De Queen Area News

Council approves $152,500 water plant project
Council approves $152,500 project

City to modernize water treatment plant, look at wage increase

By Patrick Massey

A project to modernize De Queen's water infrastructure and a proposal to increase the wages of some city employees was the main items up for discussion during the De Queen City Council's meeting Tuesday night.

Alderman jumped right into business with a presentation from city engineer Greg Vaughn, of Vaughn Engineering in Mena, on a plan to add a remote monitoring and control system to the city's water plant on Bennett Street.

City officials targeted the system, called supervisory control and data acquisition or SCADA for short, earlier this year as a way to modernize the water plant's operations. The SCADA system will also licensed operators to monitor and control certain operations of the water plant using a laptop or other mobile, internet-capable device.

The system will replace an existing telephone communication line, which does not allow remote monitoring and which has only worked sporadically since the summer of 2014. Currently city employees must travel the 12 miles several times a day to the water pump on the Cossatot River to keep it in proper communication with the rest of the water plant.

"With the SCADA system the [water department] guys won't have to make all those trips, so that alone will save the city some fuel costs and time," said Vaughn.

Most cities in Arkansas already operate SCADA systems in their water plants. The software allows plant employees to monitor the plant anywhere they are able to connect to the internet. Vaughn said SCADA includes dual passwords and a notification system to prevent unauthorized access to the data and plant controls.

"This is something you really need to do," Vaughn told council members Tuesday night. "Most cities have a system like this already so we'd be catching up by getting one ourselves. It's going to do a lot for the efficiency of the plant and the employees."

To read the complete article, please see the Sept. 3 edition of The De Queen Bee.

Sep 9, 2015, 09:34

Sevier County Sheriff’s Office recovers stolen Okla. vehicle
DE QUEEN – Investigators with the Sevier County Sheriff's Office have arrested a De Queen man suspected of involvement in the theft of a vehicle in McCurtain County last week.

According to a report released by the sheriff's office, local investigators were contacted on Aug. 19 by the McCurtain County Oklahoma Sheriff's Office in reference to a vehicle stolen earlier that day in Broken Bow. The vehicle - a 2005 GMC Sierrra - had been discovered in a ditch on Highway 24 west of Horatio.

McCurtain County deputies arrived with a suspect believed to be involved in the theft. The man was identified as 29-year-old Joshua Paul Burcham of De Queen.

According to the report, Burcham told investigators he had been driving the stolen truck. He said he had purchased the truck from another man earlier that day for $120. Despite being told by the man that the truck had to be hot-wired to start, Burcham told investigators he had no suspicions that the truck was stolen.

The owner arrived at the scene to reclaim the truck and informed investigators that a Razor ATV had also been stolen from her.

Burcham was arrested and charged with felony theft by receiving. He is currently being held in the Sevier County Jail. The case remains under investigation by the Sevier County and McCurtain County Sheriff's Offices. Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to call (870) 642-2125.

Aug 28, 2015, 08:56

Sevier County Leadership Class seeking applicants for next program
DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Leadership Class is now taking applications for its third year of training both active and aspiring leaders in the community.

The program, endorsed through the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce, was created in 2014 to help Sevier County formulate its next generation of community leaders. By instilling people in the community with a sense of leadership in both their professional and personal lives, organizers hoped the community will benefit into the future.

So far 14 local people from various sectors of the community have participated in the program.

This year's class will see a change in organization. Program founder Fonda Hawthorne announced she would be unable to head the class for another year. Those duties have been picked up by Lawrence Allen Wishard of De Queen, a graduate of last year's leadership class.

"I felt it was a great program and didn't want to see it go, so I decided I would do my best to keep it going," said Wishard, who serves on the De Queen City Council and is a funeral director for Chandler Funeral Home. "I saw first hand how beneficial the program was and think others would benefit from it as well."

To read the complete article, please see the Aug. 6 edition of The De Queen Bee.

