WALKER — Mayor Rick Ramsey told the Walker City Council at its Oct. 10 meeting that the August flooding could eventually cost the city about $3 million after the expenses for repairing infrastructure, cleaning up debris and restoration of city facilities are finally totaled.
Ramsey said it is hoped that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover at least 90 percent of those costs and that requests for reimbursement from FEMA are on “the fast track.”
The mayor said he met with FEMA representatives recently and explained the city needs to be reimbursed as quickly as possible.
Ramsey said one bright spot for the city has been an unexpected uptick in sales tax collections. He explained that for one week in August, very little was collected in sales taxes because so many businesses had been affected by the flooding. However, the city eventually collected about $396,000 in sales taxes for the month because a number of Walker retail outlets opened ahead of other businesses in Livingston Parish.
The total in sales taxes for the month was the second highest monthly total in the history of the tax, the mayor said.
Ramsey said the city will have to closely monitor funds raised by the city’s utility departments because many property owners remain away while their homes are being repaired from the flood damage.
Public Works Director Fred Raiford presented a break-out of flood related costs to the council. Raiford said debris clearance was a major expense and, at this time, it appears the city’s portion of paying for the cleanup will be about $73,000.
Additional funds will be needed for pick-up and disposal of white goods, or large household appliances. Raiford said about 48,000 yards of flood debris already has been picked up with a final sweep still not finished.
Another large ticket item will be the expenditure of about $790,000 to repair damage to the Carroll Street Bridge. The cost of repairing other bridges and culverts in the city could be about $479,000, his report showed. The city must also fund repairs to the animal shelter, some public buildings and equipment, parks and recreation facilities, the water system and emergency work.
Raiford said he would give a final report on the costs of the flood to the city when all assessments of damages and costs of repairs have been accomplished.
At the same meeting, Ramsey named council members Paul Roberts and Scarlett Major to serve as a committee to determine the status of trick or treating in Walker this year. Ramsey said an online survey of residents showed that about a third of the respondents wanted to cancel trick or treating, another third asked that it be moved to Oct. 29 and another third suggested keeping trick or treating on Oct. 31.
Walker said that while Halloween is a holiday, trick or treating is something regulated by governmental bodies. In Walker, he explained, an ordinance sets trick or treating on Oct. 31.
“If we are going to have trick or treating, it must be held on Oct. 31. … We cannot change that,” the mayor said.
Ramsey said a number of respondents to the survey expressed an interest in holding trick or treating so that the community can begin returning to a sense of normalcy after the catastrophic flooding.
He asked Major and Roberts to report back to the council at least one week before Oct. 31 with a recommendation on the status of trick or treating in Walker this year.
In an unrelated matter, the council gave its unanimous approval to annex 33.42 acres of land located east of the city near the Walker Industrial Park on U.S. 190. The tract will be zoned industrial and will serve as an extension of industrial parks in the general area.