LIVINGSTON — After campaigning on a platform of reunifying parish government, the newly seated members of the Livingston Parish Council on Thursday sought to leverage their rapport with the parish president to help a group of residents desperately seeking cable and Internet services.
The council members, in their first meeting since taking office Monday, also unanimously approved Parish President Layton Ricks’ reappointment of Finance Director Jennifer Meyers and Public Works Director Sam Digirolamo as well as a raise for Digirolamo of $2.50 per hour.
In a meeting otherwise dominated by board appointments and personnel changes, Livingston resident Jill Shoemaker’s plea for help in securing cable and Internet services for residents of Red Oak Road generated the most discussion Thursday night.
Shoemaker said residents along the road have access only to DirecTV and phone services. They have been petitioning Charter Communications to provide services in their area, but the company thus far has declined to do so, citing the high cost of extending its lines to those homes.
The topic has been on every Parish Council agenda since Nov. 5, at former council Chairman Chance Parent’s request.
Rustin Legendre, Charter’s manager of government relations, explained to the new council members Thursday that the homes lie 3 miles from each of the two closest nodes the new line would have to tie into, and the $120,000 estimated cost of running the new line is prohibitive given the number of homes along the route.
“It’s unfortunately, right now, just a numbers game,” Legendre said.
Legendre said the company typically looks for a four-year return on its infrastructure investments, and the 25 to 30 houses its construction team found along the route could not meet that goal, even if all of them subscribed.
“We’re also not the only provider,” Legendre said. “We don’t have exclusive rights to this area. They can see if one of the other companies have a better technology setup or would be more willing to pay the cost of a line extension.”
Shoemaker said the road actually includes 61 homes, and she has contacted AT&T about providing services to Red Oak residents, too.
“The only thing they ever say is, ‘Sorry, we’re not servicing that area right now,’ ” Shoemaker said. “My fight’s not just with Charter; it’s with both of them. But AT&T is quite a big company, and trying to get someone here is like pulling teeth.”
Council Chairman John Wascom said the council would take the issue under advisement.
“Let’s send it to the Parish President’s Office. He might be able to help us out with coordinating something,” Wascom said, eliciting laughter and applause from the audience in the packed council chambers. “I think this is going to be a great relationship.”
“That really didn’t take long, guys,” Ricks responded with a laugh.
Later, after the council approved Ricks’ director reappointments and Digirolamo’s raise, Ricks joked, “OK, then, I’ll talk to AT&T.”
In other business, the council unanimously appointed former Deputy Clerk Sandy Teal as the new council clerk, replacing Lisa Tallo Frederick. Evelyn Wheat, of Colyell, was unanimously appointed deputy clerk.
The council also unanimously selected Tracy Girlinghouse as Parish Council co-chairman; replaced Shevis Ball on the Ward 2 Water Board with former Councilman Jimmie McCoy; and reappointed Fred Banks to the parish’s 911 Communications Board.
The council also replaced former Councilwoman Sonya Collins with Councilman Jeff Averett and officially appointed District 5 Fire Chief Joe Koczrowski to the Quality Assurance Panel that oversees the parish’s Acadian Ambulance service contract.
The council also appointed former District 2 council candidate Darla Steagall to the parish’s Planning Commission and appointed former Denham Springs Mayor Jimmy Durbin and pastor Cary Carlin to the parish’s personnel board.
Wascom appointed to the council’s Finance Committee: Garry Talbert, chairman; Scooter Keen, co-chairman; Girlinghouse; and Jeff Ard. The committee will hold its first meeting at 5 p.m. Jan. 28.
Wascom appointed to the council’s Ordinance Committee: Shane Mack, chairman; Wascom, co-chairman; Talbert; and Bubba Harris.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.