The City of Ville Platte is under a state of emergency and under a curfew following widespread damage following an early morning tornado touch down. Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine told KVPI News that t there are power lines, power poles and wide spread power outages all over the city. Homes and businesses have been damaged. No one apparently was injured. Authorites are urging residents to stay off the streets whole emergency crews assess the damage and attempt to restore power.
Smoked Meat Festival
May 18, 2019
The 2019 Louisiana Smoked Meat Festival took place this weekend after an absence of one year and the public packed the Ville Platte Civic Center Grand Pavilion Friday night and all day Saturday. The festival debuted in 1993 by the Evangeline Parish Chapter of the Viet Nam Veterans of America and is now under the direction of Le Viande Boucanne organization.
The Opening Ceremony took place at noon Saturday to recognize and honor all veterans. Emcee was Clerk of Court Randy Deshotel. The 2019 Francis Reed Distinguished Smoker award went to Mickey Johnson of Cameron. The Classic Hits 92.5 KVPI road crew was there broadcasting live during the opening ceremony for listeners who could not attend in person. V.V.A. Chapter President J.D. Soileau shared a history of the festival with those in attendance.
Festival goers, near and far, enjoyed music by One Trick Pony, Clay Cormier, DJ Todd Ortego, Ashton Dupre and Side Show.
One of the highlights is the world championship smoked meat cookoff where professional and amateur groups cook up delicious smoked meat dishes. Special outside judges had a hard time deciding on the winners.
Here are the winners in this year's World Championship Smoked Meat Cookoff:
Grand Champion Winner in the Professional Category: Teet's Team #2 with head chef Luke Deville for their winning dish "Duck Bombs".
Grand Champion Winner in the Amateur Category: Evangeline Bank Team 2 with Head Chef Beth Jones for their dish" Not Ya Mama's Mac n Cheese".
Here are all the winners:
Best Dressed Team: First Place- Shumberger/Cameron; Second Place- Evangeline Bank; Third Place-Pass a Lick/Howie's Kajun Seasoning;
Best Decorated Booth: First Place- Evangeline Bank; Second Place- Jamie Fontenot; Third Place- Charles Guillory; Honorable Mention-Casa Helping People;
Sausage, Andouille, Pounce Category: First Place- Shlumberger/Cameron; Second Place- Charles Guillory; Third Place- Team Sauce;
Tasso Category- First Place- Schlumberger/Cameron; Second Place- Cajun Grillerz; Third Place- Evangeline Bank Team 1;
Smoked Seafood Category: First Place- Evangeline Bank Team 2; Second Place- Martinique Cookers; Third Place- Crest Industries;
Smoked Poultry Category: First Place- Crest Industries; Second Place- Cajun Grillerz; Third Place- Martinique Cookers;
Smoked Game Category: First Place: Martinique Cookers; Second Place- Schlumberger/Cameron; Third Place- Mercy Regional Medical Center;
Barbecue/Smoker Category: First Place- Team Sauce; Second Place-Crest Industries; Third Place-Martinique Cookers;;
In the Professional Division:
Sausage, Andouille, Pounce Category: First Place- Teets Team 2-;Second Place- Pass-a-Lick; Third Place-Teets Team 1;
Tasso Category: First Place: Big D's Smoke House; Second Place- Pass a Lick Kajun Seasoning; Third Place- Teets Team 1;
Smoked Seafood Category: First Place: Teets Team 1
Smoked Poultry Category: First Place: Teets Team 2; Second Place- Pass a Lick Kajun Seasoning; Third Place- Big Mamou Cajun Beef Jerky;
Smoked Game Category: First Place: Teet's Team 2;
Barbecue/Smoker Category: First Place- Teet's Team 1; Second Place-Bid D's Smokehouse; Third Place: Pass a Lick Kajun Seasoning.
Elizabeth “Libby” Coffin was the guest speaker at today’s (Tuesday) meeting of the Ville Platte Rotary Club at the Family Life Center. Libby is a former resident of Ville Platte and a graduate of Sacred Heart High School. She was introduced by her mother, Rotarian Barbara Buroker. She explained club members her role as a registered lobbyist for United Technologies. United Technologies is responsible for military equipment for the U.S. Defense Department, elevators and the home of Carrier Air Conditioning systems. Libby graduated from Loyola University with a political science degree and later received her law degree. She worked for some time with the Louisiana Dept. of Revenues as a Tax attorney. She received an advance degree from Georgetown University in 2011 and went to work in the U.S. Tax Court. Also, she worked with Congressman Jim McCrery as an aide to the Congressman. As a lobbyist, she works for United Technologies as Vice President in Global Tax Policy. She deals with issues and bills that may impact her company through lobbying members of Congress and their staffs. In other business, it was announced that all three students attending Camp Rylla in Westwego will receive a Rotary scholarship from the local club because of their outstanding school performance records. Also club members were reminded the annual installation of new officers will be held June 11 at Café Evangeline.
