Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of October 16, 2018
FIRE SERVICE DISTRICT
On Saturday, October 6, 2018, interviews were conducted for the position of Fire Service District Coordinator. Six candidates were interviewed and all of them were impressive. The committee unanimously agreed that the interim Coordinator, Brody Miller should be appointed. He accepted the position and, at my instruction, has commenced the process for selecting a training officer. I am excited about our Fire Service District and can personally attest that the morale is high and participation of the volunteers admirable. All of this is the product of the leadership of Mr. Miller and the commitment of our individual fire departments.
FUTURE ROAD IMPROVEMENTS
I remind each of the Council members to provide me with a list of roads in his/her district (or any district for that matter) which he/she feel need repairs/reconstruction. In the next couple of weeks, I intend to confer with Martin Porier with DDG (formerly PENSCO) to develop a plan and priority list for 2019.
BAYOU ESTATES FLOOD GATE PROJECT
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 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.”
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. As soon as the new plans are approved, I will schedule a public meeting in Stephensville to update the residents. 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.
CAPITAL OUTLAY BUDGET REQUESTS
At the Regular meeting of October 2, 2018, the Council approved Resolution Number 18-085-RS which authorizes the submission of Capital Outlay Budget Requests for 2019-2020. Note that several of the requests address the provision of water services and enhancements at our water plant at the Industrial Park- projects which are somewhat unique relative to capital outlay. In any case, Richard Minvielle has agreed to assist in the formal submission of our request, and he and I are meeting Monday to finalize the submission. After my discourse with Senator Fred Mills on August 31, 2018, I believe that a well drafted request may support our position that the projects for which we seek assistance are reasonable and worthy of consideration. For a myriad of reasons, I will personally take the lead on the submission, together with Mr. Minvielle, of course.
PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 3
At the Regular meeting on October 2, 2018, the Council adopted a resolution supporting the passage of proposed amendment number 3 to Louisiana’s 1974 Constitution. Don’t forget that early voting commences on October 23rd and concludes on the 30th. Election day is November 6, 2018. If anyone needs supporting data on this proposed amendment, please advise.
SALES TAX REPORT
You will note two significant points on the financial report for September. First, there is no video poker collections reflected. This is the “off” month for state remission of collections; thus, there is no reason for concern. Secondly, the District No. 1 Sales Tax collection is significantly higher than any month since January 2015 (April of this year does not “count” since the reported amount includes back taxes collected). Our monthly average for collections thus far is substantially greater than the last five years. Here’s to hoping this positive trend continues.
FY 2019 BUDGET PREPARATIONS
The preliminary budget which I submitted at the regular meeting of October 2, 2018, is being vetted by me and Sean Hundley. We have determined that increases in our bridge repairs should be effected. Also, our public works funds reflect an appropriation of $1million for road repairs, and money for the acquisition of several pieces of equipment including 9 excavators, 6 dozers, 2 dump trucks, and a motorgrader. The Fire Service District budget reflects several innovative changes: elimination of the fire trusty crew (with approval of steering committee), hiring of an EVT (diesel mechanic), and a onetime stipend for volunteers who meet certain training criteria and attend determined number of calls. Finally, we have appropriated funds for a PIAL consultant to work with our fire departments which will help in reducing our fire ratings which will lower insurance rates.
I again invite each Council member to schedule a time to meet with me to review any area of the budget which might catch your attention. At that time, I can review in more detail many of the cuts we have made and additional expenditures we have deemed proper.
Sellers and Associates have been commissioned to engage in a study/analysis of Waterworks District No. 4 to ascertain what infrastructure needs must be addressed and to locate potential funding sources. Likewise, a study will be made of the potential for waterlines to be run along La. Highway 94 with a close eye being directed to potential agreements with water providers in that region. I invite a meeting with each Council member individually so that I can share my ideas in this area. I do not want to discuss any concepts in detail because one may be constrained to view them as promises or representations. The development of my concepts are a process that will consume much time and effort.
This year, Veterans Day, November 11, 2018, is on a Sunday. I have decided to close our offices on Monday, November 12, 2018, in celebration of that very special day since it falls on a Sunday. Veterans Day is a recognized holiday for our employees under Rule 6.01 of our Policy Manual. I understand that many public offices may not be closed that day; however, it is my entrenched position that our nation has forgotten the price which our veterans have paid in service of our country. I recognize that many view such holiday closures as meaningless symbolism with no substance; however, it would be a tragedy and direct affront to those who have served our nation in times of war to ignore this holiday and do nothing to draw attention to it.
