FRENCH SETTLEMENT – “This is our second ribbon cutting for this building,” French Settlement Mayor Toni Guitreau said as she held a red ribbon and pair of scissors on Thursday.
But this ribbon cutting as important as the first in 2009, to mark the new offices of the Town Hall.
“We have a nice place to work,” she said. “We’re taking things one at a time. We could live here for a couple of years.”
The storage building is behind French Settlement’s Town Hall, which faces La. 16. The Great Flood of 2016 did not spare the Town Hall.
When FEMA turned down the town’s request for a trailer, the town converted the storage shed into a waiting room, office for mayor and town clerk, a room that will double as Mayor’s Court and Board of Aldermen’s meeting room and a room for the Police Department.
When French Settlement’s original Town Hall is open again, Guitreau said, the walls of the mayor and clerk’s office will come down and the space will be used to store boats.
But the restrooms and Police Department space will remain and be used for emergencies such as weather events.
It has cost $4,000 to replace furniture and materials, she said.
“We need more filing cabinets and desks,” she said.
Guitreau said the former Town Hall was outfitted through grants the town applied for, totaling $25,000. Most of that was lost to more than 3 feet of floodwater.
Meanwhile, Assistant Police Chief Lawrence Callender said the Police Department is waiting for a computer to help set up the Intoxilizer 9000 assigned to it by the State Police.
The device is used to test drivers to determine if they are legally intoxicated.
Other law enforcement agencies – even the state Department of Wildlife & Fisheries -- will be able to use the Intoxilizer or the Police Department space, he said.
The department also has a fax line now, something many offices take for granted, he said, and can scan material and email it.
Callender also warned the Mayor’s Court will be ready if anyone violates French Settlement’s anti-dumping ordinance by dumping materials off La. 16 where the parish had a dumping area.
That area is closed to dumping, he said, and violators face a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail.
The mayor said she was thankful and praised the help of Father Jason Palermo and St. Joseph Catholic Church for allowing them to work out of a hall there.
The next step in repairing the original Town Hall awaits a decision by FEMA, the mayor said.
FEMA is checking the elevation grade of the building to decide how it will help the town, she said.
And while they wait, the mayor looks to the positive side.
“Nobody died in French Settlement from the flood,” Guitreau said.
“We need to have a good spring without flooding and a good summer,” she said. “We will get there.”