Aug 13, 2015, 09:50

Rising music star from Gillham hasn’t forgotten local roots
By Patrick Massey

Rising Success - Gillham native Charlie Farley is seeing his musical career takeoff, with the recent release of his debut album and performances scheduled across the country. Farley refuses, however, to lose touch with the area that’s inspired much of his music.

A rising music artist from Gillham says he is maintaining his "Cossatot River" roots even as his career is rocketing across the national entertainment scene.

Charlie Farley released his debut album, "Hog Heaven," earlier this month after much anticipation by local fans and others across the country. In just one month he's performed in Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri - and the gigs keep coming. Despite his increasing success, Farley hasn't lost touch with the area where he grew up and continues to live.

"This is home and it always will be," said Farley. "I grew up on the Cossatot as a kid, floating the river, hunting, fishing with my grandfather, hanging with friends. That's the way of life that's inspired me and my music."

Indeed, much of Farley's music focuses on what makes life great in southwest Arkansas - riding the backroads, living in the country and enjoying the outdoors.

Farley's style of music has been described as a fusion of county and hip-hop - "southern swagger with a backwoods twist." It's not a huge genre, but Farley is sending out some serious waves through his music. HIs style may not be one people are used to hearing, but Farley says most listeners will find something to like in his music.

To read the complete article, please see the July 23 edition of The De Queen Bee.

Jul 25, 2015, 14:10

Local couple opens cabins in Kellum
By Doug Dunson

"We were looking for a little something to supplement our retirement," explained Queta Bryan.

Retirement means different things to different people. For Queta and husband Gene it means an an endeavor that, while it may not turn northwest Sevier County into a national tourist destination, will increase opportunities for R and R in the county.

The initial phase of that endeavor has been completed. The Bryans, long time residents of the Kellum area, have opened LES Farms Getaway Cabins in that community west of De Queen Lake. Currently two cabins are available, the smaller with one bedroom and the larger with two. As the name implies, the cabins are available to rent by anyone wanting to get away for a while. They are located on Mountain Road, just north of Bellah Mine Road.

The Bryans decided about a year and half ago to make their plans a reality. Work on the cabins began on in May 2014 and finished in February of this year. "It was just like a jungle when we started," Queta recalled.

However at this point in time, "The cabins are just like little houses. They're fully furnished, just bring your personal items," she said.

To read the complete article, please see the July 23 edition of The De Queen Bee.

Jul 24, 2015, 14:14

Annual report shows child poverty high in Arkansas
The 2015 KIDS COUNT® Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation points out that more than 200,000 children are living in poverty in Arkansas. That's almost 30 percent - close to one third - of all children in the state. The child poverty rate has gone up four percentage points since 2008, when the U.S. economy was in the midst of a recession. But there is good news. Arkansas is showing improvement in children’s health.

The 2015 Kids Count Data Book measures child well-being in four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Today, the Casey Foundation reveals that the rising tide of recovery has left stagnant pockets of low-income, struggling communities and families. Arkansas dropped to 44th according to the latest data. The state was ranked 41st a year ago.
wenty nine percent of Arkansas children live in poverty. The national average is 22 percent. Arkansas also lost ground in the education rankings. Fifty five percent of Arkansas children are not enrolled in any type of pre-K program. That’s up from 53 percent a year ago.

The state gave pre-K programs a $3 million funding bump last legislative session after ignoring the program’s growing need for eight years. The Data Book lists early childhood education as a possible solution to some of the problems outlined in the report.
One area where the state does very well is health coverage for kids.

Only six percent of Arkansas children do not have health insurance, due mostly to the state’s Medicaid program known as ARKids First.
“We have, as a state, made a very concerted effort on kids’ health going back to the late 90s,” says Rich Huddleston, executive director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

“In fact, this is an area where ARKids has been so effective in covering kids that we may not see that number move for a while. This just shows you what can happen when we truly invest in the future of our children. Arkansas can be a national leader in this area. I think, and the report concludes this as well, that we need to put this kind of effort into pre-K. That’s an area where we can really make some improvements.”

