After surprise pay increases were approved at last night's budget adoption meeting, Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel spoke with "Your Afternoon Drive Home" to defend Lafayette Utilities System director Terry Huval's $100,000 raise, which Durel said was "a long time coming."

"We were losing people to other industries," Durel said of what he called "historic" pay raises — in some areas, as much as 46 percent — that were implemented in 2008.

But Durel said he and Huval agreed the Fiber system needed to get up and running before the LUS director's dual roles could be rewarded in pay.

"We knew what Terry's pay should be at that time and we ignored it," Durel said.

Huval has been offered multiple positions at utility companies nationwide with competitive pay, including director of the American Public Power Association, Durel disclosed. Huval was APPA chair 2007-2008.

The APPA represents the nation's more than 2,000 community-owned electric utilities that serve more than 45 million Americans, according to the organization.

"It comes down to treating it like a business," Durel said.

William Theriot, District 9, argued after the meeting last night that public servants shouldn't enter their positions expecting to become wealthy. Both he and Jared Bellard, District 5, were vocally opposed to the amended salaries during the meeting. The budget was passed with a 7-2 vote.

"I'm happy to say that seven out of nine councilmen recognized the need and the necessty and the appropriateness of this," he said.

Although the administration attributed the amended salaries to $800,000 in projected revenues not before considered — primarily through property taxes and a projected 2.5 percent increase in sales taxes — Durel reminded the public that LUS salaries are paid by rate-payers and not through taxes, and the unexpected revenues have no effect on the LUS budget.

"All the emotional stuff aside," Durel concluded, "if we lost Terry today, we would not get anyone to run his position for even what he's going to have after this pay raise."

To listen to Joey Durel's conversation on "Your Afternoon Drive Home," CLICK BELOW:

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