GONZALES — Nail guns popped, power drills whirred and falling metal studs clanged Friday at the site of the future Ascension Parish governmental complex.
Under moody but dry skies, contractors continued to raise the nearly $6.47 million building, which parish officials estimated this week is nearly 40 percent complete.
The 33,500-square-foot, contemporary-style building is being constructed along East Worthey Road in Gonzales on the site of the defunct East Ascension Hospital, which was demolished in early 2014.
Parish President Tommy Martinez has pitched the new building as long overdue in a growing parish that has seen expansions in other government operations, such as the parish jail and the schools. The building, he has said, will enable parish government to consolidate many of its operations under one roof.
Ken Dawson, chief administrative officer for parish government, said Thursday the building project, which began Aug. 7, ran into delays from rain and early foundation issues, pushing the project back from an early finish date of September.
Lead contractor SBS Construction of Baton Rouge also had to drain the old East Ascension Hospital pond to allow workers to set up concrete forms for the new foundation.
“We’re looking at a final date for completion in early October,” Dawson said.
Since those delays, workers have been making progress, he said: The foundation is poured, structural steel is nearly finished, a roof is overhead, internal duct work is starting to go up and masonry is a few weeks away.
Dawson said he has hopes contractors will catch up lost time once the building is more fully enclosed and work starts on conduit and electrical and data lines.
“So rain should not delay that at all,” he said.
Though the project is not expected to be finished until the fall, Dawson said the annual East Ascension High School pond jump will happen next month.
Near the end of each school year, East Ascension’s graduating seniors have jumped into the old hospital pond. When contractors drained the pond early in the project, fears rose that the construction project would halt the tradition. Dawson said not so.
“I understood early on that nothing was going to prevent the pond jump from happening,” he said.
Dawson said he does not foresee the construction project needing any major change orders with exception of delays for rain and said he is confident in the nearly $6.47 million bid figure.
He said the East Ascension Hospital demolition came in under budget and has left the parish with a little extra cash if change orders are needed.
The parish had set aside a $5 million surplus from the defunct East Ascension Hospital to pay for the new building.
But after two rounds of bids and some project trimming by parish officials, construction still came in well over $5 million due to materials and labor costs. The Parish Council went forward with the project anyway.
The parish is paying for the remaining cost with sales tax revenue that had been set aside for new industry incentive rebates. The companies ended up not claiming the rebates in favor of similar state incentives.
At the same time, the parish has budgeted another $400,000 for furniture and cubicles but plans to purchase only what is necessary, Dawson said.
He said the parish has an interior designer assessing what existing parish furniture can be reused.
Dawson said the cubicles helped save on construction costs because the parish could avoid building some individual offices.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.