Dale Smith of Morgan City and Jennifer Smith of Lafayette wish to announce the engagement and approaching marriage of their daughter, Brittany Nicole Smith, to Clayton Joseph Moffett, son of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Moffett and Mary Snyder, all of Morgan City. The wedding will take place at 5 p.m. June 22 at Pharr Chapel United Methodist Church in Morgan City. Submitted Photo/Jamie Heyl Photography
DOTD installs sinkhole monitors
BATON ROUGE — State officials have installed enhanced monitoring equipment along La. 70, near the Assumption Parish sinkhole.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development said Thursday that the improvements will provide broader observation and greater accuracy in measuring the area for movement and subsidence.
DOTD will be able to use data from the monitoring systems and alert responders via its Traffic Management Center in Baton Rouge to any significant movement or changes in the area near the site.
The new equipment includes tilt and accelerometer sensors on the three bridges over Bayou Corne, Grand Bayou and Bayou Choupique, and Shaped-Accelerometer Arrays located within the La. 70 right of way, and at the two closest bridge locations. All of the equipment is in place to measure movement.
Three Continuously Operating GPS Reference Stations also have been installed for automated, continuous monitoring of subsidence near all three bridges, and is expected to be fully functional by the end of June. A fourth station is planned for installation along the La. 70 right of way on private property. A fifth station is available for deployment, as needed.
Sinkhole lawsuits will be class-action
NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge in New Orleans says he will grant class-action status to four lawsuits filed over issues raised by the Assumption Parish sinkhole. That’s according to a new court filing Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey also will give Texas Brine Co. 30 more days to directly negotiate stalled out-of-court settlements with evacuated residents lacking legal representation.
Grand jury to review $200M Medicaid contract
BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana attorney general’s office said a special grand jury was selected Thursday to look into possible criminal activity involving a $200 million Medicaid contract awarded by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
Assistant Attorney General Butch Wilson told a judge that the grand jury was being empaneled in Baton Rouge as part of an ongoing investigation into the now-canceled contract for Client Network Services Inc., or CNSI.
The Jindal administration scrapped the 10-year claims processing contract on March 21, after details emerged about a federal subpoena seeking information about the contract award. The state attorney general’s office is conducting its own investigation, as well.
Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein, a former CNSI vice president, resigned from his state post a week after the Maryland-based company’s contract was terminated.
Senate panel OKs cellphone tax
BATON ROUGE — A new 2 cent monthly tax on cellphones aimed at helping provide services for people with hearing impairment won the support Thursday of the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.
The House-backed bill would change the current law by reducing the amount of tax levied per month from 5 cents on landline phones to 2 cents and would broaden the tax to include wireless devices. Data-only wireless devices or prepaid cellphones would be exempt.
Representatives from the Louisiana Commission for the Deaf told senators the change was needed because the dollars raised by the existing tax have dropped significantly with the increased use of cellphones.
The reworked tax would generate about $1.9 million a year, which would supply about 70 percent of the agency’s annual budget to continue providing services, said Brandi Berkeley, chair of the commission.
Pump stations upgraded
HOUMA — Officials say newly upgraded pump stations throughout Terrebonne Parish are ready to take on the impending hurricane season.
Over the past year, the parish has spent about $20 million on constructing and improving local pump stations to help alleviate flooding caused by hurricanes and other storms.
Woman accused of cruelty to juveniles
BATON ROUGE — Baton Rouge police have arrested a 28-year-old woman accused of beating her three children, ages 2, 4 and 5, with an extension cord on their back, hip, face, chest and arm.
The children told police their mother, Sherrie Ann Stevenson beat them on April 21 because the 4- and 5-year-old let the 2-year-old drink juice without permission.
Police booked Stevenson into Parish Prison on Wednesday on three counts of cruelty to juveniles.
Charges filed over
NEW ORLEANS — A Houma businessman accused of funneling campaign contributions to Louisiana’s two U.S. senators over the legal limit has been charged with making false statements to the Federal Elections Commission.
The federal charge filed Thursday against Cenac Towing owner Arlen Cenac Jr. is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The 57-year-old Cenac agreed to a $170,000 civil settlement last year with the FEC for funneling thousands of dollars above the legal limit to the campaigns of Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter. Landrieu and Vitter aren’t accused of wrongdoing.
