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January 20 10 Cold temperatures, hot football begin year The River Parishes ushered in 2010 with a blast of extremely cold weather. Several days of record cold temperatures gripped the region. With the mercury dipping into the high teens over several nights, parish officials scrambled to take necessary precautions to avoid breakdowns in public services. Aside from the cold weather, the big story in January was the opening of a special election season in St. John Parish. Four candidates would declare their intentions to appear on the March 27 election ballot to replace former Parish President Bill Hubbard. Hubbard officially re-

signed from office in September 2009 in the wake of an investigation into bribery charges involving a trio of parish contractors. Hubbard pleaded guilty to all charges and is still awaiting sentencing. First to announce was Division A Councilman-at-Large Richard “Dale” Wolfe, a 34-year veteran public servant in the parish. Wolfe’s announcement was followed by St. John acting chief administrative officer Buddy Boe. Boe, 24, served 18 months as public information officer under Hubbard. Upon Hubbard’s resignation, Boe was appointed as acting CAO by acting Parish Pres-

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Little Einsteins

Second-half goal lifts St. Charles over Riverside



JANUARY 16, 2010



VOL. 98, NO. 5

St. John drainage debate continues

Breaking new ground

Question remain about master plan’s solutions BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

A tagged spike sticks out of the dirt where construction crews have begun excavation work for the addition to the field house at East St. John High School. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

Signs of progress on school projects seen everywhere BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

RESERVE – After months of planning, designing and awarding various contracts, residents of St. John Parish are finally starting to see signs of progress in the construction projects that are part of the school system’s Educational and Facilities At most elementary schools in St. John Parish, such as Emily C. Watkins (above), crews will soon be pouring the concrete Plan. SEE PROJECTS, PAGE 6A

Motorcycle L’’ OBSERVATEUR accident TODAY claims life of Fraud cases land local women LaPlace man in federal court BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – A LaPlace man was killed Thursday after he lost control of his motorcycle and struck a sport utility vehicle on River Road in LaPlace, according to a release from State Police. David A. Dill III, 58, was traveling east on River Road around 4 p.m. when he suddenly lost control of his 2006 Harley Davidson motorcycle, said State Police spokesperson Trooper Melissa Matey. Matey said Dill crossed the double center lines of the two-lane roadway and crashed into a 2001 Ford Explorer heading west on River Road near McReine Road. The release said Dill, who was wearing a helmet, was pronounced dead at the scene just SEE CRASH, PAGE 2A

River parishes residents await sentencing. NEWS | Page 3A

EDGARD – Following a heated debate between parish officials and council members, the St. John Parish Council requested Tuesday that the administration re-examine an existing drainage master plan to see whether it addresses solutions for flooding in the Homewood neighborhood of Reserve. Council members, led by District 3 Councilman Charles Julien, have cast a sharp eye on the historically flood-prone neighborhood after heavy rains late last year again sent water into streets and homes in the area. During a Dec. 22 meeting, the council had requested administrators devise a plan to correct issues that have affected the area for, according to Julien, more than 30 years. Julien said he is asking for more than a “quick fix.” “We don’t need another BandAid,” Julien said. “We need the problem solved once and for all.” St. John Acting Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe told the council Tuesday public works crews have spent the past two weeks clearing ditches along streets and near the railroad tracks in the area. He also said a major drainage canal along Airline Highway has been cleaned out and the parish plans to blow out clogged culverts under the roadway in the next few days. Boe said the parish is also looking

slabs that will form the foundation for new playground equipment. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)



Distribution of police information requires a good sense of balance BY ROBIN SHANNON

Riverside knocks off East St. John Rebel boys pull away during second half of play. SPORTS | Page 7A

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LAPLACE – When you are the man who has all the information regarding a criminal case, it is sometimes hard to determine what needs to be released and what can’t be released. That is the struggle facing Capt. Dane Clement of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff ’s Office nearly everyday. Clement, 47, is entering his second year as public information officer for the Sheriff ’s Office. He’s the man that handles media requests for information on the criminal activity affecting all areas of St. John Parish. “There is always a new challenge or a new question that I haven’t dealt with before,” Clement said. “There is a lot to deal with and a lot to think about, but it is always very exciting.” Clement spends his mornings surveying the daily incident and arrest reports in anticipation of requests for information from

St. John Sheriff Wayne Jones asked Capt. Dane Clement to join the Sheriff’s Office as a part of the Community Relations Division in 1996.

the local media outlets. At that point, he digs deeper into the report and gathers information from reporting officers and any detectives working the case to see where they are or where they are headed with any investiga-

tion. “That is where the challenges begin to crop up,” Clement said. “I want all of my information to be fair and accurate, but I have SEE CLEMENT, PAGE 2A

ident Pat McTopy. Also joining the race was St. John Parish School Board President Gerald Keller and former St. John Councilman Perry Bailey. The least surprising candidate to join the race was former St. John Chief Administrative Officer Natalie Robottom. Robottom served four years as St. John CAO under former Parish President Nickie Monica and ran for parish president in 2007, when she was narrowly beaten out by Hubbard in a runoff election. Robottom left St. John in 2008 to serve as Parish Manager for Terrebonne Parish before eventually joining the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal in the Governor’s Office of Community Programs. She would resign from that post in early January. Also making big news in January was the sudden skyrocketing success of the New Orleans Saints. As the Saints tore through the NFL playoffs in January on the way to an eventual Super Bowl birth, many of January’s stories focused on unique Who Dat ties in the River Parishes. One story in particular spotlighted a LaPlace family in possession of a gallon-sized bottle of whiskey that was won in a bet during the Saints’ first ever game as a team. Roland LaBranche Jr. won the bottle after watching Saints kick returner John Gilliam run back the opening kickoff for a touchdown. LaBranche made a promise to not open the bottle until the Saints reached the Super Bowl. Although the Saints would eventually reach the game some 44 years after that afternoon, LaBranche was not around to see it happen,

Trudy Torres chats with fellow Saints fan Craig Rushton shortly before the Saints took on and eventually beat the Minnesota Vikings to win the NFC Championship. Rushton follows the Saints from his home in England but made the trip to New Orleans to be there in the Super Dome for the historic game. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

but his four children, knowing the deep meaning behind the bottle, carried on the tradition and threw a huge party Super Bowl Sunday, when the bottle was opened for the first time. The paper also spotlighted a devoted Who Dat from across the pond with ties to the region. Craig Rushton, 46, a devoted follower of the “black and gold” since 1991, journeyed more than 6,000 miles from his home in England to claim his spot inside the Louisiana Superdome for the NFC Championship game in late January. “I’ve followed the NFL for years from England,” Rushton said. “One year, on a trip to New Orleans, I watched a game from the Superdome, and I was hooked. Something about the team just draws you in and the same could be said about the city.” Rushton was in LaPlace with friends Wayne Vicknair, Fay Stanley and Trudy Torres, who all joined him

for the game. Rushton said he and Torres forged a friendship after the two met boarding a cruise ship in Tampa, Fla., in late December on the same weekend the Saints were playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in New Orleans. “I was on vacation with my wife, and we were waiting to board the ship,” Rushton said. “I went into a sports bar to watch some of the game, and they told me they didn’t have it on television, so I went to grab my laptop to watch the game from there.” Torres said she walked into the same bar and shouted in disbelief that the game wasn’t on. “I couldn’t believe the game wasn’t on,” Torres said. “As soon as I open my mouth, I see Craig jump up with his Saints stuff on watching the game. At that moment we were joined at the hip. Where that laptop went, I went.” Also in January, the St. John school system began its pursuit of funds made available

through the federal “Race to the Top” program. The school system would join others across the state vying for a piece of the nearly $4 billion promised to Louisiana. After a month of delays, the St. John School system officially approved a decision to rededicate the East St. John High School Gym in memory of the late girls basketball coach Troy Giordano. The name change was unveiled at the Ladycats’ game against South Lafourche. Giordano was killed in a car accident in May of 2009. The St. John Parish Council in January began serious and occasionally heated discussions regarding drainage concerns parishwide. The discussions were sparked by a week’s worth of torrential rainfall that flooded numerous neighborhoods in all parts of the parish. The council would eventually approve an excavation contract to clear out major drainage canals in the parish.

Saints dominate local sports at start of 2010 Unbridled joy and relief washed over Saints fans as Garrett Hartley’s 40-yard field goal went through, up and good, to lift their team over the Minnesota Vikings in overtime of the NFC Championship Game, 31-28. It netted the franchise its first ever berth into the Super Bowl —

when Hartley’s kick went through, cameras would catch empty streets in New Orleans, once flooded by a hurricane, now instantly flooded with celebrating fans. It was a roller coaster of a game for the Saints. The Vikings turned the ball over six times yet remained in strik-

ing distance thanks to a strong defensive effort and the heroics of quarterback Brett Favre in a hostile Superdome environment. But as has often been the knock on the old gunslinger, Favre made a crucial mistake late — with the score tied at 28 in the final minute of regulation and his team on the Saints’ 39-yard

line, Favre rolled out, threw across his body and was intercepted by cornerback Tracy Porter, forcing overtime. There, the Saints won the toss and went to work. Pierre Thomas came up with a key kickoff return and fourth-and-one conversion, and Drew Brees did the rest, leading the

Saints into Hartley’s range. In other news: Riverside capped a trip to the volleyball regional round in 2009 when Shea LaFountain was named L’Observateur’s Volleyball MVP in St. John Parish. On the football side of things, East St. John’s D’haquille Williams hit the scene as a junior in

shocking fashion, finishing among the state leaders in receiving despite never playing prep ball in years prior. He was named football’s Most Valuable Offensive Player. On the defensive side of things, Nick Reine helped lead St. Charles to the state semifinals in Class 2A and received the nod.




F ebruary 20 10 Saints continue to rule gridiron and watercooler chatter locally

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Labat honored at ESJ football banquet

Although it wasn’t necessarily a “local” story, the New Orleans Saints and their incredible run to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami dominated most of the month of February. Several stories across the first two weeks of February focused on local reaction to the game from residents who either stayed home to watch, or made the trip to Miami to be there in person. The Saints would triumph over the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 31-17. “Honestly, I’d rather be here to witness the pandemonium that is certain to ensue,” said LaPlace resident Darren Stout. “Considering what happened after the championship game when people ran out into the streets of our neighborhood, I can’t wait to see it.” Stout said he and his wife Carol have been putting together a barbecue with friends and family to watch the game. The couple is expecting to host about 30 people. “We’ve got fireworks left over from New Year’s Eve that we plan to finish off if they win,” Stout said. “Did I say if ? I think I meant when they win.” Others, like St. John the Baptist Parish Councilwoman Cheryl Millet, felt that watching the game in person was too good to pass up. “It was surreal inside the stadium,” said Millet, who secured her ticket to the game at the last minute. “There is no feeling that is quite like it, and few words can completely describe it.” Millet, who spent most of last weekend in South Florida for the game and other festivi-

More St. John royalty KREWE OF ALLOVUS COURT, 1B


FEBRUARY 13, 2010



VOL. 98, NO. 13

2009 Victor indictment thrown out BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

EDGARD – A St. John the Baptist Parish judge invalidated the latest indictments against members of the Victor family of Reserve in connection with the 2008 death of an 8-year-old boy. District Court Judge Mad-

eline Jasmine voided the September 2009 indictments because a grand jury member wore a shirt that “openly advertised” employment by the St. John Parish Sheriff ’s Office. According to Jasmine’s ruling, filed Feb. 4, the deputy was a member of the grand jury that indicted Er-

rol and Tonya Victor on a charge of second-degree murder and Errol Victor Jr. on a charge of accessory after the fact in the April 1, 2008 death of Errol Victor’s stepson, M.L. Lloyd III. The three were originally indicted in April 2008. It is not yet known whether all charges against the family

will be dropped or whether the 2008 indictments would replace the one vacated. Jasmine said in her ruling that although no laws prohibit members of law enforcement from serving as a grand juror, the officer’s shirt posed a potentially significant problem. “The Sheriff ’s Office,

A rolling Saints tribute

which is inherently aligned with the State, presents an even greater need to exercise an abundance of caution,” said Jasmine in the ruling. Jasmine also stated the deputy, by virtue of his job, might have had more access to materials and evidence SEE VICTOR, PAGE 2A

Kenner crash kills Paulina couple Elderly couple, son returning from doctor BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

the Brees” for quarterback Drew Brees and “Shock the World” for tight end Jeremy Shockey to both side windows. He also applied the numbers of all the players he saw when he joined the other 20,000 fans welcoming the team home at New Orleans International Airport Monday afternoon. Richardson said his

KENNER – A multi-car wreck on Interstate 10 in Kenner Wednesday claimed the life of a Paulina couple and their 42-year-old son, according to a release from the Kenner Police department. The victims of the crash, which occurred just after 4 p.m. Wednesday between Interstate 310 and the Williams Boulevard exit, were identified by Kenner Police Thursday as Gerard Faucheux, NELSON FAUCHEUX 42, of Meadville, Miss., and Grand Point residents Nelson and Shirley Faucheux, both 72. According Lt. Wayne McInnis, a spokesman for the Kenner Police Department, a witness said the Faucheuxs were traveling westbound on I-10 when SHIRLEY FAUCHEUX their Toyota Sienna minivan was struck by a 1998 Mercury Grand Marquis driven by Carol Banks, 62, of Kenner. McInnis said Banks was traveling at a high rate of speed when, for



