LIVINGSTON — After a lengthy and impassioned debate Thursday night, the Livingston Parish Council proposed reallocating $250,000 in surplus road funds to the Juban Road extension project.
The remaining $750,000 that Parish President Layton Ricks certified as available late last month would be added to the parish’s ongoing road overlay program.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance will be held Sept. 24.
The 6-0 vote followed a contentious and, at times, heated 90-minute debate and a failed 3-3 motion, offered by Councilman Ricky Goff, to put all the money toward the Juban project.
Council members Delos Blackwell, Sonya Collins and Ronnie Sharp were absent from the special meeting.
Chairman Chance Parent said he was “having real heartburn” over spending all of the extra funds on the Juban extension project. Some constituents complain about traffic and want the Juban project to move forward; others want their existing roads repaved, he said.
Parent also stressed the importance of reaching a compromise that would garner the six votes necessary to override a possible presidential veto.
Ricks said Tuesday that he opposed putting the extra funding anywhere other than the overlay program. But Parent said Thursday night that he “had a good feeling” after talking with Ricks, who is out of town this week, that the parish president would be OK with some of the money going toward the Juban project.
Finance Director Jennifer Meyers confirmed, at Goff’s urging, that in addition to the $1 million Ricks certified as available, the parish’s road fund has at least another million dollars in reserve that could be spent on the Juban project.
Meyers urged the council, however, to allocate the $1 million already certified as available to the overlay program while the road crews’ equipment is still on the ground and easily mobilized. The other funds could be dedicated to Juban next year, she said.
Goff said if the parish has $2 million in available road funds, plus $228,000 in unrestricted BP settlement funds, he did not understand why the council would fight allocating $1 million toward a project that would help alleviate traffic in Denham Springs and Walker.
The parish has spent about $8 million on various road improvement projects throughout the parish since 2012, Goff said, but none of those projects increased traffic capacity.
“They did not increase capacity by a single car,” Goff said. “It made the ride better. But we have people sitting in traffic every single day, complaining and moaning and groaning. It’s our responsibility to fix that.”
Denham Springs resident Buck Jones said parish leaders have been talking about extending Juban Road north from Florida Boulevard to Lockhart Road for 14 years, but the project is still in the early stages.
“You’ve got the money,” Jones said. “There is no reason (for the delay) other than the fact that the same people that’s been trying to derail this project all these years are still in the background pulling strings.”
Jones said the council’s job is to do what’s best for the parish, “and you haven’t done it.”
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