Sheriff Eddie Soileau, of the Evangeline Parish Sheriff=s Office has released the following:
On April 4, 2019 Evangeline Parish Sheriff=s Office Dispatchers received multiple calls from unknown callers stating that there was a bomb located in the courthouse. The threat came on a day that criminal court was being held, which caused the entire courthouse to be evacuated immediately.
Upon resuming normal courthouse routine, Detective Tommy Gallow with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff=s Office immediately began investigating the incident. He was able to receive assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigations to trace the call.
He received an anonymous tip which led to the ultimate arrest of Christopher James Strotter Johnson and Justin Derek Clark. Christopher Johnson was arrested, charged, and bonded out on Criminal Mischief. His bond was set at $50,000.00 by 13th Judicial Judge West. Justin Clark was already incarcerated in another facility and is being charged with Terrorizing. His bond was set at $50,000.00 by 13th Judicial Judge Ortego.
Evangeline Parish Sheriff=s Office would like to thank the Evangeline Parish District Attorney=s Office, Ville Platte Fire Department, Ville Platte Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations for their assistance. We would like to also thank the public for their assistance with anonymous tips.
The Rotary Club of Ville Platte Tuesday heard from Club President Peter Strawitz share his recent meeting attending a meeting of descendants of the Orphan Train. He said his grandfather arrived from New York on the Orphan Train in Marksville in 1905 to be adopted by the Coco family. Many years later, the grandfather visited the foundling hospital and found his real name was Strawitz. He later changed his name to his birth name.
The Orphan Trains brought orphans from New York to new homes down south and out west. It began in 1854 and ended in 1929. Overall, some 250,000 children from 14 months old to 14 years old were sent on these trains. Strawitz said there are only two Orphan Train museums in the country: in Opelousas and a second one in Kansas. It was reported that a number of families in the Ville Platte area have relatives who were relocated here by way of the Orphan Trains. Strawitz was the guest speaker of Rotarian Ronnie Landreneau.
Also speaking was Theresa Jetters of Slidell, a foster parent who will be heading up a conference on Foster Children planned to take place soon at the Hotel Cazan in Mamou.
Rotarians Wayne Vidrine and Nicole Wenger reported on the selection of local high school students who will be attending the summer youth camp at Camp Rylla near Westwego. The students are: Gabrielle Fontenot from Sacred Heart and McKenzie McLinton from Ville Platte High who each won a Rotary Club scholarship and Kalaya Guillory from Ville Platte High who will also attend the summer youth camp June 6-9 paid for by the Rotary Club.
The Ville Platte Rotary Club heard from Dr. Gwen Fontenot, retired Dean from the University of Louisiana School of Business. She was introduced by Mark Suellentrop, Cabot Plant manager to discuss the Evangeline Parish Foundation.
Dr. Fontenot, is a native of Evangeline Parish and since her retirement, has moved back home. She along with Suellentrop, Anita Fontenot and Leonard Fontenot are among members that serve on the newly formed Evangeline Parish Foundation. Some two years ago, Investar Bank made a $50,000 grant toward the foundation. The goal of the foundation is to raise a million dollars and the earnings from that money will be given out to help groups and individuals in grant funding .
Cabot has awarded $1000 in seed money toward a special education fund and is challenging businesses, groups and individuals to match or make a donation toward this education fund to help our local parish schools. The goal is to reach $250,000. The five percent in earnings will be given in grant scholarships.
Fontenot stated" We want to improve the quality of life in Evangeline Parish. Our graduates are leaving this parish for good paying jobs elsewhere. We need them to stay here."
She said "The people of Evangeline Parish are among the most generous and passionate people and are generous with their resources for projects they believe in." She said "We give to our favorite charities and we sponsor events like youth baseball."
"Philanthropy is not just for the wealthy. You are making an investment into something your business believes in," she said.
Rotary Club President Peter Strawitz reported that the Ville Platte club has tied with the much larger Gonzales Rotary club in having the biggest increase in new members in the rotary district with seven new members this year.
Strawitz announced that the local club will be cooking pork sandwiches this weekend at the Grand Hoorah Folk Roots festival at Chicot State Park.
The Ville Platte Rotary Club today (Tuesday) heard from guest speaker Camille Fontenot, Outreach Director for the Cazan Hotel in Mamou. She gave a brief history of the hotel. The building was originally constructed at the turn of the 20th Century , first as a bank and later as a hotel. Former Evangeline Parish Clerk of Court and Sheriff Frank "Cazan" Fontenot purchased the building and turned it into a hotel.
The current owner, Valerie Cahill, turned the building into a 17 room boutique hotel in 2015. She said the hotel is considered haunted as several people who spent the night there have seen and heard strange and unusual things.
The hotel has held a number of private parties and gatherings including wedding and bachelor parties. Fontenot said the facility was even rented out for use as a funeral.
There have been conferences held there to help solve missing persons including information on the disappearance of Mamou resident Alice Reeves who went missing in 1967.
The hotel has held Fiddle festivals and even a Ponce festival. Among the events planned for this summer are a Crawfish and Rice Festival and a Jeep festival.
Club President Peter Strawitz announced that the Rotary club will have a cooking booth at the Grand Hoorah Folk Roots festival on May 4 at Chicot State Park.
