Despite Parish Council Chairman Rodney Bedgood’s highest hopes, the meeting Monday night, March 19, did turn into a bit of a circus. It seemed that the majority of residents who packed the courtroom already made up their minds that it’s in the best interest of the Parish to revert to the old Police Jury form of government.
Only 3.7 percent of the $30 million collected annually in property taxes goes to the roads. “Changing the form of government won’t change anything,” said Parish President Rick Nowlin. “It’ll only put the people back in charge that messed it up to begin with.”
Nowlin is referring, in part, to the approximate $1 million debt he inherited to the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center when he took over. Since he’s been in office he’s paid around 1/3 of it.
While residents are fed up with hearing Nowlin and the Council members chalk up the Parish’s problems to a lack of money, it’s the root of all the problems. While the Parish claims it’s a matter of raising adequate funds for the road fund, residents blame expensive salaries and mismanagement.
David Lewis and Robert Jackson Sr. requested that the Council vote to consider the introduction of an ordinance to be proposed by a referendum to the voters during the Nov. 6 election, in the form of a question as to whether or not Natchitoches Parish residents want to continue under the Home Rule Charter form of government or revert back to the Police Jury form.
Council members Russell Rachal and Doug de Graffenried were unwilling to vote in favor of this agenda item because they agreed with Nowlin that changing the form of government won’t change the financial problems the parish is currently facing (No vote was made).
“Your road problem is a $233 million problem,” said de Graffenried. Rather than let the public decide, three of the five Parish Council members (Hoover, Paige and Bedgood) chose to vote down an ordinance geared towards fixing the deplorable road system in Natchitoches Parish at the Council meeting July 17.
The meeting ran well after 8 pm and while there was a courtroom full of people waiting to talk before the Council, Rachal called for a vote to adjourn. Patsy Ward Hoover and Chris Paid voted against it, but were outvoted, so the meeting came to an abrupt end.
Agenda items included:
Appoint Billy Joe Harrington to the North LA Criminalistics Laboratory Commission Board
Reappoint Richard Galloway and Peggy Braxton to the Natchitoches Parish Housing Authority Board
Introduce ordinance for budget revisions to the 2018 operating budget to the general fund, highway department, solid waste, sales tax, and Hampton and CoCo Bed Roads.
An item to consider allowed another attempt to repair and rehabilitate the Shady Grove Community Center, or in lieu of its current status, to allow it to return to the church was tabled till next month’s meeting
Roll forward on the ad valorem taxes: General Alimony of 3.47 percent (increased from 3.39 percent in 2017) and Exempted Municipalities of 1.73 percent (increased from 1.69 percent in 2017). Parish Treasurer Debbie Miley said both of these taxes (about $964,000 annually) go to the Parish’s General Fund. With the Parish providing over $1 million toward inmates, criminal court, public safety, the coroner’s office and more; every dollar of it makes a difference.