Update from Mayor Watts

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By Beth Fussell

This week, in place of “From the Mayor’s Desk, “ Mayor Watts agreed to address a few questions on topics relevant to our community. 

The Mayor says that he is very excited about the new City Council members, who participated in their first official meeting on Tuesday night.  Watts says he would like to welcome them and that he is looking forward to the Council continuing to move our city in the right direction.  While it is a slow process to build the framework for a successful city, he feels that the past and present Council members have done and will do a good job of forming Central’s future.

One of the items on Tuesday’s Council agenda was a moratorium proposed by Councilman Moak.  The proposed moratorium would prohibit the zoning of any more businesses as CAB2 (“bars” that serve mostly alcohol rather than food) for the next six months. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the ordinance with the stipulation that the moratorium be for six months only with no option for renewal.  The purpose of this proposal is to grant some time to the city officials to discuss CAB2 zonings for Central in the future, since the public has been vocal, especially recently, concerning bars in Central.  The Mayor says that, while he takes no issue with the current bars in Central, he is not in favor of Central becoming a city filled with bars.  Watts says he is fine with the coming sports bar, as well, but he feels that Central may have enough bars once Extra Innings Sports Bar is built. 

When it comes to the issue of permit fees, Mayor Watts was optimistic that good steps are being taken to find the best situation for Central homes and businesses.  Councilman DeJohn has been working closely with CH2M Hill on building permits, and an ordinance has been proposed outlining specific fees for these permits. 

The Central Community School System has been the subject of some discussion surrounding permit fees, as well.  Watts says that Central schools have gotten good treatment in this area, especially when compared to East Baton Rouge Parish schools, which received no discounts on their permit fees when new schools were built.  The Central Community School System was given a 30% discount by CH2M Hill up front, and further price cuts have been negotiated.

Mayor Watts, when it comes to Governor Jindal’s veto of the Baton Rouge Loop study funding, feels that Central has several options to relieve traffic congestion in our city.  He says it is a “no-brainer” to extend Hooper Road to Highway 16, giving direct access to Interstate 110.  There are also plans for the Central Thruway to be constructed with four lanes, which would be a tremendous relief for traffic. 

Redflex vans have been spotted around the city and have been the topic of some discussion around the community.  These are the vans that were allowed to be placed in the city on a demo basis.  No tickets are being issued by these vans.  When asked about his position on these vans, the Mayor said that the decision on whether to use these speed vans for actual speed enforcement would have to come from the City Council.  Mayor Watts says that he and many citizens are concerned about people speeding down straightaways in neighborhoods like Bellingrath, Carmel Acres, Biltmore, and others.  Whether or not the speed vans end up being the chosen solution, the Mayor does feel that speed enforcement is very important on city roads and in subdivisions, as well.

The Mayor is very much in favor of all of the efforts being made to improve driving safety in our city and the surrounding areas.  He mentioned Driving Safe in Central and T.I.M.E. as great initiatives to promote safety on the road, and he stressed how important it is to buckle up and pay attention while driving, especially in view of the many recent accidents affecting Central teens.  Mayor Watts himself has been working to break the habit of using his cell phone while he drives.  We all know it is a difficult habit to break, but perhaps we could, as a community, take steps to use phones less in the car and buckle our seatbelts.

Some people may have seen signs around Central and Zachary over the past few months referencing a program called “T.I.M.E.”  This program was created by students and Principal Wes Watts at Zachary High School.  It is an acronym for “Teenagers’ Influence Motivating Everyone.”  The idea is that students, in partnership with their communities, can make a positive change in their cities through a series of good choices and positive challenges.  The program was begun at the end of this past school year, and the first challenge issued was related to driving safety.  Signs were made saying things like, “It’s TIME to buckle up,” “to slow down,” “to stay focused on the road,” etc.  Mayor Watts has been working with both Zachary High School and Central High School to help move this program forward and to spread the program into Central as well as Zachary.  A challenge has been issued between Zachary and Central students to see who can get the most students to commit, through the signing of “contracts,” to each of these goals set forth by the program.  When you see these signs around the community in the future, please make an effort to support these initiatives by taking part in the challenges and by encouraging students to do the same.