Iberia Parish President Larry Richard updated the Iberia Parish Council Wednesday night on preparations for what may be the first hurricane of the 2019 season in the region.
In his remarks, he said state and parish officials have the pieces in place needed to respond to the storm and any emergencies that may arise. Although the storm is not expected to hit Iberia Parish until Saturday, Richard said he already has issued an emergency declaration for the parish and will likely announce a voluntary evacuation beginning today.
Richard also encouraged residents to subscribe to the parish’s PINS notification system. A link to sign up for the emergency alerts can be found on the parish government home page at iberiaparishgovernment.com.
Richard’s update came after an hour-long executive session. When the council resumed its regular session, it voted to hold a special meeting next week to debate whether to settle a lawsuit from former Iberia Parish President Errol “Romo” Romero. Romero claims he is owed more than $150,000 because his salary was not adjusted while he was in office.
The council hired Lafayette attorney Gary McGoffin to represent it in the suit. McGoffin was not at Wednesday’s meeting, nor was Parish Legal Counsel Andy Shealy.
In previous discussions, council members had argued whether to settle the suit and move on or allow it to go to court and resolve any lingering issues from Romero’s tenure once and for all. That discussion will probably be held in executive session during the July 17 special meeting.
Romero filed his lawsuit in January 2017 asking for $100,000 in back pay along with another $50,000 in legal and other fees. The back pay, according to the lawsuit, is money owed to Romero because he did not receive annual raises commensurate with those given to the Iberia Parish Sheriff, Iberia Parish Assessor and Iberia Parish Clerk of Court during his tenure as required by the parish home rule charter.
The council rejected a previous settlement, instead eliminating the fees and offering just over $6,000 for the back pay after being advised that the prescription period for Romero to litigate portions of the pay had already passed.
The council also discussed a change order for the Paul Segura Industrial Park lift station project while in executive session. Afterwards, the council approved the change order after allowing the amount of decrease to be adjusted to compensate the contractor for $2,029 in utility fees to operate lift stations over the last several years.
An agreement was finally reached between the parish government, Iberia Parish School District and the Le Bourgeois family for maintenance and repairs to Le Bourgeois Road, a major access artery for the newly constructed Belle Place Elementary School.
The road needs repairs but the council has previously said it cannot fund the work, at least not before the upcoming 2019-2020 school year. Richard said he was signing the agreement Wednesday evening so work could work on the road immediately. The school district has less than a month before the new elementary school will open.
The council also approved a resolution asking the state Department of Transportation and Development to consider putting a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 86 and N. Lewis Street.
District 9 Councilman Joel Dugas spoke against the move, saying the parish had other roads that were in more immediate need of work. Council Chairman Paul G. Landry, however, explained that the request was for the state to consider funding the project.
“Years ago, Youngsville put those roundabouts in the middle of cane fields when they built Chemin Metairie Road,” Landry explained. “They were thinking ahead. We need to be thinking forward. Already growth toward Loreauville is creating traffic there. Right now there is no development on that corner. There is enough land there to work it out. I think it’s time for us to ask for our fair share of the money we are sending to Baton Rouge.”
District 5 Councilman Warren Gachassin said he would vote for the resolution if it included making repairs to Highway 86 as well.
“Add for them to fix Highway 86 while they are at it,” Gachassin said. “If not, by the time you get to the roundabout the tires will be off the car.”
In its committee hearings, the council approved two industrial tax exemptions, one for the T-Coon’s Distillery on U.S. 90 in Coteau and a second for Bagwell Energy Services on Twin Port Road in Delcambre.
In his presentation to the council, owner Roger Bagwell said his fabrication and service company has operated for decades in Iberia Parish.
“We’ve made $3 million in improvements to our Twin Port facility,” Bagwell said. “We anticipated hiring 100 people and now we are up to 125. We just signed another agreement for another eight acres at the port, so if we get that going it is going to be very beneficial to the community.”