Archive for August, 2018

Mays Murder Trial Reset for Next February

08/29/2018

The trial of accused murderer Cameron Mays was reset for Monday, February 25, 2019 to allow a new defense attorney to familiarize himself with the case. The joint defense/prosecution motion was approved in Third Judicial District (Lincoln, Union Parishes) Court in Ruston yesterday morning.

Indigent Defender Dwyane Burrell will be defending, alongside Kia Richardson.

Mays is charged with a June, 2012 crime spree that resulted in the death of retired Grambling State University Professor Dr. Sue Hashway, and the aggravated rape and kidnapping of a Louisiana Tech University co-ed.

Mays was convicted in April, 2016 of kidnapping, aggravated rape, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Mays was not in court. Appearing for the prosecution was Assistant Attorney General Madeleine Slaughter-Young.

Presiding was Division B Judge Tommy Rogers.

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City of Ruston Budget Details

08/27/2018

We’ve gotten a copy of the just released FY 2018-2019 Budget for the City of Ruston.

At the August 20, 2018 meeting of the City Council, it was said that the city’s payroll cost would increase by over $800 thousand. We decided to see what departments fared best.

The general fund recap shows that the top five general fund departments to receive a budget increase (on a percentage basis) from this year (FY 2017-2018) to next (FY 2018-2019) are:

Military Museum – 40.9%
Planning, Zoning & Inspections – 22.6%
Fire – 18.9%
Animal Control – 13.8%
Police – 11.9%

See here the recap spreadsheet.

Since the military museum and animal control have much smaller budgets relative to the others, we’ll focus on the top three in actual monetary amounts, specific to the total payroll increases.

Planning, Zoning & Inspections is projected to have a total 2017-18 personnel cost of $478,425. For next year, that figure increases to $659,417.

See here the budget worksheet.

The Fire Department personnel budget for this year is expected to come in at $3,418,457, while next year’s cost is set at $4,148,416.

Here’s the document.

The Ruston Police Department personnel services cost increases from $3,642,274 to $3,989,071.

Here’s the budget spreadsheet.

Among the enterprise funds (electric, water, sewer, telecom, airport, ambulance), the electric system’s personnel costs increased from $1,860,797 to $2,174,859.

Here’s the worksheet.

And here’s the complete budget document.

These increases total up to much more than $800 thousand. Likely that is so because we included the cost of the retirement and insurance benefits. It appears that those costs add as much as 50 to 60 percent additional to the base pay.

What About the Rough Edge Service Road?

08/26/2018

Several of our readers have asked about the North Service Road extension project from Tractor Supply eastward to Rough Edge Road – about 1.6 miles of roadway. The questions have arisen because there has been no construction activity for the past few months.

The project was approved at the January 9, 2017 meeting of the Ruston Board of Aldermen, and was awarded to Womack & Sons Construction Group of Harrisonburg, LA, at a price of $7.2 million.

The project was scheduled for completion within 920 calendar days, or about 30.5 months.

Assuming the contract was signed by the middle of January, 2017, that would put the completion date somewhere around the end of July, 2019, less than a year away.

Reportedly, Womack’s equipment and personnel that were working on the service road project have been diverted to the new sports complex project on South Farmerville Street. Womack was awarded that project at the September 11, 2017 council meeting.

That project has a completion date of 425 working days.

More LACE Woes

08/25/2018

DPSO sheriff, deputies agree to hand over files but auditors continue court battle

Vickie Welborn – KTBS TV3 Shreveport

The DeSoto Parish sheriff weeks ago said he and nine current and former employees are making their personnel files available to state auditors who are reviewing allegations of abuse in a program where law officers moonlight doing traffic enforcement. But that has not stopped a court battle.

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office has asked the state Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that ruled any future court disputes should be decided in DeSoto Parish, not East Baton Rouge Parish, where auditors work. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal earlier this month declined to hear an appeal from the auditors.

The files are in dispute in connection with an investigation being conducted by state auditors into a ticket-writing program called LACE, or Local Agency Compensation Enforcement, where the state pays deputies overtime to do traffic enforcement. Some deputies have been caught padding their overtime.

State auditors have been in DeSoto Parish off-and-on since late last year looking at the LACE participation of several agencies that benefit from the program.

Suspected LACE abuses occurred during the administration of DeSoto Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle, who resigned earlier this year. Arbuckle discontinued his deputies’ participation in the LACE in the spring of 2017 after District Attorney Gary Evans assumed administration of the program and began diverting revenue from tickets to his office and away from other public entities.

What Next on Monster Moto?

08/21/2018

It appears that Monster Moto, a Ruston, LA based manufacturer of mini-bikes and go carts, will close its Ruston operation completely, and leave empty a 100 thousand ft/sq building that Ruston taxpayers co-signed for.

Amid much fanfare, the building was dedicated by Louisiana Governor Bel Edwards 18 months ago, in March, 2017.

The company began assembling the bikes with a small workforce, with plans to increase production as sales increased.

Those sales never materialized, apparently.

