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Important Update from Safe Haven Crisis Receiving Center

The need for mental health services in St. Tammany Parish remains substantial. Not only has the statistics confirmed the need for assistance, but more importantly, our loved ones and neighbors continue to struggle.

In October 2021, the Safe Haven Crisis Receiving Center (CRC) officially opened its doors. The CRC, which is designed to provide identification, intervention and stabilization for those in a behavioral health crisis, is the first step towards recovery for our loved ones battling a crisis.

The CRC gives healthcare professionals, law enforcement and families an alternative to the emergency room or jail during a behavioral health crisis.

Start Corporation, who has operated the CRC since its inception, is no longer serving as the operator. At this time, the CRC is temporarily not accepting patients.

In 2021 alone, nearly 5,000 St. Tammany Parish citizens withstood a mental health crisis. 45 loved ones died from suicide. These numbers illustrate the continued need for a CRC within our Parish.

Though we are disappointed Start Corporation will no longer operate the CRC, we will continue working with our partners to identify improvements to our behavioral health system and we look forward to a new beginning.

While we are working through this transitional period with the CRC, the rest of the Safe Haven Campus will remain open and operational.  In 2021 approximately 5,830 individuals accessed services on the St. Tammany Campus.  Other service providers on the campus include: Florida Parishes Human Services Authority, NAMI St. Tammany and the St. Tammany Parish Public School System.

In the coming days, St. Tammany Parish Government will begin the process to seek out a new operator for the Crisis Receiving Center. We are expecting an expeditious process and look forward to making progress with our new operating partner, which will ultimately save lives in St. Tammany Parish.

Sincerely,

MICHAEL B. COOPER
Parish President

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Insurance Cancellations, Rate Increases Further Raise Economic Concerns

Parish President Mike Cooper said the cancellation of tens of thousands of homeowner insurance policies statewide is a cause for concern in the local economy.

“Canceled insurance policies, rising premiums, increased utility costs, inflation and fuel prices are all impacting St. Tammany Parish’s families immensely,” Cooper said. “The heat of summer and the onset of Hurricane Season aren’t making it any better. Although insurance rates are not within my control, I will pursue every available option as Parish President to advocate for the citizens I serve.”

Cooper’s administration reached out to the Louisiana Insurance Commission and requested information about how many St. Tammany policy-holders are being impacted by recent policy cancellations, and is awaiting his response. Nearly 50,000 families statewide are being impacted by these developments. 

“Fortunately, we are entering this difficult season from a place of strength. Our local unemployment rate is below three percent, our housing market is strong, and our business community is diverse and resilient. Millions of local, state and federal dollars are being invested in our infrastructure projects that will improve our already superior quality of life, provide safer, more efficient roads and make our community even safer.”

Cooper’s administration is adapting to ongoing fiscal challenges by reducing costs, streamlining operations and employing policies that will foster an even stronger economy. 

“I always encourage our citizens to remain alert and vigilant during Hurricane Season. This year, I’m also asking them to remain vigilant in the face of economic uncertainty and challenges.  If my Administration or the Parish Council can be of service to you, I urge you to contact us.  If we can’t provide assistance, we will personally find someone who can.”

“Stay safe, aware and optimistic. Our best days are still ahead.”

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Local Delegation Prioritized Cooper Administration’s Infrastructure Improvements

President Mike Cooper praised St. Tammany Parish’s legislators for securing more than $150 million for infrastructure enhancements and other projects within the Parish.

“It is vitally important to pursue state and federal tax dollars to provide more efficient and reliable infrastructure in St. Tammany,” said Cooper. “My administration has been planning improvements throughout our Parish, and with the commitment of our lawmakers and state funding, they will become a reality.”

The state Bond Commission is expected to approve Priority 1 legislative allocations when it meets in early July. Some of the projects included are:

  • LA 1077 Widening - $20 million
  • U.S. 190 Widening in Covington area - $14 million
  • South Slidell Levee Protection Rehabilitation - $9.8 million
  • LA 22 Extension and Improvements - $4.4 million
  • Coastal Protection and flood resilience in East St. Tammany - $9 million
  • Emerald Forest to LA 59 - $14 million
  • Harrison Avenue Widening - $14.2 million
  • Ben Thomas Improvements in Slidell area - $3.7 million

“I want to personally thank our legislators and Governor John Bel Edwards for their dedication to our residents. I look forward to the completion of these projects, but more importantly, I am incredibly excited that these projects will provide a better future for our citizens.”

All members of the Northshore delegation work diligently to secure funding and assistance for our communities. State Senator Patrick McMath chaired the Senate Transportation Committee and state Representative Mark Wright chaired the House Transportation Committee, yielding significant results to benefit the citizens of St. Tammany Parish.

