Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of August 21, 2018

HENDERSON LAKE DRAWDOWN

On Sunday, August 12, 2018, we closed the gates at the control structure.  At that time the water level had reached 6.15 feet (6’1.8”).  This was as close to ideal as we could expect.  Through the process, no fish kills were reported.  In the event of a major rainfall, working with DWF and upon that agency’s advice, we may have to open the gates for a short period of time.

From this point forward, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will handle the measures associated with the vegetation.  For your edification, according to DWF, of the three problematic plants, giant Salvinia, water hyacinth, and hydrilla, the first two are floating plants and a significant portion likely was stranded on spoil banks, the exposed lake bottom, or shallow puddles.  The stranded plant material will dry and die.  In past drawdowns, some of the stranded plants would root into the wet ground; however, when the water rises in the late fall and winter, those rooted plants could not float and hence was submerged and died because of the lack of sunlight.  With respect to the Salvinia and hyacinth which might be concentrated in the deeper areas of the lake (the south and east sides), DWF advises that its biologists will initiate the spraying of them.

The hydrilla presents a different issue.  Hydrilla is a submerged, aquatic plant, and the areas that have had the highest concentration of it in past are the shallow flats north and south of the I-10 bridge.  Because the areas average approximately three feet in depth, the drawdown target level of 6 feet was of great import.  The reasons are that the areas become exposed to sun and air, causing them to dry and die.  However, when the lake bottom dries and cracks, the roots seek to embed themselves deep into the cracks, and upon the water level rising, they try to compensate by excess growing.  Thus, research suggests the control of the hydrilla is a five-year process.  Finally, hydrilla is a favorite food of grass carp; thus, DWF will stock the lake with this type of fish, supplementing the 25,000 stocked in 2014.

FOUR MILE BAYOU ROAD PAVING

On August 11, 2018, I spoke with the Office of Facility Planning and was advised that my request for a diversion of the capital outlay funds from road repair/reconstruction to bridge repairs had been received and preliminarily vetted.  Hence, I was advised that I could expect correspondence in the “very near future” approving the fund diversion and setting forth minor procedural steps to adopt.

Armed with the foregoing news, I met with Colby Guidry with Huval & Associates (our bridge engineers) and requested that he begin preparation of the final plans for the repairs, explaining to him I wanted to proceed immediately upon formal commitment of the funds from the State.

NIMS TRAINING

On August 14, 2018, myself, several members of the administrative staff, and public works personnel participated in a training session in Federal programs known as the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System.  There were 37 participants in the training and all were certified.  These certifications will enhance our abilities to respond to disasters and to receive FEMA reimbursement for expenses associated therewith (overtime, etc).  In the near future, I will have our supervisors receive additional training in this arena. These steps exemplify our efforts to direct our staff to higher levels of proficiency and efficiency.

OFFICE TRAINING

La. R.S. 42:341, et seq, enacted by virtue of Act 270 of this year’s Legislative Session, requires all public employees receive annually one hour of training in the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Moreover, all public entities must have in place by January a sexual harassment policy. I have contacted an attorney who specializes in employment law and who routinely provides such training.  His services will be engaged to direct the training in sexual harassment prevention and other areas from which I feel our office can obtain significant benefit.  The cost should be minimal.  Revisions to our current policy on sexual harassment was proposed last fall and will again be studied and considered for adoption.  Mr. Durand has proposed a policy which I will also compare to the current Parish policy and the one recently proposed.  I personally will implement the final policy which will reflect what in my experience will yield the greatest dividends for Parish Government.

PUBLIC WORKS OVERTIME

After discussion with our public works supervisors several weeks ago, I enacted a policy which allows our public works employees to receive a minimum of two hours of pay whenever they must PHYSICALLY respond to an afterhours situation.  If the emergency call consumes more than two hours, they will be compensated for the actual hours expended.  I believe this to be a fair policy.

BUILDING CODE VIOLATIONS AND NUISANCE ISSUES

On August 16, 2018, I met with Mr. Rodney “Cooney” Richard, Heath Babineaux and Holli Guilbeau.   At my request, also present was our attorney, Allan Durand.  The purpose of our conference was to discuss two matters.  One involves a situation on Jack Dwyer Road where the owner(s) of the premises has several mobile structures which are being used as living quarters.  These properties are in violation of our zoning ordinances and several related building code provisions.  Moreover, the area is a clear violation of our nuisance ordinances since it reflects accumulated materials and is outright unkept.   Several pit bulls were recently placed on the property in what I postulate is an attempt to frustrate our enforcement of pertinent codes and ordinances.

Meanwhile, on Potato Shed Road, the owner of tract of land is in the process of constructing a multi-story building without any permit.  Likewise, the structure is obviously being built in violation of several building codes.  When Mr. Babineaux and Mr. Richard visited the site to discuss this issue, they were ordered to leave the premises by the owner/occupant.

Because of the serious nature of the two matters, and because I consider them an affront and challenge to our land use ordinances, I instructed Mr. Durand to immediately file suit seeking mandatory and prohibitory injunctive relief.  To the extent these owners wish to challenge the authority of St. Martin Parish, I suggest we accept their invitation.  Mr. Durand acted immediately and presented both lawsuits to me for signature on Monday morning.

ENTERPRISE LEASE OF VEHICLES

On August 23, 2018, I will be meeting with a representative of Enterprise, the firm from whom the Parish leases its vehicles.  I will avail myself of this opportunity to discuss the term of our current lease agreement and vet whether we would benefit from reducing the number of vehicles we currently lease.  It may be beneficial and cost saving to have more “pool vehicles” and less assigned units.

APPOINTMENT OF HEARING OFFICERS

As you know, Ordinance Number 18-06-1227-OR authorizes the appointment of hearing officers to address nuisance complaints and conduct all proceedings in connection therewith.  It is the objective of this ordinance to remove the Council from having to expend time in addressing such issues and to expedite our nuisance remediation process.  Therefore, I have met with two attorneys who are willing to serve in that capacity.  You will consider the approval of my appointment of them under Item 3 of the Administrative/Finance Committee Agenda.  The attorneys are Lee Durio and Justin Cantu, both of whom are St. Martin Parish residents.