Archive for February, 2019

Lincoln Parish Court House Repairs Underway

02/13/2019

Employees and citizens who use the Lincoln Parish Court House have about two more weeks before renovations are completed to the main elevator. Also, bids will soon be solicited to partially re-roof the building.

The discussion and action was part of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury’s Public Property and Buildings Committee meeting last night.

Parish Administrator Courtney Hall said about the elevator repairs, “They’re probably 98% completed. Everything’s going to be electronic – state of the art. Prepare to be surprised.”

As for the roof, Hall added, “If you’re going to rehabilitate the building, you need to make sure the exterior of the building is sealed. We have an estimate from a roofer – it’s about $375 thousand.”

Theresa Wyatt (District One) made a motion to solicit bids for the project.

During the full jury meeting, action was taken to contract with the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office for courthouse security. Two deputies will man the first floor entrance on West Texas during business hours.

On hand to lobby for the plan were Judges Tommy Rogers and Jeff Robinson. Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court Linda Cook was also present.

The jury also ratified Monday night’s committee action and appointed Holly Lowry as Parish Treasurer.

After the business matters were dispensed with at the Public Works Committee meeting, an interesting discussion broke out regarding rural water districts and the ongoing Sparta Aquifer issue.

Recently it was revealed that the Fellowship Water System south of Simsboro is only metering 20% of the water being drawn out of the aquifer. The rest, 80%, is lost to line leakage.

The operators are attempting to obtain grant funding to make repairs to the system.

Lincoln Parish has 20 water systems that draw water from the Sparta, which covers 16 parishes in North Louisiana.

Historically, the emphasis of water conservation has been geared toward the individual (lawn watering, car washing, toilet valve leaks, etc), while the issue of distribution system problems has been neglected.

That issue has been mentioned in the last several Sparta Commission meetings that we’ve attended.

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LPPJ Committee Makes Recommendation for Treasurer

02/12/2019

Holly Lowry is one step closer to being name Parish Treasurer after the Lincoln Parish Police Jury Personnel/Benefits Committee unanimously recommended her for the job.

Lowry has been the interim Treasurer since last summer.

Readers will recall that at last month’s jury meeting, Lowry was nominated, but it was decided to open the position for applications, advertise, and have the committee review and make recommendations.

Lowry was the only applicant.

Annette Straughter (District 12) moved, “I make the motion that we approve the application that we have, considering that this person has already been so gracious in being our (interim) Parish Treasurer.”

The full jury will act on the recommendation at tonight’s meeting.

The committee also heard from two representatives of Diversity One Staffing, a firm that had been hired to recruit candidates for the position of Assistant Parish Administrator.

Staffing Specialist Cathy Rogers presented resumes from five applicants that met the qualifications for the job. From those applicants, interviews will be conducted, it was said.

The action items came after a two-hour long executive session held to consider a grievance by a parish employee who didn’t receive a promotion he thought was due him.

After the session, the committee voted unanimously to deny the grievance, and leave the employee in his present position.

Two Meeting Dates This Week for LPPJ @ Library Events Center

02/10/2019

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury’s committee meetings will be spread across two days this week, with one committee meeting on Monday, February 11, and three on Tuesday, February 12.

The full jury will meet Tuesday.

Also, the meetings will be held at the Lincoln Parish Library’s Events Center, 910 North Trenton, due to elevator repairs at the Lincoln Parish Court House.

Monday, February 11

Personnel/Benefits Committee – 5:30 PM
Agenda

Tuesday, February 12

Marketing & Public Relations Committee – 5:30 PM
Agenda

Public Property & Buildings Committee – 6:00 PM
Agenda

Public Works Committee – 6:30 PM
Agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM
Agenda

LPSB Audit Shows No Issues

02/06/2019

The latest audit for the Lincoln Parish School District was an “unmodified opinion,” it was reported at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board.

The district’s financial statements showed no material misstatements. Simply put, you can believe the numbers that the district’s business department reports.

Margie Williamson, Audit Manager of Allen, Green & Williamson also noted that the report for the period ending 6/30/18 had no findings.

“Our opinion is an unmodified opinion, without any exceptions. That means that the financial statements as presented are fairly stated, without any exceptions. That is the best opinion you can get on your financial statements,” Williamson said.

In other business, the board heard several monthly reports, including personnel, sales taxes, financial, and health plan.

