NEW IBERIA — Iberia Parish levee commissioners are planning to traverse the parish seeking support for proposed taxes to build a $300 million levee system.
The proposed taxes would repay a $150 million in proposed bonded indebtedness, if approved by the state Bond Commission. The other half, levee officials hope, would come from state and federal sources.
On Wednesday, Ronald Gonsoulin, chairman of the parish Levee, Hurricane and Conservation District, sought a resolution in support of the proposed taxes from the Iberia Parish Council.
The council, however, deferred any action on the request. Council Chairman Bernard Broussard said members will address it at a future meeting.
Gonsoulin said the levee district is considering asking voters to approve a 4-mill property tax that would generate $2.5 million a year and a half-cent sales tax that would generate $5 million a year. Both would be parishwide taxes.
He said the property tax could cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $12.50 more a year in property taxes and all taxpayers less than $50 a year for the sales tax.
“That’s the cost to protect yourself,” Gonsoulin said of the project, to be designed to protect the parish from erosion and coastal flood damage.
If approved, a 20-foot-high levee system would be built to protect the parish’s 13 miles of coast. Gonsoulin said failure to provide protection does not just mean that erosion will continue to eat away at the coast, leading to more destruction during storms, but also would affect the parish’s economy. He said some businesses will not locate in the parish without a system in place to prevent flooding. He added that some parish residents will move out if no protection is provided.
If the tax is passed, he said, the district would take on $150 million in debt, to be repaid by the tax revenues, to begin construction. Gonsoulin said the taxes should help attract state and federal matching funds necessary to complete the project.
Broussard said the council will research when the tax proposition could be put on the ballot.
Gonsoulin said Thursday the levee district board members then plan to travel through the parish to appear before various public bodies and civic groups to educate them on why the tax is needed. They hope to obtain public support before they ask the council to call an election.
He said he doesn’t expect to have the proposal on a ballot this year.
Also during the meeting:
ANIMAL SHELTER: More than 20 residents voiced their concerns to the council about conditions at the parish’s animal shelter.
They claimed Iberia Parish Animal Control Director Mike Stockstill does not spend enough time at the animal shelter, does not allow volunteers to help at the shelter, does not maintain the Petfinder Web site and neglects other duties.
Resident Roxanne Gates said the changes they are seeking would not cost much. Some changes include hygiene procedures such as removing the animals from the pens before hosing the pens down, and sealing the concrete in the pens
Council member Roger Duncan said some residents came to him with allegations of animal neglect, poor living conditions, violations of state health code and other concerns about operations at the shelter.
Duncan said he plans to compile a list of questions for Stockstill to answer.
Stockstill said he will respond to Duncan’s questions at the next Parish Council meeting.
Stockstill also said he has tried to address those concerns and has operated within the law. He said local veterinarians support his operation and the state has rated his facility as meeting standards set for animal control facilities. He added that his department’s primary function is as a rabies control program, and that if more services for animals are sought, the program will need to be expanded, which would include a larger budget.
INVESTIGATION UPDATE: The audit firm Kolder, Champagne, Slaven and Company, in a letter to the council, stated it plans to complete its investigation into Parish President Errol “Romo” Romero’s hires by next month.
The audit investigation, which began June 13, is reviewing the job descriptions for the executive secretary, maintenance superintendent, an office assistant, chief administrative officer, personnel director, and director of permits, planning and zoning.
The firm is checking to see if the employees currently holding those positions meet the job requirements. The firm also has been examining the benefits those positions receive, time clock records, records showing if the employees have been performing their assigned duties, and other data.