Ruston’s aldermen OK move to study providing residential internet

Some of Ruston’s Board of Aldermen and Mayor Ronny Walker (center) are pictured during Monday night’s monthly meeting. (Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT/LPJ)

By T. Scott Boatright

In a flurry of moves during Monday night’s monthly Ruston Board of Aldermen meeting, 16 ordinances were considered or introduced, permission to start the Property Condemnation Process for nine city residences was granted while public hearings were held before action was taken on the abatement of 13 more substandard buildings or structures.

In one of the bigger moves of the night aldermen passed an ordinance authorizing the city to enter into a professional services agreement with Keller and Heckman, L.L.P. for legal and associated services relating to the initiation of residential internet service.

Ruston Public Works Manager Andrew Halbrook explained the resolution for the agreement to aldermen and those in attendance at the meeting.

“As you are all aware, in August of 2020 we hired CCG Inc. to run a feasibility study on the possibility of having a residential internet service as a utility offered by the city of Ruston,” Halbrook said. “The results of that study came back very favorable for us and so now we’re looking into the next steps in the process of tackling the Fair Competition Act, so hiring this firm will allow us to tackle the next upcoming steps.”

Mayor Ronny Walker said he wanted to make sure to manage people’s expectations of the process.

“This is a long process,” Walker said. “We’re looking at probably three years build out, so this is not going to be something that happens overnight. This is just one many steps we’ll need in this process.”

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen passed the resolution authorizing the city to enter into the agreement unanimously.

Another of the night’s big moves came when Ruston’s aldermen voted to authorize the city to enter a cooperative endeavor agreement with Bourgeois Restaurant Group, LLC, and to sell the downtown Heard building in connection with city of Ruston economic development.

“The city and the mayor have been speaking with Desi Bourgeois for a number of months – he’s operating the food trucks on the Heard Building lot — and this ordinance will allow the city to enter into the cooperative endeavor agreement with Bourgeois Restaurant Group, LLC, and to sell the Heard building to Mr. Bourgeois’ group,” city attorney Bill Carter said.

Carter said both the city and Bourgeois had appraisals done for the Heard Building property and the city has agreed to use the lower valued appraisal submitted by Bourgeois in return for creation of jobs and other economic development as well as finally fixing up a downtown building in bad need of restoration.

Bourgeois said he plans on adding at least five jobs for the city but said that he expects that “realistically it will be considerably more.”

“We are agreeing to tentatively five at this point in time — we haven’t solidified any of that — but it’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing, serving as a business incubator to put more (food) trucks in the parking lot as well as a restaurant/bake shop/butchery and a commissary kitchen we’ll use as teaching space as well,” Bourgeois said during a public hearing before the matter was voted on. “I do hold a board seat on Louisiana Farm Fresh and am an operator at the Farmer’s Market and we intend to integrate that from the education side. It’s more than a single restaurant.”

Ruston’s aldermen also unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to authorize the publication of a notice of intention to amend the geographical boundaries of Economic Development District No. 1 and to extend a levy of the district’s existing sales and use tax in the expanded boundaries as well as voting to introduce an ordinance on the same matter to be voted on during the May Board of Aldermen meeting.

That moves are being made to allow the city to add an new Service Road Arby’s, The USA Travel Plaza Cajun Bar and Grill and the Ruston Crawfish Factory food truck on North Trenton Street

“Right now they’re just paying the regular city taxes and state taxes,” Carter told the aldermen. “They are not paying the additional 1.75% tax for Economic District No. 1 until that ordinance will go into effect, which should be next month. There’s always a lag with these new businesses and we try to bring them into the district as quickly as possible when we get at least two or three new ones.”

That tax, passed in November of 2018, applies to customers at restaurants and hotels within city limits.

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