Archive for the ‘City of Ruston’ Category

Bottle Clubs Outlawed in Ruston

09/15/2020

Bottle clubs, where patrons are allowed to bring their own booze for consumption on premises, are now illegal in Ruston, after the city council unanimously passed an ordinance to that effect. The action came at last night’s meeting of the body.

Ruston Police Department Chief Steve Rogers said the establishments had become a problem in downtown.

Said Rogers, “Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen instances of where these things would blow up to 100, 200, 300 people downtown. It would take a whole for us to work these things at night. We were getting complaints downtown from the business owners with trash and alcohol bottles left around town.”

Rules for private clubs were also modified by the ordinance.

See here the ordinance.

Another ordinance adopted involved emergency medical services (EMS).

Fire Chief Chris Womack said that ordinance clarified who provides EMS, and that within the city or the parish, the Ruston Fire Department would be the first responders.

Pafford Medical Services, a private provider, serves as backup if all the RFD units are tied up, Womack said. Also, RFD handles only emergency services, he said, and that private transfers are done by private providers like Pafford.

Ward Four’s Jim Pearce said that he had several calls on the issue.

See here the ordinance.

Administrative Services Director Jay Ellington got approval for a resolution to hire Hunt, Guillot & Associates (HGA) to provide consulting services for the sports complex. The service will provide booking for the complex, staffing and procedures, and management consultation.

Ellington noted that the complex is booked for almost all weekends between now Thanksgiving.

Asked by Pearce about costs, Ellington said the one-year contract was about $100 thousand.

Two other proposed contracts were delayed, Ruston Dixie Baseball and Ruston Girls Softball Association. During discussion, some council members were uncomfortable with the proposed three year term.

Ruston City Council Monday

09/13/2020

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, September 14, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

Notable are several significant amendments to the current FY 2019-2020 budget that will close on 9/30/20.

Jury Votes 9/2 to Hand FEMA Money to Ruston

09/09/2020

On a 9/2 vote, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury last night “ratified” an earlier snap decision by jury Administrator Doug Postel and jury President Joe Henderson to cede a $3 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to the City of Ruston.

Henderson and Postel had said that the jury didn’t have any “shovel-ready” projects that would qualify, and that the deadline for submission was September 1. Also, the jury did not have matching funds (25%) required for the award.

Voting for the handover were Hazel Hunter (District Two), Marvin Franks (District Three), T. J. Cranford (District Four), Logan Hunt (District Five), Glenn Scriber (District Six), Matt Pullen (District Seven), Skip Russell (District Eight), Joe Henderson (District Nine), and Milton Melton (District Ten).

Voting no were Theresa Wyatt (District One) and Sharyon Mayfield (District Eleven).

Making the motion was Marvin Franks, with a second by Logan Hunt.

The vote followed a 30 minute discussion about the controversy.

Postel claimed that the letter awarding the grant was not received in the jury office until August 21, and the grant was never applied for.

“This was simply a grant that we didn’t know that we were even receiving until we received this letter that you have in your hand,” he said. “That disaster was the Ruston tornado,” he added.

He went to say that Louisiana Tech and the City of Ruston received most of the damage in that storm, and that to obtain the money, a 25% match must be put up.

Said Postel, “The application period that we received with this expired on September 1. We did not have any projects in the hopper because we did not know we were receiving any money. Number two, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury does not have a million dollars sitting aside waiting for this type of match.”

He continued, “Mr. (Kip) Franklin (Lincoln Parish Homeland Security Director) and I called Mr. Henderson, we talked to him about the requirements of this letter. We told him that the letter instructed us to meet with city officials and Louisiana Tech officials to come up with a plan and he authorized us to do that. We sat down with 13 people. Representatives from both the parish – that would be myself, Mr. Franklin, Mr. (Kevin) Klepzeig (Assistant LPPJ Administrator) – officials from the City of Ruston, officials from Louisiana Tech, and officials from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.”

“We met on Friday, August 22. We discussed many possible projects that we could work together on. In that discussion we found out that Ruston and Louisiana Tech already had a project that was in process in the planning phases that would fit into the requirements the state had set forth in this plan.”

