The shows will go on; Funding approved to supplement festivals, events

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By Juanice Gray, Editor

Funding for the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission (NHDDC) in the amount of $319,165 was approved by the state. The announcement was made at the Thursday, July 18 regular meeting. Treasurer David Stamey said the figure matches the recently adopted budget. The NHDDC contributes funding for numerous festivals, maintenance and landscaping of city parks, NSU events, marketing and advertising efforts, downtown enhancements, care for the trees and landscaping on the riverbank, billboards, athletic events and other special projects.

Breast Center -October 2020 -300×250 #1

The Commission voted to transfer a total $1,000 of carryover funds into their special projects account that supplements additional projects that arise.

Chairman Van Erikson said the visit widget app is proving itself within one month of launch. “Visitors are staying on the app an average of 3 minutes, 19 seconds,” he said. “That means they are using the app to look at different events and utilizing the resource.” He said 2004 users have downloaded the app and of those an estimated 700 are in Natchitoches, 500 in the Dallas/East Texas area and the remainder from across the country.

“We test ran push notifications for the Fourth of July Fireworks. It worked really well,” he said. He said the app has the capability of issuing “pings” when a user is in the area of an event or festival. “That is if push notifications are turned on,” he said. The commission will develop a policy on “ping” so users will not be inundated with them.

This is the view from the center of the Touline Street beautification project sponsored by the NHDDC.

The Request for Proposals (RFP) for the downtown wifi project went out July 18 and included a map of the service areas. The project will progress in phases beginning with the downtown area (Front Street) then progressing to Second Street and possibly beyond. “The wifi is intended for passersby and tourists to have access and not for business or professional use,” Erikson said. The RFP is for a three year contract.

A second RFP will be published for an administrator to monitor and host the service.

Erikson, who is Director of Student Services at NSU, said dorms are already fully booked for the upcoming year. He said the university offers lists of off-campus housing and rental properties to students. There were 1,250 students attending Freshman Connection this summer. Move in day for NSU and LSMSA is Aug. 17.

Kelli M. West, Director of Marketing & Communications for the City, said occupancy numbers are coming in and they are good. “We are one of the few cities across the state seeing (hotel occupancy numbers) above last year’s numbers. We’re doing very well.” She outlined the events surrounding the Steel Magnolia 30th anniversary in November.

Historic District Business Association and Main Street Director Jill Leo also had good news. She said she had conversations with local restaurant owners and learned they have had a good summer thus far. “It is still hit and miss for retail, but the restaurants have good numbers,” she said.

Danielle Conde snapped this photo of a gator swimming in Cane River.

Cane River Waterway Commissioner Jim Rhodes expounded on the alligator in Cane River issue. “Sixteen is what was counted on the one run by two boats with one person in each. We all know there are more, but 16 is what they saw,” he said. The CRWC passed an ordinance banning feeding alligators. He said the dredging project for the north end of Cane River is progressing. “It will be a bucket dredge in the channel, down the middle,” he said. They are waiting on permits to proceed.

City Chief of Staff Edd Lee said the renovations at the Arts Building on Second Street are on schedule. “It has been stripped to the bare walls. They are making good progress,” he said. As a final note, he said additional shrubs and irrigation would soon be added to the Jefferson Street Park.

This site on Jefferson Street once housed College Cleaners. It is located behind the Ackel Building and is the location of a proposed walking park. Photo by Payne Williams