WALKER — To pay a 12-year-old bill from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the city tentatively agreed to assume ownership of one or more state-owned roads, Mayor Bobby Font said Tuesday.
The downside of the agreement is the city would have to maintain the roadways, he said.
DOTD is determining how much of Corbin Road and possibly other state roads the city would have to accept, Font said.
The value of roads has to be equal to the amount of the debt, he said.
Font said he was shocked when the city received a $1.3 million bill from DOTD in July for work done in Walker by the state agency more than 12 years ago.
The money to pay that bill wasn’t in the city’s $13 million general fund budget, and the city would have had to cut services to pay the debt, the mayor said.
Accepting the road in place of paying the $1.3 million bill is “a real good deal” for the city, he said.
The Board of Aldermen would have to approve the agreement, the mayor said.
About eight-tenths of a mile of Corbin Road is within the city limits, Font said.
If that is not enough roadway to equal the value of the debt, the city could annex more of the road. If that’s still not enough, the deal could be extended to La. 449 and even to Burgess Road, Font said.
As part of the deal, the state would initially make any needed roadway repairs, so the city wouldn’t have to be concerned about that expense for several more years, Font said.
The old bill results from a state project that began in 1998.
The state had a contract with the city to relocate Walker utility lines in preparation for the widening of La. 447, said Jodi Conachen, DOTD spokeswoman.
After completion of the work, the state billed the city in 2003, she said.
“Everyone thought there would be forgiveness” for the work, but that apparently wasn’t the case, Font said.
The bill wasn’t paid by Walker’s previous two administrations and, Font said, it wasn’t on his radar because the work occurred so long ago.
After a review of DOTD records, the Office of the Legislative Auditor requested the department become more aggressive in collecting such bills, Conachen said.
Also, the state Attorney General’s Office informed DOTD that it is required by law to collect bills such as the one Walker owes, she said.
Similar deals would be made available to other municipalities owing old debts to the department, Conachen said.
The DOTD spokeswoman said she did not know how many municipalities owe such bills.
These deals would relieve DOTD of the cost of maintaining the roads, Conachen said.
The cost of maintenance may not be as high to a municipality as it would be to DOTD because the municipalities have to meet only their standards, while DOTD has to meet state standards, she said.
“A local entity has more flexibility,” Conachen said.
The roads being transferred have local importance, but not regional importance, she said.