Week in Review 12-24 to 12-30

Controversial proposed ordinance withdrawn at city council session

The main topic of discussion during Thursday's session of the Cotter City Council was a proposed amendment to an ordinance allowing the Cotter School District to build a trap field on school property and the Cotter Shooting Sports Team to discharge firearms within the city limits. After the discussion, the proposal was withdrawn by Cotter School District Superintendent Vanessa Thomas-Jones.

Cotter Planning and Zoning Chairman Matt Caradine and other citizens spoke to the council in opposition to the amendment. Thomas-Jones then addressed the council with the proposed ordinance to amend the previous ordinance, but she later withdrew the proposal. Thomas-Jones will look to revise the proposal and re-present it at a later date.

Cotter Mayor Peggy Hammack says the council had several other issues to attend to.

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Thursday's session lasted just over an hour.

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Multiple punching incidents, including pregnant woman, leads to arrest

A Mountain Home man, 22-year-old Blaze Forrester, already on bail for fighting with people inside and outside the county jail, has been arrested again for allegedly punching two individuals.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Mountain Home Police officers were dispatched to a local movie theater Thursday where a pregnant woman was punched in the face by an unknown male subject wearing a red hoodie and light colored pants.

The woman, her husband and the unknown male had a verbal disagreement. The woman told officers when they began to exit the theater, the unknown male struck her in the face with his fist and ran. The woman had a swollen left eye closed shut and sought medical attention at Baxter Regional Medical Center's emergency room.

About 20 minutes later, Mountain Home Police received a second call advising a man with a red hoodie and light colored pants had leaned into a vehicle in the drive-thru at a local fast food restaurant and punched the driver in the face. A restaurant employee identified the male subject as Forrester.

Forrester has a history of violence, with two psychological evaluations ordered by the courts this year following two incidents.

The first set of charges against Forrester were filed after he became angry with his elderly grandfather who told him to put a shirt on before leaving the house, and he began punching the older man repeatedly about the face and head. The victim told law officers he did not believe his grandson was ever going to stop hitting him.

Officers interviewed Forrester, and he allegedly admitted he had become angry with his grandfather, and he struck his relative several times. In the probable cause affidavit filed in the case, officers reported when the grandfather came to the Mountain Home Police Department to report what had happened, he was bleeding from a cut over his left eye and from a cut on his left hand.

Forrester was arrested May 31st on charges related to the attack on his grandfather.

While in jail, Forrester is alleged to have punched a jailer while the officer was moving the inmate from C-Pod to the detox cell for his own protection. It was reported Forrester had been spitting on the floor in the C-Pod area, and other inmates were threatening to beat him up.

After being hit by Forrester, the jailer went behind the booking counter to get a Taser. When Forrester saw the Taser, he is reported to have run into the detox cell and slammed the door behind him. The jailer told Forrester to get on the ground, but the inmate refused. The jailer opened the door to the detox cell, and Forrester was reported to have charged the jailer who then deployed the Taser against the inmate.

Forrester ran down the hall toward the housing area until he fell in front of a bathroom door and began yelling, "I'm done, I'm done." When the jailer turned the Taser off, Forrester grabbed the lead wires and pulled on them breaking the connection.

When the jailer went for another Taser, Forrester took the opportunity to run into the multi-use room and close the door behind him, holding it shut.

A number of law officers arrived on the scene and assisted the jailer in opening the door, subduing Forrester, placing him into a restraint chair and then moving him into the detox cell.

In the latest incidents, Forrester has been charged with two counts of felony second degree battery. His bond has been set at $75,000, and he is scheduled to appear in Baxter County Circuit Court in January.

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Manufacturer coming to Searcy County

Cooks BBQ Products has announced it will open a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Pindall in Searcy County under the name Ozark Mountain BBQ Products LLC. The company will invest approximately $1.4 million in the facility and create 45 new jobs.

Cooks is a provider of eco-friendly premium natural coconut, hardwood, lump charcoals, flavored smoking chips, wood chunks, and pellets

Cooks Barbecue Products CEO Shawn Elbaz says Arkansas is the ideal location for his company thanks to its central location and abundant natural resources that go into their products.

Products made at the Arkansas facility will include wood chips, wood chunks, pellets, logs, firewood, and barbecue charcoal. Cooks BBQ Products are sold nationwide under the Coshell brand and private labels in such stores as Trader Joes, Publix, Albertsons, and Ace Hardware as well as Amazon.com.

In addition to its new location in Arkansas, Cooks BBQ Products operates manufacturing facilities in Lake City, South Carolina, and Monterrey, Mexico, as well as distribution centers in Laredo, Texas, and Winchester, Illinois.

Elbaz has over 10 years of experience in the barbecue industry. In 2009, Elbaz built a plant in Thailand and came to market with an eco-friendly charcoal made from coconut shells under the brand Coshell Charcoal. As the company grew, Elbaz opened a distribution facility in the Philippines and purchased an existing plant in Mexico, expanding into a full line charcoal manufacturer and adding production lines for the manufacturing of wood chips and wood chunks. With the current climate and focus on manufacturing domestically for “Made in USA” products, the focus of Cooks BBQ Products has shifted to open multiple domestic plant locations to meet a booming demand.

