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|Police Jury president: 'We've thrown away a lot of money'|
As long as people continue to dump items in off-road ditches, the Ouachita Parish Police Jury wastes money cleaning them up.
That's according to Police Jury President Shane Smiley who talked briefly about off-road drainage issues in the parish during Monday's regular police jury meeting. He said most off-road drainage canals within the parish have not been cleaned out in roughly 30 years.
"There hasn't been any money to do it, and we haven't been able to do it on top of all the trees growing in them, along with the sofas, tractor tires, dog pins and God knows what else that's growing in there," Smiley said. "We have asked the general public not to do that … not to throw stuff in there."
"Mrs. (police juror Pat) Moore was quoted in the paper weeks ago saying we've gone through there and cleaned out some of her ditches, and it was not a month before it looked as bad as when we started," Smiley continued. "In my opinion, we're just spinning our wheels. If we spend a million and a half dollars to clean out off-road drainage ditches, and then people dump sofas in there … well, we've thrown away a lot of money," Smiley said.
He was referring to the $1.4 million the parish received from a Hazard Mitigation Grant, which the police jury agreed to spend on three off-road drainage projects.
The $1.4 million from the Louisiana Recovery Authority would be used strictly for off-road drainage projects in Tanglewood, Town and Country and at the T-1A canal in western Ouachita Parish.
The police jury agreed in August to use the funding for those three projects.
Ouachita Parish recently also was awarded $3.7 million from the Louisiana Recovery Authority for disaster-related projects. The disaster recovery money could be used by the parish for projects to help mitigate problems that occurred when the hurricanes passed through northeastern Louisiana last year.
Numerous homes and neighborhoods flooded when Hurricane Gustav hit Ouachita Parish in early September 2008.
The $3.7 million also is available for municipalities in Ouachita Parish. The towns of Sterlington and Richwood both have projects that could be funded with the $3.7 million, Smiley said. The cities of Monroe and West Monroe also have submitted two projects for funding with the Louisiana Recovery Authority money.
Smiley said the police jury has about five off-road drainage projects it wants funded with the $3.7 million. He believes the police jury would receive up to $1 million of the $3.7 million for its projects.
"That's just my guess," he said.
Parish engineer Don Harrison has devised a map that shows where all reported flooding occurs within the parish, Smiley said.
"We have followed that as some type of guideline," Smiley said.
The police jury also earlier this year set aside $200,000 for about a dozen off-road drainage projects throughout the parish.
Parish officials asked its public works department and engineers to determine which projects could be funded with the money, Smiley said.
"They gave us preliminary cost estimates, meaning this is what they (public works) could do it for, but we are not equipped nor do we have the manpower to do off-road drainage projects," Smiley said. "So, public works preliminary cost estimates came in double what we set aside.
"So, these projects will have to be bid out, and it's my guess they won't be $400,000, but probably a million or more. That's where we're at with off-road drainage projects."
In Ouachita Parish, there's no source of funds for work on off-road ditches other than the police jury's general fund.
The Ouachita Parish Public Works Department is funded by a one-cent sales tax, which is dedicated to road construction and maintenance. However, a state Attorney General opinion said the public works department can only use revenues generated by the one-cent sales tax for roadside ditch maintenance. It cannot be used for any off-road drainage issues.
Harrison has repeatedly told police jurors that the majority of drainage issues within the parish are due to off-road drainage problems.