FEMA Grant Application Extension Approved

09/17/2020

A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) award that has been the subject of discussion at the Lincoln Parish Police Jury has had its deadline for applications extended to November 30, 2020.

Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) last week executed a public records request to the Governor’s Office Of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GHOSEP) for documents related to the $2.9 million award, and the extension request and approval were among the items we received.

The extension request was dated 8/17/20, the same date as the letter notifying the LPPJ of the award.

See here the extension request.

The extension was approved on 9/4/20, four days prior to the 9/8/2020 police jury meeting where the grant was discussed.

See here the extension approval.

As of late yesterday afternoon, no project applications for this award have been received by GOHSEP, according to their office.

This extension was the second asked for and received.

On May 19, 2020, a 90-day extension was requested to “allow subapplicants the opportunity to complete their project subapplications which is an integral step in creating resilient communities through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).”

See here the extension request.

That extension was approved on 6/24/2020.

See here the approval letter.

Several other documents show that the grant award was in the works as early as June of 2019. Here are the documents:

June 26, 2019 – Policy and requirements
September 9, 2019 – Initial cost estimates
March 19, 2020 – Revised cost estimates

It is unclear to what degree local governmental entities – Lincoln Parish Police Jury, City of Ruston, Louisiana Tech, etc – were involved in the early stages of the process, or were in the loop when correspondence was exchanged.

Bottle Clubs Outlawed in Ruston

09/15/2020

Bottle clubs, where patrons are allowed to bring their own booze for consumption on premises, are now illegal in Ruston, after the city council unanimously passed an ordinance to that effect. The action came at last night’s meeting of the body.

Ruston Police Department Chief Steve Rogers said the establishments had become a problem in downtown.

Said Rogers, “Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen instances of where these things would blow up to 100, 200, 300 people downtown. It would take a whole for us to work these things at night. We were getting complaints downtown from the business owners with trash and alcohol bottles left around town.”

Rules for private clubs were also modified by the ordinance.

See here the ordinance.

Another ordinance adopted involved emergency medical services (EMS).

Fire Chief Chris Womack said that ordinance clarified who provides EMS, and that within the city or the parish, the Ruston Fire Department would be the first responders.

Pafford Medical Services, a private provider, serves as backup if all the RFD units are tied up, Womack said. Also, RFD handles only emergency services, he said, and that private transfers are done by private providers like Pafford.

Ward Four’s Jim Pearce said that he had several calls on the issue.

See here the ordinance.

Administrative Services Director Jay Ellington got approval for a resolution to hire Hunt, Guillot & Associates (HGA) to provide consulting services for the sports complex. The service will provide booking for the complex, staffing and procedures, and management consultation.

Ellington noted that the complex is booked for almost all weekends between now Thanksgiving.

Asked by Pearce about costs, Ellington said the one-year contract was about $100 thousand.

Two other proposed contracts were delayed, Ruston Dixie Baseball and Ruston Girls Softball Association. During discussion, some council members were uncomfortable with the proposed three year term.

Ruston City Council Monday

09/13/2020

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, September 14, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

Notable are several significant amendments to the current FY 2019-2020 budget that will close on 9/30/20.

Jury Employees to get Six More Paid Holidays

09/10/2020

There were several other items of interest to Lincoln Parish Taxpayers at Tuesday night’s meetings – paid employee holidays, property tax millage rates, and annual budget requests from parish agencies.

During the Personnel/Benefits Committee meeting, it was explained that an additional six paid holidays would make jury holidays the same as other offices in the court house. The new schedule will allow 15 paid holidays, compared to nine originally.

When the full jury voted on the recommendation, Glenn Scriber (District Six) was the only no vote.

Said Scriber, “That’s a lot of paid days off.”

See here the approved holiday schedule.

The jury also adopted the ad valorem (property) tax rates for 2019. Overall, the rates are nearly the same as last year. The two library taxes were adjusted to take 1/2 mil from the operating tax and add it back to the tax dedicated to paying off the construction bonds.

See here the ordinances.

The jury also heard from several agencies that had made their annual requests for funding. Almost all were the sames as last year’s amounts.

Lincoln Parish Registrar of Voters Sharon Parnell had requested an additional $24.5 thousand to help fund an additional employee. She hoped to get funding from the state to match the jury funds.

