Lafayette council amends bus agreement, passes on candidate test

The City-Parish Council on Tuesday approved an agreement with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to use city buses to ferry students between campus and the parking lot at Cajun Field, but not without major changes to the agreement as proposed by the city-parish administration.

Also, the council failed to pass a resolution calling on the state to require political candidates to pass a test on constitutional knowledge before they are allowed to run for office.

It was unclear late Tuesday whether UL-Lafayette officials will agree with the council’s changes to proposed city bus deal, putting in doubt whether it will be in place when UL-Lafayette’s fall semester begins next week.

The council kept in place the basics of the deal: the plan to lease UL-Lafayette eight buses for campus transportation services, enhancing the university’s existing fleet of buses and shuttles.

UL-Lafayette would pay city-parish government $10,240 to lease the buses and use its own staff to operate them.

In return, UL-Lafayette would buy fuel for the natural-gas powered buses from Lafayette, and the city could bring in more federal transportation dollars because the students would boost bus ridership for the municipal bus system.

Lafayette’s bus system now has about 4,000 riders a day, and City-Parish Chief Development Officer Kevin Blanchard said the additional UL-Lafayette students might add another 2,500 to 3,000 daily riders.

“This is a huge shot in the arm for our system,” he said.

Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said the proposal is intended to be a pilot project to determine if the increases in fuel revenue and federal grants are worth it for city-parish government.

But some council members questioned whether the anticipated gains would make up for the potential loss to city-parish government should any of the leased buses need a major repair.

Under the agreement as initially proposed, UL-Lafayette would have been responsible for maintenance and routine repairs, but city-parish government would be responsible for paying for the 20 percent match required for the federal funds used for upkeep of the bus fleet.

“I feel we have some exposure that I would rather not have,” City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said.

The council amended the agreement to stipulate that UL-Lafayette is responsible for that 20 percent match if a major repair is needed.

The council also stripped a provision that would have allowed university students and faculty to ride buses for free anywhere in Lafayette, a proposal that aimed to push ridership numbers even higher for the sake of securing more federal transportation dollars.

Councilman Brandon Shelvin, Boudreaux and others questioned giving free rides to UL-Lafayette students while other residents must pay.

The council voted unanimously to approve the altered agreement.

Cheri Soileau, director of UL-Lafayette’s Office of Transportation Services, said she will have to bring the amended proposal back to the university’s administration for a decision on whether to move forward.

In other business, a resolution calling for political candidates to pass a test on constitutional knowledge failed by a 4-4 tie vote.

Councilmen William Theriot and Andy Naquin proposed the resolution on behalf of Lafayette resident Ray Green, who makes frequent appearances at council meetings and is now pushing what he calls the “Common Sense 3 Project.”

The resolution would have asked the state Legislature to review a proposal requiring all candidates for political office to pass a test demonstrating basic knowledge of the state and federal constitutions.

The resolution proposed no specific questions.

Shelvin likened the proposed test to poll taxes, literacy tests and other measures used decades ago to keep black citizens from voting and which have long since been declared unconstitutional.

“I remember years ago people had to pass a test to vote,” he said. “Now we have to pass a test to run for office?”

Theriot defended the measure.

“Learning about the constitution will only help us,” he said.

Councilmen Andy Naquin, Theriot, Jared Bellard and Keith Patin voted in support of the resolution.

Councilmen Jay Castille, Kevin Naquin, Boudreuax and Shelvin opposed it.