St. John The Baptist Parish News Release

River Parishes' leaders say teamwork is key to better service, conditions

River Parishes' leaders say teamwork is key to better service, conditions

By Littice Bacon-Blood ,The Times-Picayune
June 05, 2014


Regional partnerships help to produce better service, a stronger voice and savings of public dollars, parish presidents from St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes stressed during a forum sponsored by the River Region Chamber of Commerce in Destrehan.

From tackling the need for better flood protection and affordable flood insurance to improving streets and attracting new businesses to the area, the parish leaders said regional teamwork means improved living conditions for River Parishes residents.

 "We understand, we fully understand, the importance of working together as a region," St. John President Natalie Robottom said. "We help each other. That relationship is strong, it benefits each parish, it benefits the region and it benefits all of you in this room."

During the forum on Wednesday (June 4), the parish leaders were asked to discuss three main topics that Chamber officials said were recurring themes of interest and concern among its membership: transportation, partnerships with other parish agencies and shared regional projects.

On the transportation front, Robottom -- along with St. James Parish President Timothy Roussel and St. Charles Parish President V. J. St. Pierre, Jr. -- say they and Port of South Louisiana executive director Paul Acuoin, are planning a trip to Omaha, Nebraska to meet with Union Pacific and Canadian National officials to discuss the condition of rail crossings in their respective parishes.

 "If we're going to have this industrial boom like anticipated, then the most important thing besides the Mississippi River for this industrial growth, we need our highways, we need our railways looked at pretty closely," Roussel said.

 In the recent months, Gov. Bobby Jindal has announced that two major industries are considering locating in St. John and St. Charles parishes that would mean the addition of thousands of permanent jobs and an expanded tax base. In the last year, St. James has seen the opening of the first-phase of a potentially multi-billion dollar construction of the Nucor Steel Plant in Convent.

The parish leaders also talked briefly about exploring the possibility of expanding shared services agreements. Currently the parishes have joint agreement to help provide such things as job training services through a workforce development imitative, public transportation through the River Regional Transit Authority and building codes and planning services through South Central Development Planning.

St. Pierre said those types of agreements could be expanded into other areas, such as solid waste, which could reduce the amount of tax dollars each parish's pays for certain services.

"Garbage collection is getting higher and higher all the time because the landfills are getting full," he said. "We've been talking about getting together and maybe getting one contractor to supply all three parishes and help cut down the cost.

"These things don't happened overnight ... but we're working in that direction."

In a recent study of St. James' garbage contract, Roussel said his parish recently saved $1.25 million over a five-year contract, and said those savings could be increased greatly if there was a "solid waste district."

However, Roussel said the joint ventures could be expanded beyond garbage collection.

"Can you imagine what (savings) we can find if the three parishes come together?" Roussel asked. "I think that's our job, trying to get the bigger bang for our bucks. Not just for our residents, but for our businesses too, because it affects them."