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City Council Votes to Build New Fire Station at W.C. Whaley Property —– “Top Headline of 2011”

Friday, December 30th, 2011

In a shocking turn of events, the City Council voted yes to building a new fire station on the W.C. Whaley lot. During Thursday night’s meeting Mayor Allen Maxwell asked MEDC Executive Director Nita McDaniel to present the slide show to the Council that was shown to the public during the ISO Rating Meeting (posted below).


2. (Tie) DCHS Principal Steve Noble Arrested

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Drew Central High School Principal Steve Noble was arrested at his home on December 8, 2011. Charges were filed after detectives from Phoenix, Arizona Police Department posed as a 14 year old girl in a chat room and Noble allegedly asked the “girl” if she wanted to “watch him.” The same chat room had led the detectives to identify other sexual predators previously.

Search warrants of Noble’s home and office were executed where items listed to cease were computers, hard drives, jump drives, digital cameras, camcorders, cds and dvds. A warrant also allowed his iPhone to be taken and searched.

Noble is currently out on bond and faces possible extradition to Phoenix.

This was the 2nd leading pageview story in 2011.

2. (Tie) Michael Binns’ Conviction and Death – Autopsy Update

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Though the tragic case against Michael Binns came to light in November of 2010, it is a story that shook nearly all of 2011 for Monticello.

Binns was arrested and charged on 2 counts of rape, the victims being 16 and 18 year old males and later charges also included two counts of introducing a controlled substance, without the knowledge of the victim, for the purpose of engaging in an unlawful sexual act.

After a two-day jury trial, Michael Binns, Sr., former MHS and MJHS choir director, was found guilty of two counts of 2nd degree sexual assault and one count of introduction of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to twenty years each on the second degree assault convictions and five years for the introduction of a controlled substance, for a total of 45 years.

After his conviction on July 14, 2011 Binns went to the Drew County Detention Facility until July 20, when he was then transported to Baptist Hospital in Little Rock. He returned to the CDF on the 21st and was sent to the Arkansas Department of Corrections on July 22nd. He then passed away on July 31, after being treated at JRMC in Pine Bluff for seizures.

A spokesperson for he department of correction confirmed in late December that Binns” cause of death has been determined by the State Crime Lab to be a “pulmonary embolism, complicated by a seizure disorder.”  They were unable to determine the cause of the embolism. 

Binns’ arrest in November, 2011 was that year’s leading pageviews story.  The updated coverage of his July trial day, was the leading pageview day for 2012.  This shows the impact that this case had on the community.

Arkansas Teacher of the Year – MHS’ Kimberly Wilson – One Monticello Life

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

On December 2, Governor Beebe came to Monticello to present Kimberly Wilson, visual art teacher at MHS the award for being Arkansas’Teacher of the Year.

“You aren’t much of a person if you can’t understand the finer things in life… you’ve done that with our kids… you deserve Teacher of the Year,” Governor Beebe told Mrs. Wilson.

After hugging her children and her husband, accepting her roses and her large check to represent her financial award of $15,000 (from the Walton Family Foundation) Mrs. Wilson said, “I want to thank you… thank you. It humbles me.” “First, I’m privileged to be part of a fantastic school district.” “The other half… here’s what makes the difference… it’s your [students’] effort that makes it all work.”

Mrs. Wilson then said to the 4th and 5th grade students present, “You made me a great teacher; you made this possible.”

In closing Mrs. Wilson said, “Thank you to my family, my 2 children are here. They spend a lot of hours in the classroom.” “I could not do it if I did not have a fantastic, loving, supporting husband.” “I would like to thank my Principals..” She went on to describe how they never tell her no when she comes to them with her “crazy” ideas.


Kimberly Kaye Wilson – One Monticello Life


5. Airport Awards & News

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

2011 was definitely “the” year for Monticello’s airport, Ellis Field. Numerous improvements have been made, and well deserved honors and awards have been given to the airport over the past year.

A few of the impressive improvements the airport has seen over the past 12 months include moving the fuel pump from their old office building to the new one, and resealing of the runway pavement.

