Shouting ends Sorrento meeting

Charlotte Guedry
Sorrento resident Henry Celestine tried to get answers to sewer problems in his home.

A special meeting called by the Sorrento Mayor and Council was brought to an abrupt halt recently, after council members and the Mayor were unable to get past item three on their agenda.

For months, disputes have been brewing ranging from the payment of attorney fees to sewer problems to a recreation land lease, with the hope being that the meeting would rectify these pressing issues. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case, as shouting between Mayor Wilson Longanecker Jr. and Councilman Randy Anny, soon saw Chief of Police Earl?Theriot bring the meeting to an end. Residents of the town were quick to shout back, as the overwhelming feeling of their voices not being heard by the Council was apparent.

The meeting began by taking a look at attorney fees for Karl Scott, who has been hired by the town to act as their counsel. Mayor Longanecker felt that the fees, which he has not paid in months, are high and need to be itemized so he can get a clear outline of what money needs to be paid what service. Attorney Scott’s office is fine with that decision, however, feels that all contracted workers must adhere to the same guidelines.

As the lengthy discussion continued, councilman John Wright brought forward a motion that the fees be paid, as the time of non payment had been lengthy. The council voted unanimously for this to happen, however, when Scott’s advocate, Attorney Donovan Hudson asked the Mayor when he could expect payment, he was told by Longanecker that he would “not sign any checks until he was happy with the billing.” Hudson was unhappy with the statement, and announced that he would be taking the matter further.

In a matter relating to a proposed recreation area lease, the Mayor and Council were again on opposite sides of the fence.

The proposed site for the new recreation area is an area near Braud and Eby streets, which currently has a baseball park and land for a walking trail.

The council believe the proposal of leasing the land is a positive move for the town, but Mayor Longanecker isn’t so sure, as he went on record as stating he feels councilmen may have something to do with the deal behind the scenes.

Longanecker is also unhappy with the terms of the lease, which apart from asking for a $75,000 downpayment on the land, is asking for monthly rent payments which, at 60 percent, would be a majority of the   gross monthly profits generated by the property.

“For us to pay that much money for that land raises questions to me about the legality of the lease,” he said.

Longanecker’s concerns about the legality of the lease were clear in his reading of a response from the 23rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which stated clearly that in the private sector, a lease of this description was not considered permissable.

Just before the meeting was brought to an end, residents with the town had begun asking hard hitting questions about their property in the wake of last year’s sewer crisis which led to a number of homes being damaged.

Insurance from the town has only paid a fraction of repairs on houses so far, and residents are not pleased with the steps being taken to rectify the situation. Some have taken loans out to pay for repairs themselves, and are demanding answers from a town divided in opinion.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Henry Celestine. I keep coming here and he (Mayor Longanecker Jr.) won’t tell me anything. He’s been and seen my house.?The Board of Health have been out there. I don’t think he’s cares. I really don’t. The sewer is making me sick, and the mayor don’t even care.”

At the close of the meeting,?Councilman Anny also called for all council members and the Mayor to take drug tests periodically, as he felt there was a specific need for the testing.