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Council approves 2015 operating budget

Council approves 2015 operating budget

By a 7-0 vote, the Lafourche Parish Council approved the 2015 Operations and Capital Budgets, at a special public meeting on Monday, December 1.

Councilmen John Arnold and Lindel Toups were absent.

The budget, topping $100 million, includes over $35 million in new and existing capital projects.
Along with Parish President Charlotte Randolph’s budgetary plans for 2015, the council added 27 amendments for various wants and needs. The majority of these inclusions were for drainage and flood prevention improvements throughout the parish.

Councilman Daniel Lorraine added culvert projects on East 87th, 88th, and 89th streets, as well as on East 143rd and East 165th streets. His proposed improvements, totaling $380,000, passed unanimously.

Councilman Jerry Lafont included $150,000 for drainage improvements on West 11th Street, as well as $100,000 for “seawall flood protection for the town of Golden Meadow”.

Work has been ongoing in 2014 to improve low spots and gaps in the seawall in Golden Meadow.

The parish has already received grant assurance of $1.4 million from the state for roadway elevation and drainage improvements in Golden Meadow.

“I think it’s a little excessive, if the state is giving $1.4 million,” Randolph stated, questioning the need for the additional money in Lafont’s amendment.

Lafont argued that the money is “little to ask” for flood protection in that area and that the Town of Golden Meadow will put up $150,000 while the Port Commission has dedicated $100,000 for the project.

This extra $250,000 would help finish the project, said Lafont. His amendment passed 7-0.

Lafont also introduced an amendment to add $500,000 for cleanout of the “20 Arpent and 13 Arpent” canals north of South Lafourche High School.

“This has been a thorn,” said Lafont, commenting that 2 previous councilmen had tried unsuccessfully to get these canals cleaned.

Lorraine noted that the sections from South Lafourche High to the Yankee Canal had been cleaned around 1989, and that the sections north are a priority now.

Randolph lent her support to the amendment. “The intent of Mr. Lafont’s project is worthy. The problem is we cannot secure rights of way. It will take some time to accomplish. And remember, there are bridges. That’s a challenge,” she said.

“If I have to go door to door to get right of ways, I’ll do it. I think we can knock it out,” replied Lafont.
Lafont’s amendment passed by 7-0 vote.

Lorraine also introduced an amendment to halt funding for one of Randolph’s major projects for next year—the South Lafourche Channel Widening Project.

Randolph proposed to fund the $1 million channel-widening project out of the Road Sales Tax District 2 money. The project is actually a widening of a portion of the borrow canal inside the levee system at Pump Station #6 to allow the pump station to operate at full capacity. (It was originally reported that the money was to be spent on outfall canal widening at Pump Station #6.)

Lorraine’s amendment proposed to remove the project from the budget and move the $1 million back into the Road Sales Tax District 2 fund.

He expressed opposition to spending money dedicated to roads, drainage, and bridges on canal projects, especially one in the purview of the South Lafourche Levee District, he said. “South Lafourche Levee District has money from sales tax and millage,” said Lorraine.

“So you are rejecting the entire project proposed by the levee district?” asked Randolph.

“I am asking to put this money back where it belongs and we’ll discuss it later,” he replied.

Lorraine’s amendment passed by vote of 6-0. Councilman Mike Delatte was absent from council chambers during the vote.

The 2015 amended budget now goes back to President Randolph for approval, or for veto of any line item excluding certain auditing or investigating expenses.

Subsequently, the Council may reconsider any vetoed items, but must hold a special meeting to do so prior to January 1.