ST. MARTINVILLE — In a rare split decision, the St. Martin Parish Council voted during a special meeting to offer voters the chance to rededicate a portion of an existing library millage to cover building maintenance, funding of the parish’s criminal court fund and to provide support to the St. Martin Parish Council on Aging.

The 6-3 vote to move forward with the resolution came after District 9 Councilman Daniel Richard offered a substitute motion that would have removed any funding for the Council on Aging from the rededication. His substitute motion, however, died for lack of a second.

Parish President Chester Cedars delivered a passionate and detailed defense of the rededication, making it clear that it was in no way a denigration of the perish library leadership, programming or accomplishments. Instead, he focused on the needs of the parish as a whole, including finding ways to pay for unfunded mandates from the state to operate the court system and to maintain the parish’s buildings.

“Some of you will say, ‘Didn’t we just pass a bond issue to pay for new recreation buildings?’” Cedars asked rhetorically. “Well, yes you did. But those funds do not provide for maintenance.”

Cedars also pointed out that much of that funding, although secured through a parish bond issue, was distributed to individual municipalities, towns, villages and recreation districts.

Council Chairman Dean LeBlanc, who joined Richard and District 5 Councilman Chris Tauzin in opposing the resolution, said he had no problem with the maintenance and criminal justice funding in the proposal.

“I have a problem with providing funding to a non-governmental organization through a dedicated tax,” LeBlanc said. “We tried to pass a tax for the Council on Aging before, and the voters said no.”

The resolution now goes before the council during its next regular meeting on June 2. If passed, the rededication would appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The council also heard from St. Martin Parish Fire District Coordinator Brody Miller, who discussed a proposed agreement under which the parish would pay St. Landry Parish Fire Protection District 5 the sum of $450,000 in exchange for a 50-year lease to place five fire units and crew at a proposed new fire station in Arnaudville.

The parish has had an agreement with St. Landry to colocate its equipment at the current Arnaudville firehouse, but it is being decommissioned and transferred to the town of Arnaudville. A new station will take its place.

“This will prevent us from having to build a fire station,” Miller said, which would also save the parish between $500,000 and $1 million dollars.

During its Public Works Committee hearing, the council agreed to accept the low bid for the proposed floating dock project at Clayton Boudreaux Memorial Park and Uncle Dick Davis Park. Michael David Breaux Inc. submitted the low bid for the work at $184,500. That price, Cedars said, was less than half of the $400,000 budgeted through a RESTORE Act grant.

“The other funds will be able to be used for either enhancements to other RESTORE Act projects or for entirely new projects,” Cedars said. “This is our first time doing a project through the act, so we are learning as we go.”

In his president’s report, Cedars said that the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday in the parish’s case against a vendor at Lake Martin. He said the original three-judge panel was not able to come to a decision, forcing the case to go before a panel of five judges instead.

The council agreed to two change orders to projects already underway. One is to increase the budget for the Whitney Drive Improvements Project by $23,067.04. The other is an increase for the Live Oak Circle Culvert Realignment Project in the amount of $3,420.

The council also moved the acceptance of the Live Oak Circle project as complete to its regular meeting.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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