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Council adopts sign ordinance, establishes meeting rules

With the new year and new members, the Paragould City Council has put to rest a contentious issue from last year.

At Monday’s meeting, the council amended its sign ordinance to permit the erection and use of electronic message devices and Light-Emitting Diode signs no larger that 50 square feet inside the city limits.

As previously reported, the issue came up back in July as the result of an effort to replace a billboard with such a sign at the intersection of Third Street and West Kingshighway.

“The ordinance committee has dealt with this a number of times,” said committee chair and Ward 2 position 1 council member Jeremy Biggs. “This cleans it up, and provides direction to the City Inspector’s Office.”

At the July 13 city council meeting and in subsequent meetings, much discussion centered on the city’s moratorium on billboards, and whether replacement of a billboard by an LED sign could be permitted despite a prohibition on the replacement of “grandfathered-in” billboards that are removed.

But as Paragould Mayor Josh Agee explained Tuesday morning, the signs and the billboards are distinct from each other. “Paragould is part of the Scenic Byways program,” he explained, “and the moratorium is in place as required by the program. But the signs are not considered billboards – and most billboards are a lot larger than 50 square feet anyway.”

The council also adopted by ordinance its rules of procedures for the transaction of business for the city council. Largely retaining the rules from previous years, it establishes 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of each month as the regular day and time for the meetings, with the location to be in city council chambers.

But it also established rules for conducting meetings remotely as deemed necessary during the current COVID-19 public health emergency. Per section 8 of the ordinance as adopted, city council members may attend, speak and vote using Zoom or other means of communications during council and committee meetings. Whatever means is used, however, it is to permit members of the public who attend the meeting in the city council chambers to be able to see and hear all the proceedings.

Nick Henson (in backhoe) and George Cook (on boom truck), both of the Paragould Department of Public Works, remove trees and limbs from the ditch areas of Old Bethel Road (Greene 920 Road) preparatory to reworking the ditches on either side of the road. The rework is to control the flooding to which the road has been prone. Director of Public Works Terry McAbee said redoing the ditches will be a joint project by the city’s Department of Public Works and the Greene County Road Department.

Double duty

Court accepts pleas in drug, false report cases

The Greene County Circuit Court has accepted pleas, or otherwise adjudicated, the following criminal cases, as shown below:

Krystal Elaine Tedder, 38, has negotiated a guilty plea to a charge of one count of possession of drug paraphernalia to ingest, etc., a Class D felony. She was sentenced to 36 months (less 69 days credit for time served) in the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC), with another 36 months suspended imposition of sentence. She was also ordered to pay $565 in costs and fees. Revocation of her suspension could result in her being sentenced to up to three years in the ADC and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Kenneth Edward McCollum, 50, has negotiated a guilty plea to charges of one count each of possession of less than two grams of a Schedule I/II controlled substance and possession of a counterfeit Schedule I/II controlled substance, both Class D felonies. He was not prosecuted on other charges. He received a suspended imposition of sentence for 48 months; and ordered to pay $565 in costs and fees, plus a $5 monthly payment plan fee. If he does not follow the terms of the suspension he could be sentenced to up to 12 years in the ADC and/or fined up to $20,000.

Clayton M. Jackson, 35, has negotiated a guilty plea to a charge of one count of filing a false report of a crime. He was sentenced to 24 months (less 90 days credit for time served) in the ADC, with another 48 months suspended imposition of sentence. He was also ordered to pay $440 in costs and fees, plus a $5 monthly payment plan fee. If his suspension is vacated, he could be sentenced to up to four years (less 90 days credit for time served), a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Shannon Reena Herron, 25, has negotiated a guilty plea to a charge of failure to appear in court, a Class D felony. She received a suspended imposition of sentence for 36 months. She was also ordered to pay $440 in costs and fees, plus a $5 monthly payment plan fee. If her suspension is revoked, she could be sentenced to up to six years in the ADC, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Edmond Rulon Manning, Jr., 25, has negotiated a guilty plea to a charge of one count of failure to appear in court, a Class D felony. He was sentenced to 24 months (less 76 days credit for time served) in the ADC, with another 48 months suspended imposition of sentence. He was also ordered to pay $440 in costs and fees, plus a $5 monthly payment plan fee. Vacation of his suspension could result in his being sentenced to up to 12 years in the ADC and/or fined up to $20,000.

Trump impeached after Capitol riot in historic second charge

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House for a historic second time Wednesday, charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly mob siege of the Capitol in a swift and stunning collapse of his final days in office.

With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump. The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol after the president’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the election results.

Ten Republicans fled Trump, joining Democrats who said he needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a “clear and present danger” if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20.

Trump is the only U.S. president to be twice impeached. It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than against Bill Clinton in 1998.

The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered lawmakers, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, imploring lawmakers to uphold their oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign “and domestic.”

She said of Trump: “He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Holed up at the White House, watching the proceedings on TV, Trump took no responsibility for the bloody riot seen around the world, but issued a statement urging “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind” to disrupt Biden’s ascension to the White House.

