Wednesday, December 28, 2005
by Washington Parish Reservoir Commission
The intimidation tactics started at the front door. Through the glass of the front door of the Washington Economic Development Foundation building, you could see a man removing the chairs from the meeting room. This is the same thing that took place on January 5, 2005 when the meeting was held for the reservoir site selection. There were quite a few seniors that needed a place to sit. Normally, when meetings are about to take place, people add chairs to a meeting room to accommodate the attendees.
We were told that we would have to sign in and provide our address. If we wanted to speak, there was another form to complete that listed the rules. The public had to limit their comments to 2 minutes and could only comment on the advertised agenda. We were not allowed to ask questions of the commission. There were 6 speakers, including me that completed the forms. Jim Stokes donated his 2 minutes to me and asked if I could speak for the group. I was required by the chairman to go to the secretary and retrieve the form, then list 5 people and their addresses. Huey Pierce (commission chairman) asked individual people on my list to raise their hand before he allowed me to begin. I suppose he wanted to make sure all the people on my list were in attendance.
Huey Pierce went over the rules with us and demonstrated his little timing device.
After the meeting, Huey Pierce came over to me and grabbed my arm, and told me that he took exception to me saying that he rejected my brother's certified mail. Mr. Pierce caught me off guard when he grabbed my arm. It was totally inappropriate. I told him that I took exception to the fact that he demanded that we submit requests in writing, and then when we do, he rejects it. I also told him how wrong it was to not answer the public's questions in a public forum. I didn't want to make a scene, so I quietly jerked away from him and told him some of my exceptions. He didn't hurt me physically, but I felt that he was trying to captivate and intimidate me by holding on to my arm. I have become accustomed to greeting and shaking hands with politicians (even if they are on the other side of the fence) as a cordial gesture, but this was not cordial.
There were other people who dared to speak and endure the intense scrutiny at the reservoir commission meeting. Their names are Win Pittman, Fate Ferrell, Joel Miller, and Senator Nevers. Senator Nevers even appeared to be somewhat intimidated since Huey Pierce was timing him also.
Mr. Pierce reminded me that I must submit my questions in writing, and that is when I confronted him about his rejection of my brother's certified mail.
Prepared statement for Reservoir Commission:
The Washington Parish Reservoir Commission has placed a dark cloud of uncertainty and controversy over the residents of Oak Grove Community. Since our community was selected as the site for the proposed reservoir, we have been in a living nightmare. Mr. Pierce has said that emotions don't affect his decisions regarding the reservoir, but it affects me greatly when I see my mother and father break down in tears. They have been broken and feel like castaways in their own parish. They don't deserve this and neither do their neighbors deserve such treatment.
The residents of Washington Parish have been sold out by our elected and appointed officials so that their own wishes may be gratified under the false allure of economic development and the unproven need for potable water. It doesn't matter to this commission that the property rights of honest, hardworking citizens have been trampled upon. It doesn't matter that existing residents will be displaced and the burial places of our loved ones are disrupted. …and for what? You are making empty promises to the people of this parish by saying a reservoir will bring prosperity when in reality, it will bring more poverty and disappointment as with past failed projects.
Not only is it incorrigible that you would destroy the face of an entire historic community and dig up our loved ones for a pleasure lake, it is incomprehensible that this commission would allow a site to be selected that would place the highest concentration of the people of Washington Parish at risk of dam failure. The monstrous earthen dam that will strain to hold back the billions of gallons of water is fallible. As we saw in the New Orleans area, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is under scrutiny for poor design. I shudder to think what would have happened if your reservoir would have been completed when Hurricane Katrina passed over us. We would have had a tragedy beyond comprehension-a man-made Tsunami that would have wiped out everything from Ben's Ford to the Pearl River. In Act 71 and the recent amendments, there is no provision for those residents who reside below the proposed dam in the event of a dam failure. There will be more powerful hurricanes in our future. Think about what you are subjecting us to.
The reservoir "lets make a deal" scheme to expropriate private property across the state of Louisiana is the epitome of the ABUSE OF EMINENT DOMAIN LAW.
Eminent Domain was to be used for public use such as roads and bridges-not to expropriate property for recreation and possible economic development. I was amazed to see Representative Bryant Hammett sitting on the Louisiana Bond Commission knowing that his company was the contracted company to survey for the reservoir commission. Do you believe he voted to allocate funds for the unneeded Washington Parish Reservoir because he thought it was a needed project, or because it would affect his paycheck if he voted against it? You tell me.
Since you must obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build this unneeded lake, you have determined now that we need potable water. This commission or anyone else for that matter has not produced any scientific evidence that potable water is needed. It is also ridiculous to put a potable water lake next to landfill runoff. It doesn't fly with anybody.
People have been conned in to believing that the reservoir is a done deal, but that is very far from the truth.
I will close with a question that I would like at least one of you to answer. It should be a simple yes or no response.
Do you believe in your heart that it is moral to build an economic development/recreational/potable water lake so that people can go boating and water ski over our loved ones' place of burial? If cemeteries don't have any value, then why do we dedicate and place our deceased loved ones in a cemetery?
Jalon Pittman Beech