Mandeville City Council to meet on Port Marigny
Kim Chatelain of The Times-Picayune reports that The Mandeville City Council’s special meeting scheduled Wednesday night (Sept. 28) will be held at City Hall, but future meetings might be moved to the Paul Spitzfaden Community Center because of decision to enforce the fire code capacity in the council chamber. The fire code decision kept about 30 people from entering last week’s meeting to discuss the controversial Port Marigny development — and likely will reignite talk of enlarging the 40 year-old City Hall building.
The council chamber’s capacity is 49, but city officials said they were surprised when Jason Kauffmann of St. Tammany Fire Protection District 4 advised those attending the Sept. 21 meeting that the limit would be enforced. Kaufmann said city officials were advised almost a year ago that Mandeville must take steps to address the crowding issue and that he would no longer allow the room to be packed beyond capacity (NOLA.com).
Because of the ensuing brouhaha, the council has made tentative plans to hold future meetings at the community center directly across the street from City Hall. Council clerk Kristine Scherer said Wednesday’s special meeting to discuss Port Marigny will be held at City Hall. The meeting is set to start at 5 p.m. with an executive session to discuss possible litigation over the residential and commercial development proposed for the city’s lakefront. What is expected to be a brief public session will follow at around 7 p.m (NOLA.com).
Meanwhile, Mandeville has been granted waiver by the state fire marshal’s office to allow as many as 72 people in the chamber. That exemption expires Oct. 31.
Scherer said the 200-person-capacity community center has been reserved for the Oct. 13 and 27 council meetings. The council will have the option of moving those meetings to the center if it expects that more than 72 people will attend (NOLA.com).
Mayor Donald Villere said the city-owned Spitzfaden community center is a viable option for council meetings, although the sound system is not designed for meetings of legislative bodies. He said there is only one microphone that will have to be passed around by council members during discussions (NOLA.com).
Villere said it’s unfortunate that the fire code was enforced as the council debates the controversial 78-acre Port Marigny project, which has been deemed one of the most significant in the city’s history. It has drawn significant community interest and opposition (NOLA.com).
Even though he has pushed a proposal to renovate and enlarge City Hall, Villere said he had nothing to do with the enforcement of the fire code; Kaufmann agreed. Villere said Monday that the need for an update to City Hall has been evident for quite some time (NOLA.com).
“We need to do something,” Villere said. “We need a room that is more suitable for the kinds of meetings that we have.”
City officials last year discussed a complete renovation and expansion of the 41-year-old government building. But the council voted down a resolution to have architect Kieran Weldon design the project (NOLA.com).
During budget hearings this summer, the council and mayor once again sparred over the expansion project. Ultimately, the council opted to leave Villere’s allocation of $250,000 in the capital budget for design work on the expansion. The cost of the entire project is expected to exceed $2.5 million, city officials have said (NOLA.com).
Villere said he hopes to bring a contract for the architectural work to the council in the near future. The idea is not only to add space but reconfigure the existing space to make it more user friendly. City Hall is now a maze of hallways, a layout that makes it difficult for people to find their way when doing business with government (NOLA.com).
The council chamber was designed for a much smaller city. Villere said the size of the meeting room was actually reduced a number of years ago to create more office space (NOLA.com).
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