​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​News for Friday, June 23

Economic Development Blueprint, Career Center to be Presented at Former Armory

A cookout and dedication of the new Career Center are part of plans for “The Great Berryville Rollout” Wednesday, July 5, at 11:00 a.m. at the Berryville National Guard Armory when city and University of Arkansas Extension Service officials present the city’s Economic Development Blueprint and Strategic Plan. The public is invited to attend.

The “Berryville Works 2020 An Economic Development Blueprint & Action Plan” is the result of a series of meetings and surveys that began in August 2015, when representatives from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Winrock Foundation led city officials and a steering committee of community leaders in a discussion of community assets and their vision for Berryville’s future. In September 2016, Dr. Mark Peterson, director of the Breakthrough Solutions Program of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, continued the work on the initiative.

City officials, the three Carroll County school districts and representatives of Tyson have been working on a plan to provide career and technical training for Carroll County students for over a year, the impetus being the city’s ownership of the armory. Wednesday’s ceremony will include a “dedication” transforming the armory into the Carroll County Career Center and Connect 4 Program.

At the beginning of the strategic planning process, the Arkansas Army National Guard handed ownership of the Berryville Readiness Center (armory building) to the city. Mayor Tim McKinney said at the time of the deeding ceremony that he would like to see the armory used for workforce development, primarily for high school students wanting to develop a trade or craft.Carroll County’s three school districts have formally agreed to run the Career Center for its junior and senior students who are interested in pursuing a technical education,and Tyson has been instrumental in taking the plan to the implementation stage.  

“Workforce development is a key part of two of the goals in our economic development blueprint,” according to Chris Claybaker, director of Berryville Economic Development. “As the Career Center announcement began to take shape, we had to change one of the strategies in the plan from ’work to accomplish’ to ‘support.’ Tyson’s involvement in planning of the Career Center, and now as we begin to implement, has been huge,” he said.

The Kiwanis Club will be serving up the hot dogs and hamburgers that Cornerstone Bank will be grilling Wednesday for the event and Equity Bank will provide all the fixings and drinks. The Great Berryville Rollout will begin at 11:00 a.m. and hot dogs and hamburgers will be available around noon. Tables will be set up to allow for interested persons to sign up for one of five action teams that will pursue the strategies outlined in the Blueprint to meet the five goals identified during the planning process. NorthArk Community College will also be onsite to discuss educational and career opportunities.

Plans are for the Carroll County Career Center to be operated by the three Carroll County school districts with a focus on industrial maintenance and provide students a cross-curricular background in different trades. “We looked at various operations and centers but found none that came close to the Siloam Springs High School Career Center under the direction of Mike Rogers,” Claybaker said.  “Tyson has retained Mike to set up similar centers, and he has been working with us to locate one of the first ones here in the armory,” Claybaker explained. Rogers met with members of the Berryville, Eureka Springs, and Green Forest school boards in April. “Having the collaboration of all three districts is unique,” Rogers said at the that meeting. “I think that’s what schools across the nation will be heading to in a few years. Carroll County is ahead of the curve,” he added.

The Economic Blueprint and Strategic Plan includes the community’s vision: “Berryville is a safe and economically stable, sustainable, and diverse community that retains its rich heritage, its natural beauty, and its sense of place.” The five goals include Education and Workforce Development; Employment and Job Creation; Quality of Life and Place; Vibrant downtown and Retail Community; and Funding and Financing Community and Economic Development.

According to Mayor Tim McKinney, the blueprint will allow Berryville to move forward as a regional leader and retail hub “while maintaining that hometown charm and feel that makes our community unique and desirable,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with the interest and involvement of so many of our citizens.”He added that it has been a long road to get to this point, “but the hard work is just beginning as we begin to put this plan into action,” he emphasized.

Claybaker added, “Economic Development is a team sport. We need community involvement.” Anyone interested in Berryville’s future is encouraged to be at this event at the Armory Wednesday morning.  “I believe there is almost unanimous consensus that people in Berryville want to see our community continue to grow and prosper but in an orderly and deliberate way. My take from the process to produce this plan is that this community understands that if a community is not growing, it’s dying. However, that said, no one wants growth to overshadow or change what makes Berryville special – that hometown feel,” Claybaker said.

