Newspapers in Little Rock, El Dorado take top APME awards

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock and the El Dorado-News Times have won general excellence awards from the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors group.

The winners were announced Friday.

Ginny Monk and Eric Besson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Marisa Hicks of the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway were honored for their work in service to the Freedom of Information Act.

Among the state’s larger papers, the Texarkana Gazette took second and The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs placed third in the general excellence category. Among medium-sized papers, the Log Cabin Democrat took second and The Courier in Russellville took third.

A list of winners can be found at . This year’s awards will be shipped to members in May.

The Associated Press is a not-for-profit news cooperative representing 1,400 newspapers and 5,000 broadcast stations in the United States.

Winners in the 2018 Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors contest:

General Excellence-Division II: 1, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; 2, Texarkana Gazette; 3, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record.

General Excellence-Division I: 1, DEl Dorado News-Times; 2, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat; 3, The (Russellville) Courier.

Service to FOI-Division II: 1, Ginny Monk and Eric Besson, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Coroners."

Service to FOI-Division I: 1, Marisa Hicks, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "FCDC Inmate Dies Following Attack."


Spot News Story: 1, Bill Bowden, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Deaths at 17 in Sinking; A Rush to Rescue in Vain"; 2, Steven Mross, Richard Rasmussen and David Showers, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "High Water Leads to Rescue, School, Road Closures"; 3, Jennifer Middleton, Texarkana Gazette, "TC President Russell Resigns."

Spot News Photo: 1, Richard Rasmussen, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Swept Away"; 2, Richard Rasmussen, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Fire Destroys Building"; 3, Mitchell Pe Masilun, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Injury Accident on I-30."

News Feature: 1, Clara Turnage, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Mother’s Call for Help Ends with Son’s Death"; 2, Ginny Monk, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Girl’s Mutation a Rarity in World"; 3, Aaron Brand, Texarkana Gazette, "A Piece of Railroad History and a New Dream for Downtown."

Editorial Writing: 1, David Barham and Walter Hussman, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Progress! Progress!"; 2, Russell McDermott, Texarkana Gazette, "King and Council"; 3, Mark Gregory, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "City’s Lack of Transparency Leaves Citizens in the Dark."

Headline: 1, Les Minor, Texarkana Gazette, "REDI Set to Go"; 2, Stevon Gamble, Texarkana Gazette, "Rock Enroll"; 3, Stevon Gamble, Texarkana Gazette, "Oh, the Hue-Manity."

News Coverage: 1, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Elections 2018"; 2, Mark Gregory, David Showers and Steven Mross, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Heavy Rains Flood Roads, Cause Lakes to Rise"; 3, Greg Bischof, Jennifer Middleton and Karl Richter, Texarkana Gazette, "Arkansas, Texas Governors’ Visit."

Beat Reporting: 1, Emily Walkenhorst and Eric Besson, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; 2, Hunter Field, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Medical Marijuana"; 3, Lynn LaRowe, Texarkana Gazette, "Sexual Assault and Survivors."

Business Reporting: 1, Karl Richter, Texarkana Gazette, "REDI Set to Go"; 2, Beth Reed, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Oaklawn Unveils $100 Million-Plus Expansion"; 3, David Showers, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Aristocrat Residents Sweat out Dispute Between Owner, City."

Education Reporting: 1, Jennifer Middleton, Texarkana Gazette, "Game Changer"; 2, Cynthia Howell, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Judge over 35-Year-Old Case Tours 3 Schools."

Political Reporting: 1, David Showers and Steven Mross, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Questions Surround Conduct of Judicial Candidates"; 2, Karl Richter, Texarkana Gazette, "Congressmen for the Region Speak out"; 3, David Showers, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Ballot Error Shuts Down Early Voting."

Health Related Topics: 1, Emma Pettit, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "The Search for Mother’s Milk"; 2, Kat Stromquist, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Peanut-Allergy Trial Holds Hope for Kids"; 3, Lori Dunn, Texarkana Gazette, "Mother, Daughter Share Both Sides of Addiction, Recovery."

