De Queen Area News

Work progresses on art center in De Queen
By Patrick Massey

Going Up – A crew from Jerry Bayles Construction in Gillham has begun restoring the facade of what will soon be the Fusion Art Center. Expected opening in 2016.

Work is continuing on what will be one of De Queen's newest and most cultured attractions - an art center located in Historic downtown De Queen.

Legacy Initiatives, a locally-based community development group, announced last year plans to develop a non-profit arts center in the former Young Expressions building in downtown De Queen as part of an effort to revitalize the courthouse square and promote the arts throughout the area.

"One thing we really want for this community is exposure and access to art," said Chad Gallagher, who founded Legacy Initiatives. "We want a place where our young people can play the violin, show off their art or do some woodworking because those are things you can do for a lifetime."

Construction crews have been working on the interior of the building for some time, but local residents may have noticed this week further work to restore the building's exterior facade.

He said the arts center, titled Fusion, would work with local artist guilds like the Cossatot Arts and Crafts Associations (CACA) and area schools to provide an extra outlet for their talent. Artists whose works are displayed during the annual and highly popular CACA Art Show in King would be invited to display their work at the center.

To read the complete article, please see the March 19 edition of The De Queen Bee.

Mar 19, 2015, 09:28

Municipal court collections near $1M in 2014
By Patrick Massey

A costly year for defendants added up to a productive year for the courts in Sevier County.

The county's municipal court system processed nearly $1 million in fines, costs, fees and restitution in 2014, which marks another year of record collections according to court officials.

The disbursement totals released by the Sevier County District Court included payments processed for traffic, criminal, civil and juvenile cases. Of the $911,137 collected by the court in 2014, nearly half are fines for traffic offenses like speeding, not wearing a seat belt and driving without a license.

Criminal cases amounted to another $300,000. Fines imposed for driving while intoxicated alone made up over a tenth of the court's entire collections in 2014.

Tickets issued by the De Queen Police Department and Sevier County Sheriff's Office account for the vast majority of the fines collected last year, with both agencies issuing around $400,000 in offenses. Arkansas Game and Fish wildlife officers issued another $44,000 in citations.

Last year marked around a half decade streak of increased collections for the county district court. 2014's totals were up almost
$80,000 from the $830,000 collected in 2013. Last year's collections were nearly twice those of surrounding counties and closer in comparison to cities of 25,000 residents.

While it's clear that collections are increasing, what's not so easy to tell is why. The court's caseload has remained steady over the last few years, so an increase in defendants is not the cause. Judge Stephen Tedder, who presides over all cases heard in the Sevier County District Court, cautioned against pinpointing exactly what is behind the increased collections - there are simply too many variables to consider.

He suggested, however, that several trends may be responsible. For instance, law enforcement agencies are finding more success in serving outstanding warrants -which currently number 2,700 in the county, though many of these are issued for out-of-state residents.

Tedder said the court is also seeing more people come in to pay off fines using their income tax returns.

On a broader scale, Tedder added that the court benefits from having more interaction with its defendants. Unlike some courts in which defendants are often alloted an entire year to pay off their fines, those sentenced in Sevier County are required to pay monthly.

"I can still elect to give a defendant a year to pay, but even then we want them [in the court office] each month paying off their fines," he explained.

The court also offers defendants a voluntary wage assignment program, which automatically garnishes a portion of a defendant's paycheck to help them pay their fines.

"It's our time pay patterns and, generally speaking, our overall contact with defendants that I think has helped make this court as efficient as it is," Tedder said.

Tedder did stress that the court's responsibility is not monetary gain.

"The court is here to serve justice, not make money," he explained. "The collections show our court is operating efficiently, but people should know that serving justice is our only goal."

Mar 19, 2015, 09:27

Farmers Market sets first meeting of the year
DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Produce in the Park group will have a general meeting for all interested parties on Thursday, March 19 at 6 p.m. in the Herman Dierks Park Pavilion, just south of the 70-71 junction.

The Farmers Market is open to all local growers and home crafters from any county which touches Sevier, including the Arkansas counties of Howard, Polk, Hempstead, and Little River as well as McCurtain County in Oklahoma.

If you have a garden, raise honey bees, have poultry for eggs, are a home crafter, produce farm raised meat and/or dairy products, and have an interest in selling at the Sevier County Farmers Market this season, then this meeting is not one to miss. Organizers say the farmers market is the perfect opportunity for area residents to market the food and craft items they produce at home. More information will be provided at the meeting.

The Sevier County Farmer’s Market will begin this spring each Wednesday and Saturday at the shelter house in Herman Dierks Park. Markets begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until about 11 a.m., or until everything is sold out.

The farmers market has grown and seen much interest in the community since its start several years ago. As many as a dozen vendors have set up during open days and not much is left unsold by the time the market closes. Interested vendors can pay for a seasonal spot at the market or for each day they set up.

A grant attained by the group in 2013 allowed for the placement of farmers market signs at all four entrances to the city.

