De Queen Area News

School board hires new assist. superintendent
Board also accepts resignations of multiple long-time teachers, discusses end of scholarship lawsuit

By Patrick Massey

The De Queen School Board hired a new assistant superintendent and accepted the resignations of multiple long-time teachers of the district during its monthly meeting Monday night.

District Superintendent Bruce Hill said the board hired Paul Shelton to replace current assistant superintendent Judi Jenkins, who will retire at the end of the school year.
Shelton, who currently serves as the superintendent of the Caddo Hills School District, will takeover his new duties in De Queen starting July 1.

The district also hired Brian Hanney as a vocational agriculture teacher for the high school, and Amy Wedehase as a 10th grade English teacher.
The board then accepted the resignations of eight teachers, mostly from the district's high school who have reached retirement age.

"These resignations are mostly because the teachers have reached the required years for retirement," said Hill. "These are some of your longest-serving teachers so it's definitely hurts to loss them."

The accepted resignations include Marsha Lofton, Judy Clowers, Karen Trammell, Marybeth Harmon, Kathryn Coulter, Peggy Hill, Sandra Jackson and Brenda Dickerson.

Hill also reported during the school board meeting that the ongoing lawsuit between the district and the Arkansas Community Foundation (ACF) has finally been settled.

To read the complete article, please see the April 10 edition of The De Queen Bee.

Apr 9, 2014, 10:38

Keeping an extra eye out
De Queen Junior High installing new security system

By Patrick Massey

Camera Crew– Marvin Stamps, BJ Brooks (kneeling) and Gerry Batty (on ladder) with the De Queen School District's maintenance department install a camera bracket part of the junior high school's new security system. School officials say the new system will add to security and aid as a means of deterring or dealing with instances of bullying.

Students at De Queen Junior High will have a few extra eyes watching them once the school completes installation of a new surveillance system this year.

The new cameras will replace the existing system deemed obsolete by school officials. Paid for through a grant provided by improvement funds from State Representative Fonda Hawthorne's office, the new surveillance system includes 16 cameras and the software to operate them.

The live video feed can be accessed by school officials or on-site law enforcement. The cameras, which offer high-definition color and infrared capability, are being installed in the junior high's entrances, halls and parking lot.

Administrators say the new system is leaps and bounds ahead of the school's existing security monitors.

"What we had was old and obsolete," said Assistant Principal Jeff Holcombe, who wrote and successfully applied for the $17,500 grant. The company that set up the system went out of business years ago, so tech support has been limited to say the least. "We had a problem with the system one time and I had to talk to someone in Sweden to get it resolved," Holcombe said.

The district had hoped to replace the entire system sooner but preliminary estimates put the cost at around $300,000 - or $50,000 for each of the district's six schools. Holcombe, when applying for the grant, figured he could cut the cost by using in-house employees to install the new security system. By using the school's maintenance personnel and tech department to configure the cameras, Holcombe said the entire cost of outfitting the junior high will be around $20,000.

To read the complete article, please see the April 10 edition of The De Queen Bee.

Apr 9, 2014, 10:35

Attempted break-in at Horatio residence
HORATIO – The Sevier County Sheriff's Office is investigating an attempted residential break-in at a home near Horatio over the weekend.

According to report received on April 5, the owner of a residence on 789 Williamson Loop reported someone had tried entering the home between 2-4:30 that afternoon. The wanna-be burglar was unable to gain entry despite the door being unlocked, the owner reported.

The owner said she did not notice any damage to her home or anything missing, though the burglar knocked a sliding-glass door off of its hinge.

A relative of the owner told investigators he saw a man running away from a nearby abandoned building. He described the man as white, approximately 5'9" to 6'1'', and wearing a white and blue striped shirt and a red hat. The witness said the man entered a silver, early 2000s-model two-door car, possibly a Ford.

Anyone with information on the attempted break-in should contact the Sevier County Sheriff's Office at (870) 642-2125.

Apr 9, 2014, 10:34

City, Pilgrim's efforts making difference in chicken plant's wastewater
By Patrick Massey

Getting better - This picture demonstrates the extreme difference in recent weeks, with the left most jar containing Pilgrim's wastewater collected this morning. The jar on the far right is dated to Feb. 25 - the same month the city of De Queen levied a $80,000 surcharge on the poultry company.

Effluent from Pilgrim's processing plant in De Queen is returning to manageable levels after months of excessive waste levels that had the city's seven-year-old treatment facility operating at twice its normal capacity.

This picture demonstrates the extreme difference in recent weeks, with the left most jar containing Pilgrim's wastewater collected this morning. The jar on the far right is dated to Feb. 25 - the same month the city of De Queen levied a $80,000 surcharge on the poultry company. Another $89,000 surcharge in March more than covered the costs of installing a hydrogen peroxide system to increase the efficiency of the plant's aerobic microbial treatment process.

Using the hydrogen peroxide as a long-term solution could prove expensive, and a true fix will have to come from the company itself, say city officials. In the last few week's Pilgrim's has resolved some of the issues and greatly eased the burden on the sewer plant.

