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|Jackson wants police jury to take serious look at drainage concerns|
Ouachita Parish officials are researching methods to fund drainage efforts in the parish.
One option includes asking voters to approve a special tax dedicated for drainage purposes.
Ouachita Parish has not levied a dedicated drainage tax since the late 1970s. The parish has twice asked voters to renew a drainage tax, or property millage, but the proposal failed each time.
During the police jury's regular meeting Monday, police juror Charles Jackson brought up the matter for discussion.
No action was taken, but the police jury plans to discuss the issue at future meetings.
"I think it's important to put this on the table and get some sense for it," Jackson said. "I think as much as anything, talking about it in a public forum gives us the opportunity to remind the public that there is no dedicated funds for drainage."
Parish attorney Jay Mitchell said there are two options the police jury could take to fund drainage improvements in the parish.
One option includes levying a parish-wide millage (a special tax dedicated for drainage purposes).
"That clearly is the standard way to fund drainage work in the parish," Mitchell said.
The other option involves establishing drainage districts in different areas within the parish. Each of the districts would have a board of commissioners to govern the district. The districts could levy their own service fees to finance drainage improvements within each district.
Currently, there are two drainage districts already operating within the parish. They are Town and Country Drainage District No. 1 and East Town and Country Drainage District.
Mitchell said jurors could consult with those two districts' board of commissioners about their operations.
"They seem to operate pretty smoothly, and they've been quite successful with their drainage efforts," Mitchell said.
Jackson has suggested the parish be divided into quadrants for drainage districts. Mitchell said that method could legally be done, however, it would be different from standard drainage districts.
"Typically, drainage districts are done on the scale similar to sewer districts, but I think the law would allow a plan to make larger districts," Mitchell said.
If the jury takes the route of forming more drainage districts, police jurors would be responsible for appointing commissioners for each district's board.
Present statute calls for commissioners to be land owners within the drainage district.
Jackson said he has no preferences on the make-up of drainage district boards, but reminded the police jury it has tried twice to pass a parish-wide millage for drainage and failed each time. On the other hand, he said the parish has been successful in establishing individual drainage districts.
"Wisdom might indicate we at least give some consideration to that," Jackson said.
Jackson said if the police jury wants to pursue the matter, it will need to develop a strategy and cost, and relay that information to the public.
"My guess is we've not been doing very much off-road drainage for the past 30 years, so it's going to take several years to get the backlog taken care of," Jackson said.
The Ouachita Parish Public Works Department is funded by a one-cent sales tax, which is dedicated to road construction and maintenance.
In Ouachita Parish, there's no source of funds for work on off-road ditches other than the police jury's general fund. The Attorney General says the public works department can only use the one-cent sales tax for roadside ditch maintenance. It cannot be used for any off-road drainage issues.
Parish engineer Don Harrison has said majority of drainage issues within the parish is due to off-road drainage problems.