Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of July 20, 2021


At your August meeting, I will be seeking a resolution from the Council to authorize me to confect an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries relative to the repair and rehabilitation of the structures and parking areas at Lake Martin. I have reviewed a preliminary agreement and suggested various revisions which I did not foresee obfuscating the process of finalizing a workable accord. The LDWF concurred in those revisions, and I am awaiting receipt of the final document. Essentially, the IGA will obligate LDWF to repair the structures (landing/boardwalk) and the Parish will assume the future maintenance thereof within our budgetary abilities, of course. Meanwhile, the Parish will maintain the parking area which we have always done as part of our maintenance of Rookery Road.

In view of the foregoing, discussion of the proposed accord appears under Item 2 of your Public Works Committee meeting. To aid you in reviewing the parameters of this issue, I repeat the following from my last report:

… As a prelude, I note that on June 2, 2021, I had a productive telephone conference with the officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The object of our discourse was the repairs which are needed at Lake Martin. The most pressing issues include the boat launch, the wharf, and parking area. The Department is committed to repairing the boat launch and wharf, and I advised that the Parish could undertake work on the parking areas. Moreover, I have previously committed to participating in the maintenance of the foregoing; however, any work by the Parish must be pursuant to an intergovernmental agreement with the DWLF. The attorney for the Department advised that he draft a proposed agreement for my review. To date, I have not received that instrument.

Furthermore, during the June 2nd telephone conference, I discussed the formation of a commission to govern the use of the Lake. The Department must approve any such accord, and counsel for DWLF committed to sending a written list of conditions under which a commission could be formed and would be accepted/approved. A major component of a successful, functional commission, in my view, is the inclusion of a fair, comprehensive representation of those groups who avail themselves of the amenities which the Lake has to offer and the inclusion of property owners. This will a somewhat complex task. Nevertheless, the first steps are at long last being adopted.


Under Item 3 of the Council’s Public Works agenda is a discussion of a resolution relative to the Pontoon Bridge Project. On July 6, 2021, the following bids were received:

  • Sealevel Contruction, LLC: $8,333,465.80
  • James Construction Group, LLC: $7,885,459.73
  • Shavers-Whittle, LLC: $7,255,518.15
  • Coastal Contractors, Inc.: $6,688,004.50

Unfortunately, the low bid of Coastal Contractors, Inc. failed to include an acknowledgement that the firm had received all addenda associated with the project. This omission is particularly perplexing since a second addenda was prepared as a product of questions which that company had submitted by an email received at approximately 5:30 P.M. on June 29, 2021. Interestingly, that same firm had requested, to no avail, that the bid opening be postponed. Because of the belated questions, an addendum was prepared and submitted at 9:55 A.M. the following morning, June 30, 2021. You should note that the law provides that if an addendum is issued less than 72 hours before the scheduled date and time for bids, then the bid opening MUST be extended no less than seven days. In computing the 72-hour period, weekends and holidays are not included. July 3rd and 4th were on the weekend and July 5 was a declared holiday. Hence, the engineers diligently and properly issued the addendum prompted by the questions.

As stated previously, despite its conduct (questions) which was the reason for the addendum, the contractor in question, Coastal, did not, on the mandated bid form, acknowledge its receipt. La. R.S. 33:2212(B)(2) unequivocally declares that on the legally required Uniform Bid Form, a bidder must acknowledge receipt of all addenda. Moreover, La. R.S. 38:2212(B)(2) states that this requirement CANNOT BE WAIVED. This defect was noted at the bid opening which was attended by all bidders. Interestingly, a representative of Coastal hand delivered a “second bid” package at 11:55 A.M. on July 6, 2021, which indicated on the Uniform Bid Form an acknowledgement of having received all addenda. That bid was improvident since the deadline was 10:00 A.M.

In view of the foregoing, the “low” bid of Coastal cannot be accepted because of its non-responsiveness. Huval & Associates issued a letter of recommendation to that effect, and further recommended the acceptance of the next lowest bid which was submitted by Shavers-Whittle, LLC. My independent research confirms the validity of that recommendation, and I further requested another opinion from our Parish Attorney which verified that the Coastal bid must, by law, be disqualified. Out of an abundance of caution, I have informed Coastal Contractors, Inc. that on August 3, 2021, I would be recommending the disqualification of their bid for the legal reasons set forth herein and accepting the lowest RESPONSIVE bid of Shavers-Whittle despite it being $567,513.65 greater than Coastal’s bid. Coastal was further advised that it could appear and challenge its disqualification.

