St. Landry council votes on library proposal, with reservations

The St. Landry Parish Council voted Wednesday night to introduce a proposed ordinance creating a parishwide library system. However, all but two council members said they wanted the districts they represent excluded from the ordinance.

Only council members Dexter Brown and Wayne Ardoin said they wanted to include their districts as part of the ordinance introduction.

None of the council members who voted to have their districts “opt out” of the ordinance introduction explained their reasons for doing so. Council member Ronald Bushel abstained and offered no explanation for his abstention.

The chairman of the St. Landry Parish Library Coalition, Bruce Gaudin, said after the meeting that he was disappointed many of the council members were excluding parish residents from voting for a parishwide library system if the issue is ever placed on a ballot.

Gaudin said he isn’t sure at this point about the future of the parishwide library system matter.

At a previous council meeting, Gaudin said St. Landry is the only parish in the state without a parishwide library system.

Gaudin told the council prior to the vote if a parishwide property tax proposition passes to fund the library system, it would generate about $3 million annually.

Parish President Bill Fontenot, a member of the Library Coalition, asked the council to approve the introduction even though it might have objections.

Fontenot said St. Landry Parish has a high illiteracy race and its residents have paid the price for not having a parishwide library system.

“I think the people should have a right and have an opportunity to vote on it. The introduction (of the ordinance) is the first step. Let the process go forward; let’s not stop it in its tracks,” Fontenot said.

The council, Gaudin said, would create a library board of five to seven members that would decide how the property tax revenue would be spent and what guidelines the library system would follow.

In a Feb. 10 letter to the council, Gaudin wrote that in 1966 voters rejected a parishwide library system proposal by 24 votes. Later that year, the St. Landry Parish Police Jury voted against calling another election for a parishwide library, Gaudin wrote.

Also in the letter, Gaudin wrote various libraries established in towns throughout the parish are “substandard and do not meet the requirements for certification” that have been established by the state.

Gaudin wrote the only way to rectify the parishwide libraries is to “obtain an adequate and secure funding source.”

In another matter, the council voted unanimously to accept Fontenot’s comments in a brief report concerning sanitary conditions at the St. Landry Parish Animal Shelter.

During a Feb. 5 Public Works Committee, volunteers who observed conditions at the shelter complained small animals were placed in pens filled with urine and feces and were exposed to the cold weather.

According to the committee report approved at Wednesday’s meeting, the volunteer group also complained dogs were being kept in cages built for cats.

The group has made other complaints not included in the committee report that some employees at the shelter were abusive to them when they attempted to cover some of the open pens to place protective covering to improve conditions for the animals during the cold weather.

Fontenot said shelter conditions at the shelter have improved since the group of volunteers first launched its complaints.