How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
That’s the task the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury faces as it tries to chip away at nearly $20 million in road rehabilitation needs outlined in a recent engineering report.
There are at least four districts in the parish with roads so bad the repairs and infrastructure enhancements would total more than $12 million, according to the 2015 road rating report.
“We always knew we had certain issues,” jury President Cornell Dukes said. “Now, it’s just a matter of how to approach and address them, see what the budget will allow us to address in a frugal manner.”
The report, which the jury received at its Jan. 26 meeting, likely will be used as the foundation of the parish’s next road program — something the Police Jury adopts and updates on a biennial basis.
The parish historically has financed road improvements through a voter-approved half-cent sales tax, which generates between $1.2 million and $1.4 million annually.
The jury periodically has supplemented those funds with various grants and government loans.
Parish Treasurer Becky Mayeux said the Police Jury has spent approximately $8.6 million in the past three years on road improvements and repairs. But that has hardly put a dent in the work that’s left to be done, according to data reflected in the road rating report.
Kevin Gravois, vice president of Professional Engineering Consultants Corp. in Baton Rouge, surveyed every road in Pointe Coupee, categorizing each based on the needs he feels the parish should address.
Gravois lists roads from Type 1, the best or those with the smoothest riding surfaces, to Type 5, those with rough riding surfaces requiring expensive repair.
District 11, represented by Juror Justin Cox, has the highest tally in suggested road repairs, with more than $3.1 million of his $4.1 million in designated road needs being graded Type 5 surfaces.
Cox, whose district covers a major portion of the parish’s southwestern corner, is worried he won’t be able to chip away at much of those needs because the jury tries to evenly allocate road funds to each district.
“We should look at the parish as a whole in taking care of the road system instead of dividing up the money between each district,” he said. “We have to really look at this … and go strictly off the grading system.”
Juror Melanie Bueche, who has the fourth-highest total in suggested road work, said the parish has tried to prioritize funds based on need, but it doesn’t always work.
“When you have a program with work to be done in all 12 districts, you spend a lot of money having to relocate equipment from one district to another,” she said. “But if we allow these roads to go too much further without repair, we’re going to totally lose them, which is what it was like 20 years ago when I joined the Police Jury.”
Bueche needs to address about $2.4 million worth of proposed road-related projects herself, according to the report.
Districts 1 and 2 both take the third and second spots, respectively, in total suggested roadwork.
District 1 is looking at $2.5 million worth of needed improvements, while $3.8 million in improvements are highlighted in District 2.
New Juror Mitch Langlois, who represents District 2, is hoping the Police Jury will set aside the money this year to have the parish’s worst roads fixed first.
“I haven’t had a chance to review all the roads in my district just yet, but I plan on doing so soon,” he said.
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