Zachary park may gain disaster staging area role

The Zachary Youth Park on Mount Pleasant Road could soon be set up as a staging area in case of disaster using $1.4 million in federal grant money, the City Council decided Tuesday.

Although the council unanimously approved a resolution in favor of the project, the issue still needs to go before a public hearing before the council can put the proposal to a final vote.

Some of the funds also would be used to repair damage the park sustained during Hurricane Gustav, Mayor David Amrhein said.

The city originally intended to use the grant to clear Cypress Bayou, which overflowed during the 2008 hurricane and continues to flood during heavy rains, the mayor said.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refused to approve any work on the bayou because of possible interference with the Comite River diversion canal project.

Making the water flow more quickly through Zachary also could cause worse flooding in other areas, the mayor said.

“I went around after Katrina to some homes that flooded and the same homes flood now (because of Cypress Bayou), and now I have to tell them that we’re going to use the grant money to put light poles in the ballpark,” Councilman John Coghlan said.

“This money goes away May 31 if we don’t submit a project,” the mayor countered.

He added that most of the funds would be used for “shoring up” the park to make it more secure in the event of another disaster and new sandbagging equipment that would allow bagging indoors.

Other matters before the council included:

GOVERNMENT BUILDING: The mayor reported that the city will meet with architect Henry Carville about possibly constructing a “multipurpose” governmental building for the city that would house Zachary City Court as well as other city services.

The Police and Fire departments would continue to maintain separate buildings. The city badly needs more office space, the mayor said. The details of how the project would be paid for have not yet been worked out, but the city is looking into possible grants, he said.

SALES TAXES: The council voted unanimously to authorize the mayor to sign an agreement with East Baton Rouge City-Parish clarifying that the city will receive the half-cent sales tax dedicated to road projects. City attorney John Hopewell said the agreement doesn’t change anything, but will make it easier for Zachary to bond the money.