Parish Council: Who’s in charge, What’s in the budget

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Several Parish Council members questioned who holds the power under the Home Rule Charter (HRC) at its meeting May 21. Chris Paige asked Parish President Rick Nowlin to address a recommendation from the DA regarding attorney fees for defenses against two lawsuits (approximately $27,000).

Rodney Bedgood received the letter Friday and gave everyone a copy before the meeting. However, Nowlin said he’d never seen it.

Paige said the HRC states the Parish President may not acquire debt without the Council’s approval.

“Normally debt refers to an obligation other than an ongoing operating expenditure,” said Nowlin. “Certainly the amounts we owe the law firm can be represented as obligations to the Parish. It’s one of those things that’s routinely covered in parish operations under state law and the HRC. Everything I did in this matter was done after consultation with the DA’s Office.”

Assistant DA Shantel Wempren stated the opinion references a budget for legal expenses approved by the Council already.

Paige asked, “When were we supposed to be informed as a Council? Are we not supposed to even know about the monies that are being spent? It (the information on expenditures) comes in a pile (of paperwork) that we have to search it out of. It appears that we know nothing of it until we ask.”

Nowlin said he doesn’t request the Council’s permission for many expenses during the year. The Parish has an operating budget and the Council members are supposed to educate themselves on what it allows Nowlin to do.

“We adopt a budget every year,” said Nowlin. “We don’t come back to the Council on every item to say ‘Can we spend this money?’ We don’t have that type of government. You can’t look at the Home Rule Charter in a vacuum. Sure, it’s our governing document. But you also have to consider relevant state statutes, opinions of the Attorney General and court precedents. Why does this item have to be submitted to the Council for approval if it’s permitted by law and there’s funds in the budget to do it.”

Doug de Graffenried said they shouldn’t get to vote on something like the legal expenses because it falls within the purview of Nowlin’s executive authority.

“When you adopt an operating budget there are places in it that give him discretion to spend money like this,” he said. Bedgood agreed. If it’s in the budget it’s allowable.

Paige tried to claim that they don’t even know it’s in the budget. However, Wempren said the budget is published annually and delivered to the Council over a month before it’s voted on. “You all receive that information. I can certify that it was timely and in compliance with the local government budget act,” she said.

“There’s a lot of things in the budget I don’t understand,” said Bedgood. The Parish Treasurer is available to answer any questions the Council members may have before the meeting so they can understand what they’ll be expected to vote on.

Nowlin said they need to be more upset with the people filing the lawsuit, which is costing the Parish money. The judge dismissed the lawsuit because it had no basis (brought against the Parish by the Natchitoches Voters and Civic League). “That’s what’s upsetting to me,” he said.

Rachal reminded them that the Home Rule Charter doesn’t supersede state law.

Hoover then motioned that they add an item to the agenda to request an opinion from the Attorney General on the matter. Rachal and de Graffenried voted no. However, to amend the agenda the vote has to be unanimous.

Council members vote on the budget, which includes attorney fees. Then some claim they don’t know anything about it. The question was raised, if they receive a copy of the budget to vote on, shouldn’t it be their jobs to read and understand what’s in that budget. Bedgood agreed.

Education dean named to national leadership fellowship

NSU-McAlisterKimDr. Kimberly Walker McAlister of Northwestern State University today was named an Impact Academy fellow, joining a cohort of leaders chosen for their commitment to improving educator preparation. Dr. McAlister leads the Gallaspy College of Education and Human Development at Northwestern State, a position she has held since January 2018.

Many colleges report declining interest among faculty in administrative positions even as the role of dean grows more complex and important. In order for educator preparation to improve, the field needs leaders who can set a bold vision for improvement, motivate faculty and support individual and organizational learning. Deans for Impact aims to fill this need through its year-long Impact Academy fellowship, which empowers a new generation of transformative leaders with skills, knowledge, and strategies to help solve the complicated problems they’re facing.

Dr. McAlister is one of 13 fellows announced as part of the fellowship’s third cohort since its launch in summer 2016. Each cohort of Impact Academy fellows is limited to no more than 20 leaders, each of whom went through a rigorous nomination and application process.

“We believe that transformative leadership is the cornerstone of an educator-preparation program that embraces an improvement mentality and prioritizes candidate learning above all else,” said Benjamin Riley, founder and executive director of Deans for Impact. “We’re thrilled to welcome 13 such leaders into the Impact Academy fellowship, and are excited to nurture and support these leaders as they embark on efforts to improve their own educator-preparation programs and the field more broadly.”

