OUR OPINION: New LAA, same old problem

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

The revamped Louisiana Airport Authority held its first meeting Wednesday at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, tasked with bringing to reality the long-awaited Louisiana Transportation Center to be located outside of Donaldsonville.

However, from the looks of things, this new incarnation of the board may be nothing more than delaying the inevitable end of the project with little to no visible support from state government.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret - who is also an ex-officio member of the authority - announced the administration will not have the LAA complete a business plan or studies for a return on investment and the ultimate structuring of a public/private partnership to build the center. This lack of support leads one to believe that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration does not have much faith in the project.

The move comes as the latest step in a long, drawn out process that has infuriated some and left others wondering if the promises of new jobs and increased economic development will become a reality for an area that is looking for a spark.

After a vote by the state legislature in June, the board was changed to 11 members and now faces abolition July 1 unless other state officials decide by next year the multi-modal facility is feasible.

For a project that has been nearly 20 years in the making, the wheels look to be falling off more and more each day. Even new LAA Chairman Lane Grigsby, when interviewed by reporters after the meeting, stated publically that he does not believe he will be in his position for an extended period of time.

Adding to the situation, Executive Director Glenda Jeansonne told the Weekly Citizen this week that she would be leaving the authority next month for personal reasons, and that the authority’s LaPlace office would close as well. Executive assistant Judy Ates will also take a volunteer role with the agency. Under the new structure, neither would be a paid staffer.

Critics of the project have argued the LAA has outlived its usefulness and has cost the state nearly $7 million in studies, operating costs and other expenses.

We believe that such a facility would be a great economic stimulus not only for our area, but for the state as a whole. It could be the catalyst to revive an area that was one thriving from the sugar cane industry, but now is in desperate need of revival.

Unfortunately, it seems that wasted time and disinterest at the state level may wind up sealing its fate.