CDBG to boost T’bonne’s push for economic growth

Nov. 17
November 17, 2009
Mr. Heath Adam Perkins
November 19, 2009
Nov. 17
November 17, 2009
Mr. Heath Adam Perkins
November 19, 2009

Much of the economic developments in Terrebonne Parish for 2010 will be tied to the $123 million in Community Development Block Grant funds the parish is receiving for recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, said Parish President Michel Claudet.

“It’s No. 1,” along with the insurance payments from Gustav and Ike injecting money into the parish, Claudet said.

More than half the CDBG funds will be spent on building a backup levee system for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane protection levees.

Around $10 million of the funds is expected to be spent on building an affordable rental unit complex in Gray. The parish was required to expend at least $10 million of the funds on affordable housing as a condition of receiving the money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the grants.

Bids on an owner-occupied housing complex partly funded with CDBG money will go out on Dec. 1, Claudet said.

CDBG and stimulus package funds will also pay for constructing turn lanes and road overlays in Terrebonne, he said. Contracts for those projects will be let in February.

“The money will be on the ground by next year,” Claudet said. “It will make an economic impact in certain areas.”

A cold storage facility for use by the fisheries industry is another project seeking funding through the Community Development Block Grant program.

Announced by Claudet last week, the cold storage facility would be part of a parish government complex housing a new emergency operations center and animal shelter, among other facilities, located near the intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and La. Highway 24. The Terrebonne Parish Council still has to approve purchasing the land for the project.

“The parish has put forth great effort to build (the new complex),” he said.

Next year, Claudet said CDBG funds will be used to buy out property, help first-time homebuyers and to elevate houses. “For those people who wouldn’t normally qualify,” he said.

Claudet announced in October that other federal money – via the Federal Emergency Management Agency – may also help to rebuild the 2-mile Island Road, the only route leading to the Isle de Jean Charles community in southeast Terrebonne Parish.

The road could be raised four-and-a-half feet at a cost of $5.3 to $5.6 million. The Terrebonne Parish Council had debated whether to spend parish money to repair the road.

“We could have that back at the same level but it would wash out,” Claudet said.

One area, however, where the federal government has not come forth with funding is for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee system, though reimbursement by the federal government could come at a later date.

The Terrebonne levee district is using state money and revenue from a quarter-cent parishwide sales tax to build the first lift of the system to 10 feet in height.

“It makes me feel better for the residents as parish president,” Claudet said. “It takes pressure off of me.”

Claudet cited the five-mile J-2 reach of Morganza between Montegut and Pointe-aux-Chenes as being particularly important. The stretch runs through two marsh management areas.

“When J-2 is up, for any storm coming, the threat is substantially reduced,” he said. “It’s bigger than a parish levee.”

“In 2009,” Claudet said, “much of the economic impacts has had to do with pumps and drainage levees.”

Among private developments, Edison Chouest is building the $100 million LaShip shipyard at the Port of Terrebonne, but the parish saw other projects under way.

When completed next year, the 143-room Courtyard by Marriott next to the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center will have a major impact, Claudet said.

Construction began in September on land purchased from the parish.

The project, along with the cold storage facility, was spearheaded by the Terrebonne Economic Development Authority.

“TEDA has been pushing forward,” Claudet said. Two weeks ago, TEDA CEO Mike Ferdinand and staff participated in a Ready Community conference held at the Government Tower complex. “It’s real positive for us,” Claudet said.

Claudet does not foresee less dependence for the parish on the oil and gas industry.

“Why?” he said. “BP and Weatherford have put up significant investment.”

Terrebonne’s strategic location on the Gulf of Mexico is another factor, but the parish saw a drop in the number of jobs during the year.

Claudet pointed to hazard mitigation, tighter enforcement against nuisance problems, and efforts to spruce up the parish as other highlights of his administration during 2009.

In May, Houma won the state’s Cleanest City Contest in its population category.

“Nuisance abatement is going great,” he said. “They’re elevating more homes than ever. Down the bayou, houses are shooting up left and right. We’re ready to put up (welcome) signs at entrances to Terrebonne.

“We’re working to protect our citizens. Now, we’re working on quality of life. … We’re looking to the future more than ever before.”