LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to move forward with the parish’s road overlay program after its attorney said the road work list meets state law requirements.
Parish legal adviser Christopher Moody said he had extensively researched the state Parish Transportation Fund Act and met with a team from the state Legislative Auditor’s Office after concerns had surfaced that the road list may not have been properly prioritized.
The law requires that state road funds be used according to a parishwide priority work list, but the council has some discretion in determining what the parish’s road priorities should be, Moody said during a special meeting of the council.
“You ought to rely on your engineer as a guide, and he’s done that for you,” Moody said.
Engineer Gasper Chifici, of Burk-Kleinpeter Inc., said he had reviewed the priority ranking system used by the parish’s former road engineer, Jim Delaune, formerly of the same company, and he believed it to be “a fairly good way to analyze road systems.”
Delaune’s ranking system included criteria such as the severity of the road’s condition, whether it has safety issues, whether the road serves as a bus or public access route, and the volume of traffic and population served, according to a spreadsheet Chifici provided.
Using those criteria, Delaune ranked the 65 roads on the Parish Council’s three-year priority road list.
The Parish Council’s list of roads to be paved or rehabilitated this year does not coincide with Delaune’s highest-ranked roads. Some of Delaune’s highest-ranked roads are in line for work this year, while others are relegated to upcoming years.
Chifici said the council’s decision to put off some of the higher-priority roads — which tend to require more costly improvements — meant that nearly two-thirds of the roads on the multiyear list could be done this year, rather than only a third.
“I think what was done here was trying to get a good geographical spread of the money,” Chifici said.
Councilwoman Cindy Wale Franz asked Moody if the council was opening itself up for a lawsuit by determining its own priorities, rather than relying entirely on the engineer’s ranking system to decide which roads are improved first.
“If you want to be totally safe and immunize yourself from any kind of lawsuit, I guess that’s what you should do,” Moody said, but added that the legislative auditor’s team agreed it was within the council’s discretion to set those priorities.
Resident Scott Jones again raised concerns about Cuba Wheat Road, where he said the council would be paving a substandard road that he contends was not properly taken into the parish maintenance system in the first place.
Jones said the engineer’s plans for the road include paving about 50 feet of private driveway to put in a new school bus turnaround, which would violate state law. “I would hope that if you’re going to continue to do this road, despite all the problems with it, that you’re not going to be paving private property.”
Councilwoman Sonya Collins, whose district includes Cuba Wheat, said she was in discussions with Moody and the engineer about those plans and promised the parish would either take in enough right of way to include that part of the roadway or would end the road work before that point.
Cuba Wheat is scheduled to be the last road paved as part of this seven-month project, partly to give officials time to iron out those details, Collins said.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen. Contact her by phone at (225) 336-6981.