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|Breland outlines plans to accommodate town's growth|
Driving into the town of Sterlington, it is hard not to notice how quickly the town is changing.
New construction flanks both sides U.S. 165 leading to the town. Two residential developments are in the works, including a new, 302-unit luxury apartment complex.
Even state and federal officials have recognized that Ouachita Parish is migrating north. A $28 million, four-lane bridge across the Ouachita River on Louisiana Highway 2 is set to open in May, ahead of anticipated growth in the coming decades.
Sterlington Mayor Vern Breland said the new bridge is just one of several infrastructure improvements in a town that is quickly growing.
For several years, Sterlington officials have noticed an increase in population, culminating with a more than 7-percent increase last year.
Breland said the driving factor behind his town's growth is not hard to find.
Sterlington High School opened two years ago, just off U.S. 165. Since then, a number of residential and commercial developments have sprung up.
Last November, the Ouachita Parish School Board approved the construction of a new elementary school to replace the aging A. L. Smith Elementary facility.
"The growth that we've had so far has been directly attributed to our new high school," Breland said. "But you build a new elementary school and people make a long-term commitment to your community because people can go to school from elementary, through middle school and into high school."
For its part, the town of Sterlington has moved swiftly to embrace the influx of construction, development and residents, including infrastructure support for the new school.
Sometime in March, Breland said the town will open bids to construct a new entrance for the new elementary school.
Also, Sterlington was the recipient of a safe routes to school grant, which will fund the construction of sidewalks in the town.
"So far, we've been able to secure $500,000 to put sidewalks back inside the town," Breland said. "We'll probably begin phase one in September, laying those sidewalks."
In addition to sidewalks and the new elementary school, Breland said the town is already exploring increased capacity at a new wastewater treatment plant facility to accommodate increased demand.
"We did a sanitary sewer master plan that was a 25-year master plan," Breland said. "What we're finding out is we thought we had a plan that would be adequate for the next 25 years. It is not adequate because the added growth out here."
The new treatment facility is set to begin construction later this year. It will treat up to 375,000 gallons of wastewater a day. Breland said officials are exploring an expansion of that project to accommodate more than one million gallons a day.
The total cost of the facility is estimated between $1.7 million-$2.1 million, but Breland said construction prices are falling as the economic situation throughout the country tightens. That could mean costs for the project could be less than anticipated.
"We're hoping that when we bid this project out we'll get a good price tag on it from companies that want to keep their employees working," Breland said.