As compiled by Rick Kennedy, managing editor
In a special 12-part month-by-month series, SWARK Today presents a review of the top stories and news worthy events in both Hempstead and Nevada counties over the course of the calendar year of 2018. This installment looks at October 2018.
• With a light agenda and light attendance, the main voice in the room Tuesday night was usually quiet and amicable Nathaniel “Peaches” Holyfield, Jr., who gave an extensive report on the City of Hope’s sanitation and garbage collection activities. Holyfield, who originally started work for the City of Hope back in 1987 in the Wastewater Department, had headed the Sanitation Dept. for the past ten years. He told the City Board that he currently oversees seven employees; the total department has eight personnel, including himself, he said.
• In addition to county and city races, the November 6 election will include a handful of voter initiatives on the ballot, the most controversial of which has been Ballot Issue 5, to raise the Arkansas Minimum Wage to $11 an hour by 2021. The minimum wage in Arkansas, including Hope and Hempstead County, stands at $8.50 per hour, while the current Federal minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees is $7.25, which was enacted in July 2009, now over nine years ago.
• A team from New Millennium Building Systems’ Hope facility presented an overview and answered questions about career opportunities at Hope High School, Yerger Middle School and Hope Academy of Public Service recently. Led by general manager Michael Winarta, the team included detailer Joseph Craigen, and system engineer Raymond Thomason at all three campuses, and production engineer Mark Williams and engineering manager Brady Broom at HHS. New Millennium was named September Manufacturer of the Month for the Hope Public Schools.
• An estimated crowd of 750, who sounded more like 1750, engaged in a sing-along lovefest with the legendary 1970s supergroup Little River Band at Hempstead Hall on Friday night. Whether it was Little River Band standards like “Happy Anniversary” or “Reminiscing” or “Hang On” or the big finale, an extended guitar-laced version of “Lonesome Loser,” the singing, clapping, dancing and swaying by the audience were proof that the world-famous band had connected with the local crowd in a major way.
• As the 2018 election cycle commences, Governor Asa Hutchinson had reported in September that 4,353 Arkansans have lost health care coverage for the remainder of 2018 due to three months of noncompliance with the state’s first-of-its-kind Medicaid work requirement. Those beneficiaries are now locked out of the Arkansas Works program for the rest of the calendar year, though they can re-apply in January.
• Issue One, the first one on the ballot facing voters in a matter of weeks, claims Tort Reform, but is a dangerous threat to the Arkansas Constitution and citizen’s rights, says a prominent Fort Smith attorney, who has been touring the state tirelessly in speaking out against the measure. Joey McCutchen, the immediate past president of the State Trial Lawyers Association, said “Issue One was written for special interest groups; it is basically asking citizens to vote away their own rights, and placing a value on human life. It breaks with our state constitution and rights written in since 1870s and deserves to be voted down.”
• In a late development in the local election, Scott Brown, the Democratic candidate for Hempstead County Coroner, confirmed Thursday that he has stepped out of the race. Citing “time” as his main reason, Brown said a number of personal and business concerns from the past 12 months were requiring his full-time attention.
• Shrek and Fiona sightings along with a legion of witches and cat people were all part of the fun at the Hempstead Relay for Life’s Fourth Annual Celebrity Waiter event last Friday night at Hempstead Hall. Two local football games and rain not withstanding, the Celebrity Waiter night saw its usual crowd of 200 people enjoy three-hours of singing, auctioning, and being served dinner by a collection of devils, baseball players, and Harry Potter students.
• The Tuesday night marathon meeting of the Hope City Board could have proven to be a play in three acts. The first act devoted to progress reports at the Chamber of Commerce; the second act dealing with 15 residential condemnations, and the third and most compelling act telling of apparent troubles between a Hope resident, John Odom, and the Hope Public School District.
• Late Tuesday afternoon, the Hope Police issued a statement on its own Facebook page regarding three subjects, posing as shoppers, at the Hope Walmart allegedly passing off counterfeit bills as well as exchanging undisclosed items for refunds. The Facebook statement said, “On October 8, 2018, a black male and two black females (unknown identity) passed $620 (42 bills) of counterfeit money at Walmart in Hope, AR.”
