In mid-September, The Independent sent a questionnaire to candidates seeking seats on the City-Parish Council — incumbents and challengers, 17 candidates total. Thirteen questions were asked of the candidates, ranging from general queries about big issues facing the parish to specific questions on topics such as tax increment financing districts and Downtown zoning.
We’ve gotten responses back from about half of them, and as we get more responses we’ll continue to compile them and alert readers when new responses have come in. New to the responses today is District 5 candidate Monique Koll, who is challenging two-term incumbent Jared Bellard. Koll’s responses have also been added to Parts 1-3, which can be found by searching “Council” at theind.com.
We’ve grouped candidates by district to promote ready comparisons of their positions by the voters who will elect them (and alphabetically within districts). We’ve only lightly edited for clarity the candidates’ responses; some use bullet points while others stick to prose, some are lengthy as others are brief, etc., but otherwise the responses are as we received them. Because many of the responses are lengthy, we’re running the questionnaire in installments. Today’s query concerns LUS Fiber and how Lafayette will pay for future infrastructure.
What would you do as an elected official to ensure the future prosperity of LUS Fiber? Should LUS-F be extended outside the city limits of Lafayette?
JAY CASTILLE (INCUMBENT, DISTRICT 2):
LUS Fiber has proven itself to be successful. I would continue to fund the needs of the fiber system to allow its continued success. I believe fiber should be offered outside the City of Lafayette. As long as it is profitable and the surrounding area can support the fiber system.
CHARLOTTE CLAVIER (DISTRICT 2):
Residents of the Parish but not within a municipality pay property taxes for infrastructure and drainage but those taxes haven’t kept up with the need for the maintenance of these areas. Those residents pay sales taxes when they are out shopping but those taxes go to the municipality where the stores are. There are minimal businesses in these areas. We need to work together to find a solution to this huge disparity.
**PAT LEWIS (DISTRICT 3):
As an elected official, I would assist in supporting local community efforts that help market LUS Fiber products and build Lafayette’s position as a leader in high speed internet. I think that the Parish Council should monitor the rollout of ultrahigh speed internet access by firms such as Google and AT&T to ensure that Lafayette business community and residents have equivalent or better speed, coverage, cost, and availability of access in relation to their peer cities as the high speed market continues to evolve. With the assistance of LEDA and other entities, I feel that we can develop and market Fiber case studies that communicate tangible outcomes for companies who have located to Lafayette because of Fiber or who have been successful because of Fiber availability.
**JOHN PETERSEN (DISTRICT 3):
LUS Fiber needs to have the tools and personnel to compete with the private sector, and I’d work to ensure we protect our investment by providing the necessary resources. As LUS Fiber’s competitors catch up, it’ll have to depend less on the uniqueness of its offering and more on its ability to add value for customers and differentiate its services. If expansion outside the city limits represents an opportunity for revenue growth without being over-leveraged, I’d be open to supporting it.
**MONIQUE KOLL (DISTRICT 5):
It should be extended outside the city limits. Making it as affordable as possible, and assuring people that even though the government has a hand in it their privacy is not affected.
**ALICIA CHAISSON (DISTRICT 6):
The council should ensure transparency in use of public funds and invest in energy studies to ensure efficiency. LUS Fiber could be extended outside city limits if those municipalities are willing to cover the costs of expansion.
**BRUCE CONQUE (DISTRICT 6):
Yes, we should maximize the return on investment which we have in LUS Fiber. However, unlike the wholesale water contract to other municipalities in the parish, there must be an assurance that the asset would not be used to the detriment of the City of Lafayette.
**SEVIE ZELLER (DISTRICT 6):
A more telling question is, “What is the demand for LUS Fiber outside the city limits?” Is there a desire? Absolutely. But there are a lot of factors, such as cost to extend those services, which make people hesitant. Negotiations and marketing will be crucial. I would like to see a bigger push to gain a larger market share within city limits a well.
**NANETTE COOK (DISTRICT 7):
LUS Fiber operates as a business; so ultimately, the future prosperity is up to the people running it. I am concerned about financial transparency and the internal accounting relationships between LUS Fiber, Lafayette Consolidated Government and Lafayette Utility Services. I generally support expansion of the LUS Fiber service area to expand its economies of scale and improve its viability.
**LIZ WEBB HEBERT (DISTRICT 8):
I would be obligated to see LUS succeed and grow, and growth into new areas will have to come after the infrastructure is installed. It will be up to the municipality to make the investment in the infrastructure just like Lafayette has done.
**GERALD JUDICE (DISTRICT 8):
It is my understanding that LUS Fiber is on sound footing and will continue to progress. If it is found that it is profitable to expand outside the city limits and is welcome in those areas, than I see no reason to not let it extend.
