Lincoln County Mentions
in the Pine Bluff Commercial

April 13, 2000

DRUG POSSESSION LEADS TO ARREST IN STAR CITY
By John Whipple/ LINCOLN COUNTY CORRESPONDENT
STAR CITY - Police arrested an 11-year-old boy at the Star City Middle School Monday afternoon on a probable cause of possessing crack cocaine. Police Chief Lewis Brockman said Principal Sandra Lanehart confronted the 6th-grade suspect about the cocaine after being alerted by another student. The suspect led Lanehart to a trash can that contained the cocaine. The boy allegedly told at least one other student about having the drug, said Brockman. The substance field-tested positive for cocaine with a "street value" of about $200, said Brockman. "I did two tests because I didn't believe it was cocaine," said Brockman, adding that he routinely sent the substance to the State Crime Lab for further testing. The boy, following his arrest and questioning by police, said the substance was just ground up Tylenol, said Brockman. The student was released into his mother's custody because juvenile intake officer Brad Holloway was out of town. Brockman said the boy has no juvenile police record. The chief said he will seek a charge of possession of a controlled substance against the boy. Brockman said a juvenile has to be at least 15 years old to be charged as an adult. Police are continuing to investigate the incident. "I want that stuff out of my school and out of my town," said Brockman.


April 21, 1999

Justice of the Peace Jean Mullikin resigning her seat; offers no reason gives no notice
By John Whipple/SPECIAL TO THE COMMERCIAL
STAR CITY - Long-time Justice of the Peace Jean Mullikin on Monday stunned an otherwise routine meeting of the Lincoln County Quorum Court by abruptly resigning her District 1 seat.


April 29, 2000

Taking pride in government service
By John Whipple/LINCOLN COUNTY CORRESPONDENT
STAR CITY - Taking pride in government service isn't dead after all. Just ask Gulf War vet Bill Hudgens, the new postmaster of the Star City Post Office. Hudgens, 47, replaces Jack Hopson, who served as Officer-in-Charge, or temporary postmaster, at Star City for about nine months. Former Postmaster Linda Schoonover left Star City to head the Rison office last year. Hudgens, who is also a major in the Army Reserves, has 14 years of service manning that other Thin Blue Line - the one that leads from your local post office to your mailbox. The Humnoke native began his career by joining the Army as an enlisted man in 1971 and served four years of active duty, including service as a tank crewman at the tense East German border. After working as a salesman for several years, Hudgens took advantage of the G.I. Bill and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In January 1989, the former tanker received a master's degree in operations management. Along the way, Hudgens also decided to forgo a career in sales because of a desire to work for Uncle Sam. "I have a high opinion of government service and I wanted to work for the government," he explained in his new office. "This just fits my style. " Hudgens, however, admits that he applied for the Post Office without thinking he would ever be hired. "It was almost by accident," he said about applying for a postal job. "I just got lucky." Hudgens has done just about everything in the Post Office. He began his postal career in April 1985 in Hot Springs as a part time, fill-in letter carrier, a job which he also held in Benton. He was promoted to regular letter carrier in Benton before moving on to the Industrial Station at Little Rock where he served as a supervisor of mails and delivery. Hudgens eventually supervised customer service at post offices in Conway, Little Rock and Benton, before becoming an operations support specialist at the Arkansas District Office in November 1997. He was Officer-in-Charge of the McGehee facility from June 1998 until he took the top spot in Star City two weeks ago. Hudgens explains why he applied for the post master's job. "I wanted the satisfaction of being an integral part of a community," he said. "I wanted to be a big contributor and provide service. Actually, the (customer service manager) job I had at Asher Station was a higher level job, but it didn't give me the satisfaction that having a job like this does. "I can walk down the street and visit with the mayor or the county judge. It's just a very satisfying job. This is a fine community and I thoroughly enjoy being here. There are some of the friendliest people I've ever met in my life here. And I've been all over the world." Hudgens supervises postal employees including Brenda McKinney, Patsy Vick, Lynn Peters and Brian McKinney, who staff the Star City Post Office. Rural carriers (including substitutes) include Terry Boykins, Carol McCoy, Brenda Sorrells, Linda Hankins, Melissa Parker and Laura Williams. "The people of this county have a treasure in this federal building, especially for the size of this community," added Hudgens. "Lonnie and Melissa Johnson, who maintain this building, have done a superb job keeping it up. A lot of other federal buildings are in a state of disrepair." Hudgens and his wife Vandy Lynn, who is the postmaster of Jefferson Post Office, live in White Hall, with their two children. Hudgens also has two sons by a previous marriage, Lt. Joshua Hudgens, 23, serving in the U.S. Army in Ft. Rucker Alabama, and Devon, 21, of Benton, a student at UALR. "I am proud to be here, I'm lucky to have this job," Hudgens concluded. "I could retire here, it's that good a job."


