The gist: Last week, the City-Parish Council restored $7 million in funding to extend Louisiana Avenue, narrowly passing an amendment to next year’s budget that blocked the mayor-president’s proposal to move that money to undetermined drainage projects. Mayor-President Joel Robideaux is expected to veto the amendment and send the issue back to the council where a supermajority vote would be needed to overrule him.
Get caught up, quickly. Robideaux’s proposed budget killed three road projects — Louisiana Avenue ($7 million), South City Parkway ($39 million) and a Robley Drive extension ($424,000) — to shift a total of $46.5 million to a new stormwater diversion line item. Louisiana Avenue is the only money immediately available for spending; the South City Parkway dollars are reallocated from planned bond sales in the next few years. Councilman Jay Castille introduced an amendment to protect Louisiana Avenue, which is in his district. At final adoption, the council voted to preserve Louisiana Avenue’s funding but shift the outlay for South City Parkway into a city drainage reserve.
Louisiana Avenue was preserved by a 5-4 vote. Castille was joined by Kenneth Boudreaux, Bruce Conque, Pat Lewis and Kevin Naquin. That means it’s not likely to survive Robideaux’s veto authority if he uses it; a six-vote supermajority is needed to override a veto. Robideaux has 10 days to veto amendments and finalize the budget. A recent post by the Lafayette Parish Republicans Facebook page, administered in part by Robideaux’s political consultant, Joe Castille, claims that Robideaux plans to veto the amendment. Official word from the administration is that it is reviewing the budget and considering its options.
What is the project, exactly? One third of a mile of four-lane concrete road with subsurface drainage, sidewalks, streetlights and a roundabout, extending Louisiana Avenue from the city limits at Butcher Switch Road through unincorporated Lafayette to Gloria Switch Road. The project completes an ongoing extension of Louisiana Avenue that began in 1997 and 2006 when city of Lafayette voters approved two bond packages that included money to pay for this work.
Wait, we’re spending city money on a road in unincorporated Lafayette? Yep. Both Castille and Naquin indicated the land around the extension will ultimately be annexed into the city of Lafayette, justifying the use of city dollars on a parish project. Whether those properties are annexed is up to the property owners, however, meaning it’s not a sure thing that the growth subsidized here will be absorbed by the city of Lafayette. In other words, it’s unclear how much — if any — of this area will be annexed by Lafayette or remain unincorporated or get annexed by Carencro.
“This would be a parish-funded project, but the parish doesn’t have the money,” Conque says, defending the project’s merit. So the only way it can happen is if the city pays for it.
The purpose of this project is to spur development in this part of the parish. So far, along the entirety of Louisiana Avenue, the only significant development that’s been realized is the Target shopping center and a gas station.
What to watch for: Whether Robideaux decides to veto. If he does, it’s not clear if the council can find the sixth vote to override him. But even if he doesn’t veto it, this issue likely isn’t entirely settled heading into a new administration and government by separate city and parish councils.