Drainage board appointments contested
The appointment of members to one of the various drainage district boards across the parish is usually a fairly routine matter for the Acadia Parish Police Jury.
Not so Tuesday night.
Four terms of office on the Fourth Ward Drainage District No. 1 board were expiring. Three of the members were being considered for reappointment. The fourth was to be replaced.
But Tim Villemarette, who lives in the district, asked jurors to reconsider the recommended replacement of Jerryl Thompson.
Villemarette, who has seen his flood insurance premiums go up from $245 to $1,200 a year since he moved into his home, explained that he has been flooded twice since 2014 and that Thompson had been working with Congressman Clay Higgins on a federal grant that would alleviate the threat.
Villemarette blamed the flooding on “a person who bought property south” of his residence and who he claimed removed drainpipes from the property.
He said he had complained to the drainage board on a number of occasions but his complaints were always dismissed.
Though Villemarette did not name his neighbor to the south, Rachel Bertrand next addressed the jury denying that she had removed any pipes from her property.
She said she was “shocked” at the accusations and that she, herself, had been a victim of the 2016 flood as well.
“I don’t want to discuss this too much because the judge hasn’t heard everything,” she said, referencing the ongoing lawsuits she has with neighbors and the drainage board.
“The problem with the ditch is that the drainage board hasn’t done their job,” she said. “If somebody has been on the board for 20 years and hasn’t done their job, I don’t see why you’re going to give them more money.”
Board members in that district are paid a stipend of $150 a month.
Thompson also addressed the jury, acknowledging that he had, indeed, been working closely with Congressman Higgins and that he felt relief was at hand when the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down.
He said he was afraid if he was removed from the board, the process would be forced to start from the beginning.
But Renada Broussard, grants manager for the jury, disputed that claim and said that “to the best of my knowledge,” the process would continue through the district’s board of directors.
“If this grant comes in — and I think it will in a year, maybe 18 months — then I’ll resign from the board,” Thompson said in closing.
But the jury voted unanimously to replace Thompson with Robert Clayton.
Jurors also voted unanimously to reappoint Pat Schultz, Robert Leger and Carl Hetzel to the Fourth Ward Drainage District No. 1 board.