DENHAM SPRINGS — Saying he won’t back down from a challenge, Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks told business leaders Wednesday he will seek re-election in 2015.
Ricks, who choked up when speaking about the support he has received from his family and staff since taking office in January 2012, said he remains committed to working through the challenges ahead.
He acknowledged he’s certainly had issues in working with the Parish Council.
“But we also are able to sit down and have coffee together, talk about the issues and try to find a way to move forward,” he said.
Ricks said the council members are “good people” with “good things in mind,” and said he would continue trying to work with them.
Ricks provided updates during his annual state of the parish address at Forrest Grove Plantation in Denham Springs, on a wide-ranging list of topics, including ongoing infrastructure projects, animal control and other budget issues, and debris arbitration.
Ricks said he has not yet learned whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s motion to dismiss the parish’s request for arbitration over $60 million in unpaid Hurricane Gustav cleanup bills has been granted or denied.
The parish is seeking arbitration in front of the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals in Washington, D.C.
FEMA has asked the judges’ panel to toss out the case, arguing that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General must first determine whether FEMA wrongly denied the parish’s claims.
Ricks said he remains confident the parish will be able to recoup “the vast majority” of its claims and pay all the subcontractors who performed the bulk of the work.
The bank of the parish’s main cleanup contractor, International Equipment Distributors, is paying the parish’s Washington, D.C., attorneys in the case, and Ricks said Wednesday the proceedings are being handled “at no cost to the parish.”
However, an engagement letter Ricks signed on Aug. 28 with the law firm calls the bank’s payments “advances” and indicates the bank may later seek reimbursement of those funds.
The parish’s animal control program, a topic Ricks described as “no political win,” will undergo some reductions until the parish can find some recurring funding to support the facility’s operations, Ricks said.
Another of Ricks’ goals — moving Department of Public Works expenses out of the parish’s road fund and into the general fund — also has proven challenging, he said.
“I’ll admit it’s been a tough project to take on. It’s been hard to find dollars to do that. But we remain committed to that,” Ricks said.
On infrastructure, Ricks said the widening of Interstate 12 from Walker to Satsuma, a $26 million project, is vital to the parish in improving east-west traffic flow and should begin in the next month or so.
Moving north and south, a project to develop a Livingston-Ascension parkway is progressing to the second of five phases, he said.
With an estimated 70 percent of the workers needed for Ascension’s expanding plant operations coming from Livingston Parish, a parkway would improve commute times as well as create another evacuation route during future storms.
Ricks also touted the parish’s ongoing bridge replacement program and said he is committed to helping find funding to widen the La. 447 overpass at Walker.