Parish Council discusses Head Start transition, Clark Road Bridge, budget amendments

The Parish Council meeting on July 15 was uncharacteristically brief. Perhaps the most important news to come from it was the announcement that as of July 15 the Head Start Program previously operated by the Parish Government is officially under the organization Save the Children. The goal is to have 310 children enrolled in the Head Start programs in Natchitoches and DeSoto Parishes. Of those 270 will be children ages 3-5. The other 40 will be enrolled in a new program called “Birth to Age 3.” This new program will take up five classrooms across the program because there’s an eight-child-maximum restriction per class.

The transition will be gradual and the Parish is working hard to make sure it all goes well. Head Start agreed to extend the Parish’s grant by one month to assist int he closeout. Employees’ last day under the Parish Government was June 30. They were sent letters informing them that they will be required to apply for positions under Save the Children. Head Start agreed to put money into reserves to pay for any unemployment that may or may not occur. The Parish is currently negotiating this number, which could be around $300,000 (worst case scenario/total liability). A more solid number should be reached in the next day or so and an official press release announcing the transition will be released soon.

Regarding health insurance rates for the Parish, they’re already anticipating rates to rise considerably next year. The Parish may have to get creative to keep affordable insurance when the time comes. As for the Head Start employees, their insurance ended on June 30 when their employment ended with the Parish Government. However, Save the Children has confirmed that benefits will become active immediately when staff is hired (no waiting period to get picked up).

Agenda items included:

Adopt Ordinance 005-2019 to effect a zoning change from an I-A Industry-Agriculture District to a B-1 Business District for commercial use on a 23.57 acre parcel on Hwy. 120 in Natchez.

Approve temporarily moving Precinct 4-3 at the St. Augustine Catholic Church Hall (2250 Hwy. 484) to the Cypress Police Jury Voting Building for the two elections on Oct. 12 and Nov. 16. After Nov. 16 election the polling place will return to the Church Hall.

Authorize Parish President to acquire additional rights-of-way at the Clark Road Bridge replacement site for the relocation of a CLECO transmission line. The line needs to be relocated because otherwise it would have to be de-energized during the construction process. The length of time this would last would cause problems for the City. CLECO offered to pay for the cost of relocating the line if the Parish would purchase the rights-of-way, which is 60-feet wide by a few hundred feet in length.

Introduction of Ordinance 012-2019 Budget Revision for the Solid Waste Fund.

Adopt Ordinance 011-2019 for a budget amendment to the Operating Budget for a highway fund amendment. This is actually two amendments being made to a budget amendment introduced at the June 17 meeting. This will move $20,000 from crushed concrete (which the Parish isn’t using as much of) to base materials. The second amendment is to move $40,000 from equipment purchases to special purchases to cover projects like the Beau Vista and Kayla Drive cost share agreements. This would be a 50/50 cost share deal with the Parish paying half of the project cost and the residents paying half. The Beau Vista Road project will cost roughly $18,000 to fix 500 feet of road. Kayla Drive is estimated to cost $34,000 for 800 feet of road.


FUMC’s VBS “ROARs” into Summer!

Natchitoches’ First United Methodist Church will be a bit more lively each evening this week as over 100 “ROARing” children sing, dance, play games and learn as they attend Vacation Bible School at the church July 15-18. The VBS, held 5:30-8:15 pm each evening at the church at 411 Second St. is for children from pre-school through 5th grade.

The VBS includes games, crafts and fun as the children learn Bible stories in a fun filled atmosphere. This FUMC’s VBS has traditionally featured a service project for the children to participate in helping children living in other areas of the country and world. This year’s project is “Kid to Kid.” The project will raise funds for healthcare for children in several African countries for the critical first three years of a child’s life.

The Vacation Bible School is presented at no cost to families sending their children. Parents are welcome to come by with their pre-K to fifth grade children, register them and have them join in the fun!


DR. GREG LORD ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY FOR STATE REPRESENTATIVE

Long-time physician, local businessman and entrepreneur Dr. Greg Lord has announced his candidacy for Louisiana State Representative District 24.

