Judice Park parking lot to be paved
By RICHARD BURGESS
June 13, 2012
LAFAYETTE — A project to pave the gravel parking lot at Judice Park is now on track after being held up for more than two years in a dispute between City-Parish President Joey Durel and Council Chairman Jared Bellard.
Bellard represents the area where the park is located, and the council, at his request, had approved $150,000 for the project in 2009.
But Durel, who has been at odds with Bellard in the past, had held back on the project.
Durel has argued that road and drainage work should be bigger priorities than parks in rural areas because of the limited money available for projects outside the city limits of Lafayette.
Public Works Director Tom Carroll told Bellard at Tuesday’s council meeting that the parking lot work in Judice is now scheduled to begin later this year — an assurance that came just before the council voted unanimously on a measure directing Durel to move forward with the project.
Bellard said Wednesday that even though Carroll said the project is on track, he wanted the council’s intent on record just in case the issue came up again.
Carroll said in an interview Wednesday that the Judice Park paving project will be done as part of a larger contract for resurfacing rural roads.
Work on the parking lot should begin this fall, he said.
The council’s vote this week stipulates that the paving work at Judice Park should be done as the first project under the resurfacing contract.
“Before any other project in that program gets done, Judice Park has to get done,” Bellard said.
Durel agreed earlier this year to visit Judice Park and consider improvements there.
Bellard said he was not aware any decision had been made on the park paving project until this week.
The dispute has highlighted the power the administration can wield in managing city-parish projects.
The council had voted to put the Judice Park project in the budget in 2009, and then voted again to override Durel’s attempt to strip it from the budget with a veto.
After the project seemed to be going nowhere, Bellard sought an opinion from then-City-Parish Attorney Pat Ottinger on whether Durel could put the project on hold even if the council had approved funding for it.
Ottinger responded that the city-parish president has the ultimate discretion on “when or even if the project will in fact be commenced or undertaken.”
While Durel has argued the issue is about setting priorities for the limited funds available for rural areas, Bellard has countered that it seems to be personal.
Bellard has alleged that during a 2010 meeting with Durel about Judice Park, the city-parish president told him he would approve the park project if Bellard dropped opposition to some issues in the administration’s proposed budget.
Durel said at the time that he did not propose a quid pro quo deal with Bellard but admitted that he was not inclined to cooperate with the councilman because he did not believe Bellard had made an effort to cooperate with the administration.