Some voices were raised Thursday night, both for and against allowing roughly 1.75 miles of road into parish's maintenance program.
In the end, however, a 5-4 vote sent the addition of Riverscape Subdivision in District 8 to the ordinance committee. More specifically, the parish's ordinance that outlines the requirements for which roads can be accepted into the program, based on their status and condition, which was passed in 2009.
Councilman Randy Delatte (District 8) proposed introducing the subdivision into the program due to the poor state of it's condition, as well as the fact that while the road was private for the first two months, the gate that sat in front was down and it was now public use.
"These people pay taxes, their children go to our schools, the buses use this street, there's a public boat launch at the end," Delatte began, "the post office runs the route, first responders use it - and it's in terrible shape.
"This is the right thing to do."
Delatte was asked by councilman Garry 'Frog' Talbert (District 2) if Wildlife and Fisheries used the road to access the public boat launch, to which Delatte said yes, he had been told that. Talbert then said there could be state money to help overlay the road, as Wildlife and Fisheries require 'safe passage' to boat launches.
Delatte agreed, but continued to insist the road be added to the program.
When asked why the subdivision had not already been added, Department of Public Works Director Sam Digiralimo said that the base structure of the road was not secure, adding that when DPW tried to bring extra limestone for the portion of the road that was not paved, the substructure of the road shifted.
That's a disqualifying factor from being added into the parish system, Digiralamo added.
Current ordinance places roads to be accepted into the road program as either grade A, B, or C. Most of the 1.75 miles is asphalt overlay, which is grade A, but the subsurface shifting is an issue. The limestone portion is grade C.
Delatte shot back that parish ordinance and state law dictate that if the parish has at least maintained a road for three years, the parish accepts responsibility for the road and it is then part of the maintenance system and eligible for upgrade and overlay through the annual parish road program.
Delatte added that, during his time as head of DPW, he knew the road had been maintained for at least three years by his department - not necessarily with overlay, but with pothole repair and general maintenance.
Councilman Jeff Ard (District 1) raised a concern when he was allowed to speak.
"I have roads like this all over my district, people come to me almost in tears all the time about it," Ard began, "but they don't qualify, and we turn them down."
Ard expressed concern about 'opening the flood gates' with something like this before the underlying problem was fixed. Councilman Tracy Girlinghouse (District 7), who is chairman of the ordinance committee, agreed. Both men were concerned that if you allow one road or subdivision in before the underlying problem of how roads are allowed into the program, and how the parish can participate, then the door is open for requests to flood in with no process in place to determine who stays and who goes.
John Wascom (District 4) said that it should be up to the councilmen to determine who stays and goes, because they should 'know their district' and whether or not a road is getting in that's a 'pig trail' or a true commuting lane.
Delatte motioned that the road be placed into the program, but was countered by Ard with a substitute motion that the specific road issue and ordinance which governed which roads are in, and which roads are out.
The vote to send the ordinance back to committee for review won, 5-4, as follows:
- Ard (District 1)
- Girlinghouse (District 7)
- Talbert (District 2)
- Keen (District 3)
- Harris (District 5)
- Wascom (District 4)
- McMorris (District 6)
- Delatte (District 8)
- Mack (District 9)
However, the first vote was not quite enough, as Harris proposed to 'reconsider' his vote near the end of the parish council meeting. A member who voted 'yes' for an item is allowed to reconsider his vote, but must have a second to re-open the item.
Delatte held the book, Robert's Rules of Order' in his hands as he explained to the council.
The council then debated again, with Ard and Girlinghouse repeating their position. Wascom, however, brought up the road tax in November - a one-cent sales tax that the parish relies on for the yearly road maintenance program.
"If we don't allow these types of roads in, show these residents that we're trying to fix problems, then they're going to go to the polls in the fall and vote 'no,'" Wascom explained.
Talbert, however, had a different take.
"I feel like, over the past four years, we've been good stewards of tax money. I've removed roads from my district that were brought into the road program in the wrong way," Talbert explained, "we've followed the guidelines that were given to us. If we want to change them, that's fine, but I think showing people that were are using money for the right purposes, that will generate positive votes."
In the end, Harris rescinded his call to reconsider and the vote remained 5-4 in favor of sending the method by which roads are accepted into the road program to the ordinance committee for review.