OPELOUSAS — Sunset Mayor Cecil Lavergne asked the St. Landry Parish Council on Wednesday night for money to restore the former Sunset High building.
Lavergne asked for a maximum of $50,000 for the project, but said he’d be happy to get $30,000 to $35,000 to repair the 89-year-old building.
The council voted to delay action on the request until the 2015 budget is approved. The proposed budget for 2015 was introduced during the meeting without discussion.
Council member Pam Gautreau told Lavergne there is no revenue remaining in the St. Landry Historical Development Fund’s 2014 budget to pay for his request.
Lavergne said that if the council grants his request, the money will be used mainly on mold remediation for the 14,000-square-foot building. It hasn’t been used for classrooms since 1990, when students formerly at Sunset High started attending Beau Chene High School in the Prairie Basse community.
Since then, Lavergne said, the building has fallen into disrepair.
“A new roof was put on the building and since then there has been no further damage,” Lavergne said.
Lavergne said there are some asbestos and lead paint removal issues but that he’s been assured by architects that those can be abated at little or no cost.
Other repairs such as interior painting, said Lavergne, can be done by volunteers who once attended the school, which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
If the repairs are complete, Lavergne said the building can be used by groups that tutor children and conduct family planning activities.
There’s also the nostalgia factor, Lavergne said.
“The school has been the cornerstone of the community for so many years. All (the town) has left is the old school,” Lavergne said.
Gautreau told Lavergne that “100 percent of the Historical Development Fund” is now going to fund the operation of the Delta Grand building, located across the street from the parish courthouse in Opelousas.
In an interview after the meeting, Gautreau said a July 1, 2012, legislative act allocates $400,000 annually in state funding to St. Landry for the Historical Development Fund.
According to the legislative act, the money the state provides for the Historical District Fund is to be used for the improvement and preservation of the Old City Hall Market, the Delta Grand and any other related tourism activities in St. Landry Parish.
Gautreau said $200,000 of that allocation is used to operate the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission, whose office is located north of Opelousas off Interstate 49.
The rest of the money, she said, goes to parish government, which has used the revenue for the Delta Grand operation.
Parish President Bill Fontenot said he “will see what is available (in the 2015 budget) and what we can afford.”