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Armed protests not concern for state representative from Searcy

State Rep. Les Eaves isn’t concerned about the possibility of armed protests being held at the state Capitol next week while the Legislature is in session, saying, “I think the Capitol police and other law enforcement have us covered pretty well.”

The FBI has issued warnings about plans for armed protests in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., from Saturday through Jan. 20, when Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.

“I feel safe going into the Capitol,” said Eaves, a Republican from Searcy. “Things in Arkansas aren’t quite as partisan, I don’t think, as they are in D.C., but I do fear we are heading in that direction. That makes me a little nervous.”

The protests would follow a violent siege of the U.S Capitol on Jan. 6 that forced lawmakers attempting to confirm the Electoral College vote into hiding under desks and donning gas masks. President Donald Trump had urged supporters that morning at a rally outside the White House to march to the Capitol. Protesters fought past police and breached the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags as they marched through the halls.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for a second time for “incitement of insurrection” after the siege that left five people dead. However, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said the earliest an impeachment trial would begin is Tuesday, the day before Trump is already set to leave the White House.

Eaves said the U.S. Capitol insurrection “was just an embarrassment.”

“It was uncalled for, disappointing. I don’t hardly have words to describe it,” he said. “I was watching [the] Senate’s testimony live stream when you started noticing something was going on, the senators kind of looking around, and I could see our own Sen. Tom Cotton in the back and he’s looking around and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Something is going on.’ Then, you kind of realize something is happening.

“It was just uncalled for. That is not the way to affect change in my mind. It was just out of control.”

The Daily Citizen was unable to reach other state senators and representatives from the county for comment.

Republican Party of White County Chairman Billy Kurck believes “there’s a lot of opinions on” the events that unfolded at the nation’s Capitol.

“I’ve read a lot of different opinions of what happened up there; of course, I wasn’t there,” Kurck said. “You can read what the Democrats are saying, what the Republicans are saying and, of course, it’s totally different.

“I know people are frustrated; I’m frustrated. I believe there was some hankypanky going on, whether it was to the level that would have changed the outcome of the election, I don’t know. I’m hoping in time that will all get itself worked out as far what will come to light on what really happened and what didn’t happen and the truth will all come out before the next election.”

Kurck said he knows some people who belong to “some of those patriot clubs” and doesn’t believe that there is any violence planned in Arkansas leading up to the inauguration.

“I know they are frustrated, but for my part there are working, law-abiding citizens who are just frustrated, but I don’t see any kind of violence arising at all on my part,” he said, adding that there may be some rallies that he is not aware of, but the feedback he has been getting is that nothing is planned like that.

“I’m not all knowing about that but from what I can see ... I don’t think we will see anything near what they had up there at the Capitol.”

White County Judge Mike Lincoln said he didn’t expect any out-of-control protests in the county over the election or inauguration. He mentioned the peaceful protests held in Searcy when George Floyd, a black man, died in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.

“They were very peaceful for the most part,” Lincoln said. “They didn’t try to impede traffic, didn’t have any issues at all, even that was mainly in the city area of the downtown area. People have a right to gather. You surely want to take precaution and encourage peaceful demonstrations as best as you can.”

At the nation’s Capital last week, he said he expected a crowd to gather, but “I didn’t expect it to be a crowd that gained entrance into the Capitol.”

“I think probably every day in Washington there is a protest concerning something, every day in the D.C. area,” Lincoln said. “I would have to say my heart grieved that a group would do what they did.

“Of course, there is all kinds of speculation of who those groups were. Had they been infiltrated? Were they the ones that actually gathered for a peaceful demonstration? I think a lot is going to come out.”

He said it reminded him of a protest at the Confederate monument at the White County Courthouse in 2017, where “50 to 100 people gathered, most in favor of the monument staying there.”

“There were a few people who gathered there who were outside agitators,” Lincoln said. “I approached one man from Stone County because he looked familiar to the guy who was at Charlottesville [Va. during a deadly riot] and I just asked him why he was here and made it real clear to him we weren’t going to have any disturbance. And I made it real clear to him that I had at least four law enforcement people who had their eyes on him and if he made any move toward creating trouble, he would be arrested.”