Special Project- Community Service: 1, Lori Dunn, Ashley Gardner and Lynn LaRowe, Texarkana Gazette, "Opioid Crisis"; 2, Lisa Hammersly, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Widow’s Tax"; 3, Ginny Monk, John Moritz and Ryan Tarinelli, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Violent Reality."

Non-Traditional News Item: 1, Kirk Montgomery, Nikki Dawes and Tom Murphy, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Texas A&M’s 6-Year Reign"; 2, Les Minor, Texarkana Gazette, "In-Depth Look at the Texarkana Industrial Index"; 3, Richard Rasmussen and Jason Wilson, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Heavy Rains Flood Roads."

Column-Hard News: 1, John Brummett, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Elizabeth Endures"; 2, Philip Martin, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "The Price We Pay"; 3, Les Minor, Texarkana Gazette, "Job Creation Must be this Region’s No. 1 Priority."

Column-Lifestyle Human Interest: 1, Christy Busby Worsham, Texarkana Gazette, "An Ode to Why Rocking Relaxes and Revives Us"; 2, Celia Storey, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Four Die as Peace Breaks out"; 3, Les Minor, Texarkana Gazette, "How We Flicked off Those Flickering Flies."

Sports Story: 1, Jeremy Muck, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Salt Bowl Cut Short"; 2, Tom Murphy, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "1 More to Settle It"; 3, Josh Richert, Texarkana Gazette, "Heroic Effort not Enough: Lady Mustangs Fall to SGA in Final, 8-3."

Spot Sports Photo: 1, Richard Rasmussen, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Upward Bound"; 2, Mitchell Pe Masilun, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "High School Basketball State Championship Stretch"; 3, Hunt Mercier, Texarkana Gazette, "Back in Action."

Sports Feature: 1, Tim Cooper, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Small-Town Guy a Big-Time Coach"; 2, Jay Bell, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Wallace, Longtime ‘Voice of Oaklawn,’ Dies at 74"; 3, Bob Holt, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Riches not Gafford’s Driving Force."

Feature Sports Photo: 1, Richard Rasmussen, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Unbridled Joy"; 2, Mitchell Pe Masilun, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Boy’s 7A State Champions"; 3, Grace Brown, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Lady Trojans Dethrone Chapel."

Sports Column: 1, Bob Wisener, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Van Berg: Racing’s True Stayer"; 2, Jay Bell, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "To Cherish a Fleeting Moment of Triumph"; 3, Jay Bell, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Adjusted Alignment Typical from AAA."

Feature Photo: 1, Hunt Mercier, Texarkana Gazette, "One Man’s Treasure"; 2, Staton Breidenthal, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Lapping up the Derby"; 3, Grace Brown, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record, "Into the Wild."

Photographer’s Portfolio: 1, Mitchell Pe Masilun, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; 2, Richard Rasmussen, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record; 3, Tommy Metthe, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Graphics: 1, Nikki Dawes, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; 2, Kirk Montgomery, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Digital: 1, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; 2, Kristen Doss and Jason Hopkins, Texarkana Gazette; 3, Mark Gregory, Steven Mross and Brittany Weaver, The (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record.

Page Design: 1, Stevon Gamble, Texarkana Gazette; 2, Stevon Gamble, Texarkana Gazette; 3, Steve Rogers, Stan Denman and Heather Kersten, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Digital Storytelling: 1, Jeannie Roberts, Mitchell Pe Masilun and Gavin Lesnick, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "That Moment of Chaos’: 20 Years Since Westside Middle School Shooting"; 2, Rachel Herzog and Gavin Lesnick, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "2018 Little Rock Marathon"; 3, (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Violent Reality: Arkansas Ranks 7th in Gun Deaths, but Weapons Restrictions not on Table."


Spot News Story: 1, Jeanette Stewart, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Ferris Wheel Malfunctions"; 2, Haley Smith, El Dorado News-Times, "Lightning Strike Causes Fire at SouthArk."

Spot News Photo: 1, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Helping Hands"; 2, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Burned Down"; 3, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Over There."

