Local News Archive

Lockesburg passes $25 licensing fee, three-percent sales tax on alcohol sales in city 01/29/2021 By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Lockesburg has joined De Queen in passing an ordinance with local regulations on the sale of alcohol within its city limits.

The Lockesburg City Council met in special session earlier this week to pass the ordinance. The ordinance establishes a $25 licensing fee for any business or vendor that sells or serves alcohol within Lockesburg. These establishments would of course first require authorization from Arkasnas Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) to sell, serve or manufacture alcohol. In contrast to De Queen, Lockesburg’s ordinance also included a three percent sales tax on the gross revenue from all sales of alcoholic beverages in the city.

State law authorizes municipalities in Arkansas to establish their own licensing fees, taxes or other levies on businesses serving or selling alcohol. Lockesburg Mayor Danny Ruth said the city, with help from its legal counsel, voted to establish the minimum $25 licensing fee and sales tax. He said the city was not looking to harm businesses that receive authorization to sale alcohol in Lockesburg. Instead, the $25 licensing fee provides city leaders with a list of what businesses within the city are doing so. He said the idea behind the licensing fee includes assisting law enforcement in separating legitimate alcohol vendors versus any potential bootleg operations. The sales tax will also help bring in some additional revenue to the city.

The ordinance was passed with an emergency clause, meaning the new regulations went into effect immediately following the vote. The fee was set at $25 per year for each business within the city limits of Lockesburg that sells or serves alcohol. The ordinance includes a fine of between $100 and $1,000 for wholesalers that sell to a retailer violating the $25 licensing fee requirement. Any establishment with plans to sell or serve alcohol in Lockesburg would be required to fill out a Retail Beer Alcoholic Beverage Permit through the city clerk’s office. These permits will only be given to retailers who display their state alcohol permit from ABC.

Earlier this month the De Queen City Council established a similar ordinance with a $25 licensing fee for authorized retailers and restaurants. De Queen’s ordinance did not, however, establish any additional sales taxes.
During its last meeting the Sevier County Quorum Court, whose jurisdiction includes the incorporated parts of Sevier County, debated passing its own ordinance. No action was taken at that meeting but more discussion is expected in the future.

Learning and living business: Student-run Serenity Cafe opens at AHS 01/29/2021

A new student-led café opened at Ashdown High School this week and is welcoming students, staff and the whole community. The school-based enterprise, completely run by students, is an element of Ashdown High School’s program to teach entrepreneur skills to local students. Pictured from left are AHS students Rodney Owens, Addison Smedley, Allison Wooden, Emily Wooden, Will Ford and Gracie Sisemore

ASHDOWN – A new student-run coffee shop is up and running at Ashdown High School.

School officials announced this week the Serenity Café has opened its doors to business. The café, located on the high school campus, is run completely by students as part of the district’s Small Business Operations class. The Serenity Café is much like what you would expect a café to be. The menu includes everything from frappes and caramel macchiato lattes to regulary coffee and fruit slushes. Open from 7:30-9:30 a.m. each day, the café welcomes staff, students and the whole community to start their mornings with a menu selection. Debit and credit cards are welcome and students are even offering a gift card option in time for Valentine’s Day.

The coffee shop is located in the old band hall across from the football field on the Ashdown High School campus.  Patrons are asked to enter the campus from Locust Street and proceed to available parking in front of the coffee shop.

The school-based enterprise, completely run by students, is an element of Ashdown High School’s program to teach entrepreneur skills to local students. District officials say the Small Business Operations class provides experience in the day-to-day operations of a real business. This includes operating a Point of Sale System (this includes reconciling the register daily), Inventory Control, Customer Service, maintaining and cleaning the equipment, health inspection requirements, group decision making and working as a team. The students also are training in real Barista methods. All of this translates to solid experience on job applications.

Ashdown Superintendent Casey Nichols said he’s excited to see the opportunities and experience students obtain from working in the coffee shop. Those skills, he added, coupled with an understanding of the aspects of running a business, will help students become more employable after graduation.

The School Based Enterprise coffee shop was developed by Shauna Tipton, the high school’s Business Education teacher. The whole school-based enterprise program was funded by a grant from the Arkansas Department of Career Education and is in its seventh year of operation at Ashdown High School.


Jan. 31 is deadline for DQ Rotary Club’s Boulevard of Flags program 01/29/2021

DE QUEEN – The deadline is Sunday for businesses and individuals wanted to participate in the De Queen Rotary Club’s annual Boulevard of Flags program. Through this program, local businesses and homes can show off their love for the red, white and blue by having American flags placed on their property by club members. The flags are removed and stored between designated holidays. The next scheduled holiday is Presidents’ Day on Monday, Feb. 15.

The annual cost is $50 per flag. A discounted rate of $40 per flag is available for veterans and active military personnel. Proceed will be used to support the De Queen Rotary Club’s community projects.For more information, contact Tammy Huddleston at 584-2550. The deadline to register is Jan. 31. Registration forms are available on KDQN’s upcoming events page. Checks can be made payable to De Queen Rotary Club and mailed to De Queen Rotary Club, P.O. Box 122, De Queen, AR 71832.

Lockesburg Library to continue free book giveaway through February  01/29/2021

LOCKESBURG – Lockesburg Library will continue its drive-up free book giveaway during the month of February. Lockesburg Librarian Wendy Clay said some really great titles will be bagged and loaded into your waiting vehicle with no need to even get out of your car. Anyone interested can just call 870-289-2233 and a bag of books will be brought to you curbside.

The Lockesburg Library is open Wednesdays and Thursdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for curbside service. Due to COVID-19 regulations in place at all Sevier County Libraries, service is limited to curbside only. T

he Lockesburg Library has a Facebook page at facebook.com/lockesburglibrary where new books are highlighted and information about the library is updated weekly.

State warns of unemployment claim fraud when you file 2020 taxes   01/29/2021

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Tax season is upon us. It’s a stressful enough time as it is. But this year, unfortunately, many Arkansans have the added stress of dealing with fraudulent unemployment compensation claims when filing their taxes.

Victims of unemployment fraud may have income wrongfully reported in their name that could add to their tax burden. Tens of thousands of false unemployment claims were filed in Arkansas last year by con artists taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s exactly what happened to me, De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown and even Gov. Asa Hutchinson. And thousands of other Arkansans, according to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. Despite all three of us having jobs false unemployment claims were issued in our names. Fortunately most Arkansans easily saw the ploy and didn’t follow through.

But many consumers have been rightfully concerned about the safety of their personal and financial information due to this type of fraud.

And though law enforcement agencies do what they can to prevent taxpaying Arkansans from falling victim to con artists, some up front insight can go a long ways towards preventing problems. Those who received fraudulent unemployment claims in the mail, filled them out and returned them will need to be on the lookout when they go to file their claims.

If you see you’re being taxed for unemployment income you never filed, here’s what you can do.

First off, be sure that you have contacted the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services’ fraud hotline at (501) 682-1058 or completed the secure fraud reporting form online at www.dws.arkansas.gov.

If you file a police report, send a copy to the Department of Workforce Services to stop the fraudulent income from being reported to the IRS.

Authorities say do not report the fraudulent earnings as your own or file an amended return.

Independently contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to review your earnings for accuracy. Unfortunately this step could take several weeks for the SSA to update their records.

Review the IRS Guide to Employment-Related Identity Theft at www.irs.gov.

Additionally, consumers can also protect their identity and personal information by  contacting the three credit bureaus.

And you can always contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office by emailing:   OAG@ArkansasAG.gov.

Sevier County Museum announces Couples Paint Date     01/29/2021

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Museum and FrogLevel Studios will present a couples paint date night next month as Valentine’s Day approaches. The event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Sevier County Museum, located at 717 Walter Leeper Drive. The couples paint date night will be held from 5:30-8:30 p.m. that evening. Cost is $60 per person and includes all supplies, instructions and a lasagna dinner for two. Pre-register by emailing froglevelstudios160@gmail.com or call the Sevier County Museum at 642-6642.

Leopards Band members make regional, state tryouts      01/28/2021

DE QUEEN – The De Queen School District is giving a big shout out to members of the Leopard Band who earned a spot in the Region 2 All Region Band.

In fact, it’s history in the making for the Leopard Marching Band as a record number of students have qualified for the regional event.

Students qualifying for regional include Abigail San Juan, who plays 12 chair flute; Hayley Strickland, third chair oboe; Benjamin Ramirez, first chair bassoon; Alma Trejo, first chair Bass Clarinet; Saul Felip, tenor saxophone; Jafet Sotello, baritone sax; Jonathan Hernandez, 10<sup>th</sup> chair trumpet; and Brittany Hernandez, 12 chair trumpet.

Jafet Sotello, Benjamin Ramirez, Jonathan Hernandez and Brittany Hernandez have also been invited to the All State qualifiers. They are the first four leopards Band members to ever make it to the All State Band tryouts.
The All State Band tryouts are scheduled for Feb. 6 at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

Over $20 million in highway improvement projects coming to SWAR    01/28/2021

DE QUEEN – Over $20 million in infrastructure improvement will be heading to the area this year, according to a recent announcement by the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

The state is planning to replace three aging bridges on Highway 70 and 278. Those include the 70-year-old bridge spanning the Saline River on the Sevier and Howard County line. Also scheduled for replacement under this project is the bridge over the Saline River on Highway 278, built in 1963, and the bridge over the Caddo River on Highway 70 in Glenwood. That bridge is nearly 60-years-old.

All in all, the replacement projects are expected to cost around $20.5 million. Manhattan Road &amp; Bridge Company of Tulsa was awarded the contract.

Construction is expected to begin this spring. A time frame from start to finish was not immediately available but that information is expected to be announced as construction nears.

William Cheatham, ARDOT’s district engineer for Southwest Arkansas, said traffic delays will be kept to a minimum. He said all three existing bridges will remain up and in use until the new ones are constructed. He added that at least a single lane of traffic will be open at all times while work gets underway.

Rep. DeAnn Vaught provides update on Wednesday’s House session      01/28/2021

State Representative DeAnn Vaught provided us with an update on the actions taken and bills passed during yesterday’s session of the Arkansas House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced HB1211which states the Governor shall not prohibit or limit a religious organization from continuing to operate religious services during a declared emergency. The bill does not prevent the Governor however from requiring religious organizations to comply with neutral health, safety, or occupancy requirements that are applicable to all organizations and businesses.

The House Rules Committee then advanced SB76 which creates a permitting process for excursion trains to serve and sell alcoholic beverages.The full House passed HB1003. This bill ensures respectful language is used in Arkansas code regarding individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and removes from the Arkansas code the term “hearing impaired”.

The House passed HB1151 which suspends the public school rating system for the 2020-2021 school year due to the disruption to education caused by the pandemic.

The House passed HB1009 which allows a public school or an open-enrollment public charter school to distribute excess food to students for consumption on the school campus or at home.

The House passed HB1032 which allows taxpayers with military retirement benefit under $6,000 to claim a total retirement exemption up to that amount if the taxpayer has additional retirement income. The Department of Finance and Administration estimates this bill affects 700 Arkansans.

The House will reconvene at 1 p.m. this afternoon.

Ashdown man arrested for allegedly trying to trade stolen tools for marijuana      01/28/2021

ASHDOWN – An Ashdown man was arrested on a felony theft charge after allegedly trying to trade stolen tools for marijuana on Facebook.

According to records from the Little River County Circuit Court, 20-year-old Christian Lee Buck has been charged with a felony count of breaking or entering from an incident that occurred on or around Jan. 7. Ashdown police took a report from a man that day who said someone had unlawfully entered a building on his property where a restaurant is being built and stole tools from inside the building. The value of the tools was estimated to be $650 by the owner.

According to court records, investigators learned Buck was allegedly attempting to trade the tools for marijuana using Facebook. Police arrested Buck soon after. Authorities say Buck handed over the tools and admitted to stealing them.

AHFH provides donation to De Queen Primary School    01/28/2021

DE QUEEN – Thanks to help from Arkansas hunters, students at De Queen Primary School will get to enjoy some great-tasting game without all the hard work that follows pulling the trigger.

Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry recently stopped by the primary school to donate 400 bags of venison jerky to De Queen students. The organization describes itself as a community-minded program that provides venison and other wild game to those in need. Organizations, businesses and churches both local and across the state have joined hunters in transforming an abundant white-tail deer population in Arkansas into a renewable food source for the hungry.

Educators at De Queen Primary School said the donation will be placed in the school’s food pantry.

This is a busy time of year for Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry with the deer season winding down. But that should not discourage anyone from reaching out the organization if they want to lend a hand. With the growing number of deer in Arkansas and pretty liberal bag limits, hunters can make a real difference in helping feeding agencies across the state. Feeding agencies have a difficult time obtaining meat or protein and that’s where hunters can help.

AHFH provides the venison at no cost to the agencies, but does have to raise money to pay for processing costs. The organization needs to raise about $100,000 to fund the program annually. Individuals, hunting clubs, businesses, churches, and other groups are encouraged to donate funds.

Hunters may donate a portion of a processed deer to a participating processor. They may leave a couple of packs or pounds of ground venison burger with the processor and tell them they want to donate the meat to AHFH. The processor must be on the AHFH registered list.

An entire deer may be donated to AHFH by dropping off a field dressed or ice chest quartered deer to a participating processor.

AHFH stresses it cannot pay the fee for field dressing or skinning. Anyone wishing to have the processor dress or skin the deer, should make sure they check with the processor on whether or not they provide this service and be ready to pay charges.

For more information or to donate, call 501-282-0006 or visit www.arkansashunters.org

Leopard Vision releases first live production    01/28/2021

DE QUEEN – De Queen High School students have released their first live production of Leopard Vision, the locally-based television production program and show launched this year at De Queen High School.

This edition of the monthly magazine show includes highlights on the Leopard family, a look at School Board Appreciation Month, an inside view of the De Queen Agri Department, a virtual tour of the newly renovated choir room and football program’s new weight room, and the Leopard Overtime segment. Leopard Vision can be viewed on the DQTV De Queen High School Television Production YouTube channel. A link can also be found on the De Queen School District’s Facebook page.

AGFC announces all-day duck hunting opportunities Jan. 31 on WMAs      01/28/2021

Duck hunters looking for a shot to finish the season on a high note will have one day to enjoy all-day hunting on all Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife management areas this year. On Jan. 31, duck hunters may hunt WMAs from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset to wrap up Arkansas’s regular duck season.

Historically, all duck hunting on WMAs must end at noon, with the exception of the final three days of the season. Last year, that three-day span was shortened to a single day.

During parking lot surveys during the last two years and anecdotal evidence from hunters in the field, the AGFC determined that it really only increased harvest on the first day that all-day hunting was allowed. Hunt-quality, however, was reduced for the second and third of those days, according to Brad Carner, AGFC chief of wildlife management. The hope is that this all-day hunt will maintain hunt quality for the last weekend of the season with one extended day.

Hunting also is allowed all-day during youth and veteran’s waterfowl hunt days, including the last hunt of the year, Feb. 6.

Nearby WMAs include De Queen Lake, Howard County WMA, Lake Greeson WMA, Caney Creek WMA, Provo WMA and White Cliffs Natural Area WMA.

Application period open for revamped Paycheck Protection Program     01/28/2021

The Paycheck Protection Program, a vital lifeline that helped keep pandemic-ravaged small businesses</a> afloat, has fully reopened to all participating lenders after initially limiting who was eligible.

In an attempt to rectify past criticisms that the program favored larger borrowers, the rescue fund – which provides forgivable loans to businesses if they maintain their payroll – had initially only been available to first-time borrowers, according to new guidance from the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department.

Although the federal government backs the loans, the money is issued by financial institutions such as banks, credit unions and community lenders. Most lenders that participated in the earlier rounds are expected to do so again.

At least $40 billion has been set aside for businesses with 10 or fewer employees and for loans under $250,000 in low-income areas.

The relaunched program is expected to inject much-needed relief into the U.S. economy after employers unexpectedly cut 140,000 jobs in December amid a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases.

While the eligibility formula is the same for first-time applicants, only businesses with 300 employees or fewer are eligible to receive a second loan, which will be capped at $2 million.

Businesses are still required to spend at least 60 percent of the money on maintaining payroll in order for the government to forgive the full loan. The remaining 40 percent can be spent on operating costs such as mortgages, rent and utilities.

Over the course of roughly four months in 2020, the PPP distributed about $525 billion in forgivable loans to 5.2 million companies, saving an estimated 50 million jobs, according to the www.foxbusiness.com/money/trump-administration-release-names-of-ppp-borrowers-says-program-supported-51m-jobs”>SBA

The renewed program is expected to close to all borrowers on March 31. For more information, including the application process, visit www.sba.gov

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures    01/28/2021

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Wednesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Sevier County saw a small increase in its active COVID-19 caseload, growing by two to a current total of 40. Overall cases rose by four to 2,327. Deaths remain at 25.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported five fewer active cases for a current total of 44. Total cases grew by three to 1,014 while deaths remained at 39.

Howard County reported three additional active cases yesterday for a new total of 69. Cumulative cases in Howard County increased by five to 1,322. Deaths remain at 21.

Polk County saw another day in which active cases declined, this time falling by eight to 85. Total cases increased slightly to 1,626. Deaths remain at 55.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported 18 additional active cases yesterday for a total 260. Total cases grew by 39 to 3,406. Deaths remain at 57.

Across the state, the Arkansas Department of Health reported an additional 1,777 new cases on Wednesday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to just under 289,000 since spring 2020. Active cases did see a net decrease yesterday, falling by around more than 400 for a current total of 17,686 active cases. Deaths increased by 52 over the previous 24-hour period. The death toll from COVID-19 in Arkansas now totals 4,742. Hospitalizations decreased by 66, leaving 1,029 Arkansans still hospitalized due to the virus.

Lockesburg woman charged with negligent homicide, DWI for 2020 wreck    01/27/2021

NASHVILLE – A Lockesburg woman is facing charges for her involvement in a 2020 vehicular accident that left one man dead.

According to court records, 33-year-old Brandi Turner of Lockesburg has been charged with negligent homicide as well as second degree battery and driving while intoxicated in relation to the accident on Oct. 17 of last year. The charges were filed yesterday in the Howard County Circuit Court.

Prosecutors allege Turner was intoxicated at the time of the accident. According to the Arkansas State Police, Turner was traveling north on Highway 27 around 11:30 that night when she crossed the centerline and collided with two other vehicles. The investigating state trooper reported Turner collided head-on with a 2013 Dodge Avenger. The driver of the avenger, 58-year-old Tony Ray Young of Mineral Springs, was killed in the accident. A passenger, listed as an unnamed minor in the report, was injured.

No injuries occurred in the third vehicle, according to the investigating state trooper. Road and weather conditions at the time of the accident were reported as clear and dry.

The investigation continued following the accident with the authorities issuing a warrant for access to Turner’s cellphone. Charges were then formally filed yesterday.

A toxicology report alleges Turner was over the legal limit in terms of alcohol consumption when the accident occurred. The negligent homicide charge is a Class B Felony which can carry a sentence of five to 20 years in prison. In addition, Turner has been charged with second degree battery for the minor injured in the accident. That charge can carry an additional sentence of three to 10 years in prison upon conviction.

RSVP for meeting of new economic development group in Sevier County    01/27/2021

DE QUEEN – Sevier County residents interested in joining a broad effort to increase economic development in the area are invited to attend a meeting next month.

The annual FRIENDS Foundation meeting for 2021 will take place at the Herman Dierks Park Community Building in De Queen on Friday, February 5, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. The meeting is open to the public.

Topics to be discussed at the meeting will include future projects, funding progress toward the annual budget, and potential projects to establish the Sevier County Opportunity Zone Investment Fund. Masks will be required, and social distancing will be encouraged.
Economic development officials in Sevier County announced the new foundation late last year. They say the group’s goal is benefiting the county and its economic environment.

The foundation recently became an official 501 (c) (3) with the IRS allowing donors to receive tax credits. This foundation aims for funds to be raised from donations to assist Sevier County and its residents in cultivating and completing economic development projects and activities.

FRIENDS stands for Funding Retention and Increasing Efforts for Notable Economic Development in Sevier County. It was created last year with citizens of Sevier County in mind. Anyone who donates a minimum of $100 automatically becomes a member of the FRIENDS Foundation and with the stated mission that raised funds will help Sevier County grow financially. In addition, organizers say the organization will provide the Sevier County Economic Development department with the opportunity to receive money for business development, training, advertising, and assistance with projects to benefit the local area. Maurer said the foundation will look for projects within opportunity zones while also keeping site selection, business retention, and training efforts in mind to help with business development.
For questions on becoming a FRIENDS member or to RSVP for the FRIENDS Foundation’s annual meeting, contact Sevier County Economic Development Director Tiffany Maurer at <a href=”mailto:tmaurer@cccua.edu”>tmaurer@cccua.edu</a> or 870-584-1184.

Fran Williams appointed to Lockesburg City Council     01/27/2021

The Lockesburg City Council has a new councilor after one was appointed last week to fill a vacant seat.

The council met in regular session on Jan. 19 to make the appointment as well as discuss a number of other items of city business. The council addressed the vacant seat first. The seat was left open after the resignation of Donna Gallaher on Dec. 31 of last year. With the resignation being in the middle of her term, the council was required to make a special appointment to the seat.

Two candidates expressed interest in filling the position: Fran Williams and Tracy Sutton. Following an executive session, the Lockesburg City Council voted 3-2 in favor of Williams. Williams was sworn in immediately after the vote and will now fill the vacant seat on the Lockesburg City Council for the remainder of Gallaher’s term. In addition to Williams, the current city council includes Claudine Tompkins, Sandy Webb, Rodger Ridley, Bill Roberts and Steven Hill. They were sworn in by Mayor Danny Ruth during last week’s meeting as was city recorder/treasurer Becky Jegstrup.

The council also discussed a possible land swap deal between the city and Lloyd and Janet Ballard of Lockesburg. After a discussion the issue was tabled to allow the city to consult with the city attorney and tax assessor’s office. The deal is expected to be revisited at the council’s next meeting.In other business, the council voted to keep its existing monthly meeting time and date. Future regular meetings will still be held on the second Tuesday of each month beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The council then approved a $3,500 bid from J&M Displays for the city’s 2021 Fourth of July Celebration. The council also approved a $480 order with the De Queen Rotary Club for 12 flags through the club’s Boulevard of Flags program.

The council discussed at length the city’s animal control problem. Although several options were discussed, no action was taken and the issue was tabled for further review.

Finally, a bid of just under $9,500 was accepted to finish updates to the Lockesburg Fire Department.

Sevier County Museum to host Couples Date Paint Night    01/27/2021

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Museum and FrogLevel Studios will present a couples paint date night next month as Valentine’s Day approaches. The event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Sevier County Museum, located at 717 Walter Leeper Drive. The couples paint date night will be held from 5:30-8:30 p.m. that evening. Cost is $60 per person and includes all supplies, instructions and a lasagna dinner for two. Preregister by emailing froglevelsudioes160@gmail.com</a> or call the Sevier County Museum at 642-6642.

Spanish-language small business virtual seminar is tomorrow      01/27/2021

DE QUEEN – State and local organizations of Arkansas are teaming up this week to provide information and resources for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs in the natural state this month.

The “Starting a Business in Arkansas” workshop will be held virtually tomorrow, Jan. 28 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and this event will be delivered in Spanish.

Information presented will include legal requirements, licensing, key issues for success in small businesses and more.

This workshop is free of charge and is being sponsored by the CREATE BRIDGES group, the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce and other state and federal agencies. Registration can be completed at www.asbtdc.ecenterdirect.com. For questions call (870) 230-5184.

Gov. Hutchinson provides update on COVID-19, vaccines    01/27/2021

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

The Arkansas Department of Health reported just under 2,500 new cases of COVID-19 across the state on Tuesday. During his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce press conference that afternoon, Hutchinson said the figure was higher than hoped but nonetheless smaller than the record highs reached in late December and early January. He also pointed out Monday’s total of 636 was the lowest one-day increase recorded since the beginning of the year.

Other figures shared on Tuesday weren’t as encouraging, with new single-day deaths remaining relatively high. Hutchinson said 40 additional Arkansans died from COVID-19 over the previous 24-hour period. So far, nearly 4,700 people have died in Arkansas from the virus. Hospitalizations also marked a slight uptick, rising by 11 for 1,095 Arkansans currently hospitalized by COVID-19. Active cases grew by several hundred to more than 18,000 currently confirmed and probable active cases in Arkansas.

Hutchinson indicated a more hopeful picture using the state’s latest unemployment figures as a metric of Arkansas’ economic recovery. Those figures show a drop in Arkansas’ unemployment rate from 6.3 percent in November to 4.2 percent in December.  At the same time the state is reporting a growth in its overall workforce. Combined, Hutchinson said, this data suggests Arkansas is recuperating from the financial impacts of COVID-19.

Moving to vaccines, Hutchinson stated Arkansas’ rollout of vaccinations under Phase 1-B is occurring across the state and proceeding efficiently. He cited a New York Times article suggesting Arkansas ranks 10th among states for most effective vaccine distributions. He added that the state is keeping registered second doses on hand for Arkansan’s who’ve already received the first round of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, an infectious disease control specialist with the Arkansas Department of Health, also spoke during Tuesday’s press conference to address concerns over the vaccine, how it was developed and its effectiveness.

She then urged Arkansans who get vaccinated to continue following COVID-19 guidelines such as public masking and social distancing in part to help slow the spread of new variants of COVID-19.

Arizona man accused of operating illegal adoption scheme in De Queen, elsewhere now in federal prison    01/26/2021

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

An Arizona man who operated an illegal adoption scheme in De Queen and other locations across the nation headed to prison last week.

Paul Petersen became an inmate of the federal prison in El Paso on Thursday, Jan. 21. Petersen was sentenced in Arkansas last month to 6.5 years after pleading guilty to one count of human trafficking. Initially, the former Arizona attorney faced 19 charges involving trafficking and fraud, but that changed due to a plea deal made on June 24, 2020.

The charges all relate to an adoption scheme Petersen had orchestrated for years and which burst into the national scene in 2019. In effect, for at least the past decade Petersen had assisted in smuggling pregnant women from the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the United States so their babies could be adopted for financial gain. Petersen charged couples $35,000 to adopt these children. In compensation the women were told they would receive $10,000. Prosecutors described the scheme as a “baby-selling enterprise” and that Petersen had organized over 70 illegal adoptions. These actions violated a compact between the United States and Marshall Islands which bands Marshallese people from traveling to the United States for adoptions unless they have a specific visa. None of the women involved were provided that visa.

Thanks to a multi-state investigation, Petersen’s actions were uncovered and federal charges swiftly filed against him. He was arrested in October of 2019. Nonetheless, the scheme left dozens of victims in its wakes. And many with a connection to De Queen.
De Queen was one of several locations used by Petersen to hide the women as they completed their pregnancies. Witnesses to one of the locations described it as a “baby mill,” with numerous pregnant women sleeping on mattresses on the floor. As many as 10 pregnant women were kept in a home in De Queen at any given time.

Officially what Petersen committed was human trafficking, but in many ways resembled imprisonment. If not in theory then almost certainly in practice. The women were isolated in De Queen, unable to speak the language or communicate their situation to anyone who could help. The women’s movements and communications were heavily restricted. Testimony provided against Petersen stated he and his surrogates intimidated victims by threatening to confiscate their passport and claiming that they’d never be able to see their family again unless they fully cooperated.

Although Petersen’s scheme promised money and support, the situation pregnant Marshallese mothers faced when they arrived was not what they were told.

Instead, in many cases they found themselves trapped in squalid homes and in living conditions which prosecutors said hardly any American would tolerate.

In December a group of Marshallese women who were victims of the scheme visited the home where they were kept. It was hoped the visit would bring some closure to these women’s experiences as victims of human trafficking. With Petersen now serving his sentence in a federal prison, that chapter might now be coming to a final end.

Chamber banquet cancelled, nominations for new board members underway     01/26/2021

DE QUEEN – Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, The De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has announced that the annual awards banquet slated for 2021 is being postponed with a new date to be announced at a later time.

Held in February each year, the chamber banquet typically takes place at De Queen High School with tables reserved for members and guests, a meal served, a silent auction, and an awards presentation for recognized organizations, volunteers and businesses. In years past the ceremony has also included performances by The De Queen High School Jazz Band, a live emcee and serving provided by The De Queen High School cross country team.

The decision to postpone the banquet came during a specially called Board of Directors meeting in December. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the Chamber Board agreed to prioritize the safety of the community by postponing the event until large gatherings can be held without concerns of COVID-19 exposure.

Though the event will be pushed back on the calendar, banquet attendees can still expect a fun theme, table decorating contest, silent auction, meal and awards to be distributed as usual. The 2021 Banquet theme will also be announced as the rescheduled date draws closer.
Questions can be referred to 870-584-3225, via email at <a href=”mailto:DQchamber@gmail.com”>DQchamber@gmail.com</a> or message the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

In a press release, the Chamber board of Directors said it appreciates the continued support of all members and community representatives. More information about the annual membership banquet will be released as details become available.

The chamber is currently reaching out to members via email to invite them to vote on the new individuals nominated to serve on the chamber board of directors. Those potential directors include Zac Battiest of State Farm Insurance, Alicia Gonzalez of Meraki Hair Studio, Ryan Pitchford of Walmart, Mick Martin of Lansdell Family Clinic, Jessica McGough of the De Queen Fire Department, Melinda Taggart of Sevier County Tourism, Erik Smith of Amp Fitness, Lance Bradshaw of the De Queen School District and Nelson Ramirez of Cricket Wireless.

Pine seedling giveaway in Broken Bow Feb. 4    01/26/2021

BROKEN BOW, Okla. – The Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce will host the annual Weyerhaeuser Pine Seedling Giveaway on Feb. 4 starting at 8:30 a.m.

Seedlings will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Trees will be small seedlings.

The event will take place at the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce Office at 113 West Martin Luther King Drive.

It’s recommended to be at the Chamber office as close as possible to the start time to ensure receipt of a tree. According to Chamber officials the seedling giveaway is a popular event and tree supplies often go fast. There is a limit of 25 seedlings per person.

Unlike some previous years, hardwoods will not be available this year.

For more information on the event, contact the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce office at 584-3393 or by email at bchamber@pine-net.com.

Cooperative Extension Service offering free workshop for small enterprises looking to do business with state and local governments    01/26/2021

For small businesses looking to expand their clientele, the State of Arkansas could be a potential customer.

The Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center will offer a free virtual workshop, “Selling to the State of Arkansas,” on Feb. 11 from 1-2:30 p.m. Participants will learn about state procurement regulations and procedures for submitting bids with the state.

There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. Register now!

The Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center is housed at the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. It provides government contracting technical assistance to Arkansas small businesses.

In 2020, the center’s clients received more than $204 million in federal, state, and local government contracts. Of that amount, $9.4 million were from state and local contracts.

“This equates to 4,342 jobs created or retained in the state of Arkansas,” PTAC program director Melanie Berman said. “Arkansas PTAC has worked very hard over the past few years to connect our small business clients to purchasing officials within the federal, state and local government. Sometimes the most difficult part of selling to the government is understanding what each government agency’s preferred process is for vendors.”

At the Feb. 11 workshop, PTAC counselors will teach participants what is needed to sell to the state of Arkansas. Leaders from the Office of State Procurement will also share best practices for vendors, and participants will be able to ask questions.

For more information, visit http://uaex.edu/ptac,  email PTAC@uaex.edu, or call 501-671-2390.

To learn more about Division of Agriculture publications, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu. Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/UAEX_edu.

Arkansas Travel Guide now available across state    01/26/2021

The 2021 Arkansas Travel Guide is now available at Welcome Centers and tourism locations across the state. You can order a print edition or view the guide online at arkansas.com/publications.

“For those of us who call The Natural State home, the virtues of the state are clear – stunning scenic views, compelling sites and award-winning culinary opportunities,” said Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst. “We hope the 2021 Travel Guide will help you explore these places.”

Featuring stunning photography and content meant to educate and inspire, the guide is designed to encourage travelers to discover their own adventures in The Natural State.

“Arkansas is full of unique destinations for visitors of all ages. This guide aims to help travelers discover both the highly popular places as well as the lesser-known attractions in The Natural State easily so they can focus on enjoying all our state has to offer,” said Arkansas Tourism Director Travis Napper.

The 2021 edition features a magazine-style format that showcases images and content in dynamic layouts. Topics include Arkansas’s natural attractions, museums, arts destinations, mountain biking, live entertainment, historical sites, dining and much more.

Written and designed by Arkansas Tourism and CJRW, the travel guide is published annually.

Sevier County Extension offering PAT classes in February      01/26/2021

DE QUEEN – Sevier County Extension Service will hold Pesticide Applicator Training (PAT) sessions on Tuesday, February 9 and on Thursday, February 11, 2021.  Pre-registration is required by calling Dana at (870) 584-3013.  Due to COVID-19 guidelines, each class is limited to only nine participants.  You must wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures    01/26/2021

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Monday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Sevier County reported an additional death due to COVID-19 on Monday. That raises the death toll from the virus in Sevier County to 25 since the pandemic began. Active cases did see a slight drop, falling to 39 – the lowest recorded in months. Total cases grew by four to 2,316.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported four fewer active cases on Sunday, dropping the current figure to 49. Total cases rose to 1,002. Deaths remain at 39.

Howard County also reported an additional death on Monday, raising the total to 21. Active cases saw a net decrease, falling to 52 currently confirmed and probable active cases. Total cases grew by three to 1,301.

Active cases fell below the three-digit mark on Monday for the first time in over a month. With the net decrease of 15 cases on Monday, active cases in Polk County now number 99. Total cases did grow slightly and now number 1,614. Deaths remain at 54.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported five fewer active cases yesterday for a current total of 245. Overall cases grew by seven to 3,361. Deaths remain at 57.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported just 636 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. That’s the lowest one-day increase since the start of the new year. Arkansas’ cumulative total now numbers a little over 284,000 since the start of the outbreak. Active cases fell to just under 18,000. Deaths rose by 44 yesterday, however, and now total 4,650. Hospitalizations increased by four on Monday, leaving 1,084 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.

Ashdown High named a School of Innovation    01/25/2021

ASHDOWN – Ashdown High School has received the prestigious designation as a School of Innovation (SOI) after district teachers and staff met a number of educational achievements.  The designation is based upon the high school reaching certain goals set by the Arkansas Department of Education towards creating a more innovative learning environment.

AHS was required to show substantial progress towards those goals “with the purpose of transforming and improving teaching and learning within two years of approval of the application.”  Their first goal was to reduce the Achievement Gap. Towards that goal, the Ashdown High School was recently recognized by the Office for Education Policy (OEP) at the University of Arkansas where students demonstrated high growth on the ACT ASPIRE test.

Goals 2-4 were aimed at increasing curriculum options and expand college/career readiness and motivate students to engage in learning. Officials with Ashdown High School said they’ve met those goals by adding a career coach to support students in career and college planning. The high school has also added weekly advisory classes and created a teacher cadet class for students wanting to go into the teaching profession. The school is now certifying student tutors through the National Tutor Association and making student tutors available during flex times. Increased concurrent credit classes allow students to graduate with 24 or more hours of college credits.

The high school is increasing its career certification classes by partnering with CNA and pharmacy technical programs as well as the Lockesburg Industrial Maintenance program.

Goal 5 was to transform the culture and climate of Ashdown High School.  With that goal in mind, AHS has been surveying the community, parents, and students to adjust the way learning is presented on campus. That includes focusing more on student interest such as a TV production program, a coffee shop, student-led tutoring and a student-based advisory board. Students at AHS are also able to enjoy a revamped “commons area” which centers around flexible seating, healthy snacks, and a relaxed atmosphere for learning.

