ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Council agreed Monday to let voters decide if they want to pay for a 107-mile fiber optic system that would provide broadband internet capability for the parish.
Voters will have the opportunity Dec. 10 to decide whether they want to be levied a 4-mill property tax for five years to pay the roughly $5.7 million tab for the network, which would provide a broadband infrastructure accessible to parish residents and businesses. The tax, which would begin in 2017, would cover construction costs and equipping the network.
Council members Mel Percy, Sydney Picou Walker, Bill May and John Thompson voted to allow the proposal to go on the ballot. Melvin Young was the lone dissenter and he did so without any comment. In fact, none of the council members commented and neither did Parish President Kevin Couhig, who has been a major proponent for constructing the broadband backbone.
Meanwhile, the council had a lengthy debate about the decision of the District 1 Fire Protection Board to discontinue paying for land phone lines. Local attorney Charles Griffin, chairman of the Election Board of Commissioners, asked the council to make a request to the Fire District that the phone lines be maintained because many of the fire stations are used for voting precincts. He also was concerned with the outside lighting at the stations and whether it will be adequate for voters.
Percy said the council has no authority over the Fire District and he asked Griffin why cellphones couldn’t be used. Picou Walker said commissioners have got to have communication that doesn’t fail and that inadequate lighting could end up a liability issue.
Thompson said he wanted to ensure the council would do everything necessary to keep the land lines and “keep the lights on because we have a responsibility to the voters of the parish.”
Couhig offered to meet with Fire Chief James Wood to see if an agreement could be worked out and the issue was tabled until the Oct. 10 meeting.
In other action, the council agreed to an Oct. 10 public hearing and possible vote to place proposed amendments to the Home Rule Charter on the Dec. 10 ballot, basically dealing with minor matters.
Also, Tammie DeLatte, Veterans Assistance Counselor for East and West Feliciana, gave her annual report to the Council. She said in the past year, her office through the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs served 1,417 veterans in the two parishes and brought in $1.9 million in grants, up from $1.7 million from a year ago.