Making Progress: Year 2017 in Review
Happy New Year! We hope that your holidays were filled with joy and all the blessings of the season. As we enter into 2018, we are proud of the accomplishments we’ve made and look forward to plans for our new year. We successfully launched numerous events and activities for our community including the Donaldsonville Market on the Square Arts, Crafts and Farmer’s Markets. We hosted nine arts, crafts, and farmers markets that featured over 20 vendors and approximately 50 shoppers. This is an area we hope to grow this year. We welcome our residents to come out and sell their goods and shop. If your product is considered an “art,” it can be sold tax free due to the existence of the Cultural Arts District in Donaldsonville. We host on the first Saturday of every month at Louisiana Square on Railroad Avenue from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. New elements on the way including some live entertainment, youth enhancement, and the Stroll Cook-off Semi-finals. Musicians are welcome to come out and perform.
We also hosted 14 events in our newly renovated Crescent Park which welcomed over 3000 spectators. Donaldsonville Live returns in March on the first Saturday of every month from 6-9 p.m. This year the event concluded on July 3 for our Independence Day Celebration. This past July 3 estimated crowds over 2000, featuring four bands, great vendors and fireworks. Bands are already booking for 2018 and some new programs are developing. We also crowned Miss, Teen Miss, and Little Miss Donaldsonville and Sunshine Festival, and they are currently representing the city in numerous events. Come out and support our queens in local events and parades. The avenue Stroll was a huge success this year. Estimated crowds exceeded 2000, more vendors and businesses participated since the event’s inception; 11 vendors and 20 businesses and attractions were open. New to the Stroll for 2018 will be a cook-off with prize money. Participants will compete in three divisions and will qualify at the Arts, Crafts, and Farmer’s Market throughout the year for the finals. Our annual calendar will be released soon, so stay tuned.
In the area of tourism, we also had a great year. We hosted eight tour busses this year with 22 countries having visited Donaldsonville with an estimated 1200 tourists. We are also working with Ascension Parish Tourism Commission on the development of interpretive panels in order to give tourists a method to enjoy and explore our history.
We also partnered with Ascension Parish councilmen and the Parish leadership for funding the Louisiana Square lighting project as well as the LED sign which is located on Marchand Drive. The board assists us with promoting events and listing important announcements. We want to thank them for helping us complete these significant improvements to our city. There is more to come with the grand opening of the new recreational facility kitchen and ball park improvements. Again, these are significant accomplishments sponsored by the Parish. We would also like to thank APSO and all who were involved with the newly built substation park at 1201 Maginnis, which encourages a positive foundational relationship between the city's youth and local law enforcement.
In the area of economic development, we had seven new business startups in retail and food and beverage, most notably Taco Bell and Burger King and there are more to come. Donaldsonville also had 306 occupational licenses comprising new and renewals.
We have also been seriously working on eliminating blight in the community including the removal of structures and immovable automobiles. We will continue to work on this to make our community more safe and clean. Across the community, there is a growing trend where homeowners are painting, renovating and creating additions. There were over 30 applications processed for improvement in the historic district this year alone with an additional 73 construction permits issued throughout the year.
There are six new buildings entering into commerce in the Mainstreet District and they represent well over $1.5 million in total renovation and restoration cost. The Donaldsonville Lemann Memorial Center exterior was renovated and will continue as funds are made available to improve the facility. City hall has had a facelift, including a new handicap accessible parking lot and entrance as well as new lobby furniture. There will be more improvements to City Hall including exterior landscaping and bathroom improvements. Through a unique partnership with the Donaldsonville Downtown Development District and the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation, the Lowery-Brazier building was stabilized and sold and will be put back into commerce within the year. The Historic District also was awarded a grant to review and improve our process for governing the Secretary of the Interior Standards, the Historic District Ordinance, governance, a number of other improvements including making the application process available online.
The Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District project was completed with the addition of the railway bridge replacing the rail berm, and we are now working on a recreational park on the Bayou near the new bridge as well as an interpretive museum in the old American Legion Hall on the Mississippi River.
We began work on improving our workforce training program and are in the process of working with United Way in order to create community programs for our community's youth. The city took over the billing collection for Entergy and for Cox communication. We created a new emergency preparedness program which will continue to develop as the city improves it’s communication with its residents to help keep everyone safe during natural disasters or other emergencies.
$1.8 million was spent in total road and infrastructure improvements this year including over 20 street repaving improvements and sewer and drainage improvements.
We celebrated the successes of Donaldsonville‘s own Coach DD Breaux in her achievements as the winningest coach in LSU gymnastics history as well as much success in our local high school sports teams. Additionally, both of our high schools made it to the Louisiana State High School Playoffs, and Ascension Catholic High School was named second place in their division as the State Runner-up.
Our community development committees have been hard at work to improve our city. We launched a new committee to work on improving communication in our public school system. This included a town hall meeting and consulting program aimed at improving the impact and efforts in our school system, sponsored by the Ascension Parish School Board and led by School Board Representative Robyn Delaney. There were significant improvements in the school system including the kick-off of construction for the new Ascension Parish Head Start facility. We also saw two of our schools open new libraries and demonstrated improvements in school scores at Donaldsonville Primary, Lowery Middle, and Donaldsonville High School. We will be inviting guests in our upcoming radio program to get into more of the details of the scores and for plans in the future. This could not have been done without the leadership of Robyn Delaney our school board representative, the PARENTS of our youth, the support of the school board superintendent, other school board members, and most importantly the leadership, faculty, staff, and students in our schools. We also launched our Pastoral and Clergy Committee in order to improve collaboration and communication amongst all of our churches and community partners.
There is so much more to come for 2018. We hope that our community sees the improvements that we are making but our doors are still open to suggestions. Our community and economic development committee is constantly looking for volunteers, input, and support so that we can reach all needs of the community. Tune in to the Making Progress Show on KKAY 1590 AM and KBRS 106.9 FM on the first Wednesday of every month to call in and ask questions and learn more about what is going on in the community. You can reach the show by tuning in to 1590 AM, KBRS 106.9 FM or on the internet at www.globalradiokkay.com. Call into the show by dialing 225-473-5764 or 225-473-6397 for questions online. Please follow our Facebook page @donaldsonvilleLA as well as @donaldsonvilleDDD to stay up to date about our meetings, events, and activities in the community.
To make an appointment to meet with me, contact my assistant Joyce Madison at 225-473-4247, ext. 10. You are also welcome to attend any of our commission meetings, committee meetings, or our city council meetings. Downtown Development District Meetings are the last Monday of every month at City Hall beginning at 6 p.m., Historic District Commission Meetings are the last Wednesday of every month at City Hall beginning at 6 p.m., City Council Meetings are held at 6:00 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of the month with the Committee of the Whole on the Monday in between the City Council Meetings starting at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. Specific dates are available at City Hall and are all subject to change – please see the Public Notice Board at the front door of City Hall. Again, you may also stay up-to-date with our communication by following the City of Donaldsonville Facebook page @donaldsonvilleLA the Donaldsonville Downtown Development District @DonaldsonvilleDDD and / or the Donaldsonville Main Street Program.
We look back on a successful 2017 and look forward to a more prosperous and improving 2018.