2005 The year of Katrina

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Year’s top 10 stories remembered


Managing Editor

LAPLACE — Now and forever, 2005 will be remembered as the &#8220Year of Katrina.” However, there were still several other stories of importance and major interest in the pages of L’Observateur.

€ At the top of our Top 10 list, is Hurricane Katrina. This Aug. 29 event forever changed the face of south Louisiana, especially New Orleans. Here in the River Parishes, similar massive devastation was only avoided by a shift in direction taken by the storm. Extensive damage did occur, though, to thousands of homes and businesses.

Many people chose to ride out the storm and experienced the power outages and fright. Many more elected to evacuate, battling traffic and indecision about places to go. In the weeks and months since the storm, residents have dealt with heightened gasoline prices, piles of storm debris, problems with telephone and cell phone services, massive traffic jams, empty store shelves, insurance adjusters, Red Cross, Salvation Army and roofing contractors. Entergy faced their biggest challenge, with 99 percent of the area out of electrical power after the storm’s passage.

The massive response to Katrina in the River Parishes was amazing to behold, with the outpouring of support, not only for the displaced now populating this area, but also the organizations which used the River Parishes as a staging ground for their activities to aid New Orleans, St. Bernard, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.

The Salvation Army, especially, mounted their largest relief effort in their history, with headquarters established in LaPlace near New Wine Christian Fellowship.

At least 15,000 people were estimated to call St. John Parish home, and that number doesn’t include the thousands who poured into St. Charles and St. James parishes as well, bringing with them children who strained the resources of the public school systems and the private and parochial schools.

Litigation also followed in Katrina’s wake, as LaPlace lawyer Daniel Becnel filed suit against Boh Brothers regarding their levee construction work, and against Murphy Oil regarding the post-Katrina oil spill in St. Bernard Parish.

Good came with the bad, though, as LaPlace resident Joseph Todd was honored by Cox and Court TV for his life-saving efforts in New Orleans during Katrina. Many local churches also contributed everything from housing and meals for relief workers to toys for displaced children.

€ In second place was the news of industrial expansion in St. John Parish, as Marathon Refinery announced a $2.2 billion expansion in October and Dupont Dow Elastomer announced a $100 million expansion of their neoprene facility in June, and Cargill revealed plans in November for a new sugar refinery in Reserve.

€ Third on the Top 10 story list was the continuing problems of the sewer system in St. John Parish, with verbal battles among the parish council and with Parish President Nickie Monica. Debates over sites for a permanent sewer plant, added federal guidelines and a plan to use temporary mini-plants filled the pages of L’Observateur.

€ In fourth place was the lengthy negotiations between the St. John Parish School Board and its superintendent, Michael Coburn. The contract was to expire at the end of July, but months of public (and private) debates and discussions concluded with the late-June signing of a new, three-year employment contract for Coburn.

€ Next, in fifth place, was the August arrest of Lutcher Police Chief

(See Top 10, Page 3A)

(From Page 1A)

Corey Pittman on drug trafficking charges after he was allegedly caught on videotape selling narcotics to undercover officers in Garyville and in Reserve. His case is still pending in federal court.

€ In sixth place was the May groundbreaking of the new $1.7 million War Veterans Home on Airline Highway in Reserve, a massive complex to serve southeast Louisiana and provide jobs and tax revenue to the parish, as it pays a debt to those who served our nation in the armed services.

€ The August opening of Raymond K. Smith Middle School in Luling, at seventh place, capped a lengthy construction program for St. Charles Parish Public Schools and honored at the same time a pioneer and inspirational leader of public education.

Smith had served in the school system, supervising black education for decades, assisted in ushering in school desegregation, and spent his retirement years by continuing to contribute to his community, especially with the United Way of St. Charles.

€ Another pioneer for black citizens is Whitney Joseph, St. John Parish’s first black assessor, who officially took office in January, whose story took eighth place in L’Observateur’s Top 10 story list.

He had worked for 30 years in that office, lately as Chief Deputy Assessor before being elected to succeed Henry Hotard.

€ Number nine on the list was the completion of Valero’s expansion in Norco of its desulphurization unit, both ahead of time and under its projected $120 million budget.

€ In 10th place was the sad duty to say goodbye to four long-time public servants in St. John Parish.

These include educator and advocate of the arts Jack Snowdy, 78, in March; Felix &#8220Pappy” LeBoeuf, 76, in May; and St. John Councilman Joel McTopy, 63, in August; and civic leader Malcolm &#8220Mac” Donaldson, 81, in November.