LIVINGSTON — Darnell St. Romain said he wishes Livingston Parish would hurry up and decide whether to buy his property.
Parish officials have been talking to St. Romain since 2007 about routing a proposed extension of Juban Road north from Florida Boulevard through his property to the intersection of Lockhart and Burgess roads. St. Romain and his family have lived on Lockhart at Burgess since 1996. He opened his sewer treatment business next door in 2001.
The Parish Council on Thursday approved a design study completed earlier this week that would route the new road directly across St. Romain’s home and take up part of his business property. But parish officials said buyout discussions are still several months away, as the parish must first have some abstract and appraisal work done for all the properties the proposed new road would cross.
St. Romain said the sporadic and yearslong discussions about whether the parish would need to take in his property have caused turmoil for his family, who don’t know whether or when they will have to pick up and move.
It might have been better if the parish had just sprung the decision on him, St. Romain said in a telephone interview before Thursday’s council meeting.
“They should be more blunt with it,” St. Romain said. “I run a company. I’ve got to be exact. I can’t make mistakes; it’s too costly. So I just wish they’d go ahead with it, but that’s speaking from my standpoint. I understand there are things the council has to finish first.”
Those things include the abstract and appraisal work, which Parish President Layton Ricks estimated would cost the parish about $150,000, with half going toward the abstract work alone.
Councilman Ricky Goff, who has been outspoken in pushing for the project, said Thursday night that he is not sure where Ricks got his estimates. A Denham Springs title company recently estimated the abstract work, which is the next step, would cost only $18,000 to $20,000, Goff said.
After that, the parish would need to sit on the project until about $1.5 million or more in parish funding is set aside for the right-of-way acquisitions, Goff and Ricks agreed, because the appraisals will be good for only six months.
“But the goal is to do our 20 percent match toward state funding in the form of engineering, abstracts, appraisals and right-of-way acquisitions so that we’ll have a shovel-ready project,” Goff said. “So we can try our best to stay ahead of the traffic, which is only going to continue to increase with our parish’s population projections.”
Goff said he has advocated so strongly for the Juban extension project because it will alleviate traffic congestion between Denham Springs and Walker as drivers look for the shortest route to the interstate.
“It will not interfere with anyone’s commute while it’s under construction. It will only displace one home and impact a couple businesses, and it will give North Park an opportunity to display another side of their campus and possibly even move their entrance to create a more direct route from I-12,” Goff said.
St. Romain agreed about the importance of the project, adding that it also would provide a new route for first responders to reach the northern part of the parish and improve economic development opportunities north of Florida Boulevard.
Those benefits are what St. Romain thinks about when he mulls the parish’s possible purchase of his homestead.
“It’s really about whatever helps the parish.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.