Archive for the ‘City of Ruston’ Category

Service Road/Cooktown Corner added to District

01/09/2019

A three-acre tract of land at the immediate northeast corner of Cooktown Road and the North I-20 Service Road will be added to the Cooktown Road Economic Development District, if an ordinance introduced at Monday night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council is enacted.

The original district, created in late 2017, consists of 15 1/2 acres, and is now being developed by Chattanooga, TN-based Hutton Company.

According to Ruston City Attorney Bill Carter, Hutton recently acqired the 3 acre corner, and asked for it to be included into the district.

There was a bit of discussion about a resolution authorizing property acquisition for phase 4 of the Rock Island Greenway Project.

That part of the project runs from West Texas Avenue near South Monroe Street southward to West California near Henderson Street, approximately 1400 feet, according to the city’s Andrew Halbrook.

Kevin Crume asked for an update on the project’s total costs so far.

Halbrook said that phase two, about 11,000 feet, cost about $540 thousand. Phase 3 was about $740 thousand. Both parts each received $89 thousand in state grants.

Phase 4 cost estimates are about $350 thousand, he said, and a grant commitment has been received from the state.

After the meeting, the council and mayor were sworn in for their new terms by Third Judicial District Judge Jeff Robinson.

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Ruston City Council Monday

01/06/2019

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, January 7, 2019, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Of note is this item to be considered:

Consider Resolution No. ________ of 2019, Authorizing the Publication of a Notice of Intention to (I) Expand the Boundaries of the Cooktown Road Economic Development District of the City of Ruston, State of Louisiana, and (II) Extend the Levy and Collection of the District’s Existing Sales and Use Tax into the Expanded Area of the District, all in Accordance with as Authorized by Part II, Chapter 27 of Title 33 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, as Amended; and Providing for Other Matters in Connection Therewith

Brief Ruston City Council Meeting Last Night

12/04/2018

Now that the heavy lifting of seizing more money from taxpayers got done last week, the Ruston City Council was able to get back to regular business for last night’s meeting.

The meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

First up, an ordinance was introduced setting the date, time, and place of next year’s council meetings.

Traditionally, the meeting dates are the first business Monday of the month at 5:30 PM at the Ruston City Hall. The only meeting that deviates from that schedule is the 8/19/19 meeting, which will be at 6:30 PM. Usually, that meeting serves as a budget review where the next fiscal year’s budget is introduced.

Assistant Public Works Director John Freeman reported that the airport received a $46 thousand grant from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to replace runway reflectors.

Finally, the council approved 90-day deadlines for improvements to two substandard structures, one at 1109 Oakdale, and the other at 800 Lewis.

Ruston City Council Tonight

12/03/2018

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet in regular session this evening (Monday, 12/3) at 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Restaurant/Hotel Tax Passes on 3-2 Vote

11/30/2018

Diners and overnight guests at Ruston hotels will be paying an extra 1.75% tax on their bills come the New Year, thanks to a 3 to 2 affirmative vote at last night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council.

Voting for the new tax were Carolyn Cage, Ward 1; Angela Mayfield, Ward 2; and Jedd Lewis, Ward 3. Voting no were Jim Pearce, Ward 4; and Bruce Siegmund, Ward 5.

Proceeds from the tax will be used to underwrite debt to construct a water park, gymnasiums, and a VA/Senior Center adjacent to the sports complex now under construction in South Ruston.

Estimated costs are about $10 million, according to Mayor Ronny Walker.

At least a dozen and a half supporters showed up to speak in favor of the tax, including representatives of the Ruston/Lincoln Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Ruston/Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

The CVB’s Travis Napper read from a resolution from the bureau’s directors, and said that the decision was an easy one for the board.

The CoC’s Lee Denny said, “The board of directors of the Ruston/Lincoln Chamber of Commerce voted to endorse this recommendation of increasing our sales tax on local hotels and restaurants for the Lincoln Parish area. We see the great benefit it provides.”

Several youngsters voiced support for the basketball courts and a volleyball program.

Micheal Gahagan, owner of Country Inn & Suites said, “Nobody wants to have a higher tax, but when the reward is so great, I can tell you from experience, we’re in favor.”

Tisha McConnell said the kids needed a place to hang out. “The kids, they hang out at WalMart, and they don’t have anywhere to go. I’m in favor of it.”

Only one person spoke in opposition, Lou Taylor, who had spoken at the November 5 meeting.

