City will get savings and debt funds back; acquires playground equipment at Parc through grant funds

Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr., and Councilperson-at-Large Betty Sawyer-Smith presented a proclamation declaring March Women’s History Month to Helen Obioha, center, at the City Council meeting Monday. Obioha is director of the Natchitoches Coalition of Homelessness, an organization that conducts a feeding program and relocates those who have been displaced. Williams said he was grateful to women in the community who have contributed to the growth and strength of Natchitoches and named several including Idell Snowden, Reba Phelps, Claire Primus, Edwina Lewis, Juanita Fowler, Sharon Gahagan, Janice Bolton and Dr. Coleen Nelken.

The City Council finalized an ordinance that will result in major savings with the refinancing of utility bonds. At the City Council meeting Monday, Mikki Ceasar Mathews, vice president of public finance for Piper Sandler & Co., of Baton Rouge, explained savings that will occur from refinancing $4 million in bonds at a new rate of 1.49 percent compared to the prior rate of 3.45 percent. The net savings will be $293,699; the debt service payments will be shortened five years from 2035 to 2030; and prior debt service reserve fund in the amount of $450,000 will be remitted to the City.

The bond sale, at a fixed rate, will be March 25. Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. said the $450,000 will be a piece of the funds required to rehab one water treatment plant and build a fourth one.

The council adopted a resolution that will see new equipment at Parc Natchitoches. A grant from the La. Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for $223,000 will buy playground equipment, build restrooms and extend walking trails. The two sets of playground equipment and restrooms will be built on the open area to the left past the entrance and near the parking lots. Past LWCF grants have been obtained to update City Park and build the two Ben D. Johnson parks across the street from the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation and Community Center. Councilperson-at-Large Betty Sawyer-Smith asked if the playground equipment addressed people with special needs. The playground equipment meets American Disability Act standards. The equipment does not specifically address special needs which are different from ADA requirements.

The council introduced an ordinance allowing for the sale of water to the Village of Powhatan for five years. Director of Utilities Matt Anderson said selling water to the village would not cause a drain on the City water supply since it will be considered a supplemental supply. The City was considering the agreement at the request of the La. Dept. of Health before the COVID-10 pandemic started. Work will continue to upgrade the village water source. Another ordinance introduced will allow the City to enter into an agreement for emergency assistance by and between the La. Energy and Power Authority (LEPA) member cities. Anderson said there are 17 member cities that can share resources when needed. As an example, LEPA sent two bucket trucks and a foreman to Natchitoches during the snow storm to help restore power which was cheaper than hiring contract labor. The agreement calls for sharing resources only if available. Anderson was named a director to the board and Williams was named an alternate director.

Another ordinance introduced will execute an agreement between Red Sky Adventures LLC and the City and Waterworks District No 1. Red Sky Adventures will lease the small island in Sibley Lake near Mariner’s Restaurant. A similar ordinance was previously introduced but the new one was necessary since the property was appraised. The rent will drop from $800 to $200 annually.

Anther ordinance introduced names Harcross Chemicals Inc., of Shreveport as the low bidder for caustic soda for the water treatment plant at a cost of .102 cents per pound. Other bidders were Brenntag Southwest Inc., of Lancaster, Texas, for .114 per pound; and Premier Chemicals and Services of Baton Rouge for .115 cents per pound. The caustic soda is bid every six months because of the fluctuating prices.

Mike Ferdinand is the executive director of the Natchitoches Community Alliance, an economic development agency. He recently relocated to Natchitoches from Texas.

Mike Ferdinand was introduced as the executive director of the Natchitoches Community Alliance. Ferdinand said economic development was his passion and got into the field with the desire to find opportunities for young people to get good paying jobs. He participated in efforts to recruit an industrial gas company and pipe mill to Bay City, Texas. He said economic development is about creating quality jobs and then econdary jobs to support them. He is seeking input from the council and knowledge about the City’s vision.

The next scheduled City Council meeting will be Monday, March 22.

In the Thursday, March 11, 2021, print edition