(Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 12:29 PMLocal real estate agent Pat Diamond said he supports using a 20-year, quarter-cent sales tax to partially fund a $110 million plan to expand sewer services in unincorporated areas of Calcasieu Parish because it could spark economic growth in certain areas that commercial businesses don’t consider.
Diamond was one of more than a dozen residents who attended a town hall meeting Tuesday to hear about the sewer tax proposal and two parishwide property tax renewals on the April 5 ballot. The plan calls for extending sewer services along major corridors in south Lake Charles, Moss Bluff and Carlyss, along with areas surrounding Sulphur, Westlake, Iowa and DeQuincy.
“It’s going to help development (and) the people who have wanted to bring projects here for a long time, but because there was no sewer, they just couldn’t do it,” he said.
The expansion would be funded by the tax, more than $50 million in parish gambling funds and nearly $12 million in state capital outlay money. If the sales tax is approved, the existing road and garbage tax levied within the parish, except the Moss Bluff and Gillis areas, would be reduced from 1.5 cents to 1.25 cents. Ward 1 residents don’t pay the road and garbage tax.
One resident questioned why the plan does not include expanding sewer services into residential areas, where some 30,000-plus mechanical sewer systems are being used parishwide. Allen Wainwright, the parish’s public works director, said the initial plan is “an economic development package,” with plans to expand into residential areas over time.
“We have to start with a backbone system,” he said. “With future phases and plans, we’ll try to collect all those 30,000 residential units. We definitely need to do that, but there’s just no way to get to that in this first step.”
While Diamond said he is “very anti-tax,” he would rather support a local tax instead of a state or federal tax.
“I can talk to our local officials and voice my concerns,” he said. “Every dollar that stays here, we get about 75 percent back in services. Every dollar that goes to Baton Rouge, we get about 50 percent back, and we get about 25 percent back from Washington.”
Local resident Johnny Johnson agreed, saying the proposal is a “win-win” for the parish, especially because the road and garbage tax will be reduced.
“One thing we do lack in the south area of the parish are businesses,” he said. “And businesses will not come without sewer. It’s a no-brainer.”
Residents also heard about a 10-year, 2.41-mill parishwide property tax renewal to fund the parish’s mosquito control office. The tax was first approved by voters in 1975.
Another ballot item is a 10-year, 3.16-mill parishwide property tax renewal to pay for operations and services provided by the parish District Attorney’s Office and the 14th Judicial District Court. The tax was first approved in 1985.
The next two town hall meetings are scheduled for March 17 in Moss Bluff Middle School, 297 Park Road, and March 24 in the Carlyss Park Recreation Center, 6043 Carlyss Drive. Both meetings will start at 6 p.m.