St. John Council disputes road fixes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 5, 2012

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

LAPLACE – Relief may soon be on the way for motorists navigating a minefield of potholes and other hazards along heavily traveled Carrollwood Drive in LaPlace.

St. John the Baptist Parish Council members agree the problematic and often-repaired road that shoulders heavy industrial traffic, including 18-wheel trucks going into Wal-Mart, needs a facelift, but the issue is whether a Band-Aid approach, such as an asphalt patch or concrete tile, is more cost efficient than completely redoing the road, which would be much more costly but also a longer-term solution.

“My concern is the residents have to go through reconstruction every four to five years,” Councilwoman Cheryl Millet said during the parish council meeting Tuesday. “Let’s fix it right and be done, and they’re not inconvenienced, and we’ll have a safe road with all of the traffic that goes on there. Do it right, and we’re done.”

Parish Public Works Director Brian Nunes said during the meeting he had received two estimates in July to pave Carrollwood from Ormond to Greenwood. The cost to asphalt the road came in at $318,000, and for concrete $786,000.

An asphalt patch to be completed by a private company already contracted by the parish was being considered to complete the work.

However, Nunes’ comments appeared to catch councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard by surprise, which led to a lengthy discussion about paving priorities along Carrollwood. Hotard said she has been asking the administration about repairing Carrollwood from Dominican to Greenwood and was unaware of the Ormond to Greenwood stretch.

She said she had sent emails to parish officials regarding her request and “they have been ignored.”

Parish engineer Chuck Savoie said he had been asked by Parish President Natalie Robottom’s administration to prepare estimates about paving Carrollwood from Madewood, which is the same roadway as Dominican, to Fairway and had presented several options to consider. However, Savoie assured Hotard he would prepare an estimate to pave the street from Dominican to Greenwood.

The discussion then shifted to the most cost effective method to fix the road. Part of the problem, according to road officials, is Carrollwood was originally a concrete street that has had several asphalt patches, thus creating the sinkage and other malfunctions.

“That’s a typical problem on concrete roads,” Nunes said. “You put asphalt over them, it tends to happen.”

Hotard said problems such as sinking and water leaks appear to emerge every few years, creating a nightmare for motorists. She added she is concerned about patching being the long-term solution.

“I don’t know what the problem has been with the road but when we overlay it every few years, the same sinkholes, the same areas start to crumble as if the base is bad,” she said. “The whole street is not bad, but what we’ve seen is overlay it and the same problems come up.

“My concern is we are constantly putting asphalt (patches) and spending $100,000. Why don’t we get it right?”

Robottom said budgetary concerns are part of the reason patches, or concrete tiles, are frequently used. She said spending nearly $800,000 to concrete one stretch of Carrollwood is cost prohibitive at this time.

She said using patches under the parish’s current asphalt contract would be significantly less until there were adequate funds to complete the entire road. However, she said Savoie has provided her with two options for asphalting the road rather than patching. Each of those options is being considered.

“We are not looking to waste money,” Robottom said.

Councilman Art Smith said before any paving or patching begins, engineers should first determine the condition of the base.

“In order for us to fix these streets we have to find out what is causing the problem,” he said. “Something is causing these bases to bad. Concrete doesn’t normally break up unless you have a bad base.

“Until you find the root cause of the problem you’re throwing (away) bad money.”

Councilman Ranney Wilson, whose district includes Garyville, Reserve and Mt. Airy, reminded council members of the deteriorating road conditions in his areas as well. Plus, he added a caveat that “90 percent of the taxes come from (his district). We are in never, never land.”

“We have a lot of serious problems,” he added. “There are streets in Reserve that should have been done years ago. We have to fight with this every day. Not once in a while but every day.”

He said he would rather see the parish take whatever steps are necessary to pave Carrollwood for the long term and then spend the money that will be saved from not having to patch it periodically elsewhere.

“I just don’t want to throw away good money,” he said.