Mayor Changes Council Meeting Format

02/05/2019

Claiming advice from the City Attorney, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker said at last night’s meeting of the city’s Board of Aldermen that he would no longer answer questions from the floor during public discussion. Comments would be allowed, but no questions would be answered, he said.

Said Walker, “Over the last few years of my administration, I have allowed people to ask questions, and I’m constantly reminded by our legal counsel that we are not supposed to do that – that is a comment. So, it will be comments in the future under my administration.

“My cell number is 278-9701 – I think everybody in the city probably has that. Our department heads and myself are always available to answer questions before the city council meetings, afterwards, or during the month, either way. Please understand that when we get to those times it is comments only.”

We have a definitive answer on what taxes are underwriting the proposed $20 million borrowing that the city is proposing.

BOTH the 1.75% sales tax enacted late last year by the council, AND the 3/4 cent sales tax approved in 2016 will be used to pay off the debt and interest.

City Treasurer Laura Hartt said in her report that:

“This resolution authorizes Economic Development District No 1 of the City of Ruston to proceed with obtaining approval from (LA State) Bond Commission to issue the $20 million of sales tax revenue bonds for a term of 10 years, which will be secured by the 1.75 sales tax that was recently authorized to be levied and collected within this district.

“Because this is a new sales tax levy with no history of collections, the bond will be secured additionally by a portion of the 2016 3/4 cent sales tax.

“The stated purpose of the bonds is to pay the cost of any economic development project located within the district, including without limitation, public works and infrastructure projects to promote economic development in the district.

“Specifically, the funds will be used to expand the Ruston Sports Complex to include a splash pad, senior center, and indoor sports facility as previously discussed.”

In response to a comment from Ruston resident Mike Froelich, Walker said that the 10 year/$20 million term of the bond matched the expected revenue from the 1.75% restaurant/hotel sales tax over that same time period.

Alederman Jim Pearce asked if the total $20 million would be borrowed. Hartt said, “Correct. The bond paperwork reads that way because that’s what the tax would bear. It doesn’t mean we have to spend that much or go for that much.”

“But we could do a lesser amount?” asked Pearce.

Said Walker, “Yes.”

When the plan was first revealed last September, Walker said the tax would collect $1.75 million/year from dining patrons and hotel guests. Over ten years, that would amount to $17.5 million, not the $20 million figure claimed last night.

The resolution applying for bond commission approval was passed unanimously. The accompanying ordinance was introduced, and will be up for final approval at the next council meeting.

The council also approved a resolution approving property acquisition adjacent to the Ruston Airport.

Plans are to extend the runway, necessitating relocation of LA Hwy 146. The property purchases are for the highway’s right-of-way.

Pearce asked if the funding was from the Federal Aviation Administration, to which Assistant Public Works Director John Freeman said the airport expansion was funded by the FAA and the Louisiana Department of Transportation, but the road relocation was a City of Ruston capital project.

Asked how much, Freeman said that was estimated to be $2 million. Walker said that about $5 million was budgeted each year for capital projects.

Lincoln Parish School Board Tomorrow

02/04/2019

The Lincoln Parish School Board will meet Tuesday, February 5, 6:00 PM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

Here’s the agenda.

Clarification on Ruston Borrowing

02/02/2019

We have some clarifications to make on yesterday’s story about Ruston’s upcoming $20 million bond offering.

The bonds will be secured by a portion of the revenue of the 3/4 cent sales tax approved by voters in 2016, and not the 1.75% restaurant/hotel tax enacted by the council last year.

Also, the proceeds from the borrowing are to be used for:

…paying the costs of any economic development project located within the District, as such costs are defined in La. R.S. 33:9038.36, including, without limitation, public works and infrastructure projects to promote economic development in the District;

The monies are not dedicated to Phase II of the Sports Complex. That project would likely require another bond issue.

Ruston to Borrow another $20 Million

02/01/2019

Ruston’s long-term debt load will increase by $20 million, if an ordinance that will be introduced at Monday’s meeting of the Ruston Board of Aldermen is enacted.

The debt’s interest and principal will be paid from the proceeds of the recently enacted 1.75% sales tax on restaurants and hotels.

The borrowed money is for projects related to the sports complex now under construction on South Farmerville Street.

See here the proposed ordinance.

Another agenda item is an amendment to the restaurant/hotel tax district that adds several new businesses and deletes two that have either relocated or closed.

See here the proposed amendment.

The meeting is set for 5:30 PM, Monday, February 4, at Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the complete agenda.