BY Elizabeth crisp
Supporters of the effort to create a new city in East Baton Rouge Parish held their first public meeting Thursday night, drawing more than 200 people — most of them backing St. George’s creation.
Lionel Rainey, one of the leaders of the incorporation effort, said the group wanted an opportunity to answer questions and address concerns directly.
The meeting, held in the Woodlawn Baptist Church sanctuary, didn’t draw any vocal opponents.
Despite recent efforts to push against the St. George movement, organizers say they have half of the 18,000 signatures needed to put incorporation to a vote in a special election.
Only those who live within the proposed St. George boundaries would be eligible to cast a ballot on the issue.
“This will happen,” said Norman Browning, one of the key organizers of the effort. “We will get this to a vote.”
The new city would include all of the parish’s unincorporated areas south of Baton Rouge’s city limits — about 85 square miles of land and more than 107,000 residents.
Last night’s hour-long meeting of the Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen was relatively orderly. Approval was granted on a couple of grant applications, one for sewer lift station projects, and another for street projects.
There was a bit of controversy about the November water bills, as they have not yet been mailed. Apparently, some readings were not timely submitted and unable to be included in the billing information. There was a bit of discussion on who was to blame, until the town’s Fiscal Administrator Kenneth Folden spoke up and shouldered the responsibility.
Said Folden, “There was a miscommunication on this with the holidays. We’ve already addressed it, it’s being addressed right now.” He added, “Since I got here, the bills have gone out on time, there’s not been a late bill until this month.”
He concluded, “I take responsibility for that.”
The council voted to waive any late fee or penalties for the billing cycle, and Folden concurred with that decision.
During comments, former Mayor Don Essmeier noted that some of the town’s trash containers were not being properly handled, and were often left out on the street after pickup day. He suggested that notes be placed in the monthly bills reminding homeowners of the proper procedures for container handling.
Also, Betty Jeffress noted that the recent coffee for the Grand Marshall of the Christmas Parade was done very well, and the town’s Christmas Lights were well done.
Folden noted that the town’s employees had worked very hard, and it showed.
The financial reports showed a positive cash flow in the general fund, Folden said. Some of that surplus was transferred to the fire department fund, and other surpluses will dedicated to to long-term debt service.
Water and Sewer funds also showed a positive cash flow, which will also go toward debt.
Several items were tabled, and will be addressed at a soon-to-be scheduled special meeting.
District B’s Renee Stringer introduced an ordinance to reduce the mayor’s salary to $52 thousand/year from the current $70 thousand/year. A hearing will be scheduled for public comment at the next regular meeting.
See here the proposed ordinance.
Stinger deferred introduction of an ordinance to address travel trailers within the town until the other aldermen had time to review the proposal.
Cameron Mays was in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court this afternoon before Judge Wayne Smith for a sanity hearing in connection with his pending trial, but the matter was upset and refixed for 2/11/14, because his Shreveport attorney Joseph Clark was in the hospital.
Mays is alleged to have murdered Susan Hashaway, 63, in her Paynter Drive home, during a June 2012 home invasion and robbery. He is also charged in a separate Roberts Street home invasion and rape that occurred within a few days of the murder. Both crimes were in the Southwest area of Ruston,
In court were neighbors of Hashaway, who had told her out-of-state relatives that they would attend court proceedings on their behalf.
An alleged accomplice of Mays, Brandon Bonton, was in court for a status conference, but that was also delayed. That new date is March 11, 2014.
Until the competency issue is resolved, all proceedings in the case are on hold.
Appearing for the State of Louisiana was Assistant District Attorney John Belton.
By Lauren McGaughy, NOLA.com
Grambling State University could be sanctioned or have its access to federal financial aid programs terminated, after it failed to return nearly $15,000 in funds that went to students who dropped out of school.
Around 90 percent of students at the historically black university receive some kind of aid, including federal Title IV funds like Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. If a student drops out, the school and student are required to refund a proportionate amount of this aid to the U.S. Department of Education.
According to a report released Monday by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, the school failed to note the unofficial withdrawal date 43 out of 49 randomly chosen students who dropped out between July 2012 and June 2013. As a consequence, Grambling failed to return to the federal government the aid of eight of these students, totaling $14,992, within 45 days.
This could result in the HBCU being sanctioned or even barred from receiving this aid.
See here the document.
The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) will meet Tuesday, December 10, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor. Committee meetings begin at 6:30 PM.
Public Works – 6:30 PM
Among the items to be considered are three Local Government Assistance Program (LGAP) grant applications – Blueberry Hills Sewer System, Hilly-Greenwood Water System, and Lincoln Parish Waterworks District 3.
See here the project descriptions.
