KAWX News

Sheriff's Log September 26th - October 2nd

The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of September 26, 2022 – October 2, 2022. The charges against those arrested are allegations and the cases are still pending in the courts. Individuals charged and whose names appear in this column may submit documentation to us at a later date that the charges have been dismissed or that they have been found innocent and we will include that information in this space in a timely manner.

 

September 26, 2022

 

Deputies responded to a residence on Polk 75 near Acorn in reference to destruction of property. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

 

A minor vehicle accident in a business parking lot near Mena led to the arrest of William Hale, 59 of Mena on charges of DWI, Ignition Interlock Device, Driving on a DWI Suspended License and Careless and Prohibited Driving.

 

Tommy Black, 49 of Boles was arrested on a Felony Body Attachment Warrant, a Felony Failure to Appear Warrant, two Misdemeanor Failure to Appear Warrants, a Misdemeanor Warrant for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and a Misdemeanor Warrant for Possession of a Schedule VI Controlled Substance.

 

September 27, 2022

 

Deputies were dispatched to a business near Wickes in reference to an alarm.

 

Deputies responded to a report of a physical domestic disturbance at a residence on Robin lane near Mena leading to the arrest of Clay Breeden, 43 of Mena on a charge of 3rd Degree Domestic Battery.

 

William Hinkle, 49 of Cove was arrested on a Felony Warrant for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

 

Deputies responded to a report of a car fire at a residence on Polk 295 near Hatfield.

 

September 28, 2022

 

Deputies responded to an altercation at a residence on Hwy 71 North near Acorn.

 

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to harassing communications.

 

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Pebble Lane near Mena in reference to a physical domestic disturbance leading to the arrest of Glenn Gowdy, 36 of Mena on a charge of 3rd Degree Domestic Battery.

 

Deputies responded to a report of financial identity fraud.

 

September 29, 2022

 

Deputies responded to a structure fire on Prairie Dog Lane near Hatfield.

 

Deputies responded to a report of harassment.

 

September 30, 2022

 

Deputies responded to a report of financial identity fraud.

 

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 46 near Mena in reference to vandalism.

 

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to possible stolen property being

found at a property on Polk 143 near Hatfield.

 

October 1, 2022

 

Deputies responded to a residence on Hwy 278 East near Wickes in reference to an altercation. This led to the arrest of S J Goss, 70 of Wickes on charges of Possession of a Firearm by Certain Persons and Aggravated Assault on a Family or Household Member.

 

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 32 near Cove in reference to vandalism.

 

Deputies responded to a theft report from a residence on Cajun Lane near Mena.

 

October 2, 2022

 

Deputies responded to a report of a missing gun.

 

Deputies responded to a residence on Polk 37 near Hatfield in reference to a domestic disturbance.

 

Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked 3 vehicle accidents this week.

 

Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 20 Incarcerated Inmates, with 10 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.

 

10-03-22 4:32 PM KAWX.ORG

Commodity Distribution in Mena October 20th

ARVAC, Inc. will issue commodities at the Polk County Fair Grounds  on Polk Road 43, Mena, AR on Thursday, October 20th from 12:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m.

 

Due to Covid-19 Concerns this will be a drive through only distribution.

 

Listed are the income guidelines, family size and monthly income below:

FAMILY SIZE

WEEK

MONTH

YEAR

1

$ 340

$1,473

$ 17,667

2

$ 458

$1,984

$ 23,803

3

$ 576

$2,495

$ 29,939

4

$ 694

$3,007

$ 36,075

5

$ 812

$3,518

$ 42,211

6

$ 930

$4,029

$ 48,347

7

$ 1,048

$4,541

$ 54,483

8

$1,166

$5,052

$ 60,619

Each additional family member

+ $118

+ $512

+ $6,136

 

The above income guidelines are based on 130% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

 

Add $512.00 for each additional family member.  You cannot pick up commodities for more than two households. 

 

Rules for acceptance and participation in the program are the same for everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, or handicap.

 

For additional information, contact Stephanie Garner CEO, ARVAC, Inc., phone (479)219-5292 or (479)229-4861.

 

10-3-22 4:08 PM KAWX.ORG

Mena Police Report for September 25th - October 1st

Mena Police Department reports for the week of September 25th through October 1st, 2022

 

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

September 25

Caleb McLellan, 22, was charged with DWI 3rd, Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test, Violation of Ignition Interlock Device, Possession of Open Container in Vehicle, Driving on Suspended License, Driving Left of Center, and Speeding after a traffic stop on Highway 71.

 

A report of harassment was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of harassment was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

September 26

A report of theft was taken from a walk-in complaint.

 

A report of failure to stop after an accident was taken at a residence on Holly Avenue.

 

A theft report of taken at Executive Inn.

 

A theft report was taken at a residence on Meadow Brook Drive.

 

A report of theft by deception was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

September 27

A death investigation report was taken at a residence on 3rd Street.

 

September 28

A report of a missing person was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

Anthony Robertson, 31, was charged with Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle on Highway 8 East.

 

September 29

Bryan Terry, 40, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on Ransom Road.

 

A report of criminal mischief was taken at a residence on Pine Avenue.

 

A report of theft was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of harassing communications was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of theft and criminal mischief was taken at Washburn’s.

 

A report of theft was taken at Walmart.

 

September 30

A report of criminal mischief was taken at a residence on Cherry Street.

 

Michael Williams, 40, was served with a warrant after contact on Highway 71.

 

A report of harassing communications and violation of a protection order was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of disorderly conduct was taken at a residence on Bethesda Road.

 

A report of disorderly conduct was taken at a residence on Dequeen Street.

 

October 1

No reports.

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

10-3-22 10:09 AM KAWX.ORG

State Representative John Maddox's Weekly Column

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., one in eight women will develop breast cancer. It is the most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of death among women. 

 

However, more women are living longer and healthier lives after a diagnosis. The key is early detection.

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now is the time to talk to your healthcare provider about getting screened and encourage your family and friends to do the same.

