Hammond mayor speaks at Twelve Oaks

With a new year just beginning, residents of Hammond, Louisiana are no doubt curious as to what the fresh year means for their community, their businesses, and their residential lives. In light of this, the Hammond Chamber of Commerce held its annual State of the City address on Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Twelve Oaks Complex at Southeastern. The main speaker of the event was Hammond’s three-term mayor, Mayson Foster.

Budgetary matters were an early topic of the meeting. Mayor Foster maintains high hopes for 2011 and his city which he described as being in a “very good” condition. According to Foster, decreasing sales revenues which plague many of Louisiana municipalities are not a problem for Hammond. In November alone, Hammond collected $6,340,043 in sales taxes. This relates to a 6.39 increase from the previous year. According to Foster, this is very good for Hammond which finds itself considerably under budget.

Foster also pointed out many of Hammond’s strong community programs that have been and will remain mainstays on the Hammond scene. This included Michael J. Kennedy Center, which has recently been remolded and redeveloped. The center offers, among other programs, youth recreation activities as well as programs for senior citizens.

Parks are also on the year’s agenda. Foster urged that citizens vote yes to the Hammond Area Recreation Tax Proposition. This will fund the building of a park to include 19 soccer fields, 12 baseball and softball fields, two football fields and a gymnasium. The park is something which Foster describes as “a huge economic development tool.”

“Southeastern Louisiana University,” said Foster. “I can’t tell you how important it is for each and every person in this room to go to Baton Rouge and fight for higher education and in particular, Southeastern.” According to Mayor Foster, one of the largest issues faced by the higher education community is the apathy demonstrated by elected representatives who do not have higher education institutions in their districts.

In Foster’s opinion, it is this lack of care that needs to be addressed by Louisiana residents the state over.

Foster also stressed the importance of the Hammond City and its community working together as a team. Not only does this apply to the everyday services and utilities provided by the city, but also in the wake of such catastrophes as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“I want to say today thank you to everybody who has pitched together and helped our city. As I look around this room [I realize] it’s you.”

Also speaking at the meeting were Hammond City Fire Chief, Paul Collura, and Chief of Police, Roddy Devall. Collura, a 41 year veteran of the Hammond Fire Department, noted the department’s dichotic role not only as a fire fighting unit, but also as an emergency service for Hammond and the surrounding area via a parish contract. These emergency responses equate to 50 percent of the departments received calls, according to Collura.

Chief Devall spoke about the city’s crime reports. This year listed 32,000 calls requiring enforcement and 25,000 wrecks and accidents. Devall was happy to note that overall, crime was down 11.9 percent from last year.

Changes to Hammond’s infrastructure are also in the works. Foster is planning the construction of multiple roundabouts to relieve areas of high traffic congestion.

An airport control tower is also on the drawing board for the Hammond Regional Airport. This will be a military staffed facility and will hopefully bolster air traffic to and from the city.

Foster concluded the meeting on a hopeful note.

“We are your Hammond. We’re here for you. We are only as good as those who work with us… We’re recycling more; we’re trying to make our city green. We will support Southeastern Louisiana University. Go Lions, go Hammond, go green!”

More information on the Hammond Chamber of Commerce can be found by calling 985-345-4749.