Council Preview 10/6: Answers on LUS investigation, what to do with LCG’s CARES Act money, polling locations, final adoption on parish tax increases

Illustration by Peter DeHart
This story has been updated to clarify that there has been no official request to eliminate the commercial portion of the redevelopment plan for the old federal courthouse.

The gist: Some City Council members want more answers about the ongoing investigation into LUS and LUS Fiber, which the mayor-president escalated into criminal allegations. The Parish Council is likely to approve increases — without a public vote — for some property taxes to make up for lost revenue. Meanwhile, more money is pouring in from the federal government. Full agendas here

Pay raises for Guillory’s staff. There will be a special joint meeting between the City Council and Parish Council to consider overriding Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s veto of a budget amendment that zeroed out raises he proposed for staff in his office. City Councilman Glenn Lazard authored the amendment during the budget process, questioning the optics of giving Guillory’s staff raises when so many other employees were laid off and raises for other employees were frozen. Also at this meeting will be the introduction of an ordinance to restore those 2% raises to non-fire and police LCG employees, who are already slated to get a 2% raise.

All of LCG’s parish millages are up for final adoption. As proposed, all parish property taxes will go up except those supporting the library, the airport, CREATE and animal/mosquito control and the public health unit. Due to falling commercial property values, the Parish Council voted to increase parish millages to make up for revenue shortfalls. That effort was vetoed by Guillory, who demanded the millages exclude those services, which he considered less essential. Failing to increase the library’s millage could force it to table expansion plans, including construction of a new Northside library. The public will have the opportunity to comment on each millage individually, as while they were initially passed as a single ordinance they’ve since been broken out as separate ordinances. 

Another $400,000 should be on its way for rental and utilities assistance. Councils for the city and parish are voting on final approval to reappropriate $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding and $300,000 in HOME grant funding to Catholic Charities of Acadiana to help address this growing crisis. The need for this funding has been projected to be in the tens of millions in the months to come as the effects of the downturn continue to ripple through our local economy.

Updates on the LUS and LUS Fiber investigation. Tensions have been building between the City Council and Mayor-President Josh Guillory over his handling of the investigation into payments made to LUS Fiber by other LCG agencies, potentially violating a statute regulating LUS Fiber. After the district attorney declined to seek charges, City Councilwoman Liz Hebert called the two-year investigation a “witch hunt” of Terry Huval and demanded an apology for the former LUS and Fiber director. LUS and Fiber have been without permanent leadership for more than two years, and Guillory has not started the process of finding permanent replacements. The City Council is also asking for a report on the status of filling those positions as well as the police chief and Parks & Recreation director.

LCG is getting $13.8 million from the CARES Act, and Guillory knows how he wants to spend it. The mayor-president wants to allocate $10 million to create the Police and Fire Sustainability and Resiliency Fund. The money would be used to help cover the cost of future cost-of-living adjustments for police and fire personnel. Second, he wants to allocate $1 million to pay for “comprehensive crisis management training” for the Lafayette Police Department. Third, he wants to restore the 2% pay increase for LCG employees he pushed to remove from the budget back in April. Guillory has fought using one-time funds to pay recurring expenses. And that’s exactly what he’s proposing here. 

Updates on the old federal courthouse redevelopment project. Redevelopment of the old federal courthouse is behind schedule. Earlier this year, there was council discussion about the development team’s desire to change the terms of its deal with the city to get rid of the commercial/retail portion of the development and focus exclusively on apartments, though no formal request or decision has been made. The project’s completion deadline is the end of this year with penalties of $10,000 assessed for each month of delay beyond the contracted completion date. 

There’s more federal and state money flowing into LCG’s coffers as well. Included is a $2.5 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority to replace the city’s low-floor transit buses and a $292,000 grant from the same agency to improve bus and bus facilities. The state is routing some of its federal grant money to the city to allocate $459,000 to a new Northside high school sidewalk network. 

A variety of board and commission vacancies are being announced. If you’re looking for a way to get more involved in the community, here are the volunteer positions up for grabs:

CityQualifications
Board of Zoning AdjustmentNone
People’s Safety InitiativeCommunity organizer
People’s Safety InitiativeDietician
People’s Safety InitiativeMedical doctor
Waterworks District South BoardDistrict resident
Parish
Lafayette Convention & Visitors CommissionMinority
Waterworks District South BoardDistrict resident

The Parish Council is holding an emergency meeting to change the polling location at Allen Comeaux Recreation Center to the East Regional Library. This move would affect precincts 104 and 128. The reason this change is being made is to provide more space for social distancing as voters get ready to head to the polls in the midst of a pandemic.

Prioritizing courthouse improvements. A Parish Council resolution would ask that state legislators prioritize asbestos abatement in the parish courthouse from in the state capital outlay budget. Last month, the Parish Council voted to allocate $3.5 million from the dedicated fund that supports the courthouse and jail to repair the Buchanan Garage. District judges voiced concern that the decision left no money to abate asbestos in the last two floors of the courthouse. Also on the agenda, the Parish Council will take up spending the last $300,000 remaining in that dedicated fund to pay for the abatement. The sheriff has also come after that money to cover increased costs for jailer services at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center. 

It’s open mic night at the Parish Council. As a reminder, the City and Parish councils recently split up the public comments portion of their respective agendas. The Parish Council allows for public comment on any topic the first meeting of each month while the City Council gives that airtime the second meeting of each month.

About the Author

Geoff Daily created FiberCorps and helped launch the Lafayette General Foundation. He now works as a launch strategist.

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