President's Report-May 17, 2022
Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of May 17, 2022
ITEM 2 AND 3 OF ADMINISTRATIVE COMMITTEE AGENDA
These items call for the discussion of Ordinance Summary Numbers 1359-OR and 1360-OR which, respectively, officially and formally adopt the redistricting plan approved by the Citizens Reapportionment Committee and creates whole precincts as a consequence. Candidly, the former Ordinance does not permit the Council to exercise much discretion since Section 2-02(B) of the Home Rule Charter mandates that the Citizens Reapportionment Committee’s approved plan “shall be adopted without change” by the Parish Council. Of course, redistricting is constitutionally mandated as a product of the 2020 Census. However, Summary Number 1360-OR presents a different landscape since its substance does not require action by the Citizens Reapportionment Committee, and it is an offspring of the redistricting.
As a backdrop to Summary Number 1360-OR, you will recall that on December 3, 2019, the Council enacted Ordinance Number 19-12-1281-OR which merged/consolidated several precincts within the Parish. This Ordinance was adopted in anticipation of the aforementioned redistricting and was prepared and recommended by Mike Hefner of Geographic Planning and Demographic Services, the demographer who was retained to assist the Parish in the recently completed mandated reapportionment. Legislation enacted in 2018 allows Parishes to design a “clean” set of new PROSPECTIVE precinct boundaries in preparation for redistricting. See La. R.S. 18:532.1. Such action is in association with changing boundaries of legacy precincts away from a line that was non-conforming to current state mandates to precincts that satisfy statutory requirements. See La. R.S. 18:532 and 532.1. The number of precincts was reduced from 51 to 29 by virtue of the 2019 Ordinance.
Now that redistricting is complete, new precincts must be established to comport with the new district boundaries and required state law. This was conveyed several times as the Parish commenced its redistricting. Indeed, I remind you of these comments from my report last August:
“Therefore, to aid you in case any questions are presented to you on these matters, I offer the following recapitulation of the prior Council actions relative to this matter.
On July 6, 2021, Ordinance Number 21-07-1325-OR was enacted which corrected minor errors on the property descriptions contained in the prior ordinance and assigned polling places for each precinct. The polling places for the precincts were the product of discussions among the Registrar of Voters, the Clerk of Court, and Mr. Hefner. The criteria utilized by them in determining appropriate polling location were practical, cogent, and more importantly in compliance with all pertinent legal mandates. The final selections were reviewed with me and same was thereafter presented to the Council for consideration and adoption.
There are several points which must be established. As a threshold matter, the precincts, and in some cases the polling location therefor, will likely change after reapportionment. Moreover, a smaller number of precincts and polling places constitute significant cost savings. The polling places identified will likely continue to be used after reapportionment since they are conveniently located and afford easy points of ingress and egress. Finally, the location of the early voting locations in the Parish will remain unchanged.”
At this juncture, I summarize several principles from the election code which one must grasp in order to understand the necessity for changing precinct boundaries.
• A “precinct” is the smallest unit of an area having defined geographical boundaries.
• No precinct shall be wholly contained within the territorial boundaries of another precinct.
• A precinct must reflect less than 2,200 registered voters and at least 300 voters.
• No precinct shall consist of more than one district seat as regards a parish governing authority.
• WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, precincts established after reapportionment/redistricting cannot be merged or consolidated until 2023.
• Precincts are based upon the district lines of the parish governing authority.
• A “polling location” is the site where voting takes place. One polling place is required for each precinct; however, a parish governing authority shall, to the extent possible, locate multiple precincts in a polling location to accommodate efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and the conveniency of voters.
Hence, as the governing authority of the Parish, the Council must adopt Ordinance Summary Number 1360-OR or a similar edict establishing precincts. At a meeting on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, among Mike Hefner, Becky Patin and Tricia Hammond (Office of Clerk of Court), Patricia Guidry (Registrar of Voters), and myself, it was determined that the precinct number and description could not be changed until 2023, much to our chagrin. However, on the afternoon of May 12, 2022, Mr. Hefner telephoned my office advising that a conference that day between him and election officials with the Secretary of State reflected that once the School Board’s redistricting is completed, it is likely the precincts identified in Summary Number 1360-OR will be subject of merger or consolidation before any of the elections scheduled for this year. In short, the exception referenced on page two is applicable to the extant situation.
