Council hopeful new housing will go up
Carolyn Roy | News Editor
Federal funds to help municipalities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to flow into Natchitoches and the latest disbursement will be given to City employees working in critical infrastructure departments.
At its meeting Monday, the City Council introduced Ordinance 18 that will distribute $795,919 for essential worker compensation. Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. said the one-time money will be paid in two payments, the first in April and the second in April of 2023. Williams said he and the council are grateful to the employees who maintained services during the pandemic.
Most public safety personnel, fire and police, will receive a total of $3,000; full-time personnel, $2,000; and part-time $1,000.
The City is scheduled to receive a total of just over $6.4 million with the first half received and the second half due in August.
The council will move forward with condemnation of the Hopeville Apartments on 2ASecond Street. The saga of the crumbling complex began in 2019 when the council first sought to demolish the buildings but agreed to give owners time to begin work on restoring the complex. When no work began, the City passed a condemnation ordinance in August of that year. Litigation by the owners stalled condemnation and the complex remained in its deteriorating state until the Williams administration rescinded the condemnation order with the hope that owners would fulfill the promise of restoration.
Negotiations broke down and the council once again has introduced a condemnation ordinance that will be voted on at the March 28 meeting. At the meeting, resident Mary Striegel asked the council to please take action. She said the complex was a total dereliction with failed promises from the bank that owned it, rodents thrive there, there are break-ins by homeless people and the general appearance is unacceptable.
A Northwestern State student who lives in the fraternity house next door, Evan Murphy, said people park at the complex while they commit car burglaries in the area.
Williams said that with the economic growth underway, he was hopeful that the project would offer more housing. “We tried,” he said.
Councilperson-at-Large Betty Smith said the City had been more than fair working with the developers and it was time to move on. Councilman Eddie Harrington said he was hopeful that something bigger and better could be built there.
Director of Planning and Zoning Shontrell Roque said her department will follow the same process as with any other condemnation.
Another ordinance introduced awards the contract for the Phase 1 Street Rehabilitation for 2021-22 to Williams Equipment services LLC of Anacoco. The bid is for $1,177,046. Streets included in Phase 1 include Saida, St. Clair (Williams to East Fifth), Sewanee, Amulet (Payne to Hedges), Breda Avenue and Peninsula Drive.
Ordinance 15 awards the bid for Christmas lighting supplies, namely, light bulbs, to Dean Nida & Associates LLC of Sarasota, Fla. The bid was $44,050.
Ordinance 16 increases authority of non-commissioned animal control officers so that police officers are not diverted from road patrol and enforcement of serious crimes to respond to misdemeanor animal control offenses. They will be able to issue citations and misdemeanor summonses, obtain warrants, assist in making arrests and submit affidavits to the court.
Ordinance 17 restates the name of Natchitoches CSA LLC that is the correct name for the corporation that will build a Chick-fil-A at the corner of Keyser and East Fifth.
Roque spoke to the need for Ordinance 19 that will enable the planning and zoning department to dispose of adjudicated property. Some of those properties have been on the City tax rolls for over 30 years and are expensive to maintain. There are 50 such properties. Once they are sold, they will be better maintained and result in revenue for the City.
Ordinance 20 authorizes the City Industrial Development Board to issue $1.6 million in bonds to pay for renovations to the National Park Service facility that was once the Eagle Distributing Co. office. It now houses National Park Service artifacts. Some of the money will be used for the restoration of the Texas and Pacific Depot. The bonds will be repaid over 20 years by the $130,000 annual lease payments by the Park Service.
Ordinance 21 approves the power agreement between the City and CLECO. Director of Utilities Matt Anderson said the City sent out requests for proposals and received four with the one from CLECO the best. Energy consultants helped decide on the one from CLECO that contains two items that will result in savings for consumers starting in January of 2023.
The proposed ordinances will be voted on at the March 28 meeting.
The council adopted six resolutions.
No. 18 authorizes the Mayor to advertise for caustic soda for the water treatment plant. Bids will be opened April 12 at 2 p.m.
No. 19 appointed Kamal Deep to the Industrial Development Board to fill the unexpired term of Wayne McCullen. The term expires April 23. Deep has been employed at Alliance Compressors for 15 years and has 30 years experience in manufacturing.
No. 20 calls for the City to pay $65,000 for the project to improve and enlarge the wastewater lift station on Keyser. Delta Regional Authority will pay the remaining $400,000.
No. 21 approves the issuance of $935,000 in revenue bonds for lift stations on Washington and Mill. The life of the bonds is no more than 22 years at an interest rate of .95 percent.
The City will hire Cothren Graff & Smoak Inc. for application assistance seeking a $400,000 grant from the Love Louisiana Outdoors Grant program. The grant is sought for numerous improvements to Richardson Park including a walking track, parking lot, pavilion, barbecue pits, trash cans, basketball court and more. The application is covered in No. 22.
The final resolution, #23, provides for an additional 1 cent sales tax to be collected in the River South Commons Economic Development District where Big Lots will be located on South Drive.
The next scheduled meeting will be March 28.