GONZALES — The Gonzales City Council on Monday approved six appointments to a new diversity committee, with a goal of seeing more minority employees in city government.
The council also approved the purchase a building owned by St. Theresa of Avila Catholic Church as a possible train station in the event a passenger rail link is established between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
As for the diversity committee, “right now we have a small representation of minorities” working for the city, something the committee will be looking at to improve, Mayor Barney Arceneaux said after the meeting.
“We want to establish a more inclusive government,” Arceneaux said.
The formation of the committee grew, over several months’ time, in response to comments made before the council late last year by former Ascension Parish resident James H. LeBlanc Jr., who now lives in Baton Rouge, saying there aren’t enough minority employees in the city government.
At Monday’s meeting, Arceneaux said he had contacted several like-sized cities to get ideas for such a committee, but wasn’t able to find a city that had a diversity committee.
He said the city has looked to universities for a model of the committee.
All named to the committee are Gonzales residents. There are three African-American representatives, Kemlyn Bailey Lomas, Rona Dunbar and Daniel Thompson, and three white representatives, John Cagnolatti, Ralph Rebowe and Rae Milano.
The City Council also agreed to spend $350,000 for a building owned by St. Theresa of Avila Catholic Church for use as a possible train station.
The idea of a commuter rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge has been discussed over several years by local Louisiana leaders and the federal government.
The Catholic church is located on Burnside Avenue, in the oldest part of Gonzales, an area identified as an ideal site for enhancement by the nonprofit Center for Planning Excellence, an organization working with the city on a new master land use plan.
The church building the city plans to purchase is off Burnside Avenue and once housed a Baptist church, then a business and technical school which closed in 2010.
The council agreed to work out a transition time for the Catholic church to continue operating a food kitchen there until other arrangements are made.
Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter,@EllynCouvillion.