Resident gets council talking roads

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Public participation brought about a discussion on the parish road program during the Washington Parish Council meeting Monday night.

Franklinton area resident Tommy Edwards addressed the council, asking for an approximate date when the gravel Corkern Road will be paved. He said a road tax was passed years ago, and his road was on a list unofficially associated with that tax.

The problem, Edwards said, is that the gravel from the road washes onto his property during a heavy rainfall. He said he has to buy new blades for his lawnmower every time he cuts the grass due to the large amount of gravel in his yard.

He said the road is only 3/4 of a mile long and likely could be completed in one day. Several others who live on that road also attended the meeting.

The councilman for Edward’s district, Aubrey Posey, said the road is on the list of those approved to be paved, but he would not be able to give an exact date when that will take place.

Councilman Chuck Nassauer said it sounds like there is a drainage issue on Corkern Road, and Parish President Richard Thomas said that it would be addressed within the next few weeks.

Hurricane Isaac put the road program behind schedule last year, and crews are currently working in the eastern side of the parish, Chairman Greg Route said. There are still a few roads left that were scheduled to be paved in 2012, he added.

About $1 million from the parish’s transportation fund had to go repairing damage from Isaac, Councilman Mike Fussell said. The parish has been reimbursed about $300,000 of that so far by FEMA.

Thomas said the 10-mill road tax was passed in 2002. There were quite a few roads remaining from that original list when he took office in 2008, but there was no money left to pave them. The last road blacktopped with those funds was done in August 2007, he said.

Thomas said some debt was paid out, and voters renewed the tax in 2010.

Parish Director of Public Works Leo Lucchesi provided additional background. The parish had expected to get 410 miles of road out of the original bonding program in 2002 but ended up getting about 260 miles, he said.

He said asphalt was about $33 a ton when the tax was first passed, but the prices began shooting up to $60-70 a ton in 2005 and 2006. The price per ton is now at about $88-90 a ton, he said.

About five years ago the parish decided to change its road program, he said. Rather than bonding the work out the parish would use cash that came in from the tax and have its own crews build the roads.

When that program was implemented in 2008 the parish invested in a stone-spreading machine, a better tar-spreading machine and other such items, Lucchesi said. The new program has allowed the parish to have control over the cost, he said.

“We’ve been able to stabilize the cost per mile,” he said. “It’s been very helpful. We’re getting out there and doing the mileage as we can.”

Back when the roadwork was being contracted out it cost about $95,000-$125,000 per mile to pave a road, a cost that would likely be $150,000-170,000 per mile today, Councilman Ken Wheat said. The new program continues with money from the same tax, but it is allowing roads to be paved at a cost of about $34,000 per mile, he said.

There is a misunderstanding within the parish that a specific list of roads was attached to the referendum when the tax was passed in 2002, Wheat said. The list had been created five years before the tax was passed, and it has been tweaked since then, he said, adding sometimes roads have to be moved up in order of priority, and a road that was high on the list years ago might now be in better shape than others that used to be low on the list.

Posey said roads have been added to the original list. Each councilman submits a list each year of the roads he wants paved in his district, and he reiterated that Corkern Road is on that list.

In other council news, T.C. Nobles Road was extended on the Public Works maintenance inventory list to include an additional 700 feet. That span has been improved in recent years and now includes additional residential structures.

Additionally, Levi Lewis was reappointed to the Planning Commission for a term ending Dec. 31, 2015.

The issue of vacancies on the commission was addressed during council discussion, and Nassauer said there are a couple of prospects to fill the two open spots.

“I think we’re going to have some movement on that in the very near future,” he said.