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Rock, work, for two county road projects

Van Buren County Judge Dale James, in his end-of-year letter summarizing 2020, pointed out two large and ongoing projects across two particular roads in the county.

From the letter: “Work continues to improve the system of county roads. Currently, the county is working on two very large grant funded projects ($150,000) on Peyton Mountain Road and Archey Road. Both of the projects are very large and time consuming.”

They are big projects. Taking a ride out on the roads Friday, with James as a tour guide, was a lesson in how a lot of rock, and a lot of work, can turn a creek-bottom into a passable road.

The first stop was Peyton Mountain Road. This was the river-bottom-into-road project. On either side of the road made up of recently-placed gravel, were ditches, of course, but they were deeper than usual. The ditches marked the bank of the stream which at one time made up the low point on the road, James said.

Since then 20,000 tons of gravel, and pipe, have been laid down, and is being laid down, in order to make the road usable year round. In the past, and it didn’t take a lot of imagination to picture this, a heavy rain would leave anyone who counted on the road isolated. Gravel is still being laid, coming from the fairly-near Dennard Quarry. The finish rock which will be used to top the road will come from the Formossa Quarry.

The county owned-or-leased quarries and rock-processing equipment is allowing the work to be done at $1.35 a ton, James said, compared to the $10 or so per ton when commercial quarries are used. (The numbers may be somewhat inaccurate, as it is hard to take notes in a bouncing pickup.)

The creek bottom is the reason the Peyton Mountain Road project was able to be funded by Grant, through the Nature Conservancy with its interest in preserving the waterway which is both nearby and essentially the root cause of the problem, hence the need, for the road project.

From there it was a trip out to Archey Road, putting us well into the northwest of the county. Again, a creek was the problem, but in this case a different situation. After a drive down a long hill, a driver is expected to make a hard right turn and then cross a bridge. The bridge had seen better days, typified by the pieces of bridge broken off into the stream.

This was a different grant source, in this case through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a risk-mitigation grant. When it is completed, which will include fresh gravel on the roadway, a new bridge will be in place. Arkansas Highway and Transportation will provide the bridge as a bridge is being replaced at another project. The “old” bridge being provided will replace the structure on Archey Road.

At the same time, James said, the curve is being redone so it is not a 90 degree turn to get onto the bridge.

The American flag flew upside down – a sign of distress – last week in front of Clinton businessman Dan Eoff’s store late last week. “... The flag display is not meant for political reasons but to show that I believe our nation as a whole is in distress,” Eoff stated. The flag was no longer in the distress position Sunday.

Sign of distress

Arkansas Man Arrested for Illegally Entering Office of Speaker of the House

Richard Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Arkansas was arrested today in Bentonville, Arkansas on multiple criminal charges related to his alleged unlawful activities earlier this week at the U.S. Capitol Building where he was photographed with his feet up on a desk in the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ office.

Barnett is scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court on Tuesday, Jan. 12. He will ultimately be extradited to Washington, D.C.

“The shocking images of Mr. Barnett with his boots up on a desk in the Speaker of the House’s office on Wednesday was repulsive,” said Jeffrey A. Rosen, Acting Attorney General of the United States. “Those who are proven to have committed criminal acts during the storming of the Capitol will face justice.”

According to court documents, U.S. Capitol Police learned that an individual had entered the restricted office area of the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and was photographed with his feet propped up on furniture. Those photos were circulated on numerous news media platforms which identified the individual as Barnett. A search of law enforcement databases confirmed that the individual in the news photographs did in fact appear to be Barnett.

“This case is just one in a number that demonstrate the brazen acts that were committed at the Capitol on Wednesday,” said Michael Sherwin, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “My Office is committed to prosecuting all individuals who participated in these abhorrent acts to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The U.S. Capitol is one of the most iconic buildings in our country and a symbol of the Constitution and people we have sworn to protect, and its destruction will not be tolerated,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. “This arrest demonstrates to all individuals involved in January 6 incursion into the U.S. Capitol that the FBI will find you and hold you accountable for your crimes, no matter your location. We thank the FBI Little Rock Field Office for their quick assistance in bringing this perpetrator to justice.”

Barnett is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and theft of public money, property, or records. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with the assistance of the Justice Department’s National Security Division and the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole McClain of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is prosecuting the case.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

#40 Jasper Burgess


COVID numbers in county move up

Effective this week as of Jan. 11, COVID-19 numbers in Van Buren County show an increase in infections compared to recent weeks. The increase reflects the same trend which is taking place state-wide.

In Arkansas, the past week has set records for per-day infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Van Buren County is currently 7.62 infections per 1,000, a steady increase over the last seven days, which began at 5.50 infections per 1,000. While the 7.62 number is below the 9.37 infections per 1,000 in December, it continues to climb.

In November the county was 3.2 infections per 1,000.

Van Buren County is on the southwest edge of the North Central District, per the state board of health. The North Central District is currently 8.61 infections per 1,000, up from last week’s 7.93 per 1,000. This places it in the low-middle of the seven state districts, with Central, to its south, at 9.78 per 1,000 and Southwest to 7.02, the lowest.

Arkansas Valley District, to the west, is currently rated at 10.48 infections per 1,000.

Van Buren County had been one of the lowest per 1,000 infection rates in the district, but that has changed with its 7.62 score, placing it above Searcy County with its 4.95 score and Stone County at 5.60. Cleburne County, which had stood as one of the lowest per 1,000 rates in the district for most of the pandemic, is at 10.96 per 1,000 for this week.

Conway County, to the south, is 15.06 per 1,000, with Faulkner County at 9.97.

Numbers are anticipated to be less fluid into January as the impact of the holiday season is removed from testing access.

As of Monday, the county has 126 active cases, compared to last week’s 91 cases. This is still well behind the Dec. 19 163 case number.

Arkansas has 255,076, with 223,513 recoveries.

January is a record-setting month for cases in the state, with Jan. 1 with a record-setting single-day 4,304 cases. Since last week, Jan. 5, 6, 10 and 7 are the next four highest days, respectively, with 4,107, 3,705, 3,330 and 3,323 on those days.

Prior to January the highest single-day had been Dec. 24 with 3,204 cases in the state

State and national resources continue to predict infection rates rising in the early months of 2021.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Health head Jose Romero continue to emphasize the importance of masks, hand washing and maintaining social distance in combating the spread of the disease.

Updates may be found at healthy.arkansas.gov, ACHI.net/covid19 and the independent arkansascovid.com web sites.