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West Baton Rouge school officials aiming for Top 10 status by 2020

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Paraprofessional Kandi West, second from right, works with students to help them create their 100th Day Trail Mix in teacher Jackie Spencer's Pre-K (4) class at Brusly Elementary School as they celebrate the 100th day of school. West Baton Rouge Superintendent Wesley Watts' Vision plan for the school district will be presented to the School Board Wednesday night. Watts' plan outlines his vision for the school district's future and include a strategic plan to build upon the school district's academic success (WBR is currently a B rated school district; they're close to A status). Watts' plan addresses the district's academics, personnel, budget, buildings and transportation needs.

At the urging of Superintendent Wesley Watts, West Baton Rouge Parish school administrators and School Board members are working in tandem on a five-year strategic plan aimed at getting the school district recognized as one of the top 10 in the state by 2020. Watts says the school system will do… Continue reading →

West Baton Rouge levee bike trail work starts with Brusly trailhead

Artist rendering by Tipton Associates -- West Baton Rouge Parish has begun work on nearly $1 million worth of improvement projects that will add a walking/bike trail in Brusly and Addis and extend the linear park in Port Allen by 3,268 feet. Shown here are conceptual drawings of the bike path and trailhead in downtown Brusly.

Work began this week to transform part of the Mississippi levee top in West Baton Rouge Parish into a paved 3-mile bike trail south of the Intracoastal bridge. The project kicks off with construction of a trailhead in downtown Brusly that will feature a rest area and benches. Another levee project in Port Allen… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Jan. 21

The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury was in a more giving mood last week when it decided to overturn its previous decision to suspend funding to local Mardi Gras krewes this year and instead decided it would write checks for $1,500 to each of the four carnival clubs in the parish. The jury’s action… Continue reading →

Iberville School Board’s struggle to select a president doesn’t have an end in sight

Ed Cancienne

Determining who’s going to serve as president over the revamped Iberville Parish School Board could drag on for months — even years — if the board’s recent deadlock over the decision goes unchanged. One of the board members who could break the 4-4 tie between the two front-runners doesn’t appear eager to bring closure to… Continue reading →

Thirteen pounds of methamphetamine found during traffic stop, State Police reports

Mariano Alis Ismael Vicente, left, and Ismael Bragin

PORT ALLEN — A traffic stop by Louisiana State Police on Thursday led to the arrest of two men accused of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Troopers pulled over a 2015 Hyundai Veloster about 3:30 a.m. Thursday for a traffic violation along Interstate 10 in West Baton Rouge Parish and discovered 9 pounds… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Jan. 14; MLK celebration planned

The Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver Council and Court 119 is sponsoring its 28th annual Martin Luther King Celebration at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Center in Maringouin. North Iberville School will be recognized at the program for its outstanding commitment to education, so all school faculty, staff, students… Continue reading →

New Iberville School Board deadlocks on officer elections

Ed Cancienne

Iberville Parish Schools Superintendent Ed Cancienne now has to add another job duty to his workload: presiding over the School Board’s monthly meetings. That’s because the newly revamped nine-member School Board on Monday failed to elect board officers — namely a board president — after three attempts resulting in the same sharply… Continue reading →

West Baton Rouge fire chief resigns; assistant chief promoted

Charles Stephens

West Baton Rouge Parish’s first fire chief has decided to walk away from the position less than a year after he was appointed. Officials said Monday they suspect Charles K. Stephens may have found the position too challenging as the parish continues to work out the kinks of consolidating its six fire subdistricts. But… Continue reading →

Excitement builds in Iberville as medical complex prepares to open

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Iberville Parish and Ochsner are set to hold the ribbon-cutting on its new $25 million medical complex next Friday Jan. 16, 2015. Weekend tours are being given for the community before the facility opens on Jan. 19.

