Madisonville, Louisiana is rich in boat and ship building history. In fact, the U.S. Navy built their vessels and repaired them in Madisonville during the War of 1812. Today plans were announced to reopen an unoccupied barge manufacturing plant on the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville.

The 230-acre plant was the home to a Trinity barge-manufacturing plant which closed its doors in 2015 when Trinity Marine Products announced the “demand for larger tank barges that transport oil is currently soft.”

“Due to encouraging conditions in the barge construction market, we are pleased that Arcosa Marine is restoring the Madisonville barge facility to full operation,” Arcosa Marine president Thomas Faherty said. “Arcosa Marine is preparing the facility to produce barges for customer delivery in 2019.”

Arcosa Marine Inc. will begin a $7.5 million renovation on the project and will hire approximately 149 employees. Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state will give them an incentive package that will include a workforce training program and Arcosa will also use the state’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs. They plan to install new equipment and upgrade the plant in order to produce barges.

“We are excited to welcome back the manufacturing operations of a marine mainstay in the St. Tammany Parish economy,” Edwards said in the news release. “Manufacturing jobs generate great economic activity and a high number of supporting jobs throughout the area. We’re encouraged by the return of barge manufacturing in Madisonville and hope that this new investment by Arcosa will lead to greater growth in the future.”

This is a great boost for the St. Tammany area economy. There will be an additional 236 indirect jobs for the region. The average annual salary for new jobs will be $51,400 plus benefits.

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The huge lakefront residential-business development in Mandeville called the Port Marigny Development has been in front of the City Council since 2015. Mandeville City Council originally nixed the plans for the development in 2017. The 77-acre site that was once a concrete plant will be allowed to be the future site of the Port Marginy Development under a new Mandeville City ordinance.

The former Pre-Stressed Concrete abandoned industrial site sits along Lake Ponchartrain at Monroe Street. Drs. Michael and Marcus Pittman own the property and proposed the $180 million residential-commercial project. The project is the largest development that has ever been planned in Mandeville.

“Port Marigny will be a good thing for the city and for the people of our community,” said Dr. Michael Pittman, who with his brother has owned the site for more than 30 years.

Port Marigny Development originally planned to include businesses, a hotel and over 400 residences. Under the new city ordinances the development can only have a maximum of 350 residential dwellings under certain conditions laid out by the Mandeville Planning and Zoning Commission and a maximum of 36,000 square feet of commercial space which can include restaurants. The highest building can be 65 feet high but the majority of the buildings will only reach 35 to 48 feet high. Mandeville Planning and Zoning Commission will allocate where the taller buildings will be allowed. The two brothers will have five years to get a city building permit and plan to start construction on the project in a couple of years.

City Councilman David Ellis believes its a win win situation for the developers and those residents who have opposed the development since its conception. Many residents voiced their concerned about about density, traffic and potential flooding of its lower elevations.

“There’s going to be some arguments,” he said. “But I think it’s a win for all.”

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This is the question many are pondering since Madisonville’s population is just over 800 residence. According to Louisiana Lawrason Act in order to be considered a town you must have 1,001 inhabitants.

In a report issued this week by the state legislative auditor it states, “Because Madisonville had only 748 residents as of the 2010 federal census, it appears that it should be classified as a ‘village’ under its charter.”

This is a serious issue posed on the town as it even says in Madisonville’s own charter that the governor must be notified of a change in the town’s population. There will be several recommendations the town must follow from changes to the number of town board members to refining policies.

Many residents and leaders alike are not happy with the change in board members from the current five to three.

“I kind of like five people,” Brad Haddox, who serves on the Town Council said. “That’s five different considerations. … With more varied people, you have more varied viewpoints.”

How did this oversight occur? According to Haddox it was an innocent oversight. The Madisonville Charter list many governmental responsibilities that just don’t apply to today. Examples include regulating taxes on corn doctors, pet bear exhibitors, exhibitions for pay, fortune tellers, ten pin alleys etc.

Madisonville has only had a population of at least 1,001 residents in two U.S. Census reports. One in 1910 with 1,028 inhabitants and in 1920 there were 1,103 residents. Since then the town has seen a drop with the lowest population in 1990 at 659. Currently the population sits at an estimate of 831 residents.

