Wednesday, August 14, 2019

J. J. Blake, left, and Community Bank of Louisiana’s William Dorrom, right –

Community Bank of Louisiana is coming to Many.  John J. Blake Jr., longtime respected banker, shown at left, has accepted a position as Senior Vice-President. At right is William Dorrom of Mansfield, President and Chief Executive Officer. They were on the radio with Tedd Dumas on Monday morning. The bank will have a temporary location in the old O. E. Williams Store building in downtown Many.  And later the bank will either build or move into a new location. Blake, a third generation banker in Many, went to work for Community on Aug. 5. Persons may contact him at (318) 581-5113.

Surprise candidate for Sabine Assessor Donnie Wooley

Many businessman Donnie Wooley surprised a lot of folks last week when he qualified to run for Sabine Parish Tax Assessor. Wooley was the first to qualify for Assessor; the other candidates for Assessor didn’t realize another horse was in the race until afterward.  

When asked at the courthouse about his last-minute run, Wooley replied, “I didn’t make a final decision until yesterday.”

It was a decision made after careful consideration over the past several months and after consulting with family and trusted friends.

“I believe it’s time for a fair and reasonable approach to property evaluation,” Wooley shared, “And I have 30 years of agricultural, residential and commercial lending experience, a lot of that right here in Sabine Parish – so I know the area, and I know and love the people,” he said.

Wooley was born in Many, LA 56 years ago and raised on a Sabine Parish cattle ranch. He was graduated from Negreet High School in 1981. After three years of roughnecking in the Gulf of Mexico, Wooley went to Northwestern State University and graduated in 1988 with a degree in Agri-Business.

He went to work for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) where his duties included appraisal of residential and agricultural properties. After 12 years as a loan specialist with the USDA, he moved to Peoples State Bank, working eight years as Senior Vice-Pres. of Agricultural and Commercial Lending.

Following his time with Peoples, Wooley founded Ark-La-Tex Financial Consultants LLC based in Many, where he has brokered finances for rural businesses nationwide for the past 11 years.

Along the way, he also became a licensed Realtor.

“I’ve been told ‘it’s the right time for the right choice,’” Wooley explained. “And I believe my unique history serving this area makes me the right choice at a time that is critical at the Assessor’s office. Following the recent re-assessments, how that office operates moving forward is vital to every taxpayer,” he said.

Wooley is married to Cheryl Brison Wooley and they live in Many. The candidate has five children and three grandchildren.

“I look forward to meeting as many of the voters of the parish as possible over the next two months asking for your support and your vote. In the meantime, I’m available to anyone who wishes to discuss my candidacy,” Wooley said. “Please feel free to stop by my office at 810 San Antonio Ave. or give me a call at (318) 256-9796,” he said.

Bruce Taylor continues to be peeved about the Sabine Parish Police Jury. His attorney Danny Dyess has filed suit against the Jury for damages to Taylor’s vehicles because of the poor conditions of parish roads. The road in question is the Geoghagan Road.  Taylor is in the dirt contracting business and has various pieces of big equipment.

Last March 21 at 5 p.m. one of Taylor’s dump trucks loaded with dirt ended up in the ditch due to the road giving way under the truck.

“We believe the Police Jury is responsible for the damages,” Taylor said, explaining, “…because on March 18 the same thing happened to a log truck owned by Gary Bell in the same spot and the road was not properly repaired afterwards. There were not any flags or barricades indicating anything was wrong with the road. Our truck driver was going less than 15 miles per hour and was on the road where he should have been. We put out cones after this happened so it would not happen to anyone else.”

Taylor said the damages totaled $5,956.06, including $1,050 paid to Ralph Cook Wrecker and $4,906.06 to David Cook’s Truck and Equipment for repair.

The Jury denied Taylor’s request for payment, thus the reason he has filed suit. Jury President Ronny Bison, who is now running for Tax Assessor, was on the committee which turned the request down.

Concluding, Taylor said, “This incident started my crusade against the Jury. They should have paid me. To show you how foolish they are, the Jury hired an attorney in Alexandria to handle the case. They will pay him more money than they would have to settle with me.”

