Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Regular Meeting of June 5, 2018
WATER WORKS DISTRICT #5
Under Item 8 of the agenda is the consideration of Ordinance Number 1225-OR which I have personally prepared. This edict represents the first step in the process of securing water services for the Butte LaRose community. The next action is the confection of an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Henderson-Nina Water System, the general terms of which are referenced in the Ordinance. To date, I have not received the proposed accord from the attorney for Henderson-Nina. We have made great strides since mid-March when I began studying the matter; however, much work remains and it is necessary that Parish Government maintains its vigilant stance.
THE REGIONAL GAUGE NETWORK PROJECT
On August 3, 2017, Governor John Bel Edwards announced the Louisiana Resilient Recovery initiative. The purpose of the program is to provide aid to communities in Louisiana’s watersheds and the identification of recovery strategies and coordination of technical assistance at the watershed level. In connection therewith, the Governor declared that the Acadiana region would receive 25 million dollars in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding from the Presidentially-declared Disaster (LA-4277) which impacted the Acadiana area (consisting of the seven-parish region of the Acadiana Planning Commission) in August, 2016. Instead of the money being awarded to individual parishes, the 25 million dollars was earmarked to be disbursed according to plans submitted to and approved by the APC which formed a technical committee to evaluate plans submitted by various parishes. The basis of this approach addressed the commonsensical, yet heretofore ignored, concept that drainage was a regional issue.
St. Martin Parish is taking the lead on the grant application for the Regional Gauge Network project. The program calls for the development and implementation of a regional water gauge network to monitor water levels, flow, and rainfall, and to introduce a web-based interface structure. The network will be comprised of streamflow, rain and non-contact sensors and consist of approximately 230 electronic gauges strategically installed though out the watershed of the seven-parish service area of the Acadiana Planning Commission (APC) and St. Mary Parish. The system will be incorporated into a pre-alert software platform for communication of real-time and/or near-time data and provide valuable information to parish emergency management officials, the Teche-Vermillion Fresh Water District, and other agencies about precipitation, storm water runoff, and weather conditions. The Teche-Vermillion Fresh Water District agreed to provide the matching funds for the prospective grant award. The project cost is $3.7 million dollars, with the matching obligation being in excess of $947,000.00.
I am pleased to be involved in the administrative work of the APC especially as it involves the governor’s recovery initiative. St. Martin is a member of the APC and its president sits on the seven-member board. Having the opportunity to be heard on watershed matters are of import to our parish. While on this subject, 2 million dollars were awarded to St. Martin Parish for the Cypress Bayou-Coulee LaSalle Project which is being funded by our 2016 bond funds. Our engineers, Sellers & Associates, were instrumental in the February presentations and approval of this project for a portion of the HMGP funds.
ROAD SAFETY MEASURES
Speaking of the APC, on Monday, May 14, 2018, Thayer Jones and I met with Ashley Moran who works with the road safety division of the APC. You may recall that several weeks ago I informed you that some of our Parish roads were the site of accidents/fatalities in excess of the state averages. As such, Ms. Moran and I had candid discussions about the most serious roads (Duchamp Road and Doyle Melancon Road). She assured me that the State through the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission would likely fund safety measures inclusive of signage, stripping, and bumper ridges (not speed bumps) on the shoulders. Several days later, she confirmed that the LHSC had indeed agreed to undertake these measures. She is working on a timetable which I hope will be before the start of the next school year.
Also, I am going to have Thayer Jones contact Bill Olivier with the La. DOTD. The May 18, 2018, multiple fatality accident on La. Highway 96 is becoming a far too familiar occurrence on this state road. From my days with the DA’s Office, I can recall countless accidents on the stretch of roadway from our office west to Broussard. Hopefully, there may be some safety measures which DOTD can adopt to ameliorate the high incidence of accidents on that section of La. Hwy. 96.
Under Item 8 of the Agenda, you will vote on ordinance Numbers 1226, 1227, and 1228. These ordinances have been discussed on several occasions, and I note that they, collectively, expands the definition of “nuisance,” broadens the definition of littering, and grants jurisdiction to the JP system for enforcement of littering violations. Of great import is that the edicts establish an administrative process for handling blighted and condemned properties. Since we last discussed these matters, there have been minor revisions to these edicts. I have already consulted with an attorney who is willing to serve as a hearing officer in this process. Additionally, this counsel has agreed to handle a case which seeks the remediation of the property south of Arnaudville which has for years served as some sort of salvage yard. He and I visited the area last Thursday, and our nuisance department has accumulated all of the Parish’s file on this offending property. The newly enacted ordinances will hopefully aid in his legal endeavors. I again commend my legal assistant, Peggy Simon, for her work in this area.
Ordinance Number 1230-OR appearing under Item 8 of the agenda is for the adoption of millage rates for the year 2018. The rates remain the same as were set last year. Although I evaluated the wisdom of rolling some of the millages forward, I elected not to do so after conferring with Sean Hundley, Director of Finance, and the St. Martin Parish Assessor. I could not justify disturbing the rates by either a roll forward or a roll backward. As I informed you last month, the assessor anticipates a reduction in property valuation of only 3% maximum. This will have an insignificant impact on our collections and rendered either a roll forward or roll backward improvident.
