Director not happy with 2000 planning and zoning budget

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 1999

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / December 8, 1999

LAPLACE – Despite a caveat by St. John Parish Council President DuaineDuffy that last week’s workshop on the year 2000 budget was to be an informal affair with no official standing, Director of Planning and Zoning Laurette Thymes made sure new council members became aware of her feelings about the money allotted to her department for the coming year.

To say she was unhappy is an understatement.

“I cannot continue with the same budget,” she angrily told a gathering of old and new council members. “I’ve been given zero staffing and noequipment.”Thymes was upset because the 2000 parish budget was only increasing the money to her department by $6,000, from $179,000 to $186,000 This is a lot less than the proposed $500,000 budget she submitted to the administration. According to Thymes, her proposed budget is a “bare-bones” proposal to keep her department running.

“If this department is to continue,” she pleaded with the council, “you must fund it or dismantle the department.”Thymes’ biggest need, she said, is more personnel for her department.

Under her proposal, she would be able to hire five new employees.

“Basically, I am the department,” she told the council. “It’s just me, asecretary and two inspectors that I borrow from Public Works.”If the council would give her the money she wants, Thymes said she would hire inspectors, two permit clerks and an administrative assistant.

With an increase in housing starts in the parish, Thymes is swamped with requests for inspections, zoning and variances.

Thymes’ ire was further raised when the budget for the Economic Development Fund was discussed by the council. According to the 2000budget, the EDF will have a revenue of $2.1 million. However, councilmember Ranney Wilson warned that the EDF is only really used to help finance other departments when they go over budget.

Thymes wanted to know why Planning and Zoning, which is financed under the general fund, is not in the EDF.

“Planning and Zoning is a development project,” Thymes argued, “and the Economic Development Fund should be used to fund real development projects. The Economic Development money is used to bail out otherdepartments. We need to talk about departmental equalization.”Parish president-elect Nickie Monica said he agrees Planning and Zoning should be financed, but he doesn’t think Thymes’ proposed $500,000 budget is realistic. As for the EDF, Monica thinks that until he gets an EconomicDevelopment Department going, the EDF must be used to help the other departments.

“I definitely want to keep Planning and Zoning,” Monica said, “but we also need the EDF money to keep other departments open and we need it for roads and drainage.”Thymes shakes her head about what she wants to do.

“The council created this department, (Planning and Zoning), and they made me the head. But not only am I the director, but I am the principal planner,the permit reviewer and the inspector.” She sighed.

“I cannot continue to muddle through this way.”

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