Archive for the ‘City of Ruston’ Category

Phase II of Sports Complex to Begin Construction

07/07/2020

Lincoln Builders will soon start construction of Phase II at the Ruston Sports Complex, after the City Council last night approved a proposal for a $12 million, 80 thousand sq ft activity center. Administrative Services Director Jay Ellington said the center would have six gymnasium floors, a meeting room, offices, concessions, and restrooms.

“It will be a twelve month construction, as planned currently,” he said.

Ellington said the contract used the Construction Management at Risk (CMAR) process, which solicits proposals from contractors using general guidelines, rather than a formal bid process with detailed plans and bid specifications. After the contractor is selected, the two parties negotiate a not-to-exceed price.

Recent state legislation lowered the threshold for CMAR projects from $25 million to $5 million.

“We had four proposed to us, and we worked our way and graded each of them. We selected Lincoln Builders in that process. Since then (architect) Mike Walpole, myself, and Lincoln Builders have been working through the guaranteed maximum price for this contract,” Ellington added.

The aldermen also approved an ordinance that will increase the city’s base rate electric charge by 1/2 cent per kilowatt hour (KWH).

Public Works Director Darrell Caraway said that a recently renegotiated contract for wholesale power will more than offset the base rate increase. The first full month of the new contract was June, 2020, he said.

“It shows a 1.2 cent per kilowatt reduction to the customers,” said Caraway.

Caraway said that several needed projects will be funded with the money, including upgrading street lights and substation control system improvements.

Finally, a Federal Aviation Administration grant was accepted to fully fund a project to lengthen the runway of the city’s airport by 1000 feet, from 5 thousand to 6 thousand.

The project will have a total cost of about $3.5 million.

Ruston City Council Monday

07/05/2020

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, July 6, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

RPD Officer Josh Aldridge Recognized @ Council Meeting

06/02/2020

Mayor Ronny Walker, RPD Officer Josh Aldridge, RPD Chief Steve Rogers

“I tell officers all the time, If you can save one life in your career, it’s worth the career.” So said Ruston Police Department (RPD) Chief Steve Rogers at last night’s meeting of Ruston’s Board of Aldermen.

Rogers was there to recognize RPD Officer Josh Aldridge, who by his quick action saved a young man’s life last March.

Reading from a letter of commendation, Rogers said the 15 year-old fell through a window at a West California Ave. business, resulting in a severe leg laceration.

“Officer Aldridge recognized the imminent threat for loss of life. Officer Aldridge made the quick decision to utilize the tourniquet on his person to aid the boy, and applied it to his upper leg,” read Rogers.

After being airlifting to LSUS, the youth was successfully treated.

Continued Rogers, “His immediate recognition of the severity of the medical emergency and his quick decision to apply the tourniquet resulted directly in saving the life of the boy. A failure to act, or any delay in his actions could have led to a tragic outcome.”

During the business part of the meeting, Heard, McElroy & Vestal’s Jerrod Tinsley reported on the city’s 10/1/19 – 9/30/19 fiscal year audit.

He said the city had an unmodified, or “clean” audit, and that there were no findings.

City Treasurer Julie Keen reported on the sales tax collections for the month of April, 2020. Total collections were $1.24 million, about $146 thousand less than the same month last year. The hotel/restaurant portion of the total tax take was $99 thousand, about $52 thousand less than last year.

Keen said the collections were not as bad as feared. That area restaurants were able to do a significant take-out business during Gov. Bel Edwards’ economic lockdown helped tax collections, it was said.

Finally, an ordinance was introduced that would, if adopted, change the rate schedule for the city’s electricity customers. The city owns and maintains the distribution system (poles, lines, meters, transformers, etc), and buys and then resells the power.

See here the proposed ordinance.

Ruston City Council Monday

05/31/2020

Ruston’s City Council will meet Monday, June 1, 5:30, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Walker: “Shop Ruston & Lincoln Parish First”

05/19/2020

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker ended last night’s meeting of the Board of Aldermen with a plea for everyone to shop locally and to frequent the area’s eating places.

Said Walker, “Remember to shop our restaurants…we need to do more of shopping Ruston and Lincoln Parish first.”

He added that anyone contemplating voluntary medical procedures should consider Lincoln General Hospital, as it was one of the best facilities in the state.

One of the unforeseen effects of the Covid-19 panic has been that many people have foregone elective surgeries and regular doctor visits. That has resulted in significant job losses among medical personnel around the country.

Walker’s remarks followed City Treasurer Julie Keen’s report on the city’s finances.

Keen reported that the total March sales taxes decreased about $147 thousand, and the hotel/restaurant tax decreased about $50 thousand, or about 28%. That tax is the funding source for the bonds used to build phase II of the sports complex.

She noted that the April sales tax figures would likely be even lower.

Earlier in the meeting, the council adopted a revised penalties and violations amendment to the city’s code of ordinances.

See here the document.

Ruston City Council Monday

05/15/2020

The Regular/Special Meeting of the Board of Aldermen of the City of Ruston, Louisiana will be held on Monday, May 18, 2020, at 5:30 p.m. at the Council Chambers/Courtroom at Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Here’s a notice posted on the city’s website:

In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, comments from the public on Agenda items by persons who do not attend the meeting in person may be made prior to the meeting by email to astegall@ruston.org by 3:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting or at the meeting. Social distancing will be utilized at the meeting, and City personnel will wear masks or face coverings. Members of the public attending the meeting are also encouraged to wear masks or face coverings.

