ST. AMANT — Ascension Parish officials said Thursday they feel confident that parish voters will support a half-cent sales tax dedicated for roads in the upcoming election.
Parish President Tommy Martinez and other officials met with local residents for the second straight night Thursday, answering questions and explaining why residents should vote for the tax Nov. 6.
The 25-year tax is expected to generate between $7 million and $9 million per year, funding approximately $150 million in road improvements with most of the focus on widening key intersections throughout the parish.
“This will go a long way to helping our traffic,” Councilman Benny Johnson said. “It’s not going to solve all our problems, but it will go a long way.”
Ben Laurie, the parish’s chief engineer, was on hand to make a presentation and answer questions while other parish officials discussed the proposal with residents in a small group.
Joe Niquiporo, of Galvez, asked several pointed questions about previous taxes passed and how the parish now spends money for road improvements.
Johnson said what makes this tax unique is that it’s dedicated strictly for specific roads that are listed on the ballot, so residents don’t have to fear the funds will be spent for other projects. In addition, he said, it will free up money for other needed projects in the parish.
“It’s all mapped out,” Laurie said. “The money is going to these projects.”
Niquiporo said he had never voted against a parish tax, and he came to Thursday night’s meeting “trying to find a reason to vote for it.”
“I’m on the fence now,” he said. “There’s a good possibility I may vote for it.”
Wayne Letulle, of St. Amant, had one major question on his mind during the meeting.
“What happens if this tax doesn’t pass?” he asked.
Laurie didn’t blink, telling him parish officials would move forward.
“This plan still holds — it just might take us 100 years, not 25,” he said.
Johnson said the parish simply can’t afford to let that happen. The road infrastructure already is behind and hasn’t kept up with the parish population boom, he said.
“We’ve waited so long we don’t have enough money to even start what needs to be done,” he said.
Martinez said he wasn’t concerned that only a handful of residents showed up to the two meetings. The majority of residents already have made up their minds which way to vote, he said, and all indications are it will pass. While he admitted it’s “not a perfect plan” and won’t “cure everything,” it’s a much-needed start, Martinez said.
“I really don’t think it’s all that controversial,” Johnson said. “Polls show that 70 to 80 percent of the people want something done with traffic.”