Council hears property complaints

Published 11:01 am Friday, August 8, 2014

Recently, Bogalusa’s City Council meetings have been relatively brief and pleasant affairs, but that wasn’t the case Tuesday.

During the public participation segment in which citizens have the opportunity to voice their complaints or concerns regarding the city, Bogalusa resident and long-time council meeting participant Fate Farrell took issue with the City Council, and Bogalusa Mayor Charles Mizell, in particular, over unkempt residences and the poor condition of city streets.

“Our streets are in poor condition,” Farrell began. “Property laws are on the books, but we don’t enforce property laws. Let’s make citizens clean up their yards and put some paint on their houses. (The Council) just gave the Mayor a pay raise. The house at the corner of Sullivan and Dewitt is abandoned, and the grass is overgrown. (The Council) won’t do anything. Mayor, you’re not going to do anything…”

With that last sentiment, Council President Doug Ritchie told Farrell he would be escorted from the chamber if he didn’t stop the personal attacks. Farrell then left of his own accord.

“I wish (Farrell) would have stayed around long enough to hear my remarks,” Mizell said. “(The overgrown yards) has become a problem in the city, and I apologize for that. Everything seems to be police and law enforcement’s responsibility. There needs to be some personal responsibility. … Do we want code enforcement only for our neighbors?”

Bogalusa Public Works Director James Hall said the city has done all it can do.

“We’ve done an abstract of the property (in dispute), and we’ll go to court against the (property owner),” Hall said. The house is vacant, but somebody has been paying the property tax. We will write a letter to the property owner’s heirs and take it from there.”

In other business, the council approved an ordinance setting millage rates for 2014 as required by law.

The 2014 millages include general purpose, 10.84 mills; general pension system, 7.79 mills; general pension system for city employees, 2.75 mills; maintenance and operation, 2.71 mills; maintenance and operation, 3.62 mills; fire department operation, 2.71 mills; landfill facilities, 5.0 mills; municipal facilities/recreation program, 4.0 mills; sewer and water maintenance, 2.71 mills; and bond retirement sinking fund, 5.76 mills.

Also, Bob Neilson presented the 2013 audit to the council. Neilson’s opinion was that the city is going in the right direction.

“The best report we can give an entity is an unmodified report, and the report for the city is unmodified,” Neilson said. “The operating budget for (2013) was a $936,000 deficit. The reason for (deficit) turned out to be a one-time payment on infrastructure the city made. The money was spent on Louisiana Avenue and (Cassidy) Park. The money was well spent. Those expenditures should go way for 2014.”

He continued, “I believe the city is on the right track for getting the budget deficit on the right track for 2014. I think with a little tweaking of the financial situation, you’ll be fine.”

City Administrator Jerry Bailey said the city is reducing millage rates.

“Basically, we’ve been growing our assessed value,” Bailey said. “We’re reducing our millage by a total of 1.96 mills. That equals out to approximately $118,000. Property taxes will be a little bit lower at the end of the year.”

Main Street Director Robin Day also presented good news to the council.

“The 400 block (of South Columbia Street) is full,” Day said. “Wild Blue, a women’s boutique, is a new business opening at 427 S. Columbia.”

She added, “It’s investors’ job to invest in the city, not the city’s.”

Ordinances introduced during the meeting will be voted on at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Aug. 19. Proposed ordinances include authorizing Mizell to enter into a lease agreement with Brennan Wholesale, located at 415 S. Columbia St., for office space for the Main Street Program.

Also, an ordinance was introduced to amend and re-enact a section of the Bogalusa Code to make it unlawful for any person engaged in any business of selling or serving alcoholic beverages to permit any person below the age of 21 to frequent or hang around.

Finally, an ordinance authorizing Mizell to solicit bids to convert a portion of The Salvage Store at 209 Industrial Parkway for a freezer area was introduced.