Although it deferred action until next month, the Paragould Advertising and Promotion Commission heard a grant application pitch for the annual Get Downtown Festival this week.
“This will be the 5th annual Get Downtown Festival,” said Shaelynn Nunn of the hosting Greene County Future Fund.
Information Nunn and Allison Hestand made available indicated the event would feature races of five and 10 kilometers on Saturday morning, Sept. 25, as well as a one-kilometer run for children “and four-legged friends.” But the main attraction is the entertainment the Fund hopes to book for the festival. According to the application package, acts the Future Fund hopes to book include:
The Crafton Brothers
The Band Tripp
The Arkansas Brothers
The Milwaukee Tool Band
Mustache The Band
Cory Jackson and Mary Beth Byrd
Music is expected to start at 11 a.m. and continue through to 10 p.m. Visitors to the downtown area, Nunn said, could also take advantage of shopping, restaurants and entertainment for children in Kids Alley.
“This is our plan, to talk to the Collins Theatre,” Nunn said, “to get them to do a history of Greene County.”
In addition, a Salsa competition and a barbecue cookoff are planned, along with Sand Volleyball and Cornhole tourneys.
The Festival is actually set to begin on Friday, Sept. 24 with a downtown block party during which those wishing to participate in the five- and 10-kilometer runs may register for those events. And Nunn said that on Sunday, Sept. 26, those staying the entire weekend can spend time in town to watch a movie, visit Crowley’s Ridge State Park, eat at a local restaurant or visit the Greene County Museum.
Nunn added that the event would partner with area lodging facilities to promote the idea of staying the night before the Sept. 25 event. Information in the application package indicated that guests at participating lodging facilities in town could mention the promotion code “GETDOWNTOWN” for special Friday and Saturday night pricing. The facilities are:
Super 8 Wyndham
Quality Inn and Suites
White House Bed and Breakfast
The total planned budget for the event is $50,200, of which the Future Fund is seeking $40,000 from the commission. The balance is to come from sponsorships the Future Fund seeks.
Of the total budget, $27,700 is to pay for the entertainment. Another $10,000 is to be used for advertising, $6,000 for the four stages expected to be used and $4,000 for activities. A total of $2,500 is to cover miscellaneous expenses.
The Future Fund estimated revenue brought into Paragould from the festival is in the neighborhood of $42,500.
“We will not make a decision tonight,” said commissioner Kimberly Dale acting chair in the absence of Jeremy Biggs. Instead, the commission will consider and decide on the request as well as any others it receives during the March 11 meeting.
The Greene County Future Fund had asked to present its request at the February meeting.
Among the personnel actions approved at the February meeting of the Paragould School District board of directors was the retirement of the district superintendent.
“I started out as a math teacher at Stanford High School in 1988,” said Debbie Smith on Feb. 12 in tracing her career, “and then in 1992 I went to Marmaduke High School.”
In July 2007, she said, Smith came to Paragould High School as a math teacher, but later became what amounted to a district-wide department head for mathematics and instructional materials. “I was a math coach,” Smith said.
Thereafter the district employed her as assistant superintendent, and Smith became interim superintendent in 2011.
“And in 2013 I became superintendent,” she said. “I’ve worked in Greene County all my career.”
Smith holds a Bachelor of Science in Education (BSE) in Secondary Mathematics from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, as well as a Master of Science in Education and Specialist degree from Arkansas State University.
Smith said the highlights of her career have included the advancements in technology she has seen.
“We went from the old calculators to ChromeBooks to MacBooks,” she said, “and now to virtual learning. Kids can take their devices home with them now – these are huge changes.”
The 135-district Arkansas Rural Education Association (AREA) chose Smith to be one of two Superintendents of the Year for 2019-2020.
Smith said that apart from transient challenges like tornadoes and the current coronavirus pandemic, an ongoing challenge involves keeping communication lines open between the district and parents.
“One of the biggest challenges has been to keep good, solid parental involvement,” she said, “because parents stay so busy.”
Another ongoing challenge has been to meet the needs of the individual student, Smith said.
After her retirement, which becomes effective the last day of June, Smith said she plans to spend time with Stan, her husband of 22 years. The couple has no children. “But when people ask me: ‘do you have any children,’” Smith observed with a smile, “I tell them: ‘yes, I have 3,000 children!’”
Student population of the Paragould School District is roughly 3,000.
In addition, Smith said, she plans to travel to visit family. “We have family all across the country,” she said, “and in Great Britain. And now we have great nieces and nephews, so we’ll get to spend time with them.”
Smith’s retirement was not the only personnel action approved at the school board meeting. Other actions approved were as follows:
Nicole Siebert, food service worker, effective Jan. 11, 2021
Lantha Garmrath, junior high cheer coaching duties only, effective June 30, 2021
Logan Keener, tennis coaching duties, effective June 30, 2021
Sarah Johnson, 5th and 6th grade girls’ basketball coaching duties only, effective June 30, 2021
Amber Pentecost, food service worker, effective Feb. 9, 2021
Kerri Priess, food service worker, effective Feb. 9, 2021
Lauren Grogan, computer lab manager, effective Feb. 9, 2021
With the recent record cold, many areas experienced rolling blackouts due to demand on the power grid exceeding what was available, but Paragould was not among them.
“We were lucky,” said Paragould Light, Water and Cable Chief Operations Officer Brett Bradford on Friday morning. Bradford explained that electricity usage reached an highest-ever-recorded peak of 3,091 megawatts (MW) on Feb. 15 (compared to a 10 year average daily peak for February of 2,095 MW). He added that given the record usage in the system, some cities in both Arkansas and Missouri in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) did experience rolling blackouts. “We were given forewarning from SPP on Tuesday that this might happen,” Bradford said. “But the load dropped.”
