The council named Program Manager for the HUD Community Development Block Grant- Disaster Recovery, with a discussion about official recordings of city council meetings.
The atmosphere was light, with many conversations going on before the meeting. The chambers were a little over half full, mostly residents attending to speak on ordinances of final action and with a couple of representatives.
President John Ieyoub called the meeting to order.Councilman Ronnie Harvey gave the invocation, with the pledge led by Councilman Stuart Weatherford. Roll call followed with the remaining councilpersons: Craig Marks, Vice-President Mark Eckard, Rodney Geyen, and Luvertha August. Mr. Ieyoub submitted a motion to approve the minutes from the Oct. 5th, 2022, council meeting, which passed 7-0.
Policies and Decisions
The first order of business was to appoint a chair to review bids for various projects and departmental supplies.
Mr. Harvey accepted the appointment for the repairs to the Civic Center Coliseum Interior. Stuart Weatherford took the appointment to purchase an annual supply of mixtures for cold applications used by Public Works. Craig Marks also accepted an appointment to review the yearly supply of polymer flocculants—used to treat water—used by public works. The annual purchase of water treatment chemicals for Public Works will be chaired by Rodney Geyen, and the final appointment to Councilwoman Luvertha August for the annual supply of traffic control products.
The first two ordinances for final action were for various repairs at the Water Treatment Plants’ different buildings. Ieyoub was the sponsor of both and recommended the council reject and rebid both items in separate discussions. The recommendation passed 7-0 to reject and rebid both items.
Other items that passed with unanimous 7-0 votes were the acceptance of bids for annual office supplies for various departments.
The other ordinances of note—amending the Operating and Capital Budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, and an ordinance authorizing the Mayor to transfer funds contributed by Phillip 66 to increase the height of the Enterprise Blvd communication tower to the McNeese University Foundation—passed 7-0.
There was an ordinance authorizing the purchase of property at 1022 Enterprise Blvd by the city and an ordinance amending the code for establishing crosswalks and creating a school zone near the Bishop Noland Episcopal School Campus. The ordinance was passed amending the prior ordinance to all the acquiring and full ownership of a select number of adjudicated properties. There was an ordinance for the authorization of a claim settlement in the suit “Hertz Investment Group LLC and Hertz Lake Charles One, LLC vs. Zurich American Insurance Company and American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company in the 14th Judicial District Court. Mr. Ask if they needed a special session or discussion; there was none, and the item passed 7-0.
Again, home and building demolitions were the focus of public hearings. Two of the four ordinances ordering demolition of homes were deferred—one until Dec. 7, 2022 and the other until Dec. 21, 2022. The next item for the Public Hearings was deferred after conversations with Mr. Morgan, the city attorney, due to no proof of service; according to Mr. Morgan, the city attorney, a curator would be appointed. Mr. Ieyoub asked if there were any objections to the deferral, Mrs. August objected. The city attorney again stated that there was no proof of service and that they were ensuring “due process” was being folded and observed.
“Mr. Morgan, this situation should be investigated further because, with this particular property, we have been going through this since before the hurricanes; they can’t use the hurricanes as an excuse; this is blithe,” August said. “This is a nuisance and a known crime area for this particular location and this neighborhood. So when you say defer, how long are you talking about because this can’t go on for the people of those people.”
Mr. Morgan said that they would only need two meetings from the middle of November meeting. Mrs. August asked what would happen after this, and Mr. Morgan explained the curator would handle the advertisements and all the things necessary to bring it to its conclusion, then be brought in front of the council. Mrs. August made a motion to defer, which was seconded and will be revisited on the date set for Nov. 16.
A building inspector outlined the problems on another building. Morgan verified proof of service. Ieyoub asked if there were any more discussions or objections. With none, he called for a vote when the landowner Everette Lee requested to speak up from the audience. Mr. Lee explained that he pays the taxes on the property and it’s in his name because his brother, who lived at the property, has problems. He asked for a 15-30 day extension to speak with his contractor to decide if the building would be demolished or if the structure’s parts could be saved. He assured the council that he would start pulling the permits and have a resolution in that time. The motion for the extension passed 7-0.
The city council discussed an ordinance for accepting the most qualified proposal for a program manager to manage the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), the direct allocation of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The sponsor was Councilman Eckard, who stated that eight proposals were submitted through the scale and point system. Hunt, Guillot & Associates, a company that does disaster recovery, pipeline, construction, program management, and engineering in Louisiana and other states, scored the highest and got his recommendation. However, Councilman Marks had several issues with the process.
“I’m so disappointed that we have so many projects given out to the same companies,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with the recommendation.. looking at the point scale looking at the money, I’m really having a hard time deciding who gets what…looking at some of the upcoming items…it says Professional Services; I don’t know what the professional services are…right now I feel like I’m voting and don’t know everything.”
He asked that moving forward, the information, bids, and packets of information are released to the council members before they are required to make a recommendation.
Councilwoman August was recognized and asked the city attorney about the legality, asking “that all members are welcome to the opening of the bids, aren’t they?” August asked for clarification from Marks about when the information should be received after verifying the process with Morgan. She asked if Marks meant before they were opened; he said that “after the process of whatever they have to do to open the bid up, they get that information to us.”
There was no more discussion, and the measure passed 7-0.
Before the Documenters program launched in September, several residents, including me, were attending and recording or live streaming city council meetings. The city council made no official video or audio recording of the meetings.
In this meeting, Councilman Marks proposed an ordinance authorizing the recording of Lake Charles City Council meetings.
He brought in the person from the parish who handles recordings to take questions. Mr. Marks and Mr. Harvey stated that this would benefit the citizens and that their constituents wanted it. Mr. Eckard agreed to a 6-month trial, but Mrs. August and Mr. Geyen opposed the measure. Mrs. August stated that the video needed to be edited because people come and “talk about personal things here.” She noted that at least 5-6 people, including news media, filmed the entire meeting.
Mr. Harvey and Mr. Marks spoke about transparency and allowing those unable to attend to see the proceedings. Mr. Geyen motioned to defer, which was seconded by Mrs. August. This passed 7-0.
Why don’t the council members get information promptly?
Why are some council members still against televising the meeting?
Why do the same companies get contracts repeatedly?
Who are Hunt, Guillot & Associates and how many contracts around disaster recovery have they received?