Month: August 2016

Exclusive: Shipman speaks about leaving sheriff’s race

JONESBORO, Ark. – Craighead County Sheriff’s candidate John Shipman has exited the race before the November election.

Shipman confirmed to NEA Report on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. that he was getting out of the race to focus on his family.

“I’m going to redirect my energy,” Shipman said. “I’m going to refocus on somethings 13882209_1082652988439077_7836875704747600328_nand I’m going to do what’s best for my family and myself. I believe going ahead and getting out, even though it’s within 60 days, I want to be a voice for the mentally ill. We’ve done a lot of good things in the community that’s taken a potshot because I was in a political race. I just want to get back to helping people and doing things without the political ugliness of it.”

Shipman’s ‘Back the Blue’ organization, designed to support law enforcement while giving back to the community, came under fire during a series of Jonesboro Sun stories earlier in the year. The stories indicated the group was being sued by a printing company for unpaid debts but also, that the organization was not as charitable as it had been portrayed. Funds being raised by the group were being reported by Shipman as personal income, although Shipman said proceeds were being used to help those in the community in the same manner as described.

Then, earlier in August, son Adam Shipman, also a Jonesboro police officer, resigned amid an internal probe. When an officer resigns instead of being fired, it becomes more difficult for the press to retrieve disciplinary records. The subject of the probe has never been revealed by authorities.

Both of these seemed to play larger roles in the decision by the elder Shipman to end his campaign prematurely, although he did not mention either specifically.

“It’s just about doing what’s best for me and my family,” Shipman said. “(Back the Blue is) wonderful. We were helping lots of people and it came under fire because I was a political candidate. I want to be a voice for those people and I’m going to be a voice for mental illness and the underprivileged, I promise you.”

Craighead County Clerk Kade Holliday said Shipman will still be on November ballots because of Arkansas code.

“Today, 8/31/16, my office received a Withdrawal of Candidacy for Republican Sheriff Candidate John Shipman,” Holliday said in an email. “In accordance with requirements under AR Code § 7-5-315 (2015)(b)(1), Mr. Shipman’s name will still appear on the ballot as the Withdrawal of Candidacy was received after the 75 day deadline (8/25/16) established under AR Code § 7-5-203 (2015)(b)(1),(2),(A). Votes for this candidate will still be counted and a vacancy in election shall be declared in accordance to AR Code § 7-5-315 (2015)(2)(A) if enough votes were received to win the election.”

(Photo sources: Shipman for Sheriff Facebook page)

Walnut Ridge sued over condemnation

By Stan Morris | NEA Report

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – The City of Walnut Ridge is a defendant in a lawsuit by two sisters over a condemnation effort to their property.

For months, a battle has raged over the condemnation efforts of several properties and all have been resolved or seem to be except for one – a property on U.S. 67, owned by Wanda Thorton and Louise Sifford, the sisters of former Mayor J.R. Rogers. Rogers had been managing the upkeep, or lack thereof, of the property in question and had even committed to a Jonesboro Sun reporter to tear “it” down in the Spring of 2016.A building, up for condemnation, on U.S. 67 North in Walnut Ridge.

However, a week later, Rogers commitment was exclusive to only a portion of the building and he said he never intended to remove the entire structure. It had history to him and he became emotional while speaking about it to an NEA Reporter.

The city placed the building in condemnation and Fire Chief Frank Owens issued Rogers a stop-work order, due to what he described as plans that were insufficient and not architecturally sound or even properly approved. Only Alderman Jeff Taylor dissented with the decision by the Walnut Ridge council, passed in Resolution 2016-22.

The process had stalled until Wednesday afternoon, when the City of Walnut Ridge, the mayor, and the entire city council was served with a lawsuit from Thorton and Sifford.

  • The lawsuit claims Ordinance No. 693-05, defining a nuisance property, is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs make the allegation based on the ordinance not providing “notice to all persons who may be impacted by the condemnation of the property.” The allegation seems to stem from the word “or.” More specifically, the ordinance says notice is to be provided to the owner, occupant, “or” the person in custody of the condemned property. The suit asks the court to declare the ordinance unconstitutional and the city powerless, based on this.
  • The lawsuit also claims the city only provided notice of the resolution to condemn to Thorton and not to “all persons having an interest in the Property.”
  • Section 14 and 15 of the lawsuit claim the city violated Ordinance No. 693-05. Section 14 says Ordinance 693-05, section three, states “written notice is to be served upon the owner thereof or his agent,” Later in section 15, the plaintiffs allege the city violated this by providing notice only to Thorton, “who is only one of the owners.”
  • In section 18, the lawsuit says the city never cited how the building was dangerous to public health and makes the case of the building being used for storage as its primary function.

The lawsuit is lengthy, with 48 sections outlined across dozens of pages. Much of it is similar to what was outlined above, or what has been discussed previously, but section 40 makes mention of a personal relationship seemingly influencing events.

