LIVINGSTON – Eight years as an alderman prepared David McCreary for much of what he would see as mayor of the parish seat, but the last few years dealt him and his town a surprise.
The growth of the town in the last decade and the challenges it brings have kept McCreary busy on how to address it. It’s not as much the growth as the rate of expansion – and trying to stay ahead of the eight-ball.
The population as of 2017 totaled 2,872, an expansion of 900 residents since 2000.
Growth has spurred an influx of new businesses within the corporate limits. Two of the biggest industrial additions to the parish in recent years – Epic Piping and a Pepsi distribution plant – are nestled just outside the town limits, but they promise to further spark the expansion.
“Right now, our biggest problem is infrastructure,” he said. “We’re trying to plan three to five years out.”
A market profile provided by the Livingston Economic Development Council show a that the town’s median income, housing value and population by age all signify upward mobility.
The town had 879 housing units as of 2017. The number is nearly twice the total in 2000.
The median household income bracket for 2017 was $56,368, which is expected to rise to $65,008 by 2022.
The largest percentage of housing value – 21.9 percent – comes from dwellings in the $200,000-$249,999 range. The median household value as of 2017 was $150,769, which is expected to rise to $188,060 by 2022.
The majority population in age is 15.6 percent in the 25-34 bracket, 14.9 percent between 35 and 44, and 13.2 percent between 45 and 54.
The rate of growth may outpace the timing for which the town can replace the Red Oak Wastewater Plant, which was built in 1974 to accommodate 500 homes.
“Infrastructure is our biggest challenge,” McCreary said. “The growth is getting to the point that it has gotten tough to accommodate.”
A tie-in along La. 63 to a wastewater system in Satsuma will about 50 percent of the load off the Red Oak, but the growth rate will likely require an additional system after five years, he said.
A new system will run upwards of $2 million.
“Money is always the issue, even though we’ve been lucky in the fact that we gotten grants we didn’t think we’d get,” McCreary said. “Grant money is not readily available, so we’re sticking to our plan of three to five years.”
“You’re in a big world of hurt if you get behind the curve in these situations,” he said. “With the growth we’re going to see in the next five years, we have to be ahead of the curve.”
The growth of Denham Springs, Watson and Walker over the last 25 years has made the town of Livingston the heir apparent to the next population boom in the parish.
Aside from a school system ranked among the top 10 in the state, the opening of Epic and a Pepsi south of the corporate limits will likely bring more residential growth within the next decade.
“We knew it was coming, and with the saturation in the Denham Springs/Walker area, this and Satsuma were the only logical place to go forward,” McCreary said.
Change has already taken shape through the heavier flow of traffic along the La. 63 corridor near Interstate 12. State Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, has proposed roundabouts for the area, but state budgetary restraints will not make it possible this year.
“We want to get them in place soon enough so that we don’t have the problems we’ve had in Walker,” Erdey said.
As the traffic increases along the La. 63 corridor, so does the number of business.
The Big Boss Travel Plaza south of the town limits has increased flow along the roadway as well as from I-12, while the opening of a Burger King about one mile from the overpass has also brought more business to the area.
The fast food giant’s arrival in the area will likely serve as the catalyst for more to come. McCreary anticipates McDonald’s, Waffle House, Popeye’s and other eateries could be next in line to open in the area.
“When one builds, the others follow,” he said. “Burger King did a lot of research before it opened here, and they see this area as a prime spot for fast food restaurants.”
McCreary would like to sit-down restaurants locate in the area, but the town’s longtime ban on hard liquor has posed a roadblock. He and the council will have no part in the decision on lifting the ban, the mayor said.
“That’s up for the people to decide,” he said. “It’s none of my business if people drink – and I don’t drink – but whether or not someone drinks is their own decision.”
Circle K has also inquired with the town about a location near I-12, McCreary said.
Lodging chains are also a possibility along the La. 63 corridor, in the same fashion as Denham Springs and Walker. The addition of hotel could help when Livingston Parish Recreation hosts tournaments for baseball, softball and other sports throughout the year.
“Right now, there’s no place to stay but Walker, Denham Springs, Hammond or Baton Rouge,” McCreary said. “If someone builds a hotel here, it would fill up easily throughout the year.”
The population growth will likely spur the need for other businesses, including retail chains, auto parts stores or perhaps even a car dealership, he said.
McCreary does not plan, however, to extend the town limits. He pushed for it during his early days as a councilman, but Mayor Deral Jones explained the reason why it should not go south of I-12.
“Derald told me if we do that, we suddenly need more money for fire protection, more money for public works and more money for police protection,” McCreary said. “It all made perfect sense.
It’s not to say they will not do it in the future, McCreary said, but the residents would need to circulate a petition to get the ball rolling on that proposal.
Some longtime residents lament the growth, but it’s an irreversible trend, he said.
“You can’t stop prosperity or even slow it down,” he said.
The continued growth could lead one step further for the municipality. Population growth beyond the 5,000-mark would upgrade the town to status as a city.
“At the rate we’re growing, I could see that happening,” McCreary said. “It’s definitely an interesting time to be mayor or serve on the council.”