‘You all come up with all kinds of excuses,’ Road, property conditions in parish questioned

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, June 15, 2022

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VIDALIA, La. — Monday’s meeting of the Concordia Parish Police Jury turned into arguments between an ex-police juror and current members about their ability to clean up properties and repair parish roads.

The arguing came after Willie Dunbar, who is a former police jury member, made a public record request for minutes from the jury’s May 23 meeting and the road superintendent’s work schedule.

Dunbar lost his District 2 seat on the police jury to Willie “Bill” Yearby in the 2020 election.

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During the May 23 meeting, Dunbar had addressed the jury members about their decision to adopt two new roads, Perch Hole Bayou Road and Red Oak Tree Lane.

“Why take on another road when you can’t even maintain the ones you have?” said Patricia Metcalf, a resident of Passman Road, during the May 23 board meeting. She added, “Our road is a hazard. An ambulance can’t come down our road going more than 10 to 15 miles per hour.”

Dunbar then said the board had agreed during his administration not to adopt any new roads until the roads they have to maintain were in better shape.

On Monday, the police jury heard more complaints from parish residents about the state of roads and districts.

Jacinta Walker, who resides on Freeman Road, asked to be added to Monday night’s meeting agenda and had nothing good to say to the jury.

Walker spoke about her road’s condition, which she said had been “patched up” numerous times but never blacktopped. She also talked about blighted and abandoned properties in her neighborhood. Walker said she had spoken to the jurors about it last year and it continues to be an issue.

“Are we about resolving problems or not?” she asked the jury. “There are several properties with mobile homes with grass growing up to the wazoo, but I understand Freeman Road is not like Lake St. John, Monterey or some of the other places that you all take priority in serving where the big taxpayers are. We’re a small road and I guess you want to overlook it, but I am a resident there now and I will do whatever it takes to make sure my daughter can play in the yard and me not have to worry about a moccasin or a raccoon coming out and attacking her.”

Sandi Burley, the jury secretary and treasurer, explained that nuisance properties had to be cited each year. She added certain issues could prevent the property from being cleaned, such as trees obstructing the property or gas or pipelines.

“Depending on what task is involved and the work schedule of the barn determines how things get cleaned up,” she said.

Addressing the road’s condition, officials said the road had been submitted for a FEMA grant.

Burley said she didn’t know how long it would take for the project to be funded.

“We just closed out the winter storm and that happened February of last year,” she said. “This is a construction grant that follows a lot longer list of guidelines.”

Walker asked why the road hadn’t been considered when the jury budgeted $3 million for infrastructure projects from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“We have not received $3 million,” Burley said. “We have received a portion thereof which has been allocated for water, sewer and broadband.”

Dunbar stood up during the public comments period at the end of Monday’s board meeting to ask for the minutes and work schedule.

District 4A Juror Genesia Allen explained that the minutes appear on the police jury’s website. “For the record, if you were to fill out a public records request, we’d have three days to respond and it’s $1 per page,” Burley said.

However, in this instance, the wait and the charge for the pages weren’t necessary.

Burley handed Dunbar a copy of the minutes and the work schedule that the jurors had just approved during Monday’s meeting.

“We have a lot of bad roads from Monterey up through Concordia Parish,” Dunbar said. “That road really needs work. Last week, another lady talked to you about bad roads and I don’t know what you all did about that. You all had said you were going to take care of two other roads. As for these properties, you all come up with all kinds of excuses as to why you can’t clean it up but the parish can go in there and clean it up. The parish can put a lien on their property taxes and if they don’t pay it, it can go up for a land sale. You all know that.”

In other matters during Monday’s meeting, the Concordia Parish Police Jury approved advertising for a replacement secretary and treasurer.

Burley previously announced she would be leaving. Burley accepted a job as a new plant manager for Syrah Resources in Vidalia and said she would start there on Monday.