By Paige Nash
The Webster Parish Police Jury is set to receive $5 million to make repairs and improvements to roads and bridges in the parish, but the jurors were split on how the funds should be dispersed. Police Juror for District #3, Daniel Thomas presented the idea to divide the money from the American Rescue Plan Act amongst the 12 districts.
The APRA is part of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package that is intended to assist the country to recover economically from the lingering effects of the pandemic. The amount of money received is determined by the number of residents in the parish.
“I think we could divide that $5 million for roads and bridges by all 12 districts, as long as we have a plan,” said Thomas. “Everybody in here gets $416,000 to go to their district. Personally, I think that’s what that money was intended for, especially covid relief money, that way you would spread it out over the parish. I make a motion that we split it 12 ways.”
WPPJ President, Jim Bonsall was not in agreement.
“I think it is legal to do it with ARPA money, but I don’t understand why we would deviate from the parish-wide system to do this,” he said.
The parish-wide system includes a list of all the roads in the parish that need repairs or improvements. A third-party company came in and prioritized these roads by a certain criterion. They look at the roads that have the highest traffic volume, serve the highest demand for travel and provide movement to major business districts, hospitals, schools, etc. They take into consideration the number of residents that live on the road and the current condition of the surface of the road.
“There are going to be a lot of roads that are higher on the list that aren’t going to get taken care of, and there are roads that are lower on the list that are going to get taken care of,” said Bonsall.
Thomas is motioning to defer from this parish-wide system and establish a priority system and list in each of the 12 districts.
“There are some roads that aren’t even on this list (parish-wide priority list),” said Thomas. “A lot of these towns need help. You could go into Cullen and make a big difference on these roads.”
Bruce Blanton, Juror for District #1 agreed by saying, “No roads are getting done in the north.”
The Dorcheat Road has been a high priority in the parish for quite a few years but has been put off due to the amount of money it is going to cost to completely repair the length of it. The jury decided to try and repair it in sections, but it has been about 6 years since the first section was finished.
There are a couple of other major roads that are in the south part of the parish that are high on that priority list, including Parkside Landing in Doyline.
“We have been putting these off because it’s going to cost too much to fix, and we have enough money to fix them now,” said Bonsall. “If we don’t fix them now, I don’t know when we will have the money to.”
The jurors were divided on whether they should stick with the parish-wide system or if they should establish a priority system in each district. Jurors Daniel Thomas, Bruce Blanton, Allen Gilbert, Bernard Hudson and Beverly Kennon were for splitting the funds amongst the 12 districts. Vera Davison, Ed Jordan, Nick Cox, Steve Lemmons, Steve Ramsey and Randy Thomas were against the motion causing it to fail, 5 to 7.
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