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West Bridge Park expanding

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / June 17, 1998

HAHNVILLE – After months of negotiations, the St. Charles Parish Councilagreed Monday to buy a 14.4-acre tract of land next to the West BankBridge Park in Luling.

The seller was Esperanza Land Co., owned by Fifth Circuit Court of AppealsJudge Edward Dufresne Jr., and the purchase price was $842,000.Dufresne, through his attorney, Louis Authement, spiced the deal by also donating a 6,000 square feet tract for a future Luling Fire Department sub-station and $20,000 cash to the parish Department of Parks and Recreation. He also made available for leasing a section of battureproperty across River Road from the present park for additional public parking and a possible lookout point.

Recreation director Rusty Rebowe also presented development plans for the additional land and suggested two more ball fields, sand volleyball courts, a two-story gym with offices upstairs for the department, an amphitheater and more parking space.

His first priority, he said, is fencing the property then expanding the existing parking lot.

Parish Councilman Ron Phillips at first expressed doubt as to the new deal and said at an earlier committee meeting he heard what was then called the “best and final offer.”Likewise, he said Rebowe’s plans were new to him and he was dismayed at having all this tossed at him in a public meeting. “I don’t think this is thebest and final offer still,” he said.

Parish Councilman Terry Authment tried to table the matter to study it further, but that was voted down in a 2-7 vote, with Phillips also voting to table.

The deal was finalized in a split 5-4 vote, with Phillips, Authement, “Ram” Ramchandran and Brian Champagne voting against the purchase.

“It’s the only place we can expand the bridge park,” Parish Councilman Ellis Alexander noted. “You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”The Parish Council also agreed to sell $24 million in general obligation sewer bonds to help finance the parish sewer system to meet state and federal guidelines.

This followed approval by the state Legislature of $7.2 million in theRevolving Loan Fund Program for the project and will accompany a loan made last year of $17 million by the state to kick off the project.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality bought the bonds at a low 3.95 percent interest rate. State Sen. Ron Landry attended the meetingand was publicly thanked for his work in arranging the deal. Rep. JoelChaisson II, who also worked in the negotiations, was also thanked but could not attend the meeting.

More funds to pay for the sewer rehabilitation are coming from the state Capital Outlay Bill ($1.4 million) and an additional $1.4 million from theparish’s emergency contingency fund was approved last month.

All this is to keep from charging taxpayers for the construction of the new sewer treatment plants, as promised when parish officials were campaigning for a 5.1-mill property tax.In other activity, the Parish Council: * Heard a report from legislative consultant Sarah Whalen, who monitored pending legislation during the past session on behalf of the River Region Caucus.

* Approved a cost-sharing agreement for planning assistance toward a west bank bicycle path along the Mississippi River Levee. The path willextend from St. John the Baptist Parish to Jefferson Parish.The parish’s portion would be $95,000. However, Parish Councilman EllisAlexander also pushed through a resolution to ask the Lafourche Basin Levee District for the funds.

* Named Parish Councilmen “Ram” Ramchandran and Ron Phillips to serve with the River Region Caucus. Ramchandran is replacing Brian Champagneon the board.

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