BY HENRI LEJEUNE
Special to The Advocate
August 17, 2012
NEW IBERIA —The Iberia Parish Council vote of 7-6 Wednesday ended discussion of a proposed consolidation of government agencies and services parishwide.
A majority vote of eight council members was needed to move forward Councilman David Ditch’s resolution to discuss legislation that could create a unified municipal-parish government.
Ditch said his resolution did not mean he was calling an election, but that he wanted District Attorney Phil Haney’s office and state Sen. Fred Mills’ office to send lawyers to the next council meeting to discuss the consolidation process and advise them on what rights various governing agencies have should the parish decide to move on consolidation.
“What I want is to get the discussion going,” Ditch said.
Ditch said 39 government officials represent the people of the parish. The parish has a council, and several cities, including Delacambre, Jeanerette, Loreauville and New Iberia, have their own city councils. Ditch suggested that fewer people could represent the interests of the entire parish more efficiently under consolidation.
Ditch said Terrebonne Parish consolidated all its governments into one in 1984, and that parish has seen growth and prosperity as a result. He added that there are also duplicated services on parish and city levels in Iberia, and consolidation will help to save money.
Council members Ditch, Thomas Landry, Troy Comeaux, Ricky J. Gonsoulin, Jerome Fitch, Aquicline Arnold and Marty Trahan voted for the resolution. Maggie Daniels, Lloyd Brown, Curtis Baudoin, Roger Duncan, Glenn Romero, and David Wayne Romero voted against the motion. Bernard Broussard was absent.
Duncan told Ditch that he has been on the council 13 years and residents in his district do not want to consolidate government. He added that it will not save money as Ditch says because those serving on a smaller council will get paid more.
Comeaux said he wanted to move forward the consolidation discussion so the council could gauge public opinion to see if residents want a change in government. He said ultimately the voters would decide.
Daniels said she did not think the public will support consolidation easily. She suggested the council look at consolidating services first.
Ditch said the council’s unanimous approval of a resolution at Wednesday’s meeting to ask the city of New Iberia to consolidate parks and recreation programs is evidence of what is possible when consolidation is pursued.
Fitch said he thinks government works better the more representatives there are in relation to the population, but he said he thinks consolidation was a worthwhile idea.
Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the council voted unanimously without discussion to table appointing a new chief administrative officer and human resources director to Parish President Errol “Romo” Romero’s office.
The two positions have not been filled for two months after Joel Dugas and Peggy Migues resigned in June. The council tabled the resolution at Errol Romero’s request.