Local News Archive

DE QUEEN WOMAN ARRESTED FOR DRUGS, DWI AFTER ACCIDENT    08/14/20

A De Queen woman was arrested for charges of driving while intoxicated and possession of drugs following a one-vehicle accident last week.

According to a report received from the De Queen Police Department yesterday, officers responded on Aug. 8 to a one-vehicle accident on De Quincy Avenue. During an investigation of the accident officers became suspicious that the driver was intoxicated. Officers had the driver perform a field sobriety test, according to the report.

Officers then searched the vehicle, where they allegedly uncovered several prescription drugs and paraphernalia which contained a white crystal-like substance they believed to be methamphetamine.

The driver, who was identified as 33-year-old Angela Gonzalez of De Queen, was then placed into custody and transported to the Sevier County Jail. She has been charged with driving while intoxicated, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance.

UA COSSATOT ANNOUNCES FALL 2020 CONTINUING EDUCATION SCHEDULE    08/14/20

University of Arkansas Cossatot has announced its Continuing Education schedule for the fall 2020 semester. The college’s Continuing Education department offers classes and training that are available to train for a new career, gain a new skill, grow a business or personally enrich life.

UA Cossatot offers both on-line and on-campus course options to enable participants to build leadership skills or earn a variety of credentials including: Microsoft certifications in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, an American Heart Association CPR certification, OSHA 10 and OSHA Forklift Operator credentials, Concealed Handgun or Enhanced Carry licenses.

UA Cossatot’s Continuing Education department also offers medical education classes that include programs for individuals interested in working in medical billing and coding, or for those who want to become a Pharmacy Technician, Phlebotomy Technician or Nursing Assistant.

Students wishing to learn online also have over 750 online course options through the Continuing Education Services Online Instruction Center. These courses can be completed entirely online to accommodate busy schedules.  Course categories include: Arts & Design, Business, Computer Applications, Computer Science, Construction & Trades, Health & Fitness, Hospitality, Information Technology, Language, Legal, Math & Science, Teacher Professional Development, Test Prep and Writing.

The entire fall Continuing Education schedule can be viewed at www.cccua.edconted

For any questions, please contact UA Cossatot’s Continuing Education Services at 870-584-1178 or continuningeducation@cccua.edu

ASHDOWN CHURCHES HANDING OUT OVER 380 PAIRS OF SHOES, AS WELL AS OTHER ITEMS, DURING GIVEAWAY EVENT ON SATURDAY 08/14/20

The United Methodist Church of Ashdown will host a drive-thru giveaway event this Saturday, Aug. 15 to help out local children in-need as they return to school later this month. The event will begin at 10 a.m. at the United Methodist Church of Ashdown and continue until the last pair of shoes is given away.
The event will be held for all school age kids in Little River County. Items to be given away include shoes, undergarments and snack bags. Jim Cross, pastor of the Ashdown, Richmond and Wades Chapel United Methodist Churches, said the group has raised over $6,000 for the event. That equates into over 380 pairs of brand new shoes purchased from Academy.

The shoe giveaway event is just the latest in a number of local projects Cross and fellow community members have organized since COVID-19 hit the area. They’ve served thousands of meals to local children and families, purchasing the meals from local restaurants at full price. The group raised over $25,000 and hosted 17 community meals. This had the duel effect of feeding local families and helping restaurants in the community at the very time COVID-19 was causing business to suffer.
Cross said it was amazing effort on behalf of the community. Some 60 percent of the donations came from outside Ashdown United Methodist Church. Cross said he couldn’t be prouder of his community for what it’s accomplished over the past few months.
This Saturday’s giveaway event is organized by the Ashdown, Richmond and Wades Chapel United Methodist Churches, as well as the Central Baptist Church along with contributions from Hilltop Fellowship and Ogden United Methodist Churches. The event is also sponsored by the Impact 2020 Walking for Christ organization.

SEVIER, LITTLE RIVER REPORT ADDITIONAL COVID-19 DEATHS ON THURSDAY    08/14/20

An additional Sevier County resident has died from illness caused by COVID-19, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The death was announced after the state health experts updated local figures on Thursday. That raises the death toll from COVID-19 in Sevier County to 11. Information on the age of the victim was not immediately available.

Despite hitting over 1,000 total cases on Wednesday, Sevier County continues to see a decline in active positive cases of the virus. According to Thursday’s updated figures, active cases of COVID-19 in Sevier County dropped by another two cases to 48. Cumulative cases increased by eight to 1,017. Recoveries currently total 958.

In neighboring counties, Little River County also witnessed an additional COVID-19 related death, raising the death toll to two. Active positive cases remained unchanged at 27. Total cases however increased by four to 193.

Howard County Active Positives decreased by two to 55. Total cases increased by two to 362. Deaths in Howard County due to COVID-19 remain at four.

In Polk County, Active Positives increased by one to 22. Total cases increased by three to 157. Deaths remain at one.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, active cases in McCurtain County increased by one to 90. Total cases increased by three to 879. Deaths remain at 28.

ARKANSAS BIRD HUNTERS REMINDED TO “GET HIP” REGISTRATION, NOW REQUIRED    08/14/20

Beginning this year all hunters who wish to pursue doves, ducks, geese and other migratory birds in Arkansas will need to register for the Harvest Information Program, also known as HIP, either online at www.agfc.com, through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission smartphone app or at an AGFC regional office, nature center or shooting range. In an effort to improve the quality of data being submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arkansas HIP registration will no longer be offered at license vendors such as sporting goods stores.

Get HIP – In this undated file photo from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, three Arkansas duck hunters take a break. The AGFC is reminding migratory bird hunters in Arkansas that registration through the federal Harvest Information Program can no longer be done at sporting good stores or vendors. Registration, which is mandatory, must be performed through the AGFC website at www.agfc.com or at an official AGFC facility.

Any hunter who chases migratory birds, from dove to ducks, has likely heard the message to “Get HIP,” during the last two decades, meaning to register for the federal Harvest Information Program before hunting migratory birds. The nationwide program was initiated by the USFWS in cooperation with states in 1999 to gather consistent information about how many birds of each species were being harvested across the country.

How HIP derives total harvest estimates by state still is a bit of a mystery to most duck hunters, and is often one of the most criticized topics wildlife managers answer every season.

HIP registration still is required by federal guidelines to hunt all migratory birds. Hunters who purchase their licenses at local vendors will need to either visit an AGFC office, call 800-364-4263, use the AGFC smartphone app or visitwww.agfc.com and click “Buy Licenses/Check Game” to complete their free registration.’

COUNTY CLERK SHARES ABSENTEE VOTING GUIDELINES    08/14/20

In order to assist local voters, the Sevier County Clerk’s Office has provided information on how you can obtain and enter an absentee ballot this year.

Any registered voter who would like to vote absentee can apply for a ballot immediately. Voters are required to check a box selecting their reason for voting absentee. County Clerk Debbie Akin said the office will accept any application that has checked the box stating you, quote, “will be unavoidably absent from your polling place on election day – end quote.

Registered voters must apply to vote absentee. The application form is available by calling the county clerk’s office at (870) 642-2852 or by emailing countyclerk@sevco.ar.gov.

FELONY CHARGES FILED AGAINST TWO PEOPLE ACCUSED OF STEALING ATV IN GILLHAM   08/14/20

Felony charges have been filed against two people accused of stealing a four-wheeler in Gillham last month.

Chris Chandler, 40, and 35-year-old Jennifer Emfinger were arrested July 24 for the alleged theft of the four-wheeler valued at $3,000, according to the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office. The four-wheeler reportedly belonged to an eight-year-old child when it was stolen from him.

Information relayed to investigators allowed them to locate Chandler and Emfinger the next day. Surveillance footage reportedly showed the suspects in possession of the stolen ATV at an Eagletown, Okla., gas station. Both were taken into custody, where they now await a court hearing on felony counts of theft by receiving. The four-wheeler was then recovered from a hidden location on Piney Road in Sevier County and returned undamaged to the rightful owners.

According to circuit court records, Emfinger is a resident of Gillham. Chandler’s last known official residence is listed in Heber Springs. If convicted, felony theft by receiving carries a sentence of up to six years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

LATE SUMMER MEANS TROUBLE BEARS ARE ON THE PROWL    08/14/20

Arkansas’s bear population has made the news on more than one occasion in the last few weeks. Arkansas Game and Fish Biologists have had to relocate some black bears from a few towns in The Natural State recently, with one even taking a stroll on the University of Arkansas’s campus. The uptick in sightings is fairly common for this time of the year, but there are a few things people can do to help keep these wild animals in the woods and out of trouble.

The reason for the rise in nuisance calls during mid- to late summer revolves around wild food sources beginning to dry up.

Getting into Trouble – In this photo from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, an Arkansas black bear displays his taste for human garbage. State biologists saw Arkansas always sees an uptick in nuisance bear reports this time of year. That’s due to usual food sources drying up. Black bears will often supplement their diet with human or pet food if available. The AGFC asks residents to properly secure waste and other potential food items to ensure they don’t find one of these creatures making a mess in their yard.

The search for new food sources can sometimes land bears in people’s backyards, where they find an easy meal and become a nuisance. According to Myron Means, large carnivore coordinator for the AGFC, 90 percent of the calls received about nuisance bears stem from the bears finding food in the form of unsecured trash cans, loose pet food and bird feeders. And the problem can be solved quickly with the removal or securing of those attractants. As part of the AGFC’s nuisance protocol, biologists won’t remove a bear that is being fed, either intentionally or unintentionally, through human means.

“We just don’t have the staff or equipment to respond to a dozen calls a day, which is how many we can receive in a bad year,” Means said. “We had so many calls that were about bears where people were feeding wildlife that we had to change our protocol to have all food removed before we would relocate a bear. And it doesn’t matter how far we remove that bear if it’s an adult, they can instinctively find their way back to their home range and be right back on that food source if the root of the problem isn’t corrected.”

“Once a bear goes to that easy food source and finds it empty a few times, they will go elsewhere to get a meal. But if people leave food out or intentionally feed the bears, that’s when we get into nuisance problems. Most people do not realize that it is actually illegal to feed bears in Arkansas except during a bear hunting season and 30 days prior.

Means explains that bears can become habituated to finding the free meal and often it’s the result of someone thinking they need to help the bear or keep it around for pictures and entertainment. Once that bear begins to lose its fear of people, it can become more aggressive or damage property seeking more food. With no negative response at bad behavior, the bear doesn’t know any better than to continue seeking food and pushing its way around. “That’s not good for people, and removing it isn’t good for the bear,” Means said. “It’s best to simply stop the feeding and make sure the bear gets the hint that it’s not welcome from the beginning.”

Biologists from throughout the Southeast have worked together to help people learn more about bears and how to live in areas where bears may be present. Together, they formed a special website to deliver bear safety tips and information. Visit www.bearwise.org to learn more.

AUGUST IS ARKANSAS CATFISH MONTH    08/14/20

Governor Hutchinson has proclaimed August as Arkansas Catfish Month. During a ceremony today at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, agriculture leaders, industry partners, and Arkansas catfish industry representatives joined Secretary Wes Ward for the Arkansas Catfish Month proclamation presentation. The proclamation highlights the state’s catfish industry and its value to Arkansas’s economy and agriculture industry.

Arkansas consistently ranks in the top three states in the nation in the production of foodsize, farm-raised catfish. Arkansas catfish farmers contributed $19.7 million to Arkansas’s agricultural economy in 2019.

“Agriculture is our state’s number one industry, and it has been successful due to the hard work and perseverance of the farmers and ranchers who work hard every day to provide our state with healthy food. Arkansas catfish farmers sold over 18.6 million pounds of foodsize fish in 2019, contributing greatly to our state’s economy,” said Hutchinson.

Each year, agriculture contributes more the $21 billion in economic value to the state’s economy.

“The catfish industry is an important part of Arkansas’s diverse agricultural industry and keeps the state nationally competitive in catfish production,” said Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward.

If you’re looking to put some fresh-caught catfish on your plate this weekend, De Queen and Millwood Lake are a good place to do so. Mike Siefert at Millwood Lake said catfish have slowed over the past couple of weeks but cut shad, goldfish and chicken gizzards are still working well for 2 to 4 pound blues and channel cats. At De Queen Lake, catfish is always a common catch and will be found frying at many campsites right now.

DESPITE COVID-19, CRATER OF DIAMONDS STATE PARK STILL OPEN   08/14/20

The Crater of Diamonds State Park wants everyone to know, despite COVID-19, they’re still welcome to come by and try their hand at taking home a real Arkansas diamond.

With the many disruptions we have faced this year, however, it can be comforting to know that some things haven’t changed much.

The Crater of Diamonds remains the only place in the country where anyone can search for diamonds in their original source. A volcanic pipe erupted here around 100 million years ago, carrying diamonds from deep underground.

Diamonds are still found the same ways they have been for decades. Some park visitors closely search the ground for diamonds, like looking for a dropped earring or coin. Most larger diamonds at the park are discovered this way. They are shiny and often found on the surface the first sunny day after a good rain.

Visitors can also still take rocks and minerals home from the park. Most people collect souvenir stones from the search area, but a few take their sifted gravel home in hopes of finding diamonds they overlooked while here. Park regulations allow each guest to take up to five gallons of sifted gravel home each day.

Visitors are reminded that, due to COVID-19, the park is not renting out mining or digging tools at this time. Visitors however are welcome to bring their own. To promote social distancing tickets must be purchased online or at the park visitor center. There are 800 available tickets every day. The diamond mine remains open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.

In addition to diamond searching, there continue to be many other ways to enjoy Crater of Diamonds State Park. Visitors can plan an extended stay in the park’s campground, which features 47 campsites with water, electricity, and tent pads, and five tent sites with water only. Campers can check availability and reserve campsites for an upcoming visit on the park’s website.

The park’s trails also remain open for anyone looking for a fun afternoon exploring the outdoors. The Little Missouri River Trail winds from the campground to a scenic overlook of the Little Missouri River. Half of the looping, 1.2-mile path is paved and barrier-free, making it the longest wheelchair-accessible trail in Southwest Arkansas.

Although a whole lot has changed this year, the park’s mission remains the same. The Crater of Diamonds continues to be a great place to chase dreams while enjoying the outdoors. For more information, visit the Crater of Diamonds online at arkansasstateparks.com

AREA UNDER FLASH WARNING, WATCH TODAY    08/12/20

A flash flood warning is currently in effect for the listening area, including Sevier, Howard, Little River and Hempstead Counties in Arkansas, and McCurtain County in Oklahoma. The watch is in effect this morning until 3 p.m.
A flash flood watch is also in effect throughout the day.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service say the area is expected to receive between two to four inches of rain, with isolated pockets of five to eight inches possible. The flash flood warning states that flash flooding is either ongoing or expected to begin shortly in parts of the affected area.
Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads. In hilly terrain, there are hundreds of low water crossings that can be potentially dangerous in heavy rains. Do not attempt to cross flooded road ways. Try to find an alternate route.
Please report flooding to your local law enforcement agency when you can do so safely. Areas which have reported flooded roadways this morning include Highway 71S at the bottom of Fall’s Chapel and near the Ben Lomond Turnoff, and on Highway 371 between Lockesburg and Nashville.
DE QUEEN HIGH SCHOOL COMES IN $315,000 UNDER BUDGET    08/12/20

Clark Contractors out of Little Rock has finished construction of the new De Queen High School. The building project was under contract for the amount of $13,657,107. At the August 2020 school board meeting, Superintendent Jason Sanders shared the good news that the project was completed on time and actually came in under budget. The new two story 76, 000 sq. ft. building was finished at $315,5000 under budget.

On Time and Under Budget – The Clark Contracting team presents a check for $315,000 to De Queen Superintendent Jason Sanders, pictured second from left, after construction of the new De Queen High School came in under budget. The new high school is finished and will fully welcome students this school year.
Sanders was presented a check from Clark Contractors to represent the savings from the project.The savings will be utilized in a Phase 2 project at the Old High School which includes demolition of part of the old high school, an expansion of the junior high cafeteria, a new tv production lab, and the renovation of several existing offices and classrooms.
Sanders stated “ De Queen Public Schools continue to strive to have some of the nicest school facilities in Arkansas. Our staff and students are excited to move into these new facilities and we look forward to many years of its use in our school district.”
ARKANSAS CASINO PROPOSAL WILL NOT BE ON THIS YEAR’S BALLOT   08/12/20
An effort to allow more casinos in Arkansas will not be on this year’s ballot.

According to the Arkansas Wins in 2020 group, it will no longer seek a legal challenge against Secretary of State John Thurston, who refused to place the issue on the ballot after his office determined that a number of paid canvassers had not passed the necessary background checks.

The issue, if it had made it to this year’s ballot, would have asked Arkansas voters to authorize 16 more casinos across the state. Amendment 100 currently allows casinos in Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson and Pope Counties.

Thurston announced last month that paid canvassers for the Arkansas Wins group did not pass their background checks, which is required under state law. Arkansas Wins challenged Thurston’s ruling but announced on Tuesday they would file a non-suit, thereby ending the challenge. In effect, the non-suit means the casino is all but dead in the water and will not be included as an issue on this year’s ballot.

HORATIO BOARD OF EDUCATION FINALIZES BACK-TO-SCHOOL PLANS   08/12/20

The Horatio Board of Education approved its Ready for Learning and re-entry plans during its regular meeting Monday night.

The Ready for Learning and re-entry plans detail the district’s preparedness in regards to the return of school this month. The Horatio School District will return to class on Aug. 24 with both traditional in-person as well as virtual learning options.

The virtual learning option will be based on the district’s approved curriculum as well as the Lincoln Learning program. School officials will also perform assessments of students to determine the effect and loss of learning after the early closure of schools in the spring due to COVID-19. Superintendent Zane Vanderpool said the district will also address unfinished learning through a state-based recovery system in the high school.

Parents and students can review the details of the district’s Ready for Learning and re-entry plans at horatioschools.org or on the district’s Facebook page.

During Monday’s meeting, Vanderpool also reported on a number of improvements to the district’s campuses, including new interior paint for the entire school.

Vanderpool said face masks will be required for all staff and students 10 years of age and older, when social distancing is not possible. This is based off state education and health directives. Masks must follow the district’s dress code policies and not feature insignias or any vulgar material. This requirement will also be enforced on the district’s school buses.

In an interview following the school board meeting, Vanderpool said the district’s football and other sports programs will continue as normal for the upcoming school year. Vanderpool said, however, the district is reviewing and examining all of its budgets to ensure financial stability into the future. Vanderpool said school expenditures are rising while the student population, and therefore state financial resources, are declining. Vanderpool said Lions Head Football Coach Lantz Castleman and his coaching team began full training following authorization by the state to do so.

In other business, the Horatio Board of Education voted to reassign Jessica Glasgow as the district’s gifted and talented and EAST Lab teacher. Martha Bennet was hired as the point of contact person for Horatio Public Schools.

The board also approved the school start date of Aug. 24, with classes scheduled to end May 27. Finally, the board granted the transfer of two students to De Queen Public Schools as well as accepted four students from De Queen to Horatio Schools.

SEVIER COUNTY CLERK RELEASES ABSENTEE VOTING GUIDELINES  08/12/20

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order last week which, in effect, allows every Arkansan to vote absentee during the November General Election. The mandate was issued in order to calm fears related to the spread of COVID-19 during this year’s election.

In order to assist local voters, the Sevier County Clerk’s Office has provided information on how you can obtain and enter an absentee ballot this year.

Any registered voter who would like to vote absentee can apply for a ballot immediately. Voters are required to check a box selecting their reason for voting absentee. County Clerk Debbie Akin said the office will accept any application that has checked the box stating you, quote, “will be unavoidably absent from your polling place on election day – end quote.

Registered voters must apply to vote absentee. The application form is available by calling the county clerk’s office at (870) 642-2852 or by emailing countyclerk@sevco.ar.gov.

The application form will need to be printed and returned via mail to Sevier County Clerk, 115 North Third Street, Room 102, De Queen, AR 71832. Compled applications can also be faxed to 642-3896, or returned via email to countyclerk@sevco.ar.gov

The earliest date that ballots will be mailed is Sept. 18. If you choose to handle the process entirely by mail, you are encouraged to return the form as soon as possible.

When filling out the application, a voter may request to have someone pick up and return the ballot for them. That person must be designated by filling out the appropriate designated bearer information on the absentee voting application.

If you plan on submitting your absentee application in person, you must do so by the close of business the day before the election. If submitting by mail or by electronic forms, applications must be received by seven days before the election.

The ballot itself must be submitted in person by the close of business the day before the election. If submitting a ballot through a designated bearer, the bearer must submit the ballot by 7:30 p.m. on election day. Absentee ballots returned via mail must be received by the county clerk’s office by 7:30 p.m. on election day.

You may not fax or email a completed ballot. Currently active military personnel and citizens currently overseas must submit their ballots within 10 days after the election.

ARKANSAS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR VIRTUAL START OF SCHOOL YEAR    08/12/20
The Arkansas Education Association is calling on state lawmakers for a virtual start to the upcoming school year. Earlier this week, the group announced its opinion that the current COVID-19 environment is too unsafe for schools to return to in-person learning.

At this point, De Queen, Horatio, Ashdown and other surrounding school districts are set to return to in-class learning on or around Aug. 24.

Carol Fleming, president of the AEA, asked state lawmakers to join the group’s call for education officials to make a conscientious decision to keep children, educators and communities safe by beginning the 20-21 school year with virtual only instruction.

“While we agree in-person education is the best thing for students, moving kids and educators in and out of school based on isolation and quarantine protocols will be too risky and too disruptive to the teaching and learning environment,” Fleming said. “Let’s work together to maximize the next two weeks to ensure that we keep students and educators safe, and prepare for a new way to deliver education and support until we can get this virus under control.”

While acknowledging the AEA’s concerns, state lawmakers have not stated any intentions at this point towards postponing the return of school or limiting instruction to virtual learning.

BACK-TO-SCHOOL: MASK UP TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD AND OTHERS  08/12/20
Parents of children heading to school later this month likely have a new addition to their back-to-school supply lists: face masks.

All area schools are planning to re-open later this month. Depending on the school, they are offering on-site instruction, remote learning or both options. One thing that will be common among all of them, however, is the requirement for most students to wear masks in class.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children 2 years and older wear a mask over their nose and mouth when in public settings where it’s difficult to practice social distancing. Arkansas’ mask mandate requires people to wear masks in all indoor and outdoor environments where people are exposed to non-household members and where social distancing isn’t possible. The mandate, however, exempts children under 10.

Education officials say as part of their back-to-school preparations parents should also include conversations with your children about protecting themselves and those around them by wearing a mask, washing their hands well, and keeping a safe distance from others.

Younger children, in particular, may need some practice. Having your younger child wear a mask at home to get used to it before starting school can make the first day easier, Schrick said.

Having a comfortable mask is important too. Masks can be made or purchased in a variety of sizes, styles and colors. Locally, masks can be found at many retail stores including Walmart, Tractor Supply and Dollar General. Several people on the Sevier County Swap Shop Facebook page are also offering a variety of masks.

MORE COUNTIES UNDER WATCH FOR EQUINE VIRUS    08/12/20

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has issued movement restrictions for horses in four Arkansas counties in reaction to the detection of the vesicular stomatitis virus, commonly referred to as VSV, in southern Missouri and eastern Oklahoma.

The virus, which is highly contagious among hooved animals and can also be transmitted to humans, was detected in Ozark County in Missouri and Adair County in Oklahoma.

The new restrictions brings the total number of counties under watch to eight — movement restrictions were issued for Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties in late July after VSV was identified in three horses at an equine facility in Benton County.

VSV is not a new phenomenon, but state and federal departments of agriculture try to arrest outbreaks as quickly as possible whenever they occur. The current outbreak was first detected in the United States on April 13, 2020, and has since been identified on more than 300 premises in eight states.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, VSV primarily affects horses and cattle, although it may affect other hooved animals such as sheep, goats and swine. Humans can also become infected with the virus when handling the animals and coming into contact with infected saliva or nasal secretions.

It is primarily spread among animals through black flies and other biting insects. The virus outbreak in Benton County appears to be a strain specific to horses.

Owners of equine, cattle and other hooved animals in Arkansas preparing to transport their animals to other states should check with veterinary authorities in the destination states regarding what, if any, certifications are required.

Arkansans who have questions about VSV, including what symptoms to be aware of, or if they suspect animals on their property may be infected with the virus, should contact the state veterinarian’s office at 501-823-1733, or visit https://www.agriculture.arkansas.gov

ADH UPDATES LOCAL COVID-19 FIGURES     08/12/20

As of Tuesday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases increased by four from Monday to 996.
Active Positives however continue to see a steady decrease, with health officials reporting four less cases on Tuesday. The total active cases in Sevier County is now 47.

Deaths remain at 10. There have been 939 recoveries since the start of the pandemic.

In neighboring counties, Little River County active cases decreased significantly by 39 to a current total of 27. Cumulative cases increased by four to 185. Deaths remain at one.

Howard County Active Positives increased by six to 59. Total cases increased by 13 to 355. Deaths in Howard County due to COVID-19 remain at four.

In Polk County, Active Positives increased by one to 17. Total cases increased by two to 150. Deaths remain at one.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, active cases in McCurtain County decreased by one to 82. Total cases increased by seven to 865. Deaths remain at 28.

DE QUEEN HIGH SCHOOL WILL BE READY FOR 2020-2021 STUDENTS 08/11/20

The start of classes is less than two weeks away but students entering De Queen High School are going to start the school year with a brand new facility.
That was the big message shared during Monday night’s meeting of the De Queen School Board. Superintendent Jason Sanders informed board members that the new high school is finished and ready to go for the 2020-2021 school year. The announcement is sure to be a big morale booster for students entering a school year fraught with uncertainty.
Clark Contractors, which won the $13.5 million bid to complete the new high school, was on hand to take part in another big piece of good news: the project was finished not just on time, but also under budget. During the meeting the Clark contracting team presented a check for over $315,000 in unspent funds to the school district.
District officials also reported that 570 students are scheduled to participate in the district’s virtual learning option this fall. As with every other school district across the country, De Queen is hosting a virtual learning experience that has never before been used on such a large scale. There’s a lot of uncertainty for the road head, as Sanders detailed during an interview following last night’s meeting:
One big question parents of these students may be asking: will their child be able to participate in the district’s extracurricular activities? Sanders said yes, virtual students will be able to participate in any and all extracurricular activities as long as they meet the traditional guidelines.
It’s been no small challenge, but Sanders said the district is ready for the start of school. Students enrolling in the district’s online option are being provided with Chromebooks. Students and parents are getting training on the learning materials and on how the virtual learning environment is expected to progress.

Sanders then discussed the new, 76,000 square-foot high school which will fully welcome students this fall. With COVID-19 dominating the news coverage on the start of school, Sanders said the district is proud to launch the new facility later this month.

De Queen’s last high school served its purpose for 50 years, if not always adequately. Sanders said the new high school is expected to serve the educational needs of area students for another 50 years. That moment – a moment which is historical, at the very least for the new students who will benefit from it – will begin in less than two weeks, on Aug. 24.

ONE STUDENT DEAD, ANOTHER INJURED AFTER SHOOTING AT SAU 08/11/20

Law enforcement agencies in Magnolia are investigating a shooting which left one student dead and another injured early Tuesday morning.

Southern Arkansas University released information on its Facebook page in relation to the incident:

”Southern Arkansas University grieves the loss of current student, Joshua Keshun Smith, a senior engineering physics major from Sparkman, Arkansas.

At approximately 12:56 a.m., the University Police Department reported three students living off-campus came onto campus and met someone in the parking lot of the Donald W. Reynolds Campus Community Center. After a brief discussion, numerous shots were fired. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene. Another student was transported by ambulance to the Magnolia Regional Medical Center and is in stable condition.

When tragedy happens, we all must come together to reassure our students and campus community of our ongoing commitment to their safety. Now, more than ever, we must find ways to safely comfort one another. We are deeply saddened by the death of Josh Smith. Our prayers surround his family.”

All necessary steps have been taken to secure the campus, according to university officials. Classes and late registration will continue as scheduled today. The case remains under investigation.

NASHVILLE WOMAN KILLED IN ACCIDENT SUNDAY MORNING 08/11/20

According to the Arkansas State Police, a Nashville woman died Sunday morning following a single-vehicle accident in Hempstead County.

Investigators say 29-year-old Christina Marie Hines was driving a Ford Edge south on Arkansas 73 around 4 a.m. Sunday morning when her vehicle left the road way. It then struck a guardrail and overturned in an adjacent creek. According to the preliminary crash report, the accident occurred in a creek north of Hope.

No one else was in the vehicle. The investigating state trooper reported conditions as clear and dry at the time of the crash.

LEEANN PITCHFORD ANNOUNCES BID FOR CITY COUNCIL 08/11/20

LeeAnn Pitchford has announced her intention to run for the Ward Two, Position One seat on the De Queen City Council. The following is her announcement:

My name is Lee Ann Pitchford, and I am running for Ward Two, Position  
One on the De Queen City Council in November.

I moved here in the early 1980’s and began my emergency medical career  
in nursing school. My late husband and I started our family and raised  
our two children here, Megan (Pitchford) England, and Ryan Nigo. I  
have been with the ambulance services in Sevier County, currently  
Southwest EMS, for over thirty years. I have seen you and your  
families at their best and their worst.

I have seen many changes in De Queen over the last 40 years and would  
love to be able to be a part of bringing new change in the future.  
It’s time to get busy. It’s time to grow. It’s time for new ideas.

I would love to have the opportunity to be your voice on the De Queen  
City Council and would appreciate your vote.

DOMTAR TO PERMANENTLY SHUTTER ASHDOWN PAPER MACHINE 08/11/20

Domtar has announced it will permanently shutter its Ashdown based paper machine. The announcement was made on Friday following the release of the company’s second quarter earnings report.

That means the Ashdown-based production facility will now solely produce wood pulp.

According to company officials, the closure means approximately 109 employees will lose their jobs. The shutdown takes place immediately.

The plant’s A62 paper machine was idled earlier this year due to financial upsets caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. At that time 142 employees were laid off. Last week’s announcement means the production line will be permanently idled.

In an email obtained by KDQN, a company spokesperson said the machine was closed in order to, quote, “maintain a balance between our production needs and our customer demand.”

The spokesperson said some recovery in demand for communications paper occurred as the economy re-opened, but not enough recovery to justify restarting operations on the idled machine.

In its latest financial report, the company reported operating income of $14 million for the second quarter of 2020. That’s a drop from the first quarter, when Domtar posted earnings of $19 million. Depreciation and amortization alone totaled $71 million in Domtar’s second quarter.

When compared to the first quarter of 2020, manufactured paper shipments were down 32 percent, according to last week’s earning report. Pump shipments, however, increased 10 percent over the same period.

The shuttering of Ashdown’s paper mill, combined with similar shutdowns at other Domtar facilities across the country, is expected to save the company $200 million in annual expenses.

The company expects the overall environment to continue to present challenges. Paper demand is expected to remain weak with possible increases towards the end of the year.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS            08/11/20

As of Monday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases increased by three from Sunday to 992.
Active Positives decreased by two to 51.

Deaths remain at 10. There have been 931 recoveries since the start of the pandemic.

In neighboring counties, Little River County active cases decreased by four to 66. Cumulative cases remained unchanged at 181. Deaths remain at one.

Howard County Active Positives decreased by 11 to 53. Total cases increased by two to 342. Deaths in Howard County due to COVID-19 remain at four.

In Polk County, Active Positives increased by three to 16. Total cases increased by six to 148. Deaths remain at one.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, active cases in McCurtain County remained unchanged at 83. Total cases increased by four to 858. Deaths remain at 28.

SEVIER COUNTY QUORUM COURT DISCUSSES COURTHOUSE REOPENING, SALES TAX COLLECTIONS            08/11/20

The Sevier County Quorum Court met Monday afternoon to discuss a relatively brief agenda.

After dealing with some minor routine matters, the quorum court turned to several matters related to the area’s new hospital. Justices of the peace authorized moving sales tax collections for the hospital to the county’s general fund. The move is designed to enhance transparency for legislative auditors.

The quorum court also authorized a $25,000 payment towards finalization of the county’s federal hazard mitigation plan. This plan is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure the county receives federal resources and assistance in the event of an emergency. County Judge Greg Ray said around $18,000 will be reimbursed to the county once the mitigation plan process is completed.

In addition, justices of the peace authorized the Sevier County Circuit Clerk’s Office to purchase a laptop for $4,127. That price includes all the necessary court programs, firewalls and other needed software. The laptop will be used in the event circuit court jury trials are held off site in order to better follow social distancing guidelines. Circuit Court Clerk Kathy Smith said off-site jury trials are likely due to current directives.

Ray also stated that he plans to have the courthouse reopened to the public in the next couple of weeks once work is completed on glass partitions for employees in the building. The courthouse has been closed to the public since May due to COVID-19. Visitors can still visit the courthouse but must schedule an appointment and have their temperature checked at the door.

County officials were also pleased with sales tax collections from April and May, which were higher than expected. Ray said that’s due to more people shopping locally.

“This is great for Sevier County and for our businesses,” he said. “Keep it up Sevier County.”

The Sevier County Quorum Court is scheduled to meet again on Monday, Sept. 14.

TODAY IS LAST DAY FOR VIRTUAL LEARNING REGISTRATION AT ASHDOWN SCHOOLS 08/11/20

Ashdown Public Schools is asking parents of incoming students to contact them by the end of today if they wish for their child to participate in the off-site blended learning option.

The campus will schedule a time for parents to pick up their child’s assigned electronic devise and discuss expectations for off-site virtual learners. Students are strongly encouraged to commit to a minimum of four weeks of blended learning. Reliable internet is necessary.

Classes will return for both in-class and off-site options on Aug. 24.

DEADLINE TODAY FOR VIRTUAL LEARNING OPTION REGISTRATION AT DE QUEEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS   08/10/20

Parents of incoming De Queen students who want to choose a virtual learning option for their child must register by the end 3 p.m. this afternoon.
This option will complement the normal, in-class environment set to begin Aug. 24.
For parents and students choosing the virtual option, learning will take place through a 100 percent internet-based, state-approved curriculum that can be completed at home. Interested families must have internet access at home.
Electronic devices will be provided by the district if needed. The virtual option is available for all students kindergarten through 12.
Virtual students will still be able to participate in district extracurricular activities.
The registration form is available on the district website at dequeenleopards.org. Students will be asked to commit to virtual instruction for a semester-by-semester basis.
For more information contact the administration office at (870) 584-4312.
TRI-LAKES BIG BASS TOURNAMENT SCHEDULED FOR SEPT. 5  08/10/20
Registration is going on now for the 31st Annual Tri-Lakes Big Bass Tournament.

The tournament, hosted by the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce and traditionally scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend, was postponed earlier this year due to COVID-19. But organizers say they are now ready to hold this year’s event, set for Saturday, Sept. 5.

The Big Bass Festival is held each year on De Queen, Dierks and Gillham Lakes. Registration is going on now but can also be performed at 5 a.m. on Sept. 5 at Oak Grove and Rollin Fork landings on De Queen Lake; Big and Little Coon Creek landings on Gillham Lake; and at Jefferson Ridge on Dierks. The tournament begins at 6 a.m. sharp and continues until 1 p.m.

Registration is $45 per person if completed by September 4 at 4 p.m., and $50 anytime after. This year, tournament organizers are offering a $65 registration bundle, which includes participation fees and a tournament cap. If you wear this hat during the hourly weigh-in, and if you catch takes first place, you’ll win an additional $100. The deadline for bundle registration is Aug. 24.

Over $10,000 is donated each year during the Tri-Lakes Big Bass Tournament. Over $1,00 in door prizes will be given away, and can be picked up at Oak Grove Landing or mailed to you. Top prize is $1,500, second is $1,000, third $750, fourth $500 and fifth is $300. There are five hourly prizes awarded each hour throughout the event.

Due to COVID-19, however, no award ceremony will be held following the tournament. All winners will receive their prize money through mail.

Participants are reminded that winners of the top five prizes may undergo a polygraph test following the event. The test will be performed in De Queen.

For more information or to obtain a registration form, call Greg Ray at (870) 642-2445 or the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce at (870) 584-3225.

MUNICIPAL FILING PERIOD ENDS WITH ONE RACE IN DE QUEEN; OTHER POSITIONS IN SEVIER COUNTY UNCONTESTED   08/10/20
The municipal filing period ended in Sevier County last week. There will be one race for De Queen voters to decide this fall: the seat of ward two, position one on the De Queen City Council. LeeAnn Pitchford filed to run against incumbent Teresa Bunyard for that seat on the city council.

No other races were filed. Candidates who will not see challengers during the General Election include, in De Queen, city councilors Kathy Richards, Jeff Holcombe, Jason Lofton, Rick Pruitt and Troy Cravens.

In Gillham, Barbara Smith, Jayne Cole, Judy Smith and Shana Newberry will all run uncontested for seats on the Gillham City Council.

City councilors in Horatio running unopposed include Desiree Barringer, John Payne, Borden Neel and Hollis DeVasier. Debbie Neel will run unopposed for the position of Horatio clerk/treasurer.

Ben Lomond aldermen running unopposed include George Lanier, William Hatridge, Debbie Jaquess, Katherine Gail McKellar and Scott Pearson.

In Lockesburg, only one city councilor filed for the position in time for last week’s deadline, Sandy Webb. The other five remaining seats on the city council will have to be filled by appointment. Rebecca Jegstrup will not see a challenger for the office of Lockesburg Clerk/Treasurer.

LEGALIZATION OF ALCOHOL SALES WILL BE ON BALLOT FOR SEVIER COUNTY VOTERS   08/10/20

According to the Sevier County Clerk’s Office, the legalization of alcohol sales will be on this year’s ballot for county voters to decide.
The process of certifying petition signatures for the ballot initiative was completed Friday, according to county clerk Debbie Akin. Slightly more than 2,700 petition signatures from Sevier County registered voters were certified. A total of 2,573 signatures were needed for the issue to reach county voters during the November General Election.
Among the local, state and national races scheduled for this year’s General Election, county voters will also now be able to vote whether or not to legalize the sale of alcohol in Sevier County. If the ballot issue passes, restaurants will also be able to apply for licenses to serve alcohol on their premises.
The ballot issue will be determined by a simple majority vote. The General Election is scheduled for Nov. 3.

AUGUST IS NATIONAL IMMUNIZATION AWARENESS MONTH 08/10/20

With children headed back to school this month, now is the perfect time for many families to get caught up on immunizations. The summer of 2020 may be more critical than previous summers, as there is a concern that immunizations have declined in recent months due to the pandemic.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month.

National Immunization Awareness Month is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.

When you receive immunizations, your chance of becoming ill from diseases is much lower. Furthermore, if you become sick, you will likely experience a milder case than if you were not vaccinated. Immunizations lower your risk of complications from infectious diseases, such as seasonal flu and shingles. They can also reduce your risk of a hospital stay. This prevention is especially important now, as hundreds of people are currently in the hospital for COVID-19.

Although we think of the fall as flu season, Dr. Jose Romero, Secretary of Health at the Arkansas Department of Health, has stated that August is the time of year when health providers start vaccinating against influenza.

Typically, only half of Arkansans receive a flu shot every year. The Health Department is hoping to increase that percentage this year.

Dr. Romero also stated this week that we don’t know yet what the confluence is between influenza and COVID-19.

The Health Department will have the flu vaccine available next month. The department will hold drive-thru vaccination clinics starting Sept. 21. The vaccine will also be made available to schools throughout the state. Clinics and pharmacies may have the flu vaccine available even sooner.

As a reminder, Arkansas law requires all students attending Arkansas schools and licensed childcare facilities to be vaccinated against certain diseases, unless an official exemption form is filed. Visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov  to learn more.

SEVERAL MEETINGS TO BE HELD THROUGHOUT AREA TODAY 08/10/20

The De Queen School Board is scheduled to meet in regular session on tonight, Aug. 10 starting at 5:30 p.m. in the De Queen High School Cafeteria. Following a report by Superintendent Jason Sanders, district officials will discuss a number of items related to the start of school this month. The school board will also vote on student transfers and resignations. The meeting is open to the public.

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The Horatio Board of Education will meet in regular session this eveningat 6 p.m. The meeting will be held in the administration building.

Items on the agenda include revisions to the school calendar and superintendent and building reports. School officials will also discuss the district’s 2020-2021 Ready for Learning and Re-Entry Plans. Student transfers and the hiring of gifted and talented teacher will also be voted on.

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The Sevier County Quorum Court will meet in regular session this afternoonat 2 p.m. in the De Queen High School Cafeteria. Items on the agenda include an update from the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Visitors.

Justices of the peace are also asked to appoint Joan Moore to fill a vacancy on the Sevier County Library Board. Other items include a vote on transferring sales tax from the one percent hospital sales tax fund to the county general fund. This is for auditing purposes and to allow the county to pay $173,000 for invoices submitted by the hospital’s architectural firm. The meeting is open to the public.

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Sign ups for Horatio Pee Wee football begins today and continues through Wednesday, Aug. 12 at the football practice field. Sign ups begin at 5:30 p.m. with practice to start at 6 p.m. If you have questions, contact Walter at (870) 832-4715. Due to COVID-19, De Queen Parks & Recreation will not have fall sports this year. This includes football and soccer. At this point, the city’s basketball program has not been affected.

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The local American Legion unit will host its monthly meeting this evening at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held outside the Legion Hut building on Eighth Street in De Queen. Contact James Jacobs at (870) 642-4645 for more information.

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The Sevier County Equalization Board will hold the first of its equalization hearings today, Aug. 10 at 4:30 p.m. There will be a second meeting for hearings on Monday, Aug. 17 at 5 p.m. Hearings could be scheduled beyond this date if it became necessary. Anyone desiring to schedule an assessment appeal should call the Sevier County Clerk’s Office at 870-642-2852. The last day to call to request a hearing is Monday, Aug. 24 regular office hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

HOSPITAL BOARD DISCUSSES UPCOMING PROJECTS, DISCUSSES EXPECTED GROUNDBREAKING IN NOVEMBER   08/07/20

The Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors announced some significant developments during its meeting Thursday towards the construction of a new area hospital.

Much of the meeting focused on the less glamorous but nonetheless vital aspects of constructing a new hospital, such as sewer and water service. The board heard from an engineer present at the meeting who discussed one of the huge tasks ahead: construction of 19,000 feet of sewer main line from De Queen to the hospital, which will located on Highway 71 several miles north of the city

The project is estimated to cost between $1.2-1.5 million. Board Chairman Dr. Steve Cole said the hospital will apply for an Economic Development Authority grant which would cover up to 70 percent of the project costs. The project would likely take around 150 days to complete.

Due to the high pressure characteristics of the sewer main, the engineer said it would be unlikely that rural customers living in proximity to the new line will be able to connect to it.

Dr. Cole detailed some of Thursday’s developments during a discussion we had following yesterday’s meeting:

Actions taken on Thursday included approving the hospital’s application to join the Arkansas Hospital Association.

Bond sales are expected to begin in the coming weeks. Bond sales will end Sept. 29 and construction can begin immediately after. That means a likely groundbreaking in October. Board members were also pleased with sales tax collections so far, which has brought in around $360,000 from April and May alone.

“That goes to show you that, with everything going on, people are staying and shopping locally,” said Dr. Cole. “That’s good for our local economy and it’s good for the new hospital.”

A sign is expected to be built on the new hospital site as soon as the board receives confirmation from architects that it will not be placed in the way of construction.

THREE-VEHICLE ACCIDENT BRINGS TRAFFIC TO A STOP ON COLLIN RAYE DRIVE AND NINTH STREET    08/07/20

A three-vehicle accident brought traffic to a momentary standstill Thursday afternoon at the intersection of Collin Raye Drive and Ninth Street in De Queen. According to a report taken by the De Queen Police Department, a semi-truck was driving east on Collin Raye Drive when it struck a Ford F-150 which then continued on to strike a Toyota Camry. Both the F-150 and Camry were stopped at the red light when the accident occurred. The driver of the semi-truck reported that his brakes failed and he was not able to stop in time. Fortunately, no one was injured in the accident.

COMPANY RECEIVES GRANT TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL INTERNET OPTION IN NASHVILLE     08/07/20

The Arkansas Department of Commerce has announced its fourth Arkansas Rural Connect (ARC) broadband grant. The grant, in the amount of $448,450 is awarded to the City of Nashville in partnership with Premier Holdings, LLC. The project will deploy fixed wireless to homes in Nashville.

This is the fourth project that the Department of Commerce has funded through the ARC Program.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has provided challenges for Arkansas,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “However, it has also provided us a unique opportunity to deploy broadband quickly to communities. By the end of the year, the entire city of Nashville will have 25/3 Mbps broadband, which is a great step as we close the digital divide in Arkansas.”

The Arkansas Department of Commerce received $19.3M in CARES Act funds for ARC grants after an approval from the CARES Act Steering Committee and the Arkansas legislature. The goal of the program is to provide high-speed broadband to rural communities.

“Nashville is an important piece to the economy in Southwest Arkansas and District 10,” said State Senator Larry Teague. “Connecting Nashville with high-speed broadband will ensure that we can continue to grow and thrive.”

The department is currently evaluating applications with a focus on projects that can deploy broadband to qualified areas before December 30. De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown said he is currently in discussion with Premier Broadband over the possibility of a similar project in Sevier County. The company has been in discussions with city officials on the use of De Queen’s water tower to bring additional internet options to the area.

HOSPITAL BOARD HEARS PROPOSAL OVER SAFE HAVEN BABY BOX     08/07/20

Imagine if there was a way to help prevent the death of abandoned babies in the local area. That’s exactly what one De Queen resident is hoping to accomplish as officials continue developing the area’s new hospital.

Jim Smith of De Queen attended Thursday’s meeting of the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors to discuss how such an effort could be accomplished locally.

A former De Queen police chief, Smith started his presentation by discussing how his first case involved the abandonment and death of an infant child. It was something he saw far to often during his career, and it’s something that left a deep mark on him.

Jim Smith of De Queen discusses a baby box during Thursday’s meeting of the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors. A baby box allows mothers to safely, anonymously and legally abandon a baby in a protected environment. The baby would then be given to the Department of Human Services for adoption. The baby box is designed to enhance the survival of unwanted babies. Smith is asking hospital officials to incorporate a baby box into the design of the new medical center.

Smith said the problem was alleviated somewhat by laws that now allow mothers to legally and voluntarily surrender a child who is 30 days old or younger. But, that still leaves the question of where to bring that baby, especially after-hours or on weekends.

“One of the tools we can use to facilitate this, is a baby box,” said Smith. A baby box, or baby hatch, is a secured container in which mothers can safely and anonymously abandon their baby.

Abandonment of newborn children is a hideous problem, but a tool like the baby box can mean the difference between the baby’s death or survival. The baby box is typically located at a public facility which is manned 24-hours. There is no location in Sevier County which meets the requirements. That is, until the new hospital is completed.

“People will be there 24-hours a day, there will always be someone on site who can quickly respond if a mother uses it,” Smith said.

Once a child is placed in the baby box, lights and alerts are sent out to trained professionals and first responders who will arrive almost instantly to provide care. The baby would then be given to the Department of Human Services as soon as possible for adoption to a forever home.

The cost to install the baby box and train local professionals is around $15,000. Smith said the company which produces these boxes prefers to use private donations to fund them, as opposed to public money.

Smith asked the hospital board to consider allowing installation of a baby box on the property of the new medical center.

“If it’s not at the hospital, there’s nowhere else in the area to put it,” he said. “My thought is, if this can save one baby, it’s something we need to try.”

Smith and the medical center board are expected to discuss the baby box further in the future.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS     08/07/20

As of Thursday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 969 (increase of 11 from Wednesday)
Active Positives: 49 (increase of 5)
Recoveries: 910 (increase of 6)
Deaths: 10 (unchanged)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County:
Total Cases 164 (increase of 4)
Active Positives 69 (decrease of 1)
Deaths 1 (unchanged)

Howard County:
Total Cases 322 (increase of 14)
Active Positives 68 (decrease of 7)
Deaths 3 (increase of 1)

Polk County:
Total Cases 137 (increase of 3)
Active Positives 13 (unchanged)
Deaths 1 (unchanged)

McCurtain County:
Total Cases 839 (increase of 1)
Active Positives 82 (decrease of 3)Deaths 28 (unchanged)

COVID-19 TOTAL CASES RISES TO OVER 47,000; DEATHS INCREASE TO 515     08/07/20

Gov. Asa Hutchinson was in Washington, D.C. Thursday for a meeting on the National Governor’s Conference, so we don’t have that daily report for you. But, health experts with the Arkansas Department of Health did provide some updated figures related to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the state. They also stressed the importance of everyone getting this year’s influenza vaccine.

According to Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas saw an increase of 735 cases of COVID-19 from Wednesday for a new statewide total of 47,028. Of those cases, 44 are within correctional facilities and 691 from community transmissions.

Seven additional people died from the virus over the 24-hour period. That brings the total since the start of the pandemic to 515.

Active cases across the state currently number 6,958, with 71 in nursing homes, 548 in correctional facilities and 6,339 in communities.

State health experts urged all Arkansans to receive their flu shot this year. Experts aren’t entirely sure what effect this year’s flu season will have on the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, but it’s one they don’t want to take a chance on.

“You don’t want to have COVID and the flu and at the same time,” said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the infectious disease and control specialist for the Arkansas Department of Health. Dr. Dillaha said getting the vaccine will reduce the number of people entering hospitals with flu-related complications.

The influenza vaccine is expected to be widely available to the public next month. Dr. Dillaha said on average only half of Arkansans receive the vaccine annually.

REGISTRATION TOMORROW FOR SEVIER COUNTY FAIR LIVESTOCK SHOW 08/07/20

Organizers with the Sevier County Fair are reminding area livestock exhibitors that registration will be held tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 8 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the fair grounds. Youth showing livestock this year do not need to bring their animals unless they have a county bred commercial heifer, which will need to be weighed during registration.

All exhibitors are asked to provide their social security numbers as part of the event application and approval process through the Arkansas Department of Health.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s Sevier County Fair will only feature the annual livestock show. The carnival, rodeo and commercial building and commercial exhibitors have all been unfortunately cancelled.

With the huge change to the schedule, fair organizers are highlighting some date changes to the livestock schedule. The goldfish and 4-H poultry show will both be held Aug. 29 at 9 a.m. The pig show will be held that evening shortly after 8 p.m. The cattle show is scheduled for Aug. 31 around 8 p.m. Sept. 1 will include the goat and lamb show, both set to begin at 8 p.m.

For more information, visit the Sevier County Fair’s website at www.seviercountyfairarkansas.com or visit the group’s page on Facebook

ARKANSAS CELEBRATES NATIONAL FARMERS MARKET WEEK     08/07/20

Arkansas’ farmers markets play a vital role – from providing access to nutritious food and supporting sustainability to stimulating local economies and revitalizing rural communities.

