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Letter from GDCA President: Security in the Garden District

Letter from GDCA President

Dear Garden District Resident,

There has been some misinformation being spread about the state of security within the Garden District so the Garden District Civic Association (GDCA) Board would like to clarify our current position.

As it stands today, we pay anywhere from $24,000 – $28,000 per year for security patrols by off-duty Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) officers in the neighborhood, which includes approximately 50-60 hours per month at an hourly rate of $35/hour. Historically, this is the maximum amount of hours that BRPD officers have been able to provide. This is not an insignificant amount, representing the majority of our annual dues, which come from less than 30% of eligible households in the neighborhood. Our goal has always been to be the best stewards of the funds you have entrusted to us.

That being said, our current security patrols come with some limitations. Chief among them are 1) We are unable to provide much in the way of reporting and transparency, other than “BRPD spent 50 hours in the Garden District this month.” We also do not know when exactly the officers are in the neighborhood, and what they encounter while they are here. 2) BRPD patrols are unwilling to be mobile in our neighborhood, which is not intended as a slight to BRPD, as we all know the mere presence of police can be a deterrent. Therefore, in doing our due diligence, we wanted to look at other potential options, both to get more bang for our buck and to possibly provide additional service beyond what we receive today. Private security is one of the options being considered.

In considering a potential candidate private security firm, we have the option of having multiple randomly timed patrols every night of the year – this service is not paid on an hourly basis but on a patrol basis thus allowing us to provide more security to the neighborhood for the same price. These patrols include among other things:

  • A complete drive-through of the neighborhood in a clearly-marked vehicle with a flashing light. This includes alleys, if included in the contract.
  • A daily/weekly report, including pictures, of any suspicious activity, which can be posted to our website.
  • A dedicated phone number that is routed directly to the on-duty security personnel for residents to call citing any concerns.
  • Optional a la carte services (billed directly to homeowners), e.g. Upon request, the company will do walk-arounds at people’s homes when they go out of town, or they can meet a homeowner late at night for a walk-in to their home.
  • The ability to scale up and a less expensive rate. If the neighborhood wants more frequent patrols, we can do that and again, every night of the year.
  • All of this, at less than we currently pay for 50-60 hours of stationary patrol per month.

Contrary to what was reported online, no formal decision has been made. The Board had approved splitting our existing funds 50/50 between BRPD and a private firm. The idea was that this would give us the opportunity to try something new out and possibly give the neighborhood additional and more frequent service. When approached by the GDCA Board, BRPD was clear that such an arrangement was not incentive enough for their off-duty officers to come to our neighborhood, and it would therefore be an all-or-nothing decision.

This is where we currently sit. Following the response from BRPD today, the Board will make a decision on how best to proceed. Some of you have voiced displeasure at this process and even stated that you will no longer pay your dues if BRPD is not used. If a decision is ultimately made to go that way, we would encourage everyone to keep an open mind and not make any rash decisions. BRPD has made it clear that even if we go this direction, they are willing to resume the current patrol situation at any time.

As always, your Board is doing the best possible job we can to serve our neighborhood, and we always invite interested parties to participate in this process by joining and serving. If you would like to join the Board or participate on a committee, please email us at [email protected] with your interest.

​Thank you,

John Christian Williams
President, Garden District Civic Association
[email protected]

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John WilliamsLetter from GDCA President: Security in the Garden District

The Puryear Family Adopts 4 Month Old Luca Arden Puryear

On Monday, August 1st, the Puryear family at 1015 Park Blvd received a call from the St. Elizabeth non-profit adoption agency that a birth mother had picked them to adopt her beautiful 4 month old baby boy. The Puryear’s, which includes Dustin, Ellie, and 9-year old son Cooper, had been working toward an adoption for several months. Monday was the lucky day. The phone call came in at 1pm — while Dustin was in New Orleans on business having lunch — and after a mad rush home to Baton Rouge, Dustin, his wife, and his son had bought diapers, clothes, and a few days worth of food. By 6pm the paperwork had been signed and the Puryear family grew by one new boy who they named Luca Arden Puryear. The family is extremely excited and already adapting to again having a baby in the house. They welcome visitors but please email Ellie ahead of time to ensure the baby is awake to get maximum “oohs” and “aaahs” during the visit. Her email is [email protected]

