The following answers were provided by Terry Stevens running for Council District 5 in St. Tammany Parish:

1. What do you think is the single most important drainage issue in your district and what are your proposals to solve and fund it?

a) Single most important: Inadequate drainage provisions provided in new developments and a clearly inadequate Parish roadside drainage maintenance program.  

b) Proposal to solve and fund it: A comprehensive discussion and professional review of the current drainage regulations, drainage practices and procedures in place when new developments are proposed and approved. Re-evaluation of the stormwater pond minimum storage capacity, and BMP’s (Best Management Practices) which need to be better aligned with our obviously changing weather patterns.  Existing drainage design, i.e. roadside ditch maintenance could require an actual plan to clean, clear, and enlarge stormwater capacities along entire stretches of blocks, eliminating the current process which appears to be, “clean when called”, ignoring the obviously clogged lots adjacent to the caller’s ditch.  The funding source is obvious-the developers will provide the first suggestion, and Public Works will be expected to perform the second suggestion, as a component of our current taxation.  

2. What is your definition of economic development in St. Tammany Parish? What criteria should be used in granting property tax exemptions and what property tax exemptions do you support?

a) Definition: Economic Development is any taxpayer funded enticement offered up to any private party.

b) Criteria? It would depend upon the particular exemption, and there are far too many ways that politicians have to give away tax funding for this to be addressed specifically here.

c) What exemptions do you support? Again, the list is immense, and developers, in particular, can and do ask for so many types of exemptions, credits, abatements, and incentives that a comprehensive list of the types of exemptions already in play should be assembled and revealed in detail to the general public for discussion and review.  Past Parish tax abatements provided to some business have been shown to have been granted with zero checks and balances to ensure that the conditions of the exemptions were adhered to, documented, and/or monitored.  This has resulted in huge losses in revenue to the Parish Government, fire/EMS services and other vital Parish expenses.  All of these give-aways must be scrutinized thoroughly, eliminating those which clearly benefit one business to the detriment of the taxpaying general public.

3. Should the parish government acquire, operate and maintain private sewage and water systems?  Why or why not?

a) Why:  St. Tammany Parish has had an unfortunate history with purchases of neighborhood sewage treatment plants which were not built to a reasonable standard, or were obtained under circumstances which were less than ideal.  Without regular and routine maintenance and upgrades these systems have been allowed to decay to the point of needing major overhauls, resulting in routine untreated sewage spills and SSO’s (Sanitary sewer/Stormwater overflows), tainted water supplies and a potentially hazardous utility service being required for the residents to pay each month to receive.  

All residents of STP deserve clean water and properly treated sewage.  This is a right of all of us and as such, the Parish might consider increasing/imposing a sewage impact fee on all new development to offset the costs of repairing and maintaining the failing systems accepted in the past.  This would allow existing residential areas the opportunity to be restored to fully functioning, reasonably-expected services for all.

b) Why not:  N/A

4. Heavy rain events are becoming more frequent and severe.  How has this impacted your district?  What are your plans for mitigating the effects?

a) LSU released a study proving this fact last year, with the follow-up suggestion being that municipalities cease reliance upon the 10 yr., 25 yr., 50 yr., and 100 yr., flood design standards as these are clearly inappropriate when we routinely now can experience three 100yr. type floods within a month.  

District 5 has several vulnerable areas for flooding for many different reasons. Wetland or low lying areas where development has been allowed to take place in incremental stages without remediation, poorly designed drainage plans, a lack of reasonable drainage regulation, inadequate enforcement, subjective enforcement of minimum requirements, subjectively applied moratoriums, and the like, have created pockets where existing residential developments are vulnerable to repetitive flooding and new flooding as our climate changes and more land is developed in areas not suitable for the types of projects being built.

What are your plans for mitigating the effects?  

Revisiting the comprehensive zoning adopted in 2009, as it provided a well-studied rationale for why certain areas were determined to be kept lower densely developed.  Revisiting the 2025 Land Use Plan, again, with the existing resident’s input as to what elements, specifically, attracted folks to STP, all in the hopes that we can revert back to a newly established Comprehensive Development Guideline to achieve that aim.  Fill ordinance review, slab-on-grade building reviews, revisiting raised structures, employing pervious paving (paving that drain through it versus off it), bio-ponds (which can clean the pollutants collected), water gardens…in essence, learning to work with our storm water issues versus constantly struggling to work above it, and around it.

Finally, to examine the watershed plans in District 5 and the surrounding Districts as each impacts the others in many ways.  The upstream and downstream flowing adjacent watersheds must be dealt with as a whole, versus using the band-aid approach we currently have employed, attempting to create new regional ponds to correct poorly designed developments of the past to protect existing residents.