The Ouachita Parish Police Jury recently approved a resolution voicing support for the Sparta Groundwater Conservation District Commission’s search for grant funding and other support funds.
The Police Jury signed off on the resolution during its April 15 meeting.
Police Jury Vice President Jack Clampit introduced the resolution.
“It has to do with conservation and protection of the Sparta Aquifer,” Clampit said.
A year ago, Clampit and other members of the Sparta Commission voiced support for a water meter fee or pumping fee — imposed by the Sparta Commission — to fund the group’s water conservation efforts. Currently, outside of fundraisers, the Sparta Commission does not have any revenues. It does not have water regulatory authority, either. The movement to impose a fee on water users in the Sparta Commission’s district, however, failed in light of public opposition.
In an apparent reference to the controversy, Police Juror Walt Caldwell asked Clampit last week whether the resolution implied a tax or the imposition of a use fee, or whether the resolution only supported the application for grant funding.
“The latter,” said Clampit, confirming the resolution applied only to grant funding.
Assistant District Attorney Jay Mitchell, who serves as the Police Jury’s legal counsel, said the resolution was written to ensure the Police Jury was not signing off on any funding effort the Sparta Commission might seek in the future.
On another front, Police Juror Scotty Robinson asked the Police Jury to consider placing an ATM machine at the Ouachita Parish Animal Shelter off Well Road in West Monroe.
Robinson said a number of people interested in buying pets at the shelter frequently must leave to get cash — and sometimes do not return. An ATM on the premises would allow transactions to happen immediately, according to Robinson.
Concerning what financial entity might have the privilege of placing an ATM at the shelter, Robinson said, “A local company approached me.” He did not identify the company, though he indicated such a company might benefit from a $1 fee on each transaction.
Parish treasurer Brad Cammack said it would be appropriate to advertise a request for proposals to different financial entities in the area.
Mitchell recommended soliciting proposals to ensure compliance with laws concerning the lease of public property.
In other business, the Police Jury entertained an offer from Randy Menard, with Menco Constructors, to buy about three acres in the West Ouachita Industrial Park.
The acreage sought by Menard is in the middle of a some 12-acre tract owned by the Police Jury, and would break up the parish tract into a five-acre tract and a 4.3-acre tract. The 12 acres, except for the three acres sought by Menard, would require so much filler dirt that buying any of the property has been cost prohibitive, according to parish officials.
“It does divide it up into tracts that are maybe not as attractive as they were before,” Clampit said.
Mitchell echoed Clampit’s remarks.
“They sound like a perfect tenant for the Industrial Park, and that’s a good thing,” Mitchell said. “But you need to decide whether you want to sell these three acres out of the middle of the tracts there.”
Police Juror Ollibeth Reddix asked what could be done with the other two tracts if the three-acre tract was sold.
“That’s a good question,” said Police Jury President Shane Smiley.
Clampit asked Menard whether he could be persuaded to also buy the 4.3-acre tract to the south of the three acres he offered to buy.
“Not at this point, but someday I might be able to, yes sir,” Menard said.
Smiley said a commitment from Menard to buy the other four acres would help convince the Police Jury to let the property go.
“You picked the best out of the whole doggone land there,” Smiley said. “And I don’t blame you.”
Menard said it would be economically unfeasible to build up the other two properties on each side of the tract he wanted to buy.
Parish consulting engineer Kevin Crosby recommended clearing and grading the 12-acre tract before selling any portion.