Work on the Cyprien Pump Station at Lockport has another problem with an unused pipeline blocking its construction.
The Parish Council last Tuesday voted against a contract to remove the pipeline because of legal concerns.
The $3.5 million project has been slowly progressing for about four years, with concerns raised from council members and residents over the repeated delays.
Further delays could cost the parish up to $8,000 per day in fines, Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle said in a news release.
The pipeline on the property, owned by a third party, is trespassing on the parish’s right of way, officials claim. To build the new pump station, the pipeline has to be removed.
Negotiations to have the pipeline’s owner remove it were unsuccessful. Parish Risk Manager Brent Abadie said the parish planned to file suit against the owner to recoup the costs of removing it.
The $39,000 bid from Blue Fin Services failed by a 4-3 vote, with one abstention by Councilman Jerry LaFont. Council members Michael Gros, Jerry Jones and Luci Sposito voted against it. Councilman Bo Melvin, who has pushed for completion of the project, was absent.
Council members said they were concerned about repercussions of removing the pipeline and wanted to ensure it was legal before acting.
On Friday, Cantrelle said he was “more than confident,” the parish has the legal authority to remove it.
Council Chairman Noonie Autin agreed to expedite a request for a District Attorney’s Office opinion on the issue.
However, Abadie told the council Tuesday that requesting an opinion from District Attorney Kristine Russell would pose a conflict of interest due to an ongoing legal case.
Abadie and Cantrelle are involved in a legal case with Russell over Abadie’s role as interim parish administrator.
District Judge Buddy Larose is mulling over arguments and is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.
“All legal aspects were reviewed prior to submitting this proposal to council, so the council’s hesitation to proceed delays the project once again. As a result of trespassing on our Lafourche Parish right away, a lawsuit would have been filed to recoup any funds spent to perform these services,” Cantrelle said.
Russell directly refuted that claim in an apparent response to Autin’s request for an opinion, stating by the administration’s own admission, it did not contact her office — the parish’s legal advisor — about the issue.
“So whose legal advice is the Parish President Relying on? Instead of utilizing the services of their statutorily designated legal advisory, the Administration has opted to rely on the advice of someone who doesn’t have the authority to handle legal matters for the Parish. The Parish President’s insistence on accepting and acting on legal advice from Mr. Abadie has been an issues throughout Mr. Abadie’s employment with the Parish,” Russell said in a statement.
However, she acknowledged the District Attorney’s Office was contacted by then Parish Administrator Leif Hass in August 2017 about the pipeline but heard no response after asking for more information.
“We heard nothing further on the matter until the discussion at the January 22, 2019 Council meeting,” the letter states.
On Friday, the parish president criticized the council’s tendency to lean on the district attorney.
“We should move the council room into the third floor of the DA’s office. That way we don’t have to walk so far,” he said.
Russell, who has had a more active relationship with the Parish Council, condemned Cantrelle’s comments “admonishing the council for asking questions and requesting legal advice prior to acting on a matter this important.”
With the rejected bid, it’s not clear how long it will take for construction to begin.
“The Cyprien Pump Station project has been a point of discussion for over four years now. It’s time to get started and complete the work once and for all for the residents affected,” Cantrelle said.
Russell issued a separate letter to Cantrelle Friday, asking for all documents and communication between the administration and the owner of the pipeline.
-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.
Posted on Tue, January 29, 2019
by By Julia Arenstam Daily Comet Staff Writer