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Story Archives: Mayor holds own hearing for grant money
|Mayor holds own hearing for grant money|
A public hearing was held Thursday, July 8, for Winnsboro residents to make their voices heard concerning a $30 million federal block grant the city is vying for, but Mayor Jackie Johnson was a no show.
Johnson, instead, held a separate hearing the day before, July 7, in which he solicited public input on how money the city could receive through the Disaster Recovery Community Development Municipal Infrastructure Program (MIP) should be spent.
Both meetings were conducted in the Winnsboro City Court Building.
While notice for the July 8 hearing was published in the June 30 edition of The Franklin Sun, Johnson said he informed the public of the July 7 meeting by "word of mouth."
Johnson penned a letter to the residents of Winnsboro which was sent to The Franklin Sun on Monday in which he apologized for "the conflict of the two hearings conducted on the 'Ike and Gustav' grant."
"In our zeal to secure the funds for the people of the city of Winnsboro, we inadvertently scheduled two hearing dates," Johnson wrote.
Johnson's letter states that the original meeting was scheduled for July 7, but was changed due to a scheduling conflict.
The Winnsboro City Council, however, unanimously adopted a resolution during their June 21 regular meeting to set the hearing for July 8.
The meeting, in which the council budgeted a $5,000 pay raise for the mayor's starting salary, was attended by Johnson, who took office on July 1.
John "Sonny" Dumas Jr. was the only councilman to attend the July 7 hearing. He was also present at the July 8 hearing, but only one other councilman, Richard Mahoney, attended.
Cities in Franklin Parish, along with cities in 52 other parishes, are eligible to compete for the money.
Community involvement and participation are essential to the success of Winnsboro's application for the grant, according to Kendal Magee of Frye, Magee and Associates, a Pineville consulting firm.
In 2008, the federal government allocated the state of Louisiana $350 million for infrastructure improvements after hurricanes Gustav (Sept. 1) and Ike (Sept. 12) flooded many areas of the state. Winnsboro was appropriated $4.4 million for the purpose of developing public facility improvement projects related to or caused by the storms.
"This is a competition," Magee said. "The city will develop a project that will be given a point value based on specific criteria to compete with other cities its own size."
The late Jack Hammons, former mayor of Winnsboro, led the charge with the Louisiana Municipal Association (LMA) for the special allocation of $30 million for small towns and communities through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), according to Magee.
The projects must meet recovery and / or prevention needs in one of the following five categories: flood and drainage improvements, water and sewer improvements, street improvements, fire and emergency equipment and other public facilities and improvements.
Recovery efforts include projects that address the effects of the covered disaster, or that would reduce similar effects in future storm events, according to the program guidelines.
A retention basin to manage the storm water pour-off was discussed by members of the community at the July 8 hearing. Storm water is typically channeled to a retention basin through a network of drain channels or underground pipes. The ponds are designed to allow large amounts of water to enter, but discharges to nearby waterways are limited by outlet sources that function only during large storm surges. An infiltration basin directs storm water to groundwater rather than discharging it into a receiving water source.
A majority of residents at the July 7 hearing let their opinion known, by raising their hands, that they would like to use the proposed grant money to fix drainage problems in Winnsboro.
Members of the city council passed a resolution at the June 21 regular meeting to adopt the Citizen Participation Plan to "establish procedures to ensure adequate citizen participation with the program."
According to the Citizen Participation Plan, notices informing citizens of any public hearings will appear in the official journal of the City of Winnsboro a minimum of five calendar days prior to the hearing.
The deadline for MIP applications is Aug. 31, 2010.
Johnson's letter concerning the July 7 public hearing can be found on Page 5A.