VP Council continues discussions about developing single-family housing

By: NICK JAGNEAUX
Staff reporter

Continuing her program of making land available for developing single-family homes, at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening, the Ville Platte City Council gave Mayor Jennifer Vidrine the authority to exchange a city-owned property with a privately-owned tract of land, contingent an appraisal of the property.
Vidrine told the Council that representatives of the Drouet Vidrine family approached her about exchanging family-owned land on East Hickory Street stretching from the Lions Club building to the canal. In exchange, the City would give the old Cotton Festival Fairgrounds on Hwy. 29.
City Attorney Eric LaFleur told the council that the exchange cannot take place until the land has been appraised. In order for the swap to happen, the privately-owned land must be of equal or greater value than the City’s property.
If the exchange can take place, Vidrine told the Council that it would be used to develop single-family housing. This is a continuation of a theme that the mayor has pushed for improving Ville Platte.
Last month, the Council gave her authority to conclude an agreement to sell a tract of land on the north end of Dossman Street to a non-profit development company. The developers would build ten houses for sale or rent on the land.
Although Vidrine did not update the Council on the Dossman Street deal, after the meeting, Vidrine told The Gazette that the proposal is currently awaiting approval by the Louisiana Housing Corporation, which is providing the funding to the non-profit organization.
The most contentious – and longest – item on the agenda was a dispute about who is responsible for a high water bill due to a leak.
Robert Lafleur, who owns a rental property in the city, asked the city to grant one of his tenants an adjustment on a water bill of more than $400. While Lafleur acknowledges that the leak was on his side of the water meter, he contends that the City is responsible because the leak was caused during the installation of the new water meter.
“City workers installed the meter,” Lafleur told the Council. “They cut my galvanized pipe and attached the meter with a PVC pipe.”
But, Lafleur said, the city workers didn’t use any glue.
“You have to use glue,” Lafleur said. “After the work is done, is any pressure testing done on the equipment to make sure it is okay?
“If you install equipment, you have to install it right,” he continued. “I install equipment overseas. If I don’t install it right, I’ve got to pay for it.”
The City, meanwhile, says that the meter was properly installed; and that it was tampered with sometime late last year when the account was supposed to be inactive. It was during the tampering, City Clerk Shountilez Williams maintains, that the leak developed.
Each side claimed to have evidence, like water usage graphs, to show that it was correct. Robert Lafleur also said that he has video evidence showing that he is right, but the evidence was not available at the meeting.
City Attorney Eric LaFleur said, because the leak is on the property-owners’ side of the meter – and that the City did not cause the leak – there is nothing the City can do about the bill.
“We used to give adjustments,” LaFleur said, “but we were reprimanded by the state attorney general. We can’t do it anymore. No municipality can do it.”
Unsatisfied with the outcome of the long discussion, Robert Lafleur said that he would be contacting the attorney general about the situation.
In other business, the mayor told the Council that she is working on leasing 17 new vehicles for the various departments, including five new police vehicles. Police Chief Neil Lartigue said that his department needs SUVs. The current vehicles are too low to the ground, and they are being damaged by passing through flooded streets.
Finally, the City recognized the UAAA 10-and-under softball Fast Pitch World Series Champions; and moved the date for the September regular monthly meeting from Sept. 12 to Sept. 19.

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