This process is indeed somewhat confusing and time consuming. Indeed, it is unfortunate that the blend of federal and state elections principles does not allow for a more efficient process on the heels of redistricting. However, the Mr. Hefner, Becky Patin and her staff, Patricia Guidry, and I will diligently pursue all avenues available to address the merger/consolidation of precincts, and the selection of appropriate/convenient polling places as quickly as possible. Everyone for obvious reasons seek to avoid both the creation of unnecessary precincts and then changing them after only a few months.
I trust that you will find the foregoing information beneficial to understanding the process.
RENEWAL OF SALES TAX FOR SALES TAX DISTRICT 1
As all of you are acutely aware, the renewal of the one cent sales tax for Sales Tax District #1 was approved by the voters on April 30, 2022. The proposition passed by a vote of 73% to 27%. I am deeply appreciative of the positive vote and all of those who supported this critical proposition. I know that you share my sentiments. I would be remiss if I did not extend special recognition to my executive secretary, Lesley Thibodeaux, and to your Clerk, Brooke Gillespie. Both of them, ON THEIR ON TIME, helped prepare the advertisements/flyers setting forth the parameters of the tax and setting up numerous locations for the presentations of the proposition.
I have instructed our Director of Public Works to commence the preparation of a list of roads which are in need of RECONSTRUCTION as opposed to mere overlay. I am certain that he will be in contact with most of you in this endeavor. Once this list is completed, an estimated cost for such reconstruction, per road, will be established after which I will then explore the wisdom of leveraging a portion of the prospective tax proceeds for bonding a comprehensive reconstruction endeavor. This scenario will permit the Parish to continue to maintain our roads AND concomitantly address those roads will must be reconstructed. Of course, I will keep you apprised of this process.
We are cognizant of the need to “stripe” many of our roads. As such, the following roads have been selected for enhanced signage and striping as part of the Local Road Safety Program administered through the Louisiana Technical Assistance Program (“LTAP”). The roads selected for this project are:
o Breaux Bridge Senior High School Road from Doyle Melancon to La. 3039
o Bayou Fuselier Road from La. 93 (Bayou Courtableau) to McVeigh Road
o Bayou Portage from La. 3083 (Bayou Alexander) to Terminus
o Bordelon Road from La. 328 (Anse Broussard) to La. 347 (Grand Point)
o Capritto Road from La. 96 (Terrace) to Cypress Island
o Chess Broussard Road from the Lafayette Parish line to Sawmill
o Johnson Road from Jim Sells to La. 678 (Grand Anse)
o Leed Champagne Road from Paul Joseph to Russo Milazzo
o Melvin Dupuis Road from La. 328 (Anse Broussard) to La. 347 (Grand Point)
o Poche Bridge Road from La. 31 (Main Hwy.) to La. 328 (Anse Broussard)
o Salt Mine Hwy from La. 94 (Mills Hwy) to Sawmill
o Section 28 Road from La. 96 (Catahoula Hwy) to La. 3039 (Nursery)
o Stephensville Road from La. 70 to Pontoon Bridge Road
o True Friend Road from La. 31 to La. 31
o Will Angelle Road from La. 347 (Bushville Hwy) to La. 686 (Coteau Rodaire)
The estimated cost for the striping and signage is $864,000.00 and will be funded totally (no match) by the LTAP. I am currently awaiting an Entity/State Agreement for this endeavor.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, several of the roads identified herein are in dire need of striping now. Therefore, if we cannot secure a reasonable time frame for the striping under the LTAP program, it may be necessary we perform some limited striping on selected roads. I have requested that Kasey Courville closely monitor this matter.
ANIMAL CONTROL SHELTER
Brooke Kaufmann, the director of our Animal Control Shelter has resigned her position, effective at the end of this month. Dr. Kaufmann actually submitted her resignation several weeks ago based upon her husband having secured a job in the Covington area. Of course, while we are disappointed in losing her as an employee, we are nonetheless pleased with this opportunity for her and her family. During the last week of April and the first week of May, we interviewed several quality candidates to replace Dr. Kaufmann. As suspected, none of the candidates were licensed veterinarians. In fact, very few shelters in the area are managed by veterinarians.
