St. Amant plant owner offers long-term plan

Wade McIntyre

DONALDSONVILLE – The owner of American Industrial Plant Services presented a list of steps to the Parish Council he said the company would take to reduce noise and sand problems at his plant located at 12423 Jim Babin Road in St. Amant.

Wesley Babin had last month promised to appear before the council with a long-term plan in exchange for a temporary noise variance  allowing the company to complete a job by the end of March for Occidental Chemical Corporation by working overnight six and seven days per week.

Speaking at the Thursday Council meeting, Babin said he planned to complete a 10-ft. high, 240 ft. long barrier fence on the southern part of his property within three to four weeks after some parish drainage work was completed in the area.

He said an acoustical enclosure around the company diesel generator would be complete by the end of August if not sooner, and acoustical foam installed on walls on the western boundary of the building by mid-October.

“The variance is off,” said Councilman Todd Lambert. “So if you break the noise ordinance you’ll get in trouble with the law.”

Several residents who live near the plant spoke also.

Linda Young said she had yet to see any changes made, and that “the noises are still unbearable.”

Sandra Babin said her concerns continue for loud noises and sand from sandblasting that cause sleep problems and make it difficult to enjoy outdoor activities.

Babin said the  area is littered with items thrown over the company fence, including vodka and gin bottles.

“I have taken dangerous items from my children,” she said.

American Industrial employs around 100 people, including 50 full-time workers. The industrial facility and neighboring residents have been at odds for years, but each has rights to be in the neighborhood because no zoning laws were in effect when the plant moved in.

In unrelated business, the council balked at authorizing a consent agenda item that would give the parish president authority to approve contacts in the approved budget up to $50,000.

Currently the president can approve contracts up to $10,000, but Parish CAO Cedric Grant said coming back to the council to approve numerous small contacts was “very burdensome.”

He said because the contracts for two community educational wellness events were already budgeted, coming back before the council for approval was like re-approving the contracts.

Councilman George Valentine objected to the proposal, saying the council encountered most contract problems with educational and engineering contracts. He wanted to leave the $10,000 limit in place.

Councilman  Kent Schexnaydre said he had talked with officials in other parishes and that they operated with the $50,000 limit. He favored upping the limit.

With the council seeming split over the issue, members said they would reconsider Grant’s request in the Finance Committee.

In an unrelated matter, Hugh Caffrey, chairman of the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District, reported that project plans and specifications for the Bayou Lafourche dredging project were prepared and almost complete.

Caffrey said a similar project has been under discussion for over 15 years, but that hurricanes Gustav and Ike left area residents with contaminated drinking water when the river bottom was stirred up and causing high levels of bacteria and killing life in the bayou.

“If we don’t do something, in time this bayou will turn into a putrid ditch,” he said.

Under the plan, Caffrey said the Attorney General’s Office indicated that damage to resident’s whose property is damaged by bayou improvements will be not reimbursed by the state.

Parish President Tommy Martinez said residents along the bayou wanted some assurances that Ascension Parish residents would not lose property in this manner in the future if more improvements are needed to keep the bayou flowing effectively.

Caffrey said future work should now affect residents along the bayou.

In another matter, parish commercial contractor Randy Gautreau told the council its proposed building inspection fees were “excessive.”

Gautreau said he had no problem with reasonable or progressive fees, but he urged the parish to consider where it was going with its proposal that would increase fees from zero to $1,834 on one project which he cited.

In response, the council approved an alternative flat fee of $100 for commercial buildings and $50 for residences.