Louisiana news briefs
Theater chain wants to sell alcohol in B.R.
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Baton Rouge’s two AMC Theatres are seeking permission to sell beer, wine and liquor.
The two movie theater complexes would have to be rezoned to allow alcohol sales.
The chain, based in Leawood, Kan., sells alcohol at 50 other locations, including ones in Metairie and Harahan.
Baton Rouge’s Manship Theatre in the Shaw Center for the Arts sells alcohol now. At least one other movie house sold alcohol in Baton Rouge in the past.
Metro Council members were split on whether sales should be allowed.
Councilman John Delgado, who co-owns a downtown bar, says he has no concerns about allowing alcohol sales at movie theaters.
But Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards says she fears alcohol sales will make the theaters unfriendly to children and promote rowdy behavior.
Lafayette may ditch tax rebate
LAFAYETTE (AP) — The Lafayette City-Parish Council is considering doing away with a rebate that helps retailers cover the cost of collecting sales tax — a move widely panned by the business community.
The council voted 6-3 on Tuesday to move the proposal forward, which is scheduled to come up for a final vote on Dec. 17.
The rebate, which has been in place since the 1960s, allows businesses to keep 2 percent of the total collections for city-parish sales taxes to help cover administrative expenses related to accounting for the tax and paying it.
The impact on businesses would vary widely, depending on sales.
Hammond council hikes natural gas franchise fee
HAMMOND — Consumers of natural gas in Hammond will see a slight increase in their monthly bills starting in February.
The increase comes after the city council approved a new contract with the gas provider, Atmos Energy.
On Tuesday, the council unanimously agreed to increase from two percent to four percent the franchise fee that customers will be charged once Mayor Mayson Foster signs the city’s new 20-year contract with Atmos.
Foster said the annual franchise fee of $13.85 that natural gas customers now pay will be increased to $27.70.
The mayor said the city took in about $39,000 from the gas franchise fee in 2012 and that raising the fee will generate to about $78,000 a year.
Thibodaux rejects saggy pants law
THIBODAUX (AP) — The Thibodaux City Council has rejected a measure that would have banned saggy pants in the city.
Council members and city residents debated the morality and legality of the measure for more than 45 minutes Tuesday before delivering a 3-2 vote.
Some residents argued against the measure because of its questionable legality and how it may affect the community.
City Attorney Beau Brooks advised the council to be wary of the measure’s questionable legality.
Critics maintain that saggy pants laws violate Americans’ constitutional right to free expression.
Terrebonne Parish outlawed saggy pants in April and the Lafourche Parish Council passed its ban in 2007.
Thibodaux council approves nearly $35M budget
THIDBODAUX (AP) — The Thibodaux City Council approved the 2014 city budget, which is up about 22 percent.
The city projects to spend just under $35 million next year for operating expenses, gas purchases, garbage collection, construction projects, debt service and other things.
The budget provides for wastewater system improvements, including sewer lines, and the city’s contribution to the widening of Canal Boulevard.
The general fund operating budget, money spent on salaries, recreation programs and such, comes in about $200,000 higher than last year’s total. During Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Tommy Eschete clarified that most of the increases are a result of mandated increases to retirement contributions and health care programs.
Stepfather charged in drowning death
LAFAYETTE (AP) — A bill of information has been filed against Kerry Wayne Bertrand, stepfather of Skylar Lee Credeur, charging him with manslaughter in her drowning death.
Lafayette Parish District Attorney Mike Harson said the bill was filed to ensure that Bertrand will remain incarcerated until a grand jury can indict him.
Harson said initial molestation charges that were filed against Bertrand were dismissed because Credeur was the only eyewitness to the crime. He said the grand jury will not convene until Dec. 17.
Credeur had filed a protective order against Bertrand a week before police said she was drowned inside her Acadia Parish home. Bertrand was found hiding in the attic of the home.
2 men arrested
in fatal bar stabbing
CONVENT (AP) — Sheriff’s deputies say two men remained in St. James Parish Jail after their arrests in a fatal stabbing at a Convent bar late last week.
Kyriene L. Vallery, 22, was booked into parish jail on one count of second-degree murder and a parole violation.
Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. said 25-year-old Christian Allen, of Paulina, was stabbed in the back shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday at Club 7002 in Convent.
Martin said Allen was taken to St. James Hospital in Lutcher where he died from his injuries.
Vallery and a second man, 27-year-old Walter P. Scott III, of Convent, were arrested Friday.
Scott was booked with a count of being a principal to second-degree murder.
Ascension board rejects charter school application
DONALDSONVILLE (AP) — The Ascension Parish School Board has denied an application for a charter school by Dumaka Moultrie, of Atlanta, following the recommendation of its consultant, Kimberly Williams, of New Millennium Education.
Williams said the proposed school, Life Preparatory Academy, had no board and the Atlanta group’s application was weak on concrete plans for curriculum.
No one from the public spoke at Tuesday’s hearing on the charter school application, and Moultrie wasn’t present.
On Sunday, backers of another proposed charter school, the R. Rayborn Charter School, withdrew their application for the time being.
City Council plan
would cap jail size
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans City Council committee is easing size limits on the city’s jail.
The city’s Criminal Justice Committee voted Tuesday to cap the jail at 1,938 beds.
That’s about 300 fewer inmates than are now housed there.
The council had wanted to cap the number of inmate beds at the 1,438 spaces in a new building being constructed. But it’s now agreeing to allow up to 500 inmates in two other buildings — The Templeman V building and a temporary detention center. The Templeman V building would be retrofitted to hold mentally ill and sick inmates. The detention center would close within 18 months of the new jail’s opening, scheduled for April.
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has sought an additional building to house prisoners.
Morehouse ex-deputy arrested for taking drug cash
BASTROP (AP) — The former commander of a drug task force in Morehouse Parish has been arrested on charges that he stole seized money from evidence.
Christopher Balsamo, a 40-year-old former sheriff’s lieutenant, was arrested Saturday, charged with unauthorized use of the cash and released on $2,500 bond.
Legal papers reported by the Bastrop Enterprise show that Balsamo told a state trooper investigating the case that he took $17,788 from a vault belonging to the Northeast Louisiana Drug Enforcement Bureau. Balsamo told the trooper that he tried to borrow money to replace the cash.
Balsamo resigned from the sheriff’s office in 2011 after 14 years when an audit found less than $500 missing from a fund used to buy drugs in criminal investigations.
The former deputy paid back the money before he surrendered Saturday.
An employee with the district attorney’s office said Balsamo did not yet have a lawyer. He faces a Dec. 30 court date.
Morehouse Parish Sheriff Mike Tubbs said he asked the State Police to investigate.
“A little over two months ago, an internal investigation determined that cash seized in two separate cases had never been deposited, as is our procedure,” Tubbs said. “When we learned those funds were missing, I asked State Police to look into it for us.”