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Historic preservation group created to study local structures, neighborhoods

EDGARD — St. John the Baptist Parish is as well known for its historic landmarks as its natural beauty, dotting both sides of the Mississippi River.

Officials are hoping to take steps to preserve that history at the same time enlisting the state in assisting to fund projects.

Council members took a major leap in the process Tuesday during a meeting at the Rudolph Sorapuru Chambers in Edgard by approving a resolution establishing a Historic Preservation Study Committee. The committee will study historic structures and neighborhoods as a precursor to developing preservation recommendations.

Council member Julia Remondet said the committee would initially focus on four sites on Main Street but ultimately every area of the parish would be included, allaying the concerns of her fellow council members.

“We know we have historic areas on both sides of the river,” Remondet added. “We would like to preserve that.

“We have to form this committee to be eligible for (state) funding. It’s the beginning stages of what we would like to see done.”

She said additional committees would be formed to study specific areas, adding, “We are not excluding anyone.”

In other news, Parish Council members:

• Were told the hiring of two additional employees in the utilities department should speed up the process of reading meters and get utility bills back on a more normal cycle. The failure rate for the current water meter registers continues to increase, which has forced an increase in manual reading, slowing the process and resulting in neighbors receiving much higher bills because of a longer cycle.

Several Council members have noted their constituents, especially those on fixed incomes, are having difficulty paying the increased bills. Members were told the utilities department is working with residents by waiving late fees and allowing an extra 15 to 30 days to pay the balance, although utilities representatives acknowledged they are allowing residents to pay when they are financially able.

The meter registers were installed 10 years ago and with a predicted 10-year shelf life are failing at an increasing rate.

• Approved a resolution allowing the administration to apply for a $100,000 grant from the Office of Community Development for additional funding for the Phase II renovation of the West Bank Community Center.

St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said $105,000 is budgeted for the renovation but additional funds would help fund compliancy with American Disabilities Act requirements.

She called the grant a “wonderful opportunity” and noted the center would operate at a local elementary school while work was completed on the building.

Upon questioning from Council members, Robottom said the scope of the work would include painting, updating and perhaps landscaping.

Council member Kurt Becnel also suggested taking down a wall, to which Robottom said, “everything is based on available funding.”

— By Richard Meek