BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - The Bossier City Council will vote next week for a final time on an ordinance to set aside $1 million for property acquisition in old Downtown Bossier City. However, some Downtown Bossier City business owners feel the council should wait until they know which property will be purchased.
"You know, what is the big secret?" said Oh So Designs embroidery business owner Sandra Slaughter, who says she is curious and concerned about the plan. "I don't think they've shared information that's necessary in order to make us feel at ease with the money being allocated for something," said Slaughter.
Last week, councilman Thomas Harvey admitted he is unsure of why the council would vote on funding before being presented a plan.
"That is a good question," he said.
Calls to council members were not returned for this story.
Mayor Lo Walker put the ordinance on the agenda and provided a more clear picture of the situation.
"We thought it would be good management to have a little money set aside so when some property adjacent to our property became available, we could acquire that property with no time delays" explained Walker.
He says redeveloping downtown Bossier has been in the works for decades, but says the push to do it now comes from new businesses set to arrive and bring millennials with them.
"It sort of gave us an incentive to go back and get serious about this," said Mayor Walker.
Walker says the $1 million is like seed money or a nest egg and it would enable them to take advantage of properties that might suddenly become available and enable the city to move on them swiftly.
Still, longtime business owners like Red River Refinishing owner Kathy McGlone, believe the city council should know details of the plan before approving funding for it.
"How can you allocate money if you have no project going?" said McGlone.
When asked about complaints about transparency from business owners, Mayor Walker said, "Well I'd say it's been here discussed at public meetings, it's on the tv."
After some digging, we found city council members have not talked about the ordinance. We requested and obtained the audio from the January 27 agenda meeting where it was first introduced and found there had been no discussion.
We were at the subsequent council meeting that took place February 3, but again, not a word. KSLA News 12 was also in attendance at the February 10 agenda meeting and the council members did not discuss the ordinance.
This led us to file an open records request for emails or any documents showing possible discussion behind closed doors. We were told by a city spokesman, "no such records exist."
Mayor Walker doesn't feel the project should come as a surprise to business owners, especially longtime ones, "But hopefully these public meetings, and your coverage and all will have people become more aware of it," he said.
As far as what land will be bought, we're told there are no specific properties chosen yet, but the mayor has his eye on a general area.
"Just the central part down there, next to the 12 or so acres we already own, in there between Barksdale Blvd and Bossier High School, in general that is the area we are looking at," said Mayor Walker.
While Slaughter is relieved for now because her business is located on the western side of the downtown area, McGlone whose land and business is located in the central area is concerned.
"It's like you know they may be pulling the rug out from underneath you," said McGlone.
"Again, there is a rough idea of where the new development could be. Again, what is it? Will it affect my business?" said Slaughter.
If the council passes the ordinance for a final time, Walker says the next time the topic would come up in a public meeting before the council would be when it is time to develop the purchased land.
"The big development takes a great deal more than $1 million. Each one of those will have to come before the city council for consideration," said Mayor Walker.
A city spokesman says the redevelopment plan won't be ready until this summer.
The Bossier City Council will vote on this ordinance for the final time on Tuesday, February 17 at 3 p.m.