ST. FRANCISVILLE — West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard told the Parish Council on Monday he has decided the parish should abide by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ order requiring people to wear masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In mandating the use of face masks in public spaces, Edwards said his order would allow West Feliciana and two other parishes to opt out of the requirements because their COVID-19 case numbers are low.
Havard announced, however, that he does not believe the parish should opt out of the mandate. He said the relatively low number of cases in the parish is a testament to the efforts of parish residents to slow the spread.
However, he said the state Health Department’s numbers for the parish may be skewed, because he personally knows of people who have tested positive for the virus but whose cases are not included in the state’s numbers.
“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve been doing. I just think it is the prudent thing to do,” Havard said, adding that he has been encouraging businesses to step up their efforts to protect their customers and employees.
Havard, all five council members and everyone in the audience wore masks during the meeting.
In another matter, parish voters will be asked to renew a fire protection property tax at a special Dec. 5 election, and they may be asked to consider several changes to the parish’s home rule charter.
Fire Protection District 1, which serves the areas outside of St. Francisville and Louisiana State Penitentiary, is seeking renewal of a 6-mill tax to fund its operations. The district also has mutual aid agreements to assist the town and prison in firefighting.
The council also will consider ordinances after 5:30 p.m. public hearings on Aug. 10 to call a special election to change the term limits the charter imposes on the parish president and council members, which is now two four-year terms.
Another proposed amendment would loosen the restrictions of parish residents who serve on boards and commissions that are under the umbrella of the parish government.
If voters approve the amendment, it would allow board members to serve four-year terms, rather than two-year terms, remove restrictions on their geographical residence, and allow members to hold appointive office while serving on a board or commission.
Standing items on the council’s monthly agendas include provisions to appoint members to one or more boards and to re-advertise for vacancies for which no one applies to fill.
The proposed ordinances for the charter changes do not yet specify an election date.
Councilman Kevin Dreher also is proposing numerous changes to an ordinance regulating bicycle safety that the prior council adopted after numerous discussions in 2018.
The ordinance was prompted by a vehicle-bicycle collision on La. 66 that year that claimed the life of a Baton Rouge Metro Council member.
Dreher, who opposed the 2018 ordinance but was not a council member, said the regulations are unfair, punitive in nature and only served to snuff out organized cycling events sponsored by groups that once flocked to the parish.
He said the parish had nine organized cycling events in 2016, seven in 2017 and none since.
The public hearing on Dreher’s proposal also will be on Aug. 10.
In other action, the council approved a renegotiated contract with Waste Management Inc. for garbage collection. The renegotiated contract reduces the parish’s costs from about $75,000 per month to $59,000.
Havard said the company agreed to the reduction after he explained that parish sales tax revenues, which fund the collections, have been reduced by the shutdown of commercial activities related to the ongoing pandemic.
In return, parish residents will have to use a standardized container that the company will furnish to each household, he said. The container can be picked up by a mechanical arm and dumped by the truck’s operator.
“I hope people will get away from using 55-gallon drums for their garbage,” Havard said.