Avoyelles Police Jury seeks bids for six Road District 2 projects

While the Avoyelles Police Jury and the recently created Road District 2 board are “going through some growing pains” in working out the proper procedures for getting road projects done in the four eastern wards, residents should be seeing work in their area soon.

Police Juror Henry Moreau, who represents the Simmesport area, said property owners in Wards 6, 7, 8 and 11 will be getting their tax notices soon and he believes it is important they see that tax at work before they have to pay the bill.

The jury held a special meeting -- its second since the September regular meeting -- on Oct. 3 to approve advertising for bids on six road projects estimated to cost $450,000.

Those bids will be received Nov. 7 and then come before the full jury for a contract to be awarded.

The projects are Gauthier Lane off La. Hwy 1 north of Simmesport, College Drive and Simms Street inside Simmesport, Big Bend Road in Hamburg and two sections of North Bayou des Glaises Road between Moreauville and Bordelonville.

Road District 2 sold $1 million in bonds this year, to be repaid over a 10-year period, so priority road projects could begin before the tax is actually collected this December and January.

The 30-mill property tax will generate about $800,000 a year and can only be used within District 2 for construction and maintenance of parish roads, municipal streets, roadside drainage and bridges and the purchase of necessary equipment, supplies and material for those projects.

It will result in a significant jump in property taxes for property owners on the current tax bills.

TWO PHASES OF WORK

Moreau said the Road District Commission divided the $1 million bond issue into roughly two phases.

“Most of Phase I was spent on the M-P Cutoff,” he said, referring to the parish road between Moreauville and Plaucheville. That road was recently improved with the state paying for a long section under an agreement with the Police Jury and the Road District paying for the remainder of the road work.

Moreau said the second phase is designed to put some work being done in most areas of the district.

Police Jury President Charles Jones began the meeting by apologizing for having to call so many special meetings recently to deal with Road District 2 issues.

“All I can say is that this is new,” Jones said.

He said it is important that Road District 2 succeed and that an efficient -- and, above all, legal -- process be established to handle the district’s operations and projects.

“We want to see this be successful,” Jones said. “This is a model for the rest of the parish.”

He said the parish has “a deteriorating infrastructure” that will only get worse if not addressed.

“If people see things getting done in Road District 2, then maybe the road district tax will pass in Road District 1 the next time,” Jones said, referring to the district that includes his constituents.

Voters in the other three road districts defeated their proposed road improvement/maintenance taxes last fall. Those districts were District 1, which included Ward 2, including the City of Marksville; District 3, Wards 1, 3, 4 and 5; and District 4, Wards 9 and 10.

“Nobody wins if Road District 2 fails,” Jones said.

Because the road district has its own exclusive tax revenue, a commission was appointed to review proposed projects and make recommendations to the Police Jury on where the district should spend that tax revenue.

DIFFERENT OPINIONS

In the several months that the district has been in operation, there has developed a difference of opinion on the nature and authority of that commission and its relationship to the Police Jury.

The chief advocates for the opposing views are Jones on one side and Moreau on the other.

District Attorney Charles Riddle told jurors that the differences are not insurmountable and can be easily remedied by the jury adopting a few policies and procedure guidelines.

The main dispute at the last meeting was over whether the Road Commission should be able to advertise for bids on major contracts and purchases on its own or whether it must have Police Jury approval to advertise.

Moreau said he understands the jury must approve any actual expenditure, as the governing authority for the parish.

“I am not asking to spend one silver dime that the Police Jury has not approved,” Moreau said. All he wants, he added, is for the district’s projects to move along as quickly as possible so they can be done while there is good weather for construction.

Jones said the Road Commission is an “advisory committee,” and “not a supervisory board” that would have the power to advertise on its own without jury approval.

The distinction is made in state law, and Jones said he checked with the Legislative Auditor’s Office and state Bond Commission, who both favor his interpretation.

Moreau said he would move to rename the commission the “Road 2 Supervisory Board” if it would resolve the issue. Jones said changing the name wouldn’t change the nature of the commission.

Riddle said he would research how the Road Commission was formulated to determine if it meets the criteria of a supervisory board. If it does, then Moreau is right and the jury does not have to give its approval before the board can advertise for bids on major projects. If it it doesn’t, then Jones is right and there will have to be an extra step in the process to ensure everything is done legally.

Jones again emphasized that the other jurors will not refuse the recommendations presented by the District 2 Road Commission -- as long as it follow state law and parish policy requiring contractors/vendors to have all necessary licenses, permits and insurance before any work is done.

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