St. John Parish population jump reaches 15,000

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005



LAPLACE — St. John Parish President Nickie Monica said he now estimates St. John Parish to have nearly 15,000 additional people, thanks to the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Monica addressed the LaPlace Rotary Club this past week, giving a “State of the Parish” report following the storm that hit just over three weeks ago.

St. John had a population of approximately 45,000 people before the storm, Monica said, but he now figures it to be closer to 60,000.

And Monica’s prediction that St. John would become the staging ground for rebuilding efforts in the region has proven to be true.

The Salvation Army has set up the biggest relief effort in its history at the old K-Mart building on Airline Highway, serving 12,000 meals a day that are taken throughout Southeast Louisiana; parish schools, public and private, have approximately 2,500 additional students; 400 state troopers based in this area used Lake Pontchartrain Elementary as their staging area; and 1,000 rescue workers for the New Orleans disaster sites were housed in St. John for the first 13 days of the recovery effort.

“The way I saw it, St. John came together as a community and was blessed to be able to support the other parishes,” he said. “Many people today have a great appreciation for St. John Parish, as they never did before, because of the way we have accepted and helped so many following this storm.”

Monica said that he never set up an evacuee shelter here since there was no certified Red Cross shelter in the region. But he also knew that the parish would have to use its space in the recovery and rebuilding effort.

“I took some criticism for that, but I think I made the right decision. The way we are being used now to help the other parishes shows you why we needed to be ready to support groups like the Salvation Army, the 82nd Airborne Division and so many other groups.”

He made special mention of the many law enforcement personnel who have worked around the clock, even when they had losses of their own.

“You hear a lot of stories about the heroes from this storm,” he said. “To me the heroes are the law enforcement workers who had lost their own homes, and still worked here for all of us.”

Monica said he wanted to discount a rumor that FEMA had come into the area and bought up all the property in the region, which was to be used for temporary housing.

“There is no truth to that,” he said. “They have talked to us about getting some space and I do expect us to have some temporary housing here, but we are being consulted to make sure we have the infrastructure for anything that will come here.”

Monica also said he is still hoping to have all debris picked up within one month of when the storm hit, with the Corps of Engineers now having taken over the job.