It’s been an eventful summer for the Town of Plain Dealing.
Mayor David Smith said the start of the season brought good news with funding opportunities remaining available.
The last special legislative session in June saw legislators commit $5 million in funding for the Local Government Assistance Program (LGAP) (buy emergency vehicles and municipal needs) and the Community Water Enrichment Fund (CWEF) (water and sewer).
“It’s a boon to a town like ours. Those types of grants are important,” Smith said.
LGAP is used to buy items for small towns’ governments such as emergency vehicles or items for municipal needs. CWEF is used to aid local governments’ efforts to rehabilitate and improve water and sewer systems.
For example, Plain Dealing last used a CWEF grant to buy a high pressure sewer line cleaner. “It’s a good source of funding for a town like ours,” Smith said. “The problem is those things are always in limbo as to whether the state will fund them. It’s good that they came together and made sure we still have things like this.”
The town will now work on identifying and designating a project for LGAP over the next three to four months.
“These grants are a long-time coming. We have a LGAP application for a new police car dating back to 2017, but the state hasn’t release the funds yet.”
Smith previously told the Press-Tribune that a town like Plain Dealing lives or dies by state funding.
“Our governor is always talking about how economically challenged the state is. Little towns like ours, we live by grants to help fund projects,” he said. “Our tax is 8.57 mills and that money is pretty stretched out.”
Smith noted at the Bossier Chamber of Commerce’s State of Bossier address that attracting jobs is his No. 1 priority. “We have an industrial park in our town with 27 acres and we’re looking for the right fit,” he said at the time.
Smith noted the town did secure one HVAC business in the industrial park that had been empty the previous eight years. He also had inquiries from the North Louisiana Economic Partnership for a a dog food manufacturer looking at spaces, but “we haven’t heard anything from that in several months.”
He said the town also had a blow in that a finance company left last year and that Dole’s Insurance is going to merge with Vivian and operate out of that location.
“We’re always looking to fill up our downtown. But (attrition) is part of it too,” Smith said.
Smith said Plain Dealing is anticipating the completion of I-49, saying, “That will put us in a favorable condition for industry to come. We can be a north-south corridor for Arkansas and Louisiana.”
“Bossier City is growing north and we’ve seen a lot of growth on Old Plain Dealing Road. I think you’ll continue to see that growth but you’re limited to where it can go, so most of it will come our way,” he said.
Smith said Plain Dealing is comfortable attracting residents as a bedroom community. “We have people who live here and drive into Bossier City to work,” Smith explained. “We’re seeing older people who are ready to retire, and buy something where the cost of living is not bad and settle in for the rest of their lives.”
Other developments in the town include the wastewater treatment plant receiving an award for the treatment plant of the year for the northern half of the state.
The town also qualified for an energy upgrade grant through SWEPCO. The program sets aside money for energy conservation to lower energy bills, with $200,000 being distributed across 120 entities. Plain Dealing received $1,500 for energy-efficient lighting.
“We’ll be replacing some of these old fluorescent lights in city hall and police department with LEDs that are more energy efficient,” Smith explained.
Renovations at Plain Dealing High School have been going on all summer.
It may be the first official day of summer break, but Bossier Schools is moving full steam ahead with plans for the 2018-2019 school year. Carrie Martin Elementary held its last official day of school May 24 and began their transition to the high school campus the week of June 11 as part of a reconfiguration of Plain Dealing schools. Plant a Seed in our Youth Foundation moved into the former elementary campus that same week.
“They’ve made a lot of progress pouring the parking lot to allow space for bus pickups. They’ve also been making renovations for the building that housed the old gym,” Smith said. “They’re certainly moving dirt and pouring concrete up there.”
Also, Smith himself is up for election. Qualifying for elections ended July 20 and he drew two competitors in town council member Cindy Dodson and former mayor Wiley Robinson.