Louisiana news briefs

From The Associated Press.
Man freed from prison 
after 41 years dies in La. 
NEW ORLEANS — A 71-year-old man who spent more than four decades in solitary confinement in Louisiana died Friday, less than a week after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial.
Herman Wallace’s attorneys said he died at a supporter’s home in New Orleans. Wallace had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and stopped receiving treatment. Wallace was held for years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. 
U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson in Baton Rouge had ordered Wallace released from prison on Tuesday after granting him a new trial. Jackson ruled women were unconstitutionally excluded from the grand jury that indicted Wallace in the stabbing death of the 23-year-old guard, Brent Miller.
A West Feliciana Parish grand jury re-indicted Wallace on charges connected to Miller’s death on Thursday. 
 
Crews working at airport 
find underground river 
HAMMOND — The City Council has authorized expenses for unexpected work at Hammond Northshore Regional Airport after crews working their dug into what is believed to be an underground river.
The council approved an emergency change in the contract for the work to allow for about $25,000 of culverts to be installed underground to get around the river problem.
Hammond city engineer Chuck Spangler said crews were digging a drainage ditch to divert rainwater from flooding an airport runway and encountered the stream, which he says may be an offshoot of the Tangipahoa River.
 
Website redesign 
unveiled by Lafourche sheriff 
THIBODAUX — The Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office has launched a redesigned website.
The site now allows users to access forms that formerly had to be printed and mailed to the Sheriff’s Office.
Users also will be able to get faster access to news from the Sheriff’s Office, including press releases, active warrants and the database of local registered sex offenders.
The site is at www.lpso.net/.
 
Shell plant is a game-changer for Sorrento 
SORRENTO — The town’s image of a sleepy hamlet could change.
That’s if Shell decides to build a $12.5 billion gas-to-liquids facility in Ascension Parish at a site it is considering near Sorrento along La. 70 and La. 44.
The company has not committed to the site, but has talked to town leaders to plan a series of meetings over the next few months to discuss community concerns about the project.
Mayor Mike Lambert told the Town Council during its meeting on Tuesday that Shell’s project “may change the face of Sorrento.”
 
Breaux Bridge police shooting report obtained 
LAFAYETTE — A Breaux Bridge police officer who shot and killed a 17-year-old driver told state investigators he believed he was protecting an injured officer and others.
The Advertiser obtained the state police report about Officer Travis Guillot last week through the state open records laws.
A grand jury declined in July to indict Guillot in the Dec. 2 shooting.
According to the report, Guillot told state police that he and another officer had yelled repeatedly at the girl to stop her car after she had rammed a police car and hit at least two bystanders.
The Rev. Raymond Brown, president of the National Action Now civil rights organization in New Orleans, disputes the findings. He says witness accounts varied sharply, and Guillot should have shot to disable the car.
 
LSU researchers studying 
coastal land values 
BATON ROUGE — It’s no surprise that some coastal wetlands are more valuable than others, but the question several researchers at LSU are trying to answer is how much more valuable.
Walter Keithly, associate professor and Richard Kazmierczak, professor with the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy, are surveying coastal landowners to see how they use their properties and what income they generate from it whether it’s duck hunting leases or alligator trapping.
Keithly said generally two types of value can be attributed to wetlands — their value to society either through hurricane protection or as a fishery nursery and the private value that accounts for the income generated from these wetlands.
Preliminary results from the new study are expected by the end of next summer.
 
State moving to upgrade IT 
BATON ROUGE — With the help of a private consultant, the Jindal administration plans to give a tuneup to a state government IT system that employs hundreds of workers and costs nearly half a billion dollars a year.
The administration recently sought proposals on how to repair a world of woes, including duplication, ineffective use of resources, a fragmented technical architecture and a limited ability to leverage economies of scale. The bottom line: The administration wants to get more efficient, reduce costs and consolidate.
Roughly 800 people work in information technology, the computer and telecommunication systems that store and use data.
Legislative Auditor Daryl G. Purpera said state government needs to improve its IT track record after spending $100 million on a computer system upgrade plagued with problems.
 
Regents: $113M donated 
to attract top profs unused 
SHREVEPORT — The Louisiana Board of Regents said $113 million donated to bring top professors to state universities is going unused.
Money for 76 endowed chairs and 263 endowed professorships has been unused for at least two years.
The chairs are valued at $1 million to $3 million, and the professorships at $10,000 to $30,000 or more.
Deputy commissioner Kerry Davidson said he and the Board of Regents were surprised by the findings, which have prompted new rules. One is that if a campus has more than 20 percent of its endowments unfilled for two years or more, it cannot qualify for a new chair or professorship.
Davidson said endowed chairs can attract top research professors, and endowed professorships can help keep those already employed.
But it’s not that easy to attract nationally recognized professors to fill chairs, university officials said.
Sometimes the difficulty is the regents’ requirements for national searches for professors who have national recognition and ranking in their fields, said Robert McKinney, University of Louisiana at Lafayette director of the Office of Academic Planning and Faculty Development. Also, a full professorship must either be created or opened by a faculty member’s retirement or departure.
Louisiana can be a hard sell, too.
“With no faculty merit increases, our salaries are not at the national average,” McKinney said. “We’ve had searches for chairs and identified some great candidates” but haven’t been able to finalize the deals because Louisiana salaries can’t compete.
“In the state, we’ve had a 10 percent drop in full-time tenured faculty,” largely because of better salaries in other states, McKinney said. “Professors go from campus to campus.”
UL-Lafayette last year focused on filling its available endowed professorships, primarily from within existing faculty, and this year “we are working on filling both” types of endowments, McKinney said.
 

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