BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Time was growing short Thursday for Louisiana lawmakers to strike a deal on next year’s $24 billion budget and the tax plans that will finance it.
Work in the 60-day regular legislative session must end by 6 p.m.
House and Senate leaders were trying to reach an agreement on how to raise taxes, shrink tax breaks and scale back business subsidies, as a way to drum up hundreds of millions of dollars for the budget. The money would stop deep cuts to colleges and public health services.
Lawmakers also were haggling over whether to meet Gov. Bobby Jindal’s criteria for the tax changes he’ll consider. If they don’t, they risk a veto of some of the tax bills that would pay for the spending plans in the budget.
Jindal, who is expected to announce his presidential campaign in two weeks, is threatening to veto bills he considers a net tax increase unless lawmakers find a way to offset them with what he considers a tax cut. He’s closely guarded his record on a no-tax pledge he signed with an organization led by national anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
The Senate has agreed to create a tax credit – only on paper – that would satisfy Jindal’s terms. But so far, House members have balked. They have called that idea a deception to the public, designed solely to benefit the Republican governor’s White House ambitions.
If the governor gets his wish on a budget deal, it will be a rare victory in a legislative session that has shot down two of the centerpieces of his agenda.
Lawmakers rejected Jindal’s push to give special protections in state law to people who oppose same-sex marriage, killing the bill after its first hearing.
They also refused the governor’s effort to strip the Common Core education standards from Louisiana’s public school classrooms. Instead, they ended the legislative controversy with a compromise that leaves much of the long-term decision-making on standards to the state’s next governor and state school board members elected this fall.
By Thursday, lawmakers had cleared away nearly everything not connected to finances, leaving the final day’s focus the same as when the session started: how to close Louisiana’s $1.6 billion budget gap in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The Senate was seeking a much higher tobacco tax rate that also would sweep in more types of tobacco products than the House sought. Also, the House disagreed with the Senate’s plan to make deeper reductions to Louisiana’s generous film tax credit program. In addition, the House has resisted a Senate plan to raise a fee on car buyers by $50.
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said he was confident the House and Senate could reach an agreement to “save higher education, fund health care and have a balanced budget” on time.
But whether that will include the offsets sought by Jindal remained unclear.
Without a tax credit or some other offset proposal, about $371 million used by lawmakers in next year’s budget to pay mainly for public health care services and higher education risks a veto from the governor.
Ninety-four of the 105 House members signed onto a symbolic measure indicating a willingness to hold a veto override session if Jindal jettisons money tied to health care and colleges. The Senate has resisted the idea, and it’s unclear if the Legislature would have the two-thirds votes required to override the governor’s vetoes in such a session.
© 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
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The listing placed NSU at no. 5, above colleges such as Texas A&M and the University of Georgia. The site qualified the Natchitoches-based university by saying it “is another top public school with an “e-Campus” branch of its main university. Through “eNSU” you can attain an advanced graduate degree in Adult Education, Student Affairs, Educational Technology Leadership, Gifted Education, Early Intervention, Professional Teaching Standards, School Librarian, and much more. Northwestern State offers more unique online master’s in education degrees than any other school on this list, most of which cover teaching/instruction and administrative topics. Post-graduate and add-on certifications further increase the number of options for aspiring teachers attending NSU. The overall low tuition rates at this university provide an added appeal to budget-conscious master’s students.”
Northwestern State listed as one of nation’s top online master’s degree programs. President Jim Henderson said via a social media post, “Yet another great ranking for NSU online programs.”
Graduate degrees in education are a popular choice for online learners. In many cases, students earn a B.S. or B.A. at a “traditional” school, and then eventually enroll in an online college to earn advanced credentials while continuing to work full-time. Perhaps the biggest draw for graduate programs is the increased salary potential; depending on the subject area, teachers with advanced degrees can make $5,000-$10,000 more a year!