Mar 19, 2015, 09:26

Relay for Life activities underway
DE QUEEN — The Sevier County Relay for Life Committee is hoping to get area residents in the Relay spirit with a fundraiser to start next week.

Committee members are currently selling purple flamingos which individuals or businesses can purchase and have placed on the lawn of their choosing.

Committee chairperson Emmy Bailey said placing flamingos in someone's yard or business is a great way to prank someone you know while supporting cancer survivors and research.
Bailey said participants will also receive a luminary display for every $5 they spend on the flamingo fundraiser. The luminaries can be tailored to honor the person of your choosing and will be lit at the main Relay for Life event.

For more information on the fundraiser or to purchase flamingos, contact Bailey at (870) 784-3053.

Relay for Life, the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, is an all night event that raises money and cancer awareness.

The 2015 Sevier County Relay for Life has been tentatively scheduled for May 29 starting at 6 p.m. at the De Queen Sportsplex.
The event draws in hundreds of county residents each year. Teams from around the county will converge on the Sportsplex to walk and raise funds for cancer research and support efforts.

Visitors will have the chance to enjoy a variety of food, craft and health vendors set up during the event, as well as music by local bands.
The popular luminary lighting ceremony will again be held during the local Relay for Life event to honor and remember those who have fallen in the fight against cancer.

For more information, to volunteer or to set up a booth at the event, contact Sevier County Relay for Life coordinator Emmy Bailey at (870) 784-3035.

Bailey said there's plenty of time left for local folks to form a team and join in on the Relay for Life fundraiser on May 29.

"Anyone who wants to come out and help us raise funds is welcome," she said. "It's never too late to join."

Mar 19, 2015, 09:24

Longtime police officer sets out on second career with juvenile court system
Troy Cravens is new juvenile intake officer
after 28 years with De Queen Police Department

By Patrick Massey

Moving On – Troy Cravens, a 28 year veteran of the De Queen Police Department, retired earlier this year and is now pursuing a second career as the region’s new juvenile intake officer.

One of De Queen's longest serving police officers has set out on a new career with the region's juvenile court system.
Troy Cravens formally retired from the De Queen Police Department earlier this year, leaving behind a legacy of 28 years with the law enforcement agency.

"It's been a great experience with the police department, I made a lot of friends there and really the whole department became like an extension of my family," Cravens said.

The camaraderie shared between the officers is largely what kept Cravens in law enforcement for almost three decades.
"When I first started I didn't think I'd do it for more than a few months," said Cravens, who came to work at the DQPD after a five year stint as a radio DJ.

Before that, he served in the Air Force as a crew chief for a B-52 bomber.

"But I quickly came to appreciate the brotherhood in the police department. These guys became like family and we all shared the same goal - keeping De Queen safe, clean and quiet so it would continue being a nice place to live."

Yet, once Cravens reached 28 years with the department and full retirement benefits, he decided he was ready to embark on another career. Soon after retiring, Cravens was hired on as the full-time juvenile intake officer for Sevier, Howard, Pike and Little River Counties in the Ninth West Judicial District. He replaced former juvenile intake officer Emily Ashley, and moved the office from Ashdown to the Sevier County Courthouse.

To read the complete article, please see the March 12 edition of The De Queen Bee.

Mar 19, 2015, 09:20

Sevier County Airport approved for $770K taxiway grant
Parallel taxiway will ease traffic concerns on runway during
peak use; quorum court to front $150,000 for project

By Patrick Massey

The Sevier County Airport is set to receive another round of improvements after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently approved it for a grant worth over three-quarters of a million dollars.

The grant will add a parallel taxiway to the airport as well as lighting to aid pilots at night and in low visibility conditions. The project is the latest in a series of improvements to the airport, which in recent years included a new aircraft hanger, refurbished pilot lounge, a more efficient fueling system and the inclusion of a courtesy car for use by visiting pilots.

Airport officials said the parallel taxiway would be a vital addition.

"Really every airport needs one," said Dick Tallman, who serves as chairman of the airport's board of directors. "There are times, especially during the summer, when we have a lot of traffic on that runway and it would really help us to have a taxiway there to help keep that traffic flying smoothly."

For instance, several aerial firefighting contractors base their operations out of the Sevier County Airport throughout the summer.

These aircraft often have turnarounds as quick as 20 minutes when battling a fire.

"In a situation like that, it helps to have the runway clear and allow them to operate as efficiently as possible," Tallman said. As it is now, radio operators have to constantly monitor flights to ensure safe conditions for departing and incoming aircraft.

The project is estimated at $772,500, with the FAA pledging to provide 90 percent of the total cost. Tallman said the state aeronautics agency will reimburse the airport for the remaining costs, but only after the project is completed. A consultant with Grimes Engineers estimates the airport will have to front around $154,000 to secure the project. That amount would be eventually repaid through the state grant.

On Monday, the Sevier County Quorum Court voted to loan the funds to the airport after Tallman informed its members that the airport did not have the necessary funds in its bank account.

"This money is there for us to use and if we don't, somebody else will," he told justices of the peace on Monday. "We just need a little help before we get the state grant."