The company plans to begin hiring and be fully operational by mid-January. For more information, visit coshellcharcoal.com or cooksinternationalllc.com.

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Spending in Baxter County and the City of Mountain Home continues an upward trend as reflected in the December sales tax numbers recently released by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. The new tax rates have also been announced for 2018 and 2019.

In Baxter County, the numbers released for December, which reflect sales tax collected in October, show an 8.3 percent increase compared to last year, according to Baxter County Treasurer Jenay Mize.

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Mize says although that equates to a 4.5 percent decrease, she's happy that number wasn't higher due to a deficit the county incurred for the month of November. Baxter County officials were notified they had to refund $539,000 to an undisclosed business that had inadvertently paid the wrong amount.

Sales tax numbers for the City of Mountain Home were unavailable at the time of this report as the city transitions toward securing a newly appointed treasurer.

The county sales tax is divided among the county and the eight municipalities, with Mountain Home leading the way with $168,161, Gassville collected $28,072, while Cotter picked up $13,104. Lakeview took in $10,010. Norfork received $6,903. Salesville collected $6,079. The City of Briarcliff netted $3,188 and Big Flat received $1,405.

Mize has figured the new tax rates for 2018 and 2019. Currently there is a 6.5 percent state tax, 1 percent city tax and a 1 percent county tax, totaling 8.5 percent. In January 2018, the state rate will remain at 6.5 percent and the city will increase to 1.375 percent. The 1 percent for the county will remain in place, bringing the total to 8.875 percent.

Beginning April, 2018 through September 30th, 2018 a 1 percent increase will kick in for the county. The state will remain at 6.5 percent, the city will remain at 1.375 percent and the county will be 2 percent. The total rate will be 9.875 percent. In October of 2018 the tax will drop back to the January rate of 8.875 percent.

In 2019 the rate will change again. The state rate will remain at 6.5 percent and the city will remain at 1.375 percent. The county will decrease to 1.25 percent, brining the total to 9.125 percent.

The fluctuation in rates come about after voters in Mountain Home passed a 3/8 percent sales and use tax to benefit the city's fire and police departments. In addition, voters countywide approved levying a one cent sales and use tax for eight months to expand the Baxter County Detention Center, as well as furnish and equip the new portion, and provide for the operation and maintenance of the jail.

A countywide one-quarter cent sales tax was also approved following the expiration of the one cent sales and use tax. The one-quarter cent tax would be ongoing.

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Statements in mailboxes signal annual $18 trash service fee beginning

Bright yellow statements are set to arrive in the mailboxes of Baxter County taxpayers in early 2018 signaling an amended ruling by a Pulaski County Circuit Court judge December 19th for payment of the debt incurred in the purchase of the NABORS waste hauling operation and the local landfill.

Baxter County Assessor Jayme Nicholson and her fellow colleagues in the six counties comprising the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District have been waiting since early October for the judge's amended ruling. In early October, the court appointed receiver gave his verbal approval to a recommendation by the assessors they felt was more equitable in addressing the debt collection.

Until early October, there had been only limited contact between the receiver and local officials, with the exception of one meeting in late August that ended in an impasse.

At that juncture, Nicholson took the lead, working with her fellow assessors, in response to the court order they did not agree with and maintained could not be implemented in the time frame set out by the receiver.

The amended ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox approved the recommendation of the assessors in its entirety. The ruling calls for an annual service fee of $18 to be assessed against each residence and business parcel located within the six counties in the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District--Baxter, Marion, Searcy, Boone, Newton and Carroll.

For clarification, the ruling includes all improved parcels within the district, including residential building, commercial business, commercial improved, residential improved, mobile homes, agriculture improved and agriculture building.

In an earlier interview with KTLO, Classic Hits 101.7 and The Boot news, Nicholson said the only exceptions to the $18 fee will be vacant land and exempt properties such as churches.

The two-page ruling notes the service fee shall commence in 2018 and continue until such time as the claims of the trustee and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality have been paid in full.

The judge's ruling sets in motion the content of the bright yellow statements planned as an insert into tax bills for 2017. Baxter County Collector Teresa Smith said working with County Attorney David Ethredge she has developed the language appearing on the yellow statements.

It notes the fee was not assessed by the Baxter County Quorum Court nor assessed by a vote of the Baxter County citizens. It further notes Collector Smith is court ordered for the collection of the $18 service fee.

Any questions about the fee and its collection process are to be directed to the court appointed receiver, Attorney Geoffrey Treece in Little Rock. His mailing address, phone number and email address are provided on the statements.

The efforts to carry out the judge's amended order is the latest in a saga that began when the Northwest Arkansas Regional Solid Waste District defaulted on the payment of principal and interest to the bondholders in November 2012 and stopped trash collections. After the district defaulted on its debt, Bank of the Ozarks--as trustee of the bondholders--sued the district in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

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