News Feature: 1, Marisa Hicks, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Local Hero Added to Conway’s Fallen Firefighters Memorial"; 2, Michael Shine, El Dorado News-Times, "Local Teen Recognized by Medical Professionals for Heroic Efforts"; 3, Michael Shine, El Dorado News-Times, "King of Racing, Local Teen Works to Compete in Big Leagues."

Headline: 1, Eden Corley, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "No Pain, No Rain, No Maine."

Beat Reporting: 1, Marisa Hicks, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat; 2, Tia Lyons, El Dorado News-Times, "Razing Problems – Abandoned, Condemned Houses in El Dorado."

Business Reporting: 1, Caitlan Butler, El Dorado News-Times, "El Dorado Golf and Country Club Looks to Move into the 21st Century."

Education Reporting: 1, Caitlan Butler, El Dorado News-Times, "Trying to Prepare for the Worst"; 2, Hilary Andrews, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Districts Talk Paddling"; 3, Caitlan Butler, El Dorado News-Times, "’Focus’ Elementary Schools See Differing Results in State Scoring Index."

Political Reporting: 1, Caitlan Butler, El Dorado News-Times, "Cotton Talks Trade, Tough Tactics"; 2, Jeanette Stewart, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Candidate is Arrested."

Health Related Topics: 1, Hilary Andrews, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Baptist Health Makes Plan to Combat SIDS"; 2, Caitlan Butler, El Dorado News-Times, "Crossett Woman Finds New Life with CBD Oil"; 3, Hilary Andrews, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Cardiologist’s Heart to Heart."

Special Project- Community Service: 1, El Dorado News-Times, "Violence Intervention Plan in Union County"; 2, El Dorado News-Times, "Union County Nursing Homes and Medicare Ratings"; 3, Jeanette Stewart, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Homelessness in Conway."

Non-Traditional News Item: 1, Hilary Andrews, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Community Leaders Talk New Year’s Resolutions."

Column-Hard News: 1, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Hearing Hicks: Death Row Not as Pleasant as Scotty Gardner Thought It Would Be."

Column-Lifestyle Human Interest: 1, Travis Simpson, The (Russellville) Courier, "Lessons My Husky Taught Me"; 2, Travis Simpson, The (Russellville) Courier, "They Said Dance Like No One is Watching, so I Did."

Sports Story: 1, Kev Moye, El Dorado News-Times, "Dragons Claim Championship"; 2, Andy Robertson, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Season Ends for Sugar Bears in Front of Raucous Crowd"; 3, Andy Robertson, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Despite Midseason Coaching Change, CCS Shows Dominance."

Spot Sports Photo: 1, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Going for the Goal"; 2, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Come to Me"; 3, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Holding on Tight."

Sports Feature: 1, Andy Robertson, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Conway’s Grimes Fights Back from Devastating Injury"; 2, Andy Robertson, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat, "Bear’s Freshman Hales Stays Humble After Electric First Start"; 3, Tony Burns, El Dorado News-Times, "Local Gymnast Back on Beam."

Feature Sports Photo: 1, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Soccer Boys"; 2, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Disc Golfer."

Sports Column: 1, Eli Cranor, The (Russellville) Courier, "Old Bull"; 2, Travis Simpson, The (Russellville) Courier, "The Magic and Metaphor of Fishing."

Feature Photo: 1, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Jumping High"; 2, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "Putting on a Show"; 3, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times, "One Last Run."

Photographer’s Portfolio: 1, Terrance Armstard, El Dorado News-Times; 2, Jeanette Stewart, (Conway) Log Cabin Democrat.

Page Design: 1, Kelsey Womack and Haley Smith, El Dorado News-Times.

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These storm shelters are made in Conway to help keep us safe during severe weather

Conway is known for a great many thing. It is the home of the Wampus Cats, UCA and roundabouts.

But did you know it’s also called home by Sinco Fab?

The Conway plant makes and molds several items, but what it may be known for the most is storm shelters.

Parker Spradley, an employee of Sinco Fab, gave us a tour of the facilities and a look at the process of making a storm shelter.

