By Paul Purpura, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Westwego’s elected officials Monday night continued sounding their alarm over a company’s plan to ship coal through the West Jefferson city in uncovered rail cars, to a shipping facility in Plaquemines Parish.
The council last month enacted a resolution, expressing its unhappiness over a proposal to roll coal through the city. Now the city is considering a public hearing.
“There’s probably not a way we’re going to be able to stop them,” Councilman Glenn Green conceded during a City Council meeting.
But Green said the city could put restrictions in place that regulate when the trains could pass through the city. Green raised his concerns during a council meeting last month, saying he and other officials learned of a proposal through news reports on Ram Terminal’s plans for a new coal export facility near Ironton.
“They did not notify us,” Green said. “They did not let us know they are going to do this.”
Mayor Johnny Shaddinger said the Regional Planning Commission is addressing the coal proposal and is planning public hearings. “No coal” signs are sprouting up on some West Bank lawns. Green says he has one.
There was confusion among councilman on where the coal originates. Green says the coal will be shipped down from Nebraska on trains, crossing into West Jefferson on the Huey P. Long Bridge. Councilman Larry Warino said he was told the coal would be transferred from river barges to trains at Baton Rouge. No one had an answer.
Gretna officials have pushed rerouting the trains, to keep them out of that city. Westwego officials have said they don’t have that option.
In other business, the council:
•Heard Mayor Johnny Shaddinger said he expects that the council will hearing a presentation during its August meeting, from Creating Marketing, the firm the city hired to rebuilt the city’s website. Shaddinger said once up and running, residents will be able to pay water bills and property taxes through the website.
•Heard state Rep. Robert Billiot, D-Westwego, congratulate Joshua Butler Elementary School Principal Denise Rehm, for her being selected Saturday as principal of the year by the state Board of Education. It’s a statewide honor. “What a wonderful honor for our community,” Billiot said. “I think it’s great pride for our community. Mayor Johnny Shaddinger added, “What a great honor.”
•Awarded a contract to Armstrong Construction LCC, to renovate the Martin House, a historic structure at 306 Sala Ave., into a Westwego tourism center and musicians hall of fame. Armstrong, one of two companies to seek the contract, submitted a $597,000 bid, Shaddinger said. The bids were opened last week, he said. The renovation could be finished in six months after it begins.
•Rescinded a round of bids for 67 commercial, semi-automatic water meters, for businesses inside the city. The city has been seeking water meters for the businesses to more accurately determine their water usage. City officials are hoping to get the meters less expensively. The city has budgeted $50,000 for new meters. Mayor Johnny Shaddinger said that the city could get automated meters, or those allowing readers to read the meters from their vehicles using transmitters and a handheld receiver, for $60,000. Councilman Glenn Green said he would contribute $10,000 from is discretionary fund to make up the difference. Shaddinger said the city potentially could get automated meters for the 3,500 residential customers in the city.
•At Councilman Glenn Green’s request, adopted a resolution opposing federal legislation, H.R. 3086, that would bar state and local governments from collecting taxes on Internet access. The Louisiana Municipal Association is urging local governments in the state to urge their congressional delegates to vote against the federal proposal, Green said. “We don’t right now, but if we decided to shore up our financial base, we would not be able to do it,” Green said.
•Was briefed on Saturday’s municipal auction, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 401 Fourth St. The city is selling off excess property, including vehicles, computers, lawn equipment and a 1949 caboose, Mayor Johnny Shaddinger said. “It’s overall cleaning house of equipment we no longer use,” Police Chief Dwayne “Poncho” Munch said. The public can view the items Friday until 3 p.m., and Saturday morning up to 10 a.m.
•Voted to allow Mayor Johnny Shaddinger to seek a price on a booster pump that would increase the water pressure for residents who live south of the Westbank Expressway. The city has wrangled with the problem for years. “We got to start somewhere, so we need a figure to know what we’re looking at,” Councilman Norman Fonseca said.