LAFAYETTE — City-Parish Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux is floating the idea of a new Lafayette Utilities System customer service center on the northern side of the city.
The plan is in its infancy, but Boudreaux has tagged about $300,000 for the project in next year’s budget — a move that still needs the approval of the full council.
Boudreaux, who represents a portion of north Lafayette, said the idea is to open a convenient location in the area for residents to pay utility bills while possibly closing the crowded service center at the main city-parish government offices on University Avenue.
“We just find that parking is inadequate and it’s bringing a large number of people to an unsecured location,” Boudreaux said of the city hall service center.
He likened a new north side location to the LUS customer service center that opened last year on the other side of town in leased shopping center space at Pinhook and Kaliste Saloom roads.
Boudreaux said LUS could renovate an existing space or build a new facility, but it is too early to discuss definite plans.
“There is nothing on the radar at this time,” he said, adding that he hopes to see some movement by next year.
Critical considerations are parking, easy access and the ability to have drive-through service, Boudreaux said.
LUS Director Terry Huval said the city-owned utility had no plans for a new customer service center before Boudreaux introduced the idea during budget hearings this month.
Huval said any proposal would need to be carefully studied to determine its cost feasibility and whether it will meet the needs of LUS customers.
“Before we would make a recommendation, we would want to go through our due diligence,” Huval said.
Any change will likely be felt by LUS customers, 30 percent of whom use a customer center either to pay bills or deal with service issues, mostly at the city hall location, according to figures from Huval.
Huval said LUS had at one time considered opening a customer service center at the city’s Clifton Chenier Center on Willow Street in north Lafayette, but there was not enough space in the government services complex.
He said LUS had also considered building a new customer service center at the intersection of Hebert Road and Willow Street about eight years ago but abandoned the project because of the estimated price tag of $5 million to $6 million.
“We decided not to make a move at that time,” Huval said.
He said renovating an existing space could save money but still cost more than about $300,000 that has been tentatively estimated.
Boudreaux said the money he has tagged so far for the project is intended to jumpstart planning and additional funding could be found if the project is seen as a priority.
“We have to get the process started,” he said.