On Wednesday, August 11, 2021, the Winnfield Rotary Club welcomed two special guests at their weekly meeting.
Kaitlyn Victor, recipient of the club’s college scholarship designated for students graduating from Winnfield Senior High School, told the group she spent her early years in Natchitoches and moved to Winnfield as a teenager. She plans to attend Louisiana Tech in the fall, and the Rotary scholarship will allow her to focus on her studies for the first year, as she will not have to work. Kaitlyn has worked two part-time jobs while in high school, all while maintaining a stellar grade point average. She told the club she was grateful to receive the scholarship from the Rotary Club because she learned from her research on the club that Rotary’s purpose is serving and doing good for others.
Rotarian of the day, Jane Purser, introduced the other special guest, Josh McAllister, who spoke to the group about his work in the past year as the president of the Winn Parish Police Jury. Mr. McAllister, who won re-election to the Police Jury and was elected as its president in January 2020, said he was tested by fire in his first months as PJ president when the outbreak of COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March of 2020, and was followed by Hurricane Laura’s damage to our area in August 2020.
As police jury president, the chief elected official of the parish, Mr. McAllister worked closely with the Sheriff during this time to re-establish travel and communications, which involved clearing roads so traffic could move in and out of the parish and people could reach areas allowing connections with cellular lines of communications.
Mr. McAllister acknowledged that the parish was not as prepared as it should have been for such as disaster, such that it took more time to get shelters in place for our citizens than was ideal. In the days following the storm, the parish and the City of Winnfield cooperated to open the Grove Street Recreation Center to house people without power and communication. He said he vowed that the parish would never find itself in that position again. Since the storm, preparations have been made that will allow authorities to immediately open three shelters within the parish, all equipped with emergency generators, to persons needing shelter and relief from heat or cold.
McAllister said that, because whatever impacts the city of Winnfield impacts the parish as a whole, the parish and the city must move forward together. Therefore, the police jury and city council have increased the ways in which they work together, including obtaining grants for improvements to water infrastructure throughout the parish. Additionally, the parish will receive COVID relief funds, part of which will be used to provide the matching funds needed by the publicly owned water systems in the parish to obtain state grants for those improvements.
Mr. McAllister addressed the issue of parish roads in need of repair or resurfacing, and noted there is a ½ cent sales tax dedicated to parish roads. He said that tax generates between $900,000 and $1.1 million in revenue annually; however, a single mile of asphalt road costs about $500,000, so the sales tax does not support all that is needed to improve parish roads. The parish has a capital improvements list for our roads, but obviously, the top priorities on the list are the roads with high volume as they serve the greatest number of people and undergo the greatest wear and tear.
McAllister said the financial effects of COVID on parish funds was not too great in 2020, but this year, it will hurt more because the parish has fewer resources. It is constantly short on crew because someone is always out with COVID. Currently four crew members are out with the virus and, of late, it seems as soon as one returns, another is out.
The recent Back to School event at the Grove Street Recreation Center was hosted by some of Mr. McAllister’s classmates, Dooley Loucious and his friends who came home from Atlanta, GA to do something for their hometown. Loucious started his personal training business by opening a gym in his two-car garage in Atlanta, and gained so many clients wanting to work with him that he needed friends to move to Atlanta to help take care of all the business. He contacted Mr. McAllister, who gladly helped put the event together.
McAllister believes that, in addition to being a great event for the benefit of the community, these successful young men served as an inspiring example to the youngsters in our community of how they can also be successful as adults.
Mr. McAllister also stated the police jury is actively searching for and soliciting businesses to locate in our area to provide jobs for the citizens. The furniture industry seems like a good fit for our area, but it requires hardwood, which is not grown in industrial proportions in Winn Parish. He said one of the things we have over other parishes is an economic development board which can assist in the location or relocation of a business in the parish. He asked that the members of the group keep this in mind as they come in contact with others in different fields of industry.
After completion of the lively question and answer session, the meeting was adjourned, as customary, with Rotary’s motto, “Service above self!”
The Rotary Club of Winnfield meets every Wednesday at Noon for lunch at Lynda’s Country Kitchen. For more information about the Rotary Club of Winnfield, you may contact President, Jodi Taylor (832) 573-5085. You can also find club information on Facebook at Rotary Club of Winnfield Facebook Page or online at Rotary.org.
Pictured above: Josh McAllister takes oath of office for most recent Winn Parish Policey Jury term.
Pictured below: Rotarian Lee J. Taylor presents Kaitlyn Victor with one of Rotary Club of Winnfield’s college scholarships