Parish Council votes down amendment to street renaming ordinance

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2022

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LAPLACE — Road name changes and drainage funds sparked discussions during the St. John the Baptist Parish Council meeting this past Tuesday night in LaPlace.

Councilwoman Tonia Schnyder proposed an amendment to change the Parish Recognition Program for Renaming Public Streets, Public Property and Nomenclatures ordinance, which was co-authored by Kurt Becnel and Tammy Houston and adopted by the Parish Council in February 2021.

Schnyder explained the only significant change is increasing the percentage of approval of property owners residing on the street needed for a street name change from 51% to 66%.

“To change a street name can be difficult; I would be concerned with that,” she said.

However, she said the approval rate from surrounding neighbors for a nomenclature, which is more of an honorary designation and includes a plaque on the street with a person’s name but is not an official name change, remains at 51%.

Additionally, her proposed amendment deleted a phrase in the existing ordinance stating that the cost to the parish for changing an ordinance is $200.

“If you want to leave (the $200) in there, explain what it is,” she said.

Councilwoman Houston said she “caught hell behind this ordinance” and received feedback that 51% was too high of a percentage to gain approval.

“If residents had a problem with 51%, don’t you think they will have a problem with 66%?” she asked.

Houston said the ordinance never stated the cost of a name change or nomenclature would be $200, but it was put in the original ordinance solely for the purpose of informing residents of the cost when a change is made.

“To take this out of the ordinance is to deny (the public) the right to know the cost,” she said.

The amendment failed with only Schnyder and Councilman Warren Torres voting in favor.

A separate discussion during Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting involved a proposed shifting of funds in the budget, reflecting estimated revenues and expenditures for 2022.

Schnyder, who represents District Six, said she noticed $4 million being moved from the Vicknair Canal project in the Cambridge subdivision to the general drainage fund.

She said former Councilman Larry Snyder, who passed away this month, told her the money had been dedicated to the Cambridge area.

Chief Finance Officer Robert Figuero Jr. and engineering consultant Joseph Savoie explained the $4 million in question was from an original bond voters approved several years ago. At some point, former Parish President Natalie Robottom allocated the money for the Cambridge area, specifically for the Vicknair Canal, which has been excavated with some of the funding.

“What we are doing now is moving the money back to the drainage fund to be used through the parish,” Figuero said, adding that by not doing so would restrict the money to be used on the Vicknair Canal project.

He added that since voters approved an additional bond issue this past fall, the state bond commission would not look favorably on the parish receiving funds from a new bond when money from the previous bond had not been expended.

“It is very important that we spend the current monies we have,” he said.

Savoie added that Hurricane Ida has also complicated the process.

“The parish has to be very careful about what they do,” Savoie said. “It could not jump back in the VIcknair Canal project because FEMA was not going to reimburse or refund any of that money.

“What the administration is trying to do is put that money back into the general drainage fund where it can be done. It does not mean (the Vicknair Canal project) won’t be done, but it won’t be done until we settle issues with FEMA.”

Schnyder was the lone dissenter on the vote.