Monroe officials declined to act earlier this week on a local business owner’s petition for the city to renew its contract with the businessman’s company to provide advertising on benches along the city’s public transit bus routes.
Bob Holladay, with Holladay Broadcasting of Louisiana LLC, asked the Monroe City Council to consider renewing a contract between Holladay Broadcasting and the city concerning advertising placed on bus benches during the City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday night.
The Radio People, a radio broadcasting company in Monroe, and Monroe Outdoor, an advertising company in Monroe, are part of Holladay Broadcasting, according to Holladay.
“My request today is that the council consider extending or renewing the contract with Holladay Broadcasting and Monroe Outdoor,” Holladay said.
According to City Attorney Angie Sturdivant, a 15-year contract between the city and Holladay Broadcasting regarding bus benches expired Nov. 1, 2020.
According to Monroe Transit General Manager Marc Keenan, bus benches throughout the city belong to Monroe Outdoor and are required to be removed since the contract expired.
City Council member Gretchen Ezernack asked whether Holladay would be allowed to bid on a future contract if the city decided to seek advertisers again.
“If we are looking at something in that line, would this gentleman and his company be allowed to bid on that new deal?” Ezernack said.
“Absolutely, if that is the direction the administration went,” Sturdivant said.
During the discussion, Mayor Friday Ellis explained he did not want to renew the contract with Holladay Broadcasting in light of his effort to rebrand the city.
“We have constituents throughout the city of Monroe that have expressed their concern about beautifying our city,” Ellis said. “This is a way that we can have a more unified look throughout the city.”
Ezernack asked whether the city had an alternative source of income, apart from renewing Holladay’s contract.
“So the income that was generated from that previous contract, we have a replacement for that contract income?” Ezernack said.
Keenan deferred to Ellis.
“That’s the administration’s decision, and I really can’t speak on it that much,” Keenan said. “But I will say the revenue could be replaced and we could get more than what we’ve gotten in the past.”
According to Keenan, Monroe Transit would install new benches after Monroe Outdoor removed the current benches, and he received further direction from Ellis.
In an interview with The Ouachita Citizen after the meeting, Holladay expressed frustration with Ellis’ remarks.
“It sounds like the mayor has some northside friends,” said Monroe, referring to northern Monroe. “We know who he’s in favor of. And I’ll stand behind that.”
Holladay did not elaborate.
In other news, the Monroe Police Department plans to spend some $233,000 on new vehicles for its detectives and supervisors.
During its meeting Tuesday, the City Council authorized the purchase of seven 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokees and one 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe for police.
The total cost of seven Jeep Grand Cherokees is $188,143.48, and the cost of one Chevrolet Tahoe is $45,045.
During the meeting, Monroe Police Chief Victor “Vic” Zordan explained the purchase was needed to replace older vehicles.
“They are torn up and worn out,” Zordan said. “I have 69 units that are over nine-years-old. I’ve got 51 units that have over 100,000-miles on them.”
Zordan said the new Jeep Grand Cherokees would be used by the department’s detectives and supervisors, making the Chevrolet Tahoes currently used by the department’s supervisors available for patrol.
Ellis defended the purchase.
“When you start talking about a fleet that old, you’re talking about fuel efficiency, you’re talking about routine maintenance, and you’re putting officers at risk as well by putting them in vehicles like that,” Ellis said.
According to Zordan, some of the police department’s Ford Crown Victorias are currently being used without anti-lock break systems.
“They have needed replacement for years,” Zordan said.
After the meeting, Zordan echoed Ellis’ remarks when he told The Ouachita Citizen the officers’ safety was his primary concern and expressed a desire for the department to patrol with Tahoes.
“Safety is an issue for the officers,” Zordan said. “I want to get all police-packaged Tahoes that have current up-to-date safety features.”