With the recent end to the political season in New Iberia, conversations are coming to a close about the problems and progress for public officials to tackle next year.
But as the Thanksgiving week comes to a close, it’s worth highlighting some of the progress in New Iberia this year.
From construction projects to new business and cultural landmarks that will soon be arriving, here are five accomplishments New Iberia has made in 2019 for which we can all give a little thanks.
1. Lower Crime
At the one-year mark of the New Iberia Police Department’s return, major progress was cited by the NIPD in terms of the rate of crimes being solved within city limits.
The NIPD returned to New Iberia in July of 2018 after the passage of a half-cent sales tax that allowed Mayor Freddie DeCourt and the New Iberia City Council to fund a police department from scratch.
Prior to that, the city had contracted law enforcement services from the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office for several years.
NIPD Chief Todd D’Albor said this July that major crime had been reduced within city limits and the department had a near perfect solve rate from officers. The year prior to the NIPD’s reinstatement saw 13 homicides, for instance, and this past year only saw four.
Statistics for the full 2019 year will be reviewed next month, but the first half of 2019 showed positive growth in the city getting ahold of crime.
2. George Rodrigue Park
It’s been several years since Paul Schexnayder presented a plan for a pocket park to the New Iberia City Council that would be dedicated to one of the city’s most famous former residents, and progress for the park is finally beginning to show.
George Rodrigue was an internationally-acclaimed artist and New Iberia native most known for his Blue Dog paintings who died in 2013.
The pocket park project has been picked up by the entire community, with local organizations making donations and even state government allocating funds for it.
Construction for the project started in October is still ongoing. Local residents can expect to see a Blue Dog sculpture for the park, as well as a space for artwork from local residents.
3. Sliman Renovations
Construction work will also be coming soon next door to the George Rodrigue Park, after the New Iberia City Council recently approved work to be done on the iconic Evangeline Theater sign at the Sliman Theater.
Gibko Signs has been awarded a grant for funding through Louisiana Main Street’s Redevelopment Grant Program for the restoration of the Evangeline sign. The company came in at a low bid of $19,899 for the project. The work will include refurbishing the sign with repainting, replacing sockets, repairing the neon, replacing all chaser bulbs with LED lights and reinstalling the sign.
4. City Park Canopy Project
The old fire station at New Iberia City Park underwent some much-needed renovations after a contract was approved to fix the back porch, repair some termite damage and other work.
City government is hoping that the building will begin to be used more for rentals for small gatherings and birthday parties.
City Councilwoman Natalie Lopez has been championing the project from the beginning, saying the building is unique and needed restoration.
Although approved in last year’s budget, the project took extra time to finish after unforseen termite damage was found in the building.
“The building has so much history. It’s one of our rental properties and we want it to be a prime spot,” Lopez said at a recent city council meeting. “That’s something we’re lacking locally, little places to rent for smaller gatherings. It’s just a historic little place.”
5. Splash Pad
West End Park also recently got an upgrade with new playground equipment and a splash pad.
The project was approved last year by the city council and was a concerted effort to replace the swimming pool that had been removed from the park a number of years ago.
The equipment and splash pad were completed in the latter half of the summer and now provides children who frequent West End Park another option to keep cool during the hotter months of the year.
6. New Business
It’s been no secret that New Iberia has been open for business lately, and local residents have been loving it.
Most notably, Rouses Market opened in late March with much fanfare and even the Catholic High School marching band parading through the aisles during the grand opening.
Hobby Lobby, located next to Rouses, followed soon after with local artisans thrilled about having a local place to shop for arts and crafts.
A Ross Dress for Less is scheduled to be open on the other side of Rouses sometime next year. Meanwhile, food options are expanding in New Iberia with the opening of Kentucky Fried Chicken and the soon-to-be open Chick-fil-A.
Other smaller businesses like Marble Slab Creamery are also slated to open in the next few months, with local residents loving what feels like a new business climate in the city.