 

In 1997, the Arkansas General Assembly passed the Breast Cancer Act, which led to the ADH’s BreastCare program. The BreastCare program has coordinated efforts with a statewide network of providers offering no-cost screenings and follow-up services to eligible women who are uninsured or underinsured. Women aged 21-64 can be screened for cervical cancer, and women aged 40-64 can be screened for breast cancer.

 

In addition to screening and diagnostic services, BreastCare provides educational information to communities about the importance of regular breast exams as well as the risks associated with breast cancer. 

 

Since its inception 25 years ago, the BreastCare Program has enrolled over 128,000 women for breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services.

 

 In the 2021 Regular Session, we passed Act 553. This act amends the law concerning coverage of diagnostic examinations for breast cancer under certain health benefit plans. It clarifies that an insurer, upon the recommendation of a woman's physician, must offer screening mammography as an essential health benefit if the woman has a prior history of breast cancer or the woman's mother, sister, or any first- or second-degree female relative of the woman has had a history of breast cancer, positive genetic testing, or other risk factors.

 

The General Assembly continually reviews legislation to improve services for early detection.

 

 If you would like more information on the BreastCare program, call 501-661-2942 or visit www.ARBreastCare.com

 

10-2-22 3:29 PM KAWX.ORG 

Governor Asa Hutchinson's Weekly Address

Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Address: Expanding Electric Vehicle Infrastructure in Arkansas

 

To listen to Governor Hutchinson's weekly radio address, click anywhere on this line, then click on the play button.

 

LITTLE ROCK – Today I would like to talk about how we are expanding opportunities for electric vehicle industries in our state.

First, to make driving electric vehicles in Arkansas a possibility for many, the infrastructure must be there to support it. We are working hard to make that happen.

 

Recently, Arkansas was approved to receive $54 million dollars in federal grants over the next five years, which will be used to work with partners in the installation of accessible charging stations throughout the state. The deployment of the charging stations will be led by the Arkansas Department of Transportation in coordination with my Department of Energy and Environment.

 

The goal is to have as many charging stations around the state as we can. Step one includes locating stations at every 50 miles along the most used Arkansas interstates. Step two is to build out infrastructure in rural areas. Anyone in Arkansas who wants to drive electric vehicles should have no worries about the availability of charging stations, no matter where they live within the state.

 

In addition to the $54 million plan, we are also receiving funding assistance for the installation of 150-kW DC fast charging stations, which can charge electric vehicles in as little as 30 minutes. And we also plan to provide rebates for the installation of Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations, which can fully charge electric vehicles in eight hours or less. Both programs are possible thanks to the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund, and they are moving quickly to establish EV charging in key locations throughout the state.

 

In Arkansas, we have been working to make our state a leader in using advanced energy technologies. With the creation of teams like the Arkansas Council on Future Mobility, and our focus on innovative technologies, Arkansas is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the electric vehicle industry.

 

Improving the electric vehicle infrastructure will benefit Arkansans, but it will also benefit many out-of-state travelers and our tourism economy. When people plan to visit, they will have confidence that Arkansas can accommodate their charging needs.

This week is a time many states have established as Electric Vehicle Week. It is a week meant to provide education and spread awareness about the benefits of electric vehicles to our country. I have joined in and proclaimed this time as National Drive Electric Week in Arkansas.

 

EV charging infrastructure has been a key priority of mine for several years, and I want it to remain a priority well into the future. Arkansas has the potential to develop the best infrastructure in the region and continue leading the nation in advanced technology.

 

9-29-22 4:25 PM KAWX.ORG

US Senator John Boozman's Weekly Column

Help Protect Seniors from Scams

 

In recent weeks there have been more news stories in Arkansas about novel methods scammers are using to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals and steal their money. It’s important to be educated about this issue and stay up-to-date on the ways thieves are operating so we can safeguard against these crimes and prevent seniors – the population that is most often the target of these scams – from becoming a victim.

 

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) scammers stole $1 billion from America’s seniors in 2021. Data from the agency reveals 25 percent of individuals over age 60 were contacted by thieves via phone last year.

 

In The Natural State, one woman recently reported a scam to police after receiving a phone call from what she thought was her bank about suspicious activity on her account. The phony bank employee told her the CIA could help resolve the situation and then duped her into paying more than $50,000 for assistance.

 

Scammers are using a variety of methods and mediums, including the internet where they prey on the vulnerabilities of the elderly by building connections they later exploit.

 

A letter from one constituent recently asked my office to help a retired servicemember overseas whom she met online.

 

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command receives hundreds of reports each month similar to this scenario. This common tactic is identified as a romance scam. Thieves use the names, pictures and personal information of U.S. military members and retired servicemembers to build a fake identity and attract future victims.

 

The FTC reports romance scams hit a record high in 2021 and now criminals are using this scheme to lure people into phony investments, particularly with cryptocurrency. Just two months ago the FBI warned about the uptick of a similar ploy in Northwest Arkansas.

 

While the techniques vary in how scammers operate, the objectives are the same. I’m working with my colleagues to share the latest information and resources to prevent unsuspecting Americans, particularly seniors, from becoming victims.

 

The Senate Special Committee on Aging recently released its annual Fraud Book detailing the top swindles reported to the committee’s fraud hotline. Launched in 2012, the hotline aims to help identify scams targeting seniors and better educate this population so they know the signs to watch for to stay safe.

 

According to the report, Arkansans have called about a variety of scams including the top complaint filed with the hotline for several years––the government imposter scam. In these cases, an individual falsely claims to represent a federal agency such as the IRS and asks for personal information such as a Social Security number. Then they threaten to withhold benefits unless you follow their instructions, which often call for wiring money or sending prepaid debit or gift cards.

 

The toll-free number 1-855-303-9470 is operated from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central time to record suspected fraud attempts. Arkansas seniors who believe they are a victim are welcome to call. As always, incidents of crime can be reported to local law enforcement.

 

Recognizing the signs of common scams can reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim. We can also help educate our elderly loved ones, friends and acquaintances to stay one step ahead of these bad actors.

