What’s the value of an engineer?


The Parish Council members unanimously voted down an ordinance Monday night, December 19, to adopt the Natchitoches Parish Government Personnel Policy Manual with certain revisions and the addition of a new job description of Parish Engineer.

Currently the position requires applicants to hold a degree from an accredited university in the engineering field and be a licensed engineer in the State. The revision would allow 10 years of relevant experience with public works to stand in place of the degree.

The second part of the ordinance is what had Council members voting no. It would split Nick Verret’s current duties into multiple positions to include Parish Engineer, Highway Department Director and Assistant Director/Road Maintenance Supervisor. The person replacing Verret would be able to fully focus on the Highway Department. Verret would then be able to focus solely on his engineering work for the Parish.

“There’s times when my total time involved in the engineering aspects, trying to make deadlines for submittals, that I have no time to do any highway supervision,” said Verret.

The pay for these positions would total around $175,000 according to Parish President Rick Nowlin.

“We’d be spending the same amount of money,” he said. “We’d just be splitting it up a little differently. This would put Nick in a position where he can focus solely on the engineering needs of the Parish.”

According to Nowlin, it’s better to spend the money in-house, rather than contract out to other engineering firms who charge around $175 per hour.

Verret went on to say that he’s saved the Parish money on multiple projects that would have cost thousands more if the work would have been contracted out.

“On a daily basis I review plans and specifications, make revisions, perform field inspections and surveys and any number of other things that come up, but I can’t follow up on road work while doing all this,” said Verret. “The value of an engineer is hard to put a price tag on.”

The Council’s vote showed it was unconvinced.

One agenda item died from lack of a motion. It was the consideration of entering into a lease with Donny Whitehead for a polling place in Vowells Mill. Nowlin said he negotiated with Whitehead to bring the lease amount down from $1,600 to $1,200 annually if the Parish agreed to maintain the property. The decision was made to search for another location to house the polling place.

Other agenda items included:

Resolution to call an election to be in Natchitoches Parish Fire District 1 and 5 continuation of an ad valorem tax March 25.

Change meeting dates of Jan. 16 to Jan. 17 and Feb. 20 to Feb. 21 in observance of holidays.

Examine and approve the official certified tabulations of votes cast at Nov. 8 election for Proposition Sales Tax District No. 1 and 2.

Confirm reappointment of Greg Burke to the Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission, James Anthony to the Water Works District 2 Board and appointment of Dallas Russell to the Children and Youth Planning Board.

Reject bids for grader blades due to irregularities in bid submission and open up for re-bids.

Introduction of ordinance to reduce the posted speed limit on Willie Banes Road to 20 mph.

Approve the amended 2016 budget and the proposed 2017 budget for the operation of the North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory Commission.

Authorize Parish President to work with other local governmental entities and stakeholders to identify potential projects and matching fund partners for utilizing $839,012 in FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding that has been allocated to Natchitoches Parish.

Authorize Parish President to sign an agreement with the LSU AgCenter to support and administer Louisiana Cooperative Units off campus.

Approve budget revision for a new food van for Head Start.

Introduce ordinance authorizing Parish President to enter into an agreement with the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office for the sale of the Parish building and a certain parking lot to the NPSO.

The Council approved awarding the following bids:

CRS-2 Cationic Emulsified Asphalt to Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions LLC

Crushed Stone, Stone Riprap and Hot Mix Asphaltic Concrete for Patching and Leveling to Madden Contracting Company LLC

Winn Rock Road Maintenance Material to Winn Rock, LLC

Silty Clay Soil to FFT Trucking Services, LLC

Commercial/Industrial, Passenger, Light Truck and Trailer Tires to Natchitoches Tire

Service Inc. DBA Despino’s Tire Service

Metal Culverts to Contech Construction Products Inc.

Cold Mix Asphalt to Diamond B. Construction Co. LLC

Washed Gravel to Larry Grayson and Son Trucking LLC

Oil and Grease Products to Lott Oil Company

Milk and Dairy for Head Start to Harper’s Distributing

Meat, Meat Products and Alternatives and Fruits, Vegetables and Processed Foods for Head Start to Reinhart Food Services