For the first time in a decade, a non-New England state ranks number one for overall child well-being. Minnesota holds the top spot, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, and Vermont. Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi rank lowest.

According to the report, too many minority children are on the brink of poverty in Arkansas. The economy is showing signs of recovery for some, but not for African American, Latino and American Indian children. There is a widening gap that is leaving children of color behind.

“The stark reality is that millions of children, particularly African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians live on the precipice of poverty,” says Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Today, as the economy recovers, we see a widening gap between the living standards of many children of color and other kids. The good news is when we’ve invested in the right strategies and policies – like ARKids First in Arkansas – we have made a difference for kids.”

Child poverty won’t be an easy problem to tackle. The Casey Foundation offers a number of recommendations in the report to make good on the American promise of opportunity for all children. The Foundation promotes a two-generation strategy that simultaneously addresses the needs of children directly while providing tools and resources to their parents. Three critical strategies include:
•Provide parents with multiple pathways to get family-supporting jobs and achieve financial stability.
•Ensure access to high-quality early childhood education and enriching elementary school experiences.
•Equip parents to better support their children socially and emotionally and to advocate for their kids' education.

Jul 23, 2015, 14:16

Registration open for disabled and impaired hunting on Gillham Lake
GILLHAM LAKE – The Army Corps of Engineers will take applications through Sept. 1 for the 2015 special deer hunts that provide accessibility to disabled military and mobility impaired hunters.

Applicants can apply for up to three different hunting locations throughout Arkansas. Eligible applicants must suffer from paralysis, amputation of a limb, or at least 50 percent physical disability. Those suffering from paralysis or amputation are not required to be active or retired military.

Applicants must submit a completed application form and doctor's letter to be eligible. A drawing will be held in September to select hunters. Please request applications and refer specific questions to each lake's point of contact listed below.

The 2015 Disabled Military and Mobility Impaired hunting schedule on Gillham Lake will be Nov. 20-22. This will be a muzzleloader hunt. For more information contact Victor Kuykendall at (870) 584-4161.

On Lake Greeson, a muzzleloader hunt will be held Oct. 8-9. Call Marty Reynolds at (870) 285-2151 ext. 5003 for more information.
On Ouachita Lake, a muzzleloader hunt will be held Nov. 21-22. Call Joe Bailey at (501) 767-2108 ext. 73079 for more information.

Jul 23, 2015, 14:15

Tax-free weekend slated for Aug. 1-2
Arkansas' second tax free weekend is scheduled for August 1-2, 2015. The timing of the event is ideal for parents who need to pick up school supplies, art supplies, clothing, shoes, and other back-to-school shopping items.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, the sales tax holiday allows shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain School Supplies, School Art Supplies, School Instructional Materials, and clothing free of state and local sales or use tax.

All retailers are required to participate and may not charge tax on items that are legally tax-exempt during the Sales Tax Holiday.

State and local sales tax will not be collected during this 48-hour period on the sale of:
(1) Clothing and footwear if the sales price is less than one hundred dollars ($100) per item;
(2) Clothing accessories and equipment if the sales price is less than fifty dollars ($50) per item;
(3) School supplies;
(4) School art supplies; and
(5) School instructional materials.

Keep in mind, too, that some items will still be taxed during Arkansas' sales tax holiday. For example, many sporting goods are not tax exempt in Arkansas, such as ballet shoes, shoulder pads, and cleats.

For more information, visit or contact a customer service representative by phone Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at (501) 682-7104.

Jul 23, 2015, 14:15

Improvements, damage-related repairs are focus of DQ School Board meeting
Playground Improvements – De Queen Schools Maintenance Director Joe Valley, Lana Van Voast of LJ Excavating and De Queen Primary PTO President Jennifer Martin examine possible locations for new equipment for the primary school playground. The De Queen school board approved the project at its July meeting.

