Archive for September, 2018

Ruston City Council to Vote Monday on Creation of Tax District


Ruston’s City Council can Monday kill, or keep alive, Mayor Ronny Walker’s proposed 1.75 cent sales tax on hotels, restaurants, and theaters.

An ordinance creating the tax district is up for a vote. A yea vote will advance the plan, a nay vote will stop it.

Consider Ordinance No. ________ of 2018, Creating the “Economic Development District No. 1 of the City of Ruston, State of Louisiana;” Defining the Boundaries Thereof From Which Area Local Sales Tax Increments will be Determined and Used to Finance Economic Development Projects in Accordance with and as Authorized by Part II of Chapter 27 of Title 33 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, as Amended; and Providing for Other Matters in Connection with the Foregoing

Also on the agenda is a public hearing on the companion ordinance, which would actually levy the tax.

Public Hearing Regarding Ordinance No. ________ of 2018, Creating the “Economic Development District No. 1 of the City of Ruston, State of Louisiana;” Defining the Boundaries Thereof From Which Area Local Sales Tax Increments will be Determined and Used to Finance Economic Development Projects in Accordance with and as Authorized by Part II of Chapter 27 of Title 33 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, as Amended; and Providing for Other Matters in Connection with the Foregoing

If citizens of Ruston want to speak up, the meeting is set for 5:30 PM, Monday, October 1, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.


Walker Details “Phase II” of Sports Complex @ Town Hall Mtg


At a town hall meeting at the Old Ruston Fire Station, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker yesterday afternoon detailed the second phase of the multisport complex now under construction in south Ruston. This phase is to be funded by a 1 3/4 cent sales tax on Ruston hotels, restaurants, and movie theaters.

The three basketball courts, combination VFW/Senior Center (about 3,000 sq ft), and water park will be located adjacent to the complex administration building, which was formerly the Campus Community Assembly of God church, said Walker. That building is now utilized by contractor Womack & Sons as their construction office.

“We expect it will be $11 to $12 million, but we’re not sure,” Walker said of the total cost.

He also said that he expected the addition will be paid off in seven years.

Walker touted the economic impact of the complex, saying it would dramatically increase hotel occupancy and restaurant business, with a corresponding increase in sales tax collections.

“The restaurants will go from $6.5 million a month in total sales, to $1.66 million additional to that. They (the hotels) will face a $1.22 million increase. A hundred percent increase,” Walker said. “Seventy five percent of the tax will be paid by those who come from out of town,” he added.

Walker also introduced the new director of the complex, Tamishia Motes.

One question from the audience was why was this tax not be voted on by the citizens, while the Moving Ruston Forward tax was.

“Anytime you do a tax, just like the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) we did for the shopping center, that was in an area where there were no residences. So hotels and restaurants are not residences. If there were residences, houses built around it, you would have to. If not, you don’t have to. It’s a city council vote,” Walker said.

Another question was why the the complex under construction cost so much more than originally estimated.

“The number we used was $20 (million). What I’ve found in four years is everything in government costs more. Yes, it’s costing more, but yes it’ll bring in tons more revenue,” Walker claimed.

The questioner persisted, “Why do we need another $1.75 per hundred. Surely we’ll have enough money coming in to pay for another $10 million.”

“Because there’s no money in the Moving Ruston Forward issue for that, we’re spending it on other projects. This is phase 2, which was not in the Moving Ruston Forward project,” Walker said.

Another questioner suggested that since other cities were building sports complexes, wouldn’t that present competition to the Ruston complex.

Walker: “There’s always that chance. We think because of the quality of what we’re going to have, we’ll get a lot of them.”

One question asked Walker did they ever consider putting the issue up for a citizen vote.

Walker said, “We did consider it, but state law says we don’t have to, so we didn’t.”

Ammonia Pipeline Update


Lincoln Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness For Information, Contact Kip Franklin, Director at 318-251-6454 or

Lincoln Parish, Ammonia Pipeline Leak

Lincoln Parish – September 21, 2018, 2:00 pm

Reporting on the Ammonia Pipeline Incident in Lincoln Parish. Louisiana

The State Police Emergency Services Division and Department of Environmental Quality personnel have cleared the incident scene at the ammonia pipeline. NuStar Pipeline officials continue making progress on repairs to the pipeline with hopes of completing the work on Saturday.

State police patrol units will keep La. Hwy. 822 closed from Bartlett Road to La. Hwy. 33 through the night and then open the road to through traffic at 8 am on Saturday morning, September 22nd.

Access to this section of La. Hwy. 822 is for LOCAL RESIDENTS ONLY, and no traffic will be allowed through the immediate work site until the road is opened on Saturday morning at 8 am. Lincoln Parish School Bus traffic will resume their routine routes on Monday, September 24th.


