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 federalreserveFederal 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.

The economy is on the mend but still has a way to go.  Many people are seeing a pay raise but there are those who still have yet to see one since the up rise in the economy.  St. Tammany Public Works employees are hoping for a pay raise for 2019.

This hope stems from a proposal given by Councilman Richard Tanner during a recent public hearing. Tanner proposed a 2 percent raise to employees that work in the Public Works payraisedepartment. It would cost the department approximately $273,000 for the 2 percent pay increase minus the department director. He sees the raise is justified because the department has its own funding source.  This source stems from a dedicated sales and property taxes. Many others agreed during the public hearing on the proposed 2019 operating and capital budgets that the employees should be given a raise.

“Public Works does a fabulous job and it would be my pleasure to vote for this,’’ said Councilman Jerry Binder.

Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President, feels that giving raises to one department and not the others “is incorrect and wrong.”

“Everybody in this parish works just as hard as Public Works,’’ Brister told the council.

Brister voiced there is very little wiggle room in the Parish Budget.  The proposed sale tax increase was a no go with voters last election. The two sales taxes that were denied would have brought in $22 million dollars annually. The current budget that Brister will be presenting totals to $99 million and will be adopted by December 31, 2018.

As a community starts to thrive and grow, more and more businesses and residents move into the area.  Along with new growth, comes new buildings and homes in the community. What about the existing buildings in the area that might have lost their tenants due to previous lack of growth?  An existing building is a perfect place for future business owners to begin a new business.  Adaptive reuse, the process of reusing an old site or building for a different or new business, is a great way to bring new life into an old building.

One community that is booming with growth along the Northshore in the New Orleans area is Mandeville. Barrett and Jill McGuire, of McGuire Real Estate Group, are using adaptive reuse at two sites in Mandeville. Rest Awhile is currently underway and is now a restaurant complex and Band’s Food Store’s old building is currently under review to become a restaurant in Old Mandeville.

Currently under way, is the Rest Awhile restaurant complex.  Originally the restawhileRest Awhile building was the Frapart Hotel in the 1800’s which later became a retreat house for those in need. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the building was left abandoned and now the project is preserving the old building into a sit-down restaurant.  Two other buildings on the site include the Hadden Cottage, which plans to be a coffee and tapas bar and the Sophie B. Wright Cottage which plans to be a tavern.

The McGuire’s second project is close to Barrett’s heart. Band’s Food Store, inbandsfoodstore Old Mandeville, was built in the 1940’s and served Old Mandeville for decades.  As a young boy, McGuire remembers sweeping the parking lot of the grocery store, located at Lafitte and Monroe, to earn money to buy baseball cards.  The couple purchased the site for $275,000 and hope to turn the building into a restaurant.  McGuire says they are focusing on “a lunch counter concept at this point” and as for the name, “we haven’t gotten that far yet,” he said.

Adaptive reuse is not only a smart and green way to reuse current buildings, but is also a great way to preserve a community’s memories and history. As for the McGuire’s belief on conserving the old grocery store site, “It’s a great little place. It deserves to be put back into commerce,” he said.

 

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The economy and housing market are the strongest they have been in the past 10 years.  As the housing market and economy thrive so does the ever-changing communities throughout the country.  St. Tammany Economic Development District wants to evolve with the ever-changing market.

The St. Tammany Economic Development District is the forefront of St. Tammany’s economy. As stated on their site, the agency’s objective is to “seek to preserve and promote the quality of life by strengthening and supporting vibrant economies.” Businesses and Residence can follow the community’s economic development, successes and future opportunities found throughout St. Tammany via the agency.

St. Tammany is a great area to both live and work.  With the low cost of living and the strong business climate, the parish is on a growing trend and is home to industries that include advanced manufacturing, corporate headquarter offices, distribution and logistics, oil and gas, information technology, and healthcare and biosciences. The current population of 255,000 and civilian labor force of over 126,000 keeps this strong economy going.

Along with the growth comes competition with other attractive communities throughout the state and the country. Chris Masingill, who leads the St. Tammany Economic Development District, announced a plan to attract and keep businesses in St. Tammany Parish to the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, November 10, 2018, at a breakfast held at Tchefuncta Country Club. First on the agenda is to rebrand St. Tammany Economic Development sttammanycorpDistrict with a name change to “St. Tammany Corp.” and a new logo.

Masingill explained that along with the name change, the St. Tammany Corp. will have a new framework for how it handles business in the Parish. They will focus on many factors which include how the Parish’s various communities interact with each other to the role of government and tax incentives in economic development.

“This is not just an academic exercise,” Masingill said. “We’re looking at everything.”

A study will be conducted on how the agency wants to expand its “regional reach.” Masingill wants to establish a good working relationship with other agencies in the Parish, the economic development group Greater New Orleans Inc. and even over state lines.  The plan for the new framework is slated to be completed by year’s end.

