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Arkansas home sales were down 5.6 percent in August, but were up 29.03 percent in Jefferson County, compared to the same month last year. That’s positive news for the market as the numbers reflect measurable gains after months of being flat.

In plain terms, 40 new and existing residences were sold in the county during August, compared to the 31 units sold during the same month in 2011. The average selling price last month was up 8.4 percent, good news for the sellers.

There also was good news for potential buyers this week. Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell again to record lows. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the rate on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.4 percent, down from last week’s rate of 3.49 percent. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell to 2.73 percent, down from 2.77 percent a week earlier.

Too many homicides

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When will the killings stop?

Pine Bluff police are tracking leads and following up on tips following the cold-blooded murder of a convenience store clerk in a robbery at 2401 East Sixth Ave. Tuesday night.

Mohammad Islam, 26, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body. His killer or killers will likely face aggravated robbery, theft of property and capital murder charges once taken into custody.

The murder was the 16th homicide of the year in Jefferson County and the 15th inside the Pine Bluff city limits. These were 16 people with families who didn’t deserve to die at the hands of someone armed with a gun or knife.

We’d like to be able to say that the killings will stop when the populace gets fed up with the thugs who are perpetuating the crimes. But wanting something to stop and having it stop are entirely different scenarios, particularly in the case of serious crimes that are the result of myriad social problems.

Landmark closes

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Bonanza Steakhouse, a fixture at the same 2922 Olive St. address since 1967, closed Sunday, a victim of an anemic economy, higher food costs and changes in customers’ eating habits.

Such changes will impact 30 workers, many of them long-time employees, who lost their jobs as a result of the closure. Part of the blame was put on customers’ spending money on a state-operated lottery instead of food as well as the economy and competition.

Tax deadbeats

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Pine Bluff restaurants, hotels and motels that don’t pay their respective municipal taxes won’t be able to conceal their delinquencies in the near future, Bob Purvis, Convention Center executive director, told two city commissions recently.

The convention center receives some funding from the tax revenue and some firms, and once a new computer program is launched, the deadbeat firms that don’t pay the hotel/motel and hamburger taxes that they have collected from their customers will be recognizable by the public.

Some firms simply ignore their responsibilities in supporting the city by failing to remit taxes they have collected from patrons. Some folks are bold enough to call it theft with a cash register.

The new website will allow the public an opportunity to check for itself on which businesses are current and how much tax money they’ve remitted to the city. We’ll call it transparency.

We like Purvis’ idea of including tax-payment stipulations as a requirement for an occupation license.

The city can padlock a business without an occupation license.