Archive for August, 2017

Hearing set in BR on Jackson Parish Hospital Lawsuit

08/21/2017

An August 30 hearing has been scheduled in 19th Judicial (East Baton Rouge Parish) District Court in Baton Rouge to rule on whether an injunction will be granted that would declare Act 171 unconstitutional. Originally, the hearing was set for 9:30 AM this morning.

The hearing will be in Judge Timothy Kelly’s courtroom.

See here the court documents.

The injunction would prevent the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) from appointing members to the Jackson Parish Parish Hospital Board of Directors in accordance with the act.

The legislation, signed by Governor John Bell Edwards last June, restructures the hospital’s governing board to five members from seven, and places qualifications on new appointees. Several new appointments have been made to the board, which recently met.

Plaintiffs claim in the suit that the legislation deprives them of equal protection of the law in violation of the U. S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Plaintiffs in the suit include Herbert Simmons and Windy Calahan; and two police jurors, Maxie Monroe and John McCarty.

Representing the plaintiffs is Baton Rouge attorney Ernest Johnson.

Defendants include Gov. Edwards and the Jackson Parish Police Jury.

Last week, the jury hired Alexandria law firm Gold Weems to represent them.

Mays Rape Conviction Upheld by 2nd Circuit

08/16/2017

Louisiana’s Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, in Shreveport, this morning affirmed the April, 2016 conviction of Cameron Mays for the June, 2012 rape and kidnapping of a Lousiana Tech University coed.

Wrote Judge Harmon Drew:

The evidence in this horrific case is overwhelming. Each of the three convictions is amply supported by this record, including, inter alia:

–  the victim’s testimony;
– the defendant’s fingerprints found on the condom wrapper;
–  the DNA evidence;
– his admission to his cousin that he had sex with the victim;
–  and his inculpatory words overheard by Ms. Daye.

While the record indicates that a second intruder was present, S.K. testified that only one man raped her, drove with her, and twice held a gun to her head.

Mays still faces a murder charge for the killing of Susan Hashway, who was found dead in her Paynter Drive home several days after the rape and kidnapping.

See here the court’s ruling.

More on LPPJ Meeting

08/14/2017

There was a bit more to last Tuesday’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) meeting than the tax vote. Two committees were set to meet, but only one had a quorum and could conduct business.

The Public Property & Building’s Committee met as scheduled and approved the appointment of Mike Walpole as architect for a proposed expansion of the Lincoln Parish Detention Center. An architect is necessary to assist in the application for a Rural Development Loan.

The jury is contemplating borrowing the approximately $3.5 million to add about 100 beds to the jail.

The committee also extensively discussed a proposal to renovate the Lincoln Parish Court House. It was suggested that engineers/architects be solicited for ideas and suggestions on what could be done and some preliminary cost estimates.

Among the possible renovations are roof, windows, exterior, elevators, and if any expansion to the existing building is possible from a structural standpoint.

District Seven’s Jody Backus suggested that a complete new courthouse ought to be compared cost-wise to renovation.

Said Backus, “We really ought to throw in a comparison, a heads up comparison, of rebuilding versus remodeling.”

District Six’s Walter Pullen said, “You can either try to come up with eight to ten million dollars over five or six years to to fix it up and make it nice, or you can to figure out where you’re going to get twenty million dollars to build a new court house. And, I don’t think you’re going to get twenty million dollars to build a new court house.”

Time ran out on the meeting, so no action was taken on the proposal.

The Finance Committee meeting was not held, as a quorum wasn’t present.

It is notable that the two missing committee members – District One’s Theresa Wyatt and District Ten’s Nancy Wilson – represent the districts that a lawsuit filed a year ago claimed “no representation on any committees that determine how Lincoln Parish tax dollars are spent.”

