WALKER — With a unanimous vote Monday, the Walker City Council took the final step toward construction of the new Walker City Hall. At the board's regular meeting, it awarded the construction contract for the building to Stuart and Co. General Contractors. 

Mayor Jimmy Watson said the low bid price of $5.945 million was below what city planners had anticipated and was well within the amount of money raised by the city through the securing of a construction bond. The contractor has already begun locating construction equipment at the site and Watson said construction will be underway in the very near future.

The new city hall is being built on a 4.72 acre tract of land located on Aydell Lane. The city earlier purchased the land for $680,000. The land was purchased with existing city funds. Construction of the new city hall will be funded by the city’s natural gas revenues and the income from the lease of space on the third floor of the building.

Watson said Walker has the second largest municipal natural gas system in Louisiana. The city bonded $6.2 million for the new city hall project and these bonds will be paid through proceeds from the sale of natural gas. The cost for retiring the bonds will be approximately $395,000 a year.

In a related matter, the council gave final approval to an ordinance that creates a separate Department of Gas Utilities and provides for the hiring of a director to head that department. The director will be responsible for the management, maintenance, care and operation of the gas supply and distribution system of the city. The salary of the director will be set by the mayor in accordance with the pay schedule approved earlier by the City Council.

The new city hall was designed to accommodate the city’s needs and the facility should carry Walker for the next 50 years. The three-story structure will encompass approximately 27,000 square feet. The first and second floors will house city personnel as well as the City Court Room. The city anticipates leasing the third floor but provisions are in place to ultimately use that space for city functions should the need arise.

“This project has been long coming and is a part of our Master Plan for the City of Walker which was adopted seven years ago," Watson said. We are very excited about this wonderful addition to our city and it will allow city employees to better serve our growing community.”

Also, the council introduced and set public hearings for two ordinances that, if successful, could provide funds for the elevation of a number of properties in the city.

The first ordinance, if approved, will authorize the city to apply for a flood mitigation assistance grant of $454,273 that would fund the elevation of three properties. The application for the funds would be made through the Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant program. The match amount will be covered by homeowners, depending upon the percentage amounts of the funds received on the structure type.

The second ordinance would be a similar request for $861,000 for the elevation of five properties. The same conditions would apply to those homeowners who might choose to seek funds through the grants. The council will consider the two requests March 9 at its next regular meeting. Chief of Staff Jeremy Etheridge is expected to provide more information about the two proposals at that meeting.

In an unrelated matter, the council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter an agreement with the Rockit Science Agency in the amount of $12,950. The business will update the city’s logo design and graphics for business cards, letterhead, envelopes, decals and other items that bear the official seal and logo of the city.

Watson said that at this time Walker does not have an official logo or city seal and various symbols representing the city are in use. The Rockit Science Agency will hold design and discovery meetings with city entities and after the research is complete will offer three logo options for consideration. The company will also consider revisions and will eventually offer a final official seal city logo.

Etheridge announced at the meeting that the city had been awarded the Outstanding Park Design Award by a state agency in recognition of the extensive improvements made to Sidney Hutchinson Park, the city’s chief recreation venue. Watson thanked the council for assisting in funding the improvements which have been made to the park over the past three years.

The council chose to table any action that would have brought a final condemnation order for property at 1305 Perkins Lane. In October the council voted to begin taking action to have the property condemned and to request that the property owners respond to the city’s request for information regarding ownership of the property. Ronnie Perkins, who came before the council and said that the house in question had belonged to his late mother, said that he has undertaken to restore the residence. He asked the council for more time to bring the building back up to code. The council voted to rescind its original condemnation orders on the property and decided to give Perkins time to report back to the council.

City Attorney Bobby King told Perkins that he must secure a flood elevation certificate and make some other commitments about how he plans to proceed with restoration of the structure. The council will revisit the issue at its next meeting.

The council also approved the promotion of Lt. Christopher Dufour, of the Walker Police Department, to captain and the promotion of Sgt. Christopher Gunter to lieutenant.