Residents expressed concern regarding the future of their neighborhoods at a recent meeting of the South Bossier lunch group. The meeting hosted Scott Irwin, District 1 city councilman and Mayor Lo Walker. Both were asked to give an update on projects related to South Bossier development.
Councilman Irwin once again expressed his displeasure with State Senator Barrow Peacock and the reallocation of funds from the Jimmie Davis Bridge to the I-49 connector in Shreveport — a statement originally issued at a city council meeting in July. He said the JDB was the number one point of concern expressed by SoBo residents.
Irwin then pointed to accomplishments related to development in South Bossier, including the placement of a traffic light at Robert E. Lee Blvd. and Barksdale Blvd., the second highest priority of residents, he said.
A turn lane at Sunflower Rd. heading north on Barksdale Blvd. was the third highest priority of SoBo residents, he added.
Dependable electricity was the fourth priority of the area’s citizens, and Irwin pointed to the improvements Swepco has made to SoBo’s power infrastructure.
He said that many of the improvements were because citizens signed petitions supporting the initiatives, and armed with that support, he contacted Gov. John Bel Edwards and other leaders to get them done.
Irwin also noted the $5 million improvements to the CenturyLink Center as a top priority for South Bossier.
“There have been countless other improvements in South Bossier… we’ve had street panel improvements, railroad track repairs, potholes being fixed, sidewalks repaired, sinkholes filled, and property standards enforced. I’m working now on a project to get a turn lane at Golden Meadows and Barksdale,” Irwin told the group.
Mayor Lo Walker highlighted the Walter O. Bigby Carriageway as an example of development related to South Bossier.
“For the first time in our life, a person will be able to travel from North Bossier to South Bossier without having to stop at a train,” Walker said.
The mayor also noted some North Bossier projects, including the construction of Innovation Drive, and the widening of Viking Drive and Swan Lake Road.
The interstate connection to Barksdale Air Force Base was another major improvement called out by the mayor, along with efforts to insure the safety of the City’s water supply, following a “little problem” with brain-eating amoeba.
It just feels like we’re the forgotten neighborhood down here.
Following the two leaders’ presentations, attendees were encouraged to ask questions, and SoBo residents voiced their concerns about crime and neighborhood safety.
“It just feels like we’re the forgotten neighborhood down here,” one resident said. “I don’t walk in my neighborhood after [dark], it’s that bad. I cannot walk early in the morning because I have vandals running through the neighborhood.”
She asked why the city couldn’t add additional nighttime police patrols.
“The statistics show that crime is not that bad in South Bossier,” Mayor Walker said.
School Board president Shane Cheatham then turned the conversation back to South Bossier Development.
“Scott, on your list of top priorities, the Jimmie Davis bridge being the number one driver of development, the stoplight, the Sunflower Road turning lane — that’s all state highway money. My questions is, when is the City looking at spending some money in South Bossier?”
Another resident chimed in, “I thought the elephant in the room was the Coleman multi-million dollar investment project. I just want to know what else is being done to bring that type of investment for multi-purpose businesses and for small businesses, such as myself, to South Bossier? We don’t see that type of opportunity come along [very often] and I’d like to know what we’re doing to either replace that investment or work through to find an agreement with somebody who is willing to invest in South Bossier.”
Irwin declined to comment on the Walker Place Development due to litigation and again pointed to money being spent on streets and sidewalks.
“That’s maintenance work,” Cheatham interjected. “Where’s the revitalization [investment]?”
“My position is, if we take care of the small things, the big things will happen,” Irwin said. “If we have low crime, if we have repaired streets, repaired sidewalks… if we have good schools, if we have low taxes — then eventually things come.”
“We get all the chicken stores and dollar stores you can imagine,” Cheatham said. “My concern with seven dollar stores from Airline Drive to River Bend, is we are setting South Bossier up to be a lower income portion of our city. When the Jimmie Davis Bridge is here, that’s not going to fix the development issue here in South Bossier. We’ve got land that the City owns across from the CenturyLink. We’d love to have a sit-down restaurant. My concern is, we sit here and we do nothing.”