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St. John grass problem still growing

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 5, 1998

LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council voted to pass on amotion that would have reinstated the parish’s grass cutting contract with the state at its meeting Wednesday night, but it requested the administration continue to negotiate with state officials.

The council had voted to discontinue the contract with the state at its last meeting, saying it was costing the parish more money to cut state right-of-ways than it was getting in from the state. Councilman NickieMonica introduced a motion to reconsider the council’s actions and renew the contract. Monica said he had been told by state officials that if thecontract was not renewed, the state would bring in trucks to spray chemicals on the grass on state highways and that the administration should be held accountable for cutting the grass in the parish.

“I think we should renew the contract and put it on (Public Works director Greg) Bush to make him accountable for our streets,” Monica said.

But councilman Richard Wolfe disagreed, saying parish streets need to have priority over state streets and that the administration needs to continue to negotiate with the state before the council’s action is reconsidered.

“We are accountable to the people,” Wolfe said. “Our streets come first.Our obligation is to cut our streets.

“That state is responsible for state property. We have 6- to 8-foot grassin my district and have our people on tractors on state highways. I have anobligation to the people who put me in office. Our obligation is for thepeople who live down parish streets.”Councilman Perry Bailey said he also met with state officials and was told that because of a shortage of staff in this area, they put down a chemical to increase the amount of time between cuts.

“It is not the grass contract that is the problem,” Bailey said. “I think weneed to get people to get to work. We need to take care of our propertyfirst. Cut parish streets first and then move onto state highways.”Bush was asked by councilman Steve Thornton how much equipment and personnel was used by the parish to cut state highways. Bush said threetractors are diverted to cut state streets and once they finish those, they cut the canals and any parish streets that the other crews have not gotten to. Bush said the east bank has seven tractors but on any given day, twotractors are being worked on. He said the parish spends approximately$5,000 a year on the maintenance of each tractor.

Councilman Ranney Wilson said he met with a contractor at the last meeting who might be willing to work with the parish on cutting the grass under the terms of the state contract and asked the administration to meet with him. Councilman Kevin Duhon also introduced a motion to havethe administration to put together a package to subcontract out parish streets.

But parish president Arnold Labat said that if the contract is not renewed, the state will contract out to cut the grass according to their specifications.

“The grass will only be cut four times a year and according to their specifications,” Labat said. “I am not trying to argue to maintain the statecontract. I am arguing to make the parish look as neat as it can be.”

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