Ashdown Public School Superintendent Casey Nichols said Ashdown High School was required to be extremely forward-thinking in its desire to become a School of Innovation. It’s all in the hopes, he added, of removing any barriers that students may face towards learning and enjoying future success, whether that be at college or in a career-ready environment. Nichols said the goals and School of Innovation designation could not have been possible without the support of Ashdown High School’s parents and community members.

Arkansas legislature discusses car tags, court-related changes      01/25/2021

In the second week of the 2021 Regular Session, the Arkansas House of Representatives voted on bills addressing everything from car tags to jury duty pay. State Representative DeAnn Vaught provided an update on some of the details of those bills as well as others currently navigating the state legislatures.

The bills now advancing to the Senate include one that would extend the length of time a consumer has to tag their vehicle. Current law gives car buyers 30 days to pay the sales tax and register a vehicle after purchase. HB 1028 would extend that period to 60 days.

Another bill allows participants in a specialty court program, such as drug court, to transfer to a similar program if they move to another court district. This bill also includes guidelines for courts to establish a veterans treatment specialty court program and a DWI specialty court program. In addition, this bill sets to develop a domestic violence specialty court program.

Specialty courts are designed to lower the prison population by directing individuals to needed treatment programs.

HB1185 would allow the Department of Correction to make an administrative transfer of an inmate to the Division of Community Correction. This would not impact the length of a sentence but rather allow the department to transfer an inmate if they need behavioral or substance abuse treatment.

Another court related bill would allow a juror to donate their per diem compensation and mileage reimbursement to an eligible nonprofit entity. The administrative office of the courts will be tasked with compiling a list of eligible nonprofits.

An eligible nonprofit should offer services in multiple counties and have as one of its primary goals the providing of crime victim assistance or counseling, services for abused or neglected children, shelter for victims of domestic violence or services for veterans.
Finally, HB1107 amends the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to allow the Arkansas Department of Health to request physical or electronic copies of prescriptions from prescribers or dispensers when checking for accuracy.

The House reconvenes today at 1 pm. You can find a list of all agendas and links to live-streams of all meetings at www.arkansashouse.org.

De Queen Lions Club recognizes recent Students of the Month    01/25/2021

Student of the Month – Halle Harp was named the December 2020 Student of the Month by the De Queen Lions Club. She  received her certificate from Club member and DQPD Chief Scott Simmons.

DE QUEEN – The De Queen Lions Club recently recognized its two newest Students of the Month from De Queen High School. Halle Harp was recognized as Student of the Month for December. Halle is a senior at De Queen High and is a member of the National Honor Society and cross country and track teams. She’s in the Gifted and Talented Program and is student council reporter. Halle was the 2020 Homecoming Queen at De Queen High. She is active as a DHS Cheerleader, two-time All American Cheerleader and is cheer captain. She was selected twice to cheer in Orlando, FL at the Varsity Spirit Spectacular.

Student of the Month – Allen Hong,  was named the January 2021 Student of the Month by the De Queen Lions Club. He is pictured receiving his certificate from Club member and DQPD Chief Scott Simmons.

Allen Hong was recognized asStudent of the Month for January at last week’s meeting of the De Queen Lions Club. Allen, a senior at De Queen High School, is an office worker and is a member of the Leopard football, cross country, tennis, basketball, track and soccer teams. The Lions Club Student of the Month program seeks to recognize and highlight the top students at De Queen High School.

State police investigating apparent homicide in Waldron    01/25/2021

WALDRON – The Arkansas State Police is investigating an apparent homicide after a woman was found dead near Waldron Saturday morning.

In a press release from the Arkansas State Police, authorities state Waldron Police officers located the body of 24-year-old Brehana Lee Duran of Booneville in the passenger seat of a pickup truck on Ross Creek Road early that morning. The release states her body has been sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab to determine the exact manner and cause of her death.

A man who was identified as the possible driver of the truck attempted to flee after Waldron police officers made contact on Saturday morning. He is currently being held for questioning by the state police. His name has not been released.

Charges filed in case of Chapel Hill burglaries in December      01/25/2021

DE QUEEN – Felony charges have been filed against two men suspected in a number of thefts in Sevier County last month.

According to court records, 31-year-old Travis Pressley and 38-year-old Cody Culp, both of De Queen, are both facing felony charges of breaking or entering as well as theft of property. The charges were formally filed last week in the Sevier County Circuit Court.

Both Culp and Pressley were arrested last month after several residential burglaries at homes in the Chapel Hill area near De Queen last month. Items stolen included a boat and trailer, a firearm and custom saddles. All stolen items were recovered and returned to their owners. Some of the items were located at a residence just across the Oklahoma state line. Culp and Pressley were arrested following a investigation by the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office. Court records show Pressley has entered a guilty plea for both felony theft of property and breaking or entering. Sentencing recommendations include four years in prison with the suspended imposition of five additional years.

Court records detail that Culp has entered a plea of not guilty and that a future pre-trial hearing has been scheduled.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures    01/25/2021

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Sunday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Sevier County reported one additional active case of COVID-19 yesterday, raising the current total to 40. Total cases rose by four to 2,312. Deaths remain at 24.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported one fewer active case on Sunday, dropping the current figure to 53. Total cases rose to 999. Deaths remain at 39.

Howard County reported one less active case yesterday, leaving 56 active cases of COVID-19 in Howard County. Total cases grew by three to 1,298 while deaths remained at 20.

Polk County reported two additional deaths over the weekend, raising the death toll from COVID-19 in Polk County to 56 since the pandemic began. Total cases rose by nine to 1,612. Active cases decreased by three yesterday and now total 114.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported three fewer active cases yesterday for a current total of 250. Overall cases grew by 21 to 3,354. Deaths remain at 57.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported 1,017 new cases of the COVID-19 on Sunday. That raises the state’s cumulative total to just over 284,000 since the start of the outbreak. Active cases fell to 19,395. Deaths rose by 43 yesterday and now total 4,606. Hospitalizations fell by 14 on Sunday, leaving 1,080 Arkansans still hospitalized due to the virus.

Southern Bancorp announces acquisition of Bank of Lockesburg, two other branches      01/22/2021
By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Southern Bancorp announced Thursday it will expand with several new branches following the completion of an acquisition deal.

The Arkadelphia-based bank has purchased DeWitt First Bankshares Corp. and its subsidiary, Arkansas County Bank.A news release issued by Bancorp did not state the value of the transaction but added that Arkansas County Bank includes $185 million in financial and capital assets. Those assets include three branches, the Bank of Lockesburg and two branches in Arkansas County.

Southern Bancorp CEO Darrin Williams stated in the news release that the bank is “excited to introduce Arkansas County Bank’s team members, customers and communities to Southern Bancorp’s unique blend of mission-driven products and services aimed at providing everyone in the community with the tools to build wealth.”

Regulatory and shareholder approval is still needed to finalize the acquisition. The deal is expected to close within the second quarter of 2021. Southern Bancorp currently operates 49 locations in Mississippi and Arkansas.

Arkansas County Bank has existed as a financial institution for over 110 years. CEO Warren Jennings, Jr., stated in the news release that he believes Southern Bancorp will continue to operate its three branches with a community-centric approach to banking.

U.S. Forest Service announces controlled burns over next several months    01/22/2021

It’s likely to look hazy out north and west of Sevier County over the next few months but area residents are asked not to be concerned – the Ouachita National Forest will soon begin conducing its yearly prescribed burns.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday it plans to burn around 250,000 acres combined between the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests. Both forests cover land in Arkansas as well as Oklahoma.Prescribed fires, also known as controlled fires, are intended to meet several objectives. According to the Forest Service, the first objective of prescribed burns is to reduce the potential for large, costly catastrophic wildfires. Other important objectives include improving habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, turkey, endangered bats and woodpeckers and others.

With urban development continually spreading into the forests, Forest Service officials say they are no longer able to allow natural ignition to roam freely across the states as it did in prehistoric conditions. Instead of allowing wildfire to move across the landscape unrestricted, land managers use controlled fire to meet similar objectives.

People with smoke sensitivities, who are not on the Forest Service’s prescribed burn notification list, should contact their nearest ranger district to be added. Area residents can call the Hochatown office at (580) 494-6402 or the Mena Office at (479) 394-2382. Many conditions must be met before a prescribed fire can be ignited. The day chosen must be a combination of the correct humidity, wind speed and direction, temperature, fuel moisture, and atmospheric conditions. Factoring in all these requirements limits the number of days in which a prescribed fire can take place.

The Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests will notify local media outlets and smoke sensitive residents on days when prescribed fires are scheduled in their area. Daily updates on prescribed fires across the forests can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/ouachita.

Forest Service officials remind that flying drones over a wildfire or prescribed burn puts firefighting pilots in danger. This violation of federal, state, and local laws may subject the offender to civil penalties, including fines of up to $25,000, and potentially criminal prosecution.
As always the public is asked to report any unattended wildfires by calling 911 or the Forests’ fire dispatch at 501-321-5232.

DQPD informs public of new sex offender employed in De Queen        01/22/2021

DE QUEEN – The De Queen Police Department is informing the public of a sex offender now employed in the city.

According to the police department, 47-year-old Demetrice Lamont Goldsby is now employed at the Pilgrim’s facility in De Queen. Goldsby is a convicted Level III sex offender for an incident involving a 13-year-old female. The police department reports Goldsby is also accused of raping an adult female as well.

Goldsby is employed in De Queen but the sex offender registry lists him as living in Texarkana, Texas.

The De Queen Police Department stresses this notification is not intended to increase fear. Authorities say it is there belief that an informed public will be safer. Due to Goldsby’s Level III sex offender status, law enforcement believe it is necessary to notify all community members likely to encounter the offender.

The police department states that citizen abuse of this information to threaten, intimidate or harass offenders will not be tolerated. Such abuse could potentially end law enforcement’s ability to share this information with the public. If notification ends, police say the offender will win through the power of secrecy.

Section 13 of Act 989, passed in 1997, authorizes law enforcement to inform the public of sex offender presence with the aim of enhancing public safety and protection.

Ark. Dept. of Agriculture releases feral hog reporting app      01/22/2021

The Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force is unveiling a new tool to help coordinate the fight against invasive pests in The Natural State. A new mobile-friendly survey will enable any private landowner or hunter to upload information about feral hog sightings and removal efforts in Arkansas.

The app-based Arkansas Feral Hog Control Survey is available for download at www.agriculture.arkansas.gov/arkansas-department-of-agriculture-services/feral-hog. It was developed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to track the agency’s efforts in feral hog trapping during the last year. After successful field tests, biologists and staff within the task force modified the tool so the public could help track any feral hog removal efforts throughout the state.

Landowners who remove feral hogs on private property by trapping or shooting are asked to help the task force by uploading removal information on the Arkansas Feral Hog Control Survey.
Information uploaded to the survey will help the task force better understand how many feral hogs are being removed monthly by private individuals, state agencies, and federal agencies. This will guide future management decisions to continue the fight against feral hogs in Arkansas.

Feral hogs are not native to the United States. They are an invasive species that poses significant risks to human and livestock health. In Arkansas, feral hogs cause an estimated $19 million in damages to agriculture and natural resources. They compete for food resources, destroy habitat by rooting and wallowing and will eat ground-nesting birds, eggs, fawns and young domestic livestock. They also carry up to 45 bacteria, diseases and parasites, including Trichinellosis, Brucellosis and swine herpes virus.

In Arkansas feral hogs may be killed or trapped day or night by any means year-round on private property by a landowner or anyone who has the landowner’s permission. A license is not required to kill feral hogs, but anyone who has had their license revoked may not hunt them. On public land feral hogs may not be taken on many wildlife management areas and National Wildlife Refuges. There are a few WMAs where feral hogs may be taken opportunistically, but only during open firearms deer, bear or elk seasons or with archery tackle from Nov. 1-Dec. 31.

The AGFC conducts extensive trapping efforts on public and private lands and encourages the use of large-scale trapping efforts as opposed to hunting or shooting single animals as it educates the pigs remaining in the group and scatters them to new properties. Anyone convicted of releasing hogs in Arkansas in an attempt to stock them for recreational purposes faces fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per hog or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both. Possession or release of live feral hogs on an AGFC-managed WMA is a Class 4 offense, which carries a fine of $750 to $7,500 and a jail sentence of up to 180 days upon conviction.Visit www.agriculture.arkansas.gov/arkansas-department-of-agriculture-services/feral-hog for more information about the Feral Hog Eradication Task Force and tools to help control feral hogs in Arkansas.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures    01/22/2021

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Thursday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Sevier County reported six fewer active cases on Thursday. That lowers the current active caseload in Sevier to 37 – the lowest in months. Total cases rose by six to 2,289. Deaths remain at 24.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported no change in its active cases, which remain at 49. Total cases grew by six to 979. Deaths remain at 39.

Howard County reported 14 additional active cases Thursday, raising the total of currently confirmed and probable active cases in Howard County to 44. Total cases grew by 18 to 1,278 while deaths remained at 20.

Polk County reported two fewer active cases on Thursday, dropping the total to 118. Total cases grew by 12 to 1,576. Deaths remain at 52.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported nine additional active cases yesterday for a current total of 247. Overall cases grew by 26 to 3,311. Deaths remain at 57.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported just over 3,100 new cases on Thursday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of confirmed and probable cases to more than 279,000 since the pandemic began. Active cases saw a net increase of 227 to number 20,618 currently active cases across the state. Deaths increased by 55 again on Thursday for a statewide total of 4,496 deaths. Hospitalizations decreased by 19, leaving 1,160 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Gillham man arrested after truck crashes into historic Gillham store     01/21/2021

GILLHAM – Charges have been filed against a man accused of wrecking into a building long seen as a historic icon of the Gillham community

The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office reports 24-year-old David Pearce of Gillham was arrested for driving while intoxicated after he allegedly lost control of his vehicle and crashed into the old Wax Store on Hornberg Avenue in Gillham.

The sheriff’s office received the report from a witness who drove by the store after the accident occurred. Upon arriving the responding deputy saw two men standing outside the store. He also noted a 2014 Dodge Ram pickup truck had run through the storefront and was buried inside the building

After ensuring no on was hurt, the deputy reportedly noticed the smell of alcohol on Pearce. During questioning Pearce allegedly admitted to having four or five beers two hours before the incident. The deputy was unable to perform a blood-alcohol content test but stated that Pearce failed several steps of a field sobriety test.

Pearce was then taken into custody and issued citations for driving while intoxicated as well as careless and prohibited driving. The building’s owner was contacted and he told authorities he would seek an estimate on damages to the building.

Although the Wax Store has been closed and unused for years, it has long remained a historic icon in Gillham and the surrounding communities.

Little over a week until start of Millwood Fishing Challenge     01/21/2021

In just over a week the Little River County Chamber of Commerce in Ashdown will kick off the first ever Millwood Fishing Challenge starting next month. Through this new event local anglers will have a chance to win thousands of dollars in cash prizes.
The challenge will take place on Millwood Lake near Ashdown and will begin at 6 a.m. February 1. The challenge will end April 15 at 5 p.m. that day.

There are over 100 prize fish, valued at $137,500 in cash—including the $10,000 “BIG MILLIE” grand prize. The prize fish will all be wearing 2021 yellow tags and will be released into Millwood Lake just prior to the challenge start date.
​​The challenge provides anglers the opportunity to catch yellow-tagged fish that can be redeemed for cash prizes.

The yellow tags will have a phone number and a prize number on them. If a fish is caught the angler must call the number and present the fish with the yellow tag attached, along with the badge number. All official rules must be complied with.

The fish will be tagged by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and released into Millwood Lake. No one will know the exact location of the release points except certain organizers.

The prize fish include bass, catfish (of any kind) and crappie. ONLY bream will be tagged for the youth angler challenge. All tagged fish will be have to be checked-in alive and with their yellow tag in place. No commercial fishing equipment is allowed and, obviously, all state laws and regulations must be followed. No guided fishing trips are allowed to participate in this event.

The contest is open to anyone with a valid Arkansas fishing license and a valid badge that can be purchased for $15. Badges can be purchased at a number of locations, including Bogey’s and Milway Federal Credit Union. A full list of participating locations is available at ashdownarkansas.org/millwoodfishingchallenge

A special young anglers weekend will be held in April.

Visit the Little River County Chamber of Commerce online at www.ashdownarkansas.org/millwoodfishingchallenge for more details.

City receives $480,000 check from Pilgrim’s for new splash pad       01/21/2021

DE QUEEN – De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown announced Pilgrim’s has provided the city with a check for nearly half a million dollars to construct a splash pad in De Queen.

Pilgrim’s announced last month it would donate $480,000 for a new, state-of-the-art splash pad at the Herman Dierks Park in De Queen.

A splash pad is a large water-themed public park attraction usually only seen in much bigger communities. They are praised in other cities for the cool space they provide without the need for a lifeguard because there’s little to no standing water. Splash pads are also known for drawing in residents far and wide during the warmer months. Construction is expected to begin sometime this quarter.

De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown said this latest community project by Pilgrim’s goes “above and beyond their ongoing support of the community.”

In a press release Pilgrim’s said the company worked with local leaders to determine where the funds could best help meet immediate and longer-term community needs.

Pilgrim’s De Queen/Nashville Complex Manager Eddie Halter said this project will allow, quote, “allow team members and neighbors to enjoy a fun outdoor recreation activity and provide a place for families and friends to come together and socialize. Supporting projects that help improve the quality of life for our community is something we are very passionate about at Pilgrim’s, and we’re grateful our Hometown Strong program is making this possible.”Combined with $95,000 in new equipment slated for Herman Dierks Park this year, the splash pad will help make the park an even greater attraction for future visitors.

The donation made by Pilgrim’s for the splash pad is on top of the $225,000 donated by the company last month for construction of a community walking trail at the new hospital in Sevier County. The one-mile-long lighted and landscaped trail will weave through the grounds of the Sevier County Medical Center and will be open for use by the whole community.

Pilgrim’s made the donation through its Hometown Strong initiative to bring investment and community projects to the areas in which it serves. Pilgrim’s De Queen/Nashville facility employs more than 1,400 people with an annual payroll of more than $53 million. The facility supports 238 growers, paying them more than $36 million per year for their livestock. Consistent with its long-term commitment to the local economy, the Pilgrim’s De Queen/Nashville complex has invested more than $134 million in capital improvements over the last five years.

Local law enforcement, healthcare providers report scams in area     01/21/2021

DE QUEEN – As COVID-19 vaccinations become increasing available, so are the scams attempting to exploit people during this health crisis. Local law enforcement and healthcare providers are reporting that they’ve received a number of calls from area residents concerning these scams. The scammer will typically state they are from Medicare or BlueCross Blue Shield and ask individuals for private medical information.

If you get a call, text, email — or even someone knocking on your door —seeking any general medical information, officials urge you not to respond. It’s most likely a scam. Other scams have been reported in Arkansas with the caller claiming they can schedule you a COVID-19 vaccine – typically at a steep price.

You can’t pay to get early access to a vaccine or to get on a vaccination list. And you can’t buy a COVID-19 vaccination through the mail, online, or in stores.

Law enforcement and healthcare providers stress you don’t respond to text messages about COVID-19 from people you don’t know. Clicking on links in messages could download malware to your phone or let criminals know they’ve found a target.

No one from a vaccine distribution site or insurance company will call to ask for your Social Security number or your credit card or bank account information to sign you up for a vaccine.

Medicare will not call beneficiaries to offer COVID-19 related products, services, or benefit review.

Some scammers pretend to be COVID-19 contact tracers. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number, financial information, or try to set up a COVID-19 test for you and get payment information.

Beware of anyone offering other products, treatments, or medicines to prevent the virus.

Always check with your doctor before paying for or getting any COVID-19-related treatment.

DQ City Council approves contracts, discusses city-owned lot     01/21/2021

DE QUEEN – In addition to establishing a $25 license fee for any business selling or serving alcohol in De Queen, the De Queen City Council also addressed a number of other items of city business Tuesday night.

That included approving several annual contracts the city has with entities in the city limits. Through those contracts the city will provide the Sevier County Humane Society with its traditional $2,500 annual contract. Mayor Jeff Brown said the partnership is important through the low-cost spay and neuter clinics sponsored by the local humane society. The clinics, Brown stated, help to address the issue to stray animals within the city limits.

The council also approved a $5,000 contract with the Sevier County Museum to support the museum’s efforts to highlight and protect the county’s history. The final contract included $10,000 for the Sevier County Senior Citizens Center.

In other business, the city council approved an audit from 2019 looking at the city’s water and sewer departments. Brown said no significant findings were found during the routine audit.

The final item of business was the future use of a lot adjacent to city hall and currently owned by the city. After some discussion the council agreed to maintain ownership of the lot for future potential expansion of city hall or for other city use.

The city council is scheduled to meet again on Feb. 2. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. and begin with a public hearing over a water tank grant.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures     01/21/2021

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Wednesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Sevier County reported one additional death on Wednesday. That raises the county’s death toll from COVID-19 to 24 since the pandemic began. Active cases did see another day of decline, falling by eight to number 43 currently. Total cases grew by 15 to 2,283.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported a single decrease in its active caseload for a current total of 49. Overall cases increased by 15 to 973. Deaths remain at 39.

Howard County reported one additional active case Wednesday, leaving 30 currently confirmed and probable active cases in the county. Total grew by 12 to 1,260 while deaths remained at 20.

Polk County reported one additional death over the past 24-hour period. That raises total deaths from COVID-19 in Polk County to 52. Active cases were unchanged at 120 while total cases grew by 12 to 1,564 since the outbreak started.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported four fewer active cases on Wednesday. Active cases in the county now number 238. Total cases grew by eight to 3,285 while deaths remained at 57.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported an addition 2,520 cases on Wednesday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to over 276,000 since the pandemic began. Active cases decreased by 549, leaving a little over 20,000 active cases across the state. Deaths saw a significant increase however, with another 55 reported on Wednesday. That raises the state’s death toll from the virus to 4,441 since the start of the pandemic. 1,179 Arkansans remained hospitalized due to the virus.

DQ City Council votes against alcohol tax, approves licensing fee     01/20/2021

The full audio story is available here

The partial transcript is featured below.

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Businesses looking at selling, manufacturing or serving alcohol in De Queen will not have any additional taxes imposed on them by the city.

That was the decision made by the De Queen City Council during its meeting Tuesday night. Several city councilors voiced their opposition to additional taxes, citing the financial difficulties already facing local businesses engaged in food service, entertainment and tourism in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The city council also expressed concern that imposing more taxes on alcohol sales would hurt consumers and go against the spirit of the Sevier County residents who voted overwhelmingly to go wet.

The council did pass an ordinance, however, establishing a yearly $25 license requirement for any business authorized by Arkansas Beverage Control to sell, serve or manufacture alcohol in De Queen. Mayor Jeff Brown said the city saw this ordinance as a simple way to track the number of authorized businesses in the city limits. He added the $25 fee would also help local law enforcement separate legitimate alcohol retailers from potential bootleg operations.

Alderman Rick Pruitt stated that he appreciated the city choosing to only establish a $25 yearly license fee. Imposing additional taxes, he said, would only harm those who wish to use the legalization of alcohol sales towards advancing economic development in Sevier County.
That’s not to say, however, that alcohol sales will go unregulated within De Queen or the broader county. The city’s legal counsel, Erin Hunter, said Arkansas Beverage Control maintains a strict list of regulations, fees and statutes in regards to restaurants and businesses that sell alcohol. In addition the city and county will nonetheless receive revenue from alcohol sales through the state sales tax.

The city council did leave the option open to amend the ordinance or establish other regulations in the future if the need arises. Beer and wine sales are expected to begin in Sevier County later this month or the beginning of February.

Vaccines still available for Sevier County teachers, elderly 70 and up       01/20/2021

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News

Teachers in Sevier County who were not able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine at designated clinics this week can still schedule them on their own.

This includes teachers at De Queen and Horatio Public Schools as well as educators at Legacy Academy. A final clinic will be held this evening at the De Queen Health and Wellness Pharmacy for De Queen teachers. The clinic will be held between 4-7 p.m. at the pharmacy, located at 1357 Collin Raye Drive. De Queen teachers are asked to contact their school’s administration to determine if they are scheduled to attend tonight’s clinic.

Horatio and De Queen teachers who could not make these clinics can still schedule a time to receive the vaccine by using the scheduler found on the De Queen Health and Wellness Pharmacy’s Facebook page. They can also schedule an appointment by calling the pharmacy at 642-2400.

Arkansans aged 70 and older are also eligible to begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine this week. As with teachers, Sevier County residents 70 and older can call the pharmacy or use the scheduler linked on the pharmacy’s Facebook page. The direct link is also included here:
https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require an initial dose with a follow-up booster (three-to-four weeks later, depending on which vaccine is given).

Murder charges filed against Ashdown man for 2020      01/20/2021

ASHDOWN – An Ashdown resident suspected of killing a man last year has been formally charged.

According to court records, Corey Garfield has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 48-year-old Dennis Graves on Oct. 6, 2020. The murder charges were filed against Garfield on Friday.

Garfield became a suspect in the murder following an investigation by the Ashdown Police Department. However, Garfield eluded local police for around a month until Ashdown and Little Rock police found and arrested him at a Little Rock motel.

The Graves’ body was found in his driveway in Ashdown incapacitated from a gunshot wound. A police office provided medical treatment on the scene but Graves later died in an area hospital. Investigators immediately identified Garfield as the lead suspect for his alleged involvement in the crime.

Garfield has been charged with second-degree murder and is currently being held in the Little River County Jail. Garfield’s bond was set at $250,000. The second degree murder charge carries a sentence of six to 30 years in prison.

Sevier part of pilot program to help property owners eradicate feral hogs     01/20/2021

The full audio story is available here:</em>

The partial transcript is featured below:
By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

The Sevier County Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering a new feral hog eradication program for area residents thanks to a federal grant.

The NRCS office in De Queen has received a portion of a $1.4 million federal grant to bring the program to Sevier, Hempstead and Howard Counties. The pilot program includes personnel, equipment and tactics aimed at helping local property owners combat the scourge of feral hogs. The program has hired a total of seven trappers to assist with the eradication effort. In Sevier County, the two full-time trappers are Steven Pinkerton, a native of Nashville, and Jackson Lee of Cove. Robin Stacy of the NRCS office in De Queen is heading the program. Stacy said the grant allowed the office to hire two full-time trappers to assist landowners. The grant will fund those positions for the next three years. Stacy said her office is hoping to get the word out to landowners that the office is poised to help with their hog eradication efforts. She said the trappers would be available to set up and bait traps on their property.

Stacy and Pinkerton explained that the program is free to property owners and, if successful, could expand to other areas in South Arkansas.

Stacy and Pinkerton said that, while the program is completely free, some assistance from landowners is necessary in disposing of the killed hogs and also maintain proper trapping protocols.

Pinkerton added that the program is also an educational process that aims to help property owners trap and eliminate hogs on their own. He also explained the trapping process can take a few days to ensure as many hogs are caught as possible on the first gate drop. The equipment they bring along includes remote controlled gates and a video camera to ensure no one is around to spook the animals away.

Stacy encourages anyone with signs of feral hogs on their property to contact their office and participate in the free trapping program. For more information contact the NRCS office in De Queen by calling 584-3111.

Sevier County’s unemployment rate notes slight uptick in November     01/20/2021

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Newly released economic data shows Sevier County’s unemployment rate ticked up slightly in late 2020 after several months of consecutive decline. Nonetheless, Sevier County’s unemployment rate remains below the Arkansas and U.S. averages.

The new data details Sevier County’s unemployment rate in November – the latest month for which data is available. The unemployment rate grew by .4 of a percent, increasing from 5.6 in October to six percent in November. That rate continues to remain below the state and national average, which totaled 6.2 and 6.7 percent respectively during the same month.

Sevier County’s unemployment rate reached a high shortly after the pandemic entered Arkansas but has fallen back to pre-pandemic levels since then.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sevier County currently ranks 45 out of 75 counties in the state for the lowest unemployment. Out of a work force of 5,427 people in Sevier County only 320 are currently recorded as unemployed. The county’s highest unemployment rate was recorded nearly a decade ago, in January 2011 with 10.3 percent.

Of course, the rate does not reflect those who are under-employed – that is, they’re not receiving as much work as they would like. The figure does not include people who are currently unemployed but are no longer receiving benefits. The unemployment rate is not a perfect indicator of economic activity in an area but it does show that employment is likely flattening out to pre-pandemic levels among area residents.

Neighboring Little River County’s latest unemployment data shows the county is just above Sevier with a rate of 5.9 percent. That ranks Little River 43rd out of 75 Arkansas counties.

Howard County is ranked 11<sup>th</sup> in the state with an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. Polk County ranks in the 51st spot with an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent.

Statewide Madison County reported the lowest unemployment rate of just 3.9 percent. Chicot County continues to report the highest rate in the state with 10.9 percent.

Work proceeding on new Sevier County Medical      01/20/2021

DE QUEEN – Work is proceeding on target for Sevier County’s new hospital, according to a architects’ report shared late last week.

If you’ve driven north of De Queen on Highway 71, you’ve likely seen work progressing on the site of the new Sevier County Medical Facility. The 14-bed facility will be constructed on a 20-acre site located just several miles north of town.

At this time most of the trees, brush and other debris have been cleared out. In the report released by the hospital’s architects – Wittenberg, Deloney and Davidson – utility and infrastructure projects are the main focus currently. The architects reported fire lines and fire hydrants have been excavated and installed. A conflict with the location of the site’s current water line will require more information before action can be taken to finish the hospital’s water hookup. Stormwater utilities and pollution prevention plans have also been put in place.

As for the building itself, the undercut has been completed and passed initial tests. Currently the contractor has six workers on site as preparation work for the planned hospital facility continues.

Construction of the new hospital, which will include 14 beds when completed, is expected to finish in early 2022.

State officials express hope over declining new COVID-19 daily case counts, provide update on vaccine rollout and new U.K.    01/20/2021

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

State officials expressed cautious optimism for the first time in many weeks regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in Arkansas.

Figures reported by the Arkansas Department of Health during Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s weekly COVID-19 Taskforce update on Tuesday provided a more hopeful picture of the ongoing pandemic. Hutchinson said the health department detected just over 1,300 new cases on Tuesday – a significant decrease from the three- and four-thousand new case counts reported daily in December and early January. Tuesday’s new cases follow a roughly week-long period in which new cases have fallen to their lowest figure in some time. Nonetheless, the state’s cumulative cases continue to grow with more than 273,000 transmissions since the pandemic began.

Active cases have also fallen precipitously over the past week and continued to do so on Tuesday. Hutchinson announced 1,854 fewer active cases, leaving a total of 20,940 current confirmed and probable active cases. Hospitalizations saw a slight increase of two for a total of 1,265 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. New daily deaths continue to remain relatively high with another 43 reported on Tuesday for a total of almost 4,400 since the outbreak began.

Hutchinson said the consistent decline in the state’s average daily growth rate over the past week allows for some much-desired hope.

Hutchinson then shared an update on the vaccine rollout in Arkansas. Of the 293,000 doses received by Arkansas pharmacies and hospitals, over 50 percent have been administered. Progress has been far weaker for those vaccines allocated to CVS and Walgreens to administer within Arkansas long-term care facilities. Only eight percent of the 80,700 vaccines received have been administered. Hutchinson said state officials are trying to put increased pressure on these chain pharmacies in hopes the rollout becomes more efficient than it has. State action however is limited as both CVS and Walgreens have been given federal contracts to distribute the vaccine throughout the nation.

Hutchinson said the number one question received by state health officials is how eligible Arkansans can schedule their vaccine. He advised Arkansans to use the health department’s website at <a id=”LPlnk516336″ href=”http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer” data-auth=”NotApplicable”>www.healthy.arkansas.gov</a> to determine if they are eligible to receive a vaccine at this time and, if so, how they can do so.

Finally, Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero provided an update on the new strains of COVID-19 first reported in the United Kingdom but now increasingly seen in the United States. Although new strains are a routine development in the evolution of a virus, Romero said the state is nonetheless actively searching for the new strain to determine when it inevitably arrives in Arkansas.

Romero said the new strain is around 50 to 75 percent more transmissible than the older strain. However, he stressed it can be prevented just the same by thorough handwashing, wearing a facemask and through social distancing.</div>

Sevier County Extension offering Best Care program at no cost       01/20/2021

DE QUEEN -The Sevier County Extension Office is once again offering its Best Care program aimed at providing local childcare providers with the latest training in childhood education.

The program is offered through a partnership between the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Association. As in the past Best Care offers childcare providers with over 50 hours of early childhood professional development.

Typically, 10 Best Care hours are offered in a face-to-face atmosphere. In 2021, due to COVID-19, these classes will be offered online. Sevier County Extension Agent Janet Cantrell said it’s simple to enroll. Just go to http://courses.uaex.edu</a> and follow the instructions. The Best Care course is open now through June 30. Participants can complete courses one at a time and come back later to finish them. Once completed, participants will receive a certificate to print off for their records.

The 2021 course topics include a number of topics, from time management and farm to classroom practices to the importance of physical and emotional well-being.

The extension service also continues to offer its Best Care Connected program, which provides five hours of online training, as well as its Guiding Children Successfully program. This training includes 30 hours of self-guided study and is available online. If you prefer to use the self-guided hard copy of the Guiding Children Successfully, it is available at the Sevier County Extension office.

All training opportunities are offered free of charge and are verified training through the Professional Development Registry (PDR.

For more information about classes for early childhood professionals, contact Sevier County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Janet Cantrell, at (870) 584-3013 or email at jcantrell@uaex.edu.

AMHC seeking applications to host health events with local    01/20/2021

DE QUEEN – The Arkansas Minority Health Commission (AMHC) is now accepting sponsorship applications for health-related events to be hosted April 1 through April 30, 2021, during Minority Health Awareness Month. To apply, applicants must download and complete the required documents, which can be found on AMHC’s website at arminorityhealth.com/resources/funding-opportunities.

Applications must be submitted via email to Onekia Freeman at Onekia.Freeman@arkansas.gov by the end of the day on Monday, Feb. 15. Any applications received after this date and time will not be accepted.
The AMHC has hosted numerous health-related events and screenings in Sevier County in partnership with local providers. The organization’s stated intent is to collaborate with community-based organizations, schools, faith-based organizations and others to address health problems that disproportionately affect minorities in Arkansas.

Extension offering food safety training workshops online     01/20/2021

Submitted by UAEX

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture will offer online produce safety training workshops to educate fruit and vegetable producers about new rules for protecting the food supply.

Two online workshops will be offered from 8 a.m to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 10-11 and again March 31-April 1. Participants can register at <a href=”http://www.uaex.edu/producesafety”>www.uaex.edu/producesafety</a>. Registration closes seven days before each training so that materials can be mailed to participants. The registration deadlines are Feb. 3 for the first training and March 13 for the second.

Topics covered will include agricultural water, soil amendments, worker health and hygiene, wildlife management, post-harvest handling and food safety plans.

The training, developed by the Produce Safety Alliance and presented by the Cooperative Extension Service, helps growers understand regulatory requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule, which regulates standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding fresh produce.

Participants will receive a certificate of completion, which satisfies the Produce Safety Rule training requirement. Participants must be present both days of the training and must have Internet access, Zoom video conferencing software, a web camera and a microphone.
Typically, extension offers in-person training at sites across Arkansas. But, with the COVID-19 pandemic still making its impact across the state, the workshops will be held virtually for the time being.

No in-person training is scheduled at this time. For more information, call  501-671-2228. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit <a href=”http://www.uaex.edu/”>www.uaex.edu</a>.</div>
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ADH updates local COVID-19 figures      01/20/2021

DE QUEEN – Sevier and surrounding areas are continuing to see consistent declines in the number of active COVID-19 cases reported. Compared to the high active cases seen just a month ago the latest figures show a hopeful trend. It’s a sign, local and state health officials hope, of a brighter future – a future without a significant COVID-19 presence.

