Following intense public scrutiny over the Hwy. 90 Boat Launch deal, the St. Charles Parish Council’s special projects committee will meet Monday to discuss at least four options that could lead to the development of a boat launch.
The planning meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the St. Charles Parish Courthouse in the council chambers.
Councilman Paul Hogan, who chairs the committee, said he wants to discuss three possible sites for the Luling boat launch, including the Gator Cove location that drew the ire of residents due to the cost of the lease, adjoining property owned by Ray Brandt and the land that currently houses Pier 90.
Hogan is also seeking support for a new boat launch in Des Allemands.
Hogan promoted the Des Allemands location as a possible site dating back to 2009 when Riverbend Corp. and Robert Wiegand offered to donate three acres of land on Mud Lake to the parish for the boat launch. By 2011, when the estimated $962,000 for the project’s first phase that included a crushed stone road to the property became a budgetary concern, efforts to get grant funding were postponed.Hogan said Wiegand was still open to donating the land, which is located off WPA Road. However, the land does not currently include road access although he thinks there is power running to the site.
Hogan believes the parish needs a launch both in Luling and Des Allemands, but called the Luling site a priority because they do not have a public launch.
Two weeks ago, the Hwy. 90 Boat Launch was approved by the council in a 5 to 2 vote, but the parish is now seeking to cancel the deal after the public staunchly questioned the terms of the lease.
Parish President Larry Cochran announced in a statement he would ask the council to cancel the $4,500-a-month, 30-year lease.
The council will vote on whether to cancel the lease on Oct. 2.
The public questioned the parish leasing, rather than buying, the land from Gerald Savoie Jr., manager and agent of Gator Cove Marina LLC of Cut Off, La., the nephew of Councilwoman Mary Clulee and her husband, Neal. In the bill of sale, the Clulees sold 300 acres, including the launch site, to Savoie for $100 “and other considerations” only two weeks before the parish approved the deal.
Councilwoman Clulee said they delayed the land transfer until they were confident the parish would do the project.
In order to make sure the process of selecting a boat launch was more transparent this time around, Cochran has invited local outdoors people and fishermen interested in serving on a committee to submit their name to their council member.
The committee would then meet and advise the administration on boat launch locations.
“I feel it is in the best interest of St. Charles Parish to commission this advisory panel comprised of residents of the parish to identify a piece of property that can be used for a West Bank boat launch,” he said.
“I’d like to see the advisory panel work in conjunction with an engineer to assess each location’s viability. Some factors that will be considered will be accessibility, property costs, infrastructure costs, expandability, and startup time.”
Cochran further stated a recommendation will be made from the panel to the administration who will then evaluate it and bring it before the council. “I feel this process empowers our citizens to take part in this decision, and adds an additional layer of transparency throughout the process,” he said.
Hogan has said he’d prefer the council’s special projects committee head this effort. But on Tuesday, council members Julia Fisher-Perrier, Dick Gibbs, Wendy Benedetto, Billy Woodruff and Traci Fletcher released a joint statement that said an advisory committee made of residents should lead the way forward as the parish seeks a new boat launch site.
Fisher-Perrier, Gibbs, Benedetto, Woodruff and Fletcher all voted for the Hwy. 90 Boat Launch, and will vote on canceling the lease on Oct. 2.
“Our majority vote to approve the lease for the proposed location for the West Bank public boat launch was based upon the information we were presented by the administration,” their joint statement said. “The administration offered and met with all council members, but Mr. Hogan declined. The presentation addressed the feasibility of this location, along with others, the financial and economic impact of the lease and location, and the possibility of partnership funding.
“Unfortunately, the administration did not present this information to the public in a sufficient manner.”
The council members also say they will vote to cancel the lease as long as the administration takes a more transparent approach to communicating information involved in the project.
All council members who authored the statement say they will continue to move forward on affording the St. Charles Parish residents with a boat launch on the east side of the West Bank, as the recreation master plan clearly identified as a need.