OPELOUSAS, La. (KLFY) – St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot took us out to Jennings Road. It was rebuilt and paved two years ago in phase one of the Smooth Ride Home program.
“It was gravel and a mixture of gravel and old pavement that was put in place in the 70s,” Fontenot explained.
Two hundred and seventy miles of roads have been paved in the first two phases of the Smooth Ride Home program.
In 2013, rural St. Landry Parish voters approved a two cent sales tax for 15 years for roads, bridges, and related drainage projects. The tax generates between $6.8 million and $7.8 million a year.
The parish took out a $65 million bond for the program. The tax covers the bond payments.
“Here we’ve pulled up our own bootstraps here in St. Landry Parish. Taxed ourselves and we’re in control of our own destiny,” Fontenot said.
The third phase of the Smooth Ride Home program is now underway. Thirty-five miles of roads will get brand new pavement and blacktop. Fontenot said the work is long overdue.
“This is typically what our parish roads look like,” Fontenot said as he stood on Mallet Road in the Leonville/Arnaudville area. “This is the one I call the pothole and bump road cause you can see where the patches have been made, it actually makes potholes.”
Phase three will cost $8 million. Once this phase is done, more than 300 miles of roads will have been paved.
I posed this question to Fontenot, “We saw in Lafayette Parish last year, they rejected the school tax and a couple of other taxes went down with it. It seems like some people were in kind of an anti-tax mode. Are you concerned about that?”
He responded, “Well I’ll tell you, I think today in the environment of today, it might have been a lot tougher to pass today than it was three years ago. So yes I am concerned about that.”
The tax will come up again in 2028. At that point — the parish will have more than 400 miles of new paved roads — and Fontenot hopes that will convince voters to continue the program.
Fontenot said St. Landry Parish had about 700 miles of roads that needed to be fixed. He said the tax should also generate a surplus of one or two million dollars a year for road maintenance.