Police jury meeting gets heated over continued discussion on AHS emergency egress

By Paige Nash 

Discussions regarding the construction of an emergency egress for Arcadia High School continued at Wednesday’s September Bienville Parish Police Jury (BPPJ) meeting and the topic was a hot one.

Engineer Robbie George of S.E. Huey Company presented the board with three possible alternative access routes for the school with an estimated cost for each. 

Upon hearing George’s findings, Police Juror for District 1 Bill Sims made a motion that he along with other jurors, Town of Arcadia representatives and George present this information to the Bienville Parish School Board. 

“I think this is something that should be addressed, but we need the school board on board. Nobody from the school board has contacted me,” said Sims. “I did talk to some members of the school board and they weren’t too receptive, but we could go to the school board and ask them.”

BPPJ President Jerry Bates pointed out during last month’s meeting that he did not believe responsibility for this route should fall solely on the jury, but that the Town of Arcadia and the school board should all be on board with this project. He made it clear at the September meeting that his stance on that has not changed.

“We made the decision to look at alternate routes. We have gone through the expense of having these studies done and I have seen no interest. No one is here from the school board or the city, so I just wonder if we are doing this for our benefit or theirs,” said Bates. “The school board is going to be responsible for having this done, not the police jury.”

The idea of constructing this alternative route specifically for AHS was brought to the attention of the jury by property owner, Douglas Sapp. Sapp has reportedly been working towards getting this project funded and completed for approximately three years. 

With Sapp spreading awareness of how critical it is that this emergency egress comes to fruition, other jurors have pointed out that Ringgold High School is also in the same predicament with only one entrance in and out of the school campus.

“We are going to have the same situation in Ringgold. There is only one entrance, so if we are going to talk to the school board we need to mention that, as well,” said Police Juror for District 5 Vic Fowler.

Police Juror for District 2 Jerry Roberson believes that AHS should be top priority when it comes to making sure funds are secured and the project is completed.

“Before Doug came up here and talked about this, nobody else said anything about Ringgold, so why are you bringing it up now? This has been going on for three years,” said Roberson. “Let’s work on our problem and if y’all can get y’all problems done, then fine.”

Some things Roberson said did not sit well with a member of the public in attendance. Assistant Fire Chief for Bienville Parish Fire District 4 and 5 Brian Lindberg raised his hand while the discussions were taking place. When BPPJ President Jerry Bates asked Lindberg if he had a comment, Lindberg did not hesitate to express his opinion.

“Gentlemen, you represent the entire parish of Bienville, not just your specific districts,” said Lindberg. “He was just saying ‘our’ area.”

While Roberson did not address Lindberg specifically, Juror Sims was quick to come to his defense.

“Mr. Roberson was stating his opinion. That’s all he was doing and I back him one hundred percent and you had your opportunity to speak at the first of the meeting.” said Sims. “Do not interrupt me anymore.”

Lindberg quickly expressed his right as a taxpayer of the parish to speak up and express his opinion.

“As a taxpayer, am I not allowed to speak? Again, you all work for the taxpayers,” said Lindberg.

Sims explained that they are willing to look into all school’s in the parish that may be dealing with similar issues. 

A meeting will be set up with the Bienville Parish School Board to present the alternative routes for AHS with Ringgold possibly being considered, as well. 

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