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A car drives over a drainage ditch with culverts in Livingston Parish.

With the introduction of Livingston Parish’s proposed 2020 budget, a Master Plan Committee that had for months been stalled due to a lack of funding got a win to the tune of $187,500.

That funding influx should satisfy the 25% parish match needed for many federal grants, meaning the parish can move ahead with the costly and lengthy process of completing zoning and drainage studies that officials hope will fuel economic growth in the area.

Parishwide drainage and zoning has for years been a talking point in Livingston Parish as rapid growth along the economic corridor surrounding Interstate 12 near Denham Springs and Juban Crossing steams ahead without much planning oversight, and the more rural eastern portion of the parish hesitates to allow government input on their land.

A master plan was completed in 2013, but never acted upon. Earlier this summer, the parish council voted to approve that old document as a stopgap to pave the way for talking about zoning and drainage, but the committee’s chair, Gerald Burns, said work was at a standstill until there is funding to make any meaningful headway.

That next step came Thursday as the budget was introduced, including $62,500 allocated for the master plan’s zoning initiative and $125,000 to get started on the master plan’s drainage impact study, both items from the general fund.

“I just feel like we’re starting to make real progress,” Burns told the council Thursday.

Overall, the budget document sees a $3 million increase in the total 2020 operating budget to $65,813,146. The projected expenditures total almost $58 million.

The parish projects that revenues and expenditures will shift only marginally up or down in 2020 for the areas the parish is financially responsible for, including roads, maintenance, the parish jail, coroner, courthouse, health unit and animal control, among others.

The jail is historically the biggest unknown, as the number of inmates and elements like their medical needs fluctuate throughout the year and dictate how much the parish needs to spend on that care. In 2019, the parish spent just over $1 million more on jail operations than it had budgeted, ending with a final cost just under $4 million.

In 2020, revenues for the jail are expected to be $4.54 million primarily from sales tax, but expenditures for the facility are projected at $5.4 million, according to the budget report produced by parish Finance Director Jennifer Meyers. The parish has formed an advisory committee to specifically address eliminating the jail fund’s deficit in coming years.

With finances stabilizing since the 2016 flood, more effort is being put into ongoing work like roads and capital outlay.

Through the Master Plan Committee, a series of priority road projects was approved for the economic corridor in 2020, including a new four-lane road from Highway 16 to Juban Crossing slated to begin construction in December 2020 and expanding Florida Boulevard from two lanes to four lanes for 4.6 miles from Denham Springs to Walker.

Other priorities include roundabouts, additional interstate interchanges and road widening across the parish.

The proposed 2020 budget will be up for public hearing at the council’s Dec. 5 meeting.

Email Emma Kennedy at ekennedy@theadvocate.com.