Between a Rock (road) and a Hard Place

By J. Q. Collectif/Opinion

Rock-HardPlace

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”

Click Here – 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 NPJNatLa@gmail.com.

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

RAD_photo1

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.