In the face of the accusations against him and with the FBI warning of more violence, Trump said, “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”

Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 acquit. He is the first to be impeached twice. None has been convicted by the Senate, but Republicans said Wednesday that could change in the rapidly shifting political environment as officeholders, donors, big business and others peel away from the defeated president.

The soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Trump is already set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office said. The legislation is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running again.

McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on the GOP, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who demanded anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations.

In a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

Unlike his first time, Trump faces this impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own reelection as well as the Senate Republican majority.

Even Trump ally Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, shifted his position and said Wednesday the president bears responsibility for the horrifying day at the Capitol.

In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanors” demanded in the Constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution approved Wednesday relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a rally near the White House on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.

Ten Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, voted to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

Cheney, whose father is the former Republican vice president, said of Trump’s actions summoning the mob that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President” of his office.

Trump was said to be livid with perceived disloyalty from McConnell and Cheney.

With the team around Trump hollowed out and his Twitter account silenced by the social media company, the president was deeply frustrated that he could not hit back, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

From the White House, Trump leaned on Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators to resist, while chief of staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill.

The president’s sturdy popularity with the GOP lawmakers’ constituents still had some sway, and most House Republicans voted not to impeach.

Security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol, with tall fences around the complex. Metal-detector screenings were required for lawmakers entering the House chamber, where a week earlier lawmakers huddled inside as police, guns drawn, barricade the door from rioters.

“We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

During the debate, some Republicans repeated the falsehoods spread by Trump about the election and argued that the president has been treated unfairly by Democrats from the day he took office.

Other Republicans argued the impeachment was a rushed sham and complained about a double standard applied to his supporters but not to the liberal left. Some simply appealed for the nation to move on.

Rep. Tom McClintock of California said, “Every movement has a lunatic fringe.”

Yet Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. and others recounted the harrowing day as rioters pounded on the chamber door trying to break in. Some called it a “coup” attempt.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., contended that Trump was “capable of starting a civil war.”

Conviction and removal of Trump would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will be evenly divided. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, Biden is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.

The impeachment bill draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

The House had first tried to persuade Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke their authority under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Pence declined to do so, but the House passed the resolution anyway.

The impeachment bill also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes.

While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.

AMMC: COVID-19 spread continues in county

The spread of COVID-19 in Greene County has greatly accelerated in the last two months.

According to information made available by Lana Williams, chief nursing officer for Arkansas Methodist Medical Center, active cases in the county have increased since November from about 300 to 430 as of Monday.

“We expect to see this number increase over the next 4-6 weeks,” she said. “The full effect of spread from the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday gatherings has not yet occurred. We will likely see the numbers continue to increase over the next few weeks.”

The Arkansas Department of Health reported 2,467 new COVID-19 cases in the state on Wednesday.

The total number of active cases in the state was 25,095, with 1,362 people hospitalized with the virus.

The number of deaths added Wednesday was 65 for a total of 4,186 statewide.

In Greene County as of Wednesday there were 4,923 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases that had been reported since the pandemic began. There are currently 375 active cases in Greene County. A total of 59 people in Greene County have died as a result of COVID-19.

There is potential good news as far as medication in concerned. According to AMMC pharmacist Sarah Newberry, the hospital now offers the outpatient COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment, Bamlanivimab.

According the website of maker Eli Lilly, it contains man-made antibodies that are similar to the antibodies of patients who recovered from COVID-19. Scientists think that these antibodies may help limit the amount of virus in your body. This could give your body more time to learn how to make its own antibodies. Bamlanivimab does not have any COVID-19 virus in it.

According to a Bamlanivimab fact sheet at the website for the FDA, the drug has received emergency use authorization from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of active COVID-19 infections in non-hospitalized patients who meet specific high-risk criteria. It is authorized for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients 12 years of age and older weighing at least 88 pounds with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.

“If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19,” Newberry said, “you can speak with your healthcare provider to see if you qualify.”

Bamlanivimab, she concluded, is a new drug and there is still much to learn about the benefits, risks, and side effects.

McCain: DWI mobilization, bar restrictions helped deter DWI

The recently concluded Paragould Police mobilization to enforce drunk-driving laws produced few DWI arrests, which could be considered success, according to Patrol Capt. Brent McCain of the Paragould Department.

“The numbers were down from before,” McCain said. “We only made two arrests.” However, he agreed with a suggestion that advance notice of the holiday mobilization, and closing the bars at 11 didn’t hurt either.

The DWI mobilization in Paragould, December 18-January 1, was part of the annual nationwide effort promoted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to reduce deaths from driving while intoxicated during the holiday season. The mobilization in Paragould involved four officers volunteering to work overtime during the period, through the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP).

STEP is a program of the Highway Safety Office of the Arkansas State Police. It provides funds to pay for the overtime worked in support of specified enforcement activities.