PLAQUEMINE — A standing room only crowd packed into the Iberville Parish Council chamber Tuesday night for a public hearing about modifying the classification of some land where Shintech Louisiana LLC may — or may not — build a $1.5 billion plant.
The council, in an unrelated matter, also set a public hearing on a proposed “sagging pants” ordinance.
Shintech purchased 2,558 acres in 2008 that at the time was regulated as an industrial area for Union Carbide.
The council decided last month it needed to amend the ordinance to classify the property that way for Shintech, hence Tuesday’s public hearing.
Since last month’s meeting, however, Iberville Parish officials discovered they only needed to pass a resolution changing the name on the classification from Union Carbide to Shintech.
“The Police Jury back then previously identified it as an industrial area so there is no need to change the law,” said Edward A. “Lucky” Songy Jr., parish administrator. “It has already been designated that for over 40 years.”
Just the possibility of a new plant and the jobs it would bring apparently drew the large crowd of more than 80 residents. A dozen people spoke in favor of the change.
“We need the work for our children,” Dorothy Williams said.
“We don’t have no problems with Shintech; we need the jobs. We don’t want our children to be farmers,” Vera Brooks added.
Darren Banks said a Shintech expansion “is a gift from God,” and P. Edward Cancienne Jr., superintendent of the parish school system, told how they are producing well-educated students ready to get high-paying jobs.
The only opposing view was from local environmental activist Les Ann Kirkland, who accused Shintech and other chemical plants of bringing “poison, sickness and death” to the area.
She also said elected officials, without naming names, took “money under the table” to approve these kinds of agreements, an accusation council Chairman Matthew H. Jewell took offense to.
“I take issue with that,” Jewell said in a loud voice. “Your time is up — you can sit down!”
He later apologized for his emotional response, saying “I got too upset, but what was said was a little too low.”
Shintech plant manager David Wise said after the meeting the size of the crowd showed community support for the company but advised caution regarding the plant expansion.
“As far as the project goes, we are still in the early stages even if we build it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the council agreed to hold a public hearing prior to the March 18 meeting on what is being called a “sagging pants” ordinance.
The ordinance would lay out fines for people who wear pants or skirts in public places that expose their undergarments or skin below the waist.
The law, if passed, would only apply outside of municipalities and would be enforced by law enforcement officers.
Conviction of a first offense would be a $50 fine, $100 for second offense and $100 and 16 hours of community service for third offense.
Parish Council member Louis “Pete” Kelley brought it up last month and said in an interview prior to Tuesday’s meeting that he’s proposing the ordinance “for the welfare and the safety of the people of this parish. We’ve got to protect the people of this parish.”