Land swap proposal reviewed by opposing parish councilman

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 10, 1999

L’Observateur / July 10, 1999

DEAR EDITOR: On Tuesday, July 13, the St. John the Baptist Parish Council will be askedto vote on a land swap proposal recommended by the administration. Theproposal calls for the parish to exchange the vacant property in front of the Percy Hebert Building (recent site of the Andouille Festival) for the old Southland Dodge dealership. No money will be exchanged, an even swapis proposed for the parish property in exchange for the dealership.

Although the value of the land is estimated at over $1 million, the administration has not seen fit to obtain an appraisal on either site. Thisin itself is no way to handle taxpayer assets.

The developer intends to construct a large retail drug store on the Percy Hebert site. While the Percy Hebert Building would not win any awards forcreative architectural design, nonetheless, it is our Parish office building.

To hide it behind a drug store makes very little sense to me. Even moreironic, the administration proposes this endeavor while the parish is spending roughly half a million dollars to improve the building, some of which is being spent on a new facade to update the looks of the building.

The administration’s plan for the new dealership is haphazard at best.

They call for converting the two showrooms into office space, of which type is unclear. The current office space would also be renovated and usedfor the Finance Department and Pubic Works Department, while all other executive offices would remain in the Percy Hebert complex. The worstpart of the proposal, in my opinion, is the administration’s plan to turn the workshop area of the dealership into a convention center. Imagine,converting a mechanic shop into a convention center! Why? The reason is, they wish to use the roughly half-million dollars of convention center funds to renovate this old building and the parking area.

St. John deserves better! No one will be attracted to come to a conventionfacility like the administration proposes. It is an injustice to the citizensto even consider spending convention center funds on such an ill-conceived plan. Certainly, the parish needs some additional office space, and amulti-purpose center and, with foresight, patience, and proper planning, these things will one day be achieved. But to rush into an ill-conceivedplan such as this in the waning months of an administration would be foolhardy. “Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.” The councilshould be wise, move cautiously, and plan for the future. But, above all,understand that in the age of term limits, all projects will not be completed during their term of service. Leaving a legacy is worse than nolegacy at all.

In writing this letter, I hope to achieve one goal – input from the public.

Please take time to contact your council representatives, whatever your opinion. A decision like this will have long-range effects on the parish. Wecould be giving up the chance to have a first-rate, multi-purpose facility in five or six years, for something that will always be second-rate. In myopinion, St. John deserves better.Duaine Duffy, LaPlace Councilman, Division B

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

Internet services provided by NeoSoft.

Best viewed with 3.0 or higher