OUR OPINION: A great day in Ascension

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

It is beginning to look like the uncertain future of the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center will soon end.

Inside a jam-packed Ascension Parish Council chamber Tuesday, the council smiled favorably on the idea of taking over ownership of the facility by exercising an option in the lease with owner Mary Lee Dixon.

The council unanimously adopted a resolution to consider an ordinance that will allow it to buy the expo center.

By doing so, Ascension government can pick up a unique facility sitting on over 200 acres of land and valued at more than $50 million for $7.5 million.

That is a bargain no matter what side of the fence you sit on.

And the beauty of this proposed deal, according to parish, state and federal officials, is that it won’t cost Ascension Parish anything to buy Lamar-Dixon.

Because the expo center has served the state and parish so well in the recent onslaught of hurricanes, and most particularly during Gustav when the parish itself took a hard hit, federal funds are available through the Louisiana Recovery Authority that will pay for most of the purchase.

Sen. Jody Amedee explained at the meeting that the state will also be contributing $2 million for the purchase through capital outlay and some  adjustments to House Bill One.

The parish has on hand a $250,000 earmark from Sen. David Vitter that must be spent this year toward the expo center purchase.

Sen. Mary Landrieu has promised a $750,000 earmark to be used for the buy.

And President Tommy Martinez said $1 million has been donated by private interests to cover Lamar-Dixon’s operating cost for the first two years after the purchase.

At the special council meeting Tuesday the show of support for purchasing the expo center was overwhelming.

From elected representatives to 4-H kids and their parents to former government officials, the surge of support for the once buried idea of buying Lamar-Dixon was overwhelming.

What brought about the change in attitude toward Lamar-Dixon? Certainly having money in hand rather than having to pass a tax to make the purchase played a part.

Much of the credit for that goes to Parish President Tommy Martinez who refused to give up on the idea of the parish owning the expo center when a millage tax to purchase it was defeated.

Martinez spoke a little but was mostly content to let others tell the story of why and how the center is going to be purchased.

But what do you know? Most of the speakers heaped praise on the Parish President for not giving up on Lamar-Dixon and for organizing a coalition of supporters and government officials who could make the purchase happen.

We appreciate the efforts of Martinez and everyone involved in the effort to make the purchase. Lamar-Dixon is a major part of what makes Ascension a great parish.

When the dotted line is finally signed in the not so distant future, we’ll have another great day in Ascension.