Options improving for west bank recreation

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 11, 2011



EDGARD – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council on Wednesday approved the second phase of improvements to the West Bank Park Complex in Edgard.

The $281,000 project, completed by HHP Construction Group of LaPlace, added a new entrance, walking path, parking lot and roadway to the park. The improvements were funded through the parish’s $29.5 million bond issue, which was approved by voters in 2009. The council voted to approve a certificate of substantial completion for phase two.

“This is one more step completed,” said Councilman Haston Lewis, who represents the west bank. “I look forward to the completion of the entire project.”

Parish President Natalie Robottom said the initial phase of the project, which was completed in 2009, included construction of three baseball fields, new lighting, a concession stand and restroom facilities. The final phase, which is still in the bid process, includes construction of an open air covered basketball court, or airnasium.

Robottom said the airnasium project was bid out in December, but all submissions came back well over the $550,000 budget for the project. The project was redesigned and rebid.

“We should have the project ready for construction by the summer,” Robottom said. “Once the airnasium is completed and playground equipment is installed, we expect even more use of the park.”

Although the council was pleased with the progress and approved the project, Lewis raised some concerns about drainage issues throughout the park. He said deep ditches near the walking trail could be a hazard to unsuspecting walkers and children.

Robottom said the parish met with contractors during and after heavy rains to see specifically where puddles come up throughout the park. She said public works employees are making changes to the slope of ponding areas to correct the drainage issues.

In other action from Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved a resolution to allow the River Parishes Tourist Commission to secure more than $55,000 from the BP oil spill settlement with the state for lost tourism revenue related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.

The resolution allowed Tourist Commission Executive Director Jay Tusa to act on behalf of the parish in accepting the funds. Robottom said once the money is received, Tusa will begin working with tourism officials in the surrounding parishes on a regional tourism push that highlights both St. John and the region as one hub for tourism activity.

The council also moved to put off voting on an ordinance pertaining to fencing requirements around swimming pools in the parish.

Councilwoman Cheryl Millet had asked the ordinance be removed so it could be re-written to reflect the need for 4-foot fences. The original draft had required 6-foot fences.

The council also approved authorization for Robottom to add Angelic Sutherland as an alternate check signer on parish bank accounts.

Sutherland, a special assistant to Chief Administrative Officer Marie Brown-Mercadel, will replace former Chief Financial Officer Pat McTopy as a check signer. McTopy retired last month.

Robottom said all checks worth more than $10,000 require a review of documentation and a manual signature. All other expenditures are done electronically.