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Iberville Parish residents question rezoning request for St. Gabriel site; concerned about possible chemical or industrial plant

For the second time this year in the Baton Rouge area, residents rose up to oppose rezoning plans because they don’t want an industrial facility or chemical plant so close to their homes. The latest controversy involves approximately 3,000 acres of undeveloped land between Nicholson Drive and River Road in St.… Continue reading →

Fugitive returned to Louisiana after being mistakenly released, then caught in Atlanta

Photo provided by La. Department of Corrections -- Benjueil Johnson, mistakenly released from state custody on Sept. 22, 2015, arrives at Louisiana State Penitentiary shortly after 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015.

A convicted killer accidentally released by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections ahead of serving a 40-year sentence for manslaughter was returned to Louisiana late Tuesday after being arrested last week near Atlanta. U.S. marshals arrested Benjueil Johnson, 32, shortly after midnight Oct. 2 at a Motel 6 in Norcross, Georgia, a suburb of… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Oct. 8, 2015

St. John School, Iberville Parish and the Blue Star Mothers Louisiana Chapter 1 are joining forces to collect supplies for troops overseas in conjunction with this year’s Iberville Salute to Veterans event on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Needed items will be collected by fourth- and fifth-graders from St. John Interparochial School on Veterans Day at the… Continue reading →

Rewards offered for information that leads to capture of Benjueil Johnson, accidentally released prisoner

Benjueil Johnson

Crime Stoppers and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections are both offering cash rewards for information that helps capture a 32-year-old convicted killer who was accidently released from prison just a few years into his 40-year sentence. Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said Wednesday that her agency will pay $1,000, in addition to Crime… Continue reading →

Disqualified to run by appellate court, Pointe Coupee Police Jury candidate says he’ll appeal to state Supreme Court

A Pointe Coupee Parish police juror may be forced to give up his bid for re-election if he’s unable to get the Louisiana Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court ruling disqualifying him from the Oct. 24 races. John “Sassy” Pourciau has until 4:17 p.m. Wednesday to appeal the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling he… Continue reading →

After resident reports seeing convicted killer, Iberville authorities realize he was accidentally released

Benjueil Johnson

State corrections officers accidentally allowed a convicted killer to go free — and the agency’s top officials had no idea it happened until residents of Iberville Parish notified the sheriff. Officials are still searching for Benjueil Johnson, 32, who was sentenced to 40 years after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the 2010 fatal shooting of a… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Sept. 30, 2015

Plaquemine Selectman Jimmie Randle is asking the public to donate time and supplies for a daylong cleanup at the Homestead, Magnolia, Laboring Sisters and Roscoe Cemeteries on Capt. T.T. Harris Avenue in Plaquemine on Oct. 3. The cleanup is in honor of Professor Wendell O. Williams, a community-spirited volunteer who spent countless hours maintaining the cemeteries.… Continue reading →

Audit raps Pointe Coupee Police Jury for failing to adjust budget deficits and lack of oversight on employees

The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury was cited in an audit released Monday for failing to make proper budget amendments in several of its funds and for incurring a deficit of more than $900,000 in the fund it uses to help operate the parish prison. The audit report, which dissected the parish’s 2014 spending,… Continue reading →

Jamie Hanks named executive director of West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce

The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce has hired the director of legislative affairs for the state’s Division of Administration to serve as its new executive director, the organization announced Friday. Jamie A. Hanks, who once served as the communications director for former Congressman Rodney Alexander, will officially step into her new role Oct. 12, the… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee School Board agrees to creation of STEM Academy administrator, but hiring hinges on federal court approval for use of Central High campus

Advocate staff file photo by TERRY JONES -- Officials hope to turn Pointe Coupee Central High in Morganza into a STEM Academy

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board on Thursday took another step toward opening a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Academy by fall 2016 by creating a new administrative position to manage the proposed school. But, the board’s unanimous approval of the job description for the district’s new chief program… Continue reading →

Decision to appoint late mayor's wife as interim mayor divides Plaquemine along racial lines

Photo provided vy Peacock Communications -- Mayor Sue Gulotta, center, Plaquemine's new interim mayor, takes the oath of office for the position administered by city attorney Phil Canova at the Plaquemine City Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. Also pictured with Gulotta from left, Amy Gulotta, wife of Jeremy Gulotta; Brad Gulotta; Mary Sue Gulotta,  Jeremy Gulotta.