A new office building and hangar is under construction, thanks to hard work by aiport commission chairman Bennie Ryburn III in applying for grants, to be leased to EFS Geo-Technologies, the MEDC / Chamber of Commerce Industry of the Year.  This will provide long-term income to the airport, to help achieve it’s goal of being self sufficient.

Ellis Field had National recognition when Bob Worthington, writer for Fly Low magazine, wrote about his experience with the airport and its staff. His story of how the staff pulled together to provide him with transportation, when he was stuck due to weather, and being there to help problem solve was but one example of the prime service Ellis Field Airport provides to each of its customers.Benji Ryburn, Airport Commissioner, accepted the Outstanding Airport Award on behalf of the airport from the FAA. Monticello’s Airport was also given the honor of being chosen as Arkansas Airport of the Year in 2011. This was the second time the airport had received the award, the first time being in 2008.

Ellis Field definitely made news, and made Monticello quite proud in 2011.

9. Sadie Johnson Building

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

October of 2010 brought the tragic news of the loss of the Sadie Johnson Building. A fire completely destroyed the well-loved and much used structure.

Bids were taken to see how much it would take to rebuild, and with the lowest bid coming in at a grand total of $757,900 (including the 10% engineering fee), the Parks and Recreation Commission would be left with a budget deficit of -$256,876 if they accepted.

The Commission voted to accept the low bid, and ask the City Council for more funding. With the City being projected as over budget for the 2012 year if the Sadie Johnson Building funding does occur, there has been no official vote yet on if they will grant the money to Parks and Recreation.


13a. Crime

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

From December of 2010 until January of 2011, local churches were suffering from unknown suspects breaking in and stealing from them. The count reached seven churches before the 20 year old suspect was apprehended.

Freddie Campbell, Jr. of Monticello plead guilty to six counts of commercial burglary and three counts of theft of property. He was sentenced to 24 months in Delta Regional Punishment Facility, with 96 months suspended, and ordered to pay over $6,000 in restitution.


Katlin Lidge, 25 years old, of Monticello, was shot and killed at a local apartment complex in Monticello in March of 2011. The prime suspect, Nicholas Nix, fled to Salt Lake City, Utah after the incident, and turned himself in a few days later. Arkansas State Police and Monticello Police Department drove to Utah and brought him back to face charges.

Nix has since been tried twice, both trials resulted in hung juries. He is scheduled to be retried for the third time in March of 2012.


One September Sunday morning around 12:30, a call came into MPD, reporting a stabbing on Davis Street.

Michael Ray Danzy, age 42 of Monticello, reportedly a family member of victim, was arrested by police, shortly after the crime.

The victim, Tony McCarney, age 48, of Pine Bluff, was transported to Drew Memorial by personal vehicle, and died in the emergency room, of laceration to the neck.

Danzy was charged with first degree murder. during his bond hearing in front of Circuit Judge Kenny Johnson.  Danzy also faced on a probation revocation hearing filed in Chicot County.

A state police special agent told the court that Danzy said McCarney hit him, before he used the knife.: but continued of the 3 witnesses who saw altercation, “No one saw Mr. McCarney strike Mr. Danzy.”


Numerous break-ins and armed robberies of Monticello businesses occurred over the past 12 months.

Western Sizzlin was broken into twice in one week. Other businesses hit included Pizza Hut, Sonic, EZ Mart (numerous times), Piggly Wiggly, Topps Pizza, Crackerbox North, and the Tobacco Superstore.


Chamber of Commerce / MEDC – BUSINESS OF THE YEAR

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Mandy Moss, reporter, and Joe Burgess, the "MonticelloLive Guy"

The Business of the Year Award is given to a business that strives everyday to provide outstanding community service while developing a quality product that attracts a wide range of customers. MonticelloLive is pleased and honored to accept the title of MEDC/Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year for 2011.

After purchasing MonticelloLive only 4 years ago, owner Joe Burgess has transformed a small, local website into a news site that, in the past 12 months, has had more than 2.7 million page views. In the past two months alone, MLive has also been linked on state-level news websites 3 times for its coverage of important local stories.  The business has been mentioned in Arkansas Business twice, and in Arkansas Times once

Burgess’ entertaining acceptance speech ranged from stand-up comedian to lay-preacher, as he took the opportunity to thank his sponsors, employees, and readers, but most of all, he took time to say, “I want to thank the Lord.”

