Archive for December, 2012

Top LPNO News Stories for 2012

12/31/2012

Here are the top five Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) news stories of 2012, based on the number of page views.

William Ryder Appointed as Town of Jonesboro Fiscal Administrator – 7/24/2012 – 2,917 page views

Live Report from Jonesboro – 7/16/2012 – 2,627 page views

Live from Jonesboro – Day Two – 7/17/2012 – 2,395 page views

Thompson Refuses to Pay for Sheriff’s Patrols – 8/17/2012 – 2,262 page views

Shots Fired in Armed Robbery of Jonesboro Business This Morning – 7/18/2012 – 2,261 page views

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Fire District Meeting Monday

12/30/2012

The Board of Commissioners of Lincoln Parish Fire District #1 will meet in special session Monday, December 31, 5:00 PM, 4867 Hwy 167, Dubach.

See here the agenda.

LaSalle to Maintain Jail, Contract Says

12/28/2012

LaSalle Corrections, LLC, the manager/operator of the Lincoln Parish Detention Center, is responsible for maintenance of the facility, according to the ten-year contract now in force, and that was negotiated in 2008.

Section 2.02. Applicable Standards. LaSalle shall operate and maintain the LPDC in accordance with all applicable provisions of the Louisiana Basic Jail Guidelines and all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules, and regulations.

And,

Section 2.03. Physical Plant. The LPDC physical plant shall meet the requirement of the Louisiana Basic Jail Guidelines. LaSalle agrees to maintain the LPDC plant in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules and regulations, including, but not limited to, those of the Louisiana State Fire Marshal and Louisiana State Health Department.

See here the complete document.

This part of the contact would seem to be at odds with the “emergency declaration” last week by the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission that looks to the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) to foot the bill for repairs as a result of long-neglected maintenance.

We shall see if the commission has the innards to enforce its own contract, or again take the easy way out and demand yet more money from the taxpayers.

Eddie Clark New Monroe City Council Chair

12/27/2012

Monroe City Council Chair Eddie Clark - courtesy fotos david

Monroe City Council Chair Eddie Clark, 12/27/12 – courtesy fotos david


Monroe City Council District Five’s Eddie Clark was elected council chairman at tonight’s first meeting of that body since the November/December council elections.

Nominating Clark was District Four’s Kenny Wilson, a newly elected member of the body. No one else was nominated.

Clark’s election signals a political shift on the council. Often, he had been the lone vote opposing Mayor Jamie Mayo on the outgoing council that was made up of Mayo rubber stamps.

Clark said he “looked forward to working with the new council.”

Two of the new council members – District One’s Ray Armstrong and District Three’s Betty Blakes – are not Mayo supporters. Armstrong ran for mayor against Mayo last April, and Mayo backed Blakes’ opponent in the December council race.

Armstrong was elected Vice-Chair of the council, also without opposition.

Jackson Parish Gets Bargain on Prisoner Costs, Compared to Lincoln

12/27/2012

The taxpayers of Jackson Parish receive a bargain, compared to what Lincoln Parish taxpayers pay to house jail inmates in their respective jails.

The Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) pays the Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO), in its legal capacity as the law enforcement district, $23/day per inmate, for the first thirty inmates, and $18/day per inmate for any number over thirty.

About 40 Jackson Parish area detainees are housed at the facility that is owned by, and was financed and constructed by Lasalle Corrections, Inc.

See here the agreement.

According to those knowledgeable about the operation, no other Jackson Parish taxes or fees are paid to house or feed the approximately 1,135 total inmates kept at the facility that is operated by the JPSO, and staffed by about 175 JPSO employees. Lasalle reimburses the JPSO for prisoner upkeep, and staff salaries. Presumably, LaSalle is able to earn enough from housing Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) prisoners (@ 24.39/day/prisoner) to pay for the entire operation.

Meanwhile, the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission pays $29.40/day/local prisoner housed at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center, and $27.54/day/local prisoner housed at other LaSalle facilities, according to a 2008 contract negotiated by then-commission chair, Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone.

The contract is for ten years, and doesn’t expire until 2018.

See here the document.

The Lincoln detention center is owned and maintained by the commission (the taxpayers), and is operated and staffed by LaSalle. It is funded by a 1/4 cent parish-wide sales tax that takes in about $1.8 million/year from citizens who buy and sell in Lincoln Parish.

Funding shortfalls are made good by the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ), and the City of Ruston, that each pay at a ratio of 85% to 15%, respectively.

For 2012, the shortfall is about $140 thousand.

Of note is the disparity in the local prisoner count between Jackson and Lincoln Parishes. As of mid-December, the local prisoner count in the Lincoln jail was about 170, compared to the 40 in Jackson Parish. Lincoln has about three times the population of Jackson Parish (46,735 to 16,274), so it would be logical to infer that Lincoln should have no more than about 120 prisoners, as the two parishes have similar demographics.

