Agency holding meeting: Lake Charles City Council

Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2023,  5:30 PM

Documenter: Carl M. Ambrose, Jr.

The Scene

The chambers were about half-filled with spectators and city officials with a few conversations going on. The chambers are just about renovated and repaired from the storms. 

Special meeting

The special meeting was called to order by Mr. Ieyoub. Mr. Marks led the prayer following the Pledge, which was led by Mr. Eckard.  Mrs. Thibodeaux called roll; President Ieyoub, Vice-President Eckard, Mrs. August, Mr. Geyen, Mr. Harvey, and Mr. Marks were present.  Mayor Hunter, City Attorney Mr. Morgan, City Administrator John Cardone, Planning & Development Director Doug Burguieres, and Robert Hester of Code Enforcement/Property Standards were all present.

The Special Meeting was called to pass a resolution that verifies the City of Lake Charles Reviewed the Municipal Water Pollution Prevention (MWPP) documents for Plants A-D. 

Mr. Ieyoub recognized Mr. Marks, who inquired as to who he would be directing his questions to.  Mr. Kevin Heise of Public Works approached the podium and was then asked by Mr. Marks, “Kevin, in your own words, what exactly are these reports saying?” 

Mr. Heise said, “This is a self-described or self-filled-out report card to the state.” Mr. Heise said it was a review of the compliance issues and providing this information to comply with the form annually.  Mr. Marks asked, “Does the report reflect any of our plants being out of compliance?” Mr. Heise replied,” Yes, there is; it’s contained in the body of the report.” Mr. Marks and Mr. Heise discussed some issues that were out of compliance, such as mechanical issues.  Mr. Marks noted that one plant, in particular, was less than six years old and asked if it were out of the ordinary for problems with such a new plant.  Mr. Heise advised Mr. Marks that the warranties on any mechanical parts were expired.  Mr. Marks inquired into the status of the plants at present, and Mr. Heise declared that they all were in compliance.  Mr. Cardon advised that he could set up a meeting to go through that annual report in more detail with Mr. Marks.  The voice vote for the resolution was 6-0. The special meeting was adjourned as Mr. Weatherford was walking in.

Agenda meeting

Mr. Ieyoub called the Agenda meeting to order and, after a few announcements, introduced Heath Stoyer, the McNeese State University Athletic Director, who came to give the council an update on McNeese Athletics. 

Mr. Stoyer started, as he said, with the “elephant in the room,” the hire of Will Wade as the basketball coach. He said that the hire of Wade, the former coach at LSU, is a hire he is “excited” about and that the University, community, and city will benefit. He also spoke about the impact that he is already having on the revenue for the university, with $130,00 in new ticket sales in the first 48 hours. In addition, the Gatsby Fundraiser raised over $350,000, the largest ever. He also said that Coach Wade is excited to return to Louisiana, “loves Lake Charles,” and can’t wait to start.  Mr. Stoyer then spoke about how McNeese and the community of SWLA need to come together and that McNeese wants to be “involved, engaged, and a part of the community, saying, “when the University advances, so does the city, and vice versa, we are here to do anything and everything to help the area moved forward.”  

Mr. Eckard spoke about the final four and that small schools can now be in that position. Mr. Stroyer agreed that NIL (Name Image and Likeness) has put mid-majors in places to advance, create more revenue, and get publicity.  He spoke of how he fell in love with this area and that all of us should promote the area more.  Mayor spoke about the recent partnerships with McNeese and that the city and McNeese have a symbiotic relationship.  He discussed getting McNeese Athletics “off campus” into the neighborhoods and some of our parks in all city areas and his discussions with Mr. Stroyer about this.

