KSYL Local News

News For Thursday 02/02/2012


NEWS FOR THURSDAY 020212
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

STATE HEALTH OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE PLANS FOR A NEW CENTRAL STATE HOSPITAL IN PINEVILLE. STATE HEALTH & HOSPITALS SECRETARY BRUCE GREENSTEIN SAYS THE EXISTING HOSPITAL IS OVER A HUNDRED YEARS OLD, AND AN UPGRADE IS LONG OVERDUE. GREENSTEIN SAYS THE FIRST PHASE OF THE PROJECT WILL BE CONSOLIDATING THE CURRENT CENTRAL HOSPITAL CAMPUS, AND ADJACENT PINECREST SUPPORTS & SERVICES CENTER, ALL INTO ONE COMPACT AREA IN THE FACILITIES NORTHWEST CORNER. CONSTRUCTION WILL START LATER THIS YEAR ON A NEW, STATE-OF-THE-ART MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITAL BUILDING THAT WILL EXIST IN TANDEM WITH THE EXISTING FACILITY. HE SAYS THE PROJECTED COST WILL BE AROUND $6-MILLION.

A STUDY RELEASED YESTERDAY SHOWS THE BAN ON SMOKING IN BARS AND GAMING ESTABLISHMENTS IN ALEXANDRIA HAS MADE AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT ON AIR QUALITY IN THOSE VENUES. THE DATA COLLECTED IN THE STUDY WAS ANALYZED BY THE LSU HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER'S SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH IN NEW ORLEANS. THE STUDY SHOWED THAT AIR INSIDE THE FACILITIES IS NOW 36 TIMES CLEANER AND HAS SEEN A REDUCTION OF 97 PERCENT OF THE PARTICULATE MATTERS IN THE AIR. NO WORD IN THE REPORT AS TO WHAT EFFECT THE BAN HAD ON BUSINESS IN THOSE BARS.

LSU ECONOMIST LAUREN SCOTT WAS IN TOWN YESTERDAY ADDRESSING THE CENTRAL LOUISIANA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ALLIANCE LUNCHEON. SCOTT TOLD THE ASSEMBLED
BETTER TIMES ARE COMING FOR CENTRAL LOUISIANA. NOT ALL THE NEW WAS GOOD THOUGH, SCOTT DID SAY RECOVERY FROM THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN WILL BE SLOW ON A NATIONAL LEVEL.

FOUR MEN WERE CHARGED WITH THEFT AFTER THEY ALLEGEDLY STOLE SOME GUNS FROM A STORE IN PINEVILLE. ARRESTED WERE 21 YEAR OLD MATTHEW DAVIS OF ALEXANDRIA; 19 YEAR OLD STEVEN MITCHELL OF BOYCE; 22 YEAR OLD ERIC MOORE OF PINEVILLE; AND 20 YEAR OLD HERBERT BLANCHARD PINEVILLE. EACH WAS CHARGED WITH THEFT OF A FIREARM AND CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY. DAVIS WAS ALSO CHARGED WITH RESISTING AN OFFICER, AND MITCHELL WAS CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL USE OF A WEAPON.

LOUISIANA'S MEDICAID PROGRAM ON WEDNESDAY STARTED PROVIDING HEALTH CARE THROUGH PRIVATE MANAGED CARE NETWORKS IN NINE PARISHES AROUND NEW ORLEANS, THE FIRST STEP IN A SWEEPING REVAMP OF THE PROGRAM THAT PROVIDES CARE TO THE POOR. NEARLY 246,000 MEDICAID RECIPIENTS, MOSTLY CHILDREN, ACROSS SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA WERE SWITCHED TO THE MANAGED CARE NETWORKS IN THIS FIRST PHASE OF THE INSURANCE-BASED MODEL, CALLED BAYOU HEALTH. ONLY ABOUT A QUARTER OF THOSE SHIFTED TO THE NEW INSURANCE MODEL CHOSE HOW THEY WILL GET THAT CARE. THE STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT HAD TO ASSIGN 73 PERCENT TO THEIR NEW HEALTH PLANS BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T SELECT THEIR OWN AMONG THE FIVE OPTIONS OFFERED.

STARTING THIS YEAR, LOUISIANANS CAN HELP FIGHT HUNGER WHILE FILING THEIR STATE INCOME TAXES, BY INCLUDING ON THEIR RETURNS A CONTRIBUTION TO THE LOUISIANA FOOD BANK ASSOCIATION. LFBA SPOKESPERSON CINDY GREENSTEIN SAYS IT'S NEW AND IT'S EASY TO DO. THE 2011 STATE TAX RETURN FORMS WILL HAVE A LINE ITEM THAT TAX FILERS CAN CHECK TO GIVE SOME OF THEIR TAX RETURN TO THE FOOD BANKS. SHE SAYS THAT MONEY WILL BE DISTRIBUTED TO THE MORE THAN 400 MEMBER AGENCIES IN LOUISIANA, SEEKING TO HELP THE NEEDY.