 

9-29-22 3:55 PM KAWX.ORG

Congressman Bruce Westerman's Weekly Column

It’s Time to TAP into American Energy

Americans are struggling to pay the price for President Joe Biden’s energy policies. This winter, families are expected to pay the highest prices in over a decade to heat their homes. Natural gas prices continue to remain near a 14-year-high. As of Sunday, the national price for a gallon of gas was approximately $3.71 – over a dollar more than when President Biden took office. As Arkansans know, high energy costs effect every industry, especially food. When farm input prices on fuel and fertilizer increase, every American feels the strain at the grocery store.

 

The U.S. has the ability to produce the most efficient, cleanest energy in the world. We can easily meet our own needs and export to our allies. There is no reason to rely on the good will of dictators like those of Russia and Venezuela to power our economy.

 

That is why I introduced the Transparency and Production of (TAP) American Energy Act. The TAP American Energy Act responsibly opens access to our rich natural resources, reforming and streamlining permitting processes, and incentivizing innovation.

 

My bill would prevent any president from imposing bans on federal energy leasing and mineral withdrawals without congressional approval, require the Department of the Interior to immediately resume quarterly lease sales on federal lands, with a minimum of four lease sales per year in each state with eligible lands, and require a minimum of two annual oil and gas lease sales in available federal waters in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. My bill would also streamline the environmental review process to allow pipeline, renewable energy, and transmission projects to move forwards efficiently, without compromising environmental protections.

 

It's time to reverse President Biden’s war on American energy and become fully energy independent. This is a pivotal part of the Republican Commitment to America: to maximize American-made energy and reduce reliance on foreign countries.

 

We cannot simply rely on our Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which is meant for natural disasters or national security emergencies, to bring down gas prices, as President Biden has done. The SPR is now at its lowest point since 1984 for no reason other than to cover for the consequences of President Biden’s anti-energy policies. I am proud to lead this effort to bring down energy costs for the county and strengthen our national security by securing our energy independence.

 

9-29-22 3:50 PM KAWX.ORG

State Senator Larry Teague's Weekly Column

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Larry Teague:

 

September 30, 2022

 

LITTLE ROCK – In the fiscal session earlier this year the legislature appropriated a million dollars for pregnancy resource centers.

 

The state has awarded grants totalling about $455,000 to 14 centers. Because $545,000 has still not been awarded, the Department of Finance and Administration will open a second round of applications in October.

 

The department will accept applications for 30 days. There will then be a 30-day review period, so the second round of awards should be announced by late November or early December.

 

Act 187 of 2022 defines pregnancy resource centers as organizations that seek to provide services to women facing unintended pregnancies. The purpose is to encourage them to give birth.

 

No organization qualifies if it makes referrals for abortions or is affiliated with an organization that performs abortions.

 

Grants are available for centers that traditionally have been known as crisis pregnancy organizations. Also, adoption agencies, maternity homes and social service agencies qualify if they provide material support and assistance to pregnant women, in order to help them with delivery of their babies.

 

In a Mississippi case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right of a woman to have an abortion.

 

Arkansas had a “trigger law” in place, Act 180 of 2019. It is called a “trigger law” because it was written to take effect in the event the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. When that happened, the state attorney general certified Act 180 and said that abortion was illegal in Arkansas except to save the life of the mother.

 

The attorney general also said that Arkansas was now the most pro-life state in the nation.

 

Legislative funding of pregnancy resource centers was in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The decision was expected to increase the number of unwanted pregnancies in Arkansas, and more young women will need help.

 

Faith-based organizations are eligible for grants, and accepting a grant will not restrict the group’s ability to support religious activities. However, the money must be used to help pregnant women and may not be used to promote religious activities.

 

Grant funds may not be used for food and beverages, such as at a baby shower. It can be spent on advertising.

 

Grant money can be used to hire staff, but only if the staff person assists pregnant females. If the staff person has other duties, such as supporting religious activities, the position must be “split.”

 

For example, if half of the staffer’s time is dedicated to supporting religious activities, then half of that person’s salary must come from a source other than the state grant.

 

Pregnancy centers can use the grant money to contract with health care professionals, if the medical services provided are to help pregnant females.

 

To qualify for a grant, the organization must be physically located in Arkansas. The finance department rejected one application because it was submitted by an organization that applied for the entire $1 million and is not located in Arkansas.

 

The awards to the 14 pregnancy centers ranged from $5,880 to $40,000. Many were between $30,000 and $40,000.

 

9-29-22 3:50 PM KAWX.ORG

Polk County Sheriff's Report for September 19th - 15th

SHERIFF’S LOG

The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of September 19, 2022 – September 25, 2022. The charges against those arrested are allegations and the cases are still pending in the courts. Individuals charged and whose names appear in this column may submit documentation to us at a later date that the charges have been dismissed or that they have been found innocent and we will include that information in this space in a timely manner.

 

September 19, 2022

Deputies were dispatched to the area of Polk 65 and Polk 67 in reference to damaged mailboxes.

 

September 20, 2022

Deputies responded to a report of theft from a residence on Polk 98 near Grannis.

 

September 21, 2022

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 647 near Mena in reference to a break-in.

Deputies responded to a domestic dispute. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

 

September 22, 2022

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 298 near Mena in reference to a death.

 

September 23, 2022

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to battery. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Hwy 375 East near Mena in reference to harassment. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

Deputies responded to a residence on Medlin Lane near Hatfield in reference to a child custody dispute.

 

September 24, 2022

Bobby Hedrick, 52 of Wickes was arrested on a Felony Probation Violation Warrant as well as three Misdemeanor Failure to Appear Warrants.

Deputies were dispatched to a business near Rocky in reference to a theft. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 41 North near Mena in reference to an altercation.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 129 near Mena in reference to stolen property.

 

September 25, 2022

Policarpio Rios, 50 of Wickes was arrested on a Misdemeanor Warrant for harassment.

Codie Shifflett, 29 of Hatfield was arrested by and officer with the Arkansas Highway Patrol on charges of Public Intoxication and Endangering the Welfare of a Minor.

