Unlike the distribution of the last influx of money for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike from the federal hazard mitigation money which was used for grants for home elevations, St. Tammany Parish’s president Pat Brister announced that the $7.2 million in federal funds from Hurricane Isaac would instead be used for the construction of detention ponds in the Lacombe area. 18 parishes split approximately $5.2 million from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, of which Mandeville received $420,000. This $420,000 was allocated for grants to residents to raise their home elevations to avoid damage in any future hurricanes.
The City of Mandeville has made it clear to St. Tammany Parish that they would like the new amount of $7.2 million in federal hazard mitigation money to also be allocated to home elevation. The Parish disagrees. In a letter to Pat Brister, Mayor of Mandevillle Donald Villere said the city “philosophically disagrees with the parish’s approach to flood mitigation, which officials said involves construction of large “detention ponds” designed to reduce the risk of flooding to thousands of homes.” He has asked the Parish to reconsider.
In addition to the philosophical disagreement on the distribution of the federal monies, Villere also would like the monetary distribution of the $5.2 million to be recalculated based on areas which received the most damage during the hurricanes. The City of Mandeville offered a formula which was loosely based on the state’s formula for distributing disaster money. This recalculation would give Mandeville $1.6 million of the $5.2 million instead of $420,000. Instead of basing the calculation of money disbursed on population numbers, the city suggest using the amount and percentage of damaged or flooded homes in a particular area.
“We believe that using this methodology is fair and equitable for both the parish and all municipalities,” Villere wrote.
The reason Mandeville feels so strongly about the disbursement of the grant money is because of the damage done to Old Mandeville during the slow-moving Hurricane Isaac last summer. Over 200 structures were damaged prompting an engineering study to be commenced by GEC Engineering to come up with a flood protection plan for most West St. Tammany Parish residents.
Brister’s response to the City of Mandeville was apologetic, yet practical. According to St. Tammany Parish’s estimates, over 3,200 homes in St. Tammany Parish fall into a “repetitive loss” category which means that these homes received damage in the last 2 hurricanes. Of which, 260 homes had severe repetitive losses. In order to be fair, if money was allocated to the City of Mandeville for home elevation grants, it would need to be done parish-wide. The cost to cover the elevation of more than 3,200 homes would be approximately $650 million. With only $12 million plus to work with, the feasibility of the allocation would not be realistic. However, the good news is that the creation of the detention ponds could be a first step to an overall flood plan for St. Tammany Parish.