But health officials remind all Arkansans to remain diligent and follow the three “W’s”: wash your hands, watch your distance and wear your mask.

And now here are the latest COVID-19 figures as updated Tuesday afternoon by the Arkansas Department of Health:

Sevier County reported a net decrease of four active cases on Tuesday, lowering the current total to 51. Total cases increased by five to 2,268. Deaths remain at 23.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported a single decrease in its active caseload for a current total of 50. Overall cases increased by two to 958. Deaths remain at 39.

Howard County reported nine fewer active cases Tuesday, leaving just 29 confirmed and probable active cases in the county. Total cases remained unchanged at 1,248 and deaths at 20.

Polk County reported 19 fewer active cases yesterday, leaving 120 confirmed and probable active cases in Polk County. Total cases grew by five to 1,552. Deaths remain at 51.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported 26 fewer active cases on Tuesday. Active cases in the county now number 242. Total cases grew by three to 3,273 while deaths remained at 57.

Sevier County teachers, residents aged 70 and up can now schedule COVID-19 vaccine through De Queen Health and Wellness Pharmacy     01/18/2021

DE QUEEN – State officials have announced Arkansans aged 70 and older, as well as K-12, day care and college/university teachers, would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning next week. Vaccine doses will be distributed at select pharmacies across the state. In De Queen, the participating pharmacy is the De Queen Health and Wellness Pharmacy.

De Queen Health and Wellness owner/pharmacist Chester Barber invites all Sevier County residents aged 70 and older to begin scheduling their vaccines using this link:   https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php.

Eligible Sevier County residents can also call the pharmacy at (870) 642-2400 to schedule their vaccine

In addition, De Queen Health and Wellness has scheduled vaccine clinics next week for teachers in the Horatio and De Queen School Districts. The vaccine clinic for Horatio teachers will be held Monday, Jan. 18 from 4-7 p.m. De Queen teachers are able to receive their vaccines from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Both clinics will be hosted at the De Queen Health and Wellness Pharmacy on 1357 Collin Raye Drive

Horatio and De Queen teachers who cannot make these clinics can still schedule a time to receive the vaccine by using the linked scheduler or by calling the pharmacy

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require an initial dose with a follow-up booster (three-to-four weeks later, depending on which vaccine is given.

De Queen Public Schools shares info on Valentine’s Day guidelines         01/18/2021

DE QUEEN – With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the administration at De Queen Public Schools is informing the community that this cherished holiday – like so many others – will have to be conducted differently this year in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

In a press release issued on Friday, the school district said it understands that Valentine’s Day brings a lot of excitement for De Queen students, families, and local businesses. And, while school officials say they understand that local florists and other businesses depend on the income generated with the excitement surrounding Valentine’s Day, the health of our students and staff remains the top priority

The school has issued a number of guidelines and procedures for Valentine’s day deliveries. These policies are in place, the district states, to ensure a smooth and safe school day on Friday, Feb. 12.

Those guidelines include encouraging parents and guardians to deliver their Valentine Day gifts on Thursday, Feb. 11 from 3:30-5 p.m. District staff will be on hand to accept the deliveries during this time period and will then distribute them on Friday. Flower shops are also being asked to deliver flowers and gifts during this 3:30-5 p.m. time slot on Thursday, Feb. 11. No outside food will be accepted.

School officials expressed their gratitude for the continued patience and support from parents, the community and school staff during this difficult school year.

Ashdown Public Schools awarded over $5,000 through wildlife fines grant program       01/18/2021

ASHDOWN – The Arkansas Economic Development Commission Division of Rural Services has awarded grants totaling $536,401.58 to promote wildlife education and improve school conservation programs to 150 schools, school districts, and conservation districts in 65 Arkansas counties. That includes a sizable endowment to the Ashdown School District.

The grant program is funded by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) through fines collected from hunting and fishing violations. Only money collected in the county where the violation occurred may be used as grant funds for that county.
In Little River County, Ashdown Junior High School is set to receive nearly $2,300 for its youth shooting sports program. Ashdown High School will receive the same for its senior level shooting sports program.

All schools in the state are eligible to participate in the program. The funding schools have received in previous years has helped create and maintain archery, fishing and competitive shooting sports programs. Schools also use the money to help improve wildlife education by purchasing educational materials, materials for the creation of indoor and outdoor habitats, lab supplies, and field trips to AGFC nature and education centers.

Despite there being $3,700 in grant money available in Sevier County, no eligible organizations submitted qualifying grants during the application period last fall.

Conservation districts use the funding to help promote wildlife conservation awareness in the communities by hosting environmental education days and fishing derbies for children of all ages.

Lockesburg City Council meeting tomorrow night     01/18/2021

LOCKESBURG – The City of Lockesburg has rescheduled its monthly council meeting to tomorrow, Jan. 19. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Lockesburg Senior Citizens Center. The meeting is open to the public and masks are required.

The meeting will include the official swearing in of Lockesburg’s elected city officials. The agenda includes a discussion with Janet Ballard about a possible public/private land swap. Other items include setting the date and time of future council meetings and continued discussion on needed repairs to the Lockesburg Fire Department.

City councilors will also discuss a water infrastructure project as well as hearing the bid on a new pyrotechnics company for the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

Rep. Vaught provides preview on 2021 legislative session     01/18/2021

State Representative DeAnn Vaught, whose district includes Sevier and Little River Counties, provided us an update on what Governor Asa Hutchinson’s legislative agenda will look like as the 2021 regular session kicks into gear.

Vaught said Hutchinson is asking the General Assembly to affirm the current health emergency order and direct federal COVID-19 relief funds for vaccine distribution.

In addition, his legislative agenda includes increasing teacher pay by $2,000 over the next two years. Other items include reducing the used car sales tax, reducing income taxes for new Arkansas residents, appropriating $30 million for increased broadband in rural areas and implementing a computer science requirement for high school graduation. Another item of note on the agenda is stricter sentencing for hate crimes committed in Arkansas.

Vaught reminds Arkansans that the House live streams all of its meetings on its website, www.arkansashouse.org. She added that guidelines have been posted for members of the public who wish to participate in the process at the Capitol.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures     01/18/2021

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Sunday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported a net decrease of three active cases on Sunday, lowering the current total to 60. Recoveries grew to 2,178. Total cases increased by two to 2,261. Deaths remain at 23.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported no change in its active caseload, which remains at 60. Total cases grew by five to 956. Deaths remain at 39.

Active cases in Howard County decreased by six on Sunday and now total 48. Total cases grew to 1,248 while deaths remained at 19.

Polk County reported 10 fewer active cases yesterday, leaving 161 confirmed and probable active cases in Polk County. Total cases grew by six to 1,540. Deaths remain at 51.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported two fewer active cases on Sunday. Active cases in the county now number 279. Total cases grew by 17 to 3,271. Deaths remain at 57.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported 976 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, raising the statewide cumulative total of confirmed and probable cases to just over 271,000. Active cases of the virus fell by around 900 yesterday to number nearly 25,000 currently active cases. Deaths increased by 18 on Sunday for a statewide total of 4,311 since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations decreased by 21 over the same period, leaving 1,271 Arkansans still hospitalized due to COVID-19

Felony charges filed against Little River County many for stabbing brother     01/15/2021

LITTLE RIVER – A felony charge has been filed against a man from Little River County who allegedly stabbed his brother after getting into an argument about spreading the Gospel.

Court records show 32-year-old Bryan Matthew Perkins is facing one count of first-degree battery from the incident, which occurred in December at his mother’s home on Little River 711. Prosecutors allege Perkins stabbed his brother multiple times with a knife. Perkins’ brother told police the incident occurred after an argument began over “the spread of Jesus Christ’s word.” The argument then turned physical, prosecutors allege, with Perkins’ brother sustaining cuts to his face, left arm and under his right armpit. In addition the brother suffered a collapsed lung due to a stab wound to his back.

Officers became involved after emergency personnel at St. Michael’s Hospital in Texarkana contacted authorities in Little River County. The victim reportedly told hospital staff the wounds were the result of a dog attack. Emergency personnel however determined the “lacerations and punctures were not from a dog and could only have been caused by a knife.”

Police then made contact with Perkins earlier this month and placed him in custody. He has been charged with first-degree battery which, if Perkins is convicted, could carry a sentence of 10 to 40 years in prison. Court records show Perkins is currently on probation for a 2018 assault conviction after an attack on his mother. A motion has been filed by Little River prosecutors to revoke Perkins’ probation.

Domtar announces divestment of personal care business     01/15/2021

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Domtar Corp. announced last week its plans to sell off its nearly $1 billion personal care business in a move designed to help the company restructure following a difficult 2020.

Domtar stated in a news release it is selling the personal care business to American Industrial Partners for $920 million. Company officials said the majority of the sale’s proceeds will be used to service its debt with the remainder going towards repurchasing shares. The deal is expected to conclude sometime later this quarter. Domtar’s personal care products includes largely health-care supplies.

Domtar CEO John Williams said the sale is “an important component” of Domtar’s strategic plan and provides the company “with additional capital and resources to strengthen and invest in the future.”

The announcement follows a year of reduction and restructuring for the paper product manufacturer. The plant announced last April it would shutter its Tennessee-based production facility. In August, Domtar announced the permanent shutdown of the A62 paper machine at its Ashdown plant. The machine was idled earlier in 2020 due to financial upsets caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. At that time 142 employees were laid off. Those jobs were eliminated completely following the shutdown of the A62 paper machine.

DQ Schools recognize school board members during appreciation month     01/15/2021

Submitted by Beau McCastlain of De Queen Public Schools

DE QUEEN – The Arkansas School Boards Association (ASBA) announced that January is School Board Member Recognition Month in Arkansas. School board members play an essential role in the community. De Queen Schools will join other districts in Arkansas in celebration of the district’s board by thanking them for the time, talents, and knowledge they bring to the district and for their commitment to the families and children of the local community.

Jason Sanders, Superintendent of De Queen Schools, stated “ we are very fortunate to have such a quality school system here in De Queen. A major part of that success is the leadership of our Board of Directors. Our school board members are quality people, great communicators, and truly care about our kids.”

Sanders added “elected school board members give our Sevier County citizens a voice in education decision making. While we make a special effort to show our appreciation in January, their contribution is a year-round commitment.”

The members serving the De Queen School District are as follows:

Dr. Kenneth W. Martin, the eldest of three sons born to Colonel Ted and Marilyn Martin, was raised in Dumas. He grew up farming with the family operation that included fish, cotton, rice, and soybeans. He graduated from Dumas High School in 1989. He then attended the University of Arkansas at Monticello until being accepted into the Louisiana State University of Veterinary Medicine. After graduating with his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 1996, he worked as a veterinarian in Monticello. It was then that he married his wife Jennifer in 1997. In 1998, they purchased De Queen Animal Hospital and became busy members of the De Queen community. They have three children who have graduated from De Queen Public schools and one child still attending. Dr. Martin and his family are members of Memorial Missionary Baptist Church where they are involved with youth activities. They are also involved in 4-H Shooting Sports, livestock showing through 4-H and FFA, and youth sports.

Gloria Jean Caldwell is one of seven children of Robert and Emmer Bell. She was born and raised in De Queen and is a 1974 graduate of De Queen High School. She was in the first class to graduate from the Cossatot Community College, currently CCCUA, with a degree in Business. She has two daughters, Kyesten and Halley, who graduated from De Queen High School. Kyesten attained her BA in Psychology from Alabama A&amp;M University and Halley graduated with a Business Management degree at the University of Central Arkansas. Mrs. Caldwell is enjoying retirement after working for 37 years at De Queen and Eastern Railroad as Administrative Assistant and Payroll Manager. She became a member of the De Queen School Board in 2009. Learning the processes for operation and maintenance of our schools for the best educational opportunities for the students is a huge responsibility, and it is also very rewarding. It is by far one of the most rewarding positions in Sevier County. In Mrs. Caldwell’s spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, promoting education, and reading.

Sandy Huntsberger is a graduate of De Queen High School. After high school, Sandy attended and graduated with honors from Wadley School of Radiologic Technology, and the Dallas Institute of Ultrasonography.  Her early working career was spent in the medical profession as an American Registered Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) in radiology, CT, Ultrasound, and MRI at St. Michael’s Hospital in Texarkana.  She retired from the medical profession in 1996 after the death of her first husband so that she could devote her time to raising her girls in De Queen. Sandy has been a very active supporter of the De Queen School Systems since her oldest daughter started Kindergarten in 1994. Since that day, she has volunteered countless hours to serving this school district in every capacity imaginable.  She was elected as a Board Member and has dedicated the past 24 years of service in that capacity, as well as gaining recognition as a Master Board member through consistent involvement in Continuing Education for Board members and leadership growth. Mr. Huntsberger is the owner of Southern Home Furniture in De Queen. She has two daughters, Callie Miller, 30 years old, a graduate of DHS and Ouachita Baptist University with a degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Morgan Miller, 26 years old, a DHS graduate who graduated from UALR and UAMS with a Masters in Speech-Language Pathology.

Felix “Skip” Bell was born and raised in Lockesburg. He graduated from Lockesburg High School in 1973. He attended Southern Arkansas University after high school, and then graduated from Texarkana Community College in 1980 with an associate’s degree in nursing. He has been married for 42 years to his wife, Barbara. He has two daughters, Kendra (38 years old) and Kimberly (31 years old), and one son, Colton (26 years old). He is presently employed at Howard Memorial Hospital. He is active at Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church in Lockesburg. He serves on both the Sevier County Museum board and the city park committee at Lockesburg. Mr. Bell has been a member of the De Queen School board since 1995 and recently began serving on the new Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors.

Barry Reed was appointed to the Board as the Zone 5 representative in November 2019 to serve the remainder of the term of a member who resigned and was elected to a full-term in March 2020. He has lived in De Queen since 2005 and has been employed at UA Cossatot since 2006. Mr. Reed is currently the director of UACCC’s Ashdown and Lockesburg campuses. He has three sons, two of which are current students at De Queen Public Schools, and his oldest is a 2020 honor graduate of DHS. Mr. Reed enjoys outdoor activities, sporting events, coaching youth sports, and researching historical events. He has served as a youth sports coach in local programs since 2006 and also served on the board of the Sevier County Youth Baseball Association from 2010 to 2020. Mr. Reed is currently serving as a board member of the De Queen Athletic Booster Club and is an active member of the De Queen Church of Christ. Prior to moving to De Queen, Mr. Reed taught junior high and senior high Social Studies in the Russellville School District and was also a 1997 graduate of Russellville High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in History Education from Arkansas Tech University (2001) as well as a master’s degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas (2019). Mr. Reed states “it truly is an honor to serve on the board and have an opportunity to support the District’s top-notch faculty, staff, and administrators as they provide a rigorous, meaningful education to our children that will equip them to be successful productive citizens.”

Spanish-language business seminar scheduled for local      01/15/2021

DE QUEEN – State and local organizations of Arkansas have teamed up to provide information and resources for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs in the natural state this month.

The “Starting a Business in Arkansas” workshop will be held virtually on Thursday, Jan. 28 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and this event will be delivered in Spanish.Information presented will include legal requirements, licensing, key issues for success in small businesses and more.

This workshop is free of charge and is being sponsored by the CREATE BRIDGES group, the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Small Business Technology Development Center(ASBTDC), U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) and Henderson State University School of Business.

For more information, call 870-230-5184.

Birding among many outdoor opportunities available at Pond Creek NWR     01/15/2021

POND CREEK – National wildlife refuges, or NWRs, belong to the people and are entrusted to those who work for the U.S. Fish &amp; Wildlife Service to manage for the benefit of wildlife. There are 10 NWRs across Arkansas and they are great spots for outdoor endeavors like birding. Three of them – Felsenthal, Overflow and Pond Creek NWR here in Sevier County – are under the reins of the South Arkansas Refuges Complex.

Most national wildlife refuges focus on providing more opportunities for activities other than hunting. Wildlife observation, photography and hiking, for example: they also protect and manage critical habitats for birds. Birding on refuges encourages participants to become aware of the needs and challenges birds face. Refuge paths and trails can lead to a greater understanding of conservation and restoration efforts, not to mention that you’re outside with nature.

Birding is a popular activity at Pond Creek and Overflow NWRs. Located in an area where the Central and Mississippi flyways overlap, Pond Creek NWR is a bottomland, wetland ecosystem that lies between Ashdown and De Queen.

Pond Creek NWR provides its own distinct birding and wildlife observation opportunities, but as with Felsenthal, birders should be aware of the hunting season beginning September 1 and continuing until the end of January.

Many of the refuges across the nation, and especially in Arkansas, were established due to the sale of duck stamps. “Around 98 cents of every duck stamp dollar goes directly to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to purchase wildlife habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

New economic development group announced, public meeting set for February     01/15/2021

Submitted by Ben Renfrow of UA Cossatot

DE QUEEN – Economic development officials in Sevier County are announcing a new foundation with the goal of benefiting the county and its economic environment.

Sevier County Economic Development Director Tiffany Maurer announced the new foundation in a press release issued this week. The foundation is titled FRIENDS, and it recently became an official 501 (c) (3) with the IRS allowing donors to receive tax credits. This foundation aims for funds to be raised from donations to assist Sevier County and its residents in cultivating and completing economic development projects and activities.

FRIENDS stands for Funding Retention and Increasing Efforts for Notable Economic Development in Sevier County. It was created last year with citizens of Sevier County in mind. Anyone who donates a minimum of $100 automatically becomes a member of the FRIENDS Foundation and with the stated mission that raised funds will help Sevier County grow financially. In addition, organizers say the organization will provide the Sevier County Economic Development department with the opportunity to receive money for business development, training, advertising, and assistance with projects to benefit the local area. Maurer said the foundation will look for projects within opportunity zones while also keeping site selection, business retention, and training efforts in mind to help with business development.

The annual FRIENDS Foundation meeting for 2021 will take place at the Herman Dierks Park Community Building in De Queen on Friday, February 5, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. The meeting is open to the public.

Topics to be discussed at the meeting will include future projects, funding progress toward the annual budget, and potential projects to establish the Sevier County Opportunity Zone Investment Fund. Masks will be required, and social distancing will be encouraged.

For questions on becoming a FRIENDS member or to RSVP for the FRIENDS Foundation’s annual meeting, contact Sevier County Economic Development Director Tiffany Maurer at <a href=”mailto:tmaurer@cccua.edu”>tmaurer@cccua.edu</a> or 870-584-1184.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures     01/15/2021

DE QUEEN – THere are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Thursday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported a net decrease of 11 active cases yesterday, lowering the current total to 62. Total cases increased by three to 2,225. Deaths remain at 23.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported nine fewer active cases yesterday. That figure now numbers 55 currently confirmed and probable active cases in the county. Total cases grew by two to 924. Deaths remain at 39.

One additional death was reported in Howard County yesterday, raising the toll from COVID-19 to 19 since the pandemic began. Active positive cases remained unchanged at 47 while total cases grew by two to 1,217.

Polk County reported 20 additional active cases yesterday, raising the current total to 164. Total cases increased by 38 to 1,502. Deaths remain at 50.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported 18 fewer active cases on Thursday. Active cases in the county now number 278. Total cases grew by 15 to 3,221. Deaths remain at 57.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported nearly 2,500 new cases yesterday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to just over 264,000 since the pandemic began. Active positives in Arkansas decreased by 355 and currently number 24,740 confirmed and probable active cases. Deaths increased by 42 on Thursday for a statewide total of 4,228. Hospitalizations decreased significantly yesterday, falling by 67 to leave 1,295 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.

De Queen Schools to continue emergency sick leave for teachers       01/14/2021
By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Teachers at De Queen Public Schools will continue to have a pool of additional sick days available for COVID-19 related isolation or quarantine, according to district officials.

De Queen Superintendent Jason Sanders said the district was extending its policy of providing 20 days of emergency paid sick leave to teachers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or forced to quarantine due to potential exposure to the virus. The policy is in place so teachers are not forced to rely on their accumulated sick leave if quarantine or isolation is necessary.

The emergency sick leave for teachers was implemented last year and funded through federal money received through the initial CARES Act relief bill. The Arkansas Department of Education reimbursed school districts in the state but announced earlier this month those funds were depleted. State education officials encouraged school districts to continue their emergency sick leave policies but without assurance of state reimbursement.

Sanders said the De Queen School District will use local funds to assure its emergency sick leave policy remains in place for teachers. He added that it’s vital for teacher morale and a successfully functioning teaching environment for teachers not to be forced to take their own accumulated sick leave in the event they are diagnosed with COVID-19 or required to quarantine. In effect, Sanders said teachers should not be punished for doing the right thing.

Sanders said the district’s policy for the rest of the school year includes 20 days of emergency sick leave for each teacher. That could be extended, Sanders added, if circumstances warrant additional time.

The De Queen School District is set to receive some portion of the $500 million in education funds through the latest federal CARES Act relief bill. What that will amount to, Sanders is unsure at this time. But, he said the option is out there for the school to use that money to reimburse its emergency sick leave fund.

Sanders said, either through federal money or with local funds, the emergency sick leave will remain available to all teachers in the De Queen School District through at least the end of the school year.

Arkansas turkey hunting application period begins      01/14/2021

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will accept applications Jan. 15-Feb. 15 from hunters who want to hunt on many wildlife management areas during the 2021 Arkansas turkey season.

Many good public turkey-hunting opportunities exist, particularly on the large cooperative WMAs owned by the U.S. Forest Service. However, turkeys and turkey hunters need room to spread out, which can lead to conflicts between hunters on some smaller WMAs. To increase the quality of the hunt on some of the most popular public areas, the AGFC restricts the number of hunters allowed during turkey season through random drawings.

Only permit holders may hunt on the WMA during the permit hunt.

However, a permit holder can have a friend alongside them to call for them. Friends and family may camp with permit holders at designated campsites on the WMA as well.

Applications are taken electronically through www.agfc.com, and winning applicants will be notified via email. Applications require a $5 nonrefundable processing fee. Winning applicants are not required to pay any additional fees beyond the purchase of their hunting license.
Visit <u><a href=”https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/turkey/turkeypermits”>www.agfc.com</a></u> to view a list of available permits.

City of Dierks approves 2021 budget, two-percent pay    01/14/2021

DIERKS – The Dierks city budget for 2021 was approved Monday night during the first council meeting of the year. Revenue from general fund items will total more than $739,000 dollars.

Numbers from other departments within the city include $28,000 dollars in the Park fund, $49,723 dollars in the Fire Department fund, and almost $106,000 dollars of revenue is expected for the Dierks street fund. Expenses for each department will equal the revenue amounts.
The budget includes a two percent pay increase for employees. There was also discussion about getting bids on a new police vehicle. A pickup used for the department is beginning to have minor repairs needed and council members want to work toward purchasing a new unit.
Monday’s meeting included an executive session to discuss a personnel matter. Upon returning to the open meeting, aldermen voted move water, street and sanitation employee Brett Muse from an hourly employee to a salaried exempt status, with a salary set at $45,000 dollars.

Today is last day for comment period on Albert Pike Park       01/14/2021

LANGLEY – Officials with the Ouachita National Forest say today is the last day for the public comment period regarding the future of the Albert Pike Recreation Area, located in Langley. The 30-day extended period will enable the public to review the Ouachita National Forest’s proposed long-term management and use of the recreation area.

The Ouachita National Forest proposes to improve day use opportunities which includes general maintenance, adding more parking, providing alternative bathroom facilities, increasing signage and improving the swim beach. Overnight use below the 100-year flood elevation would not be permitted anywhere in the Albert Pike Recreation Area. The park has been closed and unmaintained since 2010, when a devastating 500-year flood swept through the park and tragically killed 20 people.

The proposed action can be found on the project’s webpage at www.fs.usda.gov/project. All comments must be in writing and submitted through formal channels.

Information regarding second round of stimulus payments     01/14/2021

The Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department have begun delivering a second round of Economic Impact Payments (EIP), or stimulus payments, as a part of the CARES Act of 2021 to millions of Americans who received the first round of payments in 2020.  The IRS began sending the initial round of payments in late December 2020 by direct deposit and by mailing checks or debits cards. Arkansans who received a paper check or debit card in the first round of stimulus payments in 2020 could expect to receive a check or debit card this time also. It’s a welcome development given many Arkansans are in dire need of this stimulus payment. But state law enforcement officials want to make sure Arkansans know the mailed checks and debit cards are not a scam. They urge recipients not to throw away a white envelope with the U.S. Department of Treasury seal without opening it.

The card will be sent in a white envelope that prominently displays the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal. Most individuals will receive $600 and $1,200 for married couples filing a joint return and $600 for each qualifying child.

Couples filing jointly with just one member of the couple with a work-eligible Social Security Number will now be eligible for payments for the taxpayers and their qualifying children.

The IRS says people do not need to take any action right now to receive their stimulus payment. Eligible individuals who do not receive their payment or who did not receive their first stimulus payment can claim it when they file their 2020 tax return this year. People who do not normally file tax returns should also file a 2020 tax return if they do not receive their stimulus payment.

Stimulus payments that are received in December 2020 or January 2021 by direct deposit will be automatically protected from garnishment by debt collectors. That is not true of payments that are claimed on the 2020 tax return and paid later in the year as part of the regular tax refund.

Payments are being issued based on information the IRS already has on file, people will not be able to add new bank account information or request to receive their payment by EIP Card.

Arkansas deer season sets new record     01/14/2021

With more than a month left in Arkansas’s archery deer season, hunters have checked over 214,000 deer during the 2020-21 deer hunting season. That’s more deer than any season since the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began keeping harvest records in 1938.

The previous record harvest was 213,487 deer, set in the 2012-13 season. With the exception of last year, Arkansas hunters have harvested more than 200,000 deer annually since that season as well. During the 2019-20 deer hunting season the harvest dipped to 188,151.

According to license sales numbers from the last five years, this year is the first in many when hunter numbers did not decline. In fact, this year’s resident and nonresident hunting license numbers are very similar to those recorded in 2018, but still are far below the numbers seen during the record-setting year nearly a decade ago.

AGFC officials point out that this season’s increase in hunting licenses might be because of COVID-19 and people finding new ways to spend their time in an outdoor setting. But the record-breaking year is not solely the result of new hunters joining the ranks.

COVID-19 also may have influenced hunters’ mindsets toward the number of deer they harvested. The pandemic caused many meat shortages throughout the nation last year, which may have increased people’s view of venison as a healthy and sustainable alternative to beef and pork.

Things have come a long way since Arkansas’s first recorded deer harvest in 1938. That year, hunters checked only 203 deer, statewide. More than 20 years later, the deer harvest broke the 10,000-deer mark, and hunters did not reach a 100,000-deer season in Arkansas until 1987.

Hunters and wildlife enthusiasts interested in learning more about white-tailed deer harvest records and scientific management of the species in Arkansas can find historical deer harvest reports and the AGFC’s Strategic Deer Management Plan at<u> www.agfc.com</u>

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures       01/14/2021

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Wednesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported a net increase of six active cases yesterday, raising the current total to 73. Total cases increased by 18 to 2,222. Deaths remain at 23.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported six fewer active cases yesterday. That figure now numbers 64 currently confirmed and probable active cases in the county. Total cases grew by nine to 922. Deaths remain at 39.

Active cases in Howard County decreased by three to 47. Total cases increased by nine to 1,215. Deaths remain at 18.

Polk County reported seven fewer active cases yesterday. Active cases in the county now number 144. Total cases grew by 12 to 1,464. Deaths increased by one over the 24-hour period and now total 50 since the pandemic began.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported 14 fewer active cases on Wednesday. Active cases in the county now number 296. Total cases grew by 15 to 3,206. Deaths remain at 57.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported nearly 2,500 new cases yesterday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to just over 262,000 since the pandemic began. Active positives in Arkansas decreased by 607 and currently number 25,000 confirmed and probable active cases. Deaths increased by 65 on Wednesday for a statewide total of 4,186. Hospitalizations increased by eight on Wednesday to 1,362 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.

De Queen School Board approves nearly $1M for stadium renovation     01/13/2021

The full audio story is available here

The partial transcript is featured below:

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

DE QUEEN – Some much-needed renovations and repairs will be coming to Leopard Stadium after a vote of approval by the De Queen School Board Monday night.

The board voted unanimously to approve nearly $970,000 for renovations at the stadium – which is host not just to numerous school sporting events but also the district’s graduation ceremony and other community events.</div>

Sanders said the project will be funded internally through money remaining from the construction fund for the new high school. Work will be performed by Clarke Construction – the same contractor who built the new high school on-time and under-budget. As part of the repair work, the home side will receive new aluminum bleachers as well as safety fencing and handrails around the facility.

Given the importance of the stadium not just to the school but the community as a whole, Sanders said it’s vital the facility stays in top shape for years to come.

In other business, the school board approved an expenditure of nearly $36,000 for a number of new security cameras around the district. Sanders said these cameras would be placed in locations where cameras do not currently exist or where more coverage is needed.

During his superintendent’s report Sanders stated district enrollment coming into 2021 is 2,319. Of those around 20 percent are enrolled in the district’s virtual learning option. He also informed board members that the district’s FCCLA chapter had received a grant totaling $60,000. In addition the district is set to receive some portion of the $500 million allotted for Arkansas in the most recent federal COVID-19 relief bill. At this point the district is unsure how much that will total but is expected to be larger than the district’s last allotment. Sanders said a significant portion of the funds will be used to purchase more technology for the district

In personnel matters, the board rescinded the resignations of Summer Estrada and Amy Mills after both decided to stay with the district. Board members also approved a number of school transfers as well as a student expulsion.

Other routine financial and administrative matters were also discussed and approved

Sanders did say the district was thankful to its students, parents, faculty and staff who have been both patient and understanding during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it made necessary. He added that with their assistance the district is hopeful for a successful conclusion to the school year.

The De Queen School Board is scheduled to meet again on Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in the high school library.

Noel Bard named CEO of First State Bank of De Queen          01/13/2021

The full audio story is available here:</div>

The partial transcript is featured below

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News

New CEO – Noel Bard was recently named the new CEO of First State Bank of De Queen. A Gillham native, Bard is taking the position after the former FSB President Gary Golden passed away last year. Bard said he plans to continue the bank’s role as a community-based institution with an emphasis on agriculture lending.

First State Bank of De Queen recently named its newest president and he’s likely to be a familiar face to many in the community

Noel Bard officially took over as the bank’s chief executive officer last year. He replaces the long-serving bank president Gary Golden, who passed away in September. A native of Gillham, Bard has been a member of the First State Bank team since 1991. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas where he achieved his degree in public administration and received his master’s in banking from LSU. Before taking the position as CEO, Bard served as a vice-president of First State Bank

This November will mark Bard’s 30th year with First State Bank. That kind of longevity is not common these days and not seen often in the banking sector. But, Bard has seen the vital role a locally-owned, community bank like First State Bank serves. It’s that role that has kept Bard with First State Bank for nearly three decades

That local control has allowed First State Bank to take chances helping customers where larger, more centralized banks perhaps couldn’t due to stricter regulations

Bard also recognized the commitment the bank has long held towards its employees. That’s reflected in the number of employees with at least 25 years of service at the bank, including he added Barbara Kitchens, who has been with the bank for 37 years

Throughout his time at First State Bank Bard has seen the institution grow to include several locations across the region. In fact, the bank is preparing to open a new branch in Glenwood this month. The bank’s assets have also grown tremendously over the years, from around $40 million when he first started to $300 million today. He also worked alongside Gary Golden to shift First State Bank to an agricultural lender – a vital shift, Bard added, given agriculture comprises over 70 percent of Sevier County’s economy

Bard said one of his goals for the bank’s future is to incorporate more technology and tailor more to online banking services

For young people considering finance as a future career, Bard has some advice given increasing technology and the changing nature of banking.

Outside of his career in banking, Bard is also well-known as the long-time treasurer of the De Queen Lions Club. In fact, it’s a position he’s held since 1985. He’s been named the club’s Lion of the Year on three separate occasions. He also serves as the treasurer of the Gillham Alumni Association.

But his passion continues to be community banking. To the bank’s old customers, as well as to its future new ones, Bard said First State Bank’s commitment remains the same as ever.

Arkansas teachers set to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines next week     01/13/2021
By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

State officials say Arkansas teachers and residents aged 70 or older will begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations starting next week

During his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce update on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the next phase of vaccinations would begin Jan. 18. This phase, titled 1-B, includes Arkansans aged 70 or older as well as those employed in education across the state. Hutchinson said school districts, colleges and universities would need to determine the number of doses they need and then collaborate with the Arkansas Department of Health to set up vaccination clinics.

Elderly Arkansans included in Phase 1-B would need to contact their local pharmacy and set up an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine. In Sevier County, the participating pharmacy is the De Queen Health and Wellness Pharmacy. A full list of participating pharmacies can be found on the Department of Health’s website at healthy.arkansas.gov.

Hutchinson said the next phase is proceeding earlier than planned due to the efficiency of the Phase 1-A rollout which focused on healthcare workers, nursing home residents and first responders.

So far the state has received over 227,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Of those, nearly 89,000 doses have been administered, or about 39 percent of those received thus far. That figure also amounts to around three percent of the entire population of Arkansas.

Hutchinson said the state hopes to increase not just the rate at which the state receives vaccine doses, but also the rate at which they’re administered.

Hutchinson also defended the state’s decision to use Phase 1-B to focus on Arkansans aged 70 and older. He said increasing the age limit would help prevent the vaccine rollout from becoming overwhelmed in its early stages. Also, those in the 70 and up category have been in the most vulnerable category when it comes to this potentially deadly virus.

Finally, Hutchinson provided an update to the statewide COVID-19 figures. On Tuesday, the Arkansas Department of Health reported an additional 3,209 cases of the virus. That raises the state’s cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to over 259,000 since the pandemic began. Deaths increased by 40 on Tuesday for a total of 4,121. Over the same period active cases declined but remain at nearly 26,000. Hospitalizations fell by 17, leaving 1,354 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. COVID-19 tests administered so far this month now number around 143,000.

County clerk shares information on May school board elections in Sevier County     01/13/2021

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Clerk’s Office is sharing information in relation to this year’s upcoming school election.

There are several school board positions to be elected in 2021, including Zone 1 in the Horatio School District currently held by Joe Jones. This year’s election also includes Zone 4 in the Horatio School District – held by Sherri Hodges – and Zone 3 in the De Queen School District, currently held by Gloria Caldwell.

The petition process is currently open. Petitions are required to have at least 20 signatures but extras are recommended. Other filing requirements include an affidavit of eligibility and a political practices pledge.

The filing dates for School Board Candidates begins Monday, Feb. 22 at 12 noon and ends at 12 noon on March 1.

The last day to register to vote in the May School Elections will be April 19. Address or name changes to a voter’s existing registration must be updated prior to election day. Identification will be required from all voters during the election. Early voting begins the week before the election on Tuesday, May 18.

Anyone interested in being an election worker in the upcoming election should contact the county clerk’s office at 642-2852. County Clerk Debbie Akin invites anyone with questions to call her office at that number.

Blood drive in De Queen this Saturday       01/13/2021

DE QUEEN – LifeShare Blood Center will host another blood drive in De Queen this Saturday, Jan. 16. The mobile blood drive will be held outside of the De Queen Walmart store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Blood supplies in the area remain critically low so all donors are greatly welcomed.

SCSO releases December activity report       01/13/2021

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Sheriffs Office has released its update detailing activities for the month of December:

Deputies clocked a total of 2,183 hours on duty during the month.

Total miles driven by deputies were over 20,000 with 1,294 gallons of fuel used.

