Contractor says Belle Terre pond work done

Published 12:09 am Wednesday, August 3, 2016

LAPLACE — The contractor hired by St. John the Baptist Parish to clean overgrowth in the ponds and lakes of Belle Terre Country Club said any suggestions he did not finish the job are untrue.

An agreement struck between Belle Terre Country Club and St. John the Baptist Parish Government to clear and keep clean certain drainage ponds on Club grounds devolved into a legal argument with both sides expressing their frustrations with the other last week.

The two sides agreed in November to clean ponds and lakes near golf course holes 3 through 8 and 16 through 18 because they are public drain outlets. The ponds were to be kept up by the country club after the initial work was completed.

St. John agreed to pay 70 percent of the cost, and country club owners were responsible for 30 percent. The agreement called for the parish to remove pond debris, spray the sides, clean the basins and clean the culverts.

Parish President Natalie Robottom told Parish Council members the work is complete, the contractor had been paid and local government is awaiting final payment from the Country Club.

Country club co-owner Manjit Wadhwa said the contractor hired by the Parish did not complete the work and “ran away from the job” when asked by a L’OBSERVATEUR reporter about the cleaning status.

“Whatever needs to be done, they have to finish it,” he said. “At the end of the day, if you have not done your job, then you don’t deserve (payment).”

Wadhwa said he has paid the Parish 90 percent of the agreed-upon total and is holding the final 10 percent until project completion, which he said is the agreement outlined in the contract.

Jamie LaBranche, owner of Aquatic Weed Clean Up, said he was the contractor hired by the Parish to handle Belle Terre clean up, adding he completed work outlined by former Parish Chief Administrative Officer Mike Coburn.

“I’ve got pictures and videos from before and after,” he said. “The things in the lake were so big. We had some areas with trees 12 feet tall. We removed the weeds out of the lakes. The lakes were infested, I would say, for seven to eight years. We cleaned them all and sprayed behind us.”

LaBranche said he received more than a dozen calls after Wadhwa questioned his work in a L’OBSERVATEUR story that published Saturday.

“The facts are simple, somehow Manjit Wadhwa convinced the parish to pay 70 percent of taxpayers’ money to clean up ponds that had been neglected by the privately owned club for years,” LaBranche said, adding the club was built in 1977 with the lakes and ponds not designed to handle the amount of homes in the area now.

Belle Terre Country Club ownership maintain work was not completed around holes No. 4, 16, 17 and 18.