MHS Teacher Named “Arkansas Teacher of the Year” by Gov. Beebe

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Kathy Smith of the Walton Family Foundation spoke to MIS and MHS students, and guests, at a “surprise” meeting this morning. She said, “We have some very exciting news today that we’ve been keeping secret.”

Smith spoke about how most adults with careers will always point back to a teacher that helped guide them in that direction.


Airport Receives Award From FAA

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Monticello Municipal Airport received yet another award this year. Benji Ryburn, Airport Commissioner, went to Fort Worth, TX on Tuesday to accept the Outstanding Airport Award from the FAA. Five states were represented at the event.

Only one airport from each state is selected.

“To put into perspective what a big deal this is, there are 91 airports in Arkansas. If you were the worst, it could take you 91 years to get one [the award].” – Benji Ryburn

In other airport news, Mr. Ryburn asked the council to consider looking into a match grant, an 80/20 grant, to pay for a hanger to house larger planes. This is based on one of the airport’s client’s decision to possibly purchase a plane too large to be housed by any existing hangers at Ellis Field.

City Losing 47% Revenue Due to Old Water Meters – VIDEO

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

During last week’s special city council committee meeting, Rick Shepherd and Dennington Moss with Faulkner Pipe Company addressed the Council about the city’s current water meter problems.

Samples of replaced city water pipes, shown at meeting.

Based on 25 randomly selected old meters pulled from different areas around Monticello and sent to Austin, TX to Fluid Meters for testing, it was determined that the old meters are costing the city quite a large sum of money each month.


What Happened to Southern Hospitality

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Being born and raised right here in Arkansas, I’ve always had a lot of pride at how the rest of the country tends to think of us. I had someone from Iowa once tell me, “It’s so strange to me how you can be on line at the store around here (yes, they say ON line, not IN line) and out of no where some person you’ve never seen before will strike up a conversation with you. It must be a Southern thing…”

That conversation took place many years ago, and as I stand in line at stores today, I wonder how things have changed so rapidly. Are people really less polite today than they have ever been in the past?


Drew Central Schools Begin Discussions to Possibly Close Sections of Bus Routes

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Discussions were started on the possibility of altering 7 bus routes. The possible route sections to cut include:

Cominto Route, Wilmar Town Route, Rock Springs Route, Selma Route, Winchester Route, Coleman Route, and Green Hill Route. These seven were chosen largely because they are dead-end roads. The time it takes for a bus to make it down and turn itself around is very costly for the district.

The dead-end sections being considered for closure are listed in the article below.


One Monticello Life: Mayor Allen Maxwell

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

“I grew up in a different time than what kids today are. Living was foot-loose and fancy-free! You didn’t lock your doors, you left your windows open, you left your car unlocked. We kids would get together on our bikes early in the morning and ride all around town and we wouldn’t get back home until dark. I don’t think any of our parents ever knew where we were, but they knew we’d be back home.” (more…)

One Monticello Life: Chris Ray

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Since 1964, the name “Ray” has been well known throughout Monticello and surrounding areas. It all began when C.L. Ray started “Ray’s” restaurant 46 years ago, and the family tradition has carried on since.

C.L. Ray’s grandson, Chris Ray was born February 24, 1974 to Mark and Laurie Ray. Chris grew up here in Monticello, and described it as “a great place to live, and a wonderful place to raise a family.” (more…)

One Monticello Life: Tommy Maxwell

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Allen and Ruby Lee Maxwell gave life to six children, one of which they named Tommy. It was May 4, 1949 when Tommy Maxwell came into the world in Warren, AR. Warren would be the city he would call home for all of his years growing up.

Life growing up was good in the Maxwell home. Allen worked with Arkansas Power and Light plus other side jobs that the kids were allowed to work with him.