Healthcare is an issue close to Dr. Lord’s heart. He has not only practiced medicine for 38 years in Vernon Parish, he is the father of two cancer survivors. He founded the Leesville Rehabilitation Hospital and the award-winning Doctors’ Hospital at Deer Creek. He’s currently a founding partner and the medical director for the new Woodlands Healthcare Center, one of Louisiana’s most state-of-the-art nursing homes.

“Healthcare is a major national issue as well as a state-wide issue,” says Dr. Lord. “Patients need the best access and the best care, but big government and special interest groups are getting in the way. Someone needs to go line by line in the state healthcare budget and cut out all the fraud and waste. Who would be better to do that than a physician and hospital administrator? I have the expertise to help lead us through these vital issues.”

Dr. Lord also pledges to support his district’s logging, forestry and trucking industries as well as Fort Polk Progress. He wants to grow tourism for world-class bass fishing at Toledo Bend and secure more funding for roads and bridges as well as technical/vocational schools. He believes the state could fund these changes with taxpayer dollars saved by cutting waste, fraud and abuse.

“Other than joining the United States military, I can’t think of a better way to serve our country than by serving valiantly and honestly in our government,” says Lord. “I’m a Louisiana boy through and through. I’m a very conservative Republican. I am pro-life and support our Second Amendment right to bear arms. I love my state, but we need to make improvements, and I want to be a part of that. In government and in medicine, you have to make the correct diagnosis to effectively treat the problem. We need to send qualified people to serve. I’m qualified and eager to use my lifetime of medical and business experience.”

Dr. Lord is a graduate of Simpson High School, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport. He and his wife of 24 years, Angelle, have six children and four grandchildren. When Dr. Lord isn’t practicing medicine, he’s working on his farm in Leesville. He and Angelle are committed Christians and attend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I’d be honored to serve the people in my district, the place where I’ve lived, worked and raised a family almost my entire life,” says Lord. “I have my fingers on the pulse of the issues because I am still actively involved in caring for my patients and running my businesses with my wife and business and partner, Angelle. I have what it takes to stand up for what’s right in Baton Rouge and answer back to my people at home.”


Lions Club learns about 40th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival

The 40th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival will be held on July 26-27 in air-conditioned Prather Coliseum located at 220 South Jefferson Street at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. The Festival will be on Friday July 26 from 4:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m and all day on Saturday July 27 from 8 a.m until 10:30 p.m. The family-oriented festival is wheelchair accessible. The Southeast Tourism Society (STS) has named the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival as one of the STS Top 20 Events in the Southeast for July 2019. The 2019 Festival theme is Vive la Louisiane!

“This year’s theme acknowledges the ways in which so many outstanding artists young and old are tapping into the power and artistry of the old ways, revitalizing and reimagining tradition as they make it their own,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the festival and NSU’s Louisiana Folklife Center.

Blues guitarist and singer Tab Benoit is the honorary chair of the festival and will be the headline performer on Saturday evening. Benoit will be also inducted in the Louisiana Folklife Center Hall of Master Folk Artists.

Children 12 and under are admitted free. Tickets are $13 for a two-day pass, available in advance only, or $10 at the door for all events on Saturday, or $6 for a one-time evening pass to all events after 5 p.m. For advance tickets or more information, call (318) 357-4332.


Multiple suspects arrested after traffic stop

Natchitoches Multi Jurisdictional Drug Task Force Agents conducted a Uniformed Tactical Operation (UTO) on June 26 in conjunction with officers from the Natchitoches Police Department (NPD) and deputies from the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office (NPSO). Three individuals were arrested for narcotics and weapons violations after a traffic stop at the intersection of Amulet and Second Streets for careless operation. During the course of the traffic stop, agents located an Olympic Arms AR-15 rifle in plain view where Robert D. Clark, 23 B/M, was seated. Upon further investigation, Clark was a convicted felon, thus prohibiting him from being around firearms. Clark was placed under arrest. After being placed under arrest, approximately 14.2 grams of suspected high grade marijuana was located on Clark’s person.