DIXIE ELECTRIC MEMBERSHIP CORP. HAS ENTERED A 10-YEAR CONTRACT TO GET ITS POWER FROM CLECO POWER LLC STARTING IN APRIL 2014. DEMCO SERVES ABOUT 100,000 CUSTOMERS IN A SEVEN-PARISH BATON ROUGE AREA. GOING FORWARD, JOHN VRANIC, DEMCO'S CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AND GENERAL MANAGER, SAID CLECO POWER'S PROPOSAL IS DEMCO'S BEST OPTION TO KEEP CUSTOMERS' COSTS DOWN AND SERVE THE UTILITY'S GROWING POWER NEEDS.

ALTHOUGH THE WATER IS STILL LOW AT TOLEDO BEND RESERVOIR, LOUISIANA'S OFFICE OF STATE PARKS SAYS IT HAS RISEN ENOUGH TO REOPEN THE BOAT LAUNCH AT NORTH TOLEDO BEND STATE PARK NEAR ZWOLLE. SPOKESWOMAN SHARON BROUSSARD SAYS THE LAUNCH REOPENED WEDNESDAY. SHE SAYS THE LAUNCH AT SOUTH TOLEDO BEND STATE PARK REMAINS CLOSED UNTIL THE SABINE RIVER AUTHORITY CAN DREDGE OUT BOAT LANES. BOTH LAUNCHES CLOSED IN JULY BECAUSE THE LAKE WAS EXTREMELY LOW.

NEW US CENSUS DATA SHOWS LOUISIANA AS HAVING ONE OF THE LARGEST POPULATIONS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN RESIDENTS IN THE NATION. THE DATA SHOWS NEARLY ONE-THIRD OF PEOPLE LIVING IN THE STATE IN 2010 IDENTIFY THEMSELVES AS BEING EITHER BLACK OR BLACK AND A COMBINATION OF ANOTHER RACE. LOUISIANA HAS THE SECOND-LARGEST PERCENTAGE OF BLACK PEOPLE FOLLOWED BY MISSISSIPPI. THE DATA ALSO SHOWS THERE'S BEEN AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF AFRICAN AMERICANS WHO ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE, BUT LOUISIANA REPUBLICANS STILL HOLD MORE VOTING POWER.

OPELOUSAS ATTORNEY MARION OVERTON WHITE IS SEEKING $1.6 MILLION IN LEGAL FEES FOR HIS WORK IN THE EVANGELINE PARISH DESEGREGATION CASE. THE ADVOCATE REPORTS (HTTP://BIT.LY/WDJMDN ) WHITE'S REQUEST COMES AS THE SCHOOL BOARD IS ANTICIPATING AN END TO THE 47-YEAR-OLD CASE. THE $1.6 MILLION REQUEST IN EVANGELINE PARISH FOLLOWS WHITE'S AGREEMENT LAST YEAR TO ACCEPT $800,000 IN NEIGHBORING ST. LANDRY PARISH. WHITE HAD INITIALLY SOUGHT NEARLY $10 MILLION IN LEGAL FEES FOR HIS WORK IN THE ST. LANDRY DESEGREGATION CASE BUT SETTLED FOR THE LESSER AMOUNT.

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER JIM DONELON SAYS A DECISION WON'T BE MADE UNTIL NEXT WEEK ON WHETHER THE STATE'S PROPERTY INSURER OF LAST RESORT WILL PURSUE A U.S. SUPREME COURT APPEAL OF A $93 MILLION JUDGMENT AGAINST THE COMPANY. CITIZENS WAS FOUND TO HAVE MOVED TOO SLOWLY IN DEALING WITH CLAIMS AFTER HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA. AT ISSUE IS WHETHER CITIZENS WILL PAY $350,000 TO A WASHINGTON-BASED LAW FIRM TO ASK THE SUPREME COURT TO CONSIDER AN APPLICATION FOR APPEAL OF THE JUDGMENT, WHICH HAS GROWN TO $104 MILLION WITH INTEREST. THE HIGH COURT REFUSED TO STALL PAYMENT OF THE JUDGMENT, EVEN IF CITIZENS TRIES THE FEDERAL APPEAL.

ACADIA PARISH AUTHORITIES ARE INVESTIGATING THE DEATH OF A 58-YEAR-OLD MAN WHOSE BODY WAS FOUND IN A DRAINAGE DITCH. DEPUTIES REPORT THE MAN'S BODY WAS FOUND TUESDAY MORNING OFF THE BASILE EUNICE HIGHWAY NEAR BASILE. DEPUTIES SAY FOUL PLAY IS NOT SUSPECTED IN THE MAN'S DEATH. THE BODY WAS TAKEN TO THE CALCASIEU PARISH CORONER'S OFFICE FOR AN AUTOPSY. THE MAN'S IDENTITY IS BEING WITHHELD PENDING NOTIFICATION OF FAMILY.