“As kids, we helped dad with little odds and ends jobs like wiring and trimming trees. For fun, we loved to hunt and play sports. My favorite sport was football. I played until I hurt my back as a Junior in high school. I was injured during a game against Monticello High.” (more…)

City Council Updated on Sadie Johnson Center

Monday, October 25th, 2010

At Thursday’s meeting, Mayor Rogers reported that the city is still waiting for the insurance company to act in regards to the recent fire that destroyed the Sadie Johnson Community Building. Mayor Rogers reported that the insurance company had stated it would be 2-3 weeks before they will do anything.

The current insurance policy on the building is for $175,000 worth of coverage and there is an additional $20,000 coverage for contents. Mayor Rogers estimated the cost of rebuilding a similar structure at $400,000-$500,000.

The council then discussed having full-coverage insurance on all city buildings, and since insurance bids are being put out now, they will ask for full cost bids to be available.

One Monticello Life: Dr. Sylvia Simon

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

The oldest of seven children, Sylvia Simon describes life growing up as “very busy.” Raised mostly in Warren, AR, she says that things in her family were a little different than in your traditional family.

“We didn’t watch TV at all, so we entertained ourselves in other ways like gardening, quilting, crocheting, and things like that. I’m really an old lady I guess because those are still the things I do.. those are my hobbies now.” (more…)

One Monticello Life-Miss Drew County 2010, Toni Findley

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

“My mom taught me, if you want anything, you have to do it yourself.”

Raised by single mother, Rhonda Findley, Toni Findley learned early in life what it meant to work hard for what you want, and to lean on those closest to you. Her childhood years shaped a strong passion to help single parents, and to always believe in second chances for others.

Toni attended McGehee schools until her family moved to Monticello right before her sixth-grade year. School was not easy for Toni. She suffered from ADHD and said the problems that came with the condition made everything difficult, from schoolwork to making friends.

Toni & her mom, Rhonda Findley, at the Miss Drew County Pageant

“I was very impulsive, blunt, and I couldn’t wait my turn for anything. It made things really difficult. I was also a perfectionist so if I couldn’t do something the perfect way, I just wouldn’t try to do it at all. I’d rather give nothing than only do it half-way.” (more…)

One Monticello Life: Shay and Sherrie Gillespie

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Growing up in a single-parent home, Shay Gillespie never could have dreamed all that he would accomplish in his future. Raised by his mother and grandmother, he was taught to work hard and to trust God to provide everything he needed.

“Growing up we were poor, but we didn’t know we were poor. Back then everyone in the community raised you… and made sure you had everything you needed.” – Rev. Gillespie

Shay Gillespie became a trailblazer, starting at a very young age. (more…)

One Monticello Life: UAM Provost, David Ray

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Drew Central Superintendant Wayne Fawcett, UAM Provost David Ray, and Monticello Superintendant Bobby Harper, at last week's MEDC meeting.

He’s been an inspiration and an example to college students for decades; everyone in town recognizes his name, and his voice: now sit back and join in on a visit with UAM Provost David Ray, this week’s One Monticello Life. (more…)

James and Rene Knowles Chosen as 2010 Drew County Farm Family of the Year

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

This year’s Drew County Farm Family of the Year title has been awarded to James and Rene Knowles. Both were raised in farming families and made the decision to keep that tradition alive in their own family, that now includes two sons and a grandson.

“I’ve been farming all my life,” James said as he recalled growing up in Valley Community.  “Dad (Pharris Knowles) was originally a cotton farmer; when I was old enough to help farm he was a commercial hay farmer. He sold hay all over southeast Arkansas.”  James’ mother is Marjorie Knowles Craig.

James graduated from Drew Central High School, is a member of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, and a member of the American Quarter Horse Association. He worked on the farm with his father until he was married to Rene.

Rene’s dad (Bob Person) owned a hog farm and raised cattle over the years. Rene’s mom was the late Joyce Person, “but  dad’s wife, Mrs. Judy, has been ‘mom’ for over 20 years.”  Rene graduated from Monticello High School and completed 3 years of college. Rene is a Drew Central School board member and was just re-elected to her second term on the Quorum Court. They are active members of Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church.


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