Recently we asked District 2 Councilman Bill Dawson: 1) How would you characterize Bill Dawson’s 3.5 years on the council (of what are you most proud, any regrets, etc)?; 2) What do you hope to accomplish in the future? His reply, in its entirety is below.
Regarding the three and one-half years that I have spent on the Ascension Parish Council, below are some accomplishments that I think were significant:
- Adopting Traffic Impact Fees. We adopted this within the first year of our term. This implemented a process that requires developers and new residents to pay a fee based on their impact on our road system. Since adoption in 2016 this program has generated $6.9million and is used in the Move Ascension Program.
- Move Ascension Program. In early 2017 we initiated this road improvement program that did not require any new taxes but dedicated a new bond of $25 million. We also dedicated an additional $10 million from existing reserve funds. This program concentrates on traffic flow improvements and has a very open window showing progress and spending through a new web site.
- I believe we had a good response as a parish to the flood of August 2016. As you can see from what happened in Livingston, the process and implementation of the response is an important part of maintaining our Flood Insurance.
- In my two terms as Chair of the Council (2017 and 2018) I instituted several new procedures:
- Started the custom of the Chair voting on every issue not just to break a tie.
- Instituted the broadcast of council and committee meetings on YouTube so residents who do not have cable can view.
- Instituted the electronic voting that was already installed in the Council Chambers. This made for a better record of voting results.
- Instituted a established procedure for two or more council members to put an item on the council agenda.
- Accomplishments particular to District 2:
- Had drainage from highway 22 routed directly to Bayou Conway instead of running through a major subdivision
- Had blocked culverts by the airport removed that resulted in improved drainage between highway 22 and highway 44
- Stewarded a $17 million HMGP grant request for the Panama Conway basin that includes improvements to the Sorrento pumps and basin.
- Wrote the resolution directing initial engineering for four projects in the parish to request funding from the $1.2 billion federal allocation for flood mitigation projects in Louisiana. One of these is for pumping Bayou Conway into the Mississippi River and another is to elevated highway 22 near the Diversion Canal.
- Had the Panama Conway basin modelled so we could establish real Base Flood Elevations (BFE). Previously much of this basin was in an “A” flood zone which did not have FEMA approved Base Flood Elevations. Because of this the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) used very conservative elevations (BFE’s) for these residents. These elevations resulted in most residences having a BFE higher than it should have been. After this study FEMA proposed a new Flood Insurance Rating Map (FIRM) for the basin that removed hundreds of residences from the flood zone. This will reduce these residents flood insurance premiums significantly. The FIRM is still in the public comment stage but should be approved in the third quarter of this year.
- The last item for my “significant” list (could be an achievement or a disappointment) is the establishment of new floodplain management rules. I do say accomplishment yet, as even though we passed the new rules a few weeks ago, the Parish President vetoed the ordinance. The new Floodplain Management Ordinance will (if the veto is over ridden) limit the amount of fill in the floodplain to three feet. This would keep new subdivisions from digging ponds and putting seven to eight feet of fill in the 100 year Floodplain. The second major change in this ordinance is to raise the elevation of new structures to two feet above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). The current ordinance requires them to only be one foot above the BFE. This is the recommendation of the Association of State FloodPlain Managers (ASFPM). It is the requirement of FEMA when a structure is substantially damaged. It is the requirement of Restore Louisiana for mitigation funding. It will lower the flood insurance premiums as much as 50% for the new residents. I helped draft the new ordinance and strongly support the override of the veto.
The above are some of the Major items accomplished during the term. As far as the next four years, of course, we have to continue to provide solutions for the traffic issues and we have to continue to provide solutions for drainage and flooding.
However, sewer is one issue that has not been addressed in the past term. When I took office in 2016 there was a parish wide sewer plan on the table. I took some time and did a detailed evaluation of this plan resulting in the conclusion that the plan was not good for our parish. It would have cost the parish residents too much and not resulted in parish wide sewer.
During the next term (and the remaining time of this term) there needs to be a solution for parish wide sewer. We currently have a company interested in providing us with a plan. There are few details on this, but the prospect is encouraging. We have been told by LDEQ that we must have a parish wide plan for sewer and LDEQ has already identified several streams (Bayou Manchac being one) as “impaired” (meaning water quality standards have been compromised in these streams). If we do not have a plan for handling these impaired streams and the rest of the parish, the EPA and LDEQ will provide us with their plan. As we have seen in other parishes, when these agencies mandate plans, the price doubles or triples. In light of the above, I believe sewer is a very important goal for the next term.
For me another important item for the next term is more transparency (an open checkbook type system) in our financial reporting from the parish. We have been told this was not possible until we have updated our computer system. The computer update process should be finished early next year and we should simplify our access and presentation of budget and spending data.
Again, drainage and traffic improvements along with improving governmental efficiency and transparency are my general goals for the future.