The Durel administration is negotiating to move Acadiana Open Channel from its current location at 704 Lee Ave. into a new office complex at the Rosa Parks Transportations Center, located at the corner of Jefferson and Cypress Streets. City officials recently broke ground on a new two-story building being constructed for the Rosa Parks center to house a new downtown U.S. Post Office and city offices; The Durel administration now says those plans can be expanded, with existing funding, to add 8300 square feet to bring in the public access TV station. The administration has been seeking a new home for A.O.C. since announcing a proposal to demolish A.O.C.'s current building, along with the neighboring old federal courthouse and police building, to make way for new development downtown. Acadiana Open Channel's service contract with the city also is set to expire in November and will have to be renegotiated in advance of any lease agreement.
While these plans have been discussed for over a year, they began to make headway this week. At its Tuesday meeting, the city parish council introduced an ordinance authorizing the administration to negotiate a new service contract and lease with A.O.C. The administration also introduced a separate ordinance to the council dealing with resolving property title issues with the school board on the old federal courthouse. Lafayette Consolidated Government Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley says time is of the essence in negotiating terms with A.O.C. because construction at the Rosa Parks Center is nearing a point where contractors will need to adjust their plans if additional space is to be added. Agreements will need to be in place, and approved by both the city-parish council and the A.O.C. board, by August in order to avoid any construction delays. The proposed addition will cost approximately $1.8 million and could be completed by early next year. Because the Rosa Parks facility's construction bid came in below initial estimates, Stanley says all of the costs can be covered with existing funds for the center. "We're able to expand the building 8,000 square feet," Stanley says, "plus relocate AOC, put a public purpose in a public building and also get rent for the space that's being built out. It's a win, win, win." If a deal is not reached, Stanley says he is unsure whether the city can redirect those surplus funds for other purposes.
The Durel administration has just completed its first proposed contract and lease agreement for A.O.C, obtained yesterday afternoon by The Independent. While A.O.C. currently operates rent-free in a city-owned building, the new arrangement calls for the public access channel to sign a 10-year lease at the Rosa Parks center at an annual cost of $114,955.00, or $9,579.58 a month. The proposed service contract also is for 10 years. It maintains A.O.C.'s current operations funding of $220,000. It also provides for an additional $155,000 in funding for rent and utilities, the bulk of who will be reverting back to the city. "Such payment is conditioned upon said Lease being in effect and not in default and to be made only with regard to the active lease term(s)," the contract states. "Notwithstanding the foregoing, the payment referred to in this paragraph shall in no event exceed the actual annual lease payment due by AOC under the Lease."
A.O.C. Director Ed Bowie says he received the proposed contracts this morning and acknowledges that while he and his board are looking to re-negotiate several issues in the proposals - including a significant increase in A.O.C.'s annual funding - he is optimistic a deal can be reached. "It's been very easy to work with the administration," he says. He adds that a newly-built A.O.C. office will come with amenities including two studios, and a computer lab with individual video editing booths. "If the deal goes through, Lafayette will have a media center comparable to any in the country," he says.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.