Benton and Haughton mayors discuss their plans to deal with towns’ growth

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Benton Mayor Shelly Horton, Jr. (far right) and Haughton Mayor Jack Hicks (second from right) gave updates on their towns at the Bossier Chamber's State of Bossier Address Tuesday. (Sean Green/Press-Tribune)

The mayors of Benton and Haughton discussed their strategy for dealing with growth of their towns at the Bossier Chamber of Commerce’s State of Bossier Address Tuesday afternoon in Bossier City.

Benton Mayor Shelly Horton, Jr. noted the town’s street improvements.He revealed the town has spent approximately $1 million per year on reconstructing streets throughout the town.

“Hopefully in two years, all of the streets in the town will be reconstructed,” he said.

He also revealed the town has grown by annexing land one mile south of the town, specifically, south of the Brookshire’s grocery store to the high school.

Horton said five new retail businesses have located in Benton in 2019 alone, with another in the planning stages. 

“I’m proud to say our shopping center on Bert Boulevard is 100 percent full,” he added.

His next topic of discussion was that the town has committed to upgrading its park, adding bathrooms to the park, a pavilion for events, and adding a stage to the pavilion. Town officials also have plans for a new walking track around the park and hope to add a spray park.

Another form of growth is in the town’s Lost River subdivision, which Horton said is “really taking off” and will be adding an additional unit.

He said the town is mindful of its water system, having engaged in a study to plan for the growth of Benton.

“We have areas where we’re getting over capacity in wastewater and we thought it was time to start planning,” Horton revealed.

Lastly, he discussed the effort to clean up the old creosote plant. Started in 2012, Horton said the cleanup is about 70 percent complete. He said the state Department of Environmental Quality has initiated additional testing and soil analysis to start another phase of the cleanup.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed this project will move forward and we can get this eyesore out of our town.”

Town of Haughton Mayor Jack Hicks noted his town is preparing for residential and commercial growth.

He said dirt work has started on land north of the current Waffle House restaurant in preparation for development.

He also revealed that Allegiant Health has purchased acreage to build a health and emergency clinic in the town. He said it is expected to open by August.

To accommodate this growth, Hicks said the town is working on collaborating with the Bossier Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) to create their own MPC office for the town.

“We’re in early discussions and started that (Monday) night. So far, so good,” he said.

Hicks also touched upon the new library coming to Haughton. Representatives from Bossier Parish Libraries, the Library Board of Control, and the Bossier Parish Police Jury signed papers January 11 to purchase land in Haughton for a new, larger library branch.

He also noted the town was ranked as one of the 100 safest small towns in America, according to a report by SafeWise. He said the town was rated No. 84 for all towns with a population under 15,000.