DENHAM SPRINGS — Balancing economic development with infrastructure improvements was a common theme among Livingston Parish leaders who gathered recently to share their communities’ progress with parish business leaders.
Parish President Layton Ricks, giving the first “State of the Parish” address of his second term, said when he moved to the parish 38 years ago, he never imagined the explosion of growth it would experience.
“The Bass Pro and Juban Crossing developments continue to expand, making it easy to stay on this side of the (Amite) river,” Ricks told business leaders at the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce event, held March 9 at Forrest Grove Plantation. “With the coming of the full-fledged hospital someday — and I think rather soon — of Our Lady of the Lake and North Oaks, we’ll even be able to stay on this side of the river for all of our health needs.”
Ricks said Juban Crossing has opened about 30 stores and restaurants, with more on the way, including Walk-On’s set to open March 21 and Movie Tavern on March 31. Two car dealerships, a home furnishings store and other retail developments later will be built on the east side of Juban Road, he said.
The Juban Crossing development already has generated $600,000 in new sales tax revenue for the parish, including for the purchase of construction materials, Ricks said.
Stealing some of Ricks’ thunder before he spoke, Mayors Derral Jones, of Livingston, and Rick Ramsey, of Walker, boasted of several other big developments in their areas, including EPIC Piping and a soda distribution center south of Livingston and the Martin Brower distribution center now under construction in the Livingston Parish Industrial Park in Walker.
A truck stop also will be coming to the Interstate 12 exit at Livingston, Ricks said.
The parish will perform about $3.5 million in overlay road work this year, on top of the $5 million completed in 2015, Ricks said.
The Parish Council has added new roads to the list to be prioritized and improved. The updated list was on the council’s March 10 meeting agenda for approval, but the meeting was canceled due to bad weather.
Ricks said other goals he has for the parish include construction of a civic center and securing stable funding for the parish’s animal control program.
Jones and Ramsey — in their dueling and, at times, comedic presentations — also boasted of ongoing water tower projects in their respective municipalities.
Livingston is preparing to put a new $1.1 million water tower online and hopes to have funding in place by next year to drill a new well, Jones said.
Walker will begin work this week drilling its own new well, after a new $2 million water tower went online in December, Ramsey said.
“So, just to let you know, Walker is still one step ahead of Livingston,” Ramsey joked.
Walker also is beginning about $5 million worth of road renovations in the industrial park, continuing to oppose the state’s plans to build nine roundabouts along La. 447 from La. 16 to U.S. 190, and continuing to push the widening of the I-12 overpass as the top priority road project in the parish.
Jones reiterated his plans to retire as mayor at the end of this year. Ramsey also has said he does not intend to seek another term — a point Jones seized upon in playfully upstaging the Walker mayor, whose presentation came later in the program.
“Since in all likelihood, he and I will not be able to have this stage again,” Jones said, turning to Ramsey, “I’m announcing your intention not to run again.”
“Since it’s the last time, I should really tell you what I think about the mayor,” Jones said of Ramsey. “And I should tell you that he’s done a marvelous job in Walker, that he’s faced some tough issues bravely, head-on, handled them.”
Jones praised Ramsey especially for his work in planning and fundraising for Challenger’s Field, a baseball field for children with special needs that will be located in Sidney Hutchinson Park.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Jones said. “It’s so wonderful, he got in my pocket for it.”
“And that wasn’t easy,” Ramsey quipped.
“No,” Jones said, smiling. “That’s not easy. So the rest of you, don’t even try.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.