Beware the Mythical Beast

By Ida B. Torn

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According to the Internet, Bigfoot lives in Kisatchie National Forest. This past week, I learned that there, apparently, is another mythical beast living in Natchitoches Parish that I was always told didn’t exist. I’m talking about fairness.

I often hear folks talking about fairness when it comes to the Parish Road System. It pains me to admit it, but I lose all patience when fairness is brought up. Fairness only exists when the results have a direct benefit to or for the person talking. In essence, fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Case in point, Pardee Road has been discussed at the last three Parish Council meetings and has been the subject of multiple news articles recently. One article stated that it would cost $705,000 to reconstruct and overlay Pardee Rd.

According to the Louisiana Tax Commission, there were 60 parcels of land along Pardee Road assessed in 2016 which generated $666.11 in revenues for Road District 40. Of those 60 parcels, 25 owners paid absolutely nothing into the District while 7 owners paid almost 68% of those revenues. Yet, the landowners along Pardee Rd. argue that they do pay taxes and, therefore, it is only fair that their road be fixed.

Psychologytoday.com ran an article in 2012 that discussed how elusive fairness really is. In part, it stated that there are three different ideas about fairness (sameness, deservedness and need) and that “Ideologues believe that only their notion of fairness is correct.” Based on this article, residents on Pardee Rd. will never get their road fixed. The residents certainly cannot argue sameness or deservedness. They could try arguing for need, but they would have to argue that the needs of Pardee Rd. are more important than the needs of the rest of the Parish.

Even if the residents of Pardee Rd. could convince the rest of the Parish to put aside their own needs, overlaying Pardee Rd. would likely violate Section 4-06 of the Home Rule Charter, which specifically states that (A) funds shall be used for the benefit of the parish as a whole according to a priority ranking; and (B) the most critical needs existing parish-wide according to the priority ranking shall be met first. Criteria for priority ranking shall include population served by a given road and economic necessity of the road to provide transportation for agriculture, industry and business operations.

I doubt that Pardee Rd. will ever meet the criteria to be at the top of the priority list and maybe that’s not fair but fairness is a myth. We need to have rational, realistic conversations about what it’s going to take to fix the road system in our Parish. If folks continue to argue about fairness we’ll never find a resolution and we might as well buy a sturdy pair of shoes and emulate Bigfoot.

Natchitoches Farm Bureau agent tackles new adventure in South Carolina

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Farm Bureau brought Myrna Lemoine and her husband to Natchitoches in 1988 when he came to work for the company. Soon enough, Don Brown asked Myrna to work for them as well.

March 1 she will begin a new adventure in South Carolina. After her husband retired the couple decided to move over 800 miles away to be closer to their family. Myrna has two daughters and seven grandchildren who live in the Palmetto State.

Myrna’s office in Natchitoches has a prominent display of collectible plates she’s acquired from some of the places she’s traveled to including Rome, London, New York, Paris and Alaska. “I’ve been so blessed,” she said. “I’ve been able to travel all over the world and it’s been a wonderful journey.”

Her journey isn’t over with Farm Bureau. She’s transferring to an office there, so Myrna sees this as her next big adventure. But she’ll never forget Natchitoches.

“Natchitoches has been so good to me,” she said. “I can’t put it into words. I’ve enjoyed serving the people in the community, taking care of their insurance needs and making sure they’re covered.”

Myrna said the best part about working for Farm Bureau is knowing at the end of the day that she’s taken care of everyone; that she has no regrets. When asked what success is, Myrna said the company has given her the opportunity to provide for herself and her family.

“In the morning you have two choices,” she said. “You can have a good day or a bad day. When the phone rings at my office I see it as an opportunity to serve people. That personal commitment is the difference between Farm Bureau and a lot of other companies. It’s so impersonal to but insurance over the Internet. Besides that, we’ve been bundling since before Flo was even born. We take an interest in our clients and we serve them to the best of our abilities.”

While she’s looking forward, Myrna wants to thank everyone she’s been graced to have in her life, from clients to friends, from the bottom of her heart.

