By Juanice Gray, email@example.com
Both agenda items for the school board special called meeting Monday, Aug. 17 passed, but not without opposition. Alliance Compressors applied for tax exemption. Chamber President Laura Lyles spoke on their behalf stating that from a chamber perspective, tax abatement for the #2 employer in the parish made economic sense. She said the company spent corporate money here because of the incentives. She noted the numerous ways Alliance supports the community ending by stating “Everything we do to help them helps us.”
Alliance Plant Manager Brian Brock, Production Manager Devin Lewis and Controller LaTina Harris announced a $50 million expansion project in the works that should come to fruition in the next four years. That project would add another assembly line and more than 45 new jobs. The economic impact of the plant’s 600 employees’ spending in the community offsets the tax abatement they said. The abatement, roughly $13,000, is not money that is taken away from the school board; it is money they simply don’t get. Brock said Alliance still pays “a lot” in sales tax and the school board gets a portion of those funds. Brock said the company pays $30 million in salaries and those dollars directly benefit the local economy. He said the “abatement means working together.”
Lewis said the plant recently hired food service workers who were out of work because of the pandemic. They have also implemented a policy to hire those who do not have a diploma or GED, although other criteria are needed such as experience. One big factor with Alliance is promoting from within current employees that keeps locals employed long term.
Board member Russ Danzy asked if the abatement kept the plant competitive as far as getting expansion projects and other corporate dollars. “It certainly helps,” Brock said. “It may seem like a lot, but in the long run there will be more in the local economy.” Board member Tan’Kia Palmer asked what would happen if Alliance doesn’t get the tax break. Brock replied, “Not much now, but they may think twice about bringing a $50 million expansion here later on.”
The abatement was approved by the majority with Emile Metoyer and Palmer casting no votes.
The second item was approval for teachers and staff to temporarily be allowed to wear scrubs and jeans. Board member Reba Phelps read two messages from teachers citing practicality and motivation as arguments for the measure. “Teachers will now be cleaning high touch areas frequently throughout the day. They are transitioning into a more physical role where sweat and dirt will be part of their normal day. In that sweat and dirt is the potential for COVID contamination. Teachers will go home and want to immediately change clothes and wash the soiled ones. This can be easily done with jeans and scrubs, but not with clothes that need dry cleaning or are made for more than one wear like shrugs, scarves, ties, and suit jackets. The second reason has everything to do with motivation. We are asking teachers to do much more than in typical years… Allowing teachers the choice of clothing will make them more comfortable in a year that promises to have many uncomfortable situations,” she read from a text by Lakeview Jr./Sr. High School Assistant Principal Kathy Canerday.
Supt. Grant Eloi stated he was “100% in support of scrubs” but had reservations concerning jeans saying he had no argument from a medical standpoint for their use. Board member Beverly Broadway said jeans, like scrubs, can hold up to frequent washing with hot water and high heat drying which is recommended to kill germs and bacteria. Palmer cited teachers wearing leggings and large tops. She said they would be just as professional in scrubs and jeans.
Phelps concluded the discussion saying, “At the end of the day, our teachers are professionals.” The casual-professional dress code proposed included both scrubs and jeans. A sunset date was included to make the status temporary. The board approved the proposal stating the attire was optional thereby giving teachers a choice and would only be until the state was out of Phase III. It would expire when the state moved into Phase IV. Board President Billy Benefield cast the only dissenting vote citing conversations he had with teachers and others whom were opposed to the change.