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John WilliamsThe Puryear Family Adopts 4 Month Old Luca Arden Puryear

New Dog Stations

We love your dog just as much as you do. Thanks to your dues and the hard work of the Cub Scouts of Pack 12, there are now six dog stations located around the Garden District to make your daily walks all the better!These Dogi Pot stations offer a green solution to dog pollution, providing dog owners a disposable bag to clean up after their four-legged friend.Find the station nearest you:DOG DISPENSER LOCATIONS

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John WilliamsNew Dog Stations

Neighborhood Signs and Bollards – Do We Landscape? By Mike Schexnayder

The Garden District has three neighborhood signs: Terrace at Eugene, Park at Magnolia and Government at Park.  Rusty Wharton (a former GD resident) directed the installation of the signs and the five bollards in the early 1990’s.  Those signs are sturdy: two have survived automobile collisions. Former resident Frank Conley repaired the sign on Terrace when it was hit by a truck several years ago. The one at Government was hit on Christmas Eve 2014.  Like the one on Terrace, the sign itself survived, but not the posts. New posts have been installed. During the last year Mary Fontenot, Martha Salomon, and Geraldine Champagne repainted the signs in a new color scheme, while Dorothy Powell and Nancy Grush repainted the bollards. (There is one bollard left to paint, if anyone wants to do it.) Mary Fontenot has recently painted the letters on the sign at Government St., and would like input before she does the lettering on the other signs.

The city has finished its sidewalk improvements on Government St., and now it’s time to landscape the area in front of the signs, beginning with the one on Government because the Baton Rouge Water Company has a pipe at that location.  They can install a water meter for $360 assuming they do not have to break any concrete.  The monthly minimum bill would be $8.52 plus tax.  We could install a drip irrigation system with a battery-powered controller similar to other neighborhoods.

Diane Geheber planted a flower bed there several times, but city workers consistently pulled up or mowed over the flowers. The soil would have to be significantly amended, and we would have to communicate with the city to insure our plants are not destroyed the next time they mow the median. Do we have people in the neighborhood willing to work on this project? If you can help with any part of this project, please contact Mike Schexnayder at [email protected].

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John WilliamsNeighborhood Signs and Bollards – Do We Landscape? By Mike Schexnayder

Caring for Canine Companions by Chris Barrett

Now that the summer months are here, many of us are spending more time outdoors with our dog family members.  This makes it a good time to revisit some key ways to keep your canine companion safe and to keep our neighborhood a dog-friendly place.

First and most important, when you’re outside your house or fenced yard, be sure your pooch is on a leash.  It’s the law, but it’s also the best way to protect your beloved barker while you’re in the front yard or out for a walk.  Your dog might be exceptionally mild-mannered, well-trained, and social, but if she’s off a leash, she’s in danger.  A passing car, a sudden distraction, or other animals all can cause trouble–sometimes serious–for off-leash Fido.  It’s worth remembering, too, that many people are afraid of dogs (no doubt because they haven’t gotten to know your Fluffy or Rex); even the friendliest unleashed dog can seem terrifying. So keep your furry friend safe and popular with a stylish leash–it’s both neighborly and the law.

