News

AML Rezoning a Good Move for St. Tammany, Parish President Cooper Says

Parish President Mike Cooper said the Parish Council’s decision to rezone more than 800 acres of land near the intersection of Interstate 12 and Louisiana Hwy. 1088, north of Mandeville was a responsible move for future economic development.

The Zoning Commission in March approved rezoning the land for development in the classification of Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics (AML).  The Council deferred the decision at its May meeting so the potential developer could host a community educational meeting, which happened on May 23.

The Parish Council voted to confirm the Commission’s decision early Friday morning, voting unanimously 13-0 to approve the AML designation.

“Rezoning this land for AML development is the right decision for our future,” said Cooper, who spoke in favor of the measure before the Council vote. “My Administration prioritizes responsible zoning and development to ensure St. Tammany remains a safe and hospitable place to live, work, and raise a family, while generating jobs for our citizens. I am very pleased with the Council’s decision tonight.”

AML classifications are designed for clean and environmentally friendly projects, not “smokestack industry,” as some opponents of the classification have feared.  As with all development, any future projects on the site must comply with Parish codes and ordinances, and undergo a rigorous approval process.

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St. Tammany Parish Poised to Enhance Flood Protection Through Federal Grant

President Cooper’s initiative to clear scenic waterways of debris and enhance drainage capabilities is expected to be introduced by the Parish Council at its regular meeting Thursday night.

St. Tammany Parish Government requested federal aid from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) Assistance for Natural Disasters to assist with the removal of debris in waterways caused by Hurricane Ida. The objective of the program is to help relieve threats to life and property caused by disaster-caused impairments to watersheds.

“We are always looking for ways to bring federal and state tax dollars home to benefit the people of St. Tammany Parish,” said President Cooper. “This project, with Council approval and only 10% local funding, will allow us to remove Hurricane Ida-related debris from our waterways, and become even better prepared for future hurricane seasons.”

Phase 1 of the Waterway Debris Removal is currently pending federal and state environmental permit approvals and the current Budget Amendment presented to the Parish Council. The subsequent removal of the debris will be performed by a contractor through the disaster debris removal contract managed by the Department of Public Works.

The cost-share assistance under the EWP is 90% federal and 10% local. The $12,638,018.50 project will include $2,579,187.50 of Parish funds from the Drainage Maintenance Capital Project Fund, and $10,058,831.00 from Grant funds.

St. Tammany Parish Government’s request for assistance to NRCS was focused on major and natural waterways.

The Parish Council will meet Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on Koop Drive in Mandeville.

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The St. Tammany Parish Council to Hold a Public Hearing to Consider Rolling Forward Millages

The St. Tammany Parish Council will hold a public hearing to consider rolling forward millage rates at its regular meeting on July 7 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

A roll forward is when the millage rate is increased after reassessment from the adjusted maximum millage rate to a rate not in excess of the “prior year’s maximum.”  As long as the increased rate will not exceed the voter-approved maximum millage rate, millage increases (roll forward) do not require further voter approval.

This is not a new tax and will not exceed the maximum millage rate approved by the voters.

The roll forward in unincorporated St. Tammany Parish would increase property taxes by $2.70 per $100,000 in home value. The roll forward in municipalities within St. Tammany Parish would increase property taxes by $2.00 per $100,000 in home value.

The estimated amount of increased tax revenues to be collected in the next tax year is $1,041,489 as explained below:

Property Tax Tax Revenue Tax Increase
Alimony 1 5,096,604 246,894
Alimony 2 939,415     45,666
Public Health 4,300,306  217,431
Animal Shelter 2,415,902 531,498
TOTAL 12,752,227 1,041,489

The increase in General Alimony is critical to support the Parish General Fund, which is the funding source for state-mandated costs.  The increase in Public Health is necessary for the medical care costs for the St. Tammany Parish Jail, which can only be funded by the Public Health or the General Alimony millage.  The increase in Animal Shelter is vital to support the life-saving efforts and to maintain the no-kill status for Animal Services.

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St. Tammany Parish Government’s Department of Utilities announces the conversion to Free Chlorine (Chlorine Burn) on the Cross Gates Water System is being concluded.

St. Tammany Parish Government’s Department of Utilities announces the conversion to Free Chlorine (Chlorine Burn) on the Cross Gates Water System is being concluded.

The Cross Gates Water System is being converted back to a Chloramine (Total Chlorine) disinfection system from the Free Chlorine disinfection system used for the Chlorine Burn. The Chlorine Burn was intended to raise the Free Chlorine residual to 1.0 ppm at all points in the distribution system for a duration of 60 days as recommended in the Owen & White report.

