If there’s one thing rural residents of Natchitoches Parish have in common, it’s their frustration over the continuing deterioration of the roads they live on. Several visitors spoke before the Parish Council during its meeting Feb. 20.
Leon McQueen lives on Shady Grove Church Road in the Bellwood community. He has two neighbors that drive 18-wheelers and it takes them 30 minutes or more to travel 2 1/10 of a mile because of all the potholes.
“We’ve got holes out there you can bury an average dog in,” said McQueen.
The difference at Monday night’s meeting was McQueen and several other residents asking that the Council approve a referendum to see if voters want to stay with a government they feel isn’t serving them, or go back to the Police Jury form of government.
“I got signatures for a petition to put the Home Rule Charter government on the ballot and I voted for it,” he said. “I’ve voted a lot and I’ve regretted lots of votes in my time, but nothing more than the vote I cast for Home Rule Charter.
Rev Roger Mackey was hoping to drive his school bus in the parish for 30 years. He had to go into early retirement just shy of his goal because his expenses have exceeded his income for the last 5 years.
Reggie Johnson lives on the Janie Gorum Road, which gets torn up by 18-wheelers.
David Lewis, who lives in Kisatchie, said he’s convinced the Home Rule Charter wasn’t an improvement over the Police Jury.
Parish President Rick Nowlin agreed that the roads are in bad shape, but not for lack of effort on the part of the Parish government. The Parish is fighting against a severe shortage in resources. There are around 1,000 roads in the Parish, but only around 18 people on the road crew with very little equipment.
He explained that less than 4% of property taxes collected in Natchitoches Parish go to the Road Department. Giving an example, Emmanuel Road near Cloutierville is 17.5 miles long and has 16 houses on it. Collectively these residents pay less than $150 per year in property taxes.
“Voting to change the form of government won’t change the budget,” said Nowlin.
The fact remains that it costs around $270,000 per mile to overlay a road. If one road (2.1 miles) costs $500,000, where is the money going to come from to overlay all the roads that need it.
Nowlin also said that there are other agencies in the parish that get more money and have more employees than the parish government does. Voters renew the taxes that fund these other agencies through the years without questioning what their money is being spent on.
Other Council business included an introduction from the new Chamber President/CEO for the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Together with our board members we will begin to transition our chamber into a fine-tuned organization within our community,” she said. “ I look forward to the upcoming challenges and opportunities that arise. I am very proud of the role this chamber plays in supporting local businesses. As a community, we all share the same challenges. We are faced with a growing, but somewhat fragile economy. We will always remain hopeful as we look toward the future. Our will to succeed is found in knowing that we are not alone, and now more than ever, it is critical that we work together to find solutions and effect change. Strength in numbers lends weight and credibility to our message and it is the backbone and foundation of your chamber.”
Other agenda items included:
- Re-appoint Johnny Possoit to the Fire District 6 Board
- Appoint Danny Clark to the Fire District 6 Board
- Re-appoint Gloria Waldrup to the Natchitoches Parish Library Board
- Approve ordinance to authorize the Parish President to execute an application and contract on behalf of the Natchitoches Parish Government with US Bank Fleet Card, DBA US Bank Voyager Fuel Trac, relative to fuel cards for parish vehicles
- Adopt resolution in support of a grant application submitted by the Cane River National Heritage Area for funding by the FWHA Recreational Trails Program for Louisiana
- Adopt resolution to proclaim February 2018 as African American History Month in Natchitoches Parish. Nowlin recognized Patsy Ward Hoover as the first African American female to be elected to serve as a member of the Parish Council.
- Execute an agreement with Pan American Engineers LLC for the Hampton Road Improvements Project. This $1.3 million project should be under construction by summer 2018 and is being funded by the Red River Waterway Commission.
- Authorize the Parish President to sign a lease for a demo truck for the Public Works Department