Senator Vitter supports federal fund effort at Tourism Commission meeting
By: Paul Kedinger
CROWLEY – “I’ll be there every step of the way,” vowed U.S. Senator David Vitter, as he made a commitment to seek federal funds during Thursday’s meeting of the Acadia Parish Tourist Commission.
The Commission members hope that with Vitter’s support they will secure “green space” planning and development funding for a conference center on a seven-acre tract adjoining the visitors’ center of Tower Road.
Senator Vitter told Commission members, and area officials, including Mayors Jim Petitjean of Rayne and Greg Jones of Crowley and Police Juror Alton Stevenson, that he was “super impressed” with the vision and plans for 20,000 to 25,000 square foot conference center.
He also suggested the Commission enlist the aid of Senator Mary Landrieu and Congressman Rodney Alexander, who sits on the House Appropriation Committee.
Envisioned as a center to rival any conference venue between New Orleans and Houston, Texas, its price tag is estimated between $7 and $10 million.
Commissioner Paul Broussard told Vitter the center would draw conference audiences from a 250 mile radius.
Broussard also cited support the center project has secured from area legislators.
Project coordinator Isabella delaHoussaye also emphasized the center would be an added boon for the parish and compliment the projected water park planned in Rayne.
Mayor Jones added that Crowley expects DOTD to begin work on the service road in the third or fourth quarter of 2011. The service road, it was noted, will open adjacent property to retail development and connect Hwy. 1111 to Cherokee Drive.
“There’s a lot of activity,” said Broussard in the parish, as he cited ULL’s plans to establish a biofuel research center on land on Capitol Drive in Crowley and the Rice Research Center.
As a friendly reminder of his promise, Vitter was presented a green Commission promotional apron by Commissioner Broussard, Executive Director Gwen Hanks and delaHoussaye.
Prior to meeting with Vitter, the Commission conducted a brief business session.
Broussard reported Gerard Frey of Frey Dirt Work LLC submitted the low bid of $4,800 to level the seven acre building site to improve drainage. He gestured toward the window to point out Frey was already in the processing of leveling the property.
Broussard, who serves as Commission treasurer, also reviewed the proposed 2011 budget. He explained the budget contained $85,000 for tourism marketing and $150,000 for conference center development with the bulk of that fund for architectural services.
Broussard added $78,000 in carryover funds were put in the budget.
Though it wasn’t in the budget, Broussard noted the Commission has applied to the Louisiana Legislature for $3.5 million capital improvement funds over a five-year period.
Commission members unanimously approved he 2011 budget.
The Commission also decided to not park the company car overnight at the tourist center, directing Hanks to drive it to her home nightly.
Broussard also reported the building committee has been meeting with Hoffpauir family members who own the adjoining property and that the Moore Planning Group, LLC of Lafayette is continuing to develop center plans.