St. Charles civic center idea could revive

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE-While talks are escalating around town at council meetings and business functions about the upcoming St. John the Baptist Parish Civic Center, some in St. Charles Parish may be wondering what happened to their chance to have one.

On Sept. 18, 2004, the voting citizens of St. Charles overwhelmingly said no to a civic center to be built in Luling.

On a proposal that would allow the parish to issue up to $12.5 million in bonds to finance the construction of the center, 77% voted against it and almost 82% turned down a .75 millage on property tax for maintenance and operations after it was to be completed.

“We certainly thought it would help the parish,” said Steve Sirmon, Public Information Officer for St. Charles Parish, “but I guess the voters weren’t ready for it yet.”

Sirmon said he believed the people did not support the civic center due to a “combi-

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nation of many factors,” but did not specify. He also said that he could not think of anything the parish could have done differently to market the idea to the public.

According to the St. Charles Herald, a council meeting held before the election had residents speaking out against the proposal for reasons such as already-high property taxes and putting the parish in direct competition with businesses like health clubs.

The civic center was going to be designed almost like a YMCA with fitness areas and an Olympic-size pool, according to Sirmon. It was also planned to be used for things such as concerts and sporting events.

“It was a desirable and I think necessary project,” said Lance Marino, Division “A” Council Member-at-Large, “but it was a very bad time to go to the voters.”

Where the St. John Civic Center started out with a $5.5 million price tag, the St. Charles center was budgeting $12.5 million to, according to Marino, have money left over for possible add-ons after the center was finished.

“We would build the initial center with whatever it might have, then have some money in the fund for future expansion,” Marino said.

With the St. John Civic Center opening up, Marino said he believes the sentiment of most of council is supportive of having one of their own, even if it is a building that can hold parish graduations.

“This is one council who feels that after we let a little time past ,and let people get use to property taxes, I would like to revisit it,” Marino said.

“Once we see neighboring St. John with a functioning civic center, it might be more attractive to voters.

“But most voters vote with their pocketbooks, and I understand that.”