Residents want sugarcane tractors to abandon route

Nov. 13-14, 20-21, 26-28: Louisiana Renaissance Festival (Hammond)
November 8, 2010
Talks continue on relocating on Laf. saltwater barrier
November 10, 2010
Nov. 13-14, 20-21, 26-28: Louisiana Renaissance Festival (Hammond)
November 8, 2010
Talks continue on relocating on Laf. saltwater barrier
November 10, 2010

The Lafourche Parish Council amended Ordinance No. 4818 at their Oct. 26 meeting to grant sugarcane tractors the same exemptions as service vehicles regarding the five-ton weight limit established on the section of Parish Road in Thibodaux which contains speed humps. It passed 8-0-1, with Councilman Louis Richard absent.

The original ordinance passed 9-0 on Sept. 14. It calls for a five-ton weight limit that “shall apply to any person operating a motor vehicle other than a vehicle providing a necessary service to residents upon said street.”

The amendment was proposed by Councilman Jerry Jones and used as a short-term solution to a problem that will be addressed again. If no action was taken, the cane tractors would be in violation of the original ordinance beginning Oct. 27.

Originally, the council was to vote on an amendment that would add the verbiage “per axle.” This would exempt cane tractors, which have four axles and weight approximately 40,000 pounds when loaded.

Councilman Michael Delatte decided to pull the original amendment ordinance from the agenda after a lengthy discussion. Stephen Peltier, president of Lafourche Sugars, and Parish Road residents debated the merits of the amendment.

“I see both sides,” said Delatte, who represents the district. “I’m not here to pull for the mill or for the subdivision. I’m here to solve a problem and find a compromise.”

Parish Road resident Chad Thibodeaux argued the cane trucks are damaging the newly installed speed humps.

“All I have against it is somebody messing up something the parish invested in,” Thibodeaux said.

Jeremy Boudreaux, another resident, scoffed at the monetary concerns.

“It’s about the children, not the money,” Boudreaux said. “Those trucks could flip over and kill a child. My child.”

The tractors could take Talbot Avenue or La. Highway 1 instead of Parish Road, but Peltier argued it would cause a significant increase in cost and danger to other vehicles if tractors were forced change their route.

“The entire public should be able to use it,” Peltier said. “They’re not damaging the road. If farmers can’t use this road, what is to stop the next neighborhood from doing the same thing?”

Delatte said the Department of Public Works needs to come up with a standard procedure and weight limit for the different types of speed bumps. The council admitted that the humps installed on Parish Road were only suitable for passenger vehicles.

“The speed bumps are for passenger vehicles only,” he said. “And we can’t go next to a company, whether it be a cement, cane or sand and gravel company, and restrict their business.”

Peltier agreed for Lafourche Sugars to be held liable to replace the speed humps – which cost $6,200 plus labor for three – if they were inoperable due to damage caused by the cane tractors.

“Absolutely. We’ll pay for it,” Peltier said.

Thibodeaux is skeptical Lafourche Sugars and the farmers will follow through.

“They just said they’ll pay for it, but they’ll have some loopholes,” Thibodeaux said.

Delatte said he monitored the segment of Parish Road in question and saw cane tractors obey all traffic laws – the speed limit, stop signs and decreased speed for the humps – but said the garbage trucks and “eight out of 10” passenger vehicles failed his unofficial test.

Thibodeaux passed out photos to the council showing the damage done to the speed humps. The pictures had no impact on Councilman Lindel Toups.

“That don’t mean it’s the cane tractors that [damaged the humps],” Toups said. “I don’t believe you can blame it all on the farmers. We want to help y’all, but we can’t stop progress in the community.”

Farmers have used the road to deliver cane to the processing plant for “years and years,” Peltier said. Recently, houses have been built and families have moved in, and now the cane tractors are being asked to take a different route.

After the meeting, Delatte and Jones estimated it could be months before a solution is found.

A speed bump shows its damage near the corner of Parish Road and Julia Street in Thibodaux. Nearby residents complained to the Lafourche Council that sugarcane tractors cause the damage and should be banned from the route. ERIC BESSON