Police Jury rescues Hodge Fire Protection District

Normally it is the first responders that comes to the rescue. This past Wednesday evening it was the first responders being rescued when the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) came to the aid of the Hodge Fire Protection District (HFPD) which was suffering from a severe financial difficulty.

The action took place at a special called meeting of the JPPD after a request the HFPD had made for a $5,000.00 loan had been tabled during the regularly scheduled monthly meeting held on July 19th. The reason the request wasn’t acted on at that time had nothing to do with the money involved. Funds were available through a 2% Fire Insurance Rebate the Police Jury has received the last couple of years, including $8,500.00 for the fiscal year 2020-21 and over $14,000 this year.

“This is the third time in the last six years that the HFPD has made a request for emergency funds,” said JPPJ Vice President Regina Rowe at the time. “We are not against helping any entity in need, but a fire district for the most part should be solvent, so before we just give them money again, we need to find out why they are continually in a financial crisis.”

The result was the decision to have another meeting on July 28th with representatives of the HFPD in attendance so that the continual financial problem could be explained. During the session HFPD Chairman, Ralph Laffitte, was asked to share some light on the biggest problem they faced.

“We are supposed to be receiving a fee for 700 parcels (real property held in full ownership) each year,” said Laffitte. “To date, we still have 237 parcel fees that remain uncollected.”

What does this mean in real dollars? The parcel fee in the HFPD is $72.00. Multiplying that by 700 it means that the district should have $50,400.00 at their disposal once all fees are paid. While there never comes a time when all parcel fees are paid, usually it is just a very small portion that is uncollected and nothing close to the $17,064.00 that remains outstanding.

What was even more alarming was that according to Laffitte this is not a one-time scenario but something that is dealt with every year. Over the last four years the dollar amount of parcel fees not paid comes to staggering $46,584.00.

“Last year there were 184 parcel fees that were never collected and the two years before were 112 and 114 uncollected parcels,” said Laffitte who added.

After Laffitte answered several more questions pertaining to what additional expenses the HFPD faces, were emergency calls still being able to be answered and what the current insurance rating was, Juror Amy Magee took the floor and made a “cut to the chase” statement.

“Let’s deal with the elephant in the room,” said Magee. “It is obvious that the resident’s in your district aren’t supporting you and the bottom line is that things simply can’t continue to be like it is. What is going to happen when there is no more money?”

Laffitte responded to Magee by stating that his district has never received any real support from the residents and painted a dire picture of what would take place if Hodge had no fire district.

“When the last parcel fee election was had in 2005 it passed by only a 49-48 margin,” said Laffitte. “Currently we carry a rating of 6 but without a fire district the rating goes to 10, which is the worst possible. At best insurance rates would be through the roof and at worst residents wouldn’t be able to get insurance at all.”

Juror Todd Culpepper then commented and further asked what measures the HFPD has come up with to combat the problem.

“We are fortunate that we have the rebate money, but this isn’t going to be there forever and we can’t continue to rely on this to help you make ends meet each year,” said Culpepper. “What I want to know is what are you doing to fix this problem? I hate to say it but we have got to find a solution or we are going to be forced to start looking at some alternatives.”

Laffitte responded by informing the panel that they have recently brought a person on board to help with the collection of the past due fees.

“We now have someone who is assisting us in getting these outstanding fees collected,” said Laffitte. “She is attempting to contact all the ones who owe and sending demand letters through certified mail.”

The discussion then turned to what recourse HFPD was pursuing against unpaid parcel fee payers as the district could demand payment from up to five years in arrears and that liens could be placed on properties.

“This is where out biggest problem lies,” stated Laffitte. “It costs money to file for a lien and hire an attorney to pursue a judgement. This is money we don’t have.”

Rowe followed giving a scenario proving that something had to be done or there would be no incentive for residents to pay if there was no recourse.

“Let’s say I get a letter demanding payment but I know that my neighbors have not paid the last couple of years and nothing ever happened. Why would I pay?” said Rowe. “On the other hand if I got a letter and knew that after my neighbors didn’t pay, a lien was put on their property and I even knew of some who had their property put up for Sheriff’s sale, I think I would be taking steps to get the fee paid.”

