Council dead-locked on trash issue

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 1, 2001


LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish residents will continue to get trash service for the same price they paid for the old service, at least for the time being, since the parish council dead-locked on making a decision on the new rate. Though administration officials said the parish is now not even covering contracted costs for the service, the council recently voted again against the rate that has been introduced. According to the administration, a fee of $12.65 a month per resident for garbage collection is the absolute lowest it can go without cutting into other funds and losing money in vital areas. The parish has already lost $25,000, because the new rate was not in place for the month of August when the service began. The new automated service provided by Waste Management Inc. began Aug. 1, and originally the rate was to go from $10.45 a month to $12.13, but a mistake in calculations brought the new rate to $13. An overlooked administration fee was tacked onto the amount, raising it 87 cents. Later, a proposed fee of $12.65 was presented. The administration arrived at the final figure after lowering fees and deleting others. In a 5-4 vote held at a special meeting in early August, the council voted against the proposed rate. Though five voted in favor of it, one more vote was needed for the ordinance to pass. A two-thirds vote is required. Council members Lester Rainey, Allen St. Pierre, Dale Wolfe and Melissa Faucheux were against the ordinance, and after Duaine Duffy, who voted for the ordinance, asked for a reconsideration, the outcome was the same. Their third time voting on the ordinance brought the same outcome, though the vote came after a discussion on the senior citizen discount added to the ordinance. Senior citizens, who have been paying $1 less than the rest of the population for their service (if they applied for the discount), will continue to receive that discount. However, the wording was added to the new ordinance, because it was not there before. In 1986, a $1 discount was written into an ordinance charging the rest of the population $6 a month for trash service, which read that seniors would pay $5 a month. That information had never been updated, though the price in trash service had continued to rise over the years. Because the administration said it was never the intent to continue to charge seniors a mere $5, but instead was to allow them a $1 discount, the newly introduced ordinance adds the wording to clarify the intent. According to the council’s attorney, Barry Landry, every year amendments were made to the trash fee, but the discount was never again incorporated into any of the amendments. Councilman Rainey said that over the years inflation has caused everything to go up and seniors should get more than a meager $1 discount. “I just don’t see increasing the garbage price without increasing the discount,” he said, adding that there are senior citizens who are afraid to use their air conditioning or turn on their lights because they cannot afford it. He said they certainly cannot continue to pay for ever-increasing garbage costs. Chairman Cleveland Farlough said he was concerned as well. He added that medications have gone up, gas has gone up and utilities are going up. “These people are still out there struggling,” he said. He added that if they were to decide to raise the current fee for the rest of the population, he would introduce an ordinance to get seniors a better discount. “If we were serious about taking care of the senior citizens, we would have done this way ahead of time,” said Wolfe. “We’re not serious about senior citizens if we’re not talking about leaving them as it is,” he said, suggesting that seniors should not pay a dime more than they currently do. There was talk of giving seniors a $2 discount, but that conversation was limited as Landry said to treat senior citizens differently strictly based on their age is discrimination. He and Ranney Wilson both suggested the introduction of a more need-based discount. After the motion failed and the council took a brief recess, Duffy suggested a reconsideration of the vote. But, no one was prepared to sway to the other side. “If folks can’t understand the reason why we are not supporting this, they should find out our concerns,” Wolfe said. “I think we need to get with administration and sit down and talk about this.” “I really do think we’re making a mistake by not moving,” said Duffy, who later pulled his request for a reconsideration from the table. “Mr. Duffy, I love you and respect you,” said Wolfe. “You can call all the five minute recesses you want.” He said until issues between the council and administration were resolved, they would not get anywhere.