Do not show up, but still collect $500

Missing from the Parish Government meeting Monday were Russell Rachal, Doug deGraffenreid and Rodney Bedgood. Since there was no quorum, there was no meeting. Parish Council members get $500 per meeting even if they are not present. Photos by Carolyn Roy

By Carolyn Roy,

Parish Government was at a standstill since three members of the council did not show up for the meeting Monday and there was no quorum.

The absentees, who will still collect their $500 monthly checks, were Rodney Bedgood, Doug deGraffenreid and Russell Rachal. Present were Patsy Ward-Hoover and Chris Paige.

Council Clerk Sheryl Frederick said Bedgood called to say he could not attend because of the bad weather and vehicle problems but she had no word from Rachal nor deGraffenreid about why they were not at the meeting. Parish President Rick Nowlin said he texted the three to remind them of the meeting but had no response.

“It’s appalling to have business and they don’t show up,” Paige said. “They need to be ready to take care of the people’s business.”

Paige said there was no need to call them because they were “grown folks” who had been attending meetings for the past four years and were perhaps bitter because they (Rachal and Bedgood) were defeated in the last election.

“They’re normally here on time,” Paige said.

Nowlin joked that perhaps they weren’t there because they heard he was going to make a two-hour farewell speech. Although the meeting was not formal, Nowlin said, “I’m very thankful to the people of Natchitoches Parish for allowing me to be their president. We accomplished a lot.” Nowlin said it had taken a lot of effort to form a new government and he hoped the new council would build on the efforts of the past. Parish President-elect John Richmond said he was optimistic about the future. “I’m excited about what’s ahead of us.”

While three members of the Parish Council were absent at the meeting Monday, two new members were there. Jim Kilcoyne, left, and Marty Cheatwood will take office Jan. 13.

He noted that two new council members, Marty Cheatwood and Jim Kilcoyne, were at the meeting and had been there several times during the previous months. The new council will be sworn in Jan 13. Completing the council will be new member John Salter and returning members Ward-Hoover and Paige. The project to build a handicap ramp from the Sheriff’s Office parking lot to the front steps is underway.

The Christmas Festival and inclement weather have delayed the project but Nowlin said it should wrap up in January. Paige was hopeful the council would address a grant affecting the sewer system in Payne Subdivision that is in his district. An agenda item called for Parish Government to accept the donation of the privately-owned Payne Sewer System which is a pre-requisite for the State awarding the Parish a $750,000 grant.

Nowlin has worked for over a year to obtain the grant that would rehabilitate the waste water treatment plant and rebuild the lift station, both of which are barely functioning. Nowlin said it was important because during a heavy rain, such as the one Monday, the lift station does not operate properly and sewage backs up in people’s bath tubs. “It’s disgusting,” Nowlin said.

At the November meeting, a similar agenda item to accept the donation of the system did not pass with Bedgood, Ward-Hoover and Rachal voting no. deGraffenreid was not at that meeting either. Ward-Hoover contends the system is old and deteriorating and the grant may not cover the costs of adequate rehabilitation.

She is also concerned that there are unknown factors in rehabilitating the system that could cause an expensive liability for the Parish in the future. Nowlin said the State was waiting to see what action the council took at the Monday meeting. While the deadline for submitting the grant has passed, he believes the State is reluctant to pull money from a worthwhile project. If the Parish Council does not call a special meeting before the end of the year to reconsider the donation and accept the grant, he is hopeful the new council will view it more favorably.

Among the other items not addressed were the reappointment of Mark Custis and appointment of Steven Newbury to replace William Dowden on the Fire District 4 board; appointment of Joseph Bynog to replace Richard Stampley on the Fire District 6 board; appointment of Landon Amberg to replace Greg Burke on the Tourist Commission; and appointment of Sammiaa Shields and Monique LaCour to the Children and Youth Planning Board.

Also on the agenda were ordinances to transfer property to Save the Children and Head Start program; removing .59 miles of the Mink-Hutton Road from the road maintenance system; amendments to eight budgets; rescheduling meetings on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and President’s Day; funding of $296 per month for the local VA Office; selection of agent for the property and casualty insurance policies; and approval to submit applications for the La. Watershed Initiative program.