Deputies received a total of 149 calls, including 12 motor vehicle accidents, 103 traffic stops, 10 citations, 95 warnings and nine arrests.

A total of 14 civil papers were served. 703 building checks were made throughout the month.

Investigators opened two sexual assault cases and closed a theft case while recovering the stolen property.

The sheriff’s office advises that the number of arrests does not reflect the number of warrants served for the month, of which there were numerous. The numberof arrests comes from deputies performing traffic stops or working thefts, burglaries and other reported crimes.

Investigators worked one sexual assault case in December, of which an arrest is pending. A forgery case was solved as well as arrests made in an arson case, three thefts and one aggravated residential burglary. Investigators recovered several guns, a boat, saddles, generators, tools and a computer during theft investigations in December.

Government offices closed Jan. 18 for MLK, Jr. Day     01/13/2021

DE QUEEN – Government offices will be closed next Monday, Jan. 18 in commemoration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. That includes the Sevier County Courthouse and Landfill. Both will reopen with normal operating hours on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
De Queen, Lockesburg, Horatio and Gillham City Halls will also be closed on Jan. 18 in recognition of the holiday.

Sevier County libraries return to curbside-only service due to COVID      01/13/2021

DE QUEEN – Rising COVID-19 cases in Sevier County and across the state have prompted all libraries in Sevier County to return to curbside only service. This means public access to the building while not be permitted for the time being.

Curbside only services began this week. Sevier County Head Librarian Johnye Fisher said this change will affect all four libraries in Sevier County. She added that the library system unsure at this time how long the library lobbies will be closed.

In addition, she asked that no donations be made to the library at this time and instead be held on to until a later day. Fisher said all four libraries in Sevier County will continue to provide copies, faxes and notary services. This is in addition to allowing patrons to check in and out library materials through the libraries’ dropboxes.

For more information contact your local library.


ADH updates local COVID-19 figures       01/13/2021

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Tuesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported a net increase of four active cases on Tuesday, raising the current total to 67. Total cases increased by 21 to 2,204. Deaths remain at 23.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported one additional active case yesterday. That figure now numbers 70 currently confirmed and probable active cases in the county. Total cases grew by 12 to 913. Deaths remain at 39.

Active cases in Howard County remained unchanged at 50. Total cases increased by 10 to 1,116. Deaths remain at 18.

Polk County reported four fewer active cases yesterday. Active cases in the county now number 151. Total cases grew by 10 to 1,452. Deaths remain at 49.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported 39 fewer active cases on Tuesday. Active cases in the county now number 310. Total cases grew by one to 3,191. Deaths remain at 57.

Peterson sentenced in to federal prison for human trafficking and adoption scheme   01/13/2021

Tuesday was a day of healing for a group of Marshallese women who had become victims in De Queen as part of a nationwide human trafficking and adoption scheme.

That scheme has received nationwide media attention in recent days and weeks as the case against Paul Petersen comes to a close. Petersen, who is a former public official in Arizona, pleaded guilty in the summer to a federal human trafficking conspiracy charge. Numerous other charges, including wire fraud, Medicaid fraud, money laundering and 19 human trafficking charges specific to Arkansas, were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. He is facing a host of other charges, however, in three states including Arkansas

The charges all relate to an adoption scheme Petersen had orchestrated for years. In effect, for at least the past decade Petersen had assisted in smuggling pregnant women from the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the United States so their babies could be adopted for financial gain. Petersen charged couples $35,000 to adopt these children. In compensation the women were told they would receive $10,000. Prosecutors described the scheme as a “baby-selling enterprise” and that Petersen had organized over 70 illegal adoptions. These actions violated a compact between the United States and Marshall Islands which bands Marshallese people from traveling to the United States for adoptions unless they have a specific visa. None of the women involved were provided that visa.

Thanks to a multi-state investigation, Petersen’s actions were uncovered and federal charges swiftly filed against him. He was arrested in October of last year. Nonetheless, the scheme left dozens of victims in its wakes. And many with a connection to De Queen.

De Queen was one of several locations used by Petersen to hide the women as they completed their pregnancies. Witnesses to one of the locations described it as a “baby mill,” with numerous pregnant women sleeping on mattresses on the floor. As many as 10 pregnant women were kept in a home in De Queen at any given time. This occurred over a period of nearly 10 years, according to Michaela Montie. Montie is co-founder and executive director of Shared Beginnings, an Arkansas-based non-profit with advocates for birth mothers who wish to place their child for adoption.

Officially what Petersen committed was human trafficking, but in many ways resembled imprisonment. If not in theory then almost certainly in practice. The women were isolated in De Queen, unable to speak the language or communicate their situation to anyone who could help. The women’s movements and communications were heavily restricted.

As an adoptive mother herself and as a person familiar with the Marshallese community in Arkansas, Montie has taken on a critical role in healing the wounds created by Petersen. She was not part of the investigation against him but began to pick up the pieces after Petersen’s adoption scheme imploded.

What she learned after Petersen’s case came to light shocked her. The situation pregnant Marshallese mothers faced when they arrived was not what they were told.

Instead, in many cases they found themselves trapped in squalid homes and in living conditions which Montie said hardly any American would tolerate. She knew Shared Beginnings would be well-positioned to help. Not just the mothers involved, but also the adoptive parents financially and emotionally devastated by Petersen’s illegal adoption service.

Helping some of these Marshallese women overcome their experiences is what lead Montie and a small group of victims to De Queen on Tuesday. By visiting the home where they were confined, perhaps these women could find some closure.

The future for these women is an uncertain one to map out. Some may choose to return to the Marshall Islands. Others may choose to stay in the United States. Although they were brought here through an illegal conspiracy, these women like other Marshallese people have the legal right to live and work in the United States. To understand why, Montie said it’s critical to recall the controversial history between the United States and the Marshall Islands.

After conquering the Marshall Islands from the Japanese Empire during the Second World War, the United States used the islands – and specifically Bikini Atoll – as the main site of the Pacific Proving Grounds. That is, the testing site for the first generation of America’s atomic weapons during the Cold War. The testing areas were left uninhabitable due to the high level of radiation left behind by the bomb explosions. In response the United States and Republic of the Marshall Islands signed the Compact of Free Association. This agreement allows residents of the Marshall Islands to reside in the United States with nothing more than a passport and a plane ticket.

But that compact doesn’t include all the rights of a citizen or even a permanent U.S. resident. The future of these women, victims of human trafficking, isn’t going to be easy. Or even certain. But confronting the terrible experience they were forced to endure will go a long way towards closing this chapter and starting a new one – and finding some healing in the process.

A final note to this story: Petersen was sentenced yesterday to six years and two months in a federal prison for the illegal adoption service he organized. He could face additional time if found guilty on state charges once completing his federal sentence. Before his sentencing, Petersen read a prepared statement expressing remorse that some Marshallese women he worked with may have felt that he took advantage of them for his own profit.

Felony charges brought against Foreman man accused in shooting     01/12/2021

FOREMAN – Charges have been filed against a Foreman man accused of shooting up a home and another man inside during an incident last month.

According to court records, 25-year-old Tyler Humphrey has been charged with first-degree battery as well as possession of a firearm by a felon. In addition to those two felony charges prosecutors have also charged Humphrey with committing a terroristic act.

The changes stem from an altercation on Dec. 22 during which police say Humphrey shot numerous rounds into a home on Highway 108 in Foreman. Deputies arrived after receiving a call in relation to the shooting and found another 25-year-old man who had sustained several gunshot wounds.

Officials with the sheriff’s office said the victim identified the shooter as Humphrey. Humphrey reportedly shot up the home and suspect from outside the residence. The victim was flown by Air Evac to a Texarkana hospital where he was treated for his injuries. The man is reportedly in stable condition.

Humphrey was located by deputies soon thereafter and taken into custody.

Authorities say the victim’s three-year-old daughter was inside the home when the shooting occurred.

Humphrey is awaiting his next court appearance in the Little River County Jail on a $75,000 bond. The first-degree battery offense as well as possession of a firearm by a felon each carries a sentence of five to 20 years in prison in addition to a fine up to $15,000.

Millwood Fishing Challenge begins Feb. 1, 2021     01/12/2021

MILLWOOD LAKE – The Little River County Chamber of Commerce in Ashdown has announced it will kick off the first ever Millwood Fishing Challenge starting next month.

The challenge will take place on Millwood Lake near Ashdown and will begin at 6 a.m. February 1. The challenge will end April 15 at 5 p.m. that day.

There are over 100 prize fish, valued at $137,500 in cash—including the $10,000 “BIG MILLIE” grand prize. The prize fish will all be wearing 2021 yellow tags and will be released into Millwood Lake just prior to the challenge start date.

​​The challenge provides anglers the opportunity to catch yellow-tagged fish that can be redeemed for cash prizes.

The yellow tags will have a phone number and a prize number on them. If a fish is caught the angler must call the number and present the fish with the yellow tag attached, along with the badge number. All official rules must be complied with.

The fish will be tagged by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and released into Millwood Lake. No one will know the exact location of the release points except certain organizers.

The prize fish include bass, catfish (of any kind) and crappie. ONLY bream will be tagged for the youth angler challenge. All tagged fish will be have to be checked-in alive and with their yellow tag in place. No commercial fishing equipment is allowed and, obviously, all state laws and regulations must be followed. No guided fishing trips are allowed to participate in this event.

The contest is open to anyone with a valid Arkansas fishing license and a valid badge that can be purchased for $15. Badges can be purchased at a number of locations, including Bogey’s and Milway Federal Credit Union. A full list of participating locations is available at ashdownarkansas.org/millwoodfishingchallenge.

A special young anglers weekend will be held in April.

Visit the Little River County Chamber of Commerce online at www.ashdownarkansas.org/millwoodfishingchallenge for more details.

All Arkansas public schools now providing free breakfast, lunch     01/12/2021

DE QUEEN – All children in Arkansas are now able to receive school meals at absolutely no cost, regardless of their parents’ income status.

The USDA announced last year it was waiving exemptions for the nationwide free meal program and expanding it to include all K-12 students. That exemption has now been extended throughout the rest of the remaining school year.
The exemption is designed to ease hardships caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and provide parents with one less concern during the school year.

All students in De Queen, Horatio, Ashdown, Dierks and other area schools will now be provided free meals throughout the current semester. The exemption ends at the start of the Summer Break, unless it is further extended. The program is no longer based on income guidelines.
Officials with Horatio and De Queen schools stressed that virtual students are also eligible for free meals. These can be picked up from the district and taken home.

De Queen Superintendent Jason Sanders said this is a great move to help students in his district. He added that, effective immediately, all 2,300 students in the De Queen School District are eligible for a 100 percent free breakfast and lunch each day.
Sanders said the waiver allows families to have one less thing to worry about and allow them to focus more on their child’s education.

Arkansans asked to participate in feral hog survey     01/12/2021

Arkansans are being asked to participate in the Arkansas Feral Swine Survey to determine the extent of the feral hog problem in the Natural State.

The survey is being hosted by the Arkansas Corn and Grain Promotion Board and can be completed in less than five minutes.

After completing the survey, organizers are asking participants to help by sharing the link with other individuals in the Arkansas agricultural community. The survey is completely voluntary and no personal information is collected in the survey. Refusing to participate will not adversely affect any other relationship with the University of Arkansas.

The survey can be found at https://uark.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3Rder0gQKqIURAF

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures     01/12/2021

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Monday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported 14 fewer active cases on Monday, dropping the current total to 63. Total cases increased by four to 2,183. Deaths remain at 23.In neighboring counties, Little River reported 10 fewer active cases yesterday. That figure now numbers 69 currently confirmed and probable active cases in the county. Total cases grew slightly, rising by two to 901. Deaths remain at 39.

Active cases in Howard County fell by 9 on Monday and now number 50. Total cases increased by two to 1,106. Deaths remain at 18.

Polk County reported 15 fewer active cases yesterday. Active cases in the county now number 155. Total cases grew by three to 1,442. Deaths remain at 49.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported two additional active cases on Monday. Active cases in the county now number 349. Total cases grew by 19 to 3,190. Deaths remain at 57.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported 1,268 new cases of the virus on Monday. The state’s cumulative total of confirmed and probable cases now numbers over 256,000. Active cases decreased by nearly 2,000 and now total 25,534 across the state. Deaths increased by 38 over the previous 24-hour period to 4,081. Hospitalizations increased by 31 to 1,371 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.

Little River County Extension Service offering PAT classes        01/12/2021

FOREMAN – The Little River County Extension Office will host a Private Applicator Training session for Pesticides and Herbicides on Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. at the Foreman Ag Building. Sessions are also scheduled for Jan. 25 at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Ashdown. A final session is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Foreman Ag Building.

Pre-registration is required for all classes. Each class will be limited to the first eight to register. Masks are required.

Contact Roxie at (870) 898-7224 or by email at jrones@uaex.edu

Little River County man charged with arson     01/11/2021

ASHDOWN – A Little River County man is facing an arson charge stemming from a domestic incident reported late last month.

According to the Little River County Sheriff’s Office, deputies and firefighters were dispatched to a house fire at 169 Yarb Avenue on the night of Dec. 29. Upon arriving deputies spoke to the home’s resident who stated she and her ex-husband had got into an argument that night. She alleged that her ex-husband grabbed a handful of fireworks as he was leaving, lit them and then threw them through a bedroom window.

The house then caught on fire. The victim went to a neighbor’s house and contacted police and firefighters. Authorities say the suspect, identified as 30-year-old Chandler Turner, fled the scene. He was located soon after at this home in Ashdown and taken into custody. Court records state Turner admitted to setting the house on fire but accidentally.

Turner is now awaiting his next court appearance in the Little River County Jail. He faces one count of arson, a class A felony which can include a sentence of six to 30 years imprisonment in addition to a fine up to $15,000. Turner’s bond has not yet been set.

Hospital board discusses plans for 2021, dispels employment rumor     01/11/2021

The full audio story is available here:

Sevier County librarians honor one of their own with memorial bench  12/30/2020
The full audio story is available here:

The partial transcript is featured below

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Sevier County Librarians pose next to a memorial bench installed at the De Queen Library in memory of Annette Eastwood. Eastwood served as a librarian in De Queen for three decades. A ceremony was held with family and friends yesterday to dedicate the bench and honor Eastwood’s legacy to the library system.

Friends and family members of one of Sevier County’s longest-serving librarians gathered yesterday to commemorate her service to the community with a new memorial

Annette Eastwood worked as a librarian in De Queen for 30 years and was known by everyone who frequented the De Queen Library. She passed away in August of this year. Sevier County Head Librarian Johnye Fisher said friends and family members wanted to do something to memorialize Eastwood and her commitment to the library. So they pitched in and raised money to install a memorial bench on the east side of the De Queen Library.

Family, friends and fellow librarians gathered yesterday at the De Queen Library for a ceremony to unveil the memorial bench and highlight Eastwood’s legacy to the library. Fisher also discussed a book currently available at the library which focuses on the history of the library system in Sevier County.

Adriana Hogg, a teacher at Dierks High School and Eastwood’s granddaughter, said the memorial bench and yesterday’s ceremony was a touching remembrance for her grandmother.

Hogg said Eastwood was a tremendous believer of the importance of libraries in a community. She was an avid reader and tried to share that passion with everyone who entered the doors of the De Queen Library.

Fisher invites everyone to come out and see the memorial bench, located on the east side of the library. She also reminds the public that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the library remains open and continues to offer all of its usual services.

The De Queen Library is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday.

Gov. Hutchinson extends public emergency status in Arkansas over COVID-19    12/30/2020

The full audio story is available here:

The partial transcript is featured below: By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

The public health emergency governing Arkansas’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended for an additional 60 days. That was the announcement made by Gov. Asa Hutchinson during his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce update Tuesday afternoon. The emergency status was scheduled to expire Dec. 30 but will now continue through the end of February.

Hutchinson also reported another grim milestone during his update with a new record one-day growth in coronavirus-related deaths. That figure hit 66 on Tuesday for a statewide total of 3,603 since the pandemic began. New cases also hit one of their highest one-day increases with an additional 2,718 reported on Tuesday. The state’s cumulative total of confirmed and active cases is now over 219,000. Hospitalizations rose slightly by six to 1,161 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Hutchinson then launched into an update regarding COVID-19 vaccines in Arkansas. He said nearly half of the Pfizer vaccine doses received by the state so far have been administered to healthcare workers. That, he added, has increased morale among those workers in the state. In addition the state is beginning to receive quantities of the Moderna vaccine.

Hutchinson also reported on the dire situation facing Arkansas hospitals and their capacity in the midst of the pandemic. He said only around five percent of ICU beds in the state are unoccupied and only a fifth of general hospital beds.

Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero issued a personal appeal to all Arkansans urging them to reconsider gatherings this New Year’s holiday with family or friends outside of their household. He said Arkansas faces some of its worst days ahead in regards to the ongoing

In review, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 2,718 new cases on Tuesday for a statewide cumulative total of 219,246 cases. Deaths increased by 66 over the same period to 3,603 since the start of the outbreak. Hospitalizations grew by six to include 1,161 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. Recoveries grew by over 2,300 on Tuesday to total 194,000. State officials said nearly 12,000 tests were performed on Tuesday for a monthly total of 411,000.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on all the latest developments, both locally and from across the state.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures    12/30/2020

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Tuesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:</div>
Sevier County reported five more active cases on Tuesday, raising the current total to 86. Total cases grew to 2,050 while deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported an increase of 15 active cases on Tuesday, raising the current total to 72. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 18 to 798. Deaths remain at 38.

Active cases in Howard Country fell by three to 52. Total cases rose by 12 to 1,085. Deaths remain at 18.

Polk County reported 10 more active cases on Tuesday for a current total of 88. Total cases rose by 18 to 1,205. Deaths remain at 38.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported 14 fewer active cases yesterday. That lowers the county’s total of active cases to 336. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 18 to 2,868. Deaths increased by one over the same period to 51.

IRS warns of scam in relation to second round of stimulus payments    12/30/2020

With a new round of economic stimulus payments soon to be on their way, the IRS is warning people to be aware of a related text message scam. The thief’s goal is to trick people into revealing bank account information under the guise of receiving the Economic Impact Payment.

Here’s how this scam works:
People get a text message saying they have “received a direct deposit from the COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment… Continue here to accept this payment …” The text includes a link to a phishing web address.

This fake link appears to come from a state agency or relief organization. It takes people to a fake website that looks like the IRS.gov Get My Payment website. If people visit the fake website and enter their personal and financial account information, the scammers collect it.

Here’s what people should do if they receive this message.

Anyone who receives this scam text should take a screenshot and include the screenshot in an email to phishing@irs.gov</a> with the following information:

Date/time/time zone that they received the text message and the phone number that received the text message.

The IRS doesn’t send unsolicited texts or emails. The agency will never demand immediate payment using a gift card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer or threaten to have a taxpayer arrested.

Looking back at the local stories that gave us hope       12/29/2020

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

2020 has been the year no one will forget – no matter how much they might want to. The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously been the daily headline for much of the year and despite all hopes and efforts will likely continue to be so through the beginning of next year.

This year was one filled with hardship and tragedy for many across the nation. But it was also a year of hope, triumph and inspiration. With this being the last week of 2020, we wanted to look back at some of the local stories that inspired hope and resiliency in the face of a very challenging year.

Yesterday, we took a look back at a story from late August about Kayleb Starnes, a 17-year-old flight student from Vandervoort who was forced to make an emergency landing at the Sevier County Airport after a mechanical issue caused a potentially disastrous engine fault. Today, we aired a story from November about a local sailor who took eight decades to make it back home.

The full audio story is available here:

The partial transcript is featured below:

WINTHROP – A local sailor killed in action nearly 80 years ago has finally made it home after a burial ceremony over the weekend.

Samuel “Cyrus” Steiner was officially laid to rest on Saturday, Nov. 21 at Campground Cemetery near his childhood home near Winthrop.

Born in 1921, Steiner grew up on the family farm and, according to his obituary, sacrificed two years of school to work and support his family during the Great Depression. Steiner returned to school at Foreman High School and played tackle for the Gators football team. He left school in his senior year to enlist in the U.S. Navy.

As a Fireman First Class, he served aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma. He was on the great ship as she lay in anchor at Pearl Harbor during those fateful morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941. It was a quiet morning interrupted by one of the most tragic moments in American history.
The Oklahoma was one of eight battleships moored in Pearl Habor when the Japanese launched their surprise attack, drawing America into the Second World War. Several torpedoes launched from aircraft struck the vessel. A gaping chasm formed in the hull, causing the ship to capsize. 429 of her 1,400-man crew perished in minutes. Steiner was one of those victims.

Like many aboard the USS Oklahoma, Steiner was declared Lost at Sea and formally stated “to have lost his life in the service of his country.” He was awarded the Purple Heart, American Defense Service and WWII Victory medals. He was just 20-years-old.
In contrast to most of the other battleships stationed at Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma was so damaged she was never returned to service. The severe damage also made identifying the remains of the fallen sailors so difficult. Only 35 of the 429 sailors and Marines killed aboard the Oklahoma were identified in the years following the attack.

In 1950, all unidentified remains from the ship were buried in caskets at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In 2015 the Department of Defense began a project to identify the remains of servicemen and women interned in those unknown graves. Steiner’s remains were officially identified earlier this year and properly buried near his hometown on Saturday.

A detachment from the U.S. Navy provided military burial rites during the ceremony. For the family, the nearly eight decades since the attack on Pearl Harbor was one of no true closure. But Steiner is back home where he can be closely remembered and honored for his service to the Navy and the nation.

Pre-trial hearing next week for De Queen man charged with negligent homicide 12/29/2020

DE QUEEN – A pretrial hearing is set for next week for a De Queen man facing two counts of negligent homicide.

The felony charges were filed in October against Hugo Hernandez, a 23-year-old resident of De Queen. The charges stem from an accident in Sevier County that killed two people earlier this year.

According to court records, Hernandez is facing two counts of negligent homicide as well as driving while intoxicated and felony battery for his role in the accident that occurred on June 28 of this year.

Prosecutors with the Ninth West Judicial District allege Hernandez was responsible for the death of two people in that accident. Authorities claim he was driving while intoxicated when the accident occurred.

State police records show 22-year-old Bernard Edwards, Junior, of Fulton and an unidentified minor were killed in that accident. Hernandez was not named in the original accident report as state police do not name minors or uninjured parties in those reports. Prosecutors are alleging however that Hernandez’s 2014 Chevy Silverado crossed the centerline on Highway 41 on June 28 and struck a 2003 Honda Civic with the minor and Edwards inside. Both the minor and Edwards will pronounced dead at the scene. Another passenger in the Civic was transported to a Texarkana hospital for treatment.

Hernandez was not injured in the accident. Hernandez was arrested after charges were formally filed in October following an investigation. He was charged with negligent homicide for the deaths of the minor and Edwards, felony battery for the injuries sustained to the other passenger, and driving while intoxicated. He was released from jail after posting bond on a $75,000 bail amount.

Hernandez will appear before the Sevier County Circuit Court for a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 7. If he maintains his plea of not-guilty, he will appear before a jury the following week. Hernandez could receive up to 20 years in prison for each of the two negligent homicide charges as well as additional time for the charges of driving while intoxicated and felony battery.

SCSO names suspects in arson, theft of saddles, rifle and boat           12/29/2020

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office has two men in custody in connection to several area burglaries in December.

According to the sheriff’s office, 31-year-old Travis Presley and 38-year-old Cody Culp, both of De Queen, were arrested last week following an investigation into several thefts in the Chapel Hill area.

Deputies were first notified on Dec. 19 of a break-and-enter at a residence on Chapel Hill Road near De Queen. The owner of the residence reported four horse saddles were stolen from the property that evening. Deputies Chet Stubbs and Greg Davignon, with information and help from a Drug Taskforce Agent, were able to recover three of the four saddles the next day.

That day deputies also received a report about an arson incident involving a vehicle as well as a stolen boat, also from the Chapel Hill area. Deputies identified Culp as a suspect in the arson and theft case. A report from the sheriff’s office alleges Culp also provided information as to the location of the fourth stolen saddles. All four saddles have since been returned to their owner.

Investigator Brian Hankins and Deputy Davignon reportedly received additional information identifying the location of the stolen boat at a residence just across the Oklahoma state line.

The sheriff’s office visited the residence and were able to recover the stolen boat as well as a rifle also reported stolen from the Chapel Hill area in December. Both the boat and rifle were then returned to their owners.

The investigation also led deputies to a second suspect, Presley. Both suspects are currently in custody at the Sevier County Jail and awaiting formal charges from the prosecutor’s office.

The sheriff’s office said it was glad to see a quick resolution to the case, with the stolen items returned to their owners and the two suspects in custody.

Quorum Court to discuss measure to eliminate “private club” license    12/29/2020

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Quorum Court is scheduled to meet next week to discuss another issue related to alcohol sales in the county.

This time, justices of the peace will discuss a proposed measure to repeal a county ordinance establishing the private club fee process in Sevier County. This ordinance, passed in 2005, allowed a certain number of “private clubs” to sell alcohol in the county, such as the De Queen Country Club. Now that alcohol sales are legal in Sevier and controlled by state regulations, that ordinance is no longer necessary or pertinent.

At its last meeting, the quorum court shot down a proposed measure that would have implemented a county-level permit for any restaurant or business seeking a license to sell or serve alcohol. Several justices stated their opposition to any ordinance imposing additional fees, taxes or permit costs on alcohol-related sales in Sevier County. If the private club ordinance is repealed during the quorum court’s Jan. 4 meeting, the state-level Arkansas Alcohol Beverage Control Board will be the sole entity regulating local alcohol sales.

In other business, the quorum court will hear a proposed change to the pay schedule for elected officials in Sevier County. This seeks to move elected officials to 24 pay periods per year with payment on the first and 15<sup>th</sup> of each month.

Finally, justices of the peace will hear a report from the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors and discuss some routine financial matters related to the new hospital.

The quorum court will meet on Monday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. at the Herman Dierks Park Community Building in De Queen.

Lights on Lace Lane will be up through Jan. 1    12/29/2020

DE QUEEN – Ok, Christmas is over, but if you need that holiday spirit to go on a few more days, the local Christmas display on Lace Lane promises to do just that.

The Lace Lane Festival of Lights is an always popular and local Christmas tradition for many families in the area. Throughout the Christmas season and into New Year’s Day, the loop, located two miles north of De Queen on Ninth Street, is turned into a wonderland of Christmas lights enjoyed by children and adults alike. The display features literally thousands of Christmas decorations and many more lights.

Homeowners along Lace Lane put a tremendous amount of effort decorating in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It all started more than two decades ago when Thomas and Donna Sweeten began transforming their property into a dazzling array of Christmas lights and decorations. From a dragon in a pond to a full choir, a variety of nativity scenes and over 100 Santa figures, the scene is something everyone can enjoy. And respect too, because the work that goes into decorating the homes on Lace Lane, and especially the Sweeten’s, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Thomas has said in the past the decorations are his family’s way sharing their enjoyment of Christmas for the whole community. And if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry: the decorations will stay up through Jan. 1.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures; Polk County reports three more deaths    12/29/2020

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Monday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported 14 fewer active cases on Monday, dropping the current total to 81. Recoveries grew by 20 to 1,930 over the same period. Total cases grew to 2,031 while deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported an additional death over the past 24 hours – and its first due to COVID-19 in several weeks. The death toll due to the virus in Little River County is now 38. Active cases fell slightly, dropping by five to 57 currently. Total cases rose by three to 780.

Active cases in Howard Country a sizeable drop, falling by 23 to 55 currently confirmed and probable active cases. Deaths did increase by one, however, with a total of 18 Howard County residents who have died from COVID-19. Total cases rose by five to 1,073.

Polk County reported three more deaths on Monday, just a day after six other Polk County residents were reported to have died from COVID-19. That raises the county’s death toll from the virus to 38. Active cases fortunately continued their declined, falling by 11 to 78. Total cases rose by three to 1,186.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported nine more active cases on Monday for a current total of 350. Total cases rose by 28 to 2,850 while deaths remain at 50.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported 1,651 new cases on Monday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to over 216,000 since the pandemic began. Active cases did see a net decrease, falling by 623 to the current total of 20,831. Deaths rose by 55 across the state on Monday to total 3,537. Hospitalizations grew by 62, leaving 1,155 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. That ties for the most hospitalizations in Arkansas since the start of the outbreak.

2020 in review: Looking back at the local stories that gave us hope               12/28/2020

2020 has been the year no one will forget – no matter how much they might want to. The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously been the daily headline for much of the year and despite all hopes and efforts will likely continue to be so through the beginning of next year.
This year was one filled with hardship and tragedy for many across the nation. But it was also a year of hope, triumph and inspiration. With this being the last week of 2020, we wanted to look back at some of the local stories that inspired hope and resiliency in the face of a very challenging year.

17-year-old flight student uses training, quick wits to avoid disaster

Kayleb Starnes, a 17-year-old flight student from Vandervoort, had to make an emergency landing at the Sevier County Airport in August after a mechanical issue caused a potentially disastrous engine fault. Fortunately, his training and quick wits helped him turn that disaster into a textbook example of what to do in an emergency flight situation. You can check out the full audio interview with Kayleb here:

The following is a partial transcript from the interview:
By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Kayleb Starnes was forced to make an emergency landing last week at the Sevier County Airport. The 17-year-old flight student was flying solo when his plane suffered a mechanical breakdown.

Imagine, for just a moment you’re flying your plane. Everything’s going great. The sky’s clear and beautiful. The instruments check out, there’s nothing to cause you a bit of concern. You reach for the throttle to slow the plane’s engine. Nothing happens. The plane doesn’t slow down. You try again. Once more, nothing. The plane’s stuck at full speed. What you’ve got now, well, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Now, to make it even more interesting, let’s imagine you’re 17 years old. And by yourself. You’d likely be forgiven for panicking.

Kayleb Starnes, however, he knew better. When faced with the unexpected, you try not to panic. A little panicking when your plane wants to crash is, of course, understandable. Even accepted. But, when things go south, you gotta fall back on what you know. And despite his young age, Kayleb knows a lot about aviation.

Thankfully, for this 17-year-old flight student from Vandervoort with a solo operator endorsement, Kayleb’s flight instruction began with what you don’t want to happen when you’re flying. That knowledge helped prevent disaster after his plane suffered a mechanical fault shortly after takeoff in August. The day started off pretty much as usual. After completing the pre-flight checklist on his grandfather’s single-prop Piper plane, he started her up and headed out from his hanger at the Sevier County Airport.

Lots of things can go wrong in an airplane. A big one, losing engine power. But strangely, what happened to Kayleb was the exact opposite.

You can land a plane with a dead engine. What you can’t do, at least not without much hope of walking away, is landing a plane stuck on full power.

Kayleb first reached out to local air traffic in hopes of getting some much-needed advice. When he got no answer, he tuned to an emergency frequency and relayed what was happening. It was a tense few minutes.

With his confidence restored, Kayleb landed the plane without a single scratch.

The problem, it turned out, was a broke butterfly valve inside the plane’s carburetor. Fortunately, this rare malfunction forces the plane’s engine to operate at full power, as opposed to resorting to, say, half throttle or no power at all. As any experienced aviator will tell you, it’s better to have an engine stuck at full throttle with the option to kill it, than to have no option at all.

Kayleb’s instructions on emergency flight procedures didn’t focus on this particular mechanical fault. But the basics of that instruction guided him the whole time. He knew to keep his head, think quickly, ask for help when needed and, most importantly, how to land a plane with no power.

Kayleb’s flight instructor, Nathan Cline, said Kayleb did all the right things at the right time. Nathan said Kayleb’s actions last Thursday took a potentially catastrophic situation and turned it into a textbook example of what to do in a flight emergency.

Nathan said Kayleb now joins an elite group of aviators who skirted disaster by using their wits and training to make it through the day.

Kayleb’s got a quick answer to the question he’s likely to be asked, a lot: will he fly again?
Oh yes, absolutely.”
In fact, Kayleb has plans to continue flying for a living. In what capacity, he’s not entirely sure. It’s a question he’s leaving open for the time being. Because, besides advancing his knowledge of flying, Kayleb also stays abreast of aviation-related news. The biggest headlines these days, of course, involves COVID-19. Commercial aviation was one of the earliest and hardest hit by the pandemic and its economic consequences. That’s having a big impact on how Kayleb and thousands of other young pilots are thinking about a career in aviation.
No matter what aviation field Kaleb chooses, the actions this 17-year-old pilot took last Thursday are of the same qualities that will make him an asset to anyone he flies with. Until then, Kayleb will continue flying over that beautiful Southwest Arkansas sky.

Little River man in custody after shooting last week     12/28/2020

FOREMAN – A shooting in Foreman left one man hospitalized and another in police custody following an incident last week.

According to the Little River County Sheriff’s Office, 25-year-old Tyler Humphrey was arrested and is now facing felony charges for his alleged involvement in the shooting of another man on Dec. 22. Deputies arrived at a home on Highway 108 after receiving a call in relation to the shooting. Deputies reportedly found a 25-year-old man who had sustained several gunshot injuries.

Officials with the sheriff’s office said the victim identified the shooter as Humphrey. Humphrey reportedly shot up the home and victim from outside the residence. The victim was flown by Air Evac to a Texarkana hospital where he was treated for his injuries. The man is reportedly in stable condition.

Humphrey was located by deputies soon thereafter and taken into custody.

New fishing regulations go into effect next week       12/28/2020

Anglers across the state can expect some changes, both big and small, to the way they go fishing, starting next week.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission approved over a dozen new regulations or changes to existing regulations earlier this year.

A few notable changes include requiring boaters to remove drain plugs from their boats while being trailered to and from water bodies. Anglers will also be required to check their trotlines and limblines every 48 hours or remove them when not in use. Both yo-yos and free-fishing devices like jugs or trotlines are limited to 25 per person.

The commission increased the possession limit on fish from two daily limits to three daily limits. Anglers may be happy to know the commission removed the requirement to possess an alligator gar permit to fish for alligator gar. The permit was free but did put an extra requirement out there for anyone fishing for alligator gar. However, a Trophy Alligator Gar Tag is still required to keep alligator gar longer than 36 inches. Tags are available for purchase at www.agfc.com through this Thursday, Dec. 31.

More locally, the commission ended a prohibition on spearfishing for black bass on Millwood, De Queen, Dierks and Gillham Lakes. AGFC biologists said the regulations overly complicate fishing regulations on the four lakes and provide no biological benefit to the black bass species.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures, six additional deaths reported in Polk Co.       12/28/2020

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Sunday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported a net decrease of four active cases over the weekend, leaving 95 as of Sunday. Total cases surpassed the 2,000-mark and now number 2,025. Recoveries rose to 1,910 by Sunday. Deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River saw a net increase of 13 active cases over the weekend. As of Sunday there are 62 confirmed and probable active cases in Little River County. Total cases grew to 777 while deaths remained at 37.

Active cases in Howard Country saw a net decrease of 27 active cases over the holiday weekend, dropping to 78 as of Sunday. Total cases grew to 1,068 while deaths remained at 17.

Polk County reported six additional deaths due to COVID-19 on Sunday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The death toll due to the virus is now 35 in Polk County. Active cases did see a slight drop on Sunday, dropping by nine to a current total of 89. Total cases rose to 1,183.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported a net increase of 34 active cases since Thursday. As of Sunday, however, the total had dropped by 17 to 341 currently confirmed and probable active cases in McCurtain County. Total cases rose to 2,822. Deaths remain at 50.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported just over 900 new cases on Sunday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of confirmed and probable cases to 2,822. Active cases of the virus in Arkansas dropped by over 800 to 21,454 on Sunday. Deaths increased by 41 over the same period to 3,482. Hospitalizations increased by 34, leaving 1,093 Arkansans still hospitalized due to the virus.