Quitman Fire Chief Philip Brown then addressed the panel on how their department has been assisting the HFPD. The session ended with juror members agreeing to give the HFPD the 2022 Insurance Rebate money in October with the recommendation that the district more aggressively pursue the delinquent fee payers.


Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame announces 2021-22 Prep Athletes of the Year

The male and female Athlete of the Year for 2021-22 from Jonesboro-Hodge, Quitman and Weston High School has been announced by the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame (JPSHOF). The six outstanding athletes that were selected by each school will be recognized during the annual JPSHOF induction ceremony banquet that will take place on October 1st at the Family Life Center of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro.

2021-22 Prep Athlete of the Year Award Winners

Jonesboro-Hodge High School 

Quitman High School 

Weston High School

Part IV: Woody to Water! – The Chronology of Caney Lake

NOTE: Today most people only know that Caney Creek Reservoir and Caney Lake State Park is considered one of the jewels of Sportsman’s Paradise, as the state is called. Few remember the countless trials, tribulations, pitfalls and roadblocks that had to be overcome or the role that Woody McDonald played in changing the woods into water. This week – Clearing Hurdles!

The year was now 1974, almost a decade since the first plans to build Caney Lake had been cemented. Still, those heavily involved locally and down in Baton Rouge were basically pleased at the pace the project was moving forward at despite it seemingly was moving forward at a turtle’s pace.

They were especially pleased that what seemed to be the last major hurdle of securing the holdings of Tremont Lumber had finally been completed. Perhaps the happiest of all was Jackson Parish Watershed District (JPWD) Chairman, Woody McDonald.

“I can’t tell you how relieved I was when we finally finished negotiations with Tremont,” recalled McDonald. “When we first started talking to them, we thought we would get things handled in just a few meetings like we had done with the other companies who owned property where the lake was going to be.”

The time frame turned into weeks, then months. Finally Tremont, or rather it should be said Crown Zellerbach, who had purchased the holdings of Tremont while negotiations were going on, agreed to transfer their holdings to the JPWD.

“Talking with Tremont officials and those from Crown Zellerbach was as different as night and day,” laughed McDonald. “We had meeting after meeting with Tremont and never got anywhere with them. Then Crown Zellerbach bought their holdings and the next day their business affairs manager called me to say they were ready to deal.”

The date of September 19th was established for a meeting to be held to finalize negotiations. Attending was McDonald, Doug Berlin (Woodlands Division Manager for Tremont), Billy Weaver (Crown Zellerbach Business Affairs Manager), Lee Alford (Crown Zellerbach Real Estate Manager) and local state representative, who was now the Speaker of the House, E. L. “Bubba” Henry.

“I remember that day well,” said McDonald. “With the property in hand, we were now finally able to move forward with actual work and the pace of getting the lake built started to really pick up.”

For roughly ten years, the scores of people involved had been doing hard at it sitting across the table from each other in board rooms across the state, away from the eyes of those who had patiently been waiting. Often it had caused dismay and despite hearing that it would be so, led to wondering if there was ever really going to be a lake constructed.

The same ones who had “raised their eyebrows” were now smiling from ear to ear. This was because by the end of the year actual progress could be seen as much of the timber in the proposed watershed of the lake had been cut.

“For years all we had was plans and drawings on paper on what the lake would look like,” recalled McDonald. “It really felt good to see the lake actually taking shape.”

On February 10th of 1975 the Lake Commission adopted a resolution requesting the Department of Public Works advertise for bids for a contract to clear the remaining timber from the lake area. On March 6th, Representative “Bubba” Henry announced that almost all the requirements and specifications of the contract had been completed. He further stated that if everything continued according to plan that by later that spring the clearing should begin in full force.

If the past ten years had taught anything, it was that very seldom did anything involving Caney Lake go according to plan…..


JHHS coaching staff pleased with play of “new look” Tigers in 7-on-7 tourney

Early in the upcoming season it won’t be surprising to see the fans of Jonesboro-Hodge High School football checking their programs to see who it was making a play. At virtually every offensive “skill” position on the field someone new will be lining up.