Noteworthy is that the construction budget for the project is $8,845,000.00. Thus, the Shavers-Whittle bid is $1,589,481.85 UNDER BUDGET. Also, the total budget for the project is $9491,335.00 which includes engineering fees of $646,335.00.

We are the benefactors of great news from the RESTORE Act arena. The Restore Act Council has approved all plans and specs for the project, and we have commenced advertising for bids for the Arnaudville Pavilion. The schedule for this project is:
Advertising Dates: July 14, July 21, and July 28.
Pre-Bid Conference: August 4, 2021, on site
Bid Opening: August 11, 2021

Construction should commence 45 to 60 days after bid opening. Thus, it is anticipated that the project will be completed by the end of the year.
We are still awaiting approved from the RESTORE Act Council for approval of the Bayou Benoit Landing. You will recall that I advised you at the last meeting there were questions posed to the Parish about the impact of the improvements to the landing would have on migratory birds and manatees. I will withhold further comment except to observe that DDG responded more diplomatically than I was inclined to do.

At this juncture, it behooves us to take a moment to acknowledge the major projects which the Parish has undertaken or will be undertaking this summer:
2020 Road Projects: $2,500,000.00
Joe Daigre Canal Improvements, Phase 1: $3,691,500.00
Pontoon Bridge Replacements: $9,491,335.00
Arnaudville Pavilion: $270,000.00
Arnaudville Fire Station: $750,000.00
Catahoula Lake Dredging: $1,500,000.00

By the end of the year, I am hopeful that we will have definite dates for the for Ponte Brule Project and the Bayou Estates Floodwall which are approximately $7.7 million more in projects.

Under Item 1 of your Public Works Committee agenda is a discussion of the prospective 2021 Henderson Lake drawdown. Mr. Daniel Hill, the Aquatic Plant Coordinator with the LDWF will be present to answer any questions relative to the drawdown. Brac Saylers who normally represents the DWLF relative to this matter could not be present.

On July 8, 2021, Mr. Salyers, a Biologist Manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (“LDWF”) conferred with my office to discuss a drawdown for this year. As a consequence of our meeting, it was determined that the drawdown of Henderson Lake would commence on August 2, 2021, and conclude no later than November 1, 2021. As with the prior years’ discussions, the July 8th meeting included Mr. Salyers, our Public Works Director, myself, and other pertinent Public Works personnel. Also attending was Mayor Sherbin Collette of Henderson who was instrumental in the development of the original plan several years ago, and who has also been an active participant in subsequent drawdown planning.

For background information, I remind you of the following. On August 15, 2014, the United States Army Corps of Engineers approved an operational plan for the drawdown of Henderson Lake. Sixteen arduous conditions were imposed in the permit/approval. Essentially, the initial permitted plan called for five (5) separate, though not consecutive, years of summer/fall drawdowns, commencing in 2014. The original permit expired on November 30, 2020. However, last year, the permit was extended by the Corps IN PERPETUITY. That fact demonstrates the value assigned to a drawdown. Moreover, because of weather conditions the drawdowns since 2014 have produced mixed, and often disappointing results:

  • 2014: Successful
  • 2015: Terminated because of high water
  • 2016: Terminated because of the August 16 flood events
  • 2017: Terminated early
  • 2018: Successful although had to be terminated earlier than anticipated
  • 2019: Not attempted because of the high-water levels in the lake
  • 2020: Numerous storms produced high-water which impeded the drawdown

According to Mr. Salyers and other biologists with the DWLF, the purpose of the drawdown is to control severe problems with vegetation, especially Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth, and Giant Salvinia. These growths rob the water of valuable, essential nutrients which support fisheries. Additionally, the vegetation impedes navigation. Furthermore, a successful drawdown allows for the compaction of the lakebed, thus aiding in the reproduction of fisheries. Finally, the lowering of the lake may aid with flood prevention in the event of a major storm or rain event.

