What’s It Like Now: Natchitoches Parish Government

A lot of the operating procedures have changed for the Natchitoches Parish Government to deal with the coronavirus and the state’s reopening guidelines. What what does it all mean and what does it actually look like for judges and their staff members?

The Natchitoches Parish Journal wanted to provide readers with a window into the world of the Parish President’s office and how operations have adapted. The Courthouse as a whole is requiring citizens to wear masks upon entering the building. Temperatures are also being checked at the main entrance.

“It’s business as usual,” said Parish President John Richmond. “In the good ways. Take away all the obstacles and you’re only left with solutions.”

It’s all about situational awareness, which everyone is not in tune with, so the Parish Government’s goal is to lead and guide people into what it means in each space.

Issuing a curfew from April 8 to May 13 upset a few people but Richmond said it was necessary. He added that it was truly about social distancing and not about trying to take control of peoples’ lives.

The Office of Community Service has seen the most upheaval and changes because out of all the offices the Parish President is over, OCS deals with thousands of residents each month. The office is doing everything they can by telephone and appointments.

The Parish Council recently granted its approval for the OCS office to move its offices from Keyser Avenue to Trudeau, which will give them more room to practice social distancing. The Highway Department is usually more removed from the public and you’ll find them on their own in the fresh air when they’re out on the roads. Employees in the Financing and Accounting Department are working split shifts in the Live Oak Building.

The Planning and Zoning Department has direct exposure to the public and Richmond said it’s been busier than you’d expect it to be. Permits have been issued for five swimming pools and 11 new construction projects just in the month of May.

Richmond said he’s looking into using the large courtroom or the City Council’s building to hold the Parish Council’s June 15 meeting.

With rumors circulating that there will be a $1 billion deficit at the state level this year, everyone is worried about tax revenue sales and property taxes. Richmond feels that at the same time, people love Natchitoches as he does.

“No one’s given up on work,” he said. “We’re just social distancing. You put your head down and you get to work and some alliances have gotten stronger because of it. It’s given us the time to evaluate where we want to be from an economic development standpoint. I really believe small towns are going to see some good stuff come from all of this. People will be looking at Natchitoches is different ways. We’re going to be here for a long time. Culturally things are changing but we have an opportunity to come out of this better than ever.”