Louisiana news briefs
Thibodaux gearing up
to replace bridge
THIBODAUX — The Tiger Drive Bridge will close after the Labor Day holiday as replacement of the span begins.
Mayor Tommy Eschete said the bridge will close Sept. 3. Construction of its replacement is expected to take about eight months.
Thibodaux businesses and residents have long complained that the two-lane existing bridge is a frequent source of traffic backups near the intersection of busy La. 1 and La. 308.
“It’s outgrown its usefulness,” Eschete said.
The bridge will be widened to include a center turn lane, which officials hope will ease congestion.
The project will cost about $2 million, with most of the expense covered through the state Department of Transportation and Development Off-System Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement program. The city is responsible for $398,712.
Police officer accused
of kidnapping La. man
MANY — Authorities in central Louisiana have spent the weekend searching for a man they believe was kidnapped from his home at gunpoint by a Natchitoches police officer.
Tony Procell, 25, has been missing for almost a week.
Security video at Procell’s mobile home showed Natchitoches police Officer Robert Barthelemy leading Procell out at gunpoint last Tuesday.
Barthelemy was booked Wednesday with aggravated kidnapping and home invasion. Bond has not been set.
Defense attorney Brian McRae did not immediately return a call and an email Sunday.
Search crews have been looking in Sabine, DeSoto and Natchitoches parishes.
Texas Equusearch said it will join the search.
Exxon Mobil agrees to $2.4M in fines, improvements
BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality says Exxon Mobil Corp. has agreed to pay nearly $2.4 million in fines, improvements and other payments to settle violations at Baton Rouge-area plants.
About $2.3 million will resolve violations from 2008 into this year at four plants, including the company’s Baton Rouge refinery, Agency spokeswoman Jean Kelly said in a news release Friday. Another $62,000 is for a release of naphtha in June 2012 at the Baton Rouge Complex, she said.
The naphtha leak prompted the federal Environmental Protection Agency inspect the plant. They found violations including corroded pipes and under-developed emergency procedures.
The settlement includes at least $1 million for beneficial environmental projects and another $1 million in improvements at the Baton Rouge Complex. It must be approved by the state attorney general’s office before it becomes final.
773 LSU volunteers help spruce up EBR schools
BATON ROUGE — Nearly 800 Louisiana State University students spent one of the last days of vacation in school — one of 20 East Baton Rouge public schools.
The students were helping with jobs that were needed but low on the to-do list — work like painting walls and weeding school gardens.
The annual Volunteer LSU Community Bound Program started 11 years ago, with 40 students.
Student director Morgan Matchett says 773 students, including 514 freshmen, gave up their final Saturday before their own classes begin. That’s up from 661 students last year.
Freshman Jeffreal Brown, of New Orleans, joined nine other students and new University President F. King Alexander in painting lines on the parking lot at the Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet School.
Ex-CIA director Petraeus
to speak at N.O. forum
NEW ORLEANS — Former CIA director David Petraeus is among the experts slated to speak at a conference later this year at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
The three-day conference in late November is called “1943: Victory in the Balance.” The forum will focus on the second full year of fighting by U.S. soldiers in the war’s European and Pacific theaters.
Petraeus is scheduled to speak at the conference’s closing banquet. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson and military historian Donald Miller also are expected to speak at the conference.
Petraeus resigned as CIA director last year following the disclosure of an extramarital affair with a biographer. He was a four-star general in the U.S. Army before becoming CIA director in 2011.
Proposal: Iberia library millage to fund levees
NEW IBERIA — A new push for a property tax for a 26-mile levee project Iberia Parish voters rejected in the spring involves using a portion of the parish library system’s unused millage rate.
Voters approved a 6-mill property tax to fund parish libraries, however, only 4.5 mills has been collected in recent years.
Iberia Parish Councilman David Ditch has proposed dedicating all or a portion of the unused 1.5 mills to fund projects of the Iberia Parish Levee, Hurricane and Conservation District.
A meeting on the proposal is scheduled for Sept. 11 in Iberia Council chambers inside the parish courthouse. Ditch says the council likely won’t discuss or vote on a tax proposition until its Sept. 18 meeting.
Strip club owner sues minister
MONTPELIER — The owner of a St. Helena Parish strip club has filed a lawsuit against a pastor for comments the minister allegedly made while lobbying to have the club shut down.
Tyrone Butler, owner of The Mansion near Montpelier, filed the defamation lawsuit in state District Court against the Rev. Richard Sandberg, pastor of New Zion Baptist Church in Kentwood.
Butler also names the Moral Alliance of St. Helena as a defendant; Sandberg runs the organization.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
Butler’s claim is based on comments Sandberg made during a June 25 meeting of the parish Police Jury.
Jurors were discussing a resolution exempting current sexually oriented businesses such as Butler’s from an ordinance adopted June 11 that regulates strip clubs and similar businesses.
The resolution passed on a 4-2 vote.
During the meeting, Sandberg asked jurors not to “bow down to the intimidation and fear tactics of a schoolyard bully,” referring to Butler.
In a statement, Sandberg said Butler’s lawsuit is an intimidation tactic against those trying to close St. Helena’s strip clubs.
“While we have experienced both setbacks and success, we have stayed the course and exercised our First Amendment rights to speak out for what we believe in,” Sandberg said. “That right is now being threatened.”
Butler’s attorney did not return calls seeking comment.
Residents have complained about The Mansion and another club in Pine Grove. Sandberg has been one of the leaders in the drive to have them closed down.
The Police Jury’s June 11 ordinance amends laws regulating alcohol licenses to prohibit nudity and “certain physical contact” between patrons and employees. A second change creates a new rule to license and regulate “sexually oriented businesses and employees.”
From The Associated Press.