Gov't

City Council Update- 4/27 Meeting

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The first item on the agenda for Tuesday's City Council meeting was a report from CH2MHill at the request of Councilman Washington.  CH2MHIll gave a summary of the jobs that they had completed over the past several months, including the number of requests addressed vs. the number of requests pending.  Mr. Higgs of CH2MHill then answered a series of questions from the Council concerning pending requests and drainage work.

Next on the agenda was an item also featuring CH2MHill.  The company sent corporate employees from Atlanta and from the Southeast Region office to answer questions concerning ethics and an ad placed by CH2MHill during the recent Central election.  However, due to a pending lawsuit by Central City News against CH2MHill concerning these very issues, the company's representatives were unable to comment or answer any of these questions.

Councilman Ross addressed the next item, which amended the current budget by adding $115,000 for drainage improvements and repairs.  The amendment was approved unanimously by the Council.

Councilman DeJohn introduced the contract renegotiation with CH2MHill and the budget for their services.  The contract is scheduled to be renegotiated annually, and if a mutual agreement is not reached, there is a formula in place based on CPI and ECI indices which will dictate the new contract amount.  CH2MHill, rather than moving forward with an increase in their pay that was allowed by the contract, offered to save Central $150,000.  CH2MHill had researched their funds and labor and had found that they could provide their services for less money than they were scheduled to receive.  On top of the $150,000 going back to Central, the company has agreed to an additional 20 crew days of labor and standard equipment, mainly for drainage issues, at no additional cost to Central.  The motion to accept CH2MHill's reduced rates in the contract was passed by the Council, 4 to 1.  Concilmen DeJohn, Ross, Moak, and Councilwoman Lansing voted yes.  Councilman Washington voted no.  It should be mentioned here that the motion was not to renew the contract, as there is one more year left in the three-year contract between the city of Central and CH2MHill.

The SPUD case that was heard at last week's Planning and Zoning meeting was addressed again at City Council.  After hearing one public comment on the issue, the representative for the applicant withdrew the case from the agenda, saying that the developer will not be moving forward with the project at that location.

The Council then unanimously supported the Planning & Zoning Commission's recommendation that an applicant not be allowed to subdivide a tract of land on Sullivan Road.  The applicant was requesting a waiver from a code requiring a minimum area of 22,500 square feet when no public sanitary sewer is available.  The request was denied by the Council.

Councilman Moak reminded everyone of the upcoming election this Saturday for the EBR Sheriff's Office tax and the Chief of Police for Central.  Moak emphasized that the tax is a renewal of an existing tax and is not a new issue.  The tax pays for around 16% of the Sheriff's Office budget.  This tax and the EBR Sheriff's Office do affect Central, as we are a part of the parish.  Moak, DeJohn, and Ross all spoke in support of this tax and passed a recommendation that the Council be supportive of the tax renewal.  There were no objections.

Do not forget to vote this Saturday for Chief of Police, as well, as Councilman Moak pointed out that both candidates have been working hard for Central's vote and deserve a good turnout at the polls, no matter which candidate you choose.  Mayor Watts also commended Browning and Welborn for running what he called a "classy" campaign.

The next City Council meeting will be May 11th and will address, among other things, the sports bar proposal for Sullivan Road at Wax Road.  This item was brought up at the last Planning and Zoning meeting, and the Commission unanimously recommended that the Council approve the request to rezone the land as CAB2. 

33 Comments

  1. My_Voice

    April 28, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I work out of town and could not attend. Was there anything mentioned about the contract terms following the suit outcome?

  2. Mike Mannino

    April 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    My Voice,
    Nothing about potential scenarios. I would think its probably not appropriate though to speculate on a legal outcome and best option is to wait until the decision. I did suggest delaying the approval but i undersatnd that we could open ourselves up for litigation if we did. I was disappointed that the Ch2mhill Reps. declined to comment on some of the other items I bought up concerning actions that appear to be in violation of their Business Ethics policy but are not part of teh suit. I hope they will come back after the ruling and explain everything.

  3. resident

    April 30, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Correct me if I’m wrong. CH2Mhill’s contract doesn’t expire until the end of June right? Why not wait for the outcome of the lawsuit to renew it? If CH2MHill is found to be violating the terms of their contract, isn’t that grounds for immediate termination of the contract with the City?

