A note of caution and a few words of thanks
There were tense moments Wednesday night when Louisiana Homebuilders Association President Joey Yesso presented before the Terrebonne Parish Council his concerns about a move to eliminate the parish’s contract with South Central Planning and Development, which handles residential and commercial construction and renovation permitting.
Parish President Gordon Dove maintains that doing so will offer substantial savings to the parish. We are not so sure.
Yesso, whose concerns were later backed up by Parish Councilman Gerald Michel in a separate presentation, made scored some important points, as indicated in a story that appears in this issue of The Times.
Mr. Dove is optimistic that the parish can handle the task. Parish Planner Chris Pulaski backs up that assertion, and we don’t doubt him. Mr. Pulaski has proven himself a dedicated official with a strong vision, forward-thinking and transparent.
We have a bit more difficulty ascribing the latter virtue to Mr. Dove.
In April council members approved a plan to amend the relationship with SCPD. The new contract will cost $640,000. If that amount is ultimately not budgeted, the parish president is allowed to essentially bypass the council and do what he wishes.
With the new budget under review by the council, the shortage of planning dollars means that there is no intention by the administration to continue the contract, and every intention of setting up the parish’s own program, with its own employees doing the work of inspections.
The troubling thing about this is its appearance as a backdoor way of exerting Mr. Dove’s will. Rebuffed in April, Mr. Dove now places the council in the position of having the vote down his budget if they wish to keep the services of SCPD.
With a cost issue resolved in April, there is little the administration has stated which justifies such a broad move this soon after.
A fuming parish president went into attack mode during Mr. Yesso’s presentation, barraging him with questions about his profits as a builder.
Later, during the presentation by Councilman Michel, Parish President Dove’s volume level was turned down, although he did accuse Michel of having South Central Planning do his screen presentation for him. Michel immediately denied the claim.
Perhaps, ultimately, having the parish do its own permitting is the better move to make. But it’s not getting a proper hearing if it is to be decided as part of a budget struggle. The council should make this decision on the basis of strong evidence presented by all sides of the question, rather than be forced. There are many potential pitfalls and the potential of hidden expenses. Parish President Dove has indicated he wants one-stop shopping for permits at a parish facility and we have no doubt he means the first floor of the government building. Speculative, perhaps, but no less speculative than the potential for a better deal by having permits done in-house.
South Central Planning and Development has done a good job for Terrebonne. The benefit of taking the task on, who wins and who loses from such a decision, has yet to be properly vetted. And before a budget is crafted to make that happen, a lot more discussion is required than the parish president’s insistence.
A THANKSGIVING NOTE
It’s that time of year when we reflect on our blessings. In Terrebonne and Lafourche that means in particular taking a moment to realize how fortunate we truly are.
We have three great resources in our communities, our land, our water and our people.
It is true, certainly, that economics have been bad. But the people of this region have always found a way to overcome, and we see them doing that now, a little bit at a time. Therefore the strength and ingenuity of our neighbors is something we are particularly thankful for. The twin blessings of our waterways and our lands — seemingly in conflict with each other but ultimately reconciling for now — are the elements our ancestors have worked and tamed, both those who profited from their endeavors and those who have never received proper credit. The abundance of unique wildlife that inhabits both, that’s something we are grateful for as well.
Take a moment this Thanksgiving week to notice the graceful heron that stops in the yard, the eagle that flies overhead, and the neighbor mowing his or her lawn. All are reasons for praise. All are reasons for thanks.