Council open to blacktopping Roosevelt

Published 5:47 am Friday, November 4, 2016

The Bogalusa City Council indicated its willingness to blacktop North Roosevelt, during their meeting on Tuesday.

Area residents and parishioners of the Sweet Beulah Baptist Church have long sought road improvements, and while the parish government did repair the road earlier this year, critics say the road still is not satisfactory.

With that in mind, Councilman Brian McCree introduced a resolution to blacktop the road. It passed unanimously, and then Councilwoman Gloria Kates asked to amend the agenda and introduce an ordinance to do the same. It, too, passed unanimously.

Although in recent meetings the issue has sparked heated rhetoric and accusations of favoritism, McCree said the discord could end.

“We can get past this,” he said. “We don’t need to be lingering on this street. It’s been two years. It’s been past two years. So let’s get it done.”

Kates reminded her fellow council members that residents had been requesting repairs since 2014.

“The time has come to just do the right thing,” she said.

The rest of the agenda was routine and passed largely without comment.

At the top of the meeting, Mayor Wendy Perrette presented a resolution to Sandra Hodges, the wife of former city councilman Randy Hodges.

“I had the pleasure to serve with Councilman Randy Hodges,” Perrette said. “I know he loved his job and he took it seriously.”

After that, the council passed its capital improvement plan for the airport for next year. The city submits the plan each year to the state, and each year the state funds whatever projects it deems priorities. The projects are fully funded by state or federal funds.

The council then introduced a number of ordinances, including an ordinance to purchase property on Avenue D, an ordinance to change zoning on Louisiana and Virginia avenues, an ordinance to rezone a home for home care/sitting services and an ordinance to authorize obstruction removal at the airport. All ordinances passed and they will be up for final approval at the next meeting.

During public participation, Gladys Lampton spoke first and she said she was concerned because her recently deceased husband’s vault at Bogalusa Cemetery has apparently been defaced. She also complained of a mysterious black SUV that has been parked at the cemetery when she’s visited recently.

“I don’t know who it is, but this is the third time I’ve been out to the graveyard and they’ve been out there,” she said.

Lampton said she’s tried calling the police, but when she pulls out her phone, the SUV leaves. She was advised to leave the cemetery, park on the highway and call the police from there next time.

Police chief forum discussed

After Lampton spoke, Malcolm Moses presented each board member with a thick assortment of court documents. The documents were civil lawsuits filed against the city’s police department and sheriff’s office. Most of the lawsuits had been dismissed in the city’s favor, though one is apparently still being appealed and another was resolved between the parties out of court.

Moses said he believes the lawsuits would help the council pick the best police chief from the pool of candidates.

“Every council member, really, weigh your decision making. The people who put you in office supported you and they need you now to support them,” he said.

He also said he was misquoted in a newspaper story regarding a recent community forum for the candidates for the chief of police. He was quoted as saying Marvin Austin and Fate Ferrell had helped invite candidates, but on Tuesday he said that was not true.

Vanessa Tyson then spoke. She said she is a retired police captain and she told the council she hopes hidden agendas do not determine the hiring of the next police chief.

Another former officer, Raymond Tate, then spoke. He lamented that only four council members showed up to the community forum.

“It’s an insult to the community,” he said. “You asked us to support you and when we have concerns you won’t even come out and listen to the concerns of the community.”

Tate said he also didn’t trust the process of picking the chief.

“Right now the process is a dog-and-pony show,” he said. “I know the mayor said she’s going have a panel of seven people, but we all know how that can go.”

Willis Yarborough, a former assistant police chief, said that while he was assistant chief he investigated an incident of alleged police misconduct concerning two officers.

“One officer turned his badge in,” he said. “The other one is still in the police department. And he still has an attitude. If you’re wondering why so many blacks are being killed by police officers, it is because they’re following after their chiefs. If the chief of police has a don’t-care attitude then the police will have a don’t-care attitude.”

Fate Ferrell then addressed the council and, like the others, brought up concerns with the candidates for police chief. He said there are two candidates who should not be up for consideration.

“If you sit up here and let either one of these people be the chief of police then you are doing nothing more than hurting the white citizens and the black citizens,” Ferrell said.

He went on to warn the council that if they do not pick the right police chief he would possibly release scandalous information.

“Do not go with that buddy-buddy stuff with picking the police chief, because if you do, I have some stuff to show that will make you all hurt,” he said.

Ferrell also mentioned he could bring in outsiders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to protest against the city.

He then passed out a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking to make public an alleged incident of police misconduct by one of the police chief candidates.

Marvin Austin had a litany of complaints, first against police abuse, although he also said there aren’t enough officers in the community. He added that he might bring in outside agitators who aren’t as nice as the groups Ferrell had mentioned.

Warren Bolds said God is not pleased with Bogalusa and the city needs a bowling alley or a movie theater.

Councilman Doug Ritchie said those businesses would fail in Bogalusa because they have failed in the past.

Rev. Clarence Abrams then spoke and he said the reason the bowling alley shut down was due to gang fights. He also said his roads needed to be fixed, and that the KKK used to march near his home.

After the public participation was over, the council members spoke. Ritchie said he enjoyed the community forum to introduce the police chief candidates.

“I was there and it was very informative and it was very well run. I do however want to note one thing,” he said. “We had a time limit. Folks had a time limit to speak. And it was between two and three minutes. And everybody abided by it and everybody was happy. I just wonder if its time to consider time limits again at this meeting, and I’ll shut up about that.”

He added that he would look into the cemetery concerns.

Kates said she found a newspaper article dated Sept. 8, 1995, that reported the opening of a new park in Moton Quarters. In recent months there has been some debate on whether the area is a park or is in private hands and the matter seemed no closer to resolution Tuesday. Perrette said the city did donate the land to a private group to use as a park, so the land was no longer city land.

Councilwoman Tamira Smith said she hopes the community will turn out to help clean up the two cemeteries in town. The first cemetery cleanup will be Saturday, Nov. 26, at the Bogalusa Cemetery and then the next on Saturday, Dec. 3, will be cleanup day for Ponemah Cemetery.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.