Posts tagged ‘calcasieu parish’

Coroner’s Office now has on-site morgue

*published Apr. 1, 2011

Mike Richardson, CEO of Mortuary Response Solutions, demonstrates a portable cooling system for area coroners and law enforcement officials on Thursday that can be used in the event of mass casualties. (BRAD PUCKETT / AMERICAN PRESS)

The Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office unveiled a portable cooling system Thursday that would allow them to set up an on-site morgue during an emergency.

The system is a set of refrigerated mats that go in a body bag, along with the body, to lower the temperature to around 38 degrees.

“It’s not designed for long-term storage, just to help a coroner’s office or hospital get organized during and after an emergency,” said Zeb Johnson, lead investigator with the Calcasieu Coroner’s Office.

Johnson said the coroner’s office can hold 25 to 30 bodies and the system would double their capacity.

“During (Hurricanes) Rita, Katrina and Ike, hospital morgues weren’t functioning,” Johnson said. “Local coroners were overwhelmed and had to bring in refrigerated 18-wheelers.”

Some benefits to getting the body temperature lowered as quickly as possible include stopping post-mortem purging of bodily fluids and a deterioration of body structure and fingerprints, said Michael Richardson, CEO of Mortuary Response Solutions, the company that developed the mats.

Richardson emphasized that the system did not stop decomposition; it just slows the process.

Johnson, who also runs a local funeral home, said getting the body in the least decomposed state is always helpful when embalming.

The system was purchased with a $24,000 grant from U.S. Department of Health and Hospitals and is available to any coroner’s office in Southwest Louisiana.

Also Thursday, inside the coroner’s office, coroners and public health officials from the region took part in a mock drill to test the new portable morgue. The mock emergency was a tornado touching down in Beauregard Parish and 75 to 100 bodies had to be salvaged, said Liz Harmon, coordinator for Region 4 and 5’s Hospital Preparedness Program.

“We are testing how local hospitals will handle a large number of bodies coming into their emergency rooms and what kind of coordination they have with their coroner’s offices,” Harmon said.

April 1, 2011 at 12:49 am

Police Jury to vote on map proposal April 7

*published Mar. 30, 2011

Calcasieu parish officials on Tuesday, presented a redistricting map filled with minor shifts in district lines.

“We focused on maintaining distinct communities, while still following federal laws,’’ said Kade Cole, the attorney who oversaw the redistricting.

The parish population according to the 2010 census is 192,768.

Majority minority districts, mandated by the Voting Rights Act, were slightly shifted south into central Lake Charles.

Each district would have a black voter population over 60 percent.

The second largest change was residents moving southwest in the parish, causing changes in Districts 6 and 7, which stretch from the airport to Ward Line Road.

The largest overall population increase was District 8 in south Lake Charles, which is the Barbe school district.

The Gillis area was moved from District 1 with Moss Bluff to District 10 with LeBleu Settlement.

A northern section of Westlake, would be moved from District 3 to District 14, with the rest of the city.

Far west districts that include the Vinton and Starks area were unchanged.

For an April 30 election, which is a local option election on Mojito Point casino resort, the polling places will be listed on the Police Jury website.

The Police Jury voting on the map on April 7.

Officials then send the map to the Department of Justice for approval, which takes about 120 days to review.

March 30, 2011 at 12:54 am

Multimillion-dollar coastal projects await funds

Coastal restoration projects in Southwest Louisiana will get around $1,180,000 for the fiscal year ending in 2012, according to the governor’s Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.

The funding plan will likely undergo changes before being approved by the Legislature this year.

The report compiled at the end of February outlines hundreds of projects and studies — most stretching across multiple fiscal years — that are funded by the state and a variety of federal agencies.

Some projects are listed as necessary but unfunded because the projected revenue for the state office in FY2012 is $391,074,134, with projects listed costing $439,737,800.
Projects in the works

In the southern part of Calcasieu Parish, about $2.6 million is scheduled to be spent restoring marsh and levees in Horseshoe Lake and parts of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway.

On the waterway, two 36-inch culverts would replace damaged ones and three miles of levee would be refurbished.

The Horseshoe Lake leg would include 1,200 acres of marsh restoration in four steps — two water control structures, four miles of new levee construction, the repair of one mile of levee and a construction of a four-mile rock dike along the Intercoastal Waterway.

In Cameron Parish, one of the largest multiyear projects is the $19 million Black Lake Beneficial Use Disposal Area, which will pump in about 1.9 million cubic yards of dredging material to create around 440 acres of marsh. A 10.2-mile pipeline will move the dredging material, which is coming from the Calcasieu Ship Channel.

