Sewer problems, upcoming election rattle Sorrento council

Wade McIntyre

SORRENTO – Town police officers had their hands full breaking up a near brawl between councilmen and an-ex councilman at the regular meeting Tuesday.

Mayor Blake LeBlanc gaveled the meeting to a premature close when shouting and threats erupted between Councilman John Braud and former councilman Randy Anny, but the circus-like shouting and fingerpointing spilled out into the Town Hall parking lot.

Braud and Anny were arguing over problems with the town sewer system, but the tensions increased due to the coming Nov. 14 election in which Braud’s mother, Troy, is running against Anny’s cousin, Marvin L. Martin, in a run-off for a council seat.

A dozen or so residents, attending the meeting to ask for help from backed up sewer and odors in their homes located about 300 yards up the Main Street road from Town Hall, had front row seats to the explosive council session.

The outburst started when Anny disputed Braud’s claim that only one person had submitted a formal complaint regarding sewer backups after recent hard rains. Braud stood up from his seat and told Anny to “wait a fricking minute.”

LeBlanc got up from the mayor’s seat and walked over to Braud, placing a hand on the councilman’s shoulder, attempting to calm him down.

Anny stood up in the audience and said, “you’re not gonna sit here and curse Randy Anny,” and Councilman Milton “Needlenose” Vicknair shouted at LeBlanc to call Braud out of order and remove him from the meeting.

LeBlanc, instead, called for order, saying, “I can’t continue to have meetings run like this, it’s inappropriate.”

His plea brought a moment of calm to the session.

“Everybody is here for the betterment of the community,” Councilman Wilson Longanecker Jr. said. He asked those present to settle down and see what they could do for the town, rather than singling individuals out, which negatively affects the town.

Vicknair agreed, but said, “we can’t just keep telling people we’re going to do the job and not do it.”

The town has to get its sludge problem at its sewer ponds fixed by the end of the year, or face fines that could bankrupt the town, Councilman Lionel Melancon said.

Anny, who earlier presented a petition he said was signed by residents affected by giant greaseballs blocking lines and causing the sewer backup at their homes, said the grease created problems starting with two houses after recent rains, and has grown to 17 homes.

“We’re in trouble, and we’re asking for help,” he said.

The meeting erupted again when Braud called someone in the audience “a liar,” and the meeting was adjourned.

Troy Braud strode up to Anny, shouting, and John Braud told Vicknair “to get out of my face” when the elder councilman told him, “You’re a young man, you shouldn’t disrespect people like that.”

As officers and Police Chief Earl Theriot moved in to keep people separated, Braud shouted and pointed his finger at Theriot.

“Don’t point no finger at me,” Theriot told Braud.

Before the meeting erupted into chaos a second time, leading to simultaneous shouting matches in and outside the council chambers, the counil agreed to have LeBlanc contact Parish President Tommy Martinez the following day about having equipment brought out to clean ditches in the affected area and remove the sewer blockages.

If done, the move would offer temporary relief to the affected homes, while the town continues addressing the bigger sewer problem of its sludge ridden sewer ponds.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, John Braud said he wanted to wait until Sorrento receives an approximately $500,000 community development grant to clean the ponds, rather than spending money from the sewer and general funds to clean them.

“The money from the parish should be on the way,” he said.

Also, after the meeting, Anny said that in addition to himself, two other persons, Dora Lomas and Yvonne Butler had made complaints to the town. He said until the sewer ponds were cleaned, the town would continue having sewer problems.

Anny said he believed the anger directed at him by John and Troy Braud was due to him supporting his cousin, Marvin Martin, in the Nov. 14 runoff election.

“He’s my cousin,” Anny said. “I’m supporting him.”

When asked if she thought her son’s outburst in the council session would cost her votes in the runoff election, Troy Braud said, “I don’t condone it.” But she said his conduct was a small matter considering that other parents in town have kids with drug and other serious problems.