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Mayor considers veto of controversial Gonzales city budget

Mayor considers veto of controversial Gonzales city budget
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Louisiana Politics

POSTED: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 4:00am

UPDATED: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 4:04am

Mayor Barney Arceneaux could decide as early as today to veto the budget approved by the Gonzales City Council.

The budget was approved by a 3-2 margin Monday night. The vote angered nearly all of the residents who sat through the council meeting. A few of them spoke against the budget, and were frustrated knowing it would pass against their wishes.

"Those chairs that y'all sit in are not thrones," said Matt Dyer, chairman of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce board.

The most contentious part of the budget was an $800,000 allocation for a feasibility study for a service road along Interstate 10. It would run from LA 30 to LA 44.

To pay for it, the council took $75,000 away from the Ascension Economic Development Corporation.

"The Economic Development Corporation doesn't build roads and infrastructure," Councilman Gary Lacombe argued, "but the city does."

The council also took hundreds of thousands of dollars away from the police, fire, and public works departments.

"When you say you're in favor of economic development, you don't have anybody out recruiting businesses," Pryor stated, "and then the businesses that do come, you're not going to give them the necessities of fire and police to protect those businesses."

Lacombe explained that nothing was cut from the fire department's budget; instead of paying for new equipment all at once, the costs were spread over multiple years.

The road study was placed in the budget as an amendment at the council's previous meeting. Lacombe, Terance Irvin, and Timothy Vessel pushed it through, voting together as they frequently do. None of them attended an earlier workshop in which the study was discussed, so the method in which they added it to the budget frustrated a lot of people, including Mayor Arceneaux, who said he is not in favor of the project or the means of funding it.

"I don't understand cutting anybody in public safety," he said, "so that's one of the things that we're definitely gonna take a hard look at."

Another problem is that the road would likely go through land owned by Councilman Irvin's family. Many people called for him to recuse himself from a vote on the study, but he did not.

"I couldn't even so much as buy a band-aid from my brother's store, Landry's Pharmacy, here in Gonzales because it was a conflict of interest," stated former police chief Bill Landry. "I want to know how a councilman tonight can vote on appropriating $800,000 to a study where family owns property." 

Irvin stated afterward that, since it is just a study, there is no conflict of interest. He added that he would approve of the study even if his family had nothing to do with it.

"It's just that, you know, when you have a community that's experiencing economic development and growth, you're gonna have some bumps and grinds, you're gonna have some road blocks and some challenges," he said.

Mayor Arceneaux has 10 days to tell the council if he wants to veto the budget. They would need a 4-1 vote to override the veto, which is not likely given the chasm between Lacombe, Irvin, and Vessel on one side, and Kirk Boudreaux and Kenny Matassa on the other.

"So at that point in time, yeah, there'll be a negotiation process in the end," Arceneaux said. "And just try to go back and forth and see what we can do to work this thing out." 

"We have an opportunity here," Lacombe stated. "Natural gas prices are kinda low, we see some things happening in our area, so we want to continue to move." 

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