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Smart Talk, Nov. 8

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Watching the watersheds

Watershed watchers have thought otherwise, but a spokesman for Central Arkansas Water says that a ditch containing a 54-inch drain pipe installed by Rick Ferguson on land he is developing in the Lake Maumelle watershed for his Waterview Estates project presents no danger to the watershed.

The construction of the ditch has required a 75-foot swath through the ridge line. Jim Ferguson, director of engineering for CAW, says the pipe will carry water away from a diversion ditch yet to be constructed that would keep runoff out of Lake Maumelle, which supplies the city's drinking water.

Parties to a taxpayers' lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court that would nullify the agreement Central Arkansas Water entered into with Ferguson to let development occur aren't happy that dirt work has begun before the issue has been settled in court, and wonder what will happen to the ditch if they prevail.

Jim Ferguson said it would be up to Judge Willard Proctor Jr., in whose court the case is being heard, to decide whether to mitigate the landscape and who should pay for it if taxpayers win. Half the ditch is located on property the city would condemn if the motion to intervene is granted.

Citizens to Protect the Maumelle Watershed will hold a forum on risks to the lake at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, 2301 S. University.

Another hit

Jason Moore, a Fayetteville native who earned national acclaim with his direction of the hit Broadway musical “Avenue Q,” may have another winner on his hands.

He's directing “Speech and Debate,” a musical comedy about misfit high school students arrayed against such difficult forces as adolescence, a predatory teacher and a hypocritical Republican mayor who's had sex with teen-age boys. It's being staged in the 65-seat Roundabout Underground Black Box Theater, a venue for young playwrights, but it earned a review from the New York Times last week worthy of a major Broadway production.

“A plot description doesn't hint at how funny and cliche-free this brilliantly performed little show is,” wrote Caryn James. She also wrote: “The sharpness of this production owes a lot to its director, Jason Moore of ‘Avenue Q.' ” The play runs through Dec. 16.

In vino, charity

Sotheby's auction house in New York has announced an auction Saturday, Nov. 17, of a “magnificent” collection of wine owned by Warren A. Stephens, CEO of Little Rock-based Stephens Inc. The catalogue says Stephens grew interested in wine during European travels as a young adult. “A constant in this busy life is his enjoyment of wine and his growing collection, which he began seriously in the late 1980s,” Sotheby's wrote. “Stephens' enthusiasm for wine has simple roots — he revels in the taste and experience of drinking a great vintage.”

The catalogue says that Stephens had been “surprised” at the quantity of wine he'd amassed and had decided to “make it available to other collectors.” Sotheby's notes that proceeds from the sale will be donated to a favorite Stephens charity, the Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock.

Instructions to bid are online at sothebys.com. Don't expect to find any Two-Buck Chuck. The 539 lots — sometimes cases, sometimes single out-sized bottles — rarely are estimated to cost less than $100 a bottle and often quite a bit more. A case of a famous Bordeaux, Chateau Petrus, 2000 vintage, is estimated to go for $25,000 to $40,000. A lot consisting of two bottles of a fine burgundy, 1985 Romanee Conti, is expected to sell for $14,000 to $22,500. Looking for bargains? There's a case of a 1986 Italian wine, a Brunello di Montalcino by Poggio Antico, expected to fetch only $450 to $700.

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