Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of July 17, 2018

We have hired all members of our fourth work crew. Within days, the crew will hopefully be fully operative and at work. This crew will be assigned roadside jobs. These measures will permit us to maintain work orders at a reasonable number. Nonetheless, we still need to “catch-up.” To aid in this objective, I am still exploring the prospect of retaining one or more contract crews for limited roadside jobs and for a limited time if the costs can be worked into our budget.

In my prior report for the May Committee meeting, as regards this matter, I observed:
This proposed project involves the construction of a by-pass route around a portion of the City of St. Martinville. When I assumed the President’s position, I was presented a contract which awaited only Council approval. I reviewed the document, and several major issues immediately presented themselves:
1) The parties to the proposed contract are only DOTD and St. Martin Parish Government notwithstanding the fact that the City of St. Martinville is the entity most affected.
2) The route of the By-Pass (which I ascertained in the first meeting outlined below) is somewhat perplexing. Heading north on La. Hwy. 31(Main Street), the route commences on Port Street. It proceeds down Port to its intersection with Capritto Road. At that point, the route continues down Capritto to Levert Road where it travels east back to La. Hwy. 31 by the Food-N-Fun.
3) The contract obligates St. Martin Parish Government to acquire (finance) the costs of all servitude acquisition. That mandate is obviously financially significant.

On April 5, 2018, I met with Melanie Bordelon and Chris Cole of APO, and expressed my objections and expounded on my concerns. I further observed that only a portion of the City was being “by-passed” by the proposed route which was inexplicable to me. Thereafter, Ms. Bordelon and Jerry Trumps conferred with me on April 25, 2018. At this meeting, it was represented that the right-of-way acquisition expenses could “possibly” be absorbed by APO via some sort of a grant. Ms. Bordelon was going to investigate same and inform me accordingly. Notwithstanding the foregoing, I submit that it would be imprudent to sign/approve any contract which obligates St. Martin Parish Government to pay anything under the scenario at hand. Parenthetically, last week I spoke by telephone with Susan Williams of DOTD who advised she would have another DOTD representative speak to me about my concerns. I note that EVERYONE mentioned above have concurred with my observations and no one has challenged my observations and objections. You may rest assured that I will proceed with great caution.

On June 25, 2018, I received a revised proposed agreement from Ms. Susan Williams which changed the responsibility of the Parish for right of way acquisition from 100% to 20%. While that is a significant reduction, the obligation of the Parish remains potentially substantial. Moreover, I still cannot develop or discern any basis upon which Parish Government can legally justify any expenditure related to this project. No one can explain how this benefits Parish Government. I notified Melanie Bordelon of APC of my reaction to the proposed contract and informed her I would place the matter on our agenda for the meeting of July 10, 2018.

On Friday, July 13, 2018, I met with Mayor Mitchell of St. Martinville to discuss various matters. At the top of the list was this project. I explained to her all of the particulars and the issues which have, from my perspective, surfaced. Afterwards, she agreed to meet with me and Melanie Bordelon of APC. My Executive Secretary has scheduled this meeting for July 23, 2018.

On June 18, 2018, I met with the JP’s and Constables and discussed Ordinance Numbers 1226, 1227, and 1228. These ordinances, collectively, expands the definition of “nuisance,” broadens the definition of littering, and grants jurisdiction to the JP system for enforcement of littering violations. Moreover, the edicts establish an administrative process for handling blighted and condemned properties. As a consequence of my conference with the JP’s and Constables, they recommended minor revisions to Section 26-3.3 which addresses the division of fines and costs. Those amendments are reflected in Ordinance Number 1236-OR to be introduced under Item 10 of your agenda.

A Federal program known as the National Incident Management System (NIMS) provides training and certification of personnel who are called upon to respond to emergencies in connection with natural disasters. Most of the training and certifications can be secured on-line. Other more advanced training is available through our Office of Emergency Preparedness via Lt.-Col. Terry Guidry and/or Stacey Eddy Blanchard. FEMA is more apt to reimburse local governmental units for expenses associated with emergency details (overtime, etc.) when such costs are incurred by NIMS- certified personnel. Only two Parish Government employees are NIMS trained: Council Clerk Laci Laperouse, and Fabian Tucker, Director of Administration. I have instructed that ALL persons associated with the Parish receive the NIMS certification inclusive of our public works employees, supervisors, and myself. The training will, again, be on-line and conducted under the auspices of our own OEP. This opportunity presented itself as a consequence of the special OEP meeting which I arranged on June 21, 2018. I strongly suspect that the training will pay dividends in the future and exemplifies the steps we are taking to guide our staff to higher levels of proficiency and efficiency.

This project is part of our 2016 Bond Proposition. The engineering firm of Comeaux Engineering has completed the totality of the 7 miles of the project. On July 5, 2018, the firm informed me that a hydraulic model for the proposed channel has also been completed and during the week of July 16, 2018, they will meet with me and Mr. Richard to discuss their preliminary conclusions so that the engineering portion of the project and plan development can commence, all of which will of course require Corps approval.

I reviewed this matter with you at your June Committee meeting. Since that time, the bridge has been repaired and is now fully functional. Additionally, we have commissioned the repair of other maintenance issues which were disclosed during the initial work. Finally, we resolved the issues with the original contractor whose work quality was suspect-his bill was reduced by over 60%. This resolution was acceptable to all. The total costs of the repairs were $34,000.00.