The rankings were determined by tuition, undergrad GPA, delivery modes, number of programs, and categories of study. See more below
The Natchitoches Parish Journal received the following submission from Mr. Dennis Coleman, formerly of Marthaville, La. The views expressed are those of Mr. Coleman and not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal:
For whatever reason, some seem to remember, with nostalgia, the previous form of government in Natchitoches Parish; I do not. Growing up in Marthaville in the 50’s and 60’s, I remember well the hardworking men of the road crews as well as the diligence of our police juror in Ward 5. The first one I remember was Mr. Travis Durr and then Mr. Rufus Knott, both fine men. The equipment they had to work with, however was always “worn out.” The “Ward System” was most effective at splitting the revenue ‘pie’ into small edible bites which could be easily swallowed by this antiquated system. The available parish budget was split up between the 10 Wards until the late 60’s when the road department was centralized. This was an improvement, but resulted in “turf wars” among the jurymen. There was a certain amount of ‘what’s in it for me?’ and, frankly, some of the jurymen were simply more politically savvy than their colleagues. Some wards seemed to do much better than others at first, but generally the parish suffered. As a direct result the citizenry lost confidence in the system and began a succession of defeats for any tax proposal that might be proposed. Finally, it was recognized that a change had to be made and the citizens voted to adopt the Home Rule Charter form of government which began in 2012. The vote to do this was delayed by the police jury for one year, but was ultimately passed and a new era in Natchitoches Parish began. Though the HRC began with the deficit left them, they did end the year in the black, for the first time in a long time. Now, in 2015, it was decided to form an Advisory Commission to assess the situation with the parish roads and develop a strategy to repair, rebuild and maintain the roads of the parish. The commission came up with three different scenarios; two of these call for an increase in tax millages. For me, the third option is the most palatable. It would fund an $80 million bond issue and would permit the more severely damaged roads to be fixed sooner. Strangely, as I see it, the most costly option is to do nothing. It would still require spending $2.9 million (the same as 1985) and parish would still have inadequate funding for the proper maintenance of the roads. So, the voters can sit back and fondly remember their former police juryman and decry the merits of the current system while prematurely tearing up their automobile, or can take up the challenge of actually having a plan for the immediate and long term future. The choice is yours.
Dennis Coleman is a graduate Marthaville High, Attended NSU, grad. La Tech, Worked in heavy construction/Oil industry until 1987, has been licensed insurance agent since. Married 44 years next month, to his wife Delinda also from Mville, 3 adult children, 7 grandchildren. Dennis and Delinda are members of the Baptist Church.
To the people who are trying to get a handle on what is going on with the roads in Natchitoches parish and what is being done to repair decades of abuse and inattention I offer this letter as a place to start. BEWARE: you are being fed a daily stream of poison and misinformation designed to further an agenda. I offer you this insight. Take a couple of hours of your time and go back to the beginning of the posts/discussions on Fix Our Roads in Natchitoches Parish on facebook and read not only the articles on it but each and every comment to those articles. As time progresses you will see how comments from the same people start a subtle shift in direction. As you read these comments and see the subtle shift in direction ask yourself “Now why would they say this when just a little while ago they were saying that”. Let your conscience be your guide while you are reading.
Not long ago I retired from a job that was the love of my life. I drove a truck cross-country for over thirty years and was forced out of the truck because of a defibrillator being planted in my chest as the result of a failing heart. One side of my heart is dead and I have only 20% function. I don’t say this looking for sympathy. Lord, no. I’ve lived a full and wonderful life and if God says it’s time to come home one day soon then I’m ready. I say this just so you will know that I have no axe to grind in this charade. There is no benefit to be had by me by taking sides or slinging poison darts. I’m here to do what I can to help care for my soon to be 86 year old mother and nothing else.
While I was in the truck I drove hazardous chemicals out of the Houston area and after my step father died I would take one long three or four-day weekend per month off to come back here and do the mowing, bush hogging, house and fence repairing etc. As the years progressed and the roads deteriorated it caused me concern. When I retired recently and came back here I set out to see if I could find out why. I asked Mom who our Police Juryman was because I wanted to pay him a visit and was told that we don’t have a Police Juryman any more. She couldn’t comprehend what the changes were and couldn’t tell me where to go to find out why. Well, after they installed my satellite dish I started searching for answers. It was there that I learned that the form of our parish government had changed from the Police Jury form to the Home Rule Charter. The deeper I searched the more questions I had so I went to some folks that had been family friends for over forty years and were once involved in politics on the state level and started finding out some of the answers.
