Livingston council to discuss road overlay project again

Livingston Parish Council Chairman Marshall Harris has called a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the parish’s road overlay project after council members argued with Parish President Layton Ricks last week over whether Ricks could hire an engineer for the project without council approval.

The council will discuss requests for qualifications for the road overlay project and a road priority list at 7 p.m. in the council’s chambers in Livingston, according to the agenda.

The council discussed both items at its Aug. 22 meeting but only voted to adopt a road list. The council tabled the discussion on the requests for qualifications.

Ricks said Monday he wasn’t quite sure how to react to the news of a meeting being called to discuss the road overlay project. He questioned whether the council gave sufficient notice about the meeting for it to be legal.

“There’s already a contract in place,” he said. “I don’t know what the ultimate goal for tomorrow (Tuesday) night is.”

Ricks once again said the home rule charter gives him the authority to hire the engineer, as do previous attorney general’s opinions.

“This is clearly just a jab at (my) administration and once again them trying to usurp the authority of administration,” he said.

Council members sparred with Ricks on Thursday after Ricks told the council he had hired BKI Engineering of New Orleans to begin preliminary work on the long-awaited road overlay project.

Harris and Councilman Jim Norred accused Ricks of violating the parish’s home rule charter by signing the engineering firm without telling the council.

The home rule charter says the parish president can sign contracts for projects and services specifically identified in the parish’s approved budget, “or as specifically identified by ordinance.”

It says projects not identified in the budget have to go to the council for approval.

Ricks has said he has the authority under the home rule charter to hire the engineer. He said the engineer will receive no compensation until the council formally dedicates money to the project.

Council attorney Chris Moody has said the parish’s home rule charter isn’t clear as to whether Ricks could have hired the engineer without the council’s approval.

Moody said he had discussed the move with Ricks but said it’s better policy to submit any bid contract to the council for approval.

Harris and Norred did not return calls for comment Monday.