Daniel Andrus (left) takes his oath as a firefighter for the City of Ville Platte from Chief Chris Soileau (right). (Gazette photo by Nancy Duplechain)
Councilman complains about condition of district
At Tuesday’s Ville Platte City Council meeting, Councilman Lionel Anderson complained about the old L&V Superette in his neighborhood, saying the owner does not comply with anything he is asked to do, such as crowd control and cleaning up around his area. He said of the store owner, “I don’t think he’s giving District D very much respect. Excuse my language, but I’m pissed. I’ve been after this since 2018 about this guy here.” He said the police are monitoring the area, but look-outs shout “F-Troop!” to alert the crowd which then clears out with some people going into the store and some hiding out in nearby houses.
Anderson asked whether or not the owner has his occupational license. Vidrine said all of the paperwork and lack thereof from 2018-2020 have all been sent to the legal department. She said the city has started the process of dealing with the owner’s non compliance.
For some time now, the city has been demolishing blighted properties. Anderson said of the demolished houses, “I’m not sure if the houses look better not being there than being there.” He said nothing is cleaned up after they are demolished. Vidrine said it is the responsibility of the owner to clean it up. Anderson said one of the owners cleaned up his property, but now there is trash on his property and he does not even live there. “We’re blaming him, but he’s not doing anything. He took care of his business. I think we have a major problem in Ville Platte. We’re not working together. Everybody wants it done, but nobody wants to take control.”
Vidrine said anyone putting their trash on someone else’s property is not only littering but trespassing, and anyone with information can report it to the police or use the Tip Ville Platte app. Chief of Police Neil Lartigue said, “Definitely. Bring it to us, and we’ll take care of it.”
Councilwoman Faye Lemoine announced the Evangeline Parish Library has chosen the Ville Platte dog pound as their charitable contribution. All library locations in the parish are drop-off locations for donations of food, dog beds, blankets, leashes, flea medicine, etc. “There are a lot of animal lovers out there, and we appreciate anything they can do.”
Councilman Mike Perron said the police jury is going to help the city by grading the badly-damaged road to the shelter. Vidrine said there is a list of improvements that will be made to the pound. She added the city is hiring another staff person to help with the dogs. Lemoine suggested letting volunteers foster the dogs to save room at the pound. Vidrine said the city must hold the dog for seven days to give the owner enough time to claim the dog, so anyone wishing to foster must sign paperwork saying they will relinquish the pet to the owner if they claim them in the allotted time. However, after the waiting period, the dog will be available for adoption.
Councilman Bryant Riggs mentioned standing water accumulating at Jefferson and Reed streets. A couple of years ago he wanted to add drainage, but felt the quoted prices were too high. He asked city engineer Ronnie Landreneau to get three bids to start a drainage project. “It’s something that needs to be done, because more damage is starting to happen to the roads because of the water sitting there. We need to get it fixed, or it’s going to cost us more in the long run.”
The council approved the purchase of a much-needed backhoe for the state contracted price of $99,136.74. The backhoe can break up the streets and clean up ditches, among other uses. It will be a lease purchase with 60 monthly payments of $1,824.68.
Riggs said they need to look at all the city equipment, consult an expert, and take out loan to buy new equipment to take care of the canals, ditches, roads, etc. He said having one piece of equipment for the whole city is putting strain on that equipment.
Riggs added, when it comes to demolishing blighted houses, the city is paying a company to tear down the houses, but “I think we should be doing that ourselves.” He said they received a $25,000 grant to tear down houses, but that might only cover four or five houses, but if the city had the proper equipment, they could do it themselves to save money in the long run and tear down houses faster. Vidrine said there is a to-do list of equipment that needs to be purchased, and they are in the clear for bids.
Vidrine said they are in the planning stages for when the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available for city/parish distribution. The first round will be for ages 70 and older, and people with certain high-risk health conditions. The vaccines will be administered by health professionals. She also said there is still free COVID testing every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Evangeline Family Medicine at 505 E. Lincoln Road.
Further, Vidrine announced there are free income tax services offered by IRS specialist agents at City Hall on February 6 and 13, but an appointment must be made by calling 337-363-2939.
In other business the council approved the Fireman’s annual mandatory 2% increase. It will be effective starting the next pay period. The council also approved city employee’s longevity pay for employees who have been with the city five years or more. The totality of that pay for all 43 employees is $13,416.
New Fire Chief Chris Soileau said he was grateful for the raise. “It’s a challenge to find qualified firefighters in our position. It helps us,” he said. “Maybe one day we can bring the base pay up to work with us as well, because we’re falling short on those starting salaries. It’s a very demanding field.” He reminded residents to be careful with heaters and the importance of smoke detectors. Vidrine also reminded citizens they can call the fire department to install smoke detectors at no charge.
New Fireman Daniel Andrus was sworn in by Soileau. Daniel’s mother, Stephanie, was there to pin his fireman’s pin to his uniform. Normally recruits go through the fire academy at a different location, but Andrus did an in-house academy. He successfully passed his Firefighter 1 exam and is now working on his Firefighter 2 certification.
The council also approved the application for a $50,000 Local Government Assistance Program (LGAP) grant to remake the welcome entrance to Ville Platte. The plan is for bricks, a flag, and a fountain to greet visitors when they come to the city. Riggs said he was fine with the welcome entrance, but said the next LGAP grant should be used to get laptops for all police patrol units so they can be sufficient on the road.
The council also approved the application for a water enrichment grant for $50,000 to clean three elevated tanks and ground storage.
The council introduced an ordinance imposing a tax for the Ville Platte fire and police propositions. This was part of an election held last year. The tax does not take effect until 2024. There was a resolution to accept the results of the election, and now it has to be in the form of an ordinance. There will be a public hearing on Tuesday, February 9 at 4:45 p.m. to adopt the ordinance.
Vidrine announced former Evangeline Parish tax assessor Dirk Deville is now Ville Platte’s Chief Administrative Officer. “We’re so happy to have him with his experience,” said Vidrine. Deville’s role will largely be aiding the mayor with administrative work for the city and helping with projects. “We know Dirk is a people person, he loves Ville Platte just the way all of us do. We’re happy and fortunate to have him. We’re the lucky ones here.”
Deville’s salary is set at $51,000 a year.