Jury rejects UGH, renews millages request

The Union Parish Police Jury in its monthly meeting Tuesday rejected a request from Union General Hospital for funds to repair a flaw in the hospital’s water system. 

The juror’s balked at the hospital’s request for a grant of $24,477 to cover the cost of installing a backflow preventer, with one juror noting that the lack of a backflow preventer on the hospital system is an oversight by the hospital and parish funds should not be spent to remedy that oversight.

Other actions taken by the jury Tuesday include:

Approved the purchase of a maintenance contract for the Union Parish Landfill’s new industrial trash compactor.

Amended the 2023 budget to cover the $1.2 million cost of the new compactor.

Approved a request to leave a field on Holder Road near Brookshires uncut for an indefinite period because it is home to a unique plant that attract pollinating insects.

Approved the continuation of several property tax millages.

Approved the transfer of $100,000 to cover operating expenses for the Union Parish Health Unit.

Approved The Banner News as the parish’s official journal.

Authorized a request for bids to purchase an off-road vehicle for the parish Department of Public Works.

Approved requests for use of the parish courthouse and its parking lot for two upcoming events.

Denied a request for bush hogging services from the Town of Bernice.

In a letter to the jury, UGH explained that during periods of heavy rainfall surface water is finding its way into the hospital’s water system which could lead to contamination of the hospital’s water supply. In December 2021, the Police Jury – flush with federal COVID dollars – dispersed nearly $2 million to parish water systems, which is likely why the hospital sought help from the parish, Jury Secretary-Treasurer Paula Strickland said.

In March, the jury approved the purchase of a new compactor for the parish landfill from Lyle Machinery, and on Tuesday, the jury approved the purchase of a $142,520 maintenance contract for that compactor.

The compactor purchase was not anticipated when the jury formulated its 2023 operating budget, so on Tuesday the jury amended its budget to cover the purchase.

The jury also approved a request to leave a field on Holder Road behind Brookshires uncut for the foreseeable future because it is home to a species of milkweed that attracts bees, butterflies and other insects known as “pollinators”. The request was submitted by D’Arbonne Master Gardeners President Connie Snell on behalf of Judge Jay McCallum and wife, Deanna.

Snell told the jury that the decline in the nation’s pollinator population is having a deleterious impact on the natural spread of desirable plant life. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, more than half of North America’s 4,000 native bee species are in decline, with 1 in 4 species at risk of extinction. The jury agreed to suspend mowing the field.

Also on Tuesday, the jury voted to renew the following property tax millages for the coming fiscal year:

General alimony 2.79m

Road construction 5.13m

Road maintenance 6.15 m

Council on Aging 1.63m

Library O&M 2.4m

Library support 1m

The jury also voted to allocate $100,000 to the Union Parish Health Unit to cover the facility’s operations for the coming year. All Louisiana parishes are required by law to maintain a health unit and most fund those clinics through taxes dedicated for that purpose. Union Parish voters, however, have repeatedly rejected tax proposals to fund the health unit, forcing the Police Jury to fund the clinic out of its Louisiana Asset Management Program (LAMP) funds, which Strickland said is not unlike taking money out of savings to cover everyday expenses.

“We can fund the health unit like this for another couple of years,” Strickland said. “After that, the state will step in and they’ve already said the first thing they’ll do is cut services.”

Also on Tuesday, the jury voted to continue using The Banner News as its official journal. The designation means the jury agrees to post all required public notices in The Banner News during the coming year. The jury spends about $3,500 a year publishing these notices.

The jury also approved a request by Farmerville resident Arthur Hackney to use the parish courthouse parking lot for a car show on June 24, and approved a request from the Jaycees for the bottom floor of the courthouse be kept open during July’s Watermelon Festival to allow access to the building’s restrooms.

The jury also voted to re-appoint Michael Holley to the Reeves Memorial Medical Center governing board, and to appoint Sharon Hays and Chris Adkins to the same board, replacing board members John Watley and Michael Brandon, respectively.

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