Lincoln Parish Sales Tax Collections Fall

05/03/2020

Local governments that depend upon sales taxes to fund their operation and pay employees are in for a rough time over the foreseeable future, according to newly compiled figures that track those numbers.

Sales tax collections for March, 2020 are about 12 1/2% lower than for the same month of 2019, $3.88 million vs $4.44 million.

Particularly hard-hit are the hotel/motel tax (down 57.8%) and the Village of Choudrant (down 40.7%).

As the hotel/motel tax is the primary source of income for the Ruston/Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, that agency will likely have to effect changes in how money is spent.

Here is the complete spreadsheet.

Figures for March, 2020 reflect that month where the ‘economic shutdown’ began, at about the middle of the month. April, 2020 figures can be expected to show a greater loss, as the shutdown was in force for the entire month.

February, 2020 tax collections broken down by industry groups showed weakness in Oil & Gas (down 77.5%), Eating & Drinking Places (down 7.5%), and Hotel and Other Lodging Places (down 28%).

See here the complete list.

When do the Politicians Take a Pay Cut?

04/15/2020

Over the last six weeks, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of those have been our fellow Louisiana citizens.

As we had predicted, local governments have begun to trim their payrolls, because their tax revenues have been vaporized by shutdowns. School districts, police juries, and cities have furloughed employees.

Have any local politicians volunteered to cut his/her pay? Very few, if any.

In any of the last month’s public meetings we’ve been to, or watched online, never has that subject come up.

City councils? Police jurors? School board members? Judges? District attorneys? Senators? Representatives? Sheriffs?

So when will our “public servants” show they are really willing to share the pain that the people who pay their salaries are now enduring?

Ruston City Council Meets on Facebook

04/07/2020

The Ruston City Council, like the Lincoln Parish Police Jury last week, met remotely for the first time ever last night, via a live Facebook internet feed.

At City Hall for the meeting were Mayor Ronny Walker, Carolyn Cage (Ward 1), and Bruce Seigmund (Ward 5). Also present were several city staffers. Phoning in to the meeting were Angela Mayfied (Ward 2), Jedd Lewis (Ward 3), and Jim Pierce (Ward 4).

A live camera focused on the council meeting table during the broadcast.

Much of last night’s hour-long meeting was discussion about a house located at 905 South Maple that had been severely damaged in last April’s tornado.

Bill Sanderson, Code Enforcement, recommended that the owner be given 30 days to bring the structure up to code, or the city will demolish it.

The property owner, Joseph Svetlecic, commented via Facebook that he had volunteers that were willing to help him rebuild.

Seigmund, within whose district the house is located, asked for a 60-day timetable.

Asked Seigmund, “If we gave them 60 days, and he was able to make some progress… we could give them more time?”

Other aldermen said that the owner has had almost a year to work on the property, but had done nothing. Walker agreed, noting that the property was in a subdivision.

Segimund moved to give the owner 90 days, but no one seconded. The motion for a 30-day timetable was passed on a 4-1 vote, with Seigmund voting no.

Earlier in the meeting, the board approved a $128 thousand project to renovate an office building at the sports complex for the Senior Center and VFW meeting hall. Walker said the money for the project had been appropriated prior the current emergency, and the bid process was underway. Other projects have been put on hold, he said.

Prior to the meeting’s adjournment, Walker asked for continued prayer to help with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I ask you to continue to pray for our city, our state, our nation, and our world. Because there is only one answer to any of this, and that’s through God.”

The videos of the meeting are archived here.

Court Machinery Seizes Up – Money Flow Stops

04/06/2020

Three weeks ago we predicted that local government layoffs would result from Gov. Bel Edwards order to shut down the state to all but “essential” activities, and the resultant collapse in sales tax revenues.

It happened more quickly than even we had expected.

Last week, The City of Ruston’s entire 300 person workforce was affected, with layoffs, furloughs, and pay and overtime cuts.

See here Nancy Bergeron’s “City Enacts Layoffs, Cutbacks in Face of Virus” in the 4/5/20 Ruston Daily Leader.

Now another segment of government has seen much of its revenue vanish overnight – the state’s court system.

We saw an online posting this morning that suggested that all Louisiana’s indigent defenders were being laid off and they had been directed to apply for unemployment benefits.

That report is NOT accurate.

We checked with sources that have knowledge of the matter, and were told that indeed SOME of the state’s Indigent Defender Board (IDB) districts were in trouble and might have to furlough some employees.

Recall that three weeks ago, courts across the state shuttered for all but “essential” business.

The problem is when there’s no court, there are no fines, court costs, and fees coming in.

The local Third Judicial District Indigent Defender Board audit shows they have a fund balance that should last them to the end of the fiscal year (6/30/20), but since almost all their revenue (about $900 thousand/year) comes from fines and court costs, that is a temporary situation.

We checked on how much this revenue source funded other courthouse crowd entities, and here’s what we found.

The Third Judicial District Attorney audit shows that between 1/4 and 1/3 of that agency’s revenues comes from fees (about $900 thousand). That office appears to have a healthy fund balance in reserve.

The Third Judicial District Court Fund audit shows that entity gets about 1/4 of its revenue from fees (about $240 thousand). This agency also has a positive fund balance.

I was once told in jest by a politician that “tax money don’t never run out.” Well, yes it can. And it’s one of the laws of nature that if the host gets sick or dies, the parasite has nothing to feed upon.

Looks like Bel Edwards better figure out how to get things up and running PDQ, or he won’t have any government employees to give orders to.