“I don’t think we’ve been at 1,000 for 40 or 50 years,” said Mayor Jean Pelloat.

As of February 1, 2019, Governor John Bel Edwards has been notified via letter of the town’s current population. Madisonville also sent a copy of the town’s charter and additional information the Governor requested to review.
The Mayor and town officials are waiting to hear back on his decision.

As for the name town or village, many residents believe a label does not define a community.

“We are such a small town,” said Stephen Marcus, president of the Madisonville Chamber of Commerce. “We’re in a pretty small area; we kind of call ourselves a tiny little village … there’s no stigma.”

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Peter Lewis and Keitisha Young might be running against each other to become the next City Council member but they agree on one thing. If elected both candidates would make building a community center a priority in District A. District A is located in northern Covington which is mainly an African-American lower income neighborhood.

Peter Lewis, 41, was born in Covington and graduated from Covington High School. He holds bachelor’s degrees in general management and human resources/business management from Southeastern Louisiana University and owns an insurance agency in Covington.

Lewis, who is endorsed by the St. Tammany Parish Democratic Committee, has been a mentor to local children and has worked with them for years. He wants to change the anger and violence he sees in the community. Just last month two shootings took place in District A by a 19-year-old resident. Bringing a new community center to the area will help with this situation. Youth in District A will have a place to go after school where they can be mentored.

Along with the new community center, Lewis wants to create more classroom space in the overcrowded schools, rennovate housing in the area, add sidewalks and street lamps and improve roadways.

“I see the other areas of Covington making changes, but District A doesn’t because no one is speaking up,” he said.

Keitisha Young was born in Covington and also graduated from Covington High. She studied business at Howard University in Washington, D.C.; working toward a degree at Southern New Hampshire University. She is endorsed by the West St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce’s Political Action Committee and the Alliance for Good Government.

Young agrees with Lewis and says District A needs a new community center for the kids. Right now kids only have the Boys & Girls Club on Columbia Street which charges a fee. They need a free place to go that is a healthy environment.

“You need after-school recreation, studying, tutoring,” she said. “Kids emulate what they see, and the only thing they see is the courthouse and the jailhouse right down the street.”

Slum lords are also an issue Young wants to address.

“We have people paying $500, $600 for rent and they’re living in a house with holes in the floor and it’s infested by rodents. It’s a big problem, and it’s throughout the district. … We need homeownership education in our area. People have to know what their rights are and not be afraid to speak up about the housing they’re living in.”

Landlords need to be held accountable, Young believes there should be stronger home inspections. Residence who pay rent should have a home that is in livable condition.

“Things are getting cleaned up by the city, but it’s not getting done here in our district … The new mayor and council … have a responsibility to one another. We need to talk about all of it and see what we can do.”

The elections will be held on March 30, 2019 and early voting is currently daily through March 23, 2019.

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Diboll Gallery, located at Loyola University in New Orleans, is currently housing an exhibit that features a local Mandeville Artist. Luba Zygarewicz, a Mandeville resident, is part of the HIVE MIND exhibit which continues until March 17, 2019.

The artist pictured with one of her installations currently showing at Loyola University: “Rendere: pouring myself out to render life” is comprised of over 1000 tea bags that have been emptied out, dipped in beeswax and fused together.

Luba was born in Chile, and came to the United States, San Francisco, when she was 15 years old. She began her formal study of art at Loyola University and earned a Bachelor of Art in Sculpture. She then went on to obtain a Master of Fine Art from San Francisco Art Institute.

Motherhood took over for awhile, but she still was able to create and discover her talent while rearing and schooling 4 children. Many of her pieces reflect her stages in life and the story of her family. Her mediums include used tea bags from her cups of tea, discarded twigs, lint from her dryer and even clusters of hair.

“Finding myself doing piles of laundry,” she said in the show’s statement. “I often thought of fellow artists I knew…they were probably in their studios making ‘art,’ while I was doing yet another load of laundry. This is where my time is going! ‘Petrified Time: 13 years of my life folded and neatly stacked’ grew out of this inner struggle between domestic obligations and my creative practice.”

