Ascension Parish Council adopts Lamar-Dixon fee structure

Wade McIntyre

Ascension’s Parish Council amended an ordinance giving parish government an expanded list of fees that it will need for parish operation of the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

The action at Thursday’s regular meeting was unanimous but prompted some discussion as to how binding the list will be, and if it will leave the government run facility enough room to compete when booking acts in competition with the private marketplace.

Councilman Chris Loar suggested that the council “would not want to miss out on something good that comes along” because it could not make changes quick enough while negotiating.

Council attorney Lindsey Manda said the ordinance could be amended after adoption to allow for a reasonable amount of negotiation.

Councilman George Valentine said because the parish is a government entity fees had to be set, but that the council could come back through the finance committee in the future with an amendment if needed.

Parish President Tommy Martinez said his administration plans to study whether the parish will be able to negotiate fees that are set.

Martinez said SMG, the former operator hired by the parish to run the facility, negotiated in the past. He said he does not yet know if the parish can become flexible, or even it can.

In other business, the council adopted a number of new ordinances creating a new unified land development code which give the Planning and Development Department new teeth with regard to enforcing rules and regulations.

One of the changes will give reviewing, approving and denying authority over a wide range of development projects to the Planning Commission rather than the Zoning Commission.

In order to create the new code, the council repealed previous regulations and put them to the single code, which will simplify parish planning activity.

In other business, the council:

• Unanimously re-elected Council Chairman Pat Bell and Vice-chairman Randy Clouatre. Bell said he planned to work “to keep the spirit of cooperation” now existing in the council.

• Approved another year of $10,000 funding for the South Central District Livestock Show at the request of Mike Hebrew of the LSU Ag Center. The annual event takes place at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center Feb. 4-6, 2010.

• Recognized Lt. Sam Vitter, Sgt. Jeff Griffin and deputies Jason Kling and John Jarreau of the Sheriff’s Department for their bravery in the line of duty in separate incidents involving a near drowning and an attempted suicide earlier in the year.