Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of October 15, 2019

The following Parish roads have been approved for new pavement marking in accordance with DOTD and federal standards. The markings will include both edge-line and centerline stripes. Furthermore, signage will be erected in curves and at selected intersections. The roads are:
• Banker Road for La. 96 to Coteau Holmes Road
• Delcambre/Zin Zin Road from La. 347 to La. 349
• Doyle Melancon Road from Grand Pointe to La. 347
• Duchamp Road from La. 92-1 to La. 96
• Hebert Avenue from Saltmine Highway to La. 31
• Lady of the Lake Road from La. 182 to La. 31
• Russo Milazzo Road from Leed Champagne Road to Cypress Island Hwy.
• Sawmill Highway from Saltmine Hwy. to La. 31

The project calls for 26.1 miles of work and funding is 100% through the La. Local Road Safety Program.

Several other roads which are not a part of this program have been identified as being in need of striping. A list of these roads is being developed so that contracts for this work can be confected. If any council member is aware of any such road, please advise accordingly.

I am certain most of you have heard that Martin Poirrier will be leaving his position as Director of Public Works on November 1, 2019. In his absence, I will handle public works in the same fashion as I did from the time I assumed the presidency until Martin’s appointment on February 11, 2019. Of course, I have already commenced formulating a plan to secure his replacement. This important position cannot stay vacant for a significant length of time. I invite you to review the qualifications for the director position as set forth in our Home Rule Charter. Moreover, I find it essential that the Director have an understanding of engineering principles and have the ability to cogently communicate both orally and in writing especially in view of the fact that the Director must deal with contractors, architects, and other engineers-not to mention that I expect the person in that position to represent the Parish before many organizations such as the Army Corps of Engineers.

I wish Martin the very best in his future endeavors and do not hesitate to opine that his technical, and practical, knowledge was instrumental in moving many of our major projects forward inclusive of the Bayou Estates Flood Wall project. His coordination of our public works forces during the Spring flooding and Hurricane Barry was extremely valuable.

Bids are due for the Bayou Estates Flood Wall Project on October 24, 2019. The bid opening is scheduled for November 5, 2019. The bid opening for the Four Mile Bayou Bridge(s) Replacement was today, October 15, 2019. The low bid was $679,946.00. The bids were lower than expected and will be submitted to the Office of Facility Planning and Control since Capital Outlay funds will be used to offset the cost of the project.

St. Martin Parish will again “sponsor” the Home Elevation Program administered through FEMA. At the current time, we are seeking RFQ’s for the grant management. The RFQ responses will be evaluated shortly after the due date of November 5, 2019. Note that FEMA mandates that the grant management be procured through a competitive process.

Once the grant management firm is selected, St. Martin Parish will host public meetings to educate homeowners on all eligibility requirements and the precise steps which must be adopted to submit applications for a FEMA award for home elevation. Moreover, areas of the Parish which we believe would qualify for assistance will be notified by handouts delivered to each residence in the affected area. Of course, we will advertise the public meetings on our social media outlets and in the print media.

Item Number 3 of the Public Works Committee meeting Agenda is a resolution supporting two bills filed in the United States Congress, one in each chamber. This legislation will remove the cap on GOMESA revenues for Gulf States, effectively increasing the revenue share to GOMESA states from 37.5% to 50%. This percentage of sharing is more in line with that paid to onshore mineral production states. Salient “talking points” associated with this legislation are summarized as follows:
• GOMESA is one of the most important funding streams for coastal related projects and there is movement in Washington D.C. that is intended to increase the money Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi receive from offshore oil and gas revenue.
• There is current Congressional legislation that would allocate offshore oil and gas leasing revenues to federal programs outside the Gulf region without increasing GOMESA revenues to the Gulf States. These bills provide, for example, funding of $900 million annually from offshore oil and gas revenue for national and state parks and recreation opportunities under the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Another bill would take $1.3 billion annually from offshore oil and gas revenue for five fiscal years for deferred maintenance of national parks through the country.
• GOMESA states oppose any distribution of offshore revenues to federal programs unless the share of offshore revenues for the Gulf States is increased substantially.
• There are two specific, and nearly identical, bills moving in the House and Senate. Senate Bill (S 2414 – the COASTAL ACT) is sponsored by Senator Cassidy and Senator Murkowski and the House Bill (HB 3814 – The Domestic Offshore Energy Reinvestment Act of 2019) by Representative Graves and Representative Richmond.
• These bills would remove the cap on GOMESA revenues for Gulf States previously set at $375 million annually, increase the revenue share to GOMESA states from 37.5% to 50%, and provide a new authorized use of GOMESA revenues for “planning, engineering, design and construction, operations and maintenance of one or more projects that are specifically authorized by any other act for ecosystem restoration, hurricane protection, or flood damage prevention.” The only difference between the House and Senate bill is that the latter establishes revenue for Alaska.
• Given the movement with the Land and Water Conservation Fund, this is our best chance to see an increase in GOMESA revenues. It may be the only chance in the near future to increase revenues; thus, swift and in unified action supporting the subject legislation is necessary.
• CPRA has been diligent in unifying the GOMESA Revenue Sharing Coalition (GRSC) in order to coordinate the efforts to enact the legislation.

