Jury Ups Funding to Agencies

10/11/2017

Funding was increased by about $100 thousand (from about $600 thousand to about $700 thousand) to several agencies that the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) partially finances at last night’s meeting. Most of the increase ($65 thousand) was for new recording equipment for the three courtrooms of the Third Judicial District Court.

Almost all the agencies received what they had requested.

See here the funding awarded vs last year’s funding level.
See here the originally requested amounts.

One agency was notably excluded from funding.

During the the Finance Committee meeting, Jody Backus (district 7) moved to strike all the requested $10,700 for the Shreveport-based Coordinating & Development Corporation.

According to its website, CDC is a private, nonprofit, member-supported corporation that serves the economic, community, workforce, transportation, and business development needs of 10 parishes in Northwest Louisiana, eleven counties in Northeast Texas, and five counties in Southwest Arkansas.

Backus said he could never support funding the agency because of the $175 thousand profit the agency made at the expense of Lincoln Parish taxpayers, when in the early 2000s the jury was negotiating to buy the old Albertson’s building for the Lincoln Parish Library.

Said Backus, “I can tell you where all this started, and why we dropped them (from funding). That company, CDC, took $175 thousand from Lincoln Parish residents in deceit, when they bought the library.”

The committee defeated Backus’ motion 3-2, with Backus and Henderson voting yes, and Russell, Wyatt, and Wilson voting no.

The committee went on to award CDC $3 thousand on a reverse 3-2 vote split.

However, when the committee report was later presented to the full jury, Backus moved to amend the report to exclude the CDC’s $3 thousand award. That amendment passed 6-5.

The yes votes were Backus, Roberson, Henderson, Bennett, Hammons, and Straughter. The no votes were Wyatt, Hunter, Pullen, Wilson, and Russell.

In other business, the jury approved two cooperative endeavor agreements with the City of Ruston.

One will authorize the jury to do site preparation work, fill and compacting, and access driveway construction for the city’s planned animal control facility. That work is expected to cost around $15 thousand, it was said.

The other is an agreement for the city and parish to jointly fund overlay of Rough Edge Road. Part of the road is in the city, for which the the jury will be reimbursed proportionately.

Finally, new Parish Treasurer reported on the jury’s year-to-date budget through the end of 9/30/17.

See here the document.

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Lincoln Parish Police Jury Tuesday

10/09/2017

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) will meet Tuesday, October 10, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor. Here are the committee meeting times and agendas.

Insurance Committee – 5:00 PM
Agenda

Public Works Committee – 5:30 PM
Agenda

Finance Committee – 6:00 PM
Agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM
Agenda

RHS’ Ellis Aces ACT Test

10/04/2017

Davis Ellis (L), RHS Principal Ricky Durrett

Ruston High School Junior (RHS) Davis Ellis was recognized at yesterday’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) for scoring a perfect 36 on the American College Test (ACT) college entrance exam. According to the organization’s website, of the 2.03 million 2017 high school graduates who took the test, only 2,760 scored a 36.

The test covers four skill areas, English, math, reading, and science.

In introducing Davis, ACHIEVE Coordinator Cathi Cox-Boniol noted that Davis is:

A state champion in the State Literary Rally in Algebra II, he is a two-time state qualifier in tennis, and after being part of Ruston High’s state championship FBLA Parliamentary Procedure team, he went on to rank in the Top Ten in that event at the National FBLA Convention.

Davis thanked the board for the recognition, his parents for their mentoring, and one other important thing in his life.

Said Davis, “Most importantly, I would like to thank God, for without Him, there is no reason for me to be.”

The board also took care of some business, approving several significant changes to the medical benefits for employees and retirees. Among the changes are increased co-pays for drugs and emergency room visits, an increase in drug deductibles, and an increase in the maximum out-of-pocket cost to $4500 from $3500.

See here the memo.

The changes were contemplated at last month’s meeting, but were deferred after doubts among the board members.

In his remarks, District Superintendent Mike Milstead commented on the “Enhanced School Calendar” program that will allow students to attend during the summer months. The pilot program will be at two schools, Glenview and Cypress Springs.

Milstead has often noted that the traditional summer break creates a “learning loss” for some students.

Said Milstead, “At some point we will give all schools that option. I vision down the road in the next 3 or 4 years a stand-alone site.”

LPPJ, City to Collaborate on Animal Control Facility

10/03/2017

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) is set to lend a hand (and money) to the planned animal control facility at the old Ruston Airport off South Farmerville Street.

According to a resolution adopted at last night’s Ruston City Council meeting, the jury will provide site clearing, fill material, and driveway construction for the planned facility.

The city had budgeted $1.5 million for the project.

Building Official Bill Sanderson said the project should be awarded in January of next year.

A vote on the proposed 1/2 cent sales tax ordinance was delayed until the November meeting, but a resolution allowing negotiating a cooperative endeavor agreement between the city and Hutton was approved.

See here the resolution.

According to City Attorney Bill Carter, the agreement will authorize “reimbursement for public infrastructure and site development.”

Finally, an ordinance was introduced for a budget amendment for the just-ended fiscal year 10/1/16-9/30/17.

See here the budget items amended.

School Board Meets Today

10/03/2017

The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) will meet today (Tuesday, October 3) at 10:30 AM for its regular monthly meeting. The meeting location is different, and will be at Ruston High School, 900 Bearcat Drive, in the Teacher’s Lounge.

Here is the agenda.