Iberville Parish and Ochsner Health System officials are gearing up to unwrap the bow on a $22 million, publicly funded medical complex. They plan to give the public an opportunity for a sneak peek inside next week before the doors to the 43,000-square-foot facility open Jan. 19 to serve its… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee board to seek Bond Commission approval to borrow $1 million to repair Pointe Coupee Central High

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board on Thursday agreed to seek State Bond Commission authority to borrow up to $1 million to pay for repairs at Pointe Coupee Central High School. Meanwhile, board members expressed concerns about being able to open the now-closed campus by this fall as the district’s Continue reading →

Two injured in Pointe Coupee crash

Two Pointe Coupee Parish drivers involved in a head-on collision that temporarily shut down a portion of La. 415 Thursday morning were hospitalized for treatment of their injuries, Louisiana State Police said. Trooper 1st Class Jared Sandifer said the crash occurred about 11 a.m. Thursday when Dana L. Coleman, 34, of New… Continue reading →

High-speed police chase in Port Allen ends in crash, two arrests

A motorist led a State Police trooper on a high-speed chase through Port Allen on Thursday, but why the man was trying to flee from police is still unknown, according to Trooper 1st Class Jared Sandifer. Sandifer said a trooper was attempting to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation about… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee school officials pin hopes on planned STEM Academy

Pointe Coupee Parish school district officials have high hopes for a proposal to transform Pointe Coupee Central High into a science, technology, engineering and math academy. Schools Superintendent Linda D’Amico last month sold the idea to the School Board as a magnet alternative program. She said the program could help boost the district’s lackluster… Continue reading →

With $300,000 worth of new Mardi Gras floats, Plaquemine brothers aim to compete with New Orleans

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Derrick Wilson, left, Sedrick Chaney, background, and Joseph Watson work on installing LED lighting strips around the inside of a float under construction Dec. 10, 2014. Plaquemine's 'Krewe of Comogo' members have built in the last five months 13 New Orleans-style Mardi Gras floats, for a local parade created two years ago to honor Brenda Comeaux, who died from cancer in 2009 at age 54.

When members of a fledgling Mardi Gras krewe approached the Comeaux brothers several years ago for permission to develop a nighttime parade in Plaquemine as a tribute to their sister Brenda, the brothers graciously blessed the Krewe of Comogo’s efforts. And for the past two years, the krewe’s annual… Continue reading →

Port Allen welcomes back Bonfest, despite the storm

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Firemen attempt to light the bonfire on the levee after a heavy rain at Port Allen's revival of its Christmas Bonfest  Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014.

The stage was set Tuesday for the city of Port Allen’s revival of its once-popular Christmas-themed Bonfest, but Mother Nature had a different idea as a thunderstorm dampened the celebration. The soggy day forced the city to cancel many of the scheduled events — like the live… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Dec. 24, 2014

Father Greg Daigle once again will crown the Christmas season with songs of faith and other music at 4 p.m. on Epiphany Sunday, Jan. 4, at St. John Evangelist Catholic Church in Plaquemine. Tickets are on sale now at the St. John Parish Office and at the school for $25 each. The event provides an… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee School Board may ask judge to force the state to pay for repairs to Central High

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board is hoping to recoup nearly $1.9 million from the state’s Recovery School District for much-needed repairs at Pointe Coupee Central High School, the site of the district’s proposed Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Arts Academy. And the board is hoping the federal judge… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Dec. 17, 2014

The city of Plaquemine is offering online payment options for city utility bills. The new service is expected to make it easier for customers to pay their electricity, water, natural gas and sewer bills, city officials said. A maroon-colored icon titled “Pay My Utility Bill” is located on the right side of the city’s… Continue reading →

Port Allen man arrested, accused of trying to arrange killing of man, his wife

Tommy Joe Gioele

A Port Allen man who sought to hire a hitman to kill a Pointe Coupee couple over a soured business deal found himself behind bars on Tuesday after the would-be hitman went to police and turned informant, police said. Tommy Joe Gioele, 37, 5242 Poydras Bayou Road, was booked into West Baton… Continue reading →

Ask The Advocate: Bayou pumps and bikes

Photo provided by the City of Plaquemine -- The pumps at Bayou Plaquemine Lock.

