What started out as a lighthearted exchange between East Baton Rogue Parish Metro Councilman Ryan Heck and city-parish Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel turned heated this week, ending with the failure of an ordinance Heck was proposing involving the building permitting process.
Heck had asked for the city-parish to post a sign indicating that it accepts third-party plan reviews for people going through the permitting process. Daniel called the ordinance useless.
“We appreciate this ordinance because there’s not enough useless ordinances in the city-parish already,” Daniel said in a playful tone. “This is a good one to add to the list if you’re going to add useless ordinances.”
Daniel noted the proposed ordinance failed to specify the type of sign, the consequences for not posting it or a specific place where it should go aside from “a conspicuous place at the permit office.”
Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe joined in the banter.
“Anybody else in the audience wishing to chastise, openly and publicly, Mr. Heck?” Loupe asked, jokingly.
Heck amended his ordinance to specify the size of the sign and that it should go on the desk of the Division of Permits and Inspections office. Daniel continued to push back, and Heck turned serious.
“That’s the reason the permitting process is broke, William, the attitude right there,” Heck said.
Daniel countered by saying the city-parish would have happily posted a sign if Heck had asked them to without the ordinance. The two argued before Heck cut off Daniel by asking the council to approve the ordinance.
The ordinance then failed, with only four council members voting for it: Heck, Loupe, Chauna Banks-Daniel and Trae Welch.
Attempts to gain control of civic center rebuffed
A recent request from New Roads asking the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury to move forward with dividing the property that is home to the William H. Scott Civic Center was rebuffed this week by a majority of the jury.
The jury’s action puts a dent in Mayor Robert Myer’s hope of gaining full control and ownership of the civic center, of which the city handles the day-to-day management through an agreement with the parish.
Under the city’s management, the facility has become a popular venue for community events like weddings and social gatherings.
Both sides fork over $50,000 annually to the Civic Center Commission — a five-member board of city and parish officials that serves as the checks and balances to the city’s management of the civic center.
The center and adjacent recreational property have been appraised at a value of $4.2 million.
“Now that we have an appraisal, the city feels that this is a good time to continue the process of dividing the property,” Myer wrote in a March 14 letter to Jury President Cornell Dukes.
Myer proposed the parish take ownership of the baseball fields, tennis courts, walking trails and the rest of the recreational amenities located on the property. And the city would get the civic center and adjacent playground area in the split.
“I’m interested in splitting,” Juror Glenn Ray Cline said during the Police Jury’s discussion of the matter on Tuesday. “We’re already giving New Roads $50,000 to run their business; we’re getting none of the profits.”
But a majority of the Police Jury opted to continue working with the city through the commission — a move they hope will better the parish’s relations with city leaders .
Challenges ahead for new downtown library
The plans have been drawn and the money approved, but before the parish library system can construct a new building downtown, it will have to see if anyone wants to buy any old, broken government furniture.
For years, the system has been looking to knock down the River Center Branch and replace it with an updated building. The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council approved the $14.6 million construction bid, but that doesn’t mean construction is going to start right away.
“Of course, challenges abound,” Library Director Spencer Watts recently told the Library Board of Control.
Among other things, librarians need to get rid of furniture in the existing building that dates back to the 1970s. By law, they can’t just scrap government property without seeing if anyone wants to buy it, though Watts questioned how much interest there would be in decades-old chairs missing a leg or two.
Additionally, the library had some trouble leasing space in the Kress Building, where they’ll provide service while the new building is under construction. The temporary site on North Third Street still has to be renovated before the librarians can move in.
The Downtown Development District issued a statement that demolition of the current building and construction of the new building will begin “later this summer” and last about 30 months, putting the completion date around early 2019.
District Director Davis Rhorer said the new library building will be “a signature piece of architecture” and the centerpiece of North Boulevard Town Square downtown.
Holliday-James decides against mayoral run
Former city-parish Planning Commissioner Sarah Holliday-James said Friday that she won’t run for East Baton Rouge Parish mayor-president, after previously exploring the idea. She was the second potential candidate this week to withdraw their name from the race, along with state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge.
“This decision is not political but personal,” Holliday-James said in a statement about her lack of energy after having surgery. “In order for me to serve the people to the best of my ability, I must be sure that I can fully dedicate the time and energy that a serious candidate must be able to give.”
Mayoral candidates include former state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome; East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilman John Delgado; and former Metro Councilman Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois.
Advocate staff writers Andrea Gallo, Terry L. Jones and Steve Hardy contributed to this report.