 

Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked 0 vehicle accidents this week.

 

Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 22 Incarcerated Inmates, with 12 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.

 

9-26-22 3:00 PM KAWX.ORG

UARM Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month

 
The University of Arkansas Rich Mountain (UARM) held a Fall Fiesta September 15 in the Ouachita Center. The event featured authentic Hispanic snacks like chips/salsa, sopapillas, pan dulce, fruit cups, flavored water; a soccer demonstration by Bucks Soccer athletes and coaches; a panel discussion; a photo booth and a colorful folkloric dance performance.
 
The event was made possible through a grant through the American Library Association’s American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries, an emergency relief program to assist libraries that have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Director of Library Services Brenda Miner is responsible for writing for the competitive $10,000 grant, which is assisting  Johnson Learning Commons at UARM in delivering programs and services related to culture, history, literature, and other humanities subjects. This event was the third event hosted this year at UARM, all made possible through the grant. Miner expressed her sincere appreciation to PaPa’s Mexican Café, LaVilla’s, Mamita’s, and the UARM Student Government Association for their sponsorship and assistance of the event.
 
The event was well attended by elementary and high school students as well as the community. Chancellor Dr. Phillip Wilson commended the work of Miner and the many campus volunteers who worked together to host the event. “It was a tremendous success and one that we would love to see become an annual campus celebration.”
 
Those unable to make the event can watch a video of it on the University of Arkansas
Rich Mountain’s YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsr25JPjPYYwNBFEP5HcVjw.
UA Rich Mountain’s mission is to provide transformative education to all learners.
 
 
 

Mena Police Report for September 18th - September 24th

Mena Police Department reports for the week of September 18th through September 24th, 2022:

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.?

 

September 18

 

A report of theft was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of theft was taken on Jansen Avenue.

 

September 19

 

A report of theft was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

Aaron Morse, 48, was served with a warrant at the county jail.

 

A report of theft was taken at a residence on 7th Street.

 

Wanda Haffelder, 77, was served with a warrant at Walmart.

 

September 20

 

A report of theft was taken at Walmart.

 

Brittainy Mendel, 32, was served with a warrant at District Court.

 

Tatum Veal, 32, was served with a warrant at District Court.

 

A report of a missing person was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

September 21

 

No report.

 

September 22

 

Douglas Gross, 63, was charged with Disorderly Conduct, Public Intoxication, Fleeing, and Resisting Arrest on 7th Street.

 

A report of theft was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

September 23

 

No report.

 

 

September 24

 

James Deweese, 51, was charged with Disorderly Conduct after a disturbance call at Sonic.

 

A report of theft was taken at a residence on 3rd Street.

 

A report of criminal mischief was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of theft was taken at United Country Real Estate.

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

9-26-22 10:40 PM KAWX.ORG

Polk County Detention Center Inmates

State Representative John Maddox's Weekly Column

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, suicide is the leading cause of violent death in Arkansas. In 2020, 583 Arkansans died by suicide. That same year, close to 46,000 individuals died by suicide nationwide. That is one death every 11 minutes.

 

The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher. In 2020, an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.2 million attempted suicide.

 

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  By working together to recognize the signs, raise awareness of suicide and open the conversation with each other, you can make a difference and save Arkansas lives.

If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need.

 

In 2017, the legislature passed an act that ensured Arkansans were answering calls made from Arkansas to the crisis hotline. Now when someone calls the hotline, they are speaking to someone with knowledge of local resources available.

 

In the 2021 Regular Session, we passed Act 640. This act ensures that the crisis line employs individuals who have experience working with veterans.

 

Every month, the Arkansas 988 crisis call centers answer an average of 965 calls. Arkansans who are thinking about suicide or experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis can now call an easily remembered number – 988 – to speak with a trained, experienced crisis counselor who will talk to the individual, listen to and understand their situation, explore options, help the individual create a safety plan, and direct the individual to additional resources or facilities if needed.

 

You can call or text. You can also chat online with a trained crisis counselor at 988lifeline.org.

 

9-24-22 10:10 PM KAWX.ORG

US Senator John Boozman's Weekly Column

Understanding the Deadly Consequences of Our Overrun Southern Border

 

The disaster on our southern border has been raging since the beginning of the Biden administration. Migrants have been rushing to cross into the United States ever since it became clear President Biden was not committed to border security and immigration enforcement.

 

This is a crisis in every sense of the word, and it’s only getting worse despite every possible sign that a course correction is necessary.

 

There are numerous examples demonstrating this is not just a policy failure, but a complete breakdown of the rule of law whose effects are spilling out across our society.

 

Over 200,000 migrants were encountered at the southern border in August, extending a pattern of increased illegal immigration levels since January 2021. There have been over two million border crossings this fiscal year, already breaking last year’s historically high level.

 

Beyond the erosion of sovereignty and undermining of our commitment to the rule of law, there are even greater causes for concern.

 

Border security is national security. If the picture at the border is any indication of our preparedness, then we are under serious threat.

 

As of August, 78 individuals on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database have been apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel.

 

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress that there are “significant security issues” related to our southern border and that terrorists are looking for any potential vulnerability to exploit, which should be genuine cause for alarm.

 

Other potential criminal elements are also seeking to use the chaos to their advantage. Over 600 known gang members have been stopped at the border this year – nearly twice as many as in 2021 or 2020 – as well as 9,381 criminal migrants, almost quadruple the number encountered two years ago.

 

None of these figures include the over 500,000 migrants who escaped apprehension – known as “got-aways” – who reached the interior of the United States this year and disappeared.

 

Bad actors flocking to our country presents all sorts of risks to our communities, but one unquestionably heightened danger is the relentless flow of fentanyl onto America’s streets.

 

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s up to 50 times stronger than heroin, is now the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18-45. Lethal doses, amounting to just two milligrams, have taken the lives of hundreds of Arkansans in the last few years. Worse still, the Drug Enforcement Administration is warning that in addition to this narcotic being mass-produced and laced into fake prescription medication, it is now also being targeted at some of our youngest Americans in the form of brightly colored pills made to look like candy. “Rainbow fentanyl” has been seized in at least 18 states to date.

