Senior Center cleaned out; city now planning for reconstruction

Published 4:43 am Saturday, May 21, 2016

While Cassidy Park repairs are still slowly moving forward, Bogalusa public works director James Hall said the Senior Center at 603 Willis Ave. is ready to be reconstructed.

“It’s all stripped down and it’s ready to get rebuilt,” he said.

The building was gutted with help from All Hands, a volunteer crew that has been helping residents and the local government recover after the March 11 flooding. Rebuilding the center will begin once the city gets some plans drawn. Hall said that could take three to four weeks, and rebuilding it won’t be quite as easy or as cheap as the excavation process.

Hall explained that the Senior Center did not have flood insurance as it was built above the floodplain, but he’s hopeful FEMA will reimburse the city for the cost of the repair.

FEMA has inspected the building, but so far the agency has not promised any money.

However, Mayor Wendy Perrette said there’s no question that the city must rebuild.

“We’re going to have to do it because there are so many needs there,” she said. “They feed 130 elderly a day just in that building, plus the meals they send out.”

Hall said he plans to rebuild without any changes, although he did add that the next floodplain map will probably put the building in the flood zone.

“In 2020 they told me there will be a new flood map out because of the event this year,” he said.

Assuming that happens, the city will have to get flood insurance or FEMA will help raise the building, Hall explained. However, he also said he doubts a new flood map will come out as quickly as expected.

“I think it’ll be another 10 years before they re-map,” he said.

As for the other buildings owned by the city and destroyed in the Cassidy Park flooding, few of them will be rebuilt as they were. The city lost a storage shed, and Hall said he expects to have to rebuild that, but the museum buildings will be rebuilt to anticipate flooding.

“We will have enough knowledge to build them like we did the back restrooms,” he explained. “We’ll build them so the water can come in and then exit the building and it won’t destroy it, in most cases.”

Hall said this means that if the buildings house electronics in the future, those items will be in the ceiling area.

The two museums that had been in the park, the Native American and the pioneer museum, will not return to the park, and whatever will move into the brick buildings won’t include priceless artifacts.

“(They’ll hold) something water wouldn’t devastate, like a 2,000 year old artifact,” Hall said.

Perrette has suggested putting an interactive children’s museum in one of the spaces. The museum could have games and other activities, she said.

However, residents shouldn’t expect anything for a while. Hall noted that the museums were in a flood zone and they didn’t have insurance. But he’s still hopeful the city can collect some federal money for repairs.
“FEMA said they’re in the flood zone and I agree with that,” he said. “But the buildings were there before it was a flood zone, so they should be grandfathered.”

Even if the city does eventually get money for the museums, Perrette said the repairs are not a priority.

“It’s not prioritized,” she said. “The buildings don’t have to be fixed before the parks are opened. That’s a whole other story. … They won’t be opened by the time the park is opened. That is not a top priority in the park at this time.

“This is way down the line, a year and a half or two. Were going to be more focused on the infrastructure.”