All summer long, head coach Terrance Blankenship and staff have been having what could be thought of as open tryouts to find a new quarterback, wide receivers and running backs. Sure, there are several coming back that had some experience, but none of the returnees was the “go to” guy from the year before.

Judging by the Tigers effort at the 7-on-7 round robin tourney that was held in Haynesville on Thursday where the Tigers, Golden Tornado’s and Cedar Creek all participated, it won’t take long for fans to get to know the names of several newcomers to the field.

“We still have a lot of work to do to get ready for the season but I was pleased with the way we played, especially several of the ones who will be getting their first chance to play extended minutes this year,” said Blankenship. “It is obvious that they have worked hard to be ready for their chance.”

Of special mention was the play of the defense where Reynald Bolds stood out by intercepting a pair of passes in his first real varsity action.

“We expected our defense would be a strength of our team this year,” reflected Blankenship. To have Reynald step in and perform like he did is a big plus.”

Several drew mention from Blankenship from the offensive side of the ball as well.

“For being the first time under center in live action, ‘Smoke’ (Chase Leonard) showed good promise,” commented Blankenship on his new quarterback. “I thought he threw the ball well and made good decisions.”

Blankenship also commented on the play of a couple of basketball players who will be plying their trade this fall on the gridiron and a former running back in junior high who has made a name for himself on the defensive side of the ball.

“I thought Savantez (Phillips) and Zion (Gray) looked good out wide,” said Blankenship. “Both are great leapers. If we put the ball up, they can come down with it.”

The former running back Blankenship is referring to is nonr other than LSU linebacker commit Xavier Atkins, who led the state in tackles as a Sophomore in 2021.

“Most don’t remember that Xavier was a beast with the ball in his hands when he was in junior high  before he made a name for himself on the defensive side of the ball as a varsity player,” reflected “Coach Blank” as he is affectionately called locally. “We were confident he could be a good running back at this level as well and he proved today that he is just as aggressive and explosive with the ball in his hands as when making a tackle. I look forward to him causing all kinds of havoc for teams this year on both sides of the ball.”

Jackson Parish School Board to meet Monday, August 1st

The Jackson Parish School Board (JPSB) will hold session at 11:00am on Monday, August 1st in the meeting room of the JPSB Central Office, located at 315 Pershing Hwy in Jonesboro. Prior to the open meeting the Executive/Finance Committee will meet at 10:15 am followed by the Building and Grounds Committee meeting at 10:30am.

During the regular session board members Gerry Mims, Ricky McBride, Wade McBride, Dennis Clary, Gloria Davis, Calvin Waggoner (President) and Mary Saulters will address the following agenda items.

1. Adoption of 2022 Milage rates
2. Adoption of Resolution of JPSB regarding employment of special counsel
3. Approval of 2022-23 Pupil Progression Plan
4. Approval of revised 2022-23 school calendar
5. Approval of recommendations from Executive/Finance and Building/Grounds Committee’s 

In accordance with the American Disabilities Act, if you need special assistance, please contact David Claxton at 318-259-4456 describing the assistance that is necessary.

Cameron “Chase” Leonard receives offer from Louisiana Christian

Cameron “Chase” Leonard of Jonesboro-Hodge High School has been offered a scholarship to play football from Louisiana Christian University. The institution located in Pineville, LA was formerly known as Louisiana College.

The offer is the first received by “Smoke” as he is affectionately called by teammates and friends, after an eventful summer where he played on the Bootleggers AAU team and attended a wide variety of camps.

“I am blessed and very honored to receive my first offer from Louisiana Christian University,” expressed  Leonard in a Tweet.

After seeing double duty as both a wideout and defensive back for the Class AA state semifinalist Tigers last year, Leonard is expected to move to take over the reins of the offense as Quarterback for head coach Terrance Blankenship’s squad, who will be competing in district 3-2A this season. 

Anayke celebrates grand opening with ribbon cutting ceremony

Jackson Parish Chamber of Commerce members, friends and relatives joined Eric and Shannon Walker for a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the grand opening of their new business ANAKYE, located at 521 S. Polk Avenue in Jonesboro.

