Devin Gabriel's Letter to the Editor on Parish Government Session
I would like to say that I am very proud to have been selected to be a member of the 2010-2011 class of Leadership Tangipahoa. As our day began with our first meeting I was not quite sure what to expect. Parish Government was the topic, but I was not sure what all that entailed.
Our day started at the Courthouse Annex building in Amite. Parish President Gordon Burgess spoke about the parish and about his term in which he took office in 1986. Jeff McKneely who is the finance director, and Mr. Burgess’ right hand man, spoke more about the parish. Each commissioner then introduced themselves and told us about their jobs and what each area did. To end our time at the Annex building, Chairman Carlos Notriano spoke.
After a short bus ride, we arrived at Florida Parishes Arena; Director, Kelly Wells gave us a tour of the multi-purpose facility where they hold rodeos, barrel racing, pro wrestling, monster truck, and even one wedding. The Arena came about through the combined effort of Louisiana, Tangipahoa Parish and the City of Amite. Amite donated the land that was once the industrial park for the city. The Florida Parishes Arena began operation in June of 2004. In the near future they will be adding a new barn that will be 50’ x 150’ and an outdoor class room. This is truly a unique facility that brings in people from all over the state to help Tangipahoa parish.
Our next stop was the Tangipahoa Parish Regional Solid Waste Facility (Aka: The Landfill.) This was part of our tour that I really knew nothing about. I knew that the parish has a landfill, but knew nothing about it’s operations. If you have a rural address you can use the land fill for free. They will also accept garbage from within a 100 mile radius. There are currently two projects going on at the landfill. One is a Methane gas collection system was recently installed that pulls the methane gas from the bottom of the cells. To finish the process, in a few weeks they will be installing a flaring system that will burn off the gas clean. The other project is a new cell that will be 40 acres. Once the old 80 acre cell is full they will begin to use the new one.
Our journey continued to Manchac to have a delicious lunch at Middendorf’s. I would like to thank the owners Horst and Karen Pfeifer for their wonderful hospitality and the great food! As we ate Toy Taylor with the Governor’s office and Roland Dartez from the Police Jury Association of Louisiana spoke to us about their organizations.
After lunch we headed back north and passed the Port Manchac facility. Fellow class mate Parker Layrisson, and President of the South Tangipahoa Port Commission, told us about the ways that the facilities are currently being used. A new sewer system is also being installed which will allow for the first restroom facilities.
Arriving at Tangipahoa Mosquito Abatement District, Director Dennis Wallette told us how the department began. In 2003 they became operational after the formation of a special taxing district in the southern end of the parish. The residents of Northern Tangipahoa decided that they did not want the service. The district currently has nine full time positions and up to fourteen part time employees.
Moving next door we visited the Tangipahoa Animal Shelter with director Chip Fitz. The shelter takes in between six hundred and one thousand cats and dogs each month. Every animal that comes through is vaccinated, de-wormed, and spaded or neutered. A program called the Rescue Waggin from Petsmart Charities relocates adoptable dogs and puppies from overcrowded shelters to destination shelters where they are in demand. If you are looking for new pet go by the shelter and meet the animals. You may find the exact pet you’re looking for while giving one of the animals a chance at a new life!
Our day concluded at the courthouse, which also houses the offices of Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court, Tangipahoa Parish Assessor, and the Tangipahoa Parish Registrar of Voters. Our Clerk of Court Julian Dufreche told us that unlike other parish offices, they do not receive any tax dollars. They have to generate their own funding. Another surprising fact that he told us was that in the last six months foreclosures have nearly doubled due to the economy. At the Assessors office next door Brady Sledge told us that the job of his office is to access values of homes and land for property taxes. At our last stop, the registrar of voters office, Registrar John Russell described to us how they handle elections.
I have been living in Tangipahoa Parish my whole life and while I knew of theses different aspects of parish government, I had no idea of the detailed aspects of each office. I encourage everyone to get to know more about our parish and all the agencies at work for us. I can not wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for our group. I would like to thank, on behalf of my Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2011, all of the people who took time out of their busy schedules to educate us about our parish. A special thank you to Jeff McKneely for being our personal tour guide. I was extremely impressed at how much he knew about all areas of the government.