Supermarket carts and steering wheels bring ordinances into question

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 14, 2019

EDGARD — Supermarket carts and steering wheels appeared prominent among St. John the Baptist Parish Council members during their meeting this past Tuesday night in Edgard.

Council members spent significant time debating the legalities or potential ordinances governing each issue. Regarding steering wheels and what role they play in regulating food trucks, the council did, in fact, immediately enact a new law that changed an interim ordinance in place.

Council chairman Thomas Malik explained that a vendor is not being allowed to sell produce from his trailer mainly because the trailer does not have a steering wheel.  Malik also noted the vendor has his occupational license and his sanitary documents are in order.

He said the vendor was refused a parish permit because he was in a trailer.

Director of Planning and Zoning Rene Pastorek explained that the current interim regulations have been in place for nearly a year. He added that such regulations are a “testing ground” to receive feedback from residents and perhaps make necessary tweaks.

Pastorek repeatedly emphasized the interim regulations do not permit the vendor to operate. That will change under the new regulations, which he said should be presented to the council for approval in the next two to three months.

“I support the new regulations,” Pastorek said.

Councilman Lennix Madere said the vendor is being refused simply because the trailer “does not have a steering wheel.”

“To say we are not going to permit him for another 60 days is contrary to good sense,” an incredulous Malik said. “Between now and (when the new regulations will take effect) is he legal to sell?”

Pastorek noted that some sites have been grandfathered in and added that he did not have an issue with “amending” the interim regulations.

The council unanimously approved councilman Larry Snyder’s motion to amend the interim regulations and allow the vendor to operate.

Earlier in the meeting, shopping carts, particularly those at Walmart in LaPlace, and defining whether they are to be considered runaway carts or stolen property was a topic of a lengthy discussion. Central to the dialogue was the legality of a proposed ordinance addressing abandoned shopping carts and the parish charging establishments $10 to retrieve buggies that had been retrieved by parish workers.

Madere questioned if the ordinance would pass legal muster, especially regarding unauthorized removal of carts and dairy crates. He also wondered whether the parish can charge money for a company to pick up what is basically their own property, especially if it was stolen.

Defining stolen and abandoned property and how should those matters should be addressed legally was a matter up for debate with no resolution. It was pointed out, however, that if parish workers take possession of carts, whether they were stolen or abandoned, while cleaning out a ditch, the parish either has to bring it back to the store or call store personnel and have them come pick it up.

The legal question then becomes if the parish can charge a store to pony up to take back what is essentially stolen property.

The matter was tabled, as it was during a July 27 meeting.

In other council news, a proposal directing the parish administration to executive a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) with the sheriff’s office for use of the administration building was also tabled following a lengthy discussion that touched on several legal questions. The parish’s district attorney’s office supplied said in an opinion that since the sheriff’s office receives revenue from independent sources the parish is not legally required to fund the sheriff’s office with a building and requisite furniture.

Part of the discussion revolved around whether the parish is obligated to provide building space for the assessor, registrar of voters, clerk of court or DA.

Attorney Keith Green from the DA’s office said those offices are not affected because they do not receive independent funding. He said the agreement with the sheriff’s office could be one dollar or nothing, or even a lease agreement.

Green said if the parish were not to charge any rent, a written agreement for free use of the public building would be required.

Carl Butler, an attorney for sheriff’s office, said state law does not give the parish an option and that is must provide a building and equipment.

“This obligation is mandatory,” he said, publicly challenging Green’s statement.

The council also shot down a proposal to request a RFP for a liaison to be hired to attend meetings for the West Bank Shore Levee Project.


Richard Meek is a contributing writer to L’OBSERVATEUR.