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Mayor selects new sanitation director

JONESBORO — Mayor Harold Copenhaver told city council members Tuesday evening that Patrick D. Courtois is his choice to lead the city’s sanitation department.

Courtois is scheduled to take over the position on Monday, Copenhaver said.

“He has experience in personnel management, fleet management and logistics,” the mayor said.

Courtois has served as facilities and transportation assistant for Arkansas Early Learning, a network of pre-K centers in 11 counties across the state. Prior to that he worked for two property management companies in Jonesboro.

The sanitation director’s position has been vacant since the Feb. 17, 2021 death of Donny Gibson.

Copenhaver commended Ronny Stanback, fleet supervisor, and Cindy Schweitzer, sanitation supervisor, for their leadership in the interim.

“We held this position open because we commissioned a thorough sanitation efficiency review, which is in its final stages,” Copenhaver said in a statement Wednesday.

He said the city faces unique challenges, as it has no dedicated fee for sanitation services but absorbs the cost through its 1-percent local sale tax receipts. Trash, recycling, yard waste or incinerator and landfill services cost the city about $30 per household each month, which makes any efficiencies provided by the review critical to offset such a liability, Copenhaver said.

“Outside of the stress caused by holidays, our Sanitation team does a fabulous job with historically limited resources,” the mayor said. “I think with Courtois’ vision, armed with the forthcoming efficiency study, we can begin to make notable improvements.”

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the council authorized a two-year lease-purchase of two trucks for the sanitation department. The contract with Arvest Bank will cost $363,704.36.

In other business the council:

Adopted an ordinance proposed by Pruett Properties to abandon a portion of the right of way along Jaybee Drive in the Clearview Estates subdivision.

Approved a contract with Onsolve LLC to provide to provide emergency voice or text notifications by phone, social media and other modes to area residents at a cost of $10,250 per year.

Heard the first of three required readings of an ordinance proposed by Hall Premier Development to rezone 0.79 acres at 4913 E. Johnson Ave. from R-1 single family residential to C-3 general commercial.

Adopted an ordinance proposed by Gary and Stacy Gestring to rezone 0.45 acres at the corner of Kitchen Street and Gant Avenue from R-2 residential multifamily to PD-RM multifamily planned development to allow for seven housing units.

Council members also heard the second reading of a proposed ordinance that would allow the Advertising and Promotion Commission and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Commission to take proposed legislation directly to the full council, without going through a council committee first.

An ordinance that would change ward boundaries in advance of the municipal election in November was also heard for the second time.

Final action is scheduled for July 5.

Grant funds snake immunity research

JONESBORO — Snakes have a unique immune strategy that has caught the attention of Arkansas State University Assistant Professor of Physiology Lori Neuman-Lee, who was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (Arkansas INBRE) to study these creatures and their immunities.

Although she knew she wanted to be a biologist since she was five years old, Neuman-Lee admitted on Wednesday that she was actually terrified of snakes when she was young.

However after working with turtles as an under-grad, she decided to overcome her fear of snakes and began to study reptiles, which has led her to a very unique research opportunity through the help of the grant.

Neuman-Lee, who joined the A-State faculty in 2017, said that she, along with her two collaborators, Southern Arkansas University Assistant Professors of Biology Jeremy Chamberlain and Daniel McDermott, received the money for the Arkansas INBRE grant back in Febuary.

She said that they actually applied and received approval for the grant last summer, but only just received the funds due to legal matters.

“Both universities had to dot their i’s and cross their t’s. It is just part of working in collaboration,” she laughed.

Neuman-Lee, who is the PI or primary investigator on the project, said that their grant, which is titled “Characterization of Snake Immunity in a Novel Animal Model,” examines the role of immune cells in snakes.

“It is basically a preliminary sturdy on the influence of sex and age on snakes’ immune systems across Arkansas,” she said, noting that use of the Arkansas Biosciences Institute’s (ABI’s) flow cytometer and cell sorter has been invaluable.

“There are two types of immune systems, adaptive and innate,” she said, noting that reptilian cells are much heavier allowing snakes and other reptiles to use their innate immune system almost exclusively. This allows the snakes to fight off infections rapidly.

According to, innate immunity is something already present in the body, which is rapid and present at birth, such as white blood cells fighting bacteria. While adaptive immunity is created in response to exposure to a foreign substance, such as a vaccination.

“There are only a handful of people in the world that study snake immunity, so this is very import research. Plus we are focusing about half and half on field and lab, so we get better results,” Neuman-Lee said, noting that they have found interesting results while studying the snakes’ hormone levels and blood samples.

She noted that one her graduate students, Grant Dawson, has played a crucial role in the study. She said one of her main goals has been to get undergraduates involved.

Dawson, who is a recent Arkansas State University biology graduate, has been helping to lead and with the labs.

In fact, she said that he is working on a study to be published on the flow cytometry in snakes, which will be the second study ever in the world and the first in the United States.

Neuman-Lee said that the preliminary research was complete, and now they are compiling the data.

The study has provided insight on many aspects of snake immunity such as the effects of stress on the snake’s immune system and what solution percentages are most effective.

She said she believes that the study could provide great benefit for medical research as well.