I won’t go into all the sordid details that I was told but suffice it to say that the wonderful folks in Natchitoches parish where I was born and raised haven’t always been told the truth. Imagine that. I always joked when I was younger that Louisiana had the best politicians that money could buy. Little did I know how close to the truth that was. My purpose in starting this quest was to find out why the roads were in such horrible conditions. It still is. In making my monthly trips home it was completely obvious when you crossed the state line. Sure didn’t need signs to let you know when you crossed from Texas into Louisiana. Didn’t matter which way I came you knew instantly that you were now in Louisiana.
My families old home place and the one I now live on is in western Natchitoches parish between Robeline and Marthaville. As a kid my cousin and I would ride our bicycles down these backwoods dirt roads. From where we lived you could ride down the Freeman Loop to the Rawls loop down Rock Hill (loved flying down that hill on a bicycle), to Anthony Church road and continue on seemingly into infinity without ever crossing out on a blacktop road. As I grew older and started driving we went down that same hill in an old 54 Ford pickup without a bed on it and it was still exciting to fly down hill. My point in this is that indeed you could fly down that hill and feel somewhat safe. Can’t do that down Freeman Loop, Rawls Loop, Rock Hill Rd., Anthony Church Rd. now. Can’t do that down ANY Natchitoches parish rural road unless you are suicidal and have a death wish. One of the roads I used to drive down frequently was the Robeline to Provencal Rd. I tried it when I first came home. Only once. That is a hideous excuse for a road. Almost need a half-track or at least a tractor to go down it.
So anyone who tells me that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to the roads in western Natchitoches parish can stuff it. I was raised on them. In college I dated a girl from Readhimer and got very familiar with some of the dirt roads over in that section of the parish (ever gone down a strange dirt road near midnight looking for a place to go parking?) Nah, me either. So when I tell you that there have been decades of abuse and lack of maintenance I know of which I speak.
Fast forward to today and the conditions. One by one I found what I believe to be the answers to the questions I sought. Those of us older folks can remember back to 1986 and the prices of various items of the time. A loaf of bread, a can of tuna, a Coke and a candy bar etc. Look at those prices today. I have a life long love of tuna and very well remember getting three cans for a dollar at regular price and four cans for a dollar on sale. The cheap stuff is a dollar a can now and we won’t even go into a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. I had a budget for groceries then and could easily feed my family if we bought judiciously. Could I feed my family the same way now on that same budget? You already know the answer to that question. My monthly budget for groceries would be gone in a week. What I found out in my researching is that we are asking our highway department to do just that with our roads. We are graciously giving them the same amount of money today as we did in 1986 to repair and maintain our roads. Doesn’t make a tea tinkers darn what form of government we have it just can’t be done. What little was done was done by robbing Peter to pay Paul and folks just as in your personal finances it doesn’t work. Someone isn’t going to get paid at the end of the month. But there are lots of folks on here who will tell you that’s exactly what they want the road crews to do. Fix the roads and bring them up to spec. using the same amount of money that we gave them thirty years ago. Anyone with just a smidgen of common sense will tell you it can’t be done. WAKE UP. You’re driving on the answer to that question. And now you’re stomping your feet and pointing your fingers like a school kid and saying that parish government isn’t fixing your roads. Grow up. They’re not going to be fixed as long as you keep hog tying their hands. Just as you can’t feed your family on a 1986 budget you can’t properly repair and maintain roads on a 1986 budget.
Without going into all the details that the naysayers don’t want to hear I believe that the current way of governing lends itself to a very transparent entity that can be trusted to spend money wisely. Some folks on this site are saying “So they balanced a budget. Want a cookie?? Well, as a matter of fact you can have a cookie because there is money in the budget to give you one. You’ve gone from a form of government that was audited by the state 15 times in 18 years because of spending “irregularities” to one that has shown they know how to budget properly and all you can do is point fingers at it. That’s one heck of an accomplishment. You’ve got a parish President who makes 87,000/year. So what. I made twice that in the truck and didn’t have to put up with all the BS he does on a daily basis. I personally wouldn’t have his job at double the salary. Let’s see, the current administration saved the taxpayers almost a quarter million dollars in it’s first year versus the old NPPJ??? Pretty good return on investment if you ask me. Is it perfect?? Not by a long shot. There is always room for improvement and I believe that those weak areas are being addressed. And then I get hit with the obnoxious statement that “Well, they’ve been there three years and nothing’s been done on my road.” Go back and re-read the previous paragraphs. Because of the court battle with the NPPJ they didn’t take office until the end of 2012 and had to operate under a budget that the NPPJ came up with in 2013. Last year was the first year for them to come up with a budget and tackle what they did and come in balanced. Not a bad way to start. In one year they accomplished what hadn’t been done in the previous twenty or longer.
