St. James council considers environmental consultant

The St. James Parish Council is considering hiring an environmental consultant to help officials determine the parishwide impact of proposed industrial projects.

Bliss M. Higgins, of ENVIRON International Corp.’s Baton Rouge office, told the Parish Council on Tuesday her role, if hired, would be to review industry applications for proposed projects in the parish, consider potential risks from the projects and help reduce these risks.

Higgins said her company’s role is not to advise the parish on whether to allow industries to build there but to keep officials “better informed” and to know what kind of information to seek out and which questions to ask.

Industrial growth within St. James Parish over the past few years has included expansions or new construction taking place from several major corporations including Nucor Corp., NuStar Energy LP and Wolverine Terminals LLC.

Some local residents are not thrilled with this industrial growth.

Just three months ago, the Parish Council endorsed a resolution opposing the proposed site of Wolverine Terminals LLC’s crude oil terminal and blending operation in Paulina after many residents opposed the industry’s choice to move into a residential area.

Wolverine Terminals seeks to construct a $30 million crude oil terminal and blending operation on a 15-acre Mississippi River site along La. 44 in Paulina.

Parish President Timmy Roussel specifically mentioned Wolverine Terminal LLC on Tuesday when he said ENVIRON International Corp. could, as part of its duties, attend future public hearings dealing with the crude oil shipment company.

Higgins could be the parish’s “voice and our eyes” at these public hearings, Roussel said.

Roussel said the consulting firm would be hired at an hourly rate on “an as-needed basis.” Higgins said she charges $225 per hour.

Councilmen seemed concerned with potential conflicts of interest, especially if the consulting firm also represented industries attempting to move into the parish.

Higgins said the company does have some industrial clients in St. James Parish and she personally would not represent the Parish Council if a conflict developed.

Also Wednesday, councilmen discussed the future of the St. James Parish Youth Detention Center, which closed June 30 because of new state regulations that would have driven up the cost to maintain the facility.

Parish officials have considered turning the facility, located on the on the west bank of the Mississippi Rover adjacent to the Sunshine Bridge, into a prisoner work-release program hub, a nursing home or a minimum security prison, but the facility still sits empty today.

“I feel that’s some prime property,” Councilman Terry McCreary said, speaking of the youth detention facility and its surrounding land recently appraised at $2.3 million.

Parish Director of Operations Jody Chenier said parish attorneys are still trying to determine if the facility is indeed owned by the parish due to some conflicting deeds and paperwork.

Roussel said there have been two companies interested in the real estate during the past three months but none has come forward to purchase the property yet.

Councilman Jimmy Brazan suggested demolishing the facility, if the parish cannot sell it, then sell the vacant land.

The Parish Council took no action on either matter Tuesday.