Archive for November, 2021

Detention Center Budgets Introduced

11/23/2021

Amended 2021 and proposed 2022 budgets were last Thursday introduced to the parish jail’s governing committee, the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission. That body is charged with overseeing the facility’s budget and operation. It is composed of two police jurors, the sheriff, the district attorney, and Ruston’s police chief.

Expenditures are predicted to increase almost $100 thousand, from $4.86 million in 2021 to $4.94 million in 2022.

Revenues are projected to decline from 2021’s $4.47 million to $4.38 million in 2022.

Warden Jim Tuten said that for 2021 the food costs increased.

“Our food costs are going up. It’s hard to lock in pricing on food. We anticipate that it will continue to go up,” he said.

Police Jury President Richard Durrett asked about the significant increase in personnel retirement costs, and Tuten said that the jail budget assumed all of those costs for 2021, part of which had formerly been paid by the sheriff’s office.

Tuten told the group that he plans to retire at the end of this year and that Assistant Warden J. D. Driskill will be taking his place.

Driskell said that the estimated fund balance at the beginning of 2022 should be $1.96 million.

A December 15 meeting and public hearing is set to finally adopt the budget. No one from the DA’s office was at last week’s meeting, nor the previous 9/30/21 meeting.

Jury dogged by Four Paws volunteers after meeting

11/17/2021

Several Four Paws Animal Rescue members scolded the Lincoln Parish Police Jury in an impromptu gathering after the official meeting had been adjourned, saying it was “unconscionable” that the jury cut funding for the group. The freewheeling discussion immediately followed comments during the meeting by jury administrator Doug Postel and Four Paws Director Sue Martin.

Postel said the jury continues to work with the sheriff on their comprehensive animal control plan for the parish.

Said Postel, “We’ve engaged in a new relationship with Simply Southern Rescue here in Ruston. Simply Southern is willing to work with us on a per animal basis. That fits into our comprehensive plan. At the same time we make that same offer to any animal rescue operations in the parish. We’re more than happy to work with them on a per animal basis.”

Martin was confined to a three-minute comment period, and addressed a prepared document that was provided by the jury administration.

Said Martin, “In 2016, we were going to build a shelter with the parish and the city and Four Paws. That never happened.”

She also addressed the claim that Four Paws had turned away animals from the parish. “I also need to address all of the things that Mr. (LPSO Deputy) Sasser has here. These animals were not brought to us. We have never, ever turned away an animal brought to us by Rob Sasser.”

Martin concluded, “Your comprehensive plan is sending animals to a kill shelter. We can do better than that.”

After Martin concluded, the meeting was adjourned and the crowd milled about talking to individual jurors. A consensus was arrived at to allow other individuals to speak informally.

Almost all the jurors were still in the room.

Judith Howard was first to speak.

“The primary goal seems to be just to get rid of the problem by sending all the dogs to Ouachita Parish where they have a 41% euthanasia rate. What I’m getting from this jury is that’s okay. It’s okay that you send them to another parish to get killed as long as you don’t have to deal with it. And I find that unconscionable.”

She added, “I don’t understand why we don’t have our own shelter in this parish, instead of dumping your problem, our problem on another parish. Does this jury have the funds to build a shelter?”

Juror Logan Hunt spoke up at this point, saying, “I’m open to partner to the city and try to get that project back online.”

Terry Nix passionately implored the jury to reconsider the de-funding decision.

Jane Jenkins commented that they jury should consider a spay/neuter ordinance, similar to what is under consideration in Caddo Parish.

Several jurors implied that some sort of compromise might be arrived at with Four Paws.

Said Skip Russell, “I think that a number of us would like to sit down with your board of directors and just let’s talk.”

Juror Glenn Scriber noted that no one from Four Paws was at the October budget discussions to make a presentation.

Martin said that she had in the past never been asked to do that, and was unaware that complete de-funding was being contemplated.

“As for the October meeting, I’ve never gone to an October meeting,” she said.

Someone in the audience commented that Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker should be a part of any discussion, as a $1.2 milliion animal shelter was a major component of his 2016 Moving Ruston Forward program. A 3/4 cent sales tax was approved by Ruston voters to fund the projects.

The next formal step in the process is a December 14 public hearing prior to a final vote to adopt all the police jury budgets for 2022.

That public hearing would be the last opportunity to make changes to what has been proposed.

Police Jury Meeting Tuesday

11/13/2021

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Tuesday, November 16, Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton.