"This is the door to the storm shelter. After you laser it, break it, you take all the parts and you have your [storm shelter] print right here. So then you’re going to put all the parts where they need to go, weld it up and send it on to paint."

From there, the constructed shelter is transported by forklift to the painting area where it is cleaned so the paint can adhere better to the metal.

The machinery used for painting can reach up to nearly 700 degrees during the process.

The company makes several storm shelters, but Spradley said his favorite is the in-ground storm shelter.

"Shelter Solutions goes in, cuts the concrete out, takes [the shelter] from us, take it to the house, drop it in, bolt it to the ground. That’s pretty much it," Spradley said.

Brandon Shaw, Vice President of Shelter Solution of Arkansas has saw first hand the destruction caused by the tornado outbreak of March 1997.

"We’re obviously Arkansans, we know what it’s like to live here," Shaw said. "We realize these products are going to people’s homes to be there for safety."

In our state, the risk of severe weather is always present, but Shaw and his team are determined to help reduce fatalities in the state. Their job is to construct equipment to protect the live of Arkansans.

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Paul Loren Revis

Paul Loren Revis 24, on Wednesday, March 13, passed from this earth to his heavenly home. He was born on November 1, 1994, in Conway, Ark. to Paul A. and Londa Revis. He and his family moved to Houston, Texas, Boise, Idaho, and the Memphis, Tenn. area for several years, but Conway was always "home," and he was thrilled to return to Conway when he was in the 7th grade.

Paul excelled in athletics, and proudly wore the #35 jersey on the Conway Wampus Cat football team. As a linebacker, he was a letterman and loved playing football. While in high school he was very involved in K-Life Ministries and volunteered with Bethlehem House.

After graduating with honors from Conway High School in 2013, Paul followed the long family tradition of service to his country by serving in the United States Army for three and a half years as an artillery cannon crewmember, attaining the rank of Corporal while certifying as an artillery mechanic, U6.

History was a passion of Paul’s, and he chose that for his major at the University of Central Arkansas, where he was a freshman Presidential Scholar at the time of his death. He enjoyed his job in the university’s history department where he was inspired by Ms. Judy Huff and hoped to follow in his father’s footsteps and attend law school.

Paul was a member of Antioch Baptist Church, where he had been active in the youth group in high school. The Revis family is an outdoor family, and Paul always looked forward to the annual Fourth of July celebration at his grandparent’s Little Red River cabin. He, his brother Sam, and his dad enjoyed providing the fireworks show each year. Kayaking and fishing on the Little Red River with his cousins were also something he always looked forward to, and last summer Paul rescued a fisherman whose boat had overturned in swift waters. The man was pinned against a dock, but Paul’s strength and quick thinking saved the man’s life. Paul was strong and a hard worker and helped with many improvements on his family’s Perry County ranch where he enjoyed hunting, shooting, archery, and working the land with his dad and brother.

Paul was always ready to help all his grandparents with fix-it projects around their homes, and they knew he was always available to them.

Paul is survived by his parents, his brother Sam; his grandparents, Paul N. and Rosalie Revis and Loren and Kitty Wagner, all of Conway; Paul’s aunts, Roslyn (Revis) Grimsley, Lori Wagner, and cousins Mara (Grimsley) George, Alyssa (Grimsley) Donley, Reese Grimsley, Tricia Schiebout, Kate Brauning, Matthew Waymire, Rebekah Johnson, and Lydia Buss, who will miss him immensely.

Funeral Services and a celebration of Paul’s life with military honors will take place on Monday, March 18th at Antioch Baptist Church at 3 p.m. with Pastor Joel Studdard officiating. Visitation will be from 1 p.m. till service time. Burial will follow at Crestlawn Memorial Park. Arrangements by Roller-McNutt funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Paul’s memory to the U.C.A. Memorial Endowment Scholarship or the Tidwell Veterans Scholarship ( or call 501-450-5288).

