Top 10 local stories of 2004 reviewed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2005


Managing Editor

LAPLACE – The year 2004 was a busy one in the River Parishes, with crime frequently dominating the front page, but many positive events occurring as well.

This year, L’Observateur is looking back at what we consider the top 10 stories in the River Parishes. These are listed in the order they happened, without comparing their importance among each other. However, all of them had a significant impact on a great many people.

1. The establishment of The River Region Chamber in April marked a milestone for the business community, providing a voice for that community before government, regional planners and beyond.

At the same time, area business gained a venue where they can build a network of contact, both providers and customers, come face to face with competitors and channel their resources into a stronge, more vigorous local business family.

2. On the heels of that event came the disastrous rainfall which flooded the town of Norco in late April.

The flood, mostly on the north side of town, revealed a host of problems, including technical and political. The issue was thrashed out for months before the St. Charles Parish Council, while lawsuits were lodged as well, charging the parish government with failing to properly maintain the system, causing costly damage to residents of the town.

3. In late May, the ground-breaking ceremony for the St. John Parish Community Center on U.S. Highway 51 was held. The $5.5 million civic center, to include 40,000 square feet of interior space, is due for completion by this summer.

Currently, the foundation slab is laid and upright steel beams are in place. Soon, the facility will be closed in with roof and exterior walls to permit completion of the interior.

4. The purchase of River Parishes Hospital by LifePoint Hospitals for approximately $24 million will have a significant impact on the improved quality of health care in the region.

The new parent company also operates 29 other hospitals in non-urban areas of the country. LifePoint also enjoys a history of making facility improvements in hospitals they acquire.

5. The Glade School in LaPlace was the site, and the target was the St. John Parish School system in a lawsuit alleging the discovery of toxic mold in the school. Such mold could cause long-lasting respiratory problems and worse.

6. Laura Plantation in Vacherie suffered a major fire in early August, crippling that major tourist attraction. However, tours continued after a shift in focus, and a reconstruction of the histori-

cal home is under way.

7. Tropical Storm Matthew flooded parts of the River Parishes in mid-October, trapping some residents in their homes due to the high-water conditions.

8. At the same time, St. John Parish public schools announced another enrollment increase, with Supt. Michael Coburn voicing his pride in the system making headway in attracting students from the private and parochial schools.

9. The 2005 St. John Parish Council budget snarls began early, with funds being cut and many jobs threatened. However, on the eve of the new year, the council finally approved a finished product. See Page 1A for details.

10. Finally, West St. John High School’s football team rocketed through their season, slammed through their playoffs and captured a consecutive Class 2A state title. All eight of the region’s football teams made it to the state playoffs in their respective classifications. At the end, only the Rams stood victorious on the Louisiana Superdome field.

Bonus – We can hardly end this story without remarking upon the “White Christmas” enjoyed throughout the area – the first in 50 years.

Happy new year!