I will repeat my observations from my September report regarding Hurricane Barry:
The damage assessments from Hurricane Barry have been calculated, and the Parish met the threshold for FEMA assistance for Categories A & B. The total damage Parish threshold is $197,164.80. The documented expenses for the juridical entities in the Parish were: City of St. Martinville-$44,841.98; Sheriff’s Office-$41,159.57; GOHSEP-$8,227.00; and DOTD-$8,709.33. St. Martin Parish’s expenses were, alone, $102,937.88. Apparently, no other entity in the Parish has chosen to calculate and present any Category A or B expenses to our OEP.
GOHSEP has certified/approved of the Parish’s expense total and will request that the President amend his prior Disaster Declaration to include St. Martin Parish for Category A & B Public Assistance. These categories embrace debris removal and emergency protective measures.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, I am not confident about our ability to obtain reimbursement for the mosquito spraying which was necessitated by virtue of the storm. As you will recall, this issue was vigorously debated after the August 2016 flood, and only recently were the Parish’s expenses from that event approved for reimbursement. On September 25, 2019, Calder Hebert and I will meet with GOHSEP officials to discuss this issue and make our case.

On October 2, 2019, The Disaster Declaration was indeed amended to include St. Martin Parish. On October 11, 2019, the Federal Declaration was amended for St. Martin Parish to included Categories A-G. Our requests for reimbursement have been submitted to FEMA, and we are simply awaiting the matter to be vetted. As I alluded to in my prior report, I am not optimistic about securing any reimbursement for mosquito spraying. Indeed, a conference with GOHSEP on September 25, 2019, did nothing to assuage my concerns.

As regards the Federal Disaster Declaration related to the Spring flooding, I submit the following from my report for June, 2019:
On February 27, 2019, the State declared a State of Emergency for the flooding caused by abnormally high river levels in the State. Thereafter, on March 4, 2019, I declared a parish wide State of Emergency on the same basis. Both declarations remain in place. Then, after the announcement of the opening of the Morganza Spillway on the evening of May 22, 2019, and the decision to sink the barge at Bayou Chene, the State requested a Federal Disaster Declaration which was granted on May 29, 2019. The federal declaration embraces only the time frame beginning with May 10, 2019. Additionally, ONLY St. Mary Parish is entitled to Category A assistance which is reimbursement of money expended for flood control measures. St. Martin Parish, together with other several Parishes, were authorized to receive Direct Federal Assistance (Category B) which allows for the receipt of assets such as pumps, sandbags, and personnel. Therefore, the federal declaration is of little value to St. Martin Parish on its face. It is readily apparent that the $8 million cost of sinking the barge in Bayou Chene is the basis of the Federal Declaration. Also, do not lose sight of the fact that FEMA reimbursement is triggered by a federal declaration.

On June 13, 2019, members of our staff, Lt. Colonel Terry Guidry, and I met with two representatives from GOHSEP to discuss the parameters of the Federal Declaration and whether GOHSEP could secure its expansion so to: (1) allow our Parish the benefit of Category A (reimbursement of expenses for flood control measures); AND, (2) to provide that the period of coverage would commence on March 4, 2019. I argued that the IDENTICAL high water levels was the substantial factor that prompted both St. Martin Parish’s flood control measures commencing on March 4, 2019, AND the decision to “sink the barge” at Bayou Chene. Stated differently, but for the same high water levels, there would have been no issue in lower St. Martin, there would have been no barge sinking, and therefore there would have been no Federal Declaration. Everything is intricately interwoven.

The GOHESP representatives were of the opinion that this posture was cogent, and they agreed to submit our request to FEMA. We are in the process of providing records to document our expenditures for them. Meanwhile, I will prepare a memorandum explaining in greater detail how our flood control measures which commenced in March are DIRECTLY related to the event(s) upon which the Federal Declaration of May 29, 2019, was premised. Should our efforts outlined above fail, we will most assuredly pursue reimbursement through the Interim Emergency Board.

