The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) voted 5-1 at last night’s meeting to authorize the sale of up to $10 million of sales tax bonds for the West Ouachita Economic Development District, to be used for road and drainage improvements.
Voting no was Jack Clampit (District B), with the others voting yes: Scotty Robinson (District A), Walt Caldwell (District C), Ollibeth Reddix (District D), Shane Smiley (District E), and Pat Moore (District F).
The bond sale was approved by voters in an April 9 election that also approved a .39% sales tax hike to pay for the bonds.
Clampit explained that while he was not opposed to selling the bonds and starting the construction projects as soon as possible, he thought it would be a good idea to not issue all the bonds at once, and spread out the borrowing over a longer period of time. He added that should an opportunity arise to obtain federal or state grant funds, it would be prudent to have some cash on hand as a match to the grants.
To qualify, most grants require the local government to make a “down payment” for a project up front, or “match.”
Said Clampit, “If we haven’t got match money, inflation is chump change. Once we get through with this $10 million, the only match money you’re going to have is $600 thousand. That’s it.”
Caldwell suggested that projects needed to be done as fast as practicable, otherwise inflation would eat up the available funds.
Robinson said the resolution didn’t mean they had to sell all the bonds at once, but that voters did expect progress on road repair in a timely manner.
“We went to the voters and asked for a tax, with the understanding that if they voted for the tax, we’ll sell bonds and fix roads sooner rather than later.”
In other business, the jury approved an ordinance removing about twenty roads from the parish’s road system. The roads in question were little more than dead end private driveways, most of them serving only one house, it was said.
A couple of people showed up for the public hearing, but were unable to make the case that the roads were used by the general public, and should be maintained with tax money.