St. John Council ready to take action for animals

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 14, 2006



LAPLACE — St. John Parish Councilman Sean Roussel believes the matter of where to put a new animal shelter has gone to the dogs for too long.

&#8220I’m putting it up for a vote. If I lose, I lose, but it’s too late to keep waiting for other options. It’s been long enough that we’ve waited on this thing, and unless someone has a better idea right now, then expansion is the best idea we have,” he said.

Roussel appears to be putting the measure to a vote at the right time.

According to a poll of all St. John Parish council members, taken by L’Observateur, the votes now appear to be there to approve an expansion of the shelter at its current site.

Six council members have now gone on record as being ready to back an expansion at the current site, with two opposed, and one still undecided.

Saying they are ready to vote for the shelter expansion, or very close to supporting it, are Roussel, Dale Wolfe, Allen St. Pierre, Steve Lee, Jimmy Hymel and Jaclyn Hotard, while Cleveland Farlough is still undecided. Only Lester Rainey and Ronnie Smith have said they are not for the expansion at this time.

Roussel has an item agenda for next Tuesday’s council meeting, which will bring the matter up once again, and then put it to a vote.

The animal shelter issue has lingered for several years, as parish administrators and officials have been unable to get together on where to build the new site. No argument has ever denied the need, but a key point has been whether to expand at its current site, or try to find more high-profile land in LaPlace.

At this point, however, most council members are now agreeing that the realistic possibility of finding a better site just doesn’t work as well as expanding where it is.

&#8220I spoke with our parish attorney this week and there doesn’t appear to be any other land possibilities right now that could happen anytime soon, and I spoke with the architect for the new shelter and he confirmed that the plans we already have would work well on the current land we have,” Roussel said. &#8220So it’s time to put this thing to a vote.”

The current shelter is in Rainey’s district, and he remains the only councilman opposed to expanding there. Smith said he is against the expansion since he doesn’t want to vote against Rainey’s wishes for a project in his district.

&#8220Like other parish buildings, we need to get our parish operations out of residential areas,” Rainey said. &#8220And I still think there are other sites we should explore. It doesn’t make sense to keep this building here.”

Even though the shelter has been at its current location for nearly 30 years, Rainey believes more time is needed to look at other options.

&#8220Everyone else is willing to settle for expanding here since it’s just the easiest way to get this done, but I’m not willing to settle. We still need to consider our other parish property, even if it is very valuable to the council,” he added.

Smith is the only other councilman who said he would not go against Rainey’s wishes, since the shelter is in Rainey’s district, and Farlough said he still wanted to talk to Rainey before deciding which way to go.

Wolfe, who had been against the expansion previously, has now agreed with the majority of the council in saying &#8220if the majority of the board agrees to expand it there, then I’m OK to do it. I know we need to make a decision and get this thing done.”

Hymel added &#8220we’ve just waited too long to make this decision. Even though I understand Councilman Rainey’s feelings, I’m ready to vote against him just to get the new shelter. We have needed it for too long.”

Hotard noted that the shelter is not just a matter affecting Rainey’s constituents.

&#8220This is a parishwide matter, not just something for Lester Rainey’s district,” she said. &#8220I still want to talk to Lester about this, but I’m more than likely ready to vote for expansion. My goal now is to quit saying we have a year or two to figure out other options.”

St. Pierre said that the feelings of Shelter Director Linda Allen, who said she wants it expanded at its current site, were the key point to sway his vote.

&#8220If Linda wants it there, then I’m OK with it. I would have to support Mrs. Allen since she does the work down there, and we just need an end to come to this thing. If we look for a better site, we might exhaust all the money we have for this, and then it will be too expensive,” he added.

The council has already put aside $200,000 for the expansion, and Roussel said there is a $40,000 grant to add to that total from a New York animal shelter. Additionally, sale of some parish property near the airport will bring more funds, since that land should sell for close to $275,000. A portion of that money will be given to the shelter.

Lee acknowledged the fact a higher profile location would be nice, but he said it is no longer realistic. &#8220I know this isn’t the best location to expand where we are,” he said. &#8220But it’s a big improvement over what they have, and it’s time we vote on this. I don’t like to oppose a councilman on a matter in his district, but I am at a place I feel like I will have to do it now. I still want to hear Lester’s argument, but we’ve got to do something about this.”