As I advised you previously, on September 19, 2019, the Federal Declaration was amended to include St. Martin Parish for Categories A-G assistance. The arguments of the Parish which were set forth in a lengthy memorandum which we submitted were embraced. However, the incident period for assistance has not disturbed and officially is fixed at a window commencing on May 10, 2019.

On October 9, 2019, Calder Hebert and I attended a meeting in Lafayette with FEMA and GOHSEP representatives to review the precise steps for submission of requests for reimbursement for expenses incurred in both events, Hurricane Barry and the Spring Flooding. We were advised that the extension of the incident period associated with the Spring Flooding was still under consideration by FEMA, and likely to be granted. Note that we contend the incident period for St. Martin Parish should commence on March 4, 2019, the date I issued a state of emergency. Indeed, FEMA just recently approved an extension in Illinois under similar circumstances. Lee John, the regional director for GOHSEP was extremely optimistic the declaration ultimately include the period commencing on March 4, 2019.

Regardless, all of our applications for reimbursement for both events have been submitted and we will continue to aggressively pursue our reimbursement claims.

Candidly, I was not impressed, or pleased for that matter, with the outcome of my conference with GOHSEP relative to our discourse concerning reimbursement for mosquito spraying in connection with a disaster event. As an example of what I view to be an impractical rule/requirement, aerial spraying for mosquito control is apparently “preferred” relative to reimbursement claims. However, aerial spraying is substantially more expensive than ground control measures. Thus, if the Parish engages a firm for aerial spraying, and the claim for reimbursement denied (as was the case in connection with the August 2016 flood event and apparently may be the case with Hurricane Barry), the Parish’s unreimbursed expenses will be substantially greater. Also, the GOHSEP representatives were insistent on following a procurement process for spaying Keep in mind that in the wake of an event which requires spraying, time is of the essence, and thus time constraints will not accommodate a reasonable, effective procurement process. Also, our current contract for mosquito spraying provides for emergency measures in the event of a disaster.

In any case, after the meeting on September 25, 2019, I conferred with Sellers and Associates, the firm which coordinates these matters for the Parish, and a decision was made that our contract for next year for our mosquito surveillance program will be subject to a “competitive” procurement process. RFP’s are currently being drafted. I believe that this will aid in any future disaster driven mosquito spraying in regard to obtaining reimbursement from FEMA and will satisfy GOHSEP. Please note that the upcoming “bid process” for our surveillance program is not the product of any dissatisfaction with our current mosquito surveillance provider, but rather is an attempt to address issues we have encountered in obtaining reimbursement from FEMA for such measures.

In accordance with Resolution Number 094-RS which was adopted on October 1, 2019, I have confected the contract with Huval and Associates for the replacement of the Pontoon Bridge. On October 7, 2019, Martin Poirrier, Heath Babineaux, Calder Hebert, and I met with the engineers who will be handling the project for the Parish. We identified the preliminary steps which will be adopted immediately as design options are considered. Noteworthy is the fact that four representatives/engineers from Huval and Associates were present at this “kickoff” meeting. Essentially, the entire area associated with the structure will be surveyed and we will meet with the levee board to crystallize what its concerns might be with respect to this bridge project and any traffic issues associated therewith. Several alternative designs will be vetted as well as other alternative locations for the new bridge.

At this conference, it was AGAIN established in no uncertain terms that the bridge is in DIRE NEED OF REPLACEMENT. The structural issues with the bridge simply cannot be permanently remedied by any sort of repairs.

Also, it is likely that load limits will be assigned to the new bridge to eliminate undue tractor-trailer traffic. In fact, this is one of the issues we will address with the levee board. Moreover, for historical purposes, efforts will be made to preserve and relocate the old structure AS PART OF THE REPLACEMENT PROJECT. Of course, the expenses associated with the preservation/relocation must be considered in making a final decision in that regard.

When I conferred with them on October 7, 2019, I availed myself of the opportunity to discuss with Huval and Associates the status of the replacement of the Potato Shed Road Bridge. It is possible that the structure will be completed by the end of November, if not sooner. The project is proceeding without any significant construction issues. At the latest, it is expected that the project will be completed by the end of the year. The engineers were complimentary of the status of the project. The construction cost for this project is $549,000.

In January, we will have at least 4 new council members. Therefore, I am in the process of preparing an orientation program for the new members which will include an exposition regarding the Parish’s Home Rule Charter and the expansive obligations of Parish Government, many of which are unfunded mandates imposed by state law. The latter presentation will mirror that which I presented at the PJAL conference last February. Current council members are likewise invited, and encouraged, to attend the presentation(s) since I believe that input from you may be of benefit to the incoming members. If an issue with a quorum of members being present arises, we can simply call a special meeting. However, since the presentations will be offered prior to January, I do not envision that such a problem will surface.

