By Amanda Simmons, firstname.lastname@example.org
As work is underway to revamp Swan Lake Road, it serves as a reminder to Bossier Parish Administrator Bill Altimus of many other road projects that could have already been accomplished.
A millage proposed more than a decade ago could have funded construction of new, major roadways across the parish. However, the proposal failed to pass a public vote.
“Here we are 12 years later and half the projects still haven’t been done. With the way traffic is in the area, we needed to get it done but the millage didn’t pass. It didn’t help us then and it’s not helping us now,” Altimus said.
The Bossier Parish Highway Department was using clay to fill potholes in 1996 due to depleted of funds, according to a document from Altimus. The public supported a parish-wide 2.48 mills property tax as a solution, allowing the police jury to borrow $5 million to jump start the Highway Department in the areas of equipment, material, and manpower.
The document states the debt would’ve been paid off by 2006 and the parish would then roll back the millage to 1.99 mills. However, tremendous growth in Bossier Parish presented new challenges for the police jury in the form of roads, water and sewer.
The parish did seek state and federal funding for projects and were successful in their efforts for the transportation system, but it was not enough to fund water and sewer as well.
In 2006, the Bossier Parish Police Jury went back to the public requesting a renewal and increase of highway tax millage to fund six road projects at a total of $15 million.
The six identified projects included Linton Road improvements and realignment, Bellevue Road reconstruction, Wemple Road extension and reconstruction, southern Arthur Ray Teague Parkway extension, Sligo Road reconstruction, and St. Lucy/Marlena Street extension in Bossier City.
The 2006 proposal would have raised the 2.48 approved millage to 6 mills, allowing the jury to borrow the necessary funds to complete the projects in two to three years time. The requested increase would generate an additional $2 million, which would in turn be used to pay back the borrowed $15 million over a 10-year period.
Altimus said the police jury went ahead and “bit the bullet” to fund several of the projects, including the Bellevue Road reconstruction and the Wemple Road extension. The parish also completed the southern extension of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway, but Altimus said the parish is still paying for that project.
Had the 2006 proposal passed, Altimus said all of the projects would have been done and paid for by 2016.
“Unfortunately, the citizens voted it down,” he said.
While some of the projects were done, others have never even been started.
“The Linton Road improvement and realignment did not happen. The Sligo Road reconstruction in south Bossier did not happen. We were going to put in a crossing at the railroad tracks on St. Lucy/Marlena Street, but that didn’t happen,” Altimus said. “These were projects that we strategically planned for because we knew they needed to happen.”
Altimus said the projects need to get done, but it takes money to do it.
“We know these things need to be done…the cost of land increases the longer we wait,” he said. “It’s going to get to a point where acquiring the right of way will cost as much as the project itself. They need to be done and they need to be done today.”