Sewer franchise fee to be dedicated for Ascension Parish recreation

Contemplating issuance of an RFQ for a Parish Wide Recreation Master Plan, two Parish Council committees explored the means to fund recreation in the wake approval to sell Ascension’s sewer treatment assets on April 24.  Back-to-back committee meetings on Recreation and Utilities on Thursday, and the council is preparing to spend the monies saved and/or generated by the ballot box success.  Annual franchise fees, also approved by voters in a 20-year agreement with National Water Infrastructure (NWI), could be dedicated exclusively to parish recreation.

The second of two committee meetings on May 13, Utilities unanimously approved an ordinance to do just that.

“We’re estimating $4-500,000 to begin,” explained Councilman Chase Melancon from the chair of Utilities which he occupies.  “As (NWI’s) customer base grows…estimated to reach close to $1 million” over the 20-year life of the franchise agreement and based on 4.5% of NWI’s gross revenues.

It would be the first ever dedicated source of revenue to fund Ascension Parish recreation according to Melancon who presented the ordinance for consideration on Thursday.  The decision has been made by the council in years past to appropriate a percentage of Ascension’s operating budget.  Ultimately, the full council must enact the ordinance as with any appropriation of funds.

“People are clamoring for recreation,” Councilman Aaron Lawler asserted during a lengthy Recreation Committee monologue.  “I’m 100% for this, taking the franchise fee and putting that directly towards recreation.”

It came as Lawler argued, at length, that a Recreation Master Plan is necessary.  The RFQ envisions, according to Recreation Director Michael King:

  • A Short-term plan for all parks and facilities
  • Ensuring American with Disabilities Act compliance at all parks and facilities
  • A 15-Year Plan for all parks and facilities
  • A needs assessment and projection

Director King stressed his preference to do most of the work in-house “to preserve as much funding for actual projects as possible.”  Public input will be sought, assured the director who pointed out that parish recreation is, in most respects, deficient for a municipality the size and affluence of Ascension.  The parish does, though, have approximately twice the baseball/softball fields that similarly-situated communities enjoy.

King was hired amid heaps of plaudits for his ability to perform such tasks, so he should be capable of tackling the project with an able assist from Director of Planning and Facility Maintenance Ricky Compton.  Providing more, and different recreation amenities has been something of a mantra from the department under their direction.

In that vein Director King offered a presentation on two new projects; the May 1 Grand Opening of the parish’s Skate Park and May 4 ground-breaking of Ascension’s first dog park.