In any case, we have selected Dr. Kaufmann’s replacement who fortunately has vast experience in the operation of public shelters. The replacement is Andrea Mire who will be starting during the week of May 16, 2022. Thus, she will have the opportunity to work directly with Dr. Kaufmann several weeks before her departure. Moreover, Ms. Mire is intimately familiar with our shelter and lives in St. Martinville, approximately one mile from the shelter. She currently works at the Lafayette Parish shelter. The transition of management at the shelter will be facilitated by the fact that Ms. Mire is Dr. Kaufmann’s mother.
The Parish’s usage of diesel has risen substantially over the last several months which is positive since it reflects that our crews have been engaged in a great deal of activity. However, the cost of diesel has risen substantially over the last several months and the prices continue to rise developments which most assuredly are NOT positive. As a point of reference, I note that the monthly cost of our diesel usage has risen from $37,560.29 in December to $62,004.53 for April. Just yesterday, I read a report about a growing shortage of diesel fuel. Therefore, I have commenced an evaluation of this issue and note the following.
There are two types of diesel fuel. One type is “road diesel” also referred to as “clean diesel.” The other type is off-road diesel which has a red dye and hence is often referred to as “red diesel.” The clean diesel contains an additive mandated by federal regulation and is subject to a special federal tax while off-road diesel is not. Consequently, there is a substantial cost difference between the two types of diesel.
All of our “yellow” equipment consume diesel as well as several of our road vehicles. Moreover, diesel is utilized for occasional burning associated with the snagging of vegetative material from our numerous canals.
I have personally conferred with the dealers/lessors of our “yellow” equipment and they have confirmed that off-road diesel can, without any harm, be utilized in such equipment. Any on-road vehicle, however, must use clean diesel. The red diesel is sold primarily in bulk only. Of course, red diesel can be used for any burning of vegetative materials.
Therefore, I am considering locating tanks at various locations for the acquisition, storage, and dispensation of red diesel, all in an effort to stymie the increase expenses. However, the cost and maintenance of such tanks must be evaluated, as well associated expenses and logistical issues with personnel having to obtain fuel at limited locations. Regardless, this is an issue which must be explored. I have been advised that the Parish used to maintain its own diesel but discontinued the practice for reasons which may now be subject to remediation/control. I will keep you posted.
CECILIA RURAL HEALTH CLINIC
Bids on the proposed Cecilia Rural Health Clinic were received on May 10, 2022. The projected construction budget for the renovations was $650,000.00. However, every single bid received was substantially in excess of the estimated costs and budget. A recapitulation of the bids received are as follows:
L. Michaud Construction, LLC: $859,171.00
ARL Construction, Inc.: $980,000.00
Master Builders & Specialist, Inc.: $994,977.00
Buillard Construction Co., Inc. : $1,020,000.00
VPG Construction: $1,181,000.00
This is indeed disappointing and, frankly, surprising. The architect from Ochsner Lafayette General has advised that his firm will explore alternatives that may reduce the costs of the project. I note that the architectural firm has substantial experience in the design of health care facilities and has done substantial work on behalf of the Ochsner network.
As a point of reference, the facility contains 3,638 square feet which computes to a per square foot renovation cost of $236.17 based solely on the low bid of L. Michaud Construction. The average of all bids received is $1,007,029.60. I have been informed that any construction project in today’s environment reflects about 15% to 20% increased costs above the norm.
It would not be unwise to recount from my prior reports the recent journey associated with this project to understand our extreme disappointment about the bids:
April 21, 2021:
“The previous technology building next to Paul Angelle Park in Cecilia has been vacant for several years and provides no service currently for anyone. Moreover, you will recall that in 2017, Hospital District No. 1 was abolished and pursuant to an Intergovernmental Agreement with St. Landry Parish, the assets were divided. Last year, I completed the necessary transactions which resulted in the Parish receiving the bulk of the accumulated cash, approximately $800,000. These proceeds were the product of ad valorem taxes paid by the residents in northern St. Martin Parish and a portion of St. Landry Parish, the area embraced by the jurisdictional boundaries of the former HSD #1. The taxes were imposed and paid for the express purpose of health care.
