COVID-19 is the top concern for Winnsboro Mayor John Dumas and his administration for 2021.
“Until we get a good handle on this, it is going to be a big concern for us,” Dumas said. “There are 5,000 people we have to see after. COVID-19 is deadly and does not see color. It has no choice of people that it affects.”
Franklin Parish has 2,194 COVID-19 case counts, one of the highest in northeast Louisiana, and a confirmed 87 deaths, according to Louisiana Department of Health.
“You must understand that the mayor has a mandate that he must follow the governor’s recommendation,” Dumas said. “I feel like obedience is better than sacrifice.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ modified Phase Two order extension runs through today (Jan. 13).
Additionally, Winnsboro’s infrastructure will be a high priority, Dumas said.
“The streets plagued us in 2020 and will continue to plague us in 2021,” Dumas said.
Overlaying of streets are currently being done for the east side of La. Hwy 15 with most of the streets on the west side of La. Hwy 15 finished.
Streets located on the north side of Lone Cedar Road and south side of Eighth Street will also see improvements.
Funding for the work comes from a 10-year sales tax for road work. The tax was originally passed in 2007 and was renewed in 2017.
Adding to infrastructure woes, various town equipment are “constantly being repaired or replaced,” Dumas said.
“It seems like it is the nature of the beast,” Dumas said. “The equipment we have to work with is fragile, and it is the luck of the draw that it has lasted this long.”
Dumas’ description of the town’s sewer department was “problem child” and “achilles heal.”
In 2020, Winnsboro officials battled with sewer pump stations and machinery.
Problems with the aging pumping stations caused neighborhood streets to be shut down at times and created a financial burden for Winnsboro as they leased pumps for nearly $3,000 a month.
But, Dumas said the town seems to be catching up through grant funds.
“We’re using (grant funds) to catch up with the necessary equipment,” Dumas said. “While people are sleeping, our technicians are working to maintain our sewer systems. I applaud their hard work.”
Winnsboro’s water department is “still holding strong,” Dumas said.
“The water is still safe, and we are still number one or number two in the state in drinking water.”
In 2020, Louisiana Conference on Water Supply, Sewerage and Industrial Waste voted Winnsboro’s waste water first place in a “beauty” competition. The water sample was judged for odor, clarity and taste. The award marks the tenth time Winnsboro has won the honor.
Winnsboro also won second place in the drinking water category while the City of Bastrop took first. Traditionally, the two municipalities battle for the top two spots in drinking water. In past competitions, Winnsboro has won five times.
In the parks and recreation department, Dumas said a major problem was keeping litter picked up. Crews from the Franklin Parish Detention Center are no longer able to help because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving town crews responsible.
“We don’t have the funds right now to completely light the parks up,” Dumas said. “But, we have trimmed trees and picked up debris to keep them safe.”
Town crews along with numerous community volunteers worked on the parks throughout the year.
“We had some strides even though it has been tough times,” Dumas said. “Kay LaFrance, Carmen Sims, DeAnne Kiper and Lisa Kiper have maintained a status quo that is beyond measure. They have helped us keep the city on an upbeat outlook.”
Winnsboro’s budget will continue to be tight, Dumas said.
“We knew when we started out this (fiscal) year it was going to be a hard road to travel,” Dumas said. “We expect it is going to get better if there is an economic turn around.”
To tighten the purse strings, Dumas implemented bulk fuel for town vehicles and equipment. He said now his administration is able to “keep more of an eye” on fuel usage.
Winnsboro’s humane department continues to work “diligently for the town and parish,” Dumas said.
“Euthanasia has not been used for quite some time,” Dumas said. “They work with other area shelters, and they not only help Winnsboro but other towns.”