 

This deadly drug flows into our country from China with the help of Mexican drug cartels. Although CBP is seizing record levels at our ports of entry, they aren’t intercepting all of it, including what’s brought by smugglers who avoid detection altogether.

 

This just scratches the surface of what our overwhelmed border means for Americans.

 

With such a failure of border and immigration policy, every state in the union is now a border state. It’s time the administration and my Democratic colleagues in Congress recognize it and work in a bipartisan way to restore order, promote safety and uphold the rule of law at our southern border.

 

9-23-22 4:00 PM KAWX.ORG

Governor Asa Hutchinson's Weekly Address

Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Address: Celebrating the Heritage of Hispanic Americans

 

To listen to Governor Hutchinson's weekly radio address, click anywhere on this line, then click on the play button.

 

LITTLE ROCK – Today I would like to talk about Hispanic Heritage Month and what this occassion represents. Hispanic influence can be seen in all aspects of American life and culture.

 

In the 1980’s Arkansas saw a growth in the Hispanic population, which continued well into the 21st century. According to the 2020 census, Arkansas was one of 15 states where the Hispanic population made up more than half of all population growth in the state. Hispanic roots in Arkansas run deep and have become a vital part of our communities around the state.

 

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law a week-long celebration for Hispanic Heritage. He believed that it was important to celebrate the heritage of our American citizens who were of Hispanic descent because it was those who came before them who helped settle our land and built our country into what it is now.

 

Later in 1988, Hispanic Heritage Week grew into Hispanic Heritage Month after President Ronald Reagan signed it into law.

 

It is no coincidence that this falls in September as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua celebrate their independence on September 15. But also, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.

 

Hispanic Heritage is American heritage because the American story is about every person who takes responsibility, works hard, and dreams big. When we take the time to honor those who made this American story possible, we can overcome America’s challenges and continue to be a beacon of freedom for the world.

 

When President Reagan signed into law the month-long celebration, he did so because he believed that the celebration of Hispanic Heritage was an example of how fundamental family is to our country.

 

He believed that the strength of America’s families translated into the strength of our country. This time of celebration looks into a culture’s strongest qualities, and Hispanic Heritage Month is a time where we can honor a love for family and connect through the stories of those who came before us.

 

9-23-22 4:00 PM KAWX.ORG

Congressman Bruce Westerman's Weekly Column

Our Commitment to America

Since President Joe Biden’s first day in office, America has watched as he and Congressional Democrats hastened our economic instability and allowed shelves to go bare, communities to be ravaged by crime, and savings to evaporate. I’ve heard from many Arkansans who feel left behind. President Biden has sarcastically asked, “what are Republicans for?” Well, Mr. President, this is our Commitment to America: We will deliver a strong economy, create a safe nation, and restrain federal overreach while ensuring our government is accountable to the people. With our plan, Americans across the country can be confident in the steps Republicans will take from Day One of the 118th Congress to foster a strong America that works for everyone.

 

We will build a strong economy. As the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, I would make it my top priority to build American energy independence in order to reduce gas prices and the cost of utilities, end our reliance on foreign countries, and prevent rolling blackouts. As a Congress, we will fight inflation by reducing wasteful government spending and strengthen our supply chain by bringing back U.S. manufacturing and ending our reliance on China.

 

We will protect our communities. We will secure our border, combat illegal immigration, and work to end the fentanyl smuggling that has killed tens of thousands of Americans. We will support the hiring and retention of 200,000 new police officers and reject the “Defund the Police” movement that harms low income and minority communities the most. We will also crack down on prosecutors and district attorneys who refuse to prosecute crime. Criminals will no longer be given a pass and released back on the streets to harm others.

 

We will protect our freedoms. Parents have been rightfully furious at the way in some parts of the country  they have been told to sit down and be quiet by too many school systems. As a former school board member, I know that no one should ever attempt to exclude parents from their kid’s education, and I will w make sure parents always have a say and more choices in their child’s education. We will also ensure that only women compete in women’s sports.

 

We will keep government accountable.  For too long, bloated government has overreached into the lives of every American. We will conduct vigorous government oversight to rein in government abuse of power, promote transparency, and demand answers from the White House for its incompetent withdrawal from Afghanistan which cost the lives of 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of innocent Afghans.  It is one of my top priorities to end special treatment for Members of Congress by repealing proxy voting and return to regular order serving the American people. As Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, I will require each hearing to be in person so that Members can speak and work with each other face-to-face.

 

With these priorities and more, Republicans will deliver concrete solutions to solve the crises created by Democrat one party rule. Republicans have already written bills to advance each of these issues, including the “Securing American Mineral Supply Chains Act,” which I authored and which will be a critical part of Republicans’ “all-of-the-above” energy strategy in the next Congress. I am proud to support the Commitment to America and help ensure a government that works for its people again.

State Senator Larry Teague's Weekly Column

 

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Larry Teague

September 23, 2022

 

LITTLE ROCK – Over the next three years about 3,200 Arkansans with disabilities will be able to get Medicaid services at home or in their community, rather than in an institution.

 

The Legislative Council approved the expansion of eligibility, submitted by the state Division of Developmental Disabilities Services.

 

The division doesn’t have sufficient staff to care for the additional 3,200 people. A provision in the new rules approved by legislators will allow the division to make up for the shortage of labor. Basically, Medicaid will now be able to hire, train and pay family members and legal guardians.

 

Currently, 5,400 children and adults receive Supportive Living services, which brings support staff to their homes and communities.

 

The program is called the Community and Employment Supports (CES) waiver. It costs about $300 million a year, with the federal government paying 71.62 percent and state government paying 28.38 percent.

 

During the 2022 fiscal session earlier this year, legislators voted to dedicate an additional $37.6 million for the CES waiver program, with the intention of eliminating the current waiting list for services.

 

The Legislative Council also signed off on a Department of Human Services proposal to add 200 more slots for children in foster care, and to increase the allowable bed capacity of group homes from four to eight.

