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
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
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.
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.
Please vote for your favorite southern small town NATCHITOCHES, LOUISIANA! We are asking our community partners and supporters throughout the state to vote. Natchitoches is the only city in Louisiana featured in 10Best Readers’ Choice contest chosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best so help spread the word and vote!
Voting is simple!
- Click on the link http://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-southern-small-town/
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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.
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.
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.
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!
A partnership between a Natchitoches-based hotel management company and a New York investor has acquired the high-rise Marriott hotel off Interstate-10 near College Drive for $21.8 million, and plans to begin an extensive, year-long renovation of the 300-room hotel some time this fall.
In a sale that closed Thursday, Dimensions Development of Natchitoches and Allan V. Rose through their limited liability company, Baton Rouge Hotel Investors, LLC, acquired the iconic hotel from CCMS Lodging, a real estate trust that has owned it since 2013. Dimensions President and General Counsel Greg Friedman says his company, which was founded by his father Sam Friedman, was interested in the property for several reasons.
“It’s a great location, it’s got good bones and we love the Baton Rouge market,” Friedman says.
Already, Marriott and Dimensions have retained a design team to begin drawing up plans for the overhaul of the 42-year-old hotel. It was partially renovated in 2005, but to be competitive in the high-end segment of the local hotel market needs an extensive renovation, according to Friedman, who says it’s too soon to estimate the cost. Previously, industry experts have estimated the price tag could range from between $15 million and $20 million.
Friedman hopes the hotel will remain open during the renovation, which would be done one floor at a time. However, he says he’s not sure yet if that will be possible.
The Marriott is the latest addition to the growing Dimensions portfolio. The company manages 50 hotels around the country, including the Springhill Suites at the Baton Rouge Airport, and Le Pavillon and the Intercontinental in downtown New Orleans. It has an equity stake in 25 of the properties it manages. It will own a 26% share of the Baton Rouge Marriott; Rose will own 74%.
Greater Business Baton Rouge Business Report
The Natchitoches Parish Journal submitted a request for documents and written questions regarding the Head Start program in Natchitoches Parish. We received the documents and a response from Rick Nowlin, Parish President. We are posting his response here:
Natchitoches Parish Journal
P.O. Box 2537
Natchitoches, LA. 71457
April 24, 2015
To Whom it may concern:
Thank you for bringing your concerns about certain parish HS operations to my attention. By means of this email, I will attempt to answer your questions.
1. Head Start funding?
The Parish Head Start program is funded 80% by the federal government. There is a 20% local match which we have met through in-kind services, not cash. In the past, the former Police Jury had to put cash into the program due to budget overruns, but that has not occurred with the Parish Council in the past 2 years.
Also, we have heard some talk (on the street) about the higher degree of oversight exercised by my office. I believe we have a good working relationship with our leaders in the HS program, and they recognize that I try to monitor all programs, especially those in which I must sign documents certifying to the use of significant federal funds. When a program has a budget of over $2 million a year, I need to know where the money is going. We may occasionally disagree on how to accomplish our goals, but we are all committed to the children.
2. Logansport campus?
When I became President, HS had 7 centers—5 in Natchitoches Parish and 2 in DeSoto Parish. The two parish organization was apparently dictated by the federal government and had been in existence for many years. We now have 6 centers since we closed the Logansport center at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. I learned that the Logansport site had 3 employees and generally had 5 or fewer children attend school daily. When you add in the cost of the facility and food service, it just did not seem like a good return on the taxpayer’s money. After we made attempts to increase enrollment in Logansport and were not successful, we contacted the Dallas regional office of HS and received permission to close the Logansport center. We used the money saved to add another class at the MLK center in Natchitoches, providing 17 more Natchitoches children the opportunity to attend HS.
One could ask why we are operating a center in DeSoto Parish (Mansfield). The answer is that is the structure given to us and it is basically a package deal for us. We understand that the DeSoto connection is part of the agreement that gets us the centers in Natchitoches Parish. The important thing is that, if we have to operate the center in Mansfield, we need to try to make it the most productive and cost-effective center it can be.
