Westlake still moving forward after almost declaring bankruptcy - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Westlake still moving forward after almost declaring bankruptcy two years ago

(Source: KPLC) (Source: KPLC)
WESTLAKE, LA (KPLC) -

It was dark times in Westlake a couple of years ago when the city nearly had to declare bankruptcy, but now Westlake is out of the red and moving forward.

Five months ago KPLC spoke with Westlake Mayor Bob Hardey about the city's finances, and since then things have been changing.   

"Financially we're just a whole lot better off than we were," said Hardey. 

The city has officially joined the Calcasieu Parish gaming pool.

"It's going to help us tremendously," said Hardey. "We'll be able to start putting money up." 

But recently Governor John Bel Edwards cut $2.1 million out of the state's construction budget for building a clubhouse at the National Golf Club of Louisiana.

"He line vetoed it after it was in priority five," said Hardey. "It was already in priority one twice. (He) took it back, (and) they kept the money. I went to them and told them I have the match, let us finish the project, and they don't have the money." 

Although it's created a setback, Hardey is determined to get the clubhouse built. 

"Our goal is to get it done to where we increase revenue, increase play, increase housing, and increase the value of the property." 

Sasol is currently working on a new billion-dollar expansion project, but Westlake won't see any tax revenue, because Sasol sits just outside the city limits. 

"Our roads are full," said Hardey. "They're running over stop signs, they're running into the cemetery, they're cutting every corner. Well, our roads are not going to last like they would have before this project." 

But Hardey has a solution to this problem. 

"What we would have loved to have was some type of impact fee for the road repair when this is all over with." 

But in a statement from Sasol the company said:

"Westlake has seen significant benefits from both Sasol's existing operations and project. As of 2017, Sasol has already paid $90 million in local taxes of the stimulated $135 million it will pay during project construction, and $6.2 million annually thereafter once the plants are operational. Because Sasol's existing site and project site are outside Westlake limits, distribution of this tax revenue to Westlake is determined by Calcasieu Parish. However, payment of local taxes is only one part of the story of the Sasol project's local economic impact. In creating the Heavy Haul Road, Sasol funded $35 million in road improvements and new water, sewer and gas line infrastructure in the city of Westlake alone. These improvements in most cases replaced and improved the city's underground infrastructure, including drainage capacity and efficiency. In an executed agreement in late 2016, Sasol voluntarily reimbursed the city for expenses incurred as a result of its project and funded the city's matching dollars required to complete the new police station and emergency response center, a new water well, and the John Stine/Sampson improvement project. This voluntary payment to the city totaled close to $1 million." 

And while Westlake finances are better than two years ago, the city is working its way back to where it needs to be.

"We're doing the best we can with what we have, but we're living within our means and we're going to make it work," said Hardey. 

Hardey says the city is working on other projects like getting a new police station, and even working on getting a compressed natural gas station. 

As far as getting an impact fee from Sasol, the company says they have no immediate plans for any additional road improvement projects, but they do value their relationship with the city and the mayor, and if the mayor has any specific concerns he can reach out to them. 

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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