The new Lafayette Utilities System director could be making as much or more than former director Terry Huval earned for overseeing LUS and the fiber program.
Huval, who was LUS director for 24 years, was paid about $253,000 a year. He retired in July.
His salary, the largest of Lafayette Consolidated Government's directors, including the mayor-president's, was controversial. Former City-Parish President Joey Durel gave Huval a $100,000 a year raise in September 2013 after the fiber system began operating and after Huval was courted by other utilities and the American Public Power Association.
Huval was retained as LUS director when Joel Robideaux was elected mayor-president in 2015. When Huval retired, the council, at Robideaux's request, split the fiber/communications system from the utilities system.
Robideaux said at the time he thought the fiber system should be separate in part to lessen the work load on the LUS director.
Robideaux budgeted only $150,000 for the LUS director's salary and $115,000 for the communications system director for the 2018-19 fiscal year that ends Oct. 31. Some Lafayette City-Parish Council members said at the time $150,000 was insufficient to attract the caliber candidate they want.
Last week, based on research from a consulting engineer, Robideaux conceded. The council and Lafayette Public Utilities Authority, which oversees LUS, introduced ordinances Feb. 5 to increase the new LUS director’s salary by $88,386, bringing it to $238,386.
“The Lafayette Utilities System has a long history of competent management which has benefited the community and the city,” Joseph Mancinelli, general manager of consulting engineers NewGen Strategies and Solutions, wrote in a Feb. 7 letter to Robideaux. “We believe that it is important to replace the current director with a highly qualified candidate, which may require the city to pay more than originally contemplated.”
A review of salaries for general managers and similar positions with not-for-profit electric utilities, Mancinelli wrote, shows their compensation ranges from about $100,000 to more than $400,000 a year.
Distribution cooperative utility systems in Louisiana, which compete with municipal utilities for general managers, pay “substantially more” than municipalities, he wrote.
The Alexandria utilities director’s position, which includes oversight of the electric, water, wastewater and natural gas systems, is the most similar to the LUS director’s position, Mancinelli wrote. The Alexandria director’s total compensation is about $142,000 a year, but the four Alexandria systems’ combined revenue is about half of LUS revenues.
By comparison, the Beauregard Electric Cooperative, with $97.7 million in annual revenue, pays its director $270,000 a year; Dixie Electric Co-op, with $208.6 million in annual revenue, pays its director $420,000 a year; and Southwest Louisiana Electric, with $225.4 million a year, pays its director $366,000 a year, according to data Mancinelli presented in the letter.
Mancinelli wrote the letter after Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux asked for a comparison of salaries broken down by various utilities in the state.
NewGen is working with the LPUA and administration to establish the salary range and qualifications expected of LUS director candidates. Robideaux said the company will review applicants and provide him with a short list for further review.
Jeff Stewart is serving as interim LUS director. He worked with LUS 17 years before the appointment, most recently working as engineering and power supply manager. He has indicated an interest in the permanent appointment.
On Nov. 21, Teles Fremin, who has worked for Lafayette Utilities System for more than 17 years and served in various roles, was named the first director of LUS Fiber.