DENHAM SPRINGS - The city is on the move this year, third term Mayor Jimmy Durbin told the Denham Springs Kiwanis Club Thursday.
Economic development large and small, road improvements, better drainage and safer streets for pedestrians are all part of the picture, Durbin said.
On one end of town, a new Lil Caesar's Pizza is about to open, taking advantage of the Range Avenue Couplet Economic Development District created by the City Council last year. That district is intended to entice business development in the downtown area through state tax rebates and other incentives. On the far south end, next to Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, the opening of Sam's Club in June promises to usher in a new era of prosperity. That store enabled the city, through the Denham Springs Economic Development District, to refinance the bonds that built Bass Pro and surrounding infrastructure that will now be paid off in 2020, 17 years early.
"This is probably one of the most unique payouts in history," said Durbin, noting that the retirement of the bonds will result in the infusion of $2 million in additional annual tax revenue to the city and similar amounts to the parish, School Board and other taxing entities in the parish.
Bass Pro was built by rededicating a portion of sales taxes to pay off those bonds.
Meanwhile, Durbin is optimistic that a study to justify building a new interstate interchange at Pete's Highway will result in additional I-12 access for the ever increasing traffic in the community. However, other projects about to start will also have an immediate impact, he said.
Those include the $342,000 widening and resurfacing of Tate Road by two feet with city and state funds. It is a 45-day project that will begin this week.
Other road projects around the corner involve improvements to Cockerham Road that will include sub-surface drainage and sidewalks, the resurfacing of Centerville Street from North Range Avenue to Hatchell Lane and the resurfacing of River Road from Government Drive to Centerville. The latter will require 20 percent matching funds from the city, but the rest are paid out of state funds, Durbin said.
The mayor described the surface of both Centerville, the street on which he lives, and River Road as "crumbling."
Durbin also talked about a new shopping area soon to be developed south of Bass Pro both inside and outside city limits that will include new stores, restaurants and a major hotel.
"I was very impressed with the work that has been put into this development when I was presented it three weeks ago," Durbin said.
Regarding the Pete's Highway project, Durbin said it enjoys "significant support" from state Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri LeBas.
Durbin said last week he looked at two proposed designs associated with the "stage zero feasibility study" about to be turned in in March. The study is paid for in part by a $10.4 million appropriation the city received in 2005. Another $8 to $9 million will be needed to build the interchange, Durbin said. The project has the support of both U.S. Senators, state Sen. Dale Erdey and Parish President Layton Ricks.
"I don't think Denham Springs can move into the 21st century with only one interchange," Durbin said. He noted that Range Avenue handles 100,000 vehicles daily getting on and off the interstate, a point he makes each time he visits with the state's congressional delegation in Washington.