Subsequent to Clark’s arrest, Agents searched the vehicle. Located inside the vehicle were the following:

1- Glock 23 handgun, which was confirmed stolen through Hope, Arkansas
1- Taurus 9mm, which was confirmed stolen through the NPD.
Arrested during the investigation were the following:

Shaquille Robinson, 24, B/M of the 500 block of Payne St. for:
Possession of a stolen firearm

Robert D. Clark, 23, B/M of the 2100 block of Lakeview Apts. For:
2 counts of Poss. of CDS in the presence of a firearm
2 counts of Poss. of a firearm by a convicted felon
Possession of CDS I (Marijuana)
Possession of a Stolen Firearm

Omkeyma Thompson, 20, B/M of the 200 block of Johnson Loop for:
Possession of a stolen firearm

NMJDTF agents conducted a search warrant at the home of Shaquille Robinson in the 500 block of Payne Street in Natchitoches in reference to the above stated investigation.

Upon execution of the search warrant, Agents located the following illicit items:

Approximately 3.5lbs of suspected high grade marijuana, which has a potential street value of $23,500.
Approximately 1 lbs of suspected synthetic marijuana “mojo”
Micro Draco AK47 pistol
Ruger LCP (pink camo)
Bryco 380 handgun
SKS Norinco 7.62×39 rifle

Subsequent to the search warrant in the 500 block of Payne St investigation, the following individuals were arrested:

Shaquille Robinson, 24, B/M of the 500 block of Payne St was additionally charged with the following charges:

3 counts- Possession of a firearm in the presence of CDS
2 counts- Possession of CDS I (Marijuana/Synthetic Marijuana) w/intent to distribute

Brandon Edwards, 27, B/M of the 100 block of South Bend Dr. Edwards was charged with the following:

Resisting arrest
FTA Bench Warrant through NPD
Obstruction of Justice
Possession of CDS I (marijuana) w/intent to distribute

The Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force would like to thank the Citizens of Natchitoches for their support. Many times an investigation begins with a simple phone call or tip from a concerned citizen. For this reason the Task Force encourages all citizens to report any crimes in their neighborhoods anonymously by calling 318-357-2248, The Natchitoches Police Department, or the Natchitoches Parish Sheriffs Office.


LDWF Urges Public to be Mindful of Displaced Wildlife Following Hurricane Barry

In the aftermath of Hurricane Barry, wildlife species will seek higher ground and be displaced into habitat with which they may not be familiar. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) urges the public to be especially cognizant of wildlife forced into populated areas by flood water from the storm.

Rising waters force wildlife from flooded habitat into adjacent residential and commercial areas where they may come into contact with residents. LDWF urges citizens to minimize contact with animals while they seek temporary refuge from their flooded home range.

Wild animals not posing a threat to humans should be left alone and should not be fed. Feeding wild animals will encourage those animals to remain in the vicinity of a new food source when they should be allowed to find natural habitat and food sources on their own.

Basic Tips:
* Avoid areas where displaced wildlife has taken refuge.
* Avoid interaction with and do not feed displaced wildlife.
* Avoid roadways near flooded areas to reduce likelihood of disturbance and collisions with wildlife.

Species of Concern:

Black Bears: The Louisiana black bear is a species of concern during a flood incident when high water moves bears out of their habitat. For assistance with black bears that may be forced into populated areas by flood waters, call 1-337-262-2080.

Alligators, Snakes: Flood waters will carry reptiles into populated areas where they may not normally be noted in significant numbers. Following the impact of flood waters, exercise extreme caution when salvaging possessions from flooded areas. Wildlife, especially reptiles, may remain in flooded areas and pose a safety threat.

Venomous snake species in Louisiana include the canebrake rattlesnake, the copperhead, the cottonmouth, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the harlequin coral snake, the pygmy rattlesnake and the Texas coral snake. For more information on snake species found in Louisiana, including frequently asked questions, visit LDWF’s website at this link: www.wlf.louisiana.gov/resource/snakes-louisiana .

