YLC says it's located state contract for CCC lights - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

YLC says it's located state contract for CCC lights

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New Orleans, La. — The Regional Planning Commission could vote to accept a private donation for the Crescent City Connection bridges' decorative lights as soon as Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Young Leadership Council provided FOX 8 News with a signed document which it says proves the state agreed to be responsible for the lights staying on the bridge, after the YLC raised $500,000 in the 1980's to pay for the necklace-style lighting.

The decorative lights were left off Friday night.  The state said, after the tolls on the span ceased, it did not have the funds to pay the $60,000 annual bill to keep the lights working. Of that amount, $15,000 is for the electrical bill, according to state transportation officials.

In the wake of the lights being turned off, the YLC has come up with private dollars to have them turned back on in the short term, but making that a "done deal" has been a slow process.

"It has been frustrating, you know, but all along our goal has been to get the lights back on," said YLC President Richard Pavlick.

Pavlick said the state Department of Transportation and Development told them it is not as easy as simply accepting private funds for a state bridge.

"DOTD has told us that we need to have some entity sign on to the MOU [memorandum of understanding] in order for us to give private funds, and they've been telling us it's the RPC," Pavlick said.

The Regional Planning Commission has oversight of the bridge's finances, and Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts and others urged the commission this week to call a special meeting to consider the YLC's donation.

Wednesday afternoon, Jefferson Parish President John Young, who serves as treasurer for the RPC, said a meeting should happen in a matter of days to consider the funds the YLC has offered.

"We're in the process of calling for a special meeting.  Shooting for Tuesday, which would be the 26th, where we can look at that option of accepting that money and putting the lights back on," Young said.

The YLC said a long- term solution is needed. "When we were looking at it we made the decision to do it through the end of May," Pavlick said.

Young wants the RPC to use some of the transition funds left over from the collection of tolls on the bridge to keep the lights on for up to a year.  "Give us some leeway to bridge the gap, no pun intended, so that we can keep those lights on until we find a permanent solution," Young said.

Some in the community think Entergy should chip in, in the interim.

"This would be a perfect opportunity for Entergy to step up to the plate and say we're going to light that bridge," Young said.

The YLC has maintained all along that it signed a contract with the state in 1989 regarding the decorative lights.  But at a feisty public hearing Tuesday, a transportation department official said a signed agreement had not been located.

"We have looked through our records extensively, multiple times and we have not found an executed agreement with that group," said Rhett Desselle of the DOTD.

But late Wednesday afternoon, the YLC said it located a signed and notarized copy of the agreement. It had the signature of former DOTD Secretary Neil L. Wagoner.

A paragraph in the document provided to FOX 8 News reads, "The State hereby agrees to operate the Lighting System on and after the effective date hereof from dusk to dawn three hundred and sixty-five (365) days a year as permissible under all applicable federal, state and local rules and regulations throughout the useful life of the Lighting System and/or the Bridges."

"We've maintained all along that it's a state obligation because we have this contract in place for them to maintain those decorative lights," Pavlick said.

Pavlick said the organization set up a Facebook page over the weekend to gather comments from people who care about having the decorative lights turned back on.  "And we'll be able to take all those voices collectively, take those to elected officials," he said.

In the meantime, a critical vote by the RPC on whether to accept the YLC's donation is expected to happen soon.

"I think we will have a majority who wants to go ahead and make this transition, certainly the money, the donation from YLC," said Young.

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