Rotary Club Hears from Schlumberger Officials
April 16, 2019
The Ville Platte Rotary Club today (Tuesday) heard from officials from Schlumberger at their noon luncheon.
Club Members John Mayeaux was in charge of the program and his special guests were local plant manager Billy Fontenot and Abby Landreneau, Human Resources Manager.
Fontenot, a native of Ville Platte, has been with the company for 22 years . The local Cameron facility primarily manufactures ball valves for the oil and gas industry from 2 inch to 42 inches. The largest department, manufacturing, employs 258 people,
Local real estate agent Charles Buller played a big part in having the facility relocate to Ville Platte in 1983. Through the years and its owners, the plant has under gone several name changes from Cooper to Cooper Oil Tools, Cameron and now Schlumberger.
The local Ville Platte plant has 225,000 square feet of manufacturing area while another 100,000 square feet of storage warehouse area. The plant works closely with two firms that are located on site to save on transportation costs: Ville Platte Iron Works and QAP Plating.
The firm has 420 employees working two shifts Monday through Friday. Landreneau said the facility has an on site gym/wellness center for its employees. She said 60 percent of the entire work force live in Evangeline Parish. Some 100 plus employees have 25 or more years with the company.
The two discussed the recent reduction in work force. Fontenot blamed it on the downturn in the market. "Due to the unpredictability of the markets, it resulted in a reduction. We have to stay competitive in the market.".
In other business, Mark Suellentrop of Cabot Corporation reported on the recent "Choices program" presentation at local schools last week. The class presented by club members reached 349 students over a two day period at three local schools. In the six years, the club has been sponsoring this program, over 1000 students have gone through the program to urge students to make good choices and
The Evangeline Parish Chamber of Commerce held their Business after Hours meet-and-greet yesterday (Tuesday) evening at Café Evangeline on Main Street in Ville Platte. Evangeline Back & Trust Co. was the sponsor, and they provided appetizers and cocktails. Bank president, Randy Chapman, said, with regards to the recent accomplishments of the Chamber, "we see a lot of good things happening, [we're] seeing a lot of new ideas."
Chamber Director, Renee Brown, said that after only two cleanup days, Mamou is about to do their first cleanup next month. Cabot is also looking to take on the Tate Cove Road from Cabot to the Y-Not Stop. Cleco is also joining the cleanup. She said, "After only two cleanup days, it's starting to make a shift in our entire parish, and we are so fired up about that." Cleanup days are once per month. Interested volunteers can call the Chamber to sign up. She reminded members that the Ville Platte Farmer's Market is Thursday from 3:00-6:00 PM, and a Christian group will be performing in observation of Easter Week. Brown reminded everyone that nominations for board members are due in May, with voting in June. She announced the annual Awards & Membership Banquet is scheduled for Tuesday, August 27th.
Chamber president, Luke Deville, said when they switched from the Ville Platte Chamber to the Evangeline Parish Chamber, they gained 45 new members, 20% coming from outside of Ville Platte; they include Mamou, Pine Prairie and Turkey Creek. He said he feels the chamber "is going in the right direction."
Peter Strawitz, Vice President/President-Elect, congratulated Luke Deville on a job well done. He said for the next year he'd like to see continuity, to see the governmental affairs committee go to all villages and towns, to their council meetings, to ask them how the Chamber can be an advocate for them. He'd like to continue the relationship they've forged in the political realm so that good projects can come their way. He added, "You never know what company or industry is in town. [...] Pride of ownership is everything." He asked for anyone who has residential or commercial property to take care of them; cut the grass and pick up the trash. He asked the Chamber to consider coming together with little town meetings to set goals for where they would like to be in a year, three years, and five years.
Ville Platte Police Chief Neal Lartigue reports one suspect arrested for first degree murder and numerous other charges.
On Sunday April 7, 2019 at approximately 5:10 p.m. officers with the Ville Platte Police Department responded to a report of shots fired in the 700 block of East Wilson Street. Upon arrival , shots were fired in the direction of the Police Officers with one bullet striking a Police unit. Officers called for assistance and began blocking off the area to protect citizens.
Units from the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office, Louisiana State Police, Pine Prairie Police Department and Chataignier Police Department responded to assist. Officers learned that a white male had been shot and had left the scene to seek medical treatment.
The suspect continued shooting towards Officers on the scene and Officers from multiple agencies returned fire. After a standoff the suspect surrendered and was taken into custody shortly after 7:00 p.m.
Detectives and Officers located the body of a 21 year old female identified as Rene Williams in the back yard of the residence with multiple gunshot wounds. Miss Williams pronounced dead at the scene.
The white male was treated at a hospital Lafayette and according to a recent update, is in stable condition after surgery. He has been identified as James Macias 30, of Judy Street in Ville Platte.
Arrested was Davonte Marquis Ardoin, 25 of 706 East Wilson Street. Ardoin was booked into the Ville Platte City Jail on one count of first degree murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of aggravated assault on a Police Officer, one count of criminal damage to property, one count of false imprisonment with a firearm and one count of illegal use of a weapon or dangerous instrument. Ardoin's bond was set at $ 1,390,000.00.
