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Officials see industries as possible drainage fix

VIDALIA — Contributions from private industries could be the solution to fixing drainage issues in Concordia Parish, economic development and elected officials say.

Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District Executive Director Heather Malone brought up the topic this week at the district’s board of commissioners meeting, saying the issue is still a top priority for the area.

In December, parish 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.

The structures would have helped the main drainage plan for the parish, which includes controlling water levels in the Black River Lake area and diverting water at Brushy Bayou in the northwest part of the parish into Tensas River.

Board Chairman Richard Young said he heard Angelina, an agriculture company headquartered in Monterey that owns 26,000 acres of land in the parish, might be interested in contributing to the project.

“I heard at one of the last drainage meetings that they might invest in that because of all the problems they have with drainage,” Young said. “We need to get everyone together and see what we can come up with.”

Concordia Parish Police Jury member Jimmy Jernigan said the majority of the funding for the project — nearly 90 percent — would be provided by the state.

The only thing left to push the project forward is to get the remaining 10 percent — approximately $130,000 — as well as a public entity to agree to maintain the structures after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers puts them in, Jernigan said.

“If we can get those remaining funds, then we just need someone to step up to the plate and agree to maintain it,” Jernigan said.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland suggested the board attempt to gather all the officials involved in the project to begin putting a concrete plan together.

“If the state is willing to provide 90 percent and we can’t invest 10 percent, then shame on us for not doing that,” Copeland said. “If we have a committee willing to participate and a private company willing to participate, let’s give them that opportunity.

“If we can make this drainage situation better, it’s going to improve the economy for everyone in this area.”

Malone said she would begin reaching out to the police jury as well as any private industries interested in contributing to the project in the next few weeks.

In other news from the meeting

• Malone said plans are nearly finalized to implement a grant from the Innovate Readiness program, which brings a branch of the U.S. military to communities to provide some kind of service that will benefit the community and help keep the military personnel’s training up-to-date.

A U.S. Army Reserve unit from Georgia will be coming to the area Aug. 6 through 19 to provide free general medical, dentistry, optical and small veterinary services.

Representatives from the program met in Ferriday in January to scout locations for the program sites.

Malone said the Army representatives are currently in final discussions with Central Louisiana Technical Community College officials to host the program at the school’s Ferriday campus.

“They love the facility, but just haven’t signed on the dotted line yet,” Malone said. “They’ll be back on May 21 for a couple of days, and we plan on having a public meeting announcement to let people in the community know about what the plan is for that two-week period.”

Malone said apart from providing beneficial medical services to the community, the visit would also bring economic dollars to the area from the number of residents coming for the services.

“We’re anticipating 6,500 people, which we will gladly take buying gas and shopping at the convenience stores,” Malone said. “These services are open to everybody in the Miss-Lou, so we’re reaching out to our neighboring towns and cities to make sure they know of the services available.”

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