It was a busy night at the Ascension Parish Council meeting on Thursday. Council members approved controversial tax exemptions, created a new position to oversee infrastructure improvements and celebrated the longevity of one local business.

Members approved a resolution to award industrial tax exemptions to companies in the parish. Representatives from Together Louisiana spoke in opposition, citing the secrecy of the projects that would receive the credits as unprecedented.

"What is happening here tonight is not normal," Ascension Parish public school teacher Lanna Williams said. "The identities of the four companies requesting these subsidies are being withheld from the public. The projects are being described only in the most generic terms and are being identified by code names."

Council members noted secrecy is sometimes appropriate, as it could jeopardize the projects by letting competitors and contractors know the details of the proposals before their approval. Industry representatives seconded that notion, noting job creation from the credits will benefit the parish.

Despite opposition, the Projects Magnolia, Zinnia, Bagel, and Sunflower were approved.

Next, the council adopted a resolution to establish the position of Infrastructure Division Director. Members say the person in this role will oversee transportation projects, including those in the Move Ascension initiative, as well as the sewerage and water upgrades those projects will entail. The salary range will be from $104,000 to $135,000 according to market range. Creating the position enables parish officials to begin a nationwide search to find the right man or woman to do the job.

Parish President Kenny Matassa recognized Horn of Plenty Heath Food Store for their 40 years in business in Ascension Parish. He proclaimed September 21 as Horn of Plenty Health Food Store Day in the parish. Horn of Plenty offers organic, non-GMO foods and supplements and specializes in herbalism.

"My family and I are regular customers," Matassa said, "We like the personal and professional service we get there."

The store was founded by Vernon and Clara Adams in 1977 at the East Bank Shopping Center in Gonzales. Today the store is run by Adam Howell, making him the fourth generation to operate the store, which is now located on East Ascension Street.

The store has been located there for 31 years.

Other business at the meeting included moving voting Precinct 33 back to its original location at St. Amant Primary School. The precinct had to be relocated to St. Amant Middle School after last year's flood.

Additionally, permit fees were suspended for repair of commercial buildings damaged by the floods of last August. Members hope this will help business owners impacted by the flood to redirect financial resources towards rebuilding, rather than tying them up in fees.

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