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State and local leaders keyed in on 2022’s major goals and aspirations.

Topping many of their lists were repairing municipal infrastructure and economic development, but individual goals ranged from an 115-mile bike trail to broadband access to rural communities.

Rep. Travis Johnson

Creating the Delta Bike Trail is a strong visionary project that has been on Rep. Travis Johnson’s agenda since first elected State Representative. 

During his first year in office, he filed a resolution to have a feasibility study done. It was passed in 2020 by the legislature and the report came back very favorable. 

It stated that a 115 mile long Bike Trail on the Mississippi River would boost the state's economy and add great value to District 21 and Louisiana.  

In 2021, Secretary of Transportation Dr. Shawn Wilson, visited District 21 to help begin mapping out what the beginning phases of the bike trail would look like. This year, Johnson plans to break ground on the first 17 miles of the bike trail, which will be added to the shoulder of the existing state highway in Concordia Parish. 

Additionally, Johnson will be filing legislation to create the Delta Bike Trail Commission in order to manage the bike trail.  

On the agricultural side, Johnson plans to push for more hemp production and farming research.

“I truly believe the 2018 U.S. Hemp Farm Bill is a major game changer for our nation and specifically Louisiana,” Johnson said. “I have been at the forefront of industrial hemp for Louisiana. Our country is demanding that we become sustainable and there is no plant on earth more sustainable than hemp.”  

In 2021, through legislation, Johnson created the Delta Agriculture Research & Sustainability District which is an economic political subdivision that “will change the economic outlook for northeast Louisiana.”  

In 2022, he plans to work with companies to explore opportunities to invest and bring their companies into northeast Louisiana “to ensure that we are moving on a path of sustainability.”

Losing population has been a major concern for rural Louisiana and rural communities. Johnson believes Louisiana must continue to fight to improve rural Louisiana to slow the loss. 

“My energy has been spent on helping my rural communities focus on the things that are paramount to our success: 1.Broadband 2.Infrastructure 3. Water 4. New Industries 5. Human Capital Investment 6. Rural Communities finding their niche. 7. Rural Tourism.

District 21 is a rural community and through innovative agriculture, tourism, and new diversified economic approaches over the next 10 years, I feel that we can see families who enjoy the rural life start to come back to peaceful places,” Johnson said.

"I believe through Delta Agriculture Research & Sustainability District, it will be an economic pilot program that will help foster opportunities in rural northeast Louisiana that we can examine opportunities and when successful can spread to other rural communities,” Johnson said.

Sen. Glen Womack

Top 2022 goal for Sen. Glen Womack was to “get COVID-19 behind us as a nation and state” and start working on improving education and employment opportunities.

“We need to get the unemployment rate to a minimum,” Womack said.

Another important aspect Womack wants to see through is the Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunity (GUMBO) program.

GUMBO’s purpose is to use more than $180 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to provide broadband and internet access to 400,000 Louisiana households.

With GUMBO, internet providers will apply for funding, while municipal and parish governments offer support through matching funds or infrastructure.

According to ConnectLa data, 4,600 Concordia Parish residents, 13,000 Franklin Parish residents, 7,000 Catahoula Parish residents, and 4,300 Tensas Parish residents were unserved concerning broadband service.

ConnectLa is the administering entity of GUMBO and is through Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity. 

“This is going to be a huge milestone to help Louisiana small businesses and education,” Womack said.

Womack also wants to see supply chain issues put to rest in 2022 and assures law enforcement organizations have the full support of his office and his citizens.

Additionally, he is hopeful that the next year will see some of Louisiana’s infrastructure problems solved.

“We have a lot of money coming to repair our infrastructure,” Womack said. “This next year you will see a lot of our municipalities working on their infrastructure.”

Concordia Parish Sheriff David Hedrick

Concordia Parish Sheriff David Hedrick said he hopes 2022 brings joy and prosperity to our community. 

