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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Who will pay for Yankee Canal levee work?

Who will pay for Yankee Canal levee work?

Gentleman’s agreements and good faith deals between governmental entities do not always work, especially when $194,000 is involved.

That’s the price tag for a nearly-completed improvement on a parish levee by the South Lafourche Levee District (SLLD) in east Golden Meadow.

While calling the project designed to improve the Yankee Canal levee “a hell of a job”, Parish Councilman Daniel Lorraine advised both the levee board and the parish council this week that there was never a formal written agreement to do the work.

He said it was merely a verbal one between former Parish President Charlotte Randolph and SLLD.

In good faith, he says, SLLD bid the project to improve a levee along Yankee Canal, and the former parish administration agreed to reimburse SLLD for $194,000. After completion, the parish would turn over the levee to SLLD.

Plaisance Dragline and Dredging Company, Inc., the contractor, has nearly completed its second pass starting at the rear of East 179th Street, placing spoil material from the canal on the bank.

That levee was no more than 1.5-feet high before work began, a potential flooding situation for residents and pasture owners alike. The improvement will bring the levee to a 3-4 foot elevation and eliminate the sandbagging which parish employees and residents have been forced to do in the past.

“Parish employees went sandbag back there on Christmas Eve, when everybody else was at home opening presents,” said Lorraine.

Lorraine said the mistake was by Randolph, who never came before the council for approval of the work.

“It never went through the right channels”, he said.

SLLD has sent three letters to the parish advising administration about the work and the need for reimbursement.

The first letter, dated September 15, 2015, and addressed to then-Parish President Charlotte Randolph, explained the erosion issue in Yankee Canal and reminded her of the “agreement” with SLLD to pay for the work.

A similar second letter on March 10, 2016, was addressed to President Jimmy Cantrelle.

The third letter from May 20th of this year showing partial payment by SLLD of one of Plaisance Dragline’s invoices for $31,000 was sent to both Cantrelle and Lorraine.

“I don’t want to get into a shouting match, but the levee district did the work and should be paid. They did the work in good faith,” he said.

“We have a good working relationship with them. They don’t send the parish a bill when their pumps break. I think the parish needs to sit down with them and discuss this,” he said.

At Tuesday’s council public meeting, parish administrator Don Matherne said that a District Attorney opinion will be sought to settle the issue.

“I talked with Windell (SLLD General Manager Windell Curole) this morning. We will set up a meeting with him and the DA and any councilmen who want to come,” said Matherne.

“There’s never been a written agreement. That’s why I brought it up. I don’t want to get blamed if the parish doesn’t pay,” stated Lorraine.