LIVINGSTON – Millages for two recreation districts in Livingston Parish go on the ballot today (Saturday, Dec. 8), along with the statewide runoff for Secretary of State.
Polls throughout Livingston Parish and statewide are open until 8 p.m.
The statewide ballot pits interim Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin – a Ville Platte native who now lives in West Baton Rouge Parish -- against Clinton Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup. The winner will fill the unexpired term of Tom Schedler, who resigned in May after an office employee sued him for sexual harassment.
The winner will have the option of seeking a four-year term in the 2019 primary election.
Ardoin has worked eight years in the SOS office, while Greenup worked for the East Feliciana Clerk of Court’s Office before she attended law school at Southern University.
Livingston Parish Recreation District No. 5-South will make their choice on a 10-year, 10-mill property tax to fund the new district. The district extends from Satsuma west to Colyell down Jack Allen Road, near the French Settlement area. It would end before the village’s corporate limits.
The tax would funnel approximately $130,000 annually for the district, which includes parks in Satsuma and Colyell.
Interstate 12 would comprise the boundary between the two districts.
North of Interstate 12, voters will decide on renewal of the 10-year, 15-mill property tax already on the books for Livingston Parish Recreation District No. 7. The millage would bring in approximately $239,000 annually to the district.
The proposal follows a long-standing rift which placed recreation board members from the Livingston/Satsuma area against those from Colyell.
The disputes reached a boiling point in September 2016 when then-Livingston Mayor Derral Jones informed the Parish Council that he would withdraw his town from District 5 and create a municipal district.
A measure to support the municipal district failed in April 2017, one month after voters rejected the renewal of the 15-mill tax for the entire district.
The directors of the two districts share the same goal. Both want to broaden the scope of the recreational programs, which have primarily focused on summer baseball and softball leagues.
(10 mills, 10 years, $125,000)
Colyell Community Park serves as the hub of action for the area about two miles off the beaten path on Perrilloux Road.
The annual intake for the district would mainly ensure continued operation of the facility, Ronnie Lambert, director for Recreation District 5-South. Approximately $55,000 annually goes toward the upkeep for the facility. Full participation in the tax would allow $70,000 for upgrades at the complex, which was built in 1982.
Expenditures include the lawn maintenance, cleanup crews, restroom upkeep, electricity and water, according to District 6 Livingston Parish Councilman Jeff Averett, who represents the bulk of the area.
Prior to the split with the Town of Livingston, the Colyell Community Park could draw from a $300,000 annual revenue stream.
"In those days, it gave us the dollars to tackle much bigger projects," Lambert said.
Lambert said he wants to make the most of what the district can generate. He wants to rework area adjacent to a ballpark for use as a soccer field and upgrade playground equipment.
A covered metal structure for picnics and parties in the playground area also ranks high on the wish list.
"We have a pavilion, but it's hard for parents to keep an eye on their kids from there," he said. "It may take us a year or two in funds to afford that level of project."
The district opted for a 10-mill tax in hopes it would generate more support than a 15-mill proposal.
"We even talked about a five-mill tax, but that would barely give us enough for operation," Lambert said. "We're just hoping we can get the tax and see things grow over time."
The property would likely fall into possession of the Livingston Parish government if voters reject the millage, he said.
"If it gets taken over by the parish, they don't have the funds for it," Lambert said. "I assume they'd probably sell it ... they don't have the money to operate it."
(15 mills, 10 years, $230,000)
In the same guise as its counterpart in District 5-South, a move beyond baseball and softball serves as the primary objective for the district north of I-12.
District 7 extends east to the Tickfaw River on U.S. 190, west to South Satsuma Road and stops northward just before Cane Market Road. It covers one area south of I-12 -- the Big Boss Travel Plaza, located within the Town of Livingston corporate limits.
The millage reflects the same amount residents paid in the tax prior to the split, District 1 Livingston Parish Councilman Jeff Ard said.
"We wanted to keep everything the same," he said. "Technically, it's a new tax, but nothing change."
Recreation officials in the area want to continue the tradition of baseball and softball at Sartwell Park, home for the two teams from Doyle High School. But the wish list extends beyond summer activities, district chairman Ronnie McLin said.
"We want to branch out into other areas for other sports for other kids," he said. "We built a nice complex in our area, and want it to grow with our community."
Sartwell Park sits on an 18-acre complex owned by the town, including 16 acres donated by the Crown Zellerbach Corporation, which bought the land and donated 16 acres to the town and the other two acres now occupied by Doyle Elementary School.
"Everything at the park is funded by the recreational dollars, and the town has helped us with maintenance," McLin said. "It works hand in hand from the growth standpoint."
A combination football/soccer field and walking track top the goals for Sartwell Park, which opened in 1992.
Officials also want to add a splash pad at the park near the Livingston Town Hall, which the town would help maintain upon its completion. Soccer goals and basketball courts could also figure into the mix at the Town Square Park.
The plans also call for walking trails, and possibly a push for rodeo activities for youngsters at the Livingston Parish Fairgrounds.
The addition of a football complex would keep many families in Livingston Parish on weekends, McLin said.
The district began an independent football program last year, in affiliation with a league with Albany that plays in the Hammond-Ponchatoula area.
"We were losing a lot of kids to Dehnam Springs, Ponchatoula, Gonzales and Hammond because they have nothing like that for them over here," McLin said. "We gave it a shot, it turned out well and now we even have a cheerleader squad."
The millage would continue what the program started before the split.
The district had allocated $30,000 or more each year on maintenance, but also used revenue for construction of a new concession stand and restrooms at Sartwell Park.
The Town of Livingston comprises approximately 49 percent of the district.
McLin believes the town's ongoing growth spurt justifies the need for the millage to ensure it keeps up with a larger population -- one that may look beyond the traditional recreational activities.
"This whole area is going to grow like Watson and everything else," he said. "It's moving our way,"