Council Preview: Sewage, drainage, budget snafus and changes to parks

Looking under LCG's hood

The gist: This week’s council meetings include a number of items that will tee up bigger projects and decisions to come affecting everything from sewer capacity and Vermilion flooding to how the budgeting process will work and how parks will operate.

Hey public, it’s time to comment! After a two-month hiatus, both the city and parish councils will include time for public comment on any issue. Normally, that happens every second council meeting in a month, but they had been left off of the last two agendas as the councils navigated new protocols associated with the coronavirus.

Major sewer capacity upgrade takes next step. The city council will vote on introducing an ordinance that declares the South Gravity Sewer Upgrade project a public necessity. This project will replace and upgrade sewer lines roughly from Downtown to LUS’s water treatment plant on West Bayou Parkway. By approving this ordinance, the council will empower LUS to start acquiring the necessary land and rights of way to move this project forward. Once complete, this $7 million project will, among other benefits, increase sewer capacity Downtown, a major clog for development in that district. 

The councils want to see a plan on how to improve drainage. On the joint council agenda, there’s a resolution ordering Mayor-President Josh Guillory to give a presentation within 45 days on major projects that will help reduce Vermilion River flooding with specific costs, methods and timeframes, including an analysis of the viability of using Cypress Island Swamp for relief and any recommendations for river dredging. At the last council meeting, a series of presentations and comments on drainage turned heated when community group Dredge the Vermilion accused LCG of threatening the interests of property owners on the river by prioritizing development over public safety.

There will be a presentation about LCG’s financial performance last year. A few weeks ago, LCG released its consolidated annual financial report for 2019. At the next joint council meeting, the author of that audit, Burton Kolder, will give a presentation about the financial health of the city and parish based on this audit.

There will also be a discussion about suggested charter changes. City Councilman Pat Lewis and LCG’s legal department added it to the agenda. This discussion may include everything from small changes to the charter to major ones like splitting up the mayor-president’s position into a separate mayor for the city and president for the parish.

Splitting control over the budget between the city and parish has hit its first major speed bump. Currently on the joint council agenda is a mid-year budget amendment. But former City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conque criticized this joint budget amendment because it included changes to city-only budget items like LUS. According to the new Home Rule Charter, city-only and parish-only budget items are only supposed to be voted on by the city or parish council, respectively. According to this reporting by the Advocate’s Claire Taylor, LCG CFO Lorrie Toups acknowledged this error in an email to both councils last week. Toups requested that this ordinance be pulled so the administration can resubmit it as three separate ordinances, allowing the city council to vote on city-only budget amendments and the parish council to vote on parish-only budget amendments. 

Improvements may be coming to parish parks. First, the Parish Council will vote to approve spending $150,000 of CREATE funding on some parish parks improvements. CREATE funding has become a political football of late, as arts advocates want to see it deployed to reopen cultural facilities like the Heymann Center while the parish council has approved a public vote to rededicate this millage to parish roads and fire protection. The second parks-related vote by the parish council is to introduce an ordinance that would transfer the lease and hand responsibility for Foster Park over to the city of Youngsville. The goal of this transfer is to allow Youngsville to invest in improving this park beyond what the parish has been able to do.