Solid Waste & Recycling – 6:45 PM
This committee will consider a rate increase for Jackie White, Inc., for refuse hauling from the Lincoln Parish Landfill to the Union Parish Landfill.
See here the memo.
Police Jury – 7:00 PM
The full jury will consider a resolution to hire legal counsel – Gold, Weems, Bruser, Sues, & Rundell – in the event litigation between the District Attorney’s Office and the jury occurs.
Last month, the jury agreed to pay an extra $75 thousand for 2013 and 2014 to the DA. He had requested $132 thousand and $198 thousand increases for those respective budget years. The jury had been paying the DA about $170 thousand/year.
See here the resolution.
Also, the jury will consider approval of the 2013 amended and 2014 proposed budgets for the North Louisiana Exhibition Center.
See here the budgets.
By Charles Lussier
Supporters of creating a new city of St. George announced Monday they will seek to build six new schools, including a new high school, if they also are successful in creating a new school district named after the proposed new city.
Those six schools would be in addition to 10 schools the new school district would inherit if it successfully breaks away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.
The new school district would be called the St. George Independent School District and it would include the boundaries of what supporters up until now have been calling the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School District, which would include part of the city of Baton Rouge as well as unincorporated areas. Supporters are now calling that portion of the new St. George school district the “east side.” The expanded district would also include all of the incorporated areas of the parish south of Interstate 10, what supporters are calling the “west side.”
Supporters are projecting enough money to build these new schools, in contrast to Zachary and Central, which both had to pass new taxes to build new schools in their communities after they successfully broke away.
“Based on our research, we see no reason to raise taxes to build additional schools or to run this school district,” said Lionel Rainey, a spokesman for the effort.
The planned new schools would be three elementary, two middle schools as well as one high school. They would all be on the “west side” area south of I-10, an area with no schools.
Yesterday, an incident was related to me by our most active alderperson, Renee Stringer, regarding the infamous camper trailer set-up illegally on private property at the south-east corner of Cooper and Third Street. This has been an eyesore since this summer and an irritant to many of our citizens attending the monthly town meetings. The only alderperson seeking the removal of this illegal trailer has been Ms. Stringer…her attempts at having this “Single Wide Mobile Home” ordinance violation removed has largely met with lack of interest from other town officials and excuses why it could not be removed. An unauthorized town employee had given the trailer owner (name withheld) permission to set up the trailer, including sewer and water hook-up.
The individual that owned the trailer showed up at Renee Stringer’s residence, on Saturday, in an upset mood, because he was told she was the only person objecting to his set-up. The owner settled down after he was told the truth backed up with paperwork over the last several months, including a copy of the “Single Wide Mobile Home” ordinance. The owner was now upset with the people that have been giving him and his wife misinformation the last several months. He had told Renee, that recently, another town official told him all he had to do was unhook the RV, pull it around the block and he could put it back for another six months.
The owner lives in another Parish where he claims he is in law? He understood the illegal position he was in and assured Ms. Stringer that the trailer would be removed Sunday, December 8. At 11am I drove to the trailer site to see if the owner needed any assistance but he had already pulled the trailer away. This incident demonstrates that we still have a lot of clean-up work to do in town to rid it of employees that continue to avert the rule of law and not work for the common good of the town.
A recent story in The (Monroe) News star and The Ruston Daily Leader has the Courthouse Crowd in Lincoln Parish all in a buzz: the win in a lawsuit by former Ruston firefighter Terry Lewis against the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) for employment discrimination in the hiring of the parish’s Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
We have obtained a copy of Ad Hoc Judge Charles Traylor II’s ruling.
See here the document.
The hire was approved by the jury at their 5/11/10 meeting.
See here the 5/11/10 minutes
by Rebekah Allen
A Baton Rouge Metro Councilman concerned the proposed city of St. George would result in higher taxes and diminished services, said he will sponsor an ordinance to annex into the city of Baton Rouge the property of anyone in unincorporated areas who requests it.
Only properties in the parish that are directly adjacent to the city of Baton Rouge are eligible for annexation under Metro Council ordinances.
Councilman John Delgado said Thursday he is convinced the new city would have to raise taxes to sustain government functions and services if efforts to incorporate St. George are successful.
But St. George leader Norman Browning said Delgado is making “poor assumptions without taking the time to do research.”
Browning said the city of Central did not raise taxes for government services.
BY WILL SENTELL
The growing fight over forming a new city in East Baton Rouge Parish points up the impact of dissatisfaction with public schools in Louisiana.
Backers say the drive stems from parental demands for better options than those offered by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.
It follows two hotly-debated bids to set up a new school system in southeast Baton Rouge, which failed in the Louisiana Legislature this year and last.