Archive for March, 2016

“Flood Food Stamp” Applications @ Fannin’s Jonesboro Office

03/30/2016

Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) applications were being taken adjacent to Louisiana State Senator (District 35) Jim Fannin’s Office in Jonesboro today, sources told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO).

Reportedly, a Louisiana State Police Trooper and Louisiana National Guardsmen were on hand to provide security. The parking area in front of Fannin’s District Office at 320 6th Street was blocked off with traffic cones.

We found this information on Fifth District Congressman Ralph Abraham’s website:

The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) provides food assistance to eligible households who do not receive regular SNAP benefits and who need help buying groceries due to lost income or damages following a disaster. Residents in following zip codes within the 5th district must apply this week for DSNAP at designated sites in each parish. If you live in a declared parish but did not register during your parish’s registration week, you may still pre-apply online but will need to wait for a site to open again in your parish.

Each site will serve DSNAP applicants this week on a staggered schedule, according to the first letter of their last name. Find the schedule, location information and more at http://www.dcfs.la.gov. Regular SNAP recipients do not need to apply for DSNAP and should not go to a DSNAP site.

Residents who live in the following ZIP codes, and who do not currently receive SNAP benefits, may be eligible for DSNAP:

Jackson Parish: ZIP codes 71226, 71251, 71268, 71270
Rapides Parish: ZIP codes 71301, 71302, 71303, 71360

Schedule and Locations

To minimize wait times, applicants and anyone who pre-registered for benefits should go to a DSNAP location only on one of the days indicated by the first letter of their last name. Applicants who are unable to visit a site on their designated day should go on one of the final days specified.

Wednesday, March 30 – A-F
Thursday, March 31 – G-N
Friday, April 1 – O-Z
Saturday, April 2 – A-K (applicants unable to make prior scheduled day)
Sunday, April 3 – L-Z (applicants unable to make prior scheduled day)

The following DSNAP locations will be open Wednesday, March 30, through Sunday, April 3, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.:

Jackson Parish: Jackson Parish Police Jury Fain Building, 320 6th St., Jonesboro, LA 71251

Rapides Parish: Alexandria Mega Shelter, 8125 Hwy 71 South, Alexandria, LA 71302

Eligibility and Pre-Registration

DSNAP applicants MUST go to a specified DSNAP site to apply and receive benefits, if eligible. Applicants may name an Authorized Representative to go to a DSNAP site on their behalf. Authorized representatives must bring with them to the DSNAP site a picture ID and the picture ID of the applicant/head of household along with a signed statement from the applicant/head of household or an adult household member authorizing them as a representative. Accommodations will be made for the elderly and those with disabilities to reduce on-site wait times.

Regular SNAP households DO NOT need to apply for DSNAP. The program is only for residents who are not currently on the SNAP program.

To help expedite the application process, DCFS is encouraging residents in all affected areas to pre-register for DSNAP benefits. The best way to do this is online at http://www.dcfs.la.gov/dsnap. However, residents can also pre-register by phone at 1-888-LAHELP-U (1-888-524-3578) daily between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Callers will select the appropriate language and then select options 3 and 3. Residents who are already pre-registered do not have to pre-register again, but they should update their information if it is not current. All pre-registrants will have to provide the following information:

Name, Social Security Number, and Date of Birth for each household member
Current address and parish of household
Monthly income for each household member
All liquid assets for each household member (cash on hand, checking, savings)
The information will be kept securely on file and will be confidential.

Pre-registration does not guarantee benefits, but is designed to save time, minimize long waits, and prevent applicants from coming to the site only to find out that they do not have the right information needed to apply.

It should be noted that NO Lincoln Parish residents are illegible for the DSNAP benefits – only those Jackson Parish residents that have a Ruston zip code (71270) can apply.

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$600K Surplus for 2015 @ Lincoln Detention Center

03/29/2016

There was a $600 thousand surplus at the end of the 2015 budget year for the Lincoln Parish Detention Center, Warden Jim Tuten told yesterday’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission (DCC).

Said Tuten, “It looks like that for 2015, after everything is paid, we going to have about a $616 thousand surplus for the year.”

That number compares to the original 2015 proposed budget that projected a $48 thousand surplus, and an amended 2015 budget that projected $376 thousand surplus.

For 2016, the proposed budget calls for a $478 thousand surplus.

At the 12/10/15 meeting of the DCC, Sheriff Mike Stone had said that if the surplus conditions continue, the DCC may repay the $1 million plus that the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) provided to the DC for capital repairs when the DCC was short of money.

The LPPJ monies were appropriated from funds that would normally be used for courthouse maintenance.

Stone again cautioned yesterday that the per diem rates on prisoners housed on behalf of the Louisiana Department of Corrections may be reduced from $23/day to $16/day. If that happens, it would reduce revenues about $270 thousand over a six month period, it was noted.