Retired District Judge Robert E. Burgess

Retired District Judge Robert E. Burgess, who at one time represented Sabine Parish, was arrested Wednesday of last week after being accused of confronting three men with a gun and threatening to kill them, according to reports. The 61-year-old man was booked into the DeSoto Parish Detention Center on a charge of aggravated assault. He was released after posting a $1,000 cash bond.

According to reports, Burgess went to see a woman about a problem. Somehow three males who lived across the street said Burgess approached them with a semi-automatic pistol on his side and threatened to kill them, Mansfield Police Assistant Chief Billy Locke reported.

“They all three said they felt threatened,” stated a report signed by Cpl. Rodney Christian. The report did not indicate if Burgess ever removed the gun from his side or used it in any way.

The 20-year-old in whose yard the incident occurred “wanted charges pursued after they could not reach an amicable agreement,” the report said.

Burgess retired in June 2016 after serving 25 years. His late father, Judge Jack E. Burgess, also served in the same position.

Word went around many years ago that Robert Burgess got mad at his lawn mower for not cranking and shot it. We were unable to verify if this is true or not.

Put it down on your calendar now:  it will be a BIG Sabine-Natchitoches Parish Political get-together on Sept. 5 at the Marthaville School Gym. The event is sponsored by the Marthaville Good Ole Days Committee and is advertised as “The Biggest Political ‘Know The Candidates of 2019’ Event.”

On the committee sponsoring the event are Pat Hall, Amy Vercher, Fuzzy Hennigan and Donna Dyson-Horn. There will be a time limit on each candidate’s opening remarks and for their answers to questions. No questions will be allowed from the floor. Those with questions should submit them to a committee member.

In addition, there will be a raffle, auction, concession stand and more!

Many people in Louisiana do not know that a law has been in place for years that gives a big tax break to people 65 and older. It is called the “Senior Freeze” and actually freezes assessments on homesteads for those who qualify.

If a married couple, then the age of the older person controls. The real catch is that adjusted gross income must be less than $75,594.07 per year. The Freeze applies only to your principal residence.

A lot of folks are now doing it. If you have a question, called the Sabine Tax Assessor’s Office at (318) 256-3482.

Candidate for Sabine Parish Clerk of Court Pollie Brandon

Pollie Brandon has qualified to run for Sabine Parish Clerk of Court. She stated, “I made the decision after careful thought and consideration. I would like to wholeheartedly thank everyone that encouraged me to run. I am excited and eager to embark on this campaign and look forward to meeting as many of you as possible during the next two months.”

Brandon has owned and managed Century 21 Sabine Property Shoppe for many years and is also the longtime office manager of Brandon Law Office.

“I have over 28 years of office management experience,” Brandon shared. She said she looks forward to making sure the Clerk of Court’s office serves the local needs of local people to the best of its ability, as well as making sure out-of-area users continue to get the services they need, too.

Brandon is 57 years old and has been married to Attorney Ronald Brandon for 38 years. He is also an Assistant District Attorney. The couple has three children – Heath, Jarred and Sam. Pollie’s parents were the late Bert Sepulvado and Mandie Procell Sepulvado Woodruff of Ebarb, LA.

Pollie is a 1979 graduate of Ebarb High School and a 1983 graduate of Northwestern State University.

Brandon is also an active member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, where she serves as Lector. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Zwolle Loggers and Forestry Festival and is on the Board of Directors of the Sabine Parish Chamber of Commerce.  

She concluded, “If you have any thoughts, concerns or questions, please feel free to call me at (318) 471-1179.”

In addition to her phone, Pollie may be reached at polliebrandon2019@gmail.com. She invites everyone to like her Facebook page: Pollie Brandon for Sabine Parish Clerk of Court.

More on the speed limit signs in Robeline. This has been an on-going story for quite a few months now.

Last week Terri Matthews, a citizen of Robeline who has been very critical of the village government for years, got involved in the matter.

In a State Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Rep. Frankie Howard’s bill to put up speed warning signs in Robeline, he made a gentleman’s handshake agreement with Mayor Bobby Behan. The agreement was that the Village of Robeline would put up the signs and pay for the cost.

