Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of April 16, 2019

The Parish continues to pursue the implementation of enhanced waste disposal services. I re-affirm my commitment that any waste disposal program will meet several objectives: adequate services; a quality provider; acceptable costs; and the elimination of the sever deficits which have been associated with the current program. The objectives will continue to drive the negotiations as opposed to any other undue influences.

For several months, I have been exploring avenues for the replacement of the Pontoon Bridge in Butte LaRose. The maintenance costs for the structure continue to rise. On May 7, 2019, the Council will be asked to adopt a resolution authorizing the issuance of bonds to be dedicated to the construction of a new bridge. The repayment of the bonds will be limited, solely and exclusively, to GOMESA receipts. No other encumbrance of Parish funds will be obligated, and NO taxes will be imposed. The replacement of the Pontoon Bridge is long overdue.

We have commenced the installation of our “Welcome” and “Thanks for Visiting” signage throughout the Parishes. The signs were installed last week in 10 separate locations at the Parish line: on La. Highway Numbers: 93, 347, 686, 94, 96, 92, 31, 347 at the intersection of 686, 345, and 182. We are awaiting DOTD permits for Highway 70 in the communities of Stephensville and Belle River. I have received numerous calls complimenting the Parish on the signs.

Bids on the replacement of Potato Shed Road Bridge are currently being advertised. The bid opening is scheduled for May 7, 2019. I will ask for a special meeting on May 21, 2019, to accept the low bid. This is the date of the scheduled committee meetings and a special meeting will be necessary to adopt an ordinance on the setting of our 2019 millage rates. It is anticipated that construction will commence within 45 days thereof at the most. You should note that the new structure will be a 6 span bridge totaling 120 feet. The piling will be concrete as opposed to timber because of the results of mandated soil borings. Frankly, I am somewhat concerned about the costs of the project because of the requirement for concrete pilings. It was originally the intent to bid for timber pilings with concrete pilings being an alternate.

Advertisement for this project commenced on March 27, 2019. A pre-bid conference is scheduled for April 17, 2019. The bid opening is scheduled for April 30, 2019. If we accept the low bid at your regular meeting on May 7, 2019, construction can commence within 45 days. The construction timetable is 180 working days.

We have adequate funding for these Restore Act Projects: Floating Piers at Catahoula Lake and Uncle Dick Davis Park, the raising of the landing at Bayou Benoit, and the Pavilion/Restroom project in Arnaudville. On Thursday, April 11, 2019. I met with DDG and instructed the firm to continue with the first three projects which means that construction MAY likely commence this year-the unknown in the process being the USACOE permitting process. As regards the Pavilion in Arnaudville, I am schedule to confer with the engineer working on that project next week so that the approval process through the Restore Act Council can be initiated without any undue delay.

The high water issues in Stephensville-Belle River seem to have at last stabilized somewhat. On Thursday, April 4, 2019, the area received almost 5 inches of torrential rain in a matter of four hours or so. Given the water levels before this downpour, the pumping system in place simply could not keep pace with the rise in water levels associated with the rain event. When we learned of the unexpected situation, public works personnel and our OEP Director were immediately dispatched to the area and the distribution of sand bags initiated. Our public works employees are again to be congratulated for their hard, ceaseless work over the course of the days following the aforementioned rain event. Many of our crew actually slept in their vehicles over the weekend. Shane Bailey who is assigned to that area did, and continues to do, a yeoman’s job, and I am particularly impressed with his efforts and dedication. From Thursday, April 4, 2019, to the following Wednesday, we distributed an additional 30 thousand bags of sand (without our bagging equipment which was inoperable), which brings to over 70,000 the number of bags of sand distributed since March 6, 2019. Additionally, approximately one mile of poly piping has been laid in various areas in order to combat the flooding issues.

On Friday, April 12, 2019, I toured the area with our Directors of Public Works and Administration, as well our Projects Manager. While there, we coordinated a plan for the deployment of public works personnel relative to rain which was being forecast for the weekend. As I prepare this report on Saturday, the projected rain may not be as bad as previously projected. Nonetheless, the Parish remains prepared to address any situation as promptly and effectively as possible.

Finally, I wish to recognize several employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty relative to these issues. I will do so at a Council meeting once the situation has passed.

On Friday, April 12, 2019, I learned that approval by the United States Army Corps of Engineers of the disposal site associated this project must be subjected to what is known as a “cultural survey”. The survey must be conducted by a “qualified firm listed with the State Historic Preservation Office,” and can be relatively expensive and time consuming. The objective of such a survey is to identify and record all cultural resources within the area of the disposal site. A “cultural resource” includes prehistoric Native American habitation sites, historical farmstead sites, standing structures, or other man-made features such as earthworks, old roadbeds, or cemeteries. It embraces records searches, fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and report preparation.

The Army Corps of Engineers has concluded that the disposal site is a “POTENTIALLY eligible prehistoric midden site.” A midden is defined as an old dump for domestic waste which MAY consist of animal bone, human excrement, botanical material, lithics, and other artifacts.
Upon being notified by ACOE that no permit approving the site would be issued until completion of the mandated “cultural survey,” the project engineers sought reconsideration of that decision on several bases, the most notably ones being that the site has been actively used for agricultural pursuits for decades and the project was for disposal only and no excavation which would disturb the site any greater than the agricultural activities which had been conducted for years. The Corps would not relent from its position, however.
I have advised our Director of Public Works, Martin Poirrier, to proceed with selecting the appropriate firm to conduct the survey and to secure an estimated cost and time frame associated with the survey. I will keep you apprised of the developments in this respect. I will refrain from commenting on what I think about this expensive, seemingly unnecessary, and time-consuming regulatory (over regulatory) mandate.

As you are aware, since 2016 the Parishes which compose the 16th Judicial District (St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary) have been compelled to supplement the criminal court fund for the district to the “tune” of $1 million annually. St. Martin Parish’s share is $266,000 per year. However, this amount is not the TOTAL which the Parish pays for the operations of the Judges and District Attorney. The amount our Parish expends for the judicial system, and the foregoing supplemental sum does not include the indirect costs associated with the offices. In any regard, the deficit in the criminal court fund continues to grow despite deep cuts which the District Attorney has made in his office. Moreover, criminal court fund revenue has decreased significantly and is projected to experience continue decreases especially in view of recently enacted criminal justice reform legislation. Therefore, better planning among the Parishes in the 16th JDC and the DA/Judges is essential. Also, I postulate that a permanent funding source should be secured. Hence, I have arranged conferences among the Parish Presidents, their respective CFO’S/Finance Directors, the DA, and Judges. Our first meeting is Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. in New Iberia. I am hopeful that a dialogue among the principals will help introduce a solution to this growing problem.