Hwy. 90 boat launch put on hold
Councilwoman Carolyn Schexnaydre made a motion to budget the money for the boat launch, saying that the fishermen who would use it would bring the parish additional revenue.
Councilmen Terry Authement and Paul Hogan also spoke in favor of the launch, but the motion failed in a 5-3 vote.
Authement said that a lot of effort had already been put forth to purchase land on Highway 90 and that the parish was in final negotiations for 13 1/2 acres to accommodate the launch. He also said that he has heard from businesses, such as parish tackle shops, that were clamoring for the new boat launch because it would provide a much-needed boost to their revenues.
Authement added that the recent opening of Wetland Watchers Park gives East Bankers an area to fish and crab without having to own a boat, but that nothing exists on the West Bank to offer residents that same opportunity.
Councilman Larry Cochran, who originally called for the money to be moved into the general fund during budget hearings, said that the council’s decision doesn’t kill the boat launch. Instead, Cochran said that the parish needs a clear plan before it moves forward with the idea.
Parish Chief Financial Officer Grant Dussom said that the council could always budget for the launch at a later date.
But Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said that now is the time for the parish to act on the launch. Once the parish purchases the land, they can seek proposals from the Wallop-Breaux Fund, a state program used to create opportunity for sport fishing and boating.
The planned launch would include five double-ended launch sites, parking for 160 trucks/boats, separate parking for cars, two pavilions, a stage, bait shop and three restrooms.
It’s estimated to cost around $2 million.
The entire site would encompass 13 1/2 acres, and 1 1/2 acres would be donated to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries so that they could build a ranger station and museum.
The Wallop-Breaux fund usually provides an average of $500,000 a year, and Grants Officer Holly Fonseca said the entire project could be phased in over three or four years. She said that the parish could end up paying only 25 percent of the total $2 million cost.
But Cochran said that the parish doesn’t know for sure if they would receive the grant funding and that right now the state can’t fund education, let alone a boat launch.
Councilmen Dennis Nuss and Shelley Tastet agreed, saying that money is tight and that there are more important issues to worry about, such as drainage and levees.
Schexnaydre, Hogan and Authement cast votes to re-budget the money for the launch, while Nuss, Tastet, Cochran, Billy Raymond Sr., and Wendy Benedetto voted to keep the money in the general fund. Councilman Marcus Lambert was absent.
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