State of Emergency declared during emergency Council meeting
RAYNE - An emergency Council meeting was held Friday, March 20, when a “State of Emergency” was declared due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mayor Charles “Chuck” Robichaux, along with the City Council, met at City Hall at 2 p.m. to present and eventually approve a resolution, “Local Declaration of a State of Emergency,” as follows:
“The City of Rayne is working to minimize the impact to its citizens caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To reduce the burden this crisis has caused to the citizens of Rayne, the City will waive any “late fees” for a period of time beginning Friday, March 20, thru April 13, 2020. Any “re-connect fees” will also be waived if any past-due accounts are reconnected. These waivers of fees may be extended depending on the progression of the COVID-19 Pandemic. As such, The City of Rayne will move forward with scheduled disconnections of electrical accounts for non-payment. The City does intend to look at disconnections on a case by case basis each billing cycle as this pandemic continues to progress. Elderly Citizens, medical emergencies and those out of work as a result of COVID-19 that are in need of an extension, please contact City Hall at 337-334-3121.
Rayne held an emergency city council meeting, which authorized the mayor a degree of latitude and discretion in helping the elderly, and any other resident that might have been put in a position of needing assistance through “no fault of their own”. An important thing to remember is that it does not give the mayor any authority to pardon any payments. Eventually, all revenue owed to the city for utility bills must be collected, but payment plans may be given on a case by case basis.
The Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) informed “for profit” utility companies that they may not disconnect customers for non-payment. The City of Rayne and many other municipalities that provide utilities to their citizens are not governed by the LPSC. With regards to utility payments, Rayne is its own utility provider. However, we do not produce a single KW of electricity. We purchase our electricity through a wholesale provider and we must pay our bill each month as a city to keep power on for our citizens. The City of Rayne, like many municipalities in Louisiana, is financially dependent on utility sales to provide for vital services to our citizens, especially public safety, electric, water and sewer services. Because the sale of utilities to our citizens is such a major income to the municipality, the continued collection of utility payments is critical to continue funding essential City services.
We are actively working with City and State officials as well as other municipalities on a daily basis to make the best decisions possible in managing this unprecedented situation. We are actively looking for resources to aid those in need and we have no intention to further the economic burden on the members of our community whose circumstances have been altered due to COVID-19.
We are using social media as a tool to better connect with the community and to get out urgent information as quickly and efficiently as possible. We may not always get it right, but the goal is to keep you informed.
City services are being performed as usual. Anything that you need to be done via the city with regards to permits, setting up new accounts, or any other service, is being performed unless circumstances change. I want to thank each and every city employee and council member for the job they are doing during these trying times.”
Robichaux, along with the City Council, agree that safety measures must be followed for the good of not just a few, but the entire community.
“Not only in other places, but we have what could be an extreme emergency for our city out there,” stated Robichaux concerning the coronavirus pendemic. “We need everyone’s patience and understanding and everyone to work together to minimize the impacts and spread of the coronavirus. This is a dangerous thing and we want everyone safe and healthy.”
In addition to the approval of the State of Emergency resolution, the Council also approved one item under new business.
As presented by City engineer Tim Mader, the Council authorized the mayor to award a contract for “Water Service Reconnections” along LA Hwy 35 (south Hay 35) to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, contingent upon review and approval of the city engineer and city attorney.
“We have been repairing this line for a long time and we just need to bite the bullet and correct it for long-term,” stated Robichaux concerning the replacement of the new water line.
Plans and specs for the project were completed and submitted to DHH in February. A permit application was submitted to DOTD an approved in early March. The DHH also approved the plans at that time.
A bid process was set up by inviting five construction contractors to submit proposals and expected to receive responses on April 2, 2020.
“This project will cost the city about half out of pocket with the remaining paid by a grant awarded through the Community Water Enrichment Fund.