In preparation for the drawdown this year, we have again developed specific parameters which will govern the opening and closing the gates at the Henderson Lake control structure to insure there will be no issue with the drawdown commencing as scheduled and to minimize any undue fish kill. The operational plan calls for the reduction of the water level by 2 to 4 inches per day until we realize a water level of 6 feet. The level at the lake will be monitored numerous times every day by both the LDWF and our office with daily reports being provided to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, all in accordance with the permit dictates.

During the last drawdowns, our Office has kept meticulous records which LDWF and our public works department will rely upon while the 2021 drawdown lasts. Again, it is expected that the drawdown will terminate no later than November 1, 2021, so as to have minimal impact on the duck hunting season.

The Parish received four responses to the Request For Proposals for the replacement of Pelican Waste and Debris. Those responses have been graded, and I will formally and publicly discuss them with you at the special meeting which has been called for this specific purpose. Furthermore, I will have a specific recommendation for the new provider and review the parameters of the replacement program. Again, this presentation will be entertained in a public session.

However, there remains several issues which are under negotiation concerning the exit plan with regard to the current contract with Pelican Waste & Debris. Since this revision/termination of the current contract implicates potential litigation, has been the subject of certain demands from the attorney for Pelican, and embraces discourse with attorneys for both the Parish and Pelican, an executive session is necessary in order that our position on those points of contention/negotiation will not be compromised, and no privileged communications disclosed. The proper notice appears on the agenda for the Special Meeting.

Ideally, the new waster provider should begin services on October 1, 2021. Pragmatically, because of current market conditions, the date the new provider will assume the services over may have to be January 1, 2022. It is critical that there be as smooth a transition as possible. Part of the issues which Pelican experienced in 2019 can be traced to a difficult transition which created several obstacles that Pelican and the Parish have not been able to overcome. I would like to avoid a repeat of that situation.

I repeat my remarks from my last report relative to the prospective parish-wide hazardous waste day:

At long last, I have been able to secure a date for hazardous waste collection/disposal. The currently scheduled date is Saturday, September 18, 2021. Currently, we are meeting with the hazardous waste collection firm, Clean Earth, to select a suitable site. Potential locations include Parc Hardy in Breaux Bridge and the Safety Complex. The final decision should be made on June 18, 2021, when a representative of the company will be meeting with myself, and the staff assigned to this project. At that time, the representative will visit all potential locations and determine which one will best accommodate the collection process.
It is our objective for this collection endeavor to embrace many materials inclusive of electronics and old medications (controlled dangerous substances). The Library Board will arrange for the presence of a shredding unit to dispose of outdated personal materials which may reflect sensitive data.
The City of Breaux Bridge has agreed to partner with the Parish in this endeavor as was the case with the last hazardous collection date. Also, as alluded to previously, the Library Board is working with the Parish as is our OEP. Indeed, for there to be collection of controlled substances (medications), a law enforcement agent, in full uniform, must be on-site during the collection. In the coming months, we will commence promoting this project.

For a myriad of reasons, the Public Safety Complex has been selected of the most feasible site for the hazardous waste collections. The administration is in the process of preparing informational and promotional items for the event.

When I discussed various informational items at your July regular meeting, I mentioned that the Parish should begin considering whether regulatory dictates associated with solar farm developments should be considered. Solar farms are being constructed in several areas of the State of Louisiana, particularly in rural communities. Indeed, many communities/parishes have issued moratoria on such developments to afford them ample time to accumulate reliable data concerning the pros and cons of these types of developments.

There have been recent print media discussion on solar farms in several publications including the Acadiana Advocate. Considerations associated with these developments include, but certainly are not limited to, environmental impacts of the developments in general, type of materials used in the manufacture of the panels, the need for buffer zones, the maximum and minimum sizes of the farms, and their impact on property values. Another concern is the potential negative effect on the agricultural industry.

I have retained the services of a law firm to research all the known issues/questions prompted by solar farms and reasonable regulations which have been considered or adopted by other jurisdictions. Finally, I am concerned about any federal preemption which may render any potential local governmental regulations impotent, a situation experienced several years ago with the advent of cellular towers and subsidized housing developments. I will keep you appraised of the fruits of this research.

