Baton Rouge Area Foundation Executive Vice President John Spain told Rotary Club members Wednesday about the possibility, and likely public support, for a short-term millage to help pay for the restoration and improvement of the Baton Rouge lakes.
Spain said there could be a need for additional money and a two- or three-year, parishwide property tax could be the answer.
The project is expected to cost about $40 million to complete — $25 million to dredge the lakes and another $15 million for sidewalks and lighting — and the tax would be used to fill the gap that remains after money is raised via governmental and private sources.
“How we fund it is the big question,” Spain said while explaining that it’s unlikely a tax will be necessary.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said, but it’s a possibility.
However, Spain said the lakes are a public resource, owned through the city-parish and LSU, and there are indications that people are willing to pay for their restoration.
“I think there’s wide support for these lakes,” he said. Spain added that more information on that support will be available once the foundation’s annual “City Stats” report is released later this year.
The project has $13 million approved by the state Legislature this year. Of that money, $3 million of it will come before the Louisiana State Bond Commission in the next two months for a decision on whether that will be converted to cash, Spain said.
If approved, about $1 million would be used to transform the almost complete conceptual master plan into construction plans for the project. That will take about a year to complete. The project also will need to get the appropriate permits, which could take about a year and a half.
The best-case scenario, if planning, permits and money all fell into place, would have construction starting in 2018, he said.
The Baton Rouge lakes are in decline with poor water quality and shallow depths that make it difficult for fish and other aquatic life to survive. In early 2014, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation announced that it would fund the development of a master plan that would address these environmental issues, while also tackling the need to better accommodate the increasing number of walkers, runners and bicyclists who use the roads around the lakes.
The master plan, unveiled last week, calls for the dredging of lakes in sections while using the dredged soil to build dedicated pedestrian and biking trails as well as new park areas around the lakes.
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