Houma Chamber of Commerce opposes timing of recreation district’s bond, pens support for Terrebonne Parish Recreation Modernization Task Force

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The Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce has taken a stance on recent actions regarding Terrebonne Parish Recreation. 

On Tuesday, the organization’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to oppose Terrebonne Parish Recreation District No. 1’s application for a bond and to fully support the recommendations of the Recreation Modernization Task Force.

“The Chamber firmly believes that the Terrebonne Parish Recreation Modernization Task Force’s recommendations to the Parish Council are sound, well-planned, and should be implemented to enhance the quality of life of all residents in Terrebonne Parish,” reads a press release from the organization. “The Chamber is also concerned that the timing of Terrebonne Parish Recreation District #1’s proposed bond, as presented to the Parish Council last week, would circumvent and hinder, if not negate, the Recreation Modernization Task Force recommendations to the Parish Council.”

The Chamber of Commerce was joined by the Southeastern Louisiana Home Builders Association, whose board passed similar motions. 


Last week, in a 6-3 vote, the Terrebonne Parish Council rejected an ordinance that would have enacted a moratorium, effective through May 30, on the purchase of immovable property by any rec district in the parish and the presentation by any district to the council of any bond issues to provide for related matters.


After six months of research and meetings, the task force presented its findings to the council in March. The 31-page document of recommendations includes merging four of the parish’s 11 rec districts: 1, 2-3, 8 and 9. After going through the legislative process, the merger would be left in the hands of the voters. Councilwoman Jessica Domangue, who spearheaded the task force, introduced the moratorium to ensure that process would go as planned. However, a majority of her fellow council members felt it was unnecessary. 


At the meeting last week, Teri Chatagnier, representing the Recreation District 1 board, asked the council to vote against the moratorium. She said the district, which consists of Bayou Blue and Schriever, is already in the process of applying for a bond for a new park and the moratorium would derail those plans. She added that the bond has to be approved by the council soon for Rec 1 to take advantage of the lower interest rates. 


“This bond is for the next seven years. This is not something that I can take a chance on,” Chatagnier said. “…If you want a lower rate, you need to be in line. And that’s what we want, and we know what the payments will be. We know how much money we have, and we know what we can do.” 


The bond is for a park in the Coteau-Bayou Blue area.


Nicholas Hebert, who sits on the Chamber of Commerce’s board and was Vice-Chairman of the Recreation Modernization Task Force, explained how the Rec 1’s bond would affect the merger. 


“When you have a long-term bond by an organization or a municipality or in this case, a rec district, that district is pledging to repay money that it receives an advance, just like you would any other bond or debt issue,” he said. “For our merging situation, where that creates complications later is that it makes it more difficult to merge or change any structure with that entity.” 


Hebert added that neither he nor the Chamber of Commerce is opposed to Rec 1 being issued a bond for the park; however, the recommendations should go through their process first. 


As a task force member, Hebert said, it’s difficult to accept that the council’s moves could disregard all the effort the committee put in.


“As I recall at the [March 24] meeting, the majority of the council was in favor of letting people vote on the issue. And now here we are, a month removed from that, we’re talking about doing things that complicate letting the people vote on the issue,” he said. “That’s just very concerning for somebody who did all that work and put all that time and effort in. And I know my fellow task force people feel the same way about that.”


Dr. Michael Garcia, Chamber of Commerce Chairman, added that the organization simply asks the Terrebonne Parish Council to take a “good hard look” at the task force’s report, adding that it has merit. 


“I hope [council members] have open minds and that they consider the work that was done and recommended,” he said. “And I hope for success on their behalf.”


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