Weather wreaking havoc on parish budget
Published 7:45 am Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Heavy rains the past several days have taken a toll on area roads and may ultimately impact an already stressed budget.
More than 13 inches of rain has fallen in Washington Parish the past few days, and although no bridges have washed out, some roads have flooded, briefly stranding residents before parish work crews rapidly responded to clear a path.
“We are having a very tough time with the rain,” Parish President Richard Thomas said. “We are having to haul gravel in the rain. The roads crews are responding immediately to clearing streets that are blocked in.”
Roads director Lavell Gerald said the inclement weather has been wreaking havoc with crews who have been opening and closing many of the same roads for the past several days. At least two roads, including P. Morgan Road, were closed for several days.
He said it seems as soon as a “Road Closed” sign is taken down, the rain begins and crews have to “put the sign back up.”
“No one is trapped in,” he said.
One advantage to the weather, Gerald said, is the opportunity to evaluate which culverts need to be repaired or perhaps even moved.
“It’s a good chance to see what needs to be done,” he said. “Some of the rain, no matter how big the culverts would not have held it.”
Thomas said the river levels, especially the Bogue Chitto, have receded since this past weekend when there were some flooding concerns. But he said the swollen rivers appeared to have no caused problems other than in low-lying areas, saying parish residents “know when to move and when not to.”
“The (Bogue Chitto) was predicted to crest at 14 feet, but we knew it would probably go about 16 feet, and it came close to that,” he said.
Thomas said sandbags are available in Franklinton, and crews are standing by to help with the loading process.
Gerald and Public Works Director Leo Lucchesi agreed some of the work is only temporary, using sand and gravel, and once the weather finally clears crews will be forced to go back and make permanent repairs. Those repairs may involve substantial work, including paving, but Lucchesi said it’s much too early for a damage estimate.
However, the ultimate damage amount is a source of concern for Parish Finance Director Donna Alonzo, who, along with Thomas, struggled to create a balanced budget for 2013. Admittedly, the budget is no frills and any unexpected expenses, such as those associated with a weather event, are significant.
“It’s killing us,” she said. “And we’re only in January.
“(Hurricane) Isaac punched us in the gut. This is continuing to do that.”
She said some money has been budgeted in maintenance to cover some of the expenses, but not all.
“It’s a concern,” she said, eyes focused on a nearby window where rain continued to pound the parish.
During the Parish Council meeting Monday night, Greg Route was reelected chairman and Mike Fussell vice-chairman. All of the committees will remain the same.