St. Amant resident wins battle to correct residency, home insurance issues

Aaron Looney

ST. AMANT – For Joel Louque, calling St. Amant home means a lot more nowadays.

With the help of state Sen. M.J. “Mert” Smiley Jr., Louque and approximately 80 other residents along Diversion Canal Road recently won a year-long battle with the U.S. Postal Service to have their addresses changed to reflect residency in St. Amant instead of Maurepas.

Louque said the move would save the homeowners hundreds of dollars a year in insurance rates.

“It just seems ridiculous that our street all had Maurepas addresses when we all live in Ascension Parish,” Louque said. “It may not sound like much, but it means a big difference in our homeowner’s insurance rates.”

Louque also said that because the residences in question were listed with addresses for Maurepas, a community in nearby Livingston Parish, their mail service was coming though Springfield’s post office and not through St. Amant.

“We have our phone numbers through the Sorrento phone exchange, a Maurepas mailing address and we live in St. Amant,” Louque said. “It’s kinda mixed up.”

Louque said he also spent months trying to convince Allstate that because he lived in St. Amant and not Maurepas, he should be considered in Ascension Parish’s Class 5 fire protection rating and not Livingston Parish, which has a rating of Class 7.

“We talked to everyone we possibly could about this,” Smiley said. “They said that until the address was changed, these residents could not get the lower rates by being in Ascension’s district, which is where they belong.”

“My Allstate agent told me that it was the corporate office who decides that,” Louque said of any changes. “When I called the  corporate office, they told me that because I live five miles from 

the nearest fire station, they weren’t required to provide coverage. They renewed me for 2007, but weren’t going to for this year.”

Because he and his neighbors were considered to be in the Livingston Parish fire insurance rating district, his homeowner’s insurance policy nearly doubled in 2007 from $1,500 to $2,800. Also included in the rate was a $365 assessment fee levied by Louisiana Citizens' Property Insurance.

Allstate refused to comment on the matter, citing confidentiality reasons.

Louque also met with state insurance officials in 2007 about the situation, who told him that the first station that would respond to a fire emergency in his area would be from Livingston Parish. 

However, Louque said, the St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department has a station located about three miles from his home and that it would be the first to respond to a fire.

Smiley said Louque came to him in January 2007 looking for help to change his address. Smiley said he contacted then-Congressman Richard Baker for further assistance.

“Congressman Baker recommended that Joel collect signatures of residents on the street using a petition of address change,” Smiley said.

Louque said he collected signatures from numerous residents on the petition and forwarded it to Baker’s office, who then sent it to the U.S. Postal Service. He added that that the postmasters for the Springfield and St. Amant post offices met and “told us that it could happen.”

“They sent a letter saying that we’d be receiving mail through the St. Amant Post Office and that our addresses would be changed,” Louque said. “We received letters a week later that told us just the opposite, that they were leaving it like it was.”

Instead, a transitional mailbox was placed at the intersection of  Hwy. 16 and Hwy. 22. There, a postal delivery driver from Springfield would place mail for the Diversion Canal Road addresses for a St. Amant postal delivery driver to pick up and deliver. Post office officials said that a change of addresses would not take place, Louque said, but that the transition mail box would remain for one year.

The postal service then issued a letter in June 2007 saying that a feasibility study would be in order for the situation. A month later, as part of the study, a survey was issued where the residents could give a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the address change.

After months of inactivity on the subject, Smiley said, he sent a letter to U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s office asking for assistance and also sent a letter to USPS Louisiana District Communications Director Daisey Comeaux Comeaux asking for a status report.

“Her letter said that it was on the table for discussion,” Smiley said.

The matter laid dormant until March, when Smiley received a letter from then-U.S. Postal Service Louisiana District Manager E.W. Waldemayer Jr. denying the request.

“He said that it would not be operationally feasible to modify the mall distribution and delivery service for the area,” Smiley said. “It’s a difference of a quarter of a mile for a postal driver to 

drive without making deliveries. What’s not feasible about that?”

Louque and Smiley then met with Waldemayer, inviting him to visit the area and view the situation. He accepted the invitation, but Waldemayer again denied the change request.

“Mert made it real clear during that meeting that if he told us no, he would go to the President of the United States,” Louque said. “He said that if he was sending a denial letter, he better send the 

appeal letter with it.”

Smiley and Louque said things changed earlier this year, after Waldemayer left the position. New district manager Steve Moreland reviewed the situation and sent a letter to Louque dated Aug. 25, stating that the change of address would be made as of Aug. 30. In the letter, Moreland cited a majority of surveys that supported the change.

Louque said that with the change, he will save about $685.40 per year on his homeowner’s insurance. He added that the changes have also been made in the parish government’s mapping system.

Smiley added that the change will also bring in tax revenue for Ascension Parish.

“Correcting their addresses means that when they make certain purchases, those tax dollars go to Ascension Parish,” Smiley said. “That’s where they’re supposed to go anyway. This area has 

always been part of Ascension. Now, these residents truly feel that they are a part of the parish again.”

Louque said that he hopes his plight would bring others like it to light.

“I’m sure there are situations like this across the state,” he said. “There are people who are going through the same things we were experiencing. Hopefully this can serve as a catalyst for some 

changes.”

Smiley said that Louque’s situation shows what people sometimes have to go through to achieve change.

“This is a prime example of someone who saw something wrong and  wasn’t deterred by a series of rejections,” Smiley said. “Joel kept prodding me to get this done. He, as a private citizen, and I, 

as a state representative, took on the federal government. We persisted and we won. We kept on going because we believed in what we were doing and we prevailed.”