Voters will decide fate of $60 million for schools, hospital

St. Charles Parish residents will get the first chance to decide whether the school system and the hospital will be able to borrow a combined $60 million when early voting begins Saturday.

The money, which includes $45 million for the school system and $15 million for St. Charles Parish Hospital, will be used for future construction projects.

Jim Melohn, chief financial and administrative officer for the school system, said that many future projects would have to be put on hold if voters do not approve the bond issue.

Five new wings are included in the list of future projects for the district. Of those wings, one will be built with an arts sector at Destrehan High, one with a ticket booth at Hahnville High, one with a locker room at Cammon Middle, one with 13 classrooms and a library at Norco K-3 and one with six classrooms and a library at Luling Elementary.

The list also includes field house expansions and renovations at both local high schools, renovations on buildings A-D at Norco 4-6, modification/incorporation of the A. A. Songy facility at Lakewood Elementary and a kindergarten addition at Mimosa Park Elementary.

The total for all future projects is estimated at about $40.1 million.

Superintendent Rodney Lafon said that these projects would eliminate most portables and “take schools to a level that is appropriate for the 21st century.”

The future projects would eliminate 66 of the district’s portable buildings, leaving only three, according to John Rome, executive director of physical plant services. Rome said that the district currently spends about $286,000 each year on rent and upkeep of its portables.

Whether or not the measure passes, parish residents will continue to pay the current school tax rate until 2022.

If it passes, residents will pay the same tax rate until 2032. If the measure fails, the tax rate would drop after 2022.

Hospital seeks $15 million for new medical centers, lab

St. Charles Parish Hospital wants to borrow $15 million to build a new outpatient medical center, a state-of-the-art cardiac catheter lab and an East Bank-based after-hours care center.

Hospital officials said they will be able to borrow the money without increasing the current tax rate, which means that the owner of a $200,000 home will continue to pay $39.50 a year for hospital services.

The tax rate would decrease if the money is not borrowed.

The new outpatient facility would have a cardiology center, a center for digestive care, a lung center, vision care and a department for orthopedics and sports medicine. The estimated cost of the center is $6.6 million. The planned cardiac catheter lab would be built at a cost of $2 million, which is also the estimated price of a new after-hours clinic on the East Bank, hospital officials said.

The hospital also plans to spend $1.9 million on “state-of-the-art equipment,” $2 million on physician practice development and $500,000 to upgrade the ambulance fleet.

The projects would create 50 full-time jobs, according to Hospital CEO Federico Martinez Jr.

According to a poll of St. Charles residents performed by Silas Lee and Associates last July, cardiology, digestive and colon care and orthopedic services were what people identified as the services they wanted at the hospital.

Martinez said that the baby boomer population, which are those residents born between 1946-64, are increasing in the parish and will need specialists as they age.

If voters approve the measure, Martinez said the hospital plans to open the East Bank primary and advanced after-hours care center in the fall of 2013 and the outpatient medical center and catheter lab in the spring of 2014.

Early voting begins Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. and will continue Monday, April 9 until Saturday, April 14 during those times.

Residents on the West Bank can vote at the registrar’s office in the courthouse, while residents on the East Bank can vote at the Arterbury Building.

Editor Jonathan Menard contributed to this story.


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