Jewell begins second term following first ‘normal’ year in tenure

Matt Jewell speaks at inauguration for his second term as St. Charles Parish President.

In stark comparison to previous years, 2023 was relatively – mercifully – quiet in St. Charles Parish.

There were no COVID-19 shutdowns, nor a Hurricane Ida, nor deadly tornadoes. For St. Charles Parish President Matt Jewell and his administration, it was the first year during his tenure truly resembling “normal” from start to finish.

Recently sworn in for his second tenure as parish president, Jewell no doubt hopes to see another year like it that will allow the progress made in 2023 to continue over the next calendar year.

“In my first term, I encountered challenges no one could have predicted: a global pandemic, torrential rains that flooded the homes of over 300 residents, and the most active hurricane season on record,” said Jewell.

“We braved two major hurricanes, including Hurricane Ida, one of the strongest storms ever recorded and the most devastating to our parish. Tornados, freezes, droughts … these experiences humbled me.

“The lessons I’ve learned in these four years surpasses what many people may learn in a lifetime.”

Jewell noted several major milestones accomplished over the past year.

Upgrades to the Ama pump station were completed last year – including the installation of two new 36” electric pumps featuring bar screens and automatic cleaners to keep debris from damaging the pumps, as well as electrical upgrades. The station now has four pumps, bringing the station’s capacity to 155,800 gallons per minute and it is expected to greatly improve drainage in the Ama community.

The parish also broke ground on Destrehan No. 2 pump station conveyance improvements. The project will increase the size of the sumps that currently feed the three 48” pumps and two 72” pumps at the station. The flow from Dunleith Canal to the station will also be improved by widening the opening into the pump.

In October, the St. Charles Parish Council voted unanimously to approve a change to the St. Charles Parish’s Code of Ordinances, calling for all new subdivision developments to now use LED street light fixtures in lieu of the high-pressure sodium (HPS) light fixtures, previously the standard.

A typical HPS bulb can last anywhere from 24,000 to 28,000 hours of operating time, while an LED streetlight can last up to 100,000 hours – equating to as much as 20 to 25 years of use. Scores of municipalities across the country, like St. Charles Parish, have begun slowly converting to LED street lighting, whose cost continues to go down as the technology advances.

The three taxing bodies of St. Charles Parish, including the Assessor’s Office and the Hospital Board, all committed to roll back millages for a combined decrease of 5.3 mills, one the most substantial roll backs in recent years.

Over the course of his first term as a whole, Jewell noted the linking of the west bank levee system with the Paradis canal floodgate, upgrades to water filtration and rehabilitation of sewer systems, the undertaking of restoration projects to restore the Bonnet Carre Spillway road and improved flow of water on 5th street in Norco.

Other accomplishments were the establishment of forward-looking parishwide master plans for drainage, sewage and land-use and investments in new facilities and programming for the parks and recreation system.

“We’ve achieved all of this while managing to cut local taxes thanks to our thriving economy,” Jewell said.

Jewell said that the parish currently sports the lowest unemployment rate in the New Orleans metro area and the fifth lowest in the state. In 2023, there was a 23 percent increase in ad valorem revenue, which Jewell said was a direct result of business and industrial expansion in the parish,.

“With over six billion in new investment planned over the coming years, we expect to see this growth continue,” Jewell said.

Over the next year and in coming years, Jewell said the focus will be on continued improvement of levee protection and reducing drainage problems, improving roads and connectivity, enriching recreational experiences and investing in the services provided to residents.

“While I am optimistic for our future, challenges loom ahead,” Jewell said, pointing to rising insurance costs and specifically Risk Rating 2.0, the flood insurance pricing methodology implemented by FEMA in late 2021 and the subject of a lawsuit filed by St. Charles Parish in April of last year.

“(Policies like Risk Rating 2.0) threaten the dream of homeownership and business stability for hard working Louisianans,” Jewell said. “We are seeing the influence of anti-industry groups from outside the state and they are intent on undermining our industry and economic core. This cannot be ignored … my commitment remains firm on addressing those critical issues.”


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