3. Improvements at MLK?
One improvement that I am happy to see being implemented is the restoration of the gym. For many years, the gym has not been available for the children due to inoperable HVAC equipment and problems with utility services to the gym. The gym was being used for a storage building. That means that when it is rainy or cold outside, the children must remain in their classrooms all day. We all know what a challenge that can be for 3 and 4 year olds—and their teachers. After meeting with Ms. Judie Barnum, I directed my staff to get involved and get the gym back in service. In the past 3 months, we have removed the materials and equipment stored in the gym and started the cleanup. Doors have been installed on the bathroom and other improvements will be made soon. Our goal is to have the gym operational by the start of the 2015-2016 school year.
Again, I hope that this information answers your questions. If you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Natchitoches Parish President
I’m a good Christian about 72% of the time. My goal is to improve and be a good Christian 100%
of the time, but I’m not there. The truth is, in this life I will never arrive at that 100%.
I am flawed and sinful.
We have discussed the indigenous inability to count to four while driving, so I won’t bother you with my continuing four-way stop challenge. To the traffic light czar in town, we can’t do this any longer put the traffic lights back. I lose religion percentage at every busy four way stop in town. Thankfully they are all busy. We are a cool place to visit and live. Perhaps I need to start a can’t-count-at-the-four-way-stop-so-I-proceed-in-an-arbitrary-manner support group.
Maybe I was being too generous with my percentage of being a good Christian. There are times that I feel unqualified for this Christian life. I want to do better so Jesus will love me more. I am that guy who cleaned the house before the housekeeper came. I mow part of the yard the yard people are going to mow. I want to fix myself for Jesus. I want to be good God material. I want Jesus to look down and see me behaving as His child all the time, not 72% of the time. That way Jesus will love me more, right?
Some believe that you need to keep the rules to curry divine favor. Problem is I find these people always adding rules to the being-a-good-Christian-by-following-the-rules rule book.
Here is something for you to ponder. Until we admit we are a mess Jesus won’t have anything to do with us. Once we admit how unlovely we are, how broken we are, or how messed up and lost we are Jesus shows up unexpectedly.
According to the New Testament, Jesus is attracted to the unattractive. He came for lost ones not found ones. Jesus chose the losers over the winners. He picked the broken over the whole and the messy instead of the unmessy. He picked the blind, the crippled, the lepers, the demon possessed, the poor, the sick and the sinner and He called them friends.
Eugene Peterson said, “When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us—he enters into our trouble and saves us.”
As a 72 percenter, His grace is my only hope.
Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Deputies Natalie Brown-Denby and Trent Pledger completed the 37th basic training class of the Caddo Regional Police Training Academy in Shreveport on Tuesday afternoon April 21st according to Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Victor Jones Jr.
Graduation exercises were held at Summer Grove Baptist Church. Guest speaker was Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator.
Graduates took the oath of office, received their badges, and participated in a special ceremony where family and friends assisted them with pinning their badges on for the first time.
Class cadets received 360 hours or more of peace officer training in areas including law, ethics, patrol activities, defensive tactics, traffic services, report writing, investigations, firearms, first aid and criminal justice.
Deputy Trent Pledger received the Fitness Improvement Award.
Deputies Brown-Denby and Pledger will return to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office for additional in-house training in policy and procedure, report writing, communications training and assigned to a field training officer before they are released to patrol or assigned law enforcement duties in Natchitoches Parish.
Sheriff Victor Jones Jr., Chief of Patrol Doug Rachal, Captain Tony Moran, Chief Siggie Silvie Jr., Sgt. Sammy Ragan, Deputy Merry Byers, Deputy Tanja Legardy, Deputy Sammiaa Shields, family and friends attended the graduation services and welcomed both deputies to the NPSO team.
