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Tax election called for May 2 for St. Charles Parish voters

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / January 23, 1998

HAHNVILLE – Voters in St. Charles Parish will go to the polls May 2 toconsider three items, including a new 1-mill recreation program tax. Theitems were approved Monday for the ballot by the Parish Council.

Also on the ballot are an item for renewing a 10-year 1.97-mill propertytax for recreation and for renewing a 10-year .98-mill property tax insupport of the Council on Aging programs for senior citizens.

As a trade-off for the new 1-mill tax, the ballot items states that duringany year the tax is collected the parish may not collect more than 1.13mills of the 2.16 mills authorized for the mosquito control program, andsince adjusted to 2.13 mills due to reassessment and revaluation.

Parish Councilman “Ram” Ramchandran called for a motion to separate the1-mill recreation item from the others, and said the new tax was”uncalled-for.”

He continued, “I am dead set against a new tax, and I urge you to strikethis out.”

No councilman did so, and the ballot item passed without change.

Parish Councilman Brian Champagne said later, “Chris put the recreationitem against the wall,” and said the matter should have been on the Jan.17 ballot to insure a backup election date.

However, Champagne continued, he supports parish recreation and added,”You’ve got to get it off the general fund and make it self-sustaining.”

COA Director Margaret Powe gave a brief presentation in support of theballot item for senior citizens programs.In other activity, a planned public hearing on the proposed Winn-Dixieside-access road was postponed to the Feb. 2 meeting, awaiting morebackground information.

Also, a $300,000 project to raise a segment of Ormond Boulevard by twofeet, between Airline Highway and the first set of railroad tracks, waschanged to add construction of a pump station, all in an effort to clear theroad of standing water.

“You’ve totally changed the scope of the project,” protested VickiTramonte of Destrehan, a former parish council member.

Parish President Chris Tregre explained it was determined merely addingsubsurface drainage improvements would not be enough to solve theproblem and that a pump station, raising the project’s total price to$760,000, would be necessary.

Parish attorney Randy Lewis advised that adding the pumping stationwould also head off liability problems if the parish had raised the road butcaused other flooding problems in the process.

The change was accepted in a 7-2 vote, with councilmen Curtis Johnsonand Ellis Alexander voting no.Parish Councilman Dickie Duhe also passed an emergency resolutionaddressed to Gov. Mike Foster demanding drainage improvements on RiverRoad, between the Jefferson Parish line and Apple Street, while adding aturn lane between Prospect Avenue and Murray Hill Drive.

Reports were presented by South Louisiana Port Commissioner Greg Lierand Executive Director Gary LaGrange, by Leo Babin and Dr. Juanita Haydelof St. Charles Parish Schools and by Charles Rosten of Shell Pipeline.The port report outlined economic development activity, and Lier termedthe ongoing Shintech controversy in St. James Parish as “a bigdisappointment.” He added, “Nobody can really tell if it will go forward ornot.”

Marketing plans are proceeding for promoting available land near Killona,and the port continues to participate in the joint advertising program withthe parish Economic Development Department to the tune of $260,000 peryear.

Babin reported on activities of the vocational-technical program,outlining the success of the crafts training programs at local high schoolsand also available college programs through Nicholls State University andSoutheastern Louisiana University.Haydel outlined the successes of the School-to-Work program in theparish schools and gave this message to students: “What do you want to doand we’ll help you get there.”

Rosten reported on the Jan. 13-14 incident near Union Carbide, Taft, wherepipes being installed under the river from Norco broke free and tied uptraffic for hours that night, causing a problem at shift-change.

More work is planned in mid-February when the pipeline will be boredunder River Road in Taft, but no traffic shutdown will happen because ofit.

In other activity, the Parish Council made adjustments to the boundariesof several precincts, subject to U.S. Justice Department approval.

Precincts 1-4 and 1-5 were merged into a new Precinct 1-5, Precincts 2-1 and 2-6 were merged into a new Precinct 2-1, and Precincts 7-4 and 7-5 were merged into a new Precinct 7-4.Some of the precincts had less than a 100 voters and merging theprecincts, said Administrative Officer Timothy Vial, would save theparish $1,500 per election.

If the merges had been done in 1991, Vial added, the parish would havesaved a total of $30,000 during the 20 elections held since then.

Ramchandran also called for a 90-day hiring moratorium for parishworkers, pending completion of a needs assessment report. “Thisintroduces some semblence of modern management practices,” hecommented.

Parish Councilman Barry Minnich reminded the Parish Council ofRamchandran’s recent support of new hirings in the council office and forthe Department of Public Works. “I don’t understand the reversal,” he said.The matter was tabled to committee for further review in a 7-2 vote,Ramchandran and Brian Champagne voting no.

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