BC-LA--Louisiana-News Digest,ADVISORY, LA

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Associated Press

Posted on July 2, 2013 at 5:30 AM

Louisiana at 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Good morning, Louisiana editors.

If you have any contributions for or questions about the report, call 1-800-662-7717. To report technical problems: 1-800-469-1362. AP stories, along with the photos that accompany them, can also be obtained from http://www.apexchange.com. Reruns are also available from the Service Desk (800-838-4616). The news editor is Brian Schwaner. The breaking news staffer this morning is Bill Fuller.

TOP STORIES

PLANT EXPLOSIONS-LOUISIANA

BATON ROUGE, La. — Plants that were the sites of two chemical explosions a day apart in south Louisiana remained closed, and it could be months before federal investigators determine the causes of the blasts that killed three workers and sent nearly 100 others to hospitals last month. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has sent teams to both sites to investigate the explosions. By Littice Bacon-Blood.

ST LANDRY-SCHOOL BOARD BRIBERY

LAFAYETTE, La. — A former member of the St. Landry Parish School Board has pleaded guilty to plotting to take a bribe to support a candidate for superintendent of the school district. John Miller faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine following his guilty plea Monday in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

BATON ROUGE CAMERAS

BATON ROUGE — It's been five years since Baton Rouge launched a traffic light camera program, and data released last week shows drops in both traffic crashes and violations at the selected intersections. Baton Rouge's Department of Public Works evaluated intersections where traffic cameras were installed in 2008 and 2009 by comparing the average number of crashes in the years before and after the cameras took effect. The study showed a sharp decline in right-angle crashes — considered the most dangerous type of collisions — but also showed slight increases in rear-end crashes. Rear-end collisions often spike when cameras are installed as cautious drivers tend to stop suddenly to avoid being ticketed.

SEWER PROJECT

BATON ROUGE — When drawn up 11 years ago, Baton Rouge's sewer rehabilitation program had an estimated price tag of $618 million and was scheduled to be done by Dec. 31, 2014. Since then, the cost has more than doubled and the deadline for the work is being extended. The sewer rehabilitation, known as the Sanitary Sewer Overflow program, is the largest and most expensive capital project in city-parish history. Baton Rouge residents are footing the bill with a combination of sales taxes and sewer fees — the latter of which average $500 a year annually for homeowners and rise every year. The working price tag now for the rehabilitation is $1.455 billion. Fixing the crumbling sewer system is federally mandated.

ST HELENA SCHOOLS

GREENSBURG — The St. Helena Parish School District's general fund deficit has shrunk to about $48,000, down from roughly $1.5 million two years ago. The district's superintendent, Kelli Joseph, said she expects the deficit to dwindle even further thanks to a bump in public school funding from the 2013 state legislative session. The school district has already begun work on its 2013-14 budget, which Joseph said should include an additional $80,000 or so from the state after legislators recently approved a $69 million boost for public schools. Joseph said about half of that money will go to teachers, while the other half will be used to help close the district's deficit.

SEDIMENT PIPELINE

HOUMA — As open water continues to encroach upon Terrebonne's wetlands, contractors for the parish will soon begin to study a new solution. The parish is planning a study into the cost and feasibility of building a pipeline from the Atchafalaya River to carry sediment to the parish's starving wetlands. Parish officials stressed that the project is a long way from becoming reality, but say it could be a way to rejuvenate withering wetlands and stave off intrusion of salt water. Parish President Michel Claudet said the idea for the pipeline has been around for some time, and he hopes this study will show the concept is feasible and the cost reasonable.

ENTERTAINMENT/LIFESTYLE

CLINTON-BLUEBERRY FESTIVAL

CLINTON — The East Feliciana Parish town of Clinton will sponsor its eighth annual red, White and Blueberry Festival on Friday and Saturday. Mayor Lori Bell said the festival will be held in conjunction with the town's monthly Saturday market.

LOUISIANA IN BRIEF

Editors: The following brief items moved Monday on AP's Louisiana wire and may be of interest for your Tuesday editions.

STRAIN-GOVERNOR'S RACE

BATON ROUGE — Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says he'll seek re-election to his current position in 2015, rather than running for governor. Strain, a Republican former lawmaker and veterinarian, announced his plans Sunday on his Facebook page. He says friends and supporters asked him to run again to lead the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and he thinks that is where he can best serve the state.

OBIT-WILKERSON

(Information in the following story is from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com)

NEW ORLEANS — Kenny Wilkerson, a longtime broadcaster familiar to New Orleans sports fans for his 17 years of work on WWL radio, has died at age 52. Lake Lawn Funeral Home in Metairie said funeral services for Wilkerson are set for 2 p.m. Tuesday after an 11 a.m. visitation. The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/14mxz15) that Wilkerson died Saturday after fighting cancer for several months.

FIREFIGHTERS-STATE FLAGS

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana's fire marshal and agriculture commissioner plan a memorial service to honor the 19 Arizona wildland firefighters who died battling a lightning-sparked blaze northwest of Phoenix. The ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Louisiana State Firefighter's Memorial, Fire Marshal Butch Browning and Agriculture Commissioner Butch Strain said.

JUVENILE DETENTION

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana's social services department said Monday that all juvenile detention facilities in the state are now licensed and inspected by its agency. The 15 facilities previously had been required to meet fire marshal and health department regulations. But with the start of July, they also are licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services, adding a new level of safety review.

LINCOLN DETENTION CENTER

RUSTON — The Lincoln Parish Detention Center is now under new management. The Lincoln Parish Sheriff's Office took over management of the jail on Monday. Maj. Stephen Williams says the prison had been run by the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission for more than 30 years. Sheriff Mike Stone said the reason for the switch was financial.