The Free Chlorine conversion was initiated on April 25, 2022 and after several days the system was able to convert to a Free Chlorine system and Free Chlorine residuals were achieved at all points in the distribution system; however, a mechanical failure of the dosing pumps resulted in the Free Chlorine residual dropping below 0.5ppm. A redundant dosing pump system was installed the next week while the Free Chlorine residual was re-established. Throughout the following weeks, the Free Chlorine residual remained above a 1.0 ppm in most of the distribution system and above a 0.5 ppm over the entire distribution. However, when a particular water well begins pumping due to a drop in system pressure, the chlorine residuals would intermittently drop below a 0.5ppm throughout the water system. The intermittent drop in Free Chlorine residual was investigated, and it was determined that the Free Chlorine residual could be achieved, but was unable to be maintained due to several limiting factors with the Cross Gates water distribution system.

The Free Chlorine conversion process disclosed several limiting factors for implementing Free Chlorine disinfection on the Cross Gates water system. The first limiting factor is that one of the water wells on the Cross Gates system requires more Sodium Hypochlorite (liquid bleach) chemical dosing than the legal EPA dosing limit to achieve and maintain a Free Chlorine residual. This means that all of the water this well pumps into the system does not have a stable Free Chlorine residual so it reacts with and consumes the Free Chlorine residual in the system causing a quick drop in the system wide Free Chlorine residual. The water chemistry from this well has naturally occurring Ammonia and organic compounds along with a high pH which requires the higher dosing of Chlorine to maintain a Free Chlorine residual. These water chemistry characteristics are favorable for Chloramine (Total Chlorine) disinfection with Sodium Hypochlorite (liquid bleach), which is able to provide a consistent Total Chlorine residual in compliance with both the EPA and Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) requirements. Second, this same well is needed to provide the required water capacity and flow for the Cross Gates water system so it must remain connected and functional. Third, the current control panels for the pumps on the water system operate using pressure readings on the distribution system so the well that experiences the pressure drop in the system from increased demand starts first. This creates a difficulty in establishing and maintaining a primary well, which compounds with the first two limiting factors and results in a Free Chlorine residual being able to be established but unable to consistently be maintained. The Precautionary Boil Water Advisory was left in place for the past three weeks due to the inconsistent Free Chlorine residual.

The Chlorine Burn process did result in a Free Chlorine residual of 0.5 ppm or higher for several days and all points in the system achieving the 1.0 ppm recommended Free Chlorine residual at some time during the Chlorine burn. Between May 10th and 11th, a total of 12 bacteria samples were collected from evenly distributed sites within the system all of which returned negative results.  The Chlorine Burn also required significant flushing of all distribution lines within the Cross Gates water system. Valuable data was obtained to use to improve the understanding and operation of the water system going forward. New control panels that allow for improved well pump control and duplex chemical dosing pump skids will be purchased for the well sites. Additionally, the first project that will be performed as part of the East Slidell Regional Water Consolidation Phase 1 of the Water Sector Project will be a hydraulic model of the entire Cross Gates water system.

The Department of Utilities will continue to work diligently to provide safe, quality water to all of its customers. Upon completion of LDH Boil Water Advisory sampling, the Precautionary Boil Water Advisory will be rescinded. A full report of the Free Chlorine conversion will be completed by a consultant and will be posted on the Department of Utilities website when available.

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New Directions 2040, President Cooper’s Initiative for Sustainable Future, Adopted

St. Tammany Parish Government’s comprehensive plan for a more resilient, sustainable future, New Directions 2040, and the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) were adopted, following a vote by the Parish Planning Commission Tuesday night.

The primary role of New Directions 2040 is to serve as the guide for future development, capital investments and the direction of St. Tammany Parish for public and private stakeholders.

“St. Tammany Parish has withstood unprecedented growth over the past 20 years,” said President Cooper. “The creation and adoption of this comprehensive plan was a top priority for my administration. New Directions 2040 takes an in-depth look at how our Parish has grown and determines how our neighbors and business owners want to look in the next twenty years. I am proud of our team and all citizens who contributed to this plan that aims at preserving our superior quality of life, and supports smart growth.”

The plan was developed after a rigorous 18-month collaboration between Parish government, appointees from each Council district and dozens of civic and business organizations. The public input period garnered thousands of comments.

The comprehensive plan examines all of St. Tammany Parish and determines goals, including economic development, neighborhoods and other development goals, as expressed by citizens, business owners and organizations. 

St. Tammany Parish is the 4th largest Parish in Louisiana and continues to grow, as it is the 3rd fastest growing in Louisiana, according to the latest Census data.

“New Directions 2040 will be a tremendous asset for my team in analyzing overall growth in our Parish,” said Ross Liner, St. Tammany Parish Planning Director. “The ideals of our citizens, as included in the plan, will be on the forefront as we make decisions that provide a better tomorrow. Smart planning and thoughtful growth will continue to be our core principles.”

