The Ville Platte Chamber of Commerce, during their regular meeting today(Monday), heard from Guest Speaker Liz Hill. Hill spoke on the ad valorum one mill tax that will be up for renewal by the Evangeline Parish 9-1-1 Board on the November election day ballot. Hill wanted to say this is simply a continuation of the current one mill property tax for another ten year term. The funds generated from the millage are used to help pay the salaries of the staff and the purchase and maintenence of the electronic equipment.
Hill also announced that the 9-1-1 board has purchased property in the Industrial park where a new communications center will be constructed.
She also remarked that Louisiana was fortunate in missing Tropical Storm Debbie. The storm is dumping 15-20 inches of rain in the Southeast. She reminded chamber members that this is expected to be another busy hurricane season with 3-5 hurricanes expected to be active in the Gulf region. Her office is sending emailed weather update and emergency messages to residents throughout the parish.
In other business, the Chamber of Commerce voted to go on record opposing the Governor’s cuts of $100,000 in funding for Codofil, the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. A letter will be sent to the governor asking for his reconsideration along with copies to Senator Eric LaFleur and Representative Bernard LeBas.
In other action the chamber:
--was notified that the annual chamber banquet last month netted the chamber a profit of $4600;
--approved the following new members: B.J.’s Plumbing, Leroy’s Cajun Meats, Southwest Loan, Dr. John Tassin, World Finance and Ville Platte Laundry;
--received news that a new election for board members and officers will take place next month;
--announced that the business of the month for June is Doug Ashy Building Materials of Ville Platte;
--heard from Chamber Director Camille Fontenot that a bus trip is planned in January of next year to see the Broadway musical based on the lives of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, “Jersey Boys”.
The 20th Annual Smoked Meat Festival was another success for the Evangeline Area Chapter of the Viet Nam Veterans of America.
The opening ceremonies at noon Saturday featured Guest Speaker, Tony Cordero who founded Sons and Daughters United who are Gold Star children who lost their Dads or Moms in the service. Cordero lost his father in Viet Nam in 1965.
Also speaking was last year’s featured speaker Chief Master Sgt. Linus Jordan, a native of nearby Savoy, Louisiana.
Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine welcomed the crowds of people to Ville Platte. Also speaking were State Senator Eric LaFleur, State Representative Bernard LeBas, Ville Platte Police Chief Neal Lartigue and Assistant District Attorney Greg Vidrine.
The Viet Nam Veterans presented the following awards: Friends of VVA awards were given to Dr. Stephen Nasen , Citizens Bank and Whitney Bank.
The VVA Associate of the Year was given to John Sylvester. The VVA Point Man of the Year was given to Terry Guillory.
Special tribute was given to the late Elford “Big Al” Fontenot, who was a strong supporter of the festival. A large framed photograph of Fontenot shaking hands with Sgt. Jordan from last year was given to Fontenot’s sister, Linda Fontenot.
KVPI-Fm was there broadcasting live on remote . We hope to have the results of the world championship cook off later today.
Evangeline Parish 4-H Students did well again this year at 4-H University in Baton Rouge, according to 4-H Agents Tina Guillory and Todd Fontenot. KVPI’s Becky Vidrine was there to cover their return this morning at the County Agent’s Office.
The team of Benjamin Bertrand and Jacob Klumpp won First Place in Sports Broadcasting. Also winning first place were the Entomology Demonstration team of Jacques Fontenot and Joseph LaHaye .
Other winners include: Darren Fontenot winning Second Place in Diesel Operations; Elizabeth Ortego Second Place Winner for Fashion Review in Casual Wear; Ardhyn Parks won Third Place in Fashion Review for Ready To Wear. The team of Kaleb Deshotel, Sean Fontenot and Brandon Soileau took Fifth Place in Plant Science.
Blue Ribbon winners include the following: Caleb Duplechain and Ronald Miller in Automotive and Sean Fontenot a Blue Ribbon winner in Plant Science. Bryson Belaire won a Blue Ribbon for Public Speaking.
Congratulations to all our 4-Hers who participated in the 4-H University Event this week.
KVPI News has been notified by Evangeline Parish District Attorney Trent Brignac that a 12 person jury has just returned from one hour of deliberations and has found defendant Danny Lee LaFleur of Ville Platte guilty of First Degree Murder and Armed Robbery in connection with the TAT Nail Shooting that killed the business owner a year ago. The murder trial began Monday in 13th District Court with the selection of a jury. The guilty verdict means a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The sentencing date is tentatively set for July 19. We’ll have more details later today.