“For a while motherhood defined a lot of my work and the process. I think that’s why I worked in little things because they would accumulate into big things,” she said, adding that her long-running project – collecting her fallen hair for over 25 years– was important because “it was a reminder that I am an artist.”

“My work investigates implied presence in light of absence. I collect moments that together create an experience as a way of holding memories. Memories often drift into the present and are woven into my practice.” she said in a proposal for The Wild: Artist in Residence on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. She was one of five international artists awarded a spot in the November 2018 residency, entitled “Wonder Up a World.”

“The whole point was being more aware of how I move through the world, in a sense of just being present,” Zygarewicz said of LED-lit shoes she created as a representation of a mindful walking practice for an interactive

A suspended installation entitled “RISORGERE: to rise again” is made from hundreds of remnants of the 2017 Sonoma County Fires which are woven together to with wire to form a tapestry of lives. It was created by the artist during her residency last summer at Chalk Hill Artist Residency in Healdsburg, California.

performance during the seven-day residency abroad.

Her installations and sculptures have been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally including Agora Gallery in New York City, Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art in Sonoma, California, Ogden Museum Of Southern Art and the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, among others.

Luba Zygarewicz’s work can be viewed at HIVE MIND continues until March 17 at Loyola University’s Collins C. Diboll Art Gallery, 4th Floor of the Monroe Library, 6363 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans at the HIVE MIND from now until March 17, 2019.

Follow Luba’s process on Instagram at @lubazygarewicz

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It is reported that there are over 24,000 St. Tammany residents that are in need of food. These hungry individuals now have a place to go for help called the Mission Pantry.

Started by The New Orleans Mission, The Mission Pantry is the origination’s latest accomplishment. Founded in 1989, The New Orleans Mission has been serving the New Orleans area for three decades. It has helped residents who are struggling with homelessness, addiction, abuse or lack of food.

The Mission Pantry is located in Lacombe on the site of the New Orleans Mission’s Giving Hope Retreat at 31294 U.S. 190. The Giving Hope retreat is a 58-acre campus where programs are provided to help aide the homeless population. It offers housing to 80 men who are going through a year-long recovery program.

Walmart donated a $75,000 grant to The Mission Pantry which was used to purchase a refrigerated truck. The truck is used to pick up food from neighboring retailers in the North Shore area.

“With the help of our incredible community partners, we hope to get farmers, grocers and other food purveyors to support the program as we attempt to eradicate food insecurity in St. Tammany Parish,” Mission Pantry Program Director John Proctor said in a news release.

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St. Tammany parish is a great place to live and its popularity has shown through the booming housing market. One negative aspect of the growth in the parish is the decline in the beautiful trees the area is known for. St. Tammany parish is the home of oaks, pines and cypress that give the area a canopied greens-cape. St. Tammany parish government has created the Tree Bank program and Adopt-A-Pond program to help with this problem by preserving the tree canopy, enhancing the water quality improvements, increasing flood mitigation and creating Eco-corridors along with wildlife habitat in St. Tammany parish.

“Water quality, flood prevention and preservation of our natural resources, are top priorities in St. Tammany, and we are able to address them all, in varying degrees, through these programs — the Adopt-A-Pond Program and the Tree Bank. This is another example of forward-thinking ideas put into practice, with wide-ranging results,” said Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President. “We also have the benefit of teaching our young people about their own environment and how all of these elements work hand-in-hand to give us our wonderful, natural surroundings, and what they can do in the future to protect our community.”

Funding for the program is fueled by the parish Tree Bank. The Tree Bank is financed by fees that the developers incur when removing trees off land in St. Tammany. Agency partners which include NOAA SeaGrant Program, the LSU AgCenter Youth Wetlands Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Sunbelt Innovative Plastics, and are in the Adopt-A-Pond program, also help with monetary needs.

Along with the parish government, the St. Tammany School District has taken the initiative to help reach the goal of planting 30,000 new trees in the parish by year’s end. Boyet Junior High has already planted 325 trees at Meadowlake Pond in Slidell. The Adopt-A-Pond program will allow STEM students from St. Tammany high schools and junior high schools to plant trees along the banks of six ponds around St. Tammany. The school district plans to plant 2,300 trees this month alone.

