DENHAM SPRINGS – Drainage projects are being funded but more are ahead, the parish won’t back down from a levee dispute, and a tax renewal is vital to roadwork.

Those were some of the items covered by Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks on Wednesday at the Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Parish Meeting.

Ricks asked the audience to support the tax renewal next year for the parish road capital outlay program.

The parish is about to start $7.3 million in road overlay work, Ricks said, and the tax is “our butter and butter. That tax, that’s how we live and die.”

The parish president, who recently won another four-year term without opposition, also said he will defend the parish on the Laurel Ridge Levee issue.

“We have agreed we will live up to the memorandum of understanding,” signed in January to work through the issue with Ascension Parish government, Ricks said.

“We will give them time for their engineers to come up with a way to not impact our parish,” he said.

Ricks said the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) contractor has said if the levee is built it will have a 6-inch water impact on Livingston Parish.

If a cut is made on the levee near La. 22, it will have only a 4-inch impact, he added.

“A half-inch impact is not acceptable,” Ricks said. “I’m responsible for Livingston Parish. I am not going to let them build a levee that will inflict harm on us."

The Laurel Ridge Levee is only one part of a larger challenge for the parish.

“Drainage is an issue. I thank Congressman (Garret) Graves, Sen. (Bill) Cassidy for securing funds through Congress. And Gov. John Bel Edwards,” for pledging and providing $60 million after the flood, Ricks said.

Graves recently announced that $1.2 billion has been secured for flood protection, but that will go to the state, not just Livingston Parish, Ricks said.

“We will tap into it,” he said.

Funding for drainage does not mean just cleaning ditches, Ricks said.

“We can use the funding to prevent flooding and reduce the amount of flooding.”

A recently approved $5 million elevation project will help 88 homes, he said.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service allocated $53 million to Livingston Parish for waterway cleanup, Ricks said.

So far, $3.5 million has cleaned the Tickfaw River and West Colyell Creek, and $8 million is to be used to clean Hornsby Creek in Satsuma, he said.

The Hornsby Creek Bridge was replaced and raised on South Satsuma Road by 3 feet, Ricks said. When a 7-inch rain deluge hit several weeks ago, the water rose to within 3 to 4 inches of the higher bridge.

Ricks recognized three members of the Parish Council in the audience: Garry “Frog” Talbert, Maurice “Scooter” Keen, and Jeff Ard.

“We know we are growing and will continue to grow,” Rick said.

“We work well together. We don’t always agree,” but Ricks said he and the council have the same goal of solving the parish’s problems.

Ricks also thanked the 160 parish employees he oversees.

“Our people are dedicated and work hard every day,’ he said. “I think it shows and pays off for the parish.”

The drainage work is a “team effort” between the parish and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the state, and DOTD, Ricks said.

In other business activity, Ricks said the parish Planning Department has had 33 commercial developments come in, down from 68 last year, while permits for homes are at 406, down from 472.

A total of 15 DOTD bridge projects in the parish are at different stages for bridge replacement, bridge repair and road overlay, he said.

“The future looks extremely bright,” Ricks said. “A lot of money is coming in funds to solve drainage (issues).

To social media critics of parish government, Ricks said, “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t care.

“Most of us here flooded or had relatives flood or a child flood. We’re doing everything possible every day to get the funds,” to do the projects.

“It’s a long, aggravating process. We are just now getting the money we have been waiting for since 2016 and 2017,” he said.

“We will do it the right way and follow the process to get the dollars.”

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