Officials hopeful about 2016

Published 1:57 pm Thursday, December 31, 2015

Leaders of the three major Washington Parish government entities believe momentum from a strong 2015 fiscal year will carry over into 2016.

Washington Parish President Richard Thomas, Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette and Franklinton Mayor Wayne Fleming all said prospects appear bright for a strong new year.

Parish President Richard Thomas:

“I think we accomplished most of our goals for 2015. There are a few things we would have liked to have done, but didn’t get to.

“We accomplished getting all of our roads and 36 miles paved. That is a few more miles than we anticipated. We were able to manage our finances very well. We came out of (2015) with a $500,000 General Fund balance.”

Improvements for 2015 included:

• Poole’s Bluff Recreational Area improvements have been ongoing for the year 2015 with walkways, fishing pier, boat ramp access and gazebo;

• Parking expansion for Franklinton Library;

• Animal Shelter – improvements to old YACC building on 7-mile Road;

• A new location provided for Franklinton Chamber of Commerce;

• Washington Parish Tourism relocated;

• New scales in place at the Choctaw Landfill.

Thomas said part of the focus for 2016 would be construction around government buildings.

“We anticipate being close to finishing up with the extension of the administration building for parish government. We had close to a $500,000 grant for that. We’re close to finishing up with the animal shelter. That’s big for us.

“We have a Road Transfer Program to redo on North Choctaw Road and Dummyline Road. They will be finished in early 2016. The contract for those has been let. We’re going to pave them with three inches of asphalt and do the lines. We’re hoping to do another 30 miles of regular blacktopping of more roads. We’ll probably redo a lot of the roads and put in a seal coat on them.”

Thomas said Roosevelt Drive in Bogalusa is on the repair list. Members of Sweet Beulah Baptist Church have repeatedly requested for the road near the church be repaired.

“There is a whole litany of things we have planned to do, like renovation in the Clerk of Court Office and a new roof on part of the jail. That will probably cost $50,000 as the bids are in. We’re going to cut and patch some roads that we found weak spots.

“We’re expecting a great year. We’re expecting the markets to pick up,” Thomas said.

Thomas said Cell No. 6 at Choctaw Landfill is in the design stage. He said a new water well for the Bogue Lusa Water Works District is also in the plans.

Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette:

“2015 was a challenging year. We got our feet wet this year and know what to expect in the coming year. We’ve worked hard to have a more productive police department, getting our financials straight without rate increases and worked hard on grant funding. We had a lot of distractions at the beginning of the year like with the new computer system and payroll changes. Despite those distractions, we haven’t veered off the path for the betterment of Bogalusa.”

Perrette listed a few advances.

“We reopened the window for our citizens to pay water bills. We did some street overlay in District A on Austin Street. We did some milling on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for a smoother ride. We updated the water system in the Terrace area, and we had a lot of ribbon cuttings for grand openings. Business is what we need. We need those jobs. We renewed the lease of General Dynamics, which is 600 jobs.

“With the Business on the Block, we’ve worked with the city to provide activities for our kids and give back to the community. We inherited a $1.3 million deficit, but there is still a lot to be done in infrastructure overlay, bringing in more businesses and staying in the black. “

Perrette talked about the city’s financial aspects.

“We’re ending the year in the black. That’s huge. We went before the Bond Commission in March and the city was faced with the possibility of not getting permission to borrow funds because of our deficit. We were granted permission to borrow $1.9 million.

“I’m proud to say for the first time we’ve only borrowed $700,000 of the budgetary loan. That’s showing improvement when we go before the Bond Commission again next year. We’ve got a great financial team. Despite all the cuts that have been made, we’ve haven’t had to cut services. It’s imperative to shop local and buy local. What you can get here, get it here.”

Perrette said 2016 will be another challenge.

“We want to stay in the black. However, we do have a new cell for the new landfill. That’s going to cost $340,000 and we’re working on a grant to fund that.”

Perrette said five new police officers have been hired, including two from a $221,000 grant from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Office.

As for 2016, Perrette said plans call for additional street overlay, The city expects to receive an $800,000 Louisiana Community Development Block Grant for Richardson Town to repair water lines.   

Also, Perrette said plans call for more training for police and fire department personnel.

“I see positive economic growth within our city coming in 2016,” Perrette said. “Gov. John Bel Edwards added Ben Nevers and Toye Taylor to his staff. There is State Sen.-elect Beth Mizell and State Rep.-elect Malinda White. They’re all from Washington Parish, so we won’t be forgotten. They all know our needs. I think they’re all going to work hard to improve our city because it’s their city, too.”

Franklinton Mayor Wayne Fleming:

A new National Guard building — worth $12.8 million — came to the town of Franklinton in 2015. Along with that was construction of a new mini-mall, which will include six new businesses, such as Hibbett Sports, Taco Bell, Dollar Tree and Pizza Hut.

In the old Industrial Park, five new businesses opened.

“It’s been a very good year for Franklinton and I hope we continue doing well,” Fleming said.

Fleming mentioned the Safe Route to School Grant that provided $300,000 to construct sidewalks so student can have a safe walk to school. The sidewalks are extended from 11th Avenue to the junior high school.

Fleming said he expected to see additional business coming to town.

“New businesses have helped us with our sales tax. There are approximately five or six businesses we are working with now to being in,” he said.