Ruston City Council Monday

10/01/2017

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, October 2, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

A public hearing is scheduled prior to a vote to approve an ordinance for a 1/2 cent sales tax for the Cooktown Road Economic Development District.

Also, a resolution will be considered to approve a cooperative endeavor agreement between the city and Hutton MT 17, LLC relative to the collection and use of the sales tax.

Former Arcadia Town Clerk Convicted

09/26/2017

Arcadia town clerk suspended from office following theft conviction

Vickie Welborn – KTBS TV3

An Arcadia councilwoman may no longer participate in Town Council matters following her conviction last week for stealing money when she was the water clerk.

A Bienville Parish jury late Thursday night convicted Patricia Hampton of felony theft following a four-day trial. The six-person jury was unanimous in its decision.

Hampton was arrested in February 2011 after state Inspector General Stephen Street concluded she diverted more than $37,000 in water payments over a three-year period, starting in July 2007 and ending June 2010. An investigation started after auditors found discrepancies in the water department records.

Hampton’s job was to take payments, file reports on the collections and deposit the money. Reports were altered to hide the thefts, Street said in an investigative report.

District Attorney Danny Newell inherited the case when he took office in 2015.

“Assistant District Attorney Russell Davis has worked very hard on this case and did an excellent job of presenting the case to the jury,” Newell said in a news release. “Hampton is the last of two former employees of Arcadia to have either been found guilty or pled guilty to felony theft. The town will begin recovering these stolen funds through restitution payments from both defendants.”

That other former employee, Theresa Burris, testified in Hampton’s trial. She’s the former town clerk whose theft through altered checks took place during the same time frame as Hampton’s thievery. In addition to having to repay the town, Burris spent a year in prison.

Newell expressed appreciation to Street and his investigator Tom Boulton for their assistance in investigating the Hampton case.

Despite her pending criminal prosecution, Hampton was elected to the Town Council in the fall 2014 election. She took office Jan. 1, 2015, with her term set to expire Dec. 31, 2018.

However, Louisiana law dictates that Hampton, now a convicted felon, is automatically suspended from public office, and she will no longer receive the monthly Town Council compensation pending an appellate review. She’ll have to resign if the conviction is upheld.

Hampton will be sentenced Nov. 8.

On a related note, early in Hampton’s trial, Billie Smith, wife of Arcadia Mayor Eugene Smith, was banned from the courtroom. She reportedly was sharing testimony from the stand with her husband, who as a witness was not supposed to be privy to what others were saying nor talk about it with anyone outside of the courtroom.

No “Moving Ruston Forward” Status Reports Since April

09/25/2017

There have been no updates of the “Moving Ruston Forward” project status reports since April 13 of this year.

The reports were “a web-based portal which Ruston citizens can access for information relating to MRF projects,” according to a resolution adopted at the June 16, 2016 meeting of the Ruston City Council.

The 4/13/17 report showed the total budget to be $92.7 million, and the sports complex to cost $30 million.

Those numbers are different from what the voters were told prior to an April, 2016 tax election that raised sales taxes within the city limits of Ruston by 3/4 cents. The sales tax is supposed to pay off bond debt the city will incur to fund the projects.

Originally, the total price was $80 million, and the sports complex was budgeted at $15 million.

See here the original budget.

At the 9/11/17 meeting of Ruston’s Board of Aldermen, a $35.2 million contract to construct the sports complex was approved. That price does not include the cost of several parcels of land that has been purchased off South Farmerville Street on which the complex will be built.

A 12/9/16 status report had the overall project cost at $87.7 million, with the sports complex budgeted at $18 million.

See here the report.

Ruston Sports Complex Sees Massive Cost Increase Over Estimate

09/21/2017

The just-contracted Ruston Sports Complex that is to be built over the next two years off South Farmerville Street will cost more than double the original estimate that was sold to the voters.

Earlier this month, a $35.2 million contract was approved by the city’s Board of Aldermen to construct the facility.

When the “Moving Ruston Forward” plan was approved by the council in February, 2016, the estimated cost of the facility was said to be $15 million. The plan, along with a 3/4 cent sales tax increase to pay for it, was approved by Ruston voters in an April, 2016 election.

See here the “Moving Ruston Forward” presentation, page 25.

The construction contract does not include the cost of acquiring property for the facility. It is unclear where the money will come from for the additional cost, or what other infrastructure improvements might be left undone.

Sumlin Attorney a No-Show in Court

09/20/2017

Claiming a “medical procedure,” Monroe attorney LaValle Salomon yesterday afternoon was a no-show at Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston. The result was several of his clients were left without representation, and had to have their court dates rescheduled, including former Louisiana State Representative William Sumlin.

Chief Felony Prosecutor Lewis Jones made the disclosure when he called up the cases from the court docket. Public defender Dwayne Burrell stood in (he sat, actually) for Salomon.

Sumlin was in court for a hearing on a motion to strike evidence related to his arrest two years ago on indecent behavior with a juvenile.

Sumlin’s hearing was reset for Tuesday, October 17, 1:30 PM. His trial is scheduled for Monday, October 30.

This is the second time Salomon has claimed health issues for a delay.

In February of this year, he said his wife was scheduled for surgery and couldn’t meet a March trial date. Sumlin’s trial has been set and delayed at least four times.

Salomon was a significant contributor to Jones’ campaign for district judge in 2014. See here the documents:

Candidate’s report 10/6/14 – pg 6

Candidate’s report 1/15/15 – pg 5

Presiding yesterday was Tommy Rogers.