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Sewer improvements progress

Two of Hammond’s upcoming lift station sewer improvement projects should be ready to go out for bid by the end of the month.

Engineer Chuck Spangler said these two projects will solve about 90 percent of the sewer problems in the Mooney, Varnado, Mississippi and Live Oak area, but the city will still need to find and repair the leaks using a sewer system evaluation survey and sewer rehabilitation to completely solve the problem.

At the city council meeting Tuesday, Spangler explained that Currently, six force mains come through Mooney Avenue from all over town, and when the force mains get to the south plant, they manifold into a single 18-inch underground pipe.

“When the rains come and all the stations get full of water, they’re all pumping into one single 18-inch line,” he said. “That 18-inch line effectively chokes down the small stations. The big stations with the high horsepower are the only ones working effectively.”

The project will separate those force mains and pump them directly to the pond where there is no impediment to the flow during rain.

The second project is a new lift station on Mississippi Street.

“I’m putting a station in that’s going to take the water when it reaches two feet from top of the manholes. It’s going to drain into a new pump station and that pump station is going to suck it down at 1200 gallons a minute,” Spangler said.

It will be pumped straight to the pond.

“The mayor asked me to expedite the project, and he told me to be ready by end of October, and it will be ready by the end of October, one way or the other,” Spangler said.

The current year’s SSES work began as soon as possible during the first week of July.


Council President Kip Andrews put on Tuesday night’s agenda the introduction of a request for $750,000 to be transferred from the Sales Tax Fund ending fund balance to Capital Expenditures. The funds would provide for sewer system improvements of two lift stations, SSES and sewer rehabilitation.

To the confusion of city administrators, Councilman Devon Wells had asked Andrews to place the transfer on the agenda.

The item, although tabled by Wells at a meeting in April, had been added, along with more funds, into the budget for the new fiscal year, which began July 1. The budget was given to the council in May, was discussed in a workshop for two days in June, and was adopted by the council in June after a public hearing.

Councilman Wells said he was unaware that projects from the previously tabled item had been incorporated into the new budget although he had approved it.

Wells said he keeps hearing from city administration that he threw way $750,000.

“It’s been told to my district I threw away $750,000,” he said.

Spangler and city administrator Lacy Landrum said that it was not thrown away, but it was delayed.

Spangler said the six-month construction period could have already been underway.

Councilwoman Carlee Gonzales and Councilman Sam DiVittorio asked where funds for Wells’ request would come from as there is only $586,000 in the Sales Tax ending fund balance.

Spangler said it would be redundant to allocate more funds because the projects had already been funded with the approval of the budget.

“It’s already underway – project number assigned, engineering commences, done utility locates, done surveys, design work, got pumps sized, all we are waiting is to see we don’t run into something and cut a line illegally like a fiber optic, gas main or electric line,” Spangler said. “After we get that information this week, we’ll wrap up our design, we’ll have everything approved and move forward with the bidding.”

Wells asked where the funds are he tabled back in April.

Spangler said it was still the same money request, just presented differently as part of the 2021 budget.

Wells accused Spangler of moving forward with the job anyway after he had tabled the item. Spangler said he was doing the job after the council approved it in the budget.

Wells said he tabled the fund transfer for a reason, and this is the reason budgets need to be broken down for everyone to see.

Landrum said it had been, which is why the council was presented with the budget six weeks prior, there were budget meetings that took two days, and they discussed it specifically in a meeting with a public hearing.

“This is the game that the administration plays all the time, and it all gonna come back at the end,” Wells said. “One thing about it, the old saying, the dog that wags his tail, he finds his tail cut off sooner or later, especially when he wags his tail a whole lot, so that’s why I put it back on the agenda. I just wanted to see exactly how it was come out and what was done with the money.”

Spangler defended himself, saying the item was discussed in great detail during the budget meeting.

Council members looked to city attorney Andre Coudrain as to what to do about the topic. He said parliamentary procedure states that tabled items should come back up at some point, but since this issue was addressed in the budget, it becomes moot.

Coudrain advised the council to just withdraw the item.

When Landrum and the mayor walked out of the meeting, Wells commented that this was a council meeting, and neither needed to be here for it.

Councilman Wells asked resident Jessica Shirey to be escorted out of the meeting for asking, from her seat in the audience, the council president to call the meeting to order. She left.

The meeting ended with no action taken on this topic.

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Homecoming court announced

Fourteen Southeastern Louisiana University students, members of the 2021 Homecoming court, are reigning over Homecoming festivities this week.

