A long-awaited and much-debated building in Donaldsonville to house Ascension Parish public works equipment and employees appears to be a month from construction after the Parish Council backed a key funding agreement Thursday.
The 8,155-square-foot facility is planned for 5 acres on Thibaut Drive and would be built next to a new city DPW building whose construction is nearly complete.
The Parish Council backed the funding agreement, 9-0, Thursday at the Parish Courthouse in Gonzales, formalizing the West Ascension Drainage District’s earlier commitment to kick in an extra $403,000 to build the structure.
With total funding in hand, the council also accepted the $1.33 million low bid from Blount General Contractors in a 9-0 vote.
Councilman Travis Turner was absent, while Council Chairman Randy Clouatre does not vote unless to break a tie on the 11-member council.
The building will replace Ascension’s aging West Side Department of Public Works building in Donaldsonville and has been a pet project for Councilman Oliver Joseph and other west bank leaders who for years have claimed the old building provides a substandard work space that often floods during heavy rains. But fights with the parish administration over where to build the new structure, proposed land swaps with Donaldsonville for a future fire station and hang-ups over funding stretched out the process.
The building, which has been in the parish budget since the administration of former Parish President Ronnie Hughes, became part of parish and city debates over the future of the nearby South Louisiana State Fairgrounds, a 14-acre private park the parish bought in 2011 with hurricane recovery money.
The new building will be built across Thibaut from the fairgrounds on city land originally donated for recreation but that was traded by the city to the parish for 3 acres in the fairgrounds for a city fire station.
“We finally did it,” Joseph said. “And it came in over cost, and that’s why West Ascension Drainage took some of their money to make sure the building will be built.”
Joseph, a west bank councilman and West Ascension drainage board chairman, said construction should start in 30 to 45 days.
The Parish Council had agreed in May to boost its commitment by $355,000 for a total $930,000. Parish officials said the extra funding was needed for foundation work.
While that extra funding came from the general fund, which is funded primarily by parishwide tax revenues, the drainage dollars come from property taxes collected only on the west bank.
The building will be used by West Ascension drainage as well as other parish departments.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.