During the council discussion, the two members that voted no (Pierce & Siegmund) also repeated their arguments from earlier meetings.

Pierce said he opposed taxes without a vote of the people, while Siegmund said we needed to finish Phase I of the sports complex before launching into more construction.

Carolyn Cage, one of the three yes votes, said the comments from the visitors made her decision much easier.

Ruston City Council to Vote on Restaurant Tax Tomorrow

11/28/2018

In a special called meeting set for tomorrow (Thursday, November 29) at 5:00 PM at Ruston City Hall, Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will decide the fate of Mayor Ronny Walker’s latest tax and spend scheme.

Up for consideration are two ordinances.

One amends a previous ordinance establishing the boundaries of a proposed tax district that consists of all the restaurants and hotels within the city limits of Ruston.

See here the document.

Also, the council will vote on the ordinance that actually levies the tax, a 1.75% tax on sales at those establishments.

Here’s the document.

Ruston City Hall is located at 401 North Trenton, and the meeting will be in the first floor courtroom.

Here’s the agenda.

Mays Rejects Plea Offer

11/20/2018

Cameron Mays has rejected an offer by prosecutors to plead guilty to Second Degree Murder.

Mays, along with his attorney Kia Richardson, was in Third Judicial District Court in Ruston this morning.

The offer included a life sentence that would run concurrently with the life sentence that Mays is now serving, after he was convicted in April, 2016 of aggravated rape. Also, the offer included dropping other charges against him.

As a result, Mays is now set to go to trial at 9:00 AM, 2/25/19.

He allegedly killed retired Grambling Professor Susan Hashway in her Paynter Drive home in June of 2012.

Appearing for the prosecution was Assistant Attorney General Michele Thompson.

Presiding was Division B Judge Tommy Rogers.

Mayor, Council may have Violated Open Meeting Law

11/06/2018

Action taken at last night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council appears to have violated Louisiana’s Open Meeting Law, LA RS 42:11, et seq.

Specifically, a matter as listed on the published and council-approved agenda was not considered, and action was taken to amend a proposed ordinance without properly amending the meeting agenda.

No such amendment action was listed on the approved agenda. The agenda had earlier been unanimously approved by the council, upon a motion by Carolyn Cage, and a second by Jim Pierce.

Section II, Item D of the approved agenda was listed thus:

Consider Ordinance No. _____ of 2018, Levying an Additional Sales Tax of One and Seventy-Five Hundredths Percent (1.75%) in Economic Development District No. 1 of the City of Ruston, State of Louisiana (The “District”)…

However, when it was time for the item to be considered, Mayor Ronny Walker, who chairs the meeting, said it would not be voted upon. He claimed that an ordinance amending the boundaries of the district was being introduced, and that the tax itself couldn’t be voted upon until those boundaries were set.

Said Walker, “Although the ordinance will not be acted on tonight, we will have a public hearing as previously announced, in which any person desiring to make a public comment on the ordinance levying the tax may do so tonight.”

That appears to conflict with this provision of the Open Meetings Law:

LA RS 42§19. Notice of meetings

A.(1)(b)(i) All public bodies, except the legislature and its committees and subcommittees, shall give written public notice of any regular, special, or rescheduled meeting no later than twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, before the meeting.

(ii)(aa) Such notice shall include the agenda, date, time, and place of the meeting. The agenda shall not be changed less than twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, prior to the scheduled time of the meeting.

Next, the mayor proceeded to seek an amendment to the tax ordinance that would limit the tax to a maximum of ten years. No such action was contemplated on the approved agenda.

The motion was made by Angela Mayfield, and seconded by Jedd Lewis. It passed unanimously.

In response to questions, City Attorney Bill Carter said that was the only amendment under consideration.

Here again, there appears to be a conflict with the law:

(cc) Upon unanimous approval of the members present at a meeting of a public body, the public body may take up a matter not on the agenda. Any such matter shall be identified in the motion to take up the matter not on the agenda with reasonable specificity, including the purpose for the addition to the agenda, and entered into the minutes of the meeting. Prior to any vote on the motion to take up a matter not on the agenda by the public body, there shall be an opportunity for public comment on any such motion in accordance with R.S. 42:14 or 15. The public body shall not use its authority to take up a matter not on the agenda as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of this Chapter.

During the public hearing, several citizens opposed to the tax commented. There were no comments in support of the tax.

James Fuller, who last month wrote a letter to the council members, and which was subsequently published as a letter to the editor, commented opposing the tax. He noted that questions brought up in his letter had not been answered.