Daniel Richardson shows off his work before he and his wife clean the truck – at least until next year. (Staff photo by Tasha Atwood)

Local wears his heart on his truck BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – Anyone can try to call themselves the number one New Orleans Saints fan, but few devoted “Who Dats” can say they are willing to do what Daniel “Hollywood” Richardson did to his truck. In honor of the Saints first trip to the Super Bowl, Richardson, a LaPlace native, decked


Gov. Bobby Jindal meets with St. James Parish President Dale Hymel and other representatives from the area for the announcement that a new sugar refinery was coming to the parish. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

ties, said Saints fans inside the stadium and around the area outnumbered Colts fans by four to one. “We were hugging and high-fiving strangers all weekend,” Millet said. “We even turned some Colts fans into Saints fans. They all said that if their team was not in it, they would be cheering for the Saints.” Even those who don’t regularly watch football, like Joyce Gros of LaPlace, tuned in to the Black and Gold take home the trophy. “I normally catch a movie with other girlfriends on Super Bowl Sunday, but not this time,” Gros said. “I don’t watch the games, but I keep up with how the Saints do throughout the year. I just feel like this game is going to be something big. You can’t help but get caught up in it.” Amid all the hype surrounding the Saints

Work begins on clearing out drainage canals in St. John. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

success in February was an important groundbreaking of a new sugar refinery in St. James Parish. Officials from Imperial Sugar Co., Cargill Inc. and Louisiana Sugar Growers and Refineries LLC joined state and local leaders at a ceremony in Gramercy to officially kick off construction of the $150 million refinery venture, known as Louisiana Sugar Refining LLC. The three groups are partners in the refinery’s operations. The refinery was originally pegged for construction in St. John Parish on property near a Cargill grain elevator in Reserve, but the national economic downturn forced Cargill and SUGAR to rethink the endeavor. When the project was moved to St. James in March 2009, it picked up Imperial as the third partner. The Texasbased company is helping build the refinery near an existing Imperial refinery in Gramercy. “Sugar refining has been a part of this community for more than 100 years, which shows the true value of the industry to the state,” said Imperial Chief Executive Officer John Sheptor. “This venture will ensure a market for Louisiana growers for years to come.” Also in February, the St. John Parish School Board voted to extend the contract of Superintendant Dr. Courtney Millet through July 2012. Millet said she requested the extension so she could see the completion of several

projects tied to the school system’s Facilities Master Plan. “It is my wish to make certain the educational reforms and capital improvements program begun under my administration with regard to the $46 million bond renewal and the new Race to the Top initiative will be sustainable and build capacity for years to come,” Millet said. The St. John Parish Council approved a contract to begin a series of projects to help improve drainage in several parish neighborhoods. With approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the parish began clearing large amounts of debris from drainage canals throughout the region that run through protected wetlands. The parish also devised a plan to expand pumping stations and drainage canals to help clear rainwater from neighborhoods in Reserve and old LaPlace. Meanwhile, in St. Charles Parish, state transportation officials wrapped up work on a 5.5-mile-long steel guardrail along Airline Drive designed to keep motorists from plunging into a deep canal along the highway. Parish residents had called for some sort of barrier protection along the roadway for years, but state police and rescue officials argued such a barrier would hinder rescue efforts or cause vehicles to bounce back into oncoming traffic. A string of fatal accidents in 2003 prompted a further push for a solution.

out his grey Ford F-150 pickup with Saints flags and painted numbers and sayings on all of the windows and side panels. “I just thought it would be a good tribute to the best football team in the league,” Richardson said. “It started kind of simple but evolved as they kept on winning.” Richardson said he started decorating the truck at the beginning of


A ‘Mardi Gras Fiesta’ in St. James Parish BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

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the year when he added the car flags and used temporary paint and a car crayon to post the team’s record on the truck’s windshield. “I changed it every Monday after each win,” Richardson said. “I kept it going all the way up to 13-0. When we reached the playoffs, I added the scores for each game.” When the Saints reached the Super Bowl, Richardson added “Feel

GRAMERCY – About the same time Mardi Gras festivities are reaching peak excitement in the New Orleans area, residents of St. James Parish will be hitting the streets for the lone parade of their Carnival season. The family-friendly, community-oriented Krewe of Tomorrow rolls through the streets of Gramercy and Lutcher starting at 1 p.m. Fat Tuesday. “Our theme this year is Mardi Gras Fiesta,” said

parade organizer Roxie Batiste. “But we will also be partying with the ‘Who Dats’ since many of the floats will have a distinct Saints theme.” Batiste said the parade, which is in its fourth year, features 12 separate carnival organizations, whose members ride atop nine floats. She said the procession also includes a motorcycle group, various marching dance groups and a collection of antique cars. The krewe’s festivities officially kick off tonight at 9:30 p.m., with a carni-

val ball at the Gramercy Boat Club. Batiste said the ball, which has an attendance consisting of members from the organizations in the parade, typically attracts more than 500 people. “We roll up and have a real good time,” Batiste said. “We are expecting a brass band and a group of Mardi Gras Indians for extra entertainment.” Batiste said the Krewe of Tomorrow shares royalty with the Krewe of Agape, which features members Kathy Megga Kelson and Osborne Nelson SEE TOMORROW, PAGE 2A

are the king and queen of the Krewe of Tomorrow.

The month in sports To even reach the Super Bowl was enough for most Saints fans. To win it would simply be delicious gravy. Yummy. Tracy Porter came up big for the second time in as many games, stepping in front of a Peyton Manning pass to Reggie Wayne and returning it 74-yards to the house late in the fourth quarter to put New Orleans ahead 3117, its final margin of victory. It was just one of many unforgettable plays, including a surprise onside kick by Thomas Morestead to begin the second half that allowed the Saints to steal a possession -and soon the lead, on a Drew Brees touchdown pass to Pierre Thomas to put the Saints ahead 13-10. Indianapolis led 17-16 in the fourth quarter when Brees led the Saints on a final offensive touchdown drive capped with a short touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey, making it 22-17. A 2-point conversion pass to Lance Moore was upheld upon replay, giving the Saints a touch-

down lead. Brees completed all but one of his 16 second half passes. Meanwhile, Riverside Academy’s boys basketball team reached a new milestone when it clinched the program’s first ever district title after going undefeated within District 10-2A. The Rebels also nailed down the first top postseason seed in school history. The West St. John girls basketball team also made school history with its first district championship and first playoff victory. Led by Kyla Morris and Jaylyn Gordon, the Lady Rams won District 8-1A and defeated Hamilton Christian 60-47 in the first round of the playoffs. East St. John’s boys basketball team made the postseason but fell to Jesuit in the bi-district round. The St. Charles boys and girls soccer teams, the Riverside boys and girls soccer teams, the East St. John girls basketball team and the Riverside girls basketball team all returned to the postseason, bowing out in the opening round.




Mar ch 20 10 Robottom, Wolfe make parish president runoff West St. John Elementary School welcomes Serina Singleton as new principal Three months of campaigning for St. John the Baptist Parish’s top job were capped off at the end of March with the primary election for St. John Parish President. After a series of political forums throughout the month, St. John residents went to the polls on March 27 to cast their ballots. Of the five candidates to qualify for the race – Buddy Boe, Gerald Keller, Perry Bailey, Natalie Robottom and Richard Dale Wolfe, only Ro-

bottom and Wolfe garnered enough votes to make it through to a runoff election. The special election was held to replace former Parish President Bill Hubbard, who resigned in September 2009 after pleading guilty to federal bribery charges. The winner will carry out the remaining 18 months of Hubbard’s inaugural term. Robottom lead the primary from wire to wire, leading by as much as 41 percent early in the

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Smooth transition leads Riverside to success

Feel like a festival?



MARCH 3, 2010


VOL. 98, NO. 18


School Board approves new west bank principal BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

RESERVE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board Tuesday approved the appointment of Serina Sing-

leton as the new principal of West St. John Elementary School, a position vacated by Gail Creecy on Feb. 22. The approval did not come without ample discussion, however.

Although the particulars of the debate that preceded the approval were not directed at Singleton, some board members questioned the process SEE BOARD, PAGE 5A

Serina Singleton addresses the School Board after being approved as the new principal of West St. John Elementary School. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

Hat, check. Pajamas, check. I’m ready to read.

Rec Board questions candidates

In public forum, they address parish recreation BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

Dressed in “Cat in the Hat” pajamas and hat, John L. Ory kindergartener Sara Brooks prepares for a school day devoted to the works of Dr. Seuss. Schools across the nation annually celebrate the beloved author’s birthday with schoolwide book readings and activities. Events at Ory also included a “green eggs and ham” breakfast and readings from various parish leaders. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon.)

State court L’’ OBSERVATEUR upholds TODAY Petroplex Local resident dies in Airline crash permit BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

VACHERIE – A Baton Rouge judge upheld the state Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to grant an air permit for a planned petroleum storage facility along the bank of the Mississippi River in Vacherie. In a Feb. 22 ruling, District Judge William Morvant affirmed the synthetic minor source air permit, issued in July 2009 for Petroplex International’s storage tank farm, despite heavy protest from a local opposition group known as Community Strength. Representatives from the group said an appeal of the ruling is being considered. In his ruling, Morvant cited the high legal standard necessary to overSEE PETROPLEX, PAGE 2A

Police suspect previous medical condition to be cause of one-vehicle wreck that claimed life of 84-year-old man. NEWS | Page 3A


LAPLACE – The candidates vying for St. John the Bapist Parish’s top job told members of the Recreation Board Monday the parish needs a more comprehensive and better funded recreation department in order to better serve the needs of the citizens. Prior to the board’s regular monthly meeting, candidates Perry Bailey, Buddy Boe, Gerald Keller, Natalie

Robottom and Dale Wolfe were each given three pre-determined questions pertaining to the current state of parish recreation and possible goals for the future. Each was given equal opportunity to voice their answers at the hour-long forum. The candidates emphasized the importance of broadening the recreation program’s concentration beyond just organized sports that only target a select SEE RECREATION, PAGE 2A


Regarding Winter Olympics, reader appeal varies greatly BY DAVID VITRANO

Jesuit downs Wildcats in playoffs


East St. John loses in first round of playoffs. SPORTS | Page 6A

LAPLACE – Another Winter Olympics has come and gone. Medals have been awarded, and the athletes have returned to their respective countries. The 2010 edition of the games proved to be one of the most popular with television viewers in recent years. As such, L’Observateur asked visitors to its Web site to answer the following question: “What is your favorite sport to watch in the Winter Olympics?” Not surprisingly, skiing was readers’ top choice, garnering over one-fifth of the votes. Close behind were ice skating and hockey,

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night. At her campaign headquarters election night, she celebrated with about 200 of her closest friends and family. “I was hoping to win outright, but in a campaign with five candidates running I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I think we ran a positive, honest and professional campaign and the voters recognized that.” Wolfe, on the other hand, lagged behind in fourth place until very late in the evening when the final precincts were reported. He was able to edge out his closest competitor, Boe, by 47 votes. “Our plan worked,” Wolfe said Saturday at his campaign celebration party. “We’ve got a fight in the next few weeks, and we need to do a little better.” Wolfe said his 34 years of experience as a public servant in the parish played a big factor in Saturday’s results. “I know the people of St. John Parish,” Wolfe said. “I know the needs of the people and I am a people person. I intend to continue to run my campaign with honesty and integrity and I will continue to put the people first.” Also in March, officials with Marathon Petroleum Co. unveiled a $3.9 billion expansion at the company’s Garyville refinery. Marathon officials said the project, which began construction in 2006, is considered the first new refinery to be built in the United States in 33 years. “It is a masterpiece of engineering that will

Natalie Robottom speaks with some of her supporters following her victory in the primary for St. John Parish president. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

eventually be able to out perform its design criteria,” said Marathon President Gary Heminger. “I can tell you that this facility will be the most profitable in the United States because of our energy efficiency and reliability.” The 180,000-barrelper-day (bpd) expansion, which equates to about 7.5 million gallons of clean transportation fuels, boosts the refinery’s capacity from 256,000 bpd to 436,000 bpd and makes the plant the third largest refinery in the nation. The refinery produces gasoline, diesel and kerosene as well as asphalt from crude oil. Six months after being handed a state mandated order to remove contaminants from tap water flowing through LaPlace, St. John Parish administrators and council learned in March that the system is now in full compliance. Mike Curtis, a water quality consultant for Curtis Environmental, said a quarterly test of the east bank water system performed in Feb-

ruary showed that levels of trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, two contaminants regularly found in the water, were well below standards set by the Department of Health and Hospitals and Environmental Protection Agency. Curtis explained that when examining water quality, DHH and EPA officials look at what is called a running quarterly average of contaminant concentration by taking the average of the previous four individual quarterly tests. He said contaminant levels showed a dramatic drop compared to samples taken in November. Also in March, the St. John School Board approved the appointment of Serina Singleton as the new principal at West St. John Elementary. Singleton took over the position from Gail Creecy, who left the position in February. “I’m on cloud nine,” Singleton said of her appointment, adding that she was excited to take over the reins from Creecy, who she said

“laid a great foundation.” “I’ll be trying to create new ways to do the same thing so students and teachers don’t get bored,” Singleton said. While in the process of acting on tips regarding alleged drug activity near Oak Alley Drive in LaPlace, St. John narcotics investigators discovered a “mobile drug lab” containing materials for making simple forms of methamphetamines. “It is a compact operation in that it is set up to where one could manufacture the drug in a small space like the back seat of a car,” said Capt. Dane Clement, a spokesman for the St. John Sheriff ’s Office. “The materials simply need to be combined and don’t require any sort of open flame.” Investigators said the operation is known as a “shake and bake” or “one-pot method” of making methamphetamine, in which various household chemicals and materials are combined with small amounts of over the counter cold pills in a plastic soda bottle and shaken up.

