and MICHAEL BORDELON
The Evangeline Parish Police Jury had a recreational district created by statute and then appointed a board to begin working on a recreational park for this area several years ago. Members of the community began working with our legislators to secure start-up money for a recreational district, which would eventually feature programs for this community’s youth. When the governor decided to veto those monies earmarked for this project, many began contacting him to ask him not to veto the appropriations. However, Monday, the community learned he vetoed the funding for this project.
Chairman of the Recreational District Board, Michael Dess Fontenot, said he was enormously disappointed the governor vetoed those funds.
“It’s one road block after another,” Fontenot said. “We’re a government entity and 100 percent of those funds were going into the project. It’s eating at me. The most disappointing thing is he (Jindal) didn’t talk to anyone to let them know why he was doing this.”
Fontenot said the recreational district has $250,000 currently and will proceed with setting up the drainage system on the property it owns. After that, Fontenot said they will just have to continue to “wait and see,” which is what they have been doing for seven years.
District Attorney Brent Coreil was another person who was disappointed by Jindal’s actions. “The veto of the funds for the recreational district was a very big disappointment. I personally called for the governor Saturday night after I learned he was intending to do so. Of course, he could not be reached. I just wish I had known sooner this was coming so we could have pleaded our case to him earlier. This sports complex would be one of the very few means of keeping our kids off the street. It deters juvenile delinquency. We have one of the greatest sports programs in the country with great coaches and parents willing to volunteer their time and efforts to teach kids principles and skills. They learn how to accept victory and defeat. It is truly sad we have lost this opportunity.”
Coreil was joined by Sheriff Eddie Soileau and Ville Platte Police Chief Neal Lartigue, who both voiced their disappointment. Sheriff Soileau said once this program would have grown it would have given our children a place to go. When he was in high school, he would swim after school. Now there’s no pool or any other program besides what the school system offers for children. The only place for children is the streets, especially during the summertime. This program would have been valuable to the children, because it would have given them other options besides the street.
Chief Lartigue agreed programs like sports give stability to children and occupy their time positively. He said a program would have kept many off the streets where they often get into trouble with the law as they try to find ways to spend their free time.
Bob Manuel, president of the Evangeline Parish Police Jury, has worked on this project since its initial concept. He was disappointed by the governor’s action and believed we would have had a great opportunity to develop something for the youth of this area. He said with all the problems we, as a society, face with the youth and youth crime, recreation is one of the few options we have to combat these types of activities by providing the youth with a place to visit. He said the answer is not to continue picking up “problem” juveniles and locking them up.
“The ultimate goal of this program is to create something for everyone,” Manuel said. “We are a recreation district with long-range goals to serve all of Ward One.”
He said this project was far more than ball parks. It was going to be a facility for everyone. He hoped the group could find the funds it needed in the future to finish what they’ve started.
Dr. Tommy Fontenot has been coaching Dixie Youth for 18 years, and at 47, the present ball park was there before he came along. He said his youngest son will be finished with the Dixie Youth program by the time this recreation park is completed, but it’s an important project for the community and one he has supported.
“Evangeline Parish is a poor, rural community, and we had a chance to build this thing that would provide places for baseball, basketball, etc.,” he said. “It would have been a place where the kids could go and play. I think it’s a shame. I’m very disappointed in him.”
Dr. Fontenot said he supported Jindal, so he’s disappointed in the governor’s actions. He said this recreational project would have provided something for the whole family, and it would have kept children in organized sports and off the streets. It would have improved our society.
Dr. Fontenot left an email and voicemail for the governor to let him know how he felt about the governor’s veto. He believed this project would have benefited the people of Ville Platte. He said with nothing for our youth, many leave this area because there’s no future here. “We’re losing some good people,” he said.
As a coach, he has traveled to many parks, and they all promote family. He said one child is playing ball while the parents are cheering them on and other siblings are playing in the park area. He said children are inquisitive and will try things. So when they’re on the streets, that’s where the drug dealers and others find them. He said you have to have something for the children to do. A recreational district would have provided activities for them, and since he loves all sports, this would have been a great opportunity for the parish.
“I’m disappointed and the future of our youth of this parish is at stake,” he said. “Ville Platte doesn’t have the resources to build this recreation district for the children. I didn’t think this was wasteful spending.”
Dr. Fontenot, like other community leaders, saw the future of this recreation district and what it could bring to the area youth. When selecting the land, he said the committee took its time in finding the right piece of land that was adjacent to the city so the children could access it. “We’re not going to quit fighting,” he said. However, leaders know that this veto was a big blow to this project.