Then word got out that the signs did not comply with Department of Transportation and Development standards and would not be put up. Enter Ms. Matthews, who shows what one interested person, with a little help, can do.

She said Mayor Behan told her the signs would not be put up. She went to Dale Craig, Engineer 7 with DOTD, who said the signs would not be put up.

Next Ms. Matthews called Joshua Hollins, Executive Council to the head of DOTD Dr. Shawn D. Wilson. He sat in on the meeting where the gentlemen’s agreement was reached.

Last Wednesday, Mr. Hollins told Observations that the bill filed by Rep. Howard would have forced a sign on Robeline worded something like “Speed Trap Ahead.”  He related this caused a big pow-wow between Rep. Howard and the Mayor. “Sen. Gerald Long sought to bring about peace so we wouldn’t need the bill,” Hollins said.

He continued, “In the May 23 meeting, there was a gentleman’s agreement that the sign would say ‘Speed Zone Strictly Enforced;’ and that the signs would be erected by DOTD and the Village of Robeline would pay the costs.”

He related that the DOTD District staff did not know about the gentleman’s agreement and had provided Mayor Behan with the standard explanation for not putting the signs up. He also said that DOTD at the time of our conversation was figuring a quote, and the signs will go up.

Police Officer Brad Raynes wrote in Around The Town Thursday of last week, “While the number of tickets being written has shown no depreciable results, we have observed that vehicles, west bound, especially large trucks coming into the ‘S curve’ are having to brake harder (as evidenced by smoke coming from tires) to make the curve. In effect, the curve has become a little more dangerous due to the failure of drivers to reduce speed from 55 mph to 35 mph limit. Before the change, the vehicle had to slow from 55 to 45 to 35 limits, providing a longer distance to reduce speed, thereby making it easier when entering the curve. Just some food for thought, Rep. Howard.”

We received a note from a Robeline-area gentleman who said he was a 30-plus years cross country trucker who wrote, “They took away the buffer zone and the speed limit goes from 55 to 35 in just a couple of hundred feet from the initial warning going in both directions. Anyone with any common sense knows this buffer zone is badly needed. It is unthinkable to believe that a representative of DOTD would even consider such a thing. I can tell you for a fact that there is going to be a catastrophic accident there with the potential for loss of life of several people.”

The trucker took Mr. Raynes to task for blaming Rep. Howard in this matter because the cross country driver felt DOTD should have been smarter than to remove the 45 miles per hour buffer zone. The decision to make the change was made by DOTD, not Howard.

“The arrogant Mr. Raynes throws shade on Rep. Howard concerning truckers having to smoke their brakes just to go from 55 to 35 in the very short distance allowed,” the truck driver commented.

There is also some interesting information on the Village of Robeline on a web site called “Town Charts.” 

According to the most recent demographics data available from the U. S. Census Bureau released Dec. of 2018, Robeline has a population of only 99. From 2010 until 2017 the Village lost 75 persons, or 43.l%. The person who sent this information to Observations wrote:  “So here we have a village of 99 people with an annual budget of over three-quarters of a million dollars. This stinks worse than a dead roadside possum after a week of hundred degree temperatures. Sure does provide a very lucrative income for a town.”

The e-mail also stated:  “The village is projecting an almost $200,000 increase in revenue for the fiscal year 2020, which began July 1. One has to wonder where the extra two hundred grand is going to come from.”

Starting today, BDC Radio will conduct a poll on the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s race.  Each person will be allowed only one vote and you may vote by going to Facebook and then to BDC Radio or go to bdcradio.com and then to Facebook.

Running for the seat are incumbent Ronny Richardson, Chris Abrahams, Frankie Howard and Aaron Mitchell.

The poll continues through Monday and the results will be carried in next week’s Observations.

Sheriff Ronny Richardson told Observations last week that he “really and truly tried to find a way not to roll his tax millage forward.” The estimated amount of taxes from the increased millage is $3,005,556, representing an increase of $562,573.

