North shore homeowners in limbo as drainage district requests funding

North Shore homeowners in limbo as drainage district requests funding

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - A lack of funding and action is causing problems for some homeowners on the North Shore watching the rain water come dangerously close to damaging their homes.

"They need to fix this immediately. There's no doubt about it," homeowner Mike Schneider said.

The Master's Point neighborhood where Schneider lives is one of the only communities in St. Tammany Parish's Oak Harbor that did not flood during Hurricane Katrina. Master's Point is protected by a levee and drainage system.

But now, recent heavy rains have flooded streets as a mixture of problems plague the drainage system. 
"There's two of the residents at the beginning of the neighborhood, one of them I know is sandbagging right now. The back part of their house is in jeopardy of getting water in it," Schneider said.

The flooding issue started in the early hours of New Year's Day, when a rain storm dumped several inches of water in the neighborhood while the three pumps protecting the community were broken.

Monday, workers fixed two of the pumps, but more rain meant more flooding.

St. Tammany Public Works brought in a mobile-diesel pump to alleviate some of the flooding concerns, but the majority of the problem is because of a blocked culvert. A sinkhole formed more than a year ago, stopping the flow of water out of the neighborhood.

"It's been like this for a while," Schneider said. "I think it's something beyond us residents knowing about it."

Master's Point is a private community, and residents have to pay for their own drainage issues.

But the drainage district does not have enough money in its coffers to pay to fix the culvert.

Recently, the district turned to the parish for funding. The parish is stepping in and loaning $105,000 to the district to fix the culvert, but the district must pay the money back.

"Probably, if it was a parish problem, they would have acted quicker. I think money was the solution and we just didn't have it. We kept kicking the can down the road should you say," Master's Point homeowner Jay Gillen said.

Gillen's wife is a former drainage district board member. He says there is also a problem with residents in the neighborhood not paying their dues to fund such a project.  
"That's why our kitty is down right now. It's a shame to say, but we need some help," Gillen said. 
It is expected to take at least two months for the parish to complete the bidding process, but residents are stuck in limbo as the water flirts higher and higher each time it rains.

"They need to go to plan B because all that takes a lot of time, and we need something to be taken care of now," Schneider said.

A spokesman for the drainage district said the agency collects about $55,000 a year from homeowners to pay for operating and maintaining the system.

The drainage district is expected to pay back the parish over a five-year period.

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