 

The cost of the rule change will be $132 million next fiscal year. The state will provide $34 million and the federal government will provide $94 million, with a premium tax on care providers accounting for the remainder.

 

During a public comment period on the new rule, the division heard from a spokesman for a non-profit agency that provides care and services for people with disabilities. The spokesman said there is a “very real crisis in the home and community-based service system,” specifically a shortage of direct care professionals.

 

He said the division should pay higher reimbursements to providers for competitive salaries, because “nothing short of that will fix the problem.” He also asked for funding for training and workforce development of direct care staff.

 

Director of DHS Resigning

Cindy Gillespie, the secretary of the Department of Human Services, announced that she would resign after six years. Her final day is scheduled to be October 7.

 

The department has more than 6,600 employees who administer a wide variety of social services.

 

Its annual budget is more than $10 billion in state and federal revenue. The largest program is Medicaid, a health care program for people with disabilities, senior citizens and low-income families. More than 470,000 Arkansas children benefit from Medicaid services. Statewide, more than 1.2 million Arkansans received some type of service through Medicaid.

 

The department subsidizes child care and runs meals programs for senior citizens. It also investigates allegations of abuse or neglect of children and elderly people. It finalized 732 adoptions last year. At the end of the year DHS was responsible for 4,854 children in foster care.

 

DHS also administers welfare and food stamps programs. It operates secure facilities for troubled youths and contracts with non-profit organizations that diagnose and treat abuse of alcohol and drugs.

 

 

 

Mena School Board September Meeting Recap

The Mena School Board held their regular September meeting on Tuesday at the District Administration Building.

 

Dr. Lee Smith began the meeting by giving the board details about the proposed budget for fiscal year 2023.Smith stated that overall it was a healthy budget that included raises for all staff that would amount to $175,000 - $200,000. He also said that enrollment at the Mena Public Schools was up to 1751 students. That is an increase of 52 students over last year. Dr. Smith also noted that the October school board meeting would be moved to Monday the 17th due to a scheduling conflict.

 

The first item under new business was the approval of the previously mentioned budget. Which was accomplished promptly and with no discussion.

 

Next the board approved the 2022-2023 standard  of assurance and also the accreditation statement of assurance as required by the state.

 

The board then approved the renewal of the Polk County Virtual Academy  with minor changes in the mission and vision as proposed by Dr. Smith.

 

The board was then made aware of an appraisal on 6.5 acres owned by the district on East Boundary Road. The appraisal came in at $10,000.00 an acre and the board approved the sale of said property in that amount. The property is not being used at this time nor is it in any plans to be used in the future.

  

Next was a proposed waiver of employment for a candidate who had a deficiency in their background check when applying with Aramark. The incident occured twenty four years ago and the applicant supplied numerous character references. It was determined that the applicant poses no threat to either students or staff and the waiver was approved by the board. It will now be reviewed by the state for their approval. 

 

In the Maintenance update Dr. Smith told the board that work continues on the drainage issue under the home stands at Bob Carver Bearcat Stadium.

The project includes paving and a larger pump installed. He also updated the board on progress at the new environmental science area.

 

Finally in Personnel the board accepted the resignations of Monica Belcher, Raegan Hansard and Mallory McConnell.They accepted the retirement of Dalynne Randolph. They also approved the hiring of Emily Jacobs as a Para at MMS, Amanda Hohmann as a Para at MHS and Melody Rowe as a Para at LDE.

9-21-22 1:15 PM KAWX.ORG

Polk County Sheriff's Report for September 12th - 18th

SHERIFF’S LOG

 

The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of September 12, 2022 – September 18, 2022. The charges against those arrested are allegations and the cases are still pending in the courts. Individuals charged and whose names appear in this column may submit documentation to us at a later date that the charges have been dismissed or that they have been found innocent and we will include that information in this space in a timely manner.

 

September 12, 2022

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to forgery.

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to harassment.

 

September 13, 2022

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on West Barton in Cove in reference to a welfare check.

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to a stolen firearm.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 122 near Mena in reference to a vehicle being broken into. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

 

September 14, 2022

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to a theft from a residence on Polk 25 near Hatfield.

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to a theft.

 

September 15, 2022

Deputies responded to a report of identity theft at a residence on Polk 42 near Mena.

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to a theft from a residence on Butler Circle near Hatfield.

Deputies responded to a dog bite victim.

 

September 16, 2022

Chad Thornton, 31 of Mena was arrested on a warrant for 2nd Degree Criminal Mischief and a warrant for Harassment.

Deputies were dispatched to a campsite near Lake Wilhelmina in reference to the theft of property.

 

September 17, 2022

John D Huff, 45 of Hatfield was arrested on a warrant for Aggravated Assault and a warrant for 3rd Degree Domestic Battery.

An incident near Ward Lake near Mena led to the arrest of Kathy Harper, 42 of Mena on charges of Resisting Arrest, Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 77 near Mena in reference to a theft.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 625 near Mena in reference to damage to a fence.

 

September 18, 2022

Heather Griffis, 37 of Eudora was arrested on a Felony Warrant for Non-Support.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 74 near Mena in reference to a theft. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Mills Lane near Mena in reference to a vehicle fire.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on No More Loop Lane in reference to a verbal altercation. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 646 near Mena in reference to a physical altercation. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

 

 

Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked 2 vehicle accidents this week.

 

Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 21 Incarcerated Inmates, with 12 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.

 

9-19-22 4:00 PM KAWX.ORG

Mena Police Report for September 11th - September 17th

Mena Police Department reports for the week of September 11th through September 17th, 2022:

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

September 11

 

Heath Spencer, 25, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on 10th Street.

 

Bradley Verba, 25, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on Pine Avenue.

 

A report of theft was taken from Walmart.

 

A report of theft was taken from Walmart.

 

A report of theft was taken from Walmart.

 

Matthew Hackworth, 37, was served with a warrant on Bethesda Road.