Second, be sure to clean up after your dog.  Sure, like the leash, it’s the law, but there is another reason to do this: nothing says “My dog is an excellent neighbor” like the gentle crinkling sound of a poop bag unfurling in the summer breeze.  To make it easy to gather up your dog’s deposits, the Garden District Civic Association is setting up poop bag stations at several points around the district.  Feel free to take one (or more!) to help keep Muffin feeling dignified on your walks.  More info on these and other Animal Control Ordinances is available here: https://brgov.com/dept/animal/petowner.htm

Finally, look out for Snowball in the depth of Baton Rouge’s mind-blowingly hot summer.  Never leave your fluffball in a parked car, even for just a couple minutes.  Limit your dog’s activity outside, and be sure she gets plenty of water when you go for a walk; whenever possible, walk on the street-side grass, to avoid your munchkin burning his paws on the hot asphalt or sidewalk.  You can cool your summer-loving canine down with make-at-home peanut butter popsicles, but always make sure there’s lots of shade and water for your companion, both inside and outside your house.  In the event of loss of power, be sure you have an emergency plan for preventing heatstroke in your furred friends.  For more tips on keeping your pooch cool when the power goes out, what to do when you see a dog in a parked car on a hot day, how to make dog-friendly pupsicles, and more, see the Humane Society’s suggestions here:  http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_safe_heat_wave.html

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John WilliamsCaring for Canine Companions by Chris Barrett
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Cub Scouts Make Cleaning Up After Dogs Convenient

Andrew and Gavin Kocen of Cub Scout Pack 12 hard at work.

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Thanks to the Cub Scouts of Pack 12 for installing poop bag dispensers throughout the neighborhood.  The pack installed six of the dispensers in various locations.  Keep an eye out for them and use one of the bags the next time you take your dog for its daily constitutional.

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John WilliamsCub Scouts Make Cleaning Up After Dogs Convenient
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Music Makes the World Go Round by Mindy Piontek

In October of 2015, James Fogle and Adam Planche, friends for twenty years since they were 15, opened the Baton Rouge Music Exchange on Perkins Road between Acadian and College.  Before that time, the building tucked behind Black Torch Tatoos served as their rehearsal space for their bands and solo acts.  Fogle had recognized a need for a music store on the south side of town, a need created when Bebop Music Shop on Government closed a few years back.

“We’ve had a need for a small Mom and Pop music store on this side of town,” says Fogle.

The need was so pressing, that although only open for a few months, the pair are already searching for a bigger location in the area.  With amps and guitars lining the walls, and additional stock of drum heads, effects pedals, guitar picks and strings, not to mention sheet music, the current shop only has room for a couple of chairs.  “It becomes really crowded if more than four people are in here,” says Fogle.

Fogle envisions the new space as somewhere for people to hang out and both perform and appreciate music.  He plans to offer locally produced artwork with no consignment fee, merchandise such as CD’s and T shirts from local bands, and he is looking forward to getting the rest of his inventory out of his house and into the larger space.  “People bring me a lot of cool stuff and I keep it,” says Fogle.

Fogle’s Myrtle Street home is a music haven, thanks to his “very supportive and cool” wife, Anna, daughter, Margaret, and a piano and guitar playing son, Elliot, who shares his dad’s love of music.  “We have a jam room on the third floor.  It looks like a hurricane went through the place after my son and his friends have been up there,” says Fogle.

Like his son, Fogle developed his interest in music early.  “My parents got me a toy drum set with paper heads when I was 3 or 4, and I just destroyed it,” says Fogle.  When he turned 5, his parents sprung for a real drum set, and he now enjoys playing guitar and piano, and singing, as well.

Fogle’s day job should serve him well as he searches for the perfect space to buy or rent, since he’s a fourteen-year veteran real estate agent with Century 21.  Fogle calls South Baton Rouge his stomping grounds, and he plans to keep stomping and playing music in this part of town that he calls home.

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John WilliamsMusic Makes the World Go Round by Mindy Piontek
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A “Miracle” at Wisteria Street by Carmen Del Rio

Around the middle of August, 2015, I had to have a huge Golden Rain tree cut and removed from the front of my house because it was determined that it was dying.  While removing the tree, the bucket truck the company used broke the cement walk from the sidewalk in front of the house to the street.  The tree company assured me that they would send their cement man to repair it as soon as possible.  On September the second I got a call alerting me that the cement man was coming the next morning to fix the walk, and that it would be good if I could be home.  I agreed.