Lincoln said he thinks officials need to be proactive when “we hear things that might take place.” He said he thinks “we can overreact if we’re not careful, too.”

Eaves said, “It’s important to say that it is OK to disagree.”

“I have close friends and family members that I absolutely disagree policywise but we are still friends or still family; we can still get along,” Eaves said. “So the whole country needs to learn, it’s OK to disagree with someone and it’s also OK to be polite to that person if you disagree. And I’m not talking about one side or the other [Republican or Democrat], both sides need to learn that.”

Preparing for soccer season

ABOVE: Freshmen Easton Faulkner (left) and Gabriel Cruz go through a drill during soccer practice at Lions Stadium on Wednesday morning to prepare for the 2021 season.

LEFT: Coach Bronco King, who is in his 13th year of coaching for the Lions, said they lost 12 seniors from last year and have mainly a “juniors” team this year. The season starts in March and they will be allowed to play some extra individual matches this season since tournaments, other than the state tournament, are not being allowed. King said Jonesboro is the team to beat this year.

Freshmen Easton Faulkner (left) and Gabriel Cruz go through a drill during soccer practice at Lions Stadium on Wednesday morning to prepare for the 2021 season.

Beebe superintendent rolls out plans for COVID-19 vaccinations

Beebe School District Superintendent Dr. Chris Nail was unsure during a Zoom meeting Tuesday morning exactly when the district would be administering the two-dose Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to its teachers, administrators and staff, but he said he was hoping it would be before the end of the month.

The deadline for signing up for the shots is today, and Nail rolled out the district’s plans for the inoculations.

Nail said Beebe Drug and Burrow’s Drug Store pharmacists would be administering the vaccines to the district, which pivoted to virtual learning temporarily Jan. 8 because “our numbers escalated very, very highly.”

Beebe welcomed back students attending classes on-site Jan. 4, but “we have to rethink about what’s going on,” Nail said. “I want you to know that every day we worry very much about everybody’s safety.”

Those who opt in to receive the vaccines are being encouraged to wear a short sleeve shirt. The shot will be given in the upper arm. Nail said the pharmacies get approximately 100 doses a week. When the district’s turn comes up, they will email Nail and let him know.

On the first day, kindergarten-sixth-grade staff, including day care and pre-K, will receive their first dose at the early childhood cafeteria, Nail said. On Day 2, seventh-12th-grade staff will receive the shot in the main cafeteria. Food service staff will go with their building. Transportation staff will go with seventh through 12th. Central office and technology will go with kindergarten through sixth grade.

After an individual gets the vaccine, that person must stay in a holding area for 20 minutes. In that area, school nurses will be set up and snacks and drinks will be provided.

“We are going to have WiFi on; we are going to have music going,” Nail said. “It’s going to be Dr. Nail’s little lounge in there. If you sign up and take the vaccine, on the day of the vaccine, we’re going to give you a T-shirt and it will have our ‘Badger Strong’ there with a little needle in his arm, crushing the virus.”

Nail said after three years at Beebe, he knows everybody loves T-shirts.

The second doses will be given the exact same way as the firsts, Nail noted.

Holly Glover, director of curriculum, said those going with the early childhood group to get vaccines should park in the main lot of the building and go to the front door. Stations will be set up 6 feet apart and the first station will be a check-in center where people will show their copy of their driver’s license, their health insurance card and their Moderna form. The next station will be the waiting area for the vaccine.

The vaccinations will be given in the gym area, where four stations will be available. Two pharmacists from each of the pharmacies will be there. Glover said once people are done receiving their vaccines, they will exit the gym and go straight across the hall to the cafeteria, where chairs will be set up. Snacks and drinks will be available here. Nurses will be monitoring the times. When people are finished, they will exit the side door and go through the hallway and through the other set of doors where they entered.

