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Opinion: The details matter

The mention of “government” these days can gin up a pretty heated discussion as folks cuss and discuss the shortcomings of those elected to work on our behalf.  That’s especially true of our federal representatives – and with Louisiana’s current fiscal shortfalls, there likely won’t be much complimentary conversation about state representatives over the next several months.

On the other hand, the folks who are elected to and those who staff Bossier City and Bossier Parish governments appear to be seriously contentious about truly representing our best interests.  A couple of cases in point over the last week support that suggestion, particularly in light of the detail of thought and work provided by these folks.

Observing the last Tuesday’s special meeting City Council meeting to discuss the city’s 2015 capital budgets was an opportunity to discover just how well our city department heads collaborate to improve public service.  During the meeting, department heads reviewed their respective capital budgets and answered questions, if any, from council members.

Departing from that format slightly, however, Fire Chief Brad Zagone noted an item in his budget concerning the banding of the city’s fire hydrants.  As Zagone commenced to explain the sometimes differing water pressure in these hydrants, he was joined at the podium by city Utilities Director Jeffrey Anderson.

Frankly, I submit that most of us haven’t ever given differing hydrant water pressure a thought – but fire department personnel are most certainly aware of the effect of such differences – and, noted Zagone, had undertaken to evaluate the pressure the city’s hydrants.  Zagone said that often there is more than one hydrant in the proximity of a fire and knowing the one that flows at the greatest pressure is an important fire-fighting aspect.

Anderson, however, offered an in-depth explanation about precisely how that pressure should be measured, and explained that his department will handle a much more scientific evaluation of these critical fire-fighting water sources.  Hydrants will then be “banded,” identifying the water pressure of each in the city to assist fire fighters in making the right choice when more than one hydrant is in proximity for use.

Details count, and these folks are all about the details.

And so is Bossier Parish Police Jury Engineer, Butch Ford.

In a recent visit with Police Jury District 3 member Wanda Bennett, Ford, consulting engineer Bruce Easterly, and Parish Administrator Bill Altimus were generous with their time in describing the parish’s completed infrastructure projects as well as those planned for near-term completion.  A more comprehensive review of that work  will be the subject of this space soon – but in the meantime, another one of those important details.

Ford noted that the parish has spent significant funds to put “bases under our roadways … in south Bossier alone, before the Haynesville Shale ever came, we spent $9 million down there soil cementing the bases so we could have a good road base to build our road on.  And the oil companies put up another $4 million – we spent $13 million … now we have road bases in the populated parts of the parish …”

So, what’s so important to taxpayers/voters about those road bases?  Bill Altimus later explained that Ford is very versed on soils and asphalt makeup, and that there’s a whole science in just that.  He said that Ford did additional studies at school and then working for the state Department of Transportation and Development and as manager of a local testing company.

“We have different soils in the parish, they react to conditions all of the time, like clay soils contract and expand with heat and cold. These different conditions cause havoc on roads — why they crack, why they sink, why the edge of shoulders on the roads fall off, plus add variables like increased weight and traffic volume, unexpected activity like the Haynesville Shale to the mix. Used to we would throw some rock down and put a couple inches of asphalt on top and call it a day.”

Altimus said that long before the Haynesville Shale, but as the parish was reconstructing roads in south Bossier, Ford went to the jury and recommended that in addition to the rock base — we could use less rock — but in addition, cut soil cement with a disk, wet it down, let it harden up and them put some asphalt on top, and in some situations additional inches of asphalt to increase the live expectancy of the road.

“No one around here was doing that, it increases the original cost of redoing or doing a road from what we were used to. This action has really increased the life expectancy of the roads then what we experienced in the past with the added plus of being able to take a beating from the weigh and vast number of loads experienced due to the gas boom,” Altimus said.

And he credited the parish engineer saying, that Ford put the parish in a great position in view of what has happened and that without this additional effort, the roads in  south Bossier would have been destroyed, even doing what we did, still took a toll but w’re surviving.

Again, details count.  And in both cases, they count for best serving the public — just thought you’d like to know there are some seriously dedicated folks on your side.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com

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