Southern U Issues Surface

06/23/2017

Southern University warned it could lose accreditation needed to issue degrees, receive federal grants

BY REBEKAH ALLEN | rallen@theadvocate.com

Southern University was warned last week that it could lose its accreditation that is required for the school to offer degrees and receive federal dollars.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges placed Southern University on a warning list during its June board meeting. SACS is one of the six major accrediting bodies in the U.S. for higher education institutions.

Southern received the sanction because the school missed benchmarks related to its faculty, student achievement, “institutional effectiveness,” and student complaints.

LPPJ Seeks Loan for New Construction @ “Angola North”

06/20/2017

One other item of interest to come from last Tuesday night’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) meeting was that the jury will be applying for a Rural Development loan for new construction at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center (Angola North).

The $2 1/2 million dollar expansion would add just under 100 beds at the facility. Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone has been actively lobbying the jury to fund the construction, claiming that funding from the Department of Corrections for housing state prisoners would more than pay for the construction.

Jury Treasurer Laura Hartt said Argent Financial had been engaged to provide advice on the application to Rural Development. She said the proposed loan could go before the State Bond Commission at their August meeting.

All borrowing by any Louisiana public entity must first get approval from the commission.

Jackson Parish Hospital Board Revamp Bill Signed by Gov

06/18/2017

A bill that will revamp the makeup of the Board of Directors for the Jackson Parish Hospital in Jonesboro is now the law of the land.

Act 171 was signed into law last Monday by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, according to information posted on the Louisiana Legislature’s bill info website. The bill was authored by Senator Jim Fannin (District 35).

The seven member board will be cut to five members, and must be made up by area resident voters who possess the following qualifications:

Officer or owner of a bank located in Jackson Parish
Licensed attorney who is not an assistant DA
Licensed health practitioner employed by the hospital
Certified pubic accountant or master of business administration graduate who practices in Jackson Parish
Individual with managerial experience at the Hodge, LA paper mill

The appointments must be made by the Jackson Parish Police Jury in time for the new board members to be in place by August 1, 2017.

LPPJ Meeting Details

06/14/2017

It was towards the end of last night’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) meeting agenda that the Lincoln Hall lease buyout issue was discussed.

Jury Administrator Courtney Hall began by saying that Burton Enterprises’ Carl Burton had sent another letter with an offer to terminate his lease with the jury, and that the lease termination agreement was a response to that offer.

Said Hall, “I did talk to most of the jurors at the time that offer was made, and thought that I had received kind of the go ahead to prepare these documents and at least get something on the table to get voted on.”

Hall went on to say that the hall could be utilized by the North Louisiana Exhibition Center as a feasible venue for generating income for the center.

“This should not be considered a loan to be paid back, but the contribution of an underutilized asset that will provide a long-term source of additional income for the expo center,” he opined.

However, that latest offer from Burton has not been made public, nor has it been discussed in an open jury meeting. Additionally, the jury as a whole had never voted to authorize Hall to negotiate any settlement with Burton, nor draft any termination agreement.

In the discussion, juror Sharyon Mayfield said that all the monies generated shouldn’t all go the expo center, but that some should be used to “pay back” at least some of the purchase price.

Juror Skip Russell asked from what fund the $200 thousand would be taken, to which Treasurer Laura Hartt replied that it would come from money that would otherwise go into the Courthouse Capital Fund. That fund normally is used for upkeep of the courthouse building, and other parish-owned properties, or new building construction.

Lincoln Parish News Online readers will recall that was the fund that was often raided to pay for significant capital improvements at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center over the past several years.

Perhaps had that fund been left undisturbed and allowed to grow for a while, that new courthouse building so coveted by local judges and lawyers would actually be a possibility, rather than just a dream.

Jury President Randy Roberson reminded the jurors that proper procedures should be followed and that for discussion to continue, a motion and a second should first be made.

With that, juror Hazel Hunter made a motion to table, seconded by David Hammons. After a bit more discussion on some questions yet to be answered, it passed unanimously. Two jurors were absent, Jody Backus and Nancy Wilson.

One of the questions was the actual value of the lease, plus furniture and fixtures, and some legal issues.

In other business, Hartt reported that through the first five months of the year, budget revenues and expenditures were in line with original projections.

LPPJ Votes to Table Lincoln Hall Lease Buyout

06/13/2017

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) tonight voted unanimously to table a lease termination agreement to buy out the remaining 15 years of an operating lease for Lincoln Hall, a banquet facility located adjacent to the Lincoln Parish Exhibition Center.

We will have full details tomorrow.

Tarbutton Interchange Contract Let to Company with Local Roots

06/12/2017

June 7, 2017

JB James Construction wins Interstate 20 Interchange Project – Jeff James to complete project originally built by father

BATON ROUGE, La. — JB James Construction, LLC, was recently awarded the Interstate 20 Interchange and Frontage Road project by the City of Ruston and Louisiana Department of Transportation. Located at Tarbutton Road on I-20, the two-year $25.5 million project consists of new on and off ramps, and replacement of the existing Tarbutton Road overpass bridge. The new exit will give access to the Ruston Junior High School, Louisiana Tech, as well as several large churches, restaurants and retail, which are located just off of I-20.

