’s dedication to funding the development of this essential facility is deeply appreciated by all of us at NWTI.” – Dr. Jim Rollins, President of NWTI

Arkansas State University-Mountain Home: The university will receive $6 million to expand its healthcare education facility to enhance the health care workforce.
“Mountain Home is a regional destination for world-class healthcare services. Securing these funds will allow for expanded and enhanced nursing and allied health education to serve the growing health services needs in north central Arkansas. We appreciate Senator Boozman’s vision and leadership as he continues to focus on improving the lives of Arkansans.” – ASU-Mountain Home Chancellor Bentley Wallace 

University of Arkansas at Little Rock MidSOUTH: The program will receive $5 million to support the Arkansas Youth Drug Use Reduction program.
“Senator Boozman has engaged UA Little Rock's MidSOUTH Center to tackle the opioid crisis in Arkansas with critical funding. This initiative will deploy targeted interventions to lower youth drug use, leveraging local data and fostering cooperation among law enforcement, educators and prevention specialists. The goal is to build community resilience and stem substance misuse at its roots. We appreciate Senator Boozman's efforts to fund this vital program, underscoring a significant commitment to safeguarding Arkansas youth and reducing statewide substance misuse.” – UA Little Rock Chancellor Christina Drale

City of North Little Rock: The city will receive $8 million for drainage improvements.
“North Little Rock’s economic development is expanding and will continue to grow as a result of funding for these projects. This will improve walkability for residents in the east part of the community including local neighborhood schools and improve drainage on East Bethany Road and Magnolia and Olive Streets in our downtown area. North Little Rock will now be able to continue enhancing infrastructure and attract new businesses throughout the city thanks to Senator Boozman’s leadership.” – Mayor Terry Hartwick

City of Heber Springs: The city will receive $4.7 million for stormwater improvements.
“These funds will allow the city to upgrade our wastewater treatment plant that was installed in 1983 without raising rates for our customers. We appreciate Senator Boozman’s leadership in supporting the needs of our community.” – Mayor Kasey Griffin

March 26, 2024

MAN CHARGED WITH DOMESTIC BATTERY 1ST DEGREE – 8 YEAR OLD CHILD ON LIFE SUPPORT
On March 19, 2024 at 0909 hours, Lt. Kayla Reynolds was dispatched to 479 Oxford Street for a possible attempted suicide. Dispatch advised the reporting party stated his daughter possibly overdosed and is unresponsive.

Upon arrival Lt. Reynolds observed the Camden Fire Department was on scene. Lt. Teague stated when he arrived on he was met by Robert Pickering. CPD Lt Teague said Pickering stated his child was unresponsive and having a seizure.

Lt. Reynolds went to OCMC and observed Detective Sergeant Blair and Detective McDonald. Speaking with Pickering in the lobby of the OCMC ER. Lt. Reynolds continued towards the back of the Emergency Room while Officer Foster made contact with Pickering.

Outside of the trauma room Lt. Reynolds made contact with responding Camden Fire Department fireman Captain Quincy White and Assistant Fire Chief Aaron Morris. CFD Captain White stated when he and Assistant Fire Chief Morris entered into the residence they observed Pickering come from a back room of the residence carrying the injured child.  Captain White advised that Pickering stated the child was unresponsive. Captain White took the child from Pickering and laid her on the couch and began to do life saving measures. Captain White said while he was working on her she had various stages of injuries on her upper torso and body. CFD Captain White said when he originally took the child from Pickering he felt she was wet on the back of her shirt, and hair as if someone had thrown water on her. Captain White said Assistant Fire Chief Morris advised the situation to EMS who was in route so they would have an update. Captain White said EMS arrived on scene and EMS worker Tammy Poole took the child to the Emergency room to seek medical treatment.

When Emergency Room Doctor William Daniels came out of trauma, he stated the child had an internal head bleed and she would be sent to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. Officer Foster took Pickering into custody and transported him to the Camden  Police Department for booking procedures.

Criminal Investigator Captain Sanders advised he would stand by to wait on the child to be transported to Children's Hospital while Criminal Investigator Bodenhamer went to get a search warrant for 479 Oxford Street. Lt. Reynolds relocated back to 479 Oxford Street and stood by the property. At 1029 hours, she observed a vehicle arrived to the property and made contact with Kayla Benton, Pickering's girlfriend. The Lieutenant advised Benton she was free to leave or go to the station to speak with CID if she liked but that she could not be allowed in the residence. Benton advised she wanted to stay so she could speak with the CID when they arrived.

While awaiting CID to arrive, Lt. Reynolds spoke with Benton who stated she was at work in Hope at Tyson when she went on her break at approximately 9:00 AM. Benton said Pickering called her a few minute later stating that his daughter was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Benton said Pickering said "I &*%$ up". He told her that he told EMS he was "whooping" the child and she fell out and started having a seizure.

Benton said Pickering has history of domestic violence with her and was the cause of her delivering her children prematurely which lead to them dying. Benton said while she was pregnant with her children Pickering would "put his hands on" her. Benton said she has never seen Pickering hit his daughter but that but has seen him grab her by her arms in an aggressive manner.

During the hearing, after the probable cause was determined, Judge Phillips issued Pickering a $1,000,000 Bond.

At the time of this report, the child is on life support at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
 

UAMS TO HOLD RIBBON-CUTTING MARCH 27 FOR NEW FAMILY MEDICAL CENTER IN EL DORADO
WHAT:  The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will host a ribbon-cutting to mark the grand opening of the UAMS Health Family Medical Center in El Dorado. The center offers preventive and primary care services to patients of all ages, as well as specialized care for pregnant women and for new moms and babies.

WHO: UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA
              Richard Turnage, M.D., vice chancellor of UAMS Regional Campuses
              Danna Taylor, president of South Arkansas Regional Hospital
              El Dorado Mayor Paul Choate

WHEN:  1 p.m.
               Wednesday, March 27

WHERE:  UAMS Health Family Medical Center
                    620 W. Grove St., Suite 202  El Dorado

 

FORMER POLICE CHIEF MARSHAL ARRESTED BY ASP
March 25, 2024
WHEATLY, AR – On March 25, 2024, former Chief Marshal Jacob Lynn Gammel, 25, of the Wheatley Police Department, was arrested by agents from the Arkansas State Police (ASP) Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at his residence in Wheatley. 

ASP agents took Gammel to the St. Francis County Jail, where he was booked and charged with Felony Perjury and Theft of Property.

Gammel is scheduled to appear in court on March 26, 2024.


LITTLE ROCK MAKES SOUTHERN LIVING LIST CITY RATED IN TOP 25 FOR SOUTH’S BEST CITIES FOR FIRST TIME
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (March 26, 2024) - Southern Living Magazine’s annual list of Best Cities for 2024 includes Little Rock for the first time. 

In an update to the publication’s website this month, the Arkansas capital was ranked 25th, which is the first time for the city to appear on the list which began in 2017. The ranking was compiled through an online survey for Southern Living consumers in summer 2023. More than 20,000 respondents completed the survey. 

The magazine recognized Little Rock as having “the best of both worlds” for outdoor recreation and the expectations you find in a metropolitan city. Attractions such as the Big Dam Bridge and Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden were named in addition to the city’s museums, shops, restaurants and nightlife. 

“Appearing in this list is a major win for our city,” said Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) President & CEO Gina Gemberling. “The amenities we offer travelers closely align with the subscriber base for Southern Living, and inclusion on this prestigious list will help us attract more leisure travelers.” 

Southern Living boasts more than 24 million readers through its print and digital platforms. It’s 2024 media kit lists readership with a household income of more than $105,000 who have a defined interest in travel. 

“This is a desirable demographic to appeal to,” Gemberling added. “Appearing on this list is not just an honor for our city, it’s validation for those who are looking for new and exciting travel opportunities.” 

The ranking can be found at: https://www.southernliving.com/cities-2024-8422755

March 25, 2024

OUCHITA COUNTY HOLIDAY SCHEDULE
The Ouachita County Courthouse and the Ouachita County Extension Office will be closed on Friday March, 29, 2024 for Good Friday.

THE SECOND ANNUAL ARKANSAS STATE BROADBAND OFFICE BROADBAND COUNTY ROADSHOW COMING TO OUACHITA COUNTY
Exciting news! The Second Annual Arkansas State Broadband Office Broadband County Roadshow is coming to Ouachita County! Get ready for an incredible opportunity to shape the future of broadband in your community and beyond.

Join us on April 4th as we welcome the roadshow to Ouachita County. We'll be diving into discussions about how broadband access is transforming lives and driving progress right here in our backyard, and what’s next.

Here's what you need to know:

Date: Thursday, April 4th

Location: Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development 570 Ben Lane, Camden

Time: 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Who: All Ouachita County residents interested in broadband development!

This is your chance to make your voice heard and be a part of something special. Don't miss out on this incredible opportunity to shape the future of broadband access in Ouachita County and beyond.

Can't wait to see you there! Let's make a difference together.

 

SUSPECT IN CUSTODY AFTER CONWAY INTERSTATE SHOOTING
March 22, 2024
CONWAY – ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division is investigating a shooting that occurred on Interstate 40 West in Conway at about 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 22, 2024.

No injuries were reported in the incident, which occurred between the Dave Ward Drive and Oak Street exits. (Exits 129 and 125)

Officers with the Conway Police Department (CPD) responded to 911 calls from motorists reporting the incident and worked with ASP to take the suspect into custody.

Additional information will be released as it becomes available.

 

ARKANSAS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION AWARDS NEW TECHNOLOGY COMMERCIALIZATION CENTER CONTRACT
Startup Junkie Consulting named manager of program

Little Rock, Ark. (March 25, 2024) – The Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) has awarded the contract to manage the Arkansas Statewide Technology Commercialization Center to Startup Junkie Consulting, LLC.

“Arkansas has a long history of growing innovative and industry-leading companies, and it is vital that we support our state’s entrepreneurs and the growth of high-tech companies,” said Clint O’Neal, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “Through this program, we aim to help entrepreneurs scale their ideas into companies that will create high-paying jobs for Arkansans, and we look forward to working with Startup Junkie Consulting on this effort.”

The Arkansas Statewide Technology Commercialization Center, previously marketed as Innovate Arkansas, assists new, technology-based entrepreneurs with turning inventions and high-tech concepts into viable businesses. The program’s mission is to empower tech and tech-enabled ventures in Arkansas to scale and create high-wage employment opportunities while serving as the catalyst for world-class technological innovation throughout Arkansas.

“The Startup Junkie Consulting team is honored to partner with AEDC to help drive the development and growth of tech and tech-enabled ventures all across Arkansas,” said Jeff Amerine, founder and managing director of Startup Junkie Consulting. “We know entrepreneurialism is the key to greater economic empowerment and vitality, and we look forward to supporting AEDC in this critical effort.”

Since its inception in 2008, the Arkansas Statewide Technology Commercialization Center has assisted more than 200 portfolio clients that have brought in $939 million in revenue. These clients have created more than 6,000 Arkansas jobs. Program companies have received $50.9 million in federal grants and attracted a total investment of $473.6 million.

The program contract officially began March 1, 2024.


BOOZMAN DELIVERS KEY FUNDS FOR ARKANSAS DEFENSE, HEALTH, EDUCATION PROJECTS
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate approved a legislative package of six appropriations bills that includes funding for Arkansas defense, health and education priorities championed by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) including significant investment in the future pilot training mission in Fort Smith. The legislation was signed into law Saturday. 

“I’m proud to deliver investments to Arkansas that support growth and development as well as improve the quality of life for Natural State residents. These bills will enhance health services access and workforce capabilities to deliver quality care in addition to expanding our state’s national defense contributions. Passing appropriations bills is a basic responsibility of Congress. I’m pleased we are finally getting them across the finish line so we can deliver the certainty federal agencies and the Americans who rely on them need, and begin considering our budget priorities for the next fiscal year,” Boozman said.

Boozman, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA), secured inclusion of the following Arkansas priorities in the final six Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills:

Health Care Resources and Education
Invests $5 million for a Women and Infants Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to coordinate programs across the state to reduce infant mortality.
Boosts dental health education in Arkansas with $15 million to support the Lyon College School of Oral Health and Dental Medicine in Little Rock.
Invests in future generations of nurses with $15 million to construct a new nursing school building at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Provides $12 million for an Allied Health Building at the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain for instructional purposes, lab simulations and community health.
Allocates $10 million for a medical education building to accommodate allied health and nursing programs at Northwest Technical Institute.
Promotes student career development at Shorter College with a $2 million investment in a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) Center.
Funds $8 million for facilities and equipment at UAMS to improve digestive disease care in the state, with a focus on cancer detection.
Enhances cancer screening capabilities in underserved areas by providing $4 million to purchase three mobile vans fitted with cancer screening equipment to access geographically difficult and underserved regions.
Strengthens the UAMS milk bank with $3 million.
Supplies $6 million to support the expansion of the Arkansas State University-Mountain Home healthcare education facility to develop the medical workforce.
Allots $5 million for the University of Arkansas – Little Rock MidSOUTH Arkansas Youth Drug Use Reduction Program.
Delivers robust funding for the National Institutes of Health with increased funding for the National Cancer Institute.
Funds the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant and the Healthy Start Initiative to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates.
Maintains vigorous funding for Community Health Centers to increase access to health care across Arkansas.
Increases funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to support families in need.
Expands funding for the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Program to support training pediatric providers and bolster the pediatric care workforce.
Maintains funding for TRIO programs to assist first-generation, low-income students in attending college.
Increased funding for Career and Technical Education state grants to bolster the Arkansas workforce.
Invests in the Fulbright Program, the United States’ flagship educational exchange program created by former Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright that facilitates global connections.
Funds global health and nutrition programs to respond to and eradicate malaria, polio and other diseases and invests in efforts to prevent worldwide hunger.
Educates future generations about the men and women who serve in our nation’s uniform by supporting the Veterans History Project.  

National Security
Fully funds a 5.2 percent pay raise for servicemembers, the largest increase in decades.
$207.9 million for Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith to continue building on last year’s investments in modernizing the base to be a premier pilot training center in the U.S. This is in addition to the $83 million allocated for construction in the MilCon-VA bill signed into law March 9.
$53.3 million to bolster production and capacity for the manufacturing of vital munitions for the Department of Defense (DoD) in Camden.
$9.5 million to support production and manufacturing of special chemical warfare protection outfits and special munitions at Pine Bluff Arsenal.  
$36 million for the University of Arkansas to partner with DoD on research efforts.
$10 million to develop the Army’s next-generation squad weapon system.
$47 million to support the workforce at Red River Army Depot.
$8 million to support training at Razorback Range. 
$51 million to fund multiple defense initiatives critical to enhance our national security within the state.
Invests $1 billion for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment modernization fund.
Supports Department of State efforts to strengthen its cybersecurity protocols and procedures to defend it from potential cyberattacks from foreign adversaries and other bad actors.  
Provides $2.75 million in DoD grant opportunities to support security and fire protection at the former Army and Navy Hospital in Hot Springs.

Government Oversight and Community Investments
Encourages the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to provide more time for public input on rulemakings.
Ensures SEC rules incorporate robust economic analysis.
Requests the SEC Inspector General to audit the rulemaking process.
Requires the General Services Administration to save taxpayer money by adopting criteria to better manage extreme weather risks for public buildings.
Supports regulation and oversight of the contact lens marketplace.
Provides $8 million for North Little Rock to improve stormwater drainage capabilities and prevent flooding.
Delivers $4.7 million to Heber Springs for stormwater improvements to prevent damage from flash flooding.
Delivers adequate funding for economic growth and rural community development.

For more information or questions about the program, contact innovate@arconductor.org

March 22, 2024

STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
March 22, 2024
LITTLE ROCK –Arkansans who own a home or a business are becoming more aware that the cost of insurance coverage is going up significantly.

Legislators are looking for ways to bring the cost down again.

At a recent meeting of the Joint Senate and House Committees on Insurance and Commerce, industry representatives outlined the various factors causing the increase in rates. Legislators appeared less interested in casting blame and more interested in finding solutions.

Severe weather events are a factor. For example, a strong tornado last March devastated the city of Wynne and parts of Cross County, killing four people and destroying Wynne High school before moving into Tennessee.

Insurance companies have paid more than $489 million in claims caused just by the storm that hit Wynne on March 31, 2023, the state Insurance Commissioner told lawmakers. An insurance company based in Arkansas and two companies from other states went into receivership, in large part because of the financial impact of that storm, he said.

Two other companies have stopped selling property insurance in Arkansas because “weather patterns are presenting more risk than they are willing to insure,” he told the committee. Insurance companies protect themselves by purchasing re-insurance, but the cost of re-insurance is increasing because of storm-related risks.

An industry representative agreed that tornadoes and damaging winds are a factor. However, “what keeps us up at night are the hail storms,” he said.

Other speakers echoed those concerns. “Hail is an issue in Arkansas - big, large, destructive hail,” an Insurance Department official said.

Homes and motor vehicles are more expensive than ever, so inflation and greater construction costs are as important as severe weather in driving up insurance premiums, industry spokesmen told the committee. For the past two years insurance companies in Arkansas paid more in claims than they collected in premiums, the commissioner said.

Lawmakers and regulators cannot control the weather but they can approve policy changes that will soften the impact of higher prices. For example, the Insurance Department now allows companies to offer policies that have a separate deductible for wind and hail damage.

Last year the legislature approved Act 471 to protect consumers whose deductibles are based on a percentage of their property’s insured value. It requires insurance companies to notify customers of the monetary amount of the deductible.

An Arkansas banker told the committee that homeowners are getting surprised that a new roof costs them $10,000 to $12,000 out of pocket, even with insurance. They often need a loan because they don’t have that amount, he said.

Other states offer consumers tax credits and grants to help pay for improvements that make houses stronger and safer. Examples are sturdy shingles that can withstand hail, and braces that hold rafters more tightly to prevent wind from lifting the roof.

Stricter building codes can require new homes to include those improvements, but they can also be encouraged by the open market.

Legislators were told about a program in Alabama, where the insurance industry provides grants to homeowners who install features making their houses stronger. Oklahoma and Kentucky are implementing similar programs.

Over the long term, the grants hold down rates because insurance companies don’t have to pay as many claims for damage to those homes.


ASP CID INVESTIGATING SCOTT COUNTY HOMICIDE
March 21, 2024
WALDRON, AR – The Scott County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) has requested ASP's Criminal Investigation Division investigate a homicide that occurred on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, in Waldron.

The SCSO responded to a call at approximately 5:45 p.m. to a home located on AR-250 in Waldron to find Russell Lewellen, 69, shot multiple times. 

Emergency personnel transported Lewellen to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

SCSO arrested a 34-year-old Waldron man, charging him with First-Degree Murder. He is being held at the Scott County Detention Center.  

The deceased will be transported to the Arkansas State Crime Lab, where the manner and cause of death will be determined.


ARKANSAS’S MEDICAID FRAUD CONTROL UNIT RANKED FOURTH IN COUNTRY IN 2023 FOR ABUSE AND NEGLECT CONVICTIONS
Griffin: ‘My office investigated and prosecuted 13 cases that led to convictions …, outranking much larger states like California and New York’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin released the following statement highlighting the work done by his office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) that resulted in a No. 4 ranking for abuse and neglect convictions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Units Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report:

“This recently published report shows that Arkansas ranked fourth in the country in total convictions for abuse and neglect, which are crimes perpetrated most often against elderly and disabled victims. My office investigated and prosecuted 13 cases that led to convictions in Federal Fiscal Year 2023, outranking much larger states like California and New York, both of which have more than 10 times the number of staff as Arkansas. 

“I am supremely proud of my office’s MFCU team and their commitment to protecting our vulnerable population in Arkansas. All 13 cases that resulted in convictions were prosecuted by either Senior Assistant Attorney General Sharon Strong or Assistant Attorney General Gabby Davis-Jones. This ranking shows that my office is maximizing its resources on behalf of Arkansas taxpayers.”

The report covers Federal Fiscal Year 2023, which ran from October 2022 through September 2023. The unit is tasked to fight Medicaid fraud by investigating and prosecuting violations of state and federal laws involving Medicaid providers and the abuse or neglect of long-term care facility residents. 

If an Arkansan suspects Medicaid fraud or the abuse and neglect of a long-term care facility resident, they can file a complaint by visiting https://arkansasag.gov/resources/contact-us/medicaid-fraud-reporting/ or by calling (800) 482-8982. All complaints are confidential.

 

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN CALLS ON CONGRESS TO AFFIRM STATES’ AUTHORITY TO BAN OR REGULATE INTOXICATING AND DANGEROUS DELTA THC PRODUCTS 
Griffin: ‘[T]hese harmful products are available in convenience stores with no age restrictions for purchasing them’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement after co-leading a 20-state, bipartisan letter calling on Congress to affirm states’ authority to ban or regulate intoxicating and dangerous hemp-derived products like Delta-8 THC in the next Farm Bill:

“Arkansas has banned Delta THC products, but inconsistent court interpretations of certain provisions within the federal Farm Bill have led to challenges in Arkansas and many other states across the country. Meanwhile, these harmful products are available in convenience stores with no age restrictions for purchasing them. They’re often packaged to look like candy or mimic popular snack-food brands, so of course they are getting into the hands of children.

“This easy access and use of enticing packaging has led to more minors ingesting these unregulated and dangerous products, leading to seizures, loss of consciousness, and even death. That’s why Congress needs to create uniformity in the next five-year Farm Bill reauthorization and make clear that states have full authority to regulate and even ban these types of products.

“I am grateful to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita for co-leading this letter with me and to the full bipartisan group of attorneys general who signed on. Protecting our children has to be our highest priority regardless of party affiliation.”

