Wednesday, July 27, 2011
By The Independent Staff

When Washington Parish-based Smith Creamery’s dairy plant exploded a couple of weeks ago, scattering debris for miles, the blast should have been music to the ears of Baton Rouge’s Kleinpeter Farms Dairy, Louisiana’s largest family-owned operation. Instead, Kleinpeter President Jeff Kleinpeter and Smith Creamery founder Warren Smith announced a week later that the competitors had entered into an agreement whereby Kleinpeter would take over production of Smith’s milk, half and half, and heavy cream products. When Smith rebuilds, assuming the company chooses to, operations will move back to the Mount Hermon headquarters of the smaller company. So is this just a public-relations stunt by Kleinpeter? Hardly. According to the Associated Press, both companies will earn a profit on the arrangement — Kleinpeter, obviously, for taking over the operation; but Smith will as well because Kleinpeter can package and distribute Smith’s products more cheaply than the smaller operation could before the explosion. And besides, we’ve met Jeff Kleinpeter. He’s a genuinely good guy. Good PR, yes, but good will, too.

When a suspect in a brutal home invasion, robbery and rape failed to show up for his trial last week in Lafayette, it may have been a surprise to District Judge Ed Rubin. It shouldn’t have been. Nineteen-year-old Nelson Chambers of Opelousas is facing an aggravated rape charge and life sentence for the 2009 attack in Lafayette. The day before his scheduled Tuesday trial, according to published reports, Chambers’ two co-defendants cut a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to testify against him in exchange for reduced sentences. Chambers should have been sitting in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center awaiting that trial, but several months ago, Rubin ruled against the prosecutor, who requested that Chambers be held without bond until his trial date. Assistant D.A. Keith Stutes wanted Chambers held because, Stutes pointed out to Rubin, since his initial release on bond for the rape arrest, the teen was arrested three more times in St. Landry Parish for drug and property crimes, and for failing to appear at court for traffic offenses. The soft-hearted judge countered that Chambers had made all his hearing dates in Lafayette and therefore didn’t pose a flight risk. By press time Monday for this issue of The Ind, Chambers remained on the lam. While hindsight is 20/20, we wish Judge Rubin had a little more foresight.

The town of Wa$hington might be good at catching speeders, but Mayor Joseph Pitre just can’t catch a break. Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, according to the AP, reiterated last week that Wa$hington owes the state more than $220,000 for traffic fines it collected on Interstate 49 from motorists busted travelling less than 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. A state law designed to clamp down on speed traps like Wa$hington, which pad their meager budgets — in Wa$hington’s case about half its annual budget — requires redirecting the fines to the state when the offense is less than 10 miles over. The town and its beleaguered mayor have tried various means of keeping the cash, namely begging to keep the money and characterizing the law as racist. Pitre’s latest tactic: asking that a member of the legislative advisory council hearing the matter — state Rep. Ledricka Thierry, D-Opelousas, who represents the town of Wa$hington — be recused because Pitre plans to run against her in the fall election.

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