Louisiana news briefs
Jobs added but Louisana’s jobless rate edges up
NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s unemployment rate edged up in May to 6.8 percent from 6.4 percent in April, even as the state added 6,100 private sector jobs over the month — and 28,000 over the year.
Figures released Friday by state and federal labor officials showed non-farm employment in Louisiana for May totaling more than 1.95 million jobs.
The unemployment rate for May was unchanged from a year ago. It rose from April, despite the added jobs, because the total civilian labor force — those with jobs or seeking them — grew to almost 2.1 million. That’s 7,594 more than in April, and 15,000 more than May 2012.
Port buys patrol boat
CHALMETTE — The St. Bernard Parish port has purchased a 35-foot patrol boat that authorities say will support search, rescue and recovery operations.
The port used a federal grant to purchase the $325,000 boat.
The port and St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office said they have reached an agreement under which port staff and sheriff’s deputies have been trained to operate the boat.
The vessel includes a sonar scanning camera and can be used to search water bottoms and ship hulls for contraband.
Assessor, company fight
over tax on salt caverns
OPELOUSAS — A case before the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals could cost St. Landry Parish about $500,000 a year in tax revenue.
The issue boils down to whether a hole in the ground is an improvement for tax purposes.
St. Landry Parish Assessor Rhyn Duplechain and Spectra Energy, which owns natural gas storage containers drilled into a salt dome near Port Barre, agree the containers are worth $119.6 million.
What they disagree on is the nature of the caverns.
Duplechain ruled they are improvements, taxed at 15 percent of assessed value.
Spectra argues, and the Louisiana Tax Commission has agreed, they are merely land features such as ponds and should be taxed at a 10 percent rate.
review for schools chief
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board has delayed its evaluation of Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Board Vice President Hunter Beasley said only eight of nine board members submitted evaluation reports on Cooper. Beasley wanted to wait to tabulate the results and discuss them when all the forms have been submitted.
The board’s evaluation of Cooper would be its first since he became superintendent in early 2012.
Boat crash kills Gonzales man
GIBSON — Wildlife and Fisheries agents say a 38-year old Gonzales man died after the boat he was operating crashed into a bank in Barge Canal near Bob’s Bayou Black Marina in Gibson.
Adam Einck, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman, said Buddy Ray Poche was at the controls of a bass boat about 11 a.m. Saturday when he lost control, causing the boat to crash into some trees and cypress knees along the bank.
Einck says Poche was the only person in the boat at the time of the crash.
Gaming board chairman dies
BATON ROUGE — State police say Dale Hall, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, died Saturday at his home while recovering from surgery last month.
State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson says the 56-year-old Hall retired from the State Police with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He also was a former assistant superintendent of State Police.
Hall joined State Police in 1981 and worked with Troop A for more than 10 years in the traffic enforcement program before moving onto other departments.
Funeral services for Hall will be held at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday the University United Methodist Church on LSU’s campus.
Investigators to examine heat exchanger in plant blast
GONZALES — State and federal officials investigating the cause of the deadly blast June 13 at the Williams Companies Inc. plant near Gonzales plan to inspect a key element of the facility this week that one federal investigator said “failed catastrophically.”
Investigators said they hoped to get a close look at a heat exchanger in the Ascension Parish facility’s propylene fractionation unit, an area company officials have already identified as being near the explosion and fire.
One worker remains hospitalized at the Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s burn unit while another is being treated at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.
Audit: Port Allen mayor, council may have violated law
BATON ROUGE — A legislative audit recommends that the city of Port Allen seek a court ruling to resolve the question of Mayor Demetric Slaughter’s salary because the city council may not have properly set the salary in its budget ordinances.
The report, released Monday, says Slaughter has been receiving a $6,000 annual car allowance that was neither budgeted nor approved by a council-passed ordinance, an action that may violate state law.
A third finding said Slaughter may have violated state law by receiving $2,432 as reimbursement for January travel expenses related to her trip to Washington, D.C.
plans to acquire bridge
HOUMA — Terrebonne Parish plans to acquire the Westside Boulevard Bridge from the state to turn it into a four-lane, two-way bridge meant to ease traffic.
Councilman Greg Hood said the one-way bridge, connecting Westside Boulevard to Main Street, has been a nuisance for motorists for some time.
When Westside Boulevard was extended last year, Hood said the state made the bridge a one-way. When motorists turn onto the bridge coming off a two-way street, it can confuse some that it’s not two-way anymore.
Parish President Michel Claudet said it’s clear the bridge doesn’t work well as a one-way span, and widening it would help avoid problems.
Claudet says leftover money from another parish project will be used to widen the bridge, which is estimated to cost $1 million.
From The Associated Press.