Ms. Jennifer Miller of Partners in Children Safety addressed the council.  Ms. Miller spoke about three instances in which children in Calcasieu Parish encountered sexual predators and human traffickers.  One example she relayed involved rescuing a child caught up in human trafficking that originated here in Calcasieu Parish and was rescued in Livingston Parish in 2021.  The last instance happened three weeks ago, according to Ms. Miller, a grandmother, and the local business owner called to say that her grandson was missing.  He had been taken for a ride out of the community by a stranger and was located when he turned on his cell phone in Lacassine.  The teenager met the stranger in a chat room, and they met at the Civic Center.  Ms. Miller then spoke about how we are attracting businesses and rebuilding the area, but there are children’s safety issues that need to be addressed, and she talked about “Mandate training” and community centers.  The training helps workers and volunteers identify possible cases of abuse and neglect.  The training also includes policies and procedures training.  She said,”All projects and improvements in a community “come with children,” and children’s safety should be considered.

Ms. Paula Broussard of Code Enforcement and Property Standards addressed some questions concerning the condemnations which came up to discuss the report that she had issued with tentative dates for some of the demolitions as had been requested by Mrs. August.  The reports show where all the properties are in the process and the ones that have been completed.  Ms. Broussard explained the process and responsibilities of the parties in response to Mr. Harvey and Mr. Mark’s questions.  Mr. Marks also had a question concerning a blue tag, this tag is for the police to identify a home where no one should be occupying the residence, and the police can arrest anyone on the premises.

Mike Castille, the Director of Parks and Recreation, came to talk about the summer camp, which will have different themes for each of the eight weeks, along with educational components that “should make it fun and keep the minds sharp for school in August.” Mrs. August asked about the fishing program coming up.  Mr. Castille said that the program will teach the kids how to fish and the preparation since fishing is”a big part of our area, the Sportmans’ Paradise.” He also spoke about the “mayor and council walk” and that the parks department welcomes the residents’ thoughts on the parks’ improvements and what they would like to see.  Finally, Mr. Castille spoke about the upcoming calendar of events the parks department has, including golf lessons and exposing the youth to the sport with equipment and instructors at no cost.

Following Mr. Castille, Mayor Nic Hunter had some comments for the council. The mayor spoke about the “Partners in Parks program and the success the program has had since its inception.  The mayor said,” The initial hope was that we could get, maybe $50,000-$100,000 through some different private interest, we could make some exciting things happen at our parks.  We’re over $1 million actually in private funds that have been injected into our parks.  We’re very excited about that.”  He complimented Mr. Castille and his team for the success of the most recent events, including the largest “Partners in Parks” event in the city’s history at Riverside Park.  He also spoke about the McNeese Banners event at Riverside Park, the first-ever Banners event there, the excitement it brought, and the excitement surrounding the repairs and revitalizations of the area parks.  Also noted was “Book It to Park,” an event at McMillian Park co-sponsored with the Public library and NAUW (National Association of University Women), which was also well attended.  The mayor talked about the tree giveaways and that “Over 2000 trees” have been given away to replace ones lost to the storms.  He also credited the public information officer, Katie Harrington, for her social media work and for helping spread the word about the exciting things happening.

Mr. Weatherford made a request to have a resident speak.  No one opposed the request that was altering the order of the meeting, and the resident,  Gary Larabee, a disabled vet.  Mr. Larabee and his wife moved to the Lake Charles area and purchased a home.  They love Lake Charles and love their home, but like many people in the city, they have a problem with barking dogs.  He explained that the way the ordinances are set up, a homeowner has no recourse unless they can get one of their neighbors to also complain.  He and his wife both have medical problems, with him having 5 surgeries since the hurricane.  Like others, insurance issues have also added to their problems.  He described his issues with a neighbor’s dog for the last three months and how “the last three months have been the worst of our life, and the way you have written the ordinance is not fair to a single resident.  The police have been to my home over 20 times in the last 3 months.” The last time they called the police, the police refused to come to the home and advised him to contact the city council.  He then describes barking 8 feet from his window constantly and preventing him and his wife from sleeping, as well as the problems taking medication in this type of situation.  He said that most neighbors aren’t going to get involved because many are renters.  He said,” I am asking for your help because we don’t want to sell.” He said, “I went on Facebook, in this community, and talked to at least fifty(50) people with this same issue, and something needs to be done to help the single resident because this is an issue that makes people rethink where they live.”  He said cameras were installed, the video was turned over to Animal Control, and they still can’t do anything.  He asked that the ordinance be looked at and thanked Mr. Weatherford for his help.  Mr. Geyen asked if any conversations had been had; Mr. Larabee said that confrontations had occurred and that the neighbors accused them of being a nuisance for complaining about the dogs.  He said,” In a civilized society, we should not have confrontations.  We trust in you all to help us, that’s why I’m here.  Like I said I don’t want to have to sell the house, I want to stay here, I’m a disabled Vet, the VA is here, I don’t want to leave.“

The way the ordinance is written, unless two households complain, nothing can be done, even with a video of the barking dogs.  