A hearing on the “roll forward” was set for Aug. 16, but had to be changed because the Sheriff will be undergoing surgery on his hand. He said the new hearing will probably be set for some time in September.

Sheriff Richardson said he needs more money for the following:

1. More funding for school resource officers.

2. Yearly raises for employees.

3. A new building to be used to store evidence, including a multi-purpose class room for training. He said the current evidence room is crammed full. He said a room is needed to store firearms taken as evidence and another room is needed for other evidence. In addition, a room is needed to store vehicles taken in as evidence.

Mary Brocato has qualified to run for Town of Many Alderman at Large, a position she has held since her appointment after the death of council member Barbara Peterson. Her campaign announcement follows:

Town of Many Alderman at Large Mary Brocato

“I have qualified to stand for election on October 12 for Alderman at Large on the City Council for the Town of Many. I would like to tell you a little about myself, my background and explain why I want to serve you as your alderman.

“When I retired as an associate professor at Northwestern State University in 2011, I asked myself what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The answer came quickly.  I wanted to volunteer and give back to my hometown of Many and its people who have played such an important role in making me a responsible, productive, dependable and caring adult. 

“I helped to create and then became chairperson of the Town of Many Cultural District Advisory Committee. I still do that today. I serve on the committee that plans and implements the annual Many Christmas Festival. I also serve on the board of the Sabine Parish Humane Society and the Sabine Animal Shelter. I am a member of the Sabine Parish Historical Society and serve on the board of directors of Project Celebration. For several years I served as an children’s advocate for CASA.  

“In November 2018, I was appointed to fill the vacancy on the City Council created by the death of longtime Council member Barbara Peterson. I quickly learned that serving on the City Council enabled me to do even more to serve my town and the residents of Many. That is why I decided to run for the remaining two years of Mrs. Peterson’ term.

“Being the Alderman at Large can and should be a full time job. I am retired so I can serve you full time. I’m available when you have a problem and want to talk with me. It is important that your council member can talk to you anytime about a problem –  whether it be potholes in front of your house, an unreasonably high water bill, garbage pickup, or some other city  problem. As a retired citizen and a member of the council, I will have no other job responsibilities and I can serve you full time.    As you can see, my retirement works to your benefit whenever you have a concern and need to talk to me. 

“I’ve been retired for 8 1/2 years. During this time, I’ve served as Chairperson of the Many Cultural District Advisory Committee. We’ve restored the old Sabine Theater, converted it to the Many Community Center, and we now provide you and your family with wholesome family events. We have free Movies in Many, Music in Many, concerts, recitals, plays and many other events at the Community Center. We’ve also added book nooks (little free lending libraries) to 12 locations throughout Many so that adults and children can borrow free books and audio tapes.

“I’ve overseen the complete renovation and restoration of the historic Many Depot. We are creating a museum about No Man’s Land, the importance of railroads in Sabine Parish, and the history and culture of Sabine Parish. A lot of work is involved with this extensive project, but it will be a major tourist attraction in Many for people to visit. All of these accomplishments make Many a better place for you to live.

“As a council member, I work very hard to find ways to make our citizens’ lives better. We work to operate the city’s budget in the black and we stretch every dollar as much as we can for the betterment of your community. If I am elected, I will continue to operate our city budget in the black.

“We make frequent decisions on how to cut costs. As an example, the garbage collection company we’ve been using has informed us that their new contract will increase 20% on garbage collection fees. We are now exploring the possibility of the town taking over garbage collection in order to cut costs and save you money.  

“I also work very hard to secure grant funding for music shows and other events held at the Community Center.  For the second year in a row, we expect to receive a generous grant from the Shreveport Regional Arts Council to pay for musicians and bands to come and perform at Music in Many. We also just received notification that we will be receiving a $20,000 grant for playground equipment for the Fairgrounds Ball Park.  Soon parents and children will enjoy going to the Fairgrounds Ball Park with their families and having a great time on your new recreational equipment. 

“My work for Many and her citizens over the past 8 years has turned into a full time job. And I like that.  Recently, I was offered a high paying job if I would return to my former career as a journalism teacher/broadcaster. I thought about it overnight and turned it down the next morning. I did that because I love what I’m doing:  making your town better and making your lives better too. 

