Roadwork updates available to public

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

Parish residents will soon have a tool to track maintenance progress on parish roads. The Parish Council, with a split vote, agreed to contract with Dude Solutions for a software program that will allow employees and the public to have an online tool to track completed and ongoing projects performed by the Dept. of Public Works. Parish President John Richmond proposed the service that he said will provide transparency and information at the click of a button.

D&D Construction

It was voted down at the April meeting. But at the meeting Monday, council member Marty Cheatwood said he had talked to department heads about pros and cons of the service and believed it would improve their quality of life and make employees more efficient and productive. It will provide written records and give information “at their fingertips.” Cheatwood said it would be beneficial during emergencies and he had information that he didn’t have when it was voted down at the April meeting.

When proposed in April, the first year was going to cost $13,000 with each year after that $10,000. Richmond said the new price will be lower and the company will provide the service for the rest of the year for $4,500. After that, the fee will be $800 per month for the following year. Richmond proposed paying for the service with what he termed savings of $55,000 resulting from the resignation of the IT person. He will now contract for IT services.

There was criticism from council members John Salter and Patsy Ward-Hoover who said Richmond could not eliminate the IT position because it is designated in the personnel manual. Richmond said he did not eliminate the position, it is just unfilled. He can advertise to fill the position if needed.

Ward-Hoover and Salter voted against the program with Jim Kilcoyne, Chris Payne and Cheatwood voting for it. The vote was the same on an agenda item that called for hiring an attorney, Tony Tillman, to negotiate the agreement in which Parish Government will accept the donation of the Payne Subdivision Sewer System from Total Environmental Solutions Inc.

Richmond said Tillman’s hourly fee will be $200 and he expects the total cost to be between $2,500 and $3,000, an estimate based on items of a similar nature. Paige said that if the attorney’s fees are not paid out of the grant to rehabilitate the sewer system, private citizens would pay them. Paige, who has been a staunch advocate of accepting the sewer system and the grant to rehabilitate it, said that anyone who was against it should stay home. Salter took issue with Paige’s remarks and said, “Whoa. You can’t tell people to stay home. I’ll vote any way I want to.”

Ward-Hoover asked if Richmond had appointed sewer system board members. She said he was to have appointed them within 90 days and 30 days had passed. Richmond said he had not appointed anyone but would present names at the next meeting. Kilcoyne said the time limit was on finding a physical facility in which to meet, not a constraint on appointing the board. The agenda item from the April 20 meeting read:”Council to adopt Ordinance No. 005-2020 creating Natchitoches Parish Sewer District No. 2, establishing the geographical boundaries of the District, creating a Board of Commissioners to manage the District and establishing the makeup and the authority of the Board.”

The council agreed to pay Bayou Camite Lands an annual fee plus a back fee for rental on a garbage bin dumpsite. The annual fee is $2,000 but the company did not receive the rent in 2019. The total payment will be $4,000. Some other rental bin sites cost less because they are smaller. Still others are donated by timber companies and land owners. Salter said Parish Government has only 28 sites while “the people were promised 60 sites.” Interim Planning and Zoning Director David Kees reported that his department netted $11,700 in building permit fees in April.

Kees said that despite a downturn in the economy in April and May, permitting for new homes and manufactured homes remained above average. The council introduced an ordinance that will create operating funds to prevent funds from being co-mingled. It establishes budgets for Government Buildings, Criminal Jury Compensation Fund, Law Enforcement Officer Criminal Witness Fund, Disaster Recovery Fund and Courthouse Security Capital Outlay Fund. As an example, Parish Treasurer Lockhart said capital outlay money for handicap improvements should not be commingled with Government Buildings since they have different sources. Also, sometimes, capital outlay money is not spent during one budget year.

Lockhart reported that Parish Government has received $67,000 from Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, (CARES.) One ordinance passed unanimously to approve a zoning change from I-A Industry-Agriculture to B-I Business District for a Natchitoches Regional Medical Center clinic in Robeline. The council approved moving the polling place at the Council on Aging building to Masonic Lodge at 110 Masonic Drive. Senior citizen centers cannot be used as polling places during the COVID-19 crisis. The council also agreed to seek grants for Sandy Point-480 Water System Inc., that has lost its intake structure in Black Lake.

One item was removed from the agenda that proposed removing a 4.56-acre recreation site at the end of Cloud Crossing from road maintenance system. Cheatwood said that Becky Smith wants it removed from the system because it has no utilities and there is nothing there but a condemned boat launch. More discussion revealed that the land is posted and has a gate across the Parish road which is against Parish ordinance. It is also owned by a trust and not the leasee.

With so many questions remaining, the item was removed from the agenda. Salter said the council needed information from the landowner, not the leasee.

The council approved the appointment of William “Bill” Dickens to replace Vicki Parish on the Waterworks District #1 Board. It also approved giving $8,600 annually to the 4-H office, $1,100 more than in previous years.