Louisiana news briefs
Grain farmers to benefit from Dreyfus move
BATON ROUGE (AP) — LSU AgCenter economist Mike Salassi says south Louisiana grain farmers are expected to benefit from the presence of Louis Dreyfus Commodities’ move to the Port of Baton Rouge.
Salassi said Louis Dreyfus, a new buyer in the area grain market, means more competition and that’s good for producers.
The company spent $150 million expanding and modernizing the grain facility at the port, including a new elevator that can handle up to 5.5 million tons of grains and oilseeds a year.
LSU to study environmental monitoring of Gulf
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Researchers from the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy in the LSU AgCenter Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness have received a three-year award of more than $750,000 to study the value of the environmental monitoring system in the Gulf of Mexico.
The AgCenter says a vast array of buoys and other sensors scattered throughout the Gulf provide important data to weather forecasters and others interested in the behavior of the Gulf’s ecosystem.
Rich Kazmierczak, an AgCenter economist and leader of the research team, said the environmental monitoring system provides science-based biological, chemical and physical data for managing marine industrial operations, coastal hazards, public safety and health, ecosystems and water quality.
Experts estimate the overall funding for the system will exceed $54 billion during the next 15 years.
Helicopter makes hard landing at Port Fourchon
PORT FOURCHON (AP) — Authorities say no one was hurt when a helicopter made a hard landing at Port Fourchon.
Greater Lafourche Port Commission Executive Director Chett Chiasson said the chopper, operated by MYU Helicopters, failed its takeoff Thursday and crash-landed a few hundred yards away.
Harbor Police Chief Jon Callais says the chopper was still in the process of taking off and was not more than 30 or 40 feet from the ground at the time.
Chiasson says the helicopter landed near some housing trailers at the port, but none of the nine people on board was injured.
He says there was a small fuel spill which was contained.
Callias said the helicopter was headed offshore at the time of the crash.
Panel starts Lafayette comprehensive plan review
LAFAYETTE (AP) — A citizens advisory committee is reviewing and prioritizing elements of the draft Lafayette Parish comprehensive plan that was released last week.
Volunteers and consultants have been working for more than a year on a plan that would guide development in the city of Lafayette and unincorporated parts of the parish through 2035.
Residents added their input during several workshops and forums that began in April 2012 and concluded in May.
The results include 10 elements with various policies and goals under each and more than 400 action items necessary to implement each.
The plan also includes a Future Land Use Map that indicates generally what types of industrial, commercial and residential developments should be encouraged in what areas of the parish, said Silvia Vargas of Wallace, Roberts and Todd, planning consultants.
During community workshops held in May, participants voted on three options for how they’d like the city and parish to develop. The options were based upon earlier public input. The preferred method identified in May was mixed-use centers, which are a driving force in the Future Land Use Map, Vargas said. Corridors along existing roadways also were identified on the map for future development.
La. higher education commissioner plans to quit
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana’s higher education commissioner said Wednesday that he won’t seek a contract renewal when his current deal as the state’s chief policy leader for public colleges ends in March.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.
“I’m appreciative of the privilege to serve the board and the campuses, faculty and students and citizens of this great state of Louisiana. I look forward to working with you all over the next few months during the search for the next commissioner and the transition as needed,” he said.
The announcement wasn’t necessarily a surprise.
Purcell’s time in Louisiana has been rocky, and he recently applied for a higher education position in Florida, though he didn’t get the job.
He has often been at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal over the depth of budget cuts, with more than $700 million in state funding stripped from higher education by the Jindal administration and lawmakers since 2008.
Earlier this year, several Republican state lawmakers said Jindal was trying to pressure the Board of Regents to fire Purcell.
Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin said Purcell didn’t tell the governor of his plans to leave the commissioner’s job. Plotkin wished him well and noted that graduation rates have been rising despite the budget cuts.
Purcell’s $275,000-a-year contract in Louisiana runs through March 20.
Before being chosen as Louisiana’s commissioner, Purcell was director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. He’d also worked in higher education planning and policy in Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama.
Deputy fired for
procuring drugs for relative
GRETNA (AP) — The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office has fired a deputy it says admitted to procuring the prescription painkiller hydrocodone for a family member.
Sheriff Newell Normand said Wednesday that 30-year-old Jon-Michael Adam Norris made the admission following a 45-day investigation, which began after supervisors complained Norris repeatedly turned in his reports late.
As investigators looked into the problems Norris was having, the sheriff said they found he had been procuring prescription drugs from friends for a family member who is allegedly addicted to them.
No criminal charges have been filed against Norris or the relative, but the sheriff’s office is consulting with the district attorney’s office.
Norris joined the sheriff’s office in November 2006.