DENHAM SPRINGS — A large portion of Livingston Parish road tax funds winds up paying wages of parish employees, Livingston Parish president candidate Layton Ricks said at a Wednesday forum for sheriff and parish president candidates.
Donald Burgess, another candidate for parish president, said the parish faces an infrastructure problem.
Burgess said he could help with roads and other infrastructure in the parish because of his 34 years of employment with the state Department of Transportation.
Burgess subsequently served as Livingston Parish planning director.
Parish President Mike Grimmer said that in his two terms, the parish government has built five libraries, a new jail, a new governmental building and a new health unit.
The value of parish-owned property has tripled, he said.
“Although we are getting attacked, we are operating with a surplus,” Grimmer said of his administration.
Ricks said he wants to put road tax money back to paying for blacktopping roads.
The parish needs to grow and grow responsibly, Ricks said.
Permits and fees for development have “run rampant,” said Ricks, who is operations manager for the Alvin Fairburn and Associates engineering firm. “I believe I can do something about that.”
If elected, “the buck stops with me,” he said.
Grimmer said the buck had stopped with him when he fought new federal flood maps, federal housing projects and a traffic loop proposed to cut through Livingston Parish.
In response to the comment about permit fees, Grimmer said the fees in Livingston are comparable to those in surrounding parishes.
Mickey McMorris, a candidate for sheriff, said rumors are untrue that, if elected, he plans to fire all of the deputies in the parish.
“I will not wholesale fire deputies,” he said, adding a lot of time and money has been spent in training them.
Deputies “work hard and have a thankless job,” he said.
McMorris said he has been labeled by some people as a “desk jockey,” but he worked his way up from being a road trooper to the rank of lieutenant colonel in State Police.
Jason Ard, the chief criminal deputy of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, said he wants to increase manpower, but doesn’t plan to raise taxes to accomplish that.
Ard said growth in retail sales in the parish should allow the addition of more deputies while keeping the same tax structure.
“I have dedicated my entire adult life” to the Sheriff’s Office and have watched it become one of the best in the state, Ard said. “We used to have some of the worst equipment — believe me, I know — and today we have some of the best.”
Ard said people move to Livingston Parish mainly because of schools and safety.
H.B. “Cookie” Billingsley, a retired Baton Rouge police officer, said narcotics are the source of many of the criminal problems in Livingston Parish.
Armed robberies, spousal abuse, child abuse and other crimes spin off the use of narcotics, he said.
He urged people to do what they can to cut off the money supply to drug dealers.
“The future in Livingston Parish is not just in my hands if you elect me, it’s up to the people of the parish,” he said.
The forum was sponsored by the Livingston Board of Realtors.
The election will be held Oct. 22.