Parish seeks public input with surveys

Aaron E. Looney

Parish government is looking for public input on various programs or possible improvements to infrastructure, including a possible tax to fund such improvements.

Parish President Tommy Martinez plans to issue a public opinion poll in the near future to gauge the feelings of parish residents on issues such as purchasing the

Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, a parishwide wastewater treatment program and recreation improvements, among others.

Martinez said executive funds would pay for the survey.

Meanwhile, the parish's recreation department will also release a poll asking a random sampling their thoughts on how the parish could improve on its recreation programs and if poll takers would want to see a possible tax levied to pay for improvements.

Martinez's survey, which would poll a sampling of 400 residents throughout the parish's unincorporated areas, questions the subject as to if they think Ascension Parish is "going in the right direction" or "gotten off track" in terms of government issues. It also asks the individual to rank the two most important problems facing Ascension Parish today, with options including traffic and road conditions, management of growth and development, possible parishwide wastewater treatment, flooding and drainage, improving recreation and improving fire protection and emergency management services.

Also in Martinez' survey, a question asks if the participant would be willing to support a half-cent sales tax idea that could raise approximately $6.5 million annually. The proposal would cost the average household in Ascension Parish $216 per year, with the funds dedicated to "solving problems in Ascension Parish." Questions in the survey ask the participant if they would support the tax if it were dedicated to one of the aforementioned issues.

A question in the survey also asks if the participant knew that the parish government general fund only receives 3 percent of all property tax revenues in the parish, while the rest goes to the School Board, Sheriff's Office and other governmental entities.

A corresponding question asks the participant if they believe this is enough of a percentage for parish government to solve important parish problems.

Concerning the purchase of the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, Martinez' survey asks if residents would be in favor of a 3 mill property tax, which would cost the average household $27 annually, to fund purchasing the 250-acre, multi-use facility and expanding it to host more varied events.

Participants will also be asked if they favor additional funding being appropriated to parish fire protection agencies for expansion of services, including hiring full-time firefighters and adding stations and equipment.

The survey also seeks interest in a parishwide recycling program.

The recreation department's survey focuses solely on improving the department's offerings to parish residents.

Questions included in the survey ask the participant their thoughts on how well maintained parish-operated parks have been in the past year, what specific enhancements should be made at the parks, if the participant would be in favor of neighborhood parks or regional parks and activities or sports that should be administered by the parish, among others.

One question asks if the parish should pursue programs or developments such as a skate park, hobby parks, additional athletic fields, a regional sports complex, dog parks, spray parks, public fishing areas and summer day camp programs. Another asks if there are certain things that keep the participant or their family from taking part in parish recreation.

The poll also asks how much the participant would be willing to spend per month to fund improvements to parish parks and recreation programs, ranging from nothing more to $16 more per household. The question informs the reader that Ascension Parish spends "much less" on recreation that other parishes in the state.

Another question asks about support of additional funding if a comprehensive master plan and dedicated funding mechanism were provided.

The survey is being funded through the recreation department.