Digital TV in stir
The switch to digital television broadcasting has created some confusion for TV viewers across the country. President-elect Obama has even urged Congress to push back the original Feb. 17 deadline. The conversion is an even bigger problem for prisons, most of which use TV time as a reward for good behavior.
But the Arkansas Department of Correction says it's ready. Spokeswoman Dina Tyler says the state bought 550 new digital television sets at a cost of about $69,000 for the state's 20 prison facilities. The money came from the inmate welfare fund, which is funded by concession sales to inmates.
The use of digital-to-analog converter boxes was not an option. Prison officials feared the extra piece of hardware could be used as a weapon.
Tyler says the expense is necessary. “TV is a good management tool because it's based on a rewards system,” she says. “The better you do, the more you get. TV is one of those things you can take away pretty easily. If you don't act right you don't get to watch TV.”
Bridging the dollar gap
The billions of federal dollars that Congress plans to hand out to stimulate the economy have got local governments dreaming. Pulaski County, in particular, has visions of bridges dancing in its head. Tops on County Judge Buddy Villines wish list: Funds to build a pedestrian bridge over the Little Maumelle to connect the River Trail to Two Rivers Park ($4 million), two new vehicular bridges west of Ferndale's Four Corners on Kanis Road ($6.5 million), and what the county refers to as the “west wing” off the Big Dam Bridge, a ramp that would connect to the River Trail south of the river west of Jimerson Creek ($3 million).
Villines said the county would leave the old bridges on Kanis in place for use as pedestrian/bike trails (as it plans to do on an already-state-funded project to build a new bridge on the Batesville Pike). All four projects are “shovel-ready” — that is, their designs are complete (or will be by the time the money is allocated) and construction can start right away.
The county also wants to put asphalt on some of its chip and gravel roads and install energy- and water-saving technologies in its buildings. Lower utility bills would mean more money for jail operations, something the county sorely needs. In all, the county is asking for around $20 million, Villines said.
Republican state Rep. Dan Greenberg has dropped his effort to repeal the state's insurance mandate for in vitro fertilization, discussed in a Jan. 8 article in the Times. He says he made the decision before the article appeared. The print version of the story quoted Greenberg as saying his original motivation in filing the bill was “to have people pay $1 and not $1.50” for insurance. That was a typographical error. It should have read “$1 and not $1.05.”