Chosen as members of the queen court are seniors Kami Aguilar, New Orleans; Darianna Bergeron, St. James; Sidney Rivers, Loranger; Annabella Seal, Bogalusa; L’Oreal Williams, Kenner; and Catherine Wooton, Belle Chasse; and junior Ashley Hess, Central.

Elected members of the beau court are seniors Joshua Ballard, Denham Springs; Tyson Cowart, Prairieville; Jacob Deliberto, Hammond; Matthew Hunter, Baton Rouge; Richard Williams, New Orleans; Johnathan Zeringue, Des Allemands; and junior Zachary Poche’, Gonzales.

The 2021 queen and beau, the top junior or senior vote-getters in the recent online campus election, will be announced Saturday.

Aguilar, a marketing major, is a member of Alpha Omicron Pi, vice-president and co-founder of Sexual Violence Unmasked and was selected as a member of Sigma Tau Gamma’s White Rose Court for two years and White Rose in 2020-21.

Bergeron, an integrated biology pre-med major, is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, member and mentor with Project P.U.L.L., a 2021 Orientation Leader, a resident assistant, honors mentor, recipient of the Heart of a Lion award and Dean’s List student.

Rivers majors in nursing and is historian of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, member of Nursing Christian Fellowship, Sexual Violence Unmasked and Baptist Collegiate Ministries. She is a former captain of the women’s basketball team.

Seal, a communication sciences and disorders major, is chapter president of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, was recipient of the Pearl Award, is a former Panhellenic delegate and is a member Gamma Beta Phi and Sexual Violence Unmasked.

Williams, pursuing a double major in business management and marketing, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, is in her second term as president of the Student Government Association, was a 2019 Orientation Leader and is the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors’ Student Board member. She was the Southeastern 2021 Woman of the Year and received the Vice President Award of Excellence and the Green “S” Award.

Wooton, a criminal justice major, is growth vice president of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority, member of the Pre Law Association, president and co-founder of Sexual Violence Unmasked, and was the first runner-up in the 2021 Miss Southeastern pageant.

Hess, a nursing major, is secretary of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, was selected as a 2019 Panhellenic Emerging Leader, is a member of Best Buddies, president of the College Panhellenic Council and is a Greek Ambassador, serving as vice president of educational events.

Ballard, a marketing major, is a member of Campus Outreach and vice president of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He was named the 2020 Southeastern Man of the Year and received the Green “S” Award.

Cowart, an integrative biology major, is a member of Campus Outreach, Delta Omega Alpha Pre-Professional Society, Biology Undergraduates Society, and is president of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Cowart is a 13 Club member and made the President’s List every semester.

Deliberto, a marketing major, is a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Greek Ambassadors, and the Southeastern Marketing Association. He is the 2021 Fraternity Man of the Year, is a three-time Green “S” Award recipient, and received the Vice President of Student Affairs Award of Excellence.

Hunter, an accounting major, is a College of Business Ambassador, a Project PULL mentor, and vice president of National Association of Black Accountants. He is also the recipient of the Emerging Leader Award.

Williams, a mechanical engineering technology major, is president of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, a member of the Black Student Union, a mentor for Project PULL, and vice president for fraternities for the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Zeringue, an accounting major, is a member of Campus Activities Board, serving on the executive board from 2019-20. He is a member of the Southeastern Running Club and Alpha Psi Omega, was a 2019 Orientation Leader, member of the 2019 Homecoming Court and 2020 President’s List scholar.

Poché, a social studies education major, is a member of CAB, director of traditions at SGA, member of Educators Rising, and ExCel Scholars, an Honors Mentor and was a member of the 2020 Homecoming Court. He received Sophomore Honors Distinction and received the Dr. Marvin L. Yates Award of Excellence.

Hammond Ballet finds temporary site

With the Columbia Theatre’s main auditorium damaged, Hammond Ballet’s annual performances of “The Nutcracker” will temporarily move to The Dunham School in Baton Rouge.

Artistic Director Grace Jeanfreau promises Hammond Ballet will still bring the magic.

The Dunham School, a private school with an arts center auditorium, has a stage comparable to that of the Columbia Theatre, just a little smaller. The auditorium can seat 640 guests, which is nearly 200 less than the production is used to having.

Behind the scenes, the Dunham theater cannot accommodate some technical aspects that the Columbia Theatre allowed, but Jeanfreau said this is being worked through.

Janet Neyrey is also an artistic director.