At a cost of around $10 million, about 750,000 cubic yards would be pumped into Sabine National Wildlife Refuge for marsh creation.

The following are other projects awaiting funds:

• Cameron Parish Shoreline Restoration: This three-year project will cost about $45,800,000, with $2.9 million allocated for FY2012. It will rebuild 8.7 miles of dunes and beachhead from the Calcasieu River Jetty to the Holly Beach-Constance Beach breakwater field. The project is in its engineering and design phase, which means engineers and biologists are assessing the effectiveness of the project.

• Cameron-Creole Freshwater Introduction Vegetative Plantings: This multiyear restoration project includes saving 22,247 acres of marsh and open water by pumping in freshwater and planting native vegetation.

• Little Pecan Bayou Hydrologic Restoration: Fresh water will be pumped into the brackish marsh south of La. 82

• Bioengineered Oyster Reef Demonstration: This project in the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge places a 1,000-foot-long oysterbreak — a shore protection device — west of Joseph Harbor Canal. Using agricultural byproducts as attractants, it should develop into a full oyster reef, which would help prevent shoreline and wetland loss by absorbing wear from waves and storms.

March 7, 2011 at 1:34 am

Public outcry prompts coyote awareness plan

Coyote Awareness Campaign from Vanessa Deggins on Vimeo.

On Tuesday, a coyote awareness plan that features a website and telephone hotline was unveiled to Calcasieu Parish residents.

“Since Dec. 1, 2010, Calcasieu Parish Animal Services has received 75 calls about coyotes, with 95 percent being sightings,” said Tiffany Gardner, assistant director.

Jason Barnes, the special projects coordinator for Calcasieu Parish, said there are “a lot of reports in the city, and not as many in the northern areas of the parish.”

He said that may be because people in the north are used to seeing them.

“Residents have to work with us to deal with the root of the problem,” Gardner said. “That includes removing attractants by not leaving out trash and animal food overnight and making sure your pets are inside.”

Gardner said removing attractants and hazing are the most-effective ways to deal with nearby coyote populations. Hazing is making loud noises, throwing sticks or spraying coyotes with a water when they come near.

Gardner said this is for coyotes that have become used to human contact.

“Studies have shown these methods worked in large cities like Denver, Colo., and parts of British Columbia, Canada,” Gardner said.

She said residents had asked about killing programs, but every study she has seen not only show they don’t work, but may contribute to an increased coyote population.

“First, we wouldn’t know if we are killing the problematic coyotes,” Gardner said. “Also, killing caused other coyotes to take over that territory and to breed earlier and more litters.”

“We want to make sure people know who to call and what to do when they see a coyote,” Gardner said.


March 2, 2011 at 2:50 am

Town of Iowa soars in growth

BY John Guidroz, Todd Elliott, Vanessa C. Deggins and Taylor Prejean

Calcasieu Parish census data show that Iowa grew by 11 percent over the last decade, while DeQuincy’s population dropped by about 5 percent.

Other cities that lost residents include Sulphur, with a 0.5 percent decrease; Vinton, a 3.8 percent decrease; and Westlake, a 2.1 percent decrease.

Besides Iowa, Lake Charles was the only parish city that experienced growth — the population rose from 71,757 in 2000 to 71,993 in 2010.

Iowa’s population grew by 11.1 percent over the last 10 years. The census reported 2,996 people in 2010 — 333 more than in 2000.

Mayor Carol Ponthieux said she was “thrilled to see those kind of numbers.” She said the growth could result from people who work in Lake Charles moving to Iowa.

“Our housing costs are cheaper than they can find in Lake Charles,” she said. “And we have a lot of mobile homes and houses that people rent out.”

Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said last week he was disappointed with the city’s small population increase.

“Over the past year and a half, I think we’ve had some pretty good growth in terms of new areas within the city,” he said. “There’s been a lot of construction of housing within the area.”

Westlake Mayor Dan Cupit said the loss of about 100 residents, or 2.1 percent of the population, isn’t that significant, but is a bit of a surprise.

“I thought we would have more people than in 2000 because of the houses that have been built over the years,” he said.

Cupit said he expects the population to increase in the future as more people move to the area because of Westlake’s new golf course.

According to Cupit, the Louisiana Municipal Association has received notice from some cities who were unhappy with their numbers and plan to appeal the results. He said Westlake won’t.

