Archive for January, 2020

Milstead Relents on Dubach School Closure


Dubach School Gymnasium – Town Hall meeting Monday, January 27, 2020

Lincoln Parish School Superintendent Mike Milstead this morning messaged Dubach parents and wrote that the future status of Dubach School WILL NOT be on next week’s school board meeting agenda, and that the school will remain open for the foreseeable future.

Milstead’s action came after a boisterous “town hall” meeting with Dubach area parents and residents at the school’s gymnasium last night.

The crowd looked to be a hundred or so. Originally, the meeting was to be in the school cafeteria, but that soon proved to be too small.

Wrote Milstead:

Good morning, Dubach parents. This is Mike Milstead, Superintendent of Lincoln Parish Schools. I appreciate each of you that came to the community-school meeting last night, Monday, January 27th. I appreciate your passion for Dubach School. After being part of that meeting and listening to you,the Lincoln Parish School Board will NOT move forward with placing the future of the school on the next school board agenda. Dubach School will remain open for the foreseeable future. Let’s turn all the energy and enthusiasm for Dubach School into helping the school become the most successful school in the District.

During the meeting, Milstead indicated that it was the consensus of the district’s staff and the board members that the school should be closed after the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Budget constraints prompted the move, Milstead claimed.

“We’ll save $500 thousand per year. We in the school business need to balance our budget. In order to do this, then we have to make some changes,” he said.

He continued, “This board and I have talked over the last six, eight months about ways we could do things to balance the budget. This keeps coming up.”

The issue hasn’t been on the board’s agendas, nor has it been discussed in public meetings that we’ve attended over the past year.

We asked when it was discussed, and Milstead said, “One on one conversations that I can have with board members individually.”

Milstead was continually peppered with comments and questions from the audience. Typical of the questions was where were the school board members who would make the final decision, and why weren’t they at the meeting.

Milstead said that they had all been invited.

Two members were there, Mike Barmore (District Four) and Danny Hancock (District Five).

Another comment that received wide applause was the suggestion that students be bused from Ruston to Dubach in order to increase the enrollment at the smaller school.

Another issue that came up was the million dollar cheerleader building at Ruston High School, and the suggestion that if money is tight, how could that expenditure be justified.


Dubach School Days Numbered?


A letter distributed earlier this week to parents of Dubach School children has some people in North Lincoln Parish wondering if there’s a plan afoot to close the school completely.

The letter says District School Superintendent Mike Milstead “will discuss future opportunities for your child based on our current school score of ‘D’.”

See here the letter.

In 2016, grades 6, 7, and 8 were moved to I. A. Lewis and Ruston Junior High School. At that time, Milstead said there were no plans to close the school.

In 2013, Dubach High School students were moved to Ruston High School, and Hico Elementary School was closed.

Here’s that memo from 2013.

A meeting with parents is set for Monday, January 27, 6:00 PM at the Dubach School cafeteria.

Jurors Begin Search for More Money


While not openly supportive of new taxes for Lincoln Parish, it was clear at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) that the group will be moving chairs and turning over sofa cushions looking for every dime of revenue it can to fund operations.

Typical were remarks by District Five’s Logan Hunt regarding the property taxes that fund parish road construction and repair funds, and the periodic reassessment of property.

Asked Hunt, “Is there any mechanism for inflation or costs, as it pertains to these millage rates? Costs are going up – material costs, bridge costs. This mechanism has it to reset irregardless of the amount of property value going up.”

Parish Treasurer Holly Lowry said that you can “roll forward” the rate to the maximum rate allowed by law. She noted that if you do that, the jury will have to call a public hearing and requires a 2/3 vote to pass.

“By rolling forward, you are increasing taxes without voter approval,” she noted.

No doubt Hunt’s concern was prompted by a 2020 comprehensive budget summary that shows a $1.57 million deficit in the road construction fund.

See here the document.

District Six’s Glenn Scriber lamented that the $10 million Hospital Escrow Fund was only earning a little over $150 thousand a year in interest. Some of that interest has historically been used to supplement the road funds.

“It just seems like one could generate more revenue off $10 million,” said Scriber

Lowry said that state law dictated that the money could only be invested in CDs, US Treasury Bonds, and other similar investments.

“We can’t go out and buy Proctor & Gamble stock or Super One stock,” she said.

She also noted that the principal amount (the $10 million) can’t be used for any other purpose without a vote. That principal is reserved for repurchase of the hospital, a guarantee that was made when the hospital was sold in 1996.

“Any reallocation of those funds would have to go before the voters,” said Lowry.

Earlier in the budget discussion, Lowrey related that keeping the funds separate in accordance with governmental fund accounting was similar to how grain storage facilities keep different grains separate. The different funds are dedicated to specific purposes, usually spelled out when the tax was approved by the voters.

There was a bit of discussion of sales taxes and the upcoming May school board 1/2 cent tax hike vote.

Finally, the jury approved the the job description for Parish Administrator and Parish Treasurer.

