The Olla Town Council heard from local ministers requesting that the Olla Campground be granted an exemption from a town ordinance during the regular November meeting held Tuesday, November 14.
During the Presentations from the Public, Pastors Bill Mills, David Poole and Jonathan Crist were in attendance on behalf of the Anchor Tabernacle and Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ Campground board to request an exemption from Ordinance 99-188, which limits the building of a cellular tower within a residential area.
As a portion of the ordinance states: “The minimum lot size on which cellular tower is to be located shall be four thousand five hundred (4,500) square feet, and shall be of sufficient size to contain on-site any debris from tower failure. No new cellular towers will be allowed within a radius of one thousand (1,000) feet of an existing cellular tower within a residential district.”
Bro. Mills stated that they have been approached by Verizon about placing a cellular tower on the campground’s land. The ministers want to allow the construction of the tower but cannot as long as the ordinance is in place.
“Bro. Poole and I are here on behalf of our district ministers to see if we can get an exemption since there are no dwellings within two to three miles of the location where they tower would be,” Pastor Mills stated. “We have little service on our land, and before Verizon can even come and inspect the land, we will need an exemption from the ordinance. Another option, if even possible, would be to remove our 35 acres on Loop Road from city limits, so that the land would not be under the ordinance.”
“If Verizon puts a tower on our property, it will help us greatly,” Pastor Poole explained. “We really need that financial boost to our district. So, we come here tonight with our hats in our hands.”
Mayor Rhonda Elliott, Police Chief Jody O’Bier and several Council members discussed reservations they have with approving the exemption, and thus allowing a tower to be built.
In 2004, a phone tower fell on a home during a tornado that devastated the town. The Council and Mayor’s main concern is the close proximity of a residential area to the campground.
“Verizon may not even approve of the tower being built,” Bro. Mills stated. “We just want the exemption so they will come look and if they approve, we would come back to you and ask what you want us to do.”
Alderman Joel Sims also reminded them all that changing a town ordinance or drafting and approving of an exemption is a lengthy process. Mayor Elliott also spoke to this, telling the pastors that this is not a decision that can be made at the current meeting.
“It’s a process to change an ordinance, as he was saying,” Mayor Elliott explained. “It’s not something we can just do tonight.”
Town Attorney Evans Dorroh said that he will research the issue and report back to the Council at a later date.
The Council also received the results of the yearly audit report which held only positive news for the Town’s finances.
CPA John Vercher was present at the meeting to provide the audit report findings, which included a positive fund balance of $1,140,283.00. He reported that this year, the Town of Olla received an unmodified opinion, which is the best the Town can receive.
According to the General Fund, revenues totaled at $1,118,904.00, expenditures at $847,457.00 and transfers at $6,880.00. The funds had an increase in fund balance of $278,327.00 and a positive fund balance of $1,140,283.00.
The town also saw a surplus in the water and sewer funds, and in all governmental funds, revenues came in overbudget and expenditures came in below budget.
“Financially, the town looks great,” Vercher stated. “Each fund’s operating surplus looks good.”
The Town also didn’t receive any comments, corrections or needed procedures.
“All in all, this is a good report,” Vercher commented. “I just want to thank Sonya (Olla Town Clerk) and her staff on their assistance with the audit. They have been very helpful.”
Also during the meeting, the Council approved of several department reports.
According to the fire department report, the department responded to three mutual aid calls for grass and wood fires, one smoke alarm activation, one mutual aid for a vehicle fire and three mutual aids for structure fires in the month of October.
The department also requested to send a truck for repair or replacement of two valves. The Council requested that Chief Ray Atwell submit an estimate for the work before an approval can be made.
During the police department report, Police Chief Jody O’Bier reported that for the month of October, the department issued 148 citations and collected $30,580.25 in fines and fees. There was one arrest made, which involved the pursuit of a motorcyclist from LaSalle Parish into Caldwell Parish. Once the stop was made, police from both departments found illegal narcotics.
The department also received two calls of a scammer, which would be considered theft by fraud.
“I was able to send the information to the F.B.I. They have a hotline number for scams,” Chief O’Bier reported. “They have the technology to be able to handle that.”
The Council also approved of the department’s request to purchase three refurbished tasers for $1,797.00.
According to the public works report, Mayor Elliott reported that the water wells had all been changed over to the new treatment system. The Council viewed photos of various water samples and were pleased with how clear the new water was.
Mayor Elliott also updated the Council that water rates would soon be reviewed by state auditors and an increase would more than likely take place.
The Council then approved of two occupational licenses and approved of the renewal of two alcoholic beverage permits.
The Council also approved to have lighting updated at the Olla Sports Complex, which was requested by coach and educator Josh Boyett during the June 2023 council meeting.
During the Mayor’s comments, Mayor Elliott reminded the Council and the public of upcoming holiday events. The town’s Senior Citizens’ Dinner is scheduled for Thursday, December 7 at 6 p.m. First Baptist Church in Olla, and the Olla Christmas parade will be held on Saturday, December 16 at 6 p.m. Line-up will begin at 5:30 at Olla Elementary and Ms. Merry Christmas will be crowned in the courtyard at 5:15.