Walter Pierce

LUS back at bat for rate hike

by Walter Pierce

The Lafayette Public Utitlies Authority — the five council members whose districts are majority city and who comprise the governing authority of Lafayette Utility Systems — will vote again Tuesday evening on an introductory ordinance granting LUS a rate hike. If the ordinance clears the LPUA is will go to the full nine-member council for a vote. The proposed 7.5-percent rate increase, spread out over two years, failed to muster a majority of votes on the LPUA in December, failing in introduction by a 3-2 vote.

However, there are indications that Tuesday’s vote will at least advance the rate hike to the full council. Newly elected LPUA chair Sam Dore of District 6, who joined councilmen Brandon Shelvin (District 3) and Kenneth Boudreaux (District 4) in voting against the rate hike last month, now says he plans to vote in favor of the rate hike both as an LPUA member and as part of the full council. His yes vote is expected to join the votes of Don Bertrand (District 7) and Keith Patin (District 8), who voted in favor of the rate hike in December, in giving the rate increase a 3-2 margin of victory by the LPUA.

Dore wavered initially on the hike, telling local media soon after being elected LPUA chair that he would vote for it in order to advance it to the full council for debate. But last week he told the INDsider he fully supports the proposed increase, although he is keen on amending the ordinance and possibly spreading the increase out over a longer period of time. “I toured the plants,” Dore said last week, “went and sat with [LUS Director] Terry Huval; we opened the books, we looked at everything. It’s just one of these deals, I mean, I don’t want a rate increase any more than you do or anyone else, but it’s just its time has come, and putting it off any more isn’t going to help anything.”

Huval has argued that the rate increase is critical to much-needed capital improvements for the public utility, and to maintain LUS’ record of reliability.

What remains to be seen is whether the ordinance will clear the full council. District 1 Councilman Purvis Morrison, who is not a member of the LPUA, has said in the past he would vote for the rate increase if the LPUA approves it. That would increase support for the rate increase to four out of nine members of the full council. But the other non-LPUA members of the council — Jay Castille (District 2), Jared Bellard (District 5) and William Theriot (District 9) — have kept their positions close to the vest.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda is a vote for final adoption of an ordinance by Boudreaux that would transfer fines collected through the red-light camera program to a Council Reserve Safety Fund, which would give the council more control of expenditures of those revenues. The ordinance passed unanimously when it was introduced on Jan. 5.

The council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Ted Ardoin City-Parish Council Auditorium.