Ferriday mayor, council agree on top priorities

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2000

FERRIDAY, La. — Not a day goes by that Mayor-Elect Glen McGlothin does not hear, at the barber shop he owns and in his errands around town, about the issues his fellow residents feel the new administration should address in the next four years.

But he doesn’t mind the input. In fact, he said that he has already started to address concerns such as Ferriday’s water problems and lack of economic development, and that he plans to solicit of help from the town’s citizens and business owners to determine where to go from there.

Not only that, but Ferriday Town Council members — who, like former two-term mayor McGlothin, will be sworn in July 1 — agree on what many of their top priorities should be and have plenty of ideas about how such concerns should be addressed.

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Ending water woes

To address the town’s water problems, McGlothin said he plans to convene a committee of aldermen, Town Engineer Bryant Hammett, business people and citizens to explore all the options Ferriday has for getting a new source of water. Such options may include getting water from the Lake St. John aquifer through Concordia Waterworks District No. 1’s lines or drilling wells. But putting more money into the current water plant will not do any good because the surface water it gets from Old River is too difficult to treat, he said.

According to McGlothin, the committee should complete its review of water options 120 days after the new administration gets into office, which means the committee should have a plan of how it wants to proceed by the first of November.

&uot;Surely we’ve done enough studies — it’s time to do something,&uot; he said, added that he has met with water chemical companies and representatives of the Louisiana Rural Water Association to discuss the water situation.

Councilmen-elect Jerome Harris Sr. and Mitch Ashmore and returning members Billy Rucker and Dorothy Johnson (returning Councilman Sammy Davis Jr. could not be reached for comment) said they favor the formation of a committee to explore the town’s water options as soon as possible.

Economic development

McGlothin said he is pounding the pavement to get Ferriday noticed in economic development circles so that when grants are available and industries are looking for a location, the town’s name is more likely to come up. McGlothin has already made two trips to Baton Rouge to visit state economic development officials and has met with the area’s state representative and senators and attended a workforce conference. &uot;I’m just laying the groundwork, seeing as many people as I can,&uot; he said.

&uot;My (barber shop) customers have been very patient with me, being out of town as much as I have. And I’ll be down in Baton Rouge as often as I can after I get into office, too.&uot; McGlothin said he wants to take a delegation of business people and residents with him on such trips so they can gain a better understanding of the process and speak to the need for more economic development in Ferriday.

He has already met with Macon Ridge Economic Development Authority officials to see what prospects have their eye on the area. He said Macon Ridge has two current industrial prospects — one with 30 jobs and one with 60 jobs — for the area, but said it is too early to give their names.

In addition, he wants to discuss possible economic development grants with Entergy and see about getting Ferriday’s available properties listed on Entergy’s Web site and wants to push for state funds to build a speculative building to attract industries. Hammett, a state representative, has already said he will ask for capital outlay money to build such a building.

In Rucker’s opinion, coordinating economic development efforts with officials of Concordia Parish and its other towns will be the key to success. Harris would like to see Ferriday attract more job training programs, including courses that would focus on job-seeking skills. And Ashmore said Ferriday should revamp and publicize the properties that are available for industries in addition to starting more job training programs.

&uot;Working on other areas, like better police protection and cleaner neighborhoods, will help bring in new industries, too,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;You have to prepare yourself for the needs of people before you ask them to move in.&uot;

Changes at the police department?

As far as revamping the town’s police department is concerned, McGlothin said he has seven applications for the police chief’s position and, by the end of May, should name the person he would like to see in that post. The Town Council would still have to approve McGlothin’s appointee. Once the town’s police chief is in place, McGlothin would like to sit down with the chief and Johnson, the council member McGlothin would like to be a liaison to the Police Department, to review prospective police officers’ applications.

McGlothin has said he will also form a committee of councilmen and citizens to investigate complaints brought against the Police Department. And he wants to use the proceeds of a 3/4-cent sales tax voters passed last year to match a federal grant to hire five new officers and to increase the salaries of the town’s police chief and officers.

Johnson, Ashmore and Harris said they are in favor of using sales tax proceeds to beef up pay and benefits for police in order to attract and retain more officers. Ashmore likes the idea of forming a committee to deal with complaints against police and the department to work as much as possible with the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office to coordinate crime-fighting efforts.

And Harris would like to see the town enforce laws and ordinances that are currently on the books and pursue grants to establish a town jail. &uot;The money is out there,&uot; Harris said. &uot;But to get it, we’ll need to go after it as a team.&uot;

Cleaning up

For his part, McGlothin is also in favor of using any legal means necessary to clean up rundown properties and move abandoned vehicles and plans to encourage citizens to pull together to help pick up litter.

Tearing down abandoned buildings used as drug houses and working with Diamond Disposal to make sure the town’s garbage and debris is being picked up thoroughly and in a timely manner should be top priorities, Harris said.

&uot;Participating in the Cleanest City program might be an option. It would help bring together to do something that’s fun but productive, too,&uot; Johnson said. Ashmore and Rucker also want to explore the option of using inmate labor to help clean up the town.

McGlothin acknowledges that results will not be seen overnight and that the town cannot expect to find success with every try. &uot;But there’s still no reason we can’t roll up our sleeves, get into the batter’s box and take a swing,&uot; McGlothin said.