St. John residents get peek at potential recovery projects

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 20, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

EDGARD – St. John the Baptist Parish began hosting its second round of open houses on Monday evening as part of its “One Parish, One Future: Building Back Better and Stronger” initiative.
The newest series of public meetings take the ideas and concerns voiced by citizens during the initial series of meetings in January and allow them to vote on ones they deem most important, ranking the projects by importance. Residents are allowed to choose a maximum of five projects for each category. The five categories are housing, natural and cultural rescources, economic, infrastructure and health and social services.
“We have brought all the data together that residents had given us during the seven open houses. So Monday night, Tuesday night and tonight are going be the opportunity for the residents to come in and vote on the projects they would like to see the parish go after funding for,” said Raymond Goodman, local disaster recovery manager.
Goodman said there currently is no funding for the projects but said that representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will assist in identifying funding sources once highest priority projects are identified. FEMA will draw up the final report after data is collected from the meetings.
Goodman expects the report to be completed by the end of April.
Residents were provided with a ballot and pens to rank their choices, as well as a packet providing detailed descriptions of the projects in question. As in the first series of meetings, representatives from state and federal agencies were on hand to answer questions. The housing and infrastructure categories had the largest amount f proposed projects. Tentative plans for the two categories included establishing quality standards for multi-family developments, improving LaPlace’s water supply by developing an addition well at Ruddock, accessing the need and resources for sernior rental housing, improving roadway maintenance and safety, establising a first-time homebuyer program and expanding public transit services to help those with transportation challenges. Health and social services projects included improving mental health care services and creating a farmers’ markert.
The economic category contained suggestions such as attracting an outlet mall and youth entertainment business to the parish and beautifying entrance signage. Initiating a St. John cultural history project, expanding access to west bank natural resources and developing Airline Highway as a scenic by-way route were some of the options listed in the natural and cultural resources category.
“I’m coming to see what’s going on because if its involving the parish I’m all for it. Mainly, if I’m looking at anything it’s going to be what they’re going to do as far as infrastructure and what they’re going to be bringing on the west bank side,” said Dora Sylvain. “And also health and welfare for the citizens on the west bank. We have a lot on the east bank but not too much on the west bank yet. Businesses and what have you.”
Rev. Moore, a pastor at Harvest Time Christian Center, said he favored the suggestion to convert Second Ward High School into a multi-use center.
“I’m about making a difference in the lives of people. I think the community as a whole could benefit from that project versus having separate projects that would impact the lives of cerain people,” he said.
The “Building Back Better and Stronger” initiative is supported by state and federal partner agencies under the National Disaster Recovery Framework that was launched in Louisiana following Hurricane Isaac. The last open house will take place this evening at the Regala Gymnasium in Reserve from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.