In section 40, the plaintiffs state, “That J.R. Rogers was the former mayor of Walnut Ridge and had been challenged by the current mayor, Charles Snapp, in a previous election in which he defeated Charles Snapp.” No further mention of this subject is made in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed August 30 in Lawrence County Circuit Court. Thorton and Sifford are being represented by Jim Lyons, Lyons & Cone, P.L.C. in Jonesboro.

NEA Report will continue to follow this story and report on it going forward.

Plans submitted by Rogers to the city in May, 2016, deemed insufficient.


Ag Sec. Wes Ward speaks to LawCo Chamber

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – Farmers, flooding, Cuba and other topics of interest to those in the agriculture sector were discussed Wednesday in the quarterly Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Hosted by The Studio on Main Street in downtown Walnut Ridge, the quarterly meeting featured Secretary of Agriculture for the State of Arkansas, Wes Ward, speaking to the crowded room of farmers, elected office holders or seekers, and others interested in their community.

Ward spoke about flooding and how he was touring areas Wednesday affected by recent rising waters. He planned to visit Lynn later Wednesday afternoon.

He also mentioned normalization of relations with Cuba, on a day when the first commercial flight in half a century landed in Cuba’s mainland. Ward said Gov. Asa Hutchinson was the first United States governor to visit Cuba as relations were restored and praised his foresight in opening up the new market for Arkansan farmers.

Ward said everything in Arkansas ties back to agriculture and mentioned the strenuous times planters and harvesters are facing. He said he wished times were better but he also said more will be done to make life easier in the ag sector.

The meeting was streamed live on our Facebook page. Join over 4,000 others and like us to keep up with the latest info, news and happenings in NEA.

$3.8 million apartment rehabilitation approved for Walnut Ridge

Press Release – Amanda Torres, City of Walnut Ridge

WALNUT RIDGE – The Arkansas Development Finance Authority has announced that the City Housing Authority of Walnut Ridge has been approved for funding of the substantial rehabilitation of its Larkspur Gardens Apartments.

Larkspur Gardens is an assisted Senior Living complex, located at 109 South Larkspur Lane, in Walnut Ridge and has served residents of the city for over 25 years. This complex contains 30 individual living units, including both one and two bedroom apartments. HUD rental assistance is also available for renters with qualifying incomes.

ADFA indicated that the project will be funded with federal low income housing tax credits and mortgage financing from the USDA Rural Development agency. The total cost of the project will be approximately $3.8 million dollars, most of which will go to remodel and upgrade these existing apartments so that they will remain affordable for senior citizens for the long term.

Equity funding of about $3.3 million will come from the sale of the federal tax credits, which were recently approved by ADFA and the remaining funds will be provided by the USDA Rural Development.

White River Regional Housing Development Corporation, of Melbourne, will develop the project for the City Housing Authority and Clark General Contractor’s Inc., of Walnut Ridge, will serve as the project’s General Contractor. Little and Associates, Architects, of Jonesboro, will design and supervise the construction activities.

It is estimated that the rehabilitation work on this project will begin in early January, 2017 and it is expected to be completed in March, 2018.

(An earlier version of this press release mistakenly labeled Clark General Contractor’s Inc. as a different company.)

20th Annual ‘Order of the Pack’ is Friday

JONESBORO – Arkansas State University students will conduct their 20th annual “Order of the Pack” Friday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m. prior to the A-State v. Toledo football game at Centennial Bank Stadium.

Order of the Pack, a campus tradition, is conducted annually to welcome a new class into the Red Wolves family.  Alumni and friends are welcome to arrive early for the game and join A-State students on the east side of the stadium to re-live their own Order of the Pack experience.

Order of the Pack sponsors, the Student Activities Board and the Student Government Association, work together to emphasize the traditions of Red Wolf athletics and Pack Pride.  SGA President Hannah Aldridge and SAB President Skyler Jones will welcome the crowd.

Spirit Squads will teach game day traditions and chants. Coach Blake Anderson and Athletics Director Terry Mohajir are scheduled to speak, and Red Wolves athletic teams will be introduced.

Prior to Order of the Pack, the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce will sponsor its annual “Big Great A-State Tailgate,” a major Paint the Town Red Week event, starting at 4 p.m. in the “tailgate city” area adjacent to Centennial Bank Stadium.

The community-wide decorating contest, another Paint the Town Red Week event, will be judged Wednesday from 10 until 3.  The winning entries will be announced and recognized at the Big Great A-State Tailgate.

Kick-off for the first home game of the season will be at 8 p.m. Friday, with the game to be telecast on ESPNU and ESPN3.

The winner of the spirit competition will be announced during the fourth quarter.  Registered student organizations, Greek organizations, and residence halls will be eligible to participate in the annual contest.

For more details, contact the Leadership Center at (870) 972-2055 or Morgan Crain, assistant dean for student activities,

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