Parish mulling department for drainage

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 26, 2013

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish may soon have its own drainage department.
The parish council during its meeting Tuesday night directed Director of Public Works Brian Nunes to explore the possibility of creating a separate department dedicated only to drainage that would fall under the public works department. Council Chairwoman Jacylyn Hotard asked Nunes to develop an organizational chart for the proposed department and the amount of manpower that would be required.
“Come back with what you think you will need in addition to what you already have to creating a true drainage department as an arm of public works,” Hotard said. “We can see who we have out there, what they are doing on a daily basis and what we are doing to be proactive instead of reactive.”
Nunes said he currently deploys a nine-man crew that works on drainage projects the majority of the time. He said the crew not only addresses problem areas but blows out culverts, clears drains and cleans out ditches.
“(The crew does) drainage most of the time,” Nunes said. “There are circumstances when we have to pull (the crew) to utilize the equipment (elsewhere) and then we put them back on drainage.”
Councilman Lennix Madere initially raised the issue, saying drainage is one of the major challenges in the parish.
“It’s a problem that’s not going to go away,” Madere said “The thing I’m concerned with is we are not working on the drainage situation every day.
“It’s something we have to do each and every day. We just can’t accept the fact that it’s going to flood.”
Madere also said residents must shoulder some of the blame because of the litter problem. He cited one drain that was clogged with 14 empty plastic bottles of a popular juice drink.
“If the bottles were not blocking that drain that water would flow a lot better,” he said.
Councilman Ranney Wilson called for crews to dig out the estimated hundreds of miles of drainage ditches. He said some of the ditches are more than 50 years old and have never been touched, and others have had work completed only on one side, not solving the problem.
“They need to start at one end of the parish and work to the other end and not miss a street,” Wilson said. “I want to see a department and that’s all they do is drainage.”
Nunes has 30 days to present the council with the requested organizational chart. And if additional is funding is required for the startup department, “We will find the money,” Councilman Larry Snyder said.