Press Release: NPSO
Courthouse Security Improvements
Priority ONE $480,000.00
Priority TWO $280,000.00
Old River Bridge
Priority ONE $610,000.00
Priority FIVE $895,000.00
Natchitoches Parish Office of Community Services
Priority ONE $40,000.00
Priority TWO $310,000.00
Resurfacing of Roads in Payne Subdivision
Priority TWO $1,015,000.00
Resurfacing of Blanchard Road
Priority TWO $280,000.00
Resurfacing of Goldonna Road
Priority TWO $1,835,000.00
Hard Surfacing of Coco Bed Road, Phase I
Priority ONE $280,000.00
Louisiana’s capital outlay planning process begins and ends with heavy influence by the governor. The basic steps are as follows:
1. The governor generates a capital outlay budget proposal with a list of projects to be granted cash and non-cash lines of credit. The list is divided into five priorities, which determine the order in which the non-cash projects will receive funding when it becomes available.
Priority 1 is limited to the reauthorization of prior year lines of credit or Higher Education Desegregation Settlement Agreement projects. Legislators cannot just add anything to Priority 1.
Currently, legislators can add to priorities 2, 3, 4 and 5 without limit.
Priority 2 projects are expected to require some funding to get started in the current fiscal year. Any funding provided has to fit under the debt issuance cap, but the cost of projects included in this list typically far exceeds available capacity. This enables the governor to decide which bondfunded projects to submit to the State Bond Commission for lines of credit after the legislative session ends. Legislators get political credit for getting a project in the bill even if it is never funded. But to earn those bragging rights, they sacrifice real power to set capital outlay priorities.
Priority 5 projects can be granted non-cash lines of credit and/or be shifted upward to a higher priority. This is essentially the waiting list for future year cash lines of credit. The “overcommitment” problem is here, because the list amounts to a project backlog. Once a project receives a non-cash line of credit it is reasonably assured of eventually being granted full cash line of credit funding in a subsequent fiscal year.
2. Capital outlay requests are made by state and non-state entities and submitted to the governor’s office for inclusion in the bill. The Division of Administration has a professional staff of budget analysts, engineers and architects who participate in a well organized and objective process for reviewing and categorizing capital outlay requests to facilitate the selection of projects to be funded in accordance with the governor’s stated priorities.
3. The governor submits the capital outlay bill to the Legislature. The House Committee on Ways and Means, House Appropriations Committee, Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs and Senate Finance Committee have jurisdiction over the bill. Projects can be added by the Legislature to priority categories 2 through 5 regardless of capacity.
4. The governor has the opportunity to veto those projects added by the Legislature.
5. The Office of Facility Planning and Control in the Division of Administration manages the construction projects outlined in the act. Cash flow management plays an important role, because when projects are delayed or canceled for feasibility purposes, cash and non-cash lines of credit are made available to fund other projects in line. The governor recommends projects to the Bond Commission for funding approval.
6. The State Bond Commission’s role is to grant or rescind cash and non-cash lines of credit. It also can approve certificates of impossibility and impracticality to allow for Priority 1 projects to be passed over while Priority 2
projects are granted lines of credit. Language in the capital outlay bill basically says that no lower priority project can be funded with lines of credit unless all higher priority projects are either granted lines of credit or passed over with certificates of impossibility and impracticality.
The Interim Emergency Board’s (IEB) role in the capital outlay process, subject to mail ballot approval by a majority of the Legislature, is to designate a higher or lower bond priority for projects. Moving funding for a delayed or canceled project from Priority 1 down to Priority 5 can be an alternative to issuing a Priority 1 certificate of impossibility and impracticality. The IEB also can adjust the description of a project in the capital outlay act to correct, clarify or change the scope of a description.
Final decisions regarding which projects are funded are firmly in the hands of the governor. The governor controls project selection at two critical stages: initial development of the annual capital outlay budget and submission of lineof-credit requests for bond-funded projects to the State Bond Commission. The governor, the commissioner of administration and the governor’s handpicked legislative leaders account for 10 of the 14 Bond Commission member votes.
In addition, the governor also has line-item veto authority to delete any cash or bond-funded project in the capital outlay budget passed by the Legislature. The process leaves little authority in the hands of the Legislature and essentially makes the capital outlay bill a legislative wish list for governors to use as a bargaining tool to obtain support for their agenda in other areas of government.