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 Publication: American Press Publication Date: 02/20/2002 Page and Section: 6 B

Allen Parish to hire consultant to help secure reservoir funds      BY JEREMY HARPER    AMERICAN PRESS

OBERLIN -- The Allen Parish Police Jury on Monday committed $75,000 to hire a consultant to help secure state approval and funding for a parish reservoir.

Jurors made the decision after holding a public hearing on the reservoir before Monday's regular Police Jury meeting. The panel passed a formal resolution to hire consultant Mike Thompson of Delhi at the regular meeting.

The hearing was attended by mayors from the towns of Kinder, Oakdale, Oberlin and Elizabeth, as well as by several parish residents. Thompson, former mayor of Delhi, was involved in the construction of Poverty Point Reservoir in northeast Louisiana.

Phil Beard, mayor of Oberlin and lake project committee chairman, said Thompson's experience is what Allen needs to compete with other parishes vying for state funding.

"He's fought the battles before," Beard said. "He's done about a year and a half of work for us really for free."

Beard said the parish's water supply problems would be eliminated by the construction of a reservoir similar to Poverty Point Lake. He also said the parish would experience a significant economic boost.

The Poverty Point project, which began in 1995 and was funded almost entirely with state money, was completed in 2000. The project cost $20 million and generates $8 million a year.

Beard estimated that $125,000 to $175,000, in addition to the $75,000 salary for Thompson, would have to be secured locally. He said the money would be used for state-required preliminary studies.

Several of the attending mayors said they would request funds from their town councils.

District 1 juror Andrew Hayes suggested that Grand Casino Coushatta help fund the project, because they could benefit from the increase in tourism that a reservoir would bring.

Beard said he has met with the Coushatta Tribal Council, but that it could not commit to a specific amount.

"I've talked to Tribal Council members, and they're excited about the project," Beard said.

Parish officials must now draft a bill that will be presented to the state Legislature. If the bill passes, Gov. Mike Foster would appoint a five- to seven-member commission to head the project.