CONVENT — The St. James Parish Council questioned Petroplex International LLC representatives Wednesday about construction progress at its liquid storage tank farm site in Vacherie , trying to determine whether the company has complied with a parish resolution dictating the project’s timeframe and initial construction requirements.
Some parish councilmen and Parish Attorney Victor Franckiewicz said at the Wednesday meeting that Petroplex has not erected a permanent facility by the resolution’s agreed upon construction guidelines or by the July 31 deadline.
Instead, Petroplex has merely pushed around dirt at the work site, parish officials claimed.
But Petroplex officials said they had begun construction prior to the July 31 deadline.
“We feel we’re fully in compliance,” said Petroplex attorney Boyd Bryan.
The parish Planning Commission originally rejected plans to place the $800 million crude oil storage tank project in Vacherie because the land was designated as residential and agricultural under the parish’s new land use plan.
But the Parish Council overruled that decision in May and issued a land-use waiver to Petroplex after the company agreed to abide by a special resolution laying some parish regulations and timelines.
Besides not starting the project by the July 31 deadline, Franckiewicz said the company has failed to submit specific project plans to the parish and it has not applied for a permit for a trailer it placed at the site.
Without official plans and drawings, “that leaves the parish guessing” as to what Petroplex has planned, Franckiewicz said.
Corne Van de Reijt, a representative with Verwater Group, the company heading construction at the site, said construction began July 28 with the removal of topsoil and sugar cane.
Much of the work has focused on engineering, Van de Reijt said.
Van de Reijt also said workers are in the process of “preloading” tank foundations which involves moving piles of dirt around the site, a process that can take weeks.
At the time of the special resolution’s creation, Franckiewicz said Petroplex officials led the Parish Council to believe the company was “shovel-ready.”
Councilman Alvin St. Pierre asked when people could expect to see tanks on the property and Van de Reijt estimated that would occur in February 2015.
“Moving some dirt around is not starting the project,” St. Pierre said, adding that parish residents want to know what is taking so long.
Van de Reijt disagreed, noting there are two bulldozers, trucks and cranes on the site doing construction work.
Councilman Terry McCreary said he passed by the site Wednesday and did see activity.
Parish Council Chairman Charles Ketchens asked why Petroplex had not sought a permit to place a trailer on the construction site and Van de Reijt said he was only using the trailer as a place for workers to sign in for work and was unaware he needed to obtain a permit if he did not need sewage or electricity in the trailer.
Van de Reijt said he would obtain the permit as soon as possible.
Ultimately, Franckiewicz told the Parish Council he didn’t believe Petroplex had complied with the special resolution, and as a result, any future permits, including the permit for the trailer, could be denied, unless the resolution is amended.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of smoke and mirrors here,” said St. Pierre. “I don’t appreciate being taken for a fool.”
St. Pierre later said councilmen had “gone out of their way” to accommodate Petroplex and he didn’t believe Petroplex had abided by the resolution.
Councilman Jason Amato warned Petroplex officials to get their affairs in order. “It’s only going to get worse,” Amato said, promising more push-back from the Parish Council if Petroplex didn’t start abiding by the resolution.