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Evangeline Parish Police Jury President Ryan “Leday” Williams (left) looks over a list of proposed committee members for the upcoming year as he presides over the first meeting of the year held Monday, January 11. Williams was selected as president for another year. Also pictured, on the right, is Secretary-Treasurer Donald Bergeron. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)

Off and running

Chamber provides update on activities; Crooked Creek to receive security upgrades

Evangeline Chamber of Commerce President Dr. Gwen Fontenot and President-Elect Renee Brown were present at the police jury meeting to report on the chamber’s activities over the past three years since becoming a parish-wide organization.
The report was tailored specifically to answer questions posed by Juror Bryan Vidrine about how the Chamber is using public funds to provide for public services.
“Our mission stayed the same,” said Dr. Fontenot. “We advocate and promote economic progress for the betterment of our communities and municipalities and our parish.”
She went on to say, “We provide services for Evangeline Parish public, businesses, and workforce which means not just for chamber members but all of the businesses and workforce.”
As Brown explained, one example is in job creation and retention as the Chamber worked with local plants and the Evangeline Parish School Board to create a pre-engineering program.
“We have people coming out of high school who can read calibrations and understand more of what a draft table and draft information looks like.”
“They can have an entry-level opportunity to get into plants and stay in our community,” she continued.
According to Dr. Fontenot, another example is disaster assistance especially with the Paycheck Protection Plan. She reported the Chamber worked with businesses in the parish to apply for funds and “less than five percent were Chamber members.”
Other examples are free seminars, infrastructure improvements on La. Hwy 10, and the use of the state’s rapid response team following the layoffs at Cameron-Schlumberger.
The Chamber, according to Dr. Fontenot, also worked with getting Dr. Geoffrey Stewart’s MBA students from University of Louisiana Lafayette to revitalize Ville Platte.
Dr. Fontenot told the jury, “Dr. Stewart is planning to come back this semester and do a boot camp with existing businesses who really want to take it to the next level.”
She went on to say communications students from ULL have also put together a marketing plan and Website redevelopment.
Brown concluded the report by talking about plans for a reboot in Ville Platte where teams will be put together “so we can start changing the look of our town and get things back where they need to be.”
The plan is for the reboot to begin in Ville Platte and continue to other areas of the parish.
Later in the meeting, the police jury heard from Crooked Creek Park Manager Kim Ortego who reported there were 4,000 campers over the past year. He added there are currently 23 monthly renters who are doing contracting jobs in the parish. These monthlies are bringing in roughly $10 thousand a month.
However, some of those entering the park are committing acts of vandalism and theft. These acts, according to Ortego, have led to the need to install a security gate.
Ortego reported he received three quotes for the gate and the lowest came from InVision Technical Solutions.
The new entrance would have one gate with a key pad. “If you don’t have the code, you’re not coming in,” Ortego said. “People who have reservations will have the code when they make a reservation.”
The gate will also have a camera and a light along with an exit for whenever campers need to leave the park.
The code can be changed daily, weekly, or at the discretion of Ortego because, as he said, “somebody can give the code out.”
Ortego said, “This gate would eliminate 90 percent of the vandalism.”
He also said the entrance of the park would be brought forward to accommodate the swing open gate and that fence work will be needed for the project.
The jury voted to accept the quote for the construction of the gate.
In other business, the police jury:
• heard from Senator John Kennedy’s Acadiana Regional Representative Sarah Dake.
• heard from Section 8 Director Anna Frank about updates on the Section 8 Housing.
• adopted resolutions requesting funds for Water Enrichment Grant and Community Development Block Grant and granting signatory authority to the secretary-treasurer on FEMA reimbursement.
• approved the hiring of a demographer to determine if reapportionment is necessary based on the 2020 Census.
• took action on asphalt damages to Colt Avenue.
• transferred Darwin Lewis from Region A part-time to full-time operator position in Region A, Districts 5 and 7.
• approved the Acadiana Crime Lab 2020 Amended Budget as required by legislation.
• approved IRS Standard Milage Rates for 2021 at .56 a mile which is down 1.5 cents from the rate of 2020.

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