City-parish to use mosquito funds for settlement

City-parish officials hope to use tax money paid for mosquito control to fund a $3.4 million settlement in a lawsuit filed over the City-Parish Council’s decision to block a proposed garbage transfer station, according to court filings Wednesday.

Although the property taxes were paid by parish residents to fund mosquito control programs, attorneys for city-parish government argued in court filings that the use of the money for the settlement is appropriate because the garbage transfer station might have attracted mosquitoes or other insects.

The 1.5-mill mosquito control tax brings in more annual revenue than has been used for mosquito control programs, so the settlement money could be pulled from built up savings.

City-Parish President Joey Durel said in an email that using mosquito control funds to pay the Waste Facilities settlement was “the lesser of all evils.”

He said the money likely would have sat in the bank because it could not be used for any purpose unrelated to mosquito control unless voters approved rededicating the money.

As part of the agreement to resolve the lawsuit, city-parish government requested that a federal judge order that the settlement money be paid from the mosquito control fund, a move that overrides any state law restrictions on how the dedicated tax money can be used.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, there was no indication in the court record of a ruling on whether the settlement money could come from the fund.

At issue in the litigation was the council’s decision in 2011 to block a planned garbage transfer station on Sunbeam Lane in north Lafayette after residents and business owners in the area spoke out against the facility.

The developer of the site, Waste Facilities of Lafayette, already had purchased the property, obtained necessary permits and started construction.

The company filed a federal lawsuit against city-parish government seeking damages for money tied up in the project and futures losses.

City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert had cautioned council members before the 2011 vote that city-parish government could face paying damages extending into the “millions of dollars” for blocking a project midstream that had met all permitting requirements.

Waste Facilities had demanded nearly $7 million from Lafayette city-parish government before filing a lawsuit over the issue.

The council voted 7-2 last month to approve the settlement with Waste Facilities but did not discuss the details in public at the time.

Voting to approve the settlement were councilmen Brandon Shelvin, Kevin Naquin, Jay Castille, Kenneth Boudreaux, Andy Naquin, Donald Bertrand and Keith Patin.

Councilmen William Theriot and Jared Bellard voted against the settlement.