The West Feliciana Parish School Board agreed at its January meeting to begin negotiations with an environmental consulting firm for the demolition of the old St. Francisville High School on Pecan Grove Road.

Jim Ferguson, director of public works for the parish, is assisting the School Board with contract negotiations with the firm, Terracon, which has offices in Baton Rouge and across the country. Ferguson said he would like to have the pact finalized and recommend to proceed at the next board meeting on Feb. 26.

Ferguson estimated a best-case scenario would be for the project to be completed within a year.

“The long-term benefit for the parish is getting the property back into commerce and providing greatly needed housing opportunities for more families that would like to live in our great community,” Ferguson said. Terracon will provide a total project cost to clear the site, and if given the go-ahead by the board, would manage the entire project, he said.

“I believe the next step will be in the next few months for all stakeholders to get together and determine what the property shall be zoned and have the school board apply for a zoning map amendment to the town. With the buildings demolished, site environmentally clean, and desirable zoning in place, the school board can put out a Request For Proposal to developers to purchase the site with all of the intangibles removed,” Ferguson added.

The project includes the demolition and removal of the old Pecan Grove site including buildings and slabs. The project summary indicates the buildings, approximately 40,000 square feet, are roughly 40 years old and need to be demolished and cleared for future commercial development.

Included in the remediation are asbestos and other environmental hazardous material abatement that cannot be disposed of as regular construction debris. Ferguson said Terracon will determine when the site is “clean.”

The site is ideally suited for a neighborhood-type residential development and would provide additional revenue to the school through property taxes, sales taxes and additional students, meaning state funding. Superintendent of Schools Hollis Milton said any net revenue from the direct sale of the property could be used for facility improvement to existing schools or toward the purchase of property near the campus.

“After cleanup, we would place the property on the market,” Milton said. “We feel that the property is ideal for residential development.”

One complication is the relocation of the West Feliciana Food Pantry and Clothes Closet, which are in outbuildings from the main, old school structure.

Ferguson said Parish President Kevin Couhig is looking for a suitable permanent location.

“They will need to be relocated, and I expect the time line for that to be this summer at the latest,” said Ferguson.