LETTER: LDEC?rec plan comes at cost

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Ascension Parish citizens should understand the ramifications of their vote Nov. 4 on the parishwide proposition for a tax spanning 20 years to “acquire, improve, expand and equip the Lamar-Dixon Exposition Center.”

A recent survey initiated by the parish’s Recreation Committee solicited input from 440 households in Ascension and is posted at www.ascensionparish.net under Departments (PARC). The results will be used to develop a comprehensive plan for improving recreational opportunities across the entire parish.

The survey shows that “purchasing land/developing a regional complex” like Lamar-Dixon is tenth on their list of funding priorities. According to the survey, the four recreation-related items that deserve the highest financial priority are: Upgrade existing parks (highest priority), develop new walking/jogging/biking trails, purchase land for neighborhood parks and develop a summer day camp program/facilities for kids 6-12.

Results show that most households are willing to pay $60-$100 more per year to fund these, and other, improvements across the parishwide system. However, the $40 million plus tax dollars generated from the LDEC proposition will go exclusively to one site.

Parish President Tommy Martinez has recommended a one-time capital outlay of $750,000 to upgrade our parks in the proposed budget for 2009. While helpful, this may not be enough to fully implement what citizens have asked for in the survey and is not equal to the amount they say they are willing to invest to make these parishwide upgrades possible. Lamar-Dixon will consume the balance. In addition, a one-time infusion will not address ongoing maintenance or operational costs of new programs or infrastructure.

The new Lamar-Dixon could be a fine multi-use facility that may have a positive economic impact on business and parish coffers. Roads, schools, wastewater, and fire protection also need attention and the demands on our pocketbooks are great.

Bottom line, if the LDEC proposition passes, residents may not be able to afford the program and infrastructure upgrades they say they want in our parks and recreation system.

Jonette Buatt

Ascension Parish Recreation Committee

Citizen Advisory Member