(Michelle Higginbotham / American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, December 08, 2012 9:43 PM
The recent announcement of the multibillion-dollar expansion at Sasol has prompted local officials to plan for effects that a population increase could have on Westlake and surrounding cities.
Sasol, based in South Africa, announced Dec. 3 that it will spend up to $21 billion at its Westlake plant, creating up to 1,200 permanent jobs and 7,000 construction jobs.
Westlake Mayor Dan Cupit said that “the bottom line is it’s going to be a real challenge” to develop plans for the city to cope with a potential influx of residents.
“Right now we don’t know really what exactly to expect or how much to expect at any one time,” he said. “We are kind of playing this all by ear and taking the initiative to develop a coalition, so to speak, to come up with plans not only for Westlake but for surrounding cities too.”
Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said a group hasn’t been assembled yet but that he has “talked informally” with several city and parish officials expressing an interest in developing a plan.
“The idea is to pull together as a group of local officials, representing the communities and the parish, to talk about specifics relative to the infrastructure that we are going to need to provide to help support this project,” Roach said.
“We want to develop a pretty comprehensive approach, and the good news is that we do have a window of time before Sasol actually begins work, but we need to start quickly on our end.”
Cupit said the city of Westlake has had several meetings with Sasol regarding the increase in traffic that Westlake will see.
“Westlake is unique in that fact that when driving out of the gates of Sasol you’re in Westlake city limits, so we are going to absorb a few things that the surrounding cities aren’t,” he said.
“Sasol is addressing, preparing and aiding the city in street improvements, repairs and other things needed so that we are prepared for when equipment and materials are needed they can be transported to the facility.”
Roach said that when planning, officials will look at everything from a commercial and a residential standpoint similar to what the state did for hurricane recovery efforts with the Louisiana Recovery Authority.
“What we are looking at is trying to cooperatively establish an organization that would operate similarly and break down into categories such as workforce development, education, transportation, utilities, residential development and those kinds of things,” he said.
“When we break things down into categories we can have a group of local planning officials and other public works employees help us develop these strategies within each of those areas.”
Roach said he also spoke with School Superintendent Wayne Savoy to make him aware that input from the School Board is essential.
“It’s not just going to be a question of putting children in classrooms, but it will be getting people to and from schools and how we look at the overall layout of what they are going to need in terms of infrastructure or requirements they may have,” he said.
Cupit said another possibility that may arise in the future is the need to increase Westlake’s police force and fire department to cope with a population increase.
Posted By: Andrew S. On: 12/10/2012
Title: Of course
Ashamed is right. Of course the people who work at that place will live away from it, like in Lake Charles or Moss Bluff. I seriously doubt someone who's going to make around $80,000 a year is going to live in the dinky town of Westlake.
Posted By: Ashamed of local Government On: 12/9/2012
Title: Leaders are over estimating
I beleive these leaders are significantly over estimating the "what if's" in this case. The biggest over estimate being that people in the lake area already know the problems with traffic, home depreciation and everything else imaginable in the Westlake area. And you knowwhat, this just goes to show how bad Mayor Roach and other state, parish and local officials have been dragging their feet regarding the problem(s) in and around Westlake; especially traffic.
Point being, ANYONE who may happen to relocate here will in FACT seek to reside in a location away from Westlake. This is not to say in any way, shape, fashion or form that the folks in Westlake are nothing short of A-#1. Unfortunately for them however, the political game has been played there way tooooooooo.....longgggggggg.......