Roller-McNutt / Conway
8th and Vine, P.O. Box 249, Conway, AR
Phone: 501-374-2731

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Home BancShares, Inc. to Present at the Raymond James 40th Annual Institutional Investors Conference

CONWAY, Ark., Feb. 27, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Home BancShares, Inc. (NASDAQ GS: HOMB) (“Home” or “the Company”), and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Centennial Bank (“Centennial”), announced today that it would participate as a presenter at the Raymond James 40th Annual Institutional Investors Conference held in Orlando, Florida, March 3-6, 2019.

Home BancShares, Inc. will present at 8:50 a.m. CT (9:50 a.m. ET), on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. The conference presentation can be accessed through the company’s website,, under Investor Relations. A replay of the presentation will be available for 7 days following the live presentation at the following link:

Home BancShares, Inc. is a bank holding company, headquartered in Conway, Arkansas. Its wholly-owned subsidiary, Centennial Bank, provides a broad range of commercial and retail banking plus related financial services to businesses, real estate developers, investors, individuals and municipalities. Centennial Bank has branch locations in Arkansas, Florida, South Alabama and New York City. The Company’s common stock is traded through the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “HOMB.”

This release contains forward-looking statements regarding the Company’s plans, expectations, goals and outlook for the future. Statements in this press release that are not historical facts should be considered forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements of this type speak only as of the date of this news release. By nature, forward-looking statements involve inherent risk and uncertainties. Various factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following: economic conditions, credit quality, interest rates, loan demand, the ability to successfully integrate new acquisitions, increased regulatory requirements as a result of our exceeding $10 billion in total assets, legislative and regulatory changes, technological changes and cybersecurity risks, competition from other financial institutions, changes in the assumptions used in making the forward-looking statements, and other factors described in reports we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including those factors set forth in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2018 filed with the SEC on February 26, 2019.


Home BancShares, Inc.
Donna TownsellSenior Executive Vice President &
Director of Investor Relations
(501) 328-4625

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Billy Lee Brazear

Billy Lee Brazear, 87, of Conway, died February 25, 2019. Born December 11, 1931 in Conway, he was the son of Sylvester and Bessie Johnson Brazear. Billy was a member of Cadron Ridge Baptist and retired from Ward’s Body Works after 47 years of service. He loved gardening and reading the Bible.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Norma Jo; four brothers, Jack, Russell, Charles and Jauline; six sisters, Lucille Tarkington, Pauline Cargile, Floy McPhearson, Myrtle Cupit, Helen Paulos, and Betty Jo White. He is survived by his son, Billy K. Brazear (Wanda) of Clinton, Arkansas and a host of nieces and nephews.

Graveside services will be 1 p.m. Friday, March 1st at Caney Cemetery, Hwy. 286, Conway, Arkansas with Rev. Stanley Sutterfield officiating. Memorials may be made to Cadron Baptist Church, 2980 Old Morrilton Highway, Conway, Ark. 72032. To sign the online guestbook, go to

Griffin Leggett Healey & Roth
5800 West 12th Street, Little Rock
Phone: 501-661-9111

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Curtis Wilburn Edmondson

Curtis Wilburn Edmondson, 80, of Conway, Arkansas passed away at his home surrounded by family on February 12, 2019. He was born on January 2, 1939 in Lonoke, Arkansas to the late Glyn and Geneva Edmondson.

Curtis was retired from FMC and Polyvend. He enjoyed spending time with family, listening to Elvis and fishing. He was an avid Dallas Cowboy’s fan and enjoyed watching NASCAR and sitting in his favorite chair with his pug, Tuffy Romo. In his younger years he was known for his athletic ability especially in football and track. Curtis was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years Pat Brown Edmondson, his children, Kelli Wilson (John); Tonia Walsh (Tommy); Rowdy (Shelly) all of Conway, AR; sister, Sue Parks (Bobby); brother, Larry Edmondson both of Lonoke, Ark. Also survived by his grandchildren, Zach (Zach-O), Alex, Whitney (Ryan), Haley (Justin), Jack, Justin, Patrick, and Samantha.