“And we can’t emphasize enough the significance of the three Carroll County school districts development of a Memorandum of Understanding – the first in the state – to operate the Connect 4 Program. The City, the three school districts and Tyson make for an ideal Public-Private Partnership (P3),” he added.



State Drops Local School from Probation List

The number of schools classified earlier this month as being on probation for violating state education standards in the 2016-17 school year dropped by nine Thursday, leaving a total of 11.

The Arkansas Board of Education met briefly Thursday to first undo its June 8 vote approving the accreditation report for the state's more than 1,000 traditional and charter schools and school systems, and then voted 5-0 for a new, corrected list of 2016-17 accreditation ratings for schools.

The schools initially classified this month as being on first-year probation but no longer are after the Education Board's vote Thursday include the Berryville Intermediate School.

If a school or district, however, repeats the violation or commits a different violation in the coming school year, the school is in jeopardy of losing state accreditation and being subjected to state Board of Education sanctions.



Tropical Depression Cindy Has Farmers in Parts of Arkansas On High Alert

Rain is often a good thing for crops, but too much of a good thing can be detrimental and that's something that farmers have to keep a close eye on.

Robby Bevis is a 5th generation farmer in Lonoke county. He grows corn, soy beans and rice, but Thursday he spent much of the day digging ditches.

Because it's been such a wet year, Bevis finished his planting later than normal. He's now about a month behind where he'd like to be.

Bevis has a lot of young plants and says and intense rain or high winds could do some damage.

"The roots haven't put down a deep root structure," says Bevis. "They don't have a good hold down deep in the ground so a little bit of wind can lay it down on the ground."

His crops lie right on the line of where he could get several inches of rain from remnants of the tropical depression or virtually none.

With the heaviest rainfall still ahead Bevis says now all he can do is wait.

"We're always at the mercy of Mother Nature and we just have to deal with it after she comes through. Good or bad."



Arkansas Lawmakers Approve New Voter ID Rules

Going to the polls in September for school elections could be a bit different.

Arkansas lawmakers have approved some new rules that could implement a new voter-identification law.

The state's board of elections wants voters to show photo I.D. before casting ballots.

If you don't have an I.D., a sworn statement could be signed saying you're registered to vote in Arkansas.

If Governor Asa Hutchinson signs off on the new rules, they'll be reviewed for approval by lawmakers.

A permanent version requires public comment, plus legislative review and approval.

In 2014 the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a similar voter I.D. law.



AARP Encouraging Letters and Calls to Senators

AARP is blasting the Senate Republican health care bill and calling on every senator to vote no.

AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said in a statement Thursday that the bill would hit millions of Americans with higher costs and result in less health coverage.

The bill would allow insurers to charge older adults up to five times as much as younger adults. LeaMond says AARP, which represents some 38 million Americans age 50 and older, is "adamantly opposed to the Age Tax."

AARP is also raising concerns about cuts in Medicaid, saying they will leave millions "at risk of losing the care they need and erode seniors' ability to live in their homes and communities."



Missouri Attorney General Sues Pharmaceutical Companies

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is taking the state’s fight against the opioid epidemic through the court system. On Wednesday, Hawley filed a lawsuit in St. Louis Circuit Court against three pharmaceutical companies, alleging that these companies fraudulently and deliberately misrepresented the addictive risks of opioids. Named in the suit are Purdue Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

Hawley announced this lawsuit during a press conference outside of the court house in downtown St. Louis, calling it one of the “largest lawsuits filed in the history of the state.”

“Our state faces an urgent public-health crisis brought on by fraud. These companies have profited from the suffering of Missourians,” Hawley said. “Today, we begin to fight to put an end to this crisis as we fight for the thousands of lives endangered and lost to the opioid epidemic.” Hawley added.

Hawley said the drug companies named in the suit “carried out a complex, multi-year campaign of fraud.”

“They used bogus front organizations and fake research. They used fraudulent advertising and deceptive trade practices, and they have repeatedly lied about the risks and true nature of the drugs they have sold.” Hawley explained.

Hawley said the lawsuit seeks one of the largest judgments in the state’s history, with “hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and hundreds of millions more in civil penalties.”

Purdue Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals haven’t responded to a request for comment.

News provided by News Director, Linda Boyer