Federal prosecutors say Cenac used personal and corporate accounts to purchase cashier’s checks and submit campaign donations in the names of other people without their knowledge.
Famed restaurant’s building sold in N.O.
NEW ORLEANS — The building housing one of New Orleans’ best-known restaurants has been sold at a sheriff’s auction.
Brennan’s restaurant’s French Quarter property was purchased Thursday for $6.8 million by mortgage holder Leggo/4.
An attorney for two Brennan family members says they will need to negotiate a lease with the new property owner.
Last week, a federal judge’s ruling didn’t resolve a bitter struggle for control of the debt-ridden restaurant.
Ted Brennan and his daughter, Bridget, sued his brother, Pip, after he called a shareholder meeting last month to oust them as Brennan’s directors.
U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan agreed with Ted and Bridget that the meeting was invalid, but she also upheld Pip’s right to vote his shares.
Lawyer sentenced in fraud case
BATON ROUGE — James M. Bernhard III has been sentenced to 27 months in prison Thursday for wire fraud in connection with the theft of over $453,000 from his former law firm’s trust account.
Bernhard, who pleaded guilty to the wire fraud charge, surrendered his law license shortly before he appeared for sentencing Thursday before Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson in Baton Rouge federal court.
Jackson also fined Bernhard $10,000.
The career of Bernhard, son of former Shaw Group Inc. Chairman Jim Bernhard, nosedived in March 2012. That’s when Crawford Lewis PLLC fired him for allegedly misappropriating more than $1 million in state film tax credits that belonged to clients of the law firm.
From The Associated Press..
A Morgan City man was arrested Thursday by St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s deputies after he was observed taking a miter saw out of the back of a truck at a casino on Tuesday, according to Sheriff Mark Hebert.
Charles I. Brown, 51, of Cherry Street in Morgan City, was arrested at 9:37 p.m. Thursday for theft.
A deputy responded to a report of a suspicious person at the Cash Magic Casino on U.S. 90 in Bayou Vista. Upon arrival, the deputy learned about the incident from casino personnel, Hebert stated.
Their description of the person matched that of a person who returned to the establishment which prompted their call to the sheriff’s office. In speaking with Brown, the deputy determined that he did steal the saw, Hebert stated. Brown was taken to the parish jail and held. He was released on a $1,000 bail.
St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert reported the following arrests:
—Bobby Lee Beard, 30, of La. 182 in Morgan City, was arrested at 7:21 p.m. Thursday on a warrant for failure to appear on the charges of possession of synthetic cannabinoids, possession of drug paraphernalia, and abuse of toxic vapors. A deputy located Beard at the address listed above on the warrant. Beard was transported to the parish jail for booking and incarceration. His bail is set at $5,000.
—Carl Blanchard Jr., 26, of Jones Street in Berwick, was arrested at 6:57 p.m. Thursday for possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Narcotics division detectives were patrolling U.S. 90 in the Calumet and Patterson areas when they conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle for following too closely to another vehicle. Detectives met with the driver, identified as Blanchard, and received consent to search the vehicle.
During the search, detectives located marijuana, the report stated. Continuing the investigation, detectives traveled to Blanchard’s residence. After receiving consent to search the residence, detectives located additional marijuana and rolling papers, according to Hebert. Blanchard was released on a summons to appear in court on Aug. 23.
Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle reported the following arrest:
—Kirk James Butler, 20, of Taft Street in Patterson, was arrested at 10:43 p.m. Thursday on a warrant for the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office for failure to appear in drug court. Butler is still being held.
Berwick Police Chief James Richard reported the following arrest:
—Glenn Lee Rochel, 30, of Laura Drive in Patterson, was arrested at 4:18 p.m. Thursday on warrants from the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office for two counts of phone harassment and operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Rochel is being held awaiting bail.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.2 percent in April, an increase of 0.2 percent over the month and over the year, according to a news release from Louisiana Workforce Commission.
St. Mary Parish’s jobless rate in April was 6.9 percent, up from 6.7 percent in March, but down from 7.3 percent a year ago in April, stated the report released Thursday.
The U.S. not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in April, down 0.5 percent from last month and down 0.6 percent from a year ago.
