Walter Pierce

Spurned but not forgotten: Bertrand, Patin seek previously rejected grant money

by Walter Pierce

Lafayette Consolidated Council members Don Bertrand (District 7) and Keith Patin (District 8) are putting up $25,000 each from their discretionary budgets to match a $50,000 grant from the Center for Planning Excellence, also known as C-PEX, for nodal development studies in their districts on the south side of the city of Lafayette. The grant-match funding was originally sought by the Durel administration for studies in under-developed nodes (high-traffic intersections) in north Lafayette: Moss at Willow, Pont des Mouton at Moss, University at Gloria Switch and University at Cameron. But in a 4-4 vote on Aug. 18 (District 5 Councilman Jared Bellard was absent) the ordinance authorizing the deal was nixed.

The three council members whose districts would have benefited from the studies — Kenneth Boudreaux (District 4), Brandon Shelvin (District 3) and Sam Dore (District 6) — were joined by District 9 Councilman William Theriot in opposing the studies. According to minutes from the Aug. 18 meeting, Shelvin questioned why Lafayette Consolidated Government wanted to spend $50,000 for a study by consultants when the traffic department had the staff in house to do it. Planning Manager Mike Hollier responded that traffic didn’t have the staff to do the work and, in what many saw as a potential deal-breaker, added that nodal development was a priority identified in the comprehensive master plan, to which there has been more than a shade of opposition by the current council.

Ordinance O-192-2009 will be introduced Tuesday; a vote on the ordinance, which authorizes City-Parish President Joey Durel to sign a contract with C-PEX, is expected by early October. “It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out,” says Bertrand, who notes that the same opposition that gelled against the ordinance when it was proposed for the north side could reemerge. Each council member is allocated $100,000 in discretionary spending for his district — half for roads and half for drainage. Some council members have already devoted their entire discretionary budgets to projects in their districts. Bertrand and Patin agreed to set aside $25,000 each for the grant match.

The funding source for the grant comes from C-PEX and the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. Bertrand, a Republican, says he sees this council setting a dangerous precedent by rejecting sources of funding. “If you snub money, guess what? I doesn’t come back to you,” Bertrand says. “You’ll be begging for a long time.”