The Orleans Parish School Board meeting this month ended on a highly confusing note, but apparently clarity has been restored.
The board voted to choose a search firm from among 11 competing companies to look for a new superintendent, but with a hitch. In a nod to the school district’s goals for hiring local firms, the board tacked on a proviso requiring that the chosen firm, Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, find a local partner to work with it on the search. The Rev. Dwight Webster, a member of the committee that helped pick the winning firm, then told the board that HYA had announced that it wouldn’t agree to such a partnership.
It turns out HYA apparently will play nice after all. In an interview this week, school board President Ira Thomas said the company has agreed to the arrangement, though it is not clear which local firm will get some of the work.
Thomas said the board is trying to nail down a date in early October to have a special meeting where the details can be hashed out.
Mandeville mayor speaking up
In a move likely meant to counter an increasingly active public-relations effort by the city’s council members, Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere held the first of what he said will become bi-weekly, “open-door” media briefings Wednesday.
In the email notification of the event, Villere promised to cover “current issues in the city.”
Villere spoke briefly about efforts to protect areas of Mandeville from flooding during hurricanes (he said all options are still on the table), Keep Mandeville Beautiful director Susan Russell’s job status (the council will likely vote next month on whether to hire Russell full-time) and the agenda for Thursday’s council meeting.
Future briefings will take place on Tuesdays.
Villere did not say so explicitly, but the impetus for these new briefings may be the high public profile of several of the council members. Three of them have retained public-relations consultant James Hartman; a fourth, Ernest Burguieres, held a standing-room-only meeting last week on flood protection; and the fifth, Clay Madden, maintains a relatively high public profile.
A trade, not a gift
Police officers in Bay St. Louis, Miss., will soon be zipping around on two Harley-Davidson motorcycles that were once the property of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, but the bikes weren’t an outright donation.
The sheriff’s office traded the motorcycles, which spokesman Capt. George Bonnett estimated to be five to six years old with about 40,000 miles on them, for two surplus cars from the Bay St. Louis Police Department. Those vehicles will go to auction, Bonnett said.
A report posted on WLOX-TV’s website described the motorcyclces as a donation, prompting questions on the Bay St. Louis Facebook page. The city responded by saying that the exchange was a trade but that the motorcycles were worth far more than the cars. That prompted Erik Johansen, a St. Tammany resident, to post the comment: “Very generous indeed!”
Another poster commented, “Somebody must have went back and read the State asset laws! LOL!”
A few angry posts appeared on the WLOX story as well, suggesting that St. Tammany taxpayers were losing out in the deal.
Bonnett said the law provides only two avenues for the sheriff’s office to dispose of surplus property: donation to another law enforcement agency or sale at auction. The amount the motorcycles would have fetched at auction depended on what participants would have been willing to bid, he said, and the same motorcycle might go for $5,000 one year and $3,000 another time.
While the Bay St. Louis Facebook page rhapsodized about the low mileage on the motorcycles, Bonnett described 40,000 miles as high, adding that police use is hard on motorcycles.
The sheriff’s office is replacing four motorcycles in all: A third was donated outright to the Mandeville Police Department, and a fourth will be sold at auction, he said.
But the new owners of the bikes seem satisfied. “The bikes will enhance response times and maneuverability during crowded events, such as Mardi Gras parades and Cruisin’ The Coast,” the Bay St. Louis website said. The St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office is also providing a certification course to the Bay St. Louis officers assigned to the bikes.
Compiled by staff writers Andrew Vanacore and Sara Pagones