Ruston Dentist Not Guilty of Insider Stock Trading

08/10/2017

Ruston dentist acquitted of insider trading related to sale of Shaw Group in Baton Rouge

BY JOE GYAN JR. | jgyan@theadvocate.com Aug 10, 2017 – 4:15 pm

A Ruston dentist whose brother-in-law worked at the Shaw Group was acquitted Thursday on federal insider trader charges relating to the 2012 announcement that Shaw was being acquired by CB&I.

Jesse H. Roberts III was found not guilty on one count each of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He did not testify in his own defense.

Federal prosecutors had alleged that Roberts reaped a $700,000 profit from confidential information allegedly provided by his brother-in-law, Scott David Zeringue.

Zeringue was vice president of construction operations for Shaw when he claims to have passed confidential information to Roberts in July 2012 about the impending sale of the Baton Rouge-based engineering and construction firm.

Roberts’ attorneys claim information about the planned sale of Shaw to Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. had been leaking out and that Roberts, an experienced trader, used information available to the public to invest in Shaw stock options and hit it big.

Roberts allegedly told another Ruston resident, Billy J. Adcox Jr., about the information he received from Zeringue. Adcox was indicted in 2015 and is awaiting trial, accused of turning a $37,000 profit from his alleged insider trading activities.

Lincoln Jury Votes to Keep Property Tax Rates Steady

08/09/2017

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ), on an 8-2 vote, kept millage rates the same as last year on one of the property taxes seized from parish property owners. The action came at last night’s regular monthly meeting of the jury.

The General Alimony, a tax levied that can used for “any public purpose” was for 2016 levied at 1.68 mils for residents inside Ruston city limits, and 3.37 mils for those residents outside. Legally, the jury could have rolled those rates up to 1.82 and 3.65 mils if they so chose. The roll-forward would have resulted in an additional $100 thousand in total taxes seized from property owners.

Voting for the roll-up were Hazel Hunter and Sharyon Mayfield.

Voting no were Bobby Bennett, Randy Roberson, David Hammons, Walter Pullen, Jody Backus, Skip Russell, Nancy Wilson, and Annette Straughter.

Theresa Wyatt and Joe Henderson were absent.

The vote came after a public hearing on the tax ordinance that heard some pointed comments about taxes and government spending from Ruston resident Lou Taylor.

Taylor lamented the burden of property and sales taxes, and where the money goes.

Said Taylor, “So many of here don’t know what’s happening with the money, and we don’t want any more taxes. We can’t buy groceries, we can’t buy medicines, we can’t buy cars, because we’re paying almost 11 percent in this city and parish in sales taxes.” She added, “We just need to know what is happening with the revenue that is available to this police jury, and I feel the same way about the (Ruston) City Council. There comes a limit when people can just keep paying and paying.”

Taylor also questioned why the parish detention center keeps so many prisoners and needed so much money.

She asked, “Why are so may held before they can be adjudicated? They can’t work, they can’t do anything. Is that our court system, is that our DA, or is that the laws – what is it?”

Jury President Randy Roberson noted that the dedicated 1/4 cent sales tax provided only about half the money needed to operate, and that the money paid by the state to house state prisoners helped pay expenses.

In point of fact, the jail’s budget has doubled since Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone took over operation from LaSalle Corrections several years ago. Most of that increase can be attributed to increased payroll.

See here our news story earlier this year documenting the jail’s budgets.

Juror Skip Russell noted that of every dollar of total property taxes levied in Lincoln Parish, the jury collects only 14 cents, compared to the Lincoln Parish Schools Board’s 52 cents.

Said Russell, “If we need to look at cutting taxes – and I think we always need to look at that – we need to look at a number of different agencies in Lincoln Parish.”

The rollback/roll forward exercise will be repeated at the September 12 meeting for the jury’s dedicated (roads, library) property taxes.

We will be there to cover the meeting.

Cooktown Road Development Hearing Set

08/08/2017

A public hearing has been set for Monday, September 11 on an ordinance creating the Cooktown Road Economic Development District. That date is the regularly scheduled September meeting of Ruston’s Board of Aldermen.