Visitation will be held at 1-2 p.m., Friday, February 15 at Grace Presbyterian Church, 1010 Hogan Lane, Conway, Ark. 72034. On behalf of Curtis’s request he has asked for jeans and casual dress attire. A celebration of life service will be held 2 p.m., Friday, February 15th at Grace Presbyterian Church with Joe Pruett officiating.

In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials made to Alzheimer’s Arkansas, Faulkner County, and P.O. Box 758, Conway, Ark. 72033. Online Guestbook available at

Roller-McNutt / Conway
8th and Vine, P.O. Box 249, Conway, AR
Phone: 501-374-2731

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AR Firefighters Seek Ruling on Promised Salary Increases

Conway firefighters have sued the city seeking money for salary increase they were promised as a result of increased sales tax.

Normal Conway AR

Conway, Ark. Jan. 29–Attorneys representing local police and firemen are asking a circuit judge to find the city of Conway at fault and declare it liable for money that police and fire department employees were promised but reportedly did not receive for a number of years.

A motion for summary judgment was filed in circuit court in December and, on Thursday, attorneys representing the city of Conway were granted more time to respond to the request made by plaintiffs in the matter.

The lawsuit stems from a Conway City Council-approved quarter-cent (0.25 percent) sales tax that was to be used "exclusively to the salaries of the employees of the City of Conway," according to the ballot resolution that was passed by Conway voters in August 2001. Employees allege they did not receive money they were promised.

A formal complaint regarding the unpaid monies was filed in 2012, and in December 2015, Circuit Judge Troy B. Braswell gave the green light for the case to move forward as a class-action lawsuit. During the 2015 hearing, Braswell also struck down the plaintiffs’ argument that money was illegally spent on the city’s behalf for other purposes rather than improving police and firefighters’ pay.

The certified class includes about 200 police and fire employees that were employed with the city between Dec. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2012. Attorneys representing the city’s police and firemen argue a summary judgment is necessary and appropriate because dispositions of parties involved in the suit "clearly show that there are no genuine issues of material fact."

The city should be held liable, attorneys Thomas Thrash and Russell Wood said, because it was "contractually obligated to pay its police officers and firefighters in accordance with the pay scales adopted by the city council on December 1, 2001" but did not do so.

According to the recent motion for summary judgment, they city distributed the same pay grid to employees prior to hire and others already employed and told each the grid represented their salaries.However, the motion claims employees were not compensated accordingly.

Several employees, agreed to take the initial pay cuts working for either the Conway police or fire department because there was more money promised in coming years.

"Unfortunately, the City ended up breaking its promises," the motion for summary judgment reads in part. "Although the City for a number of years made good on its pledge to honor the mandatory, and ‘automatic,’ step raises, it refused in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to approve yearly salary increases pursuant to the Pay Grids for Police Officers and Firefighters."

The step raises were to be paid for through the 0.25 percent sales tax increase passed in August 2001 by Conway voters because "police officers and firefighters [were] being cherry picked by higher-paying departments in the Central Arkansas area," according to a statement by former Conway Mayor Tab Townsell.

"This impacted public safety, given that the loss of ‘better trained employees to other departments’ made it necessary to ‘backfill them … with less trained’ personnel," Townsell reportedly admitted during a disposition with the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

An investigator with the Conway Police Department said during a disposition that he was assured he would receive a higher pay in accordance with the step grid, which "played a major part in [his] decision to accept the job."

A Conway firefighter also said he "relied on the pay scale when making [the] decision to accept the employment offered by the City of Conway … or [were] subject to the pay scale after [their] hiring and relied on said pay scale to continue employment," according to a disposition affidavit.

Since the step-grid sales tax was adopted 17 years ago, it "has generated annual revenues in the millions … accounting for over $3.2 million in 2012 alone," according to court documents.

Several employees "have over time expressed frustration that Conway has defaulted" on its promise and have sent letters and emails to city officials regarding the matter through the years.

The plaintiffs assert they believe the city "will attempt to excuse its failure to make yearly step increases by claiming that the raises were conditioned upon the ‘availability’ of funds." However, "the funds were available," according to the motion for summary judgment.

