Lafayette Utilities System reached another milestone last week in its quest to make Lafayette the largest U.S. city to solely own and operate its own fiber-to-the-home network. The state Public Service Commission voted unanimously in approval of financing rules that LUS had previously endorsed for the project, which will allow LUS to compete with private telecom providers and offer Internet, phone and cable service to all city residents.
The PSC's approval appears to be the last green light needed for LUS to proceed, though city officials now fear that BellSouth is preparing a legal challenge to the PSC ruling. LUS Director Terry Huval says one of the city's representatives overheard a BellSouth attorney say they would soon be seeing the city in court, regardless of the PSC ruling.
"I think the PSC rules are consistent with the [state law]," Huval says. "But BellSouth could file a suit just to delay it. Even if it's unfounded rationale, it could delay the start of our project, and we feel that's been their agenda all along."
Since LUS first announced its fiber project nearly 16 months ago, it has met regular objections from incumbent telecom providers BellSouth and Cox Communications ' objections that have already led to new state legislation on the project's financing, a lawsuit and subsequent public referendum over its bond issue.
If no new legal challenges surface, Huval estimates LUS could issue bonds by the beginning of next year and begin serving its first customers by summer 2007.
Huval also responded to comments that BellSouth Representative John Williams made in The Daily Advertiser, where he cautioned that in light of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, residents might want to reconsider whether they want to entrust telecommunications services to local government.
"His comments are something that a public relations person came up with, in my opinion," Huval says. (Williams could not be reached for comment.) "I think we just need to look at the history of what's happened when hurricanes have hit Lafayette." Huval notes that when Hurricane Lili hit in 2002, LUS was the first utility to have services back on line and also provided feed power to other utilities to help them get back up and running.
"We're going to provide the appropriate resources to be able to respond to whatever happens," says Huval. ' Nathan Stubbs
LAFAYETTE SCHOOLS ADD MORE THAN 4,000 EVACUEES
At the end of last week, 4,200 students who were displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina had registered with the Lafayette Parish School System, up nearly 1,000 from the previous week. LPSS Supervisor of Homeless Education Patsy Williams says 4,000 of those students have been regularly attending classes. According to school officials, the system has coped surprisingly well with the huge influx, though the costs of providing for the additional students are beginning to add up. "I think the thing that's saved us is that the distribution of the students has been pretty even across all grade levels," says school board member Mike Hefner.
This week alone, the school system was planning to spend $50,000 to transport and set up 10 new double-classroom portable buildings at the parish's five public high schools to ease overcrowding. The school system will also pay $1,200 per month for each building on a nine-month lease, according to Chief Operations Officer Vernal Comeaux. Overall, Hefner says the cost for new students in the school system, which includes expenses for staffing, facilities, books and uniforms, is approximately $4,200 per pupil, which could put the total tab for this year's new students at about $16.8 million. Hefner says the additional costs have been initially covered by the school board's $7 million fund balance. He anticipates LPSS will soon begin borrowing money from an outside source, though he hopes reimbursement funds from the state and federal government will soon be on the way.
One of the fastest-growing schools in the parish has been Lafayette High, which has taken in close to 300 new students and will be operating four new portable buildings in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Lafayette High English teacher Melinda Mangham is amazed with how well students and faculty have handled the situation. "Have people been inconvenienced? Have we had to manage some things? Yes, but this is nothing in the scheme of things. I'm very impressed that we've been able to integrate all the kids into the classes, and everyone has adapted well. We've just had to be very flexible. The lessons I think these kids are learning on both sides of the fence are lessons I think that are going to help them their whole lives."
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.
San Fran wins the World Series; Sistine Chapel improvements; Kurds moving toward Syria and more national and international news for Thursday, October 30, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram doesn't see his dramatic spike in production as any sort of validation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing off one last time with her two main Republican challengers before next week's election.
He’s pulling for Knezek and Hidalgo on his end of the parish but issued endorsements in three other districts as well.
Off a narrow gravel road running between a handful of mostly abandoned lots near a Mississippi River levee, down past sprawling oak trees and thick weeds, a lectern framed by banana trees has been set up in front of three short rows of folding chairs.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to New Orleans this weekend to stir up voter support for Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Saints coach Sean Payton has spent much of his team's erratic season trying to build his players up.
The Daily Advertiser has weighed in on this year's LPSB elections with nine endorsements.
The Daily Advertiser uncovers at least two disciplinary actions against veteran sheriff’s deputy Kip Judice for driving a department vehicle after drinking alcohol.
The LPSB has named Melinda Mangham as the interim replacement for the District 7 seat recently vacated by Mark Cockerham.
Gifford Briggs, vice president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, insisted that a settlement is not on the table and a consent decree in exchange for a new processing fee is highly unlikely.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says he expects about half of Louisiana's 2.9 million registered voters to cast ballots for the Nov. 4 election.
While the Division of Administration, Treasurer John Kennedy and the legislative auditor spar over the validity of a $178.5 million surplus, and how it was calculated, some officials expect it to be up for grabs sooner or later.