Delay in city road program could hike costs, mayor says

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter

The cost of the City of Plaquemine's first road program in nearly two decades is rising with the price of oil, Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta said Monday.

A legal dispute between the City of St. Gabriel and the Iberville Parish Sales Tax Department over the collection of the newest sales tax in which the City of Plaquemine shares caused Plaquemine officials to put off a $12.34 million bond sale at least until after a May 5 court hearing. Any appeal could drag the process out for another 18 months, the mayor said.

Gulotta said he thought the city would be able to rely its portion of a two-third cent sales tax that has been on the books for some time to finance the road program.

“The city, since 1990, has always had the two-third cent sales tax dedicated to roads,” the mayor said. “That's not in any kind of dispute. Only the new one is in dispute.”

The bond attorneys say the litigation over the collection of the latest tax on the Eastbank would have to be written into an opinion on the bond sales, and could drive interest rates up.

“Interest rates are the best they've ever been,” Gulotta said. “What's worrying me is the price of oil is going up.”

Asphalt and other products used in roadwork are petroleum-based.

The mayor said the city was paying $62 a unit for asphalt for road repairs just a couple of months ago, but that has risen to $70 a unit this spring.

“Oil shoots up, and the whole job costs you more,” he said. “That's why we made such a big push to make it in the spring.”

As yet, the bond sale has not gone to State Bond Commission