Vote set this fall on St. Charles civic center

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 4, 2004

By VICKIE JAMBON -Staff Reporter

HAHNVILLE – The wait is over. Come September 18, St. Charles Parish residents may vote on a tax aimed to support a community center costing up to $12.5 million.

In a special meeting held by the parish council Wednesday night, Council members decided to call an election in September so residents could vote if they want to pay for a community center.

Voters will decide whether or not the building should be paid for with 20-year general obligation bonds supplied by the parish.

They will also vote on whether or not the maintenance and operational costs for the community center should be paid by a 10-year .75 mill property tax.

Public Information Officer Steve Sirmon spoke at the meeting in support of the upcoming vote.

He said, “The public is willing to have a community center. Get it before the public. They want it.”

Sirmon said surveys taken throughout the parish showed the populous was in support of a new community center.

Paradis resident, Richard Bordner, said that he was in support of the project, but did not think $12.5 million was going to be enough money. He said he wanted to have the project done the right way and did not want to see it short-changed.

Debbie Dufresne Vial, a Luling resident, said, “This is something to move on. Fifteen years have gone by and 15 graduating classes graduated outside the parish. If another 15 years passes, my three-year old will be graduating outside the parish also.”

Speaking against the September vote was former councilman Cecile Dufrene from Destrehan.

Dufrene said the proposal was being offered with no drawings or blueprints.

He asked, “Would you buy a house unseen?” The Destrehan resident also said the facility would not show a profit for years and asked the council if it could be subsidized in the meantime. Dufrene recommended the council wait until a later date, saying more people would show up to vote.

Councilman Richard “Dickie” Duhe said that while he supported the plan 110 percent, he thought matters should have been discussed months ago and not one day before a decision had to be reached.

Councilman Ganesier “Ram” Ramchandran said St. John the Baptist Parish paid $4 million for a 40,000 square foot civic center, yet St. Charles Parish was paying $12.5 million for a 25,000 to 35,000 square foot center. He said, “In St. Charles Parish, everything cost double.”

Ramchandran asked why the building had to be rushed, adding people in the parish were retirees living on limited income. He did not think it was fair for them to bear the burden of the tax responsibility.

Ramchandran also felt that by having people vote in an off-year election, the council was sneaking the matter through with the least observance.

Sirmon responded to questions posed on the blueprints by saying he would present a package of design ideas shortly. He said the parish had designs which were previously provided by Burk-Kleinpeter Inc. He said the designs were for a smaller facility but that the parish could build upon the structure when they were ready to do so.

The council voted 6-3 to go forward with the Sept.13 vote. Duhe, Ramchandran and Barry Minnich voted against the proposal.