piggy

Walker is on the move.   

So, too, is the City of Denham Springs.

Recently, Walker Mayor Jimmy Watson announced at the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting that he and the council had intentions of annexing more land. The claim came after a resident south of the city approached the council with a petition for annexation. The reason? Law enforcement protection.

The annexation vote will come on April 8, and follows in the footsteps of park improvements, as well as a land purchase and designs for a new $6.8 million City Hall.

In Denham, it’s much the same, with the city using the flood as a means of a rebound focused on downtown revitalization and a new City Hall of its own.

Both of these Louisiana cities have taken advantage of the grant system to keep up with their infrastructure needs and, now, their expansions. The 80/20 or 90/10 percent match rule for grants, and the habit of putting money away to service those grants, have kept the cities on the top of the priority list when applying for grants.

Both cities use grant funds for utility and road infrastructure, which has allowed them to build up a war chest to approach these aggressive revitalization efforts and expansion opportunities. The parish itself has utilized grants for its road program the past two years, but the funds simply don’t go the same distance that they do for the smaller geographical areas.

Grants and federal infrastructure programs (also with a match) have become the major source of revenue for both the road program and the drainage efforts in the Natalbany, Tickfaw, and Amite rivers. The road program is behind, and the chances of catchup via just regular funds is non-existent … with grant funds, possible.

The federal grant funds going to large-scale drainage improvement are the remedy to a problem five decades in the making. The next time enough funds will be available for the maintenance? Hard to say.

Despite that fact, many roads are still substandard and plenty of drainage – especially ditches – simply aren’t maintained due to a lack of funds. Even with constantly growing sales taxes revenue and new retailers, it will take another decade or so before the parish is caught up – and by that point the government will be behind again.

Enter the newest proposal for an independent Parish Council district mosquito abatement. The vote is this spring and the campaigning is currently contentious, but the outcome is irrelevant. The fact that the vote is even happening shows an independent effort to take services down to a district-level, the fiefdoms that have often been mentioned in this column.

The general idea is that the Livingston Parish Council is supposed to act as a governing body and control these projects. That the council voted to allow this proposal to happen is counter to that argument and, when compared with Denham’s and Walker’s finances the question becomes – should we operate as a whole parish? Or should parish councilmen receive an advanced role in governing their districts – while municipalities receive their own representatives as an “outreach” to the council as a whole.

Take zoning, as an example, which has become an East versus West battle. If zoning is to be established, chances are it will be on a district-by-district basis. How is that a parish-wide effort?

It isn’t.

And, if Walker and Denham are to be of any example – the situation is clear that money management on a smaller scale is much more manageable than it is at a parish-wide level.

Now, that’s not a shot at Parish President Layton Ricks or his finance manager, Jennifer Meyers. The duo do what they can, with what they’re given, and were the ones who created this brainchild of grants at the parish level.

Make no mistake, although you’ll have parish councilmen governing these areas, they’ll need staff to run those places – which is an extra expense.

Wages, insurance, benefits … it all adds up. Perhaps each can be managed by the central office, but the parish would still have to hire more people to keep up with all of the finances and programs.

So, you’ll have financial problems – which is probably why the scenario hasn’t played out just yet. However, it’s hard to argue that individual districts won’t eventually come to fruition as arguments over roads, zoning, and drainage continue to separate the nine districts.

All of this thanks to mosquitoes.

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