ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Council voted at its meeting Monday to place before voters the funding for a new parish recreation center and a wellness center.
The proposition, which will appear on the Nov. 21 ballot, is not a new property tax, but instead reallocates 1.5 mills from the parish hospital’s millage and 0.5 of a mill from public health and social services to support the new proposition, which would generate roughly $540,000 over 20 years beginning in 2017.
The money would be used to build a multi-purpose recreation center at the West Feliciana Sports Park that would include a swimming pool, recreation classes, gymnasium, indoor courts, indoor running track and full amenities, including locker rooms.
The wellness center would be built near the new hospital facility and would include space for exercise equipment classrooms and a nutrition center and space for rehabilitation.
Councilman John Kean offered a substitute motion supported by councilman Melvin Young that was rejected and would have instead allocated the 2 mills for improving public water and public sewer facilities.
Parish President Kevin Couhig agreed with Kean that water and public sewerage need to be priorities for the parish. But he said a more compelling argument supports the wellness facility because of the parish’s aging population.
The hospital, he said, can receive reimbursement to help pay for it through federal subsidies. In addition, the parish needs to offer amenities to attract prospective residents, and a recreation center would be a major draw.
“We would be impacting the quality of people’s lives,” said Couhig, adding the recreation center would enhance the quality of the sports park.
Six members of the audience also spoke in favor of the new facilities, and the council supported adding the proposition to the ballot for the recreation and wellness centers, 6-1, with Young being the only dissenting vote.
Also, the council deferred action on a resolution that would authorize Couhig to begin negotiating for four tracts of land in the southern part of the parish near the KPAQ plant that will be the future location of an industrial park. Couhig said the parish would have to match 20 percent of $250,000 from the state — $50,000 — for the necessary engineering work.
“These are the first baby steps toward building an industrial park,” Couhig said.
And, the council rejected a compromise offer floated by the Lambert family to settle the lawsuit that has cost the parish more than $700,000.
The suit is currently being appealed. Councilmembers Melvin Percy and Heather Howle voted in favor of the compromise, while Kean, Otis Wilson and Lea Williams were against it and Rickey Lambert and Young abstained.