Police Jury needs $1.7M to fully fund pavement, gravel projects

Published 12:13 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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VIDALIA, La. — Funds approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency funding won’t go as far as parish officials would like to repair drainage and water seepage issues on parish roads.

The FEMA grant covers just over $1.5 million of the $3.5 million needed to repair all the roads identified in the project.

FEMA-approved portions include the entirety of East and BJ roads and only portions of Eagle, Freeman, Guido, Sage, and Stephens roads.

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The grant also covers segments of gravel roads, including Chandler, Minorca, Rokafee, Deer Park Levee Road, South Prong, Fairview Landing, Old River Camp Road, Resort Road and Slocum Levee Road.

The grant also requires the parish to share 25 percent of the cost. It’s estimated the 25 percent match on the FEMA-approved portion is $267,015.85 and to finish the remainder of the roads is approximately $1.4 million, said the Police Jury assistant secretary Cathy Darden.

“There were some gaps that FEMA did not approve,” Darden said to the police jury during its Monday meeting. “We’re going to have to fix them sooner or later. We went through several funds you all could fund this with, even possibly using some of the (American Rescue Plan Act) funds. If you wanted to, we could do a bond issue. I hate to do that with interest rates as high as they are but roads have to be fixed.”

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the approved funds.

The deadline for the FEMA grants was extended to June for the gravel roads and to the end of the year for the paved roads, Darden said. However, many gravel roads in the parish, such as Minorca and Deer Park, go underwater when it rains contractors have to wait for them to dry up to do the work, she said.

Darden also encouraged police jurors to identify other roads in their district that need repair.

“If each juror would give us a list of at least two or three roads that need to be fixed we could get the engineer to do an estimate for us and see what we’re looking at,” she said. “I think we paid our loan down enough to where we have that steady sales tax coming in to meet the note.”

In other matters during Monday’s meeting, it was announced that four proposals from engineers were received for another federally funded drainage project that has been at least a decade in the works.

Earlier this year, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., announced a $6.2 million FEMA grant would fund the Brushy Bayou drainage project, designed to alleviate flooding parish-wide by diverting stormwater into the Tensas River through Brushy Bayou, away from Cocodrie Bayou.

Engineers predicted this would alleviate flooding in approximately 40 percent of the northern drainage area of the parish and lower the Vidalia Canal by approximately two feet when the project is finished.

A weir will also be installed to help maintain Brushy Bayou water levels at approximately 43 feet. A new bridge on Luke Martin Road will replace undersized culverts to increase flow.

The parish received proposals from Bryant Hammett & Associates, H. Davis Cole & Associates, Jordan Kaiser & Sessions and Neel-Schaffer.

A committee would score each of the proposals and come back to the police jury with a recommendation, officials said.

Darden said contracts could be executed by May 30 and project construction could wrap up around June of 2024.