The project would be the construction of a facility that would combine a city fire station with a Louisiana Tech Police Department headquarters and a parish emergency operations center, he said.

Since the city and Tech had the matching funds, a decision was made by the group to move forward with that project and make Ruston the primary applicant, Postel added. He also said LPPJ President Joe Henderson signed off on the plan.

Henderson spoke up and apologized to the jury for not informing them of what was going on.

Said Henderson, “What I failed to do was to get all of you all the information out before it got to the newspaper.”

District One’s Theresa Wyatt was having none of it.

Said Wyatt “We should have been the first to know – I shouldn’t have read that at five o’clock in the morning in the newspaper. We are the custodian of tax dollars, Mr. Postel isn’t. He said he met with that group – I didn’t hear him mention anybody on this police jury. That process was wrong and inexcusable.”

“That letter says to engage, it did not say to hand it over. You (Henderson), regardless of your excuse, did not get in touch with the legal custodians of three million dollars and find out how we thought about. The money doesn’t go through Postel’s hand, and it doesn’t yours alone. It’s the twelve of us,” she added.

Sharyon Mayfield (District Eleven) said that the deadline had been extended to November 30, so the September 1 deadline didn’t apply.

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker spoke up to defend the need for an emergency operations center located in the south part of Ruston.

Prior to the vote to approve the handover, Wyatt moved to ask the juror’s legal counsel Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones investigate the process, validate or refute Postel’s assertions, and report back to the jury.

Said Wyatt, “I don’t trust this jury. I don’t trust you to be transparent.”

That motion failed on an 8 to 3 vote, with Wyatt, Mayfield and Melton voting for and the other eight voting no.

2% COLA Included in Ruston Budget

08/25/2020

Last Thursday’s review of the City of Ruston’s FY 2020/2021 budget had a bit of discussion about pay raises for city employees, specifically a 2% cost of living adjustment that has been customarily awarded for many years.

Alderman Jim Pearce suggested that the raise be delayed until sales tax revenues improve.

“We’re just in times that we haven’t ever seen before, and we don’t know what will happen,” he said. “In these times, I just hate seeing adding – I think you told me today that’s approximately $230 thousand – that’s an expense that’s forevermore once you put that in the budget – it doesn’t go away. I would really like to see us wait until January and reassess if the sales tax do continue to trend up, we would be able to reassess it at that point” he added.

Pearce’s idea had no support with other council members, however.

Bruce Seigmund noted, “I, too, was initially reluctant with the 2%, but once I looked at the numbers, and also realized the pay cut that they took, I think it’s a good idea to go ahead and do it.”

Said Carolyn Cage, “These people have worked, and they have not complained. I think they deserve the 2%.

Both Fire Chief Chris Womack and Police Chief Steve Rogers supported the raise. Womack noted that he could only recall once in the last 30 years that the COLA wasn’t awarded.

Rogers said that when the crunch hit last spring, his department economized by eliminating overtime. “We all struggled to make that work,” he said.

When the vote came to recommend, it passed unanimously.

Notable in the document (pg 40) is the significant savings for FY 2019/2020 and FY 2020/2021 in the cost of energy purchased for the electric system.

For the fiscal year ending 9/30/20, the city paid about %3.25 million less than it had originally budgeted. For next year, the savings is expected to be about $3 million.

See here the complete document.

The budget will be considered for formal adoption at the September council meeting.

Ruston City Council Budget Review This Afternoon

08/20/2020

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will late this afternoon review the proposed FY 2020/2021 budget for the city.

The aldermen will meet as a committee of the whole as the Personnel/Finance Committee to review and make recommendations, and then forward the result back to the council for its approval at the September meeting

The meeting is at 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Personnel/Finance Committee Agenda
Board of Aldermen Agenda

Local Restaurant has no Attorney to Defend Itself against Looming State Shutdown

08/18/2020

A local restaurant recently cited for Covid-19 violations by the Louisiana Deparment of Health has no Attorney of Record to defend itself in an upcoming hearing in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court this Friday. A Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court deputy told Lincoln Parish News Online this morning that the court pleadings on file show no attorney for Peking Restaurant, 1300 North Vienna.

