Top stories of 2019: No. 6-10

1197

6. Floods plague south Bossier, Haughton

Storms blew through Bossier in early May, bringing heavy rains that flooded many areas of the parish. Winfield Road was temporarily closed, parts of Bellevue Road had high water, parts of Hwy. 157 in south Bossier saw high water, Fox Chase subdivision in Haughton had flooding issues, and Wafer Road had high water.

Bossier Sheriff’s Office deputies assisted Haughton Fire and Police, with 15 homes in Fox Chase evacuated. 

Deputies then used their high water vehicle to check on residents on heavily flooded Cannon Road in Princeton. A neighbor with a pontoon boat assisted deputies by helping a couple evacuate from their flooded home, bringing them to the high water vehicle, and then deputies transporting them to dry ground. 

A Cannon Road area resident saves his neighbor on his pontoon boat during flooding in May. (Courtesy of Lt. Bill Davis/Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office)

Residents in the Sligo Road area and south were asked to voluntarily evacuate their homes as waters in streams and bayous continue to rise. Robo calls went out to those who live in the Mayflower Road and Cane Bend area requesting evacuation after forecasts of high water would have made access to some homes impossible.

However, after weeks of thunderstorms dumped the heavy rains, Bossier Parish seemed to be escaping many of the severe problems during flood events of years past.

Assistant Parish Engineer Eric Hudson said the heavy rains that fell in the northern part of the parish sent a lot of water to south Bossier but levels did not rise rapidly.

7. Tornado hits area of Benton

Residents began cleaning up after an EF-2 tornado hit the Butler Hill Road area in Benton late June 19/early June 20. 

Damage included uprooted trees and downed power lines, as well as major damage to three homes in the 1800 block of Butler Hill Road. Several homes in the 1700 block also sustained damage from winds and falling trees.

Andy Hydro, who has lived at 1740 Butler Hill Rd for 19 years, said on Wednesday night around 11 p.m. he was watching the news and all of a sudden he heard a “hollow type sound.” He described it as the wind blowing hard and something like a train coming through the night near his living room window.

“I got up from my chair and looked out the window through the darkness and I could see debris flying through the air,” said Hydro. “It lasted only a second or two. It wasn’t that long.”

Damage to a home in the Butler Hill Road area of Benton from a June tornado. (Sean Green/Press-Tribune)

After the frightening sounds dissipated, Hydro and his two sons went outside to check to see what had transpired.

“After it was over, we came outside with flashlights and noticed all of the trees in my yard were down in my neighbor’s yard,” said Hydro. “Thankfully, nothing touched the house.”

Hydro said he was lucky to escape the damage that might have occurred, similar to what struck just a little further down the road. 

“We got up early (Thursday) morning and inspected the outside of the house. All we saw was a few shingles on the ground and some of the siding,” said Hydro. 

“Glen, one of my neighbors came running down after the storm to check in on us and asked if anybody needed any help. He’s been helping us cut trees all morning,” Hydro added.

The National Weather Service’s preliminary survey results showed that an EF-2 tornado hit the Butler Hill Road area in Benton. There were no reported injuries from the storms.

Local and state officials turn the dirt on a new entrance to Barksdale AFB off I-20/220 in May. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

8. Construction starts on new entrance to Barksdale off I-20/220

Gov. John Bel Edwards was on hand May 15 for the groundbreaking of the I-20/I-220 BAFB Interchange Project. The $71.8 million project will create a new access road into BAFB extending southward from the existing I-20/I-220 interchange.

“In my first meeting with the leadership at Barksdale Air Force Base, I found out the No. 1 priority on their wish list was a new access point off the interstate, and had been for decades,” Gov. Edwards said. “Two-thirds of our nation’s nuclear triad is controlled here at Barksdale and it’s sitting beside the interstate without an ingress and egress.”

The project had been a part of the state’s Transportation Master Plan for many years, and until recently, had no environmental clearance or funding source identified. In January 2018, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), moved to utilize Grant Anticipation Revenue (GARVEE) bonds for funding and utilized the design-build method of project delivery that expedites project delivery by combining the design and construction phases. 

In just 18 months, seven phases in the process had been completed simultaneously.

“It’s a big day for us because we don’t like to see stuff unfinished. In Bossier, it doesn’t seem right,” said Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City. “When I got elected, I sat down with leaders in Bossier Parish and asked them if they had a magic wand, what their first project would be and they said this.”

The new road and gate will take into account projected population growth and increased traffic counts, serve to greatly enhance security, and will alleviate traffic congestion at other base entrance points. It will also improve access times for Barksdale employees, meaning easier commutes.

Col. Michael Miller, commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing at BAFB, noted the project is important for the area but also the entire country.