The ordinance was introduced at last night’s council meeting.

There was a bit of public comment by Cooktown Road resident Robert Sauber, after a companion resolution to the ordinance was put on the table for discussion.

Sauber said the quality of life has been diminished in the neighborhood because of the increased business development and attendant traffic.

“Isn’t there somewhere else in Ruston they can develop, rather than just on Cooktown Road?”

Mayor Ronny Walker said that anytime the city has growth, there are traffic issues, but they try to improve traffic flow when that occurs. He added that there was other new development, notably on the east side of Ruston with the service road extension to Rough Edge Road.

“We try to address those as quickly as we can; that’s the reason we added that turn lane, (on Cooktown Road)” Walker said.

Sauber was an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor in 2010 against incumbent Dan Hollingsworth.

In other business, the council approved rezoning a 28 acre tract on South Barnett Springs Street to allow development of single-family houses on smaller lots. The lot size requirement was reduced from 25 thousand square feet (just over 1/2 acre) to 10 thousand (just under 1/4 acre).

Mayor Walker also announced that the Dixie Youth Baseball League World Series will be coming to Ruston in the summer of 2019. The new sports complex is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

See here the announcement.

LPPJ Appoints Treasurer

08/08/2017

Megan Wiens, a Farmerville resident and University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) Business Administration graduate, was appointed Treasurer of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) at last night’s special called meeting. Most recently, she was Business Manager at the Union Parish School Board.

She was one of six finalists interviewed for the job, and one of two who has had prior governmental accounting experience.

Asked why she applied, Wiens said, “I think Lincoln Parish is growing, and it’s something I would be interested in being a part of.”

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Meetings This Week

08/06/2017

Two Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) meeting are set for this week: the regular committee and jury meetings, and a special called meeting for Monday. The Monday meeting is to interview the prospective hires for Parish Treasurer.

Special Meeting – 4:00 PM, Monday, August 7

Agenda

Finance Committee – 6:00 PM, Tuesday, August 8

Agenda

Public Property & Buildings Committee – 6:30 PM, Tuesday, August 8

Agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM, Tuesday, August 8

Agenda

All meetings will be held at the Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Half Cent Sales Tax to Fund Cooktown Road Development District

08/04/2017

Cooktown Road Economic Development District

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker’s administration is proposing creation of an economic development district at the northwest corner of Cooktown Road (LA 544) and Woodward Avenue (1-20 North Service Road).

The matter was mentioned at the July meeting of the city’s Board of Aldermen.

Along with the district, an additional half-cent sales tax would be levied for the purpose of “financing economic development projects located within the district,” and “to pay the costs of infrastructure improvements outside the district that benefit property in the District.”

Presumably, the tax would be levied on purchases made at businesses that locate within the new district.

See here the proposed resolution and the proposed ordinance.

The two proposals will be considered at next Monday’s meeting of the council.

See here the agenda.

The meeting is set for 5:30, Monday, August 7, at Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Lincoln Parish Public Schools Crank Up Next Week

08/02/2017

Lincoln Parish public schools will have a half-day of classes on Friday, August 11, with the first full day of classes set for Monday, August 14, Superintendent Mike Milstead told last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB). Teachers will report Monday for a meeting at Ruston High School.

Said Milstead, “I’ve always been excited about the first day of school. I don’t think that’ll ever go away.”

The board also reviewed the capital outlay plan for future construction.

Among the major projects planned for 2018 include a $2.1 million STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) center at Ruston Junior High, $500 thousand for two special ed classrooms at Ruston High, $800 thousand for sports facilities at the new Ruston Parks & Recreation complex on South Farmerville Street.

See here the outlay plan spreadsheet.

At the September board meeting, the Building & Grounds Committee will meet for a more detailed review of future plans, it was decided.

Business Manager George Murphy reported that sales tax collections had stabilized somewhat, with the past three months of collections showing a slight increase over the same period a year ago.

See here the report.