The Livingston Parish president projected a promising economic outlook in the year ahead while reflecting on the gains of 2021 in a speech to the local chamber of commerce Wednesday.
"Businesses are booming, real estate is booming," parish President Layton Ricks said. "Things are moving forward. The parish continues to move forward."
Ricks thanked voters for renewing a sales tax that pays for road maintenance and improving the local jail. Its passage will allow the parish to undertake about $13 million worth of roadwork in 2022, he said.
The parish also purchased several vehicles over the last year, which Ricks said will save money in the long run. Previously, officials were forced to lease tractors and trucks as they contended with debt.
“We’re going to be able to hopefully get a lot of work done — a lot of work done — a lot of projects done in this parish that we haven’t in the past done anything but talked about,” Ricks said.
As Hurricane Ida debris pickup starts again on Dec. 6, Ricks boasted of the parish’s million-plus cubic yards of progress and reiterated that the next pass will be the final one for collection trucks.
He also announced that five years after parish officials broke FEMA rules when recovering from the 2016 floods, causing flood insurance rates to increase for everyone in the parish, the parish has returned to good standing with the National Flood Insurance Program.
"I make no apologies for what I did in 2016," Ricks said. "I will always do what I can to get our people back in their homes."
He then brought up the zoning ordinance passed this year by the Livingston Parish Council, addressing another potentially controversial matter. He encouraged council members to meet with constituents in each district to hammer out the details.
"I would love for things to stay like they were 25 years ago, but we can’t grow, can’t move forward at the rate we are and not take some steps to protect people who were already here, already paying taxes," he said. "It has to be done."
He closed by lauding the "good, clean budget" for the next year, which will come up for a vote in Thursday's council meeting.