The Impact Academy fellowship combines intensive in-person sessions with ongoing support, mentoring and individual learning. Fellows will kick off the year with a rigorous four-day academy in July 2018, and then extend their learning over the course of the fellowship through individual modules and ongoing leadership coaching from Deans for Impact member deans.

“I am passionate about the profession of teaching, and as a new dean, I am hungry to grow and develop my leadership skills to support the faculty, teacher-candidates, and programs on their own improvement journeys. The Impact Academy fellowship will empower me to work alongside other leaders who share my commitment to elevating the teaching profession,” Dr. McAlister said.

Deans for Impact is committed to reflecting the broad diversity of programs preparing new educators in this country, and today’s announcement reinforces that commitment. This cohort’s fellows collectively lead programs that enroll more than 3,500 teacher-candidates in 11 states. Eight fellows lead programs at public institutions, three fellows come from private institutions, and two fellows lead programs that are non-traditional pathways into teaching. Two fellows come from Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).

Founded in 2015, Deans for Impact is a national nonprofit organization that empowers, supports, and advocates on behalf of leaders at all levels of educator preparation who are committed to transforming the field and elevating the teaching profession. The organization is guided by four key principles:
· Data informed;
· Outcomes focused;
· Empirically tested; and
· Transparent and accountable.

Lyric Choir wins gold medal at international competition

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Northwestern State University’s Lyric Choir won a Gold Medal in the Female Choirs category at the 3rd Budapest International Choral Celebration and Laurea Mundi International Open Competition and Grand Prix of Choral Music. The Lyric Choir is conducted by Director of Choral Activities Dr. Nicholaus Cummins.

Other winning choirs in the Open Competition were from the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Taiwan. This is the first time a Northwestern State choir has participated in international competition.

The Chamber Choir received a Laurea Summa Cum Laude diploma in the Mixed Choir category and a Laurea Cum Laude diploma in the Musica Sacra (Sacred Music) category. The Samford University A Cappella Choir won both categories. Other choirs in the competition were from Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Norway and Sweden.

The Northwestern State choirs are concluding a 12-day trip which includes an exchange with the choir of the University of Krakow in Poland and a performance with the Samford University A Cappella Choir at St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow.

For more information on Northwestern State’s choral programs, go to capa.nsula.edu/music/choral-and-vocal-studies.

Texas fugitive arrested on Washington Street during traffic stop

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A Texas man wanted by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office was arrested by Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Deputies during a traffic stop on Sunday evening according to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

NPSO Patrol Division deputies stopped a 2001 Volvo passenger car on Washington Street in Natchitoches for a traffic violation May 20 at 10:50 pm.

Deputies identified the operator through a Texas Identification Card as 36-year-old Anthony A. Knight of DeSoto, Texas.

Deputies conducted a NLETS/NCIC computer background check on Knight learning his drivers license had been expired since November of 2017.

Deputies also learned Knight was actively wanted by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Worth, Texas for Evading Arrest and Detention with a Vehicle since January 2018.

Knight was placed under arrest without incident, transported and booked into the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center charged with Running a Red Light, Expired Drivers License over 90 Days, and Texas Fugitive for Evading Arrest and Detention with a Vehicle.

Knight remains in the Natchitoches Detention Center awaiting extradition to Texas at a later date.

Reserve Deputy R. Griffin made the arrest assisted by Deputy K. Samuel.

Rotary learns about LSMSA’s Excel Student Support Program

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The spotlight was on the Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts (LSMSA) Excel Student Support Program at the Rotary Club of Natchitoches meeting May 15. LSMSA Math Professor Jennifer Mangum has taught at LSMSA for 19 years and participated in the Excel program since its inception in 2003. Along with Mangum, LSMSA Biology Professor Jason Anderson and LSMSA Senior Adreanna Queen discussed their enthusiastic participation in the Excel Program. The purpose of Excel is to identify underrepresented students with gifts and talents and provide a summer boot camp to teach rigor and structure, so they can learn how to learn and be successful. If the students do well in this boot camp, then they may apply to LSMSA. Many students in this program are the first member of their family to graduate from high school.

Pictured from left are LSMSA Executive Director Dr. Steve Horton, Anderson, Mangum, Rotary President David Zolzer, and Queen (photo by Dr. Ron McBride).