What they have done is appoint an ad-hoc committee to study parish finances and the road/bridge department to try to come up with some answers so that we out in the woods can have some decent roads. That committee has had two meetings open to the public (which very few cared to come to) but has made some major headway into solving the problem and has come up with three possible alternatives. Alternative number one: Do nothing and just carry on day-to-day while we watch our roads disintegrate into nothing and our vehicle maintenance costs skyrocket. Let them completely collapse so that police, fire and EMS can’t get back into our homes, school buses will start refusing to pick up your kids and you’ll be forced to drive them to school. Oh, and while you’re out swing by the post office because your mail carrier can’t get to your house. Alternative number two: find an additional 1.3 million dollars in revenue. This would allow the parish to completely rebuild all its road network in ten years and improve all of our quality of life. And finally alternative 3: Take this same additional 1.3 million and float an 80 million dollar bond issue. You get all of the benefits of alternative number two but it can be done in five years by using contractors who build roads for a living and will do it the right way while at the same time freeing up the local road dept. to be able to do much better maintenance. Would this 80 million dollars just be given to them right away to spend?? Nope. It would be deposited into a trust account with a trustee who has a long list of qualifications that must be met before they will release one dollar on any project. Hmmm. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see which is the better of the three alternatives.
The committee will be wrapping up their investigations at the end of this month with an open meeting on June 25th at five o’clock in the courthouse. I urge all Natchitoches parish residents to be there and hear what they have to say. I would also request that all parish residents attend the monthly Council meetings so that you can see first hand what they are doing and the floor is open for you to say what you feel and ask questions. This way it is you who has your hand on the checkbook and your say in what checks are written. They are your employees and just as you expect them to have rules for their employees, you make the rules for yours.
Thanks for listening.
My son, Sean Stewart, will be 10 years old on June 24, 2015. Sean has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and is hearing-impaired. He is the sweetest and most warm-hearted little guy you will ever meet! Sean has had so many struggles, but he takes it on with courage in his heart and a smile on his face. As some of you know, he loves getting mail. Would you consider sending him a postcard or a birthday card? He absolutely loves mail and has not received any in over two months. Please share this with everyone you know. Would love to receive 1, 000 pieces of mail! Let’s beat the Christmas card campaign of 500! (The Natchitoches Post Office and their employees were so helpful during the Christmas card campaign. Thank you to Missy Troquille and staff for helping Sean achieve his wish.) He loves to collect the stamps and look at all the places he receives mail from. He is fascinated with geography. In addition, Sean has developed friendships via penpals. Socialization is so important with children on the spectrum. We read every piece of mail and he picks out mail for him to respond to. Please help support his birthday wish! Spread the word! #TeamSean#IamSean
Please send all mail to:
P.O. Box 359
Natchitoches, Louisiana 71458.
The Natchitoches Parish Journal will mail their card in time for Sean’s birthday!
Ashley Aldredge, a Natchitoches native who also grew up in Montgomery and Ruston (Cedar Creek School product), bolted for the big college spotlight of Texas A&M after being a highly recruited prospect. She lasted just eight weeks, saying she was homesick for the closeness of her small town.
Aldredge said coming back home and to Northwestern State is one of the best decisions she’s ever made, having a support system of family and friends to help raise Tate while she attends school, practice and even assists in managing the family restaurants (Mama’s Oyster House and Papa’s Bar and Grill) on Natchitoches’ Front Street.
Aldredge will make her first NCAA Women’s Track and Field Championships appearance Thursday in Eugene, Oregon.
CREDIT: Gary Hardamon/NSU Photo Lab
City Council Meeting
June 8, 2015
Dr. Thomas Burns was awarded the “You Made a Difference” award for his 9 years of service with the City Planning Committee.