Tallman said the county would be repaid once the project is finished and the state reimbursement grant kicks in.
Construction of the taxiway is expected to last four to five months.

Tallman added that the airport has become an important element in the county, despite a nationwide reduction in recreational aviation.

Besides firefighting aircraft, the airport also supports aerial fertilizer and pesticide contractors who work with farmers in the area.

Weyerhaeuser, Pilgrim's and other industries frequently use the airport as its 5,001-foot runway is long enough for large corporate jets. Most other county airports in the region operate a 3,500-foot runway.

"I think the airport is something our county can be proud of," Tallman said. "And I hope it's something we can keep growing."

Mar 19, 2015, 09:17

Former De Queen man sentenced to 40 years for 2013 homicide

Mar 19, 2015, 09:16

Domestic violence center reconstituted as Crisis and Resource Center in De Queen
By Patrick Massey

DE QUEEN – Six months after announcing the De Queen-based domestic violence center would be reconstituted, Executive Director Courtney White says the Southwest Arkansas Crisis and Resource Center is open and already serving dozens of victims in the area.

The non-profit Southwest Arkansas Domestic Violence Center officially shut its doors at the end of January, its operations taken over by the newly formed Crisis and Resource Center. Agency officials say the Crisis and Resource Center has already assisted several dozen victims of domestic violence in Sevier County and the surrounding area.

White said the new organization will better reflect the agency’s role in its five-county service area.

“Domestic violence is certainly a major focus for us, but we also tackle a range of other issues including sexual assault, stalking and elder abuse. We also distinguish dating violence from domestic violence," White said.

"We have an array of services available, even if it is only to provide a safe and comfortable place to stay for a night or provide a few groceries to cover victims until family members or other support systems can intervene.”

The center will continue to cover an area ranging across southwestern Arkansas, including Sevier, Polk, Pike, Montgomery, and Howard Counties.

Although the Crisis and Resource Center is focused on expanding its services, White and her staff have several challenges ahead. As a registered non-profit abuse agency, the Crisis and Resource Center will be able to continue funding services through a variety of federal grants.

However, after the sequestration and the shutdown in 2013, relying on federal funding these days can carry some uncertainty.

The center has been able to hire another employee through a recently obtained rape prevention grant worth $54,000 - a hopeful sign, White said, after the agency had to lay off three people due to the loss of two federal grants last year. White is hopeful the other two former employees, who continue to serve as volunteers for the agency, will be rehired by year's end.

"We're reapplying for the grants we lost in 2014 and if we get them, we'll be able to hire these employees back," she said.

"Overall, I think we're stronger than ever with the Crisis and Resource Center," White added. "We just want the community to know our commitment to helping victims of domestic and other types of violence is also stronger than ever."

Mar 19, 2015, 09:15

Work continues on college learning site in Lockesburg
DE QUEEN – Officials with UA Cossatot say they are continuing projects to renovate the former Lockesburg High School into the college's newest extension learning site, hopefully in time for the fall semester.

After more than a year in the making, Chancellor Dr. Steve Cole said the college is currently working on the campus' utilities and performing some general beautification to the high school grounds. Upcoming plans include adding security lighting around the campus.

The project was first proposed last October when Cole met with members of the De Queen School Board to share the college's idea of building an extension learning site on the former Lockesburg High School campus. The school board voted to close the campus in 2010 due to low enrollment numbers, and the grounds have sat empty ever since. The De Queen School District, who said they had no plans for the campus, agreed to donate the property to UA Cossatot for the new learning site. A clause in the resolution authorizes the school district to regain control of the property if UA Cossatot decided in the future to close the proposed learning site.

Cole said he expects the new facility - centrally located between the college's campuses in De Queen, Ashdown and Nashville - to bring benefits to both students and the Lockesburg community.

The college has plans to move its new pipe welding program to Lockesburg and to use the facility to host a truck driving course. The facility will also include a museum dedicated to the history of the former Lockesburg School District.

Cole hopes the new site will be ready for the fall 2015 semester, but said that opening is still tentative.

"We are hoping for fall, but we want to make sure we do it correctly, so we are taking our time," Cole said.

Mar 19, 2015, 09:13

Texarkana man sentenced to five years prison for theft
DE QUEEN – A Texarkana, Texas man has been sentenced to prison after an attempt last year to burglarize a Lockesburg business using a stolen U-Haul truck.

Joshua Rigsby, 32, entered a plea of guilty to charges of attempted commercial burglary, attempted theft of property and theft by receiving during the March 5 session of the Sevier County Circuit Court.

Rigsby was arrested in 2014 after he and two other individuals attempted to break into Rusty's Farm and Welding Equipment on April 18. Investigators also found that a U-Haul truck Rigsby had driven to the property had been hot-wired and was reported stolen from a lot in Texarkana.

This is not Rigsby's first incarceration for attempting to burglarize Rusty's Farm and Welding Equipment. He was also convicted of theft after another incident in 2012 in which he tried to burglarize the same business, also using a U-Haul.

Rigsby has been sentenced to five years and will serve out his term in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

Mar 19, 2015, 09:12