LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Livingston Parish leaders are relying on FEMA to help them fix their drainage problems after voters knocked down a new tax on Saturday.
The creeks that run through Livingston Parish are shallow and often cluttered with debris. Trash, old box fans, tires, and fallen tree branches have clogged the waterways so badly that the water has, for the most part, stopped flowing. When it rains, the water has nowhere to go but up.
Livingston Parish leaders proposed a new tax to support a drainage plan that would support more equipment and workers to clear it all up, but voters batted it down. Parish President Layton Ricks says he thought the timing could not have been more perfect. "I was hoping if it had any chance at all coming on the heels of the 2016 flood, this would be the time to get is passed," Ricks said.
The half-cent sales tax and 5-mil property tax would have supported a drainage program in two districts in the southern section of the parish, where Councilman Jeff Averett says the need is critical in preventing flooding in the future. The voters' opposition, he says, puts the parish in a bind.
"We got to depend on the parish to do it with not enough money is what it amounts to. We've got almost 500 square miles we are trying to work with six people. There's no possible way. No way," Ricks said.
Ricks says for now, the parish will try to make do with $45 million in FEMA funds from the 2016 flood. He says the money will help alleviate the problem lingering in the creeks, but it won't be enough to help maintain the drainage Livingston Parish so desperately needs.
"With FEMA, we have to get all the projects involved. Realistically, we are looking at anywhere from 16 to 18 months just to get the projects approved," Ricks said.
Ricks says it could be a year and a half to two years before any real work is done. Meanwhile, the council is looking at other options that might be more attractive to voters.