By Corey Poole
The Parish spent a good portion of the 2016 budget to make repairs to roads in Natchitoches Parish after recent flooding. Councilman Doug de Graffenried asked Parish President Rick Nowlin when the Highway Department would have to be shut down and when would it run out of money at the parish Council meeting Monday night, July 18. Richard Smith Sr. was told that FEMA had denied reimbursement to reconstruct the bridge in Payne Subdivision because its condition was too bad before the flood event to be eligible for funding.
When asked by the Natchitoches Parish Journal what the probability was that FEMA would make the same decision on roads in the Parish, Director of Public Works Nick Verret provided assurances that he was documenting road conditions to ensure funding eligibility. Nowlin said that FEMA reimbursement can take a long time, but they’re working on expediting the process so they can have money flowing back in by the end of September.
However, de Graffried wasn’t easily impressed. “The cash flow will end up biting you,” he said. “You’re tip-toing around the issue.”
The following agenda item, seeking approval to purchase two new trucks for the Highway Department, was too much for the Council to swallow. They rejected the bid and agreed to look at the purchase in the future. They did approve the purchase of a replacement mechanic truck for the Highway Department because it was a critical need. The previous truck was totaled in an accident and the Parish has a $13,135 insurance payment toward the purchase of a new vehicle.
Other Parish residents spoke before the Council on the need to maintain the roads. Councilman Chris Page said the whole Parish is screaming out that no work is getting done.
While they weren’t screaming, the discussion became heated over the alleged misconduct of Chairman Russell Rachal that was reported by Patsy Ward Hoover to the Attorney General. The complaint alleged Rachal took an item off the agenda that was included previously at the request of another Council member (Hoover) and introduced an ordinance to regulate or limit the public comment period at meetings. Rachal had to pay for legal council to exonerate himself of the allegations.
Some Council members (Rodney Bedgood, Page and Hoover) didn’t want to discuss the issue and Page asked why they were even entertaining the agenda item.
At the end of the meeting Bedgood, Page and Hoover voted against going into executive session and quickly left the room. When asked why they were adamant against the session, Nowlin explained that there’s an issue they don’t want to consider anymore because they don’t feel it’s worthy of discussion.
Other agenda items included:
Adopt resolution to authorize a cooperative endeavor agreement with the Council on Aging for the sharing of certain operating expenses
Adopt resolution to execute a cooperative endeavor agreement with the LSU Agricultural Center to relocate to the former OCS office on Trudeau Street. While it’s not a done deal, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame is looking at putting a branch of its Baton Rouge museum in the Live Oak building next to Lasyone’s.
Table discussion on having Council to have training on the Home Rule Charter
Reappoint Barbara Leach, Deanna Lynn Potter Fowler, Merry Byers and Jennifer Johnson to Children and Youth Planning Board
Reappoint Bubba Ivy to Fire District 7 Board
Reappoint Mary Ann Motter, William D. Musselwhite and Mark C. Swafford to Fire District 3 Board
Appoint Jan Frederick to the Tourist Commission
Reappoint Ricky L. Sanders, Charles Roge and Harry E. Hawthorne and appoint Farrell J. Christophe, Laney A.
Wright, Lamarr McGaskey and Larry Atteridge to the Fire District 1 Board