West Central Headlines for the week of May 6th thru May 10th, 2013
Long Awaited Repairs to the City Water System to Begin Next Month
May 17, 2013.
The city of Leesville has announced that that the beginning phases of a $4.8 million project to repair water line leaks throughout the City of Leesville is expected to begin early next month.
The repairs are the result of an excess revenue bond ordinance that Mayor Rose and the City Council of Leesville adopted with a 4-2 vote on May 13. Councilmen Danny Dowd of District 3 and Mike Elliot of Dist 4 voted against the measure, citing concerns over whether the issue should be put to a refferendum vote.
The $4.8 million will be used to pay back a loan from the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals for leak repair contracts.
The money is a result of the City’s application to the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund Program.
A report from earlier this year stated that the city currently loses almost half of the drinking water it produces from local wells due to leaks in the system.
Stolen Luggage Lands Fugitive Woman from Florida In Jail
May 17, 2013
Stolen luggage has led to the arrest of a wanted fugitive from Florida. Marisella Ochea was arrested last night at a local motel after a car rental agent reported that one of her customers luggage had gone missing.
Ochea had allegedly spotted the unattended luggage at the rental car desk and claimed it as hers.
Through interviews with other airport workers, the RPSO deputy assigned to the case tracked Ochea down. When the door opened to the room she was staying in, the deputy had clear view of the luggage and all of its contents spread out across the room.
A routine criminal background check revealed that Ochea was wanted in Florida for Organized Scheme to Commit Fraud. She remains in the Rapides Parish jail awaiting extradition.
Calm Restored After Suspicious Package Scare at Rapides Courthouse
May 17. 2013
A suspicious package on on the wheelchair ramp of the Rapides Parish Courthouse had police concerned about a potential bomb threat Thursday morning.
The package was located around 10:20 am by Rapides Parish Sheriffs Officers who were doing a routine patrol of the area. Sheriffs deputies blocked off Murray Street in front of the courthouse and while a general evacuation of the building was not called, those closest to the package were relocated while RPSO Special Operations investigated.
Louisiana State Police Bomb Technicians quickly arrived on scene and rendered the package harmless.
The package turned out to be a plastic box with a pair of electric hair clippers and two pocket knives inside.
Sheriff William Earl Hilton expressed his gratitude to the Louisiana State Police and the Alexandria Police Department for their timely assistance and said “you can never be too careful when something like this is found, especially in light of recent events.”
Simpson Teacher Takes The Lead in Fight Against Childhood Obesity
May 16, 2013
A teacher in Simpson took the the fight against childhood obesity into his own hands Thursday morning and had a great time doing it.
Mr. Pat Anderson, former Leesville Mayor and a Physical Education and track coach at Simpson High School has organized a 1 mile race that was held yesterday at the school for 2nd thru 4th graders.
He said that he had been training and preparing the kids all year long and that most of them were genuinely excited about the event. He also stressed the importance of getting kids interested in fitness and running early in life, saying that the health benefits from the exercise would be the cornerstones for fighting obesity as they grow into their teen and adult years.
No school money was involved in the project.
Instead, Mr. Anderson sold home cooked meals that he made personally to the people who donated money for the races. Mr. Bud Dubey and a Mr. Charles Stuckey also contributed to the event. The money that was raised was then used to buy the awards for the students who competed.
Medals were given to all who finished the race without walking but the winners in each grade level were also given specific awards for first, second and third place.
The winners were:
1st Place- Alan Ladner
2nd Place- Chase Taylor
3rd Place- Kaleb Burgess
19 Year Old Arrested in New Orleans Mother's Day Shooting
May 16, 2013
The New Orleans Police Department and federal agents have located and taken into custody 19-year-old Akein Scott in connection with the shootings of 19 people at the Mothers Day Parade there.
Members of a U.S. Marshals task force working with NOPD special operations took Scott into custody between 10 p.m. and 10:20 p.m. at a residence in the Little Woods neighborhood in New Orleans East, sources said. No significant resistance was reported.
Surveillance cameras captured images of a young man stepping into the street and opening fire on the crowd, then running away as the parade went on around him.
