State titles on the line tonight
The Last Good Day, Part 2, Maumelle Chamber sets expo and job fair, Task Force meeting tonight, PCSSD honors Johnson, Real Estate awards presented, Hogue sent to federal prison plus headlines
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Tragedy has a unique place in history.
We’re all born with an abundance of inherited sadness.
Family tales of woe take on a mythology all their own and become urgent questions: were you when the tornado hit? Where were you when this happened? Where were you when that happened?
All this comes to mind as the two-year anniversary of the Last Good Day approaches as it is the eve of the somewhat unofficial start of the still ongoing pandemic.
The Last Good Day was coined by writers who settled on March 13, 2020 as the day when things were last normal. That would be Sunday this year, with the following day being the start of lockdowns and restrictions and everything else we’ve grown accustomed to over the last two years.
It has become this generation’s JFK moment or my generation’s space shuttle. Or maybe it is none of those things.
In many ways, both large and small, the country, the state, the community, all seem intent on moving on.
Yet, the pandemic hasn’t.
The death toll, as of Tuesday, has reached an astronomical 10,760 and 11,000 is in sight. Perhaps, the state will hit that grim milestone on Monday, it would be, maybe, poetic in a macabre kind of way.
The state’s Covid cemetery is larger than Camden’s 10,612, and would make it Arkansas’s 37th largest city.
As a country, a year ago 100,000 deaths was pronounced an “unthinkable tragedy” and a year later the death toll is nearly 10 times that. So what is that called, “a return to normal”?
But here, the final toll is yet to be known.
If you look at the forecast numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, they’re well past bleak, as seen below.
Top line forecasts now call for more than 13,000 deaths in Arkansas. That would be like removing the city of Harrison, population 13,069, from the map.
In terms of death, the ongoing pandemic is far and away the state’s largest mass casualty event.
The closest comparisons now are war deaths.
According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, 3,814 Arkansans died in World War II with 409 dying in Korea and 397 dead in Vietnam. Those 4,620 dead are barely a third of the Covid deaths.
The only thing left is the Civil War.
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas called it, “one of the greatest disasters in Arkansas history. More than 10,000 Arkansans — black and white, Union and Confederate — lost their lives.”
Yet, all that death and there’s a desperation, among some, to forget and move on.
Maybe world events will eclipse the Covid pandemic in the history books. Ground wars in Europe have a way of doing that but, it is strange to at least not come to terms with our collective grieving.
If you don’t want to get sick and die, there’s some things you can do: Get vaccinated Get boosted Wear a mask Avoid crowds
Maumelle task force meeting is tonight
An elected officials salary task force meeting will be at 6 p.m.today
City Clerk Tina Timmons said in an email that, “Maumelle City Code § 2-564 requires that a committee be established in the month of January of every even-numbered year to consider the compensation of elected officials. The Elected Official Compensation Committee is charged with analyzing the compensation of all elected officials and making recommendations to the City Council concerning the same. The Code requires that those recommendations be presented in the form of ordinances sponsored by the Mayor no later than the first regular city council meeting in May.”
The committee has a total of seven members, five residents of Maumelle and two members of the City Council. They are: Jeff Van Patten, Chairman; Michelle Strange Elliot; Eric Jones; Justin Simpson; Patti Robinson; Council Member RJ Mazzoni and Council Member Doug Shinn
The clock is ticking as the committee’s recommendations must be presented at or before the first regular meeting in May, which falls on Monday, May 2.
Erikka Johnson, the interim principal at Harris Elementary, was the third quarter winner of the Inspiration in Education award from the Pulaski County Special School District. The award was announced at the School Board meeting on Tuesday.
Largest commercial real estate transactions in central Arkansas honored: Commercial Real Estate Council of Metro Little Rock (CREC MLR) held the fourth annual Commercial Real Estate Awards on March 3 at Pavilion in the Park to recognize the largest real estate transactions made in the previous year that have been submitted for the event. Click here to continue reading the story and to view the complete list.
Upcoming meetings: The North Little Rock City Council will meet Monday night. To view the agenda, click here.
Need a Covid test?
Click here to order a free one
Around the Internet
Entergy takes a deep dive into its role and landing Tractor Supply in Maumelle: Tractor Supply Company announced in January it will soon locate a $100 million distribution center for home goods and equipment for farms and families in Maumelle where four-wheelers once rolled through a rugged wooded parcel north of the city’s industrial park. To read more, click here.
Charts paint a grim picture two years into the Coronavirus pandemic: The on-off nature of the pandemic “has led to a lot of the confusion and grumpiness,” says one expert. Another compares it to the exhaustion of the American public when hearing body counts during the Vietnam War. To read more of the story from Kaiser Health News and PolitiFact, click here.
