Mayor evaluating city’s needs
Water has been on Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux’s mind a lot lately. It’s no surprise. It’s been on a lot of constituents’ minds, too.
“Our biggest concern that has really been occupying my time is the rain event and worrying about Cross Lake,” Arceneaux said. “We dodged the major ice storm. That was very good news. It appears if we have flooding, it will be relatively minor flooding. We don’t think the lake is going to get to the level that’s going to be a tremendous threat.”
The mayor understands that “minor” can be a relative term when it comes to flooding.
“The fact that somebody else’s house did not flood does not give you comfort if yours was the one that flooded,” he said. “I am very sympathetic to anyone in those low-lying areas that may suffer some damages. We don’t think there’s going to be any real threat to life and that damage to property will be probably some, but not a huge amount.”
Rain isn’t the only water concerning Arceneaux. The city of Shreveport is involved in litigation over a water and sewer consent decree.
“That has occupied a fair amount of my time,” he said. “I have to get into the weeds of some of that. Some of it has been going on for a very long time. I probably spent more time on the water and sewer consent decree litigation because the EPA is trying to impose fines, and we are resisting that.”
The Environmental Protection Agency’s goal in the litigation is to stop sewer overflow, and the city is in agreement with and is working to comply with that goal. The issue for the city is the cost to comply.
“What we thought was a $300 million project appears to be a $1 billion project,” Arceneaux said. “We don’t have a rate base to do that in the time frame that the consent decree envisioned.”
Arceneaux said the city has made a “Herculean effort” to comply with the “strenuous consent decree.” The city is seeking some time and content relief.
“We’ve been trying to persuade them it would be better to put that $4 million in the ground, so to speak, than to give it to the EPA,” he said. “That’s a big deal. It’s huge amount of money. We’ve already spent more than $200,000 more than what we thought the total project was going to be.”
Arceneaux said Shreveport continues to scout the prospect of bringing baseball back to the city.
In October of last year, former Mayor Adrian Perkins announced a proposed partnership between the city and REV Entertainment that included plans for a new multi-sports facility at the Louisiana State Fair Grounds that would bring independent professional baseball and other events to Shreveport.
“We’re still evaluating that,” Arceneaux said of the project. “We think they’re a real deal, but they have a real price tag. That price tag is what we are trying to evaluate.”
The mayor said the up-front public-dollar contribution is in about the $75 million range. There is one option for raising that money that Arceneaux said is off the table.
“I have said I am not going to use general obligation bond funds to do it,” he explained. “I won’t ask the people to pass taxes to pay this. The main reason is that we have so many infrastructure needs, and that’s how we fill those needs. I don’t want to do anything that will affect our capacity.
“We have not cast it aside. We are actively looking at that to see what sources of revenue we could cobble together to see if that’s doable. We’re still very interested in it.”
The appeal of the project, he said, is the prospect that it will go beyond baseball.
“We are thrilled to bring not only baseball back to Shreveport but to also use sports as an anchor for development and a catalyst for entertainment,” REV Entertainment president Sean Decker said when the project was announced last October.
“The baseball stadium is a big part of the capital requirement,” Arceneaux said. “What they are planning to do with that total facility and what they are planning to add to that is really significant and really transformational.
“If the project will sustain itself through other types of funding, that is something we are looking at. We hope we are going to be able to do that. At least then we will know that we looked at it really hard. We really tried to do it. If we can do it, we will be ecstatic. If we can’t do it, at least we didn’t just dismiss it out of hand.”
In Other News
Arceneaux has been working with Shreveport Police Chief Wayne Smith to review plans for a new police headquarters, three new substations and the police department’s share of a police and fire academy.
Money for those projects was approved in a bond issue. It includes $27 million for the headquarters, $500,000 for the police department’s part of the academy, and a total of $4.5 million for the three substations.
Rising construction costs since that bond passed have compelled the city to revisit the budget for the project.
“Estimates for those projects were put together before COVID and before the recent rise in construction costs,” Arceneaux said. “We’ve been meeting with the police chief to go over what they are trying to do with the money that was passed in the bond issue, to try and determine exactly how to go about doing this.”