Like many Louisiana towns — perhaps 300 of them, according to official estimates — St. Joseph can’t afford to maintain and improve its water system, he said.
More than half of the 528 families in town make less than $50,000 a year, according U.S. Census Bureau data.
In 2015, the town raised $115,883 charging fees for water, gas and other services;$117,328 from sales taxes; and $37,237 from ad valorem property taxes, according to the town’s financial records.
Brown went to Washington, D.C. in 2006 and got help from then U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. But the money Landrieu had found went away when Congress ended the practice of earmarks.
He then headed to Baton Rouge and persuaded then Gov. Bobby Jindal to visit in 2013 and have a glass of water.
Jindal promised $6 million. The town would have to put up a match of about $2 million, which is about what the town could raise if it sold every piece of property and equipment. Jindal waived the match.
But the money could not be used. The town’s finances were so shaky, it could not get the clear audit necessary to release the funds.
Then in March, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera released a report finding that Brown’s hiring of a cousin to do maintenance work may have violated state law.