May 2, 2000

GRADY SCHOOL BOARD REHIRES STAFF, RAISERS BASE SALARIES
By John Whipple COMMERCIAL REGIONAL CORRESPONDENT
GRADY - The Grady School Board on Thursday rehired all certified teaching staff for another year except for two staff members - first-grade teacher Beverly Long and high school science and chemistry teacher Kristi Sergeant. Superintendent Opal Crow said Long and Sergeant asked that their contracts not be renewed because they probably intend to resign at the end of the school year in June. In a related matter, the board raised the base salaries for teachers, in accordance with state law. The state Legislature last year approved Act 1499, which mandates the base salary for all certified teachers. The entry-level salary for a teacher with no experience who holds a bachelor's degree is $21,860, and $25,139 for those with a master's degree. In another issue, the board approved an employees benefit insurance package sponsored by Southeast Arkansas Cooperative and Educational Benefits Inc. Grady teachers will vote on the package this week. Crow said the vote must be 100 percent in favor for the district to be eligible for the coverage. Crow added that teachers and the district would split the $420 per year premium in half. The insurance package, which is underwritten by the USAble Life and Delta Premiere insurance companies, includes long-term disability, life, accidental death and dismemberment and hospitalization. The Southeast Arkansas Cooperative acted as agent in securing the insurance policies. Crow also announced that the school district has received most of its long-overdue millage tax revenue from the county. "The only thing we haven't got yet is the final settlements," Crow said. The district was twice forced to borrow money this year to meet payroll and other pressing needs. The Lincoln County collector's office collects local taxes for five school districts, three incorporated cities, six drainage districts, the county and for other entities. The office collects most of the taxes it distributes by the October 10 deadline of each year. Reports are then turned over to the county clerk's office, which calculates various distributions according to millage rates and state laws. The money is then turned over to the county treasurer, who disburses the tax settlements according to state laws. However, for the system to work properly, everything has to be in order. Books have to be balanced and records kept and verified. Lincoln County Sheriff and Collector Gerald Dutton has said the problems began when the office switched over to a computerized system in 1997. Entering reams of data into the computers took time and made for mistakes, he said. Also, the office has had a large turnover rate, which didn't help matters. In other business, the board rescheduled the next meeting for May 25 and announced that graduation ceremonies are set for Friday at the high school gym.


May 3, 2000

Wife Of Board President Hired As Superintendent Of Star City Schools
By John Whipple/LINCOLN COUNTY CORRESPONDENT
STAR CITY - The Star City School Board voted unanimously last week to hire assistant superintendent Rhonda Mullikin to replace resigning superintendent Ray Wynn.


May 11, 2000

STAR CITY COUNCIL SUPPORTS SALES TAX ON INTERNET COMMERCE
By John Whipple/LINCOLN COUNTY CORRESPONDENT
STAR CITY - The Star City Council on Monday unanimously passed a largely symbolic resolution requesting that Congress levy sales and use taxes on companies doing business on the Internet. Mayor Gene Yarbrough said the resolution, passed at the request of the Arkansas Municipal League, is aimed at Congress, which has the authority to regulate taxes on the Internet market. "We're not trying to raise any taxes, we're not trying to create any new taxes, we're just saying that we want an equal playing field," said Yarbrough. Yarbrough said it's not fair that a local merchant, such as Councilman and pharmacist Eddie Beard, has to charge sales tax on his goods and services while companies doing business on the Internet do not. Congress recently passed a three-year moratorium on the issue. However, Yarbrough said cities have to act now to show Congress how they feel. "Current laws create a competitive disadvantage and great inequities between merchants who sell from traditional 'brick-and-mortar' establishments and those who sell from electronic stores," said the resolution. The resolution, stressing the necessity of sales taxes to fund "essential public services," quotes a recent University of Tennessee study that estimates state sales tax revenue losses in 2003 will exceed $10 billion nationwide. "The City of Star City estimates a loss of tax revenues which could result in a significant reduction of essential public services," said the resolution. In another matter, Councilman Beard reported that the Planning Commission discussed the possibility of the city building a road through undeveloped land near the Star City Industrial Park to attract development. Beard said the property could be divided into small lots to accommodate smaller businesses. "We're running out of space at the Industrial Park," said Beard. The 20-acre tract has frontage on Mill and Dallas streets adjoining Tyson Foods property. "This is just something we're looking into," said Beard of the Planning Commission. Beard said the city wouldn't be involved in buying the land, but would apply for a grant to fund the road construction. The council also discussed extending a main water line on Sorrel Ferry Road by about 400 feet. Beard said the extension would accommodate a request for city water from Raymond Nobles who is unable to get Yorktown Water on his property, which is just outside city limits. Beard said the city would have to annex Nobles' property in order to run the water line. Beard added that the city "should plan to go further out (with the lines) for future annexation." Yarbrough said the city may be able to get funding from the Arkansas Rural Water Association to help with the proposed project, but added that the state Health Department would have to approve all plans. A reporter also protested that the press was not being notified of city commission meetings, as required by the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. "What he is talking about is not an option for the city," responded Councilman Paul Carter, "we are required to do it." In a separate issue, the council considered four bids for a "zero-turn" riding lawnmower before choosing the low bidder, Lawn and Power Equipment Sales and Service of Star City, which bid $8,759 on a Grasshopper diesel model. Other bidders included Capital New Holland of Little Rock, Henard Utility Co., of Searcy, and Scott Tractor Co., of Pine Bluff. The aldermen tabled a decision to spend $2,736 for a new seven-seat desk for the council members and the mayor to use during public meetings. Councilmembers David McCoy, Peggy Hundley and C.B. Leonard agreed that the price for the furniture, which is made by Arkansas Correctional Industries, is fair, but questioned the need for the table. "I'm going to go on record as saying that I'm opposed (to the purchase)," said Hundley. After further discussion, the council asked Yarbrough to get price quotes on seven new chairs only.