Bradford said PLWC had also been able to take some proactive measures in addition to asking its customers to reduce consumption.
“What we did was to buy ‘firm’ energy,” he said. “What that means is you buy a day ahead instead of [in] ‘real time.’”
Bradford acknowledged, however, that “firm” energy costs more than “real-time” energy. In effect, “firm” energy constitutes making a reservation for the specified amount of energy to be bought. “Real-time energy is cheaper,” he said, “but the risk of waiting to buy it in real time [i.e. on the day it’s needed] is that it may not be there to buy.”
Bradford explained that when an overload occurs – when demand for power exceeds supply, as SPP had warned on Feb. 16 might happen – real-time energy availability is what gets reduced first. Once all the real-time energy has been cut, the firm energy is then subject to cuts. Bradford reiterated the crisis had passed before it reached that point.
“So all the lights stayed on,” he said, “and there were no cuts.”
In separate incidents, Paragould police have arrested three people on drug-related felony charges.
In one incident, they arrested Tiffany Isham, 34, of Ashdown, Ark., on charges of one count each of possession of less than two grams of a Schedule I/II controlled substance (methamphetamine or cocaine) with purpose to deliver and possession of less than two grams of a Schedule I/II controlled substance (other than methamphetamine or cocaine) with purpose to deliver, both Class C felonies.
She was also charged with one count of possession of less than 200 grams of a Schedule IV/V controlled substance with purpose to deliver and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia to ingest, etc., each a Class D felony.
According to a probable cause affidavit sworn by Detective Sgt. Michael O ost of the department’s Street Crimes Unit (SCU), the arrest took place Feb. 14 when police Cpl. Christian Underwood arrested Isham on a Parole Absconder warrant. During a search, Underwood located suspected methamphetamine, suspected ecstasy pills, clonazepam, and two pipes of the type commonly used to smoke methamphetamine.
Isham is being held in the Greene County Detention Center (GCDC) on $45,000 bond.
In the second incident, police arrested Raymon Louis Conyers, 32, of Paragould, and Augustus Laredo Silva, 23, of Andrews, Texas, each on charges of one count each of possession of less than two grams of a Schedule I/II controlled substance (methamphetamine or cocaine) and possession of drug paraphernalia to ingest, etc. Each is a Class D felony.
According to probable cause affidavits sworn by Detective Cpl. Jason Boling of the SCU, the arrests took place Feb. 13 when Ptl. Owen Mundy noticed a vehicle parked at Labor Park at about 9 p.m.. The park, owned and maintained by the City of Paragould, is closed to the public at 9 p.m. So Mundy made contact with the driver of the vehicle, identified as Raymon Conyers, and the passenger, identified as Augustus Silva. While talking to them, Mundy noticed both individuals were shaking and would not make eye contact with him. Assisting officer Ptl. Ashten Massey noticed a syringe in a bag that was sitting beside Silva. When Mundy asked Conyers to exit the vehicle, he noticed a loaded syringe containing suspected methamphetamine fall from his lap onto the ground. Officers also located a glass pipe in Conyers’ coat pocket.
Both Conyers and Silva are being held in the GCDC on $20,000 bond.
LITTLE ROCK — A longtime Arkansas legislator and nephew of the state’s Republican governor said Thursday that he’s leaving the GOP, citing Donald Trump’s rhetoric and the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol by the former president’s supporters.
State Sen. Jim Hendren’s announcement closes the door on him seeking the party’s nomination for governor next year, but he said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of running as an independent. Hendren said that decision is on the “back burner” as he focuses on an organization he formed aimed at helping independent candidates.
Hendren, the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, had been more willing than other Republican figures in the state to criticize Trump. In a nine-minute video announcing his decision, he cited Trump’s insults about immigrants, women, and John McCain, as well as his false attacks on the election’s legitimacy leading up to the Jan. 6 riot.
“For me, that day was the final straw,” Hendren said. “I asked myself, what in the world would I tell my grandchildren when they ask one day, what happened and what did I do about it?”
Hendren has clashed with Arkansas Republicans on other issues. He’s the lead sponsor of a hate crimes bill that has drawn resistance from some conservatives and was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against a “Stand Your Ground” bill that loosened restrictions on the use of deadly force in self-defense.
Hendren’s decision keeps him out of a GOP primary that has been overshadowed by former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’ candidacy. Sanders, the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, indicated she would lean heavily on Trump and his rhetoric with an announcement video vowing to fight the “radical left.”
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is also running for the party’s nomination, while Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin dropped out of the race last week to instead run for attorney general. Hutchinson, who has been in office since 2015, is barred by term limits from seeking reelection.
James “Rus” Russell, who runs an outpatient mental health clinic in Little Rock, is the only Democrat who has announced he’s running.
The head of the state GOP questioned the timing of Hendren’s announcement, saying he couldn’t compete with Sanders or Rutledge.
“This is nothing more than an attempt to garner press for a future independent candidacy for governor,” State Republican Party Chairwoman Jonelle Fulmer said in a statement.
State Democrats said Hendren’s decision showed how the GOP had become too divisive and not focused on the state.
“Sen. Hendren’s exit highlights the mistakes that have been made by blindly voting for Republicans based on the divisive national rhetoric,” State Democratic Chairman Michael John Gray said in a statement.
Hendren is a former president of the state Senate who has served in the chamber since 2013. Previously, he had served in the state House of representatives from 1995 until 1999.
Hutchinson said he believed his nephew’s motivations were pure, but defended the Republican Party’s work on issues such as tax cuts and abortion restrictions.
“While I understand and identify with the concerns expressed by Sen. Hendren, I am convinced that for me the best pathway for continued conservative governance is through the GOP,” he said in a statement.