Ville Platte- The Evangeline Parish School Board, Wednesday, has joined with at least twenty other school districts in the state to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality and legality of Act 2 of the Louisiana Legislature.
Act 2 calls for state funds to be used in support of students in private and parochial schools and calls for such allocations of public funds to be made directly to those non public schools. Board Attorney Robert Hammonds said Act 2 “is an apparent violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article One, Section 8 of the Louisiana Constitution.”
Parish Administrator Darwin Lazard said “At stake is $200 million dollars that could be moved to private and parochial schools. Only Union Parish has decided not to publicly oppose Act 2.”
The school board also moved to file an injunction against the state to be removed from retirement penalties in the amount of $270,000 as a result of the state’s plans to privatize the school retirement system.
In other business, the school board discussed a policy proposal to mandate that all parish coaches must have a CDL license as a condition of employment. Vice President Jerry Thompson, who is supporting the proposal, said it will save the board on substitute pay. The policy proposal would give coaches until August 2013 to get their CDL to remain employed with the school district.
The school board asked its attorney to make a study on the legality of the proposed policy and report back to the policy committee.
In other action the school board:
--received news that health insurance rates are going down beginning in August. The board will save about 7 percent, a savings of $301,000 while the employee share will be going down as well;
--received news that due to the budget impasse in Congress, the school district could see up to 9.1 percent in reductions in federal funding in January;
--approved the contract renewal for Pine Prairie High School Assistant Principal Delores Fontenot for another two year term;
--due to the July 4 holiday, there will only be one school board meeting in July and that will be on July 18.
Chief Neal Lartigue with the Ville Platte Police Department is warning residents of two individuals who have been approaching homes, churches and businesses and asking for money.
These two individuals have been arrested and we encourage anyone who has been approached and may have given money to either of them to please contact the police department. Multiple people have come forward and stated that the stories being told by these two suspects are used to scam people. “We have been told that the male suspect claims illness in the family” stated Chief Lartigue, “and the female uses the story that she has a baby that is dying and needs gas money to get to the hospital which is out of town.” Lartigue added that these stories are not true. “The suspects approached businesses, places of worship and elderly people to prey on their kindness, we want anyone that gave them money to know that they are not alone.” Chief Lartigue said, “If you gave either of these suspects money we need to know about it.” Lartigue also added that the information obtained by the police department will be used to provide evidence to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution.
Melissa Fontenot Richardson 44, of 1021 C.J. Drive, Ville Platte was arrested on June 18, 2012 and charged with forgery, unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling and theft by fraud over $500.00. Richardson was booked into the Ville Platte City Jail were she remains incarcerated on a $30,000.00 bond set by Judge John Larry Vidrine.
Donald Ray Mitchell 46, of 424 Shuff Rd. Ville Platte was arrested on June 18, 2012 and charged with LA. R.S. 14:67.18 Cheating and Swindling the public. Mitchell remains incarcerated at the Ville Platte City Jail. No bond information available.
If you have given money to either of these suspects please contact the Ville Platte Police Department and speak to the secretary in investigations at 363-1313.
The Ville Platte City Council Tuesday called a public hearing and special meeting to adopt a new fiscal year budget on June 30. The hearing is set to begin at 9:45am with a special meeting to adopt the new budget at 10:00am at City Hall. Mayor Jennifer Vidrine reported that the city is ending the year with a surplus of $1.4 million dollars thanks to a $1.2 million grant. The budget will also include four million dollars of grant funds for the city’s continuing water renovation project. Capitol Outlay Recreational projects will include improvements at the Martin Luther King Southside Center, Northside City Park and the Hope Park.
Gervis Lafleur set the record straight following allegations about work being done at his property. LaFleur’s driveway was damaged by the contractor working on the city water project in 2010. It was all agreed that the city would pay for the damage to the driveway . Lafleur paid the contractor to complete work on the rest of his driveway that was not damaged. He showed the mayor and council evidence that he paid for that part of the work. Lafleur said Councilman Taranza Arvie was spreading rumors that the city was paying the entire project which was not true.
“Councilman Arvie has insulted my integrity causing an embarrassing situation,” said Lafleur.
Arvie commented that he felt that the city was being charged too much for the project.
Arthur Sampson complained to the city council that the mayor’s recent appointment of a new Section 8 Director was illegal. He stated that the city council had no voice or decision in the selection of the program director. Sampson was referring to the recent appointment of Toamassina Wallace by Mayor Jennifer Vidrine. City Attorney Eric LaFleur said the appointment followed the law. Sampson plans to file a complaint with state officials.