 

September 12

 

Tony Odom, 62, was charged with Domestic Battery 3rd at a residence on Bell Lane.

 

A report of theft was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of criminal mischief was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of theft and criminal mischief was taken from Walmart.

 

September 13

 

No report.

 

September 14

 

William Pierce, 38, was served with a warrant at a residence on Janssen Avenue.

 

Timothy Robertson, 35, was served at the county jail.

 

September 15

 

Larry Garrett, 43, was charged with Breaking or Entering, Assault, and Criminal Mischief after a disturbance call to Walmart.

 

A report of theft was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

September 16

 

Larry Garrett, 43, was served with a warrant at the county jail.

 

September 17

 

A report of harassment was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

9-19-22 9:45 PM KAWX.ORG

Polk County Detention Center Inmates

 

Woman's Body Found Inside Fire Scene at Mena Residence

WOMAN’S BODY FOUND INSIDE FIRE SCENE AT MENA RESIDENCE

 

SEPTEMBER 18, 2022

 

Mena police and fire officials have requested the Arkansas State Police to investigate the death of a woman whose body was found inside a residence yesterday (Saturday, September 17th).

 

The Mena Fire Department responded to the report of a residential fire at 407 1st Street about 1 PM. While attempting to gain control of the fire, authorities discovered the body. The house was initially believed to be unoccupied and without utility connections.

 

Special agents of the state police Criminal Investigation Division are trying to determine whether there is a connection between the fire and the disappearance of a woman who lived in the same neighborhood. The body will be transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory where pathologists will determine the manner and cause of death as well as the identity of the unknown woman.

 

9-18-22 4:00 PM kawx.org

State Representative John Maddox's Weekly Column

 

Every community feels the impact when adults lack a high school diploma or the skills to compete in the 21st century workforce.

 

Not only is it devastating for the adults who may dream of a better life for their families, but it may impact education for future generations. Studies show that children of adults with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading skills themselves.

 

It is estimated that nearly 300,000 Arkansas adults do not have a high school diploma. The good news is that in our state there are resources for every adult to continue their education at either a minimal cost or no cost at all.

 

The week of September 18 has been proclaimed as Adult Education Week in Arkansas.

 

There are 37 adult education providers that serve all 75 counties. On Thursday, September 22, every adult education center will be holding an open house from 9am until 3pm. The open house will provide an opportunity for Arkansans to learn what services are available in their community.

 

Adult education has served close to two million Arkansans since 1965, with more than 457,718 individuals passing the GED or earning their high school diploma since 1966.

 

Today, adult education programs do much more than GED preparation. The programs help Arkansans complete job training through the Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy program and help Arkansans improve their English language skills with English-as-a-Second Language classes.

 

Participation in these programs has an impact on accelerating growth toward a healthier economy. The ripple effect of adults continuing their education can have far-reaching results. Family members who are still in school see that education is important. Their determination influences others who are struggling.

 

You can find an adult education center near you by visiting www.aalrc.org or calling 1-877-963-4GED.

 

9-18-22 1:05 PM KAWX.ORG

Governor Asa Hutchinson's Weekly Address

Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Address: Life Lessons from the Friday Night Lights

 

To listen to Governor Hutchinson's weekly radio address, click anywhere on this line, then click on the play button.

 

LITTLE ROCK – Every year, near the end of Summer, the smell of popcorn, face paint, and freshly mowed grass fills the air in cities and towns around the state. Friday night lights and the chill of the early fall air is a familiar feeling to Arkansans of all ages.

High school sports are important to every community in Arkansas, but it is most important to those who participate, the student-athletes. Our students spend so much time of their young life learning how to serve, dribble, and catch a ball. They learn to make a tackle or march in the band.

 

But the special thing about sports for our children is what they can learn that translates to the rest of their life. Sports teach responsibility and discipline. Our children learn to practice honesty and to have passion for their goals.

 

They teach how to be resourceful and take situations they aren’t familiar with and make the best out of them. There was a time, not too long ago, during the pandemic that many states canceled school and cancelled sports. I heard from parents, teachers, and student-athletes about how important school was and the sports and other extracurricular programs that go with school.

 

I told our Secretary of Education and the public that we had to have school in the fall of 2020, and that’s exactly what we did. We had to make many changes to how we operated, we made adjustments to our daily lives, but ultimately we as a community, were resourceful and made it work. Our students continued to participate in the extracurricular activities they hold dearly, all while going to school and continuing their education.

 

In fact, Arkansas ranked second in the nation for in-classroom instruction during the pandemic. Allowing our school districts to make decisions based on their unique needs kept the health and safety of our students and families a top priority without forcing all schools to follow one set of rules.

 

In the fall of 2020, I received a letter from a senior at Greenwood High School. Her name was Hannah Watkins and she played volleyball for the Bulldogs. In her letter she talked about how her team huddled around the T.V. watching a press conference where I announced that high school sports would be played during that upcoming school year.

 

Hannah and her team went on to win the 5A State title in volleyball that season. In the letter she told me they followed all the precautions “to a T” and did whatever they could to make sure they were ready to play. Now, Hannah is playing college volleyball in Arkansas.

 

This is an amazing example of how sports instill meaningful qualities in our children. They had a goal. They did everything it took to reach that goal, and even though many things had to adjust they were successful in their endeavor.

 

Tonight, many young Arkansans will be battling it out against each other on the turf, and in the end some teams will win and some will lose. But the sun will rise again tomorrow, and those life lessons they learned will carry on with them for a lifetime. 

 

9-17-22 9:11 AM KAWX.ORG

US Senator John Boozman's Weekly Column

Celebrating 75 Years of the U.S. Air Force

 

The United States Air Force has bravely fought to protect freedom, liberty and peace on every continent. As co-chair of the Senate Air Force Caucus and the son of a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, I have personally witnessed the service and sacrifice of those individuals, past and present, comprising this distinguished branch of our Armed Forces. That’s why I’m proud to recognize the 75th anniversary of the Air Force and provide ongoing support to the needs of our Airmen.