That’s something worth celebrating.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the National Farmers Market Coalition, recognizes the first full week of August each year as National Farmers Market Week.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson also signed a proclamation, recognizing this week as Farmers Market Week in Arkansas. On Aug. 4, Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward presented a copy of the proclamation to Jeremy Adams, with the Arkansas Farmers Market Association.

National Farmers Market Week – This week marks National Farmers Market Week, a time to highlight farmers markets and their services in the community. Pictured is Farmers Market Manager Angela Smith with homemade bread.

Earlier this year, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture worked in partnership with the Arkansas Farmers’ Market Association to survey market managers about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations.

“It was an unusual year, to say the least, but even with the social distancing and many markets operating below capacity, direct-to-consumer sales have been good,” said Ron Rainey, professor of economics with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Direct-to-consumer purchase at Arkansas farmers markets and other direct marketing channels are valued at $9.2 million, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

Arkansas has 111 farmers markets, with 80 percent of the state’s counties having at least one market, including Sevier County. Rainey works with many of the markets, providing guidance on establishing and managing markets and working with individual vendors on marketing strategies to promote products.

The Cooperative Extension Service, part of the Division of Agriculture, provides ongoing support for farmers, producers, farmers market operators and vendors through its Local, Regional & Safe Foods unit.

Among the services provided:

-Produce Safety trainings and technical assistance on best practices for growing, harvesting, handling and holding of fresh produce (this includes how produce is displayed on vendor tables at the market)

The Sevier County Farmers Market offers a variety of fresh produce and homemade goods each Wednesday and Saturday throughout the summer months. The local farmers market will be open tomorrow, Aug. 8, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. – or when vendors sell out.

-Technical assistance on Cottage Food Law and farmers market guidelines passed by the Arkansas Department of Health

Webinars on produce safety for school, community and backyard gardens and food processing for farmers and food businesses

-Technical assistance on COVID-19 and best health practices at farmers market.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

LOCAL RESIDENTS ELIGIBLE FOR RENT/MORTGAGE, WATER UTILITY ASSISTANCE     08/07/20

The Central Arkansas Development Council, whose mission is to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty and help vulnerable populations, will begin providing emergency financial assistance to customers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic effective immediately. These funds are specifically for past due rent/mortgage payments and past due water utility assistance due to financial restraints as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program will closely follow the requirements for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The maximum benefit for Rent/Mortgage assistance is $500 and the maximum benefit for the Water Utility Assistance is $150. Applicants must reside in a participating county, meet income guidelines of 125% of poverty, complete the customer intake form, provide a copy of their ID, and provide proof of all household income.

If requesting assistance with rent or mortgage, each applicant must provide lease/mortgage agreement and have occupied the residence for at least six (6) months along with a copy of past due statement and/or a letter from the landlord showing the past due amount. If requesting assistance with past due water bills, applicants must provide a copy of past due water utility bill or payment summaries from utility office showing the delinquent amount. All statements must have a current date.

For Sevier County and Little River County residents, you can participate and apply by calling (870) 330-4965. In Howard County, call (870) 455-0203. The program is currently not offered in Polk County.

UNEMPLOYMENT SCAM TARGETING LOCAL RESIDENTS  08/06/20

Local law enforcement agencies are recording a growing number of area residents targeted by a scam related to unemployment relief funds and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

De Queen Police Chief Scott Simmons said his department is receiving around half a dozen reports a day from De Queen residents who have received false unemployment verification letters in the mail. He said the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office is receiving a similar number of reports.

This “brushing” scam involves sending letters verifying a person’s eligibility for unemployment to residents across the state. The scam involves both the traditional unemployment insurance system in Arkansas as well as the pandemic unemployment assistance offered to those affected by COVID-19.

These letters have been sent to thousands of Arkansans, whether or not they’ve lost their jobs or even applied for unemployment assistance. The scammers aim is to get residents to sign off on the fake letters and return them via mail to the state unemployment office. If a person’s eligibility for unemployment funds is approved correctly or even through oversight, the funds will then be transferred to the scammers’ bank account.

De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown said his household was targeted this week as part of the scam. That’s the same for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who announced Tuesday he had also received one of these fraudulent letters – despite obviously still being employed.

Around 37,000 unemployment cases are currently on hold and under investigation due to potential fraud related to this scam. State officials said many of these claims are likely legitimate, but have been caught by the investigation net due to minor discrepencies. Nonetheless, state officials are concerned this means many Arkansans are not receiving the benefits they are rightfully entitled to.

Anyone who receives a similar letter – and who has not themselves filed for unemployment – should file a police report with the local law enforcement officer. Victims are also asked to report the fraud to state investigators by calling (501) 682-1058 or visiting DWS.arkansas.gov.

Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said the state is organizing verification centers across the state to assist people whose unemployment claims are on hold due to a fraud investigation. He said many legitimate claims are on hold due to the high amount of fraud suspected in the unemployment assistance program.

FILING PERIOD ENDS IN SEVIER COUNTY WITH ONE RACE THIS NOVEMBER  08/06/20

The filing period for candidates seeking municipal political offices in Sevier County has ended.

The filing period ended yesterday. According to Sevier County Clerk, there will be only one municipal race on this year’s General Election Ballot: the ward two, position one seat on the De Queen City Council. Two candidates have filed for this position, incumbent Teresa Bunyard and challenger LeeAnn Pitchford. Bunyard is currently seeking her 11th term to the council.

No other challenges were filed.

County Clerk Debbie Akin reminds the public that anyone interested in working as a pollworker for the 2020 General Election should contact her office.

Information on this year’s mail-in ballot process is expected later this month.

If you have any questions, call the Sevier County Clerk’s Office at (870) 642-2852.

This year’s General Election will be held Nov. 3.

THREE SEVIER COUNTY VFDs RECEIVE GRANT TO AID IN FIGHTING WILDFIRES  08/06/20

The Rural Fire Protection program, managed by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division, distributed 84 Wildfire Suppression Kits to rural volunteer fire departments this year. The Forestry Division received $272,000 from the United States Forest Service’s Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant to purchase and distribute the kits that feature equipment and gear necessary for the safe suppression of wildfires.

Three fire departments in Sevier County received kits through the grant program: the Horatio Volunteer Fire Department, Lockesburg Volunteer Fire Department and Central Volunteer Fire Department.

Volunteer fire departments are the primary partner to Forestry crews in wildfire response and suppression but often need the specialized equipment and gear necessary for safe and effective wildfire suppression. Since 2014, more than 375 volunteer fire departments in Arkansas have received Wildfire Suppression Kits through the Rural Fire Protection program. Kits distributed this year include lightweight wildfire-resistant coveralls and gloves, hand rakes, back-pack water pumps, and leaf blowers.

Volunteer fire departments interested in participating in the Wildfire Suppression Kit program submit applications that are scored according to specific criteria, including fire district population, the size of the response area, wildfire equipment response needs, and other factors. The application period for next year’s Wildfire Protection Kit program is expected to open August 17, 2020.

Fire Departments can expect to receive an application for next year’s program in the mail, or can find one online at www.agriculture.arkansas.gov/forestry when the application period opens.

SEVIER COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE RELEASES JULY UPDATE   08/06/20

The Sevier County Sheriffs Office has released its update detailing activities for the month of July:

Deputies clocked a total of 1,989 hours on duty during the month..

Total miles driven by deputies was 24,332 with 1,535 gallons of fuel used.

Deputies received a total of 158 calls, including 20 motor vehicle accidents, 90 traffic stops, four citations, 87 warnings and 19 arrests.

A total of 41 civil papers were served. 677 building checks were made throughout the month.

Investigators opened several new cases, including a missing person and burn victim case.

Investigators also recovered a stolen four-wheeler and stolen

H.O.P.E. SUICIDE PREVENTION FOR CRIME VICTIMS TRAINING SCHEDULED   08/06/20

The Arkansas-based BridgeWay group will host an educational seminar this month for advocates focusing on suicide prevention for crime victims.

Advocates working across domestic violence agencies, child protection systems, human trafficking agencies and elder abuse units need specific skills and knowledge related to suicide prevention. To respond to this need, the Office for Victims of Crime developed the HOPE: Suicide Prevention for Crime Victims training program.

HOPE is designed to support crime victim advocates in preventing suicide among those who they help. In partnership with trauma specialists Laura Abbott and Leslie Boone, BridgeWay will host a two-day presentation on suicide prevention for crime victims.

The events are scheduled for Aug. 20 and 21, from 12 noon to 3:30 p.m. both days. Participants will receive six hours of continuing educational credits. The training is free and open to all current and potential advocates. Those who register and attend will receive a $10 gift card.

To promote social distancing, the seminar will be presented via Zoom. To register or to find more information, call 1-800-245-0011 or visit TheBridgeWay.com

IRS ANNOUNCES DIRTY DOZEN TAX SCAM LISTS   08/06/20

All tax scams put taxpayers at risk. This is the first of two tips taking a closer look at the IRS Dirty Dozen tax scam list. This year, taxpayers should be especially, watchful for aggressive schemes related to COVID-19 relief, including Economic Impact Payments.

Here is a recap of the second three scams in this year’s Dirty Dozen. 

The four of these Dirty Dozen tricks includes Social media scams: Taxpayers need to protect themselves against social media scams, which frequently use events such as COVID-19 to try tricking people. Social media enables anyone to share information with anyone else on the Internet. Scammers use this information as ammunition for a wide variety of scams. These include emails where scammers impersonate someone’s family, friends or co-workers.

Also included in this year’s list is Economic Impact Payment or refund theft: This year, criminals turned their attention to stealing Economic Impact Payments. Many of these scams are identity theft-related. Criminals file false tax returns or supply false information to the IRS to divert refunds to wrong addresses or bank accounts.

Finally, there’s Senior fraud: Senior citizens, their friends and family need to be on alert for tax scams targeting older taxpayers.  Their growing comfort with technology, including  social media, gives scammers another means of taking advantage of them. Phishing scams linked to COVID-19 have been a major threat this year. Seniors should be on alert for a continuing surge of fake emails, text messages, websites and social media attempts to steal personal information.

WHY SOAP WORKS AGAINST VIRUSES   08/05/20

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In a new episode of the University of Arkansas’ Short Talks From the Hill, Kristen Gibson explains how soap destroys respiratory viruses such as coronavirus and offers tips for handling potentially contaminated surfaces.

Gibson is an associate professor of food safety and microbiology for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, and in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. She studies the fate and transport of pathogens within food systems, focusing on human noroviruses and fresh produce, as well as retail food safety.

When the coronavirus pandemic broke, Gibson’s knowledge and expertise were in high demand. Was packaged and take-out food safe? How should it be handled? Gibson addressed these concerns with several media outlets and emphasized the critical importance of hand-washing, something everyone should be doing regularly, she says, even when there isn’t a pandemic.

In this new podcast, Gibson explains the effect of soap on respiratory viruses, such coronavirus.

“Respiratory viruses have what is called an envelope. And this is basically … a fatty layer around the virus itself. And so, if you remember a little bit about chemistry from back in the day, soap is designed to break down fat. So, for respiratory viruses, soap will destroy that outer envelope that protects the virus. And then it makes it more susceptible to kind of destroying the virus and making it not able to infect anymore.”

To listen to Gibson discuss her research, go to ResearchFrontiers.uark.edu, the home of research news at the University of Arkansas, or visit the “On Air” and “Programs” link at KUAF.com.

Short Talks From the Hill highlights research and scholarly work at the University of Arkansas. Each segment features a university researcher discussing his or her work. Previous podcasts can be found under the ‘Short Talks From the Hill’ link at ResearchFrontiers.uark.edu.

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch and Instagram at ArkAgResearch.

FIRST STATE BANK OF DE QUEEN DONATIONS $200,000 FOR VIDEO BOARD/SCOREBOARD AT LEOPARD STADIUM  08/04/20

Thanks to a tremendous donation by an area bank, visitors to Leopard Stadium will see an awesome new feature starting next year.

The De Queen School District announced Leopard Stadium will be home to a new and vastly improved scoreboard and video board. Besides serving as a scoreboard for sporting events held at the stadium, the video board will be a huge complement to the new television production program set to unveil this month once school returns.
This is going to be one big, eye-catching addition to Leopard Stadium. The video board alone will measure 31-feet wide by 18-feet tall. First State Bank of De Queen is funding the entire project, which will cost roughly $200,000 once completed. District officials had plans to construct the video board in the future through community donations, but never expected plans to move so quickly. According to Beau McCastlain, a teacher and head of media relations for the De Queen School District, that’s all thanks to the donation by First State Bank.

First State Bank has traditionally sponsored the scoreboard at Leopard Stadium. Gary Golden, president of First State Bank in De Queen, said the bank is honored and proud to be able to fund the new video board at the football field.

“It’s something we’ve always done and we’re just happy to keep doing it because De Queen Schools is a great institution and they’re doing so much for our community,” he said. “It’s a priviledge to do this for our schools and our community.”

Athletic Director Lance Pinkerton shared a statement from the district expressing its gratitude for the donation:

“On behalf of the De Queen School District, i want to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to Mr. Golden and the Firs State Bank of De Queen for their continued commitment and dedication to the students, faculty and administration of De Queen Schools. It’s a great day to be a Leopard!”

The video board is not expected to be ready for the 2020-2021 school year. However, McCastlain said the district hopes to have construction completed and the board operational in time for use at the 2021 spring graduation ceremony. The board will then be used at football games and other events for the 2021-2022 school year.
One of the most exciting features of the new video board for incoming students is how they’ll be able to engage with it through a new television production program at De Queen High School. McCastlain said students will be able to create content through the program which will be featured on the video board as well as other medium throughout the school district. The entire program is geared at teaching students the fundamentals of video production and broadcast journalism. The goal is to provide participating students with the skills needed to enter the workforce in a related field.
McCastlain, who has extensive history working as a sports reporter and anchor for several television studios across Arkansas, will head the new television lab program. The program will launch for sophomores this fall. We’ll be providing more details on that as the school year approaches.

LEOPARDS HEAD FOOTBALL COACH BRAD CHESSHIR DISCUSSES SEASON AHEAD  08/04/20

Last week’s announcement by state officials that high school sports programs would continue this fall was huge morale booster for athletes and coaches across the state.

For Brad Chesshir, head coach of the De Queen Leopards football program, the announcement couldn’t have come too soon. The Leopards have spent the summer training for a season that maybe wouldn’t come. Well, that uncertainly appears to be over. As of the current moment – which in these times is always subject to change – fall football, volleyball and cheerleading will start this fall and on time.

Part of last week’s announcement authorized coaches to begin no-contact but full-helmeted training starting yesterday. Monday was like Christmas morning for Chesshir and his team, who for the first time this year got to don their helmets. He’s keeping his fingers crossed that the Leopards’ scrimmage game against Waldron will continue as scheduled – and end with a big win for the Leopards before the start of the conference season.

Coach Chesshir shared his thoughts on last week’s announcement as well as the road ahead, during an interview with KDQN Monday morning:

HARVEST FOOD BANK TO HOST DRIVE-THRU DISTRIBUTION IN LOCKESBURG  08/04/20

Harvest Regional Food Bank is returning to Sevier County with its USDA Commodity Mobile Pantry.

Harvest Regional Food Bank will distribute commodities directly from their truck on Wednesday, Aug. 19 10 a.m. to noon. The truck will be parked at the First Baptist Church of Lockesburg located at 3466 S. Camellia in Lockesburg. Vehicles will start lining up on W. Magnolia and the church parking lot. The line will continue up W. Magnolia to S. Park Ave. then north on S. Park Ave. towards W. Main St.

With CDC precautions and recommendations against COVID-19 still in place, Harvest is taking every measure to ensure the safety of its staff, volunteers and recipients. Mobile pantries our now operating as “drive-thru” distributions, with food boxes being loaded directly into vehicles. Recipients will not be allowed to exit the vehicle or park to pick up food.

Recipients must bring photo identification verifying their age and residence in Sevier County. Distribution is limited to one box per household and 2 households per vehicle. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. Officials with Harvest Regional Food Bank said the commodity distribution is part of their effort to combat hunger in Southwest Arkansas.

“We have several communities in our rural service area that are not fully served by local partner agencies. To be sure that the residents in these areas are served, we are providing direct service where needed.” said Camille Coker Wrinkle, Executive Director of Harvest Regional Food Bank.

Last year, Harvest distributed 3.2 million meals and served over 60,000 individuals in Southwest Arkansas and Northeast Texas. Both states consistently rank in the top 10 for the highest incidents of hunger. Nearly 20 percent of area local residents miss meals due to food insecurity, including one-in-four children. Harvest works to eliminate hunger through its Food Banking, Food Rescue, School Backpack and Mobile Pantry programs.

CITY PARKS DEPT CANCELS UPCOMING SPORTS PROGRAMS 08/04/20

The De Queen Parks and Recreation Department will not host any fall sports programs in 2020. According to Parks Director Gaytha Bakenhus, the department decided to cancel fall football and soccer due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. She said several area teams have already stated their intent not to play this year. At this time the city’s basketball program is no affected.

“We’re going to play it by ear for basketball season,” she said.

For more information or any questions, contact the park office at (870) 642-4140 or email gbakenhus@cityofdequeen.com

DQSC CHAMBER WELCOMES STOWERS TO STAFF  08/04/20

The De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce has hired a new, part-time position to assist its activities in the area.

Sue Stowers is the new face at the chamber of commerce office. Originally from West Virginia, Stowers moved to De Queen earlier this year. She is the mother of Toney Stowers, who assists in broadcasting Leopards football games for KDQN Studios.

Stowers will assist in reception and administration duties at the office. Chamber Executive Director Suzanne Babb said the addition of Stowers to the staff with allow her and the chamber overall to focus greater on its mission to retain, develop and expand Sevier County’s business community.

New to the Team – Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Suzanne Babbs, right, stands with Sue Stowers outside the chamber office in downtown De Queen. Stowers recently joined the chamber staff as a part-time assistant. She will help man the office 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Previously, Babb was the sole chamber employee and would be forced to lock the office doors whenever she left to meet with local business owners and managers.

“Now, I can focus on our business retention and expansion missions without having to close up the office,” said Babb. “Stowers will be a great addition to our office and in ensuring we’re here to help when we’re needed.”

Stowers, who worked 26 years for a State Farm agent in West Virginia, said she has quickly grown to love De Queen and the surrounding area.

The chamber office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Upcoming events include the annual Tri-Lakes Big Bass Tournament in September. The bass tournament, usually held in May, was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Other annual chamber activities include the Tour De Queen bike ride, which usually draws dozens of bike riders from across the state and region to De Queen. Babb said the chamber is also looking further out at the yearly Halloween and Christmas parades in De Queen. Of course, these events are subject to change due to COVID-19 related developments. More information will be provided as those dates near.

For more information, contact the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce at (870) 584-3225.

ADH UPDATES LATEST COVID-19 FIGURES FOR SEVIER, SURROUNDING COUNTIES 08/04/20

As of Monday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases increased by four from Sunday to 939.
Active Positives increased by one during the same period to 35.

Deaths remained at 10. There have been 894 recoveries since the start of the pandemic.

In neighboring counties, Little River County active cases decreased by one to 70. Cumulative cases rose three to 156. Deaths remain at one.

Howard County Active Positives decreased by four to 67. Total cases increased by four to 300. Deaths remain at two.

In Polk County, Active Positives increased by one to 17. Total cases increased by three to 131. Deaths remain at one.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County active cases decreased by three to 89. Total cases increased by three to 829. Deaths remain at 25.

SEVIER COUNTY QUORUM COURT TO MEET AUG. 10  08/04/20

The Sevier County Quorum Court will meet in regular session on Aug. 10 at 2 p.m. in the De Queen High School Cafeteria.

Items on the agenda include an update from the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Visitors.

Justices of the peace will also vote upon a request to confirm the appointment of Joan Moore to fill a vacancy on the Sevier County Library Board. Moore would fill the vacancy created by Florence Metcalf resigning her position.

In addition, there is a request to amend action taken in the July quorum court meeting regarding the transfer of funds from the one percent hospital sales tax fund to the county general fund. This is meant to create an easier audit trail for legislative auditors. There is also a need to increase this transfer by $173,000 to pay outstanding invoices submitted by the hospital’s architects.

There is also a request to appropriate $25,000 from the county road fund to pay the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District for preparation of a hazard mitigation plan.

Finally, justices of the peace will vote on a request from the Sevier County Circuit Court Clerk to appropriate existing funds for the purchase of a Dell laptop. The expected cost is $4,127.60.

The meeting is open to the public.

EQUALIZATION BOARD SETS FIRST HEARING DATES 08/04/20

The Sevier County Equalization Board will hold the first of its equalization hearings on Monday, Aug. 10 at 4:30 p.m. There will be a second meeting for hearings on Monday, Aug. 17 at 5 p.m.

Hearings could be scheduled beyond this date if necessary.

Anyone desiring to schedule an assessment appeal should call the Sevier County Clerk’s Office at 870-642-2852. The last day to call to request a hearing is Monday, Aug. 24 during regular office hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

These meetings will be held in the Courthouse Courtroom.

There will be a meeting just after the close of business at 4:30 on Aug. 24 in the Sevier County Courthouse Courtroom. If the courtroom is unavailable you will be notified of the alternate location when you arrive at the East Entrance of the courthouse.

All Equalization Board meetings are open to the public.

ARKANSAS TO HAVE HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS THIS FALL; LEOPARDS ANNOUNCE TRAINING SCHEDULE, PARENTS MEETING TONIGHT    08/03/20

With the school year approaching, there’s been a big question on the minds of many: this fall, will Arkansas High Schools be ready for some football?

According to Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state athletics officials, the answer is yes.

Gov. Hutchinson made the announcement on Friday declaring the state’s decision to allow high schools in Arkansas to proceed with their summer training routines and prepare for a normal fall sports program. The fall high school sports program includes football, volleyball and cheerleading.

Hutchinson said the Arkansas Activities Association is working on a plan to submit to the Arkansas Department of Health in regards to the approved programs this fall.

Included in the announcement is approval for high school football teams to begin contact-less but full-helmeted training this week.

“My message to football players,” said Hutchinson, “is to grab your helmet and get ready for practice on Monday. Then grab your mask and help protect others.”

We’ll feature more on the state’s decision during Hutchinson’s COVID-19 update in our daily report shortly.

Concerning the announcement and its local effects, Leopard football will begin fall practice starting today. Leopards Head Coach Brad Chesshir said he’s excited to see things moving forward.

“This is great news, but the Leopard football team and coaches will move forward with caution and prudence as we continue to put the most emphasis on the safety of our kids,” said Chesshir. “We will prepare our kids for the 2020 football season, but will be diligent of the guidelines set by Governor Hutchinson and the Arkansas Activities Association.”

Chesshir also shared this week’s football training schedule. High school athletes will practice Monday through Friday starting at 8 a.m. each day. Eighth and Ninth graders will practice Monday through Friday starting at 10:30 a.m.

Seventh grade football players will report Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 a.m. All players are advised to bring and wear their masks.

A parent meeting will be held tonight for all parents of football players in grades seventh through 12th. The meeting will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at Leopard Stadium. There will be important information given to parents of players regarding scheduling, heat illness, physicals and expectations.

Leopard coaches will be handing out information and guiding parents and families on where to sit to maintain social distancing. Everyone is asked to bring their masks.

Chesshir thanked parents for their support during these uncertain times and stressed that Leopard players are working hard to compete this fall.

NEW CASE OF INVASIVE PLANT INFESTATION IN TEXAS CAUSES CONCERN FOR ARKANSAS FISHERIES BIOLOGISTS   08/03/20

Submitted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Another documented report of giant salvinia along the Texas-Arkansas border was confirmed by Texas Parks and Wildlife last month, creating additional concern from Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists about the nuisance plant’s spread into The Natural State.

Giant Salvinia is a free-floating South American plant, similar in appearance to duckweed but much larger. It stays at the water’s surface and can rapidly cover a large area and choke out all life in the water beneath if left unchecked. According to Sea Grant Louisiana, under ideal conditions, a single plant of Giant Salvinia can multiply to cover 40 square miles of surface area in only three months under ideal growing conditions.

Arkansas’s first confirmed case of giant salvinia entering the state was documented in 2017 in Smith Park Lake in Miller County followed shortly after by sightings in Sulphur River Wildlife Management Area. It was confirmed in Lake Erling in December 2018 and Lake Columbia in 2019.

Giant Salvinia. Photo submitted by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

“Anywhere an invasive species shows up is a cause for concern,” said Ben Batten, chief of the AGFC’s Fisheries Division. “It’s one more place where someone may inadvertently pick up pieces of the plant and move it from recreational equipment like boats, trailers, fishing equipment, duck decoys and even boots and waders. All it takes is one of these small bits to survive the trip to a new body of water and you have another potential infestation.”

Any boaters are advised to remember the mantra, “Clean, Drain and Dry” any time they visit lakes known to have giant salvinia or other invasive aquatic species.

  • Clean — Remove all visible plant matter from equipment before leaving the body of water.
  • Drain — Let all water from the boat and motor drain completely before transporting.
  • Dry — Let everything dry for at least five days before entering a different body of water. If you are unable to dry, washing with high-pressure, hot, soapy water also can help.

“It’s a good practice to do anywhere, really,” Batten said. “Just because an invasive species hasn’t been documented somewhere doesn’t mean it’s not there. There could be other lakes where this plant has become established but has not been reported yet.”

Anyone spotting giant salvinia in an Arkansas lake is encouraged to call the AGFC’s Fisheries Division at 800-364-4263 to report the location.

“Finding and eliminating invasive species before they can gain a foothold in a new lake or river is extremely important in preventing their spread,” Batten said. “Anglers are the best eyes and ears we have on the water to locate and eliminate these threats before it is too late.”

ASHDOWN SCHOOLS REGISTRATION BEGINS TODAY  08/03/20

Ashdown Public Schools will host its official registration for grades K-12 between August 3 and August 6 from 8:30 am-3:30 pm each day; however, you may contact your student’s campus prior to those dates to pick up registration packets if desired. For your convenience, there will be “drive through” registration sites where registration packets may be picked up, completed, and returned. These sites will be by grade level, at the following locations:

-Ashdown Elementary School (parking lot near cafeteria) for grades K-5

-Ashdown Junior High (parking lot near cafeteria) for grades 6-8

-Ashdown High School (main entrance) for grades 9-12

The district’s goal is to have “on-site” Meet the Teacher meetings, from 2pm-6pm, on August 18- 20, 2020. To ensure the safety of students, staff and parents, we are currently devising a plan to ensure maximum social distancing during meet the teacher. More details will be provided through your student’s campus, via calls, emails, text messages, district web page, and social media.

UPDATED COVID-19 STATISTICS FOR SEVIER AND SURROUNDING COUNTIES; POLK COUNTY SEES FIRST DEATH DUE TO COVID-19  08/03/20

As of Sunday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases increased by eight from Friday to 935.
Active Positives decreased by 16 during the same period to 34.

Deaths remained at 10. There have been 891 recoveries since the start of the pandemic.

In neighboring counties, Little River County active cases remained the same at 71. Cumulative cases rose eight to 153. Deaths remain at one. There have been 81 recoveries.

Howard County Active Positives decreased by nine to 71. Total cases increased by nine to 296. Deaths remain at two. Recoveries total 223.

In Polk County, Active Positives decreased by two to 16. Total cases increased by three to 128. The county reported its first COVID-19 related death over the weekend. Recoveries total 111.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health McCurtain County, active cases decreased by 12 to 92. Total cases also increased by 12 to 826. Deaths remain at 25. The county has reported a total of 709 recoveries.

ASHDOWN CHEERLEADERS HOST NCA CHEER CAMP  08/03/20

The Ashdown Junior High and Ashdown Varsity Cheerleader Teams hosted the National Cheerleading Association (NCA) Cheer Camp at the Helen Parker Gymnasium July 20-22.

This year of cheer camp was very different from years past as only Ashdown cheer teams participated in the camp, held at Ashdown, in order to comply with COVID-19 AAA rules. While different than years past, some things were still the same. Squads practiced and performed a chant and cheer for evaluations.

NCA Cheer Camp in Ashdown – Pictured from left to right in the front row are Kaylee Welborn, Railee Schmidt, Emma Wrinkle, Amy Newton, Sara Huddleston, Ansleigh Patrick and Chloe Young. In the top row from left to right are Gracie Young, Kimberly Hendrix, Zoie Hurd, Allison Garner, Ashlee Waller, Chevi Flournoy, Kaytlyn Brower, Aly Mills and Olivia Ritter.
NCA Cheer Camp at Ashdown – Pictured in the bottom row from left to right are Anna Arnold, Lynlee Williams, Brodie Mitchell, Mackenzie Cook, Reagan Hearn, Caroline Wrinkle and Samantha Huddleston. In the top row from left to right are Reagan Ritter, Cheyenne Arnhart, Paiten Miller, Audrey Kate Bishop, Makayla Lawson, Layla Threadgill, Billye Young, Ella Bowman and Cori Dellinger.

AJHS Cheer received 3 Superior Blue Ribbons in Chant, Cheer, and Band Chant. They also received the Herkie Team Award, the Special Event Invitation to any NCA event this year, and earned a National Championship Bid.

Ashdown cheerleaders had five girls nominated for All American. They included Makayla Lawson, Audrey Kate Bishop, Samantha Huddleston, Reagan Hearn, and Cheyenne Arnhart. Three made the All American Team, including Makayla Lawson, Reagan Hearn and Samantha Huddleston.  Samantha Huddleston was named Top Team Jumper and Top Team Tumblers were Makayla Lawson and Reagan Hearn.

The AHS Varsity Cheerleaders received superior level final evaluations for band chant, cheer, and chant.

All American nominees were Kaylee Welborn, Chloe Young, Sara Huddleston, Amy Newton, Ansleigh Patrick, Emma Wrinkle, Allison Garner, Railee Schmidt, Chevi Flournoy, and Aly Mills.
Sara Huddleston, Emma Wrinkle, Aly Mills, Chloe Young and Railee Schmidt were named All-American team members.
Team top jumpers included Chevi Flournoy and Aly Mills. Garner was named Team Top Tumbler

According to AHS Cheer Coach Brittany Crow, “With COVID-19 regulations, camp looked a lot different this year.  Beyond the extra cleaning, wearing face masks, staying spread out, and screening participants, we usually have several schools from the area participate and there’s a big final day competition.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that this year.  We also were not able to stunt per AAA regulations.  Regardless, we had a great week!  The girls adjusted well and worked just as hard as if it were a normal camp.  I’m so proud of the way they’ve handled all the changes and have continued to push themselves with what we can work on.  This is a special group of girls and I’m excited to show everyone what we’ve got this year.”

U.S. CATTLE INDUSTRY INVENTORY STABLIZES  08/03/20

Submitted by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

Cattle industry numbers in several categories returned to relative normalcy in June, a bright spot in an otherwise difficult economic year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues throughout the United States.

Numbers for on-feed cattle inventory, marketings and placements rebounded from comparative slumps to meet same-month figures from 2019, according to an economic impact update published by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“Overall, after dropping sharply in April and May due to a sharp slow-down in placements, the total on-feed inventory has returned to a fairly normal seasonal pattern at a level close to the previous year,” John Anderson, head of the agricultural economics and agribusiness department of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

The economic update is part of an ongoing analysis from the Division of Agriculture, examining the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on agriculture.

In January and February, U.S. farmers’ “on-feed inventory” — that is, cattle that are nearly ready for slaughter and sale — was actually above 2019 numbers, sitting at nearly 12 million head. March marked a steep drop, falling to about 11.2 million in May — well below the 11.8 million inventory of May 2019. By June, the numbers had rebounded to almost 11.7 million, on track again with the previous year. Both years have remained above the market average established from 2016-2018, which ranged from about 10.6 million to about 11.2 million cattle. 

Marketings and placements

However, marketings and placements are where producers rebounded from one of the tougher spring seasons since 2016. Marketings in April plunged to below 1.5 million head of cattle, well below both the 2016-2018 average of 1.7 million and April 2019’s figure’s 1.9 million, before rebounding in June to almost 2 million head, which ties with both 2019 and the 2016-2018 average.

Placements also fell from January’s nearly 2 million cattle (again, a tie for both January 2019 and the 2016-2018 January average) to a low of 1.4 million in April, before rebounding to more than 2 million in May.

In the report, Anderson said that the biggest contributing factor to slower cattle placements in June appeared to be deteriorating pasture conditions, rather than anything directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He noted that at the beginning of 2020, the U.S. beef industry was already experiencing an expected, cyclical contraction, and that as of July 1, the national beef inventory was about 1 percent lower than at the same point in 2019. The onset of the pandemic, he said, may have actually slowed the contraction, as it became more difficult to actually get cattle slaughtered.

To learn more about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

Taco Bell’s De Queen location has closed due to the confirmed case of COVID-19 of a restaurant employee, according to corporate officials.

The Taco Bell restaurant, which opened in De Queen earlier this year, was temporarily shuttered this week. The closure was made to allow the disinfecting and sanitization of the restaurant.

Closed for Now – Taco Bell closed its De Queen location earlier this week due to a confirmed case of COVID-19 of a restaurant employee. At this time corporate officials are not announcing when the restaurant is expected to reopen.

The company issued the following statement to KDQN following a request for information on the closure:

As soon as the operator of this De Queen, Arkansas location was made aware of an employee who tested positive, the franchisee immediately began working with Taco Bell and local health officials.  This restaurant closed immediately for thorough cleaning and sanitizing. Ensuring the health and wellbeing of our team members and our customers is our highest priority and we encourage customers to learn more about Taco Bell’s commitment to safety on our website at www.tacobell.com/safety.” 

Corporate officials did not state when the restaurant was expected to reopen.

ADH RELEASES LATEST COVID-19 FIGURES FOR SEVIER, SURROUNDING COUNTIES     07/31/20

As of Thursday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County and surrounding counties, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

In Sevier County, total Cases increased by nine from Wednesday to 927. Active Positives increased by five during the same period to 50.

Deaths remained at 10. There have been 867 recoveries since the start of the pandemic.

In neighboring counties, Little River County active cases grew much less than the previous two days. Between Wednesday and Thursday, that figure grew by two to 71. Cumulative cases rose seven to 145. Deaths remain at one.

Howard County Active Positives decreased by seven to 80. Total cases increased by five to 287. Deaths remain at two.

In Polk County, Active Positives remained unchanged at 18. Total cases increased by one to 125.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health McCurtain County saw an additional two deaths over the previous 24 hours for a new total of 25. Active cases however decreaed by 15 to 104. Total cases increased by five to 814.

GRADUATION CEREMONY TOMORROW FOR DE QUEEN CLASS OF 2020     07/31/20

After a postponement of nearly three months, De Queen’s Class of 2020 will finally be able to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas during a graduation ceremony scheduled for tomorrow, Aug. 1.

Of course, this isn’t going to be a graduation ceremony anyone will have seen before. Masks will be required and social distancing guidelines will be in effect. To that purpose, school officials have divided the ceremony into three separate events. This, officials say, will ensure at least a six-foot distance between each student’s group of visitors.

The ceremonies are scheduled for 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Leopards basketball arena.

This year graduating seniors were limited to inviting 10 guests each. Fortunately, for those who couldn’t make it, either due to the guest limitation or because of distance, won’t have to miss out. All three ceremonies will be available for viewing on the De Queen School District Facebook page.

For more information, or if you have any questions, contact the administration office at 584-4312.

COLLEGE ANNOUNCES START DATE OF YOUTHBUILD PROGRAM     07/31/20

Officials with UA Cossatot have announced when area youth can begin applying for a new, highly anticipated program. UA Cossatot recently became the second college in Arkansas to offer a YouthBuild program. YouthBuild programs provide educational training and occupational skill development to students ages 16 to 24. In the program, students can choose two skill pathways to obtain employment in construction/carpentry or industrial maintenance/welding.

The program’s first semester will begin on Aug. 17, 2020, at UA Cossatot’s De Queen Campus, and the deadline to enroll in the program is Aug. 10. No educational requirements exist to register. Students who do not have a high school degree or a GED certificate will earn their GED certificate in the program.

Depending upon class size, the Construction/Carpentry Pathway will be offered in the morning, while the Industrial Maintenance/Welding Pathway will be available in the afternoon.

Students who sign up to participate in the YouthBuild program will have the opportunity to learn hands-on experience while learning skills that can lead to future employment. The program is free to everyone enrolled, and YouthBuild students will benefit from supportive services at UA Cossatot.

The college’s Job Placement Specialist will be working independently with students to help them learn about available careers. UA Cossatot’s YouthBuild program will give students the opportunity to give back to their communities while volunteering and achieving experience they can use throughout their lifetime.

UA Cossatot’s YouthBuild program consists of three staff members: Instructor, Steve McJunkins; Job Placement Specialist, Casey Morris; and Case Manager, Leslie Daniels. The college’s YouthBuild staff are located in the Frachisuer-Pullium building on UA Cossatot’s De Queen Campus.

To enroll in UA Cossatot’s YouthBuild program or for more information, please contact Casey Morris at 870-557-0883 or cmorris@cccua.edu. Students can also contact Leslie Daniels at 870-584-9798 or ldaniels@cccua.edu. UA Cossatot is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. this summer Monday through Thursday. Walk-ins are always welcome.

Today marks the start of the filing period for prospective candidates seeking a number of elected municipal positions in Sevier County.

ATHLETIC PHYSICALS SCHEDULED AT DE QUEEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS   07/31/20

De Queen Public Schools will host athletic physicals for the 2020 – 2021 school year for students in grades seventh through 12th. The physicals are scheduled for the first week of school, Aug. 24-28, at the new Leopard Care Clinic located on the De Queen School campus.

If your child has a regular doctor appointment before the week of Aug.24, you may have the physical done at that time. Athletic officials remind parents they need to make sure the school receives a copy of that physical so that it can be placed in your child’s file.

All students who plan on participating in sports for the 2020 – 2021 school year must have an up-to-date physical to be eligible to participate.

If you have any questions, contact Lance Pinkerton, at the De Queen Administration office at (870)-584-4312.

ARKANSAS SALES TAX WEEKEND BEGINS TOMORROW   07/31/20

Arkansas will hold its annual sales tax holiday on Saturday, August 1, and Sunday, August 2.

Clothing and footwear that cost less than $100 per item will qualify for the exemption. However, if you buy an item that costs more than $100 you must pay the state and local sales taxes on the entire amount.

Accessories costing less than $50 qualify for the exemption.  Examples include wallets, watches, jewelry, sunglasses, handbags, cosmetics, briefcases, hair notions, wigs and hair pieces.

Here’s an example provided by the Department of Finance and Administration: a person buys two shirts for $50 each, a pair of jeans for $75 and a pair of shoes for $125.  The sales tax will only be collected on the shoes, because they cost more than $100.

Even though the total price of the shirts and the jeans added up to $175, no sales tax will be collected on them because each individual item cost less than $100.

School supplies also qualify, including binders, book bags, calculators, tape, paper, pencils, scissors, notebooks, folders and glue.

Textbooks, reference books, maps, globes and workbooks will be exempt from sales taxes.  Also exempt from the sales tax will be art supplies needed for art class, such as clay and glazes, paint, brushes and drawing pads.

Bathing suits and beach wear will be exempt as long as they cost less than $100 per item. Diapers and disposable diapers will not be taxed.  Boots, including steel-toed boots, slippers, sneakers and sandals will be exempt from the sales tax as well.

Not exempt from the sales tax are sporting goods, such as cleats and spikes worn by baseball, soccer and football players.  Recreational items such as skates, shoulder pads, shin guards and ski boots will be taxed.

Computers, software and computer equipment are not exempt and you will have to pay sales taxes if you purchase those items on the holiday.

Act 757 provides that the sales tax holiday will be the first weekend of August every year.  All retail stores are required to participate and may not legally collect any state or local sales taxes on qualified items during the tax holiday.

The legislature created the sales tax holiday by approving Act 757 of 2011.  One of the goals of the act is to help families with children in school, which is why it is commonly known as the “Back to School” sales tax holiday.

However, everyone benefits from the holiday, whether or not they have children in school.

FORMER LONGTIME LIONS COACH LANCE SPIGNER TO BE HONORED WITH NATIONAL BASEBALL AWARD   07/30/20

Former longtime Horatio Baseball Coach Lance Spigner is one of two coaches across the nation who will receive prestigious Dave Keilitz Ethics in Coaching Award in 2021. The honor is hosted by and awarded through the American Baseball Coach’s Association.

Spigner, alongside Ryan McGinnis, head coach of Kimberly High School in Wisconsin, will be presented the award during the 2021 ABCA Convention, which is scheduled for January 7-10 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

Another Big Win, Coach – Lance Spigner, the former longtime head baseball coach for the Horatio Lions, will be honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association next year. He is pictured here at right in a file photo from 2019, with former Horatio Superintendent holding a sign for the road named in Spigner’s honor.

The American Baseball Coaches Association believes that the highest calling of a baseball coach is to teach life’s lessons and model the character traits of honesty, integrity, respect and personal responsibility. The ABCA Ethics in Coaching Award honors individuals who embody the ABCA Code of Ethics. In 2017, the award was named in honor of ABCA Board Member, Hall of Fame inductee and former Executive Director Dave Keilitz.

Lance Spigner, who is now head coach at the University of Arkansas at Rich Mountain, was one of the most successful high school baseball coaches in the state of Arkansas for 28 years. From 1992-2019, Spigner collected over 500 wins and guided the Horatio High School Lions to 18 district championships and five state titles. In addition, his teams captured 10 regional tournament titles and made 14 state tournament final four appearances.

While at Horatio, Spigner was a three-time ABCA/Diamond Sports Regional Coach of the Year and a five-time Texarkana Gazette Southwest Arkansas/Northeast Texas High School Baseball Coach of the Year. He received numerous Conference Coach of the Year honors during his tenure and was named the 2002-03 Horatio High School Teacher of the Year.

Spigner also served as an envoy for Major League Baseball to Great Britain during the summer of 2002. Following the 2019 season, Spigner accepted the head coaching position at Arkansas Rich Mountain and was tasked with starting the junior college program from scratch.

The 2020 season was slated to be the program’s first. The Ashdown native graduated and walked-on to play baseball at the University of Central Arkansas in the late 1980s. Spigner was a four-year starter and All-Conference outfielder for the Bears.

TEXAMERICAS CENTER ANNOUNCES ADDITION OF LOCKHEED MARTIN TO AREA BUSINESS CENTER   07/30/20

TexAmericas Center, a regional business center located in Hooks, Texas which employees many local residents, announced yesterday that Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company employing more than 110,000 people worldwide, will expand operations into a building at the TexAmericas Center in support of a Public/Private Partnership contract with the Red River Army Depot (RRAD).

“RRAD has utilized these partnerships with various Original Equipment Manufacturers since 2002. Lockheed Martin has a proven track record of supporting the Department of Defense and the nation’s Warfighters. We are looking forward to working with the Lockheed team,” said Marshall McKellar, Chief of the depot’s Business Management Office.

Lockheed Martin will utilize a portion of the floor space at TexAmericas Center currently leased by the RRAD to support the Army’s Multiple Launch Rocket System Fleet Expansion Program. The contract with RRAD is valued at $77M and runs from 2020 – 2024.

The 218,857-square-foot building, commonly referred to as Building 333, will undergo improvements requested and paid for by Lockheed Martin as part of its public/private partnership with RRAD. During the course of the contract, Lockheed Martin will create new full-time positions responsible for suppling various parts of the MLRS for remanufacturing, resetting, and integration of the MLRS.

Working with an international leader like Lockheed Martin is central to RRAD’s efforts to maintain the critical skills sets and capabilities of the industrial base found at the depot. By facilitating jobs that leverage and expand the knowledge base of these workers, RRAD can sustain its ability to deploy these skills whenever, wherever, and however they are needed as part of its mission readiness objective for the Department of Defense.

“We’re excited to welcome Lockheed Martin and continue our support of the Red River Army Depot,” said Scott Norton, Executive Director and CEO of TexAmericas Center. “We understand the value of these partnerships, not just in terms of improvements to our buildings, but also the growth of the advanced manufacturing skills sets critical to our future economic potential.”

MUNICIPAL FILING PERIOD UNDERWAY FOR OFFICES IN DE QUEEN, HORATIO, GILLHAM, LOCKESBURG AND BEN LOMOND   07/30/20

Wednesday marked the start of the filing period for prospective candidates seeking a number of elected municipal positions in Sevier County.

The filing period began yesterday at noon and continues through noon on Aug. 5. Municipal positions be voted on this year include: all alderman in Gillham, Lockesburg, Horatio, De Queen and Ben Lomond.

In addition, the Clerk/Treasurer position in Horatio and Lockesburg will also be voted on.

Candidates seeking to run for one of these offices must file a petition of candidacy, affidavit of eligibility, an Independent Candidate Affidavit of Petition and the political practices pledge. These forms and petition must be filed with the Sevier County Clerk’s office.

County Clerk Debbie Akin will certify the candidates to the Election Commission and ballot drawings will be held on Aug. 20 if necessary. Sample petitions and other required forms are available in the county clerk’s office.

If you have any questions, call the Sevier County Clerk’s Office at (870) 642-2852.

This year’s General Election will be held on Nov. 3.

CONTAGIOUS VIRUS FOUND AMONG HORSES IN BENTON COUNTY; EXTENSION SERVICE WARNS OF POTENTIAL SPREAD ACROSS ARKANSAS   07/30/20

Horse owners, as well as producers of other hooved animals, should be on the lookout for a highly contagious virus among their stock that was recently confirmed in Benton County.

On July 27, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture issued an alert noting that several instances of vesicular stomatitis virus (commonly referred to as VSV) had been confirmed at an equine facility in Benton County, Arkansas.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, VSV primarily affects horses and cattle, although it may affect other hooved animals such as sheep, goats and swine. Humans can also become infected with the virus when handling the animals and coming into contact with infected saliva or nasal secretions.

It is primarily spread among animals through black flies and other biting insects. The virus outbreak in Benton County appears to be a strain specific to horses.

The largest and most recent outbreak was in 2015, according to the USDA.

Heidi Ward, assistant professor and extension livestock veterinarian for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said that while VSV poses a potential threat to the state’s beef cattle industry, this particular outbreak in horses is likely due to the fact that horses are moved much more frequently, especially when county fairs and rodeos are in season. For this reason, she said, precautions must be taken when moving animals within Arkansas.

The virus primarily attacks the superficial vessels of the nose, mouth, lips and tongue, causing ruptures and painful sores. This in turn causes an animal to produce an increased amount of saliva, which may be the strongest indicator of infection to an owner or veterinarian. The painful nature of the sores discourages animals from eating, which can lead to further illness.

“Another reason why this is on the radar is that it can infect humans,” Ward said. “People can develop influenza-like symptoms, including fever, muscle aches and headache. It’s zoonotic, so if people suspect infection in their animals, they need to take precautions for themselves by wearing gloves.”

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has issued movement restrictions for horses in Benton County, as well as the three adjacent counties — Carroll, Madison and Washington counties. Equine, cattle and other hooved animal owners in Arkansas preparing to transport their animals to other states should check with veterinary authorities in the destination states regarding what, if any, certifications are required.

Ward said horse and cattle owners should inspect their animals daily, and take common-sense precautions seriously.

Arkansans who have questions about VSV, or suspect animals on their property may be infected with the virus, should contact the state veterinarian’s office at 501-823-1733.

ADH REPORTS ADDITIONAL 29 ACTIVE CASES OF COVID-19 IN LITTLE RIVER COUNTY; MCCURTAIN COUNTY REPORTS TWO ADDITIONAL DEATHS  07/30/20

As of Wednesday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County and surrounding counties, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases increased by five from Tuesday to 918.
Active Positives increased by one during the same period to 55.

Deaths remained at 10. There have been 853 recoveries since the start of the pandemic.

In neighboring counties, Little River County saw another significant increase in active and total cases. Active cases grew between Tuesday and Wednesday by 29, currently totaling 69. Cumulative cases rose 32 to 138. Deaths remain at one.

Howard County Active Positives increased by four to 87. Total cases increased by seven to 282. Howard County has reported two deaths since the start of the pandemic.

In Polk County, Active Positives increased by two to 18. Total cases increased by one to 124.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health McCurtain County saw an increase of six total cases between Tuesday and Wednesday for a new total of 809. Active positives decreased by nine to 119. Two additional deaths were reported over the 24-hour period, bringing the McCurtain County’s total to 23.

RESULTS OF PETITION TO SEE ALCOHOL SALES ON NOVEMBER BALLOT IN SEVIER COUNTY TO BE ANNOUNCED IN AUGUST  07/30/20

Organizers behind the effort to legalize alcohol sales in Sevier County are finalizing their petitions after Tuesday’s signing deadline. Sevier County residents had until July 28 to add their name to the petition. If organizers are able to report at least the required minimum of 2,573 valid and certified signatures, the issue of legalizing alcohol sales in Sevier County will be included on the November General Election ballot.

Organizers felt confident they were able to get the required number of signatures, but stress that each signature must still be verified through the Sevier County Clerk’s Office. The results of the petition are still pending and are expected to be announced next month.

The ballot effort was organized by the Sevier County Edge group. Members set up drive thru signing events and petition booths across the county over the past few months. In recent days and weeks members even went door to door to get signatures.

Sevier County EDGE members said they began the initiative as a way to promote additional tourism and economic development in the county, while keeping more dollars local as opposed to being spent across county or state lines. The ballot effort, if passed, would allow for three liquor stores in Sevier County and allow for the sale of alcohol in local restaurants.

ARKANSAS ATTORNEY GENERAL – FAKE PET SCAM TRICK ARKANSANS INTO BUYING FOR DOGS   07/30/20

Scam artists are online pretending to sell friendly dogs to their forever homes, but are taking consumers’ money without turning over a new furry friend. Often, scammers post ads on free buy-and-sell websites and use endearing photos of the animal they have no intention of sending, or may not even own.

“Con artists see families considering a new pet as an opportunity to get into Arkansans’ wallets,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “We have seen scam artists using fake email addresses to trick consumers into paying additional fees for shipping the animals via air travel when these cons do not even have a pet for sale.”

Attorney General Rutledge and the Federal Trade Commission released the following tips to avoid falling victim to a scammer selling a pet that does not exist.

  • Visit the breeder or rescue group in person offering the pet. Responsible individuals and organizations will allow potential customers to tour their facility.
  • Arrange to pick up the animal from a kennel instead of meeting the breeder at a potentially unsafe location. Do not rely on the breeder to ship the animal, and never pay for shipping.
  • Search the user’s profile for warning signs that it may be a scam. Fake breeder websites can often look real because they steal content from legitimate rescue sites. Look for duplicate sites by copying a line from the website into a search engine and looking for identical wording elsewhere on the Internet.
  • Check the organization’s references. Talk to others who have purchased pets from this breeder and the breeder’s veterinarian.
  • Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent breeder.
  • Pay for the puppy with a check or credit card. If a breeder pressures for a wire transfer or prepaid debit card payment, it is probably a scam.

