During its regular monthly meeting Monday evening, the Evangeline Parish Police Jury received a "clean audit opinion" from Casey Ardoin, a partner in the Kolder, Slaven & Company accounting firm.
Ardoin said that the audit came with an "unmodified opinion," meaning that "the financial statements look very good."
"You are in a strong position," Ardoin told the Jury, with a fund balance of more than $14 million. "As of Dec. 31 2019, you have money in the bank to operate. You guys do a good job here."
Jury President Ryan Williams was pleased with the audit report, saying, "We're taking care of business. Everybody is being accountable. Let's keep it that way."
In related news, Secretary-Treasurer Donald Bergeron announced that the June sales tax collection was over $325,000; "a very good month," he said.
In other business, the Jury heard about a litter enforcement program from Corporal Jason Stagg with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the leading litter enforcement agency in the state. Stagg discussed the tremendous success of a program that uses hidden cameras to catch people who litter.
Stagg said that, using the cameras, the LDWF is working on 50 open cases. These cases could turn into more than 70 different cases, he said. He also told the Jury that the department would cooperate by putting cameras in any high-litter areas that it could identify.
Juror Bryan Vidrine noted some people were recently caught littering along Stagecoach Road. "Thirty garbage bags of trash were thrown off the bridge," he reported. "Some of the bags were so heavy that we had to use an excavator to extract them."
"Litter is a big problem in our parish," Williams noted. "We spend a lot of money picking up trash when we could be spending money making Evangeline beautiful."
Gwen Fontenot, the new president of the Evangeline Chamber of Commerce, introduced herself to the Jury. Fontenot, who took over on July 1, said that her number one priority is to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on local businesses.
"Our local and small businesses need financial assistance," Fontenot explained. "A lot of small businesses are struggling to get the available assistance." She said that the Chamber is "putting together informational webinars and training of businesses to help them get to the right place to apply for the right things."
In other coronavirus news, Bergeron informed the Jury that it has received funding from the Corona Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities relief program. The Jury has received more than $60,000; while sub-applicants Solid Waste and 911 received over $75,000 and $65,000 respectively. The money will help to cover expenses related to the coronavirus.
Earlier, in an Executive Committee meeting, Fontenot and Tourism Commission President Jay Gielow agreed to informally continue a cooperative endeavor agreement that provides funding for the two groups to employees. However, the two groups do not see eye-to-eye on continuing the agreement; so they will be meeting to iron out differences. Next month, the two groups will have a proposal for a new agreement.
In another earlier committee meeting, Bergeron informed the Jury about the status of a flood mitigation project. The project to build a $1.8 million retention pond was originally crafted to take advantage of FEMA money following the historic 2016 floods. Due to fierce competition for the grant money and an approaching deadline, Bergeron recommended that the Jury allow the application to lapse.
However, Bergeron told the Jury, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is also doling money for similar projects. Bergeron recommended that the Jury gather more information to be ready to apply for the grant money once it becomes official. He said that the retention pond project could be used for the HUD application.
The Jury also approved a resolution to call a special election on Dec. 5 for the renewal of the Acadia-Evangeline Fire Protection District tax. It is expected to collect $58,500 every year for the construction and maintenance of fire protection facilities and equipment.
Mrs. Hattie Johnston was appointed to represent Pine Prairie on the Tourism Board. Cecile Causey was hired as a front office employee; Michael Guillory was hired as a courthouse janitor; Tony Tremie was hired on the Dist. 1 and Dist. 7 litter crew; and a vacancy for the litter abatement crew was announced.
The September Police Jury meeting will not be held at its normal time. Usually, the Jury meets on the first Monday of the month, which will be Sept. 8. However, that also happens to be Labor Day. Because of the holiday, the Jury will move its September meeting to the following Monday, Sept. 14. Before the regular meeting, there will be two public hearings: one at 4:30 pm for comment about adopting Orange Street in Chataignier; and one at 4:50 pm about putting a 3-Way stop sign at the intersection of Berdine Street in the Wyble Subdivision.