OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish Council approved a resolution at a special meeting Wednesday night to issue $62.5 million in revenue bonds for parishwide road construction projects over the next 15 years.
In a parishwide Oct. 19 election, voters approved a 2 percent sales tax in the rural areas of St. Landry that will fund the bonds.
The sales tax went into effect Jan. 1.
Prior to the election, Parish President Bill Fontenot said that he intends to overlay, construct or repair about 800 miles of parish roads as long as the bonds are in effect.
Eric Lafleur, bonding attorney for the project, told the council Wednesday night’s action was a necessary step, even though the council is part of parish government.
“It’s just a technicality, but the (road district) still has to have approval of the council,” Lafleur said.
Lafleur said when the council meets for its regular monthly meeting Feb. 19, the council will consider the approval of a final resolution for the issuance of the bonds, which includes the interest rate for the bonds and the amount of the principal.
The parish should receive a favorable interest rate of about 3.5 percent on the bonds. The action taken on Wednesday night allows investors to examine St. Landry’s “A” rating for the bonds, said Lafleur.
Lafleur said he expects money from the bonds will become available by March.
Jessie Bellard, chief administrative officer for parish government, said actual road construction might not begin until either April or May.
Before then, Bellard said, parish engineers for Morgan Goudeau & Associates and Aucoin and Associates, who are hired for the road work, have been at work creating a priority list for which roads will be the first to undergo construction.
Bellard said the council will get to examine the list of roads and approve it before any work is initiated.
“I don’t think the council’s approval will be an obstacle. The (priority list) is being done by professionals,” Bellard said.
Bellard said parish engineers are not charging fees for assembling the priority list.
“Engineering costs will occur only when the actual road construction begins,” Bellard said.
Bellard said determining which roads are done first depends on criteria established by Fontenot, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.
“Which roads are done first are roads that connect to highways or other roads that are important for bus routes, agriculture and economic development,” Bellard said.
“That means a road which has been gravel all these years, may be a priority over a hard surface road because of its connectivity value,” Bellard added.
Bellard said he’s seen the January sales tax numbers affecting the road construction, but refused to comment specifically.
“The final numbers will be available on Friday, so I don’t want to comment until then. From what I’ve seen, though, the numbers aren’t that good,” said Bellard.
In another matter the council voted 12-0 to go into closed session to discuss courthouse office security.
The council also voted to turn off the tape recorder normally used to tape the meetings, during the closed session.
Council member Pam Gautreau, who made the motion to turn off the recorder, said its been part of council procedure lately not to record discussions during closed sessions.
The council adjourned the meeting after spending about 20 minutes in the closed session.
Council member Wayne Ardoin said Laycie Alfred, the council clerk, told the council during the closed session that her office in the courthouse had been compromised recently after office hours.
“(Alfred) said her desk was moved around and papers on it were thrown on the floor. She also said that it looked as though wiring was being installed in her office and she didn’t know anything about it,” Ardoin said.