Q: Is there any plan to utilize the pumps at the Bayou Plaquemine Locks on a regular basis for revitalizing Bayou Plaquemine? I had high hopes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pump project would improve the health of the bayou but am afraid, though not surprised, it has been a mega-waste of… Continue reading →

Iberville deputy accused of television thefts on Black Friday

An Iberville Parish sheriff’s deputy was arrested Friday in the theft of two large-screen televisions from a local business on Black Friday, Sheriff Brett Stassi said. Ken Garner, 45, was booked into the parish jail on felony theft and malfeasance in office for his alleged participation in stealing 52-inch and 65-inch… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Dec. 10, 2014

The West Baton Rouge Parish Library is offering evening classes in the popular Computers Operation, Internet Navigation and Software program of basic computer skills every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the library’s meeting room. The new classes are being offered in addition to the daytime COIN classes the library has held… Continue reading →

West Baton Rouge judge suspended for accepting free trip from attorney

Judge J. Robin Free

District Judge J. Robin Free has been suspended without pay for 30 days for accepting an all-expense-paid trip from a Texas attorney whose client was awarded a $1.2 million settlement in a personal injury lawsuit tried in the judge’s court. The disciplinary action against Free, a judge in the judicial district that covers the parishes of… Continue reading →

East Iberville gets new satellite office for ambulance service

Advocate staff photo by TERRY JONES -- Iberville Parish officials on Monday held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new modular facility, located along River Road in St. Gabriel, that will serve as a satellite office for Acadian Ambulance. Officials say the new facility will reduce ambulance response times in the east Iberville area by at least 10 minutes or more.

Emergency medical response times are about to become significantly shorter in eastern Iberville Parish thanks to the opening of a new facility for Acadian Ambulance that will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi and a host of parish and… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Nov. 25, 2014

Port Allen city officials are bringing back BonFest this year as they seek to use the Christmas holiday festival and levee bonfires to build a sense of community. The city will host this year’s BonFest on Dec. 23 in front of City Hall on Court Street.… Continue reading →

Jury finds Monique Kitts, Karl Howard guilty in murder-for-hire case

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Monique Kitts sits in the back of a police unit after being found guilty Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, at the Port Allen courthouse.

The monthlong trial for a woman accused of killing her husband in a murder-for-hire scheme came to an end Thursday when a West Baton Rouge Parish jury found her and the gunman she hired guilty of second-degree murder. Monique O. Kitts, 45, of Livingston, and Karl Michael… Continue reading →

New Roads mayor Robert Myer rings up $130K-plus in credit card charges; receipts lacking

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- New Roads mayor Robert Myer speaks in his office Tuesday about discrepancies in his use of the city credit card. The exterior of the New Roads City Hall building.

New Roads Mayor Robert Myer has rung up nearly $134,000 in charges on his city credit card over the past four years, records show, including thousands spent on personal purchases ranging from movie theater tickets to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club shopping trips and restaurant visits. Myer has reimbursed the city for… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Nov. 19, 2014

The West Baton Rouge Museum is kicking off its holiday season Dec. 7 with a Louisiana-themed holiday Open House. Visitors will have an opportunity to enjoy warm open-hearth fragrances coming from the Allendale Cabin during open-hearth cooking demonstrations from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. that day. They also can… Continue reading →

Here's what happened Tuesday, what you can expect Wednesday in Kitts murder-for-hire trial in West Baton Rouge

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Monique O. Kitts exits the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. ORG XMIT: BAT1411061804042910

Prosecutors called Monique Kitts back to the stand Tuesday afternoon, as the murder-for-hire trial accusing her of paying a man to kill her husband wound down. Monique Kitts was asked not about the 2010 death of her husband, Corey Kitts, but about tax documents she filed… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Nov. 12, 2014

The West Baton Rouge Healthy Community Coalition recently received a $625,000 grant award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that will be used over the next five years to implement the Drug-Free Communities program. The grant’s purpose is to enhance community collaboration to reduce substance abuse among youth under the age of 18.… Continue reading →

Resumption of Monique Kitts murder-for-hire trial postponed a week

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Monique O. Kitts exits the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. ORG XMIT: BAT1411061804042910

The murder-for-hire trial of Monique O. Kitts, accused of hiring a contract killer to murder her husband, has been continued until Nov. 17. Defense attorneys for Kitts, 45, of Livingston, and Karl Michael Howard, 30, of Roswell, Georgia, were expected to resume their cases at 9 a.m. Monday, but 18th Judicial… Continue reading →

Murder-for-hire Kitts case focuses Wednesday on DNA evidence

Monique Kitts, left, and Karl Howard

Testimony Wednesday in the murder-for-hire trial in the death of Corey Kitts focused on DNA evidence, with defense attorneys implying the person who killed Kitts might have been a lover rather than a hired gunman, and prosecutors suggesting crime scene investigators might have left their own minor traces of DNA on Kitts’… Continue reading →