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|Police jury looks for election date to establish road lighting districts|
Residents in several Ouachita Parish Police Jury districts have recently inquired about establishing road lighting districts in their neighborhoods.
According to parish attorney Jay Mitchell, there has been some interest from residents in District E and District A about establishing new road lighting districts.
"I've been fielding several calls lately from people wanting to know what our plans are," said District E police juror Shane Smiley.
Road lighting districts must be established by voter approval since residents would be charged an annual service fee for 10 years to pay for utility charges for road lighting and the improvements, maintenance, and operation of road lighting facilities and equipment.
"We've been looking for an election," Mitchell said, referring to an election date in which parish residents could vote on whether to establish road lighting districts in their neighborhoods.
Mitchell believes there will be an election sometime in fall 2009 in Ouachita Parish.
If enough voters in an area want to establish a road lighting district, the matter could be placed on the ballot for that election, Mitchell said.
Voters in Ouachita Parish's current road lighting districts also would be asked at that time to approve a change in the method in which they pay for road lighting service.
However, the proposed change in billing would not affect the amount currently charged to residents in road lighting districts.
The reason behind the change, Mitchell said, is because of problems with collections in some districts in the parish. The proposed changes in billing would take care of those issues.
Currently, fees are collected by the police jury, which sends bills to residents living in the road lighting districts. Any unpaid accounts must be resolved through the district court system.
If voters approve the changes, road lighting fees will be placed on the property owner's tax bill, which is collected by the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office.
If a property owner does not pay his or her property taxes, the property could be seized by the sheriff and sold at auction.
East Baton Rouge Parish operates its road lighting districts in the same manner. Ouachita Parish was recently approved by the Legislature to be included in that statute.
Road lighting districts that do not agree with the proposed change would only continue to operate as long as the districts have funding for the service.
The police jury has asked homeowners interested in establishing road lighting districts in their neighborhoods to contact the parish.
If enough property owners in a neighborhood want a road lighting district, they will have a chance to vote on the matter in the fall election when the current road lighting districts vote on the proposed billing changes, Mitchell said Monday during the police jury's regular meeting.
When the police jury establishes new road lighting districts, Entergy creates a map of the district and determines how much to charge property owners for the maintenance and operation of the district. The fee could be as little as $15 annually, or $40 or more a year.
After that information has been established, the police jury can call an election. If voters approve of the measure, road lighting will be established and charges would begin to appear on property tax bills.