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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Council meets for the first time in the new year

Council meets for the first time in the new year

The Lafourche Parish Council met for the first time this year on Tuesday, January 15 and promptly elected a new Chairman to run its public meetings.

Councilman Daniel Lorraine was chosen to fill Lindell Toups’ seat.  Jerry Lafont was elected vice-chairman.  Michael Delatte and Phillip Gouaux were absent.

The council then approved an ordinance establishing the salaries of the Council Clerk, Legislative Internal Auditor, and Auditor Clerk, and establishing the procedure for inclusion of the positions and salaries in annual proposed budgets going forward.

In other action, the Council approved a resolution requesting that parish administration hire South Central Planning and Development Commission to handle the permitting and inspection process. 

Jerry Lafont called the permit department the "biggest downfall of the parish” and said the administration needs to admit it and be willing to change.

"The rest of the state is using planning groups; why not us?" he asked.

Councilman John Arnold, himself a building contractor, said many of his peers will not do work in Lafourche.

"I know of seven contractors who will not work here because of ridiculous permit costs and lack of knowledge of people doing the inspections," he said.

Arnold cited the example of a $5000 job costing the contractor/builder $800 in permit fees.   His profit margin, said Arnold, is severely impacted.

Parish President Charlotte Randolph informed the council that South Central Planning does not issue permits, but only does inspections.

And regarding lack of knowledge within the permit office, Randolph listed the qualifications of her building officials hired to do the inspections.

"Our chief building official came to us from South Central Planning.  Our number two building official also came from South Central.  Our number three official came from a company that was trained by South Central.  Our entire clerk department is certified, the only one in the state," she said in frustration.

After further discussion, the council amended the resolution to remove the word "permitting", and also allow Randolph two months to come back to the council with a recommendation to improve the process.

Councilman Joe Fertitta was the only dissenting vote on the measure, saying that those who were unsatisfied with the permit department should have brought their questions to the administration without bringing forth a public discussion.

"I think we are going about this the wrong way.  You have to consider the people working in that department.  We should have done something besides upsetting them.  It's a tough job," he stated.

President Randolph agreed to look into the matter.