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Airport gets taxiway grant

The Paragould Municipal Airport, Kirk Field, has been approved to receive a grant for extending its taxiway.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the airport is to receive $521,285 as part of $273 million in grants under both the Airport Improvement Program and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

According to Paragould Airport Commission Chairman Lynn Ratliff, the grant will enable the connection of the two sections of the taxiway to the west of the paved runway.

“Right now, they’re not connected,” he said. “So you have to taxi onto the ramp to go from the north taxiway to the south taxiway.”

The “ramp” is basically a parking lot for aircraft not in hangars. Ratliff said to use the ramp to taxi is an inconvenience rather than a hazard.

“But they [at the FAA] like to have all that stuff fixed up properly,” he said, adding that the effort to link the taxiways has been ongoing for some time. “So we knew it was coming. We just didn’t know when.”

Airport manager Roger Slayton said the project had been in work for two to three years. He acknowledged having to use the ramp sometimes created difficulties for some of the larger jets that use the airport.

Ratliff said the grant, as is the case with most grants from the FAA, is a 90-10 match. What is unusual about this grant is the split.

“Usually we have to provide 10 percent of the money as our match,” he said, “but this time the CARES Act is providing the 10 percent. So it’s 100 percent federal funded.”

Kirk Field is one of six airports in Arkansas to receive federal grant money under AIP and CARES for airport improvements. A total of 184 airports in 41 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Puerto Rico received the funding.

The grants ranged from $27,282 to install vertical and visual guidance lights at the airport in Wellsville, N.Y to $21,122,178 to expand the airport terminal at Wilmington, N.C.

Crash on 49 claims 1, injures another

A mid-morning collision Tuesday between two semitrailer vehicles took the life of a Corning man and injured a Paragould man.

According to an Arkansas State Police preliminary fatal crash summary, Marvin Cobb, 80, of Corning, was driving a 1994 Freightliner in the outside southbound lane of Highway 49 near its intersection with Greene 751 Road at 10:53 a.m. At the same time Jason Duke, 37, of Paragould, was driving a 2000 Freightliner in the inside northbound lane of the highway in the same area.

According to the report, Cobb’s vehicle veered to the left into the northbound lane and struck the other truck at the rear of the driver’s side and the trailer.

Duke was transported with undisclosed injuries to NEA Baptist Hospital in Jonesboro.

The weather was clear and the road was dry at the time of the collision.

Arkansas reports 787 new virus cases, 6 more deaths

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas on Wednesday reported 787 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and six more people in the state have died from the illness caused by the virus.

The Department of Health said at least 40,968 people in the state have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began in early March. The department said 6,596 of those cases are active, meaning they don’t include people who have died or recovered.

The department said 145 of the new cases came from Delta Regional Unit, a state prison in Chicot County.

The true number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. The number of deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, climbed to 434. The number of people hospitalized rose by seven to 508.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday said he wants to hear “dissenting voices” after the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported the state’s interim health secretary in June voiced concerns about the consequences of further lifting restrictions that had been placed on businesses because of the virus.

“I am concerned that pushing on to Phase 2 for the entire state will lead (to) significant increases in COVID cases that will overwhelm our healthcare systems,” Dr. Jose Romero wrote in a June 9 email to Dr. Nate Smith, then the state’s health secretary that the newspaper obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. “The public seems not to have taken seriously recommendations for social distancing and masks.”

Hutchinson on June 10 announced the state would move into Phase 2 of reopening, a move that eased capacity limits on bars, restaurants and other businesses.

Romero on Tuesday said he didn’t believe Hutchinson made a mistake by moving into Phase 2. He said his comments were based on the data at the time and noted Hutchinson has since signed a statewide order requiring mask s in public. Romero’s email was in response to a list of options for reopening strategies Smith sent to a medical advisory panel for the governor.

Hutchinson, a Republican, said he wants to hear all voices from his advisory panel but said he went with the option that had the most consensus.

“I want to know dissenting voices,” Hutchinson said. “I want to know broadly what the thinking of our medical advisory group is.”

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Chamber announces new CEO/director of economic development

Allison Hestand is getting a new job.

The Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors has chosen her to succeed Sue McGowan as the Chamber’s Director of Economic Development and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

McGowan, who became Chamber Executive Director on Aug. 15, 2003, announced in February she would retire after 17 years on the job. Hestand is to succeed her on Aug. 21.

“I was interested in having the opportunity to make Paragould grow and make it better,” Hestand said Tuesday in explaining why she wanted the job. “It’s a passion for me, so this is a dream job.”

Hestand is a graduate of Arkansas State University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Finance with a minor in Economics. She has worked as agency manager for M.F. Block Insurance ever since she graduated from ASU, a total of 7-1/2 years. Hestand added, however, that in her capacity as agency manager she’d already had opportunities to work with businesses and industries that help fuel the local economy and add jobs.

Chamber president Kevin Lang said Osage Beach, Mo.-based Community Growth Strategies, LLC had undertaken the search for candidates to succeed McGowan. “We narrowed it down to seven candidates,” he said, “and she was the top-rated one.”

Hestand also expressed delight to be able to work with McGowan during the transition period between the two. “I am super blessed to work for the next few months to learn from her,” she said.

“I’m thrilled,” said incumbent Sue McGowan with a smile. “Allison has been involved in the community for quite some time, and I know she has a great desire to see it progress. And I am looking forward to working with her in the transition.”

McGowan affirmed the transition may last through Dec. 31, but left the door open for a possible earlier departure. “There are a lot of factors to take into consideration,” she said.

Police make felony arrests

In separate incidents, Paragould police officers arrested two people on felony charges.

In one incident, they arrested James Craig Arender, 42, of Jonesboro, on a charge of one count of commercial burglary, a Class C felony; plus misdemeanor charges.

According to a probable cause affidavit sworn by Detective Cpl. Jacob Higdon, the arrest took place July 17 pursuant to a report of a customer (later identified as Arender) at the Wal-mart Super Center allegedly observed to select and conceal merchandise. Store employees reportedly attempted to stop him as he left the store but Arender fled, according to the affidavit. Nonetheless, officers located him in the area, and determined Arender had already been barred from all Wal-mart stores as the result of a March 2019 theft incident.

Arender was released from the Greene County Detention Center July 21 on $25,000 bond.

In the other incident, officers arrested Cynthia L. Cosbey, 49, of Paragould, on a charge of one count of possession of less than two grams of a Schedule I/II controlled substance (methamphetamine or cocaine), a Class D felony; plus misdemeanor charges. According to a probable cause affidavit sworn by Detective Cpl. Aaron Gamber of the department’s Street Crimes Unit, she was arrested July 19 in the course of a police investigation of a disturbance.

Cosbey had been accused of allegedly stealing medications. So as officers interacted with her, they requested and got permission to search Cosbey’s purse, according to the affidavit. In the purse they reportedly located and seized quantities of Schedule II and Schedule IV drugs. According to the affidavit, the officers also determined she was under the influence of an unknown substance, since she reportedly exhibited slurred and mumbling speech, and was unable to hold her head up well.

Cosbey was held in the Greene County Detention Center on $15,000 bond.