Alexandria City Council OKs budget with review committee to oversee restoring cuts

By Bill Sumrall
The Light

After an hour and 40 minute session Tuesday, Alexandria City Council members unanimously passed an amended 2010-2011 fiscal year budget.

The amended budget was approved April 27 on motion by Council member Jonathan Goins, seconded by Council member Chuck Fowler in a 7-0 vote.

The city’s proposed budget for 2010-11 is about $182 million, down from $189 million in the current fiscal year ending this month, according to published reports.

The proposed General Fund budget, which is the city’s operating funds, is $49.9 million, down about $8 million from $57.8 million, due to decreased sales tax revenues and increased spending for health insurance premiums and police and fire pension plans, published reports state.

During discussions, the Council’s Finance Committee chair, Everett Hobbs, offered an amendment, which city attorney Trey Gist read aloud to the audience crowding the chamber.

More than 30 people were in attendance, including representatives of several non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, as well as city firefighters.

The City Council commended its employees and their unions for their hard work in keeping their department budgets to scale and saving money through sound budgetary practices, according to the amendment read by Gist.

Gist stated that the amendment forms a special oversight working group tasked with making recommendations to the Council on a quarterly basis on sales tax recovery and budgetary spending.

Later, Council President Roosevelt Johnson said this group is to be called the “Budget Review Committee of the City Council.”

Members are to include Council members Goins, Hobbs and Harry Silver, along with City Finance Director David Crutchfield and City Director of Community Services Lisa Harris.

Gist stated that by May 18 this group will compile and publish a revenue forecasting report, so that when city makes its mid-year budget adjustment, revenues that were cut could be added back into the budget.

This addition to the budget is triggered if there is “significant economic recovery” in the form of increased sales tax revenue in excess of $1.5 million over that projected by the May 18th report, the amendment read by Gist stated.

Once the $1.5 million threshold is reached, funds would be restored by priority under three categories.

Under Category One:
— $200,000 in overtime in contract labor for public works would be restored;
— monies transferred to the city’s Utility Fund to subsidize operations of the Alexandria Zoo and city golf course would be reimbursed to the city’s General Fund;
— monies would be restored to fund police and fire department overtime and positions cut by attrition and removed from the budget; and finally
— public works overtime and contract labor would be restored to appropriate levels, particularly in the streets and sanitation department for grass-cutting and trash collection.

Category Two involves the pay matrix for fire employees; an appropriate merit raise for general and utility fund employees; purchase of operating general items required to perform union services; and increasing funds for special or operational NGOs, Gist stated.

Gist stated that this priority list will be recommended to the City Council by the special working group’s biannual report and should at a minimum include the Alexandria Mardi Gras Association, the Arna Bontemps African American Museum, the Arts Council, children’s sports and other recreational/educational programs.

Category Three involves all remaining partnership’s requests for funding or other NGOs and subject to funding only after funding for the other two categories is achieved, Gist stated.

Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy assured Council members on various points, including the funding of school crossing guards.

Roy said negotiations with the all stakeholders, such as the school district, over the summer months will seek to ensure that not just the city is fiscally responsible and that pay for school crossing guards stays through the end of school in May.

“There will not be a lapse in service at all,” the mayor said.

Council member Harry Silver said, “Our job, whether up for election or not, is to look after the welfare of 50,000 citizens.”

Council member Ed Larvadain questioned the need for several offices, including publicist, which the mayor defended as saving money by doing such things as producing SPARC materials in-house.

SPARC stands for Special Planned Activity Redevelopment Corridors and is the city of Alexandria’s largest redevelopment project in its history, a $96 million infrastructure investment project in three separate Cultural Restorative Areas.

Those three CRAs are: (1) Downtown, Riverfront, and Lower Third; (2) North MacArthur Drive and Bolton Avenue; and (3) Masonic Drive and Lee Street.

“Do you think a city our size needs a publicist?” Larvadain asked.

Roy responded, “Yes, I do.”

Council member Myron Lawson repeated his concerns expressed during last week’s regular City Council session about funding the city’s golf course through the Utility Fund.

“I’d like to see a way for us to subsidize grasscutting,” Lawson said.

City Finance Director David Crutchfield defended the golf course subsidy, saying in effect that the golf course brings in more money than the zoo, which is also being subsidized by the Utility Fund in the new budget.

Lawson expressed concern about funding such organizations as the Boys and Girls Club. “I’m concerned about our investment in young people,” Lawson said.

Three people spoke during the public comment period:
— Gayle Underwood, who urged adequate funding for public safety;
— Patrick Searcy, representing the city firefighters union, who expressed support for the budget; and
— Daisy Dempsey, executive director for Seniors Aging with Grace and Energy program, or SAGE, who said it is a rainy day in funding programs for the elderly.