Although, the current proceeds can be used for general purposes, I concluded that it would be improper not to research whether there was the potential to use the money for healthcare pursuits within the jurisdictional boundaries of the former HSD#1. In early 2020, I began to explore potential healthcare uses in region, but my efforts were thwarted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. I have now re-instituted an evaluation of my plans which are set forth below.
First, it cannot be argued that there is a need for healthcare services in the northern region of the Parish. Second, there is the former technology center, now vacant, situated next to Paul Angelle Park in the heart of the St. Martin Parish portion of the former HSD #1 district. Third, there are proceeds which can be utilized to renovate the building so as to accommodate healthcare pursuits. Therefore, I met with representatives of Ochsner Lafayette General relative to the conversion of that facility into a wellness/community care facility and the confection of an accord whereby they would lease and operate it, reserving the right to use a part of the facility to operate our health unit. Ochsner Lafayette General has embraced the concept, and jointly, we have commenced studying the cost of renovation and defining the parameters of a prospective agreement. We are proceeding in much the same manner as with Ochsner St. Martin Hospital. I am excited and optimistic about the prospect of this plan becoming a reality.
Moreover, this idea blends very well with my plans of consolidating the Breaux Bridge Health Unit and Cecilia Health Unit, with the product being one facility situated in Cecilia. Of course, I will keep you updated as we proceed with this endeavor.”
December 21, 2021:
“In July 2021, preliminary estimates for the cost to renovate the former technology center to accommodate medical clinicians and to possibly house a behavioral unit specializing in opioid addictions fell well within our budgetary abilities. Furthermore, in accordance with my previous presentations to you relative to the use of a portion of the Parish’s ARPA funds for the construction of the clinic, and pursuant to the recently adopted 2022 budget, construction plans have now been finalized. As I prepare this report, I am awaiting receipt of an operational agreement from Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center which will define the monthly lease/management fee to be paid to the Parish as well as other terms and conditions of the accord. This project is possible as a result of the funds which the Parish received in the agreement with St. Landry Parish upon the abolition of the former Hospital Services District No. 1 which included portions of both St. Martin and St. Landry Parishes. Furthermore, these funds originated from a millage dedicated to providing healthcare services to the abolished district. Although not legally required, the use of the funds for healthcare pursuits satisfies the conditions and purposes of the millage as approved and authorized by the electorate.
The facility, as designed, will have the capability to house at least two physicians and have six exam rooms and a fully functional laboratory. If all proceeds as planned, the project should be let for bids in January or February of 2022.
I will continue to regularly meet with Ochsner representatives to insure we keep this project on track, and I will keep each of you informed of the progress we make in this endeavor to provide quality medical services to our rural communities.”
February 16, 2022:
“As alluded to previously, the project continues to move forward. The final plans and specifications are near completion and thus submission for bids. Note that the architectural firm preparing the specifications and plans for the renovation frequently works with Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center and is acutely experienced in the design of such facilities.
More importantly, I will be requesting the introduction and adoption of an ordinance approving the operational agreement with Ochsner Lafayette General for the facility. Since the accord will be in the nature of a lease, an ordinance is required as opposed to a resolution. The proposed agreement provides for a term of five (5) years and will compensate the parish at a monthly rate of $3,750.00. All employees (physicians and nurse practitioners included) assigned to the Clinic will be associated/employed by LGMC which will also be responsible for all professional liability insurance for them. All equipment and furniture will be provided by LGMC at its cost. It will be the sole responsibility of LGMC to insure the contents of the facility. Moreover, the area will be segregated by a fence identical to that which currently surrounds the park in which it is located.
The terms of the agreement provide all of the terms and conditions previously identified herein. Furthermore, I have requested that Mr. Durand provide a ‘second set of eyes’ and review the proposed agreement. He has concluded that the proposed accord is indeed favorable for the Parish.”
