Police jury hears proposal for new railroad commission

Published 9:46 pm Monday, December 13, 2021

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VIDALIA — A plan to create a new Railroad Development District Commission representing Concordia, Madison and Tensas parish was introduced at a Monday meeting of the Concordia Parish Police Jury.

The purpose of the commission would be to “promote and encourage the development of rail service running between the parishes,” according to a proposal to establish the commission presented by Bryant Killen, Deputy Director of the Lake Providence Port Commission.

Killen said their goal is to establish a railway line that would follow an old rail bed into Ferriday, where a new line would begin leading to Vidalia.

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“The question is when we get to Ferriday, where would we go?” Killen said.

He added new construction in Ferriday, including Trinity Medical Center, prevents the railway from following its old path. “With I-14 coming in, I’d love to have a rail bridge (crossing the Mississippi River) as well,” he said.

Killen said the time it would take to lay the line is estimated to take five years or more.

Proposed ordinances outlining the commission’s governing rules would be advertised to the public first before the police juries of each parishes’ police jury can vote on them in January.

The ordinances proposed allow the commission to levy an ad valorem tax of no more than 5 mills per year to support itself without asking for additional money from the parishes.

“We’re not asking anyone for any money,” Killen said. “We’ll bring money in.”

If approved, Killen said the commission would consist of nine members with the police juries in each parish each appointing two members independently and one member appointed jointly by all four parishes.

Board members voiced support for the project after Killen’s presentation.

“I was here when there was a railroad going from Ferriday on into Vidalia and Tensas and watched things happen when the railroad left,” said Concordia Police Jury President, Joseph Parker. “Things went down. Things that were kept up did not get kept up. With this proposal, all I see are pluses.”

In other matters during Monday’s meeting of the Concordia Parish Police Jury:

— Unanimously approved a resolution and letter of support for Syrah Resources’ application for the Louisiana Industrial Property Tax Exemption Program. The program would grant the Vidalia technology company and extension of its current property tax reduction of 80% for up to 10 years.

— Karen Molberg, account executive with Enterprise Fleet Management, presented a contract that would allow the parish to trade in government vehicles at a faster pace and potentially lower maintenance costs. The jury unanimously approved the Enterprise Fleet Management contract agreeing to exchange vehicles for newer ones at an initial cost of $20,000, said Jury Secretary and Treasurer Sandi Burley.

Molberg said 88% of the parishes fleet is older than ten years, which could potentially drive up fuel and maintenance costs. Enterprise estimates the Fleet Management program would save the parish 76% on its maintenance cost over time.

“We try to keep your fleet fresher at or below your existing budget,” Molberg said.

— Dixon Cole, president of the Lake Concordia Advisory Committee, told the jury low water levels were causing problems for lake residents and asked the jury’s permission for the advisory committee to make repairs to a weir setting the water level to 49 feet and adding a gate to regulate it in the event of high water or heavy rain events.

Parker said the cost of improvements to the weir would be covered by the advisory committee and cost the parish nothing. The jury voted unanimously in favor of the project.

— The jury unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the execution of a contract with Strategic Demographics LLC to provide reapportionment and redistricting services to the parish following the 2020 Census.

— The jury unanimously approved an emergency expenditure to replace the boiler for the Concordia Parish Courthouse for a total cost of $90,000 for purchase and installation.