July 6, 2006
By Theresa Schmidt
It's a big job that's still going on, despite a cut in federal funding. Now help from the state will keep the clean up going until August 29th.
It's been a long road since Hurricane Rita devastated Southwest Louisiana. And even though Calcasieu Parish did not get an extension past June 30th the state has jumped in and agreed to pay ten per cent of the cost of demolition and debris cleanup that had been fully funded by the feds. Police Juror Brent Clement explains with frustration,"There's still a stump that's on a state highway that's blocking drainage that drains some parish roads that hasn't been picked up. It's got number 38 on it." Juror Chris Landry echoes his frustration. "Are they going to stay there until it's finished or are they going to continue to it be a revolving door and every couple of weeks you've got someone else who may not be as qualified as the person you referred to before?"
Parish planner Jim Vickers explains they're working with the Corps of Engineers to get their contractors to finish the work. "I mean we told them how important it was to have someone here to see this mission through. I mean we have six weeks to complete it." Landry asks, "So, there's another deadline six weeks out?" "Yes," Vickers replies. Parish officials plan to meet with the corps each Monday for a progress check.
As well, lessons from Rita are being utilized in ongoing planning for future hurricanes. Jurors talked about the parish's internal response plan. Juror Sandy Treme remembers during Rita, how she had difficulties with commuication. "It's no fun being left out in the cold." Assistant Administrator Bryan Beam went over updates with their internal plan. "We wanted to also improve our communications with each of you."
And jurors got a report on a new medical reserve corps being funded by the Police Jury. Coordinator Cher Walker explains medical volunteers will help provide critical services in future emergencies. "Bottom line, it's not if something happens but when. And we all have hurricanes on the brain right now and that's what we're thinking but we really need to be prepared for a pandemic flu, for a possible chemical leak or explosion in this area. What if there was a shelter in place for three days? how would we handle that? what are we going to do about it?"