Strong bond rating means Kenner can expand beautification work

An unexpectedly strong bond rating has Kenner Mayor Michael Yenni expanding the scope of his ambitious beautification project, thanks to about $3 million more in available funding.

Yenni said that because of an A+ rating from Standard and Poor, Kenner no longer has to maintain a $3 million reserve when it borrows roughly $47 million through the refinancing of existing sales tax bonds. Instead, the city can purchase a surety bond, which costs about $100,000, and use the additional cash for more projects, he said. Kenner’s previous bond rating when it borrowed sewerage bonds was an A.

“I think an A+ is outstanding for us,” Yenni said. “

Yenni already received approval from the Kenner City Council to spend about $29 million on beautification projects and some infrastructure improvements throughout the city. The projects, which came out of Yenni’s economic development committee, focus on improving the aesthetics of many of Kenner’s main corridors. Most of the projects will happen on Loyola Drive and Williams Boulevard.

However, in recent weeks, some questions arose about whether other projects could be considered for the cash, in particular a renovation of Kenner City Park supported by Councilman Kent Denapolis. Denapolis previously suggested reducing the money allocated to beautification projects in his district to do about $1 million worth of improvements at the park on Loyola Drive.

Yenni said he agrees with Denapolis that the park needs work, so he’s happy he now has the cash to do it. The city will spend about $250,000 to build a skate park and another $250,000 on improvements to the walking trail. He said the remainder could be used for lighting, trees and other improvements to the park.

In addition, Yenni would like to spend $450,000 on beautification along 32nd Street leading up to Esplanade Mall and $500,000 on beautification near West Napoleon Drive and Roosevelt Street.

He’s also considering improvements to an old amphitheater at LaSalle’s Landing in Kenner’s historic Rivertown area, $200,000 in drainage improvements in the Lake Trail Estates area and $800,000 in equipment for the public works and recreation departments.

Yenni said many of these projects were previously discussed but were placed on the back burner in favor of other work. “These are things that have been talked about for some time,” Yenni said. “

Yenni said the city should lock in the bond rate by the end of this month and then hopes to put them on the market for purchase. The mayor expects to have much of the cash in hand by the end of June.

The beautification projects are likely to take several years to complete, and include bike paths, landscaping, streetscaping and new lighting.