At your meeting on October 15, 2019, I will clarify some apparent misunderstandings about Sales Tax District No. 1 vis-à-vis the proposed one cent sales tax which will be offered by the City of Breaux Bridge. I begin by offering these comments from prior reports to you:

The City officials are of the strong belief that it would be unfair and unreasonable for the Parish to continue the tax beyond 2022 within the annexed area. By no means is such a notion without merit-I understand it. However, a balanced appraisal of this issue mandates that consideration be accorded the fact that this is a district tax which was obviously never intended to exclude any area that was annexed by a municipality after its enactment. Hence, the proposition in 1998 specifically contains the language, “as those corporate limits are presently constituted.” As such, this tax is no different than a hospital service district tax. Moreover, this is the sole tax which is dedicated to road construction and maintenance and is a critical source of revenue for St. Martin Parish Government. Finally, at play in these competing positions is the inescapable fact that if the Parish constricts its boundaries for this area on the basis of fairness and reasonableness, then every other area annexed by every municipality since enactment of the tax should be exempted.
Therefore, my sole entreaty to all sides on this question is to recognize that there are competing factors which merit consideration. To view either position with rancor serves only one’s self interest. In all candor, I submit that a formal agreement that the Parish will obligate itself to contributing to the construction and improvements of roads in the annexed area for the duration of the tax or any renewal would be a palatable resolution if this tax is continued or renewed. This has been the practice since the annexation.

On October 7, 2019, Calder Hebert and I again conferred with the City, specifically, Aldermen Eddy Leblanc and Neil Melancon, Mayor Calais, and the City Attorney. The result of that meeting is set forth in the following transmittal which I sent to you:
Council Members:
This morning, Calder Hebert and I met with Mayor Calais of Breaux Bridge, the City Attorney, and two of the city aldermen. The purpose of the meeting was to determine if there was any movement on the issues associated with Ordinance Number 1276-OR which was tabled at the meeting of October 1, 2019. You will recall that in my last communication with you prior to the October 1st meeting, I advised that I had proposed that if the City’s proposed tax passed and if the City would abate the tax relative to the annexed area north of I-10, the Parish would have no opposition to assuming via an agreement with the City full responsibility for maintenance of all road infrastructure in the annexed area. Indeed, such maintenance falls within the ambit of Sales Tax District Number 1 objectives. Although the Mayor initially declined that proposition, after further discourse this morning, and a clear understanding that such an accord would be effective only until October 2022, the City administration embraced the proposal. The Parish does not obligate itself for any sort of constriction of the Sales Tax District No. 1 boundaries now or after 2022. That latter matter can be addressed by discussions between now and then or be subject to the will of the electorate and/or council in 2022. Similarly, the City does not commit to any abatement after October 2022. Finally, it was understood that any road constructed within Sales Tax District No. 1 must meet minimum standards set forth by both City and Parish ordinances.
The integrity of Sales Tax District No. 1 is preserved and the essential Parish road funds protected. In return, the residents in the subject annexed area will be relieved of a sales tax rate greater than the rest of the City and the prospect of the passage of the City’s proposed tax enhanced.
Please call with any questions or comments.

This transmittal was also sent to Mayor Calais and the City Attorney. Unfortunately, there apparently remains inexplicable confusion on the Parish’s position relative to the renewal of our Sales Tax within the CURRENT Sales Tax District No. 1 boundaries in 2022. I strongly recommend that you be prepared, publicly or privately, to make it crystal clear that at this juncture the Parish has no intent on changing the sales tax district boundaries or allowing the tax to expire without seeking a renewal. The misconception that our tax expires in 2022 without the potential of it being renewed within the district’s current boundaries is just that-a misconception. Moreover, I have been questioned about the extent of the Sales Tax District boundaries. Many have the opinion that only the “annexed area” within the City limits north of I-10 is included in the District.

In view of the foregoing, I discussed this matter with your Council Chairperson, and it was agreed that at the committee meetings on October 15, 2019, clarification of the mis-information/misunderstandings were warranted. Hence, Item 6 of the Agenda for the Administrative/Finance Meeting was added.

Section 9-09 of the Home Rule Charter provides that all elected officials defined in the charter assume office on the “second Monday in January next following their election.” Hence, I recommend that the January meeting be fixed for January 14, 2020. Working with your Clerk, I will coordinate a formal ceremony for everyone publicly taking their respective oath of office. Of course, should any of you have any ideas, please communicate them to me or Ms. Laperouse.