The Bossier Parish Police Jury could soon receive a windfall for repairing damaged roads.
The final ruling on an ongoing dispute with FEMA over $25 million in federal funding to help repair roads damaged by two consecutive years of flooding in 2015 and 2016 is expected by the end of this month.
Poole, Atkins Clark, Smith, Caplis Sligo and Sligo Roads need the most work, with an estimated $15 million price tag. Another 40 smaller roads need about $10 million in repairs.
The parish has been seeking the funds for more than three years. FEMA has continued to deny the request. After exhausting every appeal with FEMA, the Bossier Parish Police Jury voted in October of last year to request an arbitration hearing.
In January of this year, Bossier Parish Engineer Butch Ford and other parish officials flew to Washington D.C. and presented their case.
Bossier Parish Police Juror Jack “Bump” Skaggs said one vital piece of evidence that the Parish brought with them was core samples of the roads that were damaged by the storm and core samples of a road that was not.
“We took core samples of all the roads that were inundated. In all of those samples, there was significant visual damage to the core. We also took a core sample of another road in Bossier that was not affected by the flooding and was built around the same time as the ones that were inundated to show the significant damage,” said Skaggs.
Skaggs went on to say that when FEMA was presenting their side of the case, FEMA brought in unlicensed Louisiana engineers witnesses to counter what the parish experts had said during their testimony.
“One of the disappointing things for us is FEMA brought extra witnesses in to counter Butch and our experts’ testimony. These folks were not licensed engineers from the State of Louisiana. From a credibility stand point, we didn’t feel like that was a very good representation of the case,” Skaggs said. “You are looking at Louisiana roads that have totally different soil compositions than in any other part of the United States. And, they are not a licensed engineer in the State of Louisiana.”
Skaggs countered that Bossier Parish could not have asked for a better, credible, and informed witness than Ford.
“He started building state highway roads with his dad when he was young. So, he knows the construction process. He actually did core samples on roads just like what we brought there. Then he went to work for DOTD and now works for the parish,” Skaggs said. “So, you couldn’t have had any one individual in the State of Louisiana that is more credible than Butch up on the stand talking about our road conditions.”