Anakye is a small, yet passionate, company offering all the gear you need to explore the hidden world of treasures lying just beneath your footsteps. From metal detectors to magnetic fishing let them help you discover the joy and excitement provided by some of the worlds greatest hobbies. Your adventure awaits at Anakye.

They are open Monday-Friday 9 AM till 5 PM. You can reach them by phone at 318-716–7114 or email them at eric.walker@anakye.com



Back in 1966, my job took me to the Claiborne Parish seat of Homer. I enjoyed getting to know the folks there and as a fisherman, something else made me smack my lips in anticipation of the new lake that was being built.

My timing was spot on as construction of Lake Claiborne kicked off the same year I moved to Homer and I was able to watch the lake expand as it slowly swallowed up some 6500 acres of real estate that would eventually form the lake with water finally coursing over the spillway on May 17, 1968.

Bass fishing captivated my interest and after purchasing a lot and constructing a boat house on the Beaver Creek branch of the lake, I was plying the lake’s waters mornings before work and afternoons after work. A row of green willows marked the margin of Beaver Creek and fishing a Tiny Torpedo around the willows was a blast the likes of which I have encountered few times since.

The bass I caught were spunky fighters but if I landed one weighing as much as three pounds, it was unusual; most of the fish were in the one to two pound range.

Down through the years, as the lake aged, there were occasional reports of big bass, those in the seven to eight pound range but rarely did anybody tie into one approaching double digits. Today more than half a century later, Lake Claiborne is turning heads regarding something for which it has never been known. Sure, you could catch lots of bass but lunkers have been few and far between. That all is in the process of changing as more and more anglers are getting their strings stretched by genuine trophy bass.

A good example of the quality of bass Lake Claiborne is producing today took place recently when a Majestic Bass Tournament was held on the lake, an event that featured fishing from dark one day to noon the next. Weights of winning bass were outstanding.

Fish were weighed in every two hours during the course of the tourney and the weight of winning fish was eye-popping. The top eight winning fish averaged 7.73 pounds each with the over-all winner caught by Stockton Roberson weighing 11.50, second largest caught by Tyler Lewis weighed in at 10.38 while third place fish landed by Craig Kolb tipped the scales at 9.38 pounds.

We visited with tournament director Dale Taylor to get his thoughts on the impressive showing and what it really means as regards Claiborne’s future as a trophy bass lake.

“There are three basic reasons I believe are responsible for Claiborne producing such quality bass. First, for the past five years, the lake commission has purchased and released Tiger bass, those superior bass that can add two pounds a year, fish that are grown separate from regular bass in the nursery. Also,” Taylor added, “the lake has lots of good aquatic vegetation in for form of hydrilla and coon tail plus there is a heavy population of shad bass feed on.

“Claiborne is a deep lake so its not like a shallow lake where fish can be more easily targeted. One thing of interest in the tournament is that all the larger fish were caught at night. The three largest were caught between 3:00 and 6:00 AM and after daylight, the weights fell off some,” he added.

Each fish was swabbed for DNA samples to see if they were Tiger bass with results not available just yet. While the Tiger bass should be weighing 8 to 9 pounds, Taylor is of the opinion that several of those in that weight range were likely Tigers.

How exciting it is to watch a lake, one I was there to witness its birth more than half a century ago, develop into a top-notch trophy lake.

”Lake Claiborne is turning heads as a lunker bass lake, with proof shown by Stockton Roberson’s 11.50 pounder caught last weekend.” Courtesy photo


