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This Hour: Latest Louisiana news, sports, business and entertainment

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Federal judge to quiz jurors in Pratt trial

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Two members of the jury that convicted former New Orleans City Council member Renee Gill Pratt will have to answer questions related to the online commenting scandal that has plagued the U.S. attorney's office. Times Picayune reports U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle set a deadline of Aug. 1 for the jurors to report to the clerk's office to answer a written questionnaire about their service on panel that convicted Gill Pratt of racketeering. Following a hearing last month, Lemelle said he would determine how many jurors would need to be surveyed.

Lemelle's ruling allowed Gill Pratt to remain out of prison.

Gill Pratt's defense lawyer Michael Fawer said Monday that while both he and prosecutors have submitted questions, he did not know what queries appear on the questionnaire.


Vernon Police Jury works to make 911 sustainable

LEESVILLE, La. (AP) - Vernon Parish Police Jurors will consider financially assisting the parish communications district, after 911 revenues have failed to keep up with the cost of maintaining it.

During the July 21 committee meeting, Parish Administrator-Secretary Rhonda Plummer told jurors that the Vernon Parish Sheriff's Department came to the police jury requesting a monetary supplement for the phone line.

The American Press reports Plummer has recommended the jury increase the cost of landlines in the parish from 84 cents to 94 cents per month. Cellphones would also see an increase of about 10 cents per month and businesses would pay $1.25 more per month.

The police jury is slated to vote on the new fees in August.


Vicious dog legislation to be rehashed

THIBODAUX, La. (AP) - Lafourche Parish Councilman John Arnold is planning to reintroduce legislation to amend the parish's vicious animal ordinance, but council support remains mixed.

Arnold tells The Daily Comet he hadn't quite finished the language of the proposal and didn't have details. But he still plans to introduce the measure at the council's Aug. 12 meeting, with a public hearing two weeks later.

Arnold's original measure failed 1-6. The proposal would have required owners to pay an annual $25 fee for any vicious breed - not just pit bulls - that are 3 months or older and pay an additional $200 for a permit if the owner wants to breed the pet.

Councilman Jerry Jones said unless the legislation has significant changes his vote won't change.


Ponchatoula bus service to begin Aug. 4

PONCHATOULA, La. (AP) - The public bus service in Ponchatoula is scheduled to begin Aug. 4.

Mayor Bob Zabbia says the bus will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and will make 30 stops across Ponchatoula.

Zabbia says riders will be charged 50 cents every time they board.

The mayor tells The Daily Star city workers are working on bus stop signs, and city officials will work toward acquiring benches and maybe even some covered benches at some point.


St. Bernard transit dept. missing bus fares

CHALMETTE, La. (AP) - A state audit finds more than $98,000 worth of bus fares that should have been collected during a three-year period in St. Bernard Parish are missing.

The New Orleans Advocate reports the new audit casts significant doubt on explanations offered by transit officials.

The report, released Monday by the state Legislative Auditor's Office, notes that three employees of the St. Bernard Urban Rapid Transit Department, all of whom had access to the money have refused to take polygraph tests in connection with the audit.

Officials say all of them have denied wrongdoing, but all have either resigned or retired since the audit began.

The auditor's report, which was forwarded to the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans, focuses on three transit employees who had access to the fares.


Fundraising to begin for Lafayette Central Park

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - The master plan for Lafayette Central Park includes a wish list from thousands of residents of what they want to see developed on the 100-acre former Horse Farm property.

The ideas include walking and biking trails, idyllic ravines and ponds, wide-open lawn space, an outdoor pavilion for concerts and plays, and treehouses.

David Calhoun, executive director of Lafayette Central Park Inc., says it's the community's turn to help turn the plan into reality as fundraising begins to jump-start construction later this year.

Calhoun tells The Advocate the first phase of construction could begin this fall - pending fundraising efforts.

He says an estimated $32 million is needed for the first phase of the park's development.


Gonzales taking steps to develop new master plan

GONZALES, La. (AP) - There's a lot riding on the new master growth plan in the works for the city of Gonzales.

Residents and officials are looking to a new plan to provide clearer direction for the city's growth, particularly for zoning, an issue that's been a hot topic before the city council over the past year.

Frank Cagnolatti, chairman of the Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission, tells The Advocate the current master plan, created in 1997, is "woefully outdated."

The hope is that a new plan could provide the city a better road map to growth.

The Center for Planning Excellence in Baton Rouge has a $162,500 contract with the city, payable in portions as work is completed, to develop a new plan.


Husband and wife killed in LaSalle Parish crash

JENA, La. (AP) - State police says a man and woman died in a two vehicle accident in LaSalle Parish.

Master Trooper Scott Moreau says the Columbia couple's pickup rear-ended a car on Louisiana Highway 28 Monday.

Moreau identified the dead as 72-year-old Margie Moore and her 83-year-old husband, Bluith Moore.

The driver of the car, 68-year-old Judith Hewitt of Ferriday, and an 8-year-old passenger are being treated for injuries at an Alexandria hospital.

The crash remains under investigation.


Man booked in woman's stabbing death

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans police have arrested a 75-year-old man in the weekend fatal stabbing of a woman.

Police arrested Seabon (SHUH'-bon) "Tom" Gibson early Monday on a charge of second-degree murder. It was not immediately known if Gibson had an attorney.

Police say Gibson confessed to killing his long-time live-in companion about 6 a.m. Sunday. The 58-year-old woman's body was found on a street in the Treme neighborhood. Her name has not been released.

Police, in a news release, said they were called to the scene on a report of a "woman down" in a vacant lot. Authorities say she suffered multiple stab wounds to her body.


National WWII Museum welcomes 4 millionth visitor

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The National WWII Museum has capped a record-breaking fiscal year with another milestone: welcoming its four-millionth visitor since its founding in 2000.

Officials say visitation for fiscal year 2014 had exceeded 483,000, beating its previous best attendance year, fiscal year 2013, by more than 85,000 visitors.

Museum President and CEO Gordon Mueller says the highlight comes on the heels of major events in New Orleans and France commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. He says those activities generated worldwide exposure for the museum.

Mueller, who helped found the museum with historian and author Stephen Ambrose, said he never imagined their dream of a museum celebrating the significance of World War II would grow into the destination attraction and educational outreach center that it has become.

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