By Russell Rachal
Parish Council Member
There is a very important item of interest spreading around Natchitoches Parish. There is a movement by three Parish Council members, Chris Paige, Rodney Bedgood and Patsy Ward Hoover to get the residents of Natchitoches Parish to force the Natchitoches Parish Council to pass an ordinance calling for an election to abolish the Home Rule Charter and to go back to the Police Jury form of government.
If you would be so kind, please allow me to address the concerns that I have been approached with.
1) The people are saying that under the Police Jury, they could call their respective juror with a concern and it was handled within a day or so. Ordinance 26 of 1983 states that it is illegal for a juror/council member to have any direct contact, supervision or to direct any work to be performed.
The fact is that these jurors were calling the Parish maintenance barn as the shift meeting was adjourning and were asking the workers where they were being assigned for that particular day. The workers felt compelled to tell the jurors where they were being assigned because under the police jury, the jurors were their bosses.
These jurors were waiting until the work had been completed and then either calling the residents in these areas, or driving to these locations and telling the residents that they were being sure that the workers had done the work that they assigned them or they were going to run them off. They were taking credit for the work, when in reality the Road Maintenance Supervisor is the one that ordered the work.
2) The people are saying that we need to stop patching the roads with cold mix. The fact is that under the Police Jury and the leadership of the three original jurors that are serving on the Council, along with the eight other jurors that are not serving now, all of the parish- owned hot mix equipment was sold. No one has been able or willing to offer any explanation as to who bought it, how much was it sold for, or where the money went. All we own now is a truck and shovels to complete these repairs.
I might add that in the Police Jury days, we had over 100 employees at the road department and we only have 18 now.
3) The people are saying that we need to take the tax money that was appropriated by the residents of Natchitoches Parish by the passing of taxes and apply them to the roads. By law, tax dollars are required to be spent in the areas that they were passed for. It is illegal to take funds from ANY designated area and apply them anywhere other than where they are designated for by the voters.
There was a total of $29,475,661 collected in total Parish and local taxes for the calendar year of 2017.
A breakdown of the taxes is as follows, according to information acquired by me from the Natchitoches Tax Assessors Office:
General tax $88,019
General Tax Outside $775,824
Public Buildings $955,924
Health Unit $955,924
Cane River W/W $2,041,119
Law Enforcement 1 $2,782,726
Law Enforcement 2 $3,388,258
Assessment District $1,258,690
Road District 40 $1,093,540
General School $1,581,867
Special School $2,381,306
Con. School #6 $200,677
CSD #9 $1,445,708
CSD #7 $1,540,681
CSD #8 Maintenance $61,523
CSD #8 $61,523
CSD #8 Bond $290,037
CSD #10 $835,042
Levee Tax R/R $5,631
Levee Tax P/L $5,096
Levee Tax $9,900
Natchitoches Levee Board $843,548
Red River Waterway $514,909
RR W/W Maint $277,780
Forestry Tax $31,078
Fire District #10 $42,474
Fire District #2 $65,832
Fire District #3 $95,999
Fire District #4 $215,922
Fire District #5 $134,836
Fire District #6 $594,126
Fire District #7 $409,209
Fire District #8 $29,045
Fire District #9 $208,194
If the people didn’t approve of where these tax dollars are being spent, these millages would have to be brought back up to the voters for reassessment at the polls. If the millages were reduced, then the voters could ask that the millages that were reduced be applied to the roads or anywhere they voted at the polls to apply them. The Council cannot just take these taxes and apply them wherever we wish.
4) The people are saying that they don’t believe us when we say we have no money. On Nov. 19, 2012 the Police Jury voted to spend $883,922 on the following roads in one night:
Gorum Road $128,198
Grappes Bluff $141,617 (Juror Litton)
Patrick Road $140,200 (Juror Hoover)
Post Mill Road $137,829
(Juror LaCour via Juror Salter)
Cloud Crossing/Hart Road $143,063
Breazeale Springs $31,881
Bethel Road $141,131
The public bid law states that you may spend no more than $150,000 per project without seeking bids. When asked how far this would take them on each road, the Police Jury President stated that he told the contractor to stop shy of $150,000 because no one wants to go to jail over this. A State Senator and State Representative in the audience advised the Police Jury that the law states that a project cannot be altered to circumvent the Bid Law. The Jury advised that they were going to do it anyway.
5) The people are saying that the Council has no voice. I have to agree rather strongly on this area. The Council is responsible for confirming any Department Head position, boards/commissions, contracts, and budget revisions.
When these items come before the Council, we are only allowed to see the one recommendation that President Nowlin puts before us. We are not afforded the courtesy of seeing any other applicants or bids. We are expected to make a decision based on the recommendation of the President. We should be able to see every name so that we can assure to the people that we are making the correct decision and not just rubber stamping something just because one person feels this is the right decision.
Based on the above mentioned facts, please pray that God gives you discernment in making the right decision as to whether we should remain under the Home Rule Charter or return to the Police Jury form of government.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions that you may have. I am here to serve and I am only a phone call away.
Thank you and God Bless You all,
Natchitoches Parish Council