THE SES TECH TEAM (from left) Annslee Young-1st grade, Lilly Reid-2nd grade, Haleigh Lawson-2nd grade, and Gannyn Murphy-1st grade, share with the Sheridan School Board members what they have learned about technology during the May 9 meeting. Photo by Lauren Goins, SSD Communications Director
With millions of dollars in state funding on the line, the Sheridan School Board is asking the fourth time in eight years for an increase in the district’s millage rate to finance a new bond issue to pursue an ambitious $30.5 million construction program.
The board voted 6-0 during the May 9 meeting held at the junior high cafeteria to approve a resolution calling for a September 20 election to raise the district’s 32.2 mill school tax to 36.0 mills.
The proposal is the same plan pursued last year that voters rejected 2,407 to 1,988 in a May 12, 2015, special election.
Board member Beverly Wells was absent from the meeting and could not vote.
There was little discussion of the matter during the regular board session although Stephens bond agent Jack Truemper attended the board’s work session to answer questions and provide information.
Board member Gart Pitts was the only one to change his vote from a year ago when he cast the lone dissenting vote opposing the millage resolution.
The district’s long-range facility plan calls for a new high school facility with a large modern indoor athletic arena, a new Sheridan Middle School main-building, a new fine arts center on the high school campus, major improvements to the high school gymnasium and improvements to Sheridan Intermediate School. Construction of a middle school at East End is also in the plan.
The youth of Grant County will have the opportunity to eat healthy lunches this summer thanks to the work of the Sheridan/Grant County Ministerial Alliance.
For the third consecutive year, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) will serve food to minors. There are no requirements or registration for the program, except that the person eating must be under 19 years old.
This program is for everybody, within the age restriction, regardless of race, nationality, sex, income or disability.
Around 850 kids were served lunches in 2014 when the program first began in Grant County. The number of minors served more than quadrupled in 2015 to approximately 3,450. SFSP Director Mike Carpenter says that the number this year is expected to be twice what it was last year.
Sack lunches will be served at five locations: Sheridan High School’s cafeteria, Poyen School’s music building, I Can! in East End, Sheridan Recreation Center and the First United Methodist Church.
Despite the recent discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Newton County, the 2016 elk-hunting season will proceed.
“CWD is not the end of elk hunting in Arkansas. There will continue to be elk hunting opportunities in the Natural State,” said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Elk Program Coordinator Wesley Wright.
A Sheridan businessman has been named an Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 honoree for 2016 and will be honored and awarded during a luncheon next month.
The 40 Under 40 program highlights business and political leaders in the state who are under 40 years old. Sheridan’s own Glenn Strong, owner of Sheridan-based First Arkansas Financial, has been named one of Arkansas’ 40 Under 40 business leaders.
Strong, 38, started his business in 2003 with his Sheridan office. Now, 13 years later, he has offices in Little Rock, Mena, Texarkana, Texas, and Oklahoma City, Okla.
First Arkansas Financial is a loan company that focuses solely on mortgages. Strong unofficially runs the business with his wife Leeann. While his wife of 20 years is not technically part of the business, Glenn considers Leeann his partner.
Headstones knocked over, flower decorations destroyed, statues and ornaments broken….it looked as if a severe storm could have ravaged the cemetery, but there was no storm, no natural disaster of any sort. It was acts of vandals that left such a devastating scene at Orion Cemetery last week with nearly 100 gravesites vandalized and damaged leaving families heartbroken and picking up the pieces.
Orion Cemetery, located off Grant 58 in the Ico Community, fell victim to vandalism sometime during the night of May 16 when nearly 100 gravesites were disturbed with headstones knocked over, flowers and other decorations removed and torn up, statues smashed and destroyed.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Department was called to the cemetery the next morning after Vicky Graves, an Orion Community resident and historian and who also has family buried at the cemetery, came to the cemetery and observed all the damage.
Graves said, “My immediate family’s tombstones were not tipped over, but most of the flowers and shepherd hooks were pulled up and flowers scattered. My mother's tombstone is a big black stone and someone pulled up her shepherd's hook to sling mud and made deep scratches on her stone.”
She said the vandals tried to remove her mother’s picture from her tombstone, but they were unsuccessful. The flowers in her urns, however, were thrown around.
“(M)y friend and cousin knew how upset that I would be to see the vandalism, so he picked up my mother's flowers and reset the shepherd's hook before I arrived at the cemetery to attend a funeral at 9:30 a.m. on Monday morning,” Graves said. “I only saw the mud and scratches. After I spoke with the Grant County deputies, I went home for a brush and bucket of water to clean off the mud.”
The Sheridan Fire Department held its annual SFD Awards Banquet on May 3. First Baptist Church hosted the banquet as they graciously do every year. The dinner, desserts, and decorations were wonderful; the ladies and gentlemen of the church did an excellent job.