 

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The emergence of the St. Tammany Art Association (STAA), on December 1, 1958, was just the beginning of the life long celebration in the community of the arts. The idea of the origination’s concept came from the first meeting notes taken August 15, 1957 at a group meeting held at the Covington resident, Mrs. Miriam Barranger. In the notes it stated that their group’s motto was “to encourage education and interest in the fine arts in the community through lectures, panel discussions, exhibits and the screening of motion pictures. To sponsor classes in painting, sculpture, crafts and the fine arts generally.”

In the last sixty years, the STAA has not only lived out this motto, but the nonprofit, has superseded it by supporting local well-known and emerging artists. Throughout the years it has enriched the residents of St. Tammany Parish through cultural programs and activities such as three galleries, six annual art sttammanyartassociationmarkets, the Covington Art Market, Art Alley, the annual Fall for Art Festival, the annual Spring for Art Festival, both adult and children educational classes, holiday and summer camps, artists’ panel discussions and special programs such as Cancer to Canvas, Sizzlin’ Seniors and Veteran to Veteran.

With the development of Art Alley that runs along N. Columbia Street between STAA’s Art House and the historic H.J. Smith & Sons General Store, STAA brings a space for community gatherings and cultural commerce space. Kim Bergeron, the former executive director, turned the ordinary alley into a place of art celebration and the home of the Covington Art Market.  According to Bergeron, “Art Alley initiative is a Creative Placemaking effort designed to transform an ordinary alley into a community gathering and cultural commerce space. I intend to continue to work toward bringing that project to its full potential. The harmonica campfire concert with our Culture Camp children, led by GrayHawk Perkins, and the Holiday Children’s Tea in Art Alley were among my favorite events – truly magical. I see so many possibilities for Art Alley as a place to celebrate arts, culture and non-profit organizations.”

STAA will continue to serve the community and reach as many people from all walks of life in the celebration of art. As the nonprofit pursues a new executive director, STAA will remember their motto and all of the programs created by the former leader. Roswell Pogue, president of STAA’s board of directors describes Kim Bergeron by stating, “Her enthusiasm and drive have expanded our community outreach and profile. We are here, as an organization, to reach as many people from all walks of life as is possible, and Kim has been integral to that goal.”

 

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) and Army Corps of Engineers shows an abundance of stillwaterpredictionnoleveehurricane activity along the Southern Shore of Louisiana.  In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers created a map of potential stillwater elevations for a storm surge from a hurricane with a 1% chance of occurring that has a possibility to hit the New Orleans area in 2070. The 100-year storm would be a devastation to all areas surrounding Lake Pontchartrain if proposed new levees are not built.

Congress has before them $100 billion dollars in various flood protection projects that the corps plan to build nationally. Many of the projects would greatly help and reduce tragic loss during hurricane season in the Greater New Orleans area. Fortunately, in 2014, Congress approved the 2014 Water Resource Bill which was the first step in the process of authorizing a levee to be built. Due to an emergency supplemental appropriation that is linked to the recent devastation from hurricanes and floods, the West Shore levee has been approved and fully funded. The West shore project makes up only 1 % of the $100 billion in projects before Congress.

According to U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, the fast pace of the Congressional approval and funding for projects such as the West Shore levee is unheard of. Graves believes funding projects such as this should be the norm.  It is reported that the nation spends billions on restoring homes, businesses and infrastructure loss due to hurricane flooding. If the nation spent just millions on flood projects beforehand many of the devastation could have been avoided. “This project pays for itself,” Graves said. “Think about the cumulative money spent picking up the pieces from Hurricane Isaac,” he said. “We cannot continue to spend billions in the aftermath of disasters. We have to spend millions in advance.”

leveesThe West Shore Lake Pontchartrain hurricane levee project is set to be completed by 2023 hurricane season. The $760 million-dollar project includes 17 miles of levee and a mile of concrete T-wall. It will mostly be located in St. John the Baptist parish which will include berms around Gramercy and Lutcher, a separate berm around Grand Point North and smaller berms around other smaller non-residential buildings. The 17-mile levee will separate populated areas west of I-10 from storm surges moving inland from Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas and adjacent wetlands.

The New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers’ office announced the project will begin construction by early 2021. According to Col. Michael Clancy the project will be divided into 11 smaller projects and will be under the local sponsor, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. According to the federal law, the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will pay 35% of construction cost, however the Army Corps of Engineers will pay construction cost upfront and will allow the local sponsor to repay them over a 30-year period upon completion of the project.

Once the project is complete the Pontchartrain district will control and operate the levees. St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom looks forward to what the future holds for this project.  She feels it is the parish responsibility to allow its residents and business owners to participate in the $760 million-dollar project so the dollars spent will stay within the parish.

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