Carolyn Roy | News Editor
There was good news for Bermuda Road residents at the Parish Council meeting Monday.
Parish President John Richmond said contractors have moved in equipment, underground pipe, culverts have been delivered and surveying should begin next week. The “clock has started” on the 180-day contract and the road should be completed by October.
As for Hart and Harmony roads, survey stationing has begun. Stationing is the system of measurement used for road layout and construction.
In answering Council member Pat Ward-Hoover, Richmond addressed the Old River Road Bridge in the Village of Natchez that was burned several years ago. He is exploring positioning railroad cars to be used as the foundation for a bridge to allow access to the Village. Railroad cars are low in cost and maintenance and effective in low-volume waterways such as Old River.
The council adopted a resolution that lists bridges to be put in the Federal Off-System Bridge Replacement Program. The Federal government has designated $5 million for bridge replacement but it is not known when the money will be released. The last bridges placed in that program were listed in 2012 but were not repaired until 2019.
The bridges put in the program are Government Road over Cypress Creek (two places), Brandon Cotton Road over Bayou Terre Blanc, Nelson Road over Brushy Creek, Dick Anderson Road over Brushy Creek, Old Victoria Road over Trudo Creek, Shady Grove South Road over Middle Creek (four places) and Forest Road over Lyles Creek.
There was business conducted other than that relating to roads and bridges. Through a resolution, the council voted to hire a tax attorney to address an IRS matter related to non-filing of 1095C forms for the year that ended Dec. 31, 2017. The information forms for the Affordable Care Act are used by employers to report health care coverage that was available to employees and what coverage they were enrolled in. Parish Government owes the IRS $142,000 in penalties because the forms were not submitted.
The penalty is $70,000 for not filing and $72,000 for accruing interest.
Parish Treasurer Julie Lockhart said she had been advised that Parish Government should hire a tax attorney because the issue is so complex. That attorney could possibly mitigate the amount of the penalty.
After the council adopted the resolution, Ward-Hoover asked how much the tax attorney would cost and how much money is being spent on specialized attorneys. There were questions of why the District Attorney’s office cannot provide more help. “With all we have in the District Attorney’s office, why can’t they help us?” Ward-Hoover asked. Council chairman John Salter said Ward-Hoover made a good point but there was not a tax attorney in the District Attorney’s office.
Another problem Richmond is facing is occasional limited access to the dozen homes on Brick Yard Road. Council member Chris Paige said there is a serious problem because the road is sometimes blocked by a train for 30 to 40 minutes. Previously, residents were allowed access through the Weyerhaeuser plant but that can no longer happen because of liability problems. Paige was critical of the company for being unable to meet to discuss the problem but having no problem asking Parish Government for tax exemptions.
The council voted to remove a section of the personnel manual related to recording conversations with employees. The issue has been on the agenda since February at the request of Salter. Opinions from the District Attorney and Attorney General have deemed the policy neither unconstitutional nor illegal. Salter said the council could still vote to remove the section and three other council members voted with him. Marty Cheatwood cast the only dissenting vote.
By resolution, the council agreed to support a Local Government Assistance Program at the request of Clerk of Court David Stamey. He is seeking $99,513 to pay for “back-scanning” parish records such as marriage licenses to add to older records. It will provide easier access and record security.
Stamey reminded the council that his office receives no direct funding from Parish Government and is self-funded.
The council authorized Richmond to enter into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with La. DOTD and the Sheriff’s Office to facilitate pickup and disposal of roadside debris in the parish. The entities can no longer provide free services such as inmate labor. The Parish can’t allow free dumping at the landfill and La DOTD can’t deposit trees without paying a fee. Each entity must show their services provide something of value, thus the CEA outlining that value.
By resolution, the council approved Fire District 6 holding a special tax election Nov. 8 to levy a parcel fee.
The council also supported a resolution that supports the continued publication of minutes, notices and official government proceedings in the local newspaper as the best way to inform the public.
The council approved the following:
•Reappointment of Lauryn Sharplin to the Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau
•Reappointment of John L. Morgan and appointment of Edwin Kerry to the Fire District 1 Board
•Reappointment of the Rev. Dr. Frank Fuller and appointment of Carmella Parker to the Natchitoches Library Board of Control
Carolyn Roy | News Editor