Fogleman named St. John utilities director

Published 12:07 am Saturday, June 27, 2015

LAPLACE — Following unanimous confirmation by the parish Council, St. John the Baptist Parish has a new utilities director.

Blake Fogleman was named head of the utilities department Tuesday after being recommended in January by Parish President Natalie Robottom.

The Council emphatically tabled Fogleman’s hiring decision at the Jan. 13 Council meeting when Robottom recommended his appointment to take over as utilities director. The appointment again appeared on the agenda at the Council’s Jan. 27 meeting but failed to garner a Council member’s motion to take it off the table for discussion.

Following another recommendation from Robottom, as well as a letter of recommendation from the Department of Health and Hospitals, Fogleman was confirmed for the position this week.

Parish officials said Fogleman — who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental engineering from Louisiana State University — is a professional engineer with experience in public and private sectors and is involved in all phases of utility projects of local governments. His experience includes that of potable water treatment and supply projects, sewer collection and treatment projects and wetland impact and drainage studies.

Officials said Fogleman has worked closely with DHH and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on project funding and approval and regulatory matters.

“Based on … discussions and in consideration of our experience with Mr. Fogleman, along with his apparent knowledge, skills and expertise in the areas of drinking water and wastewater, it is my strong belief that Mr. Fogleman would serve St. John the Baptist Parish as utility director very well and my office would look forward to working with Mr. Fogleman in this capacity,”

Jake Causey, DHH chief engineer/safe drinking water administrator, wrote in his letter of recommendation dated June 11 and addressed to Robottom.

Causey attended Tuesday’s Council meeting, where he fielded questions from Council members and said DHH officials are “all in agreement (Fogleman) would do a good job.”

Fogleman replaces Virgil Rayneri, who led the department through last year’s water scandal stemming from the Aug. 27 announcement that water taken in a sample two weeks earlier from Water District 1 tested positive for Naegleria fowleri ameba, commonly known as the “brain-eating” ameba.

Robottom said Fogleman accepted an appointment of special assistant assigned to utilities Jan. 14 after the Council decided not to confirm him as director earlier in the year at Robottom’s request.

Rayneri announced his retirement in January, and Tuesday Robottom said his retirement would be effective as soon as possible.

District III Councilman Lennix Madere Jr. told Fogleman he will hold him personally responsible for water safety.

“We lucked out no one got hurt,” Madere said of the ameba situation. “We cannot afford another mistake. This is a big, big responsibility that you’re undertaking.”