City, BBHF contract delayed for now

Published 7:09 am Friday, September 23, 2016

Putting to bed any question of a shakeup prior to this year’s Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival, the Bogalusa City Council voted to set aside an ordinance that would have allowed the mayor to enter into a contract with the festival.

The issue first arose at an emergency council meeting on Friday, Sept. 9. The meeting was called in order to get the ordinance on the agenda this week, but it was met with fierce opposition from festival organizer Malinda White, who objected to the timing of the plan.

The agreement would have allowed for the city to offer a contract to the festival board in exchange for the use of Cassidy Park. The details of the agreement were never made public — and White said the city and festival board never agreed to specifics — but White objected to the city’s attempt to collect set fees with so little notice. The city has accepted donations from the festival in the past and White argued that the city benefits through an increase in sales tax returns.

But on Tuesday, Mayor Wendy Perrette said the city is spending far more on the festival than it collects. Perrette was not present at the Sept. 9 meeting.

“The Bogalusa Blues and Heritage festival is a very important part of what makes Bogalusa so unique,” Perrette said. “However, the city of Bogalusa never contemplated that we would make unreimbursed expenditures totaling more than $22,000 in the first four years of the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival. While the city of Bogalusa acknowledges that two payments totaling $7,300 have been made, to date no rental payments have ever been received.”

The rental payments would come from the camp spaces at the park that festival organizers rent.

Given that the city is suffering from a downturn in sales tax returns, it is likely the issue will return after the festival, which is this weekend.

The other major concern of Tuesday’s meeting was North Roosevelt Street.

The street has concerned members of the Sweet Beulah Baptist Church since early 2015, and although the street was recently repaired by the parish government, members of the church as well as council member Gloria Kates have complained about small rocks and dust.

On Tuesday, Kates put forward a resolution for the city to request prices for overlaying the street, which would seal the street and possibly eliminate the problems.

However, council member Doug Ritchie complained that a formal bid process will cost the city thousands, regardless of whether the city decides to overlay the street.

“Do you know, Ms. Kates, how much money it’s going to cost the city to even develop a bid packet? That is going to cost the city between $3,000 and $5,000 whether we pave the street or not. … We will have to hire an architect and an engineer to draw the plans up,” he said.

Kates and Ritchie each accused the other of misunderstanding the issue.

At one point, however, Kates said, “Money doesn’t matter to me,” and on this point there was unity.

“Apparently it doesn’t,” Ritchie said.

Later, Ritchie said he did his own informal traffic study last week.

“Have you done any studies as far as traffic flow? How many cars go up and down that street every day,” he asked.

He told Kates that one day the week prior he watched one car drive down North Roosevelt in 30 minutes. Meanwhile, he said 114 cars drove down Rio Grande in a 30-minute period.

However, while Ritchie and Teddy Drummond voted against Kates’ proposed resolution, it passed easily, 5-2.

Council President Sherry Fortenberry agreed the street should be overlayed.

“It’s got a lot of rocks there and I am going to say this, something needs to be put on top of those rocks,” she said. “I don’t know what it is, but something needs to be done.”

In other business:

• The council passed a resolution supporting a grant being sought by the Robert “Bob” Hicks foundation and they passed a resolution to retain an outside auditor for the city’s annual audit. The city council also passed a resolution to prepare and submit an application for state funding.

• The council passed several ordinances, including an ordinance authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract with Air Pro Heating and Cooling for Goodyear Park’s walkway. The council also authorized a contract for repairs on the senior center, and authorized a lease agreement with Wood and Design at Industrial Parkway. Finally, the council voted to approve a nuisance abatement program.

• Also Tuesday, the council recognized city police and school employees who worked together to calm students on school bus after a disciplinary issue broke out on a city school bus at the corner of Poplas and Redmond on Sept. 7.

The following individuals received commendations from the city: Tammy Peters, Bogalusa City Schools bus driver, Felicia Mingo, Bogalusa City Schools child welfare attendant and transportation supervisor, Stephanie Yarbrough, citizen and parent of a child, Captain Jeff Varnado of the Bogalusa Police Department, Lt. Charles McDaniel of the BPD, Sgt. Martin Baker of the BPD, Sgt. Chonda Bridges of the BPD and Private First Class Ryan Rester of the BPD.

“We had an incident on a bus involving some students,” Mingo said. “The bus driver handled it professionally. She pulled to the side and tried to calm the kids down and she had some assistance from the citizens.”

Mingo said that although the police were involved, no arrests were made.