St. John Council puts off land sale near airport

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Managing Editor

EDGARD — An impassioned presentation by Eugene &#8220Bever” Borne of St. John Airport prompted the St. John Parish Council Tuesday night to once more delay action on the sale of property to Land-Glo LLC.

The parish council plans to sell 6.5 acres of land located at the end of Airport Road to Land-Glo, who in turn would lease it to Solid Waste Disposal LLC. SWDI is seeking a new location away from Central Avenue in Reserve because of complaints by neighbors.

Borne, the current chairman of the Airport Advisory Commission and also heads the airport’s Military Park Association, said although it was never put on paper, there &#8220was always an agreement” to develop property around the airport with associated business and industry.

Following Hurricane Katrina and the loss in New Orleans of its Lakefront Airport, St. John Airport has gained in importance to the region and primed for an explosion of development, Borne said.

&#8220There’s one piece of land left, and it should be used for enhancement of the airport,” Borne told the council.

The Port of South Louisiana wants to also build three large, multi-million dollar hangars to house jets, and plans are in progress for construction of a new terminal and also to extend the runway from 4,000 to 5,000 feet, making it available to practically any air traffic.

&#8220It’s not just a little toy,” Borne said. &#8220It’s bringing industry into the parish.”

Borne pointed out that the airport has been subsidized financially for years, and an increase in airport operations will make the facility self-sufficient. Since Katrina, operations have quadrupled, he said.

Another point Borne made was that Airport Road, constructed with Federal Aviation Administration funds, is too narrow to handle the anticipated heavy truck traffic from SWDI, as well as allow for access to the airport.

What’s more, the council’s own hired consultant to help increase airport operations, Jerald Babin, backed up Borne’s position. Babin was asked point-blank by Councilman Steve Lee whether the land sale to Land-Glo was a poor business decision. Babin affirmed that it would be a poor decision and commented of the airport, &#8220It’s a gateway to the community.”

Lee immediately moved to table the matter, saying, &#8220Before this, it was a no-brainer to sell tonight to SWDI.”

The original council plan was to sell the property at an agreed-upon price of $271,320, and donate part of that to the new Animal Shelter project, which has been lingering on hold for at least four years. Councilman Sean Roussel, who has pushed for that plan for the shelter, was the only vote in opposition to Lee’s motion.