Planning & Zoning:
#030: Approved-Ordinance Amending Ordinance No. 64 Of 2001 By Changing Zoning Classification Of Property Described As Follows:
Lot Containing 0.233 Acres Being A Portion Of An 8.75 Acre Tract Located In Westwood Commercial Lots In Section 40, Township 9 North-Range 8 West, Shown On A Survey Recorded At Map Slide 643-B From B-3 Commercial To Additional B-A Zoning To Sell Beverages Of High And Low Alcoholic Content For Consumption On Premise. Los Nopales, LLC d/b/a El Patio Mexican Grill (5412 University Parkway).
#031: Approved– Ordinance Amending Ordinance No. 64 Of 2001 By Changing Zoning Classification Of Property Described As Follows:
Lot 86 Feet Front, East Side 2nd Street, North By Johnson, East By Bayou Amulet, South By Pace From R-1 Residence To R-2 Residence Multiple Family To Convert A Garage Into An Apartment. Gary Griggs (335 Second Street.
#032: Approved- Ordinance Amending Ordinance No. 64 Of 2001 By Changing Zoning Classification Of Property Described As Follows:
Lot 60 Feet Front West Side 4th Street North And South By Brown Between Buard Street and Pavie Street (Being A Portion Of Lots 100 And 101 Of Fleury Plat) From R-2 Residence Multiple-Family To R-2 Special Exception To Operate Counseling/Administration Office. Jennifer Johnson Karle (830 Fourth Street)
#029: Approved- Ordinance Authorizing The City To Lease To Frank R. Hall And Sidonia B. Hall A Tract of Land Being That Portion Sidney Street Situated Between Jefferson Street And Cane River Lake, Setting The Terms And Conditions Of Same, And Authorizing The Execution Of The Lease By The Mayor, Lee Posey, After Due Compliance With The Law, And Further Providing For Advertising Of The Lease And An Effective Date.
#033: Approved- Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches To Award The Bid For The 2015 City Street Project (Bid No. 0568) to T.L. Construction, LLC for $1,068,119.60.
#034: Approved- Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches, Louisiana, To Enter Into A Memorandum Of Understanding With The Natchitoches Community Alliance Foundation, Inc., Which Said Memorandum Provides For Services To Be Provided By The Natchitoches Community Alliance Foundation, Inc., Providing For A Three Year Term, Providing For Advertising, Further Providing For Severability, And Further Providing For A Repealer And Effective Date Of Ordinance. The city will provide $50,000 in funds for economic development.
#047: Approved-Resolution Appointing Michael D. Lewis To The City Planning Commission For The City Of Natchitoches.
#048: Approved- Resolution Authorizing The Mayor To Enter Into A Contract With Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services For The One Beacon Insurance Group Casualty Package Insurance Renewal Effective June 30, 2015 Through June 20, 2016.
#049: Approved- Resolution Authorizing The Mayor To Enter Into A Contract With Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services For The Tenant User Liability Insurance Policy For The Natchitoches Events Center And Beau Jardin For The City Of Natchitoches.
#50: Approved– Resolution Fixing The Time, Day, Date and Place of Regular Meetings Of The City Council Of The City Of Natchitoches For The Next Twelve Months. At 5:30 p.m. on every 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month at the Natchitoches Art Center.
#051: Approved– Resolution Establishing Meeting Times And Places Of: Natchitoches Planning Commission, Historic District Commission, Airport Advisory Commission, And Waterworks District No.1.
Planning and Commission meetings: 5:3o p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at the Natchitoches Arts Center.
Historic District Commission Meetings will take place at 5:00 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at the Natchitoches Arts Center.
Airport Advisory Commission will meet at 5:00 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at the Natchitoches Regional Airport Terminal.
Waterworks District No. 1 will meet at 5:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at the Waterworks District Office.
#052: Approved- Resolution Appointing Members To The City Planning Commission For the City Of Natchitoches.
Charles Whitehead, III
Rev. Bobby Claiborne
Michael D. Lewis
#053: Approved- Resolution Appointing Members To The Natchitoches Historic District Commission For The City Of Natchitoches.
Dr. Virginia Crossno
Mrs. Sharon Gahagan
Dr. Steve Horton
Mrs. Theresa Vallien
Mrs. Melissa Robinson
Mrs. Marion Salter
#054: Approved- Resolution Appointing Stacy McQueary As Clerk Of The Council For The City Of Natchitoches
#055: Approved- Resolution Appointing The Auditor For The City Of Natchitoches. The firm of Johnson, Thomas and Cunningham from May 31, 2015-May 31, 2016.