Shreveport attorney Edward Brossette represents the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

Last week, the LDH obtained a temporary restraining order against the restaurant, citing violations of Governor Bel Edwards order against self-service buffets. The state is seeking a permanent injunction against the restaurant.

One provision of the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act – the authority under which Edwards has enacted sweeping emergency orders since March – is this:

LA RS 29:736 Exclusion

D. Nothing in this Chapter shall be interpreted to diminish the rights guaranteed to all persons under the Declaration of Rights of the Louisiana Constitution or the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution. This Chapter shall not violate Article II (Distribution of Powers), Article III (Legislative Branch), or Article V (Judicial Branch) of the Louisiana Constitution. The courts shall be open, and every person shall have an adequate remedy by due process of law and justice, administered without denial, partiality, or unreasonable delay, for injury to him in his person, property, reputation, or other rights. The orders of all courts shall have their full force and effect. The legislature may call itself into session at any time and shall exercise its powers and duties. Its ability to enact law, appropriate funds, and confirm appointees shall be in full force. The privileges and immunities of legislators shall be respected.

Louisiana’s government-approved media never mention this key exclusion when citing Edwards’ emergency powers. Perhaps the restaurant owner should plead in court that the food buffet is a form of protest, a claim which seems to absolve rioters and looters of any criminal liability nationwide.

Presiding at the 9:00 AM Friday hearing will be Division C Judge Bruce Hampton.

City Exercises Zoning Authority on Property Located Outside City Limits

08/04/2020

After about 45 minutes of debate and discussion, Ruston’s Board of Aldermen last night applied the city’s zoning codes on property that is not within the City of Ruston’s corporate limits.

Hemphill, LLC, a developer of cell tower sites, will be constructing a cell tower for use by Verizon and others on McAllister Street, south and east of the city limits. The proposed tower is several hundred feet from an existing tower located on the same street.

Ralph Winegarden of Faulk & Foster realtors, representing Hemphill, said they only wanted to buy electrical power for the tower and were confused why zoning was applicable.

“City power for us is the most economical option. We were advised to go through the conditional use permit process as part of the power approval process. This is a little confusing to us, because section 1.4 of the Ruston Zoning Code itself specifically indicates the ordinance does not apply outside the city limits. Nevertheless, we did proceed as directed to file the conditional use permit and variances as needed,” he said.

William Bradford, a Shreveport attorney representing Hemphill, noted that the city’s zoning board was but a recommending body for the city council, and the council had the final say. He also noted the city’s zoning board was attempting to govern outside the city limits.

Said Bradford, “This is a question not about zoning, but about utilities. We were forced to file a conditional use permit, but we are requesting only for the purposes of receiving power to our tower.”

Joel Colvin, representing several residents that live on McAllister, said they were not in favor of the location, as it was close to an existing tower.

Frank Cordaro, who owns the property in question, said that new tower was needed to meet the anticipated demand likely with the city’s sports complex.

Resident Lisa Corbin said the new tower would be in her front yard, and it wasn’t needed. Another speaker presented a petition that opposed the tower.

City Attorney Bill Carter said it made sense to apply the zoning code to the facility, as there was a city ordinance that allowed conditions to developments outside the city, if city utilities are provided.

Both Angela Mayfield (Ward 2) and Carolyn Cage (Ward 1) opposed the tower, after hearing from their constituents, they said.

Ward 5’s Bruce Seigmund asked would Hemphill build the tower regardless of what the city did, and if so how would they obtain power. Winegarden said they would either install a generator, contract with Entergy, or install solar panels.

Several residents on McAllister are connected to Ruston’s power system, even though the property is outside city limits.

When the vote for the use permit was made, Seigmund, Pearce and Jedd Lewis voted for, and Mayfield and Cage voted no.

The motion was made with conditions – a one year deadline to begin the project , appropriate approval from the city’s airport, and construction as per the submitted site plan.

A separate resolution was approved by the same vote to supply power for the project.

Earlier in the meeting an ordinance was approved that will allow a wholesale liquor distributor to locate in Ruston. The distributor will supply local restaurants and bars, it was said.

Ruston City Council Monday

08/02/2020

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, August 3, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

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.