Changes Contemplated for Lincoln School District Retiree’s Health Plan

07/11/2019

Changes to the health plan for Lincoln Parish School District retirees is being contemplated, it was said at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board.

Said District Superintendent Mike Milstead, “The plan basically saves us anywhere from $800 thousand to a million dollars a year. It increases the coverage for the retirees. Their out of pocket will go from $5000 to $1000.”

He added, “Retirees who presently pay a zero premium every month – their spouses pay some – we want for that to continue.”

Further details will be forthcoming and a detailed plan will be presented at the August board meeting, Milstead said.

He noted that if no changes are made, by 2027 the cost of medical insurance for retirees would be increase to $16 million from today’s cost of $10 million.

Milstead also said that in order to get the budget in line, personnel reductions had been effected, all through attrition.

Twenty certified and thirty-three non-certified employee have left, either through resignations or retirement.

Advertisements

Letter to the Editor from Sheila Bordelon

07/10/2019

Lincoln Library Millage Set to Increase

07/10/2019

Though no vote was taken at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ), the consensus of the body was that the property tax millage that funds the Lincoln Parish Library should be increased for the 2019 tax year to 4.65 mils, from the 2018 rate of 3.2 mils. The present millage collects about $1.5 million/year, while the 4.65 rate will collect about $2.26 million/year, according to Parish Treasurer Holly Lowry.

The rate will be formally proposed at the August meeting of the jury, and a public hearing will precede the vote. Other millages will remain at 2018 levels, Parish Administrator Courtney Hall said.

See here the complete list.

The issue generated quite a bit of discussion, and to fully understand, some background is necessary.

In the fall, 2010 tax election, a 5.99 mil library tax was approved by Lincoln Parish voters. That tax will expire next year, and will be resubmitted for voter approval. The first year after the election, it collected about $2 million, roughly in line with library expenditures.

As the parish added more taxable property, and with reassessments, a fund surplus developed. In 2014, the jury decided to trim the millage to try and keep income in line with expenditures.

In 2017 and 2018, it was trimmed again, in a effort to spend some of the fund balance, instead of taking the money from taxpayers. As of 6/30/19, that fund balance is about $2 million, a little less than one years’ operating expense. That is in line with what auditors recommend as prudent fiscal practice.

Hall explained, “The library had a very substantial fund balance, approaching $5 million. The plan was over a course of several years, to roll that millage back in order to use that fund balance and get it down to a reasonable level of approximately a year’s operating reserve. We’ve reached the point now where it’s time to stabilize that millage where they have a reasonable fund balance.”

He added, “When you were collecting 5.99, you were collecting much more than you were spending. So your fund balance was continuing to get larger and larger every year.”

Library expenditures have remained relatively stable, ranging from about $2 million in 2011 to today’s $2.4 million.

Library Director Vivian McCain and Board of Control Chair Augusta Clark suggested that the maximum 5.99 millage be levied for 2019.

A figure has to published this week in the parish’s official journal, as a thirty day notice has to be given prior to the public hearing.

Earlier in the meeting, the jury got some bad news.

Approximately $1 million in severance tax revenues from oil and gas production won’t be received this year, and maybe not for the next couple of years.

A Louisiana Department of Natural Resources program (Severance Tax Relief Program) allows “suspension or reduction of severance taxes due on production from a qualifying well for a variable time period depending on the category.”

The $1 million represents about 35% of the general fund budget, so some serious trimming will have to be done, it appears.

The general fund has a balance of about $3.8 million.

The first casualty is the $400-$500 thousand that is transferred yearly into the Courthouse Capital Fund.

That fund is nominally used for repairs to parish-owned buildings, but has also been used recently for jail repairs and horse barns.

Lincoln Parish School Board Tomorrow

07/08/2019

The Lincoln Parish School Board will meet Tuesday, July 9, 6:00 PM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

Here’s the agenda.

Millage Renewal Discussion on Police Jury Agenda

07/07/2019

An agenda item labeled “Millage Renewal Discussion (2019) is on the agenda for the Lincoln Parish Police Jury’s (LPPJ) Tuesday night meeting.

The meeting is set for 7:00 PM, Tuesday, July 9, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Here is the agenda.

