ARC asks City for help to stay solvent


Nathan Wilson | Reporter
The Natchitoches City Council began its meeting April 5 with Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. and council members Dale Nielsen, Betty Sawyer-Smith, Eddie Harrington and Christopher Petite. Councilwoman Rosemary Elie was not present. The Council voted to affirm two proclamations, passed nine resolutions and introduced four more. All orders of business that came to a vote were passed unanimously with the exception of resolution number 30 which passed without being voted on by Harrington.
Audrey Edney appeared before the council to appeal to the residents and City of Natchitoches for donations and funding assistance to keep Natchitoches ARC solvent. She explained the 501C3 non-profit has served Natchitoches for 59 years but is experiencing severe financial stress from closing for nearly two years, but it continued to incur expenses and suffered from vandalism to one of its vehicles. She requested the City consider sponsoring ARC in support of its mission of providing support and employment opportunities for cognitively disabled community members. She also suggested community members consider reaching out to ARC director Alicia Pierce Gonzalez to collaborate on fundraising opportunities. After Edney’s address, City Council member Betty Sawyer-Smith personally pledged $300.
The council began voting on proclamations.
No. 24: The council voted to proclaim April 11-15 National Community Development (NCD) week. NCD week recognizes the importance of the Community Block Grant Development program in providing funding for community improvement and economic development to the benefit of low and moderate income residents. Natchitoches Community Development Director Randy Lacaze stated Natchitoches regularly received grant funding through the program with the construction of a water line to Powhatan providing an example of the program’s benefit. Utilities Director Matt Anderson indicated the funds were also being used for a well project to supply an additional 300,000 gallons of water to the city each day.
No. 29: The council also voted to proclaim April 22 Earth Day in the city of Natchitoches. Williams said April 18-24 is Love the Boot Week and encouraged residents to register for cleanup activities.
The council then began voting on, or introducing, ordinances.
No. 22: Authorized the mayor to award a bid for the purchase of a $750,000 back-up generator.
No. 25: Designated funds from the American Rescue Plan to support city employees working with critical infrastructure.
No. 26: Introduced to adopt the City’s budget for June 1, 2022, to May 31, 2023.
No. 27: Introduced to enter into an agricultural lease of a 96.82 acre tract to Russell and Mary Edith of Stacy Farms for three years.
No. 28: Introduced to amend the relationship between the City of Natchitoches and the Community Façade and Economic Enhancement Committee to administer grants for façade and community development improvements along Texas Street and Washington Street. As a member of the newly formed façade review board, Elton Wade Sr. made a public comment revealing the board had already met with around 10-12 Texas Street business owners to answer their questions.
The council began voting on resolutions.
No. 25: Reappointed Gary DeBlieux to the Industrial Development Board (IDB).
No. 26: Reappointed Glen Moffett to the IDB. Community member Carl Sias questioned the benefit of the IDB. LaCaze stated the IDB was a common feature in cities around Louisiana and the country. Harrington stated board members are not compensated for their roles.
No. 27: Approved the purchase of fire hoses with funding from the Local Government Assistance Program in the amount of $9,702 to replace failed equipment.
No. 28: Authorized the mayor to advertise for bids for rehabilitating wastewater collection systems and the Mill street and Grand Ecore lift stations. The city will pay approximately two-thirds of the $935,000 cost, while $312,000 will be forgiven through a DEQ grant.
No. 30: Interpreted the lease agreement between the City and Cane River Partners. Cane River Partners is subleasing from CLB Partners LLC to open Flying Heart Brewing. The resolution passed with Harrington abstaining while citing a conflict of interest.