Mayor’s address strikes a balance between competing priorities

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Nathan Wilson | Reporter
Economic growth and quality of life issues featured first and foremost among the issues Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. covered in his State of the City address Feb. 2.
First highlighting the businesses opening or expanding in Natchitoches, Mayor Williams then identified areas in need of revitalization. His proposed solution to pay for many of the city’s ambitions is to seek ARPA and RAISE grant funding for the projects. ARPA funding is apportioned according to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, while RAISE Grants are discretionary awards administered by the US Dept. of Transportation.
Both provide funding for infrastructure improvements with general criteria such as safety, and economic competitiveness along with funding specifically targeted toward goals such as improving mobility for seniors and the disabled.

This article published in the Feb. 5, 2022 print edition

One project Williams advanced is revitalization of the Texas Street economic corridor, a signature initiative of his administration. Others such as renovating the city pool, investing in a solution for the city’s looming water needs or implementing the city’s bike and pedestrian paths have languished on the agenda for years. After identifying many expensive priorities, however, he segued into the need for budgetary restraint by contrasting the debt service cost for Parc Natchitoches with the revenue generated by tax district C, which was created to support it. While dramatic his characterization was incomplete; it omitted both the revenue created by sales and bookings generated by Parc Natchitoches and its operational expenses.
Another priority Mayor Williams addressed was increased opportunities for Natchitoches residents, particularly the youth. To do so, he envisions providing expanded youth leadership and employment opportunities with the city, leveraging Natchitoches’ reputation into a brand and creating symbiotic relationships between the city and small businesses.
Williams’ plan to improve opportunities within Natchitoches entails restarting the defunct Mayor’s Youth Council to provide students with the opportunity to develop ideas and work towards community improvement. He also wants to provide better employment prospects for city employees by increasing pay for full-time city workers, and expanding the range of summer jobs available for teenagers to include departments such as public works.
The Mayor plans to provide further clarification of his plans, and answer the questions sure to follow, at a town hall meeting scheduled for Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cane River Brewery on Mill Street.