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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Parish may continue to pay SLLD fuel bill

Parish may continue to pay SLLD fuel bill

Lafourche Parish will continue to pay for diesel that the South Lafourche Levee District (SLLD) burns—maybe!

Windell Curole, General Manager of the levee district, addressed the Council Tuesday night to ask the parish to continue the long-time practice because he says he was recently informed by Public Works Director James Barnes that the parish would no longer pay.

Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle said the reason he stopped the fuel payment, which can amount to over 200,000 gallons per year, was because of the legality of the “agreement”.

“There was no MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) in place and I felt that we had to have an MOU in place before I could pay any more fuel. So, I told them (Public Works Department) to pay this last bill and get with the Council to get an MOU in place to be legal. The DA said we have nothing in place,” said Cantrelle.

Curole reminded the Council that the levee district’s mandate is to provide the citizens of the district with surge protection. The Parish has always paid for the fuel with drainage tax funds.

“This has been a verbal agreement between us and the levee district since the beginning,” said Councilman Daniel Lorraine.

He noted that the parish’s deal with SLLD is in fact better than the one it has with the North Lafourche Levee District in which the parish pays for all fuel and repairs needed for pumps in the north.

“If the parish can pay fuel for the north, and other things, why not for the south?” he asked.

Curole said he met with Cantrelle and Lorraine, explaining the benefit to the parish of not having to pay maintenance, and that the taxpayers pay a drainage tax and should get some benefit from that tax.

“The taxes we collect were meant to be spent on flood protection. We are trying to put all the money we can toward that,” he said.

But he reminded Cantrelle and Lorraine that the levee district is already forced to spend money on other things and hopes fuel will not be added to that list.

“We have spent over $4 million on pumps since 2005, $300,000 in salaries and benefits this past year, and over $20,000 to date in overtime costs.”

Council members assured Curole that the fuel issue would be taken care of soon and suggested Cantrelle’s administration immediately generate a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with SLLD.

“I think I speak for everyone on this council when I say that no one here is against paying for the fuel,” said Jerry Lafont.

“I agree with you. I just want to make it legal,” replied Cantrelle.

Curole said he always asks for any assistance his board can get, not for SLLD but so that the people who pay taxes for protection can be assured their taxes will go toward protection.