Head Start, roads and audit:Council addresses concerns that affect every parish citizen

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By Carolyn Roy

carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

The Parish Council will have to wait another month to request a legislative audit. At the meeting Monday evening, Parish Attorney Shantel Wempren outlined the process the Council must follow before requesting the audit. Each member must submit audit concerns in writing and state specifics such as which funds, projects, time periods, etc., they want audited. Those concerns will be drafted into a document that will be placed on the agenda in the form of a resolution for a vote. Rodney Bedgood and Chris Paige have submitted theirs and Russell Rachal submitted his to the district attorney. “We’ve waited long enough,” Parish Council chairman Pat Ward-Hoover said.

Parish Council President Rick Nowlin reported on damage caused by rain from Hurricane Harvey. On Sept. 6, 60 roads were under water and five remain so. He estimates there to have been $600,000 in damages that will be submitted to FEMA. FEMA will reimburse the Parish for 75 percent of costs to repair the roads if they accept the estimates. The Parish will submit $40,000 in emergency repairs to roads that helped families locked in by water. Nowlin spent last week in Washington, D.C., and talked to Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy about their plan to potentially carve money from President Trump’s infrastructure initiative for local entities. That money would require a 20 percent match from local governments. “Now we don’t have the match but I will continue to work with them,” Nowlin said. In other infrastructure matters, Nowlin was scheduled to meet this week with City representatives to discuss a possible partnership on a drainage study.

The Council authorized Nowlin to proceed with the following items:

•Advertise for bids for a new roof on the Live Oak Building. Architect George Minturn will prepare the specs for the roof that will cost from $40,000-$50,000. The money will come from the Government Buildings tax.

•Develop plans to build a 70-foot handicap ramp in front of the courthouse. Nowlin said the ramp will be a step in securing the courthouse since handicap accessibility is now through the bottom floor and is not secure.

•Develop a courthouse security plan for which Capital Outlay funds have been requested. Nowlin has met with elected officials housed in the courthouse to discuss those plans. He said the largest expense in securing the first floor of the courthouse will be personnel costs. The plan will address such concerns as a detainee elevator and restrooms. Nowlin cited an incident during the summer involving parents in a child custody case in which law enforcement officers were injured. While no expenses were approved, the resolution allows Nowlin to develop the plan. It passed unanimously.

In Head Start business, a survey taken in Goldonna identified only nine children who would participate in a Head Start program there. A program requires 17 children. Office of Community Services Director Sharon Harris said in her report that the MLK program lacks eight students but the number fluctuates because parents often find slots in public schools. Harris said Head Start is buying a new van to deliver meals to the sites. The van will be paid for with a carry over of $21,700 from last year’s budget and will be bought on State Contract. Harris said the children in the Head Start centers will no longer be allowed to have parties since sweets are not allowed in the nutrition programs. “It’s not popular but we must follow regulations. I hope the parents can see the value of nutrition.” Interim Head Start Director Chrishell Metoyer said she is attempting to support the teachers, raise morale and raise school scores.

The Council unanimously denied a property tax appeal by Aaron Sales and Leasing. Assessor Dollie Mahoney said the property on Keyser Avenue is assessed at $643,067 but management has appealed for an assessment of $192,420. They believe they should pay taxes on the land but not on the furniture. Mahoney said the company is appealing its assessments all over the state.

There was no good news for Payne Subdivision. Nowlin said at its June meeting, the Bond Commission approved only the money to repair Coco Bed. He hopes that the Payne project bonds will be approved at the September meeting. The Parish received a letter from Facility Planning citing minor changes to the Coco Bed Road project that are being addressed. Coco Bed should be ready to go when those changes are made. It can then go out for bids. Ben LaCour was the only visitor to speak and asked for help, again, at his property on Patrick Road. He said adjoining property is owned by the Parish and a culvert drains water onto his land. “I’ve been trying for 10 years to get something done.” Interim Public Works Director Earl Townsend agreed to meet with LaCour.