St. Landry airport, police departments, courthouse may get more money for immediate needs

State and federal grant money could assist St. Landry this year with several planned parish-wide infrastructure improvement projects, St. Landry Parish president Jessie Bellard said Tuesday night.

Bellard said during his annual State of the Parish address that a recent Mardi Gras season visit by him and several other area elected officials to Washington, D.C., indicates the parish will receive more federal funding to help augment conditions at St. Landry Airport, equipment for parish police departments, disaster mitigation and courthouse renovations.

A chart provided by Bellard during his presentation listed $17.134 million in combined federal and state revenues the parish expects to receive in 2023.

The anticipated grant money from both state and federal sources will also help augment the $15.7 million in American Rescue Act money the parish has continued to use over the past several years, Bellard said during the annual event at the Delta Grand Theater in Opelousas.

“Last year we went to D.C and we met with a number of federal officials and the effect was positive. If you don’t go (to meet with federal lawmakers) then you don’t get (revenues),” Bellard said.

Specific projects

Bellard said the parish expects to receive $3.54 million in federal funding for expanding the airport with more aircraft hangars, fencing and maintenance.

The airport will be enhanced, Bellard said, by continuing with obstruction removal projects to reduce obstacles the Federal Aviation Administration might consider dangerous.

According to finance reports discussed by the Parish Council during the past several years, the Ahart Field facility operated by the parish has consistently experienced deficits.

Bellard has said previously that the main funding mechanism at the airport has been sales of aviation fuel.

The planned hangar construction Bellard said, will attract more plane traffic to the airport.

“The more planes you have, the more fuel they burn. In the next two or three years, you will really see some things happening at the airport,” said Bellard.

A rural parish like St. Landry, with nearly 900 miles of parish roads, requires constant maintenance and drainage mitigation, Bellard added.

Bellard said he expects the parish will be eligible for $5 million in federal road funding, based on the lobbying efforts by state lawmakers Dustin Miller and Gerald Boudreaux.

The parish is asking for another $40 million for unspecified road projects.

“Our guys in D.C. the lobbyists, have been talking to the chairman of the House Transportation Committee. We’ve been told that we probably won’t get the full 40 million, but we were told that we will get something,” Bellard said.

Bellard added the parish will receive $15 million in federal funding for the police equipment, another $2.4 million from the state and federal sources for better parish-wide broadband access and another $1 million in state funding for a drainage project involving bayous Mallet and Carron.

Help from the parish and elsewhere

At a Parish Council meeting last year, Bellard mentioned the parish will need to contribute $333,000 in matching funds to qualify for the Mallet and Carron project.

The Bissell Pet Foundation has already spent $120,000, Bellard said, to reorganize the parish animal shelter located on airport property.

“People associated with the Bissell Foundation have been (in St. Landry) since November, training a staff and providing a new direction. They are also planning to pay for spaying, neutering and vaccinations,” Bellard added.

What are the expenses?

Bellard said ARA money is continuing to offset parish prisoner expenses which he has estimated at $100,000 monthly.

At a Council meeting earlier this month, Bellard said he has no other options other than using the one-time ARA revenues for housing prisoners located at the parish jail and other facilities statewide.

Bellard said the anticipated completion of a trustee dormitory located a half block from the parish jail will accommodate about 60 inmates and reduce the inmate population housed at other jail locations.

A combination of state funding and ARA money is being used to renovate the parish courthouse, completed in 1940.

The project is concentrating on window replacement and removal, outside water sealing, roof replacement, exterior handicapped ramp and redesigning the third floor in order to build a new courtroom, Bellard said.

What did the council think?

Timothy LeJeune, one of four Parish Council members who attended the event, said the presentation by Bellard was “eye-opening.”

LeJeune added that Bellard provided sufficient financial transparency.

Jimmie Edwards, another council member, said Bellard didn’t seem to be “holding anything back.”

This article originally appeared on Opelousas Daily World: St. Landry airport, police, court may get money for immediate needs