Rayne City Council approves variance for RGH
The stage was set. Every seat in the city council chamber was filled and attendees spilled out into the hallway.
There was an audible shuffle as those fortunate enough to get a seat shifted and sat up when the agenda item was finally announced.
And then it was over.
With little fanfare, Lendell “Pete” Babineaux moved that Rayne Guest Home be granted the variance it sought regarding flood elevation requirements for its planned expansion. Curtrese Minix seconded. Kenneth Guidry and Calise Michael Doucet agreed and the variance was granted.
Councilman James “Jimmy” Fontenot abstained from voting, citing business dealings with some of the Guest Home owners.
At issue was a request from RGH that the city ordinance requiring all new construction be elevated to a height of 1 foot above the crown of the road be waived.
An $8.5 million expansion project planned at the Robert Street facility would have had to be raised nearly 10 inches higher than the existing facility to which it would be connected. This, according to RGH officials, would have caused undue hardship on residents.
The issue had first been presented to the council in October and was tabled for fear that the waiver would affect flood insurance premiums for citizens. That fear was proved unfounded.
“This is very positive for the community and, more important, for the residents of Rayne Guest Home,” said Karon Cook, president of the RGH board of directors.
Cook said that, if the variance had been denied, the facility would have moved north of Interstate 10.
“There was really no other option,” Ricky Bonin, administrator, said. ““There was no way we were going to put a slope in here. That was too dangerous.
“This way the revenue base stays in town. It’s good for the citizens of Rayne, our residents and our employees.”
Construction on the expansion project, which has been “in the works” for six years, had been scheduled to start the Monday after the October council meeting when the variance request was tabled.
“We should be able to start construction fairly quickly now,” Cook said after Monday night’s decision. “You might see some work out there later this week.”
It is expected to take 18 months to complete.