 

Our Airmen deliver the best airpower the world has ever known, defending our nation and interests in all corners of the globe, and I’ve joined with state leaders and the congressional delegation to preserve our history and advance Arkansas’s role in ensuring our exceptional air superiority continues.

 

We can be proud of the accomplishments of the men and women who served at Eaker Air Force Base in Blytheville supporting U.S. military efforts from World War II through Desert Storm, and we’re working to commemorate their contributions by designating it as the National Cold War Center.

 

A few weeks ago, I met a new resident of Arkansas who moved to the state because her husband is a C-130 pilot stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base. The community at LRAFB is made up of people from around the country dedicated to serving their country because every C-130J Super Hercules pilot and crewmember receives their training here.

 

Since 1971, central Arkansas has been “The Home of Herk Nation.” Thanks to local, state and federal efforts to strengthen and advance that mission, it will remain so for years to come.

 

We have an obligation to ensure our facilities meet the needs of the families and men and women called to serve. As lead Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, I’ve worked to secure funding for improving base dormitories so Airmen have a safe, reliable and affordable place to call home.

 

Last year, we joined Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass to discuss updates to improve the quality of life for those in uniform. That visit underscored the necessity of additional support in the area of childcare.

 

Investing in accommodations and childcare for military families is part of our commitment to servicemembers. I’m proud to champion a new child development center at LRAFB to meet these families’ needs.

 

Additionally, Arkansas is poised to expand its role in our national defense with the selection of Fort Smith’s Ebbing Air National Guard Base as the Air Force’s preferred location for F-35 fighter planes and a Republic of Singapore F-16 squadron as part of the Foreign Military Sales program.

 

This will tremendously benefit the local and state economy and it’s good for the entire country. The Fort Smith community has welcomed the leaders of Singapore to share the opportunities available for its military members and the congressional delegation has met with the Singapore Ambassador to reaffirm our commitment to working together.

 

The connection between the Air Force and The Natural State is sturdy and deep. As we celebrate the service’s 75th anniversary and recognize the Airmen and their families who support its mission, we pay tribute to their dedication to continuing a proud legacy of honor and valor.

Congressman Bruce Westerman's Weekly Column

After a month of August Recess, Democrats still refuse to bring bills to the floor that address the real issues that impact Arkansans. Folks are rightly concerned about our border crisis, our energy crisis, our fentanyl crisis, or our inflation crisis, but instead of acting on any one of these issues, Democrats brought forward 18 bills that deal exclusively with the federal bureaucracy.

 

Although these bills were important to daily governance, and several were bipartisan, I am frustrated that we are blocked by the Democrat majority from debating and voting on solutions for the kitchen table issues that are seriously harming Arkansans every day.

 

A new Census poll found that 26% of Americans were forced to choose between basic expenses like food and medicine in order to pay their energy bills in the past 12 months. One in six people reported the inability to pay the full amount of their energy bills at least once in the past year. This is simply unacceptable, especially when the solution is simple: tap into our country's vast natural resources to easily meet our energy needs.

 

Many of these issues have solutions that I truly believe can be worked through in a bipartisan fashion if my friends across the aisle were willing to come to the negotiating table in good faith. Sadly, politics is taking precedence over good policy.  

 

I call on the Democrat majority to bring the real issues to the floor for debate so that we may properly serve the American people and ensure a prosperous future for all Americans for generations to come.

 

9-16-22 3:40 PM KAWX.ORG

State Senator Larry Teague's Weekly Column

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Larry Teague

 

September 16, 2022

 

LITTLE ROCK – Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic Arkansas has received billions of dollars in federal relief funding.

 

The PEER subcommittee of the Legislative Council has grown significantly in importance because it reviews how state agencies, institutions of higher education and public schools proposed to spend those federal relief dollars.

 

When the entire Legislative Council votes on whether or not to approve distribution of federal relief funds, the recommendations of the PEER subcommittee carry tremendous weight.

 

Legislators refer to the subcommittee simply as PEER, an acronym for Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review. It monitors the financial and fiscal performance of state agencies and educational institutions.

 

PEER has reviewed and recommended approval of about $739 million in federal relief funds for public schools. Those funds are part of more than a billion dollars in American Rescue Plan that the state received for elementary and secondary schools.

 

At its most recent meeting, PEER approved authority for 23 school districts to spend about $65.6 million. Much of that money will be spent on bonuses for teachers and classified staff.

 

Also at its most recent meeting, PEER recommended that legislators approve spending authority of about $280 million for water, waste water and irrigation projects.

 

According to the state Secretary of Agriculture, about $135 million would be available for drinking water projects. Another $135 million would be available for waste water projects and about $10 million for groundwater and irrigation projects.

 

The Agriculture Department plans to accept applications during a 50-day period.

 

In July numerous local elected officials, engineers and managers of water systems asked legislators to approve funding of water projects. They referred to a survey completed last year that indicated the need for about 1,400 water projects costing about $5 billion.

They also expressed a sense of urgency caused by inflation. It takes a long time to complete the various stages of water and waste water projects, so it is important to get them started before inflation severely reduces the buying power of current funding amounts.

 

PSC Chairman Resigns

 

The chairman of the state Public Service Commission, Ted Thomas of Conway, will resign effective October 1. His resignation is important because he has been outspoken in his support of alternative energy such as solar power.

 

The PSC regulates utilities. Thanks to passage of Act 464 of 2019, solar power has grown in popularity in Arkansas. A Senate co-sponsor credited Thomas with helping to win legislative approval of Act 464.

 

The act resolved the issue of net-metering customers, such as solar power plants that generate their electricity, sometimes in excess of what they need. The excess power is transmitted to the utility’s grid and the customer gets credit for producing it.

 

The value of that credit was the bone of contention. Utilities want to pay less and net-metering customers want to be paid more for the excess electricity. Electric companies point out that they have fixed costs beyond the expense of operating power plants, such as maintenance of transmission lines.

 

The fixed costs are shared by all classes of rate payers, such as commercial, manufacturing and residential customers.

 

9-16-22 3:45 PM KAWX.ORG