Financing for St. John center put in place by council

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005


Staff Reporter

EDGARD- A resolution to bond the St. John the Baptist Parish’s hotel/motel tax to finance the completion of the Civic Center passed unanimously Tuesday night, despite official’s concerns that the decision may eventually drain the parish’s general funds.,

After much discussion, the council members passed the resolution proposed by Finance Director Jeff Clement and Bond Attorney Hugh Martin to allocate up to $750,000 to be transferred from the hotel/motel tax to be used for things such as bleachers, scoreboards, Internet techs and acoustics.

The parish will be obligated to pay back the loan at, according to Martin, $75,000 to $80,000 per year. The original budget for the building was set at $5.5 million. It is now expected to be at approximately $6 million.

Most of the council members shared the feeling that the facility would provide many benefits for the community and this tax bond will help to finish it with the amenities to make it a top-notch community center.

However, it did not pass easily or quickly, drawing numerous questions from almost all the council members regarding what the plans for the center were and if they will make enough money from it to pay it back efficiently.

When the issue arose of using the money for the acoustics, Councilman -at- Large Cleveland Farlough appeared somewhat incredulous at the plans.

“How in the world were plans drawn up for that building, with the purposes it is to be used for, and not have factored in something like the expense of the acoustics,” Farlough asked.

Julia Remondet, director of the Department of Economic Development, answered the money would be used to expand on the quality of the acoustics, so the Parish could compete with other area civic centers. Farlough responded by questioning why no one budgeted that in the first place.

The Department of Economic Development spoke in favor of the bond sale, pointing out the motel/ hotel tax would increase if the parish would be able to pull in tourists for events at the civic center.

Fourth District Councilman Ronnie Smith, though stating he supported the motion, was concerned about repaying the money.

“There is no proof we will make a dollar off this project,” Smith said. He stressed that he did not want to borrrow money only to have to borrow money to pay it back.

If the profits from the civic center were not to be adequate, it would most likely have to come out of the parish’s general funds.