City of Ruston’s Debt Load Quadrupled From 2014 to 2017


The City of Ruston’s monetary debt payment requirements have increased 4 1/2 times the amount from just three years ago, audit documents show. And yet more money has been borrowed since the date of the last audit.

As of the end of the 2016-2017 fiscal year, over $112 million of principal and interest is owed through 2036, the 9/30/17 audit shows.

See here pages 53 and 54 of the document.

Most of the debt was incurred in two bond issues in 2016 and 2017. About $74 million was borrowed.

At the end of the 2013-2014 fiscal year, total principal and interest owed was a bit over $25 million.

Most of that borrowing was for water and sewer projects.

See here pages 53 and 54 of the 9/30/14 audit.

At the 9/10/18 meeting of the Board of Aldermen, approval was granted to borrow another $6 million for repairs and maintenance on the city’s northside sewer treatment plant.

And, if the council approves, another $10 million or so will be borrowed for the proposed Senior/VA center and gymnasium complex in South Ruston.

Repeat: Sumlin Case no Closer to Resolution


Former State Representative William Sumlin was in Third Judicial District Court yesterday afternoon in Ruston, but once again, a hearing on pending motions was delayed until November 20.

Sumlin was arrested in October, 2015 on a charge of indecent behavior with juvenile(s).

Presiding was Division B Judge Tommy Rogers.

LaValle Salomon represented Sumlin in court yesterday, and
Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones appeared for the state.

Salomon arrived in court at 2:30 PM, but his two cases weren’t heard until after 5 PM, immediately after a 45 minute recess.

So Where’s the Rest of that Ruston Hotel/Restaurant/Theater Tax Money Going?


One of the things learned at last Monday’s meeting of the Ruston City Council is that the proposed new sales/bed tax on local hotels, restaurants, and theaters is expected to collect about $1.75 million year from customers.

That money, Walker said, was to be used for construction of a senior/VA center, gymnasiums, and some sort of water park, to be built at the Sports Complex on South Farmerville. He also said bonds would be issued (a loan), and then paid back over time from the sales/bed tax income stream.

We can estimate costs from recent construction projects in the Lincoln Parish School District.

The Ruston High School Pep Squad building cost about a million dollars. So if Ruston builds three gymnasiums, triple that, to $3 million.

The Jimmy “Chick” Childress Field House cost about $3 million. A building of that size would be quite adequate for a senior/VA center.

For another three or four million, you should be able to build a first-class water park.

So that puts us up to around $10 million, not an insignificant amount of money. If that money is borrowed, we need to see what the payments will be.

Last year, the city borrowed $34 million at 3% for 17 years. We find those figures on page 52 of the city’s 9/30/17 audit.

We probably should assume the interest rate is a bit more than last year, so we’ll calculate $10 million at 3 1/2% for 17 years.

The annual amount that must be repaid is about $780 thousand/year.

See here the calculations.

That’s less than half the money that the proposed tax will collect. Where will the other million dollars/year go?

Lincoln Parish Police Jury/Tax Assessor at Odds on Building Tax


The Lincoln Parish Police Jury and the Lincoln Parish Tax Assessor had an intriguing disagreement at last night’s meeting of the jury.

It seems that Tax Assessor Sheila Bordelon levied ad valorem taxes on part of the old County Market building for the first time. Located just across West Texas Avenue from the court house, that building is occupied by several private businesses and also several government offices.

The property tax was to be levied only on the part of the building occupied by the business, but not the government offices. Bordelon’s logic was that since that part of the building rented to private companies doesn’t serve a “public purpose,” property taxes should be levied.

Bordelon noted that the private business already pay property taxes on their inventory and furnishings.

Once a year, the jury sits as a property tax board of review to either approve or disapprove any appeals any parish property owners may have on their tax assessments. Acting in that capacity, the jury voted to nullify the assessment on the old County Market building.

The vote was seven yeas and five abstentions. Voting for were: Bennett, Roberson, Hammonds, Pullen, Backus, Russell, and Straughter. Abstaining were: Wyatt, Mayfield, Hunter, Henderson, and Wilson.

In making the motion, Pullen argued that argued that the revenue from the leases did serve a public purpose.

Said Pullen, “The rent is being used to pay public bonds to service the indebtedness of the property. The revenue is serving a public purpose.”

Bordelon said that several City of Ruston properties were also being assessed, including a former church that is now being used by a construction company as an office.

Theresa Wyatt noted that since the issue was added to the agenda at the last minute, she would prefer studying the issue further.

However, since the review process had a deadline, the vote was taken.

It is unclear at this time if Bordelon will appeal to the Louisiana Tax Commission.

Earlier, the Finance Committee reviewed requests from area agencies for their annual budget requests.

Several agencies had representatives on hand making their case for funding.

The Public Works Committee made several changes to the parish building code ordinance.

Formerly, there was but a single parish Building Official who was responsible for inspection and approval of any new construction or remodeling outside Ruston’s city limits. The changes will allow others to act in that capacity.