April 19, 2022
“The lease agreement with LGMC has now been executed and the final renovation plans are complete. Advertisement for the bids for the project has commenced with the final advertisement scheduled for April 27, 2022. A pre-bid conference is scheduled for Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at the project site. Bids will be received on May 10, 2022, at our offices in St. Martinville.”
At this juncture, I do not recommend we entertain accepting any of the bids. Also, any actual construction cost will entail an upward modification of the monthly rental for the facility which was previously negotiated with Ochsner St. Martin Hospital.
In spite of the high bids, BY NO MEANS HAVE I ABANDONED THIS PROJECT.
ORDINANCE SUMMARY NO. 1358-OR; PROPOSED INCREASE FOR CONSTRUCTION PERMITS
Item 1 of the Agenda for the Administrative/Finance Committee meeting is discussion of Ordinance Summary No. 1358-OR which is a proposed increase in permit fees. Mr. Rodney “Cooney” Richard with Building Code Inspection Services, LLC (“BCIS”) will be present to discuss the basis for his request to increase the permit fees.
It would be prudent to explain the relationship between St. Martin Parish Government and BCIS. By virtue of Act 12 of the Louisiana 2005 Extraordinary Legislative Session, the Uniform Construction Code (“UCC”) was adopted by the state as a consequence of insurance issues which developed after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The UCC mandates that local governmental subdivisions adopt specified standards associated with constructive activities and site preparation. Also, all inspectors of governmental subdivisions must be certified.
Because of the expertise which Code officers must possess, most rural jurisdictions such as St. Martin Parish and its municipalities contracted with third party firms. BCIS entered into such a contract with St. Martin Parish by virtue of Resolution 10-018-RS adopted in February 2010. It is my understanding that the Parish municipalities followed with similar agreements with BCIS. Since the confection of the contract, BCIS’s services have also been prompt and professional, and there have been few complaints about its work since the original contact. Additionally, BCIS serves as the Parish’s certified flood plain manager.
It has been over eight (8) years since BCIS has increased its charges for permit fees. Therefore, the proposed Ordinance was prepared for your consideration. In view of the technical nature related to building/constructions inspections, Mr. Richard will personally appear and address your questions and concerns. Indeed, at least one Council member has astutely observed that permit fee charges based upon “construction costs” reflects an inherent increase in charges since construction costs, especially in today’s climate, are rising. Hence, this proposition merits close scrutiny. Moreover, any increase in any sort of assessment must be affected by Ordinance under Section 2-11 of the Home Rule Charter.
The following is an update of the ongoing major projects which the Parish has undertaken. This update was prepared by Project Manager Callen Huval:
Herman Dupuis Bridge Replacement:
Demolition is complete with the east approach structure and construction has started on the east crane trestle as well as formwork for the pile caps on the west bank. Heart of Atchafalaya took control of and floated the pontoon to Dick Davis Sunday May 1st. A status meeting is scheduled for May 17th.
Joe Daigre Canal Improvements – Phase I:
The contractor is continuing to lay storm drainage around Lady of the Lake Road, and dredging operations are again postponed due to the down marsh buggy. The contractor has identified a few inconsistencies with required pipe size compared to the size of the canal and will defer to the engineer how to proceed. PW visited the jobsite to look at the additional excavation areas which were mainly located on the section behind the UL Cade Farm. The contractor is to determine the worse locations and advise.
Catahoula Lake Drainage Improvements:
A conference call was held with the engineer and contractor to discuss the dredging operation, including access, staging, entry, and the schedule. Currently the surveyed dike is being reviewed by the engineer to be signed off. Pipe will be trucked in by at the end of next week, with the dredge the following week. It will take a week to get it set up and 2 weeks to fuse the pipeline. Actual dredging will start around the 1st week of June and is to dredge for roughly 30 days. A site visit will take place next Thursday morning to review the site plans and further discuss the dredging operation.
2020 Road Improvements:
The final two roads have been paved, Henry Dore and Domengeaux in Cypress Island. They are currently working on the widening at Rue Bois De Chene. I’m waiting on confirmation about the striping schedule although the contractor has started marking roads to receive striping.
