Calcasieu Parish police jurors got their first look at the steps parish staff want to take in updating a nearly 10-year-old parishwide drainage management study.
The panel on Thursday heard the report, “Drainage Management 2.0: A Proposed Plan of Study.” The report was first submitted to the Police Jury in 2005.
Parish Administrator Bryan Beam said that updating the study is important because the anticipated growth from industrial expansion projects announced for Southwest Louisiana will likely affect drainage the most. State law requires the parish to provide drainage.
“Every house that is added, one home, one shop, one restaurant, one office, creates an impact on drainage,” he said. “Nobody wants to worry that all this growth is going to add to the current residents’ flooding issues.”
The 2005 study called for centralized drainage master planning within the parish, new ordinances to improve watershed capacity and $3.5 million in comprehensive drainage management modeling. There was no action involving the drainage district structure. There are seven drainage districts within Calcasieu Parish.
In terms of drainage management, Beam said “better alignment is needed” because so many entities are involved, including the parish, cities and drainage districts. That includes stating a purpose, developing a set of guiding principles “to protect property and people” and creating a plan to carry out the purpose.
Beam said the parish’s Road and Drainage Trust Fund — which is pulled from the parishwide road and drainage property tax — should be analyzed. He said there is no set amount in the fund that goes to either roads or drainage.
“It’s time to do a refreshed look and say, ‘Maybe we need to shuffle some more of that (money) to drainage, maybe not,’ ” he said.
Beam said the drainage district structure is worth studying, considering the growth that the parish has seen over the last several decades. Areas like maintenance operations, financing, human resources and risk management, should be reviewed.
The plan includes a rough timeline over the next 12-18 months. Beam said officials expect to form a study team and hire an outside drainage consultant by September or October. From November through January, Beam said the mission, guiding principles and broad policy objectives will be developed and considered by the Police Jury.
Within the first few months of 2015, there will be planned research, analysis and recommendations prepared for each policy objective, followed by public input over the summer.
After that, Beam said, staff will conduct an operational assessment of all drainage districts, report those findings and recommendations and receive public input. That will take place from August 2015 to December.
During the process, Beam said there will be regular input from stakeholders on policy objectives. Parish officials and staff spent the last two weeks meeting with property owners and drainage board members and superintendents on the issue.
District 5 Police Juror Nic Hunter said he supports the study and the hiring of an outside consultant. He said there is a drainage problem in the parish, and that residents “deserve to have quality drainage.”
District 1 Police Juror Shannon Spell said he is worried about the parish not finishing the study before the anticipated growth begins.
“By the time we start on our policy objectives, we are going to be knee deep in $10 billion in expansions,” he said. “It would be my personal preference that we do things sooner than later.”
District 11 Police Juror Sandra Treme disagreed, saying the parish should spend more time working to update drainage services.
District 15 Police Juror Les Farnum and District 10 Police Juror Tony Stelly said they do not support consolidating drainage districts. Farnum said passing a parishwide tax is more difficult than approving district taxes because voters know “that money is going to get spent in their backyard.”
Each drainage district has its own property tax, and those millages vary from one district to the next, Beam said.
District 14 Police Juror Hal McMillin said he does not believe the parish needs seven drainage districts, but that he wants to see what the study recommends.
“To me, if we narrowed that down to even two districts, we would be making a quantum leap to help us with our drainage issues,” he said. “It’s man-made, arbitrary district lines. Water doesn’t see that.”