For the seventh through 12th group, the vaccine location will be in the main cafeteria. This group will enter in the front area with the 6 feet apart dividers for each person who is entering. There will be a check-in station and their vaccine site will be in the library, with four stations for dose administrations. People will exit through the opposite set of doors and go straight to the cafeteria for snacks and drinks, and nurses will be present to monitor the 20-minute holding times. They will exit through the west entrance of the main cafeteria.

Nail said the day of the vaccine, students will not be on campus. During the four days (for both doses to be given), students will pivot to virtual. Nail said on those days, students will be fed. On virtual days, Nail called food service a “massive operation.”

Faculty and staff members will report to their buildings at normal times on the days of vaccination. They will be informed by the administrator of their building to report to their vaccine center. Nail said the district would “support the fire out” of everyone getting the vaccine.

Nail said he was not on the Zoom meeting to convince people to take the vaccine, rather he talked about why he was going to take it. He said he has talked to his doctor, who has convinced him that the vaccine was safe, and he encouraged everyone to do their own research.

“I don’t think Facebook is an appropriate place to make your decision on whether you take the vaccine or not,” Nail said. “Read the material out there and make your own decisions for it.”

If anyone decides to opt in to receiving the vaccines, Nail said the district would provide both shots. The second one would be given 28 days after the first one.

In Searcy, Superintendent Diane Barrett took the first round of the vaccine Wednesday, according to the district, receiving her shot from Peyton Harvey from Stott’s Drug Co. The Searcy School District has not publicly announced plans for inoculating its staff.

Beebe School Board extends COVID emergency leave act provisions

Although the requirements for providing paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ended Dec. 31, the Beebe School Board decided Monday to extend the provisions through the rest of the year.

Superintendent Dr. Chris Nail said school districts were encouraged by the state to continue providing leave because of COVID-19, but is not going to pay for it.

However, for the district, Nail said nothing really has changed. If personnel had 20 days the first semester and did not use them, those days could be used all the way through the end of the year if an individual ended up having to be quarantined.

He also said he would go one step further.

“We’re one of the few schools that has went past that,” Nail said. “Let’s say that you’ve been quarantined twice in the first semester and it wasn’t your fault. You got quarantined and then we came back for the semester and you get quarantined again. You’re like, ‘Do I have to use my sick days?’ We, the board and the administration, said, ‘No, we are going to take care of our staff.’ So as long as you work from home, you don’t take them from there either.

“... We are doing our absolute best right now trying to minimize the impact on our district right now. Nothing has changed.”

Airport approved to seek grants to fix taxiway cracks, drainage issue

The Searcy Airport Commission is applying for two Arkansas Department of Aeronautics grants to fix crack and drainage issues at the airport after two resolutions were passed by city officials Tuesday night.

The resolutions passed by the Searcy City Council were for an 80/20 grant for taxiway crack repair and 90/10 grant for drainage improvements. The ADA will pay the larger percentage of each grant (80 and 90) while the city is responsible for the smaller portion (20 and 10).

“The taxiway we built in 1992 and we are beginning to see some wider cracks in the surface,” said the airport’s project engineer, Bob Chatman of Miller-Newell Engineers Inc. of Newport. “We’re going to rout those and seal that with hot-pour sealant to keep the water from penetrating into the base.”

Chatman said he anticipates the taxiway project could probably be started on during the summer, after bids come in and a contractor is hired to work the project. “I think it holds a priority with the state for funding. I think they should fund it.”

Concerning the drainage grant, Chatman said, “We relocated a drainage ditch to the very north edge of the property and we filled in the old creek and rerouted around the area. It has stayed wet so we are going in to that area and will put some French drains to draw the water out of the subgrade there and dry that up so that they can drive tractors over to bushhog and maintain the grass there.”

Chatman said the drainage project could start in the summertime as well. He mentioned that on the southwest part of the runway there is a wet area that needs the same work so a French drain would be put in there also to dry that area.

Batesville man arrested after state trooper dragged by vehicle Monday

The Arkansas State Police are investigating an incident in White County late Monday during which a state trooper was dragged by a vehicle, sustaining minor injury, according to Bill Sadler, the state police’s public information officer.

