Just as the St. Charles Parish Council was about to award a $777,469 construction contract for a memorial park, area veterans contended they’d been excluded from its planning and got approval to table the move.
“We were told we would be included in the plans for this park,” Bobby Lovergne, VFW Post 3750 commander, told the council at the Oct. 21 council meeting. “We had one meeting in four years. All of a sudden it gets pulled in the budget tonight.”
The council voted 5 to 3 in favor of tabling the project and naming a committee to include veterans to review it. The ordinance had called for awarding the project to LA Contracting Enterprise of Thibodaux.
The project was initiated in Parish President V.J. St. Pierre Jr.’s administration as a memorial and community park that would include the memorial along with a spray park, dog park, skate park and amphitheater on land surrounding the Edward A. Dufresne Community Center. When St. Pierre termed out of office, incoming Parish President Larry Cochran assured him his administration would act on it. Later, plans were announced the memorial would instead go in front of the St. Charles Parish Courthouse in Hahnville at a cost of $777,469.
Lovergne said they had met and were satisfied with the initial project, but not with the latest version of it.
Commanders with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion told the council they didn’t like the design and location, and wanted the council to table the project to allow time to form a committee to have input on the park.
“I think it’s only right we’re given the opportunity to have a final say in this project before it’s approved,” Lovergne said. “We want it, but we want to at least have our say as to how it’s built for us – the veterans of St. Charles Parish.”
Lester Breaux, commander of the American Legion post in Luling, said they attended a preliminary meeting and then no more despite being assured additional meetings would be held. Breaux also noted the project, now estimated at $777,469, was estimated at $400,000 initially.
“It is going to be for us and our families and everybody that served in the military,” he said.
Breaux asked the council to take the project back to the drawing board.
Lovergne said the preliminary meeting was held in 2017, saying Darrin Duhe, the parish’s executive director of procurement and government buildings, headed it while Parish President Larry Cochran made an appearance. A preliminary plan was shown to them, but he emphasized they never saw the final rendering.
Cochran said this was the first he heard about pushback on the project.
“I don’t know what we can change, but we can table it and see how long it takes to get it finished,” he said.
Duhe added, “We’re not intending to compete with the WWII Museum. We don’t have those kinds of funds. We just want a nice park for people to come reflect and just enjoy it.”
Councilwoman Traci Fletcher motioned to table the project, seconded by Councilwoman Marilyn Bellock.
“This is near to my heart because I’m a veteran as well,” Bellock told Lovergne.
Councilman Dick Gibbs apologized to the commanders for not knowing about their concerns, but assured Lovergne that would not happen next year.
Gibbs, who said he’d recently buried his father with full military honors, said he would champion their requests.
Although he voted against tabling the project along with council members Mary Clulee and Paul Hogan, he said they wanted to vote on the project to secure the funding. Gibbs added his intent was to “move to hold over” and schedule a meeting and still call for a vote. He added they are meeting this week to “make everyone inclusive.”
Recycling gets trashed
- 2018: China announces it won’t be the “world’s garbage dump” anymore and slashed by half its recycling of the globe’s plastics and paper products.
- January 2019: The parish’s 21 recycling sites are removed amid reports of illegal dumping while keeping two of them in West and East parks.
- July 2019: Republic Services, which handles the parish’s recyclables, announces it won’t take them anymore at its New Orleans location, forcing the parish to pay to have recyclables hauled to Baton Rouge.
- October 2019: St. Charles Parish faces skyrocketing recycling costs and officials announce a temporary suspension of the program.