Deer, Feral Hogs: Deer and feral hog populations represent the two large quadruped species that may appear in populated areas in significant numbers as flood waters move wild animals out of natural habitat. As is the case with all wild animals, how these species will react to humans in close contact situations is unpredictable. LDWF recommends allowing these species, when sighted individually or in groups, to move unimpeded through flooded areas as they seek higher ground.


Spots, sponsorships remain open for annual Don’t Die Wondering Golf Classic

Spots and sponsorships for the 31st annual Don’t Die Wondering Golf Classic remain available.

The event is set for Aug. 3 at Northwestern Hills Golf Course and remains the primary fund-raising event for the Northwestern State women’s basketball program.

Entry fees are $400 per team or $100 per player and the tournament is a scramble format. There will be one 8 a.m. shotgun start at this year’s event.

Hole sponsorships and corporate sponsorships for the event remain available as well. All proceeds from the event benefit the Lady Demons basketball program, helping pay for scholarships, travel, and additional program costs.

For more information, contact head coach Jordan Dupuy at 318-357-5891.


NRMC Recognized at Quality Texas Foundation Conference

Natchitoches Regional Medical Center (NRMC) was one of only two organizations to receive the 2019 Governor’s Texas Award for Performance Excellence (TAPE) at the 26th Annual Texas Quest for Excellence Conference on June 25th in San Antonio.

“For the past six years, we have been on a journey to excellence as we strive each day to embrace the Baldrige Excellence Framework. It is an honor and great joy to have won the prestigious Quality Texas Governor’s Award. This award is based on the Baldrige criteria and our team has worked very hard to achieve this level of excellence. It is a testament to the values, vision and commitment of our whole team – they are truly a Team of Champions. I am extremely proud of the outstanding work they are doing for our community and our patients,” explained Kirk Soileau, NRMC Chief Executive Officer. “We greatly appreciate the Quality Texas Foundation for welcoming us into the family, and we want to extend a heartfelt thanks to the program’s leadership: Dr. Mac McGuire, Lin Wrinkle-McGuire, and Dwight Bailey, Jr.,” Soileau said.

About the Quality Texas Foundation

The Quality Texas Foundation helps businesses, hospitals, schools, government agencies, and non- profits improve performance. They educate, train, assess, provide feedback and recognize organizations committed to a journey of excellence. To learn more visit, Texas-quality.org

About Natchitoches Regional Medical Center

Natchitoches Regional Medical Center began as a community hospital in 1955 and has grown into a 216-bed healthcare system with 750 Associates and more than 100 active and consulting physicians on its medical staff. The system is comprised of the 96-bed acute care facility, a skilled nursing home, assisted living complex, and an extensive network of clinics throughout the parish.


NPJ Teacher Feature: Rodney Meziere

By Holly Penta

For Rodney Meziere, teaching isn’t just a profession, it’s a passion. He teaches English, Language, Arts (ELA) and Social Studies at East Natchitoches Middle School and has been teaching for 8 years. To him, the hardest part of teaching is the idea of failing to reach every student. His students will resist learning if given the chance and he thinks that they want to learn.

“Most just don’t know it,” he said. “Most students don’t see the value of education until they are pushed beyond predetermined limits and given a reason to truly believe in themselves.”

Each student will learn differently and Rodney knows the importance of meeting each child’s individual needs. When students’ initial resistance is overcome and the students reach their full potential, it’s incredibly rewarding. Once they’ve reached this point, the results are priceless. Some of his favorite memories of teaching are when successful students come to thank him after finishing his class.

Rodney’s teaching philosophy is simple. He lives by the rule of “leave no student behind.” He believes that giving all children a meaningful education is his duty not just his job. He feels it’s also society’s duty. He spends each school day not only teaching the kids academics but also life skills, knowing that as students grow up, they will become the ones responsible for creating the laws that will govern society.

“I hope we take care of our children today, so they can take care of us tomorrow,” said Rodney. “I know that with my influence each student will be better prepared for life at the end of the school year than they were the first time they walked into my classroom.”

