Now that we’ve said farewell to 2015, parish officials are already working toward accomplishing goals for 2016.
The Bossier Press-Tribune has reached out to the local mayors, parish administrator, and school officials for their thoughts on where they see Bossier headed over the course of the next 12 months. Their responses will be printed in a three part series.
Parish Administrator Bill Altimus said the top story across the board was the Red River flood, which not only had an impact on Bossier City, but the Parish.
“Back in March, I was supposed to go to California for a meeting but didn’t go because we were expecting issues then,” Altimus said. “Month after month after month, we continued watching the situation until the unbelievable happened.”
Northwest Louisiana saw its highest crest in 70 years at just over 37 feet, not far behind the flood of 1945 which crested at 38.3 feet.
“Some of the older folks living in the parish may remember seeing the river get that high and remember some of the issues that caused,” Altimus said. “That’s certainly a memorable event.”
As for the future of the Red River, Altimus said it really depends on Mother Nature.
“If we get a lot of heavy rain, that’s not going to be good. Red Chute is up and we’re watching that. We could be fighting things on the river and in the eastern part of the parish. That’s a big concern for us. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. Where it rains, it rains. All we can do is monitor those areas and be prepared to the best of our ability.”
In July, the Bossier Parish Police Jury voted unanimously to purchase a new automatic sandbagger for the parish highway department after work crews hand-filled more than 300,000 sandbags during the June flood. The machine has the ability to fill the number of sandbags it turned out in a month and a half during those floods in about a weeks time.
“These machines are very automated – you throw the sand in and it fills the bags, clamps them and has a conveyer that will actually dump the bags in a truck for you,” Altimus explained. “All the inmates and employees can be out in other areas helping rather than trying to help fill and load sandbags. What we could do in a week is what these machines can do in a day and a half. We’re very blessed to have this machine.”
The flood had a major impact on the local landscape.
“Flood waters shut down I-220 and Arthur Ray Teague Parkway, which caused an inconvenience in traffic,” Alimus said. “There were people’s houses and businesses that flooded and caused hardship on them and we hate to see anybody have to go through that.”
Big projects in 2015 for Bossier Parish include the completion and opening of the Anna P. Tooke Memorial Library. Located on Fairview Point Road in Koran, the new library officially opened in May.
Bob Brotherton, grandson of Anna Tooke and a member of the Bossier Parish Police Jury, and five other family members each donated one-half acre for a total of three acres to get the library project off the ground. Brotherton said the library is something his grandmother, a retired school teacher, would have been delighted to see bear her name.
“The library has been very successful out there,” Altimus said. “Because of the demand, they are looking at increasing their open hours. That’s a great thing for them.”
A formal parks and recreation department was established in 2015.
“We hired some people to be full-time dealing with nothing but parks and recreation,” Altimus said. “We are encouraging the use of all our parks and facilities and working to meet the needs and improve where needed. They have allocated $600,000 to do various improvements at various parks. We accepted the bid to update the restrooms at Tall Timbers, which will be very welcome. We have porta potties out there right now, but there’s nothing like a real restroom. It will add more cost and maintenance on us, but it’s an improvement that’s needed to keep us moving forward.”
Altimus said they are looking to add restrooms to Parish Camp at Lake Bistineau and will continue putting money into the south Bossier park.
“We’re going to be looking at putting in walking trails and additional parking,” Altimus said. “They are really working on the fields down there for not only baseball and softball, but for lacrosse. There’s so much space down there and they have it looking great.”
Roads and bridges are an ongoing project around the parish.
“The flood certainly didn’t help us,” Altimus said. “Those roads that flooded and were damaged are going to have to be repaired. We’re not through discussing our options with FEMA on that. There were roads in the northern part of the parish that were completely submerged for days. We’re going to continue to push forward to get those funds because those repairs will cost funds that were not budgeted. We will continue working on the roads that we budgeted for, but unless FEMA changes their minds, we will have to put money toward additional roads that we didn’t have in our three-year road budget. That will be an ongoing discussion in 2016. Win, lose or draw…we have to fix the roads.”
Overall, though, Altimus said the parish is in “good shape” moving into 2016.
“I know the Police Jury is looking forward to getting the Swan Lake Road north/south extension underway in 2016. I think that will provide some traffic relief,” Altimus said. “The parish-wide sewer system will get cranked up and working after the first of the year. That has been an unbelievable project and I can’t even tell you how much time has been put in by all the parties working on this. At the end of the day, I think it will be one of the biggest assets for Bossier Parish.”
In conclusion, Altimus said the Police Jury will continue working toward making improvements to transportation, the sewer system, and bridges in 2016.