Civic groups vie for donation of former preschool building

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Carolyn Roy | News Editor

Two political adversaries went against each other at the school board committee meeting Tuesday while vying for the same piece of property for their respective organizations. Sylvia Morrow represented the Natchitoches Black Heritage Committee and John Winston represented the Natchitoches Parish Voters & Civic League LLC, in their quests to get the school board to donate the former preschool center on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to their respective organizations.

This article published in the Thursday, June 5-6, 2021, print edition

The school board abandoned the building about two years ago because of the age and deterioration and moved the programs to other facilities. Supt. Dr. Grant Eloi said it was the board’s goal to see which plan would bring the most value to students and the community. Morrow said she had been before the board numerous times seeking donation of the building but had been unsuccessful.

The Black Heritage Committee plans for programs such as family outreach, entrepreneurship, self-esteem building, in-house diner, community renewal, multi-cultural center, cultural enrichment, leadership and team-building, computer labs and more. The organization would not charge fees for use. She plans to seek funding through grants, but has none at this time since the committee does not own the building. She plans to get the building cleaned by the Brownsville Assessment Program but as yet has no formal commitment.

She urged the board to be fair in their selection. Winston is president of the Voters and Civic League that has 350 members from across the parish with primary support in the City. Members plan to renovate it in stages.

Among the programs planned are senior daycare with exercise center, games and meals, after-school tutoring, workforce development to train youth, business incubator, counseling center for former inmates, meeting place for fraternity and sorority and other social groups, career counseling for students, domestic violence victim services, etiquette training for youth seeking jobs, Boys and Girls Club, recreational and community activities, and library with history and archives of Natchitoches Parish Black history and more. The League plans to secure funding from the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF) that will underwrite the project and become a partner.

The League has 501c3 status and will seek grants. Morrow said NCIF had not committed to funding either organization. Both organizations plan to stabilize the building. Board member Emile Metoyer mentioned that the board received estimates of $1 million to renovate it.

Other business included:

•Approved compensating employees for additional duties during the pandemic with across-the-board payments of $1,050 to employees with 155 days; $600 to employees with 85 days; and $300 to those with 50 days. The checks will be distributed in June.

•Approved contracting with Strategic Demographics LLC to provide reapportionment and redistricting services

•Changed mask policy making masks optional for students and staff, but adhering to social distancing and sanitation practices. The policy became effective Thursday.

•Approved tax exemption for Weyerhaeuser-Trus Joist that will have a $16 million expansion, create 20 new jobs and increase the annual payroll by $1.1 million. The company is asking for a $1.8 million property tax exemption over 10 years on new equipment only. The board got good news from Supervisor of Child Nutrition Services Shauna Hicks. The budget is in the black by $105,000 after losing $96,000 during Hurricane Laura after power failure. The board will advertise for bids for two temporary buildings at Natchitoches Central to be paid for with federal funds; bids for paper/cleaning and milk products for next year; and bids for banner and signage for District 9 and 10 schools paid for from bond proceeds.

The board accepted the following bids:

•Southern Roofing & Vinyl Siding LLC, $104,000 for reroofing main building at Goldonna

•Tudor Inc., for renovation of restrooms and draining at M.R. Weaver and East Natchitoches, $1,277,000

•Tudor Inc., for windows, roofing and A/C repairs at Marthaville , $1,037,000 Eloi announced that an emergency broadband benefit of up to $50 monthly could be available. Details are on the Natchitoches Parish School Board website. Among the activities of the maintenance department were movement of 50 desks from Cloutierville to Natchitoches Magnet; delivery of file cabinets to Goldonna; movement of items from M.R. Weaver to warehouse; repair of pothole at entrance to NCHS softball field and new gym; and tree trimming and mowing.