Protecting People, Property and Our Way of Life

North Lafourche Levee District’s new office provides larger, centralized location

By: Meredith Burns, HoumaToday.com

January 3, 2016

http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20160103/ARTICLES/160109970/0/search?p=all&tc=pgall

 

The North Lafourche Levee District is starting off 2016 with a new office building and a quarter-cent sales tax in place.

In December, the district moved from its Thibodaux rental office on Jackson Street in Thibodaux to a refurbished bank at 3862 La. 1 in Raceland.

District Executive Director Dwayne Bourgeois said the new office offers more space for storage and meetings, and is more centrally located in terms of centers and geography of the district, which covers all of Lafourche Parish north of Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Bourgeois said the district spent roughly $260,000 on the property and put in about the same amount outfitting and finishing the building, including addressing an asbestos issue.

“It was kind of a distraction in a way,” said Bourgeois, adding he would rather focus on levees, pump stations and canals. “But it’s going to be better in the long run. In fact, it won’t take long to recover the costs of rentals and things that we’d been doing as we rented space.”

The biggest change for the district last year came in May when voters passed a quarter-cent sales tax, Bourgeois said.

The tax is expected to raise about $2.2 million each year and is dedicated for district projects.

In 2016, the district will continue transitioning from a “pay as you go” arrangement for projects to one where it counts on bonding money, Bourgeois said.

“We have always been in a mode where we developed a project to completion, matched it with the funds that we had, paid for the project and went. And we’ve done fairly good with that,” he said. “Now that we have the quarter-cent sales tax that was passed in May ㅡ its seems like a long time ago now ㅡ we’re transitioning to this different funding source, which will allow us to move on more projects faster than we would otherwise.”

Bourgeois said he’s also looking forward to being able to leverage sales tax dollars to bring more state construction money to district projects.

“Although we had our basic millage, we didn’t have a sales tax until this year, so when I went to the state I was pretty much hat in hand saying, ‘Just give me some money, please.’ Now we can go in like the other guys are doing in this area, saying, ‘We’re taxing ourselves for it. We’re not asking for a handout, we’re asking for help,’” he said.

Project highlights in 2015 include emergency repairs to a section of levee near Hamilton Street in Larose and starting an 80 Arpent Canal maintenance and dredging project to improve drainage in Thibodaux and neighborhoods north of La. 308.

To identify future projects, the district uses a formula that takes into account a project’s cost and benefits, the flood risk in the area, the condition of levees or other infrastructure and the level of protection they would provide.

The formula is an objective way to develop a list of about 25-30 priority projects.

“We’re always working off the top of that list,” Bourgeois said.

Information on projects and archived videos of the district’s public meetings can be found at www.northlafourchelevee.com.