ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Council approved the purchase of three parcels of land for $1.187 million that Parish President Kevin Couhig hopes will attract business and industry to the parish.
The parcels, totaling 235.31 acres, are located along La. 964 in the southern part of the parish near the Hood Container facility just off U.S. 61.
Because of the competitive nature of economic development, Couhig said, buying the property is a necessary first step. He said the second step is to get the parcels designated as “certified sites” through Louisiana Economic Development, meaning they are development-ready industrial sites. The third step is to actively market the sites and begin recruiting businesses.
“It gives us a wise investment,” Couhig told the council on Monday.
Parish resident Jerry Landrum noted the money will come from a “rainy day account” that was not intended for the purchase for speculative business deals.
“I think we’re in a rainy day,” Couhig told Landrum. “Our population is shrinking, and if we want industry to come here, we’re like a grocery store with no groceries on the shelves. We need to do something to increase our tax base.”
Attracting industry is a key component of Couhig’s economic development plan, and he believes the area is attractive because it has easy rail access, highway access and Mississippi River access.
Once certified, the three parcels will be placed into the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s available industrial site inventory list. Being a certified site puts a parcel at the top of that list.
Later, Couhig, the council and a number of audience members discussed the future of the roughly 7-mile road that runs along Cat Island and serves as the major access road for the area. Couhig said because the road is regularly washed out by the Mississippi River when it rises, it’s expensive for the parish to continue to repair the road just to have it washed out again and to repeat the cycle.
Couhig said the parish has spent more than $94,000 in the past year to repair the road after flooding, only to have it rendered impassable with the next flooding episode.
Because the road is lightly traveled, an average count of 14 vehicles per day, he said, perhaps there are better uses for the road funds elsewhere in the parish. More than a dozen people who have residences, camps or crop acreage on the remote property spoke about the necessity of keeping the road being passable. They agreed to form a committee to work with the parish to find a more cost-effective way to deal with the road.
The council also passed a resolution naming an 8-acre tract along the Mississippi River that will be developed as a riverboat docking facility in honor of Elaine Vinci Sullivan, who died last month. Her husband of 52 years, Leonard, her son, Frank, and daughter-in-law, Candace, accepted the resolution to a standing ovation from the audience.