The Iberia Parish Council will take up the discussion of providing $20,000 to the Louisiana PepperPlex for renovation of its parking and other needs during its committee hearings Wednesday night.
Normally an expenditure like this one is not a major point of contention between council members. In this case, it has become an issue because the money was slated to come from the parish’s Economic Development District rather than one of the parish’s traditional funding sources.
“I think everyone around the room agrees this is a good expenditure,” Parish Legal Counsel Andy Shealy said at the Sept. 25 regular meeting, where the item was tabled. “My only concern is the dedication of funds and where it is coming from.”
The work is expected to be a joint project between the parish and the city of New Iberia, with each adding funding to the pot through their respective incremental tax (TIF) districts. The funds would be used to make repairs and improvements that, although a direct benefit to the recreational facility, would also double as improvements for staging utility companies and other responders in case of a storm.
“You’re going to have to look inside yourselves and decide why you think this is an economic development expenditure,” Shealy said.
The council debated the idea at length at its last meeting. Several members, such as District 8 Councilman Ricky Gonsoulin and Council Chairman Paul G. Landry, were in favor of the move. “Specifically, this is work that will help CLECO in staging there,” Gonsoulin said. “I think this council can move forward if we earmark specific uses for the funds.”
Others, like District 10 Councilman Eugene Olivier and District 4 Councilman Lloyd Brown, disagreed.
“It’s really hard for me to say we are going to disguise this as an EDD project,” Olivier said. “The site is not even in the EDD district.”
Shealy said the work was in close proximity to the TIF district.
“Define ‘close proximity,’” Olivier said.
“You’re not going to find a hard and fast rule that says it can be 100 feet or 500 feet,” Shealy said.
The council will revisit the issue during the committee hearings following the regular meeting tonight. During its regular meeting, the council is scheduled to:
• Consider an ordinance clarifying the process for appointing members to the Iberia Medical Center board.
• Receive an update on the Storm Water Management Program from Director of Planning, Permitting, and Zoning Sara Gary.
• Consider a resolution amending previous resolutions which appointed members to the Twin Parish Port Commission in order to correct the term dates to reflect the proper terms.
• Consider a resolution accepting the property valuations for real and personal property for 2019 as established by the Iberia Parish Assessor.
• Consider a resolution asking for “Children at Play” signs be placed on C. Romero Road and South Estate Drive.
• Consider a resolution requesting the Army Corps of Engineers remove trees that fell during Hurricane Barry from Bayou Jack and consider dredging the bayou from Weeks Island Road to the Commercial Canal.
• Hear from Craig Romero about issues with trash and debris at Acadiana Regional Airport.
The Iberia Parish Council will meet at 6 p.m. in the council meeting room on the fourth floor of the Iberia Parish Courthouse, 300 Iberia St.