A few thoughts on a busy week

The Union Parish High School Farmer’s are on their way to the dome, yet again. A chance to play for a state championship is a rare thing for most high school teams, but in Union Parish, it’s just what we do in December.

With the changes in college sports – specifically pay to play and the full-on embrace of sports betting as a revenue generator for universities – high school sports is the only place one can still see young men and women competing for the love of the game alone. It’s a beautiful thing and, win or lose, the players, coaches, cheerleaders and band members of UPHS deserve our thanks for giving us, once a week every fall, something altogether clean and wholesome to be excited about.
Go Farmers!
Tax exemption clarification
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Union Parish Police Jury a property tax exemption for Foster Farms was up for consideration. The poultry processing company has applied for a reduction in their property taxes through the Louisiana Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), which, if approved, would reduce the company’s property taxes for the next several years by 80 percent. The exemption would reduce Foster Farm’s property taxes from about $384,000 a year to about $76,000.
Technically, companies seeking ITEP approval make their application to the state, which conducts the necessary due diligence to ensure the company meets all the eligibility requirements, but final approval of the request rests with the local police jury. Curiously, no one from Foster Farms showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to promote the exemption request, and so the jury took no action, choosing instead to table the request until someone from Foster Farms finds the time to make an appearance.
After the jury voted to table the request, a citizen in attendance asked the jury if “any business” could apply for a property tax exemption, and members of the jury responded that they could. Unfortunately, that is not correct.
The ITEP program has very specific eligibility criteria which most businesses in Union Parish do not meet. First, the exemption is restricted to businesses that are classified for tax purposes as manufacturing companies. In addition, the exemption was designed as an economic development tool, and as such, applicants must demonstrate that they are creating jobs – lots of jobs – that wouldn’t otherwise exist and/or have made or can demonstrate a serious intent to make significant capital investment in the local community.
Dumpster Fire
The recent removal of trash dumpsters from outlying areas of the parish and the creation of new consolidated dumpster parks has irritated a number of citizens who don’t appreciate having to drive further than before to dispose of their garbage.
The Gazette is not convinced these complaints are all meritorious. If a person can drive one mile to a dumpster, it is unlikely that driving five miles is as tremendous a burden as some have made it out to be. However, it is worth noting that the parish did little to prepare the community for the change, and in the six weeks or so since the dumpsters were removed, still has not explained the methodology used to determine which dumpsters needed to be removed and which ones could remain where they were. We think it would be a good idea if the parish took a few minutes to do that.
Now that you mention it
Along that same line, it is this editor’s opinion that public officials in Union Parish are not as committed to keeping the voters informed as they ought to be. As is painfully obvious these days, the absence of factual information on any given subject inspires the public to develop their own theories, and these theories are not always fact-based.
For example, the public only recently learned that the Union Parish Detention Center has been under audit since September because discrepancies were discovered in the way the facility accounted for the wages earned by work release inmates. It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to imagine how that could be spun into something sinister.
For the record, the public absolutely does have right to know if a parish body is the subject of a special audit, and that information should have been released shortly after the audit began. The parish’s public officials, at every level and in every community, should consider keeping the public informed a fundamental part of their jobs.
We encourage the incoming Police Jury to consider establishing a policy of openness on such incidents. Getting accurate information out to the public quickly, before the conspiracy theorists get fired up, is the best defense they have against the misinformation that causes so much distress in Union Parish.

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