As a dispute rages over what to name a new high school in Youngsville, the city’s mayor says it appears road improvements needed as part of the school’s construction are going to cost the city more than expected.
Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter said he’s looking for the Lafayette School Board to contribute financially toward the infrastructure costs, but School Superintendent Donald Aguillard said there’s no money in the school system’s budget to help pay for infrastructure.
The request for financial support from the School Board comes in the midst of a very public turf war over the future name of the high school after an advisory committee’s ranking order of its preferred names had the suggestion of Youngsville High below two others: Caneview High and Cypress High.
Ritter has spoken in support of naming the school Youngsville High, but says he’s not stuck on that name. And, he said, the request for financial help is unrelated to the name dispute.
Youngsville’s city council approved the 90-acre plat carved out for the new high school last week, but attempts to tack on extra costs for road improvements needed for the development as a condition for the approval were unsuccessful.
The city is investing about $750,000 in water and sewer infrastructure for the school, but the road improvements are still needed, Ritter said. He said similar requests have been made in the past for developments in the city and the plat consideration process is the time to discuss such issues.
“We require all the time for developers to put turning lanes off of any major (road),” Ritter said. “It’s consistent with what we’ve done on other plats.”
Aguillard said Friday that Ritter and other Youngsville officials have not previously discussed the potential for the board to contribute financially to any road improvements near the school site. The school is planned for board-owned property bordered by Chemin Metairie Parkway, Almonaster Road and South Larriviere Road. The school will be constructed near Almonaster and South Larriviere — which will require some infrastructure improvements, Ritter said.
Aguillard said money for infrastructure improvements isn’t in the school’s $66 million budget.
“If the School Board would need to share in those infrastructure improvements it would jeopardize the programming of the school,” Aguillard said. “For instance, if we had to come up with $500,000, it would have to be squeezed out of the building. We don’t have the capacity to add more to the project (budget). Whatever additional cost may have to take place, it would have to be figured out given the scope of the building.”
Ritter said the city will seek alternative funding for the needed road improvements, but is hopeful the School Board may be able to assist with funding for turn lanes to provide proper access to the school.
“I hope that we can still continue that dialogue,” Ritter said. “Ultimately, they’re going to need proper access as well. It’s needed.”
Aguillard said he’s had “good conversations” with both Ritter and Broussard Mayor Langlinais about ensuring the school construction stays on track. The school is set for an August 2017 opening.
Ritter and Langlinais have been at odds over the school’s naming, with Langlinais pushing for the school to be named either Caneview or Cypress High.
Aguillard said the debate over the name has been unexpected.
“The school system has a need for a new high school in the southside of Lafayette,” he said. “We’ve had very good discussions at this point. The naming seems to be more problematic than anything else and we’ll move past this and move on with the project.”
Ritter said Friday that he didn’t weigh in on the school’s naming until he saw a problem with the process that was being used and started asking questions.
Ritter said he’s yet to receive from the school system public records he asked for on how the advisory committee came up with Caneview and Cypress as the top two picks. The Acadiana Advocate requested email exchanged among committee members related to the ranking of the names late Thursday morning and received them within an hour.
Former Mayor Wilson Viator, who was succeeded by Ritter in January, said he thinks the school should be named Youngsville High. He said he and other city officials worked for years for the board to build a school in Youngsville, pledging water and sewer and even literally paving the way in the development of Chemin Metairie Parkway.
“Youngsville is being asked to put up a lot of money to make this school happen. We want it to happen, but there’s no reason at all not to name that school Youngsville High,” Viator said.
Viator said he doubted Langlinais or other Broussard city officials would push for the school to be named Caneview if the high school was on Broussard property and that city was providing a significant investment in infrastructure.
“If the school were being built in Broussard and he was supplying all roads, sewer, water and infrastructure, would he want it named Caneview or Cypress? We don’t even have a cypress tree in Youngsville anymore,” Viator said.
Langlinais, who has been working with the school system to identify property in his city for a replacement school for Katharine Drexel Elementary, said he hasn’t asked nor expects the School Board to name a school after Broussard — even though the city has also committed to any needed infrastructure improvements once a property is identified.
He defended his and the Broussard’s council’s preference for naming the school Caneview, saying it reflects the agricultural identity of the area.
There has long been a rivalry between the cities of Broussard and Youngsville. That includes involves a history of legal challenges between the two municipalities over property annexations. Langlinais acknowledged a rocky relationship with the prior administration in Youngsville and said he wants to work more cooperatively with the new administration.
“I do not want to create more divisions between Youngsville and Broussard,” he said. “I think what’s happening is it’s becoming an issue that’s a nonissue.”
School Board member Jeremy Hidalgo, who held a press conference Friday to try to cool passions over the school naming, urged all parties to cooperate in “directing our energy to ensure our new school is the recipient of the finest education technology and building materials available.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.