Chief Neal Lartigue thanks the agencies for their fast response and assistance in this incident.
The Rotary Club of Ville Platte today (Tuesday) heard from the Evangeline Parish Public School Teachers of the Year and Principal of the Year honorees.
Superintendent of Schools Darwan Lazard, the Rotarian in charge of the program introduced the guests: Nicholas Jagneaux, High School Teacher of the Year from Ville Platte High; Lisa Jack, Middle School Teacher of the Year from Vidrine Elementary and Sarah Bergeron , Elementary Teacher of the Year from James Stephens Montessori school and Melanie Miller, Principal of the Year, of Ville Platte High School.
Also speaking was Supervisor Grace Sibley who is charge of the Teacher of the Year program.
Club members viewed a video presentation on the honorees. Ville Platte High Principal Melanie Miller shared some interesting facts about the school: the graduation rates has dramatically increased, ACT rates have jumped and the suspension rate has dropped from 44 percent to 9 percent. She said "Our students are achieving." The school has special classes in pre engineering, art, digital and music.
In other business, the rotary club:
--will be cooking at the Grand Hoorah Festival May 4 at Chicot State Park;
--received news that the Spring Social will be April 9 at Pine Prairie Energy Center in Easton. Club members will be taken on a bus tour of the facility and be treated to a BBQ meal.
--was notified that 16 volunteer club members will be teaching the "Choices" program to 15 classes of 8th grade students on April 8 and 9 in parish schools.
The Ville Platte City Council met Tuesday evening. Todd Abshire with the Louisiana Rural Water Association addressed the council with information about water utility rates. He has been conducting a rate study for Ville Platte. He stressed the importance of sustainability, saying that the water system needs to make 10% above revenue be sustainable. He also urged maintaining water safety and reminded the council and the citizens that it is illegal to give anyone a break on their water bill. It is against the state constitution to forgive a water bill or to not disconnect customers. It is also a felony for anyone to tamper with utility meters. He suggested replacing the old meters with smart meters. Mayor Jennifer Vidrine said the water rates will go up, but they are not sure just yet how much they will go up. Several citizens voiced their concerns, with one citizen drawing the ire of the council by suggesting that they are overpaid. He said the council could cut their salaries instead of making cuts to the police department. He added, "The council needs to start thinking about the people instead of thinking about themselves." Councilman Mike Perron said, "Do you think we, in our hearts, want to do that to the people? [...] We are mandated to change the rates." Councilman Bryant Riggs took issue with the citizen's claim that the council is paid too much, and added that the police department had no need for four detectives when two detectives could be doing patrol. At one point, Riggs left the speakers stand to retrieve paperwork to show the citizen a breakdown of his salary. Another citizen stood up and raised his voice to the council shouting, "We need to look at our priorities in Ville Platte. [...] Services that need to be rendered for the common good that aren't being rendered like it should be because there's no more accountability! There is lack of maintenance in this town. Nobody wants to work! Now, anybody wants to say something about that?!" At one point, Councilwoman Faye Lemoine said, "We could all give our salaries back to the city and it still wouldn't be the 10% we need to sustain our water." The water rate discussion lasted nearly an hour. Mayor Vidrine said they asked Abshire there to explain why an increase in rates is needed. She said when the rate study is complete, an ordinance will be introduced and the public will have a chance to voice their concerns at that time.
In other business, Todd Morein addressed the council to ask if they had agreed on a price to charge him to put equipment on the three water towers in order to provide a new internet service. The council said the price would be $300 per equipment per tower for a total cost of $900 per month. Morein said the price should be much lower because it's a service provided to the public. Councilman Eric LaFleur said they can use a formula to lower that cost according to volume of business.
In other action:
• Mayor Vidrine announced the city is working with the police jury to continue work on blighted properties.
• The council approved a liquor permit for the Louisiana Smoked Meat Festival which will be held May 17th and 18th this year.
• They also approved a liquor permit for the Evangeline Parish Chamber of Commerce banquet, which will be held either next month of September.
City Engineer, Ronnie Landreneau, said the fire department should get credit for lowering their rating from a 3 to a 2 which is excellent. Because of this, homeowner and business owner insurance premiums will be lower.
Louisiana First Lady Donna Edwards was the guest speaker at today's (Tuesday) meeting of the Ville Platte Rotary Club. Rotarian Susan Saunders who was in charge of the program introduced her to club members. She and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. They are the parents of three children. After visiting the rotary club, she was due to meet with students at Ville Platte Elementary and Ville Platte High School.
The First Lady praised the local rotary club for their accomplishments including a long time scholarship for students to attend LSU Eunice. She also acknowledged the club for their work in establishing Chicot Park in 1939.
She said the governor's priorities are raising teacher pay, bring more money to public education and increase the minimum wage for Louisiana workers. She said she was pleased to hear that the BESE board approved a $1000 a year pay increase in pay for teachers and $500 a year raise for support workers.