  4. Mike Mannino

    April 30, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Resident,
    You are absolutely correct. Technically, they are currently in violation of their contract and teh Mayor and Council should be addressing. I am at a loss as to why they havent. Not a word, not a peep from any of them, except Mr. Washington. This is becoming more and more curious. Found out some other information about Ch2mhill having the sewer contract in EBR, which I was not aware of. A former engineer in EBR had this in an Editorial in the Advocate yesterday so I posted it on the Central Facebook page. Nothing negative at all, just an inside view of what is happening with EBR efforts to address sewer problems. The post was removed immeadiately. WHY ??????? Now I’m not a conspiracy nut but I do get curious when so much effort is being made to shield Ch2mhill from anything that is being thrown at them. What in the heck is going on ? Somebody needs to start answering questions.

  5. resident

    April 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    very interesting…

  6. Robby

    April 30, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    VERY

  7. Donna Dufour

    April 30, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    I owe my friend Mike, an apology. I feel like I left him in an hour of need. It will not happen again! Tuesday night he stood up and spoke on all our behalf’s and questioned CH2MHill on there questionable advertisement activity one day one before the Mayors race. He said what others have been thinking or discussing in their circles of friends. No one else spoke. Not even me. It starts to seem a handful of people make all the noise, but the fact is it is a handful of people (most of the City Council members) that presents a cause for the controversy. What I should’ve stood up and said was “What is it that CH2MHill has to hide by not disclosing the documents Central City News is requesting? Further more why doesn’t OUR City Council speak up and ask for the records on our behalf? CHM2Hill is our employees. Our taxes pay their contract. Now I wonder what the City Council has to hide by not asking or demanding the records. Do they also have something to hide? This is a dark cloud hanging over the current management of our city and it is only getting darker. Four years will pass quicker than you think. Had this happened two weeks before the election I think it would’ve had a very different outcome. It was close enough as it was. Central City Council and Mayor stand up and do what you were elected to do. Listen to the citizens, your constituents!

  8. Mike Mannino

    April 30, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    No problem Donna. This only strenthens my resolve. I really didnt think much of this until all the delay tactics. I figure if I stand up and say what we all are thinking, others will gather the willpower to speak up. Its time to start bringing up the fact that dots are starting to connect and the picture is not pretty.

  9. Kathi Cowen

    May 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Mike and others … I understand your frustration .. being on the ouside looking in, the picture is not always clear and it is human nature to be suspicious.
    The thing I find most frustrating from the other side of the glass, however, is having our Municipal Services Center always referred to as “CH2MHILL” … as if we are all outsiders. In actuality, Municipal Services consists of about 95% locals — with about 60% longtime residents of Central. There are a few employees who were brought in from elsewhere to fill key jobs … but by-and-large we are locals … from Central, Zachary, BR, Livingston. We took a job close to home that was also near and dear to our hearts in an effort to help Central and to ensure things are done right and in Central’s best interest.
    I feel like the efforts to always refer to us as CH2MHILL is a way of dehumanizing us. It is easier to hate an entity than it is to hate your neighbors. But remember, when you call us at 262-5000, we are your neighbors … and we are doing our darndest to do the best job we can.
    Sorry for the rant and I apologize that this post is not really following the thread … but it needed to be said.

  10. Donna Dufour

    May 1, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Kathy,
    I see what you see are saying, understand and agree. We do need to remember you are our neighbors and citizens of Central. But I feel CH2MHILL has put a wedge between them as a corporation and them as the City of Central with employees who are our friends and neighbors. I understand it is the corporation part that is denying the public records request. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t your paycheck come from CH2MHILL? If that is correct, you officially work for CH2MHILL. If that is not the case I apologize.

  11. Kathi Cowen

    May 1, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Yes, Donna … my paycheck comes from CH2MHill. It is the best of both worlds — doing a local job for the City I love and getting good pay & fantastic benefits from a world-class employer.

  12. Mike Mannino

    May 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Kathi,
    I think I made it perfectly clear during the campaign that I have nothing but respect for the workers who are Ch2mill. My problem is with the management of the company. That is not an indictment of the workers anymore than it would be for Chuck and I working for Exxon and taking the blame for high gas prices. However, you as a citizen, should be concerned just like I am as a citizen, about some of the things going on. The day to day operations, I dont think you have seen any complaints about because all of you do a fine job and I think have saved this City a lot of money. Its the cloud hanging over this public records request that is giving the company a bad name. I would encourage you and the others, keep doing a good job like Chuck and I at our jobs and dont think its a reflection for the goings on right now.

  13. Kathi Cowen

    May 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Agreed — but nobody is trying to shut down the plant. 😉 Irregardless, thanks Mike — we will continue to do the best job we can at the Municipal Services Center.
    Personally, I think the City of Central is getting the best of both worlds, too. We get local service without the quagmire of big government. And, we are partnered with a company that has “deep pockets” when we need it. I didn’t hear many complaints when they had all of Central’s roads cleared 24 hours after Gustav. I, for one – though not an employee then – was impressed.

