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

ON March 18, 2019, several members of my staff and I conferred with representatives of GOHSEP and with individuals from the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center and the Emergency Management Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Current weather patterns reflect that for the next week to 10 days, the water levels in St. Martin Parish will remain constant and are unlikely to rise. In fact, a steady, slow reduction is forecast over that period.

After the meeting, Lt. Col. Terry Guidry with the Parish’s OEP and I evaluated the status of the measures in place in Stephensville/Belle River. All of the flood control measures previously implemented have been effective in preventing loss or damage to property. In view of the fact that no increase in the water levels is anticipated, I terminated sand bagging and distribution at 5:00 P.M. on March 18, 2019. At that time, from March 16, 2019, the Parish had distributed 49,500 bags of sand. SAND WILL REMAIN IN PLACE AT THE STEPHENSVILLE PARK AND RESIDENTS MAY CONTINUE TO ACCESS SAND AND BAGS AT THAT LOCATION.

All sandbagging equipment was returned to the Parish barn to be serviced and to commence the replacement of the depleted stockpile of bagged sand. The stockpiling of sand bags prepared in January of this year was responsible for the timely and successful distribution since March 6, 2019. The effective, efficient adoption and implementation of flood control measures mandate that the Parish maintain prepared bags that can immediately be dispatched to needed locations in all areas of the Parish in the event of potential emergency situations.

The high-water issue will remain a threat for all our Parish for the next 6-8 weeks. THEREFORE, RESIDENTS IN STEPHENSVILLE/BELLE RIVER ARE ADMONISHED NOT TO REMOVE THE SAND BAGS PREVIOUSLY PLACED ON THEIR PROPERTY FOR PROTECTION. The reduction of the water level over the next week or so will likely be followed by another rise. Hence, all drains in that area will remain plugged and the pumps secured by the Parish WILL NOT be removed from their current sites.

Next Friday, March 22, 2019, I have a meeting with the new director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. The focal point of my discussion will be the potential of securing non-disaster or non-event related funds to offset the expenses associated with emergency issues and matters which are not related to a federally declared disaster or one single weather event. The current flooding is an example as well as the needed repairs to La. 352 (Levee Road) which will be discussed under Item 1 of the Agenda for your Public Works meeting. My research reflects there MAY be funding for such matters. Regardless, it is appropriate to develop a relationship with GOHSEP.

Under Item 3 of the Agenda of your Public Works Committee Meeting, I will discuss and request that you adopt an ordinance for the use of a tract of property in Arnaudville. My plans are to construct, using RESTORE ACT funds, a pavilion to be used in connection with a floating dock which the TECHE Project is constructing at the site. The Mayor of the Town of Arnaudville has embraced this idea and has agreed to help administer the use of such a facility. The property will cost the Parish nothing, and the owners have reviewed and approved of a CEA accord which I prepared. This is a great opportunity for the Arnaudville area.

Duplantis Design Group, PC, our administrators for the RESTORE Act and BP Settlement funds, have confirmed that we have sufficient funding available for these projects: Floating Piers at Uncle Dick Davis Park and Catahoula Park ($400,000), the Bayou Benoit Dock Extension ($265,000), and the Arnaudville pavilion ($125,000) discussed above. I am in the process of setting up a meeting so that timetables for all of these endeavors can be established.

These projects are steadily proceeding. The work in the Park is starting to take shape and I invite all of you to pay a visit to view the progress. The architect has been requested to itemize what remains to be done so that the vision for the Park which was developed many months ago can become a reality. I want a concrete list so that positive, immediate steps can be adopted to designate funding. As regards the Civic Center, I anticipate final plans will be presented to me Thursday, March 21, 2019. Mr. Poirrier, Mr. Babineaux, and I met with the Architect and one of the engineers on Thursday, March 7, 2019, and were encouraged by the preliminary plans.

The BEST NEWS is that the project will be advertised for bids commencing on March 27, 2019. We anticipate construction will commence no later than June.

RFP’s for waste disposal services were issued on February 8, 2019. At the bid conference held on February 21, 2019, six service providers were present: Republic, Waste Management, Waste Connections, Pelican, Waste Pro, and ADSI. Recently, Arrow contacted Sellers and Associates expressing an interest in preparing a response. The number of companies who may possible submit a proposal is indeed encouraging.

To accommodate potential respondents, the due date for responses was extended from March 13, 2019, until March 20, 2019. It is my intention for the responses to be evaluated/graded by March 29, 2019, so that formal action can be taken on April 2, 2019.

In view of the foregoing, at the last regular meeting, Ordinance number 19-1259-OR was introduced. The ordinance appears on the Administrative/Finance Committee meeting agenda under Item 2. The ordinance is necessary since the waste disposal provider will operate under an exclusive contract/franchise. Reference is made to Section 2-11 of the Parish’s Home Rule Charter.

Moreover, Waste Management, our current provider, has agreed to extend its current contract until June 30, 2019. Hence, in the event that firm is not the successful respondent, we will have ample time to transition to a new provider.

It is important to note that the current program has resulted in significant deficits since its inception. There can be no debate that material changes are mandated and that a fair, balanced RFP process is indeed indicated.

