Shelter decision on hold

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Rainey convinces parish to bump vote once again


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – More talk and yet another tabled for a proposed new animal shelter was the topic of heated discussion amongst St. John Council members Tuesday.

At the previous council meeting, District I Councilman Lester Rainey introduced a sizeable letter outlining his reasons for wanting the site selection put on hold for now, or until the council can agree that the shelter should be relocated somewhere away from a residential neighborhood.

Rainey’s reasons outlined in the letter included keeping the shelter in its current site was a non-progressive action, and stunting the property values and growth of his district. He also stated other properties the parish had &#8220literally given away in the name of progress” including the land for the Army National Guard site and the Louisiana War Veterans Home off Airline Highway in Reserve.

&#8220Since when is our land too good to use for our own programs and services, but good enough to give away to everybody else,” Rainey is quoted as saying in his letter to the council.

Rainey also cited borderline racism as a possible factor for the site not being relocated per the wishes of his constituents, something he vehemently denied accusing anyone of.

&#8220I’ve been accused of calling people racists. I didn’t say that,” Rainey said. &#8220I said the actions bordered along there and I’ll say it again.”

Rainey was referring to the council recently forcing out the parish’s waste management company SWDI from the site they formerly resided at on Central Avenue, due to complaints from the residents in the neighborhood. Rainey asked the council in his letter what makes the Central Avenue. Residents concerns more valid than those near the animal shelter, citing that racism is a possible factor in that decision.

Council Member Dale Wolfe, a former District I councilman, echoed

Rainey’s concerns, even to the point where he asked the public to scrutinize everything the council does.

&#8220Hopefully the people of the Milesville area will remember the people who are trying to force this on them,” Wolfe said. &#8220Hold them accountable. If I do something wrong, hold me accountable too.”

Residents near the animal site were in attendance to voice their opinions and concerns, some of which differed greatly.

Dolores Martin of Pine Street stressed to the council that moving the shelter form her neighborhood is not just a convenience issue, but also a matter of life and death.

&#8220That scent is really nauseating. I have three grandchildren who stay with me with asthma, I have asthma,” Martin said. &#8220Right now I’m asking you to consider us to keep us alive to vote for you in upcoming years.”

Linda Hughes, who resides near the shelter on West 2nd Street, said she is afraid to get out of her vehicle due to stray animals frequently being in her yard.

Manager of the animal Shelter Linda Allen was also on-hand to defend the shelter and explain that there is only so much that a limited staff is able to do, although she feels it’s far above and beyond the call of duty.

&#8220I do take exception to people saying we don’t have animal control,” Allen said. &#8220I’ve got two excellent animal control officers with good training. They can find anywhere between 100 and 150 animals on both sides of the river.”

Lifelong resident Alana French who lives directly across from the shelter spoke to show her support for the shelter, and perhaps point out something that residents in the neighborhood aren’t taking into account.

&#8220The shelter does not stink. I’m 36 years old, I’ve always lived there,” French said. &#8220The only thing I smell is the sewage plant. You would think there would be a bigger complaint that you live next to a sewerage plant.”

Rainey rebutted that although the sewer plant may be part of the smell that residents are complaining about, that is something they can’t do anything to change.

&#8220The sewer plant is a necessary evil. We need the sewer plant,” Rainey said, &#8220We don’t need an animal shelter.”

Rainey also offered his own opinion on why the smell may be prevalent to some, himself included, and not others.

&#8220Animal lovers can’t smell it because they are accustomed to it, but people who are not accustomed to it, we smell it, and it smells of cat urine and dog feces,” Rainey said. &#8220I’m not an animal lover, I don’t keep them in my house, I don’t want them in my yard, and I can smell it.”

After much heated discussion, Councilman Ronnie Smith conceded that regardless of which way the council votes on the shelter, someone is still going to be unhappy, and money plays a major part in what ultimately is decided upon.

&#8220My main concern is this – the budget we have for the animal shelter is about $240,000,” Smith said. &#8220If we decide to put it on Airline, can I afford to move it?”

Council Chairman Sean Roussell said he had gone over some projected cost numbers for erecting a structure suitable for the animal shelter. After equipment, the cost was estimated at about $450,000 before infrastructure, but estimated sales tax through public works, which is at $1.5 million for the first half of 2006 would possibly be able to offset that cost, Rainey said.

Councilman Steve Lee asked the council to come together on this and find a suitable site for the shelter.

&#8220Let’s all look for another location,” Lee said. &#8220 But it needs to be something that’s acceptable, or acceptable to at least five members of the council.”

The motion was tabled until the next council meeting on September 12.