Parish Council authorizes funding for animal welfare initiative

Natchitoches Hope for Paws member Leah Forsyth draws attention to the Parish Council’s legal obligation to provide animal control services to residents. From left are councilman Marty Cheatwood, Forsyth, and councilmen Jim Kilcoyne and John Salter. Nathan Wilson

Nathan Wilson
The Natchitoches Parish Council heard arguments by volunteers representing the nascent animal welfare organization Friends All United for Natchitoches Animals (FAUNA) Sept. 20 to authorize funding for the rescue and care of stray animals within the parish.
FAUNA members pointed to the legal responsibility of the parish government to provide animal control services in their request of the Parish Council to dedicate funding for the task. They also recommended their organization as a future provider of animal care services following a pending merger of the existing Natchitoches Hope For Paws (NHFP) and Natchitoches Humane Society (NHS) organizations. Natchitoches Parish has not had a functioning parish animal shelter in recent years.
In considering the allocation, council members questioned the status of the FAUNA organization. FAUNA is planned to inherit the combined assets of NHFP and NHS, but has not yet incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and the parish government will not be able to disburse the funds until the process is complete. During the hearing, the council determined that the amount will be disbursed effective Jan. 1, 2023, by which time FAUNA will be established as a legal entity. The council will also reserve the right to review the audit of the organization’s spending to ensure appropriate usage of public funds.

This article published in the Sept. 22, 2022, print edition.

Also at issue was whether the level of funding will be available in the Parish Council’s future budget. Julie Lockhart stated that the funding could not be projected, but has been consistently available from the parish’s operating budget each year she has been employed as Parish Treasurer.
Council members voted unanimously to dedicate a total of $60,000 toward the future animal care organization. The amount reflects $50,000 specified for the construction of shelter facilities and $10,000 awarded for animal care services.
In a related motion, the council authorized Parish President John Richmond to coordinate with the City of Natchitoches to study the facility requirements for a parish shelter. Their goal is to avoid overbuilding while ensuring the facility meets the projected needs of the parish. Council member Chris Paige noted the City of Natchitoches will fund 50% of the study’s cost while projected to utilize only 13-14% of the anticipated shelter resources.
Parish Treasurer Julie Lockhart, left, speaks to the council. Nathan Wilson photo

Ordinance 018-2022 to rezone 10597 Hwy 1 south, Natchez, from industrial and agricultural use (I-A) to business use (B-3) was approved to allow for general merchandise sales and vehicular inspections.
Ordinance 019-2022 authorized budget amendments for the solid waste disposal, highway maintenance and planning and zoning funds.
The council approved five ordinances related to developing an application for funding from the 2023 Community Development Block Grant (LCDBG) Program for housing and community development. The five related agenda items authorized individual steps of the application process including adoption of a citizen participation plan, citizen complaint procedure, procurement policy and proposal development procedures related to the program.
Resolution 035-2022 affirms the parish has complied with the requirements of the Federal Off-system Bridge Replacement Program. The federal program provides 80% of the replacement or repair costs for qualifying, structurally deficient bridges with the state providing 20% in matching funds.
The council awarded a bid of $3,210,300.90 to Regional Construction, LLC. for resurfacing of Harmony Road.
A grant application for improvements to the Chee Chee Water System in the amount of $48,000 was approved. The grant applications will request funding from the Community Water Enrichment Fund (CWEF) or Local Government Assistance Program (LGAP).
The council also voted to approve two change orders for improvement projects on Fish Hatchery Road and Bermuda Road. The change order for Fish Hatchery Road reconciles an error in the dollar amount of a previous change order and accounts for a variance in the quantity of materials required for the project. The change order for Bermuda Road will provide for additional safety and durability improvements during the project.
Ordinance 021-2022 was introduced to adopt a budget for the fiscal year spanning Jan. 1, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2023.
Ordinance 022-2022 was introduced to amend the 2022 general fund, criminal court fund and library fund.
The council also approved the minutes of the previous meeting, heard reports from department heads and conducted public hearings related to ordinance 18-2022, 19-2022, and the LCDBG block grant program.
The next Parish Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 17.