City seeks to halt housing project

After a year of trying to resolve problems with building permit fees, the city of Grambling is seeking an injunction to halt the GSU housing project. The GSU housing project has been ongoing since October of last year.The project includes the newly constructed Tiger Village dorms that are nearing completion on campus. The city is seeking an injunction to settle the dispute of building permit fees.

“We’ve been trying to get building permit fees for about a year now,” said Martha Andrus, mayor of Grambling. The dispute over building permit comes from whether the state owns the buildings constructed in Grambling.

Andrus said that according to research done by the city, the Black and Gold Foundation donated the buildings to the Black and Gold Facilities Corp. According to the Ruston Daily Leader, the head of Louisiana Facilities Planning, Jerry Jones, the University of Louisiana System, and the Attorney General’s office stated that no fees are owed on the project.

Jerry Moore of the Lincoln Parish Tax Collection Agencies stated that the B&G Facilities aren’t exempt from sales tax and he wasn’t sure if they were exempt from property taxes. According to a search on IRS.gov, the Grambling Black and Gold Foundation Inc. is tax-exempt until June 2009. The Black and Gold Facilities Inc. is tax-exempt until June 2010.

The main argument from the ULS and university is that a state statute prevents state-owned buildings from paying local building permit fees. However, Andrus noted that the Black and Gold Facilities Inc. is not state-owned.

According to several sources, the B&G Foundation bought the land in question and donated it to the B&G Facilities. The IRS website said both entities are in Grambling, La. According to the Louisiana Secretary of State, both entities are also non-profit. According to the same source, the Foundation was established in 2005, while the Facilities was established in 2006.

GSU President Horace Judson had little to say on the subject.

“We follow the State Statue regarding this matter,” Judson said via e-mail. “State officials have determined that in accordance with state law, we do not pay fees for construction. There’s nothing else to say.”

According to a News-Star article, Judson stated that the city had ample opportunity to get involved with the construction projects from the beginning. However, Andrus says this was not the case.

“In early conversations, we weren’t invited to the table,” she said. “We were told what was going to happen. We expressed our concern then about the infrastructure. We were told there was no money for that in that phase.”

Recently, the city was classified as “disgruntled” in articles from the News-Star and Ruston Daily Leader. Andrus said that they are not disgruntled.

“We want to work with the university,” she said. “They don’t know the issues. We are not disgruntled. The university is an asset to the city.”

Andrus also pointed out that similar construction projects occurred at University of Louisiana at Monroe, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern. Monroe, Ruston and Natchitoches all received building permit fees, according to her conversations with city officials.

“They got their money,” Andrus said. “Why can’t we get ours?