Bid opening big step in St. Landry improvements

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Main News Photo

It’s not very glamorous, but when bids for construction of a sewer plant are opened this month, it will mark an important step in providing the infrastructure needed to bring new business and more jobs to St. Landry Parish.

The plant will be built on the south end of the Central St. Landry Economic Development District, which was created to promote economic growth in the I-49 corridor. Thar corridor is the “transportation backbone of St Landry Parish,” according to St. Landry economic development director Bill Rodier. “Aggressively promoting its growth is one of our key economic development priorities”.

But to be competitive in that promotion, it is “absolutely necessary” to provide the infrastructure that will bring development, including good roads, a reliable water supply, and less sexy items like sewer plants.

CSLEDD is funded through a one-cent sales tax on businesses within the district. At the time of its formation, chairman Frank (Buddy) Helton said “priorities of funds usage will include sewer and water upgrades, interstate lighting improvements, necessary road and pedestrian improvements, and enhanced maintenance along I-49,” among other things.

Over the past two years, the district has established programs in each of those areas. The sewer plant contract comes after more than a year of work to acquire the needed property, design the facility, get the necessary permits, and establish working agreements with the City of Opelousas, which will actually operate the plant, and parish government, which had to approve it.

The plant will have the capacity to treat 150,000 gallons of wastewater per day and that can be quickly doubled, according to Helton. “If things start booming as we hope, and that capacity is needed, it can be done very easily,” he said.

In terms of its other priorities, CSLEDD has taken over the maintenance of the part of the I-49 corridor that is within its boundaries including an expanded mowing schedule, regular trash pickup, and spraying for weed control.

It will also let a contract soon for one of the last parts of a project to replace and upgrade lighting in the median between Guilbeau Road and the U.S.190 intersection. More than a dozen light poles that had been knocked down were replaced and lighting generally upgraded all along the corridor.

The district also underwrote most of the funding plan for a “Gateway Acadiana” masterplan to develop 600 acres of Evangeline Downs property at the I-49-U.S. 190 intersection. The plan calls for stores, an RV resort, an event center, cultural amenities, and possibly some residential development.

The district has also contracted with a company that specializes in matching retailers with communities where they fit well. The company has identified 40 retailers that could be interested in St. Landry, and is “getting our district in front of the people we need to get in front of,” according to Helton.

Three things to know about this story:

  • It is “absolutely necessary” to provide the infrastructure that will bring development, including good roads, a reliable water supply, and less sexy items like sewer plants.
  • CSLEDD priorities include sewer and water upgrades, interstate lighting improvements, necessary road and pedestrian improvements, and enhanced maintenance along I-49.
  • The district will also let a contract soon for one of the last projects to replace and upgrade lighting in the median between Guilbeau Road and the U.S.190 intersection.

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