Maybe Sports Complex Money Should have Been Spent on Water Projects


Some water rates in NELA could go up to help fund multi-million dollar water pipeline project
KNOE-TV8 – Monroe, LA
By Gwendolyn Ducre | Posted: Mon 11:10 PM, Mar 19, 2018

This is the second time in two years the Union-Lincoln Regional Water Supply Initiative has put its water pipeline project on hold.

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker, who sits on the board, said the project should have been done by now, but money keeps bringing this project back to the drawing board.

“We’re running out of the water. To grow our cities and to grow our parishes and to grow our economic base, we got to have more water,” Walker said.

The pipeline would feed water to Farmerville and Ruston from Lake D’Arbonne. That project is going to cost $100 million, which is money they just don’t have.

Now, the group has an idea where to get the money. They’re talking about getting it from the consumers.

“That’s the easiest way to do it. That way you can bond out the money for 20 years or whatever,” Walker said.

They’re talking about adding a few cents to each water meter that would start a fund.

The Sparta Aquifer commission must approve the water fee.

The urgency of this project is connected to the Sparta Aquifer that pumps out 56 million gallons of water each day to 16 parishes.

“The question I usually ask now is how much water do you need? Because I don’t think we can take it away from our residential customers by taking out the Sparta,” Walker said.

Ruston Sports Complex Sees Massive Cost Increase Over Estimate
Lincoln Parish News Online – 9/22/2107

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.

If there is a crisis and we are “running out of the water,” why are tens of millions of dollars being spent on a sports complex instead of water supply infrastructure?


CPPJ Mtg Canceled, HB403 Pulled?


Tonight’s special called meeting of the Claiborne Parish Police Jury (CPPJ) has been cancelled, a source at the jury told Lincoln Parish News Online this afternoon.

Rep. Rob Shadoin emailed the jurors to tell them that he was tabling controversial HB 403, and that made adoption of a proposed jury resolution opposing the bill moot, the source said.

However, as of posting time, the bill remains on the House Calendar.

Sparta Meeting Minutes Don’t Reflect What Happened


In reading through the meeting minutes of the Sparta Groundwater Commission for the past year, we discovered what appears to be a serious omission of fact.

The January 10, 2018 meeting in Winnfield was attended by several visitors, including representatives from US Senator Cassidy’s office and from US Senator Kennedy’s office.

What WASN’T in the minutes was any mention of an hour-long illegal executive session held to discuss wording in the proposed legislation that became House Bill 430

One of the other visitors was Ruston Daily Leader reporter Nancy Bergeron. She noted the executive session in her report and in a subsequent editorial.

Sparta Commission expected to pursue legislation – 1/11/2018

The panel spent an hour in a questionable closed session Wednesday before voting to look at changes commission Chairman Zack Spivey said “would put us back to the original legislation as drafted.”

Shine light on Sparta process – 1/12/2018

We applaud the Sparta Groundwater Commission for what appears to be its decision to move forward with drafting proposed legislation that would give it the management authority it should have had from the start.

We say “appears to be” because the commission spent an hour during its meeting this week discussing their legislature druthers in a session that was ill-advisedly closed to the public and the media. In fact, more than one attorney and several sources with long careers dealing with the public bodies have said the executive session was simply illegal.

Failing to show in the official minutes what material action the commission took in their meeting may put the commission in legal jeopardy.

LA RS 14:132 – Injuring public records

B. Second degree injuring public records is the intentional removal, mutilation, destruction, alteration, falsification, or concealment of any record, document, or other thing, defined as a public record pursuant to R.S. 44:1 et seq. and required to be preserved in any public office or by any person or public officer pursuant to R.S. 44:36.

LA RS 44:1 is the Louisiana Public Records Law

LA RS 14:133 – Filing or maintaining false public records

A. Filing false public records is the filing or depositing for record in any public office or with any public official, or the maintaining as required by law, regulation, or rule, with knowledge of its falsity, of any of the following:
(3) Any document containing a false statement or false representation of a material fact.

Who Instigated HB 430?


One of the questions that needs answering is who at the Sparta Groundwater Commission persuaded Rep. Rob Shadoin to file HB 430, and how the bill’s language was decided. Unfortunately, we’ve not attended meetings of the commission, but we have reviewed the meeting minutes from the last year.