Neuman-Lee graduated from Iowa State University before getting her masters at Eastern Illinois State University and then her doctorate at Utah State University.

Active shooter training a hot topic

POCAHONTAS — Though it’s not new, the Black River Technical College Law Enforcement Training Academy (LETA) has developed Active Shooter Training for Educators.

BRTC LETA instructors have been offering this training for 10 years to interested school districts in order to provide the safest atmosphere for children to learn.

This curriculum contains the most current guidelines established by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Educators are taught how to identify threats, secure classrooms and react to active shooter events during the training, which is held on-site at the participating school.

This four-hour course will be submitted to the Arkansas Department of Education for approval for Professional Development.

However, the course is not currently eligible for professional development credit.

Active shooter response has been a hot issue since the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old gunman.

In Jonesboro, Police Chief Rick Elliott said members of his department have gone around to schools to offer advice to educators and staff.

“It’s more of how to respond and how to react,” he said. “Lockdown, basic things, get kids away from doors and windows.”

Elliott said officers show school employees how to use tourniquets and chest seals in case of emergency situations. He said schools have individual first aid kits available to use if needed.

He said JPD officers use about 15-20 tourniquets a year for gunshots, stabbings or car wrecks.

Elliott said he struggled to get schools to train on how to respond after the 1998 Westside school shooting, where he was one of the first responders.

“I’m glad people are doing it,” he said. “Everybody is stepping up to make sure people are trained.”

Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd said his office offers assessments of school properties and how to do a planned response for educators and staff.

His deputies assess the best escape routes to use during an active shooter situation.

“We’re (law enforcement) trained to stop the threat,” Boyd said. “We responded to active shooters before the term ‘active shooter’ was first used.”

Boyd, who was the first law enforcement officer on the scene at Westside, said he radioed deputies to the location of the shooters, who were apprehended.

For more information about the LETA program offered by BRTC, contact Bridgette Rose at (870) 248-4000, ext. 4190 or by email at

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Marshall wins Craighead County clerk race

JONESBORO — Mary Dawn Marshall won the Republican runoff for Craighead County clerk, according to unofficial election results released by the county Election Commission Tuesday evening.

Marshall received 818 votes (53 percent), while Nancy Robbins received 725 votes (47 percent).

Of the 1,543 ballots cast, 739 were cast on election day, 768 were cast through early voting and 37 were absentee ballots.

Marshall will be unopposed on the November ballot.

In Greene County, Paragould Police Capt. Brad Snyder won Tuesday’s Republican Primary runoff election against Greene County Sheriff Steve Franks.

Unofficial totals show Snyder received 1,640 votes (52 percent), while Franks received 1,501 (48 percent) votes.

The unofficial early vote count for the runoff was 1,551 ballots cast according to the Greene County Clerk’s office. Unofficial results of the early voting and absentee ballots showed Snyder with an edge of 852 votes compared to 713 for Franks.

No Democrats or independents filed for the position, with the term beginning January 2023.

Lawrence County voters decided two races on Tuesday, according to unofficial results released by Lawrence County Clerk Tina Stowers.

Gary Barnhill was the victor in the Lawrence County judge runoff with 835 votes (53 percent) to Ron Ingram’s 744 votes (47 percent).

County clerk candidate Brandi Parker won the runoff for that position with 972 votes (62 percent) while Michelle Sheets received 601 votes (38 percent).

A total of 1,585 ballots were cast for the runoffs, of which 570 were cast during early voting and 23 were submitted through absentee voting.

Neither Parker nor Barnhill will have an opponent in November.

Poinsett county voters elected J.C. Carter as county judge in a a runoff that came down to a 13-vote difference.

Unofficial results showed that Carter received 438 votes (51 percent), while John K Hutchison received 425 votes (49 percent).

Carter will face independent Robert Hervey Jr. in November.

Jackson County Justice of the Peace Wayne Long won the Republican nomination for House District 39 in a runoff against Independence County Judge Robert Griffin.

In unofficial numbers, Long received 832 votes (59 percent) to Griffin’s 588 (41 percent). The district covers Jackson, White and Independence counties, from Newark to the north and Diaz and Newport to the east to Bradford and Bald Knob to the south.

Long won Jackson and White counties by large margins. Long picked up 71 percent of the vote in Jackson County and 65 percent of the vote in White County to get the nomination.

Griffin won Independence County, with nearly 85 percent of the vote.

Long will face Libertarian Clayton Hall in the Nov. 8 general election.

Rep. John Payton (R-Wilburn) defeated Sen. James Sturch (R-Batesville) in the District 22 Republican runoff.

In unofficial numbers, Payton received 3,732 votes (59 percent) while Sturch received 2,634 (41 percent).

The district covers Lawrence County, as well as Cleburne, Fulton, Independence, Izard and Sharp counties.

Payton won five of the district’s six counties (Cleburne, Fulton, Izard, Lawrence and Sharp), while Independence went for Sturch with 55 percent of the vote.

Payton won Lawrence County with 53 percent of the vote, while winning the other counties ranging from nearly two-to-one in Izard and Sharp, to 70 percent in Fulton County and 85 percent in Cleburne County.

Payton will be unopposed in the General Election.