Iberia On The Move
● By Robert Frey
Good Things Happening, Even More On The Way
By Scott Brazda
“We’re moving. It may be a little slow, but we’re moving.” City of New Iberia Mayor Freddie DeCourt is nearing the end of his first year in office, and he is in a reflective state of mind. “It’s been a really busy year; I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in my life, but I never had this much fun.”
City and Parish. Parish and City.
“2017 was eventful. We had some very good things happen in Iberia Parish,” smiles Iberia Parish President Larry Richard. “There were a lot of things that hit us very quickly, but we were able to work our way through them”
And with the name Iberia attached to both, the two—City and Parish – go hand-in-hand, especially if growth, development, evolution and prosperity are the goals. Richard and DeCourt get it, and in their year together have realized they are joined at the hip. They must be.
“I think the collaboration we’re having here in Iberia Parish is helping to make so many good things happen,” says Richard. “Freddie and I did a mutual aid agreement here in Iberia Parish, which means, anywhere within the city, if they need help with a project, need any kind of equipment, we share it with the other if it’s available. In the past we’d have to go to the council, get approval and put forth further efforts, but by the time we’d do that, it was over, the crisis was over.”
That’s yesterday’s news. What’s happened in 2017 is that if the city or parish has something that the other one needs, Richard or DeCourt give the other a call and make it happen – no committees, no subcommittees, no sub-sub-committees. It’s a simple sharing of resources, all for the greater good. “We have worked very hard and very well together to have that open communication and to be able to at least kick the tires on a deal that comes up or any idea that might save the taxpayers money and would just push us both forward,” agrees DeCourt. “The city is in the parish, the parish is part of the city. We have to remember that, and if we succeed in the city, the parish ultimately succeeds as well and vice versa.”
This has led to improved drainage for city and parish residents around a number of ditches, canals and coulees. Peoples Canal. Commercial Canal. Delahoussaye Canal. “And countless ditches in the city, too,” adds Richard. “It’s all about helping our taxpayers see a return on their dollars and hopefully recognize that we truly are in it for them.”
The mutual aid concept, furthers Richard, is spreading throughout Iberia Parish and beyond. “We have now passed mutual aid agreements in Delcambre, Loreauville and Jeanerette, plus other communities. All of the mayors are on board, so no matter where we have things going on in the parish, we can actually take care of it.”
SECOND COMING OF THE NEW IBERIA POLICE DEPARTMENT
“I think it is huge that our town sent a real message that we want a change, we want to evolve and advance,” says DeCourt, proud that a key component of his election campaign has come to fruition. “We realize that public safety is one of the biggest concerns and is the catalyst for seeing other positive things happen in our community. Re-establishing the New Iberia Police Department will be such a positive thing for our city.”
New Iberia residents approved a half-cent tax, the proceeds of which will go toward “…bringing back community policing,” says DeCourt. “This is how you grow a city: you make sure it’s a safe city. You protect and improve your reputation any way you can. With that, comes new business, which in turn means more jobs and more tax revenue.”
DeCourt says having the right officers in the right places fostering the right relationships… will simply say a lot about the quality of life in New Iberia. “People will want to stay; they won’t look at, say, Broussard and Youngsville, and think, ‘Those are better places to live.’ A safer city means a lot of people will think twice or even three times about relocating. A safer city means more people will want to work here and raise their families and live their lives right here.”
LET THERE BE ROADS!! LET THERE BE BRIDGES!! LET THERE BE ACCESS!!
When it comes to getting from here to there across Iberia Parish, Richard says, “We had a very productive year in 2017.” Work was completed on nine parish bridges, and four more will be done or repaired in 2018 as well.
A new building has been purchased for the Iberia Parish Public Works Department; this 40,000-square foot structure will increase office space and allow vehicle repair and maintenance to be done in-house. Plus, the facility will no longer be on Avery Island Road and will instead be more centrally-located, which will allow for quicker and easier response times to any work needed across the parish.
“Future projects in this arena are exciting, too,” adds Richard. “We’ve approved an access road off Highway 675 headed to Highway 3212; that will go out for bid in early 2018. Then there’s a roundabout at 675—Jefferson Island Road – which will connect to the access road and the Department of Transportation is going to straighten some curves on Highway 88 (Coteau Road) to make it easier for trucks that are headed to the Acadiana Regional Airport.”
Those last few words – Acadiana Regional Airport – is the focus of a major build-up throughout the parish, and better roads connecting to said airport are a must. “We want to make the airport an international cargo facility. We’re starting to bring in cargo that we can ship throughout the United States and the world,” explains Richard. “We have the longest runway in the South at just over 8,000 feet, and if we can make it easier for Fed Ex or UPS to get to us in a more timely manner, well, we’re looking at the future of the parish.”
IT’S EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS
Better access and increased mobility to and from the airport will be good for business in Iberia, both city and parish. But other businesses called the city home in 2017, too. “We are having some successes with over 20 businesses that have opened this year,” says DeCourt. “Not only that, but we’ve had a number of inquiries, too. I had a big developer meeting last week, I’ve got a developer meeting this week, and I drove somebody, who must remain nameless, around about two weeks ago and showed them property.”
New Iberia, continues DeCourt, has a good size population (30,000), low taxes, low property acquisition costs and construction costs that are cheaper than most communities, if not all, in Acadiana. “People are finally realizing, ‘OK, the city of New Iberia is ready to grow, and there’s some opportunity here’. The old Kmart building is being redeveloped, there’s the promise of three stores that are very close to being announced. We have three or four national restaurant chains milling around, one that I should be able to make an announcement of in January.”
The city is also getting more active in the philanthropic sector as well; more grants are being written and DeCourt says New Iberia is in the running for two or three ‘quality of life’ kind of projects. “There are a lot of companies checking us out, and the momentum is something with which we hope to increase and keep rolling in 2018.”
SO THAT WAS 2017; WHAT ABOUT 2018?
“Rolling out the New Iberia Police Department. Getting those developers and those new projects off the ground. Those will be major game-changers for our area,” says DeCourt. In addition, he says, is changing the mindset among many residents that things are always going to be…the way they’ve always been. “I think when people see that new people are investing money and that outside people are coming in, there will be even more optimism. Getting our people to believe in themselves, engaging with them and getting them to believe that things are going to get better will be crucial to our success.”
“I feel the optimism,” says Richard. “What’s going right? We have good people, leaders in Iberia Parish and our city and parish councils and we’re realizing we have to do something to make our parish grow in a positive light. We’re communicating and looking for answers.”
“2018 is going to be the year of promise,” believes DeCourt. “The pressure is on us, both me and Larry, to keep what we started and to fulfill the promise. I think we’re up for it.”