Here’s what we found:

Thursday, January 19, 2017, Claiborne Parish Police Jury Bldg, Homer, LA – 2:00 PM

Mr. Spivey also disused the need to our commission to have continuity and encouraged the commissioners to contact our legislators about giving the Sparta Ground Water Commission more authority so it could be more effective.

Zack Spivey is the City of Ruston’s representative

Wednesday, July 12, 2017, Bienville Parish Courthouse, Arcadia, LA – 2:00 PM

Meeting guest and Louisiana Representatives Rob Shadoin and Gene Reynolds explained HB 689 and how it came to be passed through the legislation and signed by the Governor. They expressed their intentions to help Sparta Groundwater Commission with this and any future legislation. Sam Little encouraged the representatives to “Kill the Bill!” Jack Clampit explained our need for our commission to have more authority.

Jack Clampit is the Ouachita Parish representative, and is a member of the Ouachita Parish Police Jury.

Monday, December 18, 2017, Reese Hall Conference Room, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA – 10:00 AM

Mr. Zack Spivey discussed changes to our current Legislation. 1st He recommended that we make the 6 rotating commission seats permanent for 3 years. 2nd that our commissioners can stay on the commission until they are either reappointed or replaced. Mr. Jack Clampit stated he felt we need the ability to regulate who pulls out of the Sparta and we need the ability to generate revenue. All committee members were given a copy of our commission’s original legislation, Act. No 1228, to review. A Motion was made that a set of recommendations for future legislative consideration be prepared by Ms. Lindsay Gouedy and Mr. Zack Spivey. The motion was made by Mr. Jack Clampit and seconded by Mr. Charles Hughes.

Lindsay Gouedy is the Lincoln Parish representative.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018, Winn Parish Library, Winnfield, LA – 2:00 PM

(Ruston) Mayor Ronny Walker stated that his primary concern for industrial growth in North Louisiana is if we have enough water to sustain industries that may want to come in. Mr. Richard Durrett stated that we need to have more room to grow between the Sparta recharge rate and the rate of pullout.

Mr. Jack Clampit stated that at some time or another we are going to have to figure out how to regulate the usage of the Sparta, because we won’t be able to sustain industries if we don’t.

Friday, February 16, 2018, Reese Hall Conference Room, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA – 10:00 AM

The Executive Committee along with Mr. Rob Shadoin and Mr. Ben McGee went over the proposed legislation draft page by page. We discussed many different concerns, questions, made omissions, and additions. A motion was made by Mr. Nick Cox that we redraft this proposed legislation according to the recommendations that the executive committee made today, that we meet again on Monday, February 28 with the full Sparta Ground Water commission and present the revised and recommended legislation draft. Motion passed unanimously.

Ben McGee is with the Water Resources Division of the US Geological Survey. Nick Cox is the Webster Parish representative.

A meeting was held on Monday, February 26, 2018, 10:00 AM, Historic Fire Station, Ruston, LA, but we have not received that meeting’s minutes. We have filed a public records request for production of those minutes.

We will be attending future meetings of the Sparta Groundwater Commission. We will record the meetings, as is our practice at all public meetings we attend.

Claiborne Jury Special Meeting Tomorrow to Oppose HB 430


The Claiborne Parish Police Jury has called a special meeting for tomorrow (Tuesday, March 20), 6:00 PM, CPPJ Administration Building, 507 West Main Street, Homer, LA.

The single agenda item:

Resolution 2018-007 – A Resolution Requesting the Citizens of the 16 Parish Region Which Comprise the Sparta Groundwater Conservation District to Urge Their Representatives to Defeat House Bill 430 as it is Currently Written

See here the document.

Bienville Police Jury Opposes HB 430


The Bienville Parish Police Jury is opposed to Rep. Rob Shadoin’s controversial House Bill 430, Lincoln Parish News Online has learned.

At their Wednesday, 3/14 meeting, a resolution in opposition to the bill was unanimously adopted by the jurors.

Among the more pertinent points of the resolution:

HB 430 has no cap on the fee that can be charged each user within the 16 parishes served by the Sparta Commission

it is the belief of the Bienville Parish Police Jury that this proposed legislation has not received sufficient input from the citizens of these 16 parishes

the Bienville Parish Police Jury does hereby strongly encourage any citizen within the parishes of Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Richland, Sabine, Union, Webster and Winn to urge their representatives to defeat House Bill 430 as it is written currently.

that a copy of this resolution be mailed to each of the 16 parishes served by the Sparta Groundwater Conservation District.

See here the document.

So Just Who does the Sparta Water Belong To?


