Substitute Shortage led to Online Class Reschedule

12/02/2020

A shortage of substitute teachers was the reason Lincoln Parish schools re-instituted the online/in-person schedules that had been used for the first nine weeks of the school year. The A/B schedule will be for grades 7-12 only. Schools had gone to full in-person instruction about a month ago.

Incoming District Superintendent Ricky Durrett said the shortage didn’t occur until the in-person instruction was under way.

Said Durrett, “When we’re on A/B day for seven through twelfth grade, they don’t need any subs because if I’m teaching a grade, and I don’t have kids – I’m doing it virtually that day – I can sub for those who are out.” He added, “That allows the subs we have to now all work in K through sixth, and cover those classes. We do realize that being in school every day is best, but right now by dong the A/B in the high school, when we do have somebody out, we can put a certified teacher in there to cover for it.”

Durrett said that C-19 cases were not significantly spreading among the students.

Assistant Superintendent Lisa Bastion cited figures backing up that observation.

Said Bastion, “Since August 19, the first day of school, 3.39 percent of our students have tested positive. We’ve had an influx of adults. Today, we have 43 employees out with either quarantine or having to isolate.”

Earlier in the meeting, the board heard from Business Manager Juanita Duke and benefits advisor David Charpentier regarding changes to the employee’s medical plans.

See here the memo and details of the plan.

Also notable in the meeting was the sales tax report for the month. With the addition of the new 1/2 cent sales tax, November collections were over $600 thousand greater than the 2018 and 2019 figures.

School Board Meets Tomorrow

11/30/2020

The Lincoln Parish School Board will meet Tuesday, December 1, 2020, 6:00 PM, STEM Center, 525 Tarbutton Road.

Here is the agenda.

Budget Progress @ LPPJ

11/24/2020

Last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury saw quite a bit of discussion about the 2021 jury budget, with a little bit of good news regarding the oil & gas severance tax that hasn’t been collected for the past couple of years.

Parish Treasurer Chris Hyde told the Finance Committee that the collection for 2021 should be at least $194 thousand greater than 2020, and could be more.

Said Hyde, “That’s a pretty conservative estimate. It could increase as much as seven or eight hundred thousand dollars.” Hyde said he was hopeful that revenue source would be back to normal sometime next year.

There was an increase in the Solid Waste Disposal Fund for equipment acquisition.

See here the budget documents.

It was evident that newly sworn in District Three Juror Richard Durrett had done his homework, as he had several comments and questions during the budget discussions that were directly on point.

The full jury ratified the committee’s recommendations, at set a public hearing on the budget for the Tuesday, December 8 jury meeting.

Also approved was the final plat for a new subdivision located on Farmerville Highway just north of the parish park.

Special LP Jury Meeting Monday

11/22/2020

There’s a special called meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury tomorrow (Monday, November 23) at the Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton.

The Finance Committee will meet at 5:30 PM, and the full jury at 6:00 PM.

Earlier this month the Finance Committee couldn’t meet, as the Health & Welfare Committee ran over and used up the finance’s allotted time.

Notable is that newly elected District 3 juror Richard Durrett will be chairing the committee meeting. Marvin Franks had been the chair.

Here are the agendas.

Lincoln Domestic Violence Arrests Rise

11/20/2020

Domestic abuse arrests in Lincoln Parish have increased over the past several months, and now constitute the majority of new arrests, Lincoln Parish Detention Center Warden Jim Tuten told yesterday’s meeting of the commission that oversees the parish jail.

“The number of people that we have arrested with domestic abuse battery and battery on a dating partner is higher than it’s ever been,” he said. “And I think that’s partly because of people being closed up together. That’s our number one arrest now,” he added.

Ruston Police Chief Steve Rogers said much the same.

“The people that we’re generally bringing in to the jail now, there’s some violence involved. One of the things with domestics, is we’ve got to bring them in,” he said.

Tuten reported that the new jail addition should be completed in February, with occupancy for the 94 additional beds expected in March.

The commission also reviewed the proposed budget for 2021 and revisions for the ending 2020 budget. A December 10 meeting has been set to hear public comments, and to adopt the budgets.

Here are the documents.

Plan Hatched to move Health Unit to Library Events Center

11/11/2020

Last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury’s Health & Welfare Committee heard discussion, and lots of it, about the “need” for a new health unit for the parish, and where it should be located. There was so much discussion that the meeting ran over into the time allotted for the Finance Committee, which had to be rescheduled.

