BY RICHARD THOMPSON
November 04, 2013
“Honestly, there’s nothing in this referendum that I would call fluff. We have more needs than we have money, and this is the only way to adequately fund these very important projects.” Natalie Robottom, St. John the Baptist Parish president
St. John the Baptist Parish officials are asking voters this month to approve a $30 million bond issue to pay for capital improvement projects, with nearly half of the money going toward improving drainage.
The parishwide election will be on Nov. 16.
If approved, the bond issue would not increase taxes, Parish President Natalie Robottom said. The parish plans to repay the bonds over a 25-year span using already authorized property tax revenue.
“Honestly, there’s nothing in this referendum that I would call fluff,” Robottom said Friday. “We have more needs than we have money, and this is the only way to adequately fund these very important projects.”
The bond proposal calls for the $30 million to be split five ways.
The biggest chunk, $13 million, would pay for various drainage projects in St. John, including building pumping stations in LaPlace’s Cambridge and River Forest subdivisions, which were hit hard last year by Hurricane Isaac.
Some of the drainage money would also be set aside to help cover the parish’s share of building the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain flood protection project, an 18-mile levee intended to protect St. John and surrounding parishes from storm surge. If the estimated $881 million project is built, St. John would be on the hook for about $62 million of the cost, Robottom said.
The bond issue also includes about $6 million for constructing and renovating public buildings, including expanding the parish courthouse in Edgard and building an annex office at the parish government’s main complex in LaPlace.
Voters in 2009 approved $29.5 million in general obligation bonds, of which $7 million went toward parish buildings. Robottom said that $7 million wasn’t enough, however, and the latest bond proposal should close that gap.
Work on the annex office is expected to cost about $9 million and the courthouse expansion $6 million.
Besides the money for drainage and public buildings, the proposed bond issue includes $5 million to pay for work on the parish’s water system; $3 million for improvements to parks, playgrounds and recreation facilities; and $3 million to repair roads and bridges at Woodland Drive and Fairway Drive.
“We couldn’t include every project that was needed, so now it’s our job to kind of finish up with some of those,” Robottom said about the proposed bond issue.
Early voting on the bond proposal runs through Saturday.