Council Preview: Buildings, sewers, help for the needy, budget cuts and more appointments than you can count

Looking under LCG's hood

The gist: Tuesday’s agendas are jam-packed, with 130 items across five meetings: the normal city, parish and joint council meetings plus two emergency meetings, one for the parish and one for the joint councils. There’s everything from updates and reports on a range of topics to big next steps on major road and sewer projects, to dozens of appointments to boards and commissions, to making new rules for AirBnBs, to significant budget cuts, and beyond. 

Lots of reports to keep an eye on. At the City Council, there’ll be updates on the old federal courthouse redevelopment and the COVID-19 emergency response. The joint council will get updates on Geaux Mow and the UDC replacement timeline.

The City Council will vote to move forward on acquiring lands and rights of way for two big infrastructure projects. First up is a new sewer line from Downtown to LUS’s water treatment plant on West Bayou Parkway, along with improvements to the intersection of Pinhook and University, adding a right turn lane on East University Avenue and an additional left turn lane on West Pinhook.

New rules are coming for short-term rentals like AirBnB. Currently AirBnBs don’t have any regulations in the Unified Development Code, creating a legal gray area. If these new rules pass, they’ll be permitted everywhere but areas zoned public/institutional, industrial/light and industrial/heavy. The short-term rental space will need to be dedicated To rentals shorter than 30 consecutive days. There may be additional restrictions added, as the city zoning commission has recommended that areas zoned single family only allow short-term rentals if the property is owner-occupied.

So. Many. Appointment. Vacancies. 48 in total between the city and parish councils. Applications to be considered for these appointments are due by noon Tuesday, July 21. To apply, forward your resume to Veronica Williams, Clerk of the Council, P.O. Box 4017-C, Lafayette, LA 70502 or email it to [email protected]. A full list of each vacancy and brief descriptions of each organization can be found here

The City Council has 25 seats to fill by city of Lafayette residents. The Heymann Center has two, and the Science Museum Advisory Board has four. If you’re looking for a way to get involved with getting those facilities reopened, this might be your best bet. The People’s Safety Initiative, a new effort to protect the lives of our residents, needs a dietician, a doctor, a mental health therapist and a community organizer to apply. The city’s got a minority seat to fill on LEDA’s board, though you must be Black to apply. If you love the Bayou Vermilion District, it needs one board member; the Evangeline Thruway Redevelopment needs four. The Cajundome needs one, too. The city zoning board needs two. The Keep Lafayette Beautiful board needs two. And the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority needs one, as does the airport.

The parish council has 23 seats to fill. The one for the Heymann Center must live in unincorporated Lafayette Parish. One for the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission and one for LEDA. The library has four. The Awareness Committee on Citizens with Disabilities has two. The Waterworks District South has four, though you have to live in this district to apply. The Teche-Vermilion Freshwater District has one. The Industrial Development Board has two. If you love animals, the Animal Care Center advisory board has two. If you love beautifying Lafayette, Keep Lafayette Beautiful has two. And if you love the Atchafalaya, the Atchafalaya national heritage area has one.

The first coronavirus inflicted cuts to the budget have arrived. There’s a huge list of adjustments, especially to the city budget, including an almost $6 million reduction in sales tax and interest revenues. These changes also reflect a $171,000 savings from the Science Museum and $114,000 from the Heymann Center, with $21,000 in cuts being made to the golf courses so far. 

The automatic 2% pay increases may be suspended. Just last year the previous city-parish council approved a series of measures that would automatically give 2% raises to police, fire and most other LCG employees if LCG’s sales and property tax revenue grew 2% or higher over the past audited fiscal year. Well, the audit for the last fiscal year arrived in April, and Lafayette crossed that threshold. But because of the coronavirus-induced financial crisis, Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s administration is requesting that these conditional raises be suspended.

Not all budgets are being cut as LUS Fiber’s legal costs are up. A separate budget amendment reallocates $36,000 of LUS Fiber’s unallocated fund balance to pay for increased legal bills due to the ongoing audit of LUS and Fiber’s business transactions. That increases Fiber’s legal budget from $45,000 to $81,000.

Hopefully, the grass is going to start getting cut more around town. In addition to the report on Geaux Mow — an effort to engage private contractors in handling LCG’s yard work — the joint councils will vote to approve authorizing Guillory to enter into a maintenance agreement with the state for moving and picking up litter on state-owned roads. There are also changes being voted on to the rules around grass and weeds, like increasing the fine to $250 plus the cost to pay a contractor to do that yard work.

$260,000 may be allocated to rent and utilities assistance. That’s how much Community Development has found so far in CDBG and HOME funds. If the city-parish council approves this transfer, the funding will be given to Catholic Charities of Acadiana to distribute to those in need.

The Parish Council may transfer control over Foster Park to Youngsville. The land under Foster Park is leased, and in this deal the city of Youngsville would take over the last five years of that lease and responsibility for maintaining and improving that park. This makes a lot of sense, as Foster Park is in Youngsville and Youngsville has a dedicated parks and recreation tax while the parish doesn’t.

The parish may be moving the polling location at the Broussard Community Center to Martial Billeaud Elementary School. This change affects the July 11th and August 15th elections. The location needs to be moved because coronavirus is preventing voting from happening in senior centers.