Jan 23, 2012 10:44 PM by Shawn Kline

School Board begins process to place levees at Erath schools:

A handful of hurricanes over the past five years almost destroyed Erath Middle and Erath High Schools. The Vermilion Parish School Board enters phase one of a plan that may prevent future flooding.

"Hurricane Rita did a lot of damage." Superintendent Randy Shexnayder says, "and then Ike, with the rising water, it proved again just three years later, we had flooding issues in those schools."

Erath Middle and Erath High have both seen the worst of it; hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, just two storms.

Vermilion Parish Superintendent Randy Shexnayder says the plan is to prevent damage like that by building a levee around the two schools.

"Having a wall around it will help protect against any rising water and any flooding in the future is what we're hoping for," Shexnayder said.

Now, the school board approving an intergovernmental agreement with the Vermilion Parish Police Jury to start phase one to build this levee. Phase one covers the design process.
According to FEMA, the school board would pay 25-percent of its cost, or about $52,000.

Phase two is the construction, costing about $2.8-million. The board would only have to pay 25-percent of that too but some board members are skeptical.

"It's irresponsible to vote for this without knowing you have a plan to pay for it and I'm not voting for it," Board Member, Anthony Fontana said at Monday night's meeting.

Fontana asks whether FEMA can live up to its end of the bargain. Shexnayder says he's been told the funds are already secured and earmarked.
Even if FEMA can foot the bill (about $2.1-million total), Fontana asks if the school board can really afford 25-percent-- that's $700,000 over the next five years.

"Don't always go to the general fund for these major type of projects," Shexnayder said.

The majority of the board decided phase one is worth the risk, at least for now. If phase two is approved, it could take four to five years to see the levee built around Erath High and Erath Middle.



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