Between a Rock (road) and a Hard Place

By J. Q. Collectif/Opinion


The Parish Government opened the dialog for possibly converting some paved roads back to gravel roads at its June Council meeting. I know that there’s a lot of pushback from Parish residents as the obvious first impression is that doing so would be a step in the wrong direction. Another matter of more concern is whether or not a road, once returned to an unpaved surface, will be maintained properly. Is there any real difference in driving on a deteriorated paved road that is full of potholes and a gravel road full of ruts and wash boarding?

I decided to do some research to determine whether or not converting paved roads to gravel would actually be feasible for Natchitoches Parish.  There’s no question that we don’t have the funds needed to reconstruct our failing paved roads.  The unknown for me, however, is does the Parish have the funds needed to maintain the additional miles of roads should they be returned to gravel?

I came across an online article the other day that indicated many governmental entities across the nation are facing the same dilemma. The article contained a link to a study conducted by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program titled “Converting Paved Roads to Unpaved”


The study discusses what factors were considered when converting a road, what technique was used, what the result was, and whether or not the entities polled intended to convert more roads.  A common theme of the study was that governmental entities have to deal with road systems that weren’t constructed properly when originally built and shrinking budgets for maintaining those systems. The overall consensus was that gravel roads are cheaper to maintain than paved roads when properly constructed and the majority of entities polled indicated that they would consider converting additional roads.

The study found that many of the roads identified in the survey were low-volume roads that probably shouldn’t have been paved to begin with. According to information provided by the Natchitoches Parish Department of Public Works, there are over 298 miles of paved roads in its maintenance system. Spread out over more than 300 roads, 40% of them are less than a quarter mile in length. Another 34% of them are at least a quarter mile in length but less than a full mile. If the Parish were to convert these roads to gravel, it would need to allocate funds for their grading and ditch maintenance.

The study referenced several resources that provide information on the costs of maintaining both paved and unpaved road surfaces.  I looked at numerous charts and countless figures and felt overwhelmed by the challenge our Parish is facing. The Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program released as study in 2013 which found that the average cost per mile per year for typical maintenance of a graded road is $3,640. For a road requiring a high level of maintenance with water, the cost skyrocketed to $13,520.  If those figures were applied to the gravel roads in Natchitoches Parish, the Public Works Department would need a minimum of $3,460,000 to properly maintain them.  And, this number doesn’t cover even the first mile of paved roads.

The voters of Natchitoches Parish have all of the say on what our road system looks like. It’s time to stop pointing fingers at each other and instead point them to the facts and figures that are blatantly telling us that we are heading for a complete collapse of our road system.  It may be right around the corner or it might be ten or fifteen years from now, but it will come if we don’t do a better job of funding the maintenance of our roads.

The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this submission. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal. If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to

Tire & Rim bandits strike again

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Glanelle and Nettles Brown, who reside at 109 Kaffie Drive in Natchitoches woke up this morning (Sunday) to find their new 2016 Chevrolet Silverado High Country missing its wheels and sitting on gardening pavers.   The pavers used in the heist were taken from a neighbors yard two houses down.


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NPD offers Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) course in August


The Natchitoches Police Department will offer a Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) self-defense class for women beginning in August. The three day class will be held August 16, 23 and 30. The course will be held from 6-9 p.m. each evening at the Natchitoches Police Department’s training center, located at 525 Bossier St. The class is $20 to cover administrative costs. To pre-register call Amy Cox at (318) 357-3802. The classes are for women and girls at least 13 years old.

If you would like to report suspicious activity or an emergency please contact the Natchitoches Police Department at 352-8101. Remember all information given shall remain confidential.

NSU faculty present technology to Boys and Girls Club members

By Corey Poole

Robotics 1

Members at the Boys and Girls Club in Natchitoches received certificates July 29 for completing a weeklong technology camp themed: Educate, Engage, Explore. This aligned the Natchitoches club with the Boys and Girls Club of America’s STEM initiative.

Faculty from the engineering and education departments at Northwestern State University worked with club members to build robots, teaching them STEM concepts along the way. Faculty included Ramona Wynder, Curtis Desselles, NabinSapkota and Jafar Al-Sharab.

In addition to the STEM concepts, the children were also engaged in STEM hands-on learning activities and given the opportunity to explore STEM careers. Topics covered included basic electronics, basic robotics and basic computer programming.

