Avoyelles School Board committee discusses campsite leases
Hunters wanting less expensive access to Avoyelles School Board 16th Section tracts may have convinced board members to re-appraise the properties for camp leases.
However, there is no guarantee their desire for a new appraisal won’t backfire and result in higher prices.
At its May 21 meeting, the board’s Building and Lands Committee discussed the costs of camp leases and hunting permits on the 16th Section tracts.
Board member Rickey Adams said the $200 cost of hunting permits is too high.
Board member Robin Moreau said both the permits and the cost of camp leases need to be be reduced.
Moreau also said there should be requirements for those leasing the campsites to maintain the sites.
There are some that are so run down that they discourage others to lease nearby campsites.
‘FAIR MARKET VALUE’
It was noted during the meeting that the Legislative Auditor had once criticized the School Board for not charging a fair market price for the campsite leases.
“We almost got in trouble,” board member Van Kojis said.
As a result of that, the board had the Section 16 properties appraised and established new lease prices a few years ago. Most campsites are leased for $1,500 a year. Waterfront sites on the 16th Section at Old River are leased for $1,800 a year.
State law requires the sale or lease of public property to be based on the fair market value determined by a commercial appraisal.
The board cannot lease or sell property for less than 85 percent of that appraised value. However, the board can charge more than the appraised value if it wants to.
LENGTH OF LEASE
Marksville Mayor John Lemoine, an avid hunter who leases a School Board campsite, told the committee that those leasing the campsites are more concerned over the length of the leases than they are over the price of the leases.
Lemoine said a lease should be at least five years and maybe longer. People don’t want to spend several thousand dollars to make a nice camp and run the risk of the lease not being renewed.
Board members said they are not aware of any lease ever not being renewed if the owner of the lease wanted to renew.
Lemoine noted the threat made a few years ago to lease all 16th Section property to a single group of investors who would then control hunting camp leases and access for hunting and fishing.
There was also a comment that some campsite lessees treat the entire 640-acre tract as their own private hunting club, and not just their individual camp.
There have been reports of deer stands being burned or torn down.
ONLY ONE RESPONSE
Maintenance Supervisor Steve Marcotte said the board had authorized re-appraising the properties, but he had received only one response.
Moreau provided the name of another commercial appraiser. Marcotte said he had contacted that appraiser but had not received a proposal from him.
Adams said people may not like the results of a new appraisal. Property values usually increase, he noted.
If the new appraisal finds the properties’ fair market value is higher than the previous appraisals finding, the board will have to raise the rates instead of lowering them.
Those leasing camp sites are given two hunting permits. Those wishing to hunt on a 16th Section tract are supposed to buy a permit for $200.
The board has only sold about 60 permits. A main reason for that is the lack of enforcement by state and parish officials.
The Police Jury adopted a parish ordinance to support the School Board’s permit program.
Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries agents have said they will enforce the permit rule as a “secondary infraction” -- adding the offense if an individual has other state hunting violations. It will not write a citation for hunting without a board-issue permit if that is the only violation.
It has been pointed out before that the School Board is missing a lucrative revenue source by not charging hunters to set up duck blinds in the 16th Sections.
For the price of a $200 hunting permit, a hunter can set up a duck blind.
In nearby private properties, property owners charge up to $25,000 for a hunter to establish a duck blind.
It was also noted at the committee meeting that members of private hunting clubs pay thousands of dollars for access to hunting areas that the School Board would provide for a $200 permit.