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.
Mike Harson's coffers show the advantage of incumbency.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote on an ordinance for final adoption Tuesday that, if approved, would give the city the green light to take over a stretch of Verot School Road from the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The Louisiana Association of Educators filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million in spending through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
He's been out of office for nearly a decade, but former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is back on the campaign trail, urging voters to support his one-time colleague, Democrat Mary Landrieu.
The unresolved fate of the ashes left behind after Ebola waste was destroyed in Texas highlights the problem U.S. hospitals and communities could face in disposing of their own waste.
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.