Drainage became an issue again for the Iberia Parish Council during its Public Works Committee hearing Wednesday evening.
District 5 Councilman Warren Gachassin requested the discussion of flooding issues on Hazard and O’Donnell roads. According to residents, the issue has existed for decades because the roadway is lower than the banks of the Armenco Canal. When water in the canal rises above the height of the road in heavy rain, the road goes underwater by as much as two feet, stranding residents.
“It’s not a drainage issue,” said Public Works Director Herman Broussard. “All you can do is raise the level of the road.”
Resident Sheila Jeanbaptiste was not taking that as an answer.
“We’ve lived there for 30 years, and it has always flooded” said Jeanbaptiste. “If lifting the road is the problem, then let’s lift the road. My parents have had their house flooded there seven or eight times. They’ve lifted the house, but now when it floods we can’t get out. We need something done.”
The parish road maintenance funds have been depleted due to the drop in parish royalty income, which was used in previous administrations to fund road projects. A tax designed to allow road maintenance to continue at previous levels was defeated last fall.
Public Works Committee Chairman Marty Trahan recommended that he, along with Gachassin and Broussard, meet with Parish President Larry Richard to determine if any of the parish’s Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funds could be used to alleviate the problem.
The GOMESA funds are dedicated for work on coastal rehabilitation and flood control projects. The parish received $871,000 in GOMESA money in 2018, and another $994,000 in 2019. Those funds are determined through a formula and are based on proceeds from federal offshore oil leases. Other parishes, like St. Martin and Terrebonne, have begun to use those funds to issue bonds for work in their respective parishes.
Richard had unveiled a plan last month to use the funds to build three flood control measures planned in the parish’s flood control master plan under the now defunct Iberia Parish Hurricane, Levee and Conservation District.
The council also heard from Iberia Parish Mosquito Abatement District Executive Director Herff Jones about steps to procure an aircraft to be used jointly between Iberia and Vermilion parishes for mosquito spraying. Jones showed where bringing the aircraft in would drop costs from almost $300,000 annually to $76,000 — half of which would be paid by each parish.
Clerk of Court David Ditch also spoke to explain to the council the plan for the upcoming Clerk of Court election. He said that each candidate for the office would have to qualify twice, once for the unexpired term of previous clerk Mike Thibodeaux and once for the new term which starts on July 1, 2020, if they wish to fill both terms.
As long as the same candidates qualify for both races, Ditch said there will only be one item on the ballot in October.
The council also passed a resolution supporting a new free trade subzone at the Port of Iberia for Frank’s International.