The proposed Sorrento Community Center, eyed for more than five years as one of several federal recovery projects after hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, appears to be moving closer to construction, Ascension Parish and Sorrento officials said.
The project has come in twice over bid, most recently last month, but the Sorrento Town Council and the Ascension Parish Council agreed last week to chip in an extra $83,000 combined so enough money was available to award the project to the lowest bidder.
The Parish Council agreed Sept. 4 to reallocate about $17,000 in existing federal grant money for the center under an agreement with Sorrento.
Two days earlier, the Town Council agreed in a 4-0 vote to use $66,000 from the town’s recreation fund to help pay for the project, town officials said.
Martha Collins, parish grants officer, said Tuesday the Parish Council is expected to consider awarding the approximately $660,000 low bid Sept. 18 when it meets in Gonzales. She said if the council approves the low bid and contract negotiations with that bidder take the expected time, construction could begin by the start of the year.
“It will be very nice for Sorrento,” Mayor Mike Lambert said Tuesday.
The project was one of more than a dozen earmarked under a $19.37 million federal award in mid-2009 for recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The recovery funds were funneled to the state and parish through the Community Development Block Grant program.
Sorrento’s share of the parish award was $1 million. Half was set aside for sewer improvements and half for the community center.
The 3,500-square-foot metal building will have a finished facade and sit on 1.3 acres of a 16-acre town-owned recreation site along Main Street between Braud Street and LeBlanc Lane.
The building with have 32 parking spaces, a small kitchen and a multipurpose function for community events or emergencies, though the building is not designed as a storm shelter, according to parish plans and officials.
Collins said the construction industry is busy with the industrial expansion underway in the region, which is affecting the demand on labor and the center’s price.
Even though the Sorrento sewer project in the hurricane recovery grant was under budget and the town’s remaining grant funds were put toward the center, Collins said the original community center bid in April 29 was well over budget at $830,000.
The project was pared back and still came in over budget at $660,000 last month, she said. Parish bid documents said the expected price was nearly $578,000.
The parish recently ran into the same kinds of problems in bidding its new $6.5 million parish administrative complex in Gonzales. The project went over bid twice due to what Parish President Tommy Martinez has said were high construction and materials costs.
Ascension Parish had planned to use surplus funds from the defunct East Ascension Hospital to pay for the building but had to tap about $1.5 million in surplus sales tax revenue to cover the overage after a second round of bids came in high.
Collins said parish and Sorrento officials trimmed the community center plans after the first round of bids but discussed finding a way to cover the difference after the second round.
“We culled it down as much as we could, and it’s amazing the cost of trying to get the project to come within bid,” Collins told the Parish Council on Sept. 4.
A conceptual plan for the center completed in spring 2013 envisioned a nearly 4,800-square-foot center.
When asked Tuesday, Lambert said he did not think the future center and the town recreation site had the space, parking and access to become a future home of the now idled Boucherie Festival, but could serve to restart the festival or host some festival events.
He said a group of town residents are investigating options to restart the festival, however.