  14. Paul

    May 1, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    These problems are exactly what happens when government is relegated to the private sector. Government should be run by government so in consequence they will be accountable to the people. CH2MHILL is not out for our best interests, they are out for a profit. Hence, when they saw that profit in jeopardy during the election – they did what they did. We would never tolerate such blatant unethical behavior from our elected officials and we shouldn’t tolerate it from those contracted to operate on behalf of the government. And because we now can’t do without them since we refused to plan ahead and are under the mistaken opinion that we can continue to outsource our governing responsibilities, we have to renew their contract despite their recent behavior. We have lost the ability to control those who represent us and something needs to be done.

    As for the complaints about them clearing the roads – I cleared my own road and helped my neighbors clear their yards and whatever else they needed. I did not see them in my neighborhood. Despite that, they surely didn’t do it because they are kind hearted – they did it because they got PAID to.

  15. My_Voice

    May 2, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Kathi,

    If you want to be referred to as “our neighbors” or the Central Municipal Services Center…then why post ads such as the one on centralcitynews.net March 25th edition page A12..with your picture and CH2MHill all over the ad?

    Such ads seen by thousands, only put you and your co-workers in association with that company.

  16. Kathi Cowen

    May 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    My_Voice — “that company” is my employer but the job I do on a daily basis is that of Municipal Services for the City of Central. I am your neighbor — having lived in Central since 1977 and having attended and graduated from CPS & LSU. That was the point I was trying to make.

  17. Sad4Central

    May 3, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Mr. Mike, I think you are doing a fabulous job in standing up and speaking out for those of us who cannot. I own a business in Central and I cannot speak my opinions pubicly. I was born and raised here and I am now raising my children here because I love Central. I do not love what it is becoming. There is a clear line of segregation growing wider and deeper every day. This city BECAME a city because of us, the CITIZENS. The governmental figures and corporations that have taken over do not, in my opinion, have the community in their best interest. It’s more of a “good ole-boy” situation. The same group of individuals are backing each other.
    In regards to CH2MHILL, besides the name standing for “Central Has 2 Make Higgs Insane Loads of Loot”, they have cast a HUGE shadow of doubt about their ethics by placing “THE AD” and by not releasing the records. It also makes me even more angry and bewildered that our City Council, with the exception of Ralph Washington, voted to renew their contract! And Mr. DeJohn went on to praise the work that this corporation has done! Why are they not DEMANDING the records?! And why are they now not associating with Woody Jenkins or his newspaper? I applaud Mr. Jenkins for stepping up and challenging this corporate thief. Thank you again, Mr.Mannino, for your voice. My spouse and I both voted for you and for a change. You may not have been “Formally” elected, but you are doing a hell of a better job for us than some of the ones who were.

  18. Mike Mannino

    May 3, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Sad4Central,
    Thank you for your kind words. I would encourage you to continue to support those of us who only want to do what is right and ethical. For the five years we have been a city, we have mostly sat back and let this develop,hoping and thinking that all would be well. I’m here to tell you it is not and now that we the people are standing up, we are being treated with disdain, called names, accused of dividing, you name it. Well if standing up for what is right is dividing, I’m in. I, along with others, were constantly being critized for not being involved so I will be at every forum dealing with this Citys government possible and I’m not shy about saying what needs to be said. We have 2 new candidates taking office that ran on the same principles that I did to join Mr. Washington, and I truly believe the other two will also join in once they understand what the majority of the people want. Its a good group of Councilmen and I am hopeful that we will see changes starting in July. Lets make sure we do by continuing to voice our opinion.

  19. Donna Dufour

    May 3, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Then there are recall petitions. Very seldom saw one work, but what the heck.

  20. Debbie

    May 3, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Hey Gang,
    I have an idea! Would someone develop a
    “MIKE, DONNA, and other “SHADOW PEOPLE” web site to
    carry this constant rhetoric of disdain away from a site
    that might have an intelligent conversation if these people would
    get off and let the rest of Central speak.
    I think the people of Central have spoken Loud and clear in the election. Now will you folks that talk to each other on this and
    ALL other sites dedicated to City of Central, please use a phone.
    Thank you and remember, The people of Central are a pretty intelligent group of people,and I personally don’t need input of this caliber.