Normal scrapbook donated to NSU Archives

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A Hessmer couple donated a Louisiana State Normal scrapbook they found at a garage sale to the Cammie G. Henry Research Center at Northwestern State University. Donald and Ellen Johnson found the book, believed to belong to students Sadie and Sue Annie Stinston who attended Normal, as NSU was known from 1994-1944.

“The scrapbook was created during their Normal School days while they were studying home economics,” said University Archivist Mary Linn Wernet.

Wernet said the Johnsons began going to garage and estate sales several years ago and have found letters, yearbooks, posters, scrapbooks, pictures and other memorabilia. After looking through them, they often find an archive, library or museum and offer the items for historic collections.

Donald and Ellen Johnson are such fine stewards of the past,” Wernet said. “They truly understand the importance of allowing a past document, letter, pamphlet, poster and photograph of a former age to be proper cataloged and preserved for future generations. The scrapbook will be properly identified, preserved and made available for future NSU students, scholars and families related to Sadie and Sue Annie Stinston.”

The Cammie G. Henry Research Center is housed on the third floor of NSU’s Watson Library. Collections include Louisiana books, archival material, microfilm, maps, newspapers, oral history tapes and documents that date from the early 1700s to the present. For research questions, tours or special appointments, contact Wernet at (318) 357-4585 or email wernet@nsula.edu. Information is also available at library.nsula.edu/Cammie-henry-research-center.

NPD makes Narcotics and Illegal Firearms arrest in East Natchitoches

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Natchitoches Police Department officers performed a traffic stop on a suspicious vehicle in the area of St. Clair Avenue and Williams Avenue Feb. 24 just after 2 am. Officers observed suspected methamphetamine in plain view inside the vehicle. The driver, Darrell Jordan (D.O.B. 6/20/1980, B/M) fled from officers after being advised that he was under arrest. After a brief foot chase, Jordan was apprehended. It was later determined that Jordan was in possession of two firearms inside his vehicle, one of which was stolen recently in the Natchitoches area. It was also determined that Jordan was a convicted felon.

Jordan was charged with possession of Schedule II, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting an officer, resisting an officer with force/violence, possession of firearm by convicted felon, – 2 counts possession of firearm in Presence of CDS , 2 counts battery of a police officer, – 2 counts Illegal possession of stolen firearms.

Jordan was placed in Natchitoches Parish Detention Center, where he awaits bond.

Library’s Friends to hold Annual Book Sale

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Some say there is no greater time to be had than with a good book… now imagine how great a time you could have with 10, 20, or even 30! The Friends of the Natchitoches Parish Library’s (FONPL) annual book sale will be held at the Natchitoches Arts Center at 716 Second St. on March 2-4. The hours for the book sale will be Thursday and Friday, 11am-6pm and Saturday, 9am-2pm.

Shoppers can expect to find thousands of books for sale, including children’s books, adult fiction, cookbooks, and books about travel, religion, business, arts and crafts, music and more. The Book Sale is the FONPL’s most important fundraiser of the year, and proceeds will help to provide many cultural, educational, and entertaining programs to benefit the community. Last year’s book sale was a big success, raising more than $3,200, and more importantly, getting thousands of books into the hands of community members.

The FONPL is a 501(c)(3) organization that works to support and enrich the capabilities, resources, and services of the Natchitoches Parish Library (NPL) through fundraising and advocacy efforts that benefit the community. The FONPL is dedicated to enhancing the programs and resources of our libraries. Funds raised by the FONPL are used to meet library needs not met through the traditional Natchitoches Parish Library budget. Funding support includes, but is not limited to, the purchase of special equipment and sponsorship of special, thematic library programs.

For more information about the book sale or other library programming or services, please contact the Natchitoches Parish Library’s Outreach Services Coordinator at 318-238-9236 or alan@natlib.org.

Krewe of Wag-uns Parade rolled Saturday

The Natchitoches Human Society held its annual Krewe of Wag-uns Saturday in Historic Downtown Natchitoches.

