Archive for March, 2020

Chris Hyde Appointed Parish Treasurer

03/31/2020

Christopher Hyde was last night appointed Parish Treasurer on an 11-1 vote by the Lincoln Parish Police Jury. The single no vote was from District One’s Theresa Wyatt.

For the first time in memory, all twelve jurors teleconferenced for the meeting, and had their conversation broadcast over the internet via the jury’s Facebook page. Several jury staffers were at the jury offices, along with the treasurer candidates being interviewed.

The vote came after a 55 minute executive session where the jurors discussed among themselves the applicant’s qualifications. Parish Administrator Courtney Hall suggested that due to the awkward meeting circumstances the jurors needed to “arrive at a consensus” on their pick in the executive session before voting in public.

Hyde, a LA Tech accounting graduate, listed as his governmental experience over 5 1/2 years with the City of West Monroe, and also 3 years of governmental auditing experience.

Hyde now operates an accounting/tax firm in Ruston.

In his interview, Emmett Gibbs cited his 43 years of governmental accounting and auditing experience. Asked what he thought was his greatest accomplishment, he said when he was able to get the City of Ruston’s yearly audit to a point where there were no findings.

Nettie Russell, who had previously applied for the job, said she wanted to work closer to home. She is presently employed as a school principal in another school district. She cited her experience at the LA Tech controller’s office and at the Jackson Parish School Board.

In other business, the jury unanimously approved a $200 thousand bid from Quik Trip stores for a 1/4 acre parcel of land carved out of the Lincoln Parish Library and Events Center parking lot. That was the only bid, and was higher than the $185 thousand appraisal.

Treasurer Holly Lowry sounded a note of caution about two jury funds – Solid Waste and Detention Center – that are primarily funded by sales taxes. With most of the areas restaurant and hotel business on hold, those funds will see much reduced revenue, she said.

LPPJ to Meet Via Teleconference Monday

03/27/2020

For the first time ever, a local governing body will meet via teleconferencing with the meeting live streamed over the internet.

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Monday, March 30, 5:30 PM on the jury’s Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/LincolnParishPoliceJury/

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet via teleconference Monday, March 30, 2020 at 5:30 P.M. Pursuant to the Governor’s Proclamation Number JBE2020-30 allowing attendance at essential governmental meetings via telephone or video conference the Lincoln Parish Police Jury hereby certifies that this public body will otherwise be unable to operate due to quorum requirement in compliance with LA R.S. 42:19. The meeting will be live streamed on the Lincoln Parish Police Jury Facebook page. The Courthouse shall remain closed to the public and the public must participate via this alternate method. Agenda will be posted on the Police Jury’s website. Members of the public may send any public comments they have via email on or before March 30, 2020 at 5:30 PM to lppjcomments@lincolnparish.org.

Among the agenda items are interviews with the three candidates for Parish Treasurer.

See here the complete agenda.

NOLA City Layoffs Coming – We Told You So

03/18/2020

Coronavirus response to leave ‘gigantic hole’ in New Orleans economy; Cantrell weighs layoffs

New Orleans Times-Picayune
Tuesday, March 17, 2020 – BY ANTHONY MCAULEY | Staff writer

The coronavirus outbreak and the efforts to slow its spread are set to levy a massive toll on the New Orleans economy, with the hospitality sector already seeing a sharp downturn in business and officials warning about likely cuts to city government.

Some New Orleans hotels are down to skeleton staffs amid the cancellations of conventions and events. Shuttered bars and restaurants that are now take-out only are being forced to lay off workers. And on Tuesday, while announcing that the city would allow business owners to delay sales tax payments, members of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration said layoffs and furloughs of city workers may be coming.

“If we don’t make some of these important and drastic decisions now, it’s going to hurt us much more in the future,” said Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño, noting that the coronavirus response has already cost the city $1.5 million.

