More than a decade after Hurricane Katrina left the city’s Emergency Medical Services and Coroner’s Office operating out of makeshift quarters, workers for both agencies have begun the move to a new $14.9 million building on Earhart Boulevard that is set to officially open early in the new year.
The city, meanwhile, has pushed back the start of construction on the New Orleans Police Department’s new $20.8 million crime lab to the summer.
But Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, the Orleans Parish coroner, on Monday tweeted a picture of a truck in front of the office’s makeshift home since Katrina, a former funeral home on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Central City, with the caption, “And it begins. Moving day to our new facility.”
Rouse said he expects the move to be finished by the first week of January, and he indulged in a bit of coroner’s humor on Twitter.
“Moving day,” he wrote next to a picture of a medical manikin, complete with a cross-section of a human body’s internal organs. “Even for Percy.”
EMS administrators also have begun their move out of trailers parked near Lafitte Street and North Jefferson Davis Parkway, City Hall spokesman Hayne Rainey said. That process should be finished by mid-January.
The coroner’s former quarters on the first floor of the Criminal District Court building and the EMS administration’s old building at Moss Street and Esplanade Avenue both sustained heavy damage from the storm and flooding. The agencies have been forced to operate from temporary facilities ever since.
Pathologists resorted to storing bodies awaiting autopsies in refrigerated trucks outside the former Rhodes Funeral Home.
City officials decided that the solution for both agencies’ woes lay in a new joint complex at 3001 Earhart Blvd., near South Claiborne Avenue. But construction was delayed for years because of necessary environmental remediation work and issues with securing FEMA funding, the city said.
Inside the new building, the Coroner’s Office will have 24,000 square feet of space, including a dedicated pathology lab. EMS employees will have 14,500 square feet.
The cost of the complex rose from the $12.8 million planned in 2013 to a final $14.9 million tab.
The NOPD’s crime lab, once housed at Tulane Avenue and South Gayoso Street, also received heavy damage during Katrina. Earlier this year, the city had announced that work on the new five-story New Orleans Criminal Evidence & Processing Complex — set to serve as home for the crime lab and the NOPD’s evidence room, as well as storage for criminal court files — would begin in September, but it has been delayed.
The building will be at 2761 Gravier St., near Criminal District Court.
Rainey said construction on the building has been pushed back to a planned summer start date. The cost of the project, meanwhile, has risen from $19 million to $20.8 million. FEMA will pay most of that.
The project has a new expected completion date of late 2017.