Recreation director Louis Lipps dismissed

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 5, 1998

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / October 5, 1998

LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council voted at a specialmeeting Tuesday to dismiss recreation director Louis Lipps but to keep the biddy basketball program alive.

Parish President Arnold Labat had announced the resignation of Lipps, who has served as recreation director since 1995, on Sept. 18. Labat thenclosed down the department because of overspending.

At Tuesday’s meeting Labat said his recommendation for the department was to eliminate the position of recreation director for the rest of the fiscal year, for himself to take over the department for the rest of the year or until an evaluation of the program can be done and to attempt to bring the budget into alignment.

The council then went into executive session to discuss the matter. Uponreturn council chairman Duaine Duffy announced that Labat had recommended to remove Lipps under a reduction in forces due to a lack of funds. Duffy said Lipps was involved in the decision and agreed with it.Councilman Dale Wolfe asked Labat who he recommends to replace Lipps.

Wolfe said he had someone who would be willing to work as a volunteer until a budget for the department could be approved.

Labat emphasized that he had no one in mind for recreation director in the future and that he would welcome anyone to sit down with him and discuss the future of the program. Councilman Perry Bailey said thecouncil and the administration have to work together on the matter.

“We have to make decisions and work together as a team,” Bailey said.

“This is not about playing games but the welfare of the citizens of St.

John Parish. I feel very strongly about sitting down with members of therecreation board, school board and sheriff’s office. I feel very stronglyabout doing something positive and moving forward.”A motion was then introduced to approve the Labat’s recommendation. Themotion passed 6-2 with Wolfe and Clinton Perrilloux opposing.

Labat then gave his plan for the department for the rest of the year. Hesaid he would transfer two of the employees who were in recreation to the Department of Public Works and that department would take over the maintenance of the parks and playgrounds. The biddy basketball programwould continue, and Labat said he will meet with the councilmen to discuss plans for the Belle Terre and Greenwood parks and the west bank.

Duffy then opened up the issue to public discussion.

Ed Morris, vice president of the recreation board, said the board was supposed to be an advisory board to give input to the council and administration on how to improve recreation but that it is continually ignored.

“I am confused why the council ever formed a recreation board,” Morris said. “We have not had any input at all. Every time you run for office, yousay you are going to improve recreation. I have been on the board for eightyears and haven’t seen it yet.”Ronnie Smith, a sergeant in the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office, said hesees what happens to kids who have nothing to do. He said if the parishdoes not have recreation, the juvenile crime rate will go up.

Smith, who also runs a basketball program, said he had plans for the biddy basketball program. He recommended having a 10-game regular seasonwith a single-elimination tournament at the end of the season. He said hemet with the officials’ associations and that they may work it out where they will ask for only $10 a game instead of the usual $15, reducing the fees dramatically. He also recommended having the kids bring in a dollar aweek to help pay for the referees.

“I don’t think that is asking too much of the parents if they want their kids to participate,” Smith said, saying that would leave only the awards and facilities to pay for.

The council went over the recreation budget in a finance meeting before the special session. Finance director Claudette Raphael said expenditureswere broken down by month and that the problems really began in July and August. Raphael said about $50,000 would be needed to zero out thebudget.

Councilman Ranney Wilson pointed out there was 258 participants in the parish summer camp and the department hired 64 employees. Wilson saidthere is a serious problem with recreation, and that for it to work in the parish more people need to volunteer and get involved.

Duffy then made a motion to transfer $50,000 from economic development to the general fund predicated that the administration makes sure that the biddy basketball program is continued. The motion was passedunanimously.

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