You Can’t Get There From Here

By Ida B. Torn

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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.

2015 Audit-NPGpage6

5 thoughts on “You Can’t Get There From Here

  1. I live in rural Natchitoches Parish and the tax dollars we pay in and every time we shop in Natchitoches never seem to show up out here. I live on a short dirt road that if it is not graded once a year it goes back to the property owners…so maybe we will get our once a year grading but however they did spend thousands upon thousands to straighten out the curve know as the “S” curve at the red barn. So if Marthaville wants to see why our roads didn’t get taken care of just go to the “NEW” Not “S” curve! The last time Hwy 487 was re-paved I was 14 years old and I am about to turn 55! 41 years REALLY!

  2. I have said it time and time again, and I guess I will keep saying it because some people do not or choose not to see the point I am trying to make.

    You can not justify saying that each road only gets $1800 a year based off of X amount of dollars divided by number of roads. Now if you want me to believe that line of thinking, lets go by $$ to the mile of road, the problem you will get there is number of miles of paved roads that will have higher upkeep costs vs gravel roads that have lower ones, there is no way to break it down the way it is been done that is fair.

    None of this matters to residents of the city who do not have to drive on this trails that used to be roads. That is my problem with the Home Rule Charter. I said it back in 2012 that if this passes, the rural residents would be forgotten and look what has happened. Nothing short of $100+ MILLION will fix this problem anytime soon and I am not expecting something to happen overnight. I also do not see how raising our local sales taxes to the highest level in the state will do any good either. I have said from the beginning that we need to see just how what we are paying in is being spent. The $3+ MILLION on the “Riverbank Improvements” is something that rural residents of the parish such as myself can not understand. I know that it is coming from the Cane River Waterway fund not the road fund but why do they have money saved up for that? Are we overpaying into the Cane River Waterway? This is just one example, I am sure if I have time, I could find more.

    I know I am just wasting my breath, Nothing will ever change. The roads will continue to get worse. Residents of the rural part of the parish will continue to suffer and nothing will be done. But hey, we have the Christmas Festival coming up so I guess there is some more money to nickel and dime tourists right???

  3. The problem is why should the Parish spend millions of dollars on a 20 mile road that a handful of folks live on? Natchitoches Parish is just too large to keep all roads in perfect condition. It would cost billions a year to do that sort of upkeep. This problem will never be solved.

    • It would not cost billions of dollars, Steve. Dirt roads are pretty basic…you need ditches, a packed top, then plenty of gravel (not the chunks of sharp rock favored by the parish), and then you leave them the heck alone. Regular grading is not necessary after they become packed. When water runs down the ditches instead of the roads, it all works well. The money spent
      up front to get things back to some semblance of normalcy would not be a recurring expense.

  4. Thank you for a logical and rational presentation on the parish road system, its costs and the efficient and effective use of tax money by the parish government. This is the best brief description of the challenges faced and met by the current form of government.

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