Two 11th-hour lawsuits are once again questioning the merits of Lafayette Utilities System's fiber-to-the-home proposal. The suits contend that LUS plans to illegally subsidize a new telecommunications department through its utilities division.
BellSouth filed suit late Friday on the heels of a Thursday suit by Lafayette residents Elizabeth Naquin and Matthew Eastin. Both suits challenge the ordinance that city-parish government has approved to issue $125 million in bonds for LUS to build out a fiber-to-the-home network. The network would allow LUS to offer phone, cable and Internet service to Lafayette homes and businesses.
BellSouth's suit says that LUS should not be allowed to use any utility department revenue to pay off bonds for the new venture. State law, agreed upon by both BellSouth and LUS last year, states a government entity like LUS is allowed to pledge its utility resources "to obtain the best available interest rates, terms and conditions for the bonds."
LUS plans to use utility department revenue for any bond payments that its telecommunications division can't cover during its beginning years. However, BellSouth argues that creditors should only be allowed to collect money from LUS' utility division after LUS has defaulted on its loan.
Local BellSouth representative John Williams did not return a call for comment by press time, but BellSouth Louisiana President Bill Oliver issued a statement last week. "BellSouth is opposed to government competing with private enterprise and using any form of subsidy to ensure the success of their business plan," said Oliver.
LUS Director Terry Huval says the suits amount to nothing more than a delay tactic to keep incumbent telecommunication providers from having to compete with a new player. He says the bond ordinance now being challenged is the same that the city-parish government approved in January ' before a Bellsouth and Cox Communications lawsuit prompted LUS to first get voter approval before moving forward. Voters approved the $125 million bond ordinance in July. The city-parish council approved the new bond ordinance last month, and last Friday was the last day anyone could legally challenge it.
"They waited until the absolute last day," says Huval, "and it's my understanding, the absolute last minute [to file the lawsuit]. They've had nine months to address these issues. So, the whole purpose of it is a delay tactic." ' NS
LOUISIANA BUSINESSES SHUT OUT OF FEMA CONTRACTS
Louisiana businesses across the state are hoping that recently hired FEMA Director David Paulison will make good on his promise to a Senate committee last week to rebid all the no-bid contracts the agency awarded post-Hurricane Katrina. The Times-Picayune reported on Monday that only two out of 140 contracts FEMA awarded through Oct. 3 have gone to Louisiana companies. Those two contracts amount to less than half of 1 percent of the $1.6 billion total awarded for items and services such as trailer homes and satellite phones. ' SJ
Clothing retailer Abdalla's, a Lafayette fixture for more than a century, announced last week that it is closing its doors.
The family-owned business first opened in 1895, and over the years had locations in New Iberia, Opelousas and Abbeville. The company eventually shuttered those stores and devoted its resources to the Oil Center location, which opened in 1999. With its signature blue sign in cursive script, the red brick building in the Oil Center remained a favorite spot for generations of Lafayette shoppers.
But the changing retail landscape and increasing presence of chain retail stores such as Wal-Mart and Target appears to have proved too much for Abdalla's. In a letter to their customers, co-owners Barbara Abdalla Black and Tom Black cite increased competition and dwindling revenue and write that it is "almost impossible for a single unit, family-owned department store to be profitable."
No official closing date for the store has been announced, and co-owner Barbara Abdalla Black did not return a call for comment by presstime. ' SJ
SAINTS' CHALLENGES DEEPEN ON AND OFF THE FIELD
After an inspirational victory over the Carolina Panthers in their season-opening victory the week after Hurricane Katrina, the Saints outlook has never been gloomier.
The team experienced one of its worst defeats in franchise history last Sunday, getting routed 52-3 by the Green Bay Packers thanks to a listless performance that prompted Sports Illustrated's Peter King to write, "No team, and I mean no team, should have put on a horsecrap performance like the Saints put on."
But things went from bad to worse on Monday, when X-rays showed that running back Deuce McAllister had a torn ACL and would miss the rest of the 2005 season. Without McAllister, their best player, the Saints face an uphill battle, and their chances of making the playoffs this year appear slim at best.
It's the scenario that diehard Saints fans dreaded most. Without a spirited run deep into the playoffs and steady fan support throughout the season, Saints owner Tom Benson might finally make good on his threat to move the team to another city. The Superdome sustained extensive damage during Hurricane Katrina, and chances for the new stadium Benson still covets are almost nil as New Orleans faces more pressing challenges. Coupled with anemic ticket sales for the team's three upcoming Baton Rouge games and the economic base in New Orleans a huge question mark for the foreseeable future, Benson the businessman could now claim that he doesn't have the financial support in Louisiana to keep the team here.
Further complicating matters is the legal term "force majeure" in the team's current contract with Louisiana. The San Antonio Express News reported last week that the clause frees parties from liability when an "act of God" prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their contractual obligation. Katrina certainly appears to qualify as force majeure, meaning Benson has a 90-day window where he could attempt to void all contractual obligations with the state. The 90-day window expires Nov. 28.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.