PARISH LEFT IN DECLINING CONDITION BY THE POLICE JURY – NEW GOVERNMENT TAKES STEPS TO CORRECT

NatParCourthouse

Government Reform:

Local government reform converted the Police Jury to a President and
Parish Council form of government in December 2012 with the election
of a five-member council and a full-time parish president who was given the
authority to make important, timely decisions on a daily basis.
Under the Police Jury, there was a consistent lack of financial planning. During
the first two years under the new government, with nearly the same employees,
the Parish has made significant advancements. The difference is in the leadership.
For example, at the end of 2014, each of the parish funds has, for the first time in
many years, shown a positive balance. The last available audit (Fiscal Year 2013)
states “The Parish Government is experiencing financial difficulties…and is continually
amending the budget…and there will be other problems facing the parish – controlling
expenditures, inmate cost, bridges and roads.” Also clouding the picture of the financial
condition is an adverse opinion from auditors based on an inability to determine
the actual amount of post-employment benefits due to be paid to former employees –
a significant obligation that would affect the future financial condition of the Parish.

The good news is that things are improving due to a number of steps taken by the
new government, such as:

1. Requiring supervisors and employees to be accountable for performance
2. Requiring transparency in the business of the Parish
3. Changes in staffing, emphasizing qualifications and experience
4. Better budget practices
5. Clearly defined purchasing practices
6. Improved relations with State and other local governments

Road Facts:

The biggest problem facing the Parish continues to be insufficient maintenance
on parish roads, a problem that goes back many years. Consider the following:

1. There are 977 parish roads.
2. Parish roads cover 818 miles in a large, rural area.
3. Of the 818 miles of road, 328 miles are asphalt and 490 are gravel.
4. Many Parish roads do not meet minimum standards for construction.
5. Many Parish roads do not have adequate drainage ditches or culverts.
6. The Parish has 5 motor graders and 3 dump trucks to work the 490 miles.
7. Except for State Capital Outlay funds or FEMA hurricane funds, there have been
few major road improvements in the past two decades.

Road Maintenance Finances:

One positive step taken is the implementation of a new tracking system with roads
placed on a priority basis according to their condition and impact on personal,
business and emergency services. Still, there is little money with which to work.
Two major reasons are:

1. The budget for highway maintenance peaked in 2011 at a little more than
$5,000,000 due to increased sales tax revenues and FEMA funds received
after several hurricanes hit the area, but fell in 2014 to $3,100,000.,
a reduction of 40 percent.

2. The cost of road repair, including base and overlay, has grown to approximately
$200,000 per mile, which means that to completely repair and overlay all 328 miles of
hard surface roads would cost about $65,000,000.  Including gravel public roads,
as well as church and cemetery roads, the cost to repair or replace all roads
in the parish outside of the city limits would increase the cost to over $100,000,000.

3. The property (ad valorem) taxes collected for parish roads are derived from taxes only
on property outside of the city of Natchitoches. The ten largest payers of property taxes
collectively provide about 44% of the total paid. The 1% sales tax received by the parish
government is allocated first to the cost of collecting the tax, then to the solid waste
disposal fund. Anything left over can go to the road fund, but that amount is small and
shrinking yearly

4. Property taxes generate a little more than $1,000,000 per year. Dividing $1,000,000
by 818 miles of road gives about $1200 per mile per year. Or, dividing by the number
of registered voters (over 25,000) shows that, on average, each voter pays only about
$40 per year for road maintenance.

Bottom Line:

The citizens of the parish expect that maintenance of parish roads is to be kept up
on a timely basis. In order to do this, new sources of revenue for parish government
will have to be found. While some government and associated entities have
accumulated sizeable amounts of uncommitted funds, parish government has
suffered from a deficiency of needed revenues. A comprehensive study of all taxes
collected in the parish might provide new ideas on how to solve the financial plight
of parish government. If good roads is truly a priority of the people, some restructuring
of existing taxes may be necessary.

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Dogfighting On Eight Mile Loop – Four dogs euthanized!

Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Detectives have arrested a Natchitoches man  in connection with a possible dogfighting scheme near Natchitoches according to Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

On Friday morning April 17th, Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Detectives, Deputies assigned to the NPSO Patrol Division, Natchitoches Drug Task Force agents, NPSO & Natchitoches Police Department Animal Control  Officers executed a search warrant signed by a Tenth Judicial District Court Judge at the residence of Ivory Hicks located in the 1500 block of Eight Mile Loop in the Oak Grove community near Natchitoches, La.

Detectives seized twenty-three male and female pit bulldogs, one cow, three pigs, two rabbits and a chicken. Several dogs had visible scarring and markings to the head, throat and legs.

Other items seized included a dog treadmill and pulley system attached to a nearby building to build the animals strength, bite bags attached to metal coil springs used to increase bit strength and latching, whey protein and creatine for muscle growth, whips, and several bottles of wound cleanser.

During a search of the residence, detectives seized a portable computer, ammunition, two police scanners, and drug paraphernalia commonly used to smoke illegal narcotics.

Detectives say the pit bulldogs were staked with chains less than 15 feet to various locations around property.

A chainlink pin was also observed on the property believed to be used for the training or fighting of dogs.

Detectives also seized a yellow Yahama Big Bear four-wheeler, a camflouged pattern Kawasaki Prairie four-wheeler and Kubota zero-turn riding mower.

Four of the dogs were euthanized.

