Two newly elected and three returning members of the Zachary City Council convened their first meeting of the year Jan. 13.
Laura O’Brien, District 3, and Ben Cavin, District 4, were welcomed to the meeting by Mayor David Amrhein and Councilmen Francis Nezianya, District 1; Brandon Noel, District 2; and Tommy Womack, District 5.
Prior to the meeting’s agenda items, resident Leroy Williams, 4638 Avenue C, said he was concerned over recent issues regarding the natural gas line near his house.
“Either the gas line erupted or it was cut in two, but we lost power. We heard noise, but we didn’t smell anything,” Williams said. “I just wanted to point this out to you and have you look into it.”
“We’re not sure what happened exactly,” Amrhein said. “But I can assure you, we’re looking into it.” Chris Davezac, Zachary’s Public Works director, said the line near Avenue C and Williams’ home is on an old PVC line, and a valve that had been shut was not reopened.
“The entire city is on an underground valve loop system. Valves, which are shut at times for maintenance, are sometimes not reopened once work has been completed, as is protocol,” Davezac said. “We’re working on locating and marking all the valves in the city, making a list of each one and coming up with a system that requires workers to sign in and sign out when they work on these valves.”
Amrhein said the city, its engineering firm, Professional Engineering Consultants, and the utilities department have been meeting on the issue and are working to implement a new safeguard system.
Bianca Hillhouse, of PEC, said there are anywhere from 300 to 500 valves in the city.
“We’re going to GPS them and find them all. Once we have a policy in place, then we’re going to control it and monitor it,” Hillhouse said.
In other council news:
AUDIT: The council voted to accept the audit report findings on the city’s budget by Margaret Pritchard, of Baxley & Associates in Plaquemine.
“You have a healthy balance sheet here,” Pritchard said. “You improved your net position by an increase of $4.3 million, up from a $3.3 million increase last year. You’re in very healthy shape.”
Pritchard said the city’s expenses and governmental/general fund should be and were “very comparable.”
Pritchard’s findings, however, included several comments regarding internal controls. She cautioned the city to be mindful on the proper allocation of expenses; budgeting versus spending variances; and posting items into the proper classifications or accounts.
“Overall, you do a great job,” Pritchard said.
APPOINTMENTS: Under its Home Rule Charter, the council is required to elect a mayor pro tempore, a council member who assumes mayoral duties for a one-year term in the event of the mayor’s absence due to physical illness or extended travel.
Noel was elected mayor pro tempore for 2015.
Amrhein approved his appointments for Zachary’s department heads and asked council members to name their appointments to municipal and civil service boards, commissions and committees such as planning and zoning.
City Attorney John Hopewell said the council was required to stagger the terms of those appointed to the committee to four-, three-, two- and one-year terms.
“We’re just trying to make sure we’re in sync with Title 33,” Hopewell said. “Plus, it takes the politics out of it. Everyone won’t be term-limited at the same time.”
Because council members didn’t have their lists of appointees finalized in the staggered terms the item was tabled until the next council meeting.
The Zachary City Council meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. The next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27.