Congressman Clay Higgins Pushes Back Against Mindless Hysteria

03/18/2020

https://www.facebook.com/CongressmanClayHiggins/

Congressman Clay Higgins
March 16 at 6:53 PM ·

Louisiana, I respect our Governor, and I advise everyone to take Coronavirus seriously, exercise prudent measures to protect yourself and your family, and respond to COVID19 with appropriate adjustments to your life in every way.

However… I most certainly oppose overly extreme measures dictated by Executive Gubernatorial proclamation that will 100% injure every Louisiana working class family and citizen. It is beyond comprehension that anyone would burn their home to the ground in order to kill termites.

Louisiana is your State. Your business is your business. Your family is your family.

I’m not sure where this thing goes, and I do indeed respect our Governor… but I do know that law abiding citizens, Louisiana families, and Louisiana business owners are not stupid… and BR is not brilliant.

We, the People.
Think about it.

Local Government Layoffs Soon?

03/17/2020

Unlike the Federal Government, The State of Louisiana and local governments cannot print money. They must rely on current revenues to meet expenses.

Lincoln Parish local budgets, with which we are intimately familiar, rely on sales taxes for a large percentage of revenue. The City of Ruston, in particular, funds all of the new 1.5% tax on restaurants and hotels.

With Gov. John Bel Edwards order shuttering restaurants all across the Bayou State, he has vaporized a huge revenue stream for local and state governments. Tourism will go away in the blink of an eye.

The largest expense component for government is payroll, in some cases making up 85% of expenses.

Many teachers probably thought closing the schools would amount to a month-long paid vacation. They perhaps should spend their time updating their resumes.

Used to be, having a government job was seen as having a lifetime guarantee of employment. You had to really mess up to get fired. Great retirement and medical benefits, too.

That hayride is about to end.

Local District Courts Partially Close

03/17/2020

Late yesterday, an order was issued closing some of the Third Judicial District Court’s operations, effective immediately, until April 10.

All criminal and civil jury trials are continued. Criminal initial and bond appearances will be held, but will use video conferencing whenever possible.

Civil hearings and appearances are continued, with some exceptions (interdictions, emergency child custody, protective orders).

The courthouse will remain open, subject to some restrictions. That include anyone who has traveled to several foreign countries within the past 14 days, anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, under quarantine, or exhibiting symptoms of the illness.

See here the complete document.

Special Called School Board Meeting

03/17/2020

Today, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 10:00 AM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

NEW BUSINESS
4.1 Adoption of a Resolution to Declare State of Emergency Regarding the Governor’s Proclamation to Close all Louisiana Schools – Mike Milstead

REPORTS
5.1 Update on the current status of school closures – Mike Milstead

House of Raeford gets Tax Break

03/11/2020

Last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury saw quite a bit of discussion about a proposed property tax break for a $39 million House of Raeford feed mill now under construction near Simsboro.

The tax abatement would exempt the company from an estimated $3 1/2 million in local property taxes over the 10 year life of the deal. The 80% exemption would have the company still paying about $875 thousand over the ten years.

Here are the application documents.

Feed Mills Operations Manager Jeremy Paul said the plant would add 13 new jobs to the area, in addition to the 2 dozen or so jobs that now work at the Choudrant feed mill. The new Simsboro plant will replace that facility which has been in operation for some 50 years, Paul said. The new plant will have double the capacity, about 12 thousand tons/wk, he added.

The plant is expected to be in production in the spring of 2021.

District Eight’s Skip Russell said that since construction had already started, the tax exemption would have no effect on the Raeford’s plans. Besides, the jury will need the money to replace the oil/gas severance tax shortfall.

Said Russell, “Given our financial situation, I just have a hard time approving that.”

District Twelve’s Annette Straughter agreed with Russell, and they both voted against the tax break.

Arguing for the tax break, District Five’s Logan Hunt said that “Lincoln Parish is open for business” and should provide incentives for businesses to locate here. Others noted that the jury needed to be consistent on the issue, and had granted the exemptions in the past.

The final vote was 8-2-1, with Russell and Straughter the two no votes, and District Eleven’s Sharyon Mayfield abstaining. District Ten’s Milton Melton was absent.

The Lincoln Parish School Board will next consider the break.