Attorney General Rutledge encourages Arkansans to do their research regarding adopting and purchasing pets. If you have questions about a potential pet shipper, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association provides a list of trusted shippers across the world.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS    07/28/20

As of Wednesday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 918 (increase of 5 from Tuesday)
Active Positives: 55 (increase of 1 from Tuesday)
Recoveries: 853 (increase of 4)
Deaths: 10 (unchanged)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County:
Total Cases 138 (increase of 32)
Active Positives 69 (decrease of 29)

Howard County:
Total Cases 282 (increase of 7)
Active Positives 87 (increase of 4)

Polk County:
Total Cases 124 (increase of 1)
Active Positives 18 (increase of 2)

McCurtain County:
Total Cases 809 (increase of 6)
Active Positives 119 (decrease of 9)

Two additional deaths – Total 23

SEVIER COUNTY REPORTS 10TH COVID-19 DEATH; LITTLE RIVER COUNTY SEES 100 PERCENT INCREASE IN ACTIVE CASES IN 48 HOURS      07/29/20

A 10th resident of Sevier County has passed away due to COVID-19, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The figure was updated Tuesday afternoon and marks the third county resident to die from the virus this month.

After nearly two weeks of declining cases, Sevier County also saw its first increase in active positive cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. In addition Little River and Howard Counties saw a significant increase in their total and currently active COVID-19 cases.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, counties across the state could see a higher than usual rise in COVID-19 numbers in the coming days due to increased testing efforts and steps to resolve the state’s testing results backlog.

As of Tuesday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases increased by seven from Monday to 913.
Active Positives increased by three during the same period to 54.

Deaths increased by one to 10. There have been 849 recoveries since the start of the pandemic.

In neighboring counties:

Little River County saw an increase of 20 active positive cases for a total of 40. That’s a 100 percent increase from Monday. Total case count increased by 24 to 106. Little River has seen one COVID-19 related death since the start of pandemic.

Howard County Active Positives decreased by 26 to 83. That’s an increase of nearly 22 percent.Total cases increased by 29 to 275. Howard County has reported two deaths since the start of the pandemic.

In Polk County, Active Positives remained the same at 16. Total cases increased by 2 to 123.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health McCurtain County saw an increase of 12 total cases from Monday for a new total of 803. Active positives decreased by 13 to 128. An additional death was reported over the previous 24 hours, bringing the county’s death toll to 21 since the start of the pandemic.

DEADLINE NEARS FOR AREA FARMERS TO RECEIVE COVID-19 RELATED RELIEF FUNDS     07/29/20

The USDA is offering financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five percent or greater price decline due to COVID-19. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency is accepting applications through Aug. 28, which helps offset price declines and additional marketing costs because of the ongoing pandemic.

In response to comments and data received by the public, USDA announced on July 9 that it would make more than 40 additional commodities eligible for the program. If a producer submitted a CFAP application for a previously ineligible commodity, and the application was disapproved, the producer must submit a new CFAP application. If the producer submitted an application and was paid for CFAP but also has crops that are now considered eligible or are now eligible for CARES Act funding for sales losses, the producer should NOT submit a new application, but rather, contact the local FSA office to amend the application.

Producers in Sevier County may contact the office in De Queen at 870-584-3111 for more information. In Howard County, call 870-455-3203 and in Polk County, call 479-394-1782. In Little River County, call 870-898-3611.

A CFAP Call Center is available for producers who would like additional one-on-one support with the CFAP application process. Please call 877-508-8364. For more information on this relief program, visit www.farmers.gov/cfap

QUESTIONS REMAIN IN REGARDS TO FALL HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS AFTER AAA ANNOUNCEMENT     07/29/20

One of the big questions people are asking locally and across the state is, what about high school sports this fall?

That’s a question that still hasn’t found a question. The Arkansas Activities Association, which oversees sports programs at high schools in the state, issued a press release on Tuesday that continues to kick the question down the road.

To quote the press release from Tuesday, officials with AAA said:

“We know there are many questions that we can’t give you definitive answers for close-contact team sports on start dates, allowable practice activities for the future, plans for competition venues, etc. We are in communication with the Governor’s office and the Department of Health in efforts to provide these answers.

We have issued guidance related to the current Governor’s Directors. Please review the AAA COVID-19 page at aractivities.org/covid19. These are the valid directives until new directives are issued. Updates will be provided as soon as new directives are issued.

Issuing guidance or setting dates that are contrary to Governor’s Directive is not an option.”

We’ll continue to keep you updated on new developments concerning the start of sports – or not – this fall. .

ARVEST FOUNDATION DONATES $5,000 TO GILLHAM VFD      07/29/20

The town of Gillham and its emergency response capabilities will see some new benefits, thanks to a $5,000 donation from the Arvest Foundation.

The gift was announced earlier this month at the Gillham Volunteer Fire Department. Patti Boone and Helga Buenrostro of Arvest Bank in De Queen presented the check yesterday to Gillham Volunteer Fire Department Chief Marc Rosson.

Helping Those Who Help – Arvest Foundation donated $5,000 to the Gillham Volunteer Fire Department to help them purchase items needed for emergency response operations. Pictured from left to right are Helga Buenrostro and Patti Boone of Arvest Bank in De Queen, and GVFD Chief Marc Rosson and Gillham Volunteer Firefighter Nilsen Avelar.

“On behalf of the Gillham Volunteer Fire Department, we would like to thank the Arvest Foundation for their donation of $5,000. This year has been a tough year to raise money for the fire department,” said Rosson.

At a time when all rural volunteer fire departments are struggling to meet the growing costs and needs of emergency response services, Rosson said the donation will be very handy to his department. He said the donation will be used to purchase saws used for rescue and ventilation while fighting fires. In addition, the money will be used to purchase scene lights to help illuminate a fire or accident scene. He said money leftover after these purchases will go towards communication and tool charging devices.

Officials with the Arvest Foundation said they were glad to be able to help such a vital organization this year.

“We are pleased to present this donation on behalf of the Arvest Foundation to support the Gillham Volunteer Fire Department in an effort to provide them with equipment need to help their department be better-suited to fight fires,” said Helga Buenrostro. “The donation is just one of many we have made throughout the area. It demonstrates the foundation’s ongoing commitment to help support our community.

The Arvest Foundation seeks to provide funding to grantees who are actively working to create positive change for others. Major areas of focus include K-12 education, economic development and enhancing the quality of life throughout the Arvest area. For more information on the Arvest Foundation, visit arvestfoundation.org

RESOURCEFUL RECYCLING ADDS ANGLING BENEFITS AT MILLWOOD LAKE     07/29/20

Thanks to some quick thinking and a little groundwork, several bundles of PVC pipe will now play a helpful role in fishing instead of wasting away in a landfill in southwest Arkansas. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologists recently added several large fish habitat structures in Lake Millwood constructed of leftover pipe destined for the dump.

Colton Dennis, fisheries habitat biologist for the AGFC in south Arkansas, worked with several fiber optic contractors in the area who were laying long-lasting PVC pipe to house underground transmission lines along highways to rural Arkansas communities.

“The pipe comes in large spools and we asked what they were doing with any scrap pipe left over at the end of a run,” Dennis said. “When they informed us they were just hauling it to a local landfill if it couldn’t be used, we spotted an opportunity.”

Dennis said many contractors agreed to leave any of these leftover sections in their local equipment yard until AGFC staff could get out to pick up the material.

“We cut the pipe into 6-foot sections and drill holes in it to help it sink,” Dennis said. “Then we construct complex cover filled with vertical and horizontal “limbs” to attract fish. The whole structure is anchored with concrete to keep it in place.”

Although Millwood is known for having many stumps, these large attractors offer many more spaces for baitfish to hide and predator fish to wait in ambush. These structures also are attractive to fish because they offer a different type of cover than much of their surroundings.

“So far, we’ve placed nearly 50 of these PVC trees at prime bank-fishing spots near Cottonshed, Saratoga and Beards Bluff accesses,” Dennis said. “The exact locations of these trees have been marked by GPS and will be available soon on the AGFC’s interactive map at www.agfc.com/maps.”

The PVC used in these structures is an inert material that lasts for decades and doesn’t harm the environment where it is placed.

“It’s also much more friendly to bank anglers than some of our traditional brush piles,” Dennis said. “The PVC’s surface is hard and slick, so it significantly reduces the chance of an angler snagging and needing to break off their line.”

SEVIER COUNTY FAIR BOARD RELEASES UPDATED SCHEDULE FOR LIVESTOCK SHOW      07/29/20

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sevier County Fair and Rodeo will only host a livestock show this year. The dates are as followed::

Aug. 29 at 9 a.m. – Goldfish Show – The show will be held under the Cattle Barn. If you have any questions, please contact Kent Haarmeyer

Aug. 29 at 9 a.m. – 4-H Poultry Chicken Show – The show will be held in the show arena. If you have any questions, please contact Chris Wolcott

Aug. 29 – Pig Show – All pigs may start entering the barn at 6 p.m. All pigs must be in place by 8 p.m. to start weighing in. The show will follow after weight classes posted. All pigs will be released after the conclusion of the show. If you have any questions, please contact Katrina Frachiseur.

Aug. 31 – Cattle Show – All cattle may start entering the fair grounds at 5 p.m. Weigh in will start at 7 p.m. We will start with bottle calves and continue with the cattle show. The show will be a blow and go show this year. You can tie out in the cattle barn, if you can not tie out at your trailer. This year the cattle will be shown in the rodeo arena. Show will begin following cattle processing. If you have any question, please contact Bucky Sawyer.

Sept. 1 – Goat and Lamb Show – All goats and lambs may start coming into the fair grounds at 7 p.m. They must go through vet inspections, weigh-in and scrapie tags must be done before you can enter the barn. The show will begin at 8 p.m. This year the goats and lambs will be shown in the rodeo arena. All animals may leave at the conclusion of the show. If you have any questions, please contact Barbie Hoyt.

Due to the Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease there will not be a Rabbit Show.

Fair organizers are reminding livestock presenters of several notices:

-No wash racks may be used.

-No fans will be used. If you need a fan, please bring your own.

-No grooming will be allowed on the fairgrounds.

-Lamb and goat stands may be used but they must be 6 foot apart.

-Showmanship will follow after the conclusion of each show. If you wish not to participate in showmanship you may leave with your animal at that time.

-All CDC guidelines will be followed to the best extent possible.

UA COSSATOT PROVIDES CAREER COACHING SERVICES AT LOCAL HIGH SCHOOLS  07/29/20

As a new academic year approaches, UA Cossatot wants to encourage high school students to visit with a UA Cossatot Career Coach. UA Cossatot Career Coaches work within high schools and provide several services to help secondary students get ahead. UA Cossatot currently employs four Career Coaches within its High School Programs department who are available to help students enrolled at Nashville, Horatio, De Queen, and Ashdown High School.

UA Cossatot’s four Career Coaches include Amy Westfall for Nashville High School, Veronica Ozura for Horatio High School, Gabriela Balderas for De Queen High School, and Kelsey Smith for Ashdown High School.

Career Coaches provide advice, resources, information, and connections to help students in high school plan for college and future careers. They also assist students by helping them identify personal goals and figure out what career or direction would be best for them while educating students about available resources at UA Cossatot. One of these resources includes taking college credit classes in high school at no charge to the student through UA Cossatot.

UA Cossatot High School Programs Director, Julie Rhodes said, “Our Career Coaches are awesome. We are incredibly thankful that they’re working with our local high schools to provide students with these amazing benefits. Many of our current UA Cossatot students chose to take the first step in their post-secondary education due to the efforts of our hard-working Career Coaches.”

After working with UA Cossatot for many years, Amy Westfall became a full-time Career Coach in 2016 for Nashville High School.

Amy Westfall

Amy says, “I love working with people, and in this job, I can help students determine what they might want to be and how to prepare for it. In my job, I tackle concurrent credit forms, college applications, all scholarships, FAFSA applications, college and career fairs, college trips, as well as military and special guest visits to our high school.  When working with students, I also put an emphasis on the importance of test scores such as the ACT and ASVAB scores when it comes to planning ahead. I have a unique advantage, working in the junior high and high school setting, and I love that I can promote UA Cossatot for high school services.”

Nashville students can contact Amy Westfall at 870-845-3201, ext. 518 or via e-mail at awestfall@cccua.edu.

Before working as a Career Coach, Veronica Ozura worked at UA Cossatot as a College Recruiter/Career Specialist. In that role, she saw the gap in what many high school students knew about how to get to college and prepare for it. As a first-generation student herself, she knew she could relate to the difficulties and also felt that she could help others bridge the gap between high school and college so that more students could achieve their career goals. In 2013, Ozura became a Career Coach for Horatio High School.

This past month, Veronica took a new position as a Counselor for Horatio High School, where she will continue to work with the new Career Coach and UA Cossatot students.  Veronica says,

Veronica Ozura

“As a Career Coach, I was able to build a connection to students and work with them one on one. I love working with students being the liaison between the college world and the high school world. It is the best of both worlds!  I look forward to continuing to do that in my new role and as I work alongside the new Career Coach.”

Veronica will continue to help students with Career Coach services, until the new Career Coach position has been filled.  Horatio students can contact Veronica Ozura at 870-832-1900 or via e-mail at vozura@cccua.edu.

Gabriela Balderas began working as a Career Coach for UA Cossatot in the fall of 2014. Gabriela provides educational services to De Queen students on career and post-secondary planning.

Gabriela Balderas

Balderas says, “I enjoy working with the students at De Queen High School. I believe we have some of the best students, and I love being able to see them grow from year to year and learn about their aspirations. I also like being able to connect students to resources offered at UA Cossatot while in high school. We have many students that attend the UA Cossatot Secondary Career Center and many that are doing concurrent credit at the high school.  These opportunities allow students to be able to get a head start on earning college credit.”

De Queen students can contact Gabriela Balderas at 870-642-2426 or via e-mail at gbalderas@cccua.edu.

In 2019, Kelsey Smith became the first Career Coach for Ashdown High School. In her first year as a Career Coach, Smith has helped provide students with opportunities for job shadowing, mentoring, internships, visits to businesses and industries, as well as other career awareness activities.

Kelsey Smith

Kelsey says, “The thing I enjoy about my job the most is getting to work with my students every day. I love coming to work and helping students prepare for a new phase of life. No two people have the same path, and it is so cool to see the students realize their potential while finding fulfillment in their post-secondary choices! My main goal is for my students to feel positive and confident about their post-secondary path!”

Ashdown students can contact Kelsey Smith at 870-898-3562, ext. 1007 or via e-mail at ksmith@cccua.edu.

Students can visit with Career Coaches in-person at their high school throughout the year, but they are encouraged to e-mail or call their Career Coach this summer to make preparations for the upcoming fall semester.

Students who attend a high school that does not have a UA Cossatot Career Coach can still receive the same services by contacting High School Programs Director, Julie Rhodes at jrhodes@cccua.edu or 870-584-1343.

FREE ONLINE PROGRAM TO SUPPORT DIET, EXERCISE AND NUTRITION DURING COVID-19 ISOLATION IN ARKANSAS   07/29/20

Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic is no time to ignore diet and exercise, according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

DFEND — for Diet, Food, Exercise and Nutrition During social distancing — is a free multimedia course from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture designed to help people focus on health and nutrition during COVID-19 isolation.

The program began in May, providing video demonstrations, fact sheets and weekly nutrition and physical activity education sessions. The program also features “Fast Facts” videos designed to help with decisions related to diet, food and exercise during social distancing.

Baum said the program has evolved into a course curriculum to give people basic understanding of food and nutrition.

“We kept getting the same questions week after week,” said Jaime Baum of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “And I thought that if people had a basic understanding of the functions of diet, food, exercise and nutrition, it would give them a foundation for managing health and wellbeing.

“DFEND provides this through educational opportunities and an open forum to discuss questions related to diet, food and exercise with scientific experts during COVID-19 isolation,” Baum added.

The free course’s objectives include:

  • Discuss factors influencing food habits and choices with leading experts in the field
  • Identify the various nutrients, their food sources, and functions to increase personal nutrition knowledge
  • Locate reliable resources for food and physical activity information
  • Understand basic nutrition principles to incorporate into selecting a healthy eating pattern
  • Discuss the latest science in food and physical activity with the D-FEND community

For more information or to register for the program, go to the DFEND webpage — https://aaes.uark.edu/centers-and-programs/nutrition/d-fend/ — and sign up for the newsletter, or contact Baum at the Center for Human Nutrition at cfhn@uark.edu.

KINDERGARTEN REGISTRATION CONTINUES TODAY AT DE QUEEN PRIMARY      07/29/20

Kindergarten Registration continues today for incoming students at De Queen Primary School. Registration will be held today for students with last names beginning with M through Q. You can register your child between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and again from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tomorrow, registration will be open to students whose last names begin with R through Z.

District officials ask that only one parent or guardian of each student is present for registration in an effort to limit the number of people in the building. The incoming kindergarten student will be needed for testing at the vent. Everyone is asked to wear a face mask.

Dr. Walker’s office will be on hand to provide immunizations and offer sign up for the new Leopard Care Clinic. Parents are asked to provide their children’s birth certificate, social security card, immunization record and proof of address.

If you do not feel comfortable coming to the on-site registration, call (870) 642-3100 to set up a phone conference to register your child.

DEADLINE IS AUG. 8 FOR PPP LOAN APPLICATIONS      07/29/20

Area business owners and farmers have until Aug. 8 to apply for the nationwide Paycheck Protection Program.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

The Small Business Administration will forgive these loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage, interest or utilities. Sixty percent must be used for payroll expenses.

Most local banks are participating in the program, which expires Aug. 8. If you need help finding a lender, contact the SBA Arkansas Office at 501-324-7379.

ASHDOWN ZONING & PLANNING COMMITTEE MEETING     07/29

Mr. Mark Ardwin announced that the City of Ashdown will hold a Zoning & Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday, July 29th, 11:00 am at Ashdown City Hall.  Items being considered include Variances in building codes.

LOCAL COVID-19 STATISTICS FOR SEVIER, SURROUNDING COUNTIES 07/28/20

As of Monday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases increased by six from Sunday to 906.
Active Positives decreased by four during the same period to 51.

Deaths remain at nine. There have been 846 recoveries since the start of the pandemic.

In neighboring counties:

Little River County saw a decrease of three active positive cases for a total of 20. Total case count increased by two to 82. Little River has seen one COVID-19 related death since the start of pandemic.

Howard County Active Positives decreased by 15 to 57. Total cases increased by 10 to 246. Howard County has reported two deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Polk County Active Positives increased by three to 17. Total cases increased by 11 to 120. 103 people have recovered since the start of the pandemic.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health McCurtain County saw an increase of eight total cases from Sunday for a new total of 791. Active positives increased by five to 141. Deaths remain at 20.

PRIVATE ALLIGATOR LAND HUNTING PERMITS STILL AVAILABLE 07/28/20

The drawing for Arkansas’s 2020-21 public land alligator season permits is complete, and 38 hunters have been notified of drawing their permit. If you weren’t one of the lucky few who scored a public land permit this year, there’s still plenty of opportunity to bag a gator in The Natural State. Thanks to a new quota-hunt system, anyone with access to private land in the southern half of the state has an opportunity to go on an alligator hunt.

Jonathon Ross poses with the eight-foot, 10-inch alligator he harvested last year.

If you didn’t draw one of the public land tags, there’s still a good chance to tag an alligator in 2020. This year, instead of hoping for a drawn permit, hunters who own or have permission to hunt on private land will be able to hunt through a quota-based system similar to bear hunting and private land elk hunting in The Natural State.

Mark Barbee, wildlife biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Monticello Regional Office, says the quota system has worked extremely well for elk during the last few years and has been in place for bear hunting in Arkansas for decades.

“Anyone can obtain the private land alligator permit through the AGFC’s online licensing system for $5 in addition to their hunting license,” Barbee said. “They will be able to participate in the alligator hunt on private land they have permission to hunt until the quota has been met in that zone. It will be up to each hunter to call in before their hunt every night to the wildlife hotline (1-800-440-1477) to see if the quota has been met and if they can continue their hunt.”

Barbee says the change will allow more people with possible nuisance alligator issues to have a chance to remove those alligators or allow another hunter to do so. He hopes the change also will encourage more hunters who have permits to follow through with their hunt.

“We set the number of permits and quotas based on how many alligators we need removed to keep the population at a sustainable level that minimizes nuisance issues,” Barbee said. “But we do see quite a few private land tags go unfilled each year if the hunter doesn’t find a large enough alligator to meet their expectations. Now that extra harvest opportunity can be used by another hunter on different land.”

Hunter orientations also will see a bit of a change this year, as precautions against large public gatherings due to the coronavirus will prevent the seminar-style orientations historically used for successful permit applicants.

“We have developed an online alligator hunt orientation and training manual at agfc.com that lays out all the most important details and frequently asked questions about the hunt,” Barbee said. “Before a person engages in an alligator hunt, they should read through this orientation material to familiarize themselves with the rules of the hunt.”

Visit www.agfc.com/alligator for more information on Arkansas’s 2020 alligator season. The private land alligator permit is available through the “Buy a License” button at agfc.com.

2020 Public Land Alligator Permit Winners:

Zone 1 – Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois d’Arc WMA
River Melugin
Roy Whatley
Drake Kidd

Zone 1 – Lake Erling
Tonya Smreker

Zone 1 – Little River
James Bradford

Zone 1 – Millwood Lake
William Verdic
Wade McCaghren
Karen Gathright
Albert Talbert
Jacob Day
Christian Dougan
Justin Harris
Joshua Cantrell
Thomas Bishop

Zone 3 – Lower Arkansas River Wetland Complex
Alan Bostick
Lezeme Winn
Lauren Bryant
James Blanford
Britton Burris
Travis Bearden
Terry Crafton
Cody Walker
Ronald Tedford
Jimmy Wilson
Frankie Webb
Brett James
Eric Duncan
Katherine Guynes
Juston Hamilton
Rian Rowe
Mark Addison
William Tietz
Keith Sutton
Luke Griggs
David Gorman
Justin Niswonger
Clint Bradberry
Samuel Bumgardner

ASHDOWN EDUCATOR RECEIVES MATH LEARNING GRANT 07/28/20

Ashdown Junior High 7th Grade Math Teacher Tom Simmons applied and received one of four grants from the Arkansas Association of Middle Level Education (AAMLE).  The grant will provide engaging resources that will help students develop a deep conceptual understanding of higher level mathematical subjects.

Tom Simmons

With this “hands on” purposeful learning, students are more likely to retain the information. Students in grades 6-8 will have access to these resources in all of their math classes.

As one of the recipients of the AAMLE grant, Simmons will have the opportunity to share the success from this grant with other middle level teachers from across the state at the 2021 AAMLE Spring Conference as a presenter.  Simmons is joining the staff at AJHS for this first time this year, but brings a wealth of teaching experience.

AS SUMMER BLOOMS, BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR ALGAE BLOOMS TO FOLLOW SUIT 07/28/20

As temperatures rise and summer moves into full swing, wildlife on the water is also returning to its seasonal proclivities — for better and for worse. As of July, the first harmful algal blooms of 2020 have been reported in Arkansas.

GREEN WATERS — Harmful algal blooms (HABs) often begin to occur in early to mid-summer in Arkansas, as temperature rise. A fact sheet for identifying and sanitizing HABs is now available from the UofA System Division of Agriculture. (Photo courtesy of Brad Austin, Arkansas Water Resources Center.)

Harmful algal blooms are a fact of life in the state and elsewhere, on rivers, ponds and other bodies of water. The blooms are defined as the excessive growth of microscopic cyanobacteria or blue-green algae in water that can cause harm to animals, people or the local ecology. A bloom may have a paint-like appearance, or look like a foam, mat or scum. The coloration may appear blue-green, green, yellow, white, brown, purple or red, and will often have an unpleasant odor.

The harm to human and animal health caused by an algal bloom can range from minor symptoms, such as skin irritation and gastrointestinal irritation, to serious medical issues including death (although this is rare). Signs of cyanotoxin poisoning depend on the type of toxin, toxin concentration, amount consumed, size of the individual and exposure route.

To assist Arkansans in recognizing, understanding and treating harmful algal blooms, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has developed a concise fact sheet, available online at https://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/FSA9540.pdf. The fact sheet will be available at Cooperative Extension Service offices throughout the state in August.

John Pennington, extension water quality instructor and associate director of agriculture and natural resources for the Division of Agriculture, said that a work group composed of representatives from federal, state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations and municipalities developed the publication in response to increasing reports of harmful blooms in Arkansas.

“With the increase in calls to county offices about reported and identified harmful algal blooms throughout the state, the UA water quality team wanted to develop a resource that would be helpful to the public in recognizing, understanding and treating them,” Pennington said.

Most recently, a bloom was confirmed in Lake Overcup in Morrilton, Ark. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which manages the lake, issued a health advisory warning.

While a harmful algal bloom will rarely contain toxins, it is capable of producing them and releasing them under certain conditions that are not yet completely known.

Various factors, such as sunlight, weather patterns, and nitrogen and phosphorus in a water body are known to cause the blooms. Soil erosion, fertilizer and human and animal waste are common sources of nitrogen and phosphorus, although atmospheric nitrogen also plays a role.

The blooms most often occur in summer and fall when the weather is warm and calm, as the blue green algae or cyanobacteria can migrate toward the optimal growing conditions near the water surface.

The availability of the printed fact sheets was made possible thanks to financial support from Central Arkansas Water and Beaver Water District, the two largest water suppliers in Arkansas.

To learn more about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

UA COSSATOT ANNOUNCES FALL 2020 PLAN 07/28/20

On July 23, 2020, UA Cossatot Chancellor, Dr. Steve Cole, spoke at the Capitol, during the Education Committee meeting of the Arkansas Legislative Council. At the meeting, Dr. Cole shared UA Cossatot’s fall 2020 COVID-19 Plan, which is now available for the public to view on the college’s website.

The purpose of this institutional plan is to prepare UA Cossatot’s staff, students, and community for the fall 2020 semester at all UA Cossatot campuses. This summer, Dr. Cole selected a COVID-19 Task Force to build a plan for the fall semester. The plan is now complete and it contains guidelines that are in place to provide the safest working and learning environment possible.

The plan includes topics such as health and safety guidelines, department procedures, and class size management. While several classes this fall will be available online, many courses will still be available in a traditional on-campus setting. These classes will be familiar to many students, but they will be reduced in the total number of students per class so everyone can social distance.

UA Cossatot Division Chairs and faculty have been working together to finalize classroom operation plans for traditional classes, flex classes, and online courses so students can feel safe and focus on learning.  For classes offered on-campus, everyone will be required to wear face masks and rooms will be disinfected after each class has ended. Many courses will also be available in a hybrid format.

Since the college’s knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 continues to evolve, UA Cossatot will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends locally, statewide, and regionally to update guidance as circumstances warrant throughout the semester.

As the first college in Arkansas to offer an online degree, UA Cossatot is prepared and has taken precautions to make classes offered on-campus available online if the college is forced to do that at some point in the semester.

UA Cossatot Chancellor Dr. Steve Cole said, “Job one for us this semester is to provide a learning environment that is as safe as possible. COVID-19 has turned our world upside down but we wanted to try to achieve some sort of normalcy for our students during this fall semester. We understand the respect we must give this virus and we understand that our students want to protect themselves and their families. Hopefully with our fall 2020 COVID-19 plan we can create an atmosphere that lets our students know that we care about their health and learning.”

The complete UA Cossatot fall 2020 COVID-19 plan can be viewed at www.cccua.edu/novel-coronavirus

DEADLINE IS SEPT. 1 FOR UA COSSATOT CARES GRANT    07/28/20

University of Arkansas Cossatot has announced that students who qualify can apply and receive a $500 CARES ACT Grant this fall. This grant was established with federal funds to help students that were and are still financially being impacted due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

The deadline to register for fall classes and receive a fall CARES ACT Grant is September 1, 2020.

After registering for fall classes, students can complete the application at www.cccua.edu/cares. The $500 checks will be mailed to students who qualify starting September 2, 2020.

UA Cossatot still has $233,000 of CARES ACT funds left from the spring and summer to be awarded to UA Cossatot students this fall.

Students who are taking online courses or who have previously received the grant earlier this year are still eligible to apply for the CARES ACT Grant this fall.

UA Cossatot’s Student Services department is currently enrolling students in fall classes. Students can sign up for classes or seek assistance by contacting Student Services at 870-584-4471 or via e-mail at studentservices@cccua.edu. Students can also enroll in classes in-person with an Admissions Advisor. The college is open this summer Monday thru Thursday from 7:30 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.

For more information about the UA Cossatot CARES ACT Grant Application, please visit www.cccua.edu/cares.

ASHDOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT STUDYING EDUCATIONAL NEEDS OF LOCAL SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS     07/28/20

The Ashdown School District is participating in an ongoing statewide effort to identify, locate, and evaluate children from birth to the age of 21, who have a physical, mental, communicative and/or emotional disability.  Early identification of children in need of special education experiences is most important to each child.  Furthermore, this information gathered from contacts with parents and other agencies will be used to help determine present and future program needs as progress is made toward the goal of providing a free appropriate public education to all children with a disability.

The Ashdown School District will work with the local Head Start, Human Services, Health Department, and Mental Health Agencies, as well as local education agencies, physicians, and other individuals to identify and locate children out of school and in school who may be in need of special education services.  Please contact Ashdown Schools Special Education Department at 870-898-3208 ext. 1607 if you know any child who may have a disability.

AUTHORITIES RECOVER STOLEN FOUR-WHEELER 07/27/20

Authorities have arrested two people in connection to a four-wheeler stolen in Sevier County last week.

According to the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, a four-wheeler was stolen on the afternoon of July 23 from a residence in the county. Investigators said two suspects stole the four-wheeler from an eight-year-old boy. The four-wheeler was later seen along the Oklahoma state line in Panki Bo and heading towards Eagletown.

The four-wheeler was later recovered and two suspects, 40-year-old Chris Chandler and 34-year-old Jennifer Emfinger, both of Gillham, were taken into custody for felony counts of theft of property.

Sevier County deputies returned the undamaged and unaltered four-wheeler to the rightful owners. The owner took to Facebook afterwards to thank local law enforcement for recovering the four-wheeler. The owner also shared their appreciation for private citizens who shared the theft alert and aided officers with information that lead to the recovery and arrests.

PUBLIC ASKED TO REPORT RECEIPT OF ANY UNSOLICITED PACKAGES OF SEEDS 07/27/20

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has been made aware that private citizens in several states have received unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China. The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them.

Arkansans are being specifically asked not to plant these seeds. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture encourages anyone who has received unsolicited seeds in the mail that appears to have Chinese origin to place the unopened seed packet in a sealed bag and contact the Plant Industries Division at 501-225-1598 or:

Paul Shell Paul.shell@agriculture.arkansas.gov

Mark Stoll Mark.stoll@agriculture.arkansas.gov

Scott Bray Scott.bray@agriculture.arkansas.gov

Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops. Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.

APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE, REDUCED SCHOOL LUNCHES 07/27/20

Parents of children who qualify for free or reduced meals at area schools can sign up easier than ever with a new online application.

Free and reduced meal applications must be completed each year. This year parents can sign up and qualify for the program by visiting www.lunchapp.com

The easy-to-fill-out form can be completed on a smartphone or computer. If you do not have a way to complete the form online, a paper application will also be included in your student’s registration packet.

Free and reduced meal applications must be completed each year. Only one application per family is required. The application must include all children and adults in the household. If your income status changes, you may submit a new meal application anytime throughout the year

PROGRAMS LAUNCH THIS WEEK TO HELP LOCAL RESIDENTS PAY ENERGY BILLS, GET AIR CONDITIONING THIS SUMMER  07/27/20

Starting this week Arkansans can begin applying for help to pay their energy bills and get air conditioning through $8.2 million in COVID-19 related relief funding.

The relief funding is provided through the LIHEAP program to help people pay overdue energy bills and help with winter fuel resources, like wood and propane.

The three changes to the program:

  • Adds housing energy help in winter months, no longer just summer
  • The maximum is now $1,500 in benefits as opposed to $500
  • You can submit a past due notice, no longer a present shut-off notice

Around $1.2 million of the relief funding will be allocated to the Summer Cooling Program, an air conditioning program that will help qualified residents.

If you don’t have an air conditioning unit or it’s broken, this program allows you to get repairs or installation. The qualifications include elderly, disabled, children aged 5 and younger, and/or a medical condition that can be verified.

Both programs launched Monday, July 27.

The Central Arkansas Development Council, which funds LIHEAP has helped more than 17,000 people this year alone. They also provide rent and emergency food box assistance.

For Sevier County, Howard County and Little River County residents seeking to request a LIHEAP application, call (501) 326-6229. Residents of Polk County seeking to request a LIHEAP application should call (479) 229-4861.

REGISTRATION BEGINS TODAY FOR DE QUEEN KINDERGARTENERS 07/27/20

Kindergarten Registration begins today, Monday, July 27 and continues through July 30 at De Queen Primary School. Registration will be held each day between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and again from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The day your child can register is dependent on your last name. On Monday, registration is open for students with last names beginning with A through G, Tuesday H through L, Wednesday M through Q and Thursday R through Z.

District officials ask that only one parent or guardian of each student is present for registration in an effort to limit the number of people in the building. The incoming kindergarten student will be needed for testing at the vent. Everyone is asked to wear a face mask.

Dr. Walker’s office will be on hand to provide immunizations and offer sign up for the new Leopard Care Clinic. Parents are asked to provide their children’s birth certificate, social security card, immunization record and proof of address.

If you do not feel comfortable coming to the on-site registration, call (870) 642-3100 to set up a phone conference to register your child. De Queen students will return to school Aug. 24.

FOREMAN SETS SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING 07/27/20

The Foreman City Council will meet during a specially called council meeting on Wednesday, July 29 starting at 4 p.m. in the Foreman Community Room.

There are two special topics of business on the meeting’s agenda.

The first item of business will be a measure to approve the wording for reallocating the city’s half-cent sales tax. This tax will go to support the Industrial Development fund and will be brought to the citizens of Foreman by vote on the ballot in the November General Election.

The second item of business will be a vote on approving a contract for one entity to open a new healthcare clinic in Foreman.

The meeting will be open to all interested citizens of Foreman.

HIGHWAY IMPROVEMENTS ACROSS MILLWOOD DAM WILL CAUSE TEMPORARY LANE CLOSURES 07/27/20

Pavement preservation work on Highway 32 across Millwood Dam will require temporary lane closures, according to Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) officials.

Weather permitting, crews will reduce traffic on Highway 32 to one lane controlled by portable traffic signals between the River Run West Recreation Area road and the River Run East Outlet Channel road starting at 8 a.m. on Monday, July 27 and continuing until work is complete which is estimated to take eight weeks. This closure will allow crews to patch, level and overlay Highway 32 as well as remove the current guardrail, extend the shoulder, and install a new guardrail on the extended shoulder.

Traffic will be controlled by traffic cones, portable traffic signals, and signage. Drivers should exercise caution when approaching and traveling through all highway work zones. Additional travel information can be found at IDriveArkansas.com or ARDOT.gov. You can also follow us on Twitter @myARDOT.

SEVIER COUNTY FAIR CANCELS RODEO, CARNIVAL AND PAGEANTS; ONLY LIVESTOCK SHOW TO REMAIN THIS YEAR DUE TO COVID-19 07/24/20

The 83rd Annual Sevier County Fair is the latest addition to the growing list of COVID-19-related cancellations this summer and fall.

Fair organizers announced this week that this year’s annual Sevier County Fair and Rodeo would be severely limited in scope and scale due to the ongoing pandemic. At this point, and pending state approval, the 2020 fair will include only the yearly livestock show. The professional rodeo and week-long carnival have both been cancelled.

“This was a very tough decision to make,” said Sevier County Fair Manager Sandra Nunn. “Because we couldn’t guarantee our ability to meet the necessary state guidelines, we’ve had to cancel everything but the livestock show.”

Included in the cancelled events is the always-popular commercial building exhibits and vendor space. There will be no fair or rodeo pageant this year, either.

The changed schedule of events is particularly upsetting for fair organizers as 2020 was set to see the return of a ride-filled carnival. It’s been several years since the fair has hosted a carnival and organizers were excited to welcome Hip Hop Amusements to this year’s line up. Unfortunately, carnival companies have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the carnival would have made following state health guidelines nearly impossible.

“That was something we were looking really forward to,” Nunn explained. “I think most people anticipated that this would happen given everything that’s going on, but it’s still a blow for this year’s event.”

Fair organizers said they hope people will understand the decision and begin looking forward to next year’s fair and rodeo. Nunn said the Dodge Professional Rodeo Co. has already committed for 2021.

“Hopefully,” Nunn said, “we’ll be back somewhat to normal next year.”

Another popular event is still planned for this year’s fair, though organizers aren’t exactly sure what form it will take. That’s the Sevier County Premium Sale, during which local businesses contribute tens of thousands of dollars in support of local youths who display livestock each year. 2020 has no doubt been extremely difficult for many area businesses so participation is expected to be less than previous years, and understandably so.

Nunn said that although no live auction will be held during this year’s Premium Sale, organizers are still figuring out ways for local businesses and groups to show their support of youth livestock presenters. More details are expected in August.

With the huge change to the schedule, fair organizers are highlighting some date changes to the livestock schedule. The goldfish and 4-H poultry show will both be held Aug. 29 at 9 a.m. The pig show will be held that evening shortly after 8 p.m. The cattle show is scheduled for Aug. 31 around 8 p.m. Sept. 1 will include the goat and lamb show, both set to begin at 8 p.m.

For more information, visit the Sevier County Fair’s website at www.seviercountyfairarkansas.com or visit the group’s page on Facebook.

SEVIER COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE SEEKING PUBLIC’S HELP IN RECOVERING STOLEN FOUR-WHEELER 07/24/20

The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s assistance in recovering a Honda four-wheeler stolen Thursday afternoon.

According to the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, the four-wheeler was stolen that afternoon around 2 p.m. from an eight-year-old boy. The four-wheeler was last seen around 4 p.m. that afternoon in Eagletown.

A surveillance camera screenshot shows a man and woman riding the four-wheeler. The sheriff’s office has identified the two suspects as Chris Chandler and Jennifer Emfinger.

A cash reward is being offered by the owner of the four-wheeler for any information that leads to its return.

If you have information on the whereabouts of the suspects or four-wheeler, call the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office at (870) 642-2125.

ONLY A FEW DAYS REMAIN FOR ORGANIZERS BEHIND PETITION TO PLACE ALCOHOL SALES ON NOVEMBER BALLOT 07/24/20

Organizers behind an effort to place the legalization of alcohol sales in Sevier County on this year’s ballot have just a few more days to gain the final needed signatures.

Members of the Sevier County EDGE group say they plan to be busy over the next few days collecting those final signatures before the July 28th deadline. Organizers say they are very close to obtaining the total of 2,573 valid signatures. If they meet at least that figure, the issue of legalizing alcohol sales will be included on the November ballot for Sevier County voters to decide.

Despite being close to meeting the minimum amount of signatures, organizers do not want to discourage anyone from coming by and adding their name to the list. The more names, say organizers, the better, especially since each signature must be verified through the county clerk’s office.

Organizers stress signing the petition does not mean you are for or against the issue. The needed number of signatures on the petition just allows the issue to be put on the ballot for citizens of Sevier County to decide this fall.

A drive thru signing event will be manned 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and tomorrow at the Town North Shopping Center. The petitions can also be found at a number of businesses throughout Sevier County. Some members of the EDGE coalition are going door-to-door in support of the petition. These volunteers are wearing ID badges and will clearly present themselves to homeowners.

The deadline to sign the petition and see it on this year’s ballot is Tuesday, July 28. For more information, visit Sevier County EDGE on Facebook.

UA COSSATOT ANNOUNCES OVER $230,000 LEFT IN CARES ACT SCHOLARSHPS 07/24/20

University of Arkansas Cossatot has announced that students who qualify can apply and receive a $500 CARES ACT Grant this fall. This grant was established with federal funds to help students that were and are still financially being impacted due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

The deadline to register for fall classes and receive a fall CARES ACT Grant is September 1, 2020.

After registering for fall classes, students can complete the application at www.cccua.edu/cares. The $500 checks will be mailed to students who qualify starting September 2, 2020.

UA Cossatot still has $233,000 of CARES ACT funds left from the spring and summer to be awarded to UA Cossatot students this fall.

Students who are taking online courses or who have previously received the grant earlier this year are still eligible to apply for the CARES ACT Grant this fall.

UA Cossatot’s Student Services department is currently enrolling students in fall classes. Students can sign up for classes or seek assistance by contacting Student Services at 870-584-4471 or via e-mail at studentservices@cccua.edu. Students can also enroll in classes in-person with an Admissions Advisor. The college is open this summer Monday thru Thursday from 7:30 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.

For more information about the UA Cossatot CARES ACT Grant Application, please visit www.cccua.edu/cares.

ASHDOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS RELEASE BACK TO SCHOOL INFORMATION 07/24/20

Ashdown Public Schools will host its official registration for grades K-12 between August 3 and Aug. 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day; however, you may contact your student’s campus prior to those dates to pick up registration packets if desired. For your convenience, there will be “drive through” registration sites where registration packets may be picked up, completed, and returned. These sites will be by grade level, at the following locations:

-Ashdown Elementary School (parking lot near cafeteria) for grades K-5

-Ashdown Junior High (parking lot near cafeteria) for grades 6-8

-Ashdown High School (main entrance) for grades 9-12

The district’s goal is to have “on-site” Meet the Teacher meetings, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., on Aug.18- 20, 2020. To ensure the safety of students, staff and parents, we are currently devising a plan to ensure maximum social distancing during meet the teacher. More details will be provided through your student’s campus, via calls, emails, text messages, district web page, and social media.

District officials say their goal is to conduct school as “normal” as possible; however, many safeguards will be in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of every child and staff member. If circumstances dictate an alteration to a child’s normal school day, the district will use blended-learning options to continue to meet the educational needs of every student. If family circumstances dictate that your child participate in off-site digital learning for extended periods, please contact the office of the Superintendent (870)-898-3208, to set up a time to discuss educational opportunities and accommodations that will be available via blendedlearning. Students participating in this process for short or long periods MUST still register for school with Ashdown Public Schools, during the allotted times.

All campus visitors, must be screened prior to entry (in accordance to current ADH criteria), and access will be limited during the school day. When visitors are permitted on campus, all adults and children (10 years and over) will be required to wear PPE at all times, and maintain social distancing. Student Transportation Parents are encouraged to drop off and pick up their children during the fall of 2020; however, Ashdown Public Schools WILL provide bus transportation.

Buses will run regular routes, as they have in previous years, both morning and afternoon. All students (10 years and 5 over) will be required to wear masks, and students under the age of 10 will be strongly encouraged (unless a medical condition dictates otherwise).

SEVIER COUNTY LIBRARIES LIKELY TO REOPEN NEXT WEEK 07/24/20

Sevier County Head Librarian Johnye Fisher said the county’s libraries are likely to open back to the public late next week. Fisher said additional health protective measures will be completed then and allow the library to reopen its doors.

Since Masks are mandated by the Governor of Arkansas, masks will be required in all Sevier County Libraries. However if you have a health condition that prevents wearing a mask for a short time then give the library a call and they will set up an appointment. Curbside service will also continue Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can visit seviercountylibraries.org to see the libraries’ complete catalog as well as open hours and other information.

ARKANSAS EXPERIENCING INCREASE IN SOCIAL SECURITY RELATED SCAMS 07/24/20

As Arkansans adjust to the new normal during the pandemic, the lull from robocalls has ended and bad actors are again seeking the social security numbers of our most vulnerable. The Attorney General’s Office has seen an increase in complaints where scammers are pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and threaten consumers into providing personal information or asking for money.

“It’s time to reinforce an important fact: the government will never call consumers requesting financial information,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “If you receive a call claiming to be from the government, requesting personal or financial information, immediately hang up the phone. Let my office do the fighting for you by reporting these illegal calls.”

Attorney General Rutledge and the Federal Trade Commission released the following tips for Arkansans who may be dealing with a government impostor:

  • Never give out or confirm sensitive information, such as bank account, credit card or social security numbers, to an unsolicited caller.
  • Be cautious of callers using organization names similar to existing agencies. Scammers use internet technology to spoof area codes, so although it may seem the call is from Washington, D.C., it could originate from anywhere in the world.
  • The Social Security Administration and other government agencies have warned about these scams and suggest contacting the agency directly.
  • The Social Security Administration can be contacted at (800) 772-1213 to verify the reason for the contact and the person’s identity prior to providing any information to the caller.

To report this scam to the Social Security Administration, contact its Fraud Hotline at (800) 269-0271, or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If you have provided your social security number to a scammer, visit www.identitytheft.gov/SSA to find out what steps you can take to protect your identity.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please visitArkansasAG.gov or call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982.

DE QUEEN SCHOOL DISTRICT OUTLINES OPTIONS FOR STUDENTS RETURNING TO SCHOOL THIS FALL 07/23/20

The De Queen School district has outlined the options parents and students will have when classes return next month.

The district is offering both on site instruction as well as a virtual learning option for parents who do not feel comfortable returning their kids to an in-class setting for the 2020-2021 school year.

According to district officials, students’ best option is on-site daily instruction Monday through Friday by certified De Queen teachers. To ease concerns about reopening schools amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the district has instituted a number of policies.

Personal protective equipment including face masks will be provided for all students and staff. Each school is planning extended daily cleaning procedures including the use of disinfectant fogging machines. Social distancing guidelines will be followed to the best extent possible.

As per Governor Asa Hutchinson’s statewide mandate, face coverings will be required for all students in grades three through 12. De Queen Public Schools is strongly encouraging the use of face covering for everyone’s safety.

With the exception of kindergarteners, all student schedules will be taken care of on the first day of school. In the event schools are closed again due to COVID-19, all students will shift to learning online via the Lincoln Learning program.

For parents and students choosing the virtual instruction option, learning will take place through a 100 percent internet-based, state-approved curriculum that can be completed at home. Interested families must have internet access at home.

Electronic devices will be provided by the district if needed. The virtual option is available for all students kindergarten through 12. Virtual students will still be able to participate in district extracurricular activities.

Registration is open now. The registration form is available on the district website at dequeenleopards.org. The deadline for registration is Aug. 10. Students will be asked to commit to virtual instruction for a semester-by-semester basis.

For more information contact the administration office at (870) 584-4312.

HORATIO SCHOOLS HOSTS ONLINE FAQ; PLANS TO OFFER IN-CLASS AND VIRTUAL LEARNING OPTIONS THIS FALL 07/23/20

The Horatio School District has an online question and answer form on its website, www.horatioschools.org. The form includes a ton of information related to what parents can expect to see when school reopens this fall. Superintendent Zane Vanderpool invites everyone to read the form and reach out to board members or district officials with any questions or concerns.

According to Vanderpool, the district is committed to providing the safest learning environment for all of our students while still working to restore normalcy to the greatest degree possible.

As part of the Arkansas “Ready for Learning” initiative, Horatio Schools will implement two “Blended Learning” options for students for the 20-21 school year, on-site and virtual. The district will also follow all  guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Education and Arkansas Department of Health as it plans reopening in August. This guidance continues to change, sometimes daily, as new developments arise. Additional  information will continue to be shared as the new school year approaches.

ARKANSAS RANCHERS, FARMERS RECEIVE $8.6 MILLION IN AID 07/23/20

Arkansas farmers and ranchers have received more than $86 million in Coronavirus Food Assistance Program direct payments as of Monday, according to a report released Monday.

The payments are designed to provide relief to eligible farmers and ranchers facing financial losses due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The payments are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $16 billion financial aid package to farmers.

Arkansas’ share was 1.5 percent of total payments made nationwide. Arkansas ranks 22nd among the recipients of CFAP money. As of June 15, Iowa was the top recipient of CFAP funds from all categories with $318.99 million. Alaska received zero dollars in funding.

Lion’s share to livestock

Scott Stiles, extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said that nearly 75 percent — $64.66 million — of the approved CFAP payments in Arkansas went to livestock producers, while nearly 23 percent, or  $19.61 million, went to non-specialty crops, which include spring wheat, soybeans, cotton and corn. Rice and winter wheat were excluded from the program. Specialty crop producers received $1.27 million, while dairy farmers accounted for less than $1 million, at $807,587.

Livestock producers in Arkansas also submitted the most applications to the program, more than 11,000. The livestock category includes cattle, hogs and sheep. In 2018, the latest figures available, Arkansas cattle and calves were a $480 million business and the state ranked No. 10 in the nation in beef cattle.

COVID has not been gentle on beef producers, hitting production facilities early on and backing up cattle sales.

“What’s mainly behind the high number of applications is that anyone who sold or owned inventory of cattle between Jan. 15 and May 14 of this year is eligible for some kind of direct payment under CFAP,” said John Anderson, head of the Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness department for the Division and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. “Basically, every cattle operation in the state is eligible.”

Deadline Aug. 28

Eligible farmers and ranchers may apply for CFAP direct payments through county USDA Farm Service Agency offices until Aug. 28. More information on the CFAP program and the application process may be found at farmers.gov/cfap.

Monday’s report is part of the Division of Agriculture’s weekly analyses of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. See them at  https://bit.ly/AR-Ag-Eco-Impacts2020.

To learn about extension and research programs in Arkansas, visit www.division.uaex.edu, Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk, @uaex_edu or @ArkAgResearch.

DE QUEEN FIRST ASSEMBLY TO HOST VIRTUAL VBS 07/23/20

De Queen First Assembly of God will host a virtual Vacation Bible School this summer for local children and families. The Faith Lab @ Home event gives families an exciting yet practical way to conduct a Vacation Bible School program in their home.

The five-day program contains five segments – scripture memory through song, two science devotions, a silly game and a family science project. Bonus items include outdoor games and other activities. Any items needed for projects will be common household objects. Some items will be provided following registration.

The open-ended projects and games could keep your family entertained for the whole evening, but each of the five-day sessions could be completed in 30-40 minutes. There will be plenty of ways to connect through daily family challenges and photo sharing.

You must register online for this year’s Vacation Bible School at De Queen First Assembly of God. For more information or to register, visit dequeenfirstassembly.org

SEVIER COUNTY SEES FIRST UPTICK IN ACTIVE COVID-19 CASES AFTER MORE THAN A WEEK IN DECLINE 07/23/20

As of Wednesday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:Total Cases increased by 11 between Tuesday and Wednesday to a total of 880.
Active Positives increased by six during the same period to a total of 66.
Recoveries increased by five to 805.

