AMITE — A final settlement with the state Department of Environmental Quality over the alleged improper storage of shredded tires at the Tangipahoa Parish landfill may be resolved by the end of the year.
Following an executive session Monday of the Parish Council, Beau Brock, a Baton Rouge attorney hired by the council in July to seek a resolution of the matter with DEQ, said in an interview, “We are on the one-yard line, and I am confident that we can resolve this matter before the year ends.”
Brock said he will meet once again with DEQ officials “as soon as possible” to work out final details of a proposed settlement. The attorney said he could not discuss any details about a potential agreement with DEQ, but he is confident that the matter will be resolved.
Brock said he had to discuss the matter with the Parish Council in executive session before he could return to DEQ with a possible final settlement. Brock would not speculate if the parish would have to pay fines for the way in which the shredded tires were acquired and how they were stored.
“I am working very hard on behalf of the parish council and the citizens of Tangipahoa Parish to see that this is all settled without the parish having to pay what could have been millions of dollars in fines,” Brock said.
In June, DEQ told the parish it had to answer allegations that an excessive amount of the shredded tires were stored at the landfill, that the material had been improperly stored and used and that the parish had not filed proper reports and documentation regarding the tires. The letter threatens the possibility of fines in thousands of dollars a day if the parish does not take corrective action.
In an unrelated matter Monday, the council authorized Clerk of Court Julian Dufreche to move seven precincts in elections scheduled for April 9, the date of the annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. “It is impossible to hold elections in the heart of Ponchatoula on Strawberry Festival day when tens of thousands of people pour into the city,” Dufreche said.
On the ballot for that date is the renewal of a 4-mill, 10-year property tax that supports the Parish Health Unit and renewal of property taxes in several lighting districts. Dufreche said an additional measure might be on the ballot, renewal of the property tax that supports the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center. Voters in October rejected the tax that supports the center, which houses juvenile offenders for Livingston, Tangipahoa, St. Helena, St. Tammany and Washington parishes. Voters in all five parishes defeated the property tax renewal.
The board that oversees the center is asking for the state Bond Commission to grant emergency status to place the renewal issue on the April 9 ballot. Dufreche said emergency status has to be granted because tax measures for the same entity cannot be put before the voters until six months have passed. Law enforcement officials and judges in the parishes that utilize the center have called for the election, noting that if the measure fails again, the center would have to be closed.
Affected by the precinct location change for the April 9 election are Precincts 70 and 70A at Ponchatoula City Hall, Precinct 71 at the Ponchatoula Log Cabin, Precincts 72 and 72A at the Ponchatoula Community Center, and Precincts 73 and 74 at Ponchatoula Junior High.
Dufreche said the parish will have to publish the new precinct locations in the official journal of the parish, will have to mail notices to approximately 7,000 voters and will have to post a parish employee at the regular precincts to inform potential voters about the change in location of their precinct.
“The last thing I want is to have an election contested, and if we don’t give the voters the option of getting to the polls, the election could be protested,” he said.