Drainage improvements goal of two-phased approach
Calcasieu Parish Police Jury staff is recommending a two-phased approach to improve drainage that calls for consolidating the seven gravity drainage districts into two and having voters consider millages for those districts by 2020.
During Thursday’s Parishwide Drainage Committee meeting, members heard of the first temporary phase where the Police Jury would consider consolidating the drainage districts into an east and west district. Each district would have five members, and they would serve staggered terms.
Existing district boundaries and millages would remain unchanged during phase one.
During the first phase, the Police Jury would also adopt recommendations for districts to implement policies for finance, human resources, risk management and operations.
Alberto Galan, assistant to the parish administrator, said the first phase would serve as a five- to seven-month transition into the second phase. After that, the consolidated districts would call for an election in the spring of 2020 for voters to consider a new millage.
The new millage rates are recommended to be lower than the existing ones, Galan said. The Police Jury will make up part of the initial funding gap from the reduced millage rates for three years.
Millages in the existing drainage districts vary, with District 8 of Ward 1 having 11.04 mills, while District 4 of Ward 3 has 5.79 mills.
The Police Jury in May 2015 approved a drainage mission, guiding principles and policy objectives to help staff with improving drainage and watershed management. Since then, the parish has updated its drainage ordinances for development, invested more in capital drainage projects and started long-term watershed planning efforts.
The newest recommendations came after reviewing structure and maintenance operations of the seven gravity drainage districts. Galan said the update was needed because drainage has been impacted by unprecedented growth in Calcasieu, along with urbanization and continued infrastructure demands.
There are 10 watersheds throughout the parish. Currently, six of the seven gravity drainage districts are managing multiple watersheds, Galan said. Because of this, maintenance was based on political boundaries, instead of a watershed-based approach. He said the system of managing drainage laterals, in place since the 1980s, is inefficient.
“In a lot of ways, it’s unreasonable to expect some of these districts to be able to handle all of this,” Galan said. “If we take a watershedbased approach, we can remove that and focus on that big picture based on the way water actually works.”
District 7 Police Juror Chris Landry said he was encouraged by the recommendations.
“When government tells me that I’m going to get better service for less money and pay less taxes, that’s kind of exciting,” he said.
Police Jury President Judd Bares said he wants to make sure the consolidated boards have “equal and plenty of representation on each side.” He said he was unsure about the boards only having five members.
“There’s a lot of knowledge from those board members, and I would hate to miss out on that just by cutting the board by two people,” Bares said.
District 14 Police Juror Hal McMillin said he considered the recommendations “a good move” to improve drainage in Southwest Louisiana. He said no action will be taken until all stakeholders are heard.
District 9 Police Juror Kevin Guidry said transparency is key in making sure all concerns are addressed.
Galan said parish staff plans to meet with gravity district board members, along with the public and other stakeholders, throughout November and December. The drainage committee would take formal action in February, followed by the Police Jury. If approved by the Police Jury, the changes in phase one would take effect in May.
A transition team, including parish and drainage district representatives, would be created in February.
Galan said the time line calls for the two consolidated drainage boards to call for an election for their own millages in December 2019. The election would be scheduled for the spring of 2020.
After hearing the report, the drainage committee later approved a motion by District 6 Police Juror Dennis Scott for the committee to meet in January ahead of the proposed February meetings.