NSU awards posthumous degree

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Northwestern State University presented posthumous degrees to Orlando Enrique Gonzales Trucco during May 11 commencement ceremonies. Gonzales lost his battle with cancer two weeks prior to graduation. A native of Cartagena, Colombia, Gonzales earned a scholarship to study business administration and music at NSU and was a popular teacher and performer on campus, at area churches and at live music venues in the area. Accepting the Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Science with a concentration on Music Business were his mother Rosanna Morales Trucco and his fiancé Nicolle Contreras, pictured with NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio, Dr. Greg Handel, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Vickie Gentry, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

It’s summer and Kiwanians learned about benefits of being in the water

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Katie Yandell spoke to the Natchitoches Kiwanis Club at its meeting May 17 about water safety. Yandell has been in the aquatics industry for 18 years. She received her master’s in sports administration from NSU and worked for the City Parks and Recreation Department before accepting an Aquatics and Special Events Coordinator position in Lubbock, Texas. After Lubbock, she became the Aquatics and Safety Coordinator at SFA. She is currently the professor in the Health and Human Performance Department at NSU as an Exercise Physiologist.

She is an American Red Cross instructor trainer in the realms of lifeguarding and water safety and is a certified pool operator, yes that’s a thing.

One of her goals is to help people understand the wonderful benefits on being in the water.

Northwestern State University will offer aquatics activities this summer at the NSU Rec Complex. Hours of operation will be from 3-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday in May. Beginning June 5, hours will be 2-7 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday through the end of July.

Several swim classes will be available in June and July, including a junior lifeguard course announced at a later date. Learn-To-Swim group lessons will take place at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays the weeks of June 5, June 12, June 19 and June 26. Learn-To-Swim private lessons will be available at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays the weeks of July 10, July 17 and July 24.
For membership information or to schedule swimming lessons, contact Cindy Davis, aquatics director, at cindyd@nsula.edu or (318) 357-6301.

Information on water aerobics is available by contacting Melanie Bedgood, coordinator of non-credit activities, at (318) 357-6355 or bedgoodm@nsula.edu.

Notice of Death – May 22, 2018

Notice of Death 2017

NATCHITOCHES PARISH:

John “Johnny” Singer, Jr.
January 6, 1958 – May 18, 2018
Visitation: Wednesday, May 23 from 5-9 pm at the Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home
Service: Thursday, May 24 at 11 am at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Robeline

Harold Gene Lilley
March 27, 1937 – May 19, 2018
Service: Wednesday, May 23 at 10 am at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Robeline

Addie Fisher
May 18, 2018
Visitation: Saturday, May 26 from 9-11 am at the at Winnfield Memorial Funeral Home
Service: Saturday, May 26 at 11 am at the Winnfield Memorial Funeral Home Chapel
Interment: Campti Community Cemetery

Alex Benito Reliford
May 28, 1971 – May 1, 2018
Arrangements TBA

Doris Rachal Jordan
April 26, 2018
Arrangements TBA

WINN PARISH:

Glen Roy Folden
June 13, 1943 – May 21, 2018
Visitation: Wednesday, May 23 from 5-9 pm and Thursday, May 24 from 9-9:30 am at the Southern Funeral Home in Winnfield
Service: Thursday, May 24 at 10 am at Brown Cemetery

Parish Council: There’s no vote about it

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Home Rule Charter vs. Police Jury was the hot button topic at the Parish Council meeting Monday night, May 21.

Residents in support of a Coalition called “We The People 2018” attended the meeting to ask the Council members to approve an agenda item allowing voters to make their own decision on whether they want to remain with the current form of government (Home Rule Charter) or change it back to the Police Jury form of government during the Nov. 6 election.

The item wasn’t passed as Councilmen Doug de Graffenried and Russell Rachal voted against it.

While this caused some outrage among the audience, it’s important to try and understand why they voted against it.

Parish President Rick Nowlin said he appreciates the work the coalition did to get 1,888 signatures. However, he said the petition may be a bit misguided, as he doesn’t think changing the form of government will address what problems there may be in the Home Rule Charter.

The Coalition didn’t get the requisite number of signatures on their petition, so it failed, according to state law.

“It’s not supposed to be easy, otherwise we’d be having petitions and elections every six months to change things,” said Nowlin. “We have elections to elect members to represent their districts and a president to represent the entire parish, and if they don’t do so they have to stand for re-election.”

Nowlin said that part of the parish’s problem is the people (members of the government) who are in open opposition to the Home Rule Charter form of government.

“I’ve reviewed the last 25 years of legislative audits for the Police Jury,” said Nowlin. “I don’t think I could find but two years where there weren’t significant findings in the audit. Findings where the Police Jury violated the public bid law, transferred monies between funds that wasn’t allows, deficits running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and mismanagement of funds. So the good old days weren’t really that good when you look at it.”

