Clearing Lafayette’s clutter goal of ‘Project Front Yard’ _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- A view of Johnston Street in Lafayette shows advertising signs, clutter and exposed utility poles and wires.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday approved a resolution recommending the use of $9 million in federal funds to improve some of unincorporated Lafayette Parish’s worst roads and to spearhead a pilot project to make over a half-mile portion of Johnston Street.

The resolution recommends the Lafayette Metropolitan Planning Organization — which will soon be under the management of a new Acadiana Planning Commission — use $4.2 million to improve nine decrepit roads and use the remaining $4.8 million for the pilot project to reconstruct Johnston Street from Cajundome Boulevard to just west of the Horse Farm.

If the planning commission approves the projects, Beau Bassin, Benoit, Gourmet, Joli, Jenkins, Prejean and Bayou Tortue roads, along with Robley and Shenandoah drives, would be reworked.

Plans are already in place to repair other roads that need work, Chief Development Officer Carlee Alm-Labar said.

Should the planning commission approve the $4.8 million for the Johnston Street project, it would only cover a portion of the cost, Alm-Labar said.

The project is estimated at about $20 million to $25 million, but Public Works Director Kevin Blanchard has said the state Department of Transportation and Development has committed to paying all but about $5 million, roughly the cost of burying power distribution lines along the half-mile section of Johnston Street.

The plan calls for burying most of the power lines in that stretch and adding medians, sidewalks and bike paths.

Earlier in the council meeting, an unexpected showing of about two dozen members of Lafayette’s black community spoke at the public comments section at the start of the meeting to air their grievances about racism in the Lafayette Police Department.

The issue came up in February, when 21-year Lafayette officer Andres Landor retired and provided a recording to the council of a fellow officer using a racial slur while on duty and while on the phone with a black officer.

Landor said the officer’s fluid use of the slur indicated that type of behavior is ingrained in the officer’s demeanor.

He “did not go to sleep on Monday and wake up like this on Tuesday,” Landor said, urging the council to take action on the grievances.

“We only hope you take our concerns as seriously as you do your votes,” Landor said.

The officer was disciplined and does not plan to appeal, his attorney, Allyson Prejean, said at the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board meeting last week. The terms of his discipline have not been disclosed.

“How am I to be comfortable with an officer like that stopping my son, my daughter?” asked Marja Broussard, of the Lafayette chapter of the NAACP.

All this was said as Police Chief Jim Craft and several of his officers — some of them black — sat on the opposite side of the council auditorium. The officers were there in support of the chief, who was there for the council’s unanimous approval of hiring three more police officers.

The force, with previous funding for 257 officers, has been at zero vacancies for two months, Craft said.

He said he hired two substitute appointments for three positions left open by officers called to military duty but he wants to keep those positions open for when those officers return.

Craft has said the department should employ at least 300 officers for a city the size of Lafayette.

Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook.

, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825