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The Lake Charles City Transit Center. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

The Lake Charles City Transit Center. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Editorial: Cooperation between Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish laudable, encouraging

Last Modified: Thursday, November 07, 2013 7:50 PM

The move of the Calcasieu Parish Transit Program into the newly opened Lake Charles City Transit Center goes well beyond a change of locations.

Parish officials say the change of address is a small step in a larger push to create a “fixed-route” transit system for Calcasieu’s unincorporated areas.

“Right now, we are picking up people at their homes, and that’s not really the most efficient way to run a transit system,” said Tarek Polite, the parish’s human services director.

Designing parish transit routes that would include stops at the transit center, located at the corner of Ryan and Clarence streets, would, in effect, marry the parish and the City of Lake Charles’ systems into a seamless operation that would benefit riders and taxpayers.

The city and parish systems serve about 250,000 passengers annually. The anticipated industrial expansion that will bring thousands of construction workers and their families to the area likely will increase demand on the transit system.

“This facility creates a transfer point and a staging area for those customers seeking transportation needs in our area,” said City Administrator John Cardone. “(That) is very important ... with all the economic development fixing to take place throughout our area.’’

Such cooperation between the City and the Parish is not only laudable, but an encouraging small step towards a consolidation of services between the two entities.

The unprecedented economic boom coming to the area will strain the area’s infrastructure and government services. The question remains as to whether government revenues will mirror the expansion pace and keep up with those demands.

The City of Lake Charles’ budget has already faced stress. Recently, Lake Charles officials said the city’s fire, police and public works departments account for 80 percent of the city’s general fund’s operating expenses.

Some of that is due to increased operating expenses of each department and some is because of increased contributions by the city to the employees’ retirement systems.

City officials have begun floating the notion of a proposition to increase the city’s sales tax. That ultimately may be necessary. But it would behoove Mayor Randy Roach his administration and the Lake Charles City Council to study all consolidation opportunities with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury before putting a sales tax increase on the ballot.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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