Louisiana news briefs
Study: 5 of 6 Baton Rouge Lakes must be dredged
BATON ROUGE (AP) — An environmental study commissioned by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation found that five out of six of the Baton Rouge Lakes are too shallow, confirming the need to dredge the lakes to prevent them from reverting to swampland.
In March, BRAF announced the project “Destination: The Lakes,” a plan to deepen the lakes and improve the pathways and amenities in the surrounding areas.
BRAF commissioned the study by GEC Inc., which will be integrated into the master plan of solutions and infrastructure improvements for the lakes.
The study found that University Lake, which benefited from incomplete dredging in the 1980s, is now an average of 4 feet deep. City Park Lake is about 2.8 feet deep.
Erie Lake, the small lake connected to City Park Lake, is only 2.2 feet deep.
Campus Lake, behind the LSU dorms, is 3.4 feet deep on average, and College Lake, across the street, is 5.6 feet deep — the only lake considered to be at a healthy depth. On Dalrymple Drive, Crest Lake is 4.7 feet.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says the average depth of a healthy lake is at least 5 feet.
Terrebonne Parish worker accused of extortion
HOUMA — Authorities say a Spanish language interpreter employed by the Terrebonne Parish Office of the Public Defender is accused of soliciting payments from the illegal immigrants she worked with.
Trina Bourg, 45, was arrested Tuesday and faces several charges including abuse of office, extortion and theft. She is currently being held at the St. Charles Parish jail on a federal wire fraud charge.
Bourg allegedly told victims that she would use the money they gave her to bribe U.S. Immigration officials to remove federal immigration charges from their criminal or administrative cases. Authorities say she received an unknown amount through wire transfers to her bank account.
Lafayette has ‘critical shortage’ of teachers
LAFAYETTE (AP) — The Lafayette Parish School System has declared a critical shortage of classroom teachers to open the door for it to hire retirees to fill about 40 positions still vacant as the clock ticks down on the first day of school on Aug. 12.
Superintendent Pat Cooper blamed the school system’s operational budget that remains in limbo with a more than $7 million shortfall for teachers not wanting to take jobs in Lafayette Parish.
Cooper says the declaration is a necessary step for the school system to be able to hire retirees.
Bruce Leininger, human resources director, says the school system has had few applicants reject job offers, but far fewer have applied for positions open in areas such as special education, math and the sciences.
Bollinger Shipyards gets contract from Coast Guard
LOCKPORT (AP) — Bollinger Shipyards has been awarded a $255 million contract to build six more Fast Response Cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard.
The brings the total number of the boats under contract with Lockport-based Bollinger to 30, and the contract’s total value so far to more than $1.3 billion.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, says the latest funding is part of a total $8.7 billion in discretionary funding allocated to the Coast Guard in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s budget for fiscal year 2014.
Landrieu said she has included funding for another six boats in the 2015 fiscal year homeland security appropriations bill.
The Coast Guard plans to acquire a total 58 Fast Response Cutters.
Teacher, his wife accused of abusing baby
MONROE — Monroe police have arrested a Carroll High School teacher and his wife after being accused of the repeated abuse of their 7-week old infant.
James Hewitt Hall, 29, and Emily Rae Hall, 27, were booked this week with second-degree cruelty to a juvenile after taking their son to the hospital. They are each being held on $50,000 bond.
Police say doctors told officers that the infant suffered from bleeding on the brain as a result of abuse.
Police say the child remains in critical condition.
It was unclear whether the Halls have an attorney.
Tourism director named
THIBODAUX — Loralei Gilliam has been named director of the Bayou Lafourche Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Gilliam serves as the Lafourche Parish Government Public Information Officer. Her last day is July 31.
Former tourism director Carolyn Cheramie retired earlier this year.
to 10 years in fatal bakery fire
GRETNA (AP) — A Jefferson Parish woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday after admitting she set the fire at her bakery that killed a friend who helped her burn the business.
Lesly Martinez, 42, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and arson in the June 2013 fire at Lesly’s Bakery.
Prosecutors claim Martinez set the fire in attempt to defraud her insurance company.
Investigators say Martinez and 40-year-old Marta Lopez-Alvarado were burned by the fire, which erupted with such force that it blew the bakery’s front doors into the parking lot. Lopez-Alvarado later died from her injuries.
Gretna police say neither woman sought medical attention for as long as 24 hours, then claimed they had been burned at a cook-out.
N.O. hotel sells for $10.75M
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New York real estate investment firm has made its first foray into the New Orleans market with the purchase of a downtown hotel.
New Orleans CityBusiness reported Tuesday that the Garrison Investment Group purchased the O’Keefe Plaza Hotel on July 11 for $10.75 million from the Chauhan and Kansagra families.
The six-story property at 334 O’Keefe Ave. has 129 rooms.
Orleans Civil Court records show a city lien had been placed on the property in May for unpaid sales and use taxes dating back to 2006.
Laxmi Hotel LLC, the ownership entity, owed $58,250 in taxes. With interest, penalties and audit costs added, the debt comes to $108,815.
A representative with Garrison did not return messages, and the sellers could not be reached for comment.
Garrison’s holdings include 22 hotels in 11 states, 26 industrial properties, 15 office buildings and a retail portfolio with 40 properties in 15 states. It owns Louisiana Boardwalk, an outlet mall in Shreveport.