The group toured Alliance Compressors, the North West Louisiana Technical College and Weyerhaeuser to see how technology is used in the workplace.

After teaching several robotics camps through the university, Desselles saw a need for a larger demographic in his camps. He wanted to make it accessible to kids within the community that may be unable to make it to the ones held on NSU’s campus.

Someone suggested he work with the Boys and Girls Club, and with the help of Mike Wolff with the Natchitoches Community Alliance, they were able to secure a grant through the United Way.

Curtis focused the camp on general science principles, applying them to real work applications. Ramona worked to incorporate literacy and academic vocabulary, asking the camp members to journal about their experiences.

“We’re always working to close the educational gaps,” said Ramona. “One way we do this is by extending services we have at NSU to the community and not just the people in campus.”

While this is the first camp of its kind, Deselles and the others hope to continue their work by adding reading, math and a more structured classroom environment in the future. This can be reached by incorporating several students at NSU’s educational department, who routinely do field work at the Boys and Girls Club.

The club was given leftover money from the grant to purchase three laptops, a 3D printer and a robotics kit so the club members can continue to learn and explore.

“My favorite part of the camp was working with the robots,” said 11-year-old Alexander Jackson, a student at the Natchitoches Junior High-Frankie Ray Jackson. “I didn’t know how they worked before, but we learned about the algorithms to program the robots.”


LSMSA teacher organizes trip to Silicon Valley for recent graduates

silicon valley

A visit to Adobe was the highlight of a tech tour of Apple, Twitter, Twitch, Google and Catalia Health to speak with alumni of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts taken by three recent graduates and an instructor of the school.

“John Pritchard and Eric Robinson were so hospitable to us,” said Sanjeetha Peters, organizer of the trip to Silicon Valley and senior lecturer of computer science and math at LSMSA. “They set up a tour of Adobe and also had a panel of their engineers talk to us about their work and answer questions.”

Pritchard, senior director of engineering at Adobe, is a 1988 graduate of LSMSA, and Robinson, architect at Adobe, is from the class of 1993.

The group also received Adobe water bottles as souvenirs.

Benjamin Lane, Nikhil Gopalam and Mark Prutz also visited Apple and Google. Lane, of Zachary, is a 2013 graduate of LSMSA and studies physics at Louisiana State University. Gopalam, of Prairieville, is a 2016 graduate and plans to study industrial engineering at the University of Michigan in the fall. Prutz, of Baton Rouge, is also a member of the LSMSA class of 2016.

Eric Kuehne, software engineer at Apple and a 1995 graduate of LSMSA, met the group bright and early and treated them to a healthy breakfast and answered their questions for about two hours.

The group then met with Robert Tsai, senior software engineer at Google and a member of the class of 1992. According to Peters, he reserved a conference room and very patiently gave the students tips on skills to gain and also answered all of their questions.

In San Francisco they met Kevin Lin, chief operating officer at Twitch and a member of the class of 2000.

“Everyone went crazy when Kevin took us on a tour of their Zelda-themed conference room,” said Peters. “We were inspired listening to some of his engineers talk about their journeys leading up to Twitch.”

Lin gifted all of them with knapsacks with Twitch T-shirts and stickers.
After that tour, they then traveled to Twitter to meet with Chris Coco, staff software engineer and a member of the class of 1994. The group spent three hours with Coco and his team. Coco treated them to lunch at Twitter’s cafeteria.

“We got so much out of the pointers and tips he gave us in the area of Java and the JVM,” said Peters.

The tech tour ended with a visit to Cory Kidd, chief executive officer and founder of Catalia Health, a member of the class of 1995. Kidd gave the group insight on start-ups and his work with robots. The students asked him a ton of questions about his business model, which he so patiently answered.

“We came out of the entire tour in awe and completely inspired by our alums and their creative genius,” said Peters.

Boise supports ET scholarships for Northwood grads

Boise Cascade has for the last three years provided $1,500 in scholarships for graduates of Northwood High School in Lena who pursue degrees in engineering technology at Northwestern State University. From left are Lori Sepulvado, Human Resource Generalist for Boise-Lena; Plant Manager David Elliott, Dr. Ali Ahmad, head of the Department of Engineering Technology, and Brittany McConathy and Erin Dupree, NSU Foundation.