The 2018 Farm Bill reintroduced hemp as an agricultural commodity while maintaining federal prohibitions on cannabis products. However, bad actors have exploited the 2018 Farm Bill’s definition of hemp to introduce products that are intoxicating and are harming children.

Griffin and Rokita were joined by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington.

 

WESTERMAN STATEMENT ON LATEST SPENDING PACKAGE
WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024. Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) released the following statement on his vote against the legislation:

“I am committed to working in good faith with my colleagues to restore fiscal sanity and secure the southern border. Because of that, I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that provided millions in funding for abortion clinics and child transgender programs through Senate Democrat earmarks while the bill included zero policy provisions to address immediate concerns and secure the southern border. The most significant issue facing our nation right now is the crisis at the southern border, and this package was railroaded by Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden to keep the border open and illegal immigration flowing.

"There was a better way to address government funding and it was to pass a year long spending resolution that would have invoked the automatic cuts under the debt limit deal, without the far-left earmarks from Senate Democrats, while fully funding our military.

"Congress has the power of the purse, and that grants us the ability to address out of control government spending and restore fiscal sanity in our nation, but federal bureaucracy is getting in the way of being able to do so. I will continue to fight for an open, transparent budget process while working with my colleagues to advance conservative solutions to secure the southern border, cut wasteful government spending, and support our servicemen and women.”

The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 is a package of the following appropriations bills:

Department of Defense Appropriations Act

Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act

Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act

Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act
 

COTTON, STEFANIK INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO STOP PENTAGON FROM USING CHINESE-OWNED TUTORING SERVICE
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced legislation, the Ban Chinese Communist Party Access to U.S. Military Students Act, to prevent the Department of Defense (DoD) from using Tutor.com. The website provides educational services to DoD service members and their families. Tutor.com is owned by Primavera Capital Group, an investment firm with links to the Chinese Communist Party.

The legislation follows a letter Senator Cotton sent to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, urging him to sever DoD’s contract with Tutor.com. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (New York-21) is introducing companion legislation in the House.

“There is no reason the Pentagon should be paying a Chinese-owned service that collects the data of our service members and their families. There are plenty of American companies that offer tutoring services and aren’t subject to the Chinese government,” said Senator Cotton.

“I am proud to join Senator Cotton in introducing legislation prohibiting the DoD from utilizing Communist Chinese-owned company Tutor.com to educate our service members and their families. We cannot allow Communist China to collect an arsenal of data on our service members and their families that can be weaponized against them, posing a grave and unnecessary threat to America’s national security,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. 

March 20, 2024

ASP CID INVESTIGATING OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING IN WEST LITTLE ROCK
March 19, 2024
The Arkansas State Police (ASP) Criminal Investigation Division is investigating an officer-involved shooting that occurred today around 6 a.m. at 4 Durance Court, Little Rock, while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was serving a federal search warrant.

Bryan Malinowski, 53, was injured with gunshot wounds and treated on scene by paramedics before being transported to a local hospital. His condition is unknown.

An ATF agent was injured with a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and was transported to a local hospital.

The ATF and the Little Rock Police Department asked ASP to investigate the incident.

Additional information will be released as it becomes available.

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 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE HOSTS “FREE TREE FRIDAYS” IN RECOGNITION OF ARBOR DAY 
LITTLE ROCK – In recognition of Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders proclaiming March 18 as Arkansas Arbor Day, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division will be hosting giveaways of bare root seedlings at various locations across the state each Friday from March 22 through April 26.

 “Spring is an excellent time of year to plant trees,” said Kristine Kimbro, Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator for the Forestry Division. “Adding trees to your yard or to a community forest provides Arkansans with many benefits, including recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and beautiful landscapes.”

Species will vary by location and the giveaway will be limited to five seedlings per person on a first come, first served basis. The Arkansas Urban Forestry Council, a new partner in the annual Free Tree Fridays campaign, purchased and donated six species of hardwood seedlings native to Arkansas including red mulberry, bald cypress, sycamore, Shumard oak, cherrybark oak, and river birch. Following is a listing of locations and times currently scheduled:

March 22
· DeQueen – Bailey Discount Building Supply, 880 E. Collin Raye Drive: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Little Rock – Arkansas Department of Agriculture, 1 Natural Resources Drive: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Walnut Ridge – Lawrence County Cooperative Extension Office, 1100 W. Main Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

March 29
· Malvern – Hot Spring County Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Office, 2300 Leopard Lane Suite T: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Mena – Atwoods, 1100 N U.S. 71 North: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Wynne – Wynne Fire Department, 1111 Falls Boulevard: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

April 5
· Ashdown – Horatio State Bank, 110 Main Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Pocahontas – American Made General Store, 1100 Pace Road: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Redfield – Redfield City Ball Park, Huck Finn Boulevard: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Sheridan – Mad Butcher, 815 Rock Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

April 12:
· Dierks – Forestry Division Office, 106 Forestry Drive: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Goshen – Goshen City Hall, 124 Church Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Lepanto – Parking lot at 205 W. Broad Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Lonoke – Marjorie Walker McCranry Memorial Library, 204 E. 2nd Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Warren – Warren City Park, 400 W. Church Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

April 19
· Benton – River Center-Riverside Park, 1800 Citizens Drive: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Casa – Casa Community Center, 114 S. Maple Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Jonesboro – Earle Bell Community Center, 1212 S. Church Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Little Rock – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W. Markham Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
·  Arkadelphia – Clark County NRCS Office, 640 S. 6th Street Suite C: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
·  Fairfield Bay – Fairfield Bay Chamber of Commerce, 120 Village Place Suite 1: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Osceola – Mississippi County NRCS Office, 3137 W. Keiser Avenue: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
· Stuttgart – Chamber of Commerce, 507 S. Main Street: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Additional locations may be added throughout the month. Visit agriculture.arkansas.gov/forestry/urban-community-forestry/free-tree-friday/ 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.

March 18, 2024

CAMDEN WATER UTILITIES ANNUAL CITY WIDE SYSTEM FLUSH
Camden Water Utilities will be conducting it’s annual city wide system flush, starting Monday March 25th and lasting until Friday, March 29th 2024.  Caution should be used when washing clothes as sediment will be present from time to time during this period.

Camden Water Utilities would like to apologize for any inconvenience this may cause its customers and ask for your patience and understanding during this time frame.

Should customers have any question concerning the system flush they can call 836-7331.
 

MOUNTAIN VIEW MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN 2022 QUADRUPLE HOMICIDE
March 15, 2024
Donnie Lee Trammell, 56, of Mountain View pled guilty to four counts of First-Degree Murder in Stone County Circuit Court on Thursday, March 14, 2024, in connection with the deaths of his parents, William Clinton Trammell, 75, and Sharon Trammell, 72; and neighbors, Shirley Watters, 77, and James Watters, 55.

Donnie Trammell was sentenced to 60 years in the Arkansas Division of Correction.

On Thursday, April 21, 2022, the Stone County Sheriff’s Office requested the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division investigate the deaths of the four victims, who died as a result of gunshot wounds.

Shirley and James Watters were found dead in their Northcutt Road home, south of Mountain View. Several hours later, the bodies of William and Sharon Trammell were found murdered inside their home, located a short distance from the Watters residence.

In May 2022, Donnie Trammell was charged with the shooting deaths of all victims. At that time, he was being held at a local jail on unrelated probation violations.
 

TWO ARKANSAS MEN ARRESTED IN SEPARATE CHILD PORN CASES
March 15, 2024
Arkansas State Police (ASP) arrested a Benton man on Friday, March 8, 2024, charging him with 250 counts of Distributing, Possessing, or Viewing of Matter Depicting Sexually Explicit Conduct Involving a Child.

On February 29, 2024, ASP’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force opened an investigation into Gregory Lynn Westbrook, 27, after receiving a cyber tip related to the distribution of child sexual abuse materials.

With assistance from the Saline County Sheriff’s Office, Westbrook was taken into custody on March 8, 2024, by ASP Agents and transported to the Saline County Detention Center.

On Thursday, March 14, 2024, Agents with the ICAC Task Force and the Texarkana Police Department executed a search warrant in the 1400 block of Orleans Street in Texarkana, seizing electronic devices and other evidence at the home of 38-year-old Jonathan McLean.

McLean was taken into custody at his place of employment and later transported to the Miller County Detention Center, charged with 100 Counts of Distributing, Possessing, or Viewing of Matter Depicting Sexually Explicit Conduct Involving a Child. 

 

ARKANSAS STATE BROADBAND OFFICE LAUNCHES STATEWIDE MAPPING CHALLENGE PROCESS
Little Rock, Ark. (March 18, 2024) – The Arkansas State Broadband Office will launch its Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) mapping challenge process on Wednesday, March 20.

This months-long process will enable stakeholders in Arkansas to challenge the accuracy of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Map and the levels of internet service reported at homes and businesses throughout the state. Stakeholders will be able to challenge data provided by the map but must submit evidence of the inaccuracies.

Eligible challengers in this process include units of local government, nonprofit organizations, and internet service providers, under federal BEAD program regulations.

The Arkansas State Broadband Office has worked to allow everyday Arkansans the ability to have their voices heard in the months leading up to the mapping challenge. The state’s mapping challenge portal system will allow for units of local government and nonprofit organizations to submit challenges on behalf of everyday Arkansans.

“We have been preparing for this process for well over a year,” said State Broadband Director Glen Howie. “As a result of intensive stakeholder outreach and engaged residents across the state, our counties are organized and ready to go. We look forward to launching this historic process.”

The broadband mapping challenge process will be conducted in advance of the state awarding broadband infrastructure grants.

The BEAD program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), provides $42.45 billion to U.S. states, territories, and the District of Columbia to expand broadband access, fund deployment and mapping, and address affordability and digital skills needs. In June 2023, the NTIA announced that Arkansas would be awarded $1,024,303,993.86 in BEAD funding to expand broadband access and address affordability and digital skills needs in the state.

The Arkansas State Broadband Office was authorized to begin the mapping challenge process following the NTIA’s approval of Arkansas’ BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 1. This proposal outlines how the state will run its mapping challenge process for grant-eligible locations.

Tentative timeline for Arkansas’ BEAD mapping challenge process:

March 12, 2024: User guide and location listings posted online; portal registration begins

March 20, 2024: Challenge portal opens; challenges accepted for 30 days

April 19, 2024: Challenge rebuttals accepted for 30 days

May 19, 2024: Challenge adjudication begins

June 17, 2024: Challenge process concludes

The new state broadband map and challenge portal system can be accessed on the Arkansas State Broadband Office’s website at broadband.arkansas.gov. A user guide and additional resources are also available, including a new and improved speed test application.

For more information about how to participate in this process, please contact the Arkansas State Broadband Office via email at broadband@arkansas.gov.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN CO-LEADS 25-STATE LAWSUIT TO BLOCK FEDERAL RULE HARMFUL TO OIL AND GAS JOBS
Griffin: ‘This rule severely impedes the ability of oil and gas operators in Arkansas to do business, all for the sake of extremely marginal environmental gains that may not even exist’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin released the following statement after co-leading a lawsuit on behalf of 24 state attorneys general and one state legislature in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit blocking emission standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

“The EPA’s rule for emissions regulating the oil and gas industry sets standards that far exceed the agency’s statutory authority. It severely impedes the ability of oil and gas operators in Arkansas to do business, all for the sake of extremely marginal environmental gains that may not even exist. If this arbitrary rule stands, it would result in the loss of Arkansas jobs.

“This is a classic example of overreach by the executive branch with little regard for the real-world impacts of its actions. That’s why I’ve joined with 24 other states to petition the D.C. Circuit to declare this rule unlawful and vacate the EPA’s enactment of it.”

March 15, 2024

CAMDEN SPRING BREAK STAYCATION COMMENCES
It’s time for the Camden City Spring Break Staycation. March 18th through the 22nd will see the Out of this World Sidewalk Chalk Art Competition.! Grab some sidewalk chalk and create an "Out Of This World" masterpiece. All ages are welcome, just call 870-836-5755 to register. Each person will be assigned a square downtown for their masterpiece. Each masterpiece will be posted on Camden Police Department Facebook page for judging. Make sure to get downtown on March 22nd to look at all the masterpieces then cast your vote on Facebook!

The Calm and Collected Youth Workshop will be offered at Tru Story Counseling. Attend this FREE workshop on Monday, March 18 for ages 11 to18. Tru Story will talk about the importance of mental health, provide resources and have a fun mental health focused craft for kids to keep! Snacks and drinks provided! Visit https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx

March18th from11:00 AM until noon Artesana Soap will offer a 12:00 PM Soap Making Class (Melt & Pour) Only 6 spots are available. Cost is $30.00 per child. Must come by Artesana Soap in Downtown Camden to register. This is for ages 6-12 years.

Let's have tea! Because this event is a popular one, there are now three tea times for your girls. Please text Shelby Stone at 870-820-4179 to reserve your spot. Tea Party for ages 3 – 5 will be at 10AM. Ages 5 – 7 will be at 12:30 PM and ages 8 - 11 will be at 3PM. The tea party will be held at 222 Dallas Ave NW in Camden.

March 19th from 5:30 until 8:00 PM will see Bingo Night. Back by popular demand… BINGO. There will be Prizes, Refreshments and free fun. 7 Years and younger will play from 5:30 to 6:00 PM. 8 to 12 years will play from 6:15 PM – 7:00PM 13 to 18 years will play from 7:15PM - 8PM. Bingo night will be at 1023 W Washington St in Camden.

March 20th let you child build their own pizza. It’s a Build Your Own Pizza event Jacob's Well Coffeehouse and Bakery from10:00 AM until 1:00 PM  Cost is $10 per person. Toppings include: Cheese, Pepperoni, and Sausage. Jacob’s Well is located at 2005 Fairview Rd SW, Camden.

March 20th will see a Solar Eclipse Program at the Library located at 405 Cash Rd SW in Camden from10:00 until 11:00 AM  Kids, join us during spring break as we learn about the upcoming solar eclipse and how to view it safely. Among other things we will make a cereal box eclipse viewer to take home. Program is free. If you do have cereal boxes, please bring those. For more information call 870-836-5083.

On March 20 from 2:00 until 5:00 PM there will be a Cardboard Competition. Get your thinking caps on and those creative juices flowing! This is a new event to the Staycation lineup. FREE for students 6th Grade & up Register your TEAM of up to students to enter this competition. One adult must accompany each team. Prizes will be given to 1st, 2nd, & 3rd places! TEXT Shelby Stone at 870-820-4179 to register your team. This event will be held at the Ouachita County Extension Office located at 625 S Adams Ave, Camden. Sponsored by Ouachita Abstract

March 21st from1:00 to 6:00 PM Perfect Cup will host the Board Game Blowout on the patio. Fun for all ages. Let's have some good old game board fun for the afternoon out on the patio. Perfect Cup is located at1226  Country Club Rd in Camden.

Nerf Night will be held on March 22nd from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. Join this Nerf War between Camden Police Department and Camden Fire Department. Nerf supplies will NOT be provided, you must bring your own. Safety glasses have been donated by Shady Grove Properties. FREE TO PLAY. There will be door prizes, From 5:00 to 5:45PM will be time for Ages 4 to 6 years. 6:00 to 7:00 PM will be for Ages 7 to 12 years. Nerf War will be held at Cullendale First Baptist1850 Cash Rd SW in Camden.

There will be a Spring Break Fishing Derby Saturday, March 23rd. All ages are welcome. The Derby will be held at Camden Fairview High School Pond 1750 Cash Rd SW in Camden. This is a Free Event. Registration is at 8:00 AM. The Derby will be from 9:00 Am until 12 Noon

Get ready Camden. It’s the 2nd annual Spring Break Food Truck Festival! The Festival will be March 23rd from 4:00 to 9:00 PM at Jefferson & Harrison Streets in Downtown Camden. There will be a variety of tasty food trucks & vendors, live music and good family fun!

Teen Girl's Night Out. Calling all Swifties!! March 21st from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. This one's just for our TEENS Gather your girls, get dressed up, and have some fun: Taylor Swift themed Charm necklace creating at The XOXO Co. 360° Photo Booth at Southern Realty Group, Shopping & Dining and a fun trolley ride around Downtown! Only 20 spaces available, so get yours soon. Tickets are only $20 each. To reserve your spot, please text Shelby Stone at 870-820-4179.

There will be a Spring Break Fishing Derby Saturday, March 23rd. All ages are welcome. The Derby will be held at Camden Fairview High School Pond 1750 Cash Rd SW in Camden. This is a Free Event. Registration is at 8:00 AM. The Derby will be from 9:00 Am until 12 Noon

Get ready Camden. It’s the 2nd annual Spring Break Food Truck Festival! The Festival will be March 23rd from 4:00 to 9:00 PM at Jefferson & Harrison Streets in Downtown Camden. There will be a variety of tasty food trucks & vendors, live music and good family fun!

 

ASP ARRESTS JACKSONVILLE WOMAN AFTER FLEEING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT IN PULASKI COUNTY
March 14, 2024
Arkansas State Police (ASP), with help from the Jacksonville Police Department (JPD), arrested Alexandra Faye Coulter, 31, of Jacksonville, on Monday, March 10, 2024, on felony charges of Theft of Property, Endangering the Welfare of a Minor, and Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Injury/Fatality.

At approximately 8:40 p.m., ASP responded to the scene of a two-vehicle accident that occurred on Interstate 440 East. Four people who were in one of the vehicles involved in the crash were taken to a local hospital and treated for minor injuries. The driver of the other vehicle, identified as Coulter, stole a vehicle belonging to a citizen who stopped to render aid. Coulter then fled the scene with a child and crashed the vehicle into a ditch on Faulkner Lake Road in North Little Rock.

Coulter was located by JPD at her residence and taken into custody. JPD transported her to the Pulaski County Detention Center.


STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
March 15, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – A legislative committee voted to add $25.2 million to a revolving loan fund for safe drinking water projects.

The majority of the funds will be loans, but local water systems can apply to have the principle forgiven.

The state Division of Natural Resources brought the funding request to legislators on the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee (PEER).

Legislators on the committee, especially those who represent rural areas, emphasized the need for the Natural Resources Division to extensively publicize the availability of the funds. One senator said that the water systems that most need financial help are most likely to be the ones that are not aware of the availability of grants and loans.

Legislators asked for copies of the application form to share with water systems and small cities in their districts.

The Natural Resource Division uses a formula to determine whether or not a water system qualifies for forgiveness of the principle. Rates paid by customers are a factor, so that rates are held down as much as possible. The formula takes into account the per capita income of ratepayers and a system is considered “rate burdened” if customers pay 1.5 percent of their income on water bills.

The action by PEER is the latest in a series of efforts to improve the infrastructure of water systems throughout Arkansas. Last month the Natural Resources Division announced that $42 million would become available for water systems serving 22,000 people.

In other action PEER recommended approval of $1.7 million for the state Workforce Services Division to strengthen its fraud prevention team.

The money will pay for extra staff and enhanced training with new technology that more quickly identifies fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits. Prison inmates have filed for benefits. Also, some people fraudulently file claims in numerous states. Others file for unemployment even though they are working.

According to Division officials, Arkansas is in the top ten nationwide in holding down improper payments for fraudulent claims.

PEER also approved a request from the Department of Human Services for $2.9 million so that the state can join a national program to provide lunches for disadvantaged children during the summer. The children qualify for free or reduced priced meals during the school year, but those meals are not available in summer months.

The federal government will provide matching funds. A spokesman for the Human Services Department estimated that 373,000 Arkansas children would be eligible for the lunch program.

In other action, PEER recommended allowing the state Health Department to use about $8.1 million to update the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program so that recipients can interact online.

The upgrades will allow recipients to digitally schedule appointments online and to fill out forms that now are on paper.

A new option will allow participants to “chat” electronically and ask questions online. After the upgrades are in place, the system will have an online shopping platform to allow WIC participants to shop online for groceries.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN HIGHLIGHTS WORK DONE ON BEHALF OF ARKANSAS CONSUMERS
Griffin: ‘[T]hese divisions are uniquely positioned to be on the front lines of educating, protecting, and serving those who live, work, and invest in Arkansas’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement highlighting the work done by his office in 2023 on behalf of Arkansas consumers:

“Last week was officially National Consumer Protection Week, but in my office, we place the highest priority on protecting Arkansas consumers every day of the year. I want to publicly praise the work done by my office’s Public Protection Division (PPD) and Office of Community Relations (OCR). While everyone in the Office of the Attorney General is committed to serving our state’s consumers, these divisions are uniquely positioned to be on the front lines of educating, protecting, and serving those who live, work, and invest in Arkansas.

“In 2023, PPD closed 46 formal investigations, an increase of 17 over the previous year’s total. They also initiated 17 new lawsuits—five more than in 2022—and obtained $10.6 million via mediation, more than doubling the previous year’s total. PPD also investigated 229 8-1-1 (‘call before you dig’) complaints and received and processed information about 95 data breaches. 

“These stats are only a portion of all that PPD did on behalf of Arkansas consumers in 2023. I am supremely proud of PPD, which operates under the leadership of Deputy Attorney General Chuck Harder.

“The Office of Community Relations is the primary conduit of interaction between my office and the people we serve. When a constituent calls or emails my office, a member of the OCR team will connect the constituent with resources within the office and services provided by other agencies/organizations. OCR also hosts events on issues facing Arkansans. Led by Anushree Jumde, the OCR team is an indispensable part of how the office functions, and they exemplify the commitment to service that I have prioritized.

“In 2023, OCR handled 48,457 phone calls and 42,953 emails. They held 36 events, which were attended by 5,426 people.”