#056: Approved- Resolution Appointing the Fiscal Year Agent For The City of Natchitoches- MidSouth Bank in Natchitoches.
#057: Approved-Resolution Designating The Natchitoches Times As the Official Legal Journal For The City Of Natchitoches For The Next Twelve Months.
#058: Approved- Resolution Approving A Subordination Non-Disturbance And Attornment Agreement By And Between City Bank & Trust Company, Cane River Aero, LLC And The City Of Natchitoches, In Connection With Financing Of The Construction Of A Hanger Facility By Cane River Aero, Llc On Property Leased From The City Of Natchitoches, And Authorizing The Mayor To Execute The Subordination Non-Disturbance And Attornment Agreement On Behalf Of The City Of Natchitoches.
The next scheduled City Council meeting will be June 22, 2015.
The Offices of the City of Natchitoches will be CLOSED Friday, July 3, 2015 in honor of Independence Day
This year’s second annual benefit tournament — the “Pull” Together Sporting Clay Tournament” on June 20 at the Natchitoches Parish Shooting Range — carries more urgency since the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake April 25 in Nepal. That quake has been followed by thousands of aftershocks and another major quake on May 12 measuring 7.3 in magnitude.
“The proceeds from last year’s tournament went to provide scholarships for girls in Nepal,” said Causey, “and the money was raised for the elementary, junior high, high school students or further. This year we’ll use some of the money for earthquake relief.”
Entrants in this year’s tournament have the choice of making their checks ($125 individual registration or $400 for four-person team) to ENG (for scholarships) or ENG “Earthquake Relief.” Women and girls in Nepal, according to a United Nations report, are disadvantaged, and in the aftermath of a disaster, the risk of sexual violence, exploitation and abuse, trafficking and forced prostitution and marriage may be heightened.
What: “Pull” Together Sporting Clay Tournament
When: Saturday, June 20
Where: Natchitoches Parish Shooting Range, 635 Tauzin Island Road
Benefit: Empower Nepali Girls Foundation (scholarships and earthquake relief)
Sponsor: United Methodist Men of First UMC, Natchitoches
Registration: 8 a.m. (form: tinyurl.com/pulltogethertournament)
Shooting: 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; shooters under 17 must be accompanied by parent or legal guardian
Four-person team: $400
Individual registration: $125
Father-child cost: $200
Non-shooter lunch: $10
Contact: Nolton Causey, 318-352-6182
The Form: Pull Together Entry Form 2015
On March 17, 2014, the Natchitoches Parish Council passed Ordinance #06-2014 that added roads into the Parish System by taking in all roads that provide access to a cemetery and/or church. Those who attended the public meeting held for the Ordinance supported the action overwhelmingly and the Ordinance passed unanimously. Among the reasons offered in support of the Ordinance was that the Parish had been maintaining some of the cemetery roads for years; that some of these cemeteries were the final resting places for loved ones of Parish residents who can’t get access to their family plots without assistance from the Parish; and that some of the cemeteries date back to the Civil War and there is a need to preserve our history.
It is hard to argue against some of these points. And, the need to honor our dead should always be a matter of utmost importance and is not a subject to be disputed. However, there are some facts about Ordinance #06-2014 that were not presented at the meeting that the residents of the Parish should be aware of.
1. The Ordinance, in essence, is an unfunded mandate that puts cemetery and church roads in direct competition for the limited (and dwindling) resources of our Department of Public Works. It does not provide for a dedicated source of revenue for the maintenance of cemetery and church roads. The Ordinance also fails to restrict the level of maintenance that the Parish must provide to the cemeteries and churches. If a cemetery or church board calls the Parish for assistance on a monthly basis, they expect the Parish to do the work requested and cite the Ordinance as justification. The Ordinance mandates the Department of Public Works to pull equipment and staff off of public road maintenance jobs for the maintenance of private cemetery and church roads.
2. The Ordinance states that all cemetery and church roads being adopted into the System had been evaluated and found to meet the requirements of the existing ordinance for addition to the System. As the Director of Public Works stated for the record, that statement is false. Some of the cemetery roads had been evaluated but none of them met the requirements.
