St. John growth needs bond renewal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Voters in St. John Parish will go to the polls Saturday to decide approval on a $25 million bond package to be used for a wide range of capital improvements.

When the issue received council approval in April of this year, Parish President Bill Hubbard told council members that the bond will be financed through existing property taxes. He said it would not require any new taxes to be levied on the parish.

“This is an opportunity to show our citizens what we can really get done,” said Hubbard in April. “We shall see if the voters think we are worthy of the improvements in the parish.”

St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe called the money up for consideration in today’s election “a meat and potatoes bond,” since the parish plans for the majority of the funds to go toward much needed infrastructure.

“This bond issue includes all of the necessities of a growing community,” said Boe. “If we want St. John to continue to grow and survive, we need to get these things done, and the bond will certainly help.”

Boe said that after several meetings with council members and administration officials, the parish devised a specific list, consisting of six categories, of pressing parish needs. The categories are broken down as follows:

The parish is allocating $4 million to serve as the local match for phase I of St. John’s lakefront levee protection. Boe said the levee is planned to run from the St. Charles Parish line to I-55 in St. John.

Boe said $3 million is going to construction and improvement on public roads and highways, including improvement and expansion of Woodland Drive to Belle Terre Boulevard.

Another $5.5 million is slated to go toward several miscellaneous drainage projects parish wide.

Boe said major canals, such as the Hope Canal in Garyville and the Vicknair Canal in Reserve, are in dire need of improvement. He also said that the parish wants to finally correct flooding problems in the Riverlands subdivision in LaPlace, as well as an area in Reserve from W. 8th Street to Central Avenue.

Boe said the drainage projects were all included in a massive drainage study in 2001.

There will also be $5 million allocated toward the parish waterworks system. Boe said that the East Bank of St. John suffers from two major water system problems – quality and quantity. He said the quality issue would eventually be resolved when the parish’s $3.3 million Nano filtration system finally goes online.

The quantity issue will be remedied with improvements to the Lions water treatment plant in Reserve. Boe said that Cargill’s plans for a new sugar refinery escalated the need for extra capacity at the Lions facility. He said once the improvements are complete, the quantity problem in the LaPlace are would be solved. Cargill is also contributing $1 million to the system upgrade.

An additional $5 million will go toward necessary construction and improvement of public buildings, based on the findings of a $62,000 building use study that was conducted in the parish in March.

Boe said the plans include renovation of the Edgard courthouse in an effort to provide better safety to the parish judges, expansion of the P. D. Hebert Building in LaPlace, and the construction of a new government complex on the East Bank that will encompass all elements of government business.

“The building will be a one stop shop for parish business,” said Boe. “It will help St. John run more smoothly and more efficiently.”

Boe said the new building will include a larger council chamber to accommodate more residents, as well as a courthouse facility for east bank use. He wanted to stress, however, that the new building would not lead to any movement of the St. John’s Parish Seat.

“We are keeping it in Edgard,” said Boe. “You can count on that.”

The final $2.5 million will be devoted to construction, repairs, and improvements to parks, playgrounds, and parish recreational facilities. Boe said part of that money would be dedicated to a new gymnasium somewhere in the parish. He said a site has yet to be determined.

Voters in St. John last approved a bond issue back in 2002, when the parish asked for $18 million for recreation, drainage, street repairs, and construction of the community center on Highway 51. Boe said that all of the projects the parish planned to use the money for had been completed, and that there are no more funds left in that account.

Boe said the bond has the endorsement of the St. John Business Association, the River Region Chamber Public Policy committee, and the St. John Parish Economic Development Committee.