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Council explores funding sources for Lions Treatment Plant: Library tax rededication taken off the table

LAPLACE – In an effort to resolve water issues facing St. John the Baptist Parish residents, some Parish Council representatives looked to the St. John Parish Library as a potential funding source.

Approximately $12 million to $15 million is needed to expand the Lions water treatment plant in Reserve, according to Councilman Larry Sorapuru.

In recent months, the St. John Parish Council has discussed calling a special election that would rededicate 2 mills of the library’s 9.4 mills, amounting to approximately $900,000 per year to take care of the parish water system. Those discussions came to a halt at the Aug. 27 Council meeting, one day after Sorapuru and Councilman Marvin Perrilloux met with Interim Library Director Randy DeSoto. Library Board of Control members Virgie Johnson and Lisa Tregre-Wilder were also present.

DeSoto said library leaders are currently searching for a site to construct a new Reserve branch with funds from the millage, which was earmarked for construction and other library maintenance needs.

“They (the Parish Council) wanted more explanation on what was on the drawing boards and how it would affect the library budget,” DeSoto said. “We explained our investment, and they agreed we were using the money, and they weren’t going to pursue it.”

Limited parking space has been a longtime concern at the Reserve Library branch, according to the Library Board of Control. In the event that the Reserve branch moves to another facility, the current building may be sold to the School Board or another entity.

Sorapuru thanked the library board members for the meeting. While noting the Lions Water Plant will have to be addressed at one point or another, Sorapuru said it wouldn’t hurt to wait another four months to see what opportunities arise.

One consideration discussed by the Council is Marathon Petroleum Company maturing onto the tax roll in January 2020 after a 10-year tax exemption, set to bring a major windfall of more than $30 million to the parish.

Councilman Michael Wright suggested setting up a workshop with St. John Parish Assessor Lucien Gauff III to determine how much revenue will come in and where it is expected to go before making any plans for the funds.

Other Council members, including Tom Malik and Larry Snyder, still hold that the library rededication is a viable option that has not been fully explored.

“If I had to make a choice to buy a book or pay your water bill, what would you choose?” Snyder said. “Children need to be educated, but they also need to have some water to drink. Our water system is getting pretty close to capacity in Reserve and LaPlace. All we’re asking for is 2 mills of that 9.4 so we can take care of our water system. I’ve got to look at it from that perspective. What’s best for the most people?”

According to Snyder, the four library branches are all in good shape.

Malik said water quality must be the top priority for St. John Parish.

“I think at the end of the day, it’s more important to take care of basic needs, which is potable water,” Malik said. “I think the library is effective. I like the library. Certainly, Reserve could use a lot more parking spaces, but I think putting a new building on the backburner for a couple of years is the prudent thing to do.”

Malik agreed with Wright’s idea to sit down with the assessor to map out how the Marathon funds can be utilized.

The rededication was removed from the Parish Council agenda following the discussion.