Jones addressed the local business community at the St. Mary Parish Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Petroleum Club in Morgan City on Wednesday.
“The Patoutville overpass is finished and we keep working our way down. I was hoping we would start the 318 at Four Corners near Landry’s Seafood next year. It may be late next year because, in the design, it’s going to be two arches over the road going parallel. In the design, there is going to be more property acquisition that’s going to be acquired than what was initially thought. We’re going to make sure it’s done right, that it’s going to be able to accommodate industrial needs as well as sugar farmers and all their transportation,” Jones said.
Citizens have convinced Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development to move the overpass that was planned for Park Street in Patterson to Red Cypress Road in Patterson.
“There are going to be in the coming months public hearings to give the public more opportunities to talk about design to DOTD before they begin designing that. So that one is going to go over (U.S.) 90 and not the other way around because that’s the way the City of Patterson wants it. Not only is it a little cheaper to build but it also gets you across the railroad track for emergency vehicle purposes. Where a train may stop somebody from going across, and so it’s a thoughtful alternative, and it’s a good one,” Jones said.
There are other road projects the state’s transportation committee is planning for the area.
“We’re currently going through a construction project north of La. 87 north of Franklin from Centerville to Sterling. That road has not had any maintenance in 45 years. We were able to get some emergency funding to overlay La. 317 from U.S. 90 to Burns Point. No one in their lifetime can remember when that road was overlayed south of the Intracoastal there. La. 70 is scheduled to be overlayed next year, 2012. The flood event caused the DOTD to reconsider how to do that, and we’re in serious discussion about elevating portions of it that tend to go underwater every three years when we have a high-water event. The Thorguson Road project is going on,” Jones said.
Jones hopes the levee board in Terrebonne Parish will use the $500,000 the state allocated to them to fight the high water to help pay for the barge in Bayou Chene.
Darrin Guidry, a member of the Terrebonne levee board, was also at the chamber luncheon and said the levee board has approved to use funds to help pay for the barge project.
“At the end of the day, what’s going to happen is the FEMA reimbursement process is going to cover 75 percent,” Jones said. “We were able to get in the waning days of the session $2.91 million. Hopefully that will be enough to make us whole. We still have to fight for the appropriate portions of that.”
Jones was in close contact with St. Mary Levee Board President Bill Hidalgo during the high water event.
“The levee board we have is the best, and sometimes you just have to politically say that because that’s where you’re from, but it’s true. I mean, compared to all of the rest combined. The can-do attitude, you as citizens when you decided to vote in the millage to protect yourselves. I don’t know if anybody saw this coming, but the immediate need we had for it.
“Bill (Hidalgo) called and we talked as this thing began to approach. We don’t have a whole lot of time to wait for permits from the Corps of Engineers and get permission from the state and this and that … Don’t wait for them. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission,” Jones said.
Also, Jones discussed that the Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District now holds jurisdiction over the Wax Lake Outlet.
“We all know how landlocked Morgan City has become, and the need for more growth. Again, Mayor Matte and Mayor Ratcliff, we have talked about that a lot, looking for any opportunities we can. We’ve talked about potentially a bridge to Avoca Island,” Jones said.
The executive director of the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau, Carrie Stansbury, worked with Jones to obtain funding for the organization’s new building. The bureau also received funding to furnish the new building.
“We also made allocations to assist with our festivals, Shrimp and Petroleum, Cypress and Black Bear. The little bit of money that we put into those in a good weekend, it comes back 10-fold for our businesses and our people,” Jones said.
Jones also wanted members of the private and parochial school community to know changes were made to their tax credit.
“There was a $5,000 tax credit that you could claim 50 percent. The 50 percent has been taken off and now you can claim the whole $5,000,” Jones said.