Judge approves Lafayette’s lawsuit settlement plan

A federal judge has signed off on city-parish government’s plan to use tax money dedicated to mosquito control to pay a $3.4 million settlement in a lawsuit over the City-Parish Council’s decision to block a planned garbage transfer station in north Lafayette.

Revenue from the parish’s 1.5-mill mosquito control tax is legally restricted for work to control mosquitoes and other insects.

But city-parish attorneys argued in court filings that the money could be used for the settlement because the blocked garbage transfer station might have attracted insects, including mosquitoes.

City-parish government had asked U.S. District Judge Richard Haik to order that the mosquito control money be used to pay the settlement, a move that overrides state law provisions on how dedicated tax revenue should be spent.

Haik has granted that request, according to court documents made public Thursday.

The mosquito control property tax brings in more revenue than has been used for mosquito control, so the settlement funds can be taken from the more than $5 million in savings that have built up in the mosquito control fund in recent years. It is one of the few areas of a strained city-parish budget to find $3.4 million without a corresponding cut.

City-Parish President Joey Durel characterized the settlement deal as “the lesser of all evils.”

City-Parish Councilman William Theriot, one of two council members to oppose the settlement, said Thursday he feels voters might question the use of dedicated mosquito control money for the payout, even if a federal judge signs off on it.

“Going forward, people will be wary about approving any new taxes,” Theriot said.

The settlement ends a lawsuit that Waste Facilities of Lafayette filed over the council’s decision in 2011 to block a planned garbage transfer station that the company was developing on Sunbeam Lane in north Lafayette.

Residents in the area had raised concerns about noise, odors and trash.

Waste Facilities had already purchased the property, obtained permits and started construction, and the company responded to council’s move with a federal lawsuit seeking damages for money tied up in the project and for futures losses.

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 Theriot and Jared Bellard voted against the settlement.

The garbage company that planned to lease the transfer station, Progressive Waste Solutions of LA, filed a separate lawsuit against city-parish government.

That case is pending.