PORT ALLEN — Several members of the Port Allen City Council have high hopes this year of sprucing up their respective districts through a series of beautification projects that could not only make the city more attractive but improve the heath of residents as well.
How they’ll pay for them though may be the challenge.
“Maybe grant money?” said Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere.
Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence suggested it might be possible to use some city funds but wasn’t sure the mayor would go along with it. “He’s real tight on spending,” she said.
Riviere wants to transform Whitehead Boulevard into a sort-of linear park by adding a meandering sidewalk along the street’s grassy median. He envisions benches and decorative lighting beneath the thick canopy of oak trees that line both sides of the neighborhood block.
The project, which Riviere estimated would cost about $118,000, would also involve moving the subdivision’s utility lines underground.
Lawrence announced this week she hopes to close up what are now several open ditches between Oregon and Louisiana avenues so the city can install a walking trail in her district.
In addition, she wants to improve directional signs sidewalk paths throughout her community.
Meanwhile, Councilman Brandon Brown has voiced his desire for sidewalk construction along Court Street — west of La. 1 to Allendale Drive at a cost estimated between $175,000 and $200,000.
Councilman At-Large R.J. Loupe said Brown’s project is “definitely needed” given the high volume of foot traffic Court Street sees on a daily basis.
“People walk it all the time,” he said at Wednesday’s committee meetings. “We’re lucky we haven’t had any accidents.”
Lawrence has yet to obtain cost estimates for her proposed projects.
Council members this week urged Mayor Richard Lee to seek out the services of a grant writer in the hopes of securing the funds needed to finance their endeavors. City leaders are also banking on partnerships with the West Baton Rouge Parish Council to possibly cut down on some of the estimated expenses.
“We’ll definitely need some outside involvement to help,” Brown said at the council’s committee meetings Wednesday.
Lawrence says the parish has already agreed to help close some of the open ditches she has targeted in her plans.
“Hopefully, everyone will come together and decide on something,” she said.
Councilman Garry Hubble, who chairs the council’s finance committee, is adamant about seeing progress made this year on all the projects. He said the city already has the money to get started.
“If we can offset some of the costs with grants, great; that’s icing on the cake,” Hubble said. “But if you sit around waiting for grants, how long you gonna be waiting on getting the project done? We’re ready to go (and) the money is available. People want to see things happen.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.