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Kevin’s Gallery

Her Royal Highness, Queen Mutt-A-Gras 2017: LUCY, owned by Sarah and Leigh Jackson
His Royal Majesty, King REX RUFUS 2017: HENRY “Longtail” Hammilton, owned by Scott Hamilton

The Royal Court consisted of all the Natchitoches Humane Society adoptable dogs from Happy TAILS including Duchess Sasha, Duchess Foxy, Duchess Dalila, Duchess Violet, Duchess Brownie, Duchess Rhineheart, Duchess Nola, Duchess Panda, Duke Jimmi, Duke Brody and Duke Berry.

Children’s Costume Contest:

1st Place – Josie Andrews – daughter of Klie Frye and stepfather Mitch Heer, grandmother Loura Frye, styled by Amanda Frye
2nd Place – Christal Sellers – parent, Malia Sellers
3rd Place- Lilyasta Laning – parents, Pia Wyatt and Rick Laning

Float Contest:

1st Place– Christal Sellers daughter of Malia Sellers 149
2nd Place– Hillary and Jeremy Bennett with Huggers 143
3rd Place– Winston (canine), owners Rick Lanning, Pia Wyatt, Axel, Lilyasta Laning

Dog Costume Contest:

1st Best in Show Pet – Buckley (a miniature horse) owned by Terry, Lanell, Laura and Emma Sklar
2nd Place Dog Costume – Ursula owned by Mary Hattaway
2nd Place Dog Costume – Huggers owned by Hillary and Jeremy Bennett
3rd Place Dog Costume – Snow owned by Braddox, Ashlea, Bayley and Hendrix Johnso

Their Mission:

To provide care and treatment for homeless animals in need;
To find them suitable homes;
To help guide the public in education regarding the health and care of animals; and
To raise awareness of the importance of heartworm prevention, spaying/neutering, vaccinations and the overall health and well being of animals.

Why Natchitoches Parish needs a Consolidated Government.

By Nicholas Wright/Opinion

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Government is the problem. The words of the late Ronald Reagan should resound loudly with Natchitoches Parish Government. It is in political science and not administration that this argument resides. A better form of home rule charter should exist for Natchitoches Parish. The parish, a tourist hotspot,should not have a deteriorating transportation infrastructure that affects revenue projections. Several reasons exist that support a parish-city consolidation:

The National League of Cities lists several of them. Consolidations produce cost savings (in the long-term), increase efficiency (overlapping or duplicated city and county services can be eliminated), improve resource base (increased legal powers, revenue sources, and jurisdiction), and enhance planning capacity (greater cooperation with the private sector may be fostered).

One can think of it as a President Trump solution.

Most importantly the National League of Cities says consolidations improve accountability. They say a consolidated entities responsibility for services can no longer be in dispute as it may have been between separate governments. This can be expanded on the political science track. A consolidated entity eliminates bureaucratic politicians. No longer will city districts dictate for parish decisions and vice versa. Therefore, a significant improvement is that the composition of taxes is evolving in the right direction.

Over the years, the argument for consolidation has shifted from one based on public administration (that is, seeking efficiency and effectiveness, productivity) to one based on political science (that is, seeking accountability). Consolidated metropolitan servicesare more accountable than fragmented services. Citizens can access consolidated services without trying to figure out whether X is a county service or a city service. The largest effects would most likely be seen in economic development, planning, and fire protection; three areas that the parish and city are mutual. In fact, the first consolidated government in America was New Orleans and Orleans Parish in 1805.

It should be noted that a consolidated government does not have to eliminate executive leadership for the parish. Two distinct service districts may also be created, with one to provide services for the urban population and another for the rural population. The current council-president model allows legislative participation, which has its political underpinnings. A consolidated parish-city will act like a council-manager model. It is not necessary for government to be synonymous with gridlock.

Generally, a consolidated parish-city government willsave a total of $30,000 to $110,000 that would otherwise pay for politician’s salaries. That is enough money to pave a two-lane road a mile. A mile of pavement is certainly enough to eliminate the pothole problem. This is a plan for Rural Access.

The $80,000 Parish President salary is exactly for the purpose of bringing in such a talented individual (as is the $6,000 per district council member). In fact, an early version of the HRCrequired for the Parish President to be “a graduate of an accredited university with a four year degree”.This is not unusual but for the lack of talent that the politicians are being paid for.That is because the current Parish President is an engineer, not a professional administrator. The disposition is known as Putt’s Law. It states that technocracy is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand. Therefore, every technocratic hierarchy, in time, develops a competence inversion.