In a decision that divided the community along racial lines, the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night appointed the widow of former mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta as the city’s interim mayor. The board’s action during a heavily attended special meeting was met with an outcry from black residents who packed… Continue reading →

Report: West Baton Rouge teens drinking, smoking at higher rate than peers in state, nation

Teens in West Baton Rouge Parish are drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco at much higher rates compared to other teenagers across the state and nation, a new report suggests. A Drug Free Communities Needs Assessment report from the parish’s Healthy Community Coalition also revealed that approximately a third of West Baton Rouge Parish high school… Continue reading →

Investigators trying to 'put my sons in the wrong,' says mother of brothers killed by St. Gabriel police chief's son

Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Authorities continue to investigate Monday morning the scene of a double homicide at a trailer park late Sunday night in St. Gabriel. State Police crime scene investigators gather evidence from bullet exit holes in the back wall of a mobile home Monday morning.

Months after asking the Louisiana Attorney General’s office to take over the review of a fatal double shooting by the son of the city’s police chief, the mother of two brothers killed last May questioned whether state prosecutors are adequately handling the investigation into her sons’ deaths. “I… Continue reading →

Extension sought for completing work on False River containment dike

Photos provided by Professional Engineering Consultants Corporation -- Pictured is an aerial photo os a containment dike "island" that was built in the south end of False River as part of the phase 1 of the lake's restoration project.

As the first phase of restoration efforts in Pointe Coupee Parish’s False River nears completion, officials say they’re already seeing robust plant growth and a return of the habitats and vegetation most desirable to fish. But, they say, bringing the ailing oxbow lake back is going to take more time and effort and they’ve asked the… Continue reading →

Iberville Schools’ top nurse supports Kenner firm bringing school-based health clinic to district

A Kenner-based community health center looking to work in the Iberville Parish School System received a vote of confidence Monday night from the district’s top nurse. Andrea Young, the school system’s lead nurse, told board members a pitch from Access Health Louisiana to establish a school-based health clinic at Plaquemine High in January… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee community members hoping for appointment to Home Rule Charter Commission

Business owners, CPAs, attorneys, engineers and high-ranking executives are all vying for appointments to Pointe Coupee’s Home Rule Charter Commission, the group that will draft a proposed new government plan for the parish. At the close of Friday’s noon deadline, 27 local residents had submitted their names and credentials for consideration to the… Continue reading →

Plaquemine in shock at news of death of Mayor Mark ‘Tony’ Gulotta of apparent heart attack

Mayor Mark "Tony" Gulotta of Plaquemine

Friday’s gloomy weather was a reflection of the emotions running through City Hall as officials struggled to deal with the unexpected death of Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta. “It’s very somber, very shocking,” city spokeswoman Ellie Hebert said Friday afternoon. “I don’t know how to think about the city of Plaquemine without… Continue reading →

Council to hear about underage substance abuse and other Around the Westside items for Sept. 9, 2015

The West Baton Rouge Parish Council on Thursday will hear from the parish’s Healthy Community Coalition, which will provide parish leaders with information about community needs as it relates to underage substance use. The coalition is inviting the public to also hear its presentation, which will be presented at the Parish Council’s regular… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee gas leak sends at least 12 people to hospital who reported nausea, vomiting

At least a dozen residents of a Pointe Coupee Parish neighborhood were taken to local hospital Thursday afternoon to be checked for various illnesses they say are related to a gas leak earlier today, parish officials said. Parish Administrator John Grezaffi said a contractor cutting grass in the Claiborne subdivision, located off La. 1 outside of New… Continue reading →

Tired of being stuck in traffic, west bank residents want fewer studies, more action on I-10 gridlock

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Aerial of the New Bridge in Baton Rouge, Tuesday, September 1, 2015.  Traffic flowing from Port Allen is at left, while traffic flowing from Brusly is at right as drivers converge to cross into East Baton Rouge Parish.

Residents living on the west side of the Mississippi River are optimistic a plan to widen portions of Interstate 10 could help alleviate the Baton Rouge area’s growing traffic woes. But a Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development meeting Tuesday about proposed fixes gave these residents little confidence state leaders would… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Sept. 2, 2015

There’s still time to register for the False River Paddle Club’s third annual Oxbow Paddle 9.0 on False River. The 9-mile paddling event begins on the south end of the oxbow lake with a route that includes stops at many riverside bars and restaurants, including Bueche’s and the Pelican Yacht Club. Aimee Moreau, co-founder… Continue reading →

‘You call me a liar again, you’re going to hear from my lawyer’ — sparks fly at Pointe Coupee Police Jury

A Pointe Coupee Parish developer and a police juror exchanged heated words Tuesday night as the Police Jury was forced to renege on a variance the developer was hoping to secure for a subdivision he has under construction. Luke Grezaffi on Tuesday threatened to sue Juror Justin Cox if the police… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Aug. 26, 2015

Plans already are coming together for Port Allen’s annual “Veterans on Parade,” one of the city’s largest and most popular events, to take place downtown Nov. 8. The city is asking businesses, organizations, families and friends of veterans to participate in this year’s event by entering a float or vehicle in the parade. There is… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee School Board starts process of turning Central High into STEM campus by 2016

