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|Tax rates, hurricane lead topics|
Franklin Parish Police Jury members faced a wide range of topics Thursday at their regular meeting, despite a grueling week of flood recovery from Hurricane Gustav.
Highlights were approval of the final annual millage tax rates submitted by outgoing Assessor J W. Dean; discussion of hurricane related issues; resignation and replacement of the parish director of emergency preparedness and a review of the building inspection process. Mosquito control efforts were also highlighted.
Dean cautioned the jury that minimal increases in the millage rates were needed to keep the parish income and operating budgets near the same for the coming year. He cited a loss of about $1.3 million in assessed value in the parish due to lower inventories and a general business slowdown.
Following the jury's approval of the new rates, District 3 Juror Ray Young offered a motion to commend Dean on his 36 years of service as assessor.
Dean, who along with Assessor-elect Rod Elrod made council meeting appearances Thursday night also in Wisner and Gilbert, said tax notices would go out in early November.
"Tax revenue should start coming in around the first of December," he said.
Several visitors asked the jury to address specific drainage problems with the jury offering to request assistance from District Attorney Billy Coenen with a resident who is reluctant to allow ditch maintenance on his property.
Residents of the Turkey Creek area said there is an urgent need to protect the public in boats from stumps because of low water levels caused by damage to the Turkey Creek dam.
Both State Senator Noble Ellington and Representative Neil Riser cautioned the jury and citizens that depending on the state's capital outlay program for a fix of Turkey Creek would be unwise. "I think it's clear that this administration (Gov. Bobby Jindal) is willing to line almost any request," Ellington said.
Juror Leroy Scott and Ellington agreed in a discussion that presenting the Turkey Creek dam as infrastructure damaged by hurricane weather could enhance chances for federal funding consideration.
"In fact," Riser offered, "I suggest you start keeping a tally of all hurricane related costs so you can apply them to the federal matching funds needed."
Jury President Harvey Guimbellot said empty sand bags were delivered Thursday to the three locations in the parish where piles of sand are stored. Juror Buddy Parks was charged with investigating the feasibility of using a machine to fill sand bags in the future.
Parish Superintendent Greg Humphries reported 20 trees were removed from roadways and 250 miles of parish roads were flooded during recent rains.
He also said FEMA would establish offices in the parish, "in two or three weeks," to process individual and public assistance programs. "FEMA did ask us to be patient," he added.
The jury moved to accept the resignation of Franklin Parish Office of Homeland Security Director Bill Mulkey with reluctance, effective September 30. At the urging of Sheriff Steve Pylant, the jury took steps to name a replacement by September 16.
"With all the interaction between us and FEMA that is coming up," the Sheriff said, "we need to have someone in place. They will be expecting that."
Three jury members were scheduled to meet last Friday morning to have a hiring recommendation for a special jury meeting to make a hire on the following Tuesday.
Juror Parks and Ellington led the discussion on building inspection and directed toward representatives of the Institute of Building Technology and Safety (IBTS).
"Cost is my only objection," said Ellington. "It's hard for anyone to build anything."
Company representatives said costs variances were due to new venture pricing practices but that prices are to be cut back, even standardized in the near future. Soon inspection costs may be related to house size instead of construction features.
Parish building inspector Larry Walters took issue with Ellington and Parks over cost complaints.
After clarifying the building inspection process and cost, Walters offered: "I take it personally because I live here. I don't want someone in this parish to lose a roof or have a fire because something was not done to code. I don't want an insurance company to say, 'This was not done to code and we're not going to pay'."
"I'm not strict, but I am through," he also said.
IBTS pointed out it would do only random sampling of inspections done by other qualified inspectors in the parish—and that those samplings would not include the ability to stop work in progress.
"It's strictly an oversight measure," Ray Young said.
Clark was asked by Young to research the feasibility of distributing cans of spray mosquito repellent to some residents of the parish at jury expense, but with possible reimbursement from federal funds.
Guimbellot said three trucks were circulating and spraying.
In response to juror questions, he said the three trucks could not cover the entire parish in a single night; the spray itself was short lived and lost effectiveness once it reached ground.
Young suggested the mosquito problem should be attacked while the insect is in a lava stage, that is, still in water and incapable of flying.