St. John voters OK bond issue

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

By David Vitrano
LAPLACE – Voters in St. John the Baptist Parish overwhelmingly approved a $30 million bond issue Saturday by a ratio of almost 3-1.
About 72 percent of voters supported the measure, which will help fund various infrastructure projects in the parish.
Just 8 percent of St. John Parish’s 26,589 registered voters cast ballots in the election. Of the 2,367 people who voted, 1,696 of them voted in favor of the measure. Among early voters, 223 of 313 favored the bond issue.
The bond issue will not result in any new taxes for residents.
Although the specifics of how the money will be spent has yet to be worked out, St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom and her staff have planned on allotting the money as follows:
• Drainage, canals, pumps and levees – $13 million;
• Water systems – $5 million;
• Roads and bridges – $3 million;
• Public buildings – $6 million; and
• Parks and recreation – $3 million.
The administration has also put together a list of possible specific projects based on input from parish officials, residents and businesses. The list at this point is not conclusive, and ultimately the Parish Council will have to decide which projects get funded, but some of the items penciled in include expansion of the east bank government complex, funding for a pump station at Vicknair Canal and the West Shore Levee and repairs to Woodland and Fairway bridges.
“I’m putting (the list) together based on your input,” said Robottom. “We can buy some equipment. The older areas, the ditchwork, here’s an opportunity to do this.”
Robottom also noted that although the parish funds a large number of improvement projects through grants or the parish’s general fund, the projects sometimes require work outside of the originally-planned scope, and this bond money could be used to help fill in those gaps.
Robottom said such a large bond issue was made possible through the parish’s sound debt management over the past few years. According to parish administration, St. John Parish has refinanced approximately $30.8 million in general obligation and revenue bonds for a savings to taxpayers of approximately $2.5 million.
“That’s the most this parish has ever been able to bond,” said Robottom.