CANEY LAKE – Crappie are fair fishing shiners or jigs around the deeper tops. The bass are schooling with some caught on topwater lures with soft plastics taking some beneath the breaking schools. Also some bass to 10 pounds are hitting oversized plastic worms and deep diving crank baits on under water humps and drop-off. Bream fishing is fair around the lake on crickets or worms. No report on catfish. For information contact Hooks Marina at 249-2347, Terzia Tackle at 278-4498 or the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
BLACK BAYOU – Bream and crappie fishing is still fair around the trees and bushes. No report on bass. Contact Honey Hole Tackle Shop 323-8707 for latest information.
OUACHITA RIVER – Fishing overall has been slow to fair. Crappie have been best fishing the deep tops in the river while bass are fair in the cuts and run-outs. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE D’ARBONNE – The crappie have moved to the deep channels because of hot dry conditions. Fishing has been fair on jigs or shiners. Bass are fair early morning fishing the grass on topwater lures while some are being caught on soft plastics around the deeper piers. Bream are fair to good in the sloughs while catfish continue to bite fishing night crawlers or cold worms off the banks. For latest information, call Anderson Sport Center at 368-9669 or Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE CLAIBORNE – Big bass have been the ticket this week especially at night. The Majestic tournament last weekend produced some real lunkers including an 11.50; 10.38 and 9.39 pounder caught on soft plastics after dark. Some bass are schooling along with stripers and hitting topwater lures. Bream are fair on crickets and worms. Crappie fishing has been best fishing around the lighted piers at night using shiners with some hanging around deep brush and hitting jigs and shiners. No report on catfish. For latest information, call Kel’s Cove at 927-2264 or Terzia Tackle at 278-4498.
LAKE POVERTY POINT – Catfishing is good with mostly pan sized being caught. Other species are slow. For latest reports, call Poverty Point Marina at 318/878-0101.
LAKE ST. JOHN – Bass and catfish are fair while crappie and bream are slow. For information, call Ken Mahoney at 318-201-3821.
LAKE YUCATAN – The water is on a slow fall. Bass to 3 pounds has been caught while crappie are fair around the piers. Catfishing is fair and bream are slow.. For information, call Surplus City Landing at 318/467-2259.

“Young Guns” take Tuesday Scramble

If you remember the movie “Young Guns” you know it was about a band of young men who shot down a whole slew of older men. This past Tuesday, July 26th a modified version of the movie took place at the Jackson Parish Golf Course when a band of five guys, all under the age of 25, shot down the competition. 

The difference was instead of using “shooting irons” the five man team of Hunter Alexander, Drew Huddleston, Cason Womack, Hunter Ford and Brett Mauthe used their “long and short irons” to fire a 10 under par, round of 26 over the nine hole layout to take the weekly Tuesday Scramble.

On Tuesday of each week the Jackson Parish Recreaton Department sponsors a scramble format tournament where teams are formed based on handicap and average scores of the players. Each team is assigned an A Player, B Player, C Player and so on, allowing for golfers, regardless of their skill to have an equal chance of winning. To register ahead of time, call the Jackson Parish Golf Course at 318-259-7427 or sign up in the Pro Shop at least 30 minutes prior to tournament tee time.  

New principals welcomed at J-H Middle and Elementary Schools

A two-parish administration shuffle has resulted in Jonesboro-Hodge Middle and Elementary Schools having new principals for the 2022-23 school year and a former local principal moving into the Jackson Parish School Board Central Office.

The carousel started turning after Rhonda Lee, who was the Jonesboro-Hodge Elementary School principal last year, took over as Elementary Supervisor of Instruction replacing Dorothy Dorsey who retired after 50 years of service to the Jackson Parish School District (JPSD).

This was followed by Jonesboro-Hodge Middle School (JHMS) principal, Danielle Copeland, moving to J-H Elementary in the same capacity which opened the door for Winnfield Middle School principal, Brent Carpenter, to take over at J-HMS.

In regard to additional JPSD employment opportunities, Jonesboro-Hodge High School is still taking applications for an Algebra II and Advanced Math Teacher, Band Director/Music Teacher, Maintenance and Custodial position and a substitute teacher. JPSD Administrator, David Brown, also indicated that all full time and substitute bus driver positions had been filled.

“I am pleased to say that we have satisfied our need for bus drivers and want to thank all the ones who applied,” said Brown.

Kaden Shirley signs with Twin City Post Grad Baseball Academy

Recent Weston High School graduate, Kaden Shirley, will continue his baseball career for the next year at Twin City Post Grad Baseball Academy. The left handed, pitcher / outfielder, becomes the third WHS baseball player to earn the opportunity to continue playing after high school and played an integral role in helping Weston make the quarterfinals in the state playoffs for most of the season being ranked #1 in the state.

