Despite some skepticism from members, the Lafourche Parish Council passed ordinances which revamped the governance of recreation for all of Lafourche at its July 26 meeting.
By a 7-0 vote, (Bo Melvin and James Bourgeois were absent), the Council did away with the seven traditional recreational districts which were created during the Police Jury years and created one advisory board for the entire parish.
In addition, four of the districts which have dedicated millages, Lockport, Bayou Blue, Raceland and Gheens, will each have a five-member board that reports to the parish.
Monies generated by the four taxing districts will stay within the local districts.
“As the millages expire over the next 8 years, residents will get a tax break and the parish will absorb the districts and any property they own,” said Community Services Director Reggie Bagala.
Day to day operation of each district will stay the same, but major projects would have to come before the Council for approval.
Bagala said having recreation under one “umbrella”, with a parish board to govern it, would streamline services and save money because the new board could seek parishwide contracts for necessities like grass cutting, trash pickup and insurance.
All recreation areas will be overseen by a nine-member advisory board made up of one member from each council district.
Over the next 60 days, the board will be tasked with electing its own chairman, vice-chairman and secretary.
It will also be responsible for creating a formula for budgeting the $1.6 million in taxes which is collected annually throughout the parish for recreation.
During the meeting, Council Clerk Carleen Babin read a legal opinion requested by Recreation District #2 (Raceland) Board Chairman Danny Mayet which answered the question of the parish’s legal standing in abolishing district boards without state approval.
Home Rule governments are not governed by the state and therefore have the power to create and abolish boards without state approval, according to District Attorney Cam Morvant.
Councilwoman Luci Sposito questioned several vague areas of the new system, namely what is considered a “major” project, how the advisory board will represent a non-millage district, and what the budget formula will look like.
Councilman Corey Perrillioux was worried about the kids whose recreational activities could possibly be affected by change.
“Everyone should have the same opportunities. If we’re streamlining for that reason … good. But if we have a rocky four or five years, it’s not fair. I don’t want to put kids in jeopardy because we voted on something we know nothing about,” he stated.
Councilman Daniel Lorraine, who sponsored the ordinances, asked for patience.
“Don’t condemn it before we start. Give it a chance. We are not taking anything from anybody,” he said.
Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle called the change a “great thing”.
“A parishwide millage will do more for the kids. Right now we are so limited, but
our main goal is to improve things for the kids to give them the advantages that kids in other parishes have,” he said.
In a press release, Cantrelle called the change a “winner for all of the parish because, once completed, it will lead to cost savings for the taxpayers and more recreation opportunity for our children and grandchildren.”
Posted on Fri, July 29, 2016
by Buster Avera Contributing Writer