She is actively involved in a number of causes: ending child hood hunger; reuniting foster children with their families or have them adopted into a loving home and to end human sex trafficking.
She shared the good news that the number of children being adopted from foster homes increased from 735 in 2016 to 912 last year.
Edwards said human sex trafficking is a major problem in the state and she is proud that the state received a 1.2 million dollar federal grant to help combat the problem and rescue girls under the age of 18.
Among the special guests at the meeting were State Representative Bernard LeBas and Clerk of Court Randy Deshotel.
Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine presented the First Lady with a special basket of Ville Platte seasonings and products.
On Thursday March 14, 2019 Pine Prairie Police received a report of a break-in and theft from Second Chance Flea Market on Rail Road Street according to Pine Prairie Police Chief L.C. Deshotel. Through investigation, Stacy Paul Fontenot age 36 of 985 9th Street, Pine Prairie became a suspect in this matter. Upon further investigation, one of the stolen items, a hand held jigsaw, was recovered and Fontenot was arrested on the burglary and theft. Other items are still missing and the investigation is ongoing. During the investigation it was also learned that Fontenot had an outstanding warrant for Eunice City Marshall's Office. Fontenot was booked into the Evangeline Parish Jail on Simple Burglary and Theft charges with a $40,000 bond set by Judge Gary Ortego.
The Evangeline Parish School Board, Wednesday, recognized John Bordelon, a student from James Stephens Elementary School. Bordelon has recently won a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering) scholarship from Amazon. It was announced he is the first student to win such a scholarship in Louisiana.
Also, board members were notified that Walmart in Ville Platte will be employing 12 students from Ville Platte High. The part time jobs will pay these students $11 an hour. The school board will have a job fair for students , age 17 and older, wishing to apply.
In other business the school board approved the new school calendar for the next school term. The calendar calls for the first of school for employees in August 9, 2019 and the first day of classes for students is August 13. The final day of school is May 28, 2020. School employees are given the choice of two calendars. Employees overwhelmingly recommended the school board approve the plan that was adopted.
School Maintenance Supervisor Jason Hazelton announced the two cleanest school for the past three months: Basile High for the largest school and W.W. Stewart Elementary for the small school winner.
In other action, the school board:
--approved renewing the contract for Supt. of Schools Darwan Lazard for another two years;
--advertised for bids to replace the Bayou Chicot School sewer plant.
The Evangeline Parish Police Jury met in a series of committee meetings along with their regular scheduled meeting Monday in the courthouse.
The jury voted to partner with the Louisiana Office of Debt Recovery to help recover over $100,000 in past due sewer bills. There is no cost to the parish. The state agency will attach the debts to residents with state tax return, driver's license, permits and hunting and fishing licenses to recover the debts.
Also, the police jury approve the demolishing and cleanup of eight properties in the Ville Platte area. These are sites that were adjudicated to the parish when the property owner failed to pay property taxes. When no one came forward to pay the taxes, the court adjudicated the properties to the parish. The jury has some 48 properties in that category.
The jury has called a public hearing on April 1 to get public comment to ban the use of "noodles" and plastic jugs in fishing at Crooked Creek Park. Secretary Treasurer Donald Bergeron reported that the anglers are not picking up their noodles and plastic jugs used in fishing and are turning to litter.
In other action the police jury:
--approved entering into a cooperative endeavor agreement with Prairie Heritage to assist with the Grand Hoorah/Dewey Balfa Cajun Camp May 3-10 at Chicot State Park;
--voted to purchase a used vehicle for the Litter Abatement program in District 7 in the Ville Platte-Pine Prairie and Chicot areas;
--received news from Secretary Treasurer Donald Bergeron that sales tax collections for February sales amounted to $264,065, an increase of $42,768 over the same period a year ago.
The Evangeline Parish School Board met Wednesday evening. Board members voted 12-1, to give themselves a raise from $600 to $800 per month. One board member, Michael Fontenot voted against the pay raise.
In other business, Phil Lemoine, former mayor of Ville Platte, announced to the board his candidacy for Louisiana State Representative in the 38th district.
In other action, the Board approved and accepted the following:
• The bid of $5,000 to Marvin's House Moving, Demolition and Excavating Contractor, LLC for the sale of old technology buildings and three portable buildings at Ville Platte Elementary.
• The low price quote of $6,524.08 from Deshotel's Floor Covering for stairwell treads at Bayou Chicot Elementary.
• The low price quote of $22,620 for VC tile flooring in 20 classrooms of the main building at Ville Platte Elementary.
• $27,000 for professional development for principals, assistant principals and supervisors to implement meaningful walk-through observations and effective feedback.
• $26,350 to LSUE for payment for dual enrollment.
• $24,378.90 to M.D. Descant, LLC for Basile High School improvements.
• $14,890.21 for additions and alterations to W.W. Stewart Elementary.
In closing remarks, Superintendent Darwin Lazard said Ryan Chapman from Ville Platte High School has been selected to represent his school in engineering in the National Young Leadership Forum. Those students who participate in a national event are given $200 by the school board.