Based out of Texarkana, TX, the one year program plays a full fall and spring schedule against college teams across four states to help prepare high school seniors and college transfers for the next level without burning up any college eligibility. Over the last seven years, TCS has had 236 move on to play collegiately including 25 who have gone on to Division 1 programs.

Shirley enjoyed a stellar senior season that included boasting a fine 2.58 ERA and winning five games in nine starts. Included was a one hitter in the opening round of the Class B playoffs and beating state semi-finalist Quitman High in a district 2B matchup. As a hitter Shirley had a .323 batting average with 24 runs batted in and 25 runs scored.

Jackson Parish Back to School Donation Drive continues

In an effort to help make sure that every student that will be attending school in Jackson Parish has all of the supplies needed for the upcoming school year a Back To School Donation Drive is being held. You are asked to bring supplies, like the ones shown below, to Shawn Murphy State Farm Agency from 8:30am – 5:00pm on Monday thru Friday. The final date donations will be accepted is Thursday, August 11th. 

“Powerhouse” at Caldwell-Peacock Stadium on JHHS campus receives facelift

To the casual observer the “Powerhouse,” which is located directly adjacent to Caldwell-Peacock Stadium on the campus of Jonesboro-Hodge High School is often overlooked despite it’s vital importance to the athletic program. It is no wonder, as all you used see is a drab looking, cinder block building.

Not anymore.

Now the facility where JHHS conducts their weight training and houses field equipment has a new, vibrant look. In brilliant blue and white, the entryways sport “J-H” and “Tigers” in bold lettering that is eye catching. Adding to the ambiance is a large “eye of the Tiger” that is on the overhead roll-up door at the end of the building.

“We are always striving to not only improve our facility looks but the way it looks,” said head coach and athletic director Terrance Blankenship. “I was very pleased with the way this upgrade turned out.”

The Makings of a Great Angler

Bass fishing is a funny sport that can and will test a person’s mental stability. It’s comparable to golf in that there’s no one else to blame for your failure or success more than yourself. YOU determine your own fate with skill, determination, and effort, with effort being in the form of spending hours on the water. There’s no substitute for time on the water and the anglers who fish daylight till dark will be the guys who are hard to beat on tournament day. Today, we’ll look at what really makes an angler great and why.

Bass fishing is just like any other sport; it requires great skills. Needed are skills like casting and being able to put a bait in places the average angler would not even attempt. You also need to understand how certain baits should be worked in order to the get the most action out of that particular bait. You need an understanding of fish behavior during the different seasons of the year. One more skill, that not all anglers have, is the ability to read water. Knowing how to read the water and what baits will work best under certain water conditions is essential to an angler’s success.

Most anglers fall into two categories…guys who like to fish deep or shallow. If you’re a deep-water angler, you’ll need to have the ability to read your electronics, interpret topo maps and know what you’re looking at. Deep water anglers need to learn how to find brush tops and look for good structure. Structure is not the same thing as a brush pile; it’s about the contours, humps, and undulations of the bottom.

There’s one tool that has really leveled the playing field and helped an average angler to become a great angler. It’s forward-facing sonar, that both Hummingbird and Lowrance offer. Today’s forward-facing sonars come in handy when fishing in water eight feet or more by giving you the ability to target bass in schools or suspended over a brush top. Ok, yes…it’s like playing a video game, and the anglers that can do this well have a distinct advantage over those that can’t.

But the one thing that separates the great anglers from the average ones is decision making. THIS is the key ingredient that not all anglers possess. Knowing when to stay in an area and knowing when to leave can be the difference between making a top 10 or finishing out of the money. Knowing what time of day fish will bite in certain areas is huge. There’s a saying among anglers, “Somewhere on any given body of water, fish are biting.” That’s why scouting is so important! If you caught fish in a specific area at 10:00 AM the day before, you need to be back in that same area the next day around that same time or a little after.

As you can see, bass fishing is like any other sport. It requires skill, determination, effort, and the ability to make good decisions. But the advancements in electronics have also helped speed up the learning curve for today’s young anglers.

Steve Graf – Owner Co-Host
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