WILDLIFE OFFICIALS HAVE A MESSAGE FOR A COUPLE WHO FLED LOUISIANA WITH THEIR FOUR MONKEYS OUT OF FEAR THEIR ANIMALS WOULD BE CONFISCATED: COME HOME AND LET US INSPECT YOUR CAGES AND MONKEYS. JIM AND DONITA CLARK FLED THEIR HOME IN DERIDDER LAST OCTOBER AND HAVE BEEN LIVING WITH THEIR MONKEYS IN THEIR MOTOR HOME IN TEXAS. BO BOEHRINGER, A SPOKESMAN FOR THE LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES, INVITED THE CLARKS TO RETURN TO LOUISIANA AND UNDERGO AN INSPECTION, AS REQUIRED NOW FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS EXOTIC ANIMALS IN THEIR HOMES. HE ADDED THAT THE CLARKS HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR AS LONG AS THEIR MONKEYS ARE FOUND TO BE WELL TREATED AND THEIR CAGES SAFE.
BUT THE CLARKS REMAIN SKEPTICAL. THEY'RE LOOKING FOR A LAWYER.

A STATE LAWMAKER FILES TWO BILLS FOR THE MARCH LEGISLATIVE SESSION AIMED AT CRACKING DOWN ON CRIME. ONE OF NEW ORLEANS REP. JEROD BROSSETT'S BILLS WOULD MAKE FIRING A GUN WITHIN A THOUSAND FEET OF A SCHOOL A CRIME. THE OTHER SEEKS TO STIFFEN THE MINIMUM PENALTIES FOR THOSE FOUND GUILTY OF HOME INVASION CRIMES.

A NEW STUDY FINDS THAT LOUISIANA'S SECOND GULF OF MEXICO DEAD ZONE STRETCHES AT LEAST FROM THE CHANDELEUR SOUND OFF LOUISIANA TO ALABAMA'S DAUPHIN ISLAND — AND COULD BE BIGGER. THE LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN BASIN FOUNDATION SAYS IT COULD CHECK ONLY AS FAR AS DAUPHIN ISLAND LAST YEAR. OFFICIALS HOPE TO GET OTHER STATES TO EXTEND THE REACH OF STUDIES THAT WILL START LATER IN FEBRUARY.
IN 2010, SCIENTISTS FOUND A 250-SQUARE-MILE AREA WHERE OXYGEN LEVELS WERE TOO LOW TO SUPPORT LIFE IN THE CHANDELEUR SOUND. THE ONE FOUND LAST YEAR WAS MORE THAN 1,000 SQUARE MILES. FOUNDATION HEAD JOHN LOPEZ SAID WEDNESDAY THE AREA PROBABLY DIDN'T GROW — THE SCIENTISTS JUST LOOKED FARTHER.

ALLIGATOR HUNTERS, RACCOON WRANGLERS AND CRAWFISH CATCHERS IN LOUISIANA'S CRITTER-FILLED SWAMPS AND BAYOUS ARE INCREASINGLY COMMON ON TELEVISION.
SINCE THE INTRODUCTION OF THE HISTORY CHANNEL'S WILDLY POPULAR "SWAMP PEOPLE" IN 2010, ROUGHLY A DOZEN OTHER LOUISIANA-BASED REALITY SHOWS HAVE MADE THEIR TELEVISION DEBUTS, AMONG THEM THE TRAVEL CHANNEL'S "GIRLS, GUNS AND GATORS," CMT'S "CRAWFISH COWBOYS" AND THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL'S "RAGIN' CAJUNS."
THE REASON FOR THE RECENT BOOM IN LOUISIANA-BASED REALITY TV IS TWO-FOLD, SAID LOUISIANA LT. GOV. JAY DARDENNE. NOT ONLY DO REALITY SHOWS FILMED IN LOUISIANA TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE STATE'S TV AND FILM TAX CREDIT PROGRAM, BUT LOUISIANA HAS A RICH CULTURE THAT MAKES FOR GREAT ENTERTAINMENT. SOME FEAR THE REALITY SHOWS ARE ANYTHING BUT AND PUT THE STATE IN A POOR LIGHT.

POLICE IN EUNICE SAY A WOMAN ALLEGEDLY STABBED HER BOYFRIEND FOR TAKING TOO LONG TO FINISH YARD WORK. OFFICERS WERE CALLED TO A HOME, WHERE THEY FOUND A MALE VICTIM WITH A GASH TO HIS SHOULDER AND RECOVERED A KNIFE--PRESUMABLY USED IN THE ASSAULT.

A NATCHITOCHES PARISH MAN HAS BEEN ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF STEALING HORSE FEED, WELDING EQUIPMENT AND POWER TOOLS FROM A FARM SHED IN POINTE COUPEE PARISH. LOUISIANA AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY COMMISSIONER MIKE STRAIN'S OFFICE SAYS 32-YEAR-OLD STEVEN LESLIE JONES WAS ARRESTED TUESDAY IN MORGANZA ON THEFT CHARGES AFTER A HIDDEN CAMERA CAPTURED FOOTAGE OF HIS TRUCK NEAR THE SHED. THE FARMER WHO OWNED THE STOLEN EQUIPMENT REPORTED THE THEFT TO THE LOCAL SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT LAST WEEK. AUTHORITIES RECOVERED ALL OF THE EQUIPMENT.



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