Matassa spearheads St. Landry Edenborne Connector

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
gfischer@weeklycitizen.com
Parish President Kenny Matassa at his desk on April 10, 2017.

Perhaps the bigger story with regards to controversy surrounding Parish President Kenny Matassa is that he persists in working on projects to help the parish move forward.

One of those projects is the St. Landry Edenborne Connector, a road that is slated for completion by October at the latest. At the last Ascension Parish council meeting on Thursday, April 6 a motion carried to accept the lowest bid by Barber Brothers company from Baton Rouge.

This means construction of the road will begin very soon. However, when Matassa took office, he was under the impression that the project was ready for bidding. That was not quite the case. One of the hurdles was acquiring the property that the road will go on.

Chief of Staff Kyle Gautreau said that there were five different property groups that had to be tapped to acquire the land. The most interesting piece of that puzzle is that one of those groups was an estate in succession that belonged to 22 different heirs. Matassa said they had two lawyers working on it.

"None of them were local," Gautreau said. "They lived in LaPlace, New Orleans, Texas . . ."

"We thought it was shovel-ready to be bid," Matassa said. We didn't have right away, yet. It took us over nine months to get the right away for the property, so we could go to the bond commission. We were promised I think $5.2 million from the state to build this road, and as you know troubles the state has nine months later there was no money there when we did get to go to the bond commission."

Matassa had no choice but to go to the council for funding, since the state is broke. But it appears that the job is going to get done for $2.4 million.

"We changed it from the $5 million dollar estimate, which is curb and gutter and all that stuff," Matassa said. "It's just a nice road from St. Landry though Edenborne to Highway 44. We're still hoping to be put into priority one with the State to do the other two lanes. We can't wait any longer. It's hurricane season, and we've got a new season now called high water."

Precisely. The road is important for several reasons: disasters, special events, and plant traffic. The most important is natural disaster response. Lamar-Dixon Expo Center serves as a primary shelter and care facility during a devastating hurricane or flooding event in Southeast Louisiana.

"Lamar Dixon is a universal place for catastrophes as well as large events in Ascension Parish," Matassa said. "For the high water we sheltered our people. During Katrina we had New Orleans people in there. Even though we did everything we could it kind of breaks your heart to have your own people in there. We had a few from Livingston and East Baton Rouge. It's not like we shut the door and wouldn't let anybody in."

Lamar Dixon doesn't just serve as a shelter, although Matassa said that during Katrina it housed 2,000 people.

It's a place where disaster response is also staged. During Katrina the Sheriff was stationed there. At least four agencies worked from the 4H building during the August Flood. Furthermore, over 1200 animals were kept in the arenas of Lamar Dixon during the flood.

"We had everything from piglets to chickens and rabbits," Matassa said. "We also had some exotics. We started off with horses, and we had over 1200. Those animals were all from Ascension."

The connector road will cut traffic not only during disasters, but during everyday use, as well.

"Especially if it happens at shift change," Public Information Officer Martin McConnell said. "When all the plants are letting out this way, and everybody is trying to go that way. There is a lot of traffic there."

The road is about one-mile long. Barber Brothers will have 120 days to complete the project. They could begin as soon as one week. 

"We haven't had a new road in Ascension in many, many years," Matassa said. "It's going to get done. Put it like that."