Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Regular Meeting of November 5, 2018

Since the presentation of the original budget for FY 2019 at the October meeting, Mr. Hundley and I have entertained observations and comments from both council members and department supervisors. A few changes have been made, none of which are of particular or significant import. The various funds which have been revised will be provided to you for your review and adoption at the regular meeting in December. At that time, amendments to the FY 2018 budget will be presented.

For your edification, the following are SOME of the changes effected in the original 2019 budget submitted to you in October. The amount appropriated for materials and supplies for the Fire Service District (Fund 222) has been increased from $65,000 to $100,000. I wanted to be assured that we had provided sufficient funds for the acquisition of tools for the EVT (diesel mechanic) to be hired during the year. Fund 212 (Equipment Technology) now provides for the acquisition of two dump trucks via our accord with Enterprise. I felt that additional money should be provided for bridge repairs and bridge inspections. Hence, Fund 201 has been increased by $100,000 and the expenses associated with bridge inspections has been increased from $25,000 to $50,000 (Fund 230). The Industrial Park (Fund 252) reflects an increase in maintenance and repairs from $45,000 to $195,000 as a consequence of my discourse with Brian Guillory who advises the water plant will need a variable flow device to insure proper pressure in the outlying areas serviced and three rapid sand filters. Funds 230 and 202 reflect additional expenditures for the special taxing districts. Both of these funds are extremely healthy.

The 2018 DOTD bridge inspections have concluded. As you are aware, “only” two of our structures were closed: a bridge on Division Road (District 1) and the Potato Shed Road bridge (District 8) next to Bayou Land Seafood. We are proceeding with plans to replace the Potato Shed Road Bridge; in fact, we are attempting to locate surplus bridge panels from neighboring Parishes which will expedite the replacement. Also, we are in the process of obtaining cost estimates to repair the Division Road Bridge. I intend to work on both and if funding is available to commence work simultaneously.

Our objective should be to never have any of our bridges fail a DOTD inspection. That is one of the reasons I would like a more aggressive inspection program and to insure adequate funding in our budget to be proactive as opposed to reactive. You will note that this posture is reflected in my budget remarks.

You will recall that at the last committee meeting I informed you that on September 7, 2018, Mr. Byron Fuselier, Heath Babineaux, Mo Saleh, and I met with two property owners who objected to the project, as designed. We discussed with them alternative measures which Mr. Saleh thought was “workable.” However, he was concerned about the additional costs of the alternative plan. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Mr. Saleh has conferred with various contractors and the costs of the new plan is within budget, or slightly in excess. Furthermore, he met with the U.S. Army Corps Engineers, and in an e-mail, Mr. Saleh describes that meeting as follows: “…COE was very receptive to this alternative and asked for us to revise the drawings and submit it to them and they will process the application quickly.” Mr. Saleh concluded this e-mail, dated October 2, 2018, with the comment: “Our goal is to have construction started by January 2019.” He informed Heath Babineaux on November 1, 2018, that after meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers, he believes construction may commence before the end of this year.

To say the least, this is encouraging and will circumvent the need for “eminent domain” litigation which I have recommended, and which you have authorized. It is not anticipated that there will be any substantive objections to this alternative plan. Nonetheless, I am prepared to proceed as soon as the appropriate permits have been granted.

I remind you of the resolution you passed at the October meeting supporting the passage of proposed amendment number 3 to Louisiana’s 1974 Constitution. In recent weeks there have been misplaced and ill-informed lamentations on social media outlets about Parish Government’s lack of cooperation with our municipalities. This is extraordinarily disconcerting since the Parish has been extremely helpful to the municipalities in our Parish, often to detriment of our unincorporated areas. The most pronounced, though not exclusive, example is the Parish’s sharing of the bond recreational proceeds to the tune of several MILLION dollars. Furthermore, the Parish to my knowledge has never refused to assist the municipalities relative to public works matters unless to do so was impossible or outright illegal. You will recall that upon my appointment to the Presidency, I attended every meeting of the municipalities’ governing bodies and reinforced my commitment to work with our cities, towns, and villages. Rest assured that I will not abandon this cooperative spirit but will certainly make it a point to remind the public of what we, as a Parish, do for all of the residents of the Parish.

I remind you that our offices will be closed on Monday, November 12, 2018, in celebration of Veterans Day. I know that you will agree that our nation often seems to have forgotten the price which our veterans have paid in service of our country.

The contract for the renovations at Paul Angelle Park has been prepared and executed. Actual construction will soon commence and a pre-construction meeting with the Parish, contractor, and architect is scheduled for November 9, 2018. I will instruct our Projects Manager to secure progress reports twice a month on this project. Included in these reports will be photographs to be posted on our website so all of us can monitor the progress.

The architect for the Cecilia Community Center is preparing the final plans and specifications for this project. I am hopeful that the final plans will be prepared in the next few weeks so that I, acting in concert with the Council, can approve them being submitted for bids. I truly believe that when all is said and done, the Park facility in Cecilia will be second to none.

By virtue of Act 270 of the 2018 Regular Session, the Louisiana Legislature mandated one hour of annual training on preventing sexual harassment for all local and state public employees. As a consequence of this edict, our employees will receive the mandated training on November 29, 2018. At the same time, we will conduct a class of the one hour of ethics training as well. Each of you is invited to attend these training sessions. Moreover, I am having our current sexual harassment policy reviewed and updated to insure that it reflects the latest legislative and judicial pronouncements on this subject. The firm of Becker and Hebert will conduct the sexual harassment training.

On Wednesday, October 31, 2018, I permitted representatives of the staff to attend a best practices seminar sponsored in Lafayette by the Legislative Auditor. The Council Clerk and Deputy Clerk also attended. The information presented at this conference was very valuable and pertinent to our operations. The attendees have briefly shared with me some of the data and I will be meeting with them in the near future to discuss the information in more detail. While on the subject of conferences, I closely vet requests from employees to attend conferences. It is my belief that some are indeed valuable while others may not have much to offer. Indeed, in the last month, I have denied two requests for conferences concluding the Parish would not benefit by one of our employees attending. Of course, others have been approved.