***NPJ made several attempts to request a photo to accompany this article. No photo was provided.***


Foster Mom: Is That Your Baby?

By Melanie Wilson

“Is that your baby?” I get asked this often.

The babies I have had in foster care look nothing like me. Most of the time we are just stared at. I forget that we look nothing alike so I always think the babies have food on their face or are chewing on something that I didn’t notice. Then I always look down and laugh because I remember why people are looking.

My favorite people are those that just ask. The first time I was asked, “Is that your baby,” I had no idea what to say. It was at our church trunk-or-treat the weekend I got my 9 month old foster. I know I looked at the woman like she was crazy because everyone else I saw that weekend was family or friends so they knew. I stuttered and said yes that is my baby. She looked at me still confused and I added that he is my foster baby. She busted out laughing and said “I was about to say his daddy must be real dark because someone your color doesn’t make a baby that color.”

That woman shocked me and made me realize I would probably get asked this a lot. So here are some of my favorite comments.

On Christmas Day we had to bring the tiny baby to the ER because his cough just didn’t sound right and of course he had RSV but the doctor cracked us up. He walked in and said he was so sorry but the baby had RSV and started asking questions. He said, “Did you deliver here or at the delivery campus?” I looked at him and thought if you think I delivered this baby I don’t know if I want you to be his doctor because this genetically could not happen. I told him he was my foster child and he said he figured something like that but he doesn’t ever say anything because he doesn’t want to offend anyone.

Another time, this sweet little girl passed by us in the store and went on and on about how cute that baby is and smiled and waved and talked to the baby. When they’d walked by she tried to whisper to her mom but she couldn’t whisper and said, “Is that her baby?” The mom hushed her and kind of giggled and said, “Yes, that is her baby.” I know the little girl must have still had a confused look on her face because the mom paused and then added something along the lines of she probably didn’t have that baby in her belly like I had you but she is his mommy just like I am your mommy.

Most people just simply respond with, “Well I didn’t figure” or, “How sweet are you to take in a baby.” They have really sweet words. Some want to know more about foster care and I love answering their questions because I think if more people knew we could help more children.

My favorite conversation happened at Walmart not long ago. We passed by two ladies and they said how cute my baby girl was and I said thank. I told them he is a boy but he is very pretty and people get confused a lot. We saw them a few aisles down and one got the nerve to ask, “Is that your baby?” I smiled and did my explanation that he is my baby, my foster baby. These two women busted out laughing and said, “We were wondering because he is dark but we thought maybe you had some black somewhere down the line because you got a big butt like us.” They completely meant the comment as a compliment and went on about how big butts are the best and I just laughed and laughed. Later, when I was telling my mom the story, I was still laughing because they really meant it as a compliment. It’s still not a conversation I thought I would ever have with anyone, especially in Walmart with strangers.

I would rather someone ask than just stare. It gives me a chance to talk to them about foster care.

However, I have had some ugly stares. I passed by an older couple who huffed and puffed when I walked past them downtown. I have had some people make comments after I pass them.

I don’t care what anyone says. I think the big butt comment will always be my favorite comment. Embrace who you are and love everyone.

DID YOU KNOW: According to the 2016 AFCARS Report & U.S. Dept. HHS 44% of foster children are white, 23% African American, and 21% are Hispanic.


Natchitoches Police investigate fatal July Street shooting

The Natchitoches Police Department is investigating a fatal shooting that took place Saturday morning on July Street.

Natchitoches Police Department officers responded to July Street on July 13 at 10:34 am in reference to reports of an individual being shot in the area. Upon officers arrival they located Willie Willis (B/M, 36 y.o.a. of Natchitoches) suffering from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

Willie Willis was transported to the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center where he was later pronounced deceased from his wounds.

The investigation is ongoing and no further information will be released at this time.

If you have any additional information in regards to this investigation please contact the Natchitoches Police Department at (318) 352-8101 or Detective Sergeant Bobby Beard at (318) 283-3914. Remember all information given shall remain confidential.