Livingston — The Livingston Board of Aldermen decided to follow in Denham Springs’ footsteps and relax its trailer ordinance in light of the Great Flood of 2016.
“We need to find a way to ease our trailer ordinance for those people who flooded who want to put a trailer on their property while they rebuild,” Mayor Derral Jones said.
“I called other municipalities, and we think the best way is the way Denham Springs did it. Rather than try to rewrite an ordinance or amend an ordinance, they simply agreed that it would not be enforced for those people whose houses were flooded who want to put a trailer on their property while they rebuild,” he said.
“That will be allowed for a six-month period. If they’re not done in six months, they can come here and apply for an additional extension of time. They must be tied in to city sewer,” Jones stipulated, adding that the town will require a permit and inspection for those who want trailers.
He felt relaxing the ordinance was an important step to take to ease the burden of local residents because rewriting or amending the ordinance would require a 30-day notice.
Jones said he already had a handful of requests to place trailers last week but it was strictly against the ordinance.
“We had about 30 homes and businesses that got water in them here in town, which represents 6-7 percent of all the buildings in Livingston,” Jones said. “God blessed us, when you compare that to the 85 percent of homes in Denham Springs that got water.”
“Our engineering firm got flooded out,” he added, noting the absence of the town’s engineer at the meeting Sept. 8.
He also said some of the town’s employees got water, and the day of the monthly meeting was the first time they had a full staff at Town Hall since the flood.
Jessie Glascock, who qualified as a town alderman in July, mentioned the future widening of Interstate 12 through the town and wondered if there was anything the town could do now to prevent potential flooding.
“We see the problems that [barrier] wall caused in Walker,” Glascock said, suggesting more spaces between the wall partitions to allow water to flow more efficiently.
“That wall caused Walker some nightmares. I saw it with my own eyes,” he said. “I was in a boat on this side of the wall, and you could drive on the other side of the road.”
Jones said after this flood, the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) will probably adjust their future construction plans accordingly.
In other news, Jones said he has received a few requests for town services since the flood.
“We’ve been requested by the Sheriff’s Office to try to provide water and sewer for a tract of land south of the town for some trailers for his employees. He said he has 73 employees whose homes flooded, and of course he can’t work 73 people short, so he needs them here. They plan to put some trailers or cottages there for them,” Jones said.
“We also were asked to provide water and sewer to about 200 FEMA cottages in Satsuma,” he said, adding that the project might require a lift station.
In other news, Jones mentioned a meeting local officials had with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), who announced President Obama’s decision to amend the Louisiana Flood Disaster Declaration to cover 90 percent of federal funding as opposed to 75 percent.
“That’s a significant savings for us to only have to pay 10 percent rather than 25 percent,” he said.
Jones expects the town will only have a small claim, falling under the threshold of $120,000 in damages.
Some of that included the town park and its concession stand, which had walk-in coolers and walk-in freezers that flooded. One of the baseball fields was damaged when the flood pushed all the dirt from the infield to the outfield.
Jones thanked the town’s residents for helping travelers who were stranded on I-12 with food, medical care and more.
“I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of our citizens of the Town of Livingston and how they stepped up to the plate to take care of their own and take care of others in need,” Jones said.
“We at one time had hundreds of evacuees between Bethel Church’s gym and the high school gymnasium - people who were stuck on I-12 when they shut I-12 down on the east side because the river overflowed,” he said. “I don’t know how many people told me, ‘I’ve never been treated this way in my life. I don’t want to go home - I want to stay here.”
The mayor and aldermen also expressed their gratitude for the town’s employees, law enforcement, fire department and volunteers who worked non-stop during and after the flood.
“They did a fantastic job and stepped up to the challenge,” Alderman Joey Sibley said. “It was amazing to see the outreach.”
“Most of the town employees and police officers do not get the credit for the job they do,” Alderman David McCreary said.
In other business, Jones said he would look into getting a written right-of-way for the Red Oak Water Tower. The town has a verbal right-of-way for use of the paved road that leads to the tower, but Town Attorney Mike Lee said they need a written one.
When they met Aug. 11, the board handled water business and welcomed a visitor who had a water complaint.
Resident Ray Chidester said he owns a property on Montana Street that his sister’s family lives in, but they had been experiencing more water than usual during regular (non-flood) rain events.
“Within the last couple of weeks, the property behind me on Tuscany was sold, and the new owner fenced it in and built up the land about 18 inches or two feet tall, and he hauled in yellow clay,” Chidester said. “That water now drains onto my property, through my property, and because he built that land up, any water on Tuscany can’t go by it, and it drains down the side of his property through my property.”
Chidester said some of the water enters his carport and leaves a yellow slime over the ground that makes it slippery, and it must be hosed off daily.
Jones said he met with the neighbor and encouraged him to speak with the town’s engineers about potential remedies to get the water directed to the ditches or sewers.
If he does not comply, Jones said Chidester could summon him to court to enforce the changes.
Jones said there are no permits required for a property owner to build up land for a pad, but “if you are flooding somebody, then we have a problem.”
In other business, the board approved a contract extension with Waste Management as well as a final payment request to Phoenix Fabricators & Erectors, Inc. of $122,611.57 for the Red Oak Water Tower. This amount includes the retainage after receiving a clear lien certificate for the project.
Beyond this work, the mayor said the town is in desperate need of a new water well. Jones said in August he was looking into getting a $500,000 state grant to assist with building the well, but in September, after the Great Flood, he was all but certain the grant would not be available.
The town had already paid for engineering and sent out bids on the project, and they received a low bid of $760,000. Jones said he would look into other grants and funding for the well.
With less than a handful of meetings left before he retires as Mayor of the Town of Livingston, Jones reflected on some of the changes the town has faced over his long tenure as mayor. For example, when he first became mayor, the town was issuing about four building permits a year. One day this summer, the town issued eight in just one morning.
“We have several new businesses who are coming, including Shell with a new upscale service station and Burger King next door to Shell. Livingston is going to change, and it will be up to the next administration and the next Board of Aldermen to try to manage the growth so that we all still have a community that we love to live in. It’s going to be a difficult chore to do that,” Jones said.
In other business, the Council:
-Alderman David McCreary said for the month of July, the Fire Department handled 15 first aid calls, three motor vehicle accidents, one investigation, five fire alarms, one gas leak and two false/canceled alarms in town; 11 first aid, four motor vehicle accidents, two mutual aids and two grass/trash fires outside of town.
-For August, the Fire Department handled 25 first aid calls, one motor vehicle accident, one investigation, five fire alarms, one vehicle fire, one grass fire, one electrical line down, one false alarm call and one rescue from an elevator in town; and 16 first aid calls, four public assists, eight motor vehicle accidents, three mutual aids, two fire alarms and one electrical line down outside of town.