Neighbors complain about noise variance

Wade McIntyre

DONALDSONVILLE – The parish council granted American Industrial Plant Services, Inc.  a temporary noise variance allowing it to continue operation until at least the first council meeting in April.

Several residents in the neighborhood where the sandblasting and fabrication facility is located complained about noise and sand coming from the operation day and night during the regular meeting Thursday.

The temporary variance requires that the plant begin planning to build appropriate fencing to shield nearby residents, install an acoustical cover for its diesel compressor, provide a plan for implementing insulating foam in its building, and install drapes over openings to cut down on sound.

Joseph Nasser who lives next to the facility located at 12423 Jim Babin Road in St. Amant complained that company president Wesley Babin was asking for a variance so the plant could operate day and night in a residential area.

With sand from the blasting hitting the sheet metal facility building, Nasser said he at times received 140 decibels of sound. “You cannot make sandblasting quiet in a residential neighborhood,” he said. “It doesn't fit if you put it there.”

Resident Teri Babin asked the council to consider those living near the blasting facility who  have to sleep at night and go to work.  “We can hear it (the air compressor) in our house, it vibrates our house and we have a brick house.”

Linda Young said, “the noise is unbelievable, you just can’t imagine it.”

Wesley Babin said his business had an immediate need until the end of March for a variance in order to complete fabrication work required for turnaround work for Occidental Chemical Corporation.

The current workload and schedule will require night work and possibly weekend work through March 31, Babin said.

He said his business had moved the air compressor 20 to 25 feet from facility fence line and that sand issues were being addressed.

An acoustical consultant he hired recommended that a ten-foot tall metal fence be built, he said.

He said he would return to the council at its first meeting in April with a more long term plan for meeting the requirements set by the council.

Councilman Kent Schexnaydre described the situation as “untenable” because the industrial facility and the residents had equal rights since there was no zoning in effect when the plant moved into the area.

Todd Lambert and George Valentine were the only councilmen voting against the temporary variance.

“We need some action so these people can have some peace,” Valentine said. “There needs to be some concessions.”

American Industrial employs around 100 people, according to Babin, including 50 full-time workers.

In an unrelated matter, the council put off passing  a comprehensive package of rate increases for building related permits in the parish after an area builder said the increases would be harmful to builders and their customers in the current economic downturn.

Roy Domain said area contractors would like to be involved in the process of determining any increases with numbers that would not affect the customer base of builders in the current economic down cycle.

“We never came to you and asked for a refund when there was a windfall,” he said.

Laverne Bourgeois, chief building official for the parish, said the suggested rate increases were similar to Baton Rouge, and that Ascension Parish rates had not been increased since 1994.

Bourgeois and Domain agreed to meet with other officials and builders during the postponement of the rate increases to help determine amounts that would be agreeable to both the parish and contractors.

In other business the council recognized two recipients of Donaldsonville Chamber of Commerce awards. Chelsea Davis who plans to pursue a career as a pharmacist was acknowledged as

Teenager of the Year. Businessman Bernard “Bernie” Mistretta was  acknowledged as the chamber's Citizen of the Year.

Mistretta serves as chaplain of the parish jail in Donaldsonville. He said he is trying to locate a building now where inmates in the new jail can attend services.

In other business, the council:

• Issued a proclamation declaring April Flood Awareness Month.

• Appointed Robert Macedo and Associates to administer the parish disaster housing assistance program for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The temporary rental assistance program will aid families displaced by the hurricanes.  The program is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

• Approved the recommendations of a  Keep Ascension Beautiful focus group to engage the help of community and business partners to restore a parish litter control program and enforcement program.

One action item proposed  by the group is to obtain a “litter cop” by working with the Sheriff's Office, to be funded by fines on businesses and individuals who litter.

The group also seeks to create a sustainable, recycling program covering the parish.