Deaths remain at nine

In neighboring counties:

Little River County saw an increase of five active positive cases to a total of 23. Total case count increased by five to 72.

Howard County Active Positives increased by 10 to a total of 69. Total cases increased by 13 to 209.

Polk County Active Positives decreased by two to 13. Total cases remain at 106.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health McCurtain County saw an increase of 33 cases between Tuesday and Wednesday for a new total of 728. McCurtain County has seen a total of 17 deaths related to coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

DE QUEEN CITY COUNCIL MEETS JULY 21 07/22/20

The De Queen City Council met Tuesday night to discuss a relatively brief agenda.

Mayor Jeff Brown started the meeting by informing council members the city had been contacted by an internet provider wishing to use one of the city’s water towers as a possible location for a new broadband transmitter. Brown said the same company is currently installing a similar tower in Nashville. Brown said he would receive more information on the proposal to present at next month’s council meeting.

City officials then heard from Casey Morris and Leslie Daniels of UA Cossatot. They informed the council about the new Youth Build program awarded to the college. YouthBuild provides at-risk youth, ages 16-24, with education and occupational skill development to obtain employment in construction and other in-demand industries.

UA Cossatot was one of the awardees, obtaining a Youthbuild grant totaling $844,000 to provide local at-risk youth in Sevier, Howard, Little River, and Pike counties the opportunity to learn industrial maintenance and construction skills that lead to good jobs and better housing for the area.

“Youthbuild focuses on job training and education and while the students are learning, they are also renovating low income housing and learning trade skills that will last them a lifetime,” said Morris.

UA Cossatot has already hired three new staff members to assist students in applying for and training within the Youthbuild program. While the program has not officially started their first courses, they are ramping up operations quickly and should welcome their first cohort of students sometime this fall. For more information about the Youthbuild program at UA Cossatot, visit www.cccua.edu/youthbuild or email Jennifer Black at jblack@cccua.edu

Mayor Brown then provided council members with documents detailing the city’s 2020 mid-year budget review and adjustment. He asked members to study the budget’s line items for further discussion and approval during a future August meeting. The council then passed a motion to adjorn.

TERESA BUNYARD ANNOUNCES BID FOR RE-ELECTION 07/22/20

Teresa Bunyard announced Tuesday that she will seek re-election to an eleventh term as Alderman, Ward Two, Position One on the De Queen City Council in November.

Bunyard earned a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education from East Texas State University in 1987 and her Master’s of Business Administration degree in 1993. She passed the Certified Public Accountant’s exam and received her license to practice in 1994. After being employed for two years as the Office Manager at the Sevier County Farmers Co-operative, Bunyard worked for seven years as Chief Fiscal Officer and Dean of Business Administration at University of Arkansas – Cossatot. She is certified to teach both math and English at the high school level as well as business and accounting at the college level. She and her husband, Jay, own and operate radio stations in Arkansas, including KDQN AM-FM and KILX-FM in De Queen. Since 2001, Teresa has overseen the financial aspects of Bunyard Media Group and Towers, while Jay leads sales and coordinates operations.

Alderman Bunyard has two sons: Jacob, a graduate of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and now employed as the Financial Compliance Officer at First State Bank, and Jack, a senior at De Queen High School. The Bunyards are active members of the First Assembly of God Church.

Prior to serving on the City Council, Bunyard served for three years on the City’s Planning and Zoning Variance Board from 1995-1998.

In announcing her candidacy, Alderman Bunyard made the following statement: “It has been an honor and privilege for me to serve you on the City Council. My educational background and business experiences have prepared me well to work with budgets, administer grants, as well as understand revenues and expenditures in state and local government. Feel free to call me at 642-3104, as I always pledge to be accessible to listen to your concerns and suggestions. I humbly ask for your vote and continued support.”

LOCAL RESIDENTS ENCOURAGED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EXTRA FUNDING FOR ENERGY BILL ASSISTANCE, COOLING ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS 07/22/20

Arkansas is set to get $8.2 million to help low-income Arkansans pay their energy bills through LIPHEAP programs during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Mitchell Simpson, the director of the Arkansas Energy Office, spoke at Governor Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press briefing on Monday about the additional help.

Around $7 million will be allocated through the relief funding to help people pay overdue energy bills and help with winter fuel resources, like wood and propane.

The three changes to the program:

  • Adds housing energy help in winter months, no longer just summer
  • The maximum is now $1,500 in benefits as opposed to $500
  • You can submit a past due notice, no longer a present shut-off notice

The other $1.23 million of the CARES act will be allocated to the Summer Cooling Program, an air conditioning program that will help qualified residents.

If you don’t have an air conditioning unit or it’s broken, this program allows you to get repairs or installation. The qualifications include elderly, disabled, children aged 5 and younger, and/or a medical condition that can be verified.

Both programs will launch Monday, July 27.

The Central Arkansas Development Council, which funds LIHEAP has helped more than 17,000 people this year alone. They also provide rent and emergency food box assistance.

For Sevier County, Howard County and Little River County residents seeking to request a LIHEAP application, call (501) 326-6229. Residents of Polk County should call (479) 229-4861.

SEVIER COUNTY MAILING REAPPRAISAL NOTICES 07/22/20

The Sevier County Tax Assessor’s Office finalized its five-year countywide reappraisal this week. Notices are now being mailed out of the new values placed on real property for tax purposes.

If you have any questions about a notice you received or the value of your property, call the tax assessor’s office at (870) 584-3182. TASC is the appraisal company which completed Sevier County’s countywide appraisal service and the company is available to answer questions.

Those who choose to contest the appraisals have until the third Monday in August to ask for a hearing before the Sevier County Equalization Board. Please keep in mind that before you can schedule that appointment, you will need to have an informal meeting with Appraisal Manager Lindsay Nutt at 1-888-234-0975.

All appoints for the Equalization Board are handled through Sevier County Clerk Debbie Akin’s office. She can be reached at (870) 642-2852.

ARKANSANS INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN COVID-19 VACCINE TRIALS 07/22/20

The Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research is seeking 800 volunteers to take part in a study on a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Baptist Health is the only site in Arkansas taking part in the late-stage phase three study being conducted across the country. The goal is to develop a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.

Moderna, the company who made the vaccine being studied at Baptist Health, just released their phase one study findings last week. Officials with Baptist Health commented that the findings were overall positive.

These findings allow researchers to move into phase three, which is where Baptist Health will be joining in. Dr. Richard G. Pellegrino, CEO of Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research, said they’re looking to see if the vaccine will prevent people from getting infected in the real world.

The study starts on July 27, and 30,000 people nationwide will take part, with 800 of those enrolled in Arkansas. The study will last approximately 25 months with 8 office visits, and several phone call check-ins. They’re looking for participants 65 and older, retired or working, and 18 to 64 currently working outside their homes.

Participants can’t have a history of COVID-19 infection, or a history of anaphylaxis reaction of a vaccine. Volunteers can earn up to $1,125 for time and travel, and study-related care is available to participants at no cost, with no health insurance required.

Those who are interested can find out more information on Baptist Health’s website at www.baptist-health.com. They’ll be asked a couple of questions, and if they pass those they can fill out a contact form. Dr. Pellegrino said a Baptist Health representative will then call and ask more detailed questions, and those who would be a good fit and still want to pursue it will start the process at the Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research in Little Rock.

The vaccine involves two injections administered 29 days apart.

The FDA is facilitating these efforts, and working with research sites and drug companies to help move the process along.

However, developing a new vaccine is still a lengthy process, and Pellegrino said there’s no way of knowing how long it could be before one is developed, manufactured and distributed.

With the study, Pellegrino said there are always risks, but based on the phase one findings, the data shows no major side effects. There’s also reward; “It’s very important, I mean, it’s obviously affected all of our lives and greatly and, again, I think vaccines are very, very important tools in trying to get back to a normal life,” Pellegrino said, “we need volunteers and I think without volunteers, nothing can be done.”

Anyone interested can sign up at

FOREMAN BOARD OF EDUCATION TO MEET TONIGHT 07/22/20

The Foreman Board of Education will meet tonight at 6 p.m. in the Oscar Hamilton Elementary Library.

Following reports by the district principals and superintendent, the school board will launch into a fairly length agenda. Items slated for discussion include the approval of a statement of assurances for programs under the elementary and secondary education act of 1965, which involves federal programs and resources within the district.

The board will also discuss the proposed 2021-2022 budget and election documents. Several policy updates and agreements are also included in tonight’s agenda.

Following these discussions, the board will move to discuss and approve transfers and new hires.

SEVIER COUNTY FATALITY   07/21/20

A Wickes woman was killed in a one vehicle accident in the Falls Chapel area on Sunday afternoon.

27 year old Brenda Zaragoza of Wickes was killed in the crash.

According to a State Police report, Zaragoza was northbound on Melrose Road in the Falls Chapel area. At approximately 1:05 on Sunday afternoon,  Zaragoza lost control of her 2000 Chevrolet in a curve. The vehicle struck a culvert and an embankment.
Deputy Coroner Johnny Wishard pronounced Zaragoza dead at the scene.
DE QUEEN SCHOOLS ANNOUNCE VIRTUAL LEARNING OPTION 07/20/20

De Queen kids returning to school next month will have an option for a 100 percent online learning experience. That’s according to De Queen Superintendent Jason Sanders, who said the decision was made to create a virtual learning option to ease concerns of some parents who worry about returning their children to an in-class environment this fall amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The De Queen School District recently hosted a survey to gauge the thoughts and concerns of local parents over the upcoming school year. Sanders said the vast majority of parents expressed their hopes to see a more or less traditional school year, which in-class instruction five days a week. Some 600 parents completed the survey.

However, he said around 17 percent of respondents shared concern over the safety of their child returning to in-class instruction this fall with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Sanders said the virtual learning option was created to help ease the concerns of those parents without the need for them to seek out other options such as private or home schooling.

Parents interested in enrolling their child in the 100 percent online learning platform are asked to visitwww.dequeenleopards.org and fill out the virtual learning application. The link to that application is located on the school website homepage. Students will be asked to commit to a a complete learning of the virtual learning option if they choose that route. The deadline to register for this option is Aug. 10. De Queen students will return to school beginning Aug. 24.

COVID-19 TOTALS FOR MONDAY 07/21/20

Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County as of Monday afternoon according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases 861….increase of 4
Recoveries 789….increase of 9
Deaths remain at 9
Active Positives 63….decreased by 5
In neighboring counties:
Little River County:
Total Cases 65….up 2
Active Positives 17….up 2
Howard County:
Total Cases 178…up 9
Active Positives 45….up 12
Polk County:
Total Cases 104….up 1
Active Positives 16….unchanged
McCurtain County:
Total Cases 695….up 14
Active Positives 131….up 6

ANNUAL ROTARY AWARDS    07/21/20

The De Queen Rotary Club presented their annual awards at Monday’s noon meeting.

Dustin Roberts was presented the Rotarian of the Year Award. Roberts has served as President of the Club, and membership committee chairman. He’s also active with the Rotaract Club at U of A Cossatot.

J.P. Atkins was installed as President of the club for the 2020-2021 year. Lisa Taylor was presented an award as immediate past president.

Ten year membership certificates were presented to Doug Akin and Jerry Davis. A 15 year membership certificate was presented to Tammy Huddleston.

Board members for the 2020-2021 year include: Erika Buenrostro Figueroa, Jerry Davis, Teresa Brewer, Z.Z, Kamruddin, Tammy Huddleston, Ira “Mac” McDaniel, Doug Akin, J.P. Atkins, and Dustin Roberts.

DE QUEEN MAN ARRESTED ON DRUG, FIREARM CHARGES   07/21/20

A De Queen man is facing felony charges after he was arrested last week on drug and firearm offenses following the report of an accident in Lockesburg.

According to the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, deputies Brian Hankins and Greg Davignon were on patrol on July 16 when they made contact with a man who was just involved in a one-vehicle accident. Deputies identified the man as 24-year-old Camron D. Threadgill of De Queen.

During an investigation of the incident, deputies allegedly found a bag of suspected methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and 12 plastic bundles containing over a third of a pound of suspected ecstasy pills, In addition, deputies reported that they found a loaded 9mm pistol in Shelton’s possession.

Threadgill was then arrested and transported to the Sevier County Jail. He is facing charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms. Both are felony offenses.

STATEWIDE FACE MASK MANDATE GOES INTO EFFECT TODAY; SEVIER COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE STATES IT WILL NOT WRITE CITATIONS FOR OFFENSE  07/20/20

Today is the start of a statewide mandate requiring everyone in Arkansas to wear a protective face within indoor and outdoor public spaces. The mandate includes a number of exemptions, including children under 10 years of age and for everyone taking part in a religious worship service.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson made the announcement last week as the state faces an increase of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

According to the mandate, everyone in Arkansas to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth all indoor and outdoor environments where residents are exposed to non-household members and a six-foot social distancing rule cannot be attained.

Violation of the state mandate is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine ranging from $100 to $500. Gov. Hutchinson said first-time offenders or anyone under age 18 will get a verbal or written warning.

A number of sheriff’s offices across the state have announced their intentions not to enforce the mask mandate or issue citations for violating the order, due to individual rights concerns or due to lack of adequate resources necessary to enforce such a sweeping mandate. The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office issued an announcement on Facebook over the weekend stating its deputies would not enforce the face mask mandate or issue citations for violating it. However, Sheriff Robert Gentry said he nonetheless encourages the wearing of face masks in public. He said patrons entering an establishment requiring the use of a face mask should respect the request or do their business elsewhere.

ASHDOWN CHURCHES BRING COMMUNITY TOGETHER TO HELP BUSINESSES, CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC  07/20/20

When times get tough, it’s amazing how a small community can get together to help those in need.

Need, and lots of it, is what Jim Cross saw in Ashdown when COVID-19 hit his community back in the spring. Schools closed following the Spring Break holiday, restaurants began to suffer and people began to lose jobs and income. He helped turn these devastating challenges into an opportunity to help his business community and struggling families.

Cross, who serves as pastor of the Ashdown, Richmond and Wades Chapel United Methodist Churches, knows that big things can come from small actions. What started as an effort to provide local kids with food during the Spring Break holiday quickly grew into a ministry affecting hundreds of people in his community.

Cross said he couldn’t be prouder of his community for what it’s accomplished over the past few months.

Cross had the idea to continue his ministry’s meal program following the shutdown of schools after the Spring Break holiday. Many kids rely on school breakfast and lunch to meet their nutritional needs. With school out for the unforeseeable future, Cross knew that need would only grow. He and several church members contributed $700 to buy meals from a local business that was struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions. The group handed out, at completely no cost, some 500 tacos in just 30 minutes. The purchase didn’t just provide meals for local kids, it also helped keep the restaurant afloat.

Before Cross knew it, the program exploded. Throughout the late spring and into the summer, Cross and fellow organizers had collected over $25,000 and hosted 17 community meals. The group would buy meals at full price from area restaurants and then serve them to any one who came out, including local emergency responders.

Cross said it was amazing effort on behalf of the community. Some 60 percent of the donations came from outside Ashdown United Methodist Church. Many people wanted to help, but didn’t know how. The meal program was the perfect avenue, helping both families in need and restaurants in Little River County.

Group organizers hosted their last community meal on July 16, serving over 400 burgers throughout the day. They stopped by and handed out meals to nursing home workers and highway department employees working in the area.

The next event, scheduled for Aug. 15, will provide over 150 pairs of shoes for kids entering school this fall.

Cross said all school age kids are welcome to attend the event, which begins at 10 a.m.

LOCAL RESIDENTS REMINDED TO COMPLETE CENSUS, ENTER CHANCE TO WIN AN iPAD 07/20/20

The Sevier County Office of Economic Development has partnered with local entities to put some pep in the step of those who haven’t yet completed their 2020 census forms.

Those who haven’t finished the forms have some pretty nice incentive now: a chance to win one of two brand new iPads.

Tiffany Maurer, director of the Sevier County Office of Economic Development, said the giveaway is designed to highlight the importance of the U.S. Census, which is held every decade to county the nation’s population.

“The Census directly determines the amount of federal funding we get for things like education and transportation, so getting an accurate count is absolutely critical,” Maurer said. “A lot of things that we’ve determined are challenges in our community are affected by the accuracy of census reporting.”

Maurer said accurate reporting is also critical in providing correct, up-to-date information for existing businesses and especially new businesses looking to relocate to the area.

“A lot of businesses and companies make their decisions based on the information collected through the census,” Maurer added. “The more accurate we are, the more likely we are to provide prospective businesses with the information they need.”

Area resients can begin participating in the iPad giveaway next month. Anyone who has yet to complete the census should do so in August. Maurer said all anyone has to do to participate is take a screenshot of their completed and verified online census form. Block out the name and street address, and then post the photo to the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce or the Sevier County Economic Development-AR Facebook pages. There is, obviously, a limit of one entry per person. Maurer said you can help someone participate by sharing a screenshot of their completed entry. You must tag the person in the post, however.

The drawing will be held Sept. 1. Maurer said the giveaway was sponsored by UA Cossatot, the City of De Queen, the Sevier County Quorum Court and the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce.

According to current figures released by the Census Bureau, local residents are falling behind the national self-response rate of 62 percent. In Arkansas, that figure is 56.6 percent. It’s even lower in Southwest Arkansas, with response rates currently reported at 51.5 percent in Sevier, 51.8 percent in Polk, 48 percent in Little River and 49.8 percent in Howard County.

According to the Census Bureau, every household in the country should have received a census form in the mail. These forms are anonymous and include a postage-paid return envelope. If you haven’t yet completed the form, Census officials encourage you do to so as soon as possible. You can also register for the Census through the Arkansas Economic and Development Institute at (501) 569-8538.

This year, do not wait for a census taker to stop by your home. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines, census takers will not stop by to conduct a personnel census form. You may be left a form at your door, but the best way to go ahead and make yourself count is by doing so online.

ARKANSAS UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS TO 8.0 PERCENT IN JUNE 07/20/20

Labor force data, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released Friday by the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, show Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined one and six-tenths of a percentage point, from 9.6 percent in May to 8.0 percent in June.

May’s unemployment rate was revised up from 9.5 percent to 9.6 percent. Arkansas’ civilian labor force decreased 33,219 in June, a result of 9,297 fewer employed and 23,922 fewer unemployed Arkansans. The United States’ jobless rate decreased over two full percentage points, going from 13.3 percent in May to 11.1 percent in June.

Susan Price, program manager for the Bureau of Labor Stastics, said “Despite moving into Phase 2 of reopening in June, there was a notable increase in the number of survey respondents in Arkansas reporting that they were not employed or had dropped out of the labor force. This was due in part to changes in seasonal summer hiring trends and recent temporary layoffs/closures. These reported losses more than offset the hiring that occurred in June.”

Arkansas’ nonfarm payroll jobs rose 18,500 in June to total 1,210,900. Six major industry sectors posted gains, while employment in four sectors declined. Jobs in leisure and hospitality increased 9,900. Hiring occurred across all subsectors. Trade, transportation, and utilities added 7,600 jobs, mostly in retail trade (+6,800). Employment in other services rose 2,300.

This sector includes businesses such as hair and nail salons, day spas, and membership organizations. Professional and business services increased 2,100. Gains were posted in all three subsectors. Jobs in government decreased 3,100. Most of the contractions were in state government, educational services (-3,300). Educational and health services declined 1,400. Small losses occurred in health care and social assistance (-800) and in educational services

UA COSSATOT BEGINS PHASE 3 REOPENING TODAY 07/20/20

UA Cossatot will begin Phase 3 of its summer reopening plan on Monday, July 20. Phase 3 means that UA Cossatot will be getting closer to a normal workday for employees and students. Phase 3 has all 12-month employees coming back to campus after many were working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. All campuses will be open to students as well, providing in-person assistance for fall 2020 registration.

Things will be much different though, according to UA Cossatot Chancellor, Dr. Steve Cole “While we certainly don’t have a playbook for COVID-19, we know we have to try to get back to as close to normal as we can, and for us, that is getting everyone back on campus and serving students. Our staff has developed a comprehensive plan to reopen safely, meaning we will be following all CDC safety guidelines, including proper social distancing and the mandatory wearing of face masks. We understand this is hard for some, but we feel this is the best defense we have in keeping students and employees safe.”

UA Cossatot will use Phase 3 to prepare for the fall 2020 semester, which is slated to start on August 17. Vice Chancellor of Academics, Ashley Aylett says that UA Cossatot will have face-to-face classes, but they may not be the traditional classes some are used to, “Our faculty have taken the time to design face-to-face courses that provide for easy social distancing and limit the time students spend in the classroom. We feel we are prepared to bring students into a safe environment, but have everything in place to move completely online if our local health conditions deteriorate to the point where we have to shutter our college”.

UA Cossatot will have special entrances, and signs will be posted on all campuses reminding students and visitors that you must have a face mask on to be in campus buildings, and you must stay six feet away from others at all times.

GRANNIS TRAILRIDERS TO PRESENT 52ND ANNUAL RODEO THIS WEEKEND 07/20/20

The Grannis Trail Riders and Wing Rodeo Co. will host the 52nd Annual Championship Rodeo July 24th and 25th with a ton of events scheduled for both evenings.

Mutton Bustin begins at 7 p.m. and the rodeo at 8 p.m. both evenings. Events include calf roping, team roping, bull riding, PR Bulls, ranch bronc, saddle bronc, barrel racing, break-away, bareback and steer wrestling. Call in is July 20 and 21 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Call (479) 216-1619.

Admission is $6. Kids four and under are free. Senior citizens get in half price Friday night. Social distancing and face masks are required. Negative coggins test is required for entry.

ARKANSAS SALES TAX HOLIDAY IS AUGUST 1-2     07/20/20

Arkansas will hold its annual sales tax holiday on Saturday, August 1, and Sunday, August 2.

Clothing and footwear that cost less than $100 per item will qualify for the exemption. However, if you buy an item that costs more than $100 you must pay the state and local sales taxes on the entire amount.

Accessories costing less than $50 qualify for the exemption.  Examples include wallets, watches, jewelry, sunglasses, handbags, cosmetics, briefcases, hair notions, wigs and hair pieces.

Here’s an example provided by the Department of Finance and Administration: a person buys two shirts for $50 each, a pair of jeans for $75 and a pair of shoes for $125.  The sales tax will only be collected on the shoes, because they cost more than $100.

Even though the total price of the shirts and the jeans added up to $175, no sales tax will be collected on them because each individual item cost less than $100.

School supplies also qualify, including binders, book bags, calculators, tape, paper, pencils, scissors, notebooks, folders and glue.

Textbooks, reference books, maps, globes and workbooks will be exempt from sales taxes.  Also exempt from the sales tax will be art supplies needed for art class, such as clay and glazes, paint, brushes and drawing pads.

Bathing suits and beach wear will be exempt as long as they cost less than $100 per item. Diapers and disposable diapers will not be taxed.  Boots, including steel-toed boots, slippers, sneakers and sandals will be exempt from the sales tax as well.

Not exempt from the sales tax are sporting goods, such as cleats and spikes worn by baseball, soccer and football players.  Recreational items such as skates, shoulder pads, shin guards and ski boots will be taxed.

Computers, software and computer equipment are not exempt and you will have to pay sales taxes if you purchase those items on the holiday.

Act 757 provides that the sales tax holiday will be the first weekend of August every year.  All retail stores are required to participate and may not legally collect any state or local sales taxes on qualified items during the tax holiday.

The legislature created the sales tax holiday by approving Act 757 of 2011.  One of the goals of the act is to help families with children in school, which is why it is commonly known as the “Back to School” sales tax holiday.

However, everyone benefits from the holiday, whether or not they have children in school.

STATEWIDE FACE MASK MANDATE GOES INTO EFFECT MONDAY   07/17/20

Arkansas residents and visitors will be required to wear protective face masks in almost all public settings and under almost all situations, according to a new mandate announced Thursday afternoon during Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 Taskforce press conference.

Gov. Hutchinson announced the mandate in response to the continuing growth of COVID-19-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Over the previous 24 hours, Arkansas witnessed 817 additional COVID-19 cases for a new total of 31,114. Hospitalizations increased by 12 to 470 and deaths by six to 341. Currently active cases grew to 6,578.

According to the executive order, beginning Monday, July 20 every person in Arkansas is required to wear a face covering over their mouth and noise in outdoor and indoor areas where a person is exposed to non-household members and where distancing of six feet or more cannot be assured.

There are a number of exemptions included in the mandate. The executive order includes exemptions for anyone younger than 10 years of age or anyone with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a mask. The mandate is not enforceable among anyone participating in athletic activities in which six feet distance is not achievable and wearing a mask would be prohibitory to the activity.

Finally, the mandate is lifted in counties where the Department of Health has certified that risk of community transmission of COVID-19 is low. During Thursday’s conference, Gov. Hutchinson said that means counties which have not seen a positive COVID-19 case in at least 28 days.

The fine for not wearing a face covering without an appropriate exemption can range from $100 to $500. Local and state law enforcement officers will not have the authority to arrest or detain anyone violating the face mask offense.

According to the COVID-19 taskforce, one of the goals of the face mask mandate is ensuring ICU beds within Arkansas’ hospitals do not reach capacity. Troy Wells, CEO of Baptist Health, Arkansas’ largest hospital, said 32 of Arkansas’ 200 ICU beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients. He said hospitals in the state have developed surge plans to accommodate any additional growth in severe COVID-19 cases.  Wells also announced the launch of clinical trials within Arkansas of a novel COVID-19 vaccine. He said certain Arkansans are welcome and encouraged to participate. For more information on the trials, or to sign up, visit www.arkansascovidvaccine.com


Gov. Hutchinson said at this time the mandate does not have a definitive end date. He said the governor’s office, legislature and state health officials will continue to track progress of the virus to determine when the order can be lifted.
Again, a statewide face mask mandate will go into effect Monday, July 20. On Thursday, the Arkansas COVID-19 Taskforce added 817 new cases of COVID-19 for a state total of 31,114. There were an additional six deaths for a total of 341 as well as 12 new hospitalizations totaling 470. A total of 6,020 tests were conducted on Wednesday with a total positivity rate of 7.6 percent. Currently, there are 6,578 documented active cases within the state.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on all the latest developments.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS     07/16/20

As of Thursday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 829 (increase of 7 from Wednesday)
Active Positives: 52 (decrease of 10 from Wednesday)
Recoveries: 768 (increase of 17)
Deaths: 9 (unchanged)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County:
Total Cases 55 (increase of one)
Active Positives 11 (decrease of two)

Howard County:
Total Cases 158 (increase of one)
Active Positives 36 (decrease of two)

Polk County:
Total Cases 98 (increase of four)
Active Positives 16 (increase of two)

McCurtain County:
Total Cases 659 (increase of 8)
Active Positives 132 (increase of one)
One additional death reported (total of 13)

 

    

HORATIO SCHOOL DISTRICT WELCOMES NEW SUPERINTENDENT ZANE VANDERPOOL 07/16/20

Earlier this month the Horatio School District welcomed Zane Vanderpool as the new superintendent.

Previously principal of Gravette Elementary School, Vanderpool said he was excited to find himself accepted for the new position, as well as begin a new chapter of his life, in the Horatio School District.

“It was clear to me that after investigating the Horatio schools and the area, this would be the right place for me to be,” said Vanderpool. “From the students, parents and community members I’ve met since I started, I realized this district is one of the hidden gems of Arkansas.”

Vanderpool replaces superintendent Lee Smith, who took a position as assistant superintendent of the Mena School District.

In Vanderpool’s 23 years in education, he’s just about seen it all. Except for 2020. Starting as the new superintendent of school district carries plenty of challenges. Combine those challenges with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Vanderpool has an interesting first year ahead of him.

Zane Vanderpool is the new superintendent of the Horatio School District

“No doubt I’m very excited to be here,” Vanderpool said. “But it’s also a very unique situation given everything that’s going on and the challenges COVID-19 presents to school districts.”

Vanderpool said Horatio kids are set to return to school Aug. 24. Of course, that hinges heavily on state health and education directives and guidelines. Those can change at any time.

Vanderpool said the district is focusing heavily on returning district kids to a traditional, in-class learning setting. The district will offer options for virtual learning, but that is an increasing challenge in rural areas.

”Availability of internet access is the greatest obstacle we face in regards to providing a virtual learning environment,” said Vanderpool. Although the school is well-equipped with technology, Vanderpool said many students simply don’t have adequate internet service at home to ensure they can learn successfully through an online format.

While closely following state recommendations in its final plans, the Horatio School District hopes to get a running start when classes return Aug. 24. Vanderpool said the district will recommend students wear protective face masks when they return. Social distancing guidelines will be followed to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The district has an online question and answer form on its website, www.horatioschools.org. The form includes a ton of information related to what parents can expect to see when school reopens. Vanderpool invites everyone to read the form and reach out to board members or district officials with any questions or concerns.

No doubt, the 2020-2021 school year is going to take a lot of creativity, dedication and patience from district staff. Vanderpool said his faculty and staff are ready to meet the challenge as best as possible.

“We’re doing our best to ensure students return to school and do so safely,” he said.

Horatio High School was able to check off a big morale booster with its 2020 graduation ceremony on July 11. It was a big day for Horatio’s graduating seniors, who saw their graduation first canceled then rescheduled following the closure of schools back in the spring. Several students, including two who enlisted in the military, were not able to make it back for the ceremony. Nonetheless, Vanderpool said the event was needed and appreciated as a way to conclude the school year and provide the class of 2020 with the honors they deserved.

Vanderpool said he will continue to communicate with parents and KDQN to keep everyone update as the school year approaches.

DE QUEEN SCHOOL DISTRICT SUBMITS JULY 31 GRADUATION PLAN FOR STATE APPROVAL 07/16/20

The De Queen School Board approved the district to go forward with the proposed plans to hold graduation for the Class of 2020 on Friday, July 31st at Leopard Coliseum. In order to provide a safe environment and to be in line with CDC/ADH guidelines, the graduation ceremony will be divided into three separate sessions. High School Principal Bryan Blackwood explained that this would allow for enough space for the graduates to be socially distanced on the arena floor. Students will be allowed tickets for up to ten family members which will allow enough room for social distancing in the seating area. The sessions will be separated by enough time to allow the arena to be disinfected, sanitizer stations will be available, and masks will be required for everyone except for children under the age of ten.

Blackwood and his staff are currently reaching out to members of the Class of 2020 to confirm if they are attending in order to establish an accurate count. Once, the count is established, more information will be released on the times of each session and which session each student will attend.

The high school is also working on providing a live video stream of the event. The graduation plans will be presented this week for state approval. If you have any questions, you are encouraged to call the high school office at 870-642-2426.

SEVIER COUNTY QUORUM COURT SHOOTS DOWN ORDINANCE REGULATING CONSTRUCTION OF CHICKEN HOUSES NEAR COUNTRY CLUB 07/16/20

On Monday, the Sevier County Quorum Court rejected a proposed ordinance that would have prevented a local landowner from building a number of poultry houses on property located near the De Queen Country Club.

The discussion started with a presentation by Dena Hibbs, who spoke of behalf of De Queen Country Club owner Robert Whitney. She said the construction of poultry houses so close to the country club would be detrimental to both the businesses and upper scale housing development located near the farm. She asked justices of the peace to adopt a ordinance she provided, which was modeled after a similar ordinance in Clarksville.

Currently, there are no zoning regulations in the county. Justice of the Peace Greg Wright said the county, in all actualities, defaults to an agricultural zone. Poultry houses, he said, are located next to many housing areas throughout Sevier County. In addition, there are no state setback laws in regards to poultry farms.

Chad Jenkins, the landowner who is hoping to construct the six poultry houses on the property in question, spoke to the quorum court following Hibbs’ presentation. Jenkins stressed the importance of agriculture – and specifically the poultry industry – to Sevier County. He said his farm was just another addition to a traditionally agricultural community. Jenkins also tried to assure Hibbs, Whitney and the quorum court that modern poultry houses emit a minimum of odor.

Jenkins provided Google Map images which included the location of his farm and the country club. He said the houses will begin approximately a quarter of a mile from the country club and both will be separated by a stretch of forest.

Justices of the peace briefly debated the issue following Jenkin’s presentation. Justice David Wright said he didn’t feel the county had a part to play in regulating where poultry farms can be built and where they cannot.

“As far as I’m concerned, jumping into this will cause more problems than it solves,” said Wright. “From my experience, this is a civil matter. The two options in a case like this are for the two parties to work it out amongst themselves or take the issue to court. It is not a county matter.”

The county’s legal counsel, Kaylen Lewis, agreed. She said the proposed ordinance was far too vague and, as written, would affect every chicken house in Sevier County.

“What this would mean,” said Justice Greg Wright, “is that we in effect end up zoning the whole county. We don’t want or need that.”

After a call to order by Justice Earl Battiest, the quorum court voted against the ordinance and put up no hurdle to Jenkin’s plan to build the six poultry houses.

STATEWIDE EDUCATOR SURVEY CONFIRMS SIGNIFICANT COVID-19 CONCERNS AHEAD OF SCHOOL REOPENING 07/16/20

Arkansas educators want to see the safe return to in-person learning in schools across they state; however, they remain concerned about the risk to their students and colleagues.

survey conducted by AEA over the last weekend, confirmed Arkansas educators are extremely concerned about the safety of returning to in-person learning in the fall. More than six thousand teachers and education support professionals responded to the survey, representing all 75 counties in the state.

The results show 90% of respondents are concerned about student health issues related to teaching and learning in schools, and 98% believe it will be very or somewhat difficult to implement social distancing or other safety measures in school buildings. In addition, more than 40% of respondents said they are considering retiring early or leaving the profession as a result of the pandemic.

While acknowledging the disruption and learning loss caused by the pandemic, and the importance of in-person instruction, most respondents believe schools should reopen only after public health experts determine it’s safe to return. Educator input and adequate planning and equipment are also necessary to protect school employees, students and visitors from COVID-19.

“The message from the vast majority of responding Arkansas educators is clear: we must assure the health and safety of students and educators before our schools are ready to reopen,” said AEA President Carol Fleming. “We need supplies, support and clearly communicated safety protocols before our students, teachers and education support staff can consider returning to in-person learning. Arkansas’s educators know their students, parents and communities best, and they want to be a part in decision-making as we develop a safe, sustainable path forward.”

AEA has formed a “Return to Learn” committee made up of educators across the state. They are currently analyzing the results of the survey and health guidance and will create a list of expectations that must be met before students and educators can return to the classroom.

WALMART TO REQUIRE MASKS FOR ALL CUSTOMER STARTING JULY 20 07/16/20

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is the latest national chain to require all customers to wear masks. The change will start next week. Although no federal mandate to wear a mask exists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone “should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public.” The CDC said “face coverings are meant to protect other people.”

“As the number of confirmed cases has spiked in communities across the country recently, so too have the number and types of face covering mandates being implemented,” Walmart said in a news release Wednesday. About 65% of its more than 5,000 stores, including its Sam’s Club locations, are located in areas where there is government mandate on face coverings.

KEEPING YOUR PETS SAFE THROUGH THE SUMMER HEAT 07/16/20

The summer months can be uncomfortable—even dangerous—for pets and people. It’s difficult enough simply to cope with rising temperatures, let alone thick humidity, but things really get tough in areas that are hit with the double blow of intense heat and storm-caused power outages, sometimes with tragic results.

We can help you keep your pets safe and cool this summer. Follow our tips for helping everyone in your family stay healthy while hot.

Never leave your pets in a parked car

Not even for a minute! Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels.

Taking a dog’s temperature will quickly tell you if there is a serious problem. Dogs’ temperatures should not reach over 104 degrees.

Take care when exercising your pet. Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating.

Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) And fans don’t cool off pets as effectively as they do people.

Any time your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.

Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over them. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take them directly to a veterinarian.

DE QUEEN PARENTS HAVE UNTIL END OF DAY TO COMPLETE SCHOOL SURVEY 07/16/20

The De Queen School District reminds parents that they have until the end of today to complete a survey and provide input on how they hope to see classes return for their children for the 2020-2021 school year.

The online survey features a number of questions related to the return of school amid the COVID-19 environment. The survey is designed to take only a few minutes to fill out and will collect input to assist the district in planning for the upcoming school year. District officials stress that parents who complete the survey are not making a commitment to any final decisions.

Questions listed in the survey range from the age of the child entering school this fall, to the interest parents have in seeing online instruction versus the traditional classroom option.

The survey portal is located on the homepage of the De Queen School District website at www.dequeenleopards.org. The survey must be completed by the end of today.

WEDNESDAY’S COVID-19 NUMBERS 07/15/20

Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County as of Wednesday afternoon(7/14) according to the Arkansas Department of Health:
Total Cases 822 (increase of 3 from Tuesday)
Recoveries 751 (increase of 16 from Tuesday)
Deaths remain at nine.
Active Positives 62 (decreased by 13)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County:
Total Cases 54 (increase of 4)
Active Positives 13 (increase of 4)
Howard County:
Total Cases 157 (increase of 3)
Active Positives 38 (unchanged)
Polk County:
Total Cases 94 (increase of 4)
Active Positives 14 (increase of 2)
McCurtain County:
Total Cases 651 (increase of 20)
Active Positives 131 (decreased by 3)

SEVIER COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER RELEASES IMAGES OF NEW HOSPITAL DESIGN     07/15/20

The Sevier County Medical Center has released images of what the new area hospital may look like.

UA Chancellor Dr. Steve Cole, who serves as director of the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Directors, said the images were released to the public this week. The images show a modern looking facility with a focus on both aesthetics and patient care.

The hospital, whose funding was approved by Sevier County voters through a one-percent sales tax passed last year, will be located on the eastside of Highway 71 several miles north of De Queen. The site includes 18.5 acres. The main hospital facility is expected to be around 42,000 square feet and include an outpatient rehab facility. Cole said the board expects to have the estimated cost of the hospital as presented this month.

If the cost and plan is approved, groundbreaking is expected for this fall with construction to begin before the end of the year.

Cole said the public will begin to see much more progress in the coming months.

“The public has been very patient, but now they’re going to see some work at the site very soon and I think that’s going to be very exciting for the community,” Cole said.

An artist rendering of the inside of the Sevier County Medical Center.

The site of the new hospital on Highway 71 North. Lee Lane runs east of the site.

DE QUEEN SCHOOL BOARD DISCUSSES START OF SCHOOL, UPCOMING GRADUATION AT MONDAY NIGHT MEETING     07/14/20

The start of school and an upcoming graduation ceremony dominated Monday night’s meeting of the De Queen School Board.

Superintendent Jason Sanders informed those in attendance that the school district was receiving guidance daily on how schools can focus on reopening in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He said all districts across the state are facing the same overriding challenge: how to provide mass public education that traditionally focuses on closeness, togetherness and communication in the face of a virus that scientific opinion has deemed is highly contagious and potentially deadly.

Sanders said the district is prepared to follow the states guidelines as close as possible but that each district will still have to judge for itself how best to resume classes this fall. For De Queen kids, that means the district has stocked up on personal protective equipment and cleaning equipment through a grant from the federal CARES Act. The district is also launching its in-house health clinic, the Leopard Care Clinic, this fall and updating the community through a Facebook page dedicated to public, district-level information. All of the district’s preparations will still need to be approved at the state level before school starts.

Sanders detailed the school’s plans as well as De Queen High School’s upcoming graduation ceremony during an interview we had following the meeting

De Queen High School Principal Bryan Blackwood said the district anticipates three separate ceremonies on July 31 at the basketball arena. Each student would be able to invite 10 families to the event with enough room to follow social distancing guidelines. This plan will also need approval from state educational authorities.

Sanders said this will be decision week for the De Queen School District. He said the district hopes to have as many questions answered and plans more or less finalized by early next week.

SEVIER COUNTY QUORUM COURT REJECTS RESOLUTION URGING RESIDENTS TO WEAR FACE MASKS     07/14/20

The Sevier County Quorum Court rejected a measure Monday afternoon that would have urged county residents to wear a face mask in public due to COVID-19.

In a four to three vote with two members abstaining, justices of the peace said they would leave it up to county residents whether or not to wear face masks. The ordinance, spearheaded by Victor J. Rojas of Sevier County, would have recommended – not required – the wearing of masks in public spaces in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus. A similar resolution to recommend the use of masks was voted upon and approved by the De Queen City Council last week. Rojas said at that meeting that he hoped urging the use of masks would prevent the possibility of needing to mandate them in the future.

Several quorum court members said they heard from constituents following De Queen’s adoption of the resolution. Those constituents said they did not agree with a similar county measure recommending the use of masks, let alone requiring them. Justice Greg Wright said the resolution, if it had passed, would have been an overreach of government authority. He said people should be free to make their own decisions in regards to wearing masks.

Justices who voted against the measure included Michael Archer, Kenneth Currence, David Wright and Greg Wright. Those in support included Roxy Stephens, Angie Walker and Charles Keels. Earl Battiest and Roger Whitmore abstained from the vote.

Some area businesses are still requiring the use of masks when entering their establishment. A measure approved by Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this month authorized municipalities across the state to require the use of face masks in public at their own discretion. So far, no local cities or counties have done so.

In other business, the quorum court turned down a proposed ordinance that would have prevented a landowner near the De Queen County Club from building six poultry houses on the property. We’ll have more on that story in Wednesday’s local news broadcast.

The quorum court also approved the re-appointments of several individuals to the county’s equalization board, and accepted a grant to perform layout improvements to the J. Lynn Helms/Sevier County Airport.

FROM TOILET PAPER TO COINS, COVID-19 CREATING SHORTAGES FROM THE LOCAL TO NATIONAL LEVEL      07/14/20

A nationwide coin shortage is affecting local businesses and banks, forcing some to limit transactions to exact change.

The ongoing COVID-19 environment has caused a lot of shortages from toilet paper to meat, but there’s one item perhaps nobody expected to see less of: coinage.

Businesses and banks across the nation are reporting a dire shortage of coins.

The lack of cents makes real sense given the effect of coronavirus on everyday business. Reasons for the scarcity range from fewer coins being made in the U.S. Mint to the growing trend of cashless transactions. Another big reason for the shortage, the Federal Reservce points out, is that people are shopping less in stores due to the pandemic and therefore not spreading their coins across the economy. All this means a lot of people and businesses are literally down to their last penny.

Gary Golden, president of First State Bank in De Queen, said he’s seen nothing like this in all his years in banking. He said national demand for new coins has far outstripped supply. First State Bank used to be able to order coins relatively quickly. Now, Golden’s not sure when – or even if – new coins will be arriving.

“This is a real anomaly,” he said. “It’s never been a problem before. We have such a demand for coins everyday that with the U.S. Mint limiting production, it’s had a really dramatic effect all the way down to the local level.”

Golden added another possible reason for the shortage: a lot of change is out of circulation as a savings mechanism. With times tougher for many folks, the piggy bank might be filling up for more hard times ahead.

However, Golden said the paucity of physical money has had the most impact on local businesses. These businesses rely on new coinage from area banks to ensure they have the proper change on hand.

“You’re supposed to be able to get change any time you need it, but now we’re having to limit what we can give out to each client,” Golden added. “Right now the [Federal Reserve] is curtailing any order we send.”

Several businesses in De Queen have posted notices to customers informing them that exact change is a must. Omar Saleh, owner of TJ’s in De Queen, said the lack of coin change has been challenging for his business, especially with a car wash next door. He’s certainly welcoming any customer who wants to come in and pay with change. Nationwide grocery chain Krogers announced several days ago it was no longer providing exact change. The store is giving customers the option to pay rounded to the next dollar with the extra amount to be given to charity.

The coin shortage is expected to end in the near future as more businesses open up and the U.S. Mint increases production.

COVID-19 STATISTICS FOR SEVIER COUNTY AND SURROUNDING AREA     07/14/20

As of Monday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 811 (Increase of 4 from Sunday)
Active Positives: 82 (decrease of 6 from Sunday)
Recoveries: 720 (Increase of 10)

Deaths remain at nine

In neighboring counties:

Little River County Active Positives: Overall cases remain at 45 with five currently active positives.

Howard County Active Positives: 29 (decrease of one) with a total case count of 138

Polk County Active Positives: Increase of one to 89 with 11 currently active positives.

McCurtain County: 622 total cases (an increase of 12) with 138 actively positive (increase of four)

LOCAL, STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT LAUNCH “OBEY THE SIGN OR PAY THE FINE” CAMPAIGN TO CURB SPEEDING OFFENSES      07/14/20

Law enforcement officers across Arkansas are set to begin a week-long concerted speed enforcement plan next week.  The operation will be publicized across the state using a public message headline, “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine”.

The intensified enforcement plan involving both state and local departments will begin Monday, July 13th and continue through the following Sunday, July 19th.  Additionally throughout the month of July, the Arkansas State Police will contribute patrol resources in a Regional Speed Enforcement Plan that targets speeding violators on particular selected days of the week.  The participating states include Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

“Speeding is synonymous with tragedy and death on our roadways,” said Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative.  “It’s a proven fact, higher speeds significantly reduce a driver’s reaction time and ability to steer safely around other vehicles, roadway hazards, and unexpected highway exits or detours in highway construction zones.”

Drivers who ignore the speed limit put themselves, their passengers, and others at tremendous risk.  During calendar year 2018, speeding was a contributing factor in 26 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. and 9,378 people lost their lives in the crashes, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  In Arkansas 131 deaths were attributed to speed related crashes during 2018.

Already this year, Arkansas traffic fatalities are on the rise.  According to preliminary NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting data, fatalities in speeding related crashes are increasing at an alarming rate.  Through the end of June (2020) 84 people have died in speed related crashes, compared to 63 at the same time last year which equates to a 33 percent increase.

“Driving above the posted speed limit or speeding during inclement weather conditions dramatically increases the probability that a motorist will be involved in a crash,” Colonel Bryant said.  “State troopers want to be sure the highways are safe and stopping speeding drivers is a top priority.”

The goal of these enforcement efforts is to save lives and make drivers aware that no excuses for speeding are acceptable.  When it comes to speeding; Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine.

More information on the “Obey the Sign, or Pay the Fine” mobilization can be found at www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov or contact the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136.  Additional information about Arkansas’ ongoing Toward Zero Deaths initiative to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities can be found at www.TZDarkansas.org

LOCKESBURG CITY COUNCIL TO MEET TONIGHT      07/14/20

The Lockesburg City Council will meet tonight starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Lockesburg Senior Center. After approving June minutes and finances, the council will launch into the night’s agenda.

Items to be discussed include a repair to a city backhoe and a resolution to adopt a city hazard mitigation plan. Other topics include a resolution in support of both a state highway and bridge tax levy and a resolution in support of federal emergency support resources. The city will then discuss an ordinance regarding protective face coverings.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT JULY 15TH TAX DEADLINE     07/13/20

It’s time to do your taxes. No more delays. As the coronavirus took hold this spring, the federal government postponed the traditional April 15th filing deadline until July 15th.

The move provided some economical and logistical relief for taxpayers dealing with the disruptions and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. But now that new tax deadline is here.

Taxpayers must file or seek an extension by the new deadline or face a penalty. The I.R.S. is expecting about 150 million returns from individuals.

Taxpayers who need more time can request an extension on the I.R.S. website. That will give them until October 15th to file. However, an extension to file does not mean added time to pay. So those planning on filing later should estimate what they owe and make that payment by July 15th.

Go ahead and file your taxes even if you cannot pay. The I.R.S. is willing to set up payment plans or make other arrangements with taxpayers who cannot pay in full. Many of those can be set up online.

The I.R.S. is still processing and issuing refunds, most within 21 days. Those getting refunds will be paid interest, dating back to April 15th, if they file on time.

You can file or pay your taxes online. The I.R.S. urges taxpayers to use electronic options to support social distancing and speed the processing of returns, refunds, or payments.

There are other tax deadlines linked to July 15th. Check the I.R.S. website or reach out to a tax professional for assistance.

PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM APPLICATION EXTENDED     07/13/20

 The federal Paycheck Protection Program resumed accepting applications last week in response to the Paycheck Protection Program Extension Act. The new deadline to apply for a P.P.P. loan is now August 8th.

If you are interested in applying for P.P.P. assistance for your small business, nonprofit, or agriculture business, contact your local bank to see if they are participating.

As of June 30th, 42,427 Arkansas businesses received P.P.P. loans totaling some $3.3 billion dollars. The average P.P.P. loan received by an Arkansas business is $78,246.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

The Small Business Administration will forgive P.P.P. loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage, interest, or utilities. 60% must be used for payroll expenses.

Most local banks are participating in the program. If you need help finding a lender, contact the S.B.A. Arkansas office at 501-324-7379.

EXTENSION’S ONLINE DIABETES SUPPORT GROUP OFFERS WAY TO CONNECT  07/13/20

De Queen, AR — The Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, will offer a 12-week online support group for people living with diabetes. Participation is free, and registration is open at  https://bit.ly/3iqSpYS

The group – “Day to Day with Diabetes” – will meet from July 13 – Sept. 28. Virtual meetings will be offered on Mondays with additional resources in health, wellness, nutrition and fitness posted throughout the week. Some of the features will include a Monday meeting, Tasty Tuesday for sharing recipes, Wellness Wednesday, Think about it Thursday and Fitness Friday.

Meeting times will be based on participants’ availability.

“Most of us know someone affected by diabetes,” said Janet Cantrell, County Extension Agent-Family and Consumer Sciences. “The group will be a way to connect with others who are managing diabetes or living with someone with diabetes.”

Nearly 15 percent of Arkansans — about 360,000 people — have diabetes, and 800,000 more residents have pre-diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association’s Arkansas Chapter.

Yell County extension agent Rachel Chaney and Pope County agent Pamela Luker, who specialize in family consumer sciences, are co-hosting the online meetings, but participation is not limited to those counties. The group is free and open to anyone with diabetes or anyone living or caring for someone with diabetes.

“We wanted something that would be virtual so people could find encouragement from each other, especially as we are socially distancing,” Chaney said. “It will be a place where they can discuss and share recipes and strategies helpful to them for managing diabetes.”

Extension currently offers a year-round diabetes prevention training as well as a four-week Living with Diabetes curriculum through its Family and Consumer Sciences Division.

“We will pull some information from those programs for our group meetings,” Luker added. “We’ll keep the meeting short and vary the topics, so participants will perhaps learn something new or be motivated to try a new recipe or a new exercise.”

For more information visit www.uaex.edu/diabetes or call Janet Cantrell at (870) 584-3013.

HOMICIDE SUSPECT IN HOWARD COUNTY COMMITS SUICIDE   07/13/20

The suspect wanted in connection with a Friday morning homicide at an Athens residence is dead, according to Howard County Sheriff Bryan McJunkins.

56 year old Tony Barnes of Nashville, who was accused in the shooting death of 50 year old Betty Burgess at her home, committed suicide as deputies and officers from multiple agencies closed in on him early Saturday afternoon at his home.