“We are extremely grateful to Boise Cascade for their continued support of NSU’s Engineering Technology Programs,” said Dr. Ali Ahmad, head of NSU’s Department of Engineering Technology. “Enrollment continues to increase in our programs which is helping to meet demand for technologists in the equipment, quality control, process control and other applied engineering fields. Our students are not only equipped with applied engineering skills but are also prepared with the soft skills and management abilities required to lead in high performance organizations such as Boise Cascade.”

NSU’s Engineering Technology programs support the Central Louisiana Manufacturing Manager’s Council by providing graduates with applied engineering education using advanced-level math as well as theory-based courses. These future employees are equipped to support manufacturing operations using advanced technology. NSU’s ET program are meeting companies’ sustainability needs by incorporating engineering principles closely aligned with effectively reducing waste in manufacturing processes and recycling never-before-used raw materials.

Boise Cascade manufactures and markets engineered wood products with improved structural characteristics that use wood fiber more efficiently. Boise Cascade owns and operates the world’s two largest laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and I-joist manufacturing plants in Alexandria, Louisiana and White City, Oregon. Using leading edge manufacturing technology, Boise Cascade’s engineered wood products are environmentally friendly and provide engineers, architects, designers and builders with cleaner, simpler and more efficient design options.

The Northwestern State University Foundation serves the university, its students and faculty, by securing financial resources to support scholarships, faculty development and academic programming. To learn more about ways to give or volunteer, contact the Office of University Advancement at (318) 357-4414 or visit

Council on Aging holds grand opening for new building

By Natalie Covher


The Natchitoches Parish Council on Aging (NPCOA) held its grand opening for their new building Wednesday, July 27. The ceremony began in the old building and finished in the new building showcasing all that NPCOA has to offer. Linda Turner extended a warm welcome to all that attended and thanked everyone involved in getting the new building. Master of Ceremonies was Michael Lewis and Herbert Baptiste led the group in prayer.

“This is one of those moments you wait for in life,” said NPCOA Director Alice Barrios. “We’ve been waiting for this day to come for eight years. You’re at the one stop shop for senior services in Natchitoches Parish. If you need to go to the Office of Community Services, come here. If you need to go to the Council on Aging, come here. If you need to go to Veteran Affairs, come here. We are working to promote the well-being and enhance the quality of life for senior citizens of the Parish by providing activities and services that encourage independence, promote physical and mental health and continued participation in the community. We don’t want our seniors to endure, we want them to enjoy.”

Idell Snowden presented a history of NPCOA. “The NPCOA was established in 1969 and designated by the Governor and State Legislature to serve as a State Agency on Aging,” said Snowden. “It serves as the primary Parish agency charged with planning, coordinating and developing comprehensive community based systems of services designed to meet the needs of senior residents and caregivers.”

Snowden spoke further about the NPCOA’s mission, goals and activity programs. Natasha McHenry spoke for the Office of Community Services and Mike Menou spoke for Veteran Affairs.

Next everyone moved out to the front of the new building for the presentation of the flag by Buddy Maggio. State Representatives Terry Brown and Kenny Cox cut the ribbon in front of the entrance to the new building and guests poured inside to get cake, punch and most importantly tours.

Services the NPCOA provides includes commodity distribution, meals on wheels, disease prevention, health promotion, legal assistance, material aid, national family caregiver program, outreach, public education, telephone reassurance and transportation. They offer recreational activities including bingo, Tai Chi, quilting, computer classes and more. For information on NPCOA call 318-357-3250 or visit 1016 Keyser Ave.



1- Ribbon Cutting

2- Chairman William Allen introduces dignitaries

3- The crowd gathers around the flag pole

4- Buddy Maggio and Mike Menou raise the flag

5- NPCOA staff and directors and architect of the building George Minturn

6- Seniors couldn’t wait to practice Tai Chi in the new activity room

NCHS Orchestra tours Europe

By Jake and Russ Stultz

Performance at Mozarthaus

The Natchitoches Strings Ensemble recently toured Europe for our first ever international music festival June 24 – July 4. We qualified for the international festival due to our outstanding performance at Carnegie Hall last year. The ensemble consisted of 23 musicians and was accompanied by 22 chaperones. After a 10-hour flight over the Atlantic we landed in Munich and met with our host families in Sauerlach, just outside of Munich. Several ensemble members stayed the first two nights with local host families for a true German experience. For our first stop in Europe, we played for the local residents in a small town festival right outside of Munich.

