LAFAYETTE — Some City-Parish Council members held behind-the-scenes discussions of possibly reversing a vote that blocked a controversial garbage transfer station off Sunbeam Lane in north Lafayette, according to court testimony Wednesday.
The council voted unanimously in October to block the transfer station at the urging of residents and business owners in the area, prompting federal lawsuits against city-parish government by the developer of the site and the garbage company that planned to lease it.
Councilman William Theriot testified in a Wednesday court hearing related to that litigation that Councilman Keith Patin approached him twice in the past two months to ask if he would consider revisiting the vote.
Theriot testified that Patin said allowing the garbage transfer station to be built could resolve the pending lawsuits and save city-parish government “a lot of money.”
Patin approached Theriot and another council member the first time in the hall at the council office and the second time in the parking lot after a council meeting, Theriot said.
Theriot said he could not remember which other councilman was with him the first time, but Councilman Andy Naquin was with him in the parking lot.
Patin had joined all the other council members in opposing the transfer station when it came up for a vote last year, and — if Theriot’s recollection is correct — it is unclear why Patin had a change of heart.
Patin was not at the court hearing and declined comment when asked later about Theriot’s testimony, saying City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert advised him not to discuss the issue because it relates to ongoing litigation.
Theriot’s testimony came during a court hearing in a lawsuit filed against city-parish government by Waste Facilities of Lafayette, which was developing the 16-acre transfer station to lease to waste hauler Progressive Waste Solutions of LA.
The owner of a business near the site, Danny Guilliot, had asked U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill to be allowed to join the lawsuit out of fear the City-Parish Council, when faced with potentially costly litigation, would change course and allow the garbage transfer facility to be built.
Wednesday’s hearing concerned Guilliot’s request to intervene, a request he decided to drop Wednesday after the attorney for Waste Facilities, Henry Perret, told the judge the company now has no interest in developing the site, only in recovering monetary damages for the council’s vote to block it.
Although Guilliot dropped his request, the litigation is still moving forward.
Theriot’s testimony came earlier in the court hearing, when Guilliot’s attorney, Max Jordan, was trying to demonstrate why Guilliot had concerns about the council reversing its earlier vote to block the transfer station.
“We’re still hearing that there is some open conversations to try and reverse and repeal the ordinance by some members of the council,” Guilliot testified, noting that Theriot was one of the councilmen who told him about the talk of repeal.
Theriot was then called to the stand and questioned about specifics.
He was at first reluctant to talk about who approached him about a possible repeal, but then named Patin after the judge instructed him he was legally required to answer questions about the conversations.
Theriot said he has no intentions of revisiting the ban on the garbage transfer station.
The issue appears to be moot after Waste Facilities’ attorney stated the company is not interested in reviving the project, but the judge cautioned that the company’s assertions in court would not prevent the council from approving an out-of-court settlement that would allow the project to move forward.
The lawsuit does not request any specific amount of money, but before the lawsuit was filed, Waste Facilities had sent a demand letter to city-parish government asking for $6.9 million in damages.
The company had already purchased the property and started construction when the council halted work there by revoking a building permit for the facility.
Progressive Waste had planned to lease the site for use as transfer station to off-load garbage onto tractor-trailers to haul to a landfill outside of the parish.
Progressive Waste has also filed a lawsuit against city-parish government.
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