As I reminded you in February report 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. Although the architect for the project and representatives from HSD #2 had agreed 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, they have now requested to place on the May agenda. Thus, they will be present at that time to discuss the specifics of this project.

The engineer for the Potato Shed Road Bridge project advised on March 11, 2019, that the Corps of Engineers asked for clarification on the location of the bridge as well as elevations of mean, high, and low water levels at the site. The plans were updated and revised for submission to the Corps. In the meantime, Martin Porrier reviewed the matter with the engineer and all concur that final approval of the permit should not consume much time and there should be little or no issue with obtaining approval. WE EXPECT THAT BIDS CAN BE SOLICITED BY THE END OF THE WEEK. Noteworthy is the fact that the bids documents will call for quotes for both timber and concrete piling. Finally, Mr. Poirrier was of the opinion that new bridge panels were in fact the correct route to take and that proceeding with used and/or refabricated panels would have been improvident.

As regards the Four Mile Bayou Bridges, the engineer received comments from the Office of Coastal Management on the Joint Use Permit application. He has addressed those comments, and we are now simply waiting on final approval. There are a few weeks of work left relative to the final development of the bidding documents. Of course, the high water issues necessarily delays any construction activities.

Under Item 3 of your agenda for the February Public Works Committee meeting, I briefly discussed a proposed flood plain ordinance prepared by Mr. Durand upon my request and the recommendation of Mr. Rodney “Cooney” Richard. I had intended to entertain further discussion at this meeting; however, I have not had an opportunity to fully vet this edict with our Directors. Hence, I will delay action on a final draft until that occurs. Nonetheless, I would like to have an ordinance on the books no later than July, 2019.

Nonetheless, on February 25, 2019, I had a meeting among Calder Hebert, Shani Dodge with our permit office, Mr. Richard, and Claire Darby of his office. The latter is certified in flood plain management. Several changes were made to the ordinance and they are also reviewing other of its provisions. I am convinced that you will be pleased with the final product which will not only provide much needed flood control for our Parish, but will also result in reduced insurance rates.

In August, 2012, Parish Government created the position of Courthouse Security Officer to monitor and direct the independent contractors who manned the security points at the facility. As an aside, we are mandated to provide security. In any case, the Security Officer proved to be an effective measure. Several months ago, the Officer resigned and in lieu thereof, the Parish contracted with ACCEL for the “supervisor” postulating this would be a cost saving move. Calder Hebert has reviewed several documents and concerns which his evaluation of this arrangement disclosed. After discussing this matter with me, I have concluded that the original system should be re-instituted. It has proven to be not only less efficient, but also anything by cost saving. Therefore, on April 1, 2019, Mr. David Savoy will assume the position of Courthouse Security Officer. David was the first person to hold that position, and I had the distinct pleasure to have worked closely with him when I had an office in the Courthouse. I am convinced that we will have enhanced services and experience costs savings with him at the helm. Also, David is a post-certified peace officer.

We have sold two more tracts of adjudicated property in recent weeks. One tract was in the St. Martinville area and the second in the Cecilia area. The import of this addresses the fact that not only are we receiving some revenue from the sales, but the property is being placed into the stream of commerce, yielding tax revenue-not to mention being cleaned.

While on the subject of adjudicated and neglected properties, several persons have recently complimented the Parish on its strong stance relative to blighted properties. I continue to assure our citizens that Parish Government remains adamant about addressing nuisance properties, but that the program is nonetheless a process. It will take a long time to get our Parish where we want it in this respect. I again encourage our municipalities to partner with us on this endeavor. We can accomplish much more working cooperatively especially as regards the use of the hearing officer procedures and JP system. While the entire Council was supportive of such efforts, I particularly applaud Councilman LeBlanc for his detailed attention to this matter.

All of you are acutely aware of the Parish’s UNFUNDED mandate to fund the operations of the judicial system, particularly the district attorney and judges. This problem crystalized in 2016, and has grown progressively more acute. Not only have there been reductions in criminal court revenues and increases in the operational expenses of the DA and judges (despite their cuts), but also the Criminal Justice Reform legislation will soon start to enhance the revenue issues. I have long lamented that the solution is not simply for the Parish to continue to supplement the Criminal Court Fund and DA/Judges coiffures. Rather, a long-term answer is warranted. Therefore, I scheduled a meeting on Monday, March 18, 2019, among only the three 16th Judicial District Parish Presidents and their respective representatives (CFO-Directors of Finance) at which time we discussed this issue. We will now approach the Judges and DA for their input.

Congratulations are in order for the Breaux Bridge High School Basketball program which won the State Championship on March 8, 2019. I have invited Coach Chad Pourciau, his assistants, the Principal, and more importantly, the entire team to our meeting of April 2, 2019. They have accepted the invitation. At that time, I will ask for a Council resolution congratulating them on that accomplishment. Moreover, I was impressed by the fact that during the game, the camera angle focused frequently on the Breaux Bridge fans who, while excited, were nonetheless conducting themselves in an admirable fashion. What was even more impressive was the fact that the entire baseball team had traveled to Lake Charles to cheer their classmates to victory. Well done Breaux Bridge High School!