Barnes was accused of standing at the back door of Burgess’ home on Highway 246 near Athens and shot her twice with a shotgun. She was pronounced dead at the scene. That started a manhunt for the suspect that lasted approximately 29 hours.

The Howard County Sheriff’s Office began receiving calls at around noon on Saturday that the suspect’s vehicle was seen traveling from the Newhope area toward his home on Muddy Fork Road.

Deputies and officers from several agencies started to arrive on Muddy Fork Road near the suspect’s home and learned that he had arrived there just minutes before.

As officers positioned themselves around the suspect’s house and property, they located him near a pond bank. From their vantage point, officers could see that Barnes had a shotgun.

At approximately 1:10 Saturday afternoon, officers heard a single gunshot fired and cautiously approached Barnes. Officers then saw that Barnes had used the shotgun to kill himself.

Sheriff McJunkins recognized the multiple agencies that assisted his Department including the Nashville Police Department, the Arkansas State Police, the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, the 9th Judicial Drug Task Force, Arkansas Game and Fish, and others.

GOV. HUTCHINSON HOLDS COVID-19 PRESS CONFERENCE IN DE QUEEN   07/13/20

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and members of the statewide COVID-19 Taskforce met in De Queen on Friday to discuss the virus’ impact to the local area and efforts to curb its spread. Photo submitted by Ben Renfrow of UA Cossatot.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and state health officials presented their daily COVID-19 Taskforce Conference at UA Cossatot in De Queen on Friday. Officials provided an update on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic across the state while focusing on COVID-19’s impact in Sevier County as well as efforts which have succeeded in limiting the virus’ impact locally.
Statewide, Gov. Hutchinson stated that 751 additional cases of COVID-19 were recorded between Thursday and Friday, bringing the total cases to 26,803. An additional eight hospitalizations were reported over the 24-hour period for a total of 402. Deaths increased by four to 313. Recoveries grew to a total of 20,642.

Gov. Hutchinson highlighted the significant impact of COVID-19 in Sevier County, but also praised efforts to combat the virus while maintaining an active and strong economy.

Dr. Smith did say the 788 overall cases make Sevier County, per capita, the hardest hit in Arkansas. He added that two-thirds of the reported cases involved the county’s Latino community. Of the total cases in Sevier County, the majority were among younger people with only 34 percent of those infected above 65 years of age. While noting the county’s above average testing positivity rate, Dr. Smith did state that Sevier County has seen a vast improvement in combatting the virus. As proof, he highlighted the current number of active positives. This figure has dropped to 83, or around ten percent of the total reported cases. That means a current recovery rate of approximately 90 percent.
The data provided by Sevier County’s experience with COVID-19 proves the virus can be successfully fought through concentrated efforts, said Gov. Hutchinson and Dr. Smith. They said other communities across Arkansas can view De Queen and Sevier County as a cautious success story in the battle against COVID-19.
A significant source of COVID-19 infections across the nation have stemmed from the close-in working conditions at meat processing plants. This has also been the case at Pilgrim’s facility in De Queen, said Gov. Hutchinson, though he highlighted the company’s efforts in curbing new contraction rates.
As of sunday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases increased by seven from Saturday to 807. Active positives decreased by one to 88. Recoveries increased by eight to 710. Deaths remained at nine.

Little River County saw an increase of one in total cases, bring the total to 43 with three current active positives.
Howard County saw an increase of two cases from Saturday for a total of 137. 30 cases are currently active positives.
Polk County saw an increase in total cases by two for a total of 88. Active positives increased by one to 11.
McCurtain County saw a total case increase of four to 610. Active positives increased by three to 134.
Statewide, the Arkansas Department of Health reported an increase of 503 cases on Saturday for a total of 28,367. Active cases increased 100 to 6,455. There were two additional deaths for a total of 321.

TWO VISITORS FIND LARGE DIAMONDS AT CRATER OF DIAMONDS STATE PARK      07/13/20 
One is the 12th- largest found there since 1972

(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — Confirmation of two large diamonds found at Crater of Diamonds State Park made for a busy week last week at the park, one of the only places in the world where the public can search for diamonds in their original volcanic source.

“This unique park is one of our state’s most popular destinations,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “It’s always exciting for one of our guests to find a gem, and the staff is really great at working with them to confirm what they have found and hear each particular story of how they found it.”

Serendipity Diamond is 12th-largest found since 1972 

Dr. Mindy Pomtree of Benton, Ark., was at the park in June and found her diamond near Beatty’s Hill when she spotted a glittering pebble on top of the ground. She put the stone in a zippered pocket and continued searching, not knowing what it was. “I kept feeling of my pocket throughout the day to make sure it was still there. I didn’t know if it was a diamond but thought it looked cool, and it was definitely shiny!”


When she returned home, Pomtree took the stone to a jeweler who confirmed that she had indeed found a genuine diamond. Park Superintendent Caleb Howell arranged for her to return to the park to have it weighed and registered. Howell confirmed that it is one of the biggest diamond finds during his tenure at the park. The diamond weighs 6.39 carats and is about the size of a pumpkin seed.

Park Interpreter Waymon Cox noted that many of the park’s large diamonds tend to be found on the surface. “Diamonds are a bit heavy for their size. When it rains, runoff washes away small rocks and minerals and sometimes uncovers larger diamonds, such as Dr. Pomtree’s. Diamonds have a natural metallic shine and are often easy to see on top of the ground. All it takes is being in the right place at just the right time to find one!”


Many visitors choose to name the diamonds they find at the Crater of Diamonds. Pomtree chose to name her gem Serendipity, noting that she was lucky to have found it. “I did a little research on how to find diamonds beforehand, but it turned out to be a walk that resulted in my find!”

“Crater of Diamonds State Park is such a unique experience for our visitors,” Arkansas State Parks Director Grady Spann said. “Guests have made lifetime memories hunting for diamonds.  If they’re fortunate to find a diamond, it really makes the visit unforgettable and one that they will share for many years.”

Visitor from Alabama finds 2.73-carat diamond on July 9

William “David” Dempsey from Athens, Ala., first learned about Arkansas’s diamond site from his fourth-grade teacher. “I’ve been wanting to visit for more than 30 years,” said Dempsey. “Recent news stories about the park brought it back to my attention, so we planned a trip.”

Dempsey was wet sifting with his youngest daughter when he found the diamond. “I was running my finger through some gravel I had just sifted, and the diamond popped right out. My son had come over to tell me lunch was ready, and he saw it at the same time I did.”

Park Interpreter Cox noted, “Mr. Dempsey’s diamond has a very clear, water-white appearance. It has a beautiful rounded shape and a brilliant shine. It reminds me of many other large, white diamonds that have been found here and is absolutely stunning to see!” Dempsey’s diamond was found near where another large white diamond, the Strawn-Wagner, was discovered in 1990.


Dempsey named his gem the Dempsey-Ducharme Diamond, as a tribute to his family’s unforgettable experience at the park. He plans to have the diamond examined and appraised before deciding whether to keep or sell it.

GROUNDBREAKING COULD BEGIN THIS SUMMER ON SEVIER COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER; CONSTRUCTION EXPECTED TO START BEFORE END OF YEAR    07/10/20

Members of the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors marked a number of advancements during a meeting on Thursday related to the construction of a new area hospital.
Board Chairman Dr. Steve Cole addressed those in attendance and shared a number of new developments including images of what the new hospital could look like. Project architects anticipate finalizing the cost of the new hospital as presented on Thursday within the next two weeks. Images of the planned hospital are expected to be released to the public early next week.
Officials stated that bond sales, which will be financed through a one percent sales tax approved by voters last year, will begin in September. Officials said the first month of collected sales tax for the project totaled over $173,000, more than originally expected. Groundbreaking could begin as early as next month with construction expected to start before the end of the year. The board has proposed an opening date of December 2021.
Cole said both he and the board were excited to announce the significant advancements during Thursday’s meeting. He provided additional information during an interview following the meeting:
Cole also introduced representatives from Edafio IT, an information technology company based out of North Little Rock. Edafio will handle installation of the hardware and software necessary to complete and maintain the new facility.
County Judge Greg Ray informed the board that county plans include widening and paving Lee Road. The road is located next to the hospital, which will be built on Highway 71 several miles north of De Queen. He said he is also seeking assistance from the state highway department to add a turning lane to the highway in front of the hospital location.
Another meeting of the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors will be convened next month, during which additional information on the hospital’s road ahead are expected to be voted upon and announced.
Dr. Steve Cole, Board Director of the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors, and Lynda Johnson, Lead Council of the Friday Firm, answer questions during Thursday’s meeting of the SCMC board. The board discussed a possible groundbreaking on the new hospital site later this summer with construction expected to begin before the end of the year.

SEPT. 10 PRETRIAL HEARING SET FOR TEXAS MAN CHARGED IN DEATH OF THREE HORATIO FAMILY MEMBERS IN 2019 MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT  07/10/20

The pretrial hearing for a Texas man charged in the death of three people following a two-vehicle accident in De Queen has been set.

Twenty-five year old Justin Blake Williams is scheduled to appear before the Sevier County Circuit Court on Sept. 10. He is expected to enter a plea over three counts of negligent homicide related to the Oct. 13, 2019 death of three family members involved in the wreck.

According to an Arkansas State Police crash report, Williams of Taylor, Texas was driving a Dodge Ram truck north on Highway 41 near De Queen when he crossed the centerline and struck an SUV containing four members of a family. A husband and wife, Mirza and Jessica Baig of Horatio, as well as their nine-year-old daughter, Lilian, were killed in the accident. Another child was transported with serious injuries to a hospital.

During an investigation, the reporting state trooper noticed the smell of alcohol emanating from Williams. His speech was reportedly noted as slurred. State police said he admitted to have a “few” drinks before the incident.

Williams is facing three charges of negligent homicide as well as first-degree battery. His pretrial hearing, originally scheduled for earlier this year, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That pretrial hearing is now set for Sept. 10. If he enters a plea of not guilty, Williams, who is currently out on a $100,000 bail, will face a jury trial on Sept. 16 in the Sevier County Circuit Court.

ASHDOWN MAN KILLED IN MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT ON WEDNESDAY    07/10/20

An Ashdown man died on Wednesday in a motor vehicle accident on State Highway 32 in Little River County.

According to the Arkansas State Police, 57-year-old Steven Crowson was killed after the Kawasaki motorcycle he was driving lost control and collided with an embankment parallel to the highway. No other vehicles were involved in the accident and no other injuries were reported.

Investigating State Trooper Joshua Broughton reported that the accident occurred around 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Road and weather conditions were listed as dry and clear.

UA COSSATOT AWARDED SECOND YOUTHBUILD PROGRAM IN ARKANSAS   07/10/20

The U.S. Department of Labor announced earlier this year that they were awarding $85 million to support and expand YouthBuild programs across the country. YouthBuild provides at-risk youth, ages 16-24, with education and occupational skill development to obtain employment in construction and other in-demand industries.

UA Cossatot was one of the awardees, obtaining a Youthbuild grant totaling $844,000 to provide local at-risk youth in Sevier, Howard, Little River, and Pike counties the opportunity to learn industrial maintenance and construction skills that lead to good jobs and better housing for the area.

According to UA Cossatot Chancellor, Dr. Steve Cole, “Being awarded the Youthbuild grant is pretty incredible. This is only the second such program in Arkansas and we think this will be a game-changer for at-risk youth in our area that need to sharpen their skills. The bonus to this program is that the participants of the program develop these skills at no cost to them, and we provide money for supportive services as well. These services can range from anything like child care, to car expenses”.

“Youthbuild focuses on job training and education and while the students are learning, they are also renovating low income housing, which is a win-win for the area”, says Cole.

UA Cossatot has already hired three new staff members to assist students in applying for and training within the Youthbuild program. While the program has not officially started their first courses, they are ramping up operations quickly and should welcome their first cohort of students sometime this fall. For more information about the Youthbuild program at UA Cossatot, please visit www.cccua.edu/youthbuild or email Jennifer Black at jblack@cccua.edu

DE QUEEN SCHOOL BOARD TO MEET JULY 13    07/10/20

The De Queen School Board will meet in regular session on Monday, July 13 at 5:30 p.m. in the High School Cafeteria.

The meeting will begin with a report by Superintendent Jason Sanders.

Items on the agenda include a vote on the resolution to adopt a Sevier County Hazard Mitigation Plan for the De Queen School District. The board will also vote on an approval request to accept the district’s milk, bread and food bids.

Other items on the agenda include a vote on student transfers as well as new district hires. The meeting is open to the public.

ATTORNEY GENERAL WARNS SCAMMERS POSING AS CONTACT TRACERS    07/10/20

States have had to adapt quickly to the keep their residents safe from COVID-19 and ensure economic resources are easily available. In recent weeks, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office has received complaints from Arkansans receiving notices that they had applied for unemployment benefits when they had not in fact applied for benefits. In other cases, consumers have received the unemployment funds and are then contacted by the scam artist claiming that a mistake has occurred and asking the consumer to forward the proceeds to them.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing has created a new online procedure that requires only a name, date of birth, social security number, and employer verification. This abbreviated procedure, while safer and more simple for applicants, has also meant that scam artists who have fraudulently obtained this personal information on consumers from prior data breaches and identity theft can apply for unemployment benefits on unwary consumers’ behalves. Attorney General Rutledge advises consumers who suspect that their identity has been used to apply for unemployment benefits should immediately:

    • File a police report and then contact the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services’ fraud hotline at 501-682-1058.
    • Report the fraud to your employer.
    • Obtain new copies of their credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies (i.e., Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) to confirm that no additional lines of credit have been opened in his or her name and consider requesting a fraud alert or a security freeze in order to prevent additional fraudulent activity.
    • If a victim of financial identity theft, apply for anidentity theft passport with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office by submitting a copy of a police report and other relevant information.  Identity theft passports are designed to assist consumers in proving their true identities.

Consumers are advised that if you receive funds that you did not apply for and that you were not expecting, do not accept them.  Instead, report the matter to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services at 501-682-1058 and to local law enforcement.  Even if you did not request the funds, accepting such funds as part of an unemployment scam is unlawful.

If you believe you have experienced identity theft or have been scammed, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or oag@ArkansasAG.gov or visitArkansasAG.gov.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS    07/09/20
As of Thursday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 781 (increase of 12 from Wednesday)
Active Positives: 88 (decrease of 1 from Wednesday)
Recoveries: 684 (increase of 13)
Deaths: 9 (unchanged)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County:
Total Cases 40 (unchanged)
Active Positives 0 (unchanged)
Howard County:
Total Cases 121 (increase of 6)
Active Positives 30 (increase of 1)
Polk County:
Total Cases 84 (increase of 3)
Active Positives 8 (decrease of 1)
McCurtain County:
Total Cases 596 (increase of 15)
Active Positives 159 (unchanged)

TWO INJURED AFTER FIRE TEARS THROUGH STRUCTURE AT NASHVILLE’S TYSON FACILITY     07/09/20

Two people were injured after a fire tore through a building at the Tyson food processing complex in Nashville early Thursday morning.

According to the Nashville Fire Department, a fire began around 2 a.m. Thursday morning following a reported explosion at one of the buildings in the complex. The building, which is not attached to the main facility, has been reported as the plant’s Fulton boiler.

Firefighters and emergency responders from the Nashville Fire Department and neighboring precincts arrived shortly afterwards to find the structure fully engulfed. The fire was contained and then extinguished by 4 a.m. Officials report two employees were injured in the fire. The extent of their injuries has not been reported.

Processing operations at the plant have been shutdown for the remainder of Thursday.

A Tyson spokesperson issued the following statement Thursday morning:
We’re investigating a fire that happened in part of our Nashville, Arkansas plant. Unfortunately, two of our team members have been injured and are receiving medical attention. We appreciate the quick response of local firefighters and first responders, who quickly put the fire out and helped our team members. The fire was limited to detached building, so the main section of the plant was not impacted. Because we’re still assessing the situation, the further processing part of our operation will not run today.”

This is a developing story and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. More updates will be provided once additional information becomes available.

Fire at Tyson’s – Little remains of the Fulton boiler located at the Nashville Tyson’s complex after a fire gutted the structure and injured two people early Thursday morning. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Photos provided by Jim Pinson of Southwest Arkansas Radio and John Balch of The Nashville News-Leader.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS      07/09/20

As of Wednesday afternoon, July 8th, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 769 (Increase of 11 from Tuesday)
Active Positives: 86 (remained the same)
Recoveries: 671 (Increase of 8)
Deaths remain at nine

In neighboring counties:
Little River County Active Positives: Overall cases remain at 40 but state officials say the sole person with a reported active case has recovered. That’s great news for Little River County.
Howard County Active Positives: 29 (decrease of five)
Polk County Active Positives: 9 (remained the same)

DE QUEEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS COVID-19 RE-ENTRY PLANNING SURVEY   07/09/20

The De Queen Public Schools are asking district parents and guardians to fill out a survey regarding the return to school this fall. Below are the links to the survey.

English Version: https://forms.gle/WzdXYMwqqtaBq33fA

Spanish Version:  https://forms.gle/eAXf1g17jnpVfJNw5

WELCOMING THE LEOPARDS CLINIC       07/09/20

Angie Walker of The Randy Walker Family Practice in De Queen, pictured left, and De Queen Superintendent Jason Sanders visited with KDQN listeners Thursday morning to share information on the new Leopard Clinic. A partnership between Dr. Walker’s practice and the De Queen School District, the Leopard Clinic will provide incoming students with healthcare services right on campus.

Sanders and Walker said health professionals will be staffed during school hours to provide services to students in need. Sanders and Walkers stressed that students are not required to use the clinic’s healthcare services. However, the clinic will provide on-site services for any student who requests it. Sanders said the clinic gives parents an extra option when choosing healthcare options for their children. For more information will be shared as the 2020-2021 school year nears.

SEVIER COUNTY QUORUM COURT TO MEET JULY 13       07/09/20

The Sevier County Quorum Court will meet Monday, July 13 starting at 2 p.m. in the De Queen High School Cafeteria.

Items on the agenda include an update from the Sevier County Medical Center board of governors.

Issues to be voted on include a Proposed Resolution adopting the Sevier County Hazard Mitigation Plan. The hazard mitigation plan is required to achieve eligibility for mitigation grants.

There will also be a proposed resolution urging all residents and visitors to wear protective face masks when in public settings.

In addition, the quorum court will upon a request for funding to purchase two iPads for giveaway as part of a campaign to encourage Sevier County residents to complete the Census. If approved, this project will be a partnership between the Quorum Court City of De Queen, the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce, and UA Cossatot. Cost is estimated to be around $150 per party.

Justices of the peace will then vote on a proposed Resolution Declaring Support for the J. Lynn Helms-Sevier County Airport Improvement Project and Authorizing the County Judge to Accept a Grant on Behalf of the Sevier County Airport Commission.

Also slated for a discussion is a proposed ordinance to prevent the building of chicken houses next to the De Queen Country Club.

Finally, justices will decide a request to re-appoint Debbie Pickering, Jimna Stinnett and Roger Whitmore to the Sevier County Housing Authority Board.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: SCAM ARTISTS POSE AS CONTACT TRACERS TO STEAL ARKANSANS’ IDENTITIES     07/09/20

As the number of COVID-19 cases rise in Arkansas, so do scammers attempting to pray on those affected by the virus. Scam artists have found an opportunity by using the important task of contact tracing to steal money and the identity of Arkansans. In trying to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Arkansas Department of Health is using contact tracing to identify people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

One way bad actors are impersonating contact tracers is by sending text messages containing a link and claiming that by clicking on the link, the recipient will be contacted about a positive test. In actuality, the link gives the scam artist direct access to the phone holder’s personal information.

When a patient is confirmed to have COVID-19, the Arkansas Health Department provides staff to assist the patient with identifying all individuals with whom they made close contact during the 48-hours preceding the positive COVID-19 test. Those identified by the patient through the contact tracing process are then notified by public health staff of the positive case, are asked to enroll in the Department of Health’s Situational Awareness Response Assistance (SARA) system for email updates, and they are asked to quarantine.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released the following tips to avoid falling victim to the contact tracing scam:

  • Contact tracing will not cost money. Avoid giving personal bank account information over the phone or buying gift cards to pay scam artists for fake contact tracing attempts;
  • Avoid clicking on links in emails and text messages unless you signed up to receive the messages;

If you receive an unsolicited email or text message from a potential contact tracer, verify its authenticity by contacting the Arkansas Department of Health atCoronaVirus@arkansas.gov or call (800) 803-7847.

  • To file a complaint about potential contact tracing scams reach out to the Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

CITY REMINDS RESIDENTS OF CODE ENFORCEMENT STANDARDS  07/09/20

The recent rainfall in the area has been a blessing, keeping temperatures lower than could be expected. But that also means one big thing – grass is growing like crazy. The City of De Queen wants to remind residents that code enforcement regulations exist concerning lawn height and other residential eye sores.

Code enforcement officials are currently out in the public to remind visitors to keep their grass cut. Residents who receive a reminder have seven days to act upon the notice. After the seven day period, they are open to receiving a fine ranging from $100 to $500. This fine is set by the Sevier County District Court. Other eye sores which could carry a penalty include broke down cars visible from public roadways.

Code enforcement officers stress they are willing to work with property owners to meet code standards, as long as owners make efforts to meet those standards.

The city also reminds residents that city crews will not haul off trees cut down by paid contractors or tree-cutting crews. If you have a small amount of brush you cut yourself, however, the city is willing to collect it.

IRS REMINDS TAXPAYERS DEADLINE TO FILE IS JULY 15                07/09/20

The IRS is reminding taxpayers that they should file their tax return by the July 15 deadline even if they cannot pay the full amount due. Otherwise, they may end up owing even more because penalties and interest can cause a taxpayer’s debt to grow.

If a taxpayer owes taxes, but can’t pay by the deadline, they should:

    • File their tax return or request an extension of time to file.
      Taxpayers who can’tfile their return on time, should request an extension to file. Without this extension, they may face a failure-to-file penalty.
    • To get an extension to file, taxpayers must do one of the following:
      –  File Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using Free File on IRS.gov.
      –  Submit an electronic payment with Direct Pay, Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or by debit, credit card or digital wallet and select Form 4868 or extension as the payment type.
    • Pay what they can by the deadline.
      Taxpayers must pay their bill on time. If they don’t, they will could face a failure-to-pay penalty. Taxpayers should remember that an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. An automatic extension of time to file will process when taxpayers pay all or part of their taxes electronically by the Wednesday, July 15 due date.
    • Set up a payment plan.
      Taxpayers who know they owe taxes but can’t pay by the deadline have options. For example, they can apply for a payment plan on IRS.gov or in writing using Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request.The tax filing deadline has been postponed to Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The IRS is processing tax returns, issuing refunds and accepting payments. Taxpayers who mailed a tax return will experience a longer wait. There is no need to mail a second tax return or call the IRS.
GROUP SEEKING ALCOHOL SALES IN SEVIER COUNTY HOLDING DRIVE-THRU SIGNING EVENTS IN DE QUEEN, HORATIO      07/08/20

The Sevier County EDGE group is holding several Petition Signing events at drive through locations this Friday and Saturday at the Town North Shopping Center, located West of Ranch House & Dollar General, as well as Simple Simons in De Queen and the Horatio Pit Stop.

The group is petitioning for 2,573 valid signatures from registered Sevier County voters in order to secure a spot on the November ballot for an issue that would legalize the sale of alcohol in the county.

Organizers say as of last Friday they are approximately 700 signatures short of getting the issue on this year’s ballot. Volunteers are scheduled to man booths from approximately 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. The booth located at the Town North Shopping Center is also accepting signatures throughout the week. The group has until July 28 to gain enough signatures to meet the ballot requirements.

Only registered Sevier County voters are allowed to sign the petition and each signature must be certified through the county clerk’s office. Citizens can also register to vote as well as update their voter registration at the EDGE booths.

More information can be found on the vote for growth Facebook page. EDGE members say signing the petition doesn’t mean you are for or against the issue. The needed number of signatures on the petition will allow the issue to be put on the ballot for citizens of Sevier County to decide this November.

Looking to get wet – Alejandro Hernandez adds his name to a growing petition seeking to place the legalization of alcohol sales in Sevier County the November Ballot. Angie Walker is pictured manning the booth, located at the Town North Shopping Center in De Queen. The group has until July 28 to receive the needed signatures.

CITY OF DE QUEEN URGES RESIDENTS, VISITORS TO WEAR MASKS IN PUBLIC SPACES       07/08/20

The De Queen City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night urging the use of protective face coverings within public spaces in the city. The resolution passed unanimously in response to the local COVID-19 outbreak.

Area resident Victor J. Rojas spearheaded the measure and was present at the meeting, which was held at De Queen High School to allow council members and those in attendance to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Rojas said he forwarded the resolution in hopes that its passing would help cut down on local COVID-19 transmissions.

Mayor Jeff Brown stressed the resolution does not require the use of face masks, but recommends them for De Queen residents and visitors to the city. He hopes that by recommending their use, city officials can avoid discussion mandating them in the future.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson enacted legislation last week authorizing state municipalities to mandate the use of face masks at their discretion. Several northwest Arkansas cities already have.

Dr. Jason Lofton, who serves both as a city alderman and as Sevier County Health Officer, said during Tuesday night’s meeting that he supported the resolution due to the relatively high number of overall COVID-19 cases in the county. Lofton said by strongly urging the use of masks, city residents will be better able to capitalize on the county’s declining active cases and mortality rate.

In other business, the council approved $200,000 to replace a broken screw pump at the municipal treatment facility. Wastewater Superintendent Mike Sims said the pump is vital to the operation of the facility, which is currently relying on an emergency pump to meet capacity. He said the period from purchase to delivery would likely take six months.

Council members also approved a resolution adopting a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Plan. Brown said the plan must be approved by city officials to ensure De Queen received federal assistance in the event of a flood or other natural or manmade disaster.

During the meeting’s citizens comments section, council members heard from De Queen resident Elder Dawes who shared concerns over the safety of several streets in De Queen. He urged members to study methods to increase safety around the hilled portions of Third, Fourth and Ninth Streets. He said the issue had become a personal matter after he was t-boned at one of the aforementioned intersections. Brown said he would ask city personnel to look into Dawes’ concern.

During the meeting Suzanne Babb of the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce also introduced Sue Stowers, who will assist in reception and other functions at the chamber office in downtown De Queen. She said the addition of Stowers will provide some much-needed flexibility in regards to office duties and open hours.

The next meeting of the De Queen City Council is scheduled for July 21 starting at 5:30 p.m. in the De Queen High School Cafeteria.

DE QUEEN PARENTS ASKED TO COMPLETE SURVEY REGARDING RETURN OF CLASSES THIS FALL     07/08/20

Parents of children who will attend school in De Queen this fall are being asked to provide input on they hope to see classes return.

Officials with the De Queen School District have created an online survey featuring a number of questions related to the return of school amid the COVID-19 environment. The survey is designed to take only a few minutes to fill out and will collect data to assist the district in planning for the 2020-2021 school year. District officials stress parents who complete the survey are not making a commitment to a final decision.

Questions listed in the survey range from the age of the child entering school this fall, to the interest parents have in seeing online instruction versus the traditional classroom option. Other questions in the survey are designed to determine the level of internet access and internet-capable devices among households in the district.

Parents will be able to share how comfortable they are with the idea of returning children to an in-class setting, as well as any other concerns they may have.

The survey portal is located on the homepage of the De Queen School District website at www.dequeenleopards.org. The survey, which is available in both English and Spanish, must be completed by July 17.

TWO SEVIER COUNTY YOUTH SELECTED AS STATEWIDE 4-H AMBASSADORS       07/08/20

Two Sevier County youth were among 22 4-H members from across the state selected for the prestigious duty as ambassadors for the organization’s statewide projects. Hunter Frachiseur and Ethan Wolcott, both longtime Sevier County 4-H’ers, were among the select few chosen as ambassadors for the 2020-2021 year.

Ambassadors collaborate with the division’s Cooperative Extension Service to plan and facilitate 4-H events throughout the year, representing 4-H at various activities such as fairs, donor events, awards programs and community and state events.

“Each of our new ambassadors has already had an impact in their communities and in 4-H at the local, regional and state 4-H programs and will represent Arkansas 4-H well,” said Angie Freel, associate department head of 4-H. “Serving as an ambassador will help them develop additional skills in leadership, public speaking, citizenship and community service.”

Arkansas 4-H, the youth development program of the Division of Agriculture, serves more than 133,000 youth through programming that helps them learn skills to lead for a lifetime. The core elements of 4-H are leadership, youth-adult partnerships, life skills and community service. Free programs are offered in all 75 counties of Arkansas.

All of this year’s ambassadors were previously “Teen Stars” in the 4-H program. As part of their application to be an ambassador, they developed a 4-H promotional speech and were interviewed by a panel of judges. The new group will be formally recognized later this summer in a virtual awards ceremony.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

CHARLIE DANIELS, WHO FUSED COUNTRY AND ROCK, DIES AT AGE 83    07/08/20

Charlie Daniels, singer, songwriter, bandleader, lover of God, Family and Country passed away Monday, July 6 in Nashville after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke.

Mr. Daniels was a major force in country and rock music for more than fifty years with hits like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.  But his greatest commendation came as the leader of the Charlie Daniels Band formed in 1971. The group earned a reputation for recording outspoken songs with a countercultural bent usually championing the underdog. President Jimmy Carter invited the Charlie Daniels Band to perform at his 1977 Inaugural Ball. Many of the band’s songs grew more patriotic in the eighties and also more political with hits like “In America”, “Simple Man”, and “What the World Needs is a Few More Rednecks”.

Charlie Daniels was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2014, the Charlie Daniels and the Charlie Daniels Band performed in De Queen for thousands of local fans.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Hazel, his son, Charlie, Jr. and millions of fans across the world.

Funeral arrangements are being performed by Deal Funeral Home in Statesboro, GA. Deal Funeral Directors will be hosting a register signing through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. this week for fans of Charlie Daniels to come by and sign. The book will be mailed to the family to show the love, support and impact he made on so many lives.

To sign the tribute wall or plant a tree in Charlie Daniels’ honor, visit www.dealfuneraldirectors.com.

Daniels performed at the Collin Raye Benefit Concert in 2014.  He is shown here with committee members: (Front, l-r)Steve Sharp, Marian Chandler, Bonita Smith, Patty Sharp, Evelyn Helms, Brenda Beltrani, Richard McKinley, Tammy Coleman, Benny Simmons. (Back, l-r) John Helms, Greg Revels, Billy Ray McKelvy, Jim Pinson, and Jay Lindly.

TUESDAY’S  COVID-19 NUMBERS          07/08/20

Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County as of Tuesday afternoon, July 7, 2020 according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 758 (increase of 10)
Recoveries: 663 (increase of 13)
Deaths remain at nine
Active Positives: 86 (decreased by three)
In neighboring counties:
Little River County still has 40 Total Cases and the Active Positives decreased by one to one.
Howard County’s Total Cases increased by four to 106, but the Active Positives decreased by one to 24.
Polk County’s Total Cases remain at 80 and Active Positives remain at nine.
McCurtain County’s Total Cases increased by eight to 569. The death toll increased by one to nine. The Active Positives decreased by four to 160.

DE QUEEN CITY COUNCIL TO MEET TONIGHT TO VOTE UPON RESOLUTION URGING USE OF FACE COVERINGS IN PUBLIC    07/07/20

The De Queen City Council will meet in regular session tonight starting at 5:30 p.m. in the De Queen High School Cafeteria.
After calling the meeting to order and allowing for citizen comments, council members will launch into a fairly brief agenda. Items slated for tonight’s meeting include an address from City Sewer Superintendent Mike Sims. Sims will discuss the need for a new screw pump at the municipal treatment facility.

The council is then scheduled to vote upon a resolution recommending the wearing of face coverings in public spaces within the city. De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown said this resolution, if passed, would only urge the use of masks, not require it.

Finally, council members will discuss and vote upon a Hazard Mitigation Plan forwarded by Sevier County Judge Greg Ray. This resolution must be passed as part of a Multi-Jurisdiction Hazard Mitigation Plan required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency if local jurisdictions wish to receive federal assistance in the event of a flood or other natural or man-made disasters.

DE QUEEN LIBRARY OPENS DOORS TO PUBLIC WITH SOME COVID-19 RELATED RESTRICTIONS     07/07/20

The De Queen Library reopened its doors to visitors on Monday for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public libraries across the state were forced to close mid-March due to the spread of the virus.

Sevier County Librarian Johnye Fisher said she’s seen a lot of interest in recent weeks from the public over when – or even if – the library would reopen to the public.

“We’ve been getting calls daily from people who want to know when we would reopen,” Fisher said. She said excitement has built since she announced the July 6 soft reopening. “There are a lot of people who rely on the services the library provides. People have been pretty excited to see the doors open again.”

The De Queen Library began welcoming visitors again Monday with a number of regulations aimed at limiting COVID-19. Only three people are allowed inside the library and for 15 minutes at a time. Visitors are required to bring and wear their own face covering.

“We’d love to provide masks for the public but libraries run on a very tight budget and we struggled just to provide the sanitizing and cleaning products we need for the library,” Fisher said. “We’re limiting the number of visitors and the time they’re here to ensure we’re upholding social distancing while also giving everyone a chance to come inside.”

Fisher said customers are asked not to return library items inside, but continue to use the drop box located on the east side of the building. Each library item is sanitized before returning to a shelf. Glass partitions will be installed soon for the protection of the public as well as library employees.

While many libraries across the state closed their doors completely after the pandemic hit, De Queen Library remained open but limited operations solely to window and curbside services. Work did not slowdown during this period, however, with Fisher stating that around 5,300 items were checked out during the two-month span. Fisher said the library also ensured its open wifi would reach out to the parking lot for anyone who needed it. The library will continue to provide open wifi and curbside services to anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable entering the building.

To ensure no one is rushed by the 15-minute limit, Fisher reminded patrons they can check out the library’s complete catalog online at www.seviercountylibrary.com. The catalog features all of the on-hand materials located at each of the county’s four libraries.

”Check out the online catalog, find what you want and it won’t take a minute to come pick it up,” said Fisher.

Regarding the county’s other libraries, Horatio Library is scheduled to reopen today, July 7. Lockesburg Library will reopen to the public on Wednesday, July 8, and Gillham Library on July 14. You can visit www.seviercountylibrary.com for library hours and more information.

Ready to Reopen – Sevier County Head Librarian Johnye Fisher, left, and De Queen Librarian Rhonda Barringer show off a couple of the latest best-selling novels available at the De Queen Library. The library reopened to the public on Monday for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a limit to the number of people who can be inside the building and how long they can stay. In addition, the wearing of face coverings is required.

NINTH CORONAVIRUS-RELATED DEATH REPORTED IN SEVIER COUNTY ON MONDAY     07/07/20

A day after reporting Sevier County’s eighth coronavirus-related death, state health officials say a ninth county resident has passed from complications related to the virus. The Arkansas Department of Health reported Sevier County’s ninth death during an update provided yesterday afternoon.

Currently, 748 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Sevier County. Of those, 89 are currently active – a decrease of 11 since Sunday. There have been 650 recoveries. 3,512 tests have come back negative for the virus.

Surrounding counties continue to see a much lower rate of infection, with only two active cases in Little River County, 25 in Howard and nine in Polk County. McCurtain County reports 164 currently active cases.

COUNTY COVID-19 TASK FORCE MEETS TO SHARE UPDATES, INFORMATION     07/07/20

Local government and health officials met yesterday afternoon to discuss and update information regarding the ongoing COVID-19 environment.

Sevier County Health Officer Dr. Jason Lofton informed those in attendance that Sevier County had seen its eighth coronavirus-related death over the July 4th holiday weekend. Lofton and Sevier County Judge Greg Ray struck a note of optimism by announcing that active cases within the county had dropped to 100 – the lowest in some weeks. Angie Walker of the Dr. Randy Walker Family Practice warned, however, that the drop in active cases could be due to a backlog in submitted tests at the state level.

Dr. Lofton said the county is currently experiencing a 17 percent positivity rate, or approximately double the national and state average. He said the county’s eight COVID-19-related deaths were predominately suffered by older residents with pre-existing complications. The identity of anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has passed away from the virus is confidential due to health privacy regulations.

Dr. Lofton countered the high positivity rate with the fact that relatively few county residents have died from the virus. This is a trend being seen across the national level. The mortality rate has remained low, and that, some health officials say, is a step towards herd immunity.

Members of the local COVID-19 taskforce do expect to see some increase in active cases due to the likelihood of numerous July 4th-related get-togethers over the weekend.

Erika Buenrostro of UA Cossatot and Angie Walker discussed local efforts to more effectively reach out to Spanish-language speakers as well as the local Marshallese community.

The group is scheduled to meet again later this month.

LOCAL FIREWORKS STAND SEES SALES SKYROCKET AFTER DE QUEEN, LOCKESBURG DISPLAYS ARE CANCELLED   07/07/20

According to national news outlets, the sale of fireworks have skyrocketed across the nation especially after traditional events were canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The lack of official fireworks shows in Sevier County certainly didn’t stop area residents from filling the night sky with their own spectacular displays in celebration of the July Fourth holiday.

Juanita Williams, a local resident who runs her own fireworks outlet, said last week was a busy one. Known to most in the community as Mrs. Juanita for her years as a school bus driver in De Queen, she said this year’s Independence Day sales blasted past all her expectation. In two decades no other year has come close to the amount of fireworks she’s sold in the last couple of weeks.

The fireworks season, which begins in late June, was nonetheless stressful for Mrs. Juanita. Like every year, but especially in 2020, she wasn’t sure what sales would look like. She said she felt thankful and blessed after people began flooding the stand with the goal of loading up on fireworks. For the past week dozens could be seen surrounding her stand whenever she was open, many wearing masks and nearly all standing at least six feet apart. Hours were brutal, with Mrs. Juanita getting up to prep the stand at 4:30 a.m. and getting home only after midnight.

Mrs. Juanita credits the hugely increased sales to the cancellation of Sevier County’s two official fireworks displays – the Let Freedom Ring event in De Queen and Lockesburg’s Fireworks in the Park celebration, which together attract thousands of spectators each year. She said that while the shows were cancelled, the area’s desire to celebrate the nation’s birthday in style was not. It’s perhaps not just the cancellation of both shows but the fact that, with everything going on, many people have a bit more free time on their hands.

The flash and report of fireworks is likely to continue for a couple more days as sales can carry on across the state through July 10. Mrs. Juanita is doubtful she will remain open that much longer. But, after the success her stand has seen this year, she can afford to take a much-needed break.

Business is Booming ­­– Juanita Williams, known to most in the community as Mrs. Juanita, poses with several of her grandchildren in her fireworks stand west of De Queen. In 20 years selling fireworks, Mrs. Juanita said she’s never seen as much business as she has during this year’s July 4th holiday. Pictured from left to right are Manna Sorrells, Juanita Williams, Emily Garcia and Willy Sorrells.

ARKANSAS WELCOME CENTERS REOPEN ACROSS THE STATE   07/07/20

Travelers can now stop at an Arkansas Welcome Center for trip planning advice, tourism information and the opportunity to stretch their legs while on the road. After temporarily closing March 20 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, The Natural State’s Welcome Centers are once again open to the public.

“Arkansas is one of the nation’s most beautiful and inviting destinations,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “Arkansas Welcome Centers offer our guests a friendly entry to The Natural State, as well as a rest and information stop to gather travel planning materials and advice.”

To safely re-open, the centers are monitoring the number of visitors inside the building at one time, frequently cleaning restrooms and common areas, and requiring the use of face masks when a safe physical distance cannot be achieved.

“Arkansas Welcome Centers serve as a one-stop resource for travelers hoping to find information on the many attractions, restaurants and lodging options in the state, not to mention the many scenic trails, rivers and lakes that make The Natural State an appealing destination,” said Travis Napper, director of Arkansas Tourism.

The centers are located at strategic points of entry on major highways and interstates coming into the state. Twelve of the 14 are a partnership between the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. One center, Mammoth Spring, is a partnership with Arkansas State Parks. All are staffed by certified U.S. Travel Association travel counselors.

Welcome center staff share their expertise of Arkansas with more than one million travelers annually. Each center offers free Wi-Fi as well as interesting exhibits spotlighting local history. Complimentary travel magazines and guides, various brochures and highway maps are available to guests.  Arkansas Welcome Centers are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and are closed on major holidays.

For information on planning your Arkansas road trip, visit www.arkansas.com.

LOCAL COVID-19 UPDATE     07/06/20

Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County as of Monday afternoon according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 748 (increase of 5 from Sunday)
Active Positives: 89 (decreased by 11)
Recoveries: 650 (increase of 15)
Deaths increased by one to nine
Negative Tests 3,512 (increase of 25)
In neighboring counties:
Little River County has two Active Positives (same)
Howard County has 25 Active Positives (down 2)
Polk County has nine Active Positives (up one)
McCurtain County now has 164 Active Positives

UTILITY COMPANIES SAY NONPAYMENT DISCONNECTIONS TO REMAIN ON PAUSE    07/06/20
Utility companies in Arkansas say they will continue adhering to an order not to disconnect customers who do not pay their bills, as the COVID-19 crisis stretches into the summer months.
Under an April 10th order from the Arkansas Public Service Commission, regulated utilities cannot disconnect customers for as long as Governor Asa Hutchinson’s state of emergency declaration persists, or until the commission rescinds its order.

The Governor extended his emergency order for an additional 45 days on June 18th, meaning the state of emergency is scheduled to expire on August 3rd.

Before the Public Service Commission’s order, many utilities in Arkansas providing gas and electricity had already promised not to disconnect customers for lack of payment amid the pandemic.

According to a spokesperson for SWEPCO, about 17% of customers are behind on their payments at the moment. That’s an increase since the start of the pandemic. SWEPCO has announced a number of flexible bill payment options to help customers get back on track. For more information, call toll-free 1-888-216-3523 or visit www.swepco.com.

EIGHTH SEVIER COUNTY RESIDENT DIES FROM COVID-19     07/06/20

State health officials reported the death over the holiday weekend of an additional Sevier County resident to COVID 19, raising the toll to eight. The Arkansas Department of Health announced the death alongside 11 new confirmed cases in the county.

However, officials reported a drop of active cases to 100 people. In all, 743 people have tested positive in Sevier County since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s a ratio of one in every 23 people in the county. Nearly 3,500 have tested negative as of July 5.

Little River County reported no new cases over the weekend. Of the 40 people who have contracted the disease, 38 have recovered, leaving just two active cases and no deaths.

In neighboring Howard County, one additional confirmed case was reported over the weekend with 28 currently active and 73 recovered. Of the 101 total confirmed cases, only one has resulted in a death. Polk County also reported an additional case of the virus, but has yet to see a death related to the virus.

Statewide, health officials announced a further 605 cases and one death on Sunday – that of a Sevier County resident. As of July 5, 287 Arkansans have died of the virus. Total active cases currently number 6,323.

ATTORNEY GENERAL WARNS IMPOSTERS ARE STEALING ARKANSANS’ UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS    07/06/20

States have had to adapt quickly to the keep their residents safe from COVID-19 and ensure economic resources are easily available. In recent weeks, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office has received complaints from Arkansans receiving notices that they had applied for unemployment benefits when they had not in fact applied for benefits. In other cases, consumers have received the unemployment funds and are then contacted by the scam artist claiming that a mistake has occurred and asking the consumer to forward the proceeds to them.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing has created a new online procedure that requires only a name, date of birth, social security number, and employer verification. This abbreviated procedure, while safer and more simple for applicants, has also meant that scam artists who have fraudulently obtained this personal information on consumers from prior data breaches and identity theft can apply for unemployment benefits on unwary consumers’ behalves. Attorney General Rutledge advises consumers who suspect that their identity has been used to apply for unemployment benefits should immediately:

        • File a police report and then contact the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services’ fraud hotline at 501-682-1058.
        • Report the fraud to your employer.
        • Obtain new copies of their credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies (i.e., Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) to confirm that no additional lines of credit have been opened in his or her name and consider requesting a fraud alert or a security freeze in order to prevent additional fraudulent activity.
        • If a victim of financial identity theft, apply for anidentity theft passport with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office by submitting a copy of a police report and other relevant information.  Identity theft passports are designed to assist consumers in proving their true identities.

Consumers are advised that if you receive funds that you did not apply for and that you were not expecting, do not accept them.  Instead, report the matter to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services at 501-682-1058 and to local law enforcement.  Even if you did not request the funds, accepting such funds as part of an unemployment scam is unlawful.

If you believe you have experienced identity theft or have been scammed, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or oag@ArkansasAG.gov or visitArkansasAG.gov.

U.S. CENSUS SAYS AREA COUNTIES, MOST OF ARKANSAS LAGGING BEHIND IN RESPONSE RATE     07/06/20

2020 is the year many people are hoping to forget, but not the U.S. Census Bureau. Largely lost in the news is the fact that it’s once again time to count Americans as part of the once-a-decade national Census.
According to census officials, Americans and particularly Arkansas are lagging behind when it comes to filling out the census survey. It’s not surprising with everything in the news lately, from COVID-19 and national protests to Saharan dust and murder hornets.

But, stress officials, the census should not take a back seat. Data collected through the United States Census has a huge impact, from determining the locations of new schools, roads and public facilities to the shape and makeup of political districts.

According to current figures released by the Census Bureau, the nationwide self-response rate is hovering just below 62 percent. In Arkansas, that figure is 56.6 percent. It’s even lower in Southwest Arkansas, with response rates currently reported at 51.5 percent in Sevier, 51.8 percent in Polk, 48 percent in Little River and 49.8 percent in Howard County.

According to the Census Bureau, every household in the country should have received a census form in the mail. These forms are anonymous and include a postage-paid return envelope. If you haven’t yet completed the form, Census officials encourage you do to so as soon as possible. You can also register for the Census through the Arkansas Economic and Development Institute at (501) 569-8538.

It’s a simple and quick process and ensures populations receive the proper financial and political representation they deserve. Let’s make sure this summer that every Arkansan is counted!

AREA COMMENCEMENT CEREMONIES TENTATIVELY SCHEDULED    07/06/20

Of the many changes caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps one of the most tragic was the cancellation of May commencement ceremonies for this year’s graduating high school seniors. But, with fingers crossed, area high schools are hoping to change that starting next week.

Ashdown High School will honor its Class of 2020 with a rescheduled graduation ceremony tentatively set for Friday, July 10 at Dick Hays Stadium, beginning at 9 a.m. Horatio High School’s commencement event is scheduled for that evening, starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Lion Stadium.

Foreman High School will hand out diplomas during a ceremony at the football field on Saturday, July 11 beginning at 10 a.m.

A commencement ceremony will be held Monday, July 13 at for the 2020 graduates of Cossatot River High School. The event will be held at the Stevenson Gym beginning at 6 p.m.

Looking further ahead, Dierks High School has tentatively rescheduled its graduation ceremony to July 20 at 7 p.m.

Finally, De Queen High School is hoping to celebrate its Class of 2020 with a commencement ceremony on July 31 at Leopard Coliseum. School officials have not yet announced a time for the ceremony and will update that information later in the month.

These ceremonies are dependent on state guidelines and directives from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Health. School officials said they are monitoring these directives closely to ensure the ceremonies can be held and conducted safely. Stay tuned to KDQN for any developments regarding these events. And from the entire staff at our studio, congratulations to all our 2020 graduates!

COLLIN RAYE DRIVE REPAVING PROJECT CONTINUES    07/06/20

The repaving project on U.S. Highway 70, also known as Collin Raye Drive, continues into its second week.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department says the repaving project of the five-lane roadway will extend from the old bowling alley location west of De Queen to the Wal-mart Supercenter, east of the city. Work began on June 29th.

After the milling process is completed at some point likely this week, the repaving work will get underway. The entire project was estimated beforehand to take approximately two weeks.

Motorists can expect some delays and one-lane traffic at times in some areas while the project is underway on Collin Raye Drive in De Queen. During these times, you may want to choose an alternate route if possible.

BOY SCOUTS SELLING CAMP PIONEER    07/06/20

The Caddo Area Council Boy Scouts of America last week accepted an offer for the purchase of Camp Pioneer, located near Hatfield in Polk County. The purchasers are Mena residents Danny and Renae Powell and Danny and Beverly Hansbrough.

The Caddo Area Board of Directors voted in 2017 to suspend resident camp operations at Camp Pioneer due to electrical and plumbing maintenance needs. The Boy Scouts decided at that time to invest all future resources in Camp Preston Hunt, which is located a few miles east of Texarkana. Camp Pioneer had been idle since that decision was made.

Located at the confluence of the Mountain Fork River and Two-Mile Creek, the Camp Pioneer property is 215 acres of wooded hills with approximately a half mile of riverfront and creek front on both sides. It has numerous structures, several buildings, roads, city water, a relatively new residence, a shop, trails, developed camping areas, and access by a paved county road.

Danny Powell, speaking for the purchasers, says that the property would be renovated and further developed for use by groups. Specific plans are not being made public at this time.

Due to the non-profit status of the Caddo Area Council, no taxes have been paid on the real and personal property in the century it was used for a scout camp. Being privately owned now, the property will generate tax revenues for Polk County.

This summer is the 100th anniversary of Camp Pioneer. The first Council summer camp was held there in 1920. Since then, there have been literally tens of thousands of alumni of Camp Pioneer from as far away as 500 miles in any direction.

NINETEEN COUNTY REAPPRAISALS MUST PROCEED     07/06/20

Reappraisals will occur this year regardless of the pandemic, the state has informed the assessors in 19 counties due for reappraisal this year.

The list of 19 counties includes Sevier County.

A reappraisal done this year will be based on 2019 fair market values for properties.

Many county tax assessors had argued that an increase in taxes will come as a blow to businesses and homeowners while many are suffering from the economic effects of COVID-19. The assessors had asked the state Assessment Coordination Division in May whether the reappraisal could be delayed a year to allow the coronavirus pandemic’s expected effect on property values to show up in the reappraisal. The Division said in an initial response letter that the law allows no exceptions. The Division stated that it would conduct the reappraisals if the county assessors refused to do so.

Appraised value is the total estimated value of a piece of property. Twenty percent of that value is used to calculate the taxes due. The millage rate of tax for the property is then applied to that assessed value. The millage tax rate varies by location and school district.

Property taxes in Arkansas largely go to schools.

SOME ARKANSAS CITIES SEE INCOME CLIMBS DESPITE VIRUS    07/06/20  

Several Arkansas cities saw economic prosperity in April, a month in which travel was restricted and many businesses closed because of COVID-19.

The Arkansas Municipal League says that sales tax collections have been closely monitored during the pandemic. The majority of the some 500 cities and towns in Arkansas have a city sales tax. The numbers reflected in the Municipal League report reflect only citywide sales tax revenues, and do not include any advertising and promotion taxes.