Added to the language was the word “preferred” to the education requirements for both jobs, instead of the strict requirement for a business or public administration degree.

Local attorney Heath Hattaway had asked during the public comment period that the requirement be relaxed.

New Police Juror Marvin Franks Still not Sworn In


Newly elected Lincoln Parish Police Juror Marvin Franks (District Three) has still not taken his Oath of Office. He was not at last night’s special called meeting of the jury, nor did he attend at last week’s inaugural meeting of the new jury where all the members take their oaths.

Franks defeated incumbent Bobby Bennett and Nicky McCullin in last year’s elections.

Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones, who serves as legal advisor to the jury, said that Franks was issued his Commission of Office dated 1/13/20 and has 30 days from that date to take his oath.

Said Jones, “At this point he has not asked to take his Oath of Office. I believe there’s some issues with the National Guard that he is trying to get straightened out. Right now it’s in Mr. Frank’s court. If if he does not ask to be sworn in to take his oath within 30 days of January 13, the seat will be declared to be vacant.”

Asked about the nature of of National Guard issues, Jones said he wasn’t fully aware of what they were.

District Twelve’s Annette Straughter said, “Mr. Franks spoke to me before the meeting. He is planning to do that. He just has a few more loose ends to tie. But does plan to be a police juror.”

Parish Administrator Courtney Hall said that if the office is vacant, then the jury will have twenty days to appoint a temporary juror until a election can be held. He said that election could be deferred until a state-wide election is held, so as to not incur extra costs.

Sources have told Lincoln Parish News Online that Franks’ issue could involve a violation of rules similar to the Hatch Act, which prohibits some political activities for federal employees.

Department of Defense employees, including active duty military, are covered by DoD Directive 1344.10 which apparently prohibits seeking: A civil office in a State; the District of Columbia; a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States; or any political subdivision thereof.

4.2.2. A regular member, or a retired regular or Reserve Component member on active duty under a call or order to active duty for more than 270 days, may not be a nominee or candidate for the offices described in subparagraph 4.2.1., except when the Secretary concerned grants permission.

Franks is a Warrant Officer in the National Guard, is considered active duty, and might fall under that prohibition.

The jury also had a 1 1/2 hour review of budgeting, revenues, procedures, and expenditures. We will have additional reporting later.

Special LPPJ Meeting Tuesday


There will be a special called meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) Tuesday, January 21, 6:00 PM, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

On the agenda is consideration of job descriptions for the Parish Administrator and Parish Treasurer.

LPPJ Approves Tax Election


As expected, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury last night unanimously approved a Saturday, May 9 tax election to re-impose an expiring “structure fee” for the Lincoln Parish Fire Protection District No. 1.

Several members of the fire district board were at the meeting, and commissioner Richard Durrett noted, “The commission unanimously voted to ask the jury to approve the election. It’s not a new tax, it’s not an increase, it’s the same as it was.”

Here’s the proposition that will be on the ballot:

Shall Fire Protection District No. l of the Parish of Lincoln, State of Louisiana (the “District”), assess and collect an annual service charge of Seventy-Two Dollars ($72.00) from persons owning residential or commercial structures, whether occupied or unoccupied, located wholly or partly within the boundaries of the District, for a period of ten (10) years, beginning with the year 2021 and ending with the year 2030 (an estimated $600,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the service charge for an entire year), both years inclusive, for the purpose of paying the costs of fire protection services and emergency services in and for the District, including the cost of acquiring, operating and maintaining equipment and facilities necessary for such services, and, for purposes of assessing and collecting said service charge, owners shall be assessed a service charge for each such structure which they own, each residential or commercial unit in a structure shall be considered a separate structure and a mobile home, as defined in R.S. 9:1149.2(3), shall be considered a structure, all as provided in R.S. 40:1502.1?

A representative from QuickTrip stores gave a short presentation on their proposal to buy about 1/4 acre from the Lincoln Parish Library’s parking lot for construction of a facility on the South Service Road between Trenton and Vienna. About 27 library parking spots would be lost to the store.

He noted that typically their stores are considerably larger than a normal convenience store, about 4800 square feet, compared to a convenience store’s 1000 to 1500 sq ft.

The library’s board had voted in favor of pursuing the sale.

The jury unanimously approved soliciting an appraisal for the property.

Earlier in the meeting, the jury agreed to proceed with advertising and accepting applications for Parish Administrator, Parish Treasurer, and Registrar of Voters.

Administrator Courtney Hall had previously announced his intention to retire, and Treasurer Holly Lowry will be taking a position later in this spring with the Lincoln Parish Sheriff Tax Collection Office.

Lincoln Registrar of Voters Dianne Stone retired at the end of 2019.

Henderson, Hunt LPPJ President and VP


Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court Linda Cook administers Oath of Office to LPPJ members – 1/13/2020

Veteran Lincoln Parish Police Juror Joe Henderson (District Nine) was elected President of that body at last night’s meeting. He was nominated by Skip Russell (District Eight).