“SAGE was cut the same as all the other NGOs — there was a uniform cut,” Mayor Roy said.

“If the Council wants to engage in targeted cuts, we will certainly look at that. I might add that it is under this administration specifically that SAGE’s funds have increased considerably,” Roy said.

The mayor added that the city’s $100,000 one-time effort using surplus funds helped keep the Boys and Girls Club open. “They have specific needs too,” Roy said but noted “the record of what we’ve committed to speaks for itself.”

“It is a rainy day now but we are standing behind the employees in saying that the first-end money should go back to a bare bones employee complement that exists right now to provide for basic services, so that any new money that’s used, particularly if we’re talking about surplus, we think should go there first,” Roy said.

While complementing Dempsey for running a great program, “we just don’t have the revenue right now to support every request that everyone makes,” Roy said.

Discussion ensued, during which at one point Lawson and Larvadain pushed for a additional cutbacks in Council and city Administration budgets, with Roy asking for specifics on where the cuts should fall that could involve layoffs.

“I’m not going to be the scalpel (for layoffs) … you have to be,” Roy said.

City attorney Chuck Johnson said he oversaw $124,000 in cuts for legal division expenses, including a $4,800 pay cut for himself. “We’re running a bare bones operation,” Johnson assured Council members.

In response to a question from resident Von Jennings, who has already announced her intention to run for mayor, Hobbs repeated his amendment for restoring budget funds, to be triggered by a $1.5 million rise in sales taxes.

Jennings noted her point is whether or not such a trigger is achieved.

However, Roy said that indications are that sales taxes would improve in 2011.

“Right now, we have to prepare for the worse,” the mayor said.

Joseph W. Franklin to announce candidacy for Alexandria mayor’s seat

The Rev. Joseph W. Franklin, pastor of Mt. Triumph Baptist Church in Boyce, wants to lead the city of Alexandria.

He will announce his candidacy for mayor of Alexandria at 5 p.m. Friday, April 30, at his campaign headquarters, 1704 Jackson St, according to an announcement that he distributed via email.

Franklin works at Family Counseling Agency, where he is the executive director.

Below is information Franklin provided to The Light newspaper in 2009 when he was honored as a Man of Substance.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in theology from the United Theological Seminary and Bible College in Monroe. Also, majored in social work at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

CAREER: Pastor of Mount Triumph Missionary Baptist Church in Boyce, 20 years.

PERSONAL: Husband of Sandra Franklin and father of  Kimberly, Erin and Briana.

CONNECTIONS: In third year as executive director of Family Counseling Agency in Alexandria, overseeing 43 employees and $1.9 million annual budget. On the board of directors for the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce and Renaissance Home for Youth and the Rapides Parish Area Youth Planning organization affiliated with the Rapides Parish Police Jury; also chairman of Ministers of Economic Development.

RPSO recovers body from Kincaide Lake

The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating the drowning death of 21-year-old Justin McGlothlin of Boyce, said Maj. Jerome Hopewell.

Authorities recovered McGlothin’s body at Kincaide Lake just before 9 p.m. Monday, April 26.

Hopewell said the sheriff’s office received a call about 5 p.m. about a possible drowning. When deputies arrived, they spoke to Robert Ahearn, 42, and Candace Guillot, 37, both of Boyce. The two reporter that they, along with their co-worker, McGlothlin, had been working for a resident who lived on the lake when they decided to take the homeowner’s boat out for a ride.

While in the boat, they decided to take swim. Ahearn and Guillot told deputies the boat began to drift away from them while they were in the water. The two allegedly admitted to drinking alcohol before they went swimming.

Authorities with RPSO and Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office recovered McGlothlin’s body.

Ahearn was charged with unauthorized use, and Guillot was charged with probation violations for consuming alcohol and violating her house arrest.

2nd Evening Star congregation dedicates new facility

The members of Second Evening Star Missionary Baptist Church dedicated their new church facility in a ceremony that featured singing, preaching, and eating.

The church is located at 150 Cooper Road in Alexandria. The congregation had been worshiping at their building located on Hot Wells Springs Road.

The theme of the celebration was “Dare to Trust, Dare to Believe,” taken from Psalm 27:3-5 and Mark 9:23.

The Rev. Ameal Jones, pastor  of  Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Alexandria and former pastor of Second Evening Star, was the speaker.

During the celebration, Pastor Phillip Taylor presented a recognition to the family of the late John Feazell, who had been instrumental in helping the congregation get the necessary permits from the Health Department.

“We were dead in the water as we ran into a hurdle that we didn’t know how to get around,” Taylor said. “Someone told us about John Feazell, who had helped them get an oxidation pond. Mr. Feazell worked with us to get what we needed to pass the Health Department requirement.”

“Unfortunately, God called Mr. Feazell home before we completed the church. His family his here with us today,” Taylor said. Feazell of Boyce died in September 2009.

