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|Blade, Calhoun express displeasure with Finks Hideaway project|
Work to widen Finks Hideaway Road is expected to begin next year and should take all of 2009 to complete the first phase of the project, according to parish engineer Don Harrison.
The Finks Hideaway Road project, which will widen a portion of the road from two to five lanes, will consist of two construction phases.
The first phase of work calls for the widening of the road to five lanes from U.S. 165 to Holland Drive.
The second phase would widen Finks Hideaway Road to three lanes from Holland Drive to Raymond Drive.
The cost for phase one is estimated at $8 million. The Ouachita Parish Police Jury would pay $1.6 million toward project costs.
There is no timetable for the phase two portion of the project, Harrison said.
"Right now, all we're pursuing is phase one," he said.
Currently, right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation is under way. Once that work is completed, the police jury expects bids will be accepted for the project. Work would begin shortly thereafter.
"We hope to be ready to begin next year, but that all depends on securing the right-of-ways," Harrison said.
The police jury entertained some heated discussion about the project Monday during its regular meeting.
Police juror Mack Calhoun of western Ouachita Parish questioned the costs of the Finks Hideaway project.
Police juror Dorth Blade also questioned why the project had taken so long to get started.
"That seems like a lot of money for one road," Calhoun said.
Juror Shane Smiley, who represents the Finks Hideaway Road area on the police jury, took issue with Calhoun's comment.
"One major road," Smiley said.
Smiley's retort prompted Calhoun to respond.
"I don't mind working in every area, but I don't want it to be a one-way street," Calhoun said. "It just seems like there's a lot of money there for one road."
Calhoun has often questioned the amount of money the police jury is scheduled to spend on Finks Hideaway.
Blade pointed out he has been a member of the police jury for about five years. He believes the Finks Hideaway project has dragged on for too long.
"When are we going to finish that area?" Blade said. "I've been sitting here for five years, and the greater majority of the money is being spent, in my estimation, on Finks Hideaway, and in that particular vicinity."
"I want to get something done in District D before I go home," said Blade, referring to his desire to accomplish more for his district before he retires from the police jury.
Harrison said the program that is helping pay for the Finks Hideaway project is funded by the Federal-aid Urban Highway System Program. Funding from this program is announced through the Ouachita Council of Governments. Projects are then prioritized by parish officials along with the cities of Monroe and West Monroe.
"These are typically larger projects that local government does not have the ability to fund by themselves," Harrison explained. "That's why they are being funded through that program. They are extensive projects, and typically take anywhere from five to 10 years to initiate plans and actually construct. I understand you're tired of hearing about it, but it's in a program that takes a fairly long time to work it's way to the top of priorities, secure the funding and then follow through with the planning, design and construction phase.
"Hopefully we can be under construction early next year. It will take most of that year to complete the work. And, hopefully after that, the police jury can consider another project in another area."
The Finks Hideaway project first began in 1999.