Sampson also asked the mayor and council to do more to help low income residents who are struggling to pay their utility bills.
In other action the city council:
–presented a plaque of appreciation to city employee Schmelling Thomas who is retiring after 31 years of service;
–heard from 9-1-1 Director Liz Hill report that the Emergency 9-1-1 board has called for the renewal of the one mill property tax on the election ballot on Nov. 6 for another ten year term. Hill announced that her board has recently purchased land at the Industrial Park for the construction of a new communications facilty;
–received news that thanks to State Senator Eric Lafleur and Repr. Bernard LeBas the city will be receiving L-Gap state funds to purchase a police car and crime cameras to be installed in high crime areas;
–is meeting with Cox Cable and Charter Cable officials to invite them to extend their cable service to Ville Platte;
–heard from Pam McGee that 40 abandoned properties have been cleaned up in the past three months;
–approved liquor permits for the Rendezvous Cajun Restaurant, formerly Jungle Dinner Club, on West Main and S&R Foods inc, formerly Country Cove Chevron on Tate Cove road;
–approved as substantially complete, phase one of the water renovation project in the city according to city engineer Ronnie Landreneau.
The Evangeline Parish Police Jury Monday called for a public hearing July 9 at 5;00pm prior to their next regular meeting to get public comment on a possible revision of the boundaries of the road and drainage district that will collect the 2 percent sales tax. For the past fifteen years, the district has included all of Evangeline Parish except the Basile District 2 area of the parish. Also, all municipalities were not included in the road district.
Bonding Attorney Eric Lafleur informed the jury that they have the right to revise the boundaries and extend or shorten the length of the tax call. District Two Police Juror Kenny Burgess said there are some residents in his district that is asking to be included in the road district. District Four Lamar Johnson is considering removing a portion of his district or reducing the length of the tax call.
The jury is looking at having the tax renewal election on November 4 ballot. The parish would have to have the proper paperwork turned in to the Louisiana Bond Commission by July 18 to have their election in November.
In other business, it took two rounds of voting but the police jury has elected a new Public Works Director. The jury appointed Donald Bergeron as the new director over former director Chester Granger. The vote was Bergeron receiving 5 votes while Granger receiving 4 votes.
There were a total of 7 applicants while five of the applicants were nominated by jurors for the position.
In other action the police jury:
--passed a resolution to send a letter to the State Department of Environmental Quality to request their approval to accept waste water from Quality Plating at the Industrial Park on an interim basis until a permit is received from the state.
--gave approval for film crews from Lifetime Cable TV to use the Crooked Creek Park as they follow a contestant in the Smoked Meat Festival Queen’s contest this weekend as part of their TV show, “Bayou Beauty Queens;
--re-appointed Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine to another five year term on the parish library board.
On May 25, 2012, Deputies with Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Department responded to the Pine Prairie area for a call of a suspicious person. Upon arrival to the complainants residence, Deputies received information that a white male, later identified as Raymond Bailey, came to a residence and attempted to pick up two juvenile girls, ages 12 and 10, but was ultimately stopped by an adult, who took the keys from the vehicle. Deputies were told that the juveniles were talking to the Bailey via Facebook and text messages. Deputies also located alcohol and cigarettes in Bailey’s vehicle, which the juveniles admitted to asking Bailey to purchase for them. Bailey was later booked in the parish jail and charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of juveniles, two counts of simple kidnapping and two counts of purchase of alcohol on behalf of persons under the age of 21. Additional charges are pending the forensic analysis of Bailey’s cellular phone, which Detectives believe contain evidence of inappropriate conduct involving juveniles.
On June 1, 2012, Detectives with Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Department received information of a possible clandestine lab, “meth Lab” being operated in the Lake Cove area. Detectives responded to a residence on Lake Cove Road and met with Bridget and Timothy Cloud, who gave Detectives permission to search the residence for an operational lab. Prior to making entry, Bridget Cloud attempted to dispose of a small plastic bag in the toilet. The contents of the bag contained a white rock like substance which tested positive for methamphetamine. Bridget Cloud was arrested and booked in the parish jail for possession of a schedule II controlled dangerous substance, obstruction of justice and illegal use of a controlled dangerous substance in the presence of persons under the age of 17. Timothy Cloud was arrested and charged with possession of a schedule II controlled dangerous substance and illegal use of a controlled dangerous substance in the presence of persons under the age of 17. The Department of Children and Family Services were contacted and the investigation continues. Additional charges may follow the outcome of the investigation.