To learn more about how the Office of the Attorney General serves Arkansas consumers, visit www.arkansasag.gov

March 14, 2024

ADEM CONDUCTS LIVE SOLAR ECLIPSE EXERCISE
March 13, 2024
With less than a month remaining before the Great American Solar Eclipse, the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) took a significant step by conducting a live training exercise. This exercise was designed to test ADEM's response to issues that may arise as visitors flock to Arkansas to witness the event. ADEM responders and other state agencies looked at possible scenarios, such as severe weather, traffic, medical emergencies, and communication challenges.
 
Taking part in the exercise were county emergency managers and representatives of the National Weather Service, Arkansas National Guard, Corps of Engineers, Arkansas Hospital Association, Arkansas Wireless Information Network, and Arkansas Departments of Health, Transportation, Energy and Environment and Human Services.
 
The exercise took place in the ADEM Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which will be in operation from Saturday, April 6, until Wednesday, April 10.     
 
The purpose of the exercise was to carefully test the procedures and systems used for sharing information throughout all phases of the eclipse, ensuring that all decision-makers have access to the most relevant and latest updates about the event's nature and impact. This will enable them to make informed decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information.
 
"ADEM is continually working to explore and resolve any possible scenarios that may occur during the Great American Solar Eclipse," said ADEM Director A.J. Gary. “We are focusing on preparedness to ensure the safety of all Arkansans and travelers who make their way into our state. We hope this will be the most uneventful activation our Emergency Operations Center has seen so the public can enjoy and celebrate this historic event." 


ASP ARRESTS SHERWOOD FUGITIVE
March 14, 2024
North Little Rock, AR -- Arkansas State Police (ASP) arrested Robert Daniel Payne Jr., 51, of Sherwood on Monday, March 11, 2024, charging him with eight counts of Distributing, Possessing, and/or Viewing of Materials Depicting Sexually Explicit Conduct Involving a Child. Payne had been evading arrest for more than 2 years.

ASP Agents arrested the suspect at a restaurant on Warden Road in North Little Rock without incident. Agents executed a search warrant at Payne’s Sherwood residence in August 2019, seizing electronic devices and other evidence. Arrest warrants were issued in September of 2021.

“This case shows that persistence pays off,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “I am so proud of our Criminal Investigations Division for never giving up the search for this suspect.”

Payne was transported to the Pulaski County Detention Center.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES $191K MEDICAID BILLING SETTLEMENT WITH LINCARE
Griffin: ‘Medicaid fraud takes several forms, and my office is committed to fighting it on behalf of hardworking taxpayers’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today announced Arkansas’s Medicaid Program will receive $191,050.63 as part of a $25 million national settlement with Lincare Holdings, Inc., over alleged false Medicaid billing for Noninvasive Home Ventilation (NIV) devices and issued the following statement:

“It is alleged that from January 2013 to February 2020, Lincare violated federal and state laws by knowingly submitting false claims for payment to the Medicaid program for NIV rentals. For these false claims, the devices were not medically necessary or Lincare did not maintain sufficient documentation to show continued use or need by patients.

“I am grateful for the diligence of Senior Assistant Attorney General Holly Johnson, who worked with the lead states from the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units (NAMFCU) that investigated this matter in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Medicaid fraud takes several forms, and my office is committed to fighting it on behalf of hardworking taxpayers.”

Under the settlement agreement, Lincare will pay $25 million, plus interest, to the United States, the District of Columbia and 29 states to resolve the allegations that Lincare improperly sought and received monthly reimbursements for NIV rentals under the federal False Claims Act and comparable state statutes.

SAAC ANNOUNCES CAST FOR “SHREK, THE MUSICAL JR”
The South Arkansas Arts Center wishes to announce the cast of the upcoming Youth Theatre’s production of Dreamworks “Shrek The Musical JR.,” which will run April 11-13, 2024. The play is under the direction of Andria Gleghorn and Cassie Hickman and is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of El Dorado.

Beauty is in the eye of the ogre in “Shrek The Musical JR.” It’s a “big bright beautiful world” as everyone’s favorite ogre, Shrek (Parker Thomas), leads a cast of fairytale misfits on an adventure to rescue a princess and find true acceptance.

Opening the tale are the four Storytellers (Gabby Johnson, Grace Lewis, Jill Miller and Emily Riley). As they frolic in the woods along with the woodland creatures (Eva Johnson, McKynlie Raley, Makenna Thurkill, Charlotte Sneed), they introduce the audience to Little Shrek (Finlee Gilkey) and his parents (Lexi Louden, Micah Johnson).

As the years pass, Shrek finds contentment living alone in a swamp. One day, Shrek finds his swamp invaded by banished fairytale misfits who have been cast-off by royal decree from Lord Farquaad (Luke Louden), a tiny terror with big ambitions, and evicted by the Captain of the Guards (Jon Tyler Davis). 

Ogres want to be left alone, and Shrek is no exception. Occupying Shrek’s swamp are Pinocchio (Evie Johnson), Gingy the Gingerbread Man (Cole Taylor) and a motley crew of other fairytale creatures (Davis Blanchard, Josey Camacho, Harper Davis, Alexandria Ellen, Bram Johnson, Eleanor Kriehn, Katie Wynn Legg, Josie Mann, Addy Miller, Gunnar Mote, Anabelle Odom).  

While being chased by the Captain of the Guard and his henchmen (Barrett Jenkins, Grace Lewis), Shrek sets off with a wisecracking Donkey (Luke Legg) to confront Farquaad. Along the way, Shrek is handed the task of rescuing the feisty princess Fiona (Audrey Henderson) so his swamp can be righted. Shrek tries to win Fiona's love and vanquish Lord Farquaad, but a fairytale wouldn't be complete without a few twists and turns along the way, even including facing a dragon (Haven Gathright).

Part romance and part twisted fairytale, Shrek Jr. is an irreverently fun show with a powerful message for the whole family. Come see the amazing SAAC youth Theatre cast perform this hilarious adventure.

“Shrek The Musical JR.” is presented by arrangement with MTI. 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.

SAAC TO HOST KELLY CAMPBELL’S 3-DAY PASTEL WORKSHOP
The South Arkansas Arts Center will host local artist Kelly Campbell on April 5-7 in an adults-only, 3-day beginners pastel workshop. The Workshop will be from 6pm-7pm on the 5th, from 9am-4pm on the 6th, and from 1pm-3pm on the 7th. The cost of the workshop is $175, and all supplies will be provided.

Participants in Campbell’s workshop will learn the basics of using soft pastels as well as practicing using pastels on different types of paper, learning to tone sanded paper for underpainting, and learning the basics of using different kinds of soft pastels to create an original painting.

Campbell said, “This three day class is for anyone who needs a refresher or who needs a little inpsiration, as well as true beginners – I go into the different kinds of soft pastels, the different kinds of paper, color choices, composition, and how to work from a photograph once you get the hang of the medium.”

Campbell is an award-winning local artist who is the former gallery manager as well as an instructor at SAAC. Prior to her 13-year tenure at SAAC, she taught art in the public school system in Union County for 26 years.

To reserve a spot in the workshop, please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas. 


BOOZMAN HONORED FOR SUPPORT OF AMERICAN MANUFACTURERS EQUIPPING ARMED FORCES
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is a 2024 recipient of the Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition’s Sentinel Award for his advocacy of American manufacturers that produce equipment to protect our troops and homeland security personnel.

“Senator Boozman has been a steadfast supporter of the American companies that build the uniforms, combat footwear and body armor for the warfighter” said David Costello, Executive Director of the Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition. “His leadership continues to ensure that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines train and deploy in the best possible uniforms and equipment, providing them with a significant combat advantage. His work on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee supports the development and procurement of life-saving products worn by our servicemembers. The WPRC is honored to recognize his constant effort with the 2024 Sentinel Award.”

“Protecting the men and women who defend our country with American-made gear is a win-win. I’m proud to advocate for the domestic production of essential tactical equipment and clothing by manufacturers that also create jobs in communities around the country. I look forward to continued collaboration with the industry to respond to the evolving needs of personnel who support our national security,” Boozman said.

Arkansas members of the Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition include Fort Smith’s National Safety Apparel and Belleville Boot, a manufacturer with operations in DeWitt and Forrest City.

The association annually presents its Sentinel Award in support of lawmakers who have demonstrated extraordinary support for American manufacturers that produce combat clothing and equipment for members of the Armed Forces and the Department of Homeland Security.

March 13, 2024

CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen met in regular session on Tuesday, March 12th at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.

Mayor Charlotte Young called the meeting to order promptly at 7:00 pm. The invocation was given by Rev. Conner M. Davis, Pastor of Camden First Assembly of God Church. The invocation was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

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

The minutes of the February 13th regular meeting were presented in print. The minutes were passed by unanimous vote.

 The Minutes of the Special called Meeting of February 20th were presented in print. Motion was made and seconded. The minutes passed by unanimous vote.

The Financial Report for February 2024 was presented in print. Due to mistakes, the acceptance of the financial report was tabled.

David Richardson, Camden Water Utilities Manager, gave the Biannual Water & Sewer Report.

Mayor Young mentioned events going on all over town for Spring Break. She also reported that Plant a Seed will be providing meals for about 400 kids next week. They could use some help if anyone would be willing.

Clerk Donna Stewart gave a report on the checks in question. Legal invoices were paid with legal checks. All the checks in question appeared to be written from an account that isn’t used as much as others. Because of this the signature had not gotten changed on that account. That has now been corrected.

The Council moved on to new business beginning with Ordinance No. 03-24, an ordinance repealing Ordinance No. 07-02 assessing a lien on certain property located at 541 Greenwood Street NW, Camden, Arkansas.  Motion was made and seconded. This was the first reading.


Resolution No. 14-24, a resolution declaring the structure located at 213 E. Wood Street a public nuisance and to order the removal of the same. Motion was made and seconded. The Resolution passed with Aldermen Lindsey, Castleberry, Winters and Aregood voted for the Resolution. Alderman Moore abstained. Mayor Young voted for and the Resolution passed.


Resolution No. 15-24, a resolution authorizing the mayor to purchase a truck and trailer through an interlocal contract for cooperative purchasing; and for other purposes. Motion was made and seconded. The Resolution passed by unanimous vote.

Resolution No. 16-24, a resolution authorizing the mayor to purchase a Backhoe Loader through an    interlocal contract for cooperative purchasing; and for other purposes. Motion was wade and seconded.
The Resolution passed by unanimous vote.

Resolution No. 17-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of scales for the Solid Waste Disposal Division of the Public Works Department. Motion was made and seconded. The Resolution passed by unanimous vote.

The meeting adjourned at 8:08

The next regular session is scheduled for April 9th, 2024.

 

 

ASP ARRESTS BLYTHEVILLE POLICE OFFICER
March 12, 2024
Blytheville, AR -- Arkansas State Police (ASP) arrested Blytheville Police Officer David Paul Cross, 25, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, charging him with Distributing, Possessing, and/or Viewing of Materials Depicting Sexually Explicit Conduct Involving a Child.

ASP Agents executed a search warrant at Cross’s Blytheville residence, seizing electronic devices and other evidence.

Officer Cross was transported to the Mississippi County Detention Center. His bond was set at $75,000.


ARDOT SET TO RECEIVE AN ADDITIONAL $91 MILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDING FOR SIX PROJECTS
The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) is set to receive an additional $91 million in Congressionally Directed Spending and Community Project Funding for six projects.

Members of Arkansas’ Congressional Delegation, including Senator John Boozman along with Representatives Rick Crawford, Bruce Westerman, and Steve Womack, secured the additional funding in the latest Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) appropriation for the Federal Fiscal Year 2024. 

This funding is stipulated for the following projects:

$67 million for Interstate 49 between Barling and Alma – requested by Senator Boozman;

$6 million for the Future Interstate 57 from Walnut Ridge to the Missouri State Line – requested by Senator Boozman and Representative Crawford;

$5 million for the Highway 10 Greenwood Bypass – requested by Representative Womack;

$5 million for Highway 82 Corridor improvements in Ashley, Chicot, Columbia, and Union Counties – requested by Senator Boozman and Representative Westerman;

$5 million for Highway 412 Corridor improvements of the portion that interfaces with Interstate 49 – requested by Senator Boozman and Representative Womack; and

$3 million for Highway 412 Corridor improvements in northern Arkansas – requested by Senator Boozman and Representative Crawford.

“Our Congressional Delegation works hard for the citizens of Arkansas,” ARDOT Director Lorie Tudor said. “We are thankful that Senator Boozman and Representatives Crawford, Westerman, and Womack support Arkansas’ transportation infrastructure. Not only will these investments enhance economic potential, they will also improve safety and mobility for all of Arkansas’ road users.”

“On behalf of the entire Highway Commission, we thank our Congressional Delegation,” Arkansas Highway Commission Chairman Alec Farmer said. “These projects will have a lasting impact on transportation in Arkansas. Moving us toward completion of future Interstates, be it Interstate 57 or Interstate 49; or east-west corridors like Highway 412 in northern Arkansas and Highway 82 in southern Arkansas; or investing in a bypass that will provide congestion relief and safe travel alternatives in and around Greenwood, are strong commitments to our future.”


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN PRAISES GOVERNOR SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS FOR PURSUING ENGAGEMENT WITH SOUTH KOREA, JAPAN
Griffin: ‘I appreciate the Governor’s leadership in developing strong relationships that make strategic sense for our state and nation’

LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin released the following statement today in support of Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ recent trade delegation trip to east Asia: 

“I applaud Governor Sanders’ engagement with our Asian allies, especially South Korea and Japan. We share common values of freedom, democracy, free trade and security. These are precisely the sort of relationships the state should be building, as opposed to building relationships with foreign adversaries. I have been saying for years that Arkansas’s economic engagement with China was a bad idea, and the results speak for themselves. I am excited for the opportunities that these new partnerships will bring to Arkansas, and I appreciate the Governor’s leadership in developing strong relationships that make strategic sense for our state and nation.”

BOOZMAN SECURES FUNDING FOR ARKANSAS PRIORITIES
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Subcommittee, secured funding for Arkansas priorities in the six appropriations bills the president signed into law last week.

Here are examples of how investments delivered by the senator will help Arkansas:
Arkansas Department of Transportation: ARDOT will improve transportation infrastructure across the state. It will receive $67 million for the construction of I-49 near Fort Smith, $5 million for improvements to the Highway 82 corridor, $6 million for the construction of a portion of Future I-57 and $8 million for improvements on the Highway 412 corridor. “We are very grateful for the additional federal funds that Senator Boozman has secured for several important corridors in Arkansas that include Future I-49, Future I-57; US Highway 412; and US Highway 82. This funding will expedite construction on projects all across Arkansas that will improve mobility and enhance   economic potential. The Department and the Highway Commission sincerely appreciate the senator’s support of Arkansas’s transportation system and his efforts to provide much needed funding for these improvements.” – ARDOT Director Lorie Tudor

City of Fort Smith: The city will receive $12 million for water transmission and $2.5 million for upgraded traffic infrastructure to improve security access at Ebbing Air National Guard Base.

Additionally, as Ranking Member of the MilCon-VA Subcommittee, Boozman secured $83 million for the future pilot training center at Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith.We are grateful to Senator Boozman for his dedication to securing funding for vital projects in Fort Smith. The funds for reconfiguring the Ebbing Air National Guard Base entrance and enhancing security demonstrate strong support for the Foreign Military Sales Pilot Training Mission, which will be a key economic driver in our region. Additionally, investing in our new water transmission line promotes sustainable growth and economic development. These efforts highlight our delegation's ongoing commitment to Fort Smith's prosperity.” – Carl E. Geffken, City Administrator “Securing funds for Fort Smith's economic development projects is an investment in our city's future. I'm proud to advocate for these critical initiatives that will drive growth, create jobs, and enhance our community. I thank our Congressional delegation for their work on our behalf.” – George McGill, Mayor

Port of Little Rock: The port will receive $11.5 million to increase its freight rail capacity with the addition of a rail-to-truck transload facility, warehouses and necessary site improvements. “The Little Rock Port Authority is incredibly grateful to Senator John Boozman and his efforts to support a critical infrastructure project that will significantly increase freight rail capacity at the Port of Little Rock. As the Port of Little Rock continues to grow jobs and attract investment from around the world, this infrastructure project will improve service delivery and provide additional opportunities for manufacturers located throughout central Arkansas. Senator Boozman understands the importance of economic development and job creation. His support of the Port of Little Rock will help Little Rock continue to grow and thrive.” – Bryan Day, Port of Little Rock Executive Director

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission: AGFC will use $11.8 million for improvements of water control structures, alternations and repairs of the levee structures at the Shirey Bay Rainey Brake Wildlife Management Area in Lawrence County. “On behalf of Arkansas’s sportsmen and sportswomen, I am grateful for Senator Boozman’s strong and dependable support for conservation in the Natural State. This important and timely funding will ensue the Arkansas Game and Fish can restore the habitat at Shirey Bay Rainey Brake and provide public waterfowling access for future generations.” – Austin Booth, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Director

City of Bono: The city will $7.7 million to upgrade its wastewater treatment facility.
“The City of Bono, Arkansas is in dire need of a new wastewater treatment facility and other sewer system improvements. The big expense would force our city into deep and burdensome debt for decades. Senator Boozman saw the need for upgrades and supported investment to improve our wastewater treatment facility and collection system. We are beyond excited and appreciative for this great blessing that will encourage growth in Bono. As a city, we can provide the necessary services to accommodate development and affordable housing. Bono can continue to be a wonderful place to live and raise a family thanks to Senator Boozman.” – Dan Shaw, Bono Mayor

University of Arkansas: The university will receive $5 million to support the University of Arkansas Center for Design and Materials Innovation to expand the use of Arkansas-sourced timber and wood through cutting-edge research and development. It will also receive $5 million for the University of Arkansas Center for Large-Scale Testing of Seismic Systems construction to provide advanced testing capabilities and innovative solutions to infrastructural challenges posed by seismic activity.

“The vital funding provided in these appropriations allows to the University of Arkansas to provide cutting edge research to our state in both earthquake preparedness and the use of our natural resource of timber in advanced construction materials. We appreciate Senator Boozman’s advocacy to secure funding to help advance this program and connect students with the unique resources available in our state.” – Chancellor Charles F. Robinson, University of Arkansas

Arkansas State University: The university will receive $10 million to support the Center for Advanced Materials and Steel Manufacturing at Arkansas State University to bolster research in advancing materials and steel manufacturing.

“Northeast Arkansas is poised to become a national leader in steel production, and the A-State Center for Advanced Materials and Steel Manufacturing will play a critical role in providing the research, process improvement, and workforce development to support this important industry. On behalf of the A-State community and everyone in northeast Arkansas, I want to thank Senator Boozman for his leadership and his commitment to our university and this major economic driver of our state and region.” – Chancellor Todd Shields, Arkansas State University

City of Camden: The city will receive $5.5 million to improve its wastewater systems.
“This investment in the community is important for continued growth and development in support of our national defense. We appreciate Senator Boozman’s leadership to secure these funds that will improve infrastructure to help attract more businesses and families to the area.” – Ouachita County Judge Robert McAdoo

March 12. 2023

ASP CID INVESTIGATING HOT SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING
March 12, 2024
The Hot Springs Police Department (HSPD) has asked the Criminal Investigation Division of Arkansas State Police (ASP) to investigate a fatal officer-involved shooting that occurred Monday, March 11, 2024, in Hot Springs.

An HSPD officer was wounded and suspect Jody Lyn Lewis, 45, of Sherwood died of injuries he sustained in the incident.

At approximately 9:35 p.m., HSPD officers initiated a traffic stop at the Albert Pike Car Wash in the 2000 block of Albert Pike Road. Preliminary witness statements indicate the suspect and police exchanged gunfire after the suspect exited the vehicle brandishing a firearm.

The injured officer was taken to a local hospital, where he is in stable condition. The deceased was transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, where the manner and cause of death will be determined.

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 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ANNOUNCES GRANT OPPORTUNITY FOR FARMERS MARKETS
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department) is pleased to partner with the Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas for the ninth annual Arkansas Farmers Market Promotion Program. This program, which is administered by the Department and funded by the Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas, helps build awareness for farmers markets and their vendors. This program provides funding assistance for the state’s farmers markets to serve their communities as consumer interest in locally grown and made products continues to increase.

The Farmers Market Promotion Program may fund the following promotional items to build community and regional awareness for a specific farmers market: signage listing names, seasons, times of operation, and location details; local traditional advertising; and social media campaigns. In 2023, the Department provided over $9,000 in grants to 25 Arkansas farmers markets through the partnership with the Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas.

Applications are open until funds are no longer available. Applications and additional information can be found at agriculture.arkansas.gov/arkansas-department-of-agriculture-programs/farmers-market-programs/.

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.

The Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas are locally-owned and managed financial cooperatives that are part of the national Farm Credit System. They are dedicated to making a significant and positive impact on agriculture, rural communities, and youth in agriculture through their statewide partnership. Three independent associations come together to form Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas – Farm Credit of Western Arkansas, AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, and Farm Credit Mid-America. The Farm Credit System has supported rural America since 1916 and remains committed to its original mission of providing reliable, dependable credit to farmers, ranchers, and rural homeowners.
 

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE TO HOST PUBLIC MEETINGS FOR ARKANSAS WATER PLAN UPDATE
LITTLE ROCK, AR – In compliance with Executive Order 23-27 signed by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department) is updating the Arkansas Water Plan and developing the state’s first-ever statewide flood plan. As part of the comprehensive analysis required by Governor Sanders’ executive order, the Department will hold public meetings to engage stakeholders in identifying current water issues, needs, and best practicable solutions.

