The Jefferson Parish Council is looking at the idea of creating a department-level position to focus on making sure the parish gets its fair share of revenue for coastal restoration efforts.
At-Large Councilman Chris Roberts said Friday that he and other council members will introduce such an ordinance at Wednesday’s meeting.
He said the new director of coastal zone management would be the point person in ensuring that the benefits of coastal restoration efforts from all levels of government are maximized for the parish.
“It is important that we have someone well-versed, highly educated on the funding opportunities and focused on making sure that the most populated and highest tax-producing parish in the state is getting its fair share of this revenue,” Roberts said.
He said that beginning in 2017, the state will begin collecting billions of dollars in federal oil and gas royalties, along with money from another round of BP settlement funding.
“Failing to have someone entirely consumed in this process will place Jefferson Parish in a weakened position,” Roberts said. “New opportunities are presented daily. Decisions are made daily. We can’t assume others outside of Jefferson Parish will be working for our best interest.”
And with state government facing a fiscal crisis, “we need to make sure that we’re watching all these revenue pots,” he said.
Another thing to keep an eye on is making sure that any new flood-protection infrastructure proposed at the state or federal level wouldn’t seek to saddle the parish with unreasonable maintenance costs that would force it to raise taxes, Roberts said.
“I want as much flood protection as we can afford,” he said. “The system is only as good as its weakest link, and if you don’t have the money to properly maintain it, it’s going to leak somewhere.”
Roberts said details have yet to be worked out on the qualifications for the new position, and the council will work with parish President Mike Yenni on the particulars. He said Yenni has expressed support for creating the position.
He said the position’s salary likely will be in line with those for other department heads in parish government, though the director won’t require any additional staff, beyond possibly an administrative assistant.
The goal is to have someone in place by early 2017.
Roberts said he has no specific candidate in mind for the position. But he said it will need to be someone who knows coastal management issues well and has the disposition to be the advocate in Baton Rouge that the parish needs.
“It’s going to have to be someone with some level of institutional knowledge,” he said.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.