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Robottom: St. John has many success stories to tell

As we close out 2018 and prepare for 2019, it is a great time to reflect on the past and prepare for the future.

As Parish President, I take great pride in my team’s efforts to leverage parish resources to acquire federal and state funds. For years, critical infrastructure needs could not be addressed because of funding and that remains a concern.

However, we’ve had the good fortune to complete many critical projects in 2018 utilizing state and federal dollars. Millions of dollars of improvements were made with no increase in taxes, but with grants, voter-approved bond issues and low interest loans.

During 2018, more than $10 million of construction was completed or continued using Parish funds, with another $31.5 million of construction utilizing state and federal funds.

Under my Administration, more than $16 million has been invested in the Parish’s Road Improvement Program, with more than 100 roads being repaired since 2010. Many projects are still underway, but are moving forward, while others are in the design phase.

Passenger Rail and a Multi-Modal Transit Center, Wastewater Retention Pond Conversion, Safe Room, West Bank Safety Complex, Barton Granier Tower, Reserve Drainage Phase 2 and Woodland Bridge repairs are only a few of the important projects either under construction or moving toward construction.

The new St. John Parish Government Complex is officially open at 1811 West Airline Highway and it houses primary Parish services in one place. This investment was approved by residents through the 2009 and 2014 bond issues, and after 10 years of planning, it finally came to fruition.

This is a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of the parish that will benefit the community for many years to come. We look forward to the official opening and open house for the building in early January.

We are also moving forward with construction of a Safe Room behind our new building that will house our first responders during emergencies and the $6.1 million grant through LA SAFE for the Airline and Main Complete Streets project. This project will add storm water management, overall flood risk reduction and beautify Airline Highway between Belle Terre and Main Street.

Another source of funding which will allow the parish to begin the 18-month project of replacing existing water meters to improve accuracy and modernize the billing system has been approved. Once the site certificate was signed and delivered, LDEQ approved a $6 million low interest Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan.

The new meters will be part of the Advanced Metering Infrastructure, which will allow for electronic monitoring of water usage, provide leak detection and assist with troubleshooting. This will free up staff to address operational and preventive maintenance issues.

The most important achievement in the Parish’s history also occurred in 2018 and that was obtaining full funding for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Risk Reduction Project. Under the leadership of Congressman Graves with the support of Congressman Richmond and the rest of the Congressional delegation, the entire $760 million needed for this project was approved this year.

This project will include four pump stations, two drainage gates and 18 miles of levee from Montz to Mt. Airy. Levee protection had been my No. 1 priority since taking office and we anticipate the levee being complete by 2023. Our community was devastated by flooding due to Hurricane Isaac in 2012 and we have worked every day since then to ensure that much needed flood protection is obtained for our residents.

These are just a few of the highlights from 2018, as always, I am grateful for the support, calls, texts, social media messages and prayers as I enter my final year in office as Parish President. I appreciate the encouragement more than you know and look forward to closing out much of what has been started in the last several years.

To receive more information on projects or stay updated on the latest news and events, please visit the Parish website at sjbparish.com.

May you and your family have a joyous Christmas and a prosperous new year!

Natalie Robottom is St. John the Baptist Parish President. She can be reached at communications@stjohn-la.gov.