Riverside wins first ever state basketball title When coach Timmy Byrd came to Riverside from now-defunct Reserve Christian, he brought a long championship resume and an ongoing basketball dynasty with him. It was all new for Riverside, never a basketball powerhouse. But that officially changed in March when the Rebels captured their first ever state championship, defeating JonesboroHodge 84-61 in the finals of the Class 2A Top 28 tournament. It capped only the third winning season in Riverside history. Ricardo Gathers —

who was named the MVP of Reserve Christian’s championship victory in 2009 — netted that honor for the second straight time after the 6-foot-7 center scored 23 points and hauled in eight rebounds. Cedric Jenkins also came up big with 19 points and seven rebounds. For Byrd, it was his eighth state championship as a head coach. Riverside’s shortest margin of victory was a 20-point quarterfinal win over host Springfield. It also defeated Sterlington, Port Barre and Evangel en route to the finals.

Gathers was not through receiving recognition. He’d earn honors as the Class 2A Player of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. L’Observateur named him the boys basketball MVP for 2010. West St. John center Kyla Morris garnered that honor among girls after leading the Rams to a historic season. In soccer, L’Observateur named East St. John forward DeChris Strong the St. John Parish MVP in boys soccer, while St. Charles defender Kelly Lienhop was the MVP among girls.

Riverside made history in March, clinching its first ever state basketball championship with a decisive 84-61 win over Jonesboro-Hodge at the Cajundome in Lafayette. Pictured are (front row, left to right) Jeff Keys, John Lewis, T.J. Scott, Mason Williams, Josh Tassin, Peter Katerjian and Louis Dabney; and (top row, left to right) heac coach Timmy Byrd, assistant coach Matt McGee, Tre Johnson, assistant coach Ronnie Byrd, Kyle McClue, Ed Gallina, Donald Thomas (partially hidden behind Gallina), Franklin Francois, Lucas Gallina, Michael Buras, Cedric Jenkins, Ricardo Gathers, Emile Lee, Zelvin Smith, Kalen Jenkins, Kane Keller, Corey Costanza, Danny Cherry, and Derek Ralser. (Photo by Chris Cox)




April 20 10 St. John school system faces budget crisis Smokehouse at LaPlace landmark Jacob’s Andouille catches fire, reopens days later A major budget crisis facing the St. John the Baptist Parish School System stands out as the big headline for the month of April. A decline in sales tax revenue in the parish forced the school system to tap into its surplus, and the school system’s financial officials expected to see about half of that surplus get used by the end of the year. In response to the budget problems, School Superintendant Courtney Millet alluded to cuts that would have to be made in the coming year including limits on out-of-state travel and the possible layoff of about 90 district employees. The parish also received a slight scare when LaPlace landmark Jacob’s World Famous Andouille

Shop caught fire late in the month. The twoalarm fire ripped through the back of the building and did severe damage to the shop’s smokehouses. The shop front portion of the building stayed in tact and the operation opened back up just three days after the fire. Also in April, representatives from the 10state Mississippi River Parkway Commission gathered on the front lawn of Oak Alley Plantation to celebrate the inclusion of Louisiana’s “Great River Road” into the National Scenic Byway system. The Louisiana designation adds 717 miles of road on both sides of the Mississippi river to the program, said Susanne Barnet, managing director for the MRPC. She said the

L‘ OBSERVATEUR Bestt Alongg thee Riverr Sincee 19133

St. Charles beats Jesuit, 5-4, in extra innings

A horse of a different color



APRIL 7, 2010



VOL. 98, NO. 28

Vitter talks energy issues during visit with Chamber BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – Based on U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s Monday stop to speak with members of the River Region Chamber of Commerce, one thing is certain — he is not happy with the way things are going in Washington. Vitter attacked cap and trade and other measures he

sees as being detrimental to commerce in the state, such as the Employee Free Choice Act. The senator said while he is in favor of a proposal to expand domestic oil and gas drilling, he does not want to see it tacked onto the end of a cap and trade bill. He called such tactics “taking away with the left hand what the right hand has extended.”

He added cap and trade is just “one threat to energy and the economy.” He identified another such threat as tax proposals that would increase the cost of domestic energy production. “I’m working very hard to oppose all these proposals,” said Vitter. In addressing the Employee SEE VITTER, PAGE 6A

U.S. Sen. David Vitter speaks to a crowd of River Region Chamber of Commerce members Monday as Chamber Executive Director Chassity McComack and Vice Chairman Henry Friloux listen in the background. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

A sobering warning

Suspects charged in 2008 murder LaPlace woman found under burned mattress BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

people were killed on roadways in Louisiana in 2009. More than half of those fatalities were alcohol related. “The numbers have decreased from 2008, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said State Police Master Trooper Christopher Maurin. “It is incredibly jarring, but that is the reality of these incidents.”

LAPLACE – Authorities in St. John the Baptist Parish arrested two men Thursday for their alleged involvement in the April 2008 murder of a LaPlace woman, according to a spokesman for the Sheriff ’s Office. Michael Carson, 38, of 126 Madeline Court, LaPlace, and Anthony Montecino, 31, who has no established address, were taken into custody CARSON in connection with the murder of 37year-old Tiffany J. Blythe, said Capt. Dane Clement, public information officer for the St. John Sheriff ’s Office. According to Sheriff ’s Office reports, on April 9, 2008, Blythe’s body was found under a matMONTECINO tress that had been set on fire in the 100 block of Madeline Court. The report stated that St. John Parish firefighters discovered the badly burned body when they were called to the



Joined by a St. John Parish volunteer firefighter, Louisiana State Trooper David Easley assesses the damage while an emergency helicopter lands in the background during a mock DWI crash performance at St. Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace. The mock crash, which involved students from the four parish high schools, painted a vivid picture of the dangers of drinking and driving. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

Lesson targets prom fatalities BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – With prom night on the horizon in St. John Parish, juniors and seniors from the four parish high schools were treated to a vivid but valuable lesson regarding the dangers of drunken driving. Officials from the St. John Sheriff ’s and fire department joined with representatives from

State Police and Acadian Ambulance to produce a mock crash last week on the grounds of St. Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace. Students from East St. John High, West St. John High, Riverside Academy and St. Charles Catholic High played the roles of teenagers involved in a crash after a night of drinking at prom parties. “We try to stage the

events every two years and only invite juniors and seniors so that no one has to go through it twice,” said Susan Szush, community relations representative for Acadian Ambulance. “This performance is as true to life as it can be. Our goal is to emphasize to these kids the deadly consequences of drinking and driving.” According to figures from State Police, 815


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Port of South Louisiana expands its inventory Crane called ‘Ability’ commissioned for Reserve facility. NEWS | Page 3A

White Castle edges West St. John District foes even the score at track and field meet. SPORTS | Page 8A


Local warm weather interests run the gamut BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – If L’Observateur’s latest poll is any indication, local residents have a variety of ways to enjoy the warm weather. Last week on it’s Web site, L’Observateur posed the question, “Spring has finally sprung in the River Parishes. What warm weather activity are you most looking forward SEE POLL, PAGE 6A

honor brings additional national and regional tourism promotion opportunities to the 18 Louisiana parishes the road winds through. In addition to the national exposure that comes with the designation, Doug Bourgeois with the Louisiana Office of Tourism said the road is now open to apply for a series of federal grants to allow for expanded marketing and improve infrastructure. “The goal of the grants is to enhance the traveler’s experience as they tour the road,” Bourgeois said. “More than $40 million of federal money is available for improving overlooks, adding interpretive centers, overlaying asphalt or any number of other things.” The River Parishes Transit Authority celebrated its one-year anniversary in April with a commitment to add additional buses to its fleet. Transit Authority Board Chairman Brent Petit announced plans to add an additional 12passenger shuttle bus to the fleet of four already in commission. He said the new vehicle would be added during peak hours in an effort to accommodate more passengers and trips. “If there is one thing our ridership has asked for in these last 12 months it is more service,” Petit said. “We are prepared to do just that with this new vehicle.” Aislinn Costello, operations manager for the RPTA, said the bus system, which links to an existing transit system in St. James and also connects to transit systems in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas, had transported more than 17,000 riders on roughly 13,300 one-way trips throughout the region with an average of 65 to 70 trips per day. The system only operated three of the four buses regularly with one serving as a

Jacob’s Andouille owner Aaron Lyons talks with some St. John firefighters after a smokehouse caught fire at the LaPlace institution. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

spare. Costello said adding the fourth bus on regular road duty would help dispatchers when scheduling gets tight. Also in April, a Reserve couple was indicted on murder charges in the 2008 death of their 8-yearold son for the third time in two years. Errol and Tonya Victor face seconddegree murder charges in the death of M.L. Lloyd III, Tonya’s son and Errol’s stepson. The new charges come just two months after District Judge Madeline Jasmine ruled that a previous indictment against the Victors was invalid because a member of the St. John Parish Sheriff ’s Office seved on the jury and wore a shirt advertising his employment with the force. The Victors had origi-

nally been charged with first-degree murder in April of 2008 in the days following Lloyd’s death. Those charges were downgraded to seconddegree murder in the second indictment, which was thrown out by Jasmine in February. Lloyd died April 1, 2008, after he was taken to River Parishes Hospital in LaPlace by Errol Victor, Tonya Victor and Lloyd’s stepbrother, Errol Victor Jr. According to reports from the Sheriff ’s Office, the boy was unresponsive when the family arrived and was later pronounced dead. The family immediately fled the hospital after Lloyd was dropped off. The parish continued an initiative to gather permits to clear major drainage canals with the receipt of a permit for the Hope Canal in

Garyville. The Hope Canal is one of several drainage tributaries on the east bank that feed rainwater from Parish neighborhoods into the Reserve Relief Canal and out to Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas. The canals run through protected wetlands and require a permit for cleanup work. The parish began the process of securing permits to clean the canals back in February when work began on the Vicknair and Ridgefield Canals in LaPlace. “Cleaning the Hope canal is going to help drainage issues in Garyville and Mt. Airy tremendously,” said Parish Councilman Danny Millet, who represents those areas. “I am glad that over two years of hard work and diligence finally paid off.”

Comets baseball team wins ditrict title, advances to playoffs It was a roller coaster ride for St. Charles Catholic in April. Both the baseball team and softball teams earned top seeds entering the Class 2A postseason but did so in different ways. The Comets’ baseball team was riding a tidal wave of momentum, winners of 12 straight at one point and 18-of-19

games overall prior to its first postseason contest. Behind a strong rotation of pitchers, good defense and a stout lineup from top to bottom, the Comets clinched the District 102A crown and defeated Mamou in the first round of the playoffs. The softball team had similar success, but entered the postseason

under a cloud of uncertainty. In the final week of the regular season, in a non-district rivalry game against Lutcher, two-time St. John Parish MVP Courtney Western suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn meniscus in her knee, which would keep her off of the pitcher’s mound through most of the

postseason. Nonetheless, the Comets rallied around Megan Louque, who took over as the team’s ace, and the injured Western, who gutted out the injury to still bat leadoff and play centerfield. The Comets won their first two postseason games to reach the Fast Pitch 56 tournament in

Sulphur, then defeated Sterlington in the quarterfinal round on the last day of April to reach the semifinals. Riverside finished as runner-up to St. Charles in District 102A and would make its own trip to Sulphur. It defeated St. Thomas Aquinas and Sacred Heart-Ville Platte to reach the tournament,

falling in a hard-fought contest with Evangel, 20. Lutcher softball reached the state quarterfinals before bowing out to Sam Houston, 3-2. Hahnville won three postseason games to reach the state semifinals, and West St. John returned to the postseason before bowing out in the first round.




May 20 10 Robottom elected L‘ OBSERVATEUR parish president Bestt Alongg thee Riverr Sincee 19133

L’Observateur All-Parish Softball Team announced

Perfect gentlemen



MAY 15, 2010



VOL. 98, NO. 39

St. John under new leadership WHO WE ARE


First female, African American to hold position Headlines for the month of May were dominated by talk of the runoff election for St. John Parish president. In a decisive vote on May 1, former St. John Chief Administrative Officer Natalie Robottom garnered more votes than Councilman Dale Wolfe to become St. John’s first female and first African-American parish president. Standing before a packed courtroom at the St. John Courthouse in Edgard, Robottom spoke optimistically during her inauguration speech about cooperation between parish administrators and council members. “This will be a great opportunity to speak positively about St. John Parish,” Robottom said. “I am truly humbled you have chosen me to serve.” Following the inauguration, Robottom announced the selection of some key members of her administration, including her chief administrative officer Marie Brown-Mercadel, the former chief of staff for the State Department of Social Services. Robottom also named Angelic Sutherland, a LaPlace attorney, as an assistant to the parish president who will chair the parish’s committee on government ethics and also provide legal assistance to several parish departments. Sutherland worked as a legal aide to Robottom when she was CAO under former Parish President Nickie Monica Robottom said she decided to keep Pat McTopy, who had been serving as acting parish president, as her chief financial officer. Also in May, St. John Parish learned of the resignation of longtime school board member James Madere, who represented District 5. In his place, the school board appointed LaPlace resident Sherry DeFrancesch to finish out the remainder of Madere’s term. DeFrancesch, the daughter-in-law of St. John Clerk of Court Eliana DeFrancesch, had no prior experience in public service but was recommended for the position by Madere.