De Queen saw a 5% increase in city sales tax collections in April, 2020, compared to April, 2019. Sales tax revenues in De Queen in April, 2020 generated $133,879, compared to $126,943 in April, 2019. The City of Ashdown saw an even bigger increase of some 37%. Ashdown tax collections in April, 2020 were $169,614, compared to $124,132 in April, 2019.

The Municipal League and several Mayors around the state attribute some of the April increase to people buying online. Mayors had been anxiously awaiting the April numbers. Governor Asa Hutchinson implemented some travel and business restrictions in late March, but April provides a better picture of economic activity during the pandemic because restrictions were in place for the entire month.

The April economy was also helped out by the $1,200 federal stimulus checks and even more so by the $600 per week provided to unemployed people through the CARES Act. The increased unemployment benefits are set to expire on July 31st.

A breakdown of Arkansas spending changes by category from January through June revealed these fluctuations: Apparel and general merchandise increased 20%, and groceries increased 13.8%. Transportation declined 53.3%. Entertainment declined 44.4%. Restaurants declined 23.3%.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS    07/06/20

As of Friday afternoon, July 3rd, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 726 (increase of 9 from Thursday)
Active Positives: 114 (decrease of 10 from Thursday)
Recoveries: 605 (increase of 19)
Deaths remain at seven
Negative Tests: 3,433 (increase of 23)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County Active Positives 2 (increase of one)
Howard County Active Positives 26 (decrease of two)
Polk County Active Positives 9 (decrease of 3)
McCurtain County Active Positives 158 (increase of 1)

As of Sunday afternoon, July 5th here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 743 (increase of 11 from Saturday)
Active Positives: 100 (decrease of 4 from Saturday)
Recoveries: 635 (increase of 14)
Deaths: 8 (increase of 1 from Saturday)
Negative Tests: 3,487 (increase of 40)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County Active Positives 2 (unchanged)
Howard County Active Positives 27 (increase of 1)
Polk County Active Positives 7 (unchanged)
McCurtain County Active Positives 153 (decrease of 5)

AHS STUDENT RECEIVES POWERPOINT CERTIFICATION    07/06/20

Quincya Faulks who ended the school as a ninth grade Ashdown High School student continued class work online for her Survey of Business class after onsite learning was closed due to COVID-19 in March.

According to her teacher Alicia McCormack, “I’m extremely proud of Quincya.  She took the initiative and emailed me to ask if she could try to earn her PowerPoint certification.

Due to the state of things at the time, I did not require my students to take this particular exam.  We were just about to get started with PowerPoint in the classroom when the pandemic started.  So Quincya was not able to receive any help or training from me.

The class work for Survey of Business is computer based and all online.  There are certain tasks and practice exams that students can work on at home.  But the certification exams are taken in the classroom.

Due to COVID-19, Certiport worked diligently to make it possible for our students to take their certification exams from home.  All of our Microsoft certification exams are taken online and must be proctored.  Usually Mrs. Tipton or myself act as proctors in the classroom.

With the at-home testing Certiport provided an online proctor to monitor the test. I had to request an exam and date/time with Certiport who then emailed me the testing information which I passed on to Quincya.  It was completely up to her to remember to login on the specified date at the assigned time.  I wasn’t able to be there to help her.

She was the only student this year to certify in all three Microsoft certification exams:  Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  She worked very hard throughout the entire school year, I’m beyond proud of her.”

  • BUNYARD BROADCASTING WELCOMES PATRICK MASSEY AS NEWS DIRECTOR    07/02/20
    Listeners of #1 Couintry KDQN will hear a new voice on the air with the addition of Patrick Massey as news director to the station’s staff.

Patrick, a resident of De Queen, will head Bunyard Broadcasting’s news department. His role includes covering local news, sports and events for the stations’ radio and online platforms.

Formerly from Canada, Patrick moved to De Queen after graduating high school in 2005. He attended UA Cossatot and Texas A&M-Texarkana, where he studied political science and journalism. He has nearly a decade of experience in covering local news from his time as general manager of The De Queen Bee between 2008-2017. In addition, he served as president of the De Queen Chamber of Commerce from 2016 to 2018.

”It’s exciting to get back into covering local news, and especially through a media platform as dynamic and far-reaching as radio,” said Patrick. “I fell in love with the area and the people here as soon as I arrived 15 years ago. I’m thrilled with the opportunity to once again share with others what’s happening in the area and why this is such a great place to call home.”

KDQN Radio has been a staple of the community since its founding in 1956. KDQN’s news department provides daily updates on local news, sports, events and weather. The station also maintains an online publication at www.kdqn.net which has long been the go-to source for local information and happenings.

”My goal is to make the news we share as community-driven as possible,” said Patrick. “I couldn’t be more excited by the chance to accomplish this goal through KDQN, both on-air and online.”

Patrick and his wife, Caitlyn, have been married for eight years. In his free time Patrick enjoys the outdoors, off roading and spending time at Broken Bow Lake. He is also an award-winning LEGO artist.

Listeners can tune-in to KDQN Radio at 92.1 FM and visit on-line at www.kdqn.net.

DE QUEEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS COVID-19 RE-ENTRY PLANNING SURVEY   07/02/20

The De Queen Public Schools are asking district parents and guardians to fill out a survey regarding the return to school this fall. Below are the links to the survey.

English Version: https://forms.gle/WzdXYMwqqtaBq33fA

Spanish Version:  https://forms.gle/eAXf1g17jnpVfJNw5

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS   07/02/20

As of Thursday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 717 (Increase of 11 from Wednesday)
Active Positives: 124 (decrease of 10 from Wednesday)
Recoveries: 586 (Increase of 21)

Deaths remain at seven

Negative Tests: 3,410 (Increase of 51)

In neighboring counties:

Little River County Active Positives: 1 (increase of one)

Howard County Active Positives: 28 (decrease of three)

Polk County Active Positives: 9 (decrease of three)

McCurtain County: Total cases, 501; Recoveries, 337; Deaths, seven; Active Positives, 157

DE QUEEN WOMAN CHARGED WITH FELONY AFTER ALLEGED ASSAULT ON CHILD    07/02/20

A De Queen woman has been charged with felony battery after she was observed physically assaulting her nine-year-old daughter, according to a report released by the De Queen Police Department.

Police say 28-year-old Mellina Langinbelik was arrested on June 27 after she was witnessed striking the child on a public street. An investigation by the arresting officer determined that Langinbelik had dropped the child onto the roadway and then kicked her. Officers noted the child’s injuries included a chipped tooth and a scratch on the child’s hands.

Langinbelik has been charged with a felony count of second-degree domestic battery. The case has been turned over to the Ninth West Judicial District for further investigation.

FOREMAN SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS MET JUNE 29     07/02/20

The Board of Directors for the Foreman School District met in special session at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 29 to vote on several personnel and financial matters.

Following a brief executive to discuss personnel, the board approved the hiring of Jessica Gallagher as a K-6 teacher at Oscar Hamilton Elementary.
A motion was then made to approve a $41,303.75 purchase for new Chromebooks, as well as $12,752 for three floor cleaning machines.

Board members then approved a motion to adjourn at 5:47 p.m.

ASHDOWN BOARD OF EDUCATION APPROVES NEW HIRES, ‘READY FOR LEARNING’ APPLICATION    07/02/20

New teachers were hired and several financial matters approved during the specially called meeting of the Ashdown School District Board of Education on June 29 starting at 5:30 p.m.

With five of seven board members in attendance, the board of education approved LaDarius McElroy as a new high school teacher and coach. In addition, the board voted to approve the hire of Logan Parks as a high school physical science teacher, Teauna Hill as a sixth-grade science teacher and Matthew McLelland as a high school teacher and coach. All four were hired under emergency certifications on a one-year contract. According to the board, these contracts will not be extended unless full certification is gained by May, 2021 and performance is satisfactory. A final personnel hire was approved with the addition of Kelly Everett as custodian. The resignation of Wynell Meeks, a high school math teacher, also passed.

The board then approved several financial matters, including the $66,073 lease purchase agreement of a new school bus. Payments to vendors were approved as well as a number of school roof repairs. The work will be performed by Meyers Roofing and Sheet Metal.

A recommendation was made and approved to advance the application for the State of Arkansas’ “Ready for Learning” program. This program aims to assist Arkansas school districts and their students as they transition back to school this fall under the ongoing COVID-19 environment.

A motion was made and approved to adjourn at 6:14 p.m.

SEVIER COUNTY LIBRARIES SET TO OPEN IN EARLY JULY    07/02/20

Sevier County libraries have set dates to reopen to serve all community members. De Queen Librarian, Johnye Fisher, says the De Queen Library will reopen on Monday, July 6th, with regular hours of Monday through Friday from 9:00 til 5:00; and Saturday mornings from 9:00 til 12 Noon. The De Queen Library will continue to offer curbside service Monday through Thursday from 10:00 til 4:00. For more information, call 584-4364.

Horatio Librarian, Amy Everts, says the Horatio Library will reopen the following day, Tuesday, July 7th. Hours at the Horatio Library are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 til 12 Noon and 1:00 til 5:30; and Saturday mornings from 8:30 til 12 Noon.

Lockesburg Branch Librarian, Wendy Clay, says that Lockesburg’s Library will reopen on Wednesday, July 8th. The Lockesburg Library is open from 8:30 til 5:00 Wednesdays and Thursdays; and Saturday mornings 8:30 til Noon.

The Gillham Library plans to reopen on Tuesday, July 14th. The Gillham Library will be open 9 til 1 on Tuesdays, 1 til 5 on Fridays, and 10 til 2 on Saturdays.

The Libraries insist that all people wear a mask. If you don’t have one, you won’t be allowed to enter. Only 3 people will be allowed to enter the library at one time, with a limit of 15 minutes per person. Curbside services will still be available for anyone who feels uncomfortable going inside the library.

SEVIER COUNTY FAIR BOARD SETS DATES FOR FAIR       07/02/20

The Sevier County Fair and Livestock Show Board of Directors has set dates for this year’s event. The 83rd annual fair and livestock show will be held Saturday, August 29th through Saturday, September 5th at the Fairgrounds in De Queen.

On Saturday, August 29th, the Rodeo Royalty Competition and a Beauty Pageant will kick off the week-long event.

There’ll be a new carnival providing rides and other entertainment this year. Hip Hop Amusements will be set up on the midway Wednesday through Saturday nights.

A parade in downtown De Queen will be held Friday, September 4th at 6:00. A Professional Dodge Rodeo kicks off Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 in the rodeo arena.

Livestock, commercial, and educational exhibits will be another highlight at this year’s fair.

Officers of the Sevier County Fair Board this year include: Leroy Nunn, President; David Shipman, Vice-President; Donna Rivas, Secretary; Sandra Nunn, Fair Manager.

The Sevier County Fair Board is proud of their new website, where you can now go to download a fair tabloid. The website address is: www.seviercountyfairarkansas.com.

The dates again for the 83rd Annual Sevier County Fair and Livestock Show is August 29th through September 5th at the fairgrounds in De Queen.

 LIMITED FIREWORKS SHOW CHOICES FOR THE FOURTH      07/02/20

COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of numerous Fourth of July Fireworks Shows around Southwest Arkansas this year.

The Let Freedom Ring event at the Sportsplex, usually scheduled for July third, has been cancelled this year.

The City of Lockesburg has also cancelled their annual Fireworks in the Park event on the Fourth.

Here are some fireworks displays that are scheduled this weekend:

The City of Daisy will host a fireworks show Friday evening beginning at dark. Everyone attending will need to wear a mask and maintain social distancing requirements. For more information about the Daisy Fireworks Show, call 681-1400.

Ashdown will have an Independence Day Fireworks Show at dark on Saturday the 4th at the Junior High School in Ashdown. Organizers say that there’ll be no booths and no bathrooms, as well as no musical entertainment this year. Social distancing guidelines will be followed.

The Nashville Chamber of Commerce announces that they will have a fireworks show at dark on Saturday the Fourth at the Nashville City Park. Spectators are encouraged to find a location with good visibility and watch from their vehicles. The Nashville City Parks fireworks display is expected to begin at around 9:15 Saturday night.

There will be a fireworks display at the New Hope Fire Department on Saturday the Fourth beginning at dark. Due to COVID-19, there will be no food, auction, or vendors this year.

Again, no Fourth of July Celebrations this year in De Queen or Lockesburg due to COVID-19.

FOURTH OF JULY HOLIDAY CLOSINGS   07/02/20

The De Queen City Hall will be closed on Friday, July 3rd in observance of Independence Day. There’ll be no garbage pick-up on Friday in the City of De Queen. The sanitation routes in the City of De Queen have been changed as follows:

Thursday’s regular route will be picked up on Wednesday.
Friday’s regular trash route will run on Thursday.

In observance of Independence Day, the Sevier County Courthouse will be closed on Friday, July 3rd. The Sevier County Landfill and all Solid Waste Satellite Stations will be closed on Saturday, July 4th.

The Horatio City Hall will be closed on Friday, July 3rd in observance of Independence Day.

As a reminder, Lockesburg City Hall is closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockesburg residents may pay their water and sewer bills by phone at 870-289-3261, or by using the drop box at the front door at Lockesburg City Hall.

AR ACADEMIC CHALLENGE SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE EXTENDED    07/02/20

In previous years, the deadline for graduating high school seniors to apply for an Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship has been June 30th.

Due to COVID-19, the application deadline has been extended to August 1st this year.

Traditional students must score at least a 19 on the A.C.T. to qualify for a scholarship, that’s funded by the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.

To apply for the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship, visit the Department of Higher Education’s website: scholarships@adhe.edu and complete the application. Remember, the deadline this year has been extended to August 1st.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS    07/01/20

As of Wednesday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 706 (increase of 6 from Tuesday)
Active Positives: 134 (decrease of 18 from Tuesday)
Recoveries: 565 (increase of 24)
Deaths remain at seven
Negative Tests: 3,359 (increase of 31)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County Active Positives 0 (decrease of one)
Howard County Active Positives 31 (increase of four)
Polk County Active Positives 12 (increase of 1)
McCurtain County Active Positives 185

  • DE QUEEN CHURCH ON AR DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH LIST    07/01/20
  • A De Queen House of Worship was one of 44 churches statewide to have appeared on a state Department of Health list as having documented exposure to COVID-19.
    New Beginnings Church, with a listed address of 214 East Stilwell Avenue in De Queen, was listed as both a blue dot cluster and a red dot cluster on the statewide map of churches released late last week. A red dot cluster, according to the Health Department news release, is defined as two to eleven people.
    The information presented was reported to the Department of Health during case surveillance and contact tracing efforts as reported by a known COVID-19 case. The church locations are places patients reported visiting during their infectious period, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate they became infected there, the information from state officials said.
    Governor Asa Hutchinson said in his daily press conference on Friday that a majority of churches in the state were following health guidelines, noting those who were not have seen an increase in case numbers. The governor says he was avoiding creating or giving directives to specific churches on the issue, but that state health officials are discussing the issue with churches listed in the clusters.

OWNER OF FORMER DE QUEEN HOSPITAL CHARGED IN BILLING SCHEME    07/01/20

In a 2019 interview, EmpowerHMS CEO Jorge A. Perez was adamant he has operated in the best interests of the communities he sought to serve. If anything, he said, the townspeople should thank him, because he gave their dying hospitals “two to three years of life.” (Dan Margolies/KCUR, Kansas City Public Media)

Ten individuals, including hospital managers, laboratory owners, billers and recruiters, were charged in a federal indictment unsealed this week in Florida for their participation in an elaborate pass-through billing scheme using rural hospitals in several states as billing shells to submit fraudulent claims for laboratory testing. The indictment alleges that from November, 2015 through February, 2018, the conspirators billed private insurance companies approximately $1.4 billion for laboratory testing claims as part of this fraudulent scheme, and were paid approximately $400 million.

60 year old Jorge Perez of Miami-Dade County, Florida, and former owner of De Queen Medical Center, was one of the ten indicted in the scheme.

Perez was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, five counts of substantive health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and seven counts of substantive money laundering.

Perez and two other defendants appeared this week before a U.S. Magistrate Judge of the Middle District of Florida.

The indictment alleges that the conspirators would take over small, rural hospitals, often in financial trouble, using management companies they owned and operated. The conspirators would then bill private insurance companies through those rural hospitals for millions of dollars of expensive urinalysis drug tests and blood tests, conducted mostly at outside laboratories they often controlled or were affiliated with, using billing companies that they also controlled. While outside laboratories did most of the laboratory tests, the conspirators allegedly billed private insurance companies as if those laboratory tests were done at the rural hospitals.

According to the indictment, these rural hospitals had negotiated contractual rates with private insurers that provided for higher reimbursement than if the tests were billed through an outside laboratory. Accordingly, the scheme used the hospitals as a shell to fraudulently bill for such tests. Further, the indictment alleges that the lab tests were often not even medically necessary.

Two Florida hospitals, a Georgia hospital, and a Missouri hospital were listed as involved in the case. Although the De Queen hospital was not listed in the federal indictment, it’s been generally believed that similar schemes were conducted at the local facility.

Perez and his team purchased the hospital in De Queen from John Matheson of Louisiana. Unpaid bills, unpaid staff, and property liens forced the hospital in De Queen to close two years ago.

BOY SCOUTS SELLING CAMP PIONEER    07/01/20

The Caddo Area Council Boy Scouts of America on Monday evening accepted an offer for the purchase of Camp Pioneer, located near Hatfield in Polk County. No information on who purchased the property was available.

The Caddo Area Board of Directors voted in 2017 to suspend resident camp operations at Camp Pioneer. The Boy Scouts decided at that time to invest all future resources in Camp Preston Hunt, which is located a few miles east of Texarkana.

Located at the confluence of the Mountain Fork River and Two-Mile Creek, the Camp Pioneer property is over 350 acres of wooded hills with approximately a half mile of riverfront and creek front on both sides. It has numerous structures, several buildings, roads, city water, a relatively new residence, a shop, trails, developed camping areas, and access by a paved county road.

This summer is the 100th anniversary of Camp Pioneer. The first Council summer camp was held there in 1920. Since then, there has been literally tens of thousands of alumni of Camp Pioneer from as far away as 500 miles in any direction.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS          06/30/20

As of Tuesday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 700 (increase of 7 from Monday)
Active Positives: 152 (decrease of 10 from Monday)
Recoveries: 541 (increase of 17)
Deaths remain at seven
Negative Tests: 3,328 (increase of 32)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County Active Positives 1 (unchanged)
Howard County Active Positives 27 (decrease of four)
Polk County Active Positives 11 (decrease of 3)

DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR A PPP LOAN IS TODAY             06/30/20

The deadline to apply for a loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program is today, June 30th. If you are considering applying for PPP assistance for your small business, nonprofit, or agricultural business, contact your local bank.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. SBA will forgive PPP loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage, interest, or utilities. 60% must be used for payroll expenses.

Again, the deadline to apply for a PPP loan is today, June 30th. Contact your local bank for more information.

APPLY TODAY FOR ALLIGATOR HUNTING PERMITS    06/30/20

The application deadline to apply for an Alligator Hunting permit in Arkansas is today, June 30th. Each permit allows for the harvest of one alligator at least four feet in length.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says alligator hunting is allowed 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise the dates of September 18th through 21st and September 25th through 28th.

Each person receiving a permit is allowed to have as many as three people assisting them on the hunt, but only the permit holder is allowed to snare, harpoon, or dispatch the alligator.

To qualify, a hunter must be at least 16 years of age, be a state resident, or have an Arkansas Lifetime Sportsman’s permit.

A five-dollar non-refundable processing fee is required when submitting an application.

Alligator hunting permit applications may be made online through the game and fish commission.

Again, the deadline for permit applications is today, June 30th.

MOBILE FOOD PANTRY TO VISIT SEVIER COUNTY               06/30/20

The Harvest Regional Food Bank will be back in Sevier County with its Commodity Mobile Pantry tomorrow.

Harvest Regional Food Bank will distribute Commodities directly from their truck on Wednesday, July 1st from 10 am to noon. The truck will be parked at the Horatio High School.

With CDC precautions against the Coronavirus still in place, Mobile pantries are now operating as “drive-thru” distributions, with food boxes being loaded directly into vehicles. Recipients will not be allowed to exit the vehicle or park to pick up food.

Recipients must bring photo identification verifying their age and residence. Distribution is limited to one box per household and two households per vehicle. Again, that’s Wednesday, July 1st, from 10 am to noon at Horatio High School.

JULY 4TH ARKANSAS “DRIVE SOBER OR GET PULLED OVER” ENFORCEMENT     06/30/20

As Arkansans prepare for the approaching July 4th Independence Day holiday weekend, the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office urges people to be safe this holiday weekend. Experience tells the Arkansas State Police that not all drivers and passengers will make it safely to their destinations or return home. Drunk or impaired driving will be to blame.

Arkansas law enforcement will participate in the statewide “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” operation, devoted to stopping drunk drivers before tragedy strikes. State police, along with city officers and county deputies across Arkansas will increase their patrols along the roads and highways with zero tolerance for those who drive impaired. Motorists should expect to see more sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols involving a unified police force working to keep the roadways safe.

The Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office reminds you to call 9-1-1 if you see a drunk driver on the road and to always buckle up. Your seat belt is the best defense against a drunk driver.

ONLINE SUMMER COURSES AT UA COSSATOT STILL AVAILABLE   06/30/20

UA Cossatot will begin its summer 2020 July 4-week term on Monday, July 6th. Students will have time to register for classes offered during these 4 weeks. The last day to sign up for classes in July is Wednesday, July 1.

UA Cossatot has 4 available online summer courses that are still open for students to enroll in and take. These courses are 100% online. The classes include Success Strategies, Arkansas History, U.S. History since 1876, and Abnormal Psychology.

These 4 courses can be taken for students who plan to get an early start for this fall, for students, who plan to transfer, or for students who need an elective and want to save money by taking a short summer course at UA Cossatot.

Students interested in learning more or signing up for one or more of these classes can do so by contacting Student Services at studentservices@cccua.edu or 870-844-4471.

HOSPITAL BOARD MEETING POSTPONED ONE WEEK     06/30/20  

With the Fourth of July holiday weekend coming up, the Sevier County Medical Center Board meeting has been postponed one week – from July 2nd to Thursday, July 9th.

Board Chairman, Dr. Steve Cole, says the Sevier County Medical Center Board meeting will be held Thursday, July 9th at 1:30 P.M. at the De Queen High School Cafeteria. Dr. Cole says that final drawings for the new hospital will be presented for the Board’s approval at the July 9th meeting.

UA COSSATOT ANNOUNCES SPRING 2020 GRADUATES      06/30/20

The University of Arkansas Cossatot Office of the Registrar releases names of spring 2020 graduates and names of those graduating with honors.

288 students graduate with a certificate of proficiency, technical certificate, or associate degree.  Some students earned multiple certificates and degrees allowing for 422 spring 2020 awards.

15 students graduate with Summa Cum Laude honors, meaning that they graduate with a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.9 to 4.0.  18 students graduate with Magna Cum Laude honors meaning that they graduate with a cumulative GPA of 3.75 to 3.89.  32 students graduate with Cum Laude honors meaning that they graduate with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 to 3.74.

Due to campus closure and clinical site suspension stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, practical nursing, welding, medical transcription, and EMT students will complete graduation requirements at a later date.  Graduates will be released to the public at that time.

Students Graduating Spring 2020 with Summa Cum Laude Honors:

Rica Burns of Ashdown, Kami Carter of Foreman, Hannah Faulkner of Nashville, Kaydra Fox of Glenwood, Belen Guevara Hernandez of De Queen, Caitlin Harding of De Queen, Karlie Hernandez of Amity, Nathan House of Ashdown, Colby Markham of Amity, Ethan Mitchell of Amity, Allen Ramirez of De Queen, Erica Resendiz of De Queen, Shyla Schwartz of Nashville, Maeghan Vaughn of Grannis, and Mackenzie White of Ashdown

Students Graduating Spring 2020 with Magna Cum Laude Honors:

Hannah Barfield of Nashville, Lauren Bogan of Murfreesboro, Heather Bradshaw of Lockesburg, Magali Cornelio of De Queen, Dalton Cox of Amity, Hannah Davis of Amity, Elizabeth Hernandez of De Queen, Codie Jamison of Nashville, Tori Janes of Newhope, Talia Lambert of Springdale, Emily McCauley of Nashville, Kaitlyn McConnell of Nashville, Neri Mejia of De Queen, Jasmine Montiel of De Queen, April Stancil of Gillham, Tina Williams of Nashville, Kelsey Willis of Horatio, and Tiffany Worley of De Queen.

Students Graduating Spring 2020 with Cum Laude Honors:

Jaden Altenbaumer of Ashdown, Destany Bright of Amity, Sarah Carnes of Texarkana, Matthew Chandler of Horatio, Dennis Cleghorn of North Little Rock, Brayden Counts of Dierks, Mychelle Crussell of Ashdown Eric Dickerson of Horatio, Yatzari Dominguez of De Queen, Taylor Dorse of De Queen, Aracely Hernandez of De Queen, Caleb Kyle of Ashdown, Jeffrey Manns of De Queen, Samuel Maroon III of Nashville, Kristina Mc Gill of Ozan, Sarrah Millette of Glenwood, Elizabeth Moore of Murfreesboro, Catrice Payne of Nashville, Gerson Perez of Nashville, Robin Pickett of De Queen, Shae Reid of Texarkana, Alejandra Resendiz of Horatio, Raven Revels of De Queen, Eruby Rodriguez of De Queen, Cullen Smith of Amity, Molly Smith of De Queen, Walker Vallee of Dierks, Amitshaidet Victorio Bahena of De Queen, Haley Wallace of Texarkana, Jeffery Whisenhunt of Horatio, Lauren White of Nashville, and Misty Young of De Queen.

UA Cossatot Students Graduating Spring 2020 Include (listed with highest degree(s) earned):

Amity: Destiny Bright, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Dalton Cox, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Hannah Davis, Associate of Arts; Karlie Hernandez, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Brianna Hill, Associate of Arts; Colby Markham, Associate of Arts; Ethan Mitchell, Associate of Arts; Sean Palavincini, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; and Cullen Smith, Associate of Arts

Ashdown: Jaden Altenbaumer, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Allie Anderson, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Jon Bellanger, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Ty Buchanan, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; Rica Burns, Associate of Science: Criminal Justice; Patience Burris, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Mychelle Crussell, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Christopher Dunn, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; Dentin Earnest, Associate of Applied Science: General Technology; Braden Gentry, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Grace Gwin, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Nathan House, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Braden Jackson, Certificate of Proficiency; Fluid Power; Caleb Kyle, Associate of Science: STEM; Madison Mills, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Shelby Scott, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Timothy Smith, Certificate of Proficiency: Drive Train Specialist; Matthew Swilley, Certificate of Proficiency: Mechanical Devices; Cory Tatom, Technical Certificate of Health Professions; Christopher Threadgill Sr., Certificate of Proficiency: Programmable Controls; Mackenzie White, Technical Certificate: Health Professions, Kristi Williams , Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Whitley Williams, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; and Kinley Wright, Associate of Science: Agriculture Science

Ben Lomond: Jake Day, Certificate of Proficiency: Mechanical Devices

Blevins: Ernan Gomez, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power

Broken Bow: Samantha Henderson, Technical Certificate: Health Professions

Delight: Amanda Culpepper, Associate of General Studies; Laura Eoff, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Riley House, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Sarah Mauldin, Technical Certificate: General Studies; and Monica Riley, Technical Certificate: General Studies

De Queen:  Crystal Alarcon-Martinez, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Julio Alvarez, Certificate of Proficiency: Brakes, Suspension, and Steering; Abraham Arellano, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Sebastian Bahena, Certificate of Proficiency: Drive Train Specialist; Valerie Bell, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Hector Blanco, Certificate of Proficiency: Brakes, Suspension, and Steering; Israel Bustamante, Certificate of Proficiency: TIG Welding; Yahir Camargo, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines; Jesus Campos, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines; Nohemi Carreon, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Yuliani Castillo, Certificate o Proficiency: Medical Transcription; Veronica Castro, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Melvin Cerda, Certificate of Proficiency: Brakes, Suspension, and Steering; Jamilyn Clark, Associate of Science: Psychology; Magali Cornelio, Technical Certificate: Welding; Johnny Daley Jr., Technical Certificate: Welding; James Davis, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Steering and Suspension; Yatzari Dominguez, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Taylor Dorse, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Angel Espinoza Trujillo; Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Summer Estrada, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Carter Faulkenberry, Associate of Applied Science: General Technology; Oscar Fernandez, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines; Bryan Figueroa, Technical Certificate: Diesel Technology; Madison Flowers, Associate of Science: STEM; Alexis Gallardo, Associate of Applied Science: Business Management; Joanna Gallardo, Associate of Science: Teaching: 4-8; Taylor Gentry, Technical Certificate Health Professions; Jaelin Gonzalez, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Guadalupe Guerrero, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Belen Guevara Hernandez, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Stephanie Gutierrez, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Caitlin Harding, Technical certificate: Health Professions; Aracely Hernandez, Associate of Science: Teaching K-6; Lissette Hernandez, Associate of General Studies; Brayan Hernandez Diaz; Certificate of Proficiency: Brakes, Suspension, and Steering; Elizabeth Hernandez, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Orlando Herrera, Certificate of Proficiency: Brakes, Suspension, and Steering; Tyron Keels, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Jeffrey Manns, Technical Certificate: Diesel Technology; Aaron Martinez, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; Emmanuel Martinez, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines; Jacqueline Martinez, Technical Certificate: Health Professions;  Jose Martinez, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Leonardo Martinez, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Mackenzie May, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Brian McKinney, Certificate of Proficiency: Drive Train Specialist; Neri Mejia, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Mariah Miller, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Jasmine Montiel, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Cristopher Munoz, Certificate of Proficiency: Pipe welding SMAW; Kryshnna Munoz, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Connor Pearce, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Electrical/Electronics; Dilan Perez, Certificate of Proficiency: Brakes, Suspension, and Steering; Osiel Perez, Certificate of Proficiency: Accounting; Robin Pickett, Associate of Arts; Allan Ramirez, Associate of Applied Science: General Technology; Brayan Ramirez, Technical Certificate: Accounting; Guillermo Ramirez, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; Guadalupe Ramirez-Aguero, Certificate of Proficiency: Drive Train Specialist; Abel Resendiz, Certificate of Proficiency: Accounting; Erica Resendiz, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Raven Revels, Associate of General Studies; Denise Rios, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Eruby Rodriguez, Associate of Science: Teaching: Middle Level; Colton Rogers, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Jennifer Rogers, Associate of Arts; Jose Rojas, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Carlos Rojo, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines; Absalon Salazar, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines; Oziel Saldivar, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines; Giovany Salgado, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding, Valentin Sanches, Certificate of Proficiency: Brakes, Suspension, and Steering; Molly Smith, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Angel Soria, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Jorge Soto Ramirez, Technical Certificate: Welding; Ulyses Tepozotlan, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Zachary Tollett, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Laketha Triana, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Ryan Vance, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines, Randy Velazquez, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; Sofia Valazquez Hernandez, Associate of Applied Science: Business Management; Amitshaidet Victorio Bahena: Certificate of Proficiency: General Studies; Isaiah Williamson, Certificate of Proficiency: Brakes, Suspension, and Steering; Tiffany Worley, Associate of Science: Teaching K-6; Misty Young, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; and Enrique Zapata, Certificate of Proficiency: Brakes, Suspension, and Steering

Dierks: Brayden Buck, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Joni Burgess, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Jarod Cogburn, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; Brayden Counts, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Aaron Kesterson, Associate of Applied Science: General Technology; Dustin Kesterson, Associate of Science: Agriculture Science; Brayden Kirby, Certificate of Proficiency: Accounting; Perri Lowrey, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Kimberly McCauley, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Aiden Oglesby, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Jacob O’Neal, Certificate of Proficiency: Drive Train Specialist; Cameron Pugh, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Austin Richards, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Lindsey Stamps, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; and Walker Vallee, Associate of Applied Science: General Technology

Dubach: Jalyn Crellin, Technical Certificate: Health Professions

Foreman: Kami Carter, Technical certificate: General Studies; Mollie Chaytor, Associate of General Studies ; Kenneth Green , Associate of Applied Science: General Technology; Myranda Gross, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Hunter Lewis, Certificate of Proficiency: Mechanical Devices; Braiden McKinney, Certificate of Proficiency: Mechanical Devices; Braiden McKinney, Certificate of Proficiency: Mechanical Devices; Parker Smith, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Kory Voss, Technical Certificate: Industrial Technology; and Jabrea Walker, Associate of Science: Medical Sciences

Gillham: Bailey Branson, Certificate of Proficiency: Accounting; Dana Flores, Associate of Science: Teaching: K-6; Ethan Hall, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines; Jose Rios, Certificate of Proficiency: Programmable Controls; April Stancil, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; and Vanessa Whitney, Technical Certificate: Health Professions

Glenwood: Kaydra Fox, Associate of Arts; Sarrah Millette, Associate of General Studies; and Kamryn Reid, Associate of Arts

Grannis: Brent Craver, Certificate of Proficiency: Pipe Welding SMAW; Juan Trinidad, Associate of Applied Science: Business Management; and Maeghan Vaughn, Technical Certificate: Health Professions

Horatio: Kimberly Bailey, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Collin Blackmon, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Bryan Carrillo, Certificate of Proficiency: Pipe Welding SMAW ; Matthew Chandler, Associate of Applied Science: Medical Sciences; Eric Dickerson, Associate of Applied Science: General Technology; Brock Flanrey, Certificate of Proficiency: Diesel Engines; Michael Jones, Associate of Science: STEM; John Marshall, Certificate of Proficiency: Mechanical Devices; Kirsten Nicholas, Technical Certificate: Agriculture; Adrian Patlan, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Omar Ramirez, Associate of Applied Science: General Technology; Rodolfo Ramirez Jr., Associate of Applied Science: Genera Technology; Alejandra Resendiz, Associate of Science: Psychology; Alberto Sandoval, Certificate of Proficiency: Pipe Welding SMAW; Krystal Scott, Associate of Science, Teaching K-6; Alyssa Thigpen, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Marco Tinajero, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Jeffery Whisenhunt, Technical Certificate: Industrial Electricity; Kelsey Willis, Associate of Science: Agriculture Science; and Ronnie Willis, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding

Hot Springs: Sheila Miller, Certificate of Proficiency: Accounting

Idabel: Jose Rios, Certificate of Proficiency: Programmable Controls

Kirby: Star Sterling, Associate of Arts; and Payden Turner, Associate of Arts

Langley: Jacy White, Technical Certificate: Health Professions

Lockesburg: Corazon Balderas, Technical Certificate: Welding; Julie Blackwell, Associate of Science: Teaching k-6; Heather Bradshaw, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Kammilla Carbone, Technical Certificate: Health Professions, Charles Dowdy, Certificate of Proficiency: Pipe Welding SMAW, Daniel Galeno Sotelo, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; Holly Hamilton, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Mason Marshall, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Tyler Miller, Associate of Applied Science: General Technology; Tamberlyn Nelson, Certificate of Proficiency: Programmable Controls, Patrick Owens; Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Amber Rapp, Certificate of Proficiency: Business Management; Alexis Simmons, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Dana Simmons, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Braden Smart, Technical Certificate: Industrial Technology; Kade Smith, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; and Kevin Walker, Associate of Applied Science: General Technology

McCaskill: Cameron Lane, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Darren May, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; and Corta Young, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power

Mineral Springs: Clayton Ashmore, Certificate of Proficiency: Drive Train Specialist; and Rhonda Conway, Technical Certificate: General Studies

Murfreesboro: Jessica Ashley, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Lauren Bogan, Associate of General Studies; Kayla Katzer, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Sara Martin, Associate of Science: Psychology; Elizabeth Moore, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Hailey Oglesby, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Jessica Parker, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Lakyn Roberts, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; and Kristyn Self, Technical Certificate: Health Professions

Nashville: Chance Allen, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Zachary Backus, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Hannah Barfield, Associate of General Studies; Gynder Benson, Technical Certificate: Agriculture; Ernesto Bustamante, Technical Certificate: Diesel Technology: Diesel Technology; Marisol Bustos, Associate of General Studies; Kameron Carpenter, Certificate of Proficiency: Accounting; Caleb Clayton, Technical Certificate: MIG Welding; Taurean Coulter, Technical Certificate: General Studies: Hannah Faulkner, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Armando Fraire, Technical Certificate: Welding; Zorayda Guerrero, Associate of Applied Science; Business Management; John Hardin: Associate of Sciences Agri Business; Jerimiyah Harris, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Trevor Harris, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; Tyae Harris, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Jhamilex Hernandez Ortiz, Associate of Applied Science: Business Management; Chasity Holmes, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Stephanie Ireland, Associate of Science: Teaching K-6; Codie Jamison, Associate of Science: Agriculture Science; Emily Jamison, Associate of Science: Psychology; Isabel Jamison, Associate of General Studies; Samuel Maroon III, Technical Certificate: Diesel Technology; Emily Mc Cauley, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Kaitlyn Mc Connell, Associate of Applied Science: Accounting; Juanisha Neal, Technical Certificate: Cosmetology; Tamera Nelson, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Chelsie Nolen Technical Certificate: Cosmetology; Gabriel Norton, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Jorge Padilla, Certificate of Proficiency: SMAW Welding; Catrice Payne, Associate of Arts; Gerson Perez, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Graciela Perez, Technical Certificate: Cosmetology, Phuc Phan, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Hilda Sanchez, Technical Certificate: General Studies; Shyla Schwartz, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Kyron Starr, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Tijuana Wesson, Associate of General Studies; Marcus Wester, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Hadyn Whisenhunt, Certificate of Proficiency: Mechanical Devices; Lauren White, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; and Tina Williams, Associate of Applied Science: Business Management

Newhope: Robert Burk, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Natalie Heneger, Associate of General Studies; Andrew Jacoby, Certificate of Proficiency: Fluid Power; Tori Janes, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; and Grant Strasner, Technical Certificate: Industrial Technology

North Little Rock: Dennis Cleghorn, Associate of Science: Criminal Justice

Ozan: Jessica Aguilar, Associate of General Studies and Kristina Mc Gill, Technical Certificate: General Studies

Saratoga: Camron Perkins, Technical Certificate: General Studies

Springdale: Talia Lambert, Technical Certificate: Accounting

Texarkana: Sarah Carnes, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Natchez Formby, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Lauren Gay, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Kortlahn Malone, Associate of Science: Teaching K-6, and Haley Wallace, Technical Certificate: Health Professions

Umpire: Camryn Johnson, Associate of Science: Business and Christopher Moore, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding

Wickes: Hector Hernandez, Certificate of Proficiency: SMAW Welding; Sebastian Medina, Certificate of Proficiency: MIG Welding; and Aubry Reel, Technical Certificate: Health Professions
Winthrop: Monica Forrest, Technical Certificate: Health Professions; Courtnie Moreland, Technical Certificate: General Studies; and Cassidy Smiley, Certificate of Proficiency: Mechanical Devices.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS       06/29/20
As of Monday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:
Total Cases: 693 (increase of 32 from Sunday)
Active Positives: 162 (increase of 2 from Sunday)
Recoveries: 524 (increase of 30)
Deaths remain at seven
Negative Tests: 3,296 (increase of 39)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County Active Positives 1 (unchanged)
Howard County Active Positives 31 (unchanged)
Polk County Active Positives 14 (increase of 2)

TWO VEHICLE ACCIDENT RESULTS IN FATALITIES, INJURIES       06/29/20

  • Photo provided by Fire Chief Dennis Pruitt

    A two vehicle accident early Sunday morning on Highway 41 South of De Queen resulted in two fatalities.
    The accident happened at around 6:00 Sunday morning just north of the Bear Creek Bridge on Highway 41 South of De Queen.
    A 2014 Chevrolet Silverado was southbound on State Highway 41, when it crossed the center line and collided with a northbound 2003 Honda Civic.
    There were three occupants in the Honda Civic. The driver, listed as a minor, was killed in the accident. A passenger in the Honda Civic, 22 year old Bernard Edwards, III of Nashville, was also killed. Sevier County Coronor Rusty Williams pronounced one dead at the scene. The other died later at a hospital.
    Another passenger in the Honda Civic, 22 year old Quentin Witherspoon of Fulton, was injured in the accident and transported to a Texarkana hospital.
    The driver of the Silverado truck hasn’t been identified, but was taken into custody.
    The De Queen Fire and Rescue Unit was called to bring extrication equipment to the scene. Members of the De Queen Police Department and the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the accident.
    Corporal Ernesto Echevarria of the Arkansas State Police investigated the accident. The roadway was described as dry, and the weather was described as clear at the time of the accident Sunday morning.

  • LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS      06/29/20
     As of Sunday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:
    Total Cases: 661 (increase of 9 from Saturday)
    Active Positives: 160 (decrease of 1 from Saturday)
    Recoveries: 494 (increase of 10)
    Deaths now at seven
    Negative Tests: 3,257 (increase of 43)
    In neighboring counties:
    Little River County Active Positives 1 (unchanged)
    Howard County Active Positives 31 (increase of 5)
    Polk County Active Positives 12 (increase of 1)
    McCurtain County: Active Positives 240 (increase of 6)
     
    SEVIER COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT MAKES ARRESTS IN CONNECTION WITH STOLEN VEHICLE AND VANDALISM    06/29/20
  • The Sevier County Sheriff’s Department made five arrests last week in connection with a stolen vehicle, theft incidents, and vandalism reports recently in the Horatio area.
    Deputies arrested Jake Miller and four juvenile suspects in connection with the incidents. Charges are pending in the cases while the Prosecuting Attorney reviews the reports.
    The investigation began when deputies were dispatched in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 20th to a motor vehicle accident near the intersection of Williamson Street and Doggett Circle in Horatio. The occupants of the vehicle had fled the scene, and deputies discovered that the vehicle had been stolen from the Horatio area.
    On Monday, June 22nd, the Sheriff’s Department received complaints from several Horatio area residents that their vehicles had been broken into over the weekend, and various items had been stolen.
    Investigator Brian Hankins, Sergeant Greg Davignon, and Horatio City Officer Wes Tudor developed several possible suspects in the vehicle break-ins, as well as suspects involved in the theft of the stolen vehicle that had been wrecked over the weekend.

Deputies also determined that the same suspects were involved in several other cases where mailboxes and street signs had been destroyed over the weekend.

On Wednesday, June 24th, the Sheriff’s Department received a report that a residence on Doggett Circle in Horatio had been broken into and vandalized as well.

Deputies took Jake Miller and the four juvenile suspects into custody. Charges are pending with the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. The investigation into the incidents is continuing by the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department.

LOCKESBURG MAN SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS      06/29/20

 A Lockesburg man was sentenced to three years in prison late last week in Howard County Circuit Court in Nashville.

40 year old James McElroy, Jr. of Lockesburg was sentenced to three years on charges of failing to pay child support and fleeing.

McElroy was also ordered to pay more than $22 thousand dollars in restitution.

Also in Howard County Circuit Court last week, a Mena man, who is charged with Negligent Homicide and First Degree Battery in connection with a February, 2019 traffic accident near Umpire that claimed one life and resulted in four other people being injured, had his bond reduced.

22 year old Chance Manasco had his bond reduced from $50 thousand dollars to $30 thousand dollars.

Manasco is awaiting trial on the charges, and has a July 29th pre-trial date scheduled in Howard County Circuit Court.

FOURTH OF JULY HOLIDAY CLOSINGS     06/29/20

The De Queen City Hall will be closed on Friday, July 3rd in observance of Independence Day. There’ll be no garbage pick-up on Friday in the City of De Queen. The sanitation routes in the City of De Queen have been changed as follows:

Thursday’s regular route will be picked up on Wednesday.
Friday’s regular trash route will run on Thursday.

In observance of Independence Day, the Sevier County Courthouse will be closed on Friday, July 3rd. The Sevier County Landfill and all Solid Waste Satellite Stations will be closed on Saturday, July 4th.

As a reminder, Lockesburg City Hall is closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockesburg residents may pay their water and sewer bills by phone at 870-289-3261, or by using the drop box at the front door at Lockesburg City Hall.

SEVIER COUNTY LIBRARIES SET TO OPEN EARLY JULY    06/29/20

Sevier County libraries have set dates to reopen to serve all community members. De Queen Librarian, Johnye Fisher, says theDe Queen Library will reopen on Monday, July 6th, with regular hours.

Horatio Librarian, Amy Everts, says the Horatio Library will reopen the following day, Tuesday, July 7th.

Lockesburg Branch Librarian, Wendy Clay, says that Lockesburg’s Library will reopen on Wednesday, July 8th.

The Gillham Library plans to reopen on Tuesday, July 14th. The Gillham Library will be open 9 til 1 on Tuesdays, 1 til 5 on Fridays, and 10 til 2 on Saturdays.

The Libraries insist that all people wear a mask. If you don’t have one, you won’t be allowed to enter. Only 3 people will be allowed to enter the library at one time, with a limit of 15 minutes per person. Curbside services will still be available for anyone who feels uncomfortable going inside the library.

UA COSSATOT WILL RE-OPEN BY APPOINTMENT    06/29/20

The University of Arkansas Cossatot will re-open its four campuses by appointment starting today, June 29th, for anyone wanting to register for classes or seek help from a UA Cossatot employee. Due to COVID-19, UA Cossatot’s campuses have been temporarily closed.

All departments within the college, including Student Services, Financial Aid, and the Business Office have developed schedules and numbers for students to call and set up an appointment. Anyone needing assistance at the college can also call 870-844-4471 to be directed to the department they need so they can schedule an appointment.

UA Cossatot Chancellor, Dr. Steve Cole, says that today’s “soft opening” is phase two of a three step plan for re-opening/

UA Cossatot has signage and safety measures in place for when visitors come to the college, so they will know where to be directed. Visitors will be asked to check-in at the front desk of each campus. At the entrance, disposable masks will be given to each visitor if they do not have one.

For more information, call UA Cossatot at 870-844-4471.

WINDSTREAM TO TRANSITION OUT OF BANKRUPTCY        06/29/20

Windstream Communications received approval late last week to transition out of bankruptcy, clearing the way for the company to begin operating as a privately held entity in August.

Windstream has been operating under court-supervised bankruptcy protection for about 16 months.

Windstream offers data networking, broadband, and telephone communication services for consumers and small businesses in parts of 18 states, including De Queen and the surrounding area in Southwest Arkansas.

The approved reorganization plan will allow Windstream to reduce its debt by more than $4 billion dollars annually. Windstream plans to make capital investments of more than $5.7 billion over the next few years to better compete in the communications marketplace.

FREE COMMODITIES AVAILABLE FOR SEVIER COUNTY RESIDENTS ON SATURDAY      06/26/20
Free commodities will be available Saturday, April 27th from 10 am until 2 pm at Amerasian Hometown Missions, 229 Hwy 71 North in De Queen.  No proof of income is required, but you must provide proof of Sevier County residency.
Gerald Burt stated that they will deliver to homes that are COVID quarantined, the elderly and shut-ins.  For more information or delivery call (870) 279-4154.
UA COSSATOT TO RE-OPEN BY APPOINTMENT BEGINNING JUNE 29TH   06/26/20
 
The University of Arkansas Cossatot will safely re-open its four campuses by appointment starting Monday, June 29, for anyone wanting to register for classes or seek help from a UA Cossatot employee. Due to Covid-19, UA Cossatot’s campuses have been temporarily closed, but will now be re-opening by appointment.
All departments within the college, including, Student Services, Financial Aid, and the Business Office have developed schedules and numbers for students to call and set up an appointment. The phone numbers of each employee in each department can be viewed at wwww.cccua.edu/directory. Anyone needing assistance at the college can also call 870-844-4471 to be directed to the department they need so they can schedule an appointment.
UA Cossatot has signage and safety measures in place for when visitors come to the college, so they will know where to be directed. Visitors will be asked to check-in at the front desk of each campus. Students and visitors must call ahead to make their appointment and when on campus must wear protective masks and fill out a short health questionnaire. At the entrance, disposable masks will be given to each visitor if they do not have one.
UA Cossatot is looking forward to helping students and potential students by appointment and will continue to offer assistance online, by phone, via zoom, or through Facebook.
For more information, please call UA Cossatot at 870-844-4471.
LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS   06/25/20
 
As of Thursday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:
Total Cases: 617 (increase of 3 from Wednesday)
Active Positives: 177 (decrease of 8 from Wednesday)
Recoveries: 434 (increase of 11)
Deaths remain at six
Negative Tests: 3,097 (increase of 22)
In neighboring counties:
Little River County Active Positives 1 (unchanged)
Howard County Active Positives 26 (increase of 1)
Polk County Active Positives 14 (unchanged)
McCurtain County: Active Positives 233 (increase of 14)

DHS HONOR GRADUATE AWARDED $24,000 SCHOLARSHIP    06/25/20

Local 2020 De Queen High School Honor Graduate, Jazmin Sanchez, was awarded a scholarship from the University of Central Arkansas this week. She will receive a scholarship valued at $24,000 and will be attending U.C.A. in Conway this Fall.
The daughter of Victor and Angelica Sanchez,  Jazmin was a member of National Honor Society, FCCLA, Interact, Spanish Club, Young Voters, and FTA. She was also a member of the 2019 State Champion Quiz Bowl team. Jazmin plans to major in History and enter the Education Department at U.C.A.
LAKE GREESON OPENING BACK UP      06/25/20
The Corps of Engineers has reopened beaches, swimming areas, picnic shelters, pavilions, and group use areas at Lake Greeson.
Information about the number of visitors in a group will be requested during the reservation process for picnic shelters, pavilions, and group use areas, and visitors must follow state directives for gatherings at large outdoor venues.
Campgrounds at Lake Greeson reopened May 20th.   Reservations and payments for select campsites must be made in advance at www.recreation.gov
Boat ramps, nature trails, and fishing areas remain open. The collection of all day use fees has been suspended until October 1st.
All playgrounds, visitor centers, field offices, amphitheaters, and drinking fountains will remain closed until further notice. Interpretive programs are also suspended until further notice.
 ASHDOWN SCHOOL BOARD TO MEET        06/25/20
The Ashdown School Board will have a special called meeting Monday, June 29th at 5:30 P.M. at the School Administration Office.The Ashdown School Board will make personnel decisions, discuss financing for a bus purchase, discuss policy updates, and approve a Ready for Learning application.
Again, the Ashdown School Board meets Monday at 5:30 at the School Administration Office.
FCC TO VOTE TO ESTABLISH 9-8-8 AS SUICIDE HOTLINE            06/25/20
Suicide in America is at epidemic levels, particularly for vulnerable groups like veterans and youth. The Federal Communications Commission will vote at its July 16th meeting in Washington, D.C. on final rules to establish 9-8-8 as the new, nationwide, 3-digit phone number for suicide prevention and mental health counseling.
If adopted, all telecommunications carriers and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol service providers will begin directing all 988 calls to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and complete that transition within two years, by July 16, 2022.
During the two-year transition period, Americans in crisis should continue to contact the Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK and through online chats.
JUNE 30TH DEADLINE FOR BUSINESSES TO APPLY FOR P.P.P.  LOAN    06/25/20
The deadline to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program is Tuesday, June 30th. To apply for a forgivable P.P.P. loan, and join over 40,000 Arkansas businesses who have been able to keep countless Arkansans employed, businesses are encouraged to contact their local banker.
If you were not granted funding the first time around, you should consider contacting your lending officer at your local bank on behalf of your business. You’ll need annual and quarterly payroll information for 2019, as well as regular documents required for a typical loan presentation.
The federal program was recently streamlined for small businesses. The parameters to qualify for P.P.P. loan forgiveness have also been simplified.
Again, the deadline to apply with your local lender for the Paycheck Protection Program is Tuesday, June 30th.
PAVING COLLIN RAYE DRIVE FOR NEXT TWO WEEKS   06/25/20
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown have announced that a repaving project on U.S. Highway 70, also known as Collin Raye Drive, will get underway on Monday, June 29th.
The milling process will start near the old bowling alley location west of De Queen on Monday the 29th. The milling work will advance eastward, eventually wrapping up the project near the Walmart Supercenter, east of the city.
After the milling process is completed, Collin Raye Drive will be repaved. The job is expected to take approximately two weeks.
Motorists should expect delays and one-lane traffic in some areas during most of the two week period on Collin Raye Drive in De Queen. You may want to choose an alternate route, if possible.

