St. Landry president, council argue over contracts

St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot said during a contentious Parish Council meeting Wednesday that he won’t sign two contracts approved by the council.

The special council meeting featured harsh words from Councilman Alvin Stelly, directed at parish Chief Administrative Officer Jessie Bellard.

Stelly’s comment came after Fontenot and Councilwoman Pam Gautreau accused one another of acting improperly in the council’s approval of a parishwide weed-spraying contract and its appointment of an official journal for publishing legal news.

Apparently irritated by Bellard’s facial expression during the exchange, Stelly stood up and pointed his finger in Bellard’s direction, saying: “Don’t laugh, because if you do, I’ll wipe the smile off your face.”

Bellard, who sat alongside Fontenot, did not answer Stelly and the meeting adjourned shortly afterward.

Just before Stelly’s outburst, Gautreau told Fontenot that he was “abusing his power” as parish president by sometimes ignoring actions taken by the council.

Fontenot labeled Gautreau and several other council members that he did not name as “obstructionists,” who have in the past voted against some of his initiatives.

Fontenot said during the meeting that he would not sign a weed-spraying contract the council awarded to BrushMasters following a 5-4 vote with an abstention by Jimmie Edwards.

Fontenot told council members that despite having the low bid of $139,500, BrushMasters has not been in business for the three years required in the bid specifications.

The other companies competing for the bid were Manco Vegetation ($164,800) and DBI Service ($173,073).Fontenot recommended that Manco Vegetation receive the weed-spraying contract.

Bill Pondrom, who operates BrushMasters, told council members that he was threatened by Bellard not to bring the weed-spraying issue before the council.

Gautreau said Bellard should be fired for what he told Pondrom.

Bellard made no comment on Pondrom’s allegation during the meeting.

Voting to accept BrushMasters’ bid were Huet Dupre, Ronald Buschel, Stelly, Gautreau and Wayne Ardoin.

Those who voted “no” were Jerry Red Jr., Hurlin Dupre, Timothy LeJeune and Gary Courville.

Council members Fekisha Miller-Mathews and Dexter Brown did not attend the meeting.

In other matters, the council voted unanimously to designate the Opelousas Daily World as the official parish journal and the Eunice News as an auxiliary legal journal.