by Tiffany Cavalier

Mayor Mike Kloesel has big plans for the year 2020. As he reflects on the previous year and how successful he was in making the city cleaner and safer, he plans to do more this year with the hope of getting grants for several projects that need to be taken care of.

Building a pavilion at Clement Park is among those plans as well as a goal to reduce the cost of electricity to not only the residents, but the business industry as well. What has been done already is improving and repairing many aspects of the utility services, which needed to be done. More of his plans are being laid out and include many more exciting things for the city of Kaplan.

Merging into a new year: “By all aspects 2019 was a good year for Kaplan. We achieved one of the best audits that Kaplan has ever had and we operated in the black for the first time in several years. I credit that achievement to the city clerk and the entire staff of city employees,” Kloesel said, “We started off last year (2019) notifying our wholesale electric supplier that we are going to begin the process of accepting RFP’s (Request for proposals) in an attempt to reduce electrical rates for our residents. We did begin the process immediately and I do anticipate that 2020 will be the year that the city of Kaplan enters into a new electrical contract that will actually reduce the cost of electricity to our residents, rather than the normal yearly increases.”

Electricity cost decrease: His goal is to be able to reduce the cost of electricity 15%-18% not only to the residents but to business and industry as well. If they are successful at the 15% decrease a resident or business that normally has an average of a $400 electric bill will see that reduced by $60 per month or annually an additional $720.00 per year for Kaplan residents to keep in their pocket or to spend elsewhere and hopefully in Kaplan to grow their business base. Now, multiply this by the 2000+ residential homes and businesses in Kaplan and you can see the amount of savings that this will bring to them as a city.

Infrastructure funds: There have been additional plans to earmark anywhere from 1/2 cent to 1 cent of the city’s profit per kilowatt hour to go into a dedicated infrastructure fund. This could never be changed nor the money used for anything other than their infrastructure. Kaplan’s infrastructure is only getting older and just like many other towns, Kaplan has been struggling with maintaining and upgrading their infrastructure with everything from drainage, sewer lines, water lines, natural gas lines, meters, roads, etc. So, that 1/2 to 1 cent fund could easily sock away up to $125,000+ annually, money that can only be used for infrastructure repairs and maintenance. “A new electrical contract and infrastructure fund is certainly the biggest goal I have for the city of Kaplan in 2020, but not the only goal,” he said. “We have already begun improving and repairing many aspects of Kaplan Utility Services, not always by choice but some by necessity. When I came into office in July of 2018, our sewer department was functioning on a level that was simply inadequate and inefficient. It’s a fact that much of our sewer department is in need of extensive and expensive repairs. We have to find the money to get this accomplished and we are using grants whenever possible.” The mayor said he is working closely with their engineers to make the necessary repairs to the mechanical features of the sewer plant that were not functioning at all when Kloesel took office, but are necessary in order to operate the plant efficiently, properly and safely. This will be a long and expensive process due to the equipment failures and process inadequacies over the years, at that specific plant. The mayor said that they have also done some much needed work and repairs at the city water plant and have invested money in urgently needed repairs to their gas department infrastructure and they will continue to make investments in all of Kaplan Utilities so that they operate each department as smoothly and efficiently as possible in 2020.

Grant application: In February of 2019 Louisiana Rural Water came to Kaplan and did a smoke test of all of Kaplan’s sewer lines. It was found that Kaplan suffered well over 800 significant line failures, some on the resident’s side and some on the city side. With the help of Kaplan’s grant writer Richard Minville, Kaplan applied for a $450,000.00 grant to help begin to fix the problem, but because of the severity of the issue, they were able to increase our request to $550,000.00. “We are awaiting word any day now about whether or not we will be awarded the grant but we are very optimistic that we will be funded. This will be a huge benefit for us.”

Drainage issues: “We also have drainage issues in town and those are being addressed as best we can with the money we have. I am also working closely with our state representative, state senator, our police jury and the parish drainage board to get as much work done as can be afforded,” the Mayor said. In an effort to take preventative measures with regards to flooding, the mayor sent members of their streets and bridges department to learn about proper techniques for cleaning a culvert and they have implemented that program. “As you may have come across in your travels around town, we are cleaning culverts that are completely stopped up and allowing proper drainage in many areas. There are some videos on my mayor Facebook page of the cleaning process.”

Keep Kaplan Beautiful campaign: “Each year that I am in office, I plan on upping the Keep Kaplan Beautiful campaign,” he said. With the help of city workers, city council and our parish police jurors, the city is making headway with trash issues in Kaplan. “I think you will notice that our city workers have given much attention to the roadways coming into and out of our town and we’re doing a good job keeping trash out of our ditches and roadways. I believe that first impressions are important and when tourists or visitors are coming through Kaplan, we want it to be a positive impression that they leave with.” There is no doubt there is still a long way to go in some areas but rest assured, the city is going to work on those areas hard in 2020 and beyond. The city of Kaplan will be working in conjunction with the State of Louisiana this Spring with their “LOVE THE BOOT” beautification campaign and the mayor will be asking civic clubs, organizations and businesses to get involved as we move closer to that important project.

Blighted property: Blighted property is not only a concern in Kaplan, but it is a concern statewide and even nationwide. As infrastructures have grown older, so are their communities, and many residences have fallen into disarray. Most people don’t realize it but since Mayor Kloesel took office, there have been 7 old houses torn down as well as the old JR. Food Mart building that sat vacant for almost 15 years. Kaplan has managed to do that at the expense of the homeowner and business owners so that not a dime of city money was spent on any of these. Kaplan is currently working on a program that will make it easier for blighted property homeowners to tear down dilapidated and unsafe structures by working in conjunction with the city. They are also currently moving abandoned vehicles out of Kaplan at a record pace.

Parks and Rec: Kaplan has made a significant investment in the parks and recreation department and have improved the walking trails drainage problems and we will be rebuilding a section of the walking trail where they were unable to fix the problem of rainwater flooding the sidewalk. “We also are constructing a 80’ x 50’ pavilion at Clement park and improving the overall appearance of this park. The pavilion will be a significant addition to Kaplan and will be able to be rented out.” The mayor added that are also several acres of land attached to the pavilion that have been cleaned up where there will be plenty of room for anything from a fair, to a concert, to a carnival to go on at the park. This will probably be the site of their first-year 4th of July fireworks show in Kaplan that will take place this year in 2020. “I want to acknowledge Acadiana Ford for their generosity in sponsoring Kaplan’s first ever 4th of July celebration this year. When I went to the owner, Mr. Don Mendoza, he was immediately all in and said he would be happy to do this for Kaplan,” he said.

Future: “So, I’m excited about our future. I enjoy coming to work every day and working with the dedicated people inside and outside of City Hall, as well as our city council. We’ve moved around some people from department to department and everything seems to be running smoothly. I believe that morale throughout the workplace is excellent and employees are taking pride in their job and striving to do the best job they can for all of us. Some of the most important changes I feel that I’ve made since taking office is the placement of Heather Guidry as city clerk and Todd Vincent as city engineer. Todd and his firm, Seller’s Engineering have been a wealth of knowledge on issues that are vital to our city moving forward in to the new decade and Heather has fit into her new position perfectly. Both are as dedicated to the city of Kaplan as anyone could hope for. As always, the most important thing I want people to know is that my door is always open, and I will listen.” The mayor does say, though, that of course they don’t have all the money they need to fix all the problems that have been outlined. But, rest assured that they are working aggressively to find federal and state money to help fund projects when it is available, and doing things like saving money where they can, so that when repairs are necessary they have the funds to take care of citizen’s needs.

Originally published in the Abbeville Meridional on 1/16/20