Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of February 19, 2019

As I previously advised you, the coordinator of our animal control shelter resigned effective February 28, 2019. Moreover, you will recall that I has previously extended the contract with the current veterinarian for the shelter. Note that she has for the past year been, essentially, a full-time contractee. Upon our coordinator’s resignation, I gave the question of her replacement a great of thought with an eye on maintaining the high standards the shelter has set and realized. It became obvious to me that the perfect person to operate/supervise the shelter would be Dr. Kaufman, our contract veterinarian. Hence, I immediately commenced negotiations with her and am pleased to report she has acceptance the directorship of the facility. She will become a salaried employee at the same rate of compensation as her current contract. Of course, we are still short on personnel, but I am confident an agent will be hired shortly. Not only will we experience a reduction in salary/contract expense, but the ability to have a veterinarian on staff as an employee will yield immeasurable dividends. Also, Ms. Brignac, our current coordinator, has requested permission to volunteer her services as needed, an entreaty which both Dr. Kaufman and I wholeheartedly embrace.

On Monday, February 11, 2019, both our newly appointed directors (Administration and Public Works) assumed their respective duties. To declare that they “hit the floor running” would be an understatement. Nonetheless, our office is indeed in a “learning process” in view of their much-needed presence. Lines of authority and expectations are being established and re-established in many areas. As Parish President, I too am adjusting to having a full staff upon whom I can rely. Of grave import is the fact that the entire office has signed on to these positive developments and have displayed great confidence in this new era of Parish Government. I cannot thank our employees enough for their support, and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the strong foundation my predecessor left for us to build upon. Nonetheless, I ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we proceed with this transition.

A significant change with a Director of Public Works on board will be the administration of major infrastructure projects. Public Works embraces any infrastructure project inclusive of major “bond” and drainage projects and parks and recreation improvements. Thus, I am indeed hopeful, and fully expect, that we will be in a position to receive from our various architects and engineers more up-to-date data on the progress of these projects. Furthermore, Heath Babineaux will now have in-house assistance and guidance, thus allowing him to concentrate his efforts more effectively and cogently.

For a myriad of reasons which I have previously disclosed, I made the decision to seek RFP’S for waste disposal services. Our current contract for such services expires on April 30, 2019. The RFP’s were issued on February 1, 2019. On Thursday, February 21, 2019, there will be a Pre-Proposal Conference at 2:00 P.M. at our office to review the RFP’S with interested respondents and to answer any questions. Responses to the RFP’S must be received on or before March 13, 2019. The evaluation committee will consist of a representative of Sellers and Associates and our two new directors. On March 22, 2019, a recommendation will be made and at your meeting on April 2, 2019, I will ask for the new contract to be awarded. Please note that at the March meeting I will seek an introduction of an ordinance granting the successful respondent a franchise, all as required by our Home Rule Charter.

The new contract for waste disposal services will have several features which I believe will improve and enhance our current waste program. Each residence will receive a recyclable cart of no less than a 64-gallon capacity. Yard waste will not have to be in four-foot bundles. Days of service will remain the same except that we will have one day of recyclable collections. The provider will be subject to specified penalties in the event it fails to timely respond to a collection failure. Any equipment older than 10 years cannot be used to collect refuse unless the Parish approves. These conditions, according to our consultant and my independent research, are fairly standard today.

Finally, a reduction in the deficits we have been experiencing together with a franchise fee which will not be consumed by applying it as part of the offset of a deficit (as it has been used in the past) can now be a source for the sponsorship of, at least twice a year, a hazardous waste collection day-something long overdue.

You will recall that on March 28, 2018, the voters of Hospital Service District #2 approved a millage to fund a bond issue for improvements to St. Martin Hospital. I am pleased to announce that the final plans for the facility have been prepared and construction will commence in July of this year. I have invited the architect for the project and representatives from HSD #2 to appear at our meeting on April 2, 2019, to share with you the specific plans and drawings and answer any of your questions relative to this project. It is an honor to attend the meetings associated with this facility and capture the progressive and prudent visions becoming a reality. As such, I invite you to evaluate other regions of our state and compare their healthcare facilities with our state of the art and nationally recognized hospital complex which actually services all of St. Martin Parish and not just the HSD #2 area.

