THE INVESTIGATORS: Seeing Double? - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

THE INVESTIGATORS: Seeing Double?

Plantation Estates in Denham Springs (Source: WAFB) Plantation Estates in Denham Springs (Source: WAFB)
Plantation Estates in Denham Springs (Source: WAFB) Plantation Estates in Denham Springs (Source: WAFB)
DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) -

At first glance, everything about Plantation Estates in Denham Springs seems to be just like any other neighborhood, that is until you start driving through it. You come to a stop sign, but then right behind it, there's another stop sign.

"We already have a stop sign. Why would you put another stop sign in front of a stop sign? We already have street signs. Why would you put a street sign in front of the street sign," asked Leah Owens, who lives in Plantation Estates.

In fact, at a three way stop, not only are there two stop signs in all three directions, but there are also double street signs and even two speed limit signs.

"It's just a waste of taxpayer dollars. I thought it was funny that they put the new stop signs up right in front of our old stop signs that were doing what they're supposed to be doing," said another neighbor, Wesley Sorenson.

It all started when the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) and Livingston Parish put down new pavement on Plantation Avenue, a project that began before the August 2016 flood. The parish received grant money, with the federal government putting up 80 percent of the total cost of the project and Livingston Parish picking up the other 20 percent.

The 9News Investigators got a copy of the 225 page contract for this specific project. The total cost of the entire project is $863,000. Of that, $14,600 was spent on all the new signs. The old signs are decorative and made of cast iron and are throughout the neighborhood.

"I know the fancy signs were placed in here by the homeowners association. It cost $400 - $500 a piece. If one gets knocked down, we put it back up, replace it," said Sorenson.

"It's not just the signs. There are mailboxes tossed in yards because the contractor came in and got rid of all the previous mailboxes that were up and put up new mailboxes. Initial ones were serving the purpose because they were people's individual's personal mailboxes," said Sorenson.

One hundred and seven mailboxes cost $16,585, but because the project started prior to the August flood, that number changed. "This is the second time we've had to put these up because when we were evacuating people during the flood, the boats took them all out, so now they put them back up," said Sorenson.

Fifty-two mailboxes had to be replaced. That increased the total spent on mailboxes to $24,645.

"Some people are saying that after it's done they're going to pull the mailboxes out and put their old ones back up and it's a waste of money," said Owens.

The grand total spent on all the new signs and mailboxes is $39,245. "It's absolutely ridiculous. It really is. It should not be put into stuff like this. It's wasting. We already have a money issue," said Owens.

Even though it's federal dollars repaving the roadway, DOTD is overseeing the project. "The federal government can't be at every parish, every project, every city, so we oversee it for them," said DOTD spokesperson, Rodney Mallett.

"Some subdivisions, some parishes that are not on state routes may have decorative signs. They might not meet federal standards for size, reflectivity, or crash testing, so in our contracts, it's required that you meet the federal standards for signage," said Mallett.

The contract breaks down the guidelines for the signs from the exact required size down to the type of screws that have to be used on the signs.

"If you're going to use federal money to resurface or do any kind of work on a route, then we are going to ensure that the signs, the mailboxes, and everything on that route meets state and federal standards," said Mallett.

It's the same thing when it comes to mailboxes. Mallett said the mailboxes and even the signs have been crash tested by the federal government. "Let's just say for example if a mailbox is just hammered onto a wooden fence post, you hit that post, it breaks and goes through your window, it's now a safety hazard, whereas this is tested where it breaks away and goes the other way, then it is crash tested and deemed safer than the other one," said Mallett.

"No, it's not for safety reasons. You're wasting money and it's trashy. The neighborhood does not like it. They want them down. We don't know who to go to. We don't want this in here," said Owens.

"With the budget shortfall we have right now, I don't know how much is in the contract right now for these signs, but it would be a waste of money. We could probably save some money there and help produce that budget deficit," said Sorenson.

When asked if he feels the project is a waste of taxpayer money, Mallett responded, "I don't because to get this repaved and reworked, there's a system. You have to meet federal and state standard to use federal money."

Mallett said they are talking with the parish and contractor to figure out which signs meet federal standards. He said the ones that do not meet them will be removed. He added they will not be thrown away. Instead, they will be re-used on other projects by either the parish or the state where federal dollars are not used.

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