May 13, 2000

Former social worker finds satisfaction as TEA coordinator
By John Whipple/LINCOLN COUNTY CORRESPONDENT
STAR CITY - Magdalene Stephens likes her job, and she is good at it. Stephens is the program coordinator for the Lincoln County Transitional Employment Assistance Coalition. Her job, simply put, is to help people get off public assistance by finding them gainful employment. Stephens also helps prepare her clients for the job market, or spurs them on to earn a General Equivalency Diploma. Clients can only receive TEA funds for a maximum of 24 months, so finding them a job is a race against the clock. Helping Stephens and clients at the office is program assistant Janice Shumake. The coalition offers countywide services to all persons who receive TEA assistance from the Department of Human Services and to persons whose gross monthly income does not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level. A family of four can earn up to $2,365.34 a month and still receive services. Stephens and Shumake, as TEA Coalition employees, help to provide dependable and reliable transportation, safe and secure child care arrangements, job development training skills, substance abuse counseling and treatment, and many other social, health,and supportive services. The TEA Coalition coordinates and provides such services that enable individuals and families to be self-sufficient, encourage students to stay in school, reduces teen pregnancy and promote family unity, say TEA officials. Stephens took the helm at the Lincoln County office in January and immediately busied herself with the clients referred to her by DHS. One such client was 24-year-old Takeela Powell of Gould. A single mother of three, Powell is no longer in need of receiving TEA funds because Stephens helped her get a full-time job as a patient health-care technician at Jefferson Regional Medical Center at Pine Bluff. Powell passed a two-week certification course required for the job and began work immediately. Stephens said she holds a "Job Club" workshop monthly to help clients with interview and job-finding skills. "We try to see where they are at and what they want to do," she said. Powell was easier than most to help, however, because she was a high-school graduate who had some college behind her. But finding a single mother of three a job is never easy. Gould resident Jackie Bailey is now working at the Arkansas Convalescent Center in Pine Bluff as a certified nursing assistant, thanks in part to Stephens. Stephens' office provided transportation and steered Bailey into a recertification course so she could get back in the work force. Sandra Davis, 35, also of Gould, and a single mother of two, is now happily employed at a restaurant in Little Rock where she wanted to relocate. Stephens not only helped Davis find the job, but she also helped her financially to relocate to the city. "She was hired on the spot," said Stephens. In fact, Davis needed money so quickly that Stephens assisted her out of her own pocket so the woman could find a hotel room and buy a few meals until her first paycheck came in. But that's all in a day's work to Stephens. "That's my job, to be dedicated and commit myself to my clients so my clients can be self-sufficient," she said, adding that the state reimbursed her for the expenses. Then there is Kelly Smith, 31, of Star City, a former TEA recipient who had a job but needed a car to get there. Enter Stephens and the auto buyer program. TEA pays the insurance and registration fees for the first year as well as the sales tax on cars purchased by the state for accepted applicants. There is no down payment required, and the monthly payments for are low enough for just about anybody. Smith's car - a 1997 Plymouth Neon - is no jalopy, and without it, she couldn't hold a job. And without a job, Smith would go back on public assistance. Stephens said the Lincoln County office has helped about 112 clients since its inception less than two years ago. "It's been very exciting and very productive," said Stephens of her four-month tenure. I have had a lot of accomplishments since I have been here. People have gotten jobs. There were clients on the caseload that basically were not doing anything." Stephens comes to Lincoln County from her native New Orleans, where she earned a degree and worked in the social services field. Stephens, then a staff member of the St. John Parish Housing Authority, received kudos from the New Orleans Times-Picayune for her efforts in helping single mothers earn their GEDs. Stephens' dedication was also commended by the White Hall Police Department when she was employee by the state DHS. "I like helping people," said Stephens with a broad smile. "It's my job to be dedicated to the community and to help people find jobs so they won't have to go back on TEA. I have seen a lot as a social worker. Sometimes you cry, but sometimes, you can smile."