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In the early morning of September the third I was awakened around 7:30am by the loud noise of big trucks on the corner of Wisteria and St. Rose St.  I got up and saw two big trucks across the street on St Rose.  I realized these were sewer/water line trucks that had started working on the lines across my house on the corner.  I went ahead and had my coffee, got dressed and proceeded to wait for the cement man, who, as promised, arrived around 8:45am.  When I saw him I went outside to speak with him.  As I was discussing with him what he needed, a man who had been with the sewer/water trucks came up to both of us, looked at me, and extending his hand, where he was holding something, asked me:  “Do you recognize this?”   showing me  a still shinny gold medal.  I was literally speechless…

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On October of 1985 my mother had come to visit me for a couple of months.  She always wore a medal of Saint Barbara her family had given her in Cuba knowing that she was a devotee of the popular Saint who, in Cuba, as well as in the Spanish Caribbean, was known by two names:  St. Barbara, the Roman Catholic martyr and Chango, the Afro-Cuban name of an African deity.  By the end of October, one day as I came home from teaching at LSU, I found my mother frantically looking for her medal which seemed to have broken off from the gold chain around her neck.  We turned the house up-side-down; looked outside; looked in the car, yard, everywhere to no avail.  We never found St. Barbara.  That December 8, l985, my mother died in my arms of a heart attack.

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Almost 30 years later a man, working in the sewer/water lines had found her medal and, coincidentally (?) I happened to be standing outside in front of my house, and he thought he would ask me if I recognized the shinny object.  As I held the medal in my hand, after all these years, I looked in the back of the medal where it was inscribed with my mother’s name, and a dedication from the family, and dated December 4, l958 (St. Barbara’s feast day).

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All I could do was go inside my house, with tears running down my eyes and saying, as I went around inside, “Mami, I found your medal!”  Today, I am wearing my mother’s medal, cleaned and restored by a jeweler, hoping it will also protect me as it protected her most of her life.

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John WilliamsA “Miracle” at Wisteria Street by Carmen Del Rio
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Ursin de Roche teaches rock legend’s daughter to “Strum This Way”

