Lois Collins complains about road and drainage conditions about 10 miles east of Eunice at the Wednesday meeting of the St. Landry Parish Council’s Public Works Committee in Opelousas. (Photo by Harlan Kirgan)
After paving 300 miles, road complaints keep resurfacing
St. Landry Parish Government has paved about 300 miles of road in the Smooth Ride Home program, but it is the remaining roads, often pot-holed and flood-prone, that the Parish Council hears about on a regular basis.
Problems with rural roads about 10 miles east of Eunice resurfaced at Wednesday’s parish committee meetings.
Lois Collins, of Lois Lane, Church Point, said, “I’m here and I will be here until I see my tax dollars that I pay since we started the road home begin work in my area. I’m not here just for me, I’m here for a community.”
Collins said her complaints center on Joe W., Abe and Sonnier roads.
In March, Janel Simien, of Joe W. Road, complained about the road conditions in the area.
Simien said she and her family moved there in 2011 and the road has deteriorated.
“The roads were more solid then. Now it is garbage,” she said.
Simien even offered parish government dirt off her property to raise the road.
Collins made a similar offer to supply dirt at the Public Works Committee meeting on Wednesday.
“It was promised by Mr. Schexnayder (Russell Schexnayder, Public Works director) this spring they would be lifting the road that leads directly to mine, which is Abe Road. That road was lifted many, many years ago,” Collins said.
“We need to make access for all the people of the parish, not just those that have blacktops — those that have nice roads that pass in front of their homes,” she said.
In 2013, Rural St. Landry Parish voters approved a 2 percent, 15-year sales tax for road improvement. Tax collections began in 2014 and road work began in 2015.
The initial bond issue for the program was $66 million and by 2028, the end of the 15-year bond, about $75 million in work will be completed, Parish President Bill Fontenot.
Despite the first-ever parish-wide road-paving program, about 300 miles of older paved and gravel roads remain in the parish, Fontenot
Those roads are in peril as parish finances are stretched thin in a budget vice of courthouse expenses and demands for road and drainage work in rural areas.
District 11 Councilman Timmy Lejeune’s district includes the area east of Eunice asked that additional graders be considered in the next budget.
“I would also like to either seek out funding somewhere else or find cuts to be able to have more graders to operate in the parish when we do this budget,” he said at the Administrative-Finance Committee.
“We still have approximately, and I don’t know the number, but maybe 3 percent or 1 percent less gravel roads than we had before the Smooth Ride Home program, Lejeune said.
The gravel roads still exist and are in worse shape than before the Smooth Ride Home program began, he said.
District 7 Councilman Alvin Stelly, who represents an area in eastern St. Landry Parish around Arnaudville, echoed Lejeune’s observation.
Citing Collins, Stelly said, “I agree with this woman 100 percent. Everybody pays taxes — that 2 cent sales tax — and the people on those gravel roads are not getting anything. Nothing. And, that’s a shame because to me the more roads we overlay it looks like we should serve the people that has got gravel roads better.”
There are two graders in operation in the parish, he said. “We need another patrol, but we also need patrols on each end of the parish,” he said.
Lejeune said work has been done on the roads east of Eunice.
“I have spoken to Mr. Fontenot (parish president) concerning that issue. Mr. Fontenot has committed. Yes, he is very much aware of that and he says he wants to get that done. He’s told me that. I know funding is short,” Lejeune said.
Highlighting the issue, Collins aid, “If I would stand in that hole on Sonnier Road it would reach me right below the knee and it has been there for a long time.”