Scott Stetson, a Parish resident who commutes down rural roads on a daily basis, said changing an entire form of government because we’re not satisfied with the way it’s running is like trying to reinvent the wheel to regress. A good course of action would be to switch out members of the government that may still be in position from former sessions of the Police Jury (Patsy Ward Hoover, Rodney Bedgood, and Chris Paige). Changing the government itself would have a significant impact on slowing down the infrastructure that residents are already so unhappy with.

“The issue is unfortunately getting good collaboration here (Parish Council) for the common good of the parish,” said Stetson. “I’m averse to changing the form of government because I don’t think it’s gonna help me or my fellow parishioners at all. This is a personality driven issue and we need to get over the issues to address the greater good of the parish.”

What’s interesting is that if the Council were truly following its 3-minute time limit, Bedgood wouldn’t have abruptly cut off Stetson with his gavel before his time had elapsed. Anyone who spoke in favor of putting the form of government to a vote was allowed to speak well over the time limit.

However, Roger Williams was also given the cold shoulder when he questioned the Council members who voted against the Road District 40 tax (Hoover, Bedgood and Paige) in July 2017. The tax was geared toward fixing the deplorable road system in the parish.

Williams was part of a committee formed to study the road conditions. Its conclusion was that the only way the roads could be made better was to have more money. The only way to do this would have been through an ad valorem tax increase, a sales tax, or a combination of both. If the citizens would have been allowed to vote on it, and if they would have approved it, the parish would now be a year down the road towards fixing its roads.

“But the Council in their wisdom would not give the citizens the right to vote on it,” he said. “Consistently, when there’s a proposal made to offer to the citizens of Natchitoches a chance to increase taxes, we have three Councilmen that will not let it get out to a public vote. You don’t get to vote on your roads. The condition of the roads is the responsibility of those three Council members. They have prevented you from making that choice. My question to them is WHY?”

But the three Council members in question had nothing to say to answer Williams’ question and the meeting quickly moved on. Later in the meeting Bedgood said he votes the way the people in his district ask him to vote, which is why he voted no on the proposed Road District 40 tax.

There’s an obvious rift among the Council members that seems to be preventing any progress that could actually help the parish move in the right direction. While Rachal said he wishes the Coalition would spend as much effort as they’re putting into the petition, on helping the Council make the Home Rule Charter work, Paige said he considers it “the worst thing that’s ever happened.”

Other agenda items included:

Reappoint Clint Perot III and Edward Colbert to the Natchitoches Parish Waterworks District No. 1 Board

Reappoint Meryland Robinson to the Natchitoches Parish Planning and Zoning Commission

Reappoint Ernest Self and Winfred Lonadier to the Northwest Louisiana Game and Fish Preserve Commission

Introduce ordinance to reduce speed limit of the Clark Loop Road to 15mph

Adopt ordinance relative to the removal of appointees to board and commissions to require 75% attendance

Adopt the adjusted millage rate or rates

Hold an election in Fire District No. 3 on Nov. 6 to authorize the renewal of a special tax

 

Company demos old motel, switches gears to repurpose property

A few readers asked the NPJ about the status of the Motel Louisianne property on Hwy. 1 South. NPJ reached out to property owner Rhodes Properties and Development LLC, who initially purchased the Motel with the intentions of remodeling it into all-inclusive efficiency apartments for NSU students. According to Justin Rhodes, as they gutted the property and began design for renovation, there was too much work needed on the existing structure. It became evident that saving the structure was not cost effective.

They switched gears to demo the structure completely and repurpose the project as mixed use commercial and are currently in meetings with their design team about best options for the property. Justin said they are looking forward to revitalizing the property as it is such a prominent commercial location and gateway into Natchitoches.

Pi Kappa Phi alumnus leads Natchitoches Kiwanis Club as president

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The Natchitoches Kiwanis Club is expanding its service to the community under the leadership of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity alumnus Dion Boyett.

A lender with Bank of Montgomery, Boyett first joined the Natchitoches club in 2013.

Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers, dedicated to improving the world, one child and one community at a time. So far in his 2017-2018 term as club president, Boyett and his fellow Kiwanians have sponsored a variety of projects that involve fundraising, community service, and assisting children locally and worldwide.

In Natchitoches, the Kiwanis Club has sponsored a Give-Back Night at Chilis, Kiwanis Kids Day at NSU, Coats for Kids, the annual Kiwanis Pancake Festival and 5K, and the ‘Kiwanis One Day,’ where members cleaned 4 city parks in 4 hours.

The Kiwanis Club meets the first and third Thursdays of each month at the Northwestern Hills Golf Course Recreation Complex. The Noon meeting feature a guest speaker from the community or planning and social activities. The organization sponsors at least one service project each month.

To learn more, visit www.kiwanisclubnatchitoches.com