OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish Council voted Thursday to seek a state attorney general’s opinion on whether sales tax revenue collected from unincorporated areas of the parish can be used for road maintenance and construction inside incorporated areas of the parish.
A motion for the legal opinion came after Parish President Bill Fontenot and several members of the council engaged in a heated discussion over a proposed intergovernmental agreement for road improvements made to three roads located within Cankton.
Councilwoman Pam Gautreau read from a 2-cent parishwide sales tax proposition approved in 2013 that said revenues from the tax are to be used “exclusively” for projects outside unincorporated areas.
Gautreau said one of the roads, Savoie Road, passes through Cankton and that portion of the road should not be overlaid with funds from the 2-cent sales tax.
The other two roads in Cankton under consideration for paving with the sales tax money include Menard Road and Credeuer Road, according to a Public Works Committee report read at the meeting. The estimated cost of paving the three roads is $600,000.
Fontenot said he is sure paving Savoie Road won’t violate any aspect of the 2-cent tax proposition because it is a parish road that has been maintained by parish government for the past 20 years.
Councilman Wayne Ardoin said the 2-cent sales tax also has supported road construction through Eunice, Port Barre and Krotz Springs, but those municipalities paid a portion of the project costs. Ardoin said Cankton has not offered to help pay for the construction being done to road projects in that village.
John Trahan, a resident who spoke on the issue during the meeting, said he voted for the sales tax with the intent of having improvements done on roads outside the city limits.
“Now it seems that some are being paved inside the city,” Trahan said. “How far do we go?”
Fontenot said that sometimes roads that were once outside the city limits have been annexed by municipalities and should be considered parish roads.
In another matter, the council voted 9-2 to accept proposals from nonprofit parish entities for funding projects of historical importance.
The motion followed consideration of funding requests by a group representing the former Sunset High School and the St. Landry Preservationist Society to help refurbish the Michel Prudhomme home in Opelousas.
In December, a group representing the former high school requested up to $50,000 for asbestos abatement at the school. The council delayed action until a budget was passed for the fiscal year that began in 2015.
No specific amount was requested by the preservationists, according to the meeting agenda.
Gautreau said parish government originally created the Historical Development Fund for such projects, including the Old City Market building and the Delta Grand Theater, both located on Opelousas’ courthouse square.