Shelter issue has no decision

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 27, 2006

Search for new land will go until end of the year



LAPLACE – The seemingly endless saga of when St. John Parish will get a new animal shelter will now continue until at least the end of the year.

Parish Councilman Lester Rainey, who has fought the expansion of the current shelter facility in his own District 1, stopped what appeared to be a decision recently to move forward with the new shelter.

Rainey has contended the shelter does not belong in a residential area, where it currently resides, and he wants the parish to use some of its current land holdings to relocate the facility.

While Parish Council members went along with Rainey over a month ago, tabling the motion to vote for the new shelter, since they wanted to give him time to find a new site, it appears his location of choice is not getting strong support.

Rainey wants the shelter built on what many council members consider &#8220prime property” on Airline Highway, at the corner of Airport Road.

But the support for the facility there seems questionable.

&#8220I am not voting for that land, no matter what anybody else wants to do,” At-Large Councilman Steve Lee said. &#8220There are a lot better uses of that land at that location than for an animal shelter.”

While Rainey waits for another vote on the matter, Councilman Sean Roussel has tried to work with Rainey on the issue by looking into other parish land holdings.

But even Rainey agrees most of them are also near residential property, and not as suitable for the facility as where he wants to put it.

Roussel said he believes it will take no longer than &#8220the end of the year” to research all other prospects, before the issue comes back up for a vote.

But even Roussel said he will not back the facility near the airport, as Rainey wants.

&#8220The airport is just not the place for it,” Roussel said. &#8220It’s absolutely the wrong thing, and even though this council might have done a lot of wrong things in the past, we aren’t going to do the wrong thing here and put the shelter by the airport.”

Rainey has fought hard for that land, holding his position that the Parish Council should use their own land for anything they need it for, regardless where it is located.

&#8220We’ve had all that land out there for what? 30 years? And they give it for a nickel and a dime to all these other people. They were even ready to let a garbage company locate out there. So what is so bad about the animal shelter. We have a need for the shelter, and that land is a good spot for it,” he contended.

Roussel not only believes the location is wrong for an animal shelter, but he thinks there could be serious consequences from the FAA in the future should they do it.

&#8220This is unlike the earlier consideration to put the shelter on the east side of Airport Road. This is on the airport proper, and I think the FAA might not bless that. If they saw us put an animal shelter there, they might pull our federal funding, and thereby kill any plans for big future development of our airport,” he explained.

Rainey thinks that isn’t going to happen.

&#8220We would be on the corner of the property and a long way from the actual airport,” he countered. &#8220Besides, what has that airport done but lost $700,000 a year for St. John Parish. I’m as optimistic as anyone, but I don’t think anywhere in the near future we will see the need for big jets coming in here. I’m just fighting to get the shelter out of a residential area, and the airport property is the best place for it.”