Cooper returned from Washington, D.C. Thursday evening, after spending several days meeting with key leaders, including Senator John Kennedy, to secure federal funding for other local needs.

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President Cooper Invites Citizens to Risk Rating 2.0 Informational Meeting by FEMA

St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper has scheduled an informational meeting for residents to learn about Risk Rating 2.0 and its impacts on flood insurance rates directly from a FEMA representative.

“We are tremendously concerned over the impacts of FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0,” said President Cooper. “My administration has been demanding information and a delay to the implementation of the program, which could skyrocket flood insurance rates for some of our citizens. I strongly encourage our residents to be in attendance to see how you may be impacted.”

The meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 at 3 p.m. in the St. Tammany Parish Council Chambers at 21490 Koop Drive in Mandeville. The event will also be live-streamed on STPG – TV and St. Tammany Parish Government’s Facebook page.

A FEMA representative will be present to answer questions, which must be submitted in advance. You can submit your questions by clicking here.

FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0 program was implemented on April 1, 2022, following staunch opposition from President Cooper, Congressman Scalise and other local, state and federal officials.

“It is still unclear how our citizens may be impacted. I strongly encourage residents to address their concerns, submit questions and be in attendance to receive this vital information directly from the entity that has imposed these new regulations upon us.”

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AML Rezoning a Good Move for St. Tammany, Parish President Cooper Says

Parish President Mike Cooper said the Parish Council’s decision to rezone more than 800 acres of land near the intersection of Interstate 12 and Louisiana Hwy. 1088, north of Mandeville was a responsible move for future economic development.

The Zoning Commission in March approved rezoning the land for development in the classification of Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics (AML).  The Council deferred the decision at its May meeting so the potential developer could host a community educational meeting, which happened on May 23.

The Parish Council voted to confirm the Commission’s decision early Friday morning, voting unanimously 13-0 to approve the AML designation.

“Rezoning this land for AML development is the right decision for our future,” said Cooper, who spoke in favor of the measure before the Council vote. “My Administration prioritizes responsible zoning and development to ensure St. Tammany remains a safe and hospitable place to live, work, and raise a family, while generating jobs for our citizens. I am very pleased with the Council’s decision tonight.”

AML classifications are designed for clean and environmentally friendly projects, not “smokestack industry,” as some opponents of the classification have feared.  As with all development, any future projects on the site must comply with Parish codes and ordinances, and undergo a rigorous approval process.

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St. Tammany Parish Poised to Enhance Flood Protection Through Federal Grant

President Cooper’s initiative to clear scenic waterways of debris and enhance drainage capabilities is expected to be introduced by the Parish Council at its regular meeting Thursday night.

St. Tammany Parish Government requested federal aid from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) Assistance for Natural Disasters to assist with the removal of debris in waterways caused by Hurricane Ida. The objective of the program is to help relieve threats to life and property caused by disaster-caused impairments to watersheds.

“We are always looking for ways to bring federal and state tax dollars home to benefit the people of St. Tammany Parish,” said President Cooper. “This project, with Council approval and only 10% local funding, will allow us to remove Hurricane Ida-related debris from our waterways, and become even better prepared for future hurricane seasons.”

Phase 1 of the Waterway Debris Removal is currently pending federal and state environmental permit approvals and the current Budget Amendment presented to the Parish Council. The subsequent removal of the debris will be performed by a contractor through the disaster debris removal contract managed by the Department of Public Works.

The cost-share assistance under the EWP is 90% federal and 10% local. The $12,638,018.50 project will include $2,579,187.50 of Parish funds from the Drainage Maintenance Capital Project Fund, and $10,058,831.00 from Grant funds.

St. Tammany Parish Government’s request for assistance to NRCS was focused on major and natural waterways.

The Parish Council will meet Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on Koop Drive in Mandeville.

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The St. Tammany Parish Council to Hold a Public Hearing to Consider Rolling Forward Millages

The St. Tammany Parish Council will hold a public hearing to consider rolling forward millage rates at its regular meeting on July 7 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

A roll forward is when the millage rate is increased after reassessment from the adjusted maximum millage rate to a rate not in excess of the “prior year’s maximum.”  As long as the increased rate will not exceed the voter-approved maximum millage rate, millage increases (roll forward) do not require further voter approval.

This is not a new tax and will not exceed the maximum millage rate approved by the voters.

The roll forward in unincorporated St. Tammany Parish would increase property taxes by $2.70 per $100,000 in home value. The roll forward in municipalities within St. Tammany Parish would increase property taxes by $2.00 per $100,000 in home value.

