Gonzales merges department head positions

Wade McIntyre

The City of Gonzales will consolidate its chief building inspector and public works director positions into one job to be filled by current building inspector Alvin Broussard.

The city council voted Monday with one dissenting vote to make the merger, putting someone officially in charge of the public works department for the first time in more than 20 years.

Mayor Johnny Berthelot said Wednesday that he has absorbed the public works duties most of the time he has been mayor.

“I guess I had a couple of them (directors) in the first four or five years, but it didn’t work out, so I told the council I would handle it,” the mayor said.

The early years of his term were slow in terms of growth, and “anything I could do to save a dollar, I did it,” he said.

Berthelot said the consolidation will save the city money, about $80,000 annually, even after Broussard receives a salary increase for handling both departments.

Councilman Larry Savell voted against the merger.

He said Wednesday that holding off on the consolidation and letting incoming Mayor Barney Arceneaux make the decision would have been a matter of courtesy.

“This position has been vacant for years,” he said. “We’ve got less than 90 days until the new mayor comes in. Why not wait?”

Savell said he talked with Arceneaux after the council meeting and that the new mayor was “all right with it.”

Savell said his dissenting vote wasn’t an issue.

“I just don’t think it was fair to Barney,” he said.

Berthelot said Wednesday he felt the time was right to consolidate the positions because the new mayor will need to devote his time to other areas of city business, particularly economic growth.

The mayor noted that he and Broussard handled the two positions during the hurricanes with no complaints.

“I’ve received compliments on how fast the city was cleaned up after the storms,” he said.

Throughout his eight terms as mayor, Berthelot said he has operated under a philosophy that anytime he could consolidate job duties and the city money, he would do it.

“We had 110 full-time employees when I walked into office in 1984,” he said. “We just went over 119  employees with the recent hiring of firemen and police officers.”

In unrelated business at the Monday council meeting, members approved three cooperative endeavor agreements with the state, including:

• A grant for a $200,000 grant for construction of intersection improvements.

• A $25,000 grant for operation of a Visitor’s Center and additional tourism expenditures in the city.

• A $20,000 grant for the purchase of recreation equipment.