A FEW MINUTES WITH ... Layton Ricks

OCCUPATION: Livingston Parish president.

AGE: 58.

Layton Ricks defeated incumbent Mike Grimmer in the 2011 race for parish president, beginning his term in January 2012. Previously, Ricks served as a member of the Denham Springs City Council. He worked as office manager for Alvin Fairburn & Associates, an engineering firm that has long done business with the parish.

What did you accomplish in 2012?

We re-started the road overlay program, and are re-starting the bridge maintenance program. We’ve tackled health insurance, saving the parish about $280,000 by requiring employees to pay a portion of deductibles and family coverage premiums. We formed a committee that is working on animal control issues.

Could you have done more if you hadn’t had friction with the Parish Council?

Though there was friction, we did what we needed to. I think the council and administration will work closer this year.

What are the biggest challenges facing parish government?

The parish is way behind in road, sewer and water infrastructure because of population growth. Roads, sewer and water are vital to commercial development. We’re looking at parishwide sewer systems, which will improve property values and attract commercial development. We need to maintain existing roads and to find ways to finance new ones. With projected population going from 130,000 to possibly 260,000 in 20 years, we’ve got a lot of ground to make up.

With the highest-capacity roads running east and west, does the parish need more roads running north and south?

I’d like to see another road to Ascension Parish. We’re looking at a toll road. Recent flooding showed that people need another way out. A tremendous number of Livingston Parish residents work in Ascension Parish. With large industrial investments about to be made there, we know more families will move to Livingston Parish and commute to Ascension.

The Bond Commission just approved $30 million in bond sales to be made by the Juban Road Crossing Development District. What happens next with the proposed Juban Crossing commercial and residential development?

Announcements should be made about a start date in the next few weeks. The developer plans to complete the first phase in 2014. He still plans about a million square feet under roof. It’s going to be everything we hoped.

What do you see happening with the parish’s appeal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s denial of cleanup costs from Hurricane Gustav?

We have presented a supplement to the appeal that shows wrongdoing by some FEMA personnel. The proof is documented. Our Washington delegation is supporting our efforts. My goal is to get every dime possible that is owed to this parish. I don’t think anyone wins by suing everybody. We only win if FEMA pays this parish what is owed. Many Livingston Parish people worked extremely hard to resolve the disaster. They deserve to be paid.

Was unnecessary cleanup work done?

Obviously in a job of that magnitude there are going to be mistakes, but those certainly can’t result in zero reimbursement. The importance of those canals for drainage has been shown by subsequent flooding. In some cases in which FEMA said there was no need to clean canals, it used photos taken before the area was developed as documentation.

What happens if FEMA doesn’t pay and the parish’s cleanup contractor gets the $53 million judgment it is seeking against the parish?

The parish cannot pay it. It could mess up our bond rating. It could affect our credit. It may not, but it could. The contractor couldn’t get anything from a judgment. It couldn’t seize one piece of equipment.

Advocate staff writer

Bob Anderson