It appears the proposed House Bill 430 that changes the makeup and powers of the Sparta Groundwater Commission will radically change the property ownership rights of subsurface water in the sixteen parishes that come under the jurisdiction of that commission.

Several provisions of the bill appear to grant the commission authority over mineral rights that heretofore belonged to the landowner.

“Assess against all users within the district either a fee on each meter installed or a charge based on the annual rate of use of each user.”

In other words, water users will have to pay for something that already belongs to them.

“To do all things necessary to prevent waste of groundwater resources…”

The term “waste” is not defined. Is it “wasteful” to water lawns and country club golf courses? Is it “wasteful” to use evaporative cooling systems for chicken houses? Is it “wasteful” to use Sparta Water to wash paper pulp?

“Establishing groundwater use priorities under conditions supported by research data that indicates depletion of water.”

This provision will plainly grant authority to un-elected bureaucrats to decide who does and doesn’t get water.

“After notice and hearing, adopt and enforce reasonable rules, regulations, or orders necessary from time to time.”

This provision provides for $1000/day civil fines for violations.

Here’s what existing Louisiana state law says:

LA RS 31:4

Substances to which Code applicable

The provisions of this Code are applicable to all forms of minerals, including oil and gas. They are also applicable to rights to explore for or mine or remove from land the soil itself, gravel, shells, subterranean water, or other substances occurring naturally in or as a part of the soil or geological formations on or underlying the land.

Acts 1974, No. 50, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1975.

Right to search for fugitive minerals; elements of ownership of land
LA RS 31:6

Ownership of land does not include ownership of oil, gas, and other minerals occurring naturally in liquid or gaseous form, or of any elements or compounds in solution, emulsion, or association with such minerals. The landowner has the exclusive right to explore and develop his property for the production of such minerals and to reduce them to possession and ownership.

Acts 1974, No. 50, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1975.

When minerals reduced to possession
LA RS 31:7

Minerals are reduced to possession when they are under physical control that permits delivery to another.

Acts 1974, No. 50, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1975.

Landowner’s right of enjoyment for mineral extraction
LA RS 31:8

A landowner may use and enjoy his property in the most unlimited manner for the purpose of discovering and producing minerals, provided it is not prohibited by law. He may reduce to possession and ownership all of the minerals occurring naturally in a liquid or gaseous state that can be obtained by operations on or beneath his land even though his operations may cause their migration from beneath the land of another.

Acts 1974, No. 50, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1975.

Correlative rights of owners of common reservoir or deposit
LA RS 31:9

Landowners and others with rights in a common reservoir or deposit of minerals have correlative rights and duties with respect to one another in the development and production of the common source of minerals.

Acts 1974, No. 50, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1975.

Liability to others with interests in common reservoir or deposit
LA RS 31:10

A person with rights in a common reservoir or deposit of minerals may not make works, operate, or otherwise use his rights so as to deprive another intentionally or negligently of the liberty of enjoying his rights, or that may intentionally or negligently cause damage to him. This Article and Article 9 shall not affect the right of a landowner to extract liquid or gaseous minerals in accordance with the principle of Article 8.

Acts 1974, No. 50, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1975.

Protection of landowner’s interest in minerals
LA RS 31:12

Except as provided in Article 14, the owner of land may protect his rights in minerals against trespass, damage, and other wrongful acts of interference by all means available for the protection of ownership.

Acts 1974, No. 50, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1975.

Shadoin Files Bill to Tax Sparta Water


A bill filed for the current legislative session by State Rep. Rob Shadoin (R, Ruston) would allow levy of a tax (referred to in the bill as a “meter fee” or “pumping charge”) on water users within the Sparta Groundwater Conservation District.

The district consists of the following 16 parishes: Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson, Lincoln, Morehouse, Ouachita, Union, Webster, Winn, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Richland, and Sabine.

See here House Bill 430.

Other provisions of the bill include:

To do all things necessary to prevent waste of groundwater resources, and to prevent or alleviate damaging or potentially damaging subsidence of the land surface caused by withdrawal of groundwater within the district.

Establishing groundwater use priorities under conditions supported by research data that indicates depletion of water.

Conduct studies and investigations of all problems concerning groundwater resources of the district.

After notice and hearing, adopt and enforce reasonable rules, regulations, or orders necessary from time to time.

Hire such personnel and retain such consultants as shall be reasonably necessary to the performance of its functions.

