Levee funding may get another shot in April

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 22, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — St. John administration officials plan to reintroduce a hefty bond issue to the St. John Council just six months after a similar package failed to garner enough votes in a parish-wide election.

The council will vote Tuesday night on whether to place the updated $29.5 million bond issue on the April 4, 2009, election ballot. The bond includes money for various public works, infrastructure and building projects on both sides of the river in St. John.

“These are priority projects,” said St. John public information officer Buddy Boe. “The council agrees the projects are important and we hope the voters do as well.”

Voters in St. John narrowly rejected a similar bond issue worth $25 million at an election in July and parish officials believe that failure was a direct result of it sharing the ballot with a proposition that would have incorporated the town of Garyville, which also failed.

“We think that in a less heated election this package has a better opportunity to pass,” Boe said. “The margin between passage and failure was very thin.”

If the council agrees to send the bond to the voters, Boe said the measure would appear as five separate propositions instead of one large, all-inclusive proposal that voters must completely accept or reject.

“Some of the issues are region-exclusive and we wanted residents to be allowed to pick and choose what they wish to vote for,” said Boe. “A voter on the East Bank may want something that a voter on the West Bank may not want. We don’t want to see money for levees fail because someone on the East Bank doesn’t care about improvements to the courthouse.”

Parish President Bill Hubbard said the bond would be financed through existing property taxes. He said it would not require any new taxes to be levied on the parish. The bonds will be paid back over 20 years at a 7-percent interest rate.

Boe said if the measure makes it onto the ballot, the parish plans to extensively educate the public about where money from the bond will go, including holding more town hall meetings with residents and civic groups. He said there would also be a plethora of information on the parish’s government access channels.

“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.”

The council meets Tuesday evening at the Percy Hebert Building in LaPlace at 6 p.m.