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May 13, 2021

Solar Panel Farms Issue Takes Center Stage at Parish Council Meeting

The Washington Parish Council met Monday (May 10, 2021) evening and adopted seven ordinances,  approved one resolution, and heard reports from Parish President Richard Thomas and his staff. However, it was the issue of solar farms/plants that took center stage during the Public Participation segment of the meeting.

Ordinances and the resolution approved included 

  • an ordinance authorizing the conveyance of approximately 11 acres owned by the Washington Parish Government
  • an ordinance authorizing WPG to apply for and administer a grant through the 7. Louisiana Community Development Block Grant – Coronavirus (LCDBG-CV) HVAC improvements program
  • an ordinance to levy taxes for 2021 millage at the same rate as prior year
  • three ordinances accepting Déjà Vu Lane, Poole Drive, David Drive, Kelli Lane, and 11. Denis Road (sometimes referred to as Denise Road) as a Parish Roads
  • one ordinance to abandon 0.15 miles of Robert Stuart Road
  • a resolution authorizing a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (Intergovernmental Agreement) Between the Washington Parish Government and the Office of the District Attorney for the 22nd Judicial District for Washington and St. Tammany Parishes

Several parish residents addressed the Council during the Public Participation segment (beginning at 14:00 into video of meeting). They included Vonda Waskom, Lynette Sharp, Jennifer Brown, Wilson Lagraize, Benny Sorrell, Jo Beth Valentina, and Wilda Fisher. They expressed concerns about the solar panel farm off Hwy 16 and other proposed solar panel farms.  Their concerns and questions included environmental concerns, questions as to environmental impact studies, health concerns, “eye sore” concerns, nearby residents' quality of life concerns, transparency questions and why didn’t the citizens have any notice, how much money will parish government receive, the need for zoning and policy and procedures regulations and how will the money received through permits be spent? The issues will be at the forefront of a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission on May 18, 2021 at 5:00 PM in the upstairs courtroom at the courthouse in Franklinton. Immediately following the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the Infrastructure Committee of the Washington Parish Council will meet  to consider what further action is appropriate.

Also, during Public Participation, Richard Berry followed up on a question he presented at the last Council meeting regarding Riverside Medical Center not accepting citizens' insurance and causing them to use other parish hospitals. President Thomas responded, “I have reached out twice with no return phone call.  I will get this information to you as soon as I can.”

President Thomas gave his report (beginning at 49:20 into video of the meeting) that included an update on COVID-19 in the parish. Washington Parish was at a 3.70 percent positivity rate two weeks ago and are now at 1.2 percent positivity rate. Finance Director Donna Graham related information on the budget and also said “I would like to answer the questions regarding the money the Parish Government received from the solar panels along with where the money will be going.  We should receive sales tax close to the amount of $1.6 million dollars.  Those sales taxes will be distributed as they are dedicated.  4.83% will go to the following: 

  • .5% Sherriff’s Office
  • 1.45% Washington Parish School systems; Franklinton, and Bogalusa
  • 2.88% Washington Parish Government
  • .67 Choctaw Landfill
  • .33 Criminal Justice Fund, funds the mandated expenses for the parish that includes Judges, Jail, District Attorney
  • .33 Road Capital Project Funds
  • 1% Road Maintenance Fund 

Alex Sumrall and Transportation Supervisor Donnell Merritt reported on the following since the beginning of April: Drainage work on 28 roads covering 56 miles, delivered 24 tons of cold mix on 12 roads covering 27 miles, delivered 200 tons of hot mix on 18 roads covering 38 miles, installed 11 culverts, graded 109 roads covering 218 miles, hauled 100 yards of gravel on 1 road covering 2 miles, bushhogged 167 roads covering 336 miles, picked up 544 bags of trash on 45 roads, installed 17 signs, maintained 11 parish locations, sprayed around 100 culverts and bridges on 10 roads, and completed the following contract roads: CC Road, Fisher Road, Carol Morgan Road, Tycer Varnado Road, Madison Bateman Road, Wilson Road, Sam Thomas Road, Duncan Road, Claude Nobles Road, Lake Choctaw Road.

The Council concluded the meeting following a final review and approval of Section 1-01 through 2-10 of the Home Rule Charter (beginning at 1:07:30 into video of the meeting).

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