At a press conference today, Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter and Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux announced that a group of projects designed to improve drainage in Youngsville’s area are ready to go forward.
As we reported earlier this month, the projects were in danger after Ritter objected to language in the contracts that would make his city responsible for rights-of-way for the Anselm Coulee project, and also for maintenance of the coulee – which belongs to the city-parish – forever.
Today, Ritter said the two men came to an agreement that means the project, and others in line for work, can go forward. The project along with four others have been sent out for bid.
You can read the full contract here: Contract between LCG and Youngsville.
The coulee in question was one of more than 20 coulees on a list of drainage projects that was approved by voters last year. The tax re-dedication gave $9 million for these improvements.
“The reality is, he called into question some language he felt put more burden on the city Youngsville than the current law places on the city of Youngsville,” Robideaux said. “I looked at it, and I tended to agree with him, and he was gracious not to say “I told you so.” But that’s what we’re put in office to do: Make the phone calls, admit when we’re wrong and accept that we do need to work together. The public wants to see us working more than anything else. They want us to figure things out and come up with solutions.”
The language in question has been re-written, Robideaux said, and has been distributed to the other municipalities in the parish to sign as well.
Earlier this month, we reported on the dispute in several stories. Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter told us that the city-parish was placing the project on hold because he wouldn’t agree to the requirement that his city get rights-of-way for the project – which is a parish-owned coulee – and agree to maintain it forever.
LCG’s Public Works Director Mark Dubroc responded that it was a customary term of agreement.
“All too often in government, it’s ‘hey this is how it’s been done for 20-something years,” said Robideaux. “Ken read it a certain way. I went and read it and tended to agree with him. And I brought in our legal department and said look I want to make sure everyone is in the exact same position once the project is complete and worked on that they were before it started. In no way do I want to change anything about who’s responsible for what. And they agreed that when they re-read it, that it could be interpreted to do that.”
Here are our previous stories:
LCG Public Works Director Mark Dubroc responded to KATC, via email, after our inquiry about the Anselm Coulee and drainage work being postponed due to dispute with the City of Youngsville.
Dubroc says that he disagrees with Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter’s comments about the city taking over responsibility for future maintenance of the project in the contract, or intergovernmental agreement (IGA), without a perpetual drainage tax.
“In regard to the grossly unfair ‘bait and switch’ accusation by the Mayor of Youngsville, the fact that the disputed clause in the IGA about the Future Responsibilities is long-established and clearly a customary term of agreement renders the statements of Mayor Ritter to be an intentional misrepresentation of the facts,” says Dubroc in the email.
As part of the project, the proposed work for Anselm is 7,550 feet (1.4 miles) of channel in the Unincorporated Parish downstream of Youngsville, and 5,000 feet (0.9 miles) within the corporate limits of Youngsville.
According to Dubroc, the original draft of the contract simply states that Youngsville currently is and always will be responsible for the channels within its jurisdiction, and LCG is and will be responsible for the channel within its jurisdiction.
He adds that since there is no contract in place while negotiations take place, LCG cannot perform the work until they have permission to do so. However, Public Works will continue with the rest of the project’s drainage work until an agreement is in place and work on the Anselm Coulee can proceed.
Maintenance work on a coulee in Youngsville is being postponed.
The coulee in question is one of more than 20 coulees on a list of drainage projects that was approved by voters last year.
In November, a tax rededication was passed to fund drainage improvements.
The hold-up stems from a disagreement between LCG and the City of Youngsville.
A resident who lives along the coulee told KATC’s Dannielle Garcia he’s worried that dispute could put his house, and others, in danger of flooding.
“All the water that got in my house came from this coulee,” said Coco Broussard.
Since the August 2016 flood, Broussard has been waiting for the Anselm Coulee to be cleaned.
When the channel was identified for the parish-wide drainage project, he was relieved.
“Our tax money would come to work and try to relieve some of this water problem,” he said.
Now that work is on hold.
LCG sent a contract, or intergovernmental agreement, to Mayor Ken Ritter, saying it’s Youngsville’s responsibility to get servitudes, or permission to go on private property to access and clean the coulee.
The contract also says Youngsville would have to take over maintenance of the coulee once the project is finished.
“Those two items are just simply unacceptable. That was not part of the communication when LCG asked our residents to vote for this tax,” said Mayor Ritter.
He said he raised objections to LCG, but after the public works director took the project off of a bid scheduled for Thursday, and has listed it as an “alternate.”
“It’s not appropriate for the citizens of Youngsville to assume the perpetual responsibility for these channels because we don’t have the perpetual drainage tax that LCG just asked the voters for. It’s a bait and switch tactic if you ask me. LCG asked for the drainage tax so LCG should take ownership completely for the channels in which they said they would do work in,” said Ritter.
LCG spokeswoman Cydra Wingerter confirmed there are negotiations taking place.
“The bid will be pushed back about one week since an intergovernmental agreement is not in place,” said Wingerter.
She also added that the annual tax money from parish residents goes into the parish drainage fund, which pays for more than coulee maintenance.
“It’s not just these projects, it’s also the regular cleaning and the maintenance that the crews already do,” she said.
We asked Wingerter about the stipulations in the contract, she told us she couldn’t answer why they were in the agreement.
She tried calling the public works director to find out, but it was after hours.
To check the status of drainage projects in your area click here.