Parish Council adopts $41.3 million ’09 budget

Deidre Cruse

The Iberville Parish Council last week adopted a $41.297 million operating budget that includes $12.5 million in capital outlay.

Parish Finance Director Randall Dunn said most of the capital outlay funds would be used to continue the parishwide road program begun this year. The parish will borrow about $8 million of the total, he said.

Dunn projected a 10 percent decrease in sales tax revenues next year.

“We don’t know what will happen with these plants, how much product might be cut back,” the director said. “We might have to come back and budget down...We’re watching it closely.”

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. told the POST/SOUTH that Shintech Inc. intends to go forward with Phase II of its plant south of Plaquemine, a $900 million project for which the company currently is seeking environmental permits.

“I’m optimistic,” Ourso said. “We have to hold a steady course in ’09 and see what the new leadership in Washington will bring.”

Ourso said the budget includes $2 million to build Enterprise Boulevard South, from Enterprise Boulevard Bridge over Bayou Plaquemine near the Jail to Tenant Road at Belleview.

“I can’t stress how important this road is to the future of Plaquemine,” he said.

The parish has had the property for the rights of way for the road appraised and has started negotiations with landowners along the route.

“There are some issues arising here lately with the property owners,” Ourso told the council. “I can’t say right now what the issues are.”

In his monthly report, Ourso said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is doing a “windshield survey” of property for the right of entry program, which would allow the government to pay to clear trees damaged by Hurricane Gustav from private property.

Many homeowners were not insured for those damages, and cannot afford to have the work done on their own. In most instances, the parish cannot perform work on private property.

“Of the six parishes they have reviewed, Iberville was the worst they had seen,” he said. “That still does not guarantee the program for Iberville parish.”

Ourso said it would be later in January before FEMA makes a decision on whether to authorize the program here.

So far, the parish has spent $4.8 million picking up hurricane debris, the parish president said. The contractor hired for the work has one truck left here to pick up construction and demolition debris.

“Basically, the parishwide clean-up is complete,” Ourso said.

Now that the debris is cleared from parish rights of way, Ourso said he has given parish road contractors notice to go back to work – after cane season -- on the third phase parish road program, in the White Castle and St. Gabriel areas.

The parish is scheduled to take bids on refurbishing some 26 miles of rural roads in the White Castle area, work estimated to cost $4.8 million, the parish president said.