Bumpy ride at council regarding street repairs

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 13, 2009



EDGARD – Tensions ran high in Edgard Tuesday night during a St. John Parish Council meeting as parish leaders tussled over street repairs.

Richard “Dale” Wolfe, Division A councilman-at-large, engaged in a brief shouting match with Parish President Bill Hubbard over repairs to three streets in Reserve that, Wolfe said, are in dire need of asphalt overlay. The verbal jabs led Council Chairman Ronnie Smith to call for a short recess in an effort to cool things down.

The streets in question are East 23rd, 26th and 28th in Reserve.

Wolfe said he asked for an update at the council meeting because the streets were supposed to be repaired last year.

“They put my streets on the back burner,” said Wolfe, “and if I just sit there and don’t say anything the complaint would just disappear.”

Hubbard said those streets, along with 18 more in Wolfe’s division, are included on a priority list of 27 streets parishwide that need repairs and overlay. He said the list, which was given to administration earlier this year, is generated by the council.

“We aren’t going to play, ‘That’s Division A, that’s Division B,’” Wolfe said, referring to the list. “I’m not here to pacify. I’m here to satisfy. Taxpayers are paying for services and they need council members who will represent their needs. I expect to see the streets repaired within the next six months.”

Hubbard said at the meeting he is familiar with all of the streets on the list and said he has driven on most of them, including the ones mentioned by Wolfe. He said after the meeting that he and Public Works Director Clifford Bailey prioritize the streets on the list based on the level of disrepair. He said East 26th Street, which was declared the worst of the three, is already being prepped for work.

“I have a high interest in public works,” said Hubbard. “It’s one thing that residents can actually see us doing.”

Toward the end of the debate, both Hubbard and Wolfe made amends and seemed to be apologetic toward one another.

St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the parish public works budget includes about $1 million for asphalt work, which is enough to repair roughly 10 to 15 streets. He said the parish works with one asphalt contractor, so streets are done one at a time.

“It’s a rolling process that doesn’t stay stagnant,” Boe said. “Once one street is ground up and ready for asphalt, work moves to the next street on the list.” Boe said the parish hopes to eventually have the budget to overlay all streets in need of repair.

In an unrelated street repair issue, Councilman Haston Lewis asked the administration for an update concerning repairs to the railroad crossing at La. Highway 640 in Edgard, which were requested at a previous council meeting.

St. John Chief Administrative Officer Pat McTopy said the administration has sent photos of the crossing to local and corporate representatives of Union Pacific, the company who owns the rail. He said the company intends to begin temporary repairs, which should be completed sometime next week.