Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

Timothy McJunkin joined Mandeville's Police Department in February 2017 but made a big impression quickly. Police Chief Gerald Sticker announced Feb. 8 that he was named the officer of the year. 

The announcement came at the Feb. 8 Mandeville City Council meeting.

“He can be depended upon and responds at a moment’s notice to calls,” Sticker said, listing off one of the many positives he said McJunkin brings to Mandeville. “Officer McJunkin is an asset to himself, to this department and to the city of Mandeville.”

Another matter taken up by the council at the meeting was a potential change to the turning lane on the five-lane portion of U.S. 190, which Mayor Donald Villere called a “suicide lane.”

The council unanimously approved a resolution allowing the mayor to enter into a $24,000 contract with the Forte and Tablada engineering agency to start looking at plans to eliminate the lane, which was added in a major 2010 project that widened U.S. 190 — commonly called Florida Street — from two lanes.

Though this represents a first step in the process of a possible change, Villere already has an idea of what a replacement might look like, saying replacing the turning lane with a median and openings for U-turns could be a good option.

And he’s not the only one that would like to see that change. Mandeville resident Craig Toomey thinks it can’t come soon enough.

“I was going to take a left turn down Lafayette Street. Well, one driver thought that center lane was his express passing lane,” Toomey said to the council. “And had I not developed a habit of checking my side-view mirrors, I would’ve turned directly into this idiot.”

District III Councilman John Keller agreed that a change is needed and said that making one would benefit more than just Mandeville.

“It’s not just the growth in Mandeville. It’s the growth in Lacombe, it’s the growth that’s east of the city that’s going to be using that corridor,” Keller said.

Not everyone’s optimistic about a change, though.

Former District III Councilman Ernest Burguieres didn't say he opposed a change but said people looking to see one shouldn’t get their hopes up.

Burguieres said that because it would require an agreement with the state, the project would go to the bottom of the state’s priorities, meaning it might not be finished for over a decade.

Villere said the city would enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with the state to pay for the project.

The five-lane section of U.S. 190 currently runs from Carondelet Street to just west of Clausel Street.

Follow Nick Reimann on Twitter, @nicksreimann.