Officials in a small village in southern Livingston Parish raised questions Wednesday night about a drainage tax proposal on the November ballot.
The mayor and emergency manager of French Settlement asked three parish councilmen attending their monthly village meeting whether the project could actually worsen their flooding problems and suggested there was little support for their tax in the town of about 1,100 people.
Parish Councilmen Jeff Averett, Tab Lobell and Shane Mack came to the meeting to advocate for the 8-mill property tax on the Nov. 18 ballot that would create a gravity drainage district in the southeastern part of the parish.
If passed, the tax would raise about $1 million per year to be spent on a gravity drainage district covering the area that lies to the east of Walker and south of Interstate 12. The board would be charged with cleaning lateral drainage ditches and canals that councilmen say are currently too blocked up to efficiently drain the parish during severe storms.
Across parts of Livingston Parish, trees and leafy bushes sprout from the dirt canals design…
The councilmen claim the board, in having plans, funding and projects, could also help the region win federal grants for drainage projects and fight efforts to raise flood elevations and insurance premiums.
A similar proposal is on the ballot to form a drainage district east of Walker and north of Interstate 12. There are already three drainage districts in the western part of the parish.
French Settlement Emergency Manager Lawrence Callendar voiced concerns that clearing out some of the creeks, as proposed by the councilmen, might increase flooding in his region. With the sediment buildup in the Amite River, releasing drains further north could end up dumping more water on a place with no good outlet, he contended.
"I don't want to get to the point that we're putting five gallons in a one gallon bucket," he said.
Callendar said his priorities would be to dredge the Amite, repair the weir that diverts water and encourage more drainage friendly building practices.
Callendar said he wants to learn more about the drainage district's charter and board composition before deciding how to vote.
Mayor Toni Guitrau also questioned the councilmen's claims that the drainage district could prevent rising flood elevations and premiums, which she fought unsuccessfully in 2012.
She added that many village residents are already skeptical of the new tax proposal and encouraged the parish council members to disseminate more information to them.
"I feel like this could go 50-50," she said. "This could go, we might pass this, because we had a really bad flood and we want help. Or, no, we just had a really bad flood, we're poor right now, we're trying to get back in our homes and we're not going to put another property tax."