• As throughout Arkansas today, Hempstead County was seeing heavy traffic in the first hours of early voting on Monday; approximately 62 cast ballots prior to lunch time with others drifting in. Voters were greeted Monday by brand new voting machines with quick interactive touch screens, a paper receipt ballot at the end, and a new interactive bin for the completed ballots.
• Homecoming at HSU was featured a week of exciting events, celebrations, and pep rallies leading up to Saturday’s game. The HSU Reddies hosted Southeastern Oklahoma State in Carpenter-Haygood Stadium and emerged with a last minute 20-17 win. Hope Smith, a senior Health and Human Performance major from Camden, was crowned HSU Homecoming Queen last Saturday. First runner-up was Keanna Peck, a senior political science major from Little Rock, and Keira Bates, a junior aviation major also from Little Rock, was second runner-up.
• The Arkansas Community Development Society (ACDS) held its annual conference on Oct. 17 at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and among those attending were Nevada County’s Tammie Rose, who served as Southwest Arkansas representative and who works as Prescott’s Community Development Director with the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office.
• Starting off a big week of events and festivities on Monday night, the Southwest Arts Council hosted the art show premiere of Sue Allen Pico’s paintings and a 50-piece collection of Ukrainian-style egg art in a special members preview and social at the Art Depot in downtown Hope. A gathering of art patrons visited throughout the evening, viewing everything from wall art to Pico’s impressive collection of “egg art,” which was displayed right at the depot’s entrance.
• The cool temperatures and cloudy skies Tuesday morning did little to curb the enthusiasm of a crowd of over 200 students and community leaders as a Chamber Ribbon cutting and celebration was held for the formal introduction of “Denny’s Place,” the community garden located on the Hope Academy of Public Service campus in honor of late Zone 6 school board member Denver L. “Denny” Dickinson.
• In a strange paradox of county finances and events, the Hempstead County Quorum Court will once again consider $500 “Christmas Bonus” payments to all of its employees, including non-Justice elected officials, which will cost the county thousands of dollars against the backdrop of needing thousands of dollars to restore a voting site in Old Washington. Such was the bizarre scene at Thursday night’s Quorum Court meeting, which alternatively saw an impassioned appeal by Old Washington Mayor Paul Henley along with approximately 30 citizens to reconsider a recent decision to shut down the Old Washington voting site contrasted with Justice David Clayton pushing forward with the bonuses as to not inconvenience county employees holiday shopping.
• For the second time this week, statewide television media was in town Thursday for a segment on the Hempstead County Bicentennial’s Time Capsule as Channel 6 news visited local students and the welding team on the University of Arkansas – Hope campus. For much of 2018, Richard Read has been touting the Time Capsule as an integral and important part of Hempstead County’s 200th anniversary; Read has been the principal behind both the idea and its eventual conception and design.
• With plenty of costumes. fun and recognizable characters, it seemed appropriate that Saturday night’s performance of “Masters of Soul” was happening the weekend before Halloween at Hempstead Hall. A three-man, three-female ensemble cast backed by a five-piece band brought a steady stream of 60s and 70s era artists to life in a brisk moving two-hour show before an estimated Hope crowd of 365, mostly alternating between male and female acts.
• Over 200 women from across 25 southern Arkansas counties were at Hempstead Hall on Tuesday for the 2018 Ouachita District Extension Homemakers Conference, the third consecutive one hosted in Hope. The annual event brings together members of County Extension Homemakers Clubs for educational speeches, updates on membership, and several guest presentations.
• A steady flow of traffic converged in the lobby of Wadley Regional Medical Center on Tuesday night for the fifth edition of the ‘Just Us Girls’ event. Instead of patients and wheelchairs, the hospital lobby area was filled with vendors, food, and fun. Having done a similar event at Wadley Texarkana for nearly a decade, Wadley Marketing Director Shelby Brown said ‘Just Us Girls’ has been in Hope now for five years. “It is a fun event to promote cancer awareness and show the hospital is not a scary place to be,” Brown said.
As compiled by Rick Kennedy, managing editor