Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of December 18, 2018
PROPOSED YOUNGSVILLE ANNEXATION
Item 1 of the agenda for the Administrative/Finance Committee meeting addresses the contemplation of the City of Youngsville to annex significant areas of St. Martin Parish. The area under consideration embraces a significant portion of Highway 90 and our industrial park. Noteworthy is the fact that no residences are included. Although no formal action has been taken by Youngsville via any petition for annexation or an ordinance, I found it prudent to address this matter with you now. Moreover, I have met with the Mayor of Youngsville, the Chief of Police, and members of the Mayor’s staff. As a result, it is my understanding that the justification for the annexation is that Youngsville supposedly can provide lower rates for fire insurance and better response time as regards law enforcement. At this time, I am not convinced of either of those propositions; however, I am convinced that the primary purpose is REVENUE DRIVEN.
LET ME LEAVE NO UNCERTAINTY ABOUT MY POSITION-I AM ADAMANTLY OPPOSED! My opposition has as its genesis the principle that annexation is not and has never been, under the law of the State of Louisiana, for the sole purpose of acquiring revenue sources.
An examination of various fiscal parameters is also in order. I have met with our Assessor and obtained the following information. The total assessed value of the property to annexed is $13,514.85. The companies occupying the property have inventory assessed at $47,110,813. Included are at least one video poker outlet. An additional sales tax of 2.5% would follow the annexation (Youngsville’s current sales tax rate). The fact that the revenue stream of St. Martin Parish would likely not be significantly impacted does not assuage the bases of my objections for the reasons expressed earlier.
Out of fairness, the Mayor of Youngsville has been open and candid with me thus far. Furthermore, the Mayor advises that the additional tax revenue imposed by the City of Youngsville would be shared with the Parish-he has proposed sharing the sales tax revenue at the rate of one- half cent. Also, no formal action has been taken by Youngsville nor any written proposal submitted to my Office.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not express my belief that most past and anticipated annexations of municipalities within our Parish have likewise captured my attention and engendered strong feelings as expressed herein. Simply put-annexations for revenue purposes, or other reasons beyond the provision of services and logical growth is improvident.
HEARING OFFICER PROCEEDINGS
On November 30, 2018, the newly appointed hearing officers for nuisance/blighted property held their first proceedings. Both of them conducted the proceedings in a professional, thorough, and fair manner. Their decisions were made immediately and proper penalties were imposed and reasonable deadlines for remediation of the offending conditions were set. It is my entrenched belief that the actions of the Council in enacting the necessary ordinances will pay priceless dividends in the future. Of course, the effective regulation of nuisance issues is a process and will take time before general recognition of success.
ETHICS AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT TRAINING
The mandated Ethics training and the legally mandated sexual harassment training transpired on November 29, 2018. The latter session will not be required until 2019; however, I felt we could implement the training now in conjunction with the Ethics training. Both sessions were well attended and received. In the future, I intend to have these presentations structured in less of a legal dissertation and more from a pragmatic perspective; i.e., submission of actual scenarios with potential resolutions discussed.
SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL FUND
Two significant observations are in order. First, despite my meeting with Waste Management personnel on October 15, 2018, wherein I was promised a response to a number of concerns expressed to them, I have heard neither hide nor hair from them. Second, it seems that complaints about Waste Management services have increased although I have no record of exactly how many complaints have been received.
Because of the ongoing monthly deficits associated with the waste disposal fees and the failure of our current provider to offer any proposed solution thereto, as well as other concerns, by certified mail dated December 12, 2018, I advised Waste Management that its contract which is scheduled to expire on March 31, 2018, would not be renewed. Instead, I intend to seek Request for Proposals for waste disposal services. Sellers and Associates has been retained to prepare and administer the Request for Proposals. One condition of the Request for Proposals is that all billings and collections will be handled by the provider. This is, in my view, the most fair and effective manner in which to address the growing deficit in our program.
UPDATED POLICY MANUAL
I have carefully reviewed our current policy manual and have determined that it is outdated, and in many areas, it is deficient because of legislative enactments and the growth of Parish operations. As such, the manual is currently being revised by the firm of NeunerPate which represents the Parish is most complex litigation. Furthermore, I have personally rewritten portions of the manual and added sections including the use of social media, overtime, and new designations of part-time employees. One significant area being researched is how to handle supplemental healthcare for Medicare eligible retirees without compromise to coverage. I also note that a focal point of the revision is a pragmatic definition of “retiree.” I will keep you informed as we proceed in this much needed and long overdue endeavor.
