St. John Council roundup

Published 10:06 am Saturday, March 25, 2023

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EDGARD—Candidates that are considering running in the upcoming fall elections now have a clear picture of voting districts and precincts after the St. John the Baptist Parish Council adopted the final redistricting plan during its March 14 meeting in Edgard.

Yet to be decided, however, are the final locations for some of the polling places.

Redistricting was required throughout Louisiana based on the 2020 census.

Despite a bit of confusion regarding the changing polling places, the adopted plan, which was developed by the South Central Planning and Development Commission, created the least amount of change, according to at least two council members.

Councilman Kurt Becnel introduced the ordnance, saying it should have already been approved and noted that St. John was the only one of the seven parishes which had used South Central for redistricting that had not yet approved a plan.

“We are seven months away from the election,” Becnel said. “I think it’s very unfair for the people who want to run (not to have the districts and precincts finalized).

“I don’t know if this is going to pass but hopefully, we can decide on this one.”

Becnel also addressed feedback that additional meetings were needed. He detailed that meetings or public workshops were held in August, October, November and February addressing the proposed plans.

“When people ask that they need more meetings, how many more meetings do we need?” he said.

“I agree with (Becnel) that we need to accept this one (and) it does have the least amount of changes,” Councilman Lennix Madere said “More importantly, it is getting closer to the election and major changes to districts or precincts would really be a problem (at this point).”

The fall will feature such high-profile races such as selecting a new governor but also the parish ballot will include races for parish president, council members and other officials.

Josh Manning of Southeast Planning said tweaking polling places, as was requested by Councilwoman Tonia Schnyder, is part of the follow up process. He said once an overall redistricting plan is approved by a parish council, the commission’s focus is on polling places, including potentially changing those with less than 300 voters.

Manning said those changes would be presented to the council in the next few weeks.

“To change a specific location is not a problem,” he said.

Qualifying for the fall elections is in early August, with the primary scheduled Oct. 14.

In other business, Parish President Hotard announced the parish was awarded a $2.495 million, state grant for the comprehensive Water Improvement Plan. She said the parish won the grant through a competitive selection process and awarded through the Louisiana Department of Administration.

She said the state, through the Office of Community Development, will transfer monthly payments for the purpose of funding water, sewar and/or storm water infrastructure projects.

Hotard stressed to the council members how fortunate the parish was to be awarded grant and the benefits to the parish.

“I’m very excited (the parish was awarded the grant,)” she said.