St. Helena considers road-revenue plan

The St. Helena Parish Police Jury wants to rededicate two sources of tax revenue to road improvements, which all jurors agreed is an immediate necessity.

On a 4-2 vote, the jury decided at its Tuesday meeting to seek advice from bond attorneys about possibly rededicating a 5-mill ad valorem tax that supports a now-defunct Parish Health Unit and part of a 1-cent sales tax that funds the parish’s solid waste disposal system.

The proposal came as the jury voted to call an election May 4 to renew the existing health unit tax.

Police Jury President Major Coleman, calling the condition of the parish’s roads unacceptable, suggested that the approximately $250,000 earned each year for the health unit be shifted to the road fund, and that a portion of the solid waste disposal money also be channeled into road improvements.

The waste disposal account now has a surplus of about $2 million, Coleman said.

Parish attorney Cliff Speed advised the jury that because the health unit tax is specially dedicated, bond attorneys would have to be consulted about any possible changes in its use. With little time remaining before the May 4 municipal general election, Speed said, the jury also could consider the proposal for a later election.

Coleman said the voters would ultimately have to decide if they wanted the taxes to be rededicated.

Juror Thomas Wicker said he was not in favor of asking the voters to change anything, “until we clean our own house. We have talked about our money problems for five years and nothing has been done ... nothing changes. We can’t ask the voters for anything until we get our own house in order.”

Voting to seek changes in the two tax measures were Jurors Doug Watson, Warren McCray, Theodore McCray and Coleman. Jule Wascom and Wicker voted “no.”

Later in the meeting, Wicker said he had a possible solution to the jury’s ongoing financial woes. Under his plan, the positions of grant writer and one building inspector would be eliminated, Wicker said, and all parish workers would be reduced to four days of work a week.

Wicker said his proposal would put money back into the general fund that could be used for road improvements.

“Nobody’s job is secure,” he said.

Wicker’s motion to eliminate the two positions and reduce work hours failed on a tie vote. Voting for the proposal were Wicker, Wascom and Watson. The two McCrays and Coleman voted against the item.

Other business before the Police Jury included:

SHILOH BAPTIST: The Rev. LaVarne King, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, received jury approval to seek grant funding to replace a two-mile section of Shiloh Baptist Church Road that is in particularly bad shape.

The church, which has been meeting for 150 years, attracts large crowds from throughout the state and nation because of its summer camps and conferences, King said.

The group is preparing to build a 750-seat conference center that will bring more guests to the parish.