Later Friday afternoon, Ivory Hicks, 43 of the 1500 block of Eight Mile Loop, Natchitoches, La., turned himself in to NPSO detectives.   Hicks was booked into the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center charged with Cruelty to Animals, Dogfighting, and Illegal Possession of a Firearm by a Person convicted of a Felony.

Hicks was later released on Friday evening on $15,000 bond set by Tenth Judicial District Court Judge Desiree Dyess.

The investigation is continuing.

The animals are currently being cared for by the NPSO Animal Control Division at the Nachitoches Parish Detention Center.

If you have any information regarding this incident or can claim any of the recovered property with a VIN# contact Detective Jared Kilpatrick of the NPSO Criminal Investigations Division at 318-357-7835.

The case will be forwarded to the Natchitoches District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Mosquito Season is Upon Us

With the unusually wet winter, mosquito season seems to have kicked into high gear early this year. The Parish, through the Health Department, operates two mosquito trucks that serve the entire Parish. This year, based on the newly formed zones for spraying, the Parish should be covered every 2-3 weeks, weather permitting.Mosquito

There are things that you can do around your house to help mitigate the mosquito population. The Parish offers the following tips:

  • Get rid of standing water in rain gutters, old tires, buckets, plastic covers, toys or any other container where mosquitoes can breed.
  • Empty and change the water in bird baths, fountains, wading pools, rain barrels and potted plant trays at least once a week to eliminate potential mosquito habitats.
  • Drain temporary pools of water or fill with dirt.
  • Keep swimming pool water treated and circulating.
  • Landscape your yard using citronella, lemon balm (horsemint), catnip, marigolds, basil, lavender, peppermint, rosemary and geraniums, which all have naturally occurring repellants.

While out and about this summer, Parish residents are encouraged to use the following precautions to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes:

  • Use EPA-registered mosquito repellents when necessary and follow label directions and precautions closely.
  • Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to cover gaps in your clothing where mosquitoes can get to your skin.
  • Use head nets, long sleeves and long pants if you venture into areas with high mosquito populations, such as salt marshes.
  • Stay indoors at sunrise, sunset and early in the evening when mosquitoes are most active, especially if there is a mosquito-borne disease warning in effect.
  • Replace your outdoor lights with yellow “bug” lights, which tend to attract fewer mosquitoes than ordinary lights. The yellow lights are NOT repellents, however.

    Residents may contact the Health Department at (318) 357-2266 to find out what zone they are in and to get information on when their zone is going to be sprayed. Residents who have chemical sensitivities or are beekeepers that notify the Health Department of their location will not be sprayed.Parishgovseal

Natchitoches Parish President on the road in Ashland, Louisiana

Rick Nowlin, Parish President addresses the group in Ashland.  When he told the crowd that their Parish Budget closed fiscal year 2014 in the Black... the group clapped and one person said "AMEN!"

Rick Nowlin, Parish President addresses the group in Ashland. When he told the crowd that their Parish Budget closed fiscal year 2014 in the Black… the group clapped and one person said “AMEN!”

NPJ was on hand for the Ashland Festival, Parade and Cake Walk in Ashland, Louisiana. Folks from our Natchitoches Parish Government were there to welcome questions from the public regarding Parish operations and the condition of Parish roads. Rick Nowlin, Parish President, Nick Verret, Director of Public Works and Lynda Vance, Health & Safety coordinator for the Mosquito Control program fielded many questions from the group under the pavilion in Ashland.

NPJ was informed that the Natchitoches Parish team will be making the rounds to all of the Fairs and Festivals in Natchitoches Parish this year. Make sure you stop by, study that complete budget for 2015 and have your questions answered.

NPJ would like to thank Ashland Mayor Gahagan Lee for inviting us to participate in the festivities this year.

Oh, and we ate some great BBQ too!

Nick Verret, Director of Public Works was on hand to answer all questions regarding Natchitoches Parish bridges, roads and solid waste.

Nick Verret, Director of Public Works was on hand to answer all questions regarding Natchitoches Parish bridges, roads and solid waste.

NPG had the Parish 2015 Consolidated line item Budget on hand.  Many were amazed by the large number of responsibilities a parish government has.  Many good questions.

NPG had the Parish 2015 Consolidated line item Budget on hand. Many were amazed by the large number of responsibilities a parish government has. Many good questions.

Rick Nowlin answers a question from 2014 fiscal operating year.

Rick Nowlin answers a question from 2014 fiscal operating year.

Nick Verret answers a question regarding our current bridge inspections by the State.

Nick Verret answers a question regarding our current bridge inspections by the State.

Rick Nowlin and Nick Verret answer a voters questions regarding a road in the Parish.

Rick Nowlin and Nick Verret answer a voters questions regarding a road in the Parish.

Nowlin, Verret and Parish Resident regarding our current Mosquito Control Program.

Nowlin, Verret and Parish Resident regarding our current Mosquito Control Program.

Nick Verret, Director of Public Works answers questions about Parish roads in Natchitochs Parish

Nick Verret, Director of Public Works answers questions about Parish roads in Natchitochs Parish.

A voter questioning the budget and why we can't just move money from one fund to another.  Nowlin - "because of Restricted Funds laws!"

A voter questioning the budget and why we can’t just move money from one fund to another. Nowlin – “because of Restricted Funds laws!”

The Natchitoches Parish Government booth in Ashland, Louisiana 04-25-15.

The Natchitoches Parish Government booth in Ashland, Louisiana 04-25-15.

Chart and Information your the Natchitoches Parish Government.

Chart and Information your the Natchitoches Parish Government.

Natchitoches Parish Government's Mosquito Control display.

Natchitoches Parish Government’s Mosquito Control display.