Sabine Police Jurors Have Road Issues

03/28/2016

Audit Finds Improper Road Maintenance Work, Use of Public Funds in Sabine Parish

Two members of the Sabine Parish Police Jury authorized $378,682 in road maintenance work in their districts without obtaining Police Jury approval or following state bid law or parish public works procedures, the Legislative Auditor said in a report released today.

The road projects were done between July 29 and September 4, 2015. The two police jurors said they decided to have the maintenance work performed outside of the parish’s normal process because the parish road manager did not respond to their requests for road repairs. The road manager said he was never told of the condition of the roads in question and did not find out about the work until it was underway.

The state auditor said the investigative audit also found that the Police Jury used public money to maintain what appear to be private driveways and roads in the parish, which is prohibited by the Louisiana Constitution and state law. An examination of parish records showed that 94 roads listed in the road department’s work tracking system did not appear on the parish’s approved road list.

The road department’s secretary said if parish employees worked on a road that was not in the department’s tracking system, she added the road to the system. However, she did not check to see if the road was on the parish’s approved road list.

In their response, Sabine Parish police jurors agreed with the audit’s findings and said they have held an educational session for the Police Jury on the laws and procedures involving public works projects. In addition, they are working on reconciling the roads in the road department’s tracking system with the parish’s approved road list to determine whether any private roads are listed. Officials also said they will work to implement the audit’s recommendations.

See here the complete audit.

Lincoln Detention Center Commission Meets Monday

03/27/2016

The Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission will meet Monday, March 28, 10:00 AM, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Here is the agenda.

A Costly Public Records Case

03/25/2016

Lafayette city marshal sentenced to jail and ordered to pay almost $100,000 in public records case

by Lanie Lee Cook

A district judge late Thursday sentenced Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope to serve seven days in jail and pay almost $100,000 in penalties, attorney fees and court costs after finding him guilty of contempt of court for withholding public records sought by a Lafayette news organization.

Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards handed down a 30-day jail sentence against Pope, with all but seven of those days suspended, and ordered him to surrender to the Lafayette Parish jail by Monday. Edwards said Pope will be allowed to serve the sentence on house arrest, but he will remain on unsupervised probation until 2021.

Pope also has been ordered to pay $18,800 in penalties and more than $77,900 in attorney fees and court costs in the case, which began when The Independent sued the marshal for refusing to release certain emails sent to and from Pope’s public email account.

The judge also ordered Pope to perform 173 hours of instruction on public records law. Those community-service hours of instruction represent the 173 legal days that lapsed before Pope produced an encompassing response to The Independent’s two public records requests, which sought emails that showed he used his public position, facilities and resources as a platform for Scott Police Chief Chad Leger’s unsuccessful campaign for sheriff.

Edwards said he found Pope “intentionally withheld the public records” and “intentionally misused his public office,” adding that evidence produced throughout the lawsuit serves as potential grounds to investigate the marshal for perjury and malfeasance in office.

Local Daily Continues Drumbeat for Sales Tax Hike

03/22/2016

It never ends. More taxes, more spending, more government jobs.

$35M tagged for streets, drainage
Water, sewer upgrades on tap
Citizens speak on city project

Remember, this was the same group of people who threw a fit when some Lincoln Parish Police Jurors suggested tax breaks for selected business was ill-timed.

But then, everyday shoppers who will pay the additional sales tax don’t buy newspaper advertisements.

Ouachita Parish Police Jury Tonight

03/21/2016

The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) will meet Monday, March 21, 5:30 PM, Ouachita Parish Court House, second floor.

Here is the agenda.

4-3 Vote to Adopt New Jackson Parish School Zones

03/18/2016

The Jackson Parish School Board (JPSB) last night voted 4-3 at a special called meeting to adopt new school zones for the district beginning with the 2016-2017 school year. The result will be to shift about 375 students among the district’s five schools – Quitman, Weston, Jonesboro-Hodge High School, Southside Elementary, and Jonesboro Middle School.

Voting yes were:

Mary Saulters – District 1
Calvin Waggoner – District 2
Melissa Perry – District 3
Dennis Clary – District 7

Voting no were:

Gerry Mims – District 4
Gloria Davis – District 5
Wade McBride – District 6

Clary made the motion to adopt the plan, with Saulters seconding. There was no discussion among the board members prior to the vote.

See here a map of the new school zones.

The vote followed 2 1/2 hours of public comment from at least thirty area citizens, who, to a person, were opposed to the plan. Several hundred people filled the J-HHS auditorium to near capacity.

Fielding questions from the crowd was contract board attorney Robert Hammonds, who negotiated the plan with the plaintiff, the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ). On hand with Hammonds was Mike Hefner of Geographic Planning & Demographic Services, who compiled the data and mapping.

Hammonds reviewed the data that led to the new zones, saying that the racial imbalance at all the schools were outside the guidelines deemed acceptable to the DOJ. Hammonds said that if the board did not accept the plan as proposed, likely Judge Robert James would impose a plan with more drastic changes.