The first meeting will be held on March 26, 2024, from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Office, 2301 S. University Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas 72204. The second meeting will be held on March 27, 2024, from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. at the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences, 1371 W. Altheimer Drive, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72704. Additional public meetings will be held over the course of the planning process.

Representatives from all water use sectors, including interested water planning groups, state and federal agencies, legislators, and local entities, are encouraged to participate in the meetings. Questions about the meetings may be directed to Ryan Benefield at ryan.benefield@agriculture.arkansas.gov or at 501-682-3962.

The update of the Arkansas Water Plan and the development of a statewide flood plan is being conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The purpose of the Arkansas Water Plan is to conserve and protect the state’s water resources, with a long-term goal of sustainable use to maximize the environmental and economic benefit of the State of Arkansas, and the health and well-being of its citizens. Learn more about the Arkansas Water Plan at agriculture.arkansas.gov /natural-resources/divisions/water-management/arkansas-water-plan/. Read Executive Order 23-27 at governor.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/EO-23-27-Arkansas-Water-Plan-1.pdf.

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.


ARKANSAS MLK COMMISSION, GAMMA ETA ALUMNI ASSOCIATION TO HOST NONVIOLENCE YOUTH SUMMIT IN FAYETTEVILLE
The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, in partnership with the Gamma Eta Alumni Association, will host a Nonviolence Youth Summit “Unity in the Community” event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 11 at Walker Park, 10 W. 15th, Fayetteville. The free educational event will commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and will follow a food giveaway event at 8 a.m. at the park.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the Gamma Eta Alumni Association to host the Nonviolence Youth Summit “Unity in the Community” event, bringing together youth from across Northwest Arkansas to learn, connect, and serve,” DuShun Scarbrough, the commission’s executive director, said. “By fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose, we can create a brighter, more inclusive future for all.”

The event will feature a diverse array of youth-focused activities, including a band showcase, chess games, and sessions designed to promote nonviolence education, social-emotional learning, and community engagement. Participants will have the opportunity to gain valuable insights into building stronger, more resilient communities.

In recognition of their outstanding contributions to the community, several individuals and organizations will be honored with Community Service Awards during a special ceremony. Honorees include Dr. Jon Colbert, with Lifetime Achievement for Education, the MLK Committee of Fayetteville, and DJ Williams, a KARK news anchor and former Razorback. These awards celebrate the dedication and passion of those who have positively impacted their service and leadership.

In addition to the recognitions and educational events, attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods and non-perishable food items to support the Seven Hills Homeless Shelter.

The event is free and open to the public, and free lunch will be provided to attendees.

Other program partners include the Arkansas Department of Human Services, City of Fayetteville, Yvonne Richardson Community Center, Welspun, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Bond A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), Walmart, Arvest, AEP Foundation, Citizen’s Bank, AT&T, Cricket Wireless, and ADVAD 3.

For more information and to register for the event, please visit www.arkingdream.org or contact DuShun Scarbrough at 888-290-KING or dushun.scarbrough@ade.arkansas.gov.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES ARREST OF WOMAN FINANCIALLY EXPLOITING ELDERLY FATHER AND STEPMOTHER
Griffin: ‘There is no tolerance for the exploitation of the vulnerable in our state’
LITTLE ROCK – Following the arrest of Ashley Hatcher-Rohm, 44, of Sherwood on two felony counts of exploitation, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“Thanks to the excellent work of my office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, we were able to arrest Ashley Hatcher-Rohm on two counts of Exploiting an Endangered or Impaired Person, both Class B Felonies. My office is committed to using all its resources to secure a conviction in this case, and I remind Arkansans that there is no tolerance for the exploitation of the vulnerable in our state.”

Hatcher-Rohm is accused of fraudulently withdrawing more than $9,000 from an account belonging to her father and stepmother while they were staying in a local nursing home. She was booked into the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility awaiting arraignment.

Being convicted of a Class B Felony can result in a sentence from five to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000 per count.


COTTON, BROWN, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO STOP MEXICAN STEEL SURGE
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) today introduced the Stop Mexico’s Steel Surge Act, legislation that would curb the unsustainable levels of Mexican steel imports into the United States.

The legislation follows letters (letter to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and letter to USTR Tai and Commerce Secretary Raimondo) Senators Cotton and Brown sent to the Biden administration addressing their concerns about the economic and national security consequences of the steel imports coming from Mexico. The bill would reinstate tariffs on Mexican steel imports and bring Mexico into compliance with the trade commitments that it continues to violate.

Senators John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Ted Budd (R-North Carolina), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Rick Scott (R-Florida), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) are co-sponsors of the legislation. Representatives Rick Crawford (Arkansas-01) and Frank Mrvan (Indiana-01) are introducing companion legislation in the House.

 “Mexico’s violation of its 2019 agreement with the United States has released a surge of steel products into America that’s hurt our workers and made us less secure. It’s past time for more negotiation. This legislation will stop Mexico from continuing to surge steel into our market,” said Senator Cotton.

“Ohio steelworkers can’t wait any longer for Mexico’s cheating to stop. Workers are losing their jobs and Ohio companies are losing business now,” said Senator Brown. “When Mexico breaks the rules they agreed to, the Administration needs to hold them accountable. This bill would take the action Ohio workers desperately need to level the playing field with Mexico.”

“Mexico’s practice of steel dumping is a flagrant breach of our trade agreement and has caused significant harm to our steel industry. We cannot allow bad actors to take advantage of trade agreements by attacking one specific American industry. It’s time to put our foot down and put tariffs in place to prevent Mexico from flooding our markets and causing further damage to American steel manufacturers,” said Congressman Crawford.

“It is imperative that we do everything we can to defend American steelworkers against unfair trade practices.  I am proud to collaborate with my House and Senate colleagues on this initiative to ensure that our domestic steel industry can compete on a level playing field,” said Congressman Mrvan.

The Stop Mexico’s Steel Surge Act would:
Reinstate a 25 percent Section 232 tariffs on Mexican steel imports for no less than one year and empowers the president to impose quotas or tariff rate quotas on specific goods where there have been major surges.

The administration may only lift these tariffs once the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative certify that Mexico has adopted policies bringing it into compliance with the 2019 agreement and are confident that Mexico will maintain these policies.

March 11, 2024

PLAN AHEAD THIS ST. PATRICK’S DAY – DRIVE SOBER OR GET PULLED OVER
March 11, 2024
St. Patrick’s Day is one of the United States' most popular holidays, celebrated with festivals, parades, and parties. These celebrations frequently feature themed cocktails and green pints, and the amount of alcohol consumed on this holiday is higher than average. People are more likely to make poor decisions as a result, including driving while intoxicated. To raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and to help keep your community’s streets safe, Arkansas law enforcement is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Remember before and throughout the celebrations, if your plans for the holiday include alcohol: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

St. Patrick’s Day can be a dangerous day on America’s roads due to increased alcohol consumption and drunk driving. There were 272 lives lost in drunk-driving crashes over the holiday period (6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18) between 2017 and 2021. Though drunk-driving fatalities are more likely to occur at night, drunk driving puts lives in danger at any time of the day. During that same period, there were 31 daytime drunk-driving fatalities. The consequences of driving impaired can be deadly.
“Celebrate responsibly this St. Patrick's Day. Before you go out, decide who will be your sober designated driver or whether you’ll use another safe transportation option,” said Arkansas Public Safety Secretary Colonel Mike Hagar. “Drunk driving is illegal and can have deadly consequences for the intoxicated driver and innocent people in their path.”

According to NHTSA, 13,384 individuals died in alcohol-impaired motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021 alone, accounting for 31% of all traffic fatalities in the United States that year. This means that someone died in a drunk-driving crash every 39 minutes on our nation’s roads in 2021. During that same period, 185 individuals died in alcohol-impaired motor vehicle traffic crashes, accounting for 27% of all traffic fatalities in Arkansas.

No one should mix drinking and driving, and no one is immune to the effects of drunk driving. If you find yourself drunk and stranded with your vehicle, give your keys to a sober driver who can safely drive you home. Remind your friends to never get in the vehicle with a drunk driver. If you have a friend who is about to drive drunk, ask them not to drive and help them get home safely. You might be saving their life, or someone else’s. Most importantly: Always have a plan before you head out for the evening. If you wait until after you’ve been drinking to figure out how to get from one place to the next, you may already be too impaired to make the right choices.
Celebrate with a Plan
-- Before heading out, it’s vital to plan ahead. Be honest with yourself: You know whether you’ll be drinking or not. Arkansas law enforcement recommends these safe alternatives to drinking and driving:

-- It’s never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation to get to your destination safely. Plan a safe way home before you leave.

-- If you’ve been drinking, call a taxi, ride-share service or a designated driver to drive you home.

-- If you see an impaired driver on the road, call 9-1-1.

-- If you know someone who is about to drive or operate a motorcycle or any other vehicle while impaired, help them make other arrangements to get to their destination safely.
-- Always buckle up. Your seat belt is your best defense against a drunk driver.

-- Always remember: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

For more information on impaired driving, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8127, and go to https://www.tzdarkansas.org/ to learn about Arkansas’ Toward Zero Deaths campaign to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities.



BALLOT INTEGRITY ALERT: ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN EXPLAINS RULES GOVERNING SIGNATURE COLLECTION FOR BALLOT INITIATIVES
Griffin: ‘It is vitally important that laws governing each part of the ballot initiative process are followed’
LITTLE ROCK – With signatures being collected on several ballot initiatives ahead of the 2024 general election, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement and guidance on rules that govern the collection of signatures:

“It is vitally important that laws governing each part of the ballot initiative process are followed. This not only ensures our citizens’ ability to participate in direct democracy, but also protects ballot initiatives from legal challenges. 

“The law is clear on the collection of signatures for statewide initiatives, and it is important that canvassers understand their obligations under the law as they collect signatures from Arkansans.”

The law requires that canvassers:
Be 18 years of age or older, a U.S. citizen, AND an Arkansas resident.
Personally witness all signatures on the petition.

It is a felony for a canvasser to:
Sign someone else’s name to a petition;
Print someone else’s name, address, or birth date. If the signer requires assistance due to disability, a person other than the canvasser may print the signer’s name, address, birth date, and the date of signing. The person providing assistance must sign and print his or her own name in the margin of the petition;
Ask for or obtain a signature when the canvasser knows that the person signing is not qualified to sign the petition;
Pay someone to sign;
Knowingly misrepresent the purpose and effect of the petition or the measure in order to persuade someone to sign; or
Falsely swear to have witnessed all signatures on the petition page.

If you are approached by a canvasser, remember that:
Only registered voters may sign a petition;
All signatures must be in the signer’s own handwriting and must be given in the presence of the canvasser;
Because petition parts are separated by county, signers should only sign petition parts for the county in which the signer is registered to vote;

Arkansas law requires that a full and correct copy of the popular name, ballot title and text of the initiated or referred measure be attached to every petition at all times during a petition’s circulation. This is so potential signers may read the full text of what they are being asked to sign;

The information a signer provides on a petition may be disclosed in response to a records request made under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

We have received reports of canvassers leaving petitions unattended in public places. What is the effect of someone signing an unattended petition?

This is a canvasser violation only if (1) someone signs that petition while the canvasser isn't there and (2) the canvasser signs the affidavit in the bottom corner of the signature page. If both the foregoing happen, then two legal consequences occur: (1) people attacking the petition can argue that every signature page gathered by that canvasser be tossed out; and (2) the canvasser can be convicted of a felony for falsely swearing to have witnessed the signatures that occurred in his or her absence.

Any complaints or allegations of misconduct in the ballot initiative process should be directed to the Election Integrity Unit, Office of the Attorney General, at (833) 995-8683.


SAAC TO EXHIBIT SHARE FOUNDATION COLLECTION
The South Arkansas Arts Center is hosting an exhibition entitled “The Warner Brown Artistic Development Committee: A Reunion for This Moment” now through March 27.  Curated by Gay Bechtelheimer, the exhibition reunites artwork selected for the interior of Warner Brown Hospital after its major expansion in the 1970s by the Artistic Development Committee, chaired by founding SAAC member Lyda Merkle. It combines artwork from the collections of the SHARE Foundation, the South Arkansas Arts Center, and the Merkle family to represent the artists and patrons who made this impressive artistic effort possible.

Painter and educator Millard Sheets worked closely with Merkle to help the committee develop a “master plan for the artistic development of Warner Brown Hospital.” Using the natural beauty and abundance of Arkansas as their inspiration, Merkle and Sheets assembled a collection that included both of their own work, which are prominently featured in the exhibition. Also included is the work of Milford Zornes and Alvar Sunol Munoz-Ramos.

Those familiar with the hospital may remember many of the pieces on display, including the large-scale mural that once hung in the lobby. Painted by Susan Hertel, it depicts the people of Arkansas journeying through life’s ends and beginnings. The tapestry featured was designed by Joe Ellen, of El Dorado, and woven by Pinton Brothers, D’Aubusson, France.

A new addition to the building at SAAC are terra cotta relief sculptures created by sculptor Betty Davenport Ford, a student of Sheets. Depicting the wildlife of South Arkansas, the glazed stoneware sculptures include a fox, quail, bobcat, and doe and fawn. Displayed at the main entry doors at Warner Brown for decades, these four were recently installed on SAAC’s re-designed front façade, while a group of squirrels has found a home at the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society.

“A Reunion for This Moment” is a beautiful tribute to the history of arts and culture in South Arkansas. The exhibit is on view Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a reception scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. For more information, contact SAAC at 870-862-5474.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN NAMES NEW DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR OPINIONS AND FOIA
Griffin: ‘Promoting from within demonstrates the depth of legal talent we have developed at the state’s top law firm’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement announcing the promotion of Senior Assistant Attorney General Noah Watson to Deputy Attorney General for Opinions and FOIA:

“Today I named Noah Watson as Deputy Attorney General of the Opinions and FOIA Division. Noah previously served as a Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Litigation Division. His diligence, professionalism, and intellect have been assets in defending the interests of the State of Arkansas, and he will bring those with him to the leadership of the Opinions and FOIA Division.

“Promoting from within demonstrates the depth of legal talent we have developed at the state’s top law firm.”

Watson first joined the Office of the Attorney General in 2023 as Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Litigation Division. Previously, he was an associate attorney at Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC in Little Rock. He served as a law clerk for Chief Judge Lavenski Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Watson graduated from Harding University and the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

Watson takes over the division following the recent promotion of Ryan Owsley to Chief Deputy Attorney General after the unexpected passing of Chief Deputy Bob. R. Brooks, Jr. in February. 
 

BOOZMAN SECURES FUNDING FOR FORT SMITH FUTURE PILOT TRAINING CENTER & ARKANSAS PRIORITIES PRESIDENT SIGNS PACKAGE INTO LAW
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate approved a legislative package with language authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee, that delivers $83 million to the future pilot training center in Fort Smith as well as critical funds for infrastructure projects across Arkansas. The legislation was signed into law Saturday. 

“I’m proud to champion Arkansas priorities and support investment to enhance growth and development in communities across the state. This bill helps ensure Ebbing Air National Guard Base will become the premier pilot training center in the U.S. and reinforces our commitments to allies participating in the future pilot training mission in Fort Smith. Providing the necessary infrastructure and resources now will elevate the installation into a vital national security asset that enhances America’s deterrence posture well into the future. The repeated delays in advancing this critical funding across the finish line were unfortunate, but I appreciate the persistence of my colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives to find common ground and deliver certainty for several federal agencies in allocating taxpayer dollars more wisely and efficiently,” Boozman said.

The Boozman-led MilCon-VA bill raises quality of life standards for servicemembers and their families in addition to providing funding for veterans’ health care, benefits and modernization of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) electronic health records system.

Boozman, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured inclusion of the following Arkansas priorities:

Military Infrastructure and Veterans Programs
$54 million for the construction of a three-bay hanger supporting F-35 pilot training at Ebbing.
$22 million for the construction of a Special Access Program Facility and Aircrew Flight Equipment Facility supporting F-35 pilot training at Ebbing.
$7 million for the planning and design of an academic training facility to support future missions at Ebbing.
$5 million to complete work on a new Arkansas National Guard Readiness Center at Fort Chaffee.
Funding to advance VA Medical Centers and university cancer centers partnerships.
Protection of rural veterans’ access to life-saving emergency medical transportation, an issue Arkansas ambulance providers urged action on to maintain viability. 
Increased funding for veterans’ health care and benefits including telehealth services, homelessness programs, specialty care for women veterans, and rural health initiatives. 
Support for improvements to base housing for servicemembers and their families.

Transportation Infrastructure
$67 million for the construction of I-49 near Fort Smith.
$11.5 million to increase freight rail capacity at the Port of Little Rock.
$5 million for improvements to the Highway 82 corridor.
$6 million for the construction of a portion of Future I-57.
$8 million for improvements on the Highway 412 corridor.
$4 million to construct a covered canopy at Clinton National Airport in Little Rock.
$2.5 million for upgraded traffic infrastructure to improve security access at Ebbing Air National Guard Base.Delivers funding for research and development of improved transportation methods at U.S. Department of Transportation University Transportation Centers. The Mack-Blackwell Transportation Center at the University of Arkansas earned this designation in 1992.
Funds Department of Transportation discretionary grant programs such as the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, Airport Improvement Program, Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program and the Port Infrastructure Development program that has helped support Arkansas infrastructure projects.
Maintains existing air service to rural community through the Essential Air Service (EAS) program. Harrison, Hot Springs, El Dorado and Jonesboro participate in EAS.
Bolsters the aviation industry and advances research and innovation in air travel, safety and workforce.

Water Infrastructure, Management and Conservation
Funds multiple Arkansas projects including addressing the depletion and resiliency of the Alluvial and Sparta aquifers of the Bayou Meto and Grand Prairie water supply and providing a comprehensive water resource management strategy for the White River Basin.

$12 million for Fort Smith water transmission.
$11.8 million for water management improvements of water control structures, alternations and repairs of the levee structures at the Shirey Bay Rainey Brake Wildlife Management Area in Lawrence County.
$7.7 million for upgrades to the Bono wastewater treatment facility.
$5.5 million for improvements to wastewaters systems in Camden.$
4.8 million for water and sewer infrastructure improvements to support economic development in a growing area of North Little Rock.
$3.5 million for enhancements to Wilson’s wastewater infrastructure.
$1 million for Mountain Home water improvements.
Delivers funds for critical conservation programs such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act that has resulted in the restoration of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat in Arkansas.
Promotes the importance of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) inland waterway deepening and invests in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-led Arkansas priorities.
Strengthens controls to prevent invasive carp in the Mississippi River and its sub-basins including the Arkansas-Red-White River sub-basin. 
Natural State-Based Research
$77.5 million for the Food and Drug Administration’s research promoting and protecting public health conducted at the National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson County.
Supports agricultural research programs funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including increases for Cooperative Extension and university research. 
Secures funding for human nutrition research that will support healthy child development, including the valuable work conducted at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Funds the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program to reduce adverse ecological and economic impacts caused by feral swine across Arkansas and the nation.
$10 million to support the Center for Advanced Materials and Steel Manufacturing at Arkansas State University to bolster research in advancing materials and steel manufacturing.
$5 million to support the University of Arkansas Center for Design and Materials Innovation to expand the use of Arkansas-sourced timber and wood through cutting-edge research and development.  
$5 million for the University of Arkansas Center for Large-Scale Testing of Seismic Systems construction to provide advanced testing capabilities and innovative solutions to infrastructural challenges posed by seismic activity.

Rural Development and Public Safety
$1.5 million for a Fire and Public Safety Center in Wilson.
$1 million for the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Arkansas (UAMS) Digital Interventions for Care and Education telemedicine mental health program. 
$1 million for UAMS Police Department equipment and technology upgrades.
$1 million each to implement a rapid DNA system pilot program for investigations for the Faulkner County Sherriff’s Office and Saline County Sheriff’s Office to reduce violent crime.
$500,000 for equipment upgrades for the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training to improve the training of Arkansas police officers.  
Invests in rural utilities, electricity and connectivity.
Funds the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program to support Arkansas law enforcement agencies and provide tools to keep communities and officers safe.
Supports the Regional Information Sharing System which provides valuable criminal and intelligence information to Arkansas law enforcement agencies.

Physician Payment 
Increases the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Conversion Factor by 1.68 percent, partially mitigating the 3.37 percent cut included in the Calendar Year 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule. Boozman led a letter to Senate leadership last month requesting an increase of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Conversion Factor.

Compacts of Free Association (COFA)
Strengthens national security by approving the negotiated COFA agreement with the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau to protect U.S. interests in the Pacific and block the People’s Republic of China’s efforts to expand its corrupting influence in the region. 

Restores access to federal benefits, championed by Boozman, for COFA citizens legally present in the U.S. The largest population of Marshallese in the continental U.S. resides in Springdale.

Expands VA health care to veterans living in the freely associated states.

March 08, 2024

KIMBERLY MARTIN EXHIBIT OPENING AT SAAC
The South Arkansas Arts Center welcomes South Arkansas artist and Camden native Kimberly Martin and her exhibition "Scattered and Splattered" to the Lobby Gallery March 6 – March 27, 2024. There will be an artist's reception on Thursday, March 14 from 5:30-7:00pm.

Martin’s curiosity leads her to embrace the freedom of experimentation with her art, venturing into uncharted territories and trying out new techniques and approaches. Laughingly, Martin refers to her artistic process as “Chaos.” She does not impose her will on the canvas; instead, she surrenders to the unpredictability of the creative journey. Martin said, “It's like navigating through a storm, with each brushstroke and splatter of paint adding to the tumultuous dance of colors and shapes. Within this chaos, there lies a hidden order—a silent whisper guiding me towards the true essence of the artwork. I sometimes see life as complex and often thorny, and I believe that this comes through in some of my pieces.” Yet underneath it all, there are hints of something hopeful, which produces a multi-faceted expression, both vulnerable and defiant.

