NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury’s decision to adopt an amended version of the parish’s building permit fee ordinance Tuesday night ignited several outbursts of accusations tossed back and forth between jurors on opposing sides of the measure.
Juror Kyle Olinde was called a liar by juror Justin Cox and in turn jury President Melanie Bueche accused Cox of “terrorizing” the Police Jury.
At the center of the infighting is the developer of an $8 million nursing home whom parish officials may have illegally allowed to obtain a building permit — a situation Cox asserts happened only because the developer is a friend of Olinde.
“There has been a pattern of abusive power in this Police Jury,” Cox argued Tuesday during the jury’s public hearing on the amended ordinance. “The public is getting tired of excuses (and) instead of taking responsibility …, you’re running amok because you know you can get away with it.”
The Police Jury entertained a vote to amend its building permit fee ordinance after local developer Gerard LaCour complained fees had doubled when the jury amended the ordinance in May 2013 — seven months before he applied for his permit to build the nursing home in New Roads.
LaCour was supposed to pay the parish $39,415 for his $8 million project when he was issued his building permit in December 2013. Instead, he was allowed to pay only $17,549, which was the rate he would have paid under the parish’s former fee schedule.
LaCour said previously he asked to pay the lower amount because officials failed to notify him that permit rates had increased and paying the full amount would have overextended his project’s budget.
But independent auditor Michael Schexnayder informed the Police Jury on Tuesday that LaCour was issued his building permit in December 2013 without having to pay the parish anything.
Schexnayder, whose investigation into the matter was driven by a request Cox sent to the state’s legislative auditor, said LaCour didn’t pay the $17,000 until three months later, in clear violation of the parish’s fee ordinance at that time.
“I think what should have happened is he should have paid the fee in accordance with the ordinance and if he wanted to come back and ask the jury for a discount that’s fine,” Schexnayder said.
Juror Russell Young brushed off Schexnayder’s comments by saying the Police Jury will just have to suffer the consequences for the mistake.
“If we didn’t comply, we’ll take our licks,” Young said.
Later, Olinde defended his actions by accusing Cox of making “a mountain out of a molehill.”
“I haven’t followed proper policy and procedure for a long time,” he said. “That’s how I get things done.”
“You have lied a few times, too,” Cox responded.
“You’ve lied, too,” Olinde fired back.
When Bueche intervened, things only escalated.
“This is awful; it’s very disrespectful,” she said to Cox. “You have gotten extremely personal. You are such an arrogant person.”
Cox later retorted: “You sit here and talk to me like this. You’re not consistent or fair. You have pretty much ruined this parish with your backwoods politics!”
The Police Jury forged ahead through the outbursts and adopted an amended version of its building permit fee ordinance with a 7-3 vote.
Jurors Cornell Dukes, Allen Monk, Janet Vosburg, Glenn Ray Cline, Olinde, Young and Bueche voted in favor. Jurors Albert Dukes and Kurt Jarreau joined Cox in his dissent. Jurors John Pourciau and Ted Nelson were absent from the meeting.
Under the amended ordinance, commercial developers will be charged on a sliding scale for building permits on projects costing more than $3 million.
Under the new ordinance, developers will now pay $5 per every $1,000 of the first $3 million in construction costs on large commercial developments, and then $3 per every $1,000 on the next $2 million in construction costs. A project exceeding the $5 million mark would then be charged an additional $1 per every $1,000 of any remaining construction costs.
The ordinance is retroactive to May 28, 2013, which means LaCour won’t have to pay the $20,000 owed the parish when he was issued his permit.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.