Unfortunately, not all SFD Firefighters were able to attend. Out of 34 assigned personnel, only 18 were able to attend. Most of the 18 were able to bring their spouses or significant others. Chief Stuckey spoke about the challenges of life, including family activities and other employment as evident with 53% attendance at the banquet. Sheridan Fire Department has not had 100% attendance at a banquet since 2006.
After the meal several awards were presented. The first award was to FF Michael Bryant for having 199 certified training hours, the most in the department, the average training hours for 2015 was 65.3. The next award was to Assistant Chief Tewhill for responding to 121 incidents of 301 total SFD responses for the year. Chief Stuckey actually responded to the most incidents with 210; however, as chief he chose not to be included in eligibility.
The final award was the 2015 Sheridan Fire Dept. Firefighter of the Year presented to Firefighter John “Gator” Greene. Firefighter Greene earned this award through hard work, training, initiative and having the respect of his peers and leadership. Ballots submitted by all SFD employees select the Firefighter of the Year. This gives a much wider spectrum of opinions and observations than if it was selected by leadership alone.
Almost a tenth of the children in Arkansas have had a parent incarcerated in the correctional system.
That sad statistic comes from a report recently released by the Annie Casey Foundation, which drew its findings from a study covering the years 2011 and 2012 and showed approximately 61,000 Arkansas children have had a parent in jail or prison at some point.
The report is part of the foundation’s KIDS COUNT project, which endeavors to improve opportunities for America’s youth.
Nationally, the study determined the proportion of children with an imprisoned mom or dad was 7 percent, or roughly 5.1 million kids.
From 1980 to 2000, the report said the rate increased by 500 percent.
Forty-five percent of incarcerated men in state and federal detention centers age 24 and younger are fathers, while 48 percent of female inmates in federal prison are mothers. Fifty-five percent of females in state prisons are mothers.
A total of four people in the state have been diagnosed this year carrying the Zika virus by the Arkansas Department of Health.
Three of the cases are in people returning from trips to Central America, South America and the Pacific Islands, according to department spokesman Meg Mirvel.
The two most recent cases were verified by a lab test that officials say is used within seven days of the onset of symptoms.
The virus is carried by a certain mosquito species – once believed to be confined to Africa where it was first identified in 1947. But the virus was detected last year in Brazil and has since spread to the Caribbean.
A new market for Grant County’s timberland owners is on the horizon with the April 26 announcement of a $1.3 billion pulp mill to be constructed near Arkadelphia.
Shandong Sun Paper Industry Joint Stock Company of China says the state-of–the-art facility will employ 250 workers with a payroll totaling $13 million a year. If the company secures the required environmental permits before the end of 2016, construction will begin early next year and the plant is projected to begin production in late 2019 – requiring as much as 4 million tons per year of wood fiber produced by 1,000 logging industry workers.
Appearing at a Capitol press conference with Sun Paper founder and chairman Hongxin Li, Governor Asa Hutchinson declared the project “one of the largest private investments in the history of the state of Arkansas.
“In a broader context, it will result in a real boost to the economy of south Arkansas throughout the timber industry,” Hutchinson said. “The fact Sun Paper is investing more than $1 billion in south Arkansas speaks volumes of their confidence in our workforce and pro-business environment.”
The company had narrowed its site selection list down to the Clark County site and a site in Mississippi.
Last November, Hutchinson and Economic Development director Mike Preston traveled to the company’s headquarters in Shandong Province, China to sign a letter of intent in which the company agreed to choose a site for the mill before May 1.
The state will provide incentives to the company based on the size of the facility’s payroll and the magnitude of the investment. A cash rebate of 5 percent of new payroll for 10 years; sales tax refunds on building materials and equipment; up to $3 million for workforce training and a $50 million collateralized loan have been guaranteed to the company.
An intense thunderstorm the morning of April 29 caused injury to a Sheridan School District administrator when lightning struck the district’s central office building.
Athletic Director Mark Scarbrough was injured when a bolt of lightning struck him as he was working in his office. He was taken to a Little Rock hospital for tests and later released.
The school released no details of Scarbrough’s condition.
A spokesman for 9-1-1 Emergency dispatch said an ambulance was requested by the school administration and arrived at the building, but witnesses at the scene said Scarbrough refused transport and was instead driven by his wife to an emergency room.
Grant County’s population dropped in 2015 after peaking at 18,115 people the previous year, according to newly released data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
The county’s population declined last year to 18,102. Yet, the number reflects only a 1.3 percent increase in five years.
If accurate, it is the first time in decades the county’s population declined from one year to the next and follows a trend in many Arkansas counties of population shrinkage.
The estimates are based on a complex formula the nation’s head counting agency uses to interpolate between the official decennial census, when a more intensive effort is made to determine the actual population of the country. Estimates of birth to death ratios and general migration trends are built into the formula to yield population estimates for each year of a decade. The estimates are needed by federal, state and local governments to forecast tax revenue, plan industrial development and apportion voting districts for elections. Waning populations also equate to small school districts struggling to survive because of lower student enrollments and communities suffering from fewer employment opportunities.