Sundry may think that Natchitoches Parish is too small for a parish-city consolidation. However, there are many small consolidations, specifically the capitals of Nevada and Alaska. Being Louisiana’s oldest city, Natchitoches is very applicable to these scenarios. A consolidation would create greater citizen buy-in of public programs, saving fire districts and insurance. A consolidation would make programs more efficiently administered to make the tax dollar go further, saving Robeline-Marthaville a water system.

It is unusual that Natchitoches’s public officials are paid so much for such little talent. Two dollars from every resident to the Parish President. Compare this to the POTUS salary of $400,000 for a population over 300 million. New Mexican legislatures receive no salary. On balance, many of these positions are unnecessary and duplicative of other jurisdictions.

Finally, there is a unique form of government used in the State of Georgia. It is known as a sole commissioner model.This model eliminates the politics of a legislative council. The Parish President would then be the executive and legislature in governance. In theory, this model could be enacted with a two council member vote to amend the home rule charter. The Parish Council could ask to eliminate the Parish Council itself.

Otherwise, there is no Vox Populi and no one benefits.

Nicholas Wright holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and is currently attending graduate school for Public Administration.

The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this letter. 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.

Two LSMSA students make National Merit finalist list

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Two seniors from LSMSA are among approximately 15,000 finalists in the 62nd annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

They are Bethany Jenkins of Ville Platte and Mathew Weick of Baton Rouge. Both were recognized as National Merit semifinalists in September.

To become a finalist, these students and their high school submitted a detailed scholarship application, in which they provided information about their academic records, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment and honors and awards received.

Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin or religious preference.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2017. Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships that will be awarded on a state representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 240 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located. In addition, about 200 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,500 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.

NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 440 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

About 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2014 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

PARISH ROAD TAX RENEWAL ELECTION – MARCH 25, 2017

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The ballot for the election to be held on March 25, 2017 includes the following four (4) very important tax renewals:

a. Road District 40 Ad Valorem tax
b. Parish Health Unit Ad Valorem tax
c. Parish Buildings Ad Valorem tax
d. Parish Library Ad Valorem tax

While all 4 taxes impact large segments of the population in the Parish, the Road District 40 tax is the one that impacts virtually everyone. The amount of the tax is 5 mills and it generates a little more than $1,000,000 per year for the highway department. This amount represents almost 40% of the total annual revenues the department receives from all sources.

We all know the problems we have in trying to maintain our Parish roads with the funds we have now. Just consider how much harder it will be if we lose 40% of our funds for operations. If that happens, there a major reduction in the amount of work we can do.

There are approximately 1000 roads in the Parish road maintenance inventory. The department has a total of 18 employees, including field workers, shop mechanics and office staff. In the 1980s, the highway department had over 100 employees to maintain basically the same mileage of roads. As costs increased faster than revenues, the Police Jury reduced the size of the department.

It is a common misconception that the Parish has a lot of money for road work and that it must be going somewhere else. If you check the highway department budget, you will find that it receives the $1,000,000 from the road tax, and about $1,600,000 from a number of other sources. The other sources include about $800,000 from state and federal sources, $500,000 from Parish sales tax and various other smaller amounts.

This appears to be a lot of money and it is, if one were building a house or an office building. Constructing and repairing roads takes a lot more money. For instance, to build or reconstruct a road base and overlay it with asphalt typically costs about $250,000 to $300,000 per mile of road. Similarly, the construction of a gravel road could cost about $60,000 to $70,000 per mile.

The problem has been that highway funds have remained fairly steady over the years while the costs to run the department have increased dramatically. The fastest growing cost contributor has been the cost of health insurance for employees and retirees. Other costs (such as fuel, tires and rock) have risen faster than the funds needed to purchase them. When costs outrun revenues, the highway department has to cut expenditures to keep a balanced budget. That means cutting road maintenance.