CECILIA COMMUNITY CENTER/PAUL ANGELLE PARK
The contract for the renovations at Paul Angelle Park has been prepared and executed. Actual construction will soon commence. 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.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT TRAINING
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.
SECTION 8 RELOCATION
The Section 8 program is being relocated to 420 East Bridge Street in St. Martinville, effective October 22, 2018. This is the property we purchased from Southwest Realty and which we recently renovated, using our courthouse annex funds. Our current lease with SMILE for the property on Courville Street in Breaux Bridge has been cancelled, as of that date. The relocation of our Section 8 offices will offer more secure quarters for our employees and will be more cost effective since we will no longer be paying any rent or unnecessary utility costs. It was not necessary to acquire any new furniture. Moreover, this relocation reflects a continued effort to centralize Parish operations so that we can conduct our governmental affairs more effectively, efficiently, and with a higher degree of accountability.
You will recall that I informed you of a meeting I attended on June 8, 2018, which included Dr. Rebekah Gee, Secretary of the La. Department of Health, Senator Fred Mills, Burton Dupuis, chairperson of Hospital Service District No. 2, and representatives of Lafayette General, and various other agencies of the State. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the prospect of receiving funding for rural healthcare services. St. Martin Hospital and Lafayette General have been involved in further discourse with state officials which includes my thoughts that our health units can be a vital player in rural healthcare development. As I previously advised, I am diligently 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.
On Monday, October 15, 2018, I presented a conceptual plan to the Lafayette General and St. Martin Hospital. This concept addresses the renovation of the old technology center to satisfy state and federal requirements for a clinic. Also, a partnership/agreement between the Parish and St. Martin Hospital will be confected whereby St. Martin Hospital will provide collaborating physician(s) to our health units so that we can provide healthcare treatment, thus making our health units more effective, all at no costs to the Parish. This can be accomplished by several means, one of which is a lease agreement with St. Martin Hospital. In any regard, the objective is to have rural healthcare clinics in St. Martinville, Breaux Bridge, and Cecilia. These clinics will be self-supporting with the Parish taking advantage of the medical and financial resources of St. Martin Hospital/Lafayette General-much like what was accomplished between HSD #2 and Lafayette General. Also, I have discussed with St. Martin Hospital the prospect of providing a mobile clinic with telemedicine capability to lower St. Martin once or twice per week. Dr. Gee is immensely impressed with this concept which I advanced.
Please note that I have used the term “concept.” We are not at the point where I will call this vision a “plan.” However, much has been accomplished since my initial discourse last June, and the opportunity to further offer these ideas to the Board is a positive move.
This has been a tough year for mosquitoes. Our contractor has pretty much described this year as sort of a “perfect storm.” In the summer we experienced unusually dry weather which led to limited water sources. Thus, mosquitoes, birds, and fowl gravitated to the same limited water sources which enhanced the potential for the spread of disease (viruses). Thus, we had more positive pool tests, resulting increased spraying. Then, an abnormally wet late summer and early fall created a proliferation of mosquitoes. Therefore, more telephone complaints and calls about mosquitoes have been received.
As you are aware, our mosquito program runs from May 1, 2018, to November 30, 2018. There is no comprehensive spraying, but rather we determine where, what, when, and how often we spay based on pool tests from numerous traps which are strategically set throughout the Parish. I communicate at least once per week with our contractor to discuss tests results and the assignment of spraying crews.
Essentially, we have a mosquito surveillance/control program. In our region of the State, there is no financially feasible program of which we can avail ourselves to effectively eliminate mosquitoes. Such a program will cost well over a million dollars and would no doubt entail aerial spraying. The last couple of years, we have exceeded our budget for mosquito spraying and it appears this year will be no exception.
In November, I will be speaking at the LDAA Fall Conference on unfunded, mandated services of Parish Government. I am excited about this opportunity since I will be in a position to discuss, FROM A PARISH GOVERNMENT PERSPECTIVE, the severe burden being placed on local government to fund judicial and district attorney budgets. I will most assuredly advocate for permanent funding sources from the state and judicial system itself for such operations. Also, I will be on a panel which will discuss and review issues with servitudes and the prevailing law on such matters. I intend to obtain a video of the servitude presentation, and review it in detail with our public works personnel.
Our electronic payroll system is ready for implementation. Training sessions on the program will commence next week. I anticipate a significant reduction in Parish time and expense.