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A worker moves dirt Tuesday off of La. 70 by Veterans Boulevard as part of the Morgan City Levee Improvements Project. St. Mary Parish Consolidated Gravity District 2 is in charge of this project. (The Daily Review/Zachary Fitzgerald)

Local officials want to look at consolidation

They say St. Mary should consolidate where it makes sense

Officials with local governmental entities say that consolidating certain areas of government is something political leaders should look into to see where combining entities may make sense.

St. Mary Parish Councilman Gabriel Beadle discussed officials’ plans Monday to consolidate some of the over 40 taxing districts in the parish.

Taxing districts have property tax millage rates associated with them, and districts also issue municipal bonds that require voters’ approval to do capital projects.

Beadle’s plans entail eventually combining the four gravity drainage districts east of the Calumet Cut, all seven of the parish’s recreation districts and the Morgan City and West St. Mary port commissions into one commission.

Parish President David Hanagriff said he’s in favor of consolidation and pushed for the consolidation of waterworks districts 5 and 8 and Sewer District 8 into Water and Sewer Commission 3, which was formed in 2016.

“I’m for consolidation on all of the above where it makes sense and where we can get a true benefit from that consolidation,” Hanagriff said. “There’s a lot of work left to be done.”

Consolidation isn’t necessarily always the answer, but Hanagriff said Beadle’s ideas “are great plans for St. Mary Parish.”

The benefits of consolidation also include increasing efficiency in the way government provides services to the public and do more with the same amount of money, Hanagriff said.

“If we can save on taxes towards millage rates primarily and also create more efficiency to get more service for less money, that’s what I look for in consolidation,” Hanagriff said.

The west portion of St. Mary Parish has one drainage district, and parish officials hope to replicate that concept on the east end.

Lee Dragna, chairman of Consolidated Gravity Drainage District 2 in Morgan City, said he sees the potential benefit of consolidating drainage districts in order to allow the entities to be able to buy certain equipment such as excavators.

Drainage districts could also possibly save on office personnel and insurance costs by sharing and pooling resources, Dragna said.

Dragna recognizes that the process to consolidate the districts would have some challenges.

Drainage District 2 would have to stay its own entity for the purpose of paying a debt service millage on bonds issued, but the different districts could combine their operations and maintenance millages , Dragna said.

Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said he hasn’t had much time to examine exactly how consolidating the two port commissions into one would work.

But consolidation of the two commissions may allow the Port of Morgan City to include the Port of West St. Mary’s tonnage of vessel traffic traveling through that port in Morgan City’s total, which could help the Morgan City port get more federal funds for dredging the Atchafalaya River, Wade said.

West St. Mary doesn’t have a federal channel within its district so it doesn’t get federal funds for dredging, Wade said.

The junction of Bayou Chene and the Atchafalaya River is “where our problems start” in regard to keeping the waterways adequately dredged, he said.

Being united into one commission could help them have “a stronger voice” in Washington, D.C., Wade said. Consolidating the port commission would probably require state legislative action because both entities are state agencies.

Beadle’s plans to combine the recreation districts would leave a manager in each area of the parish where districts exist, but one director would be in charge of all recreation for the parish.

Recreation District 3 Board Member Stan Robison of Bayou Vista, who was board chairman for 25 years, said he’s in favor of consolidation if it can save taxpayers money and parish government can do at least as good of a job with fewer districts. The parish charter provides for a parish a recreation director, but that position has never been filled, Robison said.

Robison wants to look into what consolidation could do, but wants officials to prove whether consolidation is worth doing.

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