New CAO working in familiar territory

Natalie Robottom makes her first speech to the residents of St. John Parish following her inauguration ceremony in Edgard Tuesday evening. Robottom, who takes over for former Parish President bill Hubbard, is the first woman and first African-American parish president for St. John Parish. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

Robottom takes oath, pledges service

She and Robottom toiled together in Baton Rouge BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – She maybe a new face in a new administration, but newly appointed St. John Chief Administrative Officer Marie Brown-Mercadel is in familiar territory. As first assistant to newly elected Parish President Natalie Robottom, Mercadel, 46, will be charged with the task of aiding Robottom in moving the parish forward following a sudden change at the top after the resignation of former Parish President Bill Hubbard. She said the situation is very similar to the way she joined the state Department of Social Services in 2008. “I took a position as confidential assistant just as the state was beginning to deal with the aftermath of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike,” Mercadel said. “The department was in turmoil, and we were under a microscope following the resignation of our secretary (Ann Williamson).” Mercadel said Robottom, as director of the Governor’s Office of Community programs, assisted Social Services in directing government aid where it was most needed and assisted the secretary in finding the right resources to help the department through a change over SEE CAO, PAGE 6A


Standing beside her husband Hernandez, Natalie Robottom recites the oath of office during the inauguration ceremony Tuesday. St. John Parish Judges Mary Hotard Becnel, J. Sterling Snowdy and Madeline Jasmine administered the oath. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

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EDGARD – After a bit of tension from the overflow crowd inside the St. John the Baptist Parish Courthouse, Division A Councilman-at-Large Dale Wolfe on Tuesday removed an ordinance he proposed that would have limited the number of executive assistants for incoming Parish President Natalie Robot-

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tom. The ordinance, introduced at the previous St. John Parish Council meeting, would have allowed the parish president to have only two appointed executive assistants not needing council ratification. The parish charter currently sets no limit to the number of executive appointments. Before he resigned from office, former Parish President Bill Hubbard had

seven appointed assistants. During a public discussion period, a number of parish residents expressed their disapproval of the ordinance, saying it handcuffed the incoming parish president. “It suggests that we are not going to give the same support to (Robottom) that we gave to the last parish president,” said Geri Baloney of Garyville. “It sends a backwards mes-

sage to the people of the parish.” Baloney inferred that Wolfe might have made a decision in the heat of battle as he was competing with Robottom in the runoff election earlier this month. She, along with St. John Assessor Whitney Joseph and a number of other residents, encouraged the council to table SEE ORDINANCE, PAGE 6A

Business projects look at the big picture BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

(First of two parts) EDGARD – Dressed to the nines, some of sophomores at West St. John High School were all business Thursday. But that’s because they had to be as they presented their entrepreneurship projects to their teacher, James Kline, and a panel of judges comprised of local business leadSEE PROJECTS, PAGE 5A

Above, standing beside her husband Hernandez, Natalie Robottom recites the oath of office during the inauguration ceremony. St. John Parish Judges Mary Hotard Becnel, J. Sterling Snowdy and Madeline Jasmine administered the oath. Soon after taking office, Robottom appointed Marie Brown-Mercadel (left) to the position of chief administrative officer for St. John the Baptist Parish. (Staff photos by Robin Shannon)


Proposed ordinance on limiting executive appointments withdrawn

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EDGARD – Under a continuing theme of service to the people of St. John the Baptist Parish, Natalie Robottom was sworn in as parish president during a Parish Council meeting here Tuesday. Standing before a packed courtroom at the St. John Courthouse, Robottom spoke optimistically about cooperation between parish administrators and council members.

Kids Inc., consisting of (left to right) Dejavon Lewis, Arnelle Jack, Lester Rainey, Austin Terry and Amber Howard, present a slideshow based on their effort to create a business based around community service. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

The month in sports Comets fall short in finals

As the board was swearing in DeFrancesch, they were also continuing to deal with budget woes that threatened the possibility of massive layoffs and pay cuts. Negotiations between the school system and the teachers’ union remained heated throughout the month as the two sides ironed out the details. St. John continued its role as a hotbed for film production work in the month of May. Two fulllength motion pictures and the cable television show Memphis Beat set up shop in may and used locations all around the parish as movie sets. Memphis Beat, a crime drama from cable network TNT, completely took over the St. John Community Center in LaPlace to utilize the building’s soundstage. With no fanfare and no prior notice to customers and employees, Bull’s Corner Restaurant in LaPlace abruptly shut down operations in May after 25 years in business in St. John Parish. A typed message on the front doors to the popular eatery and meeting spot notified would-be customers of

the closure: “Bulls Corner is closed. Thank you for your business for the last 25 years.” A similar message was sent out via e-mail to people on a mailing list for the restaurant. “It was certainly somewhat of a surprise because we were just open Sunday night,” said Andrew Eldridge, a cook and server at the restaurant. “I think some of us knew business had been slower, but we didn’t expect closure to be so sudden.” The St. John Parish Council awarded contracts for construction of a parish gymnasium at Reserve’s Regala Park and improvements to the Reserve Boat Launch. Block Construction of Baton Rouge submitted the low bid of $2,285,300 for construction of the long awaited gymnasium facility. The firm’s bid was about $440,000 under the estimated budget of $2.7 million. Final plans for the gym, which were drawn up by Meyer Engineers of Metairie, include an indoor basketball court, bleachers for seating of 359 people, a concession stand with a full kitchen and meeting rooms and offices

for the parish’s recreation department. The gym would be built to sustain hurricane force winds and would double as an emergency relocation point for the parish. The firm was paid $295,000 to design the gym. The entire cost of construction will be funded through money out of the $29.5 million bond issue, which was approved by voters in April of 2009. The council also unanimously approved a $540,000 contract to L&L General Contractors for improvements to the Reserve boat launch. The firm’s bid is $145,000 under the original estimate of $685,000. Former Parish President Bill Hubbard proposed the boat launch improvements in March 2009 as a way to revitalize the frequently used recreational spot. The plan includes a repaved parking lot, improved lighting, picnic tables and landscaping. Funding for the work will come from a pool of money left over from a 2002 bond issue, as well as a $185,000 grant from Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries.

St. Charles coach Ty Monica, in his previous three years as Comets coach, had guided his team to finishes in Sulphur in the quarterfinals, the semifinals, and as state champions. In 2010, Monica and the Comets added state runner-up to that resume, overcoming adversity to defeat Winnfield 4-0 in the state semifinals. But Evangel was too much to overcome in the championship game. The Eagles, led by pitcher Emily Rousseau, a Georgia signee, defeated the Comets 8-0 to repeat as Class 2A state champion. Rousseau allowed five hits in the game and struck out eight batters. Olivia Guin hit two home runs for the Eagles. In the fourth inning Courtney Western saw her first action on the mound in the postseason after suffering a torn ACL in April. The senior would finish the game for the Comets, striking out six. SCC finished with a record of 26-5. Hahnville’s softball team finished its season on a run of unprecedented success, making the state championship game for the first time

in school history. St. Thomas More would finally upend the Tigers, 4-3, to win the Class 5A state crown. For the Comets’ baseball team, the end of the season was heartbreaking. Top-seeded St. Charles fell at No. 17 seeded DeQuincy, 7-6, after the Comets had won 19-of-20 games entering the contest. DeQuincy led 7-1 at one point but St. Charles stormed back to come within one run of tying, before ultimately falling short. For Riverside’s baseball team, it made its second consecutive trip to the state quarterfinals before bowing out to John Curtis, 7-1, at Harahan Playground. Riverside, the fifth seed, defeated Runnels and Newman on their way to the quarterfinal round. The West St. John boys captured their district track-and-field title and made a run at a state crown before ultimately finishing fourth in Class 1A at the state track and field championship at LSU. The Rams’ Damone Scott captured the state crown individually in the triple jump with a leap of 46-0.




June 20 10 Oil washes up on Louisiana’s coast Robottom seeks guidance from community June’s headlines were dominated by a series of stories related to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and how the River Region was coping and joining the fight to keep it from destroying the coastal ecosystem. Representatives from area refineries said a gover nment-imposed moratorium on drilling in the gulf would have little or no affect on refinery operations. Major oil companies were forced to suspend drilling on new wells, but none of the area refineries were expecting any disruptions since more than half of the crude oil refined by local plants comes from overseas sources. Midway through the month, a team of reporters from the Louisiana Press Association was granted a guided tour of some of the affected wetland areas in Venice. The tour included a stop at a wildlife cleaning facility as well as an update on cleanup and recovery efforts from state and local leaders. Meanwhile, a disaster recovery firm out of St. Charles Parish announced plans to join forces with a Florida company to utilize an

Above, a group of brown pelicans undergoes rehabilitation. At right, hundreds of miles of boom were deployed along Louisiana’s coast in an effort to keep the crude from destroying coastal wetlands. (Staff photos by Robin Shannon and Sandy Cunningham)

environmentally friendly way to fight the oil spill. Representatives with Mid Gulf Recovery of St. Rose announced plans to use a unique water treatment mechanism with the ability to separate the oil from the water as a viable solution to the task of cleaning the oil-soaked marshes of the Louisiana coast. Glen Smith, a chief executive for Mid Gulf Recovery, said the machine, developed by Ecosphere Technologies, breaks water molecules down and uses millions of tiny bubbles to lift oil to the surface and separate it from the water. Smith compared the process to what happens when a tablet of Alka Seltzer is dropped into a glass of water. “There are no dispersants and no further pollution,” Smith said. “In fact, the mechanism produces water that is so oxygenated that it has the potential to repair infected marsh grasses.” Smith said the machine is similar to one introduced by actor Kevin Costner, only this machine works at a much faster pace and can process much more water.

“Ecosphere’s machine uses a 2,000-g (6,000 rpm) centrifuge and operates on top of a barge,” Smith said. “The complete machine also has a mechanism that can remove particulates and dispersants from the oil and return it for future use.” On the political front, St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom announced plans to enlist the help of more than 70 parish residents to determine the future course and direction of the parish. The diverse group of civic leaders, elected officials, employees and other parish residents would serve as members of her Presidential Advisory Committee, a group that will assist her administration and provide recommendations on a wide range of parish concerns through a variety of sub-committees. The full advisory committee, one of Robottom’s inauguration day commitments to the parish analyzed the current organizational structure of the entire parish government to define future direction and ensure taxpayer revenue is spent wisely and efficiently. The group was divid-

ed into eight sub-committees that focused on governmental ethics reform; public safety; employment and economic development; community development and neighborhoods; recreation, arts, culture and health and human services; finance; human resources; and infrastructure and capital improvements. Each committee included a specific chairperson, corresponding parish employees, as well as at least one council member assigned by personal preference, according to Robottom. Also in June, the parish was officially introduced to the St. John Sheriff ’s Office Young Marines program, a youth organization that promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members. “Essentially, it is the same principles learned in actual Marine training without the weapons and the combat,” said former Marine and current St. John Sheriff ’s Deputy Brian Bertrand, who serves as the unit commander. “We are not preparing these kids to enroll in the Marines. We are simply instilling the values of good citizenship and appropriate discipline.” Every other weekend since the beginning of April, the group has occupied a portable trailer space near Regala Park in Reserve, where Bertrand and other adult leaders from the Sheriff ’s Office hold classes on leadership, public speaking, drug resistance, life saving and survival skills. They are also taught how to march, present themselves in uniform and address people. On a sad note, the region dealt with the passing of two local icons. On June 5, the region learned of the passing of Ron Zappe, the namesake and creator of Gramercy’s own Zapp’s Potato Chips. The affable chip maker was known for his entrepreneurial skill and passion for new ideas. Then, on June 23, it was announced that longtime Reserve grocer Don Cancienne passed away. Cancienne, who died on Father’s Day, was remembered as a patient man who had a deep devotion to his various retail ventures.