The Lack of Public Records

One problem with the Lincoln Parish Detention Center is the dearth of financial information on how much it actually costs to house a prisoner. All the public knows is the total amount of money that the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission pays to LaSalle. We do not know what LaSalle pays its employees or how much money is spent on food and other supplies.

However, a recent court case suggest that Louisiana’s public records law may apply to LaSalle’s books.

Central City, LA, an incorporated city in the metro Baton Rouge area, contracts out nearly all city services – public works, inspections, building permits, etc.

A local newspaper sued for access to the contractor’s records pertaining to the city contract, because of the close connection between the contractor and the city’s elected government. Almost all the city’s tax revenues are paid to the contractor.

While the district court found for the defendant – the contractor – the First Circuit Court of Appeal remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

See here the decision.

In oral arguments, the plaintiff attorney said:

“The issue the case presents is whether governmental accountability to the public, through public access to records relating to the performance of governmental services, can be blocked by a city’s decision to outsource by contract the performance of almost all of its municipal functions to a sole provider, private company.”

See here some news accounts of the case.

Records case debated before appellate court
Public Records Win

The Louisiana State Supreme Court upheld the circuit court’s ruling.

State Supreme Court returns records case to judge

As LaSalle does business entirely with governmental entities, it would seem that the state’s public records law would apply.

2nd Circuit Dissenting Opinions Published

12/26/2012

Last week’s rulings in the two Town of Jonesboro lawsuits were not unanimously decided by the five-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that heard the cases.

In Essmeir v Jonesboro, judges Larry Lolley and James Stewart dissented, while in State v Jonesboro, Stewart dissented.

See here the written dissents that were published today:

Essmeier v Jonesboro dissent
State v Jonesboro dissent

The other judges on the panel were Henry Brown, Jay Caraway, and Harmon Drew.

Fire District to Blame for Any Missed Structure Fees

12/26/2012

One of the recurring themes of the ongoing discussion concerning Lincoln Parish Fire District No. 1 is debate on a property tax that funds about half the district’s operation. That property tax is called a “structure fee,” and is listed on the yearly tax bill as “fire fee.”

The voters of Lincoln Parish in 1991 passed a proposition (and re-imposed it again in 2000 and 2010) that states:

Shall Fire Protection District No. 1 of the Parish of Lincoln, State of Louisiana (the “District”), assess and collect an annual service charge of Seventy-Two Dollars ($72.00) from persons owning residential or commercial structures, whether occupied or unoccupied, located wholly or partly within the boundaries of the District, for a period of ten (10) years,…

The 2010 proposition went on to say:

…an estimated $612,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the service charge for an entire year…

However, the structure fee last year collected about $553 thousand, about $60 thousand less than estimated. While suggestions were floated at the 12/6/12 meeting of the district’s Board of Commissioners that barns, shops, and other outbuildings should be assessed the fee, others have suggested that Lincoln Parish Tax Assessor Pam Jones had been lax in her duties and had missed some buildings that should be included on the tax rolls.

Not so, says Jones.

Last week, she sent a letter reminding the fire commissioners that it was the fire district’s responsibility to determine what structures are to be assessed the $72/year fee.

Wrote Jones:

Per our discussions, structures in Lincoln Parish assessed with the $72 fire fee have always been determined by the Lincoln Parish Fire Protection District. Agriculture buildings are exempt from property taxes by Louisiana Law and in 1992, the then Fire Service Director Byron Johnson instructed us to also exempt these buildings from the $72 fire fee.

The assessor’s office does not determine which structures the fee affects, but simply facilitates the inclusion of this fee for the Fire District on tax notices.

See here the letter.

Higher Ed Roundup – 12/26/12

12/26/2012

La. higher ed rates poor

New Monroe Council Won’t be Mayo’s Rubber Stamp

12/24/2012

Mayo's Rubber Stamp

Things will be different from now on for Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo – he won’t have a city council full of rubber stamps that approve everything that he wants with no back-sass.

The first order of business for Thursday’s meeting of the council is election of a chair and vice-chair.

Here is the agenda.

There are three new members on the council:

Ray Armstrong – District One
Betty Blakes – District Three
Kenny Wilson – District Four

The meeting begins at 6:00 PM, Thursday, December 27, Monroe City Hall, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway.

Jonesboro Mayor Publishes Pamphlet

12/22/2012

The Town of Jonesboro’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson has published a pamphlet that claims to document his travails since taking office in 2007, and also claim to explain the legal and financial issues that have ensnared the town since that time.

See here the document.