ST. MARTINVILLE — When she took over as Zoning Manager for the city of St. Martinville two weeks ago, Danielle Fontenette had no idea what she was in for.
She briefed the city council Monday night on the disarray in the zoning operation, including stacks of work orders and citizen complaints that had been put aside in an envelope, a zoning district map that has not been updated since 1991, and a complete lack of any billing records for the city’s nuisance grass cutting work in 2019.
Fontenette was appointed to the zoning position after Shedrick Berard tendered his resignation. Berard had resigned from his position as chief administrative officer earlier this year.
“Danielle inherited a mess,” District 1 Councilman Mike Fuselier said.
Fontenette said that no bills had been sent out in 2019 for the city’s nuisance grass cutting operation, and as far as she could tell no liens had been filed against property owners during that period for work city crews did on private property.
She also said Berard had never collected a $25 administrative fee that was supposed to become due when residents were cited for violating the grass cutting ordinance.
Fuselier first brought up the zoning issues, asking Fontenette about the plan for moving forward on more than 75 adjudicated properties that the city is currently holding. During that discussion, Fuselier asked Fontenette what percentage of the incomplete work orders or requests that she found in the office when she took over came from District 3, Councilman Dennis Paul Williams’ district.
“About 70 to 75 percent,” she said.
Williams had previously said Berard and other administration employees had been working with the organizers of three attempts to recall Williams in the last year. The revelation that the preponderance of incomplete work orders were in his district did not seem to surprise him.
“There was another separate envelope of work orders from my district that were not done,” Williams said. “I think it was on purpose.”
As far as the lack of any billing for work done, Mayor Pro Tem Craig Prosper said that the city will be taking a loss.
“That’s $50,000 right there,” Prosper said.
“Heads would roll, but they’ve already rolled,” Fuselier said, referring to Berard.
Fontenette said that she has already established a new filing system for the office, including an automated calendar for tracking deadlines for residents to come into compliance with nuisance ordinances after being cited.
The council voted to raise the admin fee from $25 to $50 and revisit the other issues facing the zoning operation at its next meeting.
In other business, the council:
• Approved a request from members of St. Martinville Senior High Reach to hold a Bully Walk/Color Run on Oct. 19.
• Heard a presentation from Kelli Cantu of Chez Hope about an upcoming domestic violence awareness event.
Approved a request from Elaine Clement for the temporary appointment of two docents through the holiday season.
• Granted an extension of the lease for Races and Aces until June 30.
• Authorized an intergovernmental agreement with St. Martin Parish Government for public works maintenance matters.