New Year’s closings       12/28/2020

DE QUEEN – Area government officials are reminding residents of a few closures in commemoration of the New Year’s holiday this Friday.

The Sevier County Courthouse will be closed at 1 p.m. this Thursday, Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve, and remain closed until 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 4. The landfill will be closed on Friday, Jan 1 and will reopen on Saturday, Jan. 2. That includes all county satellite waste stations as well.
De Queen City Hall will also close this Friday for the New Year’s holiday and reopen at 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 4. The trash schedule for this week is the same except for Friday, which will be picked up on Thursday.

Other government offices, banks and many businesses will be closed for both Christmas and New Year’s Days. That includes us here at KDQN Studios.

ADH recommendations for Christmas urge small event at home  12/24/2020

Many of us had hoped the pandemic would be under control by the fall and winter holidays so we could see family and friends in a normal-ish way. Unfortunately, that’s simply not been the case.

All recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health have been clear: Please stay home.

Although this is disappointing, it doesn’t change the nature of the holidays. We have adjusted and readjusted our work, home, school, family and social lives all year long, and we can do it again to ensure our own safety and the safety of those we love (and those we don’t even know).

Recent statistics have highlighted the lag time between exposures, hospitalizations, and deaths related to COVID-19.

Based on the average time frame, those who are exposed during the holidays could significantly increase the death toll around Christmas time. We’re seeing this play out as daily death rates continue to climb in Arkansas and across the nation following the Thanksgiving holiday. Those sickened during the Christmas holiday are likely to continue or worsen this already trend, and lead to increased death rates in the new year.

The CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health are strongly urging people not to travel for the holidays to avoid spreading COVID-19 across the country. With this in mind, it is important to consider that staying home and away from those you love this holiday season could be the kindest thing you ever do for them, and they for you.

Anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus and should be isolating, even if they do not have symptoms. That also includes anyone in quarantine and anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

There are lots of ways to have a safe and happy holiday season this year, including, including having a small dinner with just your own household. Or host a virtual dinner with extended family and friends through Zoom or other video technology. Zoom even waived its 40-minute limit for free users during Thanksgiving.

Having a small group outdoor dinner with family and friends while maintaining physical distance of at least six feet is also an option recommended by the CDC.

There’s also the option of going to an outdoor holiday activity such as a Christmas tree lot or farm, walk-through holiday light display or other similar large outdoor venue where mask use is enforced and people can maintain physical distance.

The Arkansas Department of Health has its own recommendations out there for the Christmas holiday. Health officials suggest avoiding high risk activities like <strong>taking </strong>an elderly relative out of a nursing facility, hospital, or retirement community. They also recommend against traveling outside your local area or shopping during peak times. Arkansans are urged not to hold large indoor gatherings with people outside their household, including with other family or friends. That also includes indoor events where many people from many households are likely to attend.

Even though it can be difficult to think about doing the holidays differently this year, it only takes one sick person at a gathering where precautions are not taken or are lax to spread the virus among your entire family, friend group, church, neighborhood, or whomever is present. It may help to think about it this way: It’s not just about this one holiday, it’s about all the Thanksgivings, Christmases, and birthdays to come. If even one person dies or their quality of life is severely impacted by this year’s gathering, you will be reminded of it every year going forward.

DHS students help with Church of Christ meal program  12/24/2020

Members of the De Queen High School Student Council and National Honor Society recently assisted the De Queen Church of Christ with its Christmas Food Bag Program. The program aims to provide meals to local school-age children who otherwise might miss meals during the holiday break.

DE QUEEN – Members of the De Queen Church of Christ are giving a huge shout out to students of De Queen High School who helped with the church’s mission to feed school-age children over the Christmas break.

Members of the De Queen High School National Honor Society and Student Council came out earlier this week to help hand out 240 backpacks filled with food to area children. The effort was part of the De Queen Church of Christ’s Christmas Break Food Bag Program. The program seeks to provide food to area school-age children who might otherwise miss meals during the Christmas holiday break.

Meals will be distributed for a final time on Monday, Dec. 28. Meals will be placed in backpacks and distributed in a drive-thru fashion. The only requirement is that you have your child or children in your vehicle. Each child in the vehicle will receive a backpack.

The backpacks will be distributed on Monday, Dec. 28 from 5-7 p.m.

If you do not have transportation available to pick up during any of these times please call the Church of Christ at 870-584-3226.

Jan. 4 is deadline for Horatio students to signup for virtual learning  12/24/2020

HORATIO – Students in the Horatio School District wishing to enroll in their school’s virtual learning option for the Spring 2021 semester have a little over a week to do so. District officials have announced the deadline to apply for online learning is Monday, Jan. 4.
The district has released required criteria for both students attending either the high school or elementary school. They include the requirement that virtual students have access to reliable internet and an understanding of how to use all internet-based platforms and software. Other requirements are listed on the district’s website.

For more information visit www.horatioschools.org

Special deer hunts in Arkansas through after Christmas and into New Year  12/24/2020

Arkansas deer hunters will be able to enjoy the holidays in the woods during the Christmas Holiday Hunt. This special modern gun hunt begins the day after Christmas, Dec. 26 and continues through Dec. 28.

Modern gun hunters will also have a few additional days for the first time this year during the Private Land Anterless Only hunt. That begins Dec. 29 and continues through New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31. Typically these season is held in October but was moved by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to the end of December to encourage more participation.

During a statewide survey, hunters showed a definite preference for a later anterless-only hunt. Hunters noted they would prefer less disturbance and pressure on deer prior to the October muzzleloader hunt and the statewide opening of modern gun deer season.

Arkansas will also offer a second Special Youth Modern Gun Deer Hunt Jan. 2-3 of 2021. Only hunters 6-15 years old may harvest deer during this special hunt. Youths who have not completed hunter education must be under the direct supervision of an adult at least 21-years-old. Mentors may not hunt any species during the hunt. All zone bag limits apply during the youth hunt and youths may take any buck, regardless of antler points. No dogs are allowed during the hunt.
All youth hunters must now also have a free customer ID number available at www.agfc.com

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures  12/24/2020

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Wednesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported an increase of four active cases yesterday, raising the total to 99. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 13 to 1,988. Deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River saw 12 additional active cases reported, raising the current total to 49. Total cases rose by 14 to 753 while deaths remained at 37.

Active cases in Howard Country increased by eight on Wednesday to 105. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 12 to 1,043. Deaths remain at 17.

Polk County reported eight more active cases on Wednesday. That leaves 98 confirmed and probable active cases currently in Polk County. Total cases rose by 18 to 1,139. Deaths remain at 29.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported no change in its active caseload, which remains at 307. Total cases increased by 25 to 2,722. Deaths remain at 50.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported just shy of 2,900 new cases on Wednesday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to almost 208,000 since the outbreak began. Active cases of the virus saw an increase of 537 to 22,516. Deaths increased by 38 to 3,376 since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations reached a new high with 1,110 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Beer sales likely in Sevier County shortly after start of New Year   12/23/2020

DE QUEEN – 2021 is likely to bring many new things, but here in Sevier County it means one thing in particular: alcohol sales.

Last month Sevier County voters turned out for a historic election to show their support for the legalization of alcohol sales in the county. That is, for the first time in a century following the enactment of prohibition in the 1920’s.

Sevier County’s turn to a wet county includes among other changes the ability for an unlimited number of convenience stores and big retail outlets like Walmart to sell beer and wine. Due to the state-level licensing process, it’s likely most will not actually have beer or wine on their shelves until late January and possibly into February. That’s according to Scott Hardin, a spokesman with the Arkansas Alcohol Beverage Control, or ABC. A retail beer and wine permit costs $350, according to ABC’s website. A local EZ Mart employee said logistics are in the works to sell beer in the store sometime shortly after the start of the New Year.

State law will also allow one liquor store in Sevier for every 7,500 people in the county. With a population of 17,000, according to the 2010 Census, that means Sevier is permitted to have two. The application process is significantly different and lengthier for liquor stores.
Once the application period ends, ABC will hold a blind draw to determine who will receive Sevier County’s two liquor-store licenses. Hardin said the blind draw is typically held within 180 days – or six months – after the end of the application period. That means it could be the middle of 2021 before the first liquor store opens in Sevier County. The application fee is $2,000.

Restaurants in Sevier County can also apply to serve alcohol on their premises. The application fee ranges from $750 to $1,500, depending on the restaurant’s seating capacity.

More information on ABC and the application process can be found here: https://www.dfa.arkansas.gov/alcoholic-beverage-control.

Cossatot River State Park offers new or old tradition with First Day Hike   12/23/2020

WICKES – A New Year’s tradition continues at Cossatot River State Park – although, like so much else this year, it’s going to be a little different.

Cossatot River State Park and others across the state will kick off the New Year by encouraging Arkansans to participate in a First Day Hike. Typically these hikes are guided by a state park employee but officials said – due to COVID-19 – guided tours will not be offered this year.
However, self-guided walks and hikes are encouraged on the “First Weekend” of the New Year, on Jan. 1-3.

Cossatot River State Park, located east of Wickes on Highway 278 and just a short 40-minute drive from De Queen, features four scenic trails spanning nearly 20 miles. That includes the beautiful and rugged 14-mile Cossatot Corridor Trail.

Visitors who log their hikes and miles that take place at Cossatot River State Park can share their experiences ArkansasStateParks.com/FirstDayHikes. In return, they’ll receive a free sticker for themselves and each person in their group.
Arkansas Parks officials stress that enjoying nature and the crisp winter air is a great way to start the new year off on a positive note. Even without guided tours in place this year, all Arkansans and especially families will have an experience to remember by taking a hike at Cossatot River or any of Arkansas’ 52 state parks.

Arkansas State Parks are of course asking visitors to recreate responsibly and abide by rules instituted due to COVID-19.

When the parking lot is full the park will not allow more visitors in. Visitors need to practice social distancing and masks are mandatory inside any park facility. Visitors are reminded to bring their own water for the hike. Practice leave no trace principals.
The visitor center at Cossatot River State Park will be closed Jan. 1 for the New Year holiday but the trails will remain open. For more information, visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com

SCSO recovers final of four saddles stolen from home in Sevier County   12/23/2020

DE QUEEN – The final of four horse saddles stolen from a residence in Sevier County over the weekend has been returned to its rightful owner and the suspects arrested.

According to the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, investigators recovered the last of the stolen saddles on Monday and were able to press charges and arrest the suspects.

County investigators began looking into the case after receiving a report on Saturday about several horse saddles stolen from the residence in the Chapel hill area of Sevier County. A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office said investigators worked into the night and early hours of Sunday morning to get tips on information on the location of the saddles.

That investigation and quick follow-up action led deputies and an agent with the South Central Drug Task Force to find and recover three of the four stolen saddles Sunday morning. The saddles were returned to the owner later that day.

The final stolen saddle was returned to its owner on Monday. The sheriff’s office said the saddles belonged to a young man who had worked all summer to be able to afford the custom, handmade saddles.

Sevier County librarians to host events in January   12/23/2020

DE QUEEN – Sevier County Librarians are announcing a few events to mark the start of the New Year.

The De Queen Library will host virtual story time events on Jan. 13 and Jan. 27 on its Facebook page. Patrons are also reminded that, even with COVID-19 still lingering, the library remains open and continues to offer the same services and resources as in the past. The library is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday. You can also browse the library’s complete catalog online at www.seviercountylibrary.com.

The Horatio Library will host its January virtual story times on Jan. 2, 16 and 30 on its Facebook page. Call (870) 832-6882 for more information.

The Lockesburg Library will host a drive-up free book giveaway in January. Librarian Wendy Clay said the library has some really great titles to giveaway during the event. Books will be bagged and loaded into your waiting vehicle and patrons will not need to leave their vehicle. The Lockesburg Library is also looking at organizing a virtual book club using the Zoom conference software. Call (870) 289-2233 for more information.

De Queen grad named to President’s List at SAU   12/23/2020

MAGNOLIA – A graduate of De Queen High School has been recognized as an honors student at Southern Arkansas University.

Michael Flowers, a 2017 graduate of De Queen High School, was recently named to the SAU Fall 2020 President’s List. Flowers earned a 4.0 GPA in the fall 2020 semester, securing a prestigious position on the Southern Arkansas University President’s List. Flowers is a senior history major with a minor in political science.

Flowers was one of 426 students honored by being placed on the semester’s President’s List.

State will require prior approval for commercial indoor events with 10 or more people   12/23/2020

Gov. Asa Hutchinson touched on a number of issues Tuesday afternoon in regards to Arkansas’ ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The update, provided during his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce press conference, included additional information on vaccines, hospitalizations and a new restriction on commercial indoor venues.

Hutchinson began with a report on COVID-19 figures from the previous 24-hour period. On Tuesday, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 1,941 new cases for a statewide cumulative total of slightly over 205,000 since the outbreak began. Deaths increased by 43 over the same period to a total of 3,338. Active positive cases did see a modest decrease, falling by 179 to 21,979 confirmed and probable active cases in Arkansas. Hospitalizations increased by 25 to 1,103 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

In regards to COVID-19 vaccines, Hutchinson said the state is receiving additional numbers of Pfizer’s vaccine and the first shipment of the Moderna vaccine. He said the state’s priority continues to be providing vaccinations to healthcare workers and then residents of long-term care facilities.

Hutchinson was cautiously optimistic about the state’s hospitalization rate. He said the state expected additional hospitalizations into the winter but at a higher rate than currently being seen. At this point hospitalizations are not increasing proportionately to the increase in new cases but diligence is required to keep that trend in place, said Hutchinson.

Troy Wells, CEO of Arkansas Baptist Health, made a brief announcement about two new planned facilities to accommodate hospitalizations due to COVID-19.  The new facilities are a response to both the strain on Arkansas’ hospitals and the need to have specially engineered facilities to accommodate such a highly contagious virus. The facilities will be constructed in Van Burean and Little Rock. Together they will accommodate treatment space for up to 124 patients. Construction is expected to take between four to five weeks.

The most significant development from Tuesday’s press conference was a new requirement from the Arkansas Department of Health regulating how commercial indoor events are held. Previously, state approval was needed for any commercial indoor venue with a planned attendance of 100 or more. Hutchinson announced that requirement will be increased to include venues of 10 or more people. Hutchinson stressed this does not prevent these events from occurring but will require prior approval from the Arkansas Department of Health. Churches, homes, restaurants and schools will not be included in this new order, however. These entities are either unregulated or have their own requirements under state health guidelines, Hutchinson explained.

The updated requirement is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 2 and continue through March 1 of next year.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures   12/23/2020

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Tuesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported an increase of two active cases, raising the total to 95. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by eight to 1,975. Deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River saw no change in its active caseload, which remains at 37. Total cases rose by seven to 739 while deaths remained at 37.

Active cases in Howard Country increased by one on Tuesday to 97. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by eight to 1,032. Deaths remain at 17.

Polk County reported seven fewer active cases on Tuesday. That leaves 90 confirmed and probable active cases in Polk County. Total cases rose by three to 1,121. Deaths remain at 29.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported seven fewer active cases on Tuesday, lowering the total to 307. Total cases rose by 15 to 2,697 while deaths remain at 50.

Sevier County Courthouse, De Queen City Hall to close for Christmas   12/23/2020

DE QUEEN – Sevier County officials are informing the public of some upcoming closures in celebration of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

The Sevier County Courthouse is scheduled to close at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 23 and remain closed until 8 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 28. The Sevier County Landfill will be closed Thursday, Dec. 24 and again on Christmas Day. The landfill will reopen on Saturday, Dec. 26. Solid waste stations throughout the county will be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but will reopen on Dec. 26 at 7 a.m.

The Sevier County Courthouse will also be closed at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve, and remain closed until 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 4. The landfill will be closed on Friday, Jan 1 and will reopen on Saturday, Jan. 2. That includes all county satellite waste stations as well.

Other government offices, banks and many businesses will be closed for both Christmas and New Year’s Days. That includes us here at KDQN Studios.

The City of De Queen has announced the schedule for closings and trash pick for the upcoming holidays. City Hall will be closed both Thursday and Friday in commemoration of the Christmas holiday. The building will reopen at 8 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 28. Trash pick up for this week remains the same except for Thursday and Friday, which will be picked up on Wednesday. City Hall will be closed again next Friday, Jan. 1 for the New Year’s Holiday. Trash pick up will remain the same for the week of Dec. 28 except for Friday, which will be picked up on Thursday.

Area senior citizen centers will also be closed this Thursday and Friday for the Christmas holiday. All centers are scheduled to reopen on Monday, Dec. 28.

Sevier County Sheriff’s Office recovers, returns stolen items after swift investigation   12/21/2020

DE QUEEN – A theft in Sevier County was investigated and the stolen items returned to their rightful owner thanks to quick action by the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.

County investigators began looking into the case after receiving a report on Saturday about several horse saddles stolen from a home in Sevier County. A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office said investigators worked into the night and early hours of Sunday morning to get tips and information on the location of the custom handmade saddles.

That investigation led deputies and an agent with the South Central Drug Task Force to find and recover three of the four stolen saddles Sunday morning. The saddles were returned to the owner later that day.

The sheriff’s office said it is now obtaining warrants to bring charges against the individuals responsible for the theft.

Today marks first of school Christmas Break; drivers urged to be cautious on roads   12/21/2020

DE QUEEN – The Christmas Holiday Break begins today for area school kids. Drivers are reminded to be extra cautious on the roads as children will be out and about more over the next two weeks.

With the Christmas break here that also means the new semester is just around the corner. Officials with the Horatio School District are reminding families who wish to choose the district’s virtual option once school returns need to contact the High School office to set up an appointment to discuss this option and their student’s commitment. Appointments can be made for today and tomorrow.

Due to the late start of this school year, the first semester at De Queen Public Schools will end on Jan. 15.

Virtual students who want to return for onsite instruction for the spring 2021 semester need to contact their school principal to begin that process.

For more information contact the De Queen Administration office at 584-4312.


Christmas Star” to be at most visible point tonight   12/21/2020

DE QUEEN – If you’ve been watching the sky on these dark December nights you may have noticed two of the brightest objects creeping nearer to each other. Jupiter and Saturn are about to appear closer in the sky than they have in 400 years.

The two planets will be so close that they will appear to be touching, separated by one-fifth the diameter of a full moon – although, in fact, they’ll still be separated by hundreds of thousands of miles.

When celestial bodies align, astronomers call it a conjunction, but since this one involves our solar system’s two biggest gas giants, it’s technically a “<a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_conjunction”>great conjunction</a>.” Because the event is landing on a holiday week, many have begun calling the formation the “Christmas Star.”

Online stories about the event have gone viral, and NASA responded by creating a video primer for the event, which peaks tonight. This event should be visible to almost anyone in the U.S. with a clear view of the horizon. We’ve kept an eye on it here in Southwest Arkansas and it should be easily visible for everyone in the listening area tonight. Local stargazers should turn their heads and telescopes to the southwest portion of the sky about 45 minutes after sunset to see the planets align.

If you are planning to snap pictures, NASA has created a guide at photographing the great conjunction. That can be found at www.nasa.gov.

Tonight will be the closest Jupiter and Saturn have appeared to most since March 4, 1226. There was a closer conjunction of the planets some 400 years ago, but that event was not visible to many of us here on Earth, according to Space.com.

Great conjunctions happen on average every 19.6 years. NASA says after this month’s event, you’ll have to hang in there until 2080 to catch the next great conjunction of similar proximity.

Arkansas taxpayers likely to see small increase to paychecks in 2021   12/21/2020

LITTLE ROCK -Arkansans may see an increase in the amount of their paychecks next year. The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) announced this week that the income tax withholding tables will change effective January 1, 2021.

DFA says this change is not a tax increase or cut, but with the law change that reduces the top personal income tax rate from 6.6% to 5.9% next month, the withholding change will put that reduction in paychecks beginning January 2021.  Without this change, many Arkansans wouldn’t see the bulk of their tax cut until they received it in their tax refund in 2022.

This is the second change DFA has recently implemented to the withholding tables. The first adjustment took place March 1, 2020. The March 2020 adjustment put $15 million each month into the pockets of Arkansans via increased paychecks. The January 2021 adjustment will place an additional $7 million each month into paychecks.

State Representative DeAnn Vaught said several pieces of legislation addressing future tax cuts have been filed in advance of the 2021 Regular Session.

The latest revenue report shows state revenues are 11.4 percent higher than this time last year.  Five months into the fiscal year, revenue is now $283.3 million above forecast.

This week, Arkansas also learned that the state’s unemployment rate remained stable at 6.2% between October and November. The national unemployment rate is at 6.7%.

Foreman School Board approves one-time bonus, increase to substitute pay   12/21/2020

FOREMAN – The Foreman Board of Education met last week to vote on several items of school business, including holiday bonuses, raising substitute pay and updating the district’s Ready to Learn plan.

School principals started the meeting with updates from the elementary and high schools. Taken together, both schools show the district ending the first semester with an enrollment of 537 students. Following the Christmas break, the elementary school reported it will have no students or staff on COVID-19 quarantine due to school exposure. There are currently just 23 students enrolled in the elementary school’s virtual learning program, down from the original total of 43.

In another update, the athletic director said the Gator’s basketball game scheduled for Dec. 18 has been rescheduled to Jan. 14.

The school board then approved an expenditure of over $52,000 for a non-reoccurring appreciation bonus for contracted employees of the school district. Board members also approved $23,000 for the purchase of a new van.

The board then approved an update to the district’s Ready for Learning Plan after recent updates from the CDC. Those CDC guidelines shorten the quarantine recommendations for Arkansans who have COVID-19 but show no symptoms related to the virus. The guidelines outline the safest procedure includes a full 14-day quarantine at home. However, quarantine can end after 10 days with no follow-up testing as long as symptoms are not present and the individual takes precautions. Quarantine can end after seven days if the individual has received a negative PCR test and are continuing to take precautions and show no symptoms.

All individuals who meet those guidelines and come out of quarantine prior to day 14 need to adhere strictly to other measures to reduce spread. Those include masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, monitoring symptoms and reducing social activities.
In final business, the board approved raising substitute pay from $70 a day to $77 to reflect minimum wage increases starting next year. The board approved the resignation of music teacher Sandy Hamilton and hired Pam McElhannon as a long-term substitute for the position.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures   12/21/2020

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Sunday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported a net increase of 11 active cases over the weekend, raising the current total to 93 confirmed and probable active cases. Total cases grew to 1,954 over the same period. Recoveries grew by 22 since Friday to 1,841. Deaths remained at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River saw a net increase of five active cases over the weekend, raising the total to 32. Total cases grew by 727. Deaths remained at 37.Active cases in Howard Country saw a net increase of 19 since Friday and now number 107. Total cases grew to 1,018. Deaths increased by one on Friday to 17.

Polk County reported a significant number of new deaths over the weekend. Since Friday the county has witnessed seven additional COVID-19 related deaths for a total of 29 since the pandemic began. Most of those deaths have occurred over the past few weeks with Polk County reporting a total of just five deaths in mid-November. That total has risen significantly and tragically since. The county reported six additional deaths on Sunday alone. Active cases of the virus are decreasing from the high recorded earlier this month, however. On Sunday, the number of active cases in Polk County dropped by 12 to the current total of 109. Total cases now number 1,113.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported one additional death over the weekend for a current total of 50. Active cases are spiking again in McCurtain County, with an additional 14 reported on Sunday. That raises the current total of active cases in the county to 302. Total cases grew to 2,664.

Across Arkansas, new confirmed and probable cases increased by more than 1,500 on Sunday for a cumulative statewide total of over 201,000 since the pandemic began. Active positives saw a slight decrease on Sunday, falling to just over 23,000. Deaths increased by 46 over the 24-hour period to 3,237. Hospitalizations saw a slight decrease, leaving 1,057 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

DQSC Chamber of Commerce cancels 2021 Membership and Awards Banquet   12/18/2020

Submitted by De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce

DE QUEEN – Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, The De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has announced that the annual awards banquet slated for Spring 2021 is being postponed with a new date to be announced at a later time.

Held in February each year, the chamber banquet typically takes place at De Queen High School with tables reserved for members and guests, a meal served, a silent auction, and an awards presentation for recognized organizations, volunteers and businesses. In years past the ceremony has also included performances by The De Queen High School Jazz Band, a live emcee and serving provided by The De Queen High School cross country team.

The decision to postpone the banquet came during a specially called Board of Directors meeting held this week on Tuesday, Dec. 15. With COVID case reports continuing to rise in Sevier County and the surrounding areas, the Chamber Board has agreed to prioritize the safety of the community by postponing the event until large gatherings can be held without concerns of COVID-19 exposure.

Though the event will be pushed back on the calendar, banquet attendees can still expect a fun theme, table decorating contest, silent auction, meal and awards to be distributed as usual. The 2021 Banquet theme will also be announced as the rescheduled date draws closer.

Questions can be referred to 870-584-3225, DQchamber@gmail.com or message the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

As always, The Chamber board of Directors appreciates the support of all members and community representatives.  More information about the annual membership banquet will be released as details become available.

State officials share more info on plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccine in Arkansas   12/18/2020

Public officials and health experts in Arkansas are sharing more information on how the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed – while also sharing a message that the vaccine is both safe and effective. U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman, who represents Arkansas 4<sup>th</sup> District, said the vaccine is an important milestone in defeating COVID-19. He said he encourages all Arkansans to learn more about the vaccine as it becomes available so that the nation can continue to restore, rebuild and renew.

So, how will the vaccine be distributed in Arkansas?

Well, Arkansans have already begun receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

25,000 doses were received in Arkansas, and a second allocation is expected sometime next week. As other vaccines receive emergency use authorization, the supply will increase and vaccines could become available quicker.

Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has proposed a phased approach to vaccine distribution based on certain categories such as vulnerability to the virus and a person’s likelihood of exposure to it.

The first phase will provide vaccines to healthcare workers in the highest risk setting for exposure to the virus. Also included in Phase 1 are long-term care residents and first responders. This phase will be followed by vaccines for essential workers such as day care workers, K-12 education employees, workers in the food industry and truck drivers. This phase is expected to occur between January and February of 2021.

The next phase, scheduled for February through March of next year, will focus on adults at increased risk for severe diseases, such as adults with chronic health conditions and those aged 65 and older. The final phases will focus on getting the vaccine to the general public and anyone else who needs or wants one.

The vaccine will not cost anyone anything. The federal government has already purchased hundreds of millions of doses on behalf of all Americans. Vaccine administration costs will be covered by private insurance or the government for those uninsured or on government plans.

Hospitals and local pharmacies will be administering the vaccine during the initial distribution phases. Other pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and Walmart will assist in later phases. As a reminder, these first-available vaccines will require two doses, three to four weeks apart. The Pfizer vaccine will be available to people 16 and older while the Moderna vaccine will be eligible to those 18 and older.

For more information on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov

State law enforcement taskforce issues proposals   12/18/2020

Gov. Asa Hutchinson received the final report from the Task Force to Advance the State of Law Enforcement in Arkansas Thursday and shared its recommendations that he intends to support during the 93rd General Assembly in January.

The law-enforcement task force was created in the midst of the civil unrest and violence that arose across the country after the death of George Floyd. Hutchinson said that crisis led the state to assess the state of law enforcement in Arkansas. That included ensuring local and state agencies are providing officers with the equipment, guidance and training, support, and compensation, to allow them to perform their jobs at the highest level. The law-enforcement officers, elected officials, and community activists on the task force surveyed a broad base of citizens and produced a report that is filled with proposals.

The proposals include 27 recommendation to increase accountability, training, and raise pay to a more competitive level.

The taskforce includes a number of representatives from across the state, including Daniel Martinez, a business owner from De Queen.

The full report is available at governor.Arkansas.gov

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures   12/18/2020

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Thursday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported a single case increase in its active caseload, raising the total to 82. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 11 to 1,921. Recoveries grew to 1,819. Deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River saw three additional active cases on Thursday for a current total of 27. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by six to 716. Deaths remain at 37.

Howard County reported four more active cases yesterday. Active cases in the county now total 88. Total cases rose by 12 to 977. Deaths remain at 16.

Polk County reported a third death in as many days. There have now been 22 deaths in Polk County since the pandemic began, with most of those occurring over the past several weeks. Active cases saw a slight increase, raising by one to 127. Total cases grew by 16 to 1,085.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported one additional active case yesterday for a total of 235. Total cases rose by 15 to 2,558. Deaths remain 49.

Across Arkansas, new confirmed and probable cases surpassed the 3,000 mark for the first time in one-day growth. In all, Arkansas reported 3,039 new cases yesterday. Since the pandemic began, more than 194,000 Arkansans have caught the virus. Active cases also saw a sizable increase, raising by 885 to 21,659. Deaths increased by 38 over the previous 24-hour period to 3,112. Hospitalizations saw a slight increase of five, leaving 1,084 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign begins today   12/18/2020

Law enforcement agencies across Arkansas and the nation will launch a two-week long intensified enforcement plan aimed at drivers who choose to drive impaired this Christmas season.  In advance of the holiday travel period state troopers, local police, and sheriff’s deputies want to remind drivers of their stepped-up patrols along U.S. and state highways, as well as local streets and county roads.

Beginning today and continuing through Jan. 1, motorists will witness an increased presence of state and local law enforcement whether they’re traveling across the state or across the country.

The national <em>Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over</em> operation combines public service messaging and assurances from law enforcement officers of a zero tolerance for drunk driving.  <em>Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over</em><em> </em>is intended to drastically reduce drunk driving on our nation’s roadways.

A look back at national fatality statistics sadly tells the story of tragic consequences from 2018 when one person every 50 minutes lost their life as the result of a drunk-driving motor vehicle crash.  Reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that on average more than 10,000 people were killed each year from 2014 through 2018 as the result of drunk driving related crashes. The Christmas and New Year’s holiday period should be an enjoyable time for Arkansas families, not a marker of death for a loved one who was involved in a drunk driving crash.

Local and state police are asking for a commitment from everyone that they’ll drive sober so that everyone can have a safe holiday. This is a campaign to get the message out that drunk driving is illegal and it claims far too many lives.

The Arkansas Highway Safety Office and NHTSA reminds everyone of the many resources available and the precautions to take, ensuring that everyone gets home safely.

-Remember that it is never okay to drink and drive.  Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or a ride service to get home safely.

-If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact the nearest law enforcement agency. Your actions could help save someone’s life.

-Guard against allowing a friend who has been drinking to drive.  Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.

For more on Arkansas’ ongoing Toward Zero Deaths campaign to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities, visit www.TZDArkansas.org

Christmas tradition continues in De Queen with Lace Lane Festival of Lights   12/16/2020

DE QUEEN – An always popular and local Christmas tradition continues this week and through the New Year’s in De Queen. That is, of course, the thousands of Christmas lights and decorations adorning the yards of homes on Lace Lane. This time of year, the loop, located two miles north of De Queen on Ninth Street, is turned into a Christmas wonderland enjoyed by children and adults alike. Homeowners along Lace Lane put a tremendous amount of effort decorating in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It all started more than two decades ago when Thomas and Donna Sweeten began transforming their property into a dazzling array of Christmas lights and decorations. From a dragon in a pond to a full choir, a variety of nativity scenes and over 100 Santa figures, the scene is something everyone can enjoy. And respect too, because the work that goes into decorating the homes on Lace Lane, and especially the Sweeten’s, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Thomas has said in the past the decorations are his family’s way sharing their enjoyment of Christmas for the whole community

.
The popular local attraction typically features dozens of cars driving through each day and night. And if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry: the decorations will stay up through Jan. 1.

In the past Thomas has hosted Santa and provided gifts to children who stop by. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 precautions in place this year, Santa will not be able to make an appearance at Lace Lane. Nonetheless, the Sweetens and the whole Lace Lane community invites everyone to come out, enjoy the lights and have a Merry Christmas.

Comment period open for future plans for Albert Pike Recreation Area   12/16/2020

LANGLEY – Ouachita National Forest officials are extending the public comment period from Dec. 14 – Jan. 14 regarding the future of the Albert Pike Recreation Area, located in Langley, Ark. The 30-day extended period will enable the public to review the Ouachita National Forest’s proposed long-term management and use of the recreation area.

The Ouachita National Forest proposes to improve day use opportunities which includes general maintenance, adding more parking, providing alternative bathroom facilities, increasing signage and improving the swim beach. Overnight use below the 100-year flood elevation would not be permitted anywhere in the Albert Pike Recreation Area.

The proposed action can be found on the project’s webpage at www.fs.usda.gov/project. All comments must be in writing and submitted through formal channels.

The Albert Pike Recreation Area has been closed and unmaintained since a devastating flood killed 20 people on the night of June 10-11, 2010.

Torrential rainfall and flash flooding caused water levels to rise from three feet to over 23 feet in less than four hours. Besides taking the life of 20 people, the flooding also caused tremendous damage to the park and its facilities. Officials say the flood was of a scale that occurs on average only once every 500 years. The park was closed down immediately after and has not reopened since.

In 2018 the United States Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of survivors and family members of the victim. A federal judge said the lawsuit was barred by the Federal Tort Claims Act. The court ruled that the government could not be considered negligent in allowing visitors to camp overnight on a previously-known 100-year floodplain. The court stated the 500-year flood which occurred that evening posed an “ultra-hazardous condition” regardless of any attempts to mitigate or warn camps.

SWACMHC still offering counseling, food and child care services for local residents   12/16/2020

DE QUEEN – 2020 has been a stressful year for all Americans. For area residents seeking a little help dealing with their own stress, a new program is offering just that and at no cost.

The Southwest Arkansas Counseling and Mental Health Center has partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offer a free and anonymous counseling service to help deal with personal stress. The Promoting Positive Emotions program is organized to help residents of Southwest Arkansas recover mentally and emotionally from disasters – both personal ones and wide scale ones like the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group is offering free counseling, food resources, housing and day care assistance for local residents. The group also offers tips that all Arkansans can use to promote good mental and emotional health during COVID-19. That includes getting coffee with a friend, making sure you’re getting enough sleep, finding a new hobby or spending more time on an old one, taking time for lunch and spending time with family.

All services are completely confidential and absolutely free. The program is available for children under the age of 18, with parental or guardian consent. The sole purpose is helping Arkansans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring they receive the emotional and mental health services they need to carry on during these difficult times.

Anyone interested in learning more is invited to call 833-993-2382 or visit the website at www.staypositivearkansas.com

Ashdown Varsity Panther Cheer team heading to state competition this weekend   12/16/2020

ASHDOWN – The Ashdown Varsity Panther Cheer team will be heading to the state cheer competition this week. The team will be competing in a variety of events during the competition set for this Saturday, Dec. 19 in Hot Springs. The Panthers will compete in Session 2 starting at 11:50 that morning.

As with pretty much everything else this year, COVID-19 has changed some things about this year’s competition. Tickets can be purchased through the Go Fan link provided on the Facebook page of Ashdown Varsity Panther Cheer.

Due to capacity restrictions, AAA passes will not be accepted for state cheer. Each school in this session is allotted 55 tickets to sell to spectators. There is a two ticket per transaction limit on the tickets.

If you purchase your GoFan tickets using a computer, your tickets will be delivered to the email address you entered when purchasing. You can also download the GoFan mobile app (Apple users only) and login using this email to access your tickets.

This event is a mobile entry event–tickets must be presented on a smart phone for entry. Printed tickets will not be accepted.

All unsold tickets per session will be available to the public today starting at 8 a.m. at GoFan.com

The event will also be live streamed via NFHS Network. https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/associations/aaa.

Face masks will be required.

Gov. Hutchinson provides update on COVID-19, plans for vaccines   12/16/2020

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Arkansas reached a somber milestone Tuesday with deaths from COVID-19 surpassing 3,000.