“Each year brings a renewed sense of possibility, encouraging some type of change for improvement,” Hedrick said. “Our success as a Sheriff’s Office is dependent on our willingness to improve by setting and attaining realistic goals on an annual basis. I am listing some of the goals set for myself and my team for the upcoming year. As Concordia Parish continues to grow, I plan to increase law enforcement presence across the parish. I will work to expand our Cyber Crimes Investigation Program in 2022. CPSO acquired new equipment in 2021 to assist investigators with solving crimes such as cyber-stalking, sexual exploitation of minors, financial fraud, murder and more. With the addition of this technology, CPSO has been able to solve crimes within the parish as well as assisting in cases with bordering parishes and counties.“

Hedrick said he implemented an improved program that will address the needs of domestic violence victims in the parish by enlisting a Victims Advocate and our department will strictly enforce article 313, Gwen’s Law on each domestic arrest. 

“I will continue to expand technology within the department that will provide our deputies with tools and equipment that will make it possible for them to prevent and fight crime more efficiently and effectively and better serve the citizens of Concordia Parish,” he said. “I am honored to serve as your Sheriff, and I will continue to make the safety of Concordia Parish my highest priority. Let’s continue to look out for each other and make 2022 a great year for Concordia Parish.”

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft is entering his seventh year in office and plans to center his goals around economic development and infrastructure.

“We’re going to continue our progress with the town’s infrastructure,” Craft said.

Craft is eyeing town drainage projects for the new year. Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is finishing up planning for a slough pumping station to handle high water,and Craft wants to completely refurbish drainage culverts.

Additionally, grant funding is being looked into to improve river water seeping into Vidalia’s sewer system.

“Seepage really taxes our (sewer) system,” Craft said. “If we get funding this will really help our sewer system and seepage problems around town.”

A street overlay project is also set to begin and continue for the next two to three years, according to Craft. Simonton Lane and Miranda Drive are first to receive overlay.

Meanwhile, contractors have been assigned to remove limbs over power lines that could potentially fall during inclement weather causing loss of electric power, Craft said.

In related news, a second electrical substation will provide customers 80 mega watts of power.

“People won’t be waiting on us for power,” Craft said.

On the economic development side, Sryah Resources could possibly expand its facilities after signing a binding off take agreement with Tesla to supply natural graphs Active Anode Material (AAM).

The agreement affirms Syrah’s plan to undergo a $137.5 million expansion, taking its production from a start-up to commercial level.

Tesla will off take the majority of the proposed initial expansion of AAM production capacity at Vidalia at a fixed price for an initial term of four years beginning when Syrah achieves a commercial production rate. Tesla also has an option to off take additional volume from Vidalia subject to Syrah expanding its capacity beyond the initial project.

“Vidalia Mills seems to be gaining ground,” Craft said. “Mom and pop shops are also picking up. There is a lot of growth in Vidalia.”

In 2022, American Cruise Lines will begin construction of a docking port on Vidalia’s Riverfront.

“It will be operational this year,” Craft said.

After 2022, Craft envisions a 20-acre area in Vidalia to be converted into a natural playground and walking trail. The area is dominated by swampy land and hardwood and gives visitors a native environment to explore and enjoy.

Ferriday Mayor Rydell Turner

Ferriday Mayor Rydell Turner said tourism is a big goal for him this year.

“We want to open this town up to tourism,” Turner said. “We’re talking to some people about how to attract people here, and are wanting to promote our history and people from here who have made a name for themselves out there through different avenues.”

Turner said plans are ongoing for building a park on First Street across from the Concordia Sentinel, as well as working with Southern University to create jobs.

“We want to move this town forward,” Turner said. “We’re also looking at putting in for an outlay grant to clean and pave the alleyways.”

Ridgecrest Mayor Veller Ray Carroll 

Ridgecrest Mayor Veller Ray Carroll said his main goal for 2022 was getting the village’s water tied in with Ferriday, a goal fast approaching for the citizens.

Next on his list was getting all sewer lift stations “up and going” at the village.

Carroll and aldermen have moved JCP Inc. into utility billing, collecting and operating Ridgecrest’s water.

Carroll said he wanted Ridgecrest “set up to run itself” by the end of the year because he was not running again for the mayor’s position.

“Moving forward, I want Ridgecrest to end the year in good financial shape,” Carroll said. “We watch the village money very close.”

Starting this week, crews will be changing out Ridgecrest’s old water meters for new radio controlled meters. With these new meters, checkers will not have to leave their truck, and the meters are able to tell crews if the residences have a water leak.

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