Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Written by The Independent Staff
After mounting pressure from several environmental groups threatening legal action and an intervention by the Department of Natural Resources, the St. Martin Parish School Board met last Wednesday and voted to renegotiate its deal with Good Hope Inc. to log several acres of cypress trees on a patch of swampland the board owns in the Atchafalaya Basin. According to Superintendent Richard Lavergne, the board has given him authority to negotiate with DNR to turn the Section 16 land into a conservation easement. What exactly is a conservation easement? Lavergne admits he’s not totally sure but says fundamentally it’s an agreement that would protect the basin’s natural habitat and ensure that the beloved cypress trees would stand for many generations to come. “I see this as a great victory for the kids of the parish,” says Dean Wilson, executive director of the nonprofit Atchafalaya Basinkeeper organization. “The Atchafalaya Basin and the cypress forest are the biggest asset that they have for the future. Finally they’re going to get a permanent easement and the forest will be permanently protected. Now one day, those trees are going to be 150 feet tall; that’s very rewarding.”
A hearing officer’s report on state Rep. Vincent Pierre’s request to reduce his monthly child support payments confirms what The Independent first reported in November 2011: Pierre lied about “what he does for a living” prior to the election — and now as a state lawmaker, he says his decrease in salary qualifies him for a reduction in child support payments to his two children. Pierre repeatedly maintained throughout his campaign that he was a businessman and co-owner of a local dry-cleaning business. But when he recently asked for a reduction in child support payments due to his decrease in salary as a state rep, the facts of a hearing officer conference contradict much of Pierre’s pre-election employment claims; we no know he was canned by the majority owner of the dry cleaning business in March 2010, months before announcing his candidacy. The hearing officer sided with his ex-wife, finding that because he has a college degree and is capable of earning more than his $1,400 per month lawmaker salary, Pierre is therefore “voluntarily unemployed.” The rep’s request for a child support reduction was denied.
Baby, meet bath water. A pending lawsuit against Lafayette Consolidated Government led to a bizarre turn of events at last week’s council meeting during which Councilman Brandon Shelvin directed city-parish attorney Mike Hebert to draft an ordinance that would exempt Lafayette residents who don’t use the city’s curb-side recycling program from paying the $2.30 per month fee attached to their Lafayette Utilities System bill. Shelvin initially inquired about canceling LCG’s contract with Progressive Waste Solutions of LA, the parent company of the Recycling Foundation. Progressive Waste is suing LCG over that Sunbeam Lane waste transfer facility fracas last year, and Shelvin doesn’t think the company should be making money off consolidated government. Fair enough. But a contract is a contract, and it runs into 2016. Even after Shelvin was told the contract can’t be breached and that Lafayette’s curb-side recycling program can only operate if everyone pays the fee, he still gave Hebert his marching orders. Hopefully the council will shoot down this petty example of gamesmanship.
In this letter to the editor, Lafayette Parish School Board member Shelton Cobb (the board's former president) weighs in on the difficulty behind this year's budget process, calling out a number of his fellow board members over their inability to drop their power struggle with the superintendent and make the interests of the students a top priority.
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Smoked meat, fresh sides and the best boudin around