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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Council meeting a “head scratcher”

Council meeting a “head scratcher”

The Lafourche Parish Council has convened some bewildering meetings in the past -- Tuesday’s rendition was of the “ambiguous” variety.

New department heads -- Interim Parish Administrator Tommy Lasseigne and Interim Head of Department of Community Services Paul Robichaux -- took their places behind Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle. But they can serve for no more than 60 days before the Council must consider Cantrelle’s permanent candidates.

In one perplexing instance during the night, Councilman Jerry Lafont and Cantrelle gave redundant formal proclamations declaring February 17, 2017 as “Coach ‘O’ Day” in the parish in honor of accomplishments of Edward “Bebe” Orgeron who is the current head football coach at Louisiana State University.

Why two proclamations for the same event?

Later, Councilman Daniel Lorraine begged for the “umpteenth” time for the parish to pay the South Lafourche Levee District for improvements to the Yankee Canal Levee in East Golden Meadow.

The year-old $164,610 debt is still owed on the levee project which the previous administration entered into verbally and which this administration has been slow to pay.

“I kindly ask, at the next meeting, that we get it on the agenda. I hope I don’t have to ask another time, because I’m running out of times,” said Lorraine.

The Council then heard an unclear 30-minute discussion on the nature of service provided by Ms. Mary-Patricia Wray of Top Drawer Strategies LLC (Baton Rouge) to the Council.

Wray is a lobbyist hired by Lafourche Parish to the tune of $3500 per month to advance certain projects submitted to the Louisiana Legislature for financial consideration under the state’s Capital Outlay program. Her “brief comments” were lengthy.

Of the nearly $167 million requested by the parish, including from entities like Nicholls University, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission, the South Lafourche Levee District, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center and others, only about $1 million was requested by Lafourche Parish Government.

Councilman Jerry Jones then reminded Chairman Corey Perrillioux that such lengthy discussions should not be done under public comments.

“I ask the chairman, next time if you are giving a report like this that it be placed on the agenda like everything else. It's totally too much time; it is out of line with the agenda,” said Jones.

Or consider the ambiguity of the Council arguing extensively over $1400 worth of signs, then later quickly passing a resolution from the floor to add 28% to the cost of a drainage project in the 10th Ward.

Daniel Lorraine’s ordinance requesting “No Dumping of Trash -- $500 Fine” signs to be placed at all pump stations due to vandalism and other damage was debated, modified by amendments, and passed by 9-0 vote.

There are 81 pump stations parishwide and at a cost of $17-18 per sign, some council members felt that $1400 was unnecessary.

Lorraine’s dander was up over questions about the need for signage at every station. Some pumps are in remote private areas which are inaccessible by the public.

“I talked to some parish employees. They put this together and I think a sign is a lot cheaper to buy than a tire that the pump sucks up and breaks the pump,” said Lorraine.

When Lorraine began to get longwinded, Perrillioux tried to stop him from commenting further, advising the latter to “call a press conference if you want to give a speech.”

“Maybe it’s because I proposed it,” said Lorraine as to why he perceived so much opposition to his idea.

The ordinance was changed to call for signs only at pump stations deemed problematic by the Director of Public Works. The signs will read: “No Dumping of Trash, Waste or Debris -- $500 Fine” along with the ordinance number.

Finally, Jerry Lafont’s floor resolution (which he called “time sensitive”) added $196,000 and 45 days to the RSTD-2 West 11th Street drainage project along Hwy. 3235 in Larose.

With very little debate, except for James Bourgeois and Michael Gros noting that the change adds about 28% to the project cost (from $693,000 to $889,000), the Council passed the measure unanimously.

Lafont said that during original discussions, the landowner was led to believe that the entire project across his frontage along Hwy. 3235 would be culverted. Also, proximity of the ditch to the highway as well as to the levee system caused a need for more coverage of the ditch.

Lorraine noted that the parish saved $3 million through the “graciousness” of one landowner who allowed drainage through his property.

Some might call this the cost of “landscaping”.