(photo by Crystal LoGiudice | The News)

Crystal LoGiudice | The News

Livingston Parish ranks among the fastest growing areas not only in Louisiana, but among areas in the Deep South. The migration of residents from Baton Rouge, New Orleans and many areas outside and in-between stems from many aspects.

Many have relocated to the area because of the schools, which earned an “A” rating last year, in light of working with far more limited resources than the successful systems in parishes such as Ascension, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana and the cities of Central and Zachary. Residents also have embraced the perks of suburban living, which provide many conveniences of larger cities – a growing presence in the retail, recreation and health-care sectors, among other facets – while remaining somewhat quieter and safer than the cities of 100,000-plus.

They also moved to the area to escape the congestion that spikes the blood pressure of motorists in Baton Rouge, whose traffic woes fall in line with those of much larger metropolitan areas, such as Houston and Atlanta. In the same context, they want better roads.

Opinions differ on many issues in Livingston Parish, but one particular need seems to spur almost unanimous agreement among residents. The quality of roads – and, more specifically, the lack thereof – ranks as the only issue which draws unanimous agreement.

Limited funds make the drive toward road repair much too short. The issue of which roads the parish should maintain and those it shouldn’t has become a topic of increasingly heated discussion among members of the Livingston Parish Council.

District 9 Parish Councilman Shane Mack, who heads the Ordinance Committee, wants fellow members to support an amendment to its road maintenance policy to incorporate more byways in private subdivisions onto the repair list. He believes a gradual move to bring the roads under the umbrella of parish maintenance will pay off in the long run in the form of higher property values and less blight in subdivisions otherwise attractive to incoming residents.

District 2 Parish Councilman Garry “Frog” Talbert supports road projects, but says he believes the parish should concentrate solely on the public streets and roadways other than those created by private developers. An amendment to bring private roadways into the parish maintenance program represents a misuse of public tax revenue.

A lengthy – and, at times, tempestuous – discussion led to a 4-4 deadlock on the issue, which solved nothing. Mack has said he will not let the issue die, and would like to see the parish make a more concerted effort to upgrade every road in the area over the next few decades.

It’s a highly ambitious project, particularly in light of the current funding which allows upgrades to only about 10 miles of the 800-plus miles of roadway parishwide.

Mack and Talbert both make sensible and compelling arguments on the road issue.

A move to bring roads in private subdivisions into the maintenance program would make sense in terms of setting a standard on neighborhood byways, which make those areas more attractive to residents who want to settle in Livingston Parish. In a perfect world, it seems more residents bring additional tax money and ultimately more revenue for public works projects, particularly road improvements.

At the same time, it makes sense that the parish focus first and foremost on public roadways rather than to allocate our hard-earned tax dollars to fund repairs of roadways some developers built on the cheap for the sole purpose of eventually passing the buck to taxpayers.

No pun intended, but council members need to establish a median on which they can agree on the public/private road issue. Taxpayers deserve quality public roads for the dollars they dole out every year, but somewhere in the mix we should remember that residents in subdivisions also pay taxes for quality roads. Does it come across as a penalty to live in a privately developed subdivision if they must settle for ultimately substandard roads?

Roads have been a passionate issue for many years in Livingston Parish government, and should remain so until we encounter fewer potholes and buckles, and perhaps less traffic.

The discussion on the roadways has become a heated, but passionate issue. Regardless of tempers and disagreements, the issue needs to stay at the forefront of the council’s priorities.

Livingston Parish residents demand better roads. It’s the job of Parish Council members to make it happen.

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