May 16, 2000

STAR CITY CHAMBER APPROVED FOR GRANT
By John Whipple/LINCOLN COUNTY CORRESPONDENT
STAR CITY - Star City Area Chamber of Commerce president Ian Webb recently announced that the chamber has been approved for a federal grant to hire an executive director/economic developer to recruit industry and business. Webb said the grant funds - up to $35,000 worth - will be administered through the Lincoln County Transitional Employment Assistance Coalition. The executive director will direct and manage the economic development focus of Lincoln County, said Webb. The director will direct all economic development planning and research efforts and will also have budgetary and grant writing responsibilities. Webb said Kevin White, Renee Johnson and chamber vice president Reba Altom have been named to a personnel committee that will interview the applicants for the position. The new director will be an employee of chamber and will report to the chamber's executive board. Webb also reported net receipts of about $10,000 from the recent Chick-A-Dilly Daze fund-raising celebration. Webb said the money will be "very useful in attracting new business to this area." Chamber member Eddie Beard, who is also a city alderman, asked the chamber's support for a proposal under consideration by the city Planning Commission whereby the city would build a road through undeveloped land near the Star City Industrial Park to attract development. Beard said the 20-acre tract could be divided into small lots to accommodate smaller businesses. Beard, however, said the proposal received a "lukewarm reception from some of the council members." "If you see any of the council members, you might say that you're in favor of it," said Beard "We need to pump this up," Webb responded, "because one of the big attractions for any area are available cites with the facilities to set up a business. That's something we need to do." The chamber voted to pay one-third of the $1,000 cost to buy a book prepared by the Delta Caucus that explains how to apply for government grants. The City of Star City and Lincoln County will split the other two-thirds of the cost. Webb said the book proceeds will go toward the development of the Delta area and " that's what we're alI about." In other business, District Conservationist Robert Hankins of the Natural Resource Conservation Service addressed the chamber about the Lincoln County Conservation District. The LCCD is funded through the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission and covers everything from beaver eradication to soil and water conservation. Hankins introduced Conservation District board members Frances Harper, Jason Austin, and chairman L.E. "Hoss" Branson. Members Harty Fratesi and Berzent Blagg could not be at the meeting. Hankins also introduced district secretary Amy Wallace, technician David Austin, and water techs Tony Madar and Keith Shepherd. Rod Wood and John David Stringfellow from the Farm Service Agency were also present. Hankins said his office spent about $500,000 in the last two years "putting conservation practices on the land" through federally funded program such as EQIP and the Conservation Reserve Program. Hankins mentioned that his office registers about 12,000 wells and relifts every year. "If we ever get in a critical groundwater situation, these people who are registering their wells will get first service," said Hankins. "I hope it never gets down to that" Hankins said the LCCI) sells engineering flags and plat books as a public service. "We barely make our money back," said Hankins. The LCCD has a litter spreader and a pasture cultivator for rent.


July 13, 2000

STAR CITY - Lincoln County Sheriff Gerald Dutton narrowly defeated challenger Bobby O'Briant in Tuesday's Democratic primary runoff election by a margin of 1,197 (54 percent) to 1,014 votes. O'Briant, who serves as the mayor of Grady and a Lincoln County justice of the peace, received 722 votes, or 33.5 percent to Dutton's 916 votes, or 42.5 percent in the May 24 primary. Former Sheriff Loyd Phillips then received 515 votes, or 25 percent. In the runoff for the newly separated Collector's Office, Brenda Trussell Grahnert defeated Alicia Hawkins 1,130 to 889, with 60 percent of the vote. Reached by phone at his Star City home, Dutton said he was "glad the election was all over with." A visibly dejected O'Briant was with the crowd waiting for results at the courthouse. Asked to comment, O'Briant said, "I gave it my best shot, and I lost." Grahnert, also at the courthouse, was obviously pleased with her victory. "I just want to thank everybody that supported me in this election," she said. "I plan on doing a good job to the best of my ability for the citizens. I'm just kind of overwhelmed right now." Hawkins could not be reached for comment.