Four independent road districts up for vote in August

244

Parish Council passes resolution to begin process

By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

NRMC -Living Well 300×250

There appears to be movement toward a way to finance road maintenance since the Parish Council passed four resolutions at the meeting Monday. The plan divides the parish into four road districts that will each generate its own ad valorem taxes that will be used exclusively in that district for road maintenance. Parish Council President Rick Nowlin said the divisions include, generally, the area around Natchitoches but excludes the city; area east of Red River with one small section on the west side; the Marthaville area south and east to the parish line; and Natchez and Cane River. Nowlin said one key point is that the tax money could only be used for road and bridge improvements in the district that pays the tax.  If the voters in a tax district do not pass the tax, the people in that district will not pay the tax and the roads in that district will not receive any of the new road district tax money from other districts that pass the tax.

This chart depticts the parish ad valorem tax revenue generated by household. An ad valorem tax is a tax based on the assessed value of an item such as real estate or personal property. The most common ad valorem taxes are property taxes levied on real estate.

It will still receive a portion of the existing Road District 40 tax money, but that tax has proven insufficient to address the highway needs.  Road District 40 is the entire parish except for the City of Natchitoches. Although Parish Government has five districts, the road maintenance districts are drawn along 10 historic taxing wards. Nowlin plans to distribute maps and details of the plan before the August meeting.

There were four votes from the council to pass the resolutions that are necessary to begin the process to get the propositions on the ballot. Chris Paige cast the only dissenting vote. Those voting for the resolutions were Russell Rachal, Doug deGraffenried, Pat Ward-Hoover and Rodney Bedgood. There will be a vote on the ordinances to establish the road districts at the August meeting. The council has considered a similar plan from deGraffenreid but would not vote to move it to a ballot.

Pat-Ward Hoover will have at least two town hall meetings in her district and hopes to have a committee to inform her constituents about the tax. “I will let the people decide,” Hoover said. Parish Government will apply for federal funds to resurface three roads as part of the new federal BUILD infrastructure program. They are Harmony, Bermuda and Pardee roads. The highly competitive grant program will provide $1.5 billion dollars to parishes and counties nationwide. The deadline for the lengthy applications is July 19. Nowlin said it would take approximately $5 million to resurface the three roads. The grants, if awarded, pay for peeling the top surface, applying soil cement and applying new asphalt.

The applications must include estimates and match offers. The grants will be awarded in December. The program will consider projects in rural areas with no local match. Work on the long-awaited Coco Bed Road project should begin in July. Facility Planning and Control approved awarding the contract to low bidder, Merrick LLC of Cottonport, with a bid of $332,494. State Capital Outlay includes $280,000 for the project and $94,000 from Parish Government match.

Hampton Road design work should be completed by the end of June. Following a review by the Red River Waterway Commission that is paying for most of the work, the plans will be advertised for bids. The construction contract should be awarded at the Aug. 20 meeting. The plans are nearing completion for Payne Subdivision streets, Phase 1. The plans will be sent to Facility Planning and Control for review and approval. The state will contribute $500,000 and Parish math will be $167,000. The council approved a budget revision pertaining to a handicap ramp and restrooms in the courthouse. The estimate was considerably more than projected costs. The redesign for the ramp projects the cost at $70,000 and for the bathrooms at $30,000.

The Government Buildings fund will pay for the projects. Head Start Director Chrishell Metoyer spoke to Bedgood’s inquiry about opening a Head Start center at the Goldonna school and said she received 25 inquiries from that area area. There were only seven inquiries last year. She would have to close one that is established to open one in Goldonna. Metoyer said she would work on a pre-school expansion grant through the school board that would require board approval. Although there will not be a Goldonna program this year, Metoyer said it was not a dead

issue. Bedgood said there was space at the Goldonna school for a program

The council approved the following agenda items:

•Changed speed on Clark Loop road to 15 mph

•Approved a COLA raise for Head Start employees to be funded from the federal grant

•Will pay $2,000 annually to Charles Cloud for a dump site on his property in Goldonna. The increase will give Cloud the same amount as other owners who offer their property for dump sites. He has been paid $1,200.

•Approved appointment of Bobby Hughes as director of public work for an annual salary of $65,000

•Approved declaring surplus items from Head Start and the highway department. The highway surplus is metal culverts that have been removed and are stored at the highway department where they take up space.

•Changed the Parish Council meeting from July 18 to July 25 because Council Clerk Sheryl Frederick will not be at the meeting.

Stacy Stewart was the lead spokesperson for residents who live in the Fox Run Subdivision. They want the Parish to repair Hicks Road that leads from La. Hwy. 504 into Fox Run. The stretch is .72 miles long and 172 property owners live in that area. Residents paid $231,992 in property taxes in 2017 and say the bad road results in lost tax revenue. Among others speaking were Jimmy Jensonne, Trent Friedel, Madison Pierce and Billy Benefield. Friedel, who is a nurse anesthetist at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, said many EMS workers live in that area and cannot respond in a timely manner.

“We have no one else to turn to,” Jeansonne told the council when talking about the safety issues on the road where one fatality and numerous wrecks have occurred. Pierce said after it rains, there are craters in the road. Benefield said the 20-ton weight limit signs were taken down and not replaced. “Eighteen-wheelers are there regularly. It’s a raceway and is dangerous.” Benefield said the subdivision developers “took the money and ran.” He cited a 100,000 pound chipper that traveled on the road. David Hall, who lives in the Fox Run area, said his father pays much higher property taxes in Virginia.

“If we don’t tax ourselves, we won’t get anything done.” Residents who live on Bermuda Road were there to complain about the condition of the road. Germaine Wynn thanked the council for selecting the road as one of three for which the Parish Government will seek federal funding and offered to help with the applications.

Anthony Lacour said the road had deteriorated from asphalt to white powder; Janet and Anthony Lacour said it was dangerous trying to get to St. Paul Church; Elaine Strickland said it was “from bump to bump” between Soloman Road and the church. “It’s destroying our vehicles,” and said the council needed a Plan B should the federal funds not be granted. Janet Metoyer said she was unable to return to her home for two weeks following surgery because the road was so bumpy. John Metoyer said nothing had been done on the road in 20 years and the fire district had trouble getting equipment there.