Thrash told the Log Cabin Democrat that claims against the city are estimated at more than $2 million. Last month, a mediation to attempt to reach a settlement was held in Little Rock. However, the city did not agree to settle the matter and now the case will continue to trial later this year.

"The city did not agree to settle the case, therefore, the case is going to trial," Thrash said.

Defendants in the matter have until Feb. 22 to respond to the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, per an order signed Thursday by Judge Braswell.

A hearing before Braswell is currently scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. April 23, and a week-long jury trial is set to begin on May 6.

___ (c)2019 Log Cabin Democrat, Conway, Ark.

Visit Log Cabin Democrat, Conway, Ark. at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Normal Conway AR
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Other days

100 years ago

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• Falling into the elevator shaft of the Donaghey building from the fourth floor yesterday morning, the Rev. J. T. Howell, aged 50, Baptist minister for the Pulaski County Baptist Association, was instantly killed. Nearly every bone in his body was crushed in the fall. Miss Mabel Powell, in charge of the elevator, was prostrated by the accident and was removed to her home, where she has been under the care of physicians.

50 years ago

Jan. 31, 1969

• After defeating four more amendments offered by Senator Guy H. (Mutt) Jones of Conway, the Arkansas Senate approved a bill (SB 52) at 5:30 p.m. Thursday authorizing a merger of Little Rock University with the University of Arkansas. The vote was 26-8. Jones, who favors elevating State College at Conway to university status rather than locating a state university at Little Rock, had stalled the bill for most of two days with consideration of amendments.

25 years ago

Jan. 31, 1994

McGEHEE — Floodwaters receded here over the weekend, and residents began to move back into homes that had been flooded since Thursday. More than 100 families were forced to flee their homes late last week after three days of steady rains. The Sherland Addition on the west side of town was the hardest hit. The McGehee Police Department reported as much as 4/4 feet of water in some areas of the subdivision. Mayor Rosalie Gould said Sunday that 49 houses, most in the Sherland Addition, suffered heavy damage in the flood. About 85 other houses suffered lesser damage, she said. Gould said many residents were cleaning out their flooded homes Sunday, but she didn’t know how many had managed to move back in.

10 years ago

Jan. 31, 2009

• Little Rock City Directors are being advised to sell Ray Winder Field to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, a potential $1.1 million deal that would keep the medical school from expanding into midtown neighborhoods. Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson said the medical school is one of the city’s top employers and draws patients from around the world. It would be the best fit for the former Arkansas Travelers ball field property that sits a few blocks west of the 73-acre campus, he said. Members of a city advisory board chose the medical school proposal over a proposed expansion of the Little Rock Zoo or creation of a nonprofit baseball program, other options under consideration for the property.

Metro on 01/31/2019

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Millions donated to an Arkansas university

Biggest donation in UCA’s history will help many students.

CONWAY, AR (KAIT) -A university received a donation that will make a huge difference in the lives of its students.

Representatives with the University of Central Arkansas announced on Jan. 22 that the largest donation in over 100 years of their existence had been given to them.

The Windgate Foundation donated $20 million for the creation of the new, state of the art Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

The 114,000 square foot facility will include 44,000 square feet for art space, an exterior space for three-dimensional art, an art gallery, a 450-seat concert hall and a proscenium theatre.

“The Department of Art was one of the original eight departments when UCA was established in 1907, and it remains a high priority for us as we look to the future,” President Davis said. “Today, more than 250 students major or minor in art, and another 750 majors in the other fine arts and communication areas. Student enrollment for all departments has remained at capacity for the past decade. This gift will allow us to fulfill the facilities and scholarship needs that are worthy of our outstanding faculty and students. We will be able to help more students earn degrees in art and related disciplines, while also graduating a workforce of creative problem solvers, critical thinkers, and independent learners. We thank Windgate Foundation for their partnership and incredible show of confidence in UCA’s vision for the arts.”

The remainder of the project will be funded through additional private gifts and other resources, for a total estimated cost of $45 million.

The remaining $1 million from Windgate will be added to the current Windgate Scholarship Fund, which was established within the UCA Foundation in 2005.

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