Ascension officials push for grant to pay for Lamar Dixon access road

Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said he and other parish officials had some success in pressing Ascension’s case in Washington, D.C., this week for a federal grant to build a key road to Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

Martinez told the Parish Council on Thursday that he and other parish officials spoke with the Louisiana congressional delegation about using a TIGER grant for the $12 million to $15 million road.

“We did discuss the possibility of a TIGER grant, and we did get commitments from each one of our representatives and senators that they would certainly support that and certainly work hard and write letters of support and also visit the (U.S.) secretary of transportation,” Martinez told the council.

Martinez and other parish officials made the visits Tuesday while they were in Washington for the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference. Councilmen Kent Schexnaydre, Bryan Melancon and Oliver Joseph also went on the trip. Martinez said the group left Friday and returned Wednesday.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Discretionary Grant program had about $474 million set aside for fiscal 2013. The program under the U.S. Department of Transportation funds projects that achieve “critical national objectives,” the grant program website says.

In January and February, Martinez had pressed the Parish Council for funding to do the advance planning, design and other work to have the road “shovel ready” when the parish applies for the grant later this year.

But the cost of that work ballooned from an estimated $240,000 to $1.2 million as Martinez later told the council he had given the earlier, lower figure before he had all the information.

The road would tie South St. Landry Avenue, a key access road to the parish-owned Lamar-Dixon, into a new road already built in the Edenborne development. That road already links with La. 44 just south of Interstate 10.

Schexnaydre said he and the other councilmen who went to Washington attended the legislative meetings and said the administration was well-prepared and well-received.

“So hopefully we can get some of our money back,” Schexnaydre said.

In other action, the council renewed its contract with the Ascension Economic Development Corporation without opposition. The contract includes $322,800 in annual funding paid out in monthly installments.

Parish Attorney O’Neil Parenton Jr. said the contract, which is supposed to begin Jan. 1, was not approved during renewals late last year and the group has not been paid this year.