ANIMAL SHELTER CHANGES
In my last report, I noted that “because of budgetary constraints, and in an effort to stymie ‘six figure’ deficits in the animal shelter budget, I have implemented several changes in the operation of the shelter.” The shelter will no longer offer free spraying or neutering services to the general public. Additionally, the shelter will be open for 5 days per week as opposed to being open 6 days. A full- time position has been eliminated. I have also instructed that both adoption and surrender fees be increased. Under Item 10 of the agenda for the Administrative Committee meeting, you will be asked to authorized the confection of a contract with our current in-staff veterinarian. This continues the practice commenced last year and the cost is in our 2019 budget. Nonetheless, I am currently studying alternatives and/or ways to recover this expense.
WASTE DISPOSAL ORDINANCES
Under Item 4 of the agenda of the Administrative Committee Meeting is a proposed ordinance concerning waste collection activities. This proposed edict seeks to address several concerns about which a number of citizens have complained. My independent research reflects that other communities have adopted similar ordinances. One section of the ordinance prohibits anyone other than the contracted collector from rummaging through recyclable materials on a curbside while the other section mandates that the resident remove his containers within twenty-four (24) hours of collection. Both sections have safety components as part of the premises therefor.
Effective December 10, 2018, I have established a written inventory policy which mandates that, no later than March 31, 2019, all assets of St. Martin Parish Government will be inventoried, categorized, and tagged, where applicable. The inventory will include ALL ASSETS including, but not limited to, vehicles (owned or leased), yellow equipment (owned or leased), land and buildings, lawn mowers, furniture, computers, electronic devices, and printers. This list will be updated as assets are disposed of and acquired. The inventory will become part of the Munis management system. One supervisory employee will be assigned to be responsible for the inventory which will be physically reconciled annually. Please advise if any of you wish to review this policy.
Repairs on the Division Road Bridge will commence shortly after the Christmas Holidays. On December 12, 2018, I signed a contract with M. Matt Durand, LLC for the bridge repairs recommended by our engineer. The cost is $65,500, well within the remaining $117,069.27, the balance of the amount budgeted for bridge repairs in the 2018 budget.
On December 13, 2018, our bridge engineer advised that the plans for the replacement of the Potato Shed Road Bridge should be completed by January 1, 2019, at the latest. He anticipates completion of the plans the week of December 17th. The fabrication of new 20’ bridge panels is near completion. Once the plans are prepared, a decision will be made on several options such as timber caps vs. concrete caps. Also, the Army Corps of Engineers will have to weigh in on the project although the engineer advises that the process will not be time consuming in view of the nature of the work. The engineer has advised that:
“A guess on the time frame for construction to begin would be 2 and 4 months from now [November 21, 2018]. The unknown is the permit processing.”
Finally, the Four Mile Bayou Bridges should have all of the plans completed by mid to late January. The plans can then be submitted to the Corps and Office of Facility Planning for approval. The latter is not problematical and should be a routine endeavor; however, the Corps permitting may take longer.
I have authorized the repairs on the courthouse roof to commence asap. The cost will be $13,150.00. Interior work as result of leaking will be $7,090.00. Repairs and re-painting of the outside of the structure will cost $16,000, and I have authorized that work to commence as soon as one other quote is received. Thus, that cost could possibly be less. The covered walkway in the rear of the building needs repairs which will cost $8,050.00. I have authorized that work to commence. Remaining is one section of roof repairs on the northwest side of the building. I am awaiting a cost estimate for these repairs. Several cosmetic repairs will not be undertaken until FY 2020. Also, repairs of the benches in the courtrooms will transpire in the Spring of 2019.
On December 5, 2018, two adjudicated properties were sold at auction. The starting bid price for the properties was $12, 595.00. The successful bids totaled $48,310.00. One tract which sold for $41,100.00 was a former convenience. We have been advised that the successful bidder will re-open the facility which is located at 1615 Anse Broussard Highway. This is the precise purpose of CivicSource-to get fair auction prices and to place the property back into the stream of commerce.
BAYOU ESTATES FLOOD GATE PROJECT
Mo Saleh has now informed us that the project timeline may be delayed one month or so because of the Corps’ desire to verify that there is little or no objections to the alternative plan. Letters of no objection will be circulated during the week of December 17th for submission to the Corps. Mr. Fuselier contacted me and noted that at least three property owners affected by the new plan have not been contacted. Thus, this oversight by our engineer will be addressed without delay.
Our offices will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and New Years Day.
I think that all of us can agree that 2018 was an eventful year with the unexpected resignation of Mr. Cormier. I appreciate the opportunity you gave me to serve our Parish as your President. The support you have given me this past year as I have assumed the Presidency is greatly appreciated and demonstrates your commitment to our Parish.
I wish all of you and your families a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.