Speaking during his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce update, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced an additional 26 deaths over the previous 24 hours. That raises the total number of Arkansans who have died from COVID-19 to 3,016 since the pandemic began. State officials also reported an additional 2,141 confirmed and probable cases for a cumulative total of more than 189,000. Active cases saw a net decrease of one, leaving 20, 690 confirmed and probable active cases in the state. Hospitalizations increased by 20 to 1,070.

Hutchinson also provided an update on the initial arrival in Arkansas of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. He said the state’s first resident received the vaccine shortly after the vaccines arrived on Monday. Hutchinson repeated the state’s plan to offer the vaccinations to healthcare workers, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities. State officials are still determining how and when the vaccine will be made available to the general public.

Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero again stressed state and CDC guidelines as the Christmas and New Year’s holidays approach. He urged all Arkansans to follow those precautions to ensure the holidays are celebrated as safely as possible amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Hutchinson provided another brief update on the state’s effort to retool the Arkansas TraumaCon system to better manage hospitals’ COVID-19 caseloads. He said the system will help patients needing treatment in a hospital find space quickly and efficiently – even if that means treatment beyond their nearest facility.

In review, Arkansas’ death toll from COVID-19 reached 3,016 after an additional 26 deaths reported over the previous 24-hour period. Cumulative cases grew by 2,141 to more than 189,000. Active cases saw a single decrease to 20,690. Recoveries now number over 165,000. Hospitalizations increased by 20 to 1,070 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on all the latest developments.

Arkansas Holiday Trail of Lights offers Christmas scenes throughout state   12/16/2020

A great place to continue a holiday tradition, or start a new one, is on the Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights. The Holiday Lights continues now through the end of the year with a statewide celebration of the holiday season. Towns across The Natural State are taking part with events and activities modified to adhere to social distancing requirements. Displays in many locations will be lit into the new year, offering a fun way to hit the road and spend time with friends and family in a safe way.

To view locations and events, go to Arkansas.com/trailofholidaylights.

Arkansas residents and travelers have made the Trail of Holiday Lights an annual holiday tradition for 25 years. Cities and towns across the state get into the spirit, decking the halls and bringing families together.
For trip planning ideas, go to this month’s edition of “Discover Arkansas” at www.arkansas.com/discover-arkansas. And, don’t forget to share your own holiday photos with us on Facebook or Instagram using #ArkansasTrailofHolidayLights.
Now is the perfect time to start planning your own holiday light adventure. Go to www.Arkansas.com/TrailofHolidayLights to get started.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures   12/16/2020

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest COVID-19 figures as of Tuesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported five additional active cases yesterday, raising the total to 82. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 19 to 1,893. Deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River saw four additional active cases on Tuesday for a total of 23. Total cases also grew by six to 701 while deaths remained at 37.

Howard County reported an increase of four active cases on Tuesday. That leaves 86 confirmed and probable cases in Howard County. Total cases rose by 13 to 955. Deaths remain at 16.

Polk County reported an additional death over the previous 24-hour period. That raises the total of Polk County residents who have died from COVID-19 complications to 20. Actve cases did see another day of decline, falling by 10 to 116.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported 17 fewer active cases on Tuesday. That leaves the current total of confirmed and probable active cases at 215. Total cases grew to 2,509. Deaths remain at 48.

De Queen has first serious chance for snow of the season   12/15/2020

DE QUEEN – There’s an ever so slight chance of a little winter wonderland for much of the listening area today. According to forecasters with the National Weather Service, De Queen has its first credible chance of snow of the season this afternoon and into the evening. Gillham and further north into Polk County received a slight dusting of snow Sunday night. But De Queen and further south may have a turn to see some of that white winter stuff.

Forecasters are calling for a 30 percent chance of rain and snow between noon and 3 p.m. with additional rain throughout the evening. Snow is again possible tonight and into the early morning hours. The temperatures may just be right for it, with today’s high not expected to be above 38 degrees and the low a chilly 28.We wouldn’t suggest holding your breath for any snow-related cancellations however. Forecasters saw little to no snow accumulation is expected and tomorrow’s high is a relatively balmy 44 degrees.

Quorum Court shoots down suggestion of alcohol ordinance, approves Christmas bonuses   12/15/2020

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

The Sevier County Quorum Court met yesterday to approve the county’s 2021 budget as well as discuss several other items of business.

Sevier County Judge Greg Ray also announced the county had received over $700,000 in federal relief funds through the national CARES Act. This is Sevier County’s allotment of the more than $1.2 billion received by Arkansas through the federal program. The quorum court voted to use part of that allotment to provide Christmas bonuses to county employees. This is the first bonuses provided to county employees in recent memory. Ray said the quorum court voted to issue the bonuses because of the difficulties faced by many in 2020 during the pandemic and because of the quality work performed by county employees.

The bonuses amount to $500 for full-time county employees who have been employed at least one year. Part-time workers employed for at least a year will receive $250. All other employees will receive $125. Justices of the peace are also slated to receive a bonus.
In addition, county employees will receive a 2.5 percent cost of living raise in 2021.

The county then moved to the issue of alcohol sales in Sevier County. Voters approved a measure in November authorizing the sale of alcohol in Sevier County. Kaylen Lewis, the county’s legal counsel, provided a sample ordinance the county could implement that would add additional permit fees for any restaurant or business seeking a license to sell or serve alcohol. Justices of the Peace Angie Walker, Greg Wright and David Wright stated their opposition to any ordinance imposing additional fees, taxes or permit costs on businesses in Sevier County. Greg Wright said with restaurants operating at limited capacity he felt it would be unfair to impose additional permit fees on them.

“Restaurants have a hard enough time as it is so I don’t want to slap them with another $500 permit,” Wright said.

In addition Walker said she did not support any additional tax on alcohol sales.

“I would rather leave that money in the taxpayer’s pocket,” said Walker. “I just can’t justify an additional tax on alcohol sales.”

No other discussion was held and no action was taken.

In other business, the quorum court approved the re-appointment of Joan Moore to the Sevier County Library Board and Dr. Randy Walker to the Sevier County Airport Board.

Finally, the quorum court heard from Muriel Wiley who is spearheading a local community project committee. She said the grassroots effort seeks to promote and highlight minority communities in Sevier County and across Southwest Arkansas. Wiley spoke with justices about setting up an opportunity to speak with local youth about the quorum court’s role in the county and the importance of being active in local government. Angie Walker said the community group could be a useful partner in advocating for the COVID-19 vaccine and combating misinformation about its use.

Sevier County Quorum Court heards update on new hospital  12/15/2020

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

During yesterday’s meeting of the Sevier County Quorum Court, justices of the peace heard an update on the county’s new hospital currently in the construction process.

Dr. Steve Cole, chair of the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors, provided the update. He said prep work continues on the site of the new 14-bed hospital, located several miles north of De Queen on Highway 71. He said record sales tax collections this year – thanks largely to county residents shopping locally and the collection of sales tax from online sales – has ensured the hospital is entering the new year with strong finances.

Cole also informed the quorum court of its decision to install a Safe Haven baby box at the new hospital. The hospital board voted during its October meeting to incorporate a baby box into design of the new facility. A baby box, or baby hatch, is a secured container in which mothers can safely and anonymously abandon their baby.

Through Arkansas’ Safe Haven Law, parents can legally drop off a child 30 days or younger to a qualified location without facing prosecution for endangering or abandoning a child. The law was approved and put in place to alleviate the abandonment and death of infant children in Arkansas.

If 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.
Once completed the hospital will be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That means trained staff will always be on site to respond quickly to a child placed in the baby box. If one baby is saved, said hospital officials, the baby box will have more than served its purpose.
The hospital’s baby box would be only the second one in all of Arkansas.

Cole then informed justices of the peace that the hospital board was working with AirEvac with the goal of relocating the medical helicopter base to the new hospital once its completed.

In addition, Cole said the board had partnered with a local marketing company, Arzac, to design the hospital’s logo and prepare other promotional materials.

Finally, Cole said the hospital board is beginning to narrow down the applications it’s received for the hospital administrator position. He said the board expects to begin conducting interviews in January.

Bond set at $50,000 for Horatio woman charged with felony drug, gun offences  12/15/2020

HORATIO – A Horatio women arrested last month on multiple drug and firearms charges has been formally charged following her initial court appearance.

57-year-old Charlotte Dennis was arraigned this month in the Ninth West Judicial Circuit Court. Dennis faces a number of felony and misdemeanor charges, including possession of methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, maintaining a drug premise, possession of drug paraphernalia and theft by receiving.

Dennis’ bond was also set at $50,000. She remains in jail awaiting her next court appearance or posting bail.

According to the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, officers with multiple area law enforcement agencies executed a search warrant on Nov. 30 on a residence located at 598 Williamson Loop near Horatio.

Upon entering the home officers located narcotics and an undisclosed number of stolen firearms. Dennis was the sole occupant of the home at the time and was arrested without

t incident during the search. She was taken into custody and transported to the Sevier County Jail.

Agencies involved in the investigation and search warrant included the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, the South Central Drug Task Force and the Arkansas State Police.

Lockesburg City Council approves repairs to fire house, Christmas bonuses and hotspots   12/15/2020

LOCKESBURG – Some much needed repairs, internet hotspots and Christmas bonuses were the main topics of discussion atlast week’s meeting of the Lockesburg City Council.

The council approved during its Dec. 8 meeting to budget a little over $34,000 for much-needed renovations to the firehouse’s office and kitchen area. The bill will be split with $20,000 to be covered by the fire department and the remainder from the city’s general fund. The fire department will pay back the additional amount over the next several years from the Act 833 money it receives from the state’s fire department assistance program.

The city council took no action on employee raises for the coming year but approved $500 bonuses to each city employee and a $250 bonus to the Lockesburg city treasurer. In addition, a motion was approved to give city employees a one-time $100 hazard payment and $50 for the city treasurer.

The council briefly discussed a land swap deal with a city resident but the item was tabled and no action taken.

The Council then discussed a one year contract with T Mobile for 4 wifi internet hotspots to be placed strategically around town. City officials hope the faster internet speed will aid families and children who are enrolled in their school’s virtual learning program due to the ongoing pandemic. A motion was made and then passed in a vote to allow the contract to proceed – contingent on the approval of churches and landowners to allow the use of their property for the hotspots.

Aldermen then approved an operating budget for 2021 until corrections can be made to the proposed budget.

One final item of note was an announcement by Council Member Donna Gallaher that she would resign from the council effective Dec. 31 of this year.

Shop with a Cop to bring Christmas to local children in need this holiday season   12/15/2020

DE QUEEN – Local law enforcement officers are gearing up for the 2020 Shop with a Cop program. Shop with a Cop is held each year during the holiday season through a partnership between the De Queen Police Department, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, the Sevier County Department of Human Services and the De Queen Walmart store.

Through the partnership local children are selected to shop with an officer from either the police department or sheriff’s office. The kids are provided with money to purchase necessities as well as gifts for Christmas. The program has long aimed to help children in Sevier County who otherwise might go without a gift under the tree during Christmas. Shop with a Cop has raised thousands of dollars in the past and purchased gifts, food and necessities to hundreds of children in Sevier County.

Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic still making an impact, the year 2020 has been a trying one for just about everyone. This year’s Shop with a Cop program is no exception. Donations have been minimal so funds from all sources are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

If you would like to donate to this year’s Shop with a Cop program, contact Beth Hughes at the De Queen Police Department by calling 642-2210 or Chad Dowdle with the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office at 642-2125.

 

De Queen Church of Christ to hold Christmas Break Food Bag Program   12/15/2020

DE QUEEN – The De Queen Church of Christ is stepping in to make sure area students do not go hungry over the Christmas break. Members of De Queen Church of Christ are providing the meals through their Christmas Break Food Bag Program.

Meals will be placed in backpacks and distributed later this week and into the weekend. There will be four choices of times to pick up the backpacks. The only requirement is that you have your child or children in your vehicle. Each child in the vehicle will receive a backpack.

The backpacks will be distributed at the De Queen Church of Christ Family Center during the following times:

This Friday, Dec. 18 from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

This Saturday, Dec. 19 from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Monday, Dec. 21 from 5-7 p.m.

And finally Saturday, Dec 26 from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

If you do not have transportation available to pick up during any of these times please call the Church of Christ at 870-584-3226.

Santa House open in De Queen again this Saturday   12/15/2020

DE QUEEN – The Santa House in De Queen will be open again this Saturday, Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The house is featured on the south side of the courthouse square in downtown De Queen. Due to all the precautions and guidelines, Santa will be behind plexiglass but will nonetheless hear the Christmas wish list from every child who stops by.

Santa’s House will again be open Dec. 21, 22 and 23 from 3-5 p.m. The house will be open for a final day on Thursday, Dec. 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

First shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Arkansas   12/15/2020

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

The first shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Arkansas yesterday morning.

Around 25,000 doses of the two-part vaccine were delivered Monday morning. Of those, the majority will be going to Hospitals in Northwest Arkansas where the virus’ impact has been the most severe, according to several news agencies.

The FDA approved the vaccine for emergency authorization last week. It only took several days for the first doses to arrive.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state health officials have repeatedly stated the first vaccines will be offered to healthcare workers in Arkansas. They will be followed by the elderly and most vulnerable populations, then Arkansas teachers and school staff and then, finally, the general population. The initial shipment of vaccines will not be enough to cover all of Arkansas’ 200,000 heathcare workers. Hospitals told news agencies they plan on prioritizing those vaccines within their institutions. In addition, although the vaccine will not be mandatory for workers, it will be highly encouraged.

The Pfizer is a two-stage vaccine whose initial dose will need to be followed up with a booster shot some 28 days later. The vaccine is also a demanding one in terms of storage, with a requirement that it be stored in temperatures of around 70 degrees Celsius below freezing.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures   12/15/2020

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest figures as of Monday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported three additional active cases yesterday, raising the total to 77. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 11 to 1,874. Deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River saw one additional active case on Monday for a total of 19. Total cases also grew by one to 695 while deaths remained at 37.

Howard County reported an increase of 10 active cases on Monday. That leaves 82 confirmed and probable cases in Howard County. Total cases rose by 13 to 942. Deaths remain at 16.

Polk County reported 12 fewer active cases yesterday, dropping that figure to 126. Total cases grew by six to 1,026. Deaths remain at 19.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County saw four fewer active cases on Monday. That leaves 232 confirmed and active probable cases in McCurtain County. Total cases grew by 2,504 and deaths remained at 48.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported 1,355 new cases on Monday. That raises the state’s cumulative total to slightly over 187,000 cases since the pandemic began. Active positives saw a net decrease of 704, leaving 20,691 confirmed and probable active cases in the state. Deaths increased by 45 to 2,990. Hospitalizations fell by a net seven cases to leave 1,050 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.

Pilgrim’s announces $480,000 donation for splash pad in De Queen   12/14/2020

DE QUEEN – A popular summertime attraction is coming to De Queen thanks to a huge donation by Pilgrim’s.

Pilgrim’s announced Friday it is providing $480,000 for a new, state-of-the-art splash pad at the Herman Dierks Park in De Queen.

A splash pad is a large water-themed public park attraction usually only seen in much bigger communities. They are praised in other cities for the cool space they provide without the need for a lifeguard because there’s little to no standing water. Splash pads are also known for drawing in residents far and wide during the warmer months. Construction is expected to begin the first quarter of 2021.De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown said this latest community project by Pilgrim’s goes “above and beyond their ongoing support of the community.”
In a press release Pilgrim’s said the company worked with local leaders to determine where the funds could best help meet immediate and longer-term community needs.

Pilgrim’s De Queen/Nashville Complex Manager Eddie Halter said this project will “allow team members and neighbors to enjoy a fun outdoor recreation activity and provide a place for families and friends to come together and socialize. Supporting projects that help improve the quality of life for our community is something we are very passionate about at Pilgrim’s, and we’re grateful our Hometown Strong program is making this possible.”

Combined with $95,000 in new equipment slated for Herman Dierks Park next year, the splash pad will help make the park an even greater attraction for future visitors.

The donation made by Pilgrim’s for the splash pad is on top of the $225,000 donated by the company last month for construction of a community walking trail at the new hospital in Sevier County. The one-mile-long lighted and landscaped trail will weave through the grounds of the Sevier County Medical Center and will be open for use by the whole community.

Pilgrim’s made the donation through its Hometown Strong initiative to bring investment and community projects to the areas in which it serves. Pilgrim’s De Queen/Nashville facility employs more than 1,400 people with an annual payroll of more than $53 million. The facility supports 238 growers, paying them more than $36 million per year for their livestock. Consistent with its long-term commitment to the local economy, the Pilgrim’s De Queen/Nashville complex has invested more than $134 million in capital improvements over the last five years.

Senior Citizen employees, volunteers gather dozens of boxes for Christmas drive   12/14/2020

Several employees of the Horatio Senior Citizen Center along with volunteers met up on Saturday to begin boxing up Christmas packages for a number of senior citizens in the county. They met up at the De Queen Senior Citizens Center and organized hundreds if not thousands of pounds of donations, ranging from food and winter clothing to gifts and household necessities. Penny Morton of the Horatio Senior Citizens Center said the effort is being made to ensure local senior citizens are not forgotten this Christmas.

DE QUEEN – Several employees of the Horatio Senior Citizen Center along with volunteers met up on Saturday to begin boxing up Christmas packages for a number of senior citizens in the county. And thanks to the tremendous support they’ve seen through this new program, it was a very busy day for them.

Volunteers included local folks as well as youth from Horatio schools. They met up at the De Queen Senior Citizens Center and organized hundreds if not thousands of pounds of donations, ranging from food and winter clothing to gifts and household necessities. Tables in the main room of the senior citizens center were filled up with an amazing amount of donated items. Boxes and gift bags were filled up for nearly four dozen homebound senior citizens in Sevier County. Penny Morton of the Horatio Senior Citizens Center said the effort is being made to ensure local senior citizens are not forgotten this Christmas.

There are many ways to help the less fortunate in our community this Christmas. There are programs to help children and families in need as well as individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But local community organizers say there’s not much in the way of helping senior citizens during Christmas. Especially those who are homebound and cannot travel or leave their home to see others without assistance. Organizers identified 45 Sevier County seniors who could use some Christmas cheer this holiday season.

Penny said the senior citizens center has already seen tremendous support from the community through this donation drive. Businesses, community groups, churches and even area school children have stepped up to ensure our senior citizens are not forgotten this Christmas. Donations have ranged not just items but also money to purchase other needed items.

Penny said the group will continue taking donations through Thursday. Area residents are still invited to donate items like socks, scarves, crossword books, toiletries, candy, non-perishable food and nearly any other items for these senior citizens. Donations can be dropped off now through Thursday at either the Horatio or De Queen Senior Citizens Centers. Donations must be dropped off during the centers’ open hours, between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday at both sites.

The Horatio Senior Citizens Center is located at 1106 McCoy Drive while the De Queen center is located on 605 E. Haes Avenue behind Pruett’s Foods.

Penny said boxes will be delivered next week.

For more information contact Penny at (870) 832-3640 or at 784-3515.

Horatio students return to onsite learning today after COVID-related closure   12/14/2020

HORATIO – Students in the Horatio School District who elected for in-person learning this semester return to class today following a COVID-19 related closure last week.

The district’s elementary and high school campuses were closed four of five days last week due to the number of students and staff on mandatory quarantine or testing positive for COVID-19 exposure. The district is reopening both campuses for onsite instruction today following completion of the state-mandated quarantine period.

Last week’s closure marked the second time this school year that COVID-19 has forced the Horatio School District to modify some portion of its on-site instruction. De Queen Elementary School was also closed for a week following quarantine and exposure among the school’s support personnel.

Horatio Superintendent Zane Vanderpool said the district is excited to welcome students back to campus today. However, he continues to urge students, parents and staff to socially distance, wear their masks and make choices that can help keep children and staff safe in school through the remainder of the semester.

School officials said future updates or modifications to the school’s onsite learning will be shared with parents via a phone messaging service as well as through Facebook, email and Google Classroom.
District officials are also reminding parents, students and staff of new CDC guidelines shorten the quarantine recommendations for Arkansans who have COVID-19 but show no symptoms related to the virus. The guidelines outline the safest procedure includes a full 14-day quarantine at home. However, quarantine can end after 10 days with no follow-up testing as long as symptoms are not present and the individual takes precautions. Quarantine can end after seven days if the individual has received a negative PCR test and are continuing to take precautions and show no symptoms.

If at any time during quarantine the close contact develops symptoms of COVID-19, they should immediately isolate and be tested for COVID-19. This is even if they previously had a negative test during the quarantine period.

All individuals who meet those guidelines and come out of quarantine prior to day 14 need to adhere strictly to other measures to reduce spread. Those include masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, monitoring symptoms and reducing social activities.

DMS students donated nearly $600 for local Shop with a Cop program   12/14/2020

De Queen Middle School students raised nearly $600 by selling t-shirts through a community-wide service project. The funds were donated on Friday to the local Shop with a Cop program. This program is held each year during the holiday season through a partnership between the De Queen Police Department, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, the Sevier County Department of Human Services and the De Queen Walmart store. Pictured in the first row from left to right are Kyleigh Faulkenberry, Gabriela Aguilar, Katie Williamson, Teralee Stewart, Jeremiah Coto, Elaine Tovar and Marlene Tellez.<br />In the second row are Tristan Marrufo, Beau McCullough, Mario Gonzalez, Captain Sonny Kimmel<br />Back Row (left to right) – PFC Michael Barnes, Mallory Tonihka, Officer Bobby Bagley, Lt. Chad Bradshaw, Officer Chris Turner, Officer Beth Hughes and Aubreye Gillmore.

DE QUEEN – De Queen Middle School students recently wrapped up a fundraiser to help out local children in need this Christmas.

The students raised nearly $600 by selling t-shirts through a community-wide service project. The funds were donated on Friday to the local Shop with a Cop program. This program is held each year during the holiday season through a partnership between the De Queen Police Department, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, the Sevier County Department of Human Services and the De Queen Walmart store.

Through the partnership local children are selected to shop with an officer from either the police department or sheriff’s office. The kids are provided with money to purchase necessities as well as gifts for Christmas. The program has long aimed to help children in Sevier County who otherwise might go without a gift under the tree during Christmas. Shop with a Cop has raised thousands of dollars in the past and purchased gifts, food and necessities to hundreds of children in Sevier County.

The De Queen Middle School Student Council provided the donation during a small ceremony last week with officers Bobby Bagley, Chad Bradshaw, Christ Turner, Sonny Kimmel and Beth Hughes in attendance.

Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic still making an impact, the year 2020 has been a trying one for just about everyone. This year’s Shop with a Cop program is no exception. Donations have been minimal so the funds donated by De Queen middle-schoolers was a welcome gift.

If you would like to donate to this year’s Shop with a Cop program, contact Beth Hughes at the De Queen Police Department by calling 642-2210 or Chad Dowdle with the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office at 642-2125.

Ashdown School Board Member named 2021 ABSA president   12/14/2020
Submitted by Ronda Pounds

Ashdown School Board Member Rosa Bowman is passed the gavel after taking over the reigns as the next president of the Arkansas School Board Association. A native of Peru, Bowman is one of the few women to have served in the position and is the first person of Latina background.

An Ashdown School Board Member has been named the newest president of the Arkansas School Boards Association, ABSA. Ashdown School Board Member Rosa Bowman was officially “passed the gavel” to become the next ASBA President on Friday, Dec.11 during the organization’s Annual Conference in Little Rock.

There have only been a handful of women serve in this position and Bowman is also the first person of Latina heritage to serve. Bowman has a long history of service as a school board member and representative of the ABSA. She’s a recipient of the Platinum Award for completing 400 hours of in-service training. In 2019 and February 2020, Bowman traveled to Washington, D.C. representing ASBA and meet with national legislators from Arkansas.

The Arkansas School Boards Association is a private, nonprofit, membership organization that provides leadership, training, and advocacy to school boards across the state.

Bowman came to the United States at the age of 16 from her home country of Peru with the support of her family.  She graduated high school from Brigham City, Utah and attended college at New Mexico State. She met and married her husband Ricky Bowman in 1973. 1985, she graduated college with Ricky and their three children present.  She continued to teach Spanish at Ashdown Public Schools until 1990, then taught third grade in the elementary school and later Spanish and ESL at Ashdown High School and Ashdown Junior High School.  In 2004, she made the decision to quit teaching in the school system so she could run for the Ashdown School Board.She was elected and began serving on the Ashdown School Board in 2006.

Since 2010, Mrs. Bowman has served in various offices at the state level as she progressed until being eligible to serve as president this year.  She is currently holding the office of secretary on the local level.

Ashdown Public School Superintendent Casey Nichols said Ashdown Public Schools are “proud, honored, and blessed to have Mrs. Bowman serving on the local school board as well as the prestigious honor of presiding over the state board. She is dedicated to our students and staff and has such a heart to always make the best decisions for them. We appreciate all she does and will continue to do.”

State Rep. DeAnn Vaught shares info on state’s once in a decade redistricting   12/14/2020
Submitted by State Representative DeAnn Vaught

In her weekly update, State Representative DeAnn Vaught announced the 2021 Regular Session will conduct its once in a decade redistricting. Vaught represents Little River and portions of Sevier and Howard Counties in the Arkansas State Legislature.

Redistricting is an important part of American democracy and is required by law to be performed once every 10 years following the Federal Census.

In Arkansas there are two separate processes for redistricting.One process is redrawing legislative boundaries for our state senators and representatives. This is the responsibility of the Arkansas Board of Apportionment. The Board will be redrawing 100 State House &amp; 35 State Senate Districts so that each district meets various legal criteria, including each district being about the same size in population.

The other redistricting process is the responsibility of the Arkansas General Assembly. That includes drawing Arkansas’ four congressional districts.

Using census data, both chambers of the state legislature must approve a single redistricting plan next year.

As with state legislative districts, some congressional districts may expand geographic boundaries while others may shrink depending on population changes.

Districts over time may change demographically. That’s why it is important they are redrawn every ten years. The goal is to ensure each district has about the same number of people and reflects diverse communities.

Census bureau information is expected to be released in the spring. As a result, redistricting is typically one of the final items addressed toward the end of the session.

You can watch this process in real-time as we live stream all committee meetings.

The 2021 Regular Session begins January 11.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures   12/14/2020

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest figures as of Sunday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported a net decrease of four active cases since Friday, dropping the total to 74 confirmed and probable active cases in the county. Total cases grew to 1,863 and deaths remained at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported a net decrease of 10 active cases. That leaves 18 reported active cases in the county. Total cases grew to 694 and deaths remained at 37.

Howard County saw a net increase of 15 active cases over the weekend, raising the current total to 72. Total confirmed and probable cases grew to 929. Deaths saw a single increase over the weekend and now total to 16.

Polk County reported 24 fewer cases over the weekend. There remain 138 confirmed and probable active cases in the county. Total cases surpassed the 1,000 mark over the weekend and now number 1,020. Deaths remained at 19.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported three new active cases on Sunday. That raises the active case load in McCurtain County to 236. Total cases grew by 15 over the 24-hour period to total 2,499. Deaths remain at 48.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported 1,450 new cases on Sunday. That raises the state’s cumulative total to nearly 186,000 Arkansans who have caught COVID-19. Active positives saw a slight decrease on Sunday but remain at 21,395. That’s the highest level of active cases since the pandemic began. Deaths grew by 34 on Sunday to total 2,945. Deaths grew by 55 on Friday, marking the worst one-day death toll since the start of the outbreak. Hospitalizations decreased by 14 with 1,057 Arkansans still hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Muriel Wiley named new director of DQSC Chamber of Commerce   12/11/2020
The full audio interview is available here:

The partial transcript is featured below:

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

New Chamber Director – Muriel Wiley, a graduate of the University of Arkansas and an alum of KDQN, was recently hired as the new executive director of the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce. She takes over the position from Suzanne Babb.

The new executive director of the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce may not be a familiar face to everyone in the community, but her voice certainly will be. Muriel Wiley co-hosted the Morning Brew radio show here on KDQN for several years and also served as the station’s news director. She’s now following a different course as director of the chamber of commerce and towards community development. It’s a passion she’s long held and one which her time on the local air waves helped develop.

After KDQN Wiley took a volunteer opportunity with Create Bridges, a rural community development organization based out of the University of Arkansas. She was then hired on for a paid position and really sharpened her focus on, and skills towards, community development in rural areas.

Although a relative newcomer to the area, Wiley’s ties to Southwest Arkansas go back to her childhood. Growing up in Texas her family visited often to check up on the tree farm and family property they held near Nashville. She ended up moving here and then attending and graduating from UA Cossatot. She completed her degree in broadcast journalism at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She eventually moved to Denver where she worked in television production before coming to De Queen to take the position at KDQN.

Wiley said she quickly realized the importance of the local chamber of commerce and its role in the community. She set her sights on the director position when it came open earlier this year after the resignation of Suzanne Babb. And though she sees the importance of the chamber as a community organizer, Wiley said its most important mission has been and will remain the local business environment. A strong business community, Wiley stressed, translates into a strong overall community.

One of the missions Wiley has focused on since taking over the chamber position is coming up with ways to help businesses adapt during the current pandemic. Since COVID-19, online sales have skyrocketed while many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses have suffered. Even once the pandemic is over these changes are very likely to stay. Adapting with those changes in mind will be part of the keys to success in the future business environment

Towards that goal, Wiley worked with Keisha McKinney, the Create Bridges Group and Tiffany Maurer of the Sevier County Economic Development Office to develop the Shop Local Holiday Guide. This guide composes ideas, strategies and resources aimed at supporting retail store managers and restaurant owners in preparing for the holiday shopping season. It also aims at strengthening the ties between local businesses and shoppers. The guide is available at the chamber of commerce office in downtown De Queen.

Another goal of Wiley’s is to maintain the chamber’s role as the one-stop shop for information about De Queen, Sevier County and everything this area has to offer. The chamber is a vital institution, she said, not just for local businesses but the community as a whole. In effect, the chamber is the ambassador for Sevier County and its communities.

De Queen is a town that has a lot to offer. And Wiley’s hope is to share that message to make De Queen’s businesses stronger and the community an even better place to live.

Horatio students to return to onsite instruction Monday   12/11/2020

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Horatio students are expected to return for onsite instruction Monday after the elementary and high school campuses were closed this week due to COVID-19.

Horatio Superintendent Zane Vanderpool announced the closures earlier this week due to the increased number of students and staff on mandatory quarantine or testing positive for COVID-19. Those cancellations also included Lions basketball games scheduled for this week.

This is the second time this school year that COVID-19 has forced the Horatio School District to modify some portion of its on-site instruction. In fact, students at Horatio Elementary School only returned to in-person learning last week following a closure throughout much of November due to the virus.

Students are set however to return for in-person learning on Monday for the last week of school before the Christmas holiday break.

Horatio is not the only school districting fighting against the rising COVID-19 caseload both locally and across the state. De Queen Elementary School was recently closed for a week due to the number of staff under mandatory quarantine.

The Arkansas Department of Health is reporting nearly 2,500 active cases in schools across the state. In the latest report, issued yesterday, Horatio School District was reporting eight active cases. Since the start of the school year the district has had a total of 36 confirmed active cases – 24 among students and 12 among staff. These totals do not, however, include probable active cases, anyone who is currently awaiting test results or those who have been placed under mandatory quarantine due to close proximity to an active case.

De Queen Public Schools is currently reporting nine similar active cases. That raises the total to 124 reported cases since school began – 91 among students and 32 among staff. Mena is reporting 23 active cases within its schools and 11 at Nashville.

Christmas and Candlelight repeats at HWSP tomorrow night  12/11/2020

WASHINGTON – It seems like everything is different in 2020 and Historic Washington State Park’s annual Christmas and Candlelight event is no different.  This year, instead of tours of the historic structures, the park had the structures decorated with the inside visible from outside. Many featured people in period costumes on the porches as if to welcome their 19th century Christmas guests. Musical entertainment was featured on the porches of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches as well as at the Block House, the porch of Williams Tavern, and the Farmers Market Pavilion.  Williams Tavern was with a limited menu service or a special holiday meal featuring ham or turkey.

Christmas and Candlelight will be repeated this Saturday Dec. 12 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  Again, Williams Tavern will be open 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and meals will also be served in the 1940 WPA Gym.  Diners eating in the gym will need to bring cash as cards can’t be accepted there but will be at Williams Tavern.

The Night Hawk Band will be featured in the Farmers Market Pavilion Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  Violinist Brenda Westerbuhr will be performing at the Block House. There will be music on the porch of the Williams Tavern from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Washington Methodist Church will feature flutist Jan Whatley and vocalist Haley Leleux on the porch at 5 p.m.  The Williams Family of Washington will sing afterwards.  Vocalist Tishara Arnett of Mineral Springs and the Hempstead County Melody Boys will also perform this Saturday evening.  In between the musical sets, the Silvey Family will offer a live nativity in the Methodist Church yard complete with live music and the reading of the Christmas story from the Bible by Washington resident Dan Ford.

Those attending are urged to practice social distancing.  The only buildings open will be Williams Tavern, the WPA Gym, and the 1874 Courthouse.

While in a building, persons will need to wear a face mask.

For information phone the park at 870-983-2684 or visit historicwashingtonstatepark.com

Senior citizen centers to begin distributing Christmas boxes Monday  12/11/2020

HORATIO – The Horatio and De Queen Senior Citizen Centers will begin distributing donations to a number of area homebound senior citizens starting Monday. The effort is being held through the agencies’ first-ever Christmas Box Drive in hopes of ensuring local senior citizens are not forgotten this Christmas.

Area residents are invited to donate items like socks, scarves, crossword books, toiletries, candy, non-perishable food and nearly any other items for these senior citizens. Donations can be dropped on Monday, Dec. 14 at either the Horatio or De Queen Senior Citizens Centers. Donations must be dropped off during the centers’ open hours, between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

For more information contact Penny Morton at (870) 832-3640 or at 784-3515.

BBB offers tips on combating porch pirates this Christmas  12/11/2020

It’s the season for porch pirates.

With online shopping being the norm right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thieves are looking to strike this holiday season.

Even households with doorbell cameras often don’t deter porch pirates, as time after time cameras catch the thieves in action. This holiday season, it’s expected that a record number of packages will be delivered before New Year’s Day.

When it comes to protecting your packages, the Better Business Bureau suggests the best practice is tracking your packages. It doesn’t matter where you are shopping, on any website, there is a good chance you may be able to track your package through the carrier or the company that you purchased it from.

Also, try and get a notification when the package is delivered and get it right away, or have a neighbor grab it. It’s also a good idea to consider requesting a signature. While this package delivery feature will likely come with a fee, the delivery service won’t be able to leave a package exposed on a doorstep without your signature.

Also, ask yourself if you want to insure your package. If valuables are inside, this will protect you against loss or damage. If you know you won’t be home, consider picking up the package in the store or curbside. Another option is to have it delivered to your workplace.

When making purchases online, <strong>use your credit card</strong> rather than a debit card or another form of payment. Credit card companies are more likely to offer refunds in the event of theft.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures  12/11/2020

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest figures as of Thursday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported three more active cases yesterday, raising the total to 78. Total confirmed and probable cases grew by eight to 1,836. Recoveries grew by five to 1,738. Deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported two fewer active cases for a total of 28. Total cases grew by three to 688 and deaths remained at 37.

Howard County reported two fewer active cases on Thursday. That leaves 57 confirmed and probable active cases in the county. Total cases grew by five to 896. Deaths remain at 16.

Polk County reported 12 more active cases on Thursday. That raises the total of active cases in the county to 162. Total cases rose by 18 to 987. Deaths remain at 19.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported two new active cases on Thursday. In total, McCurtain County is reporting 206 active cases. Total cases rose by 15 to 2,434. Deaths increased by one over the previous 24-hour period to a total of 48.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported 2,202 new cases on Thursday. Cumulative cases in the state now total nearly 179,000. Active cases grew by 958 to a record-setting 19,723 cases in the county. Deaths increased by 34 to 2,820. Hospitalizations saw a sizable decrease, falling by 59 to 1,005.

