GONZALES — This Ascension Parish city has now done just about everything it can to flood-proof its civic center that was swamped in August 2016 and remained closed to the public until restoration was completed in May, just in time for the annual Jambalaya Festival.

The re-opened civic center, a popular venue for local events, boasts refinished floors, new walls and new equipment in the kitchen. A new air-conditioning system was installed and restrooms got new walls and counters.

The comeback of the civic center included more, though. 

As the interior of the 51-year-old center on Irma Boulevard was being restored, safeguards against future flooding were being installed outside the building.

Eight sump pumps were installed underground around the perimeter of the building, to pump away accumulating water, and a cinder block retaining wall was built 2 feet high around the civic center, with gaps left for access to the facility.

The last step was completed earlier this month when city officials did their final check on 12 floodgates that can be put into place to close those gaps, making the civic enter as close to flood proof as possible.

"It got a nice little facelift and was fortified," said Ali DeBosier, an interior designer with Domain Architecture, who was one of several people on hand on Oct. 3, at the final walk-through of the floodgates.

Two Baton Rouge firms, Domain Architecture and Deumite Construction, were the lead firms on the restoration of the building. 

"The city is getting its civic center back in a big way," City Engineer Jackie Baumann said, as she watched contractors put a floodgate in place at the walk-through.

Each floodgate is made up of four metal panels, edged with rubber, that are stacked in metal frames built on the retaining wall, then clamped down.

"It's 100 percent complete," Baumann said of the civic center's flood-proofing. "It's a good day." 

The city initially explored the possibility of qualifying for federal funding to tear down the civic center and rebuild it, possibly in a different location at a higher elevation. 

However, the flood damage "didn't meet the math to rebuild," Baumann said. 

The cost of the approximately $1 million project to repair and flood-proof the building, instead, was shared equally by the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said. 

Gonzales paid a $500,000 penalty, for having no flood insurance on the building at the time of the 2016 catastrophe. Flood insurance has been acquired since that time, Baumann said. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements for city equipment and employee salaries in the aftermath of the flood, which the city budgeted and paid for at the time, helped offset the $500,000 penalty, she said. 

At the final inspection of the floodgates this month, contractors ran a hose from the civic-center side of one of the gates, with trapped water building up high against the metal panels. 

A small dribble of water ran out at the bottom, along the side of the frame; another application of caulking at the frame would stop it, contractors said.

No water, however, slipped through the rubber seals of the panels.

"It's going to help us a lot," said Doty Gautreau, the city's buildings and grounds supervisor.

"No more sandbags," he said.  

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.