On July 6, 2021, at the July regular meeting, Summary Ordinance Number 1329-OR was introduced and will be voted upon at the August regular meeting. The item appears under Item 3 of the Agenda for the Administrative Committee meeting. I am fully aware that there has been a great deal of “misinformation” and “misrepresentations” about the purposes of this ordinance and why it was introduced. The ordinance is the product of at least three separate incidents disclosed in less than a week involving different sites and separate persons/firms transporting AND dumping (AND OFTEN BURNING) debris/items through-out the Parish. In a matter of days, there were documented instances of such activities on Division Road in the Arnaudville area, Armond Joseph Road, and Duchamp Road. Also, the materials in question in many instances originated from out of this Parish and/or were part of a commercial enterprise. The proposed edict addresses an actual concern and is not driven by any arbitrary or ideological factors. Finally, it is significant to note that all duly DEQ licensed sites are unaffected. Note this qualifying language set forth in ordinance:

The foregoing prohibition shall not apply to the transportation, storage, dumping, or other deposit and/or the subsequent burning thereof of any of the materials referenced herein at any location or site which is duly licensed and approved for such activities by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality or any other state or federal regulatory agency having jurisdiction and authority to regulate same.

Also, it must be recognized that the operation of any site for the deposit or burning of such materials under the circumstances referenced in the ordinance is a commercial enterprise which must satisfy the Parish’s zoning regulations in addition to adhering to any mandates of any state agencies such as DEQ.

As you have been advised, reapportionment because of the 2020 Census is required by both Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act and Louisiana law. Under the dictates of Section 2-02 of the Parish’s Home Rule Charter, within thirty (30) days of the publication of the federal census, a “Citizen Reapportionment Committee” must be appointed by the Parish Council to develop, adopt, and present to the Council a plan which sets forth the Council district boundaries based upon the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau has announced that the Public Law 94-171 Redistricting file will be released on or before August 16, 2021. This is the datafile which must be used for redistricting on the state, parish, and municipal levels. Currently, the Census Bureau is releasing 2020 census counts at the parish and municipal levels although nothing has been released for St. Martin Parish. Nonetheless, it behooves the Council to act expeditiously to complete the appointment of the Citizen Reapportionment Committee.
For your edification, the following is a revised timeline for the 2021 reapportionment:

  • July-August 2021: Receipt of the 2020 Census data.
  • August-Sept. 2021: Reapportionment Committee to be appointed. Under Section 2-02(A) of the Home Rule Charter, the Council must appoint the Committee within 30 days of receipt of the Census data.
  • December 2021: Determination must be made as to whether reapportionment is necessary. La. R.S. 33:1411 requires such a determination within 6 months after receipt of the census count.
  • April to May 2022: Pursuant to the Section 2-02(B) of the Home Charter, a reapportionment plan must be adopted within one year of the appointment of the Citizens Reapportionment Committee.
  • January 2023: Deadline for submission of the plan to the United States Department of Justice for Section 5 pre-clearance. Unless there is Congressional action, Section 5 pre-clearance will not be necessary since the current formula for pre-clearance was declared unconstitutional in 2013 in the United States Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder.
  • June 11, 2023: Deadline for Secretary of State to receive Justice Department Section 5 pre-clearance if necessary.
  • August 8-10, 2023: Qualifying for October 14, 2023 primary.
  • October 14, 2023: Election under the reapportionment plan.

The basic principles which must be followed in redistricting or reapportionment include compactness, contiguity, preservation of communities of interest, preservation of the core of prior districts, protection of incumbents, equality of districts regarding population (one man, one vote principle), use of physical boundaries and census tabulation blocks.

A purely anecdotal observation is that since the last census, and last reapportionment, there have been significant population shifts in our Parish’s population which will most assuredly impact reapportionment.

Mr. Mike Hefner, a demographer and owner of the firm Geographic Planning and Demographic Services, LLC, has been retained to perform the demographic services on behalf of the Parish. He has been the demographer for the Parish for at least the last two reapportionments. Moreover, he has discharged those tasks for the St. Martin Parish School Board, the only other parish-wide deliberative body which is burdened with reapportionment obligations.