The estimated amount of increased tax revenues to be collected in the next tax year is $1,041,489 as explained below:

Property Tax Tax Revenue Tax Increase
Alimony 1 5,096,604 246,894
Alimony 2 939,415     45,666
Public Health 4,300,306  217,431
Animal Shelter 2,415,902 531,498
TOTAL 12,752,227 1,041,489

The increase in General Alimony is critical to support the Parish General Fund, which is the funding source for state-mandated costs.  The increase in Public Health is necessary for the medical care costs for the St. Tammany Parish Jail, which can only be funded by the Public Health or the General Alimony millage.  The increase in Animal Shelter is vital to support the life-saving efforts and to maintain the no-kill status for Animal Services.

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St. Tammany Parish Government’s Department of Utilities announces the conversion to Free Chlorine (Chlorine Burn) on the Cross Gates Water System is being concluded.

St. Tammany Parish Government’s Department of Utilities announces the conversion to Free Chlorine (Chlorine Burn) on the Cross Gates Water System is being concluded.

The Cross Gates Water System is being converted back to a Chloramine (Total Chlorine) disinfection system from the Free Chlorine disinfection system used for the Chlorine Burn. The Chlorine Burn was intended to raise the Free Chlorine residual to 1.0 ppm at all points in the distribution system for a duration of 60 days as recommended in the Owen & White report.

The Free Chlorine conversion was initiated on April 25, 2022 and after several days the system was able to convert to a Free Chlorine system and Free Chlorine residuals were achieved at all points in the distribution system; however, a mechanical failure of the dosing pumps resulted in the Free Chlorine residual dropping below 0.5ppm. A redundant dosing pump system was installed the next week while the Free Chlorine residual was re-established. Throughout the following weeks, the Free Chlorine residual remained above a 1.0 ppm in most of the distribution system and above a 0.5 ppm over the entire distribution. However, when a particular water well begins pumping due to a drop in system pressure, the chlorine residuals would intermittently drop below a 0.5ppm throughout the water system. The intermittent drop in Free Chlorine residual was investigated, and it was determined that the Free Chlorine residual could be achieved, but was unable to be maintained due to several limiting factors with the Cross Gates water distribution system.

The Free Chlorine conversion process disclosed several limiting factors for implementing Free Chlorine disinfection on the Cross Gates water system. The first limiting factor is that one of the water wells on the Cross Gates system requires more Sodium Hypochlorite (liquid bleach) chemical dosing than the legal EPA dosing limit to achieve and maintain a Free Chlorine residual. This means that all of the water this well pumps into the system does not have a stable Free Chlorine residual so it reacts with and consumes the Free Chlorine residual in the system causing a quick drop in the system wide Free Chlorine residual. The water chemistry from this well has naturally occurring Ammonia and organic compounds along with a high pH which requires the higher dosing of Chlorine to maintain a Free Chlorine residual. These water chemistry characteristics are favorable for Chloramine (Total Chlorine) disinfection with Sodium Hypochlorite (liquid bleach), which is able to provide a consistent Total Chlorine residual in compliance with both the EPA and Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) requirements. Second, this same well is needed to provide the required water capacity and flow for the Cross Gates water system so it must remain connected and functional. Third, the current control panels for the pumps on the water system operate using pressure readings on the distribution system so the well that experiences the pressure drop in the system from increased demand starts first. This creates a difficulty in establishing and maintaining a primary well, which compounds with the first two limiting factors and results in a Free Chlorine residual being able to be established but unable to consistently be maintained. The Precautionary Boil Water Advisory was left in place for the past three weeks due to the inconsistent Free Chlorine residual.

The Chlorine Burn process did result in a Free Chlorine residual of 0.5 ppm or higher for several days and all points in the system achieving the 1.0 ppm recommended Free Chlorine residual at some time during the Chlorine burn. Between May 10th and 11th, a total of 12 bacteria samples were collected from evenly distributed sites within the system all of which returned negative results.  The Chlorine Burn also required significant flushing of all distribution lines within the Cross Gates water system. Valuable data was obtained to use to improve the understanding and operation of the water system going forward. New control panels that allow for improved well pump control and duplex chemical dosing pump skids will be purchased for the well sites. Additionally, the first project that will be performed as part of the East Slidell Regional Water Consolidation Phase 1 of the Water Sector Project will be a hydraulic model of the entire Cross Gates water system.

The Department of Utilities will continue to work diligently to provide safe, quality water to all of its customers. Upon completion of LDH Boil Water Advisory sampling, the Precautionary Boil Water Advisory will be rescinded. A full report of the Free Chlorine conversion will be completed by a consultant and will be posted on the Department of Utilities website when available.

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