Motion to amend Parish Council salaries fails

Published 12:34 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2023

LAPLACE — Potential raises for members of the St. John the Baptist Parish Council will have to wait.

A proposed ordinance introduced by Councilman Warren Torres during the July 11 meeting in Edgard that would have adjusted the salaries pursuant to the parish’s Home Rule Charter failed, with four members in favor and four opposed. Councilman Lennix Madere abstained, creating the stalemate that caused the proposal’s failure.

Madere, who noted council members have not received a raise in 20-plus years, explained the charter currently allows the council to vote itself raises.

“If all of the employees had a chance to give themselves a raise, they would get a raise every month, every year,” Madere said. “I don’t think we should be able to give ourselves a raise.”

He said that in the past, council members were skittish about voting themselves a raise in an election year, concerned about the reaction from voters.

“When I first got in office I was not even thinking about (money),” he said, adding at the time he was not aware of the monthly stipend.

Madere said the charter should include a pay scale structure with automatic raises, whether it’s “every three years or every four years when a new council comes in.”

“And I think the people that should make that decision are the voters,” he said. “Something should (be put) on the ballot that would change the way (council members are financially compensated).

“I don’t like the process with us giving ourselves a raise without the support of the people who vote for us. They should have the ability to say yes, the council should get a raise or the council should not get a raise.”

Torres said he raised the issue because it was time sensitive, with the fall elections looming.

However, assistant district Keith Green said even if the ordinance had passed, it did not conform legally. He said an ordinance to amend the charter must be approved by the council with 30 days of the qualifying deadline for the fall elections.

But Green said a miscalculation with the date would have brought into question the ordinance’s legality.

Qualifying dates are Aug. 8-10.

In other council matters, approval was given for the parish to solicit bids through Louisiana Community Block Grant Council on aging HVAC Repairs/replacement for the parish’s Council of Aging facilities. Director of Procurement Peter Montz said the grant will allow the parishes to upgrade the HVAC at the two facilities that service low to moderate income residents.

The parish is also rejecting the only bid received to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Ida to the sewer lift stations in Reserve, Garyville and the West Bank. Montz said the sole bid exceeded the engineer’s projected cost, so the specs will be reevaluated and put out to bid a second time.

“We’ll see where the market is,” Montz said.

Approval was also given for the parish to submit a grant application to the Delta Regional Authority for the Road Improvement Program. Montz said the DRA provides funding assistance for projects that stimulate economic growth.

He said the parish is seeking a grant of $500,000 that allows for improvements to several roads.

Residents and drivers should also see improvements along Airline Highway near Home Depot as an agreement with the state’s Highway 61 streetscape Improvements Project will fund the construction of a sidewalk with drainage, landscaping and green infrastructure upgrades in that area.