Parish officials talk D.C.

Published 12:09 am Thursday, February 16, 2012

VIDALIA — Congressional delegations in Washington, D.C., got an earful from Concordia Parish officials recently regarding several economic development projects.

Concordia Parish Economic Director Heather Malone gave an update from the Washington, D.C., trip to her board of commissioner members Wednesday afternoon.

Malone, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland and Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin said this year’s trip was one of the best in several years, and they left feeling extremely confident to receive funding for several projects.

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“The projects we’re working on are extremely important for our community,” Copeland said. “I think we have an excellent opportunity to get funding this year.”

Malone said the group met with the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program to discuss criteria for the upcoming grant cycle.

Vidalia had previously applied for an $11 million grant to complete phases two and three of the port.

In December, Vidalia was notified that it would not be receiving any funds from the program, which is part of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“We wanted to talk to DOT and find out what exactly they’re looking for the next grant cycle,” Malone said. “Everything went really well with that.”

Malone said the city will be applying for funding again this year and that the pre-application is due Feb. 19, and the final application is due March 20.

Malone said the “big kahuna” of the trip was promoting the Vidalia Broadband Initiative.

The project would route fiber optic cable to schools, libraries, health care centers and homes to provide high speed broadband Internet.

The city is looking at a $9 million grant through the United States Department of Agriculture’s broadband initiative programs after 21 parishes across Louisiana lost an $80 million federal grant that would have provided 900 miles of fiber optic cable.

“In my opinion, this is one of the biggest projects we’ve worked on,” Copeland said.

Malone said the objective of discussing the broadband initiative in Washington, D.C., was to inform others of the project and help gather support.

“We’re asking everyone to get behind this project and push forward,” Malone said.

Not taking a backseat in lieu of new, large-scale projects was the Ferriday water plant, which McGlothin said he discussed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Hospitals.

Reiterating what he mentioned at the Ferriday Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday night, McGlothin said there is a list of things needing to be fixed at the water plant, but none of which involve the production of water at the plant.

McGlothin said changes included building a new fence around the plant and purchasing generators for the plant, all of which would cost approximately $250,000.

In other news from the board meeting:

 Malone gave an update regarding the situation of Lake Concordia’s water levels and how it affects the fish habitat and the residents.

Several board members requested to look into the water level situation on Lake Concordia at the previous meeting.

Malone said 12-inch-boards have been placed and removed over the years to make the water level higher or lower depending on the drought or flood level.

Malone said it was an awkward situation with two different sets of people to please.

Residents were happy when the water level was lowered in the spring because their docks were being flooded, but fishermen were angry, saying the lower water levels resulted in a shortage of fish.

Malone said Ricky Moses with the District 3 Inland Fisheries division of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is in the third year of a three-year study of the fish population of Lake Concordia.

Moses said samplings from last spring and fall have indicated that the fish population is great in Lake Concordia, and there is nothing they can do if the fish aren’t biting.