Millions of dollars coming to SWAR for high-speed broadband   12/10/2020
By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Millions of dollars in funding to increase high-speed internet access will be coming to Southwest Arkansas.

The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, announced this week the recipients of its first-phase of funding through the Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity program. The program is aimed at bringing high-speed broadband to rural areas of the country including here in Southwest Arkansas. The primary goal is providing broadband speeds of at least 100Mbps and up gigabit-speed broadband for the overwhelming majority of area residents.

The funding was held through a federal auction with bids by major internet service providers across the nation. The program is expected to provide high-speed broadband to more than 360,000 Arkansans in 200,000 unserved homes and businesses in Arkansas over the next decade. In total Arkansas is slated to receive more than $424 million through the Rural Digital Opportunity program.

Of that, Sevier County is slated to receive more than $2.5 million. The overwhelming majority of that will go to the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium. The Consortium includes the Southwest Arkansas Rural Electric Cooperative and plans to provide high-speed internet to more than 1,400 homes in Sevier County. Windstream is receiving a little over $8,000 for increased internet access in the county. Interestingly, the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation – more widely known as SpaceX – is receiving $1,500 to provide new service to three unnamed locations in Sevier.The Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium is also receiving $3 million to bring additional internet access to Little River County. The cooperative agency expects to bring high-speed internet to more than 1,600 homes and businesses in Little River.

Howard County is certainly not being left out of this new program. In total the county is set to receive more than $6.8 million in additional high-speed broadband projects. Again, the lion’s share – more than $6.7 million – will go to projects planned by the Rural Electric Cooperative. Space X is also receiving a small percentage of the funding as are Altice USA and Windstream. Together these projects will provide high-speed internet to nearly 2,700 currently unserved or under-served homes and businesses in Howard County.

Sevier, Little River and Howard Counties continue to see drop in unemployment rate   12/10/2020

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

Newly released economic data shows Sevier County’s unemployment rate has marked another consecutive month of decline. That’s a strong silver lining given the economic impact of the ongoing pandemic and shows more and more Sevier County residents are finding employment.
The new data details Sevier County’s unemployment rate in October – the latest month for which data is available. The unemployment rate fell by a full percentage point from the previous month, dropping from 6.6 to the 5.6 percent recorded in October. That rate continues to remain below the state and national average, which totaled 6.2 and 6.9 percent respectively during the same month.

The strengthening economic picture in Sevier County is reflected in part by consistently strong, even record-breaking sales tax collections this year. That is likely due in large part to sales tax collections from online sales and on the increased focus on shopping local during the pandemic.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sevier County currently ranks 43 in the state for the lowest unemployment. Out of a work force of 5,427 people in Sevier County only 305 are currently recorded as unemployed. The county’s highest unemployment rate was recorded nearly a decade ago, in January 2011 with 10.3 percent.

Of course, the rate does not reflect those who are under-employed – that is, they’re not receiving as much work as they would like. The figure does not include people who are currently unemployed but are no longer receiving benefits. The unemployment rate is not a perfect indicator of economic activity in an area but it does show that employment is likely increasing among area residents.

Neighboring Little River County’s latest unemployment data shows the county is just behind Sevier with a rate of 5.9 percent. That ranks Little River 48<sup>th</sup> out of 75 Arkansas counties.

Howard County is ranked 12<sup>th</sup> in the state with an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. Polk County ranks in the 48th spot with an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent. For both Howard and Polk Counties, that’s a trend of decreasing unemployment rates since highs reached earlier this year – especially for Polk County, which recorded a unemployment rate of 7.1 percent in September.

Statewide Madison County reported the lowest unemployment rate of just 3.9 percent. Chicot County continues to report the highest rate in the state with 10.9 percent.

DHS receives grant from Exxon Mobile for math, science instruction   12/10/2020

Giving Back – David Blackmon, left, CEO of Blackmon Oil Company, presented a grant to De Queen Superintendent Jason Sanders and De Queen High School for math and science instruction.

DE QUEEN – De Queen High School has received a grant to help students engage in the fields of math and science.

District officials announced the grant yesterday. The $500 award comes from the Exxon Mobile Educational Alliance program which received a nomination for De Queen High School during the grant open period. The donation will be used for the maintenance and support of De Queen High School in the areas of mathematics and science.

David Blackmon, president of Blackmon Oil Company, presented the grant award to De Queen Superintendent Jason Sanders this week.

Sanders said Exxon Mobile has a long history of supporting educational programs at De Queen Public Schools. He added that the district is honored to receive the nomination for the local Tiger Mart team and said the gift is another example of our local community stepping up to help the De Queen Leopards family.

Today is last day to participate in Sevier County DHS foster child gift drive   12/10/2020

DE QUEEN – Today is the last day to participate in the annual project organized by the Sevier County Department of Human Services to provide gifts to all area foster children in-need.

The agency has been reaching out and seeking the community’s help in ensuring all foster children in Sevier County receive a gift this Christmas.

Organizers are asking anyone interested to contact them by the end of today to request a child or children to sponsor this Christmas. The Department of Human Services will provide volunteers with information specific to each child. Gifts should be dropped off at the office by the end of business today.

For more information, contact the Sevier County Children and Family Services staff at 642-2082.

Panther Varsity Cheer going to state competition   12/10/2020

ASHDOWN – The Ashdown Varsity Panther Cheer team will be heading to the state cheer competition later this month. The team will be competing in a variety of events during the competition on Saturday, Dec. 19 in Hot Springs. The Panthers will compete in Session 2 starting at 11:50 that morning.

As with pretty much everything else this year, COVID-19 has changed some things about this year’s competition. Tickets can be purchased through the Go Fan link provided on the Facebook page of Ashdown Varsity Panther Cheer.

Due to capacity restrictions, AAA passes will not be accepted for state cheer. Each school in this session is allotted 55 tickets to sell to spectators. There is a two ticket per transaction limit on the tickets.

If you purchase your GoFan tickets using a computer, your tickets will be delivered to the email address you entered when purchasing. You can also download the GoFan mobile app (Apple users only) and login using this email to access your tickets.
This event is a mobile entry event–tickets must be presented on a smart phone for entry. Printed tickets will not be accepted.

All unsold tickets per session will be available to the public Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 8 a.m. at GoFan.com.

The event will also be live streamed via NFHS Network. <a href=”https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/associations/aaa?fbclid=IwAR3HIPqqwEzpqkkNxFu9s-sjx_vo9zvsK7RMLhqyXh3zy_NW3bDObYQf_Rg”>https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/associations/aaa</a>
Face masks will be required.

Arkansas to offer Private Land Antlerless Deer Hunt at end of December   12/10/2020

Submitted by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Arkansans looking for one last chance to bag a deer at the end of the current season will have three additional days to take a doe after the Modern Gun Christmas Holiday Hunt. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission unanimously voted in May to move the Private Land Antlerless Only Deer Hunt from the middle of October to the last days of December in hopes to increase participation in the hunt.

Established in 2012, AGFC officials say the hunt has seen limited participation throughout the state. The move to the cool weather of the late season is an effort to increase doe harvest — the initial reason for the hunt’s creation.

The early season was also an attempt to encourage the harvest of more doe and to protect more button bucks. Many of these yearlings will still be with the does and hunters would easily be able to differentiate the smaller button buck from the older doe and choose the latter.
The move to the end of the calendar year also enables more families to enjoy the hunt at a time when youth and college-aged students are out of classes and many people are already visiting family for the holiday season.

The Christmas gun hunt will still take place Dec. 26-28. The Private Land Antlerless Only Deer Hunt however will add a few additional doe-only days to fill a tag.


Sevier County Sheriff’s Office releases November update   12/10/2020

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Sheriffs Office has released its update detailing activities for the month of November:

Deputies clocked a total of 1,633 hours on duty during the month.

Total miles driven by deputies were nearly 18,000 with 1,243 gallons of fuel used.

Deputies received a total of 158 calls, including 13 motor vehicle accidents, 73 traffic stops, five citations, 73 warnings and 13 arrests.

A total of 59 civil papers were served. 852 building checks were made throughout the month.

Investigators opened two sexual assault cases and closed a theft case while recovering the stolen property.

ADH updates COVID-19 figures, additional deaths reported in Howard, Polk Counties   12/10/2020

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest figures as of Wednesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported four fewer active cases yesterday, dropping that total to 75. Total confirmed and probable cases grew by eight to 1,828. Recoveries grew by 12 to 1,733. Deaths remain at 20.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported four more active cases on Wednesday, raising the total to 30. Total cases grew by five to 685 while deaths remained at 37.

In Howard County reported one additional death on Wednesday. The total of Howard County residents who have contracted the virus and died now numbers 16. Active cases grew by four to 59. Cumulative cases grew by eight to 891.

Polk County reported another death on Wednesday for a total of 19 since the pandemic began. Active cases saw an increase of 13 after dropping for several consecutive days. Total cases rose by 22 to 969.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported three new active cases on Wednesday, raising the total of confirmed and probable active cases in McCurtain County to 204. Total cases grew by 15 to 2,419. Deaths remain at 47.

Across Arkansas, state health officials reported 2,327 new cases yesterday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to 176,652 Arkansans. Active cases grew by a net total of 305 to 18,765. Deaths increased by 34 to 2,786. Hospitalizations saw a decrease of 17 to 1,064.

 

De Queen Public Schools informs students, parents and staff of new COVID-19 guidelines   12/09/2020

DE QUEEN – De Queen Public Schools are informing students, parents and staff of new guidelines regarding COVID-19 quarantine procedures.

The guidelines were forwarded by the Arkansas Department of Health and made official by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, on Dec. 2.

Those CDC guidelines shorten the quarantine recommendations for Arkansans who have COVID-19 but show no symptoms related to the virus. The guidelines outline the safest procedure includes a full 14-day quarantine at home. However, quarantine can end after 10 days with no follow-up testing as long as symptoms are not present and the individual takes precautions. Quarantine can end after seven days if the individual has received a negative PCR test and is continuing to take precautions and show no symptoms.

If at any time during quarantine the close contact develops symptoms of COVID-19, they should immediately isolate and be tested for COVID-19. This is even if they previously had a negative test during the quarantine period

.
The Arkansas Department of Health prefers the use of PCR tests for testing of close contacts during quarantine. However, antigen tests may be used with the understanding that the risk of post-quarantine transmission is higher than with a PCR test.

All individuals who meet those guidelines and come out of quarantine prior to day 14 need to adhere strictly to other measures to reduce spread. Those include masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, monitoring symptoms and reducing social activities. For parents and staff needing more information or to report exposure or close contact to COVID-19, the De Queen Public Schools Point of Contact can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 642-5488.

De Queen man charged with rape, aggravated assault   12/09/2020

DE QUEEN – A De Queen man is facing felony rape and assault charges in relation to an incident which is alleged to have occurred earlier this year.

According to court records, Timothy Charles May, a 51-year-old resident of De Queen, was officially charged on Dec. 4 with the felony offense of rape and aggravated assault. The charges stem from an incident that prosecutors allege occurred on Oct. 15 during an assault on a family member in Sevier County.

If convicted, the Class Y Felony Rape offense carries a sentence of 10 to 40 years in prison and fines up to $15,000. The aggravated assault charge carries a sentence of up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

May’s bond has been set at $100,000 and he remains in detention in the Sevier County Jail.

Sevier County reports two additional COVID-19 deaths over 24-hour period   12/09/2020

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Tuesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported two additional deaths on Tuesday due to COVID-19. These are the first deaths reported in Sevier in over a month and raise the county’s death toll from the virus to 20. Active cases did see a slight decrease, on a positive note, falling by three to 79. Cumulative confirmed and probable cases increased by nine to 1,820.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported three fewer active cases on Tuesday, dropping the total to 26. Total cases grew by eight to 680 while deaths remained at 37.

In Howard County, confirmed and probable active cases rose by five case over the past 24 hours. That leaves 55 active cases in Howard County. Cumulative cases grew by 12 to 883. Deaths remain at 15.

Polk County reported a decrease of four active cases yesterday. That leaves 137 confirmed and probable active cases in Polk County. Total cases grew by 11 to 947 while deaths remained at 18.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported six fewer active cases for a current total of 201. Cumulative cases rose by nine to 2,404. Deaths remain at 47.

IRS warns of COVID-19 stimulus scam   12/09/2020

LITTLE ROCK – The IRS is warning people to be aware of a new text message scam. The thief’s goal is to trick people into revealing bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 Economic Impact Payment.

Here’s how this scam works:

People get a text message saying they have “received a direct deposit of $1,200 from the COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment… Continue here to accept this payment …” The text includes a link to a phishing web address.
This fake link appears to come from a state agency or relief organization. It takes people to a fake website that looks like the IRS.gov Get My Payment website. If people visit the fake website and enter their personal and financial account information, the scammers collect it.

Here’s what people should do if they receive this message:
Anyone who receives this scam text should take a screenshot and include the screenshot in an email to phishing@irs.gov with the following information:
Date/time/time zone that they received the text message and the phone number that received the text message.

The IRS doesn’t send unsolicited texts or emails. The agency will never demand immediate payment using a gift card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer or threaten to have a taxpayer arrested.

De Queen passes city budget, number of projects planned for 2021   12/09/2020

DE QUEEN – The City of De Queen will be funded for another year. That’s after the city council met last week to formally vote on and authorize the De Queen’s 2021 budget.

Overall, the city will be looking at a fairly straightforward budget with total expenditures slightly over $4.1 million. That’s around $400,000 more than the current year’s budget.

One of the big projects that will be funded in 2021 is the replacement of the bridge west of the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office on Robinson Road. A state inspection earlier this year determined the bridge would need to be replaced or risk a state-mandated closure. That project is estimated to cost around $300,000 to complete. The budget also includes $285,000 for the city’s 2021 street program.

Other sizeable projects include $95,000 for new playground equipment at the Herman Dierks Park. This money, however, is coming from a trust established by the family of Herman Dierks Park years ago. The parks department also asked for an additional $10,000 to install a new swing system at the De Queen Sportsplex.

The De Queen Police Department will receive an additional officer position and $30,000 to purchase and supply officers with new AR-15 rifles. The department has a stash of Vietnam-era M-16 rifles but Simmons said these are completely worn out. Most officers, Simmons said, elect to purchase their own for on-duty use.

The De Queen Fire Department received $300,000 to purchase a used fire truck. This would replace the department’s oldest unit, which can no longer pass inspection. Mayor Jeff Brown said the city’s ISO rating – which affects the price of housing insurance within the city limits – would be negatively impacted if the old truck is not replaced. The truck purchased may cost lower than the budgeted amount, said Brown. But the $300,000 provided will give fire fighters flexibility during the purchasing process.

Lastly, the budget includes a 75-cent raise for each city employee. New hires will also start off at a raised amount of $13 per hour. That would be increased to $14 per hour following a probation period. City officials hope the wage increase will make city positions more competitive and cut-down on turnover among city employees.

Finally, Brown provided a plaque honoring the public service of Teresa Bunyard. Bunyard has served on the De Queen City Council for the past two decades and will be leaving office in January. We’ll be bringing you more on that story at a later date.

De Queen Public Schools announces Christmas breaks schedule   12/09/2020

DE QUEEN – De Queen Public Schools are informing parents of the upcoming holiday break schedule. All De Queen students will be released at 1 p.m. on Dec. 17 and 18 with Dec. 18 being the last day of class before the Christmas break. Due to the last start of this school year, the first semester will end on Jan. 15.

Virtual students who want to return for on-site for onsite instruction for the spring 2021 semester need to contact their school principal to begin that process.

For more information contact the De Queen Administration office at 584-4312.

Sevier County Quorum Court to meet Dec. 14, discuss liquor sales   12/09/2020

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Quorum Court will meet for its regularly scheduled monthly session on Monday, Dec. 14.

Items on the agenda include an update from the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governors. In addition, justices of the peace will review several months of financial records provided by David Boone Ministries, which administers several senior citizen centers in Sevier County.
In addition, Muriel Wiley from the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to provide an update. Attorney Kaylen Lewis will speak about an ordinance regarding liquor sales in the county.

Finally, the quorum court will hear a request to re-appoint Joan Moore to the Sevier County Library Board and Dr. Randy Walker to the Sevier County Airport Board.

The meeting will begin at 2 p.m. and is open to the public.

Horatio High School, Elementary School closed this week due to COVID-19      12/08/20

HORATIO – The Horatio School District will close its elementary and high school campuses the rest of this week due to growing COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Horatio Superintendent Zane Vanderpool announced last night that the district had made the difficult decision to temporarily close the High School and Elementary School to onsite instruction starting today and continuing through Dec. 11. The closure was made necessary he said due to an increased number of students and staff on mandatory quarantine or testing positive for COVID-19 exposure. The districts basketball games for this week will be rescheduled. Vanderpool said in-person classes on both campuses are expected to resume next Monday, Dec. 14.

This is the second time this school year that COVID-19 has forced the Horatio School District to modify some portion of its on-site instruction. In fact, students at Horatio Elementary School only returned to in-person learning last Tuesday following a closure throughout much of November due to the virus.

According to the recently revised Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) guidelines, individuals having close-contact must be quarantined for 7 days after a negative test or 10 days without testing and without symptoms. Vanderpool said those guidelines necessitate the closing of both campuses to remain in compliance.

The district’s Point Of Contact has contacted or is in the process of contacting other staff or students directly related to the COVID exposures.

In a statement, Vanderpool said that though the districts realize this school closure may cause hardship for some of Lions families, at the same time Horatio students and staff have worked for quite some time in preparation of this scenario. He said the district is fully versed regarding technology and procedures for a pivot to a completely online learning environment. Vanderpool added that he fully expects the district’s students to continue learning remotely and teachers to be engaged with students.

School officials will be preparing student breakfasts and lunch this week at both campuses. Lunches may be picked up in front of each cafeteria between 11 a.m. and 12 noon.

 

CHRISTUS St. Michael prepping for COVID-19 vaccine distribution      12/08/20

CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System announced it is preparing to receive, manage and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine internally to health care workers in the coming days and weeks. The Texarkana-based hospital employs a number of residents from the local area.
In a statement Dr. Loren K. Robinson, Vice-President for Medical Affairs at Christus St. Michael, said the hospital is confident the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. Dr. Robinson added that the use of vaccines has been a key part of combating and even eradicating certain diseases for generations. Though there is still a way to go, she said the vaccine hopefully represents the beginning of the end of COVID-19.

CHRISTUS Health has a well-established process in place for reviewing the safety and efficacy of new drugs to evaluate any COVID-19 vaccines that receive emergency use authorization (EUA) by the FDA. The hospital’s COVID-19 Taskforce is evaluating and planning for the storage and distribution of the vaccine across Northeast Texas.

The COVID-19 vaccine will be available to all health care workers at CHRISTUS facilities, but is not mandatory. Similar to many vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine will be given in two doses: an initial injection and then a booster shot, normally 21-28 days later. Research from the pharmaceutical company and CHRISTUS Health’s COVID-19 Task Force indicates minor side effects similar to the flu shot, such as low-grade fever and redness or slight pain at the injection site are possible.

Officials in Arkansas are also preparing for the rollout of the new COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas Health Secretary, said last week the vaccine is scheduled to go before the FDA on Dec. 10 for emergency use authorization. He stressed this is not FDA approval but authorization to begin distributing the newly developed vaccine.

Once that authorization is granted, Romero said Arkansas could begin seeing its first vaccine shipments in 24-48 hours. That means vaccines could arrive as early as the end of this week. Those initial vaccinations will be set aside for healthcare workers and the most vulnerable populations in Arkansas.

After more than 200,000 health care workers in the state are vaccinated, Dr. Romero said vaccines would be administered to residents in assisted living facilities followed by essential workers, residents more than 65 years old and lastly, the general public. Vaccines for the general public will likely not be available until the second or third quarter of the year, Romero added.

Bond set for Ashdown murder suspects      12/08/20

ASHDOWN – Bond has been set for two Little River County residents suspected of murdering a man at his home in October.

According to court records, Cheleka Johnson and Corey Garfield recently appeared before the Ninth West Judicial Circuit Court for their formal bond hearing and arraignment. Garfield’s bond was set at $250,000 and $150,000 for Johnson.

Both suspects were arrested in Little Rock in late November after search spanning more than a month. According to the Ashdown Police Department, Garfield and Johnson are both suspects in the murder of 48-year-old Dennis Graves. Graves was found in his driveway on Oct. 6 suffering from a single gunshot wound. A police office provided medical treatment on the scene but Graves later died in an area hospital.

Authorities in Little Rock found both suspects at a hotel in the city following a tip received by the Arkansas State Police. Both were arrested without incident.

The Ashdown Police Department said it is thankful to the Little River County Sheriff’s Office, the Texarkana Police Department, the Arkansas Community Corrections Special Response Team and the Little Rock Police Department for their assistance in the investigation and apprehension of the two suspects.

A possible motive for the murder has not been identified.

Both Johnson and Garfield have been charged with first-degree murder and are currently being held in jail as they await their next court appearance.

 

Christmas and Candlelight continues this Saturday at Historic Washington State Park      12/08/20

WASHINGTON – It seems like everything is different in 2020 and Historic Washington State Park’s annual Christmas and Candlelight event is no different.  This year, instead of tours of the historic structures, the park had the structures decorated with the inside visible from outside. Many featured people in period costumes on the porches as if to welcome their 19th century Christmas guests. Musical entertainment was featured on the porches of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches as well as at the Block House, the porch of Williams Tavern, and the Farmers Market Pavilion.  Williams Tavern was with a limited menu service or a special holiday meal featuring ham or turkey.

Christmas and Candlelight will be repeated this Saturday Dec. 12 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  Again, Williams Tavern will be open 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and meals will also be served in the 1940 WPA Gym.  Diners eating in the gym will need to bring cash as cards can’t be accepted there but will be at Williams Tavern.

The Night Hawk Band will be featured in the Farmers Market Pavilion Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  Violinist Brenda Westerbuhr will be performing at the Block House. There will be music on the porch of the Williams Tavern from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Washington Methodist Church will feature flutist Jan Whatley and vocalist Haley Leleux on the porch at 5 p.m.  The Williams Family of Washington will sing afterwards.  Vocalist Tishara Arnett of Mineral Springs and the Hempstead County Melody Boys will also perform this Saturday evening.  In between the musical sets, the Silvey Family will offer a live nativity in the Methodist Church yard complete with live music and the reading of the Christmas story from the Bible by Washington resident Dan Ford.
Those attending are urged to practice social distancing.  The only buildings open will be Williams Tavern, the WPA Gym, and the 1874 Courthouse.
While in a building, persons will need to wear a face mask.

For information phone the park at 870-983-2684 or visit historicwashingtonstatepark.com

De Queen/Sevier County Chamber announces 2020 Christmas parade winners     12/08/20

DE QUEEN – The De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce has announced the winners of the first-ever “Tour of Lights” reverse Christmas Parade held in De Queen this past Saturday.

The drive-thru Christmas Parade featured floats, Christmas scenes and other displays set up along a route through the Herman Dierks Park. The parade was organized in a drive-thru fashion this year to help protect area residents and volunteers, and to ensure state health guidelines over COVID-19 were followed.

Chamber officials said that, while participation was cut short due to last minute quarantine among parade groups, those that did show up provided a fantastic evening. Organizers estimate over 600 cars drove through during the event. Organizers said at one point traffic spanned from Farm Bureau all the way to Sixth Street and that Herman Dierks Park had likely never seen so much traffic.

Despite the change in format this year, organizers nonetheless kept some of the traditions from past parades including prizes for winners in each category. This year’s winners included, in the commercial category, Kindred at Home with first place, Ben’s Plumbing with second place and Pilgrim’s Pride with third place.

Low Locs Car Club received first place in the non-religious category while Lofton Family Clinic took first in the antique cars division. The De Queen High School Color Guard received the first-place prize in the marching groups category.
Chamber officials said prize checks will be mailed out to the winners later this week.

Donation drive underway for homebound seniors in Sevier County     12/08/20

HORATIO – There are many ways to help the less fortunate in our community this Christmas. There are programs to help children and families in need as well as individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But local community organizers say it’s vital this year not to forget Sevier County’s senior citizens this Christmas season.

The Horatio and De Queen Senior Citizen Centers have teamed up to ensure homebound senior citizens in the community aren’t forgotten. Both centers have organized a Christmas Box drive to deliver necessities, food and gifts to senior citizens in Sevier County.

Penny Morton with the Horatio Senior Citizens Center said the agency has 45 Sevier County senior citizens are homebound, meaning they have no ability to leave their home without assistance. It’s these 31 women and 14 men who will receive donations through the new program.
Area residents are invited to donate items like socks, scarves, crossword books, toiletries, candy, non-perishable food and nearly any other items for these senior citizens. Donations can be dropped off now through Dec. 14 at either the Horatio or De Queen Senior Citizens Centers. Donations must be dropped off during the centers’ open hours, between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday at both sites.

The Horatio Senior Citizens Center is located at 1106 McCoy Drive while the De Queen center is located on 605 E. Haes Avenue behind Pruett’s Foods.

Boxes will be delivered Dec. 14-18.

Penny said the senior citizens center has already seen tremendous support from the community through this donation drive. Businesses, community groups, churches and even area school children have stepped up to ensure our senior citizens are not forgotten this Christmas.
For more information contact Penny at (870) 832-3640 or at 784-3515.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures; two additional deaths reported in Polk County      12/08/20

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Monday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:Sevier County reported an increase of two active cases on Monday, raising the number of confirmed and probable active cases to a total of 82. Cumulative cases rose by 11 to 1,811. Deaths remain at 18.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported five fewer active cases on Monday, dropping the total to 29. Total cases remained unchanged at 672 and deaths at 37.

In Howard County, active cases rose by a single reported case over the past 24 hours. That leaves 50 confirmed and probable active cases in Howard County. Cumulative cases grew by five to 871. Deaths remain at 15.

Polk County reported two additional deaths over the past 24 hours due to COVID-19 complications. That raises the death toll from the virus in Polk County to 18. That’s an increase of 13 or nearly 200 percent in a little over a month. That’s likely due to the high level of infections in Polk County in recent weeks. Polk County went from having one of the lowest levels of infection earlier this year to an outbreak which continues to make an impact in the county. Currently, there are 141 active cases in Polk County. That is, however, a drop of 11 cases over the previous 24 hours. Cumulative cases grew by nine to 936 since the start of the pandemic.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County four fewer active cases on Monday for a new total of 207. Total cases now number 2,395 while deaths remain at 47.

Across the state, an additional 1,118 cases were reported on Monday. That raises the state’s cumulative total of infections to slightly over 172,000 since the start of the outbreak. Active cases decreased by around 700 cases to now number slightly above 18,000. Deaths however saw their highest single-day increase on Monday with 53 Arkansans having died from COVID-19 over the previous 24-hour period. That raises the state’s death toll to 2,713. Hospitalizations dropped by 23 with 1,053 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the high death count reported among Arkansas’ friends and neighbors yesterday is a tragic reminder to follow the public health guidelines each day.

Chalice Cupboard to hold food distribution in De Queen     12/08/20

DE QUEEN – The Chalice Cupboard will be distributing food boxes on Friday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church.

Recipients are asked to come south down Fifth Street and enter the back of the church and exit on Fourth Street.  The boxes will be distributed to the first 150 people.  There will be one box per automobile.  Drivers will be asked to pop their trunk so that the box can be placed inside.

Organizers ask that you do not get out of your automobile to ensure the safety of volunteers and recipients.

*IMPORTANT BUSINESS NOTICE* from the Arkansas Secretary of State12/08/20

The Arkansas Tax Reform Act of 2019 transferred the administration and collection of all franchise taxes in the State of Arkansas from the Arkansas Secretary of State (SOS) to the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA). In agreement with the SOS, the DFA will acquire the Arkansas Franchise Tax Section on January 1, 2021 with the first tax report due May 1, 2021 for all corporations as per the Act. For more information, please visit the DFA website at www.dfa.arkansas.gov/franchisetax.

Please note: The SOS Business and Commercial Services Office will be closing at 12:00 noon on December 30th to complete the transfer to DFA and will reopen on January 4, 2021. Any company wanting to dissolve before the end of the year must do so prior to this time. If you have any questions, you can contact the Business and Commercial Services division at 501-682-3409 or by visiting our website at www.sos.arkansas.gov.

DES students return to onsite instruction today after campus COVID-19 closure      12/07/20

DE QUEEN – De Queen elementary students return to on-site instruction today for the first time in over two weeks. District officials had announced last month the need to close the campus due to COVID-19 exposure and quarantine affecting a number of the elementary school’s support personnel.

The campus was closed all last week as employees completed the state-mandated quarantine period. The campus was closed the week before for the Thanksgiving holiday break. District officials said the campus was thoroughly sanitized in preparation for the return on onsite instruction today. During the week the elementary school’s students participated instead via the district’s virtual learning program.
The temporary closure marked the first because of COVID-19 since the school year began. With cases on the rise both locally as well as across the nation and state, Superintendent Jason Sanders has said it was natural COVID-19 would eventually make such an impact on the local school system as well.

The Arkansas Department of Health issues two reports each week detailing the level of COVID-19 exposure within Arkansas school districts reporting five or more active cases. The latest report, issued Dec. 2, shows De Queen Public Schools currently reporting eight active cases. This report however does not list probable active cases, results from pending tests or students who have not tested positive but have been isolated due to potential exposure to the virus. So far this school year, the district has confirmed 83 cases among students and 29 among staff.

De Queen is not the only area school forced to recently modify its instruction due to COVID-19. Horatio Elementary School transitioned to a complete virtual learning format for a significant period of November due to exposure among students and staff. The campus did return to onsite instruction last week.

A couple of other area schools were featured on the latest state health report with five or more active cases. That includes Mena with 19 confirmed current active cases and nine within the Kirby School District. In total, the state is reporting nearly 1,800 active cases in school districts across the country.

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the De Queen School District, school officials are reminding all parents, guardians and employees of the district’s designated Point of Contact system. District officials say the Point of Contact should be contacted immediately by guardians and employees if someone in their household has tested positive for COVID-19 or if someone in their household has come into close contact with a positive case.

The Point of Contact should also be contacted if a student or staff member is requiring quarantine or has been recommended to get tested for COVID-19. Students and staff who are being tested for COVID-19 should remain in quarantine pending results of their test.Parents and guardians can contact the De Queen School District’s Point of Contact 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 642-5488.

Winthrop man killed at Pearl Harbor finally laid to rest near childhood home      12/07/20

This is a re-broadcast of the story we produced last month. Today is the 79th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The full audio story is available here:

The partial transcript is featured below:
By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

A local sailor killed in action nearly 80 years ago has finally made it home after a burial ceremony in November.

Samuel “Cyrus” Steiner was officially laid to rest on Saturday, Nov. 21 at Campground Cemetery near his childhood home near Winthrop.

Born in 1921, Steiner grew up on the family farm and, according to his obituary, sacrificed two years of school to work and support his family during the Great Depression. Steiner returned to school at Foreman High School and played tackle for the Gators football team. He left school in his senior year to enlist in the U.S. Navy.

As a Fireman First Class, he served aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma. He was on the great ship as she lay in anchor at Pearl Harbor during those fateful morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941. It was a quiet morning interrupted by one of the most tragic moments in American history.
The Oklahoma was one of eight battleships moored in Pearl Habor when the Japanese launched their surprise attack, drawing America into the Second World War. Several torpedoes launched from aircraft struck the vessel. A gaping chasm formed in the hull, causing the ship to capsize. 429 of her 1,400-man crew perished in minutes. Steiner was one of those victims.

Like many aboard the USS Oklahoma, Steiner was declared Lost at Sea and formally stated “to have lost his life in the service of his country.” He was awarded the Purple Heart, American Defense Service and WWII Victory medals. He was just 20-years-old.
In contrast to most of the other battleships stationed at Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma was so damaged she was never returned to service. The severe damage also made identifying the remains of the fallen sailors so difficult. Only 35 of the 429 sailors and Marines killed aboard the Oklahoma were identified in the years following the attack.

In 1950, all unidentified remains from the ship were buried in caskets at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In 2015 the Department of Defense began a project to identify the remains of servicemen and women interned in those unknown graves. Steiner’s remains were officially identified earlier this year and properly buried near his hometown on Saturday.

A detachment from the U.S. Navy provided military burial rites during the ceremony. For the family, the nearly eight decades since the attack on Pearl Harbor was one of no true closure. But Steiner is back home where he can be closely remembered and honored for his service to the Navy and the nation.

Ashdown Christmas Parade tonight; AHS Christmas Concerts tomorrow      12/07/20

ASHDOWN – The Little River County Chamber of Commerce will kick off the season tonight with its annual Christmas Parade. The parade will start at 6 p.m. this evening and proceed around the Little River Courthouse and through the downtown area. For more information, contact the chamber of commerce at (870) 898-2758.

Ashdown Public Schools are also gearing up to hold their annual Christmas Concerts tomorrow night. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the necessity of limiting capacity, the concern will be split into two events on Tuesday, Dec. 8. The Ashdown Junior High School Band will perform at 6 p.m. with Ashdown High School band members to perform at 7 p.m. The event will be held in the Helen Parker Gym. Masks and social distancing are required.

AGFC offers great gift ideas for Arkansas’ outdoor enthusiasts     12/07/20

With online outlets taking over much of the shopping experience this year, many people may find it more difficult than ever to purchase a gift for the outdoors enthusiast in their life. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission may have just what you’re looking for to brighten their Christmas morning.

One of the best gifts youc an get an Arkansas outdoor lover is a subscription to the AGFC’s award-winning magazine,  Arkansas Wildlife.

Arkansas Wildlife is one of the country’s best conservation magazines and is chock-full of great photographs and interesting stories about the state’s natural resources. Subscription rates are $12 for a single year, $20 for two years and $25 for three years. The popular <em>Arkansas Wildlife</em>calendar is part of the subscription.

Visit www.agfc.com/ArkansasWildlife to view sample articles from the magazine, purchase gift subscriptions or buy a subscription for yourself.

Keep ‘em Legal
It may not be as shiny and sparkly as a new deer rifle or shotgun for the duck woods, but a gift certificate for an Arkansas hunting or fishing license is one of the best gifts for that hard-to-buy outdoors enthusiast on your list, and you’ll be contributing to the state’s wildlife resources at the same time.

At only $10.50, a basic resident Arkansas hunting license is one of the least expensive in the country. With that license, a person may hunt any small game and take a single deer by whichever legal method they choose. For only $25, however, the hunter on your Christmas list will be entitled to all game species, including bear and turkey, and will be allowed the full statewide season bag limit of six deer.

Gift certificates for fishing licenses are just as reasonable. For $10.50, you can give a gift certificate that will cover all of a resident angler’s needs for the year. If they’re a trout angler, just add on $10 to cover the resident trout permit.

Perhaps the best part about getting a license is knowing you’re helping put money back into conservation. Not only do the funds from license sales go directly to conservation work throughout the state, but with every license purchase, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is able to bring to Arkansas a greater share of federal funding.

To purchase a gift certificate, just go to www.agfc.com, and click the green bar at the top of the page that says “Buy Licenses | Check Game.”

While you’re at a nature center, the AGFC has an even better offer for the waterfowl-focused gift buyer. While supplies last, anyone who purchases a waterfowl license or stamp at an AGFC nature center will receive a free softcover copy of Brent Birch’s book, “The Grand Prairie.”  This book, written by the co-founder of the Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame in Stuttgart, is filled with the tales of famous duck camps, duck callers and the rich history of waterfowl hunting in Arkansas.

