From the development of a fifth section of Renwick, the opening of a chain retail store and Tour du Teche to the conviction of both a former councilwoman and a former fire chief as well as the loss of a high school football hero, the Town of Berwick has seen its share of dramatic highs and lows in 2012.
Phase five of Renwick Subdivision is nearing completion this month. It was transferred to the Berwick Development District by ordinance Tuesday in preparation for the sale of 33 new lots upon completion. Officials awarded a $1.15 million contract to construct 33 new lots in Phase V of Renwick Subdivision to LA Contracting Enterprise LLC in Thibodaux in April. Sidewalks, drainage and lot shaping are anticipated soon. Sales of the lots should begin in the new year.
Also on the positive side, a ribbon cutting was held Nov. 17 for the Dollar General store in Berwick. Construction was quickly completed after the town formally released land to clear the way for the store to be built.
The third annual Tour du Teche ended with record times and a new festival evolving on the Atchafalaya River waterfront in October.
The 99 kayakers and canoeists began the 135-mile course in Port Barre on Friday where they launched onto Bayou Teche for a 49-mile paddle to St. Martinville. On Saturday they made the 59-mile trip to Franklin and Sunday 46 paddlers made the final leg of the tour, a 27-mile journey to Berwick that included three portages.
This year organizers added a festival at the finish line that included more than 35 arts and crafts booth, games and food.
The Tour du Teche organizers are planning an additional tourism-building event off the water in April 2013. Pellerin said the plan is for 400 bicyclists to travel from Berwick to New Iberia to Breaux Bridge to Eunice.
On a tragic note, Miles Liner and his high school sweetheart, Taylor Adams, were returning from their colleges in Baton Rouge to Berwick High School in October to participate in a skit during the school’s homecoming pep rally when they were struck by Yancey Hebert, 46, of Pierre Part, on La. 70 near Shell Beach Road in Belle River.
Hebert was traveling east in a 2002 Chevy Silverado when he attempted to pass another vehicle traveling east, the sheriff said. Before he finished the maneuver, he hit the 2006 Nissan Sentra Liner was driving westbound head-on, Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack said.
Hebert was charged on a warrant with one count of vehicular homicide, driving left of center and one count of first degree vehicular negligent injuring. Liner died shortly after the accident.
Also affecting the town, Penny T. Crappell, a former Berwick councilwoman, pleaded no contest at the beginning of November to theft over $1,500 for the theft of nearly $59,000 from Berwick Elementary School where she worked as a secretary.
Crappell was ordered by the court to pay $77,347.54 in restitution to the school system. This includes $58,647.54 that will go directly to the school and an additional $18,700 the school system incurred in audit fees. She was arrested Aug. 23 by the Louisiana State Police on charges of theft and forgery. She resigned from both her town council and school system positions the day before.
Her position on the council is temporarily being filled by Jacki Ackel. There will be a special election to fill her seat April 6 with a runoff, if necessary, on May 4.
Further, Berwick’s former fire chief and a then-St. Martin Sheriff’s deputy was arrested in February for 10 counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.
Michael Touchet, 47, of Columbus Avenue in Bayou Vista, was charged on a warrant for 10 counts of indecent behavior with a 13-year-old Berwick girl.
After a joint investigation with the St. Mary Parish and St. Martin Parish sheriff’s offices and the Berwick Police Department, the warrant was issued. It stemmed from electronic conversations, over a period of about one month, with the juvenile.
He pleaded guilty July 9 to one count indecent behavior with a juvenile and received a suspended sentence of five years at hard labor, five years’ probation and a $1,000 fine.
Also in Berwick this year:
—In response to concerns raised by Morgan City resident Cornell Keeler at the June meeting of the Berwick Town Council, a professional demographer was invited to address the council in July. The town was found not to be in any violation. The current demographics of Berwick do not allow a majority-minority district.
—Allen “Noonie” Rink, was elected without opposition in January to become the Berwick fire chief. He was approved unanimously during the following council meeting, replacing Mike Touchet as the fire department’s chief prior to Touchet’s arrest. The chief is the only paid member of the department. He also served as a volunteer in Morgan City for about four years.