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RIVER VALLEY NOTEBOOK: T-hangar project begins in Conway | 6 firms teaming up on casino resort | UCA enrollment tops fall '20 by 8%

by Jeannie Roberts | September 5, 2021 at 2:26 a.m.

T-hangar project begins in Conway

Conway Airport director Jack Bell said last week that foundation work has begun on the new T-hangar project at the airport.

The building is to be delivered in two weeks, and construction will begin shortly thereafter, Bell said.

"We hope to have construction completed by November," he said.

The contract for the T-hangars construction was awarded in June to Frank A. Rogers Co. The amount of the contract was reduced by $25,000 to $968,194 by removing the cost of fiber-optic installation.

The current hangar space is at capacity, with a waiting list of 37 aircraft owners seeking parking spaces at the airport.

T-hangars are in the shape of the letter T to accommodate the shape of a plane. The hangar is narrower where the tail section of the plane is stored.

6 firms teaming up on casino resort

Gulfside Casino Partnership announced recently that it is partnering with five additional Arkansas-based companies for its $254 million River Valley Casino Resort, which is to be built in Russellville.

The companies are Curtis H. Stout Inc.; Middleton Heating & Air; Stephens Insurance; Westrock Coffee; and Russellville-based Barrett & Associates.

"We're honored to support Gulfside Casino Partnership as it builds its River Valley Casino Resort," said Morgan Barrett of Barrett & Associates, a land surveying and environmental engineering firm.

The Pope County casino license has been mired in conflict for several years. Cherokee Nation Businesses is fighting for the Pope County casino license against Mississippi casino operator Gulfside Casino Partnership, which was awarded the license last year by the Arkansas Racing Commission.

The River Valley Casino Resort's plans include 500 hotel rooms, 80,000 square feet of gambling space, fine-dining options and outdoor spaces. Conway-based Nabholz Corp. and AnderCorp will oversee construction of the facility.

"Stephens Insurance is proud to be one of the Arkansas companies selected to work with Gulfside Casino Partnership," said Miles Stephens, president and CEO of Stephens Insurance.

Gulfside currently operates Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport, Miss.

"We look forward to designing and installing a state-of-the-art heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system for the River Valley Casino Resort," said Mark Middleton, president of Middleton Inc. "Gulfside's decision to hire Arkansas-based contractors and suppliers will help create jobs and spur continued economic benefits -- for the local community, region and entire state."

Ron Smith, president and CEO of Curtis H. Stout Inc., a Little Rock-based electrical and electronics solutions provider, said his company was also honored to be selected as a Gulfside vendor.

UCA enrollment tops fall '20 by 8%

First-time undergraduate enrollment at the University of Central Arkansas has surpassed fall 2020 and 2019 numbers, reaching 1,854 students this fall, UCA spokesperson Fredricka Sharkey announced Friday.

According to preliminary data released Thursday, first-time undergraduate enrollment increased by 8.1% over the fall of 2020 first-time enrollment, which was 1,715. Fall 2019 first-time enrollment was 1,840.

"The covid-19 pandemic impacted graduating high school students for the last two years, from disrupted learning schedules to the ability to visit campus. These first-time undergraduate enrollment numbers represent the dedicated work of our offices of admissions, advising, student success, orientation and many other teams on campus," said UCA President Houston Davis. "We are very excited about our incoming class, and we are pleased with the strength of these enrollment numbers."

Fall enrollment in the graduate school increased 8.2%, with 1,861 students enrolled. Much of the growth can be attributed to programs in the College of Business and College of Education.

The College of Business increased graduate enrollment from 180 in the fall of 2020 to 230 this fall. This accounts for 27.8% growth for the college's graduate programs. Of those 50 additional students, 39 are enrolled in the Master of Business Administration degree.

In the College of Education, graduate enrollment grew by 84 students, or 13.9%. The college's fall 2021 graduate enrollment is 688, while last year's enrollment was 604.

Overall enrollment at UCA is 10,109.

Utility call-center worker promoted

Eric Bell -- who was hired in 2015 as a customer care specialist in the Conway Corp. call center -- has been promoted to lead customer service specialist for the Conway utility company.

In his new role, Bell will assist with supervision of customer service specialists who provide product and service information, manage customer inquiries and work with all departments in the company to support customer requests.

"Eric brings a wealth of knowledge in all areas of customer service," Customer Service Manager Jaylene Sexton said. "I look forward to him continuing to grow in this position and enhancing the skills and knowledge of our team."

Clarksville police get 2 new officers

The Clarksville Police Department welcomed two new officers to its force this weekend: patrolman Tommy "TJ" Evans and patrolman Seth Pruitt.

Evans began his law enforcement career at the Johnson County jail where he last held the rank of sergeant. He will be assigned to the Police Department patrol division and will begin his training at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in two weeks.

Pruitt, who graduated from the training academy in 2013, began field training last week and also will be assigned to the patrol division.

UCA police officer honored for work

City Attorney Charles Finkenbinder honored University of Central Arkansas Police Department officer Chris Vasquez during a ceremony last week for his service to Conway and especially for helping people beyond the scope of his job duties.

When the pandemic hit, Vasquez started an exercise program for kids in his neighborhood even though he was not paid to do so, and has consistently gone above and beyond in serving Conway citizens.

"This award is to go above and beyond to recognize someone who is not just an outstanding police officer, but an outstanding citizen. And not just an outstanding citizen, but an outstanding human being," Finkenbinder said.

The award was handed to Vasquez by Steve Antal. Vasquez took Antal under his wing and helped him recover from a 15-year opiate addiction.

It was Vasquez who arrested Antal when Antal drove his car into a brick wall.

"I was in no shape at the time to care for my children so they were taken by the state," Antal said. "They went to live with my brother and his wife. After that, I had no will to live and dove deeper into my addiction, doing anything I could get my hands on."

Vasquez and Finkenbinder helped Antal get accepted to the M18 Recovery center and supported him throughout his recovery.

Papasan named to bank's board

Tommy Papasan of Danville was appointed last week to the Chambers Bank board of directors, chief executive officer and board chairman John Ed Chambers III announced.

"We are proud to add Tommy to our Board of Directors," Chambers said in a news release. "Not only does he have a breadth of experience in banking and small business ownership, he is also a leader who understands our mission as a community bank."

Chambers Bank, headquartered in Danville, was founded in 1930 and operates 24 branches throughout the state.

A native of Waldron, Papasan began his career in sales before transitioning into a loan officer role for Farm Credit Services in Danville. He later served as a loan officer for Chambers Bank.

Papasan has established several small-business ventures, including River Valley Appraisal Services, TPAP Consulting and TPAP Insurance Agency. He owns Pappy's Outdoors in Russellville and is a partner in P&L Homebuilders.

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