TEEN SHOT

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans police are investigating the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy. Police responded to the shooting about 5:45 p.m. Sunday, where a teen had been shot several times. He was found lying on the steps of a house.

MILITARY ASSAULT

NEW ORLEANS — A 49-yar-old New Orleans man has been sentenced to prison for assaulting a Department of Defense police officer. U.S. Attorney Dan Boente says David C. Hollingsworth was sentenced Friday to six months in prison for pointing an assault rifle at the officer.

THREAT CONVICTION

HOUMA — Authorities say a 44-year-old Houma man who broke into the home where his three children and their mother lived and threatened one of them with a knife has been convicted of the crime. The Terrebonne District Attorney's Office says Michael Lee McPherson was convicted Wednesday of aggravated burglary.

EVICTION BURGLARY

GRETNA — A 43-year-old Metairie man convicted of using an improperly obtained court order to have his ex-girlfriend removed from her home and then selling her belongings at a garage sale has been ordered to repay her $5,000 for her losses. Vincent Castillo, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence, appears to have gotten a break, as the restitution is barely a fifth of what prosecutors had indicated they would seek.

CHILD DROWNS

PLEASANT HILL — Authorities say a toddler drowned in a pool after apparently letting herself out of the house while her mother slept and her father was away. Sabine Parish Deputy Coroner Ron Rivers identified the child as 2-year-old Isabelle Frazier. An autopsy will be performed Monday to confirm the cause of death, which Rivers attributes to an accidental drowning.

WESTLAKE DEFICIT

WESTLAKE — The city of Westlake is an estimated $406,000 in the red for its fiscal year ended Sunday. Director of Finance Jimmy Ashworth said the projected deficit is in the general fund, and the latest estimate is from March and could "very easily have changed."

LASS-PRESIDENT

BATON ROUGE — Patrice Pujol, superintendent of the Ascension Parish school system, is the new president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents. Pujol succeeds Michael Faulk, who is superintendent of the Central Community School District.

JUVENILE CRUELTY

BATON ROUGE — Police say a 40-year-old woman accused of repeatedly slamming her stepdaughter's head into the floor has been arrested. Ginger Bencaz, of Baton Rouge, was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Friday on counts of cruelty to juveniles, second-degree battery and domestic abuse battery.

UNION-FATAL CRASH

FARMERVILLE — State police say a 46-year-old Farmerville woman died in a one-car accident in Union Parish. Troopers say a car driven by Pamela Temple was traveling west on Helmer Road when it drove off the left side of the road as it entered a slight curve. The car then traveled into a drainage ditch.

EVANGELINE-FATAL CRASH

VILLE PLATTE — State police are investigating a fatal crash on La. Highway 10 near Ville Platte which claimed the life of a 49-year-old Mamou man. The accident happened shortly before 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

BUSINESS IN BRIEF

RICHARD'S SOLD

(Information in the following story is from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com)

CHURCH POINT, La. — Richard's Cajun Foods will be acquired by Altamont Capital Partners, a San Francisco area private investment firm. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/13lOQcP).

QR ENERGY-ACQUISITION

HOUSTON — QR Energy is buying oil properties in the Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas region for $110 million, which will help boost its presence in the East Texas oil field. QR Energy, which is based in Houston, is involved with the acquisition, production and development of onshore crude oil and natural gas properties in the U.S.

NASA CONTRACT

NEW ORLEANS — Healtheon Inc. of New Orleans has been awarded a $29.8 million contract by NASA to provide a high pressure industrial water line at the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss. The line will provide water for cooling and to suppress noise at the Stennis B Test Complex. The complex will be used in 2016 to test rocket engines that will be part of NASA's Space Launch System.

SHRIMP SEASON-CLOSING

BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says the inshore shrimp season will close at 6 a.m. on Thursday in the Terrebonne Basin except for portions of lower Timbalier Bay, Terrebonne Bay, Lake Pelto and Pelican Lake that directly border the Gulf of Mexico.

HARAHAN-FLOOD CONTRACT

HARAHAN — The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $23.8 million contract for installation of equipment related to the Harahan pump-to-river flood control project. The work is part of the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Damage Risk Reduction Project.

COMMUNITY COFFEE-EXECS

BATON ROUGE — Community Coffee Co. has named Scott Eckert as vice president of marketing and Charles Graffeo as vice president of supply chain. The Baton Rouge-based company also has promoted David Fahr to director of technology.

SPORTS

PELICANS-EVANS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The New Orleans Pelicans have made an offer to Sacramento Kings restricted free agent guard Tyreke Evans, two people familiar with the situation said Monday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the offer was supposed to remain private. Several media outlets reported the deal was for four years and ranging between $40 million and $48 million. By Antonio Gonzalez.

SPORTS IN BRIEF

LA MONROE-ATHLETIC DIRECTOR

MONROE, La. — Louisiana-Monroe has decided to hire Brian Wickstrom as its new athletic director. ULM President Nick Bruno says he will formally introduce Wickstrom in a media conference on campus on Tuesday.

LOUISIANA OUTDOORS

GEAUX FISH

NEW ORLEANS — The Audubon Nature Institute is scheduled to open a Louisiana fisheries exhibit on Thursday at its Audubon Aquarium of the Americas called Geaux Fish! It will feature six sections that both highlight the Louisiana game fish, bait fish, and commercial seafood industries and educate visitors about the importance of preserving the Gulf of Mexico's abundant aquatic resources through research and conservation. By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune.

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