March 22, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt
Anyone who's driven from Iowa to Lake Charles knows that ten mile stretch of Interstate 10 is badly in need of repairs. The contractor making repairs, Gilchrist Construction, wants to put an asphalt plant just north of the interstate in order to make repairs.
Land owner Joe Berry, who is leasing the property to Gilchrist, must get a zoning change for the plant to locate here, though parish officials say no zoning change is needed for dirt work. Right now the plant is in Alexandria. Parish officials say they've been told the plant is portable and would only be here temporarily.
However Calcasieu Police Juror Tony Stelly, who represents the area, is not convinced of that. "It's not clear to me yet whether the intention is for it to be permanent. I really don't know that. I wish it would be clarified. If the project is a two year project and at that time it's dismantled and hauled away it would be more attractive to me. But I don't know that for sure."
Stelly wants the repairs made to I-10, but he thinks there must be a better place to put the plant. "It's unsightly. I think that if it were backed up 1000 feet or so or put a little bit further north it wouldn't be as unattractive for the business area there. What we're hoping is that the service road we have there is going to bring new business in. I just think it would be unattractive for that area."
Still, Berry says the plant only mixes asphalt, so they can lay it down, and adds it meets California environmental rules. Part of the site is already in Iowa. If the town council decides to annex the rest, no zoning would be needed.