By Luke Britt/Editor
At its regular monthly meeting Monday the Farmerville Town Council approved the hiring of an Oklahoma engineering firm to install a $350,000 strainer system on the water lines that feed the Foster Farms poultry plant.
The Council agreed to hire the PEPM Group of Tulsa, OK to manage the project at the recommendation of Foster Farms, Mayor John Crow said.
“PEPM has worked with Foster Farms at other plants, and they know what Foster Farms needs,” Crow said. “It’s important that we resolve this issue once and for all, so we don’t have a repeat of what happened in March.”
In March, a small number of worms were discovered in the Foster Farms water supply, forcing the plant to close for three days at a cost of about $1 million of lost productivity per day. While it was never proven that the contamination entered the plant in the water supplied by the town, Farmerville Public Works Director Keith Jeselink said it was clear that the wells feeding the plant needed to be upgraded.
The wells that serve Foster Farms were built decades ago, Jeselink said, when Con Agra owned the processing plant and only became part of the town’s water system when the poultry company donated them to the city.
“Those water wells, when they were put in many, many years ago, were not set up correctly,” Jeselink told the council. “For example, they didn’t have chlorinators set up at the well head.”
The strainer system on those wells is an aging system that requires the filters to be manually cleaned from time to time, Jeselink said. The new system will clean the strainers, automatically, he said.
In a bit of on-the-fly miracle working, Mayor Crow said the town was able to secure capital outlay funding during the recent legislative session for the full price of the new strainer system.
“A company with more than 1,000 employees shutting down is something that gets everyone’s attention,” Crow said. “Farmerville values Foster Farms. The State of Louisiana values Foster Farms, and we’re all committed to doing whatever we can to support them.”
In other business
The Council voted to table until next year a proposal to build permanent bathrooms near the walking track of the Willie Davis Jr. Recreational Center. The idea was proposed to the council in June, but the town has been unable to find funding for the unbudgeted project.
The Council completed the formal annexation of the Arnett Smith ballpark, which the ballpark’s board donated to the town in June.
The Arnett Smith Ballpark has been managed by a board created specifically for that purpose since its construction in YEAR. Currently, the ballpark is used by the Dixie Youth Baseball for only four months a year, and Crow said transferring ownership of the ballpark will facilitate the development of sports programs other than baseball, such as soccer and flag football.
“As a municipality the town can obtain grants that a private program isn’t eligible for,” Mayor Crow said. “It’s a great park and we can take what it does for the community to the next level.”
The mayor said the ballpark will generate revenue for the community by hosting tournaments, not only for baseball but for other sports that will be developed once the town owns the park.
The Council also voted on Monday to approve closer of streets around the downtown branch of Origin Bank on Sept. 23 for the Small Town Showdown car show, sponsored by Benoit Ford, Chevy and GMC dealerships.
More than 100 vehicles are expected to be on display, Community Outreach Director Mary Barrios said. Proceeds from the car show will be donated to the Boys & Girls Club, she said.
In his monthly public works report, Jeselink told the council that the town has suspended all mowing until the statewide burn ban has been lifted. Jeselink explained that mower blades create sparks when they strike rocks or unseen metal debris, which under the area’s current dry conditions could ignite a fire.
Jeselink also told the Council that dumpsters have been installed at the Union Village Apartments on Goldie Street.
He also said that 24 water hydrants around town have been replaced as part of an ongoing project to improve the town’s fire fighting capabilities.
Jeselink wrapped up his report by announcing that upgrades to sewer Lift Station 6, which serves the Lake View Drive area, have been completed and the station is back in service.
The meeting concluded with Rev. Tommy Carr introducing the council to Kristie Bardell, the new Executive Director of the Children Coalitions for Northeast Louisiana. Bardell has worked at the Coalition since 2020 and recently was chosen by the Board of Directors to lead the organization.