The sky might be falling, but The Amazing Nuns will always prevail

Never out of ideas, the best band you’ve never heard stays relevant, vanquishes vaporwave with latest offering, Chicken Little Was Right.

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Somewhere over the reading rainbow

A new generation of librarians is challenging stereotypes, daring to dream up innovative ways to serve the ever-evolving community of Lafayette — and they can help you find a good book, too.

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Council/administration fault line grows wider after property tax failure

Council members and the administration are at odds on how to fix the parish budget.

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What’s next after NextGEN

On Monday, NextGen withdrew their offer to manage LUS hours before the Council voted against considering any deal like it. So now what?

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Rodents of Unusual Size: The Current Calendar 11/7-11/12

It’s a documentary that coulda been called Invasion of the Nutria.

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In focus: Southern Screen

The annual Lafayette film festival expands its format to tell more stories, through cinema and beyond.

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NextGEN withdraws proposal hours ahead of big council votes

The decision was made “in response” to the ongoing discussions of the company’s proposal and the “importance” of the city’s decision whether to accept it.

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LCG balances the budget and avoids cuts with plan to sell Buchanan garage to private interests

The council and administration patched an unexpected hole in the current budget with a windfall of sales tax collections and a new solution to the the Buchanan garage problem: sell it to private interests.

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Crucial council votes could quicken or prolong a resolution to the LUS private management affair 

The gist: Depending on a pair of council votes next week, NextGEN Utility Systems could walk away from Lafayette or find itself in a potentially lengthy open competition for the right to run LUS.

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NextGEN could ride on to the next town pending the result of a City-Parish Council resolution, authored by Councilman William Theriot, officially opposing “for now” the sale, lease or private management of LUS. While non-binding, the resolution would signal to NextGEN — and any other interested party, for that matter — that the current council isn’t interested in monetizing LUS. NextGEN Managing Director Jeff Baudier, a former Cleco executive who joined NextGEN in April of this year, says the firm is spending too much money to face the futility of a dead deal (Jim Bernhard told the council the company had already spent $1 million), should the council resolve to oppose private management.

“We can’t keep beating our head against the wall,” Baudier tells me. Despite mostly negative press, he says, the firm has received interest from beleaguered and indebted cities across the Southeast, where the company hopes to one day operate 50 utilities.

Meanwhile, NextGEN could face other bidders if Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux’s resolution calling for a request for proposals succeeds by vote of the LPUA next week. And those bidders, Baudier points out, would have a look at all of NextGEN’s cards.

“Now our competition can come in and copy our structure,” Baudier tells me, noting that the company’s public proposal and presentations expose NextGEN’s pricing. NextGEN, by way of parent private equity firm Bernhard Capital Partners, has been in talks with the Robideaux administration since at least late 2016. Robideaux signed a non-disclosure agreement with BCP in April 2017 and supplied the company with LUS financial and operational information before the group’s formal due diligence study began in April 2018. Baudier says an NDA is a normal course of business for the firm.

Should the conversation continue? That’s the question at the heart of both resolutions. There’s virtually universal recognition now that NextGEN’s proposal is tainted by an early lack of transparency. Even Robideaux called for a reset and admitted that his unilateral approach was a “misstep.” But some argue that the administration’s failure to disclose the talks shouldn’t derail an important conversation about the future of LUS. Boudreaux believes the RFP process conducted by LUS’s contracted consultant — confusingly, NewGen Strategies and Solutions — can air it all out.

“I’m convinced this is going to give us the best snapshot of LUS we’ve ever had,” Boudreaux tells me. “But the process doesn’t guarantee anything happening … and this is at someone else’s cost, by the way.”

An RFP could be long and painful. Boudreaux pegged the end of January 2019 as the deadline for LCG to arrange its part of the RFP, a process that could be tricky in and of itself. Some estimate a fully vetted bidding process could take 18 months, lingering this issue into next year’s elections. Meanwhile, per a resolution passed earlier this month, LUS would remain without a permanent director until the private management pursuit is exhausted. That means progress at a crucial inflection point for LUS would remain stalled.

What to watch for. Whether and how NextGEN wins enough favor to get a second act. Early indications would stack the odds against the company. Both resolutions will be considered on Nov. 5, but Theriot’s outright opposition measure is the trump card; the full council will take it up after Boudreaux’s RFP proposal is heard at the LPUA, which meets before Monday’s council meeting. (Ordinarily on Tuesdays, the council meeting was rescheduled to accommodate Election Day.) NextGEN has a short window to show there’s enough public support for considering its bid. To that end, Baudier will hit the airwaves in the next few days. Conventional wisdom holds that the public is by and large opposed to the deal, but Baudier pushes back on that sentiment.

“There is no way that 160,000 residents know about every part of this deal,” he says.

Where’s the vision? NextGEN’s offer puts $324 million in financing on the table for use by a tax-averse community. Baudier says the firm’s management concept is commonplace internationally as a means of raising money without raising taxes. Communities tend to get behind these deals, he offers, when they see an identified use for the cash windfall. Lafayette has yet to put an idea forward, potentially tamping down enthusiasm. He says it’s not NextGEN’s role to provide one.

Speaking of votes. Baudier reaffirmed to me that the firm has no intention of structuring a deal to avoid a public vote.

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Strong early voting doesn’t guarantee a strong election day

Louisiana has some safe races by contrast with the rest of the nation’s midterm upheaval. Early election numbers are encouraging, but statewide and local turnout could yet be low.

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The secret’s out on Maison Madeleine’s Secret Supper Series

Maison Madeleine’s Secret Supper Series offers the chance to soak in the beauty of Lake Martin and the tastes of top Southern culinary talent.

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You’re gonna break 5,000 eggs: The Current Calendar 10/31 – 11/6

For Abbeville’s Giant Omelette Celebration, 5,034 eggs will be cracked. That’s 4,984 more than Paul Newman ate in Cool Hand Luke.

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