L‘ OBSERVATEUR Bestt Alongg thee Riverr Sincee 19133

Townsend wins behind McMurry no-hitter

It’s hurricane season



JUNE 16, 2010



VOL. 98, NO. 48

58 days later, oil continues to grip Louisiana’s coast These pelicans are recovering at Fort Jackson after being recovered from the oil. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

Reporters get first-hand look at damaged coast BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

VENICE – Almost five years after Hurricane Katrina battered and devastated most of the southeast Louisiana coastline, wetland areas of our state that serve as the first line of storm defense now face a new threat as oil from the wrecked Deepwater Horizon rig owned by British Petroleum continues to flow into the fragile marshes of lower Plaquemines Parish. A group of about 30 reporters from newspapers across Louisiana traveled to Venice Friday for a first hand look at the oil-infected marshes. The tour included a stop at a wildlife cleaning facility as well as an Shrimp and fishing boats that update on clean- aren’t docked near Venice haul up and recovery boom instead of shrimp nets. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon) efforts from state and local leaders. Dale Benoit, co-publisher of the Plaquemines Gazette and the St. Bernard Voice, coordinated the trip and served as tour guide throughout the day. Benoit has been covering the spill since the rig exploded on April 20 – now 58 days ago. “The oil follows the tidal system in that it comes in and goes out regularly,” Benoit said. “There has never been an accurate amount recorded along the shores. The marsh grasses of Pass-a- Loutre in south Plaquemines are the first places oil began to show up on the coastline.” The tour of the marshes began in Venice, where a pair of rescue boats from Plaquemines Port

Above and at right: While boom has so far kept much oil out of the marshes, some is seeping through and causing severe damage to the wetlands. Oil reached the marshes of Pass-ALoutre (pictured here) first after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Below left: Crews lay boom and keep a watchful eye out for approaching oil. Below right: Boom waits deployment into Louisiana’s marshlands. (Staff photos by Sandy Cunningham and Robin Shannon)


Teacher evaluation standards changing


L’Observateur’s online poll results Locals weigh in on ways to beat the heat of summer. NEWS | Page 2A


RESERVE – Despite being distracted by the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, the Louisiana Legislature has been busy discussing, debating and voting on scores of bills. And while many of these will have little direct effect on residents of the River Parishes, some, such as those dealing with education, may be lasting. One of the education bills recently signed SEE EVALUATION, PAGE 5A

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Edgard festival brings locals together BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

EDGARD – Across much of Southeast Louisiana high temperatures kept many indoors; however, in Edgard the blazing sun could not keep local residents from celebrating their community. Held at West St. John High School, the St. John Community Arts Festival was organized by members of the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and other local civic groups. The festival featured rides, games, live entertainment and, of course, plenty of food. Look for more photos in the Saturday, June 19, edition of L’Observateur.

Rashad Jackson, 11, tries to knock over the stack of milk bottles at one of the carnival-style game booths that filled a portion of the fairgrounds in Edgard over the weekend for the annual St. John Community Arts Festival. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

The month in sports LARAYO swimmers rule; top local sluggers chosen LARAYO just continued to dominate the River Parishes swim scene. The Barracudas finished another undefeated campaign in the River Parish Swim League, going a perfect 6-0 en route to another league title. LARAYO finished off its season with a win over Hill Heights, 384.5-169.5, to seal things. Riverlands finished tied for league runnerup with Hill Heights and LaVacherie. Each team finished 4-2. LARAYO’s title was its 10th straight regular season crown. Maggie Trepagnier, Brandon Klibert, Kelsie Williams, Emily Schexnayder and Josh Tamplain racked up three first place titles for the Barracudas in the clinching performance. Austin Matherne, Chelsie Cupit, Paige Williams, Will East, Cody Schaffer and Evan Brady came away with a pair of first place

crowns. Catherine Monica, Ben Brady, Meredith Keating, Maddy Levet, Kelly Campbell, Josh Vicknair and Kaile Levatino wrapped up first place winners for LARAYO. St. Charles Catholic swept Most Valuable Player honors in the baseball and softball categories for L’Observateur, as the newspaper named Brandon Becker its baseball Most Valuable Player and Courtney Western its most valuable in softball for St. John Parish. For Western, it was her third straight year receiving the honor. Mary Ann Marino replaced Chuck Dorvin as Riverside girls’ basketball coach. A longtime coach of Mount Carmel and most recently Bonnabel, Marino played with Riverside girls’ athletic director Kristy Hebert while at Ridgewood, where the duo was coached by Dorvin.




July 20 10 St. John schools budget talks move forward As July opened, the deadlock that had stalled the approval of a budget for the St. John the Baptist Parish school system seemed to loosen a bit as the St. John Association of Educators came up with a plan to make the numbers work without having to resort to layoffs. The SJAE proposed setting aside four unpaid furlough days for teachers and other district employees. After some fine-tuning, an agreement was finally reached near the end of the month. After a couple of tense months, the parish’s teachers could finally breathe a little easier as it was announced that no layoffs would be necessary. The final agreement included district administration in the furlough plan, and the furlough days were set as Nov. 1, 2010, Nov. 2 2010, May 20, 2011 and May 23, 2011.

evening, the movie shown was “Grease,” and many in the St. Peter community completed the mood by dressing in their best 50s gear. The evening was so successful the school hosted another drive-in a few months later, this time with a Christmas theme. St. Peter School, however, was not the only place bringing out nostalgia in Reserve. The Reserve150 committee, which had its debut at Reserve’s Independence Day celebration, kicked its plans into high gear when it sponsored a handful of “scanning days.” In an effort to gather as much historic material on Reserve as possible as well as facilitate the making of a documentary on the town, the committee invited community members to bring in their old photographs so they could be scanned and put into a collective archive.

St. John Theatre staged a production of “The Music Man” in July. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

Also early in the month, Perry DiCarlo was named principal of Riverside Academy. DiCarlo is a 20-year veteran of the St. John pub-

Vandals damaged St. John the Baptist Catholic Church’s 90-year-old stained-glass windows in July. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

lic school system and most recently held the post of supervisor of Child Welfare and Attendance. Meanwhile, hope for a quick resolution to the growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico dimmed somewhat as news broke that oil had slipped past the Rigolets and into Lake Pontchartrain. Parishioners of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Edgard were disturbed when they discovered vandals had thrown rocks through three of the church’s 90-year-old stained glass windows. To add insult to injury, the damaged windows were the three directly behind the altar. One of them depicted the church’s namesake, St. John the Baptist. According to Pastor Joel Cantones, the crime was particularly shocking given the close-knit nature of the surrounding community. On the political front, a couple of rulings were made regarding the elections slated for the fall. Judge Madeline Jasmine had entered the race for a seat on the Fourth Judicial District Court of Appeals, currently occupied by Judge Jude Gravois, but she was ruled ineligible

because the court’s domain does not include the west bank of St. John Parish, where Jasmine resides. The other judgment concerned St. John School Board Vice President Patrick Sanders. His opponent in the fall election, Ferdinand Wallace filed a suit claiming Sanders did not reside in his district. A judge found, however, that although Sanders did not live in the district full time, he occupied his home there often enough to satisfy the residency requirement. July, of course, is the height of summer, and what would summer be without a little entertainment? Well, St. John’s residents had a number of options to occupy their minds. St. John Theatre presented “The Music Man,” the first major production overseen by new Managing Director Denise Borell. Darryl Clement once again played the role of director for this ambitious undertaking. St. Peter School in Reserve, which had just begun celebrating its 80th anniversary, came up with a novel idea to put all those golf carts in Reserve to great use. The Board decided to erect of huge screen in back of the school and

have an old-fashioned drive-in movie — except with golf carts instead of cars. In keeping with the nostalgic feel of the

L‘ OBSERVATEUR Bestt Alongg thee Riverr Sincee 19133

Riverside hires White to head baseball program

Library limbo



JULY 28, 2010



VOL. 98, NO. 60

Shattering more than glass

Sewer system must be replaced St. James will need new tax to fund project BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

Sunlight streams through holes in the stained-glass depiction of St. John the Baptist. The four holes were the product of vandals, who threw stones through three stained-glass windows at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Edgard over the weekend.

At left, the window to the right of the altar has the largest hole. Above, from left, Pastor Joel Cantones, Eric Roussell, Deacon Warren Pierre and Ivy “Sonny” Chauvin were among the first to see the damage. (Staff photos by David Vitrano)

Vandals break church’s stained glass BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

EDGARD – Parishioners of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Edgard were shocked this weekend when vandals threw rocks through


L’Observateur’s online poll What should the Catholic Church do to restore its numbers? Find out what others think. NEWS | Page 2A

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the stained-glass windows behind the altar of the 90-year-old structure. “The parishioners were devastated,” said the Rev. Joel Cantones. Parishoner Eric Roussel was the first to discover the damage Sat-

urday morning. “I came in about 9:30,” he said. “I walked in like usual and saw funny lights coming from the glass.” He said that was when he noticed the gaping holes in the large win-

dows behind the altar. “All the stained glass was scattered everywhere,” said Cantones, who was notified immediately. Also found inside were SEE GLASS, PAGE 7A

VACHERIE — State health officials offered some new information to St. James Parish Council members last week on the status of the parish’s substandard residential sewer system. New numbers from the state’s Sanitarian Events Tracking System show a large amount of sewage disposal systems in the parish are not approved and not sanitary. A representative from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals provided details during a briefing to council members at their last meeting. David Boggs, a spokesperson for the state agency, said DHH supports any actions or plans by the parish to implement a parishwide system for sewage waste disposal. Boggs said DHH is “more than willing to offer assistance when it comes to improving the quality of life of current and future St. James Parish residents.” According to the statistics Boggs provided, about 2,600 residential sewage disposal systems are not approved and not sanitary in St. James Parish. In addition, only about 2,500 households in the parish are controlled under a community sewage system. St. James Parish President Dale Hymel Jr. said in May the Parish Council created a sewer committee to come up with a plan for a parishwide sewer system with a price tag of about $120 million. He said funding for the system would likely come from new sales and property taxes. Hymel said an 8-mill property tax along with an additional 1-cent parish sales tax could fund construction of the new system. Hymel said the parish wants to see the proposals on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, but the council must take some action to add them at its next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 4 in Convent. Hymel said the council might consider waiting to move on the tax proposals until more progress is made in the St. James Parish Comprehensive Master Plan. The parish is cooperating with the South Central Planning and Development Commission to compile a master plan for land use and future growth. A committee of 19 parish residents began the process in March. The committee is currently conducting focus group meetings with residents on both sides of the Mississippi River. “If sewage becomes a top priority of residents, we will consider calling the election for the taxes since it would be much more likely to pass,” Hymel said. Hymel said in 2008, parish voters opposed a proposed 1-cent sales tax dedicated to funding a new sewer system.

Flood protection projects under way BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

ST. ROSE – With the busier months of hurricane season still on the horizon, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, who are working on a series of flood protection projects on the east bank of St. Charles Parish, say the area is in the best shape it has ever been in terms of storm protection. Brad Drouant, project manager for the east bank work, said the corps has 12 active contracts in St. Charles to

raise levees, firm up flood walls and revamp or replace drainage structures. He said the nearly $100 million worth of improvements would provide 100-year flood protection for the east bank of St. Charles. “The work covers the entire alignment from the Bonnet Carre Spillway to the airport,” Drouant said. “It’s about 10 miles of flood protection improvements.” Drouant said levee sections closer to the SEE PROTECTION, PAGE 7A

Contractors from the Army Corps of Engineers work Monday on a floodwall near the Walker drainage structure in St. Rose. The project is one of several flood protection initiatives underway in St. Charles. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

Familiar face takes over Riverside baseball program Riverside tabbed a new, but familiar face to head up its baseball program when it hired Matt White to take the helm. White, 43, is a graduate of Riverside who coached the school’s softball team from 1995 to 2002, the last five as

its head coach. In his final season with the team, he led the Lady Rebels to a state championship, downing Port Barre in the final game. White, who worked at West St. John from 2002-2004, put his prep coaching career on hold to take care of his two

young sons. But he said that, at this point, he knew that if Riverside ever called again, “I’d be ready. It’s a no brainer.” White replaced Britt Waguespack, who led Riverside to back-toback appearances in the quarterfinals. Riv-

erside principal Perry DiCarlo stressed that Waguespack was not let go for performance reasons but for a certification issue and that he’d be welcomed back into the fold once rectified. LARAYO capped its season with one final victory, a champion-

ship win in the River Parishes Invitational at Sun Villa. St. Charles Catholicbased Townsend Homes finally broke through to reach the Southeast Regional after years of being eliminated by summer nemesis Otto Candies (Hahnville),

defeating Otto Candies and Destrehan-based Valero St. Charles to make it in. Townsend Homes went 1-2 at the regional, finally eliminated by Valero, 8-3, but showed promise for the 2011 season behind a number of new prospective starters.




