Drainage problems rankle St. John Council members

Published 11:45 pm Friday, June 6, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — The night before heavy rainfall caused flooding in Garyville and Mt. Airy last week, the two cities were part of a heated discussion at the May 27 St. John the Baptist Parish Council meeting.

District II Councilman Ranney Wilson, whose area of representation encompasses Mt. Airy, Garyville and parts of Reserve, spoke out and at some points yelled during the meeting in attempts to make it clear he felt he often got the short end of the stick when it came to drainage issues and funding.

“I need help sooner than later about the drainage situation,” Wilson said. “God, please give me some help.”

Not 24 hours later, 12 homes in his district flooded as a result of extreme rainfall. Meteorologist Danielle Manning with the National Weather Service said rain was heaviest in the west side of St. John Parish, with up to 10 to 12 inches falling in that area on May 27 and 28.

At the meeting, Wilson was not pacified by St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom or Public Works Director Brian Nunes, both of who attempted to reassure Wilson his area of representation is given adequate attention.

“It’s time to get off you know what and get some drainage work done in district two,” Wilson said.

Nunes reassured Wilson canals and ditches around the parish were being targeted for clearing and the railroad companies who have tracks on the land.

This week Wilson expressed more frustration as he talked about last week’s flooding.

“They haven’t any done anything in 20 years,” he said of the parish’s administration regarding drainage issues in and around Garyville.

He said a pumping station for the area would be his best-case scenario.

The parish did drainage studies of District II the past, Wilson said, but never acted on anything.

Wilson grew frustrated as he said probably 90 percent of industry revenue taxes in St. John come from District II, but the district never sees any of that money for road improvements or drainage.

A lengthy discussion about parish-wide road improvements also ensued at last week’s council meeting.

Wilson and District III Councilman Lennix Madere were the two most outspoken council members on the issue. Both said not enough attention was being given to their districts’ roads.

Robottom addressed both men, assuring them the highest priority roads in their districts would be targeted for improvements.

Robottom told the council $3 million for asphalt work has been allocated for the 2014 road improvement project. She also told the council members to let her know what roads in their districts should be targeted in the 2015 road improvement program.

A full listing of all roads targeted for 2014, including the status of work thus far, can be found at sjbparish.com.