Scott was already facing drug and gun possession charges before the incident. Now he faces and additional20 counts of attempted second degree murder as well.
LDWF Announces Bundick Lake Drawdown
May 16, 2013
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has announced that the water control structure on Bundick Lake in Beauregard Parish will be opened soon after Labor Day to allow for a lake drawdown.
The action will allow the LDWF, in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the Beauregard Parish Police Jury, to conduct maintenance and repair work on public infrastructure around the lake.
The drawdown will also allow lake residents and property owners to conduct shoreline property maintenance. Similar drawdowns on Bundick Lake are planned for every five years as part of an integrated lake management plan.
The target level for this year’s drawdown is four to five feet below pool stage, and the control structure will remain open through the beginning of next year.
The lake will not be closed to fishing during the drawdown, but caution is advised of boaters during the low water period as boat lanes will not provide normal clearance for underwater obstructions.
A public hearing to address concerns and questions regarding the drawdown is set for June 4 at 5pm during the regularly-scheduled Beauregard Parish Police Jury meeting in DeRidder.
Appeals Court Denies Re-Hearing on Termination of Former LPD Chief
May 16, 2013
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a petition from the City of Leesville for a rehearing in the case of its termination of Former Police Chief Bobby Hickman.
The three judge panel voted 2-1 on Tuesday to deny the rehearing motion.
City officials have declined to comment on the matter due to ongoing consultation with legal counsel.
VCOA Announces 7th Annual Health Fair
May 16th, 2013
The Vernon Council on Aging will hold it's 7th annual health fair tFriday, May 17th in downtown Leesville from 9:30-11:30am.
In a press release issued yesterday, Ms. Lila Abshire, who works with the VCOA, stated that over 30 vendors have applied to participate in the event and that they will be handing out free samples of their products.
Screenings for blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol hearing and vision tests will also be offered at no charge.
There will also be bingo and other prizes handed out immediately after the fair concludes and Lunch will also be provided for those who call ahead and the number there is 337-238-4361.
Leesville Man Sentenced for Tax Fraud
May 15, 2013
A Leesville man has been sentenced to five years in prison, plus three years supervised release following his term, for failing to pay personal and corporate payroll taxes.
Larry Wayne Bruce, 61, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik and was also commanded to pay over $190,000 in restitution to the owners of Express Marketing, Inc., and almost $300,000 in restitution to the IRS.
The charges stem from Bruce admitting in a guilty plea that he was responsible for not paying payroll taxes owed to the IRS while working as the financial officer for EMI in Leesville from 2003-07.
According to court documents, Bruce admitted that the owners relied on him to pay the payroll taxes withheld from EMI employee paychecks, and also admitted to taking more than $190,000 in excess of his salary from EMI during the time he failed to pay the taxes.
By Bruce not paying the payroll taxes collected from EMI's employees, the company realized a profit of approximately $1 million a year. He embezzeled part of the money, but also allegedly manipulated company documents and reports to make EMI seem more profitable than it really was by withholding the tax liabilities from the owners and banks.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the loss to the IRS exceeded $3 million.
Bruce also pleaded guilty to another count of the pending indictment, where he admitted to not paying his personal taxes from 2005 until he left the company in 2007.
Distributor of Child Porn Among Those Arrested in Venon Parish
May 15, 2013
Sheriff Sam Craft has announced recent arrests in the Vernon Parish Area.
Hugh B. Street, age 30, was arrested for criminal damage to property- he's still in jail. Craig Cook Sr, age 34, and Christine Street age 55 were both taken in on multiple bench warrants and remain in jail.
Kurt Kuhlow, age 40, was arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia, running a stop sign, driving without a license and expired license plates- he's out on bond. Joshua Darbonne, age 28, was arrested for theft and forgery- he's still in jail. Mark A. Cain jr, age 19 was taken in for simple battery.
Elliot R. Duke, age 27, was arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography- he remains incarcerated as of this morning.
Woman Wanted For $15,000 in Fraudulent Checks Since 2009 Finally Captured
May 15, 2013
A woman wanted on charges of fraudulent checks since 2009 is in custody.
