Levee district says no to videotaped meetings

St. Charles council’s request to Pontchartrain Levee Board denied

The Pontchartrain Levee District will not be videotaping its meetings and forwarding a copy of the tape to all parishes covered by the district, according to a vote taken by the levee district commissioners.The request to videotape the levee district’s meeting arose out of a June 5 resolution passed by the St. Charles Parish Council. The resolution seeks that all meetings of the levee district be videotaped.

The resolution cited the increase in concern from area residents regarding levee protection.

“Whereas, conditions and readiness of our local levee system in this post Katrina environment has become a major concern of the citizens,” the resolution stated.

The resolution further stated that broadcasting the meetings will give residents a greater insight into the operation and function of the levee district.

“They cannot tell us to do this. Our monies are better spent on levee protection,” Board President Steve Wilson said. “We have 13 jurisdictions and it is cost prohibitive for us to do this.”

According to the district’s response letter to St. Charles Parish President Albert Laque, Wilson wrote, “The Board of Commissioners of the Pontchartrain Levee District has considered your request. Unfortunately, we do not deem this request necessary for the furtherance of our business and therefore will not be doing so at this time.”

Wilson additionally said in his letter that videotaping the district’s meetings would not be “the best use of our funds.”

Wilson, in a telephone call later, stated that the board makes itself available to answer questions from any governmental entity that makes a request.

“We report annually on all PLD activities. We tell them everything the PLD is doing,” Wilson said.

“They did not request the Lafourche Basin Levee District, which represents the west bank of St. Charles Parish, to do the same thing,” Wilson said.

The Pontchartrain Levee District covers Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist Parishes.

In other business, fuel costs for the Pontchartrain Levee District have increased more than 35 percent over last year and account for nearly a third of the monthly budget, said Wilson.

With more than $22,000 spent on fuel last month for the district’s cars and machinery, Wilson also said that every bit of the budget’s increase is due to fuel. The monthly invoices approved, Monday, totaled $61,467.44.

“The price of fuel has made us shop around and try to get the best dollar value we can,” he said.

The board also approved a payment of $34,256.90 to G.C.R. & Associates, a contracting firm hired to manage the 10-mile Hurricane Protection Levee project in St. Charles Parish. The payment comes out of an escrow account, Wilson said.

“The Corps of Engineers pays 65 percent of the bill and we pay the other 35 percent,” Wilson additionally said.

The board renewed its membership in the Mississippi Valley Flood Control Association by approving payment of annual dues in the amount of $3,860.

Lutcher’s News Examiner was chosen as the official journal for the board.

Several employees were also given merit raises.


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