Also heard from was Lou Taylor, who said, “We need to complete Phase I. We need to get additional information regarding the sports districts, etc. from other cities that have them. I just think we are overextending ourselves until we finish phase one.”

Chris Garriga, a local restaurant owner, said he felt that the tax should be limited to 5 years instead of ten.

Mary Halbrook said she had contacted her council member to oppose the tax.

“I feel that if we’re having all these people that are coming to town – coming to the sports complex – these thousands of people that are coming to town eating in restaurants – just the sheer number of people coming will increase the tax revenue, and you’ll have that money to fund Phase II,” she said.

She added that the tax should be levied on hotels only and not restaurants.

As we had noted upthread, an amendment to the tax district boundaries was introduced.

Walker said the amendments added food trucks and crawfish trailers to the list, and removed some closed restaurants.

One notable deletion was Ruston Theaters, LLC.

See here the original ordinance as adopted on 10/1/18.

See here the amendments.

Walker also announced a special called meeting for Thursday, November 29, at 5:00 PM. He said a final voted on the tax ordinance would be held then.

About 15 minutes into the meeting, a tornado warning caused the meeting to be interrupted for about 30 minutes. Everyone was evacuated into adjacent offices during that time.

Letter to the Editor

11/05/2018

November 4, 2018

Ms. Carolyn Cage-Ward 1, Ruston, Louisiana Sent by: E-Mail
Ms. Angela Mayfield-Ward 2, Ruston, Louisiana
Mr. Jedd Lewis-Ward 3, Ruston, Louisiana
Mr. Jim Pearce-Ward 4, Ruston, Louisiana
Mr. Bruce Siegmund-Ward 5, Ruston, Louisiana

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am OPPOSED to the SALES TAX ORDINANCE proposal to be voted on by the Ruston City Council at the November 5th regular meeting.

I first wrote to each of you on October 8, 2018 about the proposed 1.75 % sales tax ordinance. I have contacted each of you in person or by phone, at least once, to discuss this issue. I sincerely thank each of you for the time and courtesy each of you has shown me.

I hope the reasons for my opposition to the ordinance was adequately conveyed in the October 8th letter. I tried to be as succinct as possible with my reasons, without resorting to bullying or threats, (as some have done and suggested), regarding this matter. My interest from the beginning of this dialog has been my involvement in the public discourse and a genuine effort to do what “is right” for the City of Ruston and its citizens.

As of this time, answers to the many questions that were brought out in the letter have not been addressed and certainly no adequate answers given. I think the citizens of Ruston deserve more than just salesmanship and hyperbole, with no foundation in fact, before they are expected (or in the instance of this ordinance, COMMITTED) to paying more taxes. A public body not answering legitimate questions and concerns and blindly committing to significant financial obligations is “not right”. Trust me, these concerns are not just mine only. I have received many calls and encouragement from citizens and others for the questions and concerns expressed in my letter.

Again, I hope each of you will consider the concerns I have expressed and vote to defeat the proposed ordinance and submit the questions for further study and review.

If when you get this message, you would care to talk with me, I can be reached at (318) 255-7878 or (318) 265-7878. I look forward to visiting with you on this and other issues that affect our city.

I will see you at the November 5th meeting.

Sincerely,

James Fuller

Copy furnished to:
Ruston Daily Leader(Cody Richard)
Lincoln Parish News Online(Walter Abbott)

P.S. Yes, I have seen the front page story in the Ruston Daily Leader and that is more of the salesmanship and hyperbole mentioned above. No comments for the taxpayers or citizens of Ruston, seems somewhat of a one sided (except for comments of Pearce and Siegmund) story.

Ruston City Council Monday

11/03/2018

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

Here’s the agenda.

On the agenda as distributed to council members, media, and other citizens is consideration of the ordinance that would levy a 1.75% tax on restaurants, motels, and theaters.

A public hearing is also listed on that agenda. Members of the public may comment on the proposed ordinance during that time.

Ms. Carolyn Cage – Ward 1, Ruston, Louisiana; 243-2492
Ms. Angela Mayfield – Ward 2, Ruston, Louisiana; 243-0998
Mr. Jedd Lewis – Ward 3, Ruston, Louisiana; 548-1036
Mr. Jim Pearce – Ward 4, Ruston, Louisiana; 548-9422
Mr. Bruce Siegmund – Ward 5, Ruston, Louisiana; 614-4352