VEHICLE POLICY and VEHICLE USE
As I have observed in previous discourses, our vehicle use policy is in dire need of updating and revisions. Only for select positions and under very limited circumstances should vehicles be allowed to be used for non-parish endeavors or should non-parish personnel allowed to be passengers. A revised policy has been prepared and will be implemented in the next week or so. I have delayed its enactment pending my research of equipping all Parish vehicles with a GPS system. I have received quotes and discussed services with several firms engaged in such matters. I have selected Acadian Total Security whose charges will be $11,480.00 for the acquisition and installation of GPS systems. The monitoring will be $1,189.30 per month. Also, public works equipment will have GPS devices as well. WE ARE THE ONLY PARISH IN ACADIANA THAT DOES NOT HAVE GPS FOR VEHICLES. That will be changing.
Furthermore, I intend to institute a monitoring system for the multitude of gas cards which have been distributed to our employees. I will keep you apprised of the progress in this area, and I strongly suspect that the software program identified in the public works section of this report will accomplish this objective.
Two ordinances will be considered under Item 8 of the agenda, both of which involve the approval/authorization of property purchases. (Ordinances No. 1232-OR and 1233-OR). The first is for the acquisition of the former church located adjacent to Paul Angelle Park and was discussed with you at previous meetings. The latter ordinance is for the purchase of property at 420 Bridge Street in St. Martinville for $125,000.00. It is a two-story structure. Mr. Rodney Richard and members of our staff have examined the structure and postulate that it is indeed a great purchase as is the prior facility. There is money budgeted and available for both. If fact, as to the property in St. Martinville, I remind you that we have received $317,113.12 from HUD that will enable us to acquire the property, renovate it, and relocate both the permit division and Section 8 personnel, and still have available space. Of course, the Cecilia property will be renovated for use as a recreational center-multi purpose facility. Our bond money for parks and recreational will fund this endeavor.
PUBLIC WORKS AND MANAGEMENT TOOLS
You will recall that I previously outlined for you the total number of outstanding work orders-in excess of 700. Four of our districts comprise 72% of those work orders. Additionally, many of the orders are several years old. Finally, I have detected no specific manner or established criteria within which the work orders are prioritized or assigned. Hence, I have instructed Nanette Theriot to divide all work orders by District and eliminate any duplicate orders. Then, I want to define what orders should be prioritized by district and OVERALL. In this same vein, criteria must be developed to guide the assignment of the work orders to insure efficiency and an equitable distribution per District and per need.
This Friday, we will visit Iberville Parish and view a program which operates under a software system called “iworqs.” I have been told that this program will allow the electronic monitoring of work orders according to several fields including name, crew assigned, district, priority, etc. Noteworthy is that this program has components for HR, fleet management, zoning, fixed assets, etc. I have to postulate that perhaps there may be some “time keeping/accumulation” advantages associated therewith. I submit that such a program is long overdue, and if we can implement something similar, several facets of our operations will be positively affected.
Along these same lines, I am ever mindful that we have 395 miles of roads and 482 miles of drainage laterals to maintain. Three work crews cannot keep up despite any management/monitoring system we have in place. Thus, I have conferred with Sean Hundley, and determined that we have the resources to hire a fourth public works crew. We are in the process of securing such a crew which 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 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.
None of my changes should be construed as a criticism of the admirable job our public works personnel do considering the number of work orders which we receive, and the number of miles of roads and drainage laterals we are called upon to maintain. Our three supervisors are superb.
HEALTH UNIT PLANS OBJECTIVES
On June 8, 2018, I will be attending a meeting with Dr. Rebekah Gee, Secretary of the La. Department of Health, Senator Fred Mills, and representatives of St. Martin Hospital/Lafayette General Medical Center. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the prospect of receiving funding for rural healthcare services. I am exploring using a portion of the defunct Hospital Service District No. 1 funds to leverage additional proceeds for the development/enhancement of health services in the old hospital district. We have the opportunity to renovate the old technology center for such endeavors and obtaining funds for possible renovations. Also, a partnership between our health unit(s) and St. Martin Hospital will potentially yield the benefit of collaborating physician(s), thus making our health units more effective, all at no costs to the Parish. I will keep you posted as I proceed in this arena.
JAIL MEDICAL COSTS
At our May committee meeting, I advised you of significant costs we are incurring in connection with mandated healthcare of inmates at the jail. There are prescriptions programs available that will significantly reduce the costs the Parish pays for medication for inmates. THESE PROGRAMS ARE BEING EXPLORED, and in fact our jail medical coordinator was instructed to attend a conference where this issue was a topic. Furthermore, I attended a meeting with St. Martin Hospital on May 25, 2018, and discussed the potential for have telemedicine services at the jail. This will yield significant savings and appears to be a real potential. The matter is currently being considered by Lafayette Health Systems.