Louisiana news briefs
Levee park expansion could revive ‘Bonfest’
PORT ALLEN (AP) — Efforts to extend the paved park that extends along the top of the Mississippi River levee in West Baton Rouge Parish are gaining traction.
Port Allen officials say the project will provide more room for people attending riverfront events, allowing the city to revive its Christmas-themed Bonfest which has been discontinued for more than a decade.
Adrian Genre, Port Allen’s chief administrative officer, said the park extension plan got a boost last week when the Atchafalaya Basin Levee District approved a permit request from the city of Port Allen.
But the riverfront project still faces some challenges. The city has to get easement approval from property owners that the proposed extension could encroach upon.
Police Jury works to fix flooding
BELLE ROSE (AP) — Nearly three months after floodwaters caused vaults to break apart and set two caskets adrift at a small cemetery, a project is underway to try to make sure that kind of flooding never happens again.
Assumption Parish Police Juror Henry Dupre is spearheading a project to try to stop future flooding at the Rose Hill St. James Cemetery. He said no one should have to bury someone twice.
The cemetery is in a low-lying area on La. 998, a narrow two-lane road off La. 1 in Belle Rose.
Dupre says it’s expected the new canal will divert runoff from more than 100 acres of farmland north of the cemetery, away from a 60-inch culvert near the cemetery, to another canal.
State says it will demolish 19th-century building
LAFAYETTE (AP) — State officials say a nearly 130-year-old brick building in the right of way of the planned Interstate 49 connector will be demolished despite appeals from the Downtown Development Authority and others to spare the structure.
The dispute involves vacant buildings in the block bounded by Third, Grant, Second and Cypress streets near the downtown railroad tracks.
Development authority CEO Nathan Norris said his primary concern is the oldest building, a two-story brick structure built in 1885.
“Why demolish one of the few historic buildings (in downtown) capable of being used in a productive way?” he said.
The state Department of Transportation and Development bought most of the block as right of way for a future I-49 downtown interchange and plans to demolish the buildings on the block.
Norris has been pushing to delay the demolition, pending efforts to find some use for the old building.
He said he sees no immediate need to raze the building because the I-49 Connector is still in the planning stages and there are few prospects for securing the up to $1 billion needed for the project.
Houma interpreter accused of soliciting bribes
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The U.S. attorney in New Orleans says a Spanish-language interpreter for the Terrebonne Parish public defender’s office is accused of soliciting bribes from immigrants who arrived in this country without legal permission.
Kenneth Polite Jr. says 45-year-old Trina Marie Bourg of Houma allegedly said she would use the money to bribe federal immigration officials to delete charges or detainers from their records.
Reached at home Sunday, Bourg said she could not immediately comment.
An indictment handed up Friday alleges that she would identify people who faced criminal charges and possible deportation, and get in touch with them without their attorneys’ knowledge.
She is charged with one count of wire fraud. If convicted, she could get up to 20 years in prison.
Sheriff: Longtime pilot dies in helicopter crash
JEANERETTE (AP) — Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal says an experienced pilot has died in a helicopter crash in the Jeanerette area.
He says in a news release that 60-year-old Kenneth Squires had worked as a cropduster for more than three decades.
Ackal says Squires’ Bell 47 helicopter crashed about 10:20 a.m. Sunday near a cane field north of U.S. 90 and west of Hubertville Road.
He says the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
HOUMA (AP) — The first phase of a network of bike trails has opened to riders in Terrebonne Parish.
The Southdown Bike Trail System is more than eight miles in length on the Southdown On-Road Loop, the Blackwater Outer Loop and the Leland Robichaux Inner Loop.
The Robichaux loop is named for Leland Robichaux Jr., a former Terrebonne Parish councilman who died in 2008.
“After he passed away his son Ricky Robichaux asked me to get something named after him,” Parish Councilman Russell Hornsby said. “I’m very proud of the fact that we were able to name one of the bike trails after him.”
The trail head is on Valhi Boulevard between the Summerfield and Mandalay Wood subdivisions. It serves as the entrance point for the system’s three trails and includes a parking lot, bike racks, an information kiosk and concrete pads where picnic tables will be placed.
The on-road, shared-use Robichaux loop begins at the trail head. It travels east along Valhi Boulevard, turning north onto Civic Center Boulevard to Louisiana Highway 311. From there it turns west along Louisiana Highway La. 311 and heads south onto South Hollywood Road to rejoin Valhi.
Along the route signage and decals have been posted to warn motorists of cyclists’ use of the roadways.
The Blackwater and Robichaux loops are off-road trails that loop south of Valhi Boulevard near the trail head.
Funding for the $125,000 project came primarily through federal funding managed by the Louisiana Office of State Parks. Terrebonne Parish also contributed funding.
The project’s second phase will involve paving the Robichaux loop.
A much longer shared-use trail is planned.
The Westside Bike Trail is a 51-mile loop that would share existing roadways and shoulders.
The loop is planned to run through the Houma, Schriever and Gibson communities.
The parish has received about $83,000 in funding for the Westside loop. Pulaski said the loop should be completed by the end of 2014.