Item 2 of the Agenda for the Administrative Committee meeting will be a presentation from the Parish’s Building Permit Department. The presenters will be two recently-hired employees, De’on Gregory and Jennie Duong. I reviewed the materials which will be presented, and I am certain that you will be impressed with both the volume and scope of the work undertaken by our permits department. The involved tasks run the gambit from ordinary building permits to the issuance of special event permits. Moreover, we work closely with the state sanitation officials who are responsible for ensuring that permit applicants comply with state regulations.

The following information discloses the number of permits which have been issued since January 1, 2019:
New Home Permits
2019: 132
2020: 77
2021 (6 months): 62

Home Purchases
2019: 356
2020: 239
2021 (6 months): 221

Mobile Homes Permits
2019: 187
2020: 139
2021 (6 months): 96

Commercial Permits
2019: 19
2020: 7
2021 (6 months): 30

As background information, the following is data which I shared with you relative to the Louisiana Watershed Initiative (“LWI”):

I have previously reported to you on the Louisiana Watershed Initiative which was formed by the state in order to coordinate the development of flood control measures on a regional basis. Supposedly, 1.2 billion dollars in Community Development Block Grant funding will be made available to the state and local governmental units over the next several years. The state is divided into 8 watershed regions and upper St. Martin falls into Region 5 and lower St. Martin is assigned to Region 6. You have appointed me to the Steering Committee for Region 5, and I have appointed our Director of Public Works to serve on the Steering Committee for Region 6.
The first round of funding will be available in 2020 and will be in the amount of $100 million. Sixty million will be for the State of Louisiana, and 40 million will be equally divided among the 8 regions ($5 million each). The second round of funding is for $200 million and will be extended in 2022, and the final round will be for $270 million in 2024. The date for parishes to submit pre-application for potential projects in each region was December 20, 2019; however, that date was extended to January 17, 2020. The full applications are due on March 27, 2020.
I will be submitting applications on behalf of St. Martin Parish for all of our major flood protection projects: Bayou Estates Flood Wall, Coulee LaSalle, Bayou Fuselier-Ponte Brulee; Catahoula Lake Dredging; Joe Daigre Canal; and Breaux Bridge Manor. The fact that we already have funding sources which can serve as a “match” and the fact that we have plans already prepared, I believe, will inure to our benefit. Plus, we can certainly prove a valuable benefit to the entire Region 5 (and Region 6 relative to the Flood Wall).
The first meeting of the Region 5 Steering Committee is December 17, 2019, the date of our meeting. I will review the foregoing with you under Item 3 of the Agenda for the Public Works Committee meeting as well as what transpires at the December 17th initial meeting of the Steering Committee.
On Thursday, January 16, 2020, St. Martin Parish Government TIMELY submitted applications for all of the projects identified above. Moreover, I personally prepared proposed by-laws for the Region V Steering Committee and submitted same to APC, the LWI project administrator for Region V. I was, and remain, somewhat concerned that with 16 parishes represented on the Committee, there will be a myriad of competing interests being advocated at each meeting, thus potentially obfuscating an orderly and efficient decision-making process. I will keep you advised of the work of the LWI. Moreover, our Director of Public Works will represent St. Martin Parish on the Region VI Steering Committee of which lower St. Martin is a part.

On February 20, 2020, the Steering Committee for Region V had its first meeting in Lafayette. At that time, the By-laws for the Committee were approved and presiding officers elected. Also, sub-committee appointments were made. On behalf of St. Martin Parish, I will serve on the governance committee which will have the function, among other duties, of recommending a permanent governing body for the LWI, Region V. Overall, I thought the meeting went well, especially considering 16 Parishes were represented.
At the Steering Committee meeting, it was confirmed that the State had received 393 pre-applications for Round 1 funding consisting of $100 million. I am pleased to announce that every one of St. Martin Parish’s pre-applications were approved and funding for those projects will be considered pursuant to a full application. I have instructed Kasey Courville to proceed with preparation of the full applications so that we can submit them prior to the deadline of May 1, 2020. I strongly believe that our applications were accepted because of their regional impact and the fact that they are more than conceptual. Indeed, we are “shovel ready” on many of them, awaiting only the grant of permits from Army Corps of Engineers. I will keep you posted on the progress.