DE QUEEN – It was a long agenda for Monday's July meeting of the De Queen School Board

In usual business the board paid the monthly bills and approved the minutes of last month's meeting, plus a special meeting.

The board members approved a district policy for dyslexia intervention. The board adopted the Susan Barton program which is used by most schools in the area. Supt. Bruce Hill said the program has been in use for three years at the Flippin district with impressive results.
In other policy matters, the board approved the handbook for the English as a Second Language program.

An expansion of the playground at the elementary school was approved. Hill told the board that the primary school's PTO had raised $2,500 to purchase equipment and the district would furnish $2,600 to buy pea gravel and borders.

The last stage of improvements at the baseball/softball complex got the okay from the board. A $66,000 bid from Tri Lakes Construction was accepted to replace the backstops at both fields with a brick wall at ground level with a net above it. Tri Lakes will also install french drains for the low areas of the playing fields gratis with the district supplying the equipment.

After an executive session, four resignations and eight hires were approved. The resignations included: Corinna Tun, Spanish; Cassie Baker, FACS; Louisa Escobedo, house keeper; and Susanna Martinez, cafeteria. The new personnel include: Jessica Vega, fifth grade science; Shelly Feemster, fifth grade literacy; Ester Gomez, Spanish; Joseph Parson, junior high social studies and athletics; Beverly Maxwell, kindergarten; Lisa Bender, primary librarian; Jordan McMellon, FACS; and Gayle Tollett, ISS.

Three student transfers were approved. One is a student living in Gillham to De Queen from Cossatot River. The other two students, from De Queen to Horatio, are siblings who have never attended De Queen, but the family recently moved in the De Queen district.
The signatures of Joe Coulter and Linda Quinn were approved for the Lockesburg scholarship program's signature card at the Bank of Lockesburg.

Hill reported that three buses purchased by the district have arrived and are ready for use. The buses, which cost $72,000 total, have approximately 10,000 miles each. The superintendent said they were used in Oklahoma City and have never been on a dirt road.

Maintenance director Joe Valley gave a lengthy report of the district's summer projects. The annual floor cleaning and waxing is in progress. Installation of carpet at the new primary school is on schedule.

A large amount of work is being done at the old elementary building. Valley said the outside has been painted, with some trim work remaining. New lights have been installed in the halls. Work is about half complete on retiling the hall floors. Door knobs are being replaced to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Weather has had a serious impact on the district's facilities. Valley said that most of the limbs downed by last spring's storms have been removed. With the unusually wet weather, Valley reported "Grass is a major issue this year." The heavy rains also brought some roof leaks, mostly in the high school he noted. The weather has also delayed the arrival of sod for the football field.

The date of the next monthly meeting of the board was set for Aug. 10.

Jul 23, 2015, 14:00

Investigation continues into stolen card numbers at First State Bank in DQ
DE QUEEN – State and local law enforcement agencies are continuing their investigation into the theft of debit card numbers belonging to clients of First State Bank in De Queen and several other regional banks.

Tthe hack was not a breach of the bank but rather specifically targeted several accounts held by the bank's clients. Similar to the Target incident last year, criminals gained entry to the accounts by uploading malware into the card reading machines at some retailers which illegally recorded the card's information. The information was placed on a website and sold to other criminals. They then reproduced the cards which were used to purchase prepaid credit cards from stores like Walmart.
The hack, said a bank official familiar with cybersecurity, was sophisticated and virtually untraceable.

The bank has reimbursed everyone affected by the hacked accounts. Clients who believe they were victims of the hack are asked to fill out a report for fraudulent activity in their account.

Bank officials are continuing to work with police investigators to determine who was behind the breached accounts. Investigators are also working with the involved retailers.

Jul 11, 2015, 10:44