Lazard attended the National Superintendents Association conference last week in Los Angeles. He had an opportunity to represent Louisiana and was the only one to represent on the governing board. He said some superintendents wanted to take a position against corporal punishment, but Lazard said he would rather local states and districts individually make that decision. That particular effort did not pass, as the association did not take a position on it.
Lazard went on to inform the board that March 1st is Dr. Seuss Day in honor of his birthday, and he and some of his staff will be visiting the elementary schools and reading to the students.
Lastly, Lazard said he hoped the state would give a raise to teachers and support personnel because they haven't had a raise from the state since Governor Blanco was in office. He said the school board gave them a raise and he was grateful for that, but said "I think it would be wonderful if the state of Louisiana would take a stand and invest in public education."
The Evangeline Parish Chamber of Commerce met Wednesday in the café of Cottage Couture. Chamber director Renee Brown announced there will be a Rapid Response seminar and job fair for workers who were laid off by Cameron-Schlumberger. The event will be held Tuesday, March 12th beginning at 8:30 AM. The Chamber is working with Louisiana Workforce and brought in the Rapid Response team. There will be an orientation to help those workers know what their benefits are and when they can apply for unemployment. They will also assist with 401k questions, and questions about the SNAP food stamp program. Following the orientation, there will be a job fair specifically for the Cameron employees who were laid off. Additionally, the library will be providing laptops to help workers get registered and signed up with online applications and assisting with resumes.
Brown next updated the members on the Revitalize Ville Platte efforts. Their first clean-up day was Saturday, February 16. She is asking for community members to volunteer and sign up for committees. Future clean-up days will be posted on the Chamber website. To sign up for a committee, contact the Chamber office at 337-363-1878.
Brown also announced the Acadiana Center for the Arts will be at the next Lunch 'n' Learn, sponsored by Bon Aimee Realty. Guest Speaker Samuel Oliver, ACA Executive Director, will discuss activities of the Acadiana Center for the Arts, as well as art grant opportunities for Evangeline Parish Grantees. The Lunch 'n' Learn will be held February 28th from noon until 1:00 PM.
The Ville Platte Farmer's Market is returning. It will be held every third Friday of the month outside the Swamp Pop Museum from 3:00 PM – 6:30 PM. There will be arts and crafts, pop-up shops, food, drinks, and music. To apply to be a vendor, contact the Chamber of Commerce.
Professional photographer Mallory Veillon is offering head shots for a small fee to business professionals who need head shots for business cards or websites. 10% of the proceeds will go to the Revitalize Downtown Ville Platte fund. She will be at the Chamber office board room on Friday, February 22nd.
Monday, February 24th, from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM, the Mercy Regional Medical Center's Wellness Plus is celebrating their anniversary and grand re-opening with door prizes.
The Ville Platte Chamber of Commerce today (Tuesday) heard from Paula Hidalgo, advancement coordinator with the Miles Perrett Center in Lafayette. The Miles Perrett Center is a non -profit organization dedicated to providing non- medical support for people undergoing cancer treatments in the ten parish Acadiana area. All of the services they provide are free of charge to cancer patients and their families. Since the center opened in 2002, they have assisted 16,000 families. She reported that the center is currently assisting 164 cancer patients in Evangeline Parish.
Among the products and services they provide include: mastectomy supplies, wound care kits, wigs, hats, school supplies and a wellness center. The center has two mobile vans to bring the services to outlying areas. The center employs 15 full time employees and raises 1.5 million dollars a year through fund rising events such as "The Games of Acadiana."
The Sacred heart Interact Club plans to participate in the
"Change for Miles " program where change jars will be placed in business locations and stores in the Ville Platte area for customers to leave their change in the jars. She was the guest of Rotarian Larry Lachney.
Rotary Club President Peter Strawitz announced that the club is planning something special to recognize the 90th birthday of the local club. The Ville Platte Club was given a charter on March 13 1929.
Evangeline Parish Sheriff Eddie Soileau, of the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office has released the following:
On February 4, 2019 at approximately 9:00 am an Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy responded to a vehicle theft. While en route, there were multiple calls in reference to another carjacking, an attempted carjacking, and a vehicle crash.
At approximately 9:20 am another Deputy arrived to the next call. It was found that the suspect also bumped a female with one of the vehicles that was stolen. The victim was severely injured and had to be transport to the hospital.
The vehicle crash was at the intersection of Te Mamou Rd and Pine Point Rd, therefore a Louisiana State Police- Troop I was dispatched to handle the crash. At that time, the suspect was charged by State Police on the following: Reckless Operation, Driving under the Influence, and Driving Left of Center.
The suspect was indentified to be Terrus Arvie of Ville Platte. The suspect was detained, arrested, and booked into the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office Jail on the following charges: Obstructing Public Passages, 2 counts of Battery of a Police Officer, Simple Battery, Criminal Damage to Property, 2 counts of Carjacking, Aggravated Second Degree Battery, Attempted Carjacking, and Unauthorized Entry of an Inhabited Dwelling. Arvie's bond was set at $207,500.00 by 13th Judicial Judge Chuck West.
