The May 24th meeting of the Washington Parish Council was an opportunity for the Parish Tourism Board, represented by Henry Harrison, to thank Kathi Mayor for her 18 years of service and introduce the new Office Manager, Patty Alford. Entergy representative, Patrick Hamby, gave an update on the noise mitigation efforts to the power plant just west of Bogalusa saying "everything is still scheduled to start in August or September".
An ordinance was introduced to contract with AmWaste of LA, LLC. for trash collection and transportation for residential trash in the unincorporated areas of the parish. A resolution was adopted to enter into a intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Angie, and a resolution accepting sidewalk improvements in downtown Franklinton was approved completing a State and Federal project that started in the last term of office.
As of the March 24th meeting Covid-19 cases increased slightly from 1.2% positivity rate two weeks earlier to 2.04% with 28.33 % regional vaccination rate which is in the top three regions of the state. Ken Wheat reported that the Council Chambers remodeling efforts are close to completion, and that legal counsel had been consulted on alleged drainage problems concerning the Iris solar project contractor. Donnell Merritt reported that the Parish crews had picked up 342 bags of trash since the beginning of May.
At the June 14th meeting an ordinance was introduced to accept certain State owned and maintained roads. Wayne Kuhn, attorney for the Parish Government, explained that the past associated resolution may have been somewhat misleading and that there are benefits to the arrangement between the two governing entities, not just the Parish taking on State roads. According to Kuhn "it's a win/win for both the State and the Parish", and explained the landmark Cabella case that set the legal standard in how governments in the State of Louisiana can work with each other. The Cabella standard was also carefully observed and monitored by the Louisiana Legislative Auditors when the Parish and the City of Bogalusa resolved their ownership issue with the Choctaw Landfill. Basically to meet the Cabella standard, cooperating governments must "serve a public purpose" and "the terms of the agreement must not be gratuitous (meaning both entities must equally benefit evenhandedly)".
Kuhn went on to explain that in this ordinance, the Parish would take over 4.5 miles of State roads after the State brought the roads up to State standards. He says that these roads should be maintenance free except for mowing for 30 years. In return, the State would put $ 1,966,681.00 toward the Parish Government, cash not likely, but that value in rehabilitation to Parish Roads. "We will get 10 miles of road done in our parish", said Kuhn.
Opponents worry that the Parish is stretched thin maintaining the close to 1,000 miles of Parish roads already in inventory, besides the periodic adding of new Parish roads due to development. As a comparison, St. Tammany has about 250 miles of Parish maintained roads with a great deal more mileage of State Roads than Washington Parish. Some worry about the difficulties faced now in maintaining the current Parish roads and how that difficulty may be made worse when these newly acquired State roads need maintenance.
Also introduced was ordinances to accept Delta Ln. and Tammany Ln. into Parish road inventory. William Grey was appointed to the Fire District #2 Board. The Parish Council extended the moratorium on the construction of new solar farms for 60 days "unless extended or canceled sooner". Councilman Rusty Fornea made comments on a group effort being made between the Planning Commission and the Infrastructure Committee of the Parish Council to put together a Parish Ordinance regulating standards and guidelines for solar farms. The Parish Legal Counsel said that the moratorium could be canceled at any time.
President Richard Thomas reported that the Covid positivity rate went from 2.04% to 1.04%. Donna Graham reported that the Official Journal for the Parish Government would be The Era-Leader for the next year, the Parish had a $18,663,000 beginning fund balance and a $17,872,000 ending fund balance. Ken Wheat reported that the first Parish Council meeting in July will be held in the newly renovated Parish Council Chambers, and that further improvements to the HVAC system are underway. Thomas indicated that the road crew was temporarily overwhelmed with potholes from all the rain, and Wheat gave an update on the Davenport Bridge in Bogalusa which should be overlaid and opened this week.