BAKER — Negotiations remain at a standstill between Mayor Harold Rideau and Baton Rouge-based Geaux Benches regarding placing benches at bus stops in the city of Baker.
The City Council on Tuesday night voted unanimously to authorize Rideau to enter into a contract with the company, but Rideau gave no indication whether he intends to do so.
A proposed contract presented to the council would give the city 10 percent of gross revenues from sales of advertising on the benches for a period of eight years. Geaux Benches would also be responsible for maintaining the benches and surrounding grounds as well as removing any graffiti placed on the benches by vandals. The city would not pay any money directly to the company; the cost of the benches would be covered by advertising.
The disagreement between the company and Rideau centers around the percentage the city should receive, said Geaux Benches co-owner Carla Smith, who was present at the meeting with co-owner Kristi Smith. The company has been negotiating with the city since April, Carla Smith said.
Rideau has argued that the city should receive 20 percent of the gross revenues, Carla Smith said. The terms of the contract the company is offering to Baker are the same as the contract approved by Baton Rouge, she added.
“We build these benches in our backyard. We pour the concrete,” Kristi Smith said. “We are not going up to 20 percent. We have put our blood, sweat and tears into this.”
Councilwoman Joyce Burges said that constituents she has talked to in her district are in favor of the contract. “I think it would be a beautiful thing for the city,” she said.
“No one in here should believe that the mayor and the council don’t want people to have places to sit, but we need to respect the process (of contract negotiations) and not get into mudslinging,” city attorney Ken Fabre said.
“This contract is for eight years. I’m only going to be here (as mayor) for one year and nine months. Is it fair to the next mayor for me to enter into this contract? I have to think about these things,” Rideau said.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to form a committee to address overgrown vacant lots in Baker. The city currently lacks the funds and manpower to cut the grass on abandoned and vacant properties, Councilman Pete Heine said. He suggested the committee could look into the feasibility of contracting with a lawn care company in Baker to cut the grass on the lots. The money to pay the company could come from liens placed on the properties by the city, he said.
Any proposal by the committee would still need council approval before it could be implemented, Rideau clarified.
Committee members will include Heine, Burges, Fabre, city officials and an at-large member from the community.