Group not giving up on horse farm barn, Tabasco's $5 million levee and more
WE HOPE YOU'RE WRONG AGAIN, DR. GRAY

If it's springtime, it's time for the annual hurricane forecast from Dr. William Gray at Colorado State University's Department of Atmospheric Science. Gray's 2006 forecast of an unusually active hurricane season proved incorrect due to unexpected El Niño conditions. But now those conditions have dissipated, and Gray and his forecast partner Phil Klotzbach are estimating a "very active" 2007 hurricane season with nine hurricanes and 17 named storms. The most unsettling prediction in the report: There's a 49 percent chance of a major hurricane (Category 3, 4 or 5) making landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas.

Hurricane season begins June 1. Let's hope Dr. Gray's wrong again this year. ' Scott Jordan

TABASCO'S $5 MILLION LEVEE

The New York Times reports that the McIlhenny Co., makers of Tabasco sauce, intend on building a 17-foot, $5 million levee around Avery Island. The family-owned company had intended to build a museum in New Orleans with the money, but both hurricanes Katrina and Rita changed its plans.

Instead, the family plans to spend $5 million on a 17-foot levee on Avery Island and a back-up generator. Construction is slated to start by April and be ready in time for the 2008 hurricane season. ' R. Reese Fuller

SAVE THE HORSE FARM NOT GIVING UP ON BARN

Save the Horse Farm is not giving up on its effort to convince UL President Ray Authement that the historic barn on the university's Johnston Street horse farm property is worth saving. Believing the state was unlikely to stop Authement from razing the old barn on the university's Johnston Street horse farm property (a suspicion confirmed yesterday afternoon when the state's office of Facility Planning & Control gave Authement the go-ahead), Save the Horse Farm member/avid UL sports fan Pat McDonald paid a visit to the property and brought general contractor Trent Descant with him. "His assessment of the barn is that the front (hay loft side) needs to be taken down and shored for short-term liability remedy," McDonald wrote in a letter e-mailed to Authement yesterday afternoon. "Other than the structural damage noted, [Descant] was surprised at the very good condition the bracing, as well as the remainder of the barn, is in, despite the appearance," he wrote. Authement has not yet responded to McDonald's e-mail.

Because local government does not have the money to buy the 100-acre property but is interested in its potential as a community park, Save the Horse Farm is meeting this morning and plans to launch a major fund-raising campaign to purchase the property. McDonald says the barn, which the city's mounted patrol unit wants to use to board its horses, is an important component of the plan. But first McDonald and his group of community activists have to convince Authement to allow them to fence off the barn and address the liability issues. To date, Authement has shown no interest in preserving the barn, which some believe was constructed in the early 1900s, and neither he nor the state believes it is a local landmark with historic value. ' Leslie Turk

LAFAYETTE'S $55 MILLION MAN OUTDUELS CURT SCHILLING

On opening day for Major League Baseball, Acadiana High alum and former Seattle Mariners pitcher Gil Meche couldn't have scripted a better start to his season. Matched against 2005 World Series hero Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox, Meche helped lead the Kansas City Royals to a 7-1 drubbing of the BoSox in the Royals' home opener. He struck out six and received a standing ovation from a sellout crowd after yielding to the Royals' bullpen in the eighth inning. It was just the kind of performance the Royals were hoping for when they signed Meche to a widely derided five-year, $55 million contract in the offseason. Even Schilling seemed impressed.

"If [Meche] ever wants to get to that next level and be great, the stuff is there," Schilling told mlb.com. "He'll be worth every penny of that contract and more if he wants to be one of the best guys in the game." ' SJ

COCKERHAM REPLACES THIBODAUX

The Lafayette Parish School Board appointed Mark Cockerham as interim replacement for the late board member David Thibodaux. The board deferred to Thibodaux's family, who recommended Mark Cockerham be appointed to the seat. Cockerham, 30, is a former student of Thibodaux's at UL Lafayette and also helped run his 2004 campaign for Congress. Board member Hunter Beasley says Cockerham "is of the same philosophy as David. I think he will represent the district well." Cockerham will serve until a special election ' likely to be scheduled for September ' decides who will serve out the remaining three years of Thibodaux's term. ' NS

PORT FOURCHON LOBBIES FOR $63 MILLION ROAD UPGRADE

Two-lane Louisiana 1 is best known as the path to serious fishing and relaxation on Grand Isle, but 14 percent of the nation's oil lies at the end of that road at Port Fourchon and the Louisiana OffShore Oil Port. If a serious hurricane destroyed or flooded out a significant part of the road, we'd be looking at a major disruption of energy supplies. Gov. Blanco and representatives from non-profit LA 1 Coalition hammered home that point in demonstrations for lawmakers, in hopes of securing $63 million from the state surplus to raise and secure sections of La 1. "We think this project has evolved into the poster-child for the nation for critical energy infrastructure at risk," Port Fourchon director Ted Falgout told The Times-Picayune. ' SJ

DAILY ADVERTISER'S TOP SALES EXEC JOINS CITADEL

Susan Ruona, one of The Daily Advertiser's top sales executives, has joined Citadel Broadcasting as an account executive for the local radio group that includes FM stations KSMB 94.5 and KXKC 99.1. "This is brand new for me. The only radio experience I had was buying radio for my shoes stores and that was a long time ago," says the 56-year-old. "I wanted to do something different with my advertising career."