“With that amount, we don’t stand to gain or lose anything,” Cupit said.

DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan thinks the city’s population decrease of 4.8 percent, or 163 people, is because people are building outside the city limits.

“They still have DeQuincy addresses, but they aren’t counted in the incorporated area,” he said.

“One solution for the future may be to extend the city’s boundaries to include some outlying subdivisions. That will require extending city utilities, but it’s something we’re looking into.”

Henagan added that even with the population decrease, DeQuincy has “kept its rank as the fourth-largest city in the parish.”

Vinton Mayor Kenny Stinson wasn’t phased by his city’s decrease of 3.8 percent, or 126 people.

“It is what it is,” he said. “We had some increase in housing in Vinton after Hurricane Rita — two housing developments with 50 homes each came in — so we felt that it would be an increase. It was a surprise to us that it wasn’t.”

Mayor Chris Duncan was also surprised at Sulphur’s 0.5 percent decrease of 102 people.

“We thought it would have been close to even or grown a little bit,” he said. “What I find odd is that Vinton dropped, Westlake dropped and we dropped. West Calcasieu dropped, but not when you get into the Carlyss area.”

The census numbers from each district will be a better gauge of the actual population numbers, he said.

Staff Writers John Guidroz, Todd Elliott, Vanessa C. Deggins and Taylor Prejean contributed to this report.

February 11, 2011 at 1:56 am

Calcasieu to house Beauregard juvenile offenders

In reaching a formal agreement to house Beauregard Parish juvenile offenders, Calcasieu Parish officials said key reforms have allowed them to help out a neighbor.

“Back in 2003, we had an average of 30 of our 38 beds full on a regular basis,” said Dane Bolin, director of Calcasieu Parish Juvenile Justice Services. “Our latest numbers have us averaging 17 kids a day.”

Bolin said Calcasieu had housed Beauregard juvenile offenders before, but that with this formal agreement Calcasieu Parish will “be their first option, and only if they have bed space.”

He said Beauregard officials will have to adhere to Calcasieu Parish admission standards. All juvenile offenders are screened, with mostly violent offenders being admitted.

“Many years ago, and still in some centers today, if a child is picked up for shoplifting, (he or she) might be placed in a detention center with a violent felon,” Bolin said.

“We focus on putting kids with the right resources, and sometimes that is detention. But we make sure not to mix low-risk kids with high-risk kids.”

In Calcasieu Parish, options include electronic monitoring, home detention and the evening reporting center.

Young violators report to or are taken to the center after school; there they can do homework and get needed treatment. They are taken home at 9 p.m.

“We work hard to keep the kids who shouldn’t be here at home, and that’s how our numbers stay low,” Bolin said.

He said housing juveniles out of parish is common because there are 17 centers across the state, which has 64 parishes.

“It really wouldn’t be cost efficient for each parish to have its own detention center,” Bolin said. “So it’s a pretty tight-knit group, and you help each other out when you can.”

The Beauregard Police Jury will pay Calcasieu the state rate of $105 per day per juvenile. On average, juveniles from out of parish stay less than a week.

“It’s not a big moneymaker, but it offsets all costs and does not cut into services for our kids,” Bolin said.

He said he conducted training classes for Beauregard Parish law enforcers to explain how juveniles who committed certain crimes are handled based on reforms Calcasieu Parish has put in place.

November 17, 2010 at 3:01 am

Calcasieu officials tout tax renewals


In a Monday night town hall hosted by the African American Chamber of Commerce, Calcasieu Parish police jurors and parish officials outlined two tax renewals that will be on the Oct. 2 ballot.

One is a 1.5-cent sales tax that covers road improvements and garbage collection in Wards 2-8. The second is a property tax that pays for courthouse and jail maintenance.

District 4 Police Juror Claude Syas and Parish Administrator Bryan Beam outlined some of the services the two taxes cover, including the parish health unit and mosquito control.

“There are a lot of things in the city limits that these dollars build and maintain,” Beam said.

One project about to be completed is the Allen P. August multipurpose annex, which will be open in about a month.

The building, on the corner of Moeling and North Prater streets, will house the Food for Seniors program, which provides groceries once a month, said Randy Vincent with the Office of Community Services.

He said the project was started by Elcie Guillory when he was a state representative.

“After taking advantage of some capital gains funds, the Police Jury matched the funds to start the project,” Vincent said.

District 9 Police Juror Kevin Guidry directed the attendees’ attention to the property tax renewal, saying the cost would be low regardless.