Martin emerges as a newcomer to the Arkansas art scene, bringing with her a lifetime of experiences rooted in the fertile soil of South Arkansas. Growing up on a farm, Martin’s adventurous spirit led her to climb trees, roam through pastures, and perch atop barns, where she found inspiration in the natural world, often seeing faces in the leaves of trees. Embracing a chaotic and experimental approach, Kimberly defies conventional artistic boundaries, infusing her work with a sense of unpredictability. With no set medium, she explores different materials, pushing their limits to create captivating compositions that reflect her unique perspective on the world.

For the past five years, art has become Martin's lifeline. Now, as she showcases her work for the first time in Arkansas, she looks ahead with anticipation, eager to continue her artistic journey and see where the future leads, embracing the unknown with open arms. 

For more information on the Kimberly Martin 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.

 

STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
March 8, 2024
LITTLE ROCK – Legislators held budget hearings to scrutinize every spending category in state government, in preparation for the fiscal session that begins April 10.

Leading off the agenda was the presentation of a balanced budget for next fiscal year. Arkansas does not deficit spend, or borrow money to pay for state government operations. The director of the Department of Finance and Administration presented a proposed budget for Fiscal 2025 that will be about $8.2 billion in gross general revenues.

The largest single expenditure is about $2.5 billion for the Public School Fund, which is the main source of state aid to local school districts. The state distributes funding for career and technical education, child care after classes, pre-school programs, the State Library, the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, educational television¸ facilities and transportation.

Another large expenditure is the state match for Medicaid, an appropriation of about $1.4 billion to the state Human Services Department. The state share has averaged about 29 percent of Medicaid spending over the past ten years, while the federal government has provided about 71 percent.

The legislature will consider appropriating more than $1.9 billion in funding for the state Human Services Department. In addition to providing health coverage for people with disabilities, the elderly and the poor, the department provides treatment for drug abuse and mental illness, supervision of youths who have gotten in trouble with the law, food stamps, welfare, foster care and adoption services and nursing home care.

This year the state will reimburse county governments almost $26 million for holding state inmates in county jails, when there is no available space in state prisons. Also, the state will spend an estimated $540 million for housing and supervision of inmates and parolees.

About $779 million in state revenue will go to public four-year universities and two-year colleges. Institutions of higher education have significant sources of revenue besides state aid, such as tuition and student fees, endowments and gifts from alumni.

Traditionally, higher education receives about 12.6 percent of all state general revenue spending. Public schools and the Department of Education receive 41.8 percent. The Health Department and the Human Services Department receive 30.9 percent. Corrections, which includes prison operations and parole supervision, receives 9.2 percent.

About 3.5 percent goes to cities and counties in turnback aid, and for miscellaneous smaller state agencies.

The State Police is budgeted to receive $88.6 million in Fiscal 2025. The Parks and Tourism Division will get $22 million, the Heritage Division will get $7.7 million, the Department of Agriculture will get $19.4 million and the Division of Environmental Quality will get $4.2 million in state dollars.

In 1991 the legislature created the Educational Excellence Trust Fund with proceeds from a half-cent sales tax increase. It will generate about $452 million this year that will go to schools and not be included in the total general revenue fund.

In 2003 the legislature created the Educational Adequacy Trust Fund with a portion of the state sales tax. It also is not included in state general revenue spending and this year it will generate about $470 million.

The state has several special revenue sources from taxes for specific purposes, such as motor fuels taxes to pay for highway construction and maintenance.

During the fiscal session the legislature will approve a state government budget for Fiscal Year 2025, which begins on July 1, 2024.


BOOZMAN STATEMENT ON STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) issued the following statement on the State of the Union address:

“President Biden has yet to come to grips with the fact that most Americans don’t believe his policies are good for them personally or have moved our country in the right direction. Instead of taking responsibility for illegal immigration becoming an unprecedented crisis on his watch or the failure to help struggling families keep up with the inflation his reckless spending continues to drive higher, he relentlessly deflects and shifts blame. The reality, however inconvenient it may be for this White House, is the message and the messenger are both falling flat. Senate Republicans, by contrast, will continue advocating a pro-growth, pro-opportunity, national security agenda that benefits all Arkansans and our fellow citizens across the country.”

March 07, 2024

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN TO MEET IN REGULAR SESSION
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen will have their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, March 12, 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. Conner M. Davis, Pastor – Camden First Assembly of God Church, 1275 Maul  Road NW, Camden, AR
C. Pledge Of Allegiance
D. Roll Call
E. Approval Of Minutes
.  1.  Minutes of Regular Meeting, February 13, 2024
   2.  Minutes of Special Called Meeting, February 20, 2024
F.  ACCEPTANCE OF FINANCIAL REPORT
    1. Financial Report for February 2024
G. AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION
H.  MAYOR’S REPORT     
     1. Biannual Water & Sewer Report - David Richardson, Camden Water Utilities Manager
I.  OLD BUSINESS                
J.  NEW BUSINESS
     1.  Ordinance No. 03-24, an ordinance repealing Ordinance No. 07-02 assessing a lien on certain property   located at 541 Greenwood Street NW, Camden, Arkansas.              
     2.  Resolution No. 14-24, a resolution declaring the structure located at 213 E. Wood Street a public nuisance and to order the removal of the same.
     3.   Resolution No. 15-24, a resolution authorizing the mayor to purchase a truck and trailer through an interlocal contract for cooperative purchasing; and for other purposes.
     4. Resolution No. 16-24, a resolution authorizing the mayor to purchase a Backhoe Loader through an    interlocal contract for cooperative purchasing; and for other purposes.
     5. Resolution No. 17-24, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of scales for the Solid Waste Disposal Division of the Public Works Department.  
K.  OTHER BUSINESS
L.  ADJOURNMENT

 

BOOZMAN RECOGNIZED BY MILITARY ORDER OF THE PURPLE HEART FOR COMMITMENT TO VETERANS
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, was honored by the Military Order of the Purple Heart for his commitment to enhance veterans’ services and benefits and support the needs of those wounded in combat as well as their families.

“I’m proud to champion policies that honor the promise we made to the brave heroes called to serve in our nation’s uniform. The members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart are dedicated advocates on behalf of these men and women and are great partners in that mission. I look forward to continuing to work together to help servicemembers, veterans and their families,” Boozman said.

“Senator Boozman’s leadership has led to vast improvements in terms of healthcare provided by and the processing of disability claims at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It is with sincere appreciation of his efforts on behalf of veterans that our National Commander, Carder Ferguson, selected this great advocate to receive the MOPH Special Recognition Award,” said Chuck Adkins, National Adjutant of MOPH.

As the lead Republican on the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Boozman has supported investments to improve health care and services for veterans and their families.

The senator 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.

 

WESTERMAN STATEMENT ON CONSOLIDATED APPROPRIATIONS ACT OF 2024
WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024. Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) released the following statement: 

“The appropriations bill that I supported today was far from perfect, but it did incorporate policies negotiated by Speaker Johnson that cut federal spending according to the caps in the Fiscal Responsibility Act and changed the parameters that were in effect under the continuing resolution that continued the policies under Nancy Pelosi’s last omnibus bill. The 2024 Fiscal Year is nearly halfway complete, and we have more work to do on the six remaining appropriations bills that include defense funding and important provisions for Arkansas agriculture and transportation.

"This package adopted the Compacts of Free Associated Amendments (COFA), a policy I led that will be an important step in countering the increasing aggression of the People’s Republic of China under the Chinese Communist Party in the Indo-Pacific region.”

BACKGROUND: 
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024:

Provides funding for a project to extend the Texarkana Regional Airport’s (TXK) primary runway by an additional 500 feet and install navigational lights. The project will allow larger, narrow-body and wide-body aircraft to access the airport and assist the airport in achieving long-term financial self-sufficiency.

Provides funding to make improvements to the U.S. Highway 82 corridor in Ashley, Chicot, Columbia, and Union Counties.

Provides funding for flood protection to 1.7 million acres from crop damage, loss of livestock, damage to railroads, highways, and other development from floods on a nearly 30-mile stretch of the Red River from the Hempstead/Lafayette County line in Arkansas southward to approximately 1 mile north of the Maniece Bayou in Lafayette County.

Provides funding to benefit the Red River Emergency Bank Stabilization Project, which will prevent continued erosion towards a levee in the Long Prairie Levee District and protect critical infrastructure and land along the Red River, including the Dickson Revetment.

Preserves funding for America's farmers, ranchers, and rural communities, which will be critical when Congress considers the Farm Bill. 

Funds The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) - a program that plays a significant role in combatting food insecurity.

Arkansas is currently a leading state for food insecurity.

Addresses foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land by improving the tracking system of foreign-owned land, protecting Arkansas land from land grabbing by the CCP.

Fully funds veterans’ health care programs and protects the 2nd Amendment rights of veterans by preventing the VA from sending information to the FBI about veterans without a judge’s consent.

Continues critical investments in agriculture research, rural broadband, rural water infrastructure, and animal and plant health programs.

Includes the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act (COFA), legislation spearheaded by Congressman Bruce Westerman. COFA approves and incorporates by reference agreements signed between the U.S. and the three FAS – the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia – for the new Compact of Free Association (COFA) period, from Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 through FY 2043.

COFA agreements are critically important to U.S. national security and citizens of the Freely Associated States who reside in Arkansas. Arkansas is home to the largest population of Marshallese in the continental United States.

COFA is a historic step in supporting U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region and countering the increasing aggression of the People’s Republic of China under the Chinese Communist Party.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 is a package of the following appropriations bills:
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act
Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act


COTTON INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO PROHIBIT CLEARANCES, DEMONSTRATIONS FOR TERRORIST SYMPATHIZERS
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced two bills in response to the U.S. airman who self-immolated outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. on February 25. The legislation follows a letter  Senator Cotton sent to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, asking him to provide details on the service member.

“The mission of our service members is to defend America, and anyone who supports Hamas or any other terrorist group should not receive a security clearance. Likewise, no active-duty members of the military should be allowed to participate in demonstrations that aim to undermine the security of America and our allies,” said Senator Cotton.

The first bill, the No Clearances for Terrorist Sympathizers Act, would prohibit the granting or renewing of security clearances to a person who has expressed support for a foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or any similar groups.

The second bill, the Prohibiting Certain Off Post Protests Act, would write into law a prohibition on certain military members from participating in certain off-post demonstrations.

March 06, 2024

JOIN US IN ENHANCING CARNES PARK - A COMMUNITY PROJECT BY LEADERSHIP CAMDEN AREA GROUP 1
As Spring unfolds and we anticipate more sunny days at our beloved Carnes Park, our local nonprofit, Leadership Camden Area's Group 1 is thrilled to announce a pivotal community project aimed at upgrading the park's bathroom facilities. The initiative seeks to install robust stainless steel fixtures to ensure longevity and reduce the risk of damage, ultimately providing a more enjoyable experience for all park visitors.

Group 1 is composed of dedicated individuals who represent various sectors of our community, and each member is committed to this cause:
Dana Peterson from the Camden Police Department
Penny Mayweather representing the Camden Fairview School District
Scott Betts of Lockheed Martin
Shanekia Dennis from the Ouachita County Circuit Clerk's Office
Cindy Green of the Camden Regional Chamber of Commerce


Leadership Camden is reaching out to you, our community, to rally behind this significant endeavor. Your support can manifest in many ways: contributions, volunteering efforts, or simply by being an advocate for our project. Any assistance you provide will play a crucial role in enhancing the functionality and aesthetics of Carnes Park, making it a premier destination for residents and visitors alike. We are excited to announce that CFHS's art students are competing to have their work painted as a selfie mural on the backside of the ballpark bathrooms and we have attached a spreadsheet with information needed for our project.  We have some funds allocated from the City of Camden for the project which is due to be completed by the first week of May 2024.

The impact of this project extends beyond the immediate improvements; it is a statement of our shared commitment to fostering a welcoming and vibrant environment in Camden. By joining forces with Leadership Camden Area Group 1, you become part of a collective effort to invest in our community's future.

If you wish to contribute or learn more about how you can help, please Cindy Green, chamberdirectorcamden@gmail.com, text 870-675-1908 including your name and company information for more information. Your involvement is the cornerstone of this project's success, and we deeply appreciate any support you can offer.

Thank you for considering this opportunity to make a tangible and lasting difference in our community. Together, we can ensure that Carnes Park remains a place of joy and pride for many years to come.


LYON COLLEGE SET TO HOST SCOTS IN THE DARK ECLIPSE EVENT
BATESVILLE, Arkansas – Lyon College extends an invitation to the public to take a front-row seat for a Great American Eclipse viewing event, Scots in the Dark, on Monday, April 8, at Couch Garden on the Lyon College campus, Highland Road, Batesville.

"A total solar eclipse is a rare opportunity for us to witness the grandeur of our universe firsthand," said Randy Patterson, Scots in the Dark event chair and director of institutional research at Lyon College. "It's a moment of awe and wonder that transcends words, and we are thrilled to host this event at Lyon College, providing a unique opportunity for our community to come together and experience the beauty of nature."

To help attendees make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, Lyon College has planned a full day of activities and entertainment for eclipse enthusiasts of all ages. From educational exhibits and rocket launches to a smartphone photography workshop and live music, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Lyon College will host free activities in the family zone, including rocket-assembly and eye-safety workshops by W.D. Bryan Professor of Biology and NASA Solar System Ambassador Dr. Dave Thomas, cyanotype demonstrations, archaeoastronomy and astrophotography exhibits, introduction to celestial mechanics for beginners and a kids’ zone with eclipse-related educational activities.

At 12:20 p.m. there will be a free smartphone eclipse photo workshop in the Dr. Mark Schram Memorial Outdoor Classroom taught by Lyon College senior Blayne Griffin. Participants will learn how to take photos safely with their smartphones.

From 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Lyon College will host an entertainment zone with food, beverages and live music. Tickets for the entertainment zone are $25 and include come-and-go access, food, beverages and seating. Tickets are available for purchase at https://advance.lyon.edu/event/total-eclipse/e561091.

The Great American Eclipse is scheduled to begin around 12:36 p.m. CDT.

Batesville is set to experience totality at 1:53 p.m. CDT, offering a prime viewing location for the event.

Totality is scheduled to end at approximately 1:57 p.m. CDT, and the eclipse will end at 3:13 p.m. CDT.

Rockets created earlier in the day will be launched at the conclusion of totality.

For more information and updates on Scots in the Dark, visit Lyon College's website at Lyon.edu/eclipse or contact Pam Palermo, director of institutional events, at Pamela.Palermo@lyon.edu.
 

CONSUMER ALERT: ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN WARNS AGAINST BANK IMPOSTER SCAMS
Griffin: ‘Bank imposter scammers prey on consumer fear and attempt to instill a sense of urgency to pressure consumers to act without thinking’
LITTLE ROCK – Following a recent uptick in scams involving people impersonating banking representatives, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following consumer alert to help Arkansans identify these types of scams and protect themselves:

“Imposter scams are one of the most dangerous types of robocalls. In 2023 alone, Americans lost close to $2 billion to imposter scams. A popular form of these calls are bank imposter scams, in which the caller impersonates the recipient’s bank in order to obtain personally identifiable information from the call recipient. In these scams, the caller claims that fraudulent activity has been detected on the call recipient’s account. The call recipient is then asked to provide identifying information—such as PINs, bank account numbers and answers to security questions. The scammer then uses that information to access the consumer’s account. These scams are particularly believable when the callers spoof their calls, causing the bank’s telephone number to appear on the consumer’s caller ID.

“Bank imposter scammers prey on consumer fear and attempt to instill a sense of urgency to pressure consumers to act without thinking.”

If you receive a phone call or text message by someone purporting to be with your bank, use the following tips to keep yourself and your finances secure.

•    If you receive a call from someone claiming to be with your bank, hang up and call your bank. Do not call a number that the caller tells you to call. Call the number on your account statement to confirm that you are speaking with your financial institution. 
•    Do not share sensitive financial information to anyone who calls you—even if the number on your caller ID belongs to your bank. Do not give a caller your password, PIN, security question answers, or other identifying information. Your bank will never ask for this information.
•    Your bank will never ask you to transfer money to another account in order to protect it.
•    Be suspicious of any caller who attempts to pressure you into acting immediately. Scammers try to create a sense of urgency to prevent victims from thinking through the situation.
•    Never send a payment in order to receive a refund. Your bank will never ask you to transfer money before they can reverse a fraudulent transfer.
•    These scams can also occur via text message. Do not click on any links from text messages purporting to be from your bank, as they may be download links for malicious software that takes personal data from your phone. Always go directly to your bank’s website.
•    If you think you have fallen victim to an imposter scam, call your bank immediately.

Imposter scams are sometimes easy to identify, but many scammers are sophisticated, making their fraud difficult to identify. Use the above tips to keep yourself safe from bank imposter scams.

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


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES MEDICAID FRAUD GUILTY PLEAS BY BOONE COUNTY COUPLE
Griffin: ‘Claiming Medicaid payments for providing care to their son when he was not in their custody is egregious and an affront to hardworking Arkansas taxpayers’
LITTLE ROCK – Following guilty pleas entered by Daniel Caudle, 36, and Misty Berdine, 33, both of Omaha, Arkansas, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following statement:

“Earlier this week, the defendants pleaded guilty to Medicaid Fraud, a Class A misdemeanor. Claiming Medicaid payments for providing care to their son when he was not in their custody is egregious and an affront to hardworking Arkansas taxpayers.

“I congratulate my office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit on their diligence to secure these guilty pleas, particularly investigator Dane Pederson and Senior Assistant Attorney General Sharon Strong, who worked in conjunction with Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones.”

Berdine and Caudle were paid caregivers for their son through Elite Senior Care and billed Medicaid for payments during weeks when the child was not in their custody. They were each sentenced to 12 months’ probation, restitution in the amount of $3,526.87 and a fine in the amount of $1,763.44 plus court costs. Additionally, they will both be excluded from the State Medicaid Program for a period of time to be determined by the Office of Medicaid Inspector General.


COTTON, CRAMER INTRODUCE BILL TO PREVENT COMPANIES FROM FORCING EV’S ON CONSUMERS
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) today introduced the Requiring EV Notification and Transparency (RENT) Act, legislation that would increase transparency of electric vehicle rental cars and prevent rental companies from taking advantage of consumers. The legislation would apply to car companies operating in two or more states, within five miles of an airport, or ones that have a motor vehicle fleet of 1,000 or more vehicles.

“Rental car companies should not advance Democrats’ radical climate agenda and make customers rent EV’s if they don’t want to. Policies that force EV’s on Americans who either don’t want or can’t afford them are unfair, and our legislation will prevent these companies from taking advantage of consumers,” said Senator Cotton.

“Consumers who book a standard gas-powered car should not be forced to rent electric vehicles they don’t want simply because the rental company says so. Ignoring the preferences of consumers to further a climate crusade is wrong and must be stopped,” said Senator Cramer.

The RENT Act would:
Prohibit rental car companies from renting EVs to customers unless they opt-in to renting an EV.
Require rental companies to notify customers that no gas-powered cars are available prior to pick up.
Allow customers to cancel rental car agreements without penalty if there are only EVs available.


MARCH OF DIMES HONORS BOOZMAN FOR MATERNAL AND INFANT HEALTH ADVOCACY
WASHINGTON – March of Dimes, the leading organization fighting for the health of moms and babies, presented U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) its 2024 Change for Champion Award for his advocacy of policies to improve maternal and infant health.

“I’m proud to champion initiatives that promote the health of mothers and infants. Alongside March of Dimes, we are advancing policies to improve pregnancy outcomes and I look forward to working together to invest further in research and resources to help save lives,” Boozman said. 

“As the U.S. confronts a devastating maternal mortality crisis, we commend the leadership of Senator Boozman, for his sponsorship of the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act of 2023 and dedication to policies that help improve mom and baby health,” said Stacey Y. Brayboy, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Government Affairs, March of Dimes. “This legislation helps ensure that our nation remains committed to learn more about the causes of preterm birth to help improve health outcomes for all moms and babies.”

The March for Change Champion Award serves to celebrate and highlight the achievements of legislators who work together across the aisle, as well as raise awareness about the ongoing need for policy initiatives that positively impact the lives of pregnant women and their families.

Boozman is leading bipartisan legislation to reauthorize critical research, education and intervention activities to reduce pre-mature birth and infant mortality.

In February, Boozman joined Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Congressman French Hill in hosting a roundtable on maternal health and the need to improve outcomes for moms and babies. The elected leaders heard directly from providers in Arkansas about what they’re seeing and how a comprehensive approach can help us make significant progress that ultimately saves lives.

 

COTTON INTRODUCES BILL TO CRACK DOWN ON PRO-HAMAS RIOTS
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced the Stop Pro-Terrorist Riots Now Act, legislation that would increase the punishments for rioting and provide mandatory sentences for anyone committing violence as part of a riot. Senator Cotton introduced the bill in response to the increasing number of anti-Semitic “protests”—often violent—by pro-Hamas leftists since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack on Israel.

“Radical, pro-Hamas mobs committing crimes and perpetrating violence should face the full extent of the law. No one has the right to commit violence in support of terrorism. This bill is necessary to ensure that we reject anti-Semitism and hold these pro-Hamas criminals accountable,” said Senator Cotton.