In May of 2009, Christina Meier deposited numerous checks into an account at a local Leesville bank. She later withdrew money from the account totaling over $15,000, but after Meier had withdrawn the money, the bank discovered that the checks were fraudulent.
Warrants were issued for Meier’s arrest; however Officers were unable to locate her.
On April 30 of this year, Meier, age 33 of Jacksonville LA, was arrested on unrelated charges and detained in Avoyelles Parish. However, upon discovering the active warrants for her, Meier was transferred to the Leesville Police Department from Avoyelles Parish where she was booked on one count of Theft Over $500 and one count of Bank Fraud.
Her total bond was set at $20,000.00 and she is currently at the Leesville City Jail.
Things Get Heated at Leesville City Council Meeting
May 14 2013
the Leesville city council met in regular session Monday.
The council unanimously approved resolutions to annex the Industrial Park, the Golf Course, the city park and the property along hwy 467. They also approved a moratorium on construction along 467 for one calendar year so as not to interfere with the city and parish development plan.
The council also voted 4-2 to introduce the city's budget for the new fiscal year which begins on July 1st. Councilmen Danny Dowd and Mike Elliot voted no due to concerns they had over a revenue increase that was tied to increased traffic fines as well as how the mayor was reimbursed for his travel expenses.
Councilman Elliot also had questions for City Administrator Courtney Christian in regards to what he claimed were city fire equipment and personnel doing work on private property. Christian, and Leesville Fire Chief Dwayne Lawson, explained that the work that was in question had been a training exercise for his firefighters.
The session became heated when Elliot refuted the claim, calling it an excuse. Christian stood her ground though replying that it wasn't an excuse, it was an answer to his question.
Elliot then turned his ire on the mayor, saying that a constituent of his had spoken to the firefighters at the scene, who he claimed, said the that mayor would approve the activity. Elliot didn't reveal anything about his source for the information but Mayor Rose countered, saying that he was completely unaware of the incident until after it had happened. The two men agreed to disagree on the issue.
The session returned to normal after the exchange and adjourned shortly thereafter. The next council session will be Tuesday, May 28th, because of the Memorial Day holiday.
Sen. Mary Landrieu Visits Leesville
May 14, 2013
Senator Mary Landrieu was in town yesterday to attend a luncheon hosted by Fort Polk Progress. It was attended by local officials from all over the area including Mayor Clarence Bebe, Mayor Robert Rose, Senator John Smith, Representative James Armes and more.
The keynote speaker was James Carville, known best for his work in guiding President Clinton in his campaigns for the White House. He and Senator Smith attended LSU together where, Smith said, Carville was voted most unlikely to succeed by his fraternity brothers.
Carville spoke for about fifteen minutes on the importance of Fort Polk to the west cenla region and to Louisiana as a whole and said that the fight might be tough and that we would have to be “a little pushy and fight an little harder but that we would succeed.”
Former Congressman Buddy Leach said of Landrieu that Fort Polk had the right person on their side of the fight and that she would be the first into the fight and the last one to leave.
Senator Landrieu, however, gave praise to Fort Polk Chairman Mike Reese for his work saying that, to be effective in the Washington political dance she needed a good dance partner and that Mike Reese could “flat out jitterbug.”
She also had high praise for Vernon Parish and the surrounding communities saying that, while she wasn't alive when Patton and Eisenhower walked the lands of Vernon Parish as part of the Louisiana Maneuvers of World War II, she thinks that they would be proud of the support that the community has given Fort Polk.
After the Luncheon, Landrieu attended a brief fundraiser at the Pearl Creek event center and then toured Leesville High School to see the construction and improvements going on there. She said that what Vernon Parish has done with schools and quality of life in general was “amazing.”
State Budget Heads to Senate
May 14, 2013
The work of crafting next year's nearly $25 billion budget has shifted to the Senate. Last week, the House sent senators a compromise proposal to fund state government in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Senators say they are combing through the details, but the leader of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Jack Donahue, said Monday the House version is an improvement from the budget submitted by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Lawmakers have criticized Jindal's proposal to use $500 million in financing from property sales, legal settlements, fund sweeps and other items that haven't yet happened. The House compromise would replace those dollars with money from trimming tax break programs, cuts and $200 million expected from a tax amnesty program