ROV position on hold pending Attorney General’s opinion to parish council

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Steven Monsieur

By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

The Parish Council will seek an opinion from the La. Attorney General on the process for selecting a registrar of voters. At the Parish Council meeting Monday evening, Assistant District Attorney Steven Mansour said he will request an opinion from the La. Attorney General about three matters: the process to select the registrar, who should participate in the process and who has the authority to select the registrar. Mansour said that after he receives the opinion, he will have the district attorney review it and then make a recommendation to the council.

After the recommendation is made, Mansour said he will have suggestions for the council. At the Dec. 17 meeting, Parish President Rick Nowlin and the selection committee recommended the name of Lynda Vance who was one of 23 applicants for the job. Council members Pat Ward-Hoover and Chris Paige objected to Vance saying the council was bypassed on the interview and selection process.

The vote to appoint Vance failed.

Assistant District Attorney Cloyd Benjamin was at the December meeting and gave his interpretation of State statutes and said he thought that the parish council should have been part of the selection process and that the Home Rule Charter was vague on the selection of a registrar. Benjamin also said it was his opinion that parish council members could interview the applicants.

He gave his opinion at the request of Ward-Hoover. An executive session scheduled Jan. 3, in which the council members were to interview applicants, never materialized after the vote to go into the session failed. One of the applicants, Debbie Tebbetts, was appointed acting registrar effective Jan. 1.

Nowlin said that whatever the outcome of the attorney general’s opinion, he hoped the council would consider the applications already submitted. He doesn’t think it is necessary to begin the process again since there are four to five qualified people among the applicants. He said it would be a waste of time to start the process again.

In other action, there was a disagreement between Ward-Hoover and Nowlin about the appointment of John Morgan to the Fire District 1 Board. Morgan is retired from the Proctor & Gamble plant, lives in the district and is a volunteer firefighter in that district. His name was recommended by Nowlin.

Ward-Hoover, who objects to nearly every recommendation made by Nowlin, advocated for the appointment of Chris Posey or another applicant to the board because they had submitted their applications during the first week in December, sooner than Morgan had. She said that Posey was responsible for bringing the trouble in Fire District 1 to the attention of the council that resulted in Nowlin requesting a legislative audit. District 1 was the focus of a scathing La. Legislative Auditor’s office that resulted in the arrest of two people. Also seeking the appointment was Bryan Benefield who has multiple interests, including property, in the district and who is interested in changing the way fire district money is spent. The motion to appoint Morgan failed with Russell Rachal and Doug deGraffenreid voting yes, Ward-Hoover and Chris Paige voting no and Rodney Bedgood abstaining.

During department head reports, Public Works Director John Richmond said rain and bad weather have hindered routine jobs like grading. It has rained some 40 percent of the days since he took over in December. One period that usually averages 18 inches of rain had 25. Routine work like filling potholes and grading continue when possible.

Richmond said employees rebuilt a bridge on Dick Anderson Road despite rain that prevented grading and pothole patching. Progress on Bermuda Road continues since highway employees have built a coffer dam and begun pumping out standing water. They hope to cover the drainage pipes this week.

Hampton Road progress also continues with rock applications made to ready the road for asphalt. Richmond will schedule town hall meetings with parish council members’ constituents prior to the vote on a road maintenance tax in March. He will attend the meetings to explain road conditions. Ward-Hoover said there is a meeting scheduled Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Natchez Town Hall.

Richmond spoke about a proposed ordinance to remove the Benjie Colvin Road from the Parish road maintenance system. The highway department will grade the road one time before it is removed and Benjie Colvin will assume maintenance after that. The road is off Eight Mile Loop and Colvin is the only resident on the road. The work will be done before the road is removed from the system. The final vote will come at the February meeting.

The council voted to move forward with a revised road maintenance project in Payne Subdivision. State Capital Outlay has agreed to provide $500,000 but has now decided to divide the project into two parts. The State and local match will total $74,000 for the first half of the first phase with the remaining part to be funded after July 1 provided there are no changes by the Legislature. N

owlin said engineers will have to scale back the first part of phase one but it is best to begin since some of the money may not be forthcoming from the State. Hopefully good weather will allow the project to get started.

Office of Community Services Director Sharon Harris said the federal government shutdown has now affected the Head Start grant since those funds were already approved.

In other action, the council approved the following:

•Reappointed Monty Trichel, Wade Ebert and Troy Gardner to the Fire District 9 Board

•Reappointed Doris Kochinsky, Dallas Russell and Ramona Guin to the Children and Youth Planning Board

•Appointed Gary Conlay to the Northwest Louisiana Human Services District

•Appointed Ricky LaCour to replace Joe Darby on the Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission

•Re-appointed James Anthony to Water Works District 2 Board

•Appointed Ronald Payne to the Natchitoches Parish Planning Commission

•Passed a resolution approving the election in Fire District 1 for a $25 renewal tax in an election May 4