In addition providing work for JB James construction, this project also has a personal connection to Jeff James, the president and owner of JB James.

The section of I-20 between Ruston and Grambling and the existing Tarbutton overpass was built in 1959 by TL James and Company, the company started by James’ great grandfather. The project manager at that time was James’ father, Billy James. The president of the company was Bill James, James’ grandfather.

Nearly 35 years later, Jeff James was the project manager when the interstate was replaced by Denton Construction.

“This project means a lot to me,” Jeff James, President of JB James, said. “My father told stories to me about the original construction of the Interstate. It is special that the legacy of the TL James family continues today as we leave our mark by constructing such important projects for the community.”

With this project, James also plans to uphold the family tradition of building quality projects. The old bridge lasted 58 years, much longer than expected.

“The interstate pavement replaced in the early 1990s is some of the smoothest pavements in service at its age,” James said.

Approximately 30 JB James employees will work on the bridge and paving for the “Diamond” designed interchange. Other components of the project will be subcontracted to several other Louisiana companies. The company will also be hiring roughly 30 locals from the Ruston area.

In addition to this win, JB James is also celebrating its 15th anniversary in business. Over the past 15 years, JB James has grown from one employee to more than 200 employees across the state. To find out more about JB James, visit jbjamesllc.com.

LPPJ to Blow $200 Thousand Taxpayer Dollars on Lincoln Hall Lease

06/11/2017

Despite no apparent legal obligation to do so, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) is proposing to pay Burton Entertainment a cash termination payment of $200 thousand taxpayer dollars for the remainder of a lease on Lincoln Hall, a 4800 sq ft dining and entertainment facility located adjacent to the Lincoln Parish Exhibition Center off Farmerville Hwy.

See here the proposed agreement.

Rumors are that the jury plans to have exhibition center personnel operate the facility and retain any rental income generated, but we have seen no documentation of that plan, nor have we seen any projections on how much income the facility might bring in.

The building itself already belongs to the jury. Under the original agreement, Burton now is responsible for upkeep, utilities, insurance, and operation. He pays no rent to the jury for the land, and can keep all income earned from the facility. As the property is publicly owned, no property taxes are assessed.

See here the tax rolls.

As a further insult to taxpayers, it appears that if Burton reneges on the original 30 year lease agreement , the original lease is void, and Burton is owed nothing.

28. BREACH: Should the premises be vacated or abandoned by BURTON, POLICE JURY shall have the right, at its option, to cancel the Lease, or re-enter and let said premises on such terms as may be immediately obtainable. However, prior to doing so, POLICE JURY shall provide BURTON with written notice of any alleged breach in the terms and conditions of this lease granting unto BURTON a period of at least thirty (30) days to cure said breach or default.

That original lease agreement was signed March 11, 2002

See here the complete document.

Apparently, some of the jurors have never bothered to read the original lease agreement.

Burton has tried before to walk away from his obligations before. In 2014, he proposed that the jury pay him $250 thousand.

See here the letter.

Last month, the jury unanimously rejected an amendment to the parish’s liquor ordinance that would have allowed liquor to be served on premises. Burton claimed that in order to sub-lease the facility to another private operator, the new operator would have to allow liquor service in order to be profitable.

The jury meeting will be Tuesday, June 13, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Public Works Committee – 6:30 PM

Agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM

Agenda

Ruston City Council Monday

06/04/2017

Ruston’s City Council will meet Monday, June 5, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

Bel Edwards’ Fuel Tax Out of Gas

05/31/2017

Controversial, long-shot bid to raise Louisiana’s gasoline tax dies quietly

BY WILL SENTELL | wsentell@theadvocate.com May 31, 2017 – 4:30 pm

The five-month campaign to upgrade Louisiana’s jammed roads and bridges by raising the state gasoline tax died with little fanfare Wednesday in the Louisiana House.

In a post on Facebook, the lawmaker said he is “not willing to force my colleagues to waste their time on voting on an issue when it will not pass.”

The action made official what lawmakers have said for weeks: convincing two-thirds of the House to endorse a major tax increase was a near impossible challenge in a session dominated by state financial problems.

Backers needed at least 70 votes to send the bill to the Senate, and unofficial headcounts were said to be in the 50’s and low 60’s at best.

Another Bel Edwards Tax Bill Defeated

05/30/2017

A bill that would have replaced the current graduated corporate income tax rate with a flat rate, coupled with corporations losing their right to deduct their federal tax payments on their state tax returns was defeated this afternoon in the Louisiana House.

The vote was 58 yeas and 31 nays, but needed 70 votes to pass.

See here who voted how.