The Lafayette Parish Communication District is breaking ground Tuesday on a $9.6 million state-of-the-art 911 communications center.

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The Lafayette Parish Communication District will break ground Sept. 17 on a state-of-the-art 911 center on Willow Street. The building is being designed by Southwest Architects. J.B Mouton is the contractor.

The new center will be built at 1810 W. Willow St., across from the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Public Safety Facility in Lafayette. It will replace the 911 center that has been housed in the basement of the Lafayette Parish courthouse on Buchanan Street in downtown Lafayette since 1983, Communication District Director Craig Stansbury said.

In 1983, Lafayette Parish became the first in the state to go online with an enhanced 911 emergency telephone system for its citizens. 

Around 2000, Stansbury said, the 911 board under the direction of former Director Bill Vincent, decided to start saving for a new building as the operation was running out of space in the courthouse basement and needed to accommodate new technology. The district, he said, saved $12 million collected from a state-mandated 911 surcharge on every phone in the parish in a future projects fund.

The 4.2 acres of land were purchased a year or two ago for $225,000 from that fund, Stansbury said. Construction on the 23,000-square-foot building is expected to cost about $9.6 million, to be paid for with the 911 surcharge fund, he said.

Additional money is needed for new equipment, Stansbury said, to accommodate cell phone technology such as texting. He hopes the money in the savings will be sufficient to cover the cost of the equipment, he said. If not, the board may sell bonds to pay for that.

"We’re prepared to bond a very small amount," Stansbury said.

The new facility, he said, is expected to be large enough for growth in the next 25 years. It will house the latest public safety communications technology making Lafayette Parish the first in Louisiana with an advanced 911 cloud-based CAD system that will enhance emergency services for citizens.

Architects Southwest is designing the center. J.B. Mouton is the contractor. The new center is expected to open in late 2020.

The 911 district, Stansbury said, is not under the administration of Lafayette Consolidated Government. It is operated as a separate governmental entity with its own board and the LCG council and administration do not have control of its budget, he said.

In recent years, particularly since an August 2016 deluge flooded hundreds of homes in the parish, city-parish officials have scrutinized funds with large surpluses that could, with voter approval, by transferred to drainage improvements. Part of the surplus in a public health fund, created by combining mosquito control, public health and animal control, was transferred to drainage in 2017, with part of the millage permanently moved to drainage.

On Oct. 12, voters will consider transferring $8 million of the Lafayette Parish public library's $26 million fund balance to drainage and $2 million to parks and recreation.

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Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.