During the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Committee meeting, the Ruston/Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau managed to negotiate a $100 thousand cut from hotel/motel bed tax monies that had been dedicated to the Lincoln Parish Park.

For the 2020 budget year, $162 thousand was earmarked for the park.

The new cooperative endeavor agreement approved last night cuts that annual appropriation to $50 thousand/year, with the agreement terminating 12/31/2027.

To make up for that cut, the committee voted to increase the entrance fee from $2 to $3 per person, the tent rental from $17 to $25, and the RV campsite rental from $25 to $35. Other fee increases are being contemplated for 2021, it was said.

The fee increases take effect immediately.

The Public Works Committee approved several requests from area municipalities for assistance in cleaning ditches and filling potholes.

See here the requests.

There was a bit of discussion at the end of the meeting about the upcoming annual meeting this July of the National Association of Counties in Orlando, FL. The jury’s travel budget has $6 thousand remaining for the year, it was noted.

Also, several residents of District Ten, in the area between Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and East Tennessee Avenue spoke to the jurors about a dumpster that had been removed and was causing a hardship to some residents. The presented a petition signed by about 30 residents asking that it be put back in place.

Police Jury Meets Tomorrow

03/09/2020

The regular monthly meeting (2nd Tuesday of the month) of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury will be tomorrow (Tuesday, March 10) at the Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Committee meetings begin at 5:30 PM, with the Park, Recreation and Tourism Committee. The Public Works Committee follows at 6:00, and the full jury at 7:00 PM.

Here are the agendas.

One notable item is consideration of adjustment in the land use and campground fees at the Lincoln Parish Park.

Sharon Parnell Appointed Registrar of Voters

03/04/2020

Acting Lincoln Parish Registrar of Voters Sharon Parnell was last night appointed to that job by a unanimous vote of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury, after an hour-long interview process, and another illegal executive session of the body.

Last night’s meeting heard from the four applicants for the job – Parnell, Vanna Sasser, Bethany Collie, and Dustin Hampton.

Jury Personnel Director LaTonya Lacey asked each of them several questions: Why are you interested in the position, what do you understand the duties to be, what uniquely qualifies you for the position, describe experience in budget preparation and administration, what resources would you rely on to stay current, what do you see as the biggest challenge, salary expectations, availability, and why you are the best candidate.

Juror Theresa Wyatt asked each of them about their plans to facilitate registration throughout the parish.

Parnell touted her experience.

“I have worked in the registrar’s office for fourteen years. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown a lot. The reason that I would like to apply for the registrar’s position, you know, I truly love what I do,” she said.

Sasser said she was a fast learner.

“I learn very quickly, I’m great with number, and I have good attention to detail,” she said.

Collie said she is a Lincoln Parish native, as is her family, and that part of her present job in the clerk’s office is dealing with local elections.

“From working in the clerk’s office, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also built relationships with many members of the Secretary of State’s Office that come in during election season. I’ve used their system,” she noted.

Hampton answered Wyatt’s question about registration efforts.

“I would love to institute, if given this opportunity, mobile voting registration. One day we have a mobile unit in Dubach, one day in Simsboro, one day in South Ruston,” he said.

Hampton said that he had seventeen years experience in the Jackson Parish Clerk of Court office, much of it in elections. He still does information technology consulting work for them, he said.

The jurors were given a rating sheet to score each of the applicants in the different areas.

In making the executive session motion, juror Logan Hunt did cite the proper statute and the requirement for notification of the interviewees 24 hours prior to their interview, but the prohibition “However, nothing in this Paragraph shall permit an executive session for discussion of the appointment of a person to a public body…” was ignored.

After a 15 minute closed session, the jurors voted unanimously on a motion by Hunt to appoint Parnell.

The pay issue is actually set by the legislation that created the office, LA RS 18:55.

The Lincoln Parish job will pay $64,188/yr plus benefits for the first year. Included in the pay schedule are 3% (approximately) raises for each of twelve consecutive years. Additionally, the position is eligible for any cost-of-living increases awarded to state employees.