Other program participants included Juliette Brown, Sarah Lloyd, Cornelius Smith, and Shelia Dupar.

The church’s building committee included Taylor, Eugene King, Alex Salters, Smith and George Jones. The Dedication Service Committee included Ethel Quinney, chairwoman; Eugene King, co-chair; Juliette Brown, Maggie Brown, Alma Fletcher, Carrie McKinney, Cheryl Ridley, Frankie Rosenthal, Ethel Salters, Susie Smith, Gwendolyn Williams, Joyce Williams, O’Neal Williams.

Funeral services for Country Day school education set for Monday, April 26

By EverythingCenla staff

Memorial services for Cynthia Rose Cook Golmon, 64,  will be held at 5 p.m., Monday, April 26 , at Calvary Baptist Church, Alexandria with Dr. B. David Brooks officiating.

Visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday at Calvary Baptist Church, Alexandria.

Mrs. Golmon, 64, of Pineville passed away Thursday, April 22.

She was a lifetime Louisiana resident and educator with over 40 years experience recognized as the Louisiana Secondary Teacher of the Year in 1993-1994. She was a fearless warrior for Christ who laid down her life for all those she encountered to the glory and honor of Jesus Christ.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Curtis Taylor Cook and Laverne Cooper Cook.

She is survived by her husband of 42 years, Richard Lee Golmon; daughter Stephanie Golmon Williams and husband, Michael Williams; son Richard Taylor Golmon and wife, Mollie Maricle Golmon. She was the proud grandmother of Whitney Rose Williams, Emilye Grace Williams, McKayla Saucier, and Kennedy Lola Golmon.

Memorials may be made to the Cynthia Rose Golmon Memorial Scholarship Fund, 5011 Jackson Street Extension, Alexandria, LA 71303.

Golman was killed in a three-vehicle crash about 8:30 p.m. Thursday on Interstate 49 south, just south of the Purple Heart Bridge, according to the Alexandria Police Department.

According to witnesses, Golmon was driving a 2006 Nissan Altima, when it left the Purple Heart Bridge headed to I-49 South. Instead of merging with traffic, Golmon’s vehicle turned left onto the interstate as if she was turning left at an intersection.

A 2007 Chevrolet Suburban, driven by Alyson Pharr, 42, of Lafayette, broadsided Golmon’s vehicle as it turned left. At that point  Patrick U. Smith, 30, of Poplarville, Miss., who was driving a 2003 Peterbilt, 18-wheeler, slammed the truck’s brakes to avoid the crash. The truck hit the rear of Pharr’s Chevrolet causing it to spin around.

Golmon had to be extricated from her vehicle. Acadian Ambulance took her to Rapides Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead about 11:30 p.m. McKyla Saucier, 5, a passenger in Golmon’s Nissan was taken to Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries.

Acadian Ambulance also took Pharr to Cabrini, where she was treated for moderate injuries. Smith was not injured and refused medical treatment at the scene.

Routine blood toxicology tests are being conducted on all three of the drivers.

The crash remains under investigation.

AFD respond to kitchen fire at Debarges Crawfish

The Alexandria Fire Department and the Rapides Parish District 2 Fire Department responded to a kitchen fire at Debarges Crawfish, 1807 Andrews St., Alexandria, about 9:30 a.m. today, April 23.

Authorities at the scene said the fire was contained in the kitchen area.

The fire was under control within minutes, and fire departments left the scene at 9:59 a.m.

Rapides Parish Pre-K, kindergarten registeration set for week of April 26

Pre-registration for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classes in the Rapides Parish School System will be held the week of April 26.

If your work schedule will not allow you to come at the appointed time, please call the school and reschedule another day to complete the registration process.

The schedule is as follows:

  • FRIDAY, April 30                                PINEVILLE, PLAINVIEW, POLAND, ALMA REDWINE, RUBY WISE, L.S. RUGG
  • MONDAY, May 3                              PEABODY, ROSENTHAL (zoned children only-NO MAGNET APPLICATIONS)

Classes for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Children must be 4 years old by Sept. 30, 2010, for Pre-K, and  they must be 5 years old by Sept. 30, 2010, for kindergarten.

Parents should register their children at their zone schools.

The following documents are needed at time of registration: official birth certificate, immunization records, Social Security card, proof of address, and family income verification needed to complete lunch application.

All new kindergarten students are expected to register at this time even if the child attends the Head Start Four Year Old program.

Also Any children who want to attend Pre-K next fall must register.  Students now enrolled in Pre-K who are attending out-of-zone schools must register at their home school.  Students that expect to move before the 2010-2011 term must register at their new school.

Also,  Pre-K students who are currently enrolled and will attend the same school next fall can call the school office to confirm.

For more information call Cindy Rushing at (318) 442-8891, ext. 3356.