Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker looks ahead for 2018

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories

Now that we’ve bid farewell to 2017, parish and city officials are already working toward accomplishing goals for 2018.

The Bossier Press-Tribune will be talking to city, parish and school officials to discuss their thoughts on where Bossier is headed over the next 12 months. Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker says there will be continued emphasis on infrastructure improvements in 2018.

Multiple road projects are already in the works. The portion of Shed Road that connects Benton Road to Airline Highway is being expanded from two lanes to four, with construction expected to wrap up this summer.

There are also plans for a $45 million northern parkway extension (called the Walter O. Bigby Carriageway) and construction of Innovation Drive just north of I-220. The future Innovation Drive, situated off Swan Lake Road, is expected to be an additional east-west corridor that will run parallel to I-220, which the city also hopes will provide some traffic relief. The road will also lead to a new Honda dealership and open additional development opportunities in the future.

The Walter O. Bigby Carriageway will continue where the Arthur Ray Teague Parkways ends (at Red River Chevrolet) and follow a path to Traffic Street and continue north along the Red River before ending in the 2200 block of Benton Road.

Once completed, the roadway will be the only major north-south corridor in the city without a railroad crossing, which will allow traffic to flow better through town.

“You’ll be able to go from Parkway High School all the way to Benton Road without having to stop for trains,” Walker said, adding that almost all of the right of ways have been purchased for the project.

“Old Bossier” was made new again when the new multi-million dollar area was revealed in November 2017. Visitors to the East Bank District can now enjoy an entertainment plaza, bike paths, revamped sidewalks and landscaping, local retailers, and more.

“We still have more things to do there,” Walker said. “We still have to build the apartment complexes with the stores underneath them. That’s when it will really start taking shape and take off. Even in the short term, we now have a festival plaza that we can do things in and have a good place to do it in.”

Walker said the residential developments may take a while to complete, but the updates to “Old Bossier” have already proven itself as successful.

Other notable events, as presented in list form by Walker, include the mayor and city council election, the grand opening of the East Bank District as part of the downtown Bossier re-envisioning project, and continued growth in the National Cyber Research Park.

Walker and all but one councilman were re-elected unopposed in March 2017. District 1 Councilman Scott Irwin was challenged by former Bossier Parish School Board Member Lindell Webb and won that election.

“We maintained a continuity of operations,” Walker said. “That’s very, very important at the municipal level.”

Walker remains optimistic about the new year and has several major projects on his radar. He compiled them in a list for the Bossier Press-Tribune.

A new access to Barksdale Air Force Base from I-20/I-220 is a top priority. The project would extend the roadway from I-220 to the proposed new Barksdale Gate. It also includes improvements to the existing I-20/I-220 interchange.

The goals for this project include enhancing national security and defense by ensuring unimpeded arrivals at Barksdale, as well as alleviating traffic congestion and delays, according to a report by the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments.

“Our governor strongly supports this and the people at Barksdale support this,” Walker said. “Hopefully we can get that connection started in this fiscal year.”

Kent Rogers, executive director of NLCOG, said this project is being timed to coincide with Barksdale’s work on a new weapons storage area, sometime in 2020 or 2021. The estimated cost for the project is between $50 million and $80 million.

The final cost will depend on how much of the original engineering work still can be used, Rogers said. Once the projects begins, it is expected to take 18 months to 2 years to complete.

The City of Bossier City’s 2018 budget includes a 2 percent cost of living pay increase for its non-public safety employees. The city was last able to grant a 2.5 percent cost of living increase for employees in 2016, according to the city’s Director of Finance Stacie Fernandez.

Walker said employees will have $400 per month added to their base pay hopefully by mid-year. All seven council members voted to introduce it. The big day will be Jan.16 when it goes up for adoption at the city council meeting.

Above all, Walker said he plans to remain pro-business and encourage new development to keep Bossier City going and growing.

“We’re looking good,” Walker said. “We’re always getting compliments on the way we’re doing things here. The administration and our legislators work extremely well together. When we decide there’s a project worth doing, we find the resources to do it. That’s just how we do things in Bossier City.

2018 at a glance

(List provided by Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker)

  • Plans to increase employee salaries
  • Continue Walter O. Bigby Carriageway – bid the construction of Parkway from Traffic Street to Old Benton Road. Continue right of way acquisition. Bid in 2018.
  • Continue Downtown Re-envisioning project. Recruit more businesses, commercial and residential
  • Improve timeliness of replacing employees. Update job descriptions for all city employees and personnel policies
  • Continue joint preparation of annual operations and capital budget
  • Continue initiative for new access to Barksdale Air Force Base from I-20/I-220
  • Design and construct Innovation Drive ($15 million project)
  • Bid and begin construction of Northeast Waste Water Plant ($14 million project)
  • Complete big lift station on Airline Drive ($4.8 million project)
  • Begin construction of the East Texas Gravity Main Project and rehabilitation of Don Lift Station ($5 million project)
  • Begin construction of Greenacres Force Main & lift station project ($8.5 million project)
  • Work with YMCA to develop a master plan for new YMCA in North Bossier Park
  • Begin construction projects in Mike Woods Park
  • Demolish Ft. Smith Pool and implement a walk fitness area at that location
  • Encourage citizens to shop local to avoid revenue loss from internet sales
  • Continue to be pro-business and encourage business development

By Amanda Simmons