Recreation District 5 voters to consider bond

Voters living within Recreation District 5 in western St. Mary Parish will have the last say on a bond proposition on Nov. 6.

The voters will be asked to approve the issuance of up to $3.125 million in bonds dedicated to improvements to the West St. Mary Civic Center and its continued operation.

The St. Mary Parish Council approved the election call Wednesday during its regular meeting. It also approved a resolution to refinance the district’s existing debt that district residents are repaying with 7.26 mills in property taxes.

If the new debt is approved at the polls, millages would remain the same, but the term of the debt would be extended by seven years to 20 years total, according to Jason Akers of the Foley and Judell bond counseling firm.

The election resolution was approved on a split vote with Councilmen David Hanagriff of District 3, Glen Hidalgo of District 4, Tim Tregle of District 7 and Kevin Voisin of at-large District 11 in opposition. The refinancing resolution was passed unanimously.

Before the vote, the council heard from Centerville resident Greg Young who urged the council to consult with business owners in the district before approving the election call.

He told the council that western St. Mary millage rate averages are more than 50 percent higher than averages in the rest of the parish.

“It’s already an area that’s overtaxed and doesn’t have enough industry,” he said. He added that extending the time period to pay back the debt means that taxpayers would be paying more in the long run.

Young suggested that the council appoint a committee to review millage rates across the parish and prioritize where and how the revenue is spent.

“I just hope that we all can get together and talk a little bit earlier in the process,” he said.

Councilman Lionel Metz of District 1 in western St. Mary said the bond revenue is needed “to keep the center running and the parks operating.” He added that when the voters go to the polls they will know where the funds will be dedicated.

Hanagriff said part of his council district is in Recreation District 5 and added that he believes that lower millage rates are better conducive to attracting business.

As a business owner, he said, he understands the burden of taxes.

Business owners are “hit every day with something … material costs, insurance, you name it, health insurance, you’re hit every day,” Hanagriff said. Millage rates just add another layer to the burden, he said.

Councilman Charles Middleton of District 2 said he believes the people of the district should be presented with the opportunity to decide the issue. He added that providing recreation to the area is important in an effort to keep youth out of trouble.

To that, Young stressed that involvement and volunteerism by adults in youth programs would be a better solution.

Akers said if approved the bond revenue would include construction funding of civic center features that were scaled back when original bond revenue in 2002 was not enough to cover the entire cost of the facility plans.

He added that based on projections, in 10 years the 7.26 mills would drop to 3½ to 4 mills.

On attracting new business, at-large Councilman Steve Bierhorst of District 10 said, “What do you have to offer a working man with a family of two or three kids? If you don’t have recreation, there’re not coming.”

In voting against the election call resolution, Hanagriff said he recommended a postponement.

In other business:

—The council heard from parish President Paul Naquin on his trip to China last week with Economic Development Director Frank Fink. Naquin said China authorities are planning to build a deepwater port somewhere off the coast of the U.S. and Louisiana is one state of several being considered. He said he would not be more specific until the plans advance.

—Resolutions passed included approval of the HUD Section 8 Program’s 5-year plan through 2014 and 2012 annual plan; participation in the Quality Jobs Program by Oceaneering International Inc.; and execution of a contract with the state on construction of a chlorine storage facility by Water and Sewer Commission 4.

—A $120,000 allocation to the City of Franklin was approved toward sewer lift station upgrades totaling $450,000. The funds will come from the three-quarter percent sales tax funds allocated to sanitation.

—A request from the Morgan City Power Boat Association for a $4,000 allocation to help fund the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the “Waves of Thunder” outboard races and outdoor festival was referred to the budget finance committee.

—A request by Councilman Albert Foulcard (at-large District 9) to allocate $1,000 from the Gaming Fund to Community Action Agency to assist with a luncheon for veteran and senior citizens on Nov. 9 was approved.

—Two motions to expand the agenda — one by Councilman Logan Fromenthal to consider an allocation to the St. Mary Pony League to help fund their upcoming trip to the super-regionals tournament in Houston, and another by Naquin to pass a resolution of support for St. Martin President Guy Cormier’s bid for office on the La. Police Jury Association — were not successful due to objection by Councilman Tim Tregle of District 7.

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