Ruston aldermen OK federal building deal with NCLAC

Ruston City Council met Monday night (photo by T. Scott Boatright)

By T. Scott Boatright

Ruston’s Board of Alderman moved to enter into Cooperative Endeavor Agreements with MTJ Smith Properties LCC and the North Central Louisiana Arts Council during Monday’s July meeting held in the courtroom at City Hall.

The agreement with NCLAC authorizes the city to convey property to the organization — namely the Old Federal Building located at 201 N. Trenton St.

As part of the agreement NCLAC will do some renovations on the building and allow it to be used for art exhibitions put on by Downtown Ruston’s Main Street program.

“On behalf of NCLAC I’d like to say thank you to the Board of Aldermen for considering this proposed Cooperative Endeavor Agreement,” said Peter Jones, president of the NCLAC Board of Directors.We want to thank the mayor (Ronny Walker) for his leadership and working with us to make this historic opportunity possible.

“We pledge our commitment toward renovating the Federal Building preserving its current characteristics. We want to create a vibrant artists’ cultural center that all members of our community can use and enjoy and that the city of Ruston and region will be proud of. We’ve already talked with local architects and with local banks to secure financing and with your approval we look forward to beginning the abatement and renovation process as soon as possible.”

Before the Board of Aldermen unanimously authorized the ordinance, Walker expressed his excitement concerning the agreement. 

“This is in my opinion a historic day because this is a great partnership between the arts community — specifically NCLAC — and the city, and we just look forward to what’s going to happen not only in the renovation stage but also the programming that will take place there,” Walker said. 

The agreement with MTJ Smith Properties is a renewal CEA allowing usage of Esma’s Alley, between Sundown Tavern and the apartments on East Park Avenue for use during functions like the Louisiana Peach Festival..

Ruston’s aldremen also passes a resolution authorizing the city to enter into a contract with Amethyst Construction of West Monroe, which turned in a low bid of $749,172.50 for the Commerce Street Reconstruction Project.

The aldremen also introduced an ordinance relating to implementing an emergency medical services charge on city of Ruston utility bills and establishing rates charged for ambulance services provided by the city.

Also passed were ordinances authorizing amending zoning codes for construction of the Cypress Run Subdivision, which will put 44 single residence lots on 19.43 acres located on the east side of South Barnett Springs street north of Leyland Drive; Ivy Row at Louisiana Tech, which will construct seven three-story buildings containing nine town homes each on the south side of West Barnett Springs Avenue east of Wilshire Lane; and Talbot Place Subdivision, which consists of 1.5 acres located along Union Avenue west of Jones Street.

The original subdivision where Talbot Place will be situated was developed in 1928 and consisted of nine 52-feet wide lots. The plan for the new Talbot Place Subdivision will consist of seven wider lots with one of those lots dedicated as permanent green space for area residents.

In other business, Ruston’s aldermen also adopting an ordinance levying taxes and imposing property taxes subject to taxation in Ruston; selected Heard, McLeroy and Vestal of Shreveport to conduct a city audit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 at the cost of $75,000 as well as an estimated procedures fee of $8,500.

“These are consistent with prior years,” said city treasurer Julie Speir. “We have a good working relationship with the firm and it’s my recommendation that we engage Heard, McLeroy and Vestal.”

Speir also said that sales taxes collected for the month of May was $1,836,000, a decrease of $168,000 or 8% from May of 2021.

“This is just my personal take on it, but I think after COVID last year we were still riding a high from things opening up and people were out doing more things, and I think that’s settled a bit.”