During Mandeville’s summer-long budget debate, three street projects have emerged as flash points in the debate between the City Council and Mayor Donald Villere.
A proposal to advertise for bids to repave part of Girod Street in Old Mandeville erupted into a shouting match at the Aug. 8 council meeting, with Councilman Ernest Burguières challenging Villere to have him arrested and thrown out. For his part, Villere said Burguières was “an expert in character assassination.”
During the debate, Burguières said no one in Old Mandeville wanted the project done. Not surprisingly, Villere disagreed.
When the dust settled, the City Council had rejected the mayor’s proposal to advertise for bids on the project, which estimates said would have cost less than $500,000.
Just minutes earlier the mayor and council had clashed over two other road projects, but this time it was the council proposing work and the mayor objecting. During the budget discussions, the council voted 4-1 to allocate $4 million over the next two years for two other street projects — one that lies outside the city limits of Mandeville and another that would bring a private road with drainage problems into the city system. Councilwoman Carla Buchholz opposed both amendments.
Villere calling both measures poor uses of taxpayer dollars.
Councilman Rick Danielson, who sponsored the two amendments, said they both are necessary for the “greater good” of Mandeville.
“There is a difference between spending to spend and addressing critical needs,” Danielson said.
In the first of his two proposals, the council allocated $2.5 million from sales taxes dedicated to roads, ditches and drainage to help the parish pay for an east Mandeville bypass road that would stretch from La. 1088 to U.S. 190.
The idea for the road is not new, and parish officials have discussed it for more than a decade, said Ronnie Simpson, spokesman for Parish President Pat Brister.
The parish doesn’t have the $11 million it would take to build the road, though he said some of the funds are being considered in the parish budget for next year, and the parish is looking for grant funds.
Wetlands issues will likely mean that the original route will need to be changed and taken back to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Simpson said. Simpson would not estimate when the project might be done.
Getting the road built would be a “huge benefit” and “win-win” to people both inside and outside of Mandeville’s city limits, Danielson said.
In the second project, Danielson and the council allocated $1.5 million in the 2014-2015 budget for improvements to Dalwill Drive, a private road that links La. 22 and West Causeway Approach. The money would come from dedicated taxes. The road has poor drainage, something Danielson says the city is better equipped to handle than the current owners — the businesses that line the road.
Mayor Donald Villere said the idea is a bad use of city funds.
“They have to solve their drainage issues first,” Villere said of the road’s owners. When it rains, the street has standing water on both sides, Villere said. In addition, some of the culverts on the road may have been set incorrectly, he said.
“Government should not be in the habit of accepting private owners’ problems and using public funds to correct them,” he said.
Villere said that even though the money may get allocated in the budget, he doesn’t intend to spend it.
“Just to throw $1.5 million to that road and drainage, I think, is not the best way to approach the problem,” Villere said.
Though each of the three projects was already voted upon by the council, at least one could see the light of day again. Villere said he plans to bring the Girod Street project back to the council.
Friday, he sent out invitations to a pizza party Aug. 24 to discuss the project and other issues.
“I just need to find out what the objection really is,” Villere said of the project. “I don’t think there really is one.”