In May of this year, the company ceased assembly operation at the Ruston facility and laid off 30 employees. The Ruston facility was deemed to be a warehouse for parts.

Assembly was outsourced to China, where it had been located prior to the Ruston move.

The story began in late spring of 2015, when Ruston aldermen were presented with a proposal to guarantee the rent on a new building for the company.

At the June 1, 2015 meeting, the council swallowed the deal, cork and all.

The important part is this: $34 thousand/month for 25 years. Presumably, Monster Moto paid some rent since they moved in. So call it $34 thousand/month for 23 1/2 years.

At least Alderman Jim Pearce asked some questions.

At the August, 2015 meeting, some minor wording changes were made to the agreements, which were resubmitted to the council for final approval.

And that’s the history of how the deal developed.

Ruston Mayor’s Pay Bumped $20K, Council $2.4K

08/20/2018

Come January 1, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker will receive a hefty $20 thousand/year pay hike, from $80 thousand to $100 thousand. The Board of Aldermen will be bumped $200/month, from $800 to $1,000 ($9,600/yr to $12,000/yr).

The raises are a result of a vote taken by the board’s Finance Committee, consisting of all five aldermen, and are included in the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budget that discussed at tonight’s meeting. The budget will be voted on at the next regular council meeting in September, during which a public hearing will be held.

Voting for the budget that included the raises were:

Carolyn CageWard 1
Angela MayfieldWard 2
Jedd LewisWard 3
Bruce SiegmundWard 5

Jim Pierce (Ward 4) voted no. He had earlier moved to delete the raises for the council, but that motion died for lack of a second.

Pierce said he didn’t feel comfortable voting to raise his own pay, and said that the action should have been taken before the recent qualifying period for the council and mayor.

All aldermen and Mayor Walker were re-elected without opposition.

City Treasurer Laura Hartt said the new budget provided about $823 thousand in increased employee pay citywide. The total payroll increased to 307 from 290 last year.

The council also levied the taxes on property for the tax year 2018. General alimony was set at 5.24 mils, and the recreation tax at 2.92 mils.

Both are the same rate as last year.

Ruston Board of Aldermen Monday

08/19/2018

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, August 20, 6:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

LPPJ to Apply for Jail Construction Loan

08/16/2018

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) voted Tuesday night to proceed in borrowing about $2.7 million to construct a 100-bed addition to the Lincoln Parish Detention Center, but not before more discussion on how the Lincoln Parish Sheriff would reimburse the jury. The sheriff operates the jail under the direction of the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission. That agency is made up of the sheriff, the district attorney, the Ruston PD chief, and two police jurors.

Walter Pullen (District 6) argued again that there needed to be some sort of written agreement between the jury and the detention center commission. Last month he had said the agreement should be with the sheriff, but since there may be a new sheriff next year, any agreement with Mike Stone couldn’t last beyond his term.

Said Pullen, “I still have the same concern today, that I had last month. We need a contractual obligation either with the detention center commission – which we have two of the five seats – or with whoever will be running the detention center, that paying the loan – we need in writing that’s the first call on paying the loan. If we don’t get that, I won’t vote for this plan.”

There are several more steps before actual construction can begin. Detailed architectural plans must be drawn, bids solicited, and a contractor selected.

Approval was also granted to engage The Grey Knight Group to help administer the loan application process. The cost was estimated at 1% of total project cost.

The jury also set the property tax rates for 2018, which will be the same as the 2017 rates, save a .20 mil reduction in the Lincoln Parish Library’s equipment and furniture levy.

See here the ordinances.

Former Parish Fire Chief Loses Appeal on Comp Pay, Benefits

08/15/2018

Louisiana’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against former Lincoln Parish Fire District No. 1 Fire Chief Dennis Ford, and upheld a Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court decision that Ford is not entitled to comp time pay and paid medical benefits.

Wrote Judge Francis Jones Pittman, on behalf of a three-judge panel:

The trial court correctly determined that Mr. Ford is exempt as an executive, administrative or professional employee under the terms of the Fair Labor Standards Act and, therefore, is not entitled to compensatory time.

And,

Mr. Ford did not have a vested right in health insurance as a retiree because this benefit was eliminated for retirees of LPFPD prior to his retirement. He testified that he approached the Board with the recommendation to obtain a new insurance policy. In 2007, he signed the application with BCBS, which states that the “retiree class is a closed class. No other retirees will be allowed to enroll.” He was aware that the retiree class was a closed class almost seven years before his retirement. Therefore, he did not prove that he had a vested right in health insurance as a retiree, and the trial court did not err in denying his claim.

See here the complete judgement.

Ford had originally sued in September, 2014 and had demanded nearly half a million dollars in comp time.

Ford’s attorney was Daniel Street. Representing the district was Shreveport Attorney Michael Lowe.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Tuesday

08/13/2018

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) will meet Tuesday, August 14, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Here are the meeting times and agendas:

Solid Waste & Recycling Committee – 6:00 PM
agenda

Public Works Committee – 6:30 PM
agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM
agenda