CLINTON — Top Police Jury officials say they are working in several areas to efficiently deliver services to East Feliciana Parish residents, even as residential growth spills over the parish line from East Baton Rouge without bringing much new revenue.
In a recent interview, Police Jury President Louis Kent, Vice President Chrissie O’Quin and Parish Manager Jody Moreau said the jury’s work in the remainder of the year should begin to pay long-lasting dividends.
The parish is experiencing a growth spike that includes large residential developments in the southern end of the parish that already are creating problems for local government.
While the new residents enjoy the parish’s low property taxes, most do their shopping in Zachary or farther south, putting sales tax revenues out of the hands of East Feliciana Parish schools and the Police Jury.
“What it’s doing, if we keep growing and growing, is stressing our infrastructure, O’Quinn said. “We’ve got to keep up the roads, pick up the garbage and provide drainage.”
“Having a new rooftop doesn’t change shopping habits,” Moreau said.
“We’re like a bedroom community. People live here, but they shop in other places,” Kent said.
If more of the residential growth were farther north in the parish, more people likely would do their household shopping in the parish, Moreau said.
The new growth creates a funding gap between the demand for services and the taxes the growth generates, but the jury is “trying to find ways to fill this gap through infrastructure developments as well as aggressive grant writing,” Moreau said.
Kent said the jury soon will receive a new proposed subdivision ordinance that a committee has been developing since late last year. It will reduce the size of the document from 155 pages to 25 to 30, he said.
“We hope it changes growth from just jamming people over here into some type of smart, organized growth,” O’Quin said.
Whether a revised ordinance simply spurs growth or channels it to the parish’s overall benefit remains to be seen, but the jury hopes hiring an engineer to serve the parish will help see that new developments meet the ordinance’s requirements.
The jury has not had a parish engineer in more than 10 years, although it has consulted with engineering firms on some projects, primarily those involving federal funds.
Now the jury is seeking proposals from civil engineers or engineering firms to advise jurors on matters involving road design and construction, drainage projects, construction bid packages, rating bridges, designing bridge repairs and supervising construction projects.
The proposals are due June 9, and a selection committee will recommend a engineer to the full jury on June 21.
Moreau said a parish engineer will help the jury ensure that developments meet the parish’s codes before they are built.
“We want to be more proactive than reactive,” Kent said.
Other items on the jury’s agenda include:
- Working with residents and the parish’s new garbage collection firm, Waste Pro, to work out kinks with the new contract, which started April 1. O’Quin said she hopes that when collection problems are resolved, the parish can offer recycling service to the residents.
- Transitioning to an old agricultural co-op property it bought to serve as the new public works headquarters and replacing a site one-third of an acre in size. The 5-acre site has a 14,000-square-foot building to use for operations and maintenance, areas for stockpiling dry materials such as dirt, clay and sand. The current site has little room to maneuver vehicles, but the new facilities will allow workers to stage equipment and materials for the next day’s projects.
- Developing a road overlay program for 2022 with the assistance of the engineer the jury hopes to hire this summer.
- Trying to improve drainage, especially on roads. Moreau said many parish roads are older than Louisiana’s state government, meaning that 200 years of grading and operation on them have made the roads themselves the lowest point of the surrounding area. “All of our roads are flooding,” O’Quin said.
- Trying to determine which of the parish’s 50 named waterways would qualify for grant funds to clean out under the Louisiana Watershed Initiative. When a plan is developed, the parish will apply for state funding to improve the flow of the selected streams.
- Applying for federal funds to turn already installed fiber optic cables along major roads in the parish into functioning broadband internet service.
- Working to bring industrial projects to the parish that will provide employment and tax revenue.