St. Tammany president sets sights on cultural arts district, parish-owned mental health campus and continued Safe Haven development for second term _lowres

Pat Brister Candidate president St. Tammany arish

Two weeks after her swearing-in for a second term, St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister laid out goals Monday that include continued development of Safe Haven, the parish-owned mental health campus, and a cultural arts district that she said will be a top priority.

Brister was surrounded by parish councilmen Steve Stefancik and T.J. Smith, Covington Mayor Mike Cooper, state Rep. Reid Falconer and Coroner Charles Preston as she made brief comments and fielded questions.

She praised teamwork among elected officials in St. Tammany as key to the accomplishments of the past four years.

Brister lauded the parish’s action in stepping in to buy the site when the state closed Southeast Louisiana Hospital, calling the intervention a necessity. The parish’s purchase of the property from the state in March will ensure continued behavioral health care in St. Tammany, she said.

Preston echoed the importance of what Brister called a continuum of care, saying that Safe Haven will take some of the burden off hospital emergency room doctors and police, who now must deal with people in mental health crises. Greater access to mental health services can also help people before they reach the crisis point, Preston said.

The land purchase is providing other benefits to the parish as well, Brister said. St. Tammany is using the property as a permanent mitigation bank for public works projects, saving money that the parish would otherwise have to spend on wetlands mitigation, she said.

Pelican Park also purchased 100 acres of the land from the parish for future expansion, Brister noted.

The cultural arts district that Brister has been pushing east of La. 21 and just north of Interstate 12 is still in the early conceptual stages, she said, but it remains a priority and will include a performing arts center.

The St. Tammany Advanced Campus under construction off La. 434 in Lacombe will house the Northshore Technical Community College and its STEM Campus, providing post-high school educational opportunities for young people and a trained workforce, she said.

It also will be the site of the St. Tammany Emergency Operations Center, which will be able to house multiple government agencies during a disaster.

Brister said the parish is working on an enhanced development code and is on the verge of launching a new integrated software system for internal parish government operations.

The parish also has formed a partnership with the Sheriff’s Office to fight litter, she said. Every day, a deputy and 10 to 12 trusties from the jail will clean up litter as directed by the parish.

Brister said parish government gets as many calls about litter as anything else.

She said her administration’s vision is “absolute” — that St. Tammany will be the premier community along the Interstate 12 corridor, with a strong economy, innovation and investment in its natural environment and culture.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.