Iberville Parish is slated to get $44 million in federal money for recovery from Hurricane Gustav, nearly a tenth of the $438 million earmarked for the state.


 

Iberville Parish is slated to get $44 million in federal money for recovery from Hurricane Gustav, nearly a tenth of the $438 million earmarked for the state.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr., announcing the funding to the Parish Council last week, said 10 percent of the money has to be used for housing, and the rest for as-yet-unspecified recovery projects.

He said he has asked attorney F. Barry Marionneaux to find how the money can be used. Marionneaux and Parish Attorney Scott Stassi were scheduled to attend a workshop this week on the recovery funding.

“This has nothing to do with any stimulus,” the parish president said.

“We have a good opportunity to get back some of the federal tax money that citizens of the parish have been paying over the years,” Marionneaux told the council. “It’s a good opportunity to correct some of the problems we have.”

“When you look at the list of parishes hit by Gustav, Iberville was the third hardest hit,” Ourso said, behind only the coastal parishes of Lafourche ad Terrebonne.

Federal recovery funds will be funneled to the state and distributed in block grants to local governments, the parish president said.

The $44 million will be shared with among the Parish Council and the six municipalities.

“We have to be on board with the six mayors,” Ourso said. “...If the mayors don’t agree, they have the right to apply on their own for part of the $4 million. We hope there will be agreement.

“We’re going to be the overseer to make sure these guidelines are followed.”

Marionneaux, who heads the Iberville Parish Land Use Commission which is preparing to write a parishwide zoning proposal, said Iberville is fortunate to have done the proper studies and planning over the past few years to back up its proposals.

The Land Use Commission has a recent study on housing, transportation and economic development that soon will be available on the parish website, he said.

“When we met with officials, Barry was able to present all this information,” Stassi said. “They thought Iberville Parish was prepared to answer [their] questions.”

Marionneaux said he and Stassi have contacted Habitat for Humanity about housing needs in various areas of the parish for low and medium income residents, and also are looking at rehabilitation – including weatherization and new roofs – for older homes.

Stassi asked parish councilmen to help locate land for Habitat houses around the parish.

“We’re hopeful on that, but do not always have connections across the parish to know where land is available,” the parish attorney said. “Mitchell wants it spread out around the parish.”

“It’s a long process,” Marionneaux said. “[Department of Housing and Urban Development] rules are very exacting and specific.”

Marionneaux said the parish needed a public meeting to get suggestions for the use of the money.

“The money must be used to alleviate and remedy damage from Gustav,” he said, although that can cover a wide range of issues including flooding, drainage and roads.

Marionneaux said there also would be money available from the state for agriculture and commercial fishermen. The money will be administered by the state, rather than the parish, but parish officials will be able to help put individuals in touch with the right state agencies.

Ourso also reported to the Parish Council that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to fund the removal of 60 trees felled by Gustav that are blocking navigation in Bayou Plaquemine.

The FEMA contractor will cut trees only to their roots, which will remain on the bayou banks, the parish president said.

Once the contractor is finished with the federally financed work, Ourso said he hoped the parish itself would be able to extend the contract to handle the debris that the FEMA contract will not cover.