“If you’re home is worth less that $75,000, you’re exempt. For $100,000, you’d pay $8.18 a year, or 68 cents per month,” Guidry said.

“So we’re not out to break anyone. We know times are hard, but we also need you to understand the important services you’re paying for.”

Attendees’ questions and comments varied.

North Lake Charles resident John Nash said many people don’t know that the two taxes are renewals — not new taxes.

“Taxes is something we don’t like, and it’s something I have to deal with as a business owner,” Nash said. “You have to look at all the services that are provided. These are things we need on a daily basis.”

Another resident expressed concern about a lack of minority contractors and workers on various projects.

District 3 Police Juror Elizabeth Griffin said all pro–jects are subject to state laws that regulate the bidding process, and that the Police Jury can’t change them.

Griffin said she watches the issue closely and tries to make sure minority contractors are state- and locally certified — a requirement to bid on any project.

“I have walked multiple minority contractors through the process and am currently working with others,” she said. “But it will always be the contractors’ responsibility to come to me and ask for help and stick with the process.”


September 14, 2010 at 7:41 pm

LCPD: Juvenile arrests decline

17.5 percent drop follows national trend

The latest data released by the Lake Charles Police Department show a 17.5 percent decrease in juvenile arrests.

In 2009, there were 226 juvenile arrests, according to computer generated statistics provided to the American Press.

Since 2000, juvenile arrests in Lake Charles have steadily dropped, except for a 73 percent increase from 2006 to 2007.

The numbers then dropped 35.1 percent in 2008.

Officials said the 2007 increase in arrests does not necessarily reflect a massive increase in crime. City officials posted a 3.7 percent drop across all major criminal acts, with increases in homicides and juvenile crimes.

This was the year Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon dispatched a large number of special details to enforce the city’s curfew for teens.

The city ordinance says on Sundays through Thursdays, people under 17 cannot be out after 11 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays they cannot be out after midnight.

“We were getting a lot of calls from citizens who were seeing teenagers out at two and three o’clock in the morning,” said Sgt. Mark Kraus.

Most juvenile crimes in 2009 took place between 4 p.m. and 1 a.m.

In 2009, Lake Charles police arrested 226 juveniles and charged them with 346 crimes.
More than half of those crimes — 117 — took place May to August, when children are out of school.

The department has scaled back the number of details focusing on juvenile curfew enforcement, but the majority are still done during the summer months, officials said.

The most common crimes were curfew violations, simple burglary and theft of goods — which includes shoplifting.

In 2010, as of June 8, police have had 74 juvenile arrests.

The city’s numbers follow a national trend in which juvenile crime has dropped about 33 percent — with slight increases — since the mid-1990s, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The Justice data counts children ages 10 to 17.

Parishwide, the number of juvenile arrests are dropping, said Jeff Vander with the Calcasieu Parish Office of Juvenile Justice Services.

“We are steadily seeing fewer referrals,” Vander said.

After the arrest
In the case of curfew violations, on the first offense juvenile offenders are taken to their parents and both are issued warnings. The next offense brings a $100 fine, and with subsequent violations fines steadily increase and offenders and their parents could be subject to court appearances.

“We handle all intakes and diversions for juveniles up to the age of 17,” Vander said.
All Juvenile Justice curfew cases are referrals from the District Attorney’s office. There were 490 in 2009; 592 in 2008 and 781 in 2007.

In 2000, the Office of Juvenile Justice Services adopted juvenile detention models designed by the Annie E. Casey and MacArthur foundations.

The models focus on treatment instead of incarcerating juveniles, creating accountability for the juvenile and parents and providing any rehabilitation they may need.

A risk assessment interview and certain indicators like truancy, mental health and family relationships are also examined.

“When we started this, the only thing we were sure of was that continuing to place lowrisk kids in secure facilities only made things worse,” said Dane Bolin, director of the Office of Juvenile Justice Services.

The OJJS consists of three divisions — Intake, Field and Traffic.

In Intake, three probation officers handle book-ins to the Juvenile Detention Center, all criminal offenses and jail court proceedings.

The Juvenile Detention Center, a 35-bed facility, currently holds 14 juveniles.

Officers focus on using diversionary tools, such as probation, while the juvenile goes through treatment that includes family counseling or substance abuse counseling, if necessary.

Field officers enforce court orders and help formulate supervision plans with parents, counselors and law enforcers. The traffic division is part of probation and handles all nondelinquent traffic violations.


