During meeting, parish picks new chair

Published 4:48 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Washington Parish Council held a routine meeting Monday evening.

At the top of the meeting, the council selected a new chairman and vice chairman. Perry Talley nominated Reginald McMasters as chairman, and he was approved unanimously. McMasters nominated Chris Workman to be vice chairman and he was also approved unanimously.

Beth Putnam, the 4-H Youth Development Agent, gave the LSU Ag Center’s quarterly report. She said 4-H attendance is at a record level in Washington Parish.

“We are looking at roughly 800 4-H members this year. Which is up 50 from last year,” she said.

Putnam said the youth development program operates in every school in the parish, both public and private.

She said this will be a big year for the group because they have scheduled the first 4-H Achievement Day in two years for March 31 at the fairgrounds. Putnam said the group’s Achievement Day last year was cancelled due to the flooding. The Achievement Day is intended to highlight the best of the local program and it is open to the public.

“I invite all of you to come see what we’re doing,” she said.

One of the councilmen asked her whether she was aware of any state budget cuts planned for the Ag Center, and Putnam said she is unaware of any. She said there was one in November, but is not sure whether it will affect the parish.

Putnam also reminded everyone that Thursday at 6 p.m. there is a meeting for the parish watermelon growers association at the Ag Center. Dinner will be provided.

After Putnam spoke, the meeting was opened up to public participation.

Richard Magee of Franklinton spoke. He began by praising the council and parish leadership.

“I am here to voice my opinion on the parish council’s improvement over the last couple of years on your infrastructure,” he said. “I have seen more roads paved … than I have seen in my lifetime here.”

He then asked about the council’s role in general parish business. Michael Fussell said two of the biggest items facing the council include the infrastructure and public health.

Magee also addressed his concerns about the federal government on immigration and the rights of minority communities. Magee said he believes it is important for the government to look after the interests of people who have historically been marginalized.

“Are we going to go back to where ladies can be only cooks and child-bearing people? Or are we going to let them be doctors, and lawyers, and CEOs and let them live up to their potential as people,” he asked.

He then went on to praise the value of diversity.

“I’ve been here 68 years, and I’m not going anywhere. Let’s let people in, and let’s share our diversity,” Magee said. “Because that very time you make a rule that’s going to govern people you don’t like, to run them out of the country or burn them at the stake … when all of these people are run out of the country, who’s going to be left to defend it?”

After Magee’s comments, Karen Daniels addressed the lack of Internet access for rural citizens. Specifically, she said AT&T should bring high-speed Internet to citizens who don’t live in towns.

However, McMasters said while the parish officials do encourage Internet providers to invest in infrastructure in rural communities, they cannot force anyone to provide high speed Internet. Even so, he said the council is open to doing whatever it can to facilitate the process.

“It is our intent to do as much as we can for the citizens of Washington Parish,” he said.

Finally, during the president’s report, Richard Ned Thomas put forward a number of resolutions to fill spots on various boards. All of Thomas’ suggestions were accepted.

Randy Thomas was approved to serve on the board of directors for the parish planning committee; Geary McKenzie was also approved to serve on the planning committee; and Arile O’Bryant Jr., Kenneth Devall and Nathanial Gary Sumrall were approved to serve on the board of directors for Fire Protection District No. 4.

The council then accepted the letter of resignation of Darwin Sharp from the Fire Protection District No. 1 board.

Thomas announced that parish offices would be closed Monday, Jan. 16 in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

After that, Scott Dickerson, the certified building inspector, presented the council with a summary of building permits for the parish in 2016. In 2016, Washington Parish added 72 new homes and 144 new mobile homes and counted 144 additions or renovations. Franklinton saw three new houses go up and 24 got renovations or additions. In Bogalusa, seven new houses were built and there were 19 additions or renovations. In the entire parish, there were 10 new commercial structures built and 29 commercial additions or remodels.

Dickerson said in Bogalusa in particular, that Dirt Cheap is remodeling the old Walmart and plans to occupy half the space and then lease out the other half. In addition, Dockside Marine is opening a new space by Pearl River on Highway 10.

The meeting wrapped up after about an hour.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 23, at 6 p.m.