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Energy assistance available in St. James

KIM VICKNAIR / L’Observateur / August 10, 1998

CONVENT – The St. James Parish Council discussed a program which willassist low income residents of the parish with high utility bills due to the heat crisis at its meeting Wednesday.

The program is called the Low Income Energy Assistance Program and is made available through the Louisiana Department of Social Services, Office of Community Services. The total grant award for St. James Parishis $36,841, of which $34,078 will be paid out in services to eligible households. The remaining $2,763 will be allocated to administrativeservices.

Earl White, director of the St. James Parish Department of HumanResources, said individuals or families receiving AFDC, SSI, food stamps, or Veteran’s Survivors benefits are automatically eligible for the assistance. This is a one-time proposal and funds are limited, thereforeapplications will be processed on a first-come first-serve basis.

“In no instance shall an eligible household’s benefit be less than $50 or more than $190,” Parish President Dale Hymel Jr. said.Heat crisis funds will be used to purchase air conditioners and fans and to make one-time energy payments to utility companies on behalf of eligible households. Eligible households may receive one window air conditioner,or one fan plus an energy payment.

The agency will begin taking applications for the heat crisis fund Monday.

Residents of Convent needing assistance are being asked to contact the department’s main office at 562-2354, and west bank residents should call 265-3915.

In another matter, R.M. Jackson executive director of the St. JamesHousing Authority appeared before the council to discuss the revamping process of the agency’s policies and procedures. She said the agency hashired Bruce Mohon as its new legal advisor and Bill Wilson as its new maintenance supervisor.

Jackson said there are more vacant rental units than the Housing Authority and the St. James Parish Council would like, which is the mainreason for the agency receiving assistance from the Troubled Agency Recovery Team. These vacant units are referred to by the HousingAuthority as the rehabilitation units.

She said it has been reported that up to 12 people are residing in any one rental unit, which is not acceptable by the Housing Authority. Out of these12 occupants, some may be children, cousins or even grandchildren of the residents listed on the lease agreement. As part of the revamping process,families will be asked to report all income, including unemployment wages.

Once the proper information has been provided to the agency by all occupants of the rental unit a determination will be made as to whether that person is eligible, and if so he or she will be transferred to one of the rehabilitation units. Consequently, she said, this will reduce the amountof occupants in each rental unit.

The agency now requires a background check and a fingerprint check on all of the residents listed on the lease agreement. There is also areconstruction of the policy on parking privileges for the occupants of the rental units due to the parking lot being overcrowded in the past. Eachresident on the lease agreement must provide vehicle registration to the agency in order to receive a parking permit. Any person occupying aparking space of the rental unit that is not listed on the lease agreement will be asked to move their vehicle, and the sheriff office will be notified if necessary.

Jackson also explained the collection process for rent payments. In thepast, she said, rent was due on the first day of the month and should have been paid by the fifth. The new collection process makes the rent due onthe third day of the month and must be paid by the seventh.

The change in the collection process accommodates those residents who do not receive their SSI payments until the third of the month, she said.

Accommodations have also been made for residents to make their rent payments at the local banks, she added.

The Board of Directors of the Housing Authority has scheduled its next board meeting for Aug. 13.Anatole Monconduit, Justice of the Peace for District 5 in St. James, andLena Ketchens, Justice of the Peace for District 6 in Vacherie, each appealed to the council for a pay raise. Monconduit said it has beenapproximately 16 years since a pay raise was given. The pair asked for araise of $250 or more a month. Each now receives $250 per month forservices to the parish.

Ronald “Shine” Boudreaux, Constable for District 1 in Gramercy, likewise asked for a pay raise for that position. Currently, the position pays $200per month, according to Director of Finance A.J. Laiche. No figure wasmentioned as a target pay rate for constables.

The officials contribute their appeal to the many facets of their job duties, as well as the quality of service they provide for the parish.

Monconduit emphasized that they are responsible for eliminating many cases that would circumstantially end up in court.

The council asked the officials to submit a complete list of their job duties and charges for the different services rendered by the justice of the peace.

The council also decided to make inquiries to compare the salaries of the justices of the peace and constables in neighboring parishes.

Edie Michel, director of the parish Department of Economic Development, appeared before the council to discuss the parish’s participation in the Louisiana Enterprise Zone Program. St. James Parish has endorsed theVacherie business, Brew For You, to participate in this program. Theendorsement would allow Brew For You to take advantage of the benefits offered through the program.

Michel said St. James Parish, in participation with this program, would berequired to refund Brew For You coffee house on local sales taxes for any addition or improvement made to the business.

The business would receive a tax credit of $2,500 per year. The tax refundapplies to the equipment that will be used by Brew For You during the operation of their business.

Brew For You did not have anyone to represent them at the meeting. Thecouncil requested for a representative from the company be present at the next meeting to discuss the program further.

In other business, the council: Approved a resolution to reappoint Marine Nobile to the St. James ParishPublic Library Board.

Denied a request to hire an attorney to perform title searches on abandoned buildings and overgrown properties.

Approved a resolution authorizing the parish president to execute a joint agreement between the St. James Parish School Board and the St. JamesParish Council for the collection of sales and use taxes for period July 1, 1998 through June 30, 1999. The council has agreed to stay within the$50,000 range when collecting taxes for the year.

Authorized the parish president to execute a contract between St. JamesParish and the Department of Natural Resources for the St. James ParishWetlands Education Center.

Called for a public hearing prior to the next council meeting to discuss an ordinance authorizing the purchase of property in Lutcher as an extension of the Lutcher Park property, and an ordinance authorizing the purchase of property in Convent across from the Convent Courthouse to provide for possible future expansion of the Parish Courthouse.

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