Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – Za Montz has been fighting most of his life.

As a young man serving in World War II, he fought for his country in the Philippines for two years. He has fought for his wife of 56 years, Mildred, and his four children. And more recently, he has fought to bring to light a lingering problem with the antiquated sewer lift station behind his home that overflows and floods his street when it rains.

But now, Montz can stop fighting parish officials to repave the ramshackle road he and his family have lived on for so many years – a road he donated to the parish when it needed it and a road that was last blacktopped almost 20 years ago.

“It’s a miracle,” he said sitting next to his wife on a swing behind his home in Reserve. “I’ve been begging for my road to get fixed and I couldn’t get anybody to do anything about it.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a few of Montz’s neighbors stood outside in the blistering heat and watched in disbelief as the new asphalt was laid.

Karen Scioneaux, Montz’s only daughter and next-door neighbor, looked relieved as a Coastal Bridge Co. team finished a portion in front of her driveway.

“It needed to be done a long time ago,” she said. “And I’m shocked it is as nice as it is.”

The work complicated traffic much of the day, but Anthony Hiers, who lives at the other end of the road and had no pavement at all before Wednesday, said he parked near the front of the street to avoid being blocked in.

“It’s well worth the hassle,” he said smiling and sweating. “I’m really happy with it.”

Za Road – a small, unprepossessing side road named for the man, of course – sits quietly off Airline Highway near Reserve Christian Church and across from Central Avenue. Marked “dead end street,” it ends at a metal gate that Montz locks every night.  Beyond the gate, a gravel path leads to the Reserve Relief Oxidation Pond, a 40-acre body of water containing a sewer lift station also named for Montz.

(Because the lift station tends to back up with sewage each time it rains, parish officials in March declared a public emergency in the area and vowed to implement a timely solution. Parish officials said new pumps have been ordered and installation is scheduled to begin within about 6-7 weeks)

During a recent interview and golf cart tour of his world, Montz recounted his struggle to have Za Road repaved, stopping once or twice to taunt one of five alligators swimming around in the pond.  

“I’ve been complaining,” he said. “I was the biggest complainant of all.”

Montz described himself as a hard worker and “a man who won’t keep his mouth shut about anything.”

Concerned with the many cracks and potholes, he attended several Parish Council meetings over the years and urged officials to consider repairing Za Road.

But Montz said he was never taken seriously.

“Right now I’m retired from the parish and they think it’s a joke, it’s all a joke.”

 Za Road actually began as Cypress Road, a shell path that Montz started himself nearly 50 years ago.  The land behind his home – where much of his family lives now – consisted of just trees at the time.

When parish officials offered to buy the road for access to the pond, Montz was working for the parish as an inspector of sewage pumps but refused to sell it. He instead donated the road to the parish and was content with the prospect of maintaining a pasture on his land as trees were cleared.

The parish later renamed the road in his honor without first telling him about it, Montz said.

While Montz and his wife say they don’t care much for politics, they credit former Parish President Lester Millet Jr. with blacktopping the road about two years into his term in the early 1990s.

“Politic came and helped me out,” Montz said, a hint of Cajun French in his accent.

Asked why – after so long – the parish had finally repaved Za Road, Montz laughed: “I campaigned for [Parish President] Bill Hubbard. He told me ‘Za, I’m gonna take care of you.’ So politic came and helped me out.”    

Hubbard, in a telephone interview, said residents of Reserve and Garyville “have been forgotten for a long time.”

As for Montz and the campaign: “We’re friends,” he said. “But I just did my job”