Advocate staff file photo by TERRY JONES -- Officials hope to turn Pointe Coupee Central High in Morganza into a STEM Academy

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board has agreed to pay $1.2 million in renovations to transform Central High School’s campus into the district’s new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Academy by fall 2016. During a special meeting last week, the board hired Baton Rouge firm Mougeot Architecture to handle a laundry list of repairs at the… Continue reading →

Military-grade chemical detection system to help Pointe Coupee deal with possible disasters, chemical releases

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Steve Mooney, left, with Bruker Detection and George Lane, right, with Emergency Response Technology, explain how fixed and mobile sensing equipment will provide the Regional Fence Line Monitoring (RFLM) Standoff Detection and Chemical Security Network that will provide comprehensive protection against chemical threats and risks in Pointe Coupee Parish.

Pointe Coupee Parish is arming itself with military-grade technology that will give its local emergency response teams the ability to detect hazardous chemical threats even before many state agencies. That protection is being made possible through the installation of a $300,000 chemical security network being integrated into the parish’s recently upgraded 911… Continue reading →

Expect lane closures on Interstate 10 in West Baton Rouge during road repairs beginning Friday

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will begin repairs Friday on Interstate 10, between La. 415 in Port Allen and the Iberville Parish line, which will mean overnight lane closures until the work is completed. Crews will be replacing asphalt mainly on the outside eastbound and westbound lanes of the affected area, DOTD said in… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Aug. 19, 2015

The Plaquemine Board of Selectmen is the latest governmental entity on the west side of the Mississippi River to adopt a resolution urging state leaders to take swift action to address traffic issues plaguing La. 1 and the Mississippi River bridge. The board on Aug. 11 unanimously adopted the same resolution nearly every legislative body in… Continue reading →

Plaquemine High teen arrested, accused of bringing loaded gun to school

A 16-year-old Plaquemine High student was released to his parent’s custody Monday morning after his arrest Friday for bringing a loaded gun to school and threatening to use it on another student. Maj. Ronnie Hebert, of the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office, said one of the department’s school resource officers found a .22-caliber… Continue reading →

Lottie man dies after head-on crash with Acadian Ambulance on LA 411 in Pointe Coupee Parish

A 61-year-old Lottie man died Friday after a head-on collision with an Acadian Ambulance on La. 411 in Pointe Coupee Parish, according to State Police. An initial investigation indicates Brett Bergeron was traveling southbound on La. 411 in a 2008 Chevrolet Silverado about 7 p.m. when his pickup truck, for unknown reasons, crossed the center line… Continue reading →

Port Allen voter fraud probe finds ‘irregularities’ but evidence lacking for criminal charges

The West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it lacks evidence that would support bringing criminal charges against anyone for alleged voter fraud during the city’s 2014 special mayoral race. But Col. Richie Johnson said “irregularities” were verified in a grand jury investigation of the claims, and he’s keeping… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee Police Jury adopts recommendations on Home Rule Charter Commission

The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury on Tuesday adopted recommendations outlining how its proposed Home Rule Charter Commission will be populated, funded and function as the parish strives to shift to a parish president/parish council form of government. The set of recommendations came from the jury’s five-member Selection Criteria… Continue reading →

Around the Westside for Aug. 12, 2015

Plaquemine police officers are now required to wear body cameras while on duty in an effort to improve community relations between the police department and the public. “Body cameras just make sense; they are a great, practical and reliable tool for strengthening police-public relations,” Interim Police Chief Kenny Payne said in a news release. “My… Continue reading →

Iberville School Board approves School Choice Policy — students can transfer from low-performing schools

The Iberville Parish School Board on Monday night approved the district’s school choice policy, which sets the standards by which students enrolled in Iberville schools with poor academic performance can transfer to better schools within the parish. The board’s 8-1 vote comes a year after the state Legislature adopted Act 853, which… Continue reading →

Port Allen has 'no sense of place,' and leaders ready to change that

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- During the lunch rush, Court Street Cafe, a locally owned restaurant, sits on a popular strip in Port Allen -- Court Street -- that's poised for a major revitalization effort, as community stakeholders and city leaders try to create a thriving downtown. Most business owners on Court Street are excited about the proposed developments but are hoping it attracts more small-town, locally owned businesses such as theirs. Much of the downtown efforts are being driven by the Port Allen Master Plan Steering Committee.

The leaders of a little city across the Mississippi River from Louisiana’s capital say they hope to create an appealing identity akin to that of other small cities in the region such as New Roads and the antique district of Denham Springs. “When I think of Port Allen, I think of… Continue reading →