Storm drainage fallout floods St. John; Local government hints upgraded drainage plan coming

Published 12:13 am Saturday, May 13, 2017

LAPLACE — Recent torrential rainfalls that left some streets impassable had Council members clamoring for answers during the St. John the Baptist Parish Council meeting Tuesday night.

Council members Julia Remondet and Lennix Madere Jr. were the most outspoken, leading to lengthy discussions as St. John continues to grapple with a thorny issue that has plagued certain areas for years. Remondet suggested the Parish hire contractors to assist in clearing ditches and culverts, saying she believed the Parish had become “experts at disaster” but “we are behind on drainage. (Residents) can’t wait.”

She said at least one family in her district is not comfortable putting flooring down because of flooding concerns.

“I think they need a helping hand,” Remondet said.

“(The utilities department) needs help to catch up. It’s not even storm season.”

Chief Administrative Officer Laverne Toombs acknowledged the challenges but said the parish’s drainage department, which was created several months ago and has 10 fulltime employees, works daily on the problem.

She said they do an outstanding job.

Verdell Kindrick, assistant director of public works, said the department also had 10 full-time employees dedicated to cutting grass but when they are not performing those duties, they are also cleaning ditches.

Earlier in the meeting, Madere, who often spars with the Administration regarding drainage issues, sparked a lengthy discussion in the wake of a recent storm that dumped up to five inches in St. John. He said the drainage issues are the same whether five inches or an inch-and-a-half of rain fall.

“We can’t seem to handle two inches of rain,” he said.

He noticed significant debris left behind in the water from the recent storm, potentially creating a series of dams and causing more flooding in the next rain event.

Madere renewed his call to establish a drainage department to “work on the problem every day” and appeared stunned when Toombs informed him St. John already has such a department in place.

“This is news to me,” a visibly surprised Madere said.

Toombs revealed a comprehensive drainage plan has been developed and presented to Parish President Natalie Robottom, who was not present at the Council meeting, but said she could not share the details of the proposal.

“Hopefully (the plan) will eliminate (some of the problems),” Toombs said.

Council Chairman Larry Snyder said, “let’s just dig some ditches and put some culverts down. That is what I am all about.”

— By Richard Meek