Answering the call
Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine, during a city council meeting held Tuesday via teleconference, gave a local update on the coronavirus.
She asked residents to abide the stay-at-home order but, if they have to leave, to use a mask or bandana or some covering over their nose and mouth. “This is not over,” said Mayor Vidrine. “Yesterday was one of the worst days in the state for deaths in 24 hours. We’re at 39 cases in Evangeline Parish. Testing results are still coming in. I want to give a big heartfelt thank you to Savoy Medical Center for doing the testing in Evangeline Parish. We appreciate them so much for doing the testing!” She also thanked Governor Edwards for having testing kits sent to Savoy Medical Center.
Councilman Bryant Riggs commended the mayor and council for making changes during COVID-19, as far as curfews and shutting down the city. He said he has been hearing from officials in other cities that Ville Platte is “doing a good thing.”
Mayor Vidrine also thanked local stores for limiting the number of people in the store at one time to help slow the spread of the virus. “I want to commend them for that because it’s helping to minimize the impact of the virus on the city. Be patient because it’s helping to save lives.”
They emphasized people should stay home and only go out for groceries, gas, and medication. Elderly citizens are particularly susceptible and the most vulnerable. According to Mayor Vidrine, of the total cases of deaths from the virus, 70.48% is of the black population, 28.61% of the white population, and .90% is of the Asian population. Most of these people had underlying health conditions like liver disease, cancer, asthma, high blood reassure, diabetes, etc. Those people with underlying conditions stay home should stay home and try to get someone to get their basic needs for them.
Mayor Vidrine said she has been on briefings and conference calls daily with public health and government officials about the virus on every level. “There’s so many unknowns about the virus that people have,” said Vidrine. “They need to take it seriously, because someone can have it and not know it and be a carrier of it. Evangeline parish has not reached its apex of this virus. Thank God we have not lost anyone in Evangeline Parish. My greatest fear is that our hospitals will be overwhelmed and we’d have to use the Civic Center for overflow. I’m asking people to stay home. Everyone is worried everywhere about sending our people to a convention floor to a makeshift hospital, hoping there will be ventilators. That’s why I update every day. We may be making sacrifices this year, but it’s so we can all be around next year.”
Mayor Vidrine also spoke with Governor Edwards. She said the city has a D rating when it comes to COVID-19 because citizens are not following the recommended procedures. “Our response was positive but people aren’t listening,” she said.
Mayor Vidrine also said she has been in talks with Senator Bill Cassidy and Congressman Mike Johnson. She spoke with them about another stimulus package coming from the federal government. She said the smaller municipalities do not get the funding they need. The states usually get the funding and disperse it to the municipalities, but the larger cities usually get the bulk of it, which sometimes leaves the smaller and rural towns and cities without adequate funding. She asked the senator and congressman to ask for the government money to be sent directly to the municipalities rather than the state for disbursement. “There will be some difficult days ahead when businesses are closed and people are out of work.” she said. “We want to make sure we get our share of the package. Senator Cassidy and Congressman Johnson are in Washington, working for the small municipalities. I want to thank them for looking out for us. Most of the money goes to the bigger cities and understandably so, but our problems are still our problems. When the bigger cities take the money, there’s nothing left for the smaller cities. ”
The council then encouraged small business owners to apply for the SBA (Small Business Administration) loans, with the mayor saying to try different programs to see for which ones they qualify. She said if any small business owner has a question about the grants to call 337-831-0852 and someone can help them with the applications. There are options where these loans will not have to be paid back, as long as the owners retain their employees. Right now, some loans are 0% interest.
The council also discussed a state grant they received which allows for road repair work. Each council member was to list three streets that needed the most work in their district. For now, the grant will be used to repair and/or repave the two most heavily-trafficked streets in each district. Once the money is exhausted, they will use the road and drainage funds the city has available. Work will begin in the summer. Councilman Bryant Riggs said COVID-19 will not impair construction.
Later in the meeting, Councilman Riggs asked the mayor about payments for the police units and city vehicles. She said they will take the payments and put them in the LAMP (Louisiana Asset Management Pool) account to earn interest and make a balloon payment at the end of the year. Riggs said they will save more money applying the balance to the bank payments monthly rather than putting it in LAMP. So far, they have around $214,000 in LAMP, and in 3 months made around $850 in interest. Mayor Vidrine said she wants to get more information to see if putting money in LAMP would gain more interest or if it would be more beneficial to make payments each month. It will be discussed at the next meeting.
In other business, the council approved the hire of two new officers to the Ville Platte Police Department. The council commended Police Chief Neil Lartigue and the police department for making arrests in the string of burglaries that plagued the city over the course of several months. Councilman Riggs also lauded the chief on the police response time since the department dispatch is going through 911.
The council also approved the naming of Fabian Poullard as Fire Chief and Jacob Demmourelle as assistant chief.
It was further decided City Hall will remain closed to the public until further notice, however payments can still be made on the website, over the phone, or at the drive-thru, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. City Hall will be closed completely Tuesdays and Thursdays, but for emergencies, citizens an call 363-3763 on those days. The public is still responsible for paying their utility bills, but Councilman Riggs questioned if they can work with someone who was laid off due to COVID-19 who would not be able to pay off their balance. Vidrine said they will look into it, but they encouraged citizens to file for unemployment if they got laid off from their jobs.