Vidalia to spend $250K from hydro fund on town beautification

Published 11:15 am Tuesday, September 21, 2021

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VIDALIA, La. — The Town of Vidalia will receive a $250,000 facelift with money generated by hydroelectric plant royalties.

During last week’s meeting of the Vidalia Board of Aldermen, the board voted 2-2 to spend hydroelectric royalty revenue on various beautification and landscaping projects that were presented by the Vidalia Garden Club and Vidalia Beautification Committee.

Mayor Buz Craft broke the tie in favor of the projects. Aldermen Jon Betts and Rosa Demby both voted in favor of the projects, Aldermen Robert Gardner and Tommy Probst both voted no and Alderman Brent Smith was absent from the meeting.

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Craft said two public hearings were held prior to last week’s meeting during which citizens and town officials were given an opportunity to voice their idea of how the funds could be used.

“We had two meetings that we advertised and nobody else showed up,” Craft said. “These ladies came to both meetings. … We told them to put together a budget (of things they would like done) and we would oversee it.”

The projects which were presented to the board by Ellen Yates of the Vidalia Beautification Committee and Cindy Galloway of the Vidalia Garden Club focus on beautifying three parts of town: Carter Street, the Vidalia Riverfront and the area outside of the historic Courthouse.

Yates said $90,000 has been budgeted for lining either side of Carter Street with 20 self-watering flower pots, 12 light poles with two flower baskets on each, replacing the two “Welcome to Vidalia” signs, and building a flowerbed and art display around the brick columns at the old toll booth near the Mississippi River bridge.

For the riverfront, $76,000 has been earmarked for Christmas lighting and decorations around the gazebo and a remake of flowerbeds and banners along the Riverwalk sidewalk.

Approximately $84,000 is budgeted for the courthouse improvements, which includes adding a large American flag and decorating the trees with icicle lights in the Courthouse Square and more light poles following the route from the old courthouse along Texas Street to a Christmas display on the riverfront. The poles would also be decorated with lighted wreaths and garland during the holidays.

Probst said other ongoing projects should be completed first.

Specifically, Probst said there were trees hanging over electrical lines that needed to be cut and said additional lighting was needed on Martin Luther King Boulevard. He also said town officials had previously discussed purchasing new security cameras.

“I would like to see those projects done first before we start on any more,” Probst said.

In agreement with Probst, Gardner said, “There were other projects that came up before this and it looks like this has been bumped up to the top.”

Gardner added, “I feel like the mayor is telling you all how much money to propose and ask for because the money is potentially there.”

Craft said the projects Probst mentioned were never approved by the board and were not brought up in either of the two public meetings that were held to discuss the hydroelectric royalties.

“You came to both of those meetings. If you had someone in your ear, why didn’t you say something then?” he said to Probst.

While a timeline for completing the projects has not been determined, Craft said work would begin with the Vidalia Riverfront.

“Within the next few weeks, we’re going to finalize a lease with American Cruise Lines and they are going to get started on building a dock,” Craft said. “When they get ready to start dropping people off at the Vidalia Riverfront, we want to wow them, but not only them. This is something for our citizens to enjoy every day as they walk the riverfront. We want them to take advantage of the beauty we have here in our town.”

Improvements on Carter Street would first need to be approved by the Louisiana Department of Transportation since it is a public highway, he said.