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Thursday, March 7, 2024

Bond Proposals, Water Rates

Arceneaux photo

$256.3 million on the table for citywide investments

The Shreveport City Council recently approved three bond proposals for capital improvement projects across the city. Mayor Tom Arceneaux went to the bond commission this week, the last step to get the proposals on the April 27 ballot.

Together, the three proposals would raise about $256.4 millionth fund projects across the city.

The first bond proposal is for $125,140,000 for streets and drainage projects. The bulk of that money — $52,800,000 — would be dedicated to projects that would hit closest to home for all city residents.

“There’s $52 million for neighborhood streets,” Arceneaux said. “A lot of the streets that people complain about are neighborhood streets. We are putting an awful lot of money in this to do neighborhood streets.”

Some other elements included in the streets and drainage bond proposal:

Medical corridor improvements: The proposal includes $6 million for improvements along Kings Highway in the medical corridor, roughly from Interstate 49 to Mansfield Road.

Bridge improvements and replacements: Four bridges — the ones at Gilbert and Fern, South Lakeshore Drive near Fred Park, Quail Ridge Boulevard over Gilmer Bayou and Stoner at Line — would be rehabbed or replaced with $8 million from this bond issue.

Fair Grounds entrance improvements: This project includes $1.5 million to improve trafiic flow off I-20 and the Kings Highway connection.

Monkhouse Drive improvements and beautification: The bond proposal includes $2 million for improvements on Monkhouse near Shreveport Regional Airport.

The second bond proposal would raise $82 million for water and sewer projects. It includes, among other things, $10 million for an elevated water tower in southeast Shreveport, which would help maintain water pressure, and lift station improvements across the city.

The final bond proposal would raise $49.3 million for Shreveport Police, Shreveport Fire Department and Shreveport Parks and Recreation. Highlights of that proposal include a new Fire Station No. 3, renovations at the Police and Fire Academy and other fire station renovations. It also includes Improvements to Hirsch Coliseum, Independence Stadium Riverview Theater, Sci-Port and the Shreveport Convention Center, as well as parks across the city.

Arceneaux said he will begin a series of public community meetings to inform the public about the details of the bond proposals. Also, he will raise private funds for a campaign to advocate for the proposals.

“The city can spend money on education, on providing the information,” he said. “We cannot spend money on advocacy. I’ll be out there doing that. I think some council members and department heads will assist as well.”

Water rates

In other council business, council members postponed a proposed 10% increase in water rates. In the meantime, the city is looking into allegations that have been made about over billing.

“We still need the 10% to meet our ratios,” Arceneaux said. “We are examining the allegations that were made about over billing. I am not ready to comment on this yet.”

The mayor is moving forward with plans to modify the Shreveport Water Assistance Program, which has $500,000 budgeted to assist residents with paying water bills.

The goal, he said, is to streamline the eligibility process for the program.

“What we were trying to make sure of is that whatever we did, we were making sure that we were relying on someone else’s certification,” he said. “That’s why we said SNAP program, because somebody else determines that eligibility.

What we didn’t want to have to do was set income levels and then verify everyone’s income taxes. Now not only are you extending an entitlement program, but you’re adding administrative load to it. What that does is increases the cost of doing it, which takes away from the only 10% rate increase.

It all has to come out of the water and sewer budget some way”

Arceneaux said he anticipates United Way being the agency the city partners with to oversee the program. Chief Administrative Office Tom Dark met with United Way recently to discuss the options.

“They met for over an hour to figure out what other kinds of certifications there might be that would make somebody automatically eligible for this,” Arceneaux said. “The key is to make them automatically eligible.”

The mayor said he hopes the proposed changes make SWAP smoother for residents who need it.

“We have $500,000 budgeted for it,” he said.

“We hope that’s sufficient. If not, we will have to look for other sources of revenue.”

On the move

The city is expanding some of its services with the recent ribbon cutting at a new police substation and the acquisition of a west Shreveport property.

The city broke ground on a new police substation Feb. 28 at the corner of Monkhouse Drive and Interstate Drive. The 13-acre facility will boast a significant police presence in that part of the city.

“It will serve two functions,” Arceneaux said.

“We will be moving traffic division out there. That’s about 100 officers. That is in addition to the substation. So there will be a significant police presence out there on Monkhouse.”

The city also recently purchased that former BJ Energy Services property on West 70th Street near Bert Kouns Industrial Loop.

“We’re going to be moving Public Works and Water and Sewer out there,” Arceneaux said. “We are working on a transaction that will help us build that building. There is a building already there, but it’s not big enough to house both of them. We anticipate moving Public Works from its current location there. Water and Sewer is already out there.”


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