Expansion in SW La. increases demand for services
Economic boom speeds up projects already on books for most municipalities
<p class="indent">The ongoing expansion in Southwest Louisiana has brought with it increased demand for municipal services like water, sewer and road infrastructure.
<p class="indent">Byron Racca, general manager of the engineering consulting firm Meyer & Associates, said the company has experienced the expansion as slow and steady for the municipal customers they serve rather than an onslaught of new projects overnight.
<p class="indent">“The progression of this boom hasn’t transpired exactly like everyone pictured it,” he said.
<p class="indent">Racca said what the economic boom has done instead is speed up the implementation of projects already on the books for most municipalities.
<p class="indent">“We try to see things from a smart development perspective,” he said. “We know that some of these numbers (population-wise) aren’t necessarily what we’re going to see long-term because it’s a temporary workforce.”
<p class="indent">He said the key is designing systems to facilitate the growth while at the same time ensuring systems aren’t being overdeveloped.
<p class="indent">“So when there is no longer a 50 percent increase (in demand for utilities), and it’s really only a 10 or 15 percent increase, you don’t have this big system that you’re maintaining,” Racca said.
<p class="indent">All local municipalities are facing the need to repair or replace aging infrastructure and all have experienced a common obstacle in that pursuit. In the midst of the expansion, the state of Louisiana has been grappling with extreme budget woes.
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"As the demand for capital funding has increased, state funding has actually dropped,” Racca said.
</div></div><p class="indent">But, he said, it seems as if the state has recently “gotten its house in order” and legislators are aware of the needs in this area.
<p class="indent">The expansion itself has brought some of its own funding to the table in the form of increased sales tax revenue.
<p class="indent">“That increase has allowed municipalities to address some of the projects that have been on the shelf and need to get going or to be used as matching money in grant requests,” Racca said.
<p class="indent">When requesting funding, the more money offered by the entity in matching funds, the more likely the grant will be approved.
<p class="indent">“Local governments have been very creative with how this money is being used and they’ve been good at getting the most bang for the buck,” Racca said.
<p class="indent">Also, as much of the expansion is in the unincorporated areas of the parish, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury has stepped up to plate through cooperative endeavors with local towns and cities.
<p class="indent">Racca said that taxpayers are often frustrated with the amount of time projects take and the amount of money they require. Public bid laws require that any project priced at or above $154,000 must be put out to bid, which is about a three-month process.
<p class="indent">“That’s a three-month design phase on the front end and a three-month bid process,” he said. “That’s where people get frustrated because they express a need and don’t see anything for at least six months.”
<p class="indent">He said the reason the process is in place is to protect the public.
<span><strong>‘Local governments have been very creative with how this money is being used and they’ve been good at getting the most bang for the buck.’</strong></span>
<span>Meyer & Associates general manager</span>