Bayou Pont Brule Drainage Improvements:
A meeting took place with two of the downstream property owners on May 9, 2022. Participating in the meeting were our engineers, myself, Kasey Courville, and President Cedars. It was agreed that the proposed servitude agreements would be re-drafted to include some of property owners’ concerns. It appears that once those issues are incorporated in the servitudes, they will be signed. The engineer will also discuss the investigation of supposed downstream obstructions.
The shop drawings have been reviewed and approved. The dirt pad has been constructed. An updated schedule has been submitted which reflects that in August, they will do the plumbing and electrical rough in, form, and pour the slab. The building delivery is scheduled for 9/6/22, and thereafter the contractor will begin erecting it.
Bayou Benoit Landing:
The contractor mobilized equipment and stripped vegetation Monday May 2nd. The area was proof rolled yesterday May 5th and began receiving materials. The site and levee access were fenced off by the contractor and SMPG further secured the closure. The contractor has begun lifting the site and is currently stockpiling dirt. Riprap should be placed by the end of the week.
Breaux Bridge Manor – Phase II:
QES submitted the preliminary wetland delineation showing one location with 0.73 acres of wetlands. A conference call is being scheduled to discuss.
Joe Daigre Canal Improvements – Phase II:
The engineering contract has been signed and recorded. A kickoff meeting was held on May 13th and included three representatives from DDG, the engineers, Kasey, myself, and President Cedars. Topics discussed included the scope of the H&H model, beginning work on the wetlands delineation, and securing access for field work, not pursuing expansion of the scope, and project deliverables, and invoicing.
4 Mile Bayou Road:
I am following up with FP&C as they are requesting additional information on past road/bridge projects. I provided FP&C the project history and a response has been received. SMPG has been authorized to execute the engineering contract with Fenstermaker.
Bayou Estates Flood Protection:
SMPG is attempting to secure funding and was set to advertise the original floodwall project due to time constraints. For now, the advertisements have been pulled until further notice. OCD is attempting to secure additional funding for the original project.
Spanish Trail Industrial Park Access Road:
The engineer is still awaiting the railroad permit to begin surveying. Data from the tube traffic counts has been submitted to determine peak hours for the more detailed counts and traffic study. Anything received for the City of Broussard related to the MPO project or upcoming neighborhoods, will be included in the study. The railroad permit should not be a major obstacle since the City of Broussard has received a commitment from the railroad.
Duchamp Road Improvements:
The engineer has conducted site visits, and met with Public Works supervisors, to measure the required patching and investigate drainage improvements. He is updating the cost estimates and will prepare options on resurfacing.
The traffic counts required to determine the traffic distribution for geotechnical purposes are scheduled for next week. Surveying will likely be a few weeks out.
Alcide Bonin Roadside Drainage:
The estimated construction cost is $565,378.00. At this point, plans have been submitted by the engineer. PW will compile an estimate budget and determine when to proceed.
Alcide Bonin Bayou Portage Canal:
The estimated construction cost is $1,500,730.78. PW will prepare an estimate budget and determine when to proceed.
The engineering contract is being reviewed by PW relative to the design of the Emile crossing.
A brief meeting was held with the engineer on March 23, 2022, to discuss moving forward by preparing an update to transfer funds and submitting the necessary correspondence to LWI.
Hughes Road Bridge Replacement:
Discuss with PW on a path forward. Cost estimates have been prepared for 2 alternatives: raising the elevation of the road and replacing with a slab wood pile ($633,710) or concrete pile ($668,030) substructure.
Ches Courville Road:
Off system bridge program. Maclean can get approval for the representative board, which is a large percentage of the owners, but DOTD requires 100% of the owners to sign. Future discussions with PW and DOTD will be necessary to resolve.
Auguillard Road Bridge:
Off system bridge program. The engineering firm has contacted me regarding design details, but nothing definitive has been mentioned from DOTD regarding the project. The engineer will be preparing servitudes once designs are updated.
Rookery Road Reconstruction:
The road is to remain closed pending a definitive solution. Further discussion with PW/Fenstermaker will be needed on a path forward. An opinion of probable cost was submitted for 3 alternatives: $668,952.41, $576,410.19, and $663,796.39.
