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Parish Council approves multiple drainage measures: Reopening bars, new parks & rec director highlight other Council news

LAPLACE — Significant advancements in solving St. John the Baptist Parish’s pesky drainage challenges appear to be on the way.

With little fanfare, Parish Council members approved three separate measures totaling more than $2.4 million this past Tuesday night for drainage improvements, including dredging and dragging parish canals.

The council awarded a bid of $354,640 to Vintage Contractors LLC of Baton Rouge and a bid of $597,475 to LA Contracting Enterprise LLC of Thibodaux for dredging, excavation, clearing and snagging of parish canals. Additionally, the parish awarded a contract of $1.4 million to On-Grade Construction LLC of Kenner for excavation and culvert replacement on an as-needed basis for the Public Works Department.

There was some concern regarding the On-Grade bid since it came in more than $400,000 less than the next lowest bid, but parish engineering consultant Joseph Savoie assured the council the company was properly vetted and that the firm has also had projects in Ascension Parish.

Remaining unclear is what improvements will be made to what canals, but dredging and snagging have long been heralded as significant in helping to curtail the flooding repeatedly plaguing some neighborhoods and streets.

In other action, the Council voted to “opt-in” to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Phase 3 guidelines that will allow many restrictions on businesses to be lifted. Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said the parish has reached the threshold of less than 5 percent COVID-19 positivity rate for two consecutive weeks.

As part of the guidelines, bars are able to open but must offer table service only. Alcohol sales must end at 11 p.m., and the bar must close by midnight. Live music is prohibited.

Several businesses, including churches and restaurants will be allowed to operate at 75 percent capacity.

Sporting events are allowed but with only 25 percent capacity and no alcohol allowed.

Hotard said if the positivity rate should spike past the 10 percent threshold, previous restrictions would likely be reenacted.

The Council also approved former UCLA great and NBA star Mike Sanders as the new director of the parish’s Parks and Recreation Department. Following an NBA career that saw him play for four teams, the former shooting guard turned his attention to the coaching ranks. He has previously served as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats, along with several teams in the professional minor leagues.

Sanders, a native of Vidalia who prepped at DeRidder High School, was most recently employed by the St. Charles Parish Recreation Department.

“My mission is to enhance quality of life for all residents and provide well maintained facilities and affordable opportunities for the community,” Sanders said.

Council members also denied consideration of a request to appeal the Planning Commission’s denial of an application by resident Buddy Miles to place mobile homes on two lots in Reserve. In April, the commission denied Miles’ request to place the two trailers on E. 9th Street in Reserve.

However, parish Planning and Zoning Director Rene Pastorek revealed that Miles had already placed the trailers on the lots without approval. Pastorek said he was told by Miles that he was under the impression no approval was required since the trailers were placed during the state’s stay-at-home order early this year.

Pastorek said at this point Miles’ two options are to remove the trailers or request a public hearing.

Miles was not present at the meeting, which surprised council members. Council Chairman Lennix Madere said through Miles’ “lack of interest” in appearing before the council “he has spoken loud and clear.”