State Police Commission Unloads on Ouachita School Board


Recall our news story last month on a 2017 incident between a Sterlington High School football coach and several students:

2017 Sterlington Coach Incident Revisited in LSP Hearing

As they promised, the Louisiana State Police Commission has sent a scathing letter to the Ouachita Parish School Board regarding the incident:

Mr. Jerry R. Hicks, President
Ouachita Parish School Board
100 Bry Street
Monroe, LA 71201

August 24, 2018

Dear Mr. Hicks:

The Louisiana State Police Commission sends this letter as an expression of its concern over the School Board’s hiring of Jack Goode to teach at West Monroe High School. The Commission was shocked to learn that the Ouachita Parish School Board continues to employ Jack Goode as a teacher, and that Mr. Goode continues to have power and authority over minors after abusing the trust that the citizens of this state have placed in their teachers.

On Thursday, August 9, 2018, the Louisiana State Police Commission held its monthly meeting in Monroe and heard the disciplinary appeal of Trooper Joseph Jones. Trooper Jones was disciplined for intervening in an investigation by the Ouachita Parish Sheriffs Department of Sterlington High School coach and teacher, Jack Goode. As you are aware Mr. Goode had served alcohol to or condoned the consumption of alcohol in his home by minors on the night of this incident, including to Trooper Jones’ sixteen-year-old son. Further, Mr. Goode had threatened and struck Trooper Jones’ son. Despite these extenuating circumstances and the fact that we thought Trooper Jones acted with greater restraint than many parents would have under the circumstances, we still thought discipline of the Trooper was in order for a violation of State Police policies. As such, we fulfilled our duty in imposing discipline. Yet, despite the horrendous conduct of Mr. Goode, we understand that he is still employed by the School Board and still has access to and authority over other minors in your school system.

Testimony at the hearing revealed that in April, 2017, Mr. Goode supplied teenagers with alcohol at his home, forced Trooper Jones’ son to drink vodka, causing him to throw up, called Trooper Jones’ son an expletive for initially refusing the vodka and for not being able to hold his liquor, struck Trooper Jones’ son about the face, neck, chest and back on at least two different occasions, and threatened to kill him. Mr. Goode’s wife, Emily Goode, a teacher at Sterlington High School, was at their home at this time. After the children escaped Mr. Goode’s home and returned to a party with a number of other teenagers, Mr. Goode went to the party and threatened all of the teencgers there until his wife was able to convince him to leave and she drove him back home. Further testimony also revealed that on other occasions Mr. Goode made some of the teenagers run errands for him during the school day and was apparently a known source of alcohol for the teenagers on his football team. Shockingly, we understand that Mr. Goode was allowed to plead guilty to simple battery of Trooper Jones’ son and the additional charge related to providing alcohol to the minors was dropped. Despite the facts in this case and the agreement that Mr. Goode would not return to Sterlington, he was hired to teach (and is currently teaching) at West Monroe High School.

This Commission is appalled that this School Board continues to employ Jack Goode in such a capacity after the events that occurred in April, 2017, and it continues to allow Mr. Goode to work as a teacher of minor children at West Monroe High School.

According to commission Executive Director Jason Hannaman, the letter was delivered to the school board yesterday (9/10), and was signed by all seven members of the commission.

New Ruston Taxes to Collect $1.75 Million/Yr


The new sales and bed taxes on Ruston restaurants, movie theaters, and hotels is expected to take up to $1.75 million per year from customers, it was said at last night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council. That money will be used for “economic development projects,” Mayor Ronny Walker said.

Said Walker, “We’re trying to replace the one gymnasium we have in our city… that’s the Bobby James Gym… so we’re trying to replace it with three new gyms in one complex at the RPAR Complex on 167 South. We also want to add a Senior Center… for our senior adults. The VFW building is literally collapsing… we would like the Senior Citizens Center and a VFW home.”

He added that two years ago, the public swimming pool was closed because it would have cost $2 million to repair. To replace the pool, some type of water park would be built if the tax passes, Walker said.

The council voted unanimously to authorize publication of a notice to proceed with the plan. A public hearing and final vote will be held at the November meeting, according to the documents.

In response to our question, Walker said that bonds would be issued to fund the projects, and paid off from the sales tax revenues.

At the Monday, 10/1 meeting of the council, a public hearing will be held to hear any objection to creation of the tax district. Approximately 110 businesses will be in the district and will be subject to the new tax.

In other business, the council gave final approval to the budget for fiscal year 10/1/18 – 9/30/19. The budget includes the pay raises for the mayor and council.

The council voted unanimously for the budget.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Meets Tomorrow


The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) will meet Tuesday, September 11, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Here are the meeting times and agendas:

Finance Committee – 6:00 PM

Public Works Committee – 6:30 PM

Police Jury – 7:00 PM