In view of this progress report, I feel constrained to repeat the following comments from my report of February 15, 2022:
The foregoing is a recapitulation of those projects which are currently under construction or simply awaiting the final approval of a regulatory agency, such as Treasury, after confection/award of a contract. It does not include projects still in the planning/design stage such as Ponte Brule, Coulee LaSalle, and Bayou Estates. As regards Ponte Brule, in the next several days, I will be scheduling a update conference with the engineer and our staff on the grant of servitudes for that Project which is the only issue to be addressed before submission of the final specifications for bidding.
At the current time, St. Martin Parish Government has under construction or is awaiting contract approval projects totaling $17,052,000 [now close to $24,000,000]. Moreover, one should not overlook the ARPA project(s) which the Parish has undertaken and/or the Cecilia Health Clinic project previously discussed in this report. Those total costs of those projects are over 4 million dollars.
Without intentionally engaging in any sort of patronization, I respectfully submit that St. Martin Parish Government has been extremely active in undertaking much needed major projects which will yield positive benefits for years. I do not believe that any rural Parish similarly situated can articulate a comparable commentary.”
IMPLEMENTATION OF PARK RULES AND PROCEDURES
St. Martin Parish has invested a great deal of the public’s money in the rehabilitation of our Park facilities. Over the last several months, I have personally inspected our facilities, and, candidly, I am disappointed in the maintenance of them. Indeed, some of you have expressed the same concerns. Therefore, I have adopted specific policies and procedures that will be implemented for outdoor activities at our parks and pavilions, the bulk of which are set forth in the following portions of a memorandum circulated among the administrative staff:
“I have meticulously reviewed the operations of our various parks and recreational facilities. The product thereof has been a determination that changes are necessary in order to ensure that our investments in our facilities are maximized through proper maintenance and public use. Consequently, the following are policies which will be in effect at every park:
1. The outdoor restrooms at each park will be opened at 6:00 A.M. and locked at 8:00 P.M. At least one restroom will remain opened at all times.
2. On a daily basis, the Park custodian shall inspect and clean every restroom. A log should be maintained to reflect the date and time each restroom is cleaned.
3. All pavilions shall similarly be inspected and cleaned daily. This includes removing all trash, leaves, and other similar items.
4. The Park Custodian shall clear all of the Park grounds of any and all trash and other discarded items. The trash containers shall also be emptied. This will also occur on a daily basis.
5. As necessary, the grass shall be trimmed and weed-eating conducted as needed by the Park custodian. The use of herbicides must be kept to a minimum and used only in areas such as beneath bleachers.
6. All playground equipment and surrounding areas shall be inspected daily and any issues which pose a danger to the children using same shall be immediately reported to the Park supervisor. Such “issues” include but are not limited the presence of any root protruding around or near any playground equipment or any defected or broken part of the playground item.
7. The trusty crew under contract with the Sheriff’s Office shall inspect, pressure wash all pavilions, and pressure wash all bleachers once per month. That crew shall also perform detailed maintenance such as inspection and cleaning of playground equipment once a month.
8. Once per week from mid-March through the first week of October, a contractor chosen pursuant to a procurement process shall cut and trim all grass at each Park.
9. All Park custodians shall wear a shirt selected by the administration which identifies him/her as an employee of St. Martin Parish.
10. The duties of Park custodians shall further include other matters embraced by standard maintenance and/or as directed by the supervisor of all of our Parks which is TIMMY PATIN.
As alluded to previously, TIMMY PATIN shall assume the role of the supervisor of all Park and recreational facilities.
Signage at the parks must be maintained. There shall be signage at each Park acknowledging that:
1. No one shall operate a motor vehicle, motorcycle, or all-terrain vehicle within the confines of any park or recreational facility. Excluded are motor vehicles (including motor cycles)used solely for ingress or egress to designated vehicular parking areas and golf carts.
2. Any outdoor playing of music, via live or artificial means, must comply with the noise ordinance in effect for St. Martin Parish.
3. No pavilion shall be subject to the exclusive use of any person or organization unless specifically approved by the Parish via written agreement.