Background:
Pro-Hamas riots have proliferated in the United States since October 7, often with the support and encouragement of wealthy left-wing activists. In some locations, like New York, these groups have even received public funds.
Violence at these riots aren’t accidents—they’re the defining feature of modern leftist ideology.
In Washington, D.C. in November, a pro-Hamas riot injured at least six U.S. Capitol Police officers. Last week in California, pro-Hamas rioters literally broke down the door of a campus theater at U.C. Berkeley, forcing the evacuation of Jewish students who were gathered inside to hear an IDF soldier speak.

Stop Pro-Terrorist Riots Now Act would:
Increase the maximum punishment for participating in a riot from five years to ten years.
Create a mandatory one-year minimum penalty for anyone who either engages in or supports an act of violence as part of a riot.

March 05, 2024

LADY ROCKETS BASKETBALL TEAM WIN THE D2 REGION 2 TOURNAMENT
In case you haven't heard the news by now, our Lady Rockets Basketball Team rose to the top to win the D2 Region 2 Tournament! If you see any of our players or Coach Brooks around campus, please join us in congratulating them for their wonderful achievement! Please also join us for a pep assembly taking place on Friday at 6PM and the district playoff game against Jefferson County at 6PM on Saturday, both in the SAU Tech gym.

ARKANSAS STATE POLICE CID INVESTIGATING INCIDENT THAT RESULTED IN A TODDLER BEING SHOT 
March 4, 2024
The Marianna Police Department has requested assistance from ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) with investigating a shooting incident involving a 2-year-old child that occurred around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, 2024.

A toddler playing near an apartment complex in the 200 block of Sealand Street was shot as a result of an altercation between two people outside the complex. The child was transported to a hospital in Memphis, TN, and is currently listed in critical condition.

During the initial investigation, CID Agents were able to identify two suspects in connection with this incident. A juvenile suspect was booked into the Lee County Jail this morning. Law enforcement is still searching for a 22-year-old suspect from Marianna.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact CID Company A at (501) 618-8420 or a local law enforcement agency. 
 

SANDERS ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENTS
 LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the following appointments: 
Arkansas Minority Health Commission
Wes Booker, Maumelle, to the Arkansas Minority Health Commission. Term expires January 31, 2026. Replaces Gerald Canada.

LaTeasha Gaither-Davis, Marion, to the Arkansas Minority Health Commission. Term expires January 31, 2026.  Replaces Jack Crumbly.

Dr. Adegbenga Olayemi, Rogers, to the Arkansas Minority Health Commission. Term expires January 31, 2025. Replaces Layza Lopez-Love.

Jack Sisson, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Minority Health Commission. Term expires January 31, 2025. Replaces Louis Portlock. 

Arkansas Sentencing Commission
Carol Crews, Conway, to the Arkansas Sentencing Commission. Term expires May 15, 2025. Replaces Nathan Smith.

Judge Robert Gibson, Crossett, to the Arkansas Sentencing Commission. Term expires May 15, 2028. Replaces Judge Carlton Jones.

David Parker, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Sentencing Commission. Term expires May 15, 2028. Replaces Michael Robbins.

Nathan Smith, Bentonville, to the Arkansas Sentencing Commission. Term expires May 15, 2025. Replaces David Keith Rutledge.

Arkansas Veterans’ Commission
Jamie Clemmer, Benton, to the Arkansas Veterans Commission. Term expires October 15, 2028. Reappointment.

Floyd Brantley, Conway, to the Arkansas Veterans Commission. Term expires October 15, 2026. New Position.

Stephen Houserman, Lamar, to the Arkansas Veterans Commission. Term expires October 15, 2028. Replaces James Gilliam.

Janis Terry, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Veterans Commission. Term expires October 15, 2028. Replaces Margarita Overton.

Crime Victims Reparations Board
Laura Abbott, Cabot, to the Crime Victims Reparations Board.  Term expires October 5, 2026. Replaces Rebecca Petty.

HVACR Licensing Board
Everett Dean, Camden, to the HVACR Licensing Board. Term expires June 30, 2025. Replaces Ronnie Dorsey.

Terry Jacks, Sherwood, to the HVACR Licensing Board. Term expires June 30, 2027. Replaces Kimberly Koch.

Perry County Quorum Court
Mary Gipson, Bigelow, to serve as Justice of the Peace for District 6, for Perry County. Term expires December 31, 2024. Fulfills the remaining term of Charlie Clements. 

State Board of Collection Agencies
Kent Arnold, Rogers, to the State Board of Collection Agencies. Term expires January 1, 2026. Replaces Tyler Steele.

Mark Rowland, Paragould, to the State Board of Collection Agencies. Term expires January 1, 2027. Term expires January 1, 2027. Replaces Orville Guinn.

War Memorial Stadium Commission

Robin Clegg, Fort Smith, to the War Memorial Stadium Commission. Term expires January 14, 2031. Replaces Ken Griffin.

Brett Crowson, Jonesboro, to the War Memorial Stadium Commission. Term expires January 14, 2031. Replaces Shane Broadway.

 

CONSUMER ALERT: ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN PROVIDES GUIDANCE ON POTENTIAL SURGES IN LODGING RATES FOR SOLAR ECLIPSE
Griffin: ‘Private businesses raising rates to match market demand does not constitute price gouging’
LITTLE ROCK – With the start of Consumer Protection Week and the April 8 solar eclipse’s path of totality set to encompass a large portion of Arkansas, Attorney General Tim Griffin issued the following alert to consumers about expected price hikes, particularly for overnight lodging, around the eclipse:

“With the path of totality for the April 8 solar eclipse passing through Arkansas, many businesses are eager to capitalize on the boost in tourism that Arkansas will receive. In many cases that will mean temporary increases in prices, especially for lodging. Private businesses raising rates to match market demand does not constitute price gouging. That does not, however, mean that companies can back out of existing agreements to take advantage of rates brought about by higher demand. 

“If you have existing reservations for hotels, event venues or short-term rentals on the day of the eclipse, the business may not cancel the reservation without cause in the hopes of selling the room at a higher rate, nor can they raise the rate after you have confirmed the reservation. Even if the business refunds the deposit, the cancellation may violate consumer protection laws, and the Attorney General may pursue claims for violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, including fines of up to $10,000. Additionally, businesses working together to raise prices may be violating the Arkansas Unfair Practices Act.

“The eclipse will be a unique opportunity for many Arkansas businesses to benefit from a large influx of tourists coming to our state, but businesses still have to operate within the law.”

Here are some helpful tips to help you enjoy the eclipse to the fullest:

•    Carefully read the terms of reservation agreements you sign; these are binding contracts.
•    Know the cancellation policy of your reservation—who can cancel, for what reason(s), and what notice is required?
•    Be sure to take note of all fees associated with the reservation.
•    Keep all documents associated with the transaction, including contracts, receipts, the written cancellation policy, and other documentation.

For more information or to file a Consumer Complaint, please visit the Office of Attorney General website www.ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.

ROAR, SOAR AND EXPLORE AT THE LITTLE ROCK ZOO’S DRAGON KINGDOM EXHIBITION
Little Rock, Ark. (March 5, 2024) –The Year of the Dragon is upon us, and the Little Rock Zoo is ready to celebrate! 

The Dragon Kingdom Exhibition kicks off during Spring Break at the Zoo, March 16-24, and continues through Sept. 28.

The exhibition includes life-size, animatronic models ranging from 10 to 40 feet. Of course, dragons are mythical creatures, but their real-life distant cousins, alligators, lizards, snakes and vipers will get in on the action–including Arkansas’s very own native dragon, the Eastern Collared Lizard.

The Zoo’s activities for spring break will have guests learning about various reptiles and other creatures at the Zoo that have similarities to the legendary abilities of dragons.  From chats about our alligator and our python to crafts in our reptile house, the Zoo will have plenty for the family to enjoy and explore. The Zoo hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day with special spring break programming featured at various times during each day.       

The Little Rock Zoo inspires people to value and conserve our natural world.  This spring break schedule aims to teach guests about the world’s diversity of animals through its collection of animals representing several countries and at least five continents.  The entire week will include ways to engage, learn and play. 

From wonderful entertainment, live music by Harp, daily penguin feedings, elephant chats, to great ape feedings—the Zoo will feature animals, new insights, and new ways to engage with your Little Rock Zoo! In addition, each weekend of spring break, guests can visit with fairy tale characters who will greet guests at the castle Dragon Kingdom entrance.

While here, guests can enjoy food, snacks, and drinks from our new food service vendor, SSA, in Café Africa. Guests can also end their day by picking up souvenirs and gifts at the Safari Trader Shop, also now managed by SSA.  The Arkansas Diamond Express and Over-the-Jumps Carousel will be in operation.  

As with all of its programming, the underlying theme is the conservation of its furry and scaly residents.

“Many of our animals would be extinct and ultimately mythical if not for the Association of Zoo and Aquariums’ conservation process,” said Executive Director Susan Altrui. “We’re proud to have the AZA accreditation and be a part of the delicate process of placing species in environments conducive to population growth and healthy lives.”

 

Visitors are encouraged to visit the Dragon Kingdom to learn about the Zoo’s scaly community. The Dragon Kingdom is presented by the Laura P. Nichols Foundation.

Tickets to Dragon Kingdom may be purchased at the Zoo gate. For more information about the Dragon Kingdom exhibition and Spring Break,, visit littlerockzoo.com.


LRCVB WINS TWO PRESTIGIOUS HENRY AWARDS TOURISM AWARDS PRESENTED AT ANNUAL TOURISM CONFERENCE
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (March 4, 2024) - The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) was the big winner during the 50th Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism held last week in Jonesboro. The LRCVB took home two Henry Awards, recognizing excellence in the tourism industry. 

“These are incredibly prestigious recognitions in our industry,” said LRCVB President & CEO Gina Gemberling. “Tourism is the second largest industry in Arkansas, and the awards recognize the significance of the work done to grow this large and important part of our economy. It’s fiercely competitive.” 

The LRCVB won the Tourism Organization of the Year Award based on its development and implementation of its 10-year Tourism Master Plan released in January 2023. The goal outlined in the plan is to combine a vision for the future with actionable strategies to build a roadmap for Little Rock’s tourism industry for the next decade. The award is presented to a convention and visitors bureau, advertising and promotion commission, chamber of commerce, or other tourism entity for excellence in the field. 

“The Tourism Master Plan was the culmination of a full year of research and planning,” said Gemberling. “There was comprehensive participation with more than 500 industry partners and community leaders, which resulted in a solid strategy and focus.” 

The plan focused on nine key areas for tourism growth in Little Rock: destination development, tourism infrastructure investment, reinvestment in public and open spaces downtown and along the riverfront, evolution of a targeted marketing approach, enhancement of the visitor experience, optimized utilization of the Statehouse Convention Center and Robinson Center, community engagement, leveraging positive destination perception, and investment in resources to further ongoing equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts. 

The LRCVB also won The Natural State Tourism Development Award for its Experience Little Rock in Color campaign. This interactive video series featured more than 50 local leaders telling their “Big on Little Rock” stories. These leaders represented the Black, LGBTQ+, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the city. 

“Having so many influential citizens share their story was awe-inspiring,” said LRCVB Vice President of Marketing, Communication & Community Engagement Kasey Summerville. “It shows Little Rock is an inclusive and welcoming place for visitors of all backgrounds.” 

The video series was conceived with an agency partner to elevate the image of Little Rock. 

“It was a great experience working with MHP/Team SI Content Studio on this project,” said Summerville. “They took our vision to capture and create content that represents all of Little Rock.” 

The videos can be viewed on the LRCVB’s website at https://www.littlerock.com/in-color/ 

The Tourism Master Plan can be downloaded at https://www.littlerock.com/about/reports-and-strategic-plan/tourism-master-plan/ 


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN LEADS 27-STATE COALITION DEMANDING INSTAGRAM STOP MONETIZING CHILD EXPLOITATION 
Griffin: ‘Meta has turned Instagram into a source for content that is banned even by OnlyFans’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement after sending a letter on behalf of himself and the 26 other Republican state attorneys general to Meta demanding that Instagram stop monetizing child exploitation content: 

“According to The Wall Street Journal, Meta’s own staff raised alarms after Instagram enabled those running ‘parent-managed minor accounts’ to profit by providing ‘pin-up style photos of children’ to male subscribers who were ‘often overt about sexual interest’ in children. Worse, Meta actively promoted child-modeling subscriptions to ‘likely pedophiles.’ The New York Times similarly reported that men in online chatrooms frequently praised ‘the advent of Instagram as a golden age for child exploitation.’ 

“Meta has turned Instagram into a source for content that is banned even by OnlyFans. It has refused to implement even the basic child-safety protections that its own employees recommended. I demand that Meta immediately cease monetizing child exploitation and promoting exploitative content. It should also immediately prohibit child-modeling accounts altogether, like other content-monetizing platforms. Anything less endangers children.”

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

March 04, 2025

ELECTIONS DAY VOTE CENTERS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Vote centers listed below will be open from 7:30 am. To 7:30 p.m. all eligible voters in Ouachita Counly will be able to cast their vote at any vote center listed below.
Bearden Lions Club
Calvary Baptist Church
Chidester City Hall
Elliott Baptist Church
First United Methodist Church
Stephens City Hall
Word Family Church

 

ARKANSAS DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT UNVEILS NEW CITIZEN PORTAL FOR 2024 GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE
On March 1, 2024, the Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) announced the launch of a unique web portal for information about the 2024 Great American Eclipse. The eclipse is set to occur on April 8, 2024, and ADEM's portal will provide visitors with details on special events planned across the state. With up to 1.5 million people expected to flock to Arkansas to witness the eclipse, many communities are preparing to host visitors and ensure the event is memorable.

"We are excited to share these special event locations with those traveling into Arkansas. We hope these community events allow those traveling to our state to experience all the great things Arkansas offers," ADEM Director A.J. Gary said.

Out of Arkansas' 75 counties, 53 will experience a total solar eclipse, stretching over 100 miles across the state from the southwest to the northeast. Some observers will experience more than 4 minutes of darkness during the eclipse. The eclipse portal has listed over 100 activities in the days leading up to and during the April 8 event. 

The ADEM GIS and Mapping Hub is a publicly-accessible platform that provides a common operational picture and is mainly used to help those in need locate available shelters, food distribution locations, health and medical facilities, fire and police stations, and safe rooms. This platform is designed to aid people during emergencies.

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.

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF  PUBLIC SAFETY PREPARED FOR 2024 SOLAR ECLIPSE 
March 4, 2024
Today, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Public Safety Secretary Colonel Mike Hagar, Arkansas Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) Director A.J. Gary, and other state agency leaders held a joint news conference at the Arkansas Highway Department to discuss the upcoming Arkansas Solar Eclipse 2024, which will occur on Monday, April 8, 2024. 

In just over a month, Arkansas will be a destination for visitors from across the country and worldwide who are eager to witness this special event. The expected influx of people poses unprecedented challenges and opportunities for the Natural State.

The Department of Public Safety has developed comprehensive plans to address the various implications of this gathering. 

Arkansas State Police (ASP) strategically deploying troopers across the state. ASP will be essential in maintaining public safety during the is upcoming event. To ensure safety, ASP will work closely with other law enforcement agencies to address potential safety risks, manage hazards, monitor traffic flow, and enforce road safety regulations. ASP officials advise those who plan to travel around the event to plan and be patient, as there may be congestion on the main interstates. ASP reminds those traveling to use *ASP (*277) to report non-emergency travel situations. This call will transfer the caller to the nearest ASP troop headquarters.  

The 2024 solar eclipse event itself is not a threat. However, it is important for planning personnel to define threats that could occur out of this event," said Col. Hagar. "We want to ensure that everyone who comes to Arkansas to witness this rare phenomenon can do so without concerns for their safety. We are confident that our extensive planning and preparation will enable us to provide everyone with a safe and enjoyable experience."

ADEM is coordinating contingency plans with various state agencies, ensuring a swift and coordinated response to unforeseen situations. Over the past year, ADEM has conducted monthly operational calls to prepare for the event. ADEM held a live tabletop drill two weeks ago, discussing scenarios and testing the response capabilities in preparation for the eclipse. 

To be fully prepared for the event, ADEM has considered every possible scenario that might affect the people of Arkansas, such as potential traffic issues, cellular coverage problems, emergency medical situations, severe weather, and gas shortages. 

"We anticipate a significant influx of visitors to Arkansas seeking to witness the eclipse. In the preceding year ADEM has diligently collaborated with various stakeholders, including local, state, and federal agencies and private sector partners, to prepare for this event. To ensure readiness, the State Emergency Operations Center will remain active before, during, and even after the eclipse, guaranteeing prompt assistance to those in need. Our primary objective is to provide visitors with a secure and satisfying experience while also showcasing the natural beauty of Arkansas," Gary said.

"The 2024 solar eclipse event itself is not a threat. However, it is important for planning personnel to define threats that could occur out of this event," said Col. Hagar. "We want to ensure that everyone who comes to Arkansas to witness this rare phenomenon can do so without concerns for their safety. We are confident that our extensive planning and preparation will enable us to provide everyone with a safe and enjoyable experience."

ADEM is coordinating contingency plans with various state agencies, ensuring a swift and coordinated response to unforeseen situations. Over the past year, ADEM has conducted monthly operational calls to prepare for the event. ADEM held a live tabletop drill  two weeks ago, discussing scenarios and testing the response capabilities in preparation for the eclipse. 

To be fully prepared for the event, ADEM has considered every possible scenario that might affect the people of Arkansas, such as potential traffic issues, cellular coverage problems, emergency medical situations, severe weather, and gas shortages. 


ENTERGY ARKANSAS PREPARED FOR SOLAR ECLIPSE
Path of totality across the state will not affect power capacity
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A large part of Arkansas will go dark Monday, April 8, but it won’t be because the lights go out.

A once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse will take place over Arkansas in the early afternoon, and Entergy Arkansas is encouraging customers to be prepared.

The path of the eclipse across the state will cover large stretches of Interstates 30 and 40 along with miles of state highways, county roads and city streets. Nearly two-thirds of the state is inside the path of totality for the eclipse. The centerline of the eclipse will enter the state around 12:29 p.m. and exit the state at approximately 3:14 p.m. Several locations throughout the state will experience total darkness for anywhere from 1-4 minutes.

Entergy Arkansas is working with officials from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, Arkansas Department of Transportation and other state and city leaders on a preparedness plan that includes preparing for heavy traffic, monitoring the weather and mobilizing workers and equipment throughout our service area to quickly and safely respond if issues arise. While widespread power outages are not expected, Entergy Arkansas stands ready to restore power if needed.

Visitors and traffic concerns
The massive influx of visitors expected in the state will cause challenges with transportation and traffic management that will likely impact Arkansans during the solar eclipse. Additionally, the possibility for severe spring weather, potential fuel shortages and other emergency events is being considered by state leaders.

With hundreds of thousands of visitors expected throughout the natural state during the eclipse, heavy traffic could make it hard to travel, especially immediately after the eclipse has passed. Arkansas transportation officials say residents and visitors alike should be patient and expect traffic jams.

“Increased traffic in a given area can cause concern for accident-related outages,” said Adam Effrein, Entergy Arkansas vice president of reliability. “If a vehicle hits a power pole, it can knock out power to the area until repairs can be made. In addition, cars parked to watch the eclipse could block crucial entrances to substations and electrical equipment that could hamper response times, should a power outage occur.”

Entergy Arkansas is planning for the solar eclipse in much the same way we do for storm situations, with reminders for customers to be sure their contact information is updated in our system, so any outages or unforeseen circumstances can be properly communicated to customers.

Entergy Arkansas recommends customers consider taking the following preparation steps before the solar eclipse:

Stock up on groceries, medicine, and other daily necessities. Since travel, even locally, will be challenging during the eclipse, get what you need to be able to stay home for those few days if possible.

Fill up vehicles with gasoline ahead of time. Don’t wait until visitors arrive in the state to purchase fuel when lines may be long and prices could be higher.

Reschedule errands or appointments. If you can avoid being out and about during the time of the eclipse, stay home. Fewer people on the roads means less possibility of accidents and/or traffic delays.

Expect heavy traffic and delays. If you must travel for work, school, etc., prepare for longer travel times. Use alternate traffic routes, if available.

Use special eclipse glasses to safely view the sun. According to the American Astronomical Society, staring directly into the sun during even partial solar eclipses can cause permanent eye damage.

Customer safety
Entergy Arkansas has partnered with the Arkansas STEM coalition to provide Eclipse glasses for all k-12 public school students, as well as teachers and staff members.

Experts say the only safe way to look directly at the sun is through special-purpose solar filters, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology is warning eclipse watchers to use caution when watching the solar eclipse. Appropriate solar filters can be found in specially made eclipse glasses and hand-held solar viewers.

Power capacity
When the moon passes in front of the sun during the April 8 eclipse, there will obviously be less solar power generated. Because Entergy Arkansas has a diverse mix of generating resources, the eclipse is not expected to have a major impact on electricity delivery.

Solar energy accounts for about 1.9% of power capacity for Entergy Arkansas, and while we don’t know the exact amount of solar power generation that will be impacted during the short time the total eclipse occurs, other generation sources like natural gas, hydropower and nuclear will offset any dip in solar power generation.

Customers should note that the darkness during the eclipse most likely will trigger sensors on automatic street lighting or other safety lighting to turn on. Entergy Arkansas will not disable such lighting for the eclipse.

“Planning for power generation during the solar eclipse is very similar to situations where we have thunderstorms or extended cloud cover in the area,” said Effrein. “We’re well positioned with a diverse portfolio of power generation sources, and we don’t believe there will be any impact on customers’ electric service during this time.”

Weather forecast
Spring weather can bring severe storms to the area. While meteorologists will be closely watching the weather and making predictions for April 8, no one can say with certainty what kind of weather a specific location will experience on eclipse day.

