Dove looking ahead to improving Terrebonne’s many ongoing projects

Percy Molaison
January 6, 2016
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January 7, 2016
Percy Molaison
January 6, 2016
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Gordon Dove is relinquishing his position as the District 52 State Representative today. However, his time away from government will be short, as he becomes the Terrebonne Parish President at midnight.

Dove is replacing outgoing president Michel Claudet, and the parish will have a proper ceremony to swear in Dove and the new parish council members tomorrow.

The incoming parish leader praised his predecessor’s eight years in office, and said he plans to continue and finish the projects Claudet started.

There is Westside Boulevard extension, which will push the boulevard through Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and add a streetlight at the intersection, and extend to the Equity Boulevard Bridge. That project has been awarded, according to Dove. He noted the Bayou Gardens extension, which will connect to Bayou Blue Road and continue to create a loop around Houma. Claudet is trying to finalize land acquisition for the Hollywood Road extension that would connect Valhi Boulevard and Southdown Mandalay Road.

Dove said he is excited to take the baton from Claudet and push these and other infrastructure projects to the finish line.

“I plan naturally to finish up, and expedite and complete them as quickly as possible, and work with the contractors,” he said.

However, Dove said the project he will first focus on when he assumes office is rebuilding Whiskey Island. The project, costing more than $103 million, will deposit more than 10.4 million cubic yards of sand, from an underwater deposit called Ship Shoal, onto the island. The project, funded by BP settlement money, is expected to restore more than 1,100 acres to the island, strengthening a barrier between the rest of the parish and the Gulf of Mexico.

Dove said he wants to take the restoration project further and add segmented breakwater rocks to the island. Rocking the island, which Dove plans to fund with 2017 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) money, provides additional protection from gulf currents, and promotes sediment deposition. Dove said immediately after taking office he plans to hire an engineer, go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and get a permit to rock the island.

“I think if we’re going to spend $103 million on it – really it’s more than that; it’s over $110 million with engineering and all – we need to rock and protect it,” he said.

While Terrebonne continues to pursue capital projects related to infrastructure improvement and coastal restoration, the parish also faces issues affecting the population daily. The local economy has stumbled as a weakened oil and gas market has taken jobs, and thus demand, with it. Dove said he knows the parish must continue diversifying its economy to curtail the harshness of an oil and gas downturn.

The parish has also seen a recent outbreak of gun violence, with shootings leaving people of all ages maimed or even dead. Authorities from the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Houma Police Department have connected this rash of murders to the illicit drug market, particularly heroin sales. Dove said he’s spoken with Terrebonne Sheriff Jerry Larpenter, Houma Police Chief Dana Coleman and District Attorney Joe Waitz about the issue, and praised their work on the issue so far. He said the three agencies are already working together, and he would like to facilitate even more cooperation between them.

Dove said authorities must focus on catching drug dealers, while providing support for drug abusers to get clean. He said he supports Waitz’s drug court program, and is calling for more mental health programs to prevent substance abuse.

“I truly believe in the DA’s program. I think we need more beds for mental patients. A lot of mental patients are the ones using drugs also,” he said.

As for the ones pushing the drugs? Dove said he opts for deterrence through strong sentencing for the dealers.

“We’ve just got to get them to trial. We’ve got five good district judges; I respect every one of them. I know they’ll throw the book at the drug dealers, and that’s what we need to do,” the parish president-elect said.

Dove also said he plans to work with all concerned parties to lead a team effort to address the issues ailing the parish. He is looking forward to leading Terrebonne after representing it in Baton Rouge for 12 years. Reflecting on his time in the Capitol, he said is proud of the things he and Claudet accomplished, and he hopes to keep up the pace once he takes the reigns.

“I don’t know if we were good or if we were lucky – I like to say a little bit of both – but we got a lot of capital outlay money and did a lot of projects. I’ll take it either way,” Dove said. •

Terrebonne Parish President-elect Gordon Dove and his predecessor, Michel Claudet, at the new Juvenile Detention Center ribbon cutting. Dove, who has vowed to continue work on many of the projects introduced during Claudet’s administration, will take over for Claudet tomorrow.