  21. Kyle

    May 3, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Debbie: I quit reading this site and posting on here almost two months ago. My curiosity got the best of me to check it out again, and some things haven’t changed. Looks like it should be renamed “Mike and Donna” Speaks. I agree with what you said….tell those two to pick up a phone. It’s time to move on, or maybe help these two people find a job since they seem to have nothing better to do than hold conversations with each other on here every day.

    Donna, you sure seem to know a lot about CH2M. Have you ever even been in their offices to see what they do? I read an article on here a while back by Jeanie Barnett from Crystal Place. She spent a day with CH2M to find out about them and how they work, and she wrote a very positive article about them afterwards. She took the time to find out for herself rather than listen to other people. I suggest you do the same and report your findings.

  22. Donna Dufour

    May 3, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Kyle, you’re right somethings don’t change. You said you were gong to stop being negative several days ago only to turn around and be negative & now again.I don’t know where you get the idea I think I know alot about CH2MHill,just because I know paychecks are made by them. At the time the City was talking contract with them I checked them out on the web.I don’t have any issues with the local office. I would just like for those involved with the records issue to come clean.If you want to take this as negative there is nothing I can do about it. Looks like you don’t have anything better to do either.

  23. Mike Mannino

    May 4, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Debbie, Kyle, other shadow posters,

    You are more than welcome to post to your hearts content on here just like me. At least I am not afraid to hide behind a screen name.
    I agree people spoke loud and clear and the message is they want things to change. I’m just here to make sure they do…………..

  24. Donna Dufour

    May 4, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Debbie, as long as I follow the guidelines of this site I have just as much right as anyone to comment. When you post a comment you put yourself in the line of fire and I will fire back, just as you do. Freedom of speech. Intelligent people know that. Something else they know is there is plenty of room for the rest of Central to speak on these forums.

  25. Debbie

    May 4, 2010 at 7:59 am

    I rest my case folks.

  26. Rhonda

    May 4, 2010 at 10:08 am

    I was unable to attend the last council meeting but I will certainly attend the one next week. I find it VERY curious that the council voted four to one to extend a contract to a company who’s recent actions have been very worrisome and has even led to a lawsuit. I find it even more curious that two out of the four members who voted to extend this contract would have been replaced in June when this contract was supposed to renew, however they decided to vote on it now and ended up extending it for another year. To say that I am not happy with the council at this time would be an understatement. Something stinks and I want to find out exactly what it is!

  27. Wendy Morgan

    May 4, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Well, I don’t know what case Debbie is resting. All I see in these posts is a desire for accountability and that there is none coming from either CH2MHILL or our government leaders.

    And, by the way, the mayor, whose personal, profitable, and monopolistic business dealings in Central are becoming more and more well-known, was elected by a very slim margin. The percentage of 52% sounds bigger than it is when you look at the actual number of votes he won by compared with the number of votes cast. (What was it, about 200 votes out of about 8,000 cast?) I think the people of Central are speaking, and they are saying “You are about to get kicked out.”

    Also, the article on this website about the council meeting said that Central was “getting back $150,000” from CH2MHILL. That sure was misleading. According to earlier sentences, we were just not going to pay out another $150,000 for the next contract…and this thing about CH2MHILL auditing their numbers and magically finding money they can save us is bogus. What they are really doing is forgoing a few percent of an increase in pay for next year so that they insure getting the contract.

    In the meantime, they spent money to send representatives to our council meeting just to say they can’t answer any questions about their ethics. Why send reps at all?

    Lastly, the fact that a couple of the not re-elected council people voted for this new contract is troubling. And the fact that all of them (except Washington) are avoiding asking CH2MHILL about the election ad tells my gut that they are involved in a cover up.

    I don’t know why they are protecting CH2MHILL instead of their constituents, but I would like to find out. My instincts make me believe that money is being transferred from CH2MHILL to individuals in government leadership. I can only hope that CCN is successful in getting CH2MHILL to stop hiding behind its lawyers, and if there are misdeeds, then the guilty should be punished.

    And that’s the case that should be rested.

  28. Mike Mannino

    May 4, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Debbie & Kyle,
    I rest my case also based on Rhondas post and 3 Facebook pages set up yesterday to counter the retoric from people like you that see nothing wrong in Central. Just because you seem to have no problem with the shananigins going on, doesnt mean a bunch of us do. Sorry if you dont like it but unfortunately for you its a free Country and I along with Donna, Johnny come lately , and anyone else who chooses, can post what they want on here as long as its not demeaning, personal, or an outright lie. Something you may want to consider before posting.