After spending a day touring the city of Munich, we departed to Prague for a guided tour of the inner city. The next day we had the privilege to perform in the world renowned Dvorak Concert Hall which ended in a long standing ovation. Continuing our tour of Europe, we took a bus to the city of Vienna, Austria. As our first event in Vienna, we took a half-day bus tour of the city followed by dinner at a local music enthusiast’s home. The next day the ensemble performed in the Minoritenkirche Church, which resulted in a standing ovation and an encore from the audience.

The following day we traveled through the Alps to Salzburg. After taking in the sights of Salzburg we performed in the Mozarthaus, the home of Mozart’s parents, in the mountainous lake town of beautiful St. Gilgen. Following a standing ovation and an encore we travelled back to the hotel in preparation for the final day of flying back to America.

Natchitoches Veterans attend VA Town Hall Meeting

By Kevin Shannahan


The Natchitoches VFW/American Legion Post hosted a Veteran’s Town Hall Meeting Thursday, July 21. A group of about 25 veterans and family members gathered to hear Peter Dancy, Medical Center Director of the Alexandria VA Hospital, introduce himself and his staff and address the concerns brought up by the veterans at the meeting. Dancy is a retired Army officer who was appointed to his post in January of this year after serving as the Associate Director of the VA Hospital in Dallas.

The Natchitoches Community Based Outreach Center (CBOC) is one of five such centers in the 23 parishes served by the Alexandria VA Hospital, an area that stretches from Winnfield to the Gulf Coast, serving the 32,000 veterans living in its area of responsibility. The Natchitoches CBOC serves 760 of those veterans who live in the area, and is always ready to welcome more local veterans to its facility.

The Natchitoches clinic is located at 740 Keyser Ave. For more information call 318-357-3300.

Are you a veteran or the widow of a veteran? Do you have any questions about benefits, pensions or qualifying for medical treatment from the VA? Are you a Northwestern student who needs help with the GI Bill or in filing a claim? If so, give the Natchitoches Parish Veteran’s Affairs Officer a call. Grant Bowden is the VSO for Natchitoches Parish. His job is to help you get the benefits you have earned, some of which you may not even know about. His office is in the Natchitoches Courthouse Annex at 203 St. Denis St. His phone number is 318-357-3106.

Ponderings with Doug – July 29, 2016

Ken Davis has a book with the intriguing title I Don’t Remember Dropping the Skunk, But I Do Remember Trying to Breathe. In it he tells about an assignment he was given in college to teach a class as creatively as possible. He decided to teach the law of the pendulum, a law of physics that states that a pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it is released. If you put a ball on the end of a string and release it so that it is free to swing, when it returns it can’t go any higher than the point from which you released it. In fact, because of friction and gravity, it will fall short of the release point. Each time it swings, the arc gets smaller and smaller until it finally comes to rest. Ken used all kinds of diagrams, mathematical formulas, and models to teach the law of the pendulum to the class, and he could tell by the look on the teacher’s face that the teacher thought he had done well.

When Ken finished, he asked the class how many believed in the law of the pendulum. All hands flew up, including the teacher’s. The teacher thought the lesson was over at this point but it had just started. Ken asked his teacher to come to the front of the room and sit in a chair placed against the wall. Suspended from the ceiling Ken had rigged 250 pounds of weight-lifting disks. This was a big pendulum. Ken brought the 250 pounds of metal right up to the teacher’s nose and said, “If the law of the pendulum is true, then when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and return short of where I am holding it now. Your nose will still look like it does right now.” Ken looked his teacher right in the eye and said, “Sir, do you believe this law is true?”

There was a long pause as great drops of sweat formed on his teacher’s upper lip. Then weakly, his teacher nodded and whispered, “Yes.”

Ken released the pendulum. At the far end of its arc it paused momentarily and then started back. Ken says he has never seen a man move so fast in his life!

Carefully, Ken stepped around the still-swinging pendulum and asked the class, “Does he believe in the law of the pendulum?”

In unison they answered, “No!”

Ken’s professor understood the law, but he was unwilling to trust his nose to it. After a short discussion, a student volunteered to sit in the chair. Even though his face contorted in fear as the pendulum started back, he stayed put. But it stopped an inch from his nose and swung away from him again. Now his faith in the law was strengthened. The next time the pendulum swung, he didn’t even blink.

Life is like that pendulum at times. We see it coming at us and wonder how much pain it will cause. Jesus is an antidote to fear. Following Jesus is better than blink, flinch, or run. Try Him!