Central Mayor Says Future Looks Bright

Central Mayor Says Future Looks Bright

Central Mayor Jr. Shelton gave his first annual State of the City address last week, and all of the major news media in Baton Rouge were there to cover the story including the Advocate, Times-Picayune, Business Report, WAFB-TV, and WBRZ-TV.

Here are some of the major points Mayor Shelton made:

• Central is a land of opportunity!  We have 28,000 people, and we need almost everything you can think of.  The big box stores will come, but what we want are the mom-and-pop businesses that really define a community.

• So we want to encourage successful Baton Rouge businesses to consider putting their second location in Central, so they can grow with us.

• The people in Southeast Baton Rouge have the right to form their own city if they desire.  “I believe it is every citizen’s right to vote on his own future.  Look what Central has done in 10 years.  We have the No. 3 school system in the state.  But there is something even more important going on here: Our community is flourishing because our citizens have been able to make a contribution and use their expertise to improve our city.  As part of a large parish, you have few such opportunities.  But in Central, we can still play a role and make a difference.”

• There was an ugly divide in Central, and I realized my first job was to heal the divide.  My transition team include seven people who had supported me and seven who did not.  We found we had common goals.  So we put personalities aside and worked together.  Today I feel no pressure about a divide in Central.

• Now we’re working on clearly defined goals and a plan for the next 25 years — a plan that will provide for the sustainability of the community.  We want to be sure we create a place where our children and grandchildren will want to live and build their businesses and their futures.

• The new Infrastructure Committee includes four engineers, a CPA, a banker, and two Council members. We want to utilize their expertise.  We want to know who we are and where we’re going.

• One of my top priorities is making sure that the City of Central works closely with the Central Community School System.  So we meet regularly.  We’re friends.  We don’t always agree but we learned how to work through out disagreements so that we get to our common goals.

• Schools are why people come to Central.

• The previous Mayor and City Council left Central with a tremendous legacy.  “First, we have $20 million in the bank to do infra

structure projects and we have the revenue to make positive changes.  Second, they adopted a Master Plan and a zoning ordinance that allows Central to now be ‘Open for Business’ and attract the things we need to Central.

• It would have been easy for the previous Mayor and Council to say come on in and then be overwhelmed.  But the Council was very careful to pass the UDC, the Master Plan, and the Zoning Ordinance, so that everything would be ready and in place.  The foundation for a successful city has been laid.

• Here’s some good news: From July to November 2014, sales taxes in Central went up by 8.6 percent.  I’d love to say we made that happen but the truth is, everything was in place, and that’s why it happened.  There was one additional thing, and that was a very successful Buy Central First project that helped us keep some of our dollars in Central.

• When most Mayors worry about how to raise revenue, the money is already here in Central.  • It’s our responsibility to continue to have surpluses, but we also have to determine how to best use the surplus we have on hand.

• Remember this: Essentially all of the City of Central’s revenue comes from sales taxes.  We have no property tax.

• Central is getting its second Traditional Neighborhood Development, the Shoe Creek TND on Sullivan Road across from Wal-Mart.  This project is being brought to Central by the developers of River Ranch in Lafayette, one of the finest such developments in the country.  This project could have gone anywhere, but they chose Central, and it will have a tremendous impact on this community.  Shoe Creek will bring 700 new homes, along with retail and commercial over the next seven to eight years.

• We’re getting a second filing on Jim Clark’s development on Denham Road.

• The Village at Magnolia Square is adding 43 lots.  They came to Central, succeeded, and want to stay!

• Residential growth leads to retail and commercial growth.

• The most important thing is the least sexy: The sewer system! If you don’t have infrastructure, you can’t grow.  Sewer is No. 1.  Without sewer service, you cannot expand.

• The Master Plan has designated three areas of the city for future growth.

• Drainage is always a concern in Central.  We will develop a comprehensive drainage plan for Central.  Flooding cannot be permitted. So we are doing a lot of preventive maintenance right now.

• Major infrastructure improvements are underway and will continue, such as

• Widening of Sullivan Road.  It was a two-lane country road.  It is becoming a four-lane road with a raised median.  That will connect O’Neal to Wax Road.

• The state will widen Hooper to Blackwater Road.

• Hopefully, we’ll get funding to build the bridge to Livingston Parish.

• Baton Rouge Community College has its footprint in Central.  We already have a helicopter training program at BRCC’s facility on Hooper Road.  Now they are planning to bring a workforce development program.  The first classes in electrical begin in March.  Then will come small engine repair.  We don’t have people working with their hand anymore, but those skills are essential.  We’ve told BRCC that we want everything in Central that they have on Florida Boulevard.  We would like it to be a regional education center that draws students from Southern Mississippi to South Baton Rouge.

• Central is the most accessible city in the parish.  LA 64 brings us to Zachary.  Joor Road brings us to Florida Boulevard.  Hooper Road brings us to the airport and to I-110, and the Central Thruway brings us to O’Neal and I-12.

• We have great restaurants, such as Sammy’s, Mike Anderson’s, and Stab’s.

• Central is a friendly place to live, work, and do business.  Actually, you can’t get any friendlier than Central.

• Light industry is coming to Central, bringing good-paying jobs.  Whatever businesses come, we want to be successful.  Today, many businesses are leaving their communities, looking for a better environment.  We want them to come to Central.

• The Baton Rouge Airport is only four miles from Central and about seven minutes.  We will develop business parks in Central and regional hubs, where businesses have easy in and out.

• We’re going to develop a team of people to work for Central.  This will be a most important committee.

• This year, we will pick a site for City Hall.  The previous mayor began the process of choosing a site.  I asked the committee to continue and provide the pros and cons for the different sites.  We’ll decide where it will be built, and I pledge this: We will turn the first shovel before this year is over.

• On public records, at our first staff meeting, I told them: “If someone calls and asks for a public record and it’s in this building, give it to them!  And that’s what we do!”

• Central is a low crime area.  It’s so low that when one thing happens, it seems like a crime wave.  As we grow, crime can creep in, but we’re going to work with the Sheriff and our Central Police Department to make sure that doesn’t happen.

• Central will celebrate its 10th anniversary as a city on July 4th.

• The possibilities for Central limitless.  Where else can you start a business where you have the cell phone number of the Mayor and the Council?  We will walk you through the process and try to help you find a way to suc-cess.  We are available to you

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