Voters across Lafayette Parish will decide Saturday whether to continue funding the agency tasked with cleaning Bayou Vermilion and operating the Vermilionville living history and folklife park.
The renewal of the 0.75-mill, 10-year property tax supporting the Bayou Vermilion District and an accompanying $4 million, 20-year bond issue for planned district projects are the only two issues on Saturday’s ballot in the parish.
The bond issue, which would be repaid with a property tax estimated to start at 0.17 mills, would help fund improvements along the river and at Vermilionville on Fisher Road.
If both the property tax and bond issue were approved, the owner of a $200,000 home would continue to pay about $11.50 a year to support Bayou Vermilion District, according to figures from the agency.
“It’s not going to increase your tax bill,” said district CEO David Cheramie.
The district was created in 1984 to oversee efforts to clean up a waterway once labeled as one of the most polluted in the U.S. and to encourage public use of the bayou.
“I think we have been very good stewards of the public trust. We have slowly turned the Vermilion into a recreation and tourist attraction in its own right,” Cheramie said.
Vermilionville is close to self sustaining, Cheramie said, and most of the roughly $1.4 million a year generated by the 0.75-mill tax is used for river maintenance operations — paying the staff and maintaining the trucks, boats, barges, chain saws, trash booms and other equipment used to keep the river clean.
The district workers pull tons of trash from the river each year, remove downed trees, work on erosion control projects, conduct water quality testing and do public outreach on best practices for maintaining a healthy river.
The district has outlined several planned improvements if voters approve the $4 million bond issue, including bulkhead repairs at the Rotary Point park, a new boat launch and rest rooms at Southside Park, acquiring more land along the river for public access, covered and lighted walkways at Vermilionville, and upgrades at the restaurant.