Documenter name: Natalie McLendon
Agency holding meeting: Sulphur City Council
Date: Monday, April 10, 2023 at 5:30 PM
The city approved rate changes for permits, water, sewer, and trash collection, and the city accountant reviewed the budget.
The chambers were once again full at Monday night’s city council meeting, and the overflow room across the hall was occupied as well. Multiple members of the Sulphur Home Rule Charter Commission were in the audience.
The meeting was called to order at 5:30 PM. After the prayer and pledge of allegiance, a roll call indicated that three council members were present: Mrs. Joy Abshire, Vice Chair Dru Ellender, and Mr. Nicholas Nezat. Chair Mandy Thomas and Ms. Melinda Hardy were absent. The meeting minutes from last month were approved.
Items, 7, 8, and 9 (rezoning requests for multiple properties with the same owner) were removed because the owner is out of town. Item 12 was removed because they do not have the necessary information yet.
Mayor Mike Danahay presented a proclamation to the Sulphur High School Boys Soccer Team for their back to back division championship titles.
The council granted a variance to Kenneth Smith, 1284 South Post Oak Road, to allow him to continue living in an RV due to his mobile home being destroyed by Hurricane Laura. Mayor Danahay stands with and speaks for the property owner. Ms. Abshire says that it must be stipulated that the RV will no longer be allowed on the property after Mr. Smith is no longer there. Resolutions and orders documentation indicates that Mr. Smith is very ill and does not expect to live much longer.
The revised Home Rule Charter for the city was accepted by the council. It will be put on the ballot for October.
Sulphur resident Sheila Broussard said she was concerned that one item made it into the charter. , “I think it is problematic for a council to be able to give themselves raises.” Ms. Broussard also claimed that Louisiana has some of the highest salaries in the United States. She also wishes that the council would meet twice per month.
Mr. Nezat responded, “My personal opinion is that I don’t think that any legislative body of government should be able to set their own raises…I also agree that the council does not make much money. I’m not going to say what we should or shouldn’t make. It’s basically a volunteer job. I will most likely give it to the people and let them make that decision.”
Mayor Danahey says that any discussion about salaries would be brought up at a public hearing, “so the public has a say so in that whole process.”
Broussard responds that not enough notification would be provided. Mayor Danahay countered that they follow state law. Broussard says that state law is the bare minimum.
City attorney Cade Cole says this salary information that Broussard provided is from salary.com, which appears to be a guess at what Shreveport city council is paid. He says the Shreveport salary is $15,000 per year. Lake Charles city council makes $1,500 per month, and the police jury is $1600 per month. “The provision here would be that it would have to be done a year in advance of the election. In addition to that, it can’t go into effect until the next term…It is among the most restrictive,” Cole said.
Dru Ellender issues a proclamation for Paula Taylor with Sulphur Christian Community Coalition. Tuesday April 11 is Paula Taylor Day.
The council granted a variance to Paula Louvier, 436 Sands Point, to allow for living in an RV due to hurricane Laura. She will be allowed to live there for three months and then will have an inspection on her home.
1119 Alvin Street — No one was present for this agenda item. The property was condemned.
427, 427 ½, and 435 North Crocker Street — It’s open and very unsafe, according to Ms. Ellender. The property was condemned.
The council passed an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 1733, M-C Series, to increase fees for demolition, electrical, fire, gas, housing moving, mechanical, mobile home, plumbing, portable building, grading, plan reviews for residential and commercial, generator installation, change contractor, culvert inspection, and site visits outside city limits. See Resolutions and orders for exact rate changes.
Jennifer Thorn, city accountant, says the rates were introduced last meeting and have since learned that this was a directive that was brought down from the state level. The last time these rates were updated was 2014, according to Thorn.
Sheila Broussard is concerned about the changes. Gas pressure test permits went up 66%, and began to list other high percentage increases. Thorn says that although the percentages may look large, the dollar amount changes are not large.
Mayor Danahay entered into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Calcasieu Parish Police Jury for the Summer Feeding Program. There are children who go without and so the city has participated in the program for a number of years.
Introduction of Ordinances
The council adopted the annual budget.
Thorn provided a summary of the budget. The projected general fund balance is approximately $31 million, which is an increase of $3 million after $2 million was transferred to the public utility fund. The balance is due to storm recovery reimbursement money. The city spent $30 million on storm recovery. $21.5 million in revenue from FEMA. Thorn says there is still $30 million left to go in storm recovery. The general fund expenditures are up 15%, due to open positions in fire and police departments.
There was a 3% increase in pay for civil service employees, and a 2% increase for employees who are not civil service. There was a 30% increase in insurance premiums including workers comp. Major acquisitions for the city include eight police units, and a generator for the fire station.
The public utility fund has a deficit of approximately $1.6 million prior to the transfer from the general fund. The projected year end net assets are more than $59 million. Operating expenses exceed operating revenue by $2.3 million mostly due to operating costs increases in water and sewer. Capital projects budget shows $65.3 million. The city has expended $30.9 million so far. The budget can be reviewed at city hall.
Thorn says the city is about to get a state mandated water study. Nezat says it may be time to meter water in the city. Next, the council set new water fees. Then, they passed new sewer fees.
The city assessed an 85 cent increase for garbage/trash collection fees.
Ordinance No. 1393, M-C Series, setting forth tie-in fees for water and sewer, was introduced.
The city amended Ordinance No. 1611, M-C Series, which established a program to assist low-income households in the payment of water, sewer, and garbage-trash collection fees charged by the City of Sulphur.
Next, they amended Ordinance No. 1218, M-C Series which set forth a Capital Recovery fee charged by the City of Sulphur. This goes back into water and capital infrastructure projects.
The mayor will enter into an inter-governmental agreement with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury for wastewater treatment services for Mossville area. No one spoke about this issue.
Council authorized Mayor Danahay to grant and execute right of way with Entergy Louisiana, LLC, for property located on Invader Street.
The city set the millage rates for tax year 2023 for general alimony, street maintenance, and fire maintenance. No increase was proposed, according to Thorn.
The low bid was awarded for the north water treatment improvement program for the removal and replacement of pressure filters. The low bid from Lemoine Company is estimated at $3.4 million. Danahay says 8-9 million into water systems and says they’re having good feedback from the Louisiana Department of Health.
One resident provided public comment at the end of the meeting. They were asked to limit their commentary to three minutes. Sheila Broussed let the audience and council know that she has a Facebook page called Concerned Citizens for Sulphur.
The meeting concluded at PM. The next Sulphur city council meeting is Monday, May 8, 2023 at 5:30 PM.
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