All of the plans for the bridge replacement and repairs to the Potato Shed Road Bridge and Four Mile Bayou Bridges have been completed. On February 13, 2019, I signed the Corps permit applications for both structures. As you are aware, the Army Corps of Engineers must approve the final plans which our engineers do not expect to present any issue. The permit application process should consume 45-60 days at most with the Four Mile Bridges taking a little longer because of the requirement for a Coastal Permit. However, I suggested to our engineers that we proceed with the bid process during the approval process. They saw no problem with that suggestion and thus, I anticipate that bids will be solicited any day now.

Under Item 3 of your agenda for the Public Works Committee meeting is a proposed flood plain ordinance prepared by Mr. Durand upon my request and the recommendation of Mr. Rodney “Cooney” Richard. The latter’s firm is certified to administer such ordinances. I would like to introduce the ordinance at the March meeting and therefore request that you review the proposed ordinance and be prepared to discuss it in detail at our committee meeting that month. The edict can be acted upon at the April meeting. I will request that Mr. Richard be present at both of the aforementioned meetings to answer any questions you may have. Similarly, our Public Works Director will be available to suggest changes/revisions and to also comment upon any technical issues.

I have completed the confection of our insurance program for 2019. The total cost of our insurance coverage is itemized below:
Liability and Casualty: $526,583.75
Professional Liability: $9,563.00
Workers Compensation: $181,407.00
Healthcare: $1,759,143.00
TOTAL $2,476,696.75

I closely vetted our program with our agents and several coverages were declined for various reasons, the most significant ones being that we simply did not have a need therefor although in a couple of instances we have had the unnecessary coverages for several years as part of a “package.” Simply put, I changed the package. Of significant interest in that our liability and D & O coverages were increased from $1 million to $2 million per claim.

The percentage increase for both liability and casualty coverages was 7.69% which included the additional million dollars of protection. The percentage increase for our healthcare coverage was 2% which is extremely modest.

There are several ideas which our agent and I discussed which will hopefully lower our rates for next without compromise to our level and quality of coverage. I will diligently pursue those options.

Overall, I was pleased with the program offered by the PJAL. My biggest complaint is that there were too many breakout sessions scheduled at the same time. I believe we ought to extend the day for the sessions or have an extra half day or so. I intend to confer with the Executive Director and discuss this issue and suggest other topics of interest to local government including: servitude issues, obligations of Parishes relative to jails and the judicial system (judges and district attorneys), and more effective lobbying tools. It was interesting to note that the problems we encounter in our Parish are no different than those of others throughout the State.

The Industrial Park water facility, which is under our exclusive control, currently markets water services to several private companies and independent water districts. Near the middle of the fourth quarter last year, we installed a new meter to monitor the amount of water we have been providing. I have undertaken a meticulous review of our water rates and have instructed the staff to prepare for my benefit an analysis of the cost of producing potable water. My strong suspicions are that our rate structure needs to be adjusted substantially. I will keep you apprised of the fruits of my research.

Moreover, I previously reported to you that Sellers and Associates has been commissioned to engage in a study/analysis of Waterworks District No. 4 to ascertain what infrastructure needs must be addressed and to locate potential funding sources. Likewise, a study will be made of the potential for waterlines to be run along La. Highway 94 with a close eye being directed to potential agreements with water providers in that region. This work is still ongoing and recent discourse reflect that census data for the affected areas is being accumulated, a task which has taken more effort and time than anticipated. In any regard, I again invite each of you to confer with me so that I can share with you my ideas. I do not want to discuss any concepts publicly because one may be constrained to view them as promises or representations. The development of my concepts is a process that will consume significant time.

Our Director of Administration and I have commenced independent reviews of the proposed updated policy manual for the Parish. As soon as our tasks are completed, we will review jointly our findings and conclusions with the firm which helped prepare the first draft. Frankly, I do not anticipate any major edits, especially as regards those portions which I personally drafted. I will keep you abreast of this matter and hope to soon present a final document for your approval.