The book, valued at $55, would be a welcome sight to any duck hunter interested in the motivation that drives normal men and women to stand in freezing water and pray for rainy holiday weather. For more information about the book, visit < www.arkansasgrandprairie.com

 

De Queen Salvation Army still calling for Bell-Ringing volunteers     12/07/20

DE QUEEN – The 2020 Bell-Ringing Campaign of the Salvation Army is underway in De Queen and still accepting volunteers.

This has been a challenging year, but financial assistance is still being provided through the local Salvation Army unit. The Salvation Army distributes thousands of dollars to individuals and families each year to help with needs for food, gas, medications, utilities, rent, fire recovery and more. That makes the Salvation Army one of the major sources of aid in our community. And so much of that support is made possible through donations made during the Bell-Ringing Campaign.
Volunteers are needed to ring bells through Dec. 24. Groups, businesses, churches, clubs, friends, as well as individuals and/or families are all welcome to participate. Groups that include children are especially effective. Needed are both those who have rung before and those who will be ringing for the first time.

The sole location this year for bellringing is Walmart.

Safety protocols will be followed — ringers will wear a face mask, stand behind the kettle (a recommended 6 feet), wear gloves and the kettles and bells will be sanitized regularly. To schedule a time to volunteer, call Rachel Bradshaw at (870) 200-0420 or the Salvation Army store at 642-3463.

Prime times are filling now so it is important to act quickly to get a group or individual name on the list for pickup and returning supplies.

Nearly every cent raised by the bellringing stays with the local unit and is used in De Queen and Sevier County to assist those in need.

Bellringers have remarked that volunteering is a guaranteed way to provide a sense of one’s life blessings; create a feeling of well-being in knowing the effort helps feed, house and warm local residents; gain a sense of humility by those who stop to donate; and the fun of seeing friends and acquaintances while ringing.Call to experience this, and for those who can’t serve as a bellringer, remember to say thanks to those who do and make a donation in the kettle. It’s one of the things we all can do to make Sevier County a better place to live.

 

State parks to reduce hours of operation due to COVID-19      12/07/20

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas tourism officials have announced visitor information centers, museums, restaurants and two marinas at Arkansas State Parks will see a reduction of operating hours in response to the recent statewide increase in COVID-19 cases.

Visitor information centers and museums will now operate five days a week – focusing on staying open during busiest days. Contactless check-in for camping and cabin rentals has been in place for months and will continue.

In a statement Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst said, “Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s parks system, adjustments must be made in order to ensure that the most-used amenities and facilities continue to be available to the public during the days and hours they use them the most.”

Hurst said that the safety of guests and staff is paramount. She added that these measures will allow state parks to continue offering the park experience and do it in a safe way.

State park restaurants will remain open but with reduced seating capacity. Buffets remain closed but carry out meals will still be available. Cabins, campgrounds, and lodges across the park system will remain open and continue to welcome guests.

The marinas at DeGray Lake Resort State Park and Lake Ouachita State Park will offer restricted service through February 2021. This is traditionally the slowest time of year for these facilities and marina users can contact the park office if assistance is needed.

PPE for all staff and cleaning regimens based on CDC recommendations will continue at all Arkansas state parks. The statewide mask mandate will be enforced as directed, and rangers will continue to encourage social distancing.

Localized conditions could lead to a further reduction of hours for some park facilities. Please refer to the COVID-19 updates on www.ArkansasStateParks.com for updated information.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures; Polk County reports four additional deaths over weekend      12/07/20

DE QUEEN – Here are the latest figures as of Sunday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported a net increase of six active cases since Friday, raising the total of 80 currently confirmed and probable active cases. Total cases rose by 39 over the weekend to a current total of 1,800. Recoveries grew to 1,702. Deaths remain at 18.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported a net decrease of five active cases over the weekend. That leaves 39 currently confirmed and probable active cases in Little River County. Total cases rose to 672 while deaths remained at 37.

In Howard County, active cases rose by a net seven cases since Friday. That leaves 49 active cases in the county. Total cases grew by 22 over the same period to a total of 866. Deaths remain at 15.

Polk County reported an increase of four deaths over the weekend due to COVID-19 complications. That raises the county’s COVID-19 death toll to 16 since the pandemic began. Active cases saw a slight net decrease to a currently total of 152. Total cases now number 927.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported six additional active cases on Sunday. That raises the total to 211 currently confirmed and probable active cases in McCurtain County. Deaths increased by one on Sunday to 47 since the pandemic began.

Across the state, an additional 1,542 new cases were reported in Arkansas on Sunday. That’s a lower total than the back-to-back record single-day case growth seen on Thursday and Friday. In total, nearly 171,000 Arkansans have contracted COVID-19 since early spring. Deaths saw their highest one-day increase on Sunday, rising by 40 to 2,660. Active cases also grew to their highest level on record with nearly 19,000 confirmed and probable active cases across Arkansas. Hospitalizations rose by 20 on Sunday, leaving 1,076 Arkansans still hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state officials held a COVID-19 Taskforce update yesterday to describe new CDC quarantine guidelines now in effect in Arkansas. Those CDC guidelines shorten the quarantine recommendations for Arkansans who have COVID-19 but show no symptoms related to the virus. The guidelines outline the safest procedure includes a full 14-day quarantine at home. However, quarantine can end after 10 days with no follow-up testing as long as symptoms are not present and the individual takes precautions. Quarantine can end after seven days if the individual has received a negative PCR test and are continuing to take precautions and show no symptoms.

Other guidelines still remain in effect including Arkansas’ executive order mandating the wearing of face masks by everyone 10 and older when in public settings. Restaurant capacity continues to be limited to 66 percent.

 

“Tour of Lights” reverse Christmas parade in De Queen tomorrow night      12/04/20

DE QUEEN – The annual De Queen Christmas Parade kicks off tomorrow evening but this cherished local tradition comes with a fresh new twist this year.

Instead of a traditional parade, the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce has organized a reverse parade in which visitors will drive along a route through Herman Dierks Park lined with floats, displays and other Christmas scenes. The change in format for this year’s parade has been planned in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus is providing a safe, in-person Holiday celebration for the community without putting local residents at risk of exposure.

The event will be held tomorrow evening between 6-8 p.m. The route will begin at Farm Bureau insurance, continue through Herman Dierks Park and then exit on Lakeside Drive.

Visitors to the first-ever “Tour of Lights” are asked to come early and stay in their vehicle. This will ensure the event meets all state health department guidelines. The success of the event will rely a lot on the need to keep traffic moving through the park. That’s also why no candy will be given this year.

All area churches, businesses, civic organizations, and community groups have been welcomed to participate by setting up a stationary “float”, trailer, staged Christmas scene, parked vehicle, or festive setting of their choosing along the route. Set up begins at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 and the tour will kick off at 6 p.m. Categories for participants include religious, commercial, antique vehicle and people’s choice.

Prize money will be awarded in the amount of $100 for 1st place, $75 for 2nd place and $50 for 3rd.

Tune into 102.1 “The Good Path” as well be playing non-stop Christmas music, not just during the parade but throughout the whole holiday season.

Miller said the chamber and everyone who’s organized this event hope turnout will be strong and that everyone who comes by has a great time.

All local residents of De Queen and the surrounding areas are encouraged to attend the first tour of lights in De Queen. For more information contact the Chamber of Commerce by emailing DQchamber@gmail.com or calling 870-584-3225.

Hospital Board of Governors begins to narrow search for administrator      12/04/20

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

The search is beginning to narrow down for who will run Sevier County’s new hospital once its up and running in 2022.
That was one of the major topics up for discussion yesterday during the monthly meeting of the Sevier County Medical Center Board of Governor’s. Board Chairman Dr. Steve Cole said the board had received over a dozen resumes after posting the hospital administrator position online and in publications across Arkansas. The position would be responsible for overseeing construction of the new hospital and the day-to-day operation once the 14-bed facility is up and running.

Cole and board members discussed beginning to review those applications and narrow down the top applicants. There is no end-date for the application period and it will remain open until filed. The board of governors has repeatedly stressed its desire to hire a top-level hospital administrator, given the poor history of administration over De Queen’s hospital in the past.

Cole also updated board members on construction process. Currently crews are continuing to clear trees and brush from the 20-acre site located north of De Queen on Highway 71. Bid packages for construction of the actual facility are expected to be released soon.

Other updates included a presentation by Daniel Martinez, a native of Lockesburg and owner of the marketing firm Arzac. Martinez presented a proposal to handle the hospital’s marketing needs including social media platforms, website construction and maintenance, promotional materials and the hospital’s logo. No decision was made but board members expressed interest over the needed services Arzac would provide and were pleased they could turn to a locally-based company.

Representatives from AirEvac were also present at the meeting. They discussed their desire to be part of the planning process for the new hospital to ensure it includes space for a new AirEvac medical helicopter base. Heidi Hiel, program coordinator for AirEvac’s De Queen base, said the company is fully committed to relocating to the new hospital. The company’s current base has been located next to the now-defunct De Queen hospital for the past 14 years.

Finally, Bruce Jackson, chair of the Sevier County Medical Center Foundation, detailed a discussion from that group’s most recent meeting. Jackson said the foundation plans to have a project fundraiser in the near future. That project will most likely focus on raising funds for the addition of a Safe Haven baby box at the new hospital.

The hospital board voted during its October meeting to incorporate a baby box into design of the new facility. A baby box, or baby hatch, is a secured container in which mothers can safely and anonymously abandon their baby.

Through Arkansas’ Safe Haven Law, parents can legally drop off a child 30 days or younger to a qualified location without facing prosecution for endangering or abandoning a child. The law was approved and put in place to alleviate the abandonment and death of infant children in Arkansas.

If 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.
Once completed the hospital will be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That means trained staff will always be on site to respond quickly to a child placed in the baby box. If one baby is saved, said hospital officials, the baby box will have more than served its purpose.
The hospital’s baby box would be only the second one in all of Arkansas. The expected cost is around $15,000.

Horatio, De Queen Senior Citizens Center hosting donation drive for local elderly      12/04/20

HORATIO – There are many ways to help the less fortunate in our community this Christmas. There are programs to help children and families in need as well as individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But local community organizers say it’s vital this year not to forget Sevier County’s senior citizens this Christmas season.

The Horatio and De Queen Senior Citizen Centers have teamed up to ensure homebound senior citizens in the community aren’t forgotten. Both centers have organized a Christmas Box drive to deliver necessities, food and gifts to senior citizens in Sevier County.

Penny Morton with the Horatio Senior Citizens Center said the agency has 45 Sevier County senior citizens are homebound, meaning they have no ability to leave their home without assistance. It’s these 31 women and 14 men who will receive donations through the new program.
Area residents are invited to donate items like socks, scarves, crossword books, toiletries, candy, non-perishable food and nearly any other items for these senior citizens. Donations can be dropped off now through Dec. 14 at either the Horatio or De Queen Senior Citizens Centers. Donations must be dropped off during the centers’ open hours, between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday at both sites.

The Horatio Senior Citizens Center is located at 1106 McCoy Drive while the De Queen center is located on 605 E. Haes Avenue behind Pruett’s Foods.

Boxes will be delivered Dec. 14-18.

Penny said the senior citizens center has already seen tremendous support from the community through this donation drive. Businesses, community groups, churches and even area school children have stepped up to ensure our senior citizens are not forgotten this Christmas.
For more information contact Penny at (870) 832-3640 or at 784-3515.

Organizers with the Arkansas Human Development Council will hold a drive-thru health fair and clinic in De Queen tomorrow.

Free health screenings, COVID-19 tests in De Queen tomorrow      12/04/20

DE QUEEN – Organizers with the Arkansas Human Development Council will hold a drive-thru health fair and clinic in De Queen tomorrow.

The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Town North Shopping Center in De Queen. The event will focus on providing area residents a number of free and preventative screenings, including screenings for diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol. Organizers will also provide free COVID-19 tests.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures; Gov. Hutchinson announces new CDC quaratine guidelines      12/04/20

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Wednesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported an increase of one active case on Thursday, raising that total to 74 currently confirmed active cases in the county. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 10 to 1,761. Deaths remain at 18.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported a net increase of four active cases over the past 24 hours. That leaves 39 confirmed active cases in Little River. Total cases grew by four to 655. Deaths remain at 37.

In Howard County, active cases fell by six to a current total of 42. Total confirmed and probable cases grew by three to 844. Deaths remain at 15.

Polk County reported two fewer active cases on Thursday. That leaves 146 confirmed active cases in the county. Total cases grew by 19 to 868. Deaths increased by one to 12.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported a decrease of six active cases over the past 24 hours. That leaves 210 active cases in the county. Total cases rose by 13 to 2,343. Deaths remain at 45.

Across the state, an additional 2,789 new cases were reported in Arkansas on Thursday – that’s the highest one-day growth in new cases since the pandemic began. In total, more than 164,000 Arkansans have contracted COVID-19 since early spring. Deaths saw a sizable increase on Thursday, rising by 33 to 2,555. Active cases grew by 731 to more than 17,000 active cases in Arkansas. Hospitalizations did see a slight decrease, dropping by 17 cases. That still leaves 1,072 Arkansans still hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state officials held a COVID-19 Taskforce update yesterday to describe new CDC quarantine guidelines now in effect in Arkansas. Those CDC guidelines shorten the quarantine recommendations for Arkansans who have COVID-19 but show no symptoms related to the virus. The guidelines outline the safest procedure includes a full 14-day quarantine at home. However, quarantine can end after 10 days with no follow-up testing as long as symptoms are not present and the individual takes precautions. Quarantine can end after seven days if the individual has received a negative PCR test and are continuing to take precautions and show no symptoms.

Other guidelines still remain in effect including Arkansas’ executive order mandating the wearing of face masks by everyone 10 and older when in public settings. Restaurant capacity continues to be limited to 66 percent.

 

Arkansas Lottery Claim Center closed due to potential COVID-19 exposure      12/04/20

LITTLE ROCK – Due to a possible COVID-19 exposure, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery (ASL) Claim Center closed yesterday. A reopening date is not certain at this time.

This is the second time this year the Claim Center has temporarily closed due to possible exposure to the virus. During this temporary closure, any player who wins more than $500 must mail in their winning ticket. To do that, sign the back of the winning ticket.
Print and fill out a claim form that can be found at MyArkansasLottery.com under “Claim Prize.”Make a copy of a photo identification card (driver’s license, U.S. passport, passport issued by a foreign government, U.S. Armed Forces I.D., or U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services I.D.).

Mail the signed ticket, completed claim form and copy of the I.D. to Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, P.O. Box 3838, Little Rock, AR 72203.

The player will be mailed a check. Prizes of $500 or less can be claimed at lottery retailers.

State police investigating alleged killing of Prescott woman; suspect in custody      12/03/20

PRESCOTT – The Arkansas State Police is investigating the suspected murder of a Prescott woman at her home on Tuesday.

According to a state police press release, 41-year-old Tina Nicole Whitten was found dead outside her home on 502 East Second Street in Prescott lat Tuesday. Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division believe she was the victim of a deadly attack that occurred about 5:30 p.m. inside her home.

Local law enforcement authorities responded to Whitten’s home two hours later following telephone reports to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department of a woman’s body being found outside the home.  The Arkansas State Police was contacted by local police and requested to lead the homicide investigation.

State police special agents are holding a 48-year-old man of Nevada County in connection with the homicide. A criminal investigation continues and the suspect is awaiting formal charges to be filed by the Nevada County prosecuting attorney.

Whitten’s body has been transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory where a manner and cause of death will be determined.

UA Cossatot cancels in-person graduation ceremonies      12/03/20

DE QUEEN – Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases both locally and across the state, UA Cossatot has announced it will cancel its in-person graduation ceremonies scheduled for this month.

According to a message on the college’s website, that includes the ceremony for students graduating from the college’s medical programs this Saturday, Dec. 5. And the general graduation ceremony set for Dec. 11.

Instead, the college will host a virtual graduation ceremony on Friday, Dec. 18. The event will be live-streamed and more details are expected soon.

Fall 2020, Summer 2020 and Spring 2020 graduates may participate in the virtual ceremony. Graduates are asked to email a photo for the ceremony to <a href=”mailto:aaylett@cccua.edu”>aaylett@cccua.edu</a> or text 584-1125. Students can also have their photo taken at any of the college’s three campuses.

At this time the college says its Spring 2021 graduation ceremony is still scheduled for May 14 of next year.

DQ Public Schools reminds parents, guardians and employees of Point of Contact requirements      12/03/20

DE QUEEN – In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the De Queen School District, school officials are reminding all parents, guardians and employees of the district’s designated Point of Contact system. District officials say the Point of Contact should be contacted immediately by guardians and employees if someone in their household has tested positive for COVID-19 or if someone in their household has come into close contact with a positive case.

The Point of Contact should also be contacted if a student or staff member is requiring quarantine or has been recommended to get tested for COVID-19. Students and staff who are being tested for COVID-19 should remain in quarantine pending results of their test.

Parents and guardians can contact the De Queen School District’s Point of Contact 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 642-5488.

Foreman, Ashdown to hold Christmas parades in coming days      12/03/20

LITTLE RIVER COUNTY – A number of Christmas themed events are coming up in Little River County. That includes the annual Foreman Christmas Parade this Saturday, Dec. 5 starting at 4:15 p.m. The Ashdown Christmas Parade will be held Monday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. Anyone interested in entering a float in the Ashdown Christmas Parade can do so by calling the Little River County Chamber of Commerce at (870) 898-2758.

First of two special youth, veteran duck hunts is this weekend      12/03/20

Submitted by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

The ducks have a brief rest between the segments of this year’s hunting season. But on Saturday, the first of two youth and veteran waterfowl hunts will have hunters back in the woods in search of Arkansas’s premiere game species. This year’s Special Active Duty Military and Veteran Waterfowl Hunt</a></u> will again take place alongside Arkansas’s Dec. 5 and again Feb. 6 of next year.

Duck and goose hunters 15 and younger may hunt during this special season. The season was modified last year to allow active-duty military personnel and veterans to hunt as well in a show of gratitude for their service.

Youths and veterans may have additional people with them during their hunt as a mentor or observer. Those people may call, video the hunt, or work a dog to retrieve ducks, but they may not carry a firearm or assist with shooting. Shooting hours and bag limits are the same as regular duck and goose seasons. Veteran hunters, as well as youth hunters may hunt on wildlife management areas from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset these two days and any shell restrictions on WMAs are lifted during these hunts.

State conservationists say this season is an excellent opportunity for mentors to instill a passion for waterfowling to new hunters. Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator, said it’s also a great way to show youth that waterfowl hunting isn’t about racing in the woods for a YouTube video or seeing who can take a picture of the biggest pile of birds; it’s about sharing the experience.

The hunt is split into two days at different times of year to increase the chances of it coinciding with good weather conditions and duck abundance. Two hunts offer two chances to catch the right combination of weather and birds.

Youths who have completed a hunter education course may hunt on their own if with parent or legal guardian approval. Youths who have not completed a hunter education course must be accompanied by a mentor who is 21 years or older.

Arkansans invited to participate in this year’s Christmas Bird Count      12/03/20

Submitted by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

If you’re idea of hunting for birds is with a pair of binoculars, well, there’s a special event coming up for you as well. Bird-watching enthusiasts across the nation will be keeping their eyes to the skies from Dec. 14-Jan. 5 as part of the 121st annual Christmas Bird Count conducted by the National Audubon Society.

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running wildlife survey in the world and one of the oldest examples of “citizen science” making a difference in conservation. During this four-week stretch, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers gather data on the number and type of bird species found during the peak of migration.

Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations to Audubon. Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day – not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population.

Data from Christmas Bird Counts have been used in more than 200 peer-reviewed, scientific articles, including Audubon’s landmark, “Birds and Climate Change Report.”

There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report, “American Birds,” is available online. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s recently redesigned “Arkansas Backyard Birds Guide” also is an excellent resource to find some of the most common birds found in the state.

First-time participants may also find a new passion in birdwatching and are encouraged to check out the recently redesigned Wings Over Arkansas program at the AGFC. It offers rewards for attaining certain numbers of species on a birder’s ‘life list’ and is another great free resource to help people enjoy the outdoors.”

Information about Wings Over Arkansas and the Arkansas Backyard Bird Guide can be found at www.agfc.com/wingsoverar.

Visit www.christmasbirdcount.org for more information and to find a count near you.

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures      12/03/20

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Wednesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported an increase of two active cases on Wednesday, raising that total to 74 currently confirmed active cases in the county. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 15 to 1,751. Deaths remain at 18.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported a net decrease of one active case over the past 24 hours. That leaves 35 confirmed active cases in Little River. Total cases grew by five to 651. Deaths remain at 37.

In Howard County, active cases fell by three to a current total of 48. Total confirmed and probable cases grew by five to 841. Deaths remain at 15.

Polk County reported one fewer active case on Wednesday. That leaves 148 confirmed active cases in the county. Total cases grew by 19 to 849. Deaths remain at 11.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported a decrease of three active cases over the past 24 hours. That leaves 216 active cases in the county. Total cases rose by 28 to 2,330. Deaths remain at 45.

Across the state, an additional 2,212 confirmed and probable cases were reported in Arkansas on Wednesday. Total cases of COVID-19 infection in Arkansas now number more than 161,000. Active positive cases grew by 284 to 16,378. Deaths increased by 10 to 2,522 and hospitalizations by 14 to 1,088.

Marshallese women who became victims of adoption scheme return to De Queen for closure      12/02/20

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

The full audio story is available here:

The partial transcript is featured below:

Tuesday was a day of healing for a group of Marshallese women who had become victims in De Queen as part of a nationwide human trafficking and adoption scheme

That scheme has received nationwide media attention in recent days and weeks as the case against Paul Petersen comes to a close. Petersen, who is a former public official in Arizona, pleaded guilty in the summer to a federal human trafficking conspiracy charge. Numerous other charges, including wire fraud, Medicaid fraud, money laundering and 19 human trafficking charges specific to Arkansas, were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. He is facing a host of other charges, however, in three states including Arkansas

The charges all relate to an adoption scheme Petersen had orchestrated for years. In effect, for at least the past decade Petersen had assisted in smuggling pregnant women from the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the United States so their babies could be adopted for financial gain. Petersen charged couples $35,000 to adopt these children. In compensation the women were told they would receive $10,000. Prosecutors described the scheme as a “baby-selling enterprise” and that Petersen had organized over 70 illegal adoptions. These actions violated a compact between the United States and Marshall Islands which bands Marshallese people from traveling to the United States for adoptions unless they have a specific visa. None of the women involved were provided that visa

Thanks to a multi-state investigation, Petersen’s actions were uncovered and federal charges swiftly filed against him. He was arrested in October of last year. Nonetheless, the scheme left dozens of victims in its wakes. And many with a connection to De Queen

De Queen was one of several locations used by Petersen to hide the women as they completed their pregnancies. Witnesses to one of the locations described it as a “baby mill,” with numerous pregnant women sleeping on mattresses on the floor. As many as 10 pregnant women were kept in a home in De Queen at any given time. This occurred over a period of nearly 10 years, according to Michaela Montie. Montie is co-founder and executive director of Shared Beginnings, an Arkansas-based non-profit with advocates for birth mothers who wish to place their child for adoption

Officially what Petersen committed was human trafficking, but in many ways resembled imprisonment. If not in theory then almost certainly in practice. The women were isolated in De Queen, unable to speak the language or communicate their situation to anyone who could help. The women’s movements and communications were heavily restricted

As an adoptive mother herself and as a person familiar with the Marshallese community in Arkansas, Montie has taken on a critical role in healing the wounds created by Petersen. She was not part of the investigation against him but began to pick up the pieces after Petersen’s adoption scheme imploded

What she learned after Petersen’s case came to light shocked her. The situation pregnant Marshallese mothers faced when they arrived was not what they were told.

Instead, in many cases they found themselves trapped in squalid homes and in living conditions which Montie said hardly any American would tolerate. She knew Shared Beginnings would be well-positioned to help. Not just the mothers involved, but also the adoptive parents financially and emotionally devastated by Petersen’s illegal adoption service

Helping some of these Marshallese women overcome their experiences is what lead Montie and a small group of victims to De Queen on Tuesday. By visiting the home where they were confined, perhaps these women could find some closure

The future for these women is an uncertain one to map out. Some may choose to return to the Marshall Islands. Others may choose to stay in the United States. Although they were brought here through an illegal conspiracy, these women like other Marshallese people have the legal right to live and work in the United States. To understand why, Montie said it’s critical to recall the controversial history between the United States and the Marshall Islands

After conquering the Marshall Islands from the Japanese Empire during the Second World War, the United States used the islands – and specifically Bikini Atoll – as the main site of the Pacific Proving Grounds. That is, the testing site for the first generation of America’s atomic weapons during the Cold War. The testing areas were left uninhabitable due to the high level of radiation left behind by the bomb explosions. In response the United States and Republic of the Marshall Islands signed the Compact of Free Association. This agreement allows residents of the Marshall Islands to reside in the United States with nothing more than a passport and a plane ticket

But that compact doesn’t include all the rights of a citizen or even a permanent U.S. resident. The future of these women, victims of human trafficking, isn’t going to be easy. Or even certain. But confronting the terrible experience they were forced to endure will go a long way towards closing this chapter and starting a new one – and finding some healing in the process

A final note to this story: Petersen was sentenced yesterday to six years and two months in a federal prison for the illegal adoption service he organized. He could face additional time if found guilty on state charges once completing his federal sentence. Before his sentencing, Petersen read a prepared statement expressing remorse that some Marshallese women he worked with may have felt that he took advantage of them for his own profit

Felony firearm, drug charges filed against Horatio woman after search warrant      12/02/20

<img class=”alignright size-medium wp-image-12349″ src=”http://kdqn.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/601314289475451867-1-225×300.jpg” alt=”” width=”225″ height=”300″ />HORATIO – A Horatio women is facing felony drug and firearms charges after an investigation led to her arrest earlier this week

According to the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, officers with multiple area law enforcement agencies executed a search warrant Monday on a residence located at 598 Williamson Loop near Horatio.

Upon entering the home officers located narcotics and an undisclosed number of stolen firearms. The home’s occupant, 35-year-old Charlotte Dennis, was arrested without incident during the search.

Dennis faces a number of felony and misdemeanor charges, including possession of methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, maintaining a drug premise, possession of drug paraphernalia and theft by receiving. She was taken into custody and transported to the Sevier County Jail.
Charges will be reviewed by Prosecutor Erin Hunter. Agencies involved in the investigation and search warrant included the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, the South Central Drug Task Force and the Arkansas State Police.

Foreman man charged with sexual assault, indecency with minor after incidents which allegedly spanned years      12/02/20

FOREMAN – A Foreman man has been charged with sexual assault and sexual indecency with a child in relation to an incident which allegedly spanned several years.</div>
<div>46-year-old Sean David Womble is facing the felony charge after a 12-year-old girl informed family members of the sexual abuse in September, according to the arrest affidavit. She told an investigator with the Texarkana Children Advocacy Center that the abuse began when she was nine-years-old.</div>
The affidavit states the alleged victim “was afraid to say anything earlier because she was afraid something would happen to her family.” She also alleges that Womble purchased items such as shoes and a cellphone, and let her drive his truck, in an attempt to keep the abuse secret.

Womble was arrested following the investigation. He is currently out of jail and awaiting his initial court hearing on a $20,000 bond. As a condition of the bond the court ordered Womble to have no contact with the victim.

De Queen City Council to meet tonight to vote on 2021 budget      12/02/20

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

The De Queen City Council will meet tonight to discuss a relatively light agenda. That includes a resolution in regards to a retirement plan for city attorney Erin Hunter. Also scheduled is a vote on the city’s proposed 2021 budget.</div>
Council members met last month to hash out what next year’s budget for the City of De Queen will look like. Overall, the city will be looking at a fairly conservative budget with total expenditures slightly over $4.1 million. That’s around $400,000 more than the current year’s budget.

One of the big projects planned for next year is the replacement of the bridge west of the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office on Robinson Road. A state inspection earlier this year determined the bridge would need to be replaced or risk a state-mandated closure. That project is estimated to cost around $300,000 to complete. The budget also includes $285,000 for the city’s 2021 street program.

Other sizeable projects include $95,000 for new playground equipment at the Herman Dierks Park. This money, however, is coming from a trust established by the family of Herman Dierks years ago. The parks department also asked for an additional $10,000 to install a new swing system at the De Queen Sportsplex.

The De Queen Police Department is seeking an additional officer position and $30,000 to purchase and supply officers with new AR-15 rifles. The department has a stash of Vietnam-era M-16 rifles but DQPD Chief Scott Simmons said these are completely worn out. Most officers, Simmons said, elect to purchase their own for on-duty use.

The De Queen Fire Department is seeking up to $300,000 to purchase a used fire truck. This would replace the department’s oldest unit, which can no longer pass inspection. Mayor Jeff Brown said the city’s ISO rating – which affects the price of housing insurance within the city limits – would be negatively impacted if the old truck is not replaced. The city’s wastewater treatment department is also asking for funds to install a new manhole and run 1,300 feet of new sewer main. This would provide a tie-in spot, Brown explained, for a new duplex complex planned for the corner of Ninth Street and Coulter Avenue.

Lastly, the budget includes a 75-cent raise for each city employee. New hires would also start off at a raised amount of $13 per hour. That would be increased to $14 per hour following a probation period. Brown said he’s seeking to include the wage increase to make city positions more competitive and cut-down on turnover among city employees.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 at City Hall. The public is invited to attend and face masks are required.

Friday is deadline to enter float in Lockesburg Christmas Parade      12/02/20

LOCKESBURG – The City of Lockesburg will host its annual Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 5. The parade will begin at 3 p.m. and proceed through the downtown area. Civic groups, businesses, individuals, organizations and churches are invited to participate with a float. Participants are asked to meet at the Lockesburg City Park at 2:30 on the afternoon of the day of the parade. The judges will be located in front of the Lockesburg City Hall. Participants will slow down as they approach city hall to allow judges to view their entry. Categories are business/commercial, organizations, religious and recreational.

Participants are asked not to throw candy. The city of Lockesburg will pass out bags of candy after the parade at the Bank of Lockesburg parking lot. Prizes will be immediately presented following the parade at the bank parking lot. Santa will not be taking this year after the parade.

Anyone interested in entering a float in this year’s parade must contact Lockesburg City Hall by Dec. 4 to be judged as a contestant. Email <a href=”mailto:cityoflockesburg@windstream.net”>cityoflockesburg@windstream.net</a> to enter a float in this year’s Lockesburg Christmas parade.

Day-to-Day with Diabetes class accepting new participants through Dec. 18      12/02/20

DE QUEEN – The end-of-the-year holidays are upon us, along with all the tempting food With all this high-fructose cheer, maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult, especially for people with diabetes.

The Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, is still inviting participants to take part in an online program to help area residents do just that. The program, titled Day to Day with Diabetes, offers resources in health, wellness, nutrition and fitness for people living with diabetes. The current group is accepting new members through Dec. 18.

Agents with the Cooperative Extension Service say Day-to-Day with Diabetes offers a place for people to connect with others with similar goals and to share strategies that work for them.

Weekly virtual meetings will be offered each Monday during the lunch hour through Facebook Live and Zoom, with additional resources posted throughout the week. Participation is free, and registration is through the group’s Facebook page,at facebook.com/groups/DaytoDaywithDiabetes

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.

Extension also offers year-round diabetes prevention education as well as a four-week Living with Diabetes education curriculum through its Family and Consumer Sciences Division. For more information, call (479) 495-2216 or email  rlchaney@uaex.edu.

 

ADH updates local COVID-19 figures      12/02/20

DE QUEEN – Turning now to the local COVID-19 environment, here are the latest figures as of Tuesday afternoon for Sevier County and the surrounding area, according to the Arkansas Dept. of Health:

Sevier County reported an increase of six active cases on Tuesday, raising that total to 72 currently confirmed active cases in the county. Total confirmed and probable cases rose by 21 to 1,736. Recoveries increased by 15 to 1,646. Deaths remain at 18.

In neighboring counties, Little River reported a net decrease of three active cases. That leaves 36 confirmed active cases in Little River. Total cases grew by six to 651. Deaths remain at 37.

In Howard County, active cases saw a sizable increase on Tuesday, raising by 12 to 51. Total confirmed and probable cases grew by 22 to 836. Deaths remain at 15.

Polk County reported another death over the past 24 hours, raising the total to 11 since the pandemic began. That means six of Polk County’s deaths have occurred within the past two weeks. Active cases rose by two to total 149 currently confirmed cases. Total cases grew by 14 to 830.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, McCurtain County reported a decrease of 46 active cases on Tuesday, dropping the total to 219. Total cases remained unchanged at 2,302 and deaths at 45.

State officials provide weekly Arkansas COVID-19 update, discuss ICU capacity      12/02/20

By Patrick Massey, KDQN News Director

New daily cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas continue to rank among the highest since the pandemic began. A total of 1,950 new confirmed and probable cases of the virus were reported on Tuesday during Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s weekly statewide update. Other figures from across the state included 10 additional deaths for a total of 2,512 since the start of the outbreak. Hospitalizations grew by 11 over the past 24 hours, leaving 1,074 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications. Active cases saw a slight decrease and number just over 16,000. Recoveries grew by around 2,000 cases on Tuesday, which means 141,000 Arkansans have caught the virus and since recovered.

Hutchinson said Thanksgiving Day was an opportunity this year to recognize the supreme efforts made by healthcare workers in Arkansas, and to thank Arkansans who are helping combat the virus by following state guidelines.

During a slideshow presentation, Hutchinson said Southwest Arkansas continues to see the highest rate of COVID-19 patients in the state who require ICU treatment. Currently, over 57 percent of ICUs in the southwest corner of the state are occupied by COVID-19 patients. That’s around 20 points higher than anywhere else in Arkansas. troy Wells, CEO of Arkansas Baptist Health, said the increasing hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Arkansas is putting stress on hospitals and healthcare workers. And especially the state’s ICU facilities.

Wells said the state’s Trauma Communications Center, also known as Trauma Com, is being re-tooled to help address that problem. Trauma Com will work with hospitals across the state to catalog available resources and ensure COVID-19 patients receive prompt access to quality care – even if that means they while not have access to their nearest hospital.

Finally, Hutchison said the state was hoping to help new teachers in Arkansas by waiving the state-mandated application fee.
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In review, 1,950 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday for a statewide cumulative total of 159,309. Deaths grew by 10 to 2,512 while hospitalizations increased by 11 to 1,074 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications. Active cases declined slightly and currently number just over 16,000

Tips for keeping your animals safe as the temperatures drop      12/02/20

With winter reaching the listening area, keeping your pets warm and comfortable in cold weather conditions is important. Cold weather can be difficult for everyone but your pet doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or suffer the consequences. A few tips to keep in mind can help protect your cats, dogs, and horses from the harsh weather and ensure their overall health and safety.

Animals can suffer from frost bite or hypothermia if the temperature drops significantly and they are left outside. Their ears, nose, and paws should be covered for protection from the wind and cold. When the temperature drops you typically want to keep your pets indoors. Smaller dogs and short haired dogs can wear a jacket or sweater to maintain the correct body temperature. Horses should be kept in a warm, dry, stable and are usually draped with a blanket to help trap heat.

A dry environment that is protected from the wind and elements should be kept for any pets that spend a lot of time outdoors. They require more food and water during the winter months to stay warm because cold weather will deplete their energy faster as they try to maintain a normal body temperature. Use plastic food and water bowls. Your pet’s tongue and nose can stick to metal when the temperature drops and this sometimes prevents their food and water from freezing as well. Horses require food and water around the clock during winter months.

Antifreeze has a sweet taste and can be very harmful or even fatal to pets. All household chemicals should be kept out of reach in a closed cabinet.