Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of January 22, 2019

I will be asking for your confirmation of the ENGINEER I have selected to serve as our Director of Public Works. At the end of this week, we will be in a position to publicly release his name although the “word” is known. He has previously served as an Assistant Director of Public Works for Lafayette Parish Consolidated Government (10 years) and has been in the private engineering industry since leaving LPCG. He has done extensive road and drainage work in St. Martin Parish.

As regards the Director of Administration, her last day will be January 31, 2019. I have spoken with several persons interested in the position. I will carefully and methodically evaluate all potential candidates. Moreover, as I informed you several months ago, the Administrative division of Parish Government is in dire need of re-organization. A mere perusal of our Organizational Chart will verify that observation. Hence, this project is being developed in connection with my search for a new Director of Administration.

On Friday, January 11, 2019, I met with all of our public works supervisors, Council member Byron Fuselier, and Lt. Colonel Terry Guidry, Director of the Emergency Preparedness. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare for potential high water issues given the current conditions and prospective river crests. We have several thousand bags of sand prepared and a plan has been developed in a worst-case scenario. FORTUNATELY, LT. COL. GUIDRY does not anticipate any major problems at this point in time. We have already adopted preliminary flood control measures in Stephensville/Belle River. All conditions are being monitored daily.

You will recall that in my last report, I informed you that our Policy Manual is currently being revised by the firm of NeunerPate which represents the Parish in 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. Another significant area being researched is how to handle supplemental healthcare for Medicare eligible retirees without compromise to coverage. In this connection, I have instructed that a revised, pragmatic definition of “retiree” be developed. Cliff Lacour with NeunerPate is working on this project and on Friday, January 18, 2019, I received a comprehensive (84 pages) document setting forth updated and detailed revisions. I will carefully review same and schedule meetings with him to finalized this endeavor. This project will correlate well with the retention of a new Director of Administration and the implementation of the administrative reorganization.

Last Friday, January 18, 2019, additional hearing officer proceedings transpired. I was not able to attend although several of the Council members did. This process, although still in its infant stages, is proceedings better than I had anticipated. Nothing has transpired which diminishes my view and expectations that in the long run these proceedings will have a substantial, positive effect on the issue of blighted and neglected properties.

Repairs of the Division Road Bridge have been completed. Our engineers have approved the work and we are only awaiting inspection and approval by DOTD. I have received notice that the bridge will be opened for use January 23.

The preliminary plans for the Potato Shed Road Bridge have been completed. On December 21, 2018, I authorized incurring the expense to conduct soil boring to insure proper planning to insure proper design of the piling. Permit requests have been solicited from the Army Corps of Engineers and approval should be forthcoming shortly. I have instructed our engineers to seek bids for both concrete and timber caps and piling, with the latter serving as the base bid and former as an alternate. The total costs of the repairs will likely be in the $400,000 range. Note that we are not simply repairing the structure, but replacing it. I have received no data which impacts these comments from our engineer last November:
“A guess on the timeframe 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 the end of this month. 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.

The latest information on the project is encouraging. All of the parties who have previously voiced objections to the flood wall have now signed letters of “No Objection.” Furthermore, it is my understanding that all servitudes for the project have either been signed or an agreement therefor secured. Letters of “No Objection” have been sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the revised drawings for the project will be dispatched to the Corps no later than January 24, 2019. I am scheduling an appointment with our engineer and the corps for next week so that this matter can be advertised for bids without any further delay.

This is an 80 million dollar project which has been undertaken by the St. Mary Levee District and calls for the construction of a flood wall across Bayou Chene. It is anticipated that it will substantially aid in flood control in lower St. Martin Parish. Currently, to serve as a make shift protection wall, a barge is sank in the Bayou in emergency high water events. The cost on each such occasion is approximately $8 million. The permanent flood wall project is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Many have postulated that this project will emasculate the need for the Bayou Estates Flood Wall. Two points must be made in response to that notion. First, the Bayou Chene Flood Wall will be closed only at certain trigger points (water levels) which would be after flooding has occurred in Bayou Estates. Second, the project is not scheduled for completion until 2023.

I have requested that representatives of the St. Mary Levee District appear at our February meeting to explain this project. The value of their appearance is amplified by the fact that they are seeking annual contributions from St. Martin Parish.

The plans for the Phase 1 of the Joe Daigre Canal Project have been presented to the COE for permitting. The plans for Phase 2 of that project are 90% complete. I will be meeting with Quality Engineering for an update on the Bayou Portage project since it has been quite a while since the firm has given me any information on the project. I am hopeful that in 2019 we will have at least 3-4 major drainage projects underway: Catahoula Lake Dredging, Pont Brule improvements, Joe Daigre Canal improvements projects (Phase I and II), and Cypress Bayou-Coulee LaSalle work. Moreover, I am hopeful that the Bayou Estates Flood Wall job will be completed.

The Iberia Parish Council has passed Resolution Number 2018-231 supporting the candidacy of Parish President Larry Richard as a Member At Large of the Executive Board of the Police Jury Association of Louisiana. I will concede that I am not familiar with the election process, noting that I have never attended a PJAL convention. However, I feel constrained to note that President Richard has been extremely helpful to me during my transition into the St. Martin presidency. He has on several occasions reached out to me with valuable insight and wise guidance. If any of you have a vote, I ask that you consider my comments.

On Thursday, January 24, 2019, I will attend the Recreation Board Meeting in Stephensville. After the meeting, I will entertain a “town hall” meeting to review with the community the status of the projects in their area, and to entertain any questions or problems they may wish to discuss. I look forward to this opportunity and invite any of you to attend.