Entergy Arkansas encourages customers to remain weather aware during this time and to be prepared in case severe weather strikes during the time of the eclipse.

To be ready before a storm threatens, customers are encouraged to put together a kit that includes emergency supplies and items like important personal documents and contacts, flashlights and cellphone chargers. Additional suggestions on what to include in a kit can be found at entergynewsroom.com/storm-center/plankit.

Also, it is important to know how to remain safe before, during and after a storm. Customers are encouraged to monitor news reports and be aware of any evacuation directions from local authorities. If a storm does impact the area, please remember to use generators safely and avoid downed power lines, as well as utility crews and their worksites. Additional safety tips can be found at entergynewsroom.com/storm-center/safety.

There are several ways customers can stay connected with Entergy throughout a storm event, including by signing up for text message alerts, downloading the free Entergy mobile app and monitoring the company’s View Outage map, Storm Center and social media channels. Additional information on these tools can be found at entergynewsroom.com/storm-center/stayinformed.

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.


2024 ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF ARKANSAS STATE SPELLING BEE SLATED FOR MARCH 9
Little Rock, Ark. — March 4, 2024 — This year more than 85,000 students from 426 schools across 56 counties participated in local spelling bees. A qualifying student from each of the 56 counties will participate in the 2024 Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas State Spelling Bee on Saturday, March 9 at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Little Rock. The public is invited to attend the event.

The Arkansas winner will proceed to The Scripps National Spelling Bee, the nation’s largest and longest-running educational program. The 2023 Arkansas State Spelling Bee Champion was Zeeshan Mahmud Anower of Sebastian County. In 2023 Anower and second place finisher Matt Brodbent of Cross County had a more than 20-round spelling duel to determine the state champ. Third place winner was Carter Metcalf of Marion County. Both Anower and Metcalf are returning this year to compete for the champion title.

The purpose of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them throughout their lives.

Learn more about the Arkansas State Spelling Bee at: www.aecc.com/spellingbee

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 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.

 

 

ASP CID INVESTIGATING EUREKA SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING  
March 2, 2024
ASP's Criminal Investigation Division is investigating an officer-involved shooting fatality that occurred Friday, March 1, 2024, in Eureka Springs.

Carroll County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) Dispatch Center received a 911 call from the Rowdy Beaver Den, 47 Spring Street in Eureka Springs, advising that Christopher Vanschoick, 36, had brandished a handgun during a disturbance.

Two Eureka Springs Police Department (ESPD) officers arrived at the location and observed Vanschoick sitting in his vehicle on the street near the Rowdy Beaver Den. The officers confronted Vanschoick, and a struggle ensued.

Vanschoick produced a handgun, and one of the officers fired his weapon, striking Vanschoick.

Vanschoick was pronounced dead by the Carrol County coroner's office. His body will be transferred to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory (ASCL) to determine the cause and manner of death.

ASP will present an investigative case file to the prosecuting attorney, who will determine whether the use of deadly force was consistent with Arkansas law. 
 

MORE THAN 100 POUNDS OF METHAMPHETAMINE AND 21 POUNDS OF COCAINE DISCOVERED DURING ASP TRAFFIC STOP
March 1, 2024
On Wednesday, February 28, 2024, around 3:30 a.m., an Arkansas State Police (ASP) Trooper pulled over a vehicle near mile-marker 77 on Interstate 40 Eastbound in Pope County.

During a search of the vehicle, the Trooper located approximately 120 pounds of methamphetamine, 21 pounds of cocaine, and multiple marijuana vape pens and products.

ASP transported the driver of the vehicle to the Pope County Detention Center, where he was charged with Trafficking a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Schedule VI Controlled Substance with the Purpose to Deliver.  

March 01, 2024

2024 CAMDEN REGIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE 2024 ANNUAL MEMBER MEETING AND AWARDS BANQUET
The 2024 Camden Regional Chamber of Commerce 2024 Annual Member Meeting and Awards Banquet was held Thursday night, February 29th at the Events Center at Fairview Park. The theme of the event was “Sneakers, Suits and Sequins".

The center was full of guests attending the event. The Pryce Robertson Autism Foundation brought in Razorback athletes. Current Razorbacks in attendance were Jack Wagner, Peyton Stovall, Kendall Diggs, Landon Jackson, and Luke Hasz. Former Razorback and NFL player Peyton Hillis was also in attendance. 

Wood’s Place catered the event.

The guest speaker was Marvin Caston, Senior Director of Development at Razorback Foundation, Inc., who shared the podium with Peyton Hillis.

The Large Industry Award was presented by John Schaffitzel, Highland Industrial Park and James Lee Silliman. The Award went to General Dynamics.

The Sam Walton Small Business Award was presented by Marc Weindel, Camden Walmart Supercenter and may Charlotte Young, City of Camden. The award went to Jim Golden.

The Searcy Harrell Community Service Awad was presented by Michael Shelton, Generations Bank and Mayor Angie McAdoo, City of East Camden. The award went to Richard Robertson.

The President’s Award was presented by Reverend Gregory C. Nettles, Chamber Board President. The award went to Dotty Harris.

Special recognition was presented by Gladys Nettles, Circuit Clerk of Ouachita County and Reverend Gregory C. Nettles, Chamber Board President. The award went to Cathy Cash.

 

LRCVB UNVEILS NEW MOBILE VISITOR CENTER
Public is invited to help name the mobile attraction by submitting nominations through March 28, 2024
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (March 1, 2024) - The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) has announced the launch of its new mobile visitor center, an initiative aimed at promoting Little Rock and its experiences in a versatile and engaging way. The Bureau’s new mobile attraction was publicly launched during an unveiling event at the Statehouse Convention Center Plaza in downtown Little Rock Feb. 29, 2024. 

The mobile visitor center represents a new chapter in promotional efforts for the city, serving as both a roving billboard and an ambassador to promote Little Rock and bring a taste of its distinctive attractions to communities across the state and beyond. The unveiling event showcased this engaging and visually-captivating vehicle with remarks from community leaders, including Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. Advertising & Promotion Commission Chair Jim Keet and LRCVB President and CEO Gina Gemberling.

"We are proud to introduce the mobile visitor center, which will play a vital role in showcasing Little Rock to a broader audience," said LRCVB President and CEO Gina Gemberling. "This mobile unit will allow us to service visitors in our city at various tourism attractions and events, as well as in feeder cities which can help us promote our city as a leisure travel destination.”

The mobile visitor center will also gather data while in other cities to market Little Rock as a destination to potential visitors. While positioned in Little Rock, the unit will gather visitor profile data including their origin, length of stay, and attractions and locations visited. This will assist the LRCVB in developing more strategic marketing strategies.

In conjunction with the launch of the mobile visitor center, the LRCVB invites the public to support their efforts and help name this new asset. The public may submit their creative naming ideas for the mobile visitor center from Feb. 29 to March 28, by visiting https://www.littlerock.com/plan-your-trip/visitors-centers/. The LRCVB aims to engage the community allowing residents to play a part in the center's identity, fostering a sense of ownership and pride in this new ambassador for the city. The final name will be unveiled in early April via the Bureau’s social media. Follow along on Facebook and Instagram, @littlerockcvb

Equipped with interactive displays and an informational exhibit, the mobile visitor center will provide visitors with a visual experience of Little Rock's attractions, events and amenities, enticing them to explore the city further. The mobile visitor center will be deployed to various cities and states, serving as a powerful tool to attract travelers to Little Rock. Through strategic partnerships and targeted outreach efforts, the LRCVB aims to elevate Little Rock's profile as a premier destination for leisure travel.


TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES PROGRAM & RECREATIONAL TRAILS PROGRAM APPLICATIONS NOW AVAILABLE
March 1, 2024
The Arkansas Highway Commission has announced that applications for the Arkansas Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and the Arkansas Recreational Trails Program (RTP) are now available. 

Virtual seminars will occur on Thursday, March 14 and Tuesday, April 2 to inform potential eligible applicants of TAP and RTP requirements and responsibilities. Registration information for the seminars can be found at the web addresses listed below. 

Eligible TAP projects include, but are not limited to: 
On-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation, including sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian and bicycle signals, lighting, and other safety-related infrastructure. 
Infrastructure-related projects and systems that will provide safe routes for non-drivers. 
Conversion and use of abandoned railroad corridors for trails for pedestrians, bicyclists, or other non-motorized transportation users. 
Any environmental mitigation activity, including pollution prevention and abatement activities. 
Infrastructure-related Safe Routes to School (SRTS) projects.
Sidewalk improvements, traffic calming, and speed reduction improvements.
Pedestrian and bicycle crossing improvements. 
Non-infrastructure projects such as: 
Public awareness campaigns and outreach.
Enforcement, encouragement, and evaluation programs.
Bicycle and Pedestrian education or a walking school bus program near a K-8 school. 
Pedestrian/Trail Master Plans.

Eligible RTP projects include, but are not limited to: 
Improvement of motorized, non-motorized, and multiple-use trails.
Development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages. 
Project applications and registration for both programs, including general project guidelines, may be obtained by visiting ardot.gov/TAP or ardot.gov/RTP.  

Applications must be submitted by 4 p.m. on Friday, May 31.

Additionally, the Department has an ongoing open application cycle for Motorized RTP projects. Applications may be submitted year-round and are reviewed in order of arrival. More information can be found at ardot.gov/RTP.


RANKING MEMBER BOOZMAN TO USDA AT OVERSIGHT HEARING: HELP US EASE WORRIES, MAKE THINGS RIGHT FOR FARMERS AND RURAL COMMUNITIES
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, delivered the following remarks, at the outset of a hearing conducting oversight of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Good afternoon. Thank you, Chairwoman Stabenow for calling today’s hearing.

The lede from a February 15th story in Agri-Pulse, reporting on a presentation made by USDA’s Chief Economist at the Ag Outlook Forum, read: “USDA is forecasting lower prices for most major crops this year as input costs remain elevated and farmers face growing export competition”. A week earlier USDA forecasted that net farm income would decrease by 27.1 percent, or $43.1 billion, when adjusted for inflation over the last year. When you consider that since 2022 inflation-adjusted net farm income has dropped by $80 billon, this will be the largest two-year decline in net farm income of all time. 

Secretary Vilsack, it’s been nearly one year since we last heard from you, and we welcome you back to the committee. As we continue our work to reauthorize the farm bill, we are interested in your perspective on the challenges in the farm economy.

As part of our efforts to write a new farm bill, I’ve been to 18 states across the country, and I’ve visited with hundreds of farmers. What I have heard from our nation’s farmers and ranchers is that they are very concerned.

Specifically, they are challenged by persistently high and historic inflation, both on and off the farm; stubbornly high interest rates; burdensome regulations; record large trade deficits in agriculture; and most importantly of all, rapidly declining commodity prices and farm incomes that will make these next few years some of the most challenging in their lives. Compared to last year, all sectors of agriculture and all areas of the country will see lower incomes in 2024.

Some have pointed to 20-year average farm income as evidence that the farm economy is healthy. And we should talk about 20-year averages because current interest expenses are nearly double that average. Likewise, input costs are 10% above the 20-year average. So, while we hear talk of net farm income being above or near the 20-year average, it is often not accompanied by those data points that reinforce the tight margins under which farmers operate.

I don’t know why, for some, a 20-year average income is acceptable for farmers, but it isn’t for other workers. When there were labor strikes recently, I don’t remember the administration calling for 20-year average wages for the workers, but for farmers this is supposed to be okay.


When I am talking to producers from across the country, they are sharing their concerns that they now must use their land and other assets as collateral to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars to put a crop in the ground or care for livestock, while knowing they will earn less money. Many are wondering if it is worth it. Typically, the rate of return on farm assets is less than 2 percent. You can get two times that earning on any CD.

This is particularly true for small and mid-size farms, the very type of family operations that Secretary Vilsack has put significant emphasis on. I am concerned about their viability as well. When I grew up, we had more dairies in my home county than we currently have in the entire state of Arkansas. That loss of population impacts the local economy, our schools, and our hospitals and makes life in rural America less desirable. I have seen that as I have travelled through Arkansas’s 75 counties.

But if we truly care about our rural communities and our farm and ranch families, farming-- at all scales-- must be economically viable and we must provide a safety net that works. That is what I have called for in the next farm bill, and I believe that is the least we can do for our farmers.

The administration could be doing more to ease the worries in farm country. Its regulatory agenda has made crop protection tools less available and added more uncertainty for farmers. I am troubled by things like Emergency Relief Program Track 2 (ERP2), 30x30, the vocal advocacy to end stepped up basis and the lack of leadership when it comes to trade. All of these decisions tell me that our farmers’ concerns are not being heard in the executive branch.

I do believe in the next farm bill, a $1.5 trillion farm bill, we have an opportunity to make things right for farmers, rural communities and those in need. But that takes a commitment from all of us to work together toward these very worthy goals. No one, in the history of this committee, has said that passing a farm bill is an easy lift. But it is something that this committee, with the help of previous administrations, has come together to accomplish time and time again. I do not believe this farm bill should be any different. I hope today’s hearing will shed more light on how USDA can be a partner to accomplish these goals.

 

COTTON TO AUSTIN: WHY WAS AIRMAN WHO SELF-IMMOLATED ALLOWED TO SERVE?
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, asking him to provide information on the active-duty U.S. airman who self-immolated outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. on February 25. Senator Cotton asked Secretary Austin to respond to the “serious questions” by March 7 as to why the airman was allowed to serve when he obviously harbored extreme, anti-American views.

Text of the letter may be found below.

February 28, 2024

The Honorable Lloyd Austin
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000                                  

Dear Secretary Austin:

I am writing to you regarding an active-duty U.S. airman’s self-immolation outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. on February 25, 2024. You have made it a top priority to address “extremism” amongst our total force, and this act of horrific violence—in support of a terrorist group—raises serious questions about how this individual was allowed to serve on active duty.

Please provide the following information no later than March 7, 2024:

The Department has touted its efforts to address “ideological extremism” within its ranks. Was this airman ever identified as exhibiting extremist leanings?

Did the Department’s anti-extremism training address support for Islamic terrorist groups like Hamas?

Did the airman display any concerning behavior prior to this incident? If so, what was the behavior? What actions were taken to address that behavior?

Has the Department determined if the airman had access to classified information? If he had access, did he take any actions that compromised U.S. national security prior to February 25?

Did you find evidence of support for Islamic terrorist groups in your search for Department of Defense extremists? If so, how did you address that support?

Have any other military members participated in anti-Israeli actions that violate Department of Defense policy on restricted political activities? If so, was this behavior appropriately addressed?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

 Sincerely,
Tom Cotton
United States Senator

 

COTTON, COLLEAGUES TO BIDEN: RESCIND DIRECTIVES INTENDED TO UNDERMINE ISRAELIS
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), along with Senators Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Ted Budd (R-North Carolina), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Katie Britt (R-Alabama), and Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), today sent a letter to President Biden urging him to rescind his February 1 executive order and February 8 memo that are intended to undermine Israel.

In part, the senators wrote:

“Your February 1 EO grants the State Department broad authority to arbitrarily punish Israelis in Judea and Samaria, with no defined standards for determining when sanctions are warranted. Under the guise of ‘peace, security, or stability of the West Bank,’ it appears the State Department can punish arbitrarily any Israeli it wants. Yet, the State Department hasn’t acted against the Palestinian Authority, which makes ‘pay to slay’ payments to terrorists for murdering innocent Israeli families.”

Full text of the letter may be found below.

February 29, 2024

 President Joseph R. Biden
The White House,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW 
Washington, DC 20502 

President Biden, 

We write regarding your February 1, 2024 Executive Order 14115 and February 8, 2024 National Security Memorandum 20 undermining Israeli operations against Hamas in Gaza. Both documents undercut our most valuable alliance in the Middle East. We call on you to rescind both documents and to sanction terrorists and their supporters instead of their victims. 

Your February 1 EO grants the State Department broad authority to arbitrarily punish Israelis in Judea and Samaria, with no defined standards for determining when sanctions are warranted. Under the guise of “peace, security, or stability of the West Bank,” it appears the State Department can punish arbitrarily any Israeli it wants. Yet, the State Department hasn’t acted against the Palestinian Authority, which makes “pay to slay” payments to terrorists for murdering innocent Israeli families. Nor has the State Department taken significant action to counter the surge in Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank, which increased by 350 percent in 2023, including 300 shooting attacks.

Your February 8 memorandum similarly—and falsely—implies that Israel is committing mass war crimes in its campaign against Hamas and threatens to cut off aid unless Israel meets arbitrary deadlines for providing “assurances” regarding international humanitarian law. Yet, we already have rules requiring aid recipients to comply with applicable law and in line with American interests. Moreover, Israel has provided ample evidence of the steps it takes to avoid civilian casualties, which Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, John Kirby, acknowledged publicly.

You should immediately rescind both your February 1 order and February 8 memorandum. Further, please provide Congress no later than March 15 with a full explanation of what evidentiary basis and processes are intended to be employed when choosing to sanction Israelis while ignoring the serious crimes committed by the Palestinian Authority.

We appreciate your attention to this important matter.

 Sincerely,

February 27, 2023

OUACHITA COUNTY BURN BAN
I, Robert A. McAdoo, Ouachita County Judge, as Chief Executive Officer of Ouachita Couaty, by the power vested in me under Constitution Amendment No.55, do hereby order a county-wide bum ban for Ouachita County on this 26th day of February, 2024, until further notice.

I further direct that a copy of this order be filed in the office of the County Clerk.

It is so ordered this 26th day of February.

Robert A McAdoo
County Judge


ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE URGES CAUTION DUE TO WILDFIRE RISK
LITTLE ROCK, AR
– The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division is reminding Arkansans that wildfire danger is elevated across the state, and currently, 14 counties are under a burn ban. The Forestry Division maintains a county-by-county map that identifies wildfire danger risk levels, burn bans, and prescribed burns. Find the map at mip.agri.arkansas.gov/agtools/Forestry/Fire_Info.

“Conditions are dry with low humidity statewide, and we are forecasted to experience periods of high winds in the coming days.” said State Forester Kyle Cunningham. “We are seeing an increase in the number of wildfires and their intensity, and that’s a trend that will continue until we see significant rainfall. With this in mind, we are asking citizens of the state to be mindful of this risk and avoid burning.”

Wildfire danger is broken down into four risk levels: low, moderate, high, and extreme. Risk levels are determined by drought status and long-term weather forecasts and are defined by how easily fires can start and how hard they are to contain. The risk level definitions are:
 Low: Fuels do not ignite easily. Weather conditions will lead to slow, easy to control fires.

Moderate: Fire can start from accidental causes. May not become serious, but caution should be taken.

High: Fires ignite easily and spread quickly. Unattended brush fires and campfires are likely to escape. Fires may become serious if not attacked early.

Extreme: Fires start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely. Every fire started has the potential to become large. Expect extreme, erratic behavior.

Currently, 42 counties in the state have been given the “high” designation, while the rest of the state remains under “moderate” risk levels. Additionally, the following 14 counties are under burn bans: Ashley, Carroll, Columbia, Faulkner, Fulton, Independence, Madison, Ouachita, Phillips, Searcy, Sharp, Union, Van Buren, and White. Burn bans primarily prohibit activities that involve an open flame. This includes fireworks, campfires, trash burning, open flame grilling, and prescribed or controlled burns.

The Forestry Division is asking those who see fires to report them by calling 1-800-468-8834 and to avoid flying drones in the area. When drones are present, those fighting the fires are unable to perform detection flights or fly single engine airtankers (SEATs) to drop water.

To learn more about burn bans in your county, find your local official’s contact information at arcounties.org/counties/

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.


ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES MEDICAID FRAUD CONVICTION OF SEARCY BUSINESS
OWNER

Griffin: ‘Putting Arkansans at risk by using unlicensed, uncredentialed interns to provide treatment is unconscionable’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement regarding the conviction of Pamela Townsend Bell, 59, of Judsonia on two counts of Medicaid Fraud, both Class C Felonies: 

“Last week, Bell—the owner of I’m a 10 Wellness Center in Searcy—was convicted on two counts of felony Medicaid Fraud. She billed the State Medicaid Program for claims where unlicensed, uncredentialed social work interns provided therapy to her clients.

“I congratulate my office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit on their diligence to secure this conviction, particularly Special Agent Rhonda Swindle and Assistant Attorneys General Sharon Strong and David Jones. I also thank Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones for his office’s assistance.

“Putting Arkansans at risk by using unlicensed, uncredentialed interns to provide treatment is unconscionable. Those who think about cutting corners like that to make a profit will be held accountable.”

Bell was sentenced to five years of probation, restitution in the amount of $11,765.62 to the Arkansas Medicaid Program Trust Fund and a fine in the amount of $23,531.24. She will be excluded from providing services to Medicaid beneficiaries in the future.
 


BOOZMAN PRESERVES MEMORIES OF JONESBORO VETERAN
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service of Ed Watson in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series highlighting the military service of Arkansans.

Watson was born at his family’s home in Craighead County in 1946. He still calls the area home.

He attended Arkansas State University and spent many hours in the radio and TV department on a work scholarship. He recalled how his limited knowledge of classical musicians led him to mispronounce the names of well-known composers.

“I may as well laugh about it now because it was really funny, but I had a very supportive group of people here,” he said.

Watson also participated in ROTC while at Arkansas State. However, his grades weren’t good enough to get a deferment so, after more than two years of college, he was drafted.

The news was hard on his family. Watson said his dad was a supporter of the military, but he paid attention to the news and knew the dangers ahead for his son.

“He was pretty much up to date on what was going on in Vietnam and he was scared to death for me.”

Watson went to Fort Polk, Louisiana for basic training and said his ROTC experience made him better prepared than most other draftees. He was recognized as the best trainee of the cycle in his unit.

