Church Street Bridge future and sports park projects updated at City Council open forum

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

Mayor Lee Posey gave an update on projects in the City during an open forum following the City Council meeting Monday. Perhaps of the most interest is that a new Church Street Bridge project will not start for about three years. The environmental impact study will be complete in June. The design phase will take from 18 months to two years to complete and after that the project must be bid. “It will be three years before we start the bridge,” Posey said.

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His other priorities with La. DOTD include an east bypass from the Grand Ecore area to North Williams. Earlier plans have the bypass connecting with the Water Well Road to Interstate 49. Two other priorities are an overlay of Rue Jefferson and hard surfacing of Dirt Blanchard Road. Despite the rain, work continues on the recreation and sports park on University Parkway. The City will erect a sign at the site soon and host an open house in about three weeks.

The City has received two grants for walking and biking trails and the facility will have a dog park. Posey cited other projects at City parks including four new pavilions, new playground equipment, restrooms at City Park and other improvements. Posey cited major infrastructure improvements such as new water lines, electrical updates and completion of a sewer lift station.

Despite those efforts, the City continues to face sink hole problems in its streets that cannot be avoided nor predicted. On another subject, Posey said the City does not pay for fireworks displays for groups that have meetings in Natchitoches. He said Chief Micky Dove and NPD have formed Additional Street Patrols (ASP) and are seeing results. Officers now wear body cams which has cut down on the number of complaints. The City has installed numerous security cameras which have also cut down on vandalism.

About 10 people were present for the open forum. The first speaker, Marsha Graham, lives on Rue Jefferson and said the street has become a speedway for people traveling to Amulet. Graham also complained about a section of the street that holds water; parts are dark; and there is no striping. Posey asked her and the other audience members to call City Hall when they notice those problems. Carl Sias spoke about his concern for senior citizens in parts of West Natchitoches. He said some feel their lives are in danger if they speak to the police. He said he often hears gunshots at night and asked for security cameras in those areas. Posey said that the police department has increased patrols and hope to have more security cameras in his area by summer.

Councilman Herbert Batiste agreed with Sias that there are numerous gunshots at night. He said someone in the area has a semi-automatic that can be heard in the and around Dixie and Sanford. “I’m going to rely on the police,” Posey said. He again urged the citizens to report those incidents to the police department. “The more information we have, the better chance we have to address it.” Harold Bayonne, president of Citizens for Democratic Action, said that parts of Breda Town are overgrown and there are deep potholes on Spring Street near the cemetery. He asked for help in those areas.

Harold Foster spoke about drivers blocking traffic while waiting for red lights to change. He said some cities have black boxes in which vehicles are prohibited at traffic lights. Chief Dove said that blocking traffic in the middle of the street at a red light is a traffic violation. Posey again said that the department and City Hall must be notified of such violations. He said the police officers were writing tickets all over town to discourage speeding. “But then they get mad when we write tickets.”

Carolyn Breedlove said there were no sidewalks on St. Maurice Lane and the ditches were full of water. Posey told her that the City was already over budget on sidewalks but there were sidewalks on East Fifth leading to the schools.

Posey reminded those at the meeting they could report problems to City Hall and 352-2772 and Dove said to report them to the police department at 352-8101. He said the callers could remain anonymous.