Frustrated after learning of a lawsuit filed by residents, the Livingston Parish president says he’s now pulling a project meant to improve drainage at a neighborhood near Denham Spring that flooded last summer.
Layton Ricks told the Advocate he has stopped a $150,000 project to replace two road culverts with a bridge on Dunn Road that went out for bid last week. He said he's concerned about the potential impact on the lawsuit if the parish moves forward with the project.
Ricks said he was served on Monday with a lawsuit filed by William Ballard, who claims his home in the Summer Run subdivision off Dunn Road flooded in 2016 as a result of poor drainage due to culverts the parish installed in 2005 that were too small and were not properly maintained.
When William Ballard evacuated his house during catastrophic rains on August 12, 2016, his neighbors across the street remained high and dry.
"Its a shame he filed a suit, because we were in the process of getting the Dunn Road culverts changed out and the bridge put in," Ricks said. "But now we’ll have to wait for the courts to complete the process."
Ballard and six of his neighbors have sued the parish and Livingston Parish Gravity Drainage District #1, along with its insurer, for mental anguish and damage sustained at their homes.
Ballard's attorney, Mike Breinin, called Ricks' move unfortunate.
"It's clearly an act of retaliation," he said.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Ballard said he is not deterred by Ricks' response.
He noted that the parish intends to overlay Dunn Road next year as part of a parish-wide $6.5 million project. Ballard is skeptical that the parish would go forward with that project, which involves closing in the ditches and repaving the road, while leaving the problematic culverts intact.
"They can say all they want. They can bluff all they want," he said. "I’m like Rhett Butler. I don’t give a damn."
The residents want the culverts removed and a bridge built over the problematic drainage ditch, saying that would allow water to flow more freely.
Ricks acknowledged it would be best to do the bridge at the same time as the road project. But he said he can't work on the bridge without risking an adverse affect on the lawsuit. He said he’s hopeful the lawsuit will be resolved by the time the road project begins.
The Summer Run subdivision residents say their homes and driveways were damaged as a result of flooding in August 2016. They say they flooded with rainwater because of a pair of culverts that were too small and clogged to allow the water through. This caused water to back up into people's homes and driveways, the residents claim. They say their flooding wasn’t from the Amite River overflowing its banks, as was the case in other parts of the parish.
The parish council voted on Sept. 14 to authorize Ricks to proceed with replacing the culverts with a span bridge.
Parish officials have said the subdivision needs better drainage, but they contest Ballard's claim that a bridge, rather than two culverts, would have stopped the flooding.