Caucus confronted by issues

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 15, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / March 15, 2000

DESTREHAN – The River Region Caucus, in its first meeting Thursday since new parish governments were elected, are confronted with a host of issues from solid waste to beautification.

The caucus, an informal forum for elected government officials of the River Parishes, meets periodically to discuss matters of mutual concern.

Highest mutual concern at this meeting held at Ormond Country Club was solid waste and the future of disposal.

As state and federal departments shut down landfills across the country, alternatives are left up to the local governing authorities. The caucus,under the chairmanship of St. Charles Parish Councilman G. “Ram”Ramchandran, discussed House Bill 764, pending in the Legislature, that would establish a Solid Waste Authority.

“We feel dealing collectively with solid waste we can bring costs down,” Ramchandran said. “Think regionally and jointly.”With no new landfills being permitted to operate, local governments are scrambling to find alternative sites or alternative methods of disposing of municipal waste.

Another alternative discussed was a recycling plant in Gunnersville, Ala.,where an autoclave-system breaks down all household waste into recyclable materials, leaving a tiny percentage to be disposed of in a landfill.

However, at this point, costs of using this method exceeds the current $26 per ton dumping fee.

Kevin Belanger, executive director of South Central Planning and Development Commission, urged parishes consider the idea. “All they areasking for is a 10-year tax exemption,” he said.

Also at the meeting were St. John the Baptist Parish President NickieMonica, and council members Melissa Faucheux and Duaine Duffy; St. JamesParish President Dale Hymel Jr. and councilmen Timmy Roussel and JamesMitchell; St. Charles Parish President Albert Laque and council membersDee Abadie and Terry Authement; 56th District State Rep. Glen Smith andGramercy Mayor Ronald St. Pierre.The caucus opened with a discussion on expanding the group to include Ascension Parish, and an invitation to attend the next meeting on May 2 will be extended to that parish government.

Sarah Whalen, liaison to the Legislature for the caucus, reported briefly on upcoming legislation and heard the group recommend to each parish council renewal of her $1,500 contract. Should Ascension be added, thecontract would increase to $1,800.

Monica also urged caucus approval of sharing lease costs for Kingsley House, a center for abused children to be located in LaPlace to serve all three River Parishes.

Anti-littering signs have already been erected in St. James Parish, Hymelreported, part of an earlier resolution by the caucus, and the other parish presidents said they would soon follow suit.

South Central Planning is also following closely the progress on funding for the River Parishes Transit Authority, established last year by the Legislature, which aims to link the mass transit systems of each parish together and help people who need rides to work to reach that work.

Belanger commented, “We have an opportunity to make a lot of strides in the transportation area,” as he reported the possible approval of a $200,000 grant.

Abadie reported on recent efforts at beautification and reported on a request from Jefferson Parish to rename Airline Highway as Airline Drive, part of an effort to restore “the good name” of the highway.

Roussel reported to the caucus of the upcoming St. James Clean-Up Month,March 15-April 15, when all residents and businesses will be asked to clean up their own property.

Authement reported that efforts to ask parish public works to help in the cleanup of Old Spanish Trail between Boutte and Des Allemands fell on deaf ears in the previous administration.

He said a program similar to St. James Parish’s could work in all three. InSt. Charles, organizations such as the St. Charles Rotary Club and SwampEyes are making strides in cleaning up dump sites.

Ramchandran also urged parish governments to get maps and information on all pipelines in their respective parishes in case of an accident similar to one in Washington State, where a gas pipeline exploded and killed three children.

Finally, Monica reported on a meeting earlier that day between the three parish presidents and 57th District State Rep. Bobby Faucheux over use ofhotel-motel tax income being held by the state treasury for the parishes’ use for tourism promotion.

Hymel added there is $100,000 now in a fund for that purpose, and the meeting centered on establishment of a Tri-Parish Tourism Commission to include members from each parishes economic development commissions.

The next meeting will be held May 2 in St. James Parish, at a site and timeto be announced, Hymel said.

Return To News Stories