Reportedly, several area poultry growers showed up at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury to voice their opposition to the bill. As they were making their remarks during the public comments section, several jurors left the meeting, it was said.

New Court House, Exhibit Center on LPPJ Agenda?


“Discussion and planning – infrastructure projects” is how the agenda item for a Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) committee is noted. But the discussion may actually be about whether a surplus in the Courthouse Capital Fund should be spent on a new courthouse or a new covered warm-up arena at the Lincoln Parish Exhibition Center.

Last month’s meeting of the jury saw some pushback on the proposed arena, which was approved on a 7-3 vote.

Here are the agendas and meeting times for the Tuesday, March 13 meetings that will be at the Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Public Works Committee – 5:30 PM

Long-range Planning Committee – 6:00 PM

Police Jury – 7:00 PM

Louisiana Atty Gen Sues Vermilion School Board for Open Meetings Violation


AG’s lawsuit: Vermilion School Board created ‘hostile’ atmosphere at meeting where teacher removed, cuffed


Louisiana’s attorney general sued a local school board Thursday over a meeting disrupted by the video-recorded arrest of a teacher being roughly handcuffed on a hallway floor after she criticized the district superintendent’s pay raise.

Attorney General Jeff Landry’s lawsuit accuses the Vermilion Parish School Board and its members of violating the state’s Open Meetings Law by stifling public debate at the Jan. 8 meeting.

The arrest of a teacher who had just been kicked out of a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting Monday after criticizing a vote to give the su…

The suit asks a state court to nullify all actions taken by the board during that meeting, including its vote to raise Schools Superintendent Jerome Puyau’s salary by roughly $30,000.

Landry’s suit seeks civil penalties against any board members found responsible for violating the Open Meetings Law and says the school system should be reimbursed for any extra money the superintendent received under his raise.

“Every community has a stake in the performance and the governance of its public schools, and the community’s views and thoughts should be taken into account before any action or discussion on an agenda item occurs,” the suit says.

Deputy City Marshal Reggie Hilts arrested middle school English teacher Deyshia Hargrave after escorting her out of the meeting room and handcuffing her on the hallway floor. A viral video of the arrest sparked widespread outrage.

Hilts arrested Hargrave on charges of “remaining after being forbidden” and resisting an officer, but she hasn’t been prosecuted. Ike Funderburk, the prosecutor and city attorney in Abbeville, decided in January not to pursue any criminal charges against her.

Hargrave has said the incident violated her First Amendment right to free speech.

“And I’m appalled at this, and you should be too,” she said in a video posted on the Louisiana Association of Educators’ Facebook page in January.

Landry’s suit says the school board conducted the meeting “in an atmosphere that was hostile toward and contemptuous of” parish residents who attended it.

Video of the meeting shows Hargrave addressed the superintendent directly, asking him how he could accept a raise when teachers haven’t received a pay increase in 10 years.

Anthony Fontana, the school board’s president at the time, then banged his gavel, told her to stop and said her comment wasn’t “germane” to the vote on the contract. Hargrave countered that she was directly addressing the matter.

At that point, according to school board member Kibbie Pillette, Fontana beckoned to the officer, who interrupted Hargrave while she was speaking and ordered her out.

“I’m going,” she said, making her way out. The officer followed her into the hallway, where a camera recorded her on the floor with her hands behind her back as the officer handcuffed her.

“Stop resisting,” the officer said, lifting Hargrave to her feet.

“I am not. You just pushed me to the floor,” Hargrave said.

Hargrave told The Associated Press in January that she blamed Fontana for the incident.

Fontana, who served six terms on the board, announced his resignation less than two weeks after the Jan. 8 meeting. He had announced last year that he wouldn’t run for re-election.

The board voted 5-3 to approve a new three-year contract raising Puyau’s salary to about $140,000 annually, with incentive targets that could add 3 percent a year. Puyau has said the raise matches what school officials in similar jobs make.

The superintendent has said he began receiving hate mail and threatening phone calls as the video spread on the internet. He said the school system offices went into temporary lockdown, and his daughters had to delete threats on their social media.

Puyau told the AP in January that he wasn’t happy with how things played out.

“It was not good in any way,” he said. “We are a good community. It took everybody by surprise. I’m having a hard time with this, but we care about our teachers and our support staff.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards chimed in after the video went viral online. The Democrat, who is married to a teacher and gets support from teachers unions, said he “didn’t see anything that warranted that type of action” and thought it “cast a negative light” on the state.

Here’s the lawsuit.