Hammond added that if the proposed plan were adopted, the district could move in December, 2017 to have the 51 year-old lawsuit dismissed. A dismissal would allow the district to get out from under federal control, Hammonds said.

See here the summary memo.

Many of the comments were unhappy that the plan was a surprise, and no opportunity for citizen input was given.

Typical of the comments:

Ricky McBride, “We should be able to go to our schools, and our board members come and present this information to us in smaller groups where we can understand it. We had no idea, other than the fact that y’all were fixing to take kids out of every school district and move them, we had no idea what’s going on. And that’s not fair and that’s not right.”

Shoentae Mims, “These are our children, they’re not numbers. School board members, my suggestion to you is that you table this vote tonight until you get some feedback from all your constituents in your districts, because this is not right. We weren’t informed. Give us a chance to come up with a better solution.”

Former State Senator Rick Gallot, “The people who you represent – those who have elected you – feel like they’ve not had sufficient time to absorb what it is that you all are having to decide on. I would suggest to you having been in a similar situation that you sit in right now, that these folks would like to have a little more time to interact with you, so that they can talk about their special needs children, or about their children who are in art, or how it may impact them based upon where they live.”

One citizen said that that he had heard that board members were told by Magistrate Judge Karen Hayes, who was overseeing the negotiations, that the matter was not to be discussed with anyone outside of the mediation sessions.

District 3’s Melissa Perry confirmed to Lincoln Parish News Online that was indeed the case.

Said Perry, “This was not to be briefed until there was a plan in Bob’s (Hammond) hand that he could show to the public. It was not to be talked, at all.”

See here Hayes’ order for a settlement conference.

A few of the speaker suggested that consolidation of the district into a single school could be a solution.

New Jackson Parish School Zones Proposed

03/15/2016

New school attendance zones will be proposed for the Jackson Parish School District (JPSB) at a 6:00 PM, Thursday, March 17, public meeting in the Jonesboro-Hodge High School (JHHS) Auditorium, 225 Pershing Hwy. The meeting will also serve as a meeting of the school board.

Among the changes from the present school attendance zones:

(A) The attendance zone for Quitman High School would be expanded toward Jonesboro- Hodge to pick up some students living north and east of the railroad track in Hodge and north of La. Hwy 813. Quitman High School would remain a PK-12 school at its current site.

(B) The attendance zone for Jonesboro-Hodge High School, Jonesboro-Hodge Junior High School, and Southside Elementary would be expanded toward Quitman to pick up some students living on Merrigan Road and would be expanded to the south and east to pick up some students living south of Walker Road and Blankenship Road. Each of the Jonesboro-Hodge schools would retain their present grade configurations and would be at their current sites.

(C) The attendance zone for Weston High School would be expanded toward Jonesboro- Hodge to pick up some students living east of Moffett Drive and Leon Drive. Weston High School would remain a PK-12 school at its current location.

See here the proposed zone map.
See here the summary memo.

Also notable:

Student Discipline

(1) The proposed consent order calls for the District to contract with the IDRA to provide training for teachers and administrators regarding cultural competency and implicit bias in the discipline process.

(2) In the consent order proposed by the United States, the District would also utilize the IDRA to review the student code of conduct and, if necessary, to recommend to the District revisions of it.

Lincoln Parish Flood Recovery Meeting Tuesday PM

03/14/2016

I have scheduled a meeting to begin the Disaster Recovery efforts for Lincoln Parish for 2 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in the Library Meeting Room of the Lincoln Parish Library, located at 910 North Trenton St., Ruston, La.
(This is on the library side of the facility).

This invitation is going out to all of the stakeholders that fall within the geographical boundaries of Lincoln Parish. The stakeholders include local governments, schools (public & private), universities, water systems, community services, basically any entity that provides a service for the public. It is my hope to make sure all of these stakeholders are present to receive critical disaster recovery information, so please make every effort to attend and extend the invitation to others that need to know. The following details are what I need each stakeholder to consider and bring to the table:

• Understand that the Lincoln Parish Declaration of Emergency that was filed on March 9, 2016 covers all entities within Lincoln Parish. (No one has to file a separate declaration).
• Even though the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration does not include Lincoln Parish at this time, we should be added based on preliminary damage estimates (Very important).
• The FEMA financial threshold that Lincoln Parish will need to meet is $166,844.00. This amount is for every combined entity in the parish, not individual entities.
• If you can manage to make preliminary assessments and compile some figures to bring to this meeting, I encourage you to do so.
• These preliminary figures is what we will base our request for FEMA Preliminary Disaster Assessment (PDA) teams to come into the parish to assist each entity.
• I will also offer information on Individual Assistance (IA) programs for personal property, businesses, etc.

Once again, please make every effort to attend this important meeting. Thanks,

Kip Franklin, Director
Lincoln Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness
161 Road Camp Road, P.O. Box 979
Ruston, La. 71273
Office phone – 318-251-6454
Cell phone – 318-607-8311
Fax number – 318-513-6209
Email: kfranklin@lincolnparish.org