There was a sense of deja vu at Monday night’s Parish Council meeting, Nov. 16, as an all too familiar item was on the agenda for introduction.
Ordinance 019-2020 is set to amend the Parish of Natchitoches Personnel Manual to provide that, effective Jan. 1, 2021 the job position of Council Clerk is a part-time position, and to set the salary for that part-time position.
Kilcoyne and Chris Paige were appointed the newly formed Finance and Budget Committee at the June 16 meeting. The committee was supposed to find ways for the Parish to cut expenses to save money.
However, Paige was adamant that he had no part in putting the item on the agenda. “I don’t like ambushing people like this,” he said at the Aug. 18 meeting when the item was first put on the agenda. “It’s not right.”
At the Council’s Oct. 19 meeting, the ordinance was untabled from the Sept. 22 meeting. Council members voted 3:2 in favor of cutting the Council Clerk’s position (Marty Cheatwood and Chris Paige voted against).
However, what didn’t seem right at the Oct. 19 night’s meeting was the way this particular agenda item was voted on.
The Council voted to un-table the item and then voted to approve the amendment to the position, but never voted to add the item to the agenda. To add an item to the agenda so that it can be voted on requires an unanimous vote from the Council. Robert’s Rules of Order was mentioned, so it seems some clarification was needed on what the proper procedure was for voting on the item.
The Council then held a Special Called meeting on Nov. 9 to remove Ordinance 012-2020 from the table and its vote to approve Parish Ordinance 012-2020 from the Oct. 19 Parish Council meeting.
At the Nov. 16 meeting, Council members again approved the introduction of the ordinance (Marty Cheatwood and Chris Paige voted against). However, this wasn’t before allegations were made that the initiator of the ordinance, Council member Patsy Ward Hoover, has a grudge against Council Clerk Cheryl Fredericks and besides working to have her position cut, Hoover is talking out against her in the community. Hoover said it’s not personal, but citizens have been at many of the meetings to defend the Council Clerk.
Another agenda item related to this ordinance called for the Council to request an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the question: Can the Parish President veto an ordinance if said ordinance pertains strictly yo the venue of the Parish Council, including, but not limited to, the Council’s authority over any and all employees who work at the pleasure of the Parish Council (Paige and Cheatwood voted against this item). While Kilcoyne said this was a generalized request, it’s a result of Parish President John Richmond’s veto pertaining to cutting the Council Clerk’s position.
Another interesting agenda item was the Council’s decision to approve insurances for the Parish including but not limited to health, supplemental health, dental, vision, life and AD&D.
Former Agent of Record for the Parish Jim Sandefur (agent of record for the last 13 years for the Parish) said that the Parish becoming self funded will be its death because the Parish Government is too small for this type of insurance. Sandefur also claimed he was treated like a second class citizen in his dealings with Parish Treasurer Julie Lockhart and HR employee Cathy Creamer. While he claimed the Parish is sending his income to Shreveport by going with Jweinland Group Benefits (an employee benefits consulting firm that specializes in self funded insurance), Lockhart and Creamer disagreed. They stated that Sandefur had no options or solutions to offer them and was only worried about making money off the Parish Government.
According to Jweinland, the self funded arrangement removes the fat and saves the entity money. The Parish Government is not too small to be self funded for its insurance if it manages its plan and is prudent with its reserves.
In other business, Parish President John Richmond informed the Council that negotiations with TESI wants the Parish to pay them $200,000 and take over the other three systems they’re currently operating in the parish before they’re willing to donate the sewer system for the Payne Subdivision Sewer Improvement project. Richmond said he’s involved Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and other state representatives of TESI’s change of heart and asked for their involvement. TESI is governed by the Public Service Commission
Other agenda items included:
Confirm reappointment of Jared Kilpatrick to Fire District No. 6 Board
Confirm reappointment of Ron Corkern to the Hospital Service District Board
Approve budget for the fiscal year (Jan. 1, 2021-Dec. 31, 2021) and making appropriations for each department, project and account
Approve budget amendments for the general, highway, criminal court, sales tax, and library funds
Adopt resolution to show that the Parish Government has complied with all requirements of the Federal Off-System Bridge Replacement Program
Approve agreement between Capital Area Finance Authority and the Parish of Natchitoches
Award the RFQ and sign a contract with Rostan Solutions, LLC for FEMA consulting as related to Hurricane Laura and the FEMA reimbursement to the Parish (100% reimbursement for an estimated $1.5 million in expenses)