Ruona joined The Daily Advertiser in the early 1990s, left for a brief stint with the Moody family's newspapers and accepted a sales position with The Times of Acadiana in 1994 (when it was owned by Independent Weekly publishers Steve May and Cherry Fisher May). During her tenure with the group of publications now owned by Gannett Co., Ruona at various times served as sales manager for The Advertiser, Times and Daily World but in recent years asked to return to sales, where she says her passion lies. She was handling local major accounts, as well as territory accounts. ' LT

SCHOOL BOARD REJECTS TRAHAN

In an overwhelming rejection of Superintendent James Easton's recommendation, the Lafayette Parish School Board voted 8-1 not to renew the contract of embattled grants administrator Amy Trahan. "I know the Superintendent had a lot of confidence in Amy," says board member Mike Hefner. "But there was just way too many problems [in Trahan's department]." Trahan has bore the brunt of frustration over delays in state approval of the district's title monies ' some $13 million ' in addition to other complaints of grant money not being expedited into schools.

Following the vote to eliminate Trahan's contract, which expires June 9, some board members moved to buy out Trahan's contract immediately and to have Chief Academic Officer Bernell Lemoine take over title funding. Hefner warned the board could be overstepping its bounds and potentially violating state law if it were to appoint someone without a recommendation from the superintendent. The motion failed to get the required two-thirds vote to be added to the agenda. "With some of the board members the ends justifies the means," Hefner says. "And that's dangerous for an elected body to take that attitude." ' NS

NEW ORLEANS' HEMLINE COMING TO RIVER RANCH

Acadiana shoppers in search of designer threads will have a new place to browse at the end of April. New Orleans-based upscale women's clothier Hemline is coming to River Ranch's Market development, joining existing lifestyle center tenants Bonefish Grill, kiki, JoS. A. Bank and Ann Taylor Loft. Hemline's almost 12-year-old flagship store is located in the French Quarter at 609 Chartres St., but the company has expanded to Houston, Kansas City and Baton Rouge. Lafayette will be its ninth location. Muffy White, who's been managing the Baton Rouge store that opened on Highland Road near the Country Club of Louisiana within months of Hurricane Katrina, will own the local store. A New Orleans native, White has worked for Hemline for six years and is moving to Lafayette. The trendy shop offers dressy-casual and ready-to-wear lines from well-known designers like BCBG, Diane Von Furstenberg, Single and Nicole Miller, in addition to trendy footwear from makers like Laundry, Seychelles and Chinese Laundry. ' LT

SPIKE LEE PLANS SEQUEL IN MISSISSIPPI

Filmmaker Spike Lee, whose groundbreaking documentary When the Levees Broke brought the plight of post-Katrina residents of New Orleans to a national audience, announced last week that he wants to make a sequel focusing on the Gulf coast region outside of New Orleans.

"Next month, we're going back to HBO and discuss how we can continue this," Lee said at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in Washington.

"The Gulf Coast will be a much bigger part. We didn't forget about you," he told Stan Tiner, editor of the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun-Herald.

Lee was also won the Long Island University George K. Polk award for journalistic integrity in the category of documentary television. The awards will be presented Thursday, April 12. ' MT

IBERIA MAY BET ON VIDEO POKER

With video bingo on the front burner in New Iberia once Bon Temps Bingo asked for a permit for a bingo parlor from the state's department of revenue two weeks ago, it was only a matter of time before gambling's allure bubbled up at the Iberia Parish Council. Councilman Jerome Fitch pitched video poker to the Public Works Committee as a way to avoid raising taxes to fix the parish's deteriorating roads. His gambit paid off, and the recommendation from the committee will go to the entire council, which will request public hearings to consider putting video poker on a ballot. Iberia Parish rejected video poker in the 1996 local option vote. The council bid on putting video poker on the ballot in 2004, but was trumped by the Louisiana Legislature, which must approve whether the proposal can go to the voters. Councilman Naray Hulin supports the video poker initiative as a way to retain dollars lost to the gambling industry in St. Martin and St. Mary parishes, which surround Iberia. "We're losing a lot of revenue that could go the roads," he told the Daily Iberian. ' MT

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