The Future Land Use Map provides a tool for decision-makers and stakeholders to understand our community’s preferred pattern of growth, including neighborhood hubs, floodplains, roadway projects and growth management areas, as expressed in the public input period. Parish staff will refer to the FLUM when considering changes to zoning classifications, budgeting for future projects and policies impacting land use.

The comprehensive plan and FLUM do not change zoning classifications. All rezoning attempts must follow the traditional Parish process.

“The Regional Planning Commission congratulates St. Tammany Parish on passage of the New Directions 2040 comprehensive plan,” said Jeff Roesel, Executive Director of the Regional Planning Commission. “This plan will inform and help guide transportation investment decisions, and RPC looks forward to working in partnership to develop plans and programs that will assist in meeting the challenges facing St. Tammany today, and in the future.”

The previous comprehensive plan was adopted in 1999. Since then, St. Tammany Parish has withstood tremendous natural disasters, economic downturns and other crises that have provided a sharp uptick in population, with no update to the plan and vision for the Parish.

“Given the emergency facing coastal Louisiana, we are pleased that St. Tammany’s New Directions 2040 is consistent with the Master Plan and will help support collaboration to ensure that we are making every effort to maintain and sustain our resources for those who live, work and play along our coast,” Bren Haase, Executive Director for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Agency, said. “The State’s Coastal Master Plan provides the blueprint for restoration activities in coastal Louisiana and relies on a broad coalition of support, including our partners at the local level, to ensure that we can create a more sustainable and resilient coastal Louisiana.”

To view New Directions 2040 and the FLUM, please visit NewDirections2040.com.

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Parish Council Passes Revised Moratorium

Tonight, the St. Tammany Parish Council passed a revised version of a zoning density moratorium that Parish President Mike Cooper originally proposed this year.

With a unanimous vote of 14-0, the Council approved a temporary moratorium on rezoning of residential property for higher-density developments.  The measure restricts the rezoning of property to allow more than four housing units per acre of land, or to zone such parcels as Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) or Traditional Neighborhood Development Districts (TNDs) for at least three months.

To be clear, the moratorium does not restrict building permits and allows building under the property’s current zoning classification.

“Although what was passed was less restrictive than what I originally requested, I am happy with this ordinance and will sign it into law,” Cooper said after Thursday’s vote. “Some Council members were unhappy last month that I had not consulted them before the original ordinance was introduced, but in the end our system of government worked and a satisfactory compromise was reached.”

Cooper’s original proposal would’ve provided a six-month moratorium on rezoning to allow residential development of more than one home per acre.  It was amended at the April Council meeting to its current form.

Cooper requested the moratorium while the Parish completes studies on drainage, traffic, wetlands and other issues related to growth, all of which will be completed by 2024.

“As I have said from the beginning of my administration, a balanced pause on high-density rezoning is desperately needed to properly plan for the future of our Parish. My administration will continue to fight for what is right for our citizens and the future of our Parish.”

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Parish Council Agenda Includes Measures to Address Traffic

Two ordinances and a resolution on the Parish Council agenda for this Thursday’s meeting have the potential to positively impact traffic issues throughout St. Tammany Parish, Parish President Mike Cooper said.

Ordinance 6976, being introduced on Thursday, will amend the 2022 Capital Improvement Budget and Capital Assets to address several transportation projects throughout the parish.  Ordinance 6978 also amends the 2022 Capital Improvement Budget with regard to the Parishwide Comprehensive Transportation Plan.  Both will be introduced at the May 5 meeting and will lay over until voted on at the June Parish Council meeting.

Resolution No C-6601 will amend the Major Roadway System list, adding federal routes to the list of thoroughfares on which the Parish can spend impact fee revenue.  If passed by the Council on Thursday it will take effect immediately, giving Parish Government latitude to expend impact fee monies for traffic projects along federal roads such as U.S. Hwy. 190, of which Gause Boulevard in the Slidell area is a part.

All three items are being offered by Parish Council Chairman Jerry Binder at the request of Cooper’s Administration.

“These might seem like relatively small agenda items, but every effort to streamline deployment of resources for priority traffic projects is another step towards alleviating congestion and improving public safety,” Cooper said.  “I’m very appreciative of the Parish Council advancing these legislative items.”

The Parish Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month.  Meetings are open to the public at the Koop Drive location, and stream live online at www.STPGOV.org.

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St. Tammany Parish Government Awarded Prestigious Gulf Guardian Award

St. Tammany Parish Government has been awarded the prestigious 2022 Gulf Guardian Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its efforts to improve water quality and public health in the Bayou Liberty area.

“I am incredibly proud of the efforts of our team who work diligently to prioritize the needs of our citizens,” said Mike Cooper, St. Tammany Parish President. “It is satisfying to know that our inspections of home wastewater treatment systems in the Bayou Liberty Watershed has improved the water quality and the quality of life for our citizens. We are honored and humbled to receive the 2022 Gulf Guardian Award, in partnership with the Pontchartrain Conservancy.”

