OPELOUSAS — Complaints of trucks tearing up parish roads led the St. Landry Parish Council on Wednesday to re-examine how road use permits are issued and how the parish can recover funds from those who caused the damage.
Council member Pam Gautreau claimed oilfield trucks have caused extensive damage to Mouton and Savoie roads, documented by photographs and by formal complaints made to the Sheriff’s Office.
Council member Wayne Ardoin said the parish once had a deputized road inspector who had the authority to issue citations for damage issues.
However, Parish President Bill Fontenot said the parish Public Works Department does not have enough personnel to investigate companies that fail to obtain permits and that might be suspected of damaging roads. He said parish policy gives the public works director the authority to request the Sheriff’s Office to investigate such matters.
Gautreau also noted that the parish passed a 1989 ordinance that requires companies using parish roads to present a $25,000 surety bond before obtaining a road use permit.
Council member Ronald Buschel said any proposed increases in the amount of the surety bond or filing litigation against companies that damage roads would hurt parishwide agricultural operations.
“If we increase (the bond) to $125,000, we will put the majority of farmers and trucking companies out of business.
“When we tried to raise it before, we had a (meeting room) full of farmers who said they would rather go to court than pay for the increases,” Buschel said.
Nevertheless, council member Jerry Red Jr. said it is time to increase the amount of the bond.
“When did we decide on $25,000? Was it 1900? We have to keep up with the times,” Red said.
In addition to asking parish attorney Lance Pitre to investigate what steps the parish can take to recover monetary damages from companies whose trucks cause harm to roads, the council also asked Pitre to draft an ordinance to restrict the use of the St. Landry Veterans Memorial Park, located several miles south of Opelousas on La. 182.
The proposed ordinance will be introduced at the regular meeting in November.
According to the Public Works Committee report, the park, dedicated at a Sept. 10 ceremony, is being used for political rallies for individuals running for office.
In an interview after the meeting, Pitre said there have been additional complaints that individuals have used the Veterans Park as a place for social gatherings such as barbecues.
The park contains a wall that lists the names of St. Landry Parish residents killed while serving in the U.S. military during all wars beginning with World War I.
Land for the park was donated and is maintained by parish government, Pitre said.