St. John parish president looks to first full term

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011



LAPLACE – With a full term in office to look forward to in January, St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom recently reflected on a hectic first term and the possibilities ahead in the next four years.

Several drainage improvement projects for various neighborhoods are under construction or nearing completion, and long-awaited improvements to parish recreational facilities on both sides of the river are starting to take shape. The parish is also expected to open bids this year on renovations to the parish courthouse and construction of a parish government complex in LaPlace. These projects and several more were included in the parish’s $29.5 million bond issue approved by voters in 2009.

“We inherited a great number of projects, many of which were already in the design phase when we came into office,” Robottom said. “Those projects are getting done and residents are starting to see a return on their investment.”

Robottom said the parish is looking forward to opening the new $2.2 million gymnasium at Regala Park in Reserve by the end of November or the beginning of December. She said in the last week, contractors striped the gym floor and corrected lighting issues on the first floor. She said remaining work needs to be done on the adjacent parking lot and existing swimming pool area of the park.

“The gym looks just amazing on the inside,” Robottom said. “It will be a great asset to the parish.”

Robottom said the parish is also expected to complete work on the airnasium structure at the West Bank Park Complex in Edgard by the end of the year. That project will give residents on the west bank an additional covered facility for recreation at a park that has undergone drastic improvements over the past several years.

Robottom said she is looking to open bids this year on a more than $1 million renovation and expansion project at the St. John Courthouse as well as a roughly $6 million expansion of the parish government complex in LaPlace.

“We have held stakeholders meetings with all the parties involved to look at possible changes to both projects,” Robottom said. “Both have undergone several design revisions, but both are expected to move forward this year.”

The project at the courthouse involves a reconfiguration of office space in the building as well as a new air-conditioning system. The government complex will include offices for several parish entities in an effort to consolidate parish operations under one roof.

As far as drainage, Robottom said the parish is completing projects in Reserve and LaPlace to correct long-standing flooding problems in several neighborhoods. She also said the parish has been able to add seven more major drainage canals to a list of more than 30 parishwide scheduled to be cleared of debris. She said the parish is securing permits so that work crews can clear the canals more regularly.

“At least four of the canals we are working on are on the west bank of the parish,” Robottom said. “Grant funds and bond money is available for clearing projects.”

Robottom said her administration is also planning to move forward on a strategic plan pulled from her Presidential Advisory Committee that was organized when she first took office. She plans to meet with the incoming council once elections have been finalized to go over what had been previously discussed.

“It is the perfect time to look at the structure in each department to determine if changes are needed,” Robottom said. “We are better served if we have all players involved in making decisions.

Robottom also discussed her plans to add a district fire superintendent to manage the team of paid firemen working with the volunteer departments throughout the parish. She said a paid chief would help with the structural command of the 42 firefighters employed by the parish.

“It will give us someone with knowledge of fire services to oversee the system,” Robottom said.