The Hammond Ballet Company holds “The Nutcracker Ballet” the first weekend in December.

New location

In the search for an alternate theater, organizers ran into challenges.

Jeanfreau stressed that Tangipahoa Parish does not have many theaters to begin with, and everyone they contacted had hurricane damage, no availability or COVID restrictions.

Not just any theater could work.

Linda Ross, Hammond Ballet treasurer, said a particular kind of stage is needed for this kind of dance performance – something bigger than that used for a typical dance recital.

The stage’s size and surface are important for a ballet performance, as well as for the three different scene backdrops and snow falls to be hung from the ceiling, said Ross.

“We will have to adapt some things,” she said. “We are accustomed to the Columbia with how we get props there, how props are stored and how props get on and off the stage.”

Space is necessary for dancers to wait in the wings when leaving and entering, as well as for snowflakes, which flutter quickly across the stage from different sides in different groups, she added.

As of now, the production has not lost any cast members sure to the change in venue. Directors are working with performers’ normal rehearsal schedule while trying not to bring the children performing to The Dunham School during the school week.

To help with the commute, performances will be twice on the same day, Jeanfreau added.

Since the ballet is no longer part of this year’s Columbia Theatre season, tickets will be managed differently.

When part of the season, the ballet is a booked act, with tickets sold by the Columbia which keeps the profits. This year, the Hammond Ballet company will rent the Dunham facility and therefore will be in charge of managing own ticket sales and seating, Ross said.

“We are hoping it does not affect our ticket sales between family members and the community,” Jeanfreau said.

25 Years

This will be the Hammond Ballet’s 25th anniversary of performing “The Nutcracker Ballet.” It was initially performed in the Vonnie Borden Theatre at Southeastern Louisiana University.

The first show, which was directed by Janet Neyrey, was only the second act of the ballet, and props were borrowed. In 2003, “The Nutcracker Ballet” moved to the Columbia Theatre, where it has been performed ever since. Over the years, it has evolved to a full professional production with a real Chinese dragon from China. The ballet company also now owns two of the three backdrops. Depending on budget and local talent, professional dancers are hired to perform some main roles, such as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince, said Ross.

Last year, the ballet faced challenges because of COVID-19 restrictions in the Columbia Theatre, which limited audience sizes to 75 people. There were parents who did not get tickets, but the performance was also streamed, she said.

“It has been a rough two years,” Jeanfreau said. “We were hoping with this being the 25th year, that things would go a little smoother; the hurricane did not help with that.”

“Last year was rough, and this year was rough again for a different reason,” Ross said.

Stilley picked as grand marshal

Hammond Rotary Club announces the Christmas Parade will roll Dec. 17 on the streets of Hammond.

Professional Heating and Air will sponsor the club’s 63rd parade and has chosen “Christmas Movie Marathon” as the theme, organizers said.

Tangipahoa Parish School System’s Superintendent Melissa Stilley will serve as grand marshal celebrating the school system’s 150 year anniversary.

The parade will line up at Southeastern’s Strawberry Stadium’s parking lot. The parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. and roll down General Pershing on its usual route. The judges’ stand will be located on Magnolia Street in front of PJ’s Coffee.

Commercial, noncommercial, dance groups and automobiles are welcome to join the parade.

To receive a registration form, visit www.hammond rotary.com to download forms or email parade@hammondrotary.com. For info call 985-634-6273.

This weekend

The Hammond airshow, Southeastern homecoming, Day of Hope in Ponchatoula, Tangipahoa Parish Fair in Amite and there’s so much more. Where to begin? See Community Calendar on B6.

Rosary rally set for Saturday

A Rosary Rally will be held Saturday at noon in front of Holy Ghost Parish Hall (the old church), organizers announced.

“In conjunction with Rosary Rallies being held all across America, we will join our voices to pray for God’s blessing upon our beloved United States,” the organizers said in a statement. “We are asking God to continue to bless us and to give America many graces.”

Folding chairs and baby buggies are welcome, they said.

The national organization America Needs Fatima started its October Rosary Rally Campaign in 2007, asking people to pray a rosary for America in a public place at noon on the Saturday in October closest to Oct. 13, when Our Lady performed the miracle of the sun. Since 2007 the number has grown from 2100 rallies across the country to over 20,000, ranging in size from one or two participants to 30 or more.

The local rally will be led by Deacon Nat Garafola and co-sponsored by several Holy Ghost Church organizations.

They invite everyone to be part of this demonstration of faith throughout the country.