About 35 minutes into the 30 minute meeting, District One’s Theresa Wyatt finally got an answer as to location from Lucius McGee, who serves as President of Health Hut, a mobile medical clinic that serves Lincoln Parish residents.

Asked Wyatt, “Has this study group come up with a place that they plan to recommend to us?”

Replied McGee, “This facility here – this space right here – would be perfect.” He was referring to the Lincoln Parish Library Events Center. He added, “The facility we have now is not meeting the need of the community.”

McGee’s comments followed presentations from Louisiana Department of Health Region Administrator Jeff Toms, Health Hut Medical Director Jacquelyn White, and Lincoln Health Foundation Chief Executive Norman Hanes.

All three told about the increased usage of the health unit over the years, the age of the facility, lack of parking, and other resource limitations.

The committee voted to “investigate” the jury’s facilities with the intent of identifying suitable sites. The jury’s Public Property & Buildings Committee will be tasked with the job.

There was also quite a bit of discussion in the Personnel/Benefits Committee about appointments to the Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control.

Assistant District Attorney and jury legal advisor Lewis Jones brought up an issue regarding the reappointment of David Gullatt to the board. Jones noted that Gullatt is member of the Lincoln Parish School Board, and the jury’s policy manual prohibits public officials from serving on the library board.

With that, the committee tabled Gullatt’s appointment.

The other vacancy was filled by the appointment of Amy Miller, a local attorney who had served on a library board in Lafayette Parish.

She and the other applicant, Jay Ligon, were interviewed at last month’s committee meeting, but a decision was made to allow the library board to interview them and make a recommendation.

They recommended Ligon, but it turns out the library board vote was made in an illegal secret session, according to Lewis Jones.

Library board chair Augusta Clark claimed ignorance of the law regarding the vote.

During the reports at the end of the jury meeting, Homeland Security Director Kip Franklin said that the $3 million FEMA grant that the jury handed over the City of Ruston back in September had fallen through. He said the proposed project was “nonviable.”

He said that another extension had been requested, and that all local governments were looking for suitable projects for the money.

School Board Meets Tomorrow

11/09/2020

The Lincoln Parish School Board will meet tomorrow (Tuesday, November 10), 6:00 PM, Lincoln Parish STEM Center, 525 Tarbutton Road.

Here is the agenda.

Among the items to be discussed are ratifying a contract for newly hired District Superintendent Ricky Durrett, and consideration of health plan changes for 2021.

Here are the memos:

Ratify a contact for the new Superintendent

Consider 2021 Health Plan Changes

Police Jury to Meet Tuesday

11/07/2020

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Tuesday, November 10, Lincoln Parish Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton. Committee meetings begin at 5:00 PM.

Here are the agendas.

Newly elected District Three juror Richard Durrett will be joining the jury quite soon, possibly as early as next week. Here’s what the law says:

RS 18:513 – Certification of candidates elected

B.  Certification of candidates elected for an unexpired term.  If a candidate is elected at a special primary or general election for an unexpired term or if he is elected at such an election by the people without opposition, the secretary of state shall promptly certify the name of the candidate elected to the appropriate official named in Paragraphs (1) through (6) of Subsection A of this Section.

We called the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office yesterday, and asked what was the definition of “promptly.” We were told that after a special election, they customarily issued the certification within 10 days of the election date, or no later than Friday, November 13.

Local Races

11/03/2020

Added City Holidays Discussed

11/03/2020

There was a bit of discussion at last night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council relative to two additional paid holidays for city employees. The change to the employee handbook will add President’s Day and Columbus Day to the existing ten holidays.

Ward 4’s Jim Pearce said that state and federal employees had fewer holidays.

Said Pearce, “The state said they have eleven, except every four years they have inauguration day. And the feds have ten.”

Mayor Ronny Walker said they went by what the City Marshall and City Court observe.

Said Walker, “From what I was told it was like 14 or 15 for them. This whole thing started when we looked at the Police Jury, the City Marshall’s office and the City Judge’s office. It was another benefit we could give our employees.”

He added that the amount of work wouldn’t decrease, as the same amount of trash would still have to be picked up, and fire and police duties would be unchanged.

Pearce said he wasn’t opposed to the move, but he did think it needed to be discussed.

When the vote came, Pearce voted for the change.

The council also approved a contract for clearing and seeding areas around the Ruston Regional Airport, and an accompanying state grant to fund the project.