On June 7, 2012, during an investigation involving cruelty to a juvenile, Detectives arrested Thomas Primeaux for allegedly inflicting unnecessary injury to the juvenile. Primeaux was arrested without incident at his place of employment and booked in the parish jail.
Sheriff Eddie Soileau would like to remind citizens that the operation of ATV’s on the roadway is unsafe and is illegal. Persons found operating ATV’s on the roadway may be cited and the ATV towed at the owner’s expense. Sheriff would also like remind citizens to properly secure their equipment and to contact his office with information about illegal activities and to report all suspicious activity to his office. He said all callers will remain anonymous.
A resolution is expected to be introduced at the next session of the state legislature by State Senator Eric LaFleur to honor the French Louisiana Creoles of Evangeline, St.Landry, Avoyelles, Pointe Coupee and Natchitoches parishes. Local French Instructor and Historian John Lafleur said “This will afford us the long overdue recognition as being the founders of Louisiana’s oldest international French speaking people .” The resolution calls for the designation of July 14, Bastille Day, the anniversary of the French Revolution as a special day to honor Louisiana’s French Creoles. Lafleur said this historic day will serve as an annual commemoration to honor all Louisiana French Creole families in all our racial and ethnic varieties whose 500 year culture and traditions remain the cultural foundation of Louisiana’s earliest culinary, linguistic and social traditions. Lafleur is the author of “Creole, Gourmet Secrets of Louisiana” and a second book is due to be released later this year.
The Evangeline Parish School Board Wednesday heard from Attorney Bob Hammonds report on Act One of the state legislature and how it will impact the school board.
Act One, according to Hammonds, said it will influence a lot of the school board’s actions. The attorney said his office staff spent more than 100 hours studying and researching the new education law.
The act includes performance targets for school employees in schools that have a D or F ranking. Those targets include student achievement and graduation rates.
The new school act expands the power of local school superintendents. School boards will determine the number of employees however the school superintendent will have the authority to determine the salary of every school employee. Also after September, the superintendent will have the authority to hire an employee without getting approval from the school board. All employee hiring and placement will be done by the school superintendent. The board will decide on hiring only the superintendent.
Also Act One, school principals will have the authority to hire teachers for their schools subject to the approval of superintendent.
The school board will need a new reduction in force policy in effect by September 1. Seniority cannot be considered in the policy. The superintendent will have the ability to hire all employees but can only fire teachers. All other employees considered for termination has be approved by the board.
The school board will have to establish a new salary schedule for teachers and employees that will contain the employee’s full compensation. School employees cannot be paid extra pay for extra work effective for the 2013-2014.
Also for teachers to obtain tenure protection, they must be ranked into the top ten percent for five of the past six years.. The attorney felt this new policy will mean the end of teacher tenure within the next ten years. The act also makes it easier for teachers to be terminated.
Board Vice President Jerry Thompson said “The sad part is that most qualified young people will no longer want to go into education with this new education policy.”
Hammonds predicted this stature will “be the subject of litigation by teachers and teacher groups in the near future.”
On the issue of the state retirement system, the state is forcing local school boards to pay the pro rate employee share of retirement funding for employees who retire or who laid off. The school board is considering filing a lawsuit to recoup a $256,000 reduction in the MFP funds because of the new retirement fund policy. Schools boards in West Baton Rouge and Point Coupee parishes have already filed lawsuits against the state over the same policy.
Hammonds also announced that Act 386 calls for a term limits referendum will be on the election day ballot on November 6 for voters to decide whether they want to place term limits on their school board members. Board President Wayne Dardeau said the people should be able to decide when they want to replace their incumbent school board at the election poll and not forced through term limits.
The attorney said the 247 page school voucher bill is being challenged by several school districts in the state. The new act permits Minimum Foundation Formula public school dollars are being used for vouchers so students can attend non public schools. Hammonds said the vouchers can even be used to home school your child.
In other action, the school board:
–approved the lone quote of Lemoine Insurance Agency for workers compensation and property coverage of approximately $11,394 more than the same amount last year;
–received good news that sales tax collections for the month of May was $100,033 more than for May of last year.
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The Louisiana Swamp Pop Museum operated by the City of Ville Platte is open to the public every Friday and Saturday from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Come view the amazing artifacts, photos, records, Wall of Fame and hear the music. Admission charge is $3 adults, $2 seniors and $1 for children under 12. The museum is located on Northwest Railroad Avenue.