REGISTER NOW CLASSES AT UA COSSATOT   06/25/20
The “Four Week July Classes” begin Wednesday, July 1st at the UA Cossatot campuses in Southwest Arkansas. The final day to enroll online is Sunday, June 28th. For more information, contact Student Services at UA Cossatot toll-free at 800 -844-4471. To register online or to view class offerings, you can go to the college’s website at www.cccua.edu.
You can also register now for the fall semester. Classes for the fall semester begin on August 17th at UA Cossatot.

FOREMAN SCHOOLS DISCUSS PERSONNEL AND FALL PLANS     06/25/20.
At the June monthly meeting of the Foreman School Board last week, the Foreman Board accepted resignations from high school math teacher Alice Young and elementary teacher Gena Slaton.
The Foreman School Board approved the employment of high school math teacher Wynell Meeks and paraprofessional Terra Carver for the 2020-2021 school year.
The Foreman School Board approved a softball coaching stipend for Jasmine Hardwick and a golf coaching stipend for Abbye Turner for the 2020-2021 school year.
Superintendent Pat Tankersley reported to the school board that plans are being developed for re-entry to Foreman Schools in August. The District is planning for an online platform, as well as for onsite instruction. Patrons of the Foreman School District will be getting a survey to help determine the capacity of internet service. Foreman Schools will plan a checkout system for devices, and plan for a way that students can work offline using technology as well. Foreman Schools will await future direction from the state department regarding reopening schools.
A traditional graduation ceremony for 2020 Foreman graduates is scheduled for Saturday, July 11th at 10:00 A.M. A graduation proposal has been sent to the state for approval.
Superintendent Tankersley reported that the current enrollment at Foreman Schools is 523.
LIMITED FIREWORKS SHOW CHOICES FOR THE FOURTH     06/25/20
COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of numerous Fourth of July Fireworks Shows around Southwest Arkansas this year.
De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown says the Let Freedom Ring event at the Sportsplex, usually scheduled for July third, has been cancelled this year because of the coronavirus.
The City of Lockesburg has also cancelled their annual Fireworks in the Park event on the Fourth this year because of COVID-19.
Ashdown will have an Independence Day Fireworks Show at dark on Saturday the 4th at the Junior High School in Ashdown. Organizers say that there’ll be no booths and no bathrooms, as well as no musical entertainment this year. Social distancing guidelines will be followed.
The Nashville Chamber of Commerce has decided to change their Stand Up for America event on the Fourth to a Stand Up for Veterans Celebration on Saturday, November 11th at the Nashville City Park. The Zac Dunlap Band will perform at the Veterans celebration in November. The Nashville Chamber announces that they will have a fireworks show at dark on Saturday, July Fourth. However, there’ll be no musical entertainers performing. Spectators are encouraged to stay in their vehicles to watch the fireworks at the Nashville City Park on the Fourth or follow social distancing guidelines.
Again, no Fourth of July Celebrations this year in De Queen or Lockesburg due to COVID-19.

RESOURCEFUL RECYCLING HELPS ANGLERS AT MILLWOOD     06/25/20
Several bundles of P.V.C. pipe will play a helpful role in fishing at Millwood Lake instead of wasting away in a landfill in Southwest Arkansas.
Game & Fish recently added several large fish habitat structures in Lake Millwood constructed of leftover pipe destined for the dump.
Several fiber optic contractors in the area are laying long-lasting P.V.C. pipe to house underground transmission lines along highways in Southwest Arkansas. When Game & Fish inquired about any scrap pipe left over at the end of a run, they learned that it was being hauled to the landfill.

Game & Fish took the leftover sections, cut the pipe into six-foot sections, and drilled holes in it to help it sink. Then Game & Fish constructed a cover filled with vertical and horizontal limbs to attract fish. The whole structure is anchored with concrete to keep it in place.

So far, about fifty of these P.V.C. trees have been placed at prime bank-fishing spots near Cottonshed, Saratoga, and Beards Bluff accesses on Millwood Lake.

The P.V.C.’s surface is hard and slick, so it significantly reduces the chance of an angler snagging and needing to break off their line.

RURAL BROADBAND INITIATIVES FUNDING      06/25/20

Rural broadband connectivity has been an issue in Arkansas. As digital communications become more important to daily life, Arkansans are looking for options to connect to fast, reliable internet. The U.S.D.A. and AT & T had major announcements this week related to rural broadband service.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it will provide a $75 million dollar loan to Arkansas Electric Co-op Corporations through the Electric Infrastructure Loan Guarantee Program. The money will be used to build and improve electric transmission and distribution lines across the state. The loan also includes funding for smart grid technology, which uses communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage. Finally, the funds will be instrumental to aiding electric companies in improving their broadband infrastructure.

Meanwhile, AT & T has announced that it will extend high-speed internet service to more than 41,000 rural homes and businesses in Arkansas. In coordination with the FCC’s Connect America Fund, AT & T announced this week that it has set that goal of 41,000 in 45 of Arkansas’s 75 counties, including Howard, Little River, and Polk Counties. AT & T says it intends to complete about 10,000 of those hook-ups by the end of the year.

VISITOR FINDS 2.23-CARAT DIAMOND AT CRATER OF DIAMONDS STATE PARK  06/25/20
The summer of 2020 started with a sparkling surprise for one western Arkansas woman. Fifty-six-year-old Beatrice Watkins, of Mena, visited Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park, in Murfreesboro, on Saturday, June 20, with her daughter and granddaughters. Within 30 minutes of arriving, she had unknowingly picked up the largest diamond found there, so far this year.
Visitors to the park search for diamonds in a 37.5-acre plowed field atop the eroded surface of an extinct, diamond-bearing volcanic pipe. More than 33,000 diamonds have been found since the Crater of Diamonds opened as an Arkansas State Park in 1972. Typically, one or two diamonds are found there each day.
According to Watkins, she was dry sifting soil on the north end of a culvert near the center of the park’s diamond search area when she discovered her gem. “I was searching with my daughter and granddaughters when I picked it up. I thought it was shiny but had no idea it was a diamond!” Watkins said, “My daughter googled similar-looking stones and thought it might have been iron pyrite, so I stuck it in my sack and kept sifting.”
After about an hour, Watkins and her family walked to the park’s Diamond Discovery Center to take a break. At that time, park staff identified Watkins’s finds and informed her that her “iron pyrite” was actually a brown diamond weighing more than two carats. “I was so excited, I just couldn’t believe it,” Watkins said. “I still can’t believe it!”Beatrice Watkins holding her brown diamond she found at Crater of Diamonds State Park
Watkins noted, “While we were still searching, I told my granddaughters that their future husbands would have to bring them here to find diamonds for their wedding rings. All that time I had one in my pocket!”
According to Park Interpreter Waymon Cox, “Ms. Watkins’s diamond is about the size of an English pea, with an oblong shape and a metallic luster. The surface is smooth and rounded, a characteristic shared by most Crater diamonds. It has a dark brown shade similar to iced tea.” Watkins’s gem is the largest found at the park since Pat Choate, of Jacksonville, Arkansas, found a 3.29-carat brown gem in October 2019.Cox noted that even though it rained Saturday morning, Watkins found her diamond by dry sifting. “Many visitors use screens to dry sift where they sit in the field. If the soil gets too damp, dry sifting doesn’t work very well because it clumps together in the screens. We’ve had a lot of rain this year, but the field was dry enough during Ms. Watkins’s visit that dry sifting was possible. The fact that she found her diamond this way is really special.”
Many people choose to name the diamonds they find at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Watkins named her gem after herself, calling it the Lady Beatrice. She says she doesn’t know what she will do with her diamond at this point but will probably keep it as an inheritance for her kids and grandkids.
As of this writing, 139 diamonds have been registered at Crater of Diamonds State Park in 2020, weighing more than 22 carats; four diamonds registered this year have weighed at least one carat each.
Quick Facts about Crater of Diamonds State Park
Diamonds come in all colors of the rainbow. The three most common colors found atCrater of Diamonds State Park are white, brown, and yellow, in that order.
In total, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at the Crater of Diamonds since the first diamonds were discovered in 1906 by John Huddleston, a farmer who owned the land long before it became an Arkansas State Park in 1972.
The largest diamond ever discovered in the United States was unearthed here in 1924 during an early mining operation. Named the Uncle Sam, this white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats. It was later cut into a 12.42-carat emerald shape and purchased by a private collector for $150,000 in 1971.
Another well-known diamond from the park is the Strawn-Wagner. Found in 1990 by Murfreesboro resident Shirley Strawn, this 3.03-carat white gem was cut into a round brilliant shape weighing 1.09 carats. It graded as ideal cut, D-colorless, and flawless and was set in a platinum and 24-carat gold ring. In 1998 the State of Arkansas purchased this diamond for $34,700 in donations and placed it on permanent display at the park visitor center.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is located on Arkansas Highway 301 in Murfreesboro. It is one of 52 state parks administered by Arkansas State Parks, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism.
LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS      06/24/20
As of Wednesday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:
Total Cases: 614 (increase of 8 from Tuesday)
Active Positives: 185 (decrease of 7 from Tuesday)
Recoveries: 423 (increase of 15)
Deaths remain at six
Negative Tests: 3,075 (increase of 21)
In neighboring counties:
Little River County Active Positives 1 (down 1)
Howard County Active Positives 25 (down 4)
Polk County Active Positives 14 (up 1)
McCurtain County: Active Positives 219 (increase of 35)
AMHC PROVIDES FUNDING FOR LOCAL PROJECTS    06/24/20
Legacy Initiatives of Sevier County is one of six organizations that will receive funding from the Arkansas Minority Health Commission this fall. The funding announcement was made this week.

The AMHC’s intent is to address Arkansas minority health problems by collaborating with schools, faith-based organizations, community-based organizations, and others. The AMHC also provides prestigious scholarships with the goal to facilitate the development of new approaches to promote health in local communities.

Legacy Initiatives of Sevier County plans to use their grant from the Arkansas Minority Health Commission to host a Community Health Fair this fall.

BE SURE YOU’RE COUNTED                06/24/20

With everyone focused on the Coronavirus, many have forgotten about the national Census being counted this year.  It is estimated that only 56.4% of Arkansans have been counted for the 2020 Census. The U.S. Constitution requires that a census be taken every 10 years to provide accurate data for every level of the government’s decision making.

The United States Census figures help determine where schools, roads, and public facilities are built. The Census count also affects political representation of our state, including the number of elected representatives and the shapes of the districts they represent.

To register for the Census, locals still have the opportunity to complete the paper form they received in the mail. You can also call the Arkansas Economic and Development Institute at (501)-569-8538 to register. Let’s make sure that every Arkansan is counted in the U.S. Census this summer!

DHS GRADUATE AWARDED SCHOLARSHIP VALUED OVER $26,000    06/24/20

Local 2020 De Queen High School graduate, Jesus Wences, was awarded the Blue and Gold Scholarship from Southern Arkansas University this week. He will receive a scholarship valued at $26,400 and will be attending SAU in Magnolia this Fall.

Jesus is the son of Jose Wences and Maria Wences. Jesus was a member of National Honor Society, FCCLA, GT, Interact, and played Leopard Football. He was also a starting member of the Quiz Bowl team, which was able to go to Nationals in 2019. Jesus plans to major in Sports Medicine at Southern Arkansas University.

PREPARE NOW FOR UPCOMING MUNICIPAL ELECTION     06/24/20

Municipal Elections are coming up in November! The filing period for candidates wanting to be placed on the ballot is from July 29th at 12:00 noon to August 5th at 12:00 noon.

Municipal positions to be voted on include: all aldermen in Gillham, Lockesburg, Horatio, De Queen, and Ben Lomond.

The Clerk/Treasurer position in Horatio and Lockesburg will also be voted on.

Persons interested in running for one of the open positions must have Petitions of Candidacy signed by registered voters who are residents of the incorporated town or city between May 1st and July 29th.  Petitions for Class 2 cities or incorporated towns must contain at least 10 signatures, Class 1 cities or towns must contain at least 30 signatures to qualify.

Candidates must file a petition of candidacy, affidavit of eligibility, Independent Candidate Affidavit of Petition, and the political practices pledge with the Sevier County Clerk’s office.

County Clerk Debbie Akin will certify the candidates to the Election Commission and Ballot Drawings will be held on August 20th if necessary.

Sample petitions and other required forms are available in the County Clerk’s office. If you have any questions or need any of the forms, please call the Sevier County Clerk’s office at (870)- 642-2852.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS      06/23/20

As of Tuesday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 606 (increase of 14 from Monday)
Active Positives: 192 (decrease of 1 from Monday)
Recoveries: 408 (increase of 15)
Deaths remain at six
Negative Tests: 3,054 (increase of 39)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County: Total cases 36 Active Positives 2
Howard County: Total cases 70 Active Positives 29
Polk County: Total cases 67 Active Positives 13
McCurtain County: Total cases 302 Active Positives 184

MAN CHARGED WITH THEFT OF RUNNING BOARDS    06/23/20

A 53 year old Grannis man was arrested and charged with Theft by Receiving on Friday, June 21st after several vehicle running boards were discovered in the back of his truck.

Officer Robert King of the De Queen Police Department was patrolling around Gentry Chevrolet when he observed a man identified as Billy Dinkins of Grannis sleeping in his vehicle.

Officer King noticed several vehicle running boards in the bed of the truck. Dinkins stated that he didn’t know how they got there. The running boards were eventually identified as belonging to Gentry Chevrolet.

Dinkins was placed into custody for Theft by Receiving and transported to the Sevier County jail.

 STATE POLICE WORKS TWO ACCIDENTS WITH FATALITIES     06/23/20

The Arkansas State Police worked two traffic accidents earlier this week that resulted in fatalities.

A Sunday morning traffic accident claimed the life of a Little River County man. State Police say that 20 year old Jonathan Gaines of Ogden was killed at around 6:00 Sunday morning when an eastbound 2004 Ford Mustang left the roadway and overturned. The accident happened on Little River County Road 70 near Ogden. Gaines was a passenger in the vehicle driven by 18 year old Hannah Sisemore of Ashdown. 22 year old Kendrick Wilson of Ogden and 21 year old Alex Johnson-Wise of Texarkana were also passengers in the vehicle.

Gaines and Wilson were both ejected from the vehicle. Gaines was pronounced dead at the scene by Little River County Deputy Coronor Lindsey Gwinn at 6:30 A.M. Sunday. The other vehicle occupants were transported to a Texarkana hospital with injuries. The accident was investigated by Corporal Kyle Jones. The weather was described as clear and the road was dry at the time of the accident.

In Howard County, a Sunday night accident claimed the life of a Mineral Springs man. State Police say that 55 year old Gary Henry was killed at around 9:30 P.M. when his 2004 Dodge Durango left the right side of Schaal Road in Mineral Springs and collided with a fence. Henry was pronounced dead at the scene by Howard County Coronor John Gray. Corporal Travis Hale of the Arkansas State Police investigated the accident. The road was described as wet at the time of the accident.

SWEPCO OUTAGE – DE QUEEN AND NASHVILLE    06/22/20

As storms rolled through Southwest Arkansas early Monday morning, several residents in the De Queen and Nashville areas woke up to start off the new work week without electricity. SWEPCO crews worked several hours getting power restored to all Southwest Arkansas customers.

According to a SWEPCO spokesperson, as many as 200 customers were without power at the peak of the outage. SWEPCO says that everyone had their electricity back on by the end of the day on Monday.

The power outages were caused by wind, trees, and lightning damage mainly to utility poles. Several residences in the De Queen area were without power for approximately two-and-a-half hours Monday morning as a storm rolled through at around 5:30 A.M. Most residences had their electricity back up and running shortly after 8:00 A.M. Monday.

LOCAL COVID-19 TOTALS       06/22/20

As of Monday afternoon, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Total Cases: 592 (increase of 4 from Sunday)
Active Positives: 193 (decrease of 8 from Sunday)
Recoveries: 393 (increase of 11)
Deaths increased by one to six
Negative Tests: 3,015 (increase of 42)

In neighboring counties:
Little River County: Total cases 35 Active Positives 3
Howard County: Total cases 68 Active Positives 29
Polk County: Total cases 67 Active Positives 13
McCurtain County: Total cases 302 Active Positives 184

Statewide in Arkansas:
Total Cases: 16,083 (increase of 522 from Sunday)
Active Positives: 5,063 (increase of 183 from Sunday)
Death Toll: 227 (increase of two)

DE QUEEN HIGH SCHOOL PROM CANCELLED         06/22/20

De Queen High School Principal Bryan Blackwood announced Monday that the Junior/Senior Prom has been cancelled. Normally held in April during the school year, the De Queen High School Prom had previously been rescheduled for July 25th.

Due to the health guidelines set forth by the Arkansas Department of Health, De Queen Schools made the tough decision yesterday to cancel this year’s Prom.

De Queen High School apologizes for any inconvenience and disappointment that this decision may cause for the students.

Graduation exercises for the Class of 2020 at De Queen High School is still on schedule for Friday, July 31st at Leopard Coliseum. The De Queen Administration and School Board will continue to monitor the state directives from Governor Asa Hutchinson and will make adjustments accordingly.

SHOOTING INCIDENT LEAVES TWO DEAD IN MINERAL SPRINGS    06/22/20

Two people died from gunshot wounds in an incident that occurred late last week in Mineral Springs.

Howard County Sheriff Bryan McJunkins said a 9-1-1 call was received around 6:45 Thursday evening reporting that two people had been shot at 415 North Mercer Street in Mineral Springs.

Officers responded and found a man identified as 28 year old Jawara Stewart of Nashville lying in the street with a handgun nearby. Emergency personnel were directed to a nearby residence where C.P.R. was being administered on a 16 year old juvenile male.

Sheriff McJunkins said the juvenile was transported to Howard Memorial Hospital in Nashville where he was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival. Stewart was transported by air to a hospital where he also died.

According to witness information, Stewart and the 16 year old became involved in a fight over the handgun. Authorities believe that both victims received their gunshot wounds during the struggle.

Bodies of both victims were sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab, and the investigation is continuing by local authorities.

MAN SENTENCED IN CONNECTION WITH MENA FIRE    06/22/20

A 26 year old Denison, Texas man was sentenced to five years in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release in U.S. District Court in Fort Smith last week, in addition to being ordered to pay $145,272 in restitution, in connection with an August incident in Mena.

Jacob Samuel Green was sentenced on one count of making willful threat by mail or telephone and one count of maliciously destroying or attempting to damage and destroy real or person property.

Early on August 3rd, the Mena Police Department received a telephone call on its nonemergency line that there was a bomb in one of the U.S. Postal Service vehicles at the Mena Post Office that would blow up when someone opened the door.

When police arrived at the scene, they discovered that a fire had been set in the Just for Kids resale store across the street. Firefighters extinguished the blaze, but there was substantial damage to the building and its contents.

The store was operated by the Polk County Developmental Center, a nonprofit corporation, with the proceeds providing services for people with disabilities.

Officers identified Green as the caller and traced the phone back to a Mena hotel room registered in his name. Police found Green, who they say admitted to both calling in the bomb threat and setting the store on fire. Green was indicted on January 15th, and entered a guilty plea on February 26th, according to court records.

The case was investigated by the Mena Police Department, Mena Fire Department, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Postal Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Fort Smith bomb squad.

ARKANSAS LAW ENFORCEMENT TASK FORCE GETS UNDERWAY     06/22/20

A task force whose aim is to make recommendations to improve law enforcement throughout the state had its first meeting Thursday at the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith.

Daniel Martinez of De Queen was recently appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson to represent Sevier County and the Hispanic community on the task force.

The purpose of the Task Force to Advance the State of Law Enforcement in Arkansas is to study and analyze the best practices and procedures for recruiting, training, and maintaining law enforcement officers in the state. It will make recommendations to Governor Hutchinson on enhancing trust between law enforcement and communities, and improvements or changes needed to enhance the profession of law enforcement to ensure compliance with standards.

 LITTLE RIVER COUNTY MEN REAPPOINTED TO COMMISSION    06/22/20

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the reappointment of two Little River County men to the Red River Commission late last week.

Dan York of Foreman and Dwayne Raper of Ashdown were reappointed to the Red River Commission.

York’s term expires January 14, 2027, while Raper’s term expires on January 14, 2026.

SEVIER COUNTY LIBRARIES SET TO OPEN IN EARLY JULY     06/22/20

Sevier County libraries have set dates to reopen to serve all community members. De Queen Librarian, Johnye Fisher, says they will reopen on Monday, July 6th, with regular hours. Horatio Librarian, Amy Everts, says they will reopen the following day, Tuesday, July 7th. Lockesburg Branch Librarian, Wendy Clay, says that Lockesburg’s Library will open on Wednesday, July 8th.

The Libraries insist that all people wear a mask. If you don’t have one, you won’t be allowed to enter. Only 3 people will be allowed to enter the library at one time, with a limit of 15 minutes per person. Curbside services will still be available for anyone who feels uncomfortable going inside the library.

The Horatio summer reading program will be held on the Horatio Library Facebook page. Story time will be on July 2nd, 11th, 18th, and 25th at 10 a.m. Playbacks are available at your own convenience. Games and activities that go along with the stories will be available as always. Summer reading packets will be available starting July 25th. You can call when outside the library or knock on the door to get your packet.

The Gillham Branch Library will open July 14th with restrictions. Only three (3) patrons allowed at one time for 15 minutes. Also, face coverings are required to enter. The library is not supplying masks, so please bring your own. Please, if you feel sick do not come to the library. the hours at the Gillham Library will be Tuesday 9-1, Friday 1-5, and Saturday 10-2. Curbside service still available.

ASHDOWN ELEMENTARY STUDENT HONORED AS L.F. HENDERSON’S ELITE READER      06/21/20

Ashdown 4th grader, Adalie Aylett, was named “Elite Reader” at L.F. Henderson Elementary School during the 2019-2020 school year! Adalie earned over 1000 Accelerated Reader points and was the top reader every month for her 4th grade class.

According to Ronda Pounds, the Ashdown School Public Relations Coordinator, students are able to check out library books, read them, and take Accelerated Reader quizzes. Every book has an assigned point value, based off reading level, book length, and word difficulty, that provides every student with the opportunity to accumulate points throughout the school year.

DR. COLE ANNOUNCES FALL SEMESTER COVID-19 PLANS 06/22/20

Dr. Steve Cole, Chancellor of UA-Cossatot sent a message out to students last weekend detailing how the college would move forward with the fall semester with student safety in mind due to COVID-19.

Dr. Cole stated that the UA-Cossatot campuses would be open this fall, unless local health conditions warrant an alternate schedule.

The college will be changing the way classroom teaching will be conducted. Dr. Cole says the college will be following proper social distancing rules, exercising the proper usage of masks, and making sure each other’s health and well-being are protected.

UA-Cossatot will also offer online courses for students who are still not comfortable with face-to-face classes.

Dr. Cole emphasized that UA-Cossatot’s campuses will be as safe as possible, and the college will still continue to offer the quality instruction that’s led UA-Cossatot to have the fourth highest graduation rate in Arkansas.

For more information about the fall semester at UA-Cossatot, phone toll free 800-844-4471 or go to the college website at: www.cccua.edu.

LITTLE RIVER COUNTY ASSIGNED NEW STATE TROOPER   06/22/20

 Thirty-three Arkansas State Police Trooper Recruits received their certified law enforcement certificates last Thursday night during a graduation ceremony at the Arkansas State Capitol. The new troopers will report to their Highway Patrol Division assignments across the state in July.

25 year old Ian Nelson will be assigned to the Highway Patrol Division, Troop G, in Little River County. Trooper Nelson is a graduate of Valliant High School and Carl Albert State College in Oklahoma.

The recruits reported to the Arkansas State Police Training Academy at state police administrative headquarters on January 26th. Since that time, the recruits accumulated more than 1,000 hours of specialized classroom and practical training.

Upon reporting for duty at their respective troop headquarters, the new troopers will be placed with a certified departmental Field Training Officer. Each graduate will work in tandem with their respective F.T.O. for a transitional period prior to being released to their assignment.

FIRE STATION TESTING RESULTS FROM MAY 30TH EVENT     06/22/20

Sevier County Health Officer, Dr. Jason Lofton, reported over the weekend that the results from the drive through COVID-19 testing event held on Saturday, May 30th at the De Queen Fire Station have come in.

Dr. Lofton says that 41 individuals tested positive for the coronavirus. A total of 451 tests were administered during the five hour drive through event three weeks ago.

Dr. Lofton reports that many of the people who tested positive had no symptoms. As of Friday, June 19th, 3,272 total tests have been performed for Sevier County residents. With 506 total cases as of Friday, that’s a positivity rate of around 15%. That’s higher than both the national and statewide averages.

Dr. Lofton encourages everyone to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a cloth face covering and washing your hands frequently.

ASHDOWN PUBLIC SCHOOL RECEIVED GRANT FOR OUTDOOR WIRELESS EQUIPMENT   06/19/20

Aruba Networks, which provide WiFi for Ashdown Public Schools, gifted almost $14,000 of outdoor wireless equipment to Ashdown High School and Ashdown Junior High to assist with providing outdoor wireless access for students.  The outdoor kits will allow students who do not have internet access at home to use the school Wi-Fi from the safety of their car in the parking lots surrounding each school.  These outdoor wireless kits were provided to the district free of cost.

According to Casey Nichols, Ashdown Superintendent, “We are so fortunate to have received this equipment from Aruba Networks, we value our partnership with them and their commitment to Ashdown Public Schools.  And, I am so appreciative of our Technology Department for their expertise and time to bring this project to completion.”

The Aruba Network engineers assisted the district Technology Department with installation and configuration.  The new access points are located at the high school front parking lot, high school student parking lot, and the high school bus drive.  At AJHS, they are located in the cafeteria parking lot, front parking lot, and bus drive.  The normal school internet filtering will continue through these access points, so activity can be monitored and tracked.
Ashdown Public School Technology Coordinator David Billingsley said, “I’m excited to add this outdoor WIFi access for our students to use during this unprecedented time.  Those needing to use the new system will use the cloud guest network and be required to register with a valid email address or phone number that is able to receive SMS text for verification.”

LOCKESBURG CANCELS FOURTH OF JULY EVENT     06/18/20

The City of Lockesburg has announced that the Fireworks in the Park event scheduled for the Fourth of July in Lockesburg has been cancelled this year due to COVID-19 and the inability to comply with CDC guidelines.

Lockesburg City Hall will be closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockesburg residents may pay their water and sewer bills by phone at 870-289-3261, or by using the drop box at the front door at Lockesburg City Hall.

DE QUEEN CITY COUNCIL ACCEPTS BID FOR WATER PLANT   06/18/20

The De Queen City Council met Tuesday, June 16th at the De Queen High School Cafeteria and approved a bid for the 170,000 gallon backwash tank at the Water Plant.

Sealed bids were opened on May 14th, and the successful bidder was Circle P Welding with a base bid of $382,519. The estimated construction budget was $400,000. The De Queen Council approved the execution of the contract with construction to begin as soon as possible.

The De Queen City Council also approved a resolution in support of Fair, Direct Federal Emergency Support for the City. The funding would come from the federal CARES Act to help the City revenues that have been impacted due to COVID-19. The City has seen revenues decrease during the Pandemic, mainly because the District Court proceedings have been postponed, thus affecting income received from fines for various violations.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the De Queen City Council is Tuesday, July 7th at 5:30.

DIERKS SCHOOL BOARD SCHEDULES GRADUATION   06/18/20

The Dierks School Board met in regular session earlier this week. Dierks High School Principal Todd Finley informed the Board that graduation for the class of 2020 would be held on Monday, July 20th at 7:00 P.M. in the high school gymnasium.

Finley said the district had received approval from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education but would need to adhere to CDC guidelines.

Finley said 290 people will be allowed to sit in the bleachers and 128 family members aill be allowed on the floor along with the graduating seniors, administrators, and school board members. The school will give each senior four floor tickets and eight bleacher tickets.

In other Dierks School Board business, the Board voted to transfer any excess funds over $755,000 from the district’s general fund to the building fund. The Dierks Board accepted the transfer of one student into the district and five studenys out of the district through the state School Choice Act.

Following a 30 minute executive session, the Dierks Board accepted the resignation of Andrew Sirmon as science teacher and assistant football coach. The Board voted to hire Chad Lites as science teacher and assistant football coach per the salary schedule.

The Dierks Board also received an update on the proposed elementary school classroom building project from Clark Construction. The six room project will cost approximately $1.75 million and would take about eight months to complete. Cost estimates were also presented to construct four rooms or five rooms. However, the Dierks district would only save about $300,000 if they built four classrooms instead of six.

Dierks Superintendent Jody Cowart reported the district would have about $300,000 left over from the bond funds for other district projects. He also reported the district had $1.1 million dollars in the building fund that could be used to complete some of the other projects.

ASHDOWN STUDENTS ACHIEVE SCHOLARSHIPS THIS MONTH 06/17/20

With onsite learning coming to an end in March for AHS 2020 Seniors, the annual Scholarship Tea was rescheduled and redesigned for June 11 as a drive-thru scholarship pick up at Ashdown High School.

Sixty-five scholarships of over $ 37,000 were given to 34 Ashdown High School Seniors.

The Scholarship Committee has awarded over 100% of all donated moneys for some time due to investments. The Committee plans to continue this trend to recognize students’ needs and reward their hard work.

Last year, 62 scholarships were awarded with a total value of $36,000. The committee has authorized an alumni fund through which former students of Ashdown High School, businesses, or other individuals may contribute to the program in any amount and at any time. Such contributions may be made in honor or memory of friends and loved ones. Scholarships are tax-deductible and may be sent to Ashdown Public Schools, 751 Rankin St., Ashdown, AR 71822. You may attention your correspondence to Ashdown Scholarship Committee or call 903-826-4434 if you have any questions.

The Committee would like to thank all of the donors for allowing us to continue honoring our deserving seniors from Ashdown High School. They would also like to encourage businesses, as well as individuals to support the scholarship program.

Scholarship recipients include:

Chloe Anderson – Ashdown Alumni Scholarship; Kasey Barton – Dr. Brian L. Matthews Academic Initiative and Merit (AIM) Scholarship; Kasey Barton – Delta Kappa Gamma; Nathan Boley – Courtney Jewell Memorial; Nathan Boley – Jeanie Raper Scholarship; Brett Bond – Ashdown Alumni Scholarship (In Memory of Coach Paul Nichols); Brett Bond – Ashdown Athletic Booster Club; Rylee Burden – Ashdown Band Boosters; Rylee Burden – Jr. Setliff Memorial; Will Burnett – Fred C. Jester Sr. Memorial; Will Burnett – Fred C. Jester Jr. Memorial; Will Burnett – Little River County Farm Bureau; Jaliana Clinton – Vestco; Jaliana Clinton – William Coker Memorial; Jaliana Clinton – AHS Beta Club; Lanyhia Cornelius – Wallace Dean & Marie Roy Memorial; Lanyhia Cornelius – Dr. Blane & Jimmie Ann Graves Scholarship; Rileigh Day – Cecil & Beth Bowman Memorial; Colby Dellinger – Bob Porter Memorial Scholarship; Colby Dellinger – Ralph & Jeraldine Fuller Memorial; Colby Dellinger – TDS; Makayla Dixon – Mil-Way Federal Credit Union (Kenny Bankosh Memorial); Makayla Dixon – Trammell Scholarship; MacKynze Dollarhide – Jalen Lewis Memorial; MacKynze Dollarhide – Shirl & Nancy McCoy Scholarship; Ashia Dudley – Toni Cobb Memorial; Arejeon French – Ashdown Alumni Scholarship; Ashlyn Harger – Dr. Rachel King; Ashlyn Harger – Ashdown Eye Care; Ebony Hawkins – Coca-Cola Scholarship; Ebony Hawkins – Mil-Way Federal Credit Union (Matt Harris Memorial); Trey House – Little River Hardwoods; Trey House – Little River County Retired Teachers; Lannah Huddleston – Little River County Farm Bureau; Sydney Hurd – AHS TARGETS; Sydney Hurd – Darrell & Nancy Coker Scholarship; Sydney Hurd – Diamond Bank; Sydney Hurd – Kathy Rowlett Memorial; Aliana Lewis – Arvest; Reba Mahaffey – Matt Harris Memorial; Reba Mahaffey – William L. & Mary E. Welch Memorial; Ann Medina – Matthew Rosenbaum Memorial; Breanna Noble – Jim & Paula Mounts Scholarship; Breanna Noble – Leilana Warren Memorial; Aaliyah Nutt – Ashdown Alumni Association; Jeb Parker – Domtar; Jeb Parker – Ashdown Administrators Scholarship; Aniya Polite – AHS National Honor Society; Aniya Polite – Wesley Strange Memorial; Noah Pounds – Ashdown Alumni Scholarship (In Honor of Sharon Booth McGee and Albemerle Foundation); Anijah Ramnarine – Henry Kaufman Memorial; Kiari Robinson – Matt Harris Memorial; Cole Smith – Ashdown Rotary; Cole Smith – Coleman Pearson Memorial; Paige Smith – Ashdown Alumni Scholarship (In Honor of Dr. Tom Fomby); Paige Smith – Vestco; Vonjoy Thomas – Ashdown Alumni Association; T’Nia Washington – Ashdown Alumni Association; T’Nia Washington – Bishop & Bishop; Tyreese Westbrook – Wesley Strange Memorial

DE QUEEN MAN ARRESTED ON PUBLIC INTOXICATION CHARGES 06/16/20

A De Queen man was arrested for being intoxicated in public after authorities responded to a call Friday.

According to a report released by The De Queen Police Department, Officer Gilberto Elizondo was dispatched to Highway 41B in reference to a person seen lying in the road near the railroad tracks in De Queen on Friday, June 12th.

The suspect was identified at Chad Stueart, age 46 of De Queen. Officer Elizondo reported observing scratches all over Stueart’s body and he had bloody knees.

The suspect allegedly told the officer than an “electric fence was shocking him” but there was no fence around in the area. Stueart was reportedly unable to explain how he’d gotten to the railroad tracks and was found to be sweating although he was only wearing underwear.

Chad Stueart was placed in custody for public intoxication and transported to The Sevier County Jail in De Queen. The case file was submitted to the Prosecuting Attorney for charges and a court date for Stueart has been set for July 14th.

ALLIGATOR HUNTING PERMIT APPLICATION PERIOD OPENS IN ARKANSAS 06/16/20

People interested in hunting Arkansas Alligator on public land and water will have until June 30th to put their name in the hat for a chance to score a permit from The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Application for the 2020 Arkansas Alligator Season are available online at AGFC.com.

Each permit authorizes The Harvest of one alligator, at least 4 feet long and up to three assistants are allowed on each hunt, however only the permit holder will be allowed to snare, harpoon or dispatch The Alligator.

Hunting gator is allowed 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise September 18-21 and September 25-28. All gator hunters must be at least 16 years of age, a resident of Arkansas or a holder of a lifetime Sportsman’s permit. Anyone with 18 or more AGFC violation points are not eligible to apply.

Find out more about hunting alligator in Arkansas by visiting AGFC.com

SPEEDS TO GO UP ON ARKANSAS HIGHWAYS ACROSS THE STATE 06/16/20

Local residents will soon see the speed limit increase by five miles per hour when traveling on certain highways and interstates across Arkansas.

Arkansas Department of Transportation officials report “ rural interstates will go to 75, urban interstates will go to 65, rural multi-lane highways, which are our four to five-lane highways that are designated as interstates, will go to 65 and now  up to 60 on a two-lane highway ”

It will take about three months to install the new speed limit signs around the state. Once the signs are implemented, that’s when the speed limit will change. If the new speeds become problematic, ArDOT could roll them back.

ArDOT says the change of speed limit signs and implementing the project will cost about $350,000.

SEVIER COUNTY MOBILE FOOD PANTRY 06/16/20

Harvest Regional Food Bank is returning to Sevier County with its TEFAP USDA Commodity Mobile Pantry. “We have several communities in our rural service area that are not fully served by local partner agencies. To be sure that the residents in these areas are served, we are providing direct service where needed.” said Camille Coker Wrinkle, Executive Director of Harvest Regional Food Bank.
Harvest Regional Food Bank will distribute TEFAP USDA Commodities directly from their truck on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 from 10 am to noon. The truck will be parked at the Horatio High School located at 1101 Metcalf, Horatio, AR.
With CDC precautions and recommendations against the Coronavirus still in place, Harvest is taking every measure to ensure the safety of its staff, volunteers and recipients. Mobile pantries are now operating as “drivethru” distributions, with food boxes being loaded directly into vehicles. Recipients will not be allowed to exit the vehicle or park to pick up food.
Recipients must bring photo identification verifying their age and residence.
Distribution is limited to one box per household and 2 households per vehicle.

UA COSSATOT GETTING BACK TO NORMAL WORK PLAN     06/15/20

The purpose of this three-phase plan is to prepare UA Cossatot’s staff, students, and community for the gradual reopening of all UA Cossatot campuses.

Based on current guidance, UA Cossatot will employ a gradual return to normal for our students and community. Since the advent of COVID-19 in our community, UA Cossatot has shuttered campuses to students and visitors. Employees of UA Cossatot have been allowed to work from home (providing employees can effectively and productively complete their job duties) from the very beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, while many employees have been coming to work on campus under strict social distancing and other CDC safety guidelines. This plan is designed to guide our college and inform our public through the summer to prepare for a full reopening this fall. UA Cossatot’s COVID-19 Task Force is currently preparing the reopening plan for fall of 2020.

The following conditions will guide this and all future COVID-19 plans at UA Cossatot:
• The number and rate of positive COVID-19 cases in our local communities
• The testing, quarantine, isolation capabilities, and exposure protocols in place at our college
• Controls are in place to ensure the college has adequate PPE and cleaning services available for each campus
• Guidance from the University of Arkansas System, Local and State Health Entities, and the Arkansas Governor’s Office
This plan should be considered a fluid response to the COVID-19 epidemic and may be changed based on the prevailing or impending health conditions locally, statewide, and regionally.

Phase 1 – (Current-June 26th)
During the current Phase 1, our campuses will remain closed to all students and community members, except by special permission or if there are extenuating circumstances. During this time, employees will be allowed to continue their current work arrangements. Presently,  employees are working a combination of:
• Fully on-campus
• Selectively on-campus
• Working from home
Employees who are working from home or selectively on-campus must continue to work with their supervisors to ensure they have the proper technologies to work from home so they may remain effective and productive at their job duties. These employees must also complete their weekly Remote Work Task Assignment forms and have them signed by their supervisor and sent to Human Resources. Returning to normal will not be the focus of Phase 1.
During Phase 1, the college will employ a full arsenal of methods to
ensure proper social distancing. These methods may include:
• Adjusting work schedules
• Limiting the number of people in a workspace
• Alternating workdays for employees
• Adjusting start and end times for employees
• Adjusting entry and exit points in the workplace
Throughout all phases of this plan, UA Cossatot will be mindful of the
CDC’s updated strategies and recommendations for employers
responding to COVID-19 and seeking to resume normal or phased
business operations. They are:
• Conducting daily health checks
• Conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace
• Implementing policies and practices for social distancing in the
workplace
• Improving the building ventilation system

UA Cossatot will also ensure that employees are well-informed regarding safe practices for health monitoring, COVID-19 prevention strategies, social distancing, and proper use of PPE.
During Phase 1, all entrances to campuses will remain locked with the exception of allowing employees into the buildings.
Phase 2 – (June 29th – July 17th)
Phase 2 will begin with all employees back on campus working a staggered on-campus work schedule. Depending on the current health climate in the local area, student athletes and some visitors may be allowed on campus. The college will operate on a four-day work week during Phase 2 (Monday-Thursday) and stagger when employees show up for work.
Supervisors who have employees who work in departments that contain more than two persons will develop a work plan that has an equal number of employees working on Mondays and Wednesdays as there are working on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Employees that aren’t scheduled to work on campus may work from home providing they follow the same protocols detailed in Phase 1. If an employee cannot perform their job duties from home, the supervisor will work diligently to ensure that the employee may work on a separate campus or can work where it is reasonably expected they can effectively social distance from others while on-campus.
During Phase 2, it is expected that there will be a limited number of visitors and student athletes on campus. To accommodate, one entrance to each campus will be unlocked and designated for entry and exit, controlled by UA Cossatot Campus Police.
During Phase 2, the Lockesburg Gymnasium will be available for athletic tryouts and workouts under the strict supervision of the Athletic Director, following all CDC, UA System and NJCAA guidelines for
athletics.
(Please note that during Phase 2 ALL safety and health guidelines noted
for Phase 1 will apply)

Phase 3 – (July 20th – July 31st)
Phase 3 will be the final phase of this plan. Phase 3 will act as precursor to the fall semester and will lead UA Cossatot into the plan for fall that will be assembled by the COVID-19 Task Force.
All employees are expected to return to on-campus work on July 20th.
Employees whose health condition falls within one of the CDC High Risk Categories should work closely with the Human Resources to determine if there is an appropriate temporary workplace adjustment needed to allow a return to campus during this phase. Employees during Phase 3 will be working a four-day work week in their offices. In preparing for Phase 3, and to allow the Facilities Department ample time to complete, UA Cossatot will implement the following modifications to the
workplace:
• Addition of plexiglass to counters where barriers between
employees and those in need of services
• Floors in high traffic areas marked with six-foot separation marks
to identify the amount of space expected between persons
• Changes to office/work assignments where one or more people
share space (i.e., shared cubicles, offices, service counters/desks,
etc.)
• Signs to remind employees that restroom use should be limited
based on size to ensure at least 6 feet of distance between
individuals
• Drinking fountains that have bottle refill stations may be used to
refill bottles, but all other water fountains will have signs that
indicate the water fountain is not to be used.

During Phase 3, certain entrances will remain locked to control the flow of persons entering and exiting campus buildings. (Please note that during Phase 3 ALL safety and health guidelines noted
for Phases 1 and 2 will apply)

Based on CDC strategies to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, UA Cossatot will actively encourage students, faculty, and staff who have been sick with COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19, or have been potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 (either
through community-related exposure or international travel) to follow CDC guidance to self-isolate or stay home.

Special Notes Applicable to All Phases:
Regarding COVID-19 Reporting By Employees Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should contact Human Resources and should not report to work until their primary care physician has sent a letter of clearance to return to work.
Employees who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to follow their physician’s directives for home quarantine or hospitalized care and may not return to work until the letter of clearance has been received. The office of Human Resources will confirm receipt of the clearance to return to work and will retain this letter in the employee’s personnel file.
Employees living with or caring for an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 are expected to self-quarantine and not to return to work until 14 days after the individual’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis or until said individual has been declared recovered by their doctor and/or state
health officials.
Employees who feel they have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 should contact Human Resources to discuss proper on-campus protocols.
Employees who have or are going to travel to a known “hot spot” for COVID-19 should check with their immediate supervisor to determine the proper protocols for safely returning to work.

Regarding Face Masks
While the CDC strongly encourages the wearing of masks and other PPE, UA Cossatot will require that each employee who reports to campus will wear a facemask or face covering while in public spaces, common areas, and shared workspaces, and when in the presence of others, if appropriate social distancing cannot be achieved. Face masks and face coverings will not be required in individual offices. UA Cossatot will ensure that at least one facemask is provided to each employee. Employees are encouraged to source their own face masks in order to
wear a clean mask at all times.

Regarding Employee Child Care
If childcare availability is limited and/or K-12 schools are closed, departments are encouraged to work with faculty, staff and students to provide flexible scheduling as duties permit.

Regarding High-Risk and Vulnerable Employees
According to the CDC, individuals with certain conditions may have a
higher risk for COVID-19 infection. Those conditions may include:
• Are over the age of 65
• Suffer from chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
• Suffer from serious heart conditions
• Severely obese (Body Mass Index of 40 or higher)
• Have diabetes
• Suffer from chronic kidney disease
• Suffer from liver disease
• Have a compromised immune system

Employees whose health condition falls within one of the CDC High Risk Categories should work closely with the Human Resources to determine what temporary workplace adjustments may be required to return to campus during any phase of this plan.

Regarding Travel
UA Cossatot employees will be prohibited from travel on behalf of the college, unless it is travel to and from the workplace or between UA Cossatot campuses.

UA Cossatot will continue to address issues related to the COVID-19  pandemic and issue any new guidance and or actions necessary to ensure safe campuses. UA Cossatot will also continue to monitor COVID- 19 trends locally, statewide, and regionally to update guidance as circumstances warrant.

LANTZ CASTLEMAN HIRED AS NEW HEAD FOOTBALL COACH FOR HORATIO 06/15/20

Horatio Schools announced over that weekend that Lantz Castleman has been named the new head football coach for the Lions.

Coach Castleman has been an assistant coach for the past three years at Magnolia. Prior to that, he worked as an assistant on the staff at Mena.

Athletic Director Stephen Sprick had the following to say about the hiring of Coach Castleman on Saturday: “He will bring intensity, accountability, and stability to our football program. This is a homerun hire made by our Administration and school board.”

Coach Castleman and his wife Ariel have three children:
Faith, Bryce, and Haston. Coach Castleman was welcomed by community supporters at the Horatio football field Monday morning for a team meeting. Coach Castleman replaces Robert Collum at the helm of the Lions after Coach Collum accepted a position at Mount Ida.

UA COSSATOT GETTING BACK TO NORMAL WORK PLAN     06/15/20

The purpose of this three-phase plan is to prepare UA Cossatot’s staff, students, and community for the gradual reopening of all UA Cossatot campuses.

Based on current guidance, UA Cossatot will employ a gradual return to normal for our students and community. Since the advent of COVID-19 in our community, UA Cossatot has shuttered campuses to students and visitors. Employees of UA Cossatot have been allowed to work from home (providing employees can effectively and productively complete their job duties) from the very beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, while many employees have been coming to work on campus under strict social distancing and other CDC safety guidelines. This plan is designed to guide our college and inform our public through the summer to prepare for a full reopening this fall. UA Cossatot’s COVID-19 Task Force is currently preparing the reopening plan for fall of 2020.

The following conditions will guide this and all future COVID-19 plans at UA Cossatot:
• The number and rate of positive COVID-19 cases in our local communities
• The testing, quarantine, isolation capabilities, and exposure protocols in place at our college
• Controls are in place to ensure the college has adequate PPE and cleaning services available for each campus
• Guidance from the University of Arkansas System, Local and State Health Entities, and the Arkansas Governor’s Office
This plan should be considered a fluid response to the COVID-19 epidemic and may be changed based on the prevailing or impending health conditions locally, statewide, and regionally.

Phase 1 – (Current-June 26th)
During the current Phase 1, our campuses will remain closed to all students and community members, except by special permission or if there are extenuating circumstances. During this time, employees will be allowed to continue their current work arrangements. Presently,  employees are working a combination of:
• Fully on-campus
• Selectively on-campus
• Working from home
Employees who are working from home or selectively on-campus must continue to work with their supervisors to ensure they have the proper technologies to work from home so they may remain effective and productive at their job duties. These employees must also complete their weekly Remote Work Task Assignment forms and have them signed by their supervisor and sent to Human Resources. Returning to normal will not be the focus of Phase 1.
During Phase 1, the college will employ a full arsenal of methods to
ensure proper social distancing. These methods may include:
• Adjusting work schedules
• Limiting the number of people in a workspace
• Alternating workdays for employees
• Adjusting start and end times for employees
• Adjusting entry and exit points in the workplace
Throughout all phases of this plan, UA Cossatot will be mindful of the
CDC’s updated strategies and recommendations for employers
responding to COVID-19 and seeking to resume normal or phased
business operations. They are:
• Conducting daily health checks
• Conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace
• Implementing policies and practices for social distancing in the
workplace
• Improving the building ventilation system

UA Cossatot will also ensure that employees are well-informed regarding safe practices for health monitoring, COVID-19 prevention strategies, social distancing, and proper use of PPE.
During Phase 1, all entrances to campuses will remain locked with the exception of allowing employees into the buildings.
Phase 2 – (June 29th – July 17th)
Phase 2 will begin with all employees back on campus working a staggered on-campus work schedule. Depending on the current health climate in the local area, student athletes and some visitors may be allowed on campus. The college will operate on a four-day work week during Phase 2 (Monday-Thursday) and stagger when employees show up for work.
Supervisors who have employees who work in departments that contain more than two persons will develop a work plan that has an equal number of employees working on Mondays and Wednesdays as there are working on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Employees that aren’t scheduled to work on campus may work from home providing they follow the same protocols detailed in Phase 1. If an employee cannot perform their job duties from home, the supervisor will work diligently to ensure that the employee may work on a separate campus or can work where it is reasonably expected they can effectively social distance from others while on-campus.
During Phase 2, it is expected that there will be a limited number of visitors and student athletes on campus. To accommodate, one entrance to each campus will be unlocked and designated for entry and exit, controlled by UA Cossatot Campus Police.
During Phase 2, the Lockesburg Gymnasium will be available for athletic tryouts and workouts under the strict supervision of the Athletic Director, following all CDC, UA System and NJCAA guidelines for
athletics.
(Please note that during Phase 2 ALL safety and health guidelines noted
for Phase 1 will apply)

Phase 3 – (July 20th – July 31st)
Phase 3 will be the final phase of this plan. Phase 3 will act as precursor to the fall semester and will lead UA Cossatot into the plan for fall that will be assembled by the COVID-19 Task Force.
All employees are expected to return to on-campus work on July 20th.
Employees whose health condition falls within one of the CDC High Risk Categories should work closely with the Human Resources to determine if there is an appropriate temporary workplace adjustment needed to allow a return to campus during this phase. Employees during Phase 3 will be working a four-day work week in their offices. In preparing for Phase 3, and to allow the Facilities Department ample time to complete, UA Cossatot will implement the following modifications to the
workplace:
• Addition of plexiglass to counters where barriers between
employees and those in need of services
• Floors in high traffic areas marked with six-foot separation marks
to identify the amount of space expected between persons
• Changes to office/work assignments where one or more people
share space (i.e., shared cubicles, offices, service counters/desks,
etc.)
• Signs to remind employees that restroom use should be limited
based on size to ensure at least 6 feet of distance between
individuals
• Drinking fountains that have bottle refill stations may be used to
refill bottles, but all other water fountains will have signs that
indicate the water fountain is not to be used.

