UPPJ fires public works director Landfill to begin selling captured natural gas

By Luke Britt
The Union Parish Police Jury fired Public Works Director Tommy Durrett during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday.
The vote to remove Durret came after a meeting of the jury’s personnel committee earlier in the day produced a recommendation that the director be terminated for “poor performance.” The jury did not disclose a specific reason for Durret’s firing during the meeting, and jury President Glen Hutto said on Wednesday that the jury could not publicly discuss the termination.
State law prohibits public officials from publicly discussing the reasons why a public employee has been terminated.
Durret, whose career included serving for years with the Claiborne Parish public works department, was hired in December 2022 at an annual salary of $90,000. During the second half of last year, Durret came under fire from some jurors who accused him at various times of circumventing the parish road maintenance plan, authorizing projects the cost of which exceeded his authority, and ignoring specific instructions given to him by the jury.
Durret said at that time that his decisions, including those jurors disagreed with, were within his authority to make and were in the best interest of the parish.
After the vote, Durret said, “Thank you for the opportunity to come over here, and I’ll be back to address you, officially.”
New revenue from Landfill
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the jury voted to accept a proposal from Gulf Coast Renewable Energy, LLC to install equipment at the Union Parish Landfill that will capture the natural gas produced by the landfill waste and pipe it out for sale as renewable natural gas (RNG).
Much of the material deposited in landfills produces methane as it decomposes, and because the waste is buried and sealed, the methane eventually accumulates to an amount that makes it financially worthwhile to capture it. Also, the gas produced in landfills is extremely clean, meaning it requires little or no processing before sale and, thus, returns a higher profit for gas companies than other forms of natural gas.
If a capture program was not implemented, juror Ben Bridges said, eventually the parish would be spending money to install equipment to release and burn off the gas in a process known as flaring.
Bridges said the landfill should reap more than $200,000 a year from the program. In its proposal to the jury, Gulf Coast estimated the parish’s royalty payments could be as much as $300,000 a year by 2025.
According to the agreement with Union Parish, Gulf Coast will bear the cost of purchasing and installing the gas capture equipment and pipelines, and the program should be generating royalties within the next several months.
Insurance for Constables and JOPs
Also on Tuesday, the jury approved a motion to begin offering the same insurance package offered to parish employees to the parish’s constables and justices of the peace, who currently are not covered by parish insurance. State law requires the parish to provide insurance coverage to people in those positions if the employee wants the coverage.
According to the parish budget, employee insurance cost about $12,600 per employee, per year.
In other business
The jury approved the purchase of a new excavator from Bayou Kabota at a cost of $118,972.
The jury approved an unplanned road maintenance project to repair parts of Patrick Church Road where maintenance performed last year has failed.
The jury approved the purchase of a third front-load garbage truck at a cost of $377.362.
The jury voted to remove a portion of a concrete slab at the Union Parish Airport that is interfering with construction of a new hangar.

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