Caddo Commissioner Ken Epperson has a well deserved reputation for being a stubborn self-serving bully on the Caddo Commission; his latest folly is a great example of his determination to spend taxpayer dollars on efforts to promote his political career/ambitions versus the good of the whole. His proposal to spend $3.9 million dollars to connect Dawson Road to Rice Road can not be defended on any logical analytical basis.[June 4 Meeting Minutes]
But with Epperson, the surplus of Caddo Commission funds is a cookie jar that needs to be raided nonetheless. Epperson represents Caddo District 12 that encompasses much of the Jefferson Road and Greenwood area. He is haughtily proud of his commission seat– his pickup truck is adorned with Epperson Caddo Commission signs, he wears knit shirts monogrammed with his name and commission district, and he regularly holds community meetings for small audiences that feature a wide panel of elected officials, many of which are brow beat into attending.
Commission meetings provide him an opportunity to grandstand on a regular basis without regard to merit; a recent example is his glowing endorsement of now indicted Commissioner Michael Williams to become parliamentarian of the Commission.
Epperson was the chief architect of the ill fated mayoral bid of then Shreveport Councilman Sam Jenkins. Epperson ignored input from knowledgeable black leaders and political advocates that pulled out of the Jenkins camp after disclosure of many tax liens against Jenkins. During the primary Epperson was virtually more visible than Jenkins and his constant persona was considered to be a detriment by most political observers.
Dawson Road is a dead end street off Jefferson-Paige Road. This sparsely inhabited road has had occasional flooding problems; its residents, some of whom have owned their property there since the 1800s (according to Epperson), had concerns over this issue along with emergency response time. The Parish had already taken steps[parish hearing] to subdue the flooding issues with recent upgrades in drainage structures. Additionally funding for Caddo Fire District No. 3 was procured which added personnel to the previously unmanned fire station on nearby Jolly Nappier Road.
To determine the need for the connection of Dawson Road to Rice Road, the Commission hired outside independent consultants for perform a feasibility study of the extension on the proposed route; the study was to include construction cost estimate, community impacts and a benefit-costs analysis. The study’s conclusions were indeed enlightening—and seemingly should be a conclusive death knell to this suggested pork barrel project.
The study found that after the construction of the proposed road could become a cut through from Jefferson Paige to Greenwood Road. The study concluded that the increased traffic on Dawson Road could be a negative impact on the Dawson Road residents. Additionally, the proposed extension would not improve travel time unless the speed limit was increased from 25 mph to 45 mph on Dawson Road.
The tax benefits from the proposed extension were dismal indeed. The cost to the project area without any future development would be in excess of $76,000 per household. The extension would open up land for further development and if the max of 101 households were added, then the future development cost would “only” be over $38,000 per household. Based on the current homestead exemption, the study concluded that the Parish would not see a benefit in the way of property taxes from the development.
The road extension would lower the EMS response time—but only by 1.3 minutes from 3.9 minutes from Station 1 to 2.6 from Station 4. In the parish, a 5 minute response time is the accepted maximum and thus the study concluded that Dawson Road had adequate EMS service without the Rice Road extension. The study also concluded that travel times for Dawson Road residents would actually increase with the Rice Road extension. Thus there was no cost benefit from travel time expenses—but there would be additional costs to residents for increased vehicle wear and tear, fuel. etc. Additionally the upgraded road section would not provide a safety benefit and in fact the proposed new roadway curve could increase accidents, especially if the speed limit was raised.
Bottom line, the proposal was rated a big dud. For the project to be economically acceptable, the results of the benefit-cost ratio should be greater than or equal to 1 (one). The user benefits were calculated to be ZERO and the cost to be in excess of $7.5 million. Thus the benefit-cost ratio was ZERO. Nonetheless, Epperson continues his crusade much like a determined but short sighted pit bull. He has attacked the feasibility study after attempting to drive around the individuals conducting the study; seemingly he does not understand the concept of independent analysis if it does not coincide with his political proposals. Recently he was very rude to a large group of Rice Road residents who exercised their political rights by attending a Commission meeting to express their opposition to the project; these residents just happen to also be constituents of Epperson.
Apparently Epperson’s only real justification for the Dawson Road extension is that the cookie jar is full. Epperson likes to spend parish funds—he was the primary proponent of the purchase by the Parish of the old GM plant, an acquisition that has yet to provide any revenue to the parish or jobs for residents. But its not his money; Epperson has not suggested any reductions in parish taxes or rebates of tax surplus to those who have paid for the cookies. And like his cohorts, Epperson voted to raise the annual unrestricted/unmonitored Commission expense accounts to $15,000, to participate in the legally questionable retirement plan (and spend tax dollars on attorneys to defend it), and for numerous pay raises for himself and other commissioners. To his credit Epperson has been consistent in his money spending habits – – all with public funds.