Following basic training, he went to Fort Ord, California for one week then to combat engineering training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Watson was able to return home and earn some money at a local job before resuming duty at Fort Lewis, Washington where he shipped out to Vietnam. 

While deployed, he served as a combat demolitionist.

“There were nights on end that we had mortar attacks. In fact, I have a flag that has holes in it, that I had put up on a bamboo pole on top of my bunker. We were sleeping in trenches on the ground with steel matting over the top of that and sandbags on top of that. And I had stuck this flag up and a mortar hit our hole, it didn’t hit any of us, it dispersed,” he said.  

Watson spent 50 weeks in Vietnam. He rotated out two weeks early because he was saving money to be married and had unused vacation days. However, the time overseas took a toll.

“Those around me know I came back a different person,” he said “I was somewhat different. I will say a little harder, harsher,” he said.

Once back in the U.S., he still had time remaining on his two-year commitment so he was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas in an armored unit.

Watson said part of his commitment included serving in the reserves once he left active duty. He remembered a conversation with an officer who served in Vietnam during the same time he was there about re-enlisting. He learned even the officer had no interest in continuing his military service.

With encouragement from Army officials, Watson decided to apply for an early separation so he could return to school in Arkansas. 

He acknowledged the support of Arkansas State Professor Charles Rasberry, a Navy veteran, for helping him finish his degree.

“He made sure I took classes that were in my chosen field and helped me out a lot.”

Watson said military service changed his attitude, but he would do it again.

“If you see a veteran, thank them for their service,” he said. 

Reflecting on his time in the service, he recalled a conversation he overheard with a veteran who was being thanked “His response was ‘Thank you, you’re worth it.’ And I’ve adopted that. That’s how I respond.”

The one thing he wishes could be different is how civilians view the men and women who wore our nation’s uniform. 

“If they knew what a veteran goes through, if they knew what a veteran lives with, I think they’d view us differently.”

“Ed Watson honorably served our country. Like many others of his generation, his military service shaped his life and appreciation for the unique experiences of those who spend time in our military. His story is an important piece of a larger narrative that helps us understand our own history. I’m pleased to recognize his selfless sacrifice and preserve his memories,” Boozman said.

Boozman submitted Watson’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.

February 26, 2024

“OPERATION HART” TACKLES HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN NORTHEAST ARKANSAS
February 26, 2024
Jonesboro, Ark. – Five women believed to be victims of human trafficking were offered services and another 30 local victims were identified as part of Operation HART (Human Anti-Trafficking Recovery Team), which took place in Jonesboro earlier this month. One suspected trafficker was identified.

Arkansas State Police (ASP) and members of the Arkansas Human Trafficking Council conducted the recovery operation during a single day, offering victims services, including food, lodging, onsite medical services, counseling/therapy and drug rehabilitation.

“The Arkansas law enforcement community and our victim service partners are on a mission to end human trafficking in Arkansas,” said ASP Director Colonel Mike Hagar. “We are working to give law enforcement the specialized training they need to embrace victims with compassion while they free them from perpetrators of this heinous crime.”

The multidisciplinary operation consisted of law enforcement and victim service providers from around the state, working together to combat human trafficking, recover victims and detain traffickers to make our communities safer. Prior to and during the operation, intelligence analysts and law enforcement officers identified local victims.

The operation was made possible through the coordinated efforts of representatives from federal, state, local and non-government organizations, including the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, Jonesboro Police Department, Arkansas State University Police Department, Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation Task Force Members, Harrison Police Department, Arkansas Fusion Center, along with victim advocates from the Regional Intervention of Sexual Exploitation “RISE,” The Genesis Project, Hope Found of Northeast Arkansas, Paws for Justice, ACASA, and the NWA Forensic Nurse Team.

During a similar Little Rock operation in September, ten adult females and two minor females were identified and offered services in Central Arkansas. In that operation, five adult female victims accepted assistance and all minors were taken into protective custody. Ten men were detained as part of that investigation.

Further details cannot be released at this time, as the investigation is ongoing.

Human Trafficking continues to be a problem in Arkansas and across the United States, and law enforcement will continue to take it seriously. If you have information or suspect human trafficking in your area, please contact the Arkansas Human Trafficking Council at reportht@asp.arkansas.gov or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. 

Ahead of the seasonal switch, Arkansas has declared Feb. 26 to March 1 as Severe Weather Awareness Week. Entergy Arkansas is encouraging customers to observe the week by making a severe weather plan, keeping a kit and staying informed.

March 31, 2023, is a date that will forever be marked in Arkansas severe weather history, as tornadoes ripped through our service area, devastating areas of Little Rock and the town of Wynne.

“Following the tornado and after each severe weather event we experience, we strive to build back stronger,” says Laura Landreaux, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas. “We are hardening the system with taller and wider poles and concrete structures where needed, and redesigning parts of the system to make restoring power safer and quicker in the future.”

Entergy recognizes that the intensity and frequency of major storms are increasing which is why the company is taking an accelerated approach to storm hardening and building resilience into the electric system.

“Building back stronger will provide reliable power well into the future and help communities recover more quickly following severe weather events,” Landreaux said. 

Our crews plan and train for storm readiness year-round, which aides us in restoring power as safely and quickly as possible.

As severe weather threatens, we monitor, mobilize and act. We’re asking customers to be just as prepared for an emergency this spring.

Make a plan. Sit down with your family and share all emergency contact information, so everyone knows how and who to alert. Designate one or more out-of-town contacts. Be aware of the emergency plans at work, and if applicable, your children’s school or elderly family members’ residences if they do not live with you. If your household depends on life-support or other medical equipment, discuss with your physician, including alternate living arrangements, should unplanned, extended outages occur.

Keep a kit nearby. Experts agree it’s a good idea to have items such as non-perishable food, plenty of water, flashlights, a first aid kit with extra batteries and a portable phone charger on hand and easy to access in case of storms. Remember to check the expiration dates on your supplies often and replace the expired items.

Keep up with weather updates. Install a smart phone app that will alert you when severe weather is in the area or sign up for emergency alerts on your smartphone. A weather radio with a loud alarm can also help wake you when severe weather threatens overnight.

Stay informed
Knowing how to communicate with Entergy Arkansas after a storm hits is important. There are several ways to report outages and downed power lines:

Download our free app for your smartphone at entergy.com/app.

Sign up for text alerts by texting REG to 36778 and have your account number and ZIP code handy. The registration pattern is as follows including spaces: REG (account number) (ZIP code). Once registered, text OUT to 36778 to report an outage. You can also report an outage online as a guest.

Visit the Entergy Storm Center website and our View Outages page.

Call us at 800-9OUTAGE (800-968-8243).

Storms aren’t the only emergencies for which we prepare. Team members from across Entergy’s four-state service area recently completed Entergy GridEx training, which drills participants on extreme hypothetical natural and/or man-made threats to operations. Observing Severe Weather Preparedness Week reminds us that extreme scenarios could happen during severe weather – underscoring the importance of advanced planning.


ASP SEIZED MORE THAN 3,400 POUNDS OF ILLEGAL CONTRABAND AND WEAPONS IN RECENT TRAFFIC STOPS  
February 23, 2024
Six recent traffic stops by Arkansas State Police (ASP) resulted in the seizure of 824 pounds of illegal marijuana, 2,638 pounds of illegal marijuana products, and multiple weapons. All six seizures took place on Interstate 40, with three occurring on a single day. And five of six seizures occurred in Crawford County.

ASP TRAFFIC STOP FINDS CAR HAULER TRANSPORTING MORE THAN JUST CARS
On February 14, around 2 p.m., ASP pulled over a tractor-trailer carrying three vehicles at the 1-mile marker Eastbound on Interstate 40 in Crawford County.

During a search of the trailer, Troopers found 18 bags of contraband marijuana, weighing a total of 412 pounds, concealed in trucks being hauled.

Two minor children were also in the tractor-trailer. 

ASP transported the driver, Jezreel Otey, 29, of Little Rock, and passengers Robert Sanders, 33, and Ciara Hewlett, 27, both of North Little Rock, to the Crawford County Jail, where they were charged with Possession of a Scheduled VI Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and two counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Minor. Hewlett also had an outstanding Felony Warrant out of Little Rock.

ASP seized all three vehicles along with the tractor-trailer.

The children were released into the custody of the Department of Human Services.

MORE THAN 200 POUNDS OF ILLEGAL MARIJUANA AND LOADED HANDGUN DISCOVERED BY ASP DURING TRAFFIC STOP
At approximately 12:10 p.m. on February 20, 2024, a black GMC pickup truck was pulled over by the ASP on Interstate 40 Eastbound at the 8-mile marker for a traffic violation. The driver told the Trooper he was traveling from Oregon to Florida.

Troopers searched the truck and found nine duffle bags containing 211 pounds of illegal marijuana in 190 vacuum-sealed bags. Troopers also discovered a loaded 357 Magnum revolver in a fanny pack on the passenger side of the vehicle, along with $3,978.

ASP transported the driver, Thomas Elliott, 51, of Deerfield Beach, FL, to the Crawford County Jail. Elliott is facing multiple charges, including Simultaneous Possession of Drugs and a Firearm. 

ASP FINDS ILLEGAL MARIJUANA AND HANDGUN DURING TRAFFIC STOP IN CRAWFORD COUNTY 
On February 20, 2024, ASP stopped a white Chevrolet Suburban traveling Eastbound on Interstate 40 at the 5-mile marker in Crawford County.

Upon searching the SUV, Troopers discovered three large boxes containing 50 pounds of illegal marijuana in the rear cargo area. Additionally, a 9mm Glock handgun was found in the center console.  

ASP transported the driver, Wynton Foy, 33, of Snellville, GA, and the passenger, De’Ja Johnson, 28, of Atlanta, GA, to the Crawford County Detention Center, where they were charged with Possession with Purpose to Deliver Controlled Substance, Possession of Felony Drug Paraphernalia, and Simultaneous Possession of Drugs and a Firearm.   

ASP SEIZED MORE THAN A TON OF THC VAPES AND 21 POUNDS OF ILLEGAL MARIJUANA 
On February 22, 2024, at approximately 10:30 a.m., at the 2-mile marker Eastbound on Interstate 40, ASP pulled over a white Silverado pickup truck towing an enclosed trailer due to a traffic violation.

Troopers searched the trailer and found 2,628 pounds of illegal marijuana vapes and 21 pounds of contraband marijuana.

Troopers arrested Janet Arreola, 29, and Jose Escobedo, 35, both of Cumming, Georgia, and transported them to the Crawford County Detention Center. Both were charged with Trafficking Controlled Substances and Endangering the Welfare of a Minor.

ASP FINDS MORE THAN 100 POUNDS OF ILLEGAL MARIJUANA DURING TRAFFIC STOP IN LONOKE COUNTY
On February 20, 2024, ASP stopped a black 2023 Chevrolet Equinox near the 173-mile marker on Interstate 40 Eastbound in Lonoke County for a traffic violation.

Upon searching the vehicle, the Trooper discovered a shrink-wrapped package containing 119 bundles of illegal marijuana weighing a total of 126 pounds.

Troopers transported driver Zang Xiong, 34, of Holmen, Wisconsin, to the Lonoke County Detention Center, where he was charged with Felony Possession of a Scheduled VI Controlled Substance with the Purpose to Deliver.  Xiong told the police he was traveling to Mississippi from Oklahoma.

FOURTEEN POUNDS OF ILLEGAL CONTRABAND DISCOVERED DURING TRAFFIC STOP ON INTERSTATE 40 
On February 22, 2024, at approximately 4:04 p.m., ASP stopped a gold Chevrolet Malibu near the 2-mile marker Eastbound on Interstate 40 in Crawford County.

Troopers searched the trunk of the vehicle and located approximately four pounds of illegal marijuana and 10 pounds of illegal marijuana products. Troopers seized the contraband and arrested the driver, Chip Ervin, 45, of Mississippi.

Troopers transported Ervin to the Crawford County Jail, where he was charged with multiple charges, including Possession with Intent and Deliver Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. 
 

STEM COALITION, EAST INITIATIVE ANNOUNCE AR STEM DAY @THE CAPITOL 
EAST students from schools around the state to participate at Capitol Rotunda
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (February 23, 2024) – Officials from the Arkansas STEM Coalition and EAST Initiative today announced their organization’s joint participation in what the groups hope will become an annual spring event at the Arkansas Capitol.

AR STEM Day @The Capitol will be held on Tuesday, April 23. The day-long event will feature students from EAST programs around the state, giving them the time to showcase their STEM-driven projects for legislators, community leaders, and other organizations who have an interest in what STEM education means for Arkansas’ future.

"STEM education is not just about preparing a select few for specialized careers; it's about empowering all Arkansans with the critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and technological literacy necessary to thrive in an increasingly complex world,” Arkansas STEM Coalition Executive Director Hannah Vogler said. “By investing in STEM education, we are investing in the future prosperity and well-being of our entire state. AR STEM Day @The Capitol will help us spotlight the amazing work these students are already doing.”

Vogler said partnering with EAST Initiative was a no-brainer for an event like this. She said that EAST’s mission – to provide students with an environment that fosters relevant, individualized, life-changing experiences through service and technology – aligns well with the Coalition’s new strategic direction.

 “EAST’s ongoing program metrics show that students are more engaged and passionate about what they do in their EAST classes, and we strongly believe they can use that passion to engage with their legislators in a more compelling way than adults are able,” Vogler said.

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 forreflection as they challenge students to solve real problems in their communities.

AR STEM Day @The Capitol will feature student-led advocacy to educate legislators about the importance of STEM education. Thanks to funding through a STEMx Challenge Grant from Battelle, student teams will travel to the State Capitol on April 23 to meet with their legislators, present to legislative committees (if scheduling permits), help with STEM activity demonstrations, and participate in the event’s press conference, Vogler said.

EAST President and Chief Executive Officer Matt Dozier noted that EAST has played a crucial role in advancing STEM in Arkansas for more than 25 years now through its innovative programming that provides students with the resources and support to explore, learn and ultimately excel in STEM subjects while making meaningful contributions to their communities.

“Investing in STEM is essential for Arkansas to remain competitive and prosperous in the 21st Century and beyond,” Dozier said. “Our EAST students are excited for the opportunity to engage with leaders about the work they’re doing in their communities combining technology and STEM education.” 

For more information about the Arkansas STEM Coalition, please visit https://arkansasstemcoalition.com/. Additional information on EAST Initiative can be found at www.eastinitiative.org.               


CADC  INVITATION TO BID
The Central Arkansas Development Council (CADC) will receive sealed bids until 3:00 PM on March 22, 2024 at the Benton Administration Office, 321 Edison Ave., Benton, AR 72015, for proposals to obtain the services of an independent certified public account firm, certified or licensed by a regulatory authority of a state or other political subdivision of the United States, capable of issuing audit reports in the State of Arkansas, to perform financial and compliance audits. Bid information may be obtained at Central Arkansas Development Council, 321 Edison Avenue, Benton, Arkansas or by contacting Lavel Neal at (501)315-1121.

CADC reserves the right to reject any and all bids.
 

PLANTATION AGRICULTURE MUSEUM CELEBRATES NEW EXHIBIT OPENING WITH SAKURA MATSURI
Celebration of Japanese American culture to recognize history of Japanese American sharecroppers in Scott community.
(SCOTT, Ark.) – While many people are familiar with the stories of the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War, most likely don’t give much thought to what happened to the people after the war’s end. For a group of families interned in the Rohwer War Relocation Center, the end of the war brought with it a move to the farming community of Scott, Arkansas.

The postwar years would bring many changes for both the community of Scott and the new residents. While the Japanese American families did find success in transplanting their central California-honed vegetable growing operation to the fertile soil of central Arkansas, they also faced the challenges of being neither white nor Black in the segregated south.

From March 16 until July 27, 2024, Plantation Agriculture Museum will be hosting an exhibit called “Muttsu no Kazoku: Six Families’ Journey from Internment to Scott” telling a story that has long been overlooked. This exhibit will explore life for the Shingu, Futamachi, Nakamura, Oshima, Yada, and Yoshimura families before, during, and after World War II with special focus on their lives in Scott.

Join the museum in a celebration of Japanese and Japanese American culture to recognize the opening of the exhibit on March 16, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. This special Sakura Matsuri, or cherry blossom festival, will include games, vendors, martial arts demonstrations, taiko drum performance, and more. The formal exhibit opening ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. with words from special guests, including representatives of the six Japanese American families who lived in Scott. Hors d'oeuvres will be available, and guests are welcome to tour the exhibit until 7 p.m. While both the matsuri and exhibit opening welcome visitors of all ages, the matsuri will be more family-focused.

Plantation Agriculture Museum Located in Scott, Arkansas, the Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park preserves Arkansas’ farming history. Exhibits and programs interpret the period from Arkansas’ statehood in 1836 through World War II when agricultural practices became mechanized.

Arkansas State Parks
Arkansas State Parks is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. Arkansas state parks and museums cover 55,006 acres of forest, wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation facilities, and unique historic and cultural resources. Established in 1923, Arkansas State Parks preserve special places for future generations, provide quality recreation and education opportunities, enhance the state’s economy through tourism and provide leadership in resource conservation. Connect with ASP on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and visit ArkansasStateParks.com and ArkansasStateParks.com/media to learn more.

 

SAAC BOX OFFICE OPEN FOR HARVEY
The South Arkansas Arts Center box office is open for its upcoming production of "Harvey" by Mary Chase. Dates for the production are March 1-3 and 7-9. All performances will begin at 7:30pm with the exception of the Sunday matinee on March 3 at 2:30pm. Ticket prices are $5 for students, $10 for SAAC members, and $15 for general public, and seats can be reserved on SAAC’s website at www.saac-arts.org or by calling 870-862-5474.

Under the co-direction of Gary Hall and Ruth Griffin, "Harvey" follows a day in the life of Elwood P. Dowd, who happens to have an invisible friend named Harvey, a six-foot tall rabbit. This does not sit well with Elwood’s sister, Veta, who is trying desperately to introduce her daughter to local society. When Elwood’s behavior disturbs his sister’s garden party, she determines to have her brother committed. As she attempts to check Elwood into the local sanitorium, Chumley’s Rest, miscommunication and misdiagnosis between the doctor and the nurse leads to a hilarious comedy of errors. Orderlies 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.

“Harvey is full of humor, fun and wonder. The story of a magical rabbit and the man who sees him is brought to stage by a team of seasoned SAAC veterans and a few very fresh new faces,” said Hall. "The result is an evening of errors and enchantment that reminds us that there is still magic left in the world for those who are looking for it. Will you see Harvey too?  Only if you're looking. So get your tickets now.”

Sponsored by Murphy-Pitard Jewelers and All About Flowers, opening night kicks off with a champagne toast and silent auction. Fine art flower pots decorated and designed by local artists will be on display in the Price Gallery, with bidding open throughout the run of the play.

Two additional events are scheduled for Sunday, March 3. A Harvey Q&A will be hosted by the directors and cast after the 2:30pm performance . A study guide is available on the SAAC website, where attendees can learn more about the background of the play as well as the history of the era when "Harvey" was first introduced to the world. Also, join SAAC on Sunday morning from 11am to 1pm for “Harvey’s Garden Party Brunch” in the Merkle Gallery.

For more information or to make reservations for the "Garden Party Brunch" or buy tickets for "Harvey", 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. 
 

STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR MATT STONE
February 23, 2024
LITTLE ROCK –The legislature has been working on a long-term, sustainable solution to the spike in property insurance costs of Arkansas schools.

A consultant hired last year will submit his report in March. The legislature will meet in fiscal session in April.

Schools are experiencing the same dramatic increases in property insurance that homeowners are going through. For example, last year legislators learned that premiums went up 114 percent, or $21 million, for 170 school districts in a program managed by the Arkansas School Boards Association.

Another 68 schools in a program managed by the state Insurance Department saw rates go up by $15 million, or 154 percent.

The Bentonville School District, which purchases property insurance through the open market, saw an increase of about $393,000, which amounts to a 50 percent increase in premiums.

After hearing about the increases, legislators and the governor agreed to provide almost $11 million to partially offset the cost to schools.

However, that was a one-time fix to a problem that has been getting worse, so the legislature also voted to contract with a consultant to recommend long-term solutions.

During a recent meeting of the Legislative Council’s Executive Committee, the consultant told lawmakers that the increase in insurance costs was “not going to be an inexpensive problem to fix.”

One proposal would be to increase retention, they suggested. That is very similar to an individual holding down the costs of an insurance policy by choosing a higher deductible.

The consultant said that if schools agreed to a retention of $25,000, it would go a long way toward holding down costs.

Greater retention would allow schools to afford higher limits on coverage. Some schools may want to increase the limits of their coverage because of recent inflation driving up the cost of construction.

Also, to be eligible to participate in a state insurance partnership and qualify for the advantages of being in a larger risk pool, school districts must be insured for 100 percent of replacement costs.

The consultants said they would probably recommend that the Arkansas Insurance Department set up a “captive” company to provide coverage for schools. It would operate like a state-owned insurance company, and would fall under existing law that is 26 pages long in the statutes. There would be no ambiguity and no need to change existing state insurance regulations.

Currently, schools have insurance under trust companies, which are regulated under three pages in the law books. The consultants said they prefer property insurance coverage through captives, rather than trusts, because they are more highly regulated.

The combination of factors driving up insurance prices have created “a pretty big problem,” and the current insurance plan for Arkansas schools is not sustainable, they said.

Their final recommendations will be for “building something that is self-sustaining,” they said, adding that they would recommend long-term solutions rather than ideas that would merely patch potholes.

It is possible that they recommend combining the two programs into one plan operated by the state Insurance Department.

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