Levee board seeks to sell bonds to operate

By: GEOFFREY STOUTE
MORGAN CITY — The St. Mary Parish Levee District agreed to seek financing of $2.5 million for up to five years from the State of Louisiana’s Bond Commission to help it finance its operations.

The district, during a special meeting Thursday, agreed to seek the monies, at a 3 percent interest rate.

The agreement includes a $15,000 fee to Breithaupt, Dunn, DuBos, Shafto & Wolleson in Monroe to serve as bond counsel.

The funding is to tide the levee district over after all of its expenses from this year’s flood fight, as well as for future expenses that may be necessary.

The district still has not received a check from the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration for $500,000 to assist with paying for the Bayou Chene protection project that was installed in May to slow down backwater flooding in a five-parish area. The parish was told they were supposed to receive the funds by June 24 from OCPR, Levee District President Bill Hidalgo said.

Nicole Cutforth of Shaw Coastal in Baton Rouge said OCPR said they could cut a check for the levee board by as late as July 1.

Also, in Louisiana House Bill 611, which is appropriations and supplemental legislation, $2.491 million has been allocated for the Bayou Chene project. Those funds will be released if Gov. Bobby Jindal approves them.

During the Thursday meeting, Cutforth presented a preliminary itemized list of expenses from this year’s flood fight that the levee district is applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement of approximately 75 percent. The list totals approximately $5.47 million in expenses, much of that — about $4.78 million — is related to the Bayou Chene project.

Some of that will be paid using the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration with the $500,000 allocation.

However, the amount approved in the FEMA documents will change as other costs are incurred in the removal of the barge, levee district officials said.

Other items included in the list submitted to FEMA include work in Amelia, and Hanson, Franklin and Yellow Bayou canals as well as Wilson’s Landing and Cotten Road.

Cutforth said the turnaround of 90 days would be necessary for payment after the invoices are approved.

She said the payment for J.D. Fields has been approved and work continues on invoices for other Bayou Chene projects. Cutforth said FEMA was trying to finish approving invoices for the Hanson and Franklin Canal work as well as Yellow Bayou by the end of this week before moving on to invoices for work at Cotten Road and Wilson’s Landing.

Board members unanimously agreed to pay all invoices due on July 8 except for one for about $1.77 million due to J.D. Fields for sheet piling for the barge project.

However, if they receive the $2.5 million and the funds from the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration funding before their July 14 meeting, they will pay J.D. Fields as well as any other expenses that come up.

Hidalgo said St. Mary Parish Consolidated Drainage District 6 in Amelia has expressed an interest in providing some funding for flood protection work. Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet has said that other parishes need to pay for their portion of protection that was provided by the local levee district with the barge, Hidalgo told board members.

Once the final costs are determined for the Bayou Chene project and the subsequent 25 percent of it local authorities must pay, Hidalgo said he is hopeful that the district will have to pay just 5 percent of those costs and other parishes would pitch in to pay the remaining monies.

One positive to come out of the work, Hidalgo and Levee District Executive Director Allen Kelly noted, was that not a lot of work would have to be done if a hurricane were to threaten the area, because much of it was completed in the flood fight.

“We probably wouldn’t spend $300,000 in a hurricane, even if it came right up on us,” Kelly said.

Absent from Thursday’s meeting were Will Terry, Phillip Loupe and James Vidos.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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