**CAROL ROSS (DISTRICT 8):
FTTH should be used as an inducement for a more robust annexation program that phases in all services (electricity, water, sewer and fiber) to areas currently outside the city limits. For LUS fiber to be successful, it will definitely need more households, but they need to pay their fair share for such service as city residents have done.
How should Lafayette Parish pay for new roads, bridges and other infrastructure and generate sufficient revenue to maintain them?**
The current millages that LCG has for roads, bridges and other infrastructure need to be right sized. These millage’s were passed many years ago and have not kept up with the growth of our parish. We as residents of this parish need to exam our current millage’s and if you are not happy with the current condition of our roads and bridges then there is only one way to correct that and that is by right sizing our millage’s. This is not a popular idea but it is a realistic one none the less. We are at a crossroads in our parish and it is time to take our parish to the next level.
LEWIS (3): Lafayette Parish should develop a stable source of local transportation funding and secure local matching funds from local, state, and federal funds with consideration for alternatives such as local option gas taxes, a roadway frontage fee, a tobacco tax or a driveway access fee. As a council we should strengthen coordination with the Louisiana Department of Transportation, Acadiana Delegation and the Louisiana State Legislature to ensure that Lafayette Parish receives our fair share of state and federal funding. Lafayette Parish should also work with local business and property owners to fund transportation improvements, signage and streetscape improvements in key locations. Lastly, we need to work with the Redevelopment Authority and partner to facilitate infrastructure projects.
PETERSEN (3): If each of us had to drop dollar bills in front of our path in order to walk, we’d probably be pretty careful about where we walk. Excuse the folksy metaphor, but building new roads is a similar (albeit far more expensive) activity. We need to be hyper aware of the costs and potential returns of any new project we consider. We currently have enough infrastructure maintenance projects to last over 600 years at the current annual funding level. The urgency of the situation calls for all options on the table: state and federal assistance, infrastructure districts, grants, etc.
KOLL (5): There are multiple modes to accomplish funding. The most important part is getting the people affected by these roads to know what is happening, have a say in it, and be informed to know that the money spent is going to help them directly.
CHAISSON (6): While attended a recent council meeting, I heard a compelling presentation on a program that helps local governments sell adjudicated properties. If this program, or another comparable program were put into effect, not only would the municipal government make money from the sales, they would save the money previously needed for maintenance and insurance on the often blighted properties. I think it provides an excellent opportunity to help fund improvements in infrastructure. I also believe that if citizens of Lafayette are as concerned as they seem, they would approve a modest, temporary tax to fund those improvement.
CONQUE (6): My basic philosophy is that property taxes should be used for those capital improvements which directly affect our residents; for example, drainage, court house, etc. Sales taxes should be considered for new roads and bridges which benefit all who use them; many of whom are out of parish shoppers in Lafayette.
ZELLER (6): Several solutions have been brought forth. One that seems attractive is a recent proposal that would enable us to put adjudicated properties on the market. There are many considerations to be made, but it is worthy of serious dialogue.
COOK (7): We have made significant investments in roads and infrastructure in many parts of the parish. Part of the puzzle for generating sufficient revenue to maintain them, is to bring homes and businesses online in those areas as ratepayers. That is traditionally how infrastructure is maintained – through utilization. Our first task is to determine our budget priorities. Traffic and roads should be our top priority, along with public safety. With an annual budget of $621 million this year, and many lower priority items in the budget, we need to look at what should be funded first.
HEBERT (8): Reviewing the budget to see how we can improve our incoming revenue streams. Are we collecting everything that we should be in property and sales taxes? We should also be seeking grants from federal and state government, working with our local legislators to verify that they are fighting to make sure that Lafayette is receiving everything we can in regards to funding. We can also bring a new tax to the voters, however the voters will have to be the ones to make the call of how much of a priority are the roads, bridges and infrastructure in our community. There has also been some discussion about placing toll bridges in high traffic areas, if done correctly this could potentially be another source of income for LCG.
JUDICE (8): Let the people decide! Some cities have utilized toll roads and bridges and that may be an option in certain cases.
ROSS (8): See answer 2 above: [In terms of infrastructure, it will be important to have a clear understanding of the budgetary issues first -- e.g. are we getting the most bang for the dollars being expended? Do we have (as we used to) a schedule of road overlays based on need, not political considerations? Are we exploring all options, including funding sources not usually considered such as I have proposed with the unclaimed properties fund administered by Treasurer Kennedy as fast track funding for Hwy. 7333 - E. Broussard Road? Are we fulfilling the promises made in the past, e.g. the South College bridge, so that voters will trust that promises made today will be fulfilled in the future?]