News for Tuesday 031516
By Dave Graichen
Efforts continue to close off a breach of a levee at Bayou Darrow just south of Colfax. Grant Parish Sheriff Steven McCain says things will get worse before they get better. He says the community of Georgetown is virtually an island. McCain says this is the worst flooding Grant Parish has ever seen and it’s breaking records.
Grant Parish Schools will be open today with the exception of Georgetown High School. Georgetown High School will not be open today.
Due the rising water in the Red River, ALL boat launches on the Red River are CLOSED. However, while the Red River itself is open, however the RPSO says it is highly recommended NOT to travel in these areas as small boat traffic may cause more water to wash into homes and camps that are already in danger of being flooded. All are being asked to be considerate and not go into these areas. It is the same situation as someone driving through a flooded neighborhood and the wake caused by the cars, is going into homes that already have water too close for comfort
The southbound span of the Curtis-Coleman Memorial Bridge over the Red River will open to traffic between noon and 3 p.m. today according to the state Department of Transportation and Development. Only one lane of traffic will be open on the southbound span, and only one lane of traffic will be open on the northbound span at this time. That is to allow work to be completed on the roadway approaches to the bridge spans.
The investor group that's still hoping to buy Cleco Corp. released a new set of commitments in an attempt to gain approval for the sale from the state’s public service commission. Instead of $125 million in rate credits over 15 years, the investors are offering $100 million in credits immediately, or an average of $370 per customer, depending on usage. A complete list of the proposed commitments can be found in today’s Town Talk. The prospective buyers have requested a rehearing on the issue.
Pineville PD report a Pineville man is accused of firing a shot at a vehicle yesterday morning on College street. The suspect, 19 year old Johnny Smith of Stilley Road, was captured a short time later and now faces charges of aggravated assault and discharging a firearm in the city. Police say no one was injured in the incident.
Governor John Bel Edwards spoke in front of lawmakers Monday as the regular legislative session is now underway. Edwards told legislators he’s moving is moving forward with the expansion of the Medicaid program. He wants to make sure the working poor have affordable access to healthcare and the state will save 100 million dollars within the first year with the expansion. The governor says he would also like lawmakers to raise minimum wage to eight dollars starting next year and raise it another 50-cents in 2018. The Governor would also like to see the number of state funded school vouchers reduced. Edwards finished his speech by asking lawmakers to work in a bipartisan manner.
As lawmakers begin a regular session, Governor John Bel Edwards says another special session could be needed to address next fiscal year’s shortfall, which currently stands at about 800-million dollars. Edwards says without an additional 800-million dollars in revenue, some critical cuts will occur to vital services in the state.
Alexandria Representative Lance Harris, Head of the Republican Legislative Delegation, says it will take long-term reforms to solve the state’s fiscal crisis. Harris says he is optimistic about legislators’ opportunity to address the deficit, because they are still early in the budget balancing process. He says balancing the budget will be a matter of prioritizing.
President Barack Obama declared seven parishes in Louisiana as a federal disaster area. The President’s action makes federal funding available to those affected in Bossier, Claiborne, Grant, Morehouse, Richland and Webster Parish.
The Louisiana National Guard says they’ve rescued over 42-hundred citizens and 350 pets as they assist in flood fighting efforts in 33 parishes. Guard spokesperson Colonel Pete Schneider says they’ve been working around the clock since March 9th on a variety of operations. The state says 61-hundred homes have been damaged by the flooding. Schneider says this is the biggest response to a flooding event the Guard has ever seen in Louisiana.
In southwest Louisiana, the Sabine River is rising. Calcasieu Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Dick Gremillion says the river is expected to crest today at 36 feet, which is well past its historic high. Gremillion says they are asking hundreds of residents to evacuate.
Mike Steele, with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, says the total number of homes damaged in the state has climbed to over 6-thousand. He says so far 7 parishes have been approved for federal assistance. Steele says the legwork to prepare additional parishes for assessment has already begun. He says people who have sustained damage to their homes should register for federal assistance, even if they are not in one of the approved parishes. You can register for federal assistance at emergency-dot-la-dot-gov.
A bill to be discussed in regular session would increase the mandatory waiting period to receive an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. Author of the legislation, Republican West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffmann, says the extension would give a woman the opportunity to think through the process. Hoffmann is the chairman of the House of Health and Welfare. He says he’s proud of the fact that each year the legislature brings in new bills to make Louisiana a pro-life state.