The project, “Pollution Source Tracking in Bayou Liberty Watershed,” focused on the removal of a tremendous amount of pollutants from Bayou Liberty and educating residents on how to maintain and operate their septic systems properly. The team included St. Tammany Parish Government’s Department of Environmental Services, Department of Grants and Department of Development, in partnership with the Pontchartrain Conservancy.

As a result of the inspection program and subsequent maintenance to homeowner sewer treatment systems, water quality improved remarkably. Dissolved Oxygen was substantially improved in the study area and neighborhood ditches went from foul to healthy, with reduced habitat for West Nile virus mosquitos.

The EPA-funded project was the pilot for the Parish’s Decentralized Management Program, in which 856 homeowner sewer systems were inspected and 77% came into compliance. The Parish is still working with the remaining 23% to come into compliance with their LDH permits.

Many of the resident’s systems are unpermitted septic tanks that require replacement. Parish Government is also working with low-to-moderate income residents to complete applications for HUD funding to repair or replace systems. 

The EPA’s Gulf Guardian Awards were created back in 2000 to recognize environmental excellence towards achieving and preserving healthy and resilient coasts in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, the five states that border the Gulf of Mexico.

The nominations went through an intense review and ranking process and “Pollution Source Tracking in Bayou Liberty Watershed” was ranked as a 1st Place winner in the Civic/Non-Profit Category.

The project was also the one in which the Parish won 1st Place in LDEQ’s 2019 Environmental Leadership Award (ELP).  

President Cooper was joined by Tim Brown, Director of Environmental Services, Jeanne Marino, Director of Grants, Dr. deEtte Smythe, Regulatory Manager, Timothy Smith, Environmental Specialist, Bridget Saladino, Grants Project Manager, and the Ponchartrain Conservancy to accept the prestigious Gulf Guardian Award from the EPA.

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St. Tammany Parish Government Awarded for Excellence in Financial Reporting

President Mike Cooper announced today that the St. Tammany Parish Government Department of Finance has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, for the 18th consecutive year.

“This recognition is a testament to the meticulous and efficient work of our financial professionals who serve our community,” said Cooper. “I want to thank our Department of Finance for their excellent work in providing our citizens with comprehensive financial information regarding our use of tax dollars.”

The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by the government and its management. The comprehensive annual financial report is evaluated every year by an impartial panel based on the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate the Parish’s financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the comprehensive annual financial report.

Leslie Long, Chief Financial Officer, Annie Perkins, Assistant Director of Finance, and Laura Reine Lyons, Senior Accounting Manager, are the recipients named on the award.

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St. Tammany Parish Department of Utilities to Conduct Chlorine Burn in Cross Gates Water System

St. Tammany Parish Government’s Department of Utilities will conduct a temporary switch from the current Chloramine disinfection to Free Chlorine disinfection of its water distribution within the Cross Gates Water System beginning on Monday, April 25, 2022 and will last for 60 days.

This temporary switch to Free Chlorine is performed by significantly increasing the amount of Chlorine that is pumped into the water system to raise the Free Chlorine residual. Citizens may notice open fire hydrants or flushing valves, which help distribute the change in disinfectant.

The change will likely cause strong Chlorine odor and taste, in addition to some discoloration or cloudiness in the water, minor pressure fluctuations and small air pockets. If this is experienced, running water may help minimize the effects.

With the Chlorine Burn, neighbors might also experience eye and/or skin irritation and other possible effects similar to swimming pools.

Customers who use tap water for kidney dialysis at home should contact their doctor to determine if any changes are necessary in their residual disinfectant neutralization procedures.

Significantly increasing the Chlorine concentration can increase the production of disinfection by-products (DBP’s). DBP’s are classified by EPA as human carcinogens that are created during the disinfection process. The DBP’s level will be monitored throughout the Chlorine conversion to ensure levels do not increase beyond the maximum contaminant levels set by the EPA.

The switch, which was recommended by Owen & White Consulting Engineering, Inc., is being performed strictly as a precautionary measure and with the intent to increase public trust in the water quality.

There is no evidence of bacteriological contaminants within the Cross Gates Water System, and the system is in full compliance with all Louisiana Department of Health and Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

St. Tammany Parish Government remains committed to continuing to provide safe and quality drinking water for citizens.

In 2021, President Mike Cooper authorized the examination of the Cross Gates Water Systems by Owen & White. Thus far, 12 out of their 35 recommendations have been completed, with an additional five being in progress.

Additional information regarding the reason for the temporary conversion to Free Chlorine can be found in the Final Report by Owen & White Engineering Consultants, Inc. on the www.stpgov.org home page.

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