GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Gonzales city leaders are looking for fresh ways to build a new conference center and gymnasium for youth recreation after voters knocked down a half cent sales tax proposal.
Officials have set their sights on an overgrown lot next to St. Elizabeth's Hospital on Highway 30. Mayor Barney Arceneaux says it's the future home of a new civic and conference center, which would ultimately help refuel an economic engine that has been losing power to big business.
"Gonzales was always the shopping hub of the parish and now… at one time we were the only Walmart. Now we've got a Walmart in Prairieville, a Walmart on LA 42. Those people who would come to Gonzales don't necessarily need to come to Gonzales right now," said Arceneaux.
The city hoped the estimated $9 million conference center would attract conferences from local plants and businesses and make for a great return on tax payers' investment. The city proposed a half cent sales tax to help fund it and a youth basketball gymnasium. The tax would also help maintain police, fire, and EMS services.
"It's just like any other business, when they realize they have to go up a nickel or penny, they do it, and it's the same thing for government. You have to do it from time to time to maintain," said Arceneaux.
Arceneaux says city leaders are looking at possible loan options to fund a second civic center. As for the services residents already receive, the mayor says that "no" vote may come at a price. It could mean one day less of garbage pickup or doing more with less when it comes to providing emergency services. Right now, it's too soon to tell.
"We talked to both chiefs about, fire and police, whether it be personnel or equipment, we are not sure just yet, but somewhere along the line it will have to be one or the other," said Arceneaux.
Repairs at the old civic center across the street from City Hall, which was damaged in the flood last August, are set to begin in the next couple of weeks. FEMA is helping to cover those costs.