During Phase 3, certain entrances will remain locked to control the flow of persons entering and exiting campus buildings. (Please note that during Phase 3 ALL safety and health guidelines noted
for Phases 1 and 2 will apply)

Based on CDC strategies to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, UA Cossatot will actively encourage students, faculty, and staff who have been sick with COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19, or have been potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 (either
through community-related exposure or international travel) to follow CDC guidance to self-isolate or stay home.

Special Notes Applicable to All Phases:
Regarding COVID-19 Reporting By Employees Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should contact Human Resources and should not report to work until their primary care physician has sent a letter of clearance to return to work.
Employees who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to follow their physician’s directives for home quarantine or hospitalized care and may not return to work until the letter of clearance has been received. The office of Human Resources will confirm receipt of the clearance to return to work and will retain this letter in the employee’s personnel file.
Employees living with or caring for an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 are expected to self-quarantine and not to return to work until 14 days after the individual’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis or until said individual has been declared recovered by their doctor and/or state
health officials.
Employees who feel they have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 should contact Human Resources to discuss proper on-campus protocols.
Employees who have or are going to travel to a known “hot spot” for COVID-19 should check with their immediate supervisor to determine the proper protocols for safely returning to work.

Regarding Face Masks
While the CDC strongly encourages the wearing of masks and other PPE, UA Cossatot will require that each employee who reports to campus will wear a facemask or face covering while in public spaces, common areas, and shared workspaces, and when in the presence of others, if appropriate social distancing cannot be achieved. Face masks and face coverings will not be required in individual offices. UA Cossatot will ensure that at least one facemask is provided to each employee. Employees are encouraged to source their own face masks in order to
wear a clean mask at all times.

Regarding Employee Child Care
If childcare availability is limited and/or K-12 schools are closed, departments are encouraged to work with faculty, staff and students to provide flexible scheduling as duties permit.

Regarding High-Risk and Vulnerable Employees
According to the CDC, individuals with certain conditions may have a
higher risk for COVID-19 infection. Those conditions may include:
• Are over the age of 65
• Suffer from chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
• Suffer from serious heart conditions
• Severely obese (Body Mass Index of 40 or higher)
• Have diabetes
• Suffer from chronic kidney disease
• Suffer from liver disease
• Have a compromised immune system

Employees whose health condition falls within one of the CDC High Risk Categories should work closely with the Human Resources to determine what temporary workplace adjustments may be required to return to campus during any phase of this plan.

Regarding Travel
UA Cossatot employees will be prohibited from travel on behalf of the college, unless it is travel to and from the workplace or between UA Cossatot campuses.

UA Cossatot will continue to address issues related to the COVID-19  pandemic and issue any new guidance and or actions necessary to ensure safe campuses. UA Cossatot will also continue to monitor COVID- 19 trends locally, statewide, and regionally to update guidance as circumstances warrant.

DE QUEEN INDEPENDENCE DAY FESTIVAL CANCELLED 06/15/20

The City of De Queen is cancelling the Let Freedom Ring Festival due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in Sevier County at this time. The city understands that the citizens look forward to this every year. They plan on next years event being “bigger and better than ever!” The city hopes everyone understands this decision.

DEANN VAUGHT WEEKLY REPORT 06/15/20

Representative Deann Vaught reports last week, the House Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs Committee reviewed the 2019 Annual Report from Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division.

This report along with the quarterly reports from the Department of Human Services’ Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are difficult to review but necessary in guiding our decisions of where to place resources.

The annual report states Child Abuse Hot Line operators in the Crimes Against Children Division (CACD) of the Arkansas State Police received 67,420 referrals in the year 2019. Of these referrals, 37,591 were accepted as legally valid allegations of abuse or neglect. They were assigned to the CACD investigators or the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). In 2019, the hotline received 652 fewer calls than in 2018.

Calls to the hotline include educational and medical neglect, inadequate food and housing, and physical and sexual abuse. DCFS reports neglect is the most commonly reported allegation among those which are found to be true.

Major Jeff Drew with the Arkansas State Police testified that calls to the hotline have dropped in recent weeks as many mandated reporters are not in contact with children. The division is noticing anywhere from 400 to 600 fewer calls a week.

DCFS Director Mischa Martin told committee members that teachers have historically been the highest volume of mandated reporters. The decline in calls to the hotline continues to be of concern.

DCFS made a decision early in the health emergency to continue to place a priority on the safety of children. As a result, employees with the agency have and will continue face to face contact with children.

The report has been posted at www.arkansashouse.org.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at 800-482-5964.

SEVIER COUNTY RESIDENT ARRESTED FOR BURGLARY LAST WEEK 06/15/20

Frederick Bowers of De Queen was arrested for residential burglary and theft of property Thursday, June 11th, 2020.

According to information provided by The Sevier County Sheriff’s Department, Bowers entered residence on industrial park road by breaking a lock off a door within the residence. Bowers reportedly stole money from the home and as of Monday morning June 15th, he was still being held in the Sevier County Jail awaiting bond to be set.

The case is under review by prosecutor Erin Hunter.

COVID 19 UPDATE FROM THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH 06/12/20

The COVID-19 statistics for Sevier County as of Thursday afternoon according to the Arkansas Department of Health are as follows:

Total Positives 387 (increase of 5 from Wednesday). Active Positives 161 (decrease of13 from Wednesday). Recoveries 222 (increase of 16 from yesterday). The death toll doubled from 2 to 4. Negative Tests 2,143 ( increase of 43). Statewide, the total cases increased by 448 to 10,816. Active positives increased by 207 to 3,294. The death toll increased by 6 to 171. Wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing, and wear face coverings. The Governor advises if you have symptoms, or have been exposed to anyone with the virus, get tested.

UA COSSATOT COLTS BALL PLAYER TO CONTINUE COLLEGE CAREER 06/12/20

After completing two semesters at UA Cossatot, former Colts player La Drakkus Thomas has signed a letter of intent to continue his basketball career at Crowley’s Ridge College in Paragould, Arkansas. Thomas helped lead the Colts to an above .500 finish during the Colts’ 2019-2020 inaugural season. He is looking forward to transferring to Crowley’s Ridge College, where he will have the opportunity to continue playing college basketball and finish his education.

La Drakkus Thomas is from Lafayette, Louisiana, and graduated from Acadiana High School. As a sophomore college student, Thomas joined the Colts basketball team and finished the season with 329 points. He played in every game of the season, led his team in assists, and had a total of 161 rebounds.

Thomas said, “I enjoyed my time at UA Cossatot, which prepared me and gave me an opportunity to transfer to Crowley’s Ridge College. I’m excited to continue playing basketball, and I encourage other student-athletes to consider community colleges, like UA Cossatot, first.  Playing at UA Cossatot gave me great opportunities and created a bridge for me to transfer and continue playing basketball at a four-year college.”

Thomas’s coach this past basketball season at UA Cossatot was Coach Brad Phillips. In March, Phillips took a new position, closer to home, at Crowley’s Ridge College, where he was hired as the new Head Lady Pioneers Basketball Coach.

Coach Phillips said, “I am extremely excited for La Drakkus to be continuing his education and basketball career at Crowley’s Ridge College, and I am looking forward to watching him finish his career with us.”

The 6’7 junior forward will begin playing basketball for the Pioneers this fall.  UA Cossatot is gearing up for a new basketball season and will be holding tryouts this summer, which will be announced at a later date.

For any questions about basketball at UA Cossatot, please contact UA Cossatot’s new Head Basketball Coach and Athletic Director, Robert Byrd at rbyrd@cccua.edu.

LOCAL GROUP CONTINUES PETITION DRIVE-THRU SIGNING EVENTS FOR ALCOHOL ISSUE 06/12/20

The Sevier County EDGE group is holding another Petition Signing event at a Drive Through location this weekend, June 12th and 13th at the Town North Shopping Center (West of Ranch House & Dollar General)  from 8:00am to 7:00pm.
The group is in need of 2,573 valid signatures from registered Sevier County voters in order to get the issue of being allowed to sell alcohol in the county on the November ballot.  So far, a total of roughly 1,500 signatures have been collected up to this point. More information can be found on the vote for growth facebook page. EDGE members say signing petition doesn’t not mean you are for or against the issue. The needed number of signatures on the petition will allow the issue to be put on the ballot so the citizens of Sevier County can decide what they want to see happen with the proposal.

 WOMAN ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT IN DE QUEEN LAST WEEK 06/12/20

A De Queen woman was arrested for assault after authorities responded to a call at a residence last week.

According to a report released by the De Queen Police Department, Officer James Gilbert was dispatched to a local house on June 2nd for an unknown reason due to a language barrier. Upon arriving at the scene, Gilbert was advised that Melina Langinbelik, age 28 of De Queen had been consuming alcohol and “trying to start a fight with her mother” however, officers were informed that the suspect had left the residence upon their arrival. A short time later, Officer Gilbert was reportedly informed that Melina returned to the residence and after making contact with the suspect, he allegedly witnessed her hit her mother multiple times.

Melina was placed into custody and transported to The Sevier County Jail for assault on a family or household member in the 3rd degree.

The case file has been submitted to the prosecuting Attorney’s office for forthcoming charges.

PHASE II OF OPENING BUSINESS IN ARKANSAS TO GO FORTH DESPITE RISE IN CASES 06/11/20

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Arkansas as the Governor announced 288 new positive Coronavirus reports have been documented since the previous update. The news was reported during the daily Arkansas COVID-19 press conference held Wednesday, June 10th.

Despite the increase in cases, officials have still made the decision to continue lifting additional COVID-19 precautionary restrictions as Phase II of reopening the state’s businesses begins.
The total number of COVID-19 cases reported in Arkansas has now reached 10,368 with 3,087 of those cases considered active. There are now 7,116 Arkansans who’ve recovered from the illness and the number of hospitalized patients continues to rise. Currently, Arkansas has 181 residents hospitalized with COVID-19 and 49 of those patients are on ventilators. The state death toll has reached 165.

Although phase two will begin soon, Social Distancing and Mask wearing will still be encouraged. The Governor says Phase II will affect the capacity for which businesses allow patrons and the change will begin next Monday, June 15th.

Dr. Nathaniel Smith provided a list of the counties with the most active cases throughout the state. Sevier County was reported to have 15 active cases at press conference time. Dr. Smith says tests conducted so far are nearly 1/3 of the way to reaching the goal of 120,000 coronavirus tests for the month of June.

Information from the Governor’s daily press conferences can be heard in the local newscasts on KDQN 92.1 FM.

HORATIO PUBLIC SCHOOLS ANNOUNCE NEW SUPERINTENDENT 06/11/20

Horatio Public Schools announced new leadership is in store for the district next month as Mr. Zane Vanderpool has been selected as the district’s new Superintendent. The news follows Dr. Lee Smith’s announcement of departure for a Superintendent role with Mena schools in May.

The new head Lion comes with 13 years of experience as Principal of Glenn A. Duffy Elementary in Gravette, Arkansas along with 6 years as Assistant Principal of Hunstville Intermediate and Watson Primary school in Hunstville, Arkansas.

Vanderpool’s educational background includes a Bachelor’s of Science in Education from Arkansas Tech University and a Master’s in Educational Administration from The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Currently, there are 848 students enrolled in the district from Pre-K through 12th grade.

The new Superintendent  will begin his time with Horatio schools July 1st.

MAN ARRESTED ON MULTIPLE CHARGES IN DE QUEEN SUNDAY 06/11/20

A local man was arrested for five offenses after authorities conducted a traffic stop in De Queen this week.

According to a report released by The De Queen Police Department, Officer Robert King observed a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed and swerving through traffic on Sunday, June 7th. Officer King pulled the car over and identified the driver as Jose Castro-Cienfuegos, age 24 of De Queen.

Officer Brady Hanney began speaking to the suspect and noted that the man’s eyes were “glossy” and an open box of beer was reportedly found in the rear of the car.  Authorities also noted that  a 7-year-old child was in the car with Jose at the time of the traffic stop.

A series of field sobriety tests were conducted at the scene and Jose Castro-Cienfuegos was taken into custody on suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated. The suspect was then transported to the Sevier County Jail where a Blood-Alcohol test was conducted.

The citations against Castro-Cienfuegos include DWI, refusal to submit, no driver’s license, careless and prohibited driving and Endangering the welfare of a minor, 1st degree.

The case file has been submitted to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for charges.

LOCAL COLLEGE OFFERS MANY ONLINE EDUCATION OPTIONS 06/10/20

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities across the nation are offering the majority of their classes strictly online. With so much uncertainty about on-campus course work, college students are being encouraged to sign up for courses with an online format. UA Cossatot, the first college in Arkansas to offer a fully-accredited degree completely online, has been offering online education since 1997 and continues to offer several classes, certificates, and degrees online for students to take at a friendly price.

UA Cossatot has eight associate degrees, two associate of applied science degrees, five technical certificates, and two certificates of proficiency that can be completed 100% online. The majority of classes in other degrees and certificates at UA Cossatot can be completed online as well.

Students can earn degrees and certificates in general studies, business, agriculture, criminal justice, and psychology, to name a few, without ever stepping on one of UA Cossatot’s campuses.

Tuition at UA Cossatot is $74 per credit hour, meaning full-time in-district resident students taking 12 hours can expect to pay less than $1600 a semester. Additionally, UA Cossatot’s online courses generally require no textbook purchases, saving students over $500 each semester.

UA Cossatot was recently listed as one of the Top 60 Online Community Colleges in the nation. Out of 60 colleges, UA Cossatot was ranked at number 15 and was also listed as the most affordable online community college in the country, according to Intelligent.com, a trusted resource for online degree rankings and higher education planning.

UA Cossatot Student Accounts Officer, Tiana Kelly, said, “Taking classes at a community college is a great option. If students are going to have to pay for coursework online, they might as well take them at UA Cossatot, where they will be far cheaper! We are happy to welcome local, transfer, new, and returning students to our college.  UA Cossatot students are given the option to make monthly payments through the mail, online, or over the phone.  To set up payment plans, please call the business office at 870-584-1113.  We would love to help you and answer any questions!”

For more information about online classes or online programs offered at UA Cossatot, please contact Student Services at studentservices@cccua.edu or 870-584-4471.

DIERKS CITY COUNCIL LOWERS SPEED LIMITS FOR RESIDENTIAL STREETS 06/10/20

The city of Dierks has purchased a new garbage truck. Monday evening, the council voted to pay $19,900 dollars on the vehicle which is being purchased from the city of De Queen. The 2012 truck will replace the town’s other garbage truck which is a 2003 model. That vehicle will be used as a backup and allow the city to run both trucks at the same time to help expedite the pickup.

In other business, the concern about speeding motorists will lead to reduced speed limits. Unless posted, the current speed limit is 35 miles per hour on all streets. With action taken by the council, speed limits on all residential streets will become 20 miles per hour. Several new speed limit signs are being ordered to advise motorists of the change. The new lower speed limits will not be in place on main streets such as Highway 70.

During Monday’s meeting the council also agreed to name Bobby Neal as an alderman from Ward Three. Neal was sworn in by mayor Ronnie Cogburn and replaces Chase Quinn who resigned after moving out of the ward area.

FREE FISHING DAYS IN ARKANSAS JUNE 12TH-14TH 05/18/20

Free Fishing Days in Arkansas will begin at noon on Friday, June 12th and continue until midnight Sunday night., June 14. No angler will need a fishing license or trout permit to fish anywhere in Arkansas during this weekend. This is recognized annually across the state as a chance for both residents and nonresidents to fish these days without fishing licenses or trout permits.
Regulations for Arkansas waters apply: daily limits, slot limits and length limits must be observed.

Kids’ Fishing Day normally held at the Commission’s fish hatcheries on Saturday during Free Fishing Weekend has been cancelled because of coronavirus concerns.

Visit AGFC.com for more information.

SEVIER COUNTY QUORUM COURT JUNE MEETING HELD MONDAY 06/10/20

At The Sevier County Quorum Court  meeting held Monday, June 8th, the JPs passed a resolution that allows use of a $20,000 CARES Act grant. The grant connects Sevier County with the U. S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration and the money will counteract a drop in revenue at the J Lynn Helms Sevier County Airport as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.

 The court also approved a request to transfer appropriations for the waste department budget, which includes $2,500 for Overtime and other Premium Compensation, along with $2,600 for Salaries Full-Time, $152 for Social Security Matching, $302 for Retirement Matching, and $40 for worker’s Compensation.

The board then approved an ordinance establishing new fund numbers and names necessary for the 1 percent Sevier County Medical Center sales tax.

The court then approved a request for $100 to cover the cost of radio advertising for Arkansas Tourism. The Arkansas Tourism Department is willing to to partner for 30-second radio commercials. The ads will help generate tourist interest in traveling to help make up for lost revenue during the coronavirus pandemic. The JP’s approved the expense unanimously.

It was also announced that The Sevier County Library System will remain closed due to COVID-19 cases rising locally, however business can still be conducted through the slot door and are available for information online through their website and Facebook.

The Sevier County Quorum Court Meetings are always held the 2nd Monday of the month at 2:00 p.m.

THE GREAT PASSION PLAY ADAPTS TO SOCIAL DISTANCE RESTRICTIONS    06/10/20

The Great Passion Play is up and running this summer.  They have shows on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in Eureka Springs, AR.

They have limited the capacity of their theater to just 25% to allow for even more than 6 feet between you and other family groups.  This re-opening plan was approved by the Arkansas Department of Health, and they are continuing to take many precautions to keep you and your family safe.
You will find the following when you visit:
  • 6 foot markings in lines to the box office to get tickets, into the theater, and throughout the gift shops and property.
  • Hand sanitizer is available at all entrances to our facility.
  • Every seat that is used is disinfected.
The Holy Land Tour start time has been pushed back to 2:00 pm in June.
We now have Passion Play performances on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for June and July. Check our online schedule for shows in August, September, and October.
The Passion Play is performed in the outdoors with a great amount of space between you and others, and they can’t wait for you to come to Eureka Springs to experience it.  We do have half-priced Adult tickets for the Great Passion Plan on sale here at our #1 Country studios.  If you are looking for something to do this summer for your entire family, this would be a great time to check out the Great Passion Play.  Call us at (870) 642-2446 for more information.
The Great Passion Play is owned by a non-profit organization whose desire is to make the Scriptures come alive and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through live drama. The Great Passion Play is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit Organization and all donations are tax-deductible.  If you cannot go or do not feel comfortable attending this summer, you may donate on line to keep this ministry going.
They currently have a $300,000 matching challenge from a family and are asking for your help to meet that goal.  As of June 9th, 2020 they have raised $187,418.  Click here to donate.

SEVIER COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT MONTHLY TOTALS RELEASED 06/09/20

The Sevier County Sheriff’s Department has released the total monthly report for May 2020.
Deputies worked:-2,060.5 hours on duty
-22,793 miles driven
-1,625.9 gallons of fuel used
-214 calls taken
-20 Motor Vehicle Accidents worked
-53 traffic stops
-5 citations issued
-50 warnings given
-13 arrests made
-15 civil process served
and 1,265 building checks conducted.

The Sevier County Sheriff’s Department is located at 137 Robinson Road, De Queen Arkansas and can be reached at 870-642-6100.

DE QUEEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS UPDATE 06/09/20

De Queen Public Schools are currently working on preparations for the 2020-2021 school year and creating plans that align with state guidelines for the return to on-site learning. The first day of school is August 13th. Currently, the school district is providing therapy services to those in need. Some extracurricular groups, such as football, cheerleading, and band have been allowed to resume their summer activities and are following the guidelines provided by the Arkansas Activities Association and health department. We would like to remind everyone that the 2020 Junior Senior Prom will be held July 25th in the high school cafeteria and the 2020 Commencement Ceremony will be July 31st.

Construction Update on New High School and beginning of Phase 2.

DHS students will be returning to school in the fall and will be welcomed with a brand new high school. Construction for the new high school is nearing completion and furniture is expected to begin being moved in this month.

Meanwhile, contractors have been able to begin work on Phase Two of the construction project which is a $2.45 million project for facility improvements. Those improvements included renovating 32,000 square feet of the old high school and will consist of the following:

  • Enlarging the junior high cafeteria by 1200 sq. ft.,
  • Renovating the junior high home economics room
  • Renovating the choir room
  • A new nurse/health center
  • A state of the art television studio and production lab
  • Extra classrooms for the junior high and for possible future district growth.
  • The entire building will have new finishes such as flooring, pain, and ceilings.

Some in the community may have seen that parts of the old high school have been demolished and the district understands that some community members may be feeling emotional about the loss of part of the structure. State funding requirements called for the demolition of 29,000 square feet of the structure. That area will be replaced by a courtyard/commons area that will serve as a gathering place for student activities such as pep rallies, student group meetings, and outdoor classrooms. The district is also currently in the process of parking lot improvements and roof replacement and repairs on several district buildings. These improvements have been made possible because of the community’s commitment to education, and when completed De Queen Public Schools will have one of the finest high school buildings and campuses in the region!

Honoring Retirees

The end of the 2019-2020 school year will also be the last year of service for several employees for De Queen Public Schools. Five employees with a total of 143 years of service in the district are retiring this year.

Robert Sikes                38 years
Phyllis Hughes              39 years
Tambra Smith              24 years
Lora Angerbauer          16 years
Joe Coulter                   26 years

Superintendent Jason Sanders said, “We appreciate our retirees for their years of service and all they have done for the students of De Queen Schools.”  The district would like to thank our retirees for their decades of service, commitment, and dedication to the students of De Queen Public Schools and wish all of them the best as they enjoy retirement.

LOCKESBURG COUNCIL TO MEET TONIGHT 06/09/20

Lockesburg City Council will meet Tuesday, June 9th, 2020, 6:30 P.M.  At the Senior Center.  Items on the agenda include:

  • Visitor Comment time
  • Actions for the Council Members:
        • Approval of May Minutes
        • Approval of May Budget & Council Financials
        • Department Heads
        • Walking Trail
        • Alternative Walking Trail from College
        • Wastewater Discharge Permit has been Approved
        • Speed Bumps
        • Arkansas Rural Development Senior Center Kitchen Grant Approval
        • Resolution 2020- Federal Support to rebuild Local Economies
        • Building Permit 2020-2
        • Other
        • Approval of April Bills
The State Parks division was awarded $9 million for park improvements, including $900,000 for War Memorial Stadium renovations and upgrades, and $9 million to the Division of Arkansas Heritage for various improvement projects around the state.
State law directs the council to use its funds from a real estate transfer tax for the acquisition, management and stewardship of state-owned lands or the preservation of state- owned historic sites, buildings, structures, or objects. The council can spend money on objects determined to be of value for recreational or conservation projects.

UA COSSATOT TO HOLD DRIVE-THRU REGISTRATION 06/08/20

The University of Arkansas Cossatot will be hosting four drive-thru registration events at each campus on June 18 and 19 for students to enroll in classes for the fall semester and July four-week flex courses. Students will also have the opportunity to speak with advisors, ask questions, and request information in-person. UA Cossatot’s Student Services department has been enrolling students in summer and fall classes since April online, over the phone, via zoom, and through Facebook. Registration will continue through these platforms, but these events will provide in-person advising and registration for returning and new students.

The college has organized a two-day drive-thru registration event that will take place at each of the college’s four campuses while following CDC safety guidelines.

The first registration event will take place on Thursday, June 18, at the De Queen Campus from 9:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M. Drive-thru registration in Ashdown will take place that evening from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.

On Friday, June 19, Nashville drive-thru registration will take place at Nashville from 9:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M., and the last event will take place in Lockesburg from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. on the same day.

Visitors will need to wear a facemask and enter through the main entrance of each campus where they will be directed to the proper station. Returning and first-time students from any county can attend any event to register for classes held at any campus or online.  New students are also encouraged to bring a copy of their shot record, any placement scores, and either their high school transcript or GED scores, if they have them, as this will expedite the process. All students who attend a drive-thru registration event will receive a free UA Cossatot t-shirt.

UA Cossatot Director of Student Services, Suzanne Ward, said, “Since COVID-19 we have moved operations online by taking care of students via e-mail, phone, text, social media, and zoom, but we really miss our students! This event will provide an opportunity for students to receive the friendly one-on-one attention they are accustomed to while also ensuring that proper social distancing and CDC guidelines are followed. We are excited to help students, but also to provide them something safe and fun to do. We plan to have music, snow cones, and maybe some freebies to give away. We hope it will be a fun and productive couple of days!”

For more information about the UA Cossatot drive-thru registration events or to enroll in classes online, please visit UA Cossatot’s Facebook page, www.cccua.edu, or e-mail UA Cossatot’s Student Services department at studentservices@cccua.edu.

REPRESENTATIVE DEANN VAUGHT WEEKLY REPORT 06/08/20

This week, we want to remind you of a rapidly approaching deadline for incoming and returning college students. The deadline to apply for the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship is July 1.

The Academic Challenge Program provides scholarships to Arkansas residents pursuing a higher education. Funded in large part by the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, the Academic Challenge Scholarship is available to students just graduating from high school, currently enrolled in college, enrolling in college for the first time, or re-enrolling after a period of time out of college.

In the ten years since its inception, the lottery has raised more than $945 million to help provide more than 542,000 scholarships for college students. More than 92 cents of every dollar of lottery revenue goes to prizes, scholarships, retailer commissions, and other expenses in Arkansas.

Eligibility requirements forArkansas high school students include a minimum composite score on nineteen (19) on the ACT or the equivalent score on an ACT equivalent test.

Students who were originally awarded prior to the 2016-17 school year are awarded at the following rates:

Four Year College Two Year College
Year 1 $2000 $2000
Year 2 $3000 $2000
Year 3 $4000
Year 4 $5000

Starting with the 2016-17 school year students are awarded at the following rates:

Year 1 $1000 $1000
Year 2 $4000 $3000
Year 3 $4000
Year 4 $5000

Eligibility requirements have been modified due to COVID-19. For students who are receiving Arkansas Challenge, if they were on track to have enough hours and earned satisfactory academic progress until March 27, they are automatically eligible for the Fall 2021 Semester.

To apply, visit the Department of Higher Education’s website,scholarships.adhe.edu, and complete the Arkansas YOUniversal Scholarship Application or download the free YOUniversal app for your smart phone. The online YOUniversal application is your one-stop shop for state and lottery funded financial aid.

ARKANSAS AG LEADS NATIONAL FIGHT AGAINST ROBOCALLS 06/08/20

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed comments June 4th regarding proposed rules under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would facilitate continued collaboration among state attorneys general and telecom companies in tracing back illegal robocalls to their source. Rutledge, along with the North Carolina Attorney General, is leading the State Attorneys General Robocall Technologies Working Group to submit these comments to the FCC.

“I urge the FCC to swiftly enact these proposed rules which are critical to identifying, investigating and stopping illegal robocallers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Through the trace back process, illegal robocallers and the telecoms that facilitate these illegal calls will finally be exposed and held accountable for the harm they cause Arkansans.”

For the last few years, the State Attorneys General Robocall Technologies Working Group has encouraged the telecom industry to increase the number and speed of trace back investigations. Many telecom companies have joined this effort and are working hard to stop illegal robocallers. Recently, trace back investigations have become more urgent than ever because of coronavirus-related robocall scams, including scams related to coronavirus relief checks, pitches for coronavirus test kits, health plans offering coronavirus testing, work-from-home offers preying on job-seekers, and scams offering relief on utility bills, student loans, taxes, or other debt.

In May, Rutledge also submitted comments to the FCC on proposed rules regarding the implementation of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act). Rutledge’s comments urged the FCC to impose the mandate to implement the caller ID authentication technology, STIR/SHAKEN, on all types and sizes of telecommunication providers, to establish robust standards for any exceptions to this obligation, and that the costs to implement this technology should not be passed on to the consumer.

Rutledge has actively called for telephone carriers to aggressively block illegal robocalls before they reach consumers through ongoing collaborations with the FCC, telecom industry representatives and a coalition of state attorneys general. Rutledge was also instrumental in developing the Anti-Robocall Principles for telecoms to reduce the number of unwanted and illegal robocalls reaching the American people, which was adopted by 51 attorneys general and 12 major telecom providers in August 2019.

In Arkansas, Rutledge continues to lead the fight against robocalls by working with stakeholder to implement Acts 677 and 1074 of 2019 that requires telecommunication providers to submit annual reports to the Arkansas Public Service Commission to certify that all available and applicable technology is being employed to identify and block illegal robocalls and spoofing.

Arkansas is joined in submitting today’s comments by the attorneys general of all 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

BOARD CONTINUES PUSHING SEVIER COUNTY HOSPITAL PROJECT FORWARD 06/05/20

A productive Sevier County Medical Board of Governors meeting was held Thursday afternoon at the De Queen High School Cafeteria, as the group unanimously agreed to sell the bonds that will fund the new center and it’s operations. Board chairman, Dr. Steve Cole tells KDQN the board will be receiving the final estimation of construction costs to build the new hospital next week, and then a meeting with council  will be held to discuss bond rates.

The board will also be seeking liability insurance and finalizing the details of their contract with Nabholz construction company as well.

The final floor plan of the new medical center is near finalization and the board emphasized the importance of being thorough on the official blueprints before submitting to the architects because no changes will be permitted after ground is broken and the construction process begins. As far as technology for the center goes, a meeting has been scheduled for 10:00 a.m. June 16th for the official selection of an IT firm who’ll provide all technological services for the new Sevier county hospital.

Financially, a list of monetary obligations was laid out to get the board’s upcoming expenses in order. Invoices for the architectural firm, a pro forma statement, the Friday Law Firm, A.L Franks engineering and money owed to the county for the purchase of the land for the center were all included on the list of financial requirements. In order to organize the monetary aspects of the hospital building project, the board agreed to confirm current Vice Chair Greg Revels as the group treasurer as well. Revels offered services from his accounting company in De Queen.

Next week will be a busy one for the board as a zoom video conferencing meeting will be held to view a final design presentation from WD&D architects. The firm will be working closely with Nabholz to coordinate logistics between construction needs and architectural layout.

The final weeks of the phase I planning stage for the new Sevier County Hospital have emerged and phase two, the groundbreaking and construction process will begin upon the planning phase completion.

Lastly, the importance of establishing members to serve on the Foundation was reiterated as that team will need to be assembled in order for a groundbreaking event to be organized when construction begins. Each board member has been asked by Chairman Cole to come up with names of potential community members who would be willing to serve on the Hospital foundation.

All Sevier County Board of Governors meetings are held the first Thursday of each month and are always open to the public.

FITBITS AND AI – TECHNOLOGY MAY HELP IMPROVE QUALITY IN CHICKEN MEAT 06/05/20
By Fred Miller

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Have you ever wondered if your Fitbit could get you a better chicken dinner?

It sounds far-fetched, but that’s not far from what Casey Owens, Qinghua Li and Yan Huang are proposing.

Owens, professor of poultry science, and Yan Huang, assistant professor of animal science, both for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture; and Li, associate professor in the University of Arkansas department of computer science and computer engineering, have been awarded a research grant from the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association for research to detect “woody” breast in broilers using accelerometer technology.

Accelerometers are what make Fitbits work, and lots of other devices that monitor or measure motion. Owens said woody breast is one of numerous potential meat quality defects, and perhaps the one most responsible for dissatisfied chicken consumers.

Defining the problem

Owens, who is the Novus International Professor of Poultry Science at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture, conducts research on meat quality defects in broiler meat, including woody breast, white striping and others. She has recently developed predictive models for the detection of woody breast in broiler carcasses using image analysis of shapes associated with woody breast, a process for which she is seeking a patent.

Li conducts research in mobile sensing, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. He has used various sensors on mobile platforms to develop anomaly detection and machine learning technologies to address challenges in multiple disciplines.

“The broiler industry has been challenged with a condition referred to as ‘woody’ breast for the past several years that can affect a significant proportion of products,” Owens said.

“It is a condition that develops early in life and becomes more pronounced as birds get closer to market age,” Owens said. “It results in compositional changes within the meat, namely an increase in collagen and fat, which further impact meat quality.”

Owens said Woody breast has lower water holding capacity and decreased binding ability that affects some processed products. It also causes alterations to cooked meat, making it rubbery, tough, or crunchy.

“The result can be substantial economic losses for the poultry industry,” Owens said. “It can cost the industry millions of dollars annually due to lost yield, increased processing costs for more labor to sort product, and lost business because of customer dissatisfaction.”

The ability to detect woody breast could help avoid those costs, Owens said. She teamed up with Li and Huang to apply technology from the world of fitness and health monitoring to the poultry industry.

Good vibrations

Accelerometers are common technology today, Li said. Designed to measure changes in inertia, they are used in Fitbits and other wrist devices to count steps, smartphones to detect motion, and cars for many purposes, including activating the airbag in an accident. Accelerometers can even measure vibrations, and that is how Li wants to employ them.

“Woody breast must vibrate and transfer vibration differently from normal breast,” Li said. “Modern accelerometers have high resolution, as shown in various health applications, and should be able to capture such differences when combined with machine learning.”

In research expected to begin this fall, Li plans to attach accelerometers to the breasts of live birds in hopes of identifying motions associated with woody breast.

Li will place the devices on top of deboned breast meat. Vibrations will be introduced through a countertop and measured as they move through the meat, he said. These will be correlated with woody breast defects that may be present.

“Preliminary data suggest that muscles can present varying vibration patterns via accelerometers depending on degrees of woody breast severity,” Li said. “It is likely that muscle with increased collagen — indicating woody breast — and normal muscle have rather different mechanical properties that would lead to differences in vibration patterns.”

Owens said, “Development of tools that the industry can use has been an interest for us. We will have the ability to use this technology and combine it with other measurements that we have assessed for woody breast predictors, such as bird and carcass dimensions and fillet hardness.

“This proposed research is novel, unique, and has the potential to provide a useful tool to the poultry industry for detection of woody breast in live broilers and fillets,” Owens said.

Early intervention

Owens said there is a great deal of ongoing research to determine the root causes of this condition in broilers.

Woody breast is more commonly found in older, larger broilers, Owens said, and so it can affect those markets that favor larger birds, and especially larger chicken breasts.

“Developing a more predictive method of identifying birds in the field would allow better selection of animals for research and breeding programs,” she said.

Owens added that online process control is a developing area for the poultry industry because it allows processors to have more real-time quality control. The use of online assessment tools to predict woody breast would be useful to processors for its ability to sort fillets, segregate and divert woody breast away from premium whole muscle products into more suitable products, like patties and nuggets.

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch and Instagram at ArkAgResearch.

ASHDOWN SCHOOL BOARD ANNOUNCES PERSONNEL CHANGES 06/04/20

The Ashdown School Board held a specially called meeting Thursday May 28th to discuss personnel issues and a few new business items. A new job description was recommended by Superintendent Casey Nichols and the Board approved the decision to add a Jr. High stem Coach position which will be effective July 1st.

The Board and Superintendent also established “critical academic licensure areas” for the 2020-2021 school year. The critical shortage stipend will only be applied to new teachers within the locally designated area of Jr. High Mathematics. This applies to teachers who are fully certified at the time of employment.

As far as personnel goes, many changes were made for the faculty and staff of the Ashdown district, including the board’s acceptance of the retirement of Susan Ryan Murray, effective June 30th along with the hire of Stephanie Rowe as a High School English Teacher effective July 1st.

Other personnel changes include the hire of 6th grade science teacher, Madison Taylor who is in the MAT program at Southern Arkansas University, and the move of Audrey Jones from a 205 day contract to one that includes 240. Both of these changes will be effective as of July 1st.

The board agreed to delete the existing transportation director salary and add transportation director to child nutrition director salary and update policy 8.1 to reflect the change, effective July 1. Kellie Hallet was approved to be placed on step 18 of the schedule and the associated $4,000 extra duty pay was removed and will also be effective July 1.

A similar change was made as the board placed Beth Provence on step 22 of the District Business manager, maintenance and technology Director schedule also effective July 1.

The next Ashdown School Board meeting will be held Monday, June 8th at 6:00 p.m.

AGFC ACCEPTING WMA DEER HUNT APPLICATIONS THROUGH JULY 1 06/04/20
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has opened the application period to hunt deer on popular wildlife management areas until July 1st. Hunters interested in pursuing white-tailed deer during the permit-only hunt can apply online at www.AGFC.com

AGFC Wildlife management areas are an excellent opportunity to bag deer during hunting season, but popular hunting areas can become overcrowded without these special restrictions. On many of the most popular areas, the AGFC conducts special draw hunts to maintain healthy deer herds and high-quality hunting experiences.

Applicants for WMA Deer Hunt permits must provide a $5 nonrefundable processing fee at the time of the application for each hunt they apply for. If successful, they will receive their permit without any additional fees. Each hunter may submit one application for each type of permit hunt, youth hunt, archery, muzzle loader and modern gun. Hunters must be at least 6 years old to apply for any WMA permit hunt.

Hunters applying for youth hunts must be at least 6, but no older than 15 the day the hunt begins. To apply, a customer ID must be set up with the AGFC licensing system. They, or their legal guardian must create a new profile with the correct age before the system will show any options to apply for a youth permit hunt. Additionally, youth must use their own customer ID when checking in any big game in Arkansas.

Applicants may apply as individuals or as a group of up to four people. To apply as a group, the party hunt leader applies as though he or she were applying as an individual. Once the permit application is completed and paid for, a party hunt code will be issued and can be found underneath the application line on their updated hunting license via email. They may then share that code with up to three other individuals. The rest of the party must then apply and respond yes when asked if they are members of a party hunt. They may then enter the code and continue applying. Applying as a party does not increase the chances of each individual being drawn. 

Find out more at AGFC.com

DREAM BIG FOR ARKANSAS ALIGNS WITH STATE ECONOMIC RECOVERY TASK FORCE 06/04/20

During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Republican Women Legislative Caucus developed “Dream BIG For Arkansas: Bold Initiatives for the Good of Arkansas” which resulted in legislation in five key areas: healthcare, broadband, childcare, education and juvenile justice reform. All of these bills became Acts with nearly unanimous support from the General Assembly.

 Last week during the Governor’s daily COVID-19 update, Governor Hutchinson outlined a number of recommendations from the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force chaired by Steuart Walton. Three of the key issues they identified as important to Arkansas’s economic recovery and growth are completely in line with legislation our caucus passed: broadband, childcare, and healthcare.

Senator Missy Irvin (R- Mountain View) released the following statement: “Dream BIG for Arkansas successfully designed and passed “game-changing” legislation of policies that would dramatically advance Arkansas’s economic standing in our country. The leadership of these women in their communities and our shared experiences and passion for our citizens, led to great work during the past session. This work continues everyday as we respond to our constituents’ experiences and circumstances. Dream BIG strives to make Arkansans’ lives better. We have a lot of work left to do!”

Act 198: An Act to amend the Telecommunications Regulatory Reform Act of 2013; to provide additional access to Federal Communications Commission-Defined Broadband Service. This Act laid the foundation for the Rural Broadband ID Program that was passed this past fiscal session. Many members of the General Assembly – from both parties – have requested for this program to be fully funded as soon as possible. This program assists local communities along with their internet service providers with grants to meet the federal grant requirements available for expanding rural broadband access for federally eligible rural areas. It is a companion program for Governor Hutchinson’s AR Rural Connect Program, which has been fully funded. Now more than ever, our state must focus on increasing broadband access to the home for students, businesses, and patients.

Act 131: An Act to encourage Child Care Facility Entrepreneurship in Arkansas conferencing the duties of the Division of Child Care and Early Education within the Department of Human Services. This act lays the foundation for the reconnections of the Task Force. This legislation was designed to expand childcare options, especially in underserved areas, by making information more available through a website, reducing regulations as much as possible, and finding ways to fund and support entrepreneurship for child care facilities.

Act 181: An Act concerning the pursuit of a National Cancer Institute Designated Cancer Center at the Winthrop P Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; to create the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences National Cancer Institute Designation Trust Fund. Clearly with the current pandemic, there is a great need for UAMS to be fully engaged in ALL areas of research and assistance In order to advance healthcare in Arkansas. UAMS has been a key partner with the Arkansas Department of Health in all areas of dealing with the Coronavirus Pandemic. Pursuing NCI designation has already brought great talent to UAMS and will raise our states opportunities for greater engagement for research and funding for these efforts. This legislation launched UAMS into a higher level of recognition and opportunities. This will be incredibly important for our citizens not just in cancer treatment, but in all areas of improving their health.

The Republican Women’s Legislative Caucus is working to continue our bold initiatives for the Good of Arkansas by building on these key areas of economic recovery and growth as identified by the Task Force, as well as education and workforce sustainability and development. We applaud their work and recommendations and are encouraged to continue our work for

PEACE EVENT AND PRAYER GATHERING IN DE QUEEN THURSDAY AFTERNOON 06/03/20

A peaceful solidarity gathering and prayer walk has been organized by local residents in De Queen for this Thursday, June 4th at 5:00 p.m. The event is family friendly and community leaders have secured the support of The De Queen Police Department for safety and security of all participants.
Social distancing and wearing masks is being strongly encouraged to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The group has been permitted by Superintendent Jason Sanders to gather at the parking lot of Leopard stadium at 4:00 p.m. to make signs and peacefully assemble. The group will then walk to the courthouse downtown and gather for socially distant prayer and allow time for sharing.
Organizers say the event is being called to speak out against violence and racial discrimination against all minorities and people of color.
Everyone is welcome to attend and respect for all participants and property is a priority.
Questions can be referred to DQunity@gmail.com

LOCAL GROUP CONTINUES PETITION DRIVE THROUGH SIGNING EVENTS FOR ALCOHOL ISSUE 06/03/20

The Sevier County EDGE group is holding a Petition Signing with Drive Through locations this week, June 4-6th at the Town North Shopping Center (West of Ranch House & Dollar General)  from 7:00am to 7:00pm.

The signing event on Friday, June 5th will be in Horatio at the Old Irvan’s Grocery parking lot from 1:00pm- 5:30pm.

On Saturday June 5th the event will be held in Lockesburg 7:00am-7:00 p.m on the
Corner of Hwy 71 & Hwy 24 just South of Lockesburg Grocery.
The group is in need of 2,573 valid signatures from registered Sevier County voters in order to get the issue of being allowed to sell alcohol in the county on the November ballot. So far, EDGE  has collected approximately 1,000 signatures up to this point.More information can be found on the vote for growth facebook page.EDGE members say signing petition doesn’t not mean you are for or against the issue. Signing the petition allows the issue to be put on the ballot so the citizens of Sevier County can decide what they want to see happen with the proposal.

SEVIER COUNTY 4-H’ER WINS BEST IN SHOW IN STATE PHOTOGRAPHY CONTEST  06/02

Monica Rivas recently received first place and best in show for the 2020 State Ross Foundation 4-H Photography Contest. The contest provides an opportunity for Arkansas 4-H’ers to demonstrate, compete, and exhibit their photography skills. All 4-H members ages 9-19 are eligible and may enter a unique, original photo into each category. Categories are living color, non-living color, living black and white, and non-living black and white. Every year, hundreds of youth compete to win one of four places in the state competition. To view all winning photos, visit the Arkansas 4-H Photography Facebook Page.

Monica Rivas is the daughter of Jorge and Donna Rivas. She has been a member of 4-H for nine years.

For information about joining a 4-H club, contact Sevier County Extension Service at (870) 584-3013 or email kfrachiseur@uaex.edu.

BODY OF MISSING GIRL FOUND AT BROKEN BOW LAKE 06/02/20

The McCurtain County Sheriff’s Department recovered the body of a missing minor Tuesday morning. Social media posts asking for help in searching for Layla Johnson began circulating Monday after the child disappeared during a family gathering at Broken Bow Lake.

The search was concentrated in the area of Carson Creek and The Oklahoma Highway Patrol Water Safety Division assisted in the search.

The family was in from out of town and were reportedly visiting from California and Texas.

Foul play has not been suspected and the body has been sent for an autopsy report.

Layla Johnson was 11-years-old.

COVID-19 CONTINUES TO RISE IN ARKANSAS, SEVIER COUNTY 06/01/20

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas topped 7,000 over the weekend. As Arkansas lifts restrictions on more and more areas of daily life, a downward trend in coronavirus infections that began near the end of April has been trending back up since the second week of May. On Saturday, the number of cases rose by 236, to 7,013, marking the third-straight day of new cases in excess of 200. The number of deaths rose to by one, to 133, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Active cases statewide total 1,714.

In Sevier County, the total number of cases grew to 170 on Saturday. There are 98 active cases and two deaths due to Covid-19 as of now in Sevier County. 451 new tests were administered during a five-hour drive-through screening site set up Saturday at the De Queen Fire Department. The event was hosted by the Arkansas Department of Health, along with local assistance from Dr. Randy Walker, Dr. Jason Lofton, their staffs, and volunteers. The results of those 451 tests should be available in two to three days.

In neighboring counties, Howard County reports 20 cases with 15 recoveries and no deaths resulting in five active cases at present. Polk County reports 17 cases with nine recoveries and no deaths resulting in eight active cases. Little River County reports six cases with three recoveries and no deaths resulting in three active cases. And across the state line in Oklahoma, McCurtain County reports 35 cases with 13 recoveries and one death resulting in 21 active cases.

As of Sunday evening in Sevier County it was reported that there were 210 cases, 75 recoveries, 2 Deaths, 133 active cases , 930 negative tests.
“As a reminder, precautions such as social distancing, hand-washing, and wearing masks continue to be the best ways to slow the spread of the virus. These precautions are becoming more important as the state continues to open back up. Remember that no out-of-pocket cost and no insurance is required to be tested at local community health centers. Testing is available to anyone who wants a test regardless of whether the person has symptoms. Anyone who tests positive will be notified and provided guidance for isolating to avoid spreading COVID-19.

DE QUEEN GRAD AWARDED PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLARSHIP TO TEXAS A&M TEXARKANA 06/01/20

De Queen honor graduate Emma Kersey has been awarded the Presidential Scholarship at Texas A&M Texarkana totaling $34,000.  She plans to major in Financial Business.
Emma is a member of National Honor Society, Spanish Club, Young Voters, FCCLA, FFA, and Gifted and Talented.  She also participates in Lady Leopard softball, tennis and cheers for the Leopards.
Emma received the AVANT National Seal of Biliteracy for Spanish, Rotary March Student of the Month, and all A Honor Roll.  She has also been accepted as an Honors Student at Texas A&M.

ARKANSAS AG SECRETARY ELECTED TO NEW POSITION 06/01/20

Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward was elected President of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA) for 2020-21 during its annual conference held virtually on June 1.

“Agriculture is our state’s largest industry and I am proud to represent Arkansas within the SASDA organization,” said Ward. “It is a great honor to be elected as President and I am looking forward to helping lead the 16 southern states and territories in promoting southern agriculture at the federal level.”

Arkansas will host SASDA’s annual conference in Little Rock in 2021.

The officers elected for the 2020-2021 year also include Commissioner Kent Leonhardt of West Virginia as Vice President, Commissioner Rick Pate of Alabama as Secretary, and Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh of Virginia as Treasurer.

SASDA consists of the commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the development and implementation of policies and programs for Arkansas agriculture and forestry to keep its farmers and ranchers competitive in national and international markets while ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of the state and nation. Visit www.agriculture.arkansas.gov.

DEANN VAUGHT WEEKLY REPORT 06/01/20

On Wednesday, members of the Arkansas Legislative Council were given an update on unemployment claims in the state. This week, we have also been reviewing a preliminary report from the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force.

Arkansas’s unemployment rate doubled from 5.0% in March to 10.2% in April. The U.S. rate is 14.7%. There were more than 206,000 of initial unemployment claims filed from the week ending March 7 to the week ending May 9. For the week ending May 2, there were 119,332 continued unemployment claims.

Since May 1, close to 39,000 Arkansans have applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance resulting in $19.3 million of paid claims. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is being offered through the CARES Act and provides compensation to those not typically eligible for unemployment benefits such as free-lancers and those who are self-employed.

If you have filed for unemployment or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, be sure to check your emails for updates to your account and make sure you submit your weekly claims.

While Arkansas’s economy is faring better than many other states, the fact remains that Arkansans are hurting. The challenge now is to restore our economy and consumer confidence in a way that protects the health of workers, customers, and communities.

The Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force was created in April to develop a strategy for economic recovery efforts.

The task force released a preliminary report this week outlining several recommendations. Those recommendations include increase testing and tracing, addressing COVID-19 related liability concerns for businesses, increasing childcare resources, workforce training, and broadband availability.

The task force noted that much of Arkansas’s recovery will be predicated by our citizens and our businesses continuing to be responsible stakeholders in the recovery efforts. The report states, “Over the next few months, we will all need to adhere to Arkansas’s Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control’s directives in order to manage the impact of COVID-19 throughout our state. Importantly, we need Arkansans to maintain social distancing protocols set out by the Arkansas Department of Health in public settings. Doing so will help protect our friends and relatives from the spread of the virus and undoubtedly accelerate our state’s economic recovery.”

You can read the entire report at www.arkansasready.com

DE QUEEN LEOPARDS RETURN TO FOOTBALL IN EARLY STAGES 06/01/20

The De Queen Leopard Football Team is back in action this June. The early stages of practice begun today, June 1st as Coach Brad Chesshir reports 28 athletes turned out at Leopard stadium. Although the team is unable to scrimmage full out at this time due to COVID-19, the team still went over safety precautions that must be followed for phase one work outs. The leopards split their time between the weight room and field in two separate groups and all equipment is being sanitized between uses.

The morning session at 9am is being held for the 10th, 11th and 12th graders and the 8th and 9th graders begin at 10:30am Monday-Thursday.

The health department will reevaluate guidelines again June 30th and Chesshir says the health and safety of the students is the top priority of the program.