Land deal would force trailer park residents to move

By By Eric Cormier and Lance Traweek / American Press

Three local government entities may split a $1.7 million property bill in order for a new education building to be constructed

on land now settled by tenants across from Sowela Technical Community College.

Lake Charles City Council members will

vote to approve spending $566,666 during Wednesday’s regular meeting.

The rest of the

price tag is expected to be divided between the Calcasieu Parish

Police Jury and Chennault International Airport Authority,

with each paying the same amount pending approval.

According to statements prepared by Sowela Chancellor Neil Aspinwall, the 13-acre parcel of land proposed to be bought would

be used for the construction of a $20 million educational building and parking area to facilitate Sasol’s workforce needs.

Last year, the company announced plans to begin a multibillion-dollar expansion at its Westlake facility.

The state is supposed to provide the

$20 million in the form of a grant. The training facility would have

75,000 square feet

and provide classrooms for instructors to teach classes like lab

analysis, process technology and instrumentation programming.

If the deal is completed, dozens of households living in trailers would be forced to move.

Christopher Jacko has lived in the park two years and told the American Press that he isn’t surprised about the pending deal.

“I understand development for the city, and I am all for that. But a sudden move does not make me happy. Are they going to

compensate us for moving suddenly?” he said.

Chennault Director Randy Robb said the property is important and that the airport’s objective is to create jobs.

“We are cooperating with the state,

city and parish to purchase the trailer park to support economic

development to our region,”

he said. “If aesthetics are important to economic development,

then removing the trailer park should help with that side of

the house.”

Mayor Randy Roach’s administration supports the land purchase because it allows the region to meet the needs of corporations

interested in growing or locating in Southwest Louisiana.

“Why is the city participating?” Roach said. “Because we are very interested in economic development for our community as

the center for the five-parish region.”

Calcasieu Parish Administrator Bryan Beam said meetings have been held among all the parties about the land purchase. Parish

officials are expected to vote on the item in April.

“There was a lot of discussion. We feel it is a good investment for the return the area will get,” he said.

Beam noted that workforce development is a key area of interest for the Police Jury, which has participated in a number of

collaborative government efforts to support the growth of the local economy.

If the three entities agree to buy the land, it would be given to the state.

“The state can then assign the property to the Louisiana Community and Technical College System,” Aspinwall said.

No timeline has been given as to when the residents would have to move for construction.