Louisiana news briefs
Danos plant to employ 100 at Port of Iberia
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Danos, a manufacturer of offshore equipment and piping, will build a $23.2 million, 100-employee plant at the Port of Iberia.
Danos president and CEO Hank Danos, along with Gov. Bobby Jindal, made the announcement Tuesday after the signing of a 40-acre lease near New Iberia with the port’s board of commissioners.
Construction on the 172,000-square-foot plant is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter and will require 200 construction workers. The 100 permanent plant jobs will have annual salaries that average $65,000 for a total annual payroll of $6.5 million.
Jindal says Danos’ decision to reinvest in Louisiana represents a tremendous vote of confidence.
The Danos facility is part of a larger expansion announced last May. Danos also will build a new headquarters in Gray.
Cleco warns of scam
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Cleco Power is warning its customers of a scheme in which unidentified callers are demanding money and threatening to disconnect power if they don’t pay.
The utility company said Tuesday that it’s working with law enforcement agencies to catch those responsible.
Cleco General Manager Shirley Turner says scammers are calling customers’ cell, home and business phones saying their power will immediately be disconnected if they don’t pay their bills. She says the company does not follow those types of procedures for overdue balances.
Callers began making fraudulent calls in July and have continued sporadically since then. If a customer receives such a call, Cleco says they should hang up and contact the company at 1-800-622-6537.
Cleco serves about 283,000 customers in 23 parishes.
Iberia school board
sells 2 vacant schools
NEW IBERIA (AP) — The Iberia Parish School Board accepted $250,000 for the sale of two of its old school properties, while another vacant school, Jeanerette Middle, is still on the market.
Earlier this month, the Iberia Parish School Board accepted offers of $75,000 for the former Lee Street Alternative School and $200,000 for the former Johnston Street Elementary. The properties were purchased by Stella Lea LLC.
Iberia Parish Superintendent Dale Henderson said he was unaware of the buyer’s plans for the properties.
Henderson says the prices were below the appraised value, but the board was able to accept them as reasonable offers because no acceptable offers were made in prior bid rounds.
The board has declared two other properties as surplus, but has not advertised the properties for sale.
Jindal defends criticism
of Obama economic policy
WASHINGTON (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal is defending his harsh criticism of President Barack Obama within yards of the Oval Office, saying “in America we don’t have a king.”
The Republican was criticized by a Democratic governor Monday after Jindal emerged with others from a meeting with Obama and said the president “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” on the economy.
Jindal tells MSNBC Wednesday the White House “belongs to the people” and he had a duty to speak his mind.
During Monday’s remarks by governors in the White House driveway after the meeting with Obama, Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy took over the microphone from Jindal and responded sharply. Malloy told reporters, quote, “Wait a second, until a few moments ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road.”
Oil, gas lawsuit
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs has been given a reprieve from testifying in the lawsuit his group filed against Attorney General Buddy Caldwell after he submitted a doctor’s affidavit saying health problems prevented him from taking the stand.
State District Judge Janice Clark had ordered Briggs to show up Tuesday to testify in the case, which involves procedures surrounding the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East’s hiring of attorneys who are suing oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Clark had threatened to have Briggs arrested when he didn’t show up for Monday’s trial date. LOGA attorneys said Briggs was suffering from extremely high blood pressure and noted he had dealt with heart issues several months ago, but didn’t provide evidence that convinced Clark to excuse him.
Briggs is now scheduled to testify March 10.
LOGA’s suit contends the flood protection authority is a state agency rather than an independent political subdivision. Caldwell’s office has treated the flood authority as a political subdivision and as such has approved resolutions passed by its board to hire outside lawyers on a variety of issues, including the erosion suit.
LOGA's case, which is aimed at hampering the lawsuit against energy companies, argues that the approval of those resolutions was improper because the board is a state agency.
No injuries in well blowout
EUNICE (AP) — State Police Haz-Mat crews remain on the scene of a gas well blowout near Eunice in Acadia Parish.
Troopers say La. 13 south of Eunice is closed and 12 nearby home evacuated.
Troopers say employees with Black Creek Drilling were drilling a natural gas well Tuesday when they lost pressure, creating the blowout. No one was injured.
Crews from Texas-based Wild Well Control are expected to arrive Wednesday to cap the well.
New bubbles found
in Bayou Corne-area sinkhole
BAYOU CORNE (AP) — Authorities say state and parish agencies are testing to see whether newly discovered gas bubbles northeast of the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole are tied to the swampland hole.
The state Office of Conservation and contractor CB&I have taken samples of the gas bubbles to determine their source, though officials acknowledge the bubbles likely are connected to the sinkhole.
Parish officials say the new bubble site in Grand Bayou is about one-third of a mile north of La. 70 and 69.
Scientists think the gas presents an explosion risk for residents and the area remains under an evacuation order 18 months after the sinkhole appeared.
a target for graffiti
HOUMA (AP) — A vandal is calling for less oil, more art in a series of spray-painted messages scrawled onto the walls of historic buildings and landmarks in downtown Houma.
Police are investigating the vandalism, which popped up sporadically over several weeks, the last of which was found Feb. 11.
Police say the graffiti, 10 instances in all, was done in black spray-paint and included messages such as “always want more,” and “less oil, more art” and has police questioning their meaning.
The messages are all signed with the tag LOMA, which authorities suspect is a reiteration of the painter’s anti-oil, pro-art message.
Man sentenced for threatening former U.S. attorney
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A Baton Rouge man who pleaded guilty to threatening to murder former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten — as well as members of Letten’s family — has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison.
Gerald P. Estrade, 57, will be transferred to a federal prison in the next few weeks to serve his sentence.
U.S. District Judge James Brady handed down the sentence Tuesday, which included a recommendation that Estrade get mental help. Brady had previously found Estrade competent to stand trial after having him examined by mental health experts.
Court records say Letten met Estrade in 1999 or 2001 while Letten walked his dog and they talked briefly. Estrade allegedly told the FBI that Letten caused him problems over a threatening letter Estrade wrote in 2005 or 2006.
Man found not guilty in theft of trooper’s dog
CLINTON (AP) — An East Feliciana Parish man accused of stealing a state trooper’s mastiff last year was found not guilty following a bench trial.
State District Judge Michael Carmichael found Kyle Holmes not guilty Tuesday of misdemeanor theft after he was accused of stealing the dog out of a state trooper’s yard.
Holmes has filed a complaint against Trooper Tommy Lea that is pending, as well as a civil lawsuit against Lea and Detective Kevin Garig, of the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office, that also is pending.
Capt. Doug Cain, a state police spokesman, said authorities conducted an internal investigation into Lea’s actions that resulted in “appropriate disciplinary action.”
He would not elaborate on what action was taken.