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|Debate over drainage continues|
Ouachita Parish police jurors continued their discussion Monday about possible ways to fund drainage projects in the parish.
The issue was first brought up earlier this month by police juror Charles Jackson.
The police jury is looking at two options.
One option would entail 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 asked voters on two occasions to renew a drainage tax, or property millage. The proposal failed each time.
The other option would call for establishing drainage districts in different areas in the parish.
Several police jurors seemed more inclined to support drainage districts over a proposed parish-wide millage.
"I think the district option makes more sense," said police jury president Walt Caldwell.
"We do have some drainage districts already in place," Caldwell said. "I just think this is something we could, and should look at."
"I would think it would be driven by the people who are most affected by it," he said. "They would be the ones who would want to have these districts."
Police juror Dorth Blade is interested in looking at both options, but he's not in a position to vote in favor or against either one.
Police juror Pat Moore also is willing to look at both options.
Supporting an option to create drainage districts, according to Caldwell, was not "trying to carve off parts of the parish so some don't have to pay."
"I think a parish-wide millage would be appropriate, and I would certainly be inclined to support it if that's what the public wanted," Caldwell continued. "But, if there were an area in my district that expressed, 'yes we have drainage problems, and we would like to do something and we don't want to wait on the rest of the parish to come to their senses and say we need a drainage tax. We're ready to do something in our neighborhood.' I would want to be able to do that."
Jackson asked parish engineer Don Harrison to review previous studies to determine where flooding and drainage projects were needed. Jackson said he wanted cost estimates, too.
"Whether we put something out for the full parish or whether we put something out for districts, we've got to know how much money we're talking about needing," Jackson said.
Harrison said the police jury previously identified more than 100 different drainage and flood control projects in parish, which would cost about $81 million to tackle. Those cost estimates probably have increased since those estimates were put together years ago, Harrison said.
Jackson said since there has not been any dedicated funding for off-road drainage projects in the past 30 years, he believes it would take several years to take care of the backlog.
"I think we have to look at a long-term millage because I think we're going to have to borrow some money on the front end to get some of this caught up," Jackson said. "Five years isn't going to be enough."
Caldwell said taxpayers may be more inclined to accept a parish-wide millage if the police jury first identified projects throughout the parish that the tax would fund.