LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish Council pulled the emergency brake on its road overlay program Thursday out of concern the road priority list may not follow state law.
The overlay work — the first to be done under the parish’s road program since 2011 — was scheduled to start next week.
The council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, after parish legal adviser Christopher Moody has had time to review the list and the criteria the parish’s former road engineer, Jim Delaune, formerly of Burk-Kleinpeter Inc., used to create it. The concern is that those criteria may not match with the requirements of the state Parish Transportation Fund Act, through which nearly half of Livingston’s $5.45 million in road work this year would be financed.
As long as the state funds are not commingled with the parish’s own sales tax-generated road funds, officials can use the local money without following the state act’s requirements. However, that would require the council to develop two road lists — one prioritized according to state law and one for the roads that officials want to pave or rehabilitate regardless of priority.
Livingston Parish has only one road priority list.
“I have a lot of concerns about your current priority list, how it was arrived at,” Moody told the council Thursday night.
Moody said Delaune had agreed to help the council develop a list guided by criteria such as traffic counts and mileage of work. But Moody said recent conversations with the engineer revealed that considerations of “spreading the money around the parish” may have influenced the final list. “You simply cannot rank them that way,” Moody said.
How much of a role that factor played is unclear. Moody said he is supposed to receive a copy of Delaune’s spreadsheet, including his criteria for prioritizing the roads, on Friday and will discuss it with the parish’s current road engineer, Gasper Chifici, of Burk-Kleinpeter Inc.
Chifici told the council earlier this month that he had studied all the roads on the parish’s priority list and all were in need of work. He said he had not looked at every road in the parish, however, and there may be nonprioritized roads that are worse than some on the list.
Moody suggested Thursday that the list might be salvaged in time to allow the contractor, R.J. Daigle & Sons, to begin the work soon, without straying too far from the list the contractor originally bid on.
Councilman Ricky Goff suggested that the council may be able to justify prioritizing enough of the road work on the parish’s existing list to tap into the $2.5 million in state transportation funds, then use the $2.95 million in local funding for the remainder of the already selected roads.
“The priority list is probably not the way they intended it to be,” Goff said. “Nevertheless, I think there are roads on there cumulatively worth $2.5 million that should fall within that criteria.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen. Contact her by phone at (225) 336-6981.