Council Preview: Shake up on library board would add parish councilman

Here is a selection of items on the agendas for this week’s meetings of the City and Parish councils. To see the full agendas, check out the links below:

Lafayette 101
Public Employee Retirement

LCG and its employees contribute to statewide retirement systems that handle costs and benefits. Those systems determine how much LCG and its employees contribute and how much retirees get based on salaries and years of service.

Parish Council

Boards & Commissions

Opening on library board. The Parish Council will pick from nine applicants to fill a seat on the controversy-laden Library Board of Control created by the end of member Joan Wingate’s term on May 31. Council members John Guilbeau, Bryan Tabor and Josh Carlson have typically voted in a block to appoint conservative members to the board since taking office in 2020. See the list of candidates and their résumés here.

Final Adoption

Public health on the go. The Guillory administration is proposing a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health and Ochsner Lafayette General to buy and operate a new mobile health unit. The parish would put up $500,000 to buy a 38-foot coach bus and turn it into a mobile medical facility for vaccinations, COVID-19 testing, hurricane response and other public health needs. The unit would be operated by Ochsner Lafayette General and overseen by LDH.

Clearing ditches. Guillory’s Drainage Department is asking the council for another $420,000 in this year’s budget to pay for ditch clearing around the parish. The funds would come from the parish’s drainage maintenance fund, which has been depleted in the past two years, falling from $11 million in reserve cash to just $165,000 projected by the end of this fiscal year.

Introduction

Councilman on board. A Parish Council member may soon join the contentious Library Board of Control under a new ordinance. The change would put the council’s chair or a councilmember of his choosing on the board, in line with state law. This year, that’s Councilman Josh Carlson. Carlson’s appointment would replace Marquise Watson, M-P Josh Guillory’s most recent addition to the board, who helped make the library’s new restricted access cards for children to be opt-in rather than opt-out at her first meeting in February. Council members have tried to distance themselves from the board’s controversies, and Carlson has yet to announce who he will tap for the seat. 

New voting location. Ordinance PO-20 moves the election day voting location for precincts 59 & 60 to the Heymann Park Recreation Center on Orange Street from the LPSS headquarters, which was recently sold to the Lafayette Airport Commission and is expected to be demolished.

City Council

Reports

Retirement update. City Council Chair Glenn Lazard is asking the Guillory administration for an update on its retirement system switch, which led LCG to sue the state’s Municipal Employees Retirement System over $15 million on March 16. LCG announced the suit in a release immediately before the last City Council meeting on March 22.

Emergency rental assistance. Lazard is also planning an update on LCG’s emergency rent assistance program, which has received millions in federal funds to keep people in their homes since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Both councils are set to vote on accepting another $1.1 million from the federal Treasury for the program Tuesday.

Final Adoption

Tennis court fee hike. Membership fees for the tennis courts at Beaver and Thomas parks would increase significantly under this ordinance. Monthly rates would jump $8.33 (33%) for adults, $6.67 (19%) for families, and $9.17 (46%) for teens and seniors, while annual rates would rise $175 (78%) for adults, $200 (67%) for families, and $175 (100%) for teens and seniors.

LUS Fiber Grants. The City Council is set to formally recognize millions of dollars in state and federal grants won by LUS Fiber to expand its network into rural parts of Acadiana. Fiber is in line for $33.9 million in external funding for the expansion, which stretches into many of Lafayette’s bordering parishes that have put their own funds into the pot to help LUS Fiber reach their communities. Fiber is matching the grants with $1.8 million of in-kind funding in this year’s budget, largely through installation labor.

$1.2 million more for Lake Farm detention. Guillory’s administration is asking the council for another $1.2 million to deepen the Lake Farm Road detention ponds, adding to its earlier request of $600,000. Both requests would remove funding from the Digby Avenue Detention Pond to bolster work at Lake Farm, which was originally projected to cost $3.9 million, though the lengthy litigation and potential land cost stand to inflate that number. During the expropriation trial in 2021, an LCG engineer testified that the ponds’ walls would have to be made taller than originally planned to increase the ponds’ effects. The revised plans also make the ponds 2 feet deeper than originally conceived. Guillory's administration has said deepening the Lake Farm pond would have a greater benefit than digging the Digby pond at a reduced cost.

$6.6 million for LUS. LUS is in line for a $6.6 million grant from the state to improve the South Sewer Treatment Plant. The city-owned utility will have to match those funds with $5 million of its own to improve the plant’s sewage digester and flow handling system, as well as replace its roof.

Introduction

No significant items.

Joint Items

Final Adoption

Pinhook/Bendel turn lanes. LCG will get $750,000 from the state to add and improve turn lanes on Pinhook Road near its notorious intersection with Bendel Road near South College Road, as well as improve drainage in that area.

Cutting grass. Guillory’s admin is asking the councils to approve $225,000 from the city-parish environmental fund, which is largely funded by trash collection fees, for additional grass cutting services.

Rent aid. LCG is in line for $1.1 million more Emergency Rental Assistance funds from the federal government to bolster its local efforts to keep residents from being evicted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. LCG’s program has been one of the state’s most successful and has repeatedly received millions in unused funds in other communities to help people in the parish stay in their homes.

Introduction

No significant items.

Vacancies

BoardApprovalQualifications
Keep Lafayette Beautiful BoardParish CouncilRegistered voter and a resident of Lafayette Parish
Evangeline Thruway Redevelopment TeamCity CouncilRegistered voter and a resident of Lafayette Parish
To apply, email your resume to [email protected] no later than noon April 18.

Appointments

BoardAppointed byAppointment
Lafayette Housing AuthorityMayor-PresidentLaura L. Ward

Read more on LCG retirement