In another case, Sheriff Eddie Soileau, of the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office has released the following:
On February 4, 2019 at approximately 7:05 am an Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy was at the Y- Not Stop. The manager approached the Deputy and advised him that there was a male subject sleeping in his vehicle at the gas pump.
A plain view search of the vehicle was conducted after noticing the suspect had an open container in the cup holder and he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Louisiana State Police- Troop I was then called out to conduct a Field Sobriety Test. The suspect was not charged with a DUI at that time but would not be able to leave in his vehicle.
Upon searching the vehicle the Deputy located and seized 11 clear baggies of what appears to be Methamphetamines and also an open bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade.
The suspect was indentified to be Kasey Perron of Crowley. After further investigation, the suspect was detained, arrested, and booked into the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office Jail on the following charges: Driving under Suspension, Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in Vehicle, Distribution/ Manufacture or Possession w/ Intent of Sch II, and Loitering. Perron's bond was set at $32,500.00 by 13th Judicial Judge Chuck West.
The Rotary Club of Ville Platte today (Tuesday) made a presentation to LSU Eunice officials for the Rotary Club scholarship fund. The donation amounted to $5100 and presented by LSU Eunice Scholarship Fund Chairman Dr. William Buller. Accepting the check were Acting Chancellor Dr. William Crowe and Pat Griffith, school enrollment director.
Dr. Crowe gave an update on what is going on at the Eunice campus. He announced enrollment is growing. The nursing program has expanded to have the school partner with Lafayette General Medical Center and other medical centers in our area.
He reported that local school districts such as Evangeline Parish are teaming up with LSU Eunice to offer dual enrollment college credits while still attending high school.
One challenge facing higher education such as LSU Eunice is adequate funding from the state. LSU-E staff members finally received a raise from the state for the first time in eight years. He said the state needs to provide proper and stable funding for all levels of education. He announced that a new chancellor will be selected by July 1.
In other news, it was announced that the rotary sponsored "choices" program will be presented in sixteen 8th grade classes throughout Evangeline Parish. Club members will teach the course of instruction that urges students to make the right choices and stay in school
Evangeline Chamber of Commerce Director Renee Brown announced that the community cleanup day is planned for this Saturday Feb. 16 from 8:30am to 12 noon.
Ville Platte City Attorney Eric Lafleur Tuesday addressed the Mayor and the City council for the need to address budget issues now before the end of the fiscal year. Mayor Jennifer Vidrine reported at the meeting that revenues remain flat while expenses are increasing.
Lafleur said the city will prepare utility rate increases to go into effect by April for gas, water and sewer customers. He explained that the bond holders who hold municipal bonds will require the city take necessary action to have additional funds in reserve. The city attorney said the city will also have to look at making "serious cuts".
The mayor said each department head have been instructed to review their budgets and look at making necessary reductions.
In other business, the city council referred to their legal advisor a proposal by Natalie Maple, an attorney representing AT&T, asking the city's approval to erect a third cell phone tower in the city. This 255 foot tall tower would be built in a grassy area behind Stage near Walmart in Ville Platte. She said the additional tower would increase coverage and cell phone capacity.
Also, the city approved a request from Todd Morein at Universal Communications to introduce a new internet service to city residents. Mayor Jennifer said the provider should begin taking subscribers within the next 2-3 months.
In other action, the city council:
Received news that expenses increased in January by some $18,914 because insurance premiums were due;
Approved a cooperative endeavor agreement with Prairie Cajun to assist the group in conjunction with the Folk Roots festival at Chicot State Park;
Received a report from Evangeline Chamber of Commerce Director Renee Brown that the chamber has prepared a new business checklist to help potential new businesses know what needs to be done when opening a new business;
Approved a liquor permit for the Swam Pop Museum on March 4 for the annual Swamp Pop Dance;
A team of U.L. Lafayette students and professors from the Louisiana Entrepreneur and Economic Development (LEED) Center took a bus tour of Ville Platte and conducted several town hall meetings Friday. Professors Geoff Stewart (Ph.D. in marketing), Gwen Fontenot (Ph.D. in marketing), and Curtis Matherne (Ph.D. in Innovation and Management), led the team of graduate students.
The first two meetings were held at the Ville Platte library where Dr. Stewart surveyed citizens about the what they would like to accomplish in bringing the town of Ville Platte and Evangeline Parish back to life. Dr. Stewart asked what makes Ville Platte and Evangeline Parish a great place. Responses included festivals, food, scenery, affordability, rail access, available land, cheap, natural gas, parks, medical care, affordable housing, youth sports, and cultural aspects, including music and maintaining the Louisiana French language.
Dr. Stewart asked what aspects of the city and parish could be improved. Responses included more police, a more eco-friendly town, four-lane highways, more manufacturing, apartment complexes, bike lanes, and more recreational activities. There was talk of bringing back night clubs, in particular the Evangeline Club.
The third meeting was held at the Northside Civic Center where Dr. Stewart and the team recapped the first two meetings and surveyed a new audience about the changes they would like to see in Ville Platte, particularly Main Street. Responses included more police presence, better sidewalks and parking, attractive landscaping and green spaces, better lighting, and awnings over businesses.