There will also be a meeting of the jury’s Personnel/Benefits Committee at 6:45 PM.

Here’s that agenda.

Celebrity Drive/N. Service Rd Connector Construction to Begin

07/02/2019

Construction of a connector road between Celebrity Drive and the I-20 North Service Road is set to begin, after the Ruston City Council approved last night a resolution authorizing the bid award.

Amethyst Construction was the only bidder for the project, with a price of $2.98 million.

A traffic light will be installed at the intersection of Celebrity Drive and Hwy 33 (Farmerville Hwy). The new connector will run eastward between the old Community Trust Bank building and Raceway. Turning southward, it will connect with the service road between Northside Furniture and Quality Inn.

The existing intersection next to the Circle K Shell station will be blocked, alleviating the chronic congestion in that area.

Said Assistant Public Works Director John Freeman that there are “285 calendar days in the project.”

The revised Airport Advisory Board Ordinance was unanimously adopted, and City Attorney Bill Carter explained the rationale behind the changes.

Said Carter, “At the request of certain of our board members, because the way the ordinance provides, they are termed to be an airport authority, as defined under state law. An airport authority has the authority to expend funds, whether local, state or federal. That results in the requirement for anyone, the member of a board who has the authority to expend local, state, or federal funds to file a tier 2.1 financial disclosure statement.”

He explained that there was a reluctance to serve on the board by some because of the reporting requirements. In the past, the authority had never on their own actually expended funds, because the mayor and council authorized any expenditures, Carter said.

The only practical effect of the ordinance would be to eliminate the reporting requirement for advisory board members.

Another ordinance enacted concerned massage therapists and establishments, and a requirement for those establishments to be registered.

Ruston Police Department Chief Steve Rogers said that while it hasn’t been an problem in Ruston, some area communities have reported issues with human trafficking.

Notable at the meeting was incumbent District 35 Senator Jim Fannin, who spent several minutes recounting events at last spring’s legislative session.

Fannin also showed up at a Lincoln Parish Police Jury meeting last week to campaign.

Ruston City Council Monday

06/30/2019

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, July 1, 2019, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 410 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Notable is a resolution authorizing work on the Celebrity Drive/North Service Road Connector on Hwy 33, near the Raceway Service Station.

Judges Not Above the Law: LA State Supreme Court

06/27/2019

Supreme Court allows lawsuit against 4JDC judges, law clerk
By Zach Parker zach@ouachitacitizen.com Jun 27, 2019

The state Supreme Court gave the green light Wednesday to a Monroe businessman’s lawsuit against Fourth Judicial District Court officials, including five judges and a law clerk, who are accused of tampering with court filings and concealing the activity.

In his July 2015 lawsuit, Stanley Palowsky III, of Monroe, alleged that law clerk Allyson Campbell concealed or destroyed court documents he filed in a separate lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork. Palowsky also sued Fourth Judicial District Court judges Fred Amman, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp, Stephens Winters, and retired Judge Benjamin “Ben” Jones, who now serves as the court administrator. Palowsky claimed the judges knew about Campbell’s activities and worked with her to cover up the acts.

Palowsky’s lawsuit failed to advance in district court after retired Judge Jerome “Jerry” Barbera III, of Thibodeaux, dismissed the lawsuit in November 2015. At that time, Barbera ruled that Campbell and the five defendant judges could not be sued because they enjoyed judicial immunity. The legal concept of judicial immunity protects judges from civil claims, or having to pay civil damages, based on any actions they undertook in a judicial capacity.

“Considering the highly unusual and specific facts of this case, the court of appeal erred in finding the judges were entitled to absolute judicial immunity,” stated the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The crux of oral arguments before the Supreme Court was whether the judges’ alleged cover-up was an administrative act or a judicial, or adjudicative, act.

See here the complete article (subscription required).

See here the court opinion.

Mays Sentenced to Two More Life w/o Parole Terms

06/25/2019

Cameron Mays, convicted last May of the murder of Dr. Susan Hashway, was this morning sentenced to two life without parole terms, plus an additional 30 years for ancillary crimes.

Hashway, a retired Grambling professor, was found slain in June of 2012 in her Paynter Drive home in Ruston.

