New group calls for citizen action

Published 8:24 am Monday, August 25, 2014

Being proactive in the battle for beautification throughout the parish was Thursday night’s theme during the Washington Parish Safety Council’s inaugural meeting at the courthouse in Bogalusa.

Organizer Scott Ard challenged the 24 citizens present to take action in the community. Planks in the organization’s platform are blighted property, litter abatement, beautification of common areas and overall public safety. Ard said committees will soon be formed to tackle those problems.

“The idea behind this group is a community group of volunteers trying to make positive change in the city as well as the parish,” Ard said. “At this time, volunteerism is at an all-time low. We all need to take a little pride in our property. It doesn’t matter if you have a few acres or 100 acres. What we don’t want to do is right off the bat lean on the city or parish.”

There was plenty of give and take among those in attendance offering suggestions on how to make the city and parish more attractive in a number of ways.

“The bottom line is a clean community is a happy community,” Ard said. “A clean community is a safe community. Our goal is we want to make people want to live here and want people to want to come here to live.”

Ard said citizens should speak to their neighbors in a positive manner about keeping up their property.

Some of the ideas kicked around during the meeting were getting youth involved in community cleanup efforts, establishing a weekly cleanup day and reporting of street light outages.

“Criminals don’t like the light,” City Council member Teddy Drummond said.

Bogalusa Mayor Charles Mizell said the city’s Code Enforcement officer stays busy.

“We have one active Code Enforcement Officer in the city,” Mizell said. “He probably issues between 20 and 30 citations a month. Out of 5,000 houses in Bogalusa, we’re not gaining a lot. We send registered letters to property owners requesting they clean up their property. It’s not as simple as writing a citation. But what do you do when (property owners) live in Illinois and their grass needs cutting?”

Mizell said if the meeting concerned alcoholic beverages, there wouldn’t be enough seating in the courtroom to accommodate everyone.

“Talk about alcohol in (Cassidy Park) and we would have people lined up out here,” Mizell said. “This is more important to the community. We’re setting the bar high where the community gets involved. Talk about resources, I wish somebody would send me a couple million dollars. All the money in the world isn’t going to make some people care. The people who are here tonight do care.”

City Judge Robert J. Black backed Mizell.

“His administration has been on top of code violations. What this group could do is contact these people after they’re identified and request (they) clean up their property. Sometimes when the (officer) starts writing that citation it makes a little headway.”

Ard said the group will explore acquiring available resources to assist cleaning up unsightly property.

“We’re not going to play the blame game,” Ard said. “Instead of a complaint, we’re going to being a solution to the table.”

The group has a Facebook page at Washington Parish Safety Council. Ard can be contacted by email at or phone at 985-750-1123. Ard said the group’s next meeting has yet to be determined.