June 13, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Manslaughter conviction stands

*published June 10, 2010

But appeals court drops second Pegues charge

The state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld the manslaughter charge and sentence imposed on Daniel Pegues, who was accused of killing an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, but it vacated his conviction for simple burglary.

Pegues — found guilty Jan. 17, 2009, in the shooting death of Calcasieu Deputy Alan Inzer — argued in his appeal that he was denied a fair trial because the court twice refused to change the trial venue and that the 40-year prison term he received was excessive.

Additionally, he said his conviction on a burglary charge — which jurors later told the trial judge was their basis for the manslaughter verdict — violated the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In its ruling, the appellate court said the attorney for Pegues, who was charged with second-degree murder, didn’t present sufficient evidence to warrant a change of venue.

The judges noted that most prospective jurors had said they could put aside their personal opinions, and said that only a fourth or so of the jury pool was excused, “mainly due to predetermined guilt based upon pre-trial publicity.”

“In fact, the jury returned a verdict of the lesser charge of manslaughter,” the judges’ opinion reads. “This suggests the jurors were not inflamed by exposure to the pre-trial publicity. Accordingly, we find the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for change of venue.”

As to the sentence, the appeals judges said, the state Supreme Court has written that “on appellate review of sentence, the only relevant question is ‘whether the trial court abused its broad sentencing discretion, not whether another sentence might have been more appropriate.’ ”

In this case, they said, Judge David Ritchie didn’t abuse discretion in imposing a 40-year term. But a majority of the three-judge panel took issue with the burglary charge, saying that remarks made by Ritchie indicate that some jurors based their lesser manslaughter verdict on a belief that Inzer was slain during Pegues’ commission of a burglary.

“Thus, it appears the jury punished Defendant for both manslaughter and attempted simple burglary, where the underlying felony upon which the manslaughter conviction was based was the attempted simple burglary,” the majority opinion reads. “Therefore, we find Defendant was punished twice for the same conduct.”

In a partial dissent, Chief Judge Gene Thibodeaux stated that Ritchie’s comments in open court, however unorthodox, shouldn’t negate the evidence or the conviction.

“Ordinarily, a reviewing court does not scrutinize the thought processes employed by jurors in reaching a verdict,” he wrote.

“The trial judge’s observations, though well-intended, were an indirect breach of this evidentiary rule. Hence, any reference to these comments to vitiate an otherwise valid conviction was error.”

He said prosecutors presented enough evidence “to support the compromise verdict of manslaughter based on specific intent to kill” — and not just on the attempted burglary.


June 10, 2010 at 6:53 pm

First responders take part in simulated seige

Becoming better prepared

Actors play the role of a hostage and members of an extremist group that has taken over a barge on Lake Charles as the Calcasieu Office of Emergency Preparedness and local law enforcement agencies conduct emergency responder exercises Thursday. BY BRAD PUCKETT

First responders and the U.S. Coast Guard spent Thursday morning taking part in a security exercise meant to simulate a hostage situation.

The exercise began on Memorial Day, when the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office began receiving information about terrorist activity and threats, said Cmdr. Matt Vezinot.

“We started narrowing it down to involving Southwest Louisiana and people upset about the oil spill,” Vezinot said. “That led us to determine it was domestic terrorism.”

The report of a stolen barge Thursday morning and the sight of “armed” terrorists on board took the drill into high gear.

In a real event, officials would have locked down the Civic Center, secured the area around the waterfront, and closed both Interstates 10 and 210.

The terrorists were armed with semiautomatic weapons, had two hostages, and were threatening to detonate a chemical bomb.


Officials first contacted the captors through a hostage negotiator. The terrorists were demanding that eco-terrorist prisoners be released.

When negotiations broke down, a tactical team prepared to board the boat, signaling the end of the exercise.

“A lot of it was about communicating with other agencies, planning and response to disasters, planned or natural,” Vezinot said.

The topic was chosen by the Calcasieu Office of Emergency Preparedness and Sheriff Tony Mancuso.

“They developed the topic by looking at local industries and current events,” Vezinot said. “We began getting information just over the past few days.”

Vezinot said that regardless of the incident, everything depends on planning and communication between different agencies.

OEP officials said they would like to do at least three similar exercises each year.

“A lot of these things, we’d also do during a natural disaster,” Vezinot said. “There were some kinks where assignments got mixed up, and we wanted to straighten that out in practice.”

Participating agencies included the Lake Charles Police Department, state police, the Lake Charles and Sulphur fire departments, and Union Pacific Railroad police.


June 4, 2010 at 6:45 pm

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