  29. dave

    May 4, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    This is Dave Freneaux. I rarely post on this site, mainly because I want to continue to avoid taking sides, because that is not the purpose of CentralSpeaks.com. However, I am compelled to speak for three reasons. First, the article initially posted above regarding the CH2M HILL contract was a bit confusing, and I do apologize for that. If you were at the meeting, which I was, it was still confusing. The truth is that we are coming up on the last year of a three year contract. There was no renewal. The only action that could be taken at this meeting would be to accept the reduced rate that was negotiated or to send the parties back to the negotiating table. This was not a decision to renew or extend a contract. I apologize for that misunderstanding.

    Second, I will do whatever it takes to be fair. If you see a post by the editors of this site that you feel is misleading, contact me and you and I can discuss it. If it is indeed misleading, I will re-word it so that it is not. Please do not simply talk about it, take proactive steps to help me correct it so that everyone can stay properly informed. Looking over that part of the post, I think it accurately states that: “CH2MHill, rather than moving forward with an increase in their pay that was allowed by the contract, offered to save Central $150,000. CH2MHill had researched their funds and labor and had found that they could provide their services for less money than they were scheduled to receive.” If the net effect was “forgoing a few percent of an increase in pay for next year” we would have reported that the contract will pay more next year. It will actually pay $150,000 less. Before anyone goes off assuming anything, this has nothing to do with taking sides, and everything to do with fair and accurate reporting. We have well over a thousand unbiased posts on this site to back up that claim. I recognize that CH2 detractors have questions they want answered and I recognize there are others who say the questions are either answered or moot. I applaud courteous and intelligent discussion on these issues, and I tolerate discourteous exchanges as well, though I wish I did not have to. My main issue is that we stick to the facts, whether we feel the facts support our argument or weaken it. In the end, the truth will prevail.

    Lastly, (I have removed this explanation because the posting party agreed some things are left unsaid) I believe wholeheartedly in Freedom of the Press, but I believe there is a difference between what we have a right to say, and what is right to say. I believe we all need to consider our words carefully before we post.

    Thanks,
    Dave

  30. Debbie

    May 4, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    BRAVO DAVE!!!!!
    and THANK YOU!!

  31. Mike Mannino

    May 4, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    To your point Dave, I too was at this meeting and once again, watched Mr. Washington get raked over the coals for trying to make a legitimate point. While its great that we received a reduction in the cost of the contract, he was trying to get an explanation on the formula so that we know in the future when we are due another such reduction. Again, shows the lack of knowledge on the part of some about how these type contracts work. I will quickly explain again.’

    Its called a fixed fee agreement. We receive a defined amount of service for a set price. What happened here is that we evidently did not use the number of hours or service that was originally bid and Ch2mhill assumes this to be a trend, therefore can reduce the fixed fee. Believe me, they didnt give us anything. Right now, labor costs in the market are down so they probably based the fee on post Katrina/Gustave rates which have come down significately and also contributed to the reduction. This trend is happening across the Gulf coast and is not unique to Central. Kyle/Debbie, did you know that ???????

  32. Jill

    May 4, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    As a citizen of Central for my entire life, I have been disheartened lately because of the way our community is being torn apart. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. I personally am very surprised that the ONLY council member raising very legitimate questions about CH2MHILL. CH2MHILL only perpetuated the situation by withholding public documents. I am glad Woody pressed the issue because we have a right to know how our money is being used. This was a major problem we had with EBR. Now we are having to fight and sue for the same thing, except this time it’s against our own elected officials. If this many people are upset about it, why not just publish the records? Like I said, perpetuating the issue. Thank you to Donna and Mike for saying out loud what others are thinking. I plan on being at the next Council meeting to hear for myself what is being said and done for this great city that is becoming a bit of an embarrassment.

  33. Edward

    May 5, 2010 at 1:35 am

    After reading the many posts, it seems the citizens of Central are not satisfied with the actions of our elected officials. As everyone also seems to understand this is/was a close knit community that relied on and assisted their neighbors in making our city something we are/were extremely proud of. Is it time to start taking Central back?

    Maybe an easier method,instead of begging and pleading for our officials to conduct our City of Central business in a professional and honorable way,is to do to them what they are doing to us. Simply ignore their local businesses. Let them understand what it’s like to wonder which shoe is going to fall next. Heck maybe some might even move out of our city. We have been asked to shop Central first, I get my clothes cleaned locally, have bought tires, had repair work done on my car and bought various electronics and computers locally , maybe I’ll just stick with getting my dry cleaning done locally. Wal Mart has made lots of contributions to better our city, so would it not be wise to support those that support our area? We, us is much better than them and they. Central, 5 years ago was US, what is it today? Why?

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