The sentence was handed down by Division B Judge Tommy Rogers at Third Judicial District Court in Ruston.

The two life sentences are for Aggravated Kidnapping and Second Degree Murder. The additional sentences were for Aggravated Burglary, Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, and Unauthorized Use of an Access Card.

Rogers noted that there “were no mitigating factors” in the crimes, and that these were “brutal and callous offenses” that resulted in Hashway’s death. Mays had “no remorse, and openly bragged to his friends” about the crime.

Appearing for the state was Assistant Attorney General Michelle Thompson. Also on hand was Assistant AG Madeline Slaughter-Young.

Representing Mays was Public Defender Kia Richardson.

With this sentencing, Cameron Mays’ role in the 2012 crime spree is concluded.

Left to adjudicate are the roles for three of Mays’ accomplices, Brandon Bonton, Markeva Daye, and Robert Demps.

Also unresolved is the role of one Kevin Owens in the crime spree.

At the recent murder trial, it was claimed by defense attorney Dwayne Burrell that Owens committed the murder and also committed an earlier rape and kidnapping that Mays was convicted of in April, 2016.

Mays is currently serving two life terms for that crime event.

Burrell also claimed that Owen was an informant for the Ruston Police Department.

We recently reviewed the case files at the Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court and can confirm that Owens was indeed an RPD informant.

At the earlier trial, the victim testified that there were two perpetrators and that both participated in the kidnapping. Only one assaulted her, she testified.

Mays said on the stand that Owens was his accomplice for that crime, and that he was the one who assaulted the victim.

When interviewed, Owens denied any involvement, according to the case files.

No second suspect in the first crime has ever been named.

That crime took place in the early hours of Monday, June 4, 2012. The murder occurred in the early hours of Wednesday, June 6, 2012.

LPPJ/Ruston Agreement to Cover Work Already Done

06/12/2019

The cooperative endeavor agreement between the City of Ruston and the Lincoln Parish Police Jury pertaining to tornado debris cleanup is for work that has already been done, and not for any new work, it was said at last night’s meeting of the jury’s Public Works Committee.

Jury Administrator Courtney Hall said that in the immediate aftermath of last April’s tornado, the jury dispatched several crews with boom trucks to help open streets and roads within the city limits.

Said Hall, “This agreement that you have here is really a post-event agreement. We actually were in the City of Ruston, on my directive, at their request, like a week or so after the storm.”

He added, “What we need to do in order to be able to capture any costs that we incurred, and that the city incurred – since we’ve gotten the presidential disaster declaration… one thing that they require is a written agreement between any and all entities and private contractors. If you don’t have those, you might be hung out on a limb on trying to get your reimbursements.”

Asked if a retroactive agreement might cause issues with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Hall said that usually they were amenable to such deals, as it wouldn’t make sense to delay emergency work while waiting on paperwork.

Bobby Bennett (District Three) asked about the procedure for payment.

Said Hall, “This particular agreement will allow the police jury, who sent personnel and equipment in to assist the city, to be able to claim that time, manpower, equipment, fuel as costs for reimbursements.”

The committee voted unanimously to adopt the agreement.

The committee also fielded requests from the Village of Choudrant and the Town of Dubach for street repair and drainage work.

Those were also approved.

Perhaps the most important event of last night was the return of District Seven juror Jody Backus, who has been absent for several months. Last fall, he was diagnosed with cancer, and since that time has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy treatment.

Thanking everyone for their prayers and well-wishes, Backus added, “I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior for pulling me through this time. I finished my treatment four weeks ago yesterday – my last chemo – the doctor says I’m clean.”

The Parks, Recreation & Tourism Committee heard from Nadel and Gussman VP Joe Anderson, who was negotiating to buy 600 thousand barrels of surface water from the Lincoln Parish Park lake. That amount of water would lower the lake about four to five feet, if no further rains occur, he said.

The water is for fracking several oil/gas wells the company has drilled.

However, the upside is that the park would receive about $150 thousand, which would be used to make park improvements.

Anderson noted that the company had bought water from the park several times previously, but it had been in the winter and spring, so the lake refilled prior to summer usage.

Even though he had other sources for water, Anderson said he would rather buy from the parish so the money could benefit the public.

The committee unanimously approved the sale.