Sorrento Council meets to debate new programs and initiatives

Gina Zanutto

Mayor Wilson Longanecker and the Sorrento Council examined numerous new initiatives at the meeting on July 19, including an expanded garbage budget, an insurance licensing collection agency and an Ascension Parish business incentive system.

Karla Swacker, Market Developer and Municipal Accounts Manager for Allied Waste, explained to the council members that the growing fuel costs in the area and an overall inflation of the Consumer Price Index has caused waste collection prices to increase by $1.32 per household.

“We have experienced a 37 percent increase compared to this same period last year, largely due to a gasoline and diesel high spike,” Swacker said.

To remedy this plight, the council expanded the budget for trash collection, previously $18, by an even $2, bringing the cost per household to $20 a month. This resolution will be enacted August 1.

The Council also considered an insurance license tax collection agency, through Louisiana Municipal Advisory and Technical Services Bureau, which would alleviate strain on the Sorrento offices caused by tremendous amounts of paperwork. LaMATS would collect a three percent fee on each license and send the remaining amount to the local government via check.

“I like this plan,” Longanecker said. “It is essentially outsourcing, and it will help our staff.”

Ascension Economic Development Corporation CEO Mike Eades, with the aid of Director of Business Development Deanna Lafont, presented the outline for a business incentive system called “The Advantage Sorrento Program.”

“This plan includes potential programs to expand business in town,” Eades said. “It also includes strategic initiatives to attract and maintain business.”

The system would offer incentives, at the discretion of the Council, like sales tax rebates and tax payment schedule changes to both manufacturing and non-manufacturing organizations, provided they are taxable and are not non-profit groups. Programs similar to this outline have been successfully implemented in many other parishes in Louisiana, including East Baton Rouge and St. Tammany.

“Other parishes in Louisiana are doing this, and it puts us at a competitive disadvantage not to put it in place,” Lafont said.

The Council presented the new town attorney hired to replace Erin Lanoux, who resigned earlier this year. Attorney Greg Lambert stated he was currently in contact with Lanoux regarding recent issues in the region.

The Council also introduced an ordinance to increase the police chief salary from $2,500 a month to $2,750 a month, bringing the yearly wage to approximately $33,000 prior to taxes. Additionally, William Eddy was reappointed to the Planning and Zoning Board.

“He’s been on here a while, and he’s a really good guy,” Longanecker said.

Chief Earl Theriot highlighted an ongoing problem plaguing the Orange Grove region. The absence of street lights and other outdoor lighting structures are thought to be the cause of recent vandalism and burglaries in the area. Councilman Randy Anny admonished the Council about funding the $50-a-month electric bill, warning that the payments could drastically increase and “easily snowball.” The Council resolved to contact Orange Grove officials about the matter.

“If people want their lights on, they should be able to have them on,” Longanecker said.

Woodland Trace Improvement Construction plans, as well as advances on the aforementioned programs, will be discussed at the next meeting. This meeting was moved to Monday, August 1 due to several scheduling conflicts, including an informative “Night Out Event,” which highlights law enforcement agencies throughout the parish.