The Ferriday Town Council will decide at a special meeting on Jan. 25 whether to hire a city engineer/consultant with assistance from a former Rayville city planner/economic developer to oversee the town water system at no cost.
Clint Vegas of Ferriday, owner of Delta Fuel, brought the idea to the mayor and aldermen on behalf Jatinder Goel of Baton Rouge and Rev. James Smith of Rayville.
Bonita Mayor Virgil Penn and Tony Matlock of USDA were also in attendance at the meeting.
Vegas said he would be willing to pay Goel, freeing the town from that expense. However, he said Goel would eventually be paid through grants.
McMahon said that if Goel and Smith do not hold up their end of the bargain, they would be dismissed.
"Being the largest employer in Ferriday, I just thought it was time to give back," Vegas said. "I want to see our town prosper. I can't bring people in to help me because of the infrastructure. And our problems can't be solved in Baton Rouge."
Smith was a former city planner for Rayville.
"I worked for the city of Rayville for 20 years," Smith said. "I had some of the same problems y'all have. I was able to get $6 million in grants.”
He said that although he was retired “one of my dreams is to come into a poor community and do something. You can get into a lot of trouble if you don't have a city engineer. Everything I do will go through the city. We will be able to answer questions from the Louisiana Department of Health and DEQ that you will not be able to answer."
"So you are basically saying you will do this for free until we get on our feet?” asked alderman Glenn Henderson.
Smith said that was correct.
"I've been saying there is no sense in getting anything new until we fix our current pipes," said Alderwoman Gloria Lloyd. "I want to thank Mr. Vegas for thinking of Ferriday. We've allowed people to treat Ferriday bad for too long. And we would not speak up."
Mayor Penn said the town of Bonita contacted Smith when the town was experiencing many problems.
"The council bought into what we told them we wanted to do and we did it," Penn said. "We qualified for everything the state gave us."
Alderwoman Gail Pryor asked if there would be a conflict if the town hired Goel.
"We always use Bryant Hammett," said town attorney Myisha Davis. "We do not need to appoint a city engineer tonight for the Town of Ferriday. We need to do some research into this."
"I respect everybody, but I may step on some toes," Smith said. "If you don't need me I can just go home."
McMahon said Goel would be representing as a go-between for the town of Ferriday concerning projects requiring engineers.
Vegas said Goel and Smith have visited the water plant and have already applied for a $5.1 million capital outlay grant to repair old water pipes that were not removed when new pipes were installed
Vegas said Goel would also oversee tying Ridgecrest's water system into Ferriday's system.
Ridgecrest Mayor Veller Ray Carroll previously told the Sentinel that the USDA approved a loan/grant totaling $999,000 to be use solely for work and construction related to tie in with Ferriday water system, Carroll said. Of the total amount approved by the USDA, $565,000 is a loan and $434,000 is a grant.
In the meantime, Ridgecrest is seeking a Louisiana Community Block Grant. If that is approved, the USDA loan/grant will not be needed.
Ridgecrest is one of 60 applicants in the second stage of applying for part of a $20 million LCDBG allocated by the Office of Community Development. Final funding decisions will be announced in April.
The project includes sandblasting and cleaning the interior and exterior of their water tower, purchasing and installing new ground storage tank and installing a water line from Ferriday’s water plant to Ridgecrest’s storage tank.
Additionally Ridgecrest would purchase a new radio-controlled water meters and install a handicap bathroom in city hall, Carroll said.
The water line will run down Vidalia Drive.
“We are looking at next spring to break ground with this project,” Carroll said. “We are signing papers now. It just takes time to get started.”
Funds have been obligated from the USDA loan/grant, said Tony Matlock, USDA community programs director for rural development.
Officials from USDA are now waiting on project designs to be submitted to their office.