St. John drainage frustration boils over; Councilman requests answers by June 27

Published 12:13 am Saturday, June 17, 2017

LAPLACE — Spring’s late season deluges have created additional drainage concerns for St. John the Baptist Parish officials as they work through hurricane season.

During Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting that lasted nearly four hours and seemingly featured more bickering than productivity, drainage dominated two lengthy discussions that sparked debate but no solutions.

Administration officials — when talking about lessons learned from the June 3 flood created by rainfall that measured as much as four inches in some areas — said alerts and warnings of possible street flooding were sent to Council members and residents based on weather forecasts. Additionally, the Emergency Operations Center was activated.

Some streets experienced flooding but it was noted much of the water drained within 30 minutes of the rain ending.

The Sheriff’s Office and fire department placed high water signs as needed and culverts were evaluated throughout St. John for potential blockages and clearing.

According to Parish President Natalie Robottom, the flooding also pointed to continued major problems north of Interstate 10, which has been problematic in the past.

“All that stuff sounds good but I did some riding around and they had water everywhere,” Council Chairman Larry Snyder said, adding the pumps were kicking on too late and were, subsequently, unable to drain the water off the streets in a timely matter.

“I was surprised by the (flooding) in the southeast part of Riverlands,” Snyder said. “When the pumps kicked on, the water was moving. We need to recalibrate the pumps to come on earlier.”

Public works director Brian Nunes agreed, saying his department is aware that the floats in the pumps, which determine when the pumps automatically engage, are off.

“We will adjust the floats,” he said.

Regarding the area north of Interstate 10, Councilman Michael Wright said he hopes the administration will bring a proposal to at least address the issue and potentially present solutions by the June 27 meeting. He added that the Pontchartrain Levee District will do some of the work necessary in that area for free and asked the administration to contact district officials.

“We can’t wait any longer,” he said.

Robottom said there is a larger issue in play.

“We had high water signs on St. Andrews, and that has never happened in 30 years,” she said. “(The rainfall) was massive.”

Earlier in the meeting, Councilman Lennix Madere continued his bi-weekly verbal sparring with various officials regarding drainage issues in District III, which he represents.

A 30-plus minute discussion ensued, and Madere repeatedly peppered officials with the same questions, but attempts to address the councilman’s concerns were to no avail. Robottom suggested a workshop be held to address those and many drainage issues that are plaguing the parish.

Snyder finally put a stop to the discussion, which appeared to only fuel Madere’s anger.

“We know what the issues are; we can’t stay on this one topic, going back and forth all night,” a frustrated Snyder told his fellow Council member.

— By Richard Meek