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Knock Knock Children’s Museum still without a contractor

Design renderings of the proposed 30,000 square-foot Knock Knock Children's Museum to be built near Dalrymple Drive at City-Brooks Community Park.

Design renderings of the proposed 30,000 square-foot Knock Knock Children’s Museum to be built near Dalrymple Drive at City-Brooks Community Park.

The long-awaited Knock Knock Children’s Museum has hit another snag after years of slow-downs and problems.

The museum was supposed to have a contractor in place by the end of this month, but BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said the bidder who they wanted to hire pulled out of the running this week.

McKnight said the remaining bids are above the $6 million that has been raised for the building’s construction. She said she will meet with Knock Knock Children’s Museum officials next week too see if there’s any wiggle room in the budget and to chart their next course of action.

“We’ll have a plan mid to late next week about Knock Knock,” she said.

The Children’s Museum will be located on City-Brooks Community Park property on Dalrymple Drive near the LSU campus. Projections for its groundbreaking and completion have continued to be pushed back, as it was at one point scheduled to break ground in the summer of 2014.

The building’s renderings show it perched on a sloped hill, with three peaks and large patches of windows.

Overall, those leading the effort to build the museum have raised more than $9.4 million to build it and to stock its interior learning zone spaces. Most recently, the museum secured donations totaling $850,000 for a construction-themed building and learning zone.

Councilman Ryan Heck: St. George will “save this parish from financial ruin”

Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Ryan Heck took to Facebook on Wednesday night in a post that went further than just supporting the right for proposed St. George residents to vote. He went on to say that St. George is the only thing that will “save this Parish from financial ruin.”

Heck’s district is made up both of parts of the proposed city of St. George and the city of Baton Rouge.

Opponents of St. George say that the proposed city could financially devastate the parish by diverting millions of dollars in sales taxes from the city-parish coffers to the new city’s budget.

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St. Ferdinand Street goes two-way Wednesday afternoon, after rain delay

The two-waying of St. Ferdinand Street in downtown Baton Rouge is behind schedule but should be open in both directions by Wednesday afternoon.

St. Louis Street, which is parallel to St. Ferdinand, went two way earlier this month. St. Ferdinand was supposed to open in both directions last week, but was delayed because of rain.

The final restriping will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday after morning traffic rush. That means that by Wednesday evening the street will be operating as a two-way street.

The change will eliminate about 20 on-street parking spots.

Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District said, some of those spots will be made up for because some dedicated parking spots near the former Sheriff’s Office will be freed up to the public. The Sheriff’s Office moved to a space near the Baton Rouge Metro Airport.

The $1.1 million project is about seven years in the making, but it received official approval in 2010.

The changes to St. Ferdinand will create a direct line from LSU to the State Capitol. St. Ferdinand turns into Highland Road to the south and Fourth Street to the north.

Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge to launch radio station

Woody Jenkins, president of the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge, is starting a radio station.

Woody Jenkins, president of the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge, is starting a radio station. Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS.

The small-business based, conservative Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge is starting its own radio station.

Woody Jenkins, Chamber president, said the station will launch in June and will be called 95.1, The Mighty WSGX. Jenkins said the station will be a nonprofit and it will mix news and talk radio with music.

“It’s going to be community oriented, a lot of news,” Jenkins said. He said he would classify the station as a forum for “putting out the truth” rather than a partisan radio outlet.

The station is estimated to reach around 250,000 people in Baton Rouge and would also cover the proposed city of St. George if St. George backers are successful in incorporating.

The people on-air will mostly be volunteers, and Jenkins said the station will be similar to public radio and air sponsorships but not commercial advertisements.

WSGX does not have a physical home yet, but Jenkins said they are trying to work with an existing station for space and equipment.

Starting a radio station has been in the back of Jenkins’ mind for years, as he started out working in radio before going on to own newspapers.

“It’s fun, it’s very local and you have a direct connection with the listener,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins will host a fundraiser for the station from 6 to 10 p.m. on April 24 at his home. Tickets are $100 a couple.

St. George petition verification pushed back to Wednesday or Thursday

The petition for the proposed city of St. George should be verified soon. Advocate photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND

The petition for the proposed city of St. George should be verified soon. Advocate photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND

The final verification of the petition to incorporate the proposed city of St. George will not come until Wednesday or Thursday, the Registrar’s Office said Tuesday morning.

On Monday, the Registrar’s Office estimated that they would finish verifying the petition today or Wednesday. Aimee Pourciau, administrative assistant in the office, said they have combed through the petition’s signatures but are still removing names of people who signed and have since asked to be withdrawn.

The Registrar’s Office must validate forms from 139 people who asked for their names to be removed.

It is already too late for a St. George vote to appear on May ballots, as the deadline for doing so passed last week. If the petition has enough signatures, St. George backers could hold their election in the fall at the same time the public votes for governor.

An anti-St. George group called Better Together has estimated that the petition will come up around 2,000 signatures short. St. George backers need signatures from 25 percent of people within the proposed city’s boundaries to qualify for an election.

An estimated 18,000 people signed the petition, but the Registrar’s Office will not disclose the official number.

The Registrar’s Office has tossed 17.5 percent of the names on the petition.

If the St. George petition does not have enough signatures to hold an election, St. George backers will have 60 days to collect more signatures and return to the Registrar’s Office. Lionel Rainey, St. George spokesman, said they have at least 1,250 signatures ready to go in case of a shortfall.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber has also stepped into the St. George debate by promising to push for better schools in Baton Rouge, which is one of the most popular reasons why people have supported the St. George incorporation effort.

