LPPJ revokes ordinance passed in June

Lincoln Parish Police Jury met in the Jack Beard Room at the Lincoln Parish Library.

By T. Scott Boatright

While consideration of a potential ambulance deal with the Ruston Fire Department, which was voted against, was the big news coming out of Tuesday’s monthly Lincoln Parish Police Jury meeting in the Jack Beard Room at Lincoln Parish Library, there was much more business handled by the LPPJ.

That news included adoption of a resolution requesting the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to perform reconstruction and improvements to La. Hwy. 818. This revoked an ordinance passed last month regarding the Local Hospital Enhanced Medicaid Reimbursement Program, adoption of a resolution for preliminary approval of sewer revenue bonds and appointments to fill two vacancies on the Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control.

The move to request the DOTD to expedite work planned for La. Hwy. 818 is because of deterioration of the road that has occurred with a heavier traffic flow on it since the Tarbutton Exchange opened, caused by vehicles using it to get onto Interstate 20. 

As far as revocation of the ordinance passed last month, the LPPJ passed a Local Hospital Enhanced Medicaid Reimbursement Program ordinance during its June 13 meeting to potentially allow Allegiance Health Management, which owns Louisiana Medical Center,  to potentially be eligible for Medicaid funding it was hoping could help build a new Ruston hospital along Interstate 20.

But House Bill 717, which would have allowed Allegiance to potentially collect Medicare funding it hoped could help in being able to construct a new hospital location — receiving the funding based on population totals  — was vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards because the recent census, taken in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, changed many population totals in Louisiana, leading to his decision to nix the bill at this time.

“Given the complexity of changes in the payment system, planned to be effective on July 1, 2022, the changes in the bill would best be considered in the 2024 legislative session. The Louisiana Department of Health will work with the bill author to ensure these proposed changes are fully considered in the new payment methodology” Edwards said in a statement sent to Speaker of Louisiana’s House of Representatives Clay Schexnayder on June 20.

“Because the veto of the bill happened, we cannot enforce the ordinance at a local level and we need to revoke it so we are not asking the Sheriff to collect a tax which we have no legal authority to level,” Parish Administrator Doug Postel told the Jury before members unanimously vote to revoke the ordinance.

In other business, the LPPJ appointed two new Library Board of Control members based on the geographical void left by recent board vacancies, with Debroah Gilliam being appointed to represent the Grambling area and Eric McCullough to represent the Choudrant area.

The adoption of the resolution for preliminary approval of sewer revenue bonds — not to exceed $850,000 — involves the sewer district the parish operates in the Blueberry Hills, Eastern Hills and Water Tank Road area of the parish, which has approximately 350 residences in that sewer district.

“We have two plants that serve this sewer district that are aging rapidly,” Postel said. “They’re old, metal-constructed plants. We’ve been trying to find funds to be able to combine those two plants into one consolidated concrete plant.”

Henry Shuler, a consulting engineer who has been helping to try to find the parish to find such funding, told jurors that he believes he has a solution.

“Every day that goes by it seems these projects get more expensive, so what we’re doing is taking a $2 million project and splitting it into two phases,” Shuler said. “This is Phase I. The $850,000 program — the (Department of Environmental Quality) can’t use the word grant, so don’t be confused by that — is (considered to be) a forgiven loan. But it is a grant. 

“So $600,000 of that loan would be forgiven, and if that goes through $200,000 in debt would be incurred on the sewer district. Preliminary numbers show that debt service alone is about (an additional) $4 per month for the customer base, so that’s pretty tall.

“What our intention is on the timing, we need to get Bond Commission approval to get this further along to be able to leverage these funds to go get the rest of the money to do Phase II.”

Postel added that work is also being done to secure additional funds through the Delta Regional Authority to make up the difference in between the forgiven loan and the balance of cost from the project so none of the cost would need to be recouped from customers.

In other business, the LPPJ moved to engage Boles and Shafto for legal services relating to those bond issues, and awarded a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Contract for a HVAC grant.

“Because it’s federal money, it comes with a lot of red tape that you have to cut your way through, and one of those is a site study on each of the facilities we’re going to be doing the improvements in,” Postel said of the Site Assessment Contract that will look at heat, ventilation and air conditioning at various sites the LPPJ hopes to upgrade.


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