Parish Council: Will Head Start fall under new management?

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The vote on an agenda item concerning a Head Start grant application caused the most intense discussion of the night at the Parish Council meeting Nov. 19.

Council members Russell Rachal and Doug de Graffenried voted against approving a budget for a new 5-year Head Start grant period. Chris Paige abstained from voting, so the item did not pass. Executive Director for the Natchitoches Parish Office of Community Services, Sharon Harris, said they’ve never submitted an application without a resolution of support from the Parish Council. Since the Parish Council is the grantee, no resolution shows they no longer want to be in charge of the Head Start Program.

While Natchitoches Parish has run Natchitoches and De Soto Parish Head Start Centers in the past, Rachal said he doesn’t think they need to be over Head Start anymore. If the Parish Council can’t afford to fix the main MLK Head Start Center, or build a new one, then Head Start would be better served by someone who can better meet the needs of the kids and families Head Start serves.

MLK Head Start Director Chriscella Metoyer assured the Council that Head Start will stay in the community, but it may just be under new management.

A previous agenda item to consider approving Head Start March-June grant period was passed with Paige abstaining.

Another agenda item to award Parish insurance will be affected if, in July, it loses employees, the health insurance rated would stay the same per employee for 2019, however, the total bill would go down. There are currently 160 employees and retirees on Parish health insurance. Rachal said he’d heard that the company (Save the Children out of North Carolina) interested in taking over the operation of the Natchitoches and De Soto Head Starts agreed to retain all the current employees, but some seemed skeptical.

In other business:

Kisatchie Forest District Ranger Mike Dawson brought a small token of appreciation to the Council members as he announced his retirement, which is set for Jan. 3, 2019.

Parish President Rick Nowlin said there may be a special called meeting at the beginning of December to review applications for the Registrar of Voters position.

Other agenda items included:

Appoint Juliete Moffett to the Natchitoches Parish Library Board and Billy Shugart to the Fire District No. 4 Board.

Introduce ordinances for revisions to the 2018 Operating Budget and for Finance Standard Operating Procedures:

Approve adoption of ordinance for a budget for the fiscal year beginning Jan. 1, 2019 and ending Dec. 31, 2019 and making appropriations for each department, project and account.

Approve a resolution ordering and calling a special election to be held in Sales Tax District No. 2.

Change Jan. 21 meeting date to Jan. 28 due to Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday and Feb. 18 meeting date to Feb. 25 due to Presidents’ Day.

Nowlin requested to table an item to execute an agreement for Solid Waste services in the Parish beginning on Jan. 1, 2019.

Reject bids received for the Natchitoches Parish Courthouse ADA Renovations.

Approve the architectural firm of Ashe/Broussard/Weinzettle for the professional services requires in connection with the design and construction of the Courthouse Security Improvements project. The state dedicated $480,000 in Priority 1 funds for this project with the Parish providing a $480,000 match. The Parish was authorized by Facility Planning and Control to select the project architect and to submit the proposed agreement for professional services for its review.

Resolution requesting the Natchitoches Tax Collector provide an explanation of “back taxes” regarding a “value added package” charges to guests at the Chateau St. Denis Hotel for the period of Nov. 18, 2016 through July 1, 2018.

Proclamation honoring Sandi Kriebel for being named National President of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the US Auxiliary and to welcome her during her visit to Natchitoches Parish.