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Monday, Jan. 4, 2016

Legislator Lesson

CBB Commissioners stick to lake area plan

As the new year looks forward to a special February session of the state legislature and what’s anticipated to include an abysmal absence of statesmanship in resolving Louisiana’s critical budget situation, I’ll take a few minutes to suggest to Northwest Louisiana lawmakers they could take a few lessons in class, diplomacy and just generally getting the job done from the Board of Commissioners of the Cypress Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District.

A little background – CBB was created in 1958 by Act 292 as a political subdivision of the State of Louisiana. The five-member CBB board has similar responsibilities and powers as those of the Bossier City Council and Bossier Parish Police Jury, albeit for a significantly smaller area. The five CBB members are not elected; they are appointed to five-year terms by the Bossier City Council, Bossier Parish Police Jury, Town of Benton, Bossier Parish School Board and Bossier Levee District.

CBB members are not compensated for their work beyond the meager $40 monthly.

Years of political appointments to the commission finally have given way to a professional, dedicated board, the current members of which have demonstrated a surprising degree of dedication and perseverance in identifying myriad neglected issues at CBB, and planning for their various resolutions, including how to finance the much needed work. Maybe more uncommon, Commissioners Robert Berry, Walt Bigby, Jerry Fowler, Alan Warren and Gary Wyche consistently demonstrate an uncommon civility and courtesy among themselves, and always in the face of frequent criticism from lake area property owners.

But that uncommon civility didn’t stop about three dozen lake area residents at the commission’s December 2015 meeting from chastising CBB commissioners for everything from not providing written minutes of CBB meetings directly to these property owners, to strong complaints about raising the owners’ fees, to one four-decade resident suggesting that he didn’t even know the Commission existed. (Most Bossier Parish property owners pay a small ad valorem tax that helps fund CBB – along with fees charged to use the park, RV area, etc. Lake owner fees account for about 2 percent of CBB’s annual budget).

Many of the lake owners appear to view the commission as something of a homeowners association board – instead the CBB Commission is responsible to all of the parish for maintaining and improving the CBB area.

It’s the advanced citizenship aspect that’s troublesome, but it shouldn’t be in this case. So in retrospect, perhaps it’s a worthy suggestion that the lake area residents form their own Homeowners Association to work with the CBB Commission.

On at least one count, a little more interest from the lake area residents through such an association might have precluded the request that CBB Commission minutes be mailed directly to lake area residents. The complaint was that some don’t subscribe to the Bossier Press Tribune, the official legal journal for the commission.

The need for CBB’s extensive repairs and renovations to the electrical system, piers, dam and spillway structures, campgrounds and more are reflected in the minutes.

Through an extended meeting including discussion on the ramifications of the long deferred maintenance and repairs needed, CBB Commissioners were courteous and entertaining of property owners’ views and comments.

But the commissioners are a committed and dedicated group, and they stuck to the plan. The new property owner annual fee schedule will remain as CBB works to improve the lake area for all concerned, and that includes both homeowners and recreational visitors (many for national and international sports events). The commission’s view to planning for the future is to make the north Bossier lakes area a premier place to live and enjoy the parish’s recreation offerings. Fees for park users also have been increased moderately.

These guys take a lot of flack. But they are about the most gracious, committed and under-compensated group I’ve met in nearly two decades of covering public bodies.

Marty Carlson, a freelance writer, has been covering local news for the past 17 years. She can be reached via email at martycarlson1218@ gmail.com.

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