We understand the frustration of Parish residents over the poor condition of most of our roads. No one likes a bumpy ride or having to make frequent repairs to their vehicles. Choosing to express one’s frustration by voting against the renewal of a tax, however, is not going to help the situation. In fact, it will only make things worse.

On March 25, 2017, the people of the Parish will have the opportunity to choose between two paths. One is to support the highway department efforts by voting to renew the tax. The other is to withdraw a major funding source of the department by defeating the tax renewal. If that happens, it will accelerate the decline in our roads and the quality of life of our people.

The choice belongs to the voters. We can only hope that they will appreciate the importance of their votes on the future of our Parish.

2/27/17 City Council Agenda and meeting notice

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FEBRUARY 27, 2017
5:30 P.M.

A G E N D A

1. CALL TO ORDER

2. INVOCATION

3. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

4. READING AND APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 13, 2017

5. ORDINANCES – FINAL:
#009 Mims Ordinance Revoking The Dedication Of A Portion Of St. Denis Street, A Portion Of Sibley Street, And A Portion Of Lafayette Street, Being A Portion Of Each Right Of Way Beginning At Their Intersection With The Eastern Right Of Way Of The Union Pacific Railroad And Running Back To The East For A Distance, Declaring That Said Portions Of St. Denis Street, Sibley Street And Lafayette Street Are Abandoned And The Dedications Revoked, Retaining An Easement Across The Former Street For Public Utility Purposes, Providing For An Effective Date Of The Ordinance, And Savings Clause.

6. ORDINANCES – INTRODUCTION:
#010 Batiste Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches To Award The Bid For Christmas Lighting Supplies.
(Bid No. 0594)

#011 Harrington Ordinance Approving The Acquisition Of A 0.256 Acre Tract Of Ground Located In Section 81, Township 9 North, Range 7 West, From Grand Havens, L.L.C., For The Cash Consideration Of Twelve Thousand Five Hundred Dollars, Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches, Lee Posey, To Execute A Cash Sale Deed On Behalf Of The City For The Acquisition Of The Tract And To Execute Any And All Other Related Documents That Might Be Necessary And Proper, To Provide For Advertising, And A Savings Clause.

#012 Nielsen Ordinance Accepting And Approving The Final Second Amended And Restated Power Supply Agreement Between Cleco Power LLC And The City Of Natchitoches, Dated January 1, 2017, In Order To Extend The Power Supply Contract Between Cleco Power LLC And The City Of Natchitoches Dated April 1, 2010, As Extended By Agreement Dated June 1, 2014, For The Continued Sale Of Power And Energy Between Cleco Power LLC And The City Of Natchitoches, Louisiana And Authorizing The Mayor, Lee Posey, To Execute The Amended And Restated Power Supply Agreement.

7. RESOLUTIONS:
#014 Morrow Resolution Authorizing The Mayor To Execute Change Order No. 4 To The Contract Between The City Of Natchitoches And Regional Construction, LLC. For The City Park Walking Track And Parking Project. (Bid No. 0576)

#015 Mims Resolution Approving An Assignment Of That Agreement Dated March 1, 1996, Entered Into By And Between Cedar Grove Limited Partnership And The City Of Natchitoches From Cedar Grove Limited Partnership To Southwood Utilities, Inc., And Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches, Louisiana, Lee Posey, To Execute Documents Required Or Necessary To Evidence That The City Of Natchitoches Approves The Assignment Of The Agreement.
8. REPORTS: Pat Jones – Financial Report

9. ANNOUNCEMENTS:

10. ADJOURNMENT

• The next scheduled City Council meeting will be Monday, March 13, 2017.

Program helps students ASCEND

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Rho Beta Omega and Eta Chi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority Inc. NSULA hosted the ASCEND Youth Enrichment Program at Northwestern State University Feb. 21. ASCEND is a free youth enrichment program designed to motivate, engage, and assist high school students in reaching their maximum potential in their journey to college or vocational employment.

ASCEND focuses on the following key areas: Achievement, Self-Awareness, Communication, Engagement, Networking, Developmental Skills.

The event allowed high school students to fellowship, network and seek advice from both AKA chapters. The next ASCEND meeting will be held in March.