Among the citizens present at the meetings were prominent members of the community which included city council members and police jury members. Some of the police jury members cooked a jambalaya for the Civic Center meeting. Dr. Stewart and his team said they will take all the suggestions made at the meetings and use it to formulate a plan to work with the city and the parish to further their development. He encouraged citizens to take this opportunity to engage, contribute, and be the change they want to see.
VILLE PLATTE REVITALIZATION MEETING
Thursday, February 7, 2019
Renee Brown, Director of the Ville Platte Chamber of Commerce, conducted a meeting for persons interested in revitalizing downtown Ville Platte. The meeting was held at Café Evangeline on Main Street. Brown discussed planned projects including the upcoming clean-up day.
Brown had sign-up sheets for those interested in joining various committees. Those committees are: Organization, Design, Promotions, and Economic Development. The Organization committee will cover public and private partnerships, marketing, fund-raising, volunteer development, public relations and outreach. The Design committee will partner with the Historic Preservation organization and cover architecture and working with local architect Jill Stevens. The Design committee will also deal with awnings, storefront windows, sidewalks, and murals. The Promotions committee will deal with the farmer's market, art walk, and community clean up. The Economic Development committee will help with commercial listings, real estate, opportunity zones, property owners and property sizing. Citizens interested in participating in a particular committee should contact the Chamber of Commerce.
Brown announced that the first community clean-up day will be held Saturday, February 16th from 8:30 AM until 12:30 PM. Those interested in participating will meet at the Chamber office that morning. She asks volunteers to bring weed-eaters and extension cords, garden gloves, pressure washers and hoses, trash bags, water bottles, paper towels, glass cleaners, sunscreen, etc. They will be picking up trash and cleaning sidewalks and grassy areas, and, weather permitting, painting.
A team of U.L. Lafayette students, along with Dr. Jeff Stewart, will be in Ville Platte today (Friday) for "Project Engage." They will be participating in three town hall meetings with the general public. The first meeting is at 3:15 PM at the Ville Platte library to discuss proposals for the Ward One Industrial Park. The second town hall meeting, dealing with parish tourism proposals, is at 4:15 PM at the Ville Platte library. The third meeting will be held at 5:30 PM at the Northside Civic Center. This meeting will be about revitalization. The public is encouraged to attend and share ideas and suggestions.
There was talk of bringing a sense of pride back to Ville Platte. Brown emphasized that this endeavor is not a one-time event, but a continuing effort to help Ville Platte to grow strong.
The Evangeline Parish School Board met Wednesday evening. Supervisor Grace Sibley introduced Evangeline Parish principal of the year, Melanie Miller of Ville Platte High School. Sibley gave a featured presentation of Evangeline Parish teachers of the year who are competing on the state level. They are: Sarah Lafleur Bergeron (elementary school); Lisa Celestine Jack (middle school); Nicholas Jagneau (high school). The scoring was so close for middle school teacher of the year, the judges made a special category for the first time for inspirational teacher of the year, and that award went to Erica Landreneau Fontenot. Sibley then presented a highlights video, a compilation of the videos submitted by the teachers of the year to compete on the state level.
In other business, First Student Location Manager Hubert Mabe updated the board about school bus cameras. He said First Student examines the camera footage every 90 days and makes adjustments and repairs as needed. They are currently in the process of updating the drives and working on archiving footage. They are also updating SPED routes, giving some buses room for additional students if needed, and have adjusted arrival and departure times. School board member Sheila Joseph asked if drivers are checking the buses after dropping off children to make sure none are left on the bus. Mabe said First Student has a system in place where drivers have to go to the back of the bus to press a reset button after checking all the seats, and they have to display placards that say "Bus Empty." Made said he also looks under the seats to make sure no children are left on the buses, and they encourage drivers to call First Student if they find sleeping children on the buses. Since school started, 5 students have been found sleeping on buses, however no children were reported left behind.
In other action, the school board approved the low-price quote by Fontenot's Asphalt Servies, LLC in the amount of $26,937.45 for paving the Chataignier Elementary School faculty parking lot. The board also approved the payment of $23,070.46 to Pat Williams Construction for additions and alterations to W.W. Stewart Elementary.
Superintendent Darwin Lazard announced that Ville Platte High School now has a choir called The Singing Sensations.
At the end of the meeting, Special Education Director Roxanne West announced she was leaving to obtain a similar position in Desoto Parish. She thanked the many teachers, staff and board members for their support throughout the years. West said, "It is the support of my family and prayers answered from God that has allowed me to do this, but I do thank you all so much for the years I've been here. I know the district is going to continue to do great things under the leadership of Mr. Lazard and the rest of the staff." Lazard announced the new Director is Kelly Lafleur. He called West and Lafleur "the Dynamic Duo of Special Ed." Lafleur tearfully thanked West for all of her hard work and accomplishments saying, "I'm hoping to continue with the road that she has paved for us and I think that special education is going to continue to grow and flourish."