Local & Regional News

Arkansas local and regional news

The Arkansas Department of Corrections says an inmate who died in a cell at the East Arkansas Regional Unit apparently took his own life.

Public information officer Cathy Frye says correctional officers delivering meals early Tuesday to inmates housed in maximum security discovered 44-year-old Kenneth Boucher with a sheet wrapped around his neck. The sheet had been woven through a grate in Boucher's cell. Staff took immediate steps to resuscitate Boucher until paramedics arrived.

CHI St. Vincent and Conway Regional Health System have signed a five-year management agreement and created the Arkansas Health Alliance, a new corporate entity for independent hospitals to affiliate with CHI St. Vincent, the two health care providers announced Tuesday.

According to a news release, the agreement, effective Aug. 17, represents a partnership, not an acquisition, and the two health systems will retain their names, governance and autonomy. Matt Troup, CHI St. Vincent vice president of ancillary and support services, will become CEO of Conway Regional.

Many Arkansas cities are taking advantage of advances in technology to improve how they operate. On Tuesday, community leaders from around the state met in Little Rock to discuss what’s possible during a Smart Cities seminar.

The city of Mulberry, near Fort Smith, is an early adopter of such technologies. Mayor Gary Baxter says they recently bought smart water meters, which are more accurate than traditional water meters and send usage data through a wireless network.

Federal prosecutors say 70 people have been charged after a two-year investigation into alleged drug trafficking and gun violence in northeastern Arkansas.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer and others announced Tuesday that 40 sealed indictments handed up last week named 70 defendants in a major drug-and-weapon operation. More than 500 law officers staged a number of arrests Tuesday morning.

Thyer said it had been evident for some time that drugs and guns were "overrunning" the Arkansas Delta.

Gay marriage same-sex marriage Arkansas
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling striking down Arkansas' gay marriage ban, finding that the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage didn't render the state case moot.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says 1,300 students have signed up for coding classes under a new state law requiring public schools to teach computer science.

U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge announced on Tuesday that he would be resigning from his post on Friday, Aug. 21.

He did not announce his intentions for what his next move would be, but Eldridge has been rumored to be considering a challenge to U.S. Senator John Boozman, R-Arkansas, in 2016.

Eldridge, appointed by President Obama to the Western District post in 2010, said he would discuss his future plans after he leaves the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The teachers' union in the Little Rock School District plans to announce major changes in its contract with members at a meeting Tuesday evening. The Superintendent of the LRSD, Baker Kurrus, is proposing to change the contract with the union that has stood for 50 years.

The changes, backed by the state’s Department of Education, remove some bargaining rights but leave the union with negotiating power over salaries and benefits.

The nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t fulfill its objectives, so the United States should continue to enforce sanctions, even if it does so without the support of the United Nations, U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., said Monday.

Health Care Task Force Chair, Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) during a break in the meeting.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Affordable Care Act continues to help Arkansas - more than any other state in the nation - to reduce its percentage of uninsured residents. A survey released on Monday by Gallup shows Arkansas has cut its uninsured rate by more than half since the first provisions of the ACA went live in 2013.