Zachary sets hearing on plans to upgrade youth park

The city of Zachary will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday on plans to use $1.4 million in federal hurricane recovery funds for improvements to the Zachary Youth Park on Mount Pleasant Road.

The hearing will be at City Hall, 4700 Main St.

The work would include repairing damage caused by Hurricane Gustav in 2008, as well as improving the parking lot and other facilities that could be used as an equipment and manpower staging area during future natural disasters.

The city also wants to build a covered area to set up equipment to fill sandbags for use in building temporary flood protection barriers.

The city originally intended to use the money, granted after Hurricane Gustav, to make improvements to Cypress Bayou, which overflowed during the hurricane and flooded a number of homes.

Mayor David Amrhein said during a March 27 City Council meeting that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials will not allow the city to clean out an upstream area of the bayou because it would aggravate flooding in areas south of Zachary.

Several residents whose homes were flooded during Gustav appeared at the council’s April 9 meeting to protest the new plans for the grant, saying the money should go toward reducing flooding in the city.

Chief Administrative Officer Chris Calbert explained that a plan for using the money had not been approved by the time Amrhein and the current councilmen took office in January 2011.

Calbert said the city hoped to couple the $1.4 million grant with a $10 million state grant to make improvements to the stream. However, when Amrhein and others met with Corps of Engineers officials about the combined grant, the corps representatives said the project would cause problems downstream.

The city also has no servitude to remove the material that would have been generated by clearing the channel, Calbert said.

Because the May 31 deadline for committing the money was rapidly approaching, city officials elected to use the money at the ball park.

“We’re taking our lumps,” Calbert said, “but we had to come up with a plan in a hurry.”