Thursday, October 26, 2006



By Robert Travis Scott

BATON ROUGE -- Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom is quietly building political support for a $135 million state-built sugar syrup mill in Bunkie, a higher-priced version of a hotly contested proposal that was stalled by Gov. Kathleen Blanco last year because of the financial risk.

This time, Odom has a plan aimed at drawing private investors into the mix of state money backing the project in Avoyelles Parish, and several key players say the Blanco administration is receptive.

Blanco spokeswoman Marie Centanni said the governor has been informed about the proposal and is waiting for "independent verification of the financials."

"She's not taking a position until she has all the information," Centanni said.

Odom is pressing to put the matter before the State Bond Commission at its next meeting Nov. 16, which by then will be the only government approval needed to obligate the state financially and move forward.

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