Virtual attendence only – The May 5 St. Martin Parish Council meeting proceeded in the Carroll J. Fuselier Meeting Room, but the parish president, council members, the parish attorney and the single speaker attended only as images on the monitors. With more than ten attendees, COVID-19 restrictions made in-person appearance impossible, so the meeting was conducted through Zoom conferencing. (Karl Jeter)
Cedars: confidence is key to a successful reopening
Businesses in Acadiana are anxiously preparing for a phased return to normal operation after two difficult months of COVID-19 restrictions.
Parish President Chester Cedars commented on that process at the May 5 parish council meeting. The meeting was attended in person only by Assistant Clerk Brooke Galespie, members of the press and a sheriff’s deputy.
Cedars, all council members, attorney Allan Durand and the single speaker attended via Zoom video conference. The proceedings were displayed for the benefit of the press on the council chamber video system.
Cedars emohasized that the pace of business openings will depend on the achievement of the opening guidelines set forth by Governor John Bel Edwards. The seven parishes in Region 4, which includes St. Martin, did not meet the criteria for phase one reopening, which include a 14-day downward trend in new cases.
However, Cedars made the point that, after speaking with epidemiologists on the subject, he feels the raw number of cases may not be the relevant measure. Those cases that occur in confined settings such as nursing homes, as well as those who were infected but have recovered, are not actually contributors to “community spread” of the disease, and should not be included.
In any case, Cedars said, successful reopening of area businesses will depend largely on customers’ confidence that their patronage will not result in exposure to the virus. “People will have to have that confidence or reopening could be an expensive failure,” he said. “It is critical that proper safety procedures are in place and adhered to.”
Roddie Matherne, general manager of Pelican Waste Removal attended the meeting on video to speak about the 3,500 of 14,500 customers in the parish who are delinquent in their quarterly payments.
Matherne said that the company has begun placing warning tags on carts of delinquent customers. The company has waived delinquency fees so far due to the COVID-19 situation, but after placement of a second warning tag, and about six months of non-payment, carts will be removed and customers will have to make arrangements to have them returned.
Chairman Dean LeBlanc cautioned that the council needs to be assured that there will be a non-arbitrary process for removal. Cedars said the parish has received calls from customers who say that they have received two bills or have paid but been tagged anyway.
Matherne admitted that some of those situations still exist but are being eliminated as time goes on. He agreed to provide council members information about delinquent accounts in their districts and to notify them beforehand of any cart removals, so they will be prepared to provide information if constituents call them. Matherne added that with more people spending time at home, trash volumes have been unusually high, adding to the company’s costs.
•A $118,000 increase and 116-day deadline extension was approved for J.C. Construction, which is building new basketball courts, a pavilion and paved parking areas at the Cade Park. Most of the added cost, which is within the budgeted amount, will pay for large commercial fans.
•Stephensville has joined Henderson in improving its fire rating from 5 to 4. This will bring a considerable savings to residents and businesses on insurance premiums.
•Despite the attention being paid to the COVID crisis, Cedars said, preparations for hurricane season are underway. He commented that added planning will be required to carry out evacuations, transportation and emergency sheltering while observing COVID requirements. “On the National Day of Prayer, I’ll be praying for no hurricanes,” he said.
•Responding to a question from Councilman Vincent Alexander, Cedars said that, with the help of the National Guard, mobile testing sites will eventually be located within the parish. However, the timing is not certain, as “hot spots” in the state are being given top priority.
•Cedars commented that Zoom conferencing is going very well, and will be used, even after the current crisis, to keep costs down.