Mayor, Kates clash over grant

Published 10:23 am Friday, December 4, 2015

During administrative remarks near the end of Tuesday’s Bogalusa City Council meeting, Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette questioned District A Councilwoman Gloria Kates’ desire to split a projected $800,000 Louisiana Community Development Block Grant (LCDBG) between District A and another district.

The city selected Richardson Town to receive the funding, because city officials deemed the grant money is needed for repairs to the infrastructure in that neighborhood.

“You can’t split these grants because the state wants the project to be completed,” Perrette said. “You get $800,000 for Richardson Town or ($800,000 for District A’s) Poplas Quarters, or nobody gets it. It’s not a win-win situation every time. Richardson Town is a large district and it’s where a majority of our leaks are.”

Perrette said she had a conference call on Nov. 16 with Public Works Director James Hall, City Attorney Dale Branch, Gretchen Brown, and Kates, along with Professional Engineer Corporation officials. During that call, Kates asked for the grant to be multi-targeted to help several neighborhoods, including Poplas Quarters and other District A neighborhoods. The grant was due Nov. 20.

“Her concern should have been done back in August,” Perrette said. “Not the week the grant is due. To note these problems that she has, can possibly make us lose the entire grant for anyone in the city.

“If we lose the grant, it would be a result of your discrepancies,” Perrette told Kates directly.

In an email to The Daily News, Kates said that she was not upset about Richardson Town being the beneficiary of the grant, and only wanted to suggest that other neighborhoods could be added.

“In reference to last night’s council meeting … it was stated that I was not happy for Richardson Town in pursuit of this grant,” Kates wrote. “I am elated and very proud of any part of the City of Bogalusa as a recipient of any properly processed grant.

“During the council meeting, it was stated that voicing a concern would result in the loss of a block grant. However, this was a suggested amendment and not an objection — two different processes of action. This was not an attempt to prohibit, only to amend.”

Kates said that she and other concerned citizens met with Perrette on Nov. 13, to voice their concerns. Kates also noted that more than 200 citizens in the district submitted signatures in favor of amending the grant.

Finally, Kates said she had talked to Carol Newton, director of the LCDBG program, who told her that offering a proposed amendment “would not jeopardize” the application.

Perrette and Kates also discussed a $400,000 Brownsfield grant that the city was recently awarded. The grant will go to 11 pre-selected sites to check for environmental hazardous waste areas. It is intended to assess former businesses that might have had contaminated soil. There is no match required from the city.

The council voted 6-1 to accept the ordinance authorizing Perrette to contract with the low bidder for the grant. Kates cast the dissenting vote.

In other business:

• The council adopted a resolution to retain CPA Robert Neilson.

• During the public participation segment, Burdeaux Sales & Service owner Floyd Burdeaux recapped Monday’s partial collapse of the adjacent two-story building at 218 Alabama Ave. that formerly housed Landry’s Restaurant and Busby’s Family Karate. The building on Alabama Avenue was heavily damaged in a block-wide fire in Feb. 2014, but has stood vacant since. Portions of the second floor fell through to the first floor and brick walls crumbled outward. The collapse damaged several vehicles Burdeaux intended to sell.

The city condemned the building on Jan. 20. Owner Stacy Busby was given 90 days to address repairs, but missed the deadline. Busby requested more time to rebuild or demolish the building. However, the Nov. 24 deadline came and went.

With the building collapse in mind, Councilman Doug Ritchie introduced an emergency ordinance to demolish the building.   

Councilman Teddy Drummond said changes must be made.

“By the time we condemn property they’re still up six or eight years,” Drummond said. “We’ve got to put some teeth into this law. It’s time to get people off the toilet and do something, so to speak.”

• North Roosevelt Street resident Derana B. Newton addressed the council on stray dogs and the poor street condition in front of a church.

“Why is the ordinance for controlling pets not enforced? In my neighborhood, there are stray dogs, including pit bulls,” Newton said.  “The street in front of Sweet Beulah Baptist Church is deplorable. I can’t understand why it can’t be fixed.”

Newton was told dogs must be licensed and there is only one animal control officer, David Kellis, to service the entire city. Also, Perrette said that traffic is not high enough on the street to justify the cost of fixing it at this time.

“We had a city employee sit out there to see how busy the road is. In two hours, only one car passed,” Perrette said.

• In another matter, Bogalusa’s John Gallaspy gave his ideas on how to make the intersection at Sullivan Drive and Louisiana Avenue safer. A log truck recently overturned at the location. Both are state highways.

Gallaspy suggested the State Department of Transportation should make the speed limit 25 mph approaching the intersection, and request individual drivers pay for damages.

• The council invited the public to a street fair on Columbia Street starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12.

In other agenda items, the council:

• Tabled an ordinance to amend the 2015 budget because of discrepancies in calculating the budget.

• Introduced an ordinance approving and adopting the city’s operating and capital budgets for the 2016 fiscal year;

• Introduced an ordinance for the sign regulation guidelines for the city. The two ordinances introduced face public comment before being voted on at the Dec. 15 meeting.

• City Attorney Dale Branch presided over the election of council president and vice president.

Nominated by District C Councilman Brian McCree, District E Councilwoman Sherry Fortenberry was selected council president. For council vice president, District B Councilwoman Tamira Smith was elected after Fortenberry’s nomination.