Mr. Ieyoub asked Mrs. Thibodeaux to begin reading.

Mrs. Thibodeaux began reading April 5, 2023, meeting agenda into the record.  The full agenda can be found here.

Below are the Appointments, Public Hearings, and Ordinances for Final Action.

Appointments

Mr. Geyen will review bids for the City’s Water Meter Lid and Box Recycling Project.

Mrs. August

Mr. Harvey will review bids for the North Beach Recreation Center and bids for the purchase of one crew cab four-door pickup truck for the Lake Charles Fire Department.

Mr. Marks will review the bids for the Cornina Waterline Extension and the University Area Blue Sub-basin Sewer Rehabilitation Project.

Mr.Weatherford will review bids for the annual supply of ready mix material for the Public Works Department.

Mr. Eckard will review the bids for the annual supply of road base limestone aggregate for the Public Works Department.

Public hearings on properties

The following structures will have public hearings for the owner to show cause as to why the structure should not be condemned and demolished.

  -2212 Common Street, Ray M. Morgan Estate, owner

  -2416 2nd Avenue, Main Street Liquor, LLC, owner

  -2312 Lilly Street, WKC, LLC, owner

  -3000 Broad Street, Southern Amusement Company, Inc., owner

  -1926 11th Street, Equicredit Corporation of America, owner

  -3424 Gerstner Memorial Drive, Thuy Anh Do and Trung Xuan Thanh Mai, owners

  -1020 17th Street, Charles Stafford Valentine and Annette F. Braxton Valentine, owners

  -317 Brammer Lane, Raymond Antoine, owner

There will also be a hearing on a  request for a Major Conditional Use Permit to establish Commercial Offices in a Mixed District Use Zoning at 1632 Bellevue St.

Final action

There are several Ordinances to accept the lowest responsible bids for the North Beach Improvement Project, Civic Center Exterior Repairs, the purchase of five new thirty-five ft. buses for the Public Works Department, and the purchase of thirteen new police sport utility vehicles for the Lake Charles Police Patrol Division.

An ordinance to designate “N. Evans St. west of the intersection of Prater St. and Evans St.

Authorization of the settlement of a claim in the suit “Sharmaine Plumbar v. American Alternative Insurance Company.

Authorization for the intro and final action of an ordinance for an agreement with Hub Diving Services for the dredging and erosion control at Mallard Cove Golf Club.

Mr. Ieyoub opened the floor to discussion, beginning with Mrs. August, who spoke about the trash on Mill St. and around the cemeteries.  She also talked about trash and junk left at the corner of Mill St and 1st Ave.  Since work would soon begin on the walking extension on 1st Ave.  She also questioned who was responsible for the upkeep of the cemeteries since the parish had stopped cutting the grass.   She brought up Mr. Batiste, a citizen who, along with a group, wants to clean and repair the graves in the cemeteries.  They are unable to do this through various ordinances.  The council will look into getting the group permission to rehab and clean the sites.

Mr. Eckard requested the west side of Weaver Rd south of McNeese be “No Parking.”

Mr. Harvey had some questions concerning the old Days Inn lot where containers are being stored and wanted to ensure no additional containers or equipment were added and that the property was cleaned up.

Mr. Weatherfood sponsored a resolution to send to the Louisiana delegation to support the Social Security Fairness Act.

Mr. Ieyoub adjourned the meeting.

Links

The Special Meeting Minutes can be found here:https://www.cityoflakecharles.com/egov/documents/1680296366_95001.pdf

The agenda can be found here: https://www.cityoflakecharles.com/egov/documents/1680295982_08389.pdf