The heavy equipment, new dump trucks and graders loaded onto dual axel trailers were parked in plain sight beside the Delta Grand Thursday night, signaling the message St. Landry Parish President Jessie Bellard wanted to deliver Thursday night.
It’s time for him and his administration to get to work and there seems to be enough projected federal and state revenue available to do that, Bellard told the crowd that listened to his future plans for the parish in addition to the details of his 2021 progress report card.
What’s ahead for parish government this year will be continued ditch digging, attempts to rid the parish of blighted rural properties, the sale of land and residences whose owners have refused to pay property taxes and capital outlay projects that include replacing roofs on the parish jail and courthouse, according to Bellard.
The long range plans also with the help of federal grant money will include dealing with parish wide drainage issues, better broadband connectivity for areas that don’t yet have access and improved local emergency services.
And of course cleaning ditches, removing and replacing culverts and patching and overlaying parish roads will continue, Bellard added.
St. Landry, Bellard said, is part of a federal grant plan that also includes Acadia, Evangeline and St. Tammany parishes.
About $50 million from one grant package will help fund the initial phase of broadband improvements for St. Landry and those parishes, while a subsequent grant Bellard pointed out, should complete the project in about three or four years.
The federal money for a drainage initiative will initially involve a comprehensive study of water flow problems in St. Landry and other parishes. Information obtained from the study should enable architects and engineers to plan more efficiently once the projects are put into place, Bellard said.
Fixing overcrowding at the parish jail is a complex and costly matter, one that Bellard maintained won’t be solved quickly.
Continued arrests of alleged violent offenders have forced the parish to send them to facilities in other parishes at a cost of $111,000 monthly, according to Bellard. A backlogged criminal docket is forcing inmates to stay remain incarcerated longer while awaiting trial, he pointed out.
American Rescue Act money has helped abate the monthly parish government expenditure for prisoners. Bellard said there are plans to expand the parish jail in order to reduce the overall inmate costs that have become the highest expenditure faced by the administration.
Bellard hinted that there is an overall plan for reducing the annual parish airport deficit, but he told those in attendance that he is not prepared to indicate the total scope of that overall project for a facility that he described as a “parish jewel.”
His administration Bellard said, is “an open book. We want to hear from you.”