MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) — It was exactly one year ago when Friday Ellis was sworn in to city leadership. The mayor is touting accomplishments in areas like infrastructure and crime but concedes the work has only just begun. Taking a look in the rear-view mirror, Ellis is crediting his administration’s achievements, so far, to a hands-on approach with his staff and the people he serves.
On day one, Ellis says he faced his toughest challenge. Minutes after being sworn in, Ellis was presented with the information about the excessive force case against Monroe Police during the arrest of Timothy Williams.
“That was a tough one for me- on day one. It’s still a tough one for me to think about it. To think that we had a citizen that was treated that way on our watch, by our officers.”
In October 2020, Victor Zordan was named Chief of Monroe Police, tasking him to review training and put more officers, not just out on the streets, but actively present in the community. A part of that approach is M-PAC, a program allowing kids to establish an early relationship with officers on the force.
“We need more officers on the streets right? Need them patrolling, need them trained. We need them present there as well,” said Ellis.
On infrastructure, Ellis says up to $10 million was just spent on sidewalk cleanup projects and more lighting is coming too. Beneath the surface, sewer lines are another major priority for Ellis. He says funding is now being finalized, with some help from Congresswoman Julia Letlow, to get a main sewer trunk line repaired.
“We usually notice whenever big heavy rains happen our drains are slow to drain but also it’s a huge economic development impediment because we can’t put more capacity on that line so if somebody comes in as an economic development prospect that says ‘Hey, we want to have light manufacturing,’ we can’t move that wastewater out,” said Ellis.
Fixing the sewer issues would also lead to fixing crumbling roads Ellis explained.
“A lot of the road conditions that we see right now happen sub-surface, so it’s not just a milled and nice little asphalt road, it’s the sewers under there are crumbling – sewer and drainage lines that cause the above-surface roads and wearing course,” Ellis said. “So what we want to do is start taking a closer look at where our crumbling infrastructure is so when we do put that new road down, we’re not back there two months later saw-cutting it out, repairing the sewer line. You see a lot of that through our city because we are an old city with crumbling infrastructure, so what we do is start talking about a complete project.”
The city’s beautification efforts also translate to fighting blight and Ellis says the city is taking a tougher stance on illegal dumping in neighborhoods.
“Part of it was realizing we didn’t have all the equipment that we needed and also we didn’t have the tools or the mechanisms to go after the individuals who are the egregious, illegal dumpers or people who own property – they don’t keep it up. We’ve worked with our delegation to pass some legislation for Environmental Court, to where it now is the teeth behind the citation. So if we come to you and we cite you on your property, now you show up in our Environmental Court. Now we have some leverage to say ‘you either fix it or we go up on your property taxes, or this is your bill.’ It is something that is much needed because nobody deserves to live a neighborhood that somebody uses as a dump site.”
All of these efforts, the mayor hopes, are culminating in making Monroe a city more marketable to new business.
Ellis explained shortly after he took office “what I understood really quickly is there’s a very short window for companies that are looking for certified sites. They want to know the wetland mitigation the environment is taken care of. They want to now where they can put the sticks in the air the fastest. And not only that, they need to know if you have a qualified workforce or a pipeline of workforce.”
And in order to bring those new businesses here, Mayor Ellis says it’s an ongoing regional effort between the city, the parish and West Monroe. In August, a site selector guild will be performing a “SWOT” analysis on the city. Mayor Ellis also mentioned the hiring an economic developer, an announcement about who that is expected to be coming soon.