First Year Highlights and Forward-Looking Projects
By John Richmond, Natchitoches Parish President
2020 has certainly been a year to remember. For many of us, the COVID19 pandemic and category 2 strength of Hurricane Laura have overshadowed nearly every large and small memory of this year. And while these events are defining moments for 2020, they have served to define and refine who we are as the people of Natchitoches Parish. It is your character, resilience and determination that has truly defined this year.
The good people of Natchitoches Parish have continued to work hard, stay safe, care for friends, neighbors and visitors and pray for wisdom in a world that is very different than it was less than one year ago. While I am sure we can all agree there is a great deal of work to do, changes to be made and work to accomplish in our parish, let’s take a moment to look at a few of the things that defined our collective character this year:
Actions we took in response to COVID-19:
•The Courthouse remained open to do the business of the people. All agencies remained on the job while complying with the State mandates for safety. Justice was served in our court rooms, elections were held, our Clerk of Court and Parish Planning Commission continued to facilitate property for residents and businesses and our Sheriff’s Department worked tirelessly. The result was continued operations with minimal impact related to COVID-19 with no serious outbreaks.
•Parish Government and Office of Community Services worked with the School Board to implement a feeding program for Parish children who were learning remotely and did not have access to school breakfast and lunch.
•OCS also continued to safely administer their commodities distribution, provide assistance for utility and rent for those in need and coordinate the Senior Companions program. Recently, OCS was approved for a grant to provide electronic tablets to seniors so their Senior Companions could visit with seniors remotely. Our response to Hurricane Laura
•Hurricane Laura reached Natchitoches Parish as a category 2 storm and caused nearly 100 percent loss of power throughout the parish. As a result, all resources (Local, State and Federal) immediately were called to action. Your Parish Government assumed a leadership position in this effort and served alongside the leaders of the Louisiana Air National Guard and other State and Federal leaders. And while no one is happy to lose power and sustain major wind damage, I am proud to say that our power restoration and cleanup happened in a more expedited fashion than most areas that sustained similar damage.
•More than 95 percent of Parish roads were made passable within one week of the storm.
•When the storm winds diminished, your Parish Government worked closely with City, Parish, State and Federal agencies as well as volunteer agencies such as the Cajun Navy, to get food, water and other essential supplies to residents who were without electricity.
•Damage assessment and power restoration began immediately following the storm and your Parish Government and worked closely with local utility providers to assist and expedite the return of electrical service to Natchitoches Parish residents. This power outage was unprecedented in our area. Not only were lines to our homes and businesses down, the main electric feeds, substations and the power generation plants were also damaged. In spite of this, power was restored to more than 95 percent of Natchitoches Parish within two weeks. Special thanks goes to all restoration personnel for their extraordinary work.
•Because of the long power outage, it became important to assist local municipalities to secure generators and pumps for water and sewer systems. Special thanks goes to our Office of Emergency Management for their coordination of these efforts. Other 2020 Items:
•Natchitoches Parish Government continued to work with local water systems to apply for grants. Grants were awarded for the improvement of several local water systems.
•Grants were also received for the purchase a roller/compactor for our road maintenance.
•With nearly 2,000 miles of ditches and culverts to maintain, the highway department saw the need for more equipment to help. A step in the right direction was made when budget savings allowed for the purchase of a second piece of equipment to help with drainage maintenance. There is still much work to be done, but progress is being made.
•We can all agree that a great deal of work is needed to restore our road system and change will come slower than any of us would like. However, the highway department worked to keep our rural roads passable throughout the year. This was done by putting nearly 50 percent more road material on our roads in 2020 than in previous years and doing so with increased efficiency and less personnel. Our parish roads are a priority and we work daily to increase efficiency, lower costs and put as much funding to road maintenance as possible.
•As promised, our budgets have become more transparent. Every expenditure is scrutinized and cost management is done daily. Cost savings are achieved, waste is removed and budgeted funds are kept in check.
•After many years of effort, the roads of Payne Subdivision have been repaved and drainage has been greatly improved. Forward-Looking Projects
•We have awarded a contract to W.E. McDonald for a project that will pulverize several roads in the Parish. While this is not the same as repaving a road, the roads selected for this project will be greatly improved upon completion.
•Work will begin soon on the rehabilitation, drainage improvements and repaving of Fish Hatchery Road. This is a result of a cooperative endeavor between the Cane River Waterway Commission and Natchitoches Parish Government. This same type of agreement will also rehabilitate and improve Bermuda Road in late 2021.
•A section of Martco Road damaged by the movement of Lower Cane River will be replaced in 2021. Funding for this project is from a State grant.
•Your parish government will continue to work with the public and private sector on economic development projects to bring more employment to our parish.
Natchitoches is a great place to live AND DO BUSINESS! With a great port, rail access, certified sites for industry, the resources of NSU and CLTCC, and a parish full of hard working, qualified people, industries are looking at Natchitoches Parish as a possible place for their business. Together we can bring these jobs to our home. Together, we can make tomorrow better than today.