By Ida B. Torn
I’ve talked to a lot of people over the last few months since the Parish Council voted to put a sales tax initiative on the ballot in November. I have found that most people are willing to discuss their feelings about the situation with our Parish roads with a certain level of intelligence and with their emotions kept in bay. You will not find one person, including me, who thinks our roads have seen improvements since the change in form of government. Some people are basing the success of the Home Rule Charter solely on the condition of our roads. I take issue with this argument. To me, that is a very dangerous way of looking at our Parish Government. Our Parish has operated without creating new deficits for the last three years. It has managed to obtain and regain funding for numerous road projects through the Capital Outlay program, which means State funding for local projects. The Parish successfully negotiated the paving of a Parish road by the Red River Waterway Commission, another State agency. It has successfully negotiated the expansion of the Parish landfill with DEQ. Without the new permitting, Parish residents would not have a local option for dumping. And, maybe most importantly, the Parish renegotiated its contract with the Sheriff’s Office for the cost of housing prisoners at the Detention Center. This accomplishment alone is projected to save the Parish at least $150,000 per year. Putting aside the condition of our roads, the new form of Government has proven to be very effective.
Some people seem to forget that Natchitoches Parish experienced a severe drought prior to the form in change of government. You may remember that the Cane River was so low that you could almost walk across it in places without getting your knees wet! Since the change in form of government, the Parish has experienced two major federally declared disasters due to flooding. Just this past week alone we’ve had heavy rainstorms every single night. The sinking of buses and other heavy equipment are pretty good indicators that our roads are super-saturated. The Parish has yet to have any real “dry season” since coming out of the drought.
A friend of mine recently told me that I need to discuss things in a “peas and carrots” kind of way. Provide information that people can obtain themselves that support your argument removing any doubt. For example, anyone who requests a copy of the road maintenance database from the Parish would learn that the Parish has over 975 roads in its system. Anyone can go to the State Auditor’s website and download any of the Parish’s audits all the way back to 1995. If you want to find specific information on how much tax was paid into Road District 40 or any other taxing district of the Parish, you can research it through the Louisiana Tax Commission’s website.
In looking at these three sources of factual information, one can deduce that, in 2015, the Parish Road Maintenance Fund received $1,772,611 in revenues from various sources. If you divide that number by the number of roads (rounded down to 975), the Parish had approximately $1,818.06 to maintain each road in its system in 2015. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. The Parish cannot provide the quality of roads that residents are demanding with the resources that the residents are affording it and it has absolutely nothing to do with our form of government.
The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this submission. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal. If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.