Parish Council discusses CEA with NHF to restore old courthouse, solution to blocked train crossing at Brickyard Road

The Natchitoches Parish Government passed an agenda item at its Aug. 21 meeting that authorized Parish President John Richmond to enter into negotiations with the Natchitoches Historic Foundation for the possibility of a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement to restore the Old Courthouse, located on the corner of Church and Second streets.

“The old courthouse was in a sad state of affairs the first time I walked into it when I first took office as Parish President,” said Richmond.

However, before the Parish Government could even consider restoring the historic building, it needed to find a partner. If a CEA is entered between the Parish Government and the NHF, the Parish would retain ownership of the building, while the NHF would have access to the first floor and participate in the restoration work.

Work to be done includes:

Stop Moisture Intrusion by installing a new AC unit on the second floor to help with temperatures and humidity, repairing gutters and roof, and sealing/painting existing windows.

The Parish Government already has $150,000 budgeted toward the restoration project in the Government Buildings Fund.

Another agenda item dealt with a discussion of a solution to the trains that keep blocking the tracks in the Brickyard Road community. Unfortunately, the consensus was that’s there’s no easy answer. There’s no federal law on how long trains can block traffic at crossings and federal laws trump state and local laws/ordinances.

Trains block tracks pretty regularly on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, sometimes for 15-20 minutes, but other times the crossing is blocked for up to an hour at a time. Residents expressed their concern that this is a major issue as it makes people late to their jobs, and can block emergency services from reaching their homes.

The Parish Government had the Sheriff’s Office cite the train for blocking the crossing into the community for “an unacceptable amount of time,” but were informed that there was no way to enforce the citation due to the federal laws that protect the train and the tracks, which are private property belonging to the Union Pacific Railway.

The Parish Government is working to see if anything else can be done about the issue. They’re talking with the DOTD Highway Rail Safety section in conjunction with Union Pacific. More information should be available at the Parish Council’s September meeting.

Other agenda items included:

Re-appoint Christopher Lewis to the Fire District 7 Board, appoint Tommy R. Morrison to the Fire District 8 Board, and appoint Mary Ann Motter to the Natchitoches Parish port Commission.

Authorize Parish President to “opt in to allow for expedited temporary housing assistance” in accordance with La. R.S. 726 (F) (3) (b) (iii) (aa) and La. R.S. 726 (F) (4) (Act 526, 2022). This document will certify to GOHSEP, “…that the local governing authority will waive any land use regulation relative to permitting for mobile homes, recreational vehicles, and other temporary housing directly adjacent to the survivor’s damaged dwelling to allow for expedited temporary housing assistance in the parish.

Change the agent of record for the Parish of Natchitoches insurance coverages previously assigned to Moreman and Moore Group to Risk Services/Leavitt Group and allow the Parish Treasurer to sign the required documents to execute the change.

Adopt Resolution-031-2023 for a permanent change in polling place: Precinct 2-2 (Readhimer) from the Readhimer community Recreation Center (1055 LA Hwy. 9) to the Briarwood Baptist Church Hall located at 1020 LA Hwy. 9 due to damage of the Community Recreation Building.

Adopt Resolutions 027, 028, 029, and 030 of 2023 providing notice of intention to levy and collect a 1 percent economic development sales and use tax upon the sale at retail, the use, the lease or rental, the consumption and storage for use or consumption, of tangible personal property and on sales of services in the Economic Development District I, II, III, and IV and a hotel occupancy tax of 2 percent upon the fee or rent for occupancy of hotel rooms located within he districts commencing on Jan. 1, 2024 with no expiration date set.

Introduce Ordinances 018-1, 018-2, 018-3, and 018-4 of 2023 amending Ordinances 007-1, 007-2, 007-3, and 007-4 of 2023, which were adopted on May 15, to modify the boundaries of Economic Development District I, II, III, and IV

Introduce Ordinance 013-2023 to add back Levy Taylor to the Natchitoches Parish
Road System.

Introduce Ordinance 015-2023 for the 2024 Operating and Capital Budgets.

Introduce Ordinance 016-2023 for 2023 Budget Amendments for the General Fund, Coroners Fund, and Criminal Court Fund.

Introduce Ordinance 017-2023 to amend the Natchitoches Parish Personnel Manual.