Louisiana’s not seasonally adjusted civilian labor force — the number of people working or looking for work — rose to 2,083,585 in April, an increase of 8,961 over the year and 19,043 over the month.
There were 21,514 people employed in St. Mary Parish in April, up from 21,423 in March. The number of unemployed rose from 1,543 in March to 1,588 in April. St. Mary Parish had 1,708 unemployed in April 2012.
The number of employed in April was 1,954,430, an increase of 4,920 over the year and 13,614 over the month. The number of unemployed in Louisiana was 129,155 in April, an increase of 4,041 over the year and 5,429 over the month.
Not seasonally adjusted total nonfarm employment was 1,951,000 in April, up 19,500 over the year. Private employers added 24,200 jobs over the year, pushing not seasonally adjusted private employment to 1,601,900.
Not seasonally adjusted unemployment rates were up over the year in six of eight of Louisiana’s metro areas.
The metro area April rates were:
—Alexandria, 6.2 percent, up from 5.9 percent in April 2012;
—Baton Rouge, 5.9 percent, down from 6.0 percent;
—Houma, 4.4 percent, up from 4.2 percent;
—Lafayette, 4.6 percent, up from 4.4 percent;
—Lake Charles, 5.6 percent, down from 5.7 percent;
—Monroe, 6.7 percent, up from 6.5 percent;
—New Orleans, 6.2 percent, up from 6.1 percent;
—Shreveport, 6.6 percent, up from 5.9 percent.
Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, said, “Not seasonally adjusted rates bounce around from month to month. The long-term trends for Louisiana have been strong for well over two years now and remain strong.”
Parish employment numbers are not adjusted for seasonal factors such as holidays and weather.
The average scores of students in St. Mary Parish public schools meeting or exceeding promotional standards in fourth and eighth grades beat the state average, while students in grades three through eight scoring basic or above maintained their average of 70 percent.
During spring testing, 82 percent of fourth grade students and 75 percent of eighth grade students met the state’s mandate of proficiency in the English language arts and mathematics components of the LEAP test. They beat the state averages by three and one points, respectively, St. Mary Parish Superintendent Donald Aguillard said.
Meanwhile, students in grades three to eight rose above state performance levels with an average of 70 percent, scoring basic or above in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The same group also scored 70 percent on the same tests in 2012.
In reports of all students scoring basic or above in the core content areas, St. Mary students performed above the state in 15 of 24 tests. High performance in all four core areas was exhibited by students in grades three, five and seven.
“Strong mathematics proficiencies were evident in grades three through eight as students at each grade level scored above the state average,” Aguillard said. “Math scores also revealed excellence in the highest achievement levels as an average of 30 percent of elementary students scored at the advanced or mastery level.”
At the high school level, End-of-Course tests have gradually replaced the Graduation Exit Exam and measure skills or content of a given course rather than a culmination of knowledge from a core area of instruction. The tests became high-stakes with the freshman class of 2010-11. Incoming students now are required to pass three End-of-Course tests in the following areas: English 2 or English 3, algebra 1 or geometry and biology or U.S. history.
Students attain one of four levels of achievement ranging from excellent to needs improvement. Any student who fails to meet the proficiency standard may retest at a later date. In addition to being part of high school graduation requirements, the tests count as the course’s final exam. Although individual student scores are provided three days after the online tests are completed, overall proficiency levels have not yet been released by the state department, Aguillard said.
“The state’s release of academic performance levels among all testers solidifies the district’s ongoing commitment of meeting student needs,” Aguillard said. “Score reports are a testament to the efforts of teachers, administrators and instructional staff who have worked diligently to prepare students for the more difficult Common Core state standards. This year of transition has been challenging, and yet the students of our district continue to rise to the expectations set by classroom teachers. As we continue to transition to the (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments in the coming years, I have every confidence that students will greatly benefit.”
Students in grades four and eight who failed to attain promotional standards will attend summer remediation and have the opportunity to retest in July. Summer school sessions will be offered at four sites: Morgan City Junior High, Patterson Junior High, Franklin Junior High and B.E. Boudreaux Middle School. Remediation classes in other grades may be offered as needed, based on individual student scores. Summer school will run from May 30 to June 28, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. each weekday.