By Cyndi Sellers
An extensive discussion of road equipment, maintenance barn and pump station construction, and comp time rollover extended the Cameron Parish Police Jury’s budget meeting well into the voting meeting time on Friday. The proposed 2022 budget includes a lot of expected FEMA money as well as a lot of rebuilding expense. For the first time, though, the Road and Bridge budget is balanced. In all previous years, the General Fund has had to supplement the Road and Bridge department.
The federal infrastructure bill and Community Development Block grant funds are likely to add to the income picture, said Parish Administrator Katie Armentor. The 2022 budget shows a deficit of $743,495, but that is due to adding $2 million to the capital projects budget to cover FEMA matching funds.
FEMA has only obligated six of over 20 Police Jury projects so far, including Right of Way Debris Removal. They have only paid on the debris removal ($23,524,000) and Hackberry Permit/Investigator’s building ($86,423), and repairs to the West Annex ($89,559).
FEMA should reimburse the Parish for road damage caused by flood waters, but elevating Highway 27 north of Hackberry is a State issue, Armentor said.
The Grand Lake Maintenance Barn, flattened by Hurricane Laura, is a budget problem since it wasn’t covered by insurance. Plans are to scale back the size of the building, but it will take a bit more time to figure out exactly how to do so.
The $1.2 million COVID relief fund is already allocated, with most going to improve water systems parish wide and some going to make the Jury’s meeting room fully equipped for virtual meetings. The COVID relief funds are dedicated to “making the parish a healthier, safer place during an epidemic.”
The purchase of spray trucks, tractors, and culvert cleaners was discussed. Road Superintendent Emily Mock said she can’t get firm prices on some of the pieces needed until next year. She won’t be around then, though. She handed in her retirement letter at the end of the meeting.
Jurors discussed the pump station behind the Courthouse which has cost about $155,000 so far. It still needs a new pipe, estimated at $22,000, and bulkheads estimated at $6,000. This pump drains the area behind the Courthouse, and without it flooding will occur. The Police Jury owns the pump station and shares the cost of equipment with Gravity Drainage District #3. The drainage picture in the Cameron area is changing from gravity drainage to forced drainage as subsidence and sea level rise affect the system.
Jurors looked at renting a 12-inch pump for parish wide use. A rental would cost from $3000-$11,000 a month, but none are available right now. A new one would cost $115,000 for a 12 inch or $89,000 for a 10-inch pump. They will need one to pump out the dirt pit on the 80 acres in Grand Lake.
Comp time for parish employees must be used in the year it is earned, except for 50 hours which can be rolled over. During 2021, however, some employees worked a lot of overtime. especially in waterworks districts. Staff requested permission to let them roll over 200 hours of comp time from 2021 only, since it was not practical to let them take off that much time at the end of the year.
The final budget will be voted upon in December.