See here the budget requests.

Lincoln Parish Tax Assessor Billy McBride was at the meeting, as the annual Tax Assessment Board of Review was on the agenda.

However, that item was deleted, and the jury will have a special meeting on 9/22 to consider the appeals.

McBride explained that his office was unable to timely advertise as legally required, due to the recent widespread power outages caused by Hurricane Laura.

Jury Votes 9/2 to Hand FEMA Money to Ruston

09/09/2020

On a 9/2 vote, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury last night “ratified” an earlier snap decision by jury Administrator Doug Postel and jury President Joe Henderson to cede a $3 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to the City of Ruston.

Henderson and Postel had said that the jury didn’t have any “shovel-ready” projects that would qualify, and that the deadline for submission was September 1. Also, the jury did not have matching funds (25%) required for the award.

Voting for the handover were Hazel Hunter (District Two), Marvin Franks (District Three), T. J. Cranford (District Four), Logan Hunt (District Five), Glenn Scriber (District Six), Matt Pullen (District Seven), Skip Russell (District Eight), Joe Henderson (District Nine), and Milton Melton (District Ten).

Voting no were Theresa Wyatt (District One) and Sharyon Mayfield (District Eleven).

Making the motion was Marvin Franks, with a second by Logan Hunt.

The vote followed a 30 minute discussion about the controversy.

Postel claimed that the letter awarding the grant was not received in the jury office until August 21, and the grant was never applied for.

“This was simply a grant that we didn’t know that we were even receiving until we received this letter that you have in your hand,” he said. “That disaster was the Ruston tornado,” he added.

He went to say that Louisiana Tech and the City of Ruston received most of the damage in that storm, and that to obtain the money, a 25% match must be put up.

Said Postel, “The application period that we received with this expired on September 1. We did not have any projects in the hopper because we did not know we were receiving any money. Number two, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury does not have a million dollars sitting aside waiting for this type of match.”

He continued, “Mr. (Kip) Franklin (Lincoln Parish Homeland Security Director) and I called Mr. Henderson, we talked to him about the requirements of this letter. We told him that the letter instructed us to meet with city officials and Louisiana Tech officials to come up with a plan and he authorized us to do that. We sat down with 13 people. Representatives from both the parish – that would be myself, Mr. Franklin, Mr. (Kevin) Klepzeig (Assistant LPPJ Administrator) – officials from the City of Ruston, officials from Louisiana Tech, and officials from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.”

“We met on Friday, August 22. We discussed many possible projects that we could work together on. In that discussion we found out that Ruston and Louisiana Tech already had a project that was in process in the planning phases that would fit into the requirements the state had set forth in this plan.”

The project would be the construction of a facility that would combine a city fire station with a Louisiana Tech Police Department headquarters and a parish emergency operations center, he said.

Since the city and Tech had the matching funds, a decision was made by the group to move forward with that project and make Ruston the primary applicant, Postel added. He also said LPPJ President Joe Henderson signed off on the plan.

Henderson spoke up and apologized to the jury for not informing them of what was going on.

Said Henderson, “What I failed to do was to get all of you all the information out before it got to the newspaper.”

District One’s Theresa Wyatt was having none of it.

Said Wyatt “We should have been the first to know – I shouldn’t have read that at five o’clock in the morning in the newspaper. We are the custodian of tax dollars, Mr. Postel isn’t. He said he met with that group – I didn’t hear him mention anybody on this police jury. That process was wrong and inexcusable.”

“That letter says to engage, it did not say to hand it over. You (Henderson), regardless of your excuse, did not get in touch with the legal custodians of three million dollars and find out how we thought about. The money doesn’t go through Postel’s hand, and it doesn’t yours alone. It’s the twelve of us,” she added.

Sharyon Mayfield (District Eleven) said that the deadline had been extended to November 30, so the September 1 deadline didn’t apply.

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker spoke up to defend the need for an emergency operations center located in the south part of Ruston.

Prior to the vote to approve the handover, Wyatt moved to ask the juror’s legal counsel Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones investigate the process, validate or refute Postel’s assertions, and report back to the jury.

Said Wyatt, “I don’t trust this jury. I don’t trust you to be transparent.”