Title games tonight for North Little Rock
Basketball season is over for all but North Little Rock as the ‘Cats play for two state titles today in Hot Springs at the Bank OZK Arena, which has been North Little Rock’s home away from home in March for the last decade.
For boys coach Johnny Rice, it will be his seventh state championship game at the school and has won five. The other for the other thumb, will start at 7:45 p.m. and immediately follow Daryl Fimple and the girls at 6 p.m.
This is also Fimple’s seventh state championship game at North Little Rock and if he wins it will be one for the thumb as it would be his fifth ring.
The doors open at 5 p.m. and it is highly encouraged to get there early.
It is fair to say that both North Little Rock teams are the heavy favorites.
North Little Rock will face Bentonville, a team they beat, 60-33, but Rice was quick to point out that it was an “exhibition game” played in November and there’s been lots of basketball since. On the other hand, North Little Rock has two McDonald’s All-Americans in 7-foot center Kel’el Ware and 6-5 guard Nick Smith Jr. They’ve signed, respectively, with Oregon and Arkansas.
Plus, Smith is a finalist for National Player of the Year and is already projected as the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft by ESPN. Bentonville counters with Abel Hutchinson, the grandson of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a 6-4 college prospect, much like his brother, Asa IV, who now plays at Drury in Missouri.
On the girls side, North Little Rock faces Fort Smith Northside, a conference rival they’ve beaten twice this season and Fimple has a loaded team with four seniors, who will all play in college next season.
So, yeah, fair to say both are favorites.
All state championship games will be televised live on Arkansas PBS for those not able to make the drive to Hot Springs.
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The Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce announced this week that the Maumelle Expn and Job Fair will be held this April.
The event will start at 2 p.m. on April 7 and be held at the Jess Odom Community Center. It is free and is also sponsored by Farm Bureau and Dillards.
The Chamber said more than 50 vendors will participate in the expo and the Arkansas Workforce Center will be on hand as well.
If interested in becoming a vendor, or for more information, call the Chamber at 851-9700 or email email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is also posted at maumellechamber.com.
The legal journey of Sherwood’s Kelli Hogue, formerly known as Kelli Cashion, came to an end this week as U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky sentenced her to 96 months in federal prison.
Hogue, 59, will be 67 when she completes her prison time.
While maybe not immediately familiar to some, Hogue’s troubles are well known in the legal community, of which she was a long-time member.
She had been a licensed attorney in the state before losing that license in 2001 after she was convicted of forgery.
Hogue bounced back and went to work as a clerk and paralegal for the Herrod Law Firm on Pike Avenue in North Little Rock. She also worked as a bookkeeper for the Runyan Sanitary Sewer District 211. That’s the non-profit that owns and operates a sewage plant for the North Little Rock Water Department.
There she embezzled money. Lots of money.
In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas wrote that Hogue wrote some 180 “unauthorized checks” to herself for $669,599.71.
The release said Hogue “wrote checks payable to herself from the Runyan bank account and deposited them into accounts she controlled, and she hid these checks by making false entries in QuickBooks, where they appeared as business expenses.”
She also filed a disability claim with the Social Security Administration and said she was no longer able to work for the law firm or Runyan when, in fact, she was still working for both.
Hogue “stole approximately $120,523 in Social Security disability payments” as a result of that scheme.
She pleaded guilty in August 2021 and in preparation for the sentencing, Hogue then submitted four letters of support in her request for a reduced sentence but that was also a hoax as federal investigators said the names were forged by her and “all four people said they did not write the letters in support.”
Rudofsky revoked her pre-sentencing release and was placed back into custody.
It, somehow, gets worse.
At the sentencing hearing, she told the court she had already repaid the disability payments and the money from the embezzled checks, which she had, for a total of nearly $800,000 in payments.
But, huge but, she had gotten the cash from “falsifying her federal tax returns” where she had received over $4 million in fraudulent returns.
That Internal Revenue Service investigation is still ongoing.
“This defendant has spent years defrauding her employer as well as the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” U.S. Attorney Jonathan D. Ross said in the release. “Her brazen theft is an injustice to those who pay into the system as well as those who truly need its assistance, and today’s sentence indicates the seriousness of her greed-fueled crimes.”
After she’s released from prison, Hogue has been ordered to serve five years of supervised releases and also pay a fine of $100,000.
No word on when Netflix will option this for a movie or a limited series, but it seems reasonable given the cinematic scope of Hogue’s misdeeds.