Police Jury Special Meeting – 5:15 PM

Employee Recognition Committee – 5:30 PM

Public Works Committee – 6:00 PM

Police Jury Regular Meeting – 6:30 PM

2020 LPPJ Audit Cites Findings

11/08/2021

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury audit for calendar year 2020 was made public early this morning, and the report has several findings:

  • As of December 31, 2020, the bank statements had not been reconciled since March 2020, including the main operating account which is the pooled cash account for several of the Police Jury’s major funds.
  • The biweekly payroll transfers were not reconciled since May 2020. Also, the payroll transfers were not recorded since May 2020.
  • Numerous cash and checks were held in the Police Jury offices and not deposited for several weeks after receipt. In addition, multiple deposits were made with no backup or receipt. Cash was also deposited without the evidence of a count sheet.
  • During the audit, it was noted that the Treasurer’s office made purchases for office supplies and small office equipment circumventing the Purchasing department’s procedures. In several instances these purchased items were shipped to an address other than the Police Jury. The treasurer’s office purchased new office furniture without getting the approval of the Purchasing Director.
  • During the audit, it was noted that sales taxes collected on the revenue from RV spots had not been submitted nor had the sales tax reports been prepared since October 2020.
  • Funding from Rural Development for construction of the Detention Center Dormitory was delayed due to the annual certification process through the System of Awards Management not being performed.
  • During the 2020 year end audit, it was noted that the prior year audit adjustments had not been recorded.

In each case, management has acknowledged the problems and claims to have put into place procedures to prevent future issues.

See here the complete report.

The audit was performed by Monroe CPA William Hulsey, and dated September 27, 2021

School Tax Vote Set for next March

11/03/2021

An election to re-impose two expiring school property taxes has been set for Saturday, March 26, 2022, after the Lincoln Parish School Board voted unanimously at last night’s meeting for a resolution to that effect.

One 10 mil tax is for the entire parish, and is projected to collect about $4.8 million/year from property owners. The other 2.53 mil tax is for the Ruston School District only, and is estimated to collect about $800 thousand yearly.

The monies collected go toward operating and maintenance budgets of the district.

Business Manager Juanita Duke said, “The Ruston School District No 1 is mainly for utilities, and the parishwide millage helps to support operations for the school system, pay for health insurance costs, additional utilities, instructional materials and supplies, and purchase of school buses.”

See here the resolution and related documents.

Bond attorney Grant Schlueter from the NOLA law firm Foley & Judell was on hand to brief the board.

Duke also reported on sales tax collections for the month, and presented the board with the monthly financial report.

District Superintendent Ricky Durrett said that the cases of covid-19 continue to decline among the student population.

“Last week were at about we were about 23 kids out, right now we’re at 19, 14 exposures, and 5 positives. We’ve got about 5 kids coming back to school in the next two days. So that number is going down and is still continuing to go down, and going in a good direction for us,” he said.

Ruston Broadband Plans Proceed

11/02/2021

Plans to provide Ruston utility customers with broadband internet services are proceeding, with the city’s Board of Aldermen approving the hire of a local consulting company to assist.

Utilities Manager Andrew Halbrook told the council that Technology for Rural America, Inc had decades of experience in the field, most notably with the company’s president, Glen Post III. Post was for years Chief Executive Officer of CenturyLink (now Lumen Technologies), a Monroe, LA based telecommunications company.

Halbrook added that both state and federal grants for infrastructure were likely available.

Said Halbrook, “We thought it was in our best interests to find some experts who are very well versed in this technology. (They) are going to help steward us in the design of this infrastructure, as well as understanding information necessary for these funding opportunities, and any pr and public relations communications.”

Asked about the cost, Halbrook said that the contract was for $12 thousand/month, and that the terms would run on a month-to-month basis. About six to eight months was the expected timetable, he said.

Mayor Ronny Walker noted that the process will take time, due to the cumbersome process of grant applications.

Along with the consulting contract, the council approved a franchise agreement with Southern Light, LLC to construct and maintain a fiber-optic line within city right-of-ways.

In other business, an ordinance was introduced to authorize the borrowing of $27 million, and the issuance of bonds to repay the debt.

This will replace an existing bond debt that was originally for $32 million, and has been paid down to the $27 million figure. The refinanced debt is expected to be at a lower interest rate, Walker said.

Lincoln Parish School Board Meets Tuesday

11/01/2021

The Lincoln Parish School Board will have its regular monthly meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, November 2) at 6:00 PM, Lincoln Parish STEM Center, 525 Tarbutton Road.

Here’s the agenda.