“If today’s news means that the creation of a new city is unlikely, we believe that the push for better public education options there and throughout the parish must continue; in fact, we must redouble those efforts,” said BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp in a statement. “…The business community remains enthusiastically supportive of the creation of more neighborhood schools and more programs responsive to the needs of all our citizens. “

Registrar putting finishing touches on St. George petition, 17.5 percent of names tossed

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The East Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters’ office is almost finished validating the massive St. George petition for incorporation, which will determine whether the proposed new city will be put to a vote.

Aimee Pourciau, a spokeswoman in the office, said Monday morning that her office has gone through the signatures on the more than 1,000 page petition, and is moving on to the process of removing the signatures of people who signed the petition and then later requested their names be taken off.

She said 139 people submitted forms asking that their names be removed from the petition. All of those forms must be validated for authenticity.

Pourciau said 17. 5 percent of the names were invalidated from the petition. But she said she couldn’t disclose the total number of signatures checked or the actual number of signatures that were invalidated until the process is completed.

She estimated that her office would finish tomorrow or Wednesday.

Last week, an anti-St.George group Better Together, which obtained a copy of the petition through a public record request, released its own analysis of the petition. The group counted  18,354 signatures in total and said that 18 percent of the names would be invalidated because they were not on the registered voter list for the area or their names showed up multiple times.

The group said St. George organizers would be short by more than 2,000 signatures.

St. George organizers need 25 percent of the registered voters in their proposed boundaries to qualify for a referendum.  The exact number has not been released by the Registrar’s Office, but Better Together said they believe that the target is  17,467.

Once the Registrar’s office is finished, St. George organizers have 60 days to make up the difference in signatures.

Lionel Rainey, St. George spokesman, said the group has a contingency of at least 1,250 signatures for a shortfall.

EDITORS NOTE: An earlier version of this story had Aimee Pourciau’s name spelled incorrectly. We regret the error.

St. George petition almost verified, but 18 percent of names thrown out

 

In this photo, a woman advocates for the proposed city of St. George. The Registrar's Office will soon determine if the petition for an election to create the city is valid. Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON

In this photo, a woman advocates for the proposed city of St. George. The Registrar’s Office will soon determine if the petition for an election to create the city is valid. Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON

The East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar’s Office is 95 percent finished checking the St. George petition, and anticipates finishing it off next week.

Registrar’s Office Administrative Assistant Aimee Pourciau said Thursday that they have thrown out 18 percent of the names that have been checked. The petition must include at least 25 percent of registered voters within the proposed boundaries of St. George for an election to be held.

In addition, Pourciau said they will have to go back and take names off of the petition for those who originally signed it but have since changed their minds. As of late February, 84 people formally requested to have their signatures removed.

Anti-St. George organizers earlier this week said they expect the petition for the proposed city to come up 2,000 signatures short of what’s needed for a vote.

It is unclear exactly how many people signed the petition to vote on the proposed city of St. George, but estimates range between 16,000 and 18,000.

City-parish American flags flying at half-staff to honor fallen U.S. Marshal, victims of helicopter crash

American flags on Baton Rouge city-parish properties will be flown at half-staff this week to honor the 11 U.S. Marines and Louisiana National Guardsmen who died in last weeks’ Florida helicopter crash and to honor the memory of U.S. Marshal Josie Wells, who was killed last week while apprehending an accused murderer.

Mayor-President Kip Holden issued the order on Friday. The flags will remain at half staff until Friday, March 20.

“I encourage everyone to keep these fallen heroes and their families in their thoughts and prayers and to reach out to these families to offer comfort in this difficult time,” Holden said. “These two terrible tragedies remind us of how our military personnel and law enforcement officers risk their lives on a daily basis to protect us all.”

Wells is scheduled to be laid to rest on March 17 in Three Rivers, Miss.

State Civil Service employees can post signs about St. George political campaign

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Can state employees, bound by civil service laws, get involved in the debate surrounding the proposed city of St. George?

The answer is yes, according to memo issued Friday to state agencies by the Louisiana State Civil Service department.

Classified employees are prohibited from engaging in efforts to support or oppose a candidate, party, or faction in an election.

But putting a sign in your yard about a new city is OK.

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Better Together campaign efforts launch.

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND — Better Together campaign efforts launch.

“Yes, you can. The creation of a new city is an issue and not the support or opposition of a party, candidate, or faction seeking an elected office,” said Shannon Templet, civil service director in the memo.

Other things that are OK: signing a recall petition, posting signs in support or opposition of legislation, contacting your legislator, writing a letter to the editor about public matters as long as they are not about your job.

But the letter says you cannot use your work computer to express your personal opinion, nor can you make public statements about your particular work environment.

Click here for the full memo. 

Secretary of State responds to St. George flier complaints

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler responded this week to complaints from backers of the proposed city of St. George who received a mailer last week asking them to withdraw their support for the city.

 

Those who received the mailer signed a petition that asks voters to decide whether to create a new city in the southern portion of the parish. An anti-St. George group, Better Together/Residents Against The Breakaway, was behind the mail pieces.

Schedler said in a Facebook message that the Secretary of State’s Office cannot regulate how third-party groups, such as the one who sent the mailer, behave. He said his investigation confirmed that a third-party group obtained the petition via a public records request.

“Please be assured that the Secretary of State’s Office does not disclose any confidential information from our statewide voter registration database according to law,” he wrote. “Confidential information includes your social security number, driver’s license number, day and month of date of birth, mother’s maiden name, electronic mail address, cell number and whether you are entitled to assistance in voting.”

Many angry St. George backers complained on social media after receiving the mailers, saying they felt like their privacy was invaded. Some questioned how Better Together/Residents Against The Breakaway knew that they signed the petition.

Petitions are public records, and anyone can request the full petition to vote on the city of St. George from the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters Office. In order to request the petition from the Registrar, the interested party needs to provide 25 signatures from registered voters in East Baton Rouge.