Broussard council tells developer to rethink aid request

The City Council suggested Tuesday that a local land developer re-evaluate his request for $375,000 to assist in building a charter school on a 34-acre tract behind the Stine home improvements store .

The developer, Talbott Ottinger, requested the money to help pay for certain infrastructure improvements, such as a retention pond, sewer improvements and the addition of a turning lane to address safety concerns.

National Heritage Academies, a Grand Rapids, Mich., company that was granted charters for two schools in October, will not provide buses to its schools.

“They’re going to build these schools in Lafayette Parish,” Ottinger said. “We are hoping it will be in Broussard. Our goal is to provide (NHA) a site they want to build on.”

Councilman Johnnie Foco said he had no problem helping with sewer and drainage but questioned paying for some of the other infrastructure improvements.

“The other stuff — a turning lane and water on his property to further the development — I have a problem using taxpayers’ money for that,” Foco said.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has already approved two charter schools for Lafayette Parish. Bob Dunston, of NHA, made it clear he was only at Thursday’s council meeting to discuss the potential location of the school, not academics.

“NHA is accountable and responsible to make sure the school performs,” Dunston said.

NHA operates 76 schools in nine states, including Louisiana. It serves more than 51,000 students, mostly in a kindergarten to eighth-grade program. NHA employs more than 4,000 people. Students who attend the charter schools can come from any parish and will not be chosen by any means of preference.

Several members of the audience appeared to voice concerns against charter schools themselves, but the council and Mayor Charlie Langlinais made it clear that was not the issue before the council at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We could be here to talk about the merits of charter schools for hours,” Langlinais said. “That is not our business. Tonight, we are only here to discuss the monies being requested. Our intent here is to help the development.”

Ottinger agreed to reevaluate his position and return with a proposition more suitable for the council’s liking.