“This is huge for the mission of Barksdale. This gives us room to grow the mission at Barksdale Air Force Base,” Col. Miller said. “It also will make a difference to the quality of life of the men and women of Barksdale.”

9. Councilman, state senator disagree over funding for Jimmie Davis Bridge

Bossier City Councilman Scott Irwin criticized State Senator Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City) in mid-July over the handling of funds regarding Jimmie Davis Bridge.

Local media reports surfaced in late June that $100 million in funding earmarked for Jimmie Davis Bridge in House Bill 578 of this year’s legislative session was moved to fund the inner-city connector of I-49 at the expense of the long-awaited bridge. Peacock maintains that move is part of an effort to leverage federal funds that will see both projects completed.

“I’m not trying to be mean-spirited towards Senator Peacock, and I regret that I have to speak about his decision regarding the Jimmie Davis Bridge in such unpleasant terms,” said Irwin at Tuesday’s regular Bossier City Council meeting. “Senator Peacock has done many good things for our region, but what Senator Peacock has done concerning the bridge is simply not right and is tragic to residents residing on both sides of the Jimmie Davis bridge.” 

Irwin said he was speaking only for himself regarding the No. 1 issue in south Bossier — the Jimmie Davis Bridge.

“South Bossier residents have worked for over a decade to have a new Jimmie Davis Bridge built. They have waited and waited. They endured money woes, endangered bird delays, and more money woes,” said Irwin. 

Jimmie Davis Bridge in south Bossier City. (Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune)

“The good news is a short time later, House Bill 578 came out with $100 million, fully funding a new Jimmie Davis Bridge. The fight was over, we had the funding for a new bridge. It didn’t require any money for Bossier City, Shreveport, Bossier Parish, or Caddo Parish. It was 100 percent funded by the State of Louisiana,” said Irwin.

“Now for the bad news. Senator Peacock, through amendment 2862 moved the funds from the Jimmie Davis Bridge to the I-49 connector. He may tell you otherwise, but I have the documents right here. All of the money, $100 million, was taken from the Jimmie Davis Bridge and given to the I-49 connector,” he said.

The Press-Tribune interviewed Peacock in June regarding funding for the bridge, where Peacock said funding for the Jimmie Davis Bridge was not sacrificed for I-49. 

Peacock said the $100 million installed for the Jimmie Davis Bridge that was amended to go toward the inner-city connector is part of an effort to leverage federal funds that will see both projects completed.

“Basically by doing this, we’re trying to leverage the $100 million to work with our federal partners and then also use the money that has been in Capital Outlay, House Bill 2,  to leverage and complete a new Jimmie Davis bridge which is desperately needed,” Peacock explained.

“I see this as we can do more than one project at a time for our community. It’s not putting one project against the other, it’s doing the most we can with the resources we have,” he added. 

House Bill 2, the Capital Outlay budget, contains $23,991,700, which has been capped for the planning, design, and construction of a new Jimmie Davis Bridge. The $23,991,700 would act as 20 percent from the state to leverage $95,966,800 as the remaining 80 percent from the federal government. Thus, providing $119,958,500 as the total funds for a new bridge.

House Bill 578, which originally contained funding for only two projects in the state, had another eight projects added throughout Louisiana when it came through the Senate Finance Committee. That saw $100 million dollars, allocated from settlement money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill, added for the Jimmie Davis Bridge.

Peacock said he and his Northwest Louisiana Delegation colleagues realized that was money that could be used with federal dollars to do more projects. That is when they agreed to put that $100 million toward the inner-city connector of I-49 and use it for the state portion for the 3.8 miles connecting I-20 and I-220. 

10. Three indicted in murder of Benton man

The Bossier Parish grand jury returned in August three indictments in the murder of Caleb Pippenger earlier this year.

Justin Sepulvado was indicted for First Degree Murder, and Alisha Lochabay and Shawna Jones were also indicted for Second Degree Murder for their roles in the death of Pippenger.

Pippenger was found shot to death outside of his home in the 100 block of Post Oak Drive in Benton on the evening of March 15.  

Bossier detectives’ investigation led to the arrest of Sepulvado, 29, of Bossier City, on May 21 by S.W.A.T. members with the Bossier Sheriff’s Office who were executing a search warrant of his residence and suspicion of his involvement in the homicide.

Then on June 14, Bossier Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested Lochabay, 26, of Shreveport, as a principle to murder after detectives determined she was in a vehicle present at the scene of the shooting.

Jones, 29, of Shreveport, was arrested July 23 by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force after  Bossier Sheriff’s Office detectives had obtained a warrant for her arrest as a Principal to Second Degree Murder.