St. John Airport expansion seen as high priority

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 17, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / Febuary 17, 1999

LAPLACE – Expanding St. John Airport in Reserve is the aim of St. John theBaptist Parish officials, who heard a report from consultants Tuesday during the parish council meeting.

Randolph Carmichael and Jeffery Bordenave, project managers, presented the report, and Carmichael commented: “Hang in there, it’s ready to grow.”Plans are to approach the Federal Aviation Administration this spring for $500,000 in capital funds, to be used for construction of the south portion of a parallel taxiway, a vital safety improvement.

The process has also begun to apply for funds for completing the north portion of the taxiway.

A request has also been filed with the Louisiana Airport Improvement Program, which matches FAA funds 90-10 percent, with the state paying the smaller amount.

The consultants also suggested, contrary to the 1994 Airport Master Plan, to extend the current runway 1,000 feet to the north, away from Airline Highway.

Analysis of the land acquisition issues, Carmichael explained, resulted in three findings: the need to transfer adjoining parish-owned land to direct airport control for the taxiway; other parish land next to the access road should be likewise transferred to support airport-related commercial activity; and that the Port of South Louisiana does not place a high priority on its acquiring the airport.

Carmichael continued that the parish is fortunate to already have an airport in place, with surrounding land available for expansion as the parish develops.

“While the airport may not have grown as quickly as some would have wished, the potential for growth still exists, and this should not be lightly dismissed,” Carmichael noted in the report’s executive summary.

The study was carried out as a joint venture of Charbonnet & Associates Inc. and Burk-Kleinpeter, Inc. In other activity, the Parish Council voted to override the Housing Authority and re-admit two tenants who claim they were illegally evicted.

The tenants, Donna Matthews and Delia Hicks, enlisted the help of Advocates of St. John, represented by Michael Carter and Dolores Martin.Carter explained that Matthews was charged with the criminal trespass of her own apartment and was evicted, even as her case was thrown out of court.

He added Hicks was evicted one morning for not paying her rent on time, along with her handicapped child. Hicks said she had the money but it wasstolen, and she explained the reason and had a check in hand when it was refused.

Councilman Dale Wolfe urged the re-admission of the former tenants, and commented of the housing administrators, “They’re working for the tenants, not the administration. It’s disgusting!”Wolfe continued, “When we have homeless people in St. John Parish, I havean issue with that.”Parish President Arnold Labat insisted the council cannot override the housing authority, but Carter responded that according to the governor’s office, the parish is the owner of the public housing and should be able to override any decision as to who occupies that housing.

Parish attorney Barry Landry expressed his doubt and said the council could recommend re-admittance.

“We’re here for the people,” Councilman Perry Bailey declared. “I wantthem back in tomorrow – tonight, if possible.”The resolution passed with Thornton voting against. He explained he didn’twant to vote contrary to the parish attorney’s wishes.

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