Alas! The Advocate has a reporter that has researched and revealed that Mayor Kip Holden and his entourage have not done their due diligence in regard to land use for his proposed Audubon Alive! As mentioned previously in my posts, who do you know that would plan to build a $229 million complex without clearing the land title? Better yet, why should your tax dollars be spent financing a project without title clearance? Kudos to Michelle Millhollon for her excellent article in this morning’s newspaper!
Along the edge of the Mighty Mississippi sits a 22 acre triangular-shaped piece of property in the Red Stick that some believe is our Bermuda Triangle. It is a batture that is partially underwater and can be viewed here.
For 10 years the Downtown Development District, City of Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana, and The Audubon Institute have presented the tax payers with various scenarios for this batture on the riverfront. From sports venues to DeSoto Park to Audubon Alive! ideas have been pursued, and sometimes partially funded.
BREC was shut out years ago from potential involvement, even though all parks in our parish are overseen by them. Why wouldn’t BREC be involved in a new park, and a potential moneymaking venture? Some say the decision was political.
The Audubon Institute convinced city and state officials in 2002 that this same property should be the site of DeSoto Park.
In 2004, unfortunately, the courts ruled that the State of Louisiana did not own the batture across from the Pentagon Barracks, and that the railroad had owned the property for over 130 years. This immediately halted forward movement of the proposed DeSoto Park.
One of the major issues, besides ownership, was the fact that the property is under water and floods regularly. In order to address this problem, a proposed expenditure of $41 million was required to ‘raise the dirt’ in order to avoid future flooding.
At that time the State of Louisiana’s financial coffers were supposedly overflowing and the money was approved to address potential flooding issues.
The State of Louisiana, however, stopped the project immediately and DeSoto Park was no more than a bad memory in the minds of state officials who failed to run a check on who owned the property. I suppose this would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.
Who do you know that can or would build any project without having all the proper land clearances in advance?
To add insult to injury, $11 million was already spent according to Commissioner of Administration Mark Drennan, with Coastal Bridge Contractors in Phase I of DeSoto Park. Though attorney Charles Landry and DDD Director Davis Rhorer claimed they expected an agreement to happen, the project did not make a comeback, and the land remains for the most part under water. My research did not result in an explanation of those funds Drennan said were spent other than the fact that the work had begun and stopped abruptly.
Perhaps this will help you to understand why I am so adamate over the lack of details for the proposed Alive! project.
Unwise decisions and careless spending of our tax dollars is of no concern to politicians. After all, it is not their personal monies involved — it’s yours.
Imagine knowing you have millions of dollars at your disposal to fund your pet peeve projects on someone else’s dime, and full disclosure isn’t required in advance of your vote to fund the projects.
Perhaps the best question to ask is why is this information not laid out in its entirety for taxpayers? Maybe its because the math doesn’t add up?
The Audubon Nature Institute has an annual payroll of over $6.6 million annually according to their financial reports. They indicate 600 employees on their payroll and 518 volunteers required to run their properties. The Institute runs the Zoo, the Park, the Insectarium, the Wolberg Park, Research Center, Survival Center, Imax and Aquarium. If this is the case, how does Mayor Holden expect us to believe that we will generate 1,000 jobs upward to 2,000 jobs permanently for Alive!?
There is no doubt that Audubon and all their entities are great attractions. Our family has enjoyed them for years. Let’s not get caught up in the pitch. We should demand, as taxpayers, the accurate detailed information.
Of course, if you don’t provide all the details, you can’t be held accountable. Can you?
Until next time,
Red Stick Republican