"It's like night and day," said Mike Sims, who manages De Queen's sewer treatment facility. At one point feathers and parts of chicken organs were making their way to the sewer plant, despite it passing through Pilgrim's own pre-treatment process - now the waste is returning to normal. "They're definitely working on it because we're looking at [effluent] numbers that haven't been this low in a while."

Sims said he has been in daily contact with an environmental engineer from the company who recently visited the processing plant. Despite phone calls and several emails to company officials, Pilgrim's has so far not commented publicly on the situation. City officials have been assured however that the company is installing additional screening systems and has a complete upgrade for the plant's offal department scheduled in May.

The city hopes the recent trend will continue and waste levels will be drop to regular normals.

Apr 9, 2014, 10:30

Health unit expansion nears completion
Public reminded of services during April 7-13 National Health Week

By Patrick Massey

Health Week – The Sevier County Health Unit, located on N. Fourth Street in De Queen, is reminding the public of the many services it offers during the 2014 National Public Health Week, which runs April 7-13. Work is also nearing completion on the clinic’s expansion. (Photo submitted by Teresa Morris)

Construction is just a few months shy of completion at the Sevier County Health Unit whose role and need for space has only grown in recent years.

Workers started last May constructing a 4,000 square-foot expansion to the health unit's existing offices on Fourth Street in De Queen. The expanded facility will allow health officials to reorganize the department and increase its efficiency. The project is being funded through a combined $560,000 grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Council and the Arkansas Department of Health.

Although no new services will join once construction is finished, Administrator Teresa Morris said the extra room is sorely needed.

"This is going to about double our space and it'll be well used," she said. "We'll be able to get all our clinic space on the same side of the building and help us be more efficient."

The addition will also give the department a place to store its expansive medical records. Currently those records are stored on shelves crowded into the clinic's main office which, employees admit, can make traversing through the building similar to a maze. Like many other providers, the health unit has started transferring its records to an electronic format. Now patients from, say, northwest Arkansas who need local health unit services can have their records transferred almost instantaneously.

To read the complete article, please see the April 10 edition of The De Queen Bee.

Apr 9, 2014, 10:30

Friday is last day for city cleanup week
DE QUEEN – City residents still have a couple of days to take advantage of the De Queen Cleanup week.

During clean-up week, city crews will be available to pick up brush and large items such as furniture or appliances. You can get on the clean-up list by calling De Queen City Hall at 584-3445. Items for pickup should be placed at the edge of the street.

Discarded electronics and unused paint will be collected at the De Queen Fire Station.

Electronic items will be transported to the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana for recycling and reclamation.
E-waste is accepted at the fire station only during clean-up weeks.

recycling trailer at the waste collection station at the Sevier County Airport and it is open three days per week.

Apr 9, 2014, 10:29

Unattended death at DQ residence
DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office took a report of an unattended death around 12:20 p.m. on Friday, April 11 at a residence in De Queen.

According to a report released Monday, Darrell Leeper, 50, of Gillham, was found in a barn on 115 Bingham Lane lying down in a pool of water. Leeper would not respond and emergency personnel were unable to revive him.

Coroner Lawrence Chandler pronounced Leeper dead at the scene. Investigators do not suspect any foul play and say death was likely due to natural causes.

Apr 9, 2014, 10:28

Law enforcement warns drivers of crackdown on texting and driving
Local and state law enforcement say a crackdown on texting and driving will begin April 10. Fines can be as high as $100.

DE QUEEN – It's distracting. It's dangerous. And many people can't help but do it.
Texting while driving is a growing trend with just about everyone these days carrying a cell phone, but local and state law enforcement are warning drivers that they will be cracking down on the offense.
“U Drive. U text. U Pay.” is the name of the initiative set to begin Thursday and run through Tuesday, the Arkansas State Police said. Law enforcement agencies will have extra patrols watching for violators during the period.
Arkansas law prohibits texting while driving, regardless of the driver’s age. It is also a “primary offense law,” which means an officer can initiate a traffic stop without observing any other violation. Fines can be as high as $100.
State law also prohibits drivers from using hand-held cell phones while traveling through school or highway work zones and prohibits any driver under the age of 18 from using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.
Drivers age 18-20 who use a cell phone are required to use a hands-free device. Fines can be as high as $50 and can be doubled if the violation occurs in a highway work zone when workers are present.

Apr 9, 2014, 10:24

Closings in observance of Easter
DE QUEEN – Some area businesses and most government offices will be closed April 18 in observance of Good Friday.

The City of De Queen City Hall will be closed. The garbage schedule for the week will be:

Monday and Tuesday will remain the same.
Thursday will be picked up on Wednesday.
Friday will be picked up on Thursday.
The Sevier County Courthouse will close at noon.

Apr 9, 2014, 10:22

Donation – Tommi Cobb, foreground, and Zebbie Minton of UA Cossatot-De Queen prepare to give blood during a LifeShare blood drive event at the college on April 3. Around 20 people turned out to donate blood. The LifeShare’s mobile blood donation center will be at the De Queen Pilgrim’s processing plant on April 25 starting at noon. The center will be parked in the plant parking lot so anyone from the community can stop by and donate. (Photo by Patrick Massey)

Apr 9, 2014, 10:14