Smiley:?Jindal to decide LTC fate in early ‘09

Wade McIntyre

SORRENTO – The countdown toward a final determination on the viability of the multi-modal Louisiana Transportation Center, proposed for location between Donaldsonville and White Castle, will probably end in early 2009, state Rep. M.J. “Mert” Smiley Jr. said Tuesday.

Reporting on various topics from the last state legislative session at a Sorrento Town Council meeting, Smiley said he had spoken with Gov. Bobby Jindal regarding the multi-billion proposed project.

Smiley said Jindal wants one final study on the viability of the project that should be completed by the end of next month. After the study, and “probably very early next year, he (Jindal) will make his decision,” Smiley said.

Earlier this month, Jindal named 11 members to a smaller, revamped Louisiana Airport Authority. Included in the appointments were Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan and L.C. Irvin, a chief deputy in the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Also serving on the board is Stephen Moret, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development and Jindal’s top economic advisor.

LTC activity peaked before Hurricane Katrina, when an investment arm of the Canadian government first expressed strong interest in partnering with the state to build the combination international airport, river docking facility, intermodal rail yard and truck distribution site.

Smiley, who remains in favor of the project, told the council, “I think there is still a possibility” for the airport, and that Jindal has expressed more interest in the project than former Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

On another subject, Smiley reported the legislature allocated $14 million for River Parish Community College to either buy or build a new facility.

RPCC, located off Hwy. 22 near Interstate 10, is the only community college in Louisiana which leases its facilities.

Mayor Brenda Melancon and Councilwoman Troy Braud expressed concern the college might leave Sorrento when it moves.

“There are rumors that it may go somewhere else,” Braud said.

“We want it here,” Smiley said. He indicated RPCC officials were trying to keep it as close to the area as possible.

RPCC opened in 1999 with under 120 students. Growth at the college achieved a huge spurt after Hurricane Katrina, and today totals about 1,400 students.

Smiley said the school had options, including building another college from scratch, or buying the existing college.

In other business, the council:

• Accepted a $29,500 bid from SLC, Inc. to repair the leaking town hall roof and install 26 gauge tin sheets.

• Agreed to fix homes of town residents damaged by sewer backup after the recent storms, including that of Dora Thomas for $5,069, and Sterling Mackie for $17,682.

• Discussed briefly, but took no action on establishing policy in the form of an ordinance regarding use of take home police vehicles by officers on the town police force.