Parish needs money for Lake St. John gauge

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

VIDALIA, La.&045; Whether Lake St. John keeps its lake gauge depends on whether the Concordia Parish Police Jury can find $700 in this year’s budget to fund gauge operation through September.

For this year, the jury had budgeted $1,800 to fund its part of operating the gauge that measures lake levels. That was the same amount the jury had paid in 2002.

But Benton Magee of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Ruston explained that 2002’s amount was only a partial billing &045; and that this year, the jury owed the full $2,500.

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&uot;We had the understanding that $1,800 was what we owed, so that’s what we budgeted,&uot; said Juror Gene Allen, whose district includes Lake St. John. &uot;I’d like to see (the gauge stay), but we can’t spend money we don’t have.&uot;

&uot;We’re running short now&uot; when it comes to funds, added Juror Melvin Ferrington.

The USGS also pays $2,500 a year to operate and maintain the gauge. That share &045; and the parish’s share &045; will increase to $2,600 for 2004.

If the jury does not come up with enough money to operate the gauge through September, the end of the USGS’ fiscal year, the chances of getting matching funds for its operation from the agency next year are slim, Magee said.

&uot;In other words, if (the gauge isn’t funded) this year, there’s no need to worry about next year,&uot; said Juror Charlie Blaney.

Many residents of the lake came to show their support for funding for the gauge. Bell said lake level information is displayed on the Lake St. John Neighborhood Watch page and is accessed regularly by lake residents.

&uot;The gauge complements the work the jury has already done on the weir&uot; at the lake, said resident Leo Ivy. &uot;It would be a shame to lose that investment.&uot;

&uot;Besides, Lake St. John brings in more to the economy of this parish than all the other lakes combined,&uot; said Kenny Burns.

Bell said that donations could possibly be raised to cover the amount owed this year.

The police jury voted to ask its Finance Committee to review whether the jury can find the money in this year’s and next year’s budgets to fund the gauge.