When Ursin de Roche first picked up a guitar at age eleven, he had no idea that one day he would teach guitar to the movie star daughter of a rock legend. As a sixth grader at Redemptorist Middle School in North Baton Rouge, Ursin started group guitar lessons instead of Spanish or any of the other electives, with his mother’s blessing. Group lessons led to private lessons through his teens, and before long, he was majoring in music at South Eastern University and then at the University of La Verne in California.\r\n\r\nAlthough he returned to Baton Rouge without a degree, his lack of matriculation didn’t interfere with his employment. “If you take, say, the flute,” says Ursin, “your instructor will probably have a music degree. Guitar isn’t like that.”\r\n\r\nSoon after moving back, Ursin answered an ad posted on Craigslist. “A guy running a local music studio on the east side of town was looking to expand his business on this side of town,” says Ursin. “At the time, he didn’t have any solid teachers on this side of town.”\r\n\r\nOnce hired, Ursin began teaching lessons out of what is now Mid-City Bikes on Government Street next to the Garden District Nursery. Ursin’s boss was approached by his high school friend and movie producer, who was looking for someone to teach Liv Tyler how to play the guitar for the movie “The Ledge,” that was filming in downtown Baton Rouge. Ursin’s name came up, and the producer contacted him about teaching Ms. Tyler.\r\n\r\n“Then there were two weeks of conference calls–definitely a vetting process,” says Ursin. During the calls, sometimes with a group of people and sometimes one on one, Ursin answered a variety of questions.\r\n\r\n“They asked me wild stuff—what did I have for breakfast, do I drink a lot, how often do I go on the internet, how many hours of TV do I watch a week. They wanted to know if I knew who Liv Tyler was, and I said, ‘Yeah, Steven Tyler’s daughter.’”\r\n\r\nOnce the production team had determined that Ursin wasn’t a secret Liv Tyler stalker, and they had approved his guitar skills courtesy of YouTube videos, it was time for Ms. Tyler to make the final call.\r\n\r\n“They asked me to come down to the set to meet her,” says Ursin. “They were filming above Lucy’s in a really old apartment.” After a brief introduction—“Hey, Liv, this is Ursin deRoche”—Liv asked him if he smoked. Ursin replied, “Yeah,” and she said, “Let’s go have a cigarette on the balcony.”\r\n\r\nThe two smoked and chatted for a while—“She was just like a regular girl, like my sister”—until Ms. Tyler decided that Ursin would do just fine.\r\n\r\nUrsin’s assignment was to teach Ms. Tyler to play a rendition of Ave Maria arranged for solo guitar. “The director told me to get her to the point where she could have been playing, with her hands in the right places, but that they’d dub in a professional when they got to editing.” Ms. Tyler had other ideas and insisted, with language inappropriate for a community publication, that she really be able to play it.\r\n\r\nFor the next few weeks, Ursin says, “I was on call 24/7. They’d call me at 8 AM or 2AM and ask me to come down to her trailer. Sometimes she’d show, and sometimes she wouldn’t and they’d pay me to sit in her trailer, watching TV and eating free catering.”\r\n\r\nWhen Ms. Tyler realized she wasn’t making much progress in the brief bits of time squeezed in between takes, she called Ursin to make other arrangements.\r\n\r\n“She asked if I minded coming down to her hotel,” says Ursin. “She was staying at the Hilton.” When he arrived, she asked if he wanted something to eat or drink, and despite his answer to the negative, she insisted, picked up the room service menu and ordered most of the items listed.\r\n\r\n“You know how it usually takes half an hour, forty-five minutes to get your room service order?” asked Ursin. “In five minutes there was a knock on the door, and the hall outside was lined with waiters pushing silver serving carts.” For the next few hours, Ursin worked with Ms. Tyler, until she was satisfied with her progress. When the movie was released in 2011, it was Liv Tyler playing Ave Maria for solo guitar.\r\n\r\nAs is so often the case, one great opportunity led to many more. “It was like dominoes falling,” says Ursin. He was featured in 225, was given the cover of the Baton Rouge Business Report, appeared on Liv Tyler fan web sites, had stories in The Sound guitar magazine and on a French guitar web site. He also garnered endorsement deals from Ernie Ball guitar strings, Intex cables, and Music Man guitars. The band he was with was able to play all over the South, due to his fat stack of press clippings.\r\n\r\nEventually, as Ursin says, “that all ran its course.”\r\n\r\nToday, he’s self-employed, teaching anyone, famous or not, how to play the guitar.

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John WilliamsUrsin de Roche teaches rock legend’s daughter to “Strum This Way”
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Art-O-Mat to dispense small works of art by BR artists

Did you know that within walking distance of the Garden District you can purchase original artwork for just $5? The Baton Rouge Gallery at City Park is home to the Art-O-Mat, a refurbished cigarette machine that now dispenses miniature works of art by local artists.\r\n\r\nJust purchase a token from the gallery office, slip it in the coin slot, and pull the knob beneath the artist who’s work catches your eye. Current artists whose work is available from the machine are Scott Blake, Karen Waiksnis DiSorbo, Pam Brekas, Dennis Wells, Zach Rhodes, and Alex Wilson.\r\n\r\nSome of the art is printed on metal, some is decoupaged onto a block of wood, and some is wearable, like Rachel O’s Fabulous Whimsy Fabric Button Earrings.\r\n\r\nAs the machine says, “Purchasing Art is not illegal for children of any age.”

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John WilliamsArt-O-Mat to dispense small works of art by BR artists