LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish Council has terminated its contract with a consultant hired to resolve wetland permit and mitigation issues lingering from the 2008 Hurricane Gustav debris cleanup.
Parish President Mike Grimmer said somebody still needs to finish the work involved in answering questions about the cleanup raised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The parish is appealing a refusal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for about $60 million in Gustav cleanup costs. The parish is also dealing with the fact that it didn’t obtain permits before cleaning debris from streams, and it faces possible mitigation costs for work it did in wetlands.
After a debate lasting late into the evening Thursday, the council voted 5-4 to halt the work of C-Del, a company that has been working on federal wetland permits and possible mitigation costs that the parish could face from work done without first obtaining permits.
Councilman Jimmie McCoy, who pushed for the contract termination, said the company has billed the parish $1.9 million for work performed, but he isn’t satisfied with the results of the work.
It takes months to get after-the-fact permits from the corps, or to get the agency to agree that no permits were required for particular segments of work, said Corey Delahoussaye, the C-Del owner.
“It’s not like getting a driver’s license,” Delahoussaye told the council. “There have been a lot of hurdles.”
He said he has been dealing with “every alphabet agency on the planet to make sure we are in compliance.”
Terminating C-Del’s contract doesn’t change the fact that the parish still has to go back and get permits for the work done in wetlands, he said.
“I didn’t put us in this position,” Delahoussaye said of cleanup work done in the parish without federal permits. “I was hired to make everything right.”
Cindy Wale, a member of a committee assigned to look at the C-Del contract a month ago, said it appears that C-Del may have found some “double billing” done during the cleanup. Councilman A.C. “Buddy” Mincey told the council that terminating C-Del’s contract “is going to cost us more money in the long run.”
The council is talking about ending the contract without putting someone else in place to do the work, Mincey said during the debate.
“We can’t wreck the ship in the middle of the process,” he argued in asking the council to allow the committee set up a month ago to continue looking into the work C-Del has been doing rather than have the council terminate the company’s contract.
Blayne Honeycutt, the council’s attorney, said before the vote that he thought the council would have to hire somebody to continue the process.
McCoy said he thinks the parish can hire another consultant for “a lot less money” than C-Del.
“I think he is doing a lot of things that are unnecessary,” McCoy said.
Delahoussaye said it could take a month or two to bring another company up to speed on what has been done.
Council members McCoy, Eddie Wagner, Ronnie Sharp, Don Wheat and Randy Rushing voted to terminate the contract under a provision that allows the council to take such action after giving a 30-day notice.
Council members Marshall Harris and Thomas Watson joined Wale and Mincey in voting against the termination.
Mincey expressed his displeasure with the process.
“We just done this, and now we don’t know what we are going to do because of what we just did,” Mincey said.