4. Parks by ordinance open for public use at 5:00 A.M. and close at 10:00 P.M.
5. Glass containers are strictly prohibited.”
I have reviewed the tax collection reports for January-April 2022 and offer the following summary/evaluation:
Collections for Sales Tax District #1:
January-April 2022 Net Collections: $1,297,329.60
January-April 2021 Net Collections: $1,171,616.27
Average 2022 Monthly Net Collections: $324,332.40
Average 2021 Monthly Gross Collections: $314,570.88
Average 2020 Monthly Gross Collections: $255,068.66
Collections for Sales Tax District #2:
January-April 2022 Net Collections: $535,655.97
January-April 2021 Net Collections: $394,721.70
Average 2022 Monthly Net Collections: $133,913.99
Average 2021 Monthly Gross Collections: $114,876.97
Average 2020 Monthly Gross Collections: $96,980.88
As evident by the foregoing, the NET amounts collected in January-April 2022 in both districts exceed the average monthly GROS collections in both 2021 and 2020. As regards Sales Tax District No. 1, the January-April 2022 monthly collections are $125,713.33 GREATER than what was collected in January-April 2021. In Sales Tax District #2, January-April 2022 collections were $140,934.27 GREATER than January-April 2021. Furthermore, the collections in both districts for the first quarter of 2022 far exceeded the average monthly GROSS collections for both 2020 and 2021.
As I stated in last month’s report, there are likely several factors at play relative to the increased sales tax collections, one of which is the rising prices associated with the current economic climate. Moreover, I am acutely interested in the impact of remote sales (internet transactions) and am still awaiting an abstract of such collections for the Parish’s tax collecting agent.
The hotel/motel tax collections for January-April 2022 were $79,156.84 compared to 2021 collections of $74,580.77. Noteworthy is that the average monthly collections for 2021 were $26,404.7 while the average collection thus far is $19,789.21. As I previously noted, I anticipate that our hotel/motel collections will increase significantly commencing in the Spring as we experience a return of fairs and festivals in our region. As usual, I again note that this tax is “seasonal” in nature, and hence a comparison of collections during specific “seasons” would be more valuable tool in planning and managing our affairs associated with this tax.
Video Poker revenue for January-April 2022 was $775,880.67. Last year, our collections in that time frame were $739,734.70. You will recall that our 2021 total collections were 35.62% greater than 2020, and I am hopeful this trend will likewise continue. Also, if Senate Bill 16 passes, we can anticipate additional revenue. As I prepare this report, Senate Bill 16 will be presented to House Appropriations Committee this Monday, May 16, 2022. I will appear with Sheriff Breaux before the committee to testify. The substance of this legislative act was explained last month in my report which I repeat as follows:
“Senator Fred Mills has introduced legislation that will potentially increase the amount of video poker revenue which local governing authorities receive from video poker tax revenue. The current law establishes a Video Draw Poker Device Fund and provides for the distribution and expenditure of monies in the fund. Further, proceeds in the fund can be withdrawn only pursuant to appropriation by the legislature and 25% thereof is distributed in the following priority:
1. To provide district attorneys and assistant district attorneys increased compensation not to exceed $5,400,000.
2. Thereafter, to the governing authorities of municipalities in which video poker devices are operated and to the governing authorities of each parish and the sheriff of each parish, to be divided equally between them.
As regards the 75% of the collections, an amount therefrom is allocated to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Department of Justice pursuant to legislative appropriation. All remaining money in the fund is then deposited in the state general fund.
The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 16, provides that any portion of the unexpended or unencumbered funds after the aforementioned 25% allocations shall not revert to the general fund, but must be divided among the local governing authorities and sheriffs without the necessity of appropriation. It is anticipated that St. Martin Parish should receive an additional $300,000 annually if this legislation is enacted.
On April 4, 2022, Sheriff Breaux and I attended the Senate Finance Committee when this bill was considered. The Committee approved the bill and the full Senate passed the act last week. The matter will not be considered by the House of Representatives where passage is expected to be more difficult. I will keep you posted as the bill proceeds through the legislative process.”