Johnathan Reaves

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Courtesy of Fritz Gisler, Director of Communications for the City of Jonesboro:

Ben Barylske, Chief Financial Officer for the City of Jonesboro, announced his resignation today. His last official day with the City will be August 13, 2015.

Preliminary plans for a new county jail in Lawrence County are being drawn up.  The Lawrence County Quorum Court approved a construction firm that will provide justices with different jail options.  The Sun reports South Build contractors were selected to provide the layouts for the jail, which could house at least 100 inmates.  No word on exact cost estimates, but County Judge Dale Freeman says the new jail could cost as much as nine-million-dollars.  Freeman says the county is looking at a half-cent sales tax increase or more for construction of a jail.  Arkansas Jail Standards threatened

From our content partner Talk Business & Politics:

A short-term highway bill drew the support Thursday of 91 U.S. Senators, including Arkansas’ Republican U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton. The Senate voted 91-4 Thursday to approve HR 3236, one day after the House overwhelmingly approved the bill.

From our content partner Talk Business & Politics:

A 17-member panel charged with making recommendations regarding Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has submitted 21 of them to Gov. Asa Hutchinson to consider.

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who led the Council on Common Core Review, said earlier in the week that Common Core – a group of common standards in math and English Language Arts – should be made more rigorous and be renamed.

A report issued by the Council said concerns over testing were the most divisive elements of the controversial guidelines.

Courtesy of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

American Railcar Industries, Inc. (ARI or the Company), a leading North American designer and manufacturer of hopper and tank railcars,  provided further details regarding its project to enhance its  tank railcar manufacturing facility in Marmaduke, Arkansas (Greene County). As part of the expansion, the Company will invest $10.5 million in buildings and equipment and expects to hire up to 75 new full-time employees.

Johnathan Reaves / KASU/News

Since 1963, Paragould has sought a bypass that would take traffic around the city.  Yesterday, the eastern part of that bypass was dedicated. 

“I think it’s a big asset to Paragould.  It takes a lot of traffic out of the center of Paragould and will benefit the city very much.”

Arkansas Highway officials say a three month extension of the Federal Highway Trust Fund is not sustainable for future planning of projects.  Arkansas has pulled $350 million dollars’ worth of projects due to uncertainty about federal funding.  Director of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Scott Bennett says a Highway Funding Study group has been formed by Governor Asa Hutchinson to look at what the state can do to fund future projects:

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has approved a contract for construction of a roundabout in Jonesboro.  Here is a press release from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department:

The Arkansas State Highway Commission has approved a bid for improvements to roadways in Craighead County, according to Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) officials.

The purpose of the project is to construct a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 351 and Aggie Road in Jonesboro.

The Jonesboro Police Department is hosting a Citizen Police Academy this fall.  The academy gives citizens an opportunity to see what the police department does and why.  Media Specialist with the Jonesboro Police Department Paul Holmes tells how this started.

“After police chief Rick Elliott took the reins here, he felt that this would be a valuable way to have a community outreach program that be interactive,”  said Holmes.  “We could learn from the citizens and they could learn from police department to gain a better understanding of each other’s views.”

Big River Steel

Big River Steel will be in operation this time next year.  That announcement was made before the Arkansas Waterways Commission by John Correnti, the president and CEO of the 1.3 billion dollar steel mill under construction in Osceola.  Between 500 and 600 construction workers are currently onsite, with another 15-hundred coming to work.  On Friday, commissioners joined Correnti and president of Mid River Terminal Rick Ellis in a tour of their facilities. 

Craighead County is running out of data storage space for all of its departments and needs an immediate upgrade.  That is what the Craighead County Quorum Court was told during a meeting last night.  The county’s Information Technology department says data usage has soared, which creates the need for much more storage.  Justices learned the county only has about three months of storage left before it runs out.  A proposal was brought before the Quorum Court for $75,000 to be used to purchase an upgraded system, which would increase data storage capacity for the next five years.  Justices w

The Arkansas Waterways Commission is working with the U-S Army Corps of Engineers in developing a dredging plan for the White River.  The White River is the only river in the state that is not navigable for river traffic.  That is due to the 2011 river flooding.  Executive Director of the Arkansas Waterways Commission Gene Higgenbotham says the problem is that huge trees and other debris from the flooding in 2011 is in the navigation channel, which is making the river impassable. 

