The president of the Evangeline Parish Chapter of the NAACP, Arthur Sampson, was escorted by police out of the Ville Platte City Council meeting room Tuesday as ordered by Mayor Jennifer Vidrine. Sampson and a group of citizens attended the meeting holding signs to protest the city curfew law and police brutality. Sampson’s issues were not on the agenda so the mayor did not permit him to speak at the meeting. Several times during the meeting the mayor warned Sampson to quit disrupting the meeting.
In a related matter, Police Chief Neal Lartigue reported that 58 suspects were arrested on curfew, reflective garment, slabbing and loud music violators. Mayor Vidrine said the curfew is working. “The curfew is a good thing and we’re going to keep it going, “said the mayor.
An official with the Louisiana Economic Development Administration congratulated the city on working to become a Louisiana “Ready City”. He urged citizens and businesses to participate in the surveys on the internet and also available at city hall, the chamber and at the library. Once the assessment surveys are compiled, a steering committee will prepare a five year strategic plan. The city hopes to be certified a “ready city” for economic development to induce more business and industry by early next year.
In another matter, Pam McGee gave an update report on the abandoned house problem in the city. McGee said the city has about 400 abandoned homes scattered through out the city
The council approved adding fines to owners of abandoned homes: First time and Second time offenders could face fines up to $500. A third time offender could face up to $2000 in fines.
Mayor Jennifer Vidrine said the city has been fighting this problem for nine years. “We need to clean up this city”.
Grant Coordinator Sharon Fontenot had good news for the city council. She announced that the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice has awarded the city a $215,000 grant to fund the “Youth Opportunity Unlimited” program for another year. The program helps pay seventy 15 -year olds to learn real life job skills with local employers. Since the program began, some 470 students have completed the program.
Donna Byrne, Regional Director of AT&T, announced that AT&T is in the process of expanding coverage to the Ville Platte area over to much faster 3-G service for smart phones. While the switchover is being made, local residents may experience problems with their smart phones such as dropped calls. She hopes to have all of the bugs worked out in the next few weeks. She said AT&T is in the process of buying T-Mobile which will mean even faster service to local residents.
Mayor Vidrine reported that $62,000 worth of unpaid final utiility bills from residents who have moved away will be turned over to a collection agency. She also stated that the city has $324,000 in outstanding delinquent bills from local customers. Some of the bills are several years old.. She announced that utility bills are due on the 20th of the month. Customers have ten days to pay their bills. Bills become delinquent after that and subject to disconnection.