3. If you do a search for churches in Natchitoches Parish on yellowpages.com, you’ll find a listing of over 100 churches, a majority of which are located within the City of Natchitoches. Not only does the Ordinance not define what qualifies as a church, it doesn’t exclude those churches located within the boundaries of a municipality. Under this Ordinance, any group can declare themselves a church and require the Parish to maintain its access road regardless of how remote the area the church is located.
4. There are over 190 cemeteries in Natchitoches Parish. You can read about many of them at the website http://www.la-cemeteries.com. According to the website, 13 of them are located in Natchitoches. Again, the Ordinance doesn’t exclude those cemeteries located within the boundaries of a municipality.
5. The plight of abandoned or poorly maintained cemeteries is not unique to Natchitoches Parish. In 2003, the Town of Arcadia was cited by the Legislative Auditor’s Office for misuse of public funds when it discovered that the Town had been maintaining 3 private cemeteries. The Town sought an Opinion from the Attorney General Office in 2005 seeking guidance on how to legally maintain private cemeteries. In its Opinion 05-0131, the A. G. advised the Town that it must acquire ownership of the cemetery in order to maintain it legally. It could accomplish this through expropriation (the taking of property rights in the exercise of a governing authority’s sovereignty), acquisitive prescription (requires uninterrupted possession for 30 years without title or good faith), or through purchase of the property. Similarly, Winn Parish sought an opinion in 1990 defining the difference between public and private cemeteries with regard to the expenditure of public funds for their maintenance.
5. Grant, LaSalle, Rapides, St. Mary and St. Landry Parish have all created Cemetery Districts. The Districts give these five Parishes the right to acquire, establish, operate and maintain public cemeteries within the Districts. All of the Districts except for Rapides Parish allow for an ad valorem tax to support their District. Rapides Parish relies on donations and grants for the funding of its District. Both the Grant and LaSalle Districts prohibit acquisition by expropriation. And, St. Mary and Rapides Parish both exclude incorporated areas from their Districts.
6. At the meeting, Parish President Rick Nowlin stated that he wasn’t against the Parish’s assistance in maintaining cemetery roads but the Parish must follow the law. Ordinance #06-2014 does not accomplish this. Councilmen Chris Paige and John Salter both stated that some of these roads had been maintained by the Parish for years but there are no records to show that the roads were taken into the system through expropriation or purchase. So, one must assume that the roads were taken into the system by acquisitive prescription which begs the question, what other property has the Parish taken into its system without the landowners knowledge and consent?
Just because something was always done in the past doesn’t mean that we should continue to do it and it certainly doesn’t mean that it was legal. In light of the limited financial resources of our Department of Public Works, all residents of the Parish are encouraged to contact their Parish Councilman and ask them to fix this well-intended but ill-conceived Ordinance.
by J. Q. Collectif
The retired military veteran was pulled out of the crowd and into the spotlight recently as a highlight of the annual Demon Legends Dinner bringing together many loyal supporters of Northwestern State athletics at the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel’s Riverdome. Hicks was presented the 2015 Joe Delaney Distinguished Supporter Award.
“A long-time supporter, Norm has continued to be more involved with our department, aiding our efforts in countless ways,” said associate athletic director Adam Jonson, executive director of the Demons Unlimited Fund. “He does much more than just provide financial support by assisting several sports in their fundraising efforts and displaying an extraordinary amount of passion for NSU.”
A few years back, Hicks shared the KZBL Radio “Biggest Demon Fan Award” with local educator Michael Landry, presented during the NSU basketball season. It’s unusual to scan the crowd at any home athletic competition and not find Hicks in some purple gear.
He’s also front-and-center helping with fundraisers, cookouts and other endeavors – including providing temporary housing at times for incoming coaches and staff, notably graduate assistants while they search for more permanent accommodations.
“I was very surprised, as I told Adam when I was presented with the award, because I think there are many other more deserving people,” said Hicks. “I’ve grown to have a great relationship with many of the coaches and staff members, and I’m pretty sure the blood in my veins is Demon purple. This is an awesome honor – it means a lot to me.”
Hicks has become especially close friends with third-year Demon head football coach Jay Thomas.
“Big Norm, he’s the best,” said Thomas. “He’s become like part of our staff, that’s how helpful he’s been. The bigger thing is he’s an even better friend to all of us, than he is a supporter, and he’s awesome in that regard. We enjoy him being part of our Demon family and we really love the guy.”