Osceola High School is receiving a one-point-three million dollar grant over a three-year period to help with teacher retention and developing strategies to boost student scores in math and literacy.  The Sun Newspaper reports the funds are part of a federal school improvement grant program.  Part of the funds will allow for the district to give bonuses to teachers who decide to stay at the high school for four years.  This is in response to a reported high turnover rate at the school district.  Funds will also be used to compensate teachers for additional training they take above and beyon

The U-S Army Corps of Engineers is about to start a major dredging project involving the White River.  The three-year project would take place from Newport down to Clarendon.  Vickie Wilson is with the Army Corps of Engineers in Memphis.  She told the Arkansas Waterways Commission the first year would be gathering permits and conducting environmental studies.  She tells what else is involved.

Bridge repair on State Highway 75 north of Interstate 40 in Poinsett County has required immediate closure of a section of the route 2.86 miles north of the Cross County Line, according to Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) officials.

Cracks in several of the structure’s wooden support columns have rendered the bridge impassable. This section of State Highway 75 will remain closed to through traffic until repairs can be made, which is estimated to take approximately two weeks. Local traffic, however, will be permitted in this area.

Two years ago, Newport put in a bid to be a city where the new Veterans’ Home would be located.  Jacksonville landed the 22 million dollar facility.  The 20 acres of land the home would have been placed could be available again to try to persuade the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to place a regional center in Newport.  A report by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette stated that five regional centers in the state are being planned.  Newport Mayor David Stewart says the city will apply for a VA regional center.

Next year, Arkansas should have a new water plan in place.  Since 2012, The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission has been working on drafting a plan that will be in place until 2050.  Final public meetings on the final rules in the plan are taking place across the state.  Meetings have been held in Russellville and Jonesboro, with five more meetings yet to be held.

Arkansas Judiciary

2nd District Circuit Judge Lee Fergus is being remembered for how he helped children, and for establishing a juvenile drug court in Craighead County, and surrounding counties.  KASU's Johnathan Reaves interviews 2nd Judicial Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington about Fergus.    Click Listen to hear the interview. 

The State Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has approved a permit for alcohol sales at certain Arkansas State University venues.

Speaking before the Craighead County Bar Association yesterday, Governor Asa Hutchinson touted Arkansas’ continuing economic growth.  Over the past year, 73 of the state’s 75 counties have seen economic gains.  Governor Hutchinson says that is a key to combat some of the challenges the state faces.

“Whether it is overgrowth of our prisoner population, improving education, paying teachers more, or building more highways, much of the challenge we face can be met by consistent and dynamic economic growth.”

Arkansas State University is receiving a one million dollar gift from Mississippi County’s Wilson family.  Perry Wilson, the great-great grandson of R.E.

The first African-American Class in the United States to integrate into an all-white school was recognized over the weekend. In Hoxie, Arkansas, the 60th anniversary of the “Hoxie 21” took place Saturday.  On July 11, 1955, 21 students left the colored school in Hoxie and went to the Hoxie Schools, two years before the Little Rock Nine entered Little Rock Central High School.  Ethel Tompkins is a member of the class of the Hoxie 21 and remembers that day and says the differences in schools were stark.

Tomorrow will mark the 60th anniversary of the integration of African American students into the Hoxie Schools.  This occurred on July 11th, 1955, two years before the Little Rock Nine attended schools at Little Rock Central High School.

    A French-based company has entered into America’s cable market by expressing interest in purchasing St. Louis-based Suddenlink Communications.  Altice is wanting to buy the company for just over nine-billion-dollars.  Roby Brock with Talk Business and Politics tells why Suddenlink is attractive to Altice.

NPR member station KBIA in Columbia, Missouri sent two reporters to the Bootheel of Missouri to report on health and economic issues in the region.  The station will hold a community engagement event in Kennett and the First Presbyterian Church  on May 20.  A panel discussion about health and development issues will take place at that  time. The event is open to the public and starts at six.  KASU's Johnathan Reaves interviewed KBIA's health reporter Bram Sable-Smith in this interview.