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|Sterlington Mayor: Progress, challenges ahead|
The town of Sterlington can expect significant changes over the next few months, according to Sterlington Mayor Vern Breland.
Breland outlined Sterlington's plans for the next 12 months during his state of the town address Friday, delivered at the Sterlington Chamber of Commerce's 2nd annual banquet. It was held at Frenchmen Bend Country Club.
"When people tell you we're growing, you can see it in the numbers," Breland told the crowd, which included Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Sue Nicholson and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo. 4th Judicial District Court Judge Marcus Clark was on hand, too. Clark has plans to succeed to Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor, who announced his decision to retire from the state's high court effective May 31. A special election to fill Traylor's unexpired 10-year term will be held in October.
During the past five years, property values within Sterlington's corporate limits increased 368 percent, Breland said. At the same time, the town's population grew as well. In 2008, it increased 6.8 percent, according to Breland.
Breland highlighted a number of projects he said residents could expect to see completed in coming months, including the construction of a new bridge across the Ouachita River.
"I'm told we'll be driving on it by the end of December," Breland said.
The bridge isn't the only infrastructure project under way. Breland said Sterlington will begin work on a new wastewater treatment facility in June.
Also, Breland is working with state officials to ensure sidewalks are built throughout the town are built this year as part of the Safe Routes To Schools program. It's a $250,000 project.
More than $100,000 worth of engineering and planning has been devoted to the project and Breland said the only holdup is approval from the state.
"I told them I want to see some concrete on the ground this year on this project," Breland said.
The sidewalks plan was started more than three years ago by former Mayor Cliff Bullock, who is now an alderman.
Public works projects are not the only construction residents should expect, Breland said.
In 2008, Sterlington issued more than $2.1 million in building permits. That trend should continue in 2009. The town has issued more than $300,000 in permits since January 1.
While construction seemed to have slowed during the last months of 2008, Breland said the economic slowdown began to reverse itself in the first weeks of this year.
"We expect thinks to pick back up again," Breland said. "The stimulus money has begun to hit and we're seeing the signs of it."
Breland said the coming months and years won't be without challenges, however, as Sterlington still has several significant obstacles ahead.
Among the unknowns include the effects Sterlington will feel from the closure of the International Paper Mill in Bastrop and continued uncertainty around the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing facility in Farmerville.
"We know the closures are going to affect us, but we don't know just how bad yet," Breland said.
Breland's remarks were delivered before Foster Farms announced it had reached a deal to buy Pilgrim Pride's facility for some $80 million.
In spite of the continued recession, Breland remained optimistic about his town's future.
"These are the same challenges that face Monroe, that face everywhere," Breland said.
During opening remarks, Mayo called Sterlington part of "the Ouachita Parish family."
"What's good for one is good for all of us," Mayo said.
Breland echoed Mayo's sentiments.
"We're both interlocked," Breland said. "We have citizens that live in Sterlington and make the commute every day to work in Monroe."