Lake Charles City Council members voted unanimously Wednesday to amend the city's current budget to allocate an extra $5 million toward infrastructure work, including asphalt overlays, intersection improvements, road striping, sidewalk repairs and more covered bus stops.
Mayor Nic Hunter said the supplemental infrastructure package increases general fund spending to $13.3 million for the current fiscal year, up 56 percent from $8.5 million set aside in the 2018 fiscal year. He said the package came about because the city saw a surplus in the current fiscal year, along with expenditures being below budget.
"I'm very confident in saying that we have never spent this much money on road and transportation initiatives in the city's (recent) history, excluding bonded projects," he said. "We do feel like right now, with the growth in Lake Charles and some of the traffic issues we're having, it is prudent to start spending some more money on some road and transportation initiatives."
The largest amount includes street and intersection improvements, along with asphalt overlays. Just over $10 million will be spent, up 37 percent from the $7.3 million originally set aside. Hunter said this work is "the most impactful."
"We hear a lot of comments about drainage and the conditions of our roads and the need to improve them," he said. "This is a direct response to that call from the public."
Spending on sidewalk repairs and construction will go from $500,000 to $1.5 million, as will expenditures on street striping.
Spending on covered bus stops will go from $49,750 to nearly $300,000. Hunter said that will pay for nearly 25 new shelters along existing bus stops. Currently, the city has 53 sheltered stops.
"A lot of times we see citizens that are standing at these bus poles without shelter," he said. "It could be inclement weather, the blazing sun bearing down on them. We want to try and fix that."
Over the past 10 years, Hunter said the city has spent an average of $5.96 million on infrastructure work. He said the supplemental package will not replace any money set aside for citywide drainage improvements. There are no new taxes associated with the additional spending.
"We cannot promise that we can do this (supplemental package) every year," Hunter said. "But right now the need is absolutely there."
Hunter said the supplement won't fix every road in the city. But, he said, the city is "being more aggressive than ever before on getting our roads up to par."
The improvements mainly cover roadways along older, established areas of the city that are in need of repair.
District A Councilwoman Mary Morris said more money is needed on infrastructure improvements. She said some of the streets in her district have been neglected for a long time.
Councilman Johnnie Thibodeaux was absent from the meeting.