“I’m excited that these community partnerships are allowing our students the opportunity to participate in hands-on science projects while also improving the environment of St. Tammany Parish,” said St. Tammany School System Superintendent Trey Folse. “These are real life lessons that students will be able to use far beyond the walls of their classrooms.”

Along with the 325 trees along the pond’s banks, 75 young Live Oaks have been planted along Oak Harbor Blvd. in Slidell. So far in 2019, over 400 trees of 13 species have been planted in the community.

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The New Year has started out with a great report on the future for the housing market this year. Still rebounding from the housing crisis, there was a slow moment in 2018 for the market. KB Home and Lennar have reported that shares are up this week. Investors and builders have been given an incentive after hearing the good news.
Last week, Lennar’s net income went above and beyond expectation and shares rose up 10%. This makes Lennar’s shares up more than 11% week to date. Their strategy has been affordability in home prices and with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage around 4.78%, affordable home pricing is the key.
KB Home reports their average selling price at the end of 2018 was down 5% from the previous end of 2017.
Lennar CEO Richard Beckwitt describes current sales as, “increased traffic, increased qualified traffic, increased folks willing to buy.”
KB Home CEO Jeffrey Mezger said, “The economy is expanding. Consumer confidence is high. Employment is strong, wages are growing, and household formation is increasing. Alongside these positive factors, the supply of existing homes remains low at 3.9 months nationally, and below that level in many of our markets, and single-family housing starts for 2018 will once again be well under the long-term annual average.”

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Friends Coastal Restaurant in Madisonville has been an abandoned building for close to two years.  Part of the problem for the seafood restaurant was the parking, noise and litter which hindered the nearby residents.  The community was not a suitable fit for the large restaurant.  Fortunately, the building along the Tchefuncte River was purchased by Greg Lala and Steven Guidry of Dixie RV SuperStores.

The proposal for the 27,0000-square-foot building to be renovated into a DixieRVSuperStoreRefurbishmulti-use complex was approved at Madisonville’s planning and zoning commission meeting on December 4, 2018. The new structure will include corporate office space and different types of eateries. Mayor Jean Pelloat is in agreement with Lala and Guidry.

“This type of mixed-use development with offices appears to be our best chance to get this building back into commerce,” Pelloat said.

The two business men plan to move their corporate headquarters to the building. The third floor will house the Dixie RV SuperStores CDixieRVSuperStoreorporate Headquarters while the remaining space will be for the eateries.  The second level will be an upscale restaurant and the lower level will be an open-air venue with casual eating served from Airstream concession trailers.

Unlike Friends, who hosted bands that play loud music late into the night, the new establishment will work under the town’s noise ordinance closing all food service no later than 10pm.  The first level open-air venue would stop serving food at 8pm and the music would not be amplified.

“This is not going to be a fly-by-night restaurateur,” said Lala, a St. Tammany Parish resident. “We don’t want to be Friends (restaurant). We want to be good neighbors.”

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After the fall of the economy in 2007, policymakers want to keep a healthy balance in today’s economy. The Federal Reserve does not want to repeat what some economist consider to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

According to a statement released by the Federal Reserve, the labor market is continuing to strengthen and the “economic activity has been rising at a strong rate.”

This week Fed policymakers agreed to keep the rates the same for November 2018.  The reason for this decision was based on the continued growth of the American economy.  The Federal Reserve wants to make sure the growth stays at a healthy rate, neither too fast nor too slow. The benchmark rate, the determining factor for the cost of borrowing on credit cards, mortgages and other loans, will stay between 2% to 2.25%

Markets have gone up this month and the Fed will more than likely raise rates at the final 2018 meeting. This also suggest the rates will raise several more times in 2019. Policymakers explain that this is a standard reaction to the strong economy.  This will give central bankers some cushion if a downturn were to occur.

Not all of the aspects of the economy are at full force. Business investments have risen very little and the investors are curious to see if the Fed officials will anticipate a lower growth in next year’s forecast.

The job market is strong. In October, employers added 250,000 jobs.  Wages have also gone up 3.1% year-over-year. While this is good news for Americans, officials fear that low unemployment and higher wages might speed up inflation which could force the central bank to raise rates aggressively.