On July 12, 2018, members of my staff and I conferred with Joe Parent of Tyler Technologies. This is the firm which markets the software/management system called “Munis.” The program has different “blocks” that embraces, among other areas, finance, human resources, asset/fleet management, and public works. The most encouraging news about our meeting was that St. Martin Parish’s current Munis system embraces asset/fleet and public works “blocks.” Thus, Parent will be evaluating precisely what our current “blocks” are capable of handling, the costs of any upgrades, and the ease of implementation of those which can fit our needs. Training in the use of the system can be at offices outside the state or on-site. I advised that the latter is my STRONG PREFERENCE. Similarly, my objective is to have various personnel cross-trained. I will keep you updated on this very important matter.

On Wednesday, July 11, 2018, I was advised that DOTD has officially accepted the bridge rating assigned by our engineers to the bridges on Four Mile Bayou Road. This was expected. Moreover, I requested and obtained from our engineering firm (Huval and Associates) an estimate on the costs to repair the bridges. That amount is approximately $649,000, with the estimate being on the “high side.” All of this information was discussed between me and the state representative for that area to determine what assistance might be available from the State. The representative was thinking in terms of obtaining funding to repair the bridges separate from the $650,000 previously awarded for the 2.2 miles of road reconstruction through capital outlay, a sum I believe should be diverted from road paving to bridge repair. He informed me that he was meeting with the Governor on Friday (July 13, 2018). Meanwhile, Mr. Fuselier hand delivered a replica of the engineering report to one of the citizens along the road who had expressed disagreement with the need to repair the bridges. On Friday afternoon, I attended a meeting on a different matter, but the prospect of another source of funding for bridge repairs unexpectedly presented itself. I hopefully will have more specific information after another meeting with this agency which we are trying to set up next Friday.

The issue with the garbage collection has been resolved. Also, I discussed this matter with our Fire Service Coordinator and the bridge ratings will not impair our ability to respond to any fire issue.

I would like to send a letter to all of the residents along the road to explain the totality of the situation, but I will await receipt of more specific data. At this point, the parameters of this matter are still somewhat amorphous.

Mr. Dean Leblanc recently made a very sage comment to me during a causal conversation. Essentially, he observed that the general public was not aware of the delays attendant to the major drainage projects embraced by the $20 million bond issue approved by the voters in December, 2016. As I reflected on Mr. Leblanc’s observation, I realized that my office should commit itself to being more proactive in advising the public on these matters. Thus, I will post on our website a succinct description of each project, its costs, and its status. The post will be updated as circumstances and progress dictate. Moreover, at each regular meeting of the Council, one project will be “featured” for a brief discussion. I will have our project manager and/or one of our engineers give a 5-10 minute update. Please let me know your thoughts on this idea.

At the regular meeting on July 10, 2018, you unanimously approved the selection of Mr. Lynn Guidry as the architect for this project. He has transmitted a formal contract which I will immediately execute upon receipt. My office will be scheduling a meeting with him to “firm up” certain parameters such as budget, timeline, and design ideas. Of course, I will keep you fully apprised and include in such discourse any and all interested Council members. As an aside, Mr. Guidry believes that the plans and specifications can be completed within 6-7 weeks. If that proves accurate, the project can go out for bids sometime this Fall. This is exciting.

On June 5, 2018, the Council adopted Resolution No. 18-064-RS committing itself and authorizing my office to seek assistance from any state or federal source relative to infrastructure needs of Waterworks District No. 4. On Friday afternoon, Chris Tauzin and I met with Senator Fred Mills and Dr. Carrie Castille, the State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agricultural. There are likely several avenues available that may provide resources for WW District No. 4. Both myself and Dr. Castille’s office agreed to certain “homework” obligations, and we plan on a follow-up meeting either at the end of next week or early the following week. Mr. Tauzin and I are scheduled to confer with the WW District No. 4 Board Monday evening at 6:00 P.M. to update them and to help in my completing my “homework” assignment/commitment.
Furthermore, in our discourse with Dr. Castille, we learned of potential revenue which may be available for matters other than water, including roads and bridges. She will be arranging for a meeting with our legislative delegation and my office where we will be presented precisely what might be available for the Parish.

Finally, as you are aware, we have made significant progress relative to our waterworks districts including WW District (former district) No. 5. On my radar is addressing the needs, actually status, of WW District No. 6 (Anse La Butte). Dr. Castille is a St. Martin Parish native and is clearly very knowledgeable and full of vigor. I look forward to working with her on these and other issues.
Rest assured that I will remain diligent on these very important matters.

Since I have assumed the Presidency, it has become apparent to me that the administration division of Parish Government is in dire need of reorganization. A mere perusal of our organizational chart will dictate such a conclusion. I have several ideas which I am considering including a separate division for human resources. Nonetheless, any reorganization plan, once developed, will be presented to the Council for approval in accordance with our Home Rule Charter. Nothing will mandate any amendment to our Charter which would require a referendum.

Along these same lines, I have instructed our Director of Administration, Fabian Tucker, to arrange for a training session with our staff employees relative to workplace issues. I note that staff development presentations were sponsored several years ago; however, what I have in mind is different. Ms. Tucker is in agreement with me, and our insurer can present such training at no cost to us. This idea is not to be interpreted as there being some sort of problem; rather it is a proactive and not reactive decision.

I want to extend to the Council my appreciation for your support of many of the administrative acts I have adopted. I am certain that you may often disagree. I assure you that my motivation is singularly designed to serve the best interests of St. Martin Parish. For a myriad of reasons, none of which I view as credible, it has been suggested that I should withhold any major changes. However, I assure you that no action I take will ever be hidden from you or the public nor unduly delayed. I will never put myself, and the Parish, on such a slippery slope. My actions are the product of a methodical process and analysis and are not made to satisfy anyone in particular, but rather the citizens of this Parish.