City to host emergency drainage meeting Tuesday

John Guidroz

The Lake Charles City Council will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and consider three emergency requests aimed at addressing growing drainage issues caused by four federally-declared disasters over the last nine months.

The council will consider an ordinance to amend the current fiscal year budget and authorize using another $3 million in drainage funds initially reserved for the 2022 fiscal year; a resolution to authorize borrowing up to $20 million to pay for immediate drainage needs; and allowing Mayor Nic Hunter to issue a request for proposals to hire a program director to help with cleaning and repairing the city’s above- and below-ground drainage networks.

Hunter said Monday that the city’s drainage system was battered by Hurricanes Laura and Delta, the freeze in February and the recent historic flooding. 

“This is a serious step, but it’s needed,” he said of the emergency requests. “We can do this without raising taxes. It’s not going to be easy to do.”

Waiting for help from the federal government is no longer an option, Hunter said.

“We’re at a stage of urgency where we have to go in and at least fix what was done to our systems by these recent storms,” he said.

Hunter said the request for proposals for a program director must follow all FEMA guidelines. Anyone with qualifications may submit a proposal, he said.

“This needs to be driven by engineers, not politicians,” Hunter said.

Hunter said the city will seek reimbursement from several different sources, such as FEMA and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Hunter said he met with council members on the proposals ahead of tonight’s meeting.

Hunter has also asked the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and East Calcasieu Gravity Drainage District to keep pursuing federal grant dollars for drainage improvement. If that becomes too time consuming, those entities should dip into their reserves and seek reimbursement later.

“There are multiple waterways, coulees, bayous and laterals that the city doesn’t own, maintain and operate, but they are connected,” he said. “It’s an intricate web.”

The city also plans to ask the state to split the cost of cleaning underground drainage along state routes, Hunter said. Prior to the May 17 flood in Lake Charles, plans to split the cost of related work along Ryan Street, a state route, were in the works.

The council meeting will take place on the first floor of City Hall, 326 West Pujo St.

 

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