Sorrento lays down rules for meetings

Wade McIntyre

SORRENTO – During a special Town Council meeting Friday, Mayor Blake LeBlanc laid down a set of rules he said would be used to maintain order in meetings.

LeBlanc said he had been “kind of soft” his first four months in office, but would not be that way anymore.

He was responding to an outburst from elected officials and non-elected persons that forced the premature ending of the previous council meeting.

“We’re gonna fix what’s broken and move forward,” LeBlanc said, speaking before a crowded chamber with five police officers present to maintain order.

Non-elected officials, including town employees, will be allowed to speak three minutes on agenda items, after completing a comment form, LeBlanc said. Council members and the mayor may comment on statements after the comment time.

When a public outburst, derogatory remarks and speaking out of order occurs, LeBlanc said the mayor can gavel the meeting to order. If any person, elected or not, does not respond, they may be removed from the council chambers.

Someone voicing displeasure or disagreement with an issue before the council will not be considered causing a disruption as long as they act in a civil manner, LeBlanc said.

Either the council or the mayor can call a meeting “Out of Order,” LeBlanc said.

The mayor is charged with calling for removal of offending persons from the meeting, LeBlanc said, though if the mayor is the offending party the council may adjourn the meeting.

The rules outlined by LeBlanc will be a stark departure from previous meetings, where the mayor, council, citizens and town employees were allowed to talk simultaneously.

In another agenda item Friday, the council addressed a two-pronged emergency sewer problem.

Responding to a meeting LeBlanc had with parish officials earlier in the week to discuss giant greaseballs that are backing up sewers and causing odors at homes located about 300 yards up Main Street from Town Hall, members declared an emergency and agreed to hire a vacuum service to suck the greaseballs out through manholes.

Up to 17 homes were affected by the sewerage backup, caused by heavy rainfall in recent weeks, and homeowners crowded recent council meetings asking for relief.

The council also agreed to hire an electrician to fix a bad breaker on the main switch at the town sewer pump.

Kenny Braud with the Ascension Parish Wastewater Department told the council the sewer system is in a better situation “than you might think.” He said in the long run the town will not have to worry about infiltration or water backup issues.

Sorrento faces a January deadline imposed by the Department of Environmental Quality to have sludge removed from its sewer ponds, or face stiff fines.