Numerous projects were submitted seeking a portion of the 5 million dollars allotted to our Region (#5). The applications were vetted by the State which has now recommended that $1 million be awarded for our Coulee LaSalle Project. On Thursday, July 16, 2021, the Steering Committee for Region 5 approved the $1 million award as recommended by the State. Therefore, we should receive formal commitment from the State for these funds sometime in August.
The Coulee LaSalle Project is a $ 4 million endeavor which was budgeted to be funded by HMGP in the amount of $2 million and by $2 million from the 2016 Bond Issue. The additional $1 million gives the Parish additional flexibility relative to either enhancing this project, transferring a portion of our “local” contribution to other drainage projects, or a combination of all the foregoing. The bottom line is that this award is great news and validates the wisdom of this project.

As I observed in my June report, since October 2020, there have been in excess of 120 million dollars of industrial investments in St. Martin Parish. These include:

  1. SafeSource/Ochsner PPE manufacturing facility is under construction. The enterprise will yield 976 jobs in St. Martin Parish (1,200 total). It is the largest manufacturing project to ever occur in St. Martin Parish.
  2. The portion of Martin Mills which formerly housed Superior Derricks, LLC has now been sold to an online retail distribution center known as “Brew to a Tea.” The company should be in full operation by the middle of July. It will produce approximately 40 jobs. IT IS NOT PART OF AMAZON.
  3. Cargill Salt has undertaken an expansion of its plant at a capital investment of 34,5 million dollars. This endeavor ensures a continuing and long presence in St. Martin Parish as well as the retention of 70 jobs.
  4. Guidry’s Catfish Plant has just completed an 18,000 square foot expansion at a cost of 10.2 million dollars. The company will soon commence a 14.7-million-dollar investment which will include a retail component for breaded fish and shrimp.

I continue to be impressed with the Parish’s monthly tax collections which remain above the amounts previously budgeted. I summarize the collections as follows:
A. Collections for Sales Tax District #1:

January-June 2021Total Net Collections: $1,758,594.03
January-June 2020 Total Net Collections: $1,395,270.35
January-June 2019 Total Net Collections: $1,525,999.87

Average 2021 6-Month Net Collections: $298,282.89
Average 2020 6-Month Net Collections: $232,545.05
Average 2019 6-Month Net Collections: $254,333.31

B. Collections for Sales Tax District #2:

January-June 2021 Total Net Collections: $602,787.38
January-June 2020 Total Net Collections: $559,751.23
January-June 2019 Total Net Collections: $646,104.33

Average 2021 6-Month Net Collections: $100,464.56
Average 2020 6-Month Net Collections: $93,291.87
Average 2019 6-Month Net Collections: $107,684.05

The collections in Sales Tax District #1 continue to exceed our budgetary projections and are above the collections for the first 6 months of both 2019 and 2020. The monthly averages for Sales Tax District #2 collections remain above those for 2020; however, the average collections are below those for 2019 with the variances being almost the same amount ($7,172.69 over 2020 and $7,219.49 less than 2019).

The net collections in Sales Tax District #2 for June 2021 were $99,105.26 compared to $78,076.49 in 2020, and $102,535.70 in 2019. For Sales Tax District #1, the net June collections this year were $280,607.11 compared to $223,376.77 in 2020 and $243,344.16 in 2019.

The hotel/motel tax collections for the first 6 months of 2021 compare favorably for the same period in 2019 and 2020:
2019 Combined January-June Collections: $125,521.19
2020 Combined January-June Collections: $91,879.55
2021 Combined January-June Collections: $116,409.16

My conclusions relative to this tax remains the same, and thus I refer to my comments in my last report:

It is my belief that the reduction in the tax collected during the first 5 months of this year, as compared to the same time period in 2019, can be attributed to the fact that the Crawfish Festival and Festival International were cancelled or substantially scaled down. I have no empirical basis for that proposition, however. Nonetheless, at this juncture, these numbers remain on par with our budgetary projections.

The video poker collections for the first six months are $1,282,016.28. This compares favorably to collections up to July 1 in the last two years: $852,443.00 in 2020 and $1,008,796.67 in 2019. I speculate that the federal stimulus packages are contributing to the healthy video poker collections (and sales tax collections) especially, though not exclusively, in view of the current unemployment statistics.