Terry Michael White, 25, of Batesville remained in the White County Detention Center after being arrested at 11:19 p.m. Monday on preliminary charges related to the incident, aggravated assault, fleeing, possession of a controlled substance (suspected methamphetamine), possession of drug paraphernalia and second-degree battery.

State Trooper 1st Class A Austin Lay initiated a traffic stop at 5:49 p.m. along Ralph Reed Road, south of Arkansas Highway 157, because a minivan that White was driving reportedly had an expired license plate.

“White refused to comply with the trooper’s orders to exit the vehicle and White sped way during the traffic stop, dragging TFC Lay along the county road,” Sadler said in a statement.

Lay was able to “extricate himself” from the vehicle and return to his patrol unit to pursue the minivan, which traveled approximately 2 miles before stopping, Sadler said. White and a passenger, according to the statement, fled on foot and were apprehended a short time later.

Jackie W. Foster, 35, of Judsonia also has been preliminarily charged in connection with this incident, Sadler said. A 34-year-old woman and a 17-year-old male who were passengers in the minivan were questioned by police. The criminal investigation of the incident is continuing.

Lay was examined at a hospital and released later.

A county resident who lives just outside of Judsonia said the pursuit led to him getting involved because one of the suspects fled onto his property.

“I was sitting at home out in the backyard. We had a little bonfire going and we were just sitting out watching the fire when we seen the cops going up and down by the house, all over,” Jamie Schmidt said. “My wife said, ‘I think I’m going to lock our house up,’ so she went to lock it up, and I said, ‘While you’re in there grab my gun.’ She got my gun and brought it out there and I put it in my pocket.

“About 10 or 15 minutes later, I told her that I was going to go out to the road and try to see what’s going on because I see a lot of blue lights down the road. I was looking down there at the blue lights and saw somebody across the street back behind somebody’s house and they took off running toward my house.”

He said the individual crossed the highway and “soon as they hit my yard, I hollered at him two or three times to stop.”

“They kept running behind my house where my family and grandkids were at,” Schmidt said. “I run around the other side of the house and as I run around, I pull my gun out and he turned to run around my house and he ran right into my gun. He was right there point blank.

“He started hollering, ‘Hey hey no don’t shoot.’ He said ‘I’m in trouble,’ and I said, ‘Yeah you’re in trouble all right.’ I said “What are you doing in my yard?’ He said, ‘I’m going down here to my uncle’s‘ and he said his [uncle’s] name was Kevin. I said, ‘No, you’re not, you’re lying because that’s my family who lives down there. There’s nobody down there named Kevin.’ He said, ‘Well, that’s the way I’m going,’ and I said, ‘Oh, no, you’re not.’ I said, ‘You’re going that way ‘ and I pointed across the road and told him to hit the road.”

Schmidt said after the individual ran off, “we called the cops.”

“They come back here and were looking for him. They said, ‘What does he look like?’ and I told him and said he went across the road,” Schmidt said. “I said he ran off into the woods somewhere. The cops were all over looking for him and about 10, 15 minutes went by and I see him come running back by across that field, across the road and ran right back up here to my fence, and I guess he called somebody to come get him.”

He said a vehicle pulled up to his house and he “reached out and grabbed him by the back of his shirt and held him and then he started hollering at me that I was going to get in trouble because he was a juvenile, not quite 18 yet. I ended up letting him go and he jumped in that truck.”

“I didn’t know it was here to pick him up. The person who pulled up in the truck was still behind the wheel. That boy run and got into the truck,” Schmidt said. “I grabbed him and drug him back out of the truck and then he said, ‘I’m leaving. I’m going.’

“I thought for a moment and asked that boy in the truck, ‘Do you know this guy?’ and he said ,‘Yeah, I’m here to pick him up.’ I said, ‘He ain’t going nowhere.’ I said, ‘I don’t know what you all got going on out here but the cops are on the way here. He’s going to wait here for the cops and we’re going to find out what the [expletive] is going on.”

Schmidt said he got a call from the state police Tuesday asking him for more information.