“Now I’d like to tell you about my personal and professional background.  

“I am the daughter of John Adam and Flarcie Miller Key of Many. Both of my parents are deceased. I grew up in Many, was a member of the First Baptist Church. (I am now a member of St. John’s Catholic Church) I attended Many Elementary School and graduated from Many High School. I graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge with a B.A. and an M.A. degree in journalism and mass communications. I also obtained an additional 36 graduate hours and a teacher’s certification from Northwestern State University after I moved to Many.

“I was married to Dr. Bobby Brocato for 30 years until his sudden death in 2008. My husband was from New Orleans, and I took great pleasure in introducing him to life in Many and North Louisiana. We made our forever home on the Diamond B Ranch, which I inherited from my parents. My husband adapted well, enjoyed his family dental practice and became a ‘gentleman farmer’, raising Brangus cattle, and hunting and fishing in his spare time. He came to love his life in Many, Sabine Parish and the people of this area.

“We had one son, Robert Adam Brocato. Robert attended Many Elementary School, St. Mary’s School in Natchitoches, Centenary College and LSU Medical School in Shreveport. Today he is a doctor of internal medicine, and he’s a North Louisiana guy through and through. I am very proud of him.

“I’m also the mother of eight rescue dogs: a Great Pyrenees, a Labrador Retriever, a Border Collie, a Welsh Terrier, a Scottish Terrier, a 17 year old senior citizen Poodle and two baby Bichons. All but one of the fur babies are rescues. My house may be messy at times, but it is filled with the love I have for these furry members of my family.  I also serve on the board of directors of the Sabine Humane Society and the Sabine Parish Animal Shelter.  This gives me great pleasure whenever we save and find new homes for unfortunate animals including dogs, cats, donkeys, horses, cattle and sometimes pigs.

“My first job was as a reporter for KALB TV in Alexandria. From there I moved to Baton Rouge where I served as the first female press secretary in Louisiana to Governor John J. McKeithen. Those years sparked my interest in government and politics.  When McKeithen’s term expired, I moved to New Orleans where I worked as a reporter for the New Orleans NBC station. Later I signed a contract with the World Health Organization to produce two documentary films on population control in developing countries. I spent almost two years in Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico filming those documentaries. One of them won a Peabody Award. The other won an Emmy.

“After that life changing experience, I returned to New Orleans as director of communications for the Farm Credit Banks (Federal Land Bank, Bank for Cooperatives, and Federal Intermediate Credit Bank).

“Forty years ago, my husband and I returned to Many to live, work, and care for my widowed mother. Coming home to Many was the best move I ever made.

“My son was born, and I stayed home with him until he started school. I started school too and I taught English and Speech at Many High School for 12 years. I discovered that I loved teaching and especially loved the students. Today I still have close relationships with so many of my high school students. To know that I’ve made an impact on their lives means so much to me.

“In 1999 Northwestern State University asked me to work there as the director of their broadcast journalism concentration in the Department of Journalism. It was the highlight of my working career. We created a hands-on journalism program. Today our graduates work as reporters, anchors, weather forecasters all over the United States. Others work as teachers, public relations officers, and other journalism related jobs. I am so proud of them and stay in close touch with so many of them. 

“I tell you all these things because I am the only candidate in this race who has the experience, the knowledge, the time, and the ability to serve you FULL TIME. My 40 years of work experience, my retirement, my experience on the council and cultural district, my knowledge and my desire  will provide you with an  alderman at large who has, as my highest priority, the ability and desire to serve you as YOUR alderman.

“I sincerely ask for your vote for Mary Beth Key Brocato for Alderman at Large on October 12. I won’t let you down.”

With that, we say “so long” until next week. Thanks for reading. Please call or write with your ideas, comments or suggestions for future articles. Call (318) 332-8653 or send an email to robertrgentry@gmail.com. To see older Observations, visit our Facebook page where they are listed by date under Photo Albums. To see more recently archived columns, follow the pages below. To save, send or print this week’s Observations, click on the appropriate icon.

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