A ugus t 20 10 East St. John High off ‘unacceptable’ list The East St. John High School community and the St. John the Baptist Parish school district as a whole received some good news just before the start of the 2010-11 school year. When the results of the state-mandated standardized tests were released, St. John had managed to raise test scores significantly nearly across the board. With these improved scores also came an increase in the School Performance Score for East St. John. By raising the SPS to 77.6, the school managed to get itself removed from the list of academically unacceptable schools in Louisiana. The school had been placed on the list six years ago, so the change was a proud moment for Principal Patricia Triche, who has presided over a 20-

pont improvement in her three years as principal. Consequently, the school saw an increase in its student population when the school year began. Improvement was the theme of the month in Reserve as on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain a groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark the start of improvements to the Reserve boat launch. The project includes the addition of new piers, paved parking, better lighting and picnic pavilions as well as retenton ponds to alleviate drainage problems. In neighboring St. James Parish, the school system there received a little good news from Tax Assessor Glenn Waguespack, who said the parish is expected to add about $3 million in property

L‘ OBSERVATEUR Bestt Alongg thee Riverr Sincee 19133

Smith twins look for big things at Riverside

Behind the smiles



AUGUST 14, 2010



VOL. 98, NO. 65

Marathon gives back(packs)

St. James assessor delivers good news School Board’s finances may turn around next year BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

Magnet School Monday and provided 85 students with bags and supplies. As the children came up one by one to claim their bags, some seemed overwhelmed by the show of generosity. Others just seemed overwhelmed. One kindergarten student, in fact, needed a little assistance carrying his stuffed backpack. “You can see their faces light up,” said Principal Jerry Galloway, who noted that the refinery helps the

LUTCHER – Assessor Glenn Waguespack had some good news for the St. James Parish School Board when he delivered a report on property taxes. The good news, he said, is that over the next three years, the parish is projected to add about $3 million in property tax revenue because of expiring industry contracts. The bad news, however, is that that projected revenue will not start coming in until 2011. This year, the school system will see a drop of about $230,000 in property tax revenue. Because the district allowed for a $600,000 decrease, however, the district should be well prepared. “This is probably the first year in about 10 to 12 years that we had just a slight downtick,” he said. Before getting to the meat of his presentation, Waguespack lauded the board for the decisions it made when drawing up a budget for the 2010-11 school year. “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing. … You all made the tough choices,” he said, adding, “Let it be said that you do care about being fiscally responsible.” Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Alonzo Luce gave a short report on the first couple of days of school in the district. “I think day one we struggled a little bit with being completely ready,” he said. One of the facilities that was not quite ready was Lutcher High School, which saw much use throughout the summer months. The constant use prevented workers from getting the floor as polished as Luce would have liked. “They’re clean, but they’re not to the level we’re used to,” he said. Other than that, though, he said there



Marathon employees Peggy Vicknair and Krissy Louque help kindergarten student Johnny Schilling with his backpack as Marathon’s Beth Ellender and big brother Tommy Schilling watch. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

Refinery continues backpack program BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – Employees of Marathon’s Garyville refinery continued a tradition of philanthropy Wednesday when they stopped at East St. John Elementary School to hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to nearly 90 students there. Human Resources Manager Bob Kasubinski said, “We’ve been partners with East St. John Elementary over 10 years.” He said the Garyville

Backpacks secured, the children shuffle back to class. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

employees made donations to the backpack program and the company matched employee donations. This year,

Marathon handed out 86 backpacks at ESJES. Additionally, the company paid a visit to Garyville/Mt. Airy

RTC expanding beyond St. John Parish bounds BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

RESERVE – For the first time since the company was formed in 1935, Reserve Telecommunications is branch-

ing out into a neighboring community outside of St. John the Baptist Parish. As of April 2, the telephone, television and Internet provider will be accessible to customers living in

unincorporated areas on the east bank of St. James Parish previously served by Charter Communications. “We are looking forward to SEE RTC, PAGE 2A

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Nickie Monica speaks to Rotary State representative discusses recent Legislative session. NEWS | Page 3A

St. James looks toward new season Coach hopes team can take a page out of Saints’ playbook. SPORTS | Page 6A

In the coming weeks, service vans like this one for Reserve Telecommunications Co. will become a common site to residents in unincorporated St. James Parish communities. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)


St. John actress makes her mark on stages near and far BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – In following her love for live performance in front of an audience, LaPlace resident Courtney Boe has gone from dancing, to Disney, to D-Day.

“It has always been one of those things I just can’t get enough of,” Boe, 24, said of performing. “The energy you feel from a live audience is just amazing.” Boe’s current gig is a regular role as one of

the three Victory Belles, a USO-style singing and dancing show at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Dressed in period attire, the girls belt out popular tunes from the era and perform before


an audience that is often filled with local SEE BOE, PAGE 2A

tax revenue because of expiring industry contracts. The district, however, would have to wait until 2011 to see any of that revenue come in. All across the River Parishes, neighborhoods joined together for the annual Night Out Against Crime celebrations. Events ranged from small gatherings in driveways and on sidewalks to larger affairs featuring covered seating areas and spacewalks. In August laws passed during the previous Legislative session went into effect. One of the most notorious dealt with the illegalization of texting while driving. The silent and often cryptic method of communication was coming under increasing fire as a primary contributor to automobile accidents. While the act of texting while driving had previously been a secondary offense — one that could be cited after a vehicle was already stopped for another violation — the new law made it a ticketable offense on its own. Worries about LaPlace’s tap water once again floated to the surface as a boil water order was issued for the area midAugust. Although the order was lifted a couple of days later, the damage had already been done. Not only did area convenience stores and restaurants have to shut down fountain drink operations for the duration, but residents’ already shaky confidence in the tap water also further eroded. Court sagas involving two well-known names in St. John continued to play out in August. The Victors, Errol and wife Tonya, implicated in the death of 8-year-old M.L. Floyd III, went back to court but refused to enter a plea. Judge Mary Hotard Becnel entered a plea of “not guilty” on their behalf. Meanwhile, the

Lacey Volion gets an emergency dress repair backstage at the St. John Sugar Queen Pageant. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

sentencing of former St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard in a New Orleans federal court was delayed once again as investigators continued to assess Hubbard’s cooperation in the matter. St. John Theatre turned on the spotlights once again in August, this time to host the annual St. John Sugar Queen Pageant. Ten young

ladies vied for the chance to represent the parish in the Louisiana Sugar Queen Pageant. After all the singing, strutting and sweating was over, Catherine Monica, daughter of state Rep. Nickie and Dawn Monica. Finally, the fall election frenzy began in earnest as voters went to the polls to vote in U.S. House and Senate primary elections. In

the Senate race, Republicans once again selected David Vitter as their candidate while the Democrats gave the nod to Charlie Melancon. In the Republican primary for the Third Congressional District seat vacated by Melancon, Jeff Landry and Hunt Downer came out on top, but as neither had a majority, the pair would face off again in a runoff.

Local teams ‘bring the wood’ to the gridiron Football season began with a bang when St. Charles Catholic and East St. John put up a game-of-the-year candidate … and it was only a jamboree. But fans couldn’t ask for anything much more thrilling than the Comets’ 35-34 upset victory over the Wildcats, a game St. Charles won for the second straight

season and in a similar fashion. While the Comets’ 2009 upset came in a lower scoring, 15-14 clash, the winning points came on a “swinging gate” trick play on St. Charles’ final extra point attempt, resulting in a two-point conversion. It was also a special teams play that did the

trick this time, as the Comets’ Jared Keating blocked East St. John’s extra point attempt in the game’s final moments — the kick would have tied the game at 35 after Darion Monroe’s touchdown run with 1:01 remaining. ESJ’s D’haquille Williams tallied 203 total yards. St. Charles’ Lazedrick Thompson scored the

game’s eventual winning touchdown on a 9yard run. Earlier in the night at Joe Keller Stadium, Riverside pushed past West St. John to get its season started. The Rebels also made a coaching change in one of their other sports in August: Mary Ann Marino, who the school had hired in

June to head up the girls’ basketball team, stepped down to return to Bonnabel. In her stead, Riverside tabbed former Reserve Christian star and Loyola University standout Trenese Smith to take over. Smith finished her career at Loyola as the school’s all-time leading scorer and garnered Gulf Coast Ath-

letic Conference Player of the Year honors for three consecutive seasons. Along with her came sister Trenell, who starred alongside her at Reserve Christian and Loyola and finished as the Wolfpack’s fourth all-time scoring leader, despite missing her much of senior season due to injury.




Sep t ember 20 10

Nucor comes to St. James The region’s economy received a much-needed boost in September as Nucor Corp. settled on a location in St. James Parish for its latest steel-making venture. The corporation, the nation’s largest steel manufacturer, said it plan to bring a multiphase iron and steel production facility to the parish. For month, parish officials waited as Nucor tried to decide between the St. James location and a site in South America. Ultimately, the choice came down to economics, with Gov. Bobby Jindal doing all he could to lure the company to Louisiana. Construction on the facility is slated to begin in 2011. It could eventually bring 1,250 new jobs to the area. Said St. James Parish President Dale Hymel,

“It is a great win for the state and an even greater win for St. James Parish.” While the announcement certainly drew a number of television news outlets, it was not the only time in September when newsvans could be seen in the River Parishes. A fight at East St. John High School ended in the arrest of 13 students and gained the attention of the broadcast news media in New Orleans. St. John did have some good news to report in September, however, as it was announced that the TNT show “Memphis Beat” had been renewed for a second season. Part of the region’s growing film industry, the show’s production is based in the St. John Civic Center and films there

and at various other locations in the area. Producers pay a monthly fee of $15,000 for the use of the Civic Center. September was a tough month for errant drivers as state and local law enforcement stepped up patrols around the Labor Day holiday and instituted a “no refusal policy” for those suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, the public got to see the value of the new law banning texting while driving when a Luling woman hit a group of pedestrians with her vehicle, allegedly while texting. St. John Councilmanat-Large Dale Wolfe got a new office in September when he was named executive director of the St. John Housing Authority. Wolfe had his work cut out for him after the

St. Charles Parish once again hosted the Alligator Festival in September. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

previous executive director was ousted following a series of fiscal improprieties and general mismanagement of the office left the Housing Authority virtually bankrupt. Meanwhile in Belle Terre another transition was happening as new management took over the financially struggling Belle Terre Country Club. The three chief executives of the River Parishes came together in September for the annual tri-parish president’s forum. Each expressed the importance of working together for the good of the entire region. Said St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom, “There is such a closeness in this community that is not found many other places.” The closeness of the community became apparent as St. John’s residents learned of the plight of Daphne Triche, an employee of the St. John Sheriff ’s Office who was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2009. Her friends and family rallied around her and held a spaghetti-and-meatball fundraiser to help defray her medical costs. In a great show of support, over 1,800 lunches were ordered, but sadly, Triche succumbed to her malady weeks later. Art students from East St. John High School attempted to liven up the St. John Animal Shelter by bringing in some brand new paintings and sculptures to decorate the space and perhaps entice the public to visit the facility and adopt a pet. One animal that no one was looking to adopt, however, was an 8-foot alligator that decided to make the pond near the public library on Highway 51 its home. Besides posing a danger to people enjoying the park, the reptile decimated the duck population in the pond. The alligator was eventually caught and removed. From alligators eating to eating alligator, St. Charles Parish once again hosted the Alligator Festival in the shadow of the Hale Boggs Bridge in Luling. For three days in September the event brought rides, music, games and food to this usually quiet stretch of Louisiana Highway 18.

L‘ OBSERVATEUR Bestt Alongg thee Riverr Sincee 19133

FRIDAY NIGHTS ARE BACK! All the scores and more are online.

Who are the super fans?



SEPTEMBER 11, 2010



VOL. 98, NO. 73

Parish presidents speak of unity of River Region BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – The chief executives of all three River Parishes provided business leaders with status reports

on the region during a breakfast forum in LaPlace Thursday. Parish presidents from St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles parishes spoke positively about the

direction of the parishes and the unique relationship each has with one another. “We are here to work with each other for the benefit of SEE FORUM, PAGE 6A

St. John President Natalie Robottom addresses the crowd at the Chamber forum as St. James President Dale Hymel and St. Charles President V.J. St. Pierre listen. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

Those who cannot remember the past...

Parish targets teen drinking Seasonal crackdowns funded by state grant BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

Flags at the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve fly at half-staff Tuesday morning as part of an executive order from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Office. Jindal announced Sept. 6 that flags at all state buildings should fly half staff until sunset today to honor Louisiana soldiers who have been lost in battle since Sept. 11, 2001. The governor said in a release that Louisiana has lost 124 men and women from all branches of the armed forces in combat operations overseas. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

Council to vote on road upgrades



East St. John High continues winning ways on the court


Victors’ latest requests refused Trial location and presiding judge to remain the same. NEWS | Page 2A

LAPLACE – With the help of state grants, authorities with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff ’s Office recently conducted an undercover operation targeting illegal sales of alcoholic beverages to persons under 21 as part of a growing initiative to combat underage drinking. Under the direction and supervision of deputies, underage cooperatives entered stores in the St. John SEE DRINKING, PAGE 6A

Local library makes adjustments to accomodate computerized world BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR


LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council returns to Edgard Tuesday night with a busy agenda on tap. The council will vote on authorization for the parish to execute agreements with the state Department of Transportation and Development for improvements to three major intersections along Airline Highway in LaPlace. St. John Chief Administrative Officer Marie Brown Mercadel said the parish wants to improve the safety and functionality of the intersections by rebuilding and extending an existing right turn lane SEE COUNCIL, PAGE 5A

Ladycats move to 2-0 with victory over Carver. SPORTS | Page 7A

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LAPLACE – As the world of information moves from ink-andpaper-based mediums to that of silicon and LEDs, some information sources have struggled to keep up with the ever-evolving technology. Public libraries, however, have managed to stay one step ahead of the curve. The drawers holding rows of cards that one used to have to shuffle through to find a particular book are a thing of the past, long ago replaced by a computerized version. “In 1996 we went online with our card catalogue, and it hasn’t stopped since then,” said Randy DeSoto, director of St. John the Baptist Parish Public Libraries. “In the space of 14

The section of the main branch of the St. John the Baptist Parish Public Library holding the public access computers has become one of the most popular features of the library. Above, patrons use the computers for both research and recreation. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

years we’ve gone from four computers to a variety of different services that are Internet-based,” he explained.

DeSoto said the library’s initial foray into the world of computers consisted of a lone computer linked to a still developing

Internet. Each parish in the state received one computer, he said, and searches could be SEE LIBRARY, PAGE 9A

The month in sports East St. John football roars out of the gates with a 4-0 record, highlighted by a 29-21 victory over 2009 Class 5A runner-up Rummel. In that game, the Wildcats overcame four touchdowns being called back because of penalties. That came largely due to DeChris Strong’s heroics: Strong took a screen pass from quarterback Darion Monroe and raced 64 yards for a touchdown with 57 seconds left to provide the winning touchdown. The Wildcats also downed Istrouma, Patterson and St. James. A special season for Riverside appeared to be beginning as well. After a pair of early playoff exits, the Rebels made a surprise surge into the quarterfinals in 2009. In 2010, Riverside was reemerging as a legitimate upper tier 2A squad behind a powerful offense: the Rebels began 4-0 in September, scoring no less than 40 points in any game behind its spread

offense and triggerman Darnell Rachal. St. Charles continued to chew up victories, the third St. John Parish team to begin undefeated. Despite very few returning starters from its 2009 state semifinalist team, the Comets opened the season with four wins including impressive victories over upper classification Woodlawn and Vandebilt Catholic. West St. John continued its tradition of opening up against much bigger schools in pre-district play. The Rams began 1-3 with a very young team but opened its season with a dominant 20-6 win over archrival St. James, the Rams’ second straight win over the Wildcats. And the Saints gave the Who Dat Nation an encore of sorts. After unveiling the Super Bowl Championship banner in the Superdome, New Orleans defeated Minnesota 14-9 to begin its season.




