First FEMA funds put city on firm financial ground

Deidre Cruse
A $192,000 “streetscape” on La. 1 on the south bank of Bayou Plaquemine across from Waterfront Park, and between the Bayou Plaquemine Bridge and St. John Church is part of the 2008-09 Plaquemine city budget adopted last week. A federal ISTE grant will pay $172,400 of the cost. The landscaping is a prelude to a pedestrian bridge that will span the bayou from the south bank to Waterfront Park.

The Plaquemine Board of Selectmen last week adopted a $5.6 million general fund budget that includes a $124,605 surplus.

Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta had asked the city council for an extra week to work on the budget. The previous draft presented to the council had the city dipping into its reserve funds for $20,000 to balance the 2008-09 budget.

 Gulotta said they had overlooked $150,000 expected from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during this fiscal year. 

The funds expected this year are the first reimbursement of money the city spent to recover from Hurricane Gustav.

The city spent $4.1 million – not counting debris removal – in the aftermath of the storm, in large part to rebuild Plaquemine’s electrical system, the mayor said. Of that, he said, FEMA is expected to pay 90 percent of the costs, but is likely to take three or four years for the agency to do so.         

The city budget revenues from taxes at some $800,000 less than last year. Sales taxes provide the largest part of the city’s revenues, although the city does receive support from the profits from City Light & Water.

The city also projects a decrease of some $33,000 in licenses and permits, based on a high turnover of business operations in 2008 that raised the figure to some $381,500.

The budget for several public projects for which grant funding is available:

-- $192,000 for a streetscape on La. 1 on the south bank of Bayou Plaquemine across from Waterfront Park, and between the Bayou Plaquemine Bridge and St. John Church. A federal ISTE grant will pay $172,400 of the cost.

-- $100,000 for a pedestrian bridge between the north and south banks of Bayou Plaquemine at Waterfront Park, for which $50,000 in grant funding is available.

-- $175,000 for a spray park at Plaquemine’s City Park. The city and the Iberville Parish Council are splitting the cost of construction. The Iberville Parks and Recreation District will take over its operation and maintenance.