That motion failed on an 8 to 3 vote, with Wyatt, Mayfield and Melton voting for and the other eight voting no.

FEMA Grant on LPPJ Tuesday Agenda

09/05/2020

A $3 Million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) award that was reported last week to have been allocated to the City of Ruston is on the agenda for discussion at the Tuesday, September 8 meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury.

It is likely that many jurors will have different ideas about what that money should be spent on, instead of allocating it all to Ruston.

From the letter sent to the police jury:

This funding allocation can be used for cost effective mitigation measures that are consistent with the state plan and your local hazard mitigation plan. GOHSEP encourages you to engage the City of Ruston and Louisiana Tech University and to review the strategies in the parish hazard mitigation plan. Please strongly consider working with these entities to identify projects for this funding opportunity. In order to utilize these funds, a cost share (non-Federal match) of 25% is required which brings the total amount of funding inclusive of your share to $3,937,211.

Please be advised that the current application period for DR-4439 expires on September 1, 2020. GOHSEP has requested a 90-day extension to the application period until November 30, 2020 on your behalf. This date is important because all project applications for funding consideration must be submitted to FEMA by the close of the application period.

See here the document.

According to Louisiana’s HMGP website, such funds can be spent in many ways, including property acquisition and structure demolition or relocation, structure elevation, generators, structural or non-structural retrofitting of existing buildings, wind retrofit for one and two family residences and wildfire mitigation.

Here are the jury meeting agendas.

Committee meetings begin at 5:30 PM, Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton.

LP Jurors Unhappy with FEMA Money Handover to City

09/03/2020

Some Lincoln Parish Police Jury members are unhappy that a $3 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hazard mitigation grant awarded to Lincoln Parish was sent to the City of Ruston, with no input from jury members. The jurors suggest that newly-appointed Parish Administrator Doug Postel and jury President Joe Henderson didn’t have the authority to make that decision without a vote of the jury.

In a Ruston Daily Leader story last week, Postel was quoted as saying that since most of the damage was within Ruston’s city limits, they should be given the money.

The funds are to be used to diminish the impact of future disasters. Reportedly, the city is eying another “emergency operations center” similar to the sheriff’s sprawling facility on Road Camp Road.

One possible use of grant money for a parish entity could be an emergency generator for Greater Ward One Waterworks District. The system serves about 3 thousand people located mostly off Farmerville Road.

The system lost power on the morning of Thursday, August 27, and had no ability to pump water and refill its tanks until about mid-day Saturday.

There was much discussion of the issue on the system’s Facebook page last weekend.

After last year’s tornado, the jury also furnished men and equipment to help the city with cleanup of storm debris.

Schools Reopen Tomorrow

09/02/2020

School Superintendent Interviews to be Secret

09/02/2020

Interviews for the Lincoln School District Superintendent may be done in executive session, after a key phrase was stripped from language approved last month by a committee of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB).

At last night’s meeting, On a motion by David Gullatt (District 3), item 6 on page 3 of the memo was modified to read:

The interviews of selected candidates will be conducted by the full Board during the period of October 19-21, 2020, and succeeding days if needed at a time to be determined. Following such initial interviews, the Board may vote either to hire a superintendent or select finalists for 2nd interviews.

Taken out was this phrase, “in Open Session on the advice of Board attorney, Jon Guice,”

The motion was seconded by Hunter Smith (District 7), and unanimously approved.

The action comes after several months of controversy at the Lincoln Parish Police Jury over its selection of a Parish Administrator.

Last June, it was alleged that the jury held an executive session in which an illegal vote was taken.

In other business, the board adopted the 2020-2021 budget, which projects revenues of $82.3 million and expenditures of $78.7 million.

See here the budget summary.

Twenty seven positions were eliminated district wide from last year, to include 22 certificated employees, and 5 non-certificated.

About 80% of the district’s expenditures are for personnel and benefits.

School Board Meets Tonight

09/01/2020

The Lincoln Parish School Board will meet tonight (Tuesday, September 1) at the Lincoln Parish STEM Center, 525 Tarbutton Road, next door to Ruston Junior High.

Here is the agenda.

The Finance Committee will meet at 5:45 PM, with the full board to follow at 6:00 PM.