There were no other nominees.

Newcomer Logan Hunt (District Five) was elected Vice-President, and was nominated by Annette Straughter (District Twelve). No one else was nominated.

While there was no direct vote on the positions, there was a unanimous vote to close the nominations in both cases, 11 yeas, no nays, and one absent.

That one notable absentee was District Three’s Marvin Franks.

Franks won the position in a runoff against Nicky McCullin last November. Incumbent Bobby Bennett came in third in the October primary.

It is unclear when Franks will take the Oath of Office.

Henderson thanked his supporters and added, “I’m a stickler for the rules. I’m a sticker for the law. We going to do things right, by the rules, and by the law.”

He continued, “We need to all respect each other’s opinions. Just because I won’t agree, doesn’t mean I dislike you. We’re willing to work, we want to communicate. And we want to make sure everything is transparent.”

He quoted Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, “The needs of the many outweigh the wants of a few.”

Courtney Hall was unanimously re-appointed as Administrator, and Holly Lowry as Treasurer.

We will have additional reporting later on the remainder of the meeting.

LPPJ to Vote on Fire District Structure Fee Election


The newly reconstituted Lincoln Parish Police Jury will immediately face a tax election vote at its first meeting Monday (1/13/20) evening.

On the agenda is approving an election to re-impose an expiring “structure fee” of $72 per building that funds the Lincoln Parish Fire Protection District No. 1. The present levy expires at the end of 2020, and if approved, the fee would be extended for ten years, to 12/31/2030.

The proposed election date is Saturday, May 9, 2020.

See here the memo and resolution.

This will likely drive a larger turnout for another tax vote set for that date, a 1/2 cent parishwide sales tax hike for the Lincoln Parish School District.

Also on the agenda is a plan of action for several high-profile appointments that soon must be made.

Parish Administrator
Parish Treasurer
Registrar of Voters

The meeting will be at 5:30 PM, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Here’s the agenda.

RHS Band Building on Hold


In a move we don’t often see in the public meetings we cover, the Lincoln Parish School Board moved to amend its agenda at yesterday morning’s meeting. Unanimous agreement is required to amend an agenda after it is published prior to the meeting.

In making the motion to delete permission to bid construction of a band building at Ruston High School, District Three’s David Gullatt said, “I perceive that members of the school board, school employees, and other members of the community need more time to study a portion of the items addressed in (agenda item) 8.1.”

The relevant memo concerned construction of two buildings at RHS, a band building and an Eco Car building.

From the memo:

Preliminary plans for both the Ruston High Band Building and the Ruston High Eco Car Building were reviewed at an earlier School Board meeting. The architect and the engineer have now completed the construction documents for both buildings. Funds to pay for the Band Building will come from the Headstart insurance settlement fund. The majority of the funds for the Eco Car Building will come from the insurance carrier paying for the recent tornado damage. We are now ready to request permission to advertise for bids on these projects.

District Nine’s Lynda Henderson seconded the motion. It passed unanimously, with two members absent, Danny Hancock (District Five) and Otha Anders (District 10).

The Eco Car building was located near the football stadium, but will now be located near the Agriculture building. The budget is about $200 thousand, according to Construction Supervisor James Payton.

The band will continue to meet in the main building until the new building issues are resolved.

The board then proceeded to re-elect Joe Mitcham (District Six) as President, and Henderson as Vice-President.

During his report, Superintended Mike Milstead noted the retirement of long-time Lincoln ACHIEVE Coordinator Cathi Cox-Boniol after 33 years of employment.

LPNO readers will recall her work several years ago in implementing the New Tech program at Ruston High School.

2020 Census Needs Workers


The decennial US Census is underway, and the effort needs more people to help do the counting, Delores Smith told last night’s meeting of the Ruston Board of Aldermen. Smith, of Grambling, is heading up Lincoln Parish’s census operation.

Smith said the results of the count help determine legislative and congressional district boundaries, and allocation of state and federal funds that might come to the area. She added that Lincoln Parish had openings for 1100 temporary “enumerators” and that only about 350 had applied so far for the eight week job.

Said Smith, “They’re paying $14.50 an hour. It’s part time, temporary work. You go online and apply at 2020 They will train you how to do the job – they will pay you while they train you.”

The aldermen unanimously approved cooperative endeavor agreements with three agencies – Boys and Girls Club of North Central Louisiana, Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, and Dixie Center for the Arts.

Ward 4’s Jim Pearce asked if the city had any oversight of the agency’s finances. City Treasurer Laura Hartt said that reports were submitted and reviewed periodically.

Pearce noted that the agreement with the Dixie didn’t have that specified in the agreement, so it was agreed to add that provision and resubmit it at the next meeting.

Several properties, most in the area hit by the April tornado, were approved for addition to the property condemnation process.

Nasir Ahmed, owner of property on Minden Street, said he would like to have more time to make repairs, as he had limited capital.

City Inspector Bill Sanderson promised to work with Ahmed on the issue.