Oct ober 20 10 Matthew Ory loses L‘ OBSERVATEUR his re-election bid Bestt Alongg thee Riverr Sincee 19133

Look for Friday’s scores and recaps online!

It’s that time of year


OCTOBER 2, 2010



A sweet sweep for local ladies

Life in jail penalty for Wallace homicide No parole for man convicted of stabbing

River Parishes ladies sweep Sugar Queen Pageant October opened with elections a few surprises in the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board races. Incumbent Matthew Ory, who has sat on the School Board for 15 years, was defeated in the race for the District 10 seat by LaPlace preacher Rodney Nicholas. Meanwhile, in the District 8 race, incumbent Russ Wise was forced into a runoff with challenger Beverly Harris. Incumbents fared much better in school board races in both St. James and St. Charles parishes. Jude Gravois was also re-elected to the bench of the Fourth District Court of Appeals. Lastly, voters in St. John Parish renew a pair of millages that help fund the public school system. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the month, however, came when controversy surrounding remarks made by East St. John head football coach and Athletic Director Larry Dauterive at a Quarterbacks Club meeting precipitated his resignation. The often outspoken coach had led the team for nine years, and his Wildcats were 7-0 on the season. Assistant coach Ronald Barrilleaux was tapped to fill the position temporarily. The personnel was changing in the chambers of the St. John Parish Council as well as Dale Wolfe formally resigned his position so he could take his place as executive director of


VOL. 98, NO. 79


Sugar Queen 2010 Hailey Keller of Paulina gets a hug from 2009 Sugar Queen and second cousin Jade LeBlanc after winning the crown. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Iberian)

Paulina native crowned Sugar Queen BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – Only one word could describe the outcome of last weekend’s state Sugar Queen Pageant in New Iberia — sweet! The three representatives from the River Parishes took the top three honors at the pageant with Hailey Keller of Paulina coming home with the crown. Catherine Monica, the reigning St. John Sugar Queen, and Chelsey HySEE SUGAR, PAGE 6A

The pageant winners (left to right) second runner up Chelsey Hymel of St. Charles, King Sucrose Jessie Breaux, Sugar Queen Hailey Keller and first runner up Catherine Monica of St. John sparkle in dazzling white outfits. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Iberian)

LAPLACE – A Napoleonville man charged with stabbing and killing his girlfriend nearly a year ago was sentenced to life in prison Monday, according to a release from St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney Tom Daley. Anthony Henry Tillman, 34, pleaded guilty to seconddegree murder in connection with the killing of 33-year-old Saneria Michelle Johnson of Wallace. Daley said District Court Judge Sterling Snowdy handed TILLMAN down the lifetime prison sentence immediately following Tillman’s plea. He said Tillman will serve his sentence without parole, probation or suspension of any part of the sentence. Daley said a grand jury had originally handed down an indictment in May in which Tillman was charged with the second-degree murder of Johnson, as well as the first-degree feticide of Johnson’s unborn child. As part of the plea agreement with prosecutors, Daley said his office agreed to dismiss the first-degree feticide charge. According to a release with the St. John Sheriff ’s Office, on Oct. 11, 2009, Johnson was found inside her home with multiple stab wounds inside her West Fourth Street home by a friend who went to check on her. When deputies arrived at the home, they discovered that some of the contents of the home were in disarray, which led SEE SENTENCE, PAGE 6A

Wolfe not resigning until contracts finalized BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – Although he did not officially resign from his post, St. John the Baptist Parish Councilman-at-Large Richard “Dale” Wolfe said Tuesday’s council

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meeting was likely his last, as the meeting wound down Tuesday night in LaPlace. Wolfe said he was waiting to resign while the terms of his contract with the parish housing authority could be finalized. He

was selected as the authority’s executive director last week and must resign from the council before taking the position. “As soon as I know that the contracts are finalized, I’ll contact Mr. (Ronnie) Smith so

we can set a special meeting,” Wolfe said, referring to the council chairman. “At that time I’ll make my announcement.” Once Wolfe resigns, the council must make a selection on a temporary replacement, who

will serve until a special election can be held. The next special election on the secretary of state’s calendar is scheduled for April 2, with a runoff on April 30. Wolfe, the Division A Councilman-atLarge, is one of two

council members elected parishwide. His term ends in January 2012. Wolfe said after the meeting that he has three people in mind to recommend for the SEE WOLFE, PAGE 6A

Fire station upgrades allow all-day service BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish leaders joined parish fire department officials Friday morning to celebrate the newly completed renovations to the Walnut Street fire station in eastern LaPlace. The renovations, which

include expanded living and sleeping quarters, allow the station to be manned by parish firefighters 24 hours a day, said LaPlace Fire Chief John Snyder. Snyder said the Walnut Street station, located at 801 Walnut St., was the last of five stations in LaPlace to be configured for SEE STATION, PAGE 6A

St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom speaks with Fire Chief John Snyder at Friday’s ribbon cutting. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

Ron’eeka Hill was crowned Miss Andouille in October. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

the St. John Housing Authority. Wolfe had been a member of the legislative body governing St. John Parish for 35 years. Retired parish employee Raydel Morris was appointed Wolfe’s replacement. In response to a fight at East St. John High School the previous month that ended in the arrest of 13 students, a group of concerned citizens got together at a forum sponsored by the 40th Judicial District Children and Youth Services Planning Board to discuss the problem of juvenile delinquency. The group tried to figure out the cause of the problem so that a plan to combat it could be devised. Errol and Tonya Victor, charged with

second-degree murder in the death of their 8year-old son, returned to court, where they complained of “ineffective defense attorneys” and requested they be allowed to represent themselves in court. Judge Mary Hotard Becnel warned them against the move but granted the request. Another pedestrian was killed in a hit-andrun accident on Airline Highway in St. John Parish. Patrick H. Toney was struck by four vehicles while trying to cross Airline Highway near Belle Terre Boulevard. Two of the vehicles fled the scene. This came just a little more than a year after Dione Duhe was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Airline

The opening of Wetland Watchers Park provided the community with a place for family bonding. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

Highway. In happier news, the Wetland Watchers Park opened on a pristine section of reclaimed coastline along Lake Pontchartrain near the spillway. The grand opening featured food, entertainment and a show by Wetland Watchers partner Amanda Shaw. Pageant season continued in October, as the three representatives from the River Parishes journeyed to New Iberia to compete for the state Sugar Queen crown. They all came home winners. Chelsey Hymel of St. Charles Parish was named second runner up, Catherine Monica of St. John Parish was named first runner up, and Hailey Keller of St. James Parish was crowned Queen Sugar. Back in St. John Theatre, another cast of hopefuls was vying for the title of Andouille Queen. Ultimately, Ron’eeka Hill and Shelby Clement earned the crowns for Miss Andouille and Miss Teen Andouille, respectively. Of course, the Andouille Queen Pageant was the prelude to the annual Andouille Festival, which took over Highway 51 Park for a few days in midOctober. As usual, the event featured plenty of rides, food and entertainment for the ample crowds.

The month in sports East St. John moves ahead after Dauterive’s departure A shocking coaching change took place when East St. John football coach Larry Dauterive stepped down from his perch at East St. John after making comments at a New Orleans Quarterbacks Club meeting that sparked controversy. On Oct. 22, Dauterive handed in his resignation. “I realized there would be no winners in this thing,” Dauterive said. “With all the rumors and innuendo … the last thing I wanted was a divided school and community.” During his speech to the Quarterback Club, Dauterive made a series of comments about the makeup of his team and the community surrounding the school. Some said the remarks painted a negative picture of the black community in St. John Parish. He had noted that many of his players come from singleparent households and struggle to make the grades to academically qualify. He felt in many cases, he wore the hat of father figure. He spoke of the challenges of

being a “white coach coaching 100-percent black children.” The Wildcats were 7-0 at the time of his resignation. Assistant coach Ronald Barrilleaux took over as head coach and athletic director and led the Wildcats to a win over Destrehan on the day of Dauterive’s resignation. A week later, the Wildcats were in position to defeat eventual 5A top-seed Dutchtown in what essentially was a district championship game, but the Griffins rallied to defeat East St. John in an overtime thriller, 48-41. St. Charles went 4-1 in October, including wins over rivals Riverside and Newman. Its first loss of the season came at John Curtis. The Riverside volleyball team clinched an undefeated district championship, going 6-0 against foes St. James, St. Charles and John Curtis. West St. John running back Jeremy Jackson runs for 100 yards in every game of October, leading Rams to a 3-2 mark in the month.




November 20 10 Reflection abounds in November November was a month of remembrance in the River Parishes. Crowds flocked to cemeteries across the region on the first day of the month to lay flowers at the graves of lost loved ones in honor of All Saints Day. A little later in the month, the public’s attention turned toward the area’s veterans for Veterans Day.

Celebrations were held at the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home and at the welcome center in Gramercy. Toward the end of the month, the life of another veteran was being remembered as family members and a squadron of Marines met a plane at Louis A r m s t r o n g International Airport

carrying the body of River Parishes native Lt. Col. Joseph Lucia. The soldier, who succumbed to the rare disease multiple myeloma, was given a hero’s welcome and proper military funeral services before his body was taken to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It was a homecoming of a happier sort at St.

Local cemeteries were bathed in color as relatives turned out to honor their deceased relatives for All Saints Day. (Staff phot by David Vitrano)

Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace when the school selected its first African-American Homecoming Queen. Ashira Stanton was named the school’s Homecoming Queen in November. On the local political front, incumbent Russ Wise was re-elected to his seat on the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board. He faced off against Beverly Harris in the Novemebr runoff. Te other elections held few surprises, with Republicans taking nearly every election statewide. State Rep. and former St. John Parish President Nickie Monica announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2011. Monica said he would instead concentrate on a personal business endeavor. “I’m ready to move on, but it has been a true honor to serve in the House of Representatives,” said Monica. Gov. Bobby Jindal popped up in the River Parishes in November when he stopped at the National Guard Readiness Center in Reserve as part of his statewide “Building a Better Louisiana for Our Children” speaking tour. That tour, perhaps, was part of an effort to stem negative reaction to proposed budget cuts for the state’s public institutions of higher learning. Leaders from the area’s technical and community colleges hosted a public forum to discuss what the proposed cuts would mean to their schools and what could be done to lessen the damage. Also in November, a suspicious fire damaged the stadium at

Lutcher High School. An investigation determined the cause of the fire to be arson, and inspectors declared the stadium unsuitable for use. The St. James Parish school system immediately began plans for a new stadium to be built in time for next football season. They also decided to rebuild the stadium at St. James High School. Activities of the Reserve150 celebration continued in November with the premiere of the documentary, “Reserve.” The film had its debut at a red-carpet event at St. John Theatre. Local packed

the venue for an evening of nostalgia and community bonding. Shortly after this event, the committee hosted Family Fun Day at Regala Park. The day featured entertainment, cook offs and a chance to contribute to the Reserve150 50-year time capsule. Lastly, St. John’s first responders squared off in a charity flag football match at Riverside Academy. The police delivered a sound beating to the firemen, and as per the pre-game deal, the firemen had to come out and wash police cars.

L‘ OBSERVATEUR Bestt Alongg thee Riverr Sincee 19133

Locals pen LSU book

East St. John prepares for big district game SPORTS, 7A


NOVEMBER 3, 2010



VOL. 98, NO. 86

Report conflicts with Dauterive’s remarks BY DAVID VITRANO L’OBSERVATEUR

RESERVE – While local residents debate whether there is any truth to the controversial statements made by former East St. John Athletic Director and

head football coach Larry Dauterive and the conditions surrounding his subsequent resignation, the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School System released its own findings on some of the coach’s statements.

According to a release from Superintendent Courtney Millet, the majority of the school’s football players are not in the academic trouble alluded to by Dauterive. East St. John’s first semester interim report, released on Oct.

15, stated nearly onefourth of the team’s players are currently on the school’s honor roll while about 80 percent have a grade point average of at least 2.0. The Louisiana High School Athletics Association requires

that student athletes maintain at least a 1.5 GPA. Among the team’s upperclassmen, those in grades 10-12, 95 percent maintain a “C” average or better. Additionally, ESJ Principal Patricia

Pipeline to progress

Triche said some of the team’s players are enrolled in honors courses such as Algebra and English. Said Triche, “Our main focus on our campus is first and foreSEE REMARKS, PAGE 6A

Pedestrian killed on Airline in Laplace Two drivers fled scene of weekend fatality BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

U.S. Development Group celebrated the grand opening Thursday of a crude oil rail terminal in St. James Parish. The facility brings crude oil from oil-producing areas in the U.S. and Canada by train to refining facilities in the region. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

St. James rail facility opens economic doors BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

ST. JAMES – State and Parish leaders gathered in the west bank community of St. James Thursday to celebrate the official opening of a state-of-the-art rail terminal for the transport of crude oil. The terminal, owned by U.S. Development Group LLC of Houston, is the first in a planned nationwide network of rail terminals to handle crude oil.

