L AFAYETTE — A proposal by City-Parish President Joey Durel to support animal control services with property taxes now legally restricted to mosquito control and the parish health unit died a quick death at Tuesday’s City-Parish Council meeting.
Also on Tuesday, the council signed off on an agreement to lease the University of Louisiana at Lafayette city buses for campus transit.
The resolution to put the animal control proposal before voters on the Dec. 6 ballot died for lack of a second when a motion by Councilman Jay Castille to bring the issue up for discussion was not backed by any other council members.
Durel was on vacation and not at the council meeting, but he said in a telephone interview late Tuesday that the proposal could have improved animal control services while allowing the money now subsidizing animal control to be used elsewhere in the budget — all by shifting existing tax revenue rather than raising taxes.
“Logic doesn’t really come into play with this council,” Durel said. “I continue to be baffled by the decisions this council makes.”
The Lafayette animal shelter and related animal control operations cost the parish about $1 million a year. But there is no separate tax to support the service, and funding is pulled from other areas of the budget.
At the same time, the existing property taxes for mosquito control and public health bring in millions of dollars more than needed, and that money sits in a savings account because the property tax revenue is legally dedicated to those services and cannot be used for anything else.
Durel had recommended combining the mosquito and health property taxes and allowing some of the money also to be used for animal control.
Councilmen Kevin Naquin and Brandon Shelvin both said after the meeting that they support better funding for animal control but still had questions for Durel about the details of the proposal.
Shelvin said he wants to know specifics on how the money would be spent at the animal shelter.
Durel, who has been publicly discussing the proposal for several months, said he was surprised to hear council members had reservations.
“I didn’t have a single councilman voice anything but support for it,” he said. “Nobody ever voiced any concerns.”
The measure’s failure disappointed a contingent of animal welfare advocates who showed up to support it.
“People expect the animal control in their parish to be progressive,” said Nancy Marcantel, president of the Animal Rescue Foundation of Louisiana , a group that works to find homes for stray and abandoned animals.
She characterized the parish’s current animal control operation as “medieval,” saying the staff is stretched thin and the shelter is inadequate.
“The need is great. They’ve far outgrown that facility,” Marcantel said.
Also on Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to support a deal to provide buses to UL-Lafayette for campus transit.
Under the agreement, city-parish government will lease eight buses to the school to ferry students between campus and the parking lot at Cajun Field, enhancing the university’s existing fleet of buses and shuttles.
UL-Lafayette will pay $35,000 a year and agrees to buy fuel for the natural-gas powered buses from a fueling station owned by city-parish government.
The fuel purchases are expected to net about $75,000 a year, City-Parish Transit and Parking Manager Mike Mitchell said.
Lafayette also is expected to bring in more federal transportation dollars because the students will boost bus ridership for the municipal bus system — a metric used by the federal government in divvying up transit money.
Under the terms of the lease, UL-Lafayette is responsible for routine maintenance but city-parish government will foot the bill for major repairs.
City-parish officials will revisit the agreement at the end of the two-year lease to make sure the deal is in the best interest of city-parish government, City-Parish Chief Development Officer Kevin Blanchard said.
“We obviously know that after this is started we will need to look at everything and re-calibrate,” he said.