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Police Jury confident in drainage plan, need to find available funds

VIDALIA — Plans to fix drainage in Concordia Parish didn’t drown in the heavy rains last week, but police jury members say they hope the available funding hasn’t washed away.

Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington took time before the board’s meeting Monday to address drainage issues reported from residents across the parish.

“I think more houses got water in them from these rains then I’ve seen in the past 50 years or so,” Ferrington said. “We have good plans in place to help us fix the drainage issues, but we just need to focus on getting funding for some of the matching grants available.”

The main plan for the parish, Ferrington said, is still to find ways to control water levels in the Black River Lake area and divert water at Brushy Bayou in the northwest part of the parish into the Tensas River.

“We have the right method in place, we just have to find funding to do it,” Ferrington said. “We owe it to the people of Concordia Parish to find the funding.”

In December, residents voted against a proposed 1-mill drainage tax that would have funded the operation and maintenance of levee drainage structures for both the Black River Lake and Brushy Bayou drainage projects.

Since the residents didn’t support the tax increase, Ferrington said the jury is back at square one to find the funds for those projects.

“We may have to work with our congressmen or senators to get some help funding this, but we need to find it somewhere,” Ferrington said. “It would behoove us all to get behind this and find some funding for this project, because it’s just going to get worse and worse if we don’t do anything.”

Another urgent drainage issue, Ferrington told the board and audience members, is ensuring that anyone affected by the heavy rainfall last week contact grant writer Donna Remides to help document the damage done to their houses.

“We have to show a certain level of damage for (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to come in here and help us,” Ferrington said. “If we can declare a true emergency there are some emergency funds through (Louisiana Government Assistance Program.)”

Remides compiled photos and damage reports from areas that were flooded from the rains and distributed them to board members at the meeting.

“If anyone has pictures or knows of any roads or houses that went under please contact me,” Remides said at the meeting. “We need to utilize the FEMA funding, but there’s a certain amount of property loss you have to reach before you can get this.”

Ferrington asked Bill Beasley, drainage committee member, to discuss his experience over the weekend with four members of the U.S. Corps of Engineers that visited the parish Saturday.

“We showed them the proposed strategy of getting water out of Brushy Bayou and they completely agreed with our plans,” Beasley said. “They spent most of the day taking flow readings, but they said they hope to come back and take some more readings.”

Ferrington said hearing that the U.S. Corps of Engineers were in agreement with the parish’s drainage plan should give everyone confidence that they’re on the right track.

“I think the Corps of Engineers recognizes the fact that we have a major problem here, and we have to have some help in fixing it,” Ferrington said. “We have a good plan in place and that’s because the drainage committee and everyone else has worked hard to get us where we are.

“Now we just need to find the funding.”

In other news from the meeting:

•The board accepted the resignation of secretary-treasurer Hazel Dickson effective Sept. 1.

Dickson will have worked for the police jury for 30 years in September, making her eligible for retirement.

“I told her no one was going to accept her resignation so she couldn’t leave,” Ferrington joked. “You’ve served this jury well and it’s been a pleasure working with you.”