Paper seeking holiday recipes A slight chill has been hanging in the air, and the temperature change often inspires thoughts of comforting coldweather treats. From pecan pies to sweet potatoes to gumbo, amateur chefs across the region fire up their stoves to feed their friends and family with the fall bounty. And it’s not only food that gets shared at holiday get togethers. Recipes change hands from friend to friend, generation to genera-

St. James Sheriff Willy Martin, Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret, U.S. Development CEO Dan Borgen, Lt. Governor Scott Angelle, St. James Parish President Dale Hymel and St. James School Superintendant Lonnie Luce gather for the ribbon cutting. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

“It’s sort of a rolling pipeline that connects

the refineries in this area to sources of crude


in other parts of the country,” said terminal manager Joe Williams. “It’s an opportunity for us to safely and efficiently supply refineries with crude from wells throughout the U.S. and Canada instead of going overseas.” Williams explained the St. James terminal receives crude oil shipments from a variety of domestic oil-producing areas via the Union Pacific Railroad. The terSEE RAIL, PAGE 6A

LAPLACE – A LaPlace man trying to cross Airline Highway Saturday night was struck and killed by four vehicles in a hit-and-run accident in LaPlace, according to a release from State Police. Patrick H. Toney, 59, was trying to cross the highway on foot near the Belle Terre Boulevard intersection around 9:40 p.m., said Trooper Melissa Matey, spokesperson for State Police Troop B. Matey said Toney was in the center turning lane of Airline Highway when he stumbled backward into the left eastbound lane. He was then stuck by a darkcolored SUV and a Dodge Neon. Neither vehicle stopped following the impact and both fled the scene traveling eastbound on Airline. Toney was then thrown into the left westbound lane of Airline, where he was hit by a Hyundai Elantra and a Nissan Altima. Matey said both the driver of the Nissan and the driver of the Hyundai stopped to offer aid. Toney was pronounced dead on the scene by the St. John the Baptist Parish Coroner’s Office. Matey said driver impairment is not a factor on the part of the drivers of the Hyundai and Nissan, but impairment is suspected on the part of the pedestrian. She said a toxicology report is still pending. Matey said investigators are asking for assistance in identifying the dark-colored SUV or the Dodge Neon. Anyone with information of the vehicles or the drivers should contact State Police Troop B at 504-471-2775. The crash is still under investigation.

Just a glimpse

L’Observateur’s Online poll South Louisiana is still a great place for outdoor activities during the fall and winter months. Where will your neighbors be? NEWS | Page 2A

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The front porch at Destrehan Plantation offers a glimpse of what life might have been like many years ago in the area. Views of the levee, seen through oaks laden with Spanish moss, also give hints to the area’s modernity, as witnessed by a biker enjoying an afternoon ride along the Mississippi River. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)


Comet swimmers win state; football playoffs pose challenges The St. Charles boys swim team reached the top of the heap, sealing state championship honors at the Division IV state swimming meet in Sulphur. St. Charles easily outdistanced second place Newman for the crown, scoring 481 points to Newman’s 279. Gage Alleman and Brandon Klibert each walked away with individual crowns. Alleman won the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke. Klibert captured the 100-yard butterfly. The Comets also won the

200-meter medley relay, the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay competition. The Comet girls team made a big impression as well, overcoming a series of injuries to take state runner-up honors behind University High. University’s winning mark of 308.5 bested SCC’s mark of 273. The Comets’ football team kept on rolling into the playoffs after losing just a single regular season game. St. Charles won three postseason games in

November to reach the state semifinals, including an exciting comefrom-behind victory at home over Farmerville, 20-19, in a regional round game. SCC trailed by 11 with less than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter but roared back, the game-winning points coming on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Donnie Savoie to Harley Scioneaux with 59 seconds left in the game. St. Charles went on to the quarterfinals where it defeated Winnfield, 42-28.

Riverside reached the quarterfinals for the second straight season after convincing playoff wins over Mangham and Pope John Paul. The Rebels once again drew Curtis and made a game of it for almost three quarters, leading the Patriots at Riverside 7-6 midway through the third quarter. But the Patriots took advantage of a few Rebel miscues and surged to a 33-19 win. East St. John suffered a tough break to say the least when seedings were released.

As the sixth seed in Class 5A, it drew No. 27 … in this case, Acadiana, a top-five ranked team in the LSWA poll, but a low seed thanks to four forfeited wins because of an ineligible, dropping their 9-1 record to 5-5. Acadiana defeated ESJ in Reserve and went on to win the Class 5A state championship. ESJ, which began the month with a rivalry victory over Hahnville, finished 9-2. West St. John also absorbed a tough draw as the 14 seed, setting up a rematch against

district foe White Castle. The Bulldogs defeated the Rams for a second time and went on to win the Class 1A state championship. Riverside’s volleyball team returned to the Pontchartrain Center for the state volleyball tournament after a year’s hiatus. The Rebels defeated Mansfield and Episcopal of Baton Rouge on its way there before matching up with top seeded Catholic-New Iberia. Riverside fell in four games to the eventual state champion.




Dec ember 20 10 Month begins with mourning but ends with celebration December began on a somber note as news of a grisly murder in Norco shocked the community. Mary Nancy Arico was found murdered in her home weeks after the crime took place. Despite the crime’s age, police quickly targeted a group of four teens, who were later charged with the crime. Shortly after this crime, another murder rocked St. John Parish when the body of 15year-old Riverside Academy student Taylor Adams was found in her LaPlace home. Adams’ mother was at work on the evening in question, and she came home to find her daughter brutally bludgeoned. Police again quickly zeroed in on a suspect and

released his name and photo a couple of days later. That same day, police caught up to the suspect, Earnest Joseph, a neighborhood acquaintance of Adams, in Gulfport, Miss. After the suspect waived extradition rights, he was taken back to St. John Parish where he was formally charged with the crime. Amid all the darkness, some light did begin to shine in December as familiar teepee-like structures began to spring up along the Mississippi River levee from Reserve to Convent. Bonfires are an age-old tradition in the River Parishes, and this year was no different as the blazes continued to light the way for St.

Nick on Christmas Eve. Organizers of St. James’s Parish’s Bonfire Festival got a break from the bad weather that plagued last year’s celebration as they successfully pulled off the midDecember event. On the political front, Mike Tregre, a 23-year veteran of the St. John Sheriff ’s Department, was named the parish’s new public safety director after Paul Oncale announced his retirement. Meanwhile in the School Board chambers, St. John’s administrative recommendation to name Ronald Barrilleaux as Larry Dauterive’s permanent successor as athletic director at East St. John High School hit a snag when board mem-

With December came the ubiquitous presence of bonfires along the Mississippi River levee. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

bers rebuffed the effort. In the end, it was decided the district would advertise for the position and go through formal interview procedures in finding a replacement. Problem within the St. John Housing Authority came to light in December with the release of a scathing report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Subsequently, it was recommended that all members of the Housing Board be relieved of their positions. The River Parishes lost a true champion for justice in December with the passing of St. Charles Parish Judge Edward Dufresne. Dufresne, who suffered a massive heart attack, was a well known and well liked individual in the local community. In Edgard, parishioners of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church had reason to be thankful as the church unveiled its restored stained-glass windows. Vandals damaged the original windows earlier in the year. The police had still not charged anyone with the crime. The Reserve150 committee concluded the year’s sesquicentennial celebrations with a pair of events in December. First, they buried a time capsule in front of Riverlands Christian Center. The time capsule will be unearthed in 50 years. Then they closed out the year with a Christmas Eve bonfire on the levee in Reserve. The Christmas season was filled with opportunities for giving in the River Parishes. Along with the various “toys for tots” programs, the west bank civic organization Men About Changing Society hosted a toy giveaway for children in the Edgard community. L’Observateur also got in on the act by cosponsoring a program to get residents of the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve some muchneeded items. The paper served as a collection point for donations of art supplies, toiletries and games for the Veterans. During the week before Christmas, members of the staff along with St. John’s Young Marines delivered the donations to the home.

L‘ OBSERVATEUR Bestt Alongg thee Riverr Sincee 19133

There are so many good children, Santa’s mailbox must have been overflowing! MORE LETTERS TO SANTA IN TODAY’S LIFESTYLE SECTION

DECEMBER 22, 2010


VOL. 98, NO. 102


Civic center will not become parish offices BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

LAPLACE – During a brief discussion regarding pending improvements to parish

offices on the east and west banks of St. John the Baptist Parish, parish officials told council members there was an option on the table to convert the St. John Community

Center into a government office complex, but the idea was ultimately nixed. Parish President Natalie SEE CIVIC CENTER, PAGE 6A

A plan to convert the St. John Civic Center into government offices has been scrapped. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

Christmas isn’t just for the children

Gun drawn after family argument Reserve man charged with shooting sister’s boyfriend BY ROBIN SHANNON L’OBSERVATEUR

Junius Duhe expresses his happiness after receiving gifts from family members during a Christmas party for Residents of Twin Oaks Nursing Home in LaPlace Friday afternoon. (Staff photo by Robin Shannon)

Reserve150 L’’ OBSERVATEUR will not TODAY Teens accused in fade away Norco murder to be

LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish authorities arrested a Reserve man on attempted second-degree murder charges Saturday after he shot and wounded his sister’s boyfriend during a domestic dispute. The 19-year-old victim is listed in stable condition at University Hospital in New Orleans after being shot in the back and thigh by Anthony Davis, 22, of Melius Drive, said Capt.


Dane Clement, public information officer for the Sheriff ’s Office. Clement said Davis was arrested at his home SEE SHOOTING, PAGE 6A

Toy giveaway latest event for MACS, one of Edgard’s newest civic groups


The Reserve150 committee will officially close out this year’s sesquicentennial celebrations with a tradition that predates the official founding of Reserve itself. The committee will close out months of celebration with a Christmas Eve bonfire. The bonfire will be located on the levee in front of Phil’s Barber Shop in Reserve at the corner of River Road and West Second Street. There will be a tent in the parking lot where refreshments will be offered. The celebration will be held in conjunction with the traditional Christmas Eve lighting of the bonfires along the Mississippi River levee in St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes. Bonfires are typically lit at 7 p.m.

Two 16-year-olds allegedly beat elderly woman to death in November. NEWS | Page 5A

Rachal takes offensive MVP in class 2A SPORTS | Page 10A

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EDGARD – The small west bank community of Edgard looks out for its own. That is why when Lakeitha Louper, the 23year-old mother of five who had been in a coma after being shot, passed away on Dec. 1, the civic group known as MACS — Men About Changing Society — sprang into action. “We just wanted to take a moment out to give to her kids,” said Brock Batiste, the president of the group. So on Saturday Santa visited the courthouse in Edgard with gifts for not only Louper’s children but many other children in the community as well. As member Patrick Jackson said, the group is “small in numbers, big at heart.” Accordingly, the work

Men About Changing Society Vice President Bobby Poche (left) and President Brock Batiste (far right) brighten the day of the children of Lakeitha Louper, who passed away on Dec. 1. Ay’Sha Louper seems especially pleased with her new acquisition. (Staff photo by David Vitrano)

they do surpasses what one might think could be done by a couple dozen men from Edgard. What’s more, the men have certainly

packed much good into the short time MACS has been in existence. “This is something we’ve been talking about since we were in

high school,” said Brock. The West St. John High School graduates SEE MACS, PAGE 7A

The month in sports St. Charles’ football team suffered four losses between 2009 and 2010, and the list of teams they’ve lost to is shorter than that. Only John Curtis and Evangel can lay claim to that, the latter defeating the Comets 35-15 at Evangel in the Class 2A semifinals. St. Charles had all it could ask for in the fourth quarter against the powerhouse Eagles — despite a rash of turnovers, the Comets found themselves trailing by two, 17-15, after Donnie Savoie’s 70-yard bomb to Jeffrey Hall and a two-point run by Lazedrick Thompson on a “swinging gate” play. But after the Comet defense forced a stop, Evangel landed a knockout punch on the ensuing SCC possession when D.J. Gatlin intercepted Savoie for the second time in the game and returned it for a touchdown to put Evangel up by nine. Evangel added another score on its next possession and one more on a fumble recovery in the SCC end zone late in the game. St. Charles couldn’t overcome its five turnovers on the night. It was the second straight trip to the 2A

semifinals for SCC. In the Comets’ last four years in 2A (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010) SCC boasts two trips to the finals and two to the semifinals. Evangel went on to defeat John Curtis in the state championship game for the second straight season. Riverside’s Darnell Rachal capped a spectacular senior season with honors as the Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association’s Most Valuable Player. He directed a Rebels’ offense that averaged 41.5 points per game and that scored 40 or more points in 10 of their 13 contests. He accounted for 48 total touchdowns (33 rushing) and over 3,300 total yards. The Rebels boys’ basketball team made waves in Florida, going to the City of the Palms tournament